Pencilstorm contributor Rob Braithwaite is watching 366 movies this year, so you don't have to: Here is part fourteen 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
Meek’s Cutoff (2010) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton
director: Kelly Reichardt
Go west, good people. Don’t take any wooden nickels, and be mindful of braggart guides who suggest a shortcut.
Kelly Reichardt is a master of the slow pace and low plot point count. At the very least, you will feel what it was like to have traveled cross-country in 1845. At most, you will be rewarded with a meditation on trust.
…and there’s a chance you’ll scream, “That’s it?! Bullshit!” when the end credits roll.
double feature pairing: No Country for Old Men
Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (2007) ★.5
stars: George A. Romero, Tom Savini
director: Michael Feisher
Instead of a new “loaded with hours of special features” bluray release of Creepshow, the behind-the-scenes segments have been compiled and strung together as a supposed documentary. That’s what this feels like, anyway.
There are a few interesting stories, most of which are related to Tom Savini and his special effects team. Steven King, co-creator with George Romero, is conspicuously absent. And I’d like to ask the director why he felt it necessary to include a crew member’s tale of sexual congress when talking about Hal Holbrook. See, this girl’s mother allowed her to go away with him for the wrap party, because he promised to bring back Hal’s autograph. Obviously, he didn’t get it, so he signed Hal’s name himself. A great story, right?
Bad Moms (2016) ★
stars: Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Kristen Bell
writers/directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Moms are over-worked and under-appreciated. These moms aren’t going to take it anymore!
One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I suppose it’s a fantasy for a people I don’t know, but I’m also sure it’s a working mom’s fantasy through the eyes of two dudes who really don’t know the limits of a PTA leader’s power or desires beyond lessons learned from Mallrats: Girls like the Cheesecake Factory and just want to go shopping in the stores they want to shop in.
watch Bachelorette instead
De Palma (2015) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Brian De Palma
directors: Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow
Brian De Palma is a director who impresses and baffles me in equal parts. His camera work can be as elegant as it can be contrived.
This documentary is nothing but De Palma telling stories. They are all fascinating, even enlightening. I could have listened to two more hours.
double feature pairing: Listen to Me Marlon
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey
director: Travis Knight
There is magic aplenty in this tale of a boy on a quest to locate his father’s armor as a shadow from the past looms.
A great animated story from someplace other than Pixar.
double feature pairing: Coraline
The Finest Hours (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Casey Affleck
director: Craig Gillespie
Based on the true Coast Guard rescue of an oil tanker destroyed by a blizzard near Cape Cod in 1952.
I was wrong to dismiss this when it came out earlier this year. It’s a much better story than the trailer presented. If we aren’t careful Chris Pine is going to be one of the best character actors of our day.
double feature pairing: All Is Lost
The Last Picture Show (1971) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd
director: Peter Bogdanovich
The story of a dying town and the people trying to break from its grasp.
Goddam. That’s a great movie.
double feature pairing: Doc Hollywood
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: The Beatles
director: Ron Howard
You’ve heard the stories. You’ve seen the footage. The Beatles were a big deal when they came to the States. It’s only now, seeing this, that I truly understand how the world was not ready to facilitate such fandom.
double feature pairing: That Thing You Do!
Bicycle Thieves (1948) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lainella Carell
director: Vittorio De Sica
Struggling in post-WWII Italy, a man gets a job on account of his bicycle ownership. The bike is stolen. Let the hunt begin!
Sometimes the lowest stakes are the greatest.
double feature pairing: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
The Conjuring 2 (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson,
director: James Wan
Everyone’s favorite ghost hunters are going to London!
I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before this franchise makes its easy transformation to television. The room of articles from previous adventures are a perfectly hacky way to wrap up each episode.
Speaking of which, The Exorcist has been turned into a TV show. It’s great. Each episode so far has had some well-crafted horror beats and finds a way to surprise.
double feature pairing: The Amityville Horror
Sisters (1972) ★ ★ ★
stars: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning
director: Brian De Palma
Either way this plot is summarized will ruin something about it. Why should I take from your confusion as to why you are watching a dating show at the beginning or alleviate your wonder as to where it is going?
If you know Brian De Palma’s movies, you probably have a guess. But the movie shifts again, finishing with a final shot that I couldn’t help but chuckle at, then wonder about for a couple days after.
