In 2013, audiences everywhere were sharing one emotion … terror. The Conjuring scared life back into the horror genre with its vintage setting, strong sympathetic performances and genuine old-school scares. With virtually no strong language or sex (like most horror films have), The Conjuring was rated R merely because of its sheer and effective terror. In my opinion, this was one the most compelling horrors in recent memory. Sadly, that has all come to an end with its tacky prequel/spin-off, Annabelle.
Where The Conjuring stayed ahead of the game by making the audience wait in agony for its demons to be released, instead Annabelle borrows cheap and clichéd scares from other far-superior horror films. Yes, Annabelle did make a spooky appearance in The Conjuring but a couple of good jolts from her does not mean she is worthy enough to receive her own film. Set in 1967, loving husband John (Ward Horton) buys an eerie vintage doll for his pregnant wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis).
The family his happy, but one horrific night will change all of that. A satanic cult invades the beloved family’s home, attacks the couple and leaves a bloody mess. In the wake of the chaos one of the cultic members, Annabelle, sets off a malevolent spirit to Mia’s precious doll. Now, a demon is awakened inside that very doll. Wait, what? Yep, that’s right, a couple drops of blood from this bitch and bam! The doll wakes up. Annabelle then proceeds into cliché after cliché after cliché of other horror movie staples. In the end, where The Conjuring mystified, Annabelle stupefies.
There’s no sugar coating this one: This reboot Left Behind is a terrible movie and it’s not even worthy enough to be placed with the so-bad-it’s-good films. As an avid reader of the Left Behind series it’s frustrating to see that the studio couldn’t even present a half-baked film. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ 1995 best-seller, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days, takes place on the day of Rapture and the two weeks following it. This book challenged readers on the viewpoint of Christian eschatology.
Yes, it is a hard book to take in because it deals with the end times and second coming of Christ, but the book somewhat scraped the surface dealing with the book of Revelations. After the huge success of the book, nevertheless, a series was born leading to 15 additional sequels and four films. Sadly, some great books in the end are just too difficult to be presentable on screen … this is the case for the Left Behind series. And if you thought Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind was bad, wait until you see Mr. Cage’s Left Behind. Mr. Cage’s once-promising career as an actor has now become a mere laughing-stock, but hey, at least he’s keeping a semi-steady paycheck. Right?
Like every Christian film I don’t expect much because they are low-budget, cheesy, poorly acted and full of cliches, but every once in awhile there comes a film that you just have to hide your face with shame … this year Left Behind is that film. So the Rapture has started, airplane pilot Rayford Steele (Cage) and a handful of others are still stuck on Earth with chaos and destruction awaiting them. Mr. Cage, along with the rest of his heathens (Lea Thompson, Cassi Thomson, Chad Michael Murray, Nicky Whelan and Jordin Sparks), simply can’t act. I can’t even begin to describe how horrendous this acting was. Every scene that was intended to be taken seriously instead played out more like a bad comedy. Along with the terrible acting and ear-numbing dialog (script by Paul LaLonde and John Patus) was the god-awful special effects. Nothing looked remotely real or believable in this film.
Instead, the film looked cheap and amateur. Here we also get one of the most boring Raptures ever put on film. Even as a parody, This Is the End pulls off a better Rapture. Director Vic Armstrong (Double Impact) leaves his actors helplessly wandering around in limbo because there’s zero direction or execution in this film. At least in The Identical and God’s Not Dead (also bad films) there was some form of direction and/or meaning to the film. At the end of the film all I could do was shake my fists and throw hour-old popcorn at the screen. Want to see the worst film of 2014? Check out Left Behind at a theater near you … Just kidding I’ll save you the headache, read the books instead. It’s time to retire Mr. Cage.
Director’s Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) and Steven Quale (Final Destination 5) brought this summer’s sweetest film that’s both good for the mind and the soul. Yes, The Hundred-Foot Journey most definitely has its faults, but the tenderness of the story and Helen Mirren’s performance pull at your heartstrings.
