Review: Snowden or “Nerd becometh Spy”

Today the world knows the name Edward Snowden. I remember driving home from work and listening to the radio as broadcasters recounted the hysteria surrounding this most elusive man that fled the country for fear of federal retribution. He had told the world of our government’s dirty secrets. The American government was spying on the whole world, even ourselves. Was he a hero? Or a traitor? The debate raged as we all followed the story of the former NSA operative that had leaked evidence to London’s The Guardian news organization. Eventually he ended up in Moscow while trying to get to Ecuador for asylum when our government was seizing the Ecuadorian leader’s plane and searching for him. So it goes.

What I enjoyed about this film was that it managed to make a normal man in an extraordinary situation compelling enough for film. This is mostly due to the performances of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as the titular Snowden, and Shailene Woodley as his girlfriend Lindsay Mills. Don’t get me wrong though, the rest of the cast was great as well and I was pleasantly surprised to see many more recognizable faces throughout the film’s runtime. The bigger names included Rhys Ifans as Snowden’s CIA mentor, Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian alongside Tom Wilkinson as Ewen MacAskill, Timothy Olyphant as a charming- yet seedy- NSA operative, and even a restrained Nic Cage! Oh and Scott Eastwood as a manager of sorts in the NSA, at least he was more useful here than in Suicide Squad, he’s getting better.

Oliver Stone wisely begins the movie with Snowden’s initial meeting with the journalists and retreads how he came to this point beginning with his time in the military before transfering to the intelligence field after discovering his physical limitations. He starts out on the side of conservatism as he rapidly advances through the CIA’s programs. Shortly thereafter he meets Lindsay Mills, a staunch and passionate liberal. They hit it off and Stone wisely makes this relationship the emotional cornerstone of the film. From there we follow Snowden as he witnesses the government’s reach grow as does his security clearances because of his own intellect and skill. Snowden increasingly becomes unsettled by the actions of those around him as his suspiscion of our government’s intentions intensifies.

At one point Snowden prompts Lindsay to be more careful about her personal content on her computer. She retorts with “Why should I care? I have nothing to hide.” That’s just it though, people deserve the right to privacy, you don’t have to have anything to hide for that to matter. Oliver Stone does a fine job in handling this debate in my opinion, and its a very important discussion that we seem to be terrible at having, or even considering at times. The difference between how people behave and act in public spaces versus in their own privacy is important and a neccesary component to a healthy society. Stone’s film does take a side, clearly, and this may not be the most action heavy, or awe inspiring movie of the year but it certainly centers itself on a subject and event that people seem to have forgotten in as little as three years time when we really should have taken that time to consider the ramifications of what he did. Snowden is heroic because he gave up his own freedoms and life in order to be the digital canary in the coal mine, he told the world a terrifying truth-we’ve given up our own freedoms and privacy without even realizing it.

Where the film lacks for me is that while the conversation is inherently interesting the story as a whole never quite goes there, if you know what I mean. The film lacks that satisfying punch, it lends itself more to a subdued restraint. It’s similar to a good joke, the build up is fascinating, but the punchline lacks the bluster you want, while still being kinda funny. This film is a good joke, but not a great one. However I cannot state enough the importance of the content at hand. This film will probably go down in the annals of film history as being more talked about and discussed than watched and rewatched, but maybe that’s okay. Not every film needs that. Some just need to present you with a debate, or an idea. Snowden does that, and in my opinion it succeeds by doing so effectively.

Final Score: 4/5


Movie Pitch: Adaption of “Endurance” Ernest Shackleton’s fated Antarctic voyage

Recently I finished the book “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible voyage” and ever since I’ve been obsessed with what a film adaption of this tale would look like. Below I’ve assembled a cast and crew that would create a unique and vibrant adaption of this actual voyage. This is the story of Ernest Shackleton and his attempt to organize a crew, and a ship, to travel to the southern pole and become the first to traverse the Antarctic continent from sea to sea as his previous journey south ended with him being beaten to the south pole by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. This attempt would also go awry, as fate would have it, the crew of the endurance would never make it to the Antarctic coast. At about a day’s journey from their destination the Endurance became trapped in floating pack ice in the Weddell sea.

