Monthly Rewind – January Movie Releases 2010-2018

Hello, everybody!

I’m starting a new feature here on Movies with Chris called Monthly Rewind! Given that the decade just ended, I figured I do something a little different than a “Best of” or “Favorite of” the Decade list. Instead of naming all of my noteworthy movies, I thought I would look at the movies I’ve seen in the last ten years in those given months and give my thoughts on them all these years later, or just how they have held up.

It’s something new, and potentially, a lot of fun. So join me won’t you? Let’s get started and take a look at January’s past. The only year we won’t do is 2019, given that we just went through all of it. Again, these are movies that I have seen.

If you know something came out during that month, or year, and it’s not on here. It’s a good chance that I haven’t seen it – yes, even after all these years – or I just completely missed it while putting the list together. It’s a lot of movies after all.

Alright, let’s get started with 2010!

 

2010

Daybreakers

The Book of Eli

Legion

Edge of Darkness

Thoughts: It’s rather weird bunch of movies here. The four of these don’t have a lot of staying power with me, and presumably with audiences. Daybreakers, a world where almost everyone is a vampire, still has its fans and it is still an underrated vampire movie starring Ethan Hawke.

The Book of Eli probably still holds some weight because of the twist at the end, plus some of the visuals by directors The Hugh Brothers. And of course seeing Denzel Washington kick some ass.

Legion I think has been forgotten about, even though it got a short-lived sequel TV series on SyFy. At least some of the visuals still work and stick around like Doug Jones’ Ice Cream Man.

Finally, Edge of Darkness, one of the last movies Mel Gibson led, before his public meltdown (also, his first since Signs in 2002), which I don’t think anyone really remembers. I know I barely remember it.

 

2011

The Green Hornet

A Somewhat Gentle Man

Ong-bak 3

The Housemaid

The Mechanic

Ip Man 2

Thoughts: This month actually had two movies I had seen at the Chicago International Film Festival – A Somewhat Gentle Man and The Housemaid. The problem is I can’t remember if it was the year before, or if they played during the festival this year (both got limited releases in theaters this month). As for the other movies;

The Green Hornet was a really bad misfire, even by today’s standards. Of course, the only big highlight anyone remembers about this is Jay Chou’s Kato, and Kato Vision. Since honestly, it probably the only thing people should remember.

Ong-bak 3 is still, to this day, a mess. Tony Jaa had made the biggest name for himself with the first Ong-Bak, and later Tom yum Goong aka The Protector, but it was when Jaa took it upon himself to try and direct and completely different story under the Ong-bak name, and it just didn’t work. It also didn’t help that the movie suffered because Jaa basically suffered a panic attack trying to direct this and part 2, which were suppose to be one movie.

The Mechanic, a remake of the 1972 film, this was at the time when Jason Statham was in those small, independent feel action movies that were mostly forgettable. The Mechanic stills fits that mold, but I think the more surprising thing is that the movie got a sequel, that we’ll talk about later.

Ip Man 2, I mean come on. The Ip Man movies are all known for the impressive fight sequences with Donnie Yen playing the titular character so well.

 

 

2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Contraband

Underworld: Awakening

Haywire

The Artist

The Grey

Thoughts: This was a weird January, for me. I remember thinking back then, that this a good January in a while. First, we had two highly divisive films in the spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Artist. One was a very slow-burn spy film that many said was too dragged out, while the other went back to the old ways of Hollywood with a black-and-white, silent film, that has sadly been thrown to the wayside.

Contraband was a remake of the Icelandic film, which ironically, its lead star Baltasar Kormakur directed this. It’s probably one of more forgettable Mark Wahlberg-led movies, but also because he had Giovanni Ribisi playing the lead villain as a tough guy gangster. No disrespect to Ribisi, but come on.

Underworld: Awakening, the forth movie in the series, I’m sure it was meant as a way to bring back the franchise after its last film – which was technically a prequel to the first movie – but instead we got, probably, the most forgettable Underworld movie which didn’t do anything new for the series, other than give Kate Beckinsale’s Selene a daughter, who doesn’t even factor into the next movie (and they even recast), and introduce Theo James’ David, who is the most boring character in the series.

Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire was, to me, the start of Hollywood’s more brutal, gritty realistic take on fight scenes. It helped that Soderbergh cast MMA star Gina Carano as the lead, which got her more mainstream attention. The movie itself, slugs on a tad, with an ending that I remember kind of just happens.

