2016: The Year in Reviews (Part II)

Time for my second batch of reviews. This is covering all the films I saw between May and now.

Pretty simple, I gather a list of all the films I saw in each third of the year and write up reviews for them. This makes it easier for me come December (and documents what I thought, to keep everything above board), and allows me to see how my thoughts have changed after initial watches.

The final set of reviews will go up in December just before the end of the year review articles.

Let’s get right into the reviews, since I know you’re all excited to know how much I loved Warcraft:

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I was ready to go in and get a 3 star movie out of this. One that wasn’t very good, but was watchable, and one that was loaded with the typical Bay stuff people have come to hate. But honestly… this had none of that. It’s edited like Black Hawk Down, sure. But otherwise Bay tones down his usual instincts and crafts a pretty straightforward military film. And I appreciated that. And honestly, once we got into the actual fighting, I was in. The first part was borderline generic, awful military stuff. But even that I got through okay. I figured I’d have to defend it. But I don’t. I think people (those who saw it. Which, I don’t think are that many) understand that he actually did a good job with this and didn’t give into his sophomoric instincts. It’s just… sure, there’s no weight here and ultimately he’s glorifying the work of private military contractors, which is an icky slope to be going down, but as far as the construction of a film goes, aside from being about twenty minutes too long (mainly in the beginning), I enjoyed this. Not gonna say I loved it, but I was engaged more than I thought I’d be.

Alice Through the Looking Glass — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This is an acceptable failure. Not a terrible movie by any stretch, but also a failure on every level. And it showed throughout the entire process. It seemed unnecessary, not even the stars wanted to come back but had to, contractually, and it just felt like an attempt to cash in on the success of the first film. Of course they waited about two years too long, but hey, it happens. But no matter how generic and unwatchable this is (honestly, at least it looks good and the effects are nice), they did put effort into making this bearable. So I’m okay with it, despite its shortcomings (of which there are many). Ultimately I didn’t care, and I didn’t need this, and of course they spent too much money on it and so on and so forth. But Unforgivable this is not. It’s just one of those movies where you’re watching it and find you literally don’t care about a single thing that’s happening.

The Angry Birds Movie — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I was never going to give a flying fuck about this movie. I don’t even know what the hell the game is about. And pretty much anything that’s a phone game that blows up I think is stupid and overrated. So this was only going to piss me off or leave me feeling indifferent. So really, this ended up in the best possible situation. Wanna know everything you need to know about this movie in a single sentence? This movie features an on-the-nose usage of “Behind Blue Eyes,” but instead of the Who version, they use the Limp Bizkit cover. If I bothered to care about anything here just a little bit, I’d hate this movie. But we’ll treat it like they treat the game: phone-addicted teens will find it amusing because to them, this is IP. I’ll just kind of leave it there and use it as a barometer for who I want to and don’t want to talk to about movies.

Approaching the Unknown — * * * (3 stars)

Kinda tough to have a ‘one man alone in space’ movie right on the heels of The Martian and have it be remembered. This isn’t a bad movie at all, it’s just… no one’s gonna see it and no one’s gonna remember it after an initial watch. It’ll just be an interesting footnote people remember in ten years that gets mentioned and people go, “What movie is that?” It’s more in the category of watchable, serviceable, but not particularly good in any respect. It’s an easy watch, but the script or the direction isn’t particularly great. It’s a movie that’s perfectly fit for a VOD release. Most people will happen upon this on cable and on Netflix, and that feels appropriate. It’s nothing more than a decent, 90 minute watch you see once and go, “That wasn’t too bad.”

Babysitting 2 — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

It’s a comedy sequel. I loved the first movie, and this one does a nice job of continuing the adventures of the characters, repeating a lot of the same stuff that made the first movie great, while also not really doing anything that feels remotely exceptional. It has moments that are really funny, but a lot of it feels like “story” and not jokes. Which is admirable, but also — you know what this feels a lot like? Neighbors 2. They didn’t fully repeat the first experience, and tried to do something different that also told an actual story, and some of it works and some of it doesn’t, and it’s still amusing. Though I do wish for once a comedy sequel could be really good. I don’t know if there’s ever been a legitimately great comedy sequel. Sure, some were okay, and some we may like on entertainment value, but there’s never been a truly great one, which is a shame. I also realize that no one in this country has even seen the first one, let alone this one, but trust me when I say the first one is great.

Bad Moms — * * (2 stars)

Another example of a movie where the main characters have one desire in life and that defines them. In relationship movies, it’s always love. The character defines themselves and life by whether or not they’re in love. Here, the characters define themselves by how good of a mom they are. Not as people making their way in the world, but by how good a job they doing one specific thing. I hate movies like that. Oh, and this is another example of stupid raunchy comedy where people just say R-rated shit for no reason. Also, what’s with this trend of “Bad” movies? I guess I could have taken off the quotations there. Bad Teacher, Bad Grandpa. Stop it. They’re not good. The most fascinating thing about a movie like this is that you know people read this script and went, “This is some of the funniest shit I’ve ever read.” And yet… this movie. It’s exactly everything I hate about comedies nowadays.

Barbershop: The Next Cut — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

These movies were never for me. They’re amusing, but I’m not the audience for this movie. So I won’t begrudge them for it at all. It is what it is. People will enjoy this, and it’s certainly not a bad movie (none of them were). I’m not who this movie is trying to entertain, and as much as I wanted to enjoy it, I couldn’t get into it.

Bastille Day — * * * (3 stars)

This movie starts with pseudo James Bond music and a naked chick. That’s pretty much all I needed to get into it. And then it pretty much underwhelmed me from there. Also not the best subject matter given the stuff that’s happened in Europe, specifically France. But whatever. It’s decent. It has its moments. I like shit like this, so I was fine with it. It’s not great or anything. Serviceable, is the word I’m looking for.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (The Ultimate Cut) — * * * (3 stars)

They tried so hard to market this as a completely different version of the movie that I’m just gonna review it as a completely new movie. It’s about thirty minutes longer but guess what — still shitty! You know what the problem was that they made with this? They didn’t change the original film. They just added more to it. The problem with the first one wasn’t that we wanted more, it’s that what was there was shit. So if you gave us a completely retooled cut with scenes edited differently and recut to be more coherent, then I’d have liked your movie more. Here’s the differences (until I get disgusted):

The Lois Lane terrorist interview is extended. Stupid exposition at the top explaining the situation (because the original just drops us in there out of nowhere) and they drop the Jimmy Olsen name. Easily left out. They add more CIA stuff here, which is unnecessary and doesn’t make what we’re seeing all that much more coherent. Mostly because it has nothing to do with the actual plot. They try a drone strike and Superman takes it out before it can drop. And then the scene continues as it was. Most of the stuff they cut was boring command center stuff that you’d see in a Michael Bay movie.

Batman in the sex house is extended at the top. The cops are watching the football game (the one mentioned later) where Metropolis destroys Gotham 65-0 (throwing a Hail Mary on the last play despite being up so much), hinting at tensions between the two cities. Also pretty sure this scene comes after Superman bathtub shit in the other cut, so at least we’re getting more back and forth between the two. (Still no titties in the tub scene, though.) Also worth mentioning, the headline Perry comes up with makes zero sense when you find out the game ended in such a blowout. But I guess that didn’t matter?

It does feel like they moved some scenes around in order to make it seem different. But it doesn’t really change so much of the plot as much as it rearranges deck chairs on the Hindenburg. The whole movie still moves way too fast and too many of the plotlines still make no sense.

They added Clark investigating the woman from the senate hearings, finding out about what Batman is doing around Gotham, looking for whatever. Which actually makes that part of the movie make sense. We actually see him investigating Batman rather than hearing about it. Brief scene too. Makes no sense to cut it. Him being chastised for not looking into the football game and his later questioning of Bruce at the party. We also get a moment of him being personally invited to the soiree. Maybe a tipoff for later when “someone” suggested that Clark Kent personally cover the event. I’m guessing they cut it because it was too obvious. Can be okay with that. The longer version actually makes it much more obvious they’re being set up to fight one another. So really, rather than us go, “What the fuck is going on?” this version has us go, “This is stupid.” I guess that’s an upgrade?

We get a scene where Clark calls Martha on the phone. Which is a human moment for him. And sets up a scene later. Hard to place it but it’s a good scene. Then a scene with Jena Malone and Lois as she looks up some shit. Minor moment, pretty irrelevant. Covered later on when she goes to the general.

We then see a scene where a branded guy is put in prison to be killed while the crippled guy is bailed out. Minor moment, might actually be in the other cut. Can’t remember. Oh, but then the dude is actually killed in prison. So we see direct repercussions of Batman’s brand.

Jon Stewart is there. For no real reason other than to have Jon Stewart there. Pointless introductory moment to the Wonder Woman scene. More scenes of Clark investigating Batman. Gotham is afraid of him.

The African woman has an entire subplot, it seems. She lied and didn’t talk about the hit squad that was there. Which seems weird and adds so many questions. The general scene spells out that Luthor is the villain. Was this in the other version? It definitely builds toward him blowing up the senate hearings more. Shows it’s a set up. Even shows Lex at the hearing, which makes him disappearing later make sense. African lady is also thrown in front of a train. All’s well that ends well, I guess.

There’s a scene of Superman helping victims out of the blowed up senate. Weird how this doesn’t immediately point to Lex as the perpetrator. Unless they think Superman did it and are just cool with him helping people afterward since, what the fuck else are they gonna do?

Jeremy Irons chopping wood.

And then figuring out what Bruce’s plan is, apparently. It mostly segues into him breaking into LexCorp and having that not seem like it was edited with a hatchet. A lot of this version seems like them trying to say, “See, we had a slightly more coherent cut than before.”

