Saturday, January 28, 2017

Silence: A Thought-Provoking Look At The Resilience Of Faith

There are certain directors in Hollywood whose name can be used to sell a movie. Spielberg, Tarantino, Nolan, Coen Bros., and, obviously, Scorsese. These are everyone's favorite directors because, while their filmography isn't without blemishes, overall they produce high quality art and entertainment. And while the plot of "two priests travel through Japan in the 1600s searching for their long-lost mentor" doesn't really grab any interest from me-- the fact that it's a Scorsese film is an automatic sell.  This film is his passion project, folks.  He's been trying to get it off the ground since 1990.  I don't even know if Andrew Garfield was alive when Scorsese first decided he wanted to make this movie. But, from what I've now seen of the finished product, it was well worth the wait.

Yes, the story revolves around two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) in the 1600s on a mission in Japan to rescue their long lost mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) after they've received word that due to a substantial amount of pressure and torture from the Japanese, he's apostatized (renounced God). So, I know it doesn't sound like the most intriguing of movies, but it's so much more. This is the time when Christianity was outlawed in Japan and anyone suspected of practicing Christianity were subject to torture and death by the high inquisitor. This was an especially trying time for priests sent over from other countries to spread God's word. They would not only be captured, but anyone following them or their religion would be subject to even worse torture until the priest publicly apostatized. The film is very interesting, as it's a story not commonly told. It's harrowing, it's brutal, it's brilliant, and it's Scorsese's best movie since The Departed.

What really fascinated me about the film is the way Scorsese and co-writer Jay Cocks did with the script is they examined the resilience of faith through the eyes of several different characters. Obviously, we have our priests struggling to hear God while witnessing intense amounts of pain and agony all around them and getting nothing but... yep... silence. Then, there's the Japanese Christians.  Some are willing to die for their faith and some, like a very perplexing character named Kichijiro,  are willing to shame artifacts with God's likeness on it in order to save himself. Then, there's the Japanese working for the inquisitor. They're very mind-fucky, but they're not out to torture for the sake of harming Christians. The torture ends and everyone is set free the moment they renounce God. Everything back then was so steeped in tradition that there was no room for compromise and allowing a second religion to run rampant through the country. So, they took Christians and forced them to step on a plate with God etched into it as a symbol of their loss of faith.

The film also examines the idea that a stubbornness and inability to break tradition can lead to intolerance. It's especially important now to criticize these themes in today's climate because even though human beings have grown significantly as a species... nothing has really changed. We still fear what we don't understand and we still fight what we don't agree with. If someone doesn't think the way we think or worship the person we worship or believe in what we believe in... they are a threat to our way of living and through that fear it inspires violence. But, because it's Scorsese, this isn't thrust into your brain like some sort of public service announcement. It's done very artfully and impactfully through suggestion and story.

It's a shame this movie didn't get more publicity and there wasn't a bigger Oscar campaign around it because it certainly deserves more recognition. Not just in the acting categories (Andrew Garfield was fantastic in Hacksaw Ridge, but his Best Actor nom SHOULD'VE been for this film), but for screenplay and cinematography. I watched this movie as a DVD screener, so the quality wasn't spectacular, but I was still blown away by how rich and gorgeous each shot of this film was. I'm also usually not a fan of Adam Driver, but here he's very impressive.

Whether you were blown away by the trailer, or thought it couldn't look more boring, this is a movie most people should watch. There are very difficult moments of the movie to watch and it's a slow burn of a film, but it's never boring. It's always very intriguing and fascinating to watch. I suggest not watching the screener, however, so that you may see the majesty of Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography as crystal clear as it's meant to be seen.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Split: Psychological Thriller That's A Tad Medically Inaccurate

So, before getting into trying to figure out if Split is worth your time or not, you need to decide what type of Shyamalan "fan" you are... that is, of course, if you are still a fan. After starting strong with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, the writing and directing talent of M. Night Shyamalan started to dip in quality until it hit rock bottom, cracked them to bits, sank further into the mantle of the Earth and was nearly consumed by hot magma. I am, of course, referring to The Happening, Last Airbender and After Earth.  So, if you've managed to stick around for the hinted resurgence in the last few years, you may actually be surprised to know that it looks like the mature storyteller and horror master is starting to churn out decent flicks once more. But, Split isn't Signs or The Sixth Sense.  It has more of an Unbreakable feel more than any of his other films, with a new sense of tension that we haven't felt in a Shyamalan movie in a long time.

