2016: The Year in Reviews (Part III)
Here they are, the final batch of 2016 reviews. This is for all the films from September through now.
The big note here is that there are still films to come out over the next two weeks. Those reviews will be put directly into the reviews articles for their specific months. I’ll be very clear about which ones I’ve yet to see as we get there.
After this, we start all the reviews articles tomorrow, running through the next two weeks.
Here’s the final batch of reviews for 2016:
13th — * * * (3 stars)
This was fine. I’m slowly allowing myself to be more open about watching documentaries. I tend not to go for the ones with important subject matter and prefer the more offbeat, entertaining ones. As such, this wasn’t particularly of interest to me.
20th Century Women — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This was good. Didn’t love it, but I liked it a lot. This is by the guy who did Beginners, which was also pretty good. It’s well-written, well-directed, well-acted, very engaging, and complete hipster bait. I get it. I don’t love it, but I enjoyed it a lot.
31 — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Well this was weird and fucked up. I’m not entirely sure why I tracked this for two years. But whatever. That’s the only reason I saw it. Otherwise, I’d have likely skipped it. This wasn’t remotely for me in any particular way.
808 — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Great documentary. Shows how a little piece of music equipment, only 12,000 units ever made, in Japan, changed the music industry forever. It shows you how the device was made, and then slowly how it went from something meant to simulate a drum sound, to being used on various seminal hip hop and dance tracks, like “Planet Rock,” to now how it’s used in everything, all over the world. Within an hour of watching this movie, I started hearing it used in a bunch of different songs. The best part was hearing the guy who create it talk about how it was made — using bad transistors the other companies would throw away, which is what gave it its distinct sound, and also led to it not being able to be made ever again after its initial run, because transistor technology got so good there were no more of the bad ones that could be used to make the machines. Fascinating.
The Accountant — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I rode a bit of a rollercoaster on this one all year. I was ecxited initially, given the cast and the director, but then the trailer came out, and it wasn’t great. I got worried. And the reviews were bad. So I expected it wouldn’t be great, even though people I know who saw it liked it. Turns out, it was exactly what I was expecting all along. That paperback novel kind of thriller. Where it’s interesting enough but not something you remember overly well a few months later. This was engaging, Affleck did good character work, the movie kept me interested throughout, and it devolved into a boring shootout at the end. Exactly what was expected, and that’s all right, because I was hoping it would be pretty good.
Allied — * * * * (4 stars)
This was a real throwback. Trying to be something out of the 40s, and it almost succeeded. It was well-strutured, well-acted, well-made. My one issue — I wanted more Hitchcock. I wanted it to be more about his paranoia and him not knowing whether she is or isn’t a spy. And scenes where she plays into it, which still doesn’t let you know one way or the other. But Zemeckis isn’t that type of filmmaker. Which I get. I also think the ending is a cop out. But whatever. I loved the movie. Huge fan of this, and I want more movies that feel like classical Hollywood.
Almost Christmas — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Most years, I’d skip this on principle. But I was (and probably still am, depending on when you read this) running 100% completion on the year, and wanted to see if I could pull it off. This is your standard black actor holiday movie we get every year. It’s nothing new or different, but it’s fine. My indifference only has to do with the fact that I am not the audience for this movie. So it did nothing for me.
Amanda Knox — * * * (3 stars)
This didn’t achieve anything. It was basically 90 minutes of “Oh no, we don’t know if she did it or not!” This told me nothing. It also sure as hell tried to use the evidence to make it look like she didn’t do it, and used her personality to make it seem like she may have done it. I got nothing out of this.
American Honey — * * * * (4 stars)
Fun story. I go to see this movie, and this is the text exchange I sent while in the theater:
“I should not be surprised that at a three hour movie about cross country magazine selling millennials starring Shia LaBeouf the theater is filled entirely with hipsters.”
“One girl here is wearing a dress that looks like a hospital gown.”
“So far no fedoras. But there’s time.”
“This girl’s purse is clear and has a hammer in it.”
“Skinny jeans. Leather jacket. Cowboy boots.”
“There’s only like twenty people in this theater.”
“And the one token, sweatpants, sweatshirt and man bun guy.”
“And the theme from Dr. Zhivago is playing.”
“This is a carnival from hell.”
“And there’s the fedora. Son of a bitch.”
“I wish I were exaggerating any of this.”
I would like to point out that I am exaggerating ZERO in this exchange.
“I wonder what the trailers are gonna be. If it’s Noah Baumbach I might walk out.”
“Twenty hipsters just swarmed in at the end of the first trailer. What a fucking hipster thing to do.”
I felt dirty going to see this movie in theaters. But I’m glad I did. Because I loved it. I flirted with the idea of going 4.5 stars for this, but 4 felt right. I liked it a lot, but didn’t love it. But it held my attention from the opening shot and kept me glued throughout. I think there was maybe one small moment where I thought, “Jesus, how much longer is left?” but after that it picked up again. Could not have guessed that was gonna happen nine months ago. Sasha Lane was terrific and is a hell of a discovery. And Shia has been delivering great performances for years now under the radar and obscured by what people see in the tabloids. Really liked this a lot, but I would not recommend this for most people.
American Pastoral — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Two Philip Roth movies in one year. Hell, in one semester, even. He seems like a difficult one to translate to the screen. But I was interested in this because Ewan McGregor directed it and the cast was solid. And the trailer looked great. Ultimately I got a movie that wasn’t great but was trying very hard and actually was quite engaging. I think the half a star is for effort. Because this is a flawed movie. But it kept me engaged throughout and I think there’s more that works here than doesn’t work. I’m sure it can’t compare at all to reading the novel, but it’s two different things. I’m taking the movie on its own merits, and I think there’s a lot here to like.
Anthropoid — * * * (3 stars)
This went from me knowing nothing about it until like a month before it came out to me really wanting to see it because the subject matter intrigued the shit out of me to me getting really excited for it, to then me seeing it and going, “Oh, this is largely forgettable and not that great at all.” Ultimately, I should have known. Because if this were really good, it wouldn’t have been quietly dumped in August on eight screens. The cast is solid, and it does a good job with itself, it just never fully comes together into anything great. Wish it did, but hey, a solid three is better than nothing. Give me this than that bullshit Cranston/Franco movie that’s coming out soon.
April and the Extraodinary World — * * * (3 stars)
Animated movie. Part of the longlist for the Oscars. Had a chance to see it, so I jumped. This is an old-fashioned kids novel plot. Girls parents go missing and are presumed dead after completing some sort of formula, and she is left alone with a talking cat. And now she is trying to figure out the formula while being chased by some shady characters. It… it gets pretty weird, but it was enjoyable. Looked nice. Not great, but fun enough. The child in me likes these kind of plots, so that was good. Overall, just okay.
Army of One — * * * * (4 stars)
I’ve been tracking this for at least two years now. The minute they announced this movie, I was all over it and patiently waiting to see it. Nicolas Cage plays the dude who went to capture bin Laden, done Boart-style by Larry Charles. I was fucking in from the jump. And it was a foregone conclusion that I was gonna love this movie. And it’s not a great movie. If you hate Nicolas Cage, you shouldn’t see this, probably. But I fucking laughed my ass off and enjoyed every goddamn second of this movie. It’s a sight to behold when Cage is committed a part. He’s so fucking good here. I’m not gonna claim this is a masterpiece by any stretch. But I will tell you I loved it. Do with that what you will.
ARQ — * * * (3 stars)
Somewhat generic Netflix movie. The time loop aspect makes it marginally interesting, but this is no more than a low-budget thriller version of Groundhog Day. It’s fine because it’s easy and it’s Netflix, but otherwise not something you’d seek out in any other format.
Arrival — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
It’s a really ambitious movie. I wonder if it’s so ambitious it can’t possibly pull off what it’s trying to do, but outside of that, I really liked what I saw. I think there’s a subplot there that’s wholly unnecessary, but overall, I was glued to the screen and really enjoyed the final product. It’s hard to talk about it without giving away the central conceit of the movie. Which is both a strength and a potential weakness. I’m still not sure it fully pulls it off, but I’m glad they tried.
The Bad Batch — * * * * (4 stars)
Saw this at an early screening and really enjoyed it. I really liked A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and I think this is a worthy follow up. Its a pretty simple movie, and it focuses you solely into a specific story with a lot of broader universe building around it in such a way that kept me very interested. It’s such a bizarre movie, too. I don’t think it’s necessarily as good as I thought it was, but I certainly liked a lot about it. Definitely keep an eye out for this one when it comes out next year. You’ll think it looks weird, but there’s definitely a lot more that works here than doesn’t.
Bad Santa 2 — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
As a Bad Santa sequel, it’s not great. As a film, it’s not great. As a comedy designed to make you laugh, it’s good. I may be basing this on my experience watching this at a theater at midnight surrounded mostly by a black audience, but I don’t care. I watched it, and I laughed enough to not think about how it’s mostly plot (bad plot) and tries to recreate a lot of what made the first one special without the parts that actually made the first one special. But since the foul humor made me laugh enough, I’ll give it a decent rating. But this is not something that counts as a remotely satisfying sequel to Bad Santa. I’m not disappointed, because I didn’t expect it to be particularly good, but I do wish they’d tried a little harder here.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years — * * * * (4 stars)
It’s a Beatles documentary, how could it not have been interesting? It doesn’t tell me a whole lot I didn’t already know, but I’ll watch Beatles stuff all day.
