My Best/Favorite Films of 2016

It’s the end of the year boys and girls, you know what that means? It’s list time!!

There were some great films that came out this year. The list really ranges all over the place, so you’ll see a wide array of titles, and even some surprises. But, of course, this is my list and my opinion so your list might be different, obviously, it is okay.

The list will have the films in alphabetical order, just to be fair, and because I really don’t want to go through the trouble anymore of picking a number one because it would be really tough. First let’s start off with the film that I didn’t get around to watching, whether it’s because I missed out in theaters, or because they were only in theaters in my area for a short time. Also, the list won’t include limited release like Live By Night, A Monster Calls, Patriots Day or Silence since they didn’t open in my area, so I’ll include those in my list of 2017 (assuming they make the list of course). Then we’ll move to the films that just missed the list, surprises of the year, honorable mentions and then the big ones.

 

Movies I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

Anomalisa

American Honey

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Café Society

Captain Fantastic

Eye in the Sky

High Rise

Indignation

I Saw the Light

Loving

Miss Sloane

Swiss Army Man

The Birth of a Nation

The Hollars

The Invitation

The Light Between Oceans

The Wave

 

 

Just Missed The List

Demolition

Don’t Think Twice

Lights Out

Nocturnal Animals

The Magnificent Seven

Train to Busan

 

 

Surprises of the Year

Bad Moms (STX Entertainment/Block Entertainment)

If you told me that Bad Moms would be as funny as it was at the beginning of the year, I’d probably walk away from our conversation. But, I gave Bad Moms a chance and I actually had an enjoyable time watching it. It isn’t perfect, but there are plenty of laughs with a great lead cast in Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn.

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Ouija: Origin of Evil (Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Platinum Dunes/Hasbro/Allspark Pictures)

I never watched the first Ouija (and I still don’t at this point), so walking into Origin of Evil knowing it was a prequel, I didn’t know what to anticipate. Thankfully, the sequel/prequel really worked, and honestly, worked better as a family drama than it did horror. Although some of the horror moments by Mike Flanagan, who directed films like Oculus and Hush, worked really well and of course it helped that he had a great cast, especially standout and young star Lulu Wilson.

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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal Pictures/Party Over Here/The Lonely Island/Apatow Productions)

Popstar was one of those films that I watched the trailer and found out what it was about, I couldn’t see myself watching it. Add the fact that I’m not that big of an Andy Samberg fan, but boy was I wrong. The movie was way more funnier than the trailers, and the mockumentary really adds to the movie as a whole, especially the bee “scene.” I’m okay with being wrong this time around.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Sony Pictures/Screen Gems/Cross Creak Pictures/Head Gear Films/Handsomecharlie Films/QC Entertainment/MadRiver Pictures)

I had actually been looking forward to this for a long time now, and while it wasn’t perfect, I still really enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies knew what it was and didn’t try to overdo it or be something else.

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Storks (Warner Bros. Animation/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Stoller Global Solutions)

Storks didn’t grab my attention at all until the second trailer came out, and even then I wasn’t completely sold on it. Then I watched it and I was glad I did. I genuinely had a great time watching the film. It had solid jokes that had me laughing for a good while after, and a very touching story with a satisfying ending that I didn’t think it would.

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The Shallows (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Ombra Films/Weimaraner Republic Pictures)

Another film I had no expectation for but ended watching anyway was the Blake Lively-trying-not-to-get-eaten-by-a-shark film. But, The Shallows wasn’t all that bad, in fact, it kind of made me change my mind on Lively as an actress. Granted it was one film, and it had everything to do with the material she was given, but The Shallows hands down is my surprise film of the year that didn’t suck.

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Honorable Mentions

10 Cloverfield Lane (Paramount Pictures/Bad Robot/Spectrum Effects)

Considering the title for the film came out of nowhere, many were waiting to see what 10 Cloverfield Lane would bring to the table. Thankfully, it came in the form of a great film than probably most people didn’t anticipate. The third act twist to make it connect to the overall world of Cloverfield and all the online marketing threw a lot of people off, but nothing can take away what this film was able to do, in the short time we had to adjust. 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best thrillers of the year.

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Christine (The Orchard/Great Point Media/Fresh Jade/BorderLine Films)

Based on a true story I didn’t know before this film, I was still excited to see how they would approach the material. Also, knowing what was going to happen didn’t affect the final product at all. Rebecca Hall is a standout in this and her performance is amazing to watch from beginning to end.

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Deepwater Horizon (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment/Participant Media/Di Bonaventura Pictures/Closest to the Hole Productions/Leverage Entertainment)

Peter Berg feels like he’s become a “based on a true story” director, which is fine if they’re anything like Deepwater Horizon. Whether you think the concept of making a film based on the BP oil spill is a “good” idea, the film was more about the actual workers there. Not only that, the film is heavily emotion that I will not lie, made me tear up.

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Doctor Strange (Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Marvel continues its trend of changing the way they make their films and keeping the fans on their feet. Doctor Strange introduced magic to the already well-oiled machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Filled with trippy, and great, visuals Doctor Strange may not be the best Marvel film, but one that definitely sticks out, and will leave a lasting impression.

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Don’t Breathe (Sony Pictures/Screen Gems/Ghost House Pictures/Stage 6 Films/Good Universe)

Fede Alvarez had a lot of eyes on him after he directed the not-as-bad-as-people-thought-it-would-be remake of Evil Dead, and Don’t Breathe was a worthy follow-up. The film was filled with great tension throughout that was helped by the great sound design. Not only that, the film was vastly different from what the trailers made you think you were walking into, which is always nice.

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Eddie the Eagle (20th Century Fox/Marv Films/Saville Productions/Studio Babelsberg)

Based on the real life of Eddie the Eagle, Taron Egerton continued to prove that he is one of the best young and upcoming actors working today. Add in the fact that he’s playing a real person whose story was not only a feel-good one, but one that is truly inspirational was great to watch. Also, anytime we get to see Hugh Jackman is a plus, right?

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Finding Dory (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

Many, myself included, worried whether a sequel to Finding Nemo was even necessary, but doubting Pixar at this point has been a bad move. Not only was Finding Dory a worthy sequel, it was a ton of fun. The film never tried to be like the previous film, and instead did things differently to tell its story, and thankfully it paid off.

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Found Footage 3D

One of the highlights of the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival was Found Footage 3D. Keeping true to the title, the film is shot in found footage in 3D, and as terrible as that may sound to some, Found Footage 3D is a lot of fun and worthy to seen. I’ll say this about the film, it’s the Scream of found footage movies.

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Ghostbusters (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Captial/Feigco Entertainment/Pascal Pictures/The Montecito Picture Company)

Yes, I actually enjoyed Ghostbusters. The film didn’t deserve all the hate it got. Was it perfect? No, but it wasn’t terrible either. And yes, the female-led cast actually worked. The film was funny, and the last act – although fell into typical Summer Blockbuster Movie tropes – had some cool things going for it, like ghosts taking over Time Square.

