Growing up, I never thought that superhero movies would be such a huge aspect of my life. I am not particularly a huge comic book fangirl, nor even particularly a comic book movie fangirl. And yet I have found myself in the position with many others, where I am seeing nearly three Marvel movies a year. I don't have the energy to open up the discussion on DC today, let's stick with the Feige-verse for now.
I enjoy almost every MCUl movie I see. They know what they are doing, they know they can put out 3 movies, all between B and A-'s, and print money. They have had an absurd record as far as opening weekends go, I am not sure if there has been a Marvel property in recent history that hasn't been objectively a massive success. But the first Guardians of the Galaxy was when it really first kicked in for me. I am a sucker for classic music used in new, fun ways (translation-not Suicide Squad ways) and the cast and plot really just made for my favorite Marvel movie. And since Edgar Wright never got to do Ant Man, the original Guardians remains my favorite. That being said, I was anxious going into the second. The first won me over by surprise, and I knew that my expectations for the second would only leave me at least a little underwhelmed. And I was terrified they would over use baby Groot. They did, but I digress.
That being said, this was a really solid, fun summer blockbuster. I had more complaints about this than in the initial, but this still stands in my top Marvel movies just in story and execution. It feels like a different, more off beat property than The Avengers, which is tiring slowly to me. The Guardians movies just seem to have a more relatable rag tag quality than the very classic superheroes of the rest of the MCU, save for Wolverine. James Gunn also walks the line of "funny" and "real emotions that make you want to cry while listening to Cat Stevens" better than any other current director in comic book franchises.
It would be hard to get too into this without getting into spoilers, so let's just talk Kurt Russell. I was not as much of a fan about the plot of the sequel as the first, but Kurt Russell is just the best, so I will forgive the weird father plot line that got really out of hand quickly. This highlights the main issue I have with the MCU. The scale of the conflicts are always way out of proportion. Not every movie has to have the entire fate of the universe on the line. Sometimes there can just be one truly evil person who wants to ruin one to five people's lives, and that can be interesting too.
But as I said, nothing with 70's Kurt Russell could disappoint me. 7.5/10
A friend of mine texted me earlier this week- "OMG, you gotta see Colossal. Two words. Jason. Sudeikis". And as much as I try to sell my brand as "young trendsetter with plenty of friends and things to do", that is pretty much all the sway I need to get into a theater. Who am I kidding, I have nothing else to do.
I love going into a movie with no background info. Unfortunately, since I go to the movies so much, this is a rare luxury, as I am normally inundated with trailers. I managed not to see one for Colossal. I did accidentally catch Anne Hathaway on the Tonight Show calling this "a movie about a girl who gets drunk and then a monster terrorizes South Korea" but I think I just blacked this out since it is such a ridiculous thing to say. But that is pretty much the premise.
Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, an alcoholic who moves home during a tough time and falls into friendship with a group of guys who work/hang out at a bar. During this time at home, she realizes that when she walks through a playground in the early morning, a large monster materializes in a linked location in Seoul, South Korea.
Instead of spoilers, I am just going to use this time to say that I love that Jason Sudeikis took this role, and he was awesome in this. If he was only in weird indie comedies for the rest of his life, I would see them all. He is so funny and sincere and strangely menacing. I just need to try to separate him from Bill Hader's impression of him, which is pretty spot on. Jason would get a 10, but the movie gets a 8/10.
I decided there is not much I can say about "Life" without spoilers, so even though I know no one is reading this, I am going to go ahead a pop a spoiler tag on this one. Just in case you know. Stop now if you don't want spoilers. I went to the movies this weekend not because I was particularly dying to see this movie, but my roommate was out of town and I didn't want to be left alone with my thoughts for too long, or I may start questioning my existence. Again. So I went to see "Life", and oh boy. I was intrigued by the unlikely bro-mance that the dreamy pair of Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds have been advertising on this press tour. And "Spirit in the Sky" is in the previews, so I thought this may be up my alley after all.
I didn't have much expectations other than "scary space movie", but it was more of a horror than I anticipated. In the previews it seemed like it would be more lighthearted than it ended up being. We had about 30 minutes of goofy science time, and then quickly took a turn towards darkness that we never came back from at all. Once the "alien" made its first move and killed one of the crew members (Ryan Reynolds! Right off the bat!), everything escalated through the systematic execution of the the rest of the space station by the "Alien"-like alien.
