Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5
Avengers: Age of Ultron was an ok action/sci fi film but not as good as the original. While the action was pretty good they got a little carried away with figuring out how many different ways and with how many of the other Avengers they could utilize Captain America’s shield. I also found Tony Stark’s stubbornness annoying. Despite that the movie flew by and overall was an entertaining movie.
Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5
Ex Machina is a smart, entertaining sci-fi thriller from first-time director Alex Garland (probably best known as the writer of 28 Days Later). Domhnall Gleason plays Caleb, an employee of a Google/Facebook-like company. He is the winner(?) of a week with the secretive company owner, Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac) on his massive estate.
Nathan has been working on an advanced AI robot, Ava, played by Alicia Vikander. Nathan has invited Caleb, as a participant of a ‘Turing Test,’ to determine if the AI is advanced enough to pass as human.
The week turns into a cat-and-mouse game between Ava, Caleb and Nathan with lots of suspense and interesting twists and turns. I don’t want to give away more of the plot.
The acting is great, especially Oscar Isaac as the manipulative, creepy mogul. The special effects for Ava are also excellent.
This film is definitely worth checking out.
Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a joyful spoof of Bond genre films and is directed by Matthew Vaughn. Vaughn successfully spoofed superhero movies a few years ago with Kick Ass.
The film is very entertaining with good action and lots of laughs. Like Kick Ass or Kill Bill, there is a ton of violence which may offend some. The plot isn’t the most exciting, but fits right in with Bond spoofs. Samuel L. Jackson is the megalomaniac villain (who can’t stomach watching violence). Colin Firth does a good job as the Bond-type spy and Taron Egerton is very likable as the young spy trainee. There are no real ‘Bond’ girls, but dancer Sofia Boutella is great as the villain’s deadly hench-person
If you like Bond spoofs, Kick Ass or Kill Bill, check this movie out.
While we were slackers in terms of writing reviews, we were not slackers in terms of seeing lots of movies. Here’s our picks for the best of 2014.
| ||Bill I||Bill C
|Best Movies||1 Boyhood 4.5|
2 American Sniper 4.5
3 Whiplash 4
4 Calvary 4
5 Top Five 4
6 Beyond the Lights 4
7 The Grand Budapest Hotel 4
8 Wild 4
9 The Imitation Game 4
10 Ida 4
11 St. Vincent 4
|1 Boyhood 4.5
2 Guardians of the Galaxy 4
3 The Grand Budapest Hotel 4
4 SnowPiercer 4
5 Whiplash 4
6 The Tribe 4
7 Foxcatcher 4
8 St Vincent 3.5
9 Top Five 3.5
10 Birfman 3.5
11 Goodnight Mommy 3.5
12 NightCrawler 3.5
13 Master Pancake Theater
|Best Documentaries||1 Life Itself 4
2 Citizen Four 4
3 Kung Fu Elliott 4
4 The Dog 3.5
5 12 O'Clovck Boys 3.5
6 No No: A Dockumentary 3.5
Bill C’s Best of 2014 Comments (Not in order)
Boyhood – This was my favorite movie of the year. Not really any plot – just a boy growing up. For someone with kids who grew up over the past 12-14 years, it was very moving.
Guardians of the Galaxy – A totally different action movie based on a Marvel comic. Upbeat and fun with great music.
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Another excellent, quirky movie from Wes Anderson.
Master Pancake Theater (anything) – This isn’t really a movie. This is the group in Austin that mocks movies. Like Mystery Science Theater 3000 only with
less no inhibitions. All their shows are hysterical and they never disappoint. I go to as many shows as I can.
St Vincent – Funny and moving. This was much better than I expected. Both Bill Murray and a reined-in Melissa McCarthy were very good.
Top Five – Very funny, but with serious themes, starring and directed by Chris Rock.
SnowPiercer – Very good sci-fi movie with the last survivors in a post-apocalyptic world living on a train dealing with serious class issues.
Goodnight Mommy – Best Austrian horror movie on my list with the worst title. If M. Night Shamalyan could still make good movies, this is the movie he would make.
The Tribe – Best Ukrainian movie on my list about a gang of deaf students. This movie has no dialogue—just Ukrainian sign language and no subtitles—but I was able to follow the plot with no problems. Very intense. Brutal ending.
Birdman – This is just great movie-making on display. I love the way they make it seem like one take (like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope).
NightCrawler – Jake Gyllenhaal gives a masterful performance as a total sleeze-ball roaming L.A. at night trying to get good footage of bad things to sell to the highest bidder.
Foxcatcher – Great performances all around in this drama based on a real story.
Whiplash – Sort of An Officer and a Gentleman set in the world of jazz music. J. K. Simmons is amazing.
Life Itself – A life-affirming bio of Roger Ebert. Much of this is shot during his final days, but his whole life was interesting. Very moving, although parts are tough to watch.
Kung Fu Elliott – A very funny documentary about a guy who wants to be the greatest action star of Canadian films. It gets dark towards the end, with several surprises.
12 O’Clock Boys – A fascinating documentary about lower income gangs in Baltimore and their dirt bikes.
The Dog – A documentary about the real life character Al Pacino played in Dog Day Afternoon and his life both before and after the robbery.
