1. The Meddler - I saw the trailer for this film a while ago, and I really wanted to see it, but then I heard nothing about it. I guess it didn't have much of a release, and it's a "smaller", quieter film. I really liked it. Susan Sarandon is one of the greats. And she definitely excels in this movie with her NY/NJ hybrid accent. I actually looked it up to see what it was supposed to be - and several critics listed it as either "Brooklyn", "Jersey", or "New Yawk", which seems like a failure, but it's actually brilliant. No-one around here has a "typical" accent. You pick up bits and pieces, and it all blends together. I think her accent is spot-on perfection. I thought the movie would focus more on a mother/daughter relationship, but it really just focuses on the mother. She "meddles" in her daughter's life, but her daughter (played by the always delightful Rose Byrne) is absent for most things because she's focused on work (and hanging on to the hope for a relationship with her ex). I am very close with my mother, but in a really distant way - I know that doesn't make much sense, but she really knows nothing about my personal life. I am glad that she's not a meddler, but I don't really see the problem with the mother's actions in this movie. She's just a lonely, and very charitable, woman who wants to connect with people. It's a little offensive that the audience is supposed to think that her random acts of kindness are somehow unhealthy?? It's kind of weird. I do agree that she needs to get a life of her own, but helping others is hardly something we should discourage. Anyway, overall I really enjoyed this movie. It's sweet, and that's something that's rare nowadays. Also, the small scene with the telephone in the hospital made me cry! It's so weird that a scene like that - one that isn't even essential to the story - can bring on such emotion. It just shows how well-written the story is.
2. The Handmaiden - Park Chan-wook is brilliant. I knew this movie would be brilliant. And it was. I love his use of sound and silence. It was more noticeable in Stoker than this, but it's still really well done. I didn't know what the movie was about, other than it focuses on a Handmaiden (probably), but it's a really twisted story of love, seduction, loneliness, revenge and betrayal (which seem to be themes in all of his films). *spoilers ahead* I definitely did not expect the twist at the end of the first part - I don't know why, I definitely should have. However, once that twist was laid out, I knew how the rest of the film would go. It's obvious that these two women were going to conspire together and form their own plan in order to escape and live happily ever after. I have to admit, while I found it visually stunning, and the story is originally twisted, I got a little bored. It felt very long, which I've never found with Chan-wook's films before. It's definitely not my favorite of his, but it is still one of the best films of 2016.
3. Mascots - Where has Christopher Guest been??? His movies make me laugh so much, and I didn't even realize how much I've missed his "mockumentaries" until I saw this pop up as a recommendation on Netflix. Best in Show is my favorite of his, but all of them are wonderful in some way. This was a bit of a disappointment, mostly because two of Guest's "regulars" are missing - Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara. Their absence can definitely be felt. Presumably there were scheduling issues due to the fact that these two are now on one of the funniest shows currently on television - Schitt's Creek (seek it out, it's worth it - Levy's son, Daniel, is superb). There are still some regulars in this - Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, John Michael Higgins, along with some newcomers (in respect to Guest's films) - Zach Woods, Chris O'Dowd. There are definitely some laugh out loud moments - some of my favorite include:"coming from every place you can imagine " and then lists a bunch of boring states; "'In Your Ear' otherwise people think you're talking about something else"; the micro-penis discussion; the fact that everyone has Hockey player names that are spelled wrong; The Gluten-Free channel. I could list a dozen more, but that's all the movie is. Just some funny, random lines here and there. I don't really care about any of the characters, and I got bored with the story after about an hour.
4. Live by Night - Well, the streak is officially over. This is the first Ben Affleck directed film that I not only didn't love, but I actually didn't like it at all. I can find some nice things to say about it - some stunning shots, satisfying performances, interesting story. However, there is much more awful than good. As many stunning shots as there are, there are also some really unnecessarily complicated ones - like, what was up with weird circular tracking shot when Zoe Saldana is introduced? And for every satisfying performance, there is also some terrible ones - ahem Sienna Miller (was that supposed to be an Irish accent? LOL). And for every part of the story that is interesting, it's also been done a million times before (it reminded me a lot of the TV series Magic City). I enjoy these Prohibition gangster stories, but it has to do something new. This one focuses a lot on the KKK, which is actually pretty interesting, but it doesn't go deep enough. I have a feeling the book might be better - which reminds me that I probably should read some of Lehane's books, because I like some of the adaptations (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone).
5. Nine Lives - I needed something light and goofy after watching The Handmaiden,and what's more of a perfect choice than Kevin Spacey trapped in a cat's body??? It doesn't get any more ridiculous than that! And, probably the oddest double-bill ever (what can I say, I have an eclectic taste in movies). I wish I could say that this is a cute movie, but it's a little mean-spirited in my opinion, so it negates the cuteness. Like, why would I root for this guy at all? The "lesson" is for him to spend more time with his daughter, but I feel like he didn't really learn anything about the fact that he is a dick to everyone that he comes into contact with. So, like, maybe she is better off not having him around? I did laugh when Christopher Walken appeared just because I totally forgot that he was in this and it's just so ridiculous. Also, I really wish someone would give Jennifer Garner a meaty role - I don't know why she keeps doing roles as "the wife" in cutesy family movies or mediocre dramas. I read that she has no interest in doing action stuff (I guess she had enough after the intensity of Alias), but why not a psychological drama (in which she is the STAR not a side character)?