Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 movies

In 2015 I watched 68 movies - this year I clocked in with 64 (and a mini-series documentary). We'll see how 2017 turns out.

 1)      San Andreas – it wasn’t 2 hours of The Rock punching an earthquake, which is what I wanted, but it was close enough, I guess.

2)      Awaken  - I figured I’d start watching random Netflix movies, alphabetically. This was the “A” title, and it was pretty dumb. About a group of people who kidnap random strangers and place them on a deserted island so that they can be harvested for their organs for dying rich people. Just a mindless D-grade action flick. Darryl Hannah was in it, though. And Edward Furlong. Not that either of them made it any better.
3)      Making a Murderer – not a ‘movie’, per se, but figured this was worth a mention. This was a 10 hour documentary series about Steven Avery (and his family), a guy who lives in Wisconsin, who in 1985 was falsely arrested for a sexual assault. 18 years later, DNA evidence proving he didn’t commit the crime set him free. He then decided to sue the police department for millions. While that was going into effect…Steven Avery was arrested for the murder of a local woman. The whole series was pro-Avery, so was a little frustrating in not giving the whole story. However, the takeaway from the whole thing is that this man (and his nephew) most certainly DID NOT get a fair trial.  So many instances of straight up corruption and just absolute sickening what was done to Steven’s nephew, Brendan.  The fact that his (obviously) coerced confession was sufficient enough to grant him a conviction is chilling to think about.
4)      AntMan – This was sort of the first Iron Man movie …with ants. And I’m fine with that. So much fun.
5)      Justice League: Gods and Monsters – Animated flick about an alternate universe wherein the Justice League (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) are much much more brutal than what we are used to. It was mildly entertaining, but in the end, since it wasn’t “our” world, it was hard to really care about the story. Definitely the most violent of the Warner Bros animation movies I’ve seen.
6)      Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – This was really quite good. A comedy/drama about an asteroid on the way to earth, and how people deal with it. Steve Carrell and Kiera Knightley were great, and it had a good mix of comedy and pathos. Nice little gem.
7)      Final Girl – Horrible. The premise, while simple, could have worked, but the execution was …just plain bad. A group of college frat boys have a club where they pick up random girls, take them to the woods, and then “hunt” them. Abigail Breslin stars as Veronica, who was trained to fight by a guy who wanted revenge since they killed his wife and daughter. She then becomes the bait, and when they go to the woods, she hunts and kills them. Waste of time.
8)      The Final Girls – Not a sequel to Final Girl. Instead, this was a fun ‘horror’ movie that was in the vein of Cabin in the Woods and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Before Max’s mother died in a car accident, she was an actress, whose biggest claim to fame was being in the cult classic “Camp Bloodbath” from the 80s. Due to magic, at a screening of the film, Max and her friends wind up IN the movie as it’s taking place. Max gets to reunite with her mom, and lots of lampshade hanging occurs with regard to slasher-flicks. Pretty clever, and an enjoyable time.
9)      Cooties – A more or less by-the-numbers zombie flick, where the ‘twist’ is that all of the infected are children at a school. The teachers are the survivors. It’s neither as funny nor as clever as it thinks it is, sadly. I don’t know how it could have been improved, but I was disappointed in what was presented, which is sad, because the cast was composed of people I like in other things: Elijah Wood, Riann Wilson (Dwight from The Office), Jack McBrayer (Kenneth from 30 Rock), and Jorge Garcia (Hugo from Lost) were all in this, so it seems like it *should* have been better. There were a few lines that made me laugh, but overall this was just sort of dull.
10)  Minions – This was okay, had a few good laughs.
11)  Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse – sigh. I think I’m going to give up on comedy-horror for a while, it’s been really difficult to find anything worth watching. Out of the trio of scouts, I loathed one of them and found the other two difficult to be sympathetic toward. I don’t think it was the intention of the filmmakers to be rooting for the zombies, but I was.
12)  The Martian -  Very faithful adaptation of the book (at least as far as I can remember), and the book was a fun popcorn read, so this was a fun popcorn flick.
13)  The World’s End – This should have worked – I greatly enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and was mostly amused by Hot Fuzz – but it somehow didn’t quite gel for me. I loved the seriousness of the themes of growing older and friendship and living up to one’s potential (or not!) and I kinda liked the sci-fi-ness of the Blanks, and I would think that combining the two would result in just my sort of movie (I am a huge sucker for genre-blending), but, again, it fell a little short. Maybe I should give it a rewatch at some point to see if it improves my outlook.