Finally, Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, arguably, one of the only real movies that came out in January to have really a true amount of staying power. Anytime someone brings up The Grey it one of two things. One, how great it is or two, we never see Liam Neeson actually fight the Alpha wolf.

 

 

2013

Gangster Squad

Zero Dark Thirty

The Last Stand

Mama

Broken City

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Parker

Movie 43

John Dies at the End

Thoughts: I didn’t remember all these movies dropping in January, but here we are. I did manage to see Zero Dark Thirty in its limited release in December, but the wide release was this month.

Oh Gangster Squad, so much potential, and yet, such a disappointment at the end. Tragedy for the release date shift and reshoots aside, it’s hard to see how they wasted such a great cast and story, even to this day. Plus, the movie takes the Hollywood action route instead of the true takedown of Mickey Cohen.

John Dies at the End was one of those genre film festival favorites, which admittedly I watched much later, and I’ll admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. But I can see why it was, and still has, a midnight movie fan base.

Parker, for me, is the most forgettable Jason Statham one-word title films, which had him playing a thief that gets double-crossed and left for dead, only to take a new identity and work with Jennifer Lopez’ character – a real estate agent who wants more of life – who happens to have a connection to Statham’s old crew.

Broken City starred Mark Wahlberg as an ex-cop trying to take down the mayor of his city played by Russell Crowe. I honestly don’t remember anything about this movie. I had to look up what the movie was about to even write that short synopsis.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was my guilty pleasure of 2013, and it still kind of is. It knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to be something different. Plus, you get to stare at Gemma Arterton for an hour-and-a-half.

Mama, the film that brought up It and It Chapter Two director Andy Muschietti, and based off his own creepy short film. I think Mama gets some undeserved bashing – it’s not perfect or even all that great – but it’s definitely worthwhile, even though it does have a couple cheap pop scares.

The Last Stand, which I saw again recently, was highly more enjoyable than I remembered. It has the right amount of seriousness, humor, and quirkiness to Arnold Schwarzenegger getting older.

Then there’s Movie 43….ugh

 

 

2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Her

Inside Llewyn Davis

Lone Survivor

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Ride Along

I, Frankenstein

Thoughts: Her, Lone Survivor and Inside Llewyn Davis are the wide releases, and I’d say that Her probably has the most staying power over the other two mainly because of relevant it is still till this day. Inside Llewyn Davis does have a loyal fanbase, but I think it’s one of those movies that you don’t pop in regularly.

Ride Along was, arguably, the start of Kevin Hart’s film career stardom. Starring with Ice Cube as future brother-in-laws with Cube playing the hardened, no-nonsense cop, and Hart, a security guard, trying to prove himself. It was funny for the time and the chemistry between Hart and Cube worked, and still works.

I, Frankenstein was one of those movies I was weirdly looking forward to, even though I knew it was going to be bad. Then I watched it, and yeah. It’s not very good. Aaron Eckhart playing Frankenstein’s monster – named Adam – stuck in a war between Gargoyle angels and demons is a bit sloppy and overall things we’ve seen before.

Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit starring Chris Pine was an okay movie then, and an okay movie now. Pine does fine with what he’s given against Branagh’s thick fake Russian accent.

Finally, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the only real spinoff of the horror franchise (there was a foreign spinoff that isn’t “canon”), it’s also considered a “cousin” film as it follows a Hispanic group of friends dealing with a demonic entity that does end up being connected to the main series. It’s not best Paranormal Activity movie, but definitely one of the better, and underappreciated, movies.

 

 

2015

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

[REC] 4: Apocalypse

Taken 3

Predestination

Inherent Vice

Paddington

Blackhat

Foxcatcher

American Sniper

Red Army

A Most Violent Year

Thoughts: Some more wide releases of limited releases a couple weeks prior in Inherent Vice, American Sniper and A Most Violent Year. American Sniper, still to this day, gets flake, mostly deserved, and that fake baby man. Come on, Eastwood! Inherent Vice is still the weird movie where people don’t really know what’s going on and A Most Violent Year is mostly forgotten, even though it has some great performances by Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. Maybe it will get some more eyes on it as something is in the works to bring it back.

I believe Foxcatcher, was also a limited release gone wide this month. It was the first time we saw Steve Carell in a different light after The Office, and it was the first time I saw Channing Tatum as a real actor. Red Army was a documentary of the Soviet Union’s famed Red Army hockey team, which was very good, even if you aren’t a hockey fan.