Lots of jump scares later and one final twist at the end that I only figured out right before the reveal, the film ended with an unresolved horror that that cut to black right as Greenbaum's guitar riffs starts. 5.5/10
The last horror movie I truly enjoyed was probably "Cabin in the Woods". Recently, I liked "Green Room", and "Split", but it continues to be a hard genre to break out with a truly original idea. Jordan Peele's "Get Out" felt like the universe had heard my prayers. A smart satire on social commentary with genuine humor, and yet a still bone chilling plot? How have we been so blessed? The balance of horror and comedy is weighted perfectly, with every release of laughter being used to reset the suspense, giving the audience the chance to build back up to paralyzing fear over and over again. All of the performances were pitch perfect (Alison Williams with the keys!), and I anticipate this is only the beginning of Daniel Kaluuya's rise. I often complain to my friends that the biggest disservice of the horror/thriller genre is that by pigeonholing something as "a scary movie", you isolate a whole demographic of people who want to just go see a blockbuster on the weekends. Having Peele's name attached and released by Universal on the perfect weekend (only up against week 3 of Lego Batman) gave this layered story a chance to breathe and be appreciated for what it is. Creepy as all hell, and maybe a little too believable. 9.2/10
I love magic. And that's what I felt when I watch La La Land. Enchanted. There are a lot of complaints about this film, I assume mostly due to the never ending positive buzz it's gotten. There was even an SNL skit about how widely (and overly) loved it is. But I can't help it. I love Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, I love a musical, and I love the classic style. You can tell me all day long about how Stone is breathy, Gosling looks at his feet when he dances, I don't care. I liked the way it made me feel, and I left humming under my breath and dancing up the stairs. I went into the theater for my first viewing in the throes of an existential crisis (which come around every other week). I was immediately invested in the characters and cried for a majority of the second half. A few weeks later, I went in for another show time because I was worried I wasn't in a stable mental state the first time around. I cried (slightly) less in my second showing, but it still felt as connected. Flat out it was a beautifully shot, exciting, catchy frolic through every young dreamer's fantasy in LA. 9.8/10
I am in many ways a masochist, and many movies of 2016 indulged the part of me that wants to cry. But dear god, nothing quite like Manchester by the Sea. My sister saw it first and explained it as "It starts as the saddest movie you've ever seen, and then halfway through, it sinks into another level of incomprehensible despair." I am paraphrasing. But she is correct. At every plot turn, Kenneth Lonergan takes the road less travelled and much more depressing. The writing and screenplay work together in perfect emotional harmony, highlighted by the quietly dynamic performances by Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and one spectacular scene by Michelle Williams that left me crying into a dirty scarf from the bottom of my purse. This movie isn't about redemption, it's about surviving and self-preservation, in spite of the most horrific thing you could ever imagine, and despite what others may need from you. 8.7/10
I was not in a hurry to rush into theaters to see Hacksaw Ridge, but in general I am not one of the first people running out to see war movies. I see Saving Private Ryan as the definitive World War II film. The battles in this movie were comparably shot, maybe more cinematic as opposed to live action, but the comparisons stop there. What shines through the most in this film heart, the triumphant glory we normally see reserved for sports films. While Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington pleasantly surprised me, Garfield's performance really carried the picture. The story builds without dragging, despite the fact that we don't even get to Okinawa until more than halfway through. As they say on South Park, "Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but that son of a b**** knows story structure." 8.8/10
I love intelligence, resilient women, and astronauts. I also am a woman working for a tech company, so I knew going into this that I would enjoy it. I had to actively tell myself to not let me love for Taraji P Henson blur my opinion of this movie, but in the end, it was just a joy to watch. It was a classic, I laughed, I cried, I found myself fearing for John Glenn's life even though I knew how that would work out (history, obviously). I worried the idea of Kevin Costner in ANOTHER "coach" type role would bore me, but it didn't. I worried that Jim Parson's only has one tone, and he does. But that was fine, because it all just worked, and was a true feel good film that felt perfectly relevant, even despite the time period. 9/10
I listen to highbrow music, try to stay well read, and make an effort to see all the Oscar nominated movies. But sometimes Radiohead is too heavy, Faulkner makes no sense, and fantastic performances are a part of slow paced movies. Viola Davis and Denzel were sensational, with Davis especially securing her spot as reigning Oscar heavyweight. I read recently that we all underrate Denzel's performances, because he's so consistently spot on. I thought these two were going to have an Academy Awards night sweep, especially after the SAG awards this year. But I don't picture myself re-watching this anytime soon. Performances near perfection, but film, 7.0/10
Lion was one of my favorite movies of the year. It made me want to travel, cry, write, and live. Dev Patel carries an incredibly vibrant performance of the true story of Saroo Brierley, who was lost as a child and then attempts to find his family in his 20's. Pair that with grand sweeping landscapes and the incredibly endearing Sunny Pawar, who shines despite the grit of 1980's slums of India, and it had everything I could have wanted in a hauntingly true film. This movie stuck with me days after leaving the theater and only deepened the lifelong crush I have been harboring on Dev Patel (which started in Slumdog and escalated in The Newsroom). I am in general pretty lukewarm on Nicole Kidman, but this is her at her best, and her maternal interactions seemed authentic without being romanticized. All in all, this was near perfect to me, and somehow managed to avoid landmine cliches that could have cheapened this standout of 2016. 9.7/10
