‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ is a more than worthy, albeit kind of bloated, follow-up to its predecessor

It’s been a year since Deadpool came out.

….

….

That doesn’t tie into the review proper at all.

More like a statement on the general passage of time, and how something something you don’t look around you might miss something something.

…..

…..

ANYWAY.

I’m still feel as if I’m reeling from the concussive wave of shock that assaulted my body with overwhelming quality in the form of John Wick back in 2014.

Show me someone they went into that first movie “knowing” it would be a new action classic and I’ll show you a liar. On the surface, that movie had a lot going against it. Mid-September release date, Keanu Reeves as the lead and a somewhat stupid on paper premise did not bode well. But low-and-behold, we have arrived at a sequel and it is one of the most anticipated releases of the year.

I didn’t do a full-review for the first film, but I think a lot of its strength is that initial shock I just mentioned. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie and I daresay about as perfect an action movie you’re likely to find in this day and age. But no one knew it would be AS good let alone outstanding.

And I loved, loved, LOVED being proved wrong because that next to never happens with movies any more. Surprise is a cinematic currency of increasing value in the Age of the Franchise and John Wick just might represent a renewed hope for new, fresh Western action cinema. The fact that it’s joining the big leagues with a sequel is all-at-once exciting and worrying. You can only make one first impression after all and diminishing returns are something each series faces at one point or another.

Keanu doesn’t age!

The joke?

Remember the joke that Keanu Reeves  doesn’t…um…age?

You’ve heard that one right?

Like you’ve seen the pictures?

keanu-reeves-is-he-immortal

See?

I’m doing the bit.

From the beginning….about the…the passage of…um…time.

It’s like a gag.

Fuck it, start the review!

john-wick-chapter-2-poster

The plot:

“After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.” -IMDb.com

The review:

I’d be quick to compare John Wick: Chapter 2 to The Raid 2. It’s quasi-startling at how many pros and con (singular) the two share. Both are sequels to surprise action films released relatively close to their predecessors. Both are longer than their predecessors due to more world-building. Both up the ante by noticeable margins both in scope and action. Both are ultimately really, really, REALLY great but ultimately come just a hair short to their respective predecessors due in part to said world-building.

Where John Wick kept things relatively simple with its “gang kills man’s dog, man goes on rampage” premise with bigger assassin-centric universe playing a more supportive role, Chapter 2 covers a substantial amount of ground in its somewhat bloated runtime by bringing its world-building to the forefront.

If the worst thing I can say about a movie is, “It was just a bit too long,” you’ve got yourself a pretty, damn good movie. You’re ridin’ high, fine as wine, havin’ yerself a Big N’ Rich time.

Wait, what?

Sorry, I’m just getting distracted all over the place here.

Like I said, my only real “issue” with the film comes right down to preference in pacing. Whereas the earlier film built momentum through domino effect, its sequel prefers to stack its cards all at the top and letting them fall to pieces by the second act for the 40 or 50 minute equivalent to cinematic jenga. Nothing wrong with that at all. I just felt winded by the time John reaches the kingdom of panhandlers, led by Laurence Fishburne (Matrix reunion!!!!!!!), and could have either used a more substantial break rather than MORE information to access right before getting back to business. It was too much of a good thing for me in some respects.

It’s almost frustrating in a way. The film does just about everything I could ask for in a sequel. World-building, interesting new characters, etc. It’s a buffet of riches, and yet I still feel it could have been scaled back to some degree. I don’t know. Simply put: the film was just a bit too long for me personally.

That was the negative, so lets focus on the positives (PLURAL) because there are a ton.

Once again, the action (the main attraction) is utterly sublime and entertainingly surreal.

Gunman take suppressed shots at one another unnoticed in a crowded subway station.

Blood splatters the blank walls of an art gallery like Pollock painting.

We also finally get to see what kind of damage John can really do with a pencil.

I was a little worried that since only one of the two directors from the first film (Chad Stahelski to be specific) would be returning for the second outing. Like maybe the other guy (David Leitch) saw something wrong with this film and jumped ship. The two former stuntman only have Wick as their directing credits so it’s not like the Cohen Brothers splitting up but I feel its fair to say there could be concern that the magic might have been lost without the full band getting back together. Consider any worries I (or maybe you) had dead and buried. Stahelski is as apt at every in presenting action in way that is at once exciting and comprehensible. Believe it or not, you can in fact have your cake and eat it too in this instance.

Characters take damage here, and every bit is just so wonderfully kinetic that you find yourself wagging your finger at other filmmakers that seem to think we like spazz attacks rather than steady, competent camera work. The filmmakers want you to gawk at the stunt-work and revel in the back-breaking work they put into their set pieces. Wick fights a gun-totting Harry Potter, his various firearms proving far more effective than any wand or staff. (I’d say let there be a drinking game in which shots are downed with every headshot Wick fires off, but those are supposed to be fun; not death sentences.)

Reeves cements Wick as an anti-hero for the ages. Much has been said about Reeves acting abilities, or arguably lack-there-of, but I argue, and have argued for years, he’s fucking phenomenal in the right roles. I guess you could really say the same for any actor or actress, but Reeves is an absolute testament to this simple fact: CASTING MATTERS.

He bounces off so well against a much livelier cast of characters because this is a man who’s, at his core, dead inside. This second film really represents more of a descent for John whereas the first film really was just about revenge. He’s forced back into the game as it were by Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), a member of the Neapolitan Camorra, an old frenemy who will not accept “No,” as an answer. Soon, John is off to perform yet another seemingly impossible task and wouldn’t you know it? There’s a double cross and old John Wick finds the candle burning on both ends….on both ends…..the candle is burning on….John Wick? Candle. Guys?

The movie can’t really sustain the emotional heft of “man’s dog is killed, said dog was also last connection to dead wife” so it makes the wise decision to pretty much forgo that all together. Instead it just doubles down on everything else that made the first one work so well, namely that aforementioned action and fantastical assassin-filled world-building.

And instead of devolving into some sort of gritty, brooding slodgefest revenge films seem to be defined by, this weirdo franchise opts to shed blood in the light and fully embrace the wackiness of LITERALLY anyone being an assassin.

Speaking of blood, let’s talk about the new blood. I’d say this is probably something this film aces over the last. Sure, there are less women (only one speaks substantially as I recall and the other is a mute) but I’m not sure this movie is setting out to say some sort of larger statement on feminism. In fact, I don’t really think there are many topical sentiments to be had at all here….other than assassins seems to be everywhere.

Fuck, we’re getting a little too social conscious here.

Back on course.

I really felt a better sense of presence from the supporting cast this time around. I don’t want to go beat-for-beat with each one, but we can break down one. Um….Common!

ne68ogvzowkda8_2_b

Now Cassian is not  THAT developed per say but neither is our title character. The film does a lot with a little in this regard. There’s clearly a history between he and John and you get that with like next to no dialogue on the subject. I love how these movies go about characterization. There’s not an ocean of depth to them, but there really doesn’t need to be. Unlike…oh let’s say Rogue One…the movie isn’t all that dependent on a super strong cast of characters. They really just need to be memorable TO AN EXTENT. And the film and its cast achieves that largely. Ruby Rose’s silent Ares may even be a shining star in this regard as I remember a hell of a lot more about her than I do about…give me one second I’ve got to look it up….Jyn Erso. Ares says LITERALLY nothing, communicating via sign language, but it’s yet another “mountains out of molehills” situation.

Now hopefully we can file “Tyler overly cares about digestible yet interesting characterization” away for the foreseeable future. We’ll put it next to “Did you know mainstream horror largely sucks” or “Action heroes need to get beat up more.”

I also loved where this film leaves Wick. No spoilers but needless to say: he’s not probably not going to be having a great time if and when we catch up with him in Chapter 3.

So…there you have it.

John Wick 2 is great. I’d even go so far as to say it’s amazing. Sure, it could use some trimming around the edges but how I can really chalk that up to anything more than personal preference. I’m old and I have a hard time with most movies over an hour and a half.

It’s like the first film is a hearty appetizer. Yeah, you’re hungry for more but once you get halfway through the main course you’re ready to explode. However, if you’re a fan of the first outing, you’re going to love this one. Not a doubt in my mind on that.

‘Split’ paves the way for the long awaited M. Night Shyamalan “return to form” once thought to be a pipe-dream

I’ve said some…less than kind things about the canon of M. Night Shyamalan. I’ll admit it. I stand by them. To clarify, I have nothing against the man personally. But let’s be clear:

Signs – Watchable but not a good movie.

The Village – A promising start, all undone by uneven pacing and a weak twist.

The Lady in the Water – Misguided and completely forgettable.

The Happening – Utter garbage on almost every front.

The Last Airbender – Possibly the worst adaptation of ANYTHING I have ever seen, and the drop off point in terms of my Shyamalan viewing. (The more I read about the production however the less Shyamalan seems to be at fault in this instance.)

With exception of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, I don’t think Shyamalan has a single film to his credit I’d consider good. The vary on the scale of adequate to outright terrible. His first two aforementioned films however are so strong that there was always a tiny, rapidly dying flame I’ve carried that he’d at some point get his mojo back. Unbreakable in particular, an INCREDIBLY underrated superhero flick that was largely overshadowed by The Sixth Sense. 

From the offset, I wanted to write this one off too. To be frank, I probably would not have even given it a shot were the word-of-mouth not been as strong as it has been. 

And in this one, brief instance: that word-of-mouth had some solid validity to it. Having now seen the movie, I can say it’s easily the writer/director’s best in well over a decade and actually provides a glaring light of quality in a January typically designated as a dumping ground for studios.

Just to be clear: I’m going to avoid spoilers here. I’d normally say, fuck it. But we’re talking about an M. Night movie here. The man has built a career on his twists. While I’d argue the one in Split isn’t all that earth-shattering, particularly if you are well-versed in the man’s other films (HINT, HINT), I’ll still keep it an air of mystery as the rest of the internet appears to have done so.

split_2017_film

The plot: 

“After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.” – IMDb.com

The review: 

The film’s main strength, as is the case with many I find, is its relentless likability achieved by just how bonkers it dares to go. For my money, Split is the campiest, funniest movie Shyamalan has ever gone and the movie is only made better for it. It’s really impressive as the movie walks a very, VERY fine tight-rope between

It’s also the first in well over a decade to play to its writer/director’s main strengths. An oxymoron to be sure. Similar to Sense and Unbreakable, the film operates on a relatively low budget but what it lacks in fund it more than makes up with  with in sheer confidence. I didn’t see The Visit, but from what I gather it is similar in that it represents M. Night getting “back-to-basics.”

It goes a step further by waving away the overly-somber atmosphere of those earlier two films. Don’t get me wrong. There are some heavy things are work here with child abuse only being the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but the movie never really loses sight of how goofy its initial premise is and at the very center is a complex, wacky, layered performance from James McAvoy.

nintchdbpict000255066717

Without an actor like McAvoy, someone really unafraid to commit while also dedicate the time to making each personality distinct, the movie would have crashed and burned like so many others in  Shyamalan’s canon. Films, by their very nature, are collaborative in nature. One thing goes wrong, it could spell disaster for the entire production. Now, I understand this is incredibly obvious but I only say it to make a point. This movie stands on the shoulders of McAvoy and his success is its success. There’s just no way around that.

Is his performance(s) Oscar-worthy? I don’t think I’d commit to that necessarily, but it is a performance worth commending and dissecting. We don’t see all 24 personalities that make up Kevin, but the 4 or 5 that are showcased are fully-developed, understandable characters. Much more than any that appeared in Rouge One. You get a feel for who these characters are through tiny, at-times exaggerated, non-verbal actions rather than extended, monotonous monologues explaining who they are.

It should also be noted that the movie is gorgeous. Shyamalan recruits It Follows cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, who allows scenes to simply play out in extended, single-take shots. I had forgotten how good Shyamalan is at establishing tension and simply allowing it to play. He’s finally teamed with a cinematographer with a natural gift for it as well with the results being tiny wonders and a testament to the “less is more” approach to horror.

The movie has more than its fair share of issues. For one, I’m not sure all three aspects of the story gelled all that cohesively. We get Kevin’s adventure with his three-kidnapped victims as well as his interactions with his therapist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who is not convinced everything is fine with her most fascinating patient. We also get flashbacks regarding a nightmarish hunting trip taken by one of the three girls Kevin has kidnapped, played by The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy. I don’t know. On the whole, all three narratives are fine but I feel like there could have been some trimming, particularly to the overly gratuitous flashbacks, and the film would not have lost all that much. To speak anymore on it however would be trimming the border of spoiler territory however.

I will say that the flashbacks really hammer home the themes of trauma and mental illness that I think Shyamalan is going for (much as he did in The Sixth Sense), and for that it gets a pass if only for being well-intended. I just feel as if there was a way to convey the information we get from them as subtly as we learn about each of Kevin’s personalities.

Another case could be made that the other two girls in Kevin’s clutches (played by Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula respectively) are largely pointless. I argue however their purpose is supported by their final fate in the film, but once again…

dw-river_song_spoilers

So, there you have it. Split is by no means a classic, but it represents something that warrants discussion and that is a hopeful return to form for a director that is long in need of one. It’s a movie that unabashed trashy, all while being much smarter than it initially lets on. In other words, my favorite kind of genre-movie.

Ken, PATRICK and Tyler’s 2016 Schlockmas Spectacular Episode III: Boyz Evolution

HO

HO

HO

We’re three years in, people.

How exciting is that?

Relatively?

Kind of?

Fine.

Anyway, yes we are at three-full years of watching a bad movie weekly and it’s been a hoot to say this least…well, on good days anyway.

For those not in the know, my friends Ken…

Last confirmed sighting since 1994.

Last confirmed sighting, circa 1994.

…Patrick…

File photo.

File photo.

…myself…

fnf

… and any number of guests convene to “willingly” witness some sort of cinematic catastrophe. We’ve done two write-ups in the past which you can find here and here.

Why, you may find yourself asking.

Well…

Hm…

I think…

No…

Maybe it’s….fun?

Yeah, let’s go with that.

Now before we can get into the meat and portos (see Greasy Strangler), we must honor all of the classics we gave our (debatably) valuable time. What you are about to peruse are the 80 -count ’em 80 – movies we watched throughout the year. My contribution is attaching the trailer for each film which you can watch by simply clicking on the title. Pretty simple, right?

What follows is much more valuable. My associates have also rated each and every one of these films with care. There opinions align in some cases and differ in others, but they generally give you a consensus of whether the film in question is actually worth your time for your own viewing pleasure.

While Ken’s rating system is pretty standard, Patrick’s system is potato-based meaning it is a tad bit more complex. Once you go through a few though, you’ll get a pretty good grip on how it works.

Ken’s System:
A++ Must watch / Own

A+ Really good. Pretty much anyone would enjoy a viewing

B+ Not Bad. Not good, probably had a few great moments, but overall nothing stand out.

C Pretty forgettable. Maybe a good moment or two showed up, but generally not worth your time.

D Bad

F– I hated this. I hated this so much.

Patrick’s system will be explained by the man himself.

I’ll join in later on when we get to the “best” of the “best” for the year.

So…let’s do this.

THE SHADY 80

1. Picasso Trigger

Ken: B+

Just stick with the original great, Hard Ticket to Hawaii

Patrick: BABES! BOOMERANG BOMB! and passionate love making. The usual Andy Sidaris film which is always a fun and enjoyable action packed movie. This movie gets a nice tater tot rating on the potato scale.

2. Milk Money

Ken: C

One of the most uncomfortably strange movies we watched this year. It didn’t even have a musical number.

Patrick: This is one creepy Ed Harris movie. A group of horny kids around the age of twelve pay a prostitute to show them her goodies.. to which she does! Unfortunately, the prostitute falls in love with one of the boy’s dad. The movie has a happy ending, but not as bad as I expected this movie to be. This movie gets an average rating of a baked potato with no toppings.

3. The Happening

Patrick: BORING. There is nothing scarier than being killed off by plants. The planet decides to kill off all humans by releasing a cryptic neurotoxin that causes the victim to commit suicide. A man does jump in front of his own riding lawn mower, which was rather pleasing to see. On the potato scale, this movie gets a stale rating of unsalted french fries. It’s ok, but you are left wishing you chose differently.

4. Fifty Shades of Grey

Ken: C

Patrick: Holla! It’s time for that sexy wet movie. Honestly, the movie sucked. It was not as hot and wild as I had wished for. Also, fake pubes. On the potato scale, this movie receives a potato salad rating. I don’t like potato salad at all, but a lot of other people do.

5. The Core

Ken: B+

If only for the rage that it instilled in Patrick.

Patrick: No! No! No!. No thank you to the core.. This movie was not fun to watch and made my brain hurt so much. I could say a lot about this movie, but I choose not to instead. Stay away. On the potato scale, this movie receives a nasty, dirty, soil covered raw potato.

