My Life as a Zucchini (or Courgette) Review

my life as a zucchini posterI think I could have subtitled this review- Grown Ups Suck! In fairness there are some lovely adults in My Life as a Zucchini but boy the one’s that suck, REALLY SUCK! This is such a hard review to write but I just wanted to state that out-front and get it out of the way.

So let’s talk about the Oscar hopeful My Life as a Zucchini.  This is a stop motion animated film out of Switzerland that could receive 2 nominations come Tuesday (it is up for best foreign and animated film). On the whole I’d say those nominations will be deserved if they come.  This is a challenging, but rewarding film with amazing animation that draws you into the experience.

It’s very hard to talk about this film without giving out spoilers but I will do my best. Basically it is about a little boy nicknamed Zucchini who’s Mother dies in a shocking way to start out the movie. He then goes to live in a group home for troubled orphans. There he meets a mostly friendly group including a girl named Camille and a rebellious boy named Simon.

zucchini-main-imageThe plot is fairly simple from there. It’s about these kids and how they become a family and help each other overcome their traumatic upbringings.

Just as an example, one of the girls has a hideous aunt who wants to remove her so she can get the foster care money for caring for her. The kids must then figure out a way to protect their friend when the adults fail.

In a way, My Life as a Zucchini is kind of like Annie but there’s not just one Miss Hannigan. Each child seems to have their own Miss Hannigan nightmare, which is probably fairly accurate for the type of child in a group home like this.

That may sound like a real downer and it can be but the film also interjects comedic segments into the story that really work. It can be a quite joyous film and in a way the brutal sequences make the joy more sweet and precious for the kids.

There is also a nice chemistry between the kids.  They feel real and genuine with a terrific English dub cast. These are not the typecast kids you might get in a film like Hook where there is the rebel, fat kid, sweet kid etc. These children are unique and are all pretty well portrayed. The script takes time for small moments of character development  like when one orphan finds a pair of ski goggles on holiday. The owner accuses him of stealing them but he is so happy with them that her daughter gives them to the orphan in a lovely gesture. This isn’t even our lead character and yet it is such a touching moment of human empathy. courgette02When I got out of the theater I tweeted that My Life as a Zucchini was an unusual mixture of the brutal and adorable and that’s really true. It’s like  if Sesame Street had a ‘life kind of sucks’ episode. One of the ladies outside of the theater compared it to Bambi but I don’t agree with that. Bambi has a sad event take place where My Life as a Zucchini is more about pushing through when all of life seems to be out to get you. It’s about finding family, hope and joy in the midst of everyday struggles.

One character in particular, Simon, is particularly well written. Again, he could easily be the rebel kid we’ve seen in a million of these stories but he’s not. There’s a point where he is very envious of Zucchini and Camille but he still gives a loving response. He still tells them that they have to do what is best for them despite him wishing he could be so lucky. It was a beautifully written scene. zucchini-statueIt was really cool after the screening they showed us one of the puppets of Zucchini and told us about the making of the film. Stop motion always blows me away and this is no exception. They did a tremendous job making the characters come alive. The eyes were particularly expressive. It is a tremendous accomplishment and they deserve all the praise they are getting in the animation department.

courgette31There were some children in attendance at my screening but I have to say if I was a parent I would be a little reticent about showing them My Life as a Zucchini. Not that I think children should be sheltered but it’s a lot of bad behavior for a kid to absorb in just one movie. We would certainly have to do some major talking after about addiction, selfishness, wrong choices, poor parenting and the reality of evil. We would also have to talk about the power of friendship, family and love that does pull through in the end for the characters.

It’s a movie of contrasts I suppose, but in my opinion it’s not really a movie for small children, which is fine but perhaps the animation style would lead you to believe otherwise.

I feel like this review is a bit all over the place and that is because I kind of feel that way about this film. It’s shocking, sweet, beautiful, funny, upsetting and adorable all at the same time. A side of me wonders if on rewatch this could become one of my favorite animated films of the year. The writing and animation is strong enough but it’s just so different I’m not there yet.

I certainly recommend seeing it and participating in this unique experience on film. In a way it is kind of like the 400 Blows in animated form! It’s not every day you can use that in a review! If you do see it let me know what you think. I will definitely do a spoiler review in the future and dive into the plot in more detail than I can here, so keep an eye out for that.

For now I give My Life as a Zucchini…

Overall Grade- B+

My Top 15 Films of 2016

It’s finally here my friends! The moment you have all been waiting for. My top 15 best movies of 2016 list!

