5 QUICK MOVIE REVIEWS: Annie, Still Alice, The Immigrant, The Skeleton Twins & Nightcrawler (All 2014)

I apologize for not posting for awhile. Apart from the Christmas rush over here in Manila, I’ve been keeping myself busy with personal things and took a weeks vacation in Singapore. But now I’m back and ready to continuously blog till next year. January and February will be my best months because I love doing all of those END OF THE YEAR STUFF (like lists, and personal awards etc.) so I’m excited for that. And by that time I would’ve seen all the Oscar nominated or highly acclaimed films of 2014. Firstly, I’ve got to get these five films out of the way for that (review-wise). Here are five quick reviews for Annie, Still Alice, The Immigrant, The Skeleton Twins and Nightcrawler.

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ANNIE (2014, Will Gluck) – Possibly the worst film I’ve seen all year. I try to avoid films that I really have no interest in seeing, but I won’t lie and say that I was a bit curious with this film because the original 1982 musical movie has a place in my heart. But after watching the film I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. It’s so bloated with terrible social media references, bad musical arrangements (they butchered every song from the original score which was lovely), and even worse performances. Cameron Diaz has reached an all time low with her terrible performance as Miss Hannigan, especially when you have someone like Carol Burnett to compare her to. Jamie Foxx and Rose Byrne were okay but were ruined by distasteful directorial choices. Director Will Gluck couldn’t frame his actors properly, especially the musical numbers which were just awkward and plain boring. Quevenzhane Wallis was just okay, but in no way deserving of her resent Best Actress Golden Globe nomination for this film. Terrible movie. Gotta try and forget it now.
RATING: 3/10

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STILL ALICE (2014, Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland) – I love when an actress doesn’t have to change her physical appearance and achieve great acting. Julianne Moore has always been consistent in that way. Her powerful performance as Alice, a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease, is another addition to her already wonderful repertoire of movies she has appeared in. Though she personally isn’t my choice for Best Actress this year (she will win the Oscar though), she was able to convey great emotions that it’s hard not to like the film. She is the heart and soul of this character study and it’s purely a film for her to show off her acting chops. Her directors Glatzer and Westmoreland build the film around her, and rightfully so. The supporting cast is serviceable, especially the very reliable Alec Baldwin. Kristen Stewart was as wooden as she ever was. This role really could have been a great supporting role if played by another actress. I’m not complaint though since the focus was hardly on her. She gets an A for at least trying something a bit different.
RATING: 7.5/10

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THE IMMIGRANT (2014, James Gray) – Marion Cotillard has always been a fine actress, one of the generations best. In James Gray’s The Immigrant, Marion gives it her all with a surprisingly subtle and memorable performance as Ewa, a woman forced into prostitution in 1921 New York City to try and get her sister released from Liberty Island. James Gray doesn’t only command a wonderful performance from his sole lead, but brings out another wonderful turn from Joaquin Phoenix (in a supporting role) as the complex and rather conniving American who helps Ewa. The film is also aesthetically pleasing with great Godfather 2-esque cinematography to complement the wonderful production design that transports us into the gritty underground world of this tormented woman’s soul. Cotillard knocks it out of the park in this one, and now I’m highly anticipating her other 2014 release Two Days, One Night just to see if she can outdo herself again.
RATING: 7.5/10

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THE SKELETON TWINS (2014, Craig Johnson) – Without hesitation, The Skeleton Twins is a smartly written comedy with moving performances that really don’t try to hard. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig star as brother and sister who reunite after their separate failed suicide attempts, together they face their current problems and their jaded pasts. Bill Hader gives out a surprisingly good performance as Milo, one half of the twins. But the true star of the picture is Kristen Wiig who delivers a moving performance that is better then half of the women who are considered for Academy Award nominations this year. She plays off her co-stars with so much naivety, darkness and mystery but never fails to deliver her signature comedy that she is famous for. Sadly this is the type of performance that will be overshadowed by years end. The film is superbly written. I wish we had more comedies like this.
RATING: 7/10

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NIGHTCRAWLER (2014, Dan Gilroy) – Disturbing, tightly edited, thought provoking with wonderful performance. That is what Nightcrawler is. Jake Gyllenhaal continues his hot streak of good choices with his role as the greedy and greasy Lou Bloom in Dan Gilroy’s newest dark thriller. Gilroy doesn’t only give his main focus to his leading man, but pulls out stupendously acted performance from his supporting players. Rene Russo is in top form and produces an effortless and sexy performance as a veteran newscaster who acts as mentor to Gyllenhaal. The small role of Riz Ahmed as Bloom’s accomplice and employee is also deserving of applause with his candour acting style that equally helps develop the story unravel. The film is written so well that you stay on the edge of your seat in what seems to be a quick half hour (but it’s actually close to two hours long). The editing was top notch.
RATING: 8.5/10 

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