As the Las Vegas Film Critics Society is about to cast our first ballots for the “best” motion pictures released in 2016, five major new films will all open today in Las Vegas. Three of the films — MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS and MISS SLOANE — are all serious contenders for top film and acting Oscar nominations. The fourth film, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS — has an absolute lock on being nominated for Best Documentary. It is an absolutely exquisite film. (5 Stars out of 5)
OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY (2016) MOVIE REVIEW
The “plus one” film refers to the hysterical comedy OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY. I laughed out loud and I laughed a lot. Who doesn’t love a fun escape movie to usher in the holidays? The audience certainly enjoyed it, and you will too — as long as you don’t mind the raunchy moments up on the screen, which are pretty much non-stop. And you don’t sit around and think about just how dumb the plot of the movie really is.
Now that I have gotten all of the negativity out of the way, the party includes a very large, talented cast including Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Vanessa Bayer, Karan Soni, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddryy and Fortune Feimster.
The film is directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck. Deducted two stars because of the out of control screenplay which really has a lack of focus.
3.0 STARS (out of 5)
MPAA Rating R – 105 Minutes
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016) MOVIE REVIEW
The haunting drama MANCHESTER BY THE SEA — which stars Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler — was named earlier this week as the “Best Picture of the Year” by the National Board of Review. The movie is directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan. Casey Afflect will certainly be one of the five men competing for Best Actor of the Year.
The following is not a spoiler but it is a “buyer beware warning”. I do not want to color your expectations. Throughout the various twists and turns, there is the hope for resolution and a happy ending to all of the grief. Sometimes, it is not the ending we thought it would be. Sometimes, it is not the ending we had wanted. This movie is about multiple family tragedies. That is not always easy to sit through. Nor is it easy to accept the conclusions. This is one film where you will fight back tears. Like me, you may see painful and authentic reminders of our own family.
The movie is carried by a flawless original screenplay, exquisite cinematography and exceptional art direction. There are precious moments filled with great emotion. Perhaps I have over-thought the ending of this film, which explains why I have deducted one star. You may disagree with me and put that star back in your own review.
4 STARS (out of 5)
MMPA RATING R – 137 Minutes
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (2016) MOVIE REVIEW
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon is one of my five best movies of the year. I suspect that Mr. Shannon who first caught my attention in 8 MILE and then was nominated for an Oscar in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, will likely be nominated again for an Oscar in a Supporting Role. He may be more familiar to you for his work in HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE.
To write anything about the plot and the twists and turns found in this violent dramatic thriller film noir — would immediately become an audience spoiler. And I do not want to do that. So I will give a few clues. Hopefully — to intrigue you just enough to go and see this brilliant art film directed and written by Tom Ford (based upon a novel by Austin Wright). It is intense. And oh so good!
What is truth and what is fiction?
What is violence and what is vengeance?
5.0 STARS (out of 5)
MMPA RATING R – 117 Minutes
MISS SLOANE (2016) MOVIE REVIEW
MISS SLOANE is a towering achievement for actress Jessica Chastain, and a pretty darn good thriller to boot. Welcome to Washington, D.C. where we need to drain the corrupted swamp. And what a swamp it is with high powered lobbyists wanting to win at all costs. This film revolves around the Gun Lobby. You watch the give and take of Democracy. Or so the screenplay goes.
The film is directed by John Madden and written by Jonathan Perera. The cast also includes Mark Strong, GuguMbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Sam Waterston and John Lithgow.
4.0 STARS (out of 5)
MMPA RATING R — 132 Min
PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS
Next week, celebrating the opening of one of the best movies of the year,
LA LA LAND — an intoxicating and lovely original musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. 5 STARS (out of 5)
Next week, anticipating the highest grossing movie of 2016: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. 2 hours and 13 minutes of science fiction action and adventure. Full Review.
In addition, we will re-visit two other 5 Stars Oscar contenders for Best Picture of the Year — MOONLIGHT and HELL OR HIGH WATER. As a lover of cinema, you have to love the end of the year!