All posts by billc

Best of 2016

Here’s our picks for the best of 2016.

 Bill IBill C
Best Movies1 Moonlight
2 Manchester By the Sea
3 Lion
4 The Edge of Seventeen
5 Hunt for the Wilderpeople
6 Birth of a Nation
7 Kapoor & Sons, Since 1921
8 Doctor Strange
9 Sausage Party
10 Deadpool
11 Silence
12 Star Trek Beyond
13 Arrival
14 Hail Ceasar
15 Hell or High Water
16 Eye in the Sky
17 Morris from America
18 Pink
19 Deepwater Horizon
20 Ones Below
21 The Girl on the Train
22 Weiner
23 Allied
24 Rogue One
25 10 Coverfield Lane
26 Free State of Jones
27 Jason Bourne
28 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
29 Barbershop, the Next Cut
30 Captain America: Civil War
31 Passengers
1 Moonlight
2 Manchester by the Sea
3 Hell or High Water
4 Sausage Party
5 Don’t Think Twice
6 Eye in the Sky
7 Green Room
8 The Edge of Seventeen
9 Arrival
10 The Crew
11 Toni Erdmann
12 Hunt for the Wilderpeople
13 The Handmaiden
Best Documentaries1 Gleason
2 Weiner
3 Tower
4 Newtown
5 The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years
6 For the Love of Spock
7 Tickled

Bill I’s Best of 2016 Comments

Narrative Films

1 Moonlight – both beautiful in its depiction of a boy growing up to manhood, and the close friendship between 2 boys, and brutal in the reality of life with a drug addicted mother and bullying of a non-conforming young man
2 Manchester By the Sea – for a movie about grief it has plenty of wisecracks, and incredible performance by Casey Affleck and the kid playing his nephew. Such a non-Hollywood ending!
3 Lion – reminiscent of Slumdog Millionaire, based on a real-life story of a lost boy from the slums of India to adoption in Australia then search for his birth family. Young actor is amazing
4 The Edge of Seventeen – perfect mix of comedy and drama focused on an amazing teenage girl, great performance by Hailee Steinfeld, and a small but key role by Woody Harrelson
5 Hunt for the Wilderpeople – what a surprising film, tour de force by the teenage actor. Now that I am summarizing my top film list, I see that all top 5 films have young actors starring in them!
6 Birth of a Nation – what was life truly like from the plantation slave’s perspective. This film seems to show the realities
7 Kapoor & Sons, Since 1921 – A Bollywood film about a disfunctional family, lots of laughs, characters and drama
8 Doctor Strange – My favorite “super hero” film of the year, with focus on character more than theatrical stunts
9 Sausage Party – how to take essentially a one joke premise and make it rolling on the floor funny, genius from Seth Rogan and friends!
10 Deadpool – I had no idea what I was getting into when this innovative, in your face film played out. What violence, what crudity, what fun!
11 Silence – a “great Scorcese film”, but didn’t really capture me until the end when Liam Neeson starts talking.
12 – Star Trek Beyond – very well done, true to Star Trek
13 – Arrival – Slow exposition, but Amy Adams keeps it compelling, and I walked out at the end thinking how well out together the plot was
14 – Hail Caesar – best dancing/singing scene in my film going life
15 – Hell or High Water – Jeff Bridges is a smart, tough ass dude, hunting down some wild criminals in the west
16 Eye in the Sky – extremely topical take on ethical questions of using drones to take out bad guys
17 Morris from America – another amazing teenager performance, showing a great father son relationship (Craig Robinson as the dad!)
18 Pink – Indian film, but no singing and dancing, as the rape culture gets examined and dismantled piece by piece in the courtroom by a crafty old lawyer
19 Deepwater Horizon – what is life like on an offshore oil rig, and what actually happened when it exploded
20 Ones Below – don’t think this film was widely shown, but very well done, about a happy young couple with a baby having to deal with suspicions about their creepy nice downstairs neighboors. What an ending!
21 The Girl on the Train – talk about creepy, Emily Blunt holds this film and my interest throughout
22 Weiner – Amazing documentary about Anthony Weiner’s self destruction (his second!) in real-time
23 Allied – Maybe this should be rated higher, as it is extremely well done war/spy romance thriller with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard
24 Rogue One – Star Wars prequel, fun, action, well done
25 10 Coverfield Lane – best depiction of a creepy dude played by John Goodman. This kept me guessing till the end, then I had to laugh, but it was fun
26 Free State of Jones – Matthew McConaughey as a Civil War good guy, leading the rebellion within
27 Jason Bourne – another typical, action with Bourne
28 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – Life as reporters in the war zone
29 Barbershop, the Next Cut – lots of talk, lots of laughs, but reality about senseless (is there any other kind) gun violence
30 Captain America: Civil War – super heros battling it out, made me wonder why are they fighting each other
31 Passengers – great premise, fantastic depiction of travelling in space, and great ethical question. Turns into typical disaster story at the end

