Pencilstorm contributor Rob Braithwaite is watching 366 movies this year, so you don't have to, here is part se7enteen 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
Wild Tales (2014) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: María Marull, Julieta Zylberberg, Ricardo Darín
writer/director: Damián Szifrón
Six short stories. Six vengeful hearts.
Every segment surprises in some way.
double feature pairing: V/H/S
Dogtooth (2009) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Christos Stergioglou, Angeliki, Papoulia, Hristos Passalis
director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Every parent wants to protect their child. These parents take it to an extreme that no one has ever seen.
Much like Lanthimos’ The Lobster earlier this year, Dogtooth teaches you its world logic by letting you live in it, to fill in the spaces and put the pieces together yourself. What a strange place it is.
double feature pairing: Upstream Color
Slash (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: Michael Johnston, Hannah Marks, Michael Ian Black
writer/director: Clay Liford
Neil is a teenager unsure where he fits in social circles or on the Kinsey scale. His slash-fiction catches the attention of a fellow student and the administrator of a fan fiction convention.
The story paints itself into some messy corners and doesn’t take an easy way out. I appreciate it for that reason. Overall, it’s fine.
watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower instead
The Infiltrator (2016) ★ ★.5
stars: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger
director: Brad Furman
Based on the true story of customs agent Robert Mazur’s exposure of a Columbian money laundering operation.
A familiar movie subject that isn’t presented in a particularly interesting way.
watch Donnie Brasco instead
The Silence (2010) ★ ★ ★
stars: Ulrich Thomsen, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Sebatian Blomberg
director: Baran bo Odar
The bike of a missing girl is found in the exact spot where a girl was murdered twenty-three years earlier.
Grim, to say the least. It’s an exploration of obsession that ends on an odd note of humanity.
double feature pairing: Little Children
A Field in England (2013) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Julian Barratt, Peter Ferdinando, Michael Smiley
director: Ben Wheatley
A 17th-century alchemist enlists the help of war deserters to search for a treasure he believes buried in a field. …in England.
Like Dogtooth, there isn’t much spelled out for you at the jump. And when things go sideways, you might say to yourself, “Buh?” But when all is said and done, it’s a fantastic story.
“Warning: This film contains flashing images and stroboscopic sequences.” Luckily for one woman, Mary Hart’s voice is nowhere to be heard.
double feature pairing: Event Horizon
Rogue One (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn
director: Gareth Edwards
From one throwaway line in Star Wars, a movie is born. Now we get to see how those rebels got their space mitts on the Death Star blueprints, paving the way to the Alliance’s first major strike against the galactic Empire.
There’s some really good stuff here. Some badass Vader action. Some questionable devices in the third act. And the final few moments visually present one narrative while logic says otherwise. I’ve worked it out in a way that I’m fine with. It could be a little neater.
At the end of the space day, it’s still a Star Wars movie with the Death Star in it. There aren’t as many winks to the franchise as The Force Awakens had, but we are still playing on familiar ground. I’m waiting for Episode VIII to tell me if we are ever going to move on into uncharted territory.
double feature pairing: Star Wars
Compulsion (1959) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman, Orson Welles
director: Richard Fleischer
Rope is one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movies. It was based on a play that was inspired by the murder trial of Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb. Rope took a philosophical angle at the material, focusing on the men’s reasoning for murder. Compulsion took the more traditional thriller route: murder > investigation > trial.
While Rope changed nearly everything about events, Compulsion kept to most every detail, except for the names. Those were changed out of fear of lawsuit from the surviving killer. I was surprised to learn that the defense attorney was Clarence Darrow. His impassioned closing argument saved the killers from a death sentence.
double feature pairing: Inherit the Wind
Gangster No. 1 (2000) ★ ★.5
stars: Malcolm McDowell, Paul Bettany, David Thewlis
director: Paul McGuigan
The rise and fall of a gangster is told in flashback so Malcolm McDowell could be cast for the present timeline and to provide narration. Everyone else plays their older and younger selves.
There a familiarity to this kind of kinetic energy now, but there are also some really interesting moments, too.
watch Layer Cake instead
They Only Kill Their Masters (1972) ★ ★ ★
stars: James Garner, Katherine Ross, Hal Holbrook
director: James Goldstone
A woman is found dead. Her dog is accused of the murder. Open and shut. Nothing to see here.
I think what I like most about this movie is that James Garner’s character is kinda put off being sheriff of a small town. He shows aptitude for the job at times, but he thinks he’s above everyone.
There are some odd elements that make it more interesting than it should be. The 30-second PSA about how gasoline is used to make household disinfectants. The actor playing the killer must have been more famous at the time, as the face was awkwardly obscured until the final reveal. They were really going for that Robert Loggia moment. And there’s a running gag about the sheriff taking his vacation in Los Angeles because he wanted to get laid.
double feature pairing: Snatch
The Cocoanuts (1929) ★ ★ ★
stars: The Marx Brothers
director: Robert Florey, Joseph Santley
Horse Feathers (1932) ★ ★ ★
stars: The Marx Brothers
director: Norman McLeod
I’d never seen a Marx Brothers movie. I’ve now seen two. I think I’ve got it.
This is if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it variety show moviemaking. There’s a very loose narrative on which to hang some jokes. There’s singing. Harpo plays a harp (who knew every song sounds the same when played on a harp?). Chico plays the piano.