Before the Flood — * * * (3 stars)
Don’t care. Sorry Leo, I really don’t care. I know the planet is fucked. I don’t need a documentary telling me that. The rest of the country might, but I don’t. So I watch something like this and am bored. Especially since it’s so focused around Leo and his… journey, or whatever. I don’t care that he had a painting in his childhood bedroom that somehow makes him think of climate change. It all just feels like vanity to me. Not a huge fan of this.
Being Charlie — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I didn’t know what the hell this was going in. 90% of you have no idea what this is now. I saw it because Rob Reiner directed it and he’s part of my Directors List. So I see everything he does. I thought this was some throwaway romantic kind of movie that had shades of Nicholas Sparks. Because doesn’t it sound like one of those movies? Turns out, his son co-wrote this, and it seems like it might have been based on his own experiences. It’s about a guy around twenty who just can’t get his shit together and has a drug problem. His parents force him into rehab (again). Mostly because his father is running for office and can’t have his public life threatened by scandal. (See the similarities?) And it’s about him in rehab, not giving a shit, constantly doing the wrong thing, and meeting a girl in there, who might actually help him get his shit together. It’s a movie that was way more engaging than I expected. Even saying it, you think it’s this generic sort of story. But it actually worked for me. Maybe because my expectations were so low, but I still really liked it. Nice to see Rob Reiner make something worthwhile again.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This… yeah. Ang Lee is a great director, but he can be prone to not great movies. This was touted as the future of cinema and all that, but the story always felt really slight. And guess what? The story was really slight. I could go through the litany of weird choices I felt they made here (specifically one where it seems like the script is decidedly pro army and pro soldier, and Ang Lee deliberately (or not, which is weirder) undercuts that, leaving the whole thing really, really uneven), or I could just say — the 120 fsp (because I had to see it in that to get the full experience) actually worked for me most of the time (shots of them entering the limo looked too “Taxicab Confessions” and the shots of food were creepy), and I enjoyed parts of it. But overall, this is just a weird, jumbled movie that feels like it should have had someone other than Ang Lee direct it. Though I guess the puzzler is — if Ang Lee didn’t direct this, would it have even been this good, and would anyone have even cared about it to begin with? Pretty sure the answer is no.
The Birth of a Nation — * * * (3 stars)
I was dreading this movie all year. It was just one you could tell was getting unnecessarily overhyped, to the point where all it would do is hurt the movie. If they didn’t fawn over this the way they did at Sundance (in the fakest way possible too. A standing ovation before the movie starts? Really?), it could have gotten more of a fair shake. Then the other stuff about it came out. None of it helped. They wanted to turn this into a Best Picture winner, and it’s just not that. This is an actor who wanted a role for himself, so he wrote one. You can call it a vanity project, but it’s more a showcase for him. It’s the first film he ever directed, and it’s really ambitious. The things he does here are straddling the line between really pretentious and really ambitious. And it doesn’t fully work. And if this was given the room to be what it is, it would just be a really admirable effort that tries to do too much and doesn’t get there. Instead, this is looked at as a failure and with negativity. Which is a shame.
Bleed for This — * * * * (4 stars)
I was at the premiere for this. I had pretty solid expectations for it. Boxing movies are always some amount of interesting, and this story sounded good. You got the sense from the trailer that it wasn’t gonna fall into the genre pitfalls that movies like this usually fall into. They accomplished it by doing it like The Fighter — they focused more on the characters and their relationships more so than the situation. So it never gets about overcoming adversity more than it’s about this guy doing what he feels he needs to do as a person. When he trains, he’s doing it when everyone’s telling him not to, so he’s sneaking around in his father’s basement without telling him. There’s always a little added element that makes it interesting. There are parts of this that don’t work, but it’s a really entertaining movie. And it’s a very satisfying boxing movie that no one saw. Teller is great, Eckhart is trying real hard (even if his plotline doesn’t give him a whole lot of room to be great), Ciaran Hinds is terrific. And Ted Levine — I watched that movie and watched the Lou Duva character and thought for about thirty minutes it was just some older Italian man. But as I listened, I kept going, “Is that Ted Levine? He sounds exactly like Ted Levine.” But he looks nothing like him, so I thought it was just a coincidence. But it was Ted Levine. It’s crazy when you realize it.
Blair Witch — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This was so upsetting to me. Adam Wingard made two of my favorite horror/thrillers of the past five years, You’re Next and The Guest. So I was in for whatever he made next. But then they revealed in July this was a Blair Witch movie, and my heart sank. I didn’t want to see him reduced to doing these studio-for-hire horror jobs. Or worse… Blumhouse movies. Plus… how could this be good or interesting as a Blair Witch movie? And guess what? Wasn’t good. Wasn’t interesting. Damn shame what happened to Adam Wingard.
Blue Jay — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This was a really solid indie. Very simple. Two people, one long conversation. Well done. Great lead performances, a nice little gem of a movie worth checking out.
Breaking a Monster — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This was fascinating. A couple of 13 year old black kids form a metal band, which is interesting on its own. And they’re good! Which is even more interesting. And then it’s about them getting into a record contract and having to deal with that stuff. It’s fascinating watching this giant machine try to take them on and them having no fun whatsoever dealing with all of that. Good stuff here.
Bridget Jones’s Baby — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Why did they make this? It’s not offensively bad, but it just didn’t need to exist and seems to have gotten everything wrong about what a sequel to this movie should be. Too many bland, middle-aged people jokes. Just not something that even fans of the original are gonna like.
Cafe Society — * * * (3 stars)
Passable, but again it feels like old Woody Allen not really having anything to say. It’s a movie I mostly didn’t care about that had a few moments that were intellectually enjoyable. Like him dealing with the hooker. Or Corey Stoll’s stuff. He was great. You can see where, structurally, there could be something here that resembles a good movie, but I just don’t think Woody Allen cares enough to get there. Or worse, has reached the age where he just can’t do it anymore. As far as his films go, I’d say this is maybe average. He’s nearing 50 films directed. I’d say this is in the #30 range. It’s okay, but nowhere near his great stuff.
Captain Fantastic — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This was interesting. Viggo Mortensen is really good, and he keeps this of interest throughout. Some of the kids are really good too. Overall a worthwhile movie, though definitely not for everyone. I’m surprised I wasn’t turned off by the characters. But it’s charming enough to get by, and a real solid film overall.
Certain Women — * * * (3 stars)
Kelly Reichardt. Her movies always end up three stars for me. I like them well enough, but they almost never do anything for me. Even Meek’s Cutoff, which I liked best, only really went higher because of the western bump. This was fine, but it didn’t particularly change my life in any way. Maybe one day her movies will go higher than 3 stars for me for real.
Christine — * * * * (4 stars)
What a difference a year makes. I knew nothing about this in January when I previewed it. Then about August or so I realized what this was really about — Christine Chubbuck, a reporter who (spoiler) killed herself on live TV in 1974. And the movie is about her impending mental breakdown, leading to the moment where she does it. Once I saw a trailer, I was in. I went to a theater to see this. And it was great. Career best performance out of Rebecca Hall, who deserves a Best Actress nomination for this. (She won’t get it, but she deserves it.) This is a really great movie that no one’s gonna see. And that’s a shame. But if you’re reading this, then there’s a chance. Give this one a shot. It’s very good.
The Comedian — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I wanted this to be good. It didn’t look good, but I hoped it would be. And it just isn’t. I liked it enough and I found ways to like it, but the movie itself really didn’t give me much to work with. Movies about comedians never fully work because the standup is never any good. That’s always the fatal flaw. The rest of this kind of worked, but when it comes down to it, you need the jokes to work. And these jokes didn’t work. Plus he’s having sex with someone thirty years younger than him, and she’s pretty crazy to begin with. And Harvey Keitel… just, all of that. It doesn’t totally work for me. I’d hoped for more out of this.
Complete Unknown — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I just love the set up of this movie. Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon were dating. They were in love. Then one day she disappears from his life. Just gone. Cut to twenty years later, and he’s having a birthday party with his wife. His friends come over, and one of his coworkers brings a woman with him — Rachel Weisz. He sees her and says, “What the hell are you doing here?” And she goes, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” and pretends like she has no idea who he is. The entire films takes place over the course of this one night, and you have this interesting dynamic of a woman who is constantly changing identities and deep down would like to stop, and a man who is very stable in his identity who desperately wants something more. It’s a really interesting movie. I don’t think it’s perfect, but I think it’s definitely very interesting.
Crisis in Six Scenes — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
I’m torn. Because on the one hand, we all know my feelings about Woody Allen, by and large. But I’m pretty sure even hardcore Woody Allen fans — if they even saw this to begin with — thought this was a huge piece of shit. I… was grateful that I was able to knock it out in like three hours. But man, were those a long three hours. This seems like a kind of ripoff of American Pastoral, in a weird way. But that aside, I have no idea what he was going for. There’s no humor or interest in any of this, and it feels like a lot of Woody Allen films feel — like a tired old man making movies. I feel like people reacted to this the way I react to most of his movies. So rather than say anything else I’m gonna say — at least you guys see what I’ve been seeing for the better part of the past decade.
De Palma — * * * * (4 stars)
This is a documentary I can get behind. Just De Palma on screen, only him talking, and just him discussing his movies, with clips all over the place. Love it. More like this. The best decision they made was not having anyone else on screen but him. That’s what makes it soar.
