Well that escalated quickly. A touring punk rock band from northern Virginia walks into the wrong club. What follows is some most the most terrifying and gruesome 90 minutes I’ve seen put on film. The theater I was in must have collectively winced a handful of times, so you may want to skip this if you are extra squeamish. I always get a kick out of well established, “good guy” actors taking a sinister turn and Green Room allows Sir Patrick Stewart to exercise those demons. From Dusk till Dawn meets Panic Room (though much better than both). Tier 1 – RATED GREG
THE JUNGLE BOOK (Pictured) MOWGLI and BALOO. ©2016 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Typically I wouldn’t voluntarily go see a PG Disney movie in the theaters, but it was well publicized that the visuals of this film are revolutionary in the likes of Jurassic Park and Gravity, so I decided I needed to see it for myself. And I’d have to agree that The Jungle Book looks exemplary, including the 3D. I usually find the gimmick too distracting and not worth it, but it works great here. On top of that, it’s just a very solid movie (full disclosure, I’m assuming I’ve seen the 1967 original before, but I honestly have no recollection of it).
They really knocked the voice casting out of the park with this one. Idris Elba is especially menacing as the tiger Shere Khan and Christopher Walken puts a mob boss twist on King Louie that will remind you of his famous scene in True Romance (my favorite movie of all time). Scarlett Johansson, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, and Lupita Nyong’o round out that cast. If you’re stuck taking your 10 year old nephew to the movies, you’re much better off seeing this instead of Barbershop 3. Tier 3
Early front runner for movie I’m most embarrassed to have on this list. I’m not usually big on Oscar bait period piece romances, but I don’t know, it’s just a really well done flick. Good cast. Whoever helps Domhnall (pronounced “punching bag”) Gleason pick his films is on fire right now. Each of his four 2015 movies were Oscar nominated. Tier 4
As you can probably tell from the film collage on the front page of Rated Greg, Richard Linklater’s 1993 film “Dazed and Confused” is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. So obviously I was thrilled upon learning that Linklater’s most recent was written and shot in the same spirit as Dazed. In fact, it’s so obviously in the same vein that I was really hoping for a Wooderson or O’Bannion cameo (there isn’t).
While Dazed recounted the last day of high school in Texas in the 70’s, Everybody Wants Some takes place in the 80’s at a Texas college baseball house over the course of the first weekend of school (Linklater actually played college baseball at Sam Houston State). It’s mostly a cast of unknowns which works really well. The only person I recognized was Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. I also may have recognized that weird kid Glen from Mad Men but this is unconfirmed. In what appears to be his only acting credit to date, Temple Baker steals the show as a jock Spicoli, much like Matthew McConaughey stole the show in Dazed which was his first credit. Everybody Wants Some is by far my favorite movie I’ve seen this year and is a must see. Texas Forever. Tier 1 – RATED GREG
I’ve been a fan of writer/director Jeff Nichols ever since seeing 2011’s “Take Shelter,” in which Michael Shannon plays a man obsessed with building an impenetrable storm shelter for his family. His follow up in 2012’s “Mud” was even better, simply starring Matthew McConaughey as a dude named Mud (still waiting for Mud 2: Muddy Waters btw). Nichols really has a knack for writing and directing thrillers set in the rural South that are based in reality but hint at possible mysterious elements in play, and I actually think these two films served as partial inspiration as to how HBO shot the first season of True Detective.
Midnight Special is Nichols’ first major studio film (WB) and he reunites with Michael Shannon, who plays a father on the run with his “gifted” son from the Feds and other parties. The Arkansas native sticks to the rural South setting that he knows all to well, however instead of only hinting at supernatural forces, this thriller is equally of the sci-fi genre. This is a good movie and worth seeing, but I did not like it as much as it’s predecessors mentioned above, mainly because of the heightened mystical nature. I enjoy a good sci-fi movie, I just don’t think those elements mixed well with this story, and it seemed like the best scenes kept the mumbo jumbo at bay. Also starring Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, and Adam Driver. Tier 4
Refresher: I take every movie I’ve seen this year that range from great to “meh, entertaining enough” and split them up evenly within 6 tiers, rather than a straight up 1,2,3 ranking. Additions to the April update were 10 Cloverfield Lane, James White, Batman v Superman (hatewatch), Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, and Vacation. You can see spoiler-free blurbs on each of these below. Keep in mind that Q1 is generally the weakest quarter in terms of quality of movies released, so it’s likely that a lot of these will drop down a tier or two later in year.
A couple movies that did not make this list were Carol and Trumbo. I gotta stop thinking I need to see something that I never would have messed with otherwise just because it was Oscar nominated. I understand the artistic accomplishments of Carol, but I’m just not about that life.
Much to the chagrin of my Mom, growing up Follin meant you were well versed in Pee-wee Herman. Not only did my Dad have the VHS of “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” but he also had recorded tapes filled with the WAY before it’s time “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” and I just watched these tapes over and over again as a kid (along with Who’s Harry Crumb, The Karate Kid, and Raising Arizona). It’s hard to say if I would be as mesmerized by Big Adventure if I saw it for the first time today, but regardless I can’t turn it off if I come across it on cable. My crush on Dottie has proved eternal and Large Marge still scares the shit out of me.
Predictably, Big Holiday falls well short of Big Adventure’s hi jinx and heart, but it’s still worth seeing if you aren’t too high brow for Pee-wee’s humor (I know he’s not for everyone). There’s a two minute scene simply involving Pee-wee and a balloon that might be the funniest thing I’ve seen all year. Streaming on Netflix. Tier 6
No, this is not a biopic of that James White, the 5th runner up of the 2013 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, former Cincinnati Bearcat, and high school teammate of College Park playground legend Willie “I bet you don’t meet a lot of white guys named Willie” Hopkins. James White is a film about a degenerate, self medicating 20-something going through a rough patch in New York City. It’s not a feel good movie by any means but it is extremely well acted, most notably the titular character played by Christopher Abbott, who appears in close to 100% of the frames and much of which are two feet in front of his face.
You may remember Abbott as a minor character on the first two or three seasons of Girls, before he famously quit the show because of creative differences with Lena Dunham. Twitter picked on him for about a day once that news broke (“who does he think he is”, etc..), but the range he displays in this movie shows he may have been justified in going solo. Oh, and Kid Cudi plays Abbott’s best friend, always a welcome presence. Tier 4
A lot has been said about how hard The Revenant was to make, but I think the hardest movie to make these days is a straight up comedy. I tried thinking of a list of the great comedies of the past couple years and I could only name a few off the top of my head (shout out to Neighbors). Maybe all the best material has moved to TV, or maybe I’m just a curmudgeon. Anyways, Vacation will not join that list of great comedies and it doesn’t hold a candle to the 1983 original, but I did laugh out loud at least 10 times so I thought it was worthy. I’m glad WB kept up the vulgarity and raunchiness of the original, and didn’t try to make a toned down PG-13 version. Currently on HBO. Tier 6