 

Bill C’s Best of 2016 Comments

Narrative Films

1 Moonlight – Great character study of inner city kid at three important junctures of his life.
2 Manchester by the Sea – Well told story of a man trying to cope with having to deal with his nephew after the death of his brother.  The story unfolds slowly with great performances.
3 Hell or High Water – A modern western.  Great interplay between all the characters
4 Sausage Party – Funniest (and rudest/crudest) movie of the year.  Based on the coming attraction I thought it was a one joke movie but it was much more
5 Don’t Think Twice – The people in an improv group reach a moment of truth and a fork in the road.  Funny and touching.
6 Eye in the Sky – Tense drama as the controllers of a military drone have a target in sight but what action to take is not so clear cut.
7 Green Room – Another tense drama/trhiller.   A punk rock band gets booked in a club run by evil Patrick Stewart.  Pretty violent
8 The Edge of Seventeen – An entertaining coming of age movie.  Great interaction between Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson.
9 Arrival – Amy Adams is terrific in their thinking ma’s sci-fi fi/alien movie.
10 The Crew – Excellent French action movie focusing on botched job by a group of thieves.
11 Toni Erdmann – Quirky German comedy as a father tries to ‘help’ his daughter balance her life.
12 Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Offbeat New Zealand comedy about a city kid trying to bond with a new foster family
13 The Handmaiden – A period piece Korean crime drama from the director of Old Boy

Documentaries

1 Gleason – Moving documentary as former NFL player (and wife) show great courage as they deal with his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s disease as he also documents lessons for his son before all his physical abilities are gone.
2 Weiner – Anthony Weiner allowed documentarians full access as he attempted a political comeback by running for mayor after his (first) sexting scandal.   The film makers hit gold when things don’t work out as Weiner hoped.  Poor Huma Abedin.
3 Tower + Newtown – Tower is the retelling of one of the first mass shootings in U.S. history 50 years ago at the University of Texas tower in Austin.  Newtown covers the more recent mass shooting that killed 20 6+7 year olds in Newtown Connecticut.  Both just make you shake your head  when considering the lack of reasonable gun control laws.
5 The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years – Entertaining documentary about the Beatles.
6 For the Love of Spock – This is really a documentary about Leonard Nimoy.  Entertaining.
7 Tickled – Weirdest documentary of the year.   This documentary about tickling turns very dark.

 

Hacksaw Ridge

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of Desmond Doss. During WWII, serving in the Pacific, he became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor while serving as a medic.

I almost felt I was getting two movies for the price of one.  The first hour is Doss growing up, family turmoil, falling in love, enlisting and standing up for his desire to serve in a capacity that does not  require him to kill.  The second half is the story of his participation in the battle for Okinawa, his incredible bravery while sticking to his principles.  The war scenes are extremely well made but also incredibly violent (so if you don’t like disturbing war images skip this film).

