The Official Review Thread of 2016

Sabin
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby Sabin » Fri Apr 08, 2016 8:28 pm

Similar to Original BJ, I'll offer some quick shots...


Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Zach Snyder)

I was dragged to this. Some filmmakers use shots to tell stories. Zach Snyder uses stories to make shots. I have not seen Dawn of the Dead but I can honestly say this is my favorite Snyder film. Still don't remotely like it, but it is bad in ways that I found fascinating. I can't imagine many others on this board will agree. The best thing I can say about the movie is that like Watchmen it serves as a pop art curio. It's a patchwork of DC tropes that to me felt like more of a coffee table table book than a movie. Zach Snyder movies have no narrative tension because every shot is perfume ad self-contained. I'd argue that the screenplay is the worst offender, but for my friends it's proven to be a conversation piece because nobody can agree on where exactly this film went wrong. Some complain that it's a boring failure. As a comic book nerd, I found it to be an incredibly interesting one.


Deadpool (Tim Miller)

Somewhere in between the joyless DC house style and the jokey Marvel house style is Fox's X-Men house style which is schizophrenic. Deadpool benefits from a stronger script, a smaller scale, and possibly Ryan Reynolds' best performance. A critic friend of mine wrote that it's a testament to how worn out these origin stories are that even a film with as much personality as Deadpool cannot completely subvert them, and I agree but it's so funny that I wasn't terribly bothered even when it completely falls apart. Indefensibly flawed but genuinely inspired moments.


Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater)

It's two exclamation points, right? Full disclosure my favorability is tempered by the fact that I saw the movie with 80% of the cast, some of whom I know. Very much enjoyed this one. Falls into the canon of Linklater's oeuvre concerned specifically with the passage of time both in the macro and the micro. Its operating principle would seem to be introducing a group of late 70s mentality-ed douchebags and revealing their governing philosophies while staying true to them. It stays funny because 1) Linklater's sense of humor feels so specific, like funny stories that are being recalled, and 2) because these guys' era has clearly passed. During the course of the film, they can feel the ripples of it. Over the course of one weekend, they go to a disco, a country bar, and a punk club and try to fit into all of them. This film has "Overlooked Linklater" written all over it.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Mar 31, 2016 10:03 pm

Some quick thoughts on the spring releases so far:

DEADPOOL
I obviously am not the target audience for superhero fare, and this didn't exactly make me change my position either. But I did think this one was at least fun -- it was a far cry from the kind of leaden, super-serious blockbusters that have really turned me off lately -- and I found myself laughing consistently. For all the film's ostensible edginess though, I found myself frustrated by the conservative nature of the politics -- for a movie this brazenly sexual, the fact that it built to a routine rescue-the-damsel-in-distress plot felt like a cop-out.

HAIL, CAESAR!
As I said, I worked on it, so I'm not without bias in being predisposed to liking it. But that said, I think it's pretty successful at what it aims to do, which is essentially provide a fun jaunt through classic Hollywood cinema, and send up as many genres as possible. I don't think as a story it really coheres into anything major -- and in fact, the most dominant plot line (the Communist ring) is the weakest and least funny portion of the film -- but most of the filmed sequences are entertaining, and the cast (notably Fiennes, Swinton, and especially Alden Ehrenreich) is game throughout.

KNIGHT OF CUPS
This is the first Terrence Malick film I haven't liked. Although plot has never been the director's chief concern, most of his films have had a pretty solid narrative foundation, especially Badlands/Days of Heaven. His later films have gotten a bit more abstract, most notably To the Wonder, but here was the first time I felt he really just needed a co-writer to help focus his images into something more coherent. Given the director's fondness for rural landscapes, it could have been an interesting change of pace for Malick to take that focus on the natural world and apply it to an urban environment like Los Angeles (about as manufactured and phony a city as they come). But film-as-tone-poem only goes so far for me, and I found this so lacking in content and so repetitive in its limited ideas that I rate it a major disappointment. I'm willing to hear arguments from fans, but as a long-time Malick acolyte, I can't much defend this except as a curiosity in a major director's career.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
Jeff Nichols has a flair for creating unique set-ups that rely on the peculiarity of otherworldly elements while still feeling grounded in a very real, very American sense of place. And the film begins strongly, with numerous suspenseful sequences and compelling mysteries set into motion. But, as with Take Shelter, I felt like the filmmaker just didn't work out his ideas well enough to ballast an entire movie -- as the story goes on, it's the kind of movie where less just starts to feel like less, and you realize that a lot of the tantalizing questions the film posed up top just aren't ever going to be resolved in any satisfying way. Nichols is not without talent -- both in the writing and directing department -- but I really wish he'd take a class on plotting one of these days, because I think his stories have potential, but just never feel fully developed to me.

