Quick Reviews, End of 2016, Part 3: The Founder, Edge Of Seventeen, Bleed for this, American Honey, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkRead Now
The Founder (2016): The story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers' innovative fast food eatery, McDonald's, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.
Well. Let's talk about this movie, ya? Because....as interesting a story as it is, The Founder suffers from one tremendous problem. A problem which torpedoes the entire film: it glorifies the main character. Ray Kroc is a despicable man, and this film spends way too much time singing his praises. Yes, he created the empire now known as McDonald's, but he destroyed a lot of lives along the way. An easy example of this misstep with the film is with the female characters. Laura Dern is his initial wife, (and grossly miscast, but that's a whole other thing) and about halfway through, he divorces her. No rhyme or reason. Just....sitting at the dinner table, and, "I want a divorce." Then, later on, we discover that he's remarried to a woman who was clearly married to someone else during the film. No mention of how that came to be. It just....happens. This film honestly would've been infinitely more interesting had it been told from Dick and Mac McDonald's standpoints versus Ray's. You really have to feel for them: they are very similar to the Loving couple who paved the way for marriage equality with Loving v. Virginia in that they stood at the precipice of fame, glory, and immortality and walked away because they didn't want it. There's no denying that this is an interesting story-after all, today McDonald's is one of the biggest companies in the world. However, we're still be waiting for it to be told right: from the perspective of the McDonald's brothers.
My Number: 4/10
The Edge of Seventeen
The Edge of Seventeen (2016): High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.
I'm such a sucker for a good coming-of-age film. And The Edge of Seventeen is certainly that. While there are certainly problems with this film-most notably it presents its solution pretty much immediately then you go through the drama of the film-it was still a good time. Oh and Kyra Sedgwick is totally miscast. Sorry. However! Woody Harrelson makes up for it in one of the best roles I've seen him do, and Hailee Steinfeld is great. If Hollywood had more respect for the coming-of-age flick, she might've had another Oscar nomination. This is easily her best performance since True Grit! Beyond that though, this film is an engaging story (even though it shares a lot of similarities with other coming-of-age films) that I was totally in on. Oh, and there's a great soundtrack! As usual. No Perks of Being a Wallflower level good, but still good. I just wish the solutions to Steinfeld's problems weren't presented so early on and peppered in throughout the film. But really. EASILY the best parts of this film are the exchanges between Steinfeld and Harrelson. I'm sure someone in Hollywood will recognize their chemistry and build a film around having those two as the leads. I would have had no problem watching an entire film of just the two of them snarking off to each other in a classroom. This film is worth a watch for the two of them alone, but if you like the coming-of-age flick, there's no doubt this one was the best one of 2016.
My Number: 7/10
Bleed for this
Bleed for This (2016): The inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who, after a near fatal car crash which left him not knowing if he'd ever walk again, made one of sport's most incredible comebacks.
Ahhhh yet another polarizing boxing film. I can't emphasize this enough: I am a sucker for come-from-behind boxer films. Almost as much as the coming-of-age film. Don't ask me why because I can't tell you, but for whatever reason I love these! I am the guy that loved Southpaw, after all. But what makes this film so polarizing is that it's basically two separate films that are split by the car crash that nearly kills Vinny. (Played by Miles Teller) The first half of the film is a boring ripoff of literally every other standard boxing film ever, and the second half is the actual come-from-behind story. Which I enjoyed! Once we got past the crash there were several exhilarating sequences of Teller's training and him pushing himself past the limits of the human body. Unfortunately, while Miles Teller is pretty good as the lead, Aaron Eckhart is TERRIBLE as is trainer. I don't know what he's doing with this character, but GOD is he awful. There really wasn't anyone else who made a splash in this film beyond Ciaran Hinds, who had like one good scene. Everyone else.... I didn't even bother trying to figure out who's who. Vinny's got a big family in this film, and the filmmakers make little to no effort to flesh them out. Honestly this film would've been significantly better had it opened with a montage of Vinny before the accident then went straight into it, and not had Aaron Eckhart as his trainer, but beggars can't be choosers. What we get here is another average boxing flick. Just go watch Creed again.
My Number: 5/10
American Honey (2016): A teenage girl with nothing to lose joins a traveling magazine sales crew, and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love as she criss-crosses the Midwest with a band of misfits.
American Honey is a film that feels free. It's a very spontaneous film, and I can really respect that. It made a GREAT casting decision with its lead and complete newbie Sasha Lane, and Shia LaBeouf is even pretty good. Though he was very much Shia LaBeouf. However, it's the freedom of this film that is so liberating. However, it is also freeing to a fault-this film is kind of a scattershot of ideas and no direction. You look at another hippie film that came out in 2016, 20th Century Women, and you see a film that, while spontaneous, still has a goal. It's still trying to get somewhere. American Honey, though, feels like it has no destination. And it ends like this too-the film pretty much just cuts to black, with none of the questions it raised to the viewer answered. I mean I get why it made this decision, but c'mon! At least give us like a bit of closure! Also, there was no editing crew to speak off and thus scenes certainly dragged, and I absolutely DESPISED how this film was shot. The camera never focused on the person I actually wanted it to focus on, and it would randomly cut to things that had nothing to do with the scene because of its spontaneity. And that's why I still enjoyed this film! I can respect a film that really embraces its premise and makes itself as freeing as it can in every facet of film making. Even if it was frustrating at points, I was totally suckered into the film, and couldn't help but enjoy myself. If you identify with the whimsical crowd, move this one to the top of your list. Just behind 20th Century Women.
My Number: A deserving, but frustrating 7/10
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016): 19-year-old Billy Lynn is brought home for a victory tour after a harrowing Iraq battle. Through flashbacks the film shows what really happened to his squad - contrasting the realities of war with America's perceptions.
This movie sucks. Unfortunately it's only my second film from director Ang Lee (the other being Brokeback Mountain) and this one did not leave a great taste in my mouth. The film's problems start with the dialogue. Literally no one talks in real life like they do in this film, and the delivery of said dialogue by these actors is anything but great. I think the camera had something to do with this, as there was this awkward close up going on most of the time when everyone was talking. Newbie Joe Alwyn is alright, but right after seeing other newcomer Sasha Lane's performance in American Honey I can safely say I've seen far better. Additionally, this film is a tonal catastrophe. What is the objective of this film? How are we, the viewer supposed to feel? I have no clue, and it's not because we're supposed to figure things out. Oh no, this film hammers you over the head and makes its points as obvious as possible. Just....one moment we're supposed to be thinking, "Man these guys put their souls out there for us." Then the next it's, "Man everyone hates these guys. Are we supposed to be feeling that way?" And in between there are stories about Billy's sister, played by Kristin Stewart, who's easily the best part of this film with the 3 scenes she gets, and there's this story about "Should I stay or should I go?" and there's a movie deal with Jerry Jones-I mean "discount" Jerry Jones played by Steve Martin and there's this guy who is their agent but is he sleazy? I don't know. Oh wait! Doesn't matter we're moving on. See? See the problem we have here? There's way too many ideas being flown around for any of them to stick. As a result none of them do, and what you end up with is likely (or I will tell myself this) the worst film Ang Lee has ever made. Tear it down and start again.
My Number: 3/10
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