At this point, I’m not sure specifically which parts are or aren’t part of the original film, because it makes so little goddamn sense that I found myself still trying to figure out what it all meant rather than look for what was new.

We definitely see Lois figuring out the crippled dude was set up. And Jena Malone gets another brief scene. There’s a scene with Alfred where he says “So falls the House of Wayne.” That’s nice. Sadly appropriate. Can’t even remember if that’s in the original. Honestly, fuck it. This is still a giant disaster. Even with the extra time. All this is doing is making the continuity between incomprehensible moments flow just a little bit better than before. Not worth the extra half hour.

Before I Wake — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

The premise is good, and it’s made well enough, I just don’t care about these kinds of movies. So I found some moments of interest, and a lot of moments of, “Wow, this is generic,” and “Wow, this looks like it was made for no money,” and “Wow, I have no idea what’s happening and don’t really care.” Such is the case with me and horror movies.

Ben-Hur — * * * (3 stars)

Come on, buddy. We all knew what this was gonna be. The original February date was one of those, “Okay, maybe in time for the Easter season or whatever” situations. The August release date was just asking for it. It was gonna bomb and a lot of people were gonna shit all over it. No one should be surprised by this. Honestly, though, it’s not that bad. It’s capable, and it’s hard not to at least get somewhat excited by the chariot race, which is the centerpiece of the film. Story-wise, this is just a truncated version of the 1959 version, with less Jesus and a tweak on how he ends up racing chariots. Which basically means more Morgan Freeman. There have been three film versions of this story: 1925, 1959, 2016. Each represents the type of filmmaking prevalent in that era. This one is heavy on the CGI, and the cinematography, editing and music all scream “generic studio filmmaking.” (When will people realize — it’s the score and the pacing. I bet if you took this movie and put a less assembly line score on this and slowed it down a bit in the edit, this would come across as a much better movie.) There’s no need to ever truly put this on a “worst of” list because the film has already failed on just about every level a film could fail on. It failed, but it’s not a blight upon cinema. It just reflects the weaknesses of today’s studio filmmaking. Which, even the previous one did, but in different ways.

The BFG — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I find it hard to say anything bad about this movie because… this could be somebody’s Hook. I love Hook. I grew up with Hook. I think Hook is a great movie. People hated Hook when it came out. Not that people hated this. But I feel like there’s a general distaste toward this. Or, if not distaste then general apathy. But it’s not like I actually do want to say anything bad about this, because I liked it. It’s amusing, it’s fun, it’s everything it needed to be. Just… one of Spielberg’s lesser efforts. Which says more about the rest of his efforts than it does about the film. I like it and it’s fun, but outside of that, I can’t say that I loved it or really would want to see it a bunch more in the future. I’m much more a Bridge of Spies guy than I am someone for this movie. It’s not like it’s a disappointment though. It’s exactly what I expected it to be.

A Bigger Splash — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was awesome. It’s a remake of La Piscine, by the way, for those who think it looks familiar. The cast is awesome. Tilda Swinton barely speaks the entire movie. Ralph Fiennes is so great. And Schoenaerts and Johnson are also good. The film looks great, is engaging, and is pretty much everything I could have asked for.

Blackway — * * * (3 stars)

It’s a small movie. Stakes aren’t high, the drama isn’t overdone, and it’s a decent enough watch. A weak 3, and the cast makes it seem like it’s better than it is, but it was fair enough. Most people would think this is boring and/or terrible, and I get that. But I have a predisposition for liking these kinds of movies, so I was more okay with it than most. Still — meh.

Blood Father — * * * * (4 stars)

I was raised on movies like this. I am predisposed to loving them. So it’s no surprised that I loved this. It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s fun. The kind of movies that actors don’t make anymore. I love Mel Gibson as an actor (and a director, for that matter). I haven’t seen him make a bad choice (as an actor) in a long time. His movies are always entertaining, even when they’re B movies like this. What’s not to like about this? Give me this over practically any movie that came out this summer.

Born to Be Blue — * * * (3 stars)

I have this weird block where, instead of seeing Ethan Hawke putting on a great performance, I see Ethan Hawke being Ethan Hawke. It detracts me from the movies. I’ve yet to see him do something truly transformative that allows me to overcome whatever it is that I don’t like about his performances. Which sucks because I like him and I think he’s a good actor. But yeah, this was fine. Liked the Miles Davis movie better, but this one was all right.

The Brand New Testament — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Really liked this quite a bit. Tried to see this last year but was unable to. I like that they took a really great premise and then ran with it. It’s completely bizarre but in the best way possible.

The Bronx Bull — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I’m just happy it didn’t make me angry. Because it’s a Raging Bull sequel. How could you not expect this to piss you off? But it’s not really a sequel. It just is a story about LaMotta that doesn’t follow the same timeline as Raging Bull. It’s him as a kid and him after the end of Raging Bull. So it’s almost a completely different animal. (You got that, Larry?) It’s actually almost watchable. I almost thought about making this 3 stars. I’m happy I didn’t hate this the way we all thought we would. Of course, it’s not good, and I’m not sure they particularly should have made it, but I’ve seen worse movies this year.

The Bronze — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

The idea of this sounded great. The trailer, not great. The reviews, less so. But I held out hope. And the film — about what I expected. It’s fun, but bit too light on substance a bit too heavy on the raunch for no reason except to be raunchy. I enjoyed it more than not, and there’s enough here to say that, while it wasn’t the great comedy hit I wanted, it was a solid movie that I was expecting. I’m okay with that. It definitely has moments that work, and some that don’t. But since it doesn’t go overboard on the unnecessary crudeness, I’ll leave it at 3.5.

The Brothers Grimsby — * * * (3 stars)

It’s stupid, it’s pointless, but it’s watchable. There’s a good story underneath it, but it’s loaded with stereotypes that aren’t interesting and are one-note, and it too often veers into the completely stupid moments that kill all of Sacha Baron Cohen’s movies. It’s 2016, is a scene of a dude having to suck poison out of another dude’s testicle still funny? Not to mention the elephant scene. Which says all you need to know about it. There’s a movie here, but I don’t think they quite get to it. But otherwise it’s watchable, so I’ll give it a pass.

Can We Take a Joke? — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

They’re right. It’s fucked up what’s happened to society. I guess the only thing to say about this is: I hope those cunts get AIDS.

Captain America: Civil War — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I’ll tell you the problem straight out. And you can figure it out within the first thirty minutes of the film — this isn’t a Captain America sequel. This is an Avengers sequel. Captain America’s story isn’t continued. Bucky’s story isn’t (really) continued. This is all in the service of continuing the universe. They’re throwing new characters at you left and right in order to expand the universe, they start a storyline that theoretically shouldn’t be contained to one film, and even then, it takes too long to set up and doesn’t even resolve itself. Now, I know what most people will say, which is that it’s a perfectly enjoyable movie. Which it is. Most of these are. But because there are so many of them, I have to hold it to a different standard. It’s not that it’s an enjoyable movie. In fact, I still put it in the top half of the Marvel movies. I just… so much of what they’re doing is like playing with action figures. And now this person’s gonna fight this person, oh but now these two are friends. That’s all they’re doing. The villains don’t matter. They fucking introduced a villain into this movie. It would have been so much better if there was no villain and it was just external politics that caused this to happen. I’d have been way more interested. Look, my ultimate problem with this movie is this: where are we left? What has changed? We’re nowhere different from where we were at the end of The Winter Soldier. Nothing has changed in the Captain America story arc. And this was supposed to be a Captain America film. So the rating is what it is, but I’m sorely disappointed by the result of what this movie is versus what it could have been. Oh, also, for anyone whose reaction to this movie is, “This is what Age of Ultron should have been,” that’s my problem. They should have done it when they had the chance.

Cell — * * * (3 stars)

For some reason I had no idea what the hell this was until I started watching it. I thought it was some kind of B movie about a kidnapping or something. I knew it was based on Stephen King but that was about it. Then cell phones started turning people into murderous zombies and I simultaneously went, “What the fuck?” “This is ridiculous,” and “Okay, sure, I guess I’m in.” And that’s what this was. Low budget, not particularly great, but it sustained me enough to call it 3. Barely 3, since it gets ridiculous and I honestly don’t even know what the hell that ending was. I don’t even want to think about it. It doesn’t seem to be worth the brain power. As it is, I got through it okay, even though this feels like they cut out a lot of the actual story of this film and cut it down to a workable 90 minutes that people can VOD without much effort. Oh well.

Central Intelligence — * * * (3 stars)

This movie works because of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s interplay. Otherwise it’s a giant piece of shit. Dwayne Johnson is so good that I constantly overlook how average the movies he’s in are. And Kevin Hart is always fine if the material is up to snuff. So it worked out okay here, even though it could have been a disaster. The problem with this is the same as all other comedies — the humor is so broad that I worry for anyone who actually finds it funny. Especially in the beginning. Comedies nowadays are terrible at setting up the exposition. The writing is so bad, and it’s almost telegraphed how little they give a shit about trying until the actual “story” starts. The comedy is so over the top and designed for lowest common denominator that I always wonder if this was a studio choice or a director choice, or who was the decision maker there, because it’s almost tone deaf how bad it is. Is this what people find funny now? Because I’m disgusted. And yet, there’s a halfway decent story, and there’s a weird theme of acceptance in the end that’s actually kind of sweet in its own way. So ultimately I didn’t hate this. But I do hate what comedy has become nowadays, and really wish we had stronger comedic voices that could make funny movies that will actually be remembered in twenty years. But as for this movie… I’ve seen worse.