For months the crew of the Endurance stayed on ship hoping for the ice-floe to give, but its grip only tightened further until they had to abandon ship before the ice crushed the Endurance. Thus the crew camped out on the floe, surviving blizzards, sea life, starvation, and boredom until it broke up and they could make a break for land. It was a grueling journey with flares of mutiny, dog sledding races, soccer matches, theatre shows and musical entertainment by way of banjo. That doesn’t even cover the second half of the journey, which consisted of Shackleton and several crew members sailing in a twenty foot lifeboat across 800 miles (roughly) of raging seas in some of the most dangerous waters on the planet. The true story is thrilling, harrowing, and full of the extent to which humanity can struggle and fight just to live another day.

I haven’t, however, casted for the entire crew of the endurance. The Endurance’s crew consisted of 28 members including Shackleton, but I have tried to cast for the majority of crew members that have some sort of standout personality or that have moments over the course of their journey that play into a compelling narrative better. I’m sure there are regulars in the film casting world that would be capable of such scale and lengthy film shoots. I honestly see this as being a very long film because of the nature of the story, as a lot of it is the crew lying in wait on the floe, and later waiting on Elephant island, but it is sparsed with more intense times throughout. What has to be considered here is the essential world building, and the immersion of the story, as it is in the world of 1914, during World War One. I’d suggest longer takes and shots, lingering on thought and expression at times. Look at “The Hateful Eight” (Ironically this is a film I initially did not enjoy but have come to find it to be more of a masterpiece in some regards) and how patience in camera work made for better and more intuitive character moments, it also helped to set the mood for the narrative.

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Iñárritu proved incredible skill as a director in both “Birdman” and “The Revenant” winning two Best Director oscars for both, two years in a row, with “Birdman” receiving Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture as well. Shackleton’s story does share similar themes that “The Revenant” also tackled, ‘Man versus Nature’ and the grit to go through extreme hardships, but the Fate of the Endurance and her crew is a bit different. There is no revenge here, just man tempting the fates of nature and getting a horrid hand of cards dealt their way, but striving nonetheless. It is about the neccesary implementation of optimism and hope, even in the darkest of times. Alejandro Iñárritu has done groundbreaking things with his cinematopgraphy choices in both “The Revenant” and “Birdman” and I believe he could do wonders with this material.

Writers: Steven Zaillian and the Coen brothers

Steven Zaillian was one of the main screenwriters on “Gangs of New York”, which is in my opinion one of the very best films set within a historical context. That film is grounded and has a good sense about the world that it has to efficiently emulate and become. Combined with the Coen brothers who have an extensive record of creating films within very specific time settings (from “The Big Lebowski” to “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and  “Inside Llewyn Davis” among others), not to mention their outright skill in the writing department AND the fact that they’ve been known to join in on the writing efforts of other films at times (“Bridge of Spies”). This is a team that has the credentials and the skill to pull this film off.


Ernest Shackleton (Expedition Leader): Liam Neeson

With Shackleton being of Irish descent I believe Liam Neeson is uniquely qualified to pull off the stoic optimism of this legendary explorer excellently. While Neeson has recently evolved into an action star in the last decade he has the gravitas and grit when needed, just look at “The Grey” (For the ‘Man versus Nature’ argument) and Scorsese’s upcoming film “Silence”, a story of jesuits sent to 17th century Japan to retrieve a fellow jesuit wherein Neeson portrays the mentor of the jesuits. Shackleton was a born leader and it was under his authority and compassion that led them all to survive. Shackelton’s mantra of unity and show of humanity was infectious among the crew, often leading them all to rise to his example and treat each other with tremendous compassion. He broke the barriers between the classism that was more present in society at the time. He ordered everyone to perform all tasks, he even washed the floors himself and served the men hot milk (One of the few morsales of food and liquid available at the time) when trapped on the floes. To Shackleton, survival and maintaining the morality of the crew was far more important than any scrap of glory once he knew they would never make it to the Antarctic coast, he simply changed gears and made new goals, mostly that of the crew’s survival and return home. Liam Neeson could portray that confidence, optimism, and sense of checked urgency without folding under the immense pressure that Shackleton was constantly facing. Plus-an argument that could be made for each of these actors included below- who wouldn’t want to work with the director that just won two best director oscars and won one best picture, but was nominated for it twice?!

Thomas Orde-Lees (Storekeeper): Martin Freeman

Orde-Lees was a particularly sassy fellow as far as the rest of the crew was concerned. Labeled a prima donna by some of the crew, he held one of the most perceptive journals out of everyone as he so often complained of others’ nuisances, in his eyes. After Freeman’s performance in “The World’s End”, among many other films and shows,  I am convinced that Martin Freeman could pull off the slightly adverse crew member with his somewhat grumpy demeanor and general negativity towards their odds of survival.

