★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = 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
Southpaw (2015) ★ ★
stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker
director: Antoine Fuqua
Did you see Rocky III? Change who gets killed, add a child custody case, make two characters call each other “baby” so much that you’d get alcohol poisoning if you drank a shot every time they did, and you’ve got Southpaw.
watch Creed instead
Room (2015) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen
director: Lenny Abrahamson
The reveal of the situation the two leads are in is so well crafted that I wish I hadn’t known anything about the movie before seeing it. An impossible feat then because how would I have known to see it? A bigger problem now because it’s an award nominee and winner. So, if you somehow don’t know anything about it, you're one luck duck. Just know that it is worth watching.
double feature pairing: Pan's Labyrinth
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Maureen O'Hara. Lucille Ball, Ralph Bellamy
director: Dorothy Arzner
Two dancers of a traveling dance troupe struggle to make it in the dance world. (One more time for luck? Dance!) Judy has aspirations to be a world class ballerina. Bubbles knows how to work the stage and rich men.
Lucille Ball was a spectacular presence. A singing, dancing, joking spectacular presence.
Did you know night court was a real thing? I thought it was just a premise for a great sitcom. I spent a good amount of the scene’s time find-and-replacing characters from Night Court. Then I wondered if the show ever referenced this movie. Not for a whole episode, but the gag at the top of a court scene that would lead into the main story. Then I was introduced to Abraham Lincoln Johnson and Martha Johnson.
Earlier, Judy watched a dance routine in which two of the dancers were in black face. A surprise, but for 1940 maybe not so shocking. When Judy and Bubble’s night court case resolved, and the next case was called, two African-Americans walked past the camera.
I don’t know what to make of that. In both cases, the screen time was minimal to the point of being unnecessary. The inclusion of both blackface and black faces had to be intentional. For a movie that was progressive in its treatment of women (Judy is career-minded, forgoes pairing off with a rich man, breaks during a burlesque performance to berate the men who come to leer at them), it’s hard to think the filmmaker decided to be racist for a few seconds. I suppose one could be pro-woman and racist. Still, how much more American can you get with names like Abraham Lincoln Johnson and Martha Johnson?
double feature pairing: Footloose
Legend (2015) ★ ★
stars: Tom Hardy, Tom Hardy, Emily Browning
screen writer/director: Brian Helgeland
Reggie and Ronnie Kray were the most notorious criminals in London during the 1960’s. Or so Legend’s narration says. It wasn’t effectively shown. Maybe that’s because the narration came from Frances Shea, Ronnie’s eventual wife. The information was so dry that she could have been reading newspaper articles about the brother’s activities. No insight. No snap.
Remember when Spandau Ballet’s Kemp brothers played The Krays?
watch Adaptation instead
Intruders (2015) ★ ★
stars: Beth Riesgraf, Rory Culkin, Martin Starr
director: Adam Schindler
It’s a nice twist to make the victim of a home invasion agoraphobic, unable to have left her house in 10 years. The twist she turns against against her attackers is surprising then kinda dumb. The movie must have known this, since everything wrapped up in 80 minutes. That’s not enough time to get upset about it.
watch Vacancy instead
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman
directors: Glen Ficarra, John Sequa
The adaptation of Kim Barker’s book, The Taliban Shuffle, an account of her time as a war correspondent in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The power lies with Tina Fey, leading with her dramatic leg. Fey’s pairing with Christopher Abbott and Billy Bob Thornton are two of the best the movie has to offer.
Also, it’s tough to be down on a movie when it starts with “Jump Around.”
double feature pairing: Good Morning Vietnam
London Has Fallen (2016) ★
stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and others cashing in a paycheck
director: Babak Najafi
This story of a terrorist killing all the world’s leaders (except for America’s!) at the British Prime Minister’s funeral was written by a computer. Another computer compiled outtakes from the actor’s previous movies to create the images. (I’ll eat my hat if Morgan Freeman and Gerard Butler were in the same room when they filmed their scene together.) And how is it that the President of the United States of America, the man who just help kill all the terrorists, isn’t the one giving the rousing speech about not minding our business in foreign affairs to cap it all off? Because Morgan Freeman is the Vice-President, and Morgan Freeman is hired to make speeches.
Sometimes I just want some movie popcorn. Maybe I should learn to make it myself.
watch water boil instead
The Last Days of Disco (1998) ★ ★ ★
stars: Chloë Sevingy, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman
writer/director: Whit Stillman
“The times, they are a-becoming quite different.”
- Seymour Skinner
double feature pairing: Diner
Love & Friendship (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevingy, Xavier Samuel
screen writer/director: Whit Stillman
A lady searches for a husband for her daughter and herself. Based on Jane Austen’s Lady Susan.
Fancy dress and pretty locales. Funny words and portrayals. It’s the world of Jane Austen, a place I don’t frequent, though it’s nice to check in from time to time.
double feature pairing: The Prestige
The Night Before (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie
director: Jonathan Levine
It’s the final run of a Christmas tradition three friends have shared for 10 years. Hilarity ensues.
Would you believe mild amusement? The story is pat. Performances from Rogen, Ilana Glazer and Michael Shannon made it watchable.
double feature pairing: Three Amigos
Black Rock (2012) ★ ★ ★
stars: Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth
director: Katie Aselton
Three friends return to the isolated island of their childhood to reconnect. Trouble finds them. Survival tries to save them.
The movie’s strength is in its character moments and motivations. Even though a few action beats are a bit forced, it generally works.
double feature pairing: Backcountry
Rififi (1955) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel
director: Jules Dassin
This is widely considered to be one the best heist movie of all time. I now can agree. The heist of a jewelry store is still tense after all these years and the movies inspired by it. What I wasn’t expecting was the strength of the aftermath, when the success spirals out of control.
double feature pairing: Sneakers
Pixels (2015) ★
stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan
director: Chris Columbus
Video games from the 1980s attack Earth.
Sometimes I can’t sleep.
Bad movie, bring on the sand.
Man, that did not work.
watch The Last Starfighter instead
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) ★ ★ ★
stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.
director: Dan Trachtenberg
Michelle crashed her car. Howard has taken her to his fallout bunker just as the attack from…he can’t be certain, and she’s not certain about him.
I don’t know how much to say about this in-spirit sequel to Cloverfield. If you are looking for another Cloverfield, you’ll be waiting for the last 15 minutes. If you are looking for a tense thriller in an enclosed space, enjoy the monster movie at the end.
Since I’ve seen it, the original origin story I heard makes a lot more sense than the narrative I’ve seen in recent articles. It’s a good movie, however I was distracted by the seams, perceived or real. You should see it before investigating that too much.
double feature pairing: Attack the Block
The Brothers Grimsby (2016) ★.5
stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson
director: Louis Leterrier
I went for the spy comedy, forgot that gross-out comedies were still being made. Good golly, new level reached.
watch Spy instead
66/366 movies (se7en movies off pace)
11/52 movies directed by women
THE TOP THREE