The Official Review Thread of 2015

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Sabin » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:11 am

MILD SPOILERS ABOUT EX MACHINA

I wish I had more to say about Ex Machina. I enjoyed it for two reasons: Oscar Isaac, and it's a gorgeous surface to look at. Alex Garland knows what a movie like this should look and feel like and he gets it right save for one unforgiving minus: yes, a movie like this should feel "deliberate" and Ex Machina certainly goes for that. Unfortunately, Domnhall Gleeson is such a lunk that I couldn't help but get ahead of the movie and spent the bulk of the film just waiting to see what the fuck Oscar Isaac was doing with him. Ultimately, the movie doesn't have a lot on its mind so it's hard not to see how this ended up happening. While Oscar Isaac's interpretation of the agro-douche mad scientist is fantastic, it hides an intelligence that thinks any of these pleby conversations are anything new or interesting.

A series of strong moments, a fittingly unsentimental ending, and a beautiful veneer compelled me. Well worth seeing if not loving.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Sabin » Sat Jun 20, 2015 7:04 pm

Pete Docter's Inside Out is the first Pixar film since WALL*E to show us something special. Beyond remaining the gold standard for animation proficiency for two decades and running, at their best they've always been adept at doing two things: 1) bringing worlds to life that we always suspected to exist (the bugs underground, the childhood toys in our closets, the monsters under our beds...and now the voices in our head), and 2) conveying specific messages. Inside Out does a great job at both of these, especially the latter. It concerns itself with the idea that being sad is part of life. Sounds hackneyed but I don't think I've been so moved by an animated feature since...oh, Pete Docter's Up. And before that? Huh. Pete Docter's Monsters, Inc. All three of these films are linked thematically, but visually as well. They're so full of bright-ass colors. The blue Sully races down steel corridors. The drab Carl in rainbow tropics. While the adults in this theater were sniffling away, the kids were just entranced.

Inside Out at times feels a bit small, but I think that's fine. The landscape of Riley's mind isn't one of Pixar's animation highpoint. We're never staring at anything agape in wonder. And purposefully, Riley's emotional journey is not complicated enough to drive attention away from Joy and Sadness' adventure back to the control center, an adventure that's really a device for exploring this world and rounding out said message. Both of these caveats, I can roll with because Inside Out is one of their best scripted films. It's not trying to be an event, it's trying to be a goddamn cartoon in the best sense of the word.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Fri Jun 19, 2015 12:18 pm

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger, Johnny Flynn, Brady Corbet.
Dir: Olivier Assayas.

An older actress prepares to do revival of a play, written by her mentor, that shot her to fame but this time playing the "older woman" part with a younger up-and-coming Lindsay Lohan-type actress playing the younger role she originated twenty years ago. I think Olivier Assayas is one of contemporary French cinema's best directors today and I've loved every one of his films I've seen so far. This is another one. I think it's safe to stop making fun of Kristen Stewart now. She's quite great in her role as the personal assistant. Juliette Binoche, as the actress, is terrific as usual. As much as I love Chloe Moretz, I think she's a bit miscast even though she's only playing someone a few years older. It's terrific and surprisingly funny in parts. It's not my favorite Assayas but it's still a solid piece of work.

Oscar Prospects: Wouldn't mind Best Actress, Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Jun 17, 2015 7:45 am

I agree with virtually everything BJ has said about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Of all those parodies only the Clockwork Orange one raised a smile on my face.

The drug-induced scenario was tired and ridiculous and one aspect in relation to the incident almost seemed to have been lifted from Mean Girls.

I really didn't like the way the film dealt with death. It tried to take it tackle it both in a serious and light heart manner and neither worked. I'm sorry but there is no such thing as a 'good death' so to speak. It's devastating and unbearable and not matter how many people you know that pass away, it never gets easy or becomes quaint. But this film ultimately presented it as a collection of cliches.

The more I think about this film, the more I think my rating of 4 out of 10 is too generous.

I saw the film in a venue that seats over 2,000 people at 9.30am on a Sunday morning and the theatre was virtually full (the showing the night before in the same venue was sold out!). The audience appeared to love the film. Actually they loved it so much that is got the audience award for best film at the Sydney Film Festival.