Frank Worsley (Captain/on South Georgia trip): Michael McElhatton

As Captain of the Endurance Worsley needs a character actor with a presence, and Michael McElhatton has presence in spades. You might know him as Roose Bolton, Ramsey’s father, from Game of Thrones. This role would be far less antagonistic than that of the Bolton clan but his projected power in leadership that he portrays on Game of Thrones would most likely transfer to film well. He was also chosen to go with Shackleton on his treacherous journey to South Georgia Island from Elephant Island as Worsley had become adept at navigating in the ever worsening conditions ever since their departure from “Patience Camp” on the pack ice.

Frank Wild (Second-in-command): Eddie Marsan

Eddie Marsan may have portrayed a pushover in the film “The World’s End” but I believe he not only has the smaller framed look of Wild, but the acting ability as well. Wild was an important player in this journey as he often was confided in by Shackleton, and he took on many roles once everything had turned from exploration to that of survival. Marsan has had an incredible amount of side character roles in television and film and is well rounded enough to be able to pull this off efficiently.

Huberht Hudson (Navigator): Tim Roth

Hudson was an indespensible asset on the Endurance as he helped them to find their position while lost at sea on their floating savior/menace of ice. Tim Roth is equally indespensible in every film or show I’ve seen him in and I believe he’d only add gravitas to the ordeal.

Thomas Crean (2nd officer/on South Georgia trip): Sean Bean

While not as commanding a role as he’s had before, this role would be a bit different for Bean. A tough everyman for the English in 1914 Crean proudly became the ‘Father’ of a set of puppies on the trip proving to have a heart of gold under that rugged exterior. Crean is also one of the few characters that travels with Shackleton through the 800 mile journey to South Georgia Island. You need strong willed character actors to portray the enduring battle for survival, and Sean Bean can emote strength, loyalty, and respect effectively. Crean was a man that followed orders, but didn’t quit when it got tough, for he was tougher.

George Marston (Artist): Daniel Radcliffe

As with “Swiss Army Man” and “Horns” Daniel Radliffe seems to be choosing odd yet fun roles since his departure from the wizarding world of magic and nothing would set him apart from that realm of storytelling more than a hard dose of realism set against the backdrop of a dying breed of conquest and adventure at the beginning of World War One. Marston may not have been the biggest standout character among the journey, but he has a unique perspective from the other crew as the journey’s official Artist, he could play with the material within common sense for the character and make smaller moments shine whereas others may not be able to do as much with the role.

Frank Hurley (Photographer): Simon Pegg

Hurley had an interesting perspective within this journey as the photographer of the expedition, he took (and saved) all the pictures and film we currently have today. In fact the picture at the top of the article was taken by Hurley and has Frank Worsley and Lionel Greenstreet in the picture with the Endurance in the harbour of South Georgia Island below, the last stop before getting caught in the pack ice. As such a character, one that frames and views people and spaces, Hurley has qualities that I think Simon Pegg would excel at portraying. Pegg is exceptionally good at imbuing heart and he has a genuine authenticity that would play well into such a character.

Harry McNeish (Carpenter/on South Georgia trip): Walton Goggins

McNeish would be an especially fun role to have Walton Goggins in. As the only member of the party to really step forward to begin a mutiny, before having Shackleton firmly stand his ground as the authority figure, McNeish has a special amount of conflict within his character. He is also one of the crew chosen to go with Shackleton on the trip to South Georgia as his loyalty and ability to influence others came into question. Goggins is rightfully getting more recognition in the film world due to his scene stealing role in “The Hateful Eight”, and I feel he could do this role justice.

Charles Green (Cook): Charlie Day

In my opinion Charlie Day should be in more and bigger roles whenever possible. His antics on the show “Its always Sunny in Philadelphia” are ridiculous and entertaining, but out of the other roles he’s popped up in, I believe I see talents greater than that of Charlie Kelly, ‘King of the Rats’ (Although I do love that character). Green was noted as having a squeaky voice and being conscientious- yet scatterbrained. Does this not sound like the character type Charlie Day has become known for? As the chef that continually serves the crew in the worst of conditions Charlie could have ample opportunity to flex the role and show off his ability to weather any storm and survive, if he can bring anything from the Charlie Kelly character- it would be his skill in survival.

