Archive for February, 2016

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Room (2015)

February 20, 2016

Starring: Brie Larsen, Jacob Tremblay
Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Bottom Line: Imagine being born in a shack, growing up within those confines, and having no concept of your situation or the outside world. You have T.V., food, a man that stops by to deliver groceries and lay with your mother while you sleep in the closet… but as far as you know, this is all there is to life. That’s the premise of Room, where a woman is kidnapped at age 17, raped, impregnated, and held in captivity for years after giving birth. She decides to raise her son in a way that makes him ignorant and tolerant of his living conditions. “Room” is all he knows – he’s five years old and he’s never set foot outside the shack he lives in.

Brie Larsen gives a stunning performance as the mom in Room. Possibly the best performance of any 2015 film that I’ve seen so far. She sends her character through the gamut of emotions, all while making it seem effortless. I noticed Larsen’s ability to make her acting seem natural in Trainwreck earlier in 2015, but her performance in Room is a true tour-de-force – and she makes it seem so natural. I’m blown away by Brie Larsen in this movie. Her character took a situation that is undoubtedly terrifying and disgusting – captivity and constant rape – and somehow made it seem like we weren’t really watching a scary movie – just the atmosphere she wants her son to think he lives in. In that way Room reminded me a bit of Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful, where a Jewish father in a concentration camp pretends that their situation is a game for the benefit of his son.

Jacob Tremblay also gives a great performance in this movie. Perhaps overshadowed by Larsen’s amazing work, Tremblay offers the best child performance I’ve seen in years.

I don’t believe that it’s a spoiler to mention that the captives in Room eventually escape and a big portion of the movie centers on the son discovering that there’s a world outside of the shack. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with this section of the movie – I thought the child’s wonder would be a bit more interesting, but the second half of the movie focuses more on the mother adapting to a life outside of captivity and dealing with the media aspects of being an escaped hostage. Still, I found Room plenty enjoyable and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

Room is one of the best films of 2015 – a gritty must see that features an absolute knockout performance from Brie Larsen.

Replay Value: I’m looking forward to watching it again with my wife. I think I could like it more the second time.
Sequel Potential: N/A
Oscar Potential: Nominated for four big Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Brie Larsen should be a virtual lock for an Oscar.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)

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Deadpool (2016)

February 15, 2016

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller
Director: Tim Miller

Bottom Line: Deadpool was everything I was hoping it would be: entertaining and hilarious. And it delivers both in heaps. The last couple years produced two of the funnier superhero movies with Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ant-Man, but Deadpool makes those films feel about as fun as Schindler’s List in comparison. It’s truly uproarious. With the exception of some slow moments as we delve into Mr. Pool’s origin story, you will never stop laughing.

Ryan Reynolds is at his best when he’s doing comedy and Deadpool is his first really funny role since playing Monty in Waiting all the way back in 2005. After seeing his involvement with the disastrous portrayal of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the terrible adaptation of Green Lantern, there was plenty of reason to be skeptical that another Ryan Reynolds superhero movie could be any good – and yet Reynolds felt like perfect casting, even before the wild success the film has enjoyed over its record-breaking first weekend. The rest of the cast is solid too. T.J. Miller of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is great as Wade’s buddy and it’s interesting seeing “Gotham‘s” Morena Baccarin play a more sultry and humorous role.

But Ryan Reynolds is the star here and he delivers the performance of his career. Just imagine Van Wilder growing up to become a mangled superhero, but with way funnier (and even more obscene) dialogue. Yes, this is not a family film. There’s sex, nudity, graphic violence, and never-ending cursing and harsh sexual innuendo. The kids growing up watching The Avengers should maybe sit this one out… but honestly, I’d probably let my kid watch it. It’s possible to teach your kids what’s right and what’s wrong and how to speak and act – even while exposing them to some pretty raunchy stuff.

Deadpool is a winner – a must see comic book film and all around excellent at being the movie it wants to be: a not-too-serious R-rated superhero comedy. Deadpool is fantastic.

Replay Value: I will buy it when it comes out. I’m curious to see how it holds up considering most of its enjoyment is a result of the humor.
Sequel Potential: Already green lit and supposedly fast-tracked for 2017.
Oscar Potential: It’s so early it’s hard to imagine this being considered for awards. I’ll say it whiffs on Oscar noms, but if anything deserves extra credit here it’s definitely the script.

Grade: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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The Hateful Eight (2015)

February 5, 2016

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds)

Bottom Line: I hate to say it, but The Hateful Eight, was arguably the worst Quentin Tarantino movie I’ve ever seen. Maybe it will go down as overlooked and underappreciated like Jackie Brown or underwhelming but better than you thought it was like Death Proof – but without a doubt, The Hateful Eight, was the least entertaining QT film I’ve seen on an initial viewing. The film is highly dialogue driven with very little action until the over-the-top finale – and clocking in at over 2 and a half hours it all feels about an hour too long.

Not that The Hateful Eight is all bad. As usual, Tarantino gets the best out of his actors and Samuel L. Jackson, in particular, gives an amazing performance. Jennifer Jason Leigh is also very good. And of course, there is plenty of great dialogue for the actors to chew on.

Ultimately, what plagues The Hateful Eight is how the slow, intense build up leads to a pretty underwhelming climax. QT is great at providing the “wow factor,” but I’d have to say the magic is missing in this movie – even the Oscar-nominated score felt like a let down.

While The Hateful Eight is quite beautiful to look at and has some moments of brilliance, it felt like a miss from one of my top 3 directors.

Replay Value: Both of the QT films I didn’t love grew on me later, so I will be watching this again to make sure.
Sequel Potential: I don’t think we will be revisiting these characters.
Oscar Potential: Oscar noms for Cinematography (deserved), Jennifer Jason Leigh (sure), and Score (no).

Grade: 5/10 (Watchable)