Here is the youtube version:

You guys have no idea how much thought I have put into this list. I have moved films around and thought weighed the pros and cons countless times. It’s so hard because I like all of these movies for different reasons and how do I decide which reason is better than another? Well, I did the best I could. I must admit I am kind of proud of my list. I think it is thoroughly unique and represents me very well.

So let’s get started!

hidden-figures215. Hidden Figures- I love movies that make me want to cheer and this movie did that in droves. I loved how it chose to forgo the evil redneck violent racist and instead took on institutional racism which I think can be just as virulent and much harder to strike down. I loved all the performances and that it is PG so kids all over the world will know about these amazing women.

hell-or-high-water14. Hell or High Water- Basically a perfectly executed film about two brothers pushed to the edge and the officers who are following them. It has such a sense of place and feels very relevant to many issues we face today. I felt for the characters and was engrossed the entire time. Not my typical genre but it won me over any way.

10_cloverfield_lane13. 10 Cloverfield Lane- I don’t see that many thrillers/horror movies but this one blew me away. I loved how it kept surprising me. I really didn’t know where it was going or what was going to happen. I loved Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman in the leads and even the ending that others didn’t like I kind of dug. It’s one of the only times in recent years I had genuine fun at a horror movie.

presenting-princess-shaw-poster12. Presenting Princess Shaw- 2016 was an amazing year for documentaries and this was one of my favorites. As a youtuber, this story of Samantha from Atlanta who ends up as part of a video for an Israeli man named Kutiman meant a lot to me. It reminded me that this sometimes toxic medium can be a powerful tool to serve others and bond with strangers.

pete's dragon 811. Pete’s Dragon- Yes, I’m kind of ashamed of myself that this didn’t make my top 10 because I loved it so much. This is the kind of movie I want Disney to make. It was small, intimate with humongous heart. I can’t believe they pulled off the dragon on such a small budget. I loved the cast especially Oaks Begley as Pete. Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford were completely lovely. It reminded me of live action movies we used to get from Disney that weren’t afraid to be real and deep with kids. Now we get the next warmed over bland remake…

tower410. Tower- This documentary was new and fresh and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It profiles a sniper standout at the University of Texas in 1966 but it uses animation to make the experience more rich and textured. The different characters were compelling with a variety of reactions and getting to see them in the real and animated forms was very absorbing. It amazed me how some had never really dealt with the incident after all these years making the documentary very raw.

zootopia poster29. Zootopia- I admit some of the criticisms of Zootopia had started to get to me and then I rewatched it and remembered how much I love it. Sure the metaphor has holes if you overthink it but it’s still powerful for children and the movie isn’t only the metaphor. There are lessons about never giving up, facing bullies, forgiveness and friendship. Mostly it is about not letting our fears dictate our behaviors. I love Judy as a character and the friendship between her and Nick is very heartfelt. The world building is amazing and it is so funny.

things-to-come8. Things to Come- This film has 100% on rotten tomatoes and there is a reason why- it’s amazing! Isabelle Huppert is incredible in this role of a woman who’s life goes completely upside down in every way possible. She’s devastated of course but it actually becomes this empowering experience for her. It’s a very fly on the wall kind of film without a strong plot but I loved it. Huppert is so great in the lead role and the writing is honest and powerful. It’s the only time I have felt moved to tears by the speech of an agnostic explaining her views on life.

red-turtle107. The Red Turtle- A combined project between director Michael Dudok De Wit and Studio Ghibli is one of the most stunning films I saw all year. With no dialogue, The Red Turtle manages to tell a stirring story about fate, love and how nature sometimes knows best. The animation is awe inspiring and the music is the best of 2016.

lion6. Lion- This is how you do a true story right. I loved everything about this movie. The child actor is incredible and I felt his chaos, joy and fears as he carries the first hour of the movie. Then Dev Patel comes in and does a great job showing the highs and challenges of adoption. Nicole Kidman was fantastic as his mother and the cinematography and music were so well done.

love and friendship35. Love and Friendship- This movie gave me a new Jane Austen book. How can I not love it for that reason alone but it’s not just that. It’s super funny and has an energy and pizazz to it the other Austen adaptations (as much as I love them) don’t. Lady Susan is kind of an anti-hero who’s self-interest ends up being to everyone’s benefit in the end. The dialogue is hilarious as well as the costume, product design and everything else. I love it more each time I watch it.

moana144. Moana- I can hear the shocks now. I am sure most thought this would be my top pick. I really do love it so much. I love Moana as a character. I love how unselfish her quest is. I love the animation, music, humor, and characters. I love that it focuses on Polynesia, which has my heart. I really don’t have any big flaws with it. I just felt my top 3 were a little more unique than this but I LOVE Moana!

