Friday, January 30, 2015

The 8th Annual Movie Dearest Dearie Awards

For the eighth year in a row, Movie Dearest takes a look back and celebrates the year that was with a salute to the best in film, television and the stage with the 2014 Movie Dearest Awards, a.k.a. the "Dearies"! And the winners are...

Movie of the Year: Pride
A little-known but significant chapter in gay rights history came to light this year thanks to Matthew Warchus' Pride. Showing how a group of British LGBT activists supported a village of impoverished, striking miners (initially to the dismay of most of them) during the conservative rule of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the film offers an inspiring mix of drama and comedy buoyed by a terrific cast including vets Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine and hot newcomer Ben Schnetzer. Already a Golden Globe Best Picture nominee, three-time BAFTA nominee and two-time Dorian Award winner, we are proud to name Pride our Movie Dearest Movie of the Year!  — CC

Men of the Year: John Lithgow and Alfred Molina
Although longtime personal friends, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina had never worked together until they committed to playing a longtime couple in Love is Strange, Ira Sachs' latest examination of gay relationships following the writer-director's Keep the Lights On (our Dearie Award winner for Movie of the Year in 2012). The actors (both nominated for Independent Spirit Awards, as is the film and screenplay) bravely eschew any artifice or melodrama, perfectly (at times painfully) capturing the plight of hopeful, late-in-life newlyweds who end up losing everything except one another. These are characters and actors worthy of emulation. — CC

Woman of the Year: Angelina Jolie
2014 was a busy year for Angelina Jolie. She delivered a wickedly perfect (and at times deliciously campy) turn as the villainous sorceress/misunderstood heroine of Maleficent, her biggest box office hit to date. She was appointed an Honorary Dame Commander by Her Majesty the Queen for her services to the United Kingdom's foreign policy. She co-chaired London's Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. She helmed the epic World War II biopic Unbroken, the unbelievably true story of survival of Olympic runner-turned-war hero Louis Zamperini. And, oh yeah, she married some actor named Brad Pitt. — KH

New Star of the Year: Chris Pratt
Not unlike his Star Lord alter ego, Chris Pratt rocketed to movie stardom in two of 2014's biggest blockbusters. Fans of TV's Parks and Recreation were stunned to see Pratt's physical transformation from overweight shlub Andy to the ripped if reluctant hero of Guardians of the Galaxy. Additionally, he gave delightful voice to Emmet, The Lego Movie's cheerfully naïve protagonist. He is already starring in one of this year's guaranteed hits, Jurassic World, and is reportedly in talks to take over the famed fedora and whip from Harrison Ford in an Indiana Jones reboot. Clearly his star is only growing brighter. — CC

TV Show of the Year: The Normal Heart
It finally took director Ryan Murphy to do what longtime rights-owner Barbra Streisand couldn't. While he was only able to bring The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer's landmark play (a previous Dorian Award winner itself) about the early years of the AIDS crisis in New York City, to the small screen (for which we are nonetheless grateful to HBO), it was a superlative, deeply-felt production marked by excellent performances by SAG Award winner Mark Ruffalo, Golden Globe winner Matt Bomer and Julia Roberts, among many committed actors (including the previously honored Alfred Molina). Serving as both art and memorial, a better film probably couldn't have been made... not even by Babs. — CC

Stage Show of the Year: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Neil Patrick Harris blew even his die-hard fans away and snagged the Tony Award as the transsexual rocker of John Cameron Mitchell's cult musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Making its Broadway debut 16 years after its off-Broadway bow (it was also made into a queer cinema classic), the show proved as radical and relevant as ever thanks to Harris and director Michael Mayer, who previously worked similar rock 'n show tune wonders with Spring Awakening and American Idiot. A staging and star turn for the ages, the multiple Tony winning hit has lived on past Harris' departure with such new Hedwigs as Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall and the original Hedwig, Mitchell himself. — CC

Foreign Film of the Year: Stranger by the Lake
Leave it to France to produce one of the sexiest yet most disturbing thrillers in recent memory. With writer/director Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake (L'inconnu du lac) you'll come for the full frontal nudity and explicit man-on-man action but stay for the Hitchcockian twists and turns. Set exclusively at an idyllic lake/gay pick-up spot where one of the cruisers turns up dead in the water, this Cannes Film Festival Queer Palm Award winner slowly builds the suspense up to its shocking ending and offers an unflinching, uncensored look at the lengths some may go to find sex... and love. — KH

