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2015 movies from top to bottom

Dopey Nazis, geezer porn, and all the moves you can do on a submarine

The Assassin
The Assassin

In a good year, I’ve been known to publish a top 20. This year’s standouts were as obvious as they were few and far between. As such, more thought went into selecting the bottom ten. I could just as easily have called it quits with three by Kevin James, three by Adam Sandler (they both share in the blame for Pixels), and four Apatow factory byproducts, but that would have been too easy.

Note that four of the ten honorees held their local premiers at the Digital Gym, where the booking of late (give or take fanboy frights and the occasional telenovela) is the finest to hit town since this reporter parted company with MoPA. Would some beneficent, deep-pocketed cinematic soul brothers and/or sisters out there please pony up the funds needed to fit the booth with a Sony 4K projector? The addition would catapult the Gym into the ranks of the big boys, a hall where artistic champs would be proud to showcase their might.

Onward to 2016. In fear of repeating a line that’s been called into play for almost two decades’ worth of ten-best lists, I’ll refrain from noting next year can’t get much worse.

The Best

Movie

Assassin *****

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In a word, stunning. After an eight-year absence, world cinema’s foremost aesthete, <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=Hou+Hsiao-Hsien">Hou Hsiao-Hsien</a>, returns with a vengeance. Shu Qi, Director Hou’s leading lady of choice, stars as a 9th-century enforcer, taught to kill by the nun who raised her and later contracted to take out her former husband-to-be. Viewers who buy into the distributor’s promise of “a martial arts film like none made before” will no doubt be bored silly. Those familiar with the unmistakable triple-H brand will instantly recognize the director’s austere imprint and know what beauty lies ahead. Through painstaking research (and numerous takes to get it right), HHH catapults the material far beyond a series of historical maxims, leaving viewers dumbstruck by something as simple as the cut of a cloth or movement of a curtain in the breeze. There are moments when you’d swear the man knew how to harness wind to add texture to his frames. This is quite simply filmmaking at its finest. Subtitled.

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1) The Assassin

Hou Hsiao-Hsien expends more time and thought on composing individual shots than most directors do on complete features. Ten minutes in, it became clear this triumph of style over subject was unlike anything that opened in 2015. No surprise that the paucity of plot and the promise of limited, austere “action” scenes kept audiences at bay. Too bad. Not even Tarantino’s 70mm fantasy fulfillment looked this good on a screen.


Movie

Black Souls <em>(Anime nere)</em> *****

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Three brothers – Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta), the brains, Luigi (Marco Leonardi), the brawn, and Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane), the goat-herding outcast – each with a different vision of what direction the “family business” should take. The stories are workaday, but the storytelling is anything but in Francesco Munzi’s instant gangster classic. Most of the action plays out between a new city located in the shadowy foothills and the ancient villa, overrun by goats and perched high atop the mountain, that one of the brothers calls home. Working in both narrative and documentary mode from a novel by Gioacchino Criaco, director and co-writer Munzi has assembled what could amount to the quietest gangster chronicle ever made, with many of the key character shadings imparted through slight gestures and nimble movements of the camera. The ending left me both dumbstruck and questioning why no one has never thought of closing a mob movie in such a neat and logical manner.

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2) Black Souls

One of the most original gangster films since Don Corleone bought it in the orange grove. Director and co-writer Francesco Munzi has assembled what could amount to the quietest gangster chronicle ever made, with many of the key character shadings imparted in slight gestures and nimble movements of the camera.


Movie

Manglehorn *****

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How is it possible for Al Pacino to turn in one of the best and worst performances of the year essentially playing the same character? The truth is in the storytelling. For 97 minutes director and generous renegade David Gordon Green delights in following Manglehorn (Al Pacino), a small-town locksmith who's wasted too much of his life angrily pining for the lost love of the only woman capable of jimmying his heart. With its long, precision crafted parallel editing, sound design, and constantly evolving lap-dissolves, Manglehorn is almost as much an epistle to a certain tendency in ‘70’s cinema as it is tender homage to the power of Pacino. The actor returns the thanks with a performance the likes of which he hasn’t rewarded audiences with in almost two decades. Steeped in style, this one demands a visit to the theatre. With honorable support from Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine, and Chris Messina.

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3) Manglehorn

Al Pacino snapped a career losing streak that dates back to Donnie Brasco. Even more impressive: between this and Danny Collins, he managed to crack both my top and bottom ten! (Manglehorn director David Gordon Green, also responsible for the inexorable Our Brand Is Crisis, came close.) With its long, precision-crafted parallel editing, sound design, and constantly evolving lap-dissolves, Manglehorn is almost as much an epistle to a certain tendency in ’70s cinema as it is tender homage to the power of Pacino.


Movie

In Jackson Heights *****

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With 133,000 residents speaking 167 languages, the 300-acre stretch of land known as Jackson Heights, Queens boasts the most culturally diverse neighborhood in the world. It’s also the subject of 85-year-old proudly self-professed, “non-fiction filmmaker” <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=frederick+wiseman">Frederick Wiseman's</a> (<em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/national-gallery/">National Gallery</a></em>) 40th feature, a mammoth, 190 minute undertaking shot with his trademark avoidance of voiceover narration, talking heads, or annotative text cluttering the screen. The sites and sounds of the city act as linking devices for Wiseman, who stitches together a tapestry of seemingly irreconcilable roars, coolly knocking down barriers to rough out a microcosmic portrait of a community struggling to find harmony between old world loyalties and assimilation in a new land. The best movies don’t end with the projectionist hitting the house lights, but few directors have the know how to extend a viewing experience so that it changes the way audiences looks at everyday life. Wiseman is one. Taking a drive through town after the movie ended was a revelation!

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4) In Jackson Heights

The sites and sounds of the the world’s most culturally diverse neighborhood act as linking devices for “nonfiction filmmaker” Frederick Wiseman to stitch together a tapestry of seemingly irreconcilable roars, coolly knocking down barriers to rough out a microcosmic portrait of a community struggling to find harmony between old-world loyalties and assimilation in a new land.


5) Wetlands

This year’s surreal wild ride showcased a hygienically challenged young lass, awash in a sea of bodily fluids and banking on an anal fissure to reunite her with friends and family. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. In his fourth film, director David Wendt’s establishment of a near-scientific system of lexicography proves him to be the Sergio Leone of scat. There hasn’t been anything quite like this since Dogtooth.


