The Official Review Thread of 2016

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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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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:08 am

The Meddler

For the life of me, I don't understand why Lorene Scafaria didn't want to start the film with Marnie moving in near The Grove. Instead she's already moved in and it makes for a first act that already feels exhausted by Susan Sarandon's character in a dull way. I was fairly ready to bail on the film but it (and Sarandon) relaxes into a groove as it goes along as the narrative pivots on her behavior. Ultimately it reveals itself as a film that began as a character piece rather than situational narrative. I can't really recommend it but Sarandon is quite good and it's so rare that she gets a role like this that its worth a view. She's adorable. The movie isn't.
"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 The Original BJ » Sun Sep 11, 2016 1:24 am

I'm going to agree with Mister Tee that Hell or High Water is a compelling film, but also one that isn't maybe as great as it might have been.

For me, the film's greatest strengths were in the areas of direction, mood, and environment. I haven't seen any of David Mackenzie's other films, but this movie clearly marked him as someone to watch in my book. The opening heist is gripping, but in a way that felt real and not engineered in a movie suspense factory, and the film holds this level of tension throughout much of its running time. The final reel of the film is pretty nerve-wracking -- (nothing major spoiled here, but avoid the next line if you're super cautious about these things) -- beginning with the final bank heist gone ugly, through the chase/standoff, and culminating with the police checkpoint.

But even in the non-suspense sequences, I thought the film maintained a remarkable sense of unease. I found myself consistently noticing the framing in many of the shots, with the relationship of the characters to each other, to the edges of the frame, and to their environments contributing very effectively to the mood of the piece. And the music is really crucial to creating this sense of dread as well, with the composers bringing the same sense of Western gloom they brought to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

I hear what you're saying, Mister Tee, about how the fact that these characters are probably Trump voters makes one less sympathetic to their plight (though a lot of Ben Foster's actions aren't helping that cause either). But I thought the movie's cultural/political subtext enhanced the movie quite a bit. I agree that the "screw the banks" angle has likely helped the film resonate -- and I do think that theme is hit a bit hard, with a few too many billboards declaiming the message in case we missed it -- but I felt the movie's portrait of an America left behind had a lot of interesting details along the way, from the rancher who offhandedly remarks that his kids aren't likely to stick around to herd cattle for the rest of their lives, to the restaurant owner who scoffs at the New Yorker who wants food she doesn't serve, to the waitress who doesn't at first report the brothers because she needs their big tip for her mortgage. Scene after scene shows minor characters struggling to survive in towns where the people, the jobs, and the life just disappeared, and the resulting resentment a lot of these people feel (shown most strongly in the two protagonists) provides a powerful through-line to the movie. (I've visited a lot of towns like these, including in the Texas/Oklahoma region shown here, and I thought the sadness of the boarded-up street fronts and abandoned, struggling communities was depicted in about as authentic a manner possible.) If anything, I thought the movie effectively portrayed both "baskets" Hillary mentioned in her latest controversial speech -- criticizing the deplorables (take a look at the skin colors of the characters involved in the movie's most gasp-inducing murder) while also having empathy for those people frustrated that today's economy seems to have just abandoned them. (And the casting of these smaller roles was spot-on -- these people LOOK like small-town Texans, not actors out of central casting.)

All right, the problems -- while I think the script has a lot of good sequences, as well as strong dialogue (in particular, the scenes with Bridges and his partner have a lot of interesting exchanges), I agree that the plot left something to be desired. This wasn't so much an issue as I was watching most of the movie as it was after it ended, because a late-film story turn I assumed would be coming at some point just never arrived. The final scene is really unsatisfying I think, both because it doesn't much reveal any new information to us, and because Bridges's character doesn't come to his understanding of what happened in any interesting way. (This aspect, especially, had the writer in me thinking, you really aren't working that hard for your story right now.) And I totally agree that Pine's character's motivations were left really murky, and that Foster's just didn't really seem to make any sense. It wasn't so much that I thought the movie fell apart at the end, but more that it didn't arrive at a destination that justified such a long trip there.

