Last Ditch Reviews (2016)!!!

Hey everyone, so 2016 is coming to a close and I’m like, 11 reviews behind. This is what happens when you reintroduce me to BANJO-KAZOOIE… on the XBOX One no less. So I’m just going to quickly go through the bare-bones of my opinions of the flicks and call it a year.

Oh, and I’m compiling my list of my top ten favorite films for THE PUYDAS 2017, and my bottom ten most hated films for THUMBS DOWN 2017. So keep an eye out for that.

So these are my honest opinions of… these movies!

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Cast: listed on the poster.
Crew: Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck (BLADES OF GLORY [2007] and THE SWITCH [2010]). Written by Justin Malen (1 episode of TROPHY WIFE), Laura Solon (6 episodes of HOT IN CLEVELAND), and Dan Mazer (BRIDGET JONES’S BABY [2016], BORAT [2006], and BRÜNO [2009]). Composed by Theodore Shapiro (COLLATERAL BEAUTY [2016], TRUMBO [2015], and TROPIC THUNDER [2008]). Cinematography by Jeff Cutter (10 CLOVERFIELD LANE [2016], ORPHAN [2009], GRIDIRON GANG [2006]).

It’s a party movie set in an office building. What kind of comedic possibilities can you possibly come up with? The answer: none. It’s about as generic and predictable a modern party movie can get. Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Jennifer Aniston, and T.J. Miller are enjoyable enough, but both Kate McKinnon and Randall Park’s characters are just awkward and unbearable on screen. A couple jokes land, so it’s not a complete train-wreck, but there’s more than a few that are such clichés, even other bad movies do them better. While technically better than I thought, it’s still not a very good movie.

My honest rating: a weak 3/5

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FENCES

Cast: listed on poster
Crew: Directed by Denzel Washington (THE GREAT DEBATERS [2007], ANTWONE FISHER [2002], and 1 episode of GREY’S ANATOMY). Written by August Wilson, who also wrote the stage play the movie is based on. Composed by Marcelo Zarvos (OUR KIND OF TRAITOR [2016], AMERICAN ULTRA [2015], and TV show RAY DONOVAN). Cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen (THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN [2016], THE HUNT [2012], and FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD [2015]).

I love Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and I was really looking forward to it. While I wasn’t particularly disappointed, as you do get some strong-ass performances out of them. The film is very different, in a good way, showing the life of a family getting by, headed by a harsh father who means well, but doesn’t show his love in a traditional way. What gets me is this: the film is basically a play. Now I know that this film started off as a play, hence its visual style and style of structure, but that was a little jarring. Especially since, like in a play, there’s barely a beat between lines. Lines are just barked left and right and there’s barely enough time to comprehend what was said. Still a good movie and I recommend it, but if there’s something about it that bugs you, maybe you’ll share my thoughts.

My honest rating: 4/5

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JULIETA

A Spanish film that I knew very little about going in. But this story about a woman, named Julieta, that recounts her life with her daughter Antía, how she grew up, and her ultimate disappearance was surprisingly good. Strong performances from the cast, some unexpected turns, I was pretty happy with this. The only real problem I had was the movie ends without any warning and not very satisfying. But in retrospect, I’m glad I saw it. If you don’t mind foreign films, it’s worth the time. It was compelling, real, and well told.

My honest rating: 4/5

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20TH CENTURY WOMEN

Cast: listed on poster
Crew: Directed and Written by Mike Mills (BEGINNERS [2010] and THUMBSUCKER [2005]). Composed by Roger Neill (DON’T THINK TWICE [2016], BEGINNERS, and TV show KING OF THE HILL). Cinematography by Sean Porter (GREEN ROOM [2016]).

Set in 1979, a single mother tries to raise her teenage son. But in a decade full of rebellion and anti-authority, he becomes resistant and she is less in touch with pop culture that she understands him less and less. Enlisting the help of the tenants of her home to help “raise” him, to teach him to be a good man, it’s actually a pretty solid movie. If you remember my review of CERTAIN WOMEN (2016), then this is pretty much a better version, but still not a great one. The characters are more identifiable and feels more like a real story of real people going about their lives. Although, as much as I love Elle Fanning, she is obviously just trying to shed her “good girl” image and start doing more adult work. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’d just prefer if it was done with a more compelling character, like in NEON DEMON (2016). Overall, good film. Not great, but good.