Like is said, De Palma impresses and baffles me.
double feature pairing: Dead Ringers
The Program (2015) ★ ★
stars: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Jesse Plemons
director: Stephen Frears
Lance Armstrong says he didn’t take performance enhancing drugs, but he did, and now we know.
There is nothing in the script or direction that is a surprise.
watch Vision Quest instead
My Blind Brother (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, Adam Scott
director: Sophie Goodhart
A brothers’ relationship is tested as the blind one trains for a charity swim while dating the seeing one’s one night stand.
It’s surprising how natural the love triangle pretzel comes together. Not so surprising is how tedious the open water metaphor is in the third act. However, the high likability of the cast makes it all worth it.
double feature pairing: Stuck on You
Kicks (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Jahking Guillory, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Christopher Meyer
director: Justin Tipping
A teen fulfills his dream of owning a pair of Air Jordans. When they are taken from him, he starts down a dangerous path to retrieve them.
It’s a well-crafted tale of the positive and destructive lessons of status and respect that are handed down through parenting and pop culture. The need for a heightened visual flourish (the astronaut) gets in the way at times.
double feature pairing: In Her Shoes
Night Train to Munich (1940) ★ ★ ★
stars: Margaret Lockwood, Rex Harrison, Paul Henreid
director: Carol Reed
Just before WWII breaks, the Germans hunt a scientist who developed a new kind of armor by using his daughter as bait. Eventually, they all take a train.
double feature pairing: Narrow Margin
Metropolis (1927) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich
director: Fritz Lang
The working class is ground into the gears of the works of a futuristic city as the elite blindly go about their pampered lives. Revolution is coming.
The Wexner Center for the Arts hosted a screening with a live performance of the score by Alloy Orchestra. It was amazing. I’m sure watching it at home without a live band will be great, too. [snicker]
Nearly 90 yeas later, the visuals are still incredible, and the last third is thrilling.
double feature pairing: Dredd
The Magnificent Seven (2016) ★ ★
stars: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke
director: Antoine Fuqua
Poor townsfolk hire gunfighters to rid their lives of a bad man.
“You say cliché, I say classic” — Eddie Spaghetti
I say…cliché. Flat writing. Flat action. I flat-out don’t understand how this was screwed up.
watch Silverado instead
Snowden (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo
director: Oliver Stone
Joseph Gordon-Levitt concludes his trilogy of distracting accents in this dramatization of Edward Snowden’s exposure of NSA practices.
Pretty good. Nicholas Cage was a nice surprise.
double feature pairing: Enemy of the State
Cronos (1993) ★ ★ ★
stars: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook
director: Guillermo del Toro
An antique dealer discovers a device that provides eternal life.
One of the more unique “vampire” stories.
double feature pairing: Ravenous
Under the Shadow (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi
writer/director: Babak Anvari
A mother and daughter are menaced by a ghost in 1980s Tehran.
Another in a recent line of horror movies that is a little more metaphor than practical story. Still very good.
a note: I had to turn on the close captions because the on-demand version I rented did not have subtitles. About two-thirds through the captions were out of sync. They were about five seconds early. This made some conversations difficult to follow with the visuals. And a few potential scares were ruined by a premature “[loud bang]”. So maybe wait for the video release, which will have proper subtitles.
double feature pairing: The Babadook
Mascots (2016) ★ ★
stars: Parker Posey, Chris O’Dowd, Tom Bennett
director: Christopher Guest
A look behind the scenes of a mascot competition.
So much unfunny. Improvisation makes a sound now. It’s a low din of affirmation that gets louder as it’s performed more poorly.
watch Being John Malkovich instead
The Birth of a Nation (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Nate Barker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King
writer/director: Nate Barker
The ballad of Nate Parker, leader of a slave uprising in 1831.
It’s tough to separate a movie about slavery from the baked-in award talk that usually surrounds it. Has there been one that wasn’t nominated for something? This movie is more “enough is enough” than the usual “slavery = bad.” It even co-opted footage of Black Lives Matter demonstrations into its TV ads.
There is some impressive imagery. The pacing isn’t as strong. Folks agree slavery was wrong. Now, more need to see how that wrong is still effecting policies, procedures and actions today.
double feature pairing: Glory
Shin Godzilla (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara
directors: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi
What happens when an unstoppable force (Godzilla) meets an immovable object (bureaucracy)?
Lots and lots of meetings (but in a good way), a few laughs and some badass Godzilla action.
double feature pairing: Alligator
Session 9 (2001) ★ ★
stars; Peter Mullan, David Caruso, Josh Lucas
director: Brad Anderson
A HAZMAT team clears out an abandoned mental hospital.
