Saturday, December 31, 2016

Movies: 2016

Here we go again. I'm hoping this takes you more than ten minutes to read because it likely took more than ten hours to write.

Just like last year, we're going to break this down into a few separate sections.


Top 82 movies of 2016!

Here are the movies that (according to Rotten Tomatoes) were released in 2016. There is a bit of overlap slightly with last year (for example, I managed to see The Witch at Sundance last year, but it's sort of still a 2016 release). Also, there are lots of things that I didn't see in the theater but were either exclusively streaming anyway, or were such early releases that I managed to catch them streaming later. Regardless, it's a pretty good year. I legit hated very few of these (listed first).


82. Suicide Squad
In a way, I'm glad this exists. I have a lot of negative energy pent up inside me and I need a reservoir for it. Who knows, this year, I probably would have developed a tumor or something if I didn't have Suicide Squad as the most obvious of all punching bags to vent rage on. We were so excited before, but Suicide Squad makes Batman v Superman seem actually pretty alright. About halfway through Suicide Squad I realized that we're still on the same dull, grey mission and we're not gonna get a fun montage of the Suicide Squad saving the day over and over again. Not to say superhero movies can't be good if they're just a single mission, but THIS mission? Hastily put together, dark, messy, unfulfilling, unmotivated -- obviously a reflection of the making of the film itself. Also, everybody thinks they're soooooo cool. These characters aren't good enough or bad enough -- like your friends who always yell to you about how kooky they are. Plus one of them shows up only for the purpose of having his head explode. I wouldn't hang out with these people. Not because I would fear for my life, but because I know our conversations would be boring and pointless and their stupid weapons are stupid boomerangs.

81. Masterminds
Far out, Jared Hess movies can be really annoying. I really wish he liked his characters just a little rather than directing a charge for us to gleefully look down on them. 

80. Sausage Party
I'm not sure I can totally put my finger on why this annoyed me so much. Yes, there's a lot of smug atheism attached, and I think that's what most people would think I'd be annoyed at. There's something else, though. It is a bit one-note and unsustainable. Is that it? The rules of the universe are pretty murky here. Look, all I can tell you is that I hated watching it and I didn't laugh, at least not after the first half hour. 

79. The Blackout Experiments
Seen at Sundance. It's an insincere documentary about people who attend fright rooms willingly. The movie is like a Russian nesting doll sequence of lame exhibitionism. 

78. How to Be Single
Not the worst, but I literally considered punching myself in the face while watching in order to feel something. Script seemed to be composed of the most basic set of Magnetic Poetry. 

77. Oscar Nominated Shorts 2016
These are always so forgettable. Please see previous years' lists for my thoughts. I only watch them to get an edge in my Oscar pool.

76. Sleight
Fun inner city plot about a teen magician. Hilariously stilted direction and editing. 

75. The Brothers Grimsby
Never much cared for his world-shaming comedy terrorist antics, so not too torn up that this Sacha Baron Cohen movie is a miserable mugging waste of time. Fortunately that bit of Schadenfreude got me through this disaster. 


74. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
"It wasn't THAT bad" should be the quote they put on the Blu-ray box. Hopefully, this budgetsplosion of a picture puts to end the grey, gritty, grimy method of portraying so-called superheroes. Well, Suicide Squad is the true ender, I suppose (we can only hope). The actual, title though-- the actual fight -- THAT was pretty cool. If I had my way, it would be the pre-credits sequence for the Justice League movie (minus the "Martha!" part of course) and the rest of this picture would be abandoned completely.

73. A Bigger Splash
Certainly different and character-driven, which is always nice. These little pictures of old friends coming together with a bit of tension and perhaps a few new variables have that fun element where you can't quite tell where it's going (at least not as much as your basic superhero or spaceship movie I'm still so fond of). I do wish I could bust through the personas of these characters a little more. We have a shared love of The Rolling Stones, but their world isn't super relatable to me. Not to say I can't relate to people who are different than I am. I'd be able to if the movie would just help me out a little bit more. Also. Long. This one was super long. Ralph Fiennes does do some awesome Elaine-like dancing, but you love it because he's so into it.

72. Jason Bourne
Points for Vikander! Other than that, whatever. The Bourne series takes a step back here. The fourth movie pretty much has literally been taken over by machines. Maybe inject some humanity into the next one. His motivation is revealed to be less interesting than before, and the Bourne thrill is just gone by now. Not much enthusiasm seems to come with the new story. I think they may have filmed a bunch of action scenes and then added dialogue over it later to justify its existence. Also, shouldn't the title actually be David Webb? This is objectively the weakest in the series, but allow me to say one thing about the whole franchise anyway. We needed Bourne in the early 2000s to be a totally different kind of cool than James Bond. The unfortunate thing about Bourne, though, is that kind of silent, non-party cool just doesn't have a high shelf life. Sure, we'll get tired of Bond every ten years or so, but there's a reason the charm of Bond always comes back. It's irresistible. Groan-inducing? Sure. But it never gets boring (like Bourne inevitibly does even if this latest Bourne movie were any good).

71. X-Men: Apocalypse
I'm the biggest fan of the X-Men franchise that I know. This one's dull as dirt though. Perhaps it was a mistake to make a movie with the actual character of Apocalypse. I've read 300 X-Men comic books and that character's always been a big problem for me anyway. Really dull motivations and super vague powers. Still, more of an effort on the rest of the movie would have gone a long way. Recasting Storm and Jean Grey is fine, but they really flattened the characters out when they had a perfect chance to embellish them.