THE WITCH
I felt about this one the way I felt about It Follows, and a lot of acclaimed "art-house" horror. It's clearly superior to much of the multiplex junk in this genre -- possessing a lived-in sense of time and place, effective at building tension rather than resorting to cheap scare tactics, and obviously interested in compelling themes, in this case, the way the oppressive nature of religion can lead one family (and by extension, their society) to doom. But I still felt like a lot of the most enthusiastic critics were grading on a curve -- the story isn't much, and in fact there's a long chunk in the middle without much incident (or even scares). Ultimately, this felt like a typical horror movie dressed up in arty period trappings, not any great breakthrough for the genre.

ZOOTOPIA
Like Wreck-It-Ralph, this is a film where the Pixar influence on Disney can be seen everywhere, from the imaginative regions of Zootopia to the witty one-liners to the cleverness of the plot. And none of that is a bad thing. The narrative, especially, is a pretty solid mystery, and quite crafty -- that first big set-piece where Judy Hopps chases the weasel initially just seems like a way to establish her go-getter ambition, yet it also plants two major plot elements which payoff later in ways I couldn't have remotely predicted. And thematically, I found the movie quite thoughtful -- for an allegory about racial prejudice, it explores the subject in ways that stretch far beyond simply condemning judgments based on appearances, tackling issues related to Zootopia's history of systemic prejudice, as well as the complicated idea that stereotypes often DO come from some basis in fact. I don't want to make the movie sound edgier than it is, but it's a lot more nuanced than I had anticipated. I also liked that the filmmakers didn't feel the need to shoehorn a romance into the story -- it's nice to see a movie where the male and female leads can just be friends, and the plot explore the dynamics of that relationship. (Although maybe an exploration of the politics of inter-species dating is best saved for Zootopia 2.) Unless this suffers some kind of LEGO Movie-like blackballing, I assume this is a slam-dunk Animated Feature nominee.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Mar 27, 2016 9:59 am

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Holly Hunter.
Dir: Zack Snyder.

I lowered my expectations considerably after finding out about the reviews. I was tempted to skip it but I'm a bit of a Batman completist so whatever. It's the much awaited confrontation of two of the most iconic superheroes ever. Three if you include Wonder Woman. It should really be awesome. I mean, I grew up with both Superman and Batman so this is something I really should want to see, ought to be excited for and it's something I should really like. Alas, it's a bit of a disappointment. The script is indeed a mess. The motivations for the characters are muddled and don't really make sense if you think about it. You'd think they'd take good care to make sure the script is up to par when dealing with something that should be a huge blockbuster movie. They didn't. (I haven't even gone into detail how woefully miscalculated Jesse Eisenberg's performance as Lex Luthor is). Well, it does have its moments but it's not going to make you go WOW!

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 26, 2016 10:29 am

That's very cool to hear about Channing Tatum, BJ! :)

HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery)
Cast: Piolo Pascual, John Lloyd Cruz, Hazel Orencio, Alessandra De Rossi, Susan Africa, Joel Saracho, Sid Lucero, Angel Aquino, Cherie Gil, Bernardo Bernardo, Bart Guingona, Menggie Corrarubias, Ronnie Lazaro, Ely Buendia.
Dir: Lav Diaz.