Split, as you can probably tell from the trailers, revolves around Kevin (James McAvoy), a man living with twenty-three personalities inside of his mind-- the result of DID (dissociative identity disorder). This is, essentially, the movie's fictional take on schizophrenia. However, Kevin's therapist Dr. Fletcher, an activist for the disease, explains that people with this disorder can manipulate their body chemistry depending on the personality that is emerging at the moment (like one personality being physically allergic to bees when the rest aren't). This is the catalyst of our fear of Kevin.  One (or more) of the personalities keep emailing the good doctor, warning her that some of the other personalities are trying to take over in order to release the twenty-fourth personality known to us only as: The Beast. The story happening around this revolves around three teenagers who have been kidnapped by one of Kevin's personalities and held capture in an underground room a la 10 Cloverfield Lane. The main of the three, Casey (The Witch's Any Taylor-Joy), forms a bond with a nine-year-old personality named Hedwig, the least frightening of the personalities looming over the girls.

McAvoy carries the movie on all twenty-three of his shoulders and gives a tour de force of a performance. He's damn near unrecognizable in the film as any one of the emerging personalities. And because the movie rests on his performances, so does the fear and the uneasy tension the audience experiences while watching the film. This is a new type of Shyamalan film. He's not out to jump-scare you, or really even force you to sit there and figure out the mystery leading up to a sudden "twist" at the end of the film.  The main point of the film is for you to feel uneasy and fear for each of the girls as you never truly know the motives of any of the personalities. And it really works. I was never really scared watching Split, but I was truly uncomfortable (in a good way) because I just wanted to know what the hell he was doing with the girls and I wanted them to get as far away from them as possible. And, for that, Shyamalan has succeeded in providing one hell of a thriller. The cinematography, as in most of his films, only enhances the discomfort. Intense close-ups, lingering shots that only slightly travel around the space of the screen, giving you a brief taste of what's lurking in the shadows... all compliment the terror surrounding the film.

The writing is also on point here. We're expecting the girls to behave like typical horror-movie tropes. We expect them to try and escape at the wrong time, to scream and yell and cry and act the way no one in this situation would act.  And while there could've been more to enhance their characteristics, they definitely aren't damsels in distress. Casey, especially, is very calculating in her approach toward escape. She's been wounded in the past (as we see in a few terrifying flashbacks), so it keeps her grounded and able to see past the fact that they've been kidnapped-- but held for a reason that will keep them alive long enough to formulate a plan to get out. I liked that a lot. Shyamalan has had some serious misfires in the past, but the one thing he's never broken away from is his attention to his characters and providing ones that are unique.

Sure, the movie is completely ludicrous as far as medical accuracy, but if you're able to look past that, then you'll be able to enjoy the film for what it is. And it's not all discomfort and terror, there is a good amount of humor sprinkled in to provide (brief) moments of levity. The only thing you're going to need to do is reserve judgement until the end.  There are a few scenes leading up the ending of the film where you're not sure if what's about to happen is going to be scary or stupid. Before making judgement, save those thoughts until the very last frame of the film when it all comes together and makes sense.  And yes, there is a "twist", I guess... but it's not the big reveal that he's had in previous movies. Don't watch the movie waiting for everything to hinge upon a "twist" because it doesn't happen, but what does end up happening at the end is a bit surprising and a lot satisfying. After The Visit and now Split, it does look like M. Night Shyamalan is on his way back up to the horror ladder.  If he can keep writing mature thrillers like this one, he may once rid the near-decade long stain on his good name.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hidden Figures: Chicken Soup For The Soul

There are certain biopics that don't necessarily need to be made, but turn out pretty great.  Movies like Walk the Line, The Social Network, and Steve Jobs are films that definitely don't need to become cinematic experiences, but they were done so well and defied the biopic structure that they became great movies that FELT like they should've been told.  Then, there are biopics that are probably very necessary to be told-- films like Milk, The Iron Lady, The King's Speech, Lincoln, and Schindler's List. These movies honor defining moments of history with influential people that not only provide information about these individuals, but it also mirrors what's happening in our current world at the time of the release.  These movies range from exceptional to, honestly, quite bland. But, the story is what's important.  Hidden Figures, to me, falls right in the middle.  It is definitely a story that NEEDS to be told, but the way in which it is presented doesn't feel very fresh. It feels very formulaic.

