Friday, January 20, 2017

A Guide Through 2016 Movies: Every movie I saw this year graded.




My Grading Scale:

I am a fan of movies first, and a reviewer second. I try my best to recognize that some movies may not be excellent artistry, but deeply resonated with me; as well as some movies might actually be aesthetically perfect, but didn't quite resonate with me. So here's a brief survey of my grading rubric.



A+. Perfect in every conceivable way, no complaints.
A and A-. Either perfect but didn't resonate enough to warrant a higher grade, or resonated immensely but is just barely lacking in quality for a higher grade.
B+. Solid in enough ways to warrant a recommendation.
B. Mild recommendation.
B-. Barely recommendable.
C+. I didn't like it, but that doesn't mean its total crap.
C. Enough redeeming components to keep me from calling this a total failure.
C-. I didn't like it. Almost trash.
D+ to D-. Garbage. Varying levels of garbage.
F. So bad I actually resent it.

















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13 Hours. C

Image result for 13 hours 2016 poster

Buff, violent and completely patriotic, 13 Hours has a compelling story to tell, and a passionate performance by John Krasinski, but Michael Bay is so self indulgent the movie stops being impressive at the two aforementioned points.




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Zootopia. A+


Image result for zootopia 2016 poster

Cute movie about a spunky, adorable bunny and a sly fox? Sure, but only on the tiptop surface. This is a profound cultural commentary on prejudice and inclusion; prophetic in the way it speaks truth to power and all too relevant.


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The Witch. A-

Image result for the witch 2016 poster

This movie is aesthetically perfect. I mean really, I can find no faults. So why not an A+? It's too good at what it sets out to do, so creepy I'll probably never watch it again.


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10 Cloverfield Ln. A-

Image result for 10 cloverfield 2016 poster

John Goodman continues his streak as the best actor in Hollywood without a nomination in 10 Cloverfield Lane. One of the funnest and most engaging thrillers of the year.


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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. B-


Image result for whiskey tango 2016 poster

A well cast troop of actors deliver fantastic performances all around, especially by Tina Fey and Martin Freeman and a solid script. Sadly, its growth is stunted by choppy direction.

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Eye In The Sky. A


Image result for eye in the sky 2016 poster

A suspenseful and profound meditation on war. The movie shows the impossible choices army personnel are faced with everyday with convincing realism and powerhouse performances. RIP Alan Rickman.

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Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. B


Image result for batman vs superman 2016 poster

A lot of people completely canned this, and I get it, almost all critiques about this are fare and valid. However, you will never find me more biased then when it comes to a good batman portrayal, and Ben Affleck makes the movie for me.


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Demolition. C


Image result for demolition 2016 poster

This weird, self indulgent indie flick is made semi watchable only by the always amazing Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts.

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Midnight Special. B+



Image result for midnight special 2016 poster

This slow-burn Sci-fi mystery is well acted and told with passion. Well worth the watch!




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The Jungle Book. A+




Image result for the jungle book 2016 poster

Revolutionary in the way Avatar was, this movie doesn't for one second allow the out-of-this-world visual effects stand in the way of its gigantopithecus heart. Perfect in every way. Plus, Neil Sethi, common! Perfect Mowgli.

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Deadpool. A


Image result for deadpool 2016 poster

Crude, crass, violent and astronomically irreverent... What a breath of fresh air! Ryan Reynolds is, of course, perfectly cast and the fight scenes are directed with clear artistic vision. For mature audiences only, Deadpool had me laughing until my side hurt from beginning to end.

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Hail, Caesar! B


Image result for Hail Caesar 2016 poster

I think this is a really great movie satirizing the bygone era of the Hollywood golden age, but most of the references are lost on my millennial mind. I definitely laughed a few times and the all star cast seems to be having a blast, and that is infectious.


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Hush. A


Image result for hush 2016 poster

This takes minimalist film making to a whole new level. One location and only five actors; yet the suspense is higher than any big-budget movie you're going to watch this year. This movie takes a premise that should feel overused and tired, and it executes it in a fresh and terrifying way.

