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          2017 edition
 films we've seen in 2017 & 2016

                  films seen in: 2016 / 2015 /
2014 / 2013 / 2012

Films of 2017 -
Another year of a film ... a few here and there

  While it was action, action, action ... this was film as art.
... more to come

big sick
   This was very funny, at the same time, it had a lot of heart and seemed quite honest.
... more to come


   Salma Hayek was stunning, not in that super-sexy way, but in a fine acting way.
... more to come

   This movie was kind of a tribute to the past, both in moviemaking and in how man viewed the very globe that he lived on. There are many long scenes that hang on a face, or a lush jungle, or the look of the clothing, buildings, and everyday objects of the early 1900s. The camera hangs on these scenes with a longing that reflects a respect for the period.
   Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett became a world-famous explorer who was obsessed to find proof of grand cities in the Amazon jungles of Brazil, cities that would show the world that there was much more than a few scattered tribes of natives in all that jugle. He returned several times on his quest for El Dorado (Z to him), but in the end, he disappeared with his son Jack into to the mysteries of the deep jungle. Theories of their fate range from death by disease or injury, cannibals, wild jungle beasts, or maybe that Fawcett lost his memory and lived out his life as the chief to a tribe of cannibals. His drive to prove his jungle theories took total command of his life, making for repeated and long years away from his wife and children. The competition for fame and discovery was getting tough, the poles had been reached, and unmapped and unvisited territory seemed to be shrinking every day.
   As to the movie, I loved the look and feel, appreciated the acting − Charlie Hunnam was spectacular as the older Fawcett, Angus Macfadyen was memorable as the famous pain-in-the-ass polar explorer James Murray, Tom Holland was good, if brief as the son, Jack, Sienna Miller was strong as Fawcett's wife, and Robert Pattinson was very good as Fawcett's fellow jungle explorer Henry Costin − but it just seemed to be lacking something to make this a great film. If I were smarter, I would be able to tell you what it lacked, but alas, I can tell you it was pretty good for a lot of reasons.


   While nothing can take you back to experiencing something you loved for the very first time, this film was a great time in the same vein as the original.


Four of us walked into the Tower theater (grandmother, grandfather, daughter and granddaughter)
   a good movie played
   all four people found themselves crying in the dark.
   The beauty of the film was that while it got us all crying, and we knew it was coming, none of us felt manipulated ... we came by our tears honestly.
   It's the story of a five-year-old boy in India, who falls asleep all by himself on a train, and when he wakes up, he can't get out of the train and doesn't know where he is. Turns out, he's thousands of miles away, in Calcutta, where he knows no one. Through a dangerous route, this incredibly cute kid (Sunny Pawar) is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) and looks to have a happy life ahead of himself. Yet, the few memories of his family and hometown haunt him, until when he's in his twenties (played by hunk, Dev Patel) he becomes obsessed with finding his family.
   My only complaint of the film is that at this point, through the use of his laptop, the film seems to spend a great deal of time becoming an advertisement for Google Earth. After a long stretch, in which he quits his job and spends his waking hours with maps and train charts, he believes that he has found his home.
   The film comes to its tear-covered conclusion when he walks into his hometown, goes to his home, and it's been converted to house goats. But, a neighbor leads him on, and in the middle of a simple village street, he finds and embraces his mother and younger sister. His mind and heart are filled, even though he finds out that his beloved older brother died very shortly after he fell asleep on the train that night. 
   The structure of the film plays itself out quite simply, beautifully, and it seems honest. This was the best time that I've ever had crying in the dark.

of 2016
- We have seen so few films this year, but here they are.

   I really wanted to see this film, Vicky not so much. I came out of the theater almost completely satisfied, Vicky regretting the time spent. To get my two complaints out of the way first.
   2. Why does Michelle Williams, who I normally love, get nominated for such a small role? Sure, she is convincing when she cries, but she was onscreen so very little.
   Okay, that out of the way, I found this a fantastic depression-fest. My love of being depressed may explain my love and Vicky's dislike of this film.
   Casey Affleck plays the lead character, Lee Chandler, to perfection as a "Sad Sack" guy moving through life damaged beyond any normal recognition. He works as a low paid janitor in Boston and is called to this seaside town when his brother Joe (played by Kyle Chandler) dies and leaves his 16-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) without an adult, and this kid needs some adult attention.
   The pain that Lee suffered revolved around a night that he was drunk, not an unusual occurrence,
and walked to the store for more beer, only to return to flashing fire trucks and his entire house in flames. In short, his kids were all dead, and his marriage never recovered from all this pain.
   Watching Affleck on screen was painful, his anger was always close to the surface and alcohol is a constant destructive force in his life. You can hear the damage in his voice and his manner is anti-social at best, and a fight is always ready to break out.
   I would watch this film again just to witness Affleck's excellent work on screen. 