I can't be too critical of that though. One, neither my partner or I bothered voting and sometimes audiences do get it right, like last year, when Winter Sleep won the audience award.

And if anyone if looking for something striking, brave, ballsy, funny, shocking and original go no further than Tangerine directed by Sean Baker. Though made on a iPhone, it looks fantastic and overcomes the limitations of being made in that manner. Actually, the film in many ways benefits from the very intimate style the permeates much of the film. For me Tangerine is the American Indie of 2015 so far.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:44 pm

It feels extra curmudgeonly, during the height of summer blockbuster season, to grouch about a story focused on actual human beings, but I have to admit I wasn't that impressed with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It wouldn't be the first Sundance sensation that didn't do much for me, and I felt it suffered in similar ways from some of those other films I found severely overhyped.

For starters, I didn't find the main character very appealing, in either the writing or the acting. He's mostly a self-absorbed schlemiel, who rather incredulously garners the attention of both the hot girl in school AND the girl with cancer (who of course is also no bummer in the looks department). It's likely that, a decade ago, I would have been less bothered by a character like this, but at this point I've really moved on from feeling engaged by the mopey, solipsistic teenager on the outskirts of every social group. All I can say is, I wouldn't want to be friends with him either.

Perhaps I might have put up with a character like this more if I felt the filmmakers had treated him and his story in a more insightful manner. But I think the movie is pretty slapdash in a lot of respects. Visually, it tries to marry the traditionally (ugly) barely-lit indie look with weird camera tricks (like tilting the camera on its side) that I felt served zero purpose. Tonally, it lurches from being way too kooky to take seriously (especially most of the scenes involving Nick Offerman and Molly Shannon), to scenes of genuine honesty (and I thought, in the latter half of the movie especially, there WERE moments that landed with poignancy. It's hard to totally resist the natural pull of a story about a cancer-stricken teen.) And structurally, there are entire subplots (Greg and Earl becoming unknowingly drug-induced, most of the Greg/Madison relationship), that just go nowhere, and don't seem to add very much to the story.

But there were two things about the movie that turned me off the most. The first was the story thread involving Greg and Earl making parody versions of classic movies. I can't speak to whether or not this worked better in the novel, but on-screen, this struck me as an almost entirely masturbatory plot element, with the filmmakers flaunting their film geek credentials in a way that severely flattered those in the audience well-versed enough to get the jokes. (I also found it not especially original -- Michel Gondry did basically the same thing in Be Kind Rewind, and I didn't find it all that funny then either.) The audience I saw the film with found these scenes extremely funny, as have many film critics (go figure); different strokes, I guess, because I found them completely tedious.

I was also actively annoyed with elements of the voice-over, and it's tough to discuss my biggest issue without getting into spoiler territory, so I'll just say that I found it extremely manipulative in a way that felt insulting, as if the filmmakers didn't trust the natural ability a story like this would have to move its audience.

This is not to say that the film is devoid of interesting scenes or ideas -- I liked the sequence about half-way through the film where the teacher explains that he's always learning new things about his dead father, and continues to be affected by him, and in that way his impact on the world has never left. And, especially as the film goes on, the arranged relationship between Greg and Rachel shows some interesting colors, as these young people are forced to grapple with issues no teenagers should have to deal with, like in the moment when he rather cruelly (but realistically) accuses her of giving up on life.

But, by and large, I found the movie a mostly wan execution of not especially profound ideas, and I'm puzzled that so many have found something extremely special here.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:20 am

JURASSIC WORLD
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onoforio, Irrfan Khan, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus.
Dir: Colin Trevorrow.

The original Jurassic Park is one of my childhood favorites. I saw it on the big-screen and was forever changed. I loved dinosaurs and it made me love movies more. The latter two sequels were entertaining but nowhere near as good. This one is better than either sequel. Retconning the aforementioned sequels, corporate has gotten their greedy hands on the live dino theme park and made a park with dinosaurs and they seem to have had it under control. Of course, being humans we had to fuck things up. The film is by no means perfect (Hell, the original was by no means perfect either) but it's a very entertaining, well-made entry to the franchise which could have been a lot worse. I can tell that they were trying something new with it but it just didn't land as much. Still, highly enjoyable, fun. Derivative? Sure. But hey, DINOSAURS!

