Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top 10 “Rotten” Films of 2014

Last year, Alex Thomas of Time for a Film had the great idea of highlighting his favorite films of the year that were deemed “rotten” by Rotten Tomatoes. I loved the idea and borrowed it for my own list. Keeping in that tradition, here are 10 “rotten” films from 2014 that I quite enjoyed. Be sure to share your favorite “rotten” films as well.

10. God’s Pocket
Rotten Tomatoes score: 36%
There’s a montage midway through this film (it cross-cuts a picnic with a man running in the street) that is the most utterly baffling and completely unnecessary sequence I saw from any film in 2014. But, aside from that scene, God’s Pocket more or less works. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, and writer/director John Slattery establishes the tone of his world very well. If it weren’t for that damn montage, though.

9. The Interview
Rotten Tomatoes score: 52%
The Interview wasn’t worth the insane controversy that surrounded it (mostly because it ultimately wasn’t that good), but it did make me laugh out loud a few times. The CIA briefing scene and the epic hangover conversation were tops. “Would you… like a drink? Or... some of Aaron’s cocaine?”

8. Dom Hemingway
Rotten Tomatoes score: 59%
I’m not sure if Jude Law has had more fun in a movie before. His frenzied performance singlehandedly made Dom Hemingway worth it, but really, there were plenty of things to enjoy about this movie.

7. Trust Me
Rotten Tomatoes score: 52%
Trust Me is a little-seen indie starring the excellent character actor, Clark Gregg, who also wrote and directed the film. It’s a Hollywood satire about a struggling agent and the brutal competition of the town. A fun little flick (though one with a misguided ending). Also, Allison Janney is great in the film as a Hollywood shark from Hell.

6. Blood Ties
Rotten Tomatoes score: 53%
I’ll admit, with a cast like Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, James Cann, Matthias Schoenaerts, and many more, Blood Ties probably should’ve worked better than it did. Still, that cast.

5. I Origins
Rotten Tomatoes score: 52%
Turns out I was one of the few people who really enjoyed Mike Cahill’s I Origins. Its excellent use of Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack” is reason enough to include it here.

4. White Bird in a Blizzard
Rotten Tomatoes score: 49%
Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard was a risqué period piece that I found no real fault in. Everyone in this movie was on point – Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Thomas Jane, plenty more. Shame it didn’t resonate with a wider audience.

3. Coldwater
Rotten Tomatoes score: 56%
This tiny indie, about a troubled teen sent to a brutal camp for combative young men, was the most criminally overlooked film I saw in 2014. You can read my full review of Coldwater here, but this one worked for me in nearly every way.

2. Breathe In
Rotten Tomatoes score: 55%
I had been excited for Drake Doremus’ follow-up to Like Crazy for years, and Breathe In certainly didn’t disappoint. I so enjoyed relishing in its bleak world. I mean, with Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones and Amy Ryan… what’s not to love?

1. The Gambler
Rotten Tomatoes score: 46%
So here’s the thing. I loved The Gambler. Loved it. All of it. And I didn’t expect to, really at all. Karel Reisz’s 1974 original starring James Caan is one of the best, most curiously underseen films of the American ‘70s, and I didn’t think a remake was necessary in the slightest. But the whole time I sat and watched Rupert Wyatt’s remake, I was waiting for it to let me down. To stray and begin justifying its mostly blasé reviews. Never did. Not for me. A desperate and rail-thin Mark Wahlberg, a fierce Jessica Lange, an intimidating John Goodman; ace script from William Monahan, stylish direction from Wyatt – it just worked for me.

There’s a basketball scene near the end of The Gambler that perfectly sums up Wyatt’s intention with the movie. The game is shot in low light and cold hues, and it looks unlike any college basketball game that has ever been played. Basketball games are bright and loud and aesthetically rather boring. This game in The Gambler is moody, atmospheric, and completely unrealistic. Which seems to be precisely the point. The world looks grim in this new Gambler, and I loved every minute of it.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: When a film effectively uses two of my favorite M83 songs, my brain is hardwired to automatically fall in love with it.) 

