Pencilstorm contributor Rob Braithwaite is watching 366 movies this year, so you don't have to, here is part ten of his continuing 2016 rundown......
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = I can’t see giving anything that I’ve seen once five stars
★ ★ ★ ★ = get to the theater / move it up in your queue
★ ★ ★ = “three stars is a recommendation” - The Empire [magazine] Podcast
★ ★ = if the remote is too far away, you could do worse
★ = if the remote is too far away, get someone to move it closer then throw it at the TV
Approaching the Unknown (2016) ★
stars: Mark Strong, Luke Wilson, Sanaa Lathan
writer/director: Mark Elijah Roseberg
Some genius learned how to make water from dirt, so he’s going to Mars!
[singing] Here are a few of the terrible things:
The dialogue is awful. At times the narration is from the astronaut’s memoir in-process, working lines over until he gets it right. “This is a one way trip to Mars. I’m not going there to die; I’m going there to live!” He nailed that on his first attempt.
The logic of the mission seems cost prohibitive. First, the genius goes up, by himself. Three weeks later another solo fight to Mars will take off. He will set up the water machine. The other pilot will arrive to establish the barracks or something. They couldn’t go together? Maybe with a few other personnel to help lift things?
The genius constructed his machine within the ship and is constantly tinkering with it. Of course he breaks it.
Video conferencing isn’t as delayed as we know it do be. Calls from Earth to outer space are a little glitchy but you can have a normal conversation. One time the genius wakes from a nightmare and called the other ship to talk. If there was a crew, he could have leaned over the side of the bunk, “Hey, Jones, you awake?” “Yes, genius. How could I sleep with all your thrashing about up there.” “Sorry. I’m a little panicked.” “I would be too. Just because you can remove hydrogen and oxygen from Earth dirt to make water doesn’t mean it will work with Mars dirt.” “Shit, hadn't thought of that.” “…I hate you.”
watch The Martian instead
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
writers/stars: Adam Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer
directors: Akiva Schaffer, Joma Taccone
Former boy band star and breakout solo phenom Conner is set to release his second album. It does not go well. Hilarity ensues, even if you don’t know anything about hippity-hop or what a Belieber is.
double feature pairing: This Is Spinal Tap
The Lobster (2015) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Coleman
director: Yorgos Lanthimos
It is unlawful to be unmarried. If you are found to be single, you have 45 days to find a mate, otherwise you are turned into an animal of your choosing.
The trailer, presenting a quirky romantic comedy, hides the darkness of the movie’s true nature. The world building is amazing. No examples. You should experience it for yourself.
double feature pairing: The Beaver
All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Russ Solomon
director: Colin Hanks
The title says it all. It’s a fascinating story.
double feature pairing: Empire Records
Burnt (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl
director: John Wells
Tell me if you’ve heard this before: A talented chef self-destructs with booze and drugs then sobers up for a comeback years later.
Yep, this movie is going to tell you again. Thankfully, there’s a turn or two that keeps it on a path that not completely trampled. The chef, for instance, has a large debt to some shady characters. We are spared the shakedown and beating scenes.
It’s a good cast. And it ain’t doin’ nuthin’ to nobody. It’s fine.
Oh, I just remembered how it almost had an interesting ending, but there was more run time so they pulled bullshit out of their ass and got back to the completely trampled path.
Still, it’s fine.
tv pairing: Kitchen Confidential
Lebanon (2009) ★ ★
stars: Yoav Donat, Itay Tiran, Oshri Cohen
writer/director: Samuel Maoz
The first day of the First Lebanon War is seen through the inside of a tank and through its scopes.
Trapping the audience in the tank an interesting way to tell the story, even though it’s a tough vantage point to keep it interesting. The second the gun scope zoomed in to catch the horrors of war, I pretty much checked out. The gunner had a great turning radius so he didn’t miss a thing.
watch Phone Booth instead
Zootopia (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idria Elba
directors: Bryon Howard, Rich Moore
A bunny wants to be a cop. She’s told that bunnies aren’t cops. She becomes a cop yet is not respected. She takes on a missing persons case with the help of a con-fox. Life lessons ensue.
Take that, racism! Genuinely funny. And, in cartoon fashion, ends with a rousing song and dance number that you don’t need to watch.
double feature pairing: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Lambert & Stamp (2014) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Christopher Stamp, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey
director: James D. Cooper
If you are a fan of The Who, then you’ve got a couple guys to thank for sponsoring and nurturing the group’s early days. If you aren’t, well, it’s still a great story
double feature pairing: School of Rock
Knuckleball! (2012) ★ ★ ★
stars: Tim Wakefield, R.A. Dickey
directors: Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg
There were only two knuckleball pitchers in major league baseball during the 2011 season. Tim Wakefield enjoyed the stability of being with Boston for 15 years. R.A. Dickey struggled to find a permanent home where his pitch was welcome.
There’s no showdown between them or a dramatic reveal. It’s simply a look at a pitch that isn’t respected and the guys trying to make a career with it.
double feature pairing: Bull Durham
I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982) ★ ★ ★
stars: Walter Matthau, Dinah Manoff, Ann-Margret
director: Herbert Ross
Clunky Exposition Alert! Libby explains to her grandmother’s grave that she will be traveling to Los Angeles. She wants to be an actress and thinks her screenwriting father, out of her life since she was three, can help. Turns out she wanted to get to know her dad more, and he’s better off that she did. duh.
