By Jack Dignan
Robert DeNiro is one of the all time greats. He is simply the best. Ever since his breakthrough into Holywood in the 70s, DeNiro has been (mostly) consistent in the quality he provides, starring in films such as The Godfather Part 2, Goodfellas, Raging Bull and many others. He's quite the talent, and he also seems to be a rather respectable man. Lately, however, his choice of films have been.... um.... not quite up to scratch, to say the least. He's enjoying himself, I'll give him that, but I have not been enjoying what he's providing. With Dirty Grandpa, it may not be good, but at least I can say that I've now seen Robert DeNiro masterbating. I guess that's an achievement?
Dirty Grandpa follows the story of Jason (Zac Efron). He's a lawyer who's happily about to get married to the love of his life, Meredith (Julianne Hough). After his grandma dies, his grandpa, Dick Kelly (Robert DeNiro), insists that the two of them go down to his old house to play golf. What Jason doesn't realise is that Dick is taking them down to Florida where he intends on partying during spring break, and hopefully having sex for the first time in fifteen years as well. This is where they run into Shadia (Zoey Deutch), a high school friend of Jason's, Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), a young woman who really wants to have sex with a professor, and their friend Bradley (Jeffery Bowyer-Chapman), who's in the film for..... well.... I'm not sure. I guess he's in there so they can make gay jokes and homophobic comments, because that's just what every film needs...
I love Robert DeNiro. I love Aubrey Plaza. When he's in a decent film, I even like Zac Efron. I didn't, however, like Dirty Grandpa. As a matter of fact, I fucking hated it. It's a vile and revolting movie that does nothing but offend people and make the audience, including myself, extremely uncomfortable. It's a film that's constantly taking things too far, taking the jokes to places where they no longer become funny, although to be fair, they're not really funny to begin with. It's not that the writers are trying too hard, it's that they're not trying at all.
If a joke falls flat every so often, that's okay. I saw Zoolander 2 earlier in the week and although a fair few of those jokes fell flat, I still really enjoyed the movie. With Dirty Grandpa, every joke doesn't just fall flat, it comes crashing down. Hard. Every sentence that comes out of Aubrey Plaza's mouth is a sex joke, and while she's easily the best part about this movie, she's rarely funny. Everybody in this movie is like that, though. Zac Efron and Robert DeNiro try to do their best with what they've got, but it just doesn't work, and the result is one painfully unfunny movie.
If you take away all of the jokes and just focus on the film's plot, it's one of the most cliché ridden films you could possibly think of, stealing plot elements from about fifty different movies. Dirty Grandpa doesn't really know what film it wants to take inspiration from so it decides to steal from every film ever made, mixing plots together like there's no tomorrow. Things were starting to wrap up so I eagerly checked my watch, only to discover that the film still had a whole hour to go. It really is rather terrible.
Another thing Dirty Grandpa managed to do was create some painfully annoying characters. This film was already rather painful to begin with, but then they went ahead and threw in a few more annoying characters for the sake of it. Robert DeNiro? Unlikeable. Zac Efron? I couldn't care less about. Jason Mantzoukas? There are no words. His character was just so irritating and unfunny, and yet he kept showing up in every single scene. The same thing can be said about the two police officers in this film, played by Henry Zebrowski and Mo Collins. They got under my nerves right away and they stayed there, just adding to the torture that is this movie.
To sum up, Dirty Grandpa is a film so terrible, it hurts. The cast are talented, but none of them are able to save this train wreck from derailing and burning down everybody's careers in the process. It's a revolting and uncomfortable movie that I'm doing my best to forget.
By Jack Dignan
After 15 long years of waiting, Ben Stiller has finally returned to the iconic role of Derek Zoolander, the male model whose signature looks include the likes of Blue Steele, Magnum and many others. Can't tell the difference between all of them? You're clearly not looking hard enough. But yes, Derek has returned, along with plenty of the old crew, including Owen Wilson's so-hot-right-now Hansel and Will Ferrell's super evil criminal, Mugatu. The cast may have returned, but does that mean this comedy sequel lives up to the first? Well, yes and no. You'll find out.
Zoolander 2 picks up fifteen years after the first, with Zoolander in hiding after an accident occurred and his child, Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold), was taken away from him. After hearing about a new fashion icon, Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig), rising in the fashion world, Zoolander returns from hibernation to give modelling another shot, and who does he happen to find there? His old buddy, Hansel, who's also been in hiding, but for very different reasons. Things are beginning to look up, but it doesn't take long before everything comes crumbling down. Secret agent Valentina (Penélope Cruz) comes for the two of them, hoping to get their help in investigating a case involving the death of beautiful celebrities, all of whom have died while giving off one of Zoolander's signature looks.
