The Official Review Thread of 2016

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Aug 27, 2016 12:56 pm

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Christian MacKay, Alan Corduner.
Dir: Stephen Frears.

During the 1940's, A rich heiress living in New York decides to become an opera singer. She becomes a sensation but for all the wrong reasons. (Hint: Basically, she was the 1940's equivalent of William Hung). I'm personally surprised I liked this as much as I did. I thought it was going to be a nice, fluffy little biopic and in a way it is. But I didn't expect this to be as funny, sweet and moving as it was. Largely thanks to Meryl Streep's performance. Yes, Meryl Streep gave a great performance. Big deal. But her gifts are well utilized here. This character could have easily been a ridiculous cartoon but she made us feel for her even though we may laugh at her ridiculousness. She's matched by both Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg as her husband and accompanying pianist respectively. It may not be the most exciting film out there but it's a delightful, solid little dramedy.

Oscar Prospects: Streep obviously may have one spot locked up. Hugh Grant is actually a co-lead here even though I think he will be campaigned as Supporting (which Simon Helberg is). Production Design, Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling are all strong possibilities.

Grade: B+

WAR DOGS
Cast: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana De Armas, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Pollak, Shaun Toub.
Dir: Todd Philips.

Based on a true story, this is about two twenty-somethings who find and sell weapons to the U.S. army during the second Iraqi War. It tracks their rise to their meteoric downfall. This film is basically what director Todd Philips seemed to be heading to as the Hangover movies become darker and progressively shot more like thrillers than comedies. But still, even though it's slickly made and is filled with great ideas, this film falls horribly short. It clearly wants to be a Wolf of Wall Street-type of dark comedy but the serious elements and comedic elements doesn't seem to jive with each other well. Plus is it just me or does anyone else think Todd Philips simply can't write women? There's one female character here and she's severely underwritten and barely serviceably acted by someone who's attractive and nothing more.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Aug 20, 2016 6:17 pm

I kind of hate to be a grouch about something as amiable as Florence Foster Jenkins, but I have to admit that I wasn't all that taken by it, especially compared to some of you guys. For me, this was a lot closer to Mrs. Henderson Presents Stephen Frears than The Queen Stephen Frears. I think the movie benefits from an overall air of likability, and certainly a game cast -- this is the kind of part twenty-first century Meryl just has a field day with, Hugh Grant hasn't been this light on his feet in a long time, and Nina Arianda is a dumb blonde hoot. (I would emphatically NOT include Simon Helberg on this list, who is the one member of the cast who I thought just needed to take everything down about five notches.)

But I think the movie suffers from two significant problems. The first is simply that there just isn't that much incident in the story. About half way through the movie, I found myself thinking, this plot hasn't extended much further beyond what I saw in the trailer. Florence Foster Jenkins sings badly but doesn't know it, starts singing in public, and then becomes something of a popular phenomenon...and up until the last reel of the movie, that's virtually all that happens. There are other elements woven in -- a traumatic backstory for Florence, the peculiarity of the relationship between Florence and her husband -- but none of these are fleshed out in any particularly impactful way. For a while, I started to feel like the movie pretty much had one joke up its sleeve -- Meryl sings badly! -- and I could only watch so many scenes of that before I got antsy.

The movie, eventually, does reveal that it has a bit more on its mind, but this led to what I felt was the other big issue: I don't think the filmmakers quite worked out what their take on the Florence Foster Jenkins story is. For much of the movie, the audience is invited -- no, encouraged -- to laugh as much as possible at Florence and her antics. And then comes the scene that flipp cites, where it seems like all of a sudden the movie views such laughter as cruel, and now wants us to sympathize with -- and even cheer for -- a woman just trying her best, no matter that her talent is abysmal. (The fact that Nina Arianda's character is the one who emblematizes the movie's shift in attitude -- and that her own character's change of heart is completely unmotivated and out of the blue -- brings out the problem even more.) It seems like there COULD be rich material to mine here, particularly if the movie had had a stronger point of view on what Grant is doing and why -- why he's in a relationship with her at all, why he's willing to encourage her to the point of public embarrassment, and why he might even realize that a bad product that's raking in money might possibly be a worthier investment than a good one that isn't. But instead I thought the movie didn't go much deeper than, "you go, girl!", and that, for me, was a disappointment.

