Saturday, 24 December 2016

December Blindspot: The Maltese Falcon

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The Maltese Falcon, 1941
Directed by John Huston

Wow, already at the end of another year! I have now finished two years of Blindspot movies and am trying to put together a list for my 3rd year. However, my final film to review is the noir classic, The Matlese Falcon.

The Maltese Falcon is one of Humphrey Bogart's earlier films. He had just come off the success of "High Sierra" and did "Casablanca" right after this film. The Maltese Falcon is a crime film that tells the story of Sam Spade, a PI, who gets in the thick of a bunch of eccentric criminals and the hunt for a fabled jeweled falcon.

To be frank, I actually didn't care a whole lot for the Maltese Falcon, and I feel kind of awful for admitting it. I found the film to be somewhat boring and a little hard to follow. I thought Humphrey Bogart gave a really masterful performance, and I really did think this would be a film I enjoyed. However, it was not to be, apparently, and I feel bad for saying so.

To be honest, I just don't really have a lot of opinions on this film. To be fair, my husband and I were both a little sick when we watched this, so our attention span wasn't the highest, but I don't really remember even all that much about the film itself. Like I said, I found the plot a little hard to follow as it always seemed someone wasn't who you/Sam Spade think they are and things are constantly twisting. That's not to say that this was a bad movie. Maybe if I give the film a rewatch when I'm a little more alert I'll enjoy it, but right now I found it a little disappointing. I'm a much bigger fan of Casablanca (who isn't, though?).


Monday, 19 December 2016

Manchester By The Sea

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Manchester By The Sea, 2016
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Lee Chandler is a janitor. He's quiet, prone to surliness and alone. But one day he gets a phone call and finds out his brother has died of a heart attack. Living an hour and a half away, he drives to Manchester, Massachusetts to where his brother and his brother's 16 year old son lived. Manchester, the city he grew up in and lived in for a part of his life before leaving. In the wake of grief, he finds himself newly made guardian over his 16 year old nephew, Patrick. But Manchester brings back old griefs, old heartaches and ghosts from his past.

Casey Affleck has been among my favourite actors for a while now. His work in The Assassination of Jesse James and Ain't Them Body Saints was stunning and it's been frustrating that he hasn't had a lot of good work since Jesse James. However, finally he landed the role of Lee Chandler. And now he's tipped (for now) to win an Oscar for the role.

Manchester By The Sea is not a showy film. It's a film about small moments and subtleties. It's a film I know I'll be thinking about for several days, still processing and digesting everything about it. It's a simple story, and one that's been told often. I can name several films about anti-social/awkward people who find their sister/friend/brother dead and now have to be guardian of a child and it helps them grow as a person. I can even think of a Katherine Heigel movie with that plot. But Manchester By The Sea wasn't like that. I mean, the story itself isn't breaking any new ground here, but the execution was flawless.

To be honest, it took me a while into the movie to see what the big deal was. For about the first 45 minutes or so I was kind of whatever on the movie. But finally, when we hit the scene that explains why everyone is talking about Lee Chandler, saying "THE Lee Chandler?", my heart broke and I was stunned. I won't spoil it, but from that point on, the film had me. This is a heart-wrenching film, but it never tries to make you sob in your seat in the theatre. It's simply a film that addresses loss and grief, and how we all deal with it (or don't). It's simple, but it's a film you'll be thinking about for days to come.

Casey Affleck here is spot-on for this role. However, this is not a showy role. There's not really any big juicy Oscar-clip moments. It's a subtle performance, but extremely nuanced. Casey is oozing with this sadness and desperation of Lee. He could not have given a better performance here. And then we also have Michelle Williams. It's a very small role for her, but she really packs the emotional punches here. Her scenes are much more juicy and emotional. I won't say much about Michelle's character, but she really punches you in the gut. And we also have newcomer Lucas Hedges (he was in Moonrise Kingdom! More people should talk about this). Lucas Hedges plays Patrick, Lee's nephew. He gives a great performance here and really nails how teenagers often deal/don't deal with grief and loss. They are lost, but don't know what to do. And Lucas was able to nail that.

Overall, this isn't a film I can see winning Best Picture, even though it is definitely one of the best films of the year. But this is a film filled with fantastic and must-see performances. Casey Affleck delivers a career-defining role here and it's not to be missed.


Friday, 16 December 2016


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Lion, 2016
Directed by Garth Davis

Lion is based on the true story of Saroo who, as a young boy growing up in India, got separated from his family and was lost on a train. He eventually gets adopted by a nice Australian family but he never forgets the events that led to him being separated from his mother, his little sister and his beloved older brother. As a young adult, Saroo learns of the new technology called Google Earth, and he sets out to try to figure out where he came from and how to get back home.

Honestly, I wasn't sure whether I would like Lion or not. I mean, I like true stories, and sometimes movies would've been better had they been true (ie Flight). However, I am often skeptical of whether the movie will actually be a good movie, rather than just settling for telling a good/true story. That being said, I felt like Lion mostly succeeded.

What worked for Lion is that it wasn't told in flashbacks. We don't go back and forth from past and present. The story telling here is linear, which I think works to the films benefit. Often film like this rely on this back and forth narrative, and indeed I expecting Lion to be the same way. But immersing ourselves in young Saroo's world for the first 45 minutes-1 hour was a treat. It was sad without purposely tugging on your heartstrings (too much) but was still a heartbreaking story of a young 5 year old, separated from everything he knows, in a part of the country that doesn't speak the language he knows. And young Sunny Pawar, playing little Saroo, is a treasure to watch. Sunny is incredibly adorable, but also feels very natural as a child actor. He just runs with the innocence and lostness of Saroo.

As we hit the second half of the film, we finally meet Dev Patel, playing grown-up Saroo. Dev Patel, most known for Slumdog Millionaire, has grown up. Only 17 when he filmed that film, Dev is now almost ten years older. And he has certainly grown as an actor. Dev is able to delve into the complexities of Saroo, both trying to embrace the world around him, but also trying to remember where he came from. As well, we have Nicole Kidman, playing Saroo's adoptive mother. While the early moments in the film of young Saroo and his new mother are heart-warming but also somewhat devastating, in their grown up years is where the film seems to lag somewhat. We aren't really given context to what their relationship is now besides that Saroo is a "good son". They are given a spattered relationship, at best, and I feel this drags the film down. However, Nicole Kidman is given some very juicy scenes and she plays them beautifully. I won't spoil much, but two scenes in particular had me teary.

Overall, the first half of Lion was by far the best, in my opinion. Almost completely in subtitles and led by a 5 year old, it is the most beautiful and heartbreaking. The second half of the film seems to drag a little too long and give too little context to Saroo and the relationships he has with others. However, Lion is a moving story about a man feeling lost, trying to find his way back home. It's certainly weepy, but that's in the very nature of the story itself. The cinematography is beautiful and Dustin O'Halloran's score is haunting and beautiful. It's not an overly memorable movie, but it's worth seeing.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

November Blindspot: What's Eating Gilbert Grape

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What's Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is essentially a coming of age story set in a small town. Gilbert is a young man living in a small town, and has a lot of responsibility. His father passed away several years ago, he has a mother who is so overweight she barely gets off the couch (much less out of the house), has several younger siblings to take care of, but mainly needs to look after his youngest brother Arnie, who is mentally disabled. Arnie was never supposed to live very long as a baby, but is now about to celebrate his 18th birthday.

