The Danish Girl ended up surprising me in just how well directed,… MoreThe Danish Girl ended up surprising me in just how well directed, edited, and acted it is. Everything is a game of expectations, and mine are usually average for this kind of picture. But I like being surprised damn it! Danish Girl tells the story of the first transgender woman and his wife via surgery during the 1920's. In the titular role we have an engaging performance by the academy's favorite new actor, Eddie Redmayne. I personally find Redmayne to be slightly overrated, but he performs more than ably here providing more depth and entertaining moments than in the truly average The Theory of Everything. You basically forget that this man is dressed in drag for half of the movie. Alicia Vikander always impresses, but I did find her turn in the underseen Ex Machina to be a bit more memorable. More importantly it is the chemistry and the strange dynamic between the two main leads that I found to be Danish Girl's best element. It's also a gorgeous picture from start to finish and while it suffers from a completely flat ending, you can pick worse films to rent or stream.
Brooklyn features the most uncomplicated narrative in a serious film… MoreBrooklyn features the most uncomplicated narrative in a serious film that I have seen in years. Girl from Ireland immigrates to America. Lives in Brooklyn and falls in love with an Italian boy. Goes back home to Ireland. Meets Irish boy. Likes him. (Kind of.) Must choose between the two. That's it. Someone really burned the midnight oil writing this one.
Alright, I'm being a bit too harsh. Brooklyn is a pleasant, charming, and straightforward yarn that appeals mostly to older audiences and makes no excuses for its deliberate pace and simple structure. (And I do mean older. In my theater there probably wasn't a person other than myself under 50 and it smelled like licorice.) It's helmed entirely by Saoirse Ronan and her presence and affability make the film more than watchable. It bears much in common with An Education, which was another underwhelming, but ultimately likeable period piece nominated for Best Picture that showcased an up-and-coming actress. Said actress and the old-fashioned feel are the reasons to see Brooklyn, if that kind of thing appeals to you. Otherwise give it a pass.
I've always been of the opinion that there are two distinct varieties… MoreI've always been of the opinion that there are two distinct varieties of Quentin Tarantino movies. The first kind are pulpy, somewhat shlocky yet fun and well-intentioned homages to the B-movies of yesteryear (Kill Bill 1 & 2, and Death Proof). The other are more serious, somber and reflective ventures that border on film noir (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Inglourious Basterds). Django Unchained comfortably rides the line between both and delivers one of the more memorable and fiery movies of the year, closely resembling the spaghetti westerns the director idolizes.
While certainly superior to Kill Bill, Django never quite reaches the performance driven highs of Inglourious Basterds. That said, great performances are turned in by Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz. DiCaprio reminds us that he is one of the finest actors of our generation through his slimy, sleazy, and engrossing depiction of a francophile plantation master. (The dinner table monologue concerning Phrenology will make you cringe.) Hell, even Jamie Foxx impresses in his best role ever as a silent, cold killing machine. The final result is not perfect with a final act false ending and somewhat questionable soundtrack selections, especially toward the end. Classic Ennio Morricone makes perfect sense but gangster rap in the middle of a climatic showdown set in 1858? Awkward. Overall, a great revenge film and the coolest movie in contention for the awards season.
And Christoph Waltz? You are forgiven for Water For Elephants and Green Hornet. But seriously man. What the hell? Was the money THAT good?
Based on a bestselling Emma Donnaghue novel, Room (not to be confused… MoreBased on a bestselling Emma Donnaghue novel, Room (not to be confused with the cult B-movie THE Room) tells the morbid story of a young woman who was kidnapped, held inside a small, soundproof dungeon of a room, raped, and gave birth to her captor's child. The film opens up in medias res with this young mother in her seventh year of captivity, trying to survive in squalid conditions with her young son and teach him about a world he has never seen. The first act shows some of the most claustrophobic and focused filmmaking this year. We are stuck with these characters in this doomed situation, with only hints of the outside world. Brie Larson impresses us as the young woman who was denied years of her life and we see how her imprisonment and its aftermath have worn on her. Jacob Tremblay also deserves some recognition for convincingly playing a boy who has never traveled more than five feet from where he was born and never met a person other than his mother. Room loses steam toward the end and fails to recapture the engrossing magic that had us at the edge of our seat for the first 35 minutes, but it still has a simple and definitive end that most awards season fare denies the audience. A must see.
Not nearly as jovial as the title of the film or the name of its… MoreNot nearly as jovial as the title of the film or the name of its protagonist, Joy tells the true life story of the divorced mother who invented the Miracle Mop and her struggles to make a fortune. The narrative is deceptively sparse and a bit thin at times. In addition pacing is an issue that plagues it from becoming more substantial. However, a strong presence from Jennifer Lawrence and some clever, moody, and ethereal direction from David O. Russell make the picture gleam. Joy is an earnest and dreamlike effort that won't satisfy many, but it is an interesting viewing nevertheless.