Documentary of the Year: To Be Takei
Groundbreaking actor, Japanese American internment camp survivor, dedicated human rights activist, prolific social media commentator, beloved gay icon: these are all it takes To Be Takei... George Takei, that is. In Jennifer M. Kroot's entertaining documentary, we learn all there is to know about the man we all know as Star Trek's Mr. Sulu, especially in regards to his 28-year relationship with his manager/husband Brad Takei. The scenes of the loving but sometimes bickering couple makes one long for them to star in their own reality show. Whatever the future may bring to the Takeis, this documentary shows that they will always live long and prosper, together. — KH

The Neil V. Cohen Award for Campy Film of the Year: The Grand Budapest Hotel
We know our dearly departed friend and fellow critic would love the Academy Award nominated The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson's giddy yet heartfelt romp, for any number of reasons: the Pepto Bismol-colored interior of its title establishment; Ralph Fiennes playful, sexually ambiguous lead performance; the film's overall air of heightened theatricality; and, last but not least, an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton as a wealthy regular guest (not to mention the rest of the Golden Globe Best Picture winner's all-star cast). We loved it too and trust it will have a long life among both cineastes and mainstream viewers for years to come. — CC

DVD of the Year: Frozen
Not even Disney knew what kind of global juggernaut they had with Frozen. A mere year ago, it was climbing the box office charts to eventually be crowned the #1 animated movie of all time. Two Academy Awards would soon follow: one for Best Animated Feature, the first for a purely Disney film, the other for Queen Elsa's coming out anthem "Let It Go". And then there was the DVDs and Blu-rays, one of the fastest selling titles in the medium's history. Little girls (and quite a few gay adults) rejoiced that they could now watch the adventures of Anna, Elsa and Olaf whenever they wanted to, over and over again. Let it go? Not a chance. — KH

We hope you enjoyed this year's Dearies and thank you for visiting Movie Dearest in 2014!

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine, and Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Reverend’s Reviews: Women’s Work


Out Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan returns to US movie screens this weekend with the often intense but thoroughly likable Mommy (Roadside Attractions). An official but snubbed Academy Awards submission and recent winner of our GALECA Dorian Award for Best Foreign Language Film, it is Dolan’s best film out of the five he has made to date. It is likely premature to call it his masterpiece though, since Dolan is all of 25 years old.

Mommy explores the tensions and travails between Diane, a.k.a. Die (a fantastic, Dorian-nominated performance by Anne Dorval) and her 15-year old son, Steve (the excellent Antoine Olivier Pilon). Reunited following Steve’s incarceration in a treatment center for troubled youth, which he is kicked out of for starting a fire, theirs is a deeply loving but immensely challenging relationship. Steve is afflicted with an extreme form of ADHD and his emotions can turn volatile, even violent, in an instant. To call him a handful would be a massive understatement.

Some degree of unexpected but sorely needed help arrives in the form of their new neighbor, Kyla (Dolan regular Suzanne Clement). A burnt out, seemingly fragile woman on a leave of absence from her job as a high school teacher, Kyla gradually finds renewed purpose as she helps care for Steve while becoming a true friend to Die. Things among the three go swimmingly for a while, but the lifelong dependency between Die and her son ultimately threatens them. Also presenting a strong temptation for Die is a new law in this near-future Canada that allows a parent to have their minor children with psychological issues committed for life, no questions asked.

It is hard to believe that Mommy isn’t autobiographical to some degree, as emotionally raw and observant as it is. But Dolan often lightens the tone by suffusing the film with his now-trademark use of contemporary pop songs and color saturation. He also effectively manipulates the frame size here in order to keep an intense focus on the main characters, periodically expanding the screen image as an expression of freedom and/or exuberance. With its great cast and a story all parents and teenagers will likely find relevant, Mommy shouldn’t be missed.

Cake, also opening this weekend in select cities courtesy of Cinelou, is another female-centric must see. It also arrives on the heels of a surprising Oscar snub for its leading lady, Jennifer Aniston, even though Aniston was nominated for Golden Globe, SAG and Critics’ Choice honors. Aniston plays Claire, who suffers from chronic pain as the result of an initially unspecified event. She attends a support group of similarly suffering women, although none of them is quite as acerbic or as dependent on narcotics as Claire. They are all knocked for a loop, however, when group member Nina (Anna Kendrick) throws herself off a freeway overpass and dies.

