Sunday, August 7, 2016

2016 in film (Part V)

50 movies down, and I already have seen enough good movies to make a solid top 25. Oh yes things are coming along rather nicely.

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10. The Neon Demon
Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn

Where do I even start with a movie that I hated more than any other this entire year? NWR is a sometimes great director. He has a distinct style and approach that, at times alienating, is often engaging and weirdly compelling. His most recent film (apart from this), Only God Forgives, divided critics and audiences, and was generally considered to be pointless and self-satisfying in a way that was more agitating and overly pretentious than pretty much any movie should ever be. I personally enjoyed it, as I felt it gave the audience more to think about than the average movie and even challenged us to look deeper and think harder than 99% of movies will ever dare to. That being said, I am no stranger to the idea that not all movies are meant for all audiences, but I have considered myself a fan of Refn's for years now. But after watching this, I'm beginning to doubt if he has anything more to say at all as a filmmaker, or if he just enjoys making brightly colored movies that have zero character development, vague and uninteresting plots, forced symbolism at every turn, and uses all these things to pass off his own lack of vision as "art", condemning the haters for just not "getting it". Well I used to "get it", and now I'm convinced he's just trolling his loyal fans with what ultimately equates to a giant pile of shiny neon-lit garbage.

The characters (or lack thereof) never feel even remotely real, going from point A to B without any motivation or gradual change in attitude and temperament. The plot is about as non-existent as political morality, and feels as if every shot in this movie is used as nothing more than a device to distract you from the fact that you're watching a terrible, dull movie that has no point and no emotional pay-off. Every scene involves things happening without any real stakes or purpose, plot points are picked up and then dropped mere moments later, and I would argue not even the cinematography was utilized well; there was a scene intended to be shown from a character's first person perspective that was floating at least 4 feet above her head. This movie tries to pretend it has something to say about sacrifice, betrayal, vanity, and glamour in the modeling world, but could ultimately be summed up in a sentence any nincompoop could muster up: "bitches be bitches". Even the psychologicsl aspects come up remarkably short. This movie was like Black Swan for dummies: and I didn't even *like* Black Swan.

9. Suicide Squad
Directed by David Ayer

It makes sense to me why so many people hate this movie. It doesn't really do anything new, it's chopped all to hell, it tries way too hard to make you think it's characters are cool but never really does anything with them, most of the humor falls flat on its face, it tries PAINFULLY hard to be Guardians of the Galaxy and fails miserably, and Leto's obnoxious over-acting is essentially a totally pointless cameo and a disgrace to the Joker -- a character universally considered one of the most compelling and memorable in all of comicdom. All that being said, I still didn't totally dislike this movie. It has some fun action scenes, the pacing (albeit totally inconsistent and discombobulated) is good enough to keep me from feeling like I've been sitting there for 5 hours, and most of the acting is good enough to keep it all afloat. I definitely have some complaints, many of which involve spoilers, but I wasn't too annoyed or bored throughout most of it, so I'll give it a pass: even though the soundtrack was basically a jukebox set to "irritating generic movie mode".

8. The Other Side Of The Door
Directed by Johannes Roberts

I watched this movie on a day where I was very susceptible to scares, and it did make me jump a few times. Often over weird things that, in hindsight, aren't creepy or surprising at all. I might have been as creeped out by the Oogieloves at the time, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, this movie technically succeeded in making me feel those sharp goosebumps rise to the surface of my skin, and that is what is keeping me from giving this a bad rating. Because realistically, this wasn't a good movie. It was predictable in both plot and horror, the characters were poorly developed, and the actors seemed perpetually bored. I wouldn't recommend it, unless you admittedly enjoy horror movies that aren't particularly good. But hey, you might jump once or twice.

7. Enter The Battlefield
Directed by Nathan Holt & Shawn Kornhauser

A documentary about Magic: The Gathering sounds interesting to me, being a fan of the game for over half my life. Pro tour doesn't interest me as much, but okay, I could probably get behind that, too. Oh, the movie is being paid for by Wizards Of The Coast, the company behind the card game? Huh, that probably isn't so good. And the movie is only like an hour long and isn't concerned with any information beyond talking about who is good at playing the game? Ummmm, that's not really that interesting...this was my brain going into this movie. I would've enjoyed a movie that wasn't just trying to show you only the good things about obsession with the card game, but instead I got Hallmark-level schmaltz and no new information or tension or anything. If you find watching people play card games entertaining, this isn't even a good way to get that done, it constantly cuts away before you can know what's going on. This just wasn't a particularly good documentary.

