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.


Wednesday, 16 December 2015


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.


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
Straight Outta Compton

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
Steve Jobs   
The Revenant   
The Martian   

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, 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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.