Reviews

Patriots Day

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Release date: January 13, 2016

This movie falls into a weird genre I like to call “Disaster Porn”. In that genre are many categories. Examples include: Natural Disaster, Sci-fi World Event, Large Scale Super Villain, Event Specific War Movie and this one Based on a True Story.

I enjoy this genre for reasons that will probably label me an oblivious millennial, but oh well. I find that I’ve heard about incidents, especially the recent ones, but I don’t really know any of the details. The movie helps to make me aware of the gravity of these real life events and makes me more aware. They naturally have a sense of drama knowing they actually happened, but when the movie version is well acted and well made it adds to the impact that story leaves on me.

Patriots Day follows the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, from the day before to the capture of the second bomber from the boat in a Watertown backyard.

Patriots Day had a good balance of focusing on the people (the victims and the first responders), on the actions, and on the facts and chronology.  They did a great job of blending those three together. The character development created a depth that movies like this sometimes lack. From the start we are introduced to a variety of characters that we don’t know the significance of exactly. As the events play out on-screen those characters enter the story line. The film makers made a smart choice to introduce them all at the beginning of the picture because when we do meet them, we care about them.

*SPOILER ALERT* For example we meet a young MIT cop in the beginning. We see him flirt with a girl, hanging out with his buddies and we care about him. We know his name. Then later, when the bombers are attempting to leave Boston for New York they see this cop sitting in his car on campus and try to steal his gun. He puts up a fights and ends up getting shot and dying. Sad. *END SPOILER ALERT* If the filmmakers had just told this story chronologically, just for the facts, the audience wouldn’t have reacted the way they did.

I do think this picture has some timely significance as well. It is a very pro-cop movie. Not in a way as to put down any other part of society, but to show the risk and impact of a job like that. It also shows the sense of community in Boston and how that bond can make all the difference. Possibly even more timely was its statement about Muslims.

This is just what I inferred from the movie, I’m not trying to state any opinions. If you’ve heard about this tragedy at all you know the bombers were Muslim, but what the writers really emphasized was that Tamerlan Tsarnev’s wife was a privileged white girl who grew up in America and converted to Islam after meeting her husband. Then they both radicalized. Perhaps to say it’s not just the people who come into this country, but anybody.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It has entertainment value and it was well made, nothing critically astounding, but compelling to watch. Good acting throughout, especially to Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff who play Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, respectively. Those types of roles can be career defining, and I’m not sure in a good way. I hope for them that their talent shines through. Some of the smaller roles were played by some pretty big names (i.e. Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, JK Simmons)……they kinda felt like fancy cameos.

Oh and Mark Wahlberg is at his Mark Wahlberg-iest.

 

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Silence

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Release date: January 13, 2017

I should learn to expect Martin Scorsese films to be long, but boy was this long.

It clocked in a 2 hours and 41 minutes, which isn’t quite an extended cut of Lord of the Rings, but man it felt like an eternity.

The problem, I find, with Scorsese is he likes a good drawn out plot line with multiple arcs. I’ve seen 5 of his films. Of those I found 1 to be of a reasonable length. The others all dragged on and on with Silence being one of those. (I’m not counting Taxi Driver in that group because I only saw part of it. I liked what I saw probably because it was the last hour and in my head I feel like I saw most of the movie, but probably not.)

This film is set in the 1600’s and is about two Catholic priests, Rodrigues and Garupe (played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver respectively), who go to Japan to look for their former mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) and evangelize to the Japanese people. At that point in history Japan was a very dangerous place for Christians, but they go anyways.

The film focuses mainly on Rodrigue’s faith, him holding onto it and *SPOILER ALERT* eventually trampling on it in the end. It’s not an action heavy movie at all, which makes it feel longer. Focusing on character development is fine in a movie and very important, but it needs to not feel repetitive. A lot of the action happens in conversations between Rodrigues and different members of the Japanese government in their attempts to break him down. Garfield’s acting is phenomenal and you really get a sense of the torment he must be feeling internally. Christians are being tormented and killed around him because of their faith and in a way because of the Jesuit priests involvement in Japan.

This movie also suffers due to the language barrier. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they used Asian actors who spoke historically accurate broken english and Japanese, but it made the storyline hard to comprehend. Case in point, the couple in the theater behind me whispering to each other about what was going on for the whole film. “‘Scuse me Mr. Scorsese, how bought some more captions?”