Movie

Marshland <em>(La isla minima)</em> *****

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Slowly but steadily, a pair of case-hardened homicide detectives (Raúl Arévalo and Javier Gutiérrez) discover they have more in common with each other (and the serial killer they tenaciously pursue) than initially thought in this anything-but-routine cop picture. Using Truman Capote’s <em>In Cold Blood</em> as a touchstone, Spanish director and co-writer Alberto Rodríguez (<em>After, Unit 7</em>) puts a fresh (if seamy) spin on a genre that’s long been taken for granted. Sagging storytelling devices such as bird’s-eye-view cutaways and even the dreaded zoom are given powerful, plot-advancing facelifts while under Rodríguez’s fastidious care. Set in the 1980s, this unsettling, politically fraught thriller leaves no topographical cavity unprodded as our ideologically opposed antiheroes use any and all means to blow the lid off the small-town pressure cooker. A rarity today in its discerning use of widescreen framing and distanced viewpoint, this one won’t have the same impact via a small screen introduction.

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6) Marshland

Slowly but steadily, a pair of case-hardened homicide detectives discover they have more in common with each other (and the serial killer they tenaciously pursue) than initially thought. Spanish director and co-writer Alberto Rodríguez puts a fresh (even if seamy) spin on a genre that’s long been taken for granted.


Movie

Gift ****

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For his directorial debut, Joel Edgerton weaves a subversive edge-of-your-seat suspenser that will knot stomachs tighter than a sack of White Castle hamburgers. Jason Bateman (assuredly cast against type as an arrogant Republican) and Rebecca Hall play a presumedly happily married couple who are hoping for a baby to make it three, with Edgerton – not content to live his life in soft focus background - emerging as a drip from the past, quietly seeking comeuppance. The ads scream Fatal Attraction, but rest assured theirs is not a typically-minted crime of passion. The Gift doesn’t stop giving, right up until an indeed disturbing climax – never saw it coming – designed to haunt and resonate for days after. Crackerjack bread crumb-dropper that he is, Edgerton’s path is such that a second viewing will be in order to a) marvel at how he did it and b) catch all of the veiled references to other movies.

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7) The Gift

The ads scream Fatal Attraction, but rest assured this is not a typically minted crime of passion. For his first time doing double-duty behind the camera, Joel Edgerton unwraps a gift that doesn’t stop giving, right up until an indeed disturbing climax — never saw it coming — designed to haunt and resonate for days after. Download it tonight!


Movie

Black Sea ****

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Recently axed from a marine salvage company, disgruntled Jude Law entices a band of scurvy fortune hunters to set sail on a voyage to the bottom of the sea in search of Hitler’s gold. Not unexpectedly, the deeper Black Sea plunges, the crazier our Ahab becomes. To their credit (and our pleasure) director Kevin Macdonald and screenwriter Dennis Kelly — both backward-looking genre film enthusiasts — know full well there are only “10 moves you can make” on a submarine picture. They make them all, exercising great prudence when cutting and shuffling the cards. The CG exteriors take on the look and feel of retro miniatures, while the atmosphere-charged interiors, staged entirely inside a gutted Russian rust bucket, scream old-school authenticity. Each hand dealt apportions the predictable in a manner befitting a carefully assembled and wildly entertaining B movie undersea adventure.

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8) Black Sea

Director Kevin Macdonald and screenwriter Dennis Kelly know full well there are only “10 moves you can make” on a submarine picture. They make them all, both men exercising great prudence when cutting and shuffling the cards in this year’s most enjoyable genre feature.


Movie

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet ****

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With its opening splash of decidedly Disney water rippling in the wake of an artist’s paintbrush, <em>The Prophet</em> boldly announces its intentions: director Roger Allers (<em>The Lion King</em>) aims to out-Disney Disney on their own turf. Given the animation giant’s recent slate of non-Pixar related big-screen babysitters, this sumptuous, old school adaptation of Kahlil Gibran’s Hallmark Greeting Book has them beat hands down. An assortment of seven acclaimed, stylishly diverse animators are each assigned a chapter, with Allers handling the framework and bridging sequences. Fans of the Gibran pamphlet will no doubt come for the existential gibberish – all 26 sections are read in their entirety – but it's lovers of bold character outline and outlandishly exquisite flights of animated fancy who stand to profit most. Cast off the Disney/Pixar blinders and, for a change, throw your families’ support behind an indie sparkler. PS: Back in the '70’s this would have been packaged and sold to cultists as a “head film,” wink, wink.

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9) The Prophet

An assortment of seven acclaimed, stylishly diverse animators are each assigned a chapter of Kahlil Gibran’s Hallmark Greeting Book, with former Disney animator Roger Allers handling the framework and bridging sequences. Parents, refusing to remove the Pixar blinders, flocked to the studio’s exhortative, dialogue-centric Inside Out, while shunning this visually sumptuous delight.


Movie

Tangerine ****

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Looks like Santa left a Steadicam mount under the Duplass Bros. tree! What better way to celebrate than by bankrolling this tale of crossdressing hooker Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) on a Christmas Eve manhunt through the nether portion of W. Hollywood searching for the one pimp she thought would remain faithful. Shot exclusively on cellphones, I’ll be damned if director and co-writer Sean Baker’s (<em>Starlet</em>) audacious, expressionist use of color and smooth, aggressive camera movements don’t put the technology to the test. A middle-class Armenian taxi driver (deadpan surety from Baker regular, Karren Karagulian) with a proclivity for chicks-with-dicks nudges this even further in the direction of screwball comedy. Not for all sensibilities – one of the film’s rare displays of human tenderness takes place in a toilet – but for those who trowel the unlikeliest of hellholes in search of beauty, prepare to be blinded. On a pleasant note, expect long lines at drive-thru car washes once this opens.

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10) Tangerine

Shot exclusively on cellphones, I’ll be damned if director and co-writer Sean Baker’s audacious, expressionist use of color and smooth, aggressive camera movements don’t put the technology to the test.


The Rest

Movie

Belle and Sébastien

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A boy befriends a massive dog while the Holocaust looms.

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1) Belle and Sébastien

If Nazis were as dopey as the ones depicted in this child’s Bertesgarten of good versus evil there would have been no ovens, due to their inability to spark a pilot light.


Movie

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

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Kevin James takes his Segway to Vegas, where he must stop a casino heist.

