Friday, July 10, 2015

Obligatory Halfway-Through-The-Year Post

I haven't gone to the movies as much as usual this year. When I lived in CT, I went an average of once a week, but I moved to NYC in September and, well, not only is living here more expensive, but movies are, too ($15 per ticket as opposed to $10). Add to that the HUGE increase in movies available to see in theaters, and my indecision combines with my thriftiness to create an immobility on the movie-going front. Sad, but true.

But anyway, these are the movies I've seen in theaters this year, and a capsule-length review, listed in order of preference.
INSIDE OUT - Not quite as magical as Pixar's best films, but the moment-to-moment creativity and voice work are so superb (and occasionally surprising) that it almost makes up for it. Quick throwaway gags work the best (the cat, facts/opinions, déjà vu). Pity about the TERRIBLE short.

SPY - Far and away the funniest movie of the year, and easily McCarthy's best starring vehicle. The supporting cast is KILLER, and more of the jokes land than in any of McCarthy and Paul Feig's other films.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - The action is flat-out insane and mostly awe-inspiring. Great performances from Theron and Hoult. Nonetheless, it feels like something is missing. The movie felt a (robotic) arm's-length away the entire time.

THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL - The performers are so appealing in these roles that it doesn't matter that the plot isn't nearly as grabby as that of the first film. Maggie Smith's opening scene monologue on how to properly make tea is AMAZING. Pity about Dev Patel, though.

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY - Probably the best film version of this property we were ever going to get, even if it's utterly mediocre in every conceivable way. Dakota Johnson brings it, though, in a sprightly, slyly funny performance as Ana. Works better as a coming-of-age romance than as an erotic drama. Pity about dullard Jamie Dornan.

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON - The seams are starting to show on the Marvel formula, but this is still mostly enjoyable. Nice to get some extra time with Hawkeye, even if the new characters turn out to be pretty much duds. Indelible voice work from James Spader as Ultron.

THE BOY NEXT DOOR - Knowing camp trash of the highest order, but still camp trash.

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE - Terrific fun for the first two-thirds, then the ending blows it all to shit, with an unbelievably reckless disregard for human life that isn't in on the joke in the way the rest of the film is.

...and to make it ten, two holdovers from last year that I was able to catch on Netflix (and are better than any of this year's films so far):

THE WAY HE LOOKS - Touching, funny, heartfelt... I can't recommend this one enough.

LILTING - Very solid, it decidedly low-key. Doesn't quite offer the catharsis I would have liked, but still excellent for what it is. Great lead performances from Whishaw and Pei-Pei.


  1. You've made up my mind to see The Way He Looks. I was going back and forth...but I'm in.

    1. It's SO good. Just really, really well done all around. And such a sweet story.

  2. Never even heard of The Way He Looks. Thanks for putting it on my radar. Of the rest, I've only seen the new Avengers flick. I liked it, but yeah, the seams are showing.

    1. The Way He Looks is totally worth your time. Available on Netflix streaming.

      It's a pity the Marvel movies are sticking so closely to a formula. They have all the elements otherwise to make for great films. Not that I don't enjoy them, but it's getting repetitive and starting to taste a little stale.

  3. Man, I need to see Spy! Maybe I still can. Need to check my local screenings. I LOVED Inside Out for many of the reasons you listed and more. Avengers didn't do much for me, but I had never seen the first one. Saw it on a field trip with middle school kids. I feel, as you know, about the exact same as you on Fury Road. Need to check out The Way He Looks. Haven't heard of it.

    1. DUDE. See Spy like, NOW.

      The Way He Looks is so sweet. I'm leaving the plot a little vague so that people can be surprised, but I will say that the title is a bit of a play on words: The main character is a blind high school student in (I think....) Venezuela. It's just a really beautifully done film on all levels.