What was most frustrating to me though is investing 2.5 hours of my life in this movie and exactly what I don’t want to happen does. This is common problem for me and other Scorsese movies (i.e. The Departed, Gangs of New York). *SPOILER ALERT* During most of the movie we watch as Japan tries to break Rodrigues and make him step on his faith, which he refuses. He is strong in prayer even though he feels that God is being silent to him he hold strong in his faith. Yet, in the final act of the movie he does trample on the image of Christ to end the suffering of those around him, ironically egged on by his former mentor Ferreira, and he lives the rest of his life under the watchful eye of the Japanese government and appears to have renounced his faith entirely. Not so feel good.

But the title Silence is fitting. Silence describes his relationship with God, his relationship with Japan and how he lives the remainder of his life after his apostasy.

The most annoying character in this movie is the Inquisitor. There are a few moments where it seemed like the filmmakers were going for a laugh, but it just didn’t feel right to do so. Runner up for most annoying is Kichijiro. I think he is meant to be the opposite of Rodrigues. *SPOILER ALERT* Threats on his life don’t force Rodrigues to apostate, but Kichijiro is very self-preserving. Yet in the end, Kichijiro remains faithful… flawed, but faithful.

Overall, the cinematography is beautiful (that shot on the steps in the beginning was cool, but maybe a little too Battleship Potemkin for my taste). The acting is great, especially Andrew Garfield and all the crying. Just cut out an hour and it wouldn’t be so bad.

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Oscar buzz:

Gosh, I don’t know here. I predict a couple nominations, but I don’t anticipate any wins. It will probably pick up a nom for Best Picture. I think Andrew Garfield could see a nod for Best Actor and I’m sure Scorsese will get a nod for Best Directing mostly because it’s Martin.

Lion

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Release Date: November 25, 2016

Do you ever watch a movie that changes your view on the world? This is one.

Lion follows the story of Saroo, an adorable 5 year old boy (played by Sunny Pawar), who while waiting for his brother to return boards a train and falls asleep. When he wakes up the train is taking him hundreds of miles away from his home. He ends up in Kolkata, India where he manages to miraculously survive on his own for a few months before being adopted by an Australian family. 20+ years go by and grown up Saroo (played by Dev Patel (♥) ) discovers he can use Google Earth possibly find his way home.

This movie really shines from the beginning with spectacular cinematography and adorableness of young Saroo. We see him happy, then lost and scared, then trapped. Then he gets adopted by Sue and John (played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham…wait Faramir??! I knew I knew him). We see him introduced to his new home then the movie skips 20 years.

The sudden jumps in the timeline was kind of weird. Not only was the massive time jump jolting to the pace of the film, but the development of Saroo’s character.

It appears that he moved in and lived a great life with his new family until *SPOILER ALERT* one day as a 25 year old he sees something that triggers a memory from when he was 5 in his hometown. The movie makes it seem that all of the sudden he remembered that he was lost. I would have loved to see him grapple with that growing up! I think even just a short scene could have made that transition easier for the audience to take.

As we see the start of Saroo’s search for his first family the pacing falls back in rhythm. We see*SPOILER ALERT* the adult Saroo begin to come to terms that he is lost, that his original family has lived every day wondering where he is, maybe even still searching. We watch as he deteriorates in that guilt and what seems like a hopeless search. Longing for those people he barely remembers yet still feel right there with him. This is done with some really cool editing, I’d like to add. Those flashbacks/memories make his struggle that much more believable for the audience. I was then back into the story and able experience the remainder of the film with him and to not have any spoilers here I’ll just say tears…tears or blurry projectors.

What stuck with me most is that this movie is so relatable. That seems like a silly thing to say because his story is so tragic and huge ,but at its core it’s a movie about a man not just trying to find his first home, but find out who he is. And isn’t that something we all go through?

Maybe we aren’t tasked with finding a needle in a haystack like Saroo, but we all have to break down things in our lives, things that have happened to us. We have to think about what and why we think the way we do. Analyze who we are, process it and put the pieces of our personality and life back together and decide who we want to be. This is something you have to, or rather should (IMO) do, before you put other people in your life. *SPOILER ALERT* That is something we see Saroo do with his adoptive mother, adoptive brother, and his girlfriend (played by Rooney Mara). But once he does find his home and his first family he gets a fuller sense of who he is and can have fuller relationships.

 

But back to my original point…

I’ve honestly never traveled outside of the US and it’s easy to forget that in places like India everyday life looks so much different. Movies have a unique ability to enter our everyday lives and bring different people and places and cultures into view. One reason I like going to the cinema by myself. I can have an honest and genuine reaction to a film. I allow stories like this to come alive to me. To say something to me that can influence my perspective. Movies can affect the way you look at the world. If you just let them.