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2) Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Once I ran from Kevin James. Now I run to him. A movie? This doesn’t qualify as television! As astonishingly inept films go, this is mandatory viewing.


Movie

Suffragette

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Director <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=sarah+gavron">Sarah Gavron</a> and writer Abi Morgan can’t find a story amidst the forest of directives so instead mount a stern, monochrome, relentlessly depressing video lecture to supplant the historical fundamentals our parents and public school teachers failed to instill within us. Sufferin’ <em>Suffragette</em>! Were it not for this picture, the little woman and I — staunch supporters of the E.R.A. though we may be — might never have realized how tough you dames had it back in the day. Normally I’d bemoan the lack of even one decent male character, but no one comes off looking good in this oratorical iceberg. <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=carey+mulligan">Carey Mulligan's</a> laundress, a period dress answer to Norma Rae, suffers hard, real hard, for a nomination while Meryl Streep’s performance — accent literally on Glinda, Good Witch of the North — clocks in at under five minutes. Ushers should hand out badges to patrons who survive the 106-minute incarceration.

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3) Suffragette

A stern, monochrome, relentlessly depressing video lecture aimed to supplant the historical fundamentals our parents and public school teachers failed to instill within us.


Movie

By the Sea

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<a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=brad+pitt">Brad Pitt</a> and <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=angelina+jolie">Angelina Jolie Pitt</a> star as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Kidding. Mostly. Anyway, there's a troubled marriage on the French Coast. Written and directed by Ms. Jolie Pitt.

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4) By the Sea

Angelina Jolie, trying hard to tap into the Antonioni vein, comes up vain in this year's #1 vanity production. At least when Liz and Dick took us on paid holiday vacations, the star couple had the good sense to pack master stylists like Joseph Losey and Vincente Minnelli to ride herd on the camera. It was a screening of three and I didn’t have the heart to awaken the pair of snoozing seniors seated two rows behind. Their snoring kept me awake.


Movie

Mortdecai

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Johnny Depp stars as an eccentric Continental type of fellow. Because acting is just too hard sometimes, you know?

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5) Mortdecai

Unable to get out from under a career pirated by Disney, Johnny Depp continued to strain what little acting credibility there is left in this fluffball revival of Terry-Thomas.


Movie

Sisters

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Two adult siblings (<a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=tina+fey">Tina Fey</a> and <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=amy+poehler">Amy Poehler</a>) return to the vacated family home mom and dad (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) recently put up for sale and agree to basically remake <em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/big-screen/2012/mar/02/review-emproject-xem/">Project X</a></em>. Chick flick divas Tina and Amy, Hollywood’s modern day answer to Lucy and Ethel, take the “Don’t get mad, get even” approach to gross-out, Apatow factory-styled “dick flicks,” which would be all fine and good if the <em>SNL</em> duo ponied up something more than a plotless 118-minute sinkhole in which to shovel screenwriter Paula Pell’s uncommonly uninspired deluge of skits and toilet humor. Fey flaps her arms and waits for a laugh while Poehler partitions Benny Hill eye-rolls, constantly straining to repeat lines in order to spark laughter. Though it has no relation to Brian DePalma’s same-name thriller from 1972, one couldn’t help but wish for William Finley to suddenly appear with a knife to cut the characters (and running time) in two. Jason Moore (<em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/pitch-perfect/">Pitch Perfect</a></em>) directs.

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6) Sisters

One Trainwreck a year is enough. Skitsters Tina Fey and Amy Poehler clearly show they don’t have what it takes to sustain a one-joke premise, let alone pander to the Apatow crowd.


Movie

100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

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Proof that the intellectually challenged are fun to watch even with subtitles. Commence with a dead cat, an overly-latexed actor buried beneath more wrinkles than a kennel filled with shar-peis, and a neck-breaking 20x1 zoom. It only gets clumsier. At his current age, our titular centenarian (Robert Gustafsson) flees a nursing home and haphazardly takes possession of a suitcase filled with mob millions. Flashbacks to youth expose a munitions nut — institutionalized at a young age for accidentally detonating one of the locals — whose lifelong fascination with explosives positions him at the sides of everyone from Franco and Stalin to Robert Oppenheimer, for whom he acted as key advisor on the Manhattan Project. Presented by Buena Vista International aka Disney, this Swedish-language import is banking on Garp and Gump groupies to gobble another goopy assemblage of happenstance and madness as a cheery metaphor for eternal happiness. Phooey! Felix Herngren directs.

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7) The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Released by Buena Vista International, aka Disney, this Swedish-language import is banking on Garp and Gump groupies to gobble another goopy assemblage of happenstance and madness as a cheery metaphor for eternal happiness. Ah, phooey!


Movie

Southpaw *

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<em>Rocky III</em>'s rebuilding-the-champ drama meets <em>Cinderella Man</em>'s Daddy struggles, with a dash of <em>The Fighter</em>'s neighborhood grit and some Eminem on the soundtrack for the beefcake training montage. A cut Jake Gyllenhaal (so, so good in last year's <em>Nightcrawler</em>) does a lot of quality mush-mouthed mumbling as a punched-up boxer who relies on his wife (Rachel McAdams) to do the brainwork, but it's director Antoine Fuqua who has bitten off more than he can chew with this overstuffed, faintly ludicrous fight pic. See, Billy Hope is the light heavyweight champion of the world — except he's never learned to block a punch. Instead, he takes the hits until they set him off, and then goes nuts and lowers the boom. See also: his life outside the ring. But when tragedy strikes, he'll have to find a new approach. Will it be through his court-mandated anger-management counselor? Or perhaps instead, the half-blind proprietor/sensei of an inner city gym (Forest Whitaker), who spends his time trying to help troubled youth, and who just happened to train the one man who ever beat Hope? Gyllenhaal gives his all, but he can't make this one a winner.

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8) Southpaw

Jake Gyllenhaal looked ring-worthy, but audiences expecting an Oscar contender were instead sucker-punched by maudlinness. (Child custody cases and boxing don’t mix!)


