1. Eye in the Sky, Gavin Hood-Extremely economic storytelling, and theatrical in its execution, provocative in its dedication to showing the nuance of a military strike. If it was released at a better time of year, it could have been remembered years from now as the definitive film of the military-via-drones era.
2. My Name is Doris, Michael Showalter-Sally Field's sweet spinster
character is the perfect remedy to check our own ageist tendencies but this is also
a bit of a psychological thriller wrapped in a misplaced comedy of errors. This
lady is really on a collision course with an embarrassing truth bomb and you can't look away.
3. Don't Think Twice, Mike Biribiglia-The film has a great balance between its
ensemble and really captures that world (although why they couldn't just say
"SNL" is beyond me). A very loving film.
4. Hidden Figures-An uplifting film but one that’s generally earned despite
a couple moments where the film erroneously steers towards schmaltz. It walks
that fine line between historically faithfulness, go-for-broke sentimentally
and grittily realism. Taraji P Henson deserves accolades here
5. Hell or High Water-A great exercise in genre experimentation: Tackling
the housing crisis by moving the Western forward in time 120 years.
6. Mascots, Christopher Guest-The best thing about this film is that it
exists at all if you read the news article a few years back that Guest didn't
feel he had anything more to give to the genre he practically created. This
isn't a game changer but it's a joy to see so many rich comic stories merge
together like this for the first time in a decade.
7. Lion, Garth Davis-The first half had a really dark look at life in the
streets of a third world country like 1990s Calcutta. The second half could
have done a better job or picking and choosing which scenes were most relevant
and God bless Dev Patel for finally getting an overdue Oscar nom from Slumdog,
but this felt like a casting mistake: He just had too much swagger and
self-confidence to fit the narrative. I would assume what motivated him to find
his family was a feeling of being an outsider but he seems like the most popular
kid in class and picks up Rooney Mara as a girlfriend within minutes of meeting
her. Still, this is the most emotional film I’ve seen regardless so the
sentimental effect overflowed past any sloppy positioning.
8. Fences, Denzel Washington- Does Troy represent the popular image of the
African-American man? Is he to blame for his ill fortunes or is he a product of
society? The fact that he and his situation are complex enough that you can
argue so well either way makes this such a provocative work of art. The film
embodies what’s best about theatrical adaptations from the poetry in the
dialogue to the thoroughness with which the actors do their legwork. The film
also boasts the year’s best ensemble.
9. Star Trek Beyond, Justin Lin- Very much enjoyed the smaller scale in
story as it allowed the characters more quiet moments of character development
and pairings that showed new angles. This was balanced by special effects that
wowed me in an era where every blockbuster has a budget larger than many 3rd
10. La La Land-The romantic plot between the numbers felt kind of empty, but damn, the musical numbers were amazing. I still support it for a best picture win. It was extremely innovative and extremely thematically coherent and smart. Nearly every second is visually thoughtful and its very clear that Damien Chazelle and his team used an encyclopedic knowledge of movie musicals to fashion its commentary.
11. Aquarius-It's a foreign film (I watch very few foreign films) about a
woman in her 60's struggling in Brazil against a corporation who wants to tear
her house down. A very solid character piece that like "Hello My Name is
Doris" is a celebration of an elderly woman in defiance of the way society
tries to (literally and figuratively) make her obsolete
12. Popstar: Never Stop Popping, The Lonely Island team- The film sails by more on cameos and side joke than the character-based humor of Connor 4 Real but laughter speaks: It was just plain hilarious. Lonely Island can get random and scattered in 3-minute clips, so it works to their advantage to be able to develop their riffs over a longer running time.
13. The Lobster: Satirizing both the problems with pressure to couple up and
overly conservative societies, the film has thematic currents against both
sexual obsession and sexual chastity which is really interesting. Colin Farrell
is really interesting and the ensemble is filled with all kinds of interesting
characters. Has some wierdly dark moments.
14. Alice Through the Looking Glass: It’s kid-oriented, but surprisingly
coherent and complex storyline-wise and works on a kid’s level. Visually quite
15. Deepwater Horizon: I have a soft-spot for a good disaster film and consider the genre a form of art with a slightly higher purpose than the typical "things go boom" fare. Like "Captian Phillips"the film gets full-on emotional in the last act as its hero, Mark Wahlberg, starts suffering PTSD. Both films redefine the image of the hero in a larger way then the traditional view thats restricted to members of the military, inspirational teachers and fireman/cops.
