Will Ferrell, are you okay? Are you feeling well? If there's anything I can do for you, make sure to let me know. You've been making some really questionable career choices lately, especially this year. Get Hard is one of the worst movies of the year and now.... now you're in this. You have Zealander 2 coming up and I'm really hoping that film delivers. I really, really want that film to be better than your last couple of movies. Ben Stiller, please guide Will Ferrell away from the path he seems to be going down. It's not too late to stop. You might've just hit a bump in the road. You're not lost yet.
Daddy's Home follows the story of Brad (Will Ferrell), a man who so desperately wants to be a father. One day, Brad meets the love of his life, Sara (Linda Cardellini), who just so happens to be a mother of two. Now that Brad and Sara are married, Brad becomes their stepfather, and things couldn't be going worse. Or so he thought. Soon, their biological father, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), comes to town, and he's everything they wanted out of a father and more. The relationship Brad was trying to create is lost, and he's not happy about this. So, they have what is essentially a dad-off, trying to compete to become the favourite dad. With a premise as wacky as this and a cast as talented as they are, this film shouldn't have been as bad as it was.
Daddy's Home clocks in at 96 minutes, and yet it wasn't until around the 80 minute mark where I chuckled for the first time. It wasn't a big chuckle, but it was certainly a chuckle. Despite knowing I chuckled, the joke wasn't memorable. I still can't remember what it was I chuckled at, but I do remember that I chuckled. Over the next 16 minutes, and this includes credits, I chuckled twice. So, all up, Daddy's Home made me chuckle three times. That, as you can probably guess, is not good. It's not good at all.
It's a film that tries to give messages about family, but it's never really sure what these messages are. Some scenes are trying to teach kids an important life lesson, yet the next scene completely contradicts this message and says it's okay to bully. It's an uneven and unfunny movie that tries to be so many different things at once, but isn't even capable of creating a plot that works. The dad vs. step dad premise that we saw in the trailer doesn't even really start until the third act. Up until that point, the film is just the two leads bantering back and forth and it's far from entertaining.
Back in 2010, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg proved to audiences around the world that they have great comedic chemistry with their surprise hit, The Other Guys. It was a hysterical movie that's made me come back and rewatch it, something I don't do all that often with comedies. Daddy's Home reunites the pair and while they're just as full of energy as they were back then, they're really slacking in the comedy department. Seeing these two poke fun at each other was so much fun during The Other Guys, but with Daddy's Home it's just awkward and toned down, the jokes clearly aimed at adults, but then rewritten to appeal to kids. It just doesn't work.
To sum up, Daddy's Home is a film that really should've been funny, but so isn't. It's a boring and uneven movie that's never sure what its target audience is or what message they're trying to teach them. It's all over the place.
I will defend Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle until the day I die. I really will. They're great movies that I've rewatched multiple times. When it comes to Joy, I wasn't quite as excited for it as I was hoping. Sure, it looked good, but nothing about it screamed great. It screamed Oscar's, though, that's for sure. As the film got closer, my anticipation rose, and then I saw the film yesterday..... and I have to say I'm disappointed. My expectations weren't even through the roof and I was disappointed. Joy, unfortunately, is far from a good movie.
Joy, as the title suggests, follows the (mildly) true story of Joy (Jennifer Lawrence). She's a divorced mother of two, her ex husband (Édgar Remírez) living in her basement and helping to look after their kids. Sharing her basement is her father, Rudy (Robert DeNiro), who's unsuccessfully running his own business while also trying to fall in love. With the addition of her mother (Virginia Madsen) and grandmother (Diane Ladd), Joy's house is more chaotic than it was when she was a child, and she's just about had enough. She decides to do something to support her family, and so she invents something. She invents a mop, and for the rest of the film we get to follow her as she tries to make a name for herself, selling the mop and getting out of debt.
American Hustle, the last film to be directed by David O. Russell, opens with a set of title cards that managed to get a laugh from most of the people watching the film. It opened with "some of this actually happened," which is a joke about the fact that O. Russell took aspects of the true story that film is based on and fictionalised them into an original and entertaining movie with a story that isn't all over the place. He does something very similar at the start of Joy, and it was from this moment where I started to get a little bit worried about this film.
