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Bob Blooms Top 10 Movies of 2016

http://reelbob.com/2016/12/29/reelbob-bob-blooms-top-10-films-of-2016/

ReelBob: Bob Bloom’s top 10 films of 2016
Posted on December 29, 2016 by Bob Bloom

By Bob Bloom

Like a freight train climbing a steep grade, the year in movies started off slowly, but gained momentum as 2016 progressed and the summit was in sight.

For the first time in a few years, it became difficult to whittle down my choices to a top 10.

But, I finally succeeded and, as a bonus, included a list — in alphabetical — order of 10 honorable mentions.

Just for fun, I have included my picks for the five most disappointing movies of 2016.

So, here we go:

Top 10:

1. Moonlight: A touching and intimate story of a young black man’s journey of self-discovery about his place in the world and his sexuality.

The film is a tender and compassionate look at isolation and living in the shadows by denying one’s true self.

2. Hell or High Water: This contemporary Western heist-thriller creates an atmosphere of desperation and anger as two brothers rob branches of a bank that tricked their mother into signing and reverse mortgage and now plan to foreclose.

Strong performances by Chris Pine, Ben Foster and, especially, Jeff Bridges, make this a compelling drama that taps into the anger and disillusionment that has gripped the nation.

3. Manchester by the Sea: Casey Affleck’s Oscar-worthy performance dominates this feature about tragedy, guilt, loss and pain.

Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan has created an unrelenting portrait of grief that drains you, but also captures and stirs your heart. You bleed for these characters, praying that they find healing or redemption.

4. The Lobster: One of the most original movies of the year is set in a futuristic society in which being alone is a crime.

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz

The movie is a witty feature about the tyranny of conformity in which everyone is paired by having shared trait or interests.

Single people — or those who have lost a partner or ended a relationship — are sent to a hotel where they have 45 days to find a new partner.

If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choice.

5. La La Land: A musical that is wholly original — as well as a homage to tribute to the garish Technicolor Fox musicals of the 1940s and the classic MGM musicals of the 1950s.

This boy-meets-girl love story is a tale of dreams and dreamers and the high cost of reaching success.

6. Loving: Some big-issue movies bellow their presence, while other, do so in a quiet and understated manner. This is one of those films.

Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple from Virginia, are the focal points of this true story of how a lawsuit filed on their behalf ended antiquated miscegenation laws in that, and eventually other, southern states.

The movie’s power lies in the strong performances by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the Lovings, an ordinary couple who simply wanted to live their lives as a family.

7. Hidden Figures: This little-known story of three black women and their contributions to NASA and the space program is an inspirational drama that honors perseverance.

These women overcame race and gender prejudice and inequality with dignity and determination, paving the way for women of any color or nationality to reach for the stars.

8. Don’t Think Twice: This bittersweet and sad comedy focuses on the impact of an improvisational comedy troupe after one of its members leaves for a gig on a “Saturday Night Live”-type show.

The insecurities, jealousies and constant need for reaffirmation drives these characters, as they react to their friend’s defection.

The other members of the troupe covet the success of their former member, more so than being jealous of his new, mainstream gig.

The film will give you a heightened appreciation of the comedians who expose themselves nightly and work hard to make you laugh.

9. American Honey: A Dickensian road movie follows a group of disenfranchised and disaffected teenagers as they travel the country selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door in affluent neighborhoods.

The film marks a stunning film debut by Sasha Lane as Star, the newest member of this young group of vagabonds, who escapes her sordid home life to try and fulfill a yearning to belong and make a fresh start.

“Honey” offers an appealing look at a slice of Americana that many of us have never seen — or simply ignored.

10. Deadpool: Truly, one of the most outlandish and entertaining movies of the year.

This Marvel superhero feature is like no other. Star Ryan Reynolds continually breaks the fourth wall, talking directly to the audience.

The body count is high and the laughs are plentiful in this attitude-driven vehicle.

The film proclaims its middle-finger, thumbing-its-nose attitude from the opening credits to its fade-out and beyond.

You can check out the full reviews of the top 10 at ReelBob.com.

Now, in alphabetical order, here are my 10 honorable mentions:

Arrival: An adult science fiction drama that stresses the importance of language and communications — as well as sacrifice.

