2014 in review

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Remo D
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2014 in review

Post by Remo D » Sun Jan 04, 2015 9:32 pm

Okay, we're still less than a week into the new year and I've played as much "ketchup" with 2014 as I care to. It's time to recap the year in horror!

Such as it WAS, anyway... when was the last time we had such a paltry theatrical selection? There was scarcely a "year in horror" to speak of compared to anything in recent memory--2014 was a year for epic franchise fantasy above anything else. So I'm going to deal with that first. I was never into TRANSFORMERS and I resisted a return journey to Middle Earth (being completely satisfied with the original RINGS films), but I still got rooked into that "one book, two movies" thing anyway thanks to that ONE "young adult" franchise I continued to follow (I passed on DIVERGENT and THE MAZE RUNNER, among others, but might yet be persuaded if enough people tell me they're THAT good)...

Anyhow. The year started with the utterly pathetic THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, which I saw quite by accident... in 3-D, the whole works, but to no avail. I never did get around to that OTHER Herc movie with Dwayne Johnson but understand I didn't miss much there, either.

There were terrific superhero movies from Marvel, including CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. And while it's not exactly a "superhero" movie, Marvel's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY aimed to please and succeeded quite nicely. All of which renders THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 even less excusable--in fact, I thought it was the worst (major label) superhero film since, well... exactly WHY did they want to resemble the Joel Schumacher Batman movies??? A year like this truly cried out for something as soaring as BIRDMAN to serve as a charming, thoughtful chaser...

GODZILLA defied the odds as a truly fascinating, exciting and UNDERSTANDING update (NOT remake) of the Toho phenomenon. I've heard all the complaints about the lack of actual monster action, but there was just so much more to it than that--this movie GOT Godzilla and remains one of the most satisfying films of the year.

Also completely against the odds was the reinvention of the venerable PLANET OF THE APES franchise into a new and equally thrilling 21st century series. RISE promised so, so much... and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES proceeded to deliver. Oh, and it ALSO answered the question "Would BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES have been any good if they'd had the budget to do it right?" with a most emphatic YES.

But then there was MOCKINGJAY--a most disappointing third entry in the HUNGER GAMES saga. I'm the guy who defended the original and liked CATCHING FIRE even better--and I still believe we're going to get an exciting finale, but, yeah, the "one book, two movies" thing kept this from being anything more than an elaborate prologue to the REAL movie. Pfft.

I didn't get around to Ridley Scott's take on EXODUS, but I quite enjoyed Darren Aronofsky's off-book take on NOAH (talk about your gods and monsters)!

Luc Besson, one of my favorite "discoveries" of the 1980s, largely disappeared into the "presents" category in various action franchise packages (I'm still not champing at the bit for TAKEN 3, though Liam Neeson was as dependable as ever in NON-STOP, if nothing else), but the man himself scored a gratifying hit with the visionary AND exciting LUCY.

The two best "action" films I saw this year were both Asian imports that COULD have played well to mainstream U.S. audiences but found their way straight to the arthouses (well, until the inevitable American remakes come along). The post-apocalyptic SNOWPIERCER even had an international cast (including CAPTAIN AMERICA, for Pete's sake) to help it along, but no... oh, but the concept of fighting your way across car after car in a massive train to get to the "source" of it all? Almost the horizontal version of THE RAID: REDEMPTION if you want to look at it that way. Well, THAT got a sequel, too, but THE RAID 2 opened it up and took the simple police thriller to a new GODFATHER-inspired height. Yep, we've got a legitimate SAGA on our hands now and I hope it continues. Well, again, past the American remake...

For routine but effective action, we got the good old-fashioned spy thriller THE NOVEMBER MAN. For something with a bit more "bite," there was the excellent and creepy NIGHTCRAWLER.

Which wasn't a horror film. But was just as good as one. And SOUNDED like one. We're getting there. I haven't forgotten you. Almost there. I promise.

Completely off the genre beam for me? I enjoyed Clint Eastwood's pleasant, well-acted and great-sounding take on JERSEY BOYS. And I said goodbye to my old nemesis Roger Ebert with the affecting documentary LIFE ITSELF.

I didn't have any squabbles with Mick LaSalle this year (probably because there were scarcely any horror movies to speak of). But he did intrigue me by interpreting the profoundly provocative drama CALVARY as just such a horror film--he said it was a cleverly disguised take on demonic possession. I happened to think the demons infesting that village were all too human... but I agree that it was one of the year's very best films.

And horror? Yes--there WAS some, wasn't there! So I'm finally going to recap the "horror" year 2014. And I'm going to take a liberty or two... and I'm going to frustrate convention as I always do by listing the "good stuff" first instead of saving it for last.

