Pencilstorm contributor Rob Braithwaite is watching 366 movies this year, so you don't have to: Here is part thirteen 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
Captain Fantastic (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler
writer/director: Matt Ross
A family has gone Amish, rejecting modern society until something is needed that their utopian lifestyle can't provide. The mother’s situation forces her husband and six children to return to the dirty, dirty city.
A rare case where I liked the trailer more than the movie itself. The movie isn’t bad. I might have recommended it if it weren’t for its self-analysis and reliance on small children to say mature things for humor.
watch The Mosquito Coast instead
Into the Forest (2015) ★.5
stars: Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood
writer/director: Patricia Rozema
Two sisters hole up in their home in the forest while they wait for the power grid to come back on.
The mystery of the statewide, probably worldwide, loss of power is unspecified [I'd like to think this was the reason] and one of the practical reasons why they stay put. The sludge pace tested my patience. I was expecting a turn at some point that would help shake my interest awake until the end. It never happened.
I like the story. However, nothing is a surprise. You don’t have to watch wet paint to know that it eventually dries.
watch Cabin in the Woods instead
It Happened One Night (1934) ★ ★ ★
stars: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly
director: Frank Capra
A scrappy reporter hitches his wagon to a spoiled socialite on the run.
The quintessential romantic comedy that sill delivers some laughs.
double feature pairing: The Hudsucker Proxy
Jason Bourne (2016) ★ ★
stars: Matt Damon, Alicia Vickander, Tommy Lee Jones
director: Paul Greengrass
“It’s Jason Bourne. Jesus Christ!”
- some government wank who was not expecting to see “a ghost.” Also a fair representation of the movie's innovation of story and action.
You’ve seen it before. Why not just watch it again?
watch The Bourne Identity instead
Sing Street (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor
writer/director: John Carney
A boy starts a band to impress a girl.
Yeah, what Ricki C says. It’s great.
“The belabored boat allegory at the end was too much for me.” — Professor Nitpick.
double feature pairing: The Commitments
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess
director: Howard Hawks
The owner of a cargo company in South America risks his and the lives of his pilots for a business-saving contract.
It’s like Wings but a dramatic movie. Stories and characters intertwine for a bigger picture. The miniatures are impressive.
double feature pairing: Always
Bigger Than Life (1956) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: James Mason, Barbara Rush, Walter Matthau
director: Nicholas Ray
A miracle drug cures an ailing man, leaving him with a pill addition and altered personality.
double feature pairing: Limitless
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) ★ ★ ★
stars: Robert Montgomery, Claude Rains, Evelyn Keys
director: Alexander Hall
A boxer's soul is taken too soon, so, until a proper replacement body is found, it is sent into the body of man just murdered by his wife and lover.
This was remade as Heaven Can Wait. From what I remember of that, the two versions don't differ much. If you watch the black and white version, you are more sophisticated.
double feature pairing: Oh! Heavenly Dog
Suicide Squad (2016) ★ ★
stars: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis
writer/director: David Ayer
The government creates a team of bad guys to keep the good guys in check. Allegedly.
My incredibly low expectations (Thank you, Batman v Superman w/ Special Appearance by Wonder Woman.) got me through the first third. The rest... it just isn't a good movie. The story is bad. There is much that seems to have been cut out, resulting in unclear motivations and plotting. There are some good moments. Ultimately, it’s like a fireworks show. You can “ooo” and “ahhh” at it, but there's nothing substantive.
Marvel has shown how well superhero movies can be done. I hope DC is learning how on a very short curve. Reshoots weren’t going to save Suicide Squad. Next year’s Wonder Woman and Justice League movies will be better indicators of DC’s ability to compete with Marvel. I’m rooting for them.
watch The Dirty Dozen instead
The Long Goodbye (1973) ★ ★ ★
stars: Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden
director: Robert Altman
Phillip Marlow is on the case.
I watched the whole thing. It’s fine.
double feature pairing: Inherent Vice
Palio (2015) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: horses, jockeys
director: Cosima Spender
The Palio is a horse race that has taken place in Siena, Italy for nearly 800 years. It is soaked with tradition and rivalries. The race’s structure and open corruption are fascinating.
double feature pairing: The Black Stallion
The Spy in Black (1939) ★ ★.5
stars: Conrad Veidt, Valerie Hobson, Sebastian Shaw
director: Michael Powell
A German submarine commander goes undercover in World War One Scotland to discover the location of the British fleet.