John Vincent (Seaman/on South Georgia trip): Adam Baldwin

You may remember this Baldwin from a little sci-fi show from the early 2000’s called “Firefly”. As Jayne on that show Baldwin expressed a lot of what we’d need for Vincent, essentially a strong strongman (Vincent had been an amateur boxer and wrestler before taking on work on the open seas) that attempts bullying behavior among the crew and is thus also picked by Shackleton to go on the journey to South Georgia, he’s loyal, just slightly antagonistic. Adam Baldwin could excel in this role.

Timothy McCarthy (Seaman/on South Georgia trip): Sharlto Copley

This may be a smaller role on the journey but as one of the capable seaman on the trip Copley could have great fun in being an eternal optimist in the worst of it. He was also chosen to go on the journey to South Georgia and maintained a sunny attitude once proclaiming “Another fine day” to McNeish when switching shifts at the till, to which I believe McNeish later recorded in his journal as “Insufferably optimistic”, but don’t quote me on that.

Lionel Greenstreet (First Officer): Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman is an actor with an incredible set of range, just watch “Kate and Leopold”, “The Wolverine”, and “Les Misérables” to get an idea. As an outspoken officer aboard the ship Greenstreet held his level of authority and was well liked. Later in the expedition he ran one of the dog teams and ended up killing an 800 lb Weddell seal with the help of Dr. Macklin. Jackman would be yet another indespensible asset to the film.

Leonard Hussey (Meteorologist): John C. Reilly

John C. reilly has done serious roles before (“Gangs of New York” for example), and he would fit in well here. Hussey had little qualifications going into the trip but Shackleton eyed his potential crewmates with more than just record and experience although those were ample qualifiers as well. He relied on gut and intuition. It paid off with Hussey as he was rather proficient at his work.

Dr. Alexander Macklin (Surgeon): Christoph Waltz

Macklin was a worldy man having been born in India and traveled globally before his family returned to England where he began his certification to become a doctor. When he was interviewed by Shackleton for acceptance on the expedition he asked Macklin what was wrong with his eyes, as Macklin wore glasses, he humorously replied “Many a wise face would look foolish without them” That clinched the decision for Shackleton and he was aboard the Endurance. After they became trapped Macklin was put in charge of a team of dogs, his quickly became the best team of all the men, running sledges through the ice from the ship before it was crushed entirely. They also held races in the ice to abate boredom and apathy. Once getting to Elephant island Macklin and the other surgeon remained on the island to attend to Rickenson (one of the seamen) as he had a heart attack upon reaching the island, and Blackboro as he’d gotten gangrene on one of his feet and eventually had it removed. Christoph Waltz has the charm and wit to pull this character off well enough, plus giving him a worldly background would be easy for such a wordly actor.

Perce Blackboro (Stowaway): Paul Dano

Paul Dano does sadness and uncertainty incredibly well, see “Swiss Army Man” for a perfect example of this. As a stowaway who is caught and given work only to have an awful time after that, Dano would excel in this young character’s fear of being stranded on the ice. Even worse is the fact that he loses a foot due to gangrene after they leave the floe in the boats, being awash in freezing cold saltwater consistently for seven days straight without being able to move and almost no sleep and even less food will do that. Dano is amazing at emoting during times of struggle and strife, and this role is full of that.


Movie Pitch: Live Action “Up”

Recently on an episode of MovieFights! by Screenjunkies on youtube, their guests were posed a very interesting hypothetical question. “Which Pixar movie should be made into a live action film?” One of the answers submitted was “Up”, the adventure bound tale of Carl Fredricksen, a disgruntled old man living alone in his home, and Russell, a young plucky boy scout full of optimism. Immediately I thought of several creative talents that I believe would make an incredibly entertaining adaption of the film while still maintaining a faithful rendition of the source material. Many of you know this film already, but mainly it’s about those two getting wrapped up in a whimsical international adventure in Fredricksen’s house as its hoisted by balloons through the sky. It’s one of Pixar’s greats and if it were adapted for live action you’d need to bring real talent to the table to successfully transfer the quality of this animated story to celluloid status.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Spielberg has the right kind of optimism in his directing style that would mesh well with his knack for adventures that can be viewed by anyone without pandering to children or adults. Obviously the man could adapt almost anything and have it be some sort of success but I believe his most filmic qualities play into making this adventure memorable and full of heart.

Writers: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright

Both “Star Trek Beyond” and the cornetto trilogy by Edgar Wright (‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’, and ‘The World’s End’) prove that these two can imbue blockbuster flair with the intimacy of true character moments sparsed throughout their screenplays. I’m betting these two would make for quick witted quips and whimsical wordplay that fills you with wonder. They’re the right men for the job!