It wasn't too long before my doubts were proven right as the first hour of this movie is excruciatingly dull. It's weird and chaotic, all these events happening that just aren't that interesting. The film tries to tell us as much of Joy's life as it can, but it's a mess, flashing forwards and backwards without any cohesion and providing a narration that just doesn't work. There's this one scene in particular that's a prolonged montage of Joy's life and it tells us absolutely nothing we didn't already know about her character. We get it. She got married. Her childhood was frustrating. Her dad has issues. This was all told to us in the first ten minutes of the movie. There's no need to flash back in time to see it all unfold.
There was a point in this movie where it got so excruciatingly painful that I nearly walked out. It was about halfway through and I thought to myself 'this is the worst film I have seen all year.' With a full bladder, I prepared myself to stand up and leave. But I didn't. I stayed. Something compelled me to stay. Moments later, Bradley Cooper appeared on screen. His character isn't all that developed, he doesn't get much screen time and he doesn't look quite as interested as he does in other movies, but his appearance allowed for the pace to drastically pick up. He didn't make the film good, but he made it better.
It's this second half that I could actually bare. More things start to happen, characters aren't forced into the film for the sake of forcing characters into the film and the film actually takes a moment or two to stop frantically shoving information down our throats. It starts to tell a story. Not a very interesting one, but I guess it still counts as a story. It's a story about mops. Joy is a two hour long movie about mops. I honestly couldn't be less interested in it if I tried, although I was trying to do the opposite. I was trying to like it. I couldn't.
Jennifer Lawrence hit her big break with the Hunger Games, and many have said that now that Mockingjay is over, her career is going to be going on a downhill slope. Personally, I'll disagree. The Oscar winning actress is just getting started, her performances getting better and better as time goes by. Her Hunger Games performances are great, but her David O. Russell performances are something else entirely. This is their third collaboration and if he can keep getting performances like this out of her, I never want them to stop.
As for the rest of the cast, they're hit and miss. Robert DeNiro is amazing, but everyone else falls flat, excluding the previously mentioned Bradley Cooper. Édgar Remírez manages to display two emotions, Virginia Madsen is so fake that she's just unlikeable and Isabella Rossellini.... I don't even know. She's fine, I guess. So is Madsen, technically. Maybe it's their characters that are bringing the film down. Maybe their performances are fine, but it's David O. Russell's disjointed script that's taking away from just how good they are.
To sum up, I really tried to like Joy, but i just couldn't. It's a disjointed, tedious and excruciatingly dull movie with an unbearable first half and an okay second half. There's no denying it's a good film on a technical scale, but I was bored out of my mind.
Why aren't more people talking about this movie? Suffragette was released in the UK all the way back in October, the US release date a few weeks later. It's a film I think I saw the trailer for once and while I liked what I saw, it never stuck with me. Nobody seemed to be interested in this movie, and the box office report shows that. What I don't understand is why this is the case. Suffragette, while no masterpiece, deserves to be seen. It's an important film that deserves an audience, and hopefully some Australians go out and see it now that the film is released here.
Suffragette follows the story of a woman named Maud (Carey Mulligan). She's in the lower class and married to a man named Sonny (Ben Whishaw). She overworks at a factory with an abusive boss and barely gets enough money to support her child. So, she takes a stand. Maud, who has never been verbal about the injustices towards women, joins a group of suffragettes, led by the mysterious Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), who is constantly in hiding. Maud, along with the rest of the suffragettes, begins to rebel against the government, attempting to give woman more rights. To do this, they decide to use actions, rather than words, and they're heard, the government sending out officers, led by Inspector Arthur Steed (Brendan Gleeson), to put a stop to the whole thing.
Month in and month out, 2015 has given us plenty of movies with empowering roles for women. Most of the year's best films (Star Wars, Mad Max, Inside Out) have had a female lead. In this final lot of releases for 2015, Suffragette comes along to add something else. It comes to put the cherry on this cake. It's no where near being the best movie of the year, that still goes to Star Wars unless Joy somehow manages to top it tonight (trust me, it won't), but it's powerful and it's important.
Leading the film is Cary Mulligan, who is contractually obligated to only be in period films for the rest of her life apparently. Suffragette is far from her best movie, that belongs to either Inside Llewyn Davis or Drive, but her performance here is great. It's an ideal role for her and maybe that's why she does such a great job, but whatever the reasoning is, she's excellent. Her performance is emotional and uplifting, brimming with life and giving depth to this character.
