Monday, January 6, 2014

Eimer's Best Movie Experiences of 2013

It was a good year for films. I was finally able to catch up with all of the 2012 Academy Award nominees (and winners), was mildly entertained by the summer crop of films and have seen a modest amount of Autumn awards bait to roll in this past November and December – not to mention some movies that have hung out for years in my Netflix queue.

That said, here is a list of my 10 best movie experiences of 2013. Keep in mind, some of these were released in 2012. Plus, I haven’t seen many of the critical darlings including Her, Blue Jasmine, The Act of Killing, Captain Phillips, Philomena 12 Years a Slave, Rush, Dallas Buyers Club, All Is Lost, American Hustle, Inside Llewyn Davis and Frozen – but I plan to.

Also, for those that do not know, please follow my One Sentence Movie Reviews on Twitter. I try to update both old and new movies during the week. 300 posts, and counting.

So, without further adieu (and in no particular order)

One of the better thrillers I've seen in quite some time. This kept me scratching my head from the very beginning. Very dark. Very disturbing. A slight nod to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. With lots of great acting mixed in. Can't talk enough about the acting in particular Jackman, Gyllenhaal the rest of the supporting cast. Like I said, very tough to watch at times, but a very through-provoking movie about the extent that a family will go to get the answers they need to finally sleep at night. Great editing and direction that continues all the way to the surprise ending.

Jackson, once again, takes us into the world of Middle Earth and mesmerizes with great acting, direction and - yes - special effects. I now see what he's trying to do with the movies. Trying to mend and mold them into a masterful six-part series - and it's working. I'm a fan of the heroes journey adventures and this does not disappoint with twists and turns and plenty of action along the way. And that includes the final scenes with the pompous, prideful dragon Smaug rolling around in his coins and treasures like Scrooge McDuck from Duck Tales. Just a fine movie that sets up a fantastic intro to the final film. Hats off to cinematography, editing, art direction and VFX teams as well for bringing this fantastic land to life. One of the best movies of the year that deserves to be seen in the theater with the full 3D treatment. If I had one little complaint, it would have been to cut it down by 20 minutes. But that's just a minor complaint. Check 'er out nonetheless.

You won't want to visit Sea World again after you view this fantastic documentary. Much like the Academy Award winning 'The Cove', this documentary focuses it's lens not on dolphins, but instead on killer whales in captivity with some crazy unsettling video footage. I personally visited Sea World twice when I was young. I really didn't know any better. But, after watching this documentary (which Sea World refused to be interviewed for by the way) my kids will not step foot in the place. I'm sure a high percentage of people that view this doc will also think twice. Very thought-provoking insights, interviews and great direction by Cowperthwaite. This is a film, which should be nominated - if not win - a best documentary feature Academy Award. Well, it looks like The Act of Killing is growing momentum. But, check this one out nonetheless – and cancel those plans to Sea World while you’re at it.

What GOODFELLAS did for the mafia and violence, this movie does for sex, drugs and penny stocks. Just a great film from start to finish. Sure, it's a bit risque and I'm sure the religious and conservative people in the audience will find plenty of fault with it. But what I watched was a non-stop experiential rat-a-tat-tat-tat film that clipped along like a machine gun. Great editing, great direction, great shot-selection, and the acting; the acting was simply phenomenal with DiCaprio leading the charge for some sort of award. He does a fantastic job that’s both entertaining, filled with tension and laugh-out-loud funny. And let's not forget Jonah Hill and the rest of the rowdy bunch. What a great film. Possibly the best of the year! Check 'er out.

Loved this film. THE SHINING sits in my top ten films of all time. So, to say I was very intrigued and wanted to see this movie was an understatement. The director does not disappoint as he finds these interesting people telling their interesting crazy theories on The Shining. The crazy thing is, they're all freaking plausible. I personally love the idea of the MInotaur and Theseus. Shucks, from the Trail of Tears theory to the Moon landing being faked - I loved all of them. This just goes to show the power of cinema and the different reactions you will get to popular, cult films. Fans of Kubrick, movie lovers and fans of The Shining will adore this movie. All others will moderately enjoy it. Interesting nonetheless. Check er out!