As for Jeff Bridges, I just kept thinking, the man is an American treasure -- relaxed, funny, and able to steal the whole movie without even seeming to try.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Cinemanolis » Sat Sep 10, 2016 8:47 pm

La La Land
4/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director, Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Music Score, Song, Song, Sound, Art Direction, Editing
Possible Oscar Prospects: Actor, Costume Design

Nocturnal Animals
3,5/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography
Possible Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director, Actor (Gyllenhaal), Editing, Art Direction

Arrival
3/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Sound, Music Score, Visual Effects, Sound Effects, Editing
Possible Oscar Prospects: Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography

Hacksaw Ridge
3/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Sound, Editing, Music Score, Visual Effects, Sound Effects
Possible Oscar Prospects: Picture, Director, Actor, Sup. Actor (Hugo Weaving), Cinematography, Make Up

The Age of Shadows
3/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: Foreign Film
Possible Oscar Prospects: Sound, Costume Design, Cinematography

The Bleeder
2,5/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: -
Possible Oscar Prospects: Actor, Make Up

The Distinguished Citizen
3/5

Frantz
2,5/5

The Blind Christ
2/5

The Bad Batch
2/5
Strong Oscar Prospects: -
Possible Oscar Prospects: Art Direction, Sound

A Woman's Life
1,5/5

Les Beaux Jours d'Aranjuez
1,5/5

The Young Pope Episodes I & II
4/5
Strong Emmy Prospects: Mini Series, Director, Actor, Sup.Actor (Silvio Orlando), all techs
Possible Oscar Prospects: Sup. Actress (Diane Keaton), Sup. Actor (James Crowmell)

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Sep 10, 2016 12:00 pm

SULLY
Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Mike O'Malley, Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan.
Dir: Clint Eastwood.

This is Clint Eastwood's film about the pilot who saved 155 lives by landing on the Hudson River back in 2009. Wow. Has it really been that long? I'm kind of amazed it was that long ago. How time flies. Tom Hanks is actually the perfect guy to play Captain Sullenburger. During interviews i've seen with him, he always struck me as an ordinary man who was thrust into the limelight and fame due to his miraculous accomplishment and he definitely pulls it off. Clint Eastwood, as a director, still manages to make pretty good movies even at this age. This one, though far from a masterpiece, is still a pretty darn good film which somehow manages to mine drama and suspense despite the fact that most people know this story already.

Oscar Prospects: Picture and Director are doubtful. Actor (Tom Hanks) is possible. Supporting Actor (Aaron Eckhart) is only possible if they end really loving the film.Visual Effects and MAYBE Original Song are both possible.

Grade: B

PETE'S DRAGON
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Robert Redford, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Dir: David Lowery.

This is the remake of the 1970's Disney live-action animated musical about a boy and his friend Elliott, who happens to be a dragon who can go invisible. This film is decidedly very different in that it's not a musical and more of a family drama....with a dragon in it. This year, Steven Spielberg directed his first film for Disney and personally, I thought the result of that would be closer to this than The BFG. This feels like an old-fashioned family picture that doesn't feel the need to do fart jokes, "hip" humor or action scenes every 15 minutes to satisfy all demographics. It's a film which simply and elegantly tells the story of a lost boy and his dragon, quite stripped down and very, very refreshing. They almost never make movies like these nowadays.

