Well folks, another year another 50 movies watched. I may not create as much controversy as Chris Rock, but at least I won't have the lowest ratings in the last eight years for this entry (partially due to the fact that my blog has not been in existence for that long but who's counting right!?)Anyway, in order to arrive at my top ten films, I had to endure through the unnecessary (Terminator Genisys), the disappointing (Creed) and the downright awful (American Ultra) but if I had to do it again, well you already know the answer to that!
Review: After the disaster that was The Interview and the mildly whimsical but easily forgettable Neighbors, my expectations for Seth Rogen's latest vehicle, The Night Before, were quite low. What I wind up receiving was a sidesplitting, crude yet sentimental affair that was better then it had any right to be. In fact, it was the most fun that I had at the theater this year. This was one"Trainwreck" I had no problem keeping my eyes on (Zing) (B+)
Synopsis: A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.
Review: Some films are simply watched and enjoyed. Then, there are films such as The Revenant that are meant to be experienced in the most harrowing fashion. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu takes us on a grizzly, pun intended, Darwinian exercise of survival of the fittest authentically capturing the visceral composition of both nature and man's will to survive. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention Mr. DiCaprio's Oscar worthy performance as the vengeful frontiersmen who will to stop at nothing in achieving vindication. It's a grueling watch and one that may not incite repeat viewings but the lasting images will be enough to leave a resonating imprint.(B+)
Synopsis: A single mother sends her two children to visit their estranged grandparents .
Review: Reduced to a mere punchline in most critics' circles, M. Night Shyamalan's The Visit is the perfect blend of horror and humor and avoids the usual pitfalls that have plagued the majority of his previous films. Hopefully, this latest work proves to be the first step on the road to redemption for a once promising director. (B+) -CgN
Synopsis: In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.
Review: Bryan Cranston shines as Dalton Trumbo in this self titled biopic that also acts as an ode to film making and freedom of expression. Strong turns from its' supporting cast along with an on the nose script make for a truly satisfying, historical look at old Hollywood as well as the progress that has been achieved thanks to visionaries like Trumbo.(B+)
Synopsis: Journey through the life and times of Beach Boys' leader Brain Wilson who goes from budding musical genius to a broken and confused shell of himself.
Review: Paul Dano is the true stand out in Love and Mercy: a film that chronicles the rise and fall of Beach Boy front man Brain Wilson. Dano meticulously captures the enigmatic genius of Williams while still being able to evoke sympathy despite his alienating eccentricities.Add strong performances form John Cusack, who plays the older Brain Williams to a tragic tee, and Paul Giamtti as the menacing Dr. Eugene Landy, and you have a superb, surrealistic entry in the musical biopic genre (B+)
Synopsis : Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back on track after losing everything due to a tragic occurrence.
Review: Gyllenhall's raw and complex portrayal, as a boxer fighting for redemption, and Fuqua's relentless, gritty and realistic lens, form the perfect union. This results in Southpaw succeeding in being a heavyweight film, with just the right amount of emotional punch, that inevitably engrosses and satisfies viewers.(B+)
Synopsis : Life changes for Malcolm, a geek who's surviving life in a tough neighborhood, after a chance invitation to an underground party leads him and his friends into a Los Angeles adventure.
Review: Like it's central character, Dope is indeed a complex movie. On one hand, it manages to add some fresh and inventive ideas, mainly the advent of social media, to the typical "coming of age" motif while still appealing to movie goers who wish to hang their hats on nostalgia. However, the movie becomes problematic and a bit jarring due to the pervasive use of the "N Word". It is unclear if the director is intending to replicate modern, urban dialogue, or advocate its' use to reclaim and redefine its' impact. Whatever the reasoning, the script prevents it from truly leaving me in my B-boy stance! (B+)
Synopsis: A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking, female A.I.
Review: There has not been a shortage of films that deal with the journey of self awareness as it relates to automatons. Nevertheless, Alex Garland effectively incorporates a stark sense of dread and intrigue in his latest film Ex Machina: a high tech game of cat and mouse made even more engrossing by Alicia Vikander's deceptively, stoic portrayal of AVA! (A-)
Synopsis: A middle-aged couple's career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives.
Review: Looks can be deceiving, no? At first glance, While We're Young comes off as another disposable "Dramedy" that deals with the struggles of middle age life. This results in a series of comedic follies due to feeble attempts at reclaiming youth and climaxing in the moralization of accepting the passing of time. This is not to say that semblances of these elements aren't present but this film deals honestly with some weighty, existential themes that are explored as it relates to generational divides. These themes range from the dehumanization of society due to the advent of technology down to the growing ambiguity when it comes to notions of morality. Thankfully, it all is presented in a very palatable fashion thus leaving a lasting impression that resonates with the viewer beyond the theater. (A-)
To check out all fifty I watched, click Here Buddy!!! (CgN)