Posts Tagged ‘fall’

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

Advertisements

Poster

Holy fuck. Those are the only two words that will come out of your mouth after watching Sicario. An early favorite for Best Picture at the Oscars, Sicario is well-crafted with amazing acting performances from Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin. If there’s a better movie coming out later this year, I can only imagine it being double the pleasure, double the fun with Tom Hardy playing twins in Legend.

Calling Sicario a tense action thriller is an understatement.

My breath was hastened. There was a weight on my chest. Sprawled out in a cozy recliner, I squirmed around uncomfortably. This fucking movie gave me anxiety. Trust me, I’m familiar with the feeling. Somehow, merely driving through the streets into Mexico and back across the border managed to become insanely intense. No need to fret, there’s a payoff for all that fierce tension too.

Driving

From the very first scene—a raid on a suburban home in Chandler, AZ—you know you are in for a ride. It is bumpy and uncomfortable at times. The stakes are established early. This is the war on drugs where raids and busts are simply scratching the surface. But be careful of what you might find when you go deeper. This is awful people doing awful things—the stuff white of people’s nightmares.

A veritable game of chess, the important pieces like kings and queens are kept out of sight. For the most part, everyone we see are pawns in one army or another. On the American side, there are Department of Justice advisors Matt Graver (played by Josh Brolin) and his mysterious partner Alejandro (played by Benicio Del Toro). However, the audience experiences the action through the eyes of FBI agent Kate Macer (played by Emily Blunt). Just like Kate, we’re along for the ride through this hellscape.

Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt is predictably fantastic, which you should expect if you watched her in Looper and Edge of Tomorrow. You see Blunt’s vulnerability and feel her emotional state deteriorate the deeper they delve into the business of the drug trade. Any normal person would have broken down a long time ago.

In my own personal game of recognizing actors from my favorite TV shows, Jon Bernthal (Shane from The Walking Dead) pops up in an extended cameo. As usual, Bernthal is just grand and he brought more to the role than the flat character that was written on paper. From the Fifteen Million Merits episode of Black Mirror, Daniel Kaluuya plays Reggie Wayne, friend of Kate and fellow FBI agent. Kaluuya is surprisingly enjoyable as the skeptic. The supporting cast elevates the content even in mundane scenes.

Benicio Del Toro

With such an incredibly well-rounded movie, even the cinematography demands your attention with its dramatic presence. I live in Arizona and the only Southwestern landscape that I find breathtaking is the red rocks of Sedona. But the wide angle shots of the desert and barren wasteland along the border are beautiful in this movie. The framing of several scenes depicts a strong sense of foreboding.

The doom is impending for a reason. And it is always inevitable.

Sooner or later, it all catches up to you. The river of shit is unavoidable. In a sense, that’s a recurring theme in Sicario. Although Emily Blunt’s character Kate wants maintain her moral compass, it’s hard not to spin out of control when you realize that the most effective response to terror is terror. Hidden bodies in a suburban home is just the beginning. Moving beyond the surface only reveals more evil. The water in the deep end is dark and murky. While everyone else is doing whatever necessary to get the job done, all Kate wants to do is follow procedure. In this world, following procedure will get you killed.

Sicario is sick and twisted, but it is wisely infused with some levity.

Josh Brolin

Josh Brolin’s character Matt Graver is shockingly humorous with his dickish persona. You never quite trust him, but he still comes off as likeable. Benicio Del Toro is sneaky great with a raw, mysterious performance. Everything—writing, casting, acting, directing—works together harmoniously. The score made my heart pound during the right moments. At this point, I’ve only watched Sicario once, but it won’t stay that way for long. I look forward to uncovering more nuances in future viewings. Sicario doesn’t have the same philosophical underpinnings as No Country for Old Men, but it belongs in the same stratosphere of great movies. Director Denis Villeneuve has a phenomenal piece of art here with Sicario.

Expect Sicario to at least garner Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Picture this year. Emily Blunt could be in the competition for Best Actress and there are other fitting categories as well. Sicario excels by giving its stars the room to breathe in their roles.

If Sicario is any indication, the war on drugs is an unbreakable cycle of horror. There’s no winning. We are all losers in this game. You might want to take a shower after this cinematic experience.

