The Official Review Thread of 2015

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby OscarGuy » Tue May 19, 2015 5:28 pm

That'll be the porno title.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Greg » Tue May 19, 2015 5:20 pm

No review, I just want to say that for some reason, in my mind, I keep wanting to pronounce it, Mad Max: Furry Road.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Kellens101 » Tue May 19, 2015 4:39 pm

The only one of those I saw was Clouds of Sils Maria and I mostly enjoyed it. Your complaints(the structure, the Binoche-Stewart rehearsals, the Chloe Moretz scenes) were hugely understandable though. I thought Moretz didn't give the best of performances and Stewart and Binoche knocked her off the screen. Kristen Stewart gave another surprisingly good performance and added a lot of humor and nuance to her character. I can't wait to see what her next roles will be. Juliette Binoche gave another one of her very good performances, though it's definitely not up to the level of her best work(especially The English Patient and Certified Copy, both of which I would've awarded her my own personal Oscar). But it was clearly no Chocolat and she delivered throughout the film. But, even with those flaws you stated, I still thought it was a hilarious, poignant and intelligent study of actresses in the theater. Also, those comparisons to All About Eve are quite annoying in my opinion, as this film doesn't compare at all to that timeless masterpiece.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby The Original BJ » Mon May 18, 2015 4:17 pm

Some short thoughts on a lot of recent entries...

CINDERELLA
I admired the fact that this movie was a mostly sincere take on the classic story, absent the kind of contemporary snark that has plagued many modern takes on well-known tales (and which I thought just about ruined the recent Broadway "re-imagining" of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella). But on the flip side, this movie is virtually a live-action update of the Disney cartoon, only without the songs, and at some point one has to ask, if you aren't going to provide any fresh take on the story, what's really the point of this movie's existence? It's beautifully mounted, though -- Sandy Powell seems like a certain Costume Design nominee for one eye-catching fashion piece after another, and Production Design could be a possibility as well.

EX MACHINA
I agree with Mister Tee that this definitely falls under the "worth seeing" banner, though I think it's exactly the kind of movie critics are prone to overrate. It's a sci-fi movie that obviously has an intelligent sensibility behind it, and it doesn't descend into mindless action. It also has a fairly entrancing, mysterious and tense mood. But I found the ideas about artificial intelligence not terribly original, and the narrative, in particular, felt undernourished. I found the first big narrative turn (Oscar Isaac's reveal) near the end fairly predictable -- it seemed pretty likely the story would head in that direction because otherwise there would have been no plot. And the turn after that (Domhnall Gleeson's reveal) didn't make much sense to me, because there's no way his actions earlier in the movie would jive with that if that was indeed his plan all along. Certainly an early-in-the-year effort that's safe to see in theaters, but not something I found greatly special.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS
I think Jason Robert Brown's piece about the disintegration of a marriage told forward and backward is one of the great works of musical theater so far this young millennium -- it's a small piece, for sure, but with a superb score and a ton of dramatic insight packed into a short cycle of songs. It wasn't necessarily the kind of show I'd have ever imagined as a movie, and not all of the songs are transferred to film in a manner that always feels cinematically graceful. But there's still a surprising amount of invention on a small scale along the way -- the performances, in particular, are well-directed to hit a lot of interesting beats, and Kendrick and Jordan are winning throughout -- and it's nice that this show has been preserved in this way so that a wider audience might be exposed to it.

IT FOLLOWS
I'm not really a big horror fan, but this was billed as something more special than the average horror flick, so I checked it out. And though I found it effective enough at generating scares, I also feel that way about most bad horror movies, and I didn't see a ton of difference in this one. The conceit is interesting enough -- and it makes for an unnerving experience watching the backgrounds of the frame, as anyone walking past could easily emerge as a terrifying threat -- but also pretty retro in its politics, which didn't seem any more interesting to me than "sex will give you diseases." And I felt there was about an hour's worth of story for a two hour movie, with a lot of narrative elements pretty underdeveloped (what exactly are these kids trying to do in the pool sequence, and how could they possibly assume it would ever be any more successful than their umpteen previous attempts to ward off this thing?) And I didn't see the well-rounded characters others have either. If you want to get freaked out, you could do far worse, but I don't understand the critical elevation of this thing at all.

