This will be the page where I keep tabs on all of the films that I see in 2016! I will be starting keeping track with a few more weeks left in 2015! I am excited to continue to journal my film-going experience as inspired by Patton Oswalt and his book Silver Screen Fiend. I will once again keep track by rating them out of 5 stars. For my Summer in Film 2015, go to the drop down menu!
Mockingjay Part 2 (4 Stars)
Finally. It has been a wild ride with the Hunger Games franchise. From the shockingly massive success of the first one, to the shock and awe that the second one was somehow better than the first, to the bland but still entertaining third part 1, to a strong finale. I really enjoyed watching this movie. In fact, I will say that this is the only installment of the franchise where the movie is better than the book. I thought by adding more exposition to certain situations the film alleviated some of my criticism that I had for Mockingjay the book: it felt really rushed. I felt like I understood some of the decisions Katniss made more on screen than in the book. The frustrating end to the book series, while still upsetting, had a much deeper impact for me. As usual Jennifer Lawrence brings it. The supporting cast was great. My only criticism? We could have done this in one go around. I’d rather have a longer fantastic film than one mediocre place holder and a great film split in two. Imagine if this was different, how epic this would have been as one dynamite film. Either way: this franchise will be remembered as one of the best.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (4.5 Stars)
I love the Star Wars movies. Even the prequels. Yes, they have their faults and are not as good as the original trilogy but I still enjoy them. Star Wars: The Force Awakens kicks off the sequel trilogy like a jolt of lightning. JJ Abrams does a fantastic job. Rey is a badass heroine. Kylo Ren is a frightening villain. Poe Dameron is a badass. Finn is probably one of the best characters in the franchise. Han Solo and Leia are back. Chewie, C3PO and R2-D2 are back. BB-8 is a memorable droid. The movie is similar to A New Hope in certain ways but stands on its own in other ways. I won’t spoil the movie but it was thrilling, shocking at times, and downright enjoyable. The only thing keeping this from being perfect in my mind is that I had more fun watching another movie franchise break box office records and be straight up fun. I am of course talking about Jurassic World. That movie was a pure adrenaline rush and flat out fun. I think The Force Awakens is fun but takes itself a little seriously. It is however, a better all around film, hence the higher score than I gave JW.
Creed (4 Stars)
Confession time world, I have never actually seen any of the Rocky movies. Like none of them. G-Money (my dad) has watched them and loved them and tried and failed to get me into them when I was younger. As I’ve grown up and my taste in movies has evolved I am more open to more films now. So I took my dad to see Creed and was treated to one of the best sports films in a while. Michael B. Jordan is a force of nature and Sylvester Stallone was amazing reprising his signature role. The fight between Creed and Sporino was beautifully shot in this amazing single shot that varied between perspectives and bounced between the boxers. It was so great. This movie was well acted and well directed. Bravo! [Author’s Note 2/16/16 -> I finally saw all of the Rocky Movies. Here is my opinion best to worst including Creed: Creed, Rocky, Rocky III, Rocky Balboa, Rocky II, Rocky IV, Rocky V. For the curious]
San Andreas (2.5 Stars)
This is, by no means a great film, but I think it was a good one. The special effects were great, the film moved along at a good pace, and The Rock is in it. Also Alexandra Daddario. Also Carla Gugino. Seriously, a more attractive cinematic family has yet to be found. Also: I am rooting for the Rock to be one of our generation’s best action heroes. The guy is a badass. Also: check him out on Instagram because he seems like an awesome dude. If you are into disaster movies (like I am) check this one out. It is a solid one.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (3.5 Stars)
I have a love hate relationship with Tom Cruise. I kinda hate him as a person but man can the guy put together a good movie. The Mission Impossible franchise has been an interesting one. It started off strong but lost steam by the time the 3rd film came out. Then suddenly, Ghost Protocol comes out and it blew everyone away. I liked Ghost Protocol but I really liked Rogue Nation. The stakes felt higher and the characters were really put through their paces. The action was consistent and to be honest, Ilsa Faust is easily one of the biggest badasses of the year (check out the gif above for proof) and probably the most underrated. Everyone was talking about Charlize Theron and Furiosa but check out Ilsa. Jeremy Renner makes everything great in my opinion. Alec Baldwin is in this and he chews scenery here just like he does in every other thing he is in. A great cast, a great action film, and an all around great movie.