Shower

5 out of 5 stars

Poster

Foxcatcher is as enjoyable as a stuffy nose. It is dry and dull, and you can do nothing aside from suffer until it mercifully ends. Sit back and strain through more than two hours of sweaty man love.

It’s no secret this movie exists essentially as a showcase for Steve Carell. Kudos, the Oscar bait snagged a nomination, but Carell has no chance of reeling in the Best Actor award. Comedic actors cast in dramatic roles is nothing new. Regardless of public perception, Steve Carell has some serious acting ability and people need to give him his due. While Carell is rock-solid as eccentric rich guy and awkward wrestling enthusiast John E. du Pont, the character isn’t interesting enough to captivate your interest.

Golden Eagle

By offering money to train in the top-notch facilities at Foxcatcher, John E. du Pont interjects himself into the lives of U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medal-winning brothers, Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (played by Mark Ruffalo). John E. du Pont claims his friends call him “Golden Eagle.” It doesn’t take long to realize that du Pont is a bit of a creep with delusions of grandeur.

Serving as a time capsule of the era, Foxcatcher is firmly grounded in the 80s.

While training for the Olympics, Mark Schultz scrapes by eating ramen noodles and making money from speaking at middle school assemblies. It’s sad and pathetic. It’s also true for most no-name Olympic athletes who insanely dedicate themselves to the relentless pursuit of one specific goal.

Mark Schultz is not a likable character. In this movie, he’s a one-dimensional meathead. Channing Tatum is incredibly believable at acting dumb. This role is no different. Showing his acting chops, there’s a scene where Channing Tatum hits himself in the face and smashes his head through a mirror.

Head Smash

Only, it wasn’t acting. It was the most honest aspect of this movie. You can clearly see his big blockhead crashed too far through the mirror and into the wall. He made him bleed his own blood. There’s also a scene where Mark Schultz is struggling to memorize a short speech with big words, but I’m 99.9% certain that was just Channing Tatum genuinely stammering and stuttering through his lines.

Forget about Steve Carell and Channing Tatum. Mark Ruffalo is the true star of this movie. Despite a cartoonish, unspeakably bad hair makeup, Dave Schultz is the only authentic human being in this movie. Neither John E. du Pont nor Mark Schultz has a pulse. On the other hand, Ruffalo portrays a conflicted character with self-guilt and obligations to his family, but ultimately he too has a price. Everybody’s got a price. And everybody’s gonna pay. Because the Million Dollar Man, always gets his way!

Without Dave Schultz, Foxcatcher would be without a moral compass.

Ruffalo

At the end of the movie, the only character you have any sort of emotional investment in is Dave Schultz. Although the narrative was intentionally constructed in that manner, it’s a credit to Mark Ruffalo that you manage to care at all. Maybe some still won’t even care about Dave Schultz.

Foxcatcher is a very understated movie that implies motivations instead of revealing them. In almost every instance, the audience is unaware of the reasoning behind a character’s action. I don’t need to be told everything, but I need to be told something. What’s the point of all this?

Anything is a more satisfying answer than America.

Blank

2 out of 5 stars

Poster

New releases rarely offer something unique. It’s almost always hyperbole to say a movie is unlike anything you’ve ever watched. Almost always. But Birdman is unlike anything I’ve ever watched.

An exceptionally well-made dark comedy, Birdman is stunning because of the degree of difficulty it gives itself. For most of the movie, Birdman is a perfect example of limited storytelling since you are restricted to Broadway’s St. James Theatre and the actors involved in the adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Whenever a character leaves the St. James, it’s typically to go on the roof and gaze at the city. It’s a welcome breath of fresh air for the viewer.

Filmed as if it were a single, uninterrupted take, the camera beautifully swoops and cranes to give you a perspective similar to a bird. I cannot recall such graceful camera movement and interesting transitions of time. If anything stands out about Birdman, it’s the direction and creativity that drives the movie.

 

Without question, the acting is superb. Several will likely be in line for Oscar nominations. Michael Keaton is incredibly believable going batshit crazy as an actor at the end of his road who craves public acceptance for being more than just Birdman. Edward Norton is flawless as usual and Emma Stone is an essential supporting character that the movie desperately needed. Zack Galifianakis plays the straight man and he’s fucking fantastic, which should be expected by now because the man can seriously act.

At the heart of Birdman is an existential crisis and struggle for relevancy.

