Wednesday, July 6, 2016

2016 in film (Part IV)

So far my plan has worked. I've seen relatively few bad movies this year, making this another top 10 filled with mostly pretty great stuff.

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10. High-Rise
Directed by Ben Wheatley

A totally disposable movie that wants nothing more than to hammer its socioeconomic ideals and messages so far into your head, you'll have a squawking migraine that keeps screaming "CLASSISM!" in your face for the rest of the night. But as soon as the headache subsides, you'll forget you even watched it. It's not bad, just overly enthusiastic in all the wrong ways, and none of it is particularly inspired or engaging. Another Wheatley misstep.

9. Warcraft
Directed by Duncan Jones

I may not be a Warcraft expert, but I like to think I know a little bit about acting and plot structure. And though the CG is fine and it was fairly well-paced, this movie does not handle those other two aspects quite so well. The lead actor is terrible. So terrible that I don't even want to learn his name. Most of the actors were lifeless, and the story is cluttered and poorly executed. What happens here could be interesting, but almost aggressively chooses to be mediocre. It wasn't bad necessarily, but really nothing special.

8. The Nice Guys
Directed by Shane Black

One of the main problems that will occur when writing a movie with this many twists and turns and intertwining plot threads, is that some things in it just won't add up, or the audience might get lost in it. Ultimately, that is one of my few issues here, but that's not nearly enough to keep this from being very funny and really intriguing. Crowe and Gosling give suitably strong performances, with a great turn from Angourie Rice filling in the role of a kind of moral compass. All in all, this is one of the Shane Blackest movies ever made, and one that fans of his will certainly enjoy.

7. Finding Dory
Directed by Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane

An unnecessary sequel it may be, but a charming, funny, and effective stand-alone work it Instead of just making the most obvious jokes at every turn, this movie introduces fun new characters that work well with the ones we already know and have grown to care about. No, there isn't the same level of emotional involvement here, but it doesn't need to be as powerful as the first one. It looks great, kept me entertained, and I'm just happy it wasn't terrible.

6. Elvis & Nixon
Directed by Liza Johnson

A movie about Elvis and Nixon having a semi-secret meeting with the almost sole purpose of giving Elvis a badge making him a federal agent sounds kind of like something Lloyd Kaufman should have been a part of. But somehow, miraculously, he wasn't, and the movie itself didn't have a totally sarcastic tone that might have been the expectation. Shannon is probably a little too convincing (despite the odd casting choice), giving one of the best Elvis performances in film, behind only Bruce Campbell in Bubba Ho-Tep (movies featuring Elvis himself ranking #3 and lower). This was a fun movie.

5. Popstar: Never Stop Stopping
Directed by Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone

It's hard not to draw some comparisons between this and Spinal Tap, and though this won't hold up as well as the classic '80s mockumentary, this is entirely its own creation. Funny and engrossing from start to finish, this is the kind of comedy that I am glad to see still can get made - even if it isn't a huge commercial success.

4. The Conjuring 2
Directed by James Wan

Probably the most surprisingly effective horror movie in recent years, this is the sequel you could hope for, but never really expect. It very much follows the same structure of the first movie, but takes a few different moves along the way to help it stay fresh. Very creepy, interesting, and a shining light of hope for horror sequels everywhere.

3. A Bigger Splash
Directed by Luca Guadagnino

A movie all about relationship dynamics and tension. It's hard to talk much about this movie without spoiling different aspects of it, just know going in that this isn't necessarily a "fun" movie and can get pretty dark. But it is a pretty great acting showcase.

2. Captain America: Civil War
Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo

CGI crap fest that is more concerned with looking shiny and cool than anything else...or not. I mean, I found the characters motivations compelling, well-developed, and thought it captured the emotional side of things much more effectively than almost any other film in the MCU, but with more awesome fight sequences and kickass character introductions than in the rest of the series as well. Sits right beside The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy as the best they have produced. Also, I would like to mention how much more effective the civil war aspect of this movie is than them trying to introduce yet another bigger, badder villain to contend with. That crap gets old. Instead, this movie keeps much of the explosive action relatively self-contained and less apocalyptic than many of its predecessors, yet it still feels massive and as important as ever. Easily one of the best superhero movies I've seen in a while.

1. Sing Street
Directed by John Carney

Watching movies like this is unhealthy for me. Leaving the theater, I fell into a deep depression; an existential dread that had me wishing I could be as happy all the time as I was when watching this movie. It was a fleeting moment of pure joy that had me looking inward and wishing I had done more with myself in my youth. But this depression was fleeting as well, and now I am left with one of the most powerful memories I've ever had watching a movie. This is a joyous film to experience, filled with great music, fun characters, and so much heart it makes you feel like you could implode. I loved this movie, and I hope more people have a chance to see it and maybe walk away feeling as strongly as I did -- minus the depression part, of course.

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