Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Visit - Fucking stupid-ass horror movie. I absolutely hated it. I'm not a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, but I try to give his movies a fair shot. He did create the worst movie ever made, and then a bunch of less than mediocre ones, but I saw some spark of ingenuity with Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense. This movie isn't quite as bad as his worst (which is The Happening, btw), but it's pretty damn close. I think it's really odd that this movie did receive some positive reviews; some calling it "funny" and "thrilling". I didn't laugh at all, but I sure did cringe a lot at the awful dialogue and predictable "old people are scary" fodder. Then there is the rapping. Oh the rapping. I've never wanted to punch a little boy in the face before this movie. I think this is what some reviewers might have seen as "funny", but I found it obnoxious and probably the most horrifying element of the movie. There are just so many other things wrong with it, as well. First, found-footage films are over. Period. Also, the story is insanely ridiculous - a women sends her two kids to visit their grandparents, with whom she's estranged from. Then these two people start acting super creepy and the kids are just like *shrugs - old people, am I right?*. If you saw your grandmother vomiting uncontrollably, would you run into your room and hide? The *twist* is dumb and, also, DUUUUH. But the dumbest thing is that these two healthy, young children can't outrun their 70 year old "grandparents". Oh yeah, and this girl, after figuring out the twist, GETS INTO AN OVEN. Willingly!! And the mom calls the police station instead of 911 when her children are in danger. And...I could go on for pages on end, but I'll just stop myself and say don't waste your time with this garbage. I usually suggest that one should watch every movie and decide for themselves what they like, but nothing about this movie is worth a visit (oh...I didn't even mean to make that pun, but I like it).

2. Macbeth - Huge Shakespeare fan, remember?! I had many reasons to look forward to this movie, the main one being Marion Cotillard. I just adore her. She is definitely the highlight of this movie. Fassbender is terrific, as well. And Scotland is such a stunning backdrop for a movie. The scenery almost stole the whole movie; I could just stare at those landscapes all day. "Macbeth" is hardly my favorite Shakespeare play, but it's certainly one of his best, and definitely the play that I've read and studied the most (Drama Studies major, so I took countless Shakespeare classes - "Intro to Shakespeare", "Shakespeare on Film", "Women in Shakespeare", "Advanced Shakespeare"...I could go on). Personally, I prefer when movies do a more modern version of a Shakespeare story - like Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, or The Lion King, or my favorite adaptation, 10 Things I Hate About You (No, really. I'm serious. It's wonderful.). However, I appreciate the traditional take on this story - the grit and grime of it all is brutal and ugly, combined with the gorgeous cinematography and set design - it's certainly an interesting watch. There are a few really beautiful, intense scenes like the murdering of the king, and the last scene with the red and orange tinted lens. I admit, I was a little disappointed, but not because it wasn't done well, more because it doesn't offer anything new. It's just such an expected interpretation, so I was a little bored with it.

3. Crimson Peak - Another movie with stunning cinematography. It's just so beautiful to look at, it's hard to focus on the actual story (which is less than average). Mia Wasikowska is probably my favorite young actress right now; more because of the choices in film roles - never expected, always complicated roles. Jessica Chastain is also amazing. These two actresses in one movie already set expectations super high. Plus, I've never seen Charlie Hunnam in a role outside of Sons of Anarchy (ok, I guess you can count Pacific Rim, but that didn't really require much acting), and I'm excited for his career. They all kept this movie afloat (along with Tom Hiddleston - I guess, but I'm still not really sure how he became so popular so quickly). I like that the movie is more of a Gothic costume drama, than a traditional horror movie. There are no jump-scares of ghosts jumping out at you, which from what I understand, is why it was criticized by audiences; instead it's atmospherically creepy and mysterious. I think if the story wasn't so mediocre and predictable, and also slightly boring, this movie would have been among the best of last year. It's still definitely among the most beautiful, well-made movies of 2015.

