Here they go… Rapid fire style!
The Master: brilliantly acted, oddly awkward and uncomfortable. Overall a “good movie”, maybe even a “great movie”, but not one I can say I particularly enjoyed. See it if you hate Scientology. See it if “cerebral” is a quality you seek out actively in the theater. Skip it if you love Scientology. Skip it if “artsy cinema” is a four letter word for you.
7 Psychopaths: absolutely brilliant black comedy. Good subtle use of fourth wall breach, mesmerizing performances by the master cast. Funny but also brutally violent. Not for the kids. See it if you like Tarantino. See it if you love Walken. See it if you just love crazy shit. Skip it if you are squeamish. Skip it if you are a pacifist. Skip it if you have a hard time finding humor in brutal violence.
Sinister: Absolutely better than Insidious. Solid pacing and atmosphere, decently creepy, very dark mood. Caution advised in that it does deal with the uncomfortable subject of children as victims. Solid performance by Ethan Hawke, strong conclusion with the inevitable sequel setup. Hilarious camero by Donofrio as very nearly his Major Case Squad alter ego. See it if you love supernatural horror. Skip it if you hate horror altogether or hate horror of the “found footage” variety.
Trouble With the Curve: No empty chairs here; Eastwood doing what he can do effortlessly (be a grumpy old guy). Very genuine emotion and chemistry between the leads. Somewhat by the numbers, but works nonetheless. See it if you love Amy Adams. See it if you love baseball more than you hate family dramas. Skip it if you hate baseball and/or family dramas.
Atlas Shrugged 2: a movie that has absolutely no chance of getting a fair review. Works better than the first despite the complete change in casting thanks to better pacing. A compelling “alternate future” (maybe) setting and an engaging mythos. A bit ham handed at times, and occasionally poorly acted, but captivating in spite of this. See it if you saw the first one and were waiting for it; it won’t disappoint. See it if you have a Randian shrine in the backyard. Skip it if you hated it before you even knew it was coming out. Skip it if your normal evening is spent tapping out a scathing indictment of the 1% on your $2900 MacBook from your local coffee shop outside your $3000/moth 900 sq ft San Francisco apartment (zing! couldn’t resist).
Argo: phenomenal. If this wasn’t a true story it would be one of the best concieved and executed action/political intrigue thrillers ever made. The fact that it *is* in fact a true story elevates it to legendary status. Afflek really asserts his talent as both an actor and a director here and pays total tribute to the source material and the legacy of the heroes involved. Best of all it presents a very smart and fair portrayal of those dark times and what lead up to them (and also some context for where we find ourselves today). See it. Period. If you hate Afflek, get over it and see it anyway.
Looper: one of the smartest time travel movies of all time. Absolutely perfectly executed sci-fi with an incredible performance by Levitt. Draws the audience in early and doesn’t let go until the closing credits low. An absolute must see for sci-fi fans. See it if you love sci-fi. Full stop. See it if you can at least tolerate sci-fi and enjoy action. Skip it if the mere suggesiton of a future setting send you into a blind rage.
Taken 2: not sure this sequel really needed to be made. Lacks the tension of the first one and prefers instead to very much paint by numbers (down to reusing the first movies catch phrase – a real stretch). Neeson of course is fantastic even if he phones it in. The violence is solid. The victimization of innocents is merficully less brutal this time. See it if you loved the first one and can’t get enough of this genre. Skip it if you thought once was enough or absolutely abhor this genre. Maybe skip it if you are Albanian!
End of Watch: brutal, brutal stuff. David Ayer is a master of this genre and End of Watch makes for a grim companion to Training Day. Gyllenhall and Pena are incredible; their chemistry stays with you long after the film ends. Gritty, violent and depressing, it can be difficult to watch, but pulls no punches in its stark realism. See it if you count “The Wire” in your top ten list. See it if you are a genre fan. See it if you like violent crime drama. Skip it if realistic violence will prevent you from enjoying it. Skip it if you *really* hate shakey cam (there is some of that here, although the film certainly doesnt revolve around it)
Judge Dredd: Oddly reminiscent of The Raid: Redemption which I suspect may be very much intentional. Actually much better than the first one (if anyone remembers that), even though the story is much smaller (or perhaps because of this). Dredd is a tough character to adapt because he is deliberately a bit of a one dimensional caricature. That said, the character is well represented here and very much works. Lena Heady (surprising meeting her here!) is fantastic as always and almost unrecognizable. The atmosphere is grim, hopeless and claustrophobic, but that’s as it should be really. See it if you know who Judge Dredd is and love him. See it if you are a comic book movie junkie. See it if you like violent sci-fi action. Skip it if you are put off by brutal violence and cruelty (some tough stuff here). Skip it if you know who Judge Dredd is and hate him.