14)  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – a perfectly “okay” movie. Ben Stiller stars as Walter Mitty, who has a very active imagination, but not a very active real life. When his job at Life Magazine is put in jeopardy, he finally gets active in order to track down an elusive final cover photo. This had moments that were great. For the most part, though it was just kinda there. Nothing bad, but nothing really stood out, either.
15)  This is 40 – not a lot of plot, but that’s okay, because the jokes were nonstop, and very very funny.
16)  Wet Hot American Summer – I’d avoided this for a long time, mostly because I thought it was a corny 80s teen movie. Turns out it was a hilarious spoof of corny 80s teen movies! Not every joke landed, but enough of them did to make this absolutely work for me. Good times.
17)  American Ultra – This was sort of a more adult version of the show “Chuck”.  Jesse Eisenberg was Mike, a stoner dude who has anxiety attacks anytime he tries to leave his home town. Turns out he’s actually part of a CIA project to develop a superweapon. We’ve seen this story plenty of times, so don’t expect anything truly unpredictable, but it was still a perfectly enjoyable film.
18)  People Places Things – this was a great rom-com. Jemaine Clement (from Flight of the Conchords) stars as Will, a graphic novelist & art teacher who separates from his wife (Stephanie Allynne). The movie focuses on Will’s life as he tries to move on.  Absolutely a great undiscovered gem.
19)  Goodnight Mommy – a German thriller/horror movie that suckered me in with a creepy trailer. It’s about a single mother of twin boys who recently had reconstructive surgery on her face. The trailer made it seem like it was going to focus on whether the woman under the bandages is actually still the boys’ mom. Instead, it focused on the boys, and the …reveal (calling it a “twist” is simply an insult to actual twist endings) which was telegraphed from literally the first two minutes.  Sadly, a mediocre movie that didn’t live up to its promise.
20)  Pee Wee’s Big Holiday – It was great to have a new Pee Wee movie! This didn’t live up to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, but it was absolutely in the same vein, and well worth the time.  Now let me let you let me go. LATTIHTBG. Heheheh.
21)  Flypaper – two gangs of bank robbers – one a trio of professionals, one a pair of bumbling morons – decide to rob the same bank  at the same time. They opt to work together – grudgingly. (The pros are after the vault money, the amateurs want the ATM cash) The hostages, however, wind up throwing monkey wrenches into both plans. This wasn’t a very good movie, but it had potential. It’s just that the ‘jokes’ were for the most part, very lame, and the’ twists’ were telegraphed very early. Pretty forgettable.
22)  Trainwreck – I had high hopes for this, but sadly they weren’t really met. A large percentage of the jokes just didn’t work for me, which is extra disappointing, considering how much I like Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in other things that I’ve seen them in. Oddly, it seemed that a lot of the second-tier characters were a lot funnier than the leads. John Cena was hilarious, Lebron James was too. And Amy’s boss. (None of Amy’s coworkers were that funny) Jokes aside, the movie itself was more or less just a regular romantic comedy (although a bit long. It easily could have been 20 or 30 minutes shorter). It wasn’t a bad movie, just not as funny/compelling as I had hoped.
23)  The Hunger Games –Mockingjay part 2 – More or less by the numbers YA adaptation. The pacing was kinda weird in bits, scenes seemed to jump from one thing to another pretty quickly, which is weird, since they split this into two movies to begin with. It seemed that this would have been somewhat confusing for anyone who had not read the books.  Certain scenes were very well done, though.
24)  Hush – thriller about a deaf woman who lives alone in the woods and is terrorized by a killer in a mask.  Was okay.
25)  The Gift – Simon and his wife get stalked by a ‘weirdo’ from Simon’s past. Turns out there’s a reason behind the weirdo’s weirdness.  Was better than expected (mostly due to the acting).
26)  The Hateful Eight – Tarantino movies are always watchable, if nothing else. I don’t think I actually *liked* this movie, but I’m not sure if you’re meant to.
27)  Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens – Yeah, it was basically a retelling of the original Star Wars, but I’m more than okay with that. This was what a Star Wars movie should be.
28)  Knock Knock –Keanu Reeves is a middle-aged dad home alone while his wife & kids are out at a beach. Two young women show up on his doorstep in the pouring rain. He lets them in and calls them an Uber driver. They have 45 minutes until the ride gets there. They begin to seduce him. This was pure cinematic fast food. Mildly enjoyable, but not really good for you. The first half of the movie was actually pretty tense, but got more and more ridiculous as it went on.
