Apache at the Movies

I love movies--so in 2008 I began giving films just seen a quick review & rating.  After spending awhile below, I'll sort them by grade A-F and move them to one of the following pages.  (Click on any of the following links)

Oh the Drama
Feels like Sci-Fi
Oh the Horror
Keep Me in Suspense
Isn't it Romantic
So-called Comedies
Comic Book Heroes 
Kid Stuff
Fact not Fiction
Cinema Fantastico (Subtitles)


Just Seen

Voyeur (2017) In 1980, acclaimed writer Gay Talese was invited to visit a peculiar motel, where the owner had installed vents in the rooms ceilings to spy on his guests at night (keeping copious notes). 36 years later, the voyeur is ready to come forward and asks 80 year old Gay to write his story—which Gay does, only to learn not all is as it seems. Not so much a doc on the voyeurism as it is a ponderous look at this elderly pair—joined at the hip whether they like it or not. My grade: B

Bluebeard (2017)  As a favor to his landlord, newly divorced Dr.Seung performs a colonoscopy on his father—sedated, the elderly man claims he's a serial killer.  Could it just be the drug talking?  When the doc’s ex-wife disappears after a visit, he suspects the old man was telling the truth.  Problem is, others are claiming the doc himself is crazy in this twisty-turny thriller that tells us whodunit but still manages to befuddle us more than anything.  (Korean)  My grade: C Plus

The Case for Christ (2017)  After their daughter is saved from choking to death (and his thankful wife converts to Christianity), reporter & atheist Lee Strobel begins researching the resurrection of Christ to prove to his wife the Bible is one big hoohah.  He’ll meet with theologians, Christian scholars… where will the evidence take him?  To salvation of course, in this Christian drama based on a true story.  Yes, we get it; if someone like Lee can be saved, so can we.  My grade: C

Barbra: The Music, the Mem’ries, the Magic! (2017) Barbra Streisand performs a 2 hour concert for an awestruck audience of 15,000 with songs from her No.1 albums, including ‘A Star is Born’ & ‘Funny Girl’ (which brings the house down). She also sings a wonderful duet with Jamie Foxx and shares some funny, personal anecdotes from her early career.  At 74, her talent is colossal as ever—every song received a standing ovation.  She deserved it, too.  My grade: A

Saving Capitalism (2017)  Robert Reich travels the country and explains how our economy has changed for the worse, since allowing big business to influence government.  (Meanwhile, We the People have only a 1% impact on things.)  But this is more a call to action, as he urges us to protest & vote.  A fair watch, but see his 2013 documentary ‘Inequality For All’ too; it’s informative, entertaining and (compared to this) brilliant.  My grade: B-

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)  In 1998 while making the biopic “Man on the Moon”, Jim Carrey was also filmed behind the scenes as he immersed himself in the role of Andy Kaufman.  20 years later as we watch, incredulous that this maniacal diva made life so miserable for a director & crew, a somber, older Carrey tells us how he barely survived his own genius.  There’s no denying his stardom then, but wow what an asshole too.  I suspect he still is.  My grade: B Plus

Kiss and Cry (2017)  Based on a true story, Carley is a bubbly 17 year old Canadian skater & aspiring singer when she’s struck down with a very rare cancer.  Friends, family (and a new boyfriend) will rally to her support in this Hallmarky confection that goes way overboard with the syrup.  (No joke, several times I was gagging.)  Interestingly enough, the lead (Sarah Fisher) was played by Carley Allison’s real-life best friend.  Next!  My grade: C

The Transfiguration (2017)  Milo is an inner-city black youth, quiet, a loner.  He’s obsessed with vampires in pop culture, and believes he’s one too, sometimes sticking a pen-knife into a random stranger’s neck to drink their blood (killing them and vomiting blood later).  He knows what he’s doing is wrong and has no wish to be evil, is there any way he can be stopped?  Yep.  Critics loved this stark and dreary thing, moviegoers didn’t.  I'm with the moviegoers on this one.  My grade: D

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017)  In the 1950s she won an essay contest (and a job) with Vogue magazine; she'd go on to write sophisticated pieces for Esquire magazine & the New Yorker, marry writer John Dunne and pursue a career of avant-garde journalism and acclaimed novels.  She’s 83 now, feels and looks older, but still has much to reflect on and write about in Griffin Dunne’s easy, intimate documentary.  My grade: A
Otherlife (2017)  Ren helps design an ‘organic technology’ that allows a person to experience a vacation getaway for a day, a week, even a year—all in their mind while only a minute of real time has passed.  But her backers have more nefarious plans.  “A person could serve a life sentence and not cost the state a thing.”  Ren will stop them--or perhaps she just think she does, in this slick sci-fi spin.  It’s a great premise but darn it, gets muddled as we near the finish.  My grade: B-

Carrie Pilby (2017)  Carrie is very smart, a Harvard graduate at 18 and NYC apartment dweller at 19.  She’s also jobless, lives on her father’s dime and insists she’s satisfied with her single, neurotic life.  Great--but her therapist (Nathan Lane) still wants her to complete a bucket list that includes getting a pet and going on a date.  She’ll comply, kicking and screaming most of the way in this offbeat albeit charming, coming of age story.  My grade: B
The Fury of a Patient Man (2016)  Jose is a stone-faced man who becomes a regular at a family diner; in time he’s befriended by the owner and begins seeing Ana, the owner’s sister.  “Where is your husband, Ana?”  “In prison, for a mistake he made 8 years ago.  He was the getaway driver for a jewelry store robbery gone violent, but he's to be released soon.”  Jose knows, his wife was there.  And soon he'll be delivering quiet, stone-faced vengeance. (Spanish)  My grade: B-

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)  After helping Iron Man in ‘Civil War’, 15 year old Peter Parker is rewarded with a very special spidey-suit designed by Tony Stark himself.  While struggling to become a crime fighter (sweet & hilarious) he’ll uncover a dealer (Michael Keaton) crafting & selling alien powered weapons; but when no one takes him seriously, a hero is born.  Easily my favorite Spider-Man, fresh, original, amazing—Marvel wins again!  My grade: A

Realive (2017)  In 2016 at age 33, Marc is diagnosed with brain cancer; chemo & radiation may help him live a little longer, but he has a year at best.  He’ll tell his family & friends he’s being cryogenically frozen, and nearly a century later he’s awakened—in fact, he’s the first successful re-animation.  But it comes with a price, he’ll need constant care.  Well, he’s alive, right?  They’ll have to keep telling him that.  Smart, ponderous & real sci-fi, we need more of this.  My grade: B

1922 (2017)  The two loves of Wilfred’s life is his 15 year old boy Henry, and their farm in Nebraska.  But the land is in his wife’s name and she wants to sell and move to the city.  She warns Wilf if he refuses, she’ll divorce him and take Henry with her anyway.  "Daddy, isn’t there any other way?”  “No son… we have to end her, and I’ll need your help.”  Things soon take a very dark turn for all, in Stephen King's guilt-ridden chiller.  More sad than frightful, but still haunting.  My grade: B

Wonder Woman (2017)  After Steve Trevor’s biplane crashes into the water near a mysterious island of female warriors, Princess Diana will follow him back to the world of men—and help to end a World War.  From the casting of Chris Pine as Trevor & Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, to her origins on Paradise Island, battles on the Front and with Ares, God of War—DC Comics, you did it.  You brought a superheroine to life, and it’s a spine-tingling spectacle.  My grade: A

The Babysitter (2017) Cole is a timid little guy, 12 years old and gets picked on by everybody; but he’s the envy of the suburbs when his hot babysitter Bee is around! So it’s a sad surprise when Cole sneaks downstairs one night and discovers Bee is the leader of a Satanic cult—who just performed a human sacrifice in his living room. Billed as a horror-comedy, I think it was written for 12 year old boys sleepovers? Guys, don’t let Mom catch you watching this! My grade: C
Lady Macbeth (2017)  I like the outdoor air, sir.  No. Stay indoors with your prayer book.  In 1865 rural England, a bored Katherine trapped in a cruel, loveless marriage is appalled when Sebastian, a stableman makes a pass at her; but once their affair begins, she’ll let no one stand in the way of things—father-in-law, maids, or Sebastian himself.  With a psychotic determination, this woman (Florence Pugh) truly mesmerizes; I’m both afraid and smitten.  My grade: A

