American Sniper (2015) – Like last year’s Fury and Unbroken, American Sniper is an unflinching look at some of the realities of war. Fury portrayed the harsh truths of being an inexperienced young soldier during World War II; Unbroken portrayed the POW experience; American Sniper takes on modern warfare, through the tale of the United States’ reported deadliest sniper, Chris Kyle. I can appreciate the film for the fact that it doesn’t glamorize combat, but I’m not sure how to feel about in on the whole. The performances weren’t as strong as I expected them to be, and I would have liked to see more of a focus on the time after Chris returned from war — showing us more of his work with fellow veterans than just two scenes, for example. I hoped it would make more of a commentary on PTSD and the struggles faced by soldiers returning from combat. It’s not necessarily a bad film, but I was surprised to see it get so many Oscar noms.
Blackhat (2015) – This is what I’d call a “one-watch thriller.” It’s interesting enough while you’re watching it in the theater, a decent diversion if you feel like going to the movies but have already seen 98% of the “Now Playing” list. It’s an okay film and I don’t regret spending my time on it at all, but it’s wholly unremarkable. None of the performances or characters are particularly memorable — writing this the morning after watching the film, I can’t remember a single one of their names. The story, as well, is pretty predictable and doesn’t really bring anything unexpected to the table. A middle-of-the-road film in every way.
The Boy Next Door (2015) – I went into this expecting it to be very Lifetime-y, and what I got was a Lifetime movie on crack. I described it to my sister as “what Lifetime would make if their films had big studio budgets.” It’s a crazy film from start to finish. There are a few moments of cheese and some very bad dialogue, which make it watchable from a so-bad-it’s-almost-good standpoint (though it isn’t as bad-fun as it could be). For all of its over-the-top, almost-laughable moments, it also has a few scenes that are truly disturbing. Jennifer Lopez may not make award-quality movies, but they’re usually entertaining. This one isn’t the same level of re-watchable as Enough or The Wedding Planner, but it definitely has no trouble holding the viewer’s attention.
Burt’s Buzz (2013) – Fascinating documentary about the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, a quirky man who worked as a New York City photojournalist, only to leave the city behind for a quiet life as a beekeeper in the country. Famous locally for selling honey and other things on the roadside, he would go on to reluctantly become the head of a major company that grew from his original roadside stand. He’s a real character, and there’s not a dull moment in this documentary as the filmmakers discover the history of the company and follow Burt through his corporate duties. Highly recommended. (I watched it on Netflix and I believe it’s still available there, if you’re interested!)