29)  Z for Zachariah – post apocalyptic love triangle! Good acting, not much story. It’s based on a YA novel, apparently. Maybe I’ll seek that out and read it.
30)  The Revenant – visually, it was beautiful. Mostly, it made me extremely relieved that I live in modern times.
31)  Deadpool – Somewhat funny (loved Colossus, most of the meta-jokes, and the 4th wall breaking; could have done with less of the ‘shocking to be shocking’ sex jokes (or if they’d been funnier, maybe?) but overall, it was pretty enjoyable.
32)  The Witch – extremely creepy and sad. Watching this Colonial family tear itself apart was heartbreaking and compelling at the same time. And the ending …absolutely chilling.
33)  Krampus – uneven, but decent. The monsters were really  creepy looking. The ending was kinda meh.
34)  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – WE are the music makers, and WE are the dreamers of dreams. Willy Wonka is the best. Good day, sir!
35)  Zootopia -  The sloths were very funny. Visually this was amazing, and the world was absolutely fully developed, and the characters were too. Overall, pretty great. I did find it seemed to be a little bit long, but that might have been due to me being tired after a very long day when we were watching it.
36)  Zoolander 2 – Sufficiently funny. We probably didn’t NEED a sequel to Zoolander, but since we got one anyway, I’m glad that it wasn’t completely awful, like, say, the Dumb and Dumber one was. Sure, there were cringey parts, but there were also enough bits that made me laugh out loud. And, you know, if Stiller and Owen want to make a third Zoolander in another 15 years, I’d probably be down with that, too.
37)  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – not a laugh riot, and not a great drama, a weird mixture of the two, and it basically worked. Tina Fey stars in the true story of Kim Baker, a reporter from New York who gets sent to Afghanistan in 2003 to cover the ongoing mess that is there. Personal growth and culture clash ensue.
38)  The Boy – slow burn character study of a 9 year old future sociopath. It was slow, and a little bit predictable (not the least bit helped by the cover of the dvd giving away the climax/ending), but still quite compelling. There were a few parts where Ted (the 9 year old boy) was being attacked/hurt by others that were extremely hard to watch, even knowing it was fake. Supposedly this is the first in a planned trilogy, following Ted as he grows up. I’d be down to see the other movies, if they’re as intriguing as this one was.
39)  Midnight Special – bleh. I like Michael Shannon but he’s not enough to save this dreck. (Oh, Kirsten Dunst was in this, too, although she’s given even less to do [and the movie doesn’t bother to pass the BEchdel test. Sigh.]) It starts compelling – a dad and his friend are on the run from a religious cult and the government because they’ve kidnapped the dad’s son. The boy has powers, and needs to get to a location across the country by a certain date. Unfortunately, there’s too much ambiguity and unanswered questions about the nature of the boy’s powers, and, none of the family members have any chemistry with one another. Plus, there was never any doubt that the boy would make it to where he was going. The whole movie felt like a really cool first or second draft, but needed to be polished up some more to be really remarkable. 
40)  The Angry Birds Movie – mildly better than I had anticipated. Had a few lines that made me chuckle (although writing this the day after viewing it, I don’t remember any of them…).
41)  The Lobster – really weird. I don’t know if I liked it or not, although I am leaning towards not.
42)  The Boy – a different “the Boy” than #38. This one was about an American nanny (Lauren Cohen who plays Maggie on The Walking Dead) who is hired by rich eccentric English folks to watch their “boy”, Brahms. Turns out that Brahms is actually a porcelain doll that they treat as though is living. There is backstory, and twists, and jumpscares, and it’s all very PG-13. Like most “horror” movies, it feels like it potentially could have been very creepy, but falls short. Oh well.
43)  Air – meh. Daryll from Walking Dead, and Djimon Hounsou are in a bunker at the end of the world, watching over a bunch of cryogenically (sorta) sleeping people who are humanity’s chance at rebuilding. The acting was decent, but the plot and writing… not so much. Maybe would have worked as a short story in print, but as a film was a waste of time.
44)  Keanu – Key and Peele make a movie about a couple of nerds who get sucked into the gang-world in search of the world’s cutest kitten. Not all the jokes worked (most of them, actually felt clichéd) but it was still a very fun enjoyable movie.
45)  Popstar Never Stop Never Stopping – a mockumentary focusing on Conner 4Real (Andy Samberg), former member of the mega-successful boy band/rap group The Style Boyz.  This was much funnier than I was expecting it to be.