Deepwater Horizon — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
The premise is interesting, but the way they put this together is not. It’s a generic disaster movie made by Peter Berg, who is just too prone to flag waving. That’s the difference between Peter Berg and Michael Bay. Michael Bay will put an American flag in every shot. Peter Berg will wave an American flag in every shot. This is well intentioned, but it doesn’t amount to anything more than a generic disaster movie with a lot of CGI effects that feel like CGI effects. I rarely feel like the actors are in any danger, which is supposed to be the point of a disaster movie. It’s watchable, but it’s not anything overly memorable. And in case you haven’t seen this, don’t worry, Patriots Day is still coming out, and it’s gonna be the exact same movie. (Watch that trailer after watching this trailer. They’re the exact same movie.)
Denial — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
The trial aspect kept this afloat. Otherwise this is a movie made in a style that disappeared 20 years ago. This is a 90s movie made by a 90s movie director. (Mick Jackson directed this. He made The Bodyguard.) The premise is good, and there’s a lot of worthwhile stuff going on, but it just feels flawed from the get go because of how they went about making it. It feels flat. I liked it, but it’s definitely not a movie that feels all there.
Desierto — * * * (3 stars)
This is a straightforward thriller made by a director who seemed to want to try to do more with it. I like how he simplified it, cut out a lot of the dialogue and tried to tell the story in the most barebones way possible. That definitely helped out the finished product. But at the end of the day, it’s just a straightforward thriller, where the villain doesn’t really have any motivation and the protagonist just has to survive. And when the situation ends, the movie ends. So we’re not really left knowing what to feel. Then again, as far as B movies go, this does fit the profile. So in that regard, it’s effective. Otherwise it’s just a serviceable thriller.
The Disappointments Room — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Well this sure lived up to its title.
Doctor Strange — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
The visuals were nice, but otherwise it’s standard Marvel shit. I don’t care about sorcery or whatever. The backstory was interesting for a second and then abruptly stopped. Then we got a standard superhero progression from there. Generic villain. The visuals and the lack of universe connection in the movie proper is what kept this from being a straight 3 star movie. Otherwise… average, maybe, for Marvel? I also love how, if there’s even a chance the dude she’s fucking can travel through time, Rachel McAdams will do your movie.
Dog Eat Dog — * * * (3 stars)
Well this was batshit crazy. You’d expect Cage to be the crazy one, but it’s actually Dafoe. He’s the one who gets to go nuts here. Cage is pretty subdued. It’s not a great movie, but it’s so fucking off the wall that you’re at least partially interested in it. So there is that.
Don’t Breathe — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This might be the horror movie of 2016 that a lot of people loved that I just didn’t give a shit about. The premise sounded moderately intriguing, but I just didn’t care. But at least I’m consistent, right?
Don’t Think Twice — * * * (3 stars)
I’m not a huge fan of the improvisational method of making movies. The Joe Swanberg method. This is Mike Birbiglia, and it is about an improv troupe. So I get that it would be largely improvised. But since I really don’t like improv a whole lot, this doesn’t do much for me at all. There’s a few interesting moments, but by and large I was just kind of watching it without feeling. I know a certain crowd really liked this and will really like this. But this just isn’t my speed at all.
The Eagle Huntress — * * * * (4 stars)
I loved this. It’s such an uplifting movie. About a young girl following her dreams and becoming an eagle hunter. A lot of it does feel staged, but the scenes you can’t fake are really well done. The sequence of them basically stealing the eagle from its nest is gripping, and the scenes of her training are just fascinating. Big fan of this one and definitely one of those documentaries a lot of people are gonna like.
Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words — * * * (3 stars)
Frank Zappa was interesting, therefore I enjoyed the documentary well enough. Didn’t do a whole lot for me, but I did end up enjoying it.
The Edge of Seventeen — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I had no idea what this was until about a day before I saw it. I knew this was coming out and I knew I was gonna try to see it, but that’s about all I knew. And then I saw a trailer on a Friday and went, “Oh wow, this actually looks quite good.” And then on Saturday, I was at the theater and realized if I didn’t go see it there, I probably wouldn’t get to see it before the end of the year, so I went in. Which never would have happened unless I watched the trailer. Something I highly recommend doing. The film is about a 17 year old girl who has no friends, save one, and has a brother who is really good looking and popular, and everything she isn’t. And then she finds out her only friends is fucking her brother. And shit spirals out of control from there. Really, really well done. Well-written, well-acted. Great performances out of Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson. I did not think this was gonna be as good as it was. Huge, huge fan of this movie.
Elle — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This is such a French movie. Chick gets raped and likes it. I’m not as in love with this as everyone else is, but I did like it. What I enjoyed so much was how much of a cunt Isabelle Huppert’s character is. That was nice. Otherwise I just liked it but didn’t love it.
Equity — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Boring bank thriller. Like Margin Call but with a police angle. Which I didn’t care about. Meaning I didn’t care about any of it.
The Eyes of My Mother — * * * (3 stars)
It was nice and stark. Shot in black and white. Has a fair amount of creepiness to it. A lot of interesting and unsettling moments. And thankfully it’s only 75 minutes. But it doesn’t really amount to much. There’s not enough of a through line to make it feel cohesive. It’s just a string of moments that kind of work, but not really. Some people might like this. Mostly it’s only worth it because it’s so short.
Family for Rent — * * * (3 stars)
Enjoyable French movie. Premise is interesting. Doesn’t amount to a whole lot, but I was amused enough.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
I was so nervous going into this. I really didn’t want it to suck, but I also didn’t know what I was gonna get out of this. And I was pretty delighted by this. I need to see it again, but I thought it was wonderful. She structures the first act like an American screwball comedy from the 30s. And that immediately endeared it to me. There are parts I don’t like as much (the actual “fantastic beasts” segment inside the case, the Obscurus subplot), but overall, I really liked this quite a bit and like how they set up the franchise. Maybe my second viewing of this in the next week will lessen that initial excitement, but when I got out of the theater, I was very pleased by this.
Fire at Sea — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This is a really fascinating movie. It’s such a focused documentary that it almost comes across as a narrative feature. A really fascinating look at the refugee crisis. It doesn’t hit you over the head with the issue and make you feel all important when you go, “I understand this now. This is a problem.” The kind of documentary that makes you feel as though you’re helping solve the problem simply by watching it unfold. I think we all understand how much I hate those types of documentaries. I prefer the ones that dig you deep into an issue by presenting it in an interesting way. Like The Act of Killing. This basically shows you the daily lives of the people who live on this Italian island that is constantly home to boat after boat of refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean toward a better life. And so many of them die along the journey. It gives you glimpses of these people and the suffering they go through along their journey. And the whole thing fits together like a beautiful puzzle, where rather than giving you the big issue and moving downward, it gives you a bunch of pieces in a random order, and you get to put the whole thing together yourself. Definitely one of the best documentaries I saw this year. Really terrifically made.
The Fits — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
What a really solid film. 70 minutes long, only. A really terrific calling card for its director. Very simple story, and an effective metaphor for puberty and finding ones own identity. I can’t recommend this film highly enough for the casual film buffs who know nothing about this. A really great first film and just a terrific piece of work.
Flock of Dudes — * * * (3 stars)
I only saw it because I tracked it for like three years and they finally put it out this year. Didn’t love it. It had its moments, but overall not something I loved. Amusing little comedy though. I got enough out of it to not think of it as a complete loss after all this time. Which is the best you can hope for, really.
Florence Foster Jenkins — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
It’s charming. You watch this trailer and think, “Oh, it’s just Meryl doing Meryl stuff,” and it’s somewhat that. The film wants to be that. But really the star of this movie is Hugh Grant. He’s really good here. The premise is — Meryl’s a socialite with money who really loves opera and fancies herself an opera singer. Only she sucks. All the people who listen to her like her enough to humor her and pretend like she’s great. And now, she wants to play Carnegie Hall, in front of a real crowd. And Hugh Grant plays her “husband” of sorts. He basically lives with her and cares for her throughout the day, and then at home goes back to his actual wife. See, she was married and then he died, so now she’s with Grant, but they’re not officially married. So he’s living this sort of double life, but it’s not a duplicitous sort of thing. He truly, truly cares for Streep. And that’s the beauty of the performance. He cares so much that he strives to make everything go perfectly for her, bribing people to give good reviews and things of that sort. It’s a really tender performance and one that elevates this movie from potential schlock to an actually pretty affecting little film. It’s got a charm to it, and that’s what the point is. I liked it.
The Founder — * * * * (4 stars)
Let’s not pretend like this isn’t a movie full of tropes and cliches and bland moviemaking. It’s the guy who did Saving Mr. Banks and The Blind Side. It’s exactly the same way. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy all of those movies. I just am not gonna pretend like this was some great film. I liked a lot of elements of it, but essentially you have a movie about an unlikable protagonist fucking over a family restaurant to start an empire that the movie doesn’t really treat in either direction. You can’t praise him for starting McDonald’s, but it also doesn’t vilify him either. It’s just sort of there. Weird choice. But I did like it. So that’s something. Another example of the Weinsteins making watered down Oscar bait that lacks any of the interest of the ones in their heyday. It’s almost like they’re only going through the motions now.