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA
One of the few films this spring I've seen that obviously falls under "real movie" territory, but I wish I'd like it as much as other more recent Assayas films. There's spots of insight along the way, in this story of an actress returning to the play that made her name in the older role rather than the ingenue, and Binoche and Stewart are good throughout. (Stewart really has been doing well lately when given great screen actresses as her co-star.) But I found a lot of the Binoche-Stewart play rehearsal scenes really on-the-nose -- the play was just so OBVIOUSLY paralleling events in the characters' actual lives it all felt really schematic to me. And a lot of the Chloe Moretz stuff struck me as lobbed on from a much sillier movie. (There's also the fact that I can't stand even a second of her ever.) There's quite a bit of structural lumpiness, too -- the entire last act just felt tacked on in a way that dragged the storyline out far more than was necessary. Would be interested to hear others' thoughts on this one, because it's obviously a work of ambition, but not especially well-realized in my opinion.

TANGERINES
The weakest of the five Oscar Foreign Language Film nominees by far. The set-up -- Chechen and Georgian enemies injured in a stand-off have to recover in the same house -- is pretty creaky, Defiant Ones-level stuff. And the plot barely goes much of anywhere until the climax, when as soon as the movie starts to wade into potentially interesting territory, it ends, with even a hugely dramatic event feeling like a narrative whimper. Force Majeure clearly merited this spot instead, I think.

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
I think the Avengers movies are probably among the better Marvel fare, and a lot of that seems due to Joss Whedon, who has a knack for both funny dialogue as well as visually memorable images (the slow-mo image from the trailer in the first fight sequence, that obviously dazzling camera whirl around all of the Avengers fighting in the big battle, etc.) But of course, all of the usual problems remain: a narrative overstuffed with way too many elements (and this time, the introduction of a handful of new characters jockeying for screentime with the regulars doesn't help), a story that feels totally convoluted for anyone not well-versed in the comic book origins, and action sequences that feel virtually devoid of stakes (it's basically the end of the world every time, any guesses on whether or not the Avengers will save it?) Plus, by this point, these movies feel less like individual entities and more like cogs in the unwieldy giant machine they have to serve, setting up and servicing storylines for countless other movies down the road. But congrats to Marvel for finding a way to get so many people to fork over their money over and over and over again for what is essentially the exact same storyline every time.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
I don't disagree that the filmmaking here is impressive -- from a technical standpoint, the film's action is energetically filmed, hugely polished, but full of plenty of gonzo details (like the guitar player) that give a film an anarchic energy that feels admirably insane. But...COME ON. It's all sound and fury in service of absolutely nothing -- there's about ten minutes of story in the entire affair, and one long sequence of car chases and trucks exploding and faces being ripped off for the rest of it. And I'm sorry, but all of these articles embracing this movie as a great feminist achievement just illustrate how little mainstream filmmaking has to accomplish to qualify as pro-woman -- shouldn't a feminist film have ONE interesting, three-dimensional female character? Cause this has zero. And zero interesting male characters. And what little plot there is still totally convoluted as a story. (To all of those critics writing that the story doesn't make sense, but that's not the point here...sorry, that's actually kind of the bare minimum for me to consider something decent writing.) Tech nominations will be plentiful -- and not unmerited, as it does look and sound great -- but I need a lot more than just the super-serious, generic post-apocalyptic nonsense typical of the other three miserable Mad Max movies for me to qualify this thing as a film masterpiece. (Help me, Italiano, you're my only hope...)
Last edited by The Original BJ on Tue May 19, 2015 4:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun May 17, 2015 5:23 am

PITCH PERFECT 2
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, Keegan Michael Key, Katey Sagal, Ben Platt, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Flula Borg, Kelley Jakle, Shelley Regner, John Hodgman, Jason Jones, Joe Lo Truglio, Reggie Watts, David Cross.
Dir: Elizabeth Banks.

The sequel to the eventual hit about a college acapella group is of course pure formula. You know what's eventually going to happen by the time the first act ends. If you love the first one, there's no reason why you shouldn't love this one. I thought the first one was good. Kind of like a college Glee but a bit funnier. The potentially sappy musical plot is sprinkled with some biting humor. This one follows the same formula and I found it enjoyable but somewhat forgettable. There are some genuine laughs here provided not so much the main protagonists but the fun supporting players and the talented comic actors in small roles (Keegan Michael Key and David Cross are hilarious!). How wonderful that more people got to see how hilarious Reggie Watts is!

