Posts Tagged ‘adaptation’

poster

Flynn! If a movie stars Paul Dano, Robert De Niro, and Julianne Moore, then you should certainly expect it to feature phenomenal acting. Being Flynn doesn’t disappoint. As well as above-average performances, the writing is also top-notch with so many quotable lines—mostly from De Niro’s character.

The delusions of grandeur are evident in the introduction…

“America has produced only three classic writers: Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger and me. I’m Jonathan Flynn. Everything I write is a masterpiece. And soon, very soon, I shall be known.” — Jonathan Flynn

Paul Weitz directed Being Flynn and wrote the screenplay based on the memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn. The story is simple. Nick works at a homeless shelter where his long-lost father (Jonathan) ends up staying after spending weeks on the cold streets.

Being Flynn is dreadfully depressing. Naturally, the pacing is also slow and methodical.

Since Nick is an aspiring writer and Jonathan proclaims everything he writes to be a masterpiece, this movie involves a lot of narration from Nick and Jonathan talking inside their own heads. At the very beginning, Paul Dano and Robert De Niro trade-off with dueling narrations. De Niro’s character delivers the delightful line, “Don’t worry. You’re back. Back in the hands of a master storyteller.”

dano-and-de-niro

That one early remark tells you everything you need to know about Jonathan Flynn.

De Niro’s character revels in being a dismissive, narcissistic prick.

The dynamic of the troubled father-son relationship between Paul Dano (as Nick Flynn) and Robert De Niro (as Jonathan Flynn) feels genuinely believable. Give De Niro credit for that. Although he’s pretty much a despicable human being, you still manage to like Jonathan Flynn because of De Niro’s undeniable charm. It’s impressive to see an engaging performance from De Niro. When was the last surprising performance from De Niro in the past decade? When you don’t see something for so long, you start to question whether that type of performance is still achievable. The range on display by De Niro in Being Flynn will serve as a reminder as to why he’s one of the best actors ever.

I want more of this De Niro before the old coot kicks the bucket.

As much as I love De Niro, the blood pumping through the heart of this movie is Paul Dano. Nick Flynn isn’t necessarily a likeable character, but Dano captures the essence and angst of someone struggling to find a purpose. It’s unfortunate that Paul Dano perpetually looks like a meek, mild-mannered teenager. Eventually, people will realize Paul Dano is one of our finest young actors.

paul-dano

While Nick Flynn is trying to make meaning out of his life, he uses writing as a way to express himself and release his emotions. It made my skin crawl to listen to Nick read his writing with such self-satisfaction. It’s an amazing lack of awareness that so many people have about themselves. I’ve had people tell me they enjoy my writing or art. But I’ll never believe them. Compliments never make me feel comfortable. Instead, my brain will find some flaw to try to negate the positive.

Things seem to be getting on the right track for Nick when he starts working at Harbor House—a men’s homeless shelter. However, that facade quickly crumbles when his father, Jonathan, enters the picture as a resident in need of a bed. Learning his absentee father is circling the drain leads Nick down a path of drugs and alcohol to escape. Jonathan causes daily disruptions at the homeless shelter, and he just generally wreaks havoc wherever he goes because he only seems to care about himself.

Unfortunately, these types of explosive people actually exist in real life. They are toxic.

How do you deal with them when it is someone in your own family?

julianne-moore

Although Dano and De Niro are the stars—along with Julianne Moore, in her limited screen time shown in flashbacks as Nick’s mother—Being Flynn employs a surprisingly good supporting cast. Olivia Thirlby is a strong pillar of support as Denise, the love interest and close friend of Nick. Thomas Middleditch and Chris Chalk help break up the monotony as Nick’s roomates (Richard and Ivan, respectively). Even Wes Studi is enjoyable as the stoic Captain of Harbor House. It’s a very small detail, but I fucking loved when he turns his chair to sit backwards in the classic “teacher trying to look cool and hip” pose.

I found a lot to enjoy about Being Flynn over several viewings. When I find a well-written, well-acted film, I like to savor it. Being Flynn isn’t as good of a two-man show as There Will Be Blood (also co-starring Paul Dano), but this movie is much more palatable for a broader audience.