The Edge of Seventeen: Never has teen angst been so realistic — and funny. Hallie Steinfeld battles self-esteem and sibling issues in a film that will, at times, break your heart, and then make you smile.

Everybody Wants Some!!: A raucous comedy about a group of baseball players at a Texas college who bond over music, beer and girls.

Fences: Denzel Washington stars in and directs this adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. This story of a proud man living in the past is powerful and real.

Kubo and the Two Strings: An entertaining animated feature about loss and redemption that honors Japanese anime as it tells the tale of a young boy — a storyteller — and his quest to discover his true self.

Our Little Sister: This small, quiet Japanese import makes some profound statements about the human condition, in its look at family and responsibility.

Jackie: Natalie Portman shines as Jacqueline Kennedy as she copes in the days after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.

The movie encapsulates the conflict between the public and private lives foisted on our leaders and celebrities.

Moana: A colorful and tune-filled animated feature about daring to expand your horizons and go beyond what others expect of you.

Plus, you get Dwayne Johnson singing!

Sausage Party: An animated feature that is not only 88 minutes of laughs, but a razor-sharp satire on religion, faith and skepticism.

An all-star vocal cast, headed by Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig, shows what happens when the food items on the supermarket shelf discover that outside the store is not the promised land they were taught.

The Witch: One of the most original — and disturbing — movies of the year.

The suspense and chills constantly build in this feature, set in Puritan New England in the 1630s, that focuses on fanaticism and superstition.

And, finally, five movies that were overly hyped and fell very short of critical expectations. No comments are needed, especially for those who saw these clunkers.

Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice

Collateral Beauty

Independence Day: Resurgence

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Suicide Squad

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
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‘LION’ BOB BLOOM MOVIE REVIEW

http://reelbob.com/2016/12/23/reelbob-lion/

ReelBob: ‘Lion’
Posted on December 23, 2016 by Bob Bloom

By Bob Bloom

“Lion” is a solid movie that, unless you have ice in your veins, will have you wiping tears from your eyes by its final fade-out.

The movie, however, despite hitting the proper emotional keys, feels as if it’s missing something vital.

The film, based on a true story, follows Saroo, a 5-year-old Indian boy, who gets lost on a train that takes him thousands of miles from his village home.

Disembarking in Calcutta, the boy is on his own. Worse, he only speaks Hindi, not understanding the Bengali dialect spoken in the massive city.

Saroo is later taken to an orphanage, where, after a few months, an Australian couple, Sue and John, adopt him, bring him to their home in Tasmania and raise him as their son.

Yet, as he grows up, Saroo continually dreams of his family — feeling guilty about the anguish he has caused them and wondering if they are still searching for him.

Locating his village becomes an obsession for the now-adult Saroo, played by Dev Patel.

Saroo turns to Google Earth, scouring Indian rail lines, looking for landmarks he remembers, such as the water tower at the train station where his odyssey began.

“Lion” bogs down during this second act, as it raises several questions.

Why doesn’t Saroo contact Google, asking them for help? Why does he keep his search a secret from his adoptive parents? And why does he treat his adoptive brother — another lost Indian — so cruelly?

The performances by Patel and young Sunny Pawar as the 5-year-old Saroo compensate for many of the film’s shortcomings.

Pawar personifies the frightened child who is lost in a metropolis that overwhelms him. Yet, he is adaptive enough to quickly learn how to fend for himself.

Patel offers a complicated look at a torn young man, happy and comfortable in his loving and supportive surroundings, yet deeply anxious to find the loved ones he has lost.

“Lion” is a movie in which you strongly root for Saroo to succeed, despite how his overwhelming fixation nearly alienates everyone around him.

It is a testament to screenwriter Luke Davies and director Garth Davis that you continue to follow Saroo and become emotionally involved in his quest.

His need to reconnect with his roots touches a chord in each of us.

It is no spoiler to relate that Saroo succeeds. But his triumph is bittersweet.

Davis is most adept at showing the overwhelming task that Saroo undertakes, with aerial shots that emphasize the enormity of the Indian landscape.

“Lion” is an emotional express that, for the most part, delivers what you expect.

