1. The Wolverine - I like the Wolverine character in the X-Men movies, but his standalone movies are just so blaaaaah. The only thing I remember about the first one is how much I hate Ryan Reynolds; I remember nothing about the plot at all. I watched this one about a month ago, and it is already a blur. I did like it better than the first, mostly for the action and fight sequences. It felt more like a samurai flick than a Marvel movie, and that's probably why I got a little bored. While all of the fight sequences are beautifully choreographed, my brain turns off when there is no focus on pushing the plot forward. The beginning is really strong and I really like the end, it's the entire middle that bored me to death. Also, the post-credits sequence is actually good (an intro to Days of Future Past), which is rare.
2. The Frozen Ground - Forgettable crime thriller, however, I was expecting something much more cheesy. Instead, it's a very dark, atmospheric and, for the most part, well-acted story. John Cusack is a terrific bad guy - he has always been a little bit creepy to me. If I saw him in real life, even knowing that he is John Cusack and not a serial killer, I would still walk swiftly in the opposite direction. And honestly, I usually can't stand Nicolas Cage. He's been given a pass for his terrible acting skills by being in super fun movies, but I don't think he's been in a truly awesome movie since Face/Off. I've enjoyed a few other films along the way, but not enough to give him the God-like status he has among movie fans. Here, he obviously takes on a more serious role (which he has done before and has not been successful - except, perhaps, in Adaptation, although I would have enjoyed that movie much more if it featured a stronger actor) and he does a decent job. Not great, but decent. It's really Vanessa Hudgens who ruins the movie. I feel like she is so desperate to get rid of her High School Musical persona, that she took the role just for that reason alone (desperation). She is similarly terrible in Spring Breakers, but it works for that movie. When you have a story that is "inspired" by real life events about a serial killer who raped, tortured and murdered at least 17 young women, having an actress who is desperately trying to shed her good girl image portray one of the victims is sort of offensive. The only thing I knew about the movie beforehand was that Vanessa Hudgens plays a stripper/prostitute and that, for me, is problematic. It would be different if she actually did a good job, but it is an embarrassing performance. Also, I can't stand the whole cliched relationship between an older man and a young prostitute. It's one of those relationships depicted in films that causes me to roll my eyes so far into the back of my head, that a headache will inevitably ensue.
3. RoboCop - I don't hold the original up on a pedestal like some people do. It's a good movie. I think I was a bit too young to really "get" it when I first watched it, and then by the time I watched it again so many movies had copied it that it didn't hold the same effect. I didn't have any issues with a remake being done - it had potential to be really cool. They did a great job casting terrific actors - Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams and.....Joel Kinnaman? I admit, I was surprised at that one. He's awesome on The Killing, but I could not see him in a big action movie, like this. His perfomrance is okay, but still an odd choice. Another questionable casting choice: Abbie Cornish. I had an unjustified hatred towards her, but with this movie, she actually won me over. There are a few scenes in which she held my attention more than the rest of the actors, or the story did. The movie is decent - some nice action sequences, nods to the original, and some cool technology to gaze at. It's not as dark or as cynical as the original, which isn't a bad thing. My only real complaint would be about Samuel L. Jackson. Because, really? What the hell was he doing?
4. Byzantium - I didn't really hear much about this movie, but I love vampire stories (that aren't True Blood or Twilight related - always have to clarify that.), so I thought I would give this a shot. I really wanted to see Gemma Arterton in a great role, and this might be it. She still reminds me of Sydney Bristow (especially when she is wearing the stripper outfit - I'm pretty sure Sydney had that same outfit when she was "undercover"), which can only be a good thing (one of my favorite characters ever). I was pretty excited when Caleb Landry Jones showed up - I'm still thinking about him in Antiviral. And then...Jonny Lee Miller appeared too! I AM IN! The story ignores the traditional lore of vampire tales; instead it tells a compelling story of a single mother trying desperately to protect her teenage daughter who is on the verge of rebelling. It's a story that can be told without the vampire stuff and it would have been just as interesting. There are some genuinely terrifying moments, all in all a solid film.
5. Joe - I heard this movie was similar to Mud, which was my second favorite movie of last year, so I thought I would love this as well. I'm not the biggest Nicolas Cage fan (as you can see from above), but again, I heard that he does an exceptional job here. I'm going to have to disagree on both accounts. First, this movie feels like Mud in its location, mood and it shares the same young actor, Tye Sheridan, but it lacks substance. Mud was actually about something; Something real, something important, with characters who engage sympathy (or at least empathy) from the audience. This movie is about a man, who is, by all accounts, not a good person who connects with a young boy. He doesn't become a better person by this connection, and the boy doesn't seem to get much out of it either (a truck? Is that supposed to signify a father-figure? Because that's just plain dumb.). Sure, Joe is a better father-figure than his real father, but that's not saying much. Second, Nic Cage did not give a "powerful performance", as it says in the RT summary. It's mediocre and mostly one-note. With such a character driven story, like this, the main star has to be more than what Cage gives. Tye Sheridan is good, but not as "wow" as he was in Mud. The actor who outshines both of them, surprisingly, is the man who plays his father, Gary Poulter. I'm not sure I like the idea of taking a real homeless person and using him (yes, I'm purposely calling it "using him") as an actor in a movie, in a very important role. It sort of makes me sick to my stomach (especially after you read his tragic story). I don't know, something about it just doesn't sit right with me. I will admit that there is one scene in this movie that will stand-out as one of the best movie scenes of this year, and it features the father. It will literally take your breath away. Other than that, this movie is pretty bland and empty.