 

 

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Oscar chances??

I am very hopeful this movie will catch some Oscar noms. It appears that LaLa Land is set to sweep (seeing that how the Globes went), but I think Lion could contend for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and perhaps Best Editing. I see a nom for Best Picture and Best Original Score, but I don’t anticipate wins in those categories.

 

 

10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane

 

Release date: March 11th, 2016

(Technically I saw this about 2 weeks ago, just slow to review)

The thing I liked about this movie was that it was a surprise.

Nowadays when a trailer for a movie comes out it sums up the entire movie (because apparently audiences are too stupid to judge if they want to see a movie without seeing the entire movie summed up first).

I appreciate that both the marketing team and the film makers had some faith in the audience to put the pieces together themselves. Everything in the original trailer happens within the first 20 minutes of the movie.

Apparently, when they were making the movie they worked under a different title. Some of the actor’s didn’t even know this was related to Cloverfield until well into post-production. That’s pretty cool… and fitting for the genre.

I enjoy the Cloverfield universe and was pretty excited about this next installment in that world. It did not disappoint. I will say this isn’t a prequel or a sequel, rather just another look through some other people’s eyes. And don’t go see it expecting answers, but if you’ve seen and liked Cloverfield, you probably don’t expect much in the way of answers.

During the almost 2 hour movie you spend that time thinking you know what is happening and then realizing you don’t… rinse and repeat. I think the symbolism of the characters putting together the puzzle and specifically what it is off is pretty important.I’m not going to say much more in terms of plot because it’s best being a surprise.

There were some really great shocking moments and twists and turns in this film. Plus, the acting was pretty phenomenal from John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. It is well written and directed. There are a few moments that seem a bit unbelievable, but the good outweighs the bad here.

Lastly, I will say I appreciate a PG-13 rated movie because there are stipulations on how much and in what context certain words can be use. For instance, there can usually only be a few occurrences of the f-word, and they can not be in a sexual context. So when expletives are used they are more impactful.

I give this movie a thumbs up for one very appropriate use of fuck.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

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Release date: March 4th, 2016

I liked this movie. It was funny, kinda relatable and realistic in a how-I-respond-to-trajedies kind of way…with inappropriate laughter.

I will say that the genre doesn’t come across quite clear, which hinders the story a little. It tries to be a comedy, but the subject matter is pretty heavy. I mean, I get trying to come at intense moments with humor (because that’s how I live life), but it just wasn’t consistent. Sometimes there would be a problem and the answer would be laughable (i.e. women in the village just wanting to gossip) and then other time there were real stakes.

Then sometimes it tries to be a war movie, except the main character isn’t in the military or even the hero for that matter; she’s really just an observer when it comes to actually saving anyone. The trailer and even the beginning of the movie make it seem like this is going to be a lighter movie, but half-way through it becomes dramatic and all the sudden the audience is supposed to be more invested in the story and characters more than they actually are.

But I love Tina Fey and she does a good job in this movie.

She is both funny and relatable in this movie about Kim Baker, a writer/reporter in New York City turned foreign correspondent based in Kabul, Afghanistan. She brings a sense of realness to this role, as she does to most roles. Fey does the whole, “not quite self-deprecating yet brutally honest” thing very well. I appreciate her as a human, she seems totally down to earth…at least I hope she is.

And this is a “comedramilitary” movie that, even though it doesn’t know what genre it is, has a deeper message. It’s about living life with a sense of adventure, but don’t be stupid about it.

Kim Baker relays this beautiful anecdote towards the middle of the film about why she decided to leave her safe and boring cubicle to live in Kabul. *SPOILER ALERT* She says she rides the exercise bike everyday after work, which she has biked over 1,000 miles on and then one day she looks down and realizes that the bike itself has moved backwards, which is how she feels her life as been. Going through the motions and not actually getting anywhere. In fact, going backwards! How depressing! So she decided to move to the exact opposite of her cubicle, Afghanistan.

This lesson that she learned before leaving the US eventually comes full circle…but let me talk about the other characters too.

There are three main reporters this story follows, all at different stages in their careers. Tonya, Iain, and Kim. They all go to Afghanistan looking for a rush of danger in their lives, but to keep that rush going get themselves into riskier and riskier situations once there. Tonya (Margot Robbie)has been there for some time and is successful, but *SPOILER ALERT* eventually she goes too far hunting down the next story and gets someone killed and herself injured. Iain (Martin Freeman) develops a relationship with Kim Baker and in search of a bigger story manages to get himself kidnapped. Luckily, these chain of events have shown Kim that sometimes adventure is too much adventure. There is living and then there is just being a moron.