Meaning

Michael Keaton plays a washed-up actor named Riggan Thomson who once starred as Birdman in three blockbuster movies. All Riggan was known for was a ridiculous suit. Although he’s left the character behind, the gravelly voice still rings in his ears questioning his every move. We all have those voices.

Birdman doesn’t pull any punches as it skewers both the film and theatre industry. Going through the rolodex of Hollywood actors tied up playing superheros gets laughably longer while these superhero movies increase exponentially in strength. It is great casting that Edward Norton plays the character (Mike Shiner) that comes in because all of the big name actors are involved in superhero movies.

I cannot express how happy I am that Edward Norton backed out of being The Hulk for the decade-long commitment Marvel takes for The Avengers. Norton deserves credit for not Scrooge McDucking through the mountains of money The Hulk would have garnered. In that case, it would be easy being green. Since Edward Norton is such a phenomenal actor, his bank account won’t suffer too much.

Keaton and Norton

Birdman wouldn’t be the same without Edward Norton. The acting in the entire movie is elevated thanks to Edward Norton’s unpredictable, chaotic energy as Mike Shiner. The movie is cemented in the chemistry between Edward Norton and Michael Keaton. Make no mistake, Birdman is not flawless. The first and second acts are terrific, but the story starts to unwind in the third act. While the daring nature of the director is exceptional, it’s also responsible for the reprehensible way it ended. With awful CGI sprinkled throughout the third act, it really appeared as if Inarritu had no idea how to end the movie.

I won’t reveal the ending, but it is unspeakably bad. Whatever the reason, it’s not justifiable.

Fortunately, there’s a near perfect 80-90 minutes of Birdman that will allow you to tolerate the rest of the 2-hour runtime. If you haven’t already watched Birdman, this is the movie you want to see out of the handful of other Oscar contenders in theaters. Not only is this a great movie on your first watch, but it’s so enjoyable (maybe not necessarily entertaining) that there’s more to explore on multiple viewings.

Caw

4.5 out of 5 stars

Poster

I watched The Interview because I’m a patriot and I love freedom. Just kidding.

I watched The Interview because I was bored and it was available for free in the comfort of my own home. By now, everyone knows all of the hoopla surrounding the Sony hack and trying to connect the dots to North Korea. Even before that threat, I would have never paid money to watch this in a theater. Although you should avoid trailers, all of the previews made this movie look horrific and utterly unwatchable.

My feelings were somewhat substantiated after actually watching the movie. But there were a handful of unexpected laughs and most of the movie was surprisingly enjoyable. In terms of modern comedies, it wasn’t atrocious. Of course, you have to understand ahead of time that this is a completely preposterous, over-the-top ridiculous scenario and nothing should be taken seriously at all.

Apparently, North Korea didn’t get that memo.

Judging by the aesthetic, I assume the idea behind this movie blossomed when Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg watched the VICE Guide to North Korea while high. If you want a genuine attempt at portraying North Korea and what they want you to see, then I suggest you stop reading this and watch that insanely compelling documentary about the Hermit Kingdom. Just look at the footage below.

 

There’s nothing in The Interview as interesting as that real footage filmed inside North Korea. The Interview isn’t fooling anyone into taking it seriously. It is as cringe-worthy as it appears. Sure, there’s a scene where Seth Rogen hides an object in his ass from the military. I’ve seen worse.

For example, Neighbors is another Seth Rogen comedy that came out this year. In that miserable turd of a movie, Seth Rogen actually takes a giant dildo and slaps Zac Efron in the face with it. Repeatedly. That’s more unfunny and offensive than anything in The Interview. Somehow, there are people out there who enjoyed Neighbors yet think The Interview is too crude.

If TV networks aren’t too afraid to air it, The Interview would be a very watchable TV comedy. Highbrow entertainment is not the target. It’s crass humor. But we live in a world where Step Brothers is playing an average of 7 times a day on TV. The Interview is merely mindless entertainment, but there’s certainly a market for that. After all, millions still flock to theaters to see Michael Bay’s newest bowel movement.

James Franco Sucking Imaginary Dicks

Despite all the mildly positive things I can say, The Interview did not need to run for almost 2 hours. We need to stop this epidemic. Timing is everything –especially for a movie that is supposed to make you laugh. The Interview would have greatly benefited from leaving a half hour on the cutting room floor.  Comedies almost always need to tighten up the timing and finish the story in under 90 minutes.