46)  Money Monster – a deranged man loses his life savings in a stock market ‘glitch’ after listening to the advice of George Clooney (who is playing a host of a financial cable show). He takes Clooney (and  the staff of the show) hostage while they are live on air. A by-the-numbers conspiracy eventually comes to light. This was okay, but nothing memorable or outstanding.
47)  Captain America: Civil War – blah de blah, more superheroes. I think I might be getting burned out on Marvel flicks. (Although, admittedly, the airport fight was pretty spectacular).
48)  Extinction – decent little zombie flick with Matthew Fox. It was okay. Nothing great, but I’ve seen way worse. The last third kinda devolved into typical shoot ‘em up nonsense, but I was involved enough to finish watching it.
49)  10 Cloverfield Lane – creepy John Goodman, nice ambiguity for the first 2/3rds of the movie about what was REALLY going on, and the protagonist was a smart, capable, and kick-ass woman. I sort of wish it didn’t have the “cloverfield” tie in, because it didn’t really connect with the previous movie, and I felt like this should have (and could have) stood on its own. Either way, this was a pretty great little thriller.
50)  Swiss Army Man – hmm. Daniel Radcliffe plays a corpse named Manny who befriends Hank, a guy who is stranded on a deserted island and very lonely. Manny and Hank help each other learn to love and accept each other, and life, thru the power of farts and erections. It was definitely an ODD movie. I just don’t know if I really liked it.
51)   Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice – I was expecting to hate this based on all the negative reviews it received; and, sure, it was overlong, incoherent, and very very grimdark… but it kinda worked? I mean, parts of it. Ben Affleck is probably my favorite Batman/Bruce Wayne now. And Henry Cavill looks like Superman, I guess. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was just ¯\_()_/¯ both in his performance and in terms of what his character was doing, but whatevs. It was a Zach Snyder murder-verse action superhero flick. You get what you get.
52)   X-Men: Apocalypse – forgettable, enjoyable popcorn.
53)  Ghostbusters (2016) – oh, wow, my childhood wasn’t ruined! Freaking idiots online, I swear. This wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, but, then, neither was the original. (yeah, I said it.) The Fall Out Boy cover of the Ghostbusters theme was horrid, though. And the trailers actually showed the worst jokes of the thing!
54)  The Purge: Election Year – ridiculous, but marginally entertaining. (although the margin is shrinking with each installment)
55)  Kick Ass – Rewatch. Such a great superhero flick.
56)  A Christmas Story – movie equivalent of comfort food.
57)  Star Trek Beyond – latest in the rebooted Star Trek series, and not a bad installment. I think Trek still works best as a tv series, but this felt like an episode of Trek, blown up (heh) to movie-size, so god job, everyone.
58)  Sausage Party – about as funny, shocking, and entertaining as an episode of South Park. (actually the kitchen scene was worth the price of admission [um. Free. Because I got this from the library], so, 3 minutes out of a 90 minute movie…)
59)  Morgan – Morgan is a homegrown half-human, half…something else. The scientists who grew and raised her are being evaluated by corporate. Things go badly. You know, it would be super awesome if movies stopped relying solely on twists. I didn’t even know that there was going to be a twist to this, but once it became evident, it really dampened my enjoyment.
60)  Central Intelligence – The Rock stars as an extremely goofy CIA agent with Kevin Hart as his reluctant sidekick. Not much was funny, but the few bits that were good were due to The Rock. The dude can be pretty hilarious.
61)  Finding Dory – meh. It looked pretty, but this just had a unnecessary sequel feel to it. Sorry, Pixar. You’ve done better in the past.
62)  Goat – Can there be masculinity that ISN’T toxic? God, I hate our species sometimes.
63)  Ordinary World – despite being predictable and not really great, I found this movie about Billie Joe Armstrong (from Green Day) being a dad facing a mid-life crisis kind of adorkable.
64)  Yoga Hosers – so. Un.funny. UGH. This was a ‘sequel’ to Tusk, which I viewed last year, and while that wasn’t great, it was at least unique and bizarre enough to recommend to others. THIS was just garbage. In Tusk Johnny Depp’s  character was the worst thing to happen to it. In this movie, he’s actually the best thing. Hands down, this is the worst movie I’ve seen this year.
65)  Don’t Breathe – quite good. I could have done without the sexual violence scare, but this was a unique thriller that didn’t focus on gore and while it had events happen that stretched believability, it was overall an entertaining little flick.

Upon rereading these, it looks like a LOT of the movies I watched were either bad, or just passable. I need to seek out better films to watch, I think.

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