It’s the second last day for the 2014 Bitch Awards film awards. Today we unveil our number two picks.
Click through to find out which films came in just short of the top spots.
Sweet Jebus is this movie ever bad. Here’s the entire film in a nutshell: Keanu Reeves plays John Wick, a hit man enjoying retirement (yawn, can we see where this is headed?). His wife (Bridget Moynihan) dies of brain cancer, leaving him a puppy (the cutest dog in the history of the world) so that he still has something to love now that she’s gone. Some asshole Russian gangsters look at Wick at a gas station (not knowing who he is) and decide to attack him in the night and kill his poor little puppy for no reason other than to drive the rest of this stupid movie. Enraged, Wick comes out of retirement (surprise!) and for the next 90 minutes, goes on a revenge killing spree in order to find the jerks who murdered his sweet puppy. There. Now you don’t have to waste any time watching this dumbass movie and can spend your time doing far more useful things. You’re welcome.
John Wick made me angry. The whole thing with the dog is emotional manipulation at its absolute worst. Not only do they suggest the dog is bludgeoned, but in the scene following when Wick wakes up to find the puppy dead by his side, there’s a trail of blood suggesting that the poor thing crawled over to snuggle next to him before she died, likely suffering before her end.
I can just picture the filmmakers when they came up with the idea, laughing insipidly and thinking that it would enrage the audience so much that it would justify 90 minutes of their precious lives watching one lackluster action scene after another. What’s even more distressing is that capable actors- Willem Dafoe, Lance Riddick, Clarke Peters – are actually in this film. We’re talking Lester from The Wire people! What the hell is he doing in a shitty film like this?! If you want to turn you brain off, literally, then this film is a slight winner – but honestly, I think one actually loses brain cells by watching this one.
There were some truly great action films this year. And then there was this steaming pile of excrement.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the bastard child of Van Helsing and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. The film suggests that Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart) is A) hunky and B) the key player in a centuries old war between demons and gargoyles. The plot is completely ludicrous – something to do with the demons reanimating dead bodies with the souls of their brethren to win the war – but that’s immaterial because Beattie (who both directed and wrote the screenplay) is really only interested in CGI battle sequences.
Yes, folks, this is 2014’s entry in the shitty FX sci-fi hall of fame. Now I have no problem with dumb action films if they’re fun and the audience isn’t being treated like we’re complete idiots. Alas I, Frankenstein fails on both of those fronts. The plot holes are gaping, the action poorly executed and the performances phoned in. Yvonne Strahovski in particular looks lost (you get the sense she’s hoping 24: Live Another Day makes people forget this turd and Dexter’s final season). The fact that Strahovski, a gifted action star, plays a generic love interest who exists solely to be rescued is your first clue that Beattie and his crew have no idea what they’re doing. Similarly miscast are genre faves Miranda Otto (as the irritating head of the gargoyles) and Bill Nighy (who basically reprises his Underworld character beat for beat in exchange for a paycheck). Lost in the middle is an embarassed Eckhart, who gamely tries to anchor a pointless narrative with some kind of gravitas, but ends up lost under his silly prosthetic scars, leaden dialogue and inept action sequences.
Perhaps my biggest frustration is how I, Frankenstein embodies the recent Hollywood trend of churning out shitty high-concept action films that seem made solely for profit. Each year one of these films inevitably ends up on my list and while I doubt my ranting will prevent another one (<cough Seventh Son cough>) from being released in 2015, it sure does suck to feel like a film doesn’t respect your time and only wants your money. By the time the credits roll on I, Frankenstein, it’s not the demons or gargoyles who have suffered; it’s the audience, beaten into sensory submission by a deluge of CGI pixels. This is one to avoid, especially considering the caliber of other, better action films released this year (see my #2 Best pick below).
You can’t help but feel something after you’ve seen Whiplash. I’m not suggesting it’s a ‘good’ feeling – but I guarantee it’ll be an intense emotional journey (be prepared to deal with those feelings of insecurity that you’ve long since repressed because they were too painful to address). The narrative follows a young Jazz drummer, Andrew (played brilliantly by Miles Teller) who desperately seeks validation from a prominent music teacher at his academy, Fletcher (J.K Simmons, who delivers the best performance of the year, hands down).
Fletcher is straight up barbaric when it comes to ‘pushing’ his students – where screaming at them seems like his mildest form of scolding. Fletcher throws chairs (like big-ass, metal chairs), destroying his students emotionally for the sake of creating ‘perfection’. It’s incredibly difficult to watch but I believe, important. Fletcher maintains that his extreme (to put it mildly) teaching philosophy is a way of weeding out the weak, allowing the true geniuses to emerge via trial by fire.
The way the relationship between Miles and Fletcher unfolds teeters that fine line of believability and being just a tad bit over the top (which unfortunately, proved to distance me) but the sentiment behind it all is incredibly powerful. In a scene where Fletcher justifies his abusive ways, he laments about the whole business of saying “good job” even when the person you say it to is inadequate. He believes this blanket statement is what causes society in general to remain static and stagnant – content with simply being mediocre because everyone is too polite to tell it like it really is. I’m not suggesting that we all need to embrace our inner Fletcher, but I couldn’t help but agree that niceties (to an extent) might be holding people back from their true potential. Where do we draw the line between honesty and diplomacy? It’s an interesting question to ponder and something I couldn’t help but think about at length after I left the theatre .
The film isn’t perfect – the ending is slightly off-putting and ultimately questions the integrity of what came before – but Whiplash is an intense film that forces you to think. And, as I’ve said numerous times, that’s something I absolutely delight in when it comes to films. I implore you to seek it out and discuss it with as many people as you can.
Yes, I’ve got the Tom Cruise Groundhog Day alien invasion film as my second best of the year and you know why? Because this is easily the best film-going experience I had at the theatres this year.
Edge of Tomorrow had an uphill battle from the very start. Despite being years away from his couch jumping escapades, Tom Cruise’s career has never really recovered. Add to this a title that Warner Brothers had no idea how to market (the film is a loose adaptation of a Japanese manga called All You Need Is Kill, which is awesome, and has since been renamed for video release as Live.Die.Repeat, which is also awesome) and you have a potential bomb on your hands.
Which is a total shame because the reality is that Edge of Tomorrow is a smart, well-directed (by Bourne and Mr. & Mrs. Smith lenser Doug Liman) action film with some pretty awesome special effects. The film stars Cruise as Cage, a spin-doctor for the US military who is unwittingly drafted into a no-win battle against aliens. The Mimics are formidable because they seem capable of anticipating humanity’s every move, a power that Cage inherits moments before he dies in the battlefield. When he reawakens, Cage discovers that he is reliving the day over and again, and may just hold the weapon to win the war…provided he can live long enough to use it.
Enter Tomorrow‘s secret weapon: an amazing supporting performance by a tough-as-nails Emily Blunt, whose Rita rocks a sexy Ripley (from Alien) vibe with casual ease. Blunt’s assured performance balances Cruise’s frenetic novice, anchoring the film’s many action sequences, while Cruise is an endearingly comedic presence. It doesn’t hurt that so much of the film’s comedy comes from seeing Tom Cruise die in a variety of frequently amusing ways.
I’ve heard from dozens of friends who were wary to see Edge of Tomorrow that they were not only pleasantly surprised, but genuinely thrilled at what turned out to be the best action film of the year. Considering the escapades with the title and advertising, as well as the indifference of the audience for its star, that’s no small feat.
We’re nearly there! Come back tomorrow for the best and worst of the year, as well as a few honourable (and dishonourable) mentions.