2016 Recap

“Wow big year. Well yes, big year personally, particularly with the move and all. But big year movie wise. New personal record. Drumroll please….

129 total movie screenings
minus 3 repeats equals 126 distinct movies
minus 4 specials equals 122 new movies seen.

That's two more than last year's record cumulative total of 127, and beats the previous year's distinct new movie record of 117. Years prior are irrelevant as they don't even come close. Let's not even think about calculating costs of tickets and concessions and transportation.

And because I'm a dork who keeps track of these things in a spreadsheet during the year, let's dig into the rest of the stats! Or maybe you just skip down to my fave and not so fave picks.

As far as scores, here's where we ended up
\m/ \n – 2
\m/ \m/ – 7
\m/ \m/ \n – 20
\m/ \m/ \m/ – 34
\m/ \m/ \m/ \n – 24
\m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ – 35
From the lack of lows we can deduce one of the following conclusions. Either:
-Movies are getting better
-I'm getting better about not forcing myself to see movies I know I won't like
-I still can't bring myself to give a bad movie a bad score
I think we all know it's a combination of 2 and 3.

Location, location, location! 22 theaters across 5 states!
By city it's Boston-75, LA-44, Laredo-6, Chicago-2, NYC-2.
By theater we've got AMC Boston Common-57, The Landmark-11, Cinemark Howard Hughes-9, AMC Marina Dine in-5, AMC Marina Marketplace-5, Apple Cinemas-5, Kendall Square Cinema-5, AMC Santa Monica-4, Arclight Culver-4, AMC Assembly Row-4, Alamo Drafthouse Laredo-4, AMC Century City-2, AMC Chicago-2, AMC NYC-2, Arclight Santa monica-2, Laredo Cinemark Mall-2, The Brattle-1, Chinese Theatres-1, Cinemark Playa Vista-1, Coolige Corner-1, Somerville Theater-1, Jordans IMAX Reading-1.

And here's the whole dang list of movies
The Big Short, Joy, Carol, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakes, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, The Forest, Dirty Grandpa, 45 Years, The Tribe, The Finest Hours, Kung Fu Panda 3, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Hail Caesar, Zoolander 2, How to Be Single, Deadpool, The Witch, Risen, Punk's Dead: SLC Punk 2, Triple 9, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Eddie the Eagle, The Brothers Grimsby, Zootopia, The Bronze, Allegiant, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Eye in the Sky, Midnight Special, Demolition, Everybody Wants Some, The Boss, The Jungle Book, Harddcore Henry, Green Room, Elvis and Nixon, The Huntsman: Winter's War, Keanu, Captain America: Civil War, Money Monster, The Nice Guys, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The Lobster, X-Men: Apocalypse, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Angry Birds Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Now You See Me 2, Warcraft, Finding Dory, Central Intelligence, Tickled, One Man, Two Guv'nors, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Legend of Tarzan, The Purge: Election Year, Swiss Army Man, The Purge: Election Year, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, The Secret Life of Pets, Ghostbusters, The Infiltrator, The BFG, The Shallows, Star Trek Beyond, Lights Out, Bad Moms, Nerve, Jason Bourne, Suicide Squad, Sausage Party, Hell or High water, Florence Foster Jenkins, Ben Hur, War Dogs, Pete's Dragon, Equity, Mechanic: Resurrection, Southside with You, Don't Breathe, The Hollars, The Light Between Oceans, Sully, Labyrinth, Snowden, The Magnificent Seven, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Deepwater Horizon, The Girl on the Train, Birth of a Nation, Desierto, The Accountant, American Pastoral, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Keeping Up with the Joneses, Inferno, Doctor Strange, Trolls, Hacksaw Ridge, Loving, Arrival, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Moonlight, Edge of Seventeen, Manchester By the Sea, Nocturnal Animals, Bleed for This, Allied, Lion, Moana, Bad Santa 2, Jackie, Miss Sloane, La La Land,Office Christmas Party, Rogue One, Fences, Elf, PassengersSing, Collateral Beauty, Why Him, Assassin's Creed, Patriot's Day, Silence.

