Pencilstorm contributor Rob Braithwaite is watching 366 movies this year, so you don't have to: Here is part fifteen 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
The Wailing (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Do Won Kwak, Jung-min Hwang, Jun Kunimura
writer/director: Hong-jin Na
A police officer investigates an outbreak of a suspicious disease that coincides with sightings of a mysterious man living in the woods.
Eerie with an incredibly nerve-wracking ceremony. If you are looking for horror with gore, guts and a quick pace, looks elsewhere.
double feature pairing: The Exorcist
Child’s Play (1988) ★ ★ ★
stars: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent
director: Tom Holland
A criminal — and apparent sorcerer — projects his spirit into a doll just before the cops gun him down. Pity the mother who gives the doll to her son. Save the son because he is in some serious shit.
Hilariously dated but still a lot of fun.
double feature pairing: Dead Silence
Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Tim McVey, Dwayne Richard, Enrico Zanetti
directors: Tim Kinzy, Andrew Seklir
Nibbler is an arcade game that has a top score of one billion points. It takes about 40 hours of gameplay to reach that number. It’s weird to call these men athletes, yet there is a physical and mental toll that impresses as well as causes wonder about how smelly that room is.
There is some interesting drama about two-thirds in. The documentary is so focused on glorifying Tim McVey that it ignores someone who did even better. Maybe that guy didn’t want to be interviewed. Can’t imagine why not.
double feature pairing: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
The Other (1972) ★ ★.5
stars: Uta Hagen, Chris Udvarnoky, Martin Udvarnoky
director: Robert Mulligan
Twin farm boys possess a power and a secret.
This story of a supernatural Goofus and Gallant doesn’t fare well after 44 years. The slow pace might have worked in its favor then. Now, it telegraphs a reveal we are all too familiar with. The ending is worthwhile, even though it takes a little too long to get there.
watch The Good Son instead
Terror Train (1980) ★.5
stars: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner
director: Roger Spottiswoode
Choo! Choo! All aboard the terror train! Don’t let the name fool you. It’s really a murder train.
I’ve got a feeling this movie was old hat in 1980. It was somewhat enjoyable in is awfulness, the bizarre acting of David Copperfield, and for the few minutes it made me think about The War of the Roses.
When an fire extinguisher is used in any movie I’m reminded of the part in The War of the Roses when the family Christmas tree is on fire and Michael Douglas is frantically reading the fire extinguisher instructions. Funny stuff. I’m smiling about it now.
watch The War of the Roses instead
Fort Tilden (2014) ★ ★ ★
stars: Bridey Elliott, Clare McNulty
director: Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers
Harper and Allie are going to the beach to meet a couple guys. Distractions within and beyond their control make it a trip more difficult than it should be.
Early segments reminded me of situations that could pop up in Broad City. The movie suffered for a bit because of those connected dots. Fort Tilden came into its own and resolved quite nicely.
tv pairing: Broad City
Pontypool (2008) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly
director: Bruce McDonald
There’s a… well, I’ll call it a zombie outbreak for the ease of illustration, even though the outbreak doesn’t technically fall into that arena. Like how people are wrong in calling 28 Days Later a zombie movie. It isn’t, but it’s lumped into that category anyway…
The people of Pontypool are consumed by an infection that is spread in an unknown way. An early morning radio team tries to make sense of it all.
The movie take place almost entirely in the radio station. It’s a unique and intense way of bringing some life into a familiar genre.
double feature pairing: Talk Radio
The Whole Truth (2016) ★ ★
stars: Keanu Reeves, Renée Zellweger, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
director: Courtney Hunt
A son is on trial for killing his dad. It’s not a question of did he do it, but what is he hiding?