Deadpool (4 Stars)
Ryan Reynolds might be a friggin genius. Also the writers and directors. Technically speaking, there is nothing spectacular about the Deadpool movie. Seriously. Its shot like most other superhero movies. Nothing made me go, woah Tim Miller is breaking the mold with his shot choices! The difference is clearly in the script and the actors. Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool. The 4th wall breaks weren’t over done, they were done tastefully and comically. Deadpool stops by the X-Men home base at Xavier’s house: “Every time I come to this house you two are the only ones home. Its almost as if the studio couldn’t afford a bigger X-Men to appear in this movie.” “We talking Patrick Stewart Xavier or McAvoy Xavier?” The movie was funny, violent, foul mouthed, and over the top in some parts and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This is a fun movie. I highly recommend!
Zootopia (4.5 Stars)
I’m a sucker for a good Disney Movie, preferably of the Pixar variety but recently the House of Mouse has been on a roll all on their own. With Zootopia, I would say it can be confirmed that we are in the midst of the second “Disney Renaissance” (the first being from 1989-1999. Seriously look up the string of movies they released in that decade.) Starting in 2008 with Bolt, continuing with the return to hand drawn animation technique with The Princess and the Frog, the popular Tangled, a new Winnie the Pooh, the inventive Wreck it Ralph, the inescapable Frozen, the revelation that is Big Hero Six, and now Zootopia: Disney Animation Studios has once again become the gold standard in animation. The film’s premise is simple, animals have evolved and become civilized with predators and prey living in harmony. Not all is as it seems as the animals rely on stereotype and distrust in their interactions. The films message is not subtle and that is obviously intentional. Zootopia is an allegory for racism and prejudice and the films release is timely. The animation is gorgeous and the humor is great. Their take on the Godfather is brilliant. My only criticism is that the plot becomes a little formulaic and predictable. However its delivery and execution is well handled. This is an excellent, parody, message, animated, film. I highly recommend it.
007: Spectre (3 Stars)
I know a lot of people who dislike this movie. I disagree. While this is not the strongest Bond film or my favorite Bond film, I really enjoyed it. There was a part in the middle that got a little snoozy but I get why the film went there for the sake of the narrative. I am talking about the love story between Bond and Dr. Swann. If they just magically were lovers it would have felt inorganic. It was more believable by the end that he had feelings for her. I also know that the reveal was kind of a non starter like the Khan reveal in Star Trek Into Darkness but I am not a Bond purist so it didn’t matter to me. The cinematography was beautiful. This is a sharp looking movie. I also enjoyed the action. It is a solid film.
Mr. Holmes (4 Stars)
I really enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes played by Robert Downey Jr. They were fun films. This film is kind of the opposite in tone from those films. Here, Sir Ian McKellen plays an elderly real life Holmes that Dr. Watson writes about and fictionalizes the stories. One story displeases Holmes and he can’t remember why. He tries to remember the case and along the way bonds with his Housekeeper and her son. This film is brilliantly acted by McKellen and Laura Linney. This film is not action packed but it packs an emotional punch. It is a bit plodding, so if you do not like a straight up drama, this is not the Holmes film for you. Regardless, I really enjoyed it.
The Jungle Book (4 Stars)
Fun fact time: I love the original Jungle Book. Baloo and Bagheera are two of my favorite Disney characters ever. I have fond memories of watching this movie as a child. So I was really apprehensive when I found out that they were making a live action/CGI hybrid of the film. A little more skeptical but admittedly excited when I saw that the film was dark and brooding. This is a children’s movie but it really doesn’t shy away from the animal on animal violence and the like. The narrative is strong here. This film is an improvement over the cartoon version (but nostalgia will always win out). The action is fantastic. Neel Sethi is phenomenal as Mowgli. His performance made even more impressive once you realize he was literally acting against a giant green screen. Highlights include Christopher Walken’s rendition of “Wanna Be Like You,” Scarlett Johansson’s creepy, slinky performance as Kaa, and Idris Elba as Shere Khan. Elba’s voice is positively menacing! I only wished the film kept the elephant song and Kaa’s song in the film. Otherwise, this is a fantastic film that will make you a believer in the magic of film. Technically, it is a serious achievement.