hacksaw_ridge_poster3. Hacksaw Ridge- Moana entertained me. Hacksaw Ridge made me want to be a better person. Yes it is super violent but it’s a rare case where the violence actually made it a better movie. I love that Desmond’s abstaining from war is not dictated by his faith but is a personal covenant between him and God. It reminded me of Daniel and the Lions Den. Sure he could pretend and play along, just hold the gun, but that wouldn’t be true to his promise to God. So, when he cashes in that faith with his pleas for ‘One more Lord’ it blew my mind. It made me want to go out and be more faithful and serve others more.

sing-street2. Sing Street- This movie is like joy in movie form. I watch it over and over again. I love everything about it. I love the relationship between the brothers and their dialogue. I love the romance and how they make each other better. I love the music and the payoff concert. It’s a movie I could watch 100 times and never tire of.

your-name31. Your Name- I thought long and hard about it and I believe Your Name is the best movie I saw in 2016. It’s so original, stunning and emotional. It starts off as a fun body swap movie and then a friendship grows which is challenged when a complication is introduced. Then it takes on a sci-fi element that was surprising and I had no idea what was going to happen without being too twist dependent. I loved the characters and what they learn from each other. The animation is stunning and the music (both score and songs) are perfect. It’s a movie that each time I watch I see layers I had missed the first time. It’s stunning and my favorite movie of 2016!

So there you have it! What did you think of my list? How does it match up with your list and what are your favorites of 2016?

And if you were wondering my 16-20 are

16. Kubo and the Two Strings

17. Queen of Katwe

18. Midnight Special

19. Kung fu Panda 3

20. Manchester by the Sea

If you are wondering I will see My Life as a Zucchini next week at Sundance and then I will do my 2016 animation ranking.

Now on to 2017!

Meh and Overrated Films of 2016

overrated-2016

When you see as many movies as I do you don’t always agree with the critical consensus around a film. I’m a unique person and I have my own unique thoughts. Especially with some very artistic films I may not respond to the risks taken the way others do.

So here is my list of movies others loved that I either thought were meh or didn’t like at all.

Denial- 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. I wonder if people are applauding the real life story and not the movie itself. I thought the screenplay was very poor at building the case, creating tension and making Deborah a likable character I could root for.

My ranking 111/143

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot- 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again- I don’t get Tina Fey. I don’t think she’s funny and her movies outside of Mean Girls have been terrible. Here is another. I didn’t believe any of the characters, some are in brown face and it’s a bunch of entitled white guys partying in Afghanistan without any insight beyond you can be a jerk anywhere.

My ranking 123/143

Swiss Army Man- 68% on Rotten Tomatoes but I’ve seen it on a lot of top 10 lists. I appreciate artistic risk but the screenplay was very poor. Instead of insight I got lots of bodily humor and the same supposedly enlightened ideas repeated over and over again. Not for me.

My ranking 113/143

Lights Out- 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d heard great things about this horror movie but I was very underwhelmed by it. It wasn’t scary and was so predictable. The actors try but only for schlocky horror fans

My ranking 109/143

Little Prince- 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. This is a watchable movie but is by nowhere near a 93% in quality. It was boring and preachy and didn’t do anything interesting until the end when it became weird and dystopian. It looks pretty but for most of it I thought it was lame

My ranking 105/143

The Lobster- 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The problem with this movie is it takes a Twilight Zone episode and stretches it to 2 hours. It’s clever premise became extremely frustrating for me as the message is repeated over and over again. I get it. Human beings are lonely and yet society is built on relationships; thereby ostracizing single people. You’d think I’d love that message being single but I became exhausted with the film after a while. I also felt when it ran out of ways to say the same thing it shocked you with sensuality. I really didn’t like it

My ranking 106/143

Jackie- 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. I guess I am a traditionalist when it comes to biopics. I didn’t like the way they turned Jackie into a robot. I felt disconnected from her which made the film feel extremely heavy handed. I know they are Camelot. Do we really need to hear the song played twice over montages of her drinking and trying on clothes? I guess others found this insightful. Not me, which is frustrating because I think she’s probably a very insightful person.

My ranking  91/143

Hail Cesear- 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m sorry but I think we have director bias here. I love the Coen Brothers but this film was a mess. The plot was all over the place and a lot of the comedic sequences weren’t funny like a long scene where Channing Tatum delivers a speech on a submarine? That wasn’t funny. Pretty much only part I liked was the Alden Ehrenreich segments.