They pull some bullshit out of their ass for things to go UK’s way. It’s not bad but not that engaging either.
watch The Man with One Red Shoe instead
Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Frank Zappa
director: Thorsten Schütte
Interviews and news clips are compiled to present Frank Zappa’s career.
I still don't like Frank Zappa’s music much, but I understand his approach a little better. He was a smart and funny guy with strong convictions. I'm not sure he'd want to be around for the political insanity that's happening now, but I wish he was. He'd have great things to say and people would give him a platform to say them.
Since the movie is solely compiled of archive footage, the movie is limited in exploring moments of Zappa’s career. The Zappa fan I saw it with told me his experience with the London Orchestra was not as smooth has the movie’s footage would have you believe. There’s another Zappa documentary coming next year. Perhaps that one will be more of the talking head type, which can go deeper than what was caught on camera.
double feature pairing: We Are Twisted Fucking Sister!
Sausage Party (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton
directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon
Take that religion!
double feature pairing: Hot Dog... The Movie
Men & Chicken (2015) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: David Dencik, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas
writer/director: Anders Thomas Jensen
Two brothers learn that they were adopted after their father dies. Their true origins are frightening and funny.
I think this would have been even funnier if I spoke Danish. Kinda miss out on the rhythm and visual gags when reading the subtitles. Mads Mikkelsen should do more comedy.
double feature pairing: Step Brothers
The Club (2015) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Alfredo Castro, Roberto Farías, Antonia Zegers
co-writer/director: Pablo Larraín
🎤There is… a house… in South America… they caaaaaaall… well, I don’t know what they call it, but it’s where the Catholic church sends disgraced priests and nuns to live out their days in seclusion. The church sends a counselor after there is a death at the home.
It’s an interesting examination of repentance and the church's responsibility for the priest’s actions.
double feature pairing: The Name of the Rose
Sweet Smell of Success (1957) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Susan Harrison
director: Alexander Mackendrick
A powerful columnist pressures a press agent to destroy his sister’s relationship with a musician.
A lot of the dialog is character exposition. People telling others what they or themselves are all about. I normally hate that. Somehow these performers make it work. Curtis and Lancaster are brilliantly gross in the greatest way.
double feature pairing: L.A. Confidential
The Bandit (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Hal Needham, Burt Reynolds
director: Jesse Moss
OHMYGOD, YOU GUYS!!!! THERE’S A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT!!!!!
Weeeeeeell, not exactly. I’d say there’s a solid twenty minutes dedicated to the making of Smokey and the Bandit. A DVD special feature’s worth. The rest of the time is split between the biographies of Hal and Burt. Which is great, except I’d rather have a full documentary about either of them, not a partial story on both. It’s still worth watching.
double feature pairing: Hooper
Hell or High Water (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges
director: David Mackenzie
Two brothers rob the bank that holds the lien on their mother’s land in order to regain ownership.
The performances from Pine and Foster are top shelf. The movie has a sense of the familiar, yet it shows that we aren’t too far from the Wild West as we might think. Folks with conceal & carry permits and “my way or the highway” attitudes. Unapologetic racism. The powerful overtaking of the land.
double feature pairing: The Blues Brothers
The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) ★ ★ ★
stars: Valentina Cortese, Richard Basehart, William Lundigan
director: Robert Wise
A holocaust survivor takes the name of a friend who didn’t make it so that she can travel to the United States. She never could have guessed what her new identity had in store for her.
It’s a good noir picture.
double feature pairing: The Imposter
The Great Alone (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Lance Mackey, sled dogs
director: Greg Kohs
The biography of Lance Mackey, 4-time consecutive Iditarod champion.
There are dog people, and there are cat people. This dude is definitely a dog person.
double feature pairing: Never Cry Wolf
The Million Dollar Duck (2016) ★ ★
stars: Adam Grimm, Rob McBroom, Dee Dee Murry
director: Brian Davis
The story of the process to select the painting that will become the next duck stamp.
Some of the painter’s profiles are interesting, even though this particular selection pool is missing the three brothers (referenced in Fargo) who are the New York Yankees of duck postal stamp paintings. In the end, it’s an advertisement to buy duck stamps, as those sales directly finance wildlife conservation efforts. I rented this movie. Maybe the ducks will get a piece.
watch The Million Dollar Duck (1971) instead
Maggie’s Plan (2015) ★ ★.5
stars: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore
director: Rebecca Miller
Maggie wants a baby but not a guy. She meets a guy and has a baby. She doesn’t want the guy anymore so she tries to get him back with his ex.