Hidden Figures tells the tale of three African-American women working for NASA in the 60s. Already, this is an important story because that combination of words is something that was damn near unheard of.  It's also important because we've heard hundreds of stories of shuttle launches and the US/Russia space-race, and John Glenn, and the Apollo missions-- but honestly how many of you can legitimately say you'd heard of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Hensen)? I know I hadn't... and it's a damn shame because her story is nothing short of inspirational. Johnson is a mathematician (or computer) working for NASA trying to figure out the math necessary to beat Russia into space. Her white male-dominated work environment doesn't necessarily lend to the best days. She's given math problems to solve with much of the information redacted by a racist and petulant co-worker, Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons), she has to run nearly 3/4th's of a mile to the nearest "colored toilets", work in tote, several times a day, and she's even given her own "colored coffee pot" to pour her coffee out of. And she's treated this way even though she's ten times smarter than any man in the room.

It's not until her work ethic begins to slip due to these acts of institutionalized discrimination that her boss, the director of the Space Task Group, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) takes notice, and enacts rules to prevent the hardships and get Katherine's sole attention on her work. Also working for NASA are budding engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and computer supervisor Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) who have to fight against their own sets of white-driven hardships. These are very powerful women who fight the good fight to seek just infinitesimal improvements in equality in the workplace. And their story is definitely one that isn't wasted-- I just would've liked to have seen a little bit better script. Director Theodore Melfi, in only his second theatrically released film (his first is the very underrated St. Vincent) does a well enough job telling the stories of these fine ladies, but it's all just a bit too formulaic and cinematic, instead of realistic.

I'm sure the barriers broken by these women were moments of pure joy and exaltation, but I highly doubt they were as grandiose as they were in the film. The scene when Costner's character leaves work in the middle of the day to take a crowbar and smash down the "colored toilets" sign is a cinematic/biopic trope-- not something that happens in real life. Mary Jackson's speech to a judge about why she should be the first woman of color to attend an all-white high school may have been convincing in real life... but not mind-blowingly rousing as it is in the film. These are scenes created to add emotion and drama into a script that already has enough of that.  Sure, a movie about women who are good at mathematics and engineering doesn't exactly lead to gripping visual storytelling on screen, but there are ways around that. Moneyball, for instance, was able to take a movie entirely about baseball stats and twist it in such a way that it was interesting-- not just for fans of the sport but anyone attending or watching the film. I didn't get a lot of that from Hidden Figures.  I got more Remember the Titans scenes where poignant moments are accompanied by theatrical monologues and inspirational music. This weakens the movie because it takes away from the humanity of these women-- they're devoid of nearly all human flaws-- and they become less real, which is definitely not something you want to happen to a story like this.

It also felt formulaic. You will be able to see where the movie is heading as you watch it even if you aren't already familiar with the story being told. Fortunately, most of this is masked by the wonderful performances by three very strong actresses. Hensen stashes away her Cookie persona, and bumbles around behind a pair of squared glasses and grasps at your heartstrings every time she's taken advantage of, and more importantly, every time she rises above the injustices of the people around her. Monáe, in only her second film appearance, steals the screen from everyone else in each moment of the film she's in... much like her wonderful performance in Moonlight.  And Spencer, still riding the Oscar from The Help reminds us why she needs to be in more films. Everyone, other than the actor portraying John Glenn who I just wanted to kick in his white teeth and perfect jawline, contributes nicely to the film to tell what is a very important story. Had it been able to break the formulaic biopic conventions a little more, the movie would've been a lot stronger. It reminded me a lot of the film The Blind Side.  Had it not been for Sandra Bullock's strong performance in that film, it would've been dismissed as just another "based on a true story" story.  A mediocre film is heightened by three ladies who give their namesakes the performances they deserved.

What Hidden Figures does do, however, for us today is remind us how far we've come as a country since the 60s as far as prejudice and adversity is concerned involving people of color. And, yet, now, in the current climate, how little we've actually come.  


Monday, January 16, 2017

A Monster Calls: F**K THIS MOVIE!

I... am a dude. I like sports on my television. I like my meat red.  And I like my titties bouncy.  What I don't like is showing my emotions and feelings to people.  I keep that shit bottled up tight and release it later in anger, usually on the freeway, or on someone close to me who doesn't deserve the rage that only stems from my insecurities. I want my feelings repressed, pushed down into a little ball in my stomach and shat into my toilet.  Like a man. Vulnerability is a five dollar word that'll get you a swift kick in the balls with a boot. So, I want to personally say FUCK A Monster Calls for forcing me, a red-blooded, dick-hangin', American MAN to express these emotions... several times... in the form of tears and sniffling. Ain't nobody s'posed to see that but me and my God.