The Childhood of a Leader — * * * (3 stars)

This isn’t about Hitler. Was really hoping they were gonna give us that. Oh well. The first thing you notice about this movie is the score. This sounds like the score from a Brian De Palma-doing-Hitchcock movie. It’s literally the score of a thriller. And the whole film is structured around this foreboding narrative. It’s put up in chapters that are basically saying, “Bad shit is coming, and here are things that showed us that it was going to happen.” Very odd choices. But overall, I did like it. It looks good, and there’s something captivating about it, despite how little actually happens on screen. I wanted to like it more than I did, and really wanted to go that extra half star to 3.5, but I just couldn’t. It wasn’t compelling enough to me to really like it as much as I wanted to. Still, it’s a solid 3 star movie.

The Connection — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Solid procedural/crime thriller out of France. It’s the French side of The French Connection, with the cops trying to take down all the people supplying heroin to the U.S. Good shit. Completely missed this last yer.

The Conjuring 2 — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Honestly, I’m surprised I even watched it. I think it’s because at the time, I hadn’t skipped a single film from the year to date and I wanted to keep my streak going even though I had less than zero interest in seeing this. The first one was 2.5, I didn’t care, and this was the same. I just don’t care for or about horror movies. So I just kind of twiddle my thumbs when I watch them. And that happened here. But hey, I watched it, so I guess I got that going for me. Which is nice.

Dad’s Army — * * * (3 stars)

It’s amusing. I think what sustains it is actually the throwback schtick-y, slapstick kind of humor. It makes it feel more timeless, which helps, since the story is predictable all the way through. But hey, it’s a British McHale’s Navy, so I get it. I was sufficiently amused by this.

The Dark Horse — * * * * (4 stars)

Really strong. A bit too much on the Oscar bait elements of the kid with the gang affiliated father. But outside of that, really strong performance by Cliff Curtis and a really engaging film. It’s no Searching for Bobby Fischer, but for a New Zealand film that brings no expectations, this was quite terrific. Big fan of this one, and of Cliff Curtis in general. But also — watch this for his performance. He’s extraordinary.

The Darkness — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Horror movie. Not for me. Only saw it because of the cast. Supernatural horror. Is what it is. These things do nothing for me, though I imagine this might appeal to some people. Kind of surprised I even saw it. But I had a nice streak of not skipping anything, so I figured why not. But it’s horror. It’s not my genre. So I was bored within twenty minutes. Standard horror progression, even though I recognized that they were trying to do it well. Just… not my genre.

Dear Eleanor — * * * (3 stars)

It was cute. Kids road trip. I like these movies. Coming of age movies are always great. Even if they’re not, I’ll always enjoy them more than most. This one — fine. Some people might not care for it or not like it, but I thought it was perfectly adequate. Good performances out of the lead girls, and that carries it most of the way. The rest is whatever. The strength is all in those two girls. And since they’re the majority of the film, it was fine. You know what this reminded me of? Love Field. The Michelle Pfeiffer movie where she travels to go to JFK’s funeral. This is of that era, and somewhat similar in story. So, if you liked that, you’ll probably enjoy this.

Demolition — * * * (3 stars)

This felt misguided. Jake Gyllenhaal is fine, and adds another “weird guy” role to his recent filmography. But the character is not someone you really want to see or even root for. And the story is — I’m not really sure what the purpose of it all was. Movies about grief are supposed to resonate with people, but this felt so specific to this strange character that it was hard for me to get into it. It was fine, but it just didn’t do all that much to me or make me interested in its subject matter. I get the metaphor, but, you know… engage me with it. Parts of this were bordering on interesting, but it never quite went there. It’s a story of a rich white guy pretty much being able to do whatever he wants in order to feel something in his dull, privileged existence. There’s literally a scene where he stumbles upon a construction site and pays them $200 to help destroy a house. I like the cast, but it feels like a misfire. Completely understand why they pushed this.

The Do-Over — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

These are the kinds of Adam Sandler movies I can accept. Because there’s a plot here, it’s not adolescent boy humor, for the most part, and the worst I can say about it is, “It’s not very good.” But at least I was able to watch it and not cringe every three minutes. Here it was like, cringing every ten minutes. Which is fine. Some stupid moments, but they’re not the majority of the film and they don’t last long enough and aren’t force fed the way they are in his other stuff for me to get angry. So actually, 2.5 stars is really a thumbs up from me, given the quality of Sandler’s stuff over the past decade. This was way better than I expected it to be (which says a lot, considering I was ultimately indifferent about it).

The Duel — * * * (3 stars)

I so wanted to go 3.5 stars here, but even with the western bump, all I could get out of this was a very solid 3. I thought Woody Harrelson was gonna be the sheriff, turns out he’s the villain. And Liam Hemsworth is the sheriff. So that was less interesting. Plus the overbearing tone can be difficult for most. I got enough out of it to call it a solid 3, but if I wasn’t so into westerns as I am, this would have been pretty hard to get through.

Elvis & Nixon — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was amusing as shit. I got everything I wanted to get out of this. It’s not perfect, but it didn’t need to be. It was charming. It worked. Spacey’s great, Shannon is great, and it’s fun. This is a perfect little oddity of a movie and is exactly what it should be.

Equals — * * * (3 stars)

The idea of this movie will never not be funny to me. Kristen Stewart stars in a movie where everyone doesn’t have emotions. But outside of that, it’s not bad. It’s not overly great, but it’s not bad. Watching Drake Doremus’ career unfold, it seems like he’s settling into a similar kind of style for each film. Which is starting to feel unsatisfying, especially given how great Like Crazy was. Though that one was a very personal film for him, so maybe that’s what it was. Either way, this is decent, the premise is good, and the execution makes it watchable, but not overly memorable.

Everybody Wants Some — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

I fucking loved this. If you liked Dazed and Confused, you will like this. This movie is absolutely wonderful. Completely plotless, and any time you think a scene is gonna go somewhere, it doesn’t. And that’s what’s great about it. It’s just all these guys hanging out. And I love those movies. Richard Linklater is the best.

Eye in the Sky — * * * * (4 stars)

Really liked this. My only complaint is that I wish it had more weight to it and more tension. It felt a bit too much like a modern day military procedural, and not enough like a 60s thriller. That’s what this really needed to be in order to be great. More emphasis on the decision making. People too clearly have certain agendas, or are left entirely in the middle to respond to the others, rather than adjusting to the situation as it unfolds and discussing it. It’s more about the situation than people dealing with the situation, if that makes sense. I really would have loved a more complex version of this. But as it stands, this is wonderfully taut and holds a lot of tension for its run time, and it’s a smart, engaging adult drama, and there simply aren’t enough of those nowadays.

The Family Fang — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This movie will always be worth it purely for the fact that Christopher Walken says, “We saw your titty shots.” Outside of that, it’s amusing. Typical indie “family comes together and goes through unresolved issues” film. But an interesting twist: the parents were performance artists and used to use the kids as part of the act. But in really fucked up ways. And now they’re back together again, only now the parents go missing and it may be murder. So now the kids are torn between thinking it’s fake and being worried about what happened to their parents. It’s actually quite an interesting film. This isn’t a movie with a giant twist at the end or anything. It’s more of a character study and watching the characters exist is more interesting than the actual story. Which is a plus. Bateman’s carving out a nice little directorial career for himself.

Finding Dory — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

I had doubts that this would be great. I knew it would be good. I hoped it would be very good. At this point, we know Pixar is good for a minimum level of quality almost every time. And Andrew Stanton — I felt this would not be an unnecessary sequel. Though I was hoping we’d get more original content out of Pixar and not a never-ending string of sequels, as we’re getting. Plus, the Dory conceit — that character has the potential to become annoying in large doses. So I had some doubts. But honestly, the movie was lovely. I like that it was low in stakes, really. It was more about the emotional journey and Stanton didn’t stray too far from that. We cut across the ocean real easily, and the rest of the film takes place in one location, really. Which I liked. And even though the third act is utterly ridiculous (which is the case with most Pixar films), it’s still a worthy sequel. I’m not gonna say it’s better than the first film, or a masterpiece, but it’s very good and quite enjoyable, and as far as Pixar sequels go, this is second only to the Toy Story ones (since Cars — no. And Monsters University was solid but utterly unnecessary. And yes, I know it was a prequel, but let’s be serious). So I’m okay with that.

Five Days in Maine — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Indie movie. Came out in VOD in August and I saw it because I figured this would be one of those random screeners we got they tried to push for Oscars because you have respected actors in it. Overall — ehh. It was okay. Didn’t do a whole lot for me, even though the performances were good. Overall just another one of those standard indie movies for me.

Free State of Jones — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I was predisposed to liking this. I wanted it to be great. Things I’ve learned over the past year led me to figure it might not have been as we got closer to its release date. And then the savaging of the film by critics really left me pretty despondent over this one. I was all set to go opening night and then I just did not go see it because I thought I was walking into a disaster. And when I saw it — it was fine. I liked it, it looked good, I was engaged. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for. And I guess I was hoping for another Patriot. It’s not that. It’s just a solid movie about a good story that unfortunately comes off a bit too much as a white savior story, which is not the best thing to be making in today’s climate. So that didn’t turn out well. Otherwise, this is a better film than the reception this got would have you believe. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s solid. And there’s nothing to be embarrassed about with this one, except maybe the fact that it came out and nobody saw it. And also that they blatantly stole a track on the score from The Assassination of Jesse James and expected nobody to notice. I almost deducted points for that one.

From Nowhere — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This won an award at South by. It was actually really engaging. Three high schoolers who are undocumented immigrants who are trying to get citizen status in time for college. It was very well put together. I’m not even sure if this has a release date yet, but it’s a very solid indie film that’s worth seeing whenever they do put it out.