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Green Room (A24/Broad Green Pictures/Film Science)

One of the main attractions of Green Room for many I’m sure was seeing the always loveable Patrick Stewart play a terrifying Neo-Nazis leader, and that’s what he did indeed. Also, it later turned out to be one of the last films by Anton Yelchin. With all that said, Green Room did turn out to be much more than those points. While the film had some horror elements, Green Room works better as a survival thriller.

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Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment/Cross Creak Pictures/Demarest Media/IM Global)

Say what you want about Mel Gibson, and maybe he still deserves it or maybe not, but the man can direct a damn movie! Hacksaw Ridge is a powerful film that, like some films on the list, is based on a true story that maybe not a lot of people knew, and props to Andrew Garfield for bringing not just the character, but the actual man, to life. The war scenes were brutal, sure, but it was Garfield’s performance that really made this movie shine.

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Headshot (Infinite Frameworks Studios)

Headshot was the newest film that starred The Raid and The Raid 2 stars Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yullisman. The film does lean more on the drama side before the action kicks into overdrive and becomes the martial arts film that the trailers promised.

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Here Alone (Vertical Entertainment/Lola’s Productions/Easy Open Productions/Manhattan Productions/Gentile Entertainment Group/Preferred Content) 

One of the biggest surprises of the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival was not really too much of a horror film, but a thriller drama that follows a woman trying to live her life in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The film sounds simple but it is so much more than the synopsis has you believe. The film surpassed any sort of expectations I had for it, which was none, because I didn’t know anything about it before hand.

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Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox/Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films)

This could have gone in my surprises of the year, but I ended up really liking Hidden Figures a lot more than I had original thought. Along with a story that really happened, I had to include it in my list of films of the year. The film was smart, funny and highly entertaining from beginning to end. Also, the wide release is early January, but I managed to see a “Special Engagement” showing, so I was able to put it on my list for 2016.

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Midnight Special (Warner Bros./Tri-State Pictures/RatPac Dune Entertainment)

Another film that I wished more people got to see was this film. Midnight Special may have the backdrop of a sci-fi film, but it really is a story about family and what a father would do for his son. The film is a independent film to the truest point, and even when the sci-fi elements come into play, it never undermines the family drama.

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Moonlight (A24/Plan B Entertainment) 

There’s something special about Moonlight when watching it. The film’s decision to follow our main character from childhood to adulthood was an interesting move, but also made sense when you remember everything that was shown beforehand. The film’s theme was also something that was handled extremely well, and since the trailer – at least from what I remember – didn’t say or hint at anything about it, I was surprised and floored. Moonlight takes the risk and it pays off.

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Pete’s Dragon (Walt Disney Productions)

I had never seen – or at least don’t remember – the original Pete’s Dragon, and I’m kind of glad of that because this iteration is great. It did feel like more of a older crowd film, but there was enough for kids to enjoy and understand. The film also didn’t have a hard time pulling on the heartstrings, and Elliot the Dragon, was worth the price of admission alone.

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe (IFC Films/IFC Midnight/IM Global/Impostor Pictures/42)

Directed by Trollhunters director Andre Ovredal, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of those films that just came out of nowhere, and one you should see if you get the chance without knowing too much about it. All you need to know is Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch have great chemistry as father and son coroners who have to deal with a mysterious body and creepy as things going down.

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The Edge of Seventeen (STX Entertainment/Gracie Films)

This was a film I wasn’t too excited about just based off the premise, but once the cast came together and watching the first trailer, it went to must-watch watch. The Edge of Seventeen is a great coming-of-age film that is lead by Hailee Steinfeld and had a great supporting cast. It wasn’t the best coming-of-age film this year, but one of the best for sure.

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The Handmaiden (Amazon Studios/CJ Entertainment/Magnolia Pictures/Moho Film/Yong Film)

Directed by Chan-wook Park, this erotic thriller – to put it lightly – was like nothing I ever thought it would be like. I mean, seriously, like. Nothing. I. Never. Thought. It. Would. Be.

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The Witch (A24/Parts and Labor/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Code Red Productions/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Maiden Voyage Pictures)

The Witch was one of those films that I couldn’t shake off after watching. That doesn’t happen often, and that’s saying something coming from a guy that watches a lot of films in general. From start to finish, the film grabs you with its unique cinematography, eerie setting, and overall sense of dread.

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Zootopia (Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios)

After watching Zootopia, I thought, that’s it for animated films this year right? Well, no, but Zootopia is still right there on top of the list. Filled with smart social commentary and a great voice cast, Disney has done it again with their animated films.

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Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Arrival (Paramount Pictures/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/21 Laps Entertainment)

Arrival was one of those films you make you feel comfortable until it hits you with all the emotions it’s gathered up throughout the film. It’s also one of those films that leaves you thinking way after watching the film, and start asking questions about what you would do. It’s a great film that came out of nowhere, and one we need a little more of.

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Captain America: Civil War (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Marvel Studios)

The Civil War story in the comics is unbelievable, so when Marvel announced they were going to put it on the big screen, I was a little hesitant – even though I trust Marvel. So when I watched Civil War, all I could think about was how great they were able to bring their own story into the film, and make it work and make Captain America: Civil War one of the best Marvel films so far.

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Carol (The Weinstein Company/Film4/Killer Films/Number 9 Films)

Technically a 2015 film, but considering its wide release rollout – which is when I saw it – wasn’t until 2016, I’m putting Carol here. Of course, it doesn’t really matter where you put this film because it is such a great film. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara made these characters and story feel so real that even with the period piece, you can easy see how modern the story is as well.

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Deadpool (20th Century Fox/Marvel Enterprises/TSG Entertainment)

Deadpool could also be labeled a Surprise Film of the Year, but let’s face it, Deadpool belongs in a favorite films of the year list. Considering it took so long to get this film made, all the kudos goes to Ryan Reynolds, director Tim Miller, and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to bring, arguably, one of the most hardest comic book characters to life on the big screen.

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Everybody Wants Some!! (Paramount Pictures/Annapurna Pictures/Detour Filmproduction)

Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused is so relatable to many, it’s kind of weird. We’ve all been there at some point of our lives and Linklater has this ability to find actors that we can relate to and root for it’s almost impossible.

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Hell or High Water (CBS Films/Lionsgate/Oddlot Entertainment/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/Film 44)

Hell or High Water is one of those films you watch and wonder, why didn’t this get a bigger release? It had great performances by the cast all around, the story and cinematography were great, and feel of the film is constant throughout. If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and watch this film!

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople (The Orchard/Piki Films/Defender Films/Curious Film)

This is one film I didn’t know too much about before going to see it. All I knew was it was getting rave reviews and it was directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Conchords, Thor: Ragnarok). I loved Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and one of the reason I loved it was because it was so different in its own quirky, weird, fun way.

