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Old Feb. 8th, '16, 1:09 am   #1561
muscleyarms83
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The Danish Girl: Last year's Best Actor (and rightfully so) Eddie Redmayne returns in a topical story that fits with some of the headlines of the last year regarding transgender folk. Namely, Redmayne plays Danish artist Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, the first documented recipient of sex reassignment surgery.

The good? Redmayne demonstrates a total commitment to the role that is surely expected of him after the spine-shredding effort he gave to win it all last year. As Einar becomes Lili, Redmayne conveys tremendously the feelings of confusion, regret, joy, sadness, horror, loss, and salvation that comes through his various stages of transition.

Equally impressive is Alicia Vikander as Einar's wife Gerde, who clearly loves Einar (and is reciprocated), but can only watch in a mix of horror and confusion as he becomes something that at that time was universally believed to be a combination of deviant criminality and schizophrenia, but is loyal despite the suffering.

The film itself is incredibly shallow. It isn't in the Best Picture conversation and doesn't deserve to be, though the two leads absolutely belong there. As a character study on both fronts, The Danish Girl is intense and in some ways even educational, looking at both ends of a relationship that has transformed in a way most of us will never comprehend. So I will give credit for that. But there isn't much more. The parallels to the modern trans visibility movement are skin deep and often jarringly oversimplified, and some of the dialogue is quite ham-fisted in conveying the worldly reaction to Lili.

In short, two great performances, one middling script. I recommend only if you have either an interest in the subject matter, or if you want to see DiCaprio's only real competition at play.

6.5/10
"Ya drive on down to Buffalo to watch the Leafs play, and sure, the gas is cheap, but fuck if they don't even have All Dressed chips in that shithole." - Wayne
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Old Feb. 8th, '16, 2:10 am   #1562
muscleyarms83
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Brooklyn: Based on a highly acclaimed period novel, Brooklyn is the tale of a young Irish girl named Eilis Lacey who is torn between the small town Irish life she has always known and the big city dreams of New York, set against a post-World War II backdrop in which prosperity is rediscovered and hope runs rampant in the world.

Saorise Ronan stars as Lacey, who is on screen for nearly every minute of the movie. She turns in a weighty performance, elevating something that could easily be dismissed as a "chick flick" into a tale of loyalty, frustration, love and responsibility. I can freely admit to being disinterested in Brooklyn as the perceived subject matter - Irish gal meets Italian boy back when the neighborhood didn't like that too much - seemed (based on the ads, anyway) a little bit like they were rehashing West Side Story without the Puerto Ricans. It's more than that. Ronan deserves her accolades in the way she adds such depth to something that could have been shallow. In her expressions, you see real pain as she decides how to move forward with her life, sadness at her losses, frustration at her critics, and joy at what she finds in America.

You won't find TOO much of the tired stereotypes of Irish- and Italian-Americans here. I mean, a little. But there is a scene where Eilis attends an Italian family dinner that shows an expert hand by director John Crowley in allowing the humor to flow from the crossing of cultures without it becoming over the top. For example, there is one crack about Italian boys going on about their mamas, but at no point does an Italian boy carry on about his mama excessively. The examination of the treatment of Irish folk is also handled well - relations and acceptance has improved tremendously, but this Brooklyn still has a small vibe of the New York that only 3 or 4 generations earlier treated the Irish with utter disdain.

It's fairly simple, is all about one girl's experience, and is relatively short for a Best Picture nominee, and I won't bother trying to convince you that this one isn't more suited to your wife (it's still a romance, after all), but while I have opinions about what should have replaced this in the Best Picture category, Ronan absolutely deserves to be in hers. If you do decide to see it, I promise you, it isn't The Notebook.

