Posts Tagged ‘2015 movies’

h1

The Big Short (2015)

August 26, 2016

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt
Director: Adam McKay (The Other Guys, Step Brothers, Anchorman)

Bottom Line: Director Adam McKay somehow manages to make a movie about the mortgage and housing collapse of the mid-2000s funny and entertaining despite the fact that I largely had no idea what was going on. I get that the banks were loaning money to people that had basically no income or credit, but I didn’t really understand how the key players in the movie realized this and knew how to capitalize on it. While having Margot Robbie sitting in a bubble bath explaining things was a nice touch, I was, admittedly, still pretty lost. Obviously, The Big Short has a stellar cast and it’s cool to see Steve Carrell in a more serious role. Christian Bale, as always, is spectacular. The Big Short is an enjoyable movie even if you don’t really understand banking or the housing market, but I imagine those that read and enjoyed the Michael Lewis book this film was adapted from will really love this movie.

Replay Value: I think I would better understand things a second time around.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Nominated for Best Picture, Film Editing, Director, Christian Bale’s performance, and won the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

h1

The Lobster (2015)

August 25, 2016

Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth)

Bottom Line: The Lobster is a bizarre movie about a society where one must find true love or they will be arrested, transformed into an animal of their choice, and let loose in the wild. So when Colin Farrell’s character David is left by his wife, he finds himself in a hotel full of fellow loners where they all must find a matching partner within 45 days or their human life comes to an end. Wait, they aren’t loners – Loners are an actual group of rebels that duck authority and live illegal lives absent of domestic partnership in the woods – and the members of the purgatory hotel stop can extend their stay by hunting these loners with tranquilizer guns and capturing them. When David’s stay at the hotel comes to in an end he escapes to the woods where he promptly falls in love with one of the Loner women.

I’m having a hard time deciding if I liked The Lobster or not. It might be too weird. The acting is so dead pan and the lines are delivered with such straight faces it’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I mean, I think it’s supposed to be funny, but I’m not really sure. The plot is intriguing, even if it is unsettling odd at times. The performances of Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz are amusing if nothing else. I have to give them credit – they play their roles with absolutely no showing of emotion. I think the film is supposed to be some sort of commentary on the societal pressure to be part of a monogamous relationship.

The Lobster is amusing and, at times, comical, but it’s so strange and difficult that I couldn’t possibly recommend it to everyone in good faith. I am curious what people would think of it. I imagine casual film watchers – like my wife – will hate it, but when I finished watching it I was unsure how I really felt about it. The more time I’ve had to think about though the more I think I liked it.

Replay Value: I would maybe give this another watch some day.
Sequel Potential: Not much.
Oscar Potential: No nominations

Grade: 5.5/10 (/Watchable/Recommended)

h1

Spectre (2015)

August 17, 2016

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux
Director: Sam Mendes (Skyfall, Road To Perdition, American Beauty)

Bottom Line: You’d think a James Bond movie starring Christoph Waltz – one of my favorite actors of late – as famed Bond villain Ernst Blofeld would be a stroke of genius, but somehow director Sam Mendes and crew made Spectre one of the most boring films in the franchise’s history. For starters, if you were excited about Waltz as Blofeld, you’ll be pretty disappointed when you have to wait nearly an hour and 45 minutes before you see his face and hear him speak more than a few lines. While this anonymity follows tradition with the character, it’s also a waste of a pretty great actor. There’s a twist in this movie that makes the Austin Powers movie Goldmember seem foreshadowing and really makes you wonder where the Bond writers are drawing their inspiration from.

While I didn’t hate Spectre, I did find it incredibly dull. It’s almost 2.5 hours long and it feels like very little happens. I really like Craig as Bond, but once again, the James Bond series is in need of a shake up.

Replay Value: I would never watch this again unless it was part of a dedicated marathon. I own every Bond movie, but this one will not be joining my collection unless someone buys it for me.
Sequel Potential: I’ll die before this franchise does. I believe Daniel Craig is under contract for one more Bond movie.
Oscar Potential: Won Oscar for Best Original Song.

Grade: 3.5/10 (Just Skip It/Forgettable)

h1

Steve Jobs (2015)

July 13, 2016

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen
Director: Danny Boyle (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting)

Bottom Line: Geez, this was kind of a bizarre movie for me to watch having rather recently listened to Steve Jobs’ incredible biography by Walter Isaacson. Obviously a book has the ability to be much more encompassing than a two hour movie, so it wasn’t much of a surprise for Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs to feel a bit lacking to me. Jobs’ adoption, childhood, and early days creating Apple are merely glossed over, but these years are critical in defining the moments the film decides to highlight, like his relationships with his first daughter and former partner Steve Wosniak. While the film seems to want to make Jobs’ maturation as a father the largest theme, being a dad never comes across as a priority in the book I listened to, which makes me wonder how many liberties screenwriter Aaron Sorkin made while penning this script. Without a doubt, the acting here is top notch, particularly from Michael Fassbender in the lead role, but there were times where the dialogue seemed overwhelmingly staged – like it was transparent that these people were reciting a script rather than the scene feeling fluid and natural. It really took me out of the movie at times.

Steve Jobs is far from a bad film; in fact, it’s plenty enjoyable, with great acting across the board and an enthralling title character. For me, seeing the father/daughter relationship play such a pivotal role in the story felt… phony. Family was not a priority to this man and while the movie somewhat highlights this fact, it also suggests that he eventually figures it out and well, I just don’t believe that to be true. Steve Jobs was always business first, business second, and business third. If you’re interested in the life of one the tech era’s biggest pioneers, I’d suggest reading his biography over watching this movie – you aren’t going to learn too much here.