My ranking 101/143

Other movies that I liked, sometimes quite a bit, but not as much as most people-  La La Land (23/143), Arrival (45/143), Edge of 17 (49/143), Nice Guys (73/143), Nocturnal Animals (64/143), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (84/143), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (85/143), Eye in the Sky (89/143).

Movies I thought were ok to great that others hated – Assassin’s Creed (94/143), Ghostbusters (77/143), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (69/143), Magnificent 7 (67/143), Allied (74/143), Miracles from Heaven (80/143), The Mermaid (81/143), Ratchet and Clank (98/143), Snowtime (92/143), Hologram for the King (95/143), RACE (99/143) and Star Trek Beyond (24/143)

I also didn’t think The Wild Life (122/143), Ben Hur (108/143), The Boss (107/143) or The Angry Birds Movie (102/143) were that bad; although they certainly had big problems.

So there you have it. What are your contrarian opinions on 2016 movies? What do you think is overpraised? What did you feel differently than most of your friends?

Hidden Figures Review

hidden-figures2Today I had the chance to see Hidden Figures, and I could just as easily title this blog- ‘doing what others so often fail to do in a bio-pic’. Rarely have I been to this type of film and the audience cheer loudly throughout. Of all the movies I’ve seen in 2016, Hidden Figures, is one of the most rewatchable and it is one I am eager for friends and family to go and see.

Hidden Figures tells the real life story of 3 African-American women at NASA as they prepared to send John Glenn around the earth. Some may dismiss it as a formula film but that is underselling some of the standout choices it makes. Most importantly it avoids theatrics and instead shows the smaller more systematic racism women like these 3 faced on a daily basis.

Most of these kinds of movies have the evil redneck racist who is gathering the KKK. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for that. There absolutely is but sometimes such violence can make the racism harder to relate to and in a way more easy to shake off. It’s more little things that can impact me more. For example, in one scene Katherine comes into a room and a man expects her to take out the trash. Might we still sometimes expect people of certain races to do such work? We shouldn’t and movies like Hidden Figures help remind us of that.

hidden-figuresThe 3 women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, are played by Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae respectively. They are all completely lovely as brilliant mathematicians and engineers who find a way to push through the systematic racism that existed everywhere at that time. Most of the people they work with would never consider themselves racists and yet they lazily engage in stereotyping and discrimination all the time.

It can be a very simple thing like using the bathroom, drinking communal coffee or more serious things like being made a supervisor or getting the information needed to do your job. I love movies about work and the way particularly the Octavia Spencer character Dorothy maneuvered her way through the office politics was very impressive and brilliant.

hidden-figures4Kirsten Dunst is great as a supervisor over the white computers. She thinks she is being respectful of Dorothy when she really isn’t. There is a scene between the two of them in a bathroom that is so well done.

I also liked Mahershala Ali as Katherine’s beau, Glen Powell as John Glenn and Jim Parsons as Katherine’s stick in the mud colleague Paul Stafford.

hidden-figures5I remember when I used to dread seeing Kevin Costner’s name in a film and now after McFarland USA and films like that I look forward to him. He’s great here as Katherine’s boss. He just wants the job done and this makes him a bit blind to what Katherine is going through, which leads to another scene the audience cheered at.

I guess if I was going to nitpick the movie, the only real flaw I had was the music. I felt they kept playing the same snappy Pharrell Williams song as a cheap way of saying ‘look how sassy these women are’. I grew a little tired of it.

But that is a very small complaint. This is a movie you can take your kids too. It’s PG after all and afterwards have a conversation about the small and big ways we discriminate against others. Talk about how these women were heroes and made a real difference to our country despite the challenges they faced.

hidden-figures3In some ways Hidden Figures reminded me of last year’s Brooklyn (except this is true story). Both are simple, old-fashioned storytelling, about important parts of our history. They both have great messages and wonderful performances you can’t help but like. This is more family friendly than Brooklyn but please do not dismiss it because it takes the crowd-pleasing approach. It’s honestly one of my favorite movies of 2016 and I hope it gets remembered come Oscars. Regardless, take your family and be inspired by Hidden Figures.

Overall Grade- A

Overlooked Films of 2016

Today I posted a video on films I think were underrated or overlooked in 2016. Some of these got good reviews but nobody saw. Some of them I think critics were a little tough on and others have a little of both. I’d love if you check out the video and let me know what you think.

Overlooked Films of 2016 (in no particular order)

The Dressmaker– Very weird messy revenge movie that I liked. Kate Winslet is great and Liam Hemsworth is very hunky in it. I can see why others wouldn’t like it but it was just strange enough to work for me.