This is Mel Gibson’s first directorial effort in 10 years (time flies),  It’s a well made film and it does it good job in telling the story of Desmond Doss (stay for the closing credits to see pictures/interviews with Doss and others).  My biggest knock was there are parts (in both halfs) that felt formulaic and all the expected caricatures of characters in an army barracks were provided.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Fantastic Fest 2016

This was my third year attending Fantastic Fest and I now look forward to this every year.  Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S. and features horror, science fiction, action, fantasy, foreign , and cult or anything else that strikes Tim League’s fancy.   The festival is wholly contained  in Austin at the Alamo South Lamar theater (except for special events) so there are no worries about traveling to other venues to make it to a film on time.  You  pick the movies you’d like to see the following day  online and that evening receive your schedule.  You don’t always get your first choice but being forced out of your comfort zone is not a bad thing,   you usually get your first or second choices and you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll get into the movie you go to.

In addition to the movies with directors, producers, and actors in attendance, there were several events and parties at the neighboring The Highball, including  podcasts with Leonard Maltin  and the  Doug Loves Movies podcast with Doug Benson.

Here are a few that  I really enjoyed (not in any specific order):

The Invisible Guest – This movie from Spain is a very good mystery/thriller with lots of plot twists and turns.

The Handmaiden – This and the next two are excellent films from South Korea.The Handmaiden is the latest from Chan-Wook Park, the director of Oldboy.  This film is set in the 1930s and their are more twists and turns in this one than in the Invisible Guest above!  I think this will be released in the U.S. in the next few weeks.

Age of Shadows – This one is also set in the 30s (maybe 40s) in Japan occupied Korea.  A Korean police chief is ordered by his Japanese superiors to hunt down members of the Korean resistance.   His allegiances are tested!

Asura: The City of Madness – The story of a corrupt cop who is caught between the corrupt mayor he works for as an enforcer and the district attorney.   Very atmospheric with lots of violence.  The director could have probably chosen a more subtle final act but he went for all the gusto.

Toni Erdmann – A funny and touching German movie about a man trying to reconnect with his adult daughter in unconventional ways.  Very funny with some important life lessons.

The Crew – An excellent French heist thriller.  This is a  taut, action packed 81 minutes

Arrival – Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner star in this mystery, science fiction drama as scientist trying to communicate with aliens before an apocalypse can occur.  This opens in November.

Weiner

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Weiner is an excellent documentary about Anthony Weiner’s ill-advised run for NYC mayor a couple of years ago.  He attempted to resurrect his political career two years after resigning from Congress due to a sexting scandal.

Just following his campaign would have been fascinating enough, but the filmmakers got lucky when new sexting allegations popped up and caused his campaign to implode. There are lots of fascinating things to watch: the political campaign and its workings, the press coverage,  his dealing with the scandal, and the increasingly-strained relationship between Weiner and his wife (a top Clinton advisor).

The film is thought-provoking.  Parts  are funny and others are painful to watch. The question I hoped would be answered is why he would allow this film to be made.  Late in the film he was asked that question, but didn’t answer. My view is that, due to his ego, he expected this to be a film about a great political comeback story.  This film is never dull and highly recommended.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Hardcore Henry

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Think of Hardcore Henry as a first person point of view shooter video game made into a movie.   The film makers used Go Pro cameras to achieve the first person effect.   Until the very end (due to a reflective shot) you never even see Henry  – just what he is looking at.  He doesn’t speak either!

When deciding whether  to see this movie, forget my rating and just consider the following:

  • If you think you’ll get nauseous due to the herky jerky action due to filming from cameras attached to peoples heads then skip this movie.
  • If you don’t like tons of violence skip this movie.
  • If you care about a plot or interesting characters skip this movie.
  • If you want 90 minutes of non-stop action with an incredibly high body count then go!
  • If you want some laughs (I’m not sure they were all intended) then go.
  • If you want a very unique movie that you’ll probably remember for a while then go.