I'm def gonna explain this shit to you-- man style-- because I left my emotions in a soaked pile on the seat next to me. I ain't got no more left.

Alright, so there's this little British kid, right? Name's like Alfred or Conor or some shit. Like, this dude is a weirdo.  He likes to draw shit and he goes to a private school so he wears like a tie and a some gay little sweater vest and the REAL MEN of the class beat him up for being DIFFERENT! So, this dude's mom has, like, cancer and shit, right? She's like goin bald... like I totally would still hit it, but like with a bag over her head KNOWWHATI'MSAYIN!!!! So, little Conor dude can't handle his mom dyin, right? So, this bigass tree monster pops up from the ground and he's like the dude from Taken, right? And he's like-- yo! British kid! Quit actin like a bitch n' shit. I'ma tell you three stories. You gon' learn from those stores. And then you gon' tell me what you learned or Ima snap your little limey neck and set you on fire. And then a bunch of other shit happens that's all like heartwarming and deep and tender and touching and BULLSHIT, right? And then it ends. Boom. Splained!

Like, nobody should watch this movie. Like ever. Who wants to pay their hard earned money, that they made at the factory, liftin heavy shit n shit, to get real-talked to and have some CGI monster metaphorically represent the five stages of grief through the eyes of a child? NO ONE! Oh, I can't express my anger and my grief over the person I love most in this world getting sick... THAT'S LIFE, HOMIE! EVERYONE DIES! You think I need a realistic depiction via extended metaphor with a gotdamn tree monster? PLEASE.

And dude. No one should let kids act in movies anymore. Like, especially this kid. You think I want to see a kid who actually knows what the hell he's doing and get realistically upset by doing some gay shit like crying? REALMENDON'TCRY! REALMENLISTENTOTOBYKEITH! You think I liked getting all choked up when this kid would get upset and I couldn't figure out a way to question his acting methods? HELL NAW. You think I enjoyed a story that realistically depicts slowly losing someone you love in a way I've not seen often in film before? NAW DOG. You don't make up goofy tree monsters. You hold that shit in. You drink a bunch of 40s. You pour one out for cancer and you get back to watching ICE ROAD TRUCKERS.

And, yo, FUCK a movie that doesn't pander to kids and examines the grim realities of death and tackles adult issues that forces a 12-year-old kid to grow up faster than he should. I don't want to be immersed in something that's equal parts emotionally hypnotizing and visually masterful. I want guns and titties. I want Michael Bay.  I... want... PAWN STARS. When I turn on something that's advertised with Liam Neeson's name-- I want him stabbing people in the larynx and ripping out spinal cords, not helping an innocent boy cope with life's tragedies in a mature and non-manipulative way that made me weep several times.

Movie was bullshit! Thankfully, it's over now and I can go back to being a real man. #MXPX4LYFE


Friday, January 13, 2017

Patriots Day: A Snapshot Of Hate Surrounded By A Frame Of Love

When I first heard about Patriots Day as a movie-- the story of the Boston Bombing of 2013, I was very put off. It just sounded like a very unnecessary and exploitative film. Sure, there's definitely a story there, but is it one that needed to be filmed? Nothing screams cash-grab by a large film company than one that exploits the tragedy of a terrorist attack on American soil. Director Peter Berg was also an iffy sign. While he's done very well recently with true stories of American heroes with Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, he's also spawned movies like Battleship and The Kingdom... you know, movies that are extremely #MERICA. However, as insensitive as the movie appears to be from the surface, the final product is something that not only honors the heroes and the victims of this tragedy, but goes out of its way to show why the movie was, in fact, crucial to what's happening in the country right now.

We all remember the story. It was a beautiful day in April of 2013 and the Boston Marathon had commenced. Near the end of the marathon, two extremist brothers set off pressure cooker bombs near the finish line that killed three people and significantly injured more than 250 others. What took place in the next four days is a story of courage, love, hope and inspiration. Mark Wahlberg plays the fictional Tommy Saunders, a Boston native assigned to the area surrounding the finish line-- his job is to essentially run a smooth end to the race and take care of the drunks that stumble around disrupting the day. However, when brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarneav (Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze) set off the bombs, hundred of people are severely injured, and three are killed-- including a six-year-old boy. Hundreds of runners and spectators and police rush to the aid of the wounded and band together as a city to not only help, but law enforcement and city officials jump to action immediately to catch the terrorists and give Boston back their city.

