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.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Mini Reviews: The Jungle Book/Creed/Sisters

Hi all! I thought I'd do a few quick reviews for you since I haven't been able to really find the time to write full reviews, but still wanted to share my thoughts!

The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book is a movie I grew up with and know really well. It's one of the few handfuls of movies my grandmother owned and we watched it frequently when my family went to visit her. So as a result, I was a little wary of the "epic" and action-filled trailers that was making the Jungle Book look more like an action-adventure than it's fairly relaxing cartoon counterpart. However, my fears were very eased upon viewing. Yes, it's more action packed than the original, but most of the action scenes were just expansion on scenes in the original. The ease of Mowgli spending time with Baloo, with Baloo and Bagheera bickering and how uneasy Kaa the snake makes us are all included. Yes, there are alterations, but I felt JOn Favreau did an excellent job of being an adaption of a well loved film, but also expanding story lines and references to the original film, and making the film able to stand on it's own.

The voice cast, as I'm sure you've heard by now, really is exceptional. Ben Kingsley as Bagheera is restrained but reassuring. Lupita Nyong'o is warm and motherly as Raksha (Mowgli's wolf mother), Bill Murray is exactly as perfect as you'd expect playing Baloo, Idris Elba is terrifying as Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson is absolutely chilling as Kaa the snake and, my personal standout, Christopher Walken as King Louie. Absolutely terrifying, his voice suits this role more than I could've expected, and his rendition of "Wanna Be Like You" is incredible. As well, newcomer Neel Sethi is so precious and perfect as Mowgli. The visual effects and animation of the animals are superbly done. Jon Favreau has created a marvel here as this film is such a treat.


As a disclaimed, I do not enjoy Rocky. I watched the first one and didn't care for it. So I knew Creed was never going to be my cup of tea. However, the fact that this was starring Michael B. Jordan and directing by Ryan Coogler piqued my interest slightly, but boxing movies, especially ones within the Rocky franchise don't interest me. And while I enjoyed the movie slightly more than I thought, I still didn't think this film was overly special. Michael B Jordan is very good here, and while I did think Sylvester Stallone does a great job, I don't think he really deserved to win an Oscar for playing Rocky again. My personal standout was Tessa Thompson, as Don's girlfriend Bianca. However, she was a woman with her own agency, and wasn't just "the girlfriend" which was incredibly refreshing. Can I just get a movie about Bianca? That I would definitely watch! Anyway, Creed was able to lift itself above the stereotypes of the boxing movie genre, but it's still just not a film for me, because I wasn't really the target audience.


We've all been waiting for another Tina Fey/Amy Poehler movie since they last got together to do Baby Mama. However, Sisters is probably just as good as the mediocre Baby Mama. Sisters is a pretty typical story. Maura and Kate are sisters, but could not be more different. Maura is the responsible one who just went through a divorce. And Kate is the irresponsible single mother who loves to party and keeps losing her job. When their parents announce they're selling their childhood home, Maura and Kate are crushed. But when they are told to come home to clean out their rooms, they decide to throw one last party like they had in high school. Sister had some good laughs, but not enough for me to overly love the movie. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have such great chemistry though that it almost(!) makes up for how mediocre the movie is. Sisters was a movie that could've been way funnier, and even had a bit of character development, but it just didn't make it all the way.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

April Blindspot: Jaws

Jaws, 1975
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Wow, the last post that I did was my March blindspot! Sorry it's been so long, but my husband and I spent 2 weeks of April in Italy, so that was most of our month. Hopefully over the next week or so I'll be able to catch up on some quick reviews. But most of all, I needed to post my April blindspot! I know it's already May 1st, but I did watch this in April (two days ago) and have finally gotten time to sit down and share my thoughts.

Again, Jaws feels like a movie that's pretty self-explanatory and most people already know what the film is about. Amity is a small New England beach town that, right before the 4th of July, sees a young girl attacked by a shark and killed. The new police chief, Martin Brody, wants to close the beaches, but with the 4th of July coming up, the Mayor of Amity doesn't want to lose any business or tourism by closing the beaches. However, after a little boy is killed by the shark in the middle of the day, with dozens and dozens of family witnessing it, a call is sent out for the shark to be killed.

Honestly, Jaws is kind of cheesy. I mean, it's a story about a mayor who doesn't want to close his beaches because he's scared of losing tourism money, even though half the town just saw a little kid get eaten by a shark? However, at the same time, it's still an effective thriller! I mean, there's tons of shots in the first half of the film that are from the sharks point of view, with that menacing John Williams score playing, with the shark weaving in and out of people legs and you're wondering who is going to be attacked next. Or we know the shark is coming and people pull their legs out of the water just in time. Stuff like that. Honestly, it stressed me out a little bit and it was great! I'm glad that this still holds up as a decent thriller, even if the actual story is a bit cheesy. But does anyone really watch this movie for the plot though?

As well, I felt the effects of the shark held up decently for being 40 years old. However, the fact that there actually wasn't tons of footage of the actual shark made the movie much more effective. Even so, the shark jumping up on the boat at the end of the movie, while obviously not amazing looking, is not as bad as it could've been for being 40 years old. Similar to the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park that looked much more amazing when it originally came out, but they still are pretty decent robotics now.

While I didn't love Jaws nearly as much as I enjoyed last months Blindspot (Die Hard!), it was fun finally, finally, finally catching up with such a classic. It amazes me that Spielberg was a mere 26 years old when he filmed this (only 2 years older than I am now!) and that this essentially got him his career. While it doesn't nearly have the engaging plot or character nuances of many of Spielbergs other films, it's still an exceedingly fine entry into his filmography and remains a classic thriller for a reason!