Top 15 Films From 2016

I reviewed some great films in 2016. This list comprises my favorites.

Kubo and the Two Strings
Moonlight
The Edge of Seventeen
La La Land
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Train to Busan
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
The Accountant
Under the Shadow
Don’t Breathe
Sing Street

I use IMDB to make lists of films I watch. These are the “Big Fifteen” of 2016 imho. Click on the screenshot below to be taken to my list on IMDB. Happy New Year, see you at the movies.

Miss Stevens

The high school dramedy must be one of the biggest genres to break into with a film. People watch films like The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High over and over again until their dying day. This film doesn’t come close to breaking in. In plain English, it’s awful. I call it a “wanna-be” high school dramedy.

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This film is about a high school English teacher who volunteers to take three high school teens to a drama competition. It is an overnight and she has her own hotel room as somewhere in the hotel the three unstable teens have their own rooms. I should have known when this was explained that this film was not based in reality.

There are numerous times when the teacher smokes while with the kids. She often leaves them unattended. She appears to be giving the most disturbed young man a chance to grow and go off his medication. When she doesn’t like his reactions, she blames him and tries calling the Principal back home. She is the one to blame because she is the one in charge.

In between all the “drama” (literally) we see all sorts of dysfunction. Writing as someone who has worked in the public school system for 17 years, I can tell you this movie is a legal nightmare and definitely not healthy for any of the characters involved. “Well, Damien it’s a comedy!” You might say. It’s not in the least bit funny. If you have a different view, let’s start a conversation in the comments. As for me, I can’t recommend this to anyone except to give an example of what high school dramedy should NOT look like.

Little Men

How quick we humans are as young people to judge our parents actions. Young men as a general rule think they know everything, so why aren’t grown-ups asking? It’s because youth has a lot to learn, in spite of their energetic ideas and passions.

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In this story, we have two young men, pre high school it would appear. They are friends because ones mother is a seamstress in a tailor/dressmaker shop that the other parents own. It was handed down by one boy’s grandfather which makes that boy just slightly more wealthy than the other boy. It is in fact enough to matter.

There is a clear distinction between the filthy rich and the poor lining the homeless shelters but the lines that exist in the middle class are not as defined. The “landlord” son has different ideas from his parents when they decide to sell the store. That’s when things get quite ugly with the other boy’s mom. It shows a separation of values based on income and education.

This is a truly gritty, well-made drama. It was a nice surprise for me at the end of 2016. I recommend it to fans of Kinnear as well as lovers of well-produced dramatic films.

7 Days 7 Film Reviews

Hello out there. Just informing my readers that I will be commencing with a goal! (Wow! From me even!)

I’ve selected these 7 films because they have 70% or higher on both IMDB and Metacritic. They are all from 2016.

Starting tomorrow, Wed 12/28, and ending 1/6 (I know that’s 9 days, I need a couple days extra to do back of house stuff. ) I will watch and review each film for you here on my blog.

I hope you enjoy! Wish me luck on my goal, it’s been a long time since I set one for blogging. I hope you’ll subscribe and comment on this small brief venture.

D

The Walking Dead

Zombies! Where have they come from and into modern culture? I’d say George Romero might tell us. His B&W low-budget scares in 1968’s Night of the Living Dead scared a generation and continue to do so up to the present day. There are some similarities in every zombie movie. Some eat only brains, some move slow, and some move fast. The common denominator is that they’re dead … and they’re walking!

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Rick Grimes is the central character but there are many many more side characters. This show can often appear like a soap opera. Of course, in between some of the sappy lines you have buck knives slamming into zombie skulls, putting them out of their misery. There is something here for everyone: abject violence (and I mean that adjective 100%), romance and sex, gore, horror, thrills, mystery … a whole lot of all these things and more.

Currently, there is a power struggle going on with a dictator of sorts. How should we treat dictators? If you say we should rise up against them to take them down, just remember there are no organized systems to protect you. I am enjoying this season quite a bit as we see what this psychopathic leader will do and more importantly, how long will the people let him.

What I find most cool about TWD is the way people treat each other in a zombie apocalypse. It tackles issues of sociology and government. Some segments resemble The Lord of the Flies and others Utopia. It’s not just about zombies you see, you get a look at us and how we are. Us, of course, meaning humanity. After 5 seasons, it has less to do with stabbing them in the brain and more to do with how we will rebuild the world. The dead are walking but just ahead, so are we. I highly recommend this as a binge watch to anyone really but horror and drama fans the most.

Where the Wild Things Are

I waited months in anticipation of this movie based on my favorite childhood book, Where the Wild Things Are. My parents used to read it to me at bedtime and I recall such vivid images of Max’s bedroom, the far-off land of the wild things, and those creatures with their yellowy eyes. It was oddly scary and comforting at the same time to hear that story each night. That’s probably why I was curious to see what director Spike Jonze would do with the big screen adaptation. Unfortunately, this movie had few positives for me.

