Thursday, January 08, 2015

2014 film recap

As part of my return to blogging, here's a recap of ALL the films that I saw in 2014, in generally the order I saw them. Enjoy, feel free to agree or disagree.

The Lego Movie (2014): Thought the father-son bit was a bit of a stretch but overall, really quite good.

Vernon, Florida (1981): Apparently Errol Morris had to re-work his idea for a story about a town of people who commonly cut off their own limbs to collect insurance money; the result is limp, without legs.

Gattaca (1997): Ethan Hawke struggling to survive under a strict classist society based on one's genes. Thoughtful, suspenseful, the value of a true friend.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002): That movie everyone says Adam Sandler really shines in outside of his usual schleppy demeanor. I say, yeah, it was pretty good.

Battle Royale (2000): Not as traumatic as I had feared it would be. Bloody, certainly. More of a quirky survival-horror than the slaughter I'd imagined.

Grand Budapest Hotel (2014): Strong contender for best of 2014, certainly up there for best Wes Anderson film. Perhaps I empathize too strongly with old men recalling bittersweet tales.

Man of Tai Chi (2013): Man, do not touch this one with a six-foot pole, lest it spoil your image of Neo. Some fun martial arts do not save this mess.

Pootie Tang (2001): A few laughs, over-the-top caricatures.You can tell fun was had but I didn't quite feel it.

World War Z (2013): Brad Pitt races fast zombies around the world. Fun.

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014): Another victim of the government enforcement machine. Relevant, so very relevant documentary for our modern times.

Under the Skin (2014): What does it take to be human? What a strange creature, the human male, in this stolid, nearly silent film. I was fascinated to learn that most of the characters were non-actors, filmed with hidden cameras. Memorable soundtrack -- menacing, genuinely creepy.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): A far stronger film than the previous Captain America, with a focus on a modern topic. Comic books are known for their ability to combine the fantastic with questions facing society at large, and this movie translated that spirit admirably.

Godzilla (2014): Walk out after the first 30 minutes, for the rest is dreck, mindless, illogical puffery. OK, the Hawaii scenes were neat. But that ending! Throw it back into the sea, please.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012): Reviewed previously here. Quirky fun, mostly.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014): I find myself drawn to stories wherein the protagonist gets to live again, or have an alternate life from which they return (or wake up from). X-Men:DoFP is one such story, and is so good with it.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014): Groundhog Day meets The Matrix meets (the beach storming of) Saving Private Ryan. That's not a criticism, necessarily, for I rather enjoyed it.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013): A-ha! Nice to see Coogan don his familiar sneer and look of trepidation. Lots of subtle laughs.

Lucy (2014): With its incredibly flawed premise, heavy-handed narrative, and lack of any intrigue or vulnerability, Lucy was mostly awful. A waste of Johansson's and Choi Min-sik's talents.

End of Watch (2012): Cops paying in blood for the disenfranchisement of the disadvantaged. I felt, despite its realism, this one didn't quite strike the right chord for me, despite its admittedly explosive ending.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): I think I may be the only person on Earth who hated this film. I try to come up with a redeeming quality and I cannot think of one.

New World (2013): Classic undercover cop getting caught between the force he works for and the syndicate he's infiltrating. The ending paid off well so I can recommend this one.

Dogtooth (2009): Disturbing, almost surreal. Unsettling to see parents raise their children with an iron grip, messing with their minds for seemingly no reason.

Barton Fink (1991): It was alright. I know it's full of layers and meaning and symbols, but I just couldn't identify with Fink. I noted Judy Davis (Audrey), who played a similar role in The Naked Lunch, also a film about a struggling writer.

Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? (2013): I wanted to learn more about Noam Chomsky (without actually doing the reading), so I figured this might be a fun way to do it. And indeed, in usual Michel Gondry style it is a fun film, but I suspect I need to watch it again to get the lessons within.

The Imitation Game (2014): More of a documentary told as a historical drama. Still, the story of Alan Turing is fascinating and Cumberbatch does an admirable job.

John Wick (2014): More Keanu! Seemed like a poor choice for a story about a guy who loses his temper. Uneven. Some good action sequences.

Interstellar (2014): Another contender for best film of 2014. Definitely most ambitious. Science aside, my gripe was with the concept of love being the eternal force that binds. The space sequences were incredible and the soundtrack (Hans Zimmer) gives me shivers.

