The Brand New Testament

The Founder

The Founder is the antithesis of a feel-good movie. It’ll leave you with a bitter aftertaste, not to mention second thoughts about grabbing a burger at McDonald’s. On the surface, the movie has a similar vibe to The Social Network (about the founder of Facebook) and Steve Jobs (about the co-founder of Apple). All three focus on the origin stories of iconic companies and the people who got trampled – or simply left behind – as the brands took off. But The Founder (about the “founder” of McDonald’s) is missing a few key ingredients – namely drama, tension, and the development of characters that you may want to care about. The cast is good. The movie is weak.

Hidden Figures

How did we not know about this story before now?! That’s the biggest question I had after watching Hidden Figures, what I venture to call the best feel-good movie to hit theaters in recent weeks, months, or possibly even years. It’s based on the fascinating, true story of three African-American women who were part of a segregated ‘human computer’ division at NASA that ‘did the math’ that helped send astronaut John Glenn into orbit at the height of the space race in the early 1960s. Talk about the right stuff. These women had it.

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2016

It’s that time of year – when friends, family, and strangers in the elevator ask, “Hey, Did you see [fill in the blank]? Is it any good? What’s your favorite movie of 2016?” Well, here I attempt to answer those questions as succinctly as possible — with a countdown of my top ten movies of the year (12 if you count the ties), as well as a bunch of honorable mentions. They are films that resonated for one (positive) reason or another and represent a broad range of genres. Check ’em out!

20th Century Women

20th Century Women takes place at the end of the 70s in Santa Barbara, California. Dorothea (Annette Bening) is a bohemian, mid-50ish, single mom trying to raise her son, adolescent Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). They live in a big old house in the middle of renovations and have two boarders – budding photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Zen mechanic William (Billy Crudup). And there is a teenage neighbor Julie (Elle Fanning) who frequently climbs in the window to lie chastely in bed with young Jamie, her BFF, to his growing dismay. Dorothea feels that she needs help with Jamie, and thinking they’re closer in age, she asks the girls to help her with his transition to manhood. What follows is both funny and touching.

Passengers

Passengers is basically Castaway in space – with a bit of Gravity and The Martian thrown into the mix. Only it’s not as good as the aforementioned titles, mostly because it lacks tension and drama. Even the sexual tension between the attractive main characters is dispensed of rather quickly, if ya know what I mean.

The Brand New Testament

Looking for a fun flick that isn’t on everyone’s lips yet? Look no further than The Brand New Testament. This absurdist film from Belgium starts with a blasphemous premise. God lives in an apartment in Brussels with his wife (Yolande Moreau) and 10-year-old daughter Ea (Pili Groyne) who are never allowed to leave said apartment. This Old Testament vengeful and angry God (Benoît Poelvoorde) sits around all day in his bathrobe, drinks beer, controls the world through his computer, and thinks up “devilish” ways to harm and annoy the humans he created. But his meanness goes too far for Ea, so she sneaks into his locked God cave and sends text messages to everyone on earth with their death dates. Knowing Daddy won’t be amused, she talks with JC, her statue of her brother, who tells her how to get out of the house. And so little Ea gets her first taste of humanity.

Patriots Day

The Boston Marathon bombing is like so many of our recent tragedies. We remember where we were when it happened and were glued to the news, trying to come to terms with the horrifying display of carnage born from hatred. Then over the following days we watched and waited as the perpetrators were identified, killed, and captured. Patriots Day is essentially this story told through one Boston cop’s eyes. Mark Wallberg is Sgt. Tommy Saunders, a cop who’s made some mistakes and has been forced to be a Marathon traffic cop, so he just happens to be there when the bombs go off, which throws him into the middle of the hunt for the perps who may be planning more attacks. You know what’s going to happen, so there aren’t many surprises, but the film is fast paced with enough detail to make it extremely absorbing, and it works!

Sing

I’m a big fan of The Voice. I watched American Idol. I love musicals. The trailer for Sing looked awesome. And then I saw the movie. And I was bummed. The elements were all there for greatness (or at least very goodness), but it doesn’t come close to reaching its potential. In fact, I was bored for a big chunk of Sing, especially when the menagerie of animated pop-star wannabes weren’t singing. That’s not to say it won’t do (extremely) well at the box office. It will. It’s like The Secret Life of Pets (from the same studio, Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment). Pets wasn’t very good, but I’m convinced that kids and adults had psyched themselves up to like it – no matter what — based on the cute trailer and premise. The same will be true with Sing. Enough people will see it – and sing its praises – to put me in the minority. So go ahead. See it, and weigh in! I’m listening!

Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water didn’t get the attention it deserved when it was out. But now it’s getting some notice by the awards people, so I thought I’d give my take. (Mainstream Chick’s take is at the bottom of this post. We both liked it a lot!) It has a great cast – Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, and Ben Foster. It’s a fairly simple story, very well told. Two teams are playing a cat and mouse game with each other. Brothers Tony and Tanner (Pine and Foster) are small time bank robbers. Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) and his partner Alberto (Birmingham) are on their tail as they knock over branches of the Texas Midlands Bank. Tanner has a record, but Tony is doing it all for his young sons. And Hamilton is about to retire, so he wants that last good case. It’s a very human story that’s humorous, sad, and action packed.

Captain Fantastic

I really liked this film. It’s another that was somewhat under the radar that I think audiences would love if they knew a bit more about it. So… Captain Fantastic is about a single father raising six kids somewhere in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He’s teaching them to be resourceful and both intellectually and physically rigorous. But a death forces the family to leave their paradise for the real world and confront the pros and cons of their cut-off existence. It’s funny, touching, and thought provoking.