Solid four-star film (maybe could even creep up into the five star territory). This didn't feel like a movie, it felt like a personal documentary. Great script (simplistic), wicked action, seamless, detailed direction by Bayona (you must see THE ORPHANAGE) and great cinematography by Oscar Faura - are working on all gears to pump out just a great mind-blowing film. The tsunami sequence is just amazing, and the attention to detail is fantastic. And the acting (all of which was pulled from the director) is top notch - moreso than Watts and MacGregor, but the child actors as well. Check this out. Unbelievable film.

So much for that sophomore slump, eh Carruth? Another cool interesting sci-fi flick from Shane Carruth who directed the low-budget, thought-provoking time-travel film PRIMER. Since I’ve seen this film three months ago, I’ve tried to explain this movie to friends and family, but I just couldn't put it to words. Just like Carruth's other film, there's a lot going on and there are layers to each thought. Flowers, pigs, worms, hypnotism and robbery all come together to create a head-scratcher of a film, but in a good way. Not in a negative way. Keep it up Carruth. Keep the creative, thought-provoking films coming. One of the most thought-provoking films I've seen since, well, PRIMER.

This was a movie where I felt utterly flabbergasted, and dare I say jealous, when I left the theater. This is a great movie that not only had you on the edge of your seat from the very beginning, but shook you a little bit and made you take notice of your surroundings. At only 91 minutes, it quickly and efficiently packs a wallop, right in your gut. Everything from the cinematography to direction to plot (and let's not forget the special effects) are thought out in precision and combine to create a truly special film. Sure, the special effects take center stage, but Bullock carries the film as the sole actor, lest we forget Clooney's supporting role. I can't say enough about this film. Kudos to Cuaron for taking on such a crazy project. You can see the dedication and love of the craft in every frame. One more thing I can say, is that as soon as the movie ended, I didn't want to leave the theater, I didn't want to toss my 3D glasses in the bin at the door. I wanted it to start again so I could watch it again, and maybe again. It's been a long time since that's happened to me, let me tell you that.

I really enjoyed this film. Just like Nichols other film (TAKE SHELTER) you have to suspend disbelief a tiny bit to enjoy this special treat. All actors are 100 percent into their characters. Cinematography, dialogue, editing and art direction hit on all cylinders as well. In a sense, this movie is a perfect companion piece to Rob Reiner's STAND BY ME, which was based on a story by Stephen King. In a sense, MUD is a coming-of-age story between two boys in their early teens trying to maintain their youth as they deal with real-life adulthood issues such as divorce, violence, poverty, murder and true love. Again, this movie wouldn't have been as good if wasn't for the acting (e.g. McConaughey, Witherspoon, Sheperd, Shannon and the two youths Sheridan and Lofland). However, and more importantly, kudos should go to director Nichols who has put together two fantastic films that can't quite be placed into any specific genre - which is really cool. Check 'er out.

What a very creative, interesting thought-provoking film. With the exception to SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED and THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, this is one of the finest science-fiction romantic movies I've seen in quite some time. Very creative direction, screenplay, art direction and visual effects. The story, however, is what makes it stand apart. Two planets. Two loves. It's a like a Romeo and Juliet interplanetary love story. And the acting is just right. Not over the top. Very subtle. It's just a great film all-around. Highly recommended. Check er out.

Other 2013 top movie recommendations:

  • Before Midnight
  • Argo
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Sinister
  • World War Z
  • Pacific Rim
  • Frances Ha
  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Life of Pi
  • Sound of my voice
  • Looper
  • Trance
  • The Way, Way Back
  • End of Watch
  • Wreck-It-Ralph

  • Eimer's Favorites of 2011

Eimer's Worst Movie Experiences of 2013

Throughout any given year, I read a lot about upcoming movies. It's almost like I'm studying for a test that I will never take.

When it comes to film, I know the good, the bad and the ugly before the celluloid (are they even using celluloid anymore) hits the theaters. Which is why, nine times out of ten, I usually like the majority of movies that I view. And, thanks to movie blogs, Rotten Tomatoes and the like, I tend to stay away from most of the crud that comes out of Hollywood. Granted, once in a while, I may miss a gem hidden under the poop, but not often.