This movie is not an overly acclaimed movie, if I'm correct. However, what it's most known for is getting Leonardo DiCaprio his first acting nomination, and what some would say is his very best performance. To be honest, this was pretty much the only reason I put this film on my list. There are a lot of opinions about what Leo's best performance is (and I selected this film before I had seen the Revenant last year), so I really wanted to see what other people saw. Because it was 1994 and Leo was nominated for his first Oscar and was also up against Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List, which is also another fantastic, for the history books performances. So when people always complained that Leo didn't win this Oscar, I always wanted to point to Fiennes also having lost that year, but I wanted to truly see which of the performances was more deserving.

In all honesty, I do actually think this might be Leo's best ever performance. To be fair, I haven't seen his performance in Wolf of Wall Street, but this performance is so unique from a lot of Leo's other performances. Maybe because this was essentially his first big role and what planted him on the map. But his performance here is so pure, and I feel like it's so natural and authentic of children/teens with autism. A friend of mine growing up had an autistic little brother and the character of Arnie and how he acted reminded me a lot of this boy/teen I knew. The mannerisms were just right and the writing behind it felt so true.

Besides Leo's performance, I felt the movie was just kind of okay otherwise. It was a pretty typical coming of age story for Gilbert. He's dealing with all his responsibility of constantly looking after Arnie while also trying to figure out his life and is falling in love. Johnny Depp did a good job here but he was thoroughly outshined by Leo.

Had Leo not been in this film, I would probably have forgotten about the film by now. It's a film similar to many I've seen before, though that doesn't necessarily make it bad. But the character of Arnie and his relationship with Gilbert is what makes this movie interesting.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016


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Sully, 2016
Directed by Clint Eastwood

I roughly remember "The Miracle on the Hudson". It was January 2009 and I was in grade 11. I remember hearing about a plane landing on the Hudson River in New York (a city I had just been in a few months earlier) and thinking that was pretty neat. It was a good story! So naturally, I wasn't surprised to hear a film was being made several years later.

Sully is a pretty typical story of a big event that happened. It shows the major event but also deals with the aftermath, and even gives us a little of the beforehand. However, to me, Sully was a slightly roughly chopped film. There didn't seem to be a good flow to the scenes and they seemed to be in an odd order.

The film opens with the days following the "miracle landing". We follow Sully, the pilot of the plane, and how the landing has affected him. He's suffering PTSD and keeps seeing the plane he flew and landed crashing into buildings instead of landing in the river. We go through a few deposition scenes and then suddenly, and slightly unceremoniously, we get the flashback to the crash/landing. The sequence comes about 30 minutes in and lasts probably 15 minutes. We then cut back to Sully speaking to his wife on the phone and we continue with the aftermath depositions and trials, and while Sully is in a bar, seeing himself on TV, we get another long flashback, etc, etc. I think the film could've been better laid out. Either show the entire sequence at the beginning, the entire sequence at the end, or evenly sit in the present and flashback. But this film was just inconsistent in when they would flashback and when they would sit in the "present". It's hard to describe, but it could've been better laid out and flowed better.

Tom Hanks as Sully was an incredibly obvious choice. Just like Captain Phillips, it seems like a role that Tom Hanks has been playing for roughly a decade now. He does a fine job but it didn't feel like we were seeing anything new from Hanks. Undoubtedly Hanks is a great actor, but I feel he's been playing the same role for a while now.

Honestly, I felt like Sully could've been a lot better. The first 15 minutes showed the PTSD of Sully and his co-pilot, which was something I would've liked Clint Eastwood to focus on more. But after those 15 minutes, it's not touched on much at all. The film just touches on a few things like this briefly, but doesn't focus on it throughout the film. There's a lot of interesting pieces here, but it kind of felt thrown together. This film could've been really great, because it's awesome to see some good news sometimes. But this film didn't do the film justice. It felt like there was some created drama just for the sake of having drama (the question of whether Sully made the right choice in landing in the Hudson or if he should've tried to go back to the airport). But it was a fine film, though I don't think it deserves any sort of awards attention. It's a good film that isn't overly creative or original. It's very typical for this type of film.



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Arrival, 2016
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Honestly, Arrival is by far my favourite film of 2016 thus far. I mean, this isn't saying a lot because I haven't seen very many good films this year at all. But Arrival is an incredibly-made and a very intelligent film about Earth's first contact with an alien race.

Arrival is a film about communication, about humanity, about love and about how we perceive time. About how everything in our lives affects the way we see things and they change our perceptions. It's a story about Louise Banks, a world-renowned linguist, and how she is used by the army to try to communicate to aliens that have landed on Earth. 12 "pods" have landed all over the planet with no seeming pattern. And the aliens do not speak any Earthly language. Louise, with the help of Ian (a scientist), attempt to teach the Aliens English, and attempt to learn the language of the aliens.

For a long time, the human race has been obsessed with the idea of aliens and first contact. There are countless film about Alien invasions, about first contact, about friendly aliens, but just generally this idea that there is another, more intelligent race out there. But Arrival is a much different animal than many of the other "Alien" films out there. Arrival is both grand in scale but also an intimate human drama. It both tackles how this "arrival" impacts the entire globe, but also very specifically about how it is impacting Louise and her past and future.

Without giving out specifics or spoilers, Arrival is a film that actually knows how to deal with time. I'm not going to say any more about this, but this movie really understands the time aspect of it's film, which I find a lot of other movies don't. It uses time in different ways than other movies have done. I know this doesn't make a lot of sense to people who haven't seen this film, but trust me, you'll understand once you've watched it.

Also, Amy Adams give an incredible performance here. It's so internalized and subtle, but at the same time she's so in control and powerful. Louise is an incredibly strong character and she's incredibly brilliant. Amy Adams was such a great choice to bring Louise to life.

Honestly, Arrival is just an incredibly beautiful film about communication and how we come together as a planet. It taps into this idea that newcomers we don't understand are often automatically a threat. It shows how well and how badly we communicate with each other, both person to person, and on a global scale. Honestly, the ending will probably destroy you (the choice of music picked was 100000% perfection) and it's something very different for this genre.

I don't know how to articulate enough that Arrival is honestly a must-see film this year. It transcends so many different genres and takes the time to actually think through the science and the time of the story and just takes the time to build character. This is not a film with loud booms and lots of explosions. This film is cerebral and intelligent, but also human and heartbreaking in the best way. I would love to see this film make good money so it can tell Hollywood that these kind of intelligent film are important and they are good and are worth making. This should 100% be up for Best Picture come February, and I would love to see Denis Villeneuve and Amy Adams also singled out with individual nominations.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

October Blindspot: Breakfast at Tiffany's

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Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961
Directed by Blake Edwards

Based on a Truman Capote novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's is about a young woman named Holly Golightly and the interest she has in an older man that moves into her building. But Holly is mainly obsessed with finding a rich husband.

Honestly, I do not understand the hype over this film. I know the opening shots of Audrey Hepburn in this are classic, and even her performance in this film is really good (and quite different from other roles she has played), but I do not understand the love for this film, sad to say. I really did want to like it, but the story was just kind of weird and bland and Holly wasn't an overly sympathetic character. She has a complicated past and the new man who moves into her building (Paul Varjak), she keeps referring to him as her brothers name. Holly was a borderline Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I don't know whether this was Capote's doing (I feel like a novelized version of this is probably much more interesting), or whether this was the director/screenwriters doing, but Holly was just that typical character who seems to live vivaciously, but then has a dark past and isn't actually as happy as she seems.

