Interstellar (2014)

★★★★ / 👎

Interstellar (2014) poster

(If seeing Interstellar as I did—theatrically, in 70mm, on a genuine IMAX screen—is an option for you, stop reading reviews and go buy tickets. Seriously.)

I don’t care for most Nolan films, and I didn’t particularly care for this one, either. That said, Interstellar is a technical marvel which should absolutely be seen theatrically, with the best presentation available, and possibly more than once.

Despite the degree to which it buries 45 minutes of undeniable sensawunda under two hours of egregious bullshit.

Despite a script that literally telegraphs its story beats, and dialogue that had me rolling my eyes so hard I may have seen God.

Despite the most unpleasant Hans Zimmer score I have ever heard, which bludgeons the point home at all times with overbearing rumble and incredibly distracting mickymousing.

I hated the majority of this movie, and I can’t wait to see it again.

Total Recall (2012)

★★½ / 👎

Total Recall (2012) poster

Starts off well enough, but worldbuilding quickly gives way to mere production design, and the film rapidly collapses into a series of increasingly weightless chase sequences. It might, of course, all be a dream, but if so it’s hardly a dream worth remembering.

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 Raid 2 (2014)

★★★ / 👎

The Raid 2 (2014) poster

A sequel which uses its increased budget to magnify the flaws of the first film, Raid 2 ditches the confined-location cop thriller in favor of a meandering gangster saga punctuated by gore effects that would be grotesque if they weren’t so tedious. It’s like watching a film from an alternate-universe Michael Bay who actually understands how to stage and edit action, but is just as indifferent to coherent narrative.

I hated this movie, but there’s no question that it does exactly what it sets out to do, even if I thought the most impressive thing about the whole movie was the Foley work.

Wolf Creek 2 (2013)

★★★½ / 👎

Wolf Creek 2 (2013) poster

Wolf Creek 2 is a vile cartoon, but a generally well-made one. It takes advantage of a noticeably larger budget than the first film, with solid action sequences, tight editing and a quirky but effective soundtrack. When not preoccupied with the gore, the movie also looks pretty great; given that it’s literally about a psychopath who slaughters “foreign vermin,” it’s a surprisingly effective ad for Australia’s tourism industry. (I suppose I may simply lack the instinct for self-preservation, but then again, Hostel and Turistas never made me want to visit Slovakia or Brazil….)

Jarratt is a bit less Crocodile Dundee and a bit more Leatherface this time around, sadly, and whole sections are lifted from other, better horror & suspense films. The victims do generally register as individual human beings, which is more than most torture-porn movies manage (or even attempt). The second half of the film is less effective than the first, though, as the obligatory scenes from this subgenre play out in a fairly rote manner, enlivened only by the manic energy of the actors.

Given the obvious talent both behind and in front of the camera, I wish that everyone involved in this belated sequel had made, well, anything else; but for what it is, it’s not bad at all.

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.