1. The Finest Hours - What an oddly forgettable movie. It kind of baffles my mind because it has a great cast, a suspenseful and incredible "based on a true" story, and satisfying CGI storm sequences. Yet, somehow, it's just not registered in my brain at all. I read a few quick review quips on Rotten Tomatoes, and two things stick out - one critic (Katie Walsh of Tribune News Service) absolutely nails the feeling of the movie - and that is that it feels like a "parody of a prestige film" comparing it to the fake Oscar trailers in Tropic Thunder. LOL. Yes, that is exactly what this film feels like. Another critic (Robert Denerstein of Movie Habit) describes it as "an acceptable--if not great--piece of January entertainment". This is an odd statement, but I think it's widely known that movies released in January aren't held to the same standards as those released towards the end of the year (i.e Oscar season). So basically, it feels like a movie that was intended for the Oscars, but they realized that it's not nearly good enough. I remember seeing so many trailers, and tv spots for this so I think they were trying to milk it as much as they could, but then when it was released I literally heard nothing about it. ZILCH. I think the only think I will really remember about this movie is that in a group of really strong male actors (Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Chris Pine, the guy from that tv show Dirt), a woman stole the whole damn thing - Holliday Grainger is a star. I expect to see a lot more of her in the next few years. She reminds me a lot of Gretchen Mol. And I LOVE Gretchen Mol.
2. Sausage Party - I was actually looking forward to this movie - I thought it was going to be hilarious. I've heard the most mixed reviews of any movie this year - some calling it the "funniest movie I've seen this year", to others calling it the "worst movie I've ever seen". Unfortunately, I agree more with the latter. It's really, really, really stupid. Like, one of the worst movies of the year stupid (nothing will beat Dog Eat Dog). First, it's not funny. I don't think I laughed once (and I usually like Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg written comedies - Superbad is one of my favorite movies EVER). Second, if you are going to make that many Jewish jokes, please, at least make a few of them funny. I'm not super-sensitive to politically incorrect comedy, but it was just non-stop - and ultimately, as someone who is half-Jewish, I found myself really annoyed by the trivialization of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Like I said, if it was at least funny, I probably wouldn't have been so annoyed. Instead it was repetitive, and stupid. Also, Ed Norton's Woody Allen impression is baffling. Like, WHHHYYYY did this even happen? The whole movie is just over-cooked and ridiculous. I hated every second of it.
3. Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping - Now THIS is a funny (albeit stupid) movie. I laughed out loud SEVERAL times, and that's all I ask for with movies like this. I fully admit that I adored the late 90s burst of pop music - *NSYNC was my jam. I was in love with Justin Timberlake (still am a little bit). And it's because of this, that I don't come down too hard on Justin Bieber/One Direction fans (I don't get "him" or "them", but I get "it"). Anyway, this movie gave me that pop group nostalgia - although I think this boyband phenomenon is still happening, I'm just too old to know who any of them are anymore. This movie is the perfect parody of how ridiculous it all is. I also admit, I don't really get The Lonely Island or Andy Samberg (although he is great on Brooklyn 99). The only funny thing they did was "Dick in a Box" (and that was more bc of Justin, really). But this is funny. The song about being "not gay" - HILARIOUS. The cameos are insane - there is one every other minute (for real). Questlove is my favorite (always and forever), although Justin was funny too (but expected). Chelsea Peretti and Will Arnett killed it as the TMZ "journalists" - I can't. I almost died laughing. My favorite line is "the only time I remember being that sad is when they killed Josh Charles on The Good Wife" LOL and also AWWWWWW now I'm sad. (sidenote - I've never really talked about The Good Wife on here because I was never caught up on the show, but when that episode aired, my mom called me screaming "he's dead! he's dead!" and I honestly though a family member had died. I've never heard her so upset. After I finally watched it, I totally get it. Probably one of the saddest deaths in television history). Anyway, I enjoyed this movie even though it's dumb - they got it right, while Sausage Party just got it all so very wrong.
4. Cafe Society - I expected this to be low-bar Woody Allen (like his last two movies - Magic in the Moonlight and Irrational Man). It's not - it's a little bit better (medium-bar Woody Allen, if you will). I don't think a more perfect person could have been cast as a "Woody Allen" type character than Jesse Eisenberg (and if anyone does an Allen biopic, I hope they realize he is the ONLY choice for the role). Also, has Parker Posey been in a Woody Allen movie before?? Because she fits his material oh so perfectly. I'm not too keen on the rest of the cast - Steve Carell and Kristen Stewart felt really out of place - the dialogue just doesn't suit them at all. As I've stated before, I adore Blake Lively (and she's never been more gorgeous), but even she was a little muted in this role. However, I like the story - even if it's a bit predictable, it's still told well. The love triangle aspect is the least interesting part, but I liked Stewart's character - her motivations/intentions are confusing and muddled, but I felt like it was fairly realistic. I also enjoyed the overall look and nostalgia of the movie, the wardrobe design is perfect, and the sentiment is sweet and satisfying.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - So, earlier this year (or maybe it was the end of last year? My memory is broken), I FINALLY watched the original Star Wars trilogy. FOR THE FIRST TIME. Yes, yes, I know...how is that even possible (especially as a child of the '80s)??? I can't give you a satisfying answer, other than I never really had anyone introduce movies to me - no one in my family was really into movies (aside from my paternal grandfather who exclusively watched old Westerns and The Twilight Zone), so I had to seek everything out on my own. And Star Wars was never at the top of the list. I tried watching Episode IV a few years back and I fell asleep (I WAS TIRED!). So I designated a full day to watch them, and I am happy to say that I really enjoyed them. I wouldn't exactly call myself a full-fledged Star Wars fan, but I get the obsession. I was going to designate another day to watch the prequels (even though I've heard mostly poor things about them) before watching The Force Awakens, but I haven't gotten around to it yet and since it wasn't really necessary I decided to watch this now. I really liked it. The cast is fantastic. Although Daisy Ridley is practically Keira Knightley's twin so much so that it distracted me greatly. John Boyega is wonderful. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson still bore me, but they were ok in this. Adam Driver is probably my favorite among the cast (which is SHOCKING for me, because I find him horrid in most things). BB-8 is wonderful, and adorable, and I WANT ONE. The original cast inclusions were done really well (even Harrison Ford, UGH). Overall, I had fun with it and I'm excited to see the next part of the story - I *may* even see it on the big screen!