After fifteen years, you wouldn't expect Zoolander 2 to have that big of a fan base, right? Wrong. Zoolander 2 most definitely has its fans, so much so that it broke records for views of a comedy trailer. That's a lot of people who are eagerly anticipating this long awaited sequel, and so it obviously has a lot to live up to. It delivers with mixed results, although the final product is definitely a satisfying one. No, this film is not great. No, it's not nearly as good as the first film. No, it's not at all consistent. Yes, it's a hell of a good time.
Zoolander 2 has to be the single most ridiculous film I have seen in ages. In fact, I highly doubt that another film in 2016 will manage to be half as ridiculous as this one is. It's a wild and wacky ride as these iconic characters are put into the weirdest of scenarios. If you thought the first film was crazy, you haven't seen anything yet. While the first is funnier, it could almost be considered tame when compared to its follow up. Ben Stiller is clearly having a great time making one of the most outrageous movies I have ever seen, and the film has no shame in being this. It's almost proud of its ridiculousness in a weird way.
The best aspects of this movie are certainly the cast. Zoolander 2 brings together the likes of Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Penélope Cruz and countless other celebrity cameos for a film that, while not always funny, is enjoyable to watch from start to finish. The jokes don't always hit, but there's rarely a dull moment. It's a fun time at the movies, and watching the crowd laugh along with you is just the best. The film opens with the death of Justin Bieber, something I would not consider a spoiler as it is in the trailer, and when his death occurred, the audience burst into applause. If nothing else, Zoolander 2 managed to kill Justin Bieber in a shockingly violent way, and for that I am forever thankful.
Comedy sequels are really hard to nail, most just doing a complete remake of the first, but with new, not quite as funny jokes. When it comes to Zoolander 2, it's really hard to tell whether or not they just rehashed the first film. On the one hand, there are plenty of callbacks to the first film, or at least similar scenarios. On the other hand, whenever these similar scenes happen, Ben Stiller takes them in a direction you don't expect, seemingly poking fun at the comedy sequel formula. It's hard to tell whether or not this move was deliberate, but because the jokes manage to work, it's all fine in my books.
The plot may not be a rehash, but that doesn't mean it's coherent, either. This film is a mess, everything happening, but at the same time, nothing really happening. There's so many scenarios and events that appear to be important and are treated as if they're key moments to the plot, but they don't follow through with any thing. I'm honestly not sure if this film is about Zoolander and Hansel trying to get back into the world of modelling, Zoolander trying to get custody of his son, the government trying to find out who's responsible for a bunch of celebrity murders, or if it's something else entirely. I think there was something important involving Mugatu? I can't really remember what the relevance of it was, though. This film is all over the place, but perhaps we have the four different writers to blame for that. Perhaps this is just a culmination of all four of their scripts. That wouldn't actually surprise me.
Even by Zoolander standards, this film is just dumb. There are jokes that work, and these jokes work really well, and then there are jokes that are arguably too dumb, and they fall flat. The film tries too hard to get laughs, and some of the time it comes across as awkward and unfunny. It misses almost as many times as it hits, but thankfully, when the jokes do hit, they hit hard. Everything else, however, just.... doesn't. But the thing is, I'm talking about Zoolander 2 here. What was I really expecting? The Zoolander films were never meant to be taken seriously, but hey, at least the first film didn't try so hard that it fell flat on its face. At least that one flowed smoothly.
To sum up, Zoolander 2 isn't the really, really, ridiculously good movie I was hoping it would be, but Ben Stiller has still managed to create a quotable, laugh out loud comedy sequel that's a worthy follow up to the now-famous original.
By Jack Dignan
I couldn't review this film immediately after watching it. I wasn't ready to do that. Spotlight isn't the type of movie you watch and instantly get flooded with words. It's a film that takes all the words out of your mouth and leaves them spiralling around on the floor. This is not because I failed to make an opinion on the film, but is because the film is so shocking and real and I needed a moment to let it all sink in. I needed to digest this film. It's been a week now and I've finally come up with the words I need. Let's see how this goes.
Spotlight is the true story of a few of the journalists working at the Boston Globe during the early 2000s. They're part of the spotlight news team, who are essentially a team of investigators who spend, on average, a year on one particular case. Their team is led by Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), but also consists of Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfieffer (Rachel McAdams) and a few other, not quite as important members. Their team manages to stumble across a scandal that's been taking place in the Catholic church for decades, involving the molestation of children by parish priests. As the team uncover more and more about this case, their findings may shake up the entire world.