The film's supporting cast are all a-listers, including the likes of Helena Bonham Carter and Brendan Gleeson. Also in the film is Meryl Streep, who appears on all the posters and in all the advertising material. Why? Because she's Meryl Streep. Is she in the film? Technically, but just for one scene. Her performance, like every performance she's given in her entire life, is great, but her character isn't given nearly enough screen time. She's there, she got people in the theatre, she said a speech and then she left. She's built up to be this influential figure and yet this build up is for nothing.
In terms of plot, there's not a lot of it. It's a film severely lacking in story, the film a series of tragic events followed by a series of uplifting ones and then once again followed by a series of tragic ones. The aim of the film is to show the hard times that women went through, but there's no actual plot. That would work well as a theme, yes, but not the overall plot. It feels more like a biographical book than anything, and that's far from a compliment. Plus, the ending? Yeah, there isn't one. This film didn't end. It just faded to white. I guess that's what happens when you forget to give your movie a plot.
To sum up, Suffragette is an important and relevant movie that adds to the 2015 catalogue of strong female characters in film. It's not the best film on a technical scale, the plot completely non-existant, but it is one that's worth watching.
3 1/2 Stars
After a ten year wait, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh film in this beloved sci-fi/fantasy franchise, has finally arrived. It's been a film that was highly anticipated by many, including my self. As a matter of fact, I have never been more excited for a movie in my entire life, and I even reviewed all of the previous Star Wars movies (including the holiday special) here. It's a film that was kept so under wraps it's not even funny, and every critic ever is too scared to say anything as it will ruin the viewing experience. While my reviews for the previous Star Wars movies have all been riddled with spoilers, my Force Awakens review will be as spoiler-free as possible, so don't you worry about that. There will, however, be a spoiler-filled review later in the week.
It's very difficult to summarise the plot of this film without giving away any plot details. I could just mention what's said in the opening crawl, but it's best you don't know what that says. So, instead, I'm going to tell you what the trailer tells you (and trust me when I say that's not a lot of information). The film revolves around two leads, Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley). Rey is living on the desert planet of Jakku where she runs into Finn. Thanks to a series of action packed events, the two cross paths with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). Also in the mix is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), the best damn pilot in the galaxy. So yeah, I think that's all I need to tell you about the plot of this movie. When you go see it, you can find out just what's going on for yourself.
There was no way I wasn't going to see this film as soon as I could. I just couldn't live with myself if I didn't see it at the very first showing possible. Since I wasn't able to squirm my way into the Sydney Premiere, this was, of course, the midnight showing, which had quite the atmosphere, especially since I was at the IMAX. Us Star Wars fans were roaring and ready to go, hoping for the best. I had avoided social media for a few days prior, not even wanting to know what people thought of the film. If you were to say I was excited it would be a serious understatement.
Expectations were high, and once the Lucasfilms logo had appeared, I'd already decided that I was in love with the film. It was a foolish thing to do, but I did it anyway. As the film went on, I was still in love, but I couldn't help but nitpick. There were certain things that were annoying me about the movie, simply because it was different to what I expected it to be. When the film came to a close, I knew I had a great time with it, but it wasn't perfect. It wasn't my favourite film of the year. I knew I had to see it again. So, I did. Two more times. I've now seen the film three times and let's just say that I was very overwhelmed the first time I saw it. This film is going to be a classic, on par with the original trilogy. Film of the year? I think so.
It's been thirty years since the last great Star Wars movie, and ten since the last decent one. Thankfully, Disney knows what they're doing, hiring the right people to get the job done. J.J. Abrams is certainly the man for the job, getting rid of his signature lens flares to make the film more like a Star Wars film than a J.J. Abrams film. His direction here is stunning, the set design and the cinematography gorgeous. Star Wars: The Force Awakens really is a beautiful looking movie, everything layered with detail. Everything feels like it has a history to it. Nothing is fresh and sparkly, not even Captain Phasma's (Gwendoline Christie) shiny metal armour.
Why is this, you ask? Why, because most of this film was done using practical effects, recreating the magic of the original trilogy. With the prequels, everything in that film looks computerised and fake, dating horribly despite not actually being that old. The original trilogy has dated far better than they have, and if you watch the theatrical cuts this is evident even more. It doesn't have the pointless edits and changes of the special editions. But away, with this new trilogy, J.J. wanted to make something that would last, and his efforts payed off. It feels like a real world with real people and real creatures. The use of practical effects helps with the believability.