4. 99 Homes - Michael Shannon is quietly on a career high right now. Not only with quality, but with quantity (check IMDB, he has 11 movies listed for 2016. I repeat. 11 movies for one year.). This movie came and went pretty quickly, but I read some really strong reviews for it, and his performance - some even argued it Oscar-worthy. I don't rate it that highly, but it's a really great movie, with fantastic performances from Shannon, and also Andrew Garfield. I'm glad that they decided to end The Amazing Spider-Man movies, freeing Andrew to pursue worthier movies that challenge him. I was actually really doubtful of his talent when he was announced as the new Spider-Man, but he won me over (and I thought he was great as Peter Parker). The highlight of this movie is that it features strong performances, but an even stronger story (which I think is my biggest problem with critically acclaimed movies of last year - Carol, Brooklyn, etc., superb performances, boring stories). This was like the slow-burn version of The Big Short (which is my second favorite movie of last year). It's a different perspective of the same story - the collapse of the housing market. It's told from the side of someone directly effected by the disastrous loans. I think it helps that I saw The Big Short first, because I understood the evilness of these loans, and the greediness of people who saw this collapse as an opportunity to profit off of those who lost everything. I feel like it's a very American story about the way people live above their means. I don't really understand living like that - I think I learned very quickly the dangers of credit cards (I don't even own one anymore), and I was given the best advice when I was young - figure out how much you need to live happily and once you make that, you have "enough". Don't kill yourself to always have "more". Can I afford to buy a house? No. But, do I really want to? No. Do I need a fancy car to drive 5 miles to work everyday? No. Can I afford to eat what I want, when I want it? Yes. Can I afford to do things that make me happy, such as traveling, watching movies, etc.? Yes. I'm on a tangent, but I think it's a really important lesson for everyone to learn. Otherwise, you are going to constantly live your life with debt and stress and never be able to enjoy all of the things that you work so hard for. Anyway, this movie focuses on someone who isn't necessarily living outside of his means - his home is pretty reasonable, and I think the important aspect of him losing it, is that it's his "family" home. I think there is a little bit of subtle references to the struggles of men who are responsible for "taking care of their family" - the stresses of masculinity, etc. (and yes, I do think that men still carry this burden, which is why feminism is so important - we want to help with this burden. It's a damn shame that some men can't understand this concept). There is also a deep moral struggle, that this character faces, which is absolutely fascinating and complicated. I dig this movie, a lot. The more I think about it, the more complicated it gets.

5. Suffragette - Oh...speaking of feminism! What a great movie to segue to! I wish I could say that this is fantastic insight into the suffragette movement, but it's really dull and expected. I guess having taken so many Women's Studies classes, I can't really find anything new about the story. It felt like every other movie about this topic. BUT, if you haven't seen any of those movies, or documentaries, then I guess watch this movie and learn about these incredible women that fought for our right to vote. A right that we still don't take advantage of as much as we should. I mean, imagine if even 75% of adult women in this country voted?! A revolution would occur. I think the interesting part of this movie is that they casually mention the abuse that these women encountered not only from law enforcement, but also from their own spouse (and this abuse wasn't illegal). I wish they stressed the fact that this very reason is why these women risked everything for the right to vote. Government has the ability to change laws, therefore women voting for people in government would directly effect laws, such as domestic abuse laws. It's common sense, yet, there are still so many women who see voting as a burden. Anyway, aside from the subject matter, I think the cast did a respectable job. I am a HUGE, GIGANTIC fan of Anne-Marie Duff (and an even bigger fan of her husband). I really want to see her in more movies, and not just as a co-star. I wish the roles were switched and she were the main character instead of Carey Mulligan. I like her, but she just plays the same character in every movie - and she cries. Or looks like she's going to cry. Either way, I'm tired of it. Also, they really shouldn't even advertise Meryl Streep in this movie - she is in a "blink and you'll miss it" role.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Intern - I liked this movie. I'm not sure I fully understood the point of it, but overall, I was invested in the characters and it has a cute story. It could have been a lot better if they focused more on De Niro's character instead of Hathaway's towards the end, but I guess they wanted to show the impact that these characters had on each other. I think Hathaway's character is extremely problematic. I don't think the writers really understood her character - she's supposed to be a high-powered boss that her workers tip-toe around, but she's extremely likeable. She's kind, smiles all the time, and is passionate about her job. It's like the writers didn't know how to write a strong, professional woman that people can relate to; so they wrote a really sweet character but had the surrounding characters act like she's a terrifying person. It's really odd. The meanest we see her is when she meets De Niro's character. And she's not really that mean; she's just oblivious to his experience and possible helpful knowledge, and sees the retired intern program as more of a hassle. It's sad how ageist our society has become, and also really scary that this movie made me feel so old and out of touch. Her company makes me want to throw up. She rides her bike through the office, her assistant wears a shirt with colorful foxes on it, there is a personal masseuse on-site. Seriously, how is any of this professional? As far as the whole retired intern program goes, it's actually a fantastic idea (as long as they are compensated well). De Niro does a great job of showing his frustration with being blown off, but still trying to maintain his composure and prove his worth. Sure, the role is beneath his talent, but he gives it his all. The movie starts to go way off-track when it focuses on her personal life and she becomes the generic "crazy" woman (checking her husband's phone, complaining about her worst fear of "being buried alone" - um fuck that, I wish that was my worst fear). She does have a GREAT theory about the current state of men, and their consistent growing nature of not growing up, that has quickly become acceptable. Having just recently stepped back into the dating world it BLOWS MY MIND how many guys in their mid-30s still live with their parents. I'm sorry, unless you are caring for a sick parent, there is no reason for you to live with them. And I don't buy the whole "the economy is bad" thing, because some of the guys I encountered drove BMWs, so no, they don't have money issues. They have growing up issues. Anyway, I've gone off-topic (surprise, surprise). I think I was expecting a terrible movie, and it was far from that. There are several great moments, and THE BEST PART, Renee Russo! I just adore her.