SPOILER ABOUT THE ENDING OF THE MOVIE

Also, can I just point out how much I HATE endings where the protagonist articulates a very clear theme statement as their literal last words before dying?

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Aug 20, 2016 10:28 am

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Ann Dowd, Missi Pyle, Erin Moriarty.
Dir: Matt Ross.

A hippie, far-left father of six who's raising his kids completely off the grid in the woods of the Pacific Northwest finds out his bi-polar wife killed herself and takes a trip to her funeral against his father-in-law's wishes. This would have easily have been an annoying, smug and too-quirky-for-its-own good indie but thanks to the more nuanced writing and characterization, as well as Viggo Mortensen's great performance, this film didn't suffer too much of those flaws. It does flirt with them occasionally, particularly towards the end. However, the film mostly avoids these missteps and presents us with a thought-provoking comedy-drama about an unusual family. Kudos as well to the kid actors who play the kids.

Oscar Prospects: Viggo Mortensen wouldn't be a bad Best Actor nominee.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:51 pm

Okri wrote: I'm not quite sure what to make of Indignation except to say I'm VERY curious what Tee thinks of it and there's a stunning scene partway through that might go down as the best writing of the year.

Look further down: I started a thread on it.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:35 pm

Did a double feature of Pete's Dragon and Indignation.

The former is a kid's film. I have no nostalgia for the original and can't definitely say if I've seen it or not. But it's made with enough feeling that it's passable, though I was definitely getting bored. My favourite moment came from an audience. The titular character is in peril and a kid in the back cried "are they going to hurt the dragon?" and spent the next portion of the film audibly worried.

I'm not quite sure what to make of Indignation except to say I'm VERY curious what Tee thinks of it and there's a stunning scene partway through that might go down as the best writing of the year.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:55 am

THE SHALLOWS
Cast: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen.
Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra.

A young woman goes surfing in an isolated Mexican beach then she is attacked and stalked by a man-eating great white shark so she must fight to survive. I've heard people say that this is the best shark movie since Jaws (a lot of the shots of this film probably were directly ripped off from it). That's kind of like damning it with faint praise because there weren't a lot of shark movies in between these two films that were any good. But this is in fact a very good movie. Jaume Collet-Serra has been making his name doing some interesting genre flicks now and this may be his best work to date. Blake Lively is likewise also doing some of her best acting work in this one as well rising up to the challenge of acting alone through a huge chunk of the film as well as the physical demands of the role. Oh and I love Steven Seagull!

Oscar Prospects: Maybe for Visual Effects and Sound Editing. Lively wouldn't be an embarrassing Best Actress contender though.

Grade: B+

THE BFG
Cast: Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rafe Spall, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader.
Dir: Steven Spielberg.

Based on the Roald Dahl book, this is about a little orphan girl who meets and befriends a Big Friendly Giant (the BFG) and tries to help him defeat the bigger, meaner giants. This is director Steven Spielberg first directorial collaboration with Disney and the last work from late screenwriter Melissa Mathison who both brought us E.T.. This is definitely no E.T. though it does have all the elements to make it come close. The visual effects are outstanding. Ruby Barnhill is an absolutely wonderful child actress who pulls off a wonderful natural performance especially since you realize she must have been acting with blue and green screens half the time. Mark Rylance as the title character also likewise gives a warm, funny and soulful performance underneath the mo-cap CGI. There are lots of funny and sweet moments throughout. But unfortunately, it feels a wee bit too long and it doesn't really quite come close to being a fantasy classic. It's a perfectly fine film but a mid-tier Spielberg at best.

Oscar Prospects: Strong contender for Visual Effects, Production Design and Original Score.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Sat Aug 13, 2016 11:29 pm

I just came from Florence Foster Jenkins, and I'll largely echo flipp's take with a dash more enthusiasm. I was pretty taken by the whole thing. Admittedly, it gets a lot of mileage from the premise, but the amount of joy in the performances really goes a long way as well.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:56 am

Ira Sachs is the kind of filmmaker I very much WANT to like. He's clearly interested in films about real people, he has intuitive observations about human behavior, and he understands that the nuances of modern life can often be messy. But Little Men is now the second wildly acclaimed film from him that has left me mostly underwhelmed, and I just have to conclude that, despite obvious admirable qualities, he just doesn't excite me all that much as a filmmaker.

