Reviews

The Big Short Review

The Big Short tells the true story of a few people that in the mid-2000s realise the existence of the housing bubble, predict its downfall and then decide to short it (bet against in the non-technical explanation given in the film).

The cast includes Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt and even though Bale is nominated for an Oscar for his superb performance, it is Carell who carries the movie at times, with his angry and righteous persona. Ryan Gosling provides the narration of the story, although his character is part of it, he is used as the linchpin between the movie and the audience, explaining the banking-terms and the jargon.

The film tries to make the seemingly boring theme of Banking that most people have no interest in, appealing to the viewer through jokes, celebrity cameos and its self-consciousness to its boring nature. Most of the jokes work and at times the comedy goes as far as masking the drama behind it. Moreover some of the characters in the movie break the 4th wall, turning to the camera and telling us what they are thinking, inaccuracies in the film compared to what actually happened, making it absorbing and enjoyable to watch, considering I have no interest in banking what so ever.

Adam McKay chooses to follow a sort-of documentary approach at certain times, with close-ups that follow the characters in an unconventional way, out of focus shots and not totally steady camera work. It is weird to watch at first, but as the film progresses and I got used to it and expected it, I started to appreciate it a bit.

The writing is exceptional, it really is an example of how any subject, no matter how tedious or uninteresting it may seem, can be turned into a very good, compelling and Oscar-nominated movie, when there is a great story to tell.

7.5/10

The Hateful Eight Review

The movie tells the story of a Bounty Hunter that is trying to get his prisoner to Red Rock to be hanged. However he meets obstacles along the way, those being a blizzard and some complicated and mysterious characters.

The Hateful Eight doesn’t have a complicated or extravagant plot like other work from the genius director and it’s probably one of his weakest in terms of the non-linear storytelling (e.g. flashbacks). Nevertheless it’s probably the best in the aspect that is Tarantino’s greatest attribute, and that is being able to develop a story through fascinating dialogue.

The movie has a great cast who might not be the biggest stars of today, but as Tarantino says, some of them are the “Tarantino Superstars”. They are capable of saying his dialogue, understand the material he writes and sell the jokes even though they are not officially jokes. It’s all about casting people that get his work.

Robert Richardson is rightly nominated for his work. The cinematography is excellent, the mesmerizing scenery is captured as such and every shot is stunning to look at. The cabin which plays such a big part in the movie could even be considered a character along with the blizzard. Every aspect of the production design is right on the money, giving the setting the authenticity it deserves.

The music score composed by Ennio Morricone is exactly what you would expect from the legendary composer, who returns to the western genre after decades. He delivers some gripping and chilling music, more reminiscent of his work in The Thing rather than the westerns he composed music for (there are actually a few tracks from John Carpenter’s The Thing). Definitely deserved the Oscar nod and maybe a bit more, we will see.

The Hateful Eight might not be Quentin Tarantino’s best work, but it is the most ambitious in terms of subtext and real world parallels.

8.5/10

The Revenant Review

The Revenant is about the frontiersman Hugh Glass, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is on an expedition with a hunting party, hunting for pelts in the wilderness and get attacked by Native Americans.

There are two equally exceptional yet very different performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. For DiCaprio this is different from what we are used to seeing him in, a bit more brutal and more “dirty”. As for Tom Hardy well, he carried out his role to perfection, closing in on animal levels, he is balancing his character on a fine line, between human and savage animal both with his body language but especially with his mumbling.

Iñárritu for the second year running gives us the movie with the best cinematography of the year. So many times during the film I asked the question “How did they manage to shoot that?” it’s so exquisitely shot that you are left wondering how it was achieved. Emmanuel Lubezki is the man responsible for that aspect of the film, and he really needs to be commended for the amazing job he has done. He is probably going to win the Oscar for a third year in a row.

Alejandro González Iñárritu has masterfully crafted an epic adventure and his genius is so clear to be seen by anyone that experiences this movie. As he says “When you see the film, you will see the scale of it. And you will say, Wow.” It’s so carefully directed, the attention to detail is absolutely staggering.

However, there are some moments, which don’t seem to fit the essence of the movie, trying to achieve a surreal effect, and also at times they seem to dwell a bit longer on scenes than maybe should, taking the running time to 2h 36min. Even though it’s great seeing more of Hugh Glass and his quest, if it was bit shorter, the viewer wouldn’t be able to relax, making it an even more breath-taking and gripping spectacle.

It’s not a movie, it’s an experience. If we count it as a movie released in 2015, this is the best of the lot.