More Best Of 2014 Posts

44 comments:

  1. You already know I was a fan of Breathe In, which I agree is underrated. I noticed today when looking up soundtracks that White Bird in a Blizzard has a pretty good compilation of 80s music, so I'm curious to see the movie

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    1. Music is a big part of Blizzard. Definitely a rad soundtrack. I really dug that flick.

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  2. Don hemingway looked really fun, if I see it about i'll probably watch it.

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    1. If you don't take that movie too seriously, then hopefully you'll like it just fine. Definitely a lot of fun.

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  3. Shamefully, the only I've seen from this list is The Gambler, which I didn't like nearly as much as you did. I really felt that it swept its hero's devastating addiction under the rug. But it did have some merits. The supporting cast was incredible, especially Lange and Larson. I really want to see Dom Hemingway still and The Interview. A couple of these, I've never heard of but seem intriguing.

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    1. I hear what you're saying about The Gambler. And look, I'm fascinated by addiction. All types. And I thought it was kind of refreshing to not make it an "addiction film," for lack of a better term. The original is actually the same in that regard. That just WAS that dude's life. Which must be complete hell.

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  4. I saw some of Dom Hemingway and I thought it was pretty cool. I liked The Interview. It's just a silly film that is funny.

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    1. Yeah exactly, The Interview is just a silly and fun movie. I think people took it a tad too seriously (and assumed it would be great), because of all the unwarranted controversy.

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  5. Jude Law was awesome in Dom Hemingway; he looked like he was having fun with his character. If it weren't for him, the movie would have been a total dud.

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    1. He was priceless in that flick. I did like other aspects of the film though. Always good to see Richard E. Grant and Demian Bichir. Emilia Clarke was solid too I thought.

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  6. Funny that I liked I Origins and White Bird, haven't seen the others tho

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    1. Good stuff. I really enjoyed both of them.

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  7. Haven't seen all of these, but now I'm looking forward to checking them out. From what I've seen, I enjoyed White Bird in a Blizzard and Coldwater, and I really liked Trust Me as well. I had some problems with Dom Hemingway, but I thought Jude Law was fantastic. The Interview, I still haven't seen, but I've read some very polarising reviews, from A+ to Fs. Great list!

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    1. Thanks! I think people expected too much from The Interview, which is understandable given the cluster fuck of attention it received. To me, it's really no better or worse than most of the movies those guys have made. It was pretty much exactly what I expected, you know?

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  8. Nice picks man! Dom Hemingway was a blast (both times I watched it), and God's Pocket, Blood Ties, and White Bird in a Blizzard certainly weren't terrible. Need to check out some of these, especially The Gambler.

    Some of mine: Words and Pictures, Unbroken, Wish I Was Here, Third Person, The Monuments Men, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and Magic in the Moonlight. None of them are extraordinary, but I did actually love Words and Pictures. Owen and Binoche had good chemistry, and I just ate it up.

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    1. Thanks buddy! I missed Words with Pictures, but that RT score does surprise me. Same with Unbroken. I mean, that isn't exactly my type of film, but it wasn't bad. (Though, as an animal rights activist, I did find it odd that I laughed out loud when that shark got shot. I'm so strange.)

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  9. James Franco gave one of the worst performances in recent memory for The Interview. Mugging through every line delivery. I've never seen so much energy burn to such little effect before.

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    1. See, I really like what he did with it. Full tilt, no holds barred. Like a slightly more conventional Alien from Spring Breakers. But your point is definitely a fair one.

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  10. We all have those movies that we disagree with most others on. Haven't seen any of these, yet. Can't wait to. Great work, Alex.

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    1. Thanks man. The Gambler, most prominently, is one that really worked for me.

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  11. I only saw The Interview which is somewhere around #20 on my end of the year list, so I really liked it. I think I'll make a double feature of I, Origins and 'Coherence' one night - I heard so much good about both and i have little to no idea what they are about

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    1. Nice on The Interview! I thought Franco was hysterical in that. I Origins and Coherence would make for a solid double feature. Coherence is the better film for sure. I really dug it.