Frank and Lola — * * * (3 stars)
I didn’t think this would come out this year. It’s a weird little movie. I like Michael Shannon a lot and I like Imogen Poots a lot. I’m not sure they’re well cast as a couple, but I don’t care, because I’m happy to see them both. It’s an interesting film. I’m not sure what it’s purpose is, but I was interested in what was happening. I was more interested in Michael Shannon’s chef career more than I was interested in whatever was going on with her and the whole French guy situation. But overall I liked it. Without the two of them as the leads, I probably wouldn’t have. It’s just a pretty good movie, but again, the leads are the reasons to see this.
The Girl on the Train — * * * (3 stars)
I wanted this to be better, but I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be. It’s a paperback thriller. The ending you saw coming from a few stations away. There’s really nothing of interest here. Especially since in the book she’s supposed to be a drunk who gave herself up. Emily Blunt does not look like she gave herself up. It’s one of those movies that was trying to capitalize on the success of Gone Girl and forgot to get a David Fincher to make something other than a bland thriller that doesn’t amount to much.
The Girl with All the Gifts — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
You’re not gonna be able to see this next year, but holy shit. I knew of the book, but didn’t know they were making this movie until mid summer. And then I saw a trailer and got really excited for it. I managed to catch a screening at a festival here, and by the time that movie started, my excitement level was through the roof. And I have to say — this is the best zombie movie since 28 Days Later. I fucking loved this movie. It’s so terrific. You should just watch the trailer to get a sense of what it is. But it’s a really unique twist on the genre and manages to play around typical expectations by having your main character be the giant x-factor of the story. It’s really well done, and I cannot recommend this highly enough for when this comes out next year.
Gleason — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Very affecting documentary. This is an NFL player who was at the epicenter of one of the most famous plays of the past twenty years (he’s the one who blocked the punt in the Saints’ first home game in the Superdome, post-Katrina), who was diagnosed with ALS, and documented his condition. It’s a great film about who this man is and his honest struggle with the disease. You see him break down, you see him struggle with what his life is and what his life is going to be. And it’s about perseverance and the strength to carry on. It’s really well made and it’s hard to see this and not be moved by it.
Hacksaw Ridge — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
This was badass. First off — love Mel as a director. Think he’s made three great films in a row (haven’t seen his first one yet, but I’m sure it’s good too). The story sounded interesting, albeit potentially heavy-handed in terms of the religious angle. But the trailer looked good. The first half of this movie is a straightforward kind of narrative, meant to deliberately evoke the kind of war films of the 40s and 50s. That sort of classicism will likely turn some people off. I get it. I gravitate to that. And sure, the religious stuff could seem a bit cumbersome to people. But I saw this as a story of a man sticking by his beliefs more so than a movie that was hitting me over the head with religion. He never pushed God. He pushed pacifism, which was brought about by both his beliefs and his past. So I was fine with all of it. And the battle scenes — no one watches those battle scenes and doesn’t think they’re incredibly made. You might think they’re super violent, but you can’t deny they’re really visceral and very gripping to watch. Other issues — the final shot, which is very heavy-handed, but I’ll let it slide. And also the Japanese bit at the end (the seppuku). That was wholly unnecessary. But minor things aside, I really liked this movie. And I feel like that excitement might settle down a bit over time, but right now, I am a really big fan of this. This is what I want out of a movie.
Hairspray Live — * * * (3 stars)
This wasn’t great. The singing and stuff was fine and it was a perfectly fine live musical. It’s the stuff around it that didn’t work for me. The cutting across the country to viewing parties or whatever, and all the advertisements thrown in. It felt like they were selling product more than putting on a show. That was a real turn off. Otherwise, fine. Pretty uninspired all around, though.
The Handmaiden — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I heard good things about this all year, and I know to expect good things from Chan-wook Park, but I didn’t expect straight up scissoring in this movie. There’s like four lesbian sex scenes in this movie. Did not see those coming, and that was a nice surprise. It’s a nice little mystery that plays out nicely and has some great twists and turns and Chan-wook Park-iness to it. I definitely enjoyed this quite a bit and probably need to see this again somewhere down the line where I won’t be distracted by all the sex. But as it stands, a really solid movie.
Hands of Stone — * * * (3 stars)
Yeesh. You kinda saw this coming when they held it over a year without releasing it. If Weinstein thought he had a winner, this would have been out sooner. Edgar Ramirez playing Duran and De Niro as the trainer sounded pretty good on paper. But this doesn’t amount to anything other than a hill of cliches. Very generic boxing movie that doesn’t even appeal to people who are fans of boxing movies. There are better ones in recent history to watch, and one this year — Bleed for This. So stick with that instead. This is just failed Oscar bait that has a lot of talented people trying, but ultimately not succeeding.
The Hollars — * * * (3 stars)
Generic indie made slightly more interesting because John Krasinski directed it and got a big cast on it. Otherwise this would be your standard “guy comes home to his family when a parent gets sick” movie. You’ve seen this a dozen times. Hell, there’s another one in this article. It’s not good or interesting in really any way. But the cast makes it watchable for me. Not very. But enough.
Hooligan Sparrow — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This was so fucked up. It’s about activists trying to protest the rape of six young girls by their school principal. And whenever they try to speak out, the actual government spies on them and arrests them and fucks with them. It’s really, really fucked up. And it’s a powerful movie about fighting for gender equality, or at the very least, fighting to stop fucked up things from happening to women in a male-dominated society. This is important.
Hunt for the Wilderpeeple — * * * * (4 stars)
Already one of the cult hits of the year. What We Do in the Shadows was very funny and this I liked even better. It’s so understated and hilarious. Sam Neill and the kid are both brilliant here. It’s so goddamn fun. Do yourself a favor and see this movie immediately. It’s one of the funniest movies of the year and everyone will enjoy it.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Straight up boring. The framing was nice. I can say that. But this is just a really boring movie where nothing happens. If you want something similar, then go for The Eyes of My Mother, which is much of the same, but at least has a few slightly interesting moments.
I’m Not Ashamed — * * (2 stars)
Ha ha. I mean… it’s a religious movie, which is its own thing for me. But this is not just a religious movie, but one about fucking COLUMBINE. As soon as I saw they were trying to make a generic religious movie that was somehow related to Columbine, I had to see it. And… yeah. I’ll save my thoughts for this, because I think you guys know where this is headed.
Incarnate — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This movie stars Aaron Eckhart as a man in a wheelchair who can enter the subconscious minds of possessed people in order to fight the demons inside of them. It is not called Professor Xorcist and therefore it will never have any form of respect from me. (Seriously, how fucking fast would you run to see a movie called Professor Xorcist? I guarantee you it’s faster than anyone ran to see this fucking thing.) I’m not reviewing the movie, because nobody cares about the movie. How can you fuck up a slam dunk title this badly?
Indignation — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I liked this. Wasn’t a great movie, but it kept me engaged. Roth is a difficult adaptation. And we got two of them this year. I prefer American Pastoral to this, but I did also like this one. It was just quietly solid. Good stuff with the parents, I liked Sarah Gadon as the love interest. I think this works more than it doesn’t. Won’t appeal to most but definitely kept my interest up more than I thought it would.
The Infiltrator — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
They put this out over the summer rather than the initial Labor Day and I wondered why that was. It looked liked a generic kind of DEA thriller. I figured it would be action heavy. Turns out, this was a Donnie Brasco situation. Bryan Cranston goes undercover with the cartels, pretending to be a slick businessman with a lot of money who wants to get into the drug trade. So he has to live this second life of a high roller meanwhile he’s got this quiet family life when he’s not working. And it begins to fuck with him, as he gets deeper and deeper into the cartel, even going so far as to get involved with Pablo Escobar. Really engaging movie that was way better than I thought. John Leguizamo is also one of the most underrated actors working today, and he’s fucking phenomenal here. Somebody write this man a part that’ll get him an award, because he’s being so underutilized as it is. This is one of those movies that no one really saw that’s actually quite good. I think you should check this one out because you’ll probably like it.
Inferno — * * * (3 stars)
Remember when The Da Vinci Code came out? That book made tons of money, and the movie was highly anticipated. And then people were like, “Well this isn’t very good,” and “What the hell is with Tom Hanks’ mullet?” And then Angels and Demons came out three years later and it was treated like a big movie, and it did okay, but it wasn’t particularly great either (despite being, in my mind, the best book in that series). This one — no one cared about this, and you wonder why they even made it. Hanks is back, and they somehow got Felicity Jones to be in this, and it was about (well… as much as it could be “about” anything) Dante’s Inferno, which I love. And yet even I didn’t care about this. And apparently no one else did either, because this tanked. Did okay foreign, but man, did no one go see this in the US. And it’s because it wasn’t a good movie. Pretty generic thriller all around, with little of interest anywhere. And then there’s this crazy third act twist that comes completely out of nowhere. To the point where you feel like it happened because Tom Hanks felt he was too old to end up with Felicity Jones. So they (spoiler) turned her into a villain out of NOWHERE. Which apparently the book doesn’t even do. So I don’t know what the hell this was. It was watchable, but it certainly wasn’t good.
Into the Inferno — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This was interesting in that I thought it would be about volcanoes, but instead it randomly became about North Korea after a certain point. Herzog spends about thirty minutes in North Korea, talking about them. Which I wasn’t expecting. Overall a movie I liked, mostly because of the visuals, but definitely a weird one. The parts where they talk to the elder chief guy who is clearly making shit up as he goes along were very strange. I almost wish it had either stuck with volcanoes all the way or completely shifted to North Korea and been about that.