Sisters (3 Stars)
I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. They are two very funny people who have made three of my favorite funny shows (30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Parks and Recreation) and a few funny films together (Mean Girls, Baby Mama). I was dialed in for this one. Confidently directed by Jason Moore (of Pitch Perfect fame), the movie is a solid comedy entry for all involved. I really enjoyed this movie, but it isn’t the funniest movie I have ever seen, but certainly not the worst. The film has a strong narrative and develops the characters well against the back drop of adults throwing one last wild banger. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play characters that go against the type both typically play, Tina usually the responsible one and Poehler the wild child, which was a nice touch to the film. I enjoyed some of the comedy but like I said, some of it didn’t really work well. A standout is John Cena as a drug dealer. I recommend this for a light and fun viewing experience.
Captain America: Civil War (4 Stars)
(SPOILER ALERT) I have a lot of thoughts about Captain America: Civil War. I should start by saying that I think I am starting to get a little fatigued with superhero movies in general. Especially the Marvel films that tend to be formulaic, strong, but formulaic. With that being said, Civil War totally disregards the formula (a good thing) of previous films and pits our heroes against each other. I’m going to say it: upon further reflection I wish Avenger’s: Age of Ultron didn’t happen. This would have been a killer second Avengers film. I felt that this was more of an ensemble that tended to focus occasionally on Captain America and not fully his own film. There was a lot of Iron Man here. I was also left wanting a little more when it came to the Winter Soldier story line. The action set pieces were strong. The airport fight scene and the stairwell fight scenes were some of the strongest in the entire MCU. Spiderman’s appearance totally restored my faith in the future of the web head. He was handled perfectly. Black Panther stole the show. T’Challa is a badass. Paul Rudd as Ant-Man also had a strong and comedic appearance. Every hero had their moment though. To be honest, I felt that Agent 13’s appearance and subsequent love story with Steve Rogers was underdeveloped. Their kiss felt a little forced for me. I wanted a better explanation for how Stark knew about Spiderman because that didn’t quite feel organic. It would have made more sense had they recruited Daredevil since he is two seasons in on Netflix. Marvel still has a villain problem. The villain here literally just pulled some strings and nothing more. His plan was a little near sighted. Successful but near sighted. I hope they are setting him up for more but I doubt it. Crossbones was awesomely set up in Winter Soldier and not used effectively at all. The revelation of the other Winter Soldiers was awesome, had potential, and promptly put down. It was very anticlimactic. The twist in Cap 2 with SHIELD having been infiltrated by HYDRA was shocking and brilliantly pulled off. The twist here, with Cap knowing that Bucky killed Stark’s parents was not as devastating for say, Scarlet Witch, but much more emotionally devastating and I was shocked Cap knew. The wedge has permanently divided Cap and Stark. The overall film was very entertaining and very fun. The humor comes through at the right moment, the action sequences hit hard, and the themes were lofty and interesting. I really enjoyed it. However, I still believe that no superhero film has matched the heights of Christopher Nolan’s epic The Dark Knight. I said it.
Batman Vs. Superman (3 Stars)
(SPOILERS)I really do not know why people were putting this film down as low as they were. Is it perfect? No. Is it enjoyable? Hell yes. Is it better than Civil War? No. Is it still a good movie? In my opinion it is. I found it really enjoyable. Let me get the negative out of the way. There is an extended dream/vision sequence that has no payoff at the end. Get rid of that. It was unnecessary. It might be setting up future DCU films but Snyder sacrificed the current films structure to do some universe building which wasn’t necessary. Even the cameos from the other Justice League heroes could have been cut. The Universe building needs to be subtle, you can’t just throw the kitchen sink at us. Second: for a film called Batman Vs Superman they only fight once. Its epic and awesome, but once. I would have liked a little more action between them. Batman isn’t dumb. He wouldn’t have just left the kryptonite spear laying around and it literally served as a device to almost drown Lois. Jesse Eisneberg was okay as Lex Luthor. It might just be me but whenever I see him on screen I think of Zuckerburg and I can’t shake it. I loved Batman and Ben Affleck. He was brutal as the older grumpy Batman (a personal favorite of mine). Jeremy Irons is always in fine form. I still like this version of the Man of Steel. Gal Gadot is mysterious and awesome as Wonder Woman, I am looking forward to that film. I also appreciate that DC went where Marvel doesn’t have the balls to go: they killed a major superhero. Do I believe it will stay that way? No, I read the comic and the film teases Superman’s return. However, they did it. Who has Marvel killed? Quicksliver, ooooh. I think the overall plot by Lex works. I think his backup plan works here. I appreciate the film tackling the idea that Superman is an alien who destroyed a part of a city and he has to answer for that. This movie worked! I can’t believe people hated on it this much!