Carl Fredricksen: Mark Rylance

While Ed Asner’s voiceover work in the animated version was decidedly impeccable I doubt he would be as capable today at the age of 86 to pull off the performance, no harm meant however, the man is a legend. Mark Rylance, while a spry 56 years old, still has the look for an older gentleman and he hasn’t (since his scene stealing role in “Bridge of Spies”) had the opportunity to perform the curmudgeony role of Carl Fredricksen’s type, most of his performances paint him as likeable, he could have some fun with this one.

Russell: Julian Dennison

After his scene stealing turn as Ricky Baker in “Hunt for The Wilderpeople” Julian Dennison has proven his acting ability and outstanding charisma. Alongside Mark Rylance this could be another proving ground with a somewhat similar pairing as his previous outing, yes, but what a tantalizingly entertaining performance it would be.

Charles Muntz: Brad Pitt

Having the caliber of acting that Brad Pitt brings to the table could be the perfect dash of celebrity in this scenario. Muntz is a rich billionaire obsessed with finding the rare bird (Kevin) that follows our heroes around diligently. With the character being based on Howard Hughes and other classic americana adventurers Pitt could find merit and fun within this performance.

Voice of Dug the retriever: Paul F. Tompkins

Anyone that’s seen Netflix’s animated show “Bojack Horseman” can tell you that Paul F. Tompkins definitely has the voice of a golden retriever, because he plays one quite well in the form of Mister PeanutButter. I can’t think of a better voice work actor that could measure up for this sort of role than Mister Tompkins.

Kevin (the Bird) Noises: Bill Hader

This one is more of a fun suggestion really. If Kevin the bird came down to being voiced by a human instead of a sound design team producing the animal’s gutteral noises who better than Bill Hader to come in and record all kinds of ridiculous sounds for Kevin? He’s had multiple voiceover performances in the past and has proven to be another quality tool in any director’s bag of tricks when utilized, let the man crow and caw.

Those are my thoughts and musings on how I would organize a live adaption of the Pixar animated movie “Up”. Agree with my choices? Either way coment below or leave your own thoughts on the topic! As always, thanks for reading!




Casting “Justice League Dark”

Now that we know Doug Liman will be directing DC’s ‘Justice League Dark’ after Guillermo Del Toro departed from the production we can have some fun with casting the team. Also credit due to the popular youtube channnel ScreenJunkies for inspiring my own interpretation of this movie’s cast. Justice League Dark is a particularly fun comic dealing with, as the title implies, the darker side of the DCEU with the inclusion of possesion, demons, and the occasional trip to heaven and/or hell. This is the down and dirty side of DC that Batman, Superman, and Flash may dip their toes in from time to time, but are usually too busy defending the earth from galactic sized problems to deal with. Sometimes you just need a rag tag group of rejects that happen to be well versed in the dark arts.

Ryan Gosling as John Constantine

Okay, hear me out. Ryan Gosling has done an impeccable job removing himself from any rom/com stigma he may have had lingering around within the last five years and made quite the household name for himself. His range in acting ability is pretty incredible and since he seems so darn likeable in most pieces I believe Constantine would provide him with a unique acting challenge as the character is usually steeped in snarky cynical quips, self loathing tirades, or generally being disliked for his arrogant and selfish antihero antics.

Jackie Earle Haley as Boston Brand/Deadman

Not since Rorschach has there been a character more fitting for Jackie Earle Haley. Deadman is a ghost or spirit having the ability to possess others’ bodies amongst other tricks such as intangibility, invisibility, and flight. In his human life he was affluence and sin personified, he didn’t learn how to live until he died. Given these ghostly abilites by a hindu god named ‘Rama Kushna’ Brand had to solve his own murder and then went out to help mortals avoid the same mistakes he made in life. Stoic expressionism and the ability to express dry humor are both talents that Haley has in the bag and I believe he’d bring a unique edge to a character that still wants to hold onto the belief that he remains part of humanity.

Mahershala Ali as Dr. Alec Holland/Swamp Thing

With Netflix’s own ‘House of Cards’ and the upcoming ‘Luke Cage’ series Ali has shown great skill and flexibility in character work. I believe he could bring a compelling performance to the human nature of Swamp Thing because while Swamp Thing is nature bound, there is a human within the green figure that has to be pulled from. Swamp Thing is quite the compelling character in his own right and should receive an actor ready to take on the challenge that this character brings, Ali can do that and more.