I want to credit the studio for having the balls to let Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg make the movie they wanted. But that’s impossible when they showed their complete lack of balls by pulling the initial widespread release scheduled for Christmas. The Christmas release date doomed it from the start.

In an alternate universe, The Interview could have been successful if handled differently. If you slash at least half the nearly $45 million budget and scheduled filming for a July 4 release date, Sony could have made millions off this stupid movie instead of eating their shoes. The Interview never had a home amongst all of the Oscar bait and family friendly movies playing around the holidays. Imagine how much idiotic national pride could have been rallied around an Independence Day debut?

I would say The Interview deserved better, but that’s a lie because the movie itself isn’t remarkable. However, The Interview is watchable—I wouldn’t have to walk out the theater like I did during Johnny Knoxville’s abortion, The Ringer—and there are even enough laughs for multiple viewings.

My best endorsement: it’s not that bad…no, really.

Lizzy Caplan

3 out of 5 stars

Poster

If you take it for what it is, St. Vincent is a thoroughly enjoyable experience—even if it is a twist on the tired old man, young kid trope. A curmudgeon who hates most people is a character I can identify with, and there’s just so much rich interplay to be had with that type of dynamic. Bad Santa may be annoying overplayed on television during Christmas, but it’s still a great fucking movie with memorable laughs. In many respects, St. Vincent is similar to The Way Way Back—one of my favorites of 2013.

Bill Murray as Vincent is probably his best role and most impressive acting in a decade.

If you watch St. Vincent and don’t at least like the movie, then I question whether or not you have a heart beating inside your chest. Writer-director Theodore Melfi went to great lengths to get in touch with and convince Bill Murray to star in this movie, but those efforts were well worth the payoff. Audiences are often too stupid to recognize accents and I’ve heard many complain about St. Vincent, but Bill Murray does a spot-on Brooklyn accent that makes you believe the character from the outset.

Personally, I would have enjoyed just staying with Vincent’s Bukowski-esque dirty old man antics for the entire length of the movie. But then I wouldn’t have the experience of seeing Jaeden Lieberher in his feature film debut. Lieberher plays Oliver, who is the scrawny little runt next door that’s relentlessly bullied at school. The kid is awkwardly adorable. Lieberher holds his own opposite Bill Murray.

The duo has dynamic chemistry that makes you care about the characters and their relationship.

Lieberher

For the first time I can remember, Melissa McCarthy is actually tolerable as Maggie (Oliver’s mom) because she’s not ridiculously over-the-top in her mannerisms and delivery. Essentially serving as the straight woman to Murray’s comic relief, McCarthy gives a grounded performance as a struggling mom moving out on her own and trying to take care of a kid by herself. St. Vincent seems to take pride in being a realistic coming of age portrayal that’s carefully seasoned with comic relief equally throughout.

Even Naomi Watts as a pregnant Russian stripper named Daka (friend with benefits to Vincent) and Chris O’Dowd as Brother Geraghty (Oliver’s teacher) provide laughs in their supporting roles. The acting elevates the writing, which is a welcome surprise in a dramedy. Everyone brings something to the table.

I can understand why some may characterize St. Vincent as too sweet, but I’m a sucker for a well-crafted piece of movie candy. The twist that comes about halfway into the story hits like a freight train when you start to realize Vincent might not be full of shit after all. It’s an impactful shift in the story.

Instead of a one-dimensional asshole, Bill Murray makes Vincent into a living, breathing human being.

Bill Murray

I didn’t expect to like this movie as much as I did. Although the nature of the story isn’t as serious as the current slate of Oscar-hopefuls, St. Vincent deserves ample adoration and praise for almost perfectly executing a dramedy centered on an old man and a young kid. However, there’s one substantial plot hole that is completely forgotten in the latter half of the film. Since that storyline sets a major event in motion, it’s something that seriously needed to be addressed. Even a throwaway line would have helped.

With so many lackluster movies in theaters, you should do yourself a favor and lighten the mood by watching St. Vincent. It’s a celebration of all things Bill Murray, and it’s more tolerable since it’s not a Wes Anderson film. If you don’t like St. Vincent, you need to get over yourself. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a sweet, smooth movie like St. Vincent—it’s as comforting as an ice cream cone in the summer.

