The Official Review Thread of 2016

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flipp525
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby flipp525 » Wed Aug 03, 2016 12:18 pm

Spoiler(ish) review of Florence Foster Jenkins:

There's a moment in Florence Foster Jenkins when the audience—who up until this point has been welcomed into the trainwreck spectacle, invited to laugh at a woman who thinks she can sing but instead, croaks out guttural and animalistic sounds—is chided for laughing Reprimanded, in a way, for mocking her alongside a Carnegie Hall audience assembled to watch Meryl Streep's Florence give her big concert, the climax of the film. The movie audience (well, this member, anyway) felt embarrassed for a second. It was bizarre. I was almost shocked at the way it was done, the turnaround, and it makes sense that for the rest of the film, the viewer is not only with her, but right alongside her, up on that Carnegie Hall stage next to her for the remainder of the film. In that moment, Meryl transforms Florence from a freakish act to something more courageous and endearing, even if she is still very much the "egoist a reporter for the Post calls her in a comment to Hugh Grant's character as he leaves the performance early, disgusted. It's a sly transformation and she doesn't change really all that much to get us there but she does and that's what really won me over. Teddy Roosevelt once famously stated, in his "Man in the Arena" speech, that, "credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Florence Foster Jenkins seems to take that line of thought and pump it up into an entire raison d'être. She has the courage that counts at the right moment and she brings the audience with her even when it pains our ears.

The film is based around performance events. There isn't much plot other than the scenes surrounding practice for these events and the fallout. There's a scene where Grant is desperately trying to hide reviews from Florence that I felt went on a bit too long. But it's a pretty tight and insular film otherwise that, while highlighting this eccentric woman's odd life, never particularly soars to the great heights of previous Frears films (although, the laughs here are much less forced than the somewhat desperate Philomena whose humor relied on a lot of "Let's shock the old woman!"). There are some threads that don't really go anywhere and you feel should maybe have been cut or expanded up, if only briefly, in a rewrite of the screenplay—the will she's revealed to be carrying in the briefcase she always carries, her fear of sharp objects, etc.

The supporting cast is wonderful. Tony Award winner Nina Arianda makes a splash in a very fun role. Hugh Grant, gives a capable performance that could easily have been a throwaway. He's never been the best actor, but without his youthful looks of yesteryear, he relies on a more sophisticated version of his foppish charm. Not for one moment does he mock Florence, even when acknowledging to others that she is indeed subpar, sometime only with a sort of comically resigned look. He does quite well, I thought, and he manages to land a couple nice moments as Jenkin's husband, St. Clair Bayfield, a failed actor in his own craft. Simon Helberg ("The Big Bang Theory") as Cosmé McMoon, Florence's loyal pianist and accompanist, is a delightful and most endearing screen presence. He has a Tom Hulce—Amadeus-like laugh that is used to great effect several times. He seemed a bit out of his league in the beginning of the film, but settles into the role nicely and ends up as an audience surrogate and almost the heart of the film by the end, and a perfect complement to Meryl's performance...

...which is understandably great. There seems to be a certain scale at which we now must treat and evaluate a Meryl Streep performance. Do we compare her to her own past performances? Do we judge it on its own? It seems to get harder and harder for me. Because, really, she's always good. I would say that her Florence falls into her mid-to-upper range performances, certainly better than ones for which she's been recently nominated (lead-wise) in the past six years. Without a doubt, she wipes the floor with that horrid The Iron Lady caricature, creating a character in Jenkins who inhabits a rarified world of delusion but never loses her humanness. There's a nice moment between Streep and Helberg in the latter's apartment that was a high point in the film for both actors. They wisely save the reveal of just how bad her voice is until a little ways in and it's a pretty hilarious moment. Besides her singing, I thought there was some very interesting vocal work she pulled out for this character, an accent that I can truly say I've never heard from her before. Ultimately though, it is hard to sing that bad and she pulls it off with aplomb. I could easily see this as Meryl's entry into the Oscar race this year and I can't say it would be unwarranted.