Claire becomes obsessed with trying to figure out Nina’s motivation. Why did Nina take her own life but Claire and other group members don’t follow suit? Was her suffering greater? Was Nina weaker or potentially stronger than the rest of them? In trying to find the answers, Claire ingratiates herself with Nina’s husband (Sam Worthington) and young son. She also receives support and guidance from her housekeeper, Silvana (a great turn by Adriana Barraza, recently seen on TV’s The Strain).

There is considerable gay cred behind the scenes of Cake. The abundantly compassionate yet frequently funny script, which won several competitions and made the Black List of best unproduced screenplays, was written by out writer Patrick Tobin (who also happens to attend my church). It was optioned by the married producer-director duo of Ben and Daniel Barnz, who previously made Phoebe in Wonderland and Won’t Back Down among other films. Their combined perspective makes Cake more than just a “chick flick.” It is a survival story that women, gay men and straight men can all relate to, which impressed me enough to tie Cake with the somewhat similar Wild on my list of the best films of 2014. Don’t even think about not seeing it.

Also recommended and continuing to play in LA and NYC theaters is Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation (Zeitgeist Films). A M*A*S*H-esque look at the lives of women serving in the Israeli military, it reveals their strengths and vulnerabilities through a combination of satire and seriousness. Plus, the film features an extensive full-frontal nude scene of a hot soldier who is punished for taking advantage of a fellow, female enlistee. Too bad Lavie didn’t shoot it in 3D.

Reverend’s Ratings:
Mommy: A-
Cake: B+
Zero Motivation: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

MD Reviews: Looking for Mr. Goodbar

The HBO series Looking, a look at the lives, loves and sex lives of a trio of San Francisco friends, has been described as the "gay male version" of the seminal (ahem) HBO hit Sex and the City. Some may argue that a "gay male version" of Sex and the City is redundant (isn't Sex and the City itself a "gay male version" of Sex and the City?). However, all one has to do is take a look at any episode of Looking's first season (now available on DVD and Blu-ray) to see that it is nothing like Sex and the City. Or Girls for that matter. Or even Queer as Folk.

What Looking is is a refreshingly realistic look at contemporary gay life, with all its up and downs. Or, should I say, "tops and bottoms", as the series is not afraid to talk frankly about sex of the man-on-man variety. Far from the coy innuendos of Will & Grace, Looking straight-forwardly tackles such subjects as NSA hook-ups, open relationships and "bottom shame", to name a few.

In contrast to the glitzy fantasy (fairy?) land of Queer as Folk, Looking offers a somewhat gritty view of gay life in the city. Not surprisingly, the series' apparent driving vision comes from acclaimed filmmaker Andrew Haigh, who's award winning 2011 Weekend shares a similar dingy pallor. Haigh, who serves as the show's executive producer and wrote five and directed seven of season one's eight episodes, even borrows Weekend's two-character structure for the season's best episode "Looking for the Future", which focuses on the burgeoning relationship of WASP-ish nerd Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and Hispanic hottie (Raul Castillo).

Patrick's ex-roommate Agustín (Frankie J. Álvarez), a self-centered artist with delusions of talent, and Patrick's ex-one night stand Dom (Murray Bartlett), a nearing-40 year old stud clinging to youth and his dreams of opening his own restaurant, complete the series' core relationship. Rounding out the cast is a surprisingly sexy Russell Tovey (Being Human) as Patrick's new boss, Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) as a potential sugar daddy for Dom, and Lauren Weedman as the guy's resident sassy gal pal. Also, Newhart's Julia Duffy gives a memorable turn in the "Blythe Danner role" as Patrick's mother. Mean Girls alum Daniel Franzese joins fellow out actors Groff, Bartlett and Tovey in Looking's promising season two, which recently commenced on HBO.

MD Rating: B+

Looking: Season 1 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Review by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: The Queer Online Database and the Out Movie Guide.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

And the 2014 Dorian Awards Go To...

