Quick Reviews: Muppets Most Wanted, 22 Jump Street, Boyhood, Begin Again, Jersey Boys & The Maze Runner (All 2014)

In the wake of my last FILM RETROSPECTIVE (2009), I haven’t really been able to review films properly. But since Oscar season is coming up, I’ve decided to finally to come around to reviewing the last few films I’ve seen because I have reviewed a movie properly since Chef. Though it’s in my new quick reviews format, I’ll try to get my whole opinion across in a few sentences. After this, I promise to review everything more comprehensively. By the end of the week expect FILM RETROSPECTIVE 2008, a properly formatted review for Map to the Stars (2014) and by next week: Gone Girl (2014)one of my most anticipated of the year!

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MUPPETS MOST WANTED (directed by James Bobin) – After the first one you really expect them to create a second film that’s at least worth a fan’s time. Unfortunately, James Bobin’s follow up film to 2011’s The Muppets is a major letdown. Don’t get me wrong, the film isn’t bad at all but ultimately the movie stands as probably the most forgettable Muppets movie ever made. First of all, the success of the first movie relied heavily on the fantastic job that Jason Siegel and Amy Adams did. This film was just filled with useless character acting (especially a completely terrible, cringe worthy performance by Tina Fey who hardly disappoints). The film is still entertaining and the songs are pretty good. But damn, it’s forgettable. Nothing special, and it just gets by because of the novelty. 6.5/10 

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22 JUMP STREET (directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller) – Another film that gets by because of the novelty. It’s hard to dislike Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in these roles, especially when they did so well in 2013’s original film, which was one of the best comedies of that year. Though the film takes a Scream like approach by making the audience aware that they are in fact: a sequel (hence giving them the ability to recycle the same storyline in a different setting) they could’ve worked a little bit harder to make a more special film. Not all sequences have to be rehashes. The film’s fine though. Entertainment factor is up there and I laughed a lot. I’d probably only catch it again though if I saw it on television. Plus, I expected much more after directing team Lord and Miller did such a great job on The Lego Movie (2014) just this year. 6.5/10 

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BOYHOOD (directed by Richard Linklater) – tied with The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) as the best film of the year so far. Novelty? I’ve been saying that word a lot in this post so I’m going to dismiss it by saying: it’s not just the novelty of the film but it seriously is emotionally investing. If you don’t know about the film, they filmed with the same actors for the past 12 years to have an in depth look at how a little boy (Ellar Coltrane) grows up. We get a look at his family and the events that happen around them. Yes, they’re a normal family with hardly anything completely going wrong with their lives (except for his mothers abusive boyfriends and his fathers disappearance for a long period of time…but they always come out strong) but that’s life. It was a look into life and the film felt completely important for the language of cinema this year. Richard Linklater is a master behind the camera, and someone who understands the concept of time very well. The first film that’s in consideration for my personal Best Picture award. To top it off, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke’s portrayal as the Coltrane’s parents are seriously one for the ages. Brilliant. 9/10

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BEGIN AGAIN (directed by John Carney) – I strongly stand beside my score for this film. And if it does go down by the end of the year, I predict just cutting a small 0.5 off its original score. The reason why I love it so much is because it’s everything i want in a film: 1) A gorgeous performance by the cast (especially the leading lady, because I love a strong female role), 2) good music (“Lost Stars” better win that Oscar for Best Song) and 3) good writing with a feel good factor. Keira Knightly was truly the MVP of the film, with a great subtle performance. This is the best she’s done since Pride & Prejudice (2005) and she didn’t need makeup to help her in any way. She’s my current lead actress win. Mark Ruffalo was a strong male lead, and Adam Levine surprised me just because he wasn’t bad. The music is exquisite and ultimately helps raise that heartwarming feeling you get when walking away from the movie. 9/10

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JERSEY BOYS (directed by Clint Eastwood) – One of my most anticipated films of the year (I love the music of the Four Seasons) but it just came off as obnoxious, bloated and actually boring. It’s hard not to like because the music is so great (John Lloyd Young sings beautifully) but then it’s really just not worthy of another viewing. Christopher Walken was wasted (*sarcasm* ha ha like that hasn’t happened ever since The Deer Hunter (1978)). The lead actor found in Mr. Young was pretty terrible in the start (too technical and theatrical) but luckily as the film went by, he was able to reach good highs when the music became more melodramatic. The only thing worthy in this film is the spectacular Vincent Piazza who I wish was the lead instead. Eastwood is in a career low lately, which is why I’m really doubting his next Oscar begging film American Sniper which is out by the end of the year. I wish Scorsese directed this instead. 5.5/10

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THE MAZE RUNNER (directed by Wes Ball) – So far this is my choice as the most divisive film of the year (in my head at least). The film is so much fun to watch and has some great moments (production design, intensity etc.) but the performances were so terrible. The lead, Dylan O’Brien was a wooden cutout who stood there with the same facial expression. The rest of the boys were just meh (some unintentionally funny) and Kaya Scondelario was used as just a prop with no character development what so ever. This may be just the case of a technical director working with actors though and that’s why I don’t hate it. To be honest it’s a pretty decent film. A good viewing experience and very entertaining. I probably wouldn’t watch it again but it’s fine a Young Adult adapted book. Definitely compared to some of the other crap this world was unfortunately introduced to (I’m calling out to you Divergent and Twilight). 7/10

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