Though my film consumption has massively decreased from the old days when I could watch 5 Woody Allen films in a single day and still have time for a few more movies, I still plan on continuing this monthly movie review feature. It might not be every month, and I’ll quit re-reviewing movies that I’ve already written a mini movie review for, but the goal is to continue to add to my database of 1600+ movie reviews that I’ve collected since 2009. I’ll be collecting these reviews in the Mini Movie Review tab on my homepage:
You can see the full list of mini movie reviews HERE
And you can see my constantly updated “in progress” list of the most recent reviews HERE
So, with that said, in an attempt to catch up, this post is a collection of the new movies that I watched during the year that my website was down. I didn’t actually take notes of what I watched while I was offline (and forgot most of them), so for most of these I just looked through the list of new releases from last year and said “yes, I watched that!” After this post I’ll just write these Mini Movie Reviews posts every time I get 20 or so new reviews in my Recent Reviews page.
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – Like the last one, this is a huge step up from the prequel years, both nailing the proper ratio of humor to serious stuff, and overall putting no major cinematic feet wrong. Still, I’m about fucking tired of screenwriters thinking that throwing 387 last second rescues into “the big operation” somehow makes it more epic instead of just completely killing suspension of disbelief.
- The Hustler (1961) – Paul Newman is about as charismatically despicable as always in this dark and gritty movie that makes shooting pool as exciting as cinematically possible. Jackie Gleason is magnificent, and the film is a powerhouse–it’s just too bad everything is so damn depressing.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) – The kids and the production design are quite good in this dark children’s story of orphans. Unfortunately Jim Carrey uses this as an excuse to mug his way through yet another movie, shattering any kind of atmosphere the movie might create in the process.
- Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Stunning animation, and, I suppose, the story is even fairly clever. Still, do they really have to start singing every 5 minutes?
- Trolls (2016) – A few dark touches and interesting plot detours enliven what is otherwise a fairly uninspired animated film. At least I doubt you will hate it as much as the trailer suggests you will.
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) – Jaw-droppingly problematic and jaw-droppingly impressive, this is one of the prime examples of the kind of ridiculous chutzpah one can find in classic Hollywood musicals. I won’t even touch the ideological implications of any of this, but as a riotous barn-storming musical, it’s hard to deny how immensely entertaining this is.
- The Magnificent Seven (2016) – Quite good modern western that manages to avoid getting tiresome for a good 70% of the run time. Up until the the third act it contains decent characterization (despite the implausible setup), and plenty of excellent gun-fighting–which, really, puts it about on par with the middling original.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) – Disappointing addition to the Potter franchise that substitutes a string a poorly animated and paced set pieces for an actual plot. The main guy is good, but I audibly groaned when I found out Johnny Depp will apparently be mugging his way through the rest of the series.
- Elf (2003) – One of those “classic” holiday movies I missed, and one that largely lives up to the hype. In theory, both Will Farrell and the tired material should wear on the nerves, but a consistent dedication to playing everything straight saves this one.
- Office Christmas Party (2016) – It’s a “one wild night” movie about people succumbing to their base instincts via chaos and crowd mentality, so, of course it is right down my alley. Look beyond the premise and the cracks start to show, but as long as you don’t do that, there are plenty of juvenile thrills to be found in this one.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – The film is perhaps a bit overstuffed, but the newcomers crush it (with the possible exception of Emo-Vader being a bit much) in a very enjoyable franchise reboot. And, I know this is not exactly a groundbreaking complaint, but, seriously, can we make a Star Wars movie about something OTHER than destroying another fucking Death Star?
- Ghostbusters (2016) – This is nowhere near as bad as all the angry #notmyghostbusters dudes online made it out to be, but also not near as good as the game cast is capable of. The main offender is really the simple fact that none of it is all that funny.
- Ex Machina (2014) – Very clever Artificial Intelligence movie that remains consistently compelling despite its slow burn approach to story. The performances are uniformly great, and it never makes its “low” budget felt.
- Storks (2016) – Forgettable animated fare built upon the flimsy premise of “what if storks really did deliver babies?” Pretty much just a lazy collection of bird jokes hammered haphazardly around the usual framework of a story about, like, growing up or something.
- Cloverfield Lane (2016) – Only vaguely related to the first movie, this is instead a slow burn suspense thriller in the vein of Lifeboat rather than Godzilla. The third act does feel like it comes out of nowhere, but I was good with it (unlike a lot of reviewers apparently).
