Snapshots - #39: Coco, Pitch Perfect 3, Star Wars: Episodes VII and VIII

Coco (2017), (♦♦♦♦): Miguel, a young aspiring singer, is afraid to defy his family's forsaking of music. On the Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday to celebrate the dead, Miguel is, unwillingly, granted night passage to the Land of the Dead, where he meets his ancestors and gets valuable life lessons.

This Disney/Pixar production has great animation and music, is colorful, fun, has endearing characters (both living and dead). Coco also has meaningful lessons about the value of traditions, the importance of family, loyalty, and honoring one's ancestors, all in a very entertaining package. Don't let the fact that it is an animated movie deter you from enjoying this gem. Coco is a great story to ponder for kids and adults alike.

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017), (♦♦♦♦): The members of the a cappella singing sensation ‘The Bellas’ have graduated from college and are realizing that they suck big time at real life. They miss the singing, the mischief, and the camaraderie. The father of on…

Top Films of 2016 (Available for Rent Before December 31, 2016)

I watched an impressive 60 movies available for rent before December 31, 2016. Out those 60, I wrote mini-reviews of 17 of them in the feature “Snapshots”. Since I didn’t visit the cinema to watch the releases that typically make it to the awards shows, I decided to compile this list based on the movies that were available for rent at the time this list was finished. I’ll probably update it between the months of March and April of 2017 when all the award season titles will most likely be available.
The Tiger (Daeho, South Korean), (♦♦♦♦♦): This film is best defined as a thriller, though there are powerful dramatic moments as well. Nuanced acting, the musical score, the cinematography…contribute to an edge-of-your-seat experience that you won't soon forget.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (♦♦♦♦♦): pure adrenaline ride in the tradition of Black Hawk Down is this Michael Bay's production. John Krazinski, as a Special Op contractor for CIA, gives his best performance ever.
Eye in the Sky (♦♦♦♦♦): is a taut military thriller about the complexities—moral, political, and legal, of collateral damage—in modern warfare. Nuanced performances and great case in point make this thriller a must see.

Captain Fantastic (♦♦♦♦♦): this Indie gem is achingly funny, acutely smart, a roller coaster of emotions, and overall, a journey of the heart. Frank Langella gives a solid performance. Viggo Mortensen is brilliant in his role, and so are the six precocious and very peculiar kids, who ably keep up with Mortensen, and who embrace their roles in such a way that one hardly believes they are acting…Don't miss it as you may be missing a movie filled with whip cracking social commentary.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (New Zealand) (♦♦♦♦♦): this quirky indie film about a boy searching for people to call family, made me laugh almost from start to finish. I bet you’ll have a pretty good time watching this one!

Deadpool (♦♦♦♦): I was expecting a traditional superhero movie, but Deadpool is more spoof than standard superhero fare, and a very good one at that. It is surprisingly and acutely funny, courtesy of a very smartly written screenplay. And Ryan Reynolds...he rocks in this role…
Hail, Caesar! (♦♦♦♦): There are very good moments in this movie and the screenplay is a gem, but above all, major kudos to the all-star ensemble cast for making it seem effortless.

Fathers and Daughters (♦♦♦♦): This movie is drama heaven. It has a gorgeous musical score, and it’s beautifully acted by the top notch ensemble cast, but especially by Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried in the leading roles…This is easily one of the best movies I have seen so far this year. Not to be missed!

Love and Friendship (♦♦♦♦): This film is adapted from Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan. When it started I thought it was going to be a boring period drama starring Kate Beckinsale but I rolled my eyes too early perhaps. Love and Friendship is acutely funny, thanks mostly to Beckinsale as Lady Susan, who caused multiple complications...

The Jungle Book (♦♦♦♦): is a Disney production directed by Jon Favreau. The sweetness, the playing mood with lighting effects, the happy ending, and catchy, danceable songs are Disney studios trademark. The combination of great cinematography, special effects, and a stellar cast lending their voices to mesmerizing animals, make this film a must-see for the whole family.

Demolition (♦♦♦♦): This movie is not a comedy but it made me laugh out loud almost to the end…Supporting characters deserve accolades, but it is really Jake Gyllenhaal that makes this production a must-see.

Café Society (♦♦♦♦): is written and directed by Woody Allen; it has a light, dreamy quality, with fresh dialogues, gorgeous music, lots of 1930s Hollywood name-dropping, and great laugh out loud moments poking fun at the differences between the Christian and Jewish faiths, and NY City's underbelly…The ensemble cast makes this screenplay jewel come alive.