Now the fun part. As of this exact moment, here’s my top 10 of the year.
1->The Lobster – This is one of the most unique films I have ever seen. This year was good about sprinkling in this quirky indies amidst all the rehashes. The absurd tone and weird humor are unlike anything else, and most impressive is how it’s consistently maintained throughout. I almost wish there were more movies like this, but then it wouldn’t be special.
2-Manchester By the Sea – As I said when I wrote it up, one of the best screenplays in recent memory. Very real and emotional with the right amount of humor and a top notch cast. I’m really psyched to see how far it goes during awards season. I’m slowly starting to come over to Team Manchester instead of Team La La.
3-Hell or High Water – Such a simple, but compelling and relevant movie. This is one that really stuck with me for a long time after. I was excited to rewatch it when the DVD arrived, and it was just as good.
4-Patriot’s Day – We were very close to a last minute upset. Immediately after watching this, I wanted to jump it to the top of my list. I reconsidered after coming down from the movie high. Yes, I do grade on enjoyability more than quality (hence me saying they’re my faves and not the best) but even then I realized it had an unfair advantage and the other three were more deserving.
5-Eye in the Sky – On the surface, it didn’t sound like anything too exciting, but it was one of the most surprising and suspenseful and affecting films I saw all year. Plus an incredible cast. Not too many people heard of this, but it bests most summer blockbusters.
6-Hail, Caesar – The Coens can be so hit or miss, but there was no question Hail Caesar was a hit. Original and funny and just weird enough Would that it twere so simple.
7-Captain America: Civil War Just when I was complaining about how hackneyed the superhero movie genre was becoming, we get a breath of fresh air. This is the way to do a big movie that still hits on all the expected elements while bringing in something new and fresh.
8-Sausage Party – A common thread on this list? Originality. And what’s more original than animated grocery food with crude humor and foul language seeking to escape the human oppressors who will eat them. Hilarity (and mental scarring) ensues.
9-Ghostbusters – I don’t care what the critics and public at large had to say. As a woman in tech, this movie was everything. It appropriately paid homage to the original and was pretty dang funny.
10-Swiss Army Man – So maybe this one is actually the most original on the list. It should never have worked, but it did and it was beautiful. Side note: Daniel Radcliffe has said that of all his filmography this far, this is the one he is proudest of. As he should be.
Honorable Mentions (not in order): The Hollars, Doctor Strange, Snowden, Tickled, The Purge: Election Year

But for everything that is good, there is something that is bad. Sometimes really bad. Which brings us to:
1-Dirty Grandpa – Not even Zac Efron’s abs could save this. It was boring and unfunny and kinda made me uncomfortable at times. Just say no.
2-Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – Nope, nope, nope nope, nope. DC took all the wrong lessons from Marvel’s success (yet again) and put together an unfocused and dull movie that was frankly kinda dumb at times. Try again next time. Or better yet, don’t.
3-The Legend of Tarzan – All I remember about this movie is that I fell asleep. Not even Alexander SkarsgÃ¥rd’s abs could save this
4-The BFG – It wasn’t bad, just boring. Once we got past the wonder of the set up, I really didn’t care anymore.
5-Assassin’s Creed – Didn’t really expect to see this on the list, but the film really didn’t have any real redeeming qualities. Big misfire of a snoozefest.
Dishonorable Mentions (not in order): THe Forrest, The Brothers Grimsby, Collateral Beauty.

And that’s a wrap on 2016. Here’s to more movies in 2017! Maybe some will even be good!!”

Silence

“You know what’s nerve wracking? Going to a movie with a 2:41 run time, but you only get 3 hours of free parking. I ain’t paying five bucks on parking right now. I ran out of the theater the second the movie finished. I prolly should have just skipped that whole last hour or so.