The Mummy (2017)  Tom Cruise is a treasure hunter who’s cursed when he uncovers the tomb of a 5000 year old Egyptian princess so evil, she couldn’t die and was mummified alive.  Meanwhile, a secret organization in London (led by Russell Crowe as Dr.Jeckyll and Mr.Hyde, wha??) has been waiting for this very event to occur, in this billion dollar CGI-fest, enjoyable enough but felt made up as they went along—and an obvious setup for a new franchise.  My grade: B-

Veronica (2017)  A retired therapist in seclusion agrees to take on a new patient for 10 times her former fee;  she’ll meet a lovely young woman with a real ‘tude who suffers from bad dreams and seems to have a thing for older women.  A lot of mind games begin, and soon we’ll wonder who’s really the patient in this noir-style production of a woman who’s gone over the edge.  Slick to look at, but it should’ve been better.  (Spanish)  My grade: C

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)  The dead body of a naked young woman is found half dug up in the cellar of a house of a recent mass slaying; she’ll be taken to a father-son mortuary for an autopsy.  Why is her waist so tiny, why is she even dead?  There’s not a mark on her…  oh, just wait until they open her up in this supernatural tale with an investigative twist.  I give it points for the mystery, but it’s still schlock horror and gets gruesome!  My grade: C Plus

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo (2017)  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  On Christmas Eve 1968, as Apollo 8 orbited the moon, astronauts read from the Bible and 30 men hunched behind now ancient consoles wept, in a haze of cigarette smoke & blinking lights.  This was Mission Control in the 1960s, seen & heard via film clips with remarkable stories from these remaining men.  What a time this was.  My grade: A

Blue Jay (2016)  Would you maybe want to grab a cup of coffee?  By chance, Jim runs into Amanda at the supermarket; high school sweethearts, they’ve both returned to their hometown for family matters and haven’t seen each other in 24 years.  They’ll laugh & reminisce, go to Jim’s old house, read some old letters, and have an emotional outburst or two in this average, average little indie.  A little color would’ve been nice.  My grade: C

Kingdom of Us (2017)  In 2007, Paul Shanks walked into the woods behind his home and committed suicide.  He left behind a wife and 7 children, aged 6-16.  As the years pass, they’ll struggle to grow up in a house filled with clutter, emotions and their dad’s hidden notebook that contained much darker plans for his family.  This explains the deadbolts he installed on our bedroom doors.  They love & miss him still, in this bittersweet documentary of one very brave family.  My grade: B

Dig Two Graves (2017)  After the drowning of her big brother Sean, young Jake (Jacqueline) is approached by 3 backwoods men in her small rural town; they can bring Sean back to life, in return for Jake doing an equally deadly deed.  Okay, let’s stop—the critics got this right, but horror fans and other viewers didn’t.  This isn’t a horror movie!  It’s a thoughtful tale of adolescent loss, love and the lengths ones go in pursuit of vengeance.  It’s a dark, surprising gem.  My grade: B Plus

A Ghost Story (2017)  After his wife identifies his body following an accident, Casey Affleck’s ghost (draped head to toe in a sheet) silently follows her home.  He’ll stand there passively watching her grieve, eat, sleep.  Years pass, she falls in love again, moves out.  Other families will come & go… still he waits for her return.  Will he ever move on too?  In time, in this eerily silent tale of loss.  Gulp… a masterstroke of storytelling.  My grade: A

Wakefield (2017)  When Bryan Cranston notices he can see the going-ons of his wife & daughters from the attic window of his carriage house garage, he decides he’ll stay there.  He’s tired of his marriage, the rat race, everything.  He’ll chuckle as they report him missing, sneak out at night to scavenge for food, and rationalize his behavior.  I didn’t leave my family, I left my life.  In time he’ll appreciate what he had… but I fear some things are lost forever, his mind included.  My grade: B Plus

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)  Chris Pratt returns as Quill, captain of a dysfunctional alien crew who get saved from the Sovereign (love these gold aliens!) by Kurt Russell—a Godlike being who it turns out, is Chris’ dad with his own godly agenda.  With their gizmos & humor, 70’s music and razzle-dazzle color (I saw spots for 2 hours afterwards) these guys are my favorite Marvel Comics team-up—less Avengers, more Guardians please!  My grade: B Plus

Everybody Loves Somebody (2017)  Dr. Clara (a dead ringer for Amanda Knox) doesn’t want to show up alone at her parents wedding, so she asks Asher (a fellow doc) to pose as her boyfriend.  They arrive, but so does Daniel—the love of her life 10 years ago.  He wants her back, and she him, but now she wants Asher too.  She’ll string both along & make everyone miserable until Mama tells her to just love somebody.  Not awful, just forgettable.  (Spanish-English)  My grade: C

The Exception (2017)  After a dashing young Nazi officer (Jai Courtney) is sent to Holland to guard Germany’s exiled emperor (played to perfection by Christopher Plummer), he’ll meet & fall in love with the Kaiser’s Jewish servant—only to discover she’s a British spy.  Will he choose her over Germany?  Perhaps when he learns of German atrocities being the rule (and not the exception as he thought) in this adult WWII tale of love & duty.  My grade: B Plus

Before I Fall (2017)  17 year old Samantha is confused when she’s told to get up for school, isn’t it the weekend?  No, it’s Friday.  And so was yesterday, and it will be tomorrow too, until she understands why she’s re-living the day over & over, in this ‘Groundhog Day’ drama for the teenage mindset.  There’s little humor and much angst, but it’s told well, and the message it imparts is profound and good.  My grade: B

Gerald’s Game (2017)  Attempting to add sparks to their marriage, Jessie (Carla Gugino) allows Gerald to handcuff her to the bedposts at their lakeside cottage; but Gerald suffers a heart attack and dies, and Jessie will too if she can’t figure out a way to free herself.  Those voices in her head have a lot to say, but why is her 12 year old self in there too?  Based on a Stephen King novel, it’s horror alright, but mature and inspiring too.  My grade: B Plus

How to Be a Latin Lover (2017)  At 46, Maximo is kicked to the curb after being kept by a rich older woman for 25 years.  With no money & nowhere to go, he moves in with his sister (Selma Hayek) and her little boy Hugo; and then he meets the rich grandma of the little girl his nephew has a crush on—Raquel Welch!  It’s loco from start to finish, but I still laughed a lot—it was better than expected and surprise, family friendly too!  (Spanish-English) My grade: B-

Our Souls at Night (2017)  Widowed and living on the same street for decades, Jane Fonda has a proposal for Robert Redford.  Would you be interested in coming to my house to sleep with me?  Not for sex… it’s lying in bed together and talking until we fall asleep.  He says yes, in this quiet, lovely story of 2 lonely people who share little in common besides their age.  Here, that’s just enough.  Ms. Fonda, you've never been better.  My grade: A

The Sense of an Ending (2017)  Retired & living alone, Tony is surprised when he receives a solicitor’s letter that he’s been named in a will—by the mother of his girlfriend Veronica from his university days.  Stranger still, Veronica’s mum left him the diary that belonged to his best friend (who killed himself 50 years ago).  Why does she have it?  No real mystery here, more of a tease that flickers softly out in this British soap that’s not without its stodgy charm.  My grade: C Plus

The Lion Woman (2017)  In 1912, a woman dies in childbirth.  Her daughter lives, but with the condition congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa (her face & body covered with hair).  Her stern but loving father does everything he can to hide her from the world, but little Eva will fight just as hard to become a part of it… even running away to join a sideshow.  What will become of her?  Greatness, in this fiction of courage and the human spirit. (Norwegian)  My grade: B Plus

Free State of Jones (2016)  Matthew McConaughey gives a hammy but compelling performance as Newt Knight, a Confederate soldier who deserted the Civil War after learning only the poor had to fight—wealthy plantation owners were excused from battle.  He (and 250 deserters & runaway slaves) banded together & fought to secede Mississippi from the South, a war within the war.  It’s a fascinating piece of history, but much was glossed over to fit a saga into 2 hours.  My grade: B

