The Official Review Thread of 2016

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Oct 27, 2016 12:10 am

I don't see anyone having commented on The Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I just watched it over the weekend, and found it a very pleasant surprise -- consistently funny in unexpected ways, full of narrative twists. In the end it's just crowd-pleaser, not a work that aspires to grand art, but it's one of the most pleasurable experiences I've had with a film this year.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Oct 17, 2016 1:07 am

I've been meaning to note for some time that, while I'm not quite as enthusiastic as BJ/okri, I too would recommend American Honey as one of the few truly praiseworthy films of 2016. I'm another "didn't much care for Spring Breakers" fellow, and I can see certain surface similarities between the two films. But I didn't get the whiff of nihilism floating off Honey that I did Breakers. (This would also distinguish the film from another I've heard it compared too, Larry Clark's Kids.) American Honey deals with a subculture, for sure, and a part of American life with which I'm not exactly in sympathy or in tune. And the behavior of many of its characters can border on appalling. Yet I didn't feel distant from the characters, because Arnold kept their (unsentimentalized) humanity front and center. It's mostly unspoken (except in scenes involving our primary character), but you get the solid sense that all of the crew come from families who provided no attention or affection, and that the camaraderie among the group is the closest they've ever come to a home-base. So, even while they do horrible things (to outsiders and to each other), I never found myself just rejecting them (as I had no problem doing with many characters in Spring Breakers or Kids).

I don't want to sell this too hard. I'm a classicist at heart, so this film is pretty far from my preference-wavelength -- it barely hints at any central plot, and it's more likely to feint at dramatic developments than carry any forward to crisis (as with the gun, or the news that our main character can't swim). And the film does go on about 10-15 minutes too long (I, too, thought the film's logical endpoint was the bus sing-along, and didn't see what the scenes that followed added). But, the bottom line: for a film that ran close to three hours with little sense of structure, I found myself surprisingly engaged almost all the way along. In a year such as this, that's something to merit gratitude.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:02 pm

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
Cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro (voices).
Dir: Travis Knight.

A young boy who is half-immortal must go on an epic journey to retrieve magical items that will help him defeat his vengeful grandfather. Animation studio LAIKA has made fine work in the past but in my book, this is their masterpiece. Apart from being beautifully animated with amazing imaginative visuals, the film pretty much hits everything it should extremely well. It's got great action scenes, it's funny when it needs to be, dark and scary when it needs to be and even genuinely moving and resonant (I actually fought back tears). It hits all the right notes. This feels like the stop-motion animated film Hayao Miyazaki never made. I'm actually pretty surprised I loved it this much. I can't freaking wait to see it again. It's my favorite film of the year so far.

Oscar Prospects: Deserves to WIN Best Animated Feature for sure (I don't think Moana can top this). Deserves nominations for Original Score and Production Design (it's high time an animated film gets nominated for Production Design).

Grade: A.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:53 am

DEEPWATER HORIZON
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O'Brien, Ethan Suplee.
Dir: Peter Berg.

This is the cinematic dramatization of the BP oil spill which occurred on the titular vessel. It's the worst environmental disaster in recent history. This is told from the point of view of one of the workers on the oil rig. Like with the other Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg collaboration, this true-to-life dramatization is slickly made but unfortunately goes more for visceral thrills rather than going into the nitty gritty of corporate greed which is, after all, the root cause of the disaster. It's a missed opportunity. But as it is, it's a well-made disaster movie. No more, no less.

Oscar Prospects: Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects are possible.

Grade: B-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:43 pm

CAFE SOCIETY
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Jeannie Berlin, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, Ken Stott.
Dir: Woody Allen.