The costumes were fantastic in this film, worth an Oscar nomination. Not just Meryl's performance costumes which are pretty spectacular and most intricate in all their gaudiness and accoutrements, but the costumes down the line. From Cosmé's perfectly period sartorial suits, pocket squares and bowties to the military uniforms and the dresses of some of the female supporting characters.

I'd like to see Marguerite, the French film which features a story loosely based on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, but moved to the Roaring Twenties. Why does it always happen that there are two films released at the same time which explore the same material? A la the back-to-back Capote and Infamous. Catherine Frot already won a Cesar Award for Best Actress for Marguerite, so I'm thinking it must be pretty great.
Last edited by flipp525 on Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:05 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:39 pm

GREEN ROOM
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Macon Blair, Eric Edelstein, Mark Webber, Kai Lennox.
Dir: Jeremy Saulnier.

A punk rock band plays a gig in the backwoods of the U.S. which turns out to be a Neo-Nazi bar. They find a dead body in the titular green room and the Neo-Nazis decide to eliminate the band to avoid witnesses. And thus begins a brutal game of cat-and-mouse. Between this and Blue Ruin, writer-director Jeremy Saulnier is definitely rising as one of contemporary American indie cinema's most interesting voices. This is an intense and brutal horror-thriller which somehow managed to shock and surprise me. It's got things that may make you want to turn it off but you can't look away. Saulnier seems to be specializing in making violence ugly yet slick, if that makes any sense. Great cinematography too. Anton Yelchin is fantastic. I'm reminded at what a waste to lose him way too soon.

Oscar Prospects: Cinematography and Sound Mixing wouldn't be undeserved.

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:29 am

NERVE
Cast: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Juliette Lewis, Miles Heizer, Colson Baker, Kimiko Glenn, Samira Wiley, Marc Jon Jeffries.
Dirs: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman.

A pair of teenagers play an online game called Nerve which gives people dares for money (and fame), each one getting more and more outrageous and dangerous. I personally love the concept. It's pretty much a thriller for the YouTube and social media generation. However, when the third act kicks in and the pay off is revealed, I can't help but be a bit disappointed since it's a bit of a mess that will make you go, "Huh? Okay." It's too bad because there are moments of genuine suspense and the film is quite cleverly executed. It clearly wants to say something about the detachment that comes with social media but it all ends up kind of muddled in the end. Great soundtrack though.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:40 pm

Big Magilla wrote:
anonymous1980 wrote:JASON BOURNE
This is by far the weakest of the Bourne trilogy


OK, but it's a quintology now, or a quadrilogy if you don't count the one without Damon.


I should have said "series". Corrected.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Jul 30, 2016 12:42 pm

anonymous1980 wrote:JASON BOURNE
This is by far the weakest of the Bourne trilogy


OK, but it's a quintology now, or a quadrilogy if you don't count the one without Damon.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 30, 2016 10:26 am

JASON BOURNE
Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd.
Dir: Paul Greengrass.

Matt Damon returns to the Bourne franchise in this fifth Bourne movie where he tries to find out the circumstances behind his father's death. This is by far the weakest of the Bourne series despite the presence of an always reliable and interesting cast. Practically everything about it is predictable and old hat by now. You detect all the narrative beats and tropes of the genre from a mile away if you've seen any of the previous films in the series. Franchise fatigue is all over this film. It's kind of dull, apart from two pretty cool action sequences (the motorcycle chase in the first act and the chase through Vegas in the third act). But overall this film is eh. It can't really get me to care anymore.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: D+
Last edited by anonymous1980 on Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:13 am

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Stephen Fry, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark, Tom Bennett, James Fleet, Jemma Redgrave.
Dir: Whit Stillman.

This is the cinematic adaptation of one of Jane Austen's lesser known works in which a young widow of ill-repute tries to arrange a suitable marriage for her teenage daughter to ensure her future. This is from writer-director Whit Stillman. I have to admit, I am not the biggest Whit Stillman fan. I disliked Metropolitan. I liked but did NOT love Barcelona. However, lo and behold, I kind of loved this one. This is by far my favorite Whit Stillman film. His distinctive style actually blends well with Jane Austen's world, injecting it with lots of humor and verve. You will be surprised at how funny it is. It also features some wonderful performances from a fine ensemble cast. I was hesitant to say but I'm gonna say it, this may be the best Austen adaptation since 1995's Sense and Sensibility.

