A dark, gritty tale of a man (Casey Affleck) home from another tour in… MoreA dark, gritty tale of a man (Casey Affleck) home from another tour in Iraq, and how he disappears after getting involved with an underground fight club overseen by a ruthless leader (Woody Harrelson). After he goes missing, his older brother (Christian Bale), fresh out of prison, becomes determined to find him even under the strictest orders by police to let them do their jobs and to not get involved. This is a story that has a lot of interesting things to say, namely about the present-day economy, the feeling of being trapped in small, working class towns, as well as the post traumatic stress that continues to haunt soldiers after they return home. Bale is phenomenal as he always is, with Harrelson proving to be a terrifying, memorable villain. The end of the movie is unmistakably harsh, but also powerful and will not leave the viewer quickly. It does not get everything right, but in terms of tone and the sheer arresting ability director Scott Cooper captures, it is still worth a view.
An intriguing, though somewhat underdeveloped story of a mercenary… MoreAn intriguing, though somewhat underdeveloped story of a mercenary hunter (Willem Dafoe) tasked with the mission of finding and killing the last remaining Tasmanian devil in the wilderness of Australia. He also becomes involved with the family he is staying with, whose father has gone missing. There are a lot of interesting elements here, and the ending in particular is powerful and moving, but ultimately this movie is a frustrating concoction of family drama mixed with man vs. nature. The scenes with Dafoe out in the wilderness are fantastic, while his moments with the family seem like a slight distraction from the main meat of the story. Dafoe, as always, is phenomenal and does a lot with his very thinly detailed character, and the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. In the end though, it just feels slightly underdone, which is a shame because there is a lot of great material here.
A hugely influential and masterfully constructed samurai tale with… MoreA hugely influential and masterfully constructed samurai tale with Western undertones concerning an impoverished roamer (Toshiro Mifune) who comes to a small Japanese town ruled by two evil gangs who threaten to tear it apart. Instead of taking one side over the other, the drifter elects to in turn attempt to manipulate each group into destroying each other, although this proves not to be a plan without flaws, including a nearly fatal lesson in pride going before the fall. Mifune is absolutely phenomenal, as he effortlessly portrays a character that is committed to accomplishing what the common good is for everyone. The themes of power, pride, redemption, and equality are ones that prove to be utterly arresting thanks to the wonderful direction from legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Mostly, this is a simple movie that does not try to be anything more than it is, but ultimately, thanks as well to a thrilling finale, this is a masterpiece.
An masterfully constructed epic concerning a general (Russell Crowe)… MoreAn masterfully constructed epic concerning a general (Russell Crowe) of the Roman Army, next in line to be emperor thanks to his strong relationship to the current one (Richard Harris), before he is murdered in cold blood by his own son (Joaquin Phoenix) and the son sells the general into slavery after brutally murdering his family. The general becomes a gladiator, rising up through the rankings focused on enacting revenge on the emperor, and thus becoming a power political piece the newly crowned Caesar can not kill due to his popularity with the people of Rome. A soaring epic that nails almost everything right, with fantastic performances from Crowe and Phoenix that helped make them the movie stars they are now. This is a special, unique movie about the Roman empire and the way Scott captures it is utterly thrilling.
A major disappointment from the usually reliable Darren Aronofsky on… MoreA major disappointment from the usually reliable Darren Aronofsky on the story of Noah, his internal struggles to understand his mission from his God, and the huge task he undertakes of building an ark to spare two of every animal, and his family, from God's reckoning. What could have been an epic, superb picture instead squanders any respect it might have earned in its first two-thirds by devolving into a ridiculous melodrama in its final third. There is nothing wrong with taking some liberties with the story, namely the psychosis of Noah, but Aronofsky just takes it way too far, to a point where Noah is basically Walter White. The acting is phenomenal, notably Crowe in yet another remarkable performance, and the vision Aronfosky possesses is downright arresting at times, but ultimately he strays too far from his source material and makes the story too messy as a result.