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:32 am

THE VOICES
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver, Sam Spruell, Ella Smith, Gulliver McGrath.
Dir: Marjane Satrapi.

There are several conflicting emotions fighting within me in deciding to see this film: My love for Anna Kendrick, my mad respect for director Marjane Satrapi the same director of Persepolis, a film which I adore and my love for quirky black comedies vs. my near-irrational hatred for Ryan Reynolds. The first three won and I checked this out. This is a dark comedy-thriller about mentally unstable man who imagines his cat and dog are talking to him then he turns into a serial killer. This film is far from perfect but surprisingly (at least to me) Ryan Reynolds is surprisingly not one of them. He acquits himself rather well. Marjane Satrapi's Lynch-meets-Hitchcock style of direction really shows she's a very talented filmmaker. The script, sadly, has trouble finding the right balance between the quirky comedic elements to the dark, dead serious stuff. That kind of thing is very tough to do and this one falters more than it succeeds but it's interesting enough that it's worth checking out.

Oscar Prospects: Unless that end credit song is eligible, none.

Grade: B-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jun 05, 2015 8:16 pm

Thinking back over Love & Mercy, deconstructing it, I feel I shouldn't have liked it. It's a musical biopic featuring debilitating disease (albeit mental rather than physical) and villainous overseers (parental and otherwise), where our main character is saved by the Love of a Good Woman. With that framework, I can't defend it as any sort of great art.

But I can say the movie makes the most of its meager material by taking a different approach from what the usual biopic offers. For openers, there's no Rise to Fame sequence. During the credits, we see The Beach Boys on various TV outlets performing half a dozen of their most-remembered hits (remembered by me, anyway. My impression is they're still fairly famous tunes today; younger folk might advise me otherwise); it's assumed you know all about that. The film then moves ahead to 1966, as if to say "This is not about the struggle; this is about what the group did after it was already famous." And what it did to their leader, Brian Wilson.

1965-66 was a pivotal time in rock music history. From Elvis onward, rock 'n' roll had been not only the music of the young, it was mostly the music of good times and teenage romance. Even early Beatles songs, memorable as they still are, were pretty trivial things. That changed with the release of Yesterday and Today and, especially, Rubber Soul -- suddenly rock performers were aspiring to art, dealing with adult subjects and ambivalent emotions (the Beatles, especially, by virtue of their massive popularity, were able to bring audiences along). Brian Wilson was uniquely open to this possibility: he'd always been a master of unique harmonies, and, as the film shows, there were symphonies playing inside his head, both musical and philosophical. So, he spent the better part of a year apart from the rest of the touring band, in a studio with studio musicians, expanding the notions of what a rock 'n' roll song could be. Watching Wilson create a series of memorable songs -- God Only Knows, Don't Worry Baby, Wouldn't It Be Nice?, of course Good Vibrations -- is pretty mesmerizing; you can feel him stepping into new territory as he creates this music that's infinitely superior to their earlier hits. But you also experience the toll it takes on him. He's able to create this stuff because he's always heard a multitude of voices in his head. Other great artists have had the same trait, and had to learn to keep these voices under control in order to maintain sanity even wile creating. Wilson, for whatever reason, wasn't able to exercise that control, and over the course of a year or two, he came apart.

The film deals with both the well-post-crash Wilson -- John Cusack, sometime in the 80s -- and, simultaneously, the in-the-thick-of-it Wilson -- Paul Dano, in 1966. I think the division works: it's fascinating to watch Dano even as we know he's eventually going to degrade into what we see as Cusack's sad state; and, in where Cusack gets to by the end, we see how Dano's torment is going to someday be alleviated. Both actors are solid, and feel like part of the same human being.

I guess, in the end, the parts of the film I like are sticking with me, so overall I recommend it. Just don't expect the moon that some of the more extravagant reviews are promising.

Three little things:

The sound branch of the Academy can be hackish -- routinely nominating super-loud blockbusters or musicals. But they'd be extremely remiss not to nominate this film, which, maybe as much as any film since The Conversation, has sound as practically subject matter.

I went today based on the reviews, but I'd heard almost nothing about the film prior to this week (beyond unreliable Jeff Wells' incessant boostering). I was surprised to find the theatre packed at 1:30 in the afternoon. This might do surprising business.