Berlin Syndrome (2017)  A budding photographer, Clare travels to Berlin to study it’s architecture and meets a German man her age, Andi. They’ll talk buildings & books, go on a date and afterwards he invites her upstairs for tea.  When Clare says yes, Andi jokes he’s never going to let her leave.  It turns out Andi is a man of his word in this moody, psychological thriller.  This was quality stuff, but I still wanted a louder ending!  (German-English)  My grade: A-
The Survivalist (2017)  We don’t know how the world has ended, but he lives in a remote shack in the woods now, some rusty mementos and a tiny garden to keep him alive.  And then a white-haired woman arrives with her teenage daughter, asking for food & shelter.  He’s wary, starving people roam the country now, ready to kill (like these two who plan to kill him)—but his want for company will overcome caution.  Critics loved this; I appreciated it, but it just felt... very spare.  My grade: B-

Alien: Covenant (2017)  In Ridley Scott’s second “Alien” prequel, the sleeper ship Covenant en route to a planet for colonization picks up radio signals from one weeks closer.  This planet looks like paradise, let’s go there instead.  What will they find?  The wrecked spaceship Prometheus (2012) which disappeared 10 years ago, a lone survivor and—you can guess the rest.  It's a blood show alright but it’s still smart, spacey sci-fi & I want more!  My grade: B Plus

The Big Sick (2017)  Aspiring comic Kumail Nanjiani meets and falls in love with Emily, but ends things when his family demand he marry a Pakistani.  But when Emily falls ill and goes into a coma, Kumail can’t leave her side—even when her angry parents (Ray Romano & Holly Hunter) insist he go.  I was surprised at the direction this took, but Ray & Holly lift a so-so story into something funnier & sweeter.  My grade: B-

Beauty and the Beast (2017)  Disney waves its magic wand over their 1991 animated movie and brings it to life, in a lavish spectacle that’s every bit as charming (if not more) than the original.  With Emma Watson as Belle, an equally impressive cast, wonderful songs & dance, this is a magical, first-rate musical.  Jiminy Cricket, I’m becoming a real Disney fan!  My grade: A

Pet (2016)  Seth (who works in an animal shelter) sees a pretty girl on the bus.  “Hi Holly, I went to high school with you, remember me?”  She doesn’t.  He’ll look her up online, send her flowers—she’s not interested.  So why does he abduct her and lock her in a cage?  To save her.  From who?  It’s a surprising, original spin on your obsessed stalker story, but a B-horror movie is still a B-horror movie and I’m up to here with gore.  My grade: C

Land of Mine (2017)  After WWII, Denmark put 2,000 German POWs to work digging up 1.5 million landmines the Nazis buried along its coastline; sadly, these POWs were boys forced into service at the end of the War by a crazed Hitler.  And now, as a Danish sergeant watches these adolescents lose life & limb, will question his orders and deal with his own paternal feelings.  Take deep breaths, it’s a sad, tense & true watch.  (German-Danish)  My grade: A-

The Last Word (2017)  After reading some kindly written obituaries (for people she thought little of), bitchy perfectionist Shirley MacLaine hires the same writer (Amanda Seyfried) to write hers—and what might’ve been funny or sweet instead becomes a phony bore as these two go on a half-hearted quest to better Shirley's legacy.  Yuck on the chemistry, Shirley you were a bully all your life--you shouldn't expect a pat on the back for it in the end.  My grade: D

Swiss Army Man (2016)  Stranded on a desert island, Paul Dano is fitting a noose around his neck when Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse washes ashore.  Another castaway!  He’ll soon imagine them having crazy-ass conversations, and (with the help of vines & pulleys) having some gaseous crazy-ass adventures.  It's imaginative, but this isn’t stranded-crazy, or lonely-crazy.  Dano was crazy before he got there, and in the end I'm just not getting it.  My grade: C-

The Treasure (2016)  Costi’s neighbor asks if he'll loan him 800 Euros.  “I vant to hire metal detector expert to sweep my great grandfather’s property for buried treasure, if you help me we’ll split whatever we find.”  Costi agrees &  away they go.  Do they find rubies, emeralds, sapphires?  Not exactly, but all that glitters is not gold in this dry-as-the-dirt-they-dig-up dramedy that’s mildly amusing, if you enjoy digging & grumbling.  Well, critics liked it.  (Romanian)  My grade: C

Money Monster (2016)  When a disgruntled New Yawker loses 60K in the stock market, it’s off to cable news network’s stock-picker show “Money Monster” to take host George Clooney hostage until he gets some answers.  But then what?  He doesn’t know and we don’t really care, with this unlikeable story and unlikeable cast (except for Julia Roberts who’s safe in the production booth).  Oh Jodie Foster… you can direct better than this.  My grade: C-

The Magnificent Seven (2016)  When robber baron Bart Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard, naturally) and his army of bandits take a town from its people for gold mining, a farmer’s widow hires Denzel Washington to help—he sure does, along with his misfit posse of sharpshooters.  Rich with colors right off a Louis L’Armour bookjacket, this is as classic a Western shoot ‘em up as you can get.  Loved the grand credits at the end!  My grade: B Plus

A Dark Song (2016)  After the death of her little boy, Sophia hires an occultist to help contact her son and know who murdered him.  It’s a painstaking ritual… we’ll have to isolate ourselves from the world for 6-8 months.  She'll spend her days crouched in painted circles on the floor, slaked with thirst, praying and fasting, enduring abuses, to what end?  When miracles occur, horrific and gleaming and divine, and only then.  Dear God… this trembles with genius.  My grade: A Plus

Why Him? (2016)  Bryan Cranston’s grimace begins 5 minutes in when he discovers his 22 year old daughter is in love with a 32 year old James Franco—sure he’s good-hearted, wealthy… but that potty mouth is a deal breaker!  (Really?  Because the entire film swirls around the potty… you’ll see what I mean.)  A couple laughable moments and Kaley Cuoco’s voice as Franco’s computer is a funny treat, but if you're over 13 years old this schtick gets old pretty fast.  My grade: C

Bokeh (2017)  Jenai & Riley travel to Iceland for a romantic vacation, but awaken one morning to discover their hotel is empty.  They venture out, search their street, the city… no one.  Calls home to America go unanswered.  Where is everyone?  At first it’s frightful, but an adventure too—at least we have each other.  But as days stretch into weeks, one will learn to love this life… and the other won’t.  Sad, beautiful, soul searching.  My grade: B

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)  Andrew Garfield is inspired casting as Desmond Doss, a deeply devout man who wanted to serve his country in the battlefields of WWII without a weapon--and became an American hero when he singlehandedly rescued 75 men during its bloodiest battle on Okinawa.  A war picture on all counts, this was almost startling in its color, clarity & soul.  Masterfully directed by Mel Gibson, it soars with character and heroism.  My grade: A Plus

AWOL (2017)  With her mother’s nudging, young Joey decides to enlist in the Army; she’s good at mechanics and there’s no future to be had in her rural Pennsylvania hometown.  And then she meets Rayna, an older honky-tonk woman… the attraction is mutual, but Rayna comes with 2 kids—and an on again, off again husband.  Intimate, bleak & bittersweet, ah Joey… please, please move on.  My grade: B

Fathers & Daughters (2016)  After a car accident kills his wife & leaves him with seizures, writer Russell Crowe struggles to raise their 7 year old daughter Katie on his own—meanwhile, 25 years later an adult Katie (Amanda Seyfried) wrestles with emotional issues, always wanting love but always pushing it away.  Why?  We’ll see in this weepy, contrived drama about the lasting effects of losing loved ones.  My grade: C Plus

Goat (2016)  Attending the same college as his older brother Brett, Brad pledges Brett’s fraternity; he’s friends with most of them anyway.  But that’s all about to change once Hell Week starts and the hazing begins.  What will it take for someone to step in and say ENOUGH?  Based on real hazing accounts, it’s a hard look at the brutality that can occur when young men are given license to torture.  Brotherhood.. right.  My grade: B-

The Wedding Plan (2017)  Micha is an Orthodox Jew, single and wants only to be married and serve Shabbat; so when her fiancé calls off their wedding, she’s devastated.  I will buy the dress and rent the hall anyway, God will provide.  Oh Micha… this isn’t quirky & romantic,  you’re more ready for your funeral than your wedding.  What will it take for you to take a suitor’s offer seriously?  Endless pleading, apparently. (Hebrew)  My grade: C