Florence Foster Jenkins– A seemingly cloying underdog story that is so much more. There are a lot of subversive elements particularly in Florence and her husband’s unusual relationship. It’s heartwarming but also very sad.

13 Hours- I think if this wasn’t directed by Michael Bay it would have gotten a lot more credit. It was kind of lost in January but I think it is an absorbing visceral depiction of the events at Benghazi and not as political as you might think.

Bridget Jones’s Baby- Sure this film has a million cliches but it made me laugh harder than any film in 2016. Particularly any scene in the newsroom I thought was funny. It is an R rated comedy, like all the Bridget Jones movies, but I liked it.

Eddie the Eagle- Charming underdog sports movie with great performances from all involved. I was having the worst week when I saw this film and it really cheered me up. It’s a must see if you love inspirational true stories or are an Olympics fan.

London Road- It’s been the year of musicals and this is an underseen one. They take the unique approach of using police transcripts as the lyrics for the musical. It is a mystery and as the crimes are investigated we get to know all the citizens of London Road. Plus, Tom Hardy sings in it.

Kung fu Panda 3- This made a good amount at box office but I think it has largely been forgotten by most and I think that is a real shame. The animation was so beautiful and I loved the messages of adoption and Po learning to be a teacher. My favorite of the series.

Knight of Cups- My kind of art film by director Terrence Malick about the bad sides of entertainment and Los Angeles. The cinematography is gorgeous and the acting is top notch. It won’t be for everyone but I thought it was a lovely companion to Tree of Life.

Passengers- Recently this film received a lot of attention because of a plot element determined as ‘sexist’ by some. I disagree. The lead character makes a poor choice but I thought they established why he did this and gave him punishment for it. The movie looks gorgeous and the leads have great chemistry, which is important since it’s a romance.

Midnight Special- Where everyone else is flipping out over Arrival, I prefer Midnight Special. I love the way this film dives you right into the action and doesn’t waste time on exposition and backstory. I loved the acting and what it says about the way different people believe.

Queen of Katwe– A criminally underseen movie. It turns the Disney sports movie on its head by telling a story in Africa about an impoverished girl who learns to play chess. The acting is tremendous and I was impressed how dark and gritty Disney was willing to go. I was really moved by it and I think families should watch it.

Lion- Beautiful film about a boy who is lost in India and then years later works to find his family via Google Earth. I loved everything about this movie from the story, to the performances (especially the child actors), to the adoption message. It was perfect.

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life- I wish people could appreciate when a film is done well for a particular demographic. Why must every movie please every person? Anyway, this movie is made for the pre-teen crowd and it is made well. I really liked the way they integrated animation into the story and I thought the performances were heartfelt with a surprisingly emotional message about grief and loss.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople– More of a drama than a comedy for me but a very sweet film about a boy and his foster Dad who must explore the wilderness of New Zealand. I didn’t laugh as much as some but I liked these characters and performances. It has such a big heart and looks gorgeous.

Loving- A very different film than advertised. The court case is a small part of it. Most of the movie is about the couple and how they get through life’s struggles together. I really liked it. My only flaw is that it is a little hard to understand Edgerton sometime.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think? Let me know in the comment section and take care!

Ethel & Ernest Review

ethel-and-ernestAs much as I love complex movies that take large artistic risks, I also love simple movies that execute their vision well. Such is the case with the recent UK export Ethel & Ernest. What a lovely portrayal of a marriage and life. It might be too simple for some but that’s what makes is so special.

Ethel & Ernest is based on the graphic novel of the same name written by Raymond Briggs about the life of his parents. Starting in 1928, Ernest a simple milk man, falls in love with a house-maid named Ethel. They decide to get married and end up having a son named Raymond.

ethel-and-ernest2Their love is simple and yet it carries them through the tough times including the trials of World War 2. They work through these hardships together and we see Raymond grow into an adult making his own choices of love and a career. The whole thing is completely adorable and I defy anyone to not be able to relate to some part of their lives.

Some people might think such a story is boring but not me. I love seeing stories about life and it gives me hope that good things can come when life is hard. It gives hope that the life of simple men and women like Ethel and Ernest actually matter and that there is beauty in their simplicity.

ethel-and-ernest3The animation in Ethel & Ernest is a simple hand drawn water color style but I loved it. It was refreshing and added to the sense of wistful nostalgia in the story. The vocal work by Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn is top notch (two of my favorite actors). You really can’t imagine these characters with any other voices.

