Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2016 Blindspot Films



2016 Blindspot Films

Once again, I'm posting an embarassing list of films I have somehow not seen. This list seems even more basic than 2015's, but I'm happy I'm finally making all of these films a priority. Like last year, I tried to make this list a nice range of time periods. I've got some 1931 Charlie Chaplin, another 60's Audrey Hepburn, and the most recent entry being 2002. I'm really looking forward to checking out all of these films. Some are more critically acclaimed than others, but all have great reasons to be seen, and definitely all of them are loved.














Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Blindspot: It's A Wonderful Life



It's A Wonderful Life, 1946
Directed by Frank Capra

Somehow, some way, I managed to live through 22 Christmases and have never seen It's A Wonderful Life. I'm really not sure how this happened, but this was definitely one of the first films I knew I had to add to my Blindspot list. Because how have I missed out on it this long? Finally, I sat down on Christmas eve with my husband, my in-laws and brother-in-law, and watched it.

It's A Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey. He wishes he had never been born one Christmas, so an angel is sent down to show George exactly what life would've been like if he hadn't been around. But even before this, we get to see the entire life of George Bailey, from life as a child, to a driven and adventure-seeking young adult, to a man somehow stuck in a place he never saw for himself.

This is definitely one of Frank Capra's more refined movies. I have seen only a handful of his films, and while this film did have hints of Capra's style he used in previous movies, this is definitely Capra at the most serious I've seen him. I know most people have seen this film by now, but it's definitely not as depressing as my little summary makes it seem to be. Yes, it's technically about a man who wants to kill himself, and is only minorly set at Christmastime, but it's a story about life and valuing what you have and who you have around you.

I did enjoy the movie, and will likely watch it again in my life. It may not be one I seek out to watch every Christmas, like some people, but it's still one I did enjoy. James Stewart, of course, is great here. He really makes it all look so easy and seems born to play George Bailey. The romance was sweet, and the movie really does get you to understand George and really feel frustrated with him that he keeps not being able to achieve his dreams and adventures. It really is a sweet film, and that I did enjoy. Some of it was a little corny (how we see the "angels" talking to each other throughout, for example), but it was still an enjoyable film.

It's been a lot of fun doing this Blindspot project this year, and watch out over the next few days for my 2016 list!

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Big Short



The Big Short
Directed by Adam McKay
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Finn Wittrock

2008 saw the crash of the housing market in the USA. Almost no one saw it coming. The only people who did were a few "weirdos and outcasts" who saw the signs and decided to bet against the big banks.

So I actually got tickets to an Advance Screening of this in Toronto. It was my very first advance screening and it was a lot of fun to see this much before the rest of the country.

I'm going to tell you, I was 16 when the 2008 Housing Market crashed. As well, I live in Canada where the housing market didn't actually crash, but we were definitely affected by the crash in the US. I know extraordinarily little about any of this. So while the film did try to do it's best to explain some things, some of it still did go over my head. I'm just throwing that information out there now since it will affect my review and I find my opinion a little less reliable because of it.

The Big Short is not really a movie you'd expect when it's about the housing and credit bubble of the mid-2000s. This movie is purely rock-and-roll, sardonic and smug. It is continually bouncing back and forth between narrative and music videos, has lots of voice over and most of it's characters find themselves breaking the 4th wall and addressing the audience mid-scene. The best words I can really use to describe this movie is sardonic and smug. And I don't necessarily mean this in a bad way. The Big Short takes a unique approach in which it's constantly cracking jokes, the narrator explaining how cool he is, and even using celebrities to illustrate and explain various different complicated and legal terms. It even has a character breaking the 4th wall to admit that the scene isn't 100% accurate and explained how it actually came about. Smug, eh?

I can't help but admire the tone Adam McKay (director of Will Ferrell bro-comedies like Anchorman) uses here. However, this is a movie that seems to stick the landings about 75% of the time. This movie had a lot of potential and I think with a bit tighter editing, this film could've been magic. However, this film was still a fun ride, even if it was slightly confusing and didn't always make sense to the uneducated me.

The truly best thing this movie has going for it is its all-star cast. I mean, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Christian Bale all in one movie together? Yes please! And having them altogether did not disappoint. Bale plays Michael Burry, a doctor who decided to quit medicine and become a money manager. He's the first to spot the signs of the crash and decides to make bets against the banks. Gosling plays Jared Vennett, a Deutsche bank high-up who catches wind of these swaps and decides to get in on it. Via a wrong number, Mark Baum (played by Carell) and his independent firm also catch wind and decide to become investors after doing some investigation. Honestly, it was hard to keep straight what exactly everyone's position and job was, but some other people get involved in Vennett's investments and they all seem to be the only ones.

You could tell the cast was having a lot of fun, and they all worked so well together. The standouts for me, specifically, were Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling. Carell was once again playing a different character that we haven't really seen from him before. He's a Wall Street maniac who loves/hates his job and is obsessed with what he does. Honestly, Carell was just kind of angry all the time and it was really fun to watch! Ryan Gosling played our narrator and the arrogant bank worker who gets Carell and co. in on the investments of a lifetime. Gosling plays a similar character to the one he played in Crazy, Stupid, Love a few years back, which is great because he 100% nailed this role. I love watching Gosling play slick and arrogant. He was truly hilarious in his role and the movie could've used more of him!