2. Spectre - I would describe myself as a "casual" Bond fan. I've seen every single movie, but none of them really stand out to me. I'm definitely more of a fan of the Craig era - I loved Casino Royale (still my favorite Bond), but I didn't even think Quantum of Solace was bad. I mean, in terms of Bond movies, it's one of the better ones. And, I'm going to say something super crazy, but QoS was better than this movie. I was so super bored through the ENTIRE movie. The pre-title sequence is usually the best; and this one was a snore. The title sequence was visually spectacular, but combined with that absolutely *horrendous* Sam Smith song, it was hard to not press the fast-forward button. This is the first of the Craig era Bond movies that I didn't see in the theater, and I am really glad. I think it would have made me even more aggravated at its mediocrity. The only positives that I have are the casting of Monica Belluci. She is STUNNING and it's a pretty big step to have a woman over the age of 35 in a role like this. I can't even highlight Christoph Waltz's performance because it was almost too perfect. Just a little bit too "on the nose" for him; it became a caricature version of a villain. I think I'm just ready for a new Bond; and yes, I vote Elba.

3. Brooklyn - Sometimes I get really cynical when I hear/read impossibly high praise for films. This and Carol seemed like they were going to be movies that were really pretty to look at, and obviously well-acted, but not really movies that I thought would have an impact in my mind. I was right. I definitely liked this movie more than Carol, and to be clear, both are, in fact, very well-made movies. However, I just don't connect with this story. And even though the story is very specific in its tale of Irish immigration into Brooklyn, I think it's meant to be a universal story of leaving home and becoming an adult. It's a lovely story - tragic, hopeful, complicated, but it's all so....obvious. I'm a huge fan of Saoirse Ronan, and I think the reason the film received most of the praise is because of her soulful performance. It's a performance that she will be remembered for, but I don't think she'll have any problem topping it. She will be an Oscar winner some day (in the very near future). I was really nervous that Emory Cohen would ruin the movie for me, as he did with The Place Behind the Pines (one of the worst performances in film history. I'm not even exaggerating), but he wasn't terrible in this movie. Ronan's performance pretty much outshined everyone else enough that there really wasn't even room for anyone else. I mean, I didn't even realize that was Domhnall Gleeson, until the movie was over. He just fades into the background with the rest of the cast. I guess my biggest problem is with the story itself - the idea that a person needs to find another person in order to find happiness is just a depressing way to live, in my opinion. The fact that her life doesn't "begin" until she finds romance just makes my mind fast-forward to her future unhappiness and regret for not finding her own happiness first. So, for me, I think this "romantic story" is sad. The last scene, though, with Ronan, confident in her decision, leaning against that wall, is just perfection. Stunning imagery that was smartly used as the poster.

