365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

Honestly, there is no point in reading this review until after you've seen the movie. There is no way that my review on a Star Wars movie is going to influence whether yo go see this movie or not. So this review will have spoilers. You've been warned. Not to belittle my review, but this is one is mostly my open thoughts on the movie and not whether you should see it or not. If you come here quickly to look at the score, I gave it an 89/100. Undoubtedly if you've watched the other films, you need to go see this film in the theater. If you are newer to the franchise and wonder if which movies, if any, that you need to see before watching Episode VII, I would say you should watch IV, V, and VI. Those are the ones that will help you best understand this film. There is absolutely no need to see I, II, or III. I don't know if you can fully appreciate VII though without seeing IV, V, and VI first. It is assumed that you have seen these films. If you haven't, there is no real effort or desire to explain anything that happened in the past.

My first question to anyone who has an issue with Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens would be, "What were you expecting"? This was a great movie and I think it met all expectations. I sort of feel like if you are a fan of a franchise and you don't like this movie that you were not going to be satisfied regardless of what director, screenwriter, and producer J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Cloverfield). When it was announced that Abrams would take over the franchise, there was a lot of concern that Star Wars would too closely resemble Star Trek. These two franchises have been stacked up against each other for the past 40 years. In some ways they are very similar, but in many ways they are very, very different. Personally, I love the Star Wars franchise while I think the Star Trek franchise has always been a little too geeky and much too cheesy for me to appreciate. By no means was Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens too Trekky. Quite the opposite actually. It reestablished credibility to the franchise while, in at least some small way, paying homage to all six previous films.


Ex Machina (2015)

Sometimes when you see a movie that you know nothing about, you are treated with an unknown little treat...a movie that will stick with you forever. Ex Machina is that movie this year. My comparison here is to the Brad Pitt/Morgan Freeman gem Seven. It was a movie that I knew nothing about. I had only heard that it was a movie I must see through word of mouth. Seven probably has a place forever reserved in my all-time top 25. That's how good it was. But I think a lot of this initially high rating was because of how in awe of it I was when I saw it in a little, creaky stage theater converted to a movie theater in Lexington, VA in the fall of 1997. Now, Ex Machina is not in the class of Seven. But like Seven, it is a movie that is gripping, carefully scripted, and one that will stay in your head for a very, very long time after its viewing. Ex Machina is going to be hard to beat for the best movie of the first half of 2015.


A Most Violent Year (2014)

The best movie of 2014 that has really flown under the radar is, without a doubt, J.C. Chandor's (All Is Lost, Margin Call) A Most Violent Year. This movie, as I will mention in the paragraphs below, is subtly amazing. But before I get into the movie, I want to talk about Chandor. This guy is quietly establishing himself as a master of two crafts. This is just his third movie, but it is his third that he has both directed and written the screenplay for. And all three movies have earned at least 88% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes though none of them earned more than $8 million at the box office. All three movies are completely unique from one another and Chandor has already had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in Hollywood (Robert Redford, Kevin Space, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Oscar Isaac, David Oyelowo, Jessica Chastain, and Albert Brooks). He has already signed on Mark Wahlberg to star in his next project. And while All Is Lost and Margin Call were both amazing movie experiences, A Most Violent Year is Chandor's crowning achievement to date.


Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

For every one of their blockbusters (True Grit, No Country For Old Men) or for every one of their movies with grandiose, almost absurd plots (Fargo, Miller's Crossing) there are the more subtle, lesser watched, but still critically acclaimed movies (A Serious Man, The Man Who Wasn't There) by director brothers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. In the mold of this last type of genre comes their first effort in three years, the simple, yet thought-provoking Inside Llewyn Davis. Inside Llewyn Davis stars Oscar Isaac (Drive, Robin Hood) in, perhaps, the surprise performance of the year and the role that is going to land this talented young actor many more opportunities.


Drive (2011)

Original review - September 18, 2011 | Updated review August 12, 2013

Updated review****

This movie is a classic. I had a couple of original problems based on my initial view. The preview made it seem like it was going to be a completely different movie. I wasn't prepared for the violence or the all of the overlapping story lines that were going on. I thought I was going to watch Ryan Gosling drive bad guys around and avoid the police. The trailer for the movie is essentially the first five minutes of the movie (nothing more, nothing less). I expected something different which is why my initial review was lower than it is now.

I loved Gosling and Mulligan. I loved the way the unspoken attraction they had for one another. I loved how Gosling did everything he could to not get attached to somebody he couldn't just walk away from in five minutes, but how circumstances kept driving them together to the point where he would do anything to keep them happy and safe.