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

The Whole Truth (2016)  Keanu Reeves is in his element—and the courtroom—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 really 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 via satellite technology, they request a military escort take them there—sure!  It’s 1973, the Vietnam War is ending and a war happy general (Samuel Jackson) is only too ready to go on one more mission.  GENTLEMEN (and you too, groovy war photographer chick) 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, giant monster battles, EVERYTHING.  Watch the credits thru to the end!  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 and ex flaunt their young lovers, 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?  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 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 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 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

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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