Posts Tagged ‘amy adams’

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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

February 15, 2018

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Director: Tom Ford (A Single Man)

Bottom Line: I can see how Nocturnal Animals has divided audiences and I’m actually surprise the audience score is as high as it is on Rotten Tomatoes (72%). This is likely not a movie for the casual filmgoer or really anyone that doesn’t want to think too much while watching films. I loved it though. It’s beautifully shot, extremely well acted, and the multiple narratives seem complex but are actually pretty simple and intertwine extremely well.

Here’s the gist: Amy Adams plays a woman deep into her second marriage and things seem to be falling apart between them. While her husband is away in NYC (cheating on her) she receives a manuscript from her previous husband (Gyllenhaal) that she begins reading. The story is about a man (Gyllenhaal again), and his wife and daughter, driving along a deserted Texas highway and being forced off the road by some hooligans that torment the family and eventually take off with the two women. The man teams up with a local sheriff (Shannon) to locate the two women. While reading the manuscript, Adams’ character finds herself reflecting on her own life and wondering about the choices she’s made.

I tried to type that synopsis up with as few spoilers as possible. I highly recommend watching Nocturnal Animals knowing absolutely nothing about it… like I did.

Michael Shannon gives a terrific (and Oscar nominated) performance as the Texan sheriff and the rest of the cast is great as well. Jake Gyllenhaal always seems to be solid, if not quite amazing, in any role he takes on and this film isn’t any different for him. Amy Adams’ character is quite a bit more interesting. In flashbacks, she seems genuine, somewhat optimistic, and perhaps quite a bit naive and in the present she says very little but exudes sadness and a palpable coldness. It’s a nuanced performance that will probably be appreciated more over multiple viewings. Also, it’s a bit of casting genius to have Isla Fisher in the role of the wife in the manuscript as Fisher and Adams have long been linked as doppelgangers of one another.

Nocturnal Animals is a brilliant film. If you found yourself unsatisfied when the credits started rolling, work a little harder. Do some research and figure it out. If you don’t want to do that, then Nocturnal Animals definitely wasn’t for you. This movie fires on all cylinders, while combining Western thriller with psychological warfare and a classic revenge tale. I still haven’t seen some critically acclaimed films from 2016, but right now I feel comfortable ranking Nocturnal Animals as high as #3 on my list and I won’t be surprised if ten years from now I look back on 2016 and it’s the film I remember most. I highly recommend it, but be warned: you’re going to have to use your brain because it’s not all spelled out for you.

Replay Value: This is the kind of film that if you liked it, you’ll surely want to watch it again. Probably immediately.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Michael Shannon was nominated for Best Supporting Actor and, in what I felt was a rather weak year for films, was probably robbed of multiple other nominations. Nocturnal Animals stuck with me way more than La La Land and Fences, for instance, and it seems criminal that the film received zero technical nods.

Grade: 8 (Must See)

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Beauty and the Beast (2017), Logan (2017), Arrival (2016), Green Room (2016), Sausage Party (2016), Pete’s Dragon (2016)

March 22, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Another solid live-action remake of a Disney classic. Beauty and the Beast isn’t as visually amazing as last year’s Jungle Book and it’s more of a shot-for-shot remake than a fresh take on an old favorite, but the story translates well and this film is really a testament to how wonderful the original animated classic is. It’s probably been 25 years since I’ve seen the 1991 version, but the songs felt like I heard them yesterday and they have been stuck in my head the last 24 hours – they are truly timeless compositions. Emma Watson is perfect casting as Belle, Dan Stevens is enjoyable as The Beast, and Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, and Emma Thompson do solid voice work, but the rest of the borders on annoying. Particularly, I had mixed feelings about Luke Evans as Gaston. On one hand, it’s an incredibly campy and silly performance; on the other hand, it’s very loyal to the source material. Overall, Beauty and the Beast is another enjoyable hit for Disney, even if some of the acting and musical numbers are a bit too flamboyant.

