2014 in Film: Modern movies in January

(Image via OutNow-CH)
(Image via OutNow-CH)

Duplex (2003) – Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore make an odd match in this DeVito-directed comedy about a young couple who’ve found their dream apartment… except that it’s a duplex, and an elderly woman lives upstairs. Kind of like one of my childhood favorites, Mousehunt, but with an aging woman lurking on the other side of the wall rather than a clever rodent. Lots of slapstick (not quite as successfully used as in Mousehunt) and crude comedy here. It’s amusing at times, and strongest when it relies on dark comedy, but I wouldn’t be quick to watch it again.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Endless Love (1981) – I decided to watch this in anticipation of the remake, which looks like a total cornballer, which of course means I have to see it. I haven’t read the source novel. My expectations were low, though I did expect to at the very least be entertained by the early ’80s fashions and sappy teen romance. It’s got a fair bit of  corn (like the creepy but hilarious moment when Jade’s mom walks in on Jade and David… and doesn’t leave for a good five minutes or so) but not enough to warrant a CotC entry. I was definitely entertained, though, and the story takes a couple of turns I didn’t expect it to.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Exiles (2013) – This is a short starring Troian Bellisario (who also wrote it) and Shane Coffey. Funded via Kickstarter, the basic premise is (in Bellisario’s words): “What if the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet wasn’t that they died… but that they lived?” I’m a fan of Troian’s work as an actress (especially in the web series Lauren) and have been interested to see this film since the Kickstarter project popped up. It doesn’t disappoint. Beautifully shot and told with quiet but strong performances, along with somewhat eerie narration, I was impressed by this one. If you’re interested, it’s available for free on Vimeo.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Greenberg (2010) – This film is fulll of familiar faces! Merritt Wever, Mark Duplass, Chris Messina! Tiny roles, but it’s fun to see these actors, since I’m used to seeing them on TV (with the exception of a couple of films, like Safety Not Guaranteed and The Giant Mechanical Man, both of which I loved). This film moves pretty slowly, and though Ben Stiller did a good job in his role, I think the film would have been more successful with another actress than Greta Gerwig working opposite him. They’re very awkward together, which in certain scenes lends a sense of realism to the film, but in other scenes is just unbearable to watch. A couple of scenes got a chuckle out of me, like the one were Stiller freaks out about having “Happy Birthday” sung to him at a restaurant. There are better low-budg dramedies floating around, but this isn’t a bad watch if you like quiet dramas. One great quote: “Leonard Maltin would give me two and a half stars.”

(Image via roboapocalypse.blogspot.com)
(Image via roboapocalypse.blogspot.com)

Her (2013) – This is a really interesting film. It’s set in a near and very plausible future where the first artificially intelligent operating systems have been released for sale to the public. While it gets off to a bit of a slow start, I eventually got completely drawn into the story. The second half improves wildly on the first. Fantastic lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix, and the rest of the cast is great as well. I really liked Rooney Mara’s performance. The music is wonderful. I don’t think this is a perfect film, but the story did stick with me long after the screening and I certainly wouldn’t mind giving it another watch.

(Image via New York Post)
(Image via The New York Post)

Lone Survivor (2013) – My feelings about this movie can be summed up in ten words: “Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Why, why, why, why, why?” I’m entirely too sensitive for films as brutal as this, and as a result I don’t feel that I can review it objectively. I knew it would be a rough watch going in, but my dad won our annual Golden Globes prediction showdown, and the prize for that contest is that the loser must take the winner to see a movie of the winner’s choice. This was the film he chose, because as I’ve mentioned here before, he’s a Marky Mark fan. Truly the most horrifying experience I’ve had in a very long time at the cinema, though I guess that’s the point, since it’s a based-on-a-true-story war film.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Mumford (1999) – I love the black and white, jazz-infused opening of this film, which turns out to be the fantasy of a patient working with the therapist at the center of the story. Dr. Mumford is a man of mystery. “While he’s the caretaker of town secrets, no one realizes Dr. Mumford has a whopper of his own,” reads the back cover of the triple feature DVD set that I own this film in. Mumford is filled with odd dream sequences and quirky characters. The characters really kept me hooked into the story. Pretty good watch.

(Image via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
(Image via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Nebraska (2013) – Great film. An instant favorite for me. I’d definitely put it in my top five for the 2013. Nutty characters played believably by fantastic actors, Bruce Dern especially. Good story. Most satisfying on-screen fist-throw I’ve seen in years. AND, as a bonus, it’s in black and white! Nebraska exceeded my expectations, which were already high. I’m so glad I finally got the chance to see this.

(Image via Cineplex.com/Avenue Pictures)
(Image via Avenue Pictures/cineplex.com)

Signs of Life (1989) – I really enjoyed this film. Captivating story and very good performances for the most part, with Arthur Kennedy, Vincent D’Onofrio and Mary-Louise Parker being the best of the bunch. It’s a slow-burning drama about how the closing of a small boat manufacturing business affects the lives of the workers who are losing their jobs. There were a couple of over-exaggerated moments and twists throughout but for the most part the film has a mood of melancholy and tells its tale very effectively. I enjoyed the supernatural/psychological aspect of the story, with Arthur Kennedy’s character seeing the “ghost” of his father everywhere. A good watch.

(Image via Behind the Hype)
(Image via Behind the Hype)

Stuck in Love (2012) – I was pleasantly surprised by this film, which I went in with pretty low expectations for. Though the story takes predictable turns, the characters are interesting enough to keep the viewer hooked into the film. Perfect casting of Jennifer Connelly and Lily Collins as mother and daughter, but Greg Kinnear and Nat Wolff as the father and brother of this dysfunctional family unit were the best of the film for me. (Wolff is a promising young talent. I enjoyed his performance in Admission as well.) None of the characters are particularly likable but the performances are solid.

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2 thoughts on “2014 in Film: Modern movies in January

  1. I was wondering what you thought of ‘Nebraska’…it was the last movie I saw in 2013, and like you, it was one of my favorites of the year, if not THE favorite! The thing that surprised me the most, and possibly enjoyed the most, was the understated performance of Will Forte, whose characters I’ve despised in everything I’ve seen him in. I’m trying to convince friends and family to see it, but so far nobody’s listening.

    Like

    1. I was pleasantly surprised by Will Forte, too. I’d only seen him on SNL and in his tiny guest spot on How I Met Your Mother, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from him in a dramatic film.

      Like

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