There may be a lot of practical effects, but that doesn't mean the film is without visual effects. We're talking about Star Wars here. This is the franchise that revolutionised visual effects. Did they revolutionise them yet again? Not exactly. But we're living in a very different world right now and unless you're Avatar, there's not really much you can add to it. So do the visual effects look good? Damn right they do. From motion capture characters to space battles, the effects are unnoticeable, blending seamlessly into this rich and dangerous world that's just flooding with history.
It's all good to use the effects well, but at the time, the prequels had good visual effects. They just needed good screenplays. With The Force Awakens, the film was co-written by J.J. Abrams, the director, and Lawrence Kasdan, the writer of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, an earlier (but unused) draft written by Michael Arndt, the writer of Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3. Their screenplay is mind blowing, covering the last thirty years while also focussing on setting up these new characters and the new plot. Plus, they really understand what makes Star Wars Star Wars. It ticks off all the boxes of being a Star Wars movie.
Before I get into the newcomers, let's talk about the familiar faces. Pretty much every character who isn't dead makes a triumphant return in this movie, or so we were lead to believe. Han and Chewie play a very important role in this movie, serving as the connection between the old films and the new. They've aged, but they haven't changed, and you get this impression right away. Han essentially takes on the role of Obi-Wan, Chewie tagging along because he's Chewbacca and everyone loves him so he can do whatever the hell he wants. And yes, he does steal a few scenes here and there.
Leia (Carrie Fisher) is given a considerable amount of screen time as well, as is C3P0 (Anthony Daniels). R2D2 (Kenny Baker) isn't quite as lucky and neither is Luke (Mark Hamill), but those are for good reasons. I can't say why, but you'll understand when you see the movie. There's a reason some characters didn't show up in the advertising and because of that, I don't wish to discuss why they're not given much screen time. They're just not. End of story. Moving on. Remember that time when Han shot Greedo first? Same.
The Force Awakens is a film that's both about the original trilogy characters and not about the original trilogy characters. They certainly play an important role, but it's a new story for a new generation and because of that, we get a lot of new characters. The first of which is Rey, a scavenger who's living alone in harsh conditions on Jakku, the previously mentioned desert planet that 100% isn't Tatooine, despite being almost identical in looks. I didn't see this coming, but Rey was my favourite new addition to this franchise, or at least my favourite new human character. She gets to do a lot of cool things in this film, things I will not spoil, but it certainly makes her the most interesting of the lot.
While she's the best in terms of humans, the real stand out is the new droid, BB8. He's a round, child-like droid who we essentially follow the story of. He's the reason we get to go on this journey, much like R2D2 and C3P0 in the original film. And boy is he cute. BB8 made me fall in love, laugh out loud and smile harder than I've ever smiled before. He's the best thing about this film, and yes, he is a he. Two separate characters refer to him as a he, so I'm trusting them on that. Even J.J. Abrams says he, if that means anything.
The next new character is Finn, a stormtrooper who's sick of working for the First Order, which is the name given to the regime of bad guys hunting down the regime of good guys. You know, your typical Star Wars shenanigans. Finn is described by John Boyega, the actor who portrays him, as the audience of The Force Awakens. He's thrown into this situation and he's taken on a journey that wasn't meant for him. So are we. He's witty, charismatic and, just like Rey, the acting is top notch. There really aren't any bad performances in this movie, so that's another thing this movie did better than all of the prequels combined.
Our final hero in this tale is Poe Dameron, a Resitance fighter who's sent on a mission from a certain Princess.... or a certain General, as she's now referred to. Oscar Isaac is quickly making his way through Hollywood and he's becoming one of my favourite actors. It'll be a strange day when he's in a movie where his performance isn't excellent and with The Force Awakens, he's sensational. He brings a lot of humour to this story, but his character is never there for comic relief. He's a Han Solo type, always doing what must be done, although if I'm perfectly honest, Poe appears to be a little more enthusiastic than Han was in the original film. But that's all part of his character, and I guess Han's character, too.
Enough of the light side. Let's talk villains. There are four significant villains in this movie, although it's only Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) that takes the lead villain role. Not much was known about his character prior to the release of this movie and it's probably best to keep it that way. He may not be a Sith, but he's trained in the ways of the force, and damn, he sure is aggressive with a lightsaber. He's a villain you can understand and while I didn't necessarily sympathise with him, I got why he was the way he was. He may just be my second favourite Star Wars villain to date, and his fight scenes are intense.