Like I mentioned, I felt the movie could've used a bit of a tighter edit. There were a lot of freeze-frames on characters faces, which started to get old, quickly. And there were lots of random shots of photos that somewhat related but I felt were kind of unnecessary. Overall, the Big Short is a fun movie and is actually really quite funny (I thought it was actually funnier than Anchorman, but then again I'm not really an Anchorman fan at all). The movie seemed to walk a delicate line between the serious matter at hand but also finding the comedy in it. Again, it stuck the landings of this about 75% of the time. The movie was so close to being fantastic, but it just didn't quite get there. And considering all the talent involved, it's a bit of a shame. However, it's still a fun ride and one that helped educate me on the crisis I was so naive to.


7.5/10

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Brooklyn



Brooklyn, 2015
Directed by John Crowley
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Julie Walters, Domhnall Gleeson

Eilis is off to America in the 1950's. She's grown up in Ireland and her mother and sister are still living there. But she doesn't really have a job or a life there, and she's been sponsored by a priest in Brooklyn to come over to live and work. Eilis is at first terribly homesick, but when she falls in love, she finds herself calling Brooklyn home. But when a tragedy happens back in Ireland that draws Eilis home, Eilis starts to wonder what makes something "home" and where she truly belongs.

Brooklyn is a stunning, sweet and beautiful film. It's simple in story and almost feels as though it was made in the period it was set it. The story was innocent and lovely and I don't really remember a film quite like it that has been made recently and was as good as this one is. Brooklyn is beautifully shot, exquisitely acted, and well-written.

Saoirse Ronan takes on the lead role of Eilis, gracing our screens for 98% of the screen time. Ronan is just sublime here as Eilis, doing some really great work. Eilis is, at first, painfully shy and homesick when first arrived in Brooklyn. But as she starts to open up, and to grow, Ronan really gives Eilis such grace. The balance between Eilis's personality in Ireland and her homesickness and shyness in Brooklyn are well-balanced and believable. It's something I, personally, really identified with and know I'll continue to identify in the year ahead of me. I loved Eilis because while we know she's shy and kind, the movie never really transforms her into someone completely different. Sure, she opens up to Tony and becomes better at small talk while working at her department store, but all this development seems natural, and we still get this sense that Eilis is still this kind, quiet girl that we are first introduced to. And Ronan plays her perfectly.

I also really have to mention all the supporting characters around Eilis as well. The first people that we meet in Brooklyn are the residents and landlady at Eilis' boarding house. Eilis lives with several other Irish girls (also sponsored by priests, I am to assume) and the landlady is also Irish. They all eat dinner together, and these scenes prove to be some of the most hilarious scenes. Julie Walters is such a hoot as Mrs. Kehoe, the landlady. As well, the various other girls that Eilis live with are silly and frivolous, and maybe even cliche, but they are so much fun to watch. Emory Cohen plays the fella that Eilis falls in love with in Brooklyn, Tony. Cohen is such a ray of hugable sunshine. His smile is adorable and you can 100% tell why Eilis would fall for such a sweet and charming guy. Cohen brings such radiance to this role and he's one of the people you leave the theatre thinking about. As well, I can't not mention the ever awkward/charming Domhnall Gleeson. Gleeson has a small role here, and it's a shame. His character could've been explored a little more, but the small bit that Gleeson had, he brought kindness and goodness.

Brooklyn is a fantastic movie. The movie stuck true to the books roots, not opting to change things that were maybe odd or foreign to us now in 2015. As well, John Crowley just let the movie flow, neither rushing or slowing down parts that romantic movies often do rush or slow down. This is a movie that seemed to just stroll along, in the best of ways. It took it's time, savoring interactions and scenes, never trying too hard to tug at your heartstrings, but making you emotional, nonetheless.

Another thing I particularly liked about it was it's realistic portrayal of figuring out where "home" is, and how your surroundings and circumstances can influence your choices and even who you are. Eilis is affected by all of this and it is made harder as she is so sweet and kind, and does not like to be mean or malicious. She wants very hard not to offend, but can sometimes do so by trying hard not to. Our circumstances play such a large role in our lives and I don't know how much we realize it. Most of us are not like Eilis, faced with two very different and far away "homes", with good and bad in each. Eilis has tough choices to make, and really neither option feels like 100% the right choice. The fact that neither of her choices felt like either fully good or fully bad made everything the more realistic and beautiful.

I don't really want to spoil anything for you. It's a simply story and I'm sure many people who have seen trailers for this probably know what choices Eilis has to make, but it's nice to watch without this knowledge. Brooklyn is a fantastic film that seems like it was made in a different era. Pitch-perfect casting, lovely writing and just generally beautiful to look at, Brooklyn is a film I highly recommend for the inner romantic in all of us.

9.5/10

Thursday, 10 December 2015

SAG Nomination Reactions

So those SAG Nominations eh? Wow, my predictions were completely wrong in several categories. In fact, in both the Ensemble and Supporting Actor category, I only got 1/5! 

So there were some definite shockers here, which I'll make comments in each of the categories. 

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Beasts of No Nation
The Big Short
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton
Trumbo

The only one I saw coming was Spotlight. I'm not overly surprised by the Big Short, or even Straight Outta Compton, but I'm pleasantly surprised to see Beasts of No Nation here, as well as Trumbo. While I haven't seen Trumbo, I did very much like Beasts and am happy to see it get a boost here. The Martian lockout is probably the biggest surprise though. 


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Johnny Depp, Black Mass
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

I actually had Cranston as my 6th or 7th choice, and did debate putting him in (though in the place of Depp, not Damon). So I can't say I'm really surprised. But it looks like Depp, DiCaprio, Fassbender and Redmayne are all pretty much locked int. 


