We’ve taken a leaf out of Santa’s book, and have decided to reflect on the films of the year by determining which ones have been ‘good/nice’ and which ones have been downright naughty/bad. All of the team have put forward three films on their nice list and three for their naughty lists, giving their reasons why certain films have made the right or the wrong impression. So, grab a mince pie and some egg nog and join us to examine the lists. Ho, ho, ho!
If you’ve ever pictured meeting up with your childhood best friend and killing someone you both dislike, then Thoroughbreds is for you. No, you haven’t? That’s just me? Well, okay then. Awkward… Well somehow, director Cory Finley manages to make this movie feel both freshly contemporary and classical, like a cool French noir.
It stars two fantastic, up and coming young ladies—Olivia Cooke from TV’s Bates Motel, and Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch—as the reunited friends. And they have great taste in sunglasses. Thoroughbreds is a darkly humorous Heavenly Creatures, with a dash of Les Diaboliques, for a new generation. Also, this film’s production design features a large outdoor chess set that I want for my own backyard. (Christmas is approaching, just saying.)
Hearts Beat Loud
Hearts Beat Loud was this year’s most pleasant surprise for me. I had heard good things, but knew not much at all about it. Though once I learned that it starred Nick Offerman, it was a done deal, because he’s one of my favorite humans, ever. He plays Frank, the proprietor of a fading record store. There’s a scene where a patron tells Frank that vinyls are cheaper on Amazon, then doesn’t buy anything. And as someone who works in an independent bookstore, I felt that.
A musician himself, he and his daughter Sam bond through jam sessions. When they record a truly great track, Frank encourages Sam to turn their jams into gigs. But she’s going away to college soon and views it mostly as a waste of time. What follows is an endearing and harmonious story about family and art, full of amazing music… In a year without A Star Is Born, the titular song would definitely be more of a shoo-in at the Oscars for Best Song.
As far as I’m concerned, Anthony Hopkins, henceforth, is the only Lear. The race is over. Sir Anthony won. All other old men, please move along. Go be in Eugene O’Neill or something. Because Hopkins completely owns the titular ruler in this Richard Eyre rendition. This was not, however, his first crack at the mad king. He starred in a David Hare-directed theatre production more than three decades prior, having apparently felt that he hadn’t done the role, or the craft, justice.
Soon after, he forswore the stage, feeling as though he didn’t really belong in that world. (Then, a few years later, he won his Oscar, so it all worked out!) Nevertheless, Lear never fully vacated Sir Anthony’s mind. So in a way, he had been subconsciously preparing for thirty years. And it shows. This rendition is also highly approachable in a way that, unfortunately, a lot of Shakespeare adaptations aren’t.
Has a new year even begun if we don’t get the perennial Liam Neeson caper? Maybe so, but with far fewer fisticuffs, that’s for sure… The Commuter desperately wants to be called Hitchcockian—and, on the surface, the narrative has that vibe. An insurance salesman, who happens to be a former cop, is joined on his commute by a mysterious woman who tells him that he must figure out which of his fellow passengers is a person known as “Prynne” before the train reaches its final stop, or else terrible stuff will happen to his family. (This is a Liam Neeson flick, remember?)
There’s something a little too familiar about The Commuter. A little too cookie-cutter. A little too hackneyed. And as it splices together every movie that came before it that’s even remotely like it, this one commits the cardinal sin of being boring as hell.
Is it even summer without the perennial, explosion-filled venture featuring The Rock? In this one, he plays a security expert, who happens to be a former FBI agent, tasked with ensuring that the world’s new tallest residential skyscraper is safe from general bad guys. In order to get the full lowdown on how safe the building is, The Rock and his family move into the building. Oh, and those bad guys who aren’t supposed to be able to penetrate the structure? Uh, they kind of do
So, naturally, The Rock and movie-wife Neve Campbell spend the rest of the movie fending off villains. The movie could have benefitted from a lot more Neve Campbell kicking ass—actually, I probably would have preferred it if this had been Neve Campbell’s Flightplan. To give the flick some credit, it achieves what it sets out to be. However, what that is… is frivolous dreck. Skyscraper is the kind of you movie you mention when your grandpa asks for a movie recommendation. So it has its audience.
Acts of Violence
Bruce Willis has bills to pay too, and this movie is proof of that. In this one, he plays an active-duty police officer nearing retirement. Human trafficking seems to be his beat. And before he turns in his badge, he’s determined to bust a big ring. Well, these traffickers Bruce has been trying to stop? They kidnap the wrong damsel… Because this young woman’s fiancé has two brothers who are former military, thus the absolutely ridiculous armory of high-grade weapons that they apparently own. And they set out to rescue her, aided from afar by Bruce Willis, whose whole role is just kinda shoehorned into the narrative.
Acts of Violence’s one saving grace is Sophia Bush, who plays Bruce’s partner. She’s great. Honestly, if she could have handled both hers and Bruce’s roles, things would’ve been better and less forced. The production clearly just wanted the bankability that comes with a seasoned action star.