Being Flynn is hardly the first movie to focus on homelessness. It’s a relatable topic and a realistic day-to-day fear for too many in this country who live paycheck-to-paycheck. However, most movies of this ilk don’t have the same amount of dark fun with this type of depressing subject.

Luckily, Being Flynn never stays dull and dreary for too long. Director and screenplay writer Paul Weitz knew when to pull the plane out of a nosedive at the right time. Basically, Robert De Niro took the reigns to say something stupid and racist. It was fun mocking his bigoted idiocy.

This is another movie I will fight you over if you don’t like it. Flynn!

fight

4.5 out of 5 stars

Advertisements

Poster

Finally, we need to talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Just in time for Mother’s Day! Go hug your mom before you watch this movie.

It’s been a few years since I first watched this movie, and I’ve forced myself to watch it a couple more times. I love the content and the story, but this movie adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s book (of the same name) is a frustrating experience. Much like Kevin and his problems, I have avoided talking about it because it’s nearly impossible to talk about my issues without spoiling the movie.

I hope you watch We Need to Talk About Kevin. This movie is streaming on Netflix and you should give it a chance for Tilda Swinton alone. The acting is captivating and as close to perfect as possible. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Tilda Swinton (Eva) and John C. Reilly (Franklin) are terrific. The shocker is that Ezra Miller is outstanding as the titular Kevin. This is the only thing I have enjoyed Ezra Miller in—though I now remember him in a small recurring role on the TV show Californication. Even Jasper Newell and Rock Duer perform admirably as the younger versions of Kevin. The casting is so impressive because Jasper and Rock both resemble Ezra Miller so well. Ashley Gerasimovich is also solid when she’s on the screen as the younger sister (Celia). These actors deserved to be in a better movie.

Same Face 1

That’s not to say We Need to Talk About Kevin is a bad movie.

It is not bad, per se. But I consider it a massive disappointment and missed opportunity.

Personally, I still found parts of this movie to appreciate despite its downfalls. I just have no idea who this was made for and why anyone without a critic’s mindset would like this movie. According to the ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, the audience actually appears to enjoy this movie as much as the critics enjoy their own farts. My qualms are not with the acting or source material.

I believe We Need to Talk About Kevin fails as a whole because the story is not told coherently—due to director Lynne Ramsay who co-wrote the screenplay with Rory Stewart Kinnear.

But why does this method of storytelling fail?

Same Face 2

Spoilers galore.

We know exactly what happens within the first 5 minutes.

I understand how the narrative of the book was told reflexively from Eva’s point of view looking back on her life, family, what Kevin did, and how she is trying to cope with the fallout. That way of storytelling does not work with the medium of film. Why? Because it removes all of the suspense and tension.

Same Face 3

Instead of being the thriller that it is incorrectly billed as, this movie immediately turns into a melancholy drama. For 2 hours, you are forced to watch Tilda Swinton shift from postpartum depression after Kevin’s birth to zoned-out, zonked, and just going through the motions in the present day. The flashbacks with Keivn are inarguably the best parts of this movie. From the start, the movie teases a massacre at the high school with police cars and parents outside screaming.

It is a complete disservice because it removes all of the emotional impact—taking what should have been a very powerful punch and spreading it incredibly thin across the entire runtime.

Telling the story in a straightforward manner would have kept the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what the hell Kevin was going to do rather than already being aware of the end result. On top of knowing Kevin committed a school massacre, you also know he killed his sister and dad. Apparently, that is supposed to be a big reveal in the book because the story is told through Eva’s letters written to her (presumed) estranged husband. But when you don’t see John C. Reilly or their kid in the present-day scenes in the movie, you absolutely know they are dead along with everyone else. When the movie finally catches up and shows the flashback to the day of the massacre, it didn’t make me feel any certain way. I was just glad they finally arrived at the destination.

Same Face 4

In a sense, showing you countless scenes of Tilda Swinton’s character gripping with guilt challenges the audience to be bored with the emotional gravity. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was among the bored. And I’m someone who actually liked this movie. But it felt like beating a dead horse.

The way this story unfolds is counterintuitive to the point they’re trying to make.

The question at the heart of this movie: who is at fault? Who can we blame?