Oscar Prospects: If "Flashlight" is eligible, then I expect it to have a good chance of getting in.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 16, 2015 10:10 am

IT FOLLOWS
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto.
Dir: David Robert Mitchell.

At first glance, it's a typical teen horror flick. But when you see it, it's actually a superbly crafted very sophisticated and VERY scary psychological horror film about a murderous entity that is "passed" on person to person through sex. It's slow-paced and takes its time to build its scares but when it comes, oh shit! Even in quiet moments, there's a sense of dread and I also appreciated the fact that he seldom uses cheap jump scares or even resorts to well-known horror tropes down to its characters: none of them are particularly the stock teen horror character but well-rounded human beings in a way. I actually admired this director's last film The Myth of the American Sleepover which is actually not a horror film but a coming-of-age teen film but seeing the two, David Robert Mitchell definitely has a signature style that I'd love to see more of. He's definitely a director to watch.

Oscar Prospects: None but I will say this wouldn't be an embarrassing nominee for Original Screenplay.

Grade: B+

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Megan Gale, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Richard Carter, Angus Sampson.
Dir: George Miller.

Pardon my French but: FUCK, YEAH!!! After making movies about tap-dancing penguins the better part of the decade, George Miller returns to the world of Mad Max to deliver a no-holds-barred, balls-to-the-wall, honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned exciting, over-the-top action flick, all the while not neglecting a solid narrative, characters you root and care for and even throwing in a feminist-environmentalist-anti-war/religious fundamentalism message without being too preachy or obvious about it. So exquisitely crafted too: From John Seale's stunning cinematography to action scenes that actually EXCITE and not overwhelm (take note, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named *coughsMichaelBay*coughs*), kudos to the fantastic editing and sound design as well. And man, the world that they built is so freaking imaginative (that guitarist!) Tom Hardy was a great replacement for Mel Gibson but Charlize Theron pretty much stole this movie.I liked the first Mad Max, not-so Beyond Thunderdome but The Road Warrior is in my book the classic action movie and I would say this is at par with The Road Warrior. This is probably my favorite film of 2015 so far.

Oscar Prospects: This will get a lot of tech noms: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling, Film Editing, Cinematography, Original Score and Visual Effects should be easy gets but I can see this possibly breaking through or at least come in close to Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and maybe even Best Actress (Charlize Theron).

Grade: A.
Last edited by anonymous1980 on Sun May 17, 2015 6:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 09, 2015 9:28 am

BIG GAME
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Jim Broadbent, Victor Garber, Felicity Huffman, Ted Levine, Mehmet Kurtuluş.
Dir: Jalmari Helander.

Finnish-made action flick about a 13 year old boy from a small Finnish village going on a sort of rites-of-passage hunting trip when circumstances made him the protector of the President of the United States as Air Force One is forcibly crashed in the Finnish wilderness. It's strictly B-movie stuff. It's cheesy, silly and formulaic. A mishmash of different other genre films and despite the occasionally brutal PG-13 violence, a kid-friendly-ish version of Die Hard. It's nothing we haven't seen before. But despite all that, it is very entertaining. Onni Tommila and Samuel L. Jackson have nice chemistry and sell the material and made it exciting, funny and even touching. It's a fun film that may find a cult audience someday.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Sabin » Fri May 08, 2015 10:45 pm

Seen a few movies...



The Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon)
As not just a comic book fan but a Marvel comic book fan, I'm predisposed towards enjoying these films, which I did. When I left the theater, I asked myself how this happened because Age of Ultron features character motivations so baffling that it borders on incoherence. I think what I enjoyed about this film is that Joss Whedon understands screenwriting so much that the film seems like it makes sense. There are no isolated events. Every occurrence is caused by somebody else. For instance, it doesn't make a lot of sense when the Vision character suddenly comes into being, but he has been "caused" by so many people that it feels right. Age of Ultron isn't a feat of storytelling but desperate craftsmanship, in sequentially paying off enough set-ups that the viewer is satisfied. The fact that it makes sense at all is kind of amazing because the film has to jump through so many different hoops to set up the next thing. It doesn't have time to be the dark film it could have been. For instance, Tony Stark doesn't really create Ultron. He just sort of happens. If he did create Ultron the film would have to deal with that, and there's no time for that. On the other hand, it's refreshing to see a blockbuster where off-screen casualty is dealt with on-screen and made priority by the characters. A guilty pleasure.