I went to open this paragraph by stating that Spotlight is director Tom McCarthy's film through and through. I was going to say that he's the reason this film works. His direction and what he gets out of these actors is just insane. While this is true, I then took that sentence back, starting to realise that Spotlight, really, is Michael Keaton's film. He gives a performance not quite on the same level as Birdman, but easily the best performance in the film. Then I second guessed that and came to the realisation that Mark Ruffalo was the best thing about this movie, and this is easily his movie.
So, because of this strange complication, I have come to the conclusion that no one person holds this movie together. The brilliance of Spotlight does not lie in the hands of one particular human being, but instead, in the hands of the entire cast and crew. Everyone is pulling their weight, resulting in a movie that is not just one person's achievement, but everyone's. If Rachel McAdams wasn't in this, it wouldn't have been as good. If Tom McCarthy wasn't directing, it wouldn't have been as good. If Masanobu Takayanagi didn't do the cinematography, it wouldn't have been as good. Everyone came together perfectly.
Every actor in this movie just nails their performance, yet it never feels like a showcase of their talent. It never feels like a scene was placed into the film to give a character a monologue to show just how great an actor they are. The film is slow and quiet, everyone talking back and forth with each other. I have no problems with monologues or scenes that showcase acting skills for the sake of showcasing acting skills, but when a movie can get performances that are just as good, but without doing what you'd expect, then you've got to give it some credit, and this film does just that.
It may not be super fast or action packed, but it had me glued to the screen, invested in this shocking and revealing true story. Before watching this movie, I was never too familiar with the story, and I clearly had no idea just how big this thing got. As I watched, the case just got bigger and bigger and I was sitting there in utter awe and shock, wanting the case to come to an end, but not wanting the movie to be over. You know a movie's good when you want the plot to end and for everything to wrap up happily, but you don't want the actual film to come to a conclusion as you're enjoying it too much. That was me with this movie.
Despite my investment, the film is not without flaws. The film mostly consists of these characters going from interview to interview, trying to get all the information they need to crack down on the people responsible for letting these tragic events happen time and time again. This is engaging and all, but I couldn't help but find it to be a little bit repetitive. It's similar scene after similar scene and while they're all technically different, and they're all given a different feel, a lot of this movie is the same thing over and over again, but that's what happens when you're investigating things. That's the way the world is, the Spotlight captured the world as truthfully as possible.
To sum up, Spotlight is a fascinating, shocking and constantly engaging true story that brings together plenty of talent for a film that just falls together perfectly. The plot is very repetitive, but the film's just so interesting that it doesn't really matter too much.
By Jack Dignan
Eddie Redmayne, you've done it again. You've done it two years in a row. The first time was with The Theory Of Everything and the second was with this. No, I'm not talking about giving a terrific performance in a film I loved to pieces, but instead giving a decent performance in an otherwise uninteresting movie that's clearly only here to go for some Oscars. Earlier in the week, I was watching a funny skit on YouTube that was titled 'tips on how to win an Oscar,' and in this video it explained all the traits your movie needed to win. The Danish Girl featured all of those traits, so congratulations, you're going to win some- oh wait. You need to be nominated to get a chance to win. My bad. Never mind.
The Danish Girl is the true story of Eina Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), a local artist living in Copenhagen in 1926. His wife, Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), is also an artist, and after she paints Eina as a woman, the paintings begin to rise in popularity, and Eina begins to enjoy playing the role of 'Lilli.' This role-play allows Eina to embrace his inner woman, and it doesn't take long for him to realise he was never meant to be a man. Lilli is who he wants to be, although it seems the world disagrees with him, deeming him insane. But through the love and support of his wife, he hopes to set Lilli free and let her be accepted in this world.
I have mixed feelings about Eddie Redmayne as an actor. Sure, his performances are good, but I never seem to think they're as great as the award recognition he gets for them. With The Theory of Everything, his performance is done for him simply by getting into character and sitting in a chair. With The Danish Girl, it's certainly not a bad performance, but did he really need to get an Oscar nomination? Nope. And will he win? I sure as hell hope not. In fact, it's Alicia Vikander who really steals this movie, and while I don't think she'll win either, the Oscars really don't matter in the slightest.
Their performances are great, but it's really the script that brings this film down. The premise of this film is an important one, but the plot is uneventful and stretched out, and the characters don't give much to latch onto. Eina/Lilli is an absolute bore, constantly complaining about things and it comes to a point where it's just so uninteresting that it hurts. There's only so much complaining one character can do before it starts to get annoying. The only character I did end up feeling sorry for was Gerda, but she didn't start out that interesting, either.