No No: A Documentary – Doc Ellis and his no-hitter while high on LSD (and the rest of his life).
CitizenFour – A documentary about Edward Snowden just before, during and just after he leaks classified info from the NSA. Really good.
Mood Indigo – I really like some quirky stuff (see The Grand Budapest Hotel above). Unfortunately quirky along with boring doesn’t work for me.
Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5
To Be Takei is an entertaining and mostly lighthearted documentary about the former Star Trek star and current Facebook phenom. Takei’s charisma shines through. He always has a smile on his face and is definitely enjoying this stage of his life with his renewed time in the spotlight.
While this documentary is mostly lighthearted it does cover some serious topics starting with his days in a Japanese American internment camp during WW2, it’s effect on his family and how his parents handled it during and after the war (and the current musical on that subject he is hoping to take to Broadway). It also covers some of his early career roles in demeaning Asian stereotyped roles, his coming out as gay later in life and his advocacy for gay rights causes.
The film also entertainingly revies his days on Star Trek with interviews with several cast members including an unflattering appearance by William Shatner, his days with Howard Stern and his current popularity on Facebook.
This is one of the more entertaining documentaries of the year.
Bill C’s Review – 1 out of 5
Mood Indigo is the latest directorial effort by Michel Gondry, the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This is a VERY quirky, special-effect-loaded with romance. Usually I’m into quirky stuff, but this did not do it for me.
The quirkiness and special effects were interesting at the beginning, but as the movie wore on they became tiresome and distracted from the plot. Towards the middle, I lost interest and was wishing I had chosen another movie. The end should have carried an emotional wallop, but due to all the diversions, it came off flat for me.
My guess is there will be lots of folks that love this movie, but I was not one of them. This film is in French with subtitles.
Bill C’s Review – 4.25 out of 5
Guardians of the Galaxy is joy to watch. It’s a Marvel based super hero movie with lots of humor, great energy and music and with good action.
A toned Chris Pratt from Parks and Recreation is the excellent lead of a good cast that includes Zoe Saldana and the voice work of Vin Deisel (‘I am Groot’) and Bradley Cooper. This is a lesser know Marvel set of unique characters and it includes a super hero tree and fox but the filmmakers definitely made it work.
I did not see the 3D version so I don’t know if that adds anything. As with seemingly all Marvel comics this had an extra scene at the end but there were a lot of credits so you need to decide for yourself whether it’s worth the wait. After Boyhood this has been my favorite movie this summer.
Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5
A Most Wanted Man is a good spy thriller based on a John le Carre novel.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last roles, plays Gunther, a German spy operative in Hamburg fighting the war on terror in the post 9/11 world. This movie is not an action movie – it’s a more subtle spy story relying on detailed and sometimes slow digging into the details to build a case. What makes the movie interesting is not just Gunther trying to build these two cases and determining how high up the chain he can get but seeing him try to maneuver against those that should be his partners – other German police organizations and his counterparts in the CIA. The movie comes together with a few surprises in the end.
Hoffman is excellent in an understated way and this has a good supporting cast with Rachel McAdams and Willem Dafoe also playing Germans and Robin Wright as a CIA operative.
If you look for a lot of action in your spy thrillers you might find parts of this a little slow but I enjoyed it.
Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5
Life Itself is a great biographical documentary about film critic Roger Ebert. The movie spans his entire life including a significant amount of filming during Ebert’s final weeks as he finally succumbed to cancer.
The film is a moving tribute and shows Ebert, warts and all, from his days breaking into newspapers while still a teenager, his ascension as a critic while battling alcoholism, a nuanced view of his pairing with fellow critic Gene Siskel, finding his soul mate later in life, and finally his brave and very open battle with cancer.
The film is directed by Steve James, who is most famous for Hoop Dreams. It’s a very emotional movie movie with a lot of humor as well. Some people might find parts of this movie tough to watch due to the toll that his illness took on him and the physical problems that he faced, but this is a film well worth seeing.
Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5
I knew from the previews that the plot of Lucy made little sense, but since the film was directed by Luc Besson, I hoped the action would make up for it. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
Scarlett Johansson stars as Lucy and does a fine job. She is happy-go-lucky until drug dealers use her as a drug smuggling mule by implanting a new drug in her stomach. Things go from bad to worse as the bag of drugs break, causing Lucy to utilize 100% of her brain power. (Luckily, Morgan Freeman is giving a lecture so we know humans only use 10%). This turns her into a vengeful superhuman fighting machine. Up to this point, the film had lived up to my expectations of having a dumb plot, but the action did not redeem the movie either. In some ways, this film reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey as there were flashbacks to prehistoric monkeys and other animals, but that didn’t make much sense to me either.
The action was never boring, but it didn’t seem that original and when necessary, Besson seemed to just give Lucy a new super power that didn’t have too much to do with brain power. Lots of guys coming at you with guns? Give her the power to disarm all of them at once from a distance. No problem!
Besson has written/directed some great action movies, including District B13 (very highly recommended), Taken, La Femme Nikita, and The Transporter. I’d recommend one of those instead of his latest film.