Hello. It's max. The year is over and post holiday drepession is seeping in through the cracks in the windows. Might as well have a drink. Or two. And watch a few movies. Oh, you don't know what to watch? Well, I do and i am here to help you. Let's talk about movies. I promise this won't be a super douchey Best 10 Films You Didn’t See This Year which is almost always a list of obscure art house bullshit that not even iTunes carries and Netflix doesn’t stream, and how was I supposed to see any of those if I didn’t happen to be in New York or Los Angeles for the one weekend it was in limited release? huh? No one invited me to Sundance, guys, in case you forgot.
Also, I saw a short story contest on twitter that asked you to get drunk and write. So that's how we ended up here. drinking and writing movie reviews instead of short stories. Yay.
Lets start by saying this movie is definitely flawed. The filmmaking is touch and go and a bit cheesy in parts. So I understand why no one ever talked about it, how it hasn’t ended up on anyone’s lists, and why it got dumped in the January wasteland of zero confidence Hollywood releases. But goddamn the story and its execution. It’s the best time travel movie I’ve seen since Looper and I once said “No time travel movie ever needs to be made again now that we have Looper,” after bumping into an old acquaintance who told me he was going to make a time travel movie movie, and all I could think was, “That’s silly, have you even SEEN the Loopers? Clearly not.” But boy, how wrong I was. Not about my old pal making a time travel movie. He still shouldn’t. But the Spielberg Brothers did, and it’s called Predestination. Twelve months later it’s still on my mind, which is why it deserves to be on this list.
Ethan Hawke stars as a Temporal Agent (that's just a fancy way to say Minority-Reportish-Jean-Claude-Van- Damme-Like-Time-Cop) except he’s just being Ethan Hawke here so there’s nothing new in that department. What is new is Sarah Snook defying the boundaries of acting. You can’t take your eyes off her and the yarn she spins that propels this twisted little movie forward. And I’ll leave it at that since it’s best to go into this thing knowing as little as possible. Seriously. Stay away from the trailers. Stay away from synopsizes - (that word doesn't look right to me at all). Stay away from reviews like this one and simply stream it this winter while the snow falls, and class is canceled, and you suffer from post holiday depression after finding out your crush just hooked up with your best friend. Screw him. He didn’t deserve you anyway. I know things might be bad, but by the time the credits roll on this baby, you’ll be saying, “Shit, well, at least things aren’t that bad," after you go through the following emotions ...
I can relate to these images because I remember making similar faces.
9. IT FOLLOWS
The story of It Follows is as old as time: a young girl has sex out of wedlock and is subsequently stalked by an otherworldly presence which takes on gruesome inescapable forms no matter how far she runs. Just like gonorrhea. Except this STD can kill you. Just like that super strain of gonorrhea everyone’s going on and on about. It would do wonders for the abstinence program if they just played this movie in sex ed classes and church camps everywhere. Although Mrs. Hendricks taught us that “sex kills” without the help of a horror film. (Unless you count that educational video of a woman going through childbirth as a horror film—all that screaming and afterbirth still keeps me up at night.) Plus, i recall my youth pastor telling me mutual masturbation leads to pregnancy. (why would he say such a thing?) So yeah I was a virgin well into college. I guess I wouldn’t have needed the haunting visuals of It Follows to help me stay abstinent, but not every child can be as lucky as me. Remember kids: sex makes babies and then you die. I mean, you’re not gonna die right after you make a baby. Probably. I mean, how good of sex are we talking about here, because there’s been times where I’ve thought... Okay, seriously though the odds are in your favor to have a full and healthy life. Again, probably. You’re still gonna die. At some point. Those are just the facts of life.
And the facts of It Follows are as follows: maybe it’s not the first sexually-transmitted-disease-that-kills-you-slowly-and-painfully movie ever made, but just like Looper could have been the last time travel movie that ever needed to be made, I can’t see how the genre could possibly be improved upon after It Follows. Even despite clunky pacing and a terrible creative decision to use an overabundance of cross-fades as scene transitions, It Follows remains filled with rich scenery and truly terrifying visuals. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve had a crush on lead actor Maika Monroe since she first popped up in The Guest a few years back. (though she doesn’t have enough of an affect on me yet to get my ass in the theater for a Will Smith-less Independence Day 2, but I appreciate the effort).
I just cut my finger open on a bottle of wine so if i bleed out while typing this - me earl and the dying girl is my favorite movie of the year. sorry for the spoiler but i wanted you to know how this ends. okay, back to It Follows while there's still time.