The film is populated with familiar faces-- John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis, J.K. Simmons as Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, Kevin Bacon as FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers, Michelle Monaghan as Tommy's wife Carol, etc. All doing their part within the film to depict their real life characters as real life heroes, as well as participants in the capturing of the brothers. Hell, even Sergeant Pugliese was personally involved in the huge shootout on Boston city streets with the brothers and had a pivotal role in bringing down one of the two. And while we already know most of the story (there were moments I was even unaware of such as the murder of an MIT security guard and the kidnapping of a Chinese student), it doesn't take away from the events created solely out of hate by two misguided and evil individuals-- one of which was fucking 19 years old.

For me personally, the first half of the film was incredibly difficult to watch. I'm a connoseur of all films, but I particularly love action films and horror films. Blood and guts and carnage and murder and all the "bad" in these films don't bother me on either an emotional or a visceral level because deep down I know that it's fake.  And while I do realize that everything I watched on screen for Patriots Day was, in fact, fake as well... it's wholly based in reality. This really happened. One of the reasons it was so difficult is that we get the backstories of some of the victims. We get to see real life couple Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky before they arrive at the event. They're any one of us. They're all of us. They're young, innocent bystanders living a normal life who both tragically lost legs due to the senselessness of the day. Watching the victims of this tragedy get killed, or lose limbs, or sit back and watch their children or parents injured was all too real and emotionally draining. Before watching the film, I had it in my mind that these scenes were going to be emotionally manipulative, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. When it enters your mind that these are real, honest, and innocent people-- it's hard to keep the emotions inside of you from taking over entirely. It's hard to wrap your mind around the fact that there are truly ugly people in this world and the despicable acts they commit, all in the name of senselessness, are very real and especially disheartening.

One of the reasons, too, that I believe the movie, and these scenes especially, resonated so deeply within me is the quality of the writing of the script and the portrayal of the characters. The tackling of the script for the film, plot wise, was delicate to begin with, but the dialogue and the actors are so authentic that you forget you're watching a movie. There are no huge scenes of "action" where the impossible heroes perform impossible feats without a scratch.  And though there is a long shootout (which really happened), it's all done realistically.  Hell, you have Mark Wahlberg in the beginning trying to kick down a door to arrest someone, and the entire rest of the movie the dude has a limp. He's injured-- because he's human-- just like everyone else in the film. It's not exploitative in the least. In fact, every scene serves to honor everyone involved, including the city of Boston.

The last element this film has going for it is it's message of courage and hope, especially right now. If your perceived outlook on this country right now is one lacking in hope, this film provides that boost of optimism we all could really use right now. There will always be people in this world out to destroy this hope in all facets of life, but when the shit hits the fan, we will always be able to see the good in people. Love will prevail in the face of hate and people and communities will stand together to see hate brought to its knees.  And while I realize this does sound somewhat preachy, Patriots Day handles this image and this message with aplomb. It's definitely a film worth seeing because it accomplishes so much beyond the story that it sets out to tell. And I'm telling you right now... you can try as hard as you possibly can until there is a vein popping out of your forehead... you absolutely will ugly cry at the end of this film.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The 10 Best and Worst Movies of 2016

2016. An unfriendly butthole of a year. It didn't even have the decency to give us a God-awful, no-redemption-in-humanity terrible movie.  There were a lot of bad movies, sure. But even the worst movie on the list isn't as bad as half of the garbage from last year... and last year had great movies. 2016 was such a mediocre year that people stopped going out to sequels and spinoffs to most movies, but paid so much to others it was a record year box-office wise (you're welcome Disney). 2016 is the year (in more ways than one) that we won't learn from our mistakes. There were a LOT of sequels and unoriginal buckets of toilet water that people finally decided NOT to see. Will studios see this as a warning sign and start backing off? Will producers be willing to cough up more dough for original works by writers whose ideas are dying somewhere in a sad folder that used to be on their computer desktop? No. Of course not. As far as I can tell right now... because half of the movies of 2017 haven't been announced yet... there are going to be FORTY FOUR sequels/prequels/spinoffs/reboots coming in 2017.  And those are the ones we know about now. Forty four. And we're just going to let it happen like our own Hollywood Brexit. Because we don't learn a damn thing! --- Anyway, the movies in the top ten were the best movies of the year.  I haven't yet seen Jackie, A Monster Calls, or Silence as of the posting of this... but I wasn't able to get ahold of any screeners this year and those were the odd movies out. As far as the worst movies this year-- like every year-- they're the worst of what I've seen.  There's a reason you won't find Ride Along 2, Fifty Shades of Black, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Gods of Egypt, Miracles from Heaven, Mother's Day, Alice Through The Looking Glass, Warcraft, The Legend of Tarzan, Nine Lives, Ben-Hur, Inferno, Bad Santa 2, Collateral Beauty, or Assassin's Creed. I already know they're shit and decided not to see them. I realize the ten below are ones I probably shouldn't have seen either, but that's the way it goes with my brain.  Also I realize that I definitely should be putting Independence Day: Resurgence on the Worst list... but the first one is so good that I'm willing to give this one a pass.... for now.
Alright... here we go... The BEST of 2016!