70. Elvis and Nixon
People say this is charming and funny. It's got Michael Shannon as Elvis. Regardless, my mood must have been too poor to enjoy it the way it should be enjoyed. For me, the jokes are flat and the premise tiresome from the start. Sorry Elvis fans and Nixon fans if there are any.

69. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
I'll be honest, I just had this one on in the background to catch a few glimpses of Lucy Boynton. So inevitably, not enough Boynton. This one's a very slow burn. Haunted house-ish. That one lady from Luther (I think) is in it and it's pretty much a psychological one-woman show (with a weird catatonic grandma on the side). Didn't follow it super well, but seems like it should be a half-hour Twilight Zone episode.

68. Snowden
Pretty good. Pretty scary. Yeah, we live in a terrible world where information isn't safe, but it probably works far better as a documentary. JGL is pretty over the top with the Snowden voice and it's pretty distracting. Also, it's pretty established early on that the government is spying on us, but we get this annoying narrative loop of Snowden quitting in disgust and then taking another job later and getting just slightly more jaded than before. I suppose that probably really happened, but it's dull believability in a movie narrative.

67. Bad Moms
They weren't really THAT bad (perhaps not a super great Blu-ray cover quote). I wouldn't mind seeing a movie where a bunch of moms legit didn't like their kids. I think that would be funny. Probably wouldn't be a hit. Anyway, Bad Moms had jokes in it and I laughed sometimes.

66. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
I sure wish Tina Fey put more of her stamp on stuff she stars in. Did she write this one? I don't think so. Okay I just checked. She didn't write it, but that Carlock guy she often works with did. That's surprising. If she had more input, maybe I'd remember a line or two from this.

65. April and the Extraordinary World
Whimsical animated French movie about an alternate universe without 20th century invention. Charming enough at the time, and I certainly have no problems with this one, but I certainly wish the animation style would give something spectacularly memorable that I could mention here. Funny enough, I've always had a hard time with animated young women wandering through a world unlike our own (Alice in Wonderland for example). So it makes me really sad that I have such a hard time remembering all the Nazi mad scientists and steampunk amazement that surely littered this movie.

64. Swiss Army Man
Certainly an award should be given for this one for being so one-of-a-kind. The magic doesn't quite wrap together for me. I somehow have some issues with the ending. Not quite sure what the message is besides maybe we should fart in public more. If the movie has no other legacy, I think that's a worthy one. Years from now, historians will probably study this movie as the source of the cultural shift where everybody just started farting all the time in public instead of holding it in. Maybe it will actually be healthier for all. Oh, btw, if you don't know, this movie is about a stranded man who finds salvation in a flatulent corpse. The corpse is played very well by Daniel Radcliffe. Mary Elizabeth Winstead continues to play my favorite person.

63. Magnificent Seven
Never seen a more egregious example of a bad guy using the Brannigan method of sending wave after wave of his own men to their deaths in an open range shoot-out. Fewer people died on Alderaan. More damage was inflicted on this town than World War II. Fortunately, good guys can stand in open area freely and not get hit. That's in the Bible somewhere. Also bullets in the gut make Chris Pratt run faster. Despite these expected complaints, still pretty fun. Pratt gets one-liners that are charming despite seeming sorta anachronistic. Would have liked more time with the China guy. His lines are strangely the easiest to understand. Hints and a small tortured monologue from Ethan Hawke make me want more from him, but maybe it's the right balance with the rest of the non-serious story. Oh, one more positive. Despite her anguish, grieving widow Haley Bennett dressed like she was getting a tan. Points a little down for not re-addressing the cost of protecting what's yours by the end. Perhaps just a little less of a triumphant musical queue when showing stacks and stacks of dead bodies -- even if they're bad guys.

62. Mascots
As usual, there's some delightful Christopher Guest improvisational mockumentary dialogue here. New people like Zach Woods and Chris O'Dowd make things fun as well. There isn't a tremendous amount of heart in it though. Either that, or sensibilities have changed since the last Christopher Guest movie, so making no adjustments to the formula feels a little like phoning it in. It's straight to Netflix in case you're wondering how you missed seeing a new Christopher Guest mockumentary.

61. Sully
This is made surprisingly riveting through a strange touch of non-linear storytelling and an interesting focus on several passengers. However, it ends hilariously with something right out of a sitcom freeze frame of a dad joke. I'm very hung up on the method used to convey Sully's inner strife. I find it extremely strange that he's haunted by nightmares of what could have been if he'd made the decision NOT to land on the Hudson. Why would that keep anyone up at night? That's the decision he denied so why would he feel those consequences? His nightmares should have been either that he landed in the river and wound up killing everyone OR that he he safely turned around and landed at the airport with no fuss. I think people consider this a minor decision, but I'm completely hung up on it. I don't think it's because I have a mental illness. I think it's big enough to derail the whole movie for me because it completely extinguishes any doubt about whether or not it was the right decision in both Sully's mind and in ours. Hence, no conflict and no real story.

60. The Fits
Too bad I didn't see this in the theater, because it was very difficult to hold my attention while watching it streaming at home. This one's getting incredible buzz from a lot of critics, but I don't feel the same way. There are lots of great elements, but seriously, we need to stop praising independent movies so much for providing so much "restraint" in the dialogue. In my opinion, lots of indies, such as this one, need to take some chances and supply some freaking dialogue. There comes to a point where "realism" steps over the line into unrealiastic territory because the main characters never speak. This is no longer restrained. It's distracting. Bring me back the days with good crisp dialogue where people talk about their wants and dreams and fears and aches and they also DO things, but it's not considered a one or the other kind of deal. Anyway, this movie is about a group of girls that have seizures for no reason. Or IS there a reason? Yes, of course there is. Let's think about it for a while (but don't talk about it!).