Helping Ren with his dark side duties are two characters who I love, despite neither of them getting too much to do. General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is a little shit. He has complete faith in his stormtroopers and his weaponry and he's willing to do anything to get what he wants. Captain Phasma, on the other hand, is more of a follower, doing what she's told and doing it well. She may look cool, but she's really just a stormtrooper. She was a fan favourite before the film came out, but she won't be now that it is. That's not to say she's a bad character though, if you were at all getting that impression. I quite liked her.
While Phasma answers to Hux and Ren, those two answer to somebody called Supreme Leader Snooke (Andy Serkis), a motion capture character who, like most of this film, we didn't know anything about prior to seeing the actual film. In fact, we didn't even get to see what he looked like. Because of this, I won't really discuss him in much detail since this is a spoiler-free review, but he will certainly get discussed in my spoiler review. Let's just say he's not what I expected, but I liked him nonetheless. He certainly isn't on the same level as Caesar or Gollum, that's for sure.
When you place all of these distinct and very different characters into the one movie, nothing short of excellence occurs. The Force Awakens is a film that's funny, action packed, thrilling and everything a blockbuster should be. As a matter of fact, it really is the perfect blockbuster. 2015 has been the year of the let down, most movies ending up being pretty good, rather than excellent. Then Star Wars came along and changed everything. It's a constant blast from start to finish and I really can't emphasise enough how much fun I had watching this movie.
The Force Awakens was a film fans have been waiting decades to see. It's a film that, if bad, would've killed people. I honestly think it would have. Thankfully, it's the opposite. It's not without flaws, though. It does feel very much like a remake of A New Hope at times and there's a couple of convenient events that happen, especially in the third act, but after watching it three times, I really don't care. Everything else about this movie is just brilliant, including the new score by John Williams. I loved this movie. I think I'm going to grow an addiction to it. Somebody help. I don't think my body can handle the amount of popcorn I will end up eating.
To sum up, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a triumphant return to form for the Star Wars franchise, serving as a great standalone movie and setting up the films to come. J.J, you've done good, kid. You've done good. Episode 8, I'm coming for you.
Inside Out is one of the two movies released in the US in 2015 that I have given 5 stars (so far). It's currently my favourite film of the year, followed by Ridley Scott's sci-fi survival story, The Martian. I'm a big Pixar fanboy and have discussed their work on almost too many occasions. When a new Pixar film comes along, no matter how good it actually looks, I instantly have high expectations. I even had high expectations for Cars 2. I hate Cars 2. With The Good Dinosaur, I was immensely excited, despite the troubled production and mixed early reactions from overseas viewers who have already seen it. Like practically all 2015 releases, The Good Dinosaur was a slight let down. That being said, I still loved it.
It's a film with a simple premise. What would've happened if the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs didn't hit Earth? This isn't so much the story of the film, but more so a catalyst for this tale of a dinosaur and his boy. Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is an Apatosaurus trying to help his family store food for the winter. Soon, a terrible storm arrives, plunging Arlo into a river that separates him from his family and leaves him stranded in unfamiliar territory. When trying to make his way home, Arlo meets a young human boy named Spot (Jack Bright), who he befriends and is aided by on his journey back to his family before winter arrives.
Pixar have a knack for storytelling. No studio manages to tell stories quite like them. Their films speak to a wide audience, appealing to and touching the hearts of both adults and kids, and frequently making the adults cry much harder than the kids. Ever since the release of Toy Story twenty years ago, Pixar have been constantly changing the world of animation and the ways we tell these tales. They seriously are the greatest working film studio today. Every new film, no matter if it's a sequel or something we haven't seen before, gives them an opportunity to touch audiences all over the world, and The Good Dinosaur is no exception.
It's a sweet and awe inspiring movie that made me emotionally invested in the life of a dinosaur. Pixar have created a dinosaur that I'm able to relate to. Goddamn, they're good. The film is a tale of friendship, family and the power of courage. It's a touching movie that packs an emotional punch, especially in two spoiler-filled scenes that I won't discuss. While Inside Out stole all my tears this year, it's still quite the emotional roller coaster, and these two scenes are emotional without too many words even being spoken.