In the Valley of Violence — * * * (3 stars)
Even the western bump couldn’t withstand two years of being on the shelf. This is a simple western that tries to play with the western genre but amounts to approximately nothing. There are interesting actors here, but the story is so simple that it barely even registers. I just didn’t care about any of it. The western bump really only kept this afloat. Not one of the interesting westerns that has come out recently.
I.T. — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Generic thriller. Digital age reverse Fatal Attraction. That’s what this is. You can skip it.
Ithaca — * * * (3 stars)
Meg Ryan directed a remake of The Human Comedy. No one knows this exists. Tom Hanks is in it. But only for like, a second. If you think he’s in this in any meaningful way, you’re wrong. The Human Comedy is a great film you should see. It stars Mickey Rooney and got him a Best Actor nomination and also got a Best Picture nomination. It’s really good. This is just fair. I don’t really have anything to say about this except Sam Shepard is awesome, and you should really see the movie this is based on, because it’s really good.
The Ivory Game — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Killing elephants for their tusks is bad. There. I just saved you 112 minutes.
Jackie — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
I didn’t know this was being made and had no idea it would even come out this year. That trailer dropped and it stopped me in my tracks. I watched it, jaw agape, thinking, “Holy shit, this movie looks amazing and Natalie Portman is gonna win another Oscar.” My expectations went from zero to, “This has a shot at the top ten.” I went out to see this movie opening weekend and could not wait to see what they did with it. And it’s fucking gorgeous. It looks beautiful, it’s completely hypnotic to look at, and Natalie Portman — holy fuck. I watched it, wondering if she got the voice down. All you gotta do is watch this movie and then pull up the video on YouTube of Jackie Kennedy giving the same White House interview that they feature in the film and you can immediately see how well she nailed it. This is a truly great performance. And she might not win (because, you know, politics), but she’s certainly good enough to be considered the one who should. I gotta see this again, because this actually does have a legitimate shot at the top ten.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back — * * * (3 stars)
The beauty of the Reacher films is that they’re pretty grounded and much of the action is Tom Cruise beating the shit out of people. Which you can always turn into something watchable. Problem is, I really liked the first one. This one didn’t have that spark. I’m sure if I went back, the first one isn’t as good as I thought, but still — this doesn’t feel as good as the first one. It’s a passable action thriller that hangs somewhere between a 3 and a 3.5 because Cruise is clearly trying to make it work better than it does, but ultimately it’s a pretty forgettable story that doesn’t do a whole lot to make you remember it once you leave the theater. It’s fun, but that’s about it. Perfectly okay and not much else.
Julieta — * * * (3 stars)
The Almodovar thing seems to miss me a lot of the time. I tell myself I should watch them again, but after a certain point I think I just have to come out and say “his movies are not for me.” I saw this and sort of enjoyed it, but ultimately didn’t really care. Which tends to be the case for me with his movies.
Keeping Up with the Joneses — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
No. Another one of those action comedies. Bland couple finds out their neighbors are spies. They get embroiled in a conspiracy. Sure. The movie’s not good. Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot are having fun, but they have nothing to work with. Very forgettable movie.
Kickboxer: Vengeance — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Maybe I overestimated the Kickboxer part. This wasn’t good. It’s basically the original movie. But now Jean-Claude is the teacher. Okay. Didn’t really care about this one way or the other.
Kicks — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Watch the trailer for this movie and tell me it doesn’t make you want to see it. This was awesome. A great story about a kid and his sneakers. Simple as that. Well told, effectively told, and really a great first feature.
La La Land — * * * * * (5 stars)
There was little doubt that I was gonna love this movie. I’m not liking how Hollywood is starting to love this movie, because I’m worried we’re gonna have another situation like The Artist, where they vote for it for Best Picture and everyone hates it. But I don’t care. This was wonderful, and this is everything I want in a movie. It’s bold, it’s vibrant, it’s big, romantic, emotional and cares about everything it’s doing. They wrote real songs for this. It’s an engaging story. Sure it takes cues from a lot of other movies (it really wears that Umbrellas of Cherbourg influence on its sleeve), but I don’t care. I loved every second of this, and no movie was as perfectly tailored for me since The Artist. It was gonna be really hard to screw this up in my eyes, and I think Chazelle knocked it out of the park. Emma Stone is incredible, and Gosling is very, very good too. Just a wonderful movie that had me smiling from start to finish.
The Late Bloomer — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This amounted to nothing. The premise sounded interesting — guy who never went through puberty suddenly starts experiencing it all of a sudden, at a rapid rate — but it didn’t do much of anything with it. It just felt… flat. Oh well.
Legends of the Hidden Temple — * * * (3 stars)
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. That’s the reason I watched it. To see what they’d do with one of my favorite shows from childhood. And they turned it into a generic kids one hour special that looks like everything made today. The original show got passing references, from Olmec to Kirk Fogg to literal animal equivalents to each team. “Hey look, a green monkey!” That sort of stuff. It’s the worst form of nostalgia — the kind where they expect you to be okay with a simple reference to something and go along with it because,”Oh, I remember that!” It’s one turn away from what Friedberg and Seltzer consider parody to be — and pissed me off pretty bad at times. But ultimately I was left with, “At least it was only an hour and at least it introduced the kids of today to a show that I really liked.” So that’s something. And left me from being really upset with this.
Life, Animated — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Warm and uplifting documentary about a kid diagnosed with autism when he reaches a certain age. He withdraws completely from the world and the only thing that is able to draw him back out are Disney movies. So the parents get him to maintain communication through these movies, and we watch as they remain a big part of his life now, as an adult. Really charming stuff and well worth watching.
The Light Between Oceans — * * * * (4 stars)
This is an unabashed melodrama and I fucking loved every minute of it. This is classical storytelling all the way and if that bores you, stay away from this movie. Simple story. Man takes a post living at a lighthouse for a few years. Along the way he meets and falls in love with a woman. They marry and live at the lighthouse together. She finds herself unable to have children. And then a child washes ashore on a rowboat with a dead man. They take the child and claim it as their own. Everything is happy until years later they meet a woman whose husband and child were lost at sea and presumed dead. And now the guilt starts to eat at them — what should they do? It’s fucking great. I loved it. Fassbender and Vikander are great, as is Rachel Weisz. I loved Blue Valentine and really liked Place Beyond the Pines, and I think this is right up there among those two. I might even like it better than Place Beyond the Pines. I really liked this movie. Though I get why this would turn a lot of people off. This could have been made sixty years ago and been a masterpiece. Here, it can feel somewhat out of place. I think it’s a nice throwback I’d want to see more of. A real shame this got overlooked.
Lion — * * * * (4 stars)
This looked like bullshit Harvey Weinstein Oscar bait. Then I started watching it, and about twenty minutes in, I said, “Oh, this is pretty good.” And about forty minutes in, I said, “Oh shit, this is really good.” This is totally grounded in Dev Patel’s performance, and he’s the one who makes this movie work. It’s hard to overcome the Slumdog comparisons in the early scenes, but you get to the drama, and it’s about a boy displaced through circumstance who wants to find his home. A man torn between two homes. And you’d think him finding home through Google Maps is a gimmick, but it’s not. It’s more about his personal journey than anything. I really, really liked this and I especially liked the tag right at the end where they explain what the title is all about. I was gonna be upset if this wasn’t very good and got pushed through to Oscar nominations, but I actually think this might be deserving. Good for them.
Little Men — * * * (3 stars)
This didn’t do a whole lot for me. Like that the kids were the protagonists, but I wasn’t much drawn to the story and found myself detached throughout the whole thing. Oh well. They can’t all be winners.
Little Sister — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I almost completely skipped this, but something told me to see this. And I’m glad I did. Because now I get to tell people to check out the goth nun movie. That’s what this is about. A girl getting ready to take her first vows has to go home to see her family. In high school, she was hugely goth. Like, full on goth. And her brother went to fight overseas and came back with his face completely burned up and disfigured. And her mother is a neurotic control freak, and it’s about her coming back home to be around the life she gave up for one of the habit. And it’s fucking fascinating. There’s a musical scene in the middle of this film that’s just wonderful. You haven’t experienced cinema in 2016 until you’ve seen Addison Timlin wearing face paint and a pink wig and dancing around to a song about dead babies. This is definitely one of the more interesting indies of the year. A lot of people are gonna recommend Swiss Army Man as the weird little indie to check out. I say check out this one. This is the one I think people are gonna like. It’s so weird and yet so interesting all the way through. Big fan of this. And also that dead baby number.
Long Way North — * * * (3 stars)
We got a screener for this. Looked nice. Well animated. Didn’t love it, but solid. The hand drawn aspect is enough to keep me invested in your movie.
Love Is All You Need? — * * * (3 stars)
The premise is good enough to overcome a not great film. It’s basically — a world where homosexuality is the norm, and when people are hetero, they’re ridiculed and treated as the ones who don’t belong. It’s a good way to try to make a statement, but ultimately the movie doesn’t do much to actually make it. It feels like a cheap movie with a good premise that, were it not for people like me, no one would even know it exists. Mostly I want people to know about this because maybe one day someone will take this premise and actually make a statement about how we treat those deemed different from us in a meaningful way.
Loving — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
Jeff Nichols was the only one who could have told this story with any dignity. This is a quiet movie about a couple just trying to leave in peace. And it works because of Nichols’ understated direction and tendency to shy away from grand shows of affection or big “movie” moments. The scene where they find out the news that they won the Supreme Court case is a thing of underplayed beauty. I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. I really loved what he did here.
