Monday, April 18, 2016

Creed [2015] review

The movie was decently entertaining.  I hadn't heard a bad thing about it, so I expected it to blow me away.  When it didn't, I was a little let down. 

1)  I appreciate that the movie decided to give Michael B. Jordan's character a love interest, but I don't think he needed one.  The movie could have been shorter and they could have expanded on his and Rocky's (aka Unc's) relationship.

2)  Speaking of Rocky, I didn't get why he just suddenly decided to train Adonis.  I appreciate him going to the grave of his late wife and brother in law, but it would have been better if he visited Apollo's grave or even visited Apollo's wife in LA to have a battle on conscience.  It would have served the story better to actually see him battle with the decision and see the weight of Apollo's death being put back into his mind, but I just didn't feel it.

3)  The stat cards for each boxer - what was the point?  As a person that doesn't follow boxing, I don't know if these were real boxers based on their real stats or if this was just a way to quickly show that this untrained kid was way over his head because everyone he was fighting had flawless, near perfect records. 

4)  The Adonis battle to fight to make a name for himself and not live in his father's shadow when paralleled with Rocky's battle with cancer was good writing.  The movie took a small step back at the end when his mom left him a present and the note said make a name for yourself, and the boxers said Creed on them (as well as Johnson) and were the same color as Creed's from Rocky IV so probably not the best way to make a name for yourself by mimicking your dad's style.

5)  When Adonis's eye was swollen, I was half expecting a "Cut me, Rock" to mimic the famous "Cut me, Mick", but it never came, so again, maybe my expectations were too high but this movie was just ok and I can kind of see it as a reboot to the franchise if they powers that be wanted to do it that way and make a Creed II.  Michael B. Jordan was great in the roll and if he does play Creed and Stallone plays Rocky again in the future, then hopefully both and not just one of them will get an Oscar nomination.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Doctor Zhivago [1965] review

+ all around good acting, but Julie Christie stood out as the star, it's a shame she wasn't in it as much as it follows the doctor

- the back drop of the movie was the Russian Revolution, but I didn't think the movie did a good job explaining the sides and if having a czar was a good or bad thing until the everyone in the movie was happy that there was one, while the "enemy" was still operating under their own agenda and did whatever they wanted without an apparent opposition

+ the movie was essentially a flashback as Alec Guinness explains to a girl who may or may not be his niece the story of his brother, the doctor. The movie is bookended by those scenes with Alec Guinness and the girl and the end ties together a certain "Rosebud"-esque theme found in the movie

- I didn't understand how the doctor had a brother when he wasn't present at the funeral. I think they mentioned something about he being with their father, but if that was the case, why wasn't the doctor with his brother and father instead of a family that took him in. If it was explained, I missed it

+/- The movie is beautifully shot similar to "Lawrence of Arabia", but just like it, this movie has a run time of 3 and 1/2 hours.

- Musically, "Lara's Theme" stands out and I felt was a bit over used in the film

Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice [2016] review

Director Zack Snyder continues his story about a man, a Superman, trying to find his place in the real world. Superman, not being of this world, believes he owes it nothing and he will continue to operate as he sees fit. We see Superman save people throughout the movie, but he also gets blamed for killing people in the desert when he saves Lois early on in the film. The people were shot with guns and bullets. Superman doesn't use guns so I don't understand how he gets blamed for it. He also doesn't answer for his crimes against Metropolis from the events of "Man of Steel". He does finally decide to go to Washington DC in front of a council of senators, I believe, to only answer to the recent desert event and nothing more. The scene is then flushed away due to the machinations of Lex Luther.

Lex is introduced early in the film as well, playing basketball at his company. He explains to some senators that he has acquired a small piece of Kryptonite and a large sum was found in the Indian Ocean and he would like to have it delivered to him but he needs embargoes lifted. His intentions are to have it as a just in case measure. For some unbeknownst reasons, he is given the remains of Zod and also access to the ship that crashed in Metropolis in "Man of Steel" where employees leave him work unmolested and unquestioned to his own devices. Regardless of the embargo, he gets his shipment anyway which Batman later steals.

So Superman, Lois, Lex, Batman, and the government are all operating their own agenda. BUT, this is Batman verses Superman, so we need to throw Batman in the mix and show his agenda besides stealing Kryptonite.

