WHAT I WATCHED: Summer 2016, in theatres

It’s been a busy summer, but thankfully I’ve been able to see a solid handful of movies in theaters. Still, not all of them earned full reviews. So I thought I’d look back at everything I sat down to watch properly over the past few months.

Maggie’s Plan (dir. Rebecca Miller)

 John (Ethan Hawke) is a well-intentioned but self-absorbed professor, Georgette (Julianne Moore) his ambitious and cold wife, and Maggie (Greta Gerwig) an aspiring single mother. But after her homewrecking-turned-happily married life starts to sour, Maggie realizes that she wants out. And Georgette still wants back in. Thus, the plan is born.

This film is definitely clever, though sometimes too much so for its own good. And despite Gerwig’s best attempts, at times it’s difficult to sympathize with her; many of her decisions are short-sighted and blind to consequence. But the dynamic that emerges between her carefree determination and Moore’s emotional upheaval is entertaining. And that the film changes the narrative of finding “the one,” current relationship statuses be damned, is a welcome change.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir. Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer)

You might have seen the truly absurd music video promos for this film on SNL. Conor (Andy Samberg) is a truly awful, yet somehow successful, rapper who loses himself in fame and excess after hitting it big. It’s really not much more complicated than that.

But honestly? I loved this film. The music is so bad, but so much fun. The jokes are actually pretty funny. It’s not the smartest movie that came out this summer, but it’s a straight-up really good time.

Me Before You (dir. Thea Sharrock)

I covered most of my feelings about this film in my previous review, but in short: saccharine and vaguely offensive plot, good romantic chemistry, overly manipulative and frustratingly successful at it.

X-Men: Apocalypse (dir. Bryan Singer)

Complicated film, but here’s my best attempt at a summary: Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is revived from his tomb under an ancient Egyptian spell to summon his four horsemen and bring about the destruction of the 1980s, taking under his wing a bereaved and bitter Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) is left with no choice but to stop him, with the help of the teenaged versions of the future generations of X-Men.

As a comic-book fan, I enjoyed this movie. It had some stellar set pieces, and a handful of impressive CGI moments. But the plot and characterization were flat—a result, I think, of the horribly clogged cast; was it rising telekinetic Jean Grey/Phoenix (Sophie Turner) who occupies the heart of the film with her struggle to control her powers? Or was it the eternally pained Magneto as humans continue to push him towards protective genocide? Or was it Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) coming to terms with his mildly psychopathic father’s identity? This movie wasn’t sure. And neither was I.

Finding Dory (dir. Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane)

Full review here. It’s good, but not quite up to par; just a little bit surface-level.

Spirited Away (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)

I am thanking indie movie theaters for hosting Studio Ghibli film festivals so I could finally re-watch this movie in theaters. The animation was even more breathtaking on the big screen, and it definitely holds up upon repeated viewings.

The Light Between Oceans (dir. Derek Cianfrance)

Released just under a week ago, this movie follows the tragic, human story of a lighthouse keeper (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Alicia Vikander) who find a baby in a boat and raise her as their own—until they meet their daughter’s birth mother (Rachel Weisz). “What does it mean to be a parent?” is this film’s goal, and it definitely delivers.

Kubo and the Two Strings (dir. Travis Knight)

This brings me to yesterday morning, when I saw the final film of the season in theaters. And it may be a kid’s movie, but it’s absolutely beautiful. Drawing from classical Japanese folklore, Kubo (Art Parkinson) and his mother (Charlize Theron) live in fear of the Moon King, but when his unearthly daughters find Kubo, he’s forced to flee, searching for the legendary armor that will allow him to vanquish evil. Production company Laika is known for its stop-motion movies, and Kubo is their latest after Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Box Trolls.


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