Water

No one, really. A lot of factors are involved—no one handled anything properly and both parents probably made it worse—but I don’t feel like anyone is truly responsible. Not even Kevin himself. It’s a battle of nature and nurture rather than nature vs. nurture. Maybe I’m completely wrong (it certainly is possible), but that is not the sense that I got from watching this movie.

Because of her overwhelming guilt, Eva takes responsibility for the massacre in this movie. Tilda’s character even agrees to pay damages to the victims, which forced her to sell the house and her business—financially ruining her already ruined life. Director Lynne Ramsay alludes to the blood on her hands with several heavy-handed scenes of Eva trying to remove red paint that was thrown on her house and car. She has blood on her hands and is washing her red hands clean.

Through the flashbacks, you see Eva physically and emotionally abuse Kevin from a young age. She hits him, breaks his arm, and openly doesn’t love him. Without a doubt, Kevin is a twat, but he never deserved any of that. It is no surprise to see the way he turned out with his visible rage and disgust for his mother. The movie also glazes over any of the father’s culpability by ignoring the obvious issues and warning flags. John C. Reilly’s character is the one who encouraged Kevin using his bow and arrow—giving him the best equipment, which Kevin turned into a murder weapon.

To a degree, it feels like genetics and his awful abusive mother at fault.

Shrill Shrew

I can’t help but blame Lynne Ramsay for that. I can’t imagine that was her intention, but it was the result. I love Tilda Swinton and she was superb with her shell-shocked look, but her character came across a shrill shrew. After a while, it becomes too hard to sympathize with Eva.

On the other hand, I was extremely engaged and invested in every scene with Ezra Miller. I kept wanting more He was a charismatic, mysterious sociopath. One scene where Kevin is talking about people on TV watching TV (because people like him are on the TV) is extraordinarily effect and evoked memories of Mickey Knox’s TV interview with Robert Downey Jr. in Natural Born Killers. I consider that quite a compliment to Ezra Miller to compare him to that iconic Woody Harrelson performance.

I wanted to bathe in that fucked-up brain.

Context

You get so few opportunities to see things from Kevin’s perspective. I didn’t need that to be the entire movie, but this depiction does not give you any satisfying introspection. With such a great character, I wanted more nuance. In the movie, Kevin is simply evil and his mother is being crippled with guilt trying to come to terms with things because she feels directly responsible.

As a result, Kevin is more of a one-dimensional villain.

I feel like the positive reception is a sign We Need to Talk About Kevin found its audience. However, I cannot recommend this movie to the general public. It’s not for a wide audience. This movie is only for an art-type crowd that can appreciate a slow, largely dull way of storytelling.

Happy

Based on the acting and the actual story, this is deserving of 5 stars. But the way We Need to Talk About Kevin was told is not deserving of 5 stars. It was an act of self-mutilation. I enjoyed certain aspects, but I cannot say I loved it as a whole. Half of the time, this completed missed the mark. Maybe it could be salvaged with a wildly different edit to give it an entirely new emotional feeling.

I’m sorry for burdening you with that novel reviewing a movie based on a novel.

I just needed to talk to someone about Kevin. Even if that someone was myself.

Point

2.5 out of 5 stars

Poster

I have zero connection to Disney movies.

Even as a child, I was already too grown-up for their fake worldview.

I am a better person for it. Disney is a disease that infects children with unrealistic expectations. Director Jon Favreau does an admirable job subverting the classic expectations of Disney movies as much as possible. But the cheese is overwhelmingly ham-handed and inescapable.

Of course, this is still a children’s movie—first and foremost. Like most kids movies, they sell audiences on the bullshit line that it’s for children but can also be enjoyed by adults. While Favreau performed substantially better than most would in his position, that balancing act is very visible.

Neel Sethi

Before we get into spoiler territory, let’s talk about what works. Above all, The Jungle Book is a success because Disney nailed their casting of Mowgli. Neel Sethi was phenomenal and picture-perfect for the role. Few child actors could pull of the physicality needed for Mowgli to move throughout the jungle in a realistic fashion while also believably interacting with CGI animals. Apparently, The Jim Henson Creature Shop was wisely brought in to fabricate puppets to serve as reference points for Neel Sethi. However, this movie probably doesn’t work remotely as well with any other child actor.