6. The Wizard

large

Ken: B+

Power glove!

Patrick: Unfortunately this movie is not as the title suggests. The Wizard is not at all about an amazing magical man, but instead about some kid using his weird brother to win it big. The big brother uses his weirdo little brother to win a Nintendo tournament and such. Meh. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked potato that isn’t cooked all the way. I wanted to enjoy it, but couldn’t because of the losers that made the film.

7. Dangerous Men

Ken: B+

Patrick: Hooray! Back to enjoyable bad movies! A husband and wife are on the beach when some bikers kill the husband. The wife pretends to fall in love with the only biker left and they journey to a hotel from some wet action. The naked, now widowed wife, walks out of the bathroom naked to make love to the biker.. all of a sudden, she pulls a knife out of her butt cheeks and kills the biker! Movie gold! Go see this movie, it was great! On the potato scale, this movie receives a great rating of McDonalds’ French Fries. So tasty!

8. Pocket Ninjas

Ken: D

Long and boring.

Patrick: Weird chin Robert Z’Dar is in this movie. This movie contained terrible kid fighting karate scenes and terrible training montages. On the potato scale, this movie receives a boring rating of a baked potato with just one dollop of sour cream. It was ok, but I wanted it to be more.

9. Exterminator 2

Ken: C

Never delivered on the initial awesomeness of the violence in the opening scene.

10. Event Horizon

Ken: C

Too long.

Patrick: Scary space movie. Basically you’re average space adventure. It’s all good and then everything begins to go wrong. On the potato scale, this movie receives a boiled potato. There is not much to it and it’s not very fun to consume.

11. Obsessed

Ken: A+

Beyonce fights the crazy monster lady at the end!

Patrick: Woo! One of our first crazy obsessed lover movies! The Office character, Charles Minor (Idris Elba), is married to Beyonce.. Some crazy girl tries to get wet with Charles Minor and eventually Beyonce kills the crazy stalker/lover. On the potato scale, this movie receives a half loaded baked potato. I was satisfied with what I got, but wouldn’t hurt my feelings if given more.

12. The Greasy Strangler (NSFW)

Ken: A+

Strangely a good movie. Everyone ended up legitimately enjoying it. Its literally insane and one of the most bonkers plots. But it was somehow entertaining.

Patrick: Dun! Dun! Dun! DUNNNNNNNN! GLORIOUS! The best movie of the freaking year and is at the TOP of the bad movie list for me. This movie is extremely funny and very greasy. Not only is the movie funny, but it has one of the best soundtracks to have been made! I don’t want to give too much away, but go see this movie. Stay greasy. On the potato scale, this movie receives a fully loaded baked potato with gold flakes!

13. Species

Ken: C

Patrick: A monster lady wants to lay eggs and reproduce, but she is being hunted down by a group of people at the same time. The movie was alright and was your basic bad movie. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked potato with your choice of one topping.

14. Body of Evidence

12743749_1260150497333178_104588508861790993_n

Ken: B+

Because why wouldn’t you cast William Defoe as your lead in your romantic thriller. Pretty entertaining from a “wow this is bizarre” way.

Patrick: William deFOE or deFRIEND and Madonna make some supper hot candle wax sex scenes. Madonna is being charged with murder and hires Defoe as her lawyer. A lot of sex takes place and Defoe’s wife finds out and at the same time Madonna is found not guilty. She admits to Defoe that she is guilty and Madonna eventually is murdered. On the potato scale, this movie receives a sexy potato, because this movie was super sexy.

15. Deadly Friend

Ken: A+

The robot acting was pretty funny and the last 20 minutes end up being EXTREMELY ENTERTAINING.

Patrick: A fun movie with a young guy that builds a robot while in school. The young guy, Paul is friends with this neighbor girl Samantha. They pull a prank on their evil grump neighbor lady and the old lady shoots Paul’s robot. Samantha eventually gets pushed down the stairs by her abusive father and is declared brain dead. Paul makes Samantha into his robot and they have all sorts of fun. Samantha throws a basketball at the grumpy neighbors head, causing it to explode! One of my favorite death scenes from this list of bad movies this year. On the potato scale, this movie receives a Burger King french fries. Not as good as McDonalds, but still a great choice!.

16. Underworld

Ken: B+

Too much lore.

Patrick: Yucky! I only saw the last thirty minutes of this movie and that was more than enough. Not fun at all. On the potato scale, this movie receives a nasty raw potato with those sprouts growing.

17. Underworld: Evolution

Ken: C

Wait, more Lore that compounds on the others? I thought the one guy was special, but now that guy can do it too?

18. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Ken: B+

Wait this was a little more entertaining, but we went back in time? I’m getting more confused, but it kept me entertained at least.

19. Underworld: Awakening

Ken: C

MORE LORE… Wait who is the good guy?

20. Chopping Mall

Ken: C

Surprisingly a C. There was no actual chopping. A few of the murders were cool and I was really excited when they revealed they [the robots] had lasers, but it was a little long.

Patrick: An alright bad movie, with mall security robots that go ba-ba-bad! The security robots turn on the humans left in the mall after closing time. This movie had fun death scenes, but very unintimidating robots. On the potato scale, this movie receives a tater tot with old cheese. Seems good, and may taste ok, but it should be better.

21. Soul Man

soul-man

Ken: D

This movie is literally insane.

Patrick: A movie with a rich white college student doing black face! You sort of new it was coming, but kept hoping it wouldn’t happen. The positive thing this movie had going was James Earl Jones as a professor. I could only picture Darth Vader every time he spoke. On the potato scale, this movie receives an uncomfortable moldy potato.

22. Dreamcatcher

Ken: D

Too long and too boring.

23. Ghost Ship

Ken: B+

Too realistic. The whole time!

Patrick: Nick Witte’s favorite movie, as he has a ghost ship movie poster! This movie is a pretty bad movie, besides the awesome opening death scene! Just about everyone on the cruise ship gets beheaded by a wire! Woo! Also, Tyler insists the evil character wasn’t a ghost, but he is! On the potato scale, this movie receives a mashed instant mashed potato. Taste like crap.

24. Supernova [EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS SPORTS A LEGENDARILY BAD TRAILER. WOULD RECOMMEND.]

Ken: F–

I didn’t realize napping was an option.

Patrick: Terrible movie. It was a hour and a half too long. Baked potato laced with Benadryl to put me asleep.

25. The Black Ninja

Ken: C

I did like how he was credited as himself. Also he was a ninja and a lawyer!

Patrick: A lawyer who doubles as a black ninja! This movie was a fun bad movie and I enjoyed watching it for the most part. On the potato scale, this movie receives a mashed potato with white gravy. Not the best bad movie, but it was still enjoyable.

26. The Roommate

Ken: C

Not quite insane enough. It had its moments. But the SNL short is better.

Patrick: Lame.The worst stalker bad movie we watched this year. Basically two college roommates, but one turns out to be a crazy lady. If you want to watch a stalker movie, don’t see this one. There are much better stalking movies on the list of bad movies we watched this year. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked potato with no toppings. Bland and not fun to consume.

27. XXX

Ken: C
Surprisingly not that memorable for me. I know Vin Disel was in it. That’s about all I got.

28. XXX: State of the Union

Ken: B+

While a weird version of the first one, somehow Ice Cube made it more entertaining?

Patrick: Basically the same as the first XXX movie. Action! Action! Action! Not much to say about this film. ICE CUBE WAS HIDING IN A REFRIGERATOR!!!!! On the potato scale, this movie receives a hash brown with ketchup. Not my favorite thing in the world, but I had no problem with it.

29. Dragonball: Evolution

Ken: D

I only know the lore from the “Abridged Series” and even I was getting angry.

Patrick: As a Dragonball Boy, this movie made me cry. It made me cry so many sad tears. This was not a fun movie to watch and I advise you to STAY AWAY. I didn’t expect this movie to do one of my favorites any justice and it lived up to that expectation. On the potato scale, this movie receives a manure covered potato.

30. Hello Mary Lou:Prom Night II

Ken: C

Too many breaks in between the murdering. The murdering was good, but too much dead air.

31. Ernest Goes To Jail

Ken: B+

Surprisingly entertaining? It was really dumb, but it set out to be. Also we got one of the best “HDTGM” moments out of this one. Also we got to see one of our insane skits basically acted out on TV.

Patrick: Did you know a man can absorb a large amount of electricity and not die? That is what happens to Ernest in this lame movie. It wasn’t the worst movie w watched all year, but it wasn’t the best by far. On the potato scale, this movie receives a mashed potato with no gravy.

32. Transcendence

Ken: F–

SO BORING.

Patrick: I had hopes that this movie would turn out alright, but boy was I wrong. This Johnny Depp thriller (not really) slowed down time and became one of the longest feeling movies I have ever watched. Put this movie on before bedtime and it will help you sleep. On the potato scale, this movie receives a potato that you look at, but can’t eat.

33. Warriors of Virtue

Ken: B+

Won back over by the evil villain once again!

Patrick: I was honestly hoping that this movie was going to be a cool movie about a kid and a Chinese chef, but the movie decides to take a different turn. The kid goes into a weird fantasy world with very strange kangaroo people. This movie was weird and I don’t know how I feel about it. On the potato scale, this movie receives a potato casserole. Strange stuff.

34. Bloodsport

Ken: A+

Pretty entertaining. Violence was great. Dialog was insane. Multiple hilarious moments.

Patrick: Fun karate movie! Jean-Claude Van Damme takes home the tournament and becomes a karate boy. I’ve always wanted to be a karate boy myself. Good action movie with a lot of fun fighting. I was hoping the evil Chong Li would have taken home the karate gold. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked potato wrapped in bacon. Mmm Mmm good.

35. Exit Wounds

Ken: D

I couldn’t remember which one this was. I knew it was bad though.

Patrick: Steven Seagal movie. Bang bang. Action Action. On the potato scale, this movie receives a half loaded baked potato.

36. Burlesque

Ken: C

There were some funny moments, especially towards the end and their finances. Who knew how big of deal air rights were!

Patrick: More like Burle-boring. A very long and drawn out movie that I would have rather not seen. Somehow someway air rights? Are brought in to play. On the potato scale, this movie receives a raw potato.

37. Revenge of the Ninja

Ken: A++

This is a grade-A “Bad Movie Night Movie,” a continuation of our first Ninja Movie. The fights were hilarious. The acting was amazing. I had a great time with this one.

Patrick: WOO! Ninjas! ART GALLERY WITH COCAIN DOLLS! This movie is packed with plenty of action and plenty of death! This up towards the top of the bad movie list for me. On the potato scale, this movie receives a salty salty McDonalds french fries.

38. Dune

Ken: F–

This one is probably not that bad for other people. But I hated this one. How did they manage to tell me 16 million times that Akarris was the Desert Planet, but they forgot entire plot points like how important the knife fight at the end was going to be.

Patrick: Ken’s favorite movie of the year! This movie may be ok at best if you haven’t read the book. If you have read the book, then…I’m sorry. Stay far away as possible. This movie was pretty bad for me, especially after enjoying the book myself. Thanks whoever directed this movie. On the potato scale, this movie receives a stupid three week old potato salad.

39. Bratz

Ken: B+

Surprisingly entertaining. This was a really long movie [almost 2 hours], but it actually didn’t feel that bad. Sometimes whenever a movie embraces its insanity it works out well.

Patrick: I still to this day do not know if this movie was actually made after the Bratz dollz? Basic teenage girl drama. One of the Bratz girls makes fun of a blind guy that plays piano (He may have been deaf or blind, who knows, who cares). This movie was actually better than I thought it would be. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked potato with a side of salt.

40. Fateful Findings

fateful-findings-15

Ken: D

Neil Breen strikes again. And this one was just kinda boring and didn’t even have the insane plot like the others to rest on.

Patrick: I’m not sure what to say here. The second Neil Breen movie that we saw last year and luckily this movie didn’t make any of us sick as did Double Down. It was strange. On the potato scale, this movie receives a plastic potato.

41. Cradle 2 the Grave

Ken: C

Better than the other one for some reason? These movies didn’t make a huge impact.

42. Warcraft [EDITOR’S NOTE: For my full review, click here.] 

Ken: B+

Entertaining, but not a good movie.

43. Hackers

hackersangelinajoliesallylyndley

Ken: A+

There is a reason why this crazy movie is so often recommended on many bad movie lists. It’s great to see whenever someone tries to figure out what the future is going to be like and then misses the mark so badly.

Patrick: Pretty much a movie based on Ken’s work life. 1000100 Pretty terrible movie and I was hoping it was going to be much better than it actually was. On the potato scale, this movie receives an elementary school grade tater tot.

44. When the Bough Breaks

Ken: A+

Entertaining throughout. Crazy lady was nice and crazy. The plot was bonkers. It was pretty entertaining.

Patrick: Woo! Another crazy lover/stalker movie! This was my favorite crazy lover/stalker movie of the year. The evil stalked lady was definitely crazy and made a lot of crazy stalker faces that I enjoyed. The ending fight scene was pretty spectacular as well. On the potato scale, this movie receives a ¾ loaded baked potato.

45. I Am Here…Now

Ken: C

This one has the insane madness you want from a Neil Breen movie. He was like a robot jesus? It also has the insane madness you want from a Neil Breen movie, in that you don’t want any of it.

Patrick: The strangest Neil Breen movie that we saw this year.. I can’t really tell you what the plot of the movie was, besides humans are bad for the earth? I think? I rate this as the second best Neil Breen Movie, with Double Down being his best product. On the potato scale, this movie receives a Mr. Potato Head.

46. The Thing With Two Heads

the-thing-with-two-heads

Patrick: This movie was pretty fun to watch and was overall enjoyable. An old rich racist white man is dying and pays to have his head sewn onto a convict in jail. Unfortunately for him, his head is sewn on a black guy’s. They ultimately don’t get along and get into a crazy chase by the cops. Ultimately, the plot wraps itself up in literally the last thirty seconds of the movie.. Overall a fun movie to watch. On the potato scale, this movie receives a potato chip rating. Crispy!

47. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

maxresdefault

Ken: B+

Shot like a horror movie. Really creepy throughout. It was a bizarre experience, but pretty funny.

Patrick: This was a strange Sylvester Stallone movie. Stallone is a cop and his old mother comes to stay with him for a while. His mother shows nude baby photos to Stallone’s coworkers and talks about his little boy parts. Weird movie, but oddly not the worst. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked lays potato chip.

48. Death Wish 3

Ken: B+

Infestation of the creeps!

Patrick: CREEP! Fun fun movie! Old man goes to war with a street gang and when I say war, I mean WAR. The old man brings about as much weaponry as you’d see in a Rambo movie. I would put this movie near the top of the list. On the potato scale, this movie receives a ¾ loaded baked potato.

49. Independence Day: Resurgence

Ken: C

I wanted to like this a lot, but it lost a lot of the magic of the first one. I had fun with it. But it didn’t *quite* get the speech right.

Patrick: MEH. Not much to say. Not very good. I actually can’t remember the plot. On the potato scale, this movie receives a meh-potato.

50. Cry_Wolf

Ken: C

It had a few good moments. Again though, a little too realistic for my taste. I must admit the “reveal” occurring in the police station was really entertaining.

Patrick: Another one of Nick Witte’s favorite movies. Pretty much a rich kid school where murder happens among friends blah blah. On the potato scale, this movie receives a Nick Witte-shaped potato.

51. Streets of Fire

Ken: C

All I remember is it had a ring of fire and I hated the improve at the end.  [EDITOR’S NOTE: Ken is relating the Jet Li/DMX vehicle, Cradle 2 the Grave.]

Patrick: Not as interesting at the title leads on. Sexy and gritty. Kidnapping and a motorcycle gang. On the potato scale, this movie receives a potato salad. BORING.

52. Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance

1200

Ken: A+

Again not nearly as good as the original. But it was insane. And it learns at least an A with Wiseau’s scene alone.

Patrick: If you think you need to see Samurai Cop 1 before seeing Samurai Cop 2, you’re wrong! It comes on hot and heavy nears the top of the list of bad movies. It’s time to solve a bunch of assignation mysteries! The movie involves fun action sequences and a pretty bad wig. Good movie! On the potato scale, this movie receives a Curly Fries!

53. Lion and the King

Ken: C

Bad. Very Bad. But the funny voices all done by what seemed like one person was pretty entertaining. Should not exist.

Patrick: Lion King rip off. Weird animation. Avoid. On the potato scale, this movie receives a raw potato.

54. Suburban Commando

Ken: B+

Hulk Hogan is bonkers!

Patrick: An alien that looks like a human lands on earth! Hulk Hogan is that alien! Hogan makes friends and then has to save the earth from the aliens chasing him! Fun movie and no way it was going to be bad with Hulk Hogan being an alien fighting other aliens! On the potato scale, this movie receives a Waffle fries! Strange, but satisfying.

55. Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf

the_howling_2_web_image_758_426_81_s_c1

Ken: A+

Sometimes a movie has no idea whats it’s doing, but it goes full-force anyways. These guys got vampires and werewolves mixed up, but man was it entertaining.

Patrick: Count Dooku attempts to a cult of werewolves in Transylvania. I enjoyed this film and it was pretty fun to watch. Especially the sexy werewolf queen. Mmmhmm. I think I remember seeing a werewolf orgy at some point. The film is pretty absurd, but enjoyable. On the potato scale, this movie receives a chili cheese french fry.

56. The Boy Next Door

Ken: A+

This was an interesting twist on the genre to say the least. It was pretty hilarious seeing how the handled the situation.

57. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Ken: D

Long and weird and they apparently didn’t even stick to the stuff right.

Patrick: Lame. This movie was lame, especially the giant ship shaped as a sword. On the potato scale, this movie receives a manure covered potato.

[I would like the record to reflect that this movie is terrible and I hate anyone that may like it. As the graphic novel upon which it is based is one of my all-time favorites, I thought it only fair we watch it as I made Ken sit through Dune, one of his favorites.] 

58. Night of the Lepus

rabbits_night_of_the_lepus

Ken: F–

Gross and dumb and long. Its another “how did you not see how un-scary and bad this was right away?” situation.

Patrick: RABBITS THE SIZE OF CARS! Terrible CGI or whatever, but pretty funny to see killer Lepus (rabbits). On the potato scale, this movie receives a tasty mashed potato with brown gravy.

59. Five Across the Eyes

Ken: F–

If Bear was even less exciting…

Patrick: This may have been the worst movie on the list for this year. The movie was shot with a terrible video camera. No lighting and no microphones. Terrible acting. Similar to a movie written as a high school film project. Avoid this film at all cost. On the potato scale, this movie receives a not worthy of a potato rating.

60. Inferno

dan-brown-inferno-pelicula-trailer-1

Ken: C

It had some insane moments. I liked the drone. I liked when he had amnesia attacks. I liked how it didn’t feel like it had to answer all of the questions it posed.

Patrick: Another one of Tom Hanks’ DaVinci mystery-esque movies. The movie was pretty bad, besides the point when Hanks’ is being chased by a drone! Scary stuff. Overall, the movie had a lame plot and was pretty confusing. On the potato scale, this movie receives a tater tot that has been smashed with a hammer.

61. Jem and the Holograms

635666813599523945-2455-d018-00342r-crop

Ken: D

Too long.

62. Stephen King’s It

Ken: B+

Really, really, really, really, really, friggin’ long. And the acting was annoying a lot. And weird. But not terrible somehow? Still way too long.  

Patrick: If only this movie was made with an R-rating. For a horror movie, it was not scary at all. No blood or gory deaths. The clown seemed to be more of a joke then anything. The movie was VERY long and felt like forever. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked potato with the sides sitting on the table next to you, but you can’t use them.

63. Fair Game

Ken: C

The majority of this movie was boring and not that great, but the villains / main plot was nuts which was pretty entertaining. Their very loose grasp of technology also provided for some laughs.

Patrick: A movie about a sexy lawyer lady and a boy cop she falls in love with. The KGB are hunting down the lawyer and the cop boy is trying to protect her. A Baldwin brother plays the cop. The KGB uses a body heat detector to see if the copy and lawyer are in a hotel. Baldwin is not seen, but only because he is taking a cold shower.. The movie was alright, but was very wet and sexy. On the potato scale, this movie receives a chili tater tots.

64. The Shadow

Ken: C

All of the arguments of how and when the mind control worked made this one entertaining enough to watch.  

Patrick: Alec Baldwin plays a vigilante. The movie had alright special effects, but could’ve been much more with an exciting plot. On the potato scale, this movie receives a potato salad please.

65. Devil Dog Hound of Hell

7364706_orig

Ken: B+

The cult involved was really funny. Everyone acting scared of this adorable puppy / dog was great. It was a pretty great time.

Patrick: A cult does some spells and a dog becomes possessed. The offspring of the evil dog gets adopted by a family and turns out to be evil as well! Terrible scary monster scenes. Terrible movie. On the potato scale, this movie receives a rotten potato.

66. Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Ken: D

Preaching for the sake of preaching. Also I had a pretty good Christmas. It didn’t really feel like it needed to be saved.

Patrick: This movie sucked the holiday cheer out of me. The movie is pretty much about the attack on Christmas. Don’t watch it unless you want to become Mr. Scrooge. On the potato scale, this movie receives a potato sprout rating.

67. Leonard Part 6

leonard01

Ken: B+

It’s weird to see a movie get so off the rails and to see so clearly that there was no guidance on what should and shouldn’t happen.

Patrick: Bill Cosby is an ex CIA agent and becomes reactivated on one last mission. Such a strange movie, as Cosby is doing action scenes. Terrible action scenes at best. The funniest part is when an evil guy in a wheel chair gets tipped over into a vat of chemicals, but his fake prosthetic legs are still attached to the chair. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked potato with old sour cream.

68. Hell Comes to Frogtown

frogtown

Ken: B+

Crazy plot. Terrible acting. Insane-o frog people.

Patrick: A very strange movie with famous wrestler Rowdy Rowdy Piper. Piper is one, if not the only, man in the world able to reproduce. Basically he’s enslaved and has a chastity belt on. If he removes the belt he explodes, but the purpose of him is to repopulate. Very odd film, I don’t remember liking the movie or hating the movie. On the potato scale, this movie receives a tater tot rating.

69. Barb Wire

13512163_1358471840834376_5227378021640083607_n

Ken: C

A weird weird movie. It had some funny parts. The acting was bad enough to be great a few times.

Patrick: A movie with Pamela Anderson beating people up. She is wet and sexy like she usually tries to be. Pretty bland plot and fighting scenes. The positive is when a rather large man gets blown up with a grenade. On the potato scale, this movie receives a boring baked potato.

70. Bride Wars

bw_8l

Ken: C

Just someone else get married like 3 hours later! You could save so much money! Also I thought you [the two leads] were supposed to be friends!

71. Drive Thru

Ken: C

It had some funny moments like whenever they got mad at him for being crazy and acting like a clown with his job of acting like a clown.

Patrick: Pretty lame movie about a drive thru serial killer getting revenge. Not much to say about the movie, besides it being your basic cheesy horror movie. On the potato scale, this movie receives a dirt covered potato.

72. Demolition Man

Ken: B+

This was a pretty entertaining movie. Seeing the “future” was often pretty funny. Lots of fun arguments about stuff like the [bathroom] shells and their dates.

Patrick: An alright Stallone and Snipes movie. My only real gripe is renaming murder as murder death kill.. Overall fun fighting and Stallone may have made love to his own daughter? On the potato scale, this movie receives a salty waffle fry.

73. Half Past Dead

Ken: C

A Steven Seagal movie.

Patrick: Another Steven Seagal film. Pretty similar to the other Seagal film we watch. A bunch of action and fighting, not much to the plot, but overall an ok film. On the potato scale, this movie receives a unseasoned french fry.

74. Gods of Egypt

Ken: D

Long and boring, but it had at least a few moments to laugh at. I am sad we had to watch it in theaters and that means we couldn’t talk.

Patrick: TERRIBLE. Probably the worst movie I have ever paid to go see in the theaters. Boring plot and the fight scenes were just as bad. Stay away from this new, but awful movie. On the potato scale, this movie receives a raw potato.

75. The Covenant

Ken: C

Terrible movie with lame magic and lore that thought it was cooler than it was. It was fun laughing at them trying to take themselves seriously.

Patrick: Supernatural horror-thriller about high-school kids fighting with supernatural powers. A bunch of flying scenes and frat boys fighting with almost Dragon Ball Z ki blasts. This movie sucked and was not fun at all. Although, I did barf (not even kidding) at the scene with a bunch of spiders. I’m sure Ken will mention the incident. On the potato scale, this movie receives a spider potato.

76. The Time Machine (I found at a Yard Sale)

Ken: D

This movie is best summed up by the scene where you see a man go into the kitchen, get a glass, get orange juice, pour it into the glass, drink the entire glass of orange juice, and then put everything back. Just no. The future stuff was semi-funny though.

Patrick: Go into your kitchen and pour yourself a glass of OJ. Continue to drink that glass of OJ for 2-3 minutes straight, all while doing nothing else. That is exactly what happens in one of the scenes of this awful movie. Some very very crappy green screen close ups of mineral caves made me want to have diarrhea. On the potato scale, this movie receives a moldy potato. Nobody should have to consume such a thing.

77. The Order of the Black Eagle

order-of-the-black-eagle-04

Ken: A++

Basically if I got to write a movie with no one telling me anything was a bad idea.

Patrick: A MONKEY DRIVING A TANK! A MONKEY WEARING A TUXEDO! This movie has it all, but not according to movie grump Nick Witte. This movie also has an evil resurrected Hitler and banditos. A very fun movie with fun action scenes and monkeys. On the potato scale, this movie receives a fully loaded baked potato! This movie is superb!

78-79. God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2

Ken:

GND1 – C

Preaching to the choir. This felt like yelling in a echo chamber to me. It did have a really, really funny “villain” in it however.

GND2 – D

More boring preaching to the choir.

Patrick: Vomit alert. A movie about religion and talking about God in schools. Goes to court and blah blah. The Duck Dynasty gang is in the movie if that tells you anything. Worse than the first in the series. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked potato laced with laxatives.

80. Street Fighter

Ken: A+

Had some great moments, mostly from Zangief. The bad acting and fighting was entertaining enough to tide me over through the rest of it.

Patrick: The video game is much better than watching this lame movie. The movie itself has some decent fighting scenes, but overall pretty bland. On the potato scale, this movie receives a baked potato with no toppings.

THE BEST OF THE WORST

13537715_1362063697141857_3987813948250061607_n

WOULD RECOMMEND (BEST MOVIE): 

Ken: The Order of the Black Eagle

Who wants Nazis? Banditos? Secret Agents? Ninjas? Laser grids? Tanks? Gun Fights? Hilarious Jokes? Paper Machete Hitler’s skull exploding out of his face? Great action sequences at the end where one guy for sure got hurt?

ALSO DID I MENTION THERE WAS A BABOON WHO DROVE A TANK AND WORE LITTLE SUITS THAT MATCHED THE MAIN CHARACTER AND HE MADE FUNNY FACES AND ALSO DID I MENTION THAT A MONKEY DROVE A TANK

A MONKEY

DROVE

A TANK

Patrick:The Greasy Strangler

By far the best movie.

Tyler: Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (also known as Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch) 

For me, the all encompassing nature of any given bad movie is key, i.e. just how much insane things are there to talk about. The Howling II is a proverbial holy grail of discussion. The fact that werewolf lore is traded in favor of that associated with vampires. The multiple werewolf orgies we’re treated to. The theme that is hammered in our ears time and time again. Christopher Lee’s involvement. All of this is just scratching the surface of all that there is to explore.

The favorites of my colleagues are similar in this regard. Howling II won out for me partly due to just wanting to shine a light on another phenomenal entry into my bad movie vernacular. I’d seen the first movie quite a while ago, but harbored absolutely zero interest in looking into any of its sequels. It took seeing YouTuber JonTron had covered it to get me onboard. So I’d like to extend a personal thanks to him on that front. The film is 80’s in all of the right ways (and in some of the worst), all while offering more than it’s fair share of water cooler moments after. A definite must-see.

NOT EVEN TO MY WORST ENEMY (WORST MOVIE):

Ken: Transcendence

32614_061

I started to put a number of other movies here, but I kept coming back to Transcendence.
I hate boring movies; looking at you Fateful Findings.
I hate movies that don’t get anything right; looking at you, Dune.
I hate movies that should be better than they are, Dragonball Evolution.
I hate movies that just shouldn’t exist; looking at you, Five Across the Eyes and I am Here… Now and Lion and the King, and Night of the Lepus and The Time Machine (I found at a Yard Sale).

For some reason though, Transcendence was allllll of these at once. They had a lot of money for this obviously. They had people who knew what they were doing. They had people who knew how to make movies. And yet it was sooooooooooo boring. And soooooooo long. And there wasn’t anything fun or funny to latch onto in it.

I know for a fact I’ve listed worse movies up there. But for some reason I just HATED this one.

Patrick: Five Across the Eyes

fiveacrosstheeyes01

The worst person to film a movie ever.

Tyler: God’s Not Dead 2 

I fear this is going to come off as, “Well of course the atheist hated the Christian movie.” Well, if accusations are thrown my way I hope my two theist friends can also attest that this movie is indeed terrible and devoid of any true, entertainment value whatsoever.

The first film, while misguided, was ultimately harmless and stupidly enjoyable thanks in part to its villain(s). Sure, it completely mishandled in its portrayal atheism and the general “motivation” and “intention” of atheism as a whole. It went the full mile by also punishing said atheists by your typical cancer diagnosis and also a matter-of-fact death. Don’t worry though. These extreme circumstances brought them to the Lord, as it should be.

The same could not be said for its sequel which crosses the line from stupid, hot air propaganda to “Oh no…people really believe this shit” territory. And I’m not referring to religion. Thats all well and good. It’s the persecution angle that is put forefront and center here. It drops the ball in ever way imaginable in its portrayal of free speech, digging its grave only further by citing a bunch of real life cases I’m sure would have potentially made somewhat interesting films.

Not the case here.

This movie is a hateful cinematic circle-jerk of the highest caliber, presenting an argument that will in no-way sway people like me or in-between.

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas gets an honorable mention, but it kind of feels like straight-up bullying to pick on a movie that stupid and tone-deaf as to how the world actually operates. You almost feel compelled to pat in on the back for being somewhat comprehensible.

BEST HERO:

Ken: The monkey from The Order of the Black Eagle

order-of-the-black-eagle-04

HE FLEW A PLANE AND HE WORE A LITTLE SUIT AND HE DROVE A TANK.

Patrick: Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) in Death Wish 3.

death-wish-3-original

Tyler: Zangief (Andrew Bryniarski) in Street Fighter 

zangief

Zangief is technically a villain throughout most of the overly, long runtime of the 1994 Street Fighter adaptation. He has a change of heart late in the third act however when he is informed that he has been in the service of the bad guys the entire time as well as that everyone, with the exception of him, receive regular paychecks. The proverbial “double whammy” if there ever was one. Upon this revelation, he switches allegiances instantaneously and helps our heroes escape a self-destructing base. He is finally seen celebrating the victory of good at the end of the film.

He also got the two best, legitimate laughs out of me, something no other movie we watched this year could match making Zangief the hero to beat in my eyes.

BEST/WORST VILLAIN:

Ken: Komodo (Angus Macfadyen) from Warriors of Virtue

This guy gets how to play a villain. He understands presentation. He understands comedic timing. And he understands how to be evil. He knew how to wear crazy suits. He also knew what kind of movie he was in which is always great. There is a 20 minute video on youtube of him. Watch it. It’s worth every minute.

Patrick: Adolf Hitler in The Order of the Black Eagle.

ootbe_hitlercicle

Tyler: Mark Watson (C. Thomas Howell) in Soul Man 

No but seriously, this movie is horrifying and indefensible. Like, why?

Why?

Why?

Why?!

WHY?!

WWWWWWWHHHHHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYY?!

Hopefully you’ve already read the synopsis earlier but there should be no debate that Mark Watson is in no way, shape or form the hero of this story. He is a villain, to a level that is all the more uncomfortable looking back at his plot to get an exclusively black scholarship all the more cringe-worthy three decades later.

He isn’t punished either. He’s found out, yes, but he gets to keep going to school AND the girl he tricked into thinking he was indeed African American stays with him at the end of the film.

He simply learns that it’s hard to be black, I guess? I don’t know. It’s horrible and it’s racist and Mark is the worst. Like the worst villain conceivable outside of a mass murderer or the like.

BEST ACTOR:

Ken: The monkey from The Order of the Black Eagle

order-of-the-black-eagle-04

HE WORE LITTLE SUITS AND HE LEARNED ALL THE MOTIONS AND HE WAS THE GREATEST

Tyler: Johnny James Gatyas as Robert Moore in The Time Machine (I Found at a Yardsale) 

the-time-machine-i-found-at-a-yardsale-2011

It takes a certain stock of actor to capture the attention of a populace while encompassing a static minute and half shot of drinking orange juice. Sorry, getting the orange juice out of the fridge. Pouring it. Then drinking it.

BEST ACTRESS:

Ken: Kristy Swanson as Samantha Pringle in Deadly Friend

qovvax

Lemme just say. The robot acting lessons paid off.