Over the last six years, Tom Hooper's filmography has been gradually going downhill. I enjoyed The King's Speech, I can bare Les Miserables, and now I just straight up don't like The Danish Girl. There's never any life to it, Hooper never trying to make anything seem interesting. The film is bland and quiet, and nothing ever managed to hook me. The story he's telling is an interesting one, but he's unable to nail the execution. Sure, the costume and set design is exquisite, but nothing else is really that extraordinary, excluding the performances. It's all rather bland and familiar.
Another thing Hooper manages to do is make this one of the most Oscar bait-y movies of 2015 (or 2016, if we're going off of Australian release dates). What's the most common thing for an Oscar winning movie to have? Yep, a scene in the second act where a character sits next to a window, crying slowly and quietly while thinking about the events of the film while it rains outside. Any guesses about what movie has a scene like this? Yep, it's this movie. The Danish Girl just went full on Oscar bait and I groaned when this scene happened, and trust me, this isn't the only moment like this.
Without delving into spoilers, I have to talk about the ending. The ending isn't necessarily bad, but there's no pay off. Despite it not working, they do try to have the film build up to something and it doesn't work. The ending just puts you down, despite trying to make you smile and give you something to think about. The final scene is meant to be a visual metaphor, but it's forced and cringe worthy and just doesn't work. To be fair, this clichéd finale shouldn't really come as that big of a surprise as it's the same sort of scene you'll find in every movie trying to win an Oscar.
To sum up, The Danish Girl is a very well acted movie, Alicia Vikander stealing the show once again, but it's bland Oscar bait with whiney characters and a plot that gradually becomes more and more uninteresting. Let's hope Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them isn't Oscar bait as well.
2 1/2 Stars
Because of this website, I am fortunate enough to see a lot of my movies early. I managed to see Room back in November, and have been holding off from reviewing it until closer to the Australian release, which is just next week. It's been nearly two whole months since I saw this movie and it's been constantly floating around in my head, the impact it had on me always resurfacing. This may not be the greatest film I've ever seen, and you'll soon find out why, but it sure was good, and it's certainly one that will stick with me.
Based on the best-selling novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie, Room tells the story of Ma (Brie Larson) and her five year old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). For six years, Ma has been held captive in a garden shed that Jack has named 'room.' Jack has never seen the outside world, and as a matter of fact, doesn't even know it exists. Soon, however, an opportunity arrises for Jack to escape, and Ma takes it, setting her son free in the hopes that he'll come back for her. He does, and from here on out, the two must adjust to the real world, something Jack has never experienced before. Room is a moving and unforgettable experience that you will need to bring tissues for. I cried. Twice.
When talking about this film, I almost have to discuss it as two films, as that's what it is. There's two stories being told here, and no, discussing both of them wouldn't be considered a spoiler as the second story is the main promotional material for this film. For a little under half this film's runtime, Room is the story of a mother and a son who are trapped in a place they cannot escape from. We get to know their daily routine, source of supplies and interactions with the man keeping them there, amongst other things. The second half is a tale of adjusting to the outside world and the love a mother has for their child. While I was invested in both of the stories, it's quite clear that the first half is far superior to the second.
When the two of them are stuck in this room, it really gives the filmmakers a chance to flesh these characters out and get us invested in their lives, despite them really not doing much. It's a beautiful and quite captivating experience that's painstakingly emotional. Lenny Abrahamson, the man behind 2014's brilliant film, Frank, has managed to spend close to an hour with just two characters stuck in a room and he's made it some of the best cinema of 2015. His camera work is stellar and the story being told is an engaging one. If the second half was on the same level as the first, Room could just be one of the best movies of last year. Unfortunately it's not.
This second half, while it is the cause of my many tears, just didn't have quite as big of an impact on me as the first half did. The second half sees our two leads out in the world, experiencing everything for the first time, or for Ma, the first time in many, many years. It's an eye opening thing to watch it brought out many emotions inside of me, but I wasn't able to connect with them. When watching the first half, the two characters had me hooked. There were brief moments of annoyance, but that is all. During the second half, they feel a little distant, and Ma is most definitely under-utilised. The same can be said for William H. Macy, who's in the film for a very limited amount of time and is hardly relevant to anything.
Now, I'm not saying that this second half is bad. It's far from it. I enjoyed it and the filmmaking on display is glorious, but I just can't say I enjoyed it as much as I did when they were in room. That being said, the performances in this movie are utterly magnificent. Brie Larson has never been better, and that's saying something. Her performance is full of raw emotion and authenticity and she deserves *almost* all the recognition she's been getting. I say almost as she did not deserve to win that Golden Globe. She's great and all, but did the voters even watch Carol? I saw that film for a second time today and Cate Blanchett steals that movie.
