Guys Guide to 2014 Holiday Movies

By James Mandell

Editor’s Note: Every holiday season my favorite seat mate, James Mandell, contributes his year end film round-up. Enjoy! 


Top Picks

interstellar PosterInterstellar

Stellar indeed, this is some dense story-telling, requiring leaps of quantum faith, but once accomplished, it’s a geek’s play land of possibilities, reminiscent of 2001 but more exciting and challenging to hold onto. The storyline is strident, the character archs overcooked, but the tech and high concept is remarkable and the imagery stunning. Will either leave you cold or wanting to see it again for another shot at catching more of its intense and cranial nuance.

Review: The Interview

The_Interview posterHeaven help me, I’ll probably get hacked and attacked by terrorists for writing a positive review, but I found The Interview absolutely hysterical, and I would have given it my vote for best comedy of the year had Sony not pulled it from theaters. I’m really hoping they release it on a pay per view basis online, or it might be the funniest movie you’ll never see. I’m glad I went to a critics’ screening before all the threats were made–not that the wackos would deem a critics screening significant enough to terrorize.

Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

night_at_the_museum_secret_of_the_tomb_new_posterIf you and your family have a tradition of going to see a movie on Christmas day and there are kids involved, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is your best bet. Funny, friendly and fanciful, it has all the giggles and excitement young audiences could want, plus a good helping of amusement for the grownups. Your other family fare options are the musicals Into the Woods (a good choice if your family is into musicals) and Annie (a bad choice under any circumstances). Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb a lightweight option with a little something for everyone.

Justin Bieber Rents a $59,000 per Month Beverly Hills Bachelor Pad

Justin Bieber Rents Back ExteriorLooks like the Biebs is on the move again. First he sold his Hidden Hills spread to Khloe Kardashian, after being arrested, convicted and fined for throwing eggs at a neighbor’s house, not to mention vilified in general for driving fast and furiously through the gated family community.  Then he moved into posh condo in Beverly Hills, where neighbors again complained to the police about loud, wild parties and the unmistakeable odor of a medicinal herb. Now he has rented an iconic modern home in Beverly Hills for a reported $59,000 per month!

Review: Annie

Annie PosterWow. I hate to dog pile on Sony at this difficult time, but the new Annie is arguably one of the worst movies of the year. If only it could have been pulled from release instead of The Interview! I envision horrified executives, after watching the final cut, taking a meeting and asking each other, “Is there any way we can blame this hot mess on the hack?”

Critics Choice Nominations Announced: How Do You Think I Should Vote?

birdman poster And so it begins. The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), of which I am a voting member, has announced the nominees for The 20th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards.  “Birdman” leads this year with 13 nominations. The winners will be revealed at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, which will broadcast live on A&E from the Hollywood Palladium on January 15th at 9pm ET/ 6pm PT, the day the Academy Award nominations are announced.  This is the first year that the BFCA will partner with A&E to broadcast the show.

The Hobbit: The Batttle of the Five Armies

Hobbit PosterLike most who have read and loved Tolkien, I had mixed emotions going into The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: I was both tired of and frustrated by the exploitative expansion of a short book into three long films, but still a bit sorry knowing that this would be the final chapter and I’d have to say goodbye to some of fantasy’s greatest heroes. I had those same emotions leaving the theater.

Woo Hoo! Another Season of Fargo is (Partially) Cast

'Spider-Man 2' LA Premierejesse-plemons1Anyone who is familiar with my taste in television knows how much I loved FX’s Fargo TV series, based on the Coen Brothers classic film of the same name. I was not alone–the miniseries received 18 Emmy nominations – the second highest total of any program on television this year – and won three awards, including Outstanding Miniseries; Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special. Billy Bob Thornton won a well-deserved Critics Choice Award for his chilling performance as the deadly Lorne Malvo. Now, since the first season was so highly regarded by critics and viewer alike, producers and network execs are busy preparing for a season two. A couple of stellar casting choices have already been made and announced, with two appropriately Nordic looking young actors in leading rolls: Golden Globe nominated actress Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire) and Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons.

Red and Green? Bah Humbug! Try Fuchsia and Lime for the Holidays

Snowflake Lane Dancers 1_BillBrooksJust got back from Seattle doing an piece on one of the greatest, biggest holiday street shows in the country, Snowflake Lane at the Bellevue Collection in Washington State. For those of you not familiar with the area, Bellevue is to Seattle what Beverly Hills is to Los Angeles. They shut down an entire street every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas, for a spectacular, 20 minute show with drummers drumming, ladies dancing, lords a leaping, etc.  If that doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, nothing will.

Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-PosterJust in time for the holidays, a spectacular movie of Biblical proportions. I’d forgotten how entertaining it is to hunker down and watch a cast of thousands on incredibly lavish sets. I don’t care if most of it is CGI, Ridley Scott has given us a historical epic on a grand scale that we haven’t seen in years — unless it’s in outer space. Faith, miracles, blood and sandals and Christian Bale as Moses. It may not be a perfect movie, but there’s an awful lot to love about Exodus: Gods and Kings.