59. Manchester By the Sea
This is a sad movie that's really really sad, but it has some jokes, but is otherwise sad. Well, it's not super sad. It's objectively sad. Sad stuff happens, so I get why it's considered sad and certainly why the characters are sad, but it's really the aftermath of sad, so we're not necessarily taken on the rollercoaster of sad. It's mostly the boring part of sad where the sad thing happened and then we're just sort of stuck with sad. It takes a long time for Michelle Williams to finally deliver her Oscar speech, but she's crying so much that I can't understand the dialogue. Far out, this seems like a really negative review of Manchester by the Sea, but it's actually pretty good. Well, it's alright. I suppose it's going to be up for Best Picture, but I'll like the nine others a lot more. Okay. To sum up -- this movie is very long.

58. Oasis: Supersonic
Intriguing, yet a bit watered-down. The producer credit for both Noel and Liam may explain this. Still, Oasis has always been a more interesting spectacle than sound just because of the world-famous volatile nature of the sibling rivalry. I can't look away even as I plead, can't you guys just shut up and relax for like a single second? Strange how brother bands tend to breed that kind of weird imbalance. In this case it's pure swagger vs. pure talent with a giant spectrum of weaknesses in between. Certainly did appreciate a strange bit of humility from both by the end with a bit of implication that what they did wasn't necessarily all that special, but the fact that so many people showed up for it was.

57. Where to Invade Next
I sure wish Michael Moore wouldn't preach to his choir so much. If he actually needed to convince people, he would actually make more of an effort. I rather enjoyed his premise that some of the psycho weird socialist stuff that seemingly works in other countries are actually American ideas. When the world collapses, I'll take comfort in knowing that at least America had some great ideas.

56. Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
Being Werner Hezog, this one goes far beyond "maybe machines and the internet are hurting us in some ways." It's more more apocalyptic, but also more philosophical and hopeful. I'm glancing at it right now on Netflix to remind myself of it. It actually spans some massive ideas and is still detailed enough for thoughtful messages. I just watched a sequence on self-driving cars and then a sequence of soccer-playing robots and then a sequence on the cyber-bullying of a dead girl's family. Lots of good, lots of bad and plenty interesting.

55. Deadpool
Enjoyed quite a bit, but I do have some resentment about its popularity. I mean it's not THAT funny. Maybe this is just a great signal that we're allowed to have sorta fun movies in February. Also, I would have appreciated a bit more of a reason for the fourth-wall breaking. Best part of the movie is how he keeps forgetting his guns. There's a rumor of sorts that the reason he keeps doing that is because the studio kept cutting the budget of the movie, so they had to let some of the action-packed gun scenes go. The workaround was to just have Deadpool forget them. I sure hope that story is true. It's IRL funny.

54. 48 Hour Group B
I think we lost again this year, so yeah, whatever.

53. 48 Hour Awards
Actually, I think we won best costumes or something.

52. The Meddler
Not bad, but do you know what this movie could have used? More meddling. Actually, maybe it's nice that this one's pretty sweet and not an over-the-top diatribe against obnoxiously caring parents. Okay, the real mistake is taking Rose Byrne out of so much of the movie. I've probably mentioned that I have deep feelings for her.

51. The Intervention
Pretty okay indie young adult comedy. The name says it all. We get some wacky young people together and they communicate and come to terms with each other and themselves. Some funny bits. When I saw it, I gave it a positive review, but it hasn't held up for me at the end of the year. These end of the year lists are always interesting for me. I know I felt differently at the time, but there are so many movies (like this one) where there's not much that is able to resonate all the way to the end.

50. Trekoff: The Motion Picture
An online friend made this documentary about Star Trek and his relationship to it through his podcast. This guy and his partner are exuberant enough for several hours of screen time, so the energy is totally there. Plug for me, btw! If you ever see this movie, watch for me. I make an appearance at about 45 minutes in. Unfortunately I also listened to the DVD commentary for this and they don't mention how cool I am.

49. For the Love of Spock
Here's a documentary on Leonard Nimoy that you can easily watch in the comfort of your own home thanks to the miracle of Netflix. Standard Star Trek stuff is here (which is awesome because it mostly has to do with Spock and he's the best one (if you didn't already know) mostly because Nimoy melded with the character so hard), but there's also a lot of some of the other stuff Nimoy did that was pretty cool (like the 70s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- ever see it? It's like the third best movie of the 70s). Nimoy's son Adam put this thing together and it's mixed with some very personal details, especially considering how troubled the father-son relationship was.

48. Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion
Not really a movie. More of a workshop on how to make fun of movies. MST3K has probably done more to contribute to my sense of humor than anything else. You all have that to blame. Sorry I don't worship something you like more.

47. Ghostbusters
I think I can safely say it's actually funnier than the original, but only because it has more jokes (have you seen the original lately? There are seriously like five jokes). Chris Hemsworth is actually pretty brilliant. It's almost a shame he's spent so much energy the last ten years or so maintaining a god-like physique for Marvel movies (in possibly the weakest Marvel character role) when he could have easily just been funny sitting at a desk. With all the jokes though, I sure wish the movie were stable in its identity. Maybe all those jokes should have gone away in favor of a cohesive world. And what's up with adding the black ghostbuster as a complete afterthought? We don't need to adhere to the original in THAT way. Also, probably a mistake to put both Wiig and McCarthy in straight roles. Their bouncing off of each other is pretty inert here. Funny though. Funny as a long sketch and not as a movie with a story or anything. I want to like this more, if for nothing else to hush up all the anti-girl supernerds on the internet.

46. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week -- the Touring Years
Ever hear of these guys? They were apparently a pretty big deal. I don't recall anything truly revolutionary with this movie regarding any new documentary techniques, but there's a lot of old footage that's plenty fascinating. Lots of participation from everybody too. So yeah, not revolutionary, but all the information is there and it's used to paint the scene just as good as anything.

45. Saturday's Warrior
Let's get this out of the way right now. I'm very unashamed of my love for the story and music of Saturday's Warrior. You should too. If you're a gentile, just have fun with it as cultural mythology. If you're devout, don't knock it because of the fictionalized doctrine. If you've enjoyed even a minute of any production in the Joseph Smith Building on Temple Square, you don't have a case there. It's ours and the music's great. I'll fight you and cut you if you disagree. THAT SAID, why did they take out the best songs and put in new, worst songs? This is especially perplexing because the 70s setting is still there, so the new smooth jazz tunes don't jibe with the nostalgia. The void of the missing songs is unsuccessfully filled by too much dialogue and bad transitions between the talking world and the singing one. Also, the bad hippies may have also been too nice, but then again their little crusade was never really nefarious anyway. Semi-kudos for not backing down on the very militant Mormon 70s pro-life message (although these days it makes me extremely uncomfortable). Hey, it's a swell time capsule.

44. Blair Witch
Not reviewed well, but lemme tell ya, it sure is effective for me. I don't get scared easily, but being lost and confused in the woods certainly does it. There's a combination of the intimidation of vastness while at the same time being pressed into a claustrophobia. This movie probably could have been its own thing rather than a sequel. It may have been better if so, but it would have to go against the obvious comparisons. No big. I don't hate that it's a sequel.

43. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
I can appreciate the ways in which the creators departed a bit from the first movie, especially with the puppy dog neediness of the Zac Efron character. Again though, it's Rose Byrne with my favorite comedic performance of the summer.

42. 13th
Fascinating premise that the 13th amendment continued to allow for slavery, but only among convicted inmates -- and therefore a system was put in place in our country to target black men for incarceration. There have actually been a few documentaries this year that have pointed out my naive whiteness. The fact that I academically started this summation as "fascinating premise" probably sheds a lot of light on how ignorant I actually am on race relations here.

41. Weiner
I guess it's too bad that there's so much of the Anthony Weiner story that happened just barely. There's plenty that happened before, though. Kind of weird how people in certain positions of authority fail in fidelity almost as though they have no choice in the matter. The all-access the crew received for the making of this is pretty unprecedented, so this movie's got to be pretty one-of-a-kind for covering this kind of stuff.

40. Krisha
Alienating and pristine. So, like, one of my absolute biggest pet peeves is when people talk about a movie and they say something like, "I hated that movie! It was so sad!" or "It was so scary!" I just can't stand it when people actually talk in a negative way when a work is obviously so effective in portraying its message. I'm gonna do that right now with Krisha. I kind of hate this movie. Not because it's poorly made, but because it's effective. It brings to me a very real sense of social anxiety and claustrophobia. Throughout the picture set in a traditional family gathering, I feel the weight of ridicule and shame as if held back just out of sight by paper walls. I guess my big complaint about the movie is to the filmmakers. WHY DO YOU WANT ME TO FEEL THAT WAY?

39. Rams
I like to think that the girl I took to this has fonder memories of me than of this movie. Not likely. It was a brief romance and this movie is actually pretty good. Lots of movies about brothers this year. This one is of a deeply troubled grudge of several decades, but with a tiny spark of love that perseveres.

38. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Tremendous to hear all the NZ accents again. Certainly that's the winningest aspect here. Didn't recognize Sam Neill for first half hour. Super respect to him for disappearing into a husk of grizzletude so well.

37. Midnight Special
I love this. Sci-fi plot, but handled by Jeff Nichols, a very grounded director. Bizarre and thrilling, but I can't place why it doesn't COMPLETELY work. Perhaps it's a teensy bit not weird enough.

36. De Palma
Really De Palma is closer to a long podcast interview with a director than anything else. All this picture is is Brian De Palma going over each of his movies one by one with the added bonus of movie footage from his stuff as well as his influences. It may not have a formal structure with ebbs and a storyline, but it's at least as engaging (and addicting) as a Buzzfeed listicle where you're curious about each and every list item. The most straightforward presentation as could possibly exist and it's not a bad move.

35. Don't Think Twice
I have some problems with a scene with Gillian Jacobs having this massive therapeutic breakthrough while onstage. Other than that, this one's pretty real. Certainly tapping into a Salieri-esque sense of professional envy and the dynamics that shift within friendships when some see some semblance of success while others are left behind. Also, there's the old factor. I really feel and relate to Mike Birbiglia's character -- super old but not as interesting as he thinks.

34. Doctor Strange
A way better title would be Doctor Strangle -- not because he strangles people, but it just sounds way cooler. They'd have to turn him into a villain I suppose. Actually, hey there's this -- if Marvel is reading, please consider a mirror-universe adversary for the sequel called Doctor Strangle. Anyway, I like this more than I thought I would. I only say that because I'm really reaching peak Marvel Cinematic Universe at this point. There are sooo many superheroes and while more is more fun, we're really getting to a point where the personalities and powers are very similar. I don't think the superhero bubble will break over this though (DEFINITELY by 2018). It's juuuuuust different enough to be interesting. I like the touch of sparkler embers to show this particular magic in place (even though I can't figure out why magic has embers). I'm a bit weirded out by the space karate (also see the entry on Rogue One (also with Mads Mikkelsen)). I think Benedict Cumberbatch should have asked something like "You guys do space magic AND space karate?" and then Chiwetel Ejiofor could have just paused for a while and then exasperatingly said really quick but non-sarcastically, "YEAH."

