Thursday, 1 January 2015

Top 10 Critical Disagreements Of 2014

Happy 2015 everyone, and as we ring in the New Year it is time for that great online tradition of the year-end lists. But before I get into my loved/hated films lists for the year, I thought I might try something a bit different. See, I have always had a couple of movies in previous years that I’ve disagreed with the critics on: Dark Shadows, Machete Kills, Zero Dark Thirty. However, upon looking at the list of movies I’ve watched this year… there’s quite a few more this year than previously. So, as a means of airing out this dirty laundry that is not conforming to what other people think, here is my list of the Top 10 films I disagreed with other critics on in 2014.

First off, some ground rules: I’m not including films that will end up on my best or worst of the year lists, so these won’t necessarily be films that I absolutely love or absolutely hate. Also, I’m not going to go for films that have polarised audiences already, like Interstellar or The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as that would be a little too easy (Although, for the record, I really liked both of those films). This list is purely for films that I don’t see eye-to-eye with the 'real' critics on.

#11 (Honourable Mention): Boyhood

Hold the angry comments, please. There’s a reason that this is an ‘honourable mention’: I actually really like this film. Linklater definitely benefited from this rather experimental idea with film production, as this might well be one of the most organic-feeling films I’ve seen with a great cast and great writing to fill in the blanks. However, this is a prime example of what critical hype can do to a movie; even though I really like this movie, I can’t help but feel let down due to how much everyone else was building it up.

#10: Blue Is The Warmest Colour

Admittedly, the acting is really good with Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos playing a very realistic on-screen couple backed by writing that has a lot of good moments in it. However, what seriously hurt this movie was its lack of restraint; when even I'm complaining that your sex scenes are going for too long, you need to go back to the drawing board. It’s a film that could have been so much better, if only the director was thinking with the proper head.

#9: Blended

After the abomination on all things film that is That’s My Boy, I was extremely hesitant about this one. However, while definitely suffering from some of the same problems as other Happy Madison productions, this was a pleasant surprise. Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler have shown great chemistry in films past and that holds true here, its writing seems to come from a better place than Sandler usually steps into and who can watch Terry Crews in this movie without cracking a smile?

#8: Postman Pat: The Movie

Maybe it’s due to my only-vague recollection of watching the original show as a kid, but this wasn't that bad. Sure, it has some pretty bad plot traits that it really shouldn’t have followed (You’d seriously think that people would have learnt to tell the truth up front by now, to avoid plots like this) and it had a rather odd moment when it tried to take a shot at computer-animated movies… while being a computer-animated movie itself, but there is definitely some good in this. The voice cast give some great performances, with David Tennant being the definite highlight; its sense of humour was born from good slapstick and a surprising amount of wit, and I’d be lying if I said that the robot postmen didn’t creep me out a bit.

#7: Maleficent

I’m not a fan of the original Sleeping Beauty, so the rewriting that this film did to its story can only be an improvement. Jolie does a great job as Maleficent, something that we can at least agree on; the writing hits the right emotion more times than not, even if the ending is pretty much just a rehash of Frozen; the score has that grandiosity that is required for this kind of fantasy film; and the effects work is well done, because the fairies didn’t bother me nearly as much as they apparently did for others.

#6: Tammy

Considering that this is the film that officially made me soften up about Melissa McCarthy, something that better films like The Heat didn’t even accomplish, I undoubtedly cut this film some slack. The comedy involved definitely had some dead spots, but a lot of it does work, Melissa McCarthy proved to me that she could be more than just this abrasive annoyance, the supporting cast all do a great job and the writing actually managed to reach for some more sentimental moments and actually catch them.

#5: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Well, there goes any semblance of being taken seriously as a critic… like that was ever gonna happen anyway. This film did seem to be a little too aware of the silliness of its own premise, considering how long mainstream audiences have had to grow accustomed to it, and the re-worked origin story did raise some questions, but the action scenes were fun, the effects work actually impressed me a bit (I especially like Splinter’s character design) and the comedy, while sometimes entering cringe territory, more than evened out during its run time.

#4: Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Yep, another Michael Bay entry on the list. Deal with it. I can’t help but scratch my head at people who claim that this is the worst film in the series yet, because to put it frankly, this is the first time in the series that it actually felt like Bay was trying to make a good movie. He didn’t succeed entirely, as whatever attempts the script makes at some form of commentary aren’t thought-out enough to come up with anything legible and there are still pretty glaring plot holes in the film. I mean, who in their right mind would market home-brand Transformers to people who are still in fear of them after the events of the last three movies, Dark Of The Moon most specifically? However, despite that and the rather haphazard pacing of the plot, the racial stereotypes are severely dialed down along with the annoying character count, with the human characters actually having purpose in being in the story and even being useful at times, the acting is better than the series’ standard and for once the Transformers are actually the focus of their own fucking movies. I consider this to be the best film in the series so far (make of that what you will), and it shows enough improvement for me to actively want to see another film in the franchise. Doing Pain & Gain must have changed Bay somehow, and for the better as far as I can tell.

Horror is a subjective thing, but I don’t get what everyone else finds so scary about this. I would have thought that the ridiculous “keep it as a pet” ending would have soured this film for anyone, but this is why I don’t buy lottery tickets. Not that I think it’s god-awful or anything, just that it’s an okay horror film; not necessarily something that’s worth all the praise it’s been getting.

 This is a rather odd entry in the list: As my ‘best of’ list will no doubt prove, I have no problem with darker and more depressing films. So what does that say when this is the film that gets me to say Uncle? Sure, it has a very impressive cast list who all give great performances, and I will admit that there are more than a few moments that got to me emotionally, but for the most part it’s too continuously down-beat for me to connect with.

 Did I see a different movie to everyone else? What in the hell do people see in this film that I don’t? I’ve already torn this made-for-VHS slop to pieces in my review, so I’ll keep it brief: It’s a cheaply made and directed film that only breaks up the monotony on screen with occasional unintentional laughs at the production’s expense. Russell Crowe should never be allowed to direct a movie again. Simple as.

(2015 EDIT) Now that the film has been released outside of Australia, the critical response is pretty lukewarm with mostly average reviews. To clarify, this is my number one pick because of how much the Aussie critical press seemed to love this movie for reasons that confuse me to no end. Support local talent, don't get me wrong, but don't pretend that they don't need to improve.

Well, with all that out of the way, stay tuned as I delve into my favourite and least favourite films of 2014, where I suspect readers will be constructing their own lists of disagreement and I encourage them to do so; differences in opinion keep the world interesting.

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