The members of the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, (GALECA), including myself and fellow Movie Dearest critic Chris Carpenter, have chosen their winners for the 6th Annual Dorian Awards, naming the best of the best in film and television for 2014. Richard Linklater's Boyhood, a frontrunner at the upcoming Academy Awards, was named Film of the Year, while Amazon's Transparent dominated the TV prizes with five awards.

Other winning movies include Pride (for both LGBTQ and Unsung Film of the Year), The Case Against 8 (Documentary), Xavier Dolan's Mommy (Foreign Language Film), The Grand Budapest Hotel (Visually Striking Film) and Into the Woods (Campy Film). Oscar favorites Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Julianne Moore (Still Alice) took the Film Performance awards, while Selma's breakout director Ava DuVernay was honored with the first Director of the Year Dorian.

In addition to TV Comedy and LGBTQ TV Show of the Year, Transparent netted Jeffrey Tambor a Dorian to go along with his recently won Golden Globe. The Normal Heart was named TV Drama of the Year, with other prizes going to Lisa Kudrow (for the comeback of The Comeback), Neil Patrick Harris (for his Hedwig and the Angry Inch performance on last year's Tony Awards) and Sia (for her viral music video "Chandelier").

Congratulations to all the Dorian Awards! See the comments section below for a complete list.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The 2014 Dorian Award Nominations

The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, of which I and Movie Dearest contributor Chris Carpenter are members, has announced the nominations for the 6th Annual Dorian Awards honoring the best in film and television for 2014.

Recent Golden Globe winners Birdman, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel are joined by the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game and gay indie fave Pride as the nominees for the Film of the Year award, with the latter two competing with Love is Strange, Stranger by the Lake and The Way He Looks for the LGBT Film of the Year prize. The nominations as a whole display a wide variety of 2014's cinematic best, with such award season favorites as Foxcatcher, Gone Girl and The Theory of Everything joining underdogs like The Babadook, Xavier Dolan's Mommy and The Skeleton Twins.

Ryan Murphy's acclaimed screen adaptation of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart leads the nominations on the television side, while actor/activist/Star Trek legend George Takei was named this year's recipient of the Timeless Award, given to “an actor or performer whose exemplary career is marked by character, wisdom and wit.”

See the comments section below for the complete list of nominees. Winners will be announced January 20th.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reverend's Reviews: Diving into the New Year

Even as we Movie Dearest contributors are still catching up on some 2014 releases, I had a chance to watch the first worthy movie of 2015 (sorry, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death). It is Kristjan Thor's Diving Normal, gradually making its way across the US with its Los Angeles premiere this weekend.

This romantic drama, adapted from a play of the same title by Fulbright winner Ashlin Halfnight, depicts a unique love triangle. Fulton (played by Phillip Karner) is an attractive graphic novelist having a casual sexual relationship with a female co-worker. His best friend and neighbor, Gordon (Scotty Crowe, reprising his role from the original stage version), is a somewhat off-kilter but kind man devoted to achieving the perfect, splash-free dive through weekly practices at the local YMCA.

While walking through their Brooklyn neighborhood one day, they cross paths with Dana (Susie Abromeit), a former high school classmate of Fulton's. As Dana and Fulton rekindle their friendship and start dating, Gordon also becomes smitten with her. However, Dana is struggling with the demon of addiction and, though initially in recovery, her troubled past and insecurities gradually threaten to derail her.

Diving Normal's screenplay has its share of insecurities too. It teeters uncomfortably at times between gay-ish bromance and hetero longing, as well as between light character comedy (chiefly courtesy of the quirky Gordon) and an excessive depiction of the depravity that addiction can wrought. But the film's lead trio of actors is immensely likable, and Dana's efforts to overcome her dependency on alcohol and drugs are admirable. Plus, gay icon Sandra Bernhard makes a brief but welcome appearance as Fulton's boss.

Director Thor generally handles this delicate material well and the film features a good music score by The Newton Brothers. Anyone interested in quality indie movies and/or addiction stories should check Diving Normal out. Besides, there are worse movies with which to start the new year. Taken 3, I'm looking at you.

Reverend's Rating: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

MD Reviews: Chapter Two

Two of 2014's more successful sequels — How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — share more than just their recent debuts on DVD and Blu-ray.

Both up the ante considerably regarding the computer animated adventures of their titular beasties, with each recently netting Annie Award nominations for their skilled efforts. Those nods are well-deserved, as both Dragon and Apes feature several impressive action set pieces that boggle the mind in their complexity while still engaging the viewer; the spectacles never lose their substance.