But, just like the sands through the hour glass, year after year some stinky turds always seem to get through the Eimer film funnel. Which brings us to this list, which definitely does not make up the worst movies released last year (I still haven’t seen Grown Ups 2, Smurfs 2 or The Lone Ranger, but I want too!). These are simply the worst movie experiences that I personally witnessed last year.

So, take them with a grain of salt. But, please avoid them nonetheless. And, if you happened to see them this past year, I feel sorry for you.

Chan-wook Park's first 'English speaking' movie is cinematically dazzling ... yet narratively dull. If you're judging a film by cinematography and art direction, this film is phenomenal, tons of thought-provoking, innovative shots that made my jaw drop. Basically, that's what I stayed around for. As far as plot, this movie was very predictable and, sadly, not that interesting at all. It's a pity because I was really looking forward to seeing this film after hearing great things from critics. Perhaps, said critics where a bit blinded by Parks' previous outings including the Vengeance trilogy of OLDBOY, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE, which are highly recommended by the way.

When I saw Soderbergh was on board for this movie and I had read a tiny bit about the movie, I was expecting an engrossing, thought-provoking movie about anti-depressants and over medication of America, sort of like his other great works including TRAFFIC, CONTAGION and ERIN BROCKOVICH. However, this movie took a sad turn for the worse and veered into the absurd and disappointing; something stupid that reminded me of a far better movie (with a somewhat different plot) ... Richard Gere's PRIMAL FEAR (1996). Although this film was expertly shot, directed and acted, I was a bit disappointed and felt a little misled in the end. However, that's just me.

There were a couple of big flaws with this film. First, Director Stern was forced to cram all of his big achievements (and failures) into 110 minutes. Second, the only preparation Ashton Kutcher did for the part was master Job’s odd walk, which mimics a weird pigeon-toed prance. Third, after reading the book last year, I’m convinced that a 2-3 hour film version probably isn’t the way to go to highlight this man's life. Perhaps a 10-part miniseries in 1-hour increments could work (i.e. Band of Brothers) on HBO? I think there would have been more opportunity to 'air' out his life story a bit more. Truth be told, this film didn't really move me too much, say as LINCOLN or BEHIND THE CANDLEABRA or [insert another cool docudrama here]. It was just meh. Maybe, after it's all said and done, it's simply too early to make a movie so soon after his death. Acting was adequate, but nothing noteworthy save Josh Gad as Woz, which just felt weird as well.

Ugh. Not sure where to begin. The convoluted plot, which is a bit like T2: JUDGMENT DAY, but not as good. The ‘zany’ (i.e. stupid) twist in the middle. Or the fact that, basically, Iron Man is a robot in this movie. It's The Iron Giant. Tony Stark doesn’t even need to be in the uniform anymore, which is just stupid. Let me reiterate, Iron Man is not a real person anymore - it's a freaking robot. Speaking of Tony Stark, he’s turned into a mix between DIE HARD'S John McClane, Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger and Pierce Brosnan’s JAMES BOND, with his, bland rimshot one liners before he does something fantastic. Blech. If this is what the next generation of movies are turning into - superheor rehashes, remakes, CGI overload and leftover ideas – then the future of film is going to suck balls and I’m out. Even the Mandarin. The Freaking Mandarin as a craptastic villain? When it comes to digging up villains for Marvel superheros to fight, we've reached the bottom of the barrel people. C’mon Hollywood! C’mon Marvel! Superhero movies have officially jumped the shark. Meh, I guess we'll see how the new X-men film is.

Great special effects and make-up, but dang if I haven't seen this movie again and again and again. They should have written an original horror story and let the chips fall where they may, because this retread stuff is getting old. How many times are we going to see TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, and this movie over and over again before I die. Five more times? Six more times? This movie was already made, people! And it was freaking awesome. Which is why I can't give it more than two stars. At least the rehash of FRIGHT NIGHT tried to serve up some original material.