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I Am Not a Serial Killer (IFC Midnight/Fantastic Films/Floodland Pictures/Winterland Pictures/Liquid Noise Films/Level 5 Films)

Having read the novel a few years back, I didn’t even know a movie was being released until it premiered on the film festival circuit. However, I Am Not a Serial Killer is definitely of those rare films that surpasses the source material, and what helped was the casting of Max Records and Christopher Lloyd.

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Jackie (Fox Searchlight Pictures/LD Entertainment/Wild Bunch/Why Not Productions/Protozoa Pictures/Bliss Media/Fabula)

Natalie Portman gives an absolutely crushing and great performance as Jackie Kennedy. The film is built and carried by her as we see Portman literally go through every emotion she can go through bringing the former First Lady to life that lost her husband in front of her, who also happened to be the President of the United States in a very public way.

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Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features/Laika Entertainment)

Laika Entertainment’s fourth film, and for me personally, their best, Kubo and the Two Strings is a beautifully done film with tremendous production design and awesome score. The story at times feels simple, but man did I fall in love with this film.

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La La Land (Summit Entertainment/Black Label Media/Marc Platt Productions/Impostor Pictures/Gilbert Films)

I was blown away by La La Land! I didn’t think the film would be as good as people were saying it was, but I’m glad it was. The film was beautifully done and filled with a great and emotional soundtrack that I’ve slowly become addicted too. The fact that is also feels like an old Hollywood film is what makes the film go above the rest.

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Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions/B Story/Big Indie Pictures/Pearl Street Films/CMP/K Period Media)

Films about grief are common in Hollywood every year, however what makes Manchester by the Sea stick out is that it feels overly real than the rest. There’s no pouring his emotions out by Casey Affleck’s character, and the film shows people go through grief in their own ways. Add on the breakout performance by Lucas Hedges, and the small but powerful performance by Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea is one of the best films of the year.

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Moana (Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Disney Animation continues to bring powerful, emotional and beautifully done films, and it felt like this year was a great year for them. Moana tells a great story through its character, but also its amazing soundtrack, which probably makes sense since they had Lin-Manuel Miranda helping them out.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Allison Shearmur Productions)

Let’s face it, Rogue One was a huge risk for Lucasfilm. Another prequel? Really, did they learn nothing from the past? Well, we were wrong! Rogue One was not only a great prequel to A New Hope, but a great Star Wars film in general. It brings a whole new level to the franchise, and whether you are a hardcore fan, a moderate fan, and someone who is just starting, Rogue One is a ton of fun, action-packed and filled with great characters.

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Sing Street (The Weinstein Company/FilmNation Entertainment/Likely Story/PalmStar Media)

I remember watching the trailer for Sing Street and automatically knew it was going to be something special, and it looked like I was right. Sing Street is one of those films that you may have seen before, but the cast and soundtrack they were able to pull together makes this film not only one of my favorite films of the year, but one of the best films of the year.

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Star Trek Beyond (Paramount Pictures/Skydance Productions/Bad Robot/Sneaky Shark/Perfect Storm Entertainment)

Star Trek Beyond is one of those films that I don’t think many people gave a chance because Into Darkness was underwhelming and disappointing. Which is a fair assessment. However, Star Trek Beyond was a better film and a more fun film that was reminiscent of the first film in the rebooted franchise.

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The Conjuring 2 (Warner Bros./New Line Cinema/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Evergreen Media Group/The Safran Company/Atomic Monster)

At this point, I think I’ll follow James Wan anywhere. I don’t know if The Conjuring 2 was better than the first film, but it is a worthy sequel and one that works within the world that Wan created. Not only that, he continues to bring creepy as hell characters to the big screen to fill our nightmares.

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The Jungle Book (Walt Disney Pictures/Fairview Entertainment/Moving Picture Company)

Another worthy candidate for Surprise of the Year, The Jungle Book proved you can take an old property and do something new with it, and add to it. Also, the fact that the film only has one real person in it in Neel Sethi, and everything else was done in CGI that looked real in some cases, it’s rather impressive.

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The Nice Guys (Warner Bros./Silver Pictures/Waypoint Entertainment/Misty Mountains)

Shane Black’s return to the dark comedy and noir films proved to be a good move with his great film in The Nice Guys. It’s a shame that no one really went out to see it because they missed out on the great chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

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The Revenant (20th Century Fox/New Regency Pictures/RatPac Entertainment/Anonymous Content/Appian Way)

Like Carol, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s new film was technically a 2015 film, but didn’t get its wide release rollout until 2016, which is when I saw it. Of course, the film earned Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Oscar, but it was also the performances of the other cast members like Tom Hardy and the reunion of Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Also, watching Leo go through the torturous journey is worthy of watching the film.

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So that was my year. What are your favorite/best films of the 2016.

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Worst/Disappointing/Least-Liked Movies of the 2016

It’s the end of the year boys and girls, you know what that means? It’s list time!

I’ll put up my list of “Best/Favorite” movies of the year later, but with all those good/great/awesome movies I have, I had to sit through some stinkers unfortunately. Some of these I knew weren’t going to be any good walking in, but I ended up taking the hit anyway. The list ranges all over the place so don’t think I’m attacking certain movies because it’s easy. I walk into every movie with a clear mind and soaking up the movie for what it’s worth.

The list will have the movies in alphabetical order, just to be fair, and because I really don’t want to go through the trouble anymore of picking a number one because they weren’t good enough to make it on my other list. Like all lists, this is my opinion! So if you don’t agree that’s perfectly fine and probably justified. Film is subjective, and that’s why I love it.

Finally, there are other movies that could have gone on the list, but these are the ones that truly stuck out. Alright, let’s get this over with.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

Ben-Hur

Masterminds

Siren

 

 

Disappointments/Least-Liked/Worst Movies of the Year

Anitbirth (IFC Midnight/Traverse Media/Hideaway Pictures)

This is one of the many films I watched at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival in August, and having heard nothing about the film or even watching a trailer, I didn’t know what was coming. I probably should have watched the trailer, because I didn’t like this movie. At all! I didn’t feel anything for the characters, and the story felt like it was going nowhere. The ending, oh man the ending, it literally came out of nowhere, and while the ending would have been shocking if the story hadn’t been bad, it didn’t help matters whatsoever. I know I said I wouldn’t label too many of the films, but this is easily one of my worst films of the year. Maybe the worst.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/DC Entertainment)

This one may take the cake for the biggest disappointment of the year. Despite finally bringing two of the biggest comic book characters on the big screen for the first time, the film was filled with poor editing decisions along with being too crowed for its own good. Zack Snyder said the film was cut severely, but that shouldn’t mean a movie should suffer. While seeing Batman and Superman duke it out was nice to finally see on the big screen, it wasn’t enough to pick this movie up. Also, it doesn’t matter – I mean it does – but why would I sit through a movie again that’s longer to see the difference(talking about that “Extended Cut” on Blu-Ray).

