In recent years, one of the most sporadic sub-genres in terms of quality of film has been the found footage genre. While recent films like 2012’s superhero drama “Chronicle” and 2009’s sleeper hit “Paranormal Activity” breathed new life into the niche category and showed off the potential of its intimate nature, countless others have come to screens (mostly in the horror genre) that not only misuse the conventions of found footage but also miss in terms of cinematic entertainment in general. As an avid defender of found footage film, I absolutely revel in the former films mentioned, their ability to draw the audience in and create a truly immersive and realistic experience for the viewer. Walking into “Project Almanac” and knowing it was a film not only utilizing found footage but also revolved around the concept of time travel (one of my other favorite sub-genres of film), I was cautiously optimistic, crossing my fingers and hoping to walk out as amazed as I had the first time I saw “Chronicle” on opening night almost exactly 3 years ago.
One can sometimes discern the quality of a film based on its release date. Movies released from September to December are usually those relevant to the Academy Awards. January is something of a dumping ground for the most uninspired and maligned that the film industry has to offer. If a film is considered risky by producers, if a film is of poor quality or of little public interest, it is shown at the beginning of the year so that it may die a swift, quiet death, costing its investors as little as possible. “Black Sea” is a welcome addition to Hollywood’s usual serving of mid-winter crap, and is a solidly-made thriller, albeit one which slips too often into cliché.
Film is an industry that seeks, above all, to entertain. When I go to see a movie, even a screening I must then consider above the realm of fandom, I go to have fun, as even the heaviest of dramas are, if well made, enjoyable to watch; one can appreciate the craft, the talent and passion that factored into its creation. Even if a film fails to meet my expectations, I can usually see amidst the disappointment a shred of inspiration, something to signify that this was, at one point, an idea presented and treated respectfully to the best of the creator’s abilities; it’s the reason “The Room” is so much fun to watch. The backstory of Tommy Wiseau, the genuine nature of his dream, only adds to the resulting work’s hilarity. But then there are other movies, movies so slapped together that they lack a shred of identity, assembled by a machine rather than birthed by a loving mother. “Black or White” is one such movie. In fact, it’s one of the least pleasurable theater experiences I’ve had in my cinema-going life.
As a film fan, what interests me more in terms of the anticipation leading up to films is ones with much more to lose and hidden in secrecy. The trailers for Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens were fantastic and served as great little teases of what’s to come but at the same time felt somewhat unnecessary; most of the general public knows what to expect with each of these films and their level of quality. These franchises have achieved a predisposed level of praise, whether it is the continuous success of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the cultural phenomenon that the original Star Wars trilogy achieved, and the talent behind them practically solidifies these upcoming entries as sure-fire successes.
“I love your mom’s cookies.”
More candidly referred to as “that spicy new JLo movie,” “The Boy Next Door” is like if “Fatal Attraction” and “Fear” had a rapey, incestuous child that could only physically be represented by the baby from “Eraserhead.” It’s fundamentally flawed on just about every single level, but it’s literally impossible not to watch. There’s something so treacherously enticing about what happens between the beginning and the end of this film that I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thoroughly intrigued about how it was going to proceed and where it ultimately was going to end up. When it eventually did come to a close, I was shocked by how far my jaw had dropped off my face. “The Boy Next Door” is a shocking, filthy, morally askew, and ethically problematic, though still terribly entertaining, B-movie that practically drowns under the weight of its A-movie ambitions. Guided by the unsteady hands of a long lost journeyman filmmaker from the early 2000s, “The Boy Next Door” is scarily questionable in all categories, especially given it’s overly serious tone and nearly unforgivable screenplay, but with its gender politics halfway out the window way before the end of the first act, this schlocky grime surprisingly salvages itself (minimally) by its sheer audacity to unapologetically observe such aberrant and trashy material with no identifiable filter for quality. Don’t mistake: This movie is bad, bad, bad…but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy every minute of my theatrical movie going experience. In fact, it may rank as one of my more fun and more memorable movie going ventures.
Movies that touch on the topic of tragedy in terms of disease are generally a mixed bag. Most popularly dealing with terminal diseases such as cancer, films like the dramedy 50/50 and recent teen romance The Fault in Our Stars prove that there are instances in which the topic of disease can be handled in film in a way that is less about making the disease the forefront of the story and placing more emphasis on the characters effected by the tragedy. However, generally speaking, cinema audiences tend to see this topic abused in romantic comedies and Nicholas Sparks films, in which the topic is rarely touched upon and used mostly to service the ludicrous plot being put forth by the storytellers. Walking into Still Alice, I had reservations due to the possibility of the topic of Alzheimer’s potentially being misused as a theme in the film that were fortunately completely eliminated the second the credits began to roll.
If Steve Carrell’s Oscar nominated performance in “Foxcatcher” has taught us anything this year, it is that highly regarded comedic actors can stray from their niche and succeed in dramatic roles. Although not quite impressive as Carrell’s prosthetic nose for his John DuPont portrayal, the makeup used to transform Jennifer Aniston into the troubled character of Claire Bennett in Cake is also a great achievement. Aniston shines in this role, and truly brings to life her washed up and mysteriously scarred character. Unfortunately, “scarred” could accurately be used to describe the film itself as well.