Tyler: Front row girl in Milk Money

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-12-25-18-am

I guess I should give a smidgen of context. The full scene is below, but the gist is: Frank has to give a presentation on sex education. He recruits V, a prostitute staying at his house (that’s an insane can of worms for another discussion), to help him with an oral presentation his teacher has assigned him at the matter. He proceeds to lock said teacher (you know the one giving him the fucking grade) out of the classroom as he gives his presentation.

The “why” is pretty simple. The girl’s reaction to being told what a woman is so multi-layered that I need a thesis on the matter. Has she never thought about it before? Is this her first brush with adulthood? Has she just come to the realization that she too is in fact of the female gender? All good questions.

Has an actor ever done so much with so little?

No.

The answer is no and I will hear no debate to the contrary.

FUNNIEST MOMENT:

Ken: The spider scene in The Covenant 

Every once in a while we get really good at reading a movie. And every once in a while we call something a little bit too well. This happened with the spider scene in The Covenant. It was probably mostly the Chinese buffet before hand. But this moment was so funny it made Patrick throw up.

I’ll never forget everyone starting to yell “SPIDERS! SPIDERS!! SPIDERRRRRSSS!” as TONS of spiders came out of everywhere and Patrick telling us to stop and everyone yelling and screaming and chanting and Patrick saying to stop and us not believing him and then him sprinting to the sink and hearing him continue to laugh through the pain.

Patrick: Every time Big Ronnie/the Greasy Strangler (Michael St. Michaels) washed the grease off at the car wash in The Greasy Strangler 

the-greasy-strangler-michael-st-michaels

Tyler: The butt knife in Dangerous Men [EDITOR’S NOTE: See BEST KILL for more information.] 

MOST INSANE MOVIE:

Ken: Soul Man

EASY CHOICE. So most of the time my favorite thing to do while watching these movies is to crack up laughing imagining how at no point in the filming did someone say “Hey maybe this isn’t a good idea…”
It’s literally insane this never happened in this movie. Its literally insane that the first MOMENT they saw any footage for editing their reaction wasn’t “OH NO WHAT HAVE WE DONE WE SHOULDN’T LET ANYONE EVER SEE THIS OR SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN”

Patrick: The Greasy Strangler 

Tyler: Hell Comes to Frogtown 

A woman dances in front of a frog man as to arouse his three-pronged penis…and that’s somehow not the most insane thing in this veritable clusterfuck of a film.

Abandon hope all ye who enter.

STUPIDEST LINE OF DIALOGUE:

Ken: “Murder-Death-Kill” from Demolition Man

ANOTHER EASY ONE.
WHY DIDN’T THEY REALIZE IT WAS DUMB WHEN THEY SAID IT. WHY DIDN’T THEY REALIZE IT WAS DUMB WHEN THEY SAID IT AGAIN A LITTLE LATER. YOU CAN HEAR WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE. YOU KNOW IT SOUNDS DUMB.
WHY DIDN’T THEY REALIZE IT WHENEVER THEY SAID IT AGAIN LIKE AN HOUR LATER INTO THE MOVIE?

I am impressed this made it into a Run the Jewels song though.

Patrick: Most likely something from Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas.

Tyler: “I’m making pancakes,” as delivered by Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) in Fifty Shades of Grey

This one probably falls back on to line delivery more than anything else as the line itself isn’t inherently stupid.

Johnson is typically a pretty capable actress, even lively at times. Unfortunately not even she can survive the overly dour 50 Shades which really could stand be a lot more trashy and self-deprecating in the way movies like Showgirls is. At least it could then fall under a “It’s so bad, it’s good” category. What is fall under something that is way more dour and self-serious than it has any right to be.

This stupid line-delivery is really the only thing I fondly remember from my viewing. Johnson delivers the line so joyously that I can’t help but smile.

BEST KILL:

Ken: Butt Knife in Dangerous Men [EDITOR’S NOTE: I cannot find a clip of this sequence on the internet so simply use my friends’ descriptions as added incentives to see the full movie as it is well worth your time and attention.] 

This was amazing. We saw her distract the guy and “accidentally” drop her meal and drop the knife. We saw the knife disappear. We saw her hiding something in her clothes. We saw them head up to the room. We heard her tell him she wanted a shower first. We heard her come back and tell him the very specific instructions to “lick her belly button while rubbing the back of her knees”. And then we saw she was just wearing a towel and a knife was no where to be seen.

BUT THEN IT WAS HID IN HER BUTT. SHE HAD THE KNIFE THE WHOLE TIME. AND SHE MURDERED HIM WITH IT.

The room immediately erupted into chants of “BUTT KNIFE BUTT KNIFE BUTT KNIFE BUTT KNIFE!!!”

Patrick: The scene in Dangerous Men where the naked girl walks out of the bathroom and pulls a knife from between her but cheeks and kills the motorcycle gangster.

Tyler: “Aaaaaaand BOOM goes the dynamite” from Deadly Friend

I really should also be praising the glory that is butt knife as it may be the most glorious moment in cinematic history. BUT. I’ve already spoken about it. Well, others have anyway. So I thought I’d shine some light on this gem. Context certainly helps here, but I’m going to let the magic simply speak for itself.

BEST “THIS IS STUPID” MOMENT:

Ken: XXX: State of the Union

Ice Cube hid in a refrigerator. ICE CUBE hid in a REFRIGERATOR
ICE CUBE HID IN A REFRIGERATOR!!!
We actually didn’t notice the sheer brilliance of this the first time around, but man when we did it was glorious

Patrick: The entirety of Dune

Tyler: The cult’s “anti-Christ” dog scheme in Devil Dog: Hound of Hell

This one is pretty cut-and-dry. Basically a satanist cult breeds some puppies which are possessed with the souls of Satan himself. They then pass around said puppies in order to spread evil, misfortune and all-around not-niceness.

It just seems like a really big risk to have the anti-Christ not only running around in dog form, but also relinquishing control of the Morning Star to unknowing families. What if the family accidentally kills the dog? Or they get the dog fixed? Or they give away the dog? Why not just have the anti-Christ be a person?

It’s not the most complex scheme of the year (looking at you, Cry_Wolf), but it just may be the stupidest.

BEST CRAZY STALKER MOVIE:

Ken: Obsessed

Mostly because at the end the stalker was essentially a crazy monster lady. Like it was shot from a horror movie and they were worried about her coming back to life and it almost seemed like you had to kill her with fire or something.

When the Bough Breaks was a close second, and might have won it if I hadn’t been burned so badly by the crazy lady not being in the crib. I don’t think I got more upset with a movie this year.

Patrick: When the Bough Breaks

John Taylor (MORRIS CHESTNUT) and Anna Walsh (JAZ SINCLAIR); 2am... John lets the last catering staff out... heads up to bed and hears music; John finds Anna playing music in the living room in Screen Gems' WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS.

The stalker made good faces and was crazy.

Tyler: The Boy Next Door 

theboynextdoor_dvdreview_splash650

Mainly citing this one just to say that, “Hey, boys can be crazy stalkers too.” And obvious sentiment really, but all of the other crazy stalker affair films we watched this year (5 in total) featured female villains.

It hits all the beats of the others, up to your standard flaming house/barn climax at the end.

And who could forget, “I love your mother’s cookies.” A line I’m sure will one day make it to AFI’s 100 Memorable Quotes List.

THE MOVIE TOO GOOD TO BE INCLUDED ON THIS LIST:

Ken: Warcraft

Warcraft wasn’t a great movie, but I didn’t think it was all that bad. It was a little long. The plot was predictable and not very inspired. But it looked pretty. It was cool seeing places from the game. The action pieces were decent enough. This wasn’t good, but I don’t think it was bad movie night bad either.

Patrick: The Order of the Black Eagle

Tyler: TIE Dune and Jem and the Holograms 

640

On the surface this is going to come of as a total slant to Ken as these are the two movies he wanted to see least by a large margin. And in a way…yeah, it is. If anyone deserves a slant, it’s Ken Adams. You hear that Ken. I got your number and now so do at least 5 people who skim through this blog.

Anyway, yeah I gave it to two movies not because they are by most means “good” but there’s obvious merit in their respective productions. Both films, against all odds, looks incredible. Jem and the Holograms sports a scene in which our characters avoid capture by the police by jumping off a dock, into the ocean; their escape lit by the neon glow of a ferris wheel. The scene is so stunningly filmed, such visuals are almost heartbreakingly wasted here.

The same could be said for Dune, which sports production design that matches that of any other high-profile science fiction production during its era. Yes, Star Wars included. Sure, it’s dated to an extend but the stuff that’s good looks really, really, REALLY fucking good.

I think Jem’s main fault is failing to embrace the goofiness of its source material. There are hints here and there (the cartoon’s penchant for the identity crisis of its heroine) but it falls to heavily on “real world” drama, all while trying to have its cake and eat it too by the inclusion of a robot side-kick which is HORRIBLY out-of-place.

Dune’s is similar. I don’t really see a proper Dune adaptation ever truly succeeding in a studio system, at least a stand-alone film. While my mouth waters at the remote possibility of seeing Denis Villeneuve-helmed, Roger Deakins-lit Dune, I foresee it landing on the same soft dirt as this. There’s just too much ground to cover in too little time. David Lynch’s version is head-scratching because it not only over-explains some elements (shots every “spice” is uttered), it is completely vague in regards to others.

All that said, there’s something admirable about both these films and not necessarily as terrible as a grand majority of their 2016 peers.

FUNNIEST THING SOMONE SAID OR DID: 

Ken: Tyler realizing that The Greasy Strangler‘s sound track is the music that is always playing in Patrick’s head.

As soon as Tyler said this, I couldn’t stop laughing, and thanks to him I’ve had many hilarious times come up again whenever someone put the music on or starting to pretend to sing like it, and instantly cracking up again.

Patrick: Me puking during The Covenant.

Tyler: During Soul Man, our friend Chloe asked why a certain character was wearing a weird piece of clothing. The exchange was, and I’m para-phrasing here: 

Chloe: Why is she wearing that?

Ken: Why is he black?!

Sweet ’16: 25 of the best films from the worst year ever (that I actually saw)

Man…

2016 was the pits.

Sure, there was some good moments here and there but what a stinker. It wasn’t a complete bust but my goodness did the lows seem extra low this year or was it just me.

Anyway, it’s almost at an end and unfortunately we can’t even celebrate because 2017 is shaping up to be even more of a shit storm.

As it is the end of the year, those of us with a passing interest in movies are mandated to regale the uninterested masses of what we think were the best and worst the year had to offer cinematically. So guess we should get started…let’s the worst out of the way first because boy howdy there were a ton this year. First off…

You know what?

Fuck that.

It’s time to be positive for just a few minutes.

So guess what?

I’m going to completely forgo a “Worst of” list this year, because frankly this year is the embodiment of a “Worst of” list OUTSIDE of the cinema. It wasn’t even a bad year all in all as far movies were concerned. Yeah, some of the big releases ranged from disappointing to absolute garbage wrapped in burning hair. But that’s every year.

And you know what else?

Not even going to bother with ranking movies either. Why make things that are awesome compete?

This year was all about the lingering factor. Which were the movies that really stayed with me rather than bleed into the background?

Now, as I am not a professional critic I have neither the time or resources to see every movie under the sun. Being smack-dap in the midwest doesn’t help either. That said, at the time of publication, I have yet to see critical darlings like Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water and Toni Erdmann. I have however, through connections or sheer happenstance, been able to expand the variety of movies I actually got to see in theaters this year. So I am “proud” of that at the very least.

I also don’t get too deep into individual plot specifics here so A) if what I have to say about the movie intrigues you but you’d like to know more, I recommend you watch the trailer and B) there won’t be any spoilers for those worried about such things.

Said individuals may rejoice and thank me later.

Said individuals may rejoice and thank me later.

I also spend significantly less time on those I’ve already reviewed. I’ve provided links to those aforementioned reviews because well…I like attention.

Let’s say goodbye to the bad for just a little bit, and embrace everything that there was to love about 2016…at the local movie theater at least.

Some honorable mentions:

Hail, Caesar! 

Midnight Special 

The Jungle Book   (Full review here.)

Captain America: Civil War  (Full review here.)

Sing Street

Rats 

The Neon Demon 

Tickled

Star Trek Beyond 

Kubo and the Two Strings 

Into the Inferno

Hacksaw Ridge 

Amanda Knox 

Moana 

20th Century Women 

Green Room

gr_web

If I were to pick any film to watch over and over again from this year, I think Green Room stands at the precipice. By no means a “fun” movie, Green Room is the best movie John Carpenter never directed. It’s Die Hard by way of Assault on Precinct 13 as it borrows the same basic concept: good guys (represented by a desperate band of wannabe punk rockers) trapped on the inside with the bad guys (a legion of Nazi skinheads led by ubermensch Patrick Stewart) on the outside.

Jeremy Saulnier’s third feature shows no mercy to its characters or its audience. There’s a moment that I feel will go down as iconic as it never fails to illicit a guttural reaction from whomever I watch the film with. It involves a box cutter, exposed belly and a point of no return.

As he did with Blue Ruin, Saulnier emphasizes the frazzled, hapless and mistake-prone eccentricities of his protagonists and isn’t afraid to make its characters look scared and weak and powerless and recognizably human; something I’ve harped on in the past.  This focus on pure desperation—as opposed to a Gary and/or Mary Sue-level of competence, provides for more tense scenarios as well as a much-needed shot in the arm of genre-filming altogether. Or in this case, a few HORRIBLY-REALISTIC lacerations to it. (Quasi-spoilers.) When violence comes (and boy does it) the actors don’t treat it like mosquito bites in the way the Fast and the Furious crew would.

It’s also really important to note that Green Room truly is a gift from the genre gods, deliveries from whom seem all too rare these days. It is at once both a nasty, down-and-dirty midnight movie made an actual filmmaker, aware of both the people and location he is cascading in gore. 

Moonlight

moonlight-poster

Real talk: I went into Moonlight expecting to hate it. Well…hate is a harsh word I guess. But I’ve been burned by word-of-mouth festival darling award bait more than once these past couple of years (see Boyhood and The Revenant). Pretty important to also note that I have no business being pretentious about which movies I think do and don’t deserve Oscars, Golden Globes or what have you and you should attach no weight to my opinions on that matter either.

The final film however is, by and large, the movie I’d argue is objectively the most proficient of the year. In that every single thing about it is top notch. From acting to score, lighting to pacing, there is not a chink to be found in Moonlight‘s seemingly flawless armor.

Following a “3-Act of a Life” model most recently evoked by last year’s Steve Jobs, we are shown three vignettes in the life of Chiron, a closeted young man who struggles through a variable gambit of themes. As with Boyhood, we get different chapters in a young man’s life. This time however played by three different actors. Unlike Boyhood however, Moonlight actually tells an interesting/compelling story. While they may not look that much a like, the three (Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert respectively) create a wholly singular performance that is absolutely astounding in consistency and attention to detail. 

If one were to place it in a box, one could define it as about being black or being gay, but writer/director Barry Jenkins has a made movie accessible to anyone unable to articulate his or her desires.

I also adored the way this movie played against stereotypes and/or audience expectations. Take Mahershala Ali’s Juan, a drug dealer. One automatically equates that character-type as someone who will send Chiron down the wrong path. Refreshingly however, things are much less clear cut than that. The same could be said of Chiron’s mother, played by Naomie Harris, a woman with clear demons but more complex shades than simply “uncaring parent.” Harris is also dynamite here; providing, for my money, the best performance of the year.

The Witch

thewitch_online_teaser_01_web_large

For full review. 

As perfect as horror movie can be. That’s my quick summation of 2016’s best horror film, although a terror film would probably be a more apt description given the film’s lengthly slow build as it favors a slow build over a cavalcade of jump scares.

It’s an incredibly small story, made large by its astonishing attention to detail. Its opening title card, The VVitch, being an early indicator of just how dedicated first-time writer/director Robert Eggers is to conveying 17th Century Puritan life.

Don’t Breathe 

For full review. 

While we’re on the topic of superior horror, let’s knock out Don’t Breathe while we’re at it. Don’t Breathe is much more in line with The Witch than initial appearances may let on. True, it’s more inclined to fun-house horror, unafraid to go for a cheap jump scare here and there. It’s strength however clearly relies on good-ol’ fashioned tension.

It’s a dumb movie made by a smart filmmaker. Yes the characters make largely stupid decisions. Yes it tampers with your suspension of disbelief. Like a master trapeze artist, director Fede Alvarez walks the line masterfully.  

Arrival 

cp8v8n0vmaadzn6-jpg-large

If I were to attach a “I NEEDED this movie” title to anything out of this year, it’d be Arrival. Two days after one of the most divisive election years in this nation’s history (the results of which leave me with little hope for the future), we get a science fiction film that ditches bombast and stupidity in favor of actual thought; for conversation, something I think we can all agree will be increasingly important (yet unfortunately neglected) over the next few years.

