Wednesday, December 31, 2014


It's that time of year again, time for the top ten films I saw in 2014. Man, 2014 was an awesome year for movies! There's still a lot of films I haven't seen yet, some are my fault (THE BABADOOK) and others were out of my control (INHERENT VICE). I'm just glad I got to see WHIPLASH at the last minute.

There's a lot of good films I saw this year so I really don't have time to list any "close but no cigar" picks. But to kick things off I'm going to pick one film that I thought was the worst film I saw in 2014. I knew this film was going to be bad, but holy cow did this film suck (no pun intended)


Here are some other ones that I thought we're pretty awful.





And let's not forget the biggest let down of 2014,


Okay! Now on to the good stuff!








The Top 10


I really dislike the ending of this movie, but there is no denying that this was one of the best genre films of 2014! And nobody saw it. Shame on you all! Get over your Tom Cruise hate and rent one of the best summer films of the year. And if you do indeed cannot stand Tom Cruise then you'll have the time of your life because he dies a million times in this thing!


Don't steal his car and especially don't kill his dog, which was a gift from his dying wife. I love action movies and JOHN WICK was the film I've been waiting years for Hollywood to make. It's almost perfect. I wouldn't change a thing, except maybe that ending.


The American debut from Korean filmmaker Joon-ho-Bong (The Host). So now all three of my favorite Korean directors have done their English language debut, and this film is my favorite of the bunch!

Set in a future where a failed climate change experiment goes wrong and wipes out most of the Earths population. The survivors find home on board Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe. On the train a class system has formed. A group of lower class citizens from the back of the train are bound and determined to make it to the front of the train. The revolution has begun!


A breath of fresh air for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film being part thriller and part comic book movie is a nice touch to the series. The opening scene still gets me every time! “On your left”!


The greatest “turn” in a film I've seen in 2014. One so great that merely mentioning it can ruin the movie. And get this, Madea very well could get a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this film! Funny as it sounds, it's well deserved. All the major acting awards are well deserved for GONE GIRL.


Apes riding horses! What more do you need? In all seriousness though the new Apes films are kicking butt! The original is one of my favorite genre films of all time. It's a miracle we're even getting a new series after that Tim Burton disaster.

I think 2011's RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a little better but like I said, apes riding horses!


INTERSTELLAR is my favorite big screen experience of 2014. 70mm IMAX all the way!


Holy crap! It's been since Halloween and I still think about this movie daily. This is Jake Gyllenhaal's best performance!


THE RAID 2 might be the greatest action film ever made. THE RAID was amazing and like everybody else I thought the sequel would be just more of the same. But what we got was the Godfather Part II of action sequels. This film is so badass that it has a fight scene that I've watched three times now, and I still get goose bumps at how it's going to end!


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is awesome! Go back and read my review to see why! But to be perfectly honest I didn't think it was going to be my cup of tea at first. The comic book movie balloon has to pop sometime, and I really thought this was going to be Marvel Studio's first bomb. Boy, was I wrong (I'm wrong most of the time anyways). I think this franchise is the new crowned king of the MCU, and I'm not complaining.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Last week scared me. Really scared me. It scared me how quickly “fear” prevented the release of a comedy in America. We lost. But how do you deal with bullies? You stand up for yourself and fight back if necessary. And on December 24th 2014, Sony along with selected theaters across America did just that! THE INTERVIEW is now streaming online and will be in theaters Christmas Day.

About a month ago when I watched INTERSTELLAR in 70mm IMAX it was my favorite theatrical experience of this year. And probably for several years to come. That all changed with the Sony hack and controversy surrounding THE INTERVIEW. Let's just say George Clooney and I share the same sentiment when it comes to dictators telling Americans what they can or cannot watch. So now that the politics are out of the way, let's talk about the movie.

On Christmas Eve I had the privilege to rent THE INTERVIEW online. And like I thought, the movie was average with some amazing comedic performances. It's easily the best comedy I've seen in 2014, but that's not saying much when your competition is TAMMY or SEX TAPE.

In case you've been living under a rock, you should know the plot of THE INTERVIEW and the story behind it's cancellation. James Franco and Seth Rogen play Dave Skylark and Aaron Rapoport who run a celebrity tabloid talk show called “Skylark Tonight”. When they land an interview with surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.

The movie is good, not great. Rogen and Franco are a duo I hope we continue to see more of. I've been a big fan since PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and thought it and THIS IS THE END were both masterpieces.

I hate reviewing comedies because I don't want to give anything away or most importantly ruin good jokes. Seriously, I'm the worse when it comes to trying to explain a funny scene. Some of my favorite moments are when Dave (Franco) is hanging out with Jong-un, played by Randall Park. It's Park who really steals the show in THE INTERVIEW. The whole movie hangs on his performance. And he nails it! If he hadn't, then the film as a whole would really be another forgettable comedy.

Acting wise Seth Rogen has been putting out funny funny stuff recently. He's good in this film, but what I am becoming more impressed with is his talents behind the camera. Last years THIS IS THE END was one of my favorite films of 2013. And with all the attention that THE INTERVIEW is getting, I don't seeing things slowing down for these guys. Directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen are quite the team. It takes talent to make a screwball comedy that also shows glimpses of the cruel realities going on in North Korea. But the film stays funny from beginning to end. The satire never gets real preachy. Which is a good thing.

THE INTERVIEW is highly recommended! Go see it to support freedom of artistic expression, and then stay for the biting satire and occasional dick and fart joke.