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Blair Witch (Lionsgate/Veritgo Entertainment/Snoot Entertainment/Room 101)

What we all thought was just another found footage movie called The Woods actually ended up being a surprise sequel to The Blair Witch Project. The film was directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) and his usual writing partner Simon Barrett –the previously films mentioned – and that had me from the very beginning. I’m a huge fan of those two, and when it was announced that the film was really Blair Witch, I was both hesitant and excited. Taking into account the film was riding high in praise it was getting in early screening, the end result was a mixed bag – being mostly negative. While the film tried to connect to the spirit of the first film, including revving up the finale, it just didn’t have that same connection the first film made. Some parts were interesting, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it was executed well.

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Gods of Egypt (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment/Mystery Clock Cinema/Thunder Road Pictures)

Gods of Egypt was one of those movies I was excited to watch when it was announced, and when the cast came together with director Alex Proyas, I thought this has to be good, right? Turns out, I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Filled with very questionable (to put it very lightly) CGI throughout, the film felt more like a glorified SyFy Channel movie than it did a big budget Hollywood movie. It didn’t help that despite the pretty good cast, they couldn’t save this either. Dumb fun popcorn film at its finest, but still COME ON!

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Independence Day: Resurgence (20th Century Fox)

Oh boy, this was…ugh. The sequel was something many fans have been wanting for a long time, and I’m sure Resurgence destroyed any hope of getting a worthy sequel. The film had its moments, but only a few to be honest. It just was bad. I mean, I could point out the things I didn’t like with this movie or what was wrong, but that’s too much to write. Also, the more I thought about the film afterward – even know as I’m writing this – I can feel myself getting angry.

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The 5th Wave (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/GK Films/LStar Capital/Material Pictures)

Based on the book by Ricky Yancy, The 5th Wave had a good set-up and source material to set it just a tad apart from the other young adult novel adaptation out there. I read the first book way before the film came out and was looking forward to seeing what they were going to do with this. Unfortunately, the film was bland, and felt way too generic for its own good. It never felt like anything was really happening even when it was, and one of its supposed standout twist moments involving a character reveal was to dark to see what was going on. A big disappointment considering what the book had to offer.

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The Neon Demon (Amazon Studios/Broad Green Pictures/Bold Films/Vendian Entertainment/Space Rocket Nation)

Oh, Nicolas Winding Refn. For me, Refn is a hit-or-miss director for the films I’ve seen. I really liked Bronson and Drive, but Valhalla Rising I couldn’t even finish, and I’ve heard nothing but bad things from Only God Forgives. When it came to The Neon Demon, I didn’t know what to anticipate, and even while I was watching it, I thought, what the hell am I watching? So The Neon Demon wasn’t even a disappointment, least-liked or bad movie, it just was a movie I watched that had its very Refn-esque moments, and some what the hell did I just watch moments.

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Triple 9 (Open Road Films/Anonymous Content/Worldview Entertainment/MadRiver Pictures)

Triple 9 had a lot of good things going for it with an amazing cast and a great director in John Hillcoat (The Road). So it’s a shame that the film ended up being a bit of a disappointment. The film had some great potential, and while the film does live up to some of it, it didn’t capitalize on what the film promised or what it could have been.

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Suicide Squad (Warner Bros./DC Entertainment/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/Lin Pictures)

If Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a disappointment, Suicide Squad just added to it. I didn’t get on the hate train like a lot of other people did. I liked most of it, and I thought some parts worked, but I couldn’t get over all the missteps the film had to make it good or even great. To even say it was better than Dawn of Justice (the theater cut) isn’t even saying that much either. I didn’t hate Suicide Squad, and while I had more fun watching this than Dawn of Justice, I can’t honestly say I loved it either. Also, Jared Leto’s Joker: ugh.

suicide_squad_ver24

 

Warcraft (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Blizzard Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment)

I never played the games myself, but I knew how big the game was to some people. I also knew this film was in the works for a long time – Sam Raimi was originally attached to direct for a while – so finally seeing this on the big screen was a big deal. Unfortunately, for me, the movie didn’t click for me. The film at times felt too much like it was catering to the fans then casual or non-game fans, which is something I always thought the film shouldn’t have done. I didn’t dislike Warcraft, some of it was pretty good, but overall, the film felt jumbled at times and I had a hard time connecting to some of the characters.

warcraft_ver8

 

All right, so there are my worst, disappointments, least-liked films of the year. What were some of yours?

Be on the lookout for my other lists coming out soon.

Favorite/Standout Cinematography, Action/Fight Sequences, Score/Soundtrack, Visual Effects & Trailers of 2016

This is a continuation of my Favorite/Standouts of the Year, this time focusing more on the genre side of things with my favorite fights/action sequences, cinematography, score/soundtrack, visual effects and trailers.

 

Fight/Action Sequence

Assassin’s Creed: Run Through the City

Assassin’s Creed’s best moments where set in the past, and a majority of them were action sequences. The standout sequences was the run through the city that involves Aguilar (Michael Fassbender) and Maria (Ariane Labed) on the run from Ojeda (Hovik Keuchkerian) and his men. Along with small fights in tight quarters or on rooftops, the scene may be the best scene in the whole film.

 

Captain America: Civil War: Airport Battle & Captain America/Winter Soldier vs. Iron Man

Okay, this is a copout since this these are most of the action sequences, but let’s face it, Civil War, was filled with great action sequences. Of course, the biggest highlight was the Airport Battle that was unbelievably nerdy. The second big fight is Captain America and The Winter Soldier vs. Iron Man in a fight that is much more personal that I think anyone could have imagined being in a comic book film.

 

Deadpool: Deadpool Takes Out Convoy

While the scene is just a modified version of the “leaked” footage that came out the year before, the convoy sequence stood out to me because it happens in such a confined space and it still allows Ryan Reynolds to give us very Deadpool like lines.

 

Doctor Strange: The Ancient One vs. Kaecilius/Zealots & Strange vs. Kaecilius and Zealots

The fight scenes in Doctor Strange brought a new style to fight scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Magic. Not only that, that opening fight scenes between The Ancient One and the Zealots and Kaecilius showed the MCU isn’t scared of going a more martial arts route.

 

Ip Man 3 – Ip Man vs. Frank & Ip Man vs. Cheung Tin-chi

The Donnie Yen Ip-Man films are always filled with great fight scenes and Ip-Man 3 was no different. The two standout fights for me was the heavily promoted fight with Mike Tyson – who plays a mob boss named Frank – and the final fight between Ip Man and Cheung Tin-chi (Jin Zhang). The fight with Frank is actually good, and while arguably a stunt fight (they could have easily casted someone else), it doesn’t disappoint too much. As for the final fight with Cheung Tin-chi, this one was building almost from the beginning of the film, and when it finally happens, you can totally feel the emotion behind every punch and movement they make.

