Archive for August, 2016

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Finding Dory (2016)

August 26, 2016

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill
Director: Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life), Angus MacLane

Bottom Line: Finding Dory is a more-than-worthy long awaited sequel to Pixar’s Finding Nemo, continuing the story, but this time focusing on Ellen Degeneres’ Dory, a fish that has no short term memory, and the character that was arguably the star of the original film anyway. The movie opens in heartbreaking fashion – with a very young Dory getting separated from her family and having no idea how to get back to them before forgetting about them altogether. Something sparks her memory and Dory embarks on an adventure with Marlin and Nemo to find her parents, ultimately landing them in the Marine Life Institute, where Dory was born. Finding Dory is touching and funny and does a great job of calling back old characters while introducing classic new ones like Ed O’Neill’s self-serving and incredibly resourceful octopus Hank and Kaitlin Olson’s blind whale-shark Destiny. And Becky, a crazy bird that is hilariously wacko. Of course, it goes without saying that the animation in Finding Dory is absolutely stunning.

Finding Dory is great fun for both kids and adults, a worthy sequel to Finding Nemo, and, arguably, the first great Pixar film since Toy Story 3 in 2010.

Replay Value: A must own for me.
Sequel Potential: Pixar’s #1 movie domestically, with chances to pass Toy Story 3 as the studio’s all-time most lucrative theatrical release – all of which is a formula for more sequels.
Oscar Potential: Pretty rare that a Pixar movie this good isn’t a shoo-in for Best Animated Feature, but Zootopia is just as good and Kubo and the Two Strings – which I haven’t seen yet – is sitting at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Highly Enjoyable/Must See)

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The Big Short (2015)

August 26, 2016

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt
Director: Adam McKay (The Other Guys, Step Brothers, Anchorman)

Bottom Line: Director Adam McKay somehow manages to make a movie about the mortgage and housing collapse of the mid-2000s funny and entertaining despite the fact that I largely had no idea what was going on. I get that the banks were loaning money to people that had basically no income or credit, but I didn’t really understand how the key players in the movie realized this and knew how to capitalize on it. While having Margot Robbie sitting in a bubble bath explaining things was a nice touch, I was, admittedly, still pretty lost. Obviously, The Big Short has a stellar cast and it’s cool to see Steve Carrell in a more serious role. Christian Bale, as always, is spectacular. The Big Short is an enjoyable movie even if you don’t really understand banking or the housing market, but I imagine those that read and enjoyed the Michael Lewis book this film was adapted from will really love this movie.

Replay Value: I think I would better understand things a second time around.
Sequel Potential: None.
Oscar Potential: Nominated for Best Picture, Film Editing, Director, Christian Bale’s performance, and won the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay.

Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)

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The Lobster (2015)

August 25, 2016

Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth)

Bottom Line: The Lobster is a bizarre movie about a society where one must find true love or they will be arrested, transformed into an animal of their choice, and let loose in the wild. So when Colin Farrell’s character David is left by his wife, he finds himself in a hotel full of fellow loners where they all must find a matching partner within 45 days or their human life comes to an end. Wait, they aren’t loners – Loners are an actual group of rebels that duck authority and live illegal lives absent of domestic partnership in the woods – and the members of the purgatory hotel stop can extend their stay by hunting these loners with tranquilizer guns and capturing them. When David’s stay at the hotel comes to in an end he escapes to the woods where he promptly falls in love with one of the Loner women.

I’m having a hard time deciding if I liked The Lobster or not. It might be too weird. The acting is so dead pan and the lines are delivered with such straight faces it’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I mean, I think it’s supposed to be funny, but I’m not really sure. The plot is intriguing, even if it is unsettling odd at times. The performances of Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz are amusing if nothing else. I have to give them credit – they play their roles with absolutely no showing of emotion. I think the film is supposed to be some sort of commentary on the societal pressure to be part of a monogamous relationship.

The Lobster is amusing and, at times, comical, but it’s so strange and difficult that I couldn’t possibly recommend it to everyone in good faith. I am curious what people would think of it. I imagine casual film watchers – like my wife – will hate it, but when I finished watching it I was unsure how I really felt about it. The more time I’ve had to think about though the more I think I liked it.

