L&D Picks for 2016

Here is our long-awaited (mostly by us) list of the top five movies of 2106, taken from the universe of movies viewed by both L & D in 2016.   The rankings are based on a proprietary L&D weighting formula that you can just bet Netflix would kill for.

And here we go:

6. (tie) The Girl on the Train:  *The Girl on the Train* was reminiscent of the great French New Wave Director Claude Chabrol who concerned himself with the police procedural, bourgeois family life in small towns and murder. It also crossed paths with the neurosis found in many of the female leads of Hitchcock’s films and with the idea of a society turned against the protagonist, also a mainstay of Hitchcockiana. Again, going in with low expectations, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and found the production values, cinematography, set and costume design, makeup, story, editing, acting, sound design and even score (by The Simpsons theme own Danny Elfman) to be above average if not under par. So why does this film not get the hype it deserves? Well dammit it should. Perhaps a better title would have been “Murder on the Hudson”.

6. (tie) The Arrival:  (Marketed outside the US as *The Giant Space Turd Movie*)  *The Arrival* revisits the standard alien romance drama with the strong female lead made famous by Jodie Foster in *Contact*, but without the benefit of Matthew McConaughey’s Matthew McConaugheyness. Only this time, it’s Amy Adams as the lead egghead, and she is pretty terrific. If you like aliens and you like romance, there is probably something for you here.

4.  Rogue One:  The last Star Wars movie was a greatest hits album and so of course people liked it, because, who doesn’t like the hits?  But *Rouge One* was the story I have been waiting for. Not to mention I am a big Diego Luna fan. His company produced a film I worked on in Mexico called Voy a Explotar. I was fortunate enough to meet him on a rooftop in Guanajuato during production. Great guy and actor. One of my favorite films of his is called Rudo y Cursi, a fútbol comedy well worth watching. But hey, you are here to read about *Rouge One*. Yes, I knew the ending but I still enjoyed the ride getting there. And basically I enjoyed everything about it. We watched in 3D and to be honest, I can’t tell the difference. But is it because it’s so good? If it’s working, it’s working in a subtle way and maybe that’s for the best. Except for the credits. Credits in 3D are always amazing. (L)

3.  Snowden:  Oliver Stone hit it out of the park. This film could easily have been a geeky dud, filled with computer screens and talking heads but it was a classic Hollywood film wrapped around a social document told in an arresting, cinematic way. Not to mention fantastic, measured performances including Nicholas Cage. It was impressive. Everyone who watches this film will get something worthwhile out of it.

1.   (tie)  Hell or High Water:  *Hell or High Water* delivers on its promise to be the best modern western since *No Country for Old Men*. Ben Foster deserves leading-man credit for keeping his usual psychotic character under wraps to let the movie happen around him. Jeff Bridges reprises his role of Rooster Coburn as the surly,aging lawman, though he too is a little more reserved in this role. Chris Pine is a better Captain Kirk than sad sack, and is too good looking to be terribly convincing, but he does alright. We haven’t seen this all before, but it seems like we’ve seen most of this before. Nonetheless, there are a few surprises, and the compelling plot and characters, along with some reasonable action sequences and a number of provocative thematic elements, mask some of the weak links of the story line. Of particularly interest is the Evangelical Christian Native American Texas Ranger, who didn’t deal well with Bridges’ many ethnic slurs. This is definitely one of the best couple movies we’ve seen this year.

1.   (tie)  Deadpool   With action sequences targeting 15-year old boys and jokes targeting 40-something men, it’s probably no big surprise that it was a hit with the L&D crowd.  If you like the opening sequence, you’ll probably love the rest.

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Our thank yous to the Marcus Valley Cinema for $5 Tuesday and $5 student Thursday nights, which made this all possible.

See you Tuesday on the barcalounger!

Gold

Gold-Matthew-McConaughey

Gold is the third straight movie we’ve seen that focuses exclusively on a single character obsessed with conquering his world (see also *Live by Night* and *The Founder*). In this case the character is our main man, Matthew McConaughey, as a mineral prospector whose Nevada ‘plays’ have come to an end by the late 1980s, so he sets his sights to his dreams about the vast untapped wealth of rural Indonesia. From that point, the movie splits its time between the lushness of the jungle in one part of the world, to the arid semi-mountainous climes of Nevada in another, to the concrete jungle that is Wall Street that bankrolls the whole affair.

Actually, that is not quite right.  There are two candidates for main character, which the viewer has to sort out on their own.  The first candidate, of course, is McConnaughey as Kenny — a rambling guy with a protruding gut, a spectacularly receding hairline, and a tooth issue that I can’t quite put my finger on, who is often seen sporting tighty whities that are neither tight nor white. There are very few if any scenes where Kenny isn’t the focal point, and he is mostly fun to watch.  Big props to him for looking pretty much like a fat guy on a bender  from wire to wire in this one. The other main character is Edgar Ramirez as the gold whisperer, Michael Acosta, who gets to play the sharp-dressed man here, and is beautiful doing so.  I still can’t decide if he nailed it with his performance or if he kind of sucked. I’m leaning toward nailed it, with the suckiness coming more from some unevenness of the plot and pacing and incidentals.

Continue reading “Gold”

REVIEW: Live By Night

The L&D Report made its first trip of the year Thursday to see Ben Affleck’s new vanity project, *Live By Night*. Affleck plays the Boston Irish war hero cum petty thug cum Prohibition-era gangster hellbent on revenge (but with a heart of gold!). With a run time of just under four and a half hours, this sprawling epic is all over the map more than anything we’ve seen since Ibn Battuta. The plot itself is neither interesting nor surprising (though admittedly I was surprised it didn’t end sooner) and hardly worth recounting.

There were a few aspects where the movie excelled. There were some great long shots of Florida drives, some reasonably cool costumes (that generally made Ben Affleck look super good), and a really extraordinary car chase that had me seriously amped. There were also several supporting actor roles that were well played, including Brendan Gleeson as the police chief dad in mourning, Chris Messina as Affleck’s colorful Florida sidekick, and Titus Welliver as the grape-brained racist killer dude with this lip deformity thing.

Even so, most of the characters were caricatures or worse. The usually reliable Chris Cooper at one point breaks down crying, and it isn’t clear if it’s part of the story line or whether he can’t believe he’s stuck in that role. It doesn’t get any better for Cooper and he ends the movie in a completely debased and degraded state, which is I’m guessing how most audiences will feel walking out of the theater.

Let’s just say that this movie definitely didn’t hit the $5 value bar, and L&D Reporters will not be catching this when it is rerun on TNT, which will probably be coming sooner than you might think.

L&D Report, Genesis

This is the post excerpt.

This is the L&D Report.  We are two guys fulfilling our life-long dreams of having a blog with movie reviews and a few other movie-related topics.  We will also possibly broach the subject of the fast-paced sport of curling, and all that entails.

Here, we will tell it to you straight.  We have not accepted any type of compensation for favorable reviews, though we are not saying that we would reject a reasonable offer.