The Top 10 BEST FILMS of 2016:

10. Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water is one of several very quiet and underrated movies (that pervade this list) that was excellent. It played off like a less existential and more sympathetic version of No Country For Old Men. Chris Pine finally shows us he's able to handle something more than a blockbuster in space, Jeff Bridges is the cop on his tail/comedy relief (seriously the interactions between him and his partner are some of the best in the film), and it's always fun to watch Ben Foster act like a complete psycho. If you're a fan of westerns (set in modern day, of course) or just bank-robbin-crime-thrillers, then you should absolutely check this one out.

9. The Edge of Seventeen


The Edge of Seventeen comes from a very fresh voice and fresh point of view of the "teen comedy" genre. Director Kelly Fremon Craig gives us a story that's both contemporary and yet feels like something John Hughes would've given us if he'd started today. It's very funny and heartfelt and REAL. The lack of a central plot is overlooked by the fact that every teenager believes life revolves entirely around them. So the fact that we're just watching the mishaps of Nadine's school year is a perfect announcement that we don't need a plot because there is nothing more interesting going on anywhere else than her life. It's going to hold up as well as Mean Girls. Plus, Woody Harrelson is in it, so.... you know it's good.
Review Here

8. La La Land


It was the last movie I saw in 2016, but it definitely left an impression. La La Land defies the musical genre and is able to transcend genre and give us everything we look for when we go to the movies. Entertained - check. Visually stunned - check. Emotionally moved - check. Impressed beyond belief - double check. This movie is one that will require multiple viewings because there is so much happening in each scene, you'll want to revisit it again and again just to catch all of it.  No one will leave this movie without a smile on his or her face.
Review Here

7. Manchester By The Sea


Manchester By The Sea is ripe with superb acting performances from everyone. It's also a film that should be watched by every screenwriting student to showcase how much less is more and that subtlety is more powerful than emphasis when it comes to characterization. Sure, it's a quiet movie and some may find it a tad "dull" in areas, but personally, I was emotionally glued to the movie. The way different characters experience pain and sorrow and don't actually have one of those freak out cliché movie moments is very important and wonderful about this film. Casey Affleck steals the show and look for him to face some heavy competition in this years Best Actor nomination... but I think he may just come out on top.
Review Here

6. Don't Think Twice


Do you truly want to know what it's like in the life and the mind of a performer? Whether it's improv or stand up comedy or stage or movies or whatever... most performers are the same. They continue to pursue that dream with the hopes that one day to be on the big stage or the big screen. And for 99% of these people-- it will never happen, but the love of the craft keeps the dream alive. It's beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.  This is Don't Think Twice.  What a wonderful snapshot of what it's like to have a dream of living your dream and how it's okay for dreams to be amended. This one spoke to me very personally, but it will resonate with anyone who has ever wanted something more, but had to settle for less without it compromising their happiness.  I LOVE this movie.
Review Here

5. Hacksaw Ridge


This movie isn't going to grace a lot of top 10 lists this year due solely to the fact that Mel Gibson still hasn't been forgiven (nor should he be) in Hollywood yet. Despite the human trash-cesspool he is in person, the man still knows how to tell a story and direct a film. Hacksaw Ridge is probably the best World War II film since Saving Private Ryan. What could've been a schlocky paint-by-numbers story of the first conscientious objector in the war became a breath-taking tale of heroism and courage. Andrew Garfield is stellar and Hugo Weaving takes a role that should've been as hacky as any character on Lifetime and actually breathes real life into it.  Plus, the battle scenes, while incredibly gruesome, are definitely a sight to see.
Review Here

4. Arrival

Arrival isn't just a great movie, it's an important movie. Especially today. By examining what it means to be human and what it means to love has never been more necessary. Plus, it's a sci-fi that's not effects driven, but more character driven. Amy Adams has been fantastic in everything this year, but her performance in Arrival is nothing short of brilliant. The film will hook you by the first frame and won't let go until the credits roll.  If this all sounds kind of generic and vague and cliché, it's because it is and I don't want to spoil anything for you. You'll need to see for yourself.
Review Here