It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
I've read too many reviews at this point to say anything original. Like The Babadook, it's a horror film for people who don't like horror films, but the scene of Maika Monroe fleeing from the house in terror to sit on the swings filled me with terror like no horror film I've seen in a while. And then nothing happens. That's probably where some people check out or people like me lock in.

Gorgeous atmosphere, soundtrack, performances so naturalistic and winning that when the film slowed down to open windows into their lives I in no way needed to go back to the rest of the movie...when they decide to solve their problem by driving to Detroit, it becomes amazingly stupid held together only by this guy being a pretty awesome director. On the other hand, nobody seems to like the way hookers are incorporated at the end of the film, which I thought was pretty terrific.



While We're Young (Noah Baumbach)
I was frustrated with how much I wrapped this one around in my head because it really is quite straight-forward and doesn't warrant the thought. The reason why people feel this film needs to be unpacked is because for once Noah Baumbach is dealing with plot, complete with comedic set-pieces. In that sense, he's not doing anything subversive. It's just weird when Noah Baumbach does a plot. Not bad, just kinda weird. On the other hand, he deliberately baits us through the third act once the plot settles in an Ben Stiller sets out to "solve" the secret of Adam Driver's documentary approach. When Baumbach finally shows his hand and Ben Stiller finds out what everybody thinks of his discovery, I found it very satisfying because I was thinking the exact same thing. But a by-product of this is that a good portion of the film is deliberately phony. That's a bold move, and I appreciated it even though I could see a lot of people being turned off.

It's beautifully shot as usual. He's developed a very distinct rhythm. The film suffers a bit because he clearly understands the Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts characters far more than Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. He doesn't really get them beyond millennial archetypes, which he employs to excellent effect in a montage of the differences between these two generations that makes the rest of the film feel redundant.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 02, 2015 10:17 am

SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE
Cast: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, Kate Harbour. (voices).
Dirs: Richard Starzak & Mark Burton.

This comes to us from Aardman who has a near-perfect record which is why I was wondering why I was kind of dismissing this when I saw it being advertised. It is the film version of a spin-off TV show featuring Shaun the Sheep who first appeared in a Wallace & Gromit short. This film is pretty much about Shaun and his farm friends venturing into the Big City in search for the Farmer who after a series of hilarious events gone missing with amnesia. The film has no actual spoken dialogue, not even by the human characters who speak with "oohs", "aahs" and random mumblings so the film is basically a pure visual storytelling. And it works brilliantly. The comedy and clever gags are very much in the spirit of Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati which can be enjoyed and loved by small kids all the way up to adults. The characters are quite endearing and the film is often very funny. It is pretty much as great as the great Wallace & Gromit shorts. I highly recommend this one even if you don't have a kid.

Oscar Prospects: I hope this will not be forgotten in the Best Animated Feature category. It's also a worthy contender for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.

Grade: A-

UNFRIENDED
Cast: Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peitz, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson, Heather Sossaman.
Dir: Levan Gabriadze.

This is a horror film that's getting a lot of buzz because of its unique format: It's basically a found footage film set entirely on a monitor of a teenage girl's laptop as the horror unfolds in social media, YouTube videos, chats and Skype. Basically, it's about a group of friends being terrorized by a malevolent anonymous user who may be a ghost of a girl who killed herself one year prior. An episode of Modern Family recently did an entire episode in this style and I saw it so this was nothing new but it is a fresh way to tackle a story on-screen. The film otherwise follows the familiar tropes of the horror genre. But it did produce a few good scares and it was fun. It's no classic-in-the-making but at least it's something new.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Apr 25, 2015 12:25 pm

Ex Machina is the sort of film critics tend to oversell, especially when they turn up during the dry season between the Oscars and Telluride. It's an interesting enough sort-of-thriller -- it's got some ideas behind it, and isn't fully predictable. But it's not some narrative breakthrough (much of it feels familiar from earlier films); it engages throughout but rarely crackles (I'm not sure whether Garland's direction or Gleeson's bland presence is responsible for that); and, while the plot manages some less-than-expected turns, it would've needed at least another twist or two to qualify as truly inventive.