Denis Villeneuve, director of such feel good films as Prisoner and Sicario, doesn’t automatically bring about catharsis any viewers mind when attending one of his pervious movies. But much like David Fincher (the filmmaker I find to be the closest to Villeneuve in terms of the approach both men take to their projects), the guy is a film-making chameleon. Arrival represents the director’s most uplifting output to-date. 

The film owes a bit to those that came before (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Contact spring to mind) and some of the grandiose posing of the blockbusters of Christopher Nolan, yet another director whose career Villeneuve seems poised to emulate. Where Nolan stumbled (in my opinion) with Interstellar in a narrative sense, Arrival soars. While there are little action sequences (something I’m 100% behind, I assure you), the movie thrillingly executes sequences that equate to simply two characters/beings trying to converse with on another.

The only part in which it stumbles that I can recall is when it harkens the cliche of ignorant military guys acting stupidly. Some of this works (and unsettlingly predictive given our incoming president-elect), while others involving a coup fell a little flat for me. Arrival‘s successes equate to much more than the sum of its (very minor) failings however.

I’ve heard rumblings of the twist being predictable and undeserved to which I wave a dismissive hand. Predictable or not, the turn that comes around the third act serves a higher purpose.

All of this resting on the considerable laurels of Amy Adams, an actress more deserving of Oscar gold than any other in her current peer group. Rooting for her to finally nab the Best Actresses gold that has long eluded her and for a role in a science fiction movie no less. 

Swiss Army Man 

swast_89_m2-0v4-0

For full review. 

I kind of have to eat my words looking back as I boast this would be the most singular cinematic experience of 2016.

Forgive me as I had not seen or heard of The Greasy Strangler yet. But more on that in a bit.

Swiss Army Man is so many things that it almost demands a thesis paper. This while also being a stupid buddy comedy about a corpse that farts and has a boner compass. It’s an onion of a movie with so many layers that I argue it should remain almost undefinable, both in meaning and genre.

The Nice Guys 

nice-guys-poster-600x889

The Nice Guys makes the cut simply on the sheer power of charm and likability but would you expect any less from a Shane Black film? The plot is almost unnecessary when you’re operating with dialogue and characterization of such caliber.

I’ve heard talk that some may have found this movie boring as there aren’t that many action scenes in it and the ones that are in it primarily revolve around guys shooting at each other.

The meat of the movie truly is the way in which our leads are characterized and interact. Similar to Green Room, a lot of what Nice Guys does right can also be directly attributed to how much our heroes fuck up albeit a lot more comedic in tone in this case.

As it lacks the manic energy of Black’s earlier film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the film does get weighted down in its unneeded complexity from time to time. Nice Guys does best when it sticks to leads Russell Crowe (who turns out can do comedy…quite well in fact) and Ryan Gosling (who appears to do literally anything he puts his mind to). When it sticks to those two (with appearances by Gosling’s character’s teenage daughter played by the excellent Angourie Rice), the movie is pure, Black dynamite.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople 

hunt_for_the_wilderpeople_ver3

Another film that basically snuck up on me. In this case, I hadn’t even seen the trailer. I simply saw writer and director Taika Waititi’s name attached and thought I’d give it a shot. Waititi, whose credits include last year’s phenomenally funny What We Do In the Shadows, carries over his trademark oddball wit here all while successfully melding it with the growing pains struggles he embed with another critical favorite of his, Boy.

Given the film prominently features Sam Neill running around in woods, it plays a little like Jurassic Park minus one kid and dinosaurs. Waititi also does a commendable job at meeting the needs of a larger budget. The writer/director’s next project is a Marvel film; something I wouldn’t automatically peg him for given his penchant for the smaller scale.

Newcomer Julian Dennison is an acquired taste as far “cute movie kids” go, a choice that I believe was entirely deliberate. He balances the fine line between making Ricky both likable and exasperating. Even the cavalcade of fat jokes that seem to come his way land more as good-natured ribbing rather than straight-up bullying due to Dennison’s impressive confidence.

Something I’m sure you’ll notice (or already have by this point as I am basically the most predictable person you’re likely to meet) is that this year I put a heavy emphasis on genre (or subgenre) films because that is where my interest in movies is largely focused. This is the fifth one to appear on this list and it won’t be the last.

An old man paired with a cute kid is a movie we’ve seen time and time again. It’s basically a genre onto itself at this point. Wilderpeople doesn’t break the mold, but it provides a perspective all while being 100% entertaining; and that’s really all you can ask from a market with seemingly hundreds of other films with similar premises are vying for attention. In that regard, Waititi’s film stood above the pack.

Tower 

tower-poster-documentary-2016

As is the case with any given year, I am late to catch most documentaries. Unless its a Netflix exclusive, they’re rather hard to catch playing out here in the middle of nowhere…that is unless their far-right docs like Hillary’s America or for the more insane, Vaxed. Luckily due to the wonderful Oklahoma City Museum of Art however, I was able to catch Tower not just once but twice.

Too often we forget whenever a deranged lunatic commits murder on a gun, we lose sight of the brave men and women on the ground. In other words, at times humanity’s best is often highlighted when we are very best. This is the essence of  Director Keith Maitland’s quasi-documentary Tower. The film centers around the horror inflicted by former Marine Charles Whitman, who ascended the clocketower at the University of Texas on August 1, 1966, and proceeded to shoot 49 people, killing 15.

Maitland opts to stick close to the ground as it were, relying on moment-by-moment testimony from those that were there. There’s never a voice over to connect the dots as it were. Only inter-spliced individual perspective woven together to provide a larger picture. Given the unfortunately common place of such incidents these days, Maitland finds an effective way of conveying just how utterly surreal the experience was at the time. Combining archival footage with newly shot dramatic re-creations, presenting the latter as black-and-white rotoscoped animation (with occasional flashes of color),Maitland blends retrospective interviews with survivors and police officers, though their words are largely spoken (as well as their actions on the day in question) by much younger actors.

Perhaps the boldest move however is that Maitland dedicates virtually no time to the gunman, whose own story is perhaps interesting enough to warrant its own film.  The argument for this is simple enough however: Nobody on the ground knew who was shooting at them, so why should we?

If I were to have a nitpick it would be the inclusion to a closing montage of recent shootings from Columbine to Sandy Hook if only because it seemed unnecessary as Tower never came off as a lament or plea for sanity.

While they are all vital reactions to gun violence, this movie offers something equally valuable: the terrified perspective of the average person, who sometimes look past their fear and take actions that remind us why life is worth living in the first place harkening back to that iconic tried but true quote by the invaluable Fred Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping 

popstar0004

The movie I have hands-down quoted the most this year. Bar none. Also the catchiest soundtrack in a year of catchy soundtracks some of which are also represented on here. It’s also great for my generation’s Top 40-obsessed mentality its own Spinal Tap.

 There honestly isn’t too much to say as this is a straight up comedy, an area I absolutely hate writing about. What can I say? The Lonely Island brand of comedy speaks to me, and this is the trio working on a scale way beyond Hot Rod, another movie I feel as if I quote on a daily basis. It doesn’t hurt that just about every pop parody is as equally catchy as any of the real things on your iPod.

The Lobster

colin-farrell-in-the-lobster

Another film I was fairly late to the draw on as well as on where I fell on actually liking it.

I include it, not because I loved it, but more than any other film this year, it lingered in my psyche long after I finished it and continues to do so now. I’d be a stone-cold liar however if I claim to “get” every little nook and cranny however.

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos presents a scenario that could easily have been an extended Black Mirror episode, albeit with more laughs and less technology. Staring an effectively cast-against type Colin Farrell, The Lobster posits a world, not too unlike our own, in which societal pressure to seeks companionship and settle down is all encompassing. Quite literally in this case as those that fail to do so are hunted down and turned into animals. It places an unforgiving mirror to our dating, engagement obsessed society. 

More than just a witty parody of meaningless, shallow couplehood, The Lobster is much more probing in how it delves deeper into the strange and cruel world it establishes, ultimately questioning whether two people can truly love one other on any meaningful terms rather than those forced upon them. As you laugh, you may notice you’ve curled up into a bawl and tears slowly emerge from your eyes. 

OJ: Made in America 

oj-made-in-america-part-4

File this under “I’ve seen a number of other reviewers include it on their lists so I’m going to too.”

While technically a miniseries, OJ: Made in America is under consideration for a number of best documentary awards, so fuck it, it is a documentary and more than qualified to be featured here.

It’s a five-hour sprawling epic, unparrelled in scope and content regarding the subject on-hand, much less about the crime in question and more about the much larger context of American class divisions and the ingrained biases in the American legal system. Yes, Simpson’s trial is covered extensively but I’d say that only makes up half of the beast. We also get the best look yet of who OJ Simpson is as a person as well. And it ain’t pretty.

What makes this documentary so effective (to me at least) is that, much like Tower, it doesn’t bold-face any of its messages and rather lets subjects speak for themselves. Director Ezra Edelman, his editors and researchers mostly let people tell their own stories, in full and uncensored, and then find pertinent archival material to support said testimony. 

It’s a film about how a story changes depending on how it’s framed.

Was the Simpson case about the fall of a beloved athlete or the death of a scared and battered woman? Was it about how the media narrowly focused to recognize widespread patterns of injustice? Is it about our tendency to force a narrative onto messy real-life events, distancing us from the truth? These are uncomfortable, yet necessary questions, choses to leave at our feet rather than answer outright. 

The film is journalistic marvel; something to be shown in law and journalism classes in the years to come. 

High-Rise 

highrise_ver4

As with The Lobster, I was a fan of High-Rise right away…I think. No wait. Maybe? Okay, give me a second. Hmmm….was I? Yes. Yes. YES. Wait. No. Yes. Of course. Maybe.

I’ve never read J.G. Ballard’s novel, but I bet it is one that has been considered un-filmable for decades. This movie is DENSE in the way only a movie adopted from a DENSE novel can be so it’s fair to say the end result isn’t going to be for everyone.

The apocalypse comes quick in High Rise; so fast in fact that I felt an almost visual whiplash, a decision I wasn’t 100% on board with initially. It’s as if the film’s entire second act was cut out. There’s barely any transition between order and chaos outside of a brief montage, and it took a 2nd viewing for me to get the point. Societies can devolve to ruin so quickly that people simply accept the rubble as the new status quo.

Of cult English director Ben Wheatley’s other films, I’ve only seen Kill List, a movie I really liked for the most part but was more lukewarm towards once it entered the last act. With High Rise, Wheatley plays heavy with allegory, setting the film against the cultural nightmare of Thatcher’s England. Take a scene where our de facto “protagonist” Dr. Laing (a very, very good Tom Hiddleston) peels back the face of a cadaver, revealing the ugly bone and muscle underneath. All that glitters indeed.

I’ve heard it anarchically referred to as a “vertical Snowpiercer,” as the two films revolve primarily around class warfare. I’d argue the two are very different however with only fleeting similarities. Wheatley really avoids anything that could be considered a point of view. I only name Laing the protagonist as Hiddleston is on the poster. Wheatley shoots a wide gaze on the titular 40-story high rise complex, which gets more than a little disorienting once the proverbial shit hits the fan. Things aren’t as simple as “rich on top” and “poor on bottom,” particularly once the puzzle pieces start to move, amalgamating into a cocktail of poignant surrealism, unforgettable imagery, claustrophobia and nightmares.

The Greasy Strangler 

4ueyiabbabjjwmybkeolluzs5qn

Where oh where do I even begin?

I really, truly and honestly thought nothing was evening going to come close to touching the coherent weirdness of Swiss Army Man. Then this thing creepily shuffled into the spotlight from out of a the filthy ally I presume it originated from.

The closest thing I can compare it to is Tim and Eric by way of John Waters. Processing it completely comes in various stages. First comes, “What the fuck did I just watch?” Followed closely by buoyant exuberance as you start quoting the film with your friends. The final stage, and most divisive, will be if you’ll ever come back for a second helping.

After a lot of thing and soul-searching, I’ve reached a conclusion:

Xenu, forgive me, I loved every second of it.

This is by no means a movie meant to please anyone. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to find many that I’d actually recommend it to. It’s main goal is to cause discomfort, and maybe just maybe you’ll be entertained…probably by accident. I still think my level of enjoyment was a fluke. I was torn between this and The Neon Demon as I enjoyed both for very similar reasons. Both are well-made trash, and I mean that in the highest regard.

WARNING: THE VIDEO BELOW IS ABSOLUTELY NSFW.

La La Land 

1

It’s rather jarring to pivot from something like The Greasy Strangler to a film as classy and refined as La La Land, a film that I’m pinning down as Best Picture at next year’s Oscars. Those guys and gals just love acknowledging movies ABOUT making movies. Go figure.

As with Saulnier and Green Room and Eggers and The Witch, writer/director Damien Chazelle is a relatively young talent that has captured my attention so quick fast you’d think he’s been around much longer. His last film, Whiplash, is as perfect a movie as there can be.

I saw a lot of movies I enjoyed this past year, but I think La La Land deserves special credit for being so instantaneously enjoyable. I’d even go so far as to call it the movie I had the most fun watching this entire year. It certainly didn’t hurt I saw it in a theater equipped with recliners and heated seats. Within the first minutes and its opening music number, I knew this movie was going to have seriously TRY to make me hate it.

An utterly joyous throwback to the musicals of yesteryear (Singin’ in the Rain, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), Chazelle’s second feature serves as perfect companion piece to Whiplash, both films being testaments to artistic ambition. (La La Land notably being the more positive of the two by a large margin.) There’s also an emphasis placed on balancing relationships with the tough, often crushing business of following one’s dreams. The 10 minute epilogue is so pleasing yet simultaneously bittersweet that shockwaves of feeling ripple backwards through the whole extravagant production.

It also fortunately capitalizes on the bottled lightening that is the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, in what is their third time out as love interests. They make for a couple that you actually root for, their past shared onscreen relationships only building on that credibility. Stone in particular carries a lot of the weight on her shoulders, in regards to acting and singing chops. The movie owes so much to her La La Land feeds off her heartache and elation. In playing a wannabe starlet, Stone achieves movie-star transcendence.

And we haven’t even gotten to the songs. While I could always use more of the old song and dance (particularly when they are all as good as the ones written by Pasek and Paul with a absolutely gorgeous score by Chazelle’s film school buddy, Justin Hurwitz), but I rather enjoyed each. Neither Gosling or Stone have the strongest singing voices but their imperfection is part of the point. This is a musical set out to acknowledge the discrepancy between spotlight fairy-tales daydreams about and our more blemished reality of wage-slave circumstances. In summation, the Los Angeles of movie screens versus the noisy, gridlocked, unforgiving “real” version. Also, good “City of Stars” out of your head. 

La La Land doesn’t really break the mold in a significant way. It’s simply good harmless ol’ fashioned entertainment that only a simple movie of its caliber can provide.

 Shin Godzilla

ikzgxc5

Don’t get me wrong: I was a definitely a fan of Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Americanized attempt at a Godzilla picture. No country on earth quite has the same handle on the character (and giant monsters as a whole) quite like the Japanese however.

And every few years, Toho wakes up the jolly green giant to show us all how its down. There latest effort, the 29th to be exact, is perhaps the most surprising source of political satire and commentary of the year. Heading into a Godzilla film, you’re not exactly ready for biting political satire. They’re not really known for their humor either…well, intentional humor anyway. All that changes here.  It’s Veep taking place within a kaiju film, meaning while it isn’t a laugh-a-minute, the jokes that land do so in way that bites deeper than your standard food orgy or used tampon gag.

In one of the best/most clever visual gags of the year, we are bombarded with a new bureaucratic situation on a scene-per-scene basis with each introducing a new official with accompanying text giving their title. As the movie progresses, those titles get longer and longer, until one person’s title LITERALLY takes up half the screen. It’s a subtle joke, highlighting the flat out absurdity of not being able to attack a giant monster currently leveling the city because, as it moves from sea to land, there is no set consensus as to whose jurisdiction the campaign should fall under.

Co-directors Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and Shinji Higuchi (the lackluster Attack on Titan adaptations) also do an effective job at returning Godzilla back to his nuclear roots. In what must be a clear allusion to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, this iteration is mutated by nuclear waste dumped into the sea and is powered by nuclear fission. In a very Japanese touch, the ways in which to combat the monster are entirely communal; relying on many, rather than one lone solider. 

As with any of these movies, its far from perfect. It gets pretty dialogue heavy at points and its climax is a bit anticlimactic when stacked against some of the earlier set-pieces, but all these imperfections play into the larger charms of a proper Godzilla movie. 

Jackie

jackie-poster-1

Like Moonlight, I really wanted to write this one off.

I feel as if I’ve seen every variation of the biopic at this point. So forgive me when I’m not immediately chomping at the bits for yet another (what I assumed) standard piece on the life and times of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; particularly one starting Natalie Portman, an actress is really hit-or-miss to me as a performer.