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Barbershop 3. B+


Image result for barbershop 3 2016 poster

Here's what the little surprise was: It's funnier and more watchable than either of its prequels. Here's the huge surprise: It is chalk full of social commentary about the current social caste system and the gang violence as a result of it.


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Keanu. B+


Image result for Keanu 2016 poster

This is the Dumb and Dumber of this generation... and that's the best way to sell me on a movie. Funny from start to finish, Jordan Peele and Kegan Michael Key take all the zany, bizarre and irreverent humor that makes their show so great and they plaster it on the silver screen.


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Captain America: Civil War. A+

Image result for captain america civil war 2016 poster

I'm gonna shoot straight with y'all: This is one of the greatest super hero movies ever made. From its political prowess to its philosophical questions to its insane second-to-second humor to its breath-taking action; if you haven't seen this movie stop reading and go watch it. Seriously. I'll wait for you.



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Nice Guys. A-


Image result for nice guys 2016 poster

Now that you've watched Civil War, we can talk about this. Nice Guys is a fun and watchable buddy-comedy romp. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe have some of the best screen chemistry I've ever seen, seriously. Not to mention it has a sharp and hilarious script.

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Sing Street. A+

Image result for sing street 2016 poster

This is one of those movies that make me think 2016 will go down as one of the great years in cinema. Perfectly written and directed, featuring beautiful original songs, and charming, yet moving, performances, Sing Street is a perfect movie.

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X-Men Apocalypse. B+


Image result for x men apocalypse 2016 poster

Yes this movie has its share of pacing issues, and the story-telling isn't always coherent, and yeah, maybe the CGI should be better for a movie of this caliber; all that said the latest X-Men still has the heart and brilliant performances that make this franchise so great.

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The Shallows. B+


Image result for the shallows 2016 poster

This is one of the most suspenseful movies of the year. What it lacks in originality it makes up for with Blake Lively's fearless performance and edge of your seat, anxiety inducing, thrills.


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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. B+


Image result for popstar 2016 poster

I'm not going to lie, this movie has some insanely crass moments. It also made me laugh myself to tears a couple times. Andy Samberg occasionally seeps into annoying for me, but other than that, this is a solidly told mocumentary.

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Finding Dory. A-


Image result for finding dory 2016 poster

Finding Dory has so much going for it; an endearing lead character that never falls into being obnoxious, a quick script and beautiful animation. Though it occasionally slips into over-the-top cutesy, I thoroughly enjoyed this solid entry into the Pixar Cannon.

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The Conjuring 2. A-


Image result for the conjuring 2 2016 poster

This movie charges full speed ahead in the spirit of what made the first one so great. It perfectly balances the heartfelt moments with the scary ones, and striking that balance while executing those two elements well make this a well above average horror movie.

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Me Before You. C-


Image result for me before you 2016 poster

First I'll say this: Emilia Clarke is perfect and adorable and if you need a reason to watch it, she is your girl. Sam Cafflin and Janet Mcteer do good work here too, and it is adequate enough directing. Then I'll say: Why? Why make this? Is it trying to deliver a profound message on the plight of the handicapped folk? It doesn't work. This is a needlessly sad emotionally pornographic movie that every now and then has some good artistry.


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Ghostbuster. C+

 Image result for ghostbusters 2016 poster

I really, REALLY wanted this movie to work. All that chauvinistic BS it got from sexist morons made me want it to be astronomically better than the original. I have love for all four of the leads from their previous works. Alas, it was an overly CGI'd flick with a few decent laughs and nothing even remotely new to add to the table.

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The Purge: Election Year. B

Image result for the purge 2016 poster

This is a brilliant work of social commentary. I think this is the movie the first two were trying to be the whole time. I only have one, pretty big complaint. This movie had weird, randomly really bad acting. Like, so bad it felt like I was watching a Gods Not Dead movie; but even still this is a fun and weirdly profound movie.

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Lights Out. B+


Image result for lights out 2016 poster

I have a theory that that the 2010's will be looked at as a great horror movie renaissance. 2016 has done nothing but help confirm this for me. This year alone, so many remarkable scary movies were released; and Lights Out is an example of this. Simplistic in its scope, well acted and made with clear vision, this chilling horror movie is must-see stuff for any scary movie fan.