Neil Simon, not unlike the Coen Brothers, has a pattern to his writing that is his alone. It has a shtick feel about it that doesn’t age too well. I’m still entertained and amused by it. But that music, oof. A piano and stringed instruments, tickling and plucking along. It’s like water torture.
double feature pairing: Matchstick Men
Leviathan (2014) ★ ★ ★
stars: Aleksey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov
director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
A man fights to save his ancestral home from a corrupt mayor’s desire for the land. This is not going to end well.
…or quickly. There is so much character build-up needed that not knowing more than this was a good movie made it feel longer. I was waiting for that moment that got everything rolling. Rather, more and more was weighed upon this guy until he is ultimately crushed. It’s nothing new to present government and organized religion as corrupt. It is unique to suppose that it is God’s will.
double feature pairing: A Serious Man
The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago
director: Juan José Campanella
Still obsessed with an unsolved murder and the woman who got away, a retired federal agent tries to write a book about the case to find closure, which brings him closer to those two things that I already mentioned at the beginning of this sentence.
This is an excellent emotional thriller. The action sequence at the soccer (sorry, football) match is impressive. Other good things can be gleaned below from the bad things said about the remake (#152).
double feature pairing: Dead Zone
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2013) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Shep Gordon
directors: Beth Aala, Mike Myers
Shep Gordon is a manager like no other and seemingly one of the greatest people alive. He’s managed Alice Cooper for over 40 years, as well as many other acts. He is inventive (How he got people interested in Anne Murray is incredible.) and visionary (He created the celebrity chef as we know it).
double feature pairing: Parenthood
The Trouble with Spies (1987) ★
stars: Donald Sutherland, Lucy Getteridge, Ned Beatty
director: Burt Kennedy
It’s been about a week since I saw this. Can't really remember why things were happening. A bumbling spy was sent to find a missing spy. Ruth Gordon was there. There was a good joke or two. I think the script said “Just slap some images together for 90 minutes. And some naked ladies if you got them.”
In one scene, the bumbling spy came across a vicious guard dog. He left. Drove back to his hotel room. Took part in another scene or two. Grabbed a towel from his room. Returned to the guard dog and wrapped his arm in the towel for the dog to bite into. …I am baffled.
watch The Man Who Knew Too Little instead
The Intern (2015) ★ ★
stars: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway
director: Nancy Myers
Clunky Exposition Alert! [speaking into camera] Old Man is retired. He has tried to keep busy but feels he has more to offer. That’s why he is making this video application for an internship, specifically looking for senior citizens, to work for a upcoming online store with an overworked CEO.
There are those nonthreatening piano keys and violin strings again. Like nails on a chalkboard.
Is it progress that the “magical black man” role is played by an old white man? Or is it problematic because the movie doesn’t think an old black man could have had a successful business career for forty years?
watch In Good Company instead
Rock the Kasbah (2015) ★
stars: Bill Murray, Leem Lubany, Zooey Deschanel
director: Barry Levinson
This text appears just before the end credits: Dedicated to Setara Hussainzada, who had the courage to sing and dance on Afghan Star.
OK, great. Why didn’t we see that movie? Why tell a story about a shady rock promoter who finds himself stranded in Afghanistan, which allows him to discover a girl (more than half way through the movie) who he gets on Afghan Star?
This movie was bad before I saw the dedication. Before, I wondered why it was in Afghanistan at all. Maybe it was originally set in America, only changing when they learned about Setara. There are over-protective fathers here. There are gangs. There are hookers. And there are singing competitions.
watch Ishtar instead
The China Syndrome (1979) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas
director: James Bridges
A news crew captures a near meltdown at a nuclear power plant on film, causing concern from nuclear power protesters and the corporation that own the plant.
NO NUKES! NO NUKES! NO NUKES!
double feature pairing: WarGames
Tumbledown (2015) ★ ★
stars: Rebecca Hall, Jason Sudeikis, Blythe Danner
director: Sean Mewshaw
Some singer/songwriter dies after one “amazing” sad sack album. The album is so amazing that it creates a community that obsesses over him. An author teams up with the widow to write the singer/songwriter’s biography.
At first, this looked intent to steer clear of the typical romantic comedy resolution. The author had a serious girlfriend with no negative traits. He got to address some of his issues. The widow got some closure and moved on. And then… the author dumps his girlfriend for some reason, and the widow races into his arms.
watch The Woman in Black instead
Faults (2014) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Leland Orser, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
writer/director: Riley Stearns
Ansel had a career deprogramming those who had lived in cults. Currently on a huge downswing in life, he jumps at the chance to help a desperate couple with their daughter.
You can probably guess how it plays out in the end — Who knows? Maybe it could be different. Keep watching — but it is well-crafted with good performances.
double feature pairing: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Now You See Me 2 (2016) ★.5
stars: Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan
director: Jon M. Chu
The Fast and Furious of magician movies, Now You Don’t (which is what this sequel should have been called) has a little fun. Lizzy Caplan and Woody Harrelson have some nice moments. Sadly, it’s too cartoonish to be enjoyable. Or, good, actually.
watch Ocean’s Eleven instead
Secret in Their Eyes (2015) ★ ★
stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts
director: Billy Ray
The U.S. remake of The Secret in Their Eyes (#143) is pretty much the same story except the changes made diminish the impact.
The scope of the story is narrowed. The murder victim is now the daughter of a fellow agent. Of course the victim’s relation would maintain, but it really shouldn’t have the same hold on the former agent. Originally, he can’t shake the case because he had never seen the level of love that he had seen in the boyfriend. And that level of devotion played into the his affections for his boss, longing for that connection with her.
The ending tries to have it both ways. It retains the original’s ending. For a few minutes. Then it brings in the “American” ending.
watch The Secret in Their Eyes instead
152/366 movies (22 movies off pace)
20/52 movies directed by women
THE TOP THREE