To sum up, Room is an emotionally powerful film with a brilliant first half and a decent second half. The performances are all great, particularly that of Brie Larson, but not all the characters are utilised to their full potential and there's not an awful lot to latch onto in the second half.
3 1/2 Stars
There are movies that are hard to follow as their plot is so detailed and so layered that one viewing just isn't enough. A mildly-recent example of this is Inherent Vice. It's a film I love to pieces, but the first couple of viewings I was just so incredibly lost. It drew me back in as I wanted to return to these characters and this situation and figure out just what I was missing. Then there are movies that are hard to follow because there's just so much information being handed to the audience and so it becomes impossible to keep up. The Big Short is one of these, and the topic of conversation isn't even interesting enough to make me want to come back in the not too distant future.
The plot of this film can be described in two ways. There's a complex version where I discuss all the ins and outs of why these characters are doing the things they're doing, or there's a simple version, which is the one I'm about to tell you. Let me just say, this plot sounds very simple and lacking in any sort of depth, but when you see the film, you'll know it's the exact opposite. They're going to throw so much plot at you that you won't know what to do with it. But anyway, The Big Short follows the story of Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling). The three of them are sick and tired of the ways the bank scams people and so, when an opportunity to make money off of the bank's mistakes arrises, they take it.
The Big Short is a movie that spends a lot of its time discussing money, stocks and the global economy, and for someone not overly familiar with the subject matter, such as myself, this is a lot of information to take in. A good chunk of this film is dedicated to familiarising the audience with what these characters are getting up to, and it's easy to fall behind. The characters are speaking fast, information is being thrown around 24/7 and it's hard to follow. I spent a great deal of this movie in utter confusion, but I will admit, the film does its best to try and bring you back up to speed, whether this be through fourth wall breaks or celebrity cameos, but I never felt like I understood exactly what was going on.
This film is directed by Adam McKay, a director typically known for making goofball comedies, including Anchorman and Step Brothers. The Big Short is McKay's first serious movie, and to my surprise, he nails it. The screenplay is a little crowded, but his direction is wonderful, transitioning really well from comedy to drama and getting his name out there as a more serious director. There's moments of comedy, sure, but it's safe to say this film isn't all giggles. His only flaw in direction is his use of the camera. It's not bad, per say, but it's constantly flying all over the place, never sure what it wants to be doing. There are some good shots and there are also some terrible shots.
From Brad Pitt to Steve Carell to Ryan Gosling, the performances in this movie are all exceptional. Christian Bale is easily the stand out here, giving a performance so different to any of the performances he's given before. From American Psycho to The Machinist to Batman, Bale truly is a versatile actor, and he's back with a vengeance in this movie. He's the only actor in this movie who received a nomination at the Oscar's this year and while I don't think he will win, he sure does deserve that nomination, that's for sure.
To sum up, The Big Short is an information overload with hit and miss cinematography, although the performances are all great and Adam McKay made a smooth transition from comedy to drama. I'm not sure exactly what went on, but I am sure that I had fun with it.
3 1/2 Stars
Yesterday, I got the opportunity to interview one of my idols, Quentin Tarantino. The interview will be up shortly after this review is published. I'm very proud of it and it was quite a surreal experience. Not too long after returning home from the interview, I walked on down the road to my local cinema and watched The 5th Wave. I went from interviewing Tarantino to watching this piece of shit. I think it's safe to say that my day went downhill fast as The 5th Wave is five waves too many. I really didn't need this film in my life.
Based on the novel by Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave follows the story of Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenage girl living out her everyday teenage life. Or, like every post-apocalyptic teen movie before this, that's what she thought. Soon, an unknown alien life force makes its way down to Earth, striking in waves. There has been four so far, the fourth one involving the aliens inhabiting human hosts. So this film is going to be about Cassie taking down the aliens and saving the Earth, right? Nope. At the start of the film, Cassie is separated from her younger brother, Sam (Zackary Arthur), and, with the help of a stranger (Alex Rose) she met and instantly fell in love with, she attempts to go and rescue him.... because reasons, you know.
From The Hunger Games to Divergent to The Maze Runner, every teen apocalypse movie attempts to bring something new to the table. Whether it's kids fighting to the death or kids fighting to the death or.... erm... kids training to fight to the death, they all try to be different. Sort of. With this movie, we get what may just be worse than all the previously listed franchises, although to be fair, The Hunger Games is pretty damn brilliant. The rest? Not so much, and The 5th Wave can be added to this list of shitty franchises that will inevitably get at least two, probably three sequels. It's safe to say I'm not looking forward to them.