Oh, and that score! Good god, it frightened me so. I played it on repeat at my first annual Halloween Bizarre Holiday Bash to set the mood to righteously spooky, and everyone played this game where I put either a “trick” or a “treat” in twenty different buckets, and you had to blindly stick your hand inside to find out what you won. I don’t know what you were doing on Halloween, but if you weren’t sticking your hands in dark holes while listening to the It Follows soundtrack, i can assure you weren’t having as much fun as I was.
I can’t stress enough how horrible, terrible, and awful trailers are. They ruin everything and spoil all the good surprises (I’m looking at you Batman v. Superman v. Wonder Woman v. Doomsday). So I won’t reiterate about how you should avoid the trailers for Dope, but this time it’s for an entirely different reason – the trailer makes the movie look completely mediocre. None of the script’s charm or charisma of the characters comes through. the unique editing tricks and structure of the story are entirely lost in the trailer.
Here’s the skinny: a couple of high school geeks end up in a very sticky situation with some bad dudes, and they’re forced to sell some dope. What are a couple of geeks who don’t know the streets to do? Thank goodness it’s the twenty-first century where the Dark Web, bitcoin, and FedEx all coexist. Slinging dope never looked so risk free and easy—or this hilarious.
Did you know the Dark web is a real thing? I thought it was fake or like a government conspiracy theory or something, and then I find out I've got this friend named Jimmy* who just told me he's actually purchased "something" off the Dark web using bitcoins! - something else I thought was fake! You think you know somebody and then they're using bitcoins in off shore bank accounts and you don't know what to believe anymore.
But back to Dope.... Dope is hard to talk about. but don't be afraid to tell your kids to just say no. To actual dope, that is. Not to dope the movie. They should say "yes" to this Dope. And that's why it lands on this list: for its sheer cleverness. Dare I say it’s one of the most original and innovate movies of the year? I dare not. So then what is so dope about Dope? The soundtrack. The story. The young, fresh-faced unrecognizable actors who aren’t Shia LeBouf and keep you connected to the story. They’re all on point here. What else is there to say? You know good music, good editing, and a good story when you see one. and you know Shia LeBouf when you see him. Which you don’t here. (running through the woods, it's Shia LeBouf!) And when that happens, it’s nice because you realize you’re not watching another Transformers movie.
*Steve, I hope it's cool I changed your name to Jimmy to protect your privacy.
7. THE END OF THE TOUR
Jason Segel has never ever, ever been better than he is in The End of the Tour. Even Jesse Eisenberg is at his Jesse Eisenbergy least here, making End of the Tour a class act in, uh, acting. Seriously, Segal becomes David Foster Wallace. Watch Tour and then watch Wallace’s famous This Is Water commencement speech and believe in the power of resurrection.
Seriously. Look at these two....
This Tour is riveting. And it’s a movie that’s just two guys sitting in a car and talking. Thrilling stuff. But hey if Tom Hardy can pull off that hat trick all by himself in Locke, then why can’t Segel and Eisenberg pull it off together? Good news: they do.
Maybe you’ve never read Wallace (and I don’t blame you-- Infinite Jest is a thousand fucking pages and I’ve actually only ever seen it on the bookshelves of boys who wanted the street cred to bed girls after making them believe they were in tune to the voice of a generation, and one other time I saw a woman use it as a doorstopper, but I’ve never seen the thing cracked open in front of another human being. Did you know he actually wrote multiple books and not just Infinite Jest, Aaron? Huh? You’re not as cool as you think you are, dick. I could have bought Infinite Jest too that night we waited in line together at midnight for the Half Blood Prince and put it on my shelf too, you know, and even creased the spine to make it look authentic and maybe Samantha would have slept me instead, but “Harry Potter was never going to help me relate to the world we live in. Have you read Infinite Jest yet?” To hell with you both.) and so anyway like I was saying before the parenthesis ... actually, what was my original thought here? That Aaron is a d-bag and Samantha a bitch? That’s not an original thought. Everyone knows that. Anyway…
Guys, there's blood all over my trackpad from this stupid wine injury. Does apple care cover blood? This review is getting real dark real fast considering the subject matter of End of the Tour huh? Which reminds me... Wallace’s suicide hangs large over the film, making his conversations about the highs and lows of life, love, and loss with Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky during the last five days of his Infinite Jest book tour all the more heartbreaking. I like to say that if a book doesn’t make me want to write then it’s not a book I want to continue reading. I mean there are too many books and too little time so I have the right to be choosey. I want to be inspired around every corner. And I think the same could be said about this movie. Every few minutes I had to refrain from pressing pause to go sit at my computer and attempt becoming the next voice of my generation, but trying to dethrone Justin Bieber of the title was disheartening. Actually, a quick Google search just now tells me Lena Dunham is the voice of my generation and not the Biebs. Cool. She’s got this. Plus, this drunk movie review wouldn't look good on my resume for the noble peace prize in literature.