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back

The biggest surprise here, to me, is the inclusion of both Mirren and Silverman in the place of Jennifer Lawrence! I mean, I know Joy is getting bad reviews, but I figured Lawrence would still get in, since the only praise for the film seems to be for her. How wrong, I was. 


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
Jacob Tremblay, Room

This was entirely a crap-shoot. Christian Bale is the biggest shocker for me and it seems that The Big Short has more support than I originally thought. And Jacob Tremblay is committing some terrible category fraud, which is frustrating, but I'm still glad to see him get recognition. Also glad to see Elba here, as he was fading from my predictions  but has now made a bit of a comeback. Also, the guys from Spotlight aren't here?? And we all thought Michael Keaton was going to win the Oscar! This category has officially become wiiiiiide open. (Still bummed that Paul Dano or Tom Hardy couldn't have slipped in here with all this randomness)


Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Helen Mirren, Trumbo
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Again, some terrible category fraud, but I knew it was coming. None of these nominees are all that surprisngly, and I'm glad I slipped Rachel McAdams in here last minute. Very interesting to me that she is the sole individual nominee for Spotlight when her male co-stars seemed to be getting the higher praise. Not that I'm complaining! Even Mirren was not totally unexpected. She was also a 7th choice in my lineup. 


Next up this morning are the Golden Globes! I'm starting to feel like this race is going to be wide open almost all the way!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

SAG Award Nomination Predictions






SAG Awards Nominations are being announced this morning, so I thought I would share my predictions. Honestly, this year feels more like a crapshoot of guessing than usual (because, let's face it, every year is a crapshoot of sorts, at least for me!). I definitely way overthought these predictions and still dont' really feel all that confident. So many of the categories seem to have their set 5 nominees, so I feel like we could definitely be in for a shakeup. I especially feel nervous about my exclusion of Sylvester Stallone for Creed, and my inclusion of Paul Dano for Love and Mercy. Will the Revenant make as good a showing as I think? Was I correct to exclude Joy and the Hateful Eight from Ensemble predictions? Well, see below my predictions and I'll come back later today and see how I actually did!

Best Film Ensemble
Spotlight   
Steve Jobs   
The Revenant   
The Martian   
Carol   

Best Film Actor
Michael Fassbender -Steve Jobs
Leonardo DiCaprio  -The Revenant
Eddie Redmayne -The Danish Girl
Matt Damon -The Martian
Johnny Depp  -Black Mass

Best Film Actress
Brie Larson- Room  
Cate Blanchett- Carol   
Jennifer Lawrence- Joy   
Saoirse Ronan- Brooklyn   
Charlotte Rampling- 45 Years   

Best Film Supporting Actor
Michael Keaton- Spotlight    
Mark Ruffalo- Spotlight   
Tom Hardy- The Revenant   
Mark Rylance- Bridge of Spies
Paul Dano- Love and Mercy   

Best Film Supporting Actress
Rooney Mara- Carol   
Alicia Vikander- The Danish Girl   
Kate Winslet- Steve Jobs   
Kristen Stewart- Clouds of Sils Maria   

Rachel McAdams- Spotlight 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Spotlight



Spotlight, 2015
Directed by Tom McCarthy
Starring: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James and Stanley Tucci

In 2001, The Boston Globe finds their editor retiring and now are receiving a new editor by the name of Marty Baron. Baron finds himself unsettled by a small story the Globe reported on, that a local priest had molested many children, in various parishes, over several decades and that Cardinal Law knew about it and did nothing. Baron goes to the Spotlight team, headed up by Walter 'Robby' Robinson. Spotlight is a small team of investigative journalists who research into large breaking stories for months at a time. Baron urges Robby to have the Spotlight team consider picking this as their next story. Reporters Mike, Sasha and Matt find themselves going deep into the Catholic backbone of Boston, and find out the scale of this sexual abuse scandal is much larger than first believed.

Spotlight is a film that is 100% focused on the investigation of the huge sexual abuse scandal that shook Boston (and indeed the world) in the early 2000's. This film felt like a movie that stayed so true to the facts, but also managed to make about that is purely about investigation (and little to none character side stories) an extremely interesting story. Spotlight's strength lies in the fact that it knows what to focus on and where the purpose lies. This film isn't about the people who cracked this scandal open, it's a movie about helping those who have been victims in the past. And as such, this film was treated with such delicacy and respect, but was still a compelling and damning film.

The film focuses on various different victims interviews and really underlies the facts and the feelings about these victims, but also focuses on the Spotlight team, and how they are connected with the Catholic church and this scandal. They share that so many of the victims were no longer alive to tell their stories. And that, in fact, this abuse was not just sexual abuse, but it was also spiritual abuse, too. Abuse like this, especially from a religious leader, can shake someone to their very soul and cause such permanent damage to their beliefs. As well, the movie doesn't place 100% of the blame on the Catholic church. Indeed, as one of the character states, "if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one." This sums up the thesis of this movie so well.

I won't go into much more of the actual details of the story, because I'd love to leave you all to see it for yourself. Watching this movie was I expect reading the eventual Spotlight article was like. Information was dropped at a perfect pace, and it became so increasingly hard to believe. All you could do was sit there and shake your head, not really able to believe that everything that happened was true. In that, the writing of this film was really great. As I mentioned, the pace at which the pieces of the puzzle came together and that information dropped was perfect. The film was incredibly damning and it was just so heartbreaking to watch. The detail that we get from various victims shattered my heart for them. No moment feels like it's trying too hard to pull heartstrings. People are just stating the brutal truth, and it's there that it hurts.