Right from the opening couple of scenes, it's obvious this film is severely lacking originality. Everything from showing a dramatic scene from the middle of the movie and cutting back in time to the pointless narration about how everything changed to the "I'm just a normal teenage girl with a crush on a guy" plot, nothing here is new. And my god, it gets worse. As the plot continues, it just gradually gets more and more familiar, right up to the point where I had to ask myself "is this movie serious? Am I not imagining it?" Even the design of the alien ship is reminiscent to that of District 9, and I know which movie I'd rather watch.
Because of this familiarity, the so-called twists can be seen a mile away. Oh, this person isn't who they say they are? Knew it. These people aren't doing what they said they're doing? Knew it. This movie isn't actually a good movie? Knew it. It's as familiar as plots come, and when it finishes, it doesn't even feel like it's done. It's just part 1 of an unavoidable franchise that I know as a fact is going to happen because my session last night was packed. It sold right into the front row and yes, plenty of teenagers loved it. I didn't think that was humanly possible, but it was. Fuck me. Go watch Star Wars instead. Shit, go see The Revenant, if you must. It's not good, but it's better than this garbage.
Even ignoring the story and the possible future franchise, The 5th Wave just isn't a well made movie, either. The shots are bland and familiar, the visual effects are laughably terrible and most of the performances are cringe worthy. Chloë Grace Moretz is this film's only saving grace, and even she's been better. The cast, most of whom are very talented, are put to waste, none of them giving a performance worth mentioning. I didn't even realise Maika Monroe was in this movie until she appeared and I didn't think it was possible, but her performance here is far from the quality she's been giving as of late.
I have nothing against narration. If a movie needs a narrator, that is more than fine. If a movie doesn't, I'm happy with that. If a movie puts in a narrator for the sake of having a narrator, or simply because the book it's based on is written in first person and they want to replicate that, then I have a problem with narration. Films like The 5th Wave do not need a narrator, yet we get one. Moretz is describing the events of the film to us as they're happening, and damn, it was pointless. "I'm going to find my brother," she says, moments after telling someone she needs to find her brother. Books are books for a reason. The film adaptations don't need to be identical. The audience will survive without someone constantly jamming information down they're throats.
To sum up, The 5th Wave is the latest inexcusable excuse for a bit of money from studios attempting to jump off of the success of The Hunger Games. It's bland, familiar, poorly written, lifelessly acted and just not a well made movie. At all.
1 1/2 Stars
It's a cinema experience unlike any other. The Hateful Eight is the eighth film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino, and he's clearly still got it. Whenever he talks about this movie, he just gets giddy. It's a film that makes going to the movies an experience, not just something you do in your spare time. There's an overture, an intermission, a program, and it's projected on 70mm film, plus it's the first film to be made on Ultra Panavision lenses in quite a few decades. Take a seat, strap yourself in and get ready for Tarantino to take you on a journey you're going to want to go on. It's worth it.
The Hateful Eight follows the story of eight strangers who, during an intense blizzard, are forced to stay together in a remote and isolated cabin. Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) is a bounty hunter seeking a ride after the death of his horse. John Ruth (Kurt Russell), also known as the Hangman, is taking Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to be executed, who as it turns out will be executed by Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth). Also with them is Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the newly appointed sheriff of the town they're all heading to, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a cowboy on his way home for christmas, Bob (Demián Bichir), the man temporarily in charge of the place they're staying at, and finally, there's General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), who fought on the opposite side of the civil war to Marquis Warren. It's eight dangerous and despicable people trapped in a room together. With Tarantino at the helm, anything goes.
Tarantino has never been known for holding back. Whether it's Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction or Django Unchained, he's always pushing the word "reasonable." His films are racist and sadistic, but never in a serious way. He knows it's wrong, but he also knows how much fun that sort of stuff can be when put into a movie, and trust me, it is. The Hateful Eight is a lot of fun. I can guarantee it won't be for everyone, and I'm positive there will be people so outrageously offended by this movie, but if you're looking for good old fashioned entertainment, it doesn't get much better than this.
Just as a technical achievement, The Hateful Eight is a masterpiece. It's the first film to use Ultra Panavision lenses since the 60s, and even back then, these lenses weren't commonly used. Most famously used in Ben Hur, Tarantino has finally brought them back out from their eternal slumber for one more shot at filmmaking, and it's glorious. Ultra Panavision lenses are the widest lenses available, and when you see the cinematography in this film, you'll know why. Even the close ups can fit two people into the shot. It's rather impressive and Tarantino uses them to the best of his ability, creating some down right stunning shots that you just can't see in any other movie.
