1. Aloha - So much potential for this movie. The cast, although problematically white-washed, is excellent. The plot, from what I could understand, is interesting (but overly complicated). The writer/director, Cameron Crowe, is strong aesthetically, and in character development. So what went wrong exactly? It's hard to pinpoint, but the biggest problem is that the character motivation is really off; none of their actions make any sense. The "romance" part is a complicated love triangle (actually a square). It begins with Brian (Bradley Cooper, who is soooo not a "Brian") and Tracy (Rachel McAdams); he has hurt her in the past, and now she is married to another guy (John Krasinski, in probably his most boring role ever, but still the best character in the movie). Even though she is clearly not over Brian, she exists in an unhappy marriage (why?....). Then Allison (Emma Stone) is introduced as a love interest for Brian, but she is presented as literally the most annoying person on the planet. He can't even stand the sound of her voice. Then a lot of confusing, non-romantic, stuff happens (I couldn't tell you the plot to save my life - something about satellites and weapons and sacred grounds.). Suddenly, Brian falls for Allison, and Tracy is happy in her marriage (again, why?...). Sorry if I just spoiled the movie for you, but be honest, you weren't really going to watch it, anyway. There's a little bit of misogyny thrown in the movie, too, just for kicks. For example, Stone is portraying someone who is very head-strong and professional, yet her boss warns Brian against "corrupting" her. Um...fuck off, Aloha. I'm pretty sure she can take care of herself. This movie will most likely end up on my worst of the year list (the second Bradley Cooper movie to make the list, so far. How sad!). The only positive that I can think of is the beautiful shots of Hawaii. I still really want to go on a volcano tour of Hawaii. Who wants to join me?
2. Far from the Madding Crowd - This movie was my introduction to this story. I've never read the novel; never seen any of the previous adaptations. Yet, somehow, I already felt like I knew how the story was going to unfold right from the very beginning. There are few things that I liked about the story. It's beautiful to look at. I enjoyed that it was about fate and destiny, over romantic love. There was a "sliding doors" effect with every choice that a character makes, but in the end, everything is as it should be. The female lead is independent and claims to have "no need for a husband", which is incredibly rare for a story from the late 19th century. Overall, though, I felt bored for most of it. The acting, aside for Matthias Schoenaerts, ranges from mediocre (Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen, who both seem really comfortable in their roles, but bored) to awful (Tom Sturridge, what were you doing?). Schoenaerts is probably in the "easiest" role, as the obvious choice, but I felt like he is the only one who seemed to stretch himself, emotionally. And speaking of the "obvious" choice, this is probably the biggest problem with the story. The other two are ridiculously terrible choices; one offers to "buy her dresses" in exchange for marriage, while the other one flat-out tells her that he's in love with someone else, which causes her to become jealous so naturally she says yes to his proposal. HUH?! That's a reason to get married? That's even dumber than the dress guy. It's frustrating when a woman chooses everything but the obvious (so obvious that he's even the one featured on the poster!).
3. Black or White - I like the intentions of this movie. I think it's meant to open up discussion of race, family, and cultural differences within different races. The characters are just so off-putting, though. It starts out really rough, with this man losing his wife in a car accident, going home, getting wasted (perfectly acceptable), then waking up the next morning and carting his granddaughter off to school like nothing has happened. Then, he picks her up and is like "oh yeah...you're grandmother, the one who raises you, is dead", while they are still on school grounds. The audience is instantly under the impression that this man has no concept of raising a child, being sensitive to emotions, or is capable of appropriate reactions to life-changing events. Her paternal grandmother tries to intervene by fighting for custody, citing that she belongs with her side of the family because he won't know how to raise a black girl. Yet, she was perfectly fine when the grandmother was alive (there are references to an "understanding"). So, really, it's more of an issue of gender, and not race. The custody wouldn't have been questioned if he was the one that died. But for some reason, the paternal grandmother, under the guidance of her lawyers, make it a race issue. This is frustrating because he has raised his grandchild, who is half black, since her birth, so one would think it would be hard to suddenly call him racist....but then, he SUDDENLY BECOMES RACIST. Please, take this child away from this man. He's an asshole, he's a drunk, and he's a racist. But, he has money, so that makes him a viable candidate to raise this girl, apparently. They try to make it a "grey" area, because the girl wants to live with her grandfather, but she is a child, and far too young to understand what is best for her. They also try to portray the paternal side of the family in a bad light, by having one "bad apple", which happens to be her biological father (not only a drug addict, but also a statutory rapist). The court could easily give custody to the paternal grandmother with the understanding that the father has no visitation or relationship with her. DONE AND DONE. Instead, they go back and forth between who is worse, and we are forced to pick the lesser of two evils, never really giving this poor girl a chance to live any semblance of a loving life. It's just really fucking depressing.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road - If you keep yourself updated on movie news, reviews, etc., then you already know that this movie is ranked among the best of this year. I was really hoping to catch it in the theaters, but I wasn't able to (this year has sucked in regards to my theater outings. I've barely been to the theater at all). I remember seeing the trailer before American Sniper, and I was blown away by it's sheer energy. I'm happy to say that the entire movie is just pure, exhilarating, non-stop adrenaline-inducing action. Not only is it action-packed, it's also really beautiful. Just really fucking beautiful. The monochromatic, post-apocalyptic, desert location could have been really dull, but it is so vibrant, with so much to look at. I was pretty blown away by it. Plus, even better, I really enjoyed the story. It's a simple "good vs. bad" plot, but it's done so well. It's a nice reminder that there is still room for originality within a story that's been told a million times before. Not surprisingly, my favorite aspect of the movie is Furiosa, perhaps the strongest female character onscreen, this year. She's everything. It's stunning when a movie, especially an action movie, relies on very little dialogue, but still makes the audience care for the characters and invest in their story. The biggest realization that I had while watching, is that this was the first George Miller movie I've ever watched. What an introduction! I will definitely seek more out.
5. The Voices - Why have I heard nothing about this movie?! It's HILARIOUS. Seriously fucked up, but totally hilarious. It's probably the first time I truly loved Ryan Reynolds in a performance. I really never got the love (yes, his abs are nice). I still don't, because I will just consider this a fluke unless he makes another performance that I love. Then, and only then, will I reevaluate my opinion of him. This is the kind of movie that I think benefits from not knowing much about it (so maybe that's why no-one is talking about it?), so I don't want to give too much away. However, I don't really know how to talk about it without giving a little away, so *slight spoilers ahead*. I think it's a fantastic insight into a killer's mind. For the sake of "justice", determining someone as insane in order to limit the punishment, is often frustrating, but in some cases, people resort to murder because they are actually mentally unstable and not necessarily evil. This guy's instability comes from the voices that he hears from his pets (and decapitated heads...), which is just him imagining that he's having conversations with them (is that not normal??? Because I have conversations with my cats all the time; and I totally imagine their responses. Don't worry, everyone, they say mostly nice things. Except when they are hungry...). Mr. Whiskers had me in tears, his humor is only accentuated by his really terrible Scottish accent. Really, just fucking hilarious. Then, just when you think the movie couldn't get weirder, it ends with the oddest song during the credits. This movie would definitely make my Best list this year, but the release date is 2014, and it's doesn't quite make the cut among the best of last year.