The performances, to me, were not necessarily the strength of the film, but were still very good performances. Mark Ruffalo to me, was particularly very good. And Rachel McAdams, it's nice to see her finally get some great work. I hope this is a trend that continues for her as she's always had this potential, but has never really had a showcase for it until now. However, Michael Keaton was good, but I don't understand the hoopla, at this moment. To each their own. And even the smaller roles of Brian d'Arcy James, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Liev Schreiber were all on top form. There was no weak link in this cast. And while no one got hugely emotional or "Oscar-y" moments, everyone brought their A-game to their respective characters. Liev Schreiber, in particular, while his part was quite small, I was extremely impressed by him. Shame his role was not larger.

Spotlight is a masterclass in journalism film. It's a film that could've easily been much less good than it was. Indeed, unnecessary back stories could've been added, the film could've been much more dull, and it could've been less true to the story. However, Tom McCarthy carefully handles the direction of this and produces a fantastic and damning film. It's definitely an "important" movie, but it's also such a well-made film. It definitely deserves all the praise that's being heaped upon it. And while I don't know if I would rate this my #1 favourite film of the year, it's definitely one of the years most well-made and important, as this is an issue that is far from over. And it's frontrunner status as our Best Picture winner is incredibly deserved.


78.5/100
Acting- 8/10
Directing- 7.5/10
Screenplay- 9/10
Visuals- 7/10
Music- 7/10
Emotional Connection- 9/10
Entertainment- 8/10
Rewatchability- 7/10
Overall Enjoyment- 8/10
Overall Package- 8/10    

Total: 78.5/100

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Mini Reviews: Ex Machina, The Gift, Dark Places, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spy







I've been kind of too busy to write full reviews for all of these, but thought I would post a few quick shot reviews of a few movies I've watched over the past month or so!




Ex Machina
Caleb, an employee at a large tech company, wins a contest to spend a weekend at the company's CEO's mountain retreat. But Caleb soon discovers that the CEO, Nathan, has other plans. Nathan has developed an AI and she is in the form of a beautiful female named Ava. Caleb is to perform Turing Tests on Ava and he soon finds things are not all that they appear.

I had heard so many great things about Ex Machina before seeing it, and I found I was not at all disappointed. The storyline is a slow-burner, but it's incredibly compelling, twisted and kept on the edge of my seat, not really knowing what was real. The performances here are all so perfect. Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac all deserve to be such bigger stars than they already are. All are fantastic here. As well, the writing really is incredible and the film itself it just really beautiful to look at. While I felt some of the scenes nudity was a little gratuitous the movie still asked some incredibly compelling questions about humanity and technology. Ex Machina is definitely one of the most interesting, compelling and just overall best film of this year. Shame more people haven't seen it or that it won't necessarily appeal to mass audiences.

9/10



The Gift
Simon and Robyn, a young married couple, have just moved into a huge new house in a new city. When they run into an old acquaintance of Simon's from high school, Gordo, things start to change. Gordo is unsettling, and amidst the unexpected visits and gifts he pay Simon and Robyn, a horrifying secret from the past is brought to light.

Again, this was another movie I had heard generally good things about. This film wasn't at all on my radar until I had seen the extremely high Rotten Tomatoes score for this, and wondered what exactly made Joel Edgerton's directorial debut so good? (Especially since he's an actor I've never particularly found interesting). However, this film kept me drawn in, wondering what exactly was happening. Robyn is our main character here and a lot of this through her eyes, as someone who didn't previously know Gordo and starts to find herself unsettled, and then terrified. I honestly wasn't sure where the film was going with the "dark secret" but it went in a slightly different direction than I thought it would. The results truly were disturbing.

The casting was also really great here. Jason Bateman as Simon was some fantastic against-type casting. Simon is someone who we discovers has an edge to him, something that I don't immediately think of when I see Jason Bateman. But he played Simon perfectly. As well, Rebecca Hall was great as Robyn. And even Joel Edgerton's small role as Gordo was really unsettling. All around, this movie was quite good and definitely an interesting, intellectual thriller.

8/10



Dark Places
Libby Day is the sole survivor of the brutal Kansas City Massacre that left her mother and two sister dead, and had her brother thrown in jail as the killer. It's been almost 30 years since the killings and Libby is almost out of money. She's never had a job and doesn't know what to do. But then she receives a letter from Lyle, asking her to do an appearance and get paid $500. This "appearance" is at a place called the Kill Club. It's a club with people obsessed with true crime. When Libby attends, she finds the majority of the members don't believe her brother, Ben, actually killed their family. The case has been fudged and not a lot adds up. At first Libby storms out, not willing to listen. But when she realizes that, should she investigate into this, she could make money from the group. So she sets out to discover the truth about what happened that night he family was destroyed.

I actually read this book, written by Gillian Flynn, a few months back. I quite enjoyed the book and the movie itself stayed pretty true to the book. However, the movie itself was just kind of blah, despite how faithful it was. I can't really put my finger on what made it so blah, but it just kind of was. The cast was pretty good, though I'm unsure if everyone really suited the parts they were cast in. However, Dark Places is not nearly as good as it should have been. Especially considering the careful direction Flynn's next book, Gone Girl, received last year. A film that had potential, but just didn't get there.

6/10



Avengers: Age of Ultron
Tony Stark and Bruce Banner create an AI and want to develop it to create a peacekeeping program called Ultron. Tony had previously had a vision in which he saw all the Avengers dead, and Tony fears this vision will come true. However, Ultron comes to life while Tony and Bruce are absent, and Ulton sees the Avengers as a threat to the worlds peace. As well, he sees humanity as a threat to itself, and the Avengers must assemble once again, this time to stop Ultron before he destroys the world.