Replay Value: I would maybe give this another watch some day.
Sequel Potential: Not much.
Oscar Potential: No nominations

Grade: 5.5/10 (/Watchable/Recommended)

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Zootopia (2016)

August 17, 2016

Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush (Tangled, Bolt, Wreck-It Ralph)

Bottom Line: Zootopia continues Disney Animation’s resurgence, following on the heels Frozen and Tangled‘s recent success. Gorgeous and hilarious, Zootopia is also incredibly relevant, with themes that jive with today’s All Lives Matter movement. Hidden beneath the cute mammals and constant humor is a movie about prejudice, racism, and defying the odds. Can a bunny really be a cop? Are predators predisposed to return to their killing instincts? Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman voice great chemistry as the lead roles in an unlikely team up of an optimistic bunny cop and a con artist fox. And the sloths! The sloths at Zootopia’s version of the DMV is hilarious. Zootopia is well paced with plenty of memorable characters and lots of humor, all while delivering some pretty adult messages about equality and friendship.

Beautifully animated, clever and funny, and fit for both kids and adults, Zootopia is one of the most enjoyable films of 2016.

Replay Value: Excellent. A must own for families.
Sequel Potential: Absolutely.
Oscar Potential: Midway through 2016, Zootopia is a shoo in for Best Animated Feature (unless The Jungle Book qualifies?) and would currently land on my list of Best Picture contenders.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Highly Enjoyable/Must See)

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Spectre (2015)

August 17, 2016

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux
Director: Sam Mendes (Skyfall, Road To Perdition, American Beauty)

Bottom Line: You’d think a James Bond movie starring Christoph Waltz – one of my favorite actors of late – as famed Bond villain Ernst Blofeld would be a stroke of genius, but somehow director Sam Mendes and crew made Spectre one of the most boring films in the franchise’s history. For starters, if you were excited about Waltz as Blofeld, you’ll be pretty disappointed when you have to wait nearly an hour and 45 minutes before you see his face and hear him speak more than a few lines. While this anonymity follows tradition with the character, it’s also a waste of a pretty great actor. There’s a twist in this movie that makes the Austin Powers movie Goldmember seem foreshadowing and really makes you wonder where the Bond writers are drawing their inspiration from.

While I didn’t hate Spectre, I did find it incredibly dull. It’s almost 2.5 hours long and it feels like very little happens. I really like Craig as Bond, but once again, the James Bond series is in need of a shake up.

Replay Value: I would never watch this again unless it was part of a dedicated marathon. I own every Bond movie, but this one will not be joining my collection unless someone buys it for me.
Sequel Potential: I’ll die before this franchise does. I believe Daniel Craig is under contract for one more Bond movie.
Oscar Potential: Won Oscar for Best Original Song.

Grade: 3.5/10 (Just Skip It/Forgettable)

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Suicide Squad (2016)

August 17, 2016

Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis
Director: David Ayer (Fury, End Of Watch)

Bottom Line: Suicide Squad is a pretty good example of how the Rotten Tomatoes rating system can be misleading: at 27%, you might expect this to be terrible… it’s not. What a 27% rating really means is that roughly 3 out of 4 critics thought Suicide Squad wasn’t a good movie and, well, it’s not. But it’s not really a bad one either. It’s just a simple, fun action/comedy that does a decent job of lightening up the overly grim DCU film universe.

Margot Robbie is perfect casting as The Joker’s sweetheart Harley Quinn. She not only looks the part, but she plays Harley with the requisite blend of crazy/sexy/funny. Speaking of The Joker, Jared Leto does a remarkable job as the notable Batman villain; a tough taska considering Heath Ledger won an Oscar for the iconic role less than a decade ago. Leto’s Joker looks and sounds like a comic book villain – he’s totally nuts and over-the-top both in appearance and in his actions. The surprise of the cast is Will Smith as Deadshot. When I heard that casting, I raised an eyebrow in doubt, but Smith is easily one of the film’s highlights. If there’s any emotional resonance in the film, it’s with Smith’s Deadshot.

What didn’t work so well was the main antagonist in the film. It’s not The Joker as some might expect, it’s The Enchantress – and she’s terribly lame. Much like Zack Snyder’s awful light show conclusion to Batman Vs Superman, Suicide Squad’s finale is equally as bad, with lots of in-your-face visual effects, laughable dialogue, and a cringe worthy performance from Cara Delevingne.

Ultimately, Suicide Squad has some working elements – particularly the cast and the tone – but a poor choice in main villain and another terrible DCU third act make the film pretty mediocre. Still, if you come in with tempered expectations – and there’s no reason you shouldn’t – Suicide Squad is a fun movie.

Replay Value: Leto and Robbie make the movie worth watching again, but this isn’t something I’ll snap buy on bluray.
Sequel Potential: Harley Quinn is getting her own movie, which is great news. Leto’s Joker will surely have more appearances in the future. There’s a better movie to be made with the squad and with over $200M in box office receipts, we will probably get a chance to see it.
Oscar Potential: None

Grade: 5/10 (Watchable)