A sincere celebration of determination and the human spirit, this film will have you applauding and weeping simultaneously.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

LION
3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), mature thematic elements, some sensuality

“Fences” review by Bob Bloom ‘REELBOB”

http://reelbob.com/2016/12/23/reelbob-fences/

ReelBob: ‘Fences’
Posted on December 23, 2016 by Bob Bloom

By Bob Bloom

“Fences” is a splendid film adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-winning drama that, though “opened up” for cinematic purposes, retains the emotional power of the Broadway presentation.

That is mainly due to Denzel Washington, who does double duty as the film’s director and star.

Washington, as Troy Maxson, and Viola Davis, as his wife, Rose, are familiar with the material, having performed it together on stage.

Still, they bring a vibrancy and freshness to the feature, set in the late 1950s in Pittsburgh, that, despite some staginess, makes you want to spend time with and learn more about the family.

Troy, who works as a garbage collector in Pittsburgh, is a bitter man who feels he has been standing still for almost 18 years.

He is a former Negro League baseball star and ex-convict who believes that race and prejudice has kept him from fulfilling his dreams.

He rules his house like a tyrant, barking orders at Rose and their son, Cory, like a Marine drill sergeant. At other times, he shows a tenderness, as he kisses Rose and extols her virtues.

Because of his failures, Troy continually battles Cory, who plays football in high school and is good enough to garner the attention of a college recruiter.

Troy, though, holds him back, insisting Cory learn a trade because “the white man” will not allow him to succeed at sports.

The angry Troy projects his own disappointments onto Cory, creating a conflict of wills that continually builds tensions within the family, as Rose unsuccessfully tries to mediate between the two.

“Fences” is more a character study than a plot-driven drama. It’s a look at a proud and defiant man confronting his shortcomings and demons, while bullying those closest to him to sustain the respect he craves and believes he has earned by putting food on the table and a roof over their heads.

And while race is a factor in “Fences,” Wilson’s themes and generational struggles are universal truths that can be applied to any ethnicity.

The performances are first rate. At times, you dislike Washington’s Troy, while simultaneously pitying him. He is color blind, refusing to see how times have changed, while believing that he is protecting his son instead of tying him to a past that is quickly receding.

As a director, Washington knows how to use the cadences of Wilson’s words to deepen their impact. He shoots most of the action in the kitchen, parlor and backyard of the Maxson house, but also films in the neighborhood, giving the audience a wider perspective of the family’s environment.

Davis is magnificent as Rose, who has stood beside Troy for 18 years, trying in various ways, to make him look forward instead of back.

She bears insults and indignities from her husband, until she finally explodes, releasing a torrent of frustrations that he has been either too blind or selfish to see.

Jovan Adepo as Cory reveals a young man slowly finding himself and breaking off the domineering shackles tying him to his father.

“Fences” is a dialogue-driven vehicle, with Wilson’s words flowing like music or poetry.

The film is the next best thing to seeing a stage production of this 20th-century classic. Its power, compassion and intimacy crashes through the screen and into your heart.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

FENCES
3½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), adult situations and themes, language, suggestive sexual references

LION reviewed by Bob Bloom “REELBOB”

http://reelbob.com/2016/12/23/reelbob-lion/

ReelBob: ‘Lion’
Posted on December 23, 2016 by Bob Bloom

By Bob Bloom

“Lion” is a solid movie that, unless you have ice in your veins, will have you wiping tears from your eyes by its final fade-out.

The movie, however, despite hitting the proper emotional keys, feels as if it’s missing something vital.

The film, based on a true story, follows Saroo, a 5-year-old Indian boy, who gets lost on a train that takes him thousands of miles from his village home.

Disembarking in Calcutta, the boy is on his own. Worse, he only speaks Hindi, not understanding the Bengali dialect spoken in the massive city.

Saroo is later taken to an orphanage, where, after a few months, an Australian couple, Sue and John, adopt him, bring him to their home in Tasmania and raise him as their son.

Yet, as he grows up, Saroo continually dreams of his family — feeling guilty about the anguish he has caused them and wondering if they are still searching for him.

Locating his village becomes an obsession for the now-adult Saroo, played by Dev Patel.

Saroo turns to Google Earth, scouring Indian rail lines, looking for landmarks he remembers, such as the water tower at the train station where his odyssey began.

“Lion” bogs down during this second act, as it raises several questions.

Why doesn’t Saroo contact Google, asking them for help? Why does he keep his search a secret from his adoptive parents? And why does he treat his adoptive brother — another lost Indian — so cruelly?