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Divergent: Allegiant. F


Image result for allegiant 2016 poster

As good of a year in movies 2016 turned out to be, that still couldn't keep this abortion of a year from sneaking its ugly clutches into the cinemas. Case in point, this movie! What a tremendous, stinky, gigantic piece of crap this movie turned out to be. This has some of the worst artistry of any movie I've seen this decade. You can't just jumble words together and call it a script, and you can't create a CGI background for your laptop and call it big-budget movie material! Here's how bad this movie is... It has some of the best actors working today: Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, even Shaileen Woodly has turned in some solid performances; but these actors didn't redeem the movie at all for me, it just ticked me off because the movie peed all over their significant talent. I felt sad for them. Screw you 2016, screw you.


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Lion. A

Image result for lion movie poster 2016

A heart warming and extremely compelling story. Nicole Kidman reminds us who she's one of the best and Dev Patel does work worthy of an Oscar nom.



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Star Trek Beyond. B+

Image result for star trek beyond poster

Honestly, the way this was marketed made me feel like this was going to amount to anything more than a loud, obnoxious and overly CGI'd mess. That was naive from me, this Star Trek reboot keeps its hot streak with its third installment! Funny, fun and full of dazzling adventure. Fans of the franchise will be pleased.

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Nerve. B

Image result for nerve poster 2016

This plot had so much potential to be one of the most meaningful social commentaries we've seen this year, however, unrestrained direction and choppy editing keep this movie on the wrong side of greatness. It's still a fascinating concept and the leads do good work here.


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Suicide Squad. B+


Image result for suicide squad poster 2016

I feel like Warner Bros. did to David Ayer with this movie what Fox did to Joss Whedon with Firefly and Dollhouse; they didn't trust the genius of their master filmmaker. Ayers last couple movies, End of Watch and Fury, were solid A+'s and its a shame the studio didn't trust him here. You can see just enough of the directors influence for this to be worth a watch, but if you can just watch the Blu-Ray extended version.


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Green Room. A-


Image result for green room poster 2016

Just as Alan Rickman went out on just about the best possible note with Eye in The Sky, so does Anton Yelchin here. Though, yes at times it is horrifically violent, this movie is told with a surprising of tender love and care. I feel like I cared so much more about what was happening here than the plot called for, and that's a huge compliment. If you like scary movies, this one is close to being a masterpiece.




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Sausage Party. B


Image result for sausage party poster 2016

A crude, loud, crass, obnoxious, annoying, patronizing indictment on faith and anyone "dumb enough" to buy into it, but doggone-it if this didn't make me laugh hysterically more than once.



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Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party. F


Image result for hillary's america



Slithering past propaganda and into conspiracy theories, Hillary's America is another two hours of Dinesh D'Souza spewing one unsubstantiated claim after another. And the stuff that can be substantiated is done in the lowest quality re-enactment imaginable. If you want a solid critique on the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton, there are much better places to look than here.

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Don't Breathe. A-




 This movies title is apt, seeing as how the suspense is so tense you will not be breathing until the credits role. I haven't seen anything quite like this before. I think this is probably the best scary movie of the year.
Image result for don't breathe poster




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The Invitation. A-


Image result for the invitation poster


This quiet little mystery involving a group of friends invited to a dinner, which is really a intriguing set up for something weird, is captivating from beginning to end. Told with immaculate detail and sensitive performances, The Invitation is one of this years surprise treats.

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Kubo and the Two Strings. A+

Image result for kubo  poster


Okay, I'm gonna get real here, this movie had my eyes raining by the end of it. The animation is breath taking, the attempts at humor almost always stick their landing and the action scenes are as exciting as any superhero movies. But at its heart, Kubo is a story about making sense of our tragedy, and allowing those experiences to form beauty in our stories.


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Bad Moms. C


Image result for bad moms poster

I really wanted this to be good. What was intended to be the next Bridesmaids just intended up being a poorly written and unfortunately shrill movie. Some of the jokes landed, but not enough to warrant a recommendation from me.






 
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13th. A+


 Image result for 13th

Easily the most important movie of the year, and quite possibly the most important movie we've this decade. Informative, revealing, enraging and heartbreaking. Every American needs to watch this movie. It's on Netflix. Go check it out.