The Magnificent Seven — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I had to force myself not to think about how awful an idea this is. I’m taking Seven Samurai out of it, because to include that on top of the original Magnificent Seven might be too much for this movie to overcome. But a simple western remake — okay, sure. I guess you could try it. But I had to force myself to let this movie win me over on its own terms. And, it kinda works. Take away the western bump and you get a pretty generic action movie. All the stars are doing their own thing. No one feels as though they’re working together. The movie motors along like a plot machine — it looks like a movie made in 2016. And that’s just not enough for a story of this caliber. You can enjoy it well enough, but it just feels like a complete disappointment.
Manchester by the Sea — * * * * (4 stars)
It’s funny, it’s beautiful, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s just great. Casey Affleck is tremendous. That scene in the middle of the film at the police station — holy fuck. And the kid… oh my god, that kid is amazing. That’s one of the best performances by a teenage actor I’ve seen in years. The whole movie is just wonderfully crafted. I’ve watched it twice already (and will watch it again before the year’s out), and you can just sit down and watch it, even if it is emotionally heavy. It’s like Margaret, which was a wonderful movie that never got its proper due. It’s just great, and it has heavy moments that make you feel really awful, but there’s a lot of life and humor in it too. Great stuff here.
Mascots — * * * (3 stars)
It’s Christopher Guest. Which is what drew most of us in. And the subject matter sounded like it could work for what Guest does. But this felt pretty hollow. It doesn’t have any of the humor that all of his earlier stuff had. It’s nice because non-Guest people can see something of his and know the genre he essentially pioneered. But really all this is for most is either a lesser movie that doesn’t compare to his earlier work or an entry way into his better stuff, like Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and Waiting for Guffman. And even For Your Consideration. That’s the stuff you should watch. This is just okay.
Masterminds — * * (2 stars)
Yikes. Not that I didn’t see this coming. It’s the guy who made one of the movies of the past decade I really hate, and has yet to make a movie I like. Add to that the cast, which is almost entirely comprised of people I either cannot stand watching in comedies or people who are entirely dependent on their co-stars and material — there was no way I was gonna like this. And it’s not like I’m alone. This is generally hated (if anyone even saw it). It’s not good. This is lowest common denominator humor.
Max Steel — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Do not care. Do not care. I might be the only person who actually watched this movie. Because honestly, who gives a shit? Did you even know this came out? I bet even the hundred people who were fans of whatever this was beforehand didn’t even see this.
The Meddler — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This is fun. I don’t like it as much as her previous films, but I did really enjoy it. The opening sequence is so good — Susan Sarandon doing a three minute voiceover, talking about going shopping and rambling, and then you realize this is all a voicemail she’s leaving on her daughter’s machine. And immediately you understand who she is and what her relationship with her daughter is. The rest of the movie plays out like a standard indie, pretty much, but it’s still engaging and well made. Definitely something you should check out if you liked her previous stuff (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist).
Mercy — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
No idea what this was. But at this point, I just watch every Netflix movie because it’s there and it’s easy to throw on as I’m doing other stuff. But this was almost incoherent. No idea what was going on, didn’t care about any of it. Basically just a giant blank for me. Which happens.
Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
It’s exactly what the title says. And that’s it. It’s about Michael Jackson’s music, and that’s all I need. Simple as that.
Miss Hokusai — * * * (3 stars)
Was really excited for this for some reason. I guess because I thought it was Studio Ghibli. It’s not. And it’s just a pretty decent movie that didn’t do much to draw me in. Well made and all, just not something that did a whole lot for me. It actually felt like an animated version of The Story of Adele H. Famous person’s daughter, kind of thing. It was okay. Definitely better than most American animated movies.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children — * * * (3 stars)
I feel like we say this every time he has a movie come out, but… what happened to Tim Burton? The past 20 years (especially the past decade) have been rough. I think the issue is CGI. His movies were all about the set designs and costume designs and weird, practical things he could do to make his movies look good. But now that computers handle most of it, you’re basically left with movies that don’t feel like they have his sense of style to them, rendering him pretty useless. You take away Big Fish (which I don’t like as much as everyone else but still think is good), Sweeney Todd (which I love) and Big Eyes (which I liked) — and the two animated ones, since those are different — it’s basically him making movies with more CGI than he he should, giving them this sterilized vibe that just doesn’t work. That’s what this was. A generic YA movie that I only cared about because Tim Burton made it. Otherwise, I don’t know what the hell was happening here. Samuel L. Jackson was apparently like four characters, he’s trying to eat the kids’ eyes — it’s chaos. It’s not a good movie at all. I wish Burton would make something cool again. (Though next up is Dumbo, so it’s not looking good.)
Miss Sloane — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
In case them casting half the Newsroom cast wasn’t enough, they were trying to go for the Sorkin vibe here. But this is Aaron Sorkin-lite. They set it up from the start to be one of those movies where the reveal is that Chastain had it under control the entire time, so you’re basically looking for the twist throughout. If you played it straightforward, you can keep the audience invested in the drama and not trying to figure it out and just going along for the ride. But that’s 2016. Chastain is good, but the material actually hurts her at times. It’s a solid movie, but it never becomes great.
Moana — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of this. You figure Disney is good for a solid movie, maybe even a good movie, but past that, you never know how it’s gonna turn out. And this was great. Actually great. The music is terrific (even the villain song works! You know you got a good movie when the villain song works), the characters are charming, and while it falls into a few Disney traps, this is a really great movie. Respect to them for not making it racist at all, too. I absolutely loved this and I want to see what the rewatch is like. That’s what’ll determine how this really sits in Disney history.
The Monster — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I didn’t know what to expect here, but this was great. Zoe Kazan plays a horrible mother and really leans into it. It’s a great performance. And the story is simple enough to really get the most out of the actors and the tension. What I like about horror movies is when I can see them as being about something else than about something stupid like a vengeful spirit or whatever. This is about addiction and motherhood. It’s simple and it’s well told. I was a big fan of this, which is rare for a horror movie.
A Monster Calls — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
This was one of my two most anticipated movies of 2016. I was so tuned into this that when I watched it, basically knew what was gonna happen. Nothing felt overly surprising. But I guess when you have a story like this, that’s not the attraction. I still loved it. It’s wonderfully told, with so much emotion in it. I’ve seen this twice now, and will see it at least once more before the end of the year. I really loved it. People need to watch this movie. It’s incredible.
Moonlight — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
After the failure of Birth of a Nation, this started coming on as the indie everyone was talking about. So I was nervous going in, but it looked good. So I had hopes. Mostly I didn’t want it to fall victim of too much buzz. But I forgot about that within fifteen minutes of this movie starting. This was tremendous. What a great movie. Even going into this, I couldn’t have guessed this had remotely a shot for the top ten. But this legitimately has a top ten shot for me. Normally I like these movies but don’t love them enough to put them that high. But this one — this is a special film. This deserves all the acclaim it gets.
Morgan — * * * (3 stars)
It’s like Splice meets a murder mystery. A being engineered in a lab kills one of the scientists, and Kate Mara is tasked with figuring out what happened. You can see where this is going, and it’s fine, but it’s nothing overly special.
Mr. Church — * * * (3 stars)
I mean… this just seemed like a sentimental Oscar grab from two years ago. It’s directed by the guy who made Driving Miss Daisy, and Eddie Murphy plays a man hired to cook for a dying woman until she passes, but ends up staying with her and her daughter for over twenty years. It’s one of those stories that you just know what the thinking behind it was and feels like something that should have been made 25 years ago. But I liked it. I like these kinds of movies. They’re innocent and they’re fine. I’m not gonna shit on it just because it’s trying to manipulate me. It’s fine.
Mr. Pig — * * * (3 stars)
It’s a movie about Danny Glover and a pig. Are you not mildly interested? It’s basically an indie, but it is engaging. It’ll keep your attention, even if it doesn’t amount to a whole lot.
The Music of Strangers — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
We got a screener. I watched it. Didn’t like it as a documentary, but the music was nice.
My Blind Brother — * * * (3 stars)
This was a lot of fun. Great set up. Regular guy who doesn’t fully have his shit together dealing with his blind brother who seemingly does. And his brother is an asshole. And he can’t really say anything, because he’s blind. And then the brother ends up dating a woman he previously slept with, and things are awkward. I liked this.
The Neon Demon — * * * (3 stars)
This looked gorgeous, visually, but I don’t know what the fuck it was about. That’s usually my issue with Refn. Sometimes, narratively, I don’t know what he’s going for. There’s a scene in this movie where someone fucks a corpse. Why? I don’t know! But it looks great. His movies work best when he has a writer. Without a story, I couldn’t follow this.
Nine Lives — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Yeah… we knew this wouldn’t be good. But as bad as the movie was (and it wasn’t good), I can take solace in the fact that at least it was Kevin Spacey and Christopher Walken and not other people. So there is that, I guess. Definitely not one of Spacey’s prouder moments, I’m sure.
Nocturnal Animals — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
This was utterly gripping. I’m not sure what the point of it was. I kinda get what the ending was going for (which was kind of bold, to end a film that way), but it didn’t wholly feel all the way there. But the rest of the film was utterly captivating. From the opening credits (best credits sequence I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know why he chose that, but man, was that great) to the frame story… this pulled me in and kept me there. I really liked this quite a bit. Very interested in seeing this again.
Oasis: Supersonic — * * * (3 stars)
Music documentaries are usually moderately interesting. I can’t say I ever really liked Oasis or cared about their music. So there was only so much I was going to get out of this. But I liked that they spent most of their fame drinking and doing drugs and partying. That was cool.
