Quick Reviews, End of 2016, Part 1: Christine, Zootopia, Snowden, The Lobster, Batman: The Killing JokeRead Now
Hey guys! I do my best to see and deliver as many full reviews as possible, but I can't review them all. So, here are a few quick reviews of films I missed throughout the year that deserve mentioning. Enjoy!
Christine (2016): The story of Christine Chubbuck, a 1970s TV reporter struggling with depression and professional frustrations as she tries to advance her career.
This film got to me. While I can't deny there is some slow writing, and Rebecca Hall seemed just a little bit strained, the source material for Christine was all this film needed to be great. From a broad and poignant never-ending dilemma the media has with the idea of "if it bleeds, it leads," to an intimate struggle with one's manic depression, this film certainly nailed the emotion that naturally comes with an event like this. For those who don't know, this film is based on a real life event involving the suicide of Christine Chubbuck on live television. Rebecca Hall clearly gives it her all as the lead, though I did feel she was a bit strained throughout the film. I mean, this would be a tough role for anyone to take on, and from what I hear Hall herself struggled with a bit of depression while researching and portraying the role, but she did bite off a bit more than she could chew. There's also some pretty big leaps made in the final act, though I guess that is to be expected when someone has manic depression. My biggest complaint with this film, however, is the epilogue. Director Antonio Campos and co. made the controversial decision to show the suicide, (the broadcast was recorded but has been intentionally lost to the annals of time) but afterwards we get this somewhat extended sequence with one of the supporting members of the film. If it had just cut to black after the gunshot, or given us just a couple of shots after the suicide, it would've probably found itself in the realm of greatness. Instead, it is merely good. Though it is certainly a thought-provoking way to spend a couple hours.
My Number: 7/10
Zootopia (2016): In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.
This movie is cute. I went into it knowing that it was one of the better animated features of the year, and coming out I can see why. It has a nice story, likable characters, and a CHILLING similarity to real life. While I will say the story here is typical to most Disney films-the main character is told they can't do something then they go out and do it against all odds-it's typical because it works. This time the unlikely hero is a rabbit played by an unlikely star, Ginnifer Goodwin, and her sidekick is a fox played wonderfully by Jason Bateman. But what really got me in this film was the similarities to real life. While many of the kids might of missed some of these hints, Disney was clearly trying to open the eyes of the parents throughout the film as the election of a certain someone drew near. While it's not a Frozen kind of game-changer, Zootopia is certainly another strong entry in what is undoubtedly another Disney revival. I just wish their live action films were as good. C'mon Beauty and the Beast!
My Number: 8/10
Snowden (2016): The NSA's illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency's employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.
Do yourself a favor. Watch Citizenfour for the story of Snowden. While this film is fine, it definitely lacks the power and grace that came with Citizenfour. I think director Oliver Stone is mostly to blame here, as he really tries too hard to make the movie "dramatic." Even though it doesn't need to be at all. There were also some odd creative choices, like recreating shots of Citizenfour but with the actors of this film. That was quite bizarre, and really distracting, since the documentary just came out 2 years ago. That said, I still enjoyed learning more about Snowden and the life he had before becoming a whistle-blower. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fine in the main role, but he is certainly outplayed by his on-screen counterpart, Shailene Woodley. While she has pretty limited screen time, she definitely makes the most of it. But overall my biggest fault with this film is how it fails to escape the shadow of Citizenfour. It is far too soon to be making a drama about this event, and that really detracts from the overall experience. The film also didn't dive much into Snowden's life in Moscow. I would imagine he's keeping that pretty secret, but in the end titles the film told us that his girlfriend (Woodley) moved out to Moscow to be with him, which I think we can all admit is pretty important information. Why wasn't there a scene of her flying out to Moscow? Or of her at least being with him out in Moscow? Anything at all? Why is an end title card telling us this? Talk about a swing and a miss. And that just about sums up 2016's Snowden film. A swing and a miss. It will not be Hollywood's last attempt at recreating these events so hopefully they'll do better next time.
My Number: 5/10
The Lobster (2016): In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.
My God. What a film. The Lobster is a film that is rather hard to describe with words. It is a crazy and outlandish film that owns its premise, and it never hesitates to "go there." Ultimately, it was a little too much for my tastes, but I cannot deny its creativity. At the heart of the film is a brilliant, dead-pan performance from Colin Farrell, who really puts in one of the best performances of his career in this film. The movie also features a stellar supporting cast that includes Bond stars Ben Whishaw and Lea Seydoux, and another hilarious performance from John C. Reilly. The movie had me laughing from start to finish, but it also delivers a fairly poignant message about love. I was quite impressed by the themes going through this film, I just couldn't buy all of the rules and motivations of certain characters. Particularly the motivations of Lea Seydoux. (Great as she was) At the end of the day, if you like pure creativity there may not be a better film to see from 2016 than this. However it's definitely not for everyone, including myself, and that certainly brings the film down a little bit. I think my biggest issue with this film was that it created a set of rules for its universe that didn't necessarily make sense. As the film progressed, and as Lea Seydoux's camp was introduced, these rules made even less sense, and that just brought the viewing experience down for me a bit. But it's still worth the watch for its pure creativity and for Colin Farrell.
My Number: 7/10
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: The Killing Joke (2016): As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.
So this is my first real crack at the DC animated universe, though I've heard nothing but good things to this point. I also heard that this new comic series from DC was highly anticipated, and this film was supposed to restart the DC animated universe in a big way. However, will it actually do any of those things? I say no. I was HUGELY disappointed by this film. While there are some very dark themes throughout its short 76 minute run time, the calling card for this film is Mark Hamill returning to play his iconic Joker one more time. But this is where the film falters in a big way. It attempts to give The Joker a backstory, but this backstory is very shallow and totally unbelievable. I mean, it's just really lazy! Heath Ledger's Joker's backstory is more engaging than this, and all we get on that is a couple of cut scenes. Overall, the writing is what kills this film, despite some excellent voice-overs. I mean man is it great to hear Mark Hamill voice The Joker once more, but his boring and unbelievable backstory, which was supposed to be the centerpiece of the film, proves to be his undoing. Just watch The Dark Knight again.
My Number: 3/10
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