Posts Tagged ‘2016 oscars’


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)


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)


Room (2015)

February 20, 2016

Starring: Brie Larsen, Jacob Tremblay
Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Bottom Line: Imagine being born in a shack, growing up within those confines, and having no concept of your situation or the outside world. You have T.V., food, a man that stops by to deliver groceries and lay with your mother while you sleep in the closet… but as far as you know, this is all there is to life. That’s the premise of Room, where a woman is kidnapped at age 17, raped, impregnated, and held in captivity for years after giving birth. She decides to raise her son in a way that makes him ignorant and tolerant of his living conditions. “Room” is all he knows – he’s five years old and he’s never set foot outside the shack he lives in.

Brie Larsen gives a stunning performance as the mom in Room. Possibly the best performance of any 2015 film that I’ve seen so far. She sends her character through the gamut of emotions, all while making it seem effortless. I noticed Larsen’s ability to make her acting seem natural in Trainwreck earlier in 2015, but her performance in Room is a true tour-de-force – and she makes it seem so natural. I’m blown away by Brie Larsen in this movie. Her character took a situation that is undoubtedly terrifying and disgusting – captivity and constant rape – and somehow made it seem like we weren’t really watching a scary movie – just the atmosphere she wants her son to think he lives in. In that way Room reminded me a bit of Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful, where a Jewish father in a concentration camp pretends that their situation is a game for the benefit of his son.

Jacob Tremblay also gives a great performance in this movie. Perhaps overshadowed by Larsen’s amazing work, Tremblay offers the best child performance I’ve seen in years.

I don’t believe that it’s a spoiler to mention that the captives in Room eventually escape and a big portion of the movie centers on the son discovering that there’s a world outside of the shack. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with this section of the movie – I thought the child’s wonder would be a bit more interesting, but the second half of the movie focuses more on the mother adapting to a life outside of captivity and dealing with the media aspects of being an escaped hostage. Still, I found Room plenty enjoyable and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

Room is one of the best films of 2015 – a gritty must see that features an absolute knockout performance from Brie Larsen.

Replay Value: I’m looking forward to watching it again with my wife. I think I could like it more the second time.
Sequel Potential: N/A
Oscar Potential: Nominated for four big Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Brie Larsen should be a virtual lock for an Oscar.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)


The Revenant (2015)

January 27, 2016

Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman, Babel, 21 Grams)

Bottom Line: The Revenant was quite easily the most beautiful movie I’ve seen all year – from the cold set locations along a wild river to the amazing cinematography, it is pretty astonishing to look at. Of course, Leonardo Dicaprio knocks another performance out of the park. Playing Hugh Glass, a legendary explorer of uncharted America, his character is left for dead by his peers after being brutally attacked by a bear and he spends the rest of the movie, barely alive already, fighting to survive through the threats of nature, unhappy Natives, and his body giving out in order to exact revenge on the two men that left him behind to die. Somehow Leo gives one of the best performances of his career while barely having any dialogue. And though I don’t think it was his best work, the Academy might finally reward him with a “lifetime achievement” Best Actor statue. Tom Hardy plays the main antagonist, part of the group of frontiersmen, one in constant disagreement with Glass and ultimately the man that tries to bury him alive after the bear mauling. It’s another fantastic performance for Hardy – one that kind of reminds me of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow – and continues Hardy’s history of performances so diverse he is basically unrecognizable from role to role.

I felt like The Revenant was the full package – it’s the sort of movie you really just have to go see in theaters. Great performances, amazing cinematography and camera work (that bear scene though!), and possibly the best score I’ve heard all year. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is developing quite the Hollywood resume as he has a very legitimate chance to follow up his Best Picture win for Birdman with another one for The Revenant. I’d be curious to know how many times that has been done in movie history.

The Revenant is a bit long and not for everyone (my wife was not very impressed), but I loved it. It’s as well rounded and enjoyable as any 2015 movie I’ve seen so far – a true must see cinematic experience.

Replay Value: This movie should look just as sexy in HD on blu-ray – I’m looking forward to seeing it again.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: 12 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor for Dicaprio, Best Supporting Actor for Hardy, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. I feel like The Revenant is probably the favorite for Best Picture at the moment, but it should have some stiff competition from Mad Max: Fury Road in a lot of the technical departments, including cinematography. Not sure how this film’s score got snubbed – I’ve heard all the nominated scores except Carol and none of them were better than The Revenant.

Grade: 8/10 (Excellent)