Hell or High Water (♦♦♦♦): is a testosterone charged, fast paced Western with a modern twist. The horses have been exchanged by old wheels, but the bank robberies, the shootouts, the die-hard law enforcers, strong females in need, decaying towns, and the big guns are present in full force... Brilliantly acted, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges give career changing performances.

Me Before You (♦♦♦♦): the quirky humor courtesy of Emilia Clarke’s outfits didn’t work that well on me, but the blooming romance and the effervescent chemistry between the leading couple and the drama at the heart of which was the right of someone disabled and suffering to a dignified end of life torn my heart in pieces.
Special mentions:

Captain America: Civil War (♦♦♦♦): I had to watch this movie a few times to appreciate it, and yet I’m not sure it is a strong four, but how could I fail to mention it when most of Marvel’s superheroes were present in one form or another? Besides, this was the epic showdown that seems to have scattered the Avengers for good. (?)

Born to be Blue (♦♦♦½): is one of the reasons why I enjoy artsy dramas. It has many elements that make it worth watching: 1) great introspective music; 2) Ethan Hawke is amazing in the leading role—his performance has been described as that of a virtuoso; 3) the film leaves you uneasy, with the wheels of your mind working over-time…I highly recommend Born to be Blue, as you may be watching one of the best acting performances of 2016.

10 Cloverfield Lane (♦♦♦½): The claustrophobic feel of this movie—from keeping the cast to a bare minimum, to the setting being almost completely indoors, to the ambivalence of Howard's mental state—is not only palpable but quite intentional as well. What prevented me from giving this movie a higher rating was that wacky ending, that though fitting, I didn't like too much.

Gods of Egypt (♦♦♦½): this production can boast of being visually lavish, of its solid performances, and of being highly entertaining.

The Man Who Knew Infinity (♦♦♦½): will appeal mainly to scientists and science enthusiasts, though everyone can enjoy it due to the wonderful performances by Jeremy Irons, Dev Patel and Toby Jones in the leading roles.

Nerve (♦♦♦½): is a hair-rising-at-the-back-of-your-neck thriller about the dangers posed by modern technology and a follow-the-pack mentality. Dynamic camera shoots, excellent photography of the Manhattan night scene, tight editing, and good acting make this film an "enjoyable" viewing experience.


  1. I went to the theater to see Loving and Fences, otherwise I have been also renting. We liked the acting in Hail Caesar, but thought the pace was a bit slow. I also liked Miles Ahead (about Miles Davis) and Money Monster. Most of your list here is in my queue!

    1. Thanks, Judy! I hope you enjoy, if not all, at least most of them.

  2. You had an interesting year of video watching. Your list seems to be heavy on the thrillers. Is that your favorite genre?

    1. My list is drama orientated most of the times, and from this list, only six, I think, are thrillers. However, keep in mind that heavy duty dramas such as the ones I like are released in theaters towards the end of the year looking for a spot in awards shows. I compiled this list without seeing any of those.

  3. Last year, I also watched Deadpool and The Jungle Book and loved them :-D

  4. Hello Carmen! I am dying to see Captain Fantastic and "Hell or High Water" but it hasn't been projected here in Switzerland yet. Having said that, the best film I saw last year was Sully.

    1. Maybe you can rent it through Google Play? I did that. I saw Sully and I liked it; though I thought Tom Hanks was great in it, I wasn't fond of the narrative style.

  5. great list. I loved Deadpool and I love the sound of Love and Friendship - I will definitely go and look this one up.
    Lynn :D

    1. Thanks, Lynn! Love and Friendship was very funny; I think you would like it.

  6. Oh great list. I agree about Eye in the Sky -- very compelling. I liked Me Before You too. & I wasn't sure they could pull off the book but they did it well. I usually like drama heaven (as I did with Manchester by the Sea) so I still need to see Fathers and Daughters. thx for your thorough list. I should see The Tiger too.

    1. Thanks, Susan! I was on the fence about including Me Before You because I hadn't reviewed it and could not find the appropriate things to say to do it justice. I didn't read the book but now I would like to.

      I don't know if The Tiger is for everyone, but I cried like crazy. It was very well acted.

      I have Manchester by the Sea in my wishlist, along with all the other dramas released these last few months. I have been hearing great things about Casey Affleck in it. I hope I like it too!

  7. Watched Fathers and Daughters last week. Loved it. Watched The Tiger on Friday. Wow! Just wow! Husband and I saw it on Netflix streaming. We could not stop talking about it. Thanks again for the recommendations!

    1. I'm glad you loved them, Judy! With The Tiger I was afraid that I was over reacting a little. :-)


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