7.5/10
"Ya drive on down to Buffalo to watch the Leafs play, and sure, the gas is cheap, but fuck if they don't even have All Dressed chips in that shithole." - Wayne
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Old Feb. 8th, '16, 5:02 am   #1563
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muscleyarms83 View Post
but Leo has one key competitor that might result in another thousand teary DiCaprio memes come March 1st...
Good, because when I saw this image a month or two ago, I actually laughed out loud. Nothing against Leo though and I wouldn't mind if he won...the memes are damn funny though:


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Old Feb. 8th, '16, 10:20 am   #1564
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Great reviews, I really enjoyed reading them. That is a hilarious picture too!
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Old Feb. 11th, '16, 5:29 pm   #1565
muscleyarms83
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Bridge of Spies: At first, it's easy for me to think of the latest Steven Spielberg-Tom Hanks docudrama collaboration as too folksy, unauthentic, or even as pro-'Murica propaganda. I would be wrong on that front. Bridge of Spies is, at it's heart, a remarkable tale of what the American Way is all about - even in the face of everyone in America disagreeing.

Let's be honest. Since about 1992, has Tom Hanks ever let you down? I submit that he has not. The man has come a long way from Bosom Buddies. His performance might be a little by-the-numbers, but when you have a top flight actor giving you an average performance, you still get better than 90% of everyone else's output. Hanks brings the story of lawyer James Donovan to life in a way that only he can - serious and stern, but charming in his own way with a clear concern for the well-being of his fellow man.

As someone who was not even 10 years old when the Cold War ended, I have only the shadowy memories of a fear of the Communists that, on this side of the world, was almost like a bored frustration compared to my grandfather's generation. The film is set between 1957-60, where fallout shelters were selling like hotcakes, the US government developed committees determined to witch-hunt the Red out of it's borders, and mass paranoia gripped society as they looked for whatever un-American scapegoat it could find.

That scapegoat takes form in Rudolf Abel, played most excellently by Mark Rylance in what might be the coolest old white guy role in a long time. His demeanor never quite seems to match that of the world around him, and yet, you get the sense that he isn't a bad guy in the first place. Thus is the crux of Bridge of Spies - does an enemy combatant deserve justice, dignity, and respect?

Hanks' Donovan embarks on an adventure to both sides of the Berlin Wall, beginning what ultimately becomes a legendary career as a political hostage negotiator.

The movie certainly is enjoyable on it's own merits, and is not a mere history lesson - but it does maintain a fairly high standard of historical accuracy, and might convince a few people to pick up some materials on Donovan, the Cold War, and East Germany. Maintaining that kind of interest is a tricky thing to do, but it succeeds.

9/10
"Ya drive on down to Buffalo to watch the Leafs play, and sure, the gas is cheap, but fuck if they don't even have All Dressed chips in that shithole." - Wayne
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Old Feb. 13th, '16, 11:28 pm   #1566
muscleyarms83
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Spotlight: A simple, yet powerful reminder of the power of ethical journalism, Spotlight is the account of the team of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe who uncovered the depth of the widespread pedophilia being swept under the rug within the Catholic church.

Using simple cinematographical techniques to tremendous effect, and a stellar ensemble cast at the top of their game (BIG shout out to Mark Ruffalo), director Tom McCarthy expertly shows this team of intrepid reporters as they begin to pick at a loose thread, gradually unravelling layers of horror as the community around them seems to conspire to keep it all buried.

I must confess to being both shocked and impressed at the graphic nature od the dialogue in the film - not in a vulgar sense, merely in an attempt to be as clear and factual about what was happening; as Rachel McAdams' character puts it, to maximize the impact by avoiding "sanitizing" the situation. And what an awful situation.

For those unfamiliar, the Globe's Spotlight team, initially revisiting an old claim about one pedophile priest, uncovered a network of abuse that reached into the higher ranks of the church and around the world. It is because of their work that hundreds of cities around the world (don't believe it? They provide you with a handy list for reference at the end) were able to blow the lid off of their own scandals.

While the film doesn't have a true lead, instead focusing on six major players, Ruffalo is the clear standout of the bunch, giving voice to what SHOULD be going on in most rational people's heads - but one can't overstate the power of Michael Keaton's performance, or the rest of the ensemble for that matter - fact is, these characters were in uncharted territory, going up against a monolithic organization with followers, communities, and even victims fighting to keep the whole thing under wraps. What impresses me about Keaton's performance is that simple feeling of guilt he conveys - knowing the story is absolutely the right thing to do, but the feeling of just how much damage this will cause to innocent bystanders in a VERY Catholic city.