4. Sisters - I was really looking forward to another Fey/Poehler movie project. I'm a huge fan of Baby Mama. I seriously cried with tears of laughter for almost the whole thing. I was hoping for the same hilariousness, but I really didn't laugh that much with this. I still liked it, for the most part. And I did laugh hysterically at one thing, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. I liked that they switched up the casting with Fey being the "mess" and Poehler being the one with her shit together (I don't know why, but the other way around seems more natural). However, they didn't really push the envelope with either character - they were pretty generic and dull. The party was really sad; even when it was supposed to seem legit. I could have done without the rest of the SNL cast; especially because I don't find any of them funny (except Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch in minimal skits). The movie felt really long, and like an episode of an early 90s family comedy (pick any from TGIF). I just expected something raunchier, bolder, and definitely funnier. Also, I will never sympathize or relate to women like this - women who have literally everything handed to them, and yet still complain about their lives. I just don't get it.

5. Room - The last movie to destroy my soul this bad was, rather fittingly, Short Term 12. It's a big coincidence that Brie Larson stars in both. It's not like they have any other real connection, except that they are small movies about deep emotional distress. I really fell apart from the first scene in Room and I just couldn't recover. I cried for the entire movie and I didn't even know this was possible. Usually, I take this time for reflection and write down just how much I connect to these types of stories, but I'm just not emotionally strong enough to reflect right now. However, aside from this connection, I genuinely think this movie is brilliant. I'm adding the book to my "to read" list, because the story is simply stunning - it's so full of hope and wonder, which is virtually impossible with the subject matter. Larson is brilliant, as she was in Short Term 12, but the obvious star is Jacob Tremblay. I don't usually agree when child actors get nominated for Oscars, because I feel like sometimes it's just a fluke, as opposed to actual acting, but I don't think this is the case here. He should have been nominated, he definitely earned it and he should have won. I don't care how long Leo has been waiting for the statue, he should have just handed it over to Jacob. There is really nothing else left to say, which is weird (who would have guessed I would have more to say about The Intern?), but it's not because there aren't things to say (I could praise every second of it), I just don't want to put my mind through the distress again. So, I will just say that it's a must-see film - a beautiful, unforgettable, near perfect movie that everyone needs to experience for themselves. As the poster states: "see it and be transformed". Needless to say, this is my favorite movie of 2015. I don't think that will change, as I've now seen most of the critically acclaimed ones.

Friday, March 18, 2016

3 Thoughts on 10 Cloverfield Lane

1. Mary Elizabeth Winstead - First and foremost, I must discuss the spectacular, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Of course, like most movie buffs, I adored her in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, I didn't really dig her in Smashed. I actually thought she gave a terrible performance; and was disappointed that she might not be as great as I originally thought. This performance blew me away. I saw the movie a week ago, and every single day since then I have thought about her performance. It helps that the character is great. This could have easily been a generic scream queen kind of role; one where you're constantly screaming at the screen for her to stop being so dumb and save herself. Instead, this girl is smart. She wakes up in an underground bunker, with a strange and possibly psychotic man telling her that the world above them is gone. While the premise is sci-fi in its description (and ultimate ending); this, in fact, is a horror movie. A fucking scary-as-fuck horror movie. There is nothing in the first two-thirds of the movie that couldn't happen. The world is a scary place; if I woke up after a car accident in a bunker with someone telling me the air above is uninhabitable, of course, I would fight that, but a part of me would fear that it is true. That's exactly what Michelle (yes, that's the character's name, and yes, it was super distracting because it was yelled over and over again) fears. You feel her fear with every breath she takes. You rack your brain for the next step to survive and she beats you to it. It's a performance I will never forget, and a character that will live in the very limited realm of strong, well-rounded, smart female characters that I consider heroes.

2. Every detail - I would be surprised if this doesn't end up on my best of 2016 list. It will probably end in the top 5. That's not a surprise, as I usually love Bad Robot productions and Cloverfield was one of my favorites of 2008. I like the feeling that these movies invoke. The way that you feel just as confused as the characters about events that are happening. The audience has no idea what the truth is, who to trust, or what events precede the story. I'm SURE there are plot-holes. And I'm sure there are plenty of websites and blogs that have already pointed them all out. I don't care about any of it. For me, the movie had the perfect amount of details and foreshadowing to explain every character action. Along with Winstead, the other two actors, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr., are just as strong. This is a role of a lifetime for Goodman (and he's had a few). There are points where he is the creepiest man on Earth, and points where the audience sympathizes with him while still questioning his motives (and his sanity). It's that constant questioning of character that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat, and it's the performances alone that cause this uneasiness. There are also these really beautiful staged moments of silence that are so haunting. These moments are even scarier than the traditional horror moments. It's a hard thing to achieve, but everything about this movie is just perfect.