Viggo Mortensen as Jason Blood/Etrigan the Demon

Jason Blood was originally a knight in King Arthur’s camelot that gets wrapped up in the supernatural as he becomes bound to Etrigan, a demon from hell that was summoned by Merlin. After Merlin, who by the way is half brothers with Etrigan, summons this demon and finds he cannot pull secrets from him the wizard binds him to the knight, making Jason Blood immortal. Years later Blood resurfaces as a demonologist in Gotham. Blood attempts to utilize his infernal power for good as Etrigan’s power is impressive for DC’s standards. Mortensen would likely have no interest in the part, but with the character’s background as a knight plagued by a demon’s transformative power, it would be fun seeing Viggo in chainmail again in flashbacks. That and this guy really gets into his character motivation and knows how to make this sort of character memorable.

Aubrey Plaza as Zatanna

Genetically gifted as a master sorceress by her father Zatanna is one of DC’s most powerful magic users who moonlights as an illusionist, just as her father did. Zatanna has a lot to give as a member of the occult oriented team and Aubrey Plaza has the wit and charm necessary for this role, I’d love to see what she could do with the material. She’s more than simply a romantic interest for the other characters (although she did have several romantic outings with both Constantine and Jason Blood throughout the comics continuity), Zatanna is incredibly powerful. Here’s a list of her abilities: pyrokinesis, cryokinesis, electrokinesis, hyrdokinesis, geokinesis, aerokinesis, photokinesis, umbrakinesis, telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation, dimensional travel, reality alteration, antipathy, deflection, chronokinesis, weather manipulation, eldritch blast, energy construct creation, energy transference, flight, force field, healing, phasing, size alteration, transformation, prestidigitation, hypnosis, advanced hand to hand combat, occultism, and multilingualism… whew, yeah, this should be a fun character with lots of potential!

So there you have it, sometimes the JLD has a different looking roster from time to time, occasionally including Frankenstein (yes the Frankenstein), but this is the current cast of characters that are believed to be in the movie. Lets all hope Warner Bros. and DC figure out what not to do since ‘Suicide Squad’ already acomplished that for most audiences, because this team up has the potential to do something special. I hope this all works out in the end, nobody enjoys talking about DCEU movies in a negative light, well, at least I don’t, I want these movies to be great! Agree with my choices? Have your own roster of actors for this movie? Comment below and let me know! Thanks for reading!



Is 2016 the worst summer movie season yet? + year in review (so far)

This has been a weird year for movies. Lest we not forget the political vomiting that’s taking place and poor ole Harambe, but when it concerns the cinema, whew, it’s been one for the books, and its still only September! I can only speak for the films I’ve seen, but for the ones I have not I can only go by general consensus or word of mouth. For example, I saw Batman V Superman, so I know the extent to which I was dissapointed, but I could have easily relied on the explosion of conversation surrounding the film as well. Rotten tomatoes score or not that movie earned (some) bank but built an uneasy foundation going into the summer for DC comics based movies.

After compiling the lineup below I realized I haven’t seen anywhere near the amount of movies I wanted to see this year, but eventually I’ll get around to most if not all on this list. It’s hard to keep up with the abundance of visual art that’s made each year, and I personally try not to berate any one production, because it’s a difficult thing making a movie. I know, just from small instances of my own personal efforts, that simply scheduling around people’s lives can be a headache in itself and that’s not considering budgets, daylight, special effects, line memorization, lighting, hell even lunch being delivered on time can make or break a day’s efforts sometimes. So, sometimes even simply finishing a film can be a feat. I get that. However it’s also important to hold Hollywood to quality storytelling as they have the infrastructure that independent filmmakers only dream of and consequentially the indie people have made better films, than the big studios, as far as 2016 is considered.

Some are calling this the worst summer movie season ever. I don’t know about that. While it was certainly a letdown at times (here’s looking at you Independence Day) this year did have its merits, in fact I would say there were far more quality films over the more discussed dissapointments. You just had to know where to look for them. Anyways, here’s a quick reminder of this years highs and lows at the theater (so far).

The Good

Deadpool: A

Who knew the merc with a mouth could be more bankable (in North America), and have a better story, than Batman and Superman combined? #Driveby

Captain America Civil War: A+

Just another AAA 10/10 notch under Marvel’s belt, everything about this film knocks it out of the park in a way that keeps reinventing the superhero genre while inserting powerfully emotional story threads.