When a young man goes to Hollywood in the 1930's to work for his uncle, the he meets and falls for a young woman his uncle happens to be having an affair with. This is technically a good film. It's extremely well-shot by the great Vittorio Storaro, it's exquisitely designed and the ensemble of performers assembled is pretty good. Jesse Eisenberg is pretty good as the Woody Allen-esque surrogate. However, when I watch it, I do kind of feel Woody Allen is pretty much repeating himself. The film feels like a mishmash of Allen's greatest hits. I feel like I should go watch those movies instead. Again, not a bad movie but it feels so been-there-done-that, especially for Woody Allen.

Oscar Prospects: Production Design, Costume Design and Cinematography are possible.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:53 pm

Manchester-by-the-Sea: 2nd viewing. Will discuss in it's own thread, but it is amazing.

Personal Shopper: I'd like to see this again when I wasn't as tired (totally started dozing off after 45 minutes), but I found this horror film strangely enervating.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Mon Oct 03, 2016 10:42 pm

I'll second BJ on American Honey

One thing that really struck me, in retrospect, is that it largely does manage to sustain itself and it's fairly unique tone throughout it's 2 hr 42 minute run time. For what it does, it's definitely too long, but if you'd ask me what I'd take out, I'd be hard-pressed to find the scene (though I think the film should've ended on the titular moment). Also, while I get the Shia LaBouef is basically a walking joke at this point, I thought he was really good.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Oct 03, 2016 1:23 pm

I'm not surprised that American Honey has divided people. It's the kind of movie that I'm always wary of recommending to people, because if you just don't respond to its wavelength, I think you'll flat hate it. My gut instinct is that the crowd that didn't respond to Spring Breakers probably wouldn't care for this...but then I have to remind myself that I didn't much care for Spring Breakers, and was totally taken by American Honey, so who knows what that means.

Watching the movie, I was fully aware of the arguments that could be made against it -- it's close to three hours, it's mostly a collection of vignettes rather than a tightly controlled plot, there are a lot of scenes of people just hanging out, the characters aren't by any means what you'd call a likable collection of individuals. If all of this comes off as boring and/or unpleasant to you, I imagine you'll have an emperor's new clothes reaction to the movie, wondering why so many have been knocked out by something that you just didn't think had any there there.

But damn, I was completely swept away by the movie, by the rhythms of Andrea Arnold's filmmaking, by the vibe of the soundtrack and the youthful energy of those jamming along with it, by its vast portrait of this great, big country of America and all of the ugliness, pain, tragedy, hopes, and joys across its landscape. It's not a movie that seems to put forward a single thesis -- probably the reason detractors will find it empty -- but it makes a lot of compelling observations along the way -- about class, youth, money, family, dreams, the parts of America that have been left behind (and those that haven't), the way a piece of music can mean a lot to you if it comes along at the right moment in your life.

The movie isn't perfect. I think it's too long, for sure. I don't think Arnold came up with quite the right ending -- it's the kind of movie that sort of just stops rather than ends. The main character, Star, remains a bit opaque -- there were moments when I wondered if a Spacek-in-Badlands-style voiceover might have helped get us into her head a bit more, and if that might have been a benefit to the movie. And the central love triangle isn't necessarily the movie's most graceful element, though Riley Keough, as the drug-addled, Confederate flag bikini-sporting ringleader of this ragtag group of misfits, makes for a frighteningly good nemesis for our heroine.

But the movie's raw energy and emotion have been hard for me to shake. And individual moments gather in cumulative power, so that by the time the movie reached essentially its eleven o'clock number -- the gang singing along to the title song, in a moment akin to the "Tiny Dancer" sequence in Almost Famous -- I was completely bowled over by the movie's complex blend of feelings, brought out simply by the energies of the cast and the filmmakers.

As I said, it's an acquired taste, and I suspect some here won't be impressed. (My hunch is Damien would have found it very shrill.) But for those who dig it, you'll certainly feel like you had some kind of dazzling experience.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:03 pm

SAUSAGE PARTY
Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton, Michael Cera, Salma Hayek, Jonah Hill, David Krumholtz, Nick Kroll, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, James Franco, Paul Rudd, Craig Robinson, Anders Holm (voices).
Dirs: Greg Tierney, Conrad Vernon.