For me, this turned out to be a good movie for a snowy afternoon in April while visiting relatives in Pennsylvania.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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SXSW 2016 – Part 2

Below are the hilights from the final few days of SXSW

Movies

The American Epic Sessions – This will be on PBS at some point and is the 4th episode in the series.  20 musical acts were brought into record using original recording equipment from the 1920s that allowed 3 minute recordings.  Interesting with excellent music

Morris from America – Morris has to move to Germany and live with his father.  It is interesting to see how he adjusts to both his new environs and full time life with dad.

And Punching the Cloud – A good comedy (I assume) based on real life experience of struggling comedian Henry Phillips.  He has to decide whether to sell out and go for the big bucks or stay true to himself.

Bang! The Bert Berns Story – A good documentary about 1960s song writer/music producer Bert Berns.  His hits include Hang on Sloopy and he had mob ties which adds to the interest.

My Blind Brother – A good full length romantic comedy based on a short that first debuted at SXSW in 2003.  Two brothers (Nick Kroll and Adam Scott) both fall in love with the same girl (Jenny Slate who was great in Obvious Child).

Music

I saw about 20 bands and here are my top few (not in order)

  • Jake Bugg
  • Avett Brothers
  • Lucius
  • Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
  • Leon Russell
  • Iggy Pop

 

SXSW 2016 – Part 1

Here are some very quick reviews of my favorite movies from SXSW so far.  There are still 4 days to go.

Don’t Think Twice – This is one of my favorites so far.  When it is released in July I recommend it for everyone.  The comedian Mike Birbiglia directs a great ensemble cast.  A successful improv group is at a crossroads.  Some will find more success while others need to decide if this is the life for them.  This movie is both very funny and very moving.  The next day  I went to a taping of Leonard Maltin’s podcast with Birbiglia and Ira  Glas (a producer) as guests.  It should be available in a week or two and I recommend that also.

Tower – An excellent documentary on an early mass shooting incident that took place at the University of Texas Tower in Austin in 1966.  This focused on the survivors (both those that were shot and those that helped either rescue victims or take down the shooter).  Most of the people (who are now mostly in their late 60s or 70s) participated in a Q+A afterwards.   Ironically (and sadly), the 50th anniversary of this shooting on August 1 will also be the day the  new ‘campus carry’ law allowing guns on campus goes into effect in Texas.

Newtown – Another great, very moving  documentary on an American campus shooting tragedy.  This also focused on the victims – both the dead and their survivors.    Twenty 6 and 7 year olds and six educators were killed by a mentally disturbed person with guns they should not have had access to.  Sadly, not enough is being done to prevent future events but hopefully movies like these will help change that.

Everybody Works Some – This is the newest Richard Linklater film.  It opens soon and is being marketed as a natural follow on to his early 90s hit Dazed and Confused.  It’s a semi-autobiographical film of his first few days on campus before classes start as a freshman on his college baseball team.  Its sort of a coming of age movie, has it’s funny moments but also some heart.  I liked it but it’s not as good as Dazed and Confused (and nowhere close to Boyhood).

Gleason – This is a great documentary about Steve Gleason and his wife.  Gleason used to play football for the New Orleans Saints (and is famous for blocking a  punt that lead to a key score in the first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina).  Shortly after retiring and one month after finding his wife was pregnant he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).  It’s an unflinching look at the toll the disease takes but also shows the courage the couple has as they deal with this horrible disease.  This is often tough to watch but it’s worth the effort.  They were both there for the Q+A.

The Bandit – An entertaining documentary about Burt Reynolds, Hal Needham and the making of Smokey and the Bandit.  I think this will be on CMT later in the year and while not great is worth checking out.  Reynolds was there for a Q+A.

In a Valley of Violence – An homage to some old westerns (it most reminded me of The Outlaw Josey Wales).  If you like westerns this is worth seeing.

Demolition – A good movie, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, as he struggles to deal with the death of his wife.  Gyllenhaal definitely takes on unique roles.  This movie won’t be for everyone but has good performances.

The Trust – Two cops plan a heist.  It stars Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood.   Lots of tension and some humor.  if you are a fan of Cage’s quirkiness he doesn’t disappoint.

