STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS ~ Somewhat enjoyable, ultimately disposable opening salvo in Disney's continuity-redefining jump-start of George Lucas' inexplicably popular, intellectually moribund, decades-long series of glorified toy commercials. Of course it's the most "successful" film in the history of cinema.
SPOTLIGHT ~ One of the best journalistic films since All the President's Men, this extended look at the Boston Globe's Spotlight investigating team's groundbreaking 2001/2002 report on the Catholic Church's cover-up of massive pedophilia among the clergy is chock-a-block with interesting performances, great cinematic flourishes, understated and subtly powerful moments of revelation, without ever falling prey to the urge to be exploitative or overly sentimental. Mature, powerful, enjoyable.
THE HATEFUL 8 ~ as with every Quentin Tarantino since Kill Bill, there were things to love, and things to hate. Lots of cheap tricks disguised as shocking revelations, wonderful use of the ultra-wide
screen (some excellent staging and shot compositions), but ultimately too long by about an hour, and what little narrative heft it does have doesn't manage to ground it at all. For such a bloated thing, it sure was insubstantial. Also, there are way more than 8 characters in this thing. Cheat!
THE BIG SHORT ~ The Wolf of Wall Street, only more so. Probably the best movie about financial malfeasance that I have ever seen, and that includes most documentaries. This one was a great surprise to me, as I'd heard little about it before watching. A true story that is even more infuriating than Spotlight, and that's saying something.
THE RIDICULOUS 6 ~ This is the Adam Sandler movie where all the native people employed as extras and in small roles decided to walk off the set because of the racist, caricaturist way in which the script dealt with them. And you know what? That's probably the funniest thing about this whole damn project.
HELL BABY ~ The creators of Reno 911 (a personal favorite) threw together this Satanic-themed pregnancy horror-comedy and invited a bunch of their comedy peers (including a game Rod Cordrey, half of Key and Peele, and a totally naked half of Garfunkle and Oates) to join them in New Orleans for some movie shooting and some Po Boys eating. Mildly entertaining, but ultimately disposable.
THE VISIT ~ M. Night Shamalamadingdong is back with this R-rated, found-footage, glorified "Goosebumps" episode. I actually liked this, which is kind of miraculous, considering who made it. I wouldn't be surprised to find out he didn't play a very large role in the writing of this project, because it actually works.
THE CONGRESS ~ Perhaps the most successful combination of animation and live action since Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this thoughtful, profoundly postmodern deconstruction of the ways in which the Hollywood machine chews up, digests, then shits out its employees (aka its victims) is also one of the most profound works of cinematic philosophy in recent decades, asking many big, important questions, and offering answers that enlighten, even if they don't comfort. Must see cinema, a feast for the eyes, the mind, and the soul.