Movies of 2015 – March

Kingsmen: The Secret Service (2014) – Matthew Vaughn

KSS_JB_D07_00960.tifIf there was a spectrum from 1-100 on which Skyfall (and other modern 007 movies) rested at 1 and Austin Powers rested at 100, Kingsmen would sit right at 50, nearer to the older Bond films than to the newer ones or the parodies. The plot is absurd, with a lisp-addled, McDonald’s-loving, swag-wearing tech genius played by Samuel L. Jackson as the main villain who must be stopped by the Kingsmen, a group of spies originally formed by a group of tailors who recruit young people by putting them through ridiculous, dangerous tests then naming the ones that succeed as Kingsmen and giving them code names that match up with characters from King Arthur’s court. Everything I described makes it seem like a movie I would hate. However, putting aside everything else, this movie has some of the coolest, most unique action scenes in the history of cinema. The bar fight, the church fight, the tunnels fight, and the henchwoman fight now all contend for the coolest fight scene I’ve ever watched. – 8/10

Focus (2015) – John Requa, Glenn Ficara

Focus-Movie-Will-SmithI’m a sucker for con artist movies. I love Catch Me if You Can, Matchstick Men, The Brothers Bloom, and the first few seasons of the show White Collar. From the first trailer I saw for Focus, I knew it was my kind of movie. Will Smith back as a leading man after a few movies over the past few years I didn’t care about is just icing on the cake. Focus doesn’t do anything differently than other movies of this sort, and it really doesn’t live up to the movies mentioned earlier. But, it holds its own and never falls into the trap of trying to be overly complex without being able to handle the complexity. It has enough twists to keep a viewer guessing without giving too much away. The supporting cast deserves a mention here, too. Margot Robbie and Adrian Martinez especially complement Smith as the romantic interest and sidekick, respectively, and they play well off each other, too.  – 8/10

Rocky (1976) – John Avildsen

rocky-movieIt’s hard to say anything about Rocky that hasn’t already been said. It has earned its spot as one of the best movies of all time and possibly the single greatest sports movie ever. I actually slightly prefer Rocky II to the first one for entertainment purposes, but of course the first one was what I showed to the ECC International Cinema Club since they have never seen any of them. Rocky Balboa’s rise is much more interesting than his continued success and eventual fall. At some point, I will watch the movies that came after Rocky IV, but for now I’ll stick with the first two. – 10/10

St. Vincent (2014) – Theodore Melfi

vincent-trioBill Murray was trying very hard to win some awards for acting in this movie. He plays an old grumpy guy who ends up becoming the babysitter for a young boy who moves in next door with his mom. The movie tugs at every heartstring possible in the most obvious ways. It deals with divorce, bullying, death, poverty, prostitution, gambling addiction, alcoholism, religious expression, and stroke recovery. There’s a lot going on in the movie, and I guess the point of it is that you can be a terrible person most of the time if you occasionally do some nice things, too. Bill Murray is the saving grace and is the only reason to see the movie. – 6/10

Bend it Like Beckham (2002) – Gurinder Chadha

Bend-It-Like-Beckham-bend-it-like-beckham-11245312-1002-600I have to admit that I never watched this movie before this week. Despite not being the biggest sports fan in the world, I’ve always enjoyed movies about competition, sports or otherwise. My surprise with Bend it Like Beckham is that, while a great sports movie, it doesn’t fall into the trap of just being about an underdog team that miraculously wins a championship after struggling throughout a season. It’s clear from the beginning that the two leads, Jess and Jules, played respectively by Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, are the best soccer players on one of the best teams in the league. The conflict is never about whether or not they’re good enough. I think they win all but one of their games that we see. The conflict is about whether or not Jess is able to juggle her tenuous friendship with Jules, her crush on her coach and the resulting love triangle that emerges, her ability to play the game, and her parents’ desire that she stop playing and fall into line with her Indian heritage as a future housewife. Chadha does a great job of weaving subplots into the story involving both girls’ family issues as well as a seemingly tragic backstory for the coach. The only gripe I have with the movie is that it probably would have been better if the possible romance between Jess and Jules, which was rumored to have been explored further in the original script, would have played out instead of the less interesting romance between Jess and the coach. – 8/10

Life Itself (2014) – Steve James

328142446Roger Ebert is the only person who I never met or even communicated with aside from a few comments on his blog that I would say directly influenced my life. If not for him, I never would have cared about movies, which are not only a personal interest but define a small but significant portion of my career, and I definitely wouldn’t be writing this blog of my own. Steve James’ intensely honest look at Roger Ebert’s life and death brought me to tears several times throughout my viewing. To see just how much he affected the people around him as well as those who only knew him from TV and his writing was nothing short of breathtaking. The last few months and weeks of his life being filmed must have been difficult for him and his wife, Chaz, but I am grateful to have been able to share them in a small way. I wish that I had been able to see this movie earlier, but I am glad to have been able to see it at all. – Thumbs up/10


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