Swiss Army Man: A

This is a beautiful film about a suicidal man teaching a dead man that life is worth living. Filled with slick editing and special effects this film combines profound questions about life, saddness, love, and farts. Just trust me, it works.

Hunt for the wilderpeople: A+

A joyous and at times somber film that keeps you laughing while doling out life lessons for the leads both young and old. This is a truly unique flick and definitely one of my new favorites! Plus Any film that utilizes New Zealand’s beautiful landscape is always a nice touch.

Star Trek Beyond: B+

Slowed down to a more true ‘Trek’ vibe and pace this third outing in the series is another welcomed adventure with great character work. I may personally disagree with the creative choice of incorporating shaky cam sequences, but it’s not too much to distract from the overall quality.

The Shallows: B

The second best shark attack film ever made. At a tight hour and twenty seven minutes this popcorn shark flick hits all the intense and unnerving moments that you’d expect, and want, out of the ‘Blake Lively versus a giant shark’ pitch.

Jungle Book: B

Visually impressive beyond a doubt this modern rendition of Mogli’s animal adventure is a pleasure to watch and worthwhile solely on the basis of Bill Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie.

Kubo and The Two Strings: B

A clever and impressive stop motion adventure full of heart and danger, this is Laika studios’ best effort yet! Plus Matthew McConaughey steals the show as Beetle #AlrightAlrightAlright

Kung Fu Panda 3: B

A fitting and entertaining sequel following Jack Black’s Po and friends on more Kung Fu adventures while learning life lessons along the way. The soundtrack also took a noticeable uptick from previous outings.

The Bad

Independence Day Resurgence: C-

While I personally enjoyed this popcorn disaster flick, it is by no means “good”. Bigger Aliens, more destruction, but a confused tone throughout make a mess of a good alien invasion series. Jeff Goldblum makes the watch worth it, but not much else.

Sausage Party: C+

This isn’t necessarily a “bad” movie, but for what I expected (and this may be an issue of expectation vs reality of the film) it just didn’t really hold up for me. However there are clever bits hidden throughout about the nature of humanity, religion, and reality. If Hotdogs saying “Fuck” a whole lot is your thing then you’ll love it.

The Ugly

Batman VS Superman Dawn of Justice: D-

A complete misstep in the basic understanding of the two main characters here. While there are some fun visual things throughout the movie, like Batman in the warehouse, there are simply far too many failings (Martha/kryptonite spear/Jesse Eisenberg/Murderface Batman/No Smiles Superman) to merit this a success in the least.

Suicide Squad: D

1 & 1/2 acts and a thousand flashbacks mashed into one seriously confusing and muddled mess set to pop hits with the worst villain in ages, Suicide Squad is more entertaining than Batman V Superman at times, but not even Will Smith can save the DCEU, although he was the best part.

The Unwatched (For Now)

The Lobster: Want to see

I’ve heard great things about this one plus I love the concept of forced love under the threat of animal transformation.

Sing Street: Want to see

Consistently heard that this is one of the best, if not the very best, films of the year. Plus the trailers really sell those kids rocking the hits!

Green Room: Want to see

As one of Anton Yelchin’s last films I want to check it out since he was a great actor, but Patrick Stewart in a villainous role is also incredibly enticing!

10 Cloverfield Lane: Want to see

I personally love John Goodman in almost everything he’s done, plus the word of mouth about this film is excellence bar none so I’m pretty excited to check out how creepy Goodman can become when in a bomb shelter as friend or foe.

Hail, Caesar!: Want to see

I love the coen brothers’ films but I especially love when they work with George Clooney. The trailers sold me on the idea of a Golden Age hollywood kidnapping that becomes Josh Brolin’s problem. I’m in!

Warcraft: Want to see

Not everyone loved this film, and I’m not a World of Warcraft player but it looked fun and visually stunning, that and I admittedly have a fantasy genre weakness. More Magic and swords please!

The Witch: Want to see

I’m not the biggest horror fan around, but when a film in the genre seems to be universally loved I kinda want to know what all the buzz is about.

Zootopia: Want to see

The consensus is that this animated flick is clever as hell and highly watchable. That’s good enough for me!

The Nice Guys: Want to see

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe paired together in a buddy crime flick set in 1970’s Los Angeles and its directed by Shane Black? I have no excuses, I should have seen this one.

