January 17, 2016

Movie Review: Mad Max Fury Road *

Mad Max: Fury Road is nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
Granted, I'm not a fan of this genre, but isn't the true test how many people outside the genre it appeals to?
There's a lot of shtick here: the sexy babes in skimpy clothing, the endless car chase, the pyrotechnics, the snarling. And then there are the characters I didn't care about.
The only good things about this film:
1. It has zero chance of winning the Oscar.
2. I watched it on HBO so didn't have to pay for it.
One star out of five for Mad Max Fury Road.

January 16, 2016

Movie Review: The Revenant ***

Have you ever used the word revenant before? I guess it takes a Mexican (Director Alejandro González Iñárritu) to teach us a cool new word.
Here's how to use it in a sentence:
1. This film is revenant. (Definition: half an hour too long, so be sure to get a snack.)
2. The situation in this film is revenant. (Definition: preposterous, so be prepared to suspend disbelief.)
It's beautifully filmed and well-acted, and excruciatingly gory. I can take a lot of gore but even I winced a few times. The bear-mauling scene is, of course, really hard to watch. But, voila! he not only survives that, but he's resurrected (making him the revenant) by revenge, and during his long, crawling journey he manages to save a young Indian girl from rape, ride a horse off a cliff and (even though the horse dies) once again survive, and then he guts the horse and crawls into it for shelter. That's a charming scene.
Much of this film is DiCaprio crawling through gorgeous, frozen scenery. And then he crawls some more, and then he gets to his feet and limps along for twenty more minutes, and then just when you're so bored of all that walking, he walks some more, without a limp now, for twenty more minutes.
I needed this story to move along - I got his passion to survive - how could I not, when it's thrown in my face over and over again.
Is The Revenant an Academy Award winner? Obviously not in my book. Is it a great film? It's a good film that would have been better if it were shorter. Will it win? Probably. But there are other films that, in my opinion, are more deserving of the award.
Three out of five stars for The Revenant.

January 15, 2016

Movie Review: Too Many Movies, Too Little Time

Concussion ***** Riveting. Great performances. The conflict: the reverence for an American institution vs. the science that proves it's killing its heroes.
This film is eye-opening, riveting and heart-breaking.
I'm shocked that Will Smith didn't get an Oscar nomination for this role.
Five stars out of five for Concussion.
Carol * So extremely boring. Oh my god. I couldn't wait for this to end, and the only reason I didn't
walk out is because I was with a friend and she seemed into it. Turned out she wasn't, and if I'd just said the word we could have saved ourselves 2 hours of extreme boredom.
I didn't get the chemistry between these two characters, didn't see the connection or attraction, didn't see a reason for Carol to give up her life for this strangely aloof and indifferent young woman. I didn't care about either of them.
Even the sex scene is boring: unnecessary and uninteresting, and obviously Cate Blanchett has a no-breast clause in her contract.
One star out of five for Carol.

Joy ** The first hour is very slow - way too much build-up to a payoff that isn't all that big of a payoff, and then in the final act when Joy has become a major-league success, I hated how superior she was.
Good performances and good story but bad script. And it's 45 minutes too long.
Two stars out of five for Joy.

The Hateful Eight ** I think Quentin Tarantino is a genius (loved Django Unchained, loved Inglorious Basterds) but this film is no illustration of that. Not much happens (unless you count the blood and guts spewing all over the place). There's a lot of talk, and that gets pretty boring. There's no real depth to any of the characters, no one to root for, no one with any humanity, so I just hoped they would all kill other so the movie could end. I didn't walk out, even though it's about three hours long, because I kept thinking, It's Tarantino - there's going to be a big payoff.
There wasn't.
Two stars out of five for The Hateful Eight.

Creed **** Sylvester Stallone's performance is heartfelt and authentic; a joy to watch. The beginning is hokey but it's not long before you recognize the heart in this film, and you just have to roll with it. It's Rocky. If you liked the first one you'll like this one.
Four stars out of five for Creed.

December 29, 2015

Movie Review: Starwars - The Force Awakens **1/2

The Force Awakens is 2 hours and 16 minutes long, about two hours longer than necessary.
The beginning is hokey and overly-dramatic, an homage to the original, which is 30 years old, and it feels like it; the music, the slanted, scrolling text...old, old, old. I suppose that's what most people like about it. But those early minutes are a yawn; characters I didn't care about, nothing exceptional happening, not enough tension, excruciatingly slow. If you need a nap you can snooze through the first hour and you won't really miss anything.
The critics are going easy on this film, out of a sense of nostalgia, I think - certainly not for excellence in film making.
It's beautifully filmed, and Daisy Ridley's performance is excellent, and I loved Adam Driver as the evil Ren. It's fun seeing Harrison Ford in this role after all these years, and he looks great but his performance is unexceptional. Carrie Fisher can barely move her mouth after all the cosmetic surgery, so it's hard to watch her, and she really has nothing to do here. If she hadn't been in the original we'd have to wonder how this actor ever got hired.
My favorite line of the film: Han Solo sees Princess Leia (now a general) for the first time in years and says, "You changed your hair." Good one.
Mark Hamill has about 3 minutes in this film, and no lines, which is probably a good thing.
If you can stay awake for the first hour and a half, you'll probably enjoy the rest of the film.
Two and a half stars out of five for Starwars: The Force Awakens.