6. Shark Exorcist
Directed by Donald Farmer

We all act a little irrationally from time to time. One of my most recent examples was during shark week, when I went to the local video rental place with the sole intention of renting this movie. Can I say I regret it? Not at all. In more ways than one, this is a pathetic excuse for a movie, with bad CGI, acting, writing, and overall quality, but that doesn't mean this isn't a funny movie. I got several good laughs, and find myself quoting moments from it now and then. Be warned, though, future viewers, this movie is incredibly low budget, in a way that's likely to alienate many audiences. It's not mainstream movie quality at all, and it's not really even about a shark exorcist at all, like the title suggests. But if you enjoy watching the dozens of bad shark movies that have emerged over the past several years, this one should fit right in with what you know you love.

5. Lights Out
Directed by David F. Sandberg

I don't quite get it with this one. Everyone keeps talking about how this is both terrifying and has a lot more to it than a standard horror movie, but all I see is the exact definition of a standard horror movie. Jump scares galore, mildly creepy atmosphere, weird/bad logic (even for a supernatural movie, a lot of it is inconsistent and doesn't really add up), decent performances, and a conclusion that kind of makes you go "oh, okay, well I guess that was the movie, then". I didn't dislike it, but I felt like I've seen this movie like 50 times already, and it surprises me that that isn't the general concensus.

4. The Shallows
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

A really fun, corny shark movie that succeeds in all the ways it probably shouldn't. I found myself laughing a lot more at this movie than I thought I would, and honestly, most of it was unintentional humor. This is just a ceaselessly entertaining, tense, well-made thriller that is a lot more fun to watch as a cheesy movie than most other cheesy shark movies. Blake Lively does a pretty solid job, and the effects are mostly really good, making it a well-made movie that is also good campy fun.

3. The BFG
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Fans of the Roald Dahl book will undoubtedly find this as adequate an adaptation as they could hope for, and fans of Spielberg should be pleased to know he is still one of the most dependable actors who has ever lived and fully capable of making movies that are fun, sweet, and beautiful to look at. The main girl doesn't really know how acting works, but that's fine considering her age and that the whole movie around her is infectiously charming. No, there's nothing totally mind blowing about this movie, but it's a fun time and has the ability to make you smile even during the most childish and idiotic moments.

2. Dheepan
Directed by Jacques Audiard

A tense, emotional, psychological immigrant story that's equal parts Death Wish 3 and In America in the best ways possible. Fantastic acting all around, this is a unique and bold drama that really grabs ahold of you and never ceases to dig deep into a compelling group of characters in a truly strange and difficult position. Deserves to be seen by anyone with a taste for social films that delve into heavy psychological territory without ever being preachy or overly simplistic in its messages.

1. Swiss Army Man
Directed by Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert

This movie kind of loves itself. It isn't just unique, nor is it happy with simply letting everyone know how unique it is. It loves being what it is, rolling around in how much it loves itself as if it were someone making snow angels in a pile of money they just won in Vegas. But oddly enough, I found its wildly unique and original concept and approach neither intrusive nor anything less than charming and engaging. This movie sucked me in, and left me feeling oddly touched. It is weird to say that a movie about a man using a farting, talking corpse as a wilderness companion and swiss army tool got me emotionally drawn in, but it did. And even with its gross-out low-brow humor there is really nothing about this movie that feels infantile. This is exactly the kind of movie I love to have exist. The lack of originality and risk-taking in the movie business has always been bothersome to me, and though this movie isn't going to change the way movies are done forever it is still nice to see something occasionally choose to ignore what is expected of it and go so far in the opposite direction. Dano and Radcliffe were great, and in a perfect world, they would be considered awards contenders for this. But alas, they are not. C'est la vie.

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