THE GOOD

I originally planned to skip the fifth PARANORMAL ACTIVITY film altogether after the lousy fourth installment. But since PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES seemed to be an "in name only" entry that went down a completely different path, I checked it out all the same and was pleasantly surprised with one of the better "found footage" examples. Yes, it ultimately "ties in." But it's a nice, scary thriller on its own all the same.

The latest safe and profitable trend in horror would appear to be the "one-word" haunted house thriller (the attempt to create the next INSIDIOUS or SINISTER). As such, the title OCULUS would usually tend to cause the accompanying film to sink into a sea of over-familiarity, but this "evil mirror" tale really delivered the goods with both convincing performances and a well-played combination of directorial flourishes and clever editing. Oh, and the apple. Can't forget the apple. OCULUS led me to believe that 2014 was going to be an exceptionally strong year.

ANNABELLE was the inevitable companion piece to THE CONJURING--since the latter took a "creepy doll" detour, the doll just HAD to get its own prequel. ANNABELLE didn't live up to its predecessor, but it did the "possessed doll" theme to an acceptable turn and gave people what they wanted to see, so there you go.

The remaining items in this section are the ones I had to go off the beaten path to see, and they were all worth the effort... and they were all at least as good as anything the mainstream screens had to offer (I'm holding out with OCULUS as the best wide-release horror film of the year, if you're wondering).

MAS NEGRO QUE LA NOCHE was a remake of a Mexican horror "classic" that didn't do too terribly much for me when I saw it in the 70s minus a fluency in the language. I owe the original another go-round today--but the new take on this "haunted inheritance" ghost story maintained a rich, creepy atmosphere and did far more with its seemingly unnecessary 3-D than throw stuff in your face to make you jump. I'm glad I live in an area that actually played this on a multiplex screen even if I did have to drive an extra few miles...

HORNS was a wicked take on the multiple natures of good and evil--especially their surface appearances. Daniel Radcliffe unwillingly takes on the personification of the Devil himself as he tries to solve a murder for which the entire town essentially damns him to hell... he brings far more than the truth to the surface as director Alejandre Aja shows a flair for far more than in-your-face gore. I thought it was wonderful--but it's a bit of a stretch to call this a "horror" movie and leave it at that...

No such argument when it comes to THE BABADOOK (which only just opened around here and which I had to watch on-demand all the same). The psychology behind the "monsters" seen by traumatized family members may be quite familiar to audiences accustomed to the dark side of the screen... but that pop-up book is a nightmare unto itself.

But you know what? It doesn't matter what I choose as the "best" horror film of 2014. Nobody's holding their breath waiting for me to open an envelope. So I'm going to name a true wild card. One with deliberately weird characters and asides. One with pacing calculated to frustrate (even infuriate) the viewer. One that's derivative even as it bends the rules. One from a director I'd never expected to associate with "horror" in the first place. Yeah. It's Kevin Smith's TUSK. Want to know why? Because it had THE best shock "reveal" of the year. Because it had THE best genre performance of the year (Michael Parks is AMAZING in this). And because it's still sticking to me like a second skin. There you go. It's TUSK.

THE MIDDLE GROUND

I still think Scott Derrickson (SINISTER) is one of the best current hopes of the genre, and I liked DELIVER US FROM EVIL more than most people did (I enjoyed the "true crime" elements and such set-pieces as the hunt through the zoo with night-vision goggles, and I say that the stuffed owl WAS scary). Still, it went on too long with yet another EXORCIST-derived climax and I'll concede that there's a reason nobody's talking about it anymore today.

I so wanted THE QUIET ONES to be another standout from the new Hammer Films. Well, it did the 70s setting to a tee and it had a number of effective moments--but this parapsychological thriller never really came together.

We scarcely needed another PURGE movie, but that didn't mean that THE PURGE: ANARCHY did a bad job going about what we'd already seen a year ago. Yes, it's a provocative concept, but this entry didn't really DO anything with it except in short bursts.

I skipped I, FRANKENSTEIN along with the rest of the world, but I wandered into DRACULA territory twice. DRACULA UNTOLD was a decent pseudo-history item that scored with the action but fell short by refusing to let its hero be seen as the monster he could be both before AND after the vampire curse. Oh, and then there was Dario Argento's DRACULA (which, of course, never played theatrically in these parts). Look. I'm the one who complained that movies like GIALLO had nothing outrageous to offer. So Argento had Dracula turn into a giant praying mantis in the most infamous scene. Am I to complain about getting what I asked for? We'll never see SUSPIRIA again (MOTHER OF TEARS proved that, but even THAT had the monkey). I understand why this has such a lowly reputation and I'm not going to get into a convoluted argument about it... but it didn't bore me, and Thomas Kretschmann WAS quite good as Dracula. Enough said.

And then we have two more of the year's four "found footage" movies, both with their highs and their lows, and both telling a nearly identical story with a different setting.