It's these more visual based scenes that really work best. The advertising for The Good Dinosaur hardly showed any of the dinosaurs talking, relying mostly on the imagery and the music to sell you on the film, and it worked. It worked well. The trailer linked below is absolutely beautiful and almost put a tear to my eye when I first watched it. My favourite moments in The Good Dinosaur are the scenes that manage to show us something without having Arlo explain what's going on. Much like Wall-e, the less dialogue, the better. Too bad this is aimed more at kids than it is adults and so the characters are constantly explaining the plot.
The animation in this film is on a whole other level, especially compared to Pixar's last effort, Inside Out. The backgrounds and the environments look photorealistic at times, and it's truly beautiful. The character designs, however, are more cartoonish, and for some odd reason a lot of people have a problem with this. I don't see why. When it comes to animations, I don't want it to replicate reality. I don't want all animations to be 100% photorealistic. While the environments in this film are stunning, I'm glad they decided to keep the characters they way they are. Animations don't need to replicate real life, but the way it's handled here is mesmerising.
What takes centre stage in this film is the relationship that builds up between Arlo and Spot, and this is quite a touching aspect of the plot. The two don't necessarily see eye to eye once the film begins, but as their adventure continues, the two spark a friendship that will crawl its way into your heart forever. Spot acts more like a dog than he does a boy and Arlo acts more like a boy than he does a dinosaur. It's hilarious to see the roles reversed and it just makes you instantly fall in love with these characters.
Unfortunately, the rest of the plot of The Good Dinosaur is repetitive and lacking substance. The film will certainly teach kids a thing or two about life, but the plot is really just Arlo attempting to make his way home and running into a dinosaur here and there. A pack of dinosaurs will show up every ten or so minutes, make the journey a bit difficult and then they'll leave. It results in a (mostly) predictable outcome. I even managed to predict what the final shot of this movie would be, which was rather upsetting. It's still sweet, but I would've liked to have been surprised by this film's plot. For example, Inside Out, while on the surface is also a film about returning home, has a story that gets unbelievably deep. The Good Dinosaur doesn't.
To sum up, The Good Dinosaur is a stunningly animated tale of friendship and family that's heart warming, emotional and funny, but its plot is repetitive and it lacks the thematic depth a lot of the other Pixar movies have.
It was just a year ago when Seth Rogen and James Franco nearly started a war between America and North Korea with their satire, The Interview. The film was nearly banned from playing on any screen, North Korea threatening to bomb all of the cinemas. It was crazy. Now, a year later, Seth Rogen has returned, and this time around the film isn't nearly as controversial. Instead of blowing up Kim Jong-Un while playing Katy Perry's Fireworks, Rogen and co have decided to make a raunchy, drug induced Christmas movie. Because why not?
The Night Before follows the story of three childhood friends, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie). Ever since the death of Ethan's parents over a decade ago, the three of them have had a Christmas Eve tradition where they go out and party all night, participating in as many outrageous things as possible. But this Christmas, the three of them intend to change that. Isaac is about to have a baby with his wife (Jillian Bell) and Chris is becoming way too famous to be spending the night on drugs and alcohol. It's time they ended that tradition. However, the three of them aren't going to end on a low note. No, they're going to end it with a bang. They're going to attend the Nutcracker ball, which is described as the holy grail of parties.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the funniest movie of 2015. The trailer for The Night Before had me laughing, but it wasn't something that made this movie a must see. I. WAS. WRONG. The Night Before is the must see comedy of the year and with Christmas coming up, now is the perfect time. I don't say this about very many comedies, but 95% of the jokes in this film had me belly laughing. I haven't laughed this hard in a theatre all year, so props to the cast and crew behind this soon-to-be Christmas classic.
I'm a big Seth Rogen fan so when put together with Joseph Gordon Levitt, who I also adore, and Anthony Mackie, nothing could go wrong. The three have excellent chemistry, their styles of humour perfectly matched. They each bring a different dynamic to the film, providing us with a variety of laugh out loud jokes. They're three very different characters that, when put together, result in a very, very, very entertaining movie that I cannot wait to revisit. My annual Christmas movie marathon just got a bit longer.
The three leads are great, but when you throw the excellent and charismatic supporting cast into the mix as well, things can only get better. From Lizzy Caplan to Mindy Kaling to a bunch of celebrity cameos, The Night Before is the comedy that keeps on giving. While the film's plot is incredibly thin, the supporting cast each provide a minor sub-plot that just makes the film all the more worthwhile. Each cast member allows for an unexpected and hilarious sequence or two, all of which end up tying together in one way or another. It's comedy gold.
