1. Scenic Route - There are parts of this movie that I really, really like. The brutality, suspense and the commentary on masculinity and male friendships are all really well done. For a low-budget, character driven movie featuring two actors and one set (for most of it), it is very satisfying. It felt like a modernized version of Waiting for Godot. It's also probably the only time where I feel like Josh Duhamel attempts actual acting and he's pretty good. However, I am not fully convinced of the plot. *slight spoilers* I can't imagine that anyone would purposely strand themselves in the California desert or that anyone who would stop to help them, would then leave them there (without calling the police). Also, Duhamel's character has a wife and kids, so she would definitely be looking for him. *end of spoilers* On a side note, I have huge anxiety and terrible childhood memories about California deserts, so this was actually really hard for me to watch. This probably helped the "suspense" factor for me.
2. Shadow Dancer - My crush on Andrea Riseborough continues to grow. This is probably her best performance yet (she was a stand-out in both mediocre movies, Oblivion and Welcome to the Punch). In this movie she plays a woman who is forced to spy on her own brothers - all of whom are heavily involved in the IRA. The story is really tense, complicated and dense. I'm not even going to pretend like I completely understand the politics behind it, but the story is focused on this woman's struggle to protect her son, hide her "informant" status and stay out of prison. The ending is definitely a "wow moment" that I wasn't expecting. Clive Owen is a little dull; I feel like he's played this role before and it was dry and repetitive. He's been excellent before (my favorite performance of his is from Trust. Superb.), but I think it's time for him to step out of the box.
3. The Canyons - To my surprise, there is actually a worse movie released this year than Movie 43!! I never expected that. For some reason, I thought I would actually like The Canyons. I heard plenty of bad things, but I also heard a few really positive things. I will never understand how anyone can say anything positive about this movie. I can't think of one thing. Acting, characters, writing, editing, cinematography - all of it is truly terrible. Lindsey Lohan received a lot of flack for her acting here, and I can see why, but I don't blame her one bit. The entire cast is terrible and the dialogue is horrendous, so she blends in just fine. The main guy, an established porn actor, who shamelessly calls himself "James Deen". is the worst actor in the movie and I'm pretty sure we are supposed to think he's hot. Um....no. The part that really bothered me though is the sound design. There is actually a part where you could hear the character say "Hi Christian" twice because of the sound editing. Plus, some of the dialogue sounds muffled and echoed. It seems like such amateur filmmaking; I am actually surprised I didn't catch a shot of a misplaced boom mic. Honestly, this is not only the worst of the year; it's one of the worst I've ever seen.
4. The Conjuring - Even though I didn't really enjoy this movie, I can understand why other people did; especially those who love the horror genre. It's a very well-constructed horror film. There are some stunning shots (my favorite is the scene with "something" under the girls bed - the way the camera flips around is AMAZING). The cast is fantastic- Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lily Taylor and Joey King (does anyone else see her resemblance to Elizabeth Moss? They could be sisters). There are some very creepy scenes, but I'm just honestly never scared by ghost or exorcism stuff. A lot of people seem to think the whole "doll" thing is super scary, but IT'S A DOLL! How is that scary? I tend to think that people who are scared of stuff like that must live a very good life - they must have no concept of actual scary stuff that exists in real life. I'm generalizing, of course, but it's just beyond my understanding. Also, is "Hide and Clap" an actual game? I've never heard of that before. That scene was, again, really well executed. If I wasn't expected to be scared; I would probably be more impressed with the movie as a whole.
5. The World's End - This was such a disappointment for me. I love Edgar Wright. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs the World are all AWESOME. Despite the fact that the trailer for this movie was really stupid, I was still expecting to enjoy it. I didn't. It's not a bad movie, but it's just blah. The characters are boring, the plot is repetitive and I didn't really laugh at all. Then the last third of the movie is just plain stupid and over-the-top ridiculous. When Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan are in a movie together, I expect to be entertained. The only thing that interested me is the actual pub crawl. I would love to do that - there is no way I could drink 12 pints in one night, but it would be fun to try. I have a high tolerance (Irish blood), but I have high tolerance for a female who weighs less than a hundred pounds - 12 pints would kill me. Do people still do this crawl? Or is it just a bunch of annoying American tourists?