Like I said, Audrey Hepburn does give a very good performance here, and the music was definitely a deserved Oscar win (as well as the original song). But I just found the movie kind of weird and boring and just not really what I expected. I almost wonder if most people just like to remember the classic-looking opening sequence and forget the rest of the movie.


Saturday, 29 October 2016


Sing Street
Sing Street is an 80's Irish musical about a young high school boy who starts a band in order to impress a girl. It's simple, but it's done really well and the music is really great!

Conor lives in Dublin in the 80's, where lots of the people around him, including his own family, are very poor. Lots of people are fleeing to England for a better life. I really enjoyed Sing Street! The music was actually really good and I thought it was a quirky, charming movie. While I couldn't always 100% understand the characters, because of the thick Irish accents, it was a fun movie with some good child performances, and some actually awesome 80's style music!

The Nice Guys
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe starring in a 70's buddy-cop comedy? I'm not sure a lot of people expected this duo to be the comical success that they were.

Directed by Shane Black, Gosling and Crowe play two detectives looking into the murder/death of an adult film star and a missing woman. The pairing of Gosling and Crowe is really quite brilliant. They are so different from each other and it's an unexpected pairing that works incredibly well. Ryan Gosling is really fantastic in this film and it's so much fun to see him act so ridiculous. His physical comedy is really hysterical (specifically a scene with him in a bathroom) and he actually gives a really good performance. I'd be bitter if he didn't get nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe Comedy/Musical but I'm sure his performance in La La Land is even more exceptional. The Nice Guys is a fun movie, if somewhat a little too chaotic at times. But it benefits so well from Crowe and Goslings chemistry and humor.

Swiss Army Man
I do not think I have ever watched a stranger movie. Nor do I think I have ever liked a movie that was this strange. Honestly, the major draw for me here was the pairing of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. However, the idea of Paul Dano's character about to commit suicide after being stranded on a desert island for so long, only to be distracted by Daniel Radcliffe's corpse washing ashore and Paul Dano rides him as a boat while Radcliffe's farts propel them to land. Yes, that actually happens. And no, it doesn't stop there.

Somewhere, Swiss Army Man becomes a story about fitting in, about taking risks, about love and about life and grief. It's about living live vivaciously and taking a risk on love. But also about not caring what others think of you. It's a very, very strange film which has Daniel Radcliffe playing a talking corpse (and his body being used as an all-purpose tool, from a water tap to chopping wood) and has Paul Dano "dressed" as a girl for a large part of the film. But it's strange and wonderful and weird, but I kind of also really loved it. The music is honestly breathtaking and amazing, and I feel like this film really proves that Daniel Radcliffe can act (and reminds us why it's frustrating that Paul Dano is so underrated)

Finally, finally got around to watching Deadpool. Yay, Canadian Netflix! Deadpool is probably one of the very few superhero films I've been somewhat interested to actually see. It's R-rated (and takes full advantage) and is snarky, sarcastic and is constantly breaking the fourth wall.

For the most part, I really did like Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds gives one of his best performances in a role that seems tailor-made for him. As well, the movie is legit funny (Deadpool quipping, "McAvoy or Stewart?" when an X-Men threatens to take him to go see Professor X). The jokes land and the idea of breaking the fourth wall so much is a lot of fun.

However, I felt like it almost got a little too cutesy in it's quips. Sometimes it was a little too much (like the constant jokes about sequels in 22 Jump Street that was funny at first and were funny individually but overall was a little too much). As well, the plot line itself was not overly original either. In fact, it was pretty run of the mill. But Reynolds performance and about 95% of the script and humor are what make it worth it's while. I'm glad a film like this was eventually made and that it did indeed prove that R-rated films like this make money, if they're made right.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

September Blindspot: The Pianist

The Pianist, 2002
Directed by Roman Polanski

The Pianist piqued my interest, mainly because of how often I see Adrien Brody winning the Oscar for this film on the list of "biggest shocks/surprises" at the Oscars. As well, Roman Polanski is extremely controversial (duh) and I wanted to see the movie that won him his Best Director Oscar, a movie that is based very much on his own childhood.

The Pianist tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a famous Polish pianist, who lived through the ghettoization of Warsaw.

My husband commented after the film that it was disappointing there aren't more movies set around the Polish Ghettos during WWII. And after watching this film, I do agree. Not that it was a comfortable movie to watch, but because there are so many stories to be told! And indeed, while The Pianist isn't quite on the level of Schindler's List, in terms of Holocaust/WWII movies, The Pianist is indeed beautiful and heartbreaking.

Adrien Brody is indeed exceptional as Szpilman. He goes through so many different stages and Brody plays them all so well. He has just such an emotional face and he carries the weight of Szpilman's experiences so well.

As well, just the storytelling in general is just so heartbreaking. It's not a quick flip through the scenes, but a studied look at the Polish ghetto and how demeaning that experience was. But also you think about how much luckier they probably were there than at any concentration camp, and you completely depress yourself.

The Pianist is a beautiful and heart-wrenching film that should be seen by more people. This is a movie where I can absolutely separate art from the artist. While what Polanski did was so sketchy and wrong, he was also a man who grew up experiencing the things that we see. And stories like this, about Jewish discrimination and extinction is so important.


Mini Reviews: Cafe Society, The Light Between Oceans, Where to Invade Next

Cafe Society
I would compare Cafe Society to a beach read, a book you bring on your beach vacation. It's pleasant and even sometimes charming and fun, but overall, it was nice in the moment but it's not overly memorable. However, that's not at all to say Cafe Society is a bad movie. In fact, it's probably Woody Allen's best movie in a few years.

It's the simple story of Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) who leaves New York to come to Hollywood in the 1930's. He gets a job working for his uncle Phil (Steve Carell) at a casting agency for Hollywood stars, and falls in love with Phil's assistant Vonnie. Vonnie is beautiful and cool and she and Bobby become only friends because Vonnie is in a relationship with Bobby's uncle Phil (unbeknownst to Bobby).

I actually loved Kristen Stewart in this movie. I think she finally found the right part that made me think she was so cool and I wanted to be her! Kristen's performance as Vonnie was cool girl with a hint of hypocrisy. She was just so great to watch, and I'm happy she's finally coming into her own as an actress. As well, I enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg, though it was once again a role similar to many things he's played before, this time with a little less arrogance. It was a fun, simple film with some nice performances and left you feeling nice.


The Light Between Oceans
I actually read this book about a year ago and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to see this film, despite the middling reviews. And honestly, it deserves a little more credit than it got. Michael Fassbender is in a role unlike I've seen him in before, and Alicia Vikander reminds us why she won her Oscar.

Tom is a lighthouse keeper and he and his wife Isobel work on Janus island, miles and miles from civilization. After several miscarriages, a boat washes ashore with a small, crying baby and a dead man. Instead of reporting this to the authorities, they decide to keep the baby and claim her as their own.

I was excited that Derek Cianfrance would be directing this because I felt like the subject matter was up his alley in terms of grim portraits of relationships and people. However, it was much more "soapy" than I was expecting from him, which indeed was a disappointment. However, the film was one of the most gorgeous I've seen all year, with beautiful cinematography, costumes and a lovely score from the ever-dependable Alexandre Desplat. Again, the performances were good and I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the film very, very much. It starts to get a little long in the end and it takes its time about wrapping up, but it's still an enjoyable movie about life and love, and doesn't deserve to be quite the bomb that it was.


Where To Invade Next
I saw one Michael Moore film once and I remember not enjoying it at all. To me, Michael Moore is that guy who knocks on peoples door and confronts them and yells at them about injustices/conspiracy theories/etc. So when my parents recommended I watch this, I was a little skeptical but thought the premise was interesting.

