Allow me to borrow the spot-on nickname for the miserable Cleveland Browns football franchise. Manchester by the Sea is a gripping, extremely well made Factory of Sadness. Set in the Massachusetts fishing town Manchester-by-the-Sea (yes, that’s actually the name of a real life town), it’s about grief and heartbreak and family and youth and forgiveness and blue collars and Boston accents. If you’re at a loss for things that make you cry now that NBC’s Parenthood is off the air and the Redskins aren’t half bad, go ahead and watch this movie. And it’s not all somber all the time. There is some genuine humor intermixed with the despair, mostly thanks to a town filled with your classic Boston attitudes. (Sidenote: Film-wise I don’t think there’s another area of the country I’d rather spend two hours in. The character of a Boston movie is just the best. West Texas would be second.)
Casey Affleck is getting a ton of Oscar buzz for his role as Lee Chandler and it’s deservedly so. Apparently Matt Damon was originally slated to star (as well as direct) but he had to drop out completely due to The Martian. While I always appreciate Damon and his apples, I just can’t see anyone else doing a better job than the younger Affleck. And good for him, it must be tough when your significantly better looking big brother is The Batman. Just like Ralph Wiggum, at one point you can almost pinpoint the second his heart rips in half. Also starring Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges. Tier 1 – RATED GREG
Rated Greg’s All Time Favorite Theatrical Boxing Matches – Ranked
- Rocky Balboa vs Apollo Creed rematch (Rocky II)*
- Adonis Creed vs Leo ‘The Lion’ Sporino (Creed)
- Adonis Creed vs ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlon (Creed)
- Jim Braddock vs Max Baer (Cinderella Man)
- Rocky Balboa vs Clubber Lang (Rocky III)
*Rocky II is pretty unwatchable for the most part but the fight at the end is the best of the series.
I LOVE boxing movies. Nothing in film brings me more joy than a good boxing montage followed by a knockdown drag out, epic fight. In real life I could give a shit, but no sport translates better to film (Ironically my favorite sport, basketball, translates the worst. I think it’s the 8-foot rims). In fact, with the exception of Teen Wolf Too, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad boxing movie. This statement includes Bleed For This, a 2016 entry to the genre starring Miles Teller as the pride of Providence Vinny Pazienza. It’s ok. Teller does a good job as the cocky Pazmanian Devil, but the story drags a little in the middle and the fight scenes aren’t on the level of the fights mentioned above. Tier 5
It’s hard to talk about Nocturnal Animals without giving much away. You can watch the trailer and still have no idea what the movie is about (just a bunch of serious actors looking serious, saying serious things, kind of like the Next Week on Mad Men commercials), and I think that is the best way to go into this movie. I will say you can add it to my previous list of favorite Jake Gyllenhaal movies, probably at #2 or #3. I will say it features the most intense sequence of the year. I will say that between this and Arrival, Amy Adams might be the 2016 movie MVP. I will say that Aaron Taylor-Johnson turns in the most harrowing villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker (I know right? the kid from Kick-Ass? Seriously). And finally, I will say that this movie requires a BIG disclaimer regarding the first 15 or so minutes, especially the opening credits. I considered walking out of the theater 10 minutes in, thinking this film may be a little too artsy for me (it is made by Tom Ford after all) and that I made a big mistake. But stick with it, it gets really good once the Gyllenhaal shows up. I’d actually recommend walking into the theater 5 minutes late if possible, because you will find the opening credits unsettling and awkward, I promise you. And to be honest I don’t even know how it relates to the rest of the movie. Tier 1 – RATED GREG
When seeing the advertising for The Visit last year, I was surprised to see M. Night Shymalan’s name included as a selling point. Usually if a director has a particularly tough stretch, their name will not be allowed anywhere near the TV spots or posters (i.e. it’s hard to believe now but fresh off six years of late night talk show host punch lines, Ben Affleck was not included in any promotions for his stellar directorial debut Gone Baby Gone). Shymalan was coming off four straight critical and box office bombs spanning over a decade. I mean, if you added up the Rotten Tomatoes scores of the four duds, you would still only get a 59%! Using his name in 2015 to promote a quality film made about as much sense as a conservative political party promoting a candidate that’s on his third marriage.
Lucky for Universal pictures, The Visit isn’t bad! The 64% Rotten Tomatoes score is pretty accurate. It won’t blow you away but you will be entertained and truly care about whether these two likable siblings will survive spending a week with their very strange grandparents (the brother in particular would fit in well with the Stranger Things kids). And yes, I mean survive in the literal sense. Hollywood has brought us killer clowns, killer leprechauns, killer Macaulay Culkins, and now we have killer grandparents. Unlike Don’t Breathe, there are some laughs in this one, both intentional laughs and scary laughs. Tier 5
Son of a….. I wrote a good couple paragraphs on this and accidentally pasted something over it and the “undo” button just WOULD NOT WORK! So in brief….