This is director Lav Diaz's latest opus, an 8-hour long reflection on Philippine history and politics. It's basically two parallel story lines: One is about a character in our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal's celebrated novel, El Filibusterismo, Crisostomo "Simoun" Ibarra getting shot and having to journey into the forest to a safe house with a poet named Isagani. The other is about a real-life historical figure, Gregoria De Jesus' vain search for her husband's, Andres Bonifacio (a major figure in the Philippine revolt against Spain, betrayed by his fellow Filipinos - which is an entire movie in and of itself), corpse. This is co-produced by a mainstream studio and top-billed by two of the biggest names in Philippine mainstream showbiz, yet Lav Diaz still made it into an 8-hour black-and-white historical period film....and it is pretty great. I personally would love to talk to a foreigner with little-to-no knowledge of Philippine history what he or she thought of it since I think having a working knowledge of Filipino history, culture and politics makes this film work in a deeper, more meaningful level. But I guess since it won in Berlin, it worked enough! I will say it feels surprisingly brisk for an 8-hour film. It gives you a lot to chew on and think about especially if you're a Filipino. It may not be for everybody but the open-minded and the cinematically adventurous will find this a rewarding experience. P.S. The tikbalangs stole the movie for me.

Oscar Prospects: I don't know if they will say "fuck it" and submit all 8 hours of the film to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy (Meryl Streep, one of the jurors in Berlin is said to be a fan...so we have an "in"). Should the unlikely event that this somehow gets a nomination, it would be the longest film that got an Oscar nomination, right? 8 hours?

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Mar 21, 2016 8:23 pm

I was waiting for somebody else to mention it first, but... I actually worked on Hail, Caesar! I won't reveal what I did, because I would prefer to keep some anonymity on here. But it was a great experience. The Coen brothers are just as peculiar and interesting as you'd imagine them to be -- although I was completely terrified of communicating with them the entire time, as they both just seemed to be off in their own little world with each other while directing.

The only major cast member I worked with was Channing Tatum -- I guess that's a pretty obvious clue as to what part of the movie I was involved with -- and he was an absolute pleasure to work with. Great work ethic, incredibly appreciative of his collaborators, and really wanting to push himself out of his comfort zone to do a good job for the Coens (as we all were). I would happily work with him again in the future.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 19, 2016 12:03 pm

HAIL, CAESAR!
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Heather Goldenhersh, Alison Pill, Michael Gambon (narrator).
Dirs: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen.

The Coen Brothers both satirizes and pays tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1950's in this, their latest work. A production "fixer" of sorts Eddie Mannix (based on a real person) gets his hands full when the star of his studio's most major motion picture gets kidnapped by Communists. Although it's not one of the Coen Brothers' best, it's far from their worst. It's flawed, for sure but the parts that work and there are many of them, work really well. The ensemble of actors working here seem to be having a good time and they pretty much own their roles. However, I do Alden Ehrenreich runs away with the film. He's hilarious and oddly endearing as the singing cowboy turned dramatic actor. Oh and the Channing Tatum should definitely do more musicals if his sequence here is any indication.

Oscar Prospects: Possibly Original Song, Production Design, Costume Design and Cinematography. Although I wouldn't mind a Supporting Actor nom for Ehrenreich.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 12, 2016 11:04 am

KUNG FU PANDA 3
Cast: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, JK Simmons, James Hong, Kate Hudson, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Randall Duk Kim, Jean-Claude Van Damme. (voices).
Dirs: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni.

This is the third film in the highly successful film series. This time it has Po reuniting with his father and discovering his roots and of course having to defeat a new enemy where he has to again discover and learn something about himself. Though it's far from a bad movie, I can't help but feel like we're going through the motions of a Kung Fu Panda movie again and it's not quite as good as the previous two installments. That's not to say this isn't worth checking out. Bryan Cranston is a wonderful addition to the cast and there are some really funny and visually eye-popping moments. If you love the previous films, there's no reason for you to not enjoy this one. Just don't expect anything too ground-breaking or surprising.

Oscar Prospects: Animated Feature is possible.

Grade: B

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 05, 2016 11:09 am

THE PROGRAM
Cast: Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd, Guillaume Canet, Lee Pace, Dustin Hoffman, Jesse Plemons, Dennis Menochet, Elaine Cassidy.
Dir: Stephen Frears.

Based on a non-fiction book, this film is about the rise and eventual fall from grace of seven-time Tour de France winner and world-famous cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, whose inspiring fairy tale life came crashing down when allegations of doping surfaced. This film was very tough on Lance Armstrong. There's very little effort to add some nuance and sympathy for him in this film. He is a cynical, ambitious, greedy with an almost pathological need to win and be known as the best. This is all brought to life by Ben Foster who gives a really superb performance. The film actually vilifies Lance Armstrong just a wee bit too much though. I would have wanted to see more nuance and humanity. But yeah worth seeing for the performance.

