Prepping for the Final Sprint
Fall festival furor meant that I missed my annual fall-preview post where I rank my enthusiasms for upcoming film releases with the help of some noted diva. Too bad, because I really had an inspired choice in mind this year. He'll still be with us in 2015. But, as December bows and awards season commences (way to go, Marion, Darius, and Jennifer!!), maybe it's not too late to forecast what I still have left to see before I wrap up the year and
Inherent Vice - Idea of adapting Pynchon puts a smile on my face. So does trailer.
B– - Tries something different. PTA doesn't repeat himself. But I didn't get it.
American Sniper - Hot on Cooper lately (hush!), and seems like good fit for Clint.
A– - Fearsomely edited. Tonally complex. Much more than Red State red meat.
Into the Woods - Not expecting sublimity, don't love the show, but pipped for cast.
C+ - Fine, meat-and-potatoes staging. Cast is game. Garish look. Effort shows.
Unbroken - Smells weirdly programmatic: "Please, sir, may I inspire you today?"
D - Disconcertingly poor. Neither gets inside Louie nor helps frame his travails.
Big Eyes - Burton and Waltz both seem to be running in place lately. Is Amy, too?
D - A failure of direction. No two elements match; most are weak on their own.
Top Five - In theory, I'd be more jazzed about this, but TIFF crowds seemed cool.
C– - Funny, warm passages snuffed by awkward framework, ungenerous spirit.
Big Hero 6 - Already out for weeks now, but I don't feel flooded with incentive.
B+ - For the second year in a row, Disney exceeds my expectations. Delightful.
Leviathan - Won't open in Chicago until Jan 9, but Zvyagintsev's so up my alley.
B - Impressively engaging given length and measured tone. Still, hardly subtle.
Selma - I loved DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere. Advance audiences are beaming.
A– - King's dream deferred, as triumphal story, team effort, palpable lament.
The Strange Little Cat - No film this year elated more friends. On DVD Jan 13.
B - I wasn't as enchanted as some friends, but it's a curious, engaging, unusual.
A Most Violent Year - I really admired All Is Lost. All the signs look good here.
A– - Every performance, every technical element, every writing conceit works.
Mr. Turner - Should I be even more enthused? A little Spall goes a long way.
A– - Leigh again manages an intimate epic. Puts most "period" films to shame.
Goodbye to All That - Junebug was such a transformative experience for me.
B/B+ - Oddly broad at moments, but so behaviorally and observationally rich.
The Two Faces of January - Admirers really admire. Viggo's had a banner year.
D - Not easy to adapt Highsmith with zero psychological pull or erotic charge.
Bad Hair - People love this Venezuelan import, arriving at Facets on Friday.
B+ - Acute characterizations, observant of its city, mature on sex and gender.
Beloved Sisters - I've heard interesting things. Apt companion to Amour fou?
The Tale of Princess Kaguya - I'm no animation nut, but one hears good things.
B/B+ - Some tightening wouldn't hurt, but loveliness and feeling only deepen.
Maps to the Stars - So brilliant to kill off Cannes buzz and hide the release date!
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - If they'd build it in Chicago, I would come.
B+ - Deliciously stylish. Sound design especially impressive. Elegant pastiche.
Tales of the Grim Sleeper - Broomfield inspires ambivalence, but is this a peak?
Cake - Good way to get Aniston an Oscar is to obscure whether this has opened.
D - One feels good intents here, but tone, structure, storytelling are fairly dire.
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks - If Gena wants to dance, she needn't ask twice.
GUESS I BLEW IT
Fury - Must-see factor never got very high, but Ayer, Pitt, Lerman, Peña appeal.
C+ - Overproduced, highly uneven, but has some mad, Steel Helmet conviction.
The Boxtrolls - Liked Coraline, ParaNorman fine, but I'm missing something.
C - Dense with visual detail, but expended labor exceeds storytelling dexterity.
LATE DATES ON DVD
Archipelago - I've stumped for Unrelated for six years. Thrilled about follow-up.
B - Hogg repeats aspects of style and subject from debut; good, but feels forced.
Listen Up Philip - The Schwartzman film for folks with Schwartzman allergies?
C - Moss, Pryce impress. Still, even more purgatorial experience than intended?
Oculus - 40% the admiring reviews, 40% the ambitious premise, 20% Starbuck.
C+ - Too many rules? Too few? Adds up only vaguely but has a weird elegance.
The Drop - Tim Robey fired me right up, but I just couldn't get there. Out soon.
Locke - In fact, managed to drop a ball on Tom Hardy twice. Foolish both times?
C+ - Worthy stab at something different. Comes close to working. Good cast.
The Good Lie - Blinked during CIFF and missed its brief release back in October.
Manuscripts Don't Burn - Not Rasoulof's best-reviewed movie, but I'm intrigued.
Venus in Fur - Very clever play. Sounds like Polanski, Seigner surprised people.