To those who have never seen a cinematic murder trial, you will be blown away! To everyone else, you can figure what he’s hiding almost immediately. Even though your first guess is probably wrong, because the movie wants you to think you’ve figured it out, your second suspicion isn’t.
watch …and justice for all. instead
Re-Animator (1985) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton
director: Stuart Gordon
A scientist brings back the dead in hilariously gory and just plain funny ways.
double feature pairing: Evil Dead 2
The Girl on the Train (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson
director: Tate Taylor
The trailer wants you to think this is a crime thriller about a missing woman. It’s that on some level. It’s also something more. The who-done-it is predictable. The performances, particularly Emily Blunt’s, are reasons enough to watch.
double feature pairing: Source Code
Onionhead (1958) ★.5
stars: Andy Griffith, Felicia Farr, Walter Mathau
director: Norman Taurog
Some asshole decides to join the Coast Guard after his crush rejects him. He eventually learns one lesson but never gets comeuppance for his actions and gets the girl at the end anyway because the ‘50s.
watch A Face in the Crowd instead
The Adventure of Shelock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975) ★ ★
stars: Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman
writer/director: Gene Wilder
Sigerson Holmes works a case and sing songs.
I got a couple big laughs from this. I was mostly keeping an eye on the time. Fans of Mel Brooks’ movies should check this out.
watch Zero Effect instead
Norman Lear: Just Another You (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Norman Lear
directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
Norman Lear evolved network television (back then it was simply called television) into a place where important social and civil issues could be discussed.
I think the documentary could have eased up on the extensive set pieces which featured a child actor standing in for Lear (He’s a kid at heart!). Listening to Lear as he recorded his audiobook isn’t as interesting as hearing stories in an interview. And I don’t need to watch people watching clips of his shows. Still, he’s an important person in television history. If this is the only documentary we get, it’s good enough.
double feature pairing: The TV Set
Carnage Park (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: Ashley Bell, Pat Healy, James Landry Hébert
writer/director: Mickey Keating
A couple bank robbers and their hostage find themselves trapped in the desert playground of killer.
The first half has the pace and feel of a Tarantino knock-off. The second half grinds to the crawl of a home invasion movie. Each part was fine.
watch Breakdown instead
Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four (2015) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Mark Sikes, Oley Sassone, Alex Hyde-White
director: Mark Langford
The Fantastic Four is the only movie Roger Corman made that was never released. Pretty amazing considering all the low budget hash he has slung.
It’s an interesting story. The documentary’s structure and presentation of the ultimate reason why the movie will never get a legitimate release is muddy.
double feature pairing: Lost in La Mancha
The Intervention (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Melaine Lynskey, Cobie Smulders, Jason Ritter
writer/director: Clea DuVall
A group of friends come together for a weekend to suggest that two of them should get a divorce.
Excellent performances and a bow-less resolution keep a few contrivances from mattering.
double feature pairing: The Big Chill
Finding Dory (2016) ★ ★
stars: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill
directors: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Everyone’s favorite forgetful fish has remembered she has parents.
I understand Finding Dory is an obvious title to a Finding Nemo sequel, but I’m calling the bad title police. No one is looking for Dory.
Anyway, one good thing about a main character who suffers from short term memory loss is that you don’t have to pay close attention to the movie. They will repeat any important plot points.
watch Blackfish instead
A Bigger Splash (2015) ★ ★.5
stars: Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes
director: Luca Guadagnino
A famous rock star rests her voice in Italy with her boyfriend when her former producer and lover crash their solitary.
Good performances and character stories. I lost interest after a while.
watch Sexy Beast instead
Doctor Strange (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton
director: Scott Derrickson
A neurosurgeon survives a car crash that irrevocably damages his hands. Looking for a miracle, he finds salvation in magic.
The Marvel movie universe has gone cosmic, and it works. I am burned out on origin stories, but in this case, it’s necessary and comes off rather well. It even takes a fresh approach on the third-act spectacle of dudes fighting as a city crumbles.
double feature pairing: Edge of Tomorrow
Gimme Danger (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton
director: Jim Jarmusch
The story of The Stooges. It is so much the story of The Stooges that it’s barely acknowledged that Iggy Pop has a solo career.
It’s a must see for fans of The Stooges.
watch Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL instead
Morris from America (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Markees Christmas, Craig Robinson, Lina Keller
writer/director: Chad Hartigan
Morris and his dad are Americans living in Germany. He has a hard time fitting in with kids his age. When he meets Katrin, he tries a little harder.
