Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Top 10 best movies of the first half of 2016...

It's been a very solid year so far. The most notable thing is, what a year for Canadian cinema so far!! 3 movies on my top 10 list come from Canada, including my pick for #2.

Like usual, I have my top 10, honorable mentions, and instead of picking worst movie of the year, I've decided to go with "Meh movie of the year", which I give to a movie that really should have been so much better than a "meh". It's also because of its 95% at rottentomatoes. That is ridiculous.

I have a bigger bone to pick with this movie than the worst movie of the year which was The Brothers Grimsby, but got shat on by the critics, it did horribly at the box office, so I really don't have much more to say that hasn't been said already. Anyways...

Honorable mentions:

The Secret Life of Pets, Captain America: Civil War, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Embrace of the Serpent, The Legend of Tarzan, Independence Day 2: Resurgence

10. The Nice Guys **** (out of 5)

For those that loved Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang for the great comedic chemistry between the two leads trying to solve a murder in a convoluted plot (Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer) and its wickedly dark sense of humor, you will love The Nice Guys for the exact same reasons.  Shane Black has pretty much employed the same formula, except with Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe (maybe the funniest duo so far this year) trying to solve a mystery this time in the porn industry (though this time a plot that’s easier to follow), and a wickedly dark sense of humor that might be funnier than Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  When I think about it, The Nice Guys is better than Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so if you’ve seen the former, but not the latter, what are you motherfucking waiting for, dipshit?  

9. My Internship in Canada ****

Flying Air Canada is pretty fucking terrible, and their delays are appallingly preposterous.  Though if there is one good thing about this god awful airline, they do offer a good selection of Canadian cinema, and on a much delayed flight back home to Toronto from Vegas, I discovered this movie.  A French Canadian movie about Canadian politics seems like a sure-fire way to fall asleep on the plane, but 20 minutes in, I was hooked.  It’s very funny, and surprisingly very fascinating movie about the bullshit, the scheming, back stabbing and the dirtiness of Canadian politics.  In fact, who knew that such a low key, charming movie about Canadian politics would have one of the most unpredictable twists that had my jaw drop wide open?  I was pissed at Air Canada for getting me home 5 hours later than I was supposed to, but to discover this movie…it was worth it.     

8. Deadpool ****

While the makers of Kick Ass must be like, “What the fuck?  Why couldn’t that be us?”, very happy to see an R rated super hero movie like Deadpool do so well at the box office, and kudos to them for absolutely milking its R rating the way that George Lucas milked the fuck out of Star Wars.  What else is there to say that hasn’t been said about Deadpool?  What I loved most was the way that DEADPOOL did not pull any punches whatsoever with its dark sense of humor, not giving a shit about offending the PC police; absolutely nothing is taboo and I love seeing that in a super hero movie.  It’s also refreshing to get a protagonist who’s a bit of a dick with questionable morals, and the movie never tries to make him likable.  Most of all though, I think one of the most memorable movie relationships has to go to Deadpool and his friendship with the blind woman which leads to some of the biggest laughs of the movie.  I liked Cap. America, but Deadpool is by far the super hero movie of the year.  

7. Sleeping Giant ****

I saw this at the Canada top 10 film festival which included a Q & A with the director and main actor, and even one of the actor's grade 6 teachers showed up to the screening. That was cool.

I have to say that the thought of travelling to Northern Ontario never occurred to me until watching this movie. I loved this movie, and I almost want to travel to Northern Ontario to see all the key landmarks that were captured by this movie, especially Todd's Cliff. It may be an over-simplification to call this the STAND BY ME of Canadian cinema, but I'll just go with that. 

It's maybe the most beautiful looking movie I've seen this year, and shot with such a fresh, energetic style. Most of all though, it's great in its simplicity, a slice of life of one summer in Northern Ontario, and how it forever changes the lives of 3 teenagers. It feels so authentic and it was cool to learn that all 3 actors had little to no experience acting and were very much playing themselves. During the Q&A, the director talked about casting Nick Serino who showed up to the audition with this grandmother, and when he observed how funny the interactions were between them, he ended up asking the grandmother to be in the movie to play the kid's grandmother and for an old woman who's never acted, god damn she was good. All the performances feel so natural, and it never feels like anyone is "acting". It's simply and realistically observing life and you get completely lost in this world, from all the hilarity, the immature, delinquent shenanigans, to the profound disappointments, and hard lessons they learn about life. 

