Life at 24fps’ Biggest Surprises of the Year Part 1

We love a good surprise.

Each year we watch many new films and love it when one succeeds our expectations.  However, there are the few that slip up and make us frustrated for even caring about the final product.

Unfortunately, there is still so much we haven’t seen and hopefully by the end of the month we will have a thorough and fair list of what we find to be the best and worst of the year.

Until that time, here’s part one of our biggest surprises of the year! Which include some films that sadly were not given a proper release and some that failed to justify the hype from critics and audiences alike.

Garrett’s Picks

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Image via Focus Features

5. Insidious Chapter 3 is surprisingly effective and puts the other installments to shame

I never cared for the Insidious franchise. The first film is overrated and barely passable horror and the second film was so boring and stupid that barely anyone screamed in the packed theater.

And I hate to say this but, Insidious Chapter 3 was an entertaining, super flawed, piece of modern horror.

I think the secret to this one’s success was the fact that it had a plot unlike the first two. Oh and this had actual characters who had more to do than just say “Oh my god a ghost wants to kill me!”.

This doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but I will gladly watch this three times in a row than watch Insidious Chapter 2 again.


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Image via Universal Pictures

4. Legend fails to live up to it’s name and fails Tom Hardy

This one really hurt because we had really high hopes.  The writer/director Brian Helgeland directed the cliche yet wonderfully entertaining 42 and he seemed like a perfect fit to take on the Kray Twins based on his Oscar win for LA Confidential. 

To add the cherry on top, he casted the brilliant Tom Hardy to play the twins. This was the recipe for something beautiful.

Jump cut to now and not only has the movie failed to live up to box office expectations, the film failed my expectations.

Look, I know the movie was never aiming for high art and I know the gangster pic has been told a million times, but what surprised me was how tonally off the movie is.

The narration is deeply distracting and barely adds anything to the proceedings.  The scenes of brutality are very hit and miss because some have a sense of glee to it and others just feel a step off.

However, Tom Hardy is the one who gets the worst of it.  His characters are so unlikeable. And I’m fine with unlikeable characters (I will get to that in the next entry) but there was nothing compelling about them.

Reggie is handsome and has an annoying swagger about him and his brute of brother is fun at first, but quickly turns into a more mentally disturbed version of Bane.

In the trailers, Legend seemed like it was going to be a fun rollercoaster through London, showing the rise and fall of The Krays. Instead, it’s a rollercoaster off the tracks that shows the rise and fall of two people that somehow weren’t killed during the first half of the movie.


of earth

Image Via IFC Films

3. Queen of Earth comes out of nowhere and knocks us all out

Simply put…this was a beautiful and surreal character study, featuring dialogue that would put a rap battle to shame.

Elizabeth Moss gives an Oscar worthy performance and makes you appreciate every tear she sheds and every insult she spews out. This was one of those movies people kept telling me was good and I just shrugged my shoulders and said I would have to see it for myself.

I was a fan of Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Phillip last year and I felt that this time around he was going to have another character study about a person who alienates everyone around them.

I was right about that, I just didn’t expect the movie to have such raw power. The grainy cinematography and the eerie score gave a surreal tone and look to the mentally unhinged proceedings.

I would say more about this film, but I have a feeling Queen of Earth is going to come up again quite soon…


Image via Universal Pictures

2. Trainwreck is overrated and not worth the hype

What am I missing here?

Critics have been saying this is one of the funniest and BEST movies of the year and although I found it funny at times, this was not one of the best.  The best thing about this film is how it managed to get two great performances out of two athletes.

Lebron James is really funny and charming here as Bill Hader’s best friend and honestly couldn’t believe how he pulled this off without seeming stiff or awkward.

And last but certainly not least, John Cena provides some really funny one liners and some really heart breaking lines as Amy’s sexually confused “ex”.

I was glad to see Judd Apatow direct something he didn’t write but that still didn’t stop him from making an overlong and surprisingly depressing comedy.  Hell, the movie bordered on drama more than comedy for me.

Oh and the ending dance with the cheerleaders made my eyes roll more than the ending to Spectre.

Amy Schumer did a decent job in front of the camera, however, the more she appeared on TV and on the internet, the less effective her performance became.

I feel like all she did was play a variation of herself.

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Image Via MARV

1. Kingsman exceeds expectations and is not the cult film we were all expecting

Matthew Vaughn you are a very sick man.

I really wanted Kingsman to be good. I love Colin Firth and the prospect of him playing a James Bond type character and being directed by Kick Ass director Matthew Vaughn made this a must see.  He’s a very sick man and I love when he has a good script by his side.  But I did have some doubts.