There are a lot of complex emotions at play, but the big takeaway from the movie is to remember what good journalism looks like - the truth, no matter how painful.

6 out of 8 films in, and we have a new clear frontrunner by my count.

10/10
"Ya drive on down to Buffalo to watch the Leafs play, and sure, the gas is cheap, but fuck if they don't even have All Dressed chips in that shithole." - Wayne
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Old Feb. 27th, '16, 10:12 am   #1567
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Room: A tall order for a project by any stretch, Room is, succinctly, the story of a young woman kidnapped, locked in a garden shed, and raped nightly for 7 years, as seen and told through the eyes of the 5 year old son she has.

Room is hard to watch. Not in a "bad movie" kind of way, but simply because the subject matter goes beyond my preconceived notions of discomfort into layers of emotion that are simply unfathomable and often quite uncomfortable. I found myself joking that Room is what would happen if Caillou was raised in some dark, dark shit. (There's no humor in Room. Even I'm offended by that crack.)

Brie Larson stars as the mother, trapped in this garden shed with nothing more than a toilet, sink, TV, bed, and a hot plate, for 7 years staying alive through damaged detachment while keeping the will to survive only because of her son Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay. I daresay Tremblay should have been in the Best Actor category this year ahead of Bryan Cranston. To get that convincing of a performance out of an 8 year old is astounding. Further, Larson is almost certainly a lock for the trophy in this role where such a wild range of emotions is explored.

Room is primarily Jack's story, as we see his mother's actions and reactions through his eyes. It becomes painful to think of the life Jack has lived, finding happiness in what little he sees locked in Room, imagining that Room is all the world has to offer.

The imprisonment is only half the film, however, and it is when the family escapes that the floodgates of emotion truly open up - right down to the unimaginable awkwardness of the world interacting with what is very hard to see as anything other than damaged goods.

I will say I have some gripes about feeling as though Jack's psychological experience after Room might be a bit watered down (his mother's certainly isn't), and about some sloppy police activity, but one must try to rememberthat we are meant to be viewing this as a 5 year old - complicated themes need to be pared down somewhat.

2 outstanding performances and a very artistic take on an incredibly painful subject are well worth a watch, even if there are a few directorial choices I disagree with. Just be prepared to squirm in your seat a lot.

9/10
"Ya drive on down to Buffalo to watch the Leafs play, and sure, the gas is cheap, but fuck if they don't even have All Dressed chips in that shithole." - Wayne
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Old Feb. 28th, '16, 12:46 am   #1568
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The Big Short: Completing my review set of the 2015 Best Picture nominees, The Big Short is an admirable, yet unrepentantly cynical take on the economic collapse of 2008 - and more accurately, just how rigged the system is in favor of the banking industry.

And I have to say, as a Wall Street film, which is apparently a genre unto itself now, The Big Short does a better job than any in memory at bringing out feelings of rage and resentment at a system broken by an intricate mesh of stupidity, arrogance, and fraud.

The ensemble cast is absolutely tremendous. Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, and Christian Bale are all scene stealers. Only Bale is up for an Oscar - any of those 4 could have been added to what has turned out to be a true 5 horse race in the Supporting Actor category.

Watching these men go from revelling in their brilliance at betting against the big mortgage lenders before the collapse, to rage as the system prevents their presumed payoff, to incredible guilt upon realizing the extent of the damage is must-see filmmaking. This damage that, while these investors didn't cause, is most certainly an example of profiting from the misery of others. Families, middle class folks, all sorts of people from all walks of life being swindled on bad mortgages by cocky brokers.

Even having lived through the crisis (8 years ago doesn't seem all that far away), I can still remember fear rippling through my own country even though the collapse didn't hit as hard. To think of it all as one big game between type A personalities in the boardroom of the major banks seems absurd, but here we are, 8 million people having learned this the hard way.

The Big Short is definitely going to rank as one of the most important movies of the year, and one of the best in a tight Best Picture race. I want to punch something having watched it - the sign of a great piece of political storytelling.