My honest rating: 4/5

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PATRIOTS DAY

Cast: listed on poster
Crew: Director and co-writer is Peter Berg (DEEPWATER HORIZON, LONE SURVIVOR [2013], and BATTLESHIP [2012]). Co-writing are Matt Cook (TRIPLE 9 [2016]) and Joshua Zetumer (ROBOCOP [2014]). Co-composing are Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (GONE GIRL [2014], THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO [2011], and THE SOCIAL NETWORK [2010]). Cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler (MR HOLMES [2015], LONE SURVIVOR, and BATTLESHIP).

Arguably one of the most emotional films I’ve seen all year. Retelling the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist attack, it’s important to get a story like this right and the makers of LONE SURVIVOR (2013) and DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016) have done a perfect job. This story will reignite your hatred of terrorism, but still make you proud to be an American, and your heart will once again go out to those that didn’t survive, and those that did everything in their power to do what they needed to bring justice. Bring a box of tissues because by the end of this film, there wasn’t a single person that wasn’t sniffling. Once again, I can’t give a rating, it’s too powerful and too fresh an event to call “good” or “bad.” But you are doing yourself a disservice by not seeing it, that much I promise.

My honest rating: a must see.

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HIDDEN FIGURES

Cast: Taraji P. Henson (THE KARATE KID [2010], THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON [2008], and DATE NIGHT [2010]), Octavia Spencer (ALLEGIANT [2016], PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS [2013], and THE HELP [2011]), Janelle Monáe (MOONLIGHT [2016], RIO 2 [2014], and TV show AMERICAN DAD!), Kevin Costner (CRIMINAL [2016], MAN OF STEEL [2013], and OPEN RANGE [2003]), Kirsten Dunst (MIDNIGHT SPECIAL [2016], ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES [2013], HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & ALIENATE PEOPLE [2008]), Jim Parsons (HOME [2015], THE MUPPETS [2011], and TV show THE BIG BANG THEORY), and Mahershala Ali (MOONLIGHT, FREE STATE OF JONES [2016], and KICKS [2016]).
Crew: Directing and Co-writing is Theodore Melfi (ST. VINCENT [2014]). Co-writing is Allison Schroeder (MEAN GIRLS 2 [2011]). Co-composing are Benjamin Wallfisch (LIGHTS OUT [2016]), Pharrell Williams (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 [2014] and (DESPICABLE ME [2010]), and Hans Zimmer (KUNG FU PANDA 3 [2016], SPANGLISH [2004], and MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND [1996]). Cinematography by Mandy Walker (JANE GOT A GUN [2016], AUSTRALIA [2008], and RED RIDING HOOD [2011]).

Based on true events, this story about a trio of black women working in NASA, aiding the most brilliant minds in sending the first American into space, it’s a truly inspiring tale about these important women: Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Oh, and Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, and Kirsten Dunst are great too. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’s a wonderful flick. Once again, true events, the story appears to have done justice, but it’s a high recommendation.

My honest rating: a must see

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ASSASSIN’S CREED

Cast: Michael Fassbender (THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS [2016], STEVE JOBS [2015], and PROMETHEUS [2012]), Marion Cotillard (ALLIED [2016], THE DARK KNIGHT RISES [2012], and INCEPTION [2010]), Jeremy Irons (BATMAN V SUPERMAN [2016], APPALOOSA [2008], and DUNGEONS & DRAGONS [2000]), Michael Kenneth Williams (WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS [2016], ROBOCOP [2014], and THE ROAD [2009]), and Charlotte Rampling (45 YEARS [2015], MELANCHOLIA [2011], and THE DUCHESS [2008]).
Crew: Directing is Justin Kurzel (MACBETH [2015]). Co-writing are Michael Lesslie (MACBETH), Adam Cooper (ALLEGIANT and THE TRANSPORTER: REFUELED [2015]), and Bill Collage (TOWER HEIST [2011]). Composing is Jed Kurzel (MACBETH). Cinematographer is Adam Arkapaw (THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, MACBETH, and MCFARLAND, USA [2015]).

Wow, what a bad film. But more than that, it’s a missed opportunity to have possibly created one of the coolest action movies ever. For those that don’t know, the video game is essentially parkour with a lot of sneaking around. It’s a popular video game with a sequel every year. This film had a glorious opportunity to be great… or awesome, and fails at both. Too many quick cuts and bad CGI to ruin the illusion. To make matters worse, it’s an insult to stunt-folk. Before this movie was released, I remember a behind-the-scenes bit where the filmmakers actually show a stuntman doing one of the signature things in the game: leaps of faith (where the player jumps from impossible heights and survives by landing in haystacks). He’s literally jumping hundreds of feet in the air, but you never truly see it in the film. Michael Fassbender sadly doesn’t save it with mostly bland acting, and one horribly-acted scene. Only Marion Cotillard seemed to be given a character that was alright. Is it the worst movie I’ve seen this year? No, not even close. But… man, was it bad. I think I fell asleep for about five minutes. I don’t think fans of the game will like it, non-fans will be indifferent, but I do not recommend this film to anyone.