9/10

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride Review

Sherlock and Watson find themselves in Victorian era in this holiday special as they try to solve an old mystery. It’s funny and flashy but is it as good as the 9 episodes of brilliant television that preceded it.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman pick up where they left off, as Sherlock and Watson respectively, with that great chemistry that we’ve become accustomed to and the back and forth banter. It’s also good to see the whole cast involved in one way or the other, reprising their roles in a different era.

The episode does well in tying in with the rest of the show and along with keeping the character interaction the same that’s probably its greatest achievement. The continuous references to people not being happy with Watson’s representation in his tales is as good as any of the multiple on-going jokes that are the closest thing to the Sherlock we are used. The gothic setting is fresh and exciting and there are some genuine jump scares, but the investigation at times comes close to being ScoobyDoo-like instead of Sherlock Holmes.

The mystery at hand isn’t really as mentally and physically tormenting as originally presented in the start of the episode in Watson’s narration, no matter how hard they tried to portray it as such. It doesn’t achieve that feeling of awesomeness that a fan of the show would expect, it’s only in the last 20-30 minutes that the flow returns to its best.

It was great to see our favourite high-functioning sociopath back in action in a different era whilst stills holding links to the overall story and not being just a standalone, unrelated episode. Nonetheless it doesn’t live up to high expectations.

7.5/10

Concussion Review

The movie follows a pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, portrayed by Will Smith, who investigates the deaths of former professional football players, trying to find the cause of death and any connection that it might have to suffering repeated concussions.

Will Smith reminds everyone why he is considered one of the best in the business, he does exceptionally well, without having a particularly good script. Everything good in the movie involves him, giving a great performance full of charisma. Albert Brooks gives this movie another breathing line, however only for a limited amount of time. Lastly Alec Baldwin does a solid job, but as usual he is cast in yet another generic role.

Peter Landesman decides halfway through, to stray away from telling the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu and focuses on the bigger picture. That could have been a good thing, however in this case it ends up hurting the development of the main character, which by the end of the film feels unfinished, and with Will Smith being the great actor that he is, that was a very bad call.

It’s not something that we haven’t seen before, one man, disliked by his peers, takes on “the world”, we’ve experienced that many times. That being the case, the film doesn’t do enough to get us invested in the people that it introduces. It doesn’t spend the time that would allow the viewer to believe they are real human beings and not actors, enable us to empathise with them and feel their pain and terror. In what is supposed to be dramatic movie, that is its biggest downfall.

6.5/10

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

The Force Awakens picks up 30 years after the Return of the Jedi and without giving away too much, it’s about an awakening in the force. Probably the most hyped and anticipated movie in movie history, does it live up to fans’ expectations?

The film is a real treat, in terms of entertainment value for fans and new viewers alike. With non-stop action, suspenseful confrontations and stunning sound and visual effects, the star wars universe has never looked more real.

There are 4 new main Characters introduced and they are awesome, portrayed by John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. They all did a great job as actors but the awesomeness of their characters shouldn’t be underestimated. Moreover the first glance that we get of the old gang and especially Han Solo, is perfect, for a moment it feels like the force is flowing through you. Nonetheless the focal point is not on the old characters any more, the focus is on the newcomers and rightly so.

The only major downside of the film, is the plot and considering Lawrence Kasdan (co-wrote Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi) was involved, I had far greater expectations. It doesn’t develop as fast as we are used to and at times it felt like we were going around in circles. The only real development that is achieved story wise, happens through the evolution of the characters, which is also the movie’s strongest suit.

John Williams’s music is always on point, including some of the classic tunes but also merging old and new to create that captivating aura that he always does. However one thing that his music score doesn’t provide, is that standout tune that Duel of the Fates was to the Phantom Menace or Imperial March was to The Empire Strikes Back.

J.J. Abrams who did such a great job with the Star Trek reboot, took an even greater challenge with this long awaited Star Wars sequel. The Force Awakens doesn’t re-imagine the Star Wars universe like Star Trek (2009) did; it tries to stay close to the original trilogy and it definitely achieves the same feeling.  However the story doesn’t offer something we haven’t seen before and is played a bit too safe.

Amazing to watch a new Star Wars movie but is it a masterpiece? Not by any stretch, nevertheless it’s a good solid film and a good way to start a new exciting trilogy set in our favourite universe.

Overall: 7.5/10

Entertainment Value: 9.0/10

P.S. It seemed that with a 7.5/10 I was selling the movie short, so I added the Entertainment Value to give a clearer picture.

