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.


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. 


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!)


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.


Thursday, 1 October 2015


Everest, 2015
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Emily Watson and Kiera Knightly

Everest tells the real-life horror story of the most fatal year (until 2014's Nepal earthquake) on Mount Everest. Rob Hall leads a commercial business that takes everyday people up to the top of Everest. This business has been so successful that there are now several other teams like it, including Scott Fischer's team. So while all the teams are making their ascent on May 10th 1996 a severe storm strikes the mountain, causing extreme devastation to the teams of climbers.

As you can tell from the synopsis, and if you know the real story, you'll know Everest is not a happy story. I feel it's no spoiler to say that quite a few people died on Everest during this time. And I felt Everest was very respectful in capturing all of this. Everest is quite the ensemble piece, so we don't get to know everyone as well as we'd might like, but the film gets us close enough to them that we can empathize with their situation and feel the extreme loss with them.

The film launches right into the main story. We have Rob Hall and Helen Wilton (Everest base camp manager) leaving their home in New Zealand, Rob leaving his pregnant wife Jan behind. From there, we arrive in Nepal where Rob meets up with the rest of the group and they make their introductions. And then, not 20 minutes into the film, we're at the base camp of Everest. Everest is to the point and jumps into its story quickly, something I did appreciate about the film.

The visuals, as you can guess, are brilliant. Everest is something that's always very much interested me and I do have a basic knowledge of (actually, I did read Jon Krakauer's book based on this event called "Into Thin Air" around the time they started filming this movie, incidentally). The effects and visual are really just stunning. There's a fantastic panning in on this massive suspended bridge in Nepal which is so beautifully done. Sadly, I didn't see this movie on the biggest screen, but did see it in 3D. But really, it's just so beautiful.

The acting in this movie was fine. There wasn't anything spectacular or in need of an Oscar nomination here, but everyone does do a great job with their material. John Hawkes is really devastating as Doug, as was Keira Knightly in her limited role of Rob Hall's wife Jan. Jason Clarke was actually, I found, to be a very good choice for the role of Rob. Rob's role wasn't all that deep or even that explored, but Clarke did a good job of bringing intensity and likability to the role. Jake Gyllenhaal was a lot of fun but was also able to bring depth to his small role. You can really see the strain showing through on his face when Scott starts to struggle.

Also, Dario Marianelli is fantastic at making heartbreaking music, and this was no exception. Marianelli's work here is beautiful with the right amount of Asian violin cues for us to remember that we're in Nepal. The ending of the film especially has some fantastic and heartbreaking work.

Speaking of the end, it was incredibly respectful of the parties involved, and I really liked that. And the movie really understood that, what happened, there wasn't really a happy ending for a lot of people. Many people died and many others suffered terrible injuries from the cold/frost. While it feels for a moment like we may get our inspirational happy ending, that's only somewhat true. Everest realizes the gravity of the tradegy of the story it's telling and gives the proper ending to show that. Like I mentioned, Everest seemed to be very respectful of everyone and treats everyone with kindness.

I understand why some people may've found Everest underwhelming, but I disagree. I found the movie to be quite captivating and interesting. It helped that I was already very similar with the story, but it still had quite the impact all the same. Personally, I actually found the movies weakness to be when the storm hit. The preparation for the climb was well done and extremely interesting. Much during the storm was heartbreaking and so sad to watch. But again, it was respectful of those who had truly died and was never too graphic with any of these deaths.

While Everest may not have been the best movie I've ever seen, it was one I still very much enjoyed and would like to revisit again sometime.