Based on Richard C. Morais’ 2010 bestseller, the film takes place in a quaint French village that only has room for one prestige restaurant … Madame Mallory’s (Mirren) Le Saule Pleureur. However, things are about to change for Madame Mallory’s business when the Kadam family arrives to the village. After Mama (Juhi Chawla) is killed in a devastating fire the Kadam family leaves Mumbai to start fresh and begin a new life. But when their car coincidentally breaks down near the French village, Papa (Om Puri) decides that this is the right spot to open his new Indian restaurant … Maison Mumbai. The restaurant is, of course, only a hundred feet from Madame Mallory’s restaurant. Mon Dieu!
This leads to a food war and racial antagonism, but in the end comes love, harmony and friendship. The heavy plot and cliches weigh down the film, but thanks to the wonderful performances from the actors (Mirren, Puri, Manish Dayal, Sarah Wayne Callies and Amit Shah) you forgive and enjoy. The lively music (A. R. Rahman) and vivid cinematography (Linus Sandgren) also help play to the film’s benefit. Like the delicious food being cooked right on screen Hallstrom knows how to craft a film based on passion and taste as he did in Chocolat. In the end, The Hundred-Foot Journey succeeds at hitting the viewers’ sweet spot and will make your mouth water at the delicious cuisines shown on screen.
Want to see the best film of 2014? Checkout Boyhood in a theater near you. There are great and masterful films that truly move us, but only come once in a blue moon. Last year, for me, it was 12 Years a Slave and now, this year, Boyhood has stepped into that category. Director and writer Richard Linklater (the Before trilogy: Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight) takes us through a simple story of following a boy from childhood to adulthood. But here’s the key, the film actually took 12 years to make and Linklater used the same actors throughout those 12 years. So we truly see these characters grow up before our very eyes. This coming-of-age epic is an unintentional masterpiece on both a technical scale and narrative scope. It’s one for the ages.
Linklater has already proven himself as one of the greats, but with Boyhood Linklater takes his artistic skill to an astonishing new level. This film was shot over 45 days and 143 scenes total from May of 2002 to August of 2013. Think about that … a film taking only a month and a half to shoot, but not fully completing it until 12 years later. That would take a great deal of patience and execution to complete and Linklater efficiently pulls it off. Take some notes Oscars, in my opinion, Boyhood definitely deserves some Oscar love this year. Linklater is not the only one to recognize here as its the actors (Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater) are praiseworthy as well. These actors could have easily opted out halfway through but they didn’t. Instead, they saw the bigger picture of what this film would do not only for the industry but our society.
The plot is rather simple, but ambiguous: Follow a Texas-born boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he grows up literally on screen from age 7 to 18. The lives of Mason and his older sister Samantha (played by Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei) are certainly not easy. Their parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) are divorced and their mom goes from one bad decision to another … by means of not picking the right men (alcoholics). Mason’s mom (Arquette) does mean well for her children and wanst him and his sister to have the best in life, but there’s a lot of immaturity in her character and her decisions. Mason’s dad (Hawke) also doesn’t know how to be a good father and acts like more of a pal to Mason. Hawke and Arquette have never been better and they prove it through their maturity in their characters on screen. The real praise, of course, goes to Coltrane. This is his fictional life we are journeying with for three hours so it has to be more than average.
We are there, all the way, cheering Mason on through his highs and lows up until he starts college. We also see Linklater’s artistic skill incorporated in Mason as he is pursuing a career in photography. All the actors in this film are at the highest rankings and with Linklater’s craft Boyhood blossoms smoothly right before your very eyes. Not only is the acting good but so is the dialog. There are many scenes in this film that draw you back into a memory of your past and that’s when you start to realize the power this film has. You, as the viewer, experience the emotions, the complications and the complexity these characters go through. Linklater knows how to capture the imagination and heart of a boy and in the end he captures ours as well.
Boyhood succeeds in every way a film should: it has great actors with strong character development, profound dialog, delightful music, vivid direction/execution and is visually dazzling on both a technical scale and narrative scope. If anything, this is a film to admire because Linklater has done something no one else has ever achieved before on film. Boyhood shows us the beauty in filmmaking and that there is hope for a brighter future in film again. Please go see this film. Go see this arousing time lapse unfold on screen … you won’t be disappointed. I know I wasn’t. I give Boyhood the highest of highs … five out of five stars. In my opinion, it’s one of the best films of the year.
For Your Consideration:
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Next Best Picture
In Their Own League
Mike, Mike, and Oscar
The Movie Oracle