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Blair Witch. C

Image result for blair witch 2016 small poster

This had potential to be such a great movie. It had talented directors and a brilliant marketing campaign, sadly it just seemed to lack an eye for detail. Still, as far as scary movies go, it has a enough scares to be worth a watch.

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Jackie. A

Image result for jackie movie poster 2016

Historical biographical dramas have been done time and time again, and at a certain point just seem tired. Enter director Pablo Lorain and Natalie Portman in a career best performance, and you've got a biographical drama that feels incredibly fresh and refreshingly original.



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Magnificent 7. C


Image result for magnificent 7

There just isn't a lot to be impressed with here. At two hours and fifteen minutes, it still felt like they didn't take any time to develop a worthwhile story or fleshed out characters. Some exciting shootouts, but nothing you can't miss here.

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Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. C-


Image result for miss peregrine's home for peculiar children


Lately, Tim Burton isn't even trying to not seem annoyingly self indulgent. This movie is no exception. It skips past all the interesting plot points to focus on a less-exciting X-Men type central plot. Asa Butterfield and Eva Green give it their best, and keep this from being garbage; but Samuel L. Jackson is on auto-pilot the whole time, and all the other great talent (Seriously! Allison Janney, Judi Dench and Chris O'Dowed!) just look like they are cashing a paycheck.




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Deepwater Horizon. A-


Image result for deep water horizon 2016

The most human disaster movie I've ever seen. Everything about this story, from the script to the directing to the acting, is told with the upmost respect and care. You definitely need to check this one out.

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Birth of A Nation. B+

Image result for the birth of a nation 2016

Yes it is essentially Bravehart set in slavery entrenched America, yet this movie is told with enough passion, conviction and elegy to warrant a solid recommendation.

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Don't Think Twice, A+



This sweet and sour comedy/drama hits the ball way out of the mark! Mark Birbiglia nails the script, and this ensemble cast more than delivers.

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Ouija: Origin of Evil. B+


Image result for ouija origin of evil

This is by far the biggest surprise of the year for me! Seriously, this is the prequel to an absolute garbage movie based off of a board game. Yet, the studio had sense enough to bring in the brilliant director of this years masterpiece Hush and last years Oculus, and it paid off. Solid horror movie fare for anyone interested.

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Hacksaw Ridge. A+

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Be warned, this movie has the most graphic battle scenes of any war movie I have ever seen. Yet, Hacksaw Ridge is an absolute masterpiece. Mel Gibson does the best directing of his career and Andrew Garfield dominates this wonderfully complex character. This is a beautiful movie about what can happen when Christians take seriously Gods dreams for us to love our enemies in practice, not just worthless speech.

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God's Not Dead 2. F

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Not all propaganda pieces are bad. Some of my favorite movies have been created with a clear agenda. Whether it's Les Miserables telling the Gospel or Born on the Fourth of July's anti war sentiment, some movies with an agenda are excellent. Movies like this are poisonious for Christians for many reasons. It's bad art. Followers of the Creator should be Creating the best art out there, not sloppy and lazy conversion attempts. It propagates the unfounded martyr complex too many Christians swear they are experiencing these days. If you're a Christian, don't support this garbage, it just trying to make money off of you by giving you a completely unfounded martyr complex. If you're not a Christian, I'm so sorry you are portrayed in this light.

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Arrival. A+

Image result for arrival poster 2016

I think this is probably the best movie of the year. Like Inception or The Matrix, it is one of those science fiction movies that messes with our constructs of reality. It is painted with a brush of such precious hope, and this is one of those rare treats that you really shouldn't miss.

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Risen. B+

Image result for risen poster 2016

This is one of the better biblical movies I've ever seen. This is for sure the first one I've seen that portrayed Jesus and the disciples as intimate friends, with layers and depth. It is well worth the watch.



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Doctor Strange. A

Image result for doctor strange poster 2016

Profound, consistently entertaining and brilliantly acted, Marvel continues with their onslaught of quality superhero movies by staying fresh. Relying on just enough formula to keep it familiar enough as a superhero movie, Doctor Strange is also completely innovative for the genre by taking the audience on a mind bending and spiritual journey.