The Fundamentals of Caring — * * * (3 stars)

I liked it. Some people might think it’s overly sentimental or whatever, but I was perfectly entertained. Rudd was fine, the kid was great, Selena Gomez was fine, Jennifer Ehle was good as the mother. Always nice to see Bobby Cannavale pop up in things. Overall, no issues with this at all. Not a masterpiece, but it’s not like I needed it to be anything more than it was.

Genius — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was pretty close to a sure thing for me. The Weinstein aspect was troubling, especially when they quietly dumped this in June. It’s almost like if it’s not pure Oscar bait, they don’t seem to care about releasing anything nowadays. But, honestly, with the subject matter and the cast, it was gonna be real difficult to not pull out a 3.5 star rating from me. Jude Law is very good as Wolfe, Colin Firth is steady, as per usual. Guy Pearce is quietly solid as Fitzgerald Laura Linney has nothing to do. Nicole Kidman is fine. Mostly it’s all about the subject matter for me. I gravitate to this stuff, and this was an adequately classy adaptation.

The Great Gilly Hopkins — * * * (3 stars)

One of those coming-of-age kids movies that might have gotten a cult following if it were made 20 years ago. Now, this won’t even be an afterthought, since 95% of people won’t ever know this existed. It’s not terrible. Not great, but it appeals to me, just because this genre always has appealed to me. Not something anyone ever needs to see, but I was amused enough. And you’ll probably never hear of this outside of me talking about it, so no need to get more complicated than that.

Ghostbusters — * * * (3 stars)

There’s a lot to like here, and a lot to dislike as well. I don’t know where I shake out on this. It’s not an outright disaster, but it’s also not great either. The most you can say is — it’s fine. Which, is that what we wanted out of this? I’m gonna err on the side of liking the all female aspect and the message it sends, but as for movie quality — ehh. I also have problems with how they developed this, throwing out jokes left and right, many of which don’t land, and letting the actresses play on pretty much different wavelengths much of the time. Tonally it’s all over the place and never quite comes together. But it’s decent enough. Maybe not for $150 million, but as far as pure entertainment, it’s okay. Leslie Jones comes off the best of the cast, which is really great, considering how racist they made her character look in the trailer. I’ll need some time to process my real feelings on this, but overall, I didn’t hate it. So that’s something.

Good Kids — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would. It’s fun. Found out it was a Black List script. Which makes sense. And the writer directed it, which means he made the movie he wanted to make. Which is probably why it got that extra half-star. It’s fun, and there’s enough smarts to the writing to overcome the really over the top and obvious moments that are illogical even by comedy movie standards. Still, for a movie that I’m pretty sure no one saw, this was better than I thought I was getting. Good stuff.

Hell or High Water — * * * * (4 stars)

Loved this. This is old school filmmaking. What helped this stand out was a more laid back tone and steeping it in ‘Texas’. Down to the surly waitress who tells you what you’re gonna order and the concealed carry guys all ready to throw down en masse at a moment’s notice. This is true western filmmaking. Take a simple story and make it work because of a good cast, strong characters, and a sense of community. This isn’t a John Ford community so much as today’s Texas. The strength of the cast and the filmmaking concealed any problems the script might have had. (Can you imagine how bad Jeff Bridges’ “injun” jokes would have been from a lesser actor and lesser director?) This movie deserves much more of an audience than it got.

Hello, My Name Is Doris — * * * (3 stars)

It’s charming. Not great, but does enough to win you over. It’s broad comedy for middle-aged people. A lot of the comedy is about an older person not understanding youth culture. It’s more winning than The Intern last year because here the protagonist is so adorable you want to root for her. The script doesn’t do her any favors, but she elevates the material. That’s what good casting can do. This is Sally Field’s movie, through and through, and it only works because of what she brings to it.

Hitchcock/Truffaut — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I wish it were more. I wanted more discussions, more films. Shit, give me the full 7-hour doc treatment with them talking about everything. That’s what I want. This felt like it glossed over all the movies I wanted them to talk about. But otherwise was solid. Mostly felt like a good primer for the book. And if it gets people to read the book, that’s okay.

Hitler’s Folly — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s interesting. The premise is that secretly, during the Holocaust and all that, Hitler was secretly really into movies and animation and was trying to make a giant animated film about a duck. Maybe this shouldn’t have been an hour long. It doesn’t sustain the premise. At least not with one guy narrating this “story.” We need to actually see it. That’s gonna sustain the craziness of the whole thing. So, it’s a funny idea that isn’t really fully realized. Especially considering this is an animation director and the film contains almost no animation. Oh well. Wasn’t the worst hour I’ve spent this year.

A Hologram for the King — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I really enjoyed this. It’s not great. It’s fairly by the numbers. This is a movie that your parents will like. It’s designed to appeal to middle-aged people flipping through the channels on a random afternoon. And that’s fine. The most fascinating thing about this is the fact that this barely came out in theaters. And it’s a Tom Hanks movie! That’s insane to me. But otherwise it was enjoyable. Not something most people will particularly love, but it’s light and likable. I’m okay with that.

How to Be Single — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I have an inherent problem where movies treat relationships as if they’re some noble endeavor and are the focal point of a person’s life, whether they want them to be or not. It’s like movies that treat being young the same way. This is a perfectly acceptable movie on its own. It might have ended up as three stars if not for the aforementioned point of view. Not to mention the typical scene of “single person doesn’t know how to act like a normal person in a social situation in the most over the top way.” So much of this feels like a retread of things we’ve seen before. And it’s all so completely illogical. If I cared enough, I’d think about making this Unforgivable. But I’m not sure I do care enough to bother with it. I don’t think it makes me mad so much as it makes me disappointed.

I Saw the Light — * * * (3 stars)

I can see why they pushed it. It’s just okay. Hiddleston is fine, Olsen is there, and the movie is pretty fair overall. Nothing makes it stand out. Capable, but not memorable. Couldn’t have expected more, given how they moved it from November to March. (How to Read a Hollywood Release works, people.)

Ice Age: Collision Course — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I somehow have managed to make it through seeing all of these movies, even though I didn’t give a shit after the first one. I guess that’s what happens when you have young cousins. I really should have skipped the last three of these, but I haven’t. I honestly couldn’t tell you what’s happened in this franchise since… ever, really. And I couldn’t tell you what happened here. Not that I care. It’s harmless, it’s for kids. Not great, but it’s not for me. So whatever. We let it be and move along.

Imperium — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Harry Potter and the White Supremicists. Which is probably a condescending title for this, since Radcliffe has moved beyond being defined by that franchise as an actor. This is a capable movie with a guy going undercover with some skinheads. It avoids many of the cliches you tend to see in movies like this, while also feeling pretty generic the whole time. It’s probably 3 stars for most people. I just wasn’t particularly engaged by it. Neo Nazis don’t move the needle for me.

Independence Day: Resurgence — * * * (3 stars)

I’m trying not to laugh as I write this, because holy shit. Between the China pandering (which is as obvious as product placement in a Michael Bay movie… which now also feature China pandering too!) and references designed purely for people who saw the first movie, I’m almost impressed. I enjoyed this for all the wrong reasons. Sure, these movies are too big to not be at least moderately entertaining, but holy shit. I couldn’t help but openly laugh at the ridiculous shit that happens in this movie. I can’t tell if I really hated this or respected its conviction for ridiculousness. I will say, the movie leveled out into an almost entertaining movie, but mostly, half the fun was seeing how utterly crazy and incomprehensible the whole thing is. If I didn’t already know these characters from 20 years ago, this would have been unbearable. And even then, parts of it still were.

The Intervention — * * * (3 stars)

This was good. Really solid indie that overcame a lot of cliches at the beginning to stick the landing. Better than my rating for sure, and something that should be seen, because the cast is very solid.

Into the Forest — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This is one of those movies that’s clearly trying and telling a story that the filmmaker wanted to be told that I just didn’t engage with at all. I wanted to like this and I wanted to become engrossed in the story, but I just didn’t. It’s well shot and all, but it wasn’t for me. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.

Janis: Little Girl Blue — * * * (3 stars)

Can’t believe I missed this last year. Had to remedy that. It was good. I enjoyed it. Didn’t love it, but definitely a well-made film. Also always a treat to hear Janis sing.

Jason Bourne — * * * * (4 stars)

I thought I was gonna be disappointed by this. The trailer was disappointing, the choice of title was disappointing, the reviews were disappointing. The film was fine. Sure, the story isn’t up to snuff (the father angle? Really?) and the third act is a mess, but it’s basically pulling the same formula the other films pulled, and it’s a nice thrill ride from beginning to end. No major complaints here. It’s the weakest of the four, but honestly, I’d rather a lesser Bourne movie than most other things. Plus, did we really think the writing of these films was any good? It’s all about how they showed action. So, this one… solid B+/A-. Trending toward B+. Which I’ll take. Especially in a year like this.

Joshy — * * * (3 stars)

It’s a laid back affair with a lot of improvisation. These movies typically end up at 3 stars for me, and this is no different. It offers entertainment, but don’t look for anything particularly deep here. But as far as entertainment goes, this is definitely a very solid 3 star movie. If you like Joe Swanberg, you’ll like this.