Indeed, I enjoyed the film very, very much. In this film, Michael Moore visits other countries around the world to see what things they are doing well (things like education, women's rights, vacation pay, etc) and "claiming" those ideas for America. In fact, I felt this film really communicated a lot of the frustrations I have with the United States while actually being somewhat gracious and hopeful about it!

Michael Moore was not angrily banging on peoples door here, but he was sitting down with real people from and having real conversations about how France treats lunchtime as a class and teaches kid manners and proper nutrition, how Slovenia has free college education, how Norway has a much more rehabilitation approach to prison, and how Italians get a lot of vacation time and how employers want their employees to be happy. It was a great look at so many countries around the world and how backwards the US is in a lot of these ways. Michael Moore was much more gracious than I had ever expected, and it ended on a much more positive and hopeful note rather than an angry/negative one. This film is definitely a must-watch!


Monday, 26 September 2016

Deepwater Horizon

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Deepwater Horizon, 2016
Directed by Peter Berg

I was a really big fan of Peter Bergs last film, Lone Survivor. I think it was a really well made and well told story. It was a simple story, but it was treated with complexity and subtly. And it also kind of made me believe in Mark Walhberg again. So naturally, I was actually kind of looking forward to this one. While it's a little less nuanced, even in just the subject matter of the story, it was still a well made film.

Deepwater Horizon tells the story of the biggest oil spill in history and gives us a full picture of what "oil spill" actually means. We follow Mike Williams and his crew as they board the Deepwater Horizon to find out the previous crew left early before doing some cement tests on the actual well. The crew insists that they need to do more tests before actually drilling, which the visiting BP men are hesitant to do because this rig is already 43 days behind schedule. However, even after the test results are sketchy at best, BP insists that it's fine. But only a few hours later does everything go wrong.

I vaguely remember hearing about this spill when it happened. It was 2010 and I  was a senior in high school. I remember hearing the term "oil spill" and pictured one of those Captain Phillips-like freight boats was carrying oil and somehow the ship was sideways in the water, oil spilling out. To me, back then, that's what I pictured when someone said oil spill. I don't remember hearing about the fires that took days and days to put out.

Peter Berg makes a smart move and contains the events of the movie simple to April 20th 2010. The first part of the film is a little disorienting, as it jumps straight into oil rig jargon and we don't have a "new person" to have all these terms explained to, for us. While you don't 100% know what's going on, you do get the gist. But the second half, with the explosions and the oil spill, you don't really need words. It's almost like watching Titanic, where nowhere the crew can go is safe.

To me, the films running time at 1 hour 47 minutes is perfect. It's not too long and Berg knows not to draw things out. He keeps the beginning simple, and the second half of the film is just as long as it needs to be. It's a brisk film but it really gets to the point. The only drawback is we probably don't get enough blame pushed onto BP and the big corporations that skimped on a lot of the safety tests, but when you limit your film to only the day-of, that happens. We get enough blame and questions asked as you can for a setting like that.

Honestly, I actually quite enjoyed Deepwater Horizon. In a summer of really meh movies, this is probably the first movie I've genuinely liked in a while. Mark Walhberg does a serviceable job, and it's nice to see Gina Rodriguez up on the big screen. Deepwater Horizon is simple in premise, and while it doesn't make as huge an impact as Lone Survivor did, this is still an admirable film that treats the subject matter with both anger and dignity.


Monday, 29 August 2016

August Blindspot: Blade Runner

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Blade Runner, 1982
Directed by Ridley Scott

I watched this film actually about a week ago, though I'm not sure why I waited so long to post my Blindspot review of it. To be honest, I'm not really sure what I thought of Blade Runner. In a way, I don't really think I thought much of it, neither good nor bad.

The concept and the world-building of Ridley Scott's cult classic is really great. The basic premise is that Deckard is a former Replicant Hunter who is asked to return to his job by his old boss when 4 Replicants escape their colony and need to be eliminated. What are Replicants? They are bioengineered androids that can pass for humans. They've been deemed illegal on Earth and are kept as slaves on other planet colonies. Like I said, the world-building of the idea of Replicants and how humans deal with them is really awesome. Even the story itself is really interesting.

I don't know though, something just didn't strike with me. To be honest, there was a scene jump early on in the film that left me confused and I was left feeling a little confused for the rest of the movie. Whether it was a choppy scene jump that actually confused me or if I got distracted and ended up confused, I'm not entirely sure. Also, I was watching The Final Cut. Does this make much of a difference to the film? I know there are quite a few cuts of this film out there.

Anyway, Harrison Ford is just really cool as Deckard, obviously. The 80's were definitely prime Harrison Ford era and this is something cool for his resume. However, was anyone hoping there'd be a big twist and that Deckard is a similar kind of replicant to Rachel? I was seriously hoping that would happen, but it did not. Twist for the sequel?

Honestly, I wish I had enjoyed the film more and maybe after another viewing I probably will. I am eager for the sequel as I'm very excited that Denis Villeneuve was selected as the director. The original had a really cool vibe and was much slower than I was expecting (which I liked) and I think it's definitely right up Villeneuve's alley. Also, Jared Leto better be playing some sort of Replicant because he completely looks the part.

Anyway, I did somewhat enjoy Blade Runner but did feel a bit confused for most of the time. I do plan to try to rewatch this film in the near-ish future (when I get some time!) So hopefully I can change my initial opinion on this film.


Thursday, 18 August 2016


Ben-Hur, 2016
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

I think I can probably count myself as one of a small group of people under 25 that saw the 1959 Charleton Heston version of Ben-Hur. In fact, I ranked it as my 3rd favourite Best Picture winner, so I actually liked the film very, very much. So when I heard that they were doing a new version of Ben-Hur, all I could ask was "why?"

And even after finally watching the new 2016 version, I still don't fully understand the need for this remake. In fact, I'm still fairly unsure who the target audience for this even is. Is it those who saw the 1959 version? But would 3D appeal to that 65+ audience? Is this targeted at the Christian community? Is it trying to draw in new and younger viewers who didn't see the more famous (and long) version? So while I can't exactly figure out who this was aimed at or why it was even remade to begin with, I can say that this remake was much better than I had imagined it would be.

Ben-Hur, if you dont' already know, tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince living in Jerusalem. His adopted brother, Masala, is Roman, and when they are grown up, Masala leaves Jerusalem to become an officer in the Roman army. However, Judah is falsely convicted of treason by his adopted brother and becomes a slave, separated from his family and the woman he loves, Judah is driven to return and to have revenge on Masala.

While I did mention this version is much better than I expected, it is in no way a perfect film. In fact, the first 30-45 minutes are a little confusing and not well explained. There is a lot of drama with Romans vs the zealots in Jerusalem but it's not really made all that clear. As well, I feel like who characters even were was not overly explained either. It took a while for the film to eventually find it's feet. But eventually it did, and for quite a while the film was actually really good. Basically, it isn't until Judah becomes a slave that the film really picks up. However, the ending became somewhat clunky as this is the part where the story of Jesus is interwoven into the story and I don't know if the filmmaker really knows how to deal with this part. Without too many spoilers, I felt like it was much more a painting of "Jesus was a really, really good person with great ideas about how to live" instead of telling the audience that Jesus was in fact God and was here to save the world from sin and that he was much more than just a "good man". While I found the lessening of the religiousness and having it turned more into moralism to be somewhat disappointing, I was not overly surprised.

