Joel has written 21 reviews for films rated ★★★ during 2014.

  • The Wolverine

    The Wolverine

    ★★★

    A Wolverine film that actually delivers on the source material. The Japan setting is beautifully shot, the action is tight and exciting and so is the plot (despite the 3rd act being a tad lackluster compared to the rest of the film).
    Hugh Jackman is at his best playing the titular hero here and the supporting actors all do a fine job in helping him through the story.
    6/10
    My Take: Not the best superhero film but it's miles away from being X-Men Origins.

  • Big Eyes

    Big Eyes

    ★★★

    A Tim Burton film that strays from his normal look. It had a feel to the film that Burton really hadn't utilized since 2003's Big Fish. The film did use some aspects of what made Burton known (Big Eye concept), but it felt like Burton restrained himself and it benefitted the film.
    Burton also used new actors (to him) in this film. Both Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz gave good performances (although Waltz was a little over the top at…

  • The Interview

    The Interview

    ★★★

    Would anyone be really talking about this movie if not for the controversy surrounding this film? Don't get me wrong. It's a fine film, but not a great one. The chemistry between Seth Rogen and James Franco is what makes this film good. They have great comedic timing and presence on the screen. The openings minutes of the film are priceless.
    However,the film drags quite a bit in the second act and many of the jokes fall flat. The ones…

  • Scrooged

    Scrooged

    ★★★

    A different take on A Christmas Carol, this film would not have been as good without the charm of Bill Murray propelling this story through jokes that often don't connect, a message that is forced on the audience and some overacting (by Bobcat Goldthwait and Carol Kane in particular).
    Several cameos help the film out (including Lee Majors in a fake promo-the commercials are good and have a Robocop feel to them.)
    Karen Allen brings some needed balance to Murray's…

  • Priest

    Priest

    ★★★

    A fun sci-fi action movie adventure that is way better than its 16% score on Rotten Tomatoes seems to suggest. Does it borrow from a lot of other movies? Yes. Are there some plot points which are generic? Yes, but the movie is visually stunning, the action never keeps you wanting more and the performances from Paul Bethany and Karl Urban are better than I anticipated.
    6/10
    My Take: Not a great movie, but a good popcorn film for sure. Underrated in my opinion.

  • Little Caesar

    Little Caesar

    ★★★

    A gangster film that feels dated compared to other films in its genre.
    The film rises above this with a great performance by Edward G. Robinson and should be commended for its achievement as one of the first good "talkie" gangster films to come out. The film stays engaging within its tight 78 minute runtime and the film acts as a great representation of the era.
    6/10
    My Take: A great era representation that doesn't carry over well to the present.

  • A Serious Man

    A Serious Man

    ★★★

    While it may be the Coens most mature, deeply thought provoking film to date, it's definitely not their best. Michael Stuhlbarg's performance anchors this film well and the stylish filmmaking of the Coens is in full force here, but the story doesn't reach the level of some of their more well received films (Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men) especially with a underwhelming ending. The dark comedy works to some extend, but some scenes fail to connect.
    7/10
    My Take: A good Coen film, but not the best.

  • August: Osage County

    August: Osage County

    ★★★

    A film packed with great talent delivering memorable performances, especial Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, but a story delivered with such malice and cynicism that viewers may find hard to sit all the way through. Most of the characters seem to receive a lackluster sendoff but the relationship between Streep and Roberts makes this film memorable.
    6/10
    My Take: Stirring performances in a film I'm not rushing to watch again soon.

  • Hanna

    Hanna

    ★★★

    Hannah is a visually stunning actionfest with great acting from Saoirse Ronan and Eric Bana and a much better villain role for Cate Blanchett (as opposed to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).
    The film often feels disjointed with each major character having their own story arc which do not seem to connect to each other until the end and then the connection is not as satisfying as it should have been.
    The music really brings out the suspense and atmosphere of the film nicely.
    7/10
    My Take: Good action film that rises above its flaws-but not by much.

  • The Way Way Back

    The Way Way Back

    ★★★

    A fairly standard coming of age story that rises above its material thanks to great performances by Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph and endearing performance by Liam Jones as Duncan, the central character, that brings life to this predictable film. I didn't quite buy Carrell's depiction of the mother's boyfriend while I also felt Peet and Corddry were underused in their performances.
    Overall, the film took a standard story and made it better with great performances. The scenes at…

  • Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

    Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

    ★★★

    A movie that is meant as just a fun way to spend a few hours while getting to catch up with a few old friends and meet some new ones.
    It was great to see Robin Williams once more on film as Teddy Roosevelt and have fun with Wilson's Jedediah and Coogan's Octavius.
    Dan Stevens is a welcome addition as Sir Lancelot, but Rebel Wilson felt out of place (and hopefully not a substitution for Stiller down the road.)
    The…

  • New Jack City

    New Jack City

    ★★★

    A good gangster flick that fails to be great by being poorly edited, having over the top acting (Chris Rock in particular) and not giving everyone enough screen time to care about them.
    The strength of the film rests on the strong performance of Snipes' Nino Brown character and the gritty tone of the film itself as it has a message to deliver and for the most part does well in that delivery.
    6/10
    My Take: A good film that…