Keanu — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This movie feels like Key and Peele. I haven’t seen the majority of their show, but from what I have seen, I feel like they’re the kind of comedians who are right next to perfection, but never quite achieve it. I grew up in the days of Chappelle’s Show, which I think was absolutely perfect. And seeing their show, while I love what they did and love that they were successful, and some of their sketches are absolutely perfect (the aerobics meltdown sketch is one of the best skits I’ve ever seen), I feel like too often they don’t fully come together and people treat it as if it does. So when I heard of this movie, I had doubts. But when I saw the trailer, I laughed my ass off. So I had hopes for this. And then… the movie was good. A lot of the jokes are in the trailer. There’s a lot of story here, and ultimately, while it’s mostly an entertaining film, it doesn’t fully come together. So it’s mostly amusing, but it’s not a movie I’m gonna go back and rewatch a bunch, despite a hilarious premise. So typical Key and Peele. Almost there, enjoyable as hell, but not quite fully there for me. Oh well.

Kill Your Friends — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I didn’t care. That’s pretty much the long and short of it. It’s American Psycho meets Vinyl. I like that it wildly didn’t give a fuck, but I too also didn’t really care about what was going on. It happens.

King Jack — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I only heard about this two weeks before it came out. And as soon as I did I said, “Oh, this sounds like something I should watch.” Most of the time that happens, I go, “Yeah, I don’t want any part of that and there’s a reason I’ve never heard of it.” But this sounded right up my alley. And it was. It was great. This is a really strong debut for Felix Thompson. Great performances and a very grounded film. If you like these kind of coming of age movies, this is one you should check out. No one knows it exists, and unless he blows up into a major director, it’s doubtful people will ever really know this exists.

Krisha — * * * (3 stars)

I liked it. Well-made, great lead performance, and the style made it seem more than just another generic indie. It showed a cliche event in a new way, and for that, I’m grateful. I’m not the kind of person who loves movies like this, so don’t expect it on my year-end best-of list, but I did really respect what they did here.

Kubo and the Two Strings — * * * * * (5 stars)

I dare you not to be enchanted by this movie. I’m not even going to write up a review. This movie speaks for itself, and you need to go see this right now if you haven’t already. This will be the best animated film you see this year. This might be the best film you see this year. Every inch, every frame of this movie is perfect, and I loved every stop-motion second of it.

Last Days in the Desert — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I thought I was getting an easy 3 stars out of this. But it won me over. I liked the simplicity of it all, and I liked the dual performances by Ewan McGregor. It grounded the film and removed much of the religious aspects, which made it more tolerable to me. Plus, anything shot by Chivo, I’m down. Solid film, more solid than I was expecting.

The Legend of Tarzan — * * * (3 stars)

It wasn’t bad. And it meant well. Just…too much money, too little substance. The Lone Ranger was the same way. It certainly wasn’t a bad movie. It just did too much. There were no limitations and that made the overall product suffer. If they were stuck on a $75 million budget, they’d have found a way to make it work. Even so… not that bad. Perfectly entertaining. Totally cool with this, surprisingly.

Life on the Line — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s watchable, but there’s no pacing or energy to it whatsoever. It’s somewhere between a VOD movie and a Lifetime movie in terms of execution. Actually — I have the perfect descriptor for it — Christian movie. Not that it’s overly religious, but it has the quality of one of those films backed by a company that puts out wholesome films that tend to be religious in nature. You know what I’m talking about. It’s aptly made, just not particularly good. Yet, there are recognizable faces in it. Ultimately, I’ve seen worse. But I also didn’t particularly care very much. They probably should have upped the drama a bit more.

Lights Out — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This worked as a three minute short. As a feature, did not care, did not care. There is no way you can make that short interesting as a feature. You resort to the same boring horror tropes everyone resorts to. Vengeful ghosts and repeated jump scares. I honestly could not care less about films like this. And I’m sure it’s well made and all of that. It’s just not my genre and I find the whole thing to be monotonous. It’s so much more interesting if the ghost wasn’t trying to kill everyone and just wanted to get revenge on certain people. Why not find out that the ghost wants to take down a corrupt institution? So you get the first half as jump scares and the last half as straight up ghost helping our main characters find evidence to start a class action lawsuit? Give me that movie. This stuff is just stupid to me.

Lo and Behond, Reveries of the Connected World — * * * (3 stars)

I can listen to Werner Herzog narrate anything. The documentary itself was fine. Not entirely my cup of tea, but interesting. But it’s Herzog doing it that made it something I wanted to see. His value to a documentary cannot be undervalued.

Lolo — * * * (3 stars)

I typically enjoy Delpy’s movies. I love that she’s carved a writing-directing career for herself, even if unfortunately the movies aren’t as out there as one would hope. I also feel as though, kind of like Woody Allen, she uses her films as a way of dealing with particularly things she’s interested in/going through in her own life. Her versions feel more heavily fictionalized than Allen’s do, but I still feel like they’re similar. Here, she’s dealing with the idea of over-parenting. It’s a bit like Cyrus, that movie where Jonah Hill is an adult but still living with/mooching off his mother and basically drives away any suitor she might have. This is the same thing. Along with Delpy doing her usual thing. It’s enjoyable enough. I always appreciate these films, even though I definitely think the “2 Days” movies were better films.

Look Who’s Back — * * * * (4 stars)

Spoiler alert: it’s Hitler. As soon as I heard this was a thing that existed, even as a book, I was excited. Then when I looked up the book I saw they were turning it into a movie and got really excited. Then when I found out this was on Netflix to be streamed by anyone at any time, it was one of the most important moments of my 2016. Here’s the premise: Hitler wakes up in a vacant lot in Germany today. He has no memory of the past 70 years. Society is what it is today, and he’s still Hitler. So he’s going around (and they shoot it Ali G style, which works with the narrative), interacting with real people, who all thing he’s some sort of comedian or method actor. So he’s going off on these Hitler rants, and they’re thinking he’s hilarious. Which is both funny and shows how easily, in this celebrity-based culture, someone like Hitler could end up becoming a person of power once again. (See: the current state of American politics.) The movie is also really funny. It’s not really edited to evoke a full story, but it’s still hilarious the kind of shit he says to people. Highly recommend this one.

Louder Than Bombs — * * * (3 stars)

I thought this was going to be more pretentious than it was. It was actually a nice little drama about people. Sure, very indie and very reminiscent of other movies of its ilk, but it avoided a lot of the traps I expected to see, and for that, I was grateful. Not something most people will ever see, but considering I expected something groan-inducing, and found myself more than twice going, “Oh, wow, they didn’t go down that route,” I was pleased with this.

Love & Friendship — * * * (3 stars)

It was fine. It had fun with its setting. The dialogue is center stage, and the witty banter is the real highlight of the film. Didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it.

Maggie’s Plan — * * * (3 stars)

This is a cross between an old-school screwball comedy and a Woody Allen movie. Closer to the Woody Allen. A lot of academic and philosophical discussions in the first act.

The Man Who Knew Infinity — * * * (3 stars)

Standard biopic stuff. Inspiring story and all, but the film is pretty much paint by numbers. The cast is great and everything about this is completely fine, but I just didn’t get much more out of it than your standard inspiring biopic kind of fare.

Marauders — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

A VOD Bruce Willis paycheck movie. Pretty sure I’m the only audience for these at this point. This one — you’d think I’d have gotten to 3 on it, but I honestly have no idea what the fuck the point of it all was. I got to the end and went, “What the fuck just happened?” It’s generic, but all of these are generic. It’s predictable, but all of them are. This one was too generic and too predictable for my tastes. I almost considered making it 3 stars for the reveal of Adrian Grenier as a criminal mastermind, but I think that’s precisely why I shouldn’t have given it 3.

The Mermaid — * * * (3 stars)

It’s… weird. It’s fascinating to watch movies like this because they’re so clearly made for a different audience. This movie is purely for the Chinese market. And it’s really interesting to see what they’re responding to that I (and I imagine many American viewers) am not. But overall, I was sufficiently amused enough to be okay with this. Still — very strange.

Me Before You — * * * (3 stars)

Nothing like a good romantic comedy about euthanasia. Emilia Clarke is charming as fuck and the movie mostly works because of her. Otherwise, just decent.

Mechanic: Resurrection — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Yeah… I like Statham movies, by and large, but this one was just generic. The first act, him “falling for” Jessica Alba, halfheartedly setting up the plot — just set up the plot. Who needs the girl in danger? How about, “We know who you are, and we have enough shit on you to make your life difficult unless you do shit for us?” And then they can try to kill him near the end and he can go and have a showdown with them. Simple. This way is just boring. The only fun part about this was the assassination scenes. As it always is. Watching him kill people to make it look like an accident is fun. The rest is a snoozefest. Also, what the hell is with Tommy Lee Jones’ look in this movie? He must have thought that would be amusing. There’s no other way to explain it.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Jesus. Have I mentioned how much I hate comedies nowadays? Why are they all so shitty? Why are they all the same? Do people really go for this stuff? This was inexplicable to me on every possible level. Every character is so stupid and the situations are so fake and manufactured it didn’t generate comedy so much as it was the kid standing in the corner shouting for attention. And nobody likes that kid.

Miles Ahead — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I liked this. It was more solid than I was expecting. I liked the laid back narrative, and the fact that it doesn’t really try to adhere to any structure, and I really liked the performances. Definitely a confident feature debut from Cheadle. He did a good job with this all around, and it’s an effort to be proud of. Can’t say I loved it, but I did like it more than I expected to.

Money Monster — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

The premise is really good, the stars are game. The execution is fine. I’d have made it much more immediate. I don’t feel the situation as much as I want to. I want this to be more — and I say this every time — 70s. Make us feel it through the characters and their intensity. Don’t show us other characters finding out all this information. Make that less of the plot. We need to really feel for these people and then get angry in the end when shit goes down the way we don’t want it to. Here, it pretty much works out for most people. Give us some complexity and leave us feeling like we got fucked the way the character did. But you know, they just don’t make them that way anymore. So I’m pissing into the wind. It’s not the movie’s fault. It’s fine. It’s a perfectly watchable movie that works on its own terms. It’s just not gonna be memorable in ten years. Which sucks. But it is what it is.