Look before you start to get nippy and say ‘What? This movie was awesome’. I’ll agree the special effects were great. And that English chap by the name of Cumberbatch? He was okay. I loved him as Smaug a bit more. But that’s about it. And this movie serves as the perfect example as to why I think Abrams is a flawed moviemaker. He yearns for those Speilberg moments and tender touches, but he just doesn’t know how to create them or write them or pull them from his actors (ahem, Super 8, anyone?). Instead he hides the lack of a storyteller’s soul with whiz-bang special effects. Quick! Tell me the plot of the first Star Trek? How about Mission Impossible 3? I can't remember. That’s why all of his movies are ‘just okay’. They’re forgettable. Sure, they’re great when you’re in the theater, but you don’t think about them at all after you leave, which is a bummer. Like I stated in my intro paragraph above, there were a lot of worse movies out there. But to make an ‘important’ film like this that’s forgettable after one viewing is a major crime in my book. Which is why I’m treading lightly in my anticipation for the new Star Wars movies. Where is Spielberg when you need him? Oh yeah, he’s out making kick-ass meaningful movies.

Oh my god, this film was a mess. You have a great cast, with a somewhat okay idea, but it gets lost in the 109 minutes from start to finish. I'm not getting the whole seven psychopaths idea either. Just a terrible, slow, boring movie. And you would expect much more from that title, right? Wrong. Very disappointed because I heard rave reviews and was pretty excited to watch this. Almost two hours of my life I'll never get back.

Sorry Guillermo and Director Muschietti, this was a paint-by-numbers ghost flick. It's a pity too, especially after watching the behind the scenes MAMA sfx work as well as the short film that inspired the movie. And what's with the end? I'm all for a big Shamalayan ending, but the twist these guys put into the end totally takes away from the entire plot. Wait a minute, was there a plot. I'm not so sure. Great idea, but it just falls flat in the end. I was expecting so much more after viewing the trailers, and seeing the actors involved and the producers who ponied up their money and expertise.

Like all of Malick's films. the cinematography is top notch. There are many breathtaking scenes that make me wish I saw this in the theater. But that's about it. This film almost seems like an extension of TREE OF LIFE, but much more ambiguous and - dare I say - boring. Look, I get what Malick is trying to do. But I'm not a fan of this new turn he's taking with odd silent voiceovers. True, you do not need dialogue for everything, but you do need some dialogue to tell a freaking story. Just a little bit more than you offered up Mr. Malick. And stop with the whispering. I'm sorry that I didn't really like this movie. I was extremely excited to see it after reading about Roger Ebert's final posthumous review about this movie in which he gave it very high marks. Let's hope Malick returns to his 'older' form in his next couple movies. But, I’m not holding my breath. Fool me once with TREE OF LIFE, shame on you. Fool me twice with TO THE WONDER, shame on me.

I'm officially done with this series. Just a crappy movie from start to finish. And they went back to the satanic/cult territory! Even though the third mish-mash cult attempt was terrible. Don't waste your time on this crap. Loved the first. Managed the second. Hated the last two installments. I will never watch another one of these PA movies again. I hate myself for getting sucked into this dreck. I hear the new one is supposed to be pretty good, but I'll never know, because I'm not going to fucking watch it.

I thought this movie was simply terrible. Acting. Direction. Overall plot. And screenplay. What an utter disappointment and waste of time. Look, there's a tiny twist of an ending at the end. But by that time, you're so angry that you ponied up the cash for this movie that you don't even care. It's nice to see Elisabeth Shue working again, but it's not worth the rental. I just can't believe movies like this are getting green-lit by Hollywood. Terrible. Terrible. Terrible. Dumb.

If you're judging a movie purely based on cinematography, then hands down this is a great film. Everything else like acting and a script? Not so much. Slow, plodding storyline about a happy couple who transform into an unhappy couple based on an act of...what?...cowardice? Mmmm...I'm not so sure. The two hikers played by Hani and Gael act like two seven-year old kids throughout the film. Their love for one another is somewhat annoying. But when they get into a 'disagreement' or 'fight' over said incident, it's just downright dreadful to watch. It's almost like Director Julia Loktev is trying to put on her Terrence Malick hat, with terrible results. Again, loved the cinematography as well as ambient sound, but I could not in my right mind recommend this movie to anyone - except cinematography and photography lovers.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Eimer's Top 10 Reads of 2013

Welp...another year, another stack of awesome books.