B - Fruity, sleek, and tricksy at the same time. Even its mustier ideas have juice.
Camp X-Ray - Gutsy. Stewart's had a good year, and I've admired her many times.
B - Credible enough on Gitmo, richer as character drama. Very smartly acted.
Starred Up - Jack O'Connell hubbub started here. Seems like right place to begin.
B - Adds welcome layers as it goes, and well-acted. Just didn't feel all that new.
Fishing Without Nets - Somali-pirate documentary promises to be eye-opening.
Horses of God - Has sounded enticing since two Cannes ago when it premiered.
Exhibition - Not as warmly received as Archipelago or Unrelated, but still Hogg.
A– - Inventive, quietly gutsy meditation on human coldness that isn't a critique.
Burning Bush - Critics all admire this prohibitively long Agnieszka Holland epic.
Omar - What the eff is wrong with me? An Oscar nominee by a good filmmaker!
B - Sturdy melodrama places plot over style, but it sure thickens. Tense, bold.
Bad Words - Nobody I know was enraptured, but I giggle at every clip I've seen.
C– - Such a nasty pall. So besmirching of Bateman; amazing he's responsible.
Hateship Loveship - Notices were hardly fawning but I admire Wiig for reaching.
C - Too harsh to say it's bad, but it's very hazy, and disappointingly forgettable.
Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian - Even if it's a botch, likely indelible.
Finding Vivian Maier - Getting the impression I flubbed, but it seemed so trendy.
B– - Intriguing, but "investigative" framework too often looks right past the art.
Muppets Most Wanted - Because Kermit. Because Rowlf. Because Beeker. Becau
The Fault in Our Stars - Not excited, but since I've twice been taken for Green...
B - The performances and the lucid emotional through-lines really disarmed me.
Particle Fever - Near-universal raves. Pertinent to some (non-lab) work I'm doing.
About Last Night - I like many members of its cast and want to support Headland.
B - Zippy script, inspired cast. Nicely balanced between the earnest and profane.
Manakamana - Iron Ministry recently reminded me how much I admire this style.
A Good Marriage - Once more, got hopes up Joan was Back. Then it got dumped.
C+ - Adroit audience manipulation. Nervy themes. Allen! And still it feels flat?
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear - Boy did this polarize people when it premiered at Berlin.
Jimi: All Is By My Side - Seems like an idiosyncratic biopic. I'm curious, anyway.
Miss Lovely - Hard to predict if it's got a hold on its luridness or just revels in it.
Frank - "Fassbender as DeadMau5" could technically go well or be The Worst.
C– - Eccentric enough I can see it lingering, but it's both arch and sentimental.
Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas - For my Cannes completism.
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors - The Indie Spirit nomination intrigues me.
Cheap Thrills - My site may not make this obvious but I'm game for dicey horror.
Devil's Knot - Just how far am I willing to take the Reesurgence? Nobody bit...
Chef - ...whereas, in this case, everybody bit, but I can't stop feeling suspicious.
Moebius - I tried with Kim again on Pietà and it wasn't bad but also wasn't great.
Breathe In - A fully improv'd drama gives pause. But there are jewels in the cast.
300: Rise of an Empire - I have a right to know just how fun Eva Green is in this.
D+ - Green's fun, but stuck in a cauldron of Tarsem-ish, Cheney-ish jingo-kitsch.
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me - Keep being promised I'll like it even if I didn't like her.
B– - Both a valentine and something more pointed and rounded. Chilly breezes.
Divergent - Look, they filmed parts on my block, and Roth's an alum of my Dept.
C - Unimaginative filmmaking works against the speculative pull of the story.
Dormant Beauty - Huppert is an ineluctable draw, but even she's made lame films.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Not a Marvel fan. But, Mackie in uniform.
Ivory Tower - Given my vocation, I ought to make this a priority. But is it hacky?
Blood Glacier - You guys, this movie is called Blood Glacier. It's Blood Glacier.
Rob the Mob - Nina Arianda is the kind of actress worth following into tiny films.
G.B.F. - Joe Reid and other friends imply that I'll be charmed at the very least.
In Secret - Watching Lange hate a movie she's in is a rare, succulent pleasure.
White Bird in a Blizzard - Araki's never been my cuppa. Shailene's more the draw.
Palo Alto - "A Coppola picked up a book by James Franco" is not an enticing start.
B/B+ - Another Coppola proves me wrong! Familiar ideas, insinuating direction.
God's Pocket - Worth tracking Hoffman wherever he went, but I'm still too sad.
Cesar Chavez - I've sat through many biopics with less stirring subjects. Peña!
The Double - I've had over a year to make good on this, and nothing's working.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - So stoked for Keira these days, I'll try anything.
And now, please do your part by saving me from myself! Let me know where I'm investing too much optimism or, even better, clue me in to a diamond I've overlooked. And keep checking back here and on my U.S. Releases of 2014 page for updates as I cross titles off these lists.