6. The Jungle Book ****

I hope you all got a chance to see this in Imax 3-D as that was definitely the best way to see it, and the most deserving movie of as big a screen as possible, to fully immerse yourself in the jungle. I am hard pressed to think of a better animated film to live action re-make than this one. They took a fun, but cheesy cartoon and turned it into a raw, intense as fuck movie with such an energetic style. It's a testament that a movie with talking animals with even a few musical numbers never came off cheesy. There's a lot of great voice acting, Bill Murray is a very inspired casting choice to play Baloo, but the best performance goes to Idris Elba who plays the tiger Shere Khan. I cannot think of any villain in any 2016 movie that was more menacing than Shere Khan. I don't have too much more to say about Jungle Book. I haven't met one person yet who didn't like it. 

5. Sing Street ****1/2

John Carney has created his own subgenre of "grounded in realism low budget musicals" which takes the cheesiness and contrivance of having characters break into musical numbers, and instead has the musical numbers come in completely realistic, low key ways. First he charmed audiences with ONCE, then there was BEGIN AGAIN, and now I think SING STREET might be his best. Sing Street is by far the most charming movie I've seen all year. Just like his previous movies, Sing Street is an absolute celebration of music and its transformative power in our lives. No matter what bullshit is going on in our lives, we have music to get us through it, music as an outlet and catharsis for our pain, and music as a way of connecting with other human beings. Most of all, Sing Street is one hell of an inspirational movie reminding all artists to take whatever pain and bullshit that's going on in their lives and turn it into art, because why the fuck not? Pain and suffering can be the best inspiration. 

In comparison to John Carney's other work, the music in this movie is not quite as good as Once, but as an overall movie I was far more moved by this movie. Sing Street is the kind of movie that will make you want to hug the fuck out of anyone in sight after watching it. Once again, it's the John Carney musical effect, because I felt the same way after Once and Begin Again. 

4. The Little Prince ****1/2

Not only is this the best animated movie of 2016 by a landslide, it's actually the most touching movie I've seen this year, and yes...the biggest tear jerker. It's a shame that the best animated movie of the year made the least money, and has been seen by the least amount of people. Shame on Paramount for dropping the movie like a bad habit. 

Although it's a family movie and there's enough cool visuals to keep the kids entertained, I think adults will be far more moved by this than kids. It's a great coming of age story, a little girl who truly learns what it means to grow up, against her mother's vision of what it means to be a grown up. As the aviator says, "Growing up isn't the problem, forgetting is." Childhood is the period of our the world is a true wonder, how much of that are we losing we age? Little Prince kind of reminded me of Bridge to Terebithia in being movie directed at children that's bittersweet about dealing with loss, but ultimately what you get out of it. Most of all though, it's a very entertaining movie, weird at times, with very well developed characters and although not hilarious, its sense of humor is clever when it's there. There would be no Oscar upset that would make me happier than to see Little Prince pull a shocking upset for best animated movie over the incredibly over-rated, forgettable and generic Finding Dory. I think even a best adapted screenplay nomination should be in store for Little Prince. 

3. Mei Ren Yu (The Mermaid) ****1/2

This movie broke just about every box office record in China, and currently stands tall as the highest grossing movie of all time in China, and it is very well deserved. If you watched the trailer to this movie, you'd have no idea that's one of the funniest movies of the year, though the trailer unfortunately makes it look like a cheap Chinese Avatar wannabe. 

If you've seen Dances with Wolves, Avatar and Pocahontas, you'll definitely recognize the exact same structure this movie will go through. I'd say it's more like a Chinese Avatar meets a Chinese Monty Python. I take The Mermaid over the movies I mentioned above, it pulls everything off in a brisk 90 minutes, and my god is this movie funny! If you're a fan of comedy, give this movie a try, and you don't need to be Chinese to appreciate the humor; there's a uniqueness to its sense of humor that's sorely lacking in Hollywood comedies. It's very goofy, but clever in its goofiness and with its fair share of dark comedy. 

There's a scene of a billionaire that walks into a police station to report that he'd been abducted by mermaids. I knew at the start of the scene that they were going to deliver some big laughs, but it transcended my expectations and this is by far the funniest scene of the year. This scene should be studied by all comedy directors and all aspiring comedy directors. 

There's no doubt that the CGI of this movie are cheesy, but there's oddly a charm to it. At some point though, the laughs die down for the movie to deliver a very important message about how badly we're fucking up the environment and a condemnation of human greed. While it's not exactly subtle in the way it delivers its message, it's not overly heavy handed either. To my fellow Chinese people, you absolutely must watch this movie!! #1 movie of all time in China, come on, what are you waiting for? For the non-Chinese who's bored of the same shit from Hollywood and want something different, this is your movie! 