Morris from America — * * * * (4 stars)

It took me ten minutes to fall in love with this movie. For some reason I thought the main character was older in this. As soon as I found out he was 13, I was in. Here’s the set up — black kid in Germany with his father. His mother died and now he and his dad have to make it on their own in a foreign country. It’s a standard coming of age movie, but from a very unique vantage point. The kid has a crush on a German girl two years older than him. He wants to be a rapper. You don’t get your standard scenes of him “acting out” and his father yelling at him. It’s all very low key and feels utterly realistic. The main actor, Markees Christmas, is incredible, as is Craig Robinson as his father. This really surprised the hell out of me and is one of my favorite films of the year.

Mothers and Daughters — * * (2 stars)

This was also called Mother’s Day for a while until the other movie came around. They changed it to a more appropriate title and then dumped the film on VOD the same time Mother’s Day came out. Which means that I’m probably the only one who’s actually seen this or will ever see this. And rightfully so. Because it’s terrible. It’s boring, all the characters are not interesting, and social media is all over the fucking movie. And I cannot stand when characters talk about social media on film or when movies go out of their way to make social media prominent on film. Just fucking leave it alone. It’s not interesting. This movie was unbearably boring for me

Mother’s Day — * * (2 stars)

It’s like this movie was trying to make me hate it. Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Garner. It’s like they knew everyone I don’t like seeing in movies and deliberately strove to put them all in the same one. I won’t get into specifics, because I really don’t want to waste the brain power, so I’ll just leave it at a simple: no. Fuck no. This movie sucked. Have fun with this, middle aged white ladies.

My Golden Days — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This film was wonderful. It starts off messing with tones, going from a sort of straightforward “childhood reminiscence” film to a spy thriller for a while, and then it settles into a really great romance, with a devastating third act. I really liked this quite a bit, and I imagine most people did/will, as it did very well at the Cesar Awards, and won Best Director.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising — * * * (3 stars)

It’s amusing. Totally unnecessary but understandable sequel. They tried to layer more of a plot into this and make you care about the characters. To the point where the girls get more screen time than the characters of the previous film. Which is fine. And they end on a story note and not a joke note, which shows you where the movie’s priorities are. And that is interesting to me. Otherwise, it’s fine. I was amused enough, even though they repeat a lot of the jokes and it’s ridiculous all the way through, logic-wise. How anything that happens makes a goddamn lick of sense is beyond me. But hey, it has moments that make you laugh. Like Kelsey Grammar asking, “Is that a dildo dressed as a princess?” Or any time Ike Barinholtz laughs like a clown. So I’m cool with it. Though it did disturb me how so much of the movie was, “Let’s start our own sorority so we can party and be unique and not give into all the rape-y frat parties.” And the end of the movie is them literally giving in and throwing a rape-y frat party. I know the movie ultimately shows them saying it was wrong, but they literally somehow could not figure out a better way to earn movie than to say, “Oh, well fuck it, we’ll allow the douchebags and their roofie juice into our house and dress like skanks in order to make money.” That is not a good message no matter how you slice it.

Nerve — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was one of those movies where it seemed watchable, but the premise carried it the extra mile. Any time the plot holes started to open or the film started to drag, I found myself thinking about all the possibilities inherent in the premise. And that usually is enough to take a 3 star movie to a 3.5. I’m not gonna say this changed my life, but really great premises are hard to come by anymore, and this definitely held my interest more than the average movie. And I’m grateful for that.

The Nice Guys — * * * * (4 stars)

This was fun as shit. Pure Shane Black. Yes, predictable in every sense. You knew exactly who the villain was gonna be and how it was gonna turn out. But you didn’t care. Which is how Shane Black movies work. It’s built, as most movies are, especially in this genre (which he created), on cliche. But what he does is make you look at all the other stuff going on so the cliche doesn’t seem so bad as it usually does. Which I appreciate. Plus, Gosling is perfectly cast here and Crowe is awesome. It has your typical Shane Black stuff in it, which I love. And even the precocious child element isn’t as glaring as it usually is, which I imagine most people will appreciate. I’m not sure what else you could want from a movie. Enjoyable all the way and it got a few moments of legitimate, “I wasn’t expecting that” laughter out of me. Though I’ll also say — holy shit, with the violence. That was really not expected, how violent this was gonna be. Not even just people getting their throats cut. I mean like… shot in the head at point blank range out of nowhere on the side of the road, kind of violence. That was an interesting choice. Not against it, really. No opinion on the matter. Just, interesting that’s what they did. But yeah, really liked this, gonna rate highly for me just because of the watchability factor. Not a top ten favorite of the year for me, but definitely a solid entry to the year I’ll think back on fondly.

Now You See Me 2 — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Not as good as the first one, but still very entertaining. I’ll go the 3.5 for this one too. It was fun. They didn’t even bother making it realistic. They just went for the full entertainment factor. And it worked. Pure fluff, but that’s not always a bad thing. This was more entertaining to me than X-Men was. Big fan of this franchise.

Our Kind of Traitor — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

You can never go wrong with John le Carré. This is a movie that could have been made as a Hitchcock movie. It’s not made that way, but it very easily could have been. As a film though, very capable thriller. Films based on le Carré typically are. No complaints here. Some quibbles, but no complaints. If you reconfigured this plot, you could really make a great Hitchcock movie.

The Phenom — * * * (3 stars)

Not bad. A pitcher can’t seem to throw strikes anymore, so he has to see a psychologist. And we get into all the stuff that made him this way. Doesn’t really seem to delve into it all, or have a real resolution, but the journey is good enough to make it worthwhile. I could have used a little more actual pitching and/or cohesion, but as it is, I got more than I would have expected to. So that’s okay.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s a decent film, and is probably a 3 star movie. But this annoyed the living shit out of me. This is supposed to be making fun of music culture and where we are in pop culture, but in doing so, it subjects me to all this terrible fake music and references to things like TMZ’s show and people like Justin Bieber. And I’d rather just block all that shit out from my life and be happy. So having to sit through all that — I’m not sure what the point of it was. I didn’t see it lampooning that stuff so much as recreating it for comedy. And that’s not for me. So not for me. We’ll just leave it at that. For now.

The Purge: Election Year — * * * (3 stars)

I am very okay with this franchise. It’s good solid entertainment for 90 minutes. I can’t really ask for much more. It’s getting wider in scope, but nothing too big, and the concept is great. I’ll keep watching these until they really go off the rails. But they’re not there yet. Give me these movies over horror franchises or terrible comedies any day. Also, one of these days they’re gonna open this franchise up to other people trying shit out, and someone’s gonna make a great version of this concept. And I can’t wait for that day.

Race — * * * (3 stars)

It’s good. Predictable, not overly great, but strong when it needs to be. Certain moments intrigued me more than others (namely… how have they not made a Leni Riefenstahl movie yet? ), but otherwise it’s a perfectly serviceable biopic that proves to not do a disservice to its subject. Pretty much like the Jackie Robinson movie was. You’re not gonna go back and rewatch it, but it was enjoyable enough that one time. Plus, it keeps the door open for a great version of this story to be told one day. (Which of course they won’t, because, you know… Hollywood.)

Ratchet & Clank — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s not good, it’s not bad. It just is. It has the humor and animation style of TV animation. That’s all this is. They only spent like $20 million on this, so it’s not like they wasted a shit ton of money. It’s whatever. I really didn’t like it, ultimately, but it’s not like this was made for me. I’m fine with it, even though I could have easily skipped this and missed nothing.

Sausage Party — * * * * (4 stars)

This movie is glorious. From concept to execution, to the food puns, to the actual message of the thing, the cultural and religious overtones, I fucking loved this. I almost don’t want to say any more so as not to spoil any of it for other people, but shit, this was right up my alley for reasons that not even I was expecting.

The Sea of Trees — * * * (3 stars)

I can’t be too sure, because I have no first hand experience, but I’m pretty sure this movie is the equivalent of what being on anti-depressants is like. You just kind of drift through the whole thing, without much feeling or animation, and you’re okay with it all. I was barely okay with this, because it was really boring at times, but ultimately I gave it the benefit of the doubt because of the cast. I’d say this was disappointing, but this was expected once it came out of Cannes the way it did and stayed on the shelf for as long as it did. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.

The Secret Life of Pets — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I liked this. I thought I’d think it was whatever, but this was fun. The dogs listening to metal joke always works for me. And some of the voice work was great (big fan of Jenny Slate in this movie). Overall, very fun. Story is whatever, but there was enough amusement for me to go higher than a standard 3 stars. And now they’ll ruin this with terrible sequels. Just like Despicable Me. This is the world we live in.

The Shallows — * * * (3 stars)

It was okay. The premise makes it more interesting than it normally would be. The director only makes passable movies, based on his track record. So the end result is not surprising to me at all. There’s no mood or tension build up, and a lot of the dramatic moments are really generic and on the nose. But overall it does what it needs to. I’m fine with that.

Sing Street — * * * * (4 stars)

Well this movie was fucking lovely. So you have Once, which is a perfect film in its own way. Then you have Begin Again, which was likable, but fairly generic and a lot of people didn’t like it. This is closer to Once than it is to Begin Again. If you like all those movies like The Full Monty, those lovable UK films with misfits doing stuff, then you’ll love this. It’s just so goddamn charming. This was a real joy to watch.