Fences (2016)  Based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer play, Denzel Washington & Viola Davis are a proud blue-collar couple in 1950s Pittsburgh (filmed in the West End, I recognized their neighborhood).  But what begins as warm and nostalgic soon turns sadder and all too real as Denzel’s flawed character, full of drink and anger, threaten to tear this family apart.  “Your daddy.. filled the room, he was so BIG.”  You both do, Viola.  You’re both wonderful.  My grade: A

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)  Holy half-century, Batman!  FIFTY YEARS after hanging up their capes, Adam West, Burt Ward (and Julie Newmar as Catwoman) reprise their roles in this animated tribute to their campy 60’s tv show.  (Adam’s voice creaks with age, but when he turns evil & purrs “Groovy, baby” to Catwoman I felt like a kid again.)  Loved the Bat-Rocket & Duel of the Utility Belts, I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this!   My Bat-grade: B Plus

Maggie’s Plan (2016) Maggie meets & falls in love with academic Ethan Hawke—who’s married to the bossy, hilarious Swede Julianne Moore. They divorce, he marries Maggie… 3 years later, this isn’t really working; can she get Ethan & Julianne back together? Not so fast Maggie, they're on to you in this smart & very likeable cast.  “Maggie you are funny person. And little pure, and little stupid. Like unconscious person.”  I love you Julianne!  My grade: A

Little Evil (2017)  “I’m worried about my 5 year old stepson, I think he’s—“ “Evil incarnate?  The antichrist?”  “Yes!”  “Yeah, so is mine!  Welcome to the club!”  But newly married Adam Scott’s about to discover his stepson really IS the antichrist, so what now?  It’s not “The Omen” but sure is a lot funnier, I chuckled throughout—and Sally Field as the creepy Mrs. Shaylock is the icing on this devil’s food cake!  My grade: B

Frantz (2017)  Anna visits the grave of her fiancé Frantz daily, who lost his life in the first World War.  One day she discovers a man putting flowers on his grave, a Frenchman who says he was a friend.  She introduces him to Frantz parents, and his stories bring light and color to a morose family… but put a heavy burden on Anna, who follows him to Paris.  What will she find?  The will to live again, in this breathtaking work of art.  Magnificent. (French)  My grade: A Plus

Anthropoid (2016)  WWII is in full swing, and 2 agents are sent into Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to assassinate SS officer Reinhard Heydrich, “The Butcher of Prague”.  The Czech Resistance begs them to abort their mission:  If you succeed, the Nazis will rain horror upon us.  They’re right, a bloodbath ensues.  Still, their actions forced the Allies into action in this chiller based on true events.  WARNING:  The Nazi torture scenes... jarring.  My grade: B

Catfight (2017)  Uppity Sandra Oh runs into struggling painter Ann Heche at a party; friends in college, they now view each other with contempt.  A snarky exchange leads to a FULL ON ASSAULT which puts one in a coma—so what happens 2 years later when that person recovers?  Billed as a comedy, you might get a few chuckles... if you have a warped sense of humor or enjoy women beating the shit out of one another!  My grade: C Plus

The Drowning (2017)  Josh Charles & his wife are taking a stroll along the river when they see a young man jump off the pier; Josh rushes in to save him, later to discover he’s “Danny”, the boy his testimony (as a child therapist) helped send to prison for murder 12 years ago.  Now he's back and playing all sorts of mind games, what’s a self doubting doc to do?  The ending (of this awful movie and a certain character) can’t come soon enough.  My grade: F

The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)  Jessica Chastain is Antonina Zabinski, who along with her husband Jan ran the Warsaw Zoo in the 1930s; when Germany invaded Poland, they raided the zoo, taking the best animals to Berlin and slaughtering the rest.  The Zabinskis offered to raise pigs for the Nazis, using this as a front to smuggle 300 Jews out of Poland.  It’s an amazing story but perhaps deserved more, this always felt a little soft around the edges.  My grade: B Plus

A Monster Calls (2016)  Conor is 12 years old, his life one of torment.  Small & pale, he’s pummeled by bullies in school, while at home his mom lays in bed, sick with terminal cancer.  He has no one.  And then one night a giant shadow of sticks appears at his window… is it a good or bad monster?  Like most living things, somewhere in between.  Filled with heartache and fire, imagination & truth, this was both a work of love and work of art.  My grade: A

Gold (2016)  Based on a true story, Matthew McConaughey is the balding, greedy David Walsh—a prospector who went to Indonesia in the 1990s and (thanks to a shady geologist) claimed to find the largest gold mine in history.  Investors were bilked out of 164 million dollars when it turned out there was no gold, never was.  With Walsh claiming innocence to the end, who got all that money?  By the end of this yawner—who cares?  My grade: C

A Man Called Ove (2016)  59 year old Ove wants to end it all.  A grump & stickler for following rules, his beloved wife died and he’s been let go from his job of 40+ years.  But bothersome neighbors keep thwarting his suicide attempts, borrowing things, needing a ride or someone to babysit—don’t they know his life is kaput?  Apparently not in this strangely comedic, tragic & sweet look at one man’s past and present.  Swedes!  (Swedish)  My grade: B

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)  17 year old Nadine’s world is turned upside down when she discovers Krista (her best friend since 2nd grade) is in love with Nadine’s least favorite person—her “perfect” brother Darian.  Feeling betrayed and alone, how will she face the world on her own?  With a brave & funny defiance in this smart, heartfelt coming of age dramedy.  The adult lingo surprised me, but it’s perfectly cast and my gosh—exceptional.  My grade: A

American Pastoral (2016)  In the 1940s, Ewan McGregor was All-American, his sweetheart (Jennifer Connelly) the class beauty queen. In the ‘50s they marry, buy a home, start a family.  The American Dream.  But the 1960s bring war & protest, and they’ll watch helpless as their revolutionist daughter slips away, taking the Dream with her.  Based on Philip Roth’s saga, a shame. Miscast actors, it felt rushed, small, phony. This deserves a miniseries, not a movie.  My grade: D

What Happened to Monday (2017)  50 years from now, the planet is hugely overpopulated and ‘1 child per couple’ is strictly enforced.  So when a woman dies giving birth to septuplets, her dad takes them into hiding—naming each for a day of the week.  They’ll share one identity to the outside world, but when a ferocious government discovers their secret…  Gory, wild sci-fi and not without its flaws, but man this deserves an A for ambition!  My grade: B

Paterson (2016)  A week in the life of a quiet bus driver (Adam Driver, who fancies himself a future poet) and his stay-at-home wife (who fancies herself a future artist) and their simple, routine lives.  He gets up, eats cereal, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner and shares a few words with his wife—takes the dog for a walk, stops at a bar for a beer, comes home, tv, goes to bed.  Again & again.  We all lead two lives, the one outside & the dreamer within.  My grade: C

Alone in Berlin (2017)  As Nazi Germany celebrates their victory over France, Berliners Otto & Anna are devastated to learn their son is dead, giving his life to “Der Fuhrer”.  They’ll begin leaving angry postcards in shops and stairways—Hitler is a madman, Stop the Nazi war machine, Hitler killed our son, yours is next.  What will happen if they’re discovered by the Gestapo?  You don’t want to know, in this tragic drama based on a true story.  My grade: B Plus

Imperium (2016)  When a shipment of radioactive powder goes missing, seasoned FBI agent Toni Collette asks bookish newbie Daniel Radcliffe to go undercover as a skinhead, suspecting a local white supremacy group is making a dirty bomb.  (Daniel plays both parts well.)  From Klansmen to Neo-Nazis, he’ll encounter every facet of angry white trash out there—along with some scary suburban surprises in this brief, paranoid thriller.  My grade: B

The Meddler (2016)  After her husband dies, a naive Susan Sarandon moves from Jersey to LA to be near her daughter.  This is my condo, this is my balcony, it’s like I live in Disneyland!  But when she’s made to feel in the way… well, Susan has plenty of time on her hands so who else needs her help?  Nothing like I expected, this was touching, dear, laugh out loud funny.  I just can’t believe how much I loved Susan Sarandon here, she’s wonderful.  My grade: B Plus