Macbeth (4 Stars)
Fun fact: Macbeth is my favorite play by Shakespeare. Its dark and brooding. Its violent and twisted. Its short. That is why I liked it when I read it in High School. When I heard there was going to be a new film adaptation, I was pretty excited. I was even more thrilled to hear that Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard would be playing the Macbeths. Both of them are fine actors and they are great in this faithful adaptation. I am a sucker for color and contrast and the film had some brilliant scenes. The ending of the film is tinted bright orange due to a fire and the scenes that take place there are awesome to look at. Some of the shots chosen by the director, Justin Kurzel are really cool. I recommend this film for the Shakespeare enthusiast and film nerd alike. (Side Note: I have been giving a lot of films 4 stars recently. I feel like there have been some great stuff coming out but nothing has really made me rave yet this year or made me regret seeing.)
X-Men: Apocalypse (2 Stars)
(MILD SPOILERS) Okay. This is the fourth superhero/comic based film of the year. The X-Men will always have a special place in my heart for 3 reasons. 1.) The animated show was awesome. 2.) The themes have the potential to be powerful and relatable and some of the previous films really hit on that. 3.) The first film changed the game for superhero films and laid the groundwork for some of the later films. X-Men: Days of Future Past was so freaking brilliant. I was seriously excited for this film based on the fact that the same team was making this one, with Bryan Singer at the helm again. I sat on this rating for a while and it was difficult to grade. I really wanted to like this movie. It just does not meet the (extremely) high bar its predecessor set. I’ll get the constructive feedback out of the way. There are parts of the film that just don’t work for me or are underwhelming. As cool as the Wolverine scene was, can we do an X-Men movie without him? He’s been done to death and there are trillions of X-Men you can use. Also: his scene was great, why spoil that he was in this movie in the trailer? It took away a surprise that would have been a real treat. Some of the choices by Singer and the actors just don’t work or are overacted, I am looking at you McAvoy and Fassbender! The story itself happens in the span of 2 days. I feel like that is not enough time to develop any of the characters or have them move through any story arc that would be worthwhile. Like it really took a day for Mystique to just do a 180 after being so steadfast in her beliefs? Okay then. Also: you put Jubilee in the movie and didn’t freaking use her? Then you finally can do Angel/Archangel and you kill him. Are you serious?!?! I enjoy when superhero movies have the guts to kill their heroes but when a character from the comics isn’t done right TWICE now, its kind of annoying. With that being said, Oscar Isaac really did his best with a blah script. The young X-Men characters were standout, including Sophie Turner as Jean Grey (aside: she is going to be a superstar). The Quicksilver scene was great but I hope they don’t overdo this in every X-Men film now. Some of the action sequences were great (mainly anything involving Olivia Munn’s badass, stoic Psylock!). Here’s hoping Matthew Vaughn comes back to the franchise and reinvigorates it again.
Ghostbusters (3 Stars)
So I saw this new Ghostbusters film that everyone was all up in arms over. I enjoyed it. I really don’t understand the hate for it. I get that its a classic franchise that was rebooted and its different but the talent on this film is great. The outcome was a silly, funny film that I really enjoyed. Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones were the scene stealers here. This is fun little film, don’t hate.
Suicide Squad (2.5 Stars)
DC. We need to talk. I have had high hopes for their films and they seem to all have one thing in common. A wonderful set up, some great moments, and then some irking thing happens. “Martha” comes to mind for BvS. Here its the silly finale with a slo-mo gun toss and no real stakes for one of the characters. Additionally, the freakin BET Joke made by Killer Croc was unnecessary. It was annoying. Rick Flagg was unlikable. The Joker wasn’t necessary and would have been better if he stayed in the flashbacks. The rest of the film was fun. Will Smith is great. Margot Robbie was fun. They killed a character, I love when the superhero movies prove there is some stakes. Viola Davis is the real winner here as Amanda Waller. She steals the show and chews the scenery.
Sausage Party (2.5 Stars)
I was taken to this movie and I was open minded about it. Its kinda funny, its raunchy, its a mind-fuck, its a lot to take in. I’ll leave it at that.
The Revenant (5 Stars)
Jesus this movie was intense. Absolutely phenomenal, but intense. Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu is a wonderfully talented director. Finally Leo gets an Oscar. A well deserved, overdue Oscar. The atmosphere in this film was one of dread, a sense of urgency, and an unwavering drive to avenge loved ones. I loved the visuals of this film. I loved how the weather played a role in the film too. I almost felt the cold come through the screen. Some of the scenes with Leo started getting a little laughable with what he was going through, but it nonetheless comes through with a satisfying conclusion.
