Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2016: Alice Through The Looking Glass, Gods of Egypt, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Me Before You, Mother’s Day, Risen


Here are six mini-reviews of six films that I saw in 2016!

Alice Through The Looking Glass (dir by James Bobin)

In a word — BORING!

Personally, I’ve always thought that, as a work of literature, Through The Looking Glass is actually superior to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  That’s largely because Through The Looking Glass is a lot darker than Wonderland and the satire is a lot more fierce.  You wouldn’t know that from watching the latest film adaptation, though.  Alice Through The Looking Glass doesn’t really seem to care much about the source material.  Instead, it’s all about making money and if that means ignoring everything that made the story a classic and instead turning it into a rip-off of every other recent blockbuster, so be it.  At times, I wondered if I was watching a film based on Lewis Carroll or a film based on Suicide Squad.  Well, regardless, the whole enterprise is way too cynical to really enjoy.

(On the plus side, the CGI is fairly well-done.  If you listen, you’ll hear the voice of Alan Rickman.)

Gods of Egypt (dir by Alex Proyas)

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to describing the plot of Gods of Egypt.  This was one of the most confusing films that I’ve ever seen but then again, I’m also not exactly an expert when it comes to Egyptian mythology.  As far as I could tell, it was about Egyptian Gods fighting some sort of war with each other but I was never quite sure who was who or why they were fighting or anything else.  My ADHD went crazy while I was watching Gods of Egypt.  There were so much plot and so many superfluous distractions that I couldn’t really concentrate on what the Hell was actually going on.

But you know what?  With all that in mind, Gods of Egypt is still not as bad as you’ve heard.  It’s a big and ludicrous film but ultimately, it’s so big and so ludicrous that it becomes oddly charming.  Director Alex Proyas had a definite vision in mind when he made this film and that alone makes Gods of Egypt better than some of the other films that I’m reviewing in this post.

Is Gods of Egypt so bad that its good?  I wouldn’t necessarily say that.  Instead, I would say that it’s so ludicrous that it’s unexpectedly watchable.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (dir by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan)

Bleh.  Who cares?  I mean, I hate to put it like that but The Huntsman: Winter’s War felt pretty much like every other wannabe blockbuster that was released in April of last year.  Big battles, big cast, big visuals, big production but the movie itself was way too predictable to be interesting.

Did we really need a follow-up to Snow White and The Huntsman?  Judging by this film, we did not.

Me Before You (dir by Thea Sharrock)

Me Before You was assisted suicide propaganda, disguised as a Nicolas Sparks-style love story.  Emilia Clarke is hired to serve as a caregiver to a paralyzed and bitter former banker played by Sam Claflin.  At first they hate each other but then they love each other but it may be too late because Claflin is determined to end his life in Switzerland.  Trying to change his mind, Clarke tries to prove to him that it’s a big beautiful world out there.  Claflin appreciates the effort but it turns out that he really, really wants to die.  It helps, of course, that Switzerland is a really beautiful and romantic country.  I mean, if you’re going to end your life, Switzerland is the place to do it.  Take that, Sea of Trees.

Anyway, Me Before You makes its points with all the subtlety and nuance of a sledge-hammer that’s been borrowed from the Final Exit Network.  It doesn’t help that Clarke and Claflin have next to no chemistry.  Even without all the propaganda, Me Before You would have been forgettable.  The propaganda just pushes the movie over the line that separates mediocre from terrible.

Mother’s Day (dir by Garry Marshall)

Y’know, the only reason that I’ve put off writing about how much I hated this film is because Garry Marshall died shortly after it was released and I read so many tweets and interviews from people talking about what a nice and sincere guy he was that I actually started to feel guilty for hating his final movie.

