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
Hateship Loveship (2013) ★ ★ ★
stars: Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Haliee Steinfeld
director: Liza Johnson
Sabitha plays the part of evil Cyrano de Bergerac between her addict father and new housekeeper.
This has to be the most awkward love story I’ve ever seen. It’s sweet in its way. A fairy tale for misfits.
Wear your patient pants. The movie is in no hurry.
double feature pairing: You Can Count on Me
The Blob (1988) ★ ★ ★
stars: Shawnee Smith, Kevin Dillon, Donovan Leitch Jr
director: Chuck Russell
A blob of stuff eats its way through a small town.
*sigh* hooray. the government is here. we are saved.
Some impressive special effects mix with ones that remind you of the original.
double feature pairing: The Absent Minded Professor
Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Natasha Lyonne, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei
writer/director: Tamara Jenkins
Vivian is in desperate need of a mother figure. Thanks to her scheming father, her older cousin comes to live with them and her two brothers.
I liked it a lot.
double feature pairing: Little Miss Sunshine
Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Lin Shaye, Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney
director: Leigh Whannell
It’s the story we all wanted! How did that amazing ghost busting team from Insidious 1 come together?
This is a pretty typical demon possession tale. [LOUD NOISE] Insidious has learned a lesson from The Conjuring. The victim isn’t the series thread; it’s the medium. The next movie can be about anyone anywhere. As long as you get Lin Shaye and the other two, Insidious can go forever.
Anyway, the movie is fine. Much better then the second one. But it relies too much on jump scares instead of creating actual horror or suspense.
double feature pairing: Rear Window
Night Owls (2015) ★ ★.5
stars: Rosa Salazar, Adam Pally, Rob Huebel
director: Charles Hood
A one-night stand becomes an all-night nightmare for Kevin when he learns that the girl is his boss’s jilted mistress.
The power dynamic shifts in interesting ways. The leads are really good. …uh, I rated this when I saw it. Now that I’m writing about it weeks later I can’t remember why I edged it just under a recommendation.
Maybe it was for one too many contrivances. Maybe because I thought it was fine but not good enough. Well, I’m sure it was for a reason.
watch The Apartment instead
Submarine (2010) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Paddy Considine
director: Richard Ayoade
Oliver navigates his first romantic relationship as his parents’ marriage is threatened.
Humorous and highly enjoyable. The original songs were written by Alex Turner, lead singer of Arctic Monkeys.
double feature paring: Magnolia
Wild Bill (1995) ★ ★ ★
stars: Jeff Bridges, Ellen Barkin, David Arquette
director: Walter Hill
After a life of legend, Wild Bill Hickok settles in Deadwood.
The movie is bookended by one of my most hated narrative devices: folks ‘memberin’ things by a grave. To make it even worse, it sets up an unsure color pattern. The current scenes are in black and white. When folks get to spinnin’ a yarn, you’d think color’s a’comin’. Nope. Still black and white. It’s only when it flash forwards from the flashback, but not so far as to return to the grave site, does it become color. Take out the unnecessary bookends and there isn’t a problem.
One of the source materials was Thomas Babe’s play Fathers and Sons. The last third feels like a play. It’s unique for the genre.
double feature paring: Drugstore Cowboy
The Take (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon
director: James Watkins
A CIA agent teams up with a pickpocket to thwart a terrorist attack in France.
A very familiar action thriller that doesn’t ask much from itself or the viewer.
watch Die Hard with a Vengeance instead
The Meddler (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons
director: Lorene Scafaria
Marnie moves to L.A. after her husband dies to be closer to her daughter. A little too close for her daughter’s taste.
Grieving takes many forms. Some busy themselves with others. Some need time to breathe on their own.
There is a conversation that hilariously takes a shot at my biggest pet peeve in the movie world: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the needless title change to make all the Indiana Jones movies, I don’t know, start with “Indiana Jones”? True, the title remains the same within the movie — only the video cases were changed from Raiders of the Lost Ark to a title that incorrectly separates Indy from the other raiders — but it still burns my bacon when I see it. (and I’ve gotten over the Star Wars prequels.)
double feature pairing: Mother
Trumbo (2015) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren
director: Jay Roach
Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is arrested for being a Communist then blacklisted from working for 10 years.
I originally stayed away from this because of the trailer. A movie about the movies in time for Oscar consideration with Bryan Cranston affecting a distracting accent? Pass. I was wrong. It’s well done despite too many speeches belaboring the point in the end. And that accent? Well, every other person is talking funny so it isn’t that distracting.
double feature pairing: Matinee
Rio Bravo (1959) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson
director: Howard Hawks
Bad guys aim to break their fellow bad guy out of jail. The sheriff is set against it. Luckily a drunk, an old man and a teen idol have his back.
Angie Dickinson, once again, plays “the girl” with very little consequence to the story. It’s a classic western in that respect and many others.
double feature paring: Assault on Precinct 13
Drillbit Taylor (2008) ★ ★ ★
stars: Owen Wilson, Nate Hartly, Troy Gentile
director: Steven Brill
Three high school freshmen post an add for a bodyguard to protect them from bullies.
It’s a comfortable formulaic comedy, perfect for those days when you need something light and undemanding. There’s a nice My Bodyguard reference, and I wonder how many people got it.
double feature pairing: The Professional
The American Friend (1977) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Bruno Ganz, Dennis Hopper, Lisa Kreuzer
director: Wim Wenders
An American dealer of forged art ropes a German frame maker into the world of contract killing.
