Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 in film (Part VI)

This has been a really strong year so far, I'm just hoping I can continue to mainly cherry pick the gems and try to avoid some of this other crap...

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10. Pete's Dragon
Directed by David Lowery

I took a notepad in with me to the theater when watching this, and managed to fill up several pages with "what the f@#$"s and "why the f@#$"s to the point where I just gave up halfway through the movie and resigned myself to sitting in an almost catatonic state until it was finally, mercifully, over. This movie clearly wasn't for me, but I still wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't like being insulted by idiotic, stereotypical family movies that never once allow themselves to be even slightly challenging or creative at any point.

9. The Light Between Oceans
Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Easily one of the most frustrating movies of the year, but still manages to be emotional and most of the performances are quite strong. The one thing that keeps this from being a much better movie ultimately boils down to Rachel Weisz's performance and the poor writing surrounding her uneven and irritating character. I don't like her as an actress, and her one-note performance here only serves to reinforce that. Seeing an otherwise strong movie get brought down to being mediocre is quite upsetting to me, but I suppose it is what it is.

8. Team Thor
Directed by Taika Waititi

A funny little short that shows what Thor was up to during the events of Captain America: Civil War. Hemsworth gives a funnier performance in this than he does throughout the entire rest of the Avengers series (seriously), and even though it's all ridiculous and silly, I can't help but to enjoy it.

7. The Fundamentals Of Caring
Directed by Rob Burnett

Dramadies are sometimes pretty tough to enjoy, because they rarely ever seem to know what time is appropriate to be funny and when to get serious. This movie has a pretty decent grasp on that, but never puts out too much effort to be anything other than passable entertainment. The lead performances are good and their chemistry is strong, but beyond that, there's really not much more to this movie. Never good enough to recommend, but easy enough to enjoy spending 90 or so minutes on.

6. Sausage Party
Directed by Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan

Funny, existential, and entirely inappropriate for humans to watch. If anything will have you convinced that humans have taken it too far and we may be doomed, just wait for a certain third act scene... ultimately, this movie is very funny at times, but the whole ordeal does wear you down a bit after a while. The voice cast is full of some of the funniest celebrities out there, and most of them have at least a scene or two that let them do their thing, but it doesn't keep the movie from feeling really crammed. Didn't love it, but it kept me entertained.

5. Don't Breathe
Directed by Fede Alvarez

It's almost ridiculous just how intense this movie is. Fede Alvarez, who directed the so-so Evil Dead remake back in 2013, really amps up the stress levels here, pairing tight cinematography with a minimal sound design that leaves viewers feeling cramped, claustrophobic, and afraid to, well, breathe. Stephen Lang does a great job, giving one of the most intimidating performances I've seen in years, and the rest of the cast are all strong as well. This movie is relentless, and packed with enough twists and tense set pieces to keep it all fresh and exciting throughout.

4. The Innocents
Directed by Anne Fontaine

A sad and beautiful film that delves deep into morality, duty, and fear. The performances are wonderful, set design, costumes, and cinematography equally as great, and the story itself is so remarkable and tragic, you won't easily shake this film after watching it.

3. Hell Or High Water
Directed by David MacKenzie

A tense and engrossing crime drama much in the vein of No Country For Old Men, but never feels too familiar to be anything but its own creation. The main cast are all terrific (Jeff Bridges steals the spotlight, however), the direction is concise and well-paced, and the characters, their interactions, and motivations are as real and human as almost any other film of the year. Would recommend to basically anyone.

2. Kubo And The Two Strings
Directed by Travis Knight

I totally freaking adore Laika's films, and while I'm hesitant to declare this their strongest effort so far, I will say it is at least a very close second behind the fantastic Coraline. This is possibly the most beautifully-animated stop motion film I've ever seen, and while it does tread down familiar story paths at times, some of the lessons to be gotten from this film are quite challenging and thoughtful. This is one of those "kids" movies that people deserve to see, regardless of their age.

1. Don't Think Twice
Directed by Mike Birbiglia

Movies about real friendships are rare, and even more rare are ones that show the complexities of jealousy and rifts that grow between friends in a believable way. This movie succeeds in this difficult task, all the while showing how challenging yet fulfilling the lives of its characters are, to the point where you wish you could feel as passionately about anything as they do about improv comedy. This movie is hilarious, charming, heartfelt, and totally genuine from start to finish. I loved it.

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