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, is probably one of the forgettable movies this month, which is reasonable in my mind considering I really don’t remember anything about the movie. The same can be said for the thriller Blackhat, directed by Michael Mann, which starred Chris Hemsworth as a hacker who gets entangled in a dangerous, potentially worldwide threat. The only thing I truly remember about the movie – besides being a very diverse cast – is the sound going out in my theaters for what was probably the most exciting part of the movie, only for it to come back once the scene ended.

Taken 3 was a weird sequel, and honestly I can’t remember too much about this one either, other than the weird “twist” the movie does out of the blue. [REC] 4: Apocalypse, the final [REC] film, had a great set-up of bringing back original star Manuela Velasco as Angela, and trapping the action in a boat in the middle of the ocean, but the execution was kind of lacking, which is a huge bummer considering how great the series started.

Predestination, based on the short story “All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein, not only brought us the great Sarah Snook, but a weird, twisty sci-fi mystery drama about a multitude of different themes that is definitely worth the rewatch or first-time viewing.

Finally, Paddington, I mean what’s left to say about the loveable Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw – originally voiced by Colin Firth, but him and director Paul King agreed they needed to go a different route – and his crazy adventures.

 

 

2016

The Forest

The Revenant

Ride Along 2

13 Hours

Carol

The 5th Wave

The Boy

Ip Man 3

Room

Kung Fu Panda 3

Jane Got a Gun

Thoughts: Weirdly, only three wide release here in The Revenant, which is still the bear basically rag dolls Leonardo DiCaprio that got him an Oscar. Carol, which I don’t hear too much about anymore, but Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are fantastic in it, if you haven’t watched it yet, and then there’s Room, which gave us Jacob Tremblay and a fantastic performance by Brie Larson, which fans have turned on because…reasons?

This year might be the “worst” January in the decade to be honest. The Forest and The Boy were the horror films released this month and neither of them really did the job they set out to do. The Forest had the concept of basing it in Japan’s Suicide Forest with Natalie Dormer, while The Boy had Lauren Cohen in what was teased as a “is the doll supernatural or not?” Of course, only one of these is getting a sequel.

The 5th Wave, which was based off a pretty descent YA book, was a complete disappointment for me, personally. Even with the pretty much reliable Chloe Grace Moretz and pre-mega star Maika Monroe, the premise was perfect set-up for them to only make the most bland and boring “action” movie that year.

Speaking of disappointing, the Natalie Portman-led western Jane Got a Gun was most likely a product of behind-the-scenes troubles with original director Lynne Ramsay dropping out literally the first day of filming, and actors swapping in-and-out of lead roles and supporting roles.

Ride Along 2, a couple years after the first movie, brings back Kevin Hart and Ice Cube together moving the action to another city and bringing in Olivia Munn and Benjamin Bratt as the villain. I honestly can’t remember anything about this movie, which seeing how cheap these movies are to make, I’m surprised they didn’t make another one.

Ip Man 3’s main marketing push was having a fight scene between Donnie Yen’s Ip Man versus Mike Tyson’s Frank, and if you saw the movie, you know that the fight only happens once and it isn’t even the end of the movie. The movie itself is a fine action movie, and also introduces Jin Zhang’s Cheung Tin-chi, who got a spinoff movie.

The third and final Kung Fu Panda film came out this month, and brought an end to the movies in a perfect way. Not only did Po find his family and his people, he finally reached the end of his arc of becoming a great fighter.

Finally, 13 Hours, the Michael Bay-directed movie about the U.S. compound in Libya that got attacked, and the security team there defended it. It’s basically the “ill-timed” movie about the attacks in Benghazi. Bay isn’t really that kind of director so the movie was all about the action, and for that, I was thoroughly surprised. The cast is also pretty great with John Krasinski beefing up for the role.

 

 

2017

Hidden Figures

A Monster Calls

Patriots Day

The Founder

Underworld: Blood Wars

Monster Trucks

The Bye Bye Man

Sleepless

Live by Night

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Split

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Thoughts: Four limited releases turned wide this month in Hidden Figures, A Monster Calls, Patriots Day and The FounderA Monster Calls is the one that sticks with me the most because I didn’t expect the movie to hit me as hard as it did. The Founder, the story of Ray Kroc who turned the family owned burger restaurant into what we know now, saw Michael Keaton be a ruthless, ambitious former salesman that made us loathe him. Hidden Figures and Patriots Day, both based on true stories, with Hidden Figures probably being the one of the two that sticks out to more people.