But seriously, Mother’s Day was really bad.  This was the third of Marshall’s holiday films.  All three of them were ensemble pieces that ascribed a ludicrous amount of importance to one particular holiday.  None of them were any good, largely because they all felt like cynical cash-ins.  If you didn’t see Valentine’s Day, you hated love.  If you didn’t see New Year’s Eve, you didn’t care about the future of the world.  And if you didn’t see Mother’s Day … well, let’s just not go there, okay?

Mother’s Day takes place in Atlanta and it deals with a group of people who are all either mothers or dealing with a mother.  The ensemble is made up of familiar faces — Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, and others! — but nobody really seems to be making much of an effort to act.  Instead, they simple show up, recite a few lines in whatever their trademark style may be, and then cash their paycheck.  The whole thing feels so incredibly manipulative and shallow and fake that it leaves you wondering if maybe all future holidays should be canceled.

I know Garry Marshall was a great guy but seriously, Mother’s Day is just the worst.

(For a far better movie about Mother’s Day, check out the 2010 film starring Rebecca De Mornay.)

Risen (dir by Kevin Reynolds)

As far as recent Biblical films go, Risen is not that bad.  It takes place shortly after the Crucifixion and stars Joseph Fiennes as a Roman centurion who is assigned to discover why the body of Jesus has disappeared from its tomb.  You can probably guess what happens next.  The film may be a little bit heavy-handed but the Roman Empire is convincingly recreated, Joseph Fiennes gives a pretty good performance, and Kevin Reynolds keeps the action moving quickly.  As a faith-based film that never becomes preachy, Risen is far superior to something like God’s Not Dead 2.

 

 

Playing Catch Up With The Films of 2016: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (dir by Glenn Ficara and John Requa)


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Some day, someone will get around to making the ultimate Tina Fey movie, which will basically just be 4 and a half hours of people talking about how much they love Tina Fey while Tina makes silly faces in the background.  Until that day comes, viewers will just have to settle for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Tina Fey plays Tina Fey playing real-life journalist, Kim Baker.  When the film starts, Kim accepts an assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan.  Though she starts out as neurotic and intimidated, Kim soon steps up and emerges as a passionate and committed journalist, one who is dedicated to revealing the truth — both good and bad — about what’s happening in Afghanistan.  Helping her along the way is a BBC reporter, Tanya Vanderpool (Margot Robbie) and a Scottish photographer named Iain (Martin Freeman).  Iain and Kim may be attracted to one another but Kim has a boyfriend (Josh Charles) back in New York.  How long do you think it takes for Kim to catch her boyfriend cheating via Skype?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is one of those movies that you just know was made to be an Oscar contender.  Not only does it deal with a big important subject but it stars a popular performer in a change-of-pace role.  Except, of course, it’s not really that much of a change-of-pace.  Tina Fey’s a good actress but you never forget that you’re watching Tina Fey.  You never think to yourself, “Kim is caught in the middle of a firefight” or “Kim is getting addicted to the rush of being a war zone.”  Instead, you think, “Any minute now, Tina Fey’s going to start shooting a gun and it’s going to be funny because she’s Tina Fey.”  Towards the end of the film, when a U.S. soldier who has lost his legs tells Kim to never stop trying to tell the people the truth about what’s happening in Afghanistan, you don’t think, “Don’t give up, Kim!”  Instead you think, “Wow — so that soldier lost his legs so that Tina Fey could have an Oscar moment.”

If I haven’t already made it clear, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an extremely uneven film, one that never seems to be sure if it wants to be a relationship comedy, a media satire, or a serious look at the realities of war.  The film works best when it concentrates on the friendship between Tanya and Kim and it’s nice to see a film about two women who are colleagues and friends.  When Tanya first showed up, I was worried that the film would devolve into one of those “Women can’t work together” diatribes or that Tanya would immediately be set up as some sort of mean girl rival for Iain.  Instead, the film explores how women support each other through even the most difficult of circumstances.  But then there’s other scenes that just don’t work as well, like the scenes with Alfred Molina as an Afghan politician who has a crush on Kim.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has its moment but ultimately its too uneven to be of much consequence.