Anyway, if Steven Seagal isn’t thrown a Best Actor nod for Tour, I’ll boycott. For, like, a little bit. Probably just amongst the privacy of my own friends. And then I’ll stop. I’ll go quietly into the night. And watch the Oscars anyway. But it will be an injustice, I tell you. A damn injustice.
6. THE GIFT
Yup. That's a picture of Jason Bateman opening a literal gift within the movie The Gift. How meta, right? Another gift?, this movie. and it's a twisted one at that. Though unlike Predestination, this one goes for the depthiest depths of deeply disturbing. It’s the best psychological thriller since….. Silence of the Lambs? I wouldn’t know. I haven’t seen every psychological thriller since Silence of the Lambs and a quick Google search of “The Best Psychological Thrillers Since Silence of the Lambs” turns up about a hundred movies I’ve never even heard of.
Whatever. I'm going for it.
Never truly impressed with his work, but acting as writer director and star of The Gift, Joel Edgerton crafts the best psychological thriller since Silence of the Lambs, and I’ll now see anything the guy does from here on out.
And what a pleasure to see Jason Bateman not doing his Jason Bateman shtick, am i right ? What do you know, the man can really act! We saw glimpses of his potential to be anyone other than Michael Bluth in Bad Words, but in The Gift we really see a side of the Batemaster we’ve never seen before.
Obviously by now you know my beef with trailers and spoilers so I’ll give you this tasty morsel and be done with it: The Gift is slow burn at its finest. You’ll be wringing your hands and sweating worse than when your mother sits down to use the computer just as you remember you forgot to clear the search history.
It’s a damn fine example of filmmaking. Oh, and the twists. Just when you think you know where this thing is going, the rug is pulled out from under you. Then someone offers you a hand, apologizes, pulls you up, guides you over to another rug and pulls that one out from under you too. All the rugs! Pulled! My emotions and allegiances were all over the place. I like that in a movie.
5. BONE TOMAHAWK
This movie is bad to the bone tomahawk. A western/horror so brutal I’ll bet it gave Eli Roth a wet dream. Starring the same mustache Kurt Russel is currently sporting in The Hateful 8 (someone, somewhere must have noticed that thing was just too glorious to go to waste on one film alone), the endlessly talented Richard Jenkins (have you watched Olive Kitteridge yet?), Patrick Wilson (who just finished showing his chops on Fargo), and a very un-Losty Matthew Fox (who we haven’t really seen since Lost and he’s actually the best part of this film), Bone Tomahawk gallops to the weird beat of its own drum of horror and comedy, while fearlessly flying its western freak flag.
Now if there’s a movie you haven’t heard of on this list, I’m sure it’s this one. And for good reason. This is a genre mash-up film through and through that clearly never touched the hands of a Studio Executive. If it had someone would have stopped writer/director S. Craig Zahler at indigenous mutant desert cannibals vs. an old west Kurt Russel, which is why Hollywood is out of original ideas because they’re afraid of movies like Bone Tomahawk which is a damn shame because this movie is damn near flawless. But I have no doubt the Cult Gods of Cinema will show favor upon this film. Its day will come.
The script is tight and the dialogue is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Each character is fully realized, each of them talking and acting like real people. What a revelation! What a concept! A(t least they talk and act how you might imagine they way people talked and acted before cell phones and cars…when you could still shoot a man dead for stealing your horse – what a time to be alive!) And the cinematography on display is gorgeous, proving Bone Tomahawk isn’t just a horror film or a western. It’s a piece of art. Mr. Zahler lingers on his actors when others would have just yelled cut, leaving me to wonder if he just let them go until they were ready to stop. The film is better for it. I couldn’t believe how much I cared about the character's individual fates as the impending climactic bloodbath loomed in the distance. (Take note writers: a little bit of heart and humor goes a long, long way in character development.)
My wife is looking over my shoulder right now and telling me this review is too long so I just deleted an entire paragraph. if you suddenly feel robbed of a great Bone Tomahawk review, well, you know why.
Oh! Wait! I'd be remiss if I did not mention that the aforementioned bloodbath is not for the faint of heart. What starts out as an old-fashioned revenge western ends up in territory that’s pure terror. I haven’t looked away from the screen since I saw Ridley Scott’s stupid alien burst out of that poor saps chest when I was eleven-years-old. I ran crying into my mother’s arms, and if she had been around while I was watching Bone Tomahawk, I may have run crying into her arms again.