I guess if I was going to fault Ethel & Ernest it’s probably not something I will remember in 10 years, but I don’t know if I care about that. While I was watching it, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The music is also excellent including a new song by Paul McCartney!

So if you are looking for something to brighten your day and make you feel hopeful than give Ethel & Ernest a watch. I think you will really enjoy spending time with this wonderful couple and learning about their life together.

Overall Grade A-

Jackie Review

jackie32016 has been a tremendous year for indies. I have been disappointed by most of the franchise releases and found relief in indie films like Love and Friendship, Hell or High Water and Everybody Wants Some. However, not all the heralded indies have worked for me, and I’m afraid I have to add Pablo Larrain’s latest Jackie to the dislike pile. I can see why others are drawn to it but it actively irritated me with the choices it made.

jackieJackie tells the story of first lady Jackie Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband President John F Kennedy. Natalie Portman plays Jackie and we get to see her in different eras including in flashback guiding TV cameras through her recently renovated White House. Then we go back and forth between the day of the shooting, an interview 9 days later, and the planning of the funeral.

The problem is Pablo Larrain chose to portray Jackie as a flat emotionally distant character. I cannot understand why they decided to make her so robotic. I joked with a friend afterwards that I kept expecting it to turn into Westworld at the end and she be a robot. Even when she is saying emotional things it doesn’t feel emotional because of the robotic delivery. I got the impression that Larrain and the team didn’t like or admire Jackie very much to portray her in this way.

I’m really surprised this film is getting the praise it is because to me it made very heavy-handed decisions. Like do we really need to hear ‘Camelot’ played not once but twice over montages of Jackie drinking or smoking? Talk about laying it on thick…

jackie2In some ways you can tell Jackie is made by a non-American (Pablo Larrain is Chilean). It feels like if I were to go to a museum of Canadian history. It’s all important stuff and I am interested in it but I have no personal attachment to the events on display. That’s what Larrain’s treatment of Jackie felt like. She was cold, distant and thoroughly bland. She had to be more interesting than this script portrays her as!  There were a few moments where she manipulates the reporter that were satisfying but that’s about it.

There is a good line where she talks about how she never spent the night with her husband. Now that is a devastating revelation. That’s a revelation that could have been interesting to explore. This seemingly perfect couple that really wasn’t. But the film doesn’t dive into that. It merely keeps adding on the robotic scenes of her packing and insisting on having a Lincoln-like funeral for her husband.

Honestly, the longer the movie went on the more annoyed I got. It was so repetitive in its choices that it never engaged me. It seems a shame that such a fascinating woman would get such a dull, one-note portrayal. Sure it is well made and shot with accurate costumes/production values, but I did not enjoy watching it. I didn’t even think Portman was that good but it isn’t really her fault as the script and direction gives her little to work with.

Some people had issues with the storytelling of Sully this year but at least that was about  a fully fledged person with light and darkness, pain and joys. This is just a robot woman who happened to be first lady. Not for me

The whole time I kept wishing I could watch Grey Gardens instead. Now that has some characters! There is no way any woman related to them could be so boring.

Overall Grade- C-

I will say this is a very mild R rating with a couple of F words and some blood from the assassination.

Worst Movies of 2016

All right.  The gloves are out. It’s time to take out the trash with the worst films I saw in 2016! I still have some best movie candidates to see so that list may not be for a while but I felt pretty confident in the junk. So here goes! (this is very therapeutic for us film fans!)

15. Suicide Squad-

Incompetently made. Doesn’t feel finished. Hated the Joker. The first act of the movie is Amanda Waller sitting at a table looking at binder. Enchantress was horrible. The script was full of inconsistencies and problems. The fact it made so much money is proof people will see anything with a superhero label on it these days except Fantastic 4.

suicide squad cereal14. X-Men Apocalypse-

This movie annoyed me more than any other live action superhero movie of 2016. It had a fractured story interrupted by callbacks to better XMen movies. It ditches the metaphor that makes the franchise special in favor of a big boring villain in Apocalypse. This is the kind of movie that made me turn against superhero movies for 3 years after seeing Green Lantern. And we get to see Pyslocke in a skimpy outfit fighting at Auschwitz. Just no

xmen apocolypse213. The 5th Wave

One of the most cynical movies I saw all year. I hate these dystopian teen movies and this is one of the worst. It is violent and boring with a twist that is so obvious. None of the characters have any personality or heart to them especially the males. It’s awful. My only hope with it is that with it and Allegiant doing poorly we won’t be getting any more of them.