33. Lion
About time Dev Patel got attractive enough to deserve the super hot girl he got in Slumdog Millionaire. Yes, I know that's not a review, but that's what I was thinking the whole time I was watching this movie. Anyway, you've probably heard the story. I think I must have heard it on Fresh Air or something, but it's about the little boy in India who was accidentally carried from his home on a train and is then adopted by a couple of very nice Australian folks. I'm happy to report that the movie spends a good chunk of time wallowing in a bit of survivor's guilt. Okay, on to the real review! Lion is pretty good.

32. The Nice Guys
Shane Black is always reliable for conversation and characters that I want to be a part of. Unfortunately The Nice Guys suffers from a trailer that's actually better than the movie. This is a silly criticism of course. Not many movies can hang on to the consistent tone of a two-minute trailer. There are just some minor draggy bits, but for the most part, this is a fun and funny sort of Hollywood noir.

31. Star Trek Beyond
This one probably edges out the other two new Star Trek movies for me, even though (like the other two) there are some pretty massive flaws. This one's funner though, and I think we all realized very early on with this franchise, that the light touch provided by the charismatic cast is the real strong suit. One thing I've been really sick of in Star Trek films for the past 20 years is the need for a crazy megalomaniac villain every single time. Please, someday give me a Star Trek movie about something more weird and mysterious rather than obvious. At least this one somewhat goes in the direction of seeming sort of like an episode of the original series, and that's why it's got the edge for me.

30. Moonlight
It's making a lot of year-end lists, so you likely know all about it. It is true. It is quite good. Try as I might, I'm not sure what I can add to the rest. Three actors portray this kid at various points in his life and while the actors don't look super similar to each other, little glimpses of the performances reveal a connection. The movie sits in a tightly-woven middle ground commenting on inner-city society and social norms while being anchored solely in one individual experience that doesn't necessarily depend on any bigger picture.

29. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Pretty sad that all Lonely Island movies fail box office-wise. They're always legit-funny. Obviously that's subjective and there are lots of people who can't stand Andy Samberg's wide dinosaur mouth full of teeth. Fine. Even so, the movies are impeccably produced, which is something I really respect when people take that much care in comedies. Usually they're just staged to set up jokes. If nothing else, the songs are great. Actually, that's really the whole point. I can't remember the story.

28. Jackie
Here's an odd combination of flashbacks and re-created footage that somehow brings forth the vibe of the initial malaise of sudden recent grief. It sets a jumbled, horrifying mood, but somewhat overcomes it by the end with a higher good (yet bleak) resolve. Also Portman is breathy as all get out. A bit distracting, but I guess that must be how women from Southampton spoke 60 years ago.

27. Arrival
I get why people really latched onto this little sci-fi piece, but it didn't leave me in a crying heap. I get it though. I got no kids, so I got no cry. Still, though, much respect for big mainstream movies that do stuff like this. It's a great reason for a science fiction setting to play with themes of parenthood and its sacrifices.

26. Hail, Caesar!
Somehow exists in a weird limbo between comedy and drama. When it's funny, it's funny, but I've never seen a slapstick-type movie try so hard to not even bother with humor. It's certainly very Coen-y. Personal in the same way some of their quieter movies are, but this time it's a bit of a toast to movies themselves. They make a strange religious connection to movies to possibly explain how films are so effective on people -- as a sort of spirituality. It's not joke reference either. It's pure reference. Silly connection taken seriously by a non-humorous semi-comedy. The Coens have probably earned their own genre.

25. Pee-Wee's Big Holiday
I put this one on just to pass the time while I checked email for a few minutes. Wound up canceling all my plans and watching the whole thing straight through. I've never even really been a big Pee-Wee fan either. Go with what works, I suppose. This is pretty much a remake of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. I don't mind it here, even though I was plenty offended when they did the same thing with Star Wars last year.

24. Eye in the Sky
Since robots are doing our fighting for us now, it's really worth it to have this piece that still has human beings arguing about the ramifications of each attack. Alan Rickman is still alive in this movie and he plays a smart (rather than moronically bloodthirsty) military leader in the midst of the debate. Also, drones. Some pretty cool ones too.

23. Other People
Landry being all sensitive. Standard Sundance fare (big city gay guy goes home to his flyover state and is different than everybody else), with just the right amount of feeling seeping through the Indie shell.

22. First Girl I Loved
Lovely little movie about a love triangle full of friction when a girl spurns her Duckie in favor of another girl. Another Sundance one. Maybe this will never be seen again.

21. Christine
This one's sort of lovingly oppressive. Rebecca Hall is a national treasure (actually, she's an honorary national treasure, because I think she's British). Anyway, she's pretty great as a severely awkward newswoman in the 70s fighting a lot of battles while seemingly manipulated by her own issues. Based on truth, I don't think the story gets to the bottom of anything, but it's straightforward in its presentation. If not intellectually understood, Rebecca Hall still brings a tremendous understanding to the performance.

20. Cafe Society
Still like Woody Allen. I think this one is stepping in the right direction even if he's made these steps dozens of times already. At this point, Woody Allen movies are universal within themselves. It's always just a tinge of the greener grass or what could have been or discovering the grass isn't as green as it should have been and there's no possible way to have all the grass. Just a puzzle where the pieces don't fit nicely.

19. Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
My buddy made this movie and it's a great movie about a bunch of kids that got together and made a movie that's a remake of another movie waaaaay before people did movie stuff like that. Anyway, this documentary delves further than that with a bit of analysis of the adolescence of these kids and their circumstances and the need to complete such a seemingly absurd task.