Ben Affleck-directed Live by Night was considered a huge disappointment by all accounts, and lead to some personal problems for Affleck. Speaking of disappointing, especially one that essentially killed a franchise, Underworld: Blood Wars made Selene into, basically, superhero with no real purpose other than “trying” to do something different, but it was a big heap of NOPE.

On that front, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter did end the long running franchise that was more of the same from what we’ve seen, with a twist I’m sure they thought was smart, but really came off as dumb. Monster Trucks was a weird take on the brand, but you know what, if I was a kid, I would have dug the hell out of this. As an adult, it was still an okay family movie.

Sleepless was actually a remake of a VERY good French film Nuit Blanche, which followed the same basic premise of a cop who goes to a nighclub where his son is being kept after a deal gone wrong. The remake was kind of lifeless despite its descent cast of Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Scoot McNairy, Dermot Mulroney and David Harbour.

The Bye Bye Man…*sigh*

Honestly, the only thing that got me in for xXx: Return of Xander Cage was that it starred Donnie Yen…that’s it. I mean, yes the movie was as ridiculous as you would think it would be.

Finally, Split came out this month, in what was one of the best surprises of the month and best surprise twist sequels that I can remember. Even before that though, we got an amazing performance by James McAvoy, and it made Anya Taylor-Joy a household name.

 

 

2018

Molly’s Game

The Post

Phantom Thread

I, Tonya

Insidious: The Last Key

Paddington 2

The Commuter

Proud Mary

12 Strong

Den of Thieves

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Hostiles

Thoughts: Four limited releases this month in Molly’s Game, I Tonya, The Post and Phantom Thread; five if you count Hostiles – which kind of came and went without much fanfare despite a solid performance by Christian Bale. The Post and Molly’s Game have pretty much, at least it feels like, been forgotten. Phantom Thread was Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis’ last team-up as this was Day-Lewis’ last film, and what a way to go out. As for I, Tonya, this arguably made Margot Robbie the true household name that she is now, with her portray as Tonya Harding. Plus it gave us Paul Walter Hauser.

This month also gave us Proud Mary, which I thought was a nice homage to 70s action movies, but it failed to really leave an impression. Insidious: The Last Key was the last Insidious movie we got, which acted as an origin story for Lin Shaye’s Elise and a prequel to the very first movie. It’s not the best entry in the series, but at least Shaye got one more ride of the character.

We also got the ending of the Maze Runner movies with the third entry The Death Cure which admittedly was a little too long for its own good, and lacked a certain punch for me. The same could be said about 12 Strong – the certain punch – the based on a true story war film that starred Chris Hemsworth leading a small group of soldiers to stop an attack from the Taliban after 9/11. The movie was more of a character movie than an action film like it was marketed, but seeing Chris Hemsworth, Michael Pena and Michael Shannon play off each other was a nice please.

Now for two movies that were surprisingly good in their own way, The Commuter and Den of Thieves. The Commuter could have easily been another Liam Neeson action thriller that most people forgot about – and maybe this one is too – I happen to watch it again recently and thoroughly enjoyed it again. When it comes to Den of  Thieves, this could have easily been a forgettable action crime thriller with everyone chewing up the scenery. And in some part, it really is, but there was something about the wannabe-Heat to it all that I really liked.

Finally, Paddington 2…again, how can you NOT love these movies!

 

And that’s it everyone. Admittedly, this was a lot. So I’ll probably tone down the lists going forward, especially since this is going up at the end of January. But more importantly, I want to know what you guys think about this. Let me know what your favorite movies in January were?

My Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Well, it’s the end of the year and you know what that means. The lists of “Best of” or “Worst of” start to come out.  So of course, I have to put my list out there too!

Making these “Best of” lists is always hard.  Because no matter what’s on your list people will always disagree with where you put a movie.  So this year (like last year) I will put the movies in alphabetical order.  It’s simple and clean for the most part.  As usual I put the “Honorable Mentions” first and then put up my “Best/Favorite” movies of the year.

NOTE: This is MY list and in no way is official or meant to say your list is not good.  These are the movies that I enjoyed/liked/loved or thought where actually superior to others (I won’t say which ones are those)

Movies I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

John Dies at the End, The Kings of Summer, Mud, The East, Blue Jasmine, Fruitvale Station, The To Do List, Dallas Buyers Club, Short Term 12, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, Antiviral

 

Honorable Mentions:

2 Guns: Didn’t expect a lot coming from this even with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.  Turns out it was pretty fun with some cool action scenes and great chemistry between the two leads.