And how can I not mention the chariot scene? I saw it in 3D which was honestly pretty neat, even if my eyes kind of suck at seeing 3D stuff. I can tell this new version really tried to make the chariot scene, which is the most iconic scene from the 1959 version, much more epic, but I really feel like the original chariot scene still holds up so well and is still quite thrilling. Again, this is more a complaint of why remake something that is such a classic, but I digress. The chariot scene was well done, although I feel like most of it was Judah and Masala just grunting at each other and making faces.

Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur was quite good. He really nailed the air of a rich naive person who thinks everything can resolve nicely. And Toby Kebbell is also really good as Masala. Morgan Freeman's dreadlocks I found to be extremely distracting, but it was nice to see him around and he was solid (as usual) in his part as Ilderim, the man who makes money off these Roman circuses. Everyone was quite serviceable in their roles, and Jack Huston was actually quite good, but there was nothing that overly stood out to me about their acting.

To be honest, do yourself a favour and see the 1959 version of this film. I know not everyone agrees that it has held up, but it really is a good watch for a 3+ hour movie. However, this 2016 3D Ben-Hur is a serviceable remake of an absolute classic and isn't the worst remake of something I've seen. The pacing is really good despite the confusing beginning and clunky end, and doesn't feel nearly like it's 2.5 hours long. It's not a perfect film, but I've definitely seen far worse this summer.


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad, 2016
Directed by David Ayer

A secret government agency, led by Amanda Waller, begins to recruit a dream team of super villains to undergo secret missions. However, Waller may have gotten more than she bargained for with the likes of Deadshot, Harley Quinn and the others.

Honestly, I had high hopes for Suicide Squad. I really hoped this would give DC the good reviews it surely needs and get its superhero trail going. Because, if I haven't mentioned already, I don't really care for Marvel movies. For me, they're a little too light, don't take themselves seriously enough and have a little too much humor. I know, I know. I'm probably the only person who complains that Marvel movies have too much humor, but whatever. I am a huge fan of the Dark Knight trilogy and have really wanted some more superhero films like that to be made. However, Man of Steel ended up being pretty blah, and I still haven't seen Batman v. Superman, but Suicide Squad seemed to be what DC needed. Suicide Squad assembled an amazing team of actors (Viola Davis, Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto altogether? Count me in!) and even recruited a really fantastic director, David Ayer. And while critics would right now have you believe this movie is terrible, I would have to disagree.

To be fair, I walked into Suicide Squad aware of the RottenTomatoes score and having lowered expectations definitely helps when it comes to opinions on movies, for me. I knew in advance that this movie was choppy (both in story and in editing) so I found it to be less distracting because I knew it would be that way.

Yes, Suicide Squad isn't a perfect movie. It has many slightly cringe-worthy moments and the villain is absolute garbage and I'm still not sure what her plot actually was, but I still enjoyed it. This is the kind of film that I felt was rushed and, had the team behind it been given more time to write a script or even just not be terrified of repeating the criticisms of Batman v. Superman and just went for it with Ayer's vision, it would've been one of the best films of the summer. However, for whatever reason (be it too little time, or just scared of repeating the BvS fiasco), Suicide Squad was several steps away from greatness.

And while I have made several complaints, there is a lot to like about this film. The film had a lot of genuinely funny moments. I absolutely loved the inclusion of Ike Barinholtz in this cast. As a Mindy Project fan, it was so great to see Morgan in this film. While his part is small, I loved seeing him around. But more on, I really loved most of the cast. Obviously Viola Davis was such a boss. Like seriously, can we just have a superhero/super villain movie starring Viola Davis? I would so watch that. And I think it's no surprise at this point that Margot Robbie steals the show completely. I'm so happy she's finally gotten a big role like this and happy for the roles it will land her in the future. Also, I haven't enjoyed Will Smith in a movie in a while, and he was an absolute pleasure in this. And while Jared Leto isn't my favourite Joker, his rendition really fit the film and I felt he nailed what he was going for. Also, is this the first film that Jai Courtney wasn't actually terrible? In fact, he was really great and really funny. And I feel like Joel Kinneman was, every so often, trying to sound like Tom Hardy (who originally had this role before dropping out).

And it wasn't just the acting that was enjoyable, but there were a lot of great moments. The fight scenes were well done and there was a lot of great humor. I liked the balance of humor and seriousness here better than I do most Marvel movies, but again, I realize this is an unpopular decision.

Like mentioned, the biggest downer for me was how terrible the villain is. Like, honestly the villain was so confusing and I don't really know what Enchantress was trying to accomplish. It's the exact same problem I had with X-Men: Apocalypse, with Apocalypse being incredibly uninteresting and have a really flimsy purpose. It was even just really corny to watch, every time she came on screen. The movie was so enjoyable and then the villain would come on screen and I'd remember why this film is currently sitting at a 31% on RT. Which is a bummer, because the rest of the film was actually a lot of fun.

I really do wish the best for DC, but three films in and no critical hit, I really hope that the DC team takes a few steps back and lets their directing/writing team have the time they need to work on and perfect the next few films. Because had this movie had that chance, it probably would've been both a critical and box-office hit. I understand that DC wants the success Marvel has, but even I can say that Marvel has done the work to earn what they have (or at least most of the time!) Suicide Squad was just a few steps away from greatness, and had a lot of potential. And even with a terrible, awful villain, it was a fun ride while it lasted.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

July Blindspot: All The President's Men

All the President's Men, 1976
Directed by Alan J. Pakula

All The President's Men tells the story of two Washington Post reporters who uncover the details regarding the Watergate robbery and come to realize just how high up the scandal goes.

Honestly, I knew very, very little about Watergate. I'm not an American, nor was I alive in the 70's, so it was not something I knew much of. The extent of my knowledge was that President Nixon had illegally recorded people. Honestly, I always kind of pictured that he just had a secret tape recorder in his office and recorded people. Or someone secretly taped him in his office with said secret tape recorder.

However, our film starts with the reported break in at the Watergate complex, inside the head of the Democratic National Committee. The men are quickly apprehended but were said to have bugging equipment on them. What doesn't initially seem like suspicious details, quickly leads both Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward to start digging in to the story. The farther they get, they realize they have a massive story on their hands, though they couldn't have initially imagined just how high up it goes, even if their own paper doesn't really believe in them.

I put this film on my list because of all the comparisons between this film and Spotlight. As well, I am a big fan of both Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford and it seemed like something I shouldn't miss out on. Indeed, the film is quite like Spotlight, in many ways. The thing I really liked about Spotlight is that it didn't sidetrack into the journalists personal lives and included dramas there. It only included personal things that were relevant to the investigate story. As well here, I have the exact same praise for All the President's Men. This movie is innately focused on the subject at hand and doesn't stray.

All the President's Men expertly lays down the story, unfolding piece by piece with great timing. The reveals are well-timed and again, the movie lays out how I imagine reading an article on this subject would've. Honestly, this film is just really good at pretty much everything. It's expertly told and makes it understandable to me (as someone who knows nothing about Watergate). The acting is really good here as well, and I just love Hoffman and Redford. They're a really fun pairing together.

Anyway, I'm happy I finally did watch this and wish I had watched it with my husband because I know he would've really liked it. Another great edition to the Blindspot series!


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Eye In The Sky

Eye In The Sky, 2016
Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi

What would you do if you have your enemies located and have your best chance of killing them? And what would you do if suddenly an innocent child enters the target zone? Is one child's life worth the risk of letting the bad guys go free with the promise of much more death and destruction? These are the kind of ethical questions Eye in The Sky asks in it's almost real-time dilemma.