My honest rating: 2/5

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SING

Cast: listed on poster
Crew: Writing and co-directing is Garth Jennings (SON OF RAMBOW [2007] and THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY [2005]). Co-directing is Christophe Lourdelet, making his directorial debut. Congrats, sir. Composing is Joby Talbot (SON OF RAMBOW [2007], PENELOPE [2006], and THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY)

Originally, I loathed seeing this animated film. Thought it was going to be just these animals singing current pop culture songs that everyone hears on the radio and be completely irrelevant in a year. Despite high praise from critics and word of mouth, I still wasn’t really excited. Technically, I wasn’t wrong, but it’s better than I thought. If the celebrity cast really is singing, then it’s pretty damn cool to listen to and there’s some nicely written characters, primarily the core cast. Some great, and even impressive animation at times. Although Mike the mouse is a hit or miss when it comes to being a likable jerk to an unlikable jerk. And there are plotlines in the film that get resolved because the script demands it rather than have an integral character arc and cliches up every which way. If you want to bring your kids, you’ll be fine, there’s nothing wrong here. I think there’s better kids movies out there, but this will do the trick.

My honest rating: 3/5

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PATERSON

Cast: listed on the poster
Crew: Directing, Writing, and Co-composing is Jim Jarmusch. Co-composing are Carter Logan and Sqürl. Cinematography by Frederick Elmes (HORNS [2013], BROTHERS [2009], and HULK [2003]).

This story about a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, who is also a poet at heart, is actually a very down to earth and cute little film. It’s not plot-heavy, but rather simply follows this man’s life living in a small home with his girlfriend, their dog that he doesn’t like, and their every day interests and support in each other, even if they don’t necessarily agree. It’s nothing major and it’s more of one that focuses on a nice and calming atmosphere, something to put on and kill a couple hours. One of my favorite elements is how it toys with expectations. You keep thinking that certain things are building up to a predictable payoff, but they never really do and it makes for an interesting viewing. It’s also one that I bizarrely relate to: a writer, living with an artistic girlfriend who pushes him into going further with his art, who also has a knack for music and baking, there’s a lot about this film that spoke to me. I would say my one nitpick is that there is one incident that the audience can predict, but it doesn’t hurt the film too bad. Overall, it’s worth seeing if you’re not one for big, conflict or drama-heavy film.

My honest rating: a strong 4/5

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LIVE BY NIGHT

Cast: Ben Affleck (THE ACCOUNTANT [2016], RUNNER RUNNER [2013], and THE TOWN [2010]), Scott Eastwood (SNOWDEN [2016], FURY [2014], GRAN TORINO [2008]), Zoe Saldana (STAR TREK BEYOND [2016], THE BOOK OF LIFE [2014], and COLOMBIANA [2011]), Elle Fanning (THE NEON DEMON, THE BOXTROLLS [2014], and WE BOUGHT A ZOO [2011]), Sienna Miller (BURNT [2015], G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA [2009], STARDUST [2007]), and Chris Cooper (DEMOLITION [2016], REMEMBER ME [2010], and AMERICAN BEAUTY [1999]).
Crew: Directing and Writing is Ben Affleck (ARGO [2012], THE TOWN [2010], and GONE BABY GONE [2007]). Composing is Harry Gregson-Williams (THE MARTIAN [2015], THE EQUALIZER [2014], and COWBOYS & ALIENS [2011]). Cinematography is Robert Richardson (THE HATEFUL EIGHT [2015], DJANGO UNCHAINED [2012], and THE AVIATOR [2004]).

This gangster film written, directed, and starring Ben Affleck is probably one of the more compelling gangster films of the year and one of his finest pieces of work that I’ve seen him in. It’s got everything you’d want to see. Action, violence, betrayal, revenge, romance, sex, and morals joining the ridiculously high body count of the movie. If you’ve loved Affleck in recent years, I’d say you’re in for a good time here. I definitely recommend it.

My honest rating: 5/5

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31 thoughts on “Last Ditch Reviews (2016)!!!

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