16. Arrival-Didn’t appeal that much to me beyond the deep sciencey premise.
If you buy Amy Adams’ performance, then you’ll feel the film on an emotional
17. Now You See Me 2-Sleight-of-hand magicing is a great way to reinvent
the heist genre (like adding history professors as in National Treasure). The
story twisted and turned too much for me to care and the sexual chemistry
between Lizzy Caplain and Dave Franco was forced (I don't think either of the
Franco brothers has an easy time with romance) but it was pretty fun along the
18. Ghostbusters, Paul Fieg-Serviceably funny. It might be a bold statement here but a side-by-side comparion of this quartet of characters to the original shows how the UCB generation of comedy really goes a step beyond in developing comic characters from the inside out.
19. Tallulah-A Netflix film with Ellen Page and Allison Janney. I thought
it's most interesting element was that this despicable character played by
Ellen Page is unapolagetically the protagonist. The movie is kind of a ticking
time bomb. You have no idea how long she'll get away w/this ruse of stealing
someone else's baby but you're bracing for the explosion.
20. The Bronze-As an Olympics enthusiast, I enjoyed the exploration of what
happens to Olympics stars after their big movement. The love story was sweet
and I liked that Melissa Raunch's character had to grow but she never really
had to bend her own personality that much to get to a happy place w/her dad,
her gymnastics and her boyfriend. Some of the humor's bread and it had the
grossest sex scene I've seen in a while
21. Special Correspondents-Ricky Gervais is curiously nowhere near as bold
in film (Ghost Town, Invention of Lying, this) as he is with his TV work. I would be interested in reading an essay as to why, but I can't say that these films aren't pleasant if you don't take
away the high expectations. Besides Gervais'
22. Sing Steet, John Carney: Not as memorable as the last Carney film I saw
("Begin Again") but a pretty sweet film about a kid reinventing
himself through creating an 80's band. It has a strong sense of place and a
sweet love story. Reminder of how cruel certain schools can be.
23. Captain Fantastic, Matt Ross-Stretches reality a little bit in the form
of this superdad who can keep his kids extremely isolated and turn them into
extreme geniuses with abnormal levels of obedience (except one of the six kids)
but an interesting film. Some might call it artsy, but I found the camera work
24. Race: A pretty generic sports film but with a lot of chemistry between
the characters and interesting historic detail
25. Batman vs Superman, Zach Snyder-I'd classify this as not awful. Tonally
it was pretty consistent. Batman's kind of dark and Superman kind of got there
too and Jesse Eisenberg was nice and playful with his part. I don't know if the
film had much to say though but I've seen worse...
26. Eddie the Eagle, Dexter Fletcher-Pretty generic with a few sweet moments.
The film curiously cares very little about history which is odd because the
actual historical facts of Eddie the Eagle would have made a better movie.
Taran Eagleton plays a mostly asexual klutz well. Also, Lake Placid is all
27. X-Men Apocalypse, Brian Singer-Because it is the sole superhero series I’ve
ever gotten into as a kid, I watch every X-Men film as a general rule. Still,
my loyalty doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to rip on it. Still, they are going
through the motions here. Some of the criticisms of X-Men 3 (needing to decrowd
the landscape) would hae been wise here and Apocalypse lacked personality. Why
waste Oscar Isaac’s valuable time (as well as that of the make-up department)
for something so lifeless. hey needed to decrowd the landscape a bit and have
given Acopalypse some personality. Special-effects wise, Psyloche was one of
28. Gold-The film's big twist had no foreshadowing and came way too late in the
movie for me to care. The first hour of the film had no real point to make? The film could have at least tried to make the gold trade
interesting but instead, it is capitalism porn: the stuff found in Wolf of Wall
Street, Boiler Room and American Hustle.
29. Zootopia-I heard it had an interesting message but I wasn't really
interested in being preached to by a Pixar-like cartoon. Found it uneventful with
a few spare jokes here and there
30. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot-Is anyone else getting tired of Tina Fey playing
Tina Fey? 40ish woman feeling down on herself bc she's on the verge of no
longer being able to meet Mr. Right in time to have kids who is always
surrounded by idiots. And this is supposed to be about a serious war film and
not an episode of 30 Rock?
31. Keanu-I like Key and Peele a lot but this felt like swing and a miss for
me. They've done stuff way more nuanced and complicated than here. So they're
forced to act like gangsters? That's a
5-minute skit, guys, not a movie.
32. Suicide Squad-Oh, the horror! Why did I watch this. It felt like a
violent video game specifically made for 12-year-old boys. When the dialogue
seems like filler to get to the action and the action seems like filler to get
to the dialogue, you know you’ve got a problem. Still, Margo Robbie manages to
dazzle and Jared Leto gives a brave performance.