The British military has been tracking several terrorist/extremists for several years in Kenya, a friendly country. They rank high up on the Most Wanted for the East African list. They are dangerous and are known to have been involved in prior large bombings in the country. However things get complicated fast when the option to capture no longer seems viable, and when the decision to kill has been made, a young civilian girl selling bread enters the target zone, what do you do? The decisions are made by people all around the world, from friendly Somali's on the ground in Kenya, to military in Nevada, Hawaii and various locations in Britain.

Eye In the Sky is the kind of war movie I really, really like. I'm not really into on the battleground type of war films. What interests me is war films that ask really strong questions. I'm a huge fan of the Hurt Locker. So Eye In The Sky was genuinely up my alley. Eye In The Sky asks us questions about how ethical drones are and what kind of sacrifices we should be making during war. While Britain and Kenya are not at war in this movie (making the decisions even more muddied), it does reflect the things that our militaries face. As well, the movie is set in imperfect real time (it's more or less real time with some shaving down of time of "trying to get in contact" with people). And I love the decision it made to do that. Eye In The Sky is tense and taut, and plays it's hand well. Like I mentioned, it's not just one room of military employees making these decisions, it's phone calls to various other locations around the world, all involved in this job. And it's a movie that about bureaucracy that is actually interesting! The characters are constantly "referring up" and it shows just how difficult these decisions are, how many people want to weigh in, and how many people do need to weigh in (including people with little to no context). The writing and direction here is excellent. We are constantly feeling the weight of the decisions that need to be made, and that hardly ever lets up.

As well, the acting here is all really great. The script of the film really let all the characters be real humans. We are given a little bit of context to their lives, but we see how these decisions affect, emotionally, many of the characters involved. Helen Mirren, as Colonel Katherine Powell is determined to do whatever it takes to complete her mission. Mirren gives Powell such a strength and is such a force. As the lead of this film, Mirren reminds me why she's as big a star as she is. And while I haven't seen as many films of hers as I would like, the character she plays here feels refreshing and an interesting choice. As well, among the cast we also have Alan Rickman, in one of his final roles, and Aaron Paul. Alan Rickman is just so solid as usual. While his character isn't a showy one, he brings a steadiness to it. Also, Aaron Paul is probably one of the most believable expressive male actors. Isn't he just so great at being constantly teary-eyed? While his role isn't overly large, he is perfect as the emotionally involved pilot who gets the job of launching the drone strike. Aaron Paul needs better film roles, and this was definitely one of them. And also Barkhad Abdi! It was so great seeing him in a film again. It's a shame this is basically his first project since Captain Phillips, but again, Abdi is just really great here and is given a large part (which is nice to see!). I want Barkhad Abdi in more things, because he really is a great actor.

Honestly, I encourage everyone to see this film. Whatever your thoughts are on drone strikes, all opinions seem to be represented here. It's thought-provoking but it's also just a really good thriller. What will happen to the little girl? Will the terrorists get away? The film is tense all the way through and is a better film for it. Go see this movie and support films like this!


Thursday, 30 June 2016

June Blindspot: Raging Bull

Raging Bull, 1980
Directed by Martin Scorsese

I have a big confession to make.... I really did not enjoy Raging Bull.

I know, I know. How can I not love this movie? It's regarded as one of Scorsese's best films and is a pop culture icon. However, I just really didn't care for it. I found Jake La Motta to be someone I had absolutely no sympathy for, and nor did I find I had any sympathy for any of the other characters either. And I know that was probably the point, but films like that make it a lot harder to love.

Anyway, Raging Bull is sort of an anti-biopic about Jake La Motta, a boxer with a complicated personal life. It takes us through the years with his rise to fame and his absolute crash later in life. Jake is someone who is sexist and paranoid and domestic abuser. He's angry and flippant and completely crazy. And I know this is the story of a real person, but it's hard to get behind a movie where a man beats his wives and seems to learn pretty much nothing. After getting married a second time to the extremely young Vickie, Vickie doesn't seem to be exactly innocent either. However, she's young and wants to have a life outside of her controlling and violent husband. But anytime she goes out, Jake is paranoid she's sleeping with someone else. And then there's Jake brother, Joey, who is also crazy. While less paranoid than Jake, Joey keeps things from his brother but also often encourages him. It's a messed up family and Jake is a very messed up person.

Honestly, I'm not exactly sure why I didn't like Raging Bull. I find I hardly ever enjoy boxing movies, but I did think I would like this one. However, the performances are extraordinary here. De Niro just knocks it out of the park, winning his second Oscar for this performance. Famous for being extremely method for this role and for both packing on the muscle and then packing on all the extra pounds for the second half of the film, De Niro brings absolute rage and paranoia to this film. It was almost worth sitting through just for him. But I would also be remiss to not mention Joe Pesci. Honestly, to me, he's still the robber from Home Alone, but discovering all the work he did with Martin Scorsese has been a revelation. Pesci is also so fantastic in this role. After falling for his performance in Goodfellas, he is also so spot on here as Joey. He and De Niro have a great chemistry together, both for brotherly bonding (of which there is little) and for the absolute fights (of which there are many). He absolutely deserved his nomination.

I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't like this more. However, there just seems to be something about Scorsese movies that I never seem to enjoy. Admittedly The Departed has grown on me, but I thought Goodfellas was just alright and I really didn't care for Hugo at all. So there does seem to be a trend. It's a shame I don't care for his films more, but they just don't seem to be to my taste.


The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan, 2016
Directed by David Yates

I don't know if I mentioned last week in my review of Free State of Jones, but I got those tickets for free for an advance screening. And apparently in this new city I live in, not as many people enter contests for advance screening tickets because I also won tickets for The Legend of Tarzan this week!

So Wednesday evening my husband and I drove across the city to see a new movie for free. I honestly didn't care too much to see this movie, but was vaguely curious what David Yates has been up to since doing the last few Harry Potter films.

The Legend of Tarzan tells the story of John Clayton III, formerly known as Tarzan by the popular media. John has been living in England with his wife Jane for the past 8 years, inheriting the family title and manor. But King Leopold of Belgium, who has colonized a large part of the African Congo, invites John to visit the locals and visit schools and villages. However, what John and Jane don't know is that this was orchestrated for a different reason. King Leopold's right hand man, Leon Rom, actually wants to trade Tarzan to a deadly African tribe in exchange for extremely rare diamonds.

Firstly, I do need to commend the film, in a way, for being about a lot more than just a man who swings from vines and was raised by apes. The film does attempt to bring a more historical context and talk about timely issues. Surprisingly, the film deals a lot with the atrocity that Belgium and King Leopold wreaked in the Congo, taking thousands and thousands of the local natives as slaves. However, despite the film touching on this, it mainly just felt like a very fluffy film. There isn't really a whole lot of plot overall, it's mainly just Tarzan and George Washington Williams, an American historian who wanted proof of King Leopold enslaving the African people, attempting to save a village and Jane who were kidnapped by Leon Rom. So there was lots of action, lots of fights, lots of jumping off cliffs and swinging on vines. But not a lot in the way of actual story.

