1. Fury - With the writer/director, and the caliber of the cast, I felt that I knew exactly what to expect with this movie. A well-paced, brutal war movie, with impeccable action sequences, and compelling characters. It's a familiar story of war; innocent young kid learning the horrors of war among a group of men who have experienced/survived these horrors and are already detached from humanity. It's kill or be killed territory, and this kid (Logan Lerman) has to decide which side he's on. There are standout scenes; in particular, the one where Brad Pitt's character forces said kid to "do his job". However, I did think some of the war sequences were a little tiresome to sit through. It's all been done before, and I don't think Ayer introduced anything new to the canon of war movies. Other thoughts: Brad Pitt at 52? DAMN. Shia LaBeouf is a great actor (I don't care what anyone says). Logan Lerman is growing on me (I have a bitterness towards him because in the very short time that I worked at a production company in LA, I had a bad experience with his mother, who is his manager. Let's just say, she wasn't very nice.). And WHOA...that ending is fucking incredible. It makes the whole movie worth watching.
2. Earth to Echo - I don't know how or why, but for some reason, I was under the impression that this was an animated movie. It's not. It's also not very good, at all. Every review that I've read, refer to it as a combination of other movies "It's E.T. meets The Goonies", etc. I would go with Short Circuit meets Super 8, but I think the point is clear: It is beyond derivative. In fact, it's almost offensively unoriginal. Yes, one can argue with confidence that Super 8 is derivative, as well, but at least it's clever and offers new ideas to a new generation (Personally, I LOVE it). This movie does none of that. I guess, for a child who may have never seen the movies that it copies, it might be entertaining. That's the only semi-nice thing I have to say about it.
3. Boyhood - Prepare yourself for my venting (it's been a while!). I did not like this movie. I'm really fascinated at the support behind it. I'm a huge fan of Richard Linklater, and I have nothing but respect for what he accomplishes, and the passion and patience, he had for this story. The biggest praise for this movies seems to be that people "connect" with it. Linklater has a knack for that, proven by the Before trilogy. This "connection" alone, is a valid reason to praise a movie. I felt that connection with Short Term 12, and I realized that it was a deep, personal connection. It's a beautiful thing, when that happens but I knew that not everyone would "get it". So, I realize that I'm at the opposite end of the critical spectrum because I find it impossible to "connect" with it. I also realize that it is, in fact, about "boyhood", and that I am not, in fact, the targeted audience for said "connection". I've read several female critics, though, who have "connected" to the single mother aspect, and the growing up aspect. Well, not to simplify it, but DUUUUHH. Everyone can connect to growing up. The reason I don't connect with it, is pretty simple: It's about a narcissistic, privileged, white male, who is unappreciative of the support and life he has been graced with. So, if you "connect" with the story - congratulations! you've lived a pretty fucking great childhood. I can already hear the outcries *Spoiler alert* "But his step-father abused his mother!", "But his parents divorced!", "But he was raised by a single mother!", "But his high school girlfriend dumped him!". To those arguments, I say "So what?!". He has two parents who love him, even if his father disappears and reappears when he pleases. His mother has support (from at least two people, as seen in the movie), which allow her to get an education, put a roof over her children's heads, food on their table. Plus, both of her children go to college. They are certainly not poverty-stricken. I call his character narcissistic and privileged, but it's really the idea of this movie that is narcissistic and privileged - it supports the idea that the world revolves around you, which is the epitome of what is wrong with the world (and more specifically, America). The only ounce of "connection" I can make is for children who are victims of domestic abuse (raises hand, along with thousands (millions?) of other people). The psychological effect of abuse is devastating and a story worth telling, yet, this movie gets it so wrong. First, he seems much more concerned with the fact that his step-father makes him cut his hair, than by the fact that his step-father is abusing his mother (seriously?!). He doesn't really see much of the violence (at least that the audience is aware of), which already makes him luckier than most children in this situation. But the thing that bothers me the most, is that he does absolutely NOTHING about it. You may ask, what can a child do, really? And maybe it's not the best idea to encourage a child to get involved, but if you can honestly sit back and do nothing, then I don't have any sympathy for you. Even at 5 years old, I knew that what was happening to my mother