   Here's a clever and stylish movie that starkly divides itself between an unhappily-married woman reading at home, and the brutal tale of abduction and murder that she's reading. The woman is Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) and when she's not at board meetings for her art gallery, she's home alone. Her husband is out of town for a important business deal, and to mess around with his lover. Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) plays her first husband, a struggling writer, who has now sent her his disturbing manuscript, where Jake also plays the father in the story.
   Here is where the film splits between a very stylish, well-dressed woman lounging around her huge home, and a couple traveling down the freeway with their teenage girl. They are forced off the road by three dangerous guys out having their style of  sick fun. The story becomes threatening, sadistic, and extremely creepy. The family is separated, and the mother and daughter are later found raped and dead.
   This is when Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) comes on the scene as Texas law enforcement. I adored what Shannon was able to do with this portrayal. The look, the voice, the acting − man, he was great!
   The relationship between Bobby and Tony develops into a joint dark bit of revenge on the remaining gang members. Bobby later finds out that he has lung cancer and has less than a year to live, and this drives him into trying to make things right and fair, even though the law isn't moving in that direction.
   Another outstanding acting job was done by Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing the sadistic, and pure evil of Ray Mar, the leader of the gang of thugs. He played and abused Jake's character, knowing he didn't have the nerve to be much of a threat. Ray seemed threatening in every scene, even sitting naked on a toilet.
   The movie's split was my favorite part, it was so interesting to have the tension of the manuscript - which was dedicated to Susan, even though she had divorced him when their romantic/bohemian marriage didn't give her the material wealth that she figured out that she craved - and the sedate shots of Susan reading in bed. She had caused Tony to doubt himself and also hurt him badly when she criticized his writing, when she ended their marriage. The movie's closing scene becomes Tony's revenge. 
   Lastly, I must mention the very bizarre start of the film, when for several minutes a series of VERY large, and completely naked women dance up close to the camera. Turns out that they are their to promote a new installation at Susan's art gallery. That's the thing about Tom Ford and his films, him being a very popular and trendy designer is reflected in his work with a very classy look and feel.
   I know that I have told you too much about the film for this not to be a spoiler, but what the hell        
director/producer/screenwriter: Tom Ford
cast: Amy Adams as Susan Morrow / Jake Gyllenhaal as both Tony Hastings and Edward Sheffield / Michael Shannon as Bobby Andes / Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Mar.

   Here's a film centered on an accountant, something I've worked as, but I never thought to add the very profitable twist of working for drug and underworld clients for huge money, and being an assassin. His attractiveness to these clients was greatly enhanced by his expert marksmanship talents, smarts, and that he was a superb killing machine. In general, this type of film gets incredible lame ... quicker than a speeding bullet, but through some nice acting, a good look and sound effects, and a few clever twists of plot, I very much ended up liking this film.

director: Gavin O'Connor
cast: Ben Affleck as Christian Wolff / Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings / J.K. Simmons as Ray King / Jon Bernthal as Brax / Jeffrey Tambor as Francis Silverberg / Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Marybeth Medina / John Lithgow as Lamar Black / Jean Smart as Rita Blackburn

   So we found ourselves in a dark movie theater, and it was nice to be comfortable in the dark, then, unfortunately, this movie started. I will give it credit for a really good look, some fine acting by Amy Adams − good thing as she doesn't share the screen with any other humans, but for a few minutes here and there − but the plot was pretty pedestrian and when it was over, we were left with having wasted time better spent in a quiet and completely dark room.
   Sure, the silly bit with gravity being different within the alien ship was different, but so what.
   Sure, the military didn't immediately try to blow these alien creatures up, refreshing, until they wanted to.
   Sure, it has been a long time since a linguist has been the star of a film, okay, that was different.   
   Sure, the aliens were unique in that they had seven "legs" and not the eight that I've seen several times before, let's all cheer.
   Sure, I have a bad attitude about 98% of the science fiction films I've ever seen, and this film will be sure keep me away from another one ... for a good long time.
   In short, I didn't like it.