18. 10 Cloverfield Lane
We need more movies like this that are weird sequels, but connect to the movie in a sideways way both in plot and style. This one takes a turn from fiery, open wreckage of the other movie, to a tense, quite claustrophobia here. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is in my top five btw. I really appreciate the bleakness. Not to get too spoilery, but there's a certain hopelessness in both potential outcomes. It kind of makes the WTF ending a bit justified and inspiring.

17. The Love Witch
I would like to have a sandwich restaurant and the most popular sandwich there would be one called "The Lovewich." Anyway, these types of non-ironic (I think?) throwback movies are becoming more and more common and I certainly welcome them. This one is unmistakably swinging 60s (or maybe me-decade 70s? Whatever, I wasn't around and I'm no historyologist). It's about time we got to an era where we can create a loving homage to the cheapness and the cheese of yesteryear without blatantly making fun of it. I mean, the movie's director is also the costume designer for cryin' out loud. The result is complete immersion into this throwback world. Also, kind of like The Lobster, I really enjoy the not-so-subtle dialogue about the state of romance and the trips and falls associated with gender roles getting in the way even after they are used to spark the initial fire.

16. The Witch
Surprise! Not only do we have two witch movies in a row, but this one actually made my list last year! Check it: http://jonmadsen.blogspot.com/2015/12/movies-2015.htmlhttp://jonmadsen.blogspot.com/2015/12/movies-2015.html. Anyway, I watched it again and it's really pretty good. Well, I shouldn't call it good because evil and despair are pretty overwhelming, but it's certainly good in that the vibes certainly lead to engaging drama.

15. Zootopia
Finally caught up with this on Netflix. Another example of just putting it on while I did something else, but then got totally immersed in it. And hey, what a nice way to tackle racism. They kind of take a sort of Star Trek approach where they don't necessarily say that this animal equals white people and this animal equals black people and this animal equals the Dutch or whatever. This is a completely different world with a different set of race relations so there are aspects of all sorts of different dynamics that we can see in different ways. Pretty kudos. Also, pretty funny. I think it's really funny. I think this one got a bit of blowback, but I'm not sure the reasons. Please enlighten me of its flaws.

14. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
We're probably all going to come to our senses on this one and dismiss it along with the prequels. Right now, though, I love it. The faults are many (CGI characters, images crammed from previous movies, unexplained motivations, sticks are stormtroopers' biggest weakness, why in the world is an Imperial probe droid on Jedha (there's already an Imperial presence there, so what's it probing?)), but I think the movie expands the universe in a way that's needed. I was actually looking forward to the film because the trailer feels so very Star Wars-y, but it's the out of place feel from the rest of the movies that really endears me to this one. It's moving out from tales of boys' wonderment about a new world and moves right to the tone of a World War II war movie. There's some convoluted stuff about the different factions of the rebellion, but it's the very definition of rag-tag. The sloppiness beyond the sheen of Star Wars is welcome for me. For now. Oh, and also this one has Mads Mikkelsen (like in Doctor Strange!) and also space karate (like in Doctor Strange!). Hey, is it kind of weird that this is a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, but it's still the Asians of this universe that utilize the space karate?

13. The Witness
Ever hear that story of the woman murdered in New York and 38 people watched it happen, but didn't do anything? Here's a documentary about that, but wowie wow, things turn out way different than you may think. The movie follows the brother of the victim looking for answers. Turns out history is wrong, but it's wrong with reason. There's a lot more to the story and it goes beyond the motive for murder and delves into the motive of storytelling too.

12. Tickled
I can't really say much about this, but as dumb as it sounds, it's really great and twisted and dark and eye-opening and infuriating and a lot of other stuff. If you don't know, this movie starts, no joke, as a documentary investigating the world of "competitive tickling." Yes. That's really a thing. KIND OF. Then the movie gets psychotic. For real and far beyond the initial playful premise. It leads to some interesting and very sad stuff regarding power and personality.

11. Everybody Wants Some!!
Linklater does this strange thing where he seems to make movies about absolutely nothing. You walk out and you're like, why was that a thing? What was the point? I don't think there's some hidden deep meaning in this. It's not profound, but it sort of captures the feeling of profundity as felt by certain characters at certain times of their lives. I've heard criticism of this one because it treats the women as mere items for the male tools to use. I can totally see how that's a valid point, considering that's how the world's been for several thousand years and it's understandable that some people are fed up with it. I don't find it a problem here, though. The females are only as shallow as the males and in a very real and obvious sense, they aren't victims, but use the men in the very same way. Really, the movie captures the shallowness of youth across the board, but with a hope and a clean slate to project toward something great. Watch the movie and consider the friend that is removed from the story partway through. Notice the weird youthy attitude of the rest of the gang. Shallow and exciting with no room for sorrow.

10. Green Room
Gorgeously violent and tense. Like a Nirvana song that builds with loud-quiet-loud. Of course at the beginning of the year, I wasn't nearly as worried about Nazis...

9. The Edge of Seventeen
Teen comedies are my thing (along with 30 other things), so I'm very particular about them. This one's good. It really approaches the troubles of this kid as human problems rather than just teen problems. Some of John Hughes' best stuff does it the same way. Somehow the main character is quite lovable and I feel for her, even though she's actually pretty self-absorbed and annoying (like teenagers are). Her obnoxiousness and yearnings really come together for a delicious sort of salted caramel character.