5th-wave12. God’s of Egypt

White washing issues proved to be the least of this movie’s problems. There is some ‘so bad it’s good’ enjoyment to be had here but holy cow this is awful. Everything is over the top and ridiculous and unintentionally humorous. The characters are inconsistent. Entire storylines do not matter and are forgotten by the script and the acting is hilariously bad.

gods of egypt411. Huntsman: Winter’s War

Sequels to bad movies are typically a bad idea and that is certainly the case with this movie. It can’t decide what it wants to be. It is part sequel, part prequel, part Frozen rip-off and all bad. The acting is awful from normally reliable actors like Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt. The production does look pretty good but the story makes no sense and you just feel embarrassed for all involved while watching.

huntsman-winters-war10. Mother’s Day

It’s a shame Garry Marshall had to leave us with this dud. He could be a great storyteller but this has nothing insightful to say about mothering or motherhood. All of the mothers depicted are caricatures who oddly do almost no mothering in the film. It wasn’t funny. The performances are awful and 2 parent characters are shockingly offensive and not in a funny way.

mothers-day9. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

I LOVE the original Greek Wedding film. It’s honestly one of my favorite comedies and so I was so disappointed by this sequel. It’s one of those sequels that decides to take anything that worked in the original and make it ten times bigger; thereby, ruining what worked so well. The acting was bad. The writing was bad and it really ticked me off.

greek wedding28. Nine Lives

There is some bizarre ‘how did this happen?’ value in Nine Lives but that’s about it. It’s one of the laziest movies of the year. They can’t even get the meowing right in your cat movie. The thing is the Kevin Spacey character isn’t a bad dad. He works a lot but he is actively trying to bond with his daughter and holds a meeting to decide on her birthday present. The script takes some bizarre turns and it’s incompetently made in every respect.

nine-lives7. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

This movie bored me more than any movie I can think of in a long time. I sat there hoping it would end. Every scene is characters explaining things to us and I just didn’t care. All the performances are flat and boring. Even Burton’s usual magical touches are nowhere to be found except for a scene with skeletons. He’s really lost all of his edge as a filmmaker. It makes me kind of sad.

peregrine46. Alice Through the Looking Glass

A follow up to the 2010 big hit was a miss at the box office for a reason. The story is beyond stupid with the catalyst for both films turning out to be a lie over tarts! #Tartgate. Johnny Depp is annoying in it and everyone else looks bored. There’s weird touches that come off as grotesque like vegetable people being eaten instead of magical. It is a joyless enterprise which is sad for Alice!

alice-through-the-looking-glass-poster-alice5. Me Before You

I admit this movie is well made but it really offended me. The assertion that suicide is a valid, even brave, choice for those dealing with quadriplegia is offensive and disgusting. We don’t see the lead character go to therapy or try living a full life. We just see the manic pixie dream girl hired to care for him take him to concerts and the beach and then his decision is supposed to be valid? How about you give him a job or help him contribute? It’s most morally repugnant film of the year

me before you64. Batman: the Killing Joke

Speaking of morally repugnant, I have another candidate in Batman: the Killing Joke. This movie takes the graphic novel and turns it into a disgusting portrait of female victimization. Barbara Gordon has no autonomy as a character. She is a tool for the screenwriters to move around whenever they need her to be raped, beaten, and demeaned. The gay character is embarrassing. The supposed relationship between Batman and Batgirl is right out of a soap opera and the interesting questions of the novel are barely addressed. The animation is also very mediocre.

Batman-The-Killing-joke-movie-poster3. Warcraft-

The most befuddling movie going experience of the year. I had no idea what was happening most of the time. I didn’t understand the world or the rules of the world. The characters all looked the same and the conflict between the two groups was confusing. It was boring and the acting was really bad especially from the human characters. I want to give it credit for its scope but I really cant because the story made no sense.

warcraft52. Norm of the North

Quite possibly the worst animated film I’ve ever seen in the theaters and I’ve seen Strange Magic and Home…Everything about this movie is awful. Awful story, characters, writing, jokes, sidekicks, villain, villain plan, animation, etc. You get the idea. It’s the stain on what was a pretty amazing year of animation. Only film I have nothing nice to say

norm1111. The Do-Over

I wish Adam Sandler could have a do-over on his career. This isn’t even a movie. It’s Sandler and his friends going on vacation and filming hateful stuff. The story is awful and mean-spirited. There isn’t one laugh. It’s misogynistic, hateful, homophobic, disgusting and the story is so flimsy it seems hard to believe anyone agreed to air it. It may go down as one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

the_do-over_poster

 

Current Mini Reviews

So there seems to never been enough time to write full posts on films I have seen (or maybe I just see too many movies). Anyway, I thought I would update you guys on a whole bunch of 2016 releases I have seen over the last month or so.

nocturnal-animalsNocturnal Animals-

A tough one for me to review and rank because most of my issues with it have to do with my own personal standards more than the movie quality. It was too violent and gratuitous for my taste. I found that ostracized me a bit from the characters. All the acting is terrific though especially Michael Shannon as the sheriff. It is very artistic and beautiful but I think other movies this year have explored similar themes and been a bit less heavy-handed but it is still a good film if you can stomach it.

