A private eye investigates his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend's… MoreA private eye investigates his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend's disappearance.
Coolly directed, Inherent Vice is the latest effort from Paul Thomas Anderson, and it is a strong, occasionally funny film. I spent most of my time watching it trying to make sure I didn't miss one of the film's many twists, attempting to avoid being side-tracked by one of Anderson's many tangential plotlines, and for the most part I was successful. The plot is certainly complex, but this isn't like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which is complex for no apparent reason other than showing off its own cleverness. However, after all the machinations of plot and character, I wondered what the big deal was. While I enjoyed spending some time with Doc, Joaquin Phoenix's character, I couldn't say that he was truly memorable, nor did I think that Anderson's ability to convey Thomas Pynchon's novel teach me anything new about anything.
Overall, while Inherent Vice is a good film, it's not revolutionary.
A young drummer endures the abuse of his teacher.
J.K. Simmons's… MoreA young drummer endures the abuse of his teacher.
J.K. Simmons's Oscar-winning performance is remarkable. While the majority of his screen time is spent hurling abuses and musical instruments at poor Andrew, there is one vital moment that humanizes Simmons's character, and it is for that moment more than anything else that his performance is Oscar-worthy.
The film's story is problematic for two reasons, both involving the film's conclusion. The central conflict is man vs. man, Andrew vs. Fletcher, and while this conflict does resolve in the film's final moments, it still seems unrealistic that Fletcher would accept even the climactic drum solo as proper resolution. Also, what plagues Andrew throughout the film is not limited to Fletcher. Andrew's own blind ambition, seen in his relationship with Nicole, is more to blame for his troubles than Fletcher, yet the film's conclusion doesn't encounter the man vs. self conflict in any satisfactory way.
Overall, the performances by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are excellent, and there are some very compelling sequences, but the story, while strong, is "not my tempo."
An inventor uses his brother's robot to battle a scheming antagonist.… MoreAn inventor uses his brother's robot to battle a scheming antagonist.
Cliched, predictable, and formulaic, Big Hero 6 is a paint-by-numbers Disney film with no discernible differences between it and its ilk. I watched the film, hoping that my early prediction about the film's conclusion would prove false, but in the end, I was disappointed.
Overall, I was bored.
A billionaire who fancies himself a wrestling coach recruits two… MoreA billionaire who fancies himself a wrestling coach recruits two brothers to train for the Olympic team.
A slow burn of a film, Foxcatcher features strong performances by its three stars; even Channing Tatum creates a strong, believable character. But the real accolades go to Steve Carell whose surprising dramatic turn is both creepy and occasionally darkly funny.
The story takes a while to develop, and when it does, it's mostly subtext. The overall effect is a subtle, understated, and solid drama, even if it's slowly paced. However, for all its strengths, once you strip away the mood and the characterization, there's not much that this film is about. I didn't come away from it learning anything new.
Overall, Foxcatcher is a solid, foreboding film that is worth seeing, but it's not earth-shattering.
Cheryl Strayed hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail to escape memories… MoreCheryl Strayed hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail to escape memories of her mother's death and her own divorce.
This vastly overrated film has two main flaws. First, virtually every man Cheryl meets on her quest on the PCT is really creepy. Plot events range from "This man has a penis; he might rape me" to "The man has a penis and a gun; he might rape and murder me." There are a few decent fellas walking about, but even these scenes are ripe with sexual tension - sex in this case connected to Cheryl's fuck-fest that followed her mother's death and perpetrated her divorce. If the film were trying to expose an aggressively patriarchal worldview, I'd understand, but from what I've heard of the book, no such idea is being developed.
Second, (and this is not a spoiler because what I'm about to quote is in the trailer), at the end of the trail, after nearly two hours of watching people walk and after Cheryl has torn off her own toenail and suffered grueling defeats and minor triumphs, Cheryl's voice over takes over, announcing that she's now delightfully happy with a good marriage and beautiful children, and it's all because she "forg[a]ve [her]self." The film boils into fortune cookie wisdom about how if all the paths lead to a happy ending, then there are no reasons for regret. What a remarkably self-aggrandizing life philosophy. What about all the people she hurt along the way? Do they get a say in whether or not she should regret her decisions? If this is what passes for female empowerment these days, I hope the next generation's leaders have something more substantive to say.
