The story of how Admiral Yi withstood a fleet of 330 with just 12 battleships of his own is an incredible David vs. Goliath yarn from the history books. Now Korea's patriotic flexing against Japan can be felt in all its over-acted and reacted glory! Not even the great Choi Min-sik can keep the arduous and spiraling account afloat.
The Rover (2014)
Beginning and ending with shots of the merciless Outback, The Rover is entirely enveloped in a setting isolated from an economic collapse. It seems all too likely that the future might send us time-traveling back to the Old West where humanity is nothing more than crumbled monuments. A re-watch confirmed that this is still one of the very best films of the year and that David Michôd is on a perfect roll with this and Animal Kingdom.
The Two Faces of January (2014)
Oscar Isaac is an American tour guide in Athens who entangles himself with a touring wealthy couple played by Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. Striking locales and mysterious pasts make this period piece feel like a film Alfred Hitchcock might very well have directed himself. What could be higher praise? It doesn't unravel as smoothly and what's at the center feels pretty slight, but The Two Faces of January has a feeling that will last.
Open Windows (2014)
Nacho Vigalando continues his fascination with sci-fi and timers in this real-time thriller. Elijah Wood continues to attach himself to high-concept genre films. With these two joining forces you'd think the result would be pretty special. I admire the audacity, but the result is a poorly performed (Sacha Grey...) and convoluted story that had me checking the film's remaining running time.
Make Gyllenhaal gives one of the performances of the year and of his entire career as a entrepreneur who throws himself into documenting the criminal nightlife of Los Angeles. It's amazing how both funny and chilling he manages to be. Dan Gilroy has one of the finest directorial debuts with this beast of a idea.
The ABCs of Death (2013)
Seeing 26 extreme slices of horror in a row is not advised, but that's what audiences who dare attempt this anthology in one sitting are in for. Watching it with an audience for the first time became a tolerance test study by seeing who left and at what letter. If you can make it past "L for Libido," you're in for the long haul.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
This has been one of my favorite horror films since I fist saw it. This time I had the opportunity to see it with a live score and it was like hearing it for the first time. Daniel Pearl's cinematography remains a timeless example of ingenuity and piecing together a scene through a character's eyes when it matters most.
The House of the Devil (2013)
Ti West's throwback to horror films of yesteryear is remarkable in that it feels like it could have been made 30 years ago. 95% of the film is the slowest of burns and the best part of the experience. Things get straight up freaky until the film's hellish finale.
Widely regarded as one of the best of the sequels, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes sees chimpanzee Caesar coming of age and becoming a crucial figure in the Ape Revolution. The last half hour are the makings of the bleakest blockbuster I have ever seen.
V/H/S: Viral (2014)
The third in the sensational found footage series may only be the third best, but there's not a weak segment in the bunch, even if the framing device is too ambitious for its own good. This time around there's a noticeable swing towards the comedic with several laughs to be had in each segment. Dueling magicians, parallel universes and a haunted ice cream truck are among the concepts explored this time around. My favorite tape follows a couple of skaters who are persuaded do tear it up in Tijuana only to be interrupted by an army of Ghouls on the Day of the Dead.
What's in a title? How much does it tell us about the movie? It seems the Planet of the Apes sequels just add a verb or noun to the front and call it a day. "The ABCs of Death" is integral to the film's purpose, the concept is the title and both were born under the same star. "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" and "The House of the Devil" are surprisingly plain and pleasantly blunt, lest we forget what we are in for. Maybe a title just describes the protagonist, what they do and who they are: "The Admiral," "The Rover" and "Nightcrawler."
Share your thoughts on any of these films or what you watched last week in the comments below!