Atari: Game Over. A smart and highly enjoyable documentary about the rise and fall of this 1980s videogame giant.
Boyhood. Believe the hype! This masterpiece by Richard Linklater would already be impressive from its technical achievements, but is doubly great because of the intelligent, downbeat script.
It Follows. DOUBLE BELIEVE THE HYPE! Easily the best horror movie I've seen in years, it's its teenage sincerity and quiet indie-film tone that makes it so successfully terrifying.
We Always Lie to Strangers. Don't let my college friendship with the filmmaker cloud your belief in my write-up; this documentary about Branson, Missouri is surprisingly fair and unexpected, engrossing and informative to boot.
Welcome to Me. The thing I love the most about Kristen Wiig is how effortlessly she can glide between comic and dramatic roles; this one straddles a weird and fascinating line between the two, about an unmedicated schizophrenic who wins a state lottery and all the heartbreaking trouble she gets herself into because of her newfound riches.
What We Do in the Shadows. A hilarious mockumentary about contemporary vampires, written by half of the comedy duo "Flight of the Conchords," what makes this rise above most other comedies this year is that at many moments, this doubles as a HIGHLY effective straightforward horror movie as well.
While We're Young. This latest by Noah Baumbach got criticized for "Grumpy Old Manness" by a lot of people, but it's actually just Baumbach being his usual self -- hilariously cynical about the human race, especially so of hipsters, turning in a double indictment here of not only retro-obsessed douchebag Brooklyn Millennials but also the burned-out Gen-Xers whose pop culture they venerate.
Wild. A big surprise from Reese Witherspoon, an acting tour-de-force within a film she herself produced, about an urban druggie hipster who sleeps around a lot but then one day on a whim decides to hike from Canada to Mexico, almost killing herself multiple times along the way. A powerful and moving character study, aided by Witherspoon's decision to embrace her middle-age and to explore her onscreen sexuality.
Harmontown. I'm a weekly listener to this amazingly dark and confessional live-audience podcast from Dan Harmon, the man-child creator of "Community" and "Rick and Morty;" so how incredibly disappointing to see this documentary about his recent national tour turn out to be a cloying, pretentious hagiography, betraying the intense self-criticism that makes the podcast itself so compelling.
Inherent Vice. Paul Thomas Anderson! Adapting a Thomas Pynchon novel! What could go wrong?! Plenty, it turns out, starting with the hammy Postmodernist story that was going to be nearly impossible to translate to the screen no matter what, sped along by PTA being in his most pretentious "Punch Drunk Love" mode as a director. Ugh, let's all rent "The Master" again and wait for his next film.
The Overnight. A great naughty concept (young LA couple get suckered one night into a wife-swap with another hipster couple), starring the good-looking and talented Adam Scott, Jason Schwarzman and Taylor Schilling, directed by the creator of the highly effective alt-horror movie "Creep" -- this on paper has all the makings of a great movie experience, but then falls apart because of its masturbatory, go-nowhere mumblecore script. Wow, what a disappointment.
That's it for now, but please come back starting in the new year for all my 2016 movie reviews!