3. The Cloverfield connection - This is the part that seems to be the most divisive. People either love it, hate it, or don't get it. I love it. I think it's a genius and innovative move. If you consider the way television has changed over the last few years, and how anthologies have had a successful resurgence (Fargo, AHS, American Crime), this makes perfect sense. Film audiences are exhausted by sequels, prequels, and remakes, so JJ and company asked the question "what's next?" and they gave us the answer. This is not a sequel, prequel, or remake. It's not really related to the Cloverfield story at all. Although, I've read several pieces on the "connections" and some seem like major stretches of the imagination, but you know what? Who cares! It's creating a dialogue, forcing people to imagine and create their own interpretations, and that is a beautiful thing. The third act is surprising (although the title kind of gives it away...) and it does feel disjointed, but I think it's better than the "normal" ending that is expected. After all of that build-up, an escape would just be such a let-down. The ending is exciting and filled with non-stop energy. I spent the whole movie feeling like I couldn't breathe because of suffocation, and then the ending had the opposite effect - I was breathing too quickly, but not taking in any air. I even warned a friend of mine who has problems with asthma that he probably shouldn't watch this movie. That's how intense it is.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Creed - Expectations were beyond high. I've heard nothing but rave reviews for this movie and several people I trust included it in their 'best of last' year lists. I liked it; certainly among the best of last year, but it's doubtful it will make my Top 10 list, once I re-evaluate in July. The strongest part of the movie was the acting and it's reliance on nostalgia of the Rocky films. I'm a big fan of Michael B. Jordan (have been since Parenthood), and Tessa Thompson is a fantastic up-and-coming young actress (see Dear White People). I've always liked Sylvester Stallone. Maybe not as an actor so much, but I like his personality. He seems like a genuine guy who is appreciative of the life that he's been blessed with, plus he doesn't take himself too seriously. His role as Rocky is perhaps one of the most iconic roles in the history of films, and this was a nice end to the character. The story is pretty expected and predictable, but it still held my interest. I think I was expecting more, though, because when it was over, I was left feeling a little disappointed. I don't think the movie was deserving of any Oscar talk to be honest; It was a very typical boxing movie. I think people confuse the Oscars with what is liked by the masses, but there are other awards shows that cover that. The Oscars are supposed to be reserved for excellence and ingenuity in film-making; this was just a well-made movie - nothing more, nothing less.

2. The Night Before - I didn't really hear much about this movie, which was disappointing because it seemed like it would be really funny. I'm glad I didn't watch the trailer or hear anything, because it kept it all fresh for my viewing. I laughed a lot. Plus, it's really genuinely sweet and heartfelt, and it actually has a great Holiday message. The cast is perfect - JGL is one of my faves, Anthony Mackie is even more charismatic than JGL (didn't know that was possible), and there is a perfect amount of Seth Rogen (too much Seth Rogen can ruin a movie). Then there is also Lizzy Caplan (I love that everyone is jumping on the Caplan train, but I've been there for a while now. Watch Party Down if you are a fan), Jillian Bell (who was probably the funniest character in 22 Jump Street), and Michael Shannon as the creepy drug-dealer. This probably isn't a movie that would hold up on multiple viewings, but I still dug it. The best part is that they don't villainize the women; they aren't the shrews that the men are trying to get away from for the night. The other best part is the end when they legitimize the Miley Cyrus "Wrecking Ball" song because it's such a superb song. It's probably among my top 10 favorite pop songs of the last 10 years. And this is coming from someone who does not like Cyrus, at all. The song is just so fucking beautiful, though. Anyway, overall, I thought it was a pretty solid Holiday comedy.