Overall, this film insults the intelligence of its audience, and there are few greater sins.
Fairy tales, like "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Little Red Riding Hood,"… MoreFairy tales, like "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Little Red Riding Hood," and "Sleeping Beauty," are mashed together in Soundheim's classic musical.
Soundheim's original play is good because it questions fairy tale morality, revealing that the violence and sexuality inherent in most fairy tales is simplistic. Disney has made numerous changes to the story, all of them bad, all of them to the detriment of Soundheim's original point. When the characters question whether or not to kill the giant, their conundrum is glossed over and the decision is made because ... reasons. And this doesn't occur until the third act of the film. The first two acts added nothing to my understanding of fairy stories, and with the exception of Red Riding Hood, finally portrayed as a sexual awakening, the stories unfold just as you might think they would.
Meryl Streep is fantastic, displaying pipes I never thought she had, and the two princes induced laughs from the rest of the audience, but the rest of the performances were fine at best.
Overall, I wonder how good this could have been had the Mouse House been willing to take a few risks.
After missing work due to medical depression and being laid off, a… MoreAfter missing work due to medical depression and being laid off, a woman confronts each of her colleagues who must give up their bonuses for her to remain employed.
This is a solid, though repetitive, film. The situations and conflicts are compelling on the whole, but the film essentially has two scenes that repeat ad nauseum. In one the co-worker says, "Okay, you can have your job," and in the other, the co-worker says, "No, I need my bonus." Variations that involve Sandra proving her worth or even a creepy co-worker saying, "Yeah, I'll give up my bonus ... for a price" would test Sandra's character even further, raising the stakes and infusing more conflict.
Marion Cotillard gives a good performance, one that is a lesson in listening while remaining in character. Her eyes are more expressive than her dialogue, and I suspect she can credit her Oscar nomination to her baby browns.
Overall, Two Days, One Night is a repetitive story that could have been quite good.
A former Olympic runner is shot down during World War II and held as a… MoreA former Olympic runner is shot down during World War II and held as a POW by the Japanese.
A film that is paradoxically less than the sum of its parts, Angelina Jolie's directorial effort is full of heavy-handed camera-work and short on character development. Essentially a film about men grunting and grimacing while enduring hardship, the relationship between Louie Zamperini and "the Bird," his sadistic prison warder, is woefully undeveloped. The Bird pushes Louie, and Louie endures, and each subsequent push does little to increase the drama or change the characters' dynamic. This relationship is central the film's plot, and there are too few plot events that change their interaction.
Jolie shows off her sense of lighting and scenery too much for her own good, making it obvious that this is a film and archly constructed.
Overall, even if Jolie had gotten out of her own way, the characters aren't compelling enough to make this a good film.
Walter Keane, charismatic husband of renowned painter Margaret Keane,… MoreWalter Keane, charismatic husband of renowned painter Margaret Keane, steals credit for his wife's work.
Solid performances by Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams anchor Tim Burton's biopic. The last combination of Burton and Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, Ed Wood, could take advantage of Burton's magical realism comfort zone, but this one is pretty straight-laced, much to the film's benefit; too many Burton tricks would have made the film too cute for its own good. The story, however, isn't that strong. There are too few plot events in the second act that propel the action forward as we're waiting for Margaret Keane to force the film's inevitable conclusion. The climactic courtroom scene and "paint-off" are compelling enough, but it takes too long to get there.
Overall, Big Eyes is a good biopic, but it's not tight enough.
Martin Luther King organizes protests against Alabama's unequal voting… MoreMartin Luther King organizes protests against Alabama's unequal voting laws.
One of the best films of the year, Selma features a profoundly affecting performance by David Oleyowo, a wonderful script filled with rousing speeches and perfectly composed scenes, and some interesting directing choices by Ava DeVernay. Oleyowo was certainly robbed of a Best Actor nod as he embodies King's compassion, heroism, and flaws. His rousing speeches, with pitch-perfect delivery, could compel even the most hard-hearted out of his/her chair, and one scene in particular, where King visits the father of a slain protester, is so well-written and well-played, that despite its subdued tenor, still manages to be deeply haunting. DeVernay often frames her actors in the smallest corner of her shots, and while I didn't understand the reason for these choices, I found myself liking her choices.
Overall, this is an important film without "insisting upon itself," truly moving and compelling filmmaking.