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Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. B

Image result for fantastic beasts poster 2016

Where Doctor Strange struck the perfect balance between innovation and familiarity, Fantastic Beasts felt just a little too familiar for me. The acting and visual effects were outstanding. The movie as a whole just felt a little empty to me.


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The Edge of Seventeen. A

Image result for the edge of seventeen poster 2016

This is easily the best comedy of 2016. Hailee Steinfield is redefines charm and Woody Harrleson brings his A game as usual. The script is so sharp, refreshing and full of heart, it is simply irresistible

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Moonlight. A+

Image result for moonlight poster 2016


This story of a black kid growing up in Miami and sorting through his sexual identity is told in poetic fashion and stunning empathy. You will not find a better movie this year.


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The Boy. D

Image result for the boy poster 2016

This could have been really great, and it's a compelling premise. Every once in a while it showed glimmers of what could be a solid horror movie, but in the end you are left wishing this story had landed in the hands of  much more competent writer and director.


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Moana. A+

Image result for moana poster 2016

There is a difference between an amazing animated movie made by Disney, and a Disney movie with the rare and wonderful Disney Magic. Zootopia is an amazing animated movie released by Disney, but Moana is 100% real Disney magic.


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Hell or High Water. A

Image result for hell or high water poster 2016

A modern tale about rural Americans who often go unseen and unheard, until the results of the 2016 election of course. Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster deliver complex and compelling performances; add to it one of the best scripts of the year and impeccable direction and you have one of the best movies of 2016.

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Loving. A

Image result for loving poster 2016

Manages to tell an absolutely gripping story sans melodrama. Understated, yet captivating performances from Ruth Nega and Joel Edgerton make this a worthwhile viewing experience.

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Manchester by The Sea. A+

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Maybe the most profound meditation on the journey towards grief I have ever seen. There were very little things about this movie I wish would have been done differently. It honors the process those of us who have lost loved ones have gone through. I don't think I can give higher praise than that.

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Rogue One. A

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The movie that puts the war back in Star Wars, Rogue One is a darker entry into the saga. Fine performances, a tight narrative and a vision that honors, and improves upon, the original. Sure to please any fan of the franchise.

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Fences. A

Image result for fences movie poster


Sometimes funny, sometimes sweet and often times heartbreaking, Fences is a emotional and compelling glimpse into a black family struggling to make it in the late 1950's. With two Oscars and a long career, Denzel does his best work yet, both as an actor and a director. And Viola Davis may have given the best performance of the year, over everybody.

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Lala Land. A+




Fun, sweet, moving and substantially entertaining, this movie lives up to its hype. The original music is great, Ryan Gosling is infectious and Emma Stone has never been better. At this point in the year, I hear about all these Oscar contender movies and the last ones I watch are so hyped up I feel pressured into liking it, which makes me go into it with a hyper critical eye; and Lala Land beyond exceeded my expectations.

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Collateral Beauty. D

Image result for collateral beauty poster


Here's one good thing about the movie: Will Smith acts the hell out of this movie. The problem is he is so good, it feels completely out of place. This should have been aired on The Hallmark Channel and starred Ted Danson and Fred Savage, how it landed this grossly over-qualified cast is beyond me. I need for all of these actors to do better movies, because I love them all. And I need some one to explain to the writer and director that this movie is the equivelant of emotional pornography. Just because you through a million tragic stories at us all at the same time and contrive the stupidest twist ending I've ever seen (worse than The Happening) doesn't mean it's art.


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O.J.: Made In America. A+

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At over seven hours long, I never wanted it to end. I finished it in three sittings, and all the time in-between obsessing over getting to watch it. This movie tracks the provacative life of OJ Simpson, from his projects upbringing to his 2008 arrest for armed robbery. This is a powerful and eye opening journey, and an expose on the effects racial injustice has had on America. Definitely check this one out.

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Hidden Figures. A



Charming, heartwarming and important. I was frustrated that I had never heard of these women before, but so thankful some one had the decency to tell their stories and tell it well. Taraji P. Henson, Janell Monae and Octavia Spencer all shine in their roles.


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