Catching up after the World Cup. 2014 in review

 

Christ_the redeemer

It’s been just over a month since my last post on this blog of mine. Though my attempt was to continue to keep it flowing with new reviews and monthly round-ups, there was this mammoth-size event looming on the horizon: the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

As an avid soccer/football/futbol/futebol fan since I was a little boy, it was simply impossible to devote my free time to anything else for the past month. To make matters worse, ESPN had an unprecedented coverage of the event, probably the most comprehensive in the history of soccer broadcasting in the US, basically giving fans like me the opportunity to watch every single game in one of their stations, or through the internet. Out of the 64 games I probably watched 40 of them, if not more. I consumed soccer like there was no tomorrow and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.

I am tempted to offer you my thoughts on the tournament but, it would get very long and tedious for those who have visited me in the past, and it would probably alienate those who happen to wonder in the direction of this blog seeking for film and other art-related reviews.

Instead of the typical sleuth of mini-reviews that I have offered in the past, I will simplify things a little bit this one time and share only the ratings and a couple of words about each.  As I said before, I watched a hell of a lot of soccer in the past month, so the quota of films watched is obviously much smaller than it would have been otherwise.

Without further ado, I give you a list of movies, tv shows, books and videogames I’ve enjoyed since March (some repeats from previous posts are included):

FILM

BLUE JASMINE (2013) [3/5] ~ great performances in a cynical film

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) [3.5/5] ~ chaos and excess in 180 minutes of film

The Wolf of Wall Street

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013) [2/5] ~ ludicrous and far-fetched. A few decent scenes

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012) [3/5] ~ charming little piece. Nothing remarkable.

HER (2013) [4/5] ~ immensely interesting and captivating.

Her

PASSION (2012) [2/5] ~ a messy film by the once-great film maker: Brian De Palma

NO (2013) [3/5] ~ very political film with little replaying value

DON JON (2013) [3/5] ~ decent debut as a director for J.G. Levitt

Don Jon

BLACKFISH (2013) [3.5/5] ~ eye-opening, yet artistically unremarkable.

HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (2012) [2/5] ~ bad horror flick riddled by cliché.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012) [3.5/5] ~ a step-down from the LOTR trilogy, but not nearly as disappointing as some made it out to be

The Hobbit

THE LAST STAND (2013) [2.5/5] ~ some of the vintage Arnold still survives.

JACK REACHER (2012) [ 3.5/5] ~ surprisingly good film by the ever prolific Tom Cruise

PRISONERS (2013) [4/5] ~ very suspenseful with very strong performances.

AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) [4/5] ~ the wildest and funniest David O. Russell film yet.

American Hustle 2

YOU’RE NEXT (2011) [1/5] ~ gore fest in very poor taste. Stay away from this!

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (2005) [3/5] ~ a huge let down when compared to the novel. A great set and costume design saved it.

Memoirs of a Geisha

DESPICABLE ME 2 (2013) [3/5] ~ not as charming as the first. Minions stole the show.

KICK-ASS 2 (2013) [2.5/5] ~ largely forgettable. A strong script was lacking.

CARRIE (2013) [2.5/5] ~ uneven remake. Chloe Grace Moretz not in the same league as Sissy Spacek

Carrie

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) [4/5] ~ best performance from Tom Hanks in years. Gripping suspense from beginning to end.

THELMA & LOUISE (1991) [3/5] ~ a disappointing classic. Expected much more.

Thelma&Louise

UNFAITHFUL (2002) [2.5/5] ~ melodramatic and unsurprising.

ABOUT TIME (2013) [3.5/5] ~ sweet and clever, yet overlong and trapped by its own conventions.

About Time

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (2013) [4/5] ~ gripping and transformative. Important film.

BAD WORDS (2014) [3/5] ~ funny at times, unimaginative throughout. Expected more.

ADORE (2013) [2.5/5] ~ provocative…not. Boring….yes

BERNIE (2011) [3.5/5] ~ a surprisingly good faux-doc with a good performance by Jack Black

Bernie

CRYSTAL FAIRY AND THE MAGICAL CACTUS (2013) [2/5] ~ forgettable and uninspired.

G.B.F. (2013) [3.5/5] ~ a silly yet funny gay-themed comedy. Better than expected.

UNDER THE SKIN (2014) [4/5]  ~ Hypnotic piece of film making. Full review upcoming.

♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦

Under The Skin

COME UNDONE (2000) [2.5/5] ~ gay-themed film full of cliché and poor acting.

PARANORMAN (2012) [3/5] ~ less than I was expecting. Nothing remarkable.

BROKEN FLOWERS (2005) [3/5] ~ almost moving. Needed a bit more resolution and intrigue

Broken Flowers

NEIGHBORS (2014) [4/5] ~ very funny, though it might not be suited to watch more than once.

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT (2014) [1.5/5] ~ truly bad. Horrible script without focus.  