Captain America: Civil War (2016)  More a follow-up to Avengers: Age of Ultron, our heroes will fight their greatest enemies yet—themselves.  Tired of the destruction from their battles, the United Nations asks the Avengers to cease.  When Cap America refuses, Iron Man will attempt to take him down—but Cap has allies of his own.  WOW.  From surprise heroes to real introspection, Marvel raises the bar again, daring their own formula for success.  My grade: A

The Lobster (2016)  Colin Farrell is despondent, his wife has left him.  But this is a reality where being alone is not allowed, now he must report to a singles resort where he’ll have 45 days to meet someone & fall in love or be transformed into an animal of his choosing.  Is he doomed to become a lobster?  He’ll discover he has other options, but they’re even more extreme in this black satire of society, and all the rules we place on ourselves.  Kooky!  My grade: B-

iBOY (2017)  When young Tom confronts a gang assaulting his friend Lucy, he calls 911 and gets a bullet in the head for it—along with fragments of his smartphone into his brain.  After coming out of a coma, he’ll see the world in a whole new light; his mind is connected to every cellphone, tablet & computer in the city.  I’m coming for you.  Yes!  Love me some dark & gritty British sci-fi—I really liked Tom & Lucy too.  Well done.  My grade: B

Denial (2016)  In the 1990s, British cuckoo & Holocaust denier David Irving sued American Jewish historian Deborah Lipstadt for defamation of character—forcing her to go to London to prove the Holocaust was real & Irving a dick.  It’s a well-played, exact accounting of events… but in real life this was a lengthy, costly trial.  And for what?   To prove what we already knew?  Fine performances, but this still felt like a hollow victory.  My grade: B

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)  In the year 2023, as giant flying sentinels (hint: robots) seek out and kill anyone having a mutant gene in their DNA (hint: mankind), Professor X sends Wolverine back 50 years to 1973 to stop the scientist responsible for these future killing machines—and hopefully change history.  C’mon, this is The Terminator!  Predictable and toony with CGI, I’m just not a fan of X-Men.  My grade: C

The Infiltrator (2016)  In the 1980s, cocaine was king; and Federal Customs agent Robert Mazur (well played by Bryan Cranston) was tasked with going undercover as a Florida businessman-front-man for one of the largest Columbian drug cartels, to help bring down money laundering banks in the US.  It’s a great story with solid performances—but between Scarface & Miami Vice, it feels like we’ve seen all this before.  My grade: B Plus

3 Generations (2017)  If she likes girls, why can’t she be a normal lesbian like her grandma?  As Naomi Watts grapples with an angry, emotional 16 year old trapped in a girl’s body, a gay mother (Susan Sarandon) who doesn’t get it & an absentee ex who refuses to sign sex-change papers for a child he’s never seen, when will it all end?  No really… when will it all end.  The ending’s a little too neat, but after all this anguish I’ll take it.  My grade: C

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)  After our team of Marvel heroes takes down Hydra, Tony Stark (Iron-Man) gets the bright idea of using artificial intelligence they uncovered to give life to his peace-keeping robots; what he gets is a powerful robot gone mad who wants to bring peace to Earth by destroying mankind.  For all the chaos & confusion here (they blow up an entire city!) there’s a lot of heart, humor and self-examination too.  I enjoyed this!  My grade: B

Wilson (2017)  Woody Harrelson is an obnoxious oaf who gets the bright idea of hooking up with his estranged wife (a funny Laura Dern) he hasn’t seen in 17 years.   “Honey wouldn’t it have been great if you didn’t abort our baby before you left me?”  “I didn’t—I had her & gave her up for adoption.”  Better late than never to be a dad in this goofy-ass, goofy-funny, goofy-sellout comedy.  My grade: C Plus

The Whole Truth (2016)  Keanu Reeves is in his element as a stonefaced attorney, defending a tight-lipped 17 year old accused of killing his father.  (My God, I didn’t even recognize Renee Zellweger as the boy’s mom!)  Truth & justice may be the American way, and we’ll see them both, just not together in this courtroom drama/murder mystery.  That ending… I should’ve seen it coming.  My grade: B

The Brand New Testament (2016)  God exists; he lives in Brussels, in an apartment with his wife & daughter, Ea.  Tired of watching God's inhumanity to man, Ea decides to leave and become a savior like her brother JC—but not before sending every person on the planet the date of their death.  Some funny moments (like the man who kept trying to kill himself before his time) but sacré bleu, this was too absurd for me!  (French)  My grade: C

4th Man Out (2016)  Friends since childhood, Adam decides to tell his 3 “bros” on his birthday he’s gay.  They're a raunchy bunch, but they’ve got hearts and decide they’re going to help Adam find someone “adorable”—cue the gay caricatures!   It’s a dude comedy that tries a little too hard to be dudey, yeah we get it—but it’s saved by some sweet characters, including Adam’s awesome mom.  My grade: B-

Patriots Day (2016)  Mark Wahlberg is Sgt. Tommy Saunders, one of BPD’s finest during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.  What begins as a recreation of that tragic event quickly turns into an amazing race to find the killers—and their shocking, explosive takedown.  There are many heroes and survivors here, and in the end this becomes a wonderful tribute to those brave souls.  Boston takes care of their own.  My grade: A

Chronic (2016)  David (Tim Roth) is a home-care nurse, quietly and methodically tending to one patient at a time; a woman with cancer, a male stroke victim, a woman with rectal cancer.  We know little of David, but maybe there isn’t much to know—his life consists mainly of being a part of his patients lives, it seems.  It’s a strangely compelling watch, and in the end, we're surprised just how fleeting life really is.  My grade: B

A Cure for Wellness (2017)  When Lockhart (an upstart at a NY investment firm) is sent to a froufrou sanitarium in the Swiss Alps to retrieve their CEO, he’ll find himself in a castle populated with glassy eyed patients, a strange staff and even stranger contraptions.  Oh he just knows something sinister is afoot, and so do we in this grand, dark look into madness, perversion & inventive horror.  The ending, that’s no surprise.  It was still worth the wait.  My grade: A-

A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)  James is a street musician & heroin addict who gets a second chance when he’s put into a methadone program, but he’ll be helped along when a stray cat adopts him and the two become the talk of London.  Predictable fare, the “too good to be true” ending annoyed me—until I discovered it was all a true story!  Good for James--and Bob :)  My grade: C

Gifted (2017)  After his sister’s suicide, Chris Evans takes in her infant daughter to raise; 7 years later, this obnoxious kid turns out to be a math prodigy—just like her mother.  When Chris’ haughty mom from Cambridge University finds out, let the custody battle begin.  An unlikable cast sure doesn’t help this schmaltzy soap, better bring in Octavia Spencer as the goodhearted neighbor who just loves that child... ugh.  My grade: C-
The Lovers (2017)  Debra Winger & her husband have been cheating on each other a long time (but neither knows the other is doing it).  So when their son comes home from college, both plan to announce they’re leaving… well, that was the plan but lately they’ve been rekindling old feelings.  “You’re both pieces of shit!” says their son.  I’m inclined to agree, but you decide in this sloooow but surprising… love story?  It shouldn’t be but it is.  My grade: C