Once again, I’m happy to report that I was super wrong and really should stop being a pretentious asshole.

Jackie offers something more impressionistic, focused primarily on how the first lady’s dealt with the death of President John F. Kennedy. We get a few flashbacks here and there on Mrs. JFK during her time in the White House, but as with the best biopics, the film focuses on single point in its subject’s impressive life rather than a jukebox of their “greatest hits” as it were.

Direction aside, it’s Portman who really solidifies her place among the A-list in a performance that comes the closest to being iconic since her very first in Leon: The Professional and actually be just that (I’m sorry Black Swan lovers. I thought her output in that was largely overrated). As with Michael Fassbender’s largely underrated potrayal of Steve Jobs last year, it would be very easy to dismiss Portman’s characterization as a distracting impression. Couldn’t that be said of the real Jackie O though, a woman many can (and have) argued was simply playing a Kennedy.

Sure, the script gets a bit on the nose at times, but it takes the existential crisis at its center wholly seriously.

Silence 

silence_poster

It’s should go without saying that Martin Scorsese would probably have to try his absolute best to turn in a movie that wasn’t at least worth watching two or three times at this point in his career. I honestly fear that it is cliche to just include on of his new movies on a “Best of” list without question. To be frank though, I was a little hesitant going into this one.

It looks for meaning in the contradictions and absurdities of faith, rather than its assurances. More obvious filmmakers would probably turn scenes of Christians being tortured and persecuted into pornographic spectacle. Ever the conflicted Catholic however, Scorsese instead (and more interestingly) shoulders the burden of our protagonists’ suffering.

It may not be a very fun movie, but it is an incredibly powerful one; Andrew Garfield’s less-than-perfect accent aside.

The Handmaiden 

the-handmaiden-poster

As with documentaries, I’m often late to the party when it comes to international cinema. If anything, it’s probably thing I’m most bitter about whenever I have to a year-end wrap up such as this because I feel as I’m only eating from the appetizers table when their is a whole host of a main course just around the corner.

To be frank, The Handmaiden is fucked up in every shade. But should one expect anything less from director Park Chan-Wook, author of such cinematic WTFs as Oldboy and the Vengeance Trilogy.

Based on “Fingersmith,” Sarah Waters’ novel of hidden identities and lesbian passion, Chan-Wook’s film transports the action to 1930’s South Korea. Now this isn’t a movie I’d be automatically be chomping at the bits to see and mainly gave it a shot purely based on Chan-Wook’s involvement. While it may sound like something akin to 50 Shades of Garbage, under the direction of an auteur at the level of its director The Handmaiden is pure Hitchcock.

I hate to get into plot specifics with this one because it really is all about the ride it takes you on. So you’ll just have to take my word on this one. Resting on standing performances from its two leads (Kim Min-Hee and Kim Tae-ri), The Handmaiden is a con-movie in all the right ways, all while being unafraid to tamper with conventions of the genre.

Pete’s Dragon

pd_teaser_1-sheet_v2alt_lg

For full review. 

Text book example of a remake done right. I’ve long maintained that Hollywood focuses on remake good movies instead of giving middling stories another shot with the vision of a new director. Sure, this is fiscally sound. People are often to flock to something they recognize fondly over a new version of something they didn’t like or forgot about the first time.

I think it’s safe to say that the original Pete’s Dragon isn’t many peoples’ favorite in relation to the massive, ever-growing Disney canon. Therefore it makes more sense to me to let someone else take a crack at it. Less risk, higher gains in relation to creativity and story innovation. (Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite financially so get used to beat-for-beat remakes of popular movies like…oh I don’t know…Beauty and the Beast? I don’t think I’ve seen that one remade enough. You?)

In many ways, it reminded me of Robert Altman’s Popeye or Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are; less a work-for-hire gig and more a genuine attempt to imbue children’s entertainment with a little more personality, a little more heart…some would accuse this of being boring and truth be told, Pete’s Dragon could have stood to be a little lighter. It’s never too grim, but its definitely darker than your standard Secret Life of Pets fluff. But so where a lot of the most memorable/best films of our youth.

I think its sole stumble is its villain, played here by the ever-underrated Karl Urban. He’s serviceable, but he comes off as almost one-dimensional in a film that is anything but. He’s definitely more misguided than mustache-twirler, but he could have stood to be more developed.

Zootopia 

zootopia-movie-poster

While we’re on the topic of Disney, the company’s global domination is well-under way and the fact there are other major studio releases to “compete” with them can simply be considered pity.

Out of all their major releases this year though (The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, Moana and Rogue One respectively), I feel as if Zootopia will be the one I come back to more frequently if only because at it could have have come out at a more appropriate time. Which surprised the hell out of me as the concept did not exactly inspire confidence in me.

The subtext on display isn’t exactly hidden, but isn’t exactly spoon-fed either refreshingly.

Near the beginning of the film, our protagonist Judy Hops (maybe the best Disney has provided in the past few years) protests: “A bunny can call another bunny cute, but when another animal does it…” She trails off, letting the resemblance to certain human distinctions hang in the air. 

Zootopia is often delightfully specific about said subtext, about the way different groups share certain spaces in the world, trying for peace (or at the very least, manageable harmony) but continuing to stumble over presumptions, stereotypes, and the often uncomfortable legacies of how things “used” to be. These are important, even hefty, lessons to place on kids 10 and under but what better year for Disney to put out a movie about understanding one’s neighbor, overcoming fears and so forth? Okay, so we all didn’t exactly get over all that stuff (don’t say the Trump word, Tyler, we’re being positive remember?) but this will be things that will become increasing important as times get scary, more volatile and even more divisive. Kudos to Disney for getting ahead of that with the perfect movie to open up those important conversations. 

Love & Friendship

images

I feel like such a snobby tool for enjoying this movie as much as I did, but what can I say? It charmed the living hell out of me. I watched it on a whim, not expecting much, and remained completely absorbed throughout. An adaptation of Jane Austin’s “Lady Susan,” (no easy task given it’s a epistolary novel as well as material Austin herself didn’t intend to publish, only becoming available after her death) this isn’t really a movie I’d necessarily seek out either. Just check out this official synopsis:

“Recently widowed, Lady Susan arrives, unannounced, at her brother-in-law’s estate to wait out colorful rumors about her dalliances circulating through polite society. While there, she becomes determined to secure a new husband for herself, and one for her reluctant debutante daughter, Frederica, too. As Lady Susan embarks on a controversial relationship with a married man, seduction, deception, broken hearts, and gossip all ensue.”

Oh joy.

But credit where credit is due; this movie was just what I needed right when I saw it.

If anything, its nice to see Kate Beckinsale take a part that reminds us all of how lightening quick she can be as an actress and wear a wardrobe that consists solely of tight, black leather. (As a male, the latter is always fine but the movies in which she does this are anything but.) Everyone is on fire, but Beckinsale really is the main attraction here. She delivers cutting lines with the casual cheeriness of someone who can’t even conceive of caring what others might think of her and she’s just pure dynamite. In a fair world, she’d be in the same conversation with Adams and Stone for Best Actress come Oscar season.

It doesn’t hurt the movie is also a lot of fun. You don’t have to be an English major or literary snob either. I credit writer/director Whit Stillman, a man who seems adept at taking droll, quasi-pedantic material and making it easily digestible for someone as stupid as me. 

Special kudos must also be extended to Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin in what may be the best comedic performance of the year. Martin is a lovable doofus for the ages. Any competent actor could get a chuckle from a choice line, but it requires a special sort of auteur to be handed “How do you do?” and turn the basic response of “Very well, thank you” into something hysterical. Bennet does this by having Martin consider the question as if it were a riddle from the fucking Sphinx.

Gold.

Storks

storks_ver11_xlg

For full review. 

So there was a split decision among this, Star Trek Beyond and Captain America: Civil War. Don’t take this as anti-franchise snark but as awesome as it is to see how the well the Marvel characters have translated on the big screen as well as the closest thing we’ve gotten to an actual cinematic Star Trek yarn in well-over two decades, I tend to skew towards equally entertaining original material. In keeping with the oddball theme of 2016 and the movies that came out of the woodwork, I’d feel remiss if I’d reserve a special place for Storks. And let me stress this isn’t some ballsy attempt to “be different” or “standout.” I just fell in love with the zany world this movie sort of passes along like some sort of hot potato.

It made money to be sure, but it’s largely left the conversion. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a torch bearer. That’s imply this movie is forgotten, when it fact it’s fair to call it a success. I just don’t want it to disappear. There’s so much to love here. It gives us a return to Looney Tunes-physics, something I feel has largely disappeared from major studio releases. Fast-paced, line-a-minute dialogue that comes from recording sessions involving multiple actors, another rarely utilized tool. It also provides the standout character of the year in Tulip (Katie Crown, in what I hope is a bright future in voice acting).

So if you happened to have missed Storks, I recommend seeking it out particularly if you’re an animation fan. I was a little harsher on it after my first viewing, but with each viewing since, I’ve softened on it considerable even growing to love this weird $70 million blip on the 2016 radar.

A Monster Calls 

monster_calls

Cathartic.

That’s the one word I’d use describing both A Monster Calls and the the young adult novel upon which it is based.

Some accuse the movie of being…overly simplistic, even unsophisticated, in relation to its statements and themes on death, mourning and general grief. I accuse those who may do that of losing sight of the movie’s intended audience: children.

Having lost more than a few loved ones, some unexpectedly and others slowly, the film hit me in the same way the books did, something that rarely transfers over from page to screen. The plot follows your typical pre-teen fantasy formula: we have Connor, a young, artistic yet intrinsic boy, who feels alienated at school and at home, save from the relationship he shares with his terminally ill mother. Each night at 12:07 a.m., The Monster (voiced here by Liam Neeson at his growliest) arrives to tell a story that pertains to Connor’s current predicament. The Monster warns however that once these stories are done, Connor will have to tell his own story and it must be true…or he will suffer his worst nightmare.

The crux of why the film hit me deals largely in just how personal it feels, all while being universal as well; akin to movies like A Christmas Story or Stand By Me. It’s hard to say if the movie will do much for anyone else to me and it’d be easy to dismiss it as simple Oscar bait. If that is the case, I guess fell in hook-line and sinker. Watching it, I was reminded of a Guillermo del Toro, a director I could easily see Monster‘s J.A. Bayona emulating. (The two have worked together in the past, most notably Boyona’s terrific 2007 horror flick, The Orphanage.) Now I don’t think When Monster Calls ranks as high as a movie like Pan’s Labyrinth, but the same sort of magic is certainly there.

Weiner 

weiner-poster

I add this movie last as it was the toughest to include. Given the part Anthony Weiner ended up playing the 2016 election, I’m not exactly his biggest fan. Set aside his personal demons. Set aside he’s a massive piece of shit as a person. Set aside the massive disappointment he turned out to be. Remember that period where he had actual promise behind? I’m not from, nor have I ever been to, New York City but this guy’s heat was palpable and felt all the way out here from those who cared to pay attention.

It’s bad enough the guy trashed a promising political career derailed by a dumb Twitter sexting scandal. Then he went and did it again disappointing millions willing to look past his transgressions. Everyone loves a good comeback story after all, right? The filmmakers behind this doc obviously thought so originally.

A lot of what the movie does well is completely by accident. That isn’t a knock on the filmmakers at all. Co-directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg didn’t set out to document a scandal. This was a movie meant to give us rare insight to a political comeback.

They instead happened to be on the ground floor to be there right as the final nails in the coffin that was Weiner’s hope of a political career. It’s astounding at the level of access we are treated to, not all of it is pretty either. It’s a spiritual successor to War Room, perhaps the most important political documentary of all time. The most dramatic sequence takes place on election night. Weiner’s loss is basically assured. However as a publicity stunt, his sexting partner, Sydney Leathers, shows up at his concession speech to confront him and his wife, Humma Abedin, on camera. Th back and forth between Leathers and Weiner’s team as a potential confrontation approaches is genuinely nerve-wracking and one of the most tense of the year. 

Perhaps the best element of Weiner is that it doesn’t just put up a camera to the man himself but also the parties that took him apart. The filmmakers effectively indict the rivals, reporters, and cable hosts who seemed offended that Weiner stayed in the race and kept trying to talk about real issues. Weiner is at once about the downfall of a politician, but it’s also about the smugness and hypocrisy of those who took a politician down mainly because dick pics make better copy than substantive explanations about zoning laws.

‘Rogue One’ looks great, thrilling even at times; all while failing to justify its own existence (SPOILERS)

By reading the title, I think one surmises I am going to be complaining just a tad throughout this view. Well, I wouldn’t say complaining. I’d say critiquing is a more applicable term.

I saved this for the end last time, but I’m going to address right at the jump now and (hopefully) keep it short: it is completely okay to like or dislike any given movie and it sucks to be criticized for falling in either category.

You don’t have to go that far back to see my views on the last film, which were mostly positive. I say that only because I don’t want to be accused of only liking old things or being some sort of Star Wars snob.

I’m not.

Or at least I don’t think I am.

I could be though?

I don’t think my views on the series as a whole are all that controversial either.

I love (for the most part) the original trilogy.

I don’t care for a large portion of the prequels.

I’m a huge fan of both The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series.

I LOVE Marvel’s recent revamp of Star Wars comics.

I grew up reading the AU material, and remember enjoying quite a bit of it.

So when I say I didn’t really care for a large portion of the new Star Wars movie, please don’t take it personally. I’m not attacking you or Star Wars.

One of the most interesting ideas about this movie (and its one I feel it almost achieves) speaks to the entire Star Wars-verse as a whole. This universe is HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE. There are a crazy amount of stories, perspectives, arcs and what have you to explore and the story of how the rebels got the plans for the Death Star is one that immediately conjures interest, or at the very least a raised eyebrow.

The peak it must surpass is monumental however as the telling of that story is arguably pointless given we know the end. Therefore your approach must emphasize journey over destination in way that is actually satisfying. Adding color and levels to something that arguably did not need them in the first place. (See: the Star Wars prequels) To surmise, I wanted a movie that sucked me int to such a degree that I FORGOT that “Oh, of course the rebels win.” Also probably important to note that when I say useless, I don’t mean automatically bad. I mean it needs to be a story worth telling.

For me, this prequel did what most do and tell a story we know the ending to without justifying its reason for doing so.

Before diving in, it’s also important to note there will be spoilers peppered THROUGHOUT. I don’t think I reveal anything that huge but still be advised. There is no set spoiler section this time so enter at your own risk.

rogueone_onesheeta

The plot:

“Jyn Erso, a Rebellion soldier and criminal, is about to experience her biggest challenge yet when Mon Mothma sets her out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. With help from the Rebels, a master swordsman, and non-allied forces, Jyn will be in for something bigger than she thinks.” – IMDb.com

The review:

Rogue One‘s biggest sin is its utter failure in convincing me to care about what was going on, and I think that relates right back to the rather flat cast of characters that round out our main team.

Jyn Erso, as played by the wonderful Felicity Jones, was perhaps the biggest disappointment for me overall, particularly in relation to her characterization. She’s posited as a quasi-Han Solo surrogate. Cocksure, stubborn, a scoundrel through and through. Oh wait. No. Sorry I’m describing Han Solo. Jyn Erso…is…hm….she’s….confident sometimes? She’s brave. And…stands by her beliefs? Right? Like near the half-way point, she starts doing that….for reasons? Really, and let me stress I cannot prove this, her character reeks of re-tooling from the much maligned and (allegedly) extensive reshoots from earlier this year. Her transition from “I don’t give a fuck” to…

…kind of comes out of nowhere. Sure, (utterly-wasted here) Forrest Whitaker TELLS us she has this backstory of a freedom fighter, but we don’t see that in action all that much. We get the sense that she’s a decent enough person given she saves a child at one point early on but I’m struggle to remember another instance of that pop up.

Jones plays the character with no charm. There’s no flair to the character. Now I’m not arguing she be more like Solo. I’m arguing that she be a character. Jones, who I’ve seen be great time and time again in other things, is flat and unaided by the fact that almost everyone around her is playing a more interesting, but equally undeveloped characters. That’s a MASSIVE problem for a lead.

rogue-one-felicity-jones-diego-luna-alan-tudyk

Oh sure, with the exception of Erso, the other characters are entertaining. They range from cool to less-bland. None are particularly memorable by themselves however outside of Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO who has the excuse of being a droid and the film’s de facto comic relief. (No matter what, the fact that Tudyk is now considered Disney’s lucky charm delights me to no end.) Riz Ahmed, so good in HBO’s The Night Of and movies such as Four Lions and Nightcrawler, is probably the one I’d point to when asked who my favorite was if only because I found his turncoat Imperial pilot Bodhi to be the most compelling. It was also really, really, REALLY cool to see an actor of Middle Eastern descent as one of the good guys in a major studio release. Having an entirely diverse cast is also just flat out refreshing. I just wish the movie had been up to their talents. Donnie Yen and Jiang Yen (playing blind Force-sensitive monk (?) Chirrut Imwe and his mercenary pal Baze Malbus) are cool enough when the action comes a calling but never really expand beyond passing amusements. We no next-to-nothing about these people outside of their shared interest in not liking the Empire. What we are told is often conveyed interestingly through flat-exposition. The original films are almost effortlessly characterize its leads. It’s done so breezily that you almost don’t even notice it. Take the first time we meet Lando in Empire. 