 

Moana: Moana and Maui Escape Kakamora

Another animated sequence that stood out to me was this Mad Max: Fury Road-inspired chase scene in Moana. Right down to the beating drums, and weirdly dressed Kakamora’s, the chase was something I’m sure George Miller would be proud of.

 

Rogue One: Chirrut Imwe vs. Stormtroppers, Final Battle, Vadar Boards

I’d be surprised if this doesn’t end up on other peoples lists. Personally, seeing Donnie Yen mess up some Stormtroopers was awesome. However, the final battle on Scarif was what the film was building up to, and it did not disappoint. Finally, the Vadar scene. I won’t give it away too much if you haven’t seen it, but wow!

 

Storks: Junior and Tulip vs. The Penguins

Animated “fight/action” sequences usually involve comedy and aren’t really taken seriously, and you know what? Sometimes that’s okay. Storks did that with their fight scenes that involves are heroes, Junior and Tulip, going up against penguins. What makes it standout – besides the homage to Aliens – all of it happens as they try to make the least amount of noise possible so they don’t wake up the baby.

 

The Revenant – Opening Ambush

The opening ambush scene was really something to watch unfold. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is done in the classic Lubezki trope in that it’s done in shot continuous take. Not only that, it happens very fast and is so chaotic, that it makes it a standout scene.

 

X-Men: Apocalypse: Quicksilver’s Rescue & Wolverine Breaks Free

While Quicksilver’s Rescue was awesome to watch, seeing Hugh Jackman unleashed a bit of Berserker Rage on Stryker’s men was an even more awesome sight to see. Especially knowing that Jackman is on his way out the door as Wolverine/Logan

 

 

Honorable Mention

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Batman vs. Knyazev’s Men

Deadpool: Deadpool vs. Ajax (Finale)

Ghostbusters: Ghostbusters vs. Times Square Ghosts

Hacksaw Ridge: First Attack

Headshot: Ishmael vs. Tano & Ishmael vs. Lee

Kill Zone 2: Chatchai vs. Kit (Prison Riot) & Chatchai/Kit vs. Ko Hung aka The Warden

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Skeletons vs. Hollows

Star Trek Beyond: Enterprise Takeover

Suicide Squad: Suicide Squad/Katana/Rick Flag’s Unit vs. Monsters (Streets)

The Magnificent Seven: Finale Shootout

Warcraft: Durotan vs. Gul’dan

 

 

Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki – The Revenant

Emmanuel Lubezki has already made himself a well-known name amongst cinematographers, so it came as no surprise that his work in The Revenant was amazing and beautiful to watch.

 

Jarin Blaschke – The Witch

I’ve never heard of Jarin Blaschke, but I will be on the lookout for whatever he does next because his work in The Witch was equal parts creepy, eerie and gut-wrenching scary as hell. I’m not usually a fan of quotes in movie trailers, but the quote in the trailers that basically said it feels like something you shouldn’t be watching it completely true.

 

Linus Sandgren – La La Land

La La Land feels like an ultimate homage to old timey Hollywood films right down to cinematography during the musical sections of the film. Also, the fact that they used real location around Los Angeles is an added bonus (says the man from outside Chicago).

 

Pedro Luque – Don’t Breathe

One of the reasons that Don’t Breathe worked – at least for me – is the look of it all. The creepy house with the overall dark look made the film a more effective horror thriller. Pedro Luque really had a great eye for it all, and lets add the surprisingly good blackout sequences using night vision to show the pure terror of our main characters was great.

 

Zach Kuperstein – The Eyes of My Mother

The Eyes of My Mother is probably one of the creepiest films cinematography-wise. The film is shot in black and white, and for some reason, it made it a hell of a lot more creepier. It makes you imagine what the colors would look like, but even its nature shots and more distributing shots, the film is still beautiful to look at.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Bradford Young – Arrival

Don Burgess – The Conjuring 2

Marc Spicer – Lights Out

Natasha Braier – The Neon Demon

Pasha Kapinos/Vsevolod Kaptur/Fedor Lyass – Hardcore Henry

Roman Osin – The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Stephane Fontaine – Jackie

 

 

Score/Soundtrack

Dario Marianelli – Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings is already a great film, but one of the main reasons is because of the music. The music connects to theme they’re going for, and Regina Spektor’s cover of “My Guitar Gently Weeps” is beautiful.

 

Justin Hurwitz – La La Land

Easily one of, if not, the best soundtracks of the year, La La Land’s soundtrack is as vivid as the set-pieces it plays over. You can easily be addict to the soundtrack, I know I was, because as soon as I walked out of the theater I bought the soundtrack.

 

Mark Korven – The Witch

The Witch is already eerily creepy with its cinematography, but add on the music that was created by Mark Korven, you have yourself an all around horror film of nightmares.

 

Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda – Moana

Come on, let’s face it – you’ve been singing songs from Moana since you’ve seen it, right? Okay then.

 

Musical Department in Sing Street 

Sing Street doesn’t have one specific person attached for the music. Some were covers, but Drive it Like You Stole It, is one of the best new songs of the year.

 

Honorable Mentions

Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL – Batman Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Johann Johannsson – Arrival

Lukasz Pawel Buda/Samuel Scott/Conrad Wedde – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Ryuichi Sakamoto, Carsten Nicolai, and Bryce Dessner – The Revenant

 

 

Visual Effects

Doctor Strange

Marvel introduced us to the magical realm and other dimensions, and I don’t know if anyone other than Scott Derrickson could have introduced us to that. The visuals were just amazing to see, even with the Inception-style effects, that aren’t as dominate as you would think, the visuals made Doctor Strange a standout Marvel film.

 

The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book is a film that probably should have failed, but it didn’t – at all. The film is bursting with phenomenal visuals, that even after you find out that almost everything was created with visuals, you watch wondering, was that real? Honestly, The Jungle Book was arguably some of the best CGI we’ve ever seen.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Ghostbusters

Pete’s Dragon

The BFG

 

 

Trailers

Captain America: Civil War Trailer 2

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

 

 

Free Fire

 

 

Kong: Skull Island

 

 

Logan

 

 

War for the Planet of the Apes

 

 

Wonder Woman Comic Con

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Get Out

First Official ‘Suicide Squad’ Trailer

The Birth of a Nation Teaser

First Sausage Party Trailer

 

So that’s it ladies and gentlemen.

What are some of your favorites, and be on the lookout for the big lists next week!

Mini-Reviews: Jackie, Assassin’s Creed, Hidden Figures, Passengers & Sing

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Jackie

Director: Pablo Larrain

Writer: Noah Oppenheim

Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Carroll Lynch, Max Casella, Beth Grant, Richard E. Grant, Caspar Phillipson and John Hurt

Synopsis: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.