You have to love Mowgli because this is his journey and you are with him every step.

Baloo and Mowgli

Bill Murray is always a welcome presence, and he does a superb job bringing Baloo (the bear) to life. The character depiction perfectly matches Bill Murray’s voice and delivery. The third casting choice that Disney had to perfect was Shere Khan (the tiger) because he’s the villain that you must fear and despise. Idris Elba reveled in this opportunity and he chews ample scenery. As a result, Shere Khan is the correct mix of menace and power. I could do without every other casting decision.

I understand why they would want to cast Ben Kingsley as Bagheera (the panther)—especially considering the backstory of the book in the context of India. I mean, he’s fucking Gandhi. But it felt like a decision obligated more out of politics/commercial incentives instead of a character-based decision. Personally, it feels like Ben Kingsley mailed it in—either that or he’s not a good voice actor. Emotionally, Bagheera feels flat. While he may have intended for it to come across as regal, Ben Kingsley’s delivery feels like he’s bored and divorced from what is happening on the screen.

Bagheera

For a completely computer-generated movie (except for Neel Sethi), The Jungle Book breaks new ground and deserves praise for being a technological achievement. As usual, the 3D is completely unnecessary and I think it would drastically detract from the visuals. While there is a certain disconnect between the voice actors and CGI animals moving their mouths, I was able to forgive and forget that these were actors in a sound booth. You just have to go with it because you can only do so much to replicate how voices echo through the space and density of a computer-generated jungle.

Although it may look silly 5-10 years later, this is an important step in CGI development.

Now that I’ve praised this enough, let’s get down to talking some shit about a children’s movie.

Spoilers galore.

A surprising amount of death occurs in The Jungle Book.

However, no real violence is shown when a death happens, but the character completely disappears from the story without so much as a lingering shot. This occurs multiple times. Maybe I’m guilty of overanalyzing, but I believe you negate the impact of the death you’re showing by just breezing right past it. Mufasa’s death in The Lion King makes a monumental impression because they show the act and direct aftermath—Simba seeing the body of his dead father and mourning him.

Whereas in The Jungle Book, it’s impossible to tell whether or not some characters actually died—specifically Kaa and King Louie. Both of these characters feel shoehorned into the movie. I have no idea what their previous roles were in the animated movie or book, but the screen time for Kaa and King Louie appears to primarily serve as clumsy exposition to further plot points.

Kaa

Kaa is a massive python s-s-seductively voiced by Scarlett Johansson. She is in one scene where she basically tells Mowgli the story of the red flower (Shere Khan killing Mowgli’s father and getting burnt badly in the process) and then tries to devour Mowgli. Somehow, Baloo silently climbs up an extremely high tree and I guess he viciously kills Kaa to save Mowgli. Remember, Baloo is a lazy, obese bear—but evidently he can climb really high steathily undetected. Kaa never reappears in the story, but you also never see Baloo kill Kaa. It’s just a roar, heavy implication, and quick cut.

King Louie appears in a similar yet even more bungled sequence. King Louie is voiced by Christopher Walken, which is so weird that it works. While King Louie is an orangutan in every other incarnation, Jon Favreau turned the character into a Gigantopithecus. Essentially, he is King Kong as an orangutan with all of the quirky personality traits of Christopher Walken. King Louie wants to learn the secret to controlling the red flower from Mowgli so he can use it for his own sinister devices.

King Louie

Bagheera and Baloo track Mowgli down after he’s kidnapped by the monkeys and taken to King Louie. With their help, Mowgli escapes, but they all have to outrun and outwit King Louie. This leads to King Louie destroying his kingdom so he can try to grab Mowgli. As a result of his greed, the whole kingdom literally crumbles down on top of King Louie. These scenes make it seem like Kaa and King Louie only exist to talk about the red flower (fire), threaten to kill Mowgli, and then die.

It seems very odd as an adult, and I would imagine children must also be confused.

And apparently, all life is precious in the jungle except monkeys. Countless monkeys presumably get slaughtered—or else we’re supposed to pretend they’re made of rubber and have no bones so they can get clawed and trampled without any repercussions. Why did the monkeys get fucked over? As far as I can recall, the monkeys are also the only animals that aren’t given human voices.