Much like she was stuck in her cubicle of life, not really living, she is now trapped in the “Kabubble.” Life is now full of danger, but it’s not really living. She is chasing after that next “high” and if she keeps going, she’s going to get someone killed or even herself. Luckily, she figures this out in time…

Kim has a conversation with Fahim (Christopher Abbott), to this point, about halfway through the movie. She had gotten into a dangerous situation and there were consequences. Fahim sits her down to provide advice, warning her about being addicted to the rush of danger. Sadly, Fey’s humorous one-liners in this conversation upstage the advice her character needs and the scene has less of an impact on the audience. This scene is really important for Kim Baker’s character development, but it doesn’t stand out as much as it should. This is a good example of it’s confusing blend of comedy.

But…I liked this movie because it felt very real. There was a good blend of humor and danger and stupidity and drama to match real life, but it should have been executed as a film much more refined. A movie must be direct with a clear storyline and clear emotions. This movie jumps between humor and danger and drama so much that the audience doesn’t know what to feel.

I give them an A for effort, but a C+ for actual execution.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

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Release date: May 15th ,2015

For not having seen any of the Mad Max films before and this being a last ditch effort to see as many of the Best Picture nominees before the Academy Awards, I liked this movie.

As far as I could google before watching it, it appeared that this film was not necessarily a sequel to any of the previous films. Rather it was described as a “revisit” to that world, therefore it should make sense even if you have never seen any of the previous films before. I have not seen any of the three original Mad Max films and for the most part this one made sense. Mostly…

But to start, I want to talk about the things this movie did well.

It was beautiful. The landscapes where expansive and visually stunning. Thanks in part to Namibia, where the movie was filmed, and the amazing team of color correctors working post-production. The brilliant, rich shades of orange used during the day time contrasting the cool hues of blue used at night really helped to influence the mood and just made it looked dope.

This movie was non-stop action. And the action played out so well. The visual effects where great and the editing was done in such a concise way that there was little confusion about what was being shown on screen. Sometimes in movies where there is a lot happening or there are a lot of characters the action gets jumbled.

Take for instance the movie Everest. *SPOILER ALERT* During the storm, as the group of hikers are trying to get to safety, there are many things happening involving at least three groups of hikers at different locations on the mountain. To top that off there are all wearing large coats, hat, gloves, goggles, etc. It gets very hard to tell them apart and actually lessens the emotional impact when one/some of them die. *END ALERT* This movie also had many characters that looked similar in various locations in the fast moving action. Yet, Mad Max: Fury Road did not fall victim to the classic plunder! I was still able to keep track of who was where and what was happening to each of them. So when I needed to have an emotional reaction, I could! Because I cared!

However, I will say this movie did have some moments that were frustrating.

As a viewer I don’t like to feel jerked around. I liked to know where the plot is heading, not that things can’t take a twist, but definitely not a 180.

For the first half of this movie we understand that Max (Tom Hardy), Furiosa (Charlize Theron), and the runaway brides, who have escaped a place called The Citadel only to be chased by a lot of angry people including the leader and husband to the brides, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), are headed for safety in the Green Place. I’m assuming a place full of trees and water and life in the midst of the endless desert landscape that plagues this world. Yet, our merry band of adventurers *SPOILER ALERT* get to their destination only to find it gone and the people that inhabited this safe zone are reduced to 10ish survivors and now live in the desert too. With their new allies, the group decides their best chance of surviving is to turn around and go back The Citadel traveling right into the war parties that have been chasing them. *END ALERT*

I felt a little cheated as a viewer at this point. Up until them I was expected to believe that are characters wanted this one specific outcome and they would get a version of that, but then with very little explanation I, as the audience, am expected to accept that this completely opposite outcome would be better.

I mean I guess it makes sense once everything unfolds, why they had to go there and back again, but I felt a little swindled as an attentive viewer at first. I think there just needed to be something more substantive in the writing for the characters to come to that decision, instead of Max just deciding it.

As I said at the beginning, I have not seen another Mad Max film before. This picture definitely required me to put some pieces together while I was watching it. The hard part is I don’t know if they were just plot holes that actually weren’t there or I just didn’t understand fully because of a lack of back story.

Regardless, if you are “rebooting” a series 30 years after the last one premiered, it probably should make sense to a new audience without them having to catch up. Come on, writers.