 

I’ll admit, I didn’t know too much after Jackie Kennedy before the film, besides of course her being the First Lady, and being the widow of John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated when riding around Dallas. It’s a bit of shame that that’s the only thing most people, probably, know about her. However, here in Jackie, we get to see a glimpse of what she potentially – films based on true stories are already up for interpretation – through after her husband was shot.

The film starts off with a reporter, played by Billy Crudup, coming up to the house in Massachusetts where Jackie (Natalie Portman) is staying. The reporter starts to ask her questions and we flashblack to a couple of different events: her televised tour of the White House in 1961 and the week of the assassination. Through all of it, we see Jackie as she deals with the tour, and after the assassination of her husband, the grief of she is consumed by and how history will remember him.

Jackie is not an easy film to watch, not because it’s not any good, but because the majority of the film is Jackie Kennedy trying to keep herself composed after losing her husband. And I don’t know about most people, but I think some people sometimes forget that Jackie didn’t lose the President of the United States, she lost her husband, and that’s something the film bring up. Jackie lost her husband that just so happens to be the President. It’s a fine line that the film balances pretty well.

Another fine line the film balances is not making Jackie too much of a sympathetic character. The film has no problem making her a flawed person, and if you find her actions odd or even questionable, you’re not alone. The film isn’t there to make Jackie a saint, even though she lost her husband, the things she does make you believable she may be just a bit unstable. But that’s also the beauty of Jackie, Natalie Portman does an impressive job of creating and explore the layers to this public figure that went through it all, and through a very personal tragedy in the public eye. Once you get past the accent, you can really enjoy watching Portman hit every emotion to a tee.

All in all, Jackie rests in the capable hands of Natalie Portman as she brings Jackie Kennedy to life and walks a fine line between sympathetic and flawed that makes the film and character feel real.

Jackie

4.5 out of 5

jackie

 

 

 

Assassin’s Creed

Director: Justin Kurzel

Writers: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Michael Kenneth Williams, Denis Menochet, Ariane Labed, Matias Varela, Callum Turner, Khalid Abdalla, Hovik Keuchkerian, Brendan Gleeson, and Charlotte Rampling

Synopsis: When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguliar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassin’s society.

 

Based off the highly popular and successful video game series, Assassin’s Creed was many people’s hopes to finally have a good, or at least descent, video game film. Well, while the film has some really cool and great moments, Assassin’s Creed is not the film that will change people’s perspective of the video game films. Also, for fans of the game, the film doesn’t follow a lead character from the games, but does have some big elements – at least from the games that I have played.

The film opens with a crawl of text that sets up the historic storyline and gives us the glimpse of the Assassins and their fight with the Templar. The film then jumps time as we see a young Cal finding his mother killed and his father the prime suspect. We jump again as see Cal (Michael Fassbender) getting executed to only wake up in a mysterious facility owned by Abstergo Industries. It’s there he meets Sofia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard), the daughter of the company’s CEO, played by Jeremy Irons, who runs the Animus project. A device that allows the user to see, feel and experience their ancestor’s life and memoires.

Cal finds out that he’s part of the company’s latest big project to find the Apple of Eden. The idea is the Apple of Eden will eradicate free will. In order to get the artifact they need Cal to get the memories of his 15th Century ancestor in Spain, Aguilar de Nerha, who was the last to have seen the Apple.

The film has a descent set-up, but the problem becomes the film moves too fast for its own good, and doesn’t live any of the characters breath. The first time we meet Cal really is right before he’s executed for a crime of killing someone – we find out later that he may have deserved it, but it felt like a throwaway line – but Cal is just someone walking through the paces. We never really feel connected to Cal in the real-world, which is a bit of a bad sign considering we spend a lot more time in the real-world than the past. Speaking of the past, that’s when we get to see Fassbender shine to the extreme. Aguilar doesn’t need to say much as his presences is enough to tell the story. Next to him is Ariane Labed’s Maria, who unfortunately doesn’t get fleshed out as much as she should, but shines in her small screen time with Aguilar.

The rest of the cast is just okay. Marion Cotillard’s Sofia is there to lead the “science” to the audience and give the feeling that she actually cares about Cal, while Jeremy Irons does the best he can with what he’s given. Brendan Gleeson, Michael Kenneth Williams and Charlotte Rampling are heavily underused in their small roles which is shameful in a lot of ways.

The saving grace in the film is all the past scenes. It also happens to be where most of the action takes place. Combined with the heavy score, the action scenes make the film actually worthwhile, and once they stop, it does take a lot of the air away from you. It could have also helped that all the present/real world scenes fall rather flat and the concept of what they want the Apple of Eden seems rather, to not make it sound harsh, stupid. There’s also the “bleeding effect” concept that is rather cool, but near the end of the film the effect could have used better, especially since it seemed important.

All in all, Assassin’s Creed is a film that has a descent enough set-up, but the overall execution is poorly delivered. The action scenes make up for it, but it would have been better if they spent more time in the past than the present. Things aren’t fleshed out enough and the plan by the villains is rather dumb. Assassin’s Creed won’t change the opinion of video game movie doubters, but it’s serviceable enough.

Assassin’s Creed

3.5 out of 5

assassins_creed_ver2

 

 

Hidden Figures

Director: Theodore Melfi

Writers: Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder

Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, and Glen Powell

Synopsis: A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions.

 

Based on the novel by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures is set in the early days of the space race and is also based on a true story. We focus on three African-American women who work for NASA in Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy (Octavia Spencer, and Mary (Janelle Monae). Katherine is a brilliant mathematician, Vaughan acts as the supervisor – although she isn’t – over the African-American “Computers” (the African-American women that worked the calculators), and Mary works with the engineers and hangs with the best of them. We follow the three as the space race comes to a head when Russia successfully sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit. Katherine is placed in the special task group to get the math right, Dorothy works to get her girls more important positions and be seen as an equal, while Mary takes the advice and tries to become a certified engineer. Each of them deal with their own hardships and discrimination in a time that was trying to progress.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really that excited for Hidden Figures, but I’m glad I went to watch the film. The film is really well done and has great performances by the whole cast that is lead by Henson, and Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison, the supervisor of the program. While the film follows Katherine, Dorothy and Mary, its Katherine that we mostly follow, which is fair considering we see her story at the very beginning of the film. Dorothy has to deal with Kirsten Dunst’s character Vivian Mitchell, and Janelle Moane’s Mary has a great story, but seems to take a backseat to Katherine’s and Dorothy’s arcs. Overall, their stories are an important part in NASA and the space race’s history, but each of them have their own part to play within the film itself.

The film does of course touch heavily on the race issues during the time. It doesn’t tiptoe around the issue too much, and shows how hard people of color, especially women, had during the time. There is a montage that involves Katherine running from building to building that effects her and her work, and while some will see it as heavy-handed or played out, it pays off in full effect later on in one of the most powerful scenes in the film, and one that is carried by Henson.