Replay Value: I would watch it again, but I’d rather watch the original.
Sequel Potential: This movie is breaking box office records, but it’s hard to imagine a continuation of this story that doesn’t come across contrived.
Oscar Potential: Even with the expansion of the Best Picture category, this film won’t get a nod like it’s source material did. However, nominations for Costume Design, Makeup, and Art Direction are highly possible.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Logan (2017) – Logan is going to go down as one of the best superhero films of all-time, but really, limiting it to that distinction is a disservice – it is simply a great film, period. Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, finds our hero in the not-so-distant future, as one of the few remaining mutants in the world. His new life consists of driving a limo, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, and harboring a mentally ailing Professor Xavier. Enter Laura: a young mutant girl with all the abilities and fury of a younger Logan. What follows is a road adventure with a Western tinge and a film that has pacing, ridiculous action sequences, and a guardian/mentor relationship all reminiscent of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Making the film rated R was a stroke of genius and once you get past the initial shock of hearing Wolverine and Professor X swear, it’s actually quite funny. Plus, those claws finally get put to gruesome use. Packed with action, drizzles of humor and sorrow, and phenomenal performances from Jackman, Patrick Steward, and newcomer Dafne Keen, Logan is a comic book film masterpiece. It’s the best movie to come out of the X-Men universe and an absolute must see film.

Replay Value: This could go down as a classic and I’m anxious to see it again.
Sequel Potential: Reportedly Jackman’s last appearance as Wolverine, but that’s always subject to change and if not, the character will surely be rebooted in the future.
Oscar Potential: Like Get Out, Logan is in an interesting spot: it’s a comic book movie released in mid-March – not your typical Oscar fodder. But The Dark Knight paved the way for ten possible nominees, so Logan has an outside shot at Best Picture. I don’t see any acting nominations, but Cinematography nod could also be in the cards.

Grade: 8.5/10 (Must See/Potential Classic)

Arrival (2016) – Arrival was one of last year’s most critically lauded films and I found this first contact movie to be quite enthralling myself. It’s definitely a slow burn and the pacing can be a bit tedious at times, but director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) gives Arrival all the mystique and intrigue of a Christopher Nolan film. It tackles interesting themes of language, time, and how we might interact with an alien species, while highlighting our own world’s inability to communicate with one another in today’s trigger-happy environment. Amy Adams is stellar as usual and while Jeremy Renner’s character feels more like background music at times, he does provide some comic relief and plays a pivotal role in the film’s emotional core. While some may be dissatisfied with the ultimate payoff, I felt like Arrival tied things together nicely and made for an enjoyable, cerebral experience. Arrival is a fresh take on the first contact movie and a strong sci-fi recommendation, if not quite a must see film.

Replay Value: You might pick up on some extra things a second time around, but this is more of a once in a decade type movie for me.
Sequel Potential: Ever so slight, but highly unlikely.
Oscar Potential: 8 Oscar nominations and a win for Best Sound Editing.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Green Room (2016) – Green Room is a taut, horror/thriller hybrid that cranks up the tension from start to finish. Director Jeremy Saulnier elicits strong performances from Patrick Stewart as a nihilistic neo-Nazi club owner and the late Anton Yelchin as a member of a punk rock band trapped inside a room in the club after unwittingly intruding on a murder cover up. It’s a gruesome, unforgiving film that lovers of scary movies should watch with delight. Enjoyable from it’s opening frame and featuring Yelchin’s best performance of his short life, Green Room is a must see for fans of unconventional thrillers.

Replay Value: Fun enough to watch again some day.
Sequel Potential: Probably not, but if it becomes a cult classic, it might invite some crappy, nontheatrical sequels.
Oscar Potential: Whiff.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Highly Enjoyable/Must See)

Sausage Party (2016) – The writing team responsible for Superbad offers up a hard R-rated animated comedy featuring everyone’s favorite grocery store items. Filled with all the cleverness and humor – if not the charm and superb storytelling – of a classic Pixar movie, Sausage Party is quite entertaining. While there are lots of juvenile jokes and unrelenting amounts of sexual innuendo, Sausage Party features an A-List voice cast and everyone does a laudable job. It’s not quite as emotionally resonant as it wants to be, but Sausage Party is still a pretty fun comedy and recommended while it’s streaming on Netflix. Warning: this is not for kids!