The Hunting Ground (3 Stars)
This is a film that is really relevant to what I do for a living. This documentary does have some questionable sources. However, a lot of it is well researched and presented in a frustrating and compelling way. It is a great film that accurately describes whats going on with college campuses in America. We need to make some changes people! Great watch, its on the Netflix!
Doctor Strange (3 Stars)
Marvel has another hit on their hands! Yawn. I am inundated with super hero movies. I enjoyed this film but the bar is so high that even when the film clears the “good” threshold it just doesn’t do too much for me anymore. Dr. Strange is a great movie, visually. It is different than most other films that have come out of the MCU. I did not like Dr. Strange as a character. Tony was always a redeemable asshole who still had a heart. I didn’t quite get that from Stephen Strange. I didn’t feel like his arc was strong enough to be redeemed and to be deemed a master. That being said, I think there is potential here and for future installments. Rachel McAdams is always welcomed, Chiwetel Ejiofor is gonna be kick ass in the sequels, and I love Benedict Wong. Fun movie.
Kung Fu Panda 3 (4 Stars)
Fun fact: I love the Kung Fu Panda series! They are so much fun. If you liked the first two you will enjoy this one. I love how the story keeps progressing in a direction that makes sense and pushes the characters, Po being the focus. Exploring his family was a great idea and I am glad the story incorporates the importance of the panda colonies in the film. Oogway, Shifu, the Furious Five, and the villain were all great. The voice actors are great. This film is just fun and funny. Check it out.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (4 Stars)
The Wizarding World triumphantly returns! I really loved this movie. Newt is a different sort of hero played well by Eddie Redmayne. The characters were a little underdeveloped but other than that, this film works well. The creatures were cute, scary, awesome, and amazing. The designs were perfect. I love that the film stands alone in certain ways (think MACUSA, the location, the characters, etc.) but factors into the overall Harry Potter universe in a great way. There were two little twists that were squeezed into the story and worked really nicely. Go check it out!
Moana (5 Stars)
So back when I wrote my review of the Disney film Zootopia I mentioned feeling like Disney was on a roll, knocking every animated film out of the park. Well, I am here to confirm that Moana is another grand slam. This is one of the most beautifully animated films I have ever seen in my life. At one point there is a close up of Maui’s skin, to one of his tattoos and the texture was pretty stellar. The animation of the water was also wonderfully done. This is a bright and beautiful film with a strong empowering message. I highly suggest it. The Second Disney Renaissance is upon us!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (3.5 Stars)
So Rogue One. I thought this movie was really good, but not great. My main issue with it was that the characters, aside from Jyn, were pretty underbaked. A lot of the supporting cast of characters didn’t really get a lot of development and it made me not very connected to them. So when some of the events happened I wasn’t very attached or invested into the outcome. This is in stark contrast to Episode 7, which instantly made you invested into the new characters and what they were experiencing. With that being said, Gareth Edwards directed the hell out of this movie. The action sequences were absolutely awesome. The movie had some good humor running throughout and the stakes were pretty high. The ending scene, which sets up A New Hope perfectly, was some pretty great fan service with Darth Vader. I saw the film on the eve of Carrie Fisher’s death (RIP Space Queen!) and was pretty excited to see the young Carrie Fisher pop up. On the other side of that coin, was Tarkin whose CGI resurrection was a little freaky and not really necessary, especially when they re-cast Mon Mothma so well. They couldn’t do that for Tarkin? The blind guy? Totally badass (see what I am saying about the characters? I don’t even remember his name.) Either way: It definitely made me excited for Episode 8.
Star Trek Beyond (4 Stars)
So this was clearly the best Star Trek film out of the new series. It was a tough call though because they are all really great. Shout out to Simon Pegg for writing the script and for starring as Scotty. He did great in both roles. The film also pays great homage’s to the recently passed Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin and it was very touching. The story progressed really well. The characters are continued to be well developed. The new characters were as well. Jaylah is a great new addition to the franchise and compliments the group really well. I hope they bring her back in a sequel. Krall as a villain wasn’t bad, his motivation was a little extreme, but I guess that is a good characteristic for a psychopath villain to have. The action sequences were nicely done. The crashing of the enterprise was pretty thrilling. I also enjoyed Zoe Saldana’s fight sequences and she continues to be the Queen of Science Fiction (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Star Trek. Amiright?!?) Looking forward to more from this franchise.