Notes on Blindness (2016)  In 1983, John Hull went blind.  Filled with despair, he began recording his thoughts, conversations with his wife, sounds of his children on audiocassettes.  Feeling lost and alone, he’ll begin searching inside himself instead, discovering a voice he never knew and a life he never knew he had.  I can’t remember crying like this over one man’s words before... exquisitely told, an exquisite watch.  My grade: A Plus
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)  When Alice (a widowed mom with 2 daughters who gives earnest but staged spirit readings) sees a Ouija board for sale, “hmm… might make a nice prop.”  Little does she know of her dark home’s horrific history, that board is going to reopen some deep wounds.  When 9 year old Doris begins scribbling in Polish, mad terror lies ahead.  Some cliché moments, but this girl has to be seen to be believed!  My grade: B-
Mr. Church (2016)  ”Mama, there’s a black man cooking eggs in our kitchen.”  10 year old Charlotte doesn’t know her mom has breast cancer, or that her mother’s ex-boyfriend hired Eddie Murphy (Eddie Murphy!) to cook for them for 6 months.  6 years later, her mom’s still here, barely; but so is Mr. Church.  He’s not going anywhere, in this manipulative, formulaic “the true meaning of family”.  Oh well, it’s still a sweet story.  My grade: C Plus
Lion (2016)  The true story of Saroo, a 5 year old boy lost in India, who rode trains for thousands of miles looking for home.  Adopted by a couple in Australia (Nicole Kidman is really good here) he’ll have a loving, happy life.  And then one night 25 years later, while looking at Google Earth… home.  Told with care & tenderness, it’s sweet, tearful ending makes up for so much.  I loved meeting the real people here too.  My grade: B
American Anarchist (2017)  In 1969, William Powell was an angry 20 year old political activist who wrote ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’, which explained how to cook napalm, make bombs, etc;  he later married & became a teacher for emotionally challenged children.  50 years later, copies of his book are still found, notably with kids involved in school killings like Columbine.  The irony is not lost on him in this sobering, remorseful documentary.  My grade: B
KONG: Skull Island (2017)   When scientists discover a secret island, they request a military escort there—sure!  It’s 1973, the Vietnam War is ending and a war happy general (Samuel Jackson) is more than ready for another mission.  WELCOME TO SKULL ISLAND: HOME OF GIANT MONSTERS, PRIMITIVE TRIBES & KONG!  Loved the movie’s opening, one of the best I’ve ever seen--also the 70s artillery, monster battles, EVERYTHING.  My grade: ONE ASS-WHUPPIN' A
Elle (2016)  Michèle is an older, attractive woman—a dark celebrity of sorts (her father was an infamous mass murderer in her childhood).  Her mother & ex flaunt their young lovers and her troubled son’s wife just gave birth to a black baby, so when a masked man breaks into her house and rapes her, why bother the police?  She takes it all in stride.  Cynicism can be a virtue in this brow-raising glimpse of a steely woman’s life.  (French)  My grade: B
Captain Fantastic (2016)  Viggo Mortensen is the definition of counterculture; he’s raising his 6 kids in the Pacific Northwest forest where they garden, hunt & study everything from Taoism to quantum physics by firelight.  But when a family tragedy forces them to rejoin society, Viggo must make some lasting decisions about his children’s future.  I loved this.  Funny, brave, dear and exceptional, this touched my heart in every way.  My grade: A

Silence (2016)  A pair of Catholic priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) want to go to Japan to find their missing mentor but are warned not to; it’s 1633 and Shogun warriors are slaughtering Christians.  Convinced that faith is their ally, they go anyway—and discover Western religion has no place there, in Martin Scorsese’s intimate, quality (but slow moving and 3 hours long) telling of Christianity in early Japan.  Well, it’s Scorsese.  My grade: B
The Jungle Book (2016)  Disney’s stunning (and often scary real) live action retelling of their 1967 classic is a real spectacle, and I mean that in the best way.  Christopher Walken sings ‘I Wanna Be Like You’?  Scarlett Johansson as the giant snake singing ‘Trust in Me’??  Talk about inspired casting!  (I liked the man-cub too, he reminded me of a young Jack Wild.)  I think this would frighten small children, but it’s still a beautiful watch.  My grade: B Plus
The Dressmaker (2016)  Fresh from Paris, Kate Winslet returns to Australia, 1951, to the odd little town she once called home.  She’ll get right to work sewing dresses for homely women, making amends with her disturbed mother, falling in love & determining if the rumors about her childhood were true.  And then… okay, what is this?  A comedy?  Drama?  Love story?  Revenge flick?  It tries too hard (or not enough) to be all of them.  My grade: C Plus
Knock Knock (2015)  According to the script, Keanu Reeves is a happily married man (ugh his acting!) so when his wife takes their 2 kids to the beach for the weekend, and he stays behind to work, and 2 young women knock on his door claiming to be lost and start coming onto him, of course he’s more amused than anything, he’s happily married right?  Things are about to get a little scary and a lot ridiculous in this... um, “erotic thriller”.  Uh-huh.  My grade: C

Café Society (2016)  Set in the 1930s, Jesse Eisenberg goes to Hollywood, falls in love with Kristen Stewart, then returns to Brooklyn to run his brother's nightclub in Woody Allen’s fun but forgettable frolic of a bygone era.  What, you wanted more?  It’s colorful & nostalgic, but with one cliché after another Woody is just giving us something nice to look at.  Meh... I still enjoyed it!  My grade: B

Jackie (2016)  Natalie Portman does her very best to portray a bewildered, distraught Jacqueline Kennedy, in the hours & days following her husband’s assassination.  She’ll wander like a ghost thru a 1963 White House, quietly give instructions on how the funeral should proceed, cry with Bobby Kennedy and angrily rebuke her priest’s words of comfort.  The attention to detail is startling, but in the final minutes… you are there.  And so is JFK.  My grade: A

My Scientology Movie (2017)  BBC filmmaker Louis Theroux travels to LA in an attempt to talk with a Scientologist—if he can find any willing, that is.  Instead he’ll meet with former members (who bristle at being labeled ‘defrocked’) and as they share stories of cult leader David Miscaviage’s beatings, fleeing, harassed by the cult—hey, has anyone noticed that white SUV following us?  Louis, welcome to Scientology.  My grade: B-

American Fable (2016)  Gitty is your typical 11 year old, living with her parents, older brother & best friend (a chicken) on their little farm; but it’s 1982, there’s a farming crisis & they’re struggling.  And then one day while exploring, she discovers an abandoned silo and a man in a suit trapped inside, begging for release.  Gitty has some tough decisions to make in this disquieting, almost dreamlike suspense story.  My grade: C Plus

Ghostbusters (2016)  Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon. I wasn’t a big fan of the original (and blecch on remakes) but how can you not laugh at this powerhouse of comedy?  So much slime, so much CGI, so what!  When the ladies post their first ghostly encounter on YouTube and someone comments “This looks like fake Hollywood shit”  I almost lost it.  See it for Kate McKinnon alone, she gives new meaning to mad scientist!  My grade: B

Suntan (2016)  Shortly after Christmas, Kostis is hired as doctor for a small Greek island’s clinic.  He’s a short, balding pudgy man in his 40s, and things are quiet like him.  But now summer is here, and so are the tourists—including a group of beautiful 21 year olds who adopt him as their mascot.  Sadly, the closer he gets to one of them, the more they—and the island--will pull away.  Better than I expected, but sadder too.  Remember your oath, Doctor.  (Greek)  My grade: B

Queen of Katwe (2016)  Disney shares this moving, very real story of Phonia, a little girl in the slums of Uganda who went from selling maize in its dusty streets to learning chess, and with the help of a kind mentor, a poor but proud country and a sacrificing mother became a continent’s grand champion.  Rich with color, culture and goodness, Disney shows us wishes really can come true.  My grade: A Plus

Get Out (2017)  Chris is dubious when his girlfriend tells him they’ve been invited to her parent’s house for the weekend.  Did you tell them I’m black?”  They know, Chris… they know.  And they have some big plans for you in this curious, smart horror flick.  (Favorite scene is when Chris best friend goes to the cops, he worries Chris has been kidnapped by whites to be their sex slave.)  I’ll take my terror with some of that dark humor, please!  My grade: B

Nocturnal Animals (2016)  Amy Adams appears to have it all; a chic art gallery, celebrity friends, a dashing husband.  But he cheats on her, and her life feels shallow, pretentious.  And then she receives a compelling book manuscript from her first husband (Jake Gylenhaal) who she left 20 years ago…  okay, the motive here didn’t sink in with me (or Amy) until until the final minutes, but man!  WARNING:  this is a difficult watch.  Brutality comes in many forms.  My grade: A
The Girl on the Train (2016)  Everyday, Rachel rides the commuter train to NYC and stares forlornly at one house along its way; she lived there once, before her drinking took it away.  Her ex is still there, a second wife & child now, Rachel drunkenly calls them sometimes.  Leave us alone!  And then one day she sees their nanny kissing a strange man before going missing…  this is one helluva soap, told with real style & suspense.  I couldn’t turn away.  My grade: B Plus