Ice Cream

4 out of 5 stars

Poster

The Pyramid is very ungood. The smell inside that ancient enclosed structure is equaled only by the overwhelming stench of this pile of shit movie. How did this script get greenlit?

Under the guise that a documentary crew (just a chick and her cameraman) is following an archaeological team, The Pyramid is a very loose interpretation of a found footage film that focuses on the discovery of a new great pyramid underground in Egypt. With the same issues as End of Watch, The Pyramid spends too much time making sure the audience is fully aware that this is a documentary, but then it expects us not to notice when it inevitably breaks the very rules it meticulously created and emphasized.

Choose a direction. A found footage film shot from that perspective inside a pyramid could have been promising in appropriate hands. Grégory Levasseur is a first-time director that was not the right person for the job. After looking up his credits, it now all makes sense that Levasseur co-wrote the screenplay for Maniac, which is one of the worst movies I have ever watched. Maniac is a movie in which Elijah Wood plays a serial who kills women, staples their scalps to mannequins, then he presumably fucks said mannequins. That’s not a spoiler, that’s just what the entire movie is about—all 90 minutes.

If it’s a compliment, The Pyramid is slightly less excruciating so Levassur must be improving. A movie released earlier this year is As Above So Below, which is nearly identical in subject matter and relatively similar in execution as The Pyramid. This is not a groundbreaking story by any means.

Hinshaw

With such an uninspired story, The Pyramid does itself no favors with clumsy exposition that is supposed to set up the plot. It’s clear that Ashley Hinshaw was cast as the lead because she’s a blonde with big tits. Hinshaw plays Nora (the daughter of the father/daughter archaeology duo) and she is incredibly unbelievable as an archaeologist. Hinshaw butchers the dialogue with her stilted, stiff delivery. She didn’t make any mispronunciations, but you could tell those words were practiced and rehearsed to death.

Denis O’Hare did an acceptable job as Holden (the father and primary archaeologist), but there just wasn’t much for him to do. The same could be said for Christa Nicola as Sunni (the female filmmaker). The man behind the documentary camera was James Buckley playing Fitzie, who was the clear star of the movie. Most have probably never heard of James Buckley before, but he’s great comic relief in Charlie Countryman (a phenomenal film starring Shia LeBeouf) and he serves the same purpose in The Pyramid. Without Buckley as Fitzie, The Pyramid would be like Cloverfield without T.J. Miller as the cameraman, Hud.

While everyone is enthralled with understanding the hieroglyphics inside The Pyramid, Fitzie is the one character who truly wants to get the fuck out of this horrible hell hole.

Apex

Nothing seems as if there was any thought put into it aside from passages from someone’s 8th grade world history textbook. After uncovering a new great pyramid under thousands of years of dirt, civil unrest in Cairo or something like that causes the dig site to be shut down and evacuated even though it is literally in Bumfuck, Egypt. Despite several threats from a lone soldier (without any other military personnel in sight), our merry bands of fucktards think it is a good idea to go inside of this ancient pyramid to look for their robot that they already knew was destroyed. Does any of this make sense in any world? Of course not.

And I’m not spoiling anything when I say that everyone would have died instantly in the first instance in which the crew gets lost and faces adversity. Everyone surviving without a fucking scratch is ludicrous. It was an entirely unnecessary scene that should serve as a serious red flag for any hopes of realism.

Inside The Pyramid

The Pyramid has all of the horrendous clichés of typical horror movies.

Surely, there are scenes where our ragtag crew goes in circles and find themselves back where they started. Creatures pop out of the darkness to scare people. Only pairs of beady eyes can be seen in the pitch black. All of your usual gags are here. Unfortunately, there’s not much else packed in The Pyramid.

An unsettling score prompts the audience and attempts to tell you how to feel. But none of it works. The Pyramid appears as little more than a juvenile attempt at a found footage horror movie. We already have enough of those and The Pyramid adds nothing new to this floundering, overused genre.

The worst part about this movie is the end. With the entire runtime revolving around this mystery of why the pyramid was built, the final reveal is so ultimately unsatisfying and downright childish. I enjoy B-quality schlock, but there are better horror movies found on the SyFy channel.

Avoid this like a plague from ancient Egypt.

Opening

1 out of 5 stars