About Time: Being a fan of Richard Curtis’ Love Actually I was kind of excited to see what he would do for his “last romantic movie.” The thing that surprised me about the movie is that it wasn’t just a romantic comedy with a time travelling aspect to it but it’s what you do with that.

Closed Circuit: A great political thriller about a bombing in London with the CCTV cameras not being any good use for the case.  Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall give solid performance and the way everything comes together and goes down really shocked me.

Dead Man Down: A reunion between director Neils Arden Oplev and his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace was nice to see but it was Colin Farrell’s stoic performance in his very European feel movie about revenge that had me from the very start.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters: Tommy Wirkola’s took almost the same sensibility with this that he took with his hit Dead Snow.  The movie didn’t take itself too seriously and it worked.  I had a lot of fun with this movie and I think if people gave it another chance they would enjoy.

In A World: Directed and staring Lake Bell, the movie was a fun quirky look at how competitive Hollywood can be, just to do a voice over in a movie trailer.

Mama: Based on a short by the same name, producer Guillermo del Toro and short director Andres Muschietti came together to expand the short and give it a creepy/eerie mythology.  I liked the tone of the movie as it did fit a bit with the short and del Toro’s classic touch.

Oblivion: The movie could have been lost as a typical “sci-fi” movie but I found the movie to have a little more and with the score, it got to me enough to get here on the list.

Olympus Has Fallen: One of the two White House takeover movies and in my opinion the best of the two. Probably the reason I liked it the most was that it felt like an 90s action movie and knew what it was.

Out of the Furnace: A beautifully shot movie with a great story about brothers and what you will do for them.  Christian Bale does a great job in the movie but it’s Casey Affleck who steals the show as his brother.

Star Trek Into Darkness: I loved J.J. Abrams Star Trek and was excited to see what he would do in his second go around.  I know not a lot of people were crazy about the movie, even calling it the worst Star Trek movie ever (REALLY?) but I really liked it and Benedict Cumberbatch’s character reveal was still awesome to hear and see even if I already kind of knew.

Stoker: Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) made his American directorial debut this family drama thriller that is a bit of a slow burner and goes in directions you wouldn’t think would go.

The Croods: Didn’t know much about The Croods walking in and I have to say I enjoyed the hell out of it. Nicholas Cage’s father character totally fit him.

The Family: With nice nudges to Robert De Niro’s gangster movies, Luc Besson manages to pull together a good family action drama with a gangster twist of sorts.  But I think one of the highlights is John D’Leo

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Although I didn’t enjoy the whole movie as much as I did An Unexpected Journey, the sequel had it’s moments that I felt I could not let the movie pass without being on the list.  The River Barrel scene, Smaug and Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel were the major highlights for me.

The Heat: I don’t think you could go wrong with Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig.  It also happened to be one of the movies that I laughed out loud in a theater.

The Last Stand: Another American directorial debut, this time by Kim Jee-Woon (The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I Saw the Devil) bought back Arnold Schwarzenegger to the big screen.  Yes, the movie wasn’t perfect but the last third act was pretty funny.

The Lone Ranger: The movie does have some pitfalls but the movie really wasn’t as bad as people said it was.  The last action scene involving the train is fantastic.

The Place Beyond the Pines: This movie wasn’t like anything I thought it would be. The trailers give nothing away and it takes a turn you didn’t think I would. The movie was a bit on the long side for my taste and the last act wasn’t as good as the first two.

The Wolf of Wall Street:  A great and somewhat twisted story of the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, a real life former Stock Broker, who rose through the ranks his own way.  Martin and Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio prove they can do no wrong together.  Although the movie was a little long for my taste every minute tells a story.

This is the End: When the movie was first announced I didn’t really care too much about it but then I saw the movie and I took everything back.

Trance: Danny Boyle is pretty much always dependable and his psychological crime thriller makes you think until the very last minute on what the hell was really happening and even then you’re wondering what the hell was going on.

We’re the Millers: A little raunchy comedy never hurt anyone and with an unusual premise the movie actually kind of worked.  Although, the major flaws of the movie was Jason Sudeikis’ main character.