The one in the Paris catacombs was called AS ABOVE, SO BELOW. It had an intriguing beginning and a surprisingly satisfying ending. It bored me in between.

The one in the freshly unearthed Egyptian pyramid was called... well... THE PYRAMID. It didn't have a particularly interesting opening and it had a typically lousy excuse for an ending. But it didn't bore me in between.

And almost everything above is better than our last two items. Maybe everything except THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, in fact.

THE BAD

DEVIL'S DUE was just another "found footage" movie but it didn't even have the zip of the latest PARANORMAL ACTIVITY entry. This one thought it was hot stuff with its ominous quotations about the birth of the Antichrist and an opening sequence that did nothing more than tell everyone in the audience exactly how the whole stupid thing was going to end.

And on the opposite end of OCULUS in the single-word sweepstakes was OUIJA. Brilliant marketing. PG-13 horror right in time for Halloween. Guaranteed to clean up and it did. Congratulations. That doesn't mean I have to pretend that this weary cliche-fest (which could only coax jumps by placing gigantic BANGs on the soundtrack every five minutes) had anything... ANYTHING at all to offer.

Flip a coin--they're both lousy. But if you press me, I'll hand bottom honors to OUIJA simply for being a product rather than a vision. Why settle for this when you can have a hit with an OCULUS or even an ANNABELLE? OUIJA was inexcusable.

2015 looks to start off with an unnecessary WOMAN IN BLACK sequel, a project I'm already calling AMITYVILLE: THE REHASH and INSIDIOUS 3 on the horizon. We shall see what we shall see. And see I shall, because... that's what I do.

All my best,
Remo D.


Okay, quick addendum for 2014--and they're both remakes! I completely forgot to mention BRICK MANSIONS (Paul Walker's last completed film), which was a by-the-numbers remake of DISTRICT B13 and quite unremarkable for anyone who saw the original (yet perfectly watchable on its own). And we just saw THE GAMBLER, which was a decently intense take on the James Caan classic from the 1970s. I'm not sure the ending rang true in this case, and I wondered why they didn't get Caan himself to play the dying grandfather (though it was great to see a George Kennedy cameo all the same).
Last edited by Remo D on Thu Jan 08, 2015 8:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Darth Tanner
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Re: 2014 in review

Post by Darth Tanner » Thu Jan 08, 2015 9:37 am

Great recap Remo (as always). I always look forward to these yearly wrap-ups as it gives me a chance to touch on movies I didn't talk about during the year. I really didn't get out to see much during 2014 as there wasn't a whole lot that interested me. What films I did go to see I really didn't have much to say about for the most part. In total I only saw 9 movies theatrically during the whole year, but I caught up to 6 more on video bringing the grand total to 15. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on my 2014 viewings.


Theatrical viewings:

ENDLESS LOVE - I saw the original 1981 film on Netflix before seeing this remake and honestly thought it was one of the worst movies I had sat through. So I figured the remake couldn't be any worse. I will say that this is a rare instance where a remake is slightly better than the original, but it still doesn't make it a good movie. But it does provide some entertainment value and a few good performances from Bruce Greenwood and a barely recognizable Robert Patrick so you could do worse.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER - I thought the first CAPTAIN AMERICA was the best of the pre-AVENGERS films, but this sequel puts it to shame. A nice villainous performance by Robert Redford and some nice eye-candy in the form of Scarlett Johansson (I hate to admit that I haven't seen LUCY yet, but I plan to rectify that soon).

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 - I really didn't hate this as much as our resident reviewer. In fact I found myself enjoying it up until the last 30 minutes when the movie seriously derailed. Not the worst movie I've seen this year, but the ending honestly made it the worst experience I had at the cinema during 2014. I hope that things get back on track for the next SPIDER-MAN movie.

GODZILLA - It's pretty much a given that this was much better than the 1998 abomination with Matthew Broderick. This had the feel of a true G film and brought back memories of enjoying GODZILLA 2000 in a nearly empty theatre. But I thought this film was much more entertaining.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST - Definitely the most fun I've had in the cinema this year. I've been waiting for this one for a long time and it didn't disappoint. I thought it was right up there with the best superhero films as well as my favorite X-MEN film with FIRST CLASS coming in a close second.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST - A terrific western-comedy in the vein of BLAZING SADDLES that was much better than I expected it to be. Great performances by Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson as well as some hearty R-rated humor. This is one I'd highly recommend checking out.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION - It seems like I am the only person on here who watches/enjoys this series. Although this movie was a little longer than it needed to be, I found this entry to be very entertaining with some really good 3-D effects. But I still think DARK OF THE MOON was the best in the series so far.

GONE GIRL - I still haven't read the novel, but I thought this was another terrific effort by David Fincher. Ben Affleck was better than usual, but Rosamund Pike was the one who really owned the movie. My only complaint is that I found the ending to be somewhat of a letdown.

THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES - I've actually liked all of the HOBBIT films, but I have to say this one was probably my least favorite. It still delivered the goods and provided enough entertainment to make it worthwhile.


Home viewings:

ROBOCOP - I really didn't have much interest in seeing this initially, but decided to give it a chance on video. Despite some great performances by Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson, this was a mostly forgettable movie which made me appreciate the original that much more.

NON-STOP - This one was much better than I expected. I always like watching Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore and they certainly don't disappoint here. Definitely worth checking out as a rental.

I AM DIVINE - Terrific documentary on the legendary discovery by John Waters. Diehard fans of Divine will probably know most of the stuff in here, but there were still a few things even I hadn't known before seeing this. Terrific interviews with Waters, Tab Hunter and the rest of the Dreamland gang. As an added bonus, this is the only documentary (to my knowledge) where you can see clips of the rare Waters' shorts "Roman Candles" and "Eat Your Makeup" on video. Highly recommended for fans of John Waters and Divine.

SEX TAPE - I deliberately skipped this in the theatre, but decided to give it a try on DVD based on a recommendation. I hate to say that this was probably the absolute worst movie I've seen all year. The only good points were a nearly-naked Cameron Diaz, a decent performance by Rob Lowe and a cameo by Jack Black. The rest of a movie was a painful chore to sit through even at 95 minutes. Skip it!

NEBRASKA - A truly great film that I was happy to finally catch up with on video. Aside from a terrific performance by Bruce Dern, I can't say much about the film without giving anything good away. All I can say is check out this gem when you get the chance. You won't be disappointed.

NEIGHBORS - A very funny raunchy comedy that I truly enjoyed. Definitely better than SEX TAPE, but still not as good as A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne give decent performance as well as Zac Efron. Worth checking out for those into R-rated comedies.


So there is my take on 2014 in a nutshell. I'm hoping this year will be slighly better but there doesn't seem to be much on the horizon at this point. Of course I will see AVENGERS 2 and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS when they come out. I might also have to check out that FIFTY SHADES OF GREY to see if it can deliver the goods.

Until later...

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Remo D
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Re: 2014 in review

Post by Remo D » Thu Jan 08, 2015 8:26 pm

Thanks so much for the RESPONSE!

You are the ONLY person in my sphere who recommended A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST, and I'm so burned out on Seth MacFarlane that it isn't even "funny." But if you say so, I just may check it out if it places itself in front of me free of charge. And yes, I'd better check out NEBRASKA.

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Chris Slack
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Re: 2014 in review

Post by Chris Slack » Sat Jan 10, 2015 12:21 pm

Always my favorite post of the year, thanks for keeping the tradition going Remo!

Here are my brief thoughts on some of my favorite 2014 films, I am sure there are some that I am missing but since I let my log slide I am just not sure.

The Raid 2 - This entry in the series elevated the action of the first to an almost Godfather like crime family story while not letting up on the amazing fights and action sequences. I saw this twice theatrically i liked it so much. I was very surprised to see this playing in so many of the major chains in the area.

Jodorowsky's Dune - While we never got to see Senor Jodorowsky's film go to production we at least had this to remind us of what could have been. Amazing!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Upon repeated viewings of this I think it is probably my favorite of the Marvel films to date. Excellent pacing and the best action sequences of any Marvel film to date.

Witching and Bitching - Alex de la Iglesia’s latest is about some criminals on the run who meet up with a coven of witches. Great fun! This is no on Netflix.

Rigor Mortis - Hopping vampires make their triumphant return in this visually stunning new entry into a genre thought dead. This is also on Netflix now.

Dead Snow 2 - If you liked the first one you will love this one. More of the same Nazi zombie comedy but on a much larger scale and budget. I caught this in the cinema in a mix of Norwegian and English but the version out in the US now had all of the Norwegian scenes shot in English to avoid the mess that is dubbing.

Godzilla - Fantastic reboot for what should be an excellent franchise. Unlike the abomination that was GINO this showed a great deal of class and respect toward the King of the Monsters.

The Dance of Reality - Alejando Jodorowsky's latest is as trippy as one would expect. A visually stunning film that will surely take multiple viewings to really comprehend.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - I thought that the second installment of the ape saga was great.

Snowpiercer - Kick ass dystopian action movie set on a train.

Guardians of the Galaxy - Just below The Avengers in terms of overall quality. Funny and exciting!

The Babadook - Scary and original, highly recommended. Watch this with young children!

Interstellar - Probably my favorite film of the year. Fantastic acting and a story that managed to be sentimental without getting sappy.
"Regrettable... I was hoping for a colleague, but at least we have
another experimental subject..." -Mesa of Lost Women


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