I have been increasingly disliking Marvel movies. They really just aren't up my wheelhouse and I find they often pander too much to their fans. While I did moderately like the first Avengers, this one just kind of felt like a hot mess. There was so many characters to try and give story and development and pretty much everyone felt short changed. As well, I'm just getting tired of the unrealistic placement of zingy one liners. They just aren't all that funny to me? I don't know, I just increasingly don't care for Marvel movies and this seems to be the prime example why. I do, however, commend Joss Whedon for somehow keeping this movie coherent. The story wasn't a terrible one, and Whedon was somehow able to give everyone enough screen time to both develop their characters but also set up the next 15 installments.

5/10



Spy
Susan Cooper is a desk bound agent at the CIA. She loves doing behind the scenes work for Bradley Fine, the field agent whom she has a huge crush on. However, when he dies on a mission, and when other agents have become compromised, Susan volunteers to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer and stop a global crisis.

To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of Bridesmaids. And there haven't been many Melissa McCarthy movies I've seen or enjoyed (how wonder is she on Gilmore Girls though?). However, I actually really did enjoy Spy. Spy hits the right balance of being both an actual spy/action movie and being a comedy. There's so much awesome female power here and all of it goes unquestioned and I really, really liked that. There were just so many females who kicked butt just as much as men, and that's always so great to see. Spy is actually quite funny and Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne do some great work here. As well, Jason Statham was also really great, playing such a parody of all the characters he plays. His characters exaggeration was really funny and it was a great role for Statham.  This film was a surprise to me in that I actually did enjoy it.

7.5/10






Monday, 30 November 2015

November Blindspot: Citizen Kane



November Blindspot
Citizen Kane, 1941
Directed by Orson Welles 

Citizen Kane is very often and almost universally cited as the greatest film ever made. So obviously, this was top of my list to finally get around to watching. Because shouldn't every film fan see "the greatest film ever made"? However, I do not pretend to have really any knowledge of the history of the film or the stories surrounding it. I have heard smattering of how influential it is, but really have no idea. So I won't be saying anything particularly insightful in this arena, but just really want to share what I thought of this film. 

Citizen Kane tells the life story of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper magnate. The film begins with his death, and we get the story of his life after a group of reporters, who are putting together the life story of Kane, want to figure out what Kane's last words meant. The film examines Kane's early life, his start in media, and his various marriages and wealth. 

Citizen Kane is a movie that doesn't feel all that old to me. I mean, I know it's old because of the time period, but the way the story is told, and even how it looks, it doesn't feel like I'm watching a movie that was made 74 years ago. Sure, it may be a little slower than some of the popular film of the days, but the way the story is told is one I've seen so many times before. And I believe all of that is in thanks to Citizen Kane. Being 74 years old, I can easily see why this film is regarded as so influential. While I haven't seen tons of movies from the 30's/40's, I still know that the way the story and life of Kane in unfolded is particularly revolutionary. The film starts with Kane's death and then we rewind back to the beginning via flashbacks.  Indeed, upon very minimal research of this films influence, this was definitely one of the numerous things that made Citizen Kane so influential and timeless.

Orson Welles not only directed this, but also starred as the titular character. His work as Kane got him an Oscar nomination for Best Lead Actor, which I feel is very deserved. Welles not only did some great work as a director here, but also gave a great performance as Kane. Welles was able to portray the complexity he gave to Kane, and played him in various ranges without feeling too much like a caricature. As well, Welles gave fantastic direction in this film. It's a film that you can tell the director is passionate about and is a story he finds worth telling.  

Besides being the "greatest film ever made", I actually did quite enjoy Citizen Kane as just a movie. It was a fascinating portrait of what makes a man. The narrative was done in an interesting style, and the big question of what "rosebud" means was also really great (and the meaning itself was indeed quite interesting). There was enough mystery and drama in Kane's personal and professional life that it was constantly interesting. While I don't know if I can say it's the "Greatest film ever made", I can definitely recognize who influential this film would've been when it was made, and why so many have copied it since then. 

Citizen Kane is a film with such a massive reputation. I'd love to learn more about it and how it influenced all of film after it, and how it didn't manage to win Best Picture back in it's day. A very, very good film with a huge presence, Citizen Kane is definitely not a film to miss for any film fan!



Thursday, 19 November 2015

Room



Room, 2015
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Brie Larson, Joan Allen

Room is the story of Jack and his Ma. They live in Room and Jack has never known anything else. It's just Room, and outside Room is space where all the "TV planets" are. But Ma hasn't told Jack the truth- Ma and Jack are being kept prisoner in this tiny room by Old Nick and outside Room is a great big, huge world with people and houses and leaves and dogs. And Ma is fed up with being trapped. Ma devises a plan for her and Jack to escape, so they can finally rejoin the world that's been kept from them.

I'm going to say right now that Room never really got processed in my mind after I watched it. I went into this movie very, very frazzled (we arrived at the movie late due to various irritating circumstances) and left the movie promptly to have a flat tire. So this movie did get pushed out of my mind because of a somewhat crazy weekend. However, I will say that I did very much enjoy this film.

I did actually read the book a few months ago and I was so happy to see how faithful this adaption was. Yes, a few changes were made, but I liked those changes and felt they really added something to the story line.