That is some fucked-up shit to do to our closest DNA relatives, Fatreau.

Finally, Mowgli learns from King Louie (before he is crumbled to death) that Shere Khan killed Akela. That was also another glossed-over death because Khan attacks Akela and throws him off a cliff. It is incredibly quick, but at least that is a death that has an impact. While the wolves let Shere Khan reign supreme over their domain, Mowgli is immediately out for blood when he hears the news.

Shere Khan

Mowgli runs to the man village to steal fire and sprints through the jungle with a lit torch.

In his haste, embers from his torch fly off and ignite the jungle. This all leads to a very stilted final stand after Mowgli miraculously runs back home in a matter of minutes (the same ground that it took him days to flee). Inevitably, Mowgli kills Shere Khan with fire—using the blaze he created by burning the jungle. But it’s all cool because elephants are natural firefighters. Problem solved!

So the lesson here is don’t play with fire…unless you have an elephant around.

I don’t know why they intentionally made the hero (Mowgli) destroy part of the jungle—even if it was by mistake. Apparently, that fire didn’t kill any other animals or destroy their habitats. Remember, elephants are magical and can fix any situation by knocking down some trees.

Despite all its faults, The Jungle Book is a good movie.

But everyone should relax on the instant classic bullshit.

Red Flower

3.5 out of 5 stars

Poster

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a phenomenal film and one of my absolute favorites from 2015.

Released last summer, this movie has been relatively overlooked. Personally, I don’t know anyone else who has watched Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Maybe it’s because this was a smaller independent movie without major marketing or star power, but the whole cast is outstanding. Thomas Mann shines as the titular Me (actual character’s name is Greg), and RJ Cyler has a charismatic yet low-key presence as Greg’s best friend/co-worker/acquaintance Earl. Remember the names of those actors.

Olivia Cooke holds her own as well with a solid, overwhelmingly depressing performance as Rachel—the Dying Girl. After repeated viewings, you can really pick up on her nuances and see the literal and figurative transformation of the character. Rachel’s dad left when she was young so she only has her mom. Molly Shannon plays her mom (Denise) and this is undoubtedly the best performance of her career as well as her best movie. Denise actually starts the story in motion by telling Greg’s mom that Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia. Despite not necessarily being friends, Greg is practically pushed by his mom to hang out with Rachel, which results in an amazingly awkward introduction.

Parents

Within the first 15 minutes, the setup is complete and the story is established.

Although the story is based on a book written by Jesse Andrews, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon had Andrews tweak the screenplay. I haven’t read the book, but I wholeheartedly endorse the changes I discovered. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon felt like he was the only one who could tell this story, and it’s hard to argue with that. The movie was dedicated to his late father and you can tell it’s personalized with certain movie references that influenced Gomez-Rejon. In different (less adept) hands, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl could have transformed into your typical young adult romance fodder.

Steps

The interplay between Greg, Earl, and Rachel is the most compelling component of this character-driven drama. Greg tries to keep everyone at a distance because he has very low self-esteem and doesn’t want to get close to people, but he also becomes incredibly selfless through his friendship with Rachel. For better or worse, Greg’s carefully cultivated invisibility disappears. These characters feel like genuine people legitimately reacting to the events and having difficulty coping with their reality. Rachel is dealt a shitty hand by being abandoned by her dad early in life and then dealing with leukemia during her senior year. You feel the burden and weight these characters are carrying in their everyday lives.

While the subject matter is inescapably sad, you can savor the moments of levity.

In particular, Nick Offerman is fucking hilarious as Greg’s dad—it’s a nice counter to Connie Britton’s nagging mom routine. Nick Offerman plays an out-there, off-the-wall professor of sorts who somehow stays at home most of the time. He introduces Greg and Earl to the finest foreign cinema when they’re rather young, which inspired them to make their own homages to the movies they love.