White House Down: The second White House takeover movie and one I wasn’t looking forward to.  One reason is that it was another White House takeover movie. The second was because I’m not the biggest Channing Tatum fan.  However, the movie was a good combination of humor and action so I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

World War Z: Very loosely based on Max Brooks’ popular zombie book, Brad Pitt stars in a race against time zombie survival movie.  Despite its behind-the-scenes problems the movie still managed not to be terrible.  Probably the standout of the movie was the Israel action sequence.

 

BEST/FAVORITE

12 Years a Slave: One of the most gripping, emotional, and character-centric movies of the year and it’s all a true story of Solomon Northup. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender give two of the best performances of the year and Paul Dano’s short supporting role is another highlight performance wise.

American Hustle:  Everyone gives great performances but probably the standout of the cast is Amy Adams.  Based on true events the movie has a good sense of the time period down to the music and clothing.  David O’ Russell knows how to get good performances out of his cast.

Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks gives a great performance as the title character that is kidnapped by Somali Pirates and does his best under the situation.  Props go to Barkhad Abdi for standing toe-to-toe with Hanks during those intense scenes.  But Hanks steals the show especially in the last act.

Evil Dead: Remaking a “cult-favorite” like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is sure to strike a chord with people, and that is exactly what this movie did.  However, I (and many others) were able to look past that and see the movie for what it was.  It wasn’t necessarily a direct remake and it didn’t try to tarnish the original that people all love.  At the end of the day the movie did its job and that is to scare me.

Fast & Furious 6: Everyone thought that topping Fast Five would be hard but Justin Lin’s last Fast & Furious movie sure made it harder to make that decision.  The action is pushed to another level and everything feels like a conclusion and a new way to begin the story.  If it isn’t the best Fast & Furious movie then it sure is a close second. And really, can you not like the long runway scene!

Frozen: I found myself struggling a little with animated movies this year.  As much as I liked seeing Monsters University this movie surely is the better movie and a strong one at that.  Disney (by themselves, not with Pixar) has been stepping up the game lately with their animation movies.  Frozen played a little with the genre but also felt like an old classic and I think that’s why I liked it so much.

G.I Joe: Retaliation: Let’s face it, Retaliation should have not worked after Rise of Cobra.  Yes, the first one had it’s moments but if you asked me back then if I wanted a sequel I would have said no.  However, add in the “franchise savior” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and make it feel realistic and you have me.  Besides, the ten minute mountain sequence was just awesome.

Gravity: Every now and then we get a movie that is truly an “experience movie” and Gravity is that movie this year.  However, we also have to add in the “How the hell did they do all that?”  Nevertheless, the movie is great to look at and with the combination of Alfonso Cuaron’s directing and Sandra Bullock’s great performance I was completely sucked in to what I was seeing on screen.

Iron Man 3: Say what you will about Iron Man 3.  Was it perfect? No, (but really is any movie) but was it better than Iron Man 2? Yes.  But of course all anyone can talk about was “The Mandarin Twist” which pissed everyone off.  Let’s face it, Marvel totally got us and I think that’s what pissed everyone off.  I personally loved it because it played with our expectations and gave us, whether intentional or not, one of the biggest moments this year.

Man of Steel: I, like everyone, had my doubts about Zack Snyder’s Superman movie.  But seeing the final product but away all those doubts.  Henry Cavill did a great job playing the man from two worlds and Russell Crowe’s Jor-El was better than I thought it would be too.  The standout for me was Antje Traue’s Faora-Ul.  Of course this movie also had it’s own “twist” which again, I didn’t mind but the purists out there seemed to forget that it was part of the, at least to me, beginning of who and what Superman will become later.

Much Ado About Nothing: Joss Whedon took a break from his Marvel duties and filmed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play of the same name.  Filled with Whedon’s alumni the movie was set in modern times but still managed to work.  Drama-filled, funny and smart Whedon proved that he can work in all genres.

Pacific Rim: What’s not to like about giant robots fighting giant monsters! Next to the fact that everything looks fantastic

Prisoners: Hugh Jackman steals the show as he plays a father wanting his daughter back and takes matter into his own hands by taking the only person accused of it, who is played by Paul Dano.  Jake Gyllenhaal also gives a strong performance but it’s probably Melissa Leo who goes toe to toe with Jackman.

Rush:  A re-telling of the famous rivalry between Formula-One racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  With great performances by leads Chris Hemsworth, standout Daniel Bruhl and Hans Zimmer’s score it was truly one of the best movies of the year.