Rather than going on and on about how awesome of a reader that I am (heh, heh) - let's just get to the books so you can start tossing them into your queue.

By the way, these picks are in no particular order...

1984 by George Orwell
What's there to say? It's a fantastic book. Well-written. Thought-provoking. Derserving of it’s spot on Time’s Best 100 books of the past century. George Orwell had this unique vision that, strangely, seems to be popping up all around us--especially now, since the government is sticking their domes and drones into everything we're doing nowadays. In any event, this book is dark, depressing and terrifyingly terrific. One of the better horror stories I've come across in quite some time. Lots more to say, but I won't bore you to tears. Just read it. And if you already did, congrats!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I love Neil Gaiman's imagination. This book felt like a one-off story of Gaiman's other work ... AMERICAN GODS. It felt like this story could have lived in that same exact world. Nice coming-of-age story that could be a bit creepy for young readers, but would mesmerize young adult readers and tweens. Like Coraline and The Graveyard Book, everyone will find something to relate to in this book as it pertains to being a kid. The innocence. The naivete. The inhibitions when it came to living life. Good book. Not the best I've read this year or in year's past, but definitely worth the read.And, if there ever was a film version, I could totally see the same sort of animation from Coraline-director and animator Henry Selick. They’re almost similar worlds. Almost.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Fun, nicely written post-apocalyptic, science fiction book by Dashner, which caters to the teen readers (males?) but also serves up to an adult slant as well. Memories of ENDER'S GAME, THE CITY OF EMBER, Hugh Howey's WOOL and HUNGER GAMES will hit your mind in the novel realm. As well as CUBE, THE KILLING ROOM and SAW in the film realm. But don't let that dissuade you. Dashner creates a cool, interesting realm within a maze filled with kids who are pushed to their limits to try and escape. You're figuring out stuff as the main character is figuring it out, which isn't a new story-telling technique, but it always works for - especially if done the right way. Great dialogue and a great tone throughout. Like Rowling, King and Koontz, Dashner knows how to end a chapter that entices the reader to keep you reading. The only fault, and without giving too much away, I would have liked to see more 'things' in the maze. I don't know. Maybe it's my bloodlust. However, there may be a reason highlighted in the other books. That said, the last five or six chapters seal the deal as a great book and a possible great series. On to the next book!  

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Great book. Highly recommended. Makes you take a step and think about your minuscule problems in a different light. Also, forces you into some personal introspection as well. The book follows the unbelievable story of Louis Zamperini, a problem child who transformed into an Olympic athlete and then was dropped headfirst into the WW2 conflict in the Pacific. The only thing I can say is read this book. It is a fantastic page turner that will make you think it's fiction. How could someone go through all of this? Amazing. And just a note about Hilldenbrand's writing, she definitely has a way with words and can paint landscapes, emotions and visuals into your mind. It makes me jealous how talented she is. Is that enough to get you to read this book?

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Good read. As a hiker, I can relate to Cheryl's trials and tribulations on the PCT. Although I haven't hiked 1,100 miles in one fail swoop, she really writes to the blood, sweat and mental tears that a tough trail can pull from you. She has a thoughtful, straight-forward, conversational writing style, almost like a travel writer for a major newspaper and can paint a beautiful picture with words. I loved the insight into her past and her reasons for taking this hike. Almost all journeys of this expanse are made out of a personal nature, but Strayed's runs deeper than a lot of hikers I've met on the trails. This book reminded me a lot of Bryson's A WALK IN THE WOODS, but on a personal level. It's nice to also get a woman's perspective. Nicely written book. Highly recommended. You can't do wrong by checking this out. 