When the movie was nearing it’s release date, I feared this movie would be just as bad as Kick Ass 2, and end up being immature trash. However, I started to fear this movie could end up being the next, Scott Pilgrim. A film that’s loved by many fans, including myself, but rejected at the box-office, with no hope for a sequel. I went into the theater hoping for the best.

Luckily when the infamous church scene was over, which had too many casualties to count, I knew this film was going to be entertaining until the very end…but could end up being just another cult film.

It was violent. Self aware. Oh and did I mention that it’s violent? There’s a lot of exploding heads in this movie and I thought general audiences would reject such a film and leave it for the cult fans to pick up and overhype it.

I was so wrong.

Audiences loved it and embraced the dark humor and the sick twisted violence.  It made over 100 million here in the states and even more worldwide.  Oh and the church scene didn’t even phase people! What a shock.

I love when I end up wrong like this, because I’m glad that a comic book adaptation not only bested it’s source material, but also bested everyone’s expectations of what a success can be.


Mike’s Picks


Image Via Drafthouse Films

5. Spring is the horror film I didn’t know I needed in my life

It’s rare to see a horror film work on such an emotional level. Covering topics such as love, immortality, parenting, learning to live in ones own skin, regret and loss.

While the film has some shortcomings, they are easily overlooked when the film simply works so well. These directors also did the terrific micro budget horror/addiction film Resolution.

Here they seem to be channeling both Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, and the work of HP Lovecraft. A combination I never thought would work in a million years but here we are.


the overnight

Image Via The Orchard

4. The Overnight is one of the year’s most underrated comedies

Chop the last scene off of this movie and it would have gotten a hearty 4 stars, but as it stands those last few moments sort of divert an otherwise outstanding little film. Ignoring that hiccup this is a sharp, well acted and insightful film about sex, friendship, monogamy and parenthood.

At a brisk 80 minutes it’s one of the easiest recommendations for everyone this year. Though if you get awkward at sex jokes and nudity that pushes it’s R rating, you might want to skip it.


Image Via Oscilloscope Laboratories

3. Buzzard is a wonderfully chaotic coming of age film

Few films this year have made the same sort of lasting impact that Buzzard has.

It’s raw, emotional, punk, absurd, angry and just plain out haywire. It’s a combination of endearing coming of age story coupled with harsh American economical jabbing.

Written and directed by Joel Portrykus and starring the magnificent Joshua Burge, this movie was recommended to me by members of a film group I post in and boy did they knock it out of the park with this suggestion.

It may not be the most polished or sophisticated film of the year, but it’s without a doubt one of the most memorable and watchable.


Image Via Fox Searchlight

2. Mistress America turns out to be Noah Baumbach’s best film yet

People who know me well and who are familiar with my film tastes know that I largely can’t stand Noah Baumbach’s brand of dysfunctional character study.

It’s not that his films are poorly made or even totally disposable. It’s mostly that they all come off with this smug satisfaction that screams pseudo-intellectual gibberish. Part of that is the point I guess, but it never makes for a compelling film in my eyes.

Luckily this year and last, Baumbach did a bit of maturing and hit us with a one-two punch of While We’re Young and Mistress America. The former being enjoyable, while the ladder being a hilarious send up to classic Hollywood screwball.

I don’t know that the film necessarily changed my view of him as a director. Frances Ha still ranks as one of the worst films of 2013 to me, but these last couple films seem to be taking him in a stronger direction.

Though the first half of the movie may still possess some of his familiar trappings, the second half nails basically everything and showcases one of the year’s strongest scenes.

Even if you’re like me and don’t care much for Baumbach or Gerwig, I’d recommend giving this a chance. Particularly if you like the aforementioned screwball mentality.


Image Via Fox Searchlight

1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl fails to live up to expectations and fails to be any good either

MEDG is full of little winks and nods, meant to be clever but mostly just reminding us we are watching a work of fiction.

From the posters of The 400 Blows and Berlin Alexanderplatz, to the quick clips of foreign classics like Aguirre The Wrath of God, we were constantly being hit with cinephile name dropping and references aimed at the Criterion crowd.  

It became massively redundant real fast. Instead of trying to show send ups to these films, MEDG basically just uses them as nudges to audience members “in the know”.

It’s a bit condescending at times and never feels anything less than forced.

What could have been an interesting take on the teen cancer genre (which seems to be blossoming all of sudden), is turned into cheap emotional manipulation where we watch a douche bag learn a valuable life lesson via his dying friend.

Disappointment doesn’t even cover this one, which came off the top prize at Sundance and 80%+ on Rotten Tomatoes.


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