director: Denis Villeneuve
cast: Amy Adams as Louise Banks / Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly / Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber
girl on the train
   Let me get this out of the way at the start, nope, I haven't read this monster of a bestselling book, but now I have seen the movie and I'm not tempted one bit to read the book. Well, maybe reading it might help to round out and explain the story better, but no, I'm not going there. The movie's star is superb. Watching her devolve right before our movie-going eyes was a treat. What's going on? Is she exposing her mental illness? Or, does she have an addiction problem? Or, is the film's world just warped? I won't tell you, but know this, this is some excellent acting by Emily Blunt.

director: Tate Taylor
cast: Emily Blunt as Rachel / Haley Bennett as Megan / Rebecca Ferguson as Anna / Justin Theroux as Tom / Luke Evans as Scott / Edgar Ramírez as Dr. Kamal Abdic / Allison Janney as Detective Riley / and Lisa Kudrow as Martha  

hell or high water
   Easily the best of this year's movie viewing. It's stuffed with some fine acting, has such a great look throughout the film, and the story has real heart.

   Woe is me, I had had such expectations going into this film. It had been so long since there had even been a film that looked like it had a chance of being something more than a thundering action blockbuster. Just maybe, Captain Fantastic would have a heart and a thinking brain behind it. Well, maybe it had those things, but none of that showed on the screen.
   The story centers on Ben Cash, well played by Viggo Mortensen, and his family of six kids who live in the deep wilderness of Washington state. The mother is not there, but we find out that she's been in the hospital and then committed suicide. To say that the family is unconventional is a gross understatement, they are "out there," but the film feels it needs to constantly club the viewer about the head in its counterculture-we're-doing-something-so-special-here frame of mind. It got tiring, and for a family that was so incredible well home educated, they made one stupid decision after another.
   Other than faking they were devout Christians and gospel singing a state trooper off their family bus, and a few other scenes, they wasn't much to like. 
   I found myself enjoying watching, as always, Mortensen act, but not understanding why his character did most of what he did. I'm afraid that fantastic never showed up. Now we must wait for the next possible ray of intelligent filmmaking.

   It's hard no to think of The Big Short and other financial films of the last few years, as you watch George Clooney play Lee Gates a TV financial adviser/clown, and Julia Roberts as his sharp-tongued director, and Jack O'Connell play a cheated investor with a gun and a bomb, who takes over the studio and wants compensation. This is Jodie Foster fourth time at directing and while the movie hit a lot of the marks, showed some clever touches, had some nice acting from everyone involved, it wasn't too strong.
   While the movie had some huge holes in the script, was very predictable at times, it had a few surprises, and with George and Julia to watch, it wasn't a waste of time ... just maybe it would be better as Saturday afternoon TV movie.

   This was such a great preview − and while the movie had some strong moments that paid tribute to the glories of so many movies past − I left the theater smiling, but not that satisfied. There was good acting, surrounded by some excellent sets, but the plot wasn't enough ... for my high standards. But, George is so dreamy.    

   Christ, this was one of the simplest stories ever told in a film ... man wronged, he then seeks revenge. For most of the movie you are watching Leo crawl and crawl and crawl and stumble and stagger towards his goal. I'm not saying that he isn't good, for other than an odd beard that bothered me, he was very intense. He delivered many a groan outstandingly. 
   The look of the whole picture was simply great. It was also a perfect for the very cold movie theater that we were sitting in, we could see and actually feel the cold of the film's constant snow and ice. I liked the look of this film so much, that I could happily watch it as a silent film.
   Me like this movie.  

   We saw this in a Berkeley theater, and it was the most white, silver, and blue-haired crowd that we have ever been seated with. The look of the film was as good as were the actors performances, which were spot on. The movie's plot was entertaining, but didn't measure up in the end. Still, it was fun to watch too older actors do their thing.    


  Favorites of recent years
John's favorite films of:
  2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011

Vicky's favorite films of:
     2012 / 2011


VIDJohn's favorites - 2016

film John's favorites - 2015
BRIDGE of Spies
The Big Short
Imitation Game
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Far From the Madding Crowd

John's favorites - 2014

John's favorites - 2013
blue jasmine

filmVicky's favorites - 2012

John's favorites - 2012

Vicky's favorites - 2011
the king's speech
The King's Speech
Midnight in Paris
The Guard
My Week With Marilyn
The Fighter
The Tree of Life
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

filmJohn's favorites - 2011
midnight in paris
Midnight in Paris

The Tree of Life
The King's Speech
My Week With Marilyn
Take Shelter
The Muppets
Blue Valentine
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Guard
The Fighter

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