The title comes from one of Wilson's lesser-known tunes, and it's not very memorable -- like Nicole Holofcener's titles,it's too ephemeral to stick in the mind. (A lady on line behind me -- a woman even older than I -- asked What's the name of the Beach Boys movie? I confess I had trouble keeping in my own head) It's a shame there was a movie just a few years ago that had Good Vibrations as a title; this movie was just crying out to be named that.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 30, 2015 10:18 am

SAN ANDREAS
Cast: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffud, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Will Yun Lee, Kylie Minogue.
Dir: Brad Peyton.

After the Nepal quake, earthquake preparedness has been dominating the headlines here in the Philippines since we do live in a major fault line that could trigger a huge quake in the future. So this movie got a fair amount of free publicity due to its timing. It's a standard disaster flick. You go through the motions and you pretty much know what's gonna happen along with plot holes and scientific inaccuracies. It's not quite as silly and ridiculous as a Roland Emmerich disaster movie (I will let you decide whether or not that's a good thing). I must say that The Rock probably gives his best performance in this movie. Not saying he's Oscar-worthy, but his character is given a bit of an emotional arc/depth and somehow he nails it. Too bad the movie surrounding it is pretty average.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are remote possibilities.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Mon May 25, 2015 9:33 am

EX MACHINA
Cast: Domnhall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno.
Dir: Alex Garland.

I would say this is like the much darker version of Her or a more sexualized A.I., take your pick. Either way it's a great entry into the artificial intelligence science fiction sub-genre. Tech genius billionaire creates a functioning robot with seemingly genuine artificial intelligence in the form of a beautiful woman. The film's deceptively minimalist: Essentially just three speaking characters throughout most of the film set almost entirely in one place (but that place is oh so beautifully designed) but the film asks many complex questions and the narrative goes through really intriguing, controversial directions that will surely inspire discussions. The three principal actors are terrific and may I be a guy here for a second: Alicia Vikander is HOTTTTTTTTTTTTT.

Oscar Prospects: It *SHOULD* be a contender for Original Screenplay, Production Design, Visual Effects and Original Score but sadly, won't get any of them.

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 23, 2015 11:19 am

TOMORROWLAND
Cast: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Thomas Robinson, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan Michael Key, Pierce Gagnon, Chris Bauer.
Dir: Brad Bird.

I would chalk up the very mixed reviews for this film on a couple things: High expectations is one. Especially since Brad Bird has a near-immaculate filmography in his name. If anyone could make a good movie out of a theme park attraction, certainly he is one. The other thing is the film's very anti-cynicism message which does get a bit heavy-handed and clunky. It's a nice message and one I agree with but it needed a bit more nuance and less shiny up-with-people-Disney-commercial feel. It is Brad Bird's weakest film. However, the visuals are quite amazing. The futuristic utopia that this film conjured up is someplace you would definitely wanna go. Extra points to Raffey Cassidy as the girl robot (is this considered a spoiler?) Athena who was outstanding. Someone should make this girl a star quick! Get her more roles!

Oscar Prospects: Production Design, Visual Effects and Original Score are possible but the mixed reviews of the film may get it lost in the shuffle.

Grade: B.

SPY
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz, Morena Baccarin.
Dir: Paul Feig.

Writer-director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy third collaboration together is, in my opinion, the BEST of the lot. This movie is absolutely hysterical yet somehow crafted a solid, thrilling spy movie narrative. McCarthy actually shows off a lot more layers and colors as she takes the lead as a plain Jane behind-the-desk agent at the CIA and is sent to her first field mission. Those of you who are tired of the McCarthy angry-vulgar-fat-lady act, have no fear. She actually shows off she's more than that and when she does channel that, it makes narrative sense. When I first heard of this movie and that she's teaming up with Jason Statham, I assume that he's gonna be the straight man and she's the funny girl....but to my surprise, it's actually the other way around and it totally works. Statham is absolutely hilarious as he sends up his tough guy persona VERY effectively may I add. He almost steals the movie!

Oscar Prospects: None except maybe for the Song. McCarthy actually deserves an Oscar nom for this more than Bridesmaids but the most she'll get is probably a Golden Globe nom.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Greg » Sat May 23, 2015 10:22 am

Mister Tee wrote:I did attempt to prepare by watching one, but Road Warrior is, surprisingly, nowhere on Netflix, and Mad Max, presumably because of others like me, is Extremely Long Wait.