However, while it wasn't the best movie ever made, I did find it at least somewhat fun. This is a classic popcorn flick, in that it's not all that heavy to watch but it's fun and filled with action and romance. Alexander Skarsgard was decent as Tarzan, but the standouts for me were Margot Robbie as Jane and Samuel L Jackson as George Washington Williams. Margot's Jane was not someone who stood idly by and let herself be a damsel. She's strong and fierce and has a strong sense of self. Samuel L Jackson as Williams however, was definitely my favourite part of the film. His character was like a version of someone he played in a Tarantino film, but the PG-13 version. Honestly, he was the humor in the film and it was just fun.

Honestly, this movie could've been a lot better and the fact that so many people from the Harry Potter films were behind it makes me disappointed it wasn't better than it was. It was fluff and really not all that good fluff. But at least they made it somewhat fun to watch, even if David Yates is capable of much better things. He's hoping his next directorial effort, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is much better than this.


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Free State of Jones

Free State of Jones, 2016
Directed by Gary Ross

Free State of Jones tells the little known story about a group of runaway and slaves during the American Civil War. Led by Newton Knight, a Confederate soldier who deserted, he grows this community and form an armed rebellion against the Confederates.

To be honest, Free State of Jones left me feeling not too much while walking out the theatre. I felt more appreciation for the facts it told than admiration for the story it told. What I mean is, Free State of Jones touched on a lot of interesting parts of history that I hadn't seen told on screen before, however it could've been told much more cinematically.

The first half of this film tells of Newton Knight deserting the war to deliver a young boy's body back home to his mother, the same hometown Newton is from. Already fed up with the war, he starts to empower the women who are left behind and grows frustrated that the Confederate soldiers are taking much more than the "10 percent" of homeowners food and clothing. He becomes such a nuisance in the community that he must flee and joins a small community of escaped slaves in the swamps of Mississippi. From there, the community grows into more than just escaped slaves. It becomes other men who deserted the war and others who are tired of the Confederates and want to join in a rebellion against them. Much of this is well told, and we see our characters grow and relate to one another. Newton grows close with Rachel, a woman who is a housemaid but is a large part of the resistance.

However, the second half of the film seems to try to cover too much time and doesn't concentrate enough on any point. It just sort of hop-skips to different "interesting" points without too much character develop or growth or even narrative (besides the onscreen captions telling us what happens) in between. That being said, the points they do lead to are interesting. They are parts little told about after the war and the tensions in the south after the Emancipation given by Lincoln. However, it almost seems like a montage of "important" moments that just happen to feature the same few set of characters. It's just a shame that there couldn't be a better overall narrative. While many historical films often seem to care more about their characters and their stories, this movie seems to have overcompensated. It seems to care too much about the facts and is less focused on building a good narrative or character development.

However, much good can still be said about this film. Matthew McConaughey gives a worthy performance as Newton. A sort of Robin Hood character, Newton is kind but fierce and McConaughey nails the balance. And I don't mean to undercut the character of Rachel in the above description. She is a great behind the scenes force in this rebellion. She starts by feeding the small band of escaped slaves and Newton, providing them with small knives and food. Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives such emotion to Rachel. An actress who deserves much bigger roles than she's been getting is a force of gracious strength.

As well, while the narrative could've been better, the inclusiveness of everyday religious language that likely would've been commonplace back then was very well done. There was much more talk of God and Jesus, and having characters state "no one can own a Child of God" seemed much more appropriate than some other historical films are often written. As a Christian, it was encouraging to see that this film didn't shy away from that, and it felt much more authentic because of that.

Overall, like I mentioned in the beginning, I neither really liked nor really disliked Free State of Jones. I have much appreciation for the parts of history they decided to tell. The film had a lot of potential, and even reached it at points, but it's a film that would've been much better suited to be told in a TV mini-series than a two-and-a-half hour film.


Tuesday, 31 May 2016

May Blindspot: Fargo

Fargo, 1996
Directed by Joel Coen

I seriously wasn't sure if I was going to be able to find time to watch a blindspot this month. I'm currently in the midst of packing up so my husband and I can move 4-5 hours away for my husbands new job, starting this Monday. So we've been extremely busy. However, I finally did manage time to watch this movie, right before the end of the month.

However, I feel like this film is a little difficult for me to review. Without having watched this movie first, my husband and I just finished watching Fargo Season 1. So this movie and show were very similar, but Fargo the movie felt so much shorter and brief, due to the fact that Fargo the show was able to expand on it's plot for almost 10 hours. So watching the movie after the show made it feel like an incredibly shortened version of the show.

Anyway, Fargo is about crime in small town Minnesota. Jerry Lundegaard is car salesman who is in so much financial trouble that he hires two men to kidnap his wife for ransom, to be paid by his father in law (who is rich and owns the car dealership Jerry works at). However, things go wrong quickly and the situation rapidly turns from non-violent (like intended) to extremely violent and hostile. Soon, the pregnant chief of police is on the case, who is determined to solve the triple homicide that ensued.

Fargo is a film I'll need to watch again in a few months time, once I've had a bit of space from the TV show. The two were very similar in tone, music, look and story, which speaks highly of both the mediums. I really loved the first season, so I was happy to find out how much the show mirrored and reflected the original film.

Marge Gunderson, played some tenaciously by Frances McDormand, is an extremely eager and determined police chief, and what starts as a triple homicide finds her wrapped up in something larger. I'm a little surprised that Frances McDormand won an Oscar for this, but I'm pleased she has one. Her part wasn't extraordinarily large (or it didn't feel like it anyway) and it wasn't an overly "showy" performance, but she was quirky and determined and fun to watch. Those type of performances don't often win awards! As well, William H Macy was so great as Jerry. A little awkward, but crazy enough to have his wife kidnapped, Jerry is an interesting character and William H Macy played him just so well! Also, Steve Buscemi was creepy and weird but so good as well. What great casting for this one!

Fargo was a fun movie that is kind of darkly funny (something the Coen brothers are known for). It's a film I'd really like to revisit once I've gotten some space from Fargo the show. However, I did enjoy Fargo, though not nearly as much as other people do. Though that often seems to be the case with me and Coen brother movies. They always seem right up my alley, and often are, but they just don't make a huge impact on me. But we'll see once I re-evaluate this in a few months down the road.


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Top 10 Films of 2015

So now that we're getting close to being halfway through 2016, I thought it would finally be time to post my top 10 films of 2015! Yes, I know, I always post these really late, but I never get a chance to see everything I want to in theatres and several I like to watch more than once before deciding, so finally I think I have settled on my list!

2015 was an interesting year for film, in my opinion. We had a post-apocalyptic action film as one of the best reviewed films of the year, there was a 3 way race between a comedy, a journalism film and a western epic for Best Picture, an indie movie won Best Visual Effects, and we continued the trend of releasing lots of Christian/Biblical based movies. As well, we saw a year that had more female-led films at the forefront, though it was always another year of #Oscarssowhite. However, this year was a fun year for movies, and while I had fewer films I was passionate about than last year, there were lots of great films. Check out my list of my favourite 10 below.

10. Love & Mercy
I have no idea what to expect going into this movie. This was one I had heard good reviews about from TIFF in 2014, but it was like 8 months later that I picked up this DVD from the library. Like Carey Mulligan above, I absolutely love Paul Dano and am interested in basically everything he's in. Love & Mercy is the beautiful and heart-breaking story of Brian Wilson, leader of the Beach Boys. The narrative flips from Brian in the 60's, crafting his masterpiece "Pet Sounds" while losing his grip on reality and dealing with mental illness, and Brian in the 80's, who is under the control of his guardian/therapist but falls in love with Melinda. Love & Mercy is so fantastically acted. It's such robbery that Paul Dano never managed to get an Oscar nomination for this. As well, both Elizabeth Banks and John Cusak do amazing work, and it's a shame this movie wasn't more highly recognized. The Beach Boys are a band I know literally nothing about, but this story of Brian is a beautiful one.