The Watcher (2016)  Noah & Emma are excited to move into their first home, but the happiness doesn't last when they begin receiving creepy messages to get out before it's too late.  But they have zero savings, a missing realtor and now Emma's hair is falling out... what next?  Its a whodunit alright, but just when you think you've got things figured out... wait.  They're not about to let this go until they get you.  My grade: C Plus

Hell or High Water (2016)  Chris Pine and his half-crazy (but charismatic) brother are robbing branches of Texas Midland Bank--to pay off the foreclosure of their farm to Texas Midland Bank.  But a salty Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) thinks he's got them figured out, now he just has to catch them.  This begins as a slow, easy drawl... but make no mistake, blood will be spilled.  I felt like I was watching a 70s Scorsese film, Texas style.  It's that good.  My grade: A

Hidden Figures (2016)  In 1961 the US entered the space race, and 3 African American 'computers' (math wizards hired by NASA) rose to the surface, despite the prejudices they faced for their skin & gender.  Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson--real heroes who were instrumental in propelling us into space and to the moon, in this conventional (but still inspiring and long overdue) biopic.  This is their fight song.  My grade: A

The Good Neighbor (2016)  A pair of teenage filmmakers have an idea; rig a house with hidden cameras & remote devices, to see if they can convince someone they're being haunted.  Why not that miserable old man (James Caan) who lives across the street?  Reality will come crashing down on them, and us too, in this slow moving suspense that was better than expected.  It had no business surprising anyone--but it did.  My grade: B-

Indignation (2016)  Marcus' Jewish father is elated when his son receives a scholarship to a Christian college; so what if it isn't kosher?  It's 1951 and will keep his son from the draft and Korean War.  But Marcus feels out of place, and resents the religion forced on him there.  And then he meets Olivia, an outsider too but for different, troubled reasons.  I wasn't sure where this was going, but in its caring, final moments... oh.  My grade: B

Morgan (2016)  is an artificial human, grown in a lab by scientists; but she seems to have a problem controlling her lethal temper, so Kate Mara from corporate is sent in to "evaluate the situation".  You're just here to kill her!  They're not the only ones who see what's coming a mile away, you will too and probably more.  My grade: C

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)  Keanu Reeves is back in this surprising (it's even better than the original) sequel of a retired assassin sent to kill the female head of a crime syndicate--then is hunted down by her brother, the same man who contracted him.  The bloodshed is staggering, the cinematography stunning in this robust, precise thriller.  Oh, so many killers walk among us.  Bring on Chapter 3!  My grade: A

Life (2017)  Excitement turns to horror on the International Space Station when a soil sample from Mars containing a dormant microbe awakens and begins to grow at an astonishing rate.  Yum, oxygen.. it's in the air, our blood...  dammit this movie moves way too fast given it's first-rate production, but you gotta love that "screw humanity" ending no one saw coming!  My grade: B

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)  Considered by fans the greatest Batman story ever written, the Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon with the intent of driving him insane--starting with the shooting of his daughter Barbara (not knowing he's ended the career of Batgirl).  Published in 1988 to critical acclaim, it's unfortunate Alan Moore & Brian Bolland weren’t used for this animated re-telling.  Choppy artwork & a padded, juvenile storyline do not a classic re-make.  My grade: C

The Conjuring 2 (2016)  In 1977, after their investigation of the Amityville house, Ed & Lorraine Warren are asked to come to England in this (heavily dramatized but true) telling of the Hodgson family & their violently haunted house.  'Less is more' would've been better here, but this still grips--and I loved the slideshow at the end showing the real house & family, it's a curious reality check.  My grade: B-

Sully (2016)  Tom Hanks is fine as Capt.Sullenberger, in the days following his landing a plane with 155 passengers in the Hudson River.  He'll contend with an amazed city, a relentless media & sleepless nights, all while the FAA has some hard questions.  I very much liked the re-enactments here, as we watch rescue people go to work following the crash.  When Sully is hailed a hero, and says "this was not just me", you know he means it.   My grade: B

Don't Breathe (2016)  A trio of teens who burglarize houses hear about the perfect score--a disabled vet supposedly sitting on 300K in his run-down home.  "Dude he's blind!  Isn't robbing the blind effed up?"  Yep!  Everyone gets what's coming to them in this dark & bloody watch of bad things happening to bad people--but when that vet approached a screaming girl with a turkey baster... alright, that will be quite enough!  My grade: C Plus

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)  Meryl Streep beams as the absurd, glorious Foster Jenkins (1868-1944), a New York socialite who fancied herself an opera singer and wasn't.  (Oh boy how she wasn't!  But she was adored by many, including celebrities like Cole Porter & Enrico Caruso.)  Hugh Grant holds his own as her loving but philandering husband (his best role to date) and Simon Helberg--inspired casting as her dubious pianist.  Encore!  My grade: A

Loving (2016)  In 1958 Richard & Mildred Loving married in DC, only to return home and get arrested; interracial marriage was illegal in Va.  They'll go to prison if they don't leave Virginia (and their families) behind.  They'll fight and lose, all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court.  And then 10 years and 4 kids later, the US Supreme Court hears their case... Their love changed history, though it's sad & surprising how recent that history was.  I loved this pair.  My grade: B

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)  After the death of his grandpa, Jake convinces his dad to take them to Europe to visit the children's home where his grandpa was raised--alas, it's a crumbling relic, bombed by the Nazis in 1943.  Or was it?  The home and it's peculiar inhabitants still exist in a time loop--and they need Jake's help!  It's a children's story masquerading as something darker, but it's still Harry Potter meets Tim Burton.  My grade: C Plus

I am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)  Lily is a prim hospice nurse hired to tend to aged horror novelist Iris Blum in her secluded New England home.  The ghost of a young Victorian woman is here too, but Lily lives more in fear of the long shadows and quiet; what will she do when confronted with the real thing?  Like an HP Lovecraft story, the horror here is in words & words, Lily's own.  My grade: A

Little Boxes (2017)  When the wife of an interracial couple receives a teaching offer, they & their 11 year old son Clark move from Brooklyn to lily-white suburbia in Rome, Washington.  It's a friendly community, and Clark hits it off with a couple little white girls who teach him hip-hop.  There's no tension here, right?  Well maybe a little, in this indie drama of regular people anxious to do the right thing.  My grade: C

The Shallows (2016)  After the death of her mother, Blake Lively (love her) travels to Mexico to surf her mom's secret beach; what she doesn't know is that a dead whale nearby has made the water a feeding ground for a great white shark.  The suspense is riveting, the imagery stunning and they didn't have to give us such a satisfying ending but they did.  I'm hooked, reel me in!  My grade: A-

Moonlight (2016)  Chiron is a quiet little boy, and has reason to be.  Much of his existence he spends alone, hiding from a mother who's a crack addict, or kids in his hood who beat on him for being a "faggot ass".  It seems everyone knows his sexuality but him.  He'll grow up hardened, a man of influence in the streets, but there's someone who remembers the boy he was... it's a dark and troubled story, but told so well with quiet, and grace.  Exceptional.  My grade: B Plus

The Witness (2016)  In 1964, 28 year old Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside of a NYC apartment building; the Times & other media reported there were 38 witnesses who did nothing to help.  The killer was caught, but questions remained unanswered--why did he do it?  And why did her screams fall on so many deaf ears?  Her brother Joe will spend many years looking for answers, in this sad but hugely touching tribute to her.  My grade: A

Star Trek Beyond (2016)  In this third installment of Trek 2.0, the USS Enterprise is taken down by a giant swarm of "metal space bees", controlled by one wicked alien--who plans to go after the Federation next.  Why?  I think we find out, in this visually stunning but too-much-action-too-much-debris adventure.  I'm starting to warm to some of the crew here (Kirk & Bones) but it still felt like I was watching things from inside a cyclone.  My grade: B-

Paradox (2016)  A redneck walks into a bar and asks if anyone wants to be in his movie about time travel.  "We'll put on jumpsuits, pretend we're scientists from MIT--then one of us will go one hour into the future and discover everyone is dead!  So he comes back to tell us we're all f-cked!"  "F-ckin' A, count me in!  What's a paradox?"  "F-ck if I know!"   My grade: F