The Conjuring: If this is James Wan’s last horror movie, it’s surely a good way to go.  Creepy, scary and based on actual events investigated by real life paranormal investigators The Warrens.

The Way Way Back: A great indie comedy with a good and real story about growing up. I knew nothing about it expect that it was getting good reviews and I agreed with them. Sam Rockwell is the best part of the movie and worth all the praise.

The Wolverine:  Basing it off one of the most popular Wolverine stories it’s finally a solo Wolverine movie that Wolverine fans wanted.  Hugh Jackman proves that Wolverine is his role and I feel sorry for the next guy that takes the role when Jackman finally steps aside.

The World’s End: The final installment of The Cornetto Trilogy isn’t probably entirely what people thought it would be but it was a somewhat fitting ending to it.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost do a switcheroo role wise with Pegg being the better of the two.

Thor: The Dark World:  Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston embrace their roles more this time around and the movie really ups the action this time around.  Needless to say this movie surprised the hell out of me.

You’re Next:  A combination to an old school horror and home invasion, You’re Next was one of my biggest surprises this year. Also a fine performance by Sharni Vinson playing the heroine.

Zero Dark Thirty: Besides all the buzz (or controversy depending on how you view it) around the movie, it still was a great movie about (how the tagline puts it) “The Greatest Manhunt in History).  Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke career shot straight up after this but another highlight from the movie is Mark Strong’s supporting role.

Mama Review

Dir: Andres Muschietti (directed the short Mama)

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Isabelle Nelisse, Megan Charpentier, Daniel Kash

Synopsis: Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?

 

Hollywood has found some new ways of finding “inspiration” for movies. Besides remakes and reboots of old movies and franchises they have started to move to different mediums. Young Adult novels are now the craze with The Hunger Games and Twilight but they are starting now to adapt short films that pop out online. Mama is one of the examples. However, instead of giving it to somebody that would most likely mess it up it’s produced by the master of freaky ghost stories himself Guillermo Del Toro, and directed by the shorts director Andres Muschietti. Here, Del Toro and Muschietti take that premise of the short and expand upon it.

 

Mama starts with Game of Thrones Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, as Jeffrey, taking away his two young daughters (Victoria and Lilly) in a fit of disarray. They wind up in a cabin in the woods, where a mysterious force comes out of the shadows and takes out Jeffrey, leaving the two girls by themselves. From there, a typical del Toro beautiful opening credits sequence lays out the five years of the children’s lives through a series of kids’ kind of creepy drawings.

 

Cut to the present and we see that Jeffrey’s twin brother Lucas, also played by Coster-Waldau, has been trying to find his nieces since their disappearance, while his gothy girlfriend Annabel (a barely recognizable Chastain) tries to support him in the search. When the kids are found they live with Lucas and Annabel and of course the adults don’t know that Mama came with them

 

From here Mama becomes a horror ghost story that only del Toro can bring to the big screen. The atmosphere of the house is kind of eerie knowing that Mama is there but you have the mystique of del Toro and Muschietti bringing the same atmosphere he did in the short. Both of those things help the movies creep factor go to high but also makes the typical horror movie clichés be almost okay.

 

Although Victoria and Lilly are Lucas’s nieces we mostly follow Annabel who isn’t too thrilled with have children coming into her life. Matter of fact, the first time we see Annabel she’s taking a pregnancy test and celebrates the negative results. Then Annabel starts to see that Victoria and Lilly are acting strange even after what they have been through. Of course that is the complete opposite of Mama, who will do anything she can to take care of children that aren’t even hers. Don’t get me wrong, Mama does cause some trouble to people that she thinks are unsafe around Victoria and Lilly but she’s doing it for other reasons as well.

 

While pretty creepy in her CGI design Mama is actually given a back-story that, depending on how you view the situation, makes her more of a sympathetic spirit. This also makes her a more interesting and even makes the viewer understand why she cares for these kids. Speaking of the kids, they are not your typical horror movie kids either. One of the things I love about del Toro’s movies, even the ones he produces, is the way he handles children. Victoria and Lilly have been through this terrible situation and then are thrown back into the “real” world. They have to deal with the fact that they have other people to support them now and not just Mama. Muschietti handles this very well for a first time director and it’s a sign of a good director that can make children believable in movies.

 

The whole movie builds to a somewhat poetic ending that I think more del Toro fans, or open minded viewers, will appreciate. It’s nice that they went in the direction that they did and it actually took me a bit by surprise that Muschietti would take the route.