Go see a movie this holiday weekend. It doesn't have to be THE INTERVIEW, there are plenty of other good flicks now playing at the theater.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014


DRIVE HARD is the sequel to the 2011 Nicolas Cage film DRIVE ANGRY! No, just kidding. It's the latest film from the master of Ozploitation himself, Brian Trenchard-Smith (BMX BANDITS, DEAD END DRIVE-IN). If you didn't know, Ozploitation is Australian exploitation films. I was looking forward to this movie since I first heard about it. It sounded like a return to forum for the director. Not to mention a cool bit of casting. John Cusack and Thomas Jane in a heist movie, better yet an Ozploitation heist movie! Count me in! Too bad this film falls flat on so many levels.

All the ingredients are there for a rip roaring exploitation heist film, but what we get is more of a made-for-television action/comedy. Comedy is really only the saving grace for DRIVE HARD. And that's probably me just being very nice trying to find something of merit in the movie. It is very evident that both Cusack and Jane are trying the best they can with the material. And when the material isn't working, they are just having fun working off of each other. The experience for me was like riding in a car with the driver continuously pumping the breaks. Pun intended.

A former race car driver (Jane) turned driver's instructor, is about to get his life turned upside down when a mysterious thief (Cusack) forces him to be a getaway driver in a bank robbery. The heist puts them both in the sights of the cops and the mob. It's a wild chase across Australia's Gold Coast.

With a plot as simple as that, what could go wrong? For starters you've got a movie titled DRIVE HARD that has some of the most boring car chase scenes I've seen in a long time. Next you have two pretty awesome actors phoning it in. About 30 minutes in I was about to shut the movie off but as lazy as they may be I found myself enjoying the banter between Thomas Jane and John Cusack. But sadly we're just talking brief moments here and there.

Whenever these two aren't on screen is when things get really mediocre. Anytime the movie would cut to the police and or mob that's when the story really felt by-the-numbers. What's to blame? Is it the director, Brian Trenchard-Smith? No. I blame the script and budget of the film. Mainly budget. Too many scenes of characters telling us about the story and not showing us. During a “high speed” pursuit Cusack's character is going on and on about how this particular heist was about revenge. Okay, fine. But wouldn't this be better if it were told in a flashback? Not during a Sunday drive, oh sorry, not during “chase” scene.

Like I mentioned earlier the banter between the two leads made me laugh a few times. There are scenes where I have to wonder if they know the script is crappy and they are ad libbing their lines? With Trenchard-Smith's background in exploitation I wouldn't be surprised if he told Cusack just to play his character from GROSSE POINT BLANK? Especially during the gas station scene.

Final thoughts. If the director was given a better script and bigger budget then DRIVE HARD might have been the film that I was hoping for? I cannot recommend this movie to anyone, not even to the fans of the talented actors involved. To those curious about Brian Trenchard-Smith, search his name on Netflix. I think they still might have some of his gems on there?

Friday, December 12, 2014


Sometimes I will get into a mood where I want to watch everything I can get my hands on. In a film history sort of way. Several years ago I did that with THE SEVENTH SEAL and Fritz Lang's M, kinda as a self taught lesson in film school. Turns out they are now a couple of my favorite films. Same thing with the film THE RED SHOES, a film about the ballet. I could care less about the ballet. But I remember hearing that THE RED SHOES was Martin Scorsese's favorite film. So I had to watch it. Had to. And what a movie night it was! Thanks to Mr. Scorsese I am now a big Powell & Pressburger fan.

An era of film making I am currently digging is the mid 60's and early 70's in Hollywood. All the major studio heads of yesteryear were either dead or retiring. And the suits buying these studios really didn't know the first thing about making movies. So they put their faith and trust in the “New Hollywood”. Maverick filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and William Friedkin just to name a few.

Monte Hellman is another filmmaker that can be lumped into that bunch. And in 1966 he made two westerns. Two films that were forgotten as soon as they were released. THE SHOOTING and RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND. Both of which were co-produced and starred Jack Nicholson. Nicholson even wrote the screenplay for RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND.

Often referred to as 'micro westerns' these films would go on to become cult classics. Being called 'micro westerns' I think comes from the fact both films are low budget ( which you can't tell because of how stunning the production value is), and the story each movie tells is surprisingly small for a western .

RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND is probably the most honest depiction of the west in a movie I have ever seen. Everything is sandy and dusty. All the characters have a look of desperation about them. All around it's just a very naturalistic feel. Hellman's depiction of the west is almost post apocalyptic. Which can account for the 'micro western' label. The characters in RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND seem like they could be some of the last remaining people on earth.

Three cowhands on the way to a cattle drive bunk at a cabin for the night. Little do they know that their hosts are outlaws who recently held up a stagecoach and killed a man. When an vigilante posse attacks the cabin, the trio is mistaken as part of the outlaw gang. Two of them escape only to be relentlessly hunted down by the avenging pose.

A movie like RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND is one that grows on you. When I finished watching it I could take it or leave it. But after a few days I kept thinking about the film and liking it more and more. I can't remember the last time I watched a western where the frontier was such a lonely place. And where the people who live in it look like prisoners who've given up hope.

Final thoughts. While I typically like my westerns a little more stylized, RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND is a cool little film. For such a small budget there is some excellent locations and high production value in the cinematography. One cool piece of trivia, the shooting location for the movie is now underwater. Yep, Glen Canyon near Kanab, Utah where the film was shot became Lake Powell.

I'd recommend RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND to avid movie buffs and fans of 60's counterculture films.