Bad acting and ham-fisted situations tie together for an ending that wasn’t worth the trouble.
watch Shutter Island instead
The Accountant (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons
director: Gavin O’Connor
Savant or autistic? Either way, this guy is really, really good at accounting. And killing.
An enjoyable thriller that takes its “I wouldn’t say autism because I don’t believe in labels, but, yeah, autism” flag waving one step too far into ridiculousness.
double feature pairing: Michael Clayton
USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage (2016) ★.5
stars: Nicolas Cage, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane
director: Mario Van Peebles
The USS Indianapolis is sunk on its way back to the US. Stranded for five days in the ocean, most of the crew were killed by shark attacks.
It’s a sad realization that a speech in Jaws about surviving this attack is more dramatic than anything in this movie. Maybe more focus on the scapegoat trail that occurred afterwards would have been a better way to go.
watch Jaws instead
Masterminds (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson
director: Jared Hess
A comedy based on one of the biggest heists in American history.
The degree to which you will like this movie depends on your feeling of the cast and how silly you like your comedy.
Kate McKinnon, Jason Sudeikis and Leslie Jones are also in it. That’s a strong six, plus Ken Marino in a role that I suspect mostly lives on the editing room floor.
Bonus: it ends with a blooper reel!
double feature pairing: Bottle Rocket
Money Monster (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell
director: Jodie Foster
Dude lost a lot of money in the stock market. Dude takes the show host responsible for the advice hostage on live TV.
Never mind the last third as it falls into the world of fairy tales. There’s some high grade performance and direction in the moments of the stand-off.
double feature pairing: Cadillac Man
Certain Women (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone, Kristen Stewart
director: Kelly Reichardt
Three, loosely tied stories of women living Montana.
I can’t see how to make it sound any flashier than that. Still, Kelly Reichardt has a way of making the slightest story interesting. She is able to find great actors. Lily Gladstone is terrific. There are two moments that show the passage of time in two most exquisite ways.
fun fact: Wexner Center for the Arts gave Kelly Reichardt a grant, which allowed her to perfect the sound mix and shoot the movie on film, something she didn’t have money for otherwise.
double feature pairing: Real Men
The Hill (1965) ★ ★ ★
stars: Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ossie Davis
director: Sidney Lumet
The guards of a WWII military prison in North Africa take discipline to an extreme.
It’s too bad Sean Connery didn’t get meatier roles. He’s pretty good in this and has one excellent scene. He excelled in other movie directed by Sidney Lumet called…
double feature pairing: The Offence
In a Valley of Violence (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Taissa Farmiga
writer/director: Ti West
A drifter doesn’t mean to find trouble, but there it is.
I say…classic. This has everything I wanted from The Magnificent Seven: humor, interesting action, that great western feel. And it had even more! A great main theme/opening titles and animal tricks!
double feature pairing: The Road Warrior
The Laughing Policeman (1973) ★ ★
stars: Walter Matthau, Bruce Dern, Louis Gossett Jr.
director: Stuart Rossenberg
A police detective is gunned down in a massacre on a city bus. Why? The answer might bore you.
The Laughing Policemen was clearly chasing the tail of The French Connection. From the indulgent crime scene investigation to the “gritty” coroner scene, it wants you to know how authentic it’s being. Even the movie poster got in on the action. The tag line reads: This movie is so real it makes every other movie in the town look like a movie.
Walter Matthau’s stretch of playing something of a tough guy is a curiosity for me. It’s always great to see the piss and vinegar of Bruce Dern. Too bad the movie wasn’t interesting, or bothered to mention who the laughing policeman was.
watch The Singing Detective instead
The House of the Devil (2009) ★.5
stars: Jocelyn Donahue, Tom Noonan, Greta Gerwig
writer/director: Ti West
Desperate for money, a college student takes a babysitting job in a spooky house for a spooky couple.
A slow burn is all about building tension. It also relies on the ending to be worth the wait. The cast is really good. There is some effective chill. The ending needed to be more.
watch Coherence instead
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) ★
stars: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh
director: Edward Zwick
The makers put little effort into making a good sequel to a really good movie. In turn, the marketing team didn’t give a shit either. So why should I bother?
watch The Presidio instead
255/366 movies (50 movies off pace)
33/52 movies directed by women