Skiptrace — * * * (3 stars)

My first thought upon seeing this movie was, “What, was Sean William Scott busy so they got Johnny Knoxville to star with Jackie Chan instead?” Of course I look it up and Sean William Scott was supposed to star with him originally. This is your standard Jackie Chan Americanized adventure movie, only since it’s 2016, we have to pander more to the Chinese audiences instead. So the American (dressed like a cowboy, naturally), has to be humiliated and emasculated in all the action scenes by the heroic Chinese star. Otherwise, your standard Chan movie, pairing him with an American comic actor. As far as those go, I’ve seen worse. This one’s pretty passable. Which is nice. Since Renny Harlin’s had a bad decade. Or maybe bad millennium. Pretty much since Deep Blue Sea it’s been all downhill. Not that this changes his fortunes, but at least it’s watchable.

Spaceman — * * * (3 stars)

Serviceable. I enjoyed it, but it’s not particularly great in any regard. Duhamel is spirited, and I like baseball movies. You could do worse for 90 mintues.

Star Trek Beyond — * * * (3 stars)

It’s Star Trek. I know what I’m getting with these. They’re moderately fun and when they’re done, I don’t really have the urge to go watch them again. It’s an okay franchise. That’s what it’s always been for me. No problems with it, just no particular love for it either. I’m glad at the very least this wasn’t the disaster the last movie was. That’s a step in the right direction.

Suicide Squad — * * * (3 stars)

Put this one down as the single biggest disappointment of 2016. Holy shit. I thought there was no way it could have been as bad as the reviews were suggesting. I was wrong. This movie is a giant mess. There’s something good in here, but I’m not sure what happened to it and at what point it got lost. I can point to a lot of stops along the way where this got lost, and maybe there’s no singular cause here. Still, this is not what it needed to be. D.C. has some major, major problems on their hands and I don’t know if they’ll ever be fixed. There’s too much to get into here as to why this couldn’t even make 3.5 stars for me. Which is insane, because if ever there was a surefire minimum 3.5 star movie, this was it. Shit man, was this a huge letdown. I’m so disappointed by how this all turned out. Now I have to go into every D.C. movie with dread. Kind of how I go into Marvel movies the way Alan Arkin went into dinner with chicken. Damn shame what they did to this universe.

Tale of Tales — * * * * (4 stars)

Okay, so taking away how gorgeously shot this was, and how captivating all the visuals are, here’s how this one went for me:

“They killed a sea monster in the first ten minutes, and now Salma Hayek is eating the heart of the sea monster, which was cooked by a virgin, so she could get pregnant. This is some Republican shit right here.”

“And now Toby Jones is talking to a baby and Vincent Cassel is having a threesome with two chicks. Honestly, what more could you ask for in a movie? And this was all on the way to a funeral.”

“Oh shit, Salma Hayek gave birth to Powder!”

“Oh shit there’s two Powders!”

“Vincent Cassel has so many bitches.”

“Aww, but he wants to fuck an old chick.”

“Toby Jones makes great crazy faces.”

“What is this demon baby?”

“I hate it when my twin’s mother tries to kill me in cold blood.”

“More movies can use a nice scene of titty gluing.”

“I wish I could have my problems thrown out of a window.”

“Damn, that witch’s tit took off a good sixty years.”

“Does that mean you gotta keep sucking on her tit to stay that way? I’d probably do that.”

“Is he gonna fuck that big dead thing?”

“Arguments in beautiful places are always more interesting. Especially when one person might throw themselves off of that beautiful thing at some point during the argument.”

“So what I’m getting from this is that all ogres are rapists.”

“Poor, poor Eddie Murphy donkey.”

“Oh good, a bat monster.”

“Tell her about the witch’s tit!”

“Nothing like watching your sister get fucked.”

“Throw the problem out the window so my country can be free!”

“Tightrope escapes are the best escapes.”

“Multiple homicide is always an appropriate anniversary gift.”

“That’s one way to ascend to a throne.”

“It would be great if they ended by revealing this all took place in like, Cleveland.”

Honestly, I thought that was going to be more entertaining than going on about how awesome this looked. Those comments probably do a better job to make people interested in seeing this than any good review I could write about this movie. I have no idea why the fuck this was made, or what it was really about, but goddamnit if it didn’t look great along the way. It’s kind of long, but it does look great and is weirdly interesting. And it was made by the Gomorrah guy, which is kind of like if David Ayer decided to direct a Narnia movie.

Tallulah — * * * (3 stars)

I liked it. Doesn’t fully come together and some of the motivations seem weird, but overall, it’s engaging. Good lead performances, never gets too melodramatic, and it works more than it doesn’t. I’ll always take that.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows — * * * (3 stars)

Maybe it’s because I saw this in theaters (I know, I paid for this. I saw this opening night, in the Cinerama Dome, with about maybe fifty people. Total. For reference, the theater seats about 850 people), but I was okay with this. I mean, it wasn’t good, but at least I saw actual references to things from the cartoon. Now, maybe if I was really into the cartoon as a kid outside of a passing acknowledgment and general enjoyment of the characters, I’d have hated this. But hey, they brought back at least shit I recognized here. And they were having fun with it, rather than making the characters all moody for no reason. So, while this was not a good movie by any stretch, and while I was openly laughing at how ridiculous and stupid so much of it was, I actually laughed more than I thought I would, and it was so ridiculous that — fine. I enjoyed it slightly. So I will give it 3 stars and say… I could have hated it more, considering the quality.

Term Life — * * * (3 stars)

Enjoyable. One of those movies I tend to enjoy more than most. Not much substance here, but fun action. Charming leads. Decent movie. Good enough.

Too Late — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

If there’s one thing I’ll always respect, it’s an audacious style exercise. Here’s a noir told in five parts, all single-take twenty-minute segments. Lot of camera movement, zooms, etc. Hyper stylized dialogue, sometimes veering into “all right, we get it. We like movies too / clearly this was someone’s first script” territory. But that all comes with the package. I’d rather a flawed movie where they tried to do something interesting rather than a pretty good movie that’s basically by the numbers and offers little of real interest. At least here I got to appreciate the effort that went into it and also was able to think, “Here’s what I’d have done differently,” which means it at least kept me engaged throughout. This is a nice little gem. Not a polished gem, but still a gem nonetheless. Big fan of this movie.

Touched with Fire — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Probably a bit better than my review, but my review is based on the fact that I didn’t care about it. It’s a perfectly decent movie that’s clearly personal to the writer and director, who had to have lived at least some of this. So for that, all the respect in the world. I just… not for me. Maybe because they’re poets. I tend to not go for movies about writers or poets, especially when they have mental illness. Particularly that of the institutionalized variety. But that’s all on me. A lot of people are gonna find this a charming, solid little drama. And they’re not wrong. It just wasn’t for me.

Trapped — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

It’s worth seeing. I can’t say this is the best documentary I’ve ever seen, but the subject is important. It’s about all the trap laws the government has instituted to basically prevent women from getting abortions. And it’s fucked up, the stuff they do. You have actual doctors saying, “I’m legally required to tell you this, but it’s bullshit,” just so they can adhere to the stupid laws. I feel like people should be required to see how fucked up the state of the country is, between this, gun laws, and the celebrity/cell phone culture at large. Because apparently everyone would rather sit around watching reality TV instead.

Undrafted — * * * (3 stars)

The idea of this is good — the entire movie takes place during an intramural baseball game (and only during the game) as the teams (comprised of players who never made it in the big leagues) find out that one of the players hasn’t been drafted. It’s fun. I like the semi-unconventional narrative, but mostly it’s designed to appeal to a specific set of people and not much else. Which I’m fine with. Those as far as movies like this go, I’ll always prefer Bleacher Bums. That movie is great. This movie is amusing.

Urge — * * * (3 stars)

It’s probably more like a 2.5, but whatever. I paid attention. That’ll get it to 3. It’s not very good. It’s got the quality of something that goes straight to VOD. Most people will not like this, and that’s understandable.

Viral — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This almost managed to make 3, but ultimately it went the typical Blumhouse route rather than the good storytelling route. For a while this was an interesting movie about sisters dealing with an epidemic. And then it became a horror movie about worms. Oh well.

Warcraft — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

“Just started Warcraft. Let’s see how long before I have to drink.”

“You aren’t? You just started Warcraft and I’M drinking.”

“I almost don’t want to give it any advantages… I also have no idea what’s going on. And I’m paying attention.”

“Ever play Warcraft? Like, not World of Warcraft, but Warcraft 2 or 3?”

“None of them. I always just assumed it was a giant game where you ran around in the woods and called other peoples’ characters faggots when you ran into them.”

“That’s World of Warcraft.”

“I just watched orcs run through a magic portal and a pregnant orc lady just O-Lan’d out a baby in a rice paddy. But the baby was dead so they killed a deer to keep it alive. So deer asshole. Check.”

“I think it’s the whole… the orcs are displaced from their homes. The humans hate the orcs. But now the undead are coming.”

“Hate it when that happens. If there’s one thing that can ruin an exodus, it’s the undead.”

“So there needs to be a reluctant alliance. Which was the Warcraft 3 plot.”

“My feelings on this so far are that it isn’t bad, just expensive, unnecessary and derivative. Which is probably how I’m gonna feel about it in the end. This text exchange, by the way, is going to be my review of the movie.”

“I’m gonna go grab a third beer.”

“… and I’m bored.”

“Aren’t there orc titties?”

“You could only do so much with orc titties. It’s been all humans for a little while. One guy has a Dark Mark that acts as a GPS/Geiger counter, Ben Foster is doing magic. It’s fucking chaos.”

“Too bad they didn’t do Starcraft instead. At least that’s space.”

“Or Starfox.”

“A Starfox movie would have even less plot. Might as well.”

