Gumby has written 111 reviews for films during 2016.

  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople

    Hunt for the Wilderpeople

    ★★★★

    Equal parts hilarious and touching, this film makes a subject that could have easily been rote Oscarbait something truly unique. Some really great direction also helps to elevate things. It may not have much depth, but it is a joy to watch.

  • Sing

    Sing

    ★★½

    SING is a movie made by people who saw all those scenes from sub-Shrek animated films where the characters sing to pop-songs and thought, "Yes, that's good, but why can't that be the whole movie?" It has two main problems: tons of characters who are all treated equally, meaning that nobody's arc gets developed, and conflicts that end up not being conflicts five minutes later, only to be replaced by other conflicts that are not things.

    It is also ugly. But

  • Kubo and the Two Strings

    Kubo and the Two Strings

    ★★★★

    The film perhaps works better on the philosophical rather than literal level, but it us such a wonderful meditation on the power and nature of stories that it didn't bother me. It is also absolutely gorgeous with impressive cinematography you wouldn't expected from most animated films, let alone a stop-motion one. For my money, this is Laika's masterpiece.

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    ★★★½

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    I think the first two acts here are a bit rough, largely because the film doesn't do a great job of creating and fleshing out its characters.


    The third act is fantastic though; apart from great action, and an absolutely terrifying Darth Vader, it also makes some bold narrative choices. I liked the choice to let the characters die. Apart from the thematic reasons (rebellions have costs, people must make sacrifices), I also think it is important to reintroduce stakes…

  • The Snowy Day

    The Snowy Day

    ★★★

    Beautiful, and I think it would be a great special for kids, but it lacks appeal for an adult.

  • My Own Private Idaho

    My Own Private Idaho

    ★★★

    An interesting film with some beautiful cinematography and stylistic flourishes, I could nevertheless not shake the feeling that substance was being sacrificed for style. The spin on Shakespeare's Henriad is inspired, but the source material ends up making the characters look thin; they come off as a collection of quirks more than people.

  • Under the Sun

    Under the Sun

    ★★★★

    This is a fascinating look at how footage can be edited to shape a narrative. Obstebsibly about North Korea, the film is in many ways how about how film can be shaped to lie to us. By staying silent, the filmmakers allow the footage to speak for itself, giving a rare but fascinating look at the DPKR.

  • The Boxtrolls

    The Boxtrolls

    ★★★½

    A mostly great aesthetic with a fun villain, but at times it plays like an Aardman rip off (right down to everyone's obsession with cheese). Some of the stuff is a bit gross, particularly the villain's allergic reactions.

  • Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island

    Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island

    ★★★★

    This trilogy is absolutely gorgeous. The colors and art direction give the film a dream-like quality similar to Kwaidan. The arc of Musashi is slso a very satisfying one, and the various duels and battles are clinics in creating tension. The last duel in particular is stunning and a perfect climax to the series.

    If there is a weakness it's that some of the other characters, especially Musashi's main rival, are not as well developed as the protagonist.

  • Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple

    Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple

    ★★★★

    See review on Samurai III

  • Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

    Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

    ★★★★

    See review on Samurai III

  • Alexander Nevsky

    Alexander Nevsky

    ★★★½

    Some really great, rousing action that suffers just a bit from the lack of truly defined characters (which is to be expected from Eisenstein and Soviet cinema of the era). 

    Still, the visuals are brilliant. The Teutonic knights are as frightening as anything in cinematic history, and the battle on the ice still matches the best medieval battle scenes of today, an amazing feat given Eisenstein's technological limitations.