The Odyssey — * * * (3 stars)
Jacques Cousteau biopic. It’s decent, but feels more like a broad biopic that checks off moments rather than get deep into characters in any meaningful way. I wish they’d gone a little deeper, but as it is, it’s watchable.
O.J.: Made in America — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
I don’t see how anyone watches this and doesn’t consider it the greatest achievement in documentaries in 2016. This is a massive undertaking, and it’s just brilliant from start to finish. I can’t speak about this highly enough. And I don’t have to, because pretty much everyone else is doing it for me. This is one of those achievements that’s just… it’s gonna sweep everything and it deserves to sweep everything. It says it all.
Other People — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
The setup of this movie is so generic. Stop me when you’ve heard it. Gay comedy writer trying to get a staff job at SNL comes home to his conservative, small town family to care for his dying mother. But actually, this was really solid. Jesse Plemons is very good, Molly Shannon is very good. My favorite part was this kid they hired to play the younger brother of Plemons’ friend. Think stereotypical gay ten year old turned up to about fifteen. That kid is fucking wonderful in this movie and I loved every single minute he was on screen. Absolutely one of my favorite supporting performances of 2016. He was so perfect. The movie was pretty good, but that kid was perfect. I’m glad, though, that this movie overcame the generic nature of its premise. I think because its based on the writer-director’s actual experiences, so that gave it an added weight that those other indies don’t seem to have.
Ouija: Origin of Evil — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Only watched this to try to get 100% completion. Did not like the first movie at all, and this one was unbearable. It’s just a mash of genre cliches. Just every single horror trope you can think of — here it is. Why would anyone watch this movie?
Pete’s Dragon — * * * (3 stars)
I’m not sure why I had higher expectations for this. I guess because David Lowery directed it, and I really liked Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. I guess I thought he’d find a nice angle for this. The result was fine, and pleasant, but it wasn’t much of anything special. Not that the original is such a wonderful movie. It’s just pretty good. This is also just pretty good. It looks nice, and it’s trying to do something interesting, but it’s not all there for me. Nice to see Redford, and it’s a perfectly acceptable family movie, but not something that I think will really appeal to most people past a superficial sort of admiration.
Phantom Boy — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
A lovely little animated movie. It’s by the guy who did A Cat in Paris, which got nominated in 2011. Really simple little plot. Actually the kind of plot that you’d see in one of those Nickelodeon shows. Kid is in the hospital, sick, and he discovers a weird ability to leave his body and travel around as an apparition. Meanwhile a cop is also in the hospital and finds he can do the same thing. A lot of people can. Only he and the kid are the ones who remember being able to do this. Meanwhile, a villain is in town, threatening to throw the entire city into chaos. So the cop has to find this villain, which he can’t do from his hospital room. So he enlists the help of his love interest, a reporter, and the boy in order to help save the city. Wonderful little movie. Really well made. Liked this one quite a bit. Worth checking out, as far as animated films go.
Queen of Katwe — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Chess movies are always interesting. And that’s what allows this to not get bogged down by mainstream, unadventurous Disney filmmaking, which tries to riddle the film with cliches and “family movie” nonsense. It has a winning personality, with great lead performances all around, and the chess aspect really helps this to stay above something like a Million Dollar Arm, which was generic to the max.
Rebirth — * * * (3 stars)
It’s The Game, but if the end result was Scientology. That’s really all you need to know. It’s fine. You know where it’s going every step of the way.
The Red Turtle — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)
What a gorgeous, beautiful film. It’s a co-production by Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli. There’s no dialogue, and it’s essential a film about life. We are alone on our islands until we find someone else to be there with us. It’s really lovely, and never overstays its welcome. I really loved this movie. This is what animation should be.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
This was amusing enough. Not great. Just watch the original. The problem they made with this was not filming it live. So it didn’t have the energy that Grease Live had. It felt overly processed. The music was so clearly edited in post and made to sound crisper than a live performance. It’s fine in that it introduces people to the movie and the music, but overall it’s not anything but a nice one-off.
Rules Don’t Apply — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
It’s hard not to go into this really apprehensive, given that Warren Beatty hasn’t made a movie in fifteen years and hasn’t directed in almost 20. You get the sense that this was gonna be a project made by someone still thinking he was in an era that doesn’t exist anymore. And the trailers certainly made it seem uneven at best. And, after seeing it — it is uneven. Half the movie feels like a mess, edited down from a way longer movie in a very obvious way. The film is so choppy that you notice scenes are cut way down from what they used to be and whole characters feel marginalized. Ed Harris gets about a minute of screen time in the end, and Alec Baldwin just shows up out of nowhere. The other half of the film is almost brilliant. There are parts of this movie that work really well. And the recreations of Hollywood in the 1950s are gorgeous. I respect a lot of what the movie is, even though it’s very flawed. Beatty does a good job as Hughes though. It’s nice to see him on screen again, even though it doesn’t look like he’ll be directing again. This definitely looks like a director past his era, the way all those last films by people like Billy Wilder, William Wyler and Vincente Minnelli looked.
Shut In — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This was pretty bad. If I cared enough, I’d have dropped this to 2 stars. But I didn’t care. I knew what the twist was from the start, so mostly I was watching to see how boring the whole thing was. Really not good at all.
The Siege of Jadotville — * * * (3 stars)
Netflix movie. Pretty okay. Lot of battle scenes, so that was good. Otherwise not something I particularly cared about.
Sky Ladder — * * * (3 stars)
Sure. Didn’t really care, but fine. It’s a documentary. Stuff like this doesn’t do it for me.
Snowden — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Oliver Stone is usually good for a solid movie. I haven’t particularly loved anything he’s made since Any Given Sunday, but they’re all generally worthwhile films. I went into this somewhat nervous, since I always get nervous when people make movies about important current events without giving them the time to play out. But I think this overall did a great job. It showed me who the guy is (almost too much), showed me why he did what he did, and kept me engaged throughout. I’m not gonna say it’s a perfect movie, but it’s definitely a really solid one. This is the most I’ve liked one of his movies since… since actually Any Given Sunday.
Southside with You — * * * (3 stars)
This is the Obamas first date movie. It’s cute. It’s fine. Nothing great. It is what it is. Not something that’s gonna be overly remembered, but not offensively cloying either.
Spectral — * * * (3 stars)
This was worthwhile. War movie with a supernatural element. It actually works halfway decently. In terms of movies released on Netflix, this was one of the more interesting ones.
Storks — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
The strangest thing about this is that Nick Stoller directed it. It’s an utterly generic animated movie that’s not particularly good in any way. Don’t get it. But whatever.
Sully — * * * * (4 stars)
I was real nervous for this one. Because the event took about six minutes to happen. And I thought Eastwood was gonna stretch it into two hours and add unnecessary hero worship and “New Yawker” first responder shit. You know, that Peter Berg thing that he does. And then I saw the movie was only 96 minutes and thought, “Oh, so this could be good.” And it was. It was really good. It gives you all the different perspectives on the crash, and really does manage to stay extremely interesting throughout. Some of it doesn’t work, like making the review board one-dimensional villains for no reason, or the Laura Linney wife element, which is completely underdeveloped, but overall this did a way better job than I ever expected it to. American Sniper was nice, but overall not a great movie. This is actually a pretty damn good movie, and probably my favorite thing he’s done in about ten years.
Swiss Army Man — * * * (3 stars)
It’s a movie about a farting corpse, so it’s always gonna be of some interest. But this was just weird. Overly weird. When you find out what’s actually going on, it makes sense, but it’s also really disturbing. I’m guessing that’s the point, but this just wasn’t for me. I was fascinated by its weirdness to a point, but it lost me after a while.
Tickled — * * * * (4 stars)
This was FUCKED UP. If you know nothing about it, then just put it on and watch it. You might have heard a little bit about it. I know I sort of did. Right as it came out, I heard a little bit, and then there was an incident at one of the screenings in Hollywood (which I won’t get into, because it makes more sense after you see the movie)
Train to Busan — * * * (3 stars)
Solid zombie thriller out of Korea. They’ll pick this up for an American remake soon enough. I thought it was well made. Didn’t love it, but it was definitely well made.
Trash Fire — * * * (3 stars)
This was pretty dark and fucked up. Didn’t love it, but I liked how cynical it was and how the characters were pretty much despicable people. Save one. That was a nice twist. Otherwise just okay.
Trolls — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This was not for me, this is not for me. It’s for children. And it’s not made by Disney or Pixar (or even Laika), so it’s a completely forgettable movie designed to make money right now. This will be forgotten immediately until they make a sequel. Nothing really of value here at all.
The True Memoirs of an International Assassin — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This is like that Adam Sandler one that came out. Kevin James in an action-comedy that’s more action than comedy. But I guess at least it’s something else, because the recent Sandler crew movies haven’t had any comedy in them to speak of. This was completely generic and had very little of value in it. The best thing they did was release it on Netflix because then you don’t feel any obligation toward it. Were this a theatrical release, I’d have been dreading it. Here, I was like, “Ehh, I’ll watch it.” And then rather than hate it, I just didn’t care. So that’s better.