Replay Value: Smart and funny enough to be worthy of multiple viewings.
Sequel Potential: Definitely possible.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

Pete’s Dragon (2016) – It’s probably been 25-30 years since I’ve seen the original and I can’t remember it at all, so I can’t comment on how this film compares. Even though this live action remake was well received, I found myself struggling through it. It doesn’t help that the cast is largely made up of actors whose work I rarely enjoy. Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, and Karl Urban have never been the reason I’ve watched a movie. Oona Laurence, the little girl, gives the film’s only laudable performance. While I understand the decision to make Elliot, the dragon, look friendly, I felt like the CGI was lackluster and actually terrible at times. I’ve seen action sequences that looked less fake in movies that were made 15 years ago. While Disney films are supposed to require an abundance of imagination and a suspension of reality, it doesn’t hurt to explain some things. Like why is there a dragon in a forest in the Pacific Northwest? How does a dragon remain unseen for decades? If it has wings, wouldn’t it need to use them periodically? What does it eat? Are all dragons children friendly? All in all, Pete’s Dragon is a rare misstep from Disney as it feels like the film, with its uninspired casting and visual effects, was an afterthought for the juggernaut corporation.

Replay Value: None for me.
Sequel Potential: Always possible.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 3/10 (Skip It)

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My Top 5 Actors and Actresses in 2016

November 18, 2016

I just finished watching Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston and it inspired me to think of my favorite actors of the current film era. This list in no way reflects a life time of work – so legends like Pacino, Nicholson, and De Niro are notably absent – it is simply a list of the actors or actresses I’d most like to see in a movie if it came out tomorrow:

1. Leonardo DiCaprio
2. Christian Bale
3. Benedict Cumberbatch
4. Daniel Day-Lewis
5. Bryan Cranston

Comments: Leo has been the most consistently awesome actor of the past 15 years. The Wolf Of Wall Street, Django Unchained, Inception, and The Departed were all my favorite films of their respective release years – and only The Wolf Of Wall Street represents one of his five total Oscar nominations. Dude is crushing. Bale was a great Bruce Wayne (and a good Batman) but he’s on this list for his work in The Fighter, American Hustle, The Big Short, and American Psycho. Cumberbatch has leaped up on my list because of his brillaint work as Sherlock Holmes and his Oscar nominated performance in The Imitation Game. Plus, he was perfect casting for Marvel’s Doctor Strange, giving an unheralded superhero an extra level of credibility. Daniel Day-Lewis doesn’t always star in movies, but when he does, he usually gets nominated for Best Actor and then he usually wins – he’s the only actor in history to win Best Actor three times. Cranston’s peformance in “Breaking Bad” is one of the best you will ever see. He’s just now establishing himself as a big name in the movies, getting an Oscar nomination in his first major starring role in 2015 for Trumbo. I haven’t seen The Infiltrator yet, but I’m sure he’s great in it and I suspect he’s going to be one of the most consistent actors in the next 5-10 years.

Honorable Mentions: Tom Hardy, Denzel Washington, Michael Fassbender, Jake Gyllenhall, Ryan Gosling, Idris Elba, Eddie Redmayne, Christoph Waltz

1. Jennifer Lawrence
2. Amy Adams
3. Meryl Streep
4. Kate Winslet
5. Scarlett Johansson

Comments: Jennifer Lawrence was basically unknown in 2010 when Winter’s Bone came out and garnered her first Best Actress nomination. She’s been nominated for an acting Oscar in four of the last six years, including a Best Actress win for Silver Linings Playbook, and has starred in the ultra successful Hunger Games franchise, establishing herself as the most talented and most successful young actress in the world. Adams has 5 acting nominations since 2006 and her performance in Enchanted was far better than that movie deserved. It’s highly likely that she will be nominated for this year’s Arrival as well. Not much to be said about Meryl Streep. She’s the GOAT. 15 acting nominations in her career – and only one win (a crime!). Kate Winslet has become this generation’s Meryl Streep. None of her movies really jump out at you as great, but her work in them is undeniably phenomenal. She has 7 acting nominations since 1996, but only one win (The Reader). Scarlett Johansson has quietly put together a very impressive and largely overlooked resume. Maybe it’s her overwhelming beauty or the fact she’s played an Avenger five times in the past six years, but Scarlett has been giving great performances since Ghost World and The Man Who Wasn’t There in the early 2000s. She’s still searching for her first Oscar nomination.

Honorable Mentions: Charlize Theron, Anne Hathaway, Helen Mirren, Marion Cotillard, Natalie Portman