I, like many others, suffer from skepticism with any science fiction that grounds any plot in reality. Star Wars, Star Trek, Guardians, sure I can jump right into the world. But if I am supposed to believe that aliens could be landing next Thursday during my team rundown meeting, you can lose me. Arrival opened with some the strongest cinematography of the season, (mainly because ominous fog is my aesthetic) and I was a believer. I believed in the tension and even the potential reality of close encounters. I was all in, up until the main reveal, which to me seemed ridiculous due to the sheer magnitude of the twist. Even in comparison to some other crazy futuristic sci-fi plots. Despite my wavering beliefs towards the end, it was beautifully shot and exceptionally acted, despite my general lukewarm feelings towards Jeremy Renner, I think we learned that he is best received as a supporting man under a stronger lead in Adams. 8.2/10
I don't think I have the words to express how fantastically dramatic this film is. As far as movie goers go, I may be an exception, but I have a complete lack of romanticism with the American West. I understand the merit of older westerns, but nowadays, they tend to just seem dated. But something about Jeff Bridges in a Texas desert seems right. I'm also a sucker for a good screenplay and some risky robbery scenes, and right off the bat this film lets you know that is what you are in for. The contrast between the four main characters, the two brothers and two rangers, drive the narrative to a point to where you aren't sure who you are rooting for by the time the climactic scene begins. So if you like bank robberies, Chris Pine's eyes, and dramatic scenes of cars being buried, you should check this out. 8.7/10
I went into this pretty blind, and in hindsight, what a strange concept. I had done no research, and just knew it was a Natalie Portman lead "biopic" of sorts. Only once the movie started did I realize this was produced by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream/Black Swan), and I immediately tempered my expectation from "Classic Jackie O Retrospective" to "Dark Post-Assassination Character Study". Natalie had the mannerisms and accent down pat, and I always love to see Billy Crudup in anything. One thing that I was not as enamored with as much as others, was the score. I found it a little heavy handed and leading, and at many points I found myself inundated with a combo of brash instrumentals and brain matter that was more than unsettling. But it was jarring, and that is often Aronofsky's aesthetic. 7.0/10
I was hesitantly excited going into the theater this weekend. I mean it is a "tale as old as time", how could Disney keep this "tale" classic, without making it an unnecessary shot by shot remake? The answer: original songs, a bomb supporting cast, and banking on weak reminiscent 90's girls hit with the double whammy of Hermione-Belle.
And in my eyes, Emma Watson probably couldn't have failed. Despite some noticeable audio-tune and a relatively one note performance, she is the definitive "well-read-and-beautiful"actress currently. And her off screen crusades as a modern feminist icon have only secured her as one of the most popular non-traditional "Hollywood" actresses.
As for the supporting cast, the animate objects were all so whimsical. Ewan McGregor, Sir Ian McKellan, and Emma Thompson as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts respectively had old Disney charm down pat, so I forgive McGregor for what I personally thought was the most dissapointing song recreation of "Be Our Guest", and a weak accent.
I was on the fence about Luke Evans as Gaston, simply because the only person in Hollywood with the physique I expect for Gaston is Dwayne Johnston. But with some shoulder pads, extra layers, and one of the strongest vocal performers in the whole show, he really exceeded my expectations. Josh Gad's comic relief Le Fou modernized the whole production, and had some of the best lines, and despite being pretty easily swayed to to good side in the end, but was a real bright spot in general.
Speaking of Gad, there was a lot of press about Le Fou being the first gay Disney character, which I saw as a very subtle plot line that was never entirely resolved, or really deeply explored. The one thing to say is props to Disney I guess, since they refused to cut 1-2 seconds of footage, and it would have been very easy to have backed down to criticism.
Moving on to the music, obviously the inclusion of Alan Menken was a win. There were are few original song additions, that I though were a necessity to keep this version fresh. My roommate and I have been going on and on over one of the new songs in particular, "Evermore". I don't want to spoil anything, but I have now seen this movie twice, and teared up twice during this song. However, I am going to say that may have more to do with my personal love life tendencies.
Overall, one of the best aspects of the story was how they spent more meaningful time on the relationship between Belle and the Beast. As a side note, wouldn't she call him Adam? No? Anyway, the falling in love aspects seemed more organic than in it's animated counterpart (which I revisited last weekend in preparation). I instinctively accredit this to Stephen Chbosky (Perks of Being a Wallflower), who I had more general trust in than Bill Condon (Twilight). There is a lot I could go on about, plot changes, how hot the beast was, fleshed out character backgrounds, my goosebumps during the Belle Reprise, but I think I will cut myself off here and just say if you think you may enjoy this, I'm sure you will. 8/10
When people ask me, "What was your favorite movie of the year?" I don't say Moonlight. When people ask me "What was the best film of the year?" I say Moonlight. This is a dark, gritty story that felt like it wasn't being told because anyone decided to tell it, but more like fate had been leading Barry Jenkins and company towards this their whole lives. The obvious comparison would be Boyhood, and it feels that grand in scope, but more timely. If you had told me that they filmed all of the iterations of the main character, Chiron, over a twenty year span with the same actor, I would have believed you. However, if there is one thing I will remember from Moonlight down the line (because it is a little heavy for a regular spot in the rotation), it will be Mahershala Ali. I loved Dev Patel's performance in Lion, and in many ways it was more athletic, but I would have turned off the Academy Awards after the first card had Ali not won. The scene at the dinner table could have been his only scene in the movie, and he would have earned that Oscar. That is all. 9.2/10