Part of this problem has to do with the fact that "stories about real people" can pretty easily flirt with mundanity, and think Sachs's style tips too far toward the latter for my taste. The central conflict of the movie revolves around the lease of a dress shop -- Greg Kinnear's father left the property to him in his will and he now wants to raise the rent closer to market value, tenant Paulina Garcia doesn't think her rent should be hiked all of a sudden, and both of their sons become friends as this conflict develops. It's not like this is an uninteresting premise -- both sides make good points, and no one's really in the wrong -- but I don't think the script ever really takes this set-up anywhere that compelling or unexpected. I know a lot of people thought House of Sand and Fog took its story in increasingly melodramatic directions, but I thought that was a narrative about a property dispute that actually had some plot propulsion -- it WENT somewhere. Sachs's approach is obviously far more low-key, but I didn't find that a virtue -- there's a scene between Garcia and Kinnear where she reveals something his father once told her, and my thought was, that's a pretty minor thing to be the biggest "revelation" this story gives us.

I think there's definitely something to the idea that the conflict between these parents has an unwitting ricochet effect on the relationship between their sons, and there's an innate sadness to that fact that's moving. And yet, I found the boys' story not much more interesting than the real estate plot, a real issue given that Kinnear's son is the ostensible protagonist of the movie. He's clearly coded as gay, and may or may not have an attraction to his new best friend, but this is mostly a quiet observation rather than a plot engine, and in fact, most of the scenes between the two kids could be described as observation -- playing sports, playing video games, in acting class, on the subway, in a dance club -- an approach that I just didn't find as elucidating as many critics have. (The two kids are very well cast, though, and you can see why they became friends even despite their obvious personality differences.)

There's a scene near the end of the movie when Jake, our protagonist, does take some major action, and I thought this was a strong moment, a smart take on the idea that kids can often meddle in adult problems having the best of intentions, without really understanding the murkiness of the waters into which they're treading. But then, frustratingly for me, the movie just went right back to dwelling on the ho-hum, failing to provide really any resolution to the adults' conflict, giving us a heartfelt but peculiar father-son scene that seems to convey an idea mostly unrelated to what the movie has been dealing with, and then concluding with a sequence that isn't without poignancy, but that just doesn't amount to as much as it might have because the preceding scenes have been so afraid of dramatic incident.

Hopefully the fact that I wrote as much as I did suggests that, even despite my qualms, I think there are still plenty of elements of the movie worth mulling over, and it's such a humane thing that I could never be mean-spirited about it. But, as with Love is Strange, I think the enthusiastic raves are really overlooking some of the movie's clear limitations.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Aug 07, 2016 9:08 am

BAD MOMS
Cast: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jay Hernandez, Clark Duke, Annie Mumolo, Emjay Anthony, Oona Laurence, David Walton, Wendell Pierce, Wanda Sykes.
Dirs: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore.

Three moms team up and decide to rebel against the tyrannical uptight president of the PTA at their children's school. I actually liked this more than I thought I would. It's not a perfect film or a comedic masterpiece by any means....and maybe it doesn't need to be, just like the message of the main protagonists of this film. It works largely due to the cast. I'm surprised Mila Kunis is effective and convincing as an overworked mom of two tweens (she had them early). But Kathryn Hahn is the one that steals the show and gets most of the laughs. I'm glad more people are seeing her comedic talents through this film. Also, it's surprisingly sweet, sensitive and heartfelt. I'm surprised this was written by men....and the same guys who did The Hangover.

Oscar Prospects: None but Kathryn Hahn wouldn't be a too embarrassing Supporting Actress nominee.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:21 am

SUICIDE SQUAD
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevinge, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Common, Adam Beach, Scott Eastwood, Karen Fukuhara, David Harbour, Alaine Chinoine, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller.
Dir: David Ayer.

I'm not a fan of the DCEU. The first couple of films were...not very good. I was so rooting for this to be the good one. But alas, it's not! It certainly had potential. A group of super villains are recruited by the U.S. government for special off-the-books black ops missions. The first act was fun. The introduction to the characters was fascinating. I can definitely see potential for a great movie with what they have. But it never rise above being just that, potential. It quickly becomes rather dull. I heard someone pointed out that for a film that has a very colorful marketing campaign color scheme, this movie is too darkly lit. And that's probably why I found the action scenes numbing instead of exciting. i'm not a DC hater. I'm rooting for them to get it together. Come on, Wonder Woman!