8. Nocturnal Animals
This movie is about Amy Adams reading a book. That's it, but it's pretty riveting and pretty. Jake Gyllenhall sends it to her and just that action alone provides a setting of mindgames that sit in the background as she gets absorbed in this troubling story. Gyllenhall also plays the main character in the book and, as a replacement for Amy Adams, Isla Fisher plays his book wife. This is totally my favorite because I think Amy Adams and Isla Fisher look exactly the same. This casting must have been very deliberate. Anyway, the movie is cold and weird and disturbing (but just lovely enough).

7. O.J.: Made in America
This sucker's like seven hours long, so stop wasting your time reading this list and fire up Hulu and watch this thing right now. It's actually pretty easy watching. Not boring at all. Very engrossing and very informative. It makes a supremely great choice in expanding out the setting first of all, addressing the tense race relations that were just deep background during the original crime and trial. The context the film provides is astounding. It brings a new level of motivation to the verdict as well as a host of surrounding actions. Like 13th, I experienced a bit of unease with tackling some race issues I wasn't necessarily familiar with. Also, get a load of that amazing lost footage of home movies from the day O.J. got home from trial.

6. Captain America: Civil War
Really an Avengers movie, since pretty much all (except the lame ones) are here. I've always said the most interesting parts of any Avengers movie are when the Avengers themselves are fighting with each other. I wish every Avengers movie could be that. Intriguing how it's hardly an obvious good/evil conflict. Just a bit of complication in summer superhero blockbusters goes a long way (or the wrong way (see Batman v Superman)). Also, the fight scenes aren't nightmares to watch. They're fun! Amazing.

5. The Neon Demon
I get a sick and sinister smile on my face whenever I hear the title of any Nicolas Winding Refn movie. This one I think takes a step in the right direction combining vivid visuals with some initially playful symbolism (a literal wild beast arriving through a door Elle Fanning didn't close) to absurdly beyond symbolic (what happens to Elle Fanning near the end). Literal beauty has never been composed with such deep and glorious ugliness. Sweet music. Sweet seizure-inducing strobes. Sweet dreams on the edge crossing into nightmares.

4. Hell or High Water
If I didn't land a job looking at product copy for a major corporation, I'd probably be a pretty good bank robber. By pretty good, I mean I probably wouldn't really excel at it, but I would enjoy it because I always love good bank robbery movies. Hell or High Water is a good bank robbery movie. Also, it's a good movie. Also, it builds characters the way movies are supposed to in that the riveting plot leads us into revealing motivation and gives us empathy for everyone on all sides of the story conflict.

3. The Lobster
I'm not sure if I completely understand the symbolism, but if nothing else I can attest to the absurdity this movie associates with relationships as well as the absurdity of relationship denial. I love the rebellion of the characters to the setting, but what I love most of all is the one universe rule they don't even consider breaking, even though it's the most obvious one -- the necessity to have the same singular trait as your partner. As a Tinder-user I relate too much to the silliness of this, but it's a part of our culture more than ever even if it's hardly an important aspect of a loving relationship. Actually, I have no right to say that. What do I know?

2. La La Land
Joycrack, better than most Christmases, like biting into a cob of joy endorphins -- these are the terms I've used to describe La La Land to friends. The music and dancing are wonderful and joyous. You should know this by now because you should have seen this by now. What really sticks with me, though, is the bittersweet aspect of it. Damien Chazelle also made Whiplash and he touches on the sacrifice of passions quite a bit. Passionate people have passionate relationships, but passions just simply can't be multi-tasked (like singing and dancing). There's that ebb of negativity, but the positivity and delight completely overpowers the film -- and I hardly think in a superficial way.

1. Sing Street
Let's say this upfront. This movie was engineered in a lab specifically for me to like. U.K., 80s, new wave hits, coming of age, romance with a super fly Dublin bird. Everything. Regardless, my heart actually grew two sizes more because of all the fun I wasn't even expecting. The movie's portrayal of mixing artistic influence with day-to-day life experience to make something special is joyous to behold. The 80s-style original songs are pure and amazing (actually overshadowing the brilliant vintage soundtrack). Additionally, we share in the creation of them. Consider the writing of "Riddle of the Model" up until the video is completed. Rough? Sure, but exhilarating in seeing it come to life. Now consider the same thing with the one-take shot to illustrate the creation of "Up." Then of course there's the American Prom sequence of "Drive it Like you Stole It." They work wonders in illustrating the profound exhilaration that comes with discovering the power of creativity as a teenager. The enthusiasm and futurism of the 80s is finally somewhat recognized even though people in my theater may have thought it a bit too silly. What was considered cool then is quaint now, but it does have the benefit and excitement of having never been done before. Also, Lucy Boynton has the eyes of the greatest angel eyes and there's the acknowledgement that Head on the Door is the greatest Cure album. This one's on Netflix now. We're friends if you watch it.


The 10 best (and only) movies that technically came out in 2015, but I saw in 2016!

Okay I always have this weird section here to cover any movies that came out last year, but didn't make my list last year because I hadn't seen them yet. Usually there are a bunch of Oscar noms on this overlap list, but it's surprisingly short this year. Most of these just happen to be 2015 movies that I happened to see recently. Ranked, as usual, from worst to best.

10. The Ridiculous 6
Adam Sandler not even phoning it in, but rather telling everybody else to barely sell the lamest Western gags in the history of cinema. 

9. Ctrl Alt Delete
Got access to some kind of screener or something? This is not a real movie. It's a passion project -- or maybe it was an assignment. Anyway, nobody will ever see this. Good luck even finding it. Anyway it's about a zombie virus or something maybe?