This isn’t the non-stop pulse pounder the American remake would have been. It’s much more delicate but not without tension.
I never noticed how alike Dennis Hopper and Owen Wilson could be. Maybe because I watched Drillbit Taylor before this. Hopper’s cowboy hat and his existentially somber mood reminded me of Wilson in The Royal Tennenbaums.
double feature paring: The Matador
Clifford (1994) ★ ★
stars: Martin Short, Charles Grodin, Mary Steenburgen
director: Paul Flaherty
A 10 year-old problem child is dumped on his uncle to handle.
Martin Short makes me laugh. So does Charles Grodin. Short’s kid schtick is wasted on a bad script. And Grodin is phoning in a terrible Charles Grodin impression. All the yelling…
watch Cabin Boy instead
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell
director: David Yates
Magic, magic everywhere! oh, and the wonder!
I liked it more than any of the Harry Potter movies*.
*not a big fan of the Harry Potter movies.
double feature paring: The Manchurian Candidate
Monster (2003) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern
writer/director: Patty Jenkins
The dramatization of Aileen Wuornos’ murder spree is handled with compassion and understanding without excusing her murderous actions.
double feature pairing: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
The Counterfeiters (2007) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow
director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Imprisoned in a German concentration camp, a Jewish forger is enlisted for Operation: Bernhard, which became the largest money counterfeiting operation in history.
An incredible story that explores the line between resistance and survival.
double feature pairing: To Live and Die in L.A.
War Dogs (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper
director: Todd Phillips
A couple of bros become gun brokers for the U.S. government.
The trailer leans heavy on the humor element. The overall tone is much more dramatic. The narration and editing is under the influence of Goodfellas.
double feature pairing: The Wolf of Wall Street
Ratcatcher (1999) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: William Eadie, Mandy Matthews, Tommy Flanagan
writer/director: Lynne Ramsay
A slice-of-life tale during Glasgow’s garbage strike in 1973. James tries to make the best of his diseased environment and dreams of something better.
double feature pairing: Mousehunt
Sour Grapes (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: wine snobs, con men, federal agents
directors: Reuben Atlas, Jerry Rothwell
A bunch of snooty ascots are swindled by a con man selling fake wine.
Wine snobs are the most insufferable people. Maybe I mock what I don’t care about. But, good god, they are the worst.
The movie does a good job of showing how con man Rudy Kurniawan charmed people and the system into accepting his forgeries. However, it doesn’t seem to have a strong grasp on how his operation worked. Connections are made, but the presentation isn’t confident.
watch My Kid Could Paint That instead
The Frontier (2015) ★ ★.5
stars: Jocelin Donahue, Jim Beaver, Kelly Lynch
director: Oren Shai
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: two crime noir stories walk into a diner…
Both are played effectively suspenseful in the beginning. Then there are questionable events. Then the contrivances become too much to overlook. Still, it was almost great.
watch Blood Simple instead
Evolution (2015) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier
director: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
There is an island of women and preteen boys.
I have no other way of describing the plot that wouldn’t ruin your discovery of a story that could be categorized as science fiction, maybe even biological horror. It’s largely absent of dialogue, an incredible display of visual storytelling. If there was a loop of the first several minutes, I don’t think I’d have another anxious day in my life.
double feature pairing: Under the Skin
Central Intelligence (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan
director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Old schoolmates reunite for some secret agent shenanigans.
Funny is as The Rock and Kevin Hart does.
double feature pairing: The Nude Bomb
After the Wedding (2006) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Rolf Lassgård
director: Susanne Bier
Jacob manages a struggling orphanage in India. He travels to Denmark to meet a potential investor. He couldn’t imagine how his life is about to change.
Wonderfully acted. Emotionally complex.
double feature pairing: The Deer Hunter
The Fan (1981) ★ ★.5
stars: Lauren Bacall, Michael Biehn, James Garner
director: Ed Bianchi
There’s a guy who likes a Broadway actress a little too much. Muderously too much.
Good for its day. But what captured my attention was the deranged fan’s letter writing campaign. He’d write letters. Her secretary would respond in kind, until she ignores them. The more agitated he became, the more his understanding of how the post office works would slip away. One letter said that if he didn’t receive a response by tomorrow… Tomorrow? So he mails it that day. And let’s say the letter is received the next day, aka: tomorrow. The best scenario is that the secretary isn’t swamped and could immediately respond. If she gets that letter posted in time, and the New York City postal service can get a regular letter delivered next day… we’re talking the day after tomorrow, at best! Sometimes when you go crazy, reason goes with you.
watch Play Misty for Me instead
Allied (2016) ★ ★
stars: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris
director: Robert Zemeckis
Two spies fall in love during World War Two. One spy might be a spy.
If you’ve seen the trailer, or read those two lines, there is nothing in this movie to see but the resolution. And even that isn’t interesting.
watch Mr. & Mrs. Smith instead
The Edge of Seventeen (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Haliee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner
writer/director: Kelly Fremon Craig
A socially awkward teen spins a little more out of control when her only friend starts dating her bother.
double feature pairing: Wonder Boys
314/366 movies (21 movies off pace)
46/52 movies directed by women