While it is far from surprising to see Apes continue on its grim path to global genocide (we all know after all how this Planet ends up of the Apes), it is a shock to see the "family friendly" Dragon take a serious dark turn. In hindsight, it makes logical narrative sense for this spoiler-ish event to occur (especially as rich story fodder for the inevitable How to Train Your Dragon 3), and it easily establishes the Dragon series as DreamWorks Animation's best and most accomplished franchise (seriously, do we really need four Madagascar movies?).

Following 2010's Oscar nominated How to Train Your Dragon, Dragon 2 finds our hero Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his trusty dragon steed Toothless facing off against a nasty dragon poacher while also reuniting with Hiccup's long lost mother (given life via the luscious vocals of Cate Blanchett), who turns out to be a sort of "dragon whisperer". Out director Dean DeBlois deepens the rich mythology of the series and even throws in the coming out of gay viking Gobber (Craig Ferguson). This is a fantasy adventure for all ages.

Taking place after a "simian flu" pandemic decimates most of the human race (as alluded to at the close of its predecessor, 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Dawn rises on ape leader Caesar (once again portrayed by a motion captured Andy Serkis, now top-billed, less slack-jawed and more stoic) presiding over his clan living peacefully amidst the California Redwoods. Naturally, it doesn't take long for the encroachment of man from the nearby ruins of San Francisco (along with last year's Godzilla remake, 2014 was a rough year for the gay mecca, cinema-wise). This leads to a monkey mutiny led by loose cannon Koba (Toby Kebbell), who violates "ape shall not kill ape" with an assassination attempt on Caesar ("Et tu, Koba?").

Then all hell breaks loose, things blow up (including a surprisingly underused Gary Oldman), and the stage is set for... Day of the Planet of the Apes? Brunch on the Planet of the Apes? Scream, Planet of the Apes, Scream? Yes, it is a tad predictable, and the human characters are all pretty bland, but director Matt Reeves keeps the pace up and running. As with Rise, Dawn continues to carry on the classic Apes tradition... and further helps us forget Tim Burton's ill-advised visit to the Planet of the Apes back in 2001.

MD Ratings:
How to Train Your Dragon 2: B+
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: B+

How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are now available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Review by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: The Queer Online Database and the Out Movie Guide.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Reverend's Reviews: 2014 Movies Come Full Circle

Ambitious, ingenious, fearless. These are but a few of the superlatives that my fellow critics and I are bestowing on the best films of 2014. Unlike in past years, several of the most frequently lauded productions have predominantly LGBT storylines with Pride, Love is Strange and a few others I note below included on many top ten lists. Here are my choices in order of excellence, with more than ten films singled out since some share the same critical ranking and/or common themes.

1) Edge of Tomorrow (a.k.a. Live Die Repeat on home video, released by Warner Bros.): This was the best out of a summer full of smarter than usual sci-fi spectacles (i.e. Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) but it flopped due to box office overload. Exciting, clever and funnier than expected, it also boasts one of Tom Cruise's best performances ever as well as a terrific action heroine turn by Emily Blunt. Edge of Tomorrow is the epitome of why we go to the movies: to be entertained, challenged and moved.

2) Boyhood (IFC Films): Twelve years in the making, writer-director Richard Linklater masterfully captures the maturation of both a young man (charismatic newcomer Ellar Coltrane) and his family. The never-better Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play the boy's parents. Although a work of fiction, Boyhood may be one of the most observant, truthful films ever made.

3) Gone Girl (20th Century Fox): David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel emerged as the best, most satisfying mystery/psychological thriller in a long time. It also works as a wicked satire of class, marital dysfunction, media culture and legal manipulation, which stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris (in a decidedly non-gay role) all revel in.

4) Limited Partnership (Tesseract Films) and Alive Inside (Bond/360): Two inspiring, genuinely life-changing documentaries. The first introduces most people to the nearly 40-year long effort of Tony Sullivan and the late Richard Adams to have their 1975 same-sex marriage legally recognized. Alive Inside, meanwhile, reveals the amazing impact that personalized use of music is having on people with Alzheimers Disease and other forms of dementia. The cultural significance of these moving documentaries can't be denied.