Movie

Danny Collins

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Al Pacino makes the worst of the biggest disaster his name’s been attached to since sickening audiences with the contemptibly cuddlesome <em>Author! Author!</em> Pacino is all struts and scarves as the drugged and disillusioned rock star boilerplate who has an It’s a Wonderful Life moment after receiving a long-lost letter written to him by John Lennon. Enter the son (Bobby Canavale) and granddaughter (Giselle Eisenberg) he never met — with Leukemia and ADHD, respectively — and what little satirical bite there was on the horizon dawns into a gooey Hallmark haze. Writer-director Dan Fogelman’s insidious strain of geezer porn stops just short of a bone marrow transplant to ripple the hearts of Academy voters. Christopher Plummer neatly steals every scene as Danny’s patient handler, while love interest Annette Bening tries damn hard to become one with the random changeableness of her mousy hotel manager. Spoiler alert: this would have been a five-star review had the film’s off-camera curtain line been a dumbstruck, “Danny Collins?!”

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9) Danny Collins

Geezer porn. What little hope of satire there was in this tale of an aging rock star are dashed the minute Leukemia and ADHD enter the picture. Al Pacino makes the worst of the biggest disaster his name’s been attached to since Author! Author! while writer-director Dan Fogelman stops short of a bone marrow transplant to ripple the hearts of Academy voters.


Movie

Carol ***

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The easy descriptors for <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=todd+haynes">Todd Haynes's</a> take on Patricia Highsmith’s tale of socially unacceptable female relationships during the early ’50s are words like “sumptuous,” “ravishing,” and maybe “entrancing” (that last thanks to a command performance from <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=cate+blanchett">Cate Blanchett</a> as a failed wife, loving mother, and motherly lover). But the more important adjectives are “open,” “adult,” and best of all, “human.” The lesbian affair at its heart is rendered with intelligence and care, and if there are speeches to be made, they are happily few, and far more personal than political. <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=rooney+mara">Rooney Mara</a> is appropriately wide-eyed as the Bright Young Thing, and Kyle Chandler manages to make his portrayal of the embittered ex both sour and sympathetic. Your take on the rather drawn-out denouement, however, may vary depending on what kind of story you thought you were watching.

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10) Carol

Todd Haynes does not deserve to smell Douglas Sirk’s shit. Didn’t the director already make this picture about guys? That explains Kyle Chandler’s figment of a character. Dartboard Plotting 101: When all else fails, in order to advance the story without sweating a drop of creativity, have a character walk into a room looking for one object only to find another that’s more crucial to the plot. Carol asks, “Would you get my blue sweater out of the suitcase?” You mean THE SAME SUITCASE THAT JUST HAPPENS TO HAVE A GUN HIDDEN IN IT? I predict Oscars all around.


Moments of Distinction

The actress as auteur: Sairose Ronan (Brooklyn), Cynthia Nixon (James White), Jane Fonda (Youth), Carla Juri (Wetlands), Selma Blair (Sex, Death, and Bowling), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rosemarie DeWitt (Digging for Fire), Rebecca Hall (The Gift), Viola Davis (Lila & Eve), Elizabeth Banks (Little Accidents), Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Tangerine), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), and Iris Apfel as “Herself” in Iris.

The actor as auteur: Al Pacino (Manglehorn), Parviz Parastui (Today), Albert Brooks (Concussion), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Nelson Xavier (Trash), Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton (The Gift), Fabrizio Ferracane and Peppino Mazzotta (Black Souls), Kôji Yakusho (The World of Kanako), Harvey Keitel (Youth), Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), Raúl Arévalo and Javier Gutiérrez (Marshland), Liev Schreiber (Spotlight), Jason Schwartzman (The Overnight), and, what the hell, Sylvester Stallone (Creed).

Cinematography: Ping Bin Lee (The Assassin), Thomas Hardmeier (The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet), Sean Baker and Radium Cheung (Tangerine), and Luca Bigazzi (Youth).

Screenplay: Francesco Munzi, Maurizio Braucci, & Fabrizio Ruggirello (Black Souls), Paul Logan (Manglehorn), Joel Edgerton (The Gift), Benoît Debie (Love), Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch (Tangerine), Jake Johnson and Joe Swanberg (Digging for Fire), Patrick Brice (The Overnight).

Number of top-ten grossers seen: One, Inside Out, and I couldn’t wait for it to end. As for the rest, he’s not my Bond, never saw a movie with the word “Jurassic” in its title, six Star Wars pictures were enough for me, etc.

Biggest disappointment: After Burying the Ex, one can no longer say Joe Dante is incapable of making a bad movie.

I liked it, you didn't: Upon leaving the screening of Tomorrowland, I turned to a friend and said, “I like this movie so much that it’s bound to flop.” Leave it to Brad Bird to transform a script based on a quarter of a theme park into perfectly entertaining family fare.

You liked it, I didn't: Ex Machina proved that you don’t need an array of CGI or buckets of blood to tickle a fanboy’s fancy, just so long as the lead actress gets naked. Fury Road was the fourth installment in George Miller’s Mad Max series. He could have quit halfway through Beyond Thunderdome.


In Memorandum

A lot of big names left checked out in 2015, but none had a greater impact on little Scooter than Hollywood’s beloved “mean little kid,” George “Foghorn” Winslow. He appeared in ten films (three of which I’ve yet to see) over a seven-year period, a relative speck in the cinematic firmament, but I dare say there’s not a child actor — not even the Our Gang kids and Foghorn’s heir apparent, Froggy — that made me laugh harder at the inherent nastiness of childhood.

It was none other than Cary Grant who “discovered” the six-year-old’s raspy, sonorous lisp and world-weary delivery on Art Linkletter’s radio show, People Are Funny, and convinced director Norman Taurog to give him a role their upcoming production, Room for One More. It wasn’t that impressive a part, with Foghorn providing much needed comic relief in an otherwise saccharine tale of a family addicted to adoption.

Video:

In memory of George “Foghorn” Wilson

In time, Foghorn established a presence that was something much more than just another helping of Claude Jarman Jr. or Butch Jenkins. Whether he’s scalping the always uninteresting Hugh Marlowe in Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business or in Frank Tashlin’s glorious Artists and Models, where he mistakes a letter opener for a poison dart waiting to be flung at Jerry Lewis’ head, this kid lived life on the edge.

Foghorn retired from showbiz at the age of 12, joined the Navy, and spent his remaining years delivering mail in Camp Meeker, CA. The video contains scenes from the three above-mentioned titles as well as clips from Mister Scoutmaster, where a rummage sale confrontation with Clifton Webb escalates into a battle of wits, and as the only man for Marilyn Monroe in another Hawks masterpiece, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Rest in peace, oh gravelly voiced skipper.

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The Assassin
The Assassin

In a good year, I’ve been known to publish a top 20. This year’s standouts were as obvious as they were few and far between. As such, more thought went into selecting the bottom ten. I could just as easily have called it quits with three by Kevin James, three by Adam Sandler (they both share in the blame for Pixels), and four Apatow factory byproducts, but that would have been too easy.

Note that four of the ten honorees held their local premiers at the Digital Gym, where the booking of late (give or take fanboy frights and the occasional telenovela) is the finest to hit town since this reporter parted company with MoPA. Would some beneficent, deep-pocketed cinematic soul brothers and/or sisters out there please pony up the funds needed to fit the booth with a Sony 4K projector? The addition would catapult the Gym into the ranks of the big boys, a hall where artistic champs would be proud to showcase their might.

Onward to 2016. In fear of repeating a line that’s been called into play for almost two decades’ worth of ten-best lists, I’ll refrain from noting next year can’t get much worse.

The Best

Movie

Assassin *****

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In a word, stunning. After an eight-year absence, world cinema’s foremost aesthete, <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=Hou+Hsiao-Hsien">Hou Hsiao-Hsien</a>, returns with a vengeance. Shu Qi, Director Hou’s leading lady of choice, stars as a 9th-century enforcer, taught to kill by the nun who raised her and later contracted to take out her former husband-to-be. Viewers who buy into the distributor’s promise of “a martial arts film like none made before” will no doubt be bored silly. Those familiar with the unmistakable triple-H brand will instantly recognize the director’s austere imprint and know what beauty lies ahead. Through painstaking research (and numerous takes to get it right), HHH catapults the material far beyond a series of historical maxims, leaving viewers dumbstruck by something as simple as the cut of a cloth or movement of a curtain in the breeze. There are moments when you’d swear the man knew how to harness wind to add texture to his frames. This is quite simply filmmaking at its finest. Subtitled.

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1) The Assassin

Hou Hsiao-Hsien expends more time and thought on composing individual shots than most directors do on complete features. Ten minutes in, it became clear this triumph of style over subject was unlike anything that opened in 2015. No surprise that the paucity of plot and the promise of limited, austere “action” scenes kept audiences at bay. Too bad. Not even Tarantino’s 70mm fantasy fulfillment looked this good on a screen.


Movie

Black Souls <em>(Anime nere)</em> *****

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Three brothers – Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta), the brains, Luigi (Marco Leonardi), the brawn, and Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane), the goat-herding outcast – each with a different vision of what direction the “family business” should take. The stories are workaday, but the storytelling is anything but in Francesco Munzi’s instant gangster classic. Most of the action plays out between a new city located in the shadowy foothills and the ancient villa, overrun by goats and perched high atop the mountain, that one of the brothers calls home. Working in both narrative and documentary mode from a novel by Gioacchino Criaco, director and co-writer Munzi has assembled what could amount to the quietest gangster chronicle ever made, with many of the key character shadings imparted through slight gestures and nimble movements of the camera. The ending left me both dumbstruck and questioning why no one has never thought of closing a mob movie in such a neat and logical manner.

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2) Black Souls

One of the most original gangster films since Don Corleone bought it in the orange grove. Director and co-writer Francesco Munzi has assembled what could amount to the quietest gangster chronicle ever made, with many of the key character shadings imparted in slight gestures and nimble movements of the camera.


Movie

Manglehorn *****

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How is it possible for Al Pacino to turn in one of the best and worst performances of the year essentially playing the same character? The truth is in the storytelling. For 97 minutes director and generous renegade David Gordon Green delights in following Manglehorn (Al Pacino), a small-town locksmith who's wasted too much of his life angrily pining for the lost love of the only woman capable of jimmying his heart. With its long, precision crafted parallel editing, sound design, and constantly evolving lap-dissolves, Manglehorn is almost as much an epistle to a certain tendency in ‘70’s cinema as it is tender homage to the power of Pacino. The actor returns the thanks with a performance the likes of which he hasn’t rewarded audiences with in almost two decades. Steeped in style, this one demands a visit to the theatre. With honorable support from Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine, and Chris Messina.

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3) Manglehorn

Al Pacino snapped a career losing streak that dates back to Donnie Brasco. Even more impressive: between this and Danny Collins, he managed to crack both my top and bottom ten! (Manglehorn director David Gordon Green, also responsible for the inexorable Our Brand Is Crisis, came close.) With its long, precision-crafted parallel editing, sound design, and constantly evolving lap-dissolves, Manglehorn is almost as much an epistle to a certain tendency in ’70s cinema as it is tender homage to the power of Pacino.


Movie

In Jackson Heights *****

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With 133,000 residents speaking 167 languages, the 300-acre stretch of land known as Jackson Heights, Queens boasts the most culturally diverse neighborhood in the world. It’s also the subject of 85-year-old proudly self-professed, “non-fiction filmmaker” <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=frederick+wiseman">Frederick Wiseman's</a> (<em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/national-gallery/">National Gallery</a></em>) 40th feature, a mammoth, 190 minute undertaking shot with his trademark avoidance of voiceover narration, talking heads, or annotative text cluttering the screen. The sites and sounds of the city act as linking devices for Wiseman, who stitches together a tapestry of seemingly irreconcilable roars, coolly knocking down barriers to rough out a microcosmic portrait of a community struggling to find harmony between old world loyalties and assimilation in a new land. The best movies don’t end with the projectionist hitting the house lights, but few directors have the know how to extend a viewing experience so that it changes the way audiences looks at everyday life. Wiseman is one. Taking a drive through town after the movie ended was a revelation!

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4) In Jackson Heights

The sites and sounds of the the world’s most culturally diverse neighborhood act as linking devices for “nonfiction filmmaker” Frederick Wiseman to stitch together a tapestry of seemingly irreconcilable roars, coolly knocking down barriers to rough out a microcosmic portrait of a community struggling to find harmony between old-world loyalties and assimilation in a new land.


5) Wetlands

This year’s surreal wild ride showcased a hygienically challenged young lass, awash in a sea of bodily fluids and banking on an anal fissure to reunite her with friends and family. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. In his fourth film, director David Wendt’s establishment of a near-scientific system of lexicography proves him to be the Sergio Leone of scat. There hasn’t been anything quite like this since Dogtooth.


Movie

Marshland <em>(La isla minima)</em> *****

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Slowly but steadily, a pair of case-hardened homicide detectives (Raúl Arévalo and Javier Gutiérrez) discover they have more in common with each other (and the serial killer they tenaciously pursue) than initially thought in this anything-but-routine cop picture. Using Truman Capote’s <em>In Cold Blood</em> as a touchstone, Spanish director and co-writer Alberto Rodríguez (<em>After, Unit 7</em>) puts a fresh (if seamy) spin on a genre that’s long been taken for granted. Sagging storytelling devices such as bird’s-eye-view cutaways and even the dreaded zoom are given powerful, plot-advancing facelifts while under Rodríguez’s fastidious care. Set in the 1980s, this unsettling, politically fraught thriller leaves no topographical cavity unprodded as our ideologically opposed antiheroes use any and all means to blow the lid off the small-town pressure cooker. A rarity today in its discerning use of widescreen framing and distanced viewpoint, this one won’t have the same impact via a small screen introduction.

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6) Marshland

Slowly but steadily, a pair of case-hardened homicide detectives discover they have more in common with each other (and the serial killer they tenaciously pursue) than initially thought. Spanish director and co-writer Alberto Rodríguez puts a fresh (even if seamy) spin on a genre that’s long been taken for granted.


Movie

Gift ****

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For his directorial debut, Joel Edgerton weaves a subversive edge-of-your-seat suspenser that will knot stomachs tighter than a sack of White Castle hamburgers. Jason Bateman (assuredly cast against type as an arrogant Republican) and Rebecca Hall play a presumedly happily married couple who are hoping for a baby to make it three, with Edgerton – not content to live his life in soft focus background - emerging as a drip from the past, quietly seeking comeuppance. The ads scream Fatal Attraction, but rest assured theirs is not a typically-minted crime of passion. The Gift doesn’t stop giving, right up until an indeed disturbing climax – never saw it coming – designed to haunt and resonate for days after. Crackerjack bread crumb-dropper that he is, Edgerton’s path is such that a second viewing will be in order to a) marvel at how he did it and b) catch all of the veiled references to other movies.

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7) The Gift

The ads scream Fatal Attraction, but rest assured this is not a typically minted crime of passion. For his first time doing double-duty behind the camera, Joel Edgerton unwraps a gift that doesn’t stop giving, right up until an indeed disturbing climax — never saw it coming — designed to haunt and resonate for days after. Download it tonight!


Movie

Black Sea ****

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Recently axed from a marine salvage company, disgruntled Jude Law entices a band of scurvy fortune hunters to set sail on a voyage to the bottom of the sea in search of Hitler’s gold. Not unexpectedly, the deeper Black Sea plunges, the crazier our Ahab becomes. To their credit (and our pleasure) director Kevin Macdonald and screenwriter Dennis Kelly — both backward-looking genre film enthusiasts — know full well there are only “10 moves you can make” on a submarine picture. They make them all, exercising great prudence when cutting and shuffling the cards. The CG exteriors take on the look and feel of retro miniatures, while the atmosphere-charged interiors, staged entirely inside a gutted Russian rust bucket, scream old-school authenticity. Each hand dealt apportions the predictable in a manner befitting a carefully assembled and wildly entertaining B movie undersea adventure.

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8) Black Sea

Director Kevin Macdonald and screenwriter Dennis Kelly know full well there are only “10 moves you can make” on a submarine picture. They make them all, both men exercising great prudence when cutting and shuffling the cards in this year’s most enjoyable genre feature.


Movie

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet ****

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With its opening splash of decidedly Disney water rippling in the wake of an artist’s paintbrush, <em>The Prophet</em> boldly announces its intentions: director Roger Allers (<em>The Lion King</em>) aims to out-Disney Disney on their own turf. Given the animation giant’s recent slate of non-Pixar related big-screen babysitters, this sumptuous, old school adaptation of Kahlil Gibran’s Hallmark Greeting Book has them beat hands down. An assortment of seven acclaimed, stylishly diverse animators are each assigned a chapter, with Allers handling the framework and bridging sequences. Fans of the Gibran pamphlet will no doubt come for the existential gibberish – all 26 sections are read in their entirety – but it's lovers of bold character outline and outlandishly exquisite flights of animated fancy who stand to profit most. Cast off the Disney/Pixar blinders and, for a change, throw your families’ support behind an indie sparkler. PS: Back in the '70’s this would have been packaged and sold to cultists as a “head film,” wink, wink.

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9) The Prophet

An assortment of seven acclaimed, stylishly diverse animators are each assigned a chapter of Kahlil Gibran’s Hallmark Greeting Book, with former Disney animator Roger Allers handling the framework and bridging sequences. Parents, refusing to remove the Pixar blinders, flocked to the studio’s exhortative, dialogue-centric Inside Out, while shunning this visually sumptuous delight.


Movie

Tangerine ****

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Looks like Santa left a Steadicam mount under the Duplass Bros. tree! What better way to celebrate than by bankrolling this tale of crossdressing hooker Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) on a Christmas Eve manhunt through the nether portion of W. Hollywood searching for the one pimp she thought would remain faithful. Shot exclusively on cellphones, I’ll be damned if director and co-writer Sean Baker’s (<em>Starlet</em>) audacious, expressionist use of color and smooth, aggressive camera movements don’t put the technology to the test. A middle-class Armenian taxi driver (deadpan surety from Baker regular, Karren Karagulian) with a proclivity for chicks-with-dicks nudges this even further in the direction of screwball comedy. Not for all sensibilities – one of the film’s rare displays of human tenderness takes place in a toilet – but for those who trowel the unlikeliest of hellholes in search of beauty, prepare to be blinded. On a pleasant note, expect long lines at drive-thru car washes once this opens.

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10) Tangerine

Shot exclusively on cellphones, I’ll be damned if director and co-writer Sean Baker’s audacious, expressionist use of color and smooth, aggressive camera movements don’t put the technology to the test.


The Rest

Movie

Belle and Sébastien

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A boy befriends a massive dog while the Holocaust looms.

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1) Belle and Sébastien

If Nazis were as dopey as the ones depicted in this child’s Bertesgarten of good versus evil there would have been no ovens, due to their inability to spark a pilot light.


Movie

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

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Kevin James takes his Segway to Vegas, where he must stop a casino heist.

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2) Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Once I ran from Kevin James. Now I run to him. A movie? This doesn’t qualify as television! As astonishingly inept films go, this is mandatory viewing.


Movie

Suffragette

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Director <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=sarah+gavron">Sarah Gavron</a> and writer Abi Morgan can’t find a story amidst the forest of directives so instead mount a stern, monochrome, relentlessly depressing video lecture to supplant the historical fundamentals our parents and public school teachers failed to instill within us. Sufferin’ <em>Suffragette</em>! Were it not for this picture, the little woman and I — staunch supporters of the E.R.A. though we may be — might never have realized how tough you dames had it back in the day. Normally I’d bemoan the lack of even one decent male character, but no one comes off looking good in this oratorical iceberg. <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=carey+mulligan">Carey Mulligan's</a> laundress, a period dress answer to Norma Rae, suffers hard, real hard, for a nomination while Meryl Streep’s performance — accent literally on Glinda, Good Witch of the North — clocks in at under five minutes. Ushers should hand out badges to patrons who survive the 106-minute incarceration.

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3) Suffragette

A stern, monochrome, relentlessly depressing video lecture aimed to supplant the historical fundamentals our parents and public school teachers failed to instill within us.


Movie

By the Sea

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<a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=brad+pitt">Brad Pitt</a> and <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=angelina+jolie">Angelina Jolie Pitt</a> star as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Kidding. Mostly. Anyway, there's a troubled marriage on the French Coast. Written and directed by Ms. Jolie Pitt.

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4) By the Sea

Angelina Jolie, trying hard to tap into the Antonioni vein, comes up vain in this year's #1 vanity production. At least when Liz and Dick took us on paid holiday vacations, the star couple had the good sense to pack master stylists like Joseph Losey and Vincente Minnelli to ride herd on the camera. It was a screening of three and I didn’t have the heart to awaken the pair of snoozing seniors seated two rows behind. Their snoring kept me awake.


Movie

Mortdecai

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Johnny Depp stars as an eccentric Continental type of fellow. Because acting is just too hard sometimes, you know?

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5) Mortdecai

Unable to get out from under a career pirated by Disney, Johnny Depp continued to strain what little acting credibility there is left in this fluffball revival of Terry-Thomas.


Movie

Sisters

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Two adult siblings (<a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=tina+fey">Tina Fey</a> and <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=amy+poehler">Amy Poehler</a>) return to the vacated family home mom and dad (Dianne Wiest and James Brolin) recently put up for sale and agree to basically remake <em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/big-screen/2012/mar/02/review-emproject-xem/">Project X</a></em>. Chick flick divas Tina and Amy, Hollywood’s modern day answer to Lucy and Ethel, take the “Don’t get mad, get even” approach to gross-out, Apatow factory-styled “dick flicks,” which would be all fine and good if the <em>SNL</em> duo ponied up something more than a plotless 118-minute sinkhole in which to shovel screenwriter Paula Pell’s uncommonly uninspired deluge of skits and toilet humor. Fey flaps her arms and waits for a laugh while Poehler partitions Benny Hill eye-rolls, constantly straining to repeat lines in order to spark laughter. Though it has no relation to Brian DePalma’s same-name thriller from 1972, one couldn’t help but wish for William Finley to suddenly appear with a knife to cut the characters (and running time) in two. Jason Moore (<em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/pitch-perfect/">Pitch Perfect</a></em>) directs.

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6) Sisters

One Trainwreck a year is enough. Skitsters Tina Fey and Amy Poehler clearly show they don’t have what it takes to sustain a one-joke premise, let alone pander to the Apatow crowd.


Movie

100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

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Proof that the intellectually challenged are fun to watch even with subtitles. Commence with a dead cat, an overly-latexed actor buried beneath more wrinkles than a kennel filled with shar-peis, and a neck-breaking 20x1 zoom. It only gets clumsier. At his current age, our titular centenarian (Robert Gustafsson) flees a nursing home and haphazardly takes possession of a suitcase filled with mob millions. Flashbacks to youth expose a munitions nut — institutionalized at a young age for accidentally detonating one of the locals — whose lifelong fascination with explosives positions him at the sides of everyone from Franco and Stalin to Robert Oppenheimer, for whom he acted as key advisor on the Manhattan Project. Presented by Buena Vista International aka Disney, this Swedish-language import is banking on Garp and Gump groupies to gobble another goopy assemblage of happenstance and madness as a cheery metaphor for eternal happiness. Phooey! Felix Herngren directs.

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7) The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Released by Buena Vista International, aka Disney, this Swedish-language import is banking on Garp and Gump groupies to gobble another goopy assemblage of happenstance and madness as a cheery metaphor for eternal happiness. Ah, phooey!


Movie

Southpaw *

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<em>Rocky III</em>'s rebuilding-the-champ drama meets <em>Cinderella Man</em>'s Daddy struggles, with a dash of <em>The Fighter</em>'s neighborhood grit and some Eminem on the soundtrack for the beefcake training montage. A cut Jake Gyllenhaal (so, so good in last year's <em>Nightcrawler</em>) does a lot of quality mush-mouthed mumbling as a punched-up boxer who relies on his wife (Rachel McAdams) to do the brainwork, but it's director Antoine Fuqua who has bitten off more than he can chew with this overstuffed, faintly ludicrous fight pic. See, Billy Hope is the light heavyweight champion of the world — except he's never learned to block a punch. Instead, he takes the hits until they set him off, and then goes nuts and lowers the boom. See also: his life outside the ring. But when tragedy strikes, he'll have to find a new approach. Will it be through his court-mandated anger-management counselor? Or perhaps instead, the half-blind proprietor/sensei of an inner city gym (Forest Whitaker), who spends his time trying to help troubled youth, and who just happened to train the one man who ever beat Hope? Gyllenhaal gives his all, but he can't make this one a winner.

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8) Southpaw

Jake Gyllenhaal looked ring-worthy, but audiences expecting an Oscar contender were instead sucker-punched by maudlinness. (Child custody cases and boxing don’t mix!)


Movie

Danny Collins

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Al Pacino makes the worst of the biggest disaster his name’s been attached to since sickening audiences with the contemptibly cuddlesome <em>Author! Author!</em> Pacino is all struts and scarves as the drugged and disillusioned rock star boilerplate who has an It’s a Wonderful Life moment after receiving a long-lost letter written to him by John Lennon. Enter the son (Bobby Canavale) and granddaughter (Giselle Eisenberg) he never met — with Leukemia and ADHD, respectively — and what little satirical bite there was on the horizon dawns into a gooey Hallmark haze. Writer-director Dan Fogelman’s insidious strain of geezer porn stops just short of a bone marrow transplant to ripple the hearts of Academy voters. Christopher Plummer neatly steals every scene as Danny’s patient handler, while love interest Annette Bening tries damn hard to become one with the random changeableness of her mousy hotel manager. Spoiler alert: this would have been a five-star review had the film’s off-camera curtain line been a dumbstruck, “Danny Collins?!”

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9) Danny Collins

Geezer porn. What little hope of satire there was in this tale of an aging rock star are dashed the minute Leukemia and ADHD enter the picture. Al Pacino makes the worst of the biggest disaster his name’s been attached to since Author! Author! while writer-director Dan Fogelman stops short of a bone marrow transplant to ripple the hearts of Academy voters.


Movie

Carol ***

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The easy descriptors for <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=todd+haynes">Todd Haynes's</a> take on Patricia Highsmith’s tale of socially unacceptable female relationships during the early ’50s are words like “sumptuous,” “ravishing,” and maybe “entrancing” (that last thanks to a command performance from <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=cate+blanchett">Cate Blanchett</a> as a failed wife, loving mother, and motherly lover). But the more important adjectives are “open,” “adult,” and best of all, “human.” The lesbian affair at its heart is rendered with intelligence and care, and if there are speeches to be made, they are happily few, and far more personal than political. <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=rooney+mara">Rooney Mara</a> is appropriately wide-eyed as the Bright Young Thing, and Kyle Chandler manages to make his portrayal of the embittered ex both sour and sympathetic. Your take on the rather drawn-out denouement, however, may vary depending on what kind of story you thought you were watching.

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10) Carol

Todd Haynes does not deserve to smell Douglas Sirk’s shit. Didn’t the director already make this picture about guys? That explains Kyle Chandler’s figment of a character. Dartboard Plotting 101: When all else fails, in order to advance the story without sweating a drop of creativity, have a character walk into a room looking for one object only to find another that’s more crucial to the plot. Carol asks, “Would you get my blue sweater out of the suitcase?” You mean THE SAME SUITCASE THAT JUST HAPPENS TO HAVE A GUN HIDDEN IN IT? I predict Oscars all around.


Moments of Distinction

The actress as auteur: Sairose Ronan (Brooklyn), Cynthia Nixon (James White), Jane Fonda (Youth), Carla Juri (Wetlands), Selma Blair (Sex, Death, and Bowling), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rosemarie DeWitt (Digging for Fire), Rebecca Hall (The Gift), Viola Davis (Lila & Eve), Elizabeth Banks (Little Accidents), Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Tangerine), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), and Iris Apfel as “Herself” in Iris.

The actor as auteur: Al Pacino (Manglehorn), Parviz Parastui (Today), Albert Brooks (Concussion), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Nelson Xavier (Trash), Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton (The Gift), Fabrizio Ferracane and Peppino Mazzotta (Black Souls), Kôji Yakusho (The World of Kanako), Harvey Keitel (Youth), Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), Raúl Arévalo and Javier Gutiérrez (Marshland), Liev Schreiber (Spotlight), Jason Schwartzman (The Overnight), and, what the hell, Sylvester Stallone (Creed).

Cinematography: Ping Bin Lee (The Assassin), Thomas Hardmeier (The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet), Sean Baker and Radium Cheung (Tangerine), and Luca Bigazzi (Youth).

Screenplay: Francesco Munzi, Maurizio Braucci, & Fabrizio Ruggirello (Black Souls), Paul Logan (Manglehorn), Joel Edgerton (The Gift), Benoît Debie (Love), Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch (Tangerine), Jake Johnson and Joe Swanberg (Digging for Fire), Patrick Brice (The Overnight).

Number of top-ten grossers seen: One, Inside Out, and I couldn’t wait for it to end. As for the rest, he’s not my Bond, never saw a movie with the word “Jurassic” in its title, six Star Wars pictures were enough for me, etc.

Biggest disappointment: After Burying the Ex, one can no longer say Joe Dante is incapable of making a bad movie.

I liked it, you didn't: Upon leaving the screening of Tomorrowland, I turned to a friend and said, “I like this movie so much that it’s bound to flop.” Leave it to Brad Bird to transform a script based on a quarter of a theme park into perfectly entertaining family fare.

You liked it, I didn't: Ex Machina proved that you don’t need an array of CGI or buckets of blood to tickle a fanboy’s fancy, just so long as the lead actress gets naked. Fury Road was the fourth installment in George Miller’s Mad Max series. He could have quit halfway through Beyond Thunderdome.


In Memorandum

A lot of big names left checked out in 2015, but none had a greater impact on little Scooter than Hollywood’s beloved “mean little kid,” George “Foghorn” Winslow. He appeared in ten films (three of which I’ve yet to see) over a seven-year period, a relative speck in the cinematic firmament, but I dare say there’s not a child actor — not even the Our Gang kids and Foghorn’s heir apparent, Froggy — that made me laugh harder at the inherent nastiness of childhood.

It was none other than Cary Grant who “discovered” the six-year-old’s raspy, sonorous lisp and world-weary delivery on Art Linkletter’s radio show, People Are Funny, and convinced director Norman Taurog to give him a role their upcoming production, Room for One More. It wasn’t that impressive a part, with Foghorn providing much needed comic relief in an otherwise saccharine tale of a family addicted to adoption.

Video:

In memory of George “Foghorn” Wilson

In time, Foghorn established a presence that was something much more than just another helping of Claude Jarman Jr. or Butch Jenkins. Whether he’s scalping the always uninteresting Hugh Marlowe in Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business or in Frank Tashlin’s glorious Artists and Models, where he mistakes a letter opener for a poison dart waiting to be flung at Jerry Lewis’ head, this kid lived life on the edge.

Foghorn retired from showbiz at the age of 12, joined the Navy, and spent his remaining years delivering mail in Camp Meeker, CA. The video contains scenes from the three above-mentioned titles as well as clips from Mister Scoutmaster, where a rummage sale confrontation with Clifton Webb escalates into a battle of wits, and as the only man for Marilyn Monroe in another Hawks masterpiece, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Rest in peace, oh gravelly voiced skipper.

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