4 Minute Mile (2014)

★★½ / 👎

4 Minute Mile (2014) poster

A film that never really decides if it wants to be a sports drama about triumphing over adversity through hard work, or a kitchen-sink drama about the cycles of behavior we imprison ourselves within.

Richard Jenkins gives the standout performance, playing a retired track coach easily as demanding as Mr. Miyagi or Morris Buttermaker, but far less lovable than either.

Kim Basinger largely reprises her role from 8 Mile—the working-class mom who struggles to understand her gifted but troubled son—but she also just about broke my heart with a single, wordless take.

Cam Gigandet’s character is a study in low-key tragedy: the elder sibling crushed by the weight of attempting to be “the man of the house,” knowing he is disappointing everyone but seemingly unable to stop making terrible decisions.

Analeigh Tipton is so sweet and vulnerable and charming here as a student athlete that I felt guilty when I couldn’t stand Manhattan Love Story.

Kelly Blatz is, well, the protagonist, I guess.

Lucy (2014)

★★★½ / 👎

Lucy (2014) poster

A profoundly stupid film that genuflects at the altar of knowledge while conflating intelligence with sociopathy. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a cargo cult, mimicking better films with no apparent interest in understanding how they work. Worst of all, despite an atavistic reverence for creaky sci-fi and action tropes, the combat and effects sequences aren’t very good. (The Tree of Life wasn’t just less pretentious than Lucy, it also had better-looking dinosaurs.)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

★★½ / 👎

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) poster

Continues the wonderful Peter Parker / Gwen Stacy relationship drama while providing a legitimately amazing (if not ultimate) Spider-Man. And, other than the consistently terrible villains’ character designs, the film looks great. Alas, the episodic plot and wildly uneven tone subject the audience to even worse whiplash than Iron Man 2.

Easy Money II (2012)

★★½ / 👍

Easy Money II Hard to Kill (2012) poster

There’s a lot wrong with this sequel: very little actually happens, what does happen is wildly implausible, and almost nothing makes sense without reference to the superior original. However, the languid pace allows us ample time with the characters, who are more complex and interesting than your average crime-thriller fodder. If I were watching this film theatrically I’d be disappointed, but viewed as an episodic drama in the tradition of Traffik it has a lot going for it.

Terror Train (1980)

★★½ / 👎

Terror Train (1980) poster

Better than most of the first wave of slasher film cash-ins, but that’s not saying much. An extended stalking/chase sequence—and only that sequence—is shot, edited and scored with energy and style. Historically-minded enthusiasts of the genre should see it if they haven’t already; not worth seeking out otherwise.