This film is beautifully shot and filmed and really is a hopeful sob-story like all those commercials have said. I must've teared up at least two or three times. Jacob Tremblay, who plays 5 year old Jack so brilliantly, and Brie Larson who plays his Ma, are both so incredibly excellent on screen. It's incredible to me, that at this point, Jacob Tremblay isn't in serious discussion for an Acting Nomination. Tremblay captured the innocence of his childhood so well and just looked so natural up on screen. Brie Larson, who is, at this point, front runner to win Best Actress, is getting her much deserved praise. Ma's role was expanded somewhat from the book counterpart and the movie is so much better for it. Brie Larson gave Ma/Joy such strength and complexity. Her grief and fear always felt so real. I could watch Brie Larson on screen forever.

For me, I love the exploration of the "after" of escaping from a hostage situation. We've heard of way too many situation's like Ma and Jack's, being captured by gross people for years and years and finally escaped/discovered/freed. The story for us always stops there. But for these victims, their story isn't even close to over yet. The movie really did grapple with depression and how this 7 year kidnapping took it's toll on Ma, and how Jack, one of the results of her being kidnapped by Old Nick, is treated by Ma's family.

Room is a very touching and hopeful movie, despite sounding quite depressing. It's Jack, the very core of the movie, who gives the film hopefulness and inspires us. Children are so resilient and strong, and Jack really is the support of, not only Ma, but of the movie. Room will definitely make you cry, but will have you coming out of the film feeling hopeful. It's such a great movie with some fantastic performances, and has a lot to say.

(Also: did anyone else catch that moment near the end of the film where they deliberately show the Nathan Phillips Square ice skating rink in Toronto and then right after Jack says: "we live in a country called America". Maybe it's just because I live near Toronto and it's so familiar to me. Was just too hilarious, my husband and I couldn't help but laugh during the movie)

8.5/10

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Steve Jobs



Steve Jobs, 2015
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterson

It seems everyone these days knows the name Steve Jobs. CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs was obsessed with revolutionizing technology through computers. And this film takes us behind the scenes, in 3 different acts, of Jobs' personal and professional life, and how they affected each other. These three acts are: the launch of the Macintosh (1984), the NeXT launch (1988), and the launch of iMac (1998). Each part is filmed in real-time and explores the goings on of Steve's life in the 45 minutes or so before each launch.

The use of the three acts, I found, was extremely well done. It made this less of a classic biopic and made it into something more interesting. It's an exploration of a man, and the world around him. It's about ego and family and success. Choosing to do three different acts in real time was a great choice, and I very much applaud Aaron Sorkin for choosing an inventive way to tell Jobs' story. I really love when films are shot in real time, so very much enjoyed seeing Jobs move from conflict to conflict before each launch.

Michael Fassbender was indeed quite wonderful in the titular role. I know I've heard many complain that Fassbender doesn't look much like Steve Jobs, but I don't really care because he really did do an amazing job in the role. I mean, pretty much anyone with talent can seem fantastic with a Sorkin script, but Fassbender was (unsurprsingly) very good. Considered by many the frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar this year, I would be fine with him winning. It's a great role of a complex and unlikable man and would be a worthy role to have him win his first Oscar.

The supporting cast all had quite small roles, so there isn't a ton to say. Seth Rogen's role as Wozniak was smaller than I had anticipated, though Kate Winslet's role of Joanna, Jobs' "work wife" and head of marketing was larger than I expected. Rogen does his role fine, but I was impressed with Winslet. She really gives Joanna personality and a true voice, showing how complex her relationship with Steve was. As well, Jeff Daniels as previous Apple CEO, Mike Sculley, was still very much channeling his Newsroom character (though not surprising since that is also penned by Sorkin) and he did a good job as well.

The biggest complaint I had about this film was the ending. After exploring who Steve jobs is and how ulikable and condescending he is, the movie seems to go for something a little more hero-worship and a little too wrapped up for me to truly like it. It seemed like a bit too much of a copped out ending, taking the easy way out. It's disappointing that this is the direction that Sorkin and director Danny Boyle decided to take the film. The last 10 minutes felt conventional where the rest of the film felt unconventional. To me, it didn't make sense with the rest of the film.

Overall though, Steve Jobs was a movie I did quite enjoy. It was unconventional in the best of ways, and it's too bad that, upon opening wide, that it has been floundering at the box office. I don't know if this will hinder it's Oscar chances, as it seemed likely for a Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. However, we will have to wait and see if Michael Fassbender and crew remain contenders.

8/10

Friday, 23 October 2015

So Fetch Friday: Gilmore Girls + Catching up



I'm back! It feels like it's been forever since I've done one of these. It's just been a busy few weeks so I found I kept forgetting on Fridays.

Anyway, this week I finished Gilmore Girls! I feel a little lost now that it's all over. I'm quite happy with how it all ended, especially with Lorelai and Luke! Also, Rory turning down Logan was kind of a nice touch, too. It started to feel like he didn't actually know Rory that well, especially when he proposed at a party her grandparents hosted. But, just as I fnished this off, the world received the news that new Gilmore Girls episodes will be coming to Netflix! I'm sure you've all heard, but apparently Netflix has picked it up and will be doing 4 90-minute episodes/mini-movies. I'm crazy excited! Someone on tumblr pointed out that the original show started when Rory was 16 (the same age Lorelai was when she had Rory) and this show, if it does in fact premiere in 2016, will be 16 years after the original premiere and will have Rory the same age of Lorelai in season 1. How cool, right!? I'm excited to see what these episodes will bring. What is Rory doing now? Where did her job on Obama's campaign trail lead? Are Luke and Lorelai finally married? Are Laine and Zack's kids complete rockers? Did Rory ever get together with Jess? So many questions!