Two words that will shoot a movie up my priority list? Martin Scorsese. Well there’s a lot of “”two words”” but those are the relevant ones, seeing as how he wrote (with help) and directed Silence. The film is about two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who sneak into Japan during the 17th century in search of their mentor (Liam Neeson) who disappeared. If you’re not up on your history (as I was not prior to seeing this film), during that period, Christianity was banned in Japan. It was a time of violence and persecution and prolly a good time to rethink your profession if you were a priest.

Remember how I said the movie was nearly three hours long? Yeah, the movie was neartly three hours long, and easily divided into three acts. The first act/hour, I found fascinating. I attended Catholic school from Pre-K to 12th, so I heard lots of stories about martrys and saints and the like. But hearing about them in a paragraph or two and seeing their tribulations on screen in detail are two different things. I also liked how it really challenged some of the concepts of faith, and got me thinking. How important are icons and imagery? Do you denounce your faith to save others? What actions set the best example? Kinda unsettling stuff that has no real answer.

But then the movie kept going. And going. And going. It was no Energizer Bunny unless the Energizer Bunny was on a bunch of downers. I feel like the last two hours could have been condensed a bit somehow, since we were eventually just rehashing the same themes. Our cast was fantastic, but I don’t think anyone would doubt those guys. And of course my love for Scorsese still stands, but this isn’t gonna be one I remember as fondly as his others.

Silence – \m/ \m/ \n”

Patriot’s Day

“Stealing from myself, the FB post when I checked in to this movie (no, I don’t check in to every movie I see): There are see it as soon as you reasonably can high priority movies, and run over less than ninety min after you’ve arrived home and pay for a full price ticket even though you’re still unemployed high priority movies. Marky Mark, I’m trusting you on this one…

We know I lived in Boston for a while, and it should be pretty easy to deduce I was there the week of the Marathon bombing, manhunt, lockdown, etc. I took a quick glance at the blog posts that I wrote shortly thereafter, and it looks like I never really talked about it. Although I think that had more to do with being busy with theatre than anything else. But anyways, here’s my story just to give you some context of the emotional impact I felt from this movie.

Marathon Monday, I was actually at work. It was kinda hit or miss in the city whether or not you had the day off. Wasn’t too big of a deal for me, I’d never really cared to watch the race anyways. When it happened, someone saw something on their news feed and told the people at the desks nearby. Pretty soon, we all had various news sources up, trying to figure out what was going on. I’d seen FB pix all day of a few different friends at race, and I had no idea if they were okay (turns out, all of my peeps were, so thank God). It was basically an afternoon of confusion because no one knew if it was over or if more was happening. And no one’s cell phones were working. I had to get down to MIT for rehearsal (we were in prod week for The Wedding Singer), and I did not feel comfortable riding the T that evening. Instead I got one of the worst and craziest cab rides ever (in this pre-Uber-takeover world) that was prolly worse than riding the train would have been. Only a handful of the people expected showed up, as the rest were caught up in something releated to the day’s events.

What had freaked me out most was that even if I never ventured down to Boylston street on Marathon Monday, I still knew that street very well. There was even a point living in Fenway where I’d walk that route every single day.

But Boston is a tough city. We didn’t cower. We got angry. And we waited. Then we got to Thursday night.

It was final dress for The Wedding Singer, Kresge Little Theater on MIT campus. I was the choreographer, so I was sitting in the audience on my laptop, taking notes during my numbers and prolly playing Candy Crush the rest of the time. Even though I didn’t go to MIT anymore, I was (and kinda still am) on a bunch of their email lists. I started getting a bunch of stuff about a shooting on campus, but none of them knew exactly what was happening. Something about 7-11, but there were two nearby. There may have been a cop involved. We really didn’t know anything. The rest of the dir(ectorial) staff started seeing the same emails. The cast on stage performing the closing number, oblivious. We decided that since there wasn’t enough information, we’d let the rehearsal end, give notes, and then tell people what was going on. So that’s what we did. Right as we were wrapping up and encouraging each other to be careful and stay safe, all of the students’ phones started going off with text messages. Just a few weeks earlier there had been a hoax active shooter situation on campus, and pretty much everyone was very unhappy with how it was handled. As a direct result of that, an emergency text message notification system went into place and it was being used far sooner than anyone would have expected. Things were starting to get real.

