1. The Gambler - I usually take a few notes while I watch movies at home, so that I remember things that I want to say. The notes that I jotted down for this movie are as follows: "Blackjack is boring" "Mark Wahlberg looks old" & "When will it end?". That pretty much sums up the entire movie. I am a big fan of casino gambling (I've paid many months of rent that way), but Blackjack is my least favorite card game. I hate that you have to follow the rules, otherwise people at the table get pissed off, and I hate that you only win double your money, so you either have to sit there for hours to make anything or you have to bet big bucks. I like poker. It gives me more of a rush and if you hit the big hands its odds are 30 to 40 times your bet (I hit big hands quite a lot - lucky in cards, unlucky in love, as they say). I'm also a bit psychic when it comes to cards (you don't have to believe me, I certainly wouldn't), but I *know* when I'm going to hit a big hand and when I'm not, so it's easier for me to walk away. Once I was sitting at a table and two guys sat down and they said how they've never seen anyone get a straight flush, so I said "oh, I'm going to get one in a few hands, so just stay here for a few minutes". Three hands later, straight flush. THEN, I said to the dealer. "Deal me these same cards again", and the very next hand I got the same exact straight flush. I'm pretty sure everyone thought I was a witch - they sent the big bosses down to check the table and count all the decks. The only way I could explain it is that I *knew* it was going to happen. The only time I get caught up in the game and end up losing is when I'm with other people who want to keep playing, because if I'm sitting there, I'm going to keep throwing money down, even if I know I'm not going to win. Anyway, this rant is far more interesting than the movie. I promise.
2. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - What a beautiful movie. I've had a few people recommend this to me, but I've been so disappointed with movies lately, that I really didn't trust that I would like it. I loved it. It's just so gorgeous and strange and wonderful. It's a bit like Under the Skin, with a female predator hunting unwitting men (Under the Skin still remains my favorite movie from last year). The music is this hybrid mix of a classic Western film soundtrack, new wave techno and Iranian rock, and it's glorious. I've always been a big fan of vampire tales, but it's hard to keep something like that fresh and new, so I really appreciate the way this story is told. It's frightening, but it's quiet and moody instead of jump scares. The last scene is so perfect that it will go down as one of my favorite scenes in the history of movies, ever. Of course, it features a cat, so I'm a bit biased, but I could stare at that image all day. I wish it was an official poster image, because I would totally buy that.
3. Unbroken - This story is such an unbelievable, true story of survival; the perfect story to be adapted into an epic movie. Angelina Jolie did a respectable job with In the Land of Blood and Honey, so I was rooting for her on this one. Unfortunately, I found the movie quite dull. It focuses on events over people and that is a big mistake. You know you failed as a filmmaker, if the end credits that conclude the story, are stronger than the entire movie before it. Seriously, I bawled like a baby at the image of him running with the Olympic torch...in Japan...at 80 years old. In the final seconds of the movie, the audience is suddenly made aware that it's a story of forgiveness, when that's what the entire focus of the movie should have been on. Even the poster quotes "Survival, Resilience, Redemption", when it should really be "Survival, Resilience, Forgiveness"(what exactly is he seeking redemption from?). Anyway, while watching this movie, I thought a lot about my grandfather because I always found his WWII history completely unbelievable, and it was something he never talked about, so everything I heard was hearsay. The only concrete information that I know about him is that he was born in Germany, but adopted by a Jewish American family when he was a child, he married a Jewish woman, was in the Marines, and he had numbers tattooed on his forearm. When I was really little, I asked him about these numbers and he said it was "because I love your grandmother" (you can imagine my horror, when I learned what the numbers actually were). My grandfather was a quiet man, who woke up early every morning, socialized for an hour with his coffee club, then watched old Western movies for the entire day and then went to sleep (Pretty much my role model in life). I thought he suffered from PTSD because of being held in a concentration camp, but then to my surprise, I found out he suffered from PTSD for a completely other reason. Apparently, he was stationed in Pearl Harbor, but was away the week of the attacks and all of his friends were killed. I found this out after watching Pearl Harbor with my grandmother in the theater because she cried through the whole thing. I questioned it and she explained that my grandfather changed forever because of that day. "But he was held in a concentration camp?!" I exclaimed. "Oh, that didn't really bother him that much.", she responded. UM WHAT?! How crazy is that? Well, I am on an epic sidetrack now, but my point is that WWII soldiers have some crazy, unbelievable stories. The one from Unbroken is rightfully fascinating, but Jolie didn't give the material the emotion that it needed. Also, I LOVE Jack O'Connell. I heard his name over, and over again about being the "next big thing" and I didn't even realize that this was Cook from Skins!! Mind = blown.
4. St. Vincent - I honestly did not expect this movie to be good, at all. I love when a movie surprises me and surpasses my expectations. I really liked it. It won't make my top 10 of last year, but it just might make my top 20. The reason I didn't think much of this movie, is because it's a theme that's been done before - bullied kid bonds with an eccentric adult, blah, blah, blah. Plus, Bill Murray kind of makes me sad now. His curmudgeon shtick is overdone and deeeeepressing. However, there are some moments of lightness and kindness that really help develop this character into a complicated, realistic and lovable person. I'm surprised that he was overlooked during awards season, because it's one of his best performances. Naomi Watts delivers an awesome performance as well, as a pregnant, Russian, stripper. I don't like Melissa McCarthy in serious roles; I'm not convinced she's a great actress (but I do think she can be funny). She does a decent job here, but is the weak link of the movie. I really wasn't expecting to connect with this movie, but I connected to it several times - the kid being raised by a single mom, his wife suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, the end revelation about him being a war hero - it all just hit me really hard and I even shed a few tears.
5. Paddington - Super cute movie, but all of the rave reviews are a little bit ridiculous. It's a good kids movie that adults can enjoy, but it's not like I would ever watch it again. I don't really know much about Paddington Bear, it's not something I enjoyed as a kid. I do remember the Friends episode where they dress Ben in the Paddington rain coat and hat to cover his bump ("Monica bang"), but that's the extent of my knowledge. I did enjoy when the first promo images were released and they (the internet) tampered with it to make it look like this: http://junkee.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Creepy-paddington-the-shining-2.jpg . I almost died laughing. Luckily, he's so much cuter in motion than in the production stills. Nicole Kidman is the perfect "bad guy", and even though the whole thing was super predictable, I enjoyed watching her revel in her role. Again, I had fun watching this movie, but that's all there really is to say about it. On a related note, Chloe (my cat), sat and watched the whole thing.