8. Cop Car
Freaky-deaky Kevin Bacon chases a couple of weirdo kids because they hiliariously stole his car.

7. The Hateful Eight
Very long. Mafia-esque. Also very The Thing. No redeeming characters, which isn't something I complain about often. Not so much invested in the conflict. When someone's head gets blown off, not happy or sad about it in the context of the lines that are drawn. Western dialogue not quite spot on. Kind of phony in the same way Shakespearean dialogue seems phony. Took me a while to realize it, but Kurt Russell is certainly channeling John Wayne (perhaps better than the guy I get him confused with, Jeff Bridges, did in True Grit). Anyway, don't worry, I still like all of Tarantino's other stuff.

6. Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police
Documentary on The Police from Andy Summers. He does not have good things to say about Sting.
 
5. She's Funny That Way
Peter Bogdonovich farce that's sorta fun, but hardly What's Up Doc? 

4. The Revenant
Long like Hateful Eight. Cold. Simple, but simply done perfectly. Tom Hardy has the conviction of the assiest hole right to the end. The true showcase is that Lubiesck cinematographer guy. 

3. Bone Tomahawk
A Western. Search party. Guy gets ripped in half. 

2. Anomalisa
Puppets! Also, the saddest. 

1. Straight Outta Compton
A lovely picture about young entrepreneurs moving up in life. Also, guns and AIDS! 

The 49 old movies I saw in 2016!


Alrighty, this section is just the older movies I saw for the very first time this last year. Again, worst to best. The year of each movie is listed in parentheses.

49. The Velvet Vampire (1971)
48. Wake in Fright (1971)
47. Long Live Death (1971)
46. Monsters (2010)
45. Balls of Fury (2007)
44. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
43. Devil Fish (1984)
42. Adult World (2013)
41. The Brothers Solomon (2007)
40. Drunken Master (1978)
39. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973)
38. American Gangster (2007)
37. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
36. Night Shift (1982)
35. The Uninvited (2009)
34. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
33. The Vanishing (US) (1993)
32. Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
31. Stone Cold (1991)
30. Handel's Messiah (2014)
29. Children of the Corn (1984)
28. Flight of the Navigator (1986)
27. The World's Greatest Athlete (1973)
26. Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)
25. Body Double (1984)
24. Time Chasers (1994)
23. The Campaign (2012)
22. The Fury (1978)
21. Akira (1988)
20. Scary Movie 3 (2003)
19. Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story of INXS (Part 1) (2014)
18. Cruel Intentions (1999)
17. Sunrise (1927)
16. The Hustler (1961)
15. Videodrome (1983)
14. Short Term 12 (2013)
13. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
12. Re-Animator (1985)
11. The Legend of Hell House (1973)
10. The Vanishing (Spoorloos) (1988)
9. Double Indemnity (1944)
8. Misery (1990)
7. Husbands and Wives (1992)
6. Capricorn One (1977)
5. They Live (1988)
4. Paths of Glory (1957)
3. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
2. The Commitments (1991)
1. Gimme Shelter (1970)


Revisited movies watched in 2016!

Here's the ranking of all the movies I had already seen, but watched again. Most are gems! That's why I watched 'em again!

35. Knuckle (2011)
34. The 'Burbs (1989)
33. Major League (1989)
32. Clerks (1994)
31. The Island at the Top of the World (1974)
30. Election (1999)
29. Let Me In (2010)
28. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
27. Bowfinger (1999)
26. Lethal Weapon (1987)
25. White Christmas (1954)
24. Room 237 (2012)
23. Legend (1985)
22. SLC Punk (1998)
21. Let the Right One In (2008)
20. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation (1989)
19. Oldboy (2003)
18. Fight Club (1999) 
17. Return of the Jedi (1983)
16. Snowpiercer (2013)
15. Boogie Nights (1997)
14. Blue Ruin (2013)
13. MacGruber (2010)
12. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
11. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
10. Whiplash (2014)
9. Love Actually (2003)
8. Trainspotting (1996)
7. Ghostbusters (1984)
6. Point Break (1991)
5. Highlander (1986)
4. The Shining (1980)
3. What's Up Doc? (1972)
2. Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Silly facts and stats of the 2016 movie-watching year that only I care about!

Total number of movies seen: 189
Total number of 2016 movies seen: 82 (some more than once)
Total number of non-2016 movies seen: 99
Year of oldest movie: 1924 (Sherlock Jr.)
Total number of movies seen more than once within 2016: 7
Most popular theater: Broadway Theatre (29 showings)
Biggest movie-watching month: January (26 movies (thanks Sundance and 24-hour movie marathon!)
Smallest movie-watching month: October (7 movies (very weird -- must've forgotten the usual slate of horror this year (it also means because of my Moviepass, I actually spent like 40 bucks on the one movie I saw in the cinema in October -- Masterminds (which REALLY sucks in so many ways)))
Movie seen most in 2016: Sing Street (4x)
Movies seen with others: 52
Movies seen alone: 137 (Sadder every year! (but not really -- we're not supposed to talk during movies anyway))
Movies seen at the cinema (excluding Sundance showings): 84 (thanks Moviepass!)
Movies seen on Netflix: 32
Movies seen on DVD: 27
Movies seen at Sundance: 5 (I got sick and missed my showings of Sing Street AND The Lobster!)
Movies seen at the annual 24-hour movie marathon: 11
Movies seen on an airplane: 0
Movies seen on Amazon Prime: 8
Movies seen on Hulu: 7
Movies seen on Blu-ray: 4
Movies seen on YouTube: 3 
Movies seen on straight-up broadcast TV: 2
Movies seen on HBOGo: 2
Movies seen on iTunes: 1

If you've read this far, let me know. I'd love to hear from you.



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