Films

Basically, Greg and Earl change a word or two in the title of a movie they love and then make their own parody story. There are snippets of some movies and you just see the titles of others. In all, they have 42 films—gems like A Sockwork Orange, Burden of Screams, Eyes Wide Butt, My Dinner with Andre the Giant, and Raging Bullshit. I have a real appreciation for those little vignettes. Ultimately, it’s a few short seconds of actual screen time that likely took quite a while to compile the list of fake titles and compose the parody scenes. It is a delightful nod to film history. And most importantly, it results in at least one Werner Herzog impersonation in the movie. I hope you just read that sentence in his voice.

Jon Bernthal is his usual excellent self as the History teacher, Mr. McCarthy. Greg and Earl sit in his office to eat and watch videos during their lunch. It also affords Mr. McCarthy the opportunity to throw down life lessons here and there. I have never experienced a Jon Bernthal performance that I didn’t love, and this movie is absolutely no different. His character adds energy to the school sequences, and I’m convinced his mere presence elevated the performances of Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler. You wish you had a teacher as cool as Jon Bernthal. Hell, I wish I knew anyone as cool as Jon Bernthal.

McCarthy

It would’ve been too easy to make this movie a sappy teen cancer flick about finding love in the worst of times. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is enjoyable on several levels because it has so many layers. It is unmistakably a movie about how much cancer fucking sucks. But it’s also a comedy about how true friendship works. This is a movie that can and should be enjoyed by various types of audiences. Although the protagonists are teenagers in high school, I would argue that this even more of a heartfelt drama for adults. Prepare for an emotional ride through the human experience.

Maybe it’s just me, but I found a lot to fall madly in love with this movie. As long as you pay attention, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl can continue unfolding itself to you even after the credits roll.

Respect the Research

5 out of 5 stars

Poster

Room is a heartbreaking story that is great despite being depressing from beginning to end.

As you can imagine, a movie titled Room is a restricted narrative. Nearly the whole first half of the movie takes place inside a single room with basically two characters. Brie Larson plays the main character, Ma—who was kidnapped when she was 17 years old and repeatedly raped by her captor. Her real name is Joy, which is not very fitting considering her awful situation. Joy gave birth to Jack—who turns 5 years old during the movie and he has never stepped outside. Jack doesn’t understand that there is a world beyond the walls. The outside world to him is outer space. Jack doesn’t know that other human beings are real. His exposure to the world is through the fake pictures on television. Jack only knows his mother and his mysterious kidnapper (given the devilish moniker Old Nick).

This movie works because of Brie Larson as Joy and Jacob Tremblay as Jack.

Brie Larson

Brie Larson is tasked with the heavy lifting and she rises to the occasion. I first fell in love with Brie Larson a few years ago after Short Term 12—a bonafide 5-star movie still streaming on Netflix. Brie Larson is absolutely sweet, charming, and endearing. People are expecting her to experience a similar career surge as Jennifer Lawrence if she wins the Oscar for Best Actress this year. She’s the prohibitive favorite and deserves the distinction. And she’s a much better actress than Jennifer Lawrence.

Personally, I think Jacob Tremblay was snubbed for Best Supporting Actor. Maybe his nomination would have interfered with the orchestrated plan to retroactively honor Sylvester Stallone for Rocky. This little kid was much better than Sly mumbling along as a brain-damaged boxer—quite a stretch for Stallone and convenient that his character had a built-in excuse for his inability to speak. Jacob Tremblay’s acting was shocking for someone so young. Of course you want to root for these two characters to escape. However, it’s also natural if you want to throw the kid across the fucking room at times.

Jacob Tremblay

One missed opportunity is the failure to define Old Nick. You don’t have any idea as to his motivation and the man has no discernible character traits. I’m not asking for much, but I would’ve been better served with Old Nick having some purpose beyond needing to fuck every night. As written, Old Nick is a standard, one-dimensional bad guy. It’s understandable if you might find it difficult to maintain your interest through such a bleak plight, but I was on the edge for the whole movie.

Room is emotionally captivating. This movie places the audience in these claustrophobic confines and you feel what the characters feel. The depression would be incapacitating and overwhelming. Brie Larson’s character is just trying to hold everything together for as long as she can. When shit breaks down, it’s incredibly tense because you can’t help but scream and squirm in your seat.