Oscar Prospects: Widely deserving of Visual Effects, Cinematography, Original Score and (maybe) Original Song.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Okri » Sat Sep 10, 2016 11:32 am

American Pastoral

A difficult (maybe impossible) novel to adapt and this films really flounders. Most of the blame will be rightfully be placed on the screenplay, but no one gets away clean. McGregor demonstrates some minor directorial chops - I'd be interested in seeing him take on a thriller or something where he can get his calisthenics in before returning to "serious" material - but he drops the ball regarding the performances. It's one of those films that is less than the sum of it's parts, but at best, most of the parts are competent.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Sep 09, 2016 3:43 pm

Hell or High Water, this summer's indie cause celebre, has some things to recommend it. There are interesting plot elements, the dialogue is fresh and has some snap, and Jeff Bridges is pretty much wonderful. (Had he not won that career Oscar, there'd be a maybe-successful effort to win it for him here in support. He may well get the nomination even now.)

But, as is the case with so many dead-season entries, I think people a bit overstate its merits. (THOUGH I'LL BE MOSTLY VAGUE HERE, SOME PLOT SPOILERS MAY BLEED THROUGH) Its plot is interesting but not especially ingeniously worked/mapped out. In fact, when I got to the end, I found myself imagining the plot reworked to disclose information in a more unraveling sort of way (possibly through the investigation of the Bridges character). As it is, we get the central "why-they-dunnit" info plunked down all at once, mid-film, with the rest of the story playing out somewhat routinely. I'm thinking the filmmakers might respond that they were making a social-statement film, about the evils of banks, not a thriller -- but I'd answer that I don't think their story/gestalt is strong enough to stand alone as social drama: it'd work better as serious undercarriage to a heist-y thriller.

Restructuring might also unmuddle some of the morality of the characters' actions. I was unclear at the end whether Pine's character had been ruthlessly using Foster's brother character -- certain he'd behave the way he did, to Pine's advantage-- or if things just turned out the way they did and Pine was as surprised as we were. The final scene tried to raise these issues, but I thought they did so in an opaque way. I'm fine with nuanced moral judgments; I'm less patient with purely murky ones.

Foster's character is, by me, one of the film's weakest elements. If there's anything I'm tired of in films, it's the loose cannon/rattlesnake character, who might do something phenomenally stupid or reckless at any moment. To me, it's lazy writing: it gives the scripter free rein to have him do anything without regard for common sense. And casting Ben Foster in the role? -- remember when people said casting Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela was redundant? Ditto here.

I also did a "Huh?" when Bridges, having stood in one place for about 24 hours, declaring it the clear way to play, suddenly comes up with a new plan on a moment's notice, for no particular reason.

The "blame the banks" theme is probably helping make the movie popular (it's something of a lift from Bonnie and Clyde), and it has its ingenious aspects, plus some nuance attached (Bridges' partner noting the people now being robbed of their land had their own ancestor-history of land-grabbing). But the political analyst in me couldn't help noting that, geographically/demographically, the characters in the film have probably spent the past few decades voting for exactly the people who made the bank perfidy possible, so my sympathy for them was somewhat muted.

Now that I've unloaded all this way, I have to caution that I didn't dislike the movie at all. It's a brisk enough 100 minutes, and, as an original script, it's somewhat on a par with Ex Machina -- another off-season success I found overrated but which was decent and well-liked enough it got Academy nominations. I'd say Hell or High Water could match that film's writing/acting nods next January, and wouldn't be entirely undeserving. Just don't go expecting a knockout.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby taki15 » Sat Sep 03, 2016 7:57 pm

Ok, first time I do that and English isn't my mother tongue, so be gentle.

Suicide Squad (2016)

★★★

An unscrupulous government agent rounds up the worst super-villains and recruits them to form a black ops team against supernatural threats that can't be defeated by normal military means.

Despite the poisonous word-of-mouth that afflicted its release, "Suicide Squad" isn't the worst superhero/comic book adaptation ever. Not even close. But that doesn't mean that it's very good either. As a matter of fact, taking under consideration the potential of its prime material, "disappointing" and "wasted opportunity" are more accurate descriptions of this flick.
The opening act which introduces our (anti)heroes and chronicles their capture and recruitment is strong and engaging. But when the main story starts, everything goes south. Hackneyed plotting and unoriginal action abound, and everything culminates into a climax that will leave only precious few satisfied. Granted, the movie never becomes mind-numbingly boring (like "Superman Returns") or hopelessly trashy (like "Batman & Robin"). But that's what we call damning with faint praise.