I will say this movie definitely needs another viewing to really pick up on the storyline. I feel like I missed some things in the beginning that I didn’t put together until later. The whole half-life people and why Max was used as a blood bank thing. Max’s backstory. Why Immortan Joe was the way that he was. And what the heck was the deal with all the breast milk??

Overall, this movie was much better than I anticipated. It was visually stunning, I actually enjoyed it, the action was intense and not over-the-top. (Sometimes action movies like these can be a bit cheesy, but this movie never felt that way.) The action that was seen was needed. Great performances by everyone involved. I think that Nicholas Hoult, who played Nux, was especially phenomenal and thankfully Tom Hardy kept his mumbling to a minimum.

The big question though…will it win Best Picture?…probably not, but I wouldn’t write it off for some visual effects awards!

Deadpool

Deadpool

Release date: February 12th, 2016

I feel the need to start with a disclaimer: I do not enjoy when movies break the 4th wall (aka talk to the audience) and this movie did a whole lot of that.

In my opinion, when movies address the audience you become aware that you are watching a work of fiction and that “reality” that has been created on-screen loses it’s credibility.

I think a lot of the reason this movie was made was because Ryan Reynolds was really disappointed in the Deadpool that was shown in X Men Origins: Wolverine. Actually, I know this to be true because it’s just short of mentioned by name during the film. There are plenty of cracks at Hugh Jackman, the previous film version of Deadpool (including an action figure, jokes about sewing his mouth shut, etc.), and even jabs at Ryan Reynolds himself (People’s Sexiest Man Alive cover) and his previous film experience (“Whatever you do don’t make the suit green…or animated!”). All those jokes were funny, but they once again took away from the reality of the story we are supposed to be focused on.

The time that was most annoying was when *SPOILER ALERT* Collusus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead are trying to take Deadpool back to Dr. X and he says, “McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are confusing!” This is just one of many times he makes mention of the other films in that universe and even Deadpool itself and that the studio couldn’t afford any other X-Men.

This movie also spent a lot of time explaining things.

It opens right in the middle of the action, as Deadpool is on his way, by taxi, to take down some bad guys. The opening scene gives us a good sense of who this fast-talking, smart-mouthed, superhero …guy is. But we don’t really know who he was. The action freezes and Deadpool turns to the camera to introduce how he got to be this way. We watch some interesting developments in Wade Wilson’s life, then we are back to the first action sequence which is shortly thereafter interrupted with more explanation from his past before that beginning scene finally finishes, probably 40 minutes into the movie.

Deadpool was put together in an interesting way. Most of the screen time in the first half is explanation of his past told in flashbacks. I believe if the movie had been cut together in a more chronologically order, they wouldn’t have felt like flashbacks cut between present day action shots. The plot would have benefitted from this and flowed together better as a whole.

Certain characters got a lot of development…well just Deadpool really, maybe Francis, but that came from the wise-crackin’ mouth of Wade Wilson so who knows what was true. Then there is his girl, Vanessa, who was a prostitute, but now she loves Wade. That was about it for her. Then there was Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the two X-Men who are trying to recruit Deadpool…I mean, I guess that’s what they were doing? They just kinda showed up and then helped out later, but why? I’m still unclear on that.

To be honest, I found this movie to be very flat. Yes, it was funny. Yes, it was raunchy. But in terms of conflict and the reason Deadpool had an enemy, he kinda brought it on himself.

In chronological order, Wade Wilson is kind of a terrible person, meets a prostitute, they fall in love over the course of a montage of sex scenes, he finds out he has cancer so he trusts a random guy he meets in a bar and *SPOILER ALERT* leaves his fiancée to undergo shady “make-you-a-superhero” treatment in an abandoned warehouse and then he is surprised that everything isn’t what it seems and then vows revenge on the “doctor” who took away his dashing good looks because now he can’t be seen by his fiancée because apparently it’s what’s on the outside that counts. *breathes*

He literally wants a guy dead because he isn’t hot anymore. The trailer makes it seem like he wants to kill him because he steals his girl, but really *SPOILER* it’s not until the last 30 minutes of the movie that she is taken, and that too, is because Deadpool acted first.

This review seems pretty negative, but let me defend the movie for a second. It is really funny and it’s an unconventional superhero movie. Ryan Reynolds is a great actor and has a lot of passion for this role, which can been seen in the extensive marketing campaign for the film. The soundtrack is pretty awesome and Deadpool is one hell of a badass.

As I warned you, I don’t enjoy when movies break the 4th wall so naturally I was gonna have some problems.