Overall Grade- B (I’m really torn on a grade for this one so just read the review)

jason-bourneJason Bourne-

I waited until home rental to see this because the Bourne movies usually make me motion sick with all the shaky cam. Turns out I wasn’t missing much. Hollywood seems to think Edward Snowden and Wikileaks make for good action movies. News flash- those guys are sitting at computers and it’s not exciting.
Jason Bourne is a serviceable action movie but not nearly as innovative and exciting as the predecessors. A bunch of the characters sit at computer screens the entire movie. It reminded me a lot of last year’s Spectre. Some decent action set pieces and actors all trying but with a bland story.

Overall Grade- C-

things-to-comeThings to Come-

You will be hearing about this movie come my best of the year list. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. If you like slice of life movies, which I do, this is perfection. Isabelle Huppert is amazing playing a woman who’s life falls apart in every way. Her husband leaves her, her publisher cuts ties and her children move away, and yet it becomes this empowering experience. I am a Christian but this movie had a speech about agnosticism that made me tear up. It was honest for the character and beautiful.

Overall Grade- A+ (when I give A+ it just means one of my favorites of year)

eagle-huntressThe Eagle Huntress-

Another strong documentary for 2016. This tells the story of a young girl in Mongolia who becomes one of the first female Eagle huntress. I loved the family and the relationship between father and daughter.  The cinematography is beautiful. I have to admit reading up after made it sink a little bit but I still think it’s a terrific film. One you should watch with your daughters!

Overall Grade- A-

red-turtle10The Red Turtle-

Stunning is the best way to describe this animated film from Studio Ghibli and European studio.  It Feels like Isao Takahata and Tomm Moore had a baby (and if you know me, you know that is high praise!). Just beautiful and peaceful and wonderful. No dialogue but it didn’t need it. It is kind of a fairytale about fate and family. And the ocean…I fell in love.
My youtube review

www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaGSshv5FFE

Overall Grade- A+ One of my favorites of the year

swiss-army-manSwiss Army Man-

It’s like that weird guy in high school who is trying so hard to be cool. You want to say ‘dude, calm down’. It’s trying too hard to be smart and different that it ends up being boring and a little annoying.

Just because something hasn’t been done doesn’t mean that it should. I didn’t bond with either of the characters and it seemed to revert to bodily humor talk as a substitute for diving into the characters. Like seriously there are so many conversations about farts, masturbation, erections, poop and more. I guess others find this more insightful than I do? Radcliffe deserves credit for his performance but it’s not for me.

Overall Grade- C- just because of Radcliffe and the gumption of it but I really didn’t like it.

passengersPassengers-

I must admit I went into this with low expectations. I’d heard about how it was boring, cheesy and even offensive. Now I’ve seen the film I have to say I liked it! I think particularly the feminist criticisms have been blown out of proportion and I’m usually pretty sensitive to those concerns. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence have terrific chemistry in what is a sci-fi romance. He makes a bad choice but I don’t think the screenplay gets him off the hook. Michael Sheen is fun as a android bar tender and the film looks gorgeous. The production design is breathtaking. I also loved the music and to my surprise I wasn’t bored. Give it a shot and decide for yourself.

Overall Grade- B (the sensuality and nudity is on the strong side for a pg13 just so you know)

assassins-creedAssassin’s Creed-

Believe it or not this video game adaptation was on my most anticipated because of the cast and director. I’d heard how horrible it was but I had time so I saw it and I walked away having an ok time. I liked the sci-fi premise with the templers and assassins through time and the goofy ‘apple’ that takes away free will. To me that was just over the top enough to be fun. The action was pretty good. The special effects were pretty good and the cast was stellar including Michael Fassbender (who I adore), Marion Cotillard (who is a little flat tbh), Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons and the amazing Charlotte Rampling. It’s not a great movie but I think there is entertainment to be had in it. It’s certainly a billion times better than Warcraft.

Overall Grade- C

Let me know if you’ve seen any of these and what you thought! Thanks