A decent though completely ridiculous sequel concerning a retired CIA… MoreA decent though completely ridiculous sequel concerning a retired CIA agent (Liam Neeson) and how he and his wife are taken hostage by the father of the men he killed when rescuing his daughter from sex slave traders in France. Neeson, as always, is fantastic to watch and completely likable, and even though the story takes some ridiculous liberties, this is an action movie at the end of the day. It does not pretend to break the mold, rather to offer a competent sequel to fans that enjoyed the first movie so much. It does not quite reach that status, there are some points when this movie is completely laughable, but it is still largely entertaining and enjoyable.
An interesting, offbeat film from Wes Anderson about a family of child… MoreAn interesting, offbeat film from Wes Anderson about a family of child prodigies (Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson) who grow up in a dysfunctional household, headed by their father Royal (Gene Hackman), and how the family comes back together under the same roof after many years after their father announces he has a terminal illness, after leaving the family a long time ago. Sometimes, Wes Anderson's style of film-making is infuriating. His characters can sometimes come across as robots spouting dialogue (like in "Moonrise Kingdom") or just flat out unbelievable and quirky for the sake of being quirky ("The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou"). Here, he hits just the right balance of humor to offset the darker, sadder tones this story has. It is never laugh out loud hilarious, none of his movies are, but the sadness and heartbreak coursing through this family is definitely not expected, and in turn makes it quite touching. Hackman is phenomenal, as he always is, and the supporting cast is excellent as well. It almost veers off a cliff at its finale, but it still ends on a good note that ultimately makes it a worthwhile viewing.
A brilliant, memorable, deep-thinking film about a struggling folk… MoreA brilliant, memorable, deep-thinking film about a struggling folk singer (Oscar Isaac) and his many attempts to break in to the folk music scene during the early 1960's, especially after he sees a former lover (Carey Mulligan) and her boyfriend (Justin Timberlake) start to take off with their singing career. Like many Coen movies, this is a picture loaded with depth, interesting characters, surrealistic scenes, and a haunting, head-scratching conclusion. Ultimately, this film is a winner given the utter masterstroke of genius the Coens turn in with how they end the movie, which is exactly how they begin it. Isaac turns in an outstanding performance in a challenging role where his character is equal parts easy to sympathize with, but also easy to be annoyed with. It is a film which makes you think about where it is going, and when it reaches its destination, the viewer should be floored by the sheer genius involved in how this film is crafted. A near masterpiece that definitely warrants a view. Or two. Or a ton.
An intriguing, if ultimately unsuccessful take on religion and how one… MoreAn intriguing, if ultimately unsuccessful take on religion and how one woman (Vera Farmiga) begins to struggle with her faith while living within a somewhat cultish group of people. Farmiga shows she is a capable director, and her performance is outstanding, but ultimately the movie feels too simple, like she is settling instead of going all-in and taking real risks. In the end, the film benefits from its character development and remains interesting even if it is slowly paced, but ultimately it is just an average offering on the topic of religion that is not too memorable. Far from bad, but skipable.
An entertaining, meatier sequel detailing the lives of Katniss… MoreAn entertaining, meatier sequel detailing the lives of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and how the lives they are promised to have after surviving the "Hunger Games" quickly turns dour after the Capitol goes back on their word and instead focuses on taking over their lives and not leaving them be. This includes having them potentially involved somehow in the upcoming "Hunger Games". The beginning of the film is a flat-out nasty slice of satire on reality TV and how enamored the public is with the medium of television, especially when it involves a love story. The film is a little long for my liking, but the direction it takes in its final ten minutes is exciting and not expected at all given the situation these characters are thrown into. The acting is top-notch (especially Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles), the art direction is simply amazing, and the story remains interesting and avoids being repetitive based on how it concludes. Overall, very watchable, and perhaps better than the first film.