Tarantino is having a ball here, and rightly so. His screenplay, an earlier version of which got leaked online a few years back, is all sorts of brilliant. The dialogue is witty, lengthy and never dull. Even during the first thirty minutes, which was much longer than it needed to be, it's always engaging. It's long, but it's hard to look away from. Then the blizzard happens, everyone is trapped, and the film steps it up a notch. It goes from a pretty good movie to a great one, and there's plenty of enjoyment to be had.
Like most of his movies, the laughs don't always come from the dialogue. The laughs, a lot of the time, came from the over the top violence. I don't wish the give away the film's best moments, but I will say that if you're a fan of Kill Bill, you won't be let down. There's this one scene in Kill Bill that features the bride taking on a hell of a lot of enemies and it's outrageously exaggerated in terms of gore. The Hateful Eight is that scene, but with less people and for three hours, and I loved it. It's Reservoir Dogs in the west.
Given the simplicity of the plot and the isolation of the location, The Hateful Eight is given a lot of time to develop these characters, and it also gives a lot of time to allow these actors to give some of the best performances of their careers. Jennifer Jason Leigh seriously steals this entire movie. She's not only the most interesting character in this entire film, but she gives the best performance, and that's not an easy task when you're acting alongside the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern and many others. But she does it, and she does it well.
There's not much else I can say about this movie without delving into spoilers, although I won't be doing a spoiler review. It's typical Tarantino. It's dark, violent and a lot of fun. It will offend some, it will delight others, but there's no denying just how well made it is. The roadshow release for this movie is everything I wanted it to be and more. Tarantino attempted to bring back the cinema of old and it works. I don't want this for every movie, but for special ones, such as The Hateful Eight, this format could work well. No matter what you think of this film, I have no doubt that everyone who sees this in its intended format will appreciate what Tarantino did. I know I appreciated it.
To sum up, The Hateful Eight is about as Tarantino as a Tarantino film can get. From his flawless dialogue to his sophisticated characters to his over the top violence, it's everything you want and more. It may be a bit slow, but it's a great movie going experience that I certainly recommend.
4 1/2 Stars
No matter when or where it is, when you put Tina Fey and Amy Poehler together, there's going to be laughs. No matter how poorly made it is, or how few rehearsals they've had, or even what the topic of conversation is, the two are going to get you laughing. It's practically inevitable. With Sisters, they've done it again. They had me laughing. It's your typical Poehler-Fey team up, but it works oh so very well.
The film follows the story of Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler) and her sister Kate (Tina Fey). The two are as close as sisters can get, despite having rather different personalities. Kate spent her teenage years getting drunk and partying, whereas Maura was the one who made sure nobody got hurt and that the party was under control the whole time. Now, their parents have decided to sell their childhood home, and they are not okay with this decision. Upon finding out, the two begin to reminisce about their youth, and it's doing this that gives them the idea to throw one last house party before it's sold off for good. This time around, however, their roles are reversed, Kate becoming the "party mum" and Maura letting her freak fly. What on Earth could possibly go wrong?
Thanks to the two lead's comedic chemistry, Sisters is a film that actually works. With no restrictions on just how crude this film can be, the two just go at it, giving off everything they've got. They're not toning down any of the humour and it works. It's a teen party movie, but without the teens. Instead, we get a cast of actors and actresses who are all in their 40s, or close enough to it. It's ridiculous, but it works, Fey and Poehler really carrying this movie. They're the only reason this film is remotely watchable.
The supporting cast do their best, and they all have their moments to shine, but none manage to be nearly as consistent as Fey and Poehler. Maya Rudolph is the film's antagonist. She's the childhood friend of their characters and she's back with a vengeance, hoping to shut their party down. Her character is as clichéd as they come, but she gets a few laughs. They're never big laughs, but I did chuckle from time to time. The same can be said with Poehler's love interest in the film, played by Ike Barinholtz, as well as John Leguizamo's character.
The humour works well, excluding the first fifteen or so minutes, but in terms of filmmaking skills, there's not a lot on display. There's no real display of skill here, the film relying entirely on the jokes to get audiences to like it. The shots are generic and the directing is stale, and it's really only the charisma of the leads that keeps this movie going. It's a predictable and overlong series of medium close ups and while it's undeniably funny, there's just nothing really special about it. I mean, it does have John Cena though, so I guess I can give it a pass.
To sum up, Sisters is a mediocrely made movie that doesn't have a lot going for it aside from the hilarious leads and occasionally chuckle-worthy supporting cast. Yes, I enjoyed this movie more than The Revenant. I don't care what you think about that.