Extrovert.

Doesn’t carry himself too seriously.

Not overtly trustworthy.

Smooth like fine wine.

You get just about everything you need to know about Lando pretty quick in one scene. I don’t really remember any of the characters in Rogue One getting a similar introduction. I use Lando because he’s a somewhat morally grey character from the offset, much like the characters in this are purported to me.

It’s also telling that I literally had to look up the names of each and every one of the new characters. And don’t even get me started on Ben Mendelsohn’s imperial scientist whose name I’m not even going to bother looking up. Not sure I’ve seen such an ineffectual bad guy since….well, since Ghostbusters this year. Man, this year was not great for franchise baddies. I guess when Donald Trump is an actually out there, all other conceited, whiny, creepy villains pale in comparison, huh?

Even characters in the prequels were memorable, to one extend or another. Hate him or loathe him, I fucking remember Jar Jar Binks. (Pump the breaks, I’m not making the case that Jar Jar Binks is a better character than anyone or thing in Rogue One. Maybe characterized? Not a better character by any means, but I KNOW who that idiot is within seconds of his introduction.)

This isn’t a slant to the actors at all. All of them are completely fine. All do well with the material they’re handed; a feat most of the actors in a set of other prequels set in a galaxy far, far away failed to accomplish.

The relatively weak characters play into the plot, which also failed in more than a few respects for me. Because those characters are what’s going to justify whether this is a story that needed to be told, and they don’t. At least no for me.

I wanted something akin to 13 Assassins or The Dirty Dozen. Instead, the mission is relegated to the tail-end of the movie with the rest of the movie spent fumbling around from set-piece to set-piece with actual character development being waved away at nearly every corner.

Our core group goes through enough adventures together that by the we got to the climax, I really felt no tension in regards to whether they would ultimately succeed. There was never really a moment where I felt our heroes were properly fucked. It’s almost the exact same problem I had with Suicide Squad, a movie I have largely soured on since seeing it this past summer. 

Can you imagine for one second actually forgetting about whether these rebels ultimately succeed in their mission? To me, it would have awesome to just have the movie be the mission rather than the movie lead up to the mission. Like cut all of Jyn’s backstory stuff or at the very least minimize it. Use that time to bulk up our leads, emphasize that desperation, dedicate ALL action to the mission. That or having something akin to Munich wherein our team goes from place to place, taking out Imperial higher-ups, finally landing on the architect of the Death Star. Once again, I’m skidding the line of “HEY DER I COULDA WROTA BETTER MOVIE THAYN THEM” territory which really, REALLY hate doing so let’ pump the breaks and move on.

We’re granted glimpses of a desperate Rebellion, filled with shades of moral grey stuff which defined the best season of Battlestar Galactica. 

I loved that aspect (more on that later), but once again, it felt small rather than being emphasized. Except when the movie felt like taking a paint-by-numbers soapbox stance on what “sides” are.

Before we move on, I do need to address another negative and that is fan service. Well… the overabundance of it, I should say. Some of it’s great, particularly when it doesn’t feel like pandering. (Vader’s house from the abandoned Empire-screenplay is a deep, DEEP cut that I never thought I’d see in a million, trillion years. Not to mention the Whills get an actual shout out. You’re past the point of rabbit hole at that point.)

Some fan service really gets in the way however. Sure, it’s great in the moment when a bunch of others are screaming in excitement but the true test all relates back to if that nod was just that or something closer to a distraction. Which brings me to Grand Moff Tarkin’s inclusion.

peter-cushing-star-wars-grand-moff-tarkin

It would have been very simple to have him appear in a one-scene bit, explaining how the Death Star was placed under his command. But no, he’s arguably a pretty major player here. The problem? Peter Cushing has been dead for a few decades now.

The uncanny valley is very real and very at play here. It’s completely baffling to me that Disney rather CG an entire person that go for an actual actor. They found someone who looks EXACTLY like Mon Mothra (to be fair, actress Genevieve O’Reilly was cast as the character for Revenge of the Sith with her scene not making the final cut), and yet they cannot find someone who looks enough like Peter Cushing to cast and put some prosthetics on? Hell, just have Ben Mendelsohn play Tarkin! The same goes for the surprise appearance at the end. Neither are bad effects in and of themselves. But there is a major difference between a CGI character like Gollum or K-2S0 (literally had to scroll back up to see what its name was again) and a CGI person, or even doing minor touch ups to an actor to make them look younger or older. Speaking of…

Let’s move ahead to the positives of which there are a number, which may surprise some who think I hated this film.

The entire climax is utterly masterful. I daresay possibly the best action sequence in a Star Wars movie on the level of sheer spectacle. Well-worth the price of admission alone. Leaps and bounds ahead of the dog fight over Starkiller Base near the end of Force Awakens which seemed tacked on in the face of the saber-duel on the planet-surface. The iconography at play is also outstanding. We actually get a proper war film in a film with WAR in the title. It’s Star Wars meets Saving Private Ryan as the rebels face off against Imperial forces on a beach planet, something already cooler than any of the planets we saw in TSF. The ways in which the Star Wars iconography is put to use is utterly drool-inducing as well. AT-ATs storming the beach, a Star Destroyer coming out of light-speed out of nowhere, etc. It’s phenomenal.

If the entire film built to that entire sequence it would have been all the sweeter. Particularly given all the respective fates of our heroes. I credit the twinge of sadness I felt to credible filmmaking in that section rather than anything beyond that. As far as I’m concerned, the whole last act could be a short film with the first two done away with completely. Does that justify the movie existing? No, but I had a shit ton of fun watching it.

I’m also a huge of how un-Star Wars like the whole affair is. Right off the bat, no title crawl. Something that immediately jars an audience with a near-Pavlovian expectation to be smacked with the iconic John Williams fanfare right away. It’s also nice the film doesn’t fall back on said score all that often either. Composer Michael Giacchino adds hints and there but saves those cues for the bigger moments, largely falling back on original music which fine. You can kind of tell he only had a few weeks to write it here and there, but it was competent enough to get through and I don’t think the man is capable of turning in a score that is anything less than at least hummable.

Also really important to note that the film is flat out gorgeous. Cinematographer Greg Fraser shot the hell out of the movie with some of the most breathtaking shots you’re likely to see in a Star Wars movie. He opted to go for digital over film (all three original films and TFA were shot on film) which I ultimately think was a good call. There’s an abundance steadicam, giving it a more gritty feel. As I said, this movie isn’t concerned with looking like a Star Wars film and nor should it. I say embrace your existence outside of the spectrum/saga, and be your own thing to the best of your ability. Letting different directors, cinematographers, composers and what have you contribute is something I’m most excited for looking ahead. Star Wars is at its best when not under one unified vision but in the capable hands of craftsman at the peak of their craft. That’s how we got the two best movies in the series after all as well as two incredibly good TV shows and fleshed out AU. It’s something I think the Harry Potter films or Pirates of Caribbean could have greatly benefited from.

I’ve been reading a few reviews of the film here and there, some good and some bad, and a common theme is just how dark it is. As if Star Wars

main-qimg-ad3940e0249b55b710c47b15b3cfc5f9-c

…has been nothing but…

89a974435b8d4c029dfb79f8cca67f80

….sunshine and lollipops.

anakin-burnt

That all being said, yes this film is pretty bleak. Not bleak enough to be a determent mind you. This is a war movie. We get scenes of rebels being rebels, and you know what? Sometimes rebels aren’t exactly squeaky clean.

In this “silly sci-fi film for kids” we are treated to visuals of suicide bombers, friendly fire and more.

Given the very real situation underway in Aleppo, I can’t recall a time in which Star Wars got this  “real” or relevant. Well…

I should probably also discuss the Vader of it all…

rogue-one-darth-vader

It should go without saying, the prequels did quite the number on Darth Vader as a character. It isn’t wholly fair to say those movie ruined such an iconic character. Pop culture did its part too, but man, was the characterization just off there in relation to use feeling empathetic towards him.

Star Wars: Rebels has been doing the Lord’s work in terms of bringing him back to speed in terms of how utterly terrifying he needs to. Oh and not to mention the insane level of pathos it provides for fans of Clone Wars.

Not to mention Kieron Gillen’s masterful take on the character in his solo-Marvel series which I highly recommend anyone with even an ounce of Star Wars love in their hearts to go pick up and read right this second.

Mhm

Mhm

So I approached his appearance here with initial trepidation. He’s not in the movie all that much; by the end I believe he only appears in two scenes, one of which could have been cut entirely with no consequence whatsoever.

However, it is really hard for me to sit atop an ivory tower when I enjoyed LITERALLY every second he is on screen. His appearance near the end is the closest the movie ever comes to being full-blown cathartic, all while returning the menace and dread such a character demands. His saber emitting from the black is an image I could never tire of and it is used to maximum effect here. Director Gareth Edwards is incredibly adept at not (and pardon my crudeness here) blowing his load so to speak when it comes to giving audiences what they desperately want, also evidenced by his approach to his 2014 take on Godzilla. Giving the viewer a taste here and there, only to given them a full taste right at the end.

I compare his appearance to Spider-Man’s in Civil War; wholly unnecessary, but so much fun.

So, I wasn’t a big fan of Rogue One but don’t let my whining fool you. It was a passable movie, at best, to me and really that is what defined this year for me in regards to many of the bigger studio releases.

There’s a wonderful video essay that basically covers all the same beats I would make.

If you had fun, great. If this movie meant something to you, great. More power to you in fact and that’s not meant to be condescending. I had fun for a good portion of the movie and not so much in others but I’m not here to take away anything from you. People get way too personal about movies in general these days, something I’m sure that will only worsen as division gets easier and easier. That’s a different rant for a different day though. What matters most though is the experience that is wholly subjective.

A lot of people seem to like or even love Rogue One, and that’s fine.

I thought it was kind of empty providing only the most basic-level of entertainment, and that’s fine.

I think Christopher Orr of the Atlantic said it best in his review:

“These are the risks and rewards of trying something new (or rather, new-ish): Rogue One is neither as good as a good Star Wars movie nor as bad as a bad one.”

How about I meet you in the middle and say that it is hands down the best Star Wars prequel to date.

Now, can we still be friends?

‘Doctor Strange’ is but a glance through a key hole at Marvel’s mystical multiverse

Maybe this is where I preface with how much I love the character of Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange a.k.a Doctor Strange a.k.a the Sorcerer Supreme.

Well…

There really isn’t all that much to say honestly.

He’s a character I sort of stumbled upon by accident actually when I was much younger. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say I was initially drawn to the visuals to which I argue there are no better to be found in the comic book medium than a Doctor Strange book. He also probably has my favorite look of any in the Marvel canon as well. Not to mention possibly the best base of operations of any superhero. Yes, I am including the Bat Cave in that debate.

Character-wise, I think what I like most is his matter of fact-ness approach to magic. As a neurosurgeon, he is anything if not pragmatic. That goes along way when you’re dealing with stuff as goofy and outlandish as the typical problem of a Sorcerer Supreme. His last name should be a pretty clear indicator for the general tone of the conflicts in which he deals with issue to issue.

I also loved how his house served as a hub for a good portion of Marvel’s street-level New York heroes. I’m fairly certain everyone has stayed there at some point and when it was destroyed (for a bit…for like 40 minutes….for the fourth time….that year) it was always cool to see his friends rally around him and trusty manservant, Wong. Seconded maybe my Nick Fury, he had possibly the most extensive contacts lists of any one in Marvel.

All that said, I had no illusions in my mind that a Doctor Strange movie would ever exist. Well…except this one…

And yes…that is a young Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth).

To me, more than any other comic book character, he was the bar upon which films would never reach.

Then this little movie happened…

Now that this exists, where does that shift? Squirrel Girl?

Oh.

Right. 

Well, for what it’s worth, this movie was made and I was pretty gosh darn(?) excited about it.

I wanted this to be my favorite Marvel movie.

And the trailers did very little to levy the fact that this would be incredible.

End result? Not incredible. Not great, really either. But a lot of fun. So…at least there’s that!

doctor-strange-comic-con-poster

The plot:

“Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’ follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilizing a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” – Marvel

The review:

See this in IMAX 3D.

You’re doing yourself a real disservice if you bother with any other format. Perhaps the highest praise I have for this is that it truly is the first Marvel film that needs to be experienced on the biggest screen at your disposal. Oh sure, many of their past endeavors have been treats for the eyes as well but Doctor Strange elevates the bar (visually) to level in which all subsequent releases are sure to be compared.

Visually and conceptually, the effects owe quite a bit to the inverted physics of Inception with a healthy how-do-you-do to the East-meets-West influences of The Matrix. From those sparks however, Doctor Strange becomes what I presume to be the winner all of next year’s visual effects awards. Like…all of them.

Every sequence feels distinct, more innovative than the last. While it doesn’t reach the comic book-y glory that was the airport sequence in Civil War, there’s something to be said about just how outside the box this movie gets in relation to how it operates on a basic, visual level.

You’ll probably hear that certain sequences will make you feel as if you took LSD, molly, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. And to a degree, those statements carry validity.

Let’s go down the list. We have:

A race through an M.C. Escher-fied Manhattan war zone.

A fist fight between disembodied spirits.

More than one instance in which the Doctor’s iconic cloak gets a punch or two in.

A 2001 meets ultimate acid trip through all of time and space.

And that’s just a taste. Director and co-writer Scott Derrickson (who really hasn’t stood out to me as a director before this) really outdid himself in delivering such a distinctly-visual film in an environment that unfortunately seems to widdle down the unique flairs of its directors.

The cast, as is typical with Marvel movies, is perfect to a tee. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the could have been given more interesting things to do, but they perform admirably with the some lackluster lines scattered throughout.

There was a considerable amount of controversy surrounding Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One, a typically Asian role. To me, it’s a double-edged sword. Sure, it would be great to see an Asian actor given a high-profile role such as that but the stereotypes imbued with it, I think Marvel chose wisely in just casting an incredibly talented actress.

I also liked Cumberbatch’s Strange. He wouldn’t have been my first pick, but he defied my expectations here. He imbues Strange with same level of charming arrogance Robert Downey Jr. can in his sleep at this point as Tony Stark albeit different enough to where it doesn’t seem like he is merely mimicking the success of the other actor.

 I’m more than ready to see how he fits in with the rest of the MCU as a whole, particularly the ever-skeptical of magic Tony Stark.

Not to mention the onscreen reunion of the Facial Hair Bros.

Not to mention the onscreen reunion of the Facial Hair Bros.

We get a preview of what role he’ll play in a future movie in our now mandated first of two after credits scenes and SPELLS exciting things for a certain film involving a certain God of Thunder and a golly, green giant. Not to get too spoiler-y, but that quick scene made me so giddy at the mere fact that Strange is taking a similar role to the one he’s had in the comics for decades.

Every other actor and actress, while talented, kind of fades into the background. Similar to Terrance Howard in the first Iron Man film, Chiwetel Ejiofor serves as sidekick Mordo (not yet a baron), who will go on to become much more interesting in the sequel. (Hopefully they actually keep him around for the second film though.)

Our villain, Kaecilius, didn’t really do a lot for me. I guess he was fine to say the most, helped mainly by the fact that he’s played by our most recent Dr. Lecter, Mads Mikkelsen. The guy probably sleeps with a menacing face on.

I got a kick out of Benedict Wong’s take on Wong. It would have fairly easy to get uncomfortable with that character, but I think this interpretation is largely successful.

Also he’s not in it long enough to really offend anyone. Assuming he plays a larger role in future films, (as I require him to) hopefully they keep that balance up.

The only performer who I felt was kind of wasted was Rachel McAdams. She’s fine but she’s equated to same role as Natalie Portman in the Thor films in that we needs someone to humanize this asshole of a main character for us but otherwise serves no real purpose in the plot. Oh wait….I just remember….Michael Stuhlbarg is in this too. Okay, mark that as TWO wasted performers.

As with the comic, the character’s origins mirror that of Iron Man’s which leads me to the only substantive argument I can petition concerning this film, and it is a biggie. For all the bells and whistles, it is about as generic as white bread with no crust and a side of milk. There are some flourishes here and there (I really love how the good doctor approaches his final confrontation with the big bad at the film’s conclusion as well as its resolution), but the crux of the story is something we’ve seen again and again and again and again.