Replay Value: It is quite possible I would enjoy this more a second time around and it’s also quite possible the things that bothered me the most the first time would bother me even more!
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Acting nominations for Fassbender and Winslet.

Grade: 5/10 (Watchable)

h1

The Martian (2015)

May 26, 2016

Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels
Director: Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator, Alien)

Bottom Line: In this Cast Away on Mars, Mark Watney (Damon) is left behind on the red planet after a storm separates him from his crew and they assume that he is dead. It’s a familiar trope (stranded man) in a new setting (Mars) and while it’s easy to follow how a man on an island is figuring out how to survive, the math, science, and space knowledge required to understand what Watney is doing to stay alive is quite a bit more advanced. Even so, The Martian makes for an enjoyable film with plenty of light comedic moments – despite his predicament, Watney’s sense of humor never wavers. On the other hand, the light nature of the film undermines the severity of the situation and you never really feel like this man’s life is seriously in danger.

I enjoyed Matt Damon a lot in the main role and Michael Pena (Ant Man) once again does a great job providing a funny side role, but the rest of the cast raised some question marks. Jessica Chastain probably deserves beefier roles – she has immense talent but little to do in this film. Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover (a.k.a. rapper Childish Gambino) seem miscast – Wiig plays it stiff and straight and Glover’s character seems to come from nowhere to play a pivotal role but does provide one of the film’s biggest laughs (“Who are you again?”. I like both actors, but their roles in The Martian are pretty ho hum.

Overall, The Martian is a good, but not great movie that seems to be a bit overrated, but is plenty worth watching.

Replay Value: Not strong.
Sequel Potential: I would say zero.
Oscar Potential: Nominated for 7 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay – all of which seem pretty generous to me.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

h1

Quick Movie Reviews

March 31, 2016

Spy (2015)
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law

After Identity Thief and Tammy I was thinking McCarthy’s schtick was already getting tired, but Spy was actually pretty enjoyable and plenty funny. Rose Byrne playing a smug villainness.. not so much. A comedy that’s just a bit above average.

5.5/10 (Watchable/Recommended)

Sicario (2015)
Starring: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro

Blunt plays an FBI agent that is enlisted to help with escalating drug trafficking crimes on the U.S./Mexico border, but really, her character’s involvement in the film at all only seems to serve the purpose of being a McGuffin. Sicario is a film that I wanted to like, and it has some intense moments and is shot very well, but I just couldn’t ignore the feeling that if Blunt’s character was removed entirely and the film instead focused on Del Toro’s anti-protagonist, the real central character, we could have seen something quite a bit more gripping.

5.5/10 (Watchable/Recommended)

The Visit (2015)
Starring: some kids, some old people

It has been over a decade since M. Night Shyamalan has directed a movie that I didn’t hate. Not since Signs all the way back in 2002, and honestly, that film’s level of quality is plenty questionable too. With The Visit, Shyamalan returns to the suspense/horror genre that launched his “career” and while The Visit is no The Sixth Sense, it’s easily Shyamalan’s best film since Unbreakable. It’s creepy, scary, and grounded enough in reality that you just might get the shivers. Oh, and spoiler alert, we actually get a “surprise” ending that won’t make you want to bang your head against the wall.

6/10 (Recommended)

The Final Girls (2015)
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Thomas Middleditch

Wow, what a fun movie. I dare (dare!) anyone that grew up loving 80’s horror movies not to love this parody/homage to that amazing genre. So Taissa Farmiga plays a young woman that recently lost her mother, a former 80’s horror genre star, in a car accident. While attending a theatrical showing in honor of her mom’s most famous slasher film, the girl and a group of her friends are somehow pulled into the screen and find themselves in the world of the film, complete with a masked psycho killer looking for young people to murder. The Final Girls is clearly a homage to the Friday The 13th franchise and Jason Vorhees more than anything else, and it is wildly entertaining, although oddly rated PG-13. Still, it’s a great horror flick, with plenty of suspense, the perfect amount of humor, and surprising emotional resonance as watching Farmiga’s character interact with an embodiment of her dead mother can be pretty touching. The Final Girls should be a favorite of horror fans and plenty of fun for everyone.

6.5/10 (Recommended/Must See)

h1

The Hateful Eight (2015)

February 5, 2016

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds)

Bottom Line: I hate to say it, but The Hateful Eight, was arguably the worst Quentin Tarantino movie I’ve ever seen. Maybe it will go down as overlooked and underappreciated like Jackie Brown or underwhelming but better than you thought it was like Death Proof – but without a doubt, The Hateful Eight, was the least entertaining QT film I’ve seen on an initial viewing. The film is highly dialogue driven with very little action until the over-the-top finale – and clocking in at over 2 and a half hours it all feels about an hour too long.

Not that The Hateful Eight is all bad. As usual, Tarantino gets the best out of his actors and Samuel L. Jackson, in particular, gives an amazing performance. Jennifer Jason Leigh is also very good. And of course, there is plenty of great dialogue for the actors to chew on.

Ultimately, what plagues The Hateful Eight is how the slow, intense build up leads to a pretty underwhelming climax. QT is great at providing the “wow factor,” but I’d have to say the magic is missing in this movie – even the Oscar-nominated score felt like a let down.

While The Hateful Eight is quite beautiful to look at and has some moments of brilliance, it felt like a miss from one of my top 3 directors.

Replay Value: Both of the QT films I didn’t love grew on me later, so I will be watching this again to make sure.
Sequel Potential: I don’t think we will be revisiting these characters.
Oscar Potential: Oscar noms for Cinematography (deserved), Jennifer Jason Leigh (sure), and Score (no).

Grade: 5/10 (Watchable)