Very few quibbles could be had with the construction of Room. There are no windows in this room, unless you count an annoying skylight—which I do. The skylight gives them a glimpse of the outside world. It represents hope while simultaneously torturing them with what they can’t experience. In this situation, it’s hard to imagine having much hope. However, the skylight is a frustrating element that demanded addressing. This young woman and her 5-year-old son are being held captive in a shed with a door locked by a passcode. Padding on the ceiling muffles sound, but the characters still scream at the top of the lungs during their daily routine in an attempt to draw anyone’s attention.

Skylight

Why the fuck wouldn’t they try to shatter the skylight glass? You could yell for help or even try to crawl up to the roof of this small 10×10 shed. I’m fine with the route that Room took, but there needed to be an attempt or at the very least some throwaway mention that it’s shatterproof glass (unless I completed missed that). It’s a relatively minor nitpick in an otherwise phenomenal film.

Room separates itself from being standard kidnapper genre fodder by focusing on the aftermath. If you could somehow survive this situation, would you want to? What makes life worth living? I don’t know how you could cope with being raped every night for 7 years. This movie is based on a book of fiction, which I found somewhat surprising since it seems like an amalgamation of true events. You feel like you’ve heard a similar story. Lenny Abrahamson (who also directed sleeper hit/cult favorite Frank last year) deserves credit for keeping the pace brisk. Although this should have been reduced by about 15 minutes, the third act is full of emotional moments that make the room rather dusty.

Room deserves your adulation. This year’s Oscars is an extremely crowded group for Best Picture, but Room is in its rightful place among The Revenant and The Big Short (though Mad Max: Fury Road is unparalleled in its greatness). Brie Larson will likely be the major recipient of this movie’s well-deserved praise—especially after she wins Best Actress. But I’ll also watch the next movie with Lenny Abrahamson at the helm. Coming off the unique and largely unforgettable experience of Frank, I’m certain that Room is not just a one-and-done case of Stockholm Syndrome with Brie Larson.

Thank You

4.5 out of 5 stars

Poster

The Martian is a good movie. That much is not in question.

However, the extent to which it is a good movie is up for debate.

Critics and the audience share an identical 92% approval rate for The Martian on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s not a 92 out of 100 rating (you’d be surprised how many people misunderstand Rotten Tomatoes), but it is indicative of the fact that most people enjoyed their experience. For me, a crucial factor in differentiating between good and great movies is the degree of re-watchability.

Similar to The Revenant, The Martian is not a movie I want to visit again.

I can recognize that this is a worthy motion picture, but get the hell out of here with talk of this movie earning awards for Best Picture or Best Actor. Matt Damon is great in this role. He’s believable and personable—you want to root for him. Even if you haven’t watched The Martian, you should be familiar with the basic premise that astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars trying to survive long enough to be rescued. Or to put it in the parlance of our times, he has to “science the shit out of this.”

Science Shit

The Martian premiered all the way back in October, and I have been putting off seeing it since then.

That’s not meant as an insult to this movie. I just knew what it would be—without ever reading the source material. It’s very, very familiar territory. Call it Space Castaway if you want. At least it’s better than the insufferable, interminable bore that was Gravity. But it’s damn sure not in the same stratosphere as Moon (starring the superior Sam Rockwell). The Martian just has no lasting effects.

Perhaps the most resounding impact of this movie will be that it’s finally another win for Ridley Scott. In the last 7 or so years, Prometheus is probably his best movie and even that is incredibly polarizing in terms of popularity. Coming off the suicide of his brother (and director) Tony Scott, Ridley’s latest movies were The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings—both extraordinarily, exceptionally awful. Maybe not being nominated for Best Director will result in the Prometheus sequel(s)/Alien prequel(s) being better movies. One can dream. My hopes aren’t incredibly high because The Martian is far too bloated and fatty, which is likely why this wasn’t nominated for Best Director or Best Editing.

Matt Damon

While the visuals are stunning and Matt Damon carries the movie impressively, The Martian still left me feeling lacking after 144 minutes. Through the first hour, the pacing is impeccable and the cuts to NASA are interspersed appropriately. But that momentum grinds to a halt in the second half. I don’t know the exact breakdown, but it feels like almost a half-hour of the movie is without Matt Damon as Mark Watney. I didn’t give a fuck about any of the other characters. It was necessary to introduce certain key players in order to propel the story, but those sequences should have been tightened. The Martian suffered in each scene whenever Matt Damon wasn’t on the screen.