Pretty much everyone there was in two camps: those who decided to barricade themselves in the theater working on the set and eating the bagels that we’d acquired from the Dunks on campus as it was closing, and those who had to get home. I was in the latter group. My apartment was a straight shot up Mass Ave from the theater, usually 20 min on foot. No way I was walking that tonight. I ran to each person in the place who I knew sometimes drove until I found someone who had brought their car and would drive me home. As we made our way out, if we crossed paths with anyone who lived off campus, we grabbed them and insisted they come with us. We left the building, but still had a couple blocks to get to the car. We walked arm in arm, Wizard of Oz style. As we passed Vassar street, we saw police lights in front of the Stata center. Well that answered the question of which 7-11 (there was one near there) and where exactly things happened. (I’d later found out that the music director who I’d persuaded to stay thru notes would likely have been walking thru there on the way home had he left early.) We got to the car and one by one everyone was dropped off.

Now it was after midnight. I’d texted my Mom and a few other key people to let them know I was home. Inconsistent and conflicting reports of what was happening were flying across various email chains and FB posts. I was in Cambridge, which was one town over from Watertown, where the action was. I’d had a temp job in Watertown for a couple months after I graduated. I heard bits about the carjacking and escape, and realized that the two adjacent gas stations where it occurred were ones I visited pretty regularly. What didn’t let up were the sounds of sirens. I stayed up until about 3 AM until I gave up. I’d hoped it would all be over when I woke up.

It was dead quiet when I woke the next morning. I checked my email and the threads had continued, but there wasn’t much more new info. And that basically continued throughout the rest of the day. An eerie silence as the city was shut down, interrupted by the occassional sirens. At 6:00, we got word that the “”shelter in place”” order (more on that in a bit) was lifted. Soon after that, Tsarnaev was caught in the boat on land in Watertown. And it was over. At first people mistakenly thought that he was following police scanner reports on social media tracking the officers’ movements, and that he fell for them lifting the order. But as we now know, it was when the order was lifted that a Watertown citizen walked outside and saw his boat disturbed.

The feeling when it was all over was one of relief and gratitude. The city had worked together and justice was served. There were celebrations in the street and on FB. I felt proud of my town. Our opening night was postponed a day, but that didn’t matter. I was also annoyed that I’d taken the day as a vacation day (typical strategy for opening night) but then everyone essentially had it off. Yeah, first world problems.

So back to the shelter in place order. There’s one thing I want to be very clear on. There was some controversy afterwards about whether or not that was the right call for the authorities to make. From a legal and ethical standpoint, I don’t know. But from what it felt like on the ground, no one saw it as infringing on our rights or invoking martial law. We also weren’t fearful and hiding. What we were doing was staying the \m/ out of the way, and letting the boys in blue do their jobs. We wanted all of our officers looking for those guys, not responding to fender benders and traffic violations. That is why you don’t mess with Boston. In one way or another, we will all come get you.

And that is probably the longest intro I’ve ever written before even getting into the actual movie I’m talking about. I just felt it was important to include my story because it directly impacted my movie experience, in a completely unprecedented way. Patriot’s Day was one of the hardest movies I’ve ever watched and one of the most emotional for me personally.