Operation Avalanche – A good comedy about how the CIA faked the moon landing (they really didn’t)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – This is an Australian  comedy about a city kid that goes to live with a foster family in the Australian bush country.  Unique and funny.

Hail, Caesar!

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Hail, Caesar is the most recent comedy by the Coen Brothers.  The film is entertaining and had several funny scenes. I enjoyed it, but this is not one of their best.

Hail, Caesar is an homage to different movies genres of the 40s and 50s, including Esther Williams films, Gene Kelly musicals, singing cowboy films and more sophisticated films as well as the Hollywood system of that era.  That might have been some deeper meaning, but if there was, it escaped me.

The movie had a great cast, but there were so many characters that many of them didn’t have enough screen time to sink their teeth into their roles. The exceptions to that were Alden Ehrenreich (who I had not heard of) and Ralph Fiennes, who had a great scene together.

Overall I liked Hail, Caesar, but it did not meet my expectations.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I also enjoyed this film, maybe a little more than Bill C. It varied depending on the scene, because the plot is certainly nothing to write here about. Memorable scenes: 1) Channing Tatum channeling his inner Gene Kelly, with an R rated take, and thanks to Coen brothers for fitting in the whole choreography; 2) the cowboy star, played by Alden Ehrenreich (as Bill described above…holy cow, where did they find this guy who can do incredible cowboy roping tricks!), trying to act in a English upper class sitting room scene with Ralph Fiennes’ director coaching him on the proper dialect; 3) Scarlett Johannsen in an incredible water ballet scene followed by some salty language and practical, down to earth approach to having a child out of wedlock in the studio system; 3) George Clooney playing a bumbling, semi-idiot Hollywood star. Josh Brolin is solid as the strict Catholic movie studio head honcho who tries to keep it all together.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Best of 2015

While we were slackers in terms of writing reviews, we were not slackers in terms of seeing lots of movies.  Here’s our picks for the best of 2015.

 Bill IBill C
Best Movies1 Spotlight
2 The Big Short
3 The Revenant
4 Trainwreck
5 Brooklyn
6 Sicario
7 Bridge of Spies
8 Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens
9 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
10 The Martian
11 Creed
12 Trumbo
13 Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation
14 Focus
15 Selma
16 Ex Machina
17 The Gift
18 Mr. Holmes
19 Straight Outa Compton
20 Hateful Eight
21 Southpaw
22 Chi-Raq
23 Spy
24 A Most Violent Year
25 Crimson Peak
26 MacFarland, USA
27 The Age of Adaline
28 Girlhood
29 Mad Max – Fury Road
30 Kingsman: The Secret Service
31 Grandma
32 Carol
33 Sisters
34 The Night Before
35 Phoenix
36 The Intern
37 Magic Mike XXL
38 Entourage
39 Black Mass
40 Furious 7
41 Aloha
42 Dope
43 Ricki and the Flash
44 Ted 2
1 The Big Short
2 The Martian
3 Trainwreck
4 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
5 Star Wars: The Force Awakens
6 Mad Max: Fury Road
7 Spotlight
8 Bridge of Spies
9 Son of Saul
10 Sicario
11 Victoria
12 Inside Out
13 Ex Machina
14 Selma
15 Brooklyn
16 The Revenant
17 The Hateful Eight
18 The Gift
19 Straight Outta Compton
20 Green Room
21 Creed
22 Carol
23 Love & Mercy
24 Trumbo
25 Room
Best Documentaries1 Amy
2 Mavis
3 Best of Enemies
4 Meru
5 Raiders
6 Peace Officer
7 By Sidney Lumet
8 Twinsters
9 Being Evel
10 Man Vs. Snake

Bill I’s Best of 2015 Comments

Narrative Films

1. Spotlight – thrilling combination of investigative reporting combined with a spot-on portrayal of how the sexual abuse of children is covered up and repressed until courageous survivors come forward

2. The Big Short – making global financial meltdown understandable and enjoyable to watch

3. The Revenant – Stunning scenes in terms of the natural environment, including a bear mauling Leo. A work of art that captivated me much more then the director’s last one, Birdman.