They are worthy of appreciation. A good number of the jokes are still funny. There’s some great physical humor. They could have varied the song selection. Like, maybe not perform the same song multiple times.
You should see at least one of their movies if you haven’t already. Do you like dance numbers? Watch The Cocoanuts. Would you like to be spared the dancing and fifteen minutes? Horse Feathers is for you.
double feature pairing: The Three Stooges
The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter
director: Mikkel Nørgaard
A problem child detective is put in charge of the cold case department. He and his new partner look to make a difference.
Based on a series of novels, this Danish serial skips TV in favor of the big screen (not here, mind you). It’s a boilerplate thriller with an ordinary third act. The points of interest, however, are the two main characters. They play off each other well. The problem child detective’s reason for looking into the first case makes me laugh: he thinks the officer who closed the case is a terrible cop, so surely he missed something.
double feature pairing: Se7en
Solace (2015) ★ ★
stars: Anthony Hopkins, Abbie Cornish, Colin Farrell
director: Afonso Poyart
While we’re in template world, here’s a story about a psychic working with the FBI to track a serial killer.
There’s something good in the last half and the ultimate resolution, and there’s something bad on the road getting there.
watch Next instead
Little Sister (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Addison Timlin, Ally Sheedy, Keith Poulson
director: Zach Clark
Former goth and current nun-to-be, Colleen has been avoiding contact with her family. When she learns her brother has come home from the hospital, she decides to do the same. …not the hospital part, just the going home part. You got that, right?
It’s a nice story of a dysfunctional family on the mend.
double feature pairing: Killing Them Softly
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond
director: André Øvredal
Two coroners try to understand why a corpse, clearly dead and internally traumatized, shows no signs of external physical damage.
Apart from the few times when the dialogue perfectly nails down an explanation of the weird happenings, this is a really good episode of The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt.
double feature pairing: Night Shift
Black Christmas (1974) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, John Saxon
director: Bob Clark
There’s a killer Christmas stalking the women of a sorority.
Predating Halloween and When a Stranger Calls by four and five years respectively, Black Christmas is the forgotten pioneer of horror. Maybe it didn’t get its due because none of the kills are shown, just the bodies. This makes one of the deaths particularly chilling.
There are plenty of tense and (intentionally) funny moments. Margot Kidder is great.
double feature pairing: Rare Exports
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Menes
writer/director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Sometimes vampires are lonely.
It’s an new take on the vampire story.
double feature pairing: What We Do in the Shadows
Manchester by the Sea (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams
writer/director: Kenneth Lonergan
When a sad man returns home to bury his brother, he learns he is the only one left to provide for his nephew.
The less said about the plot particulars the better. Flashbacks play like triggered memories. Michelle Williams isn’t in it much, but there is a scene… well, it’s the reason you hire Michelle Williams.
double feature pairing: Next of Kin
Fences (2016) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson
director: Denzel Washington
A black man in the 1950s raises a family as he fights ghosts, struggles with the tipped scale of equality and righteously casts upon others.
Originally a play, it still sounds like a play. There doesn’t seem to have been much effort to change the rhythm or content of the dialogue. There’s an adjustment period to sync the two mediums. I’m figure the content was more important to the filmmakers than altering the powerful story to a more cinematic look.
It’s dense. It’s intense. It’s exhausting. In a good way.
double feature pairing: American Buffalo
The City of Lost Children (1995) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet
directors: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
In a world askew from our own, a man steals the drams of children to slow his aging.
Incredibly visual. It was a marvel to watch.
double feature pairing: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Airport (1970) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg
director: George Seaton
It’s takes a special kind of person to manage an airport. This is just one day.
I expected my extensive knowledge of Airplane! would distract me from paying attention to this. Far from it. Thirty minutes into it, I had no idea where the story was going. A plane taxied into a snow bank, so a special guy had to be called. There was a protest about the use of Runway 22 that disturbed a local neighborhood. An elderly stowaway was caught and interrogated about her methods of sneaking into a plane. There’s a guy making a bomb. And the personal relationships of the flight crew and airport management. The movie was less thriller and more like a late night TV soap, like Hotel or Dallas. For a movie rated G, there was a lot of talk about abortion.
Anyway, I liked it, even though the protesters’ story line disappeared. Maybe that’s something the sequels address.
double feature pairing: Die Hard 2
The Future (2011) ★ ★.5
stars: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky
writer/director: Miranda July
The adoption of a cat leads Jason and Sophie to reassess their lives together.
It’s not often someone finds a unique way of presenting a break-up movie. I didn’t find it too entertaining as I watched, but I did think about it for a couple days.
watch The One I Love instead
Iris (2014) ★ ★ ★
stars: Iris Apfel
director: Albert Maysles
The personality of Iris Apfel is on full display. Her fashion is a bit much for my taste. However, her importance in the design world, even in her 90s, is immeasurable.
double feature pairing: The September Issue
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) ★ ★ ★
stars: Rosanna Arquette, Madonna, Aidan Quinn
director: Susan Seidelman
A housewife finds herself in a crazy case of mistaken identity and amnesia.
It’s a fun blast from the past I was on board with until she bumps her head and forgets who she is. Then, when she bumps her head again, she remember who she is as well as everything she’d done since the first bump. Whatever. It’s enjoyable.
double feature pairing: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
54/52 movies directed by women