Under the Dome by Stephen King
Very entertaining read. Feels like King is at the top of his game in terms of writing. Plus, I'm just proud that I made it through the 1,074 pages. I feel like a stud. It seems so effortless and conversational like he's been doing it for year. Oh, I guess he has. In any event, although a bit on the long side, I really enjoyed this 'humans in a terrarium' idea. What would happen if a dome was put over a small town? Could people breathe? How would they survive? When, exactly, would people start to go crazy? Answers to all of these questions and more in this book, which is more character study and less horror, blood and gore - although it's in there fine readers, do not worry about that. Great cast of characters, both good and bad, including Big Jim and Junior, among others. As always, great dialogue that made me snicker a couple of times. You can tell King is just having fun with this grandiose idea. Without giving too much away. Very entertaining book and it's highly recommend. Don't watch the TV series until you read it first. Check 'er out 

Replay by Ken Grimwood
A good book sticks with you days, months, years after you read it - and this is one of them. If we're talking movies, I would say this book is a mix of GROUNDHOG DAY meets BACK TO THE FUTURE meets PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED. It follows the adventures/tortures of a man who keeps reliving his life over and over again - all the way up to his heart attack in 1988. Very interesting too see how he plays his life out over and over - and how he makes money, which is also cool. In any event, I don't want to give too much away, but this was a very quick, very interesting, very well-written book. Highly recommended. With a fantastic ending as solid as the rest of the book - that did not disappoint. Very motivating as well that hits home the fact that you only have so long in this world. In some instances, we take this fantastic miracle of life for granted. Let's get out and enjoy it people! 

The Twelve (The Passage #2) by Justin Cronin
Great follow-up to one of my favorite reads last year, The Passage - Cronin's lengthy vampire/disease infestation tale. After reading a number of reviews, I was concerned that Cronin was pumping out a novel with editor's breathing down his neck. If I recall, actually this book was postponed a couple times, so I surmised this was not the case. In any event, I had no trouble following the new characters, old characters or story arcs. I loved the journey that the author navigates us through. Once again from the outbreak, to the heroes and anti-heroes to a small Iowa town that's transformed into hell on earth and...well...I'll let you read it and experience it first-hand. A lot of meticulous thinking took place in putting together all the pieces of this elaborate puzzle. Once again, Cronin's writing, in particular character dialogue, truly stands out. He has created a real world. Now I know that comparisons to THE STAND and other good vs. evil tomes will come into play here. But, it didn't really bother me at all. For a second, I thought Cronin decided to complete the trilogy with this book and call it day. Not the case. I'm very curious where he takes us after this impressive outing. Be warned, this is not a book for the faint of heart. And, I'm almost certain that you need to read The Passage to put all the pieces together. Lengthy book, yes. But well worth the trip.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
You know, in all honesty, I really wasn't going to read this book. Then, I got to thinking. I need to read this book. I need to know how some of the most popular and innovative machines of my generation came to fruition. From the Macintosh, which I wrote my first term papers in college all the way to the iPhone, which I reluctantly (much like this book) picked up and started to use six months ago, I think it's important to know this stuff and to know the man behind the machine. But I digress, the book is almost written like an adventure book. A fun, entertaining, sometimes tragic ride of a man who yearned for simplicity in technology. I pulled many things from this book, but the one thing that is constantly sticking that I'm always asking myself in my day-to-day work and personal life is "Is there a simpler way?" If a book, and a person, can change your way of thinking, your way of life, for the better - then how can I not recommend this book and give it the most stars possible? Kudos to Jobs for allowing a warts-all biography to be released for public consumption. It just shows that even the greatest have had major failures that, eventually, turned into positives. That is, if you learn from your mistakes. I would be remiss to also mention that this book is great for people in the creative field in particular marketing and advertising. You could learn a lot from this book. Check er out!

PenPal by Dathan Auerbach
Wow. Very, very dark, disturbing interesting book. Like Pulp Fiction in terms of mixed time lapses. This is one of the first books that I actually felt a little leery reading at night. Very creepy. Auerbach can definitely write some suspense. Very well written. Very creepy. One small bit of criticism, he always mentions kindergarten, but I'm thinking he should have made the kindergarten scenes closer to third or fourth grade. Not sure how many parents would let their children roam around in a forest for hours on end at the age of five. However, times have changed that's for sure. Would like people to pick up this book and offer their feedback as well. Curious what other people think of this eerie, yet fascinating book. I couldn't put it down.

Interested in more Eimer's great reads of the past? Check out these posts: