Caught up on a few 2016 releases
10 Cloverfield Lane
This one is really frustrating. I was so in tune with all of it for the first 90-ish minutes, like nearing on all-time favourite material, then they ruin it at the very end. I'll not spoil it just because of how great the rest of it is - if anyone hasn't seen this it's absolutely worth watching, drastically better than the first Cloverfield, the three performances and especially John Goodman are fucking incredible, and the premise is just so good, but the less you know of the actual story going in, the better. The trailers for this are surprisingly reserved in what they give away but I still think they give too much.
The ending, though. Its not even what happens but how it's done, it doesn't feel like the same director let alone the same film, and the possible surprise or shock value is squandered by the title of the film being Cloverfield. I don't heavily dislike the first one but this would be far better off without the connection, or at the very least without it being so overt as to be in the title. There's a shot at the end where the camera lingers on the mail box that reads "10 Cloverfield" - that should be the moment it all comes together, instead it's in the title and so that shot is entirely pointless in the movie.
The supposed sequel connection doesn't even make sense, there's too many easily fixable anachronisms for this to be taking place at the same time as the other film, and you'd think someone might mention New York getting nuked flat during a monster attack. I had to go to the subreddit to find the answer, and according to the director himself it's a different timeline.
So basically there is no actual fucking connection, it's two films set almost a decade apart, in separate universes, with different characters and each about a different, unrelated, but very vaguely similar event. I'm so actually fucking annoyed at this level of stupidity, I don't hate on JJ Abrams but the effectiveness of his mystery box approach has always been questionable, and here he fucking deliberately reached into someone else's mystery box only to slap the contents on the label and add absolutely no value. I'm so mad, this was so nearly a brilliant movie.
Really really good, but a bit uneven. It sort of feels like it was meant to be more of an arthouse film but reworked into a somewhat more consumer-friendly one, or at least that the weirdness is more restrained than it should be and I'd have preferred if it just went even farther off in its own direction. Super excited to see what this guy does next. One thing I'd have liked is a bit more subtlety and obscurity, not in the possible interpretations but just the literal events of the film. We have to just accept that Satan exists but if a few scenes were done slightly differently it would be unclear whether there actually was a witch or a demonic presence at all. Playing it straight is sort of refreshing too but the ambiguity would have been nice.
I didn't pick up on this when watching but when trying to describe this film to someone else he dismissed it as the usual "aah the crosses are inverted it's satan!" christian horror film, which made me realise just how devoid it is of the usual horror tropes and particularly the Exorcist-ripping christian themed ones. If I'm not mistaken there's no actual religious imagery used. Even the sort-of-exorcism scene (god damn incredible by the way) isn't that similar to any comparable scenes I can think of.
The Neon Demon
Also really good, one of the best looking and sounding films I've ever seen. The transition from a mostly normal story into a bizarre violent and depraved third act is a bit clumsy, and outside the excellent aesthetics there's not much going on, but that was enough for me.
Thought a comedy would be nice after those other three. Pity that's not at all what this is, this is the most miserable film of the lot by far. It's basically four sombre short films connected fairly lazily through the titular dog passing through owners (though there's at least one owner-transition and maybe a whole character cut from it). The stand out is Danny DeVito's segment, where he plays a one-time screenwriter turned film professor who's ultimately just untalented and unhelpful to his students. It could've been turned into an alright film on it's own but like the other segments it's just too short to really go anywhere, and that one in particular has the flimsiest connection to the actual dog.
It's far enough out-there for someone to love it but none of the jokes hit with me and it's all just so excessively mean-spirited and tryhard in its edgyness that I found it thoroughly unenjoyable. Anyone who thinks Anomalisa is unempathetic or too harsh should see this. It almost veers toward being preachy too, clearly Solondz has a severe issue with young people in the film industry and I guess what he sees as selfish millennials, I just hate that feeling when the writer is so overtly trying to wave an idea at you.
Feels like there hasn't been many releases in 2016 but I still have a lot to see. Pic is how I've ranked it so far, though I might remove Horace and Pete, and Cloverfield is liable to drop at least four spaces depending on how willing I am to forgive.