Oscar Prospects: Deserving of an Adapted Screenplay nomination. But it only has a shot at Costume Design.

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jul 24, 2016 8:16 am

LIGHTS OUT
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke.
Dir: David F. Sandberg.

A young woman and her little brother are stalked and attacked by an evil entity that attacks in the cover of darkness. This concept for a horror movie is so good that I'm kind of surprised it wasn't used sooner. As for the film itself, it is pretty effective in eliciting some jump scares and some genuine creepiness all throughout. It helps that the characters are well-drawn and the actors are terrific. I was concerned that it only got a PG-13 but it manage to be quite intense. It's no horror masterpiece but it's a pretty decent, solid entry to the genre.

Oscar Prospects: None but I have to say, the use of Cinematography in this one is top-notch.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 23, 2016 11:12 am

STAR TREK BEYOND
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim.
Dir: Justin Lin.

The third installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise has the Enterprise going into an unknown planet only to be trapped by aliens with a nefarious plan. I don't want to go into further details but I will say that it feels like a big budget feature length episode of the TV series. I don't meant hat in a bad way. The first one was setting up the reboot. The second one feels like a remake of Wrath of Khan. This one stands on its own as a completely original standalone adventure. And it's pretty darn enjoyable. Director Justin Lin injects more of a sense of fun, adventure and humor into this world. Sadly, one of Anton Yelchin's final few films. He will definitely be missed.

Oscar Prospects: Definitely a strong contender for Makeup. Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are all possible.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 16, 2016 10:24 am

GHOSTBUSTERS
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Ed Begley Jr., Zach Woods.
Dir: Paul Feig.

This is the reboot/remake of the 1984 horror comedy about a group of paranormal investigators busting ghosts. Like a lot of people my age, I did indeed grow up loving the original movie and have seen it numerous times as a kid. However, I have almost zero sense of nostalgia and now as a grown-up film buff, I don't think it's such an untouchable work of art that I'm offended it's getting remade. Remakes in general are a bad idea. But making it good is not impossible. This film has suffered numerous pre-release controversy with lots of internet trolls (mostly male) actively determined to make this a failure. Now that I've seen it, I'm here to say: It's actually not bad. Is it great? No. But wholly undeserving of the vitriol it got and will continue to get. It's simply a fun film. The four lead actresses have genuine chemistry and are lots of fun to watch. Chris Hemsworth should do more comedies, he's really funny. I wished it was better. It had potential to be a lot better. But as it is, it's a solid enough horror-comedy that's very entertaining and will delight open-minded enough fans of the original.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Jul 13, 2016 3:31 pm

There’s a moment in Captain Fantastic where a character is asked to comment on Lolita; when she calls it “interesting”, everyone jumps on her, with the criticism that the word is non-specific. Yet it’s the first word that pops up for me when asked to describe Captain Fantastic, and it means something quite specific: it’s my category for a movie that’s intriguing enough in subject matter and detail that I can’t dismiss it, but is ultimately dissatisfying for various reasons.

What’s notable about the film is its portrayal of a character we rarely see in film – a man (played by Viggo Mortensen) so left-alienated from the horrors of American society that he’s raised his large family out in the woods, educating them way beyond their years in book-learning and in survival tactics, but leaving them hopelessly ill-equipped for dealing with the world in which the rest of us dwell. For much of the way, writer/director Matt Ross is studiously impartial about this character and situation, letting us decide for ourselves whether he’s a visionary or crackpot. My own inclination was that he made a nightmare father – that, in his insistence on freedom from the clutches of society, he was imposing a near-fundamentalist, military lifestyle on his children that would have had me longing for escape. But Ross never articulates this, and, in fact, makes it clear the children have deep love for him.