So seeing as how I followed everything when it was happening, I knew most of what was going to occur in the movie. There were a lot of gaps filled in, especially around the investigation, but most other details I remembered were represented on screen. Even when I knew something was going to happen, I still felt it. The worst for me was anything that had to do with Sean Collier. Not only was I there-ish, but he represented my school and my community. My heart broke every time he was on screen.

What I appreciated most about the movie was how most of the focus was on the law enforcement officers, as it should be. They were the true heroes of the story, and the ones that deserve the recognition and to have their stories told. It was a beautiful showcase for them and Boston.

I feel like I can’t objectively comment on much else on the film like I normally would (plot, acting, directing, etc). And I really don’t have any idea how someone who isn’t as invested would enjoy it. I’d like to think that it’s an interesting and compelling story. But for me, it’s a look back at my former home. And it was the first time since the move that I truly missed that dirty water.

Patriot’s Day – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Assassin’s Creed

“One last trip to the Alamo Drafthouse before I left Laredo (srsly, when is the LA one opening?!) The beauty of the drafthouse (well one of the many beauties) is that when couldn’t decide if I wanted a beer or a shake to go with my fried pickles, I saw that they had a beer shake. Their draft porter mixed with vanilla ice cream. Heaven. The movie, less so. Shall we?

Based on the video game series (which I’ve never played), Assassin’s Creed stars Michael Fassbender as a violent man stolen from death row and taken to a secret research facility. They are attempting to cure violence (okay that concept sounded so cheesy throughout the entire dang movie) with the help of a magical Macguffin that only Fassbender can help them locate. The way he can do this is by accessing memories of his past life, using some giant contraption that allows him to re-experience them.

Again, never played the game, but it sounded like a cool concept. I just found it boring as all hell. For one, I now understand why people get so annoyed with all the Marvel Macguffin storyline films (not that I didn’t understand it before, but now I feel the frustration). The action sequences were cool, and unique for how they blended movements in the two timelines, but the film relied far too heavily on them. They weren’t that cool. It just seemed like a waste of such a good cast: Fassbender (who was supremely badass in the role), Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons. But not a waste of a good beer shake.

Assassin’s Creed – \m/ \m/”

Why Him?

“Here’s a new one for me. I’m writing from the airport. In theory, by the time this posts, I will have been back in LA for a few days (knock wood), but right now I’m sitting in IAH, using the wifi to play Candy Crush. Not sure that’s what God envisioned when he created the world, but hey, it’s how I’m getting by right now.

It seems that every year there’s an irreverent comedy released during Christmas week. Some counter programming to all of the holiday cheer and sap. This year’s selection was Why Him? which really prompted more of a Why That? question. Young independent college age woman brings her family to her new home to meet her boyfriend, who on the surface seems crude and unfiltered and very much not the ideal her parents would have imagined for her. Awkward hilarity ensues, or at least attempts to. The trailer didn’t strike me as too funny, but for some reason I still really wanted to see it. Oh that might have been because the cast included Bryan “”the-one-who-knocks”” Cranston, Megan Mullally, and James Franco. Yeah that trio (or even two of the trio) is reason enough to see just about anything.

My instinctive response was correct in that I really didn’t find it all that funny. I mean, moments here and there, sure, but not the laugh fest I’d been hopeful but not optimistic about. The humor relied more on shock value. Franco would do something weird that would freak out Cranston and cue the laugh track (no, there was no laugh track in the movie). It works for some people, but not me, so much. Still, I love seeing Cranston have fun and go back to his comedy side (I never did see Malcom in the Middle). And I’ve also been on a bit of a James Franco kick in the past couple weeks, which prolly was set off by his appearance on Colbert. That and the fact that my Black Friday DVD’s that I was watching in Texas included his 11.22.63 miniseries.

What was surprising is that the film was more heartfelt than I expected. It wasn’t just about the uncomfortable humor, but the father/daughter relationship took center stage. From that side is was remarkably sweet, and very watchable thanks to the cast. Maybe not a destined holiday classic, but a worthy escape during that crazy season.”