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It’s the kind of movie I wait and wait for and then wind up feeling empty once it’s over. I will concede that my opinion is not the norm. I read five reviews on Blogcritics alone before I decided I must be from another planet. I felt this movie was like cheap merchandise with nothing to back it up.

The movie begins with a sort of “grunge” look to it. The beginning scene is very short and the title of the movie sort of “freeze frames” in sloppy strokes reminiscent of Flowers for Algernon. That was cool but after that we get a contrived character of 9 or 10 years of age. He is stricken with fury at his mother, his sister, and those around him in those scenes. My wife and I have a debate going over whether he shows evidence of mental illness. Make no mistake … this is decidedly not the “Max” of the original book.

The Max in the book is a garrulous young boy of about six years old. He is sent to his room without his supper. The Max of the movie is deeply disturbed and much older and he ends up running away from home. There is serious convolution of character and plot here.

When the “movie Max,” played by child actor Max Records, gets to the island on his boat, the book’s magic is lost. The movie has already cashed in on the book’s familiar appeal.

I should say here that this movie is decidedly not for kids. My daughters were on the verge of tears a couple of times. A friend of mine has a daughter who cried uncontrollably through the opening snow tunnel scene. Well, maybe that was an over-reaction, it’s not terrible I suppose. More than that, it is a bait and switch from the book we all read growing up.

One particularly scary aspect of the movie is the character Judith, played by Catherine O’Hara. She is not a playful character and seems to show direct and unbridled hate toward Max in a few scenes. I have a feeling the movie wants to be a statement about refusing to grow up. This is the opposite of the book’s message, which brings acceptance of growth and maturity upon Max’s return. I could accept the Judith scenes if he grew somehow. Instead, he just seems to eventually run away again.

If you want to watch disturbing images in and out of realistic fiction, this movie will appeal to you. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate disturbing images when they make a point. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed the 1970’s Pink Floyd movie The Wall. It made excellent points through disturbing images. The difference from WTWTA is that The Wall didn’t claim to be a big screen adaptation of a beloved children’s book.

If I had to pick one positive aspect of this film I’d say it’s the Jim Henson muppet wild things. They look awesome. If that alone is worth your trip to a movie, I won’t steer you away. However, if you want a warmhearted adaptation of a children’s book, pass on this one.

Dead Like Me – Quick Video Preview

I love this show. It’s a TV series that came out a few years ago called “Dead Like Me.” I give just a brief yet heartfelt recommendation of it.

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Silent Witness (Pilot)

An English cohort on my podcast listed this as one of her favorite tv shows. I had to check it out because she and I usually have similar tastes in television. I was able to find it and I watched the pilot, as I am wont to do when starting a series. et me tell you, I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of a CSI only it began in 1996 without much of the techie fluff that came later (on CSI that is).

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The pilot consisted of a primary character who is a forensic pathologist. As we have learned through many crime shows in the years since, that means investigator who knows a lot about blood and trajectory of bullets etc. What I’ve learned as well is that a forensic officer has a lot of intuition and the ability to put many pieces of hard evidence together to make a case against a perpetrator (bad guy ha!). All these big words are coming out of me and it makes me realize how much I’ve learned watching television.

The woman playing the investigator is excellent. I don’t know how many seasons she remains on the show, there are a whopping 20 seasons. She seems to care more than most people on the force which is also a common theme for a CSI type show. In this pilot, a little girl is dead and we are left to discover whether she has drowned by falling off a swing over a river or if she was killed.

It’s a formula show to be sure but I am a fan of the formula show. Columbo any old timers? When it ait broke don’t fix it. Apparently, this show has discovered a formula to take it up to 20 episodes and still counting. Kira, thanks for recommending this one to me. My personal dilemma now is to decide whether to start from the beginning and continue or shoot up to modern 2016 episodes. Decisions decisions!

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

We’ve all seen the autopsy room in the morgue on crime shows like CSI. What we haven’t seen is havoc in the same room. It’s remarkable when a film can create suspense and intrigue in just one room and The Autopsy of Jane Doe manages it well. I liked it a lot and certainly found it interesting. It’s rare when a film holds my attention this powerfully from credits to credits. I do have some reservations but overall I can highly recommend it.

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I like movies that take me somewhere I’ve never been and I don’t know where I’m going. This film started out like that as they hauled in a nameless cadaver and attempted to find a COD. Toward the middle and three-fourths region, it started getting really complicated. This worked for the plot and intrigue but I must admit I sort of lost what was happening.

I don’t like movies I don’t understand. There may be something more to this film I didn’t catch but I didn’t really care to watch it again and find that out. For that reason, I’d say the movie fails on one level. It’s exciting, gory, and suspenseful but at the same time it presents a backstory that really doesn’t fit as a puzzle piece. It works as it is and is certainly an enjoyable and scary film but I wish they would have made the solution to the mystery simpler. I didn’t get it.

I’n happy to reccomend this horror film to fans of the genre. If you saw it already, I’d love to get your comments. This is one we could talk about for hours. Anyone care to make me a backstory believer?