Food items in the grocery store worship humans as "gods" who are going to pick them to go to the Great Beyond. Then a hot dog finds out the horrible truth. The "gods" actually eat them in horrific ways. The film is a crazy parody of PIXAR films, a non-stop barrage of food puns and sex jokes and a thoughtful exploration of the concept of organized religion. Yeah, the last part is weird. But strangely, it makes sense and works, for the most part. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg of course gives us a vulgarity laden comedy with quite a good number of laughs (I particularly like the Meat Loaf gag). It's not completely perfect (none of their feature films are) but it has enough laughs and I could commend its ambition of incorporating bigger questions into what is essentially a silly, funny movie.

Oscar Prospects: Best Animated Feature is competitive this year. The news that the directors of the film overworked and underpaid their animators may not sit well with some members. Original Song ("The Great Beyond") is possible as well.

Grade: B.

SNOWDEN
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shaleine Woodley, Rhys Ifans, Nicolas Cage, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Wilkinson, Logan Marshall-Green. Scott Eastwood, Keith Stanfield, Joely Richardson, Ben Chaplin.
Dir: Oliver Stone.

This film is about whistle-blower Edward Snowden and how he came to expose the U.S. government for spying on citizens. When I first heard this film is being made by Oliver Stone, two things came to mind: First Oliver Stone hasn't made a great film in a long time and second, there's already an excellent documentary Citizenfour about this story, made by one of the characters in the movie, Laura Poitras, and making a narrative film out of it feels a bit redundant. I was kind of right on both counts. I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt's strange voice, trying emulate how the real Edward Snowden talks, is a a bit of a distraction at times (especially since the real Edward Snowden shows up in the end and you can hear how weird it is). But it's still a compelling story and its message still resonates.

Oscar Prospects: Editing is possible but Original Song ("The Veil") is more likely.

Grade: B-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Sun Oct 02, 2016 6:54 pm

I saw 20th Century Women also and largely echo BJ's opinion. I think Mike Mills stumbled onto a design that served Beginners well. There was the plot-line of his dying, newly-out father, the plot-line of his finding love, and then the floating subplot about his mother. That all winds together very nicely. In this film, they're all sort of like the subplot of the mother. There is no plot. Notionally, it's about a mother asking the two young women in her son's life to help raise him into a man, but Mills also wants to do the same Beginners-style "Every person's life is a story" thing. The film is sort of broken up into chapters devoted to each character's story. So...there's no plot or forward momentum. Every scene is its own pocket universe. A movie it reminded me of was American Hustle where it's clear that we're dealing with a very talented filmmaker who has mistook the forest for the trees. Mike Mills loves his trees. He gets the best out of his cast. There are funny, truthful, human moments, but this movie exists to explain who these characters are rather than tell a story. That would be nice if I felt like he got close to them.

Also, his essay-style filmmaking (cut aways to art, speed-up/slow-down, etc) is in overdrive here and bugged the shit out of me.

Annette Bening is quite good. She's not exactly doing something we've never seen before but this is a fun character. But no, this will not win her an Academy Award. I doubt she'll be nominated. If she were pushed for supporting, she might have a shot. This is an ensemble film so they could possibly get away with a move like that.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:19 am

Thanks for the take, BJ. I really loved Beginners so I was curious about this one. Your comment on narrative is interesting and I have to admit I'm very curious how you'd take Paterson.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Oct 01, 2016 12:34 pm

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris O'Dowd, Terence Stamp, Judi Dench, Ella Purnell, Alison Janney, Rupert Everett, Kim Dickens, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Milo Parker, Cameron King, Hayden Keeler-Stone, Georgia Pemberton, Raffiella Chapman, O-Lan Jones.
Dir: Tim Burton.