One of the better coming-of-age stories. The father and son scenes are great. I prefer Craig Robinson as a dramatic actor.
double feature pairing: In Bruges
Ordinary World (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Billie Joe Armstrong, Selma Blair, Judy Greer
writer/director: Lee Kirk
Perry gave up his band to have a family. He’s wondering if he chose wisely as he turns 40.
All the comforts and forced situations of a formulaic romantic comedy. I actually enjoyed it. Billie Joe “Green Day” Armstrong turned in a decent performance.
double feature pairing: The Family Man
Wild Oats (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Shirley MacLaine, Jessica Lange, Howard Hesseman
director: Andy Tennant
Eva doesn’t know what to do when a $50,000 life insurance check arrives in the amount of $5,000,000. Her friend Maddie says, “Fuck it. Let’s travel.” Eva agrees.
A fun romp with funny people. It’s ends like you might expect, but the way there isn’t as expected. Also, you don’t see too many movie championing the career of a teacher.
double feature pairing: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
A Band Called Death (2012) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Bobby Hackney, David Hackney, Dannis Hackney
directors: Mark Christopher Covino, Jeff Howlett
Two years before the Ramones, there was Death. Now called the first punk band, Death was formed by three brothers from Detroit. David’s unwavering defiance to keep that name kept them from an audience. 35 years later, the audience found the music.
It’s amazing the power music can have.
double feature pairing: The Punk Singer
Our Kind of Traitor (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgård
director: Susanna White
Some regular folks on a vacation decide to assist a Russian bookkeeper in defecting to England.
A very traditional spy thriller. If you’ve never seen one, you’re gonna love it!
watch Moscow on the Hudson instead
Dog Eat Dog (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook
director: Paul Schrader
The trio of criminals decide to up their game by kidnapping the baby of a debtor.
This movie is 20 years too late to be anything interesting. It’s always good to see Willem Dafoe in the mix.
watch Three Men and a Baby instead
Army of One (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Nicolas Cage, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Russell Brand
director: Larry Charles
Based on the true story of the guy who went to Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden by himself.
You know what I miss? Nicholas Cage, the comedian. And to some extent the “out there” Nicholas Cage. This one displays them both wonderfully. If you do not feel the same way about Nicolas Cage, there is nothing here for you. It is as absurd as the story it’s based on. So much fun.
double feature pairing: Zero Dark Thirty
Nerve (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade
directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Vee decides to break out of her comfort zone by signing up for a dare-based game funded and run by those watching online.
oh, these goddamn millennials and their internet games. Don’t bring your logic, just the edge of your seat*.
*an exaggeration. It’s a better movie than I thought it would be.
double feature pairing: The Game
Moonlight (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Travante Rhodes
director: Barry Jenkins
The three actors listed above play the same character at different points in his life. The casting director should get a major award for finding three individuals who could make their respective performances imprint and/or reflect on each other, building a character to a point where you can see the hurting child in the eyes of the grown man.
double feature pairing: Half Nelson
Hacksaw Ridge (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Andrew Garfield
director: Mel Gibson
There was a man so steadfast in his faith and country that he served in WWII as medic and refused to kill or carry a weapon.
There aren’t many people with that much conviction. Tough to believe, but there it is. The movie is a little corny and incredibly brutal. Vince Vaughn makes an excellent drill instructor.
double feature pairing: Letters from Iwo Jima
The Handmaiden (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: Min-hee Kim, Kim Tea-ri, Jung-woo Ha
director: Chan-wook Park
Two Korean con artists conspire against a Japanese heiress. Not everything is as it seems.
It’s beautifully shot. But if you are going to make me watch the first half of the movie again from a different perspective show me that it was necessary and not just to wake me up.
watch Groundhog Day instead
Arrival (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
director: Denis Villeneuve
The government enlists the aid of a linguist to decipher the noises coming from one of the twelve alien crafts that have appeared on Earth.
Really good, potentially great. I’m so used to movies taking cheap shortcuts that when the dismissed aspects of this story turned out to have weight to them, I realized that maybe the full appreciation of this movie wouldn’t come until a second viewing.
book pairing: Trees
287/366 movies (31 movies off pace)
38/52 movies directed by women