4. MAN UP
Not only has every “Best of” list missed this little one, we all missed this one. And it should be considered a crime. I want a trail for the person who kept this movie from wide release. The only reason I didn’t miss it is because it ended up as in-flight entertainment on my wife’s business trip from LA to Atlanta. She loved it so much, she flew home early just to watch it again with me. Okay that last part’s not true. She would have lost a million dollars in business with some high profile clients had she done that but her heart was there i swear. And we did watch it almost as soon as she got home. I hope someone got fired over the fact that this movie ended up as “in-flight entertainment” instead of in theaters. The jokes fly faster than a Space X rocket without any of the crash landings and it doesn’t hurt that many of them are delivered by the speed-talking Simon Pegg doing what he does best here. But the one who gives real fuel to this rocking rocket of a rocket comedy? Lake Bell. I don’t know where she’s been all my life, but I need more of her immediately.
So what’s the deal with Man Up? When Simon Pegg mistakes Ms. Bell for his blind date, she just goes with it. What follows is a completely hilarious and unpredictable night. This movie has guts and balls, taking risks others in the genre would cower away from. It’s vulgar but not for vulgarity’s sake. It’s sappy because you actually care and not because the director wanted to make you cry. It’s real and it’s really hilarious. I wouldn’t exactly call this a romantic comedy but I did get a bit misty there at the end.
Forget Sisters. Forget Jurassic World. Man Up is the funniest movie of the year.
3. SLOW WEST
No this isn’t an autobiographical film documenting the rise and fall of the West Patriarchy started by Kanye and Kim, though you can assume it’s a serious contender for grade school nickname gold if, say, poor little Saint West isn’t the fastest kickball player or, I’ll just say it because you’re all thinking it – the little bugger doesn’t end up being the brightest bulb in his graduating class.
Slow West is a slooowwww, awkward little western starring the always dreamy Michael Fassbender. Two of my favorite movies this year are westerns. Both of them reinventing and reinvigorating the genre. Hollywood doesn’t make enough of ‘em any more, and they certainly don’t make ‘em like this. The weird and wild Slow West follows a young Scottish boy of nineteen looking for a lost love. Then a dreamy (Fassbends, obvs) drifter with questionable motives rescues and accompanies him on the journey. But don’t expect fast rides, shootouts at the OK Corral, or a poisoned waterhole. Instead expect absinthe dreams, introspection, witty dialogue, lots of heartbreak, and explosive violence when the shooting finally starts.
It’s another uncompromised film. Just like Bone Tomahawk and Man Up, it’s a joy to watch a movie someone wanted to make and got away with it.
2. EX MACHINA
This is the classic story of boy meets robot, boy falls for robot, boy discovers robot is anatomically correct, boy becomes sexually confused though still curious about robot and does the bible say anything about robot sex?, then boy’s feelings royally screw up the Turing Test which is why he was introduced to the robot in the first place. We’ve all been there before, done that, am I right?
I imagine Ex Machina is probably on everyone’s list this year, and not just because the marketing team successfully sexualized an android with zero epidermis to work with except for half a face worth of the stuff. It’s on everyone’s list because it’s fucking good. It makes your palms sweat. It made me gasp out loud in the theater when certain events transpired. It made me nervous. It gave me anxiety. It both terrified and delighted me.
Starring my second crush of the year, Oscar Isaac (you thought I was going to say the robot, didn’t you? – well, she’s my third crush. I mean, have you seen Alicia Vikander yet in The Man From UNCLE? Which, it’s worth noting, is also worth a watch and not half bad). Oscar Isaac is being scary good at being scary as the man who’s just created Artificial Intelligence. But he needs to test it on someone. So in comes the lowly boy with a big heart to determine the consciousness of the beautiful robot. As you would expet, things do not go well.
This is writer/director Alex Garland’s first feature film. But he’s penned other such gems as The Beach, Sunshine, and 28 Days Later. One could say he’s had quite the mentor in Danny Boyle, so be on the lookout for Garlands next film, Annihilation, based off the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer. You’re not going to want to miss it. Or maybe you will. I don’t know you and I don’t care what you like.
1. ME< EARL< AND THE DYING GIRL
Yes, this movie is absolutely as wonky as the above picture suggests. Yes I sobbed through the last fifteen minutes. My 12welfth grade Journalism teacher used to read my pieces and say ,"I laughed, I cried, and it became a part of me," whenever I asked if they were any good. He was just being a jerk, I think, but that's the truth here. I laughed, I cried, and it became a part of me. Just watch it cause I'm too dunk to write anything else.