The Night Before is directed by Jonathan Levine. Levine has directed one of my all time favourite movies, 50/50, which also stars Rogen and Levitt. 50/50 is a film that makes me cry every single time, even when I just watch one of the damn scenes on YouTube. It's a tear jerker, alright. If you haven't seen that movie before, you must. With The Night Before, it really surprised me just how sweet and touching this film got. It's not on the same level as 50/50, but it did put a massive smile on my face. It's a Christmas comedy with a lot of heart.
To sum up, The Night Before is a Christmas comedy that will be remembered. It's funny, charming, sweet and charismatic, Levine bringing the emotional impact from his earlier films, while the three leads all bring the belly laughs. It's an absolute treat.
At long last, In the Heart of the Sea has finally arrived. I'm not saying that because it's been my most anticipated film of the year or anything like that, but because of the many delays. I was looking forward to it, but I was never psyched out of my mind about it, although the many release date changes did make me a bit curious, especially since it was dropped right into the middle of Oscar season. Unfortunately, I don't see this wait as being worthwhile as In the Heart of the Sea is not a film that will end up taking home a bunch of gold statues next year. That being said, I still really enjoyed it.
The film begins with an author named Herman Melville (Ben Wishaw) approaching a man named Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson), the last known survivor of the Essex, a ship that was attacked by a whale when Thomas was just a teenager. Thomas has never spoken of these events to anyone, not even his wife (Michelle Fairley), but a bargain is struck and Thomas recounts his experience on the Essex for the sake of Herman's book, which he intents to call 'Moby Dick.' It's the tale of a sailor named Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) and his captain, George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), as they go out with the intention of hunting whales for oil, but are left stranded and "on the edge of sanity" in what ends up being a tragic tale of survival with deadly consequences.
What makes In the Heart of the Sea really worthwhile are its stunning visuals. The film is visual effects heavy, most of the movie taking place out at sea and it's these scenes that are rather gorgeous. There's a few moments with rather obvious green screen work, especially a scene where the characters all take rowboats out to hunt a pack of sperm whales, but everything else is quite the visual treat. The scenes all involving the infamous whale are practically flawless, every shot having a different, but cohesive feel to it. Nothing feels repeated. Everything has its own style.
Adding to these wonderful visuals is the cinematography. The cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, is a frequent collaborator with Danny Boyle, his filmography including 127 hours and Slumdog Millionaire, but more recently, Mantle teamed up with Ron Howard for an underrated movie called Rush. The camera work in that movie is mind blowingly good, and with In the Heart of the Sea, his second collaboration with Howard, it's just as visceral. He captures the beauty of this scenario, as well as the terror. Mantle is yet to disappoint.
While none of the performances are necessarily bad, none are overly fantastic, either. Everyone in this movie does a good job. Not a great job, but a good job. Hemsworth steals every scene he's in and his performance is leagues ahead of films such as Vacation or Red Dawn, neither of which are good movies, but to me, his performance in Rush just felt so much more alive. He's not bored in this role, he's just not as excited. He looks drained, even in the scenes where his character is meant to be alive and well, full of energy.
While the plot does revolve around this beast of a whale, the film is a tale of a group of men being put into a situation that most people won't live through. They know that and so it's up to them to figure out a way to survive. The whale isn't the main plot of this movie. In fact, the whale doesn't even show up until almost an hour in. This does make the first half drag, but it also allows for further development of these characters. There's more time put into their backstory and their lives. The film establishes who's who and where their power lays and when disaster strikes, this development creates tension. I wanted these characters to survive. Well, some of the time, anyway. There were other times where I was rooting for the whale....
By the time the film had wrapped up, I felt physically drained. Not emotionally drained, but just exhausted. I really can't explain why. The film didn't have me on the edge of my seat and it wasn't too long, but when it was over, I struggled to stand up and leave the screening. The film had taken the life out of me and I was exhausted. In the Heart of the Sea is certainly not a feel good movie, I'll say that. It's an entertaining one and I did enjoy it, but it doesn't scream with rewatchability. It's not a fun movie. Although, to be fair, I'm sure the real life people didn't have much fun in this scenario, either.
To sum up, In the Heart of the Sea is a slow paced, but worthwhile experience. It's visceral and exciting, but also rather draining and not very rewatchable. The release date change may kill this movie, especially with Star Wars on the horizon, but it's a good film nonetheless.
3 1/2 Stars