Everything involving Matt Damon’s character was compelling and interesting.

With this movie basically considered a comedy, it was a weird shift to play too heavy on the drama. The audience understands the movie must end a specific way. No major studio picture was seriously going to consider shuffling things up a bit. If that would have been taken into consideration, then the comedic elements could have been played up more against the backdrop of beautiful Mars desert imagery.

I think they (Ridley Scott and/or the movie studio) were afraid to be too funny to be taken seriously.

Ultimately, The Martian is an enjoyable, cookie-cutter space romp. There aren’t any memorable scenes or standout moments, but it’s a very serviceable sci-fi adventure comedy. While The Martian seems like it would have been more astounding to see on the big screen, I’m glad I waited to see it at my leisure—which helps with such a long runtime. The Martian is a worthwhile one-time experience.

Surprise

3 out of 5 stars

Poster

Odd Thomas is not your typical thriller. This unique movie is a whimsical horror mystery that engages the audience with a great story and also dazzles the eyeballs with interesting imagery and effects. Odd Thomas ages better with each repeated viewing, and it’s a super share with fellow friends.

Don’t hold it against Odd Thomas that this movie is based on a novel by Dean Koontz.

Give it a chance and go add Odd Thomas to your Netflix queue. I’ll fight you if you don’t.

Odd Yelchin

Even if you don’t like Anton Yelchin, you’ll have to admit that he is perfect for the character. The only other actor I could have imagined as Odd Thomas is Jay Baruchel. But Yelchin does a fantastic job embodying the role and grounding a character with psychic ability in reality—a fucked up reality, but one nonetheless. Yelchin’s face always looks like he’s awaiting something terrible around every corner.

And he has reason to believe that since Odd Thomas can see dead people. Also, there are invisible creatures called bodachs that creep around and feed on carnage. Only Odd can see the bodachs, but they can’t know that or else they’ll kill him. Whenever bodachs are lurking around, evil is sure to follow.

Willem Dafoe

Odd’s mission is to try to prevent harm from happening as much as possible and help those lingering souls he can see. Living vampire/human bat Willem Dafoe is cast as Chief Wyatt Porter—who helps keep publicity away from Odd while catching the bad guys. Willem Dafoe is at his best in everything. His weird demeanor adds another dimension to this movie with a good cop/bad cop dynamic between Chief Porter and Odd Thomas. Bad casting could have easily tanked this movie. Thanks to the cast, it has a heart.

Since movies need to have romantic tension, Odd Thomas introduces Odd’s girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn—played by Addison Timlin, you might remember her boobs from her arc on Californication. While Stormy is easy on the eyes, her character is there to really give Odd a reason to live and fight these evil forces. Thanks to his inane abilities and some good ole fashioned detective work, Odd Thomas finds his first lead when he sees bodachs swarming a particularly gross dude they nickname Fungus Bob.

Fungus Bob

There are some fun twists and turns in the story that slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Doing anything he can to prevent an impending disaster in public, Odd Thomas is appealing because it has a little bit of everything for everyone. This movie has elements of horror, mystery, romance, and sci-fi with its paranormal slant. For some reason, Odd Thomas did not garner a good critical reception as it currently stands at 35% on Rotten Tomatoes—although the 65% audience rating is more favorable.

Stormy

Some may call it a jumbled mess, but I would say that’s unfair. While Odd Thomas is uneven at times, it delivers plenty of odd and weird. What else did you expect? I can’t point to any particular weak link. The shifts in tone are random, but not jarring. I certainly didn’t feel any aspect of the direction barred my enjoyment of the story. Surprisingly tense, Odd Thomas moves at a swift pace building your interest until breaking your hopes and dreams. Although this is not an M. Night Shyamalan clone, you can see some similarities with The Sixth Sense—a breakthrough success when released back in 1999.

Odd Thomas sees dead people and tries to do something. As a result, his job is never over and you can see how the novel structure and ending would have left the door open for a sequel.

Evil is always ready to strike and the danger must be defeated.

Scream

4.5 out of 5 stars