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  12. The only one I have seen from this list is The Interview...which I was not a fan of. It was by no means the worst film of the year, but simply not that funny. I been procrastinating on White Bird in a Bliizzard and The Gambler for a few weeks now. I really need to get around to watching them soon.

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    1. Yeah I mean, I didn't LOVE The Interview, but I watched it on the plane and it made the time go by just fine. Which, sometimes, is good enough.

      And man, I loved The Gambler. Thanks for the comment!

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  13. Blood Ties rests in my Top Five of the year right now. Like, I'll never understand how anyone could not absolutely love that movie.

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    1. I enjoyed that a lot more than most people too. I really thought it'd do better. That cast was superb.

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  14. Amen to "White Bird In A Blizzard." I really, really dug it. I've seen a lot of critics call it some variation of a mess but I thought it did a really clever job of using that disappearance storyline as a dodge for what it was really about which came to bloom in full.

    Love this idea as a post.

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    1. Fully agree with what you said. I thought the ending was a tad convenient (and/or obvious/silly), but I still really dug the film.

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  15. I liked Non-Stop quite a bit. It's at 60%.

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    1. Really dug the first 2/3's, but that ending was nutso. Specifically the hijackers' reasoning for the crime. But still, a solid film for what it was.

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    2. You say the ending was nutso as though it were a bad thing! C'mon, this is a film where people smuggle a bomb onto a plane inside a suitcase full of cocaine - you're not supposed to take it at all seriously.

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    3. Whoa, big fan of Non-Stop here.

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  16. I'm with you on most of these, very underrated with my favorite so far probably being Blood Ties, which I thought had some really solid performances. I'm actually surprised to see Breathe In on here. I thought that got fairly decent reviews coming out - regardless I really dug it as well. I wasn't gonna rush out to see The Gamble but I guess I'm going to have to if you hype it so much.

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    1. Again, I don't think most will enjoy The Gambler as much as me ("Privileged white guy gets beat up by minorities while sleeping with a woman half his age!!!!"), but I really liked it. But I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

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  17. I've only seen The Interview and White Bird In A Blizzard. I feel the same as you on The Interview, I laughed a few times but it is what it is. However I also applaud it for being daring enough to discuss the subject of North Korea.

    And White Bird is a strange coming-of-age film. I loved the soundtrack especially the opening song. I did like the film though.

    Should check The Gambler soon. Your opinion makes me want to see it more than I did before.

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    1. Yeah, The Interview wasn't GREAT or anything, but it was good for a few laughs, you know? I hope you enjoy The Gambler. I was stunned by how much I liked it.

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  18. What. The. Actual. Fuck.
    I'm done with Rotten Tomatoes. I Origins is a GREAT movie. One of the best I've seen this year. It's got its flaws, but it's very personal and really made me feel something. And oh, my, Michael Pitt and Britt Marling in the same frame... There are tons of shit which have a 90% or more on RT and don't deserve it. The american critics astonish me.

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    1. It's baffling, isn't it? I can't believe some of these are officially "rotten." For even crazier stats, most of these films ranked lower when I viewed just the "Top Critics" scores. Crazy.

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  19. I thought Dom Hemmingway was so much fun, really surprised that its rotten.
    Jude Law was all kinds of excellent.

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    1. Right? Very odd that it is considered rotten.

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  20. Love that you kept this tradition going, Alex! I didn't myself, will have to jump back on board in 2015.

    I also love, love, loved Breathe In, how can it be Rotten!!!

    I'll definitely check out I, Origins now. The Gambler I didn't mind either.

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    1. This was SUCH a good idea that you had. I loved it. Great and positive way shine light on under privileged films.

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  21. Enjoyed The Gambler as well. Surprised by negative reviews. Don was a fun flick as well, a wild ride.

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    1. Nice man, glad someone else liked The Gambler haha. I thought it was a blast.

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