A few weeks ago (yes, it's been a while, I know) I finally watched Citizenfour. What an interesting film! It's definitely so creepy how much access the American government seems to have upon its citizens. I'd be interested to find out how much the Canadian government has? Or maybe I don't really want know at all.

We also got a hold of the 8th season of the Big Bang Theory and finally watched it. It's been a year since I've watched any TBBT and I've watched a lot of fantastic shows since then (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, New Girl, Friends, etc) and I found this season of TBBT extremely disappointing. The show almost gets into a few interesting conversations and topics but they end abruptly or are semi-resolved without actually having a good conversation. For example, there's an episode where Bernadette gets offered to do a photoshoot for a magazine that's covering the top Sexiest Female Scientists (or something of that nature). Bernadette is excited, but Amy is offended at the sexism of this and that female scientists should be respected for this minds, not their bodies. It almost starts to be interesting, but this storyline is buried underneath something else (that I honestly can't remember) and is only semi-resolved. We've also been watching New Girl (currently in the midst of Season 3) and I'm realizing that I think New Girl has been doing more itneresting and funny things than TBBT has been. Admittedly, I haven't watched the first few seasons in a long time, so this show could just be suffering because it's now season 8, but TBBT is really feeling old, and like it's reaching for plot.

I finally got around to watching Short Term 12! Yay! What a fantastic movie. I mean, it's just so interesting and treats mental health and these short term youth houses with so much respect. Brie Larson is so great, and it's fun to see John Gallagher Jr in this as well (who I also thought was really great).

Overall, I've just been really busy, like I mentioned before, and haven't gotten a whole lot of time to watch too many things. I'm still sporadically watching New Girl (which I'm enjoying! Nick and Jess are my favvvvvv, even though I know they'll break up for whatever reason soon), and watching Mad Men like once a week, as well as watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine when it airs on Sundays. However, I haven't watched too many interesting films, besides the ones I've reviewed. I'm hopefully going to see Steve Jobs on Monday, and then will be checking out Room after that (which I finished reading the book of, a few weeks ago, and I'm really looking forward to it).

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Beasts of No Nation



Beasts of No Nation, 2015
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga 

Agu lives in war-torn Africa. His country is at war where he lives with his father, mother and 2 siblings. He's an imaginative and cheerful child, curious and mischievous. However, the war escalates and Agu's city is invaded. The men decide to stay behind to protect the city, while the women and children start a mass exodus. Agu is supposed to leave with his mother and baby sister, but there is no room for him in the few packed cars leaving the city. He is left alone with his older brother and father who still reside in the city. However, his family is discovered in hiding and Agu and his brother flee while their father is executed as a spy. Agu's brother is shot while fleeing. While Agu is hiding in the vast forest, he is recruited by a group of child soldiers. His commander is enthusiastic and fearful and persuades Agu that, by joining them, he can exact revenge on the men who killed his family. 

Beasts of No Nation is a beautiful and heartbreaking film. And I honestly expected no less from Cary Fukunaga, who plays director, cinematographer and screenwriter here. Fukunaga is best known for directed the entirety of True Detective's first season. I was a huge fan of True Detective's first season and was definitely curious about his decision to direct a film on this subject matter. 

This film is set in an unnamed West African country. To be honest, I know extremely little about Africa, or what is going on there. And while Fukunaga doesn't fully explain everything (he doesn't even particularly explain why the war is happening), he creates a film where we see everything through Agu's eyes, seeing the world as he sees it. And like 12 Years A Slave, this movie is filled with beautifully horrific moments, but also moments of hope. 

I honestly can't say enough about what Fukunaga has created here. He explores so many different themes in this movie, but it never feels convoluted. It feels raw and real, and I feel like I'm watching something that could actually be happening right now. The screenplay is complex and explores many different things. Masculinity, war, anger, brokenness... Particularly, there's this horrific scene of a character killing someone with a sword. The camera angle is perfect, with the characters lashing, but the camera cutting off right where the body would be. The blood is splattering the screen and we know exactly what is happening without fully seeing it. The sound is muted and the scene is slowed. It's beautiful and horrendous. 

As well, Abraham Attah was so natural and wonderful to watch. He brought such life to Agu and made him seem so completely real. Nothing ever felt forced and everything felt real. As well, can I talk about this film without mentioning Idris Elba? Elba here is just so fantastic. His character is evil and horrid, but you almost can't help but follow his lead. He's charismatic and persuasive, but is also so incredibly vile and awful. Elba is currently the frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and I feel this is justified. Elba fully embodies this awful person and brings him such life, without ever turning caricature. 

I very much hope the Oscars embrace this movie. I feel like it should be much more of a force to be reckoned with. If it were up to me, this would definitely make it in to Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography. At the very least. Beasts of No Nation is a difficult movie to watch, but it's well worth the time. It's heartbreaking and is raw and real. I look forward to whatever Cary Fukunaga does next. 

9/10

October Blindspot: Pulp Fiction



October Blindspot
Pulp Fiction, 1994
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

I really don't know what I was expecting of Pulp Fiction. But it wasn't what I saw. As much as Pulp Fiction is a pop culture icon, I haven't heard a lot of what the movie is actually about, so I went into this pretty blind. Oddly, the only other Tarantino movie I've seen is Django Unchained. Maybe I expected something like that, but set in the 90s with John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson in those suits?

Anyway, Pulp Fiction is a non-linear movie with connected stories of various characters. We have 2 hit men, a gangsters wife, a boxer and two robbers. These stories interconnect and are told non-linearly. I don't really know how else to describe this movie without describing the whole thing. It's almost as though this movie is a series of connected short films, all with a beginning and an end. And because this was truly not what I was expecting, I'm not 100% sure how I felt about this movie. Some of the segments I enjoyed, others (specifically the Bruce Willis one) I found a little unnecessary.