The main reason the film not only survives but is quite enjoyable are its actors. Will Smith as Deadshot turns on his charisma and gets the maximum out of his character. The fact that he has the most detailed and simple backstory helps immensely of course. Margot Robbie is deliciously sexy and unhinged as Harley Quinn. She even manages to make a couple of clunky one-liners sound good. The rest of the cast deserves kudos for not embarrassing themselves despite portraying paper-thin characters that look more like a screenwriter's pawns. Even the usually wooden Jai Courtney and Joel Kinnaman are quite good.

As a piece of mindless entertainment, "Suicide Squad" can be considered semi-successful. It won't set your world on fire but you won't be feeling robbed afterwards either. As usually with over-hyped franchises, the hostile reaction is more indicative of the moviegoers' heightened expectations than the quality of what's presented on-screen.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Sep 03, 2016 7:21 pm

DON'T BREATHE
Cast: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minette, Daniel Zovatto.
Dir: Fede Alvarez.

Three young thieves break into the house of a blind Army veteran to steal his money only to get more than what they bargained for when they find out the blind man isn't as helpless as he seems. Fede Alvarez did a fairly solid job of remaking Evil Dead a couple of years ago. It's nice to see him tackle something original this time and really show his chops. This is a scary and inventive horror film that actually builds more on character and tension rather than cheap scares and shock value. It's also refreshing that there was an effort made to not make characters do stupid and unbelievable things for the sake of the plot like in many horror films and an effort to not write them in familiar tropes. It has been an unusually good year for mainstream horror cinema, I must say.

Oscar Prospects: None but something has to be said for this film's cinematography and sound mixing.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:01 pm

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS
Cast: Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Ellie Kemper, Steve Coogan, Dana Carvey, Lake Bell, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress (voices).
Dir: Chris Renaud.

After his owner brings home an intrusive newcomer, a little dog plots to get rid of himself. This results in both of them getting lost and having to find their way back home. If that story sounds familiar, it's the exact same plot of the firstToy Story. It even follows similar narrative beats. Though, obviously, this is nowhere near as great as Toy Story, it's an okay feature-length animated film with good animation and some colorful and funny characters. Louis CK is good as the lead dog but Kevin Hart steals the show as a crazy rabbit. It's certainly no PIXAR but it's far from horrible. It's entertaining enough.

Oscar Prospects: Animated Feature seems competitive this year. There's no room for filler. This one will have a tough time getting in. Alexandre Desplat's score is pretty good though.

Grade: B-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Sun Aug 28, 2016 12:57 am

There's nothing much to say about Southside with You. If you want to see a dramatic (I use that word very loosely) reenactment of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson's first date, have it at hoss. It's always nice to see a movie where two intelligent people court each other, but it's reigned in by a suffocating respect for authenticity. Watching the film, it's not difficult to lapse into sorting the film into two piles: written dialogue and pulled quotes. Remove the importance that the viewer puts up on these two on the screen, and it's the story of a black lawyer at a white law-firm who is exhausted at leading a double-life both in and out of work. She barely has an opinion of dating Barack because the idea of it just sends her mind into potential ramifications. Both Tika Sumpter (who is a bit too studied but with the harder role) and Parker Sawyer convince the viewer that you're watching two people who have no idea that they're destined for "superhuman" greatness (to reference a comment made by Barack early in the film) but it's effective and it's perfectly timed for saying goodbye to our 44th President in a more graceful way than Oliver Stone's W.

That said, it's a slight affair, poorly-shot, baiting nostalgia somewhat successfully, but it ends up feeling somewhere between tribute and pointless.
"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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