Both are available on Amazon instant video.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Precious Doll » Sat May 23, 2015 1:10 am

I must say that I concur with most of what Mister Tee has stated.

I saw Max Max: Fury Road during the week and was very disappointed, thanks to the near universal critical acclaim the tim has received. Funnily enough I only saw a trailer to the film about 6 weeks ago at the cinema and thought it looked terrible - just lots of bad CGI. The finished product was certainly closer to the trailer than the reviews.

Also all this talk of a Best Actress for Theron is beyond ridiculous. Whilst she has plenty to do in the film none of it required much acting skill.

Also, I have never seen to many 'older' people at a screening for this type of film. Probably people like myself who had seen the original 3 films in the cinema back when they were made I'd say.

Mad Max 2, silly as it is, is by far the best of the bunch. One of the few compliments I can make in regards to Fury Road is that is it better than Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Mister Tee » Fri May 22, 2015 9:27 pm

If the rumor comes true and the Academy board reduces the best picture field back to five, a side blessing will be the end of the annual delusion that some decently reviewed Hollywood franchise product will make it onto the list. We heard this about Star Trek and the last Harry Potter, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy. It NEVER happens. The closest arguments you can make would be for District 9 and Inception, but those, despite coming in entertainment genres, were considered fresh creations -- enough they were recognized by the writers; they were not just the latest and best reviewed in a long-running series. The idea that Mad Max: Fury Road is going to now be The One strikes me as silly.

I may not be the best judge of the film in any context, because -- true confessions -- I've never seen any of the earlier films. (As I said elsewhere recently, I wasn't much into genres years back, and it was the pre-VCR years, and my wife had already see The Road Warrior before we met, so...) I did attempt to prepare by watching one, but Road Warrior is, surprisingly, nowhere on Netflix, and Mad Max, presumably because of others like me, is Extremely Long Wait.

Anyway...when the movie began, I thought I might out-curmudgeon BJ on this: 15 minutes in, I was thinking, Christ, I'm bored already. Apparently the film grew on me as it went along, because I was fairly engaged by the end, if mostly on a kinetic level. There wasn't a lot of fat in the the film -- it zipped along without stopping for much (including, you know, plot or characters). But there was a lot of energy, and some striking visuals, especially the night-time shots (I didn't realize till the closing credit that the estimable John Seale was behind the film's look). However, as BJ says, this is still just the same old summer-movie plot -- some evil guy is keeping everyone down, and our hero overthrows him -- and the visual details, while they distract, don't eliminate the film's shortcomings.

I assume most people read that borderline-insane blogger post a week or so ago, claiming that having vagina-equipped characters essential to the story emasculated the character of Max. Ridiculous (and therapy-requiring) though that reaction may be, it is true that Max almost seems a subsidiary character in this film that bears his name: Charlize and her group are the film's protagonists, and Max is just along for the ride. (I did kind of like the way he vanished in the crowd at the end, like the Lone Ranger) To leap from that, though, to calling the film feminist seems wildly over the top; the same old same old doesn't become feminist just because it's women firing the guns.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Fri May 22, 2015 8:07 am

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY
Cast: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D'Anna, Fatma Mohamed.
Dir: Peter Strickland.

I can definitely say this is the best period lesbian BDSM film I've ever seen! Granted it's the only period lesbian BDSM film I've seen but whatever. But as a film, I actually loved it. Forget Fifty Shades of Grey. *This* is the BDSM film of 2015 you MUST see. The film chronicles the relationship between two women along with their fascination with insects and kinky sexual practices. It's surprisingly far less racy as it sounds. You barely see them have actual sex and there is no nudity. But all the same, it is quite erotic (but not exploitative) and not to mention absolutely beautiful. The depiction of their relationship takes on an almost dream-like imagery that engulfs and mesmerizes you as a viewer. It's moving, surprisingly sweet and even funny in parts. It's a haunting film that you won't soon forget.

Oscar Prospects: If there's any justice, Picture, Director, Actress (for both leads), Cinematography, Production Design, Original Score and Original Song.

Grade: A-


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