1. Other People - This movie is fantastic! I've even included in my Best Movies of 2016 list. It's a small, subtle movie about family, death, growing up, acceptance, etc. It's just wonderful. It's reminiscent of The Skeleton Twins in that it is dark and cynical, but ultimately uplifting and wondrous. Molly Shannon has never been better - I believe this is her first foray into a serious role, and even in the lighter moments, make no mistake, this is a very serious, dramatic role. Her physical, mental, and emotional deterioration due to Cancer feels so authentic and heartbreaking. The scene when she goes to the school to see her former co-workers - I almost lost it. It's one of those scenes that will live with me forever, and that is a rare accomplishment. In looking up reviews for this movie, I learned that the writer (Chris Kelly - an SNL writer) lost his mother to Cancer in 2009, so this is largely a "fictional" autobiography, and that just makes it that much more special. Jesse Plemons is also wonderful as the comedy writer, who moves back home to take care of his mother. He discovers that not much has changed in his town, but he also learns to enjoy the small joys that life has to give. He's dealing with a break-up with someone he obviously cares about (played by Zach Woods. I've just learned his name as I've always just referred to him as "Gabe from The Office). He's dealing with his dad being uncomfortable/unaccepting of his sexuality. And of course, his mom is dying. It's all handled with poise and grace in a way that is rarely seen on-screen. Nothing is done for dramatic effect or emotional manipulation - and there are so many beautiful and funny "smaller" moments that make it worth paying attention to (like how he has to repeat his milkshake order several times - no whip cream and then he puts the milkshake down on the table and their is whip cream in it). Plemons is having an excellent career - appearing in three of the best series in the last 10 years (Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights, and Fargo). I really hope his film career goes the same way, this is a great start.
2. The 5th Wave - I was expecting bad. It has a 16% on RT, which is pretty bad for a big budget movie with a cast of this caliber. It's bad, but not 16% bad. It's bad because it's mediocre and derivative (the scene where they are looking up at the spaceship was legit stolen from Independence Day), but it's got a decent story and above average acting. I like that the apocalypse/alien invasion happens in stages (or "waves") - it makes it more realistic. It would take a lot to kill off an entire species and sometimes I think big movies like this gloss over that fact. So, the first wave is to cut off power and running water. The second wave is more intense (and literal) - a gigantic earthquake that causes tsunamis in every ocean (and apparently the Great Lakes - LOL). This stage is probably the most ridiculous but probably also my favorite because I LOVE in movies when people outrun gigantic waves of water rushing towards them. Such a great disaster movie cliche. The third wave is to spread an Avian Flu type virus (otherwise known as the wave when I would just kill myself). The fourth wave is invasion of the body snatchers - don't trust anyone stage. This is the point where the movie starts to drag immensely and I begin to ask a TON of questions: Where are all the animals? What happened to Maria Bello's face? (I love her, and I think she is stunning, so I am hoping this is just bad makeup under terrible lighting). If they were trying to save children, then why did they only take older children? (this one is answered in the 5th wave which I won't spoil for anyone). Why is Maika Monroe doing a terrible impression of a goth Jenna Malone? And finally WHY OH WHY do they turn it into a love story?? That's so unnecessary! Overall, I think the movie could have benefited from some strategic editing, and a little originality, but it's not terrible.
3. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House - I've heard very little about this movie, which I think is a good thing - I had no preconceived notion of it. I added it to my Netflix list a few weeks ago, but then as I was scrolling through, I noticed that it starred Ruth Wilson and I immediately watched it. I love her so much. She was excellent on Luther, but I think she is stunning on The Affair (still a good show, but nowhere near the first season's brilliance). This movie centers around a hospice nurse who moves into an old house with a woman who is dying - this would be an awfully depressing job - just waiting for someone to die, when it could be weeks (or a year!). She begins to notice a stain on the wall, and the old woman starts to refer to her as Polly ("the lady that lives in the walls"). She begins to investigate, and things get creepy, but it's never jump-scare creepy, just unsettling. It's slow, and has this odd, poetic rhythm to it that is hard to get used to, but it works. I'm not sure I liked what Wilson was doing with her voice - she was speaking at an octave higher than her natural voice - it sounded like she was doing a bad Marilyn Monroe impression. Otherwise, she was fantastic. I really liked how it ended with this circular, continuation of the story. I also adore the line "even the prettiest things will rot".
4. Blue Jay - Another Netflix movie that I watched purely because of the star - Sarah Paulson. She is having a wonderful moment in television, but is also making a solid film portfolio. This movie is just her being lovely. It's written by Mark Duplass, who has written some very interesting films (including Jeff, Who Lives at Home and Creep), but unfortunately it stars him as well. I don't know why, but I just still don't like him as an actor - he feels really fake to me. He didn't ruin this movie for me, though. I think him and Paulson have great chemistry, and they make a believable ex-couple. The movie revolves around this ex-couple as they run into each other in their hometown. They spend the evening reminiscing about the good times - laughing at old mix-tapes, telling humiliating tales, and making fun of each other's fashion choices. There is also a wonderful scene of Paulson doing a little rap that is super adorable. The audience begins to fall in love with these two, and wonders why they ever broke up - they seem perfect for each other. It's not until the very end that it gets serious, as their destructive behavior is revealed, and it's all too real. If only they just communicated their feelings...
5. The Jungle Book - I was never a big fan of this Disney classic. It's surprising given my love of animals, but I think it was always a very "masculine" story that I didn't connect with (although so is The Lion King, and that's one of my favorites...soooo....). So, I wasn't too thrilled about a live-action version (I was also not too bothered by it either - I will be the first in line for a live-action Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, etc.). I enjoyed it, to an extent. I loved some of the voice actors used - Idris Elba's sexy-ass voice was perfect for Khan, but the really excellent casting is Bill Murray as Baloo. And just when I was about to freak out that there wasn't any music, they started to sing "Bare Necessities" and all was right with the world. The CG world is very beautiful and reminiscent of The Life of Pi. Bagheera looks identical to my old cat Trouble - she was solid black with these deep yellow eyes that you could just see her little wise soul through. I miss her so much. I didn't realize that Jon Favreau directed this until after it was over - I like him (as a writer, director, and actor), but I don't really feel like he has a particular directing style (which is not necessarily a bad thing, I guess. It allows one many more opportunities). I don't really think this movie will stick with me longer than a week a two, which is ultimately a problem, but I enjoyed it while I watched it.