Christine (2016)  Rebecca Hall delivers a chilling, Oscar-worthy performance as Christine Chubbuck, a Sarasota newswoman in the 1970s who did human interest stories but yearned to be a "real" journalist, all the while struggling with her sanity.  She would ultimately end her life, in a way both no one & everyone saw coming. My grade: A-

Allied (2016)  Brad Pitt & Marion Cotillard (gasp—love her) pose as a Parisian couple for a perilous mission against the Nazis in WWII.  They fall in love and a year later are married, living in London with a baby.  So what will Brad do when he discovers his wife may be a German spy?   Filled with romance & intrigue, this period suspense was both old school and Hollywood at its best, probably my favorite film this year.  Merci, merci.  My grade: A

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)  As the world grapples with a Superman, powerful men like Lex Luthor & Batman grow angry over one man having so much power.  Things will come to a head (spurred on by Luthor, naturally--but my favorite scene was Batman going after Martha Kent's kidnappers, an awesome mix of rage & skill.)  Too bad this runs so long, the final 30 minutes went over the top, reducing a smart story to comic mayhem.  My grade: B-

The BFG (2016)  Sophie is a 9 year old English orphan who spots a giant, tiptoeing about London late one night--leaving him no choice but to take her back with him to Giant Country.  But there's other giants there too, mean ones hungry for human beans.  Sophie has a royal idea, in this ornery, dear & utterly charming fable from Disney & Steven Spielberg.  My grade: BIG FRIENDLY GIANT B PLUS

Southside with You (2016)  In the summer of '89, Michelle Robinson accepts an invitation from an intern at her law firm to a meeting for a new community center.  Along the way they'll visit a museum, see a movie, share an ice cream and discuss their lives & aspirations.  The man is Barack Obama, wonderfully played by Parker Sawyers.  It's a small story, eloquently told.  How I miss them.  My grade: C Plus

Manchester by the Sea (2016)  After the death of his brother, Casey Affleck learns he's been appointed legal guardian of his 16 year old nephew.  "I can't.  I live in Boston, in a one room."  But it's more than that, as his is a life of penance and despair.  They're the only family the other's got now, but they are men, governed by their own flaws & pride.  And as much as I ached for more emotion here, this was too extraordinary & real to give that to me.  My grade: A Plus

Passengers (2016)  A glitch awakens Chris Pratt aboard the Starship Avalon, but it was too soon as it's a 120 year journey to another planet.  After a year of solitude, he decides to 'accidentally' awaken one of the other 5,280 sleepers (Jennifer Lawrence), what will happen when she learns the truth?  It's a gorgeous spectacle with much potential, but the story was slight and the 'ship in danger' felt thrown in.  This was more romance-fantasy than sci-fi.  My grade:  B-

Lavender (2016)   Jane likes to take drives in the countryside and photograph old houses--hmm, this one looks familiar... soon after, she's in a car accident and awakes with amnesia.  As she struggles to regain who she was, repressed memories begin to surface--of that house, and the night her sister & parents died.  Slow paced, Hallmarky suspense, a WTF ending--oh you Canadians.  My grade: C

The Disappointments Room (2016)  After the accidental death of their newborn daughter, Kate Beckinsale, husband & son move into an old country home in need of TLC--it's going to need a lot, because one locked room contains the spirits of a sad girl & an angry Gerald McRaney in Victorian garb that only Kate can see.  Are they real or is Kate mental from guilt?  I think it's the latter, for her role in this meandering, cliche-ridden turdfest.  My grade: D

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)  Max is one happy little terrier--until the day his owner brings home a big brown mongrel named Duke. This means war!  They'll be forced to team up though, after crossing paths with an angry horde of abandoned pets led by one badass bunny rabbit.  Y'know, I wasn't expecting to chuckle this much... but kid's movie or not, there's some crazy-ass critters here!  My grade: B

Devil's Bride (2016)  Anna is a young woman in love with Elias, a married man.  But this is 1666 Finland, where midwives who use herbs and beggar women who divine thieves for coins are banished for witchery.  Anna accuses Elias wife of witchcraft to get her banished too--but the law was changed, witches are now beheaded.  Can Anna undo her lies?  It's a tender, tragic glimpse into an unforgiving time.  (Finnish)  My grade: B Plus

Split (2017)  Dennis is a man with 24 toothbrushes.  Why so many?  His doctor (wonderfully played by Betty Buckley) knows--he has multiple personality disorder.  What she doesn't know is that one of Dennis' personas just abducted 3 girls.  There's real terror ahead, but for one it's a nightmare lived already in M.Knight Shayamalan's tale of scars and madness.  My grade: B
The Founder (2016)  Michael Keaton is without remorse as Ray Kroc, a salesman who stumbles across a 30 second hamburger stand in 1954 and has an epiphany--FRANCHISE.  This ho-hum biopic tries to make him look like a baddie, but I disagree; he saw its potential, the McDonald brothers wouldn't, so he ran with it.  Well, it's unfortunate they went under after Kroc bought their name--then built a restaurant across the street from them!  My grade: C Plus
Bridget Jone's Baby (2016)  Attention, Bridget Jones die-hards!  They filmed a third movie just for you.  12 years after the sequel, Jones is still single and still wondering what to do with herself.  But after a couple of impromptu shags with Patrick Dempsey & old flame Colin Firth, discovers she's pregnant.  Who's the daddy?  And who will she marry?  When the minister said "I now pronounce you man & wife--FINALLY"  I knew just how he felt.  My grade: C

Arrival (2016)  When alien spacecraft arrive at various locations about Earth, scientists are dispatched to learn how to communicate with them--but as frustrations mount, and global media report escalating paranoia, violence & threats of war, can linguist Amy Adams 'crack the code' and end the madness in time?  An enthralling story, but this is 'thinking man's sci-fi'; unless you're a scientist or Trekkie, may leave you scratching your head.  My grade: B
La La Land (2016)  Emma Stone is an aspiring actress, Ryan Gosling a stubborn jazz pianist when they meet and fall in love--but careers will always come first in this--did they say it was a musical?  Well, it looked that way in the beginning.  I know this won Oscars & praise galore, but I was expecting to be charmed and wasn't.  I enjoyed the splashes of color, but a memorable song & some chemistry between these two would've been nice too.  My grade: C

Doctor Strange (2016)  In the pursuit of non-Western medicine after a car accident ends his career as a neurosurgeon, Dr.Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) discovers a mystical realm that protects our world.  It's a somewhat rushed introduction to Marvel Comic's wizard, but razzle dazzle spells?  A magical cloak?  Astral projection?  The bending of time and space?  Mads Mikkelsen as the baddie?  Where do I sign?  My grade: B Plus

Moana (2016)  Set in "ancient times", the daughter of a Polynesian chief goes on a perilous quest to return the heart-stone to the mythical island Te Fiti--but first she must enlist the help of Maui (Dwayne Johnson), the demigod who stole it a thousand years ago.  This is Disney at their best; wonderful characters brought to life (love the grandma), great songs, a wildly imaginative story and stunning imagery.  There's a lot of magic here.  My grade: A

The Similars (2016)  8 people are stranded in a grungy bus depot, waiting out a storm for a bus to Mexico City.  It's an anxiety-ridden, wailing lot--so when one of their faces begin to change...and then another... kill him!  Kill yourself!  Am I supposed to take this seriously?  Surely this is a Twilight Zoney satire, down Mexico way... si or no, it was mucho El Stupido. (Mexican)  My grade: D

Tower (2016)  On Aug 1, 1966 Charles Whitman went to the top of the clock tower at the University of Texas and rained gunfire on the people below.  Told by first-hand accounts of students and survivors still with us, via film clips & striking animation of the campus and their '66 selves, the horrors of that day are realized like never before.  I'm not sure why this needed told again, but these people will never forget & neither should we.   My grade: B

For The Love of Spock (2016)  Adam Nimoy paints an extraordinary, love-filled memoriam of his father Leonard Nimoy, the son of a barber who would become an actor, icon & hero to millions. Told with real devotion to both his father & his father's fans, with images and stories never shared before, it's a truly captivating tribute.  I must own this.  My grade: A Plus
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