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (2014) [3/5] ~ charming but a bit too silly

Walter Mitty

12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013) [4.5/5] ~ heart-wrenching. Deserving of so many accolades

CONTRACTED (2013) [1.5/5] ~ interesting at first, until it became ridiculously bad

BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013) [3.5/5] ~ great acting but the script was light on heart and a bit predictable

743880_BTC_82712_CB_5370.JPG

UNITED 93 (2006) [4/5] ~ very well-made. Surprising in many ways.

SERPICO (1973) [4/5] ~ great cop drama. Vintage Al Pacino performance

GODZILLA (2014) [3.5/5] ~ well-made but overlong. Some standout scenes

Godzilla

GIRL MOST LIKELY (2012) [2.5/5] ~ funny in patches

HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA (2010) [4/5] ~ Herzog. Need I say more? Review upcoming

Happy People

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (2014) [1.5/5] ~ terrible flick. bad acting and direction

NON-STOP (2014) [2.5/5] ~ suspense fizzles out pretty quick

ENEMY (2013) [3/5] ~ very disappointing. Odd for the sake of being odd. I didn’t quite get what all the fuzz was about. Incendies and Prisoners by Villeneuve are far superior films.

Enemy

TAMMY (2014) [2.5/5] ~ unimaginative and not very funny

IMDB TOP 250: OLDBOY (2003) [4.5/5] ~ review upcoming. Fantastic film. The best of the year so far.

♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦

Oldboy

TELEVISION

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK SEASON 2 [4/5]

OITNB 2

Didn’t quite hit the high notes of the first season, but still did very well at making these group of women extremely likeable and approachable. It felt, at times, as if the creators were not planning for a second season, and some of the writing seems a bit less inspired than in the first.

THE KILLING SEASON 1 & 2 [3.5/5]

The-Killing

I appreciate a lot of what this series tried to do. For one, it is a crime-solving show that truly focuses on the details of a case, and how it affects the families and friends of victims, as well as the investigators that put their time and soul into solving the case. Very decent acting throughout, but it lacked pace, not to mention good chunks of the storyline felt as if they were there to fill long seasons. Also tended to be a bit melodramatic at times. The biggest let down was the final reveal, which proved to be a little too contrived and casual to satisfy.

HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 2 [4/5]

house-of-cards

Once again, not as good as the first season but still quite good. Kevin Spacey continues to dazzle as the charming devil of a politician that somehow manages, almost single-handedly, to make its way towards the Presidency while destroying all of his political and personal enemies. Very well written and very clever. One of the best shows around.

BREAKING BAD, THE FINAL SEASON [5/5]

Breaking Bad

I don’t think I’ll ever watch a series as consistent and well-written as Breaking Bad. This is a show that got better as it progressed, getting more clever with each episode, and developing these characters until you grew to know them and care for them dearly. The final season is the testament to how good the show was, bringing the story to a sensational, satisfying yet heart-wrenching conclusion. Walter White’s story was worth telling, and I did well in tuning in. Probably the best drama I will ever watch.

VIDEOGAMES

FALLOUT 3 (PS3) [4.5/5] ~ engrossing, fascinating and extremely large. A bit too many bugs.

BIOSHOCK INFINITE (PS3) [4.5/5] ~ awesome design and storyline. Some improvements could be made to the battle controls and dynamics.

MAX PAYNE 3 (PS3) [4/5] ~ at times truly surprising and engrossing. It gets a bit repetitive and the higher difficulty levels can be borderline impossible to manage.

THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM (PS3) [5/5] ~ it has some of the same problems as Fallout 3, but it just feels so much more developed, engrossing and beautiful. This is THE game to beat in the next console generation.

Skyrim

BOOKS:

1984 – George Orwell

A true classic. George Orwell’s 1984 is a captivating and engrossing novel that has plenty to offer. It has romance, suspense and plenty of political intrigue. Published in 1949, Orwell offers a grim outlook of the future, where the industrial revolution gave way to decades of wars at a global scale that eventually formed three equally powerful nations. The story follows a man who has never quite fit into the mold of the “perfect” citizen that subjects to the whims of one of these absolute dictatorships. As expected, this man risks his life to find more about the powers that control him, his friends and life in general but, when he does arrive at some answers, they are not exactly what he was hoping for. The novel is remarkable in that it speaks about politics as eloquently as it speaks about the human condition, romance, relationships and the ever-present desire to be free and independent. A must read, if only for the many catchphrases that litter the novel and that have since become part of our culture.

Big-Bro

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7 thoughts on “Catching up after the World Cup. 2014 in review

  1. I watched both Hobbit movies for the spectacle, bit of a cash-grab, making a trilogy from one book. Of the two, I prefer “Unexpected Journey” for the humor, the thrill ride, and the story to me was less predictable than in “Desolation of Smaug”. There was also a freshness about first Hobbit movie, that I hadn’t been in that universe for a long time.