It’s a common complaint I share regarding superhero films in general.

I’d probably be less disappointed if I hadn’t been naive enough to buy into the rumors spread by alleged gross person Devin Faraci at birth.death.movies that the film WOULD NOT be another origin story.

Look, I get it. Disney is all about accessibility and when you’re entering a pool as crazy as the magical side of the Marvel Universe, you’re going to want to go in with some floaties first particularly if you have no experience with it.

There is also lion’s share credit to had by Derrikson and his co-writers for cramming what could have been Star Trek levels of exposition and explanation and quasi-comfortably fitting it into something much more digestible for John and Sally Q. Public. Fortunately, when that explanation does start to wear a little thin, the film wisely cranks up the action.

It’s a similar complaint I had to last year’s Krampus. Sure, it’s crazy but there’s so much potentially for more without getting bogged down in logistics. That’s the beauty of magic, particularly comic book magic.

I don’t want to play “Tyler writes a better movie,” but maybe they could have place a bit more focus on a normal character -coughmugglecough- who is cursed or is in someway affected by magic in which they need Strange’s assistance. Strange, is already Sorcerer Supreme as this point much in the same way Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is already a detective at the start of Sherlock. We then find out more about his world through an audience surrogate. I’m not arguing that is an anyway better. Hell, we’ve seen that story before too, but as we press forward, my origin story burnout is becoming all the more real.

I wouldn’t even hazard to say I’m disappointed. 2016 has been a fairly disappointment year in the blockbuster department, but I wouldn’t classify Doctor Strange as one of them. It’s fine. I say that a lot, but trust me it’s true. Movies can be just fine. They neither have to blow you away or make you angry. They can exist in the in-between successfully. I often harp on the fact that the most important aspect of any movie is whether it carries a memorability or not. That’s the most I can really ask of any film. I think The Incredible HulkIron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World suffer the most in terms of that.

Doctor Strange‘s mere existence is a win for me. It’s coherence another.

So yeah, I enjoyed the movie for what it was. I’m honestly more disappointed I don’t have more to say about it given this is something I’ve been wanting to see for a good portion of comic book-reading life.

I don’t particularly have anything that profound to say about it outside I hope this sample platter of a film is simply a fraction of what Marvel has in store should we get a fully-fledged sequel. I think I said the same thing about Green Lantern, a movie I still maintain was not as bad as everyone made it out to be. It wasn’t great, but it too was fine. Like Doctor Strange, it left the door of limitless comic book possibilities open for something akin to my expectations. Unlike that movie, I think we have a competent company as represented by Marvel Studios behind the reigns to ensure we actually get to see those possibilities brought to fruition competently.

“The horror…the horror…”: 13 scary scenes (not in scary movies) SPOILERS…OBVIOUSLY

 

We are right in the thick of October and for any one on the internet claiming to know a thing or two about movies is coming up with some sort of “Best of” in relation to horror films. Scariest movies ever. Scariest movies of the past decade. Scariest scenes. Scariest kids’ movies. It goes on and on. Well, I’m here to add to that cavalcade because I have a one post a month quota to fill and there aren’t too many promising films I want to review scheduled for the month so why not a list?

Now I am in no way claiming to be outside of the box on this one. Given my outlet is the internet, I’m well aware hundreds of better written lists like this one exist.

So what makes mine different, you may ask?

Well…

Um…

This one…

This one is…um…

Mine?

Yeah!

This one’s mine!

Also, as you may or may not have surmised, I’ve pulled from non-horror films.

As an added condition, I’ve also avoided the typical “this scared the pants off me as a kid” scene you often find such as the boat ride in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Large Marge in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. That isn’t to say any of these movies aren’t scary. No one here is arguing that. No one.

The point is I wanted more of a challenge. To think OUTSIDE of the box as it were. In other words, I had to think on this one. It was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be once I set out. Like many, I go to horror movies to get scared. For whatever reason, I never assume fear is something that’s necessarily going to translate into other genres which is inherently absurd.

There was also an effort on my part to avoid documentaries as well. I could probably dedicate an entire, separate post on frightening documentaries. No real defense to their lack of representation here other than I wanted to keep things simple.

Now as we navigate this cinematic myriad, it may be important for me to preface with the notion that most, if not all, of these scenes are going to relate back to what I personally find frightening.

Words you’re going to see again and again will be “realistic” and “relatable.”

And possibly even….EXISTENTIAL. Ooooooooo scary.

So yeah there will probably be more than one moments while you scroll down where you find yourself asking, “Really, Tyler? Really?”

Then I’ll look down out the ground and get really quite for a bit.

I’m going to do my best not to ramble in the descriptions even that’s kind of like my thing at this point. I highly recommend you watch every one of the scenes because…they’re great. I’ll add a little commentary but kind of just want them to speak for themselves.

It’s also important to note that I am in no way arguing these are the scariest films of all time. They’re are just 13 that I happen to think of off the top of my head. If you have any to add, I’d love to read about them in the comments section.

Quotas. Am I right?

Why 13?

Um…

13 is unlucky, right?

That’s kind of spooky.

….

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SPOOOOKY NUMBERSSSSSSSSS!

1) “Not quite my tempo.” – Whiplash (2014)

It speaks volumes that I’ve had nightmares just like this after seeing this movie.

We’ve all had that one person we want to impress. Whether it be a parent, professor, boss or what have you. There’s always going to be THAT person who’s validation you’re going to be perpetually fighting for.

We all also harbor deep-rooted fears of failure. Failing in front of your person of reverence AND being called out on it by said person? Well, you have yourself one dandy of a nightmare cocktail.

Through in being an introvert, you have why this scene (and whole movie, really) got deep down in my psyche.

I almost thought it was a comedic scene the first time I saw the film because in as is oft the case when faced with any form of conflict, tension or general uncomfortableness, my immediate instinct is to laugh as to hopefully ease tension.

But this is not a funny scene. There really isn’t any aspect of it that is treated as a gag.

It could even be argued that the scariest aspect of all of this how it seemingly works in the long run. Fletcher’s methods of pushing someone to the very precipice of their limits through psychological (and even physical) torture comes back in a big, bad way by Whiplash‘s finale and it is as unsettling as it may be triumphant.

2) Plane crash – The Grey (2012)

We’ve seen a lot of plane crashes in film.

We never LEAVE the plane. Director Joe Carnahan and Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi don’t give us spectacle. Instead we’re right there with Ottway (the camera never trailing too far from his perspective) as the vessel goes down. It’s many of our worst nightmares brought to terrifying reality.

It’s scarier than anything with the wolves because it’s such a universal fear. I’m pretty damn sure anyone who has stepped foot on a plane has had this exact scenario in the back of their head. Many easily conquer that fear. After all, if they didn’t we probably wouldn’t have many airlines.

3) A festering pit of NOPE – King Kong (2005) 

By this scene’s inclusion, I think you may be able to ascertain that I am not OVERLY fond of bugs. It’s clear director Peter Jackson isn’t either.

Sharing his entomophia in interviews before, Jackson GETS what makes bugs scary. For those paying attention during Return of the King, Shelob acts and moves just like an actual spider. Moving lightening fast and then abruptly stopping. Waiting. Waiting. Then moving in an unanticipated direction. (Least we forget, spiders have eyes on every side of their heads.)

Jackson’s ode to creepy crawlies is no where expressed better however than in the revitalized Spider-Pit sequence in his 2005 remake of King Kong.

It’s surface-level horror, (not to mention a complete deviation from the main conflict in an already overstuffed film) but it works. All the bug designs are unsettling, with the meat-weasels and massive weta’s being the true-standouts.

To me, this is all the fears I had about jumping into a leaf pile or the mud made manifest.

4) The red dress – Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream is a movie I never need to revisit.

It’s a very good movie, don’t get me wrong. If you haven’t seen it, I fully recommend you do so at the nearest connivence.

It’s just a real bummer. Like, a HUGE one.

There’s no light at the end of the tunnel for anyone in it.

I know that’s kind of the point. It’s a film about the horrors of drug addiction after all.

Moving along though, this is the most “traditional” scary sequence in the film, and it’s pretty damn effective. That fridge gets me every time. There are a number of creepy drug sequences (some of the most famous come from this very film) but this is the one that I’d argue is the scariest.

Sara’s descent is probably the one that hits closest to home for many viewers as it’s hard not to project our own mothers on to her. Where she ultimately ends up is another key reason I avoid the film. Without getting too personal, it hits too close to home in things I worry about almost on a day-to-day basis. My mom is NOT a drug attack, but she deals with things and every time I see this film (or just this scene or this one), I’m compelled to give her a call.

5) “He’s coming towards us.” – Zodiac (2007)

Almost all of David Fincher’s cannon appears to have at least one memorable frightening moment in them. So many in fact, that is was hard limiting myself to just two (the other we will get to momentarily).

Murder is common element of any crime film. Other it’s dramatized via gore, score, or all of the above. In Zodiac, Fincher takes a different route.

The murders are so startlingly real, that you don’t recognize they’re taking place initially. There’s no build up to the violence. It just happens. No pomp or circumstance. Random violence is often the scariest as it cannot be defined. To cope with senseless death, we as human often do are best internally “make sense” of things. “Oh, he was crazy,” or “Of course that she killed them. We saw the warning signs.” But the Zodiac Killer(s) were never “found out.” To this day, we don’t know who he, she, they were or why they committed such heinous deeds, adding another layer to just how unsettling this scene is.

6) Sloth – Se7en (1995)

I’ve gone on record through multiple avenues to declare my undying love for Fincher’s Se7en.

I went with Mills’ and Somerset’s discovery of Sloth because, as with the last scene, it exemplifies Fincher’s knack for taking a well-worn troupe and making it fresh. In this case, it’s the jump scare.

The scene draws you in with every little detail. Much like the unnamed SWAT-member, we are drawn to this body under the assumption that of course it’s dead.

Fincher doesn’t even bother with racketing up tension. The cough comes out of nowhere and we’re flat on our asses once again.

7) The Pale Man – Pan’s Labyrinth  (2006)

I mentioned I avoided scenes that scared me as a child; opting instead to focus on those I still found frightening as an adult. This is the one main exception I made as it successfully plays to those fears we all had as a child but placed in an adult setting; something director Guillermo del Toro appears to have an absolute hard-on for.

Ever a slave to detail, del Toro builds up his monster masterfully through silent clues throughout the set.

As with any good movie monster, the Pale Man is slow, quasi-methodical. It doesn’t need to move fast because it nows the playing field. Run as fast as you like. It’ll get you. One way or another.

8) “LOOK AT ME.” – The Dark Knight (2008)

The initial horror in this scene is on-the-nose.

The Joker is on a crime spree as he attempts to goad Batman into facing him; a part of his larger scheme to bring the Caped Crusader down to his level and show that ANYONE can fall. Typical Joker scheme.

A common thread you’re going to see, and may have already noticed, is “real.” Joker’s tape is a video that could have easily been leaked to reddit, 4chan, or any other social sharing site. I’ve seen ones before, much more violent of course, that could have served as the inspiration.

Look to the on-air murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward last year. That is but one of many examples.

It’s the most frightening aspect of Heath Ledger’s Joker. He isn’t about elaborate death traps.

9) Curb stomp – American History X (1998) 

I really wrestled with including this scene. Not because it isn’t scary. It’s why it’s scary, and that gets into a touchy space that is a breeding ground for contempt and hurt feelings.

I hate how racists have recently begun to appropriate this movie. As if they only take certain scenes (like this one) without context. As if to say, “See, we were right! Ed Norton was right at the beginning!” And I hate that. Of course, there are multiple ways to view a movie but revising a movie altogether and making it out to be representing something it isn’t is moronic and insulting.

The main message of the film, at least in my opinion, is how hate is taught from one generation to another. It’s not the glorification of one man’s racist ideals; it’s the deconstruction of them altogether.

This scene could easily be considered a “fuck yeah” moment in a piece of action junk.

It isn’t though.

It’s horrific, and director Tony Kaye treats it as such. Yeah, these guys were robbing Danny but we’ve seen the chain of events that led them there. No one is innocent truly innocent in the instance.

Violence begets violence. It’s a cycle that continually loops.

“Hate is baggage. Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time. It’s just not worth it.”

10) “Hi, this is Nikki. Leave a message.” – Swingers (1996)

Well, well, well.

My old nemesis.

To many, Swingers may be nothing more than a comedy and it truly can be experienced as just that. I love the movie, but I rarely re-visit it, largely due to this scene.

It’s so frighteningly real, particularly as a guy who continues to struggle with forming relationships. I’ve been in this exact position with women I liked in which I had a little voice saying, “Leave it be,” but another, much louder one saying “No, don’t make it weird. KEEP GOING TO MAKE SURE SHE KNOW’S YOU’RE NOT WEIRD.” I don’t think I’ve ever left quite this many voicemails, but we are in the texting/Tindr age.

Last night I just found out about “ghosting.” If I’m relating this correctly, this is when one half of a relationship abruptly stops communicating with the other.

Every time I sit through this scene, I’m verbally yelling, “STOP IT” at the screen before it’s over.

Relationships are scary.

Actually getting into one is a whole other beast.

11) “Is it safe?” – Marathon Man (1976)

I guess this scene is pretty much a given. But classics are classics for a reason, right?

To be honest, I don’t remember the rest of this movie all that well. It’s been a while since I sat down and watched it. It seems to be on TV every time I visit one of my parents (who have cable) so I definitely could point out where it is alternatively. I just couldn’t relate specifics to you…the main exception being this fucking scene that plays through my head every time I have to go to the goddamn dentist.

There are a lot of torture scenes I thought about including on this list which is a statement that sounds really creepy with or without context but I went with this one because it pinpoints a fear I think a lot people share and that’s an evil dentist given full-reign to do whatever they want with your mouth.

12) The other side – 50/50 (2011) 

Behold, another comedy. Like Swingers50/50 is a fairly consistent comedy (jokes land more than they miss) that nails frighteningly realistic situations. In this case, it’s dwindling minutes before we are put under the knife.

You may be thinking,”Tyler, you coward. This scene is relaxing. If anything it’s melancholic.”

I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, nor have I had to have a life-saving surgery. I have, however, had more than one procedure. Ranging from outpatient to several days in the hospital. Every. Single. One. Stressed. Me. The. Phunk. Out.

You’re kidding yourself if you think that any time you go in for ANY surgery, you’re guaranteed to wake up. The odds are minimal, but that doesn’t stop your brain from going to darker places right as the needle is hooked into your arm or the mask slipped over your face. And being alone sucks. You want someone there. Whether it be a parent or friend.

The conversation with the mom here has played out with me and my own mother every time I’ve laid on that bed in my gown.

 13) The war begins – War of the Worlds (2005)

Having grown into adulthood in the post-9/11 landscape, I’d argue it’s very easy for someone my age to become…how do I put it…detached from the 9/11 imagery that utterly dominates popular culture’s depiction of mass destruction.

I argue that imagery has largely fallen flat for me with the key exception being Steven Spielberg’s take on the H.G. Wells’ classic novel, The War of the Worlds. As with any good science fiction, the book zeroed in on contemporary anxieties. In Victorian England, that was the threat of foreign invaders. Wells, clever as he was, took those fears and flipped them on them right back around on your average English Joe, making the book a clear commentary on imperialism.

“For that moment I touched an emotion beyond the common range of men, yet one the poor brutes we dominate know only too well. I felt as a rabbit might feel returning to his burrow, and suddenly confronted by the work of a dozen busy navvies digging the foundations of a house. I felt the first inkling of a thing that presently grew quite clear in my mind, that oppressed me for many days, a sense of dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer master, but an animal among animals; under the Martian heel.”
Flash-forward to 2005. You’re 4 years after two planes struck the Twin Towers, 1 hit the Pentagon and another a field in Pennsylvania. Two years into our dual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The anger is still palpable. Fear of outside invaders striking again is ever present.
Spielberg, like Wells before him, is using his craft to give us a skewed view of our present through the prism of science fiction. In this case, America’s post 9/11 anxieties as well as our various dealings within the Middle East that took place in the early 2000’s. Some are a bit more on the nose than others. (Tom Cruise frantically attempting to cleanse himself of the dust of those unlucky enough to be vaporized, a boy screaming “WE HAVE TO GET BACK AT THEM,” a girl literally screaming, “IS IT TERRORISTS?!,” etc) but it all services a point. Spielberg isn’t exploiting a tragedy in the same way Zack Snyder did in Man of Steel. He’s actually making a point.
The first tripod’s assault is a clear allusion to a terrorist attack, sadly given new relevancy month after month with conflicts in Syria, the terror attacks in Paris and so on. I picked this scene because it highlights how well science fiction be in representing real life, skewed just enough to allow some distance.