Journey to the West (2013): Classic Chinese folk tale given that Stephen Chow touch -- exaggerated comedy, characters with painfully human features, cartoon-y action sequences. Some of the darker, bloodier imagery I could've done without.

Big Hero Six (2014): What is it with kid's films and family members dying? That observation aside, this was a fun film with entertaining characters. I loved the backgrounds, the buildings, the rooms.

The Trip to Italy (2014): More of the same, and that's not a bad thing at all. Pasta never looked so good.

When the Last Sword is Drawn (2003): I was looking for a simple samurai hack-n-slash and this fell short of that bill, leaving my desire unslaked. Talk about your drawn out deaths! I guess some swords just take forever.

Inherent Vice (2014): I left the theater feeling unsatisfied but upon reflection Inherent Vice stands up as an entertaining ride with lots of red herrings, like a disinterested child picking up a beloved toy who just as quickly discards it for another, over and over again. I will say that the soundtrack is excellent, maybe better than Interstellar's.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Final Justice (1999): Joe. Don. Baker. The crew seemingly tear this one up more than usual, apparently in response to JDB's backlashes. So, yes, this time it's personal.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014): It's finally over. Now let's leave happy hobbits be, yes? I think the first of the three Hobbit films was best; this one was just swordplay and slow-motion death sequences.

Kundo (2014): As is often the case with Korean film, this seemingly straightforward "country bandits versus rich officials" story does not end as one might expect. Normally I wholeheartedly welcome surprises but I felt cheated of a better action film.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011): Too predictable, with a payoff that took forever and then some to arrive. Is it my current privilege that prevents me from sympathizing with the destitute? I suppose in the future people may look back and shake their heads at our inadequate healthcare.

Birdman (2014): Brilliant. Michael Keaton is winning. Consider the number of extended-length takes this film has, the effort required to achieve such a feat. Again, here's me empathizing with an old has-been, when I'm really more of a has-never.

I know I've missed a few, but there you go.

Monday, January 05, 2015

it's twenty fifteen

Okay fine here is my update.

Twenty-fifteen! What joys do you have in store for the Hwanner? At this time I have no plans other than to keep karate going. Can I push myself onto a regular sleep schedule? That would be nice, for I suffer currently from night-restlessness.

But 2014! In review, I did a bit of travelling:

  • 4 days in New York City for NECSS in April
  • 2 days in Ottawa for SkeptiCamp in May
  • 8 days in Scotland for a road-trip in August
  • 2 days in Montreal for stag activities in October
  • 7 days in the Dominican Republic for Reg's wedding in October
  • 2 days in London (Ontario) to visit a friend in December
While my gym attendance went way down I still managed to get my blue belt in karate. Finished Breaking Bad over several weeks. Had some laughs at JFL 42. Volunteered with Cycle Toronto.

Saw the Pixies play at Massey Hall. Went dog-sledding. Marched at a bunch of protests. Participated in yet another Board Game Jam. Saw Neil deGrasse Tyson talk at U of T. Recorded a few TDAHS shows.

Work and cats are much the same, much the same.

Oh, I guess I can try recap the last couple months, since my last update. Well, the wedding went off well, Punta Cana being such as it is with hot, easy days, warm waters, and plentiful in comestibles. I took note of the worker conditions, of the turning of lush countryside into concrete malls. Many in our party, myself included, contracted a vicious stomach bug -- a day shuffling between the bed and the toilet. But otherwise, sure, I had fun: tanning, swimming, beach sports during the day; drinking, dancing, stumbling at night.

After returning I went back to training for my karate exam, cramming lessons where time allowed. It'd been some 3.5 years since my last exam; strange to think of how I managed to stretch my time thus. I suppose some of it can be explained away by gallivanting but I feel like it's more of an attitude shift. Certainly, with my blue belt I feel karate is back in my life again.

And then yeah, the holiday season. Work Christmas party. Shopping for gifts. Christmas Eve with the cousins, Christmas day with the parents and sister. Did not do nearly as much video gaming as I thought I would. Spent New Year's Eve with my film writer friends, a pretty grand potluck feast that fairly overflowed, followed by a smaller, rowdier dance-centric party at a nearby friend of a friend's.

Much drinking, December. And it shows! My back hurts, my head hurts, my foot falls asleep easily, my sleep is troubled. Things can only get better though, right? RIGHT???!


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