Oscar Prospects: I don't know if this will be eligible but Ben Foster is a good candidate for Actor and the Makeup is excellent too.

Grade: B-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Tue Mar 01, 2016 1:33 am

KNIGHT OF CUPS
Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Frieda Pinto.
Dir: Terrence Malick.

I'm a huge fan of director Terrence Malick. His films are, at the very least beautifully shot and interesting. This one certainly is. It's about, at least, I *think* it's about a Hollywood actor going about his day and facing his issues about his family and his love life (his wife, girlfriends, etc.). I will concede I consider probably his weakest film. But even his weakest films is more interesting than a lot of other filmmaker's good films. Once again, he eschews a traditional narrative to focus more on visual poetry. I have to say, Malick's visual poetry this time around now include lots of scantily clad hot women (not that I'm complaining). I think he's borderline just repeating himself this time around. It won't win over Malick skeptics but his fans admirers will find it a fascinating exercise nonetheless.

Oscar Prospects: Cinematography, maybe.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Feb 27, 2016 10:51 am

TRIPLE-9
Cast: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr., Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot, Michael K. Williams.
Dir: John Hillcoat.

A group of corrupt cops and criminals gets blackmailed into pulling off an impossible, difficult heists by the wife of an incarcerated big Russian mobster. The plan involves murdering a rookie cop but when that plan falls apart, things get complicated. John Hillcoat is a very good director and this features a terrific ensemble cast headed by Casey Affleck and Chiwetel Ejiofor (but Clifton Collins Jr. steals the movie, IMO). The main concept is quite intriguing. But the execution of the narrative kind of gets lost in all of it, resulting in a film which features flashes of potential but never quite comes together as well as it should.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Feb 21, 2016 8:16 am

ZOOTOPIA
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, JK Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Tommy Chong, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Shakira, Maurice LaMarche (voices).
Dirs: Byron Howard & Rich Moore.

In an alternate universe where mammals are the most evolved species, a female bunny becomes the first bunny police officer and is forced to team up with a con-man fox to solve a case. This film is pretty terrific. It's a surprisingly well-constructed procedural mystery with some twists and turns and at the same time it's a really funny buddy cop comedy with some truly funny sequences (that is in addition to the already hilarious DMV sloth sequence). And on top of THAT, if that's even possible, it's also a fable on prejudice and racism which kids (and some adults) need at this day and age. It's the first great film of 2016.

Oscar Prospects: Animated Feature for sure. Maybe Original Song.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Feb 13, 2016 10:56 am

DEADPOOL
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, TJ Miller, Gina Carano, Leslie Uggams, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic.
Dir: Tim Miller.

For years, I couldn't stand Ryan Reynolds. He has this pretty boy douche face I wanted to punch and I couldn't stand his acting. Although in recent times I've slowly come around to him. I wouldn't call myself a fan but I will have to say he is pretty darn good in this one. I've been hearing about Deadpool, the comic book super antihero for years and now, finally, we have the movie. It's not quite the anarchic, fuck-them-all anti-superhero movie that it aims to be but it's still quite a fun, violent, raunchy, hard-R ride with quite a number of good laughs. There are breaking-the-fourth-wall and meta jokes here but they don't overwhelm the story. This is probably my favorite among the string of hard-R action-comedies of recent years.

Oscar Prospects: Makeup.

Grade: B.

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The Official Review Thread of 2016

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Feb 07, 2016 7:15 am

PRIDE + PREJUDICE + ZOMBIES
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance, Lena Headey.
Dir: Burr Steers.

I actually read the source material for this film. It's basically Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice with zombies added on it. I actually read that and the original Jane Austen at the same time. It was a fun couple of reads. Author Seth Grahame Smith pretty much stayed true to the material while adding zombies and action on it. I was curious to see what the film version has to offer. How are they going to translate this? Sadly, the results are largely disappointing. There are a few fun moments but it's largely just big "meh". It's not silly enough to be enjoyable as a comedy but a little too silly to be a straight-up zombie action horror flick. And I happen to like zombie movies and I like Jane Austen. I guess in cinema form, it just doesn't work.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C-


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