Oscar Prospects: Makeup & Hairstyling, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are possible.

Grade: C-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Precious Doll » Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:22 am

Elle (2016) Paul Verhoeven 10/10

Wow, was my first response after see ing the film and my next is welcome make to mainstream filmmaking Paul Verhoeven. It's been a while now but the wait has been worth it.

Much has probably already been written by critics at Cannes about how great the film was, etc, etc, and they are right. Not surprisingly Isabelle Huppert excels in the role of a CEO of a company specialising in violent video games who is brutally raped during a home invasion. She continues to go about her daily business as if nothing has happened, deciding not to report the crime. Instead she embarks on a cat-and-mouse game with her assailant which also feeds her own sadomasochistic desires. This has got to be the first ever rape, revenge comedy ever made and it works beautifully, partly too because it's not just about rape and empowerment but a whole lot of other issues that film covers in it's various subplots. The dialogue is snappy and fast and not a sentence is wasted. Verhoeven directs with assurance and confidence switching from drama to comedy with the greatest of ease and the Hitchcockian music used on the soundtrack is most appropriate. Great opening shot too of Huppert's Russian Blue cat silently watching the first assault with a rather disturbing detachment.

I haven't enjoyed and had so much fun with a film in over a year. Sadly for all it's virtues (there are no faults) I can't see the Academy warming to this one. And while I'm at it shame, shame, shame on the Cannes Jury headed by George Miller who completely overlooked Elle, Toni Erdmann, Paterson, Sieranevada, Aquarius and The Handmaiden in favour of drudge like Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World. WTF were they smoking?
"I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don't think that's right…It's gotten very quiet in here, but that's true." Susan Sarandon on Woody Allen, Cannes Film Festival 2016

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:10 am

SING STREET
Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jack Reynor, Kelly Thornton, Ian Kenny, Ben Carolan.
Dir: John Carney.

Call me crazy but this just be my favorite John Carney film I've seen to date. It's kind of amazing he manages to make a three films about struggling musicians in a row but each one feels different and unique. You'd think he'd be repeating himself but he's not. This time, a teenage boy from Dublin in the mid-1980's form a band in order to impress an older girl. The film is super-duper charming. It's funny and sweet and even cute without being overly quirky or cloying. The cast is superb. It also doesn't over-do with the '80s nostalgia which films of this ilk sometimes tend to do. Oh and the soundtrack is pretty damn great and half of them are new, original songs. I love the song "Drive It Like You Stole It".

Oscar Prospects: Definitely a strong contender for a Best Original Song nomination for "Drive It Like You Stole It". Wouldn't be an embarrassing Screenplay nominee either.

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Fri Aug 05, 2016 2:06 am

I also don't know if Suicide Squad is the worst film I've ever seen but I can say without much doubt in my mind that it's the worst example of storytelling. I couldn't start to tell you what the plot of this movie was, why the Suicide Squad was assembled, for what mission, or what the timeline was, and the amount of narrative real estate wasted in this shockingly ugly $175 mil film is staggering. The first act has to be forty minutes of consistently repeated information. There is no second act. The third act is stupid and as endless as the number of needle-drops.

This is the third DC film, and it is the worst. Unlike the infuriating Man of Steel with its air of fascism, Suicide Squad is merely laughably inept, but unlike Batman v Superman it's not a treasure hunt of poor decision-making. It's just lazy. Why they pushed this one out of the gate so quickly after Batman v Superman is beyond me. In theory, they'd want to do that to redeem the DC Universe in the eyes of moviegoers, not make them look at the last movie they hated and say "Huh, I guess that wasn't so bad."

I would love to tell you the story of this film but it's not worth it and I honestly wouldn't even know how. It's incoherent. I don't know what it is about these DC films but they're always endlessly long and make no sense. You don't need three hours to tell this story!
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby flipp525 » Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:06 pm

Thanks, Tee! It's been a busy summer for me but I'm glad to be able to check back in and share some thoughts on an early contender for this year. Hope you're well.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:17 pm

I'll hold off reading your review till after I've seen the movie, flipp. Just wanted to say it's good to see you back. It's been near-deathly quiet here lately, and regulars like yourself have been sorely missed.


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