3. Green Room


One of Anton Yelchin's final performances, Green Room is sadistic and scary as hell. A punk rock band winds up at a venue for a show run by neo-nazi skinheads. In the green room the band witness a murder and are trapped in there and hunted by a shitload of Hitler youth-- oh yeah and this is all orchestrated by Patrick Stewart in a role that will chill you to the bone. It's so well done. There's a bunch of realistic gore and too close to home frights. Your heart will start pounding and only increase to panic-attack levels until the very last shot. It's more a thriller than a horror, but it was by far the best scary movie of 2016.
Review Here

2. Moonlight


It's been about a week since I've seen Moonlight and I'm still shaken to the core. What a gorgeously uplifting and heartwrenching film. Its three lead actors (playing the same character) are each more glorious than the one before. It's a story you think you've seen before, but you haven't.  It's a life you think you've followed before, but you haven't. It's a movie you're expecting to be formulaic, but it isn't. It probably should've been my best movie of 2016, but I like to pick a little bit outside of the box and, hey, it's my blog... I don't have to get all Academy on your asses. Still, I think it's got a pretty good shot of taking the gold this year for Best Picture. Of all the movies on this list-- this one is the absolute must see for EVERYONE.
Review Here

1. The Nice Guys


This, to me, was the best movie of 2016. Keep in mind that I'm a tad biased when it comes to the writer/director of the movie Shane Black, as he's my favorite writer. But, you can't take anything away from this movie. It's got action, it's got wit, it's got a mystery, it's got A-listers in a 70s backdrop. It takes a strong writer to put two actors who don't usually do comedy films and make them both genuinely funny and give them some of the best chemistry we've seen in a buddy movie in a long time. Neither of these characters are caricatures of buddy cop movies.  They're well-rounded and supremely flawed... and a hell of a lot of fun to go on a journey with. Everything about this movie is a hilarious delight and that's why it's my favorite movie of the year.
Review Here

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Nocturnal Animals, Zootopia, Swiss Army Man, The Conjuring 2, Fences, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Witch

The Top 10 WORST Films Of 2016

10. Blair Witch


This one was severely disappointing. After Adam Wingard's underrated but highly entertaining You're Next, Blair Witch was primed to be his big break into mainstream horror. Back when the trailers were released under the title of The Woods and it was unknown to most that it was a Blair Witch related movie, I was very interested.  Then, when I found out it was a sequel to The Blair Witch Project, I was a little shocked, annoyed, and interested to see what a fresh voice could lend to the franchise. But it was the same ol' found footage song and dance.  And while I did really like the last fifteen minutes of the movie that went completely off the rails, everything leading up to it was dull and boring. The ending was great but it's not enough to save the movie and I'm sure certainly not enough to boost the franchise that it wanted to be.
Review Here

9. Zoolander 2


I'm not sure why all of these comedic actors who had hits in the early 00's are just now making sequels to their iconic characters.  They either needed to be made right after their hit movies OR (and here's a novel idea) create new ones. Right after Anchorman Will Ferrell created Ricky Bobby. Why is Ben Stiller still holding on to the idea of Derek Zoolander? It worked in the early aughts, but it's tired now. The movie is essentially just a barrage of cameos-- famous people who show up unexpectedly, say something mildly amusing and I'm supposed to laugh because oh look it's that person. The character should've been retired. We still think you're funny Ben Stiller... do someone new.
Review Here

8. The Lobster


The Lobster is another weird one for the Worst list. I am a big Colin Farrell fan, especially when he does quirky little indie movies like this. I loved the concept of the film-- in a futuristic society people check themselves into a clinic where they must find love within a certain number of days or they are turned into an animal. The first forty five minutes to an hour or so are quite fun and cheeky. Then... the movie goes unexpectedly dark. And not like dark haha, but dark out-of-nowhere-what-the-actual-fuck kinda dark. And it's no longer fun. And it's no longer quirky. And it's no longer the movie I signed up to watch. Overall, I still don't understand exactly what I watched, but I know that I honestly didn't enjoy it.
Review Here

7. Now You See Me 2


This movie is off the walls stupid. It's like when someone calls something 'bananas', but like the dumb equivalent of that. Actually calling something bananas (other than actual bananas) is a pretty dumb equivalent of saying something was cool.  Whatever. This movie was really dumb bananas. There's impossible magic you're supposed to accept as real, Harry Potter as a bad guy, and Woody Harrelson's twin brother. The first movie was serviceable, but forgettable.  This one I will also probably forget, but not in a good way. Everyone (other than Isla Fisher) turned up for the sequel that is full of plot holes and doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. The idea of magicians using their "tricks" as distractions for heists is a brilliant idea. But when the "tricks" aren't believable, the movie fails. When the "tricks" are six people tossing a CGI playing card around a security checkpoint... it's just plain laughable.