This movie was a mainly enjoyable, though somewhat long watch. Like I mentioned, I didn't care the Bruce Willis chapter of the film, though definitely did enjoy the opening, the "Bonnie Situation" and how it all tied up. John Travolta was actually really good in this. His character was someone I never really understood, but Travolta really seemed to embody Vincent and play him with enthusiasm. Samuel L Jackson was in this less than I would've liked, but he was stellar in his role. Also, Uma Thurman was in this even less, though she was also great.

Overall, I'm not sure I 100% understand why Pulp Fiction is considered the classic it is, but it definitely is a good movie. It's become a pop culture icon since releasing 21 years ago, and is considered Quentin Tarantino's best work. While it's not exactly my cup of tea (I'm definitely team Shawshank for the 1995 Oscars) it's a work I can completely respect and still have an appreciation for (especially the Bonnie Situation. That short chapter was perfect and hilarious!)

8/10

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Martian

The Martian, 2015
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Kristen Wiig, Sebastian Stan, Donald Glover and Mackenzie Davis

NASA has done several successful missions of sending humans to Mars. Ares III is the third mission to land and live for a small period of time there. However, 18 sols into the Ares III mission, a storm brews on Mars, a storm too strong for them to safely stay on the planet. They choose to abort mission. However, while walking through the storm back to their ship, one of their crew members, Mark Watney, is struck by debris and is presumed dead by his crew, and, after searching as long as they can do safely, they continue their abort without him. However, Mark survives but finds himself alone on the planet, while his crew, and the rest of NASA and the world think he's dead. It's 4 years until the next Mars mission and Mark is determined to survive until then and make contact with Earth to show that he's still alive.

The unique thing about the Martian is that it doesn't shy away from the technical and scientific side of being in space. The first thing we see Mark do after waking up alone on Mars is go back to the HAB and perform surgery on himself. He had an antenna impaled in his side and bits of it were still left after he pulled it out. It's grueling to watch but we get shown every step. And that's the first of what's to come. Over the course of the film we watch Mark try to grow food, create water, and do repairs and modifications on various things (his rover, the HAB, etc). The Martian is much more nerdy than your typical sci-fi, and it extremely benefits from it. It gives a sense of realism, and indeed, I've been told this is one of the most realistic sci-fi films. Even my husband, who always gets nitpicky about the science of things in movies, didn't have a lot to nitpick after the movie was over.

The film also benefits from it's humor. One of the things that struck me and made me love the book was just how funny it is. Mark is a hilarious and optimistic guy, and much of that is left in the film. In fact, this is one of the most faithful adaptions of a book I've ever seen. Some of the script is lifted straight from the book. Again, the film benefits so much from this. The book was just a fantastic read, and I'm glad that Drew Goddard (the screenwriter) realized this. Jokes about Commander Lewis's obsession with 70s TV and disco music, about "I can't wait to not die" and NASA telling Mark to watch his language. Also, the pacing in this film was extremely spot-on. The film never felt like it was dragging, but still gave the film time to breathe. Nothing felt rushed and nothing felt dragged out. The movie moved along at a perfect pace and nothing felt out of place story-wise. The screenplay and the pacing of the movie were definitely some of the highlights of this movie for me, and what made it as good as it was.

And how can I review this movie without talking about Matt Damon? Matt Damon does some great work here. He's able to convey all the humor and snarkiness of his character, but we still see how alone he is, and that he may perhaps be hiding how broken he feels. Matt's performance isn't anything like Sandra Bullock's in Gravity- we aren't given this huge emotional obvious-amazing performance, but he was pitch perfect casting for the role. Matt Damon is always great at playing the every man, and here he really shines. This is definitely some of the best work I've seen him do in a while. As well, the rest of the cast was really great, too. The cast was awesomely diverse. We had Latinos, Asians, Blacks, men, women, all working together for a common cause. Everyone was equally helpful and the women were able to avoid a lot of stereotypes and be actual characters. Everyone loved Mark and were willing to do everything to get him home. Jeff Daniels was still very much in The Newsroom-mode (which isn't a bad thing!). It's also great seeing more of Chiwetel Ejiofor, too. Jessica Chastain is always great, and the rest of the Ares crew had small parts, but were all in top form. As well, it's fun to see more of Donald Glover, who was essentially playing Abed from Community.

For me, The Martian is an extremely solid film. If I were going to make a movie out of this book, it would look almost exactly like what Ridley Scott made here. While the film probably could've been a bit more introspective than it was (the book isn't particularly introspective either, to be fair), but The Martian definitely still holds as one of the best space movies to come out in a while. It manages to avoid a lot of scifi tropes which, again, makes the film that much better. Pretty much everyone trying to rescue Mark is extremely smart and competent. There was no "villain" trying to stop Mark getting saved, and even Mars itself wasn't so horrible that it kept screwing Mark over. All the problems that happen along the way are all realistic and are solved, mainly, via common sense and science. It's refreshing to see there isn't any "villain" except some bad luck. Ridley Scott really is on top form here after not having made a really truly successful film in several years.

While the Martian didn't absolutely blow me away, it did do everything right. It had a fantastic diverse cast, a great lead performance, amazing visuals, perfect pacing and some really great writing. it's a story of hope and teamwork, and shows how much we can get done when we work together. The Martian is a story of common sense, ingenuity, science and humor, and that's what makes it so great and unique.

8/10