The Greasy Strangler (2016) Written by Toby Harvard and Jim Hosking Directed by Jim Hosking
What makes a film successful? The most common metric we use to measure success would be box office returns. However, there are plenty of movies that we consider works of art that were not tremendously financially successful. It doesn’t matter because we value them for artistic merits rather than economic ones. So, where do you place a movie like The Greasy Strangler? I had to give it five stars on Letterboxd because it does accomplish what the director set out to do. From that perspective, it unsettles and provokes shocked laughter, precisely what Jim Hosking is going for. Your specific taste in art may not mesh with Hosking’s, it likely will not, but you can’t say his film failed to deliver on his goals in the making.
Tracktown (2016) Written & Directed by Alexi Pappas and Jeremy Teicher
The Olympics-to-movies track is not one populated with much success. You need only look at the quality of Gymkata (starring gymnast Kurt Thomas) or Can’t Stop the Music (starring track star Caitlyn Jenner) to see how dubious these pictures can be. In a recent pre-Oscars interview, when asked about what movies he’s watched recently, director Paul Thomas Anderson namedropped Tracktown as one he’d watched and liked. Intriguing, yes? I have to wonder how closely Mr. Anderson was paying attention to the film as it played on his television because there is something so off about Tracktown.
The World of Us (2016) Written & Directed by Yoon Ga-eun
South Korean cinema consistently surprises me with how well-made it is. It shouldn’t because I’ve been seeking out and watching Korean films for around 14 years. Because movies are so dominated by American-made fare, it’s easy to forget how excellent other cultures are at producing films. The World of Us was a movie that was nowhere near my radar until suggested by Matt as his Patron Pick for December 2021. I did a little research before watching it, and it’s a film cited by Bong Joon-ho when asked about contemporary movies from his country that he recommends. I had no real idea what to expect but knew this would likely be another fantastic picture.
Colossal (2016) Written & Directed by Nacho Vigalondo
You might think you know where this movie is going, but it will surprise you in the third act and venture into a wild new direction. I have loved Nacho Vigalondo’s work since I first saw Timecrimes so many years ago. I had circled Colossal hesitantly for the last few years because reviews were so mixed. The concept was intriguing, but I could also see how it could possibly fall flat. I think the trailer and descriptions did an excellent job of hiding what the picture was actually about, and that’s what made that third act twist so satisfying and suddenly injected the movie with life.
Deadly Class Book One: Noise, Noise, Noise (2016) Reprints Deadly Class #1-16 Written by Rick Remender Art by Wes Craig
It’s no secret that I am a fan of Rick Remender, I spent half a year reading through and reviewing his entire body of work at Marvel Comics in 2018. As part of my look at Image Comics this year, I decided to check out his Deadly Class series, which had been turned into a now-canceled series on SyFy. I literally went in blind, not knowing the names of any characters or the premise of the series. I was surprised by what I read, enjoyed quite a bit of it but also had some moments that I didn’t care for.
The Wicked + The Divine Book One (2016) Written by Kieron Gillen Art by Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson
Approximately every 90 years, there is the Recurrence. This is an event where twelve gods of the ancient world reincarnate in human bodies. These forms are usually teenagers who are gifted supernatural powers, particularly the ability to influence the minds of mortals. Their purpose to combat an ill-defined forced known as The Darkness. Two years from their arrival, they will die, as it has been forever and ever. This is the basic premise of Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + The Divine.
Jupiter’s Circle Volume 1 (2015) Written by Mark Millar Art by Wilfredo Torres
Jupiter’s Circle Volume 2 (2016) Written by Mark Millar Art by Wilfredo Torres & Chris Sprouse
While the present-day Jupiter’s Legacy is put on pause, Mark Millar takes us back to the glory days of their parents in the pages of Jupiter’s Circle. This mostly serves as a critique of the Golden Age of Superheroes with archetypes standing in for Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, et al. If you have read a postmodern comic in the wake of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, then I can’t imagine anything here will shake you up too much. It’s pretty much as expected, an emphasis on the personal lives and tribulations of the superheroes. This is essentially Mad Men as a story about men and women in capes and tights.
Two Dollar Bill (2016) Written & Directed by Hannah Marks
Hannah Marks was born into the industry, the daughter of actors, granddaughter to a musician. She made her debut in 2006’s Accepted, a middling Justin Long vehicle. Along the way, she became interested in directing and has jumped into the deep end. After a series of successfully received shorts, she’s made a feature film with another in the pipeline.
Dark Night (2016) Written & Directed by Tim Sutton
On July 20th, 2012, during a midnight screen of The Dark Knight Returns, a man wearing tactical gear set off tear gas inside the theater and proceeded to fire into the audience using multiple firearms he’d prepared for this occasion. 12 people were dead, 58 were wounded in the shooting. What followed was another cycle of the gun/mental health debate in America, which ended, as always, with nothing done on either front by leaders who feared political reprisal if they were to act. It was another reminder that we live in a society where the average and considered politically safest response of an elected official in the wake of mass murder is to do nothing.
The Bad Batch (2016) Written & Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
The film begins promisingly. A young woman is tattooed on her neck and tossed on the other side of a fence that spans the U.S.-Mexico border. Signage indicates that this is a no man’s land, a place where the refuse of the United States is now tossed in an unspecified future point in time. The woman finds a run-down car where she takes a bit of respite only to be chased down and captured by a bizarre tribe of body-building cannibals. All of this sounds like it could be the makings a new post-Apocalyptica, refashioning the tropes of Mad Max into something of the 21st century and female-driven. Yet, all of the promises of Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night feels squandered in what becomes an aimless character-deficient story.