Last year, Alejandro González Iñárritu's technical achievement, Birdman, dominated the Oscar's, taking home best picture, achievement in directing, best original screenplay and achievement in cinematography. With the Oscar's approaching, and with very few real competitors, it seemed like maybe The Revenant will have a chance of taking home some awards. The trailer had sold me and early buzz was strong, but now that I've seen the movie, I'm really, really, really hoping this doesn't take home as many Oscar's as Birdman did. I'm not even that big a fan of Birdman, but it's a far superior movie.
The Revenant follows the story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), an explorer who escaped an Indian attack with a few of his fellow explorers, including John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter). When navigating their way back to their home town, Hugh is attacked by a bear. He's crippled and on the verge of death. Contrary to the captain's orders, Fitzgerald leaves him for dead, also murdering his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). Cold and crippled in the middle of nowhere, Hugh begins his journey home, hoping for saviour, but preparing for the worse. It's a tough and relentless journey through the winter, death never trailing too far behind.
The Revenant claims to be based on a true story and while these people did exist and Hugh Glass was attacked by a bear, the story started out incredibly vague, just becoming more and more ficticious along the way, and I'm okay with that. If films were based entirely on truth, they would never be quite as dramatic. They would never be quite as entertaining. I've said it plenty of times before, but if a film needs to deviate from the source material to make a better movie, I'm all for it. The Revenant deviates, but only because very little is known as fact. Perhaps they could've deviated a little bit more and made this a more interesting movie.
The first thirty minutes of this film is seriously brutal, almost to an excessive degree. The film opens with an Indian attack. It's a slow, drawn out and gruesome affair that lasts way longer than it needed to. We're treated to the sight of many unnamed men getting slaughtered in vicious ways, ranging from decapitation to being set on fire. I'm not against violence in movies, but when it's shown for the sake of showing it, then I'll have a problem with it. This opening sequence is more violent than it needed to be, and eventually it just gets tiresome and dull. It has no focus, chaos ensuring all over the place. I was never sure what was going on. If the scene had been shortened and focussed in on our protagonists, it could make for an intense and exciting opening. But it doesn't do that.
This isn't the only moment of excessive violence, either. The second non-spoilery moment is the catalyst for this film's plot. The bear attack. It was shown briefly in the trailers, but nothing can prepare you for the insanity and difficulty of watching that scene. It just goes and goes and goes, mostly done in one or two shots. It's violent, and thanks to the sound and make up departments, it's very hard to watch. The scene itself is necessary, and without it the film would make no sense, but I must say, this would have been a much more enjoyable viewing if it had been just a tad shorter. There are moments that feel as if the film goes too far, and I'm not the type of person who usually turns away from violence. I didn't, but I was about to.
From here on out, The Revenant is a tale of survival, and while it can drag from time to time, it's certainly one of the best made films of 2015. Birdman, like I've said on many occasions, isn't one of my favourite films of 2014. It is, however, one of the most impressive films on a technical scale. The same can be said about The Revenant. It's a beautiful looking movie, Emmanuel Lubezki proving once again that he is a master at cinematography. He's able to capture the beauty and rawness of life, using all natural lighting and giving the camera a mind of its own. We need to get Emmanuel Lubezki to do the camerawork on every movie.
This is the first we've seen of Leonardo DiCaprio since his career best performance in The Wolf Of Wall Street. With The Revenant, DiCaprio is back with a vengeance, finally out to get his gold statue. Will he get it? I hope so. While his performance here is almost entirely without dialogue, he's still able to display a wide range of emotion and tell a personal journey without using too many words. This doesn't allow for a lot of opportunities for us to connect with his character, but I enjoyed his performance nonetheless.
The other standout of the film is Tom Hardy, who's a standout in just about every film he's in. Sporting a new and impressive accent, Hardy is here to attempt to out-act DiCaprio, and I'm not going to lie, he nearly gets there. He's given arguably the same amount of screen time as DiCaprio during the film's first half and it's here that his performance really shines. He's a despicable character and while there's less of him in the second half, his performance is still quite magical, so to speak. He shows a side we haven't from him seen before.
A reasonable portion of this film relies on the tension between these two characters, and while both actors give tremendous performances and they're going to get some serious award recognition, their rivalry isn't always felt. The filmmakers attempt to give reasoning behind it, but since they're separated for a majority of the movie, there's not a lot to go off. There's an attempt to make their rivalry build to something and the pay off is worthwhile, but it's never suspenseful. On top of that, the final outcome is painfully predictable.
To sum up, The Revenant is a grand achievement when it comes to the film's technical side. The performances, cinematography and directing are just fantastic. The film itself is a different story. It's an over violent drag with only a few moments of brilliance.
2 1/2 Stars