5) Get On Up (Universal): In a year of exceptional biopics (see also #7, #8 and #10 below), this electrifying look at the life of James Brown was the standout for me due to its unusual, non-linear craftsmanship and a powerhouse performance by Chadwick Boseman as "the Godfather of Soul." Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, alumnae of director Tate Taylor's The Help, are great as always in brief but vivid supporting roles.

6) The Circle (Wolfe Releasing) and Ida (Music Box Films): The year's best foreign language releases and their respective countries' (Switzerland and Poland) entries in this year's Academy Awards. Both deal with uncovering the past, whether it be a real-life gay organization that flourished underground in Nazi-era Germany (The Circle) or a young nun discovering her tragedy-tinged Jewish background (Ida). They are equally engrossing and beautifully made.

7) Unbroken (Universal): Angelina Jolie's riveting, ultimately spiritual account of the brutal years American pilot Louis Zamperini spent as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II. Dreamy British actor Jack O'Connell is impressive as Zamperini (who passed away just last summer at the age of 97) and Japanese pop star Miyavi, making his film debut, is truly sinister as the prison camp's brutal commanding officer. This is also the most beautifully photographed movie of the year courtesy of the acclaimed Roger Deakins.

8) Cake (Cinelou Releasing) and Wild (Fox Searchlight): Women recovering from traumatic losses are the central characters in these life-affirming stories, one of them (Wild) based on a bestselling memoir. Jennifer Aniston gives an astonishing, multi-nominated performance in Cake (which was fashioned by a gay screenwriter, gay director and a gay producer) as a member of a chronic pain support group who becomes fixated on the suicide of another member. Fellow award nominee Reese Witherspoon, also thoroughly de-glammed, headlines Wild as Cheryl Strayed, who hiked alone for more than 1,000 miles to get her life back on track. Both films serve as unique, rewarding journeys of the soul.

9) Interstellar (Paramount): The latest opus from Christopher Nolan of The Dark Knight and Inception fame is typically thoughtful but more emotionally resonant than his prior films, dealing as it does with parent-child relationships, a dying planet Earth and a hopeful trip through a wormhole in search of a more habitable new world. Matthew McConaughey follows his Oscar-winning work in last year's Dallas Buyers Club with another memorable turn, and the movie features two of the coolest cinematic robots since C-3PO and R2-D2.

10) The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company) and The Theory of Everything (Focus Features): A pair of smashing British studies of two of the most fascinating men of the last century. Gay mathematician turned World War II codebreaker Alan Turing is the timely subject of The Imitation Game and is superbly portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. Kiera Knightley is also excellent as Turing's colleague and would-be "beard." Eddie Redmayne is no less extraordinary as physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, capturing the man's physical deterioration due to ALS in excruciating detail while honoring his dignity.

Honorable mentions (movies in no particular order that I rated a B+ or higher): The Lego Movie, Odd Thomas, The Babadook, Whiplash, Love is Strange, Jodorowsky's Dune, The Decent One, Muppets Most Wanted, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Snowpiercer, Life Itself, Pride, Into the Woods and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

While I was spared a lot of truly bad movies released in 2014, there were nonetheless some films that definitely disappointed me. Chief among these were The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Sony), a drippy, overstuffed sequel to the smartly scaled-back 2012 reboot; Exodus: Gods and Kings (20th Century Fox), Ridley Scott's lavish but otherwise familiar take on the Ten Commandments with a wasted Sigourney Weaver; Pompeii (Sony), a similarly over-produced epic set in the volcano-afflicted city; Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.), which doesn't come alive as a movie musical until, strangely, its closing credits; and the simply unfunny horror spoofs Stage Fright and Crazy Bitches.

We wish everyone a happy new year at the movies!

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Monthly Wallpaper: January 2015 - 2014: The Year in Film

Ring out the old and ring in the new with January's Movie Dearest Calendar Wallpaper salute to 2014: The Year in Film!

From the Hungarian mountains to an interstellar wormhole, our cinematic celebration of the past year stars Birdman and Godzilla, an English mathematician and an American civil rights leader, the Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners and the Guardians of the Galaxy, not to mention a whole bunch of Legos. Start 2015 off right with the best of 2014!

Just click on the picture above to enlarge it to its 1024 x 768 size, then right click your mouse and select "Set as Background", and you're all set.