Trumpland — * * * (3 stars)
I thought this was gonna be a documentary. This was actually a stand-up comedy special. Essentially. It’s a “one-man show,” which is a classy way of saying stand-up special. Michael Moore stands up and does comedy for 90 minutes. Which, honestly I’m not mad at. He’s a smart and funny dude. He comes off as heavy-handed, but he actually lands a few good jokes here. It’s not groundbreaking in any way, but it’s decent enough. What I was most impressed with was the article he wrote when Trump got the nomination, discussing how Trump was gonna win the election. And then he was right. This was just an interesting little show he did that he put on tape.
USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This was exactly what it looked like — a poorly made movie made for no money. Was this surprising? I know Cage is in it, but that was just him collecting a paycheck. This is about as cheap a movie as Left Behind was. Definitely not one of his finer moments. (And you notice I’m focusing my review on him, because if he weren’t in it, there was a zero chance I’d have ever seen this.)
When the Bough Breaks — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
I only saw this because I was pulling 100% completion at the time and wanted to continue the streak. This was fucked up. Not in a good way, but in the way that kept me from completely turning on it. Plus, it gave me this text exchange:
“Watching When the Bough Breaks. The writing so far is Lifetime level.”
“She’s legal plus three.”
“Her real name is Jaz. Kinda hoping Morris Chestnut throws her out the door at some point. What’s this weird subplot with the abusive boyfriend? For misdirection? Isn’t this a crazy bitch movie?”
“It gets good. By which I mean bad. But in a, ‘wow, yup’ kinda way. And sorta. You root for her. And then it’s….well. You’ll get there.”
“This couple is boring as fuck.”
“I was rooting for her cause Regina hall was awful.”
“They have a guest house. Why is it the people who can’t have kids always have a guest house?
By the way, so far this is a very similar plot to that Will Ferrell Kristen Wiig Lifetime movie from last year. The reveal is she’s not pregnant and planning the whole thing with her boyfriend.”
“Nope. Well, different anyway.”
“It would have been fucked up if they were the same. That might have been preferable. They’re all Fatal Attraction rip offs anyway.”
“Just wait. No business ripping off as bad as it did. Remember, there’s a cat.”
“There’s always an animal. And a kitchen knife. And a bathroom fight.”
“Oh yes. You’re getting close.”
“This boyfriend is a terrible actor. ‘I’m the brains on this. You’re just the uterus.’ And Romany Malco is randomly here. No way he makes it out alive. Either that or he is not getting proper work.
‘John loves children and they love him. Thank you John’.” Great speech.
Why is she so mad about the dress? Who gives a fuck?”
“Legal plus three.”
“Oh good. The seduction scene.”
“On the ground.”
“And they have a record player. Much less sexy if it’s an iDock.
“Why are they hiding the crazy this long?”
“It comes out fast.”
“That ladder scene… Jesus Christ.
And now Regina Hall left for three days. Because of course.”
At least he has G-Chat records to prove he wanted no part of this shit.”
“But who else might have those records? He’s at work.”
“I wonder how long before she starts cutting Regina Hall out of the family pictures.
Oh good. Boyfriend is back. Time for a murder. That Morris Chestnut is going to be implicated in for blackmail purposes.
… And there’s the whale.
I like how they had to reveal it was her like that was any sort of surprise.”
“Yes. What the hell is this movie?”
“And now Michael K Williams. Okay. Private investigators never make it.
This is Lifetime.
Oh good. Fake name. I can’t believe I’m actually paying attention to this.
“I’d like to add that in the studio promo, Morris Chestnut referred to this as a ‘family movie’.”
“The Manson family?
This is the same aquarium from Bad Lieutenant.
Here comes the dead cat.
A HAHA she kicked her so hard her water broke.”
“My favorite part, I think.
Also, the frying pan.”
“I hate it when I have to stop assaulting a person to have a baby.”
“Radio Raheem died.”
I think it’s that last part that really puts this movie into perspective.
White Girl — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)
Really liked this. Kinda like Arbitrage in that it’s about a white person using their privilege to get away with shit. But you take that away and it’s a really engaging movie. The main actress was really good. And while it’s not even remotely realistic in any way whatsoever, I still really liked watching it.
The Wild Life — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
Generic, low-budget animated movie. These all turn out the same… with me not giving a shit.
Wild Oats — * * * (3 stars)
The premise was good — Shirley MacLaine’s husband dies and due to a clerical error, she receives a life insurance check with a few more zeroes on it than she anticipated. So she cashes it and goes on a vacation with her friend, enjoying life while she still can. Sounded fun enough. The movie, though — they end up with the cartel at one point… it’s chaos. Since I like Shirley MacLaine and Jessica Lange, I’ll give the movie a pass, but man was this really trying not to be a good movie. You gotta be wary of a movie that gets picked up by Lifetime before it shows up in a theater.
Yoga Hosers — * * * (3 stars)
Going in, I didn’t care. I loved Kevin Smith movies growing up, but pretty much after Zack and Miri, I stopped caring. Cop Out was a paycheck, Red State was intriguing but too bipolar a movie for me to love it, and Tusk was just fucking weird. So this — didn’t particularly care about this. But, honestly, it was fun enough. It had that kids movie vibe that Goosebumps used to have. Not taking itself too seriously, having fun with the thing, and trying to give you both fun and goofy scary at the same time. So, I’m okay with this. Didn’t love it, but I’m okay with it.
The Young Pope — * * * * (4 stars)
This was DOPE. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss it. It’s not coming out until like February in the US. You still have time. But this is awesome. Paolo Sorrentino directs. Which, after The Great Beauty and Youth, I think that means something to most. And then Jude Law is so great here. It’s basically House of Cards in The Vatican. Only better, since you think he’s gonna be this lying piece of shit who schemed his way to the top, but the more you watch, the more it seems like he actually might be some kind of divine presence who belongs in this job and was made pope through the will of God. It’s really intriguing shit. Plus the idea that he got voted in, thinking, “He’s young. He’ll be progressive enough to keep the church relevant.” And then he just does not do that. He goes fucking reactionary. And it’s awesome. Could not recommend this more highly. (Note: I’m counting this here because it was presented as a miniseries. Though apparently since I saw it they’ve picked it up for a second season, thereby making it a series. So from here on out I will not be counting this toward my official tally, since I don’t ever count actual series toward my tally.)
Your Name — * * * (3 stars)
We got a screener, and I heard it was something like the highest grossing movie of the year in Japan. So I saw it. And because it was on the eligibles list for Animated Feature. Mostly the first two. Without those two, I’d have skipped this, because it’ll never be nominated. I went to watch it the first time and found that I’d tuned out for about an hour and had no idea what was going on. So I tried it again another day. Same thing. Tuned out about thirty minutes in. Had to force myself to sit through it a third time to make it through. This just isn’t for me. Anime isn’t my style. So much of this felt like three episodes strung together to make a movie. I’m sure people love this movie or whatever, but I just couldn’t do it. I’ll leave this movie to those who care about it.
Zero Days — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
It got shortlisted for the Oscar, so I had to watch it. Not a documentary I’d normally want to see. Too complex, too much about something I didn’t know or particularly cared about. “The U.S. made a virus to fuck up other countries’ WMD programs, and then it spiraled out of control and is affecting computers all over the world.” Honestly I’m not surprised, and while I could be persuaded to be interested in that topic, you’re not gonna get me with hardcore computer talk, discussing the complexity of the virus and coding and all this computer talk. So much of it went over my head I just tuned out for a lot of it. That’s me and documentaries though. So I wouldn’t take it too badly. This happens with most of them.
Zoom — * * ½ (2.5 stars)
This was pretty whatever. Labor Day weekend is a dead one for movies. So chances are if I’m given something to watch, I will take it. This, though — very weird, arty, trying to amount to something, and ultimately doesn’t. Gets credit for giving me something to watch, but otherwise was mostly forgotten about two days later.
The Films I Haven’t Seen Yet
- The Lure — I have it and just need to watch it. A lot of these will be knocked out over the next week now that I’ll have some time to watch things.
- A Tale of Love and Darkness — There’s always one film (always a late August release, too) that comes out in two theaters, is impossible to see, and then it never gets released until midway through the following year, and it fucks up my completion percentage. This is looking to be that film for 2016.
- The 9th Life of Louis Drax — This is coming out on DVD in early February. Still holding out hope I can fit it in before we close out this year.
- Voyage of Time — Thought this would be easy to see. I was wrong. Not looking positive, this one.
- Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life — I’ll see this within the next week.
- Boo! A Madea Halloween — Gonna be perfectly honest… I’d really like to skip this movie. I have a copy of this movie. And I’d like to not watch it. But I told myself if I could get to 100% completion, and this was the only movie preventing me from doing that, I’d watch this movie. We still have two weeks (or so) left. Let’s see what happens.
- First Girl I Loved — I will see this before the end of the year.
- Man Down — Aside from the late August release I can never find, there’s also always a first week of December release too. This appears to be that one this year. Maybe I’ll get lucky.
- Office Christmas Party — Gonna see it, haven’t yet. Not overly concerned.
- Neruda — I have it, just have to watch it.
- Toni Erdmann — Same. Have it, just have to watch it.
- The Salesman — Three for three. Just have to watch it.
- I, Daniel Blake — Four for four. Have it, will see it.
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Going to see this tonight.
- A Kind of Murder — This comes out tomorrow, so I’ll see it this weekend.
- Barry — Also comes out tomorrow, so I’ll see it this weekend.
The Films That Have Not Been Released Yet
- Collateral Behauty
- Why Him?
- Assassin’s Creed
- Patriot’s Day
- Hidden Figures
- Live by Night
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