Bridge of Spies Review

Bridge of Spies is about an American lawyer trying to defend a soviet spy during the Cold War, and the outcome that his actions have not only for him and his family…

Tom Hanks is superb in the movie, he makes it looks so effortless, it’s easy for the viewer to buy into the character, to empathise, and to feel like him. He achieves that covetable connection with the audience that very few actors are capable of.  The supporting cast is excellent as well and especially Mark Rylance, who along with Tom Hanks, in scenes they appear together, give you the chills with their exceptional delivery of well written, powerful dialogue.

Bridge of Spies tells a great story, with a great script, written by the Coen brothers and Matt Charman, and inspired directing by Spielberg. Although, a bit slow off the mark, it’s an intense and emotional ride. There are some truly shaking moments in the movie that say a lot about the time they are taking place in but also some heart-warming scenes that take your breath away.  No matter how you slice it the fact that it is based on true events makes it even more absorbing to watch.

“Bridge of Spies” is one of the best titled movies you are ever going to see.  Three words that say as much about the movie as any spoiler-filled trailer out there.  It’s a brilliant movie; a Steven Spielberg classic for the ages.

Once again a collaboration between Spielberg and Hanks leads to a fantastic film. 

8.5/10

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Review

The title certainly hints at what the movie is about but to expand that a bit, it’s about Greg, a high school senior student, who doesn’t really socially interact with other people, except with his “co-worker” Earl.  Circumstances have it so, that he comes to meet a girl who might or might not be dying as you already figured out.

The script is excellent, it has everything in it and it all comes from the incredible dialogue and great narration, which is executed perfectly from our main guy Greg, portrayed by Thomas Mann.  It can be funny, sad, touching, and tense within one scene, emotions are so interchanging that you cannot settle for one moment.  All the clichés are brushed aside allowing a new narrative that we haven’t experienced previously, unravel before our eyes.

A mention needs to be given to Jesse Andrews who wrote both the novel and the impeccable screenplay for the movie and of course the director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon who brought the story and characters envisioned by Andrews, on film and did that exceptionally well.

The plot is unusual and the whole movie is made even more so by non-conventional filming, with shots from all different and irregular angles.  Where you would expect a close-up we get some odd-wide angles; the camera never sits still, it keeps moving all the time and it just helps intensify that feeling of perspective that the movie is all about.

One of the best movies of the year and a must watch for everyone.  It’s probably in contention for best adapted screenplay.  Film-making at its very best.

8.5/10

The Gift Review

The Gift is a movie about a young married couple that moves to California for a new start and run into an old acquaintance, who supposedly went to school with the husband.  He is peculiar to say the least.  Joel Edgerton wrote, directed and stars in the movie along with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall.  Despite the great cast, and the solid performances all three delivered, the real star of the movie is the writing and directing by Edgerton in what is his directorial debut.

He wrote an incredible script, which creates an absorbing narrative and is paced to perfection.  The three main characters are very carefully and cleverly explored throughout the movie.  We keep learning more and more about them with each passing minute as more and more information comes to light, and it’s not until the final few scenes that the viewer can truly understand them and know more than just what they seem on first look.

Edgerton describes his movie as a “suburban horror story with no blood”, and although there are a few jump scares and a sense of terror is built as the story unfolds, it is more of a thriller and a good one at that, with great cinematography, music and sounds that enhance the suspense and can give you the creeps.

Not only is this a piece of high quality entertainment, it’s also a good study of real life situations whilst also delivering a strong message. There is great depth to the movie and Joel Edgerton gets the most out of his script with some impressive directing.

8/10

Black Mass Review

Black Mass is a movie that tells the story of James “Whitey” Bulger, one of the most violent criminals in South Boston during the 1970s and 80s and his involvement with the FBI.   It delves deep into his actions and criminal activities utilizing a great cast that carries out the task of bringing Bulger and those surrounding him to life on the big screen.

Johnny Depp is great as one would expect, with another trademark physical and mental transformation that turns him into Bulger and embodies his crazy and unstable personality.  Nevertheless it was Joel Edgerton who caught my eye with his performance as John Connolly and it might not have been as over the top as Depp’s but it was subtle and it was incredible.  One would assume they both have a good chance at an Oscar nod this year.

It really is a great depiction of the story, by the director Scott Cooper, he doesn’t depend on action scenes or suspense to get the attention of the audience, he chooses to rely on “Whitey” as the focal point of the movie and compel the viewer with the ruthlessness and unforgiving nature of the terrifying criminal that Bulger was (Johnny Depp can portray anyone with the charisma he possesses and Cooper takes full advantage of that).  Everybody was fearful of him, even his accomplices and that really becomes obvious throughout the film.

An Intriguing and gripping movie with very good performances.

8/10