(SPOILERS BEGIN HERE) The film’s crisis resolves around the death of the mother, absent because she was in a hospital being treated for bipolar disorder and now, as the film starts, a suicide. The mother’s parents have clearly never been sympathetic to Mortensen, blame him for their daughter’s early death, and expressly forbid him from attending the funeral. Undaunted, the remaining family unit make a journey into the society they explicitly condemn. There are moments in this part of the film – especially the cliché hot blonde who falls instantly for the oldest son – that don’t work, but for the most part the section enlarges the film. When Mortensen’s rebel comes up against Frank Langella’s reactionary father-in-law, the battle seems fairly matched, as both characters come off as obstinate assholes who are absolutely convinced they and they alone have the children’s best interests at heart.

But then the film goes splat…and to explain why, I HAVE TO GO DEEP INTO SPOILERS. The most damaging thing is, a film that had established itself as a nuanced conflict of philosophies suddenly becomes full of incidents/plot devices that feel like they proceed not from this conflict but from a need to make something happen. The daughter climbs the roof of the house because she has to have a near-fatal fall (the film also telegraphs the fall by charting the girl’s every step up, something we wouldn’t be seeing were disaster not lurking). Mortensen having a change of heart because of this feels manipulative, not a bit organic. Then the kids hide away in the undercarriage of the bus and emerge miles away – a cuteness on a par with the nuns disconnecting the wires at the end of The Sound of Music. The film then reprises the Viking funeral idea already used in S.O.B. and Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, finding nothing new in the concept. And, from there, things just seem to meander: the literalization of the toilet flush, the son’s out-of-nowhere trip to Namibia (why didn’t he just go to Stanford?), and then a final shot that lingers for an interminable minute or two. I presume this last shot was making some statement about how drab/stultifying the family’s new life was, but what it mostly indicated to me was that the film had gone on about ten minutes too long, and this shot only underlined how it had overstayed its welcome.

So: this latter portion of the film really undid what had preceded, for me. Yet, I can’t deny the earlier segments had got under my skin enough that the film is staying with me. Which brings me back to my initial, uncool verdict: not fully satisfying, not exactly good…but interesting.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Sun Jul 10, 2016 11:23 pm

I think somewhere between Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Wedding Crashers there's a good movie. The latter features ten minutes of wedding crashing and then full commitment to a story I didn't like. The former is a collection of gags and some fun sensibilities within the framework of a story that never made me care. I'd rather have the former any day.

Wedding Crashers baffled me with how little I enjoyed it, so I'm somewhat inclined to overrate this film. The trailer is toxic, but this film isn't. Many on this board will dislike this film, but if you can get past the fact that this is very much a sitcom-sensibility film, you might enjoy the fact that it goes for a joke every five seconds in 98 minutes and most of them are funny. No real MVP as everyone is just doing an archetype riff, but probably Aubrey Plaza because she is making the transition to movie roles better than I could've imagined.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jul 09, 2016 10:38 am

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR
Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Betty Gabriel, Joseph Julian Soria, Edwin Hodge, Kyle Secor, Raymond J. Barry.
Dir: James DeMonaco.

The third installment of the Purge franchise has senator running for president pledging to end the Purge if elected. During Purge night, she of course is targeted. Until now, I've still have not seen the original film (I should remedy that to appease my OCD tendencies). However, I do think that the concept of these dystopian action-horror hybrid is very much interesting and there is potential for a great satire to go along with the action and the carnage. There's real potential but it doesn't quite get there. However, as a dystopian horror flick, it's still tremendously entertaining. I like how it expounded the world of the Purge. It's no horror masterpiece but this thing could've been a lot worse.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Jul 08, 2016 9:14 pm

I'd rank The BFG pretty far down on a ranking of Spielberg's filmography. It's been a while since I've read Roald Dahl's book -- probably twenty years -- but from what I remember about it, it's pretty thin on narrative, and I have to say Spielberg and Mathison (R.I.P.) just didn't find a way to mount the story that justified the nearly (unconscionable) two hour running time. As Mister Tee says, the plot basically amounts to "these other giants are evil, let's stop them," and that just becomes pretty tedious pretty quickly. The visuals, as one would expect, are beautifully rendered, but often in service of nothing -- the dream-catching sequence, for instance, basically amounts to ten minutes without any conflict or plot momentum. And then, the entire extended sequence with the Queen is full of painfully unfunny moments, with the giant green gas farting sequence a really grisly display of pandering to the lowest common denominator.

