1. Mama - I'm not big on supernatural horror movies, especially modern ones, so I guess it puts this movie at an automatic disadvantage for me. However, I can usually keep an open mind, plus I adore Jessica Chastain. It's a well-made movie, for sure, but it just didn't captivate me or scare me in the least. There are some beautiful shots, Chastain is excellent (minus that awful hair cut) and I was pleasantly surprised that the super hot bad guy from Headhunters is in it as well (or if you prefer, Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones. I'm sure he has a real name and one day I will learn it). The movie just lacked intensity and aside from the creepy kids, I just didn't see anything all that scary about it. I was pretty bored for most of it, waiting for the conclusion to wrap things up (no surprises there). It started to pick up at the end, but really, how fucking stupid is that ending? Really fucking stupid.
2. Promised Land - Allow me to gush over John Krasinski for a minute. He's always been super adorable as Jim on The Office, and I thought Brief Interviews with Hideous Men was really fascinating, moving and thought-provoking (he wrote and directed it). Then, John went on Jimmy Fallon and did the best lip-syncing contest ever and I fell in love (I've searched and searched for the video and it has been erased from the Internet. WHY!?? Stupid legal crap). When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought, "really, John Krasinski is going to out-charm Matt Damon? No one out-charms Damon, except maybe James McAvoy (because...duh!)." But he does. And he does it well. I think it was the "Dancing in the Dark" performance that really sealed the deal. Best part of the whole movie!!! Speaking of the movie, I guess I should write about that now. There are some good elements and some bad elements. I appreciate that it took on a topic like fracking and delivered more points than just "fracking is bad". It's actually a much more complicated issue than that, especially when you have these farming towns that are dying - we say that money shouldn't be a factor, but when you put it in non-materialistic forms (i.e better education, better health care, etc - sadly, in this country, you need money for those things) it's hard to ignore. I think the film did a great job at exploring why people would consider the option. It also did a fantastic job at stereo-typing a group of people (that's sarcasm). It's an extremely offensive depiction of people who live "2 hours outside of any city" (also if you drive 2 hours in the other direction from Philly...guess what you hit...NYC!). It's disappointing and insulting, but I guess it's supposed to be funny to laugh at non-city folk. There is also *SPOILER ALERT* a huge fucking twist in the movie that I wasn't expecting. I won't say what that actually is, but I think saying there is a twist is a spoiler (although some people are so fucking sensitive, saying the movie is about fracking is probably a spoiler, too). I really liked the twist; it made the film a little less black & white (and also, strangely, more black & white). The biggest thing that kept the film from falling into complete mediocrity, is the cast. Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt and of course, John Krasinski, are all superb.
3. That's My Boy - I watched it out of curiosity. I'm always interested to see how truly bad a movie can be. I, like a lot of people, used to be a fan of Adam Sandler. Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy - all hilarious! Sadly, I would describe his comedic attempts now as "unwatchable", which is exactly how I would describe this movie. First, his annoying baby-mumble voice combined with the atrocious attempt at a Boston accent was really hard to get through. Second, I don't know how funny it is to have the whole movie based around a teacher having sex with her student (and it wouldn't have been made if the gender roles were reversed because that wouldn't be funny...right? So, why is this? It doesn't make any sense to me). Third, who really thought that a Vanilla Ice cameo would be funny? Like, really...who? Fourth, are three "waaassssuuuup" jokes necessary (it's a joke from over ten years ago! TEN!)? Fifth, this movie definitely wins the top spot on my worst movie of last year list (previous winner was What to Expect When You're Expecting).
4. Gangster Squad - This is a case in which I was expecting something much worse than what I got. I heard terrible things about this movie, but honestly, I was entertained. I think people were just expecting something more serious and dark, but instead it is a cartoonish take on the 40's gangster movies. At first, it's a little jarring (Is it supposed to be funny? Why does everyone look like they are playing dress-up? Why is Sean Penn over-acting his heart out?), but once I got used to it, I found myself immersed. The rest of the cast is top-notch (I'm a huge Sean Penn fan, so I am just going to ignore this misstep and move on). The "gangster squad" includes Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick and of course, Ryan Gosling. Probably my favorite group of men put together in one film, in a long time. Ryan and Emma Stone have a very natural chemistry, so it was fun watching them together again. Also, there is a scene with Ryan in a tight white t-shirt that had my attention. Seriously, I think that's the only thing guys should ever be allowed to wear. Also, if you've seen the trailer, then you've seen the whole movie. I hadn't seen it before, but then it played on the Cloud Atlas DVD, which I watched the next night. It shows the entire movie!! I probably wouldn't have had nearly as much fun as I did, if I had seen the trailer first.
5. Cloud Atlas - 2 hours and 52 minutes. I repeat. 2 hours and 52 minutes. After the first 30 minutes, I knew I was going to have a hard time making it through the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of beauty to it, visually and thematically. However, the acting is horrendous, the makeup is distracting and the editing is annoying. Tom Hanks can not do an Irish accent or a Scottish one for that matter - he attempts both (at least, I think that's what he was going for). Halle Berry just looks lost for the whole movie. I'm guessing she has no idea what the plot of the movie is - because there really isn't one. It's several stories that span time and space, none of them seem very cohesive, until the last hour. Things start to come together, ideas are expressed more uniformly and it actually becomes a good movie. It just takes sooooo long to get there. I would love to sit down and re-edit it (I would actually consider film editing a "dream job" if it didn't involve sitting down and looking at a computer all day). Having the same actors portray different characters is an interesting concept, but the novelty of it wears off quickly and I don't think it works visually. I had a hard time with Jim Sturgess as Hae-Joo Chang, because it looked like Jim Sturgess with a creepy mask on. I found the whole thing distracting. Like I said, though, visually it is quite stunning. There are some beautiful scenes, especially the "future" ones. What I appreciate most is the different themes - all of them are ambitious to put on film, but the one that is done really well is the idea that "each encounter suggests a new potential direction". I think about that everyday - how meeting one person can change your entire life (or not meeting them). There is a nice broad theme of the evolution of a killer into a hero, but I'm not sure it entirely worked, considering that it was more based on circumstance than morality. There are also quite a few scenes in which I have no idea how they relate to the movie at all, so I feel like a second viewing is necessary. I would love to do that, if it wasn't 2 hours and 52 fucking minutes long, of course.