All in all, Hidden Figures is a great true story that many people may not know too much about. Carried together by its great cast, the film hardly lets up and if you feel yourself get angry over the treatment our main characters feel, I think the film has done its job.

Hidden Figures

4 out of 5

hidden_figures

 

 

Passengers

Director: Morten Tyldum

Writer: Jon Spaihts

Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne and Andy Garcia

Synopsis: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.

 

When you get two of the biggest and popular stars in Hollywood in Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, you have to think it has to be great, right? Well, that is the case for Passengers, most of the time. The film follows Jim Preston (Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Lawrence), passengers on the spaceship Avalon that is destined to a new planet to start anew called Homestead II. However, the hibernation pods malfunction and they wake up ninety years too soon. With only a bartender android named Arthur (Michael Sheen), the two eventually develop feelings for one another until the ship starts to malfunction putting everyone still asleep and them in danger.

There is a lot more to Passengers than the marketing lets on, so I’ll keep everything to a minimal in this already mini-review. Like noted before, when Passengers works it really works. Everything is compelling, well-acted and Pratt and Lawrence’s chemistry is spot-on, with each getting their individual big moments. Sheen as Arthur the android bartender brings the comedic relief to the film.

I will admit, it’s a bit hard to talk about the big theme and decision a character makes in the film without spoiling something, but that decision is much better to see for yourself, instead of being spoiled. The decision is something that lingers throughout the film and when its bought up it really is the heart of the film. The good thing is the film doesn’t pick a side on it. It lets the characters really be weighed up it and feels like it lets you decide whether it was right.

The film does falter at times, and that’s when the film takes a plunge. The romance story almost gets too heavy handed in the sci-fi elements, but with Pratt and Lawrence leading the charge it makes it pretty okay.

All in all, Passengers has a good setup that works when it’s in full effect, but when the film slows down too much is when the film takes a dive.

Passengers

3.5 out of 5

passengers

 

 

Sing

Directors: Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet

Writer: Garth Jennings

Voice Cast: Mathew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Garth Jennings, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones and Rhea Perlman.

Synopsis: A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

 

Illumination Entertainment has been pushing Sing for a while now. The film has been promoted since early this summer, non-stop. This meant that the studio had really high hopes for the film. After seeing the final product, I can somewhat see why, but Sing doesn’t do too much to separate itself from the crowded animated crowd this year.

The film follows Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a koala bear who runs a failing theaters. Desperate to return the theater to its former glory he decides to put an open casting call for a singing competition. The casting call gets more attention than he thought after an error and the auditions bring a bevy of talent to Moon. The ones we follow are overworked housewife Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), rocker Ash (Scarlett Johansson), smooth talker Mike (Seth MacFarlane), showman Gunter (Nick Kroll) and trying to break free from his father’s life of crime Johnny (Taron Egerton).

The film has other characters like a shy elephant in Meena (Tori Kelly), who actually can sing, but is too shy in front of crowds, John C. Reilly as Buster’s best friend Eddie, Jennifer Saunders as Eddie’s rich Grandmother, and director Garth Jennings as Buster’s secretary Miss Crawly.

Like I mentioned, Sing doesn’t really do anything special to separate itself from the other animated films this year with the expectation of having songs you may recognize. The characters are great when they have their individual moments to shine, but it’s nothing we having really seen before.

All in all, Sing has its moments, but compared to the other animated films released this year, it doesn’t really come that close. Filled with some genuinely funny moments, and standout song sequences, Sing is just an okay animated film.

Sing

3 out of 5

sing

Mini-Reviews: Office Christmas Party, Nocturnal Animals, and La La Land

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s more of a mixed than it was last time. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Office Christmas Party

Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

Writers: Justin Malen, Laura Solon, and Dan Mazer

Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Karan Soni, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Jillian Bell.

Synopsis: When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of the hand…

 

Tis the season for Christmas films, and what better film than an office Christmas party movie where things go wrong, right? While Office Christmas Party does have some saving moment scattered throughout, the film falls flat on a lot of areas, which is a shame considering the pretty good cast the film fills out.

Office Christmas Party follows a tech company, Zenotech, that is threaten to be shut down by the company CEO Carol (Aniston). However, her brother Clay (Miller), who happens to have had the branch inherited to him by his father, intends to keeping the branch alive at any means. Along with his CTO Josh (Bateman) and programmer Tracy (Munn), Clay thinks they can save the branch by signing a big wig in Walter Davis (B. Vance). Carol seeing it as impossible gives them two days to get it done. Seeing their hopes slips, they decide to throw a massive office Christmas party to impressive him, get the deal and save the branch. Of course, things get out of hand.

The idea of an office Christmas party going crazy isn’t all the exciting, but you would think with a great cast like this, they would be able to conjure something worthwhile and better than average. Unfortunately, the film barely does that and fails to really connect to most of the core characters.

T.J. Miller plays pretty much the same character he’s done before, while Jason Bateman plays the straight-laced character and Kate McKinnon, who plays the head of HR, is a wacky and out-there character that has one big moment to shine. Jennifer Aniston playing the cut-throat CEO seems to a perfect fit for her. The rest of the cast have their moments to shine, but when the film takes time to focus on the main three characters in their respected stories, it fails to get us invested in them.

Bateman’s character goes through a divorce at the beginning of the film, but we don’t really see him affected by it or see his ex-wife. Olivia Munn’s character has her own arc that only serves the plot when it needs to, and there’s an interesting plot point with Jillian Bell that comes out of left field, but doesn’t really go anywhere. Also, seeing Courtney B. Vance break loose is a sight to see.

All in all, Office Christmas Party does have some great laughs scattered throughout, but the film doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.

Office Christmas Party

3 out of 5

office_christmas_party

 

 

 

Nocturnal Animals

Director: Tom Ford

Writer: Tom Ford

Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Karl Glusman, Michael Sheen, and Laura Linney

Synopsis: An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

 

Based on the novel by Austin Wright and directed by former designer Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals follows Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is an art dealer, who is not happy with her life, suddenly gets a package from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). The package contains a novel he wrote called Nocturnal Animals, which he dedicated to her – and something he once called her. Susan begins to read the book, seeing the lead character of Tony, as Edward, and follows a family driving through middle of nowhere Texas that end up getting attacked by three individuals lead by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Tony manages to get away as his wife and daughter (played by Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber) are kidnapped and gets help from Officer Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon).

During all this, Susan also starts getting flashbacks of former her life with Edward as her current husband (Armie Hammer) is away on business. There we see how her marriage failed, and we get enthralled in a haunting, tense thriller drama from beginning to end.

It’s not hard to see the parallels between the real-life story of Susan and Edward’s novel, and flows together rather nicely once everything picks up. However, there are some things that get lost in the shuffle. Even though the film is about Amy Adams’ Susan and Edward’s novel, it would have been nice to see more of Armie Hammer’s character fleshed out instead of just being Susan’s husband – they only shared about three scenes together. There is another character that random pops up and is never mentioned ever again, but for the sake of keeping my non-spoiler tag I won’t mention it here.

