2016 has certainly given us some pleasurable slugfests thus far. Trump vs Hillary. LeBron vs the Golden St Warriors. Stark vs Bolton. Weekly Sunday Night Chinese Food vs My Aging Metabolism. And now we have Blake Lively vs Shark. A matchup that might seem more lopsided than the demographics of the Scripps National Spelling Bee at first glance, but will end up going a satisfying yet brisk 12 rounds. I won’t say who is LeBron and who is the Warriors in this situation, but I will say that I’ve tended to root for Shark throughout his entire filmography….. except of course when he’s pitted against the lovable Ian Ziering. (btw – I highly recommend Sam Donsky’s brilliant celebrity profile of Shark on The Ringer.)
This isn’t to say, by any means, that this is a great movie, not even close. You will not see up close cutaways to Lively and Shark (with a grinning Ryan Reynolds in the background trying to hide his jealousy) during the Oscars telecast next February. Rather, it’s a savory 87 minute, comfy excursion from DC swamp season. Yes it’s cheesy, yes Lively has a few too many conversations with herself, but the suspense hits for the most part and I was actually quite impressed with a lot of the under water cinematography (although this may not translate as well on a smaller screen). Sidenote: shout out to the awesome new spacious, reclining seating at the Georgetown theater. Had I seen the new Independence Day here, which is the worst movie of 2016, I definitely would have fallen asleep. Tier 5
Movies that I’ve claimed at some point in my life were the scariest I’ve ever seen: It, The Shining, The Ring, Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring. 2013’s The Conjuring is about real life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren investigating the haunting of a Rhode Island farmhouse in 1971. It famously garnered an R rating based solely on its scares. There’s no profanity, no drugs, no gore, no sex, but the powers that be claimed the tone was simply too disturbing for the youngins.
The Conjuring 2 won’t make that list but it is easily the scariest movie I’ve seen since the first one in 2013. This go round, the Warren’s are called across the pond to investigate the “Enfield poltergeist” of London, which was apparently a real case involving a haunted row house and a possessed 11 year old that took place from 1977 to 1979. It is now widely considered a hoax, but nonetheless this movie achieves its predecessor’s uneasy tone that will likely heighten your fears of what goes bump in the night. Why are all kids toys from the 70’s so damn creepy! I think its safe to say we will get to see The Warren’s investigate other notorious hauntings in the future given the financial and critical success of the first two, and I’ll certainly be on board. Stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson (who has really hit a groove recently portraying 70’s tough guys). Tier 2 – Runner Up
Joy is the big screen interpretation about the invention of the Miracle Mop that everyone has been yearning for all these years. I cannot believe it took this long! While this film isn’t on the level of David O. Russell’s best films (Three Kings, The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook), it’s entertaining enough to pass the time (i.e. American Hustle). It’s basically two hours of Jennifer Lawrence not taking shit from predatory businessmen and deadweight family members.
Over the holidays I remember Joy being marketed as the biopic for the popular QVC personality, however like last year’s Steve Jobs it’s really just loosely based on her, with the creators taking lots of liberties (apparently a couple supporting characters are 100% fictional). I could care less, a compelling story is more important than historical accuracy (let’s not forget Michael Bay revealing that the main reason JFK was so dead set on America reaching the moon first was to acquire alien robot intelligence). But for all you Joy Mangano purists out there, you’ve been warned. Costarring O. Russell staples Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper. Tier 6
This is definitely the strangest movie I’ve seen in a long time. The Lobster is a dark comedy sci-fi about a society that gives single adults an allotted number of days to find a compatible life partner, otherwise they will be turned into the animal of their choosing. If you can look past the ridiculousness of that last sentence and treat this premise as matter-of-factly as the cast does, this is actually an extremely thought provoking film with a lot of interesting ideas.
The central question of The Lobster (other than how come Colin Farrell can pull off a mustache but I can’t?) asks whether humans are truly meant to live within a partnership or if they are actually better off solo dolo. I’m probably not deft enough to pick up on everything going on after one viewing, but I noticed several metaphors throughout the film making the cases for both ideologies. Nevertheless, I feel bad for the newlyweds that watch this film next month during their flight to Hawaii. If you liked the subtle sci-fi best picture contender Her from a few years ago, you will likely dig this as well. However, if the only sci-fi you like is Escape from Space Jail, you can probably skip this. Starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly, former Bond girl Lea Seydoux, and current Bond wife Rachel Weisz. Tier 2 – Runner Up