December 21, 2015

Movie Review: The Big Short ****1/2

Half the time I had no idea what the hell they were talking about in this film, even when Anthony Bourdain or Salena Gomez were explaining it (which is a very funny device), and so it made me feel pretty stupid. But I loved it anyway.
Steve Carrell is a really fine actor. And even though he received an Oscar nomination for his role in Foxcatcher, I think he hasn't gotten the recognition that is due him because he's done so much comedy. But his role in Foxcatcher was  the beginning of acknowledgement, and in The Big Short, as Mark Baum, you will see again what a natural actor he is. He is eminently believable and authentic.
Christian Bale is a little weird in his role. Too extreme, for my taste. I love Ryan Gosling (although I hate his dyed black hair), and all the guys who were Mark Baum's team. But who impresses me the most is a guy named Jeremy Strong. Terrific performance; subtle, real.
Go see The Big Short. Maybe you can explain it to me. But even if you can't I'm pretty sure you'll be glad you saw it.
Four and a half stars out of five for The Big Short.   

December 17, 2015

Movie Review: The Danish Girl **

There's much Oscar buzz about Eddie Redmayne's performance in The Danish Girl, and he's already received a Golden Globe nomination, but really, he's not all that good here - certainly no comparison to his performance last year as Steven Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
I was so bored by The Danish Girl. I couldn't count the number of times I looked at my watch. Everything you might want to know is in the trailer, so if you've seen that then save your money.
I didn't care about Einar Wegenar (Eddie Redmayne's character), altho I cared a lot about his wife; I empathized with and was engaged by Alicia Vikander's performance, which I found authentic. Eddie Redmayne, on the other hand, is not believable as a man in the 1930s who's caught in a woman's body. One day he puts on a dress and voila! he thinks he's a woman.
Nothing about the way this story is told rings true. All of Redmayne's emotion is conveyed through facial twitching and vamping; neither of which will win any awards. But that's just my humble opinion (watch him win another Oscar and prove me wrong).
Go see this film and let me know what you think.
Two stars out of five for The Danish Girl. 

November 28, 2015

Movie Review: Too many movies, too little time...

A few of the movies I've seen in recent weeks.

Spotlight *****
Great acting, great story, lots of tension, characters you root for...this film has it all.
5 stars out of 5 for Spotlight.

Trumbo **
Very disappointing. Interesting story, good performance from Bryan Cranston, not so good performance from Diane Lane (who didn't have much to work with). I didn't know a lot of what went on with the blacklist, only from history, so it was fascinating from that point of view. But this script has no tension, no characters who seem in dire straits, no one to root for. You watch with a sense that everything will turn out fine. Which, mostly, it does.
Also, a little preachy.
2 stars out of 5 for Trumbo.

Room *****
Brie Larson is a wonderful actor. I loved her in The United States of Tara - she was a presence I knew I would see in the future. She's a natural.
It takes too long to get this mom and son out of "the room" but once they do the story begins in earnest.
I tried to read the book this film was based on and didn't get very far, but I thought it would make a good film, and it does. Which is unusual, when the film is better than the book.
The humanity of the story comes when they have to live in a world they've never known.
Great performances.
5 out of 5 stars for Room.

The Martian *****
Matt Damon is fantastic.
A manned mission to Mars and an astronaut is presumed dead after a major storm. How do they rescue him? It's a lot of detail, a lot of technical information (which is not my strong suit), but there's so much tension and so much humanity.
I read the book, which is not my thing at all - way too much detail (I'm a cut-to-the-chase kind of person) - and loved it.
Loved the film.
5 out of five stars for The Martian

Saoirse Ronan is luminous and expressive, and a reason to see this film, but she's mis-cast in the part of a frightened immigrant, who's all alone in a foreign country and out of her element. She never seemed frightened to me - in no time at all she's confident and sophisticated, so there's not much reason to root for her.
This film is getting great reviews but I found it slow, and the story contrived, and at least twenty minutes too long. A gratuitous sex scene (and don't get me wrong, I'm all for gratuitous sex) could have been cut - it was so completely uninteresting and unnecessary - and the entire set up to it. There's much to cut in this film.

Antman ****
Paul Rudd is so funny and appealing that you don't even care how stupid this premise is; a superhero who can shrink himself to the size of an ant. It's a fun film with great performances and a lot of heart.
4 stars out of 5 for Antman