- Cloverfield (2008) – I had thought this got panned upon release, but it is actually a rather great “giant monster attacks a city” movie, full of creativity and genuine suspense. I don’t even think the camera is all that shaky–and they even find a few novel ways to use the found footage framework.
- Bridget Jones Baby (2016) – I had heard so much bad shit about Bridget Jones 2, that I just assumed I would skip this one. Thankfully I didn’t as this is one of those “good” romantic comedies–funny, cute, cliche, and, most importantly, it never takes itself too seriously.
- Sausage Party (2016) – There are a few scattered good moments throughout, but most of it is fairly uninspiring, and, more importantly, unfunny. Also, all the excessive profanity ends up feeling like a group of middle school kids trying way too hard to sound cool.
- The Secret Life of Pets (2016) – Another one of those kids movies built around a single premise that is then mined for jokes for the length of the run-time. This one at least offers a reasonably deep comic well to draw from, but the overall result is about as unimpressive as the ramshackle plot upon which the whole thing rests.
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) – Of the usual high quality, but this feels more like a drawn out table-setting rather than any kind of actual, self-contained story. Much like the books, I’m finding it increasingly hard to care about this series enough to finish it.
- Meshes of the Afternoon (1946) – Overall, a resounding success at capturing that elusive “dream” atmosphere filmmakers are always trying to capture. That said, it hasn’t aged as well as it might, and there are a few too many freshman video project “this person has a MIRROR for a head–GET IT??” moments for my taste.
- Far from Heaven (2002) – Brilliant remake of the Sirk masterpiece that effortlessly “updates” the story without once feeling perfunctory. Films like this always remind me that I need to pay more attention to Todd Haynes.
- Finding Dory (2016) – Slightly off-putting animated film about a fish with extremely (depending on the plot needs) selective amnesia. Fine for what it is I guess, but I don’t find Dori a compelling lead at all.
- Captain America: Civil War (2016) – More of the usual from Marvel, which is to say that this is once again a well-done and funny spectacle without much of a soul. Still, superheroes use their powers on each other in a big manufactured set piece fight–and it’s fairly cool to watch.
- Big Hero Six (2014) – The little nanobots, and a few other elements reek of cartoon silliness, but overall this is a fairly mature movie. I’m not going to go crazy and recommend it or anything, but it is one of the better ones.
- The Jungle Book (2016) – Surprisingly good adaptation of the original animated film. Nothing super special, but the excellent special effects push it up a few notches.
- Zootopia (2016) – Slick and amusing, but aside from the usual high-level animation, there is very little that impresses here. It just seems that the plots for these cartoons are barely even at the level of a B-list cable channel live-action tv show.
- Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) – A well-acted and affecting film about a wicked mother trying to take her child away from the heroic husband she ditched. You can tell they sort of want to give the wife’s character a fair shake, but the sympathy is firmly with the man in this one.
- The Witch (2015) – A slow-paced study of fanatical Christians, and, like, witches and stuff. Some great moments and a cool ending, but overall it feels like it doesn’t add up to a whole lot when all is said and done.
- A Separation (2011) – Really brilliant story of a misunderstanding where the viewer isn’t sure which side of the story is the real one. This is almost operating in Haneke territory, which is high praise.
- Baadasssss! (2003) – A retelling of the making of Mario Van Peebles father’s seminal film. Much like Mario, the film can’t quite seem to decide if Van Peeples Sr. was a great man, or a fuckup.
- Bicycle Thieves (1948) – Probably deserving of its “unassailable masterpiece” status, but I’m about tired of shit like this that just goes straight for the nuts (via the heart). Objections to the subject matter aside, there really isn’t anything negative I can say about this one.
- Hail, Caesar! (2016) – It doesn’t seem to amount to a lot on the surface, but looking deeper the unconventional structure more than justifies the film’s existence. Like all the Coen Brother’s best work, this one works its way into your mind and stays there.
- Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) – Classic gold prospecting movie with Bogart and Huston (and Huston) in top form. Though, while the heavy handed message about the corrupting power of wealth works, but could also stand to be toned down a bit.
- The Revenant (2015) – Disappointing lack of bear fucking aside, this is an impressive bit of filmmaking. There might not be a lot to it beyond Dicaprio gritting his teeth and crawling for two hours, but there are more than enough bravura cinematic sequences to make it well worth your time anyway.