Shit, you can come up with a story for that. Easy. The question is making it entertaining. I’m watching an orc have a horse chase with a human. This is not entertaining. Rather than enjoy it, I’m thinking about how they shot a guy in a mo cap suit on a horse and added it all later on and not whatever the plot is supposed to be.” 

“And again, I think it’s because they’re going for people who have already been taken in by this fantasy world. The movie just gives it to them in HD and without clicking. If you haven’t played the games, it’s Unforgivable. If you have played the game, you’re unforgivable.”

“I still don’t think it’s Unforgivable. I’m too intrigued by it to hate it. It’s like that Dungeons and Dragons movie with Marlon Wayans. It’s not good, but I’m too fascinated by how they thought it would be worthwhile to dislike it. Or that Vin Diesel Witch Hunter movie last year. It’s like — who thought this would be good?”

“It’s like Twilight 4. Too little to go on without knowing the background, too much b.s. exposition to be good for people who have the background. And just bad otherwise.”

“And deer asshole. All This and Deer Asshole Too.”

At this point I lost concentration and started thinking about other things. My big note from the rest of the film was: “I like how one of the characters is half-human. Because we needed someone to jerk off to.”

We do all need someone to jerk off to.

My real takeaway from this film is what I said up there — it’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not good. Mostly I’m fascinated by the idea that someone is going to enjoy this and someone thought this would appeal to a lot of people. I get why this was made on a lot of levels, yet also — too expensive, too unnecessary, too generic, and too derivative. I can’t say it made me angry so much as it made me weirdly fascinated and disappointed at the same time that $200 million was spent on this and at least three years of Duncan Jones’ career was taken up by this movie. And at best what this is gonna get out of people is, “Ehh, it was okay.” I honestly don’t think I can make this movie Unforgivable, because it didn’t make me angry. Just frustrated. Because they made this purely for a Chinese market, and the Chinese market devoured it. So we’re left with a movie we can’t really do anything with. I can’t like it and I can’t hate it. And I’m not really sure why it exists. But it’s trendy to hate it, so most people will. I guess what I’m saying is, this is the Nickelback of movies.

War Dogs — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I lost a lot of faith in Todd Phillips after those Hangover sequels. And Due Date. But this is a solid return to form for him. I really enjoyed this on a lot of levels. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be or want to be. It’s totally enjoyable and never veers too far off course from the tone it sets forth. Which I appreciated. There are no unnecessary scenes of action or scenes of stupid comedy. They don’t even get the big contract until an hour into the movie. It’s actually impressive how restrained this was in the storytelling. I thought for sure this would let me down, but it didn’t. Good on them.

The Wave — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I liked it. Gotta respect a good disaster movie. The set up wasn’t as boring as most of these disaster set ups. And the disaster scene worked. It was just the right amount based on the situation. Though one thing that did annoy me were the movie’s internal rules about who lived and who died. It felt both controlled and arbitrary at the same time. I had a hard time buying into that aspect, the way the film presented it. But overall, it works, and I think the director did a really solid job with this.

Weiner — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Oh this was awesome. So well put together. The best parts were when they cut to his wife’s reactions during scenes. Those looks are the most powerful things in the documentary. Plus, you get to see him unraveling and still being a politician at the same time. It’s fascinating. Definitely my favorite doc of the year so far.

Weiner-Dog — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This is my first exposure to Todd Solondz. I’m not sure how that happened, but it has. And if this is what the rest of his stuff is like, I’m excited to see more. This was enjoyable as hell. It’s a nice satire of life, with all the stories linked through this dog. I don’t know why this is the story, but I didn’t care. The stories all made themselves interesting and never overstayed their welcome, the editing and shot choices added humor to the whole thing, and it’s so cynical and deadpan. I like when the filmmaking is part of the storytelling.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

A movie like this, trying to do comedy in war, coming out in March, with a title compromise (it’s not a bad title, but it was also clearly changed to appeal to more people), led me to believe it would be uneven but probably three stars. And, watching this, it was actually better than expected. The uneven tone is to be expected, but for the most part it works. I was engaged by it all, and it had enough comedy, complexity and seriousness to keep me invested in the whole thing. It’s not a perfect movie, but it was more enjoyable to me than most things I see.

The Whole Truth — * * * (3 stars)

Trial movies are always engaging. That said, this one tried real hard to lose that 3.5 I’d been giving it for most of the film. This one takes a third act twist that’s at first, “Ugh… seriously,” and then becomes, “What the FUCK?!” This was moderately interesting, even if the editing of the crime scene from different perspectives depending on the testimony made me wonder what exactly they were going for and only served to confuse me, and maybe if it didn’t end the way it did I’d like it more, but holy fuck. That ending. I was engaged, but shit man, not like that. I can’t give it 3.5 purely because of that ending.

X-Men: Apocalypse — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Perfectly enjoyable, perfectly decent, but also not a great X-Men movie. You need three years in between, not two. Gotta come up with a real story. Because here, it was rushed. You have a famous villain, a big storyline. But you’re also introducing characters. Which you should not be doing. You need established characters for this to work. You can’t be setting up new characters and doing an end-of-the-world scenario. And on top of that giving established characters other things to do. It’s too much, and it shows. Jennifer Lawrence has nothing to do. Beast is an afterthought. Magneto gets his big scenes, as he should, but it feels like almost a separate movie from the rest of it. Xavier becomes part of the plot but ultimately has little to do in the way of a storyline. Though he gets more than most. You give us Nightcrawler, but then he’s marginalized. Angel is basically window dressing for most of the movie. Olivia Munn has like what, four lines? And pretty much just stands there for the whole movie? Jubilee is literally just there and does nothing. Cyclops and Jean are there, but they need legitimate backstory and not shoehorned additions. Storm feels like they’re waiting to give her shit to do in the next movie. Even the Quicksilver scene felt like a retread of last movie. And then Apocalypse… the horrible Frankenstein scene aside (“learning”), this is basically Ultron all over again. Same thing. “Oh man, the world sucks, let’s destroy it and rebuild the way I want to.” He’s not really given any interesting scenes or development or anything. The whole movie is overstuffed. That’s the problem. Too much going on leaving us feeling like it was all too little. It’s still enjoyable and all, but we’ve seen them be better, which makes it a real disappointing effort. Especially when the summer is devoid of just about anything I’m interested in. Pretty much every big budget blockbuster from here to August looks like it’s gonna be bad. I only have hopes for Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad at this point. At best, the others are gonna be, “Oh, that didn’t suck.” I can usually rely on the X-Men. Which makes this all the more disappointing, because it could have been there. But I think they moved too fast. Though I do kind of appreciate how, in three minutes of Wolverine screen time, they tied his storyline together through all the six (or, I guess… eight) films. That was nice. He’s really the only person we care about in these films anyway.

XOXO — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This is everything I hate in a single movie. Millennials going to a music festival, dressing and acting like assholes, talking about how music is going to change their lives and how “this is our time/we’re young.” Fuck all of that. This whole movie is icky to me. I didn’t hate the filmmaking, I hated the subject matter, the writing and all the characters. Which is bad enough. I was okay with We Are Your Friends because at least there next to all the bullshit was a passably compelling love story and an interesting drug trip sequence. This is an ensemble movie that hits all the cliche beats and builds to a climax where shitty EDM music transcends everybody’s problems and everyone thinks it’s the greatest shit they’ve ever heard. No. The answer is no.

The Young Messiah — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Jesus movie. He’s a kid, he finds out who he is, that sort of thing. It’s not a bad movie, I just didn’t care. I don’t care about any of these movies. The less said, the better.

The Films I Haven’t Seen Yet

  • The Meddler
  • Being Charlie
  • The Fits
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeeple
  • The Neon Demon
  • Swiss Army Man
  • Captain Fantastic
  • The Infiltrator
  • Cafe Society
  • Don’t Think Twice
  • Indignation
  • Little Men
  • Nine Lives
  • Pete’s Dragon
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Anthropoid
  • Collide
  • A Tale of Love and Darkness
  • Hands of Stone
  • Don’t Breathe
  • The Hollars
  • Complete Unknown
  • Southside with You

The Films I Skipped

  • I still haven’t skipped anything. Can’t remember a time when that’s happened.

– – – – – – – – – –

Favorite Movies So Far:

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Everybody Wants Some!!
  • Midnight Special
  • Finding Dory
  • Deadpool
  • Sing Street
  • Green Room
  • Hell or High Water
  • The Nice Guys
  • Hardcore Henry
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • Morris from America
  • The Jungle Book
  • Eye in the Sky
  • Remember

Least Favorite Movies So Far:

  • Zoolander 2
  • The Boss
  • Mothers and Daughters
  • Dirty Grandpa
  • Fifty Shades of Black
  • Norm of the North
  • Miracles from Heaven
  • Bad Moms
  • The Choice
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny


2 responses

  1. I’m REALLY surprised that you gave Kubo & The Two Strings the full five stars. I was expecting a film with excellent animation and Kubo does have that in spades, but honestly, the story was very, very half-baked, much like Laika’s other films except Coraline and ParaNorman to a certain extent. The protagonist didn’t have much room for growth and I saw the twist of who the animals were from a mile away. The magic in the story’s world was too vague and inconsistent to provide for strong stakes. Furthermore, the few comedic moments during the rest periods came off like concessions to modern family audiences that added bumps to the already-inconsistent pacing.

    Your rating will encourage me to watch it again, but I don’t expect my 3 1/2 out of 5-star rating (which it barely managed to reach and almost entirely due to the animation) to change much, if at all.

    August 28, 2016 at 6:35 pm

  2. You actually didn’t skip any films this time. That may be a first for this site.

    September 2, 2016 at 1:31 pm

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