A teenaged boy discovers his grandfather's bedtime stories and old weird photos are not made up but a real place, a home for peculiar children, i.e. kids with weird and unusual powers. I've actually read the first book of this successful series. It's not bad. It's just typical fantasy YA stuff, the young hero/Chosen One's journey to fulfill his destiny, etc. It's the typical narrative template but with a unique mishmash of other stuff seen in various sources. The book was an enjoyable read. And this film is an enjoyable watch. The film is in many ways a typical Tim Burton film and for me, that's a good thing since I love Tim Burton (mostly). However, I think this is mid-tier Burton at best. Eva Green is pretty great as the title character. The film's mythology gets muddled when they added the third act that wasn't in the books but otherwise, this is a solid enough fantasy flick.

Oscar Prospects: Makeup & Hairstyling, Production Design, Costume Design, Visual Effects and Original Song are possible.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Sep 30, 2016 7:23 pm

I saw 20th Century Women last night. I was quite a fan of Beginners, and while my expectations were high for this one, it didn't reach that same level for me. The movie definitely has its merits -- compelling characters, a coming-of-age/mother-son dynamic that doesn't feel cliche, a good number of laugh-out-loud moments, genuine poignancy. And there's a scope to the movie that's wider than usual for this type of film, covering a lot of ground in numerous character's lives, both before and after the main thrust of the movie. If Beginners was obviously Mike Mills's love letter to his dad, 20th Century Women is pretty clearly a celebration of his mom, and he remains a thoughtful observer of real human behavior.

But I also thought the movie was a bit thin on the plot level -- I kept thinking, these are all interesting people, having compelling conversations, but when is the story going to start? The movie is a watchable enough slice of life, but felt stuck in low gear for much of its running time; I'm finding that the more I write myself, the antsier I've been getting with movies where it feels like not really all that much happens on a narrative level. I also think, at points, the movie really loses focus with all of its characters -- there were definitely times when I thought both Billy Crudup and Greta Gerwig's characters were sort of hanging around the story, without always serving a purpose.

Annette Bening has a good part, though not, for me, one as dominant as her previous Best Actress bids. I'd say there's no way this is a winner, but possibly it could be a nominee (though Best Actress seems to be quite competitive this year, and a lot of people are going to be duking it out for those spots).

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Sep 25, 2016 11:26 am

STORKS
Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Ty Burrell, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Steven Kramer Glickman, Anton Starkman, Danny Trejo (voices).
Dirs: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland.

Animated film based on that age-old concept of storks delivering babies. This is set in the world where this happened but storks have since transitioned to delivering online shopping items. Then things happen. I actually really enjoyed this one. The film's mythology doesn't make much sense. I sat there thinking, if storks aren't making babies anymore, where does this world get babies, etc. etc.? I wished that was clearer. But whatever it lacks in logic, it makes up for in laughs. There are quite a number of really funny sequences in this one. The wolf pack and the fight scene involving penguins? (You gotta see it to believe it) Hilarious and worth the price of admission. It's no animated classic but a funny enough distraction.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:09 am

THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK - THE TOURING YEARS
Cast: The Beatles.
Dir: Ron Howard.

I think most everyone in the world capable of hearing at least like the Beatles. This is a documentary that tells the story of the Beatles during the height of Beatlemania where they toured around the world playing for thousands of wild fans and the cultural phenomenon that followed. Does it say anything new about the Beatles or about rock music or music in general? Not much really. If you're a Beatles fan or a fan of rock 'n' roll in general, you will already have known most of the story this doc is telling. We know they're great. We know about the wild fans and the various controversies. However, there are some rarely seen concert performance footage and candid behind the scenes footage and photos in this film that any Beatle fan would love to see. As I was leaving the theater, I noticed there were a few kids in the audience. Then I realize, this film is a great way to introduce the Beatles to them. This film is a better film for them and for any Beatles newbie. If you're a Beatles fan or someone with even a passing interest in music, this film may not be an eye-opening experience but it's a solid and entertaining documentary.

Oscar Prospects: Documentary Feature.

Grade: B+


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