We are treated to Batman's origin story yet again, and I believe it's via a dream sequence, and most of the time in this movie, Batman appears to be dreaming. He is also branding criminals for no reason which is branding him the movie's villain. But the American public hates Superman as a whole or at least that is portrayed via the media so he's also the villain. Then thanks to the real villain, Lex, the two villains of the movie - Batman and Superman battle for 5 minutes when those 5 minutes could have been better spent on the situation at hand which was Martha Kent's capture.

Superman eventually finds his place in the world - six feet under the ground. Batman finds Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborb in Lex's files, and WW decides to show up at the final battle against Doomsday to help out I guess. She's sprinkled randomly throughout the film as well for unknown/unexplained reasons.

In the end, I didn't understand Lex's entire plan as it wasn't clear on what events he manipulated and what events happened naturally and to what end he was trying to accomplish. The movie seemed to interrupt itself with every scene and it felt like a person waiting to speak instead of actually listening. Perry White had a few funny lines to break up the seriousness of the film, and Alfred felt like he was cast to do that as well but most of his humor missed the mark. Unfortunately, there wasn't much fun to be had and I'm glad I don't live in Snyder's universe.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spotlight [2015] review

I'm not sure why this movie won Best Picture.  There was a lot I liked, but there was a lot I didn't.  This movie, as well others that were nominated, was based off a true story.  Therefore, this movie had two jobs:  (1) to entertain and (2) to inform. 

(1) How do you make a movie about priests raping young children entertaining? 

Well, what the movie did was it made the priests, and ultimately the Church, the bad guys while the newspaper team known as “Spotlight” was the good guys.  Did it do the best job at executing that?  Unfortunately, no. 
The Spotlight team was alleged to be this group that secretly and separately would uncover the facts that they needed to write their story, a story so strong that the Cardinal couldn't deny or poke holes in it.  The way the movie was shot, it felt like everybody knew what they were doing, even the people in their office that weren't supposed to know.  As the team began prying others for information, I wasn't even sure who those people were, but all were being very difficult about giving any information on first or second meeting.  Then finally, by the third meeting, each source decided to help for seemingly no reason.  The only part that really made sense and the part that was most entertaining was the unsealing of the documents and that process.  The movie could have focused on that process and it would have been a better, probably more exciting movie.

(2) The movie needed to inform me on what is going on, and who the important players were.  Here’s an example of dialogue VERY early on in the movie:

Marty Baron: Did everyone read Eileen McNamara's column this weekend?
Boston Globe Worker: That's the Geoghan case?
Marty Baron: Yeah, what's the follow on that?
Ben Bradlee Jr.: It-It's a column, what kind of follow are you thinking?
Marty Baron: Uh... well apparently this priest molested kids in 6 different parishes over the last 30 years and the attorney for the victims, a Mr...
Eileen McNamara: Garabedian
Marty Baron: Thanks Eileen, Mr Garabedian says Cardinal Law found out about it 15 years ago and did nothing.

Wait, so who's Eileen?  She doesn’t work for Spotlight.  Who's Geoghan?  Who's Garabedian?  Eventually, we find out who these people are, but then the movie starting shoving other characters down our throat.  Who was the guy that Michael Keaton's character was meeting with and why his sudden change of heart at the very end?  That came out of nowhere.  And who exactly was the guy that Mark Ruffalo's character was talking to on the phone -- a former priest who married a nun.  What?  Oh hi, Rachel McAdams's characters husband.  And here's her Nana.  Everyone was in the film.  I wouldn't have been surprised if Spider-man swung in for a scene.

Joking aside, this movie had a tough job and I think it stumbled on the execution.  It wasn’t a bad movie, but I don’t think it was worthy of the Best Picture win. 

The subject matter of this movie was very powerful and very disturbing.  I believe it was handled well and I appreciate the “survivor” actors that were used to portray the pain and frustration.  In a small way, I was almost reminded of Netflix's "Making a Murderer" and how the corrupt system was being put on trial, but the trial would be played out in the newspaper, a trial we would never see as the movie ended with the publishing of the story. 

The acting was phenomenal by the main cast.  Liev Schreiber appeared blasé, but I assumed that's how Marty Baron acted in real life.  Maybe Schreiber should have been more of a Perry White for entertainment's sake.

In the end, I think the movie needed to highlight the good people of "Spotlight" more and made them a tight knit group.  If they weren’t in real life then maybe they should have been for the movie and the truth could have slightly bended.  What also didn’t help was since the beginning of the movie it was implied that the Boston Globe could have broken this story years ago, but it got missed and the person that missed it was the head of Spotlight, Michael Keaton’s character.  The movie took that fact and went in the direction that it happens sometimes, stories get missed, but what was important is that the paper finally did the right thing by releasing the story and doing good investigative work, work that put a strain on their personal life, but it was only mentioned for one specific character and not a focus like I believe it should have been.