Morris from America is a dramedy about 13 year old aspiring rapper Morris from Richmond who is struggling adjusting to his new home in an all white German town. Coming of age films that include avoiding bullies, crushing on older girls, and experimenting with certain substances isn’t anything new, but at least this comes from a fresh perspective. The best thing by far about this movie is Craig Robinson, who plays Morris’s 90’s hip-hop loving single father that is having his own issues adapting to European culture. Robinson was never able to crack the starting five on The Office, but he displays such range in Morris from America that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him land some leading man roles in the near future. Tier 6
Loving is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who spent almost a decade in courts fighting for their right to marry while risking significant jail sentences. At the time the state of Virginia, where the Lovings resided, deemed all interracial romantic relations illegal (Virginia Is For Lovers my ass). Pros: On top of a moving story and a great performance by Ruth Negga, it’s an informative and educational flick, one that I wouldn’t be surprised teachers wheel in the TV for in the future. Cons: The pacing of Loving is kind of brutal, which kept me from putting it higher. I understand it was never going to be “Loving: Fury Road” but it seemed like Joel Edgerton and his distractingly weird haircut silently stares for 5 seconds before every sentence he speaks. Tier 5
Rated Greg’s All Time Favorite Alien Invasion Movies – Ranked
- Edge of Tomorrow
- Attack the Block
War of the Worlds Arrival
The Faculty War of the Worlds
Alien invasion movies tend to follow a pretty consistent formula. Within the first ten minutes, aliens and/or UFO’s show up seemingly out of nowhere on a bright and sunny day. For the next fifteen minutes, chaos ensues and people lose their shit, wondering whether they are dealing with a bunch of E.T. sweethearts or, more likely, beings with sinister intentions. The two parties inevitably throw hands, with the bulk of the film featuring the space invaders going HAM on all earthlings that happen to be slower than Tom Cruise, Hollywood’s all-time rushing leader. In the last ten minutes, an actor billed lower down on the poster figures out the chink in the enemy armor by sheer luck and the aliens are immediately toast (kinda like the first time you stumbled upon the correct combination to defeat King Hippo in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out). Roll credits.
So usually my anticipation for yet another alien invasion movie would be limited because of the predictable nature, but I had a strong feeling Arrival would bring something new to the table. It’s directed by Denis Villeneuve, who’s coming in on a 3-movie hit streak (Prisoners, Enemy, SICARIO) each of which is exciting, compelling, and just the right amount of weird. I figured in his hands Villeneuve would put a different spin on the tropes mentioned above, and he certainly delivers. Arrival is about as smart and mature as a sci-fi movie can get, replete with metaphors to the current division of humanity.
Of course it doesn’t hurt to have Amy Adams as the front and center of your film. She brings unequivocally my favorite actress performance of the year thus far and I have a hard time seeing that changing. Co-stars Jeremy Renner & Forest Whitaker try their best to keep up, but Adams is just on one from start to finish. One thing that I’ll admit did catch me completely off guard was just how freakin’ emotional this film is for an “alien movie.” The story alone is powerful but it’s also very much bolstered by its music. I’ve joked before that using an M83 song in your movie is a cheat code to my emotions, and Max Richter is another such artist that elicits this effect. You may not recognize the name but if you watch HBO’s tearjerker series The Leftovers you’ve heard his stuff. Tier 1 – RATED GREG
Ten months into 2016, this is unexpectedly the funniest movie of the year. Seriously. I assumed Popstar would just be one long SNL skit, and it is to an extent, a mockumentary chronicling the rise and fall of a Justin Bieber-type…..for lack of a better word…..jackass, but regardless the jokes are about as consistent as it gets in a brisk 85 minutes. The movie’s early focus is Andy Samberg’s brash and entitled celebrity character Conner4Real, but it expands to a great satire of 2016 fame in general. I counted 41 different cameos of actors, comedians, and musicians, my favorite being Will Arnett in a SPOT-ON spoof of that obnoxious TMZ TV show.
Someone that I wasn’t familiar with is Popstar’s unsung hero Chris Redd who plays Hunter the Hungry, a hilarious take on rappers in the vein of Tyler the Creator. Apparently Redd is a very new cast member to SNL, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pop up more often going forward. Anyways, solid straight up comedies like this are few and far between these days and I would put Popstar up against any of the genre in the past two years (probably best since 2014’s Neighbors). Tier 2 – Runner Up