3. Truth - Someone recently told me about the existence of this movie; a movie about the Dan Rather controversy. Initially, I thought it sounded interesting, then they told me about the cast - Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, CATE BLANCHETT!! How did this movie receive absolutely zero advertising? So, then I assumed it was probably a terrible movie. I still added it to the top of my list (because CATE BLANCHETT). It's not exactly terrible, but it's just really bland. I vaguely remember the story, but I guess I never realized that it really didn't have much to do with Rather; instead it was her fuck up. As the producer of the segment, she was responsible, and she was fired for it, but she's not really a household name, so maybe that's why I didn't know the details. I think the film could have been a little more interesting if they focused on the blatant misogyny that she suffered as a result of a mistake (a mistake that has been made by many journalists). Really anything that gives Blanchett more to work with would have helped the film. The last monologue that she gives is better than the entire movie.

4. Freeheld - I really liked this movie. I looked at some reviews after I watched it and was surprised by the lack of praise. It has a great (and still relevant) story, it's well-acted (especially from Julianne Moore), and it highlights the importance of supporting humanity over our own interests. The story is based on the true events of a lesbian couple in New Jersey who were domestic partners (but not married, because it wasn't legal); one finds out she is dying of cancer and unfortunately she had to fight the "freeholders" in order to have her pension transferred to her partner. What I liked (and what it was ultimately criticized for) is that it involves getting the support of the other police officers, her work partner, in particular. He is played by Michael Shannon, and I found his role the most essential to the story. Sure, I understand that it is frustrating to have a straight white male, who is clearly uncomfortable around gay people, as the hero. However, this is who minorities and under-served communities NEED support from. He speaks to the hypocrisy of the sanctity of marriage and even threatens to marry the dying cop just to collect her pension and then give it to her partner. A fake marriage is still considered more legitimate than a real same-sex marriage, and that's the biggest key to the marriage equality issue. He also speaks to the fact that she, as a notably strong police officer, would never compromise her integrity and she shouldn't have to. If more straight white males started speaking out to the injustices in the world, maybe people would start to listen. Anyway, I did find some faults in the movie. It would have been a stronger film if they focused a little more on the connection between these two women - their chemistry was non-existent, and the story didn't really give us any reason as to why they fell in love. The characters were a little one-note, and not really that interesting. However, it still held my interest the whole time, and it made me angry (a good angry; a passionate angry).

5. Bone Tomahawk - This movie is fantastic. A really, really well done modern western. It's not really a genre that I'm a fan of, but if it's done well like this, then I love it.'s terrifying. I mean, I would classify it almost as a horror film. There are moments that are really intense, especially at the end. And there are moments that will be burned in my memory forever (if you've seen it, then you know one particular scene that I'm referring to. UM OMG I CAN'T EVEN). The story is so simple - rescue the girl - but it's just done so masterfully. It's bloody and violent, but still quiet and reserved. Plus, I love Kurt Russell (who doesn't??). The other actors are all fantastic - extra points for Richard Jenkins (I didn't even realize it was him until the last act. He just embodied a completely different person. Incredible.), but also a few negative points for Matthew Fox. He wasn't terrible, and he did fit the character (the arrogance was spot-on), but he just seemed so dull compared to his co-stars. There was no passion in his acting. Anyway, that's probably my only criticism. It will likely make my top 10 list of last year. I'm definitely feeling better about 2015 movies, now that I've been on a fast-track of catching up. There are some really strong films that I've enjoyed recently. This is definitely one of them.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Everest - This is such a perfectly epic story to be put into a visual format, but this movie definitely fails it. I'm not really sure what went wrong because the cast is excellent and it is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but it's oddly dull overall. I think it was just too conventional, and it lacked emotion. The characters weren't really developed enough to actually care about the outcome (I mean obviously we care, but not enough to feel anything other than "well, that sucks"). I don't really connect with stories like this - where someone sets out to dangerously face the elements just "for fun". I would never ever, ever be inspired to climb Mount Everest unless someone paid me a shitload of money (that could be transferred to my family in case I die. And to be clear...I would die) or if there was like a cure for Cancer at the top. Otherwise, I don't get it. The only reason that I invested in the story at all is because of the cast. Josh Brolin is definitely becoming one of my all-time favorite actors. He's definitely the star, along with Jason Clarke (who sports a sexy Australian accent - I had no idea that was his natural accent. Yummy.). While Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright and many others are sufficient in supporting roles. Oh and Sam Worthington is in the movie! I didn't even realize he was in it until about an hour in, which is weird. He just fades into the background, I guess.

2. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial - I really liked the first one. It stuck with me for months after, which is rare for a movie like this. I liked that they had to "solve" a puzzle in order to survive. This one wasn't as original or interesting. In all honesty, I felt like I was watching an episode of The 100. Especially the parts where they are in the weird sterile building being told that they are "safe", along with the references to "the mountain people". But The 100 is one of the best shows on television right now, and it is hard to compete with. It's interesting that their escape from The Glade wasn't a happy ending. They spent the entire first movie escaping from an actual "safe" place, only to now have to deal with an apocalyptic Earth filled with evil humans, a deadly virus, and some crazy-ass lightening storms. I just feel like the whole "apocalyptic Earth" part has been done to death, and this movie didn't offer anything new. The cast still sells the film, and I like the character twists. I also like Lili Taylor. She is killing it on this season's American Crime. I'm happy to see a resurgence in her career.

3. Our Brand is Crisis - I actually really liked this movie. I know that I am a bit biased because I am a HUGE Sandra Bullock fan (I mean, I'll even stick up for All About Steve. Yes, I'm *that* big of a fan). I think this movie is obviously very relevant to what's happening with the presidential nominees this year, so that helps it significantly. However, it's still a fascinating (and partially true) story. The cast is great; the cat-and-mouse type relationship between Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton is really well done. It's hard to believe that this is their first time working together, because they seemed to naturally exude a sense of camaraderie. I laughed a lot during their first exchange of witty, passive-aggressive banter. The supporting cast is excellent as well, AND Zoe Kazan ISN'T playing a "manic pixie dream girl" character!!! WHOA. I like that the movie blurs the lines between our supposed "hero" and "villain"; we never really know who started the infamous rumor, or who the "better" candidate really is (and if it's the guy who won, then that is freakin' scary). I laughed a lot, which wasn't expected. I laughed every time Sandy credits a famous quote to Warren Beatty (I don't know why, but it's just funny), plus, who doesn't love Sandy screaming for a bus to go faster?! I could watch that all day. There are also some really depressing moments (especially the constant reminder that if "voting changed anything, they would make it illegal") that really highlight the disgusting nature of politics. Overall, I think it's a pretty solid and balanced political movie.

4. Black Mass - Extremely generic mob movie. I don't know if my expectations were just too high or if the movie was just too mediocre, but I was so bored through most of it. I will always root for Johnny Depp, and he is excellent as Whitey Bulger. I do think the prosthetics and blue contacts were distracting, and the performance was a bit over-the-top; especially compared to the rest of the cast, all of whom played it pretty low-key. In fact, I was way more impressed with the supporting cast than I was with Depp. I adore Julianne Nicholson. Her scene with Depp is heart-poundingly intense. I was really happy to see Jesse Plemons, because he is so great. He deserves all of the roles he's been getting lately. I know the comparisons to Matt Damon have been circling for years, but it was really noticeable with the Boston accent. Benedict Cumberbatch with a Boston accent, though, is just plain odd. It doesn't work at all. The story is interesting. Surprisingly, I wasn't very familiar with it. I had no idea that he worked with the FBI to turn in his enemies (and kept committing horrific crimes in the process). Doesn't look too good that the FBI participated in such activities, but I'm sure stuff like this still happens.

5. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - I'm not the biggest Mission: Impossible fan. In fact, I really don't like any of them except the last one. And I don't really remember anything about it, except the Burj Khalifa scene, so I can't really say I'm a "fan" of that one either. I heard a ton of great things about this one, so I thought there would be another magnificent scene, at the very least. But there isn't. The plane scene is cool, but not nearly as exciting. I'm glad that this heavily advertised scene was the first scene, because it gave me hope that there would be much more to the movie. There were a few other really great, intense scenes, but I don't know....I just didn't see anything to rave about. I heard really great things about Rebecca Ferguson, too, and I assumed from the very beginning that she would be a "bad" character. I was right (and wrong), but I didn't see anything special about her performance, either. I think the best part was Jeremy Renner (always). He's just the best, and that scene where they spot each other during the car chase and then he has to do the 3-point turn in the truck made me laugh so hard. That's probably the only scene I will remember a year from now.