Despite some of the flaws, Nocturnal Animals is held together by the cast and the gripping novel plotline. Amy Adams is always reliable, and seeing her as this somewhat broken character is something she handles very well. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is mostly that of Tony, but watching Tony’s story is arguably the best part of the film. That being said, that also works as a bit of a negative. The fact that the story within a story works more and is more interesting than the “real” story is a bit of a shame, but that could be just me. Going back to the cast, Michael Shannon also continues his string of reliable and great characters with Andes, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson fines a great line of sadistic redneck and playing dumb.

All in all, Nocturnal Animals has all the elements to keep the film entertaining and keep you invested, but most of it relies on the story within the story. It’s not a bad thing overall, but when it parallels to Susan’s story it takes you out just a bit.

Nocturnal Animals

4 out of 5

nocturnal_animals_ver5

 

 

La La Land

Director: Damien Chazelle

Writer: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, Finn Wittrock, and J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

 

Damien Chazelle made waves with his last feature film, Whiplash, so people were really looking forward to what he had in store with La La Land. Turns out, it was another great story with great leads, an amazing score, awesome set-pieces and more importantly, a very old timey Hollywood feel.

The film follows Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling actress trying to keep her head above water, and works as a barista on the Warner Bros. studio backlot. She keeps meeting Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist with dreams of his own: he wants to open his own club. The two eventually end up together and what follows is their relationship as it goes through ups and downs in Hollywood.

La La Land takes a bit to find its tempo – I’m not even sorry for the bad music pun – but once it does, the film instantly becomes a whole new animal. The film does fall into musical territory, just so you know, but the soundtrack and music by Justin Hurwitz works so well that you’ll be nodding your head and trying to sing along with the music. You combine that with the great looking set-designs and you’ll fully embrace the vivid colorful world La La Land brings to the table.

It also helps that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are – once again – great as the leads. The two obviously have great chemistry together (this is the third film together), and their leads are likeable dreamers that fall for each other in a nontraditional way, which was nice to see, and seeing their relationship smoothly transition is what makes us emotionally invested in their story from beginning to end. Also, each of them have their own story arcs that don’t need the other to hang get involved in any real way. Mia struggles with her acting on her own, and Sebastian needs to decide on he wants to move forward with his passion. Both storylines feel real, and once we see the resolution it makes sense why they would choose what they do.

All in all, La La Land is a film that feels like an old timey Hollywood film that pays huge homage to the musicals of old, but also enough to set itself apart and pave its own way. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling carry the film from beginning to end, but it’s the music with the sets – or in many cases, real-life locations – and cinematography that makes the film work on multiple levels. Do yourself a favor and go watch La La Land as soon as you can.

La La Land

4.5 out of 5

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‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Review

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Director: Gareth Edwards

Writers: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy

Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Meddelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Jimmy Smits, Alistar Petrie, Genevieve O’Reilly, and Mads Mikkelsen

Synopsis: The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic sage to follow.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

When it was announced that Lucasfilm would start doing spinoff/standalone films, many fans were excited about the endless possibilities that would entail. Then it was announced that we would be getting a prequel to Star Wars IV – A New Hope, that would follow the rebels we read about in the opening crawl that stole the plans to the Death Star. Fans were eager to see how that story played out, and then everything started coming together. The cast was put together, the director, and then the trailers were released. Everyone seemed pretty happy. Then the dreaded and new dirty word in Hollywood came out, reshoots. Even though everyone in the production said it wasn’t too big of a deal, fans started to worry. Well, it looks like we didn’t need to, because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story delivered on its early promise – a war film about the brave group of rebels that stole the plans to The Empire’s deadly weapon.

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The film doesn’t start off with the traditional Star Wars opening crawl, and instead starts with Imperial Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) getting a former Empire scientist, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) to come back to work on the Empire’s newest weapon. Before they can capture him however, Galen sends his daughter Jyn off to hide. We skip forward years, and an adult Jyn (Felicity Jones) is held by Imperial forces until she is saved by the Rebellion. There she meets an intelligence officer in Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and a re-programmed Imperial droid K-2SO (motion capture and voiced by Alan Tudyk) where they offer her freedom in exchange to help them get a message from her father that is being held by an old mentor, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and a defector pilot Bodbi Rook (Riz Ahmed). Along their journey they recruit former Jedi temple protectors Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) to help them on their mission that becomes something bigger than they thought: save the galaxy from the Death Star, and steals the plans to help the Rebellion.

Rogue One is the first of new standalone/spinoff films, and if this is any indication on how Lucasfilm and Disney are going to handle the films, I think we are all in for a fun ride and great films. While the film does hark on some elements that we all love about Star Wars, the film feels different in a lot of ways too. While the previous Star Wars films have some “dark” overtones, Rogue One does feels more like an actual war film.

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The whole film is essentially a race against the clock that sees our characters jump from one planet to the other to get vital pieces of information, and trying to stay ahead of the Empire and Krennic. What also helps is the action is extremely top-notch. Sure we remember all the lightsaber battles and sky battles from the previous films, but what we’ve never really seen the ground troops, and the dirty side of the war that is finally introduced giving us a different side of the rebellion. Not only that, there is no Jedi in the film, sure we go to the home planet of the Jedi, but the closest thing we get Jedi is Donnie Yen’s character and the appearance of Darth Vader. So if you think Star Wars films need Jedi, Rogue One will prove you wrong.

Besides the action, the characters are what also make Rogue One a great and fun film. Felicity Jones’ Jyn is a great character to follow, who eventually accepts her place in the rebellion to stop the Empire, Luna’s character is complex in his own way that makes total sense now that we get a wider and better look at the Rebellion. Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen are a likeable duo with Yen being a major highlight for me – and will be for fans of his. Riz Ahmed’s Bodbi is unfortunately underdeveloped, but does have his moments, while Ben Mendelsohn’s continues to be reliable in everything he does as his Krennic is a worthy Imperial officer villain, although I wish they would have done more with him. They do involve him in a small arc with a character many Star Wars fans will know, and although I want to talk about that, I think I’ll let you experience that yourselves. The highlight of the film is Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO, who brings most of the humor to the film, and will probably go down as people’s newest favorite droid.

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The film does have some issues. Like I mentioned, some characters just don’t have enough to do or are underdeveloped, and some plot lines are pretty thin or aren’t fleshed out enough that we’re left wondering why bring this up? It also takes a while to really pick up, but once it does, oh man, is it totally worth it and sucks you in completely. I also had just one minor issue with one Vader scene, but we can talk about that some other time.

All in all, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a great film to the Star Wars series. While the film has a few missteps, and the fear that reshoots would ruin the film, Rogue One is a hell of a lot of fun for new and seasoned fans.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4.5 out of 5

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