6. Captain America: Civil War

Stop. Shut up. I know what you're going to say. And no. You're wrong. This movie is terrible and deep down you know it too.  You're just too Marvel-aroused that you can't see it. I know I'm the dude that's SICK of Marvel movies, but I still acknowledge the good ones (like Doctor Strange).  This movie was awful-- made even worse because of how honestly good The Winter Soldier was. Aww, I disagree with you. No, I disagree with you. Let's split a team of superheros, have them fight one another over a dumb cause, let there be ZERO actual stakes involved (so much so that the team makes jokes to one another as they're punching the shit out of each other), and let's puss out entirely at the original ending where Cappy is supposed to die. No. It sucked. It didn't make any sense. And there was literally no real conflict here. You're wrong.
Review Here

5. Sausage Party


Okay, this is coming from the guy who literally loves nearly every Seth Rogen movie and thinks raunchy R-rated cartoons should totally be a thing.  But, I couldn't stand Sausage Party.  The whole thing felt cheap.  While Seth Rogen is known for his weed and dick jokes, at least they're usually very creative weed and dick jokes presented in a way that we've never heard weed and dick jokes before. In Sausage Party everything is obvious. Every "joke" made can be seen coming from a mile away. I wanted to like it. I wanted to laugh at talking food (and I did during the "slaughter" scene) but it was all just mostly dumb. For what it's worth-- I still think R-rated cartoons should still be a thing.
Review Here

4. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back


I actually thought the first Jack Reacher movie was really good. I didn't exactly have a desire to see it, but after watching it I really liked it. The second movie is the complete antithesis of the first movie. While the character of Reacher was supposed to be a hard-nosed ex-Army cop, he still had personality and charisma. The second film, I don't think he even cracks a smile. I don't think his lips move in an upward direction. Never mind the ludicrous story (and side plot of him possibly having a daughter), the dialogue is so cheesy and on the nose you want to beat your ears with a rubber spatula anytime someone else talks. Tom Cruise is still the man when it comes to action movies like this, but was there no one else from the first film involved just to go over some dialogue? How did we go from having respected director Werner Herzog as the villain in the first movie to having "that hillbilly dude from Prison Break" as the villain in this one?

3. The Secret Life of Pets


I know I shouldn't harshly judge a kid's movie, but this one really let me down.  The trailer for the movie was so adorable and hilarious that the actual product was sewage runoff.  First of all, the lead dogs that you're supposed to identify with and feel something for are unlikable dicks. Second, the movie treats kids like they're stupid. This movie could've easily been Toy Story with pets, but it succumbed to the non-Pixar kids movie structure where kids are morons and loud noises and shit jokes (and Kevin Hart) reign supreme. I know all your kids absolutely adore this movie, but I really didn't, and I wanted to so badly.
Review Here

2. Dirty Grandpa

I blame myself for this one. No one else to blame. It shouldn't be on the list because there's no reason I should've seen a movie starring Zac Efron called Dirty Grandpa. Robert De Niro is old and swears a lot. HILARIOUS. Zac Efron is straight-laced and gets called a 'fag' and pushed around by his old grandpa. LAUGHING. Aubrey Plaza is a whore for irony's sake. COMEDY. I've laughed more by reading the label on a can of soup than I did watching this entire movie. I've had more fun eating cauliflower than I did watching this movie-- and I'm not talking that froofy fancy Buzzfeed Tasty cauliflower with all the cheese and shit on it.  I'm talking legit cold, crunchy, slightly rancid cauliflower. I've been more satisfied leaving a theater after re-entering it because I think I lost my cell phone, but then start questioning if I actually ever had my cell phone in the first place, but then remembering that Chip texted me during the movie so I must've had my cell phone, but then where is it because it's not in my right pocket and I always keep my phone in my-- wait, it's in my left pocket-- than I was after watching this movie. This was your last mulligan, De Niro.

1. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice


MARTHA?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Fuck you.

Review Here

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS: The Boss, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Nerve, The BFG