 

All in all, Mama was a creepy ghost story that did a pretty good job expanding a story that was told through an equally creepy short.

 

Mama

4 out of 5

mama

Anticipated Movies of 2013 Part 1

Well 2012 was a great year of movies don’t you think? Well 2013 seems to be another great year too. As you can tell from the title, this is going to be a list of my anticipated movies of 2013. Of course to spare you from reading a long list I’m going to separate it months at a time. Remember this is my list so don’t think that all of these movies are going to be a home run.

Jan

4th: Zero Dark Thirty

Although it gets a wide release the following week, here in Chicago it comes out a little earlier. Nonetheless, Kathryn Bigelow did an amazing job with her first war film The Hurt Locker that sprung the careers of Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie. Now, she comes back with yet another war movie about the biggest manhunt of Osama bin Laden with an already star studded cast of Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain, Kyle Chandler, Joel Edgerton and Mark Strong.

 

11th: Gangster Squad

Just look at the cast and you can see why everybody is excited for this. Add in newcomer director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and the gangsters and you got me hooked.

 

18th: The Last Stand, Broken City, Mama

The first stacked weekend of the year with the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a leading role, a political thriller with Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg, and a Guillermo del Toro produced horror movie based on a creepy short film.

 

25th: Movie 43, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Parker, John Dies at the End

Another stacked week with a comedy of different stories with different actors and directors, a twist on a well known fairy tale and another Jason Statham movie with Michael Chiklis and JLO (besides her I’m actually looking forward to the movie). Finally John Dies at the End has been making waves at film festivals and sometimes with good buzz comes a good movie (talking film festival wise)

 

Feb

1st: Bullet to the Head

            Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the movie looks pretty cool. Add in Sylvester Stallone’s “sense of humor” and the movie’s look of action then am in.

 

8th: Side Effects

Directed by Steven Soderbergh and what looks like a great thriller I can’t wait for it. Even if it has Channing Tatum.

 

15th: A Good Day to Die Hard

            While some think that the Die Hard franchise has past its “prime” or welcome point. I still find them highly entertaining and great fun. Now this adds John McClane’s son into the mix.

 

22nd: Snitch

Based on what is said to be a true story of a father going undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal. The movie stars The Rock, I mean Dwayne Johnson as the father and it stars some other heavy hitters like Barry Pepper, Benjamin Bratt, Jon Bernthal, Susan Sarandon and Michael Kenneth Williams.

 

Mar

1st: Stoker

Directed by the awesome Chan-wook Park (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, Thirst) the trailers make the movie look like a crazy psychological thriller.

 

8th: Dead Man Down, The ABCs of Death

            The first American movie directed by Niels Arden Oplev who did the fantastic Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and even stars original Lisbeth Salander, Noomi Rapace. Then there’s a 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in “all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.”

 

15th: Carrie

            Although many are against the remake, I was at first too but being against remakes nowadays isn’t really the worst thing, after seeing the teaser, the impressive cast of Julianne Moore and Chole Grace Mortez, and the fact that they are going to stick closer to the Stephen King book then De Palma 76’ film, (although that is really good) really makes me excited for this.

 

29th: G.I Joe: Retaliation, The Place Beyond the Pines

Although the first Rise of Cobra was more a dumb fun summer popcorn movie, it had its small moments. But even then the movie was not really good. So how do you make a sequel that makes you forget about the first one? Reboot of course, well a sort of reboot anyway. With a brand new cast of characters and more realistic looking action sequences I am highly excited for this. As you some of you know I was not happy with the year long delay either. Place Beyond the Pines looks pretty interesting with a respectful cast with Ryan Gosling leading the charge.

 

Apr

5th: Jurassic Park 3D Re-Release

            I mean come on lets face it. It’s a chance to see Jurassic Park again on the big screen.

 

12th: Evil Dead

Yet another remake of a classic horror movie I know but what does this have going for it? Well, first Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are producing. Raimi hand picked the young new director Fede Alvarez to redo this. Also, the red-band trailer that came out in the summer really helped put me (and maybe others) at ease that the movie was not going to disappoint.

 

19th: Oblivion

            By new visionary director Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy) the movie looks pretty good with Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman leading the cast. Set in the future where humans managed to win a war against aliens but Earth was destroyed in the process seems pretty cool.

 

26th: Pain and Gain

Many of you know about my feelings for Michael Bay but after seeing the trailer for this and the cast of Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Ed Harris and Anthony Mackie, I’m kind of excited.