    I’ve read 1984, scary how close Orwell’s vision is to reality. To me, the book hints at today’s surveillance “big brother” cameras, screen culture, and govermental manipulation. Hopefully we will not end up in that scenario, not all progress is good! A very influencial novel. Heck, there’s even a reality show called Big Brother 🙂

    Look forward to your review of Under the Skin

    1. I’m not sure if I would say that Orwell was close to reality with 1984. He takes a far more pessimistic view of humanity and runs with it, which I consider to be far from the actual state of events. Sure, our freedoms are limited even in those countries that profess to be free and democratic but the world is definitely not as oppressed and the masses not as clearly manipulated. Perhaps consumerism is a form of manipulation but, at the very least, we are conscious of its existence and what it does to us. The real tragedy in 1984 is not so much that the masses are oppressed, but that they have been so incredibly brainwashed that they don’t even know that they are.

      Thanks for stopping by Chris, always a pleasure to see your comments.

  2. WHOAH!! You managed to watch a ton of movies AND TV on top of The World Cup! So you must still be reeling from the big games eh? Are you happy that Germany won, and/or did you expect it’d happen? I have a colleague here who’s big into World Cup so at times I got excited for it but I don’t really follow soccer er, football otherwise nor do I watch any of the games.

    In any case, great mix of movies here between some popular ones and indies. I feel the same about The Hobbit, not as great as LOTR but not bad either. I love the universe so I enjoy those movies. I didn’t really care for Wolf of Wall Street, excessive and repetitive and whilst some of the acting were good it just leaves a poor taste in my mouth, I definitely won’t watch that again. Glad you love HER! “immensely interesting and captivating” That’s exactly how I feel about it.

    1. Well, these are all the movies and tv shows I’ve watched since March. I don’t think it’s that many. I probably only watched about 2 or 3 during the actual World Cup. Was I happy that Germany won? I didn’t mind. Being half-Italian and half-Venezuelan, I’ve learned to root against Brazil and Spain, so I was happy they were both knocked off. I would have preferred Argentina to win but, at the end, the better team prevailed.

      I do try to mix indies with mainstream. I don’t really have a preference as long as they are well-made and there’s some thoughtfulness put into them. I think my ratings will show I don’t really disregard mainstream blockbusters just because of the demographics they are trying to appeal to.
      I don’t know where Wolf of Wall Street will fall for me in time. At first I was hesitating on whether to give it 3.5 or 4, and recently I thought my score of 3.5 was a little generous. So, I guess 3.5 seems about right for now. There were a couple of scenes that certainly stayed with me and for that reason I gave it high marks.
      Glad you agree about Her and thanks for stopping by!

  3. Wow, quite the wrapup here! I know what you mean about World Cup fever — I watched nearly every game this year. I even biked down to Soldier Field for the US/Belgium viewing party, and that was a blast. Too bad it’s all over!

    Bummer to hear you were disappointed by Enemy. I would actually rank it as my favorite of the year so far. If you’re willing to take the time, I highly recommend watching this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9AWkqRwd1I

    That explanation really opened my eyes and made me appreciate the film even more.

    I also really enjoyed the newest seasons of Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards. Both were slight steps down from their first seasons, but still high quality entertainment.

    Also loved the final season of Breaking Bad.

    Fallout 3 is probably my favorite game from this past console generation, but Skyrim and Bioshock Infinite aren’t far behind. I actually picked up Skyrim again recently and plan on finally finishing the main storyline this time.

    1. I figured we wouldn’t see eye to eye on Enemy. I will give the video a try and check if my thoughts on it change in the slightest. To sum up, I just did not care for him as a character. I found that there was very little development of him as a person, and I became disinterested on whether it was one man with multiple personalities, or two men with entirely different personalities that somehow looked the same and were not related.

      I couldn’t agree more when it comes to the Netflix shows. There were slightly worse than their first seasons, but still fairly good when compared to the rest of the shows you’ll find on TV. As for Breaking Bad, well, words are superfluous.

      Fallout 3 was my favorite game for PS3 until I played Skyrim. Was there something in particular that appealed to you in one over the other? I found the story, the universe and the lore of Skyrim just a bit more interesting and well-developed, even if the Wasteland is still a fascinating place to explore. I would be very interested to see where these two series go from here.
      Thanks for your comment Eric!

      1. I actually didn’t mind Gyllenhaal’s character(s). I was so drawn in by his mysterious behavior and antics, and the whole doppelganger idea kept me guessing the whole time. The theory in that video gives a lot of insight into why he acted the way he did. I read a few other ones after watching the film, and none of them sounded half as reasonable as that one.

        I prefer Fallout’s post-apocalyptic wasteland to Skyrim’s fantasy setting. Both are incredible experiences, but I’m more fascinated by Fallout’s atmosphere, especially its juxtaposition of 1950s America and its dystopian future.

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