was wrong and I knew that my presence would stop it from happening. Just standing in front of her, saved her life multiple times. . Anyway, enough about me, because I realize that my experience, isn't the same as everyone else (and I also realize that I am so much luckier than most in this situation). Another part, that annoys the shit out of me is that she leaves so easily. She literally takes her kids and leaves, never looking back - it's never mentioned again. If it were that easy to get out of an abusive relationship, then everyone would do it. I have so much more to say about this movie, but I'll just bring up one more problem. Not only is the movie practically endorsing, narcissism, it's also a step-by-step guide on how to grow a misogynist. It's a very realistic observation about "boyhood", so kudos, yet, it never addresses this as being a problem. From his perspective, the three women who are influential in his life, are his mother, his girlfriend and his sister. His mother is a woman who is implied as the responsible part of the divorce (as in, it was her decision to leave his father, a man who he admires greatly). She then continues to date men who treat her like shit (which isn't implied, but I assume his father probably treated her like shit, as well). His girlfriend cheats on him with *gasp* a jock, we are never given any information about him, but we are to assume that he's an asshole (just because he is a jock), but I'd argue that maybe she cheated on him because he is boring as fuck, and this so-called "jock" is actually passionate about something. His sister is... *bigger gasp*... SMARTER than him. HOLY FUCK....I take it all back, kid, you've lived a miserable life. I can't believe you had to share a childhood with a female who has a brain! End of rant. *deep breaths* Oh wait...one more thing: the kids are terrible actors. Holy shit, it's painful.
4. The Best of Me - I added this movie to my list because I love Michelle Monaghan, but then I sat down to watch it and realized it's a Nicholas Sparks movie and I loudly groaned. Surprisingly, I don't hate his movies (I like The Notebook, to an extent, and I surprisingly thought Safe Haven was ok, aside from the ending. Also, I like A Walk to Remember, which I didn't even know was a Sparks movie until I just looked it up. The only movie that I thought was terrible is The Lucky Ones). Romantic dramas just aren't really a genre that I enjoy, in general. His movies are just really sappy and unrealistic - and they all seem to have the same general outline. The Best of Me is a typical star-crossed lovers from different worlds plot, high school sweethearts torn apart and reunited as adults for a second chance at love. The leads don't have any chemistry, which is obviously necessary in a movie like this (I think is why The Notebook was so successful). Plus, the younger versions don't really match the adult versions. Luke Bracey looks nothing like James Marsden and while he's only 2 inches taller - he looks super tall compared to Marsden. Yes, I looked up their heights because the difference in appearance bothered me that much. Also, because I was bored for a lot of the movie. And, I really like Liana Liberato (excellent in the movie, Trust, and Stuck in Love), but it's odd that she wears a face full of makeup as a teen, and then grows up to have the naturally beautiful features of Michelle Monaghan. Anyway, I connected to the movie a little bit, because it's about regret (his regret) and her living her life, accepting that he has pushed her away. I think the lesson is that if all these good guys keep pushing away the one they love because they don't feel like they are worthy enough, women are just forced to date assholes. However, when he states "I wanted to do something good" as his excuse for pushing her away (stupid, stupid idiot), I realized that a twist was coming and I slowly realized what that twist was going to be and man is it stupid. It really ruins the entire movie, however, I think it's a better movie than the 8% on RT implies. I mean, I've seen a lot worse.
5. The Drop - In the beginning, I was so confused about the setting of this movie. The group in the bar have a clear Boston accent, then Tom Hardy has a weird Boston/English hybrid accent and then there is James Gandolfini, as James Gandolfini (who is clearly not from Boston). Once you realize and get over the fact that they are supposed to be in Brooklyn, the movie is solid. Hardy is superb - it's another quiet performance (something he excels at), but there are subtle hints at a deeper internal struggle. He seems sufficiently confused through the entire plot, and I don't want to give away the ending, but it's pretty fantastic. Plus, he rescues a pit bull puppy!!! The cutest little pit bull puppy ever! Another highlight is Matthias Schoenaerts, the guy from Rust and Bone (a film that has stayed with me much longer than I expected it to). He is excellent (and about to explode in 2015). It's also Gandolfini's last performance, and it's a fitting one. The movie is well-paced, with a sense of dread and the threat of violence lurking around every corner. I highly recommend it.