New Yorkers sure are quirky.
watch Frances Ha instead
Blood Father (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna
director: Jean-François Richet
An ex-con’s missing daughter contacts him after some serious shit goes down.
There are a couple nods to Mel Gibson’s problems that lead to his nearly absolute absence from the screen in the last ten years. Mel does what he does best: jokes and rages and suffers. This shoot-out-to-resolution action movie doesn’t need more than that.
double feature pairing: Taken
The Bronze (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Melissa Rauch, Haley Lu Richardson, Thomas Middleditch
director: Bryan Buckley
Bronze medalist rules her small town. A bright new gymnastic star threatens to outshine her.
It’s crass. I laughed. Really good cast.
double feature pairing: The Foot Fist Way
Jane Got a Gun (2016) ★ ★
stars: Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor
director: Gavin O’Connor
Bad men are gunning for Jane and her family.
I love the look of westerns. This one looked like a western. I didn’t mind looking at it. The story, however, not so good.
watch The Quick and The Dead instead
Imperium (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts
director: Daniel Ragussis
A federal agent goes deep, deep, deep, deep, deep undercover.
If you’ve seen one long-term undercover agent movie, you’ve seen this one, with one exception: It supposes the agent’s actions entrap his suspects, bringing about the action he were there to prevent.
double feature pairing: Arlington Road
Elvis & Nixon (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Alex Pettyfer
director: Liza Johnson
The story behind this picture:
Only about half of this movie is needed to tell the story. It’s worth it, though, to see the magic of Michael Shannon. He might not look like Elvis at all. The terrible wig might be distracting. But that man is Elvis. His presence is Elvis Presley.
double feature pairing: Bubba Ho-Tep
Don’t Breathe (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, Dylan Minnette
co-writer/director: Fede Alvarez
Three thieves target an blind man’s house for the large amount of cash rumored to be inside.
Incredibly tense. Home invasion movies usually lose my interest in the last third. I was engaged the entire time. Fede Alvarez is a great director. His compositions are spot on, and his ability to present the house we’d be running in for an hour is masterful.
This is the same director and star responsible for the excellent Evil Dead remake. I hope they continue to work together. It’d be great to have around another collaborative team like John Carpenter and Kurt Russell.
double feature pairing: Blind Fury
In Order of Disappearance (2014) ★ ★
stars: Stellan Skarsgård, Bruno Ganz, Pål Sverre Hagen
director: Hans Petter Moland
A grieving father inadvertently starts a gang war when he sets out to avenge his son’s death.
It’s a violence-of-errors that is familiar without doing anything new. The landscape is pretty.
watch Reservoir Dogs instead
Keanu (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Tiffany Haddish
director: Peter Atencio
Sad Man finds Lost Cat. Lost Cat makes Sad Man happy. Lost Cat disappears. Sad Man searches for Lost Cat.
This wasn’t so funny at first. It got funnier.
double feature pairing: That Darn Cat!
Morgan (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie
director: Luke Scott
A company has created a fully synthetic human. It is acting out.
I enjoyed it. Good cast. It feels like someone said, “Let’s dumb down Ex Machina by a few I.Q. points. And can we get her to kill a bunch of people?”
double feature pairing: Ex Machina
Don’t Think Twice (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia
writer/director: Mike Birbiglia
Members of an improvisational comedy troupe take stock when they lose a member to a late night sketch show while also on the brink of losing their theater space.
It’s pleasant. The actors are pleasant. The story is pleasant. It’s a pleasant way to spend an hour and a half.
double feature pairing: For Your Consideration
I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Max Records, Laura Fraser, Christopher Lloyd
director: Billy O’Brien
A teenage boy’s obsession of serial killers and his belief that he may become one are sent into overdrive when the murder rate of his town takes a sharp upturn.
I thought I knew where this was going. I was wrong. Go into this as blind as you can.
double feature pairing: XXX XXXXX (The title is hidden due to its spoiling potential. Watch I Am Not a Serial Killer first, then come back. Otherwise, click at your own risk.)
221/366 movies (36 movies off pace)
29/52 movies directed by women