Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us is a hot mess of a sci-fi drama about a boy who was born on Mars after his astronaut mother, Sarah, apparently failed to take an Early Pregnancy Test before setting off on a super-long shuttle mission to colonize the Red Planet. In a sad twist of events, Sarah discovers shortly after take-off that she’s pregnant, and then dies from complications during childbirth. That’s not a spoiler. It’s in the trailer, and sets up the rest of the story about the life and times of Gardner Elliott, an extremely bright but socially-awkward kid who grows weary of life in a Martian bubble. As puberty hits, Gardner gets rebellious and decides to visit his home planet Earth – to meet a cool girl he’s met online, and maybe even find his mysterious, unidentified father. (Sadly, it’s not Matt “The Martian” Damon.)

A Dog’s Purpose

From the opening notes of the cinematic score (think: Nicolas Sparks movie) to the first frame of video, A Dog’s Purpose is designed to tug at the heartstrings and manipulate emotions. And for the most part, it succeeds. Puppies!!! Awwwwwwwww. I mean, c’mon, who can resist a movie that literally gives voice (Josh Gad, Frozen’s Olaf) to the innermost thoughts of man’s – and woman’s – best friend? Here’s the gist of the sweet and sappy tale: A dog is reincarnated several times and discovers new purpose with each new life and owner, beginning with a kid named Ethan. The boy and his dog (Bailey) share a bond that can’t be broken, like, ever. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say this movie could easily pass for a very special episode of Touched By an Angel (Dog) or the TV Movie of the Week on Disney Channel, Hallmark or Lifetime. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Those movies have a purpose too (pun intended) and a target demographic. A Dog’s Purpose will surely resonate with dog lovers everywhere. Not a dog person? Then skip it.

Cinema Clash: Split; xXx: Return of Xander Cage; The Founder

Mainstream Chick faces off with her cinematic nemesis Charlie over: M. Night Shyamalan’s creepy psychological thriller Split starring James McAvoy as a guy with 24 alternate personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls; xXx: Return of Xander Cage, an action movie starring Vin Diesel in the second sequel of a franchise I’d never heard of. It’s pure camp. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!; and The Founder, a not-so-feel-good biopic starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s “founder” Ray Kroc.

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!