Hell or High Water: Want to see

I like the actors involved here and it seems like an excellent robbery film scenario. It’s just nice to see Chris Pine in something besides outer space, although he’s a great Kirk nonetheless.

Finding Dory: Want to see

Finding Nemo was Pixar’s Lion King, and it seems they did one better than Disney by creating a follow-up that wasn’t direct to video material, kudos, I need to see this animated feat.

The BFG: Moderately interested

The actual story and trailers didn’t truly sell me on the film, but it IS Steven Speilberg we’re talking about here, i will see this one eventually.

X-Men Apocalpyse: Not interested

While Days of Future past was an excellent X-men Movie I’m just not all that interested in the first class crew out on their own, I didn’t love their first outing and it seems like they wasted both Apocalypse AND Oscar Isaac here. I’ll check it out eventually because of Michael Fassbender’s Magneto though, however I’m still not convinced when it comes to James McAvoy’s Professor X .

Jason Bourne: Not interested

I might be in the minority here but I just wasn’t a fan of the earlier Bourne movies, to each their own, but if this one is supposedly the worst of them all then why should I bother?

TMNT Out of The Shadows: Not interested

The first (new) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was abysmal (in my opinion) and this one did look to be a shade better, but they’re just not my turtles, sorry guys.

Ben-Hur: Actively avoiding

This seemed like a pointless remake to begin with and the reception has only grounded that belief further. I’m also not incredibly inclined towards Jesus flicks, I’m still miffed about the passion of the Christ if I’m being honest here (it’s not a movie).

Everybody wants some: Want to see

Richard Linklater is a unique voice in film today and I’ve enjoyed his other flicks so why not check this one out? It seems to be well received too!

The Neon Demon: Want to see

Besides Drive I’m not a gigantic Nicolas Winding Refn fan but this has been highly recomended to me by fellow film fans for the cinematography and use of color, so at some point curiosity will get the better of me and I’ll check this one out.

Zoolander 2: Actively avoiding

The first Zoolander is enertaining enough but I’ve heard that even people that loved the first one were dissapointed by this outing, so why spend the time if I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first one anyways?

Neighbors 2 Sorority Rising: Moderately interested

I have not seen the first neighbors so I should probably check that one out as well but I’ve heard nothing but good from both of these comedies and I’m always heartened when a solid comedy does well.

Now you see me 2: Not interested

I also missed the first Now you see me, so maybe I could give it a shot, I enjoy all of the talent involved, but I really have no interest in checking this out after all the “meh” this film received. Maybe on a rainy day.

The Legend of Tarzan: Not interested

This is one of those “Told a million times” stories that I honestly have no real interest in seeing. Christoph Waltz is always a delight onscreen but I fear this film has nothing else to offer.

Keanu: Want to see

Key and Peele are a fun comedic treat whenever they produce something it usually turns out great, plus the trailers sold me on the idea of this kitty caper, I just haven’t gotten around to it quite yet.

The Light between Oceans: Moderately interested

I recently saw a bit of an interview with the director Derek Cianfrance where he explains his filmaking process with this film and it honestly intrigued me enough to see how it ends up, plus Michael Fassbender is always good. Always.

Don’t Breathe: Moderately interested

Again, not a huge Horror fan, but the idea of a home invasion that is flipped on the intruders when the blind homeowner becomes the villain is delightfully creepy, plus Stephen Lang is excellent and its always nice to see him get more work.

Money Monster: Moderately interested

Directed by Jodie Foster and starring George Clooney in a timely thriller about the 1% and their greed seems like it could be an entertaining piece.

Nine Lives: Actively avoiding

Ha! This looked awful from the beginning, but if you really want a good opinion on why you should never see this check out Chris Stuckmann’s review of it on youtube, it’s glorious.

Pete’s Dragon: Not interested

To be fair I was never a fan of the original because I never saw it as a child so there’s no inherent nostalgia for me here, plus nothing in the trailers really sold me on it.

Gods of Egypt: Moderately interested

This is a train wreck I want to see. I know it’s bad. Terribly bad. But it looks entertainingly horrible, like laughing nonstop bad. It could be worth it if viewed as a comedy.

So that wraps it up for movies I have seen and those I have missed. If you have any thoughts or opinions please feel free to comment below. Let’s hope the fall has more promising films on the way. The ones I’m looking forward to are: Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Jack Reacher 2 Never go back, Godzilla Resurgence, In a valley of violence, Passengers, La la Land, & Rules don’t apply. Here’s to better films and brighter futures!