The performances by Patel and young Sunny Pawar as the 5-year-old Saroo compensate for many of the film’s shortcomings.

Pawar personifies the frightened child who is lost in a metropolis that overwhelms him. Yet, he is adaptive enough to quickly learn how to fend for himself.

Patel offers a complicated look at a torn young man, happy and comfortable in his loving and supportive surroundings, yet deeply anxious to find the loved ones he has lost.

“Lion” is a movie in which you strongly root for Saroo to succeed, despite how his overwhelming fixation nearly alienates everyone around him.

It is a testament to screenwriter Luke Davies and director Garth Davis that you continue to follow Saroo and become emotionally involved in his quest.

His need to reconnect with his roots touches a chord in each of us.

It is no spoiler to relate that Saroo succeeds. But his triumph is bittersweet.

Davis is most adept at showing the overwhelming task that Saroo undertakes, with aerial shots that emphasize the enormity of the Indian landscape.

“Lion” is an emotional express that, for the most part, delivers what you expect.

A sincere celebration of determination and the human spirit, this film will have you applauding and weeping simultaneously.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

LION
3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), mature thematic elements, some sensuality

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Bob Bloom reviews: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on ReelBob.com

http://reelbob.com/2016/12/15/reelbob-rogue-one-a-star-wars-story/

ReelBob: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’
Posted on December 15, 2016 by Bob Bloom

By Bob Bloom

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the newest movie in that iconic universe looks back on a time before we encountered Luke Skywalker or Han Solo.

This exciting, thrilling and captivating science-fiction adventure takes place during a time when the Rebel Alliance is fractured and the evil Galactic Empire is building a new weapon — the Death Star — to maintain order in the galaxy.

The movie, directed by Gareth Edwards, is reminiscent of those behind-the-lines World War II thrillers, such as “The Dirty Dozen” or “The Guns of Navarone,” in which a small group must defeat overwhelming odds to complete a nearly impossible mission.

“Rogue One” is a blast, filled with action, drama, heart and darkness.

What makes “Rogue One” so refreshing, especially within the “Star Wars” canon, is that it’s totally self-contained — no cliffhanger, setting up a sequel; nothing for which you must wait a couple of years to learn what is next.

The film introduces a host of new characters: Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a rebellious young woman seeking her scientist father, Galen (the wonderful Mads Mikkelsen), coerced by the Empire to help design the Death Star; Capt. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a pilot for the rebellion; Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the Imperial director tasked with building the Death Star; K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), an Imperial drone, reprogrammed to aid Andor; Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a former temple priest and believer in The Force; and Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a former Imperial pilot who has switched allegiances.

These disparate characters unite to steal the plans for the Death Star — that Jyn’s father purposely built with a flaw, which we know from “Star Wars: A New Hope” — and to reach the Alliance and help its cause.

The movie’s 133 minutes race by, as the characters — and action — hop from planet to planet, battling Stormtroopers — and, at times, each other — every step of the way.

Screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy have created a film in which the outcome can literally decide the fate of the galaxy. This pulse-pounding, adrenaline-rush feature emotionally involves you because the stakes are so high.

The film is visually stimulating, with many new worlds to stir the imagination.
The CGI work — for the most part — is exemplary. However, it also creates some of the film’s most unsettling moments.

Remember Governor Tarkin, played by Peter Cushing in the original “Star Wars.” Cushing, who died in 1994, has been digitally resurrected as Tarkin for “Rogue One” and the results are disturbing and a bit ghoulish (which is apropos because of Cushing’s involvement in Hammer studio’s Frankenstein and Dracula movies).

If Tarkin had been in one scene, it might not have felt as creepy and uncomfortable as it did with his continued appearances throughout the film.

Another character is digitally introduced at the end of the movie — but we will let you discover her for yourself.

Those minor deficiencies are not enough to spoil “Rogue One,” even though they do take you out of the moment for a split second.

“Rogue One” is a wonderful addition to the “Star Wars” series. It is heroic — filled with self-sacrifice and unselfish devotion as ordinary people unite for a righteous cause — fun, suspenseful and entertaining.

The Force is with “Rogue One” because by looking back, it helps carry the “Star Wars” saga forward.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
3½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), science-fiction action and violence

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