Final thought:  The said folo a lot in the movie, but it sounded like follow.  Is folo short for portfolio or something else?  I didn’t understand the term and if it was explained I must have missed it.

***

Best Pic noms in order of enjoyment:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
The Martian
The Revenant
Spotlight
Bridge of Spies

To view:
Room
Brooklyn

Monday, March 21, 2016

Steve Jobs [2015] review

Fassbender, Winslet, Rogen, Daniels, Stuhlbarg, Waterston - all did an excellent job.  I truly felt I was watching a documentary on the characters that they each represented and not the actor him/herself.  The movie is constructed as a play, in a way, with three acts, all taking place before an unveiling of a new product, but as a viewer, I didn't know that until the movie was over.  With that said, when the movie was building up towards the first presentation and then it cut away to sum up the events and time jump, I felt robbed as a viewer. 

When I found myself at the "NeXT" presentation (pun intended), I was semi waiting for the same thing to happen again and I don't know how invested I could get because I didn't want to feel robbed again so I put up a wall.  Thankfully, the plot knocked it down as it focused on the aftermath of Jobs termination and the anger he still felt about it.  Coupled with the events of his personal life with his estranged daughter, and the fact that Jobs himself was adopted as a baby, I did feel sorry for him, but at the same time I kind of hated him and it appeared that everyone in his life at the time did too so the viewer was on the same page with the supporting cast against the main actor so props to Boyle and Sorkin for a job well done. 

After a strong second act, I had renewed hopes for the end of the movie and while I enjoyed parts of it, it just kind of ended.  Maybe I craved more.  Maybe I wanted a fourth or fifth act.  I'm not sure.

In the end, I don't know what I expected or wanted from this movie.  I'm glad it wasn't like Justin Long's portrayal in "iSteve" and I have yet to see Ashton Kutcher's performance in the 2013 movie "Jobs" and at this point I don't know if I will, but I guess I wanted to be entertained as I do with every movie I see and I was for the most part.  I suppose I was left with wanting more and I didn't feel fully satisfied.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Big Short [2015] review

This movie takes the very confusing concept of the housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s and makes it slightly less confusing using humor that combines 3 different yet similar stories into one semi cohesive storyline. The first follows Christian Bale's character, one follows Steve Carell's character (and his group), and the last follows Brad Pitt's "friends". Ryan Gosling's character is associated with Carell's group and he brings a lot of laughs.

At first I was kind of lost. Then the movie takes the gamble by insulting you, but then has Margot Robbie playing herself explain what is going on while she sits in a bubble bath. Hilarious, and thankfully the laughs continue. Director Adam McKay does a great job of keeping you invested in the story, but I found myself fighting it. I was rooting against the characters because I didn't like them and they appeared to be betting against the US economy. Then you realize that they are actually betting against the banks, and at one point I felt sorry for them, so I started rooting for them. Unfortunately, rooting for them meant rooting for the eventual collapse of the US economy due to the then-stable housing market so it was quite the journey.

McKay did a good job putting a face on some of those affected, "the poor and the immigrants" and I genuinely felt sorry for them. He also showcased how dumb and/or ignorant people were concerning mortgages, bonds, and other financial products.

The movie definitely had a "The Wolf of Wall Street" vibe, and I find myself wanting to watch it a 2nd or 3rd time to maybe understand it more, but at the same time I don't want to watch it because it's so freakin' sad. People saw the tragedy coming and everyone just laughed at them. It's truly heartbreaking.

 __________

Best Pic noms in order of enjoyment:
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
The Martian
The Revenant
Bridge of Spies

To view:
Spotlight
Room
Brooklyn

Friday, February 19, 2016

Big Eyes [2014] review

Props to Tim Burton for 1) not casting Johnny Depp, 2) not casting Helena Bonham Carter, and 3) exploring a movie filmed not using his "normal" style, even though it does have a tinge of Edward Scissorhands coloring at parts.

Amy Adams does a good, not great job as Margaret Keane.  Christoph Waltz does a fantastic job as Walter Keane, but I wish the script explored a little bit more of his motivations other than just making him look like a clever ass hole.  Both take you on a interesting journey of this story inspired by true events, and it kept me captivated for most of the movie until the end courtroom scenes that just felt silly.  It's definitely worth a watch, as I enjoyed it, but don't rush out and rent/buy it.  3 out 5 stars.