Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 in film (Part II)

Definitely not as strong as my previous 10, there are still a few strong movies here. These are the next 10 movies I've seen from 2016.

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10. Pee Wee's Big Holiday
Directed by John Lee

A nostalgia-pandering, uninteresting and somewhat loose follow-up to a much better movie, this time featuring the titular manchild getting into goofy hijinks on a trip through America. Oh wait, that's the same thing that happened in Pee Wee's Big Adventure... Hey, at least this time we get the same basic thing but with less wit and originality. Hurray for that. I would have enjoyed myself more had I been watching videos of people farting in the shower. It also would have probably been less annoying and immature.

9. Moonwalkers
Directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet

An intriguing concept it may be, but as is always the case in entertainment, if it's not pulled off well, it doesn't matter at all. This is one of those infuriating films that takes the obvious, cheap route at every juncture, never leaving the audience feeling like they need to stay through to the credits. Plotpoints are introduced and then dismissed in an instant, the film (despite being a "comedy") is never funny, and the music and visual choices of the film are so lazy and uninspired, it feels like you're watching the same set-in-the-'60s crap that we've been seeing for decades. Seriously, how many times can movies use Jefferson Airplane to establish a '60s setting? All-in-all, this was a weak movie.

8. Ava's Possessions
Directed by Jordan Galland

A hokey, mildly entertaining demonic possession movie that definitely has a niche audience in mind, but never quite lives up to its potential. I wouldn't call anything about this movie "good", but it has very few horrible problems and massive oversights. It ultimately is just a pretty dull, unfocused and often unfunny (and never even remotely scary) horror comedy that doesn't leave you wanting as much as it just leaves you feeling like you essentially wasted your time. Those are the worst kind of movies, too - they aren't even fun to make fun of.

7. Emelie
Directed by Michael Thelin

Horror movies that start out tense and self-destruct by the third act are some of the most infuriating movies out there. That's exactly the kind of movies Emelie is. An intense, well-developed suspense film for its first hour, this movie goes from being pretty damn good to being a colossal waste of time in a very short period of time. Nothing about the last half hour of this movie works, and that is truly incredible, considering the effectiveness of the pacing and performances in the first two acts of the film. Not "scary", but this is a movie that makes you feel uncomfortable and slightly helpless, before it decides to throw all reason and logic out the window for its nonsensical, anti-climactic finale.

6. They're Watching
Directed by Jay Lender & Micah Wright

Yet another intriguing horror movie that fails to come through in the end. Only this movie doesn't just trip up at the finish line, it explodes and leaves bloody chunks of its oozing carcass all over everything within a 15 yard radius. Found footage movies that devolve into gross misuse of CG are never the most inspiring failures in the film world, but I will give the movie credit for being unexpected and at times quite fun. Never scary, but there are enough good things about it to make it a somewhat worthwhile experience, even if you will be splashed with so much blood and feces by the end you will have to wash your face afterwards.

5. The Lady In The Van
Directed by Nicholas Hytner

Not much of a film but more a showcase for Maggie Smith and her ability to make any script work, no matter how schmaltzy, uninspired, or clumsy. Every other character in this movie is borderline toxic in their mundanity, as if the filmmakers realized Smith would be the only appeal here, so they didn't even bother writing halfway decent characters out of sheer laziness. But hey, she almost makes it work. Though I can't say I disliked this movie, I definitely felt like I got nothing from watching it.

4. Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice
Directed by Zack Snyder

If it weren't for the terrible, terrible acting provided by Jesse Eisenberg, I could have forgiven even more of this films flaws and given it an even higher rating, despite the acknowledgment that this is an extremely flawed movie, but alas, I can only be so forgiving. Ben Affleck does his best as Batman, and actually makes the role work, but is the victim of too rushed of an introduction. Same goes for Gal Gadot's brief appearance as Wonder Woman. Instead, too much time is given to Eisenberg's annoyingly over-the-top and distracting portrayal of Lex Luthor. The action in this movie is the real star, though, showing off Snyder's ability to direct truly impressive action sequences that you never want to end. The whole thing is flawed, rushed, and a little hokey at times, but all in all, I enjoyed it quite a bit and it never felt like they were phoning it in (like the past several Marvel films have), which I feel earns it some points.

3. Southbound
Directed by Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, & Radio Silence

An eerie, concise, well-rounded horror anthology that feels more complete than most other films of its variety. Instead of breaking the film down to its individual segments, this movie is steady enough in its effectiveness and tone that I feel it can be judged as a whole. There's a dark complexity to this film that most modern horrors lack, and paired with strong performances and a disinterest in over-explaining itself, this really is one of the better anthologies I have had the pleasure of watching in a while. Perhaps a little over-reliant on jump scares, at least I can say that they work here, thanks in large part to the building atmosphere and its general unexpected nature.

2. Remember
Directed by Atom Egoyan

The problem with movies like this is, ever since the release of Memento, the killer with a poor memory thing has been done a little too often. Christopher Plummer takes his role and makes the most of it (though I feel Max Von Sydow would have been more appropriate casting), giving the character a tragic air that is hard not to sympathize with. The movie escapes from the realms of reality at times, but that isn't enough to detract from the fact that this movie is genuinely captivating from beginning to end, and doesn't rely too heavily on its ending to make it all work.

1. The Forbidden Room
Directed by Guy Maddin

This not a movie intended for most audiences. Frantic, silly, and totally unpredictable, this bizarre exercise in editing and storytelling is a dizzying experience with little payoff - at least, not in the traditional cinematic sense. Guy Maddin's films always have a peculiar, experimental vibe to them that make you feel like you're watching an unfinished project, as if you're looking directly into his mind before his films have finished fully processing. Always intriguing, though slightly distracting in its oddity at times, this is definitely not a movie that is easily shaken once it has been seen. Watcher beware: people not "serious" about film should probably stay away. But to those who possess the predisposition, this movie will leave a pretty strong impression on you, no doubt.

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