But I think most of all, Spielberg was just the wrong filmmaker for the material. The parallels to E.T. are obvious, with a young child striking up a peculiar friendship with a strange creature (E.T. even came out the same year as Dahl's book), but Dahl's writing is full of odd humor, slightly morbid asides, and an overall creepiness that sneaks through its warm surface, and none of those qualities are ones I would ascribe to Spielberg. As a result, the movie's sense of awe feels far too sincere, and dripping with sentimentality, when the more wry approach that Wes Anderson brought to Fantastic Mr. Fox would have been much more appropriate. I can't say I'm surprised audiences have mostly shrugged at this one.

I never commented on The Lobster back when I saw it, but I probably should say a few words, as I think it's clearly one of the best efforts so far this year. The premise is certainly imaginative, but the movie isn't strictly one-joke -- it finds a lot of clever ways to satirize society's obsession with coupling people up, and for most of the first hour, it feels thoroughly inventive and engaging. (And also quite funny -- Olivia Colman's "That would be absurd" remark, given the utter absurdity of everything in the movie's orbit, was a laugh out loud moment for me, as well as an incisively honest jab at the arbitrariness of what is considered normal and outrageous in contemporary culture.) I thought the film dipped a bit in the second chunk -- the concept for the second half is certainly interesting, in the way the forest society is really just as ridiculously structured and rule-driven as the status quo it's railing against -- but I didn't feel like the movie had quite come up with enough variety of ideas in this section, and it started to drag a bit for me as a result. It certainly rallies toward the end though, with a great final scene, one which I'm sure will inspire many debates of the "did he or didn't he?" variety. On the whole, though, it's an ambitious movie that's rich in detail throughout, and a much-needed tonic in this truly terrible summer for blockbusters.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jul 08, 2016 7:38 pm

The BFG isn't a bad movie, exactly. It's effects are so impressive I eventually stopped registering them as effects -- I'd normalized them. Much of the design is gorgeous, particularly in the beautifully lit dream-catching sequence (if the movie were a hit, it might even contend for the design Oscar next February). And things start off well enough narratively: for the first 30-40 minutes, I was fairly engaged.

But once the plot became almost exclusively "these giants want to eat you/what are we going to do about them?", the film turned pretty boring, and the flares of imagination were few and far between. (The scene of the protagonist Sophie eluding the giants inside BFG's lair, for instance, was impressively choreographed, but empty in plot terms.) It doesn't help that Sophie is such an uninteresting character she borders on generic -- nor that her big "plan" is pretty lackluster (and goes off basically without a hitch). The film's place-in-time also felt a little off to me: the opening scenes look for all the world like Victorian England, but then Rebecca Hall turns up in a late 40s frock...and then the Queen lets us know in telephone conversation that the time is in fact the 80s (in a groaner so unfunny I can't believe Spielberg watched it over and over and opted to keep it in). And speaking of unfunny: if you're going to do fart jokes, and build up and up to a big one, the punchline needs to be more than "Then they all farted".

The general feeling about Spielberg is that he was, in the beginning, a child's director, which ought to make this film a return to old form for him. But I think that misses what he was in the 70s/80s, what made him so special. He was, especially in Close Encounters and ET, dealing with subject matter that evoked a childlike sense of wonder, but his films always had a skeptical, sort of wised-up side that created humor alongside the magic, which allowed grownups to enjoy his films without fully regressing. Here, those touches are missing: there's barely an intentional laugh in the film (except for the misfires), and, to enjoy the narrative, you have to essentially BE 8 years old (or able to put yourself into that frame). I thought War Horse had some of this same "seems right for Spielberg but actually isn't" quality; both films are far less imaginative than his early work, and seem to come from an earlier time than even his initial career years.

I suppose when a director's getting old, and way past his peak achievement years, such stutter steps are to be expected -- and Woody Allen's fall has been far more extreme. But Lincoln was just a few years ago, a major work, and one hopes every time that such magic can be cranked up anew. This time, sadly not.


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