9. Spotlight
Spotlight is a wonderful and heartbreaking film about the sexual abuse within the Catholic church, and the Boston Globe Spotlight team who cracked the case open wide in the early 2000s. Spotlight is just so perfect in the way that it delves into the story and that's the main focus. We get offhand comments about the journalists personal lives but never much more than that. We don't have a romance storyline or a divorce storyline or really anything between these journalists except for what happens while researching the scandal. Spotlight reveals things steadily, getting more and more shocking as we go along, but never sensationalizes the topic it's dealing with. Everything is treated with sensitivity, but it's also shocking enough to make it's point. Spotlight is pitch-perfect in the way it handles it's subject matter and it's characters, balancing respect and shock. The acting is great and the pacing is just perfect.

8. What We Do In the Shadows
I love a great, quirky comedy. And this is as great and quirky as they come. From the guys who brought us Flight of the Concords, we have this horror mockumentary about a group of vampires who live as roommates in Wellington, New Zealand. I don't even really know how to describe this movie, but it's like watching the Office, but it's about vampires who live together. They've been vampires for a few centuries, so have a hard time adjusting to technology and don't understand the modern world. But they also can't see themselves in the mirror so are unable to see what they look like or how their outfit looks before they go out. This movie is honestly just hilarious and is a fantastic use of the mockumentary style. Do yourself a favour and watch this movie if you haven't already!

7. Sicario
There are a few movies out there that, right after I watch them, I know I immediately need to see it again (and I do). Sicario was one of those movies. I watched Sicario 2 days in a row, needing  second time to take in everything I had seen. Sicario is the story of idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer. She's recruited onto a government task force to fight the war on drugs between the USA and Mexico border. However, the two men she work with don't exactly do everything by the books. Sicario is an excellent thriller. Emily Blunt gives such an intense and reserved performance. Once again, it's a shame Emily Blunt was looked over when it came time for Oscar nominations. As well, Benicio Del Toro gives a chilling performance. As Alejandro, Del Toro  perfectly gives us an air of mystery, but we also know he's probably not someone Kate can trust (nor does she). Sicario is proof enough that, just because there's a female at the top of the cast, doesn't mean a film can be any less harsh, violent, serious or well-made.

6. Steve Jobs
I'm a sucker for Aaron Sorkin. I feel like I'm one of the only people who really, really enjoyed the Newsroom. So when I heard Aaron Sorkin was penning the script for a 3 act Steve Jobs movie, I was incredibly interested. As mentioned, Steve Jobs is told in 3 acts, all at 3 products launches that were big parts of Jobs career, whether for good or bad. Michael Fassbender is so electric as Steve Jobs. While he may not look all that much like him until the 3rd act, he brings such an energy to the role that's irresistible. The supporting cast as well is able to shine. Kate Winslet as Jobs's assistant Joanna is the heart and sole and the goodness of all the manipulative people around her. Jeff Daniels and Seth Rogen are both given great moments to shine and really do lots with their roles. I personally think Steve Jobs was a fantastically written film, and it was just s whip-smart, snappy and smart (everything you expect a Sorkin script to be). Personally, I found it disappointing that it's only Oscar notices were for Fassbender and Winslet, it deserved a Best Picture nomination, directing and screenplay nominations. However, Steve Jobs is a risky and interesting take on an American icon, and it's incredibly well told, acted and paced.

5. The Revenant
A film that was high on my anticipation list a year before it was finally released, The Revenant is such a beautiful film, filled with spirituality, symbolism, violence and sadness. The heart-breaking story of a man left for dead by his compatriots, Hugh Glass literally crawls out from his grave and treks across the American wilderness, seeking revenge on the man who left him and killed his son. The cast here is fantastic. I can't say enough about Leo's performance in this. He's 150% committed to this role, and it definitely shows (in a good way). This movie isn't afraid to take it's time, to flesh out it's characters, to meditate on the scenery surrounding the characters and to have long stretches without speaking. Inarritu crafts such a different film from last years Best Picture winner, Birdman, and it's a film that makes your heart ache. The Revenant is just such a beautiful and heart-breaking film, I'm so glad that Emmanuel Lubezki three-peated to win his 3rd Oscar in a row. And while I don't know how often it's one I'll revisit, it's one that stays in my soul long after I've watched it.

4. The Big Short
The first time I watched the Big Short, I didn't even come close to fully understanding what was happening. So while I originally gave the film a 7/10, I knew that would likely shoot up the more times I watched it. And since first watching in December, I've watched it two more times, both of those within close proximity to each other. And while I can't say I understand everything that is discussed in this film, I've had a lot of time to come to understand the basics. And wow, what an incredibly smart movie this is. This film walks the incredible line of being a snarky and sardonic film, filled with wit and humor, to showing us how big a deal the housing market crash was going to be and how much it impacted, not just America, but the entire world. The Big Short is an incredibly smart movie, and it's films like this that undoubtedly deserve to win screenplay awards. Adam McKay is incredible in giving us a film about a topic almost no one understands, and it never feels like we're watching a dull movie that's lecturing us. He presents it to the audience in a way that will make us pay attention.

3. Ex Machina
I don't know if I can really say anything about Ex Machina that hasn't already been said. It's bone-chilling and such a psychological ride. It's an incredibly fascinating movie that explores so many interesting themes and ideas. When Caleb wins a contest to spend the weekend at his companys CEO Nathan's private estate, he finds out it's more than just relaxing at this beautiful home. He gets to do a type of Turing test on Ava, an AI that Nathan has created. However, Caleb finds himself quickly falling for Ava. The acting here is so impeccable, the cinematography stunning, and the screenplay is incredibly smart. Ex Machina is not a film for everyone, but it's definitely one a lot more people should see.

2. Brooklyn
Man, is this not the sweetest and nicest movie you've ever seen? And despite that, it's not to be taken as a less serious or well made movie. I can't remember the last time a movie this "nice" was made and was as well received as it was. Saoirse Ronan is just so incredible and could not have been more perfectly cast. As well, the true MVP of this seems to be Emory Cohen as Eilis's sweetheart Tony. Emory Cohen truly lights up the screen as his loveable and sweet Tony. But the story itself is just well told, and takes its time to let the story just stroll along.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Could my #1 movie be anything other than Mad Max, really? Mad Max: Fury Road was the surprise of the year for me. It wasn't until a few days before the movie hit theatres and I started to see how incredible the reviews were that I started to get interested. However, my husband and I found ourselves with a free afternoon the weekend it came out, so after debating whether to go see Kingsman at the $5 theatre or seeing this opening weekend, we made the very correct choice of seeing Mad Max. Mad Max is a movie you NEED to see if you haven't already. It's the perfect blend of action, story. It's simple in premise, but George Miller elevates this beyond it's simplicity, giving it more than meets the eye. There are so many wonderful women in power and in charge in this movie, and the relationship between Max and Furiosa is so wonderful. As well, the 5 wives are all so incredible and take charge in their situations, instead of just being damsels in distress. And Nux has such incredible growth over the course of 2 hours. It's feminist, it's hardcore, it had a guy who's blind and playing a flame-throwing guitar! Seriously, this movie is ridiculous and fun and so amazing. I can't say enough about what an absolutely perfect movie this is. It'll be redefining the action movie genre for years to come.