4. Trainwreck – many hysterical scenes, I’d love to see it again

5. Brooklyn – epic period piece, perfectly done

6. Sicario – brutal action, the other side of Breaking Bad

7.  Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens – JJ Abrams does it again!

8. Bridge of Spies – true story told very well

9. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – I had no idea what to expect, and got blown away

10. The Martian – how much time and money does it take to rescue Matt Damon?

11. Creed – Rocky is revitalized as a mentor, and young Creed is his inspiration

Bill C’s Best of 2015 Comments

1. The Big Short – Great job of making an important, potentially dry  topic both informative and entertaining

2. The Martian – Accoring to the golden Globes this is the best comedy of the year!  But the visual and dram were exceptional with a little humor.

3. Trainwreck – Really the best comedy of the year.  Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow made a great movie and Hebron James, comedian, was a revelation.  I did see it again.

4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Moving story + coming of age story told with touching humor.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Great re-invigoration of series

6. Mad Max: Fury Road– A great, non-stop ride

7. Spotlight – Another story that needed to be told. A modern day ‘All the President’s Men’

8. Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg also still makes great movies

9. Son of Saul – A brutal concentration camp story of a Jewish prisoner trying to give his son with a proper Jewish burial

10. Sicario – Drug war from the good(?) guys side

11. Victoria – This is a two hour movie with a single take! Amazing to watch

12. Inside Out – Another really good, touching Pixar film

Fantastic Fest 2015 – Part 1

This is the second year I’ve attended Fantastic Fest.  It’s the largest ‘genre’ film fest in the U.S. and is held at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar Location in Austin.  Here is a link to my post last year which gives a more detailed description of the fest.  I really enjoy this fest as it has some great movies from all over the world and many you are not likely to see anywhere else.  It also has some great activities going on at The Highball .  Here is a link to the schedule (which includes the Highball activities).

Here are some hilights from the first 4 days (this goes for 8 days):

Victoria

A really cool German film.  They made this   2 hour 15 minute movie in a single take  as they move through multiple locations in Berlin.   The single take was incredibly impressive.  The movie follows Victoria as she parties, meets some people and makes some increasingly bad decisions.  Very interesting.

Anomalisa

Charlie Kaufman’s latest.  This is all done in stop motion animation  This is an exploration of one man’s psyche and sort of depressing. I think I liked it more for the animation and because of the Q+A with Kaufman.  This film was also preceded by Don Hertzfeldt’s latest cartoon which was good  (and he was there too).

The Brand New Testament 

A French comedy about God’s daughter going off to find her own apostles and writing a new testament.  Very funny (although some might be offended).

Son of Saul

This won awards  at Cannes and is a great but very sad/depressing film.  It takes place in a concentration camp during WWII over a day when one of the Jews that is forced to help the Nazis in the concentration camps finds what he believes is his dead sons body and wants to have a proper Jewish burial. Very powerful.

High-Rise

This is like last years Snowpiercer about class struggles but takes place in a high rise instead of a  moving train.  Entertaining but too long.  See Snowpiercer instead.

Liza the Fox Fairy

I liked this one a lot.  A dark comedy about a woman striving for true love.  Very unique with a musical ghost.

Man vs. Snake

One of my all time favorite documentaries is ‘King of Kong’. It’s about Steve Wiebe trying to set a world record in Donkey Kong and is both hilarious and moving.  Man vs. Snake is a documentary about the quest to get a billion points in a lesser know video game called Nibbler.  This is also a funny documentary with lots off twists  and turns.  It’s good but I’d still recommend King of Kong first.

Schneider vs. Bax

Another good dark comedy. This one is about 2 hit man assigned to kill each other.

Klown Forever

This is a sequel to a Borat like comedy that I really loved called Klown.  Klown was hilarious, totally inappropriate and unique.  The sequel is good, but not as good as the original.