10/10
"Ya drive on down to Buffalo to watch the Leafs play, and sure, the gas is cheap, but fuck if they don't even have All Dressed chips in that shithole." - Wayne
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Old Mar. 6th, '16, 12:29 am   #1569
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Zootopia: To begin the 2016 awards chase, how about a cartoon? Nay, how about the most beautiful computer-based animation of all time, with a strong message and a depth rarely matched in it's genre? Disney has positively outdone itself here, with a world saturated with detail and charm that might be fuller than literally any of the Magic Kingdoms of the last 75 years.

I'm still shaking my head at how amazing the level of detail is in both the characters of Zootopia, and the world of the film itself. The land where all mammals have learned to work together and evolve would certainly have a great many logistical challenges, which are pretty much all addressed - for example, special lanes for mouse driving in a world where elephants and giraffes also need to get around, as well as food service regulations for different species are covered in ways that are simple background to the story of Zootopia, but enrich the tapestry of the film at every turn even when clearly played for a laugh.

But what is a modern animated story without a moral? Zootopia contains a surprisingly timely study of xenophobia and stereotyping in a film that may be meant for children, but has a clear message that speaks to us all. It's not necessarily a knock on Disney in the presentation, but to be absolutely fair, I had a lot of trouble imagining any kids under 10 being able to totally follow what is going on in the movie. This isn't to say they won't be entertained - the number of cute gags and action sequences is right at the top tier of Disney's offerings - but as a clear allegory to a world filled with migrant crises, racism, and bigotry that sometimes is viewed in shades of grey (but should it, is the question), some of the complexity and heaviness might be a little lost on kids looking for a laugh. Now, in no way should that be taken as a reason to not bring the little ones - however, it should be noted that some of the action sequences are plenty frightening on their own merits, and that might be a reason. The PG rating is well-earned.

Still, Zootopia's timeless (and timely) message coupled with the most eye-popping spectacle of the digital age work well together to form a modern masterpiece for Disney.

10/10
"Ya drive on down to Buffalo to watch the Leafs play, and sure, the gas is cheap, but fuck if they don't even have All Dressed chips in that shithole." - Wayne
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Old Apr. 10th, '16, 3:03 pm   #1570
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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Well, it's not a COMPLETE abortion of justice.

I actually saw this at a preview screening and had to leave an hour in because the theater people couldn't figure out how to make the 3D projector do it's thing properly - almost threw up from their attempt. After going back in the morning, it was apparent that I didn't miss much more than a 3 hour set of trailers for other movies.

Some of those trailers were cool, mind you. The movie left me seriously intrigued with Gal Gadot's take on Wonder Woman, and excited about the prospect of the tragic tale of Cyborg as portrayed by Ray Fisher. They were in the movie for a total of about 2 minutes and 15 seconds, respectively.

The portrayal of Lex Luthor by Jesse Eisenberg was confusing at best, irritating at worst. Rather than a brilliant scientist or conniving politician, this Luthor is like an illegitimate son of the Joker. Some other casting fares no better. The Man of Steel cast returns, and is universally wooden. Ben Affleck takes up the cowl of the Dark Knight, and is probably the best thing about the movie - but there's just not enough to call it a success.

BvS asks many great questions, and features tremendous sequences elaborating on the differing philosophies of Superman and Batman - but this feels tainted by director Zack Snyder's decisions on both of the heroes' positions. A comic book fan will tell you that these characters have strong feelings about murder and the death of the innocent - the Snyder interpretations' feelings amount to "LOL OOPSIE."

As an attempt to challenge Mervel's Cinematic Universe and cut into a slice of that Avengers bank that has given Disney another license to print money, BvS is an abject failure. Even as a character study, it is big on exposition and ridiculously light on development. Sequences featuring the rest of the Justice League, Wonder Woman in particular, create some interest, and Affleck brings some noise as Batman, but things are resolved in a far too simplistic manner to recommend this as more than window dressing.

5/10
"Ya drive on down to Buffalo to watch the Leafs play, and sure, the gas is cheap, but fuck if they don't even have All Dressed chips in that shithole." - Wayne
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