2. How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town ****1/2

It was a tough call for "Funniest movie of the year" between this and my #3 pick, but I think I might give this a slight edge. 3 Canadian movies made my list, but this is the best movie from Canada this year, and the funniest raunchy sex comedy I've seen in a long long time; I'll call this the highest brow low brow sex comedy. There's a uniqueness to the gags, and everything about the awkwardness, inadequacies, and problems in the bedroom, including how no one can control their orgasm face is captured with such hilarity. Funniest appearance, there's a nerdy looking guy who looks like a skinnier Jason Segel, and oh my god does he steal the show! But, when it comes to the low key dialogue based humor, the dialogue writing is sharp and witty.

I really enjoyed the ensemble approach, highlighting that all the characters have something different or a different motivation to get out of the orgy. But what surprised me is that despite how absurd the premise of the movie is, when the comedy dies down for some drama which usually fails in just about every raunchy comedy, it actually works in this one. I'm impressed that a movie called How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town has surprisingly very good character development, might I add that I was very surprised at how beautiful and poetic of an ending it was. This is a movie that goes all the way with its raunchy gags, but has a lot of heart and is much smarter than you'd expect too.

1. Eye in the Sky ****1/2

After walking out of this movie, I knew for a fact that it would be #1 on my half year list. It wouldn't surprise me if it ends up at #1 at my end of the year top 10 list either. Eye in the Sky is the best political thriller I've seen in a long time; it's almost like a war movie stage play. It is absolutely fucking intense from beginning to end. It's a morally challenging movie that can be debated well after the credits roll.

We hear about drone strikes in the news all the time, but we still know very little about it. Eye in the Sky is fascinating at shedding a light on everyone involved in drone strikes, from the military to the politicians to the drone pilots themselves and the psychological mindfuckery that comes with their jobs and of course the most unfortunate thing about the drone strikes: the innocent victims that are in the wrong place at the wrong time. It also looks at the political and propaganda ramifications of drone strikes. This movie is uncompromising, challenging, and disturbing.

Of all 2016 movies so far, this is the first true contender for best picture for the upcoming Oscars. It's the best work that Helen Mirren has done in a while, and what a great final performance for Alan Rickman.

The Meh movie of 2016:
Finding Dory  **1/2

It's not that Finding Dory is a bad movie, because it's not. But, it's meh, and that is so fucking disappointing. We hold Pixar to higher standards due to their resume, it's the same director as Finding Nemo and Wall-E, it's the sequel to arguably one of the best animated movies ever made, there was an over 10 year gap between the movies...and this was the best they could do?! Unlike Toy Story 2 and 3 that truly felt like creatively motivated sequels, this sequel truly felt like an uninspired money grab. Finding Dory is completely generic. It does absolutely nothing new that wasn't done better in the original. There is not one moment in this movie that sticks out. There is not one memorable chase scene. The comedy writing is uninspired, once again...are there any quotable lines of dialogue or jokes that anyone can remember? When you hear lines like, "Holy carp!", you know the writers are desperate.

I bet anything that a year from now if I were to ask you about the movie, you'll forget most of what happened. The only things I'll remember about this movie are how utterly fucking irritating the speaking whale was (too bad, because that was many people's favorite joke from Nemo), and the incredibly heavy handed attempts at drama, with those cheesy ass flashbacks to Dory's past. My god did the director try so fucking hard to get tears from the audience.

If this was not a sequel to Nemo, and it wasn't made by Pixar, then I would be much more forgiving to this movie. For them to make a sequel to one of my all time favorite not just animated movies, but movies in general, I wish they had an inspired idea for why a sequel is necessary and this sequel was clearly not. But hey, it made Pixar a shitload of money, so bring on Cars 3 or 4 or which one are they at now? And Toy Story 4 (yes, let's make an additional sequel to the most perfect trilogy ending imaginable to part 3), and Inside Out 2, and why not make a Ratatouille 2 and Brave 2 while you're at it? How about Monsters Highschool? Then Monsters Elementary school? I didn't include Incredibles 2 in that rant, because I can actually see a lot of creative possibilities in that.

The Little Prince, Secret Life of Pets and Zootopia are far superior animated movies, and Pixar's supposed to be the best.

Other Honorable awards worth mentioning:

Trippiest movie of the year (best movie to see high):
Independence Day: Resurgence

Trippiest end credits:

Best Use of 3-D:
The Secret Life of Pets

Best action scene:
Captain America: Civil War - Airport scene

Funniest movie:
How to Start an Orgy in a Small Town

Tear Jerker of the year:
The Little Prince

Performance of the year: 
I was originally gonna give it to a serious role, but fuck it...

I'm giving it to Chao Deng who plays the Chinese billionaire who eventually falls in love with the mermaid in MEI REN YU (THE MERMAID). Simply the funniest performance of the year!

Ensemble cast of the year:
Eye in the Sky, hands down!

Villain of the year:
Idris Elba as Shere Khan in Jungle Book