But...some of the writing has a lyrical touch. And, once again, Oscar Isaac pretty much hits it out of the park -- playing a sometimes arrogant but ambiguous character, he manages us to keep us guessing about him, yet he holds the screen firmly every moment he's on. This guy is a major actor.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Thu Apr 23, 2015 4:35 am

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Cobie Smulders, Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgaard, Linda Cardellini, Hayley Atwell, Anthony Mackie, Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Julie Delpy.
Dir: Joss Whedon.

I got to see this ahead of most Americans (YAY, ME!). Well, the bad news: It's not as great as the first one. The film was a tad too busy. The story is not quite as strong and the moments of character and depth come off as a bit forced and sometimes becomes a bit too silly. This is definitely NOT my favorite Marvel movie. On the plus side though, Joss Whedon's trademark wit is still pretty much evident. James Spader is a fantastic villain who manages to be both frightening AND funny at the same time. He's the best part. If only the film surrounding him was stronger...oh well. The climax IS still pretty badass though. There are still pretty cool action scenes and some decent surprises. But overall, a bit of a disappointment considering its pedigree. It's still a fun, solid movie but not something that blew me away.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Makeup & Hairstyling.

Grade: B

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:34 pm

WHILE WE'RE YOUNG
Cast: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, Adam Horovitz, Maria Dizzia, Brady Corbet.
Dir: Noah Baumbach.

I'm kind of surprised this somehow got a theatrical screening here. It's a Noah Baumbach film and it's quite a highbrow dramedy. Anyway, it's kind of appropriate that I saw this film right after my birthday since it is about getting older and I am right smack in the middle of the ages of the two couples involved. The film is about an almost-middle-aged childless couple who becomes friends with a younger 25-year-old couple. The plot sounds very sitcom-y but writer-director Noah Baumbach manages to deliver a sharp, funny and incisive look at the contemporary generation gap of sorts. The film makes a wise decision to never be too broad or too caricature which was very tempting. It's one of the best of the year so far.

Oscar Prospects: Original Screenplay is possible.

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:09 am

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: SPONGE OUT OF WATER
Cast: Antonio Banderas, voices of Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence, Mr. Lawrence, Matt Berry.
Dir: Paul Tibbitt and Mike Mitchell.

Let preface this review by saying I'm NOT a fan of Spongebob Squarepants. I did not see the first movie and I have only seen a few episodes of the TV show. I find it too wild and manic for my taste and Spongebob can be annoying if I'm not in the right mood. But that said, I kind of enjoyed this movie. I didn't win me over but it did entertain me which is what it's supposed to do. There are a few good laughs and good gags and Antonio Banderas is fun to watch as he hams it up as the wacky live-action villain. If you love Spongebob, you'll love it. If you're not, you could do a lot worse.

Oscar Prospects: The live-action portions of this might prevent this from a Best Animated Feature nomination.

Grade: B-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 04, 2015 8:22 am

FURIOUS 7
Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Kurt Russell, Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, Sung Kang.
Dir: James Wan.

Yes, I know I'm surprised myself. I actually think this is the best film out of the franchise so far based on the ones I've seen. It unabashedly silly, preposterous, trashy but I had a great time. All the outrageous stunts, fight scenes with some genuinely funny moments sprinkled all throughout makes this a very entertaining B-movie. Yes, it does still have that corny "we're family" type sentiment but this time around, I think it kind of works because of actor Paul Walker's real-life death. I have to say that the way they handled it gave the film an unexpected emotional heft, particularly the ending which I won't spoil. No, it's not gonna win Best Picture Oscar (although I will say there have been worse films nominated, HAHA). I get it now. It really is a fun franchise.

Oscar Prospects: Well, not Best Picture but I think the fact that it's well-received could get this in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing categories.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2015

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Mar 15, 2015 7:25 am

RUN ALL NIGHT
Cast: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Common, Vincent D'Onoforio, Boyd Holbrook, Genesis Rodriguez, Bruce McGill, Holt McCallany, Nick Nolte.
Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra.

It's strange. I never particularly liked the films of director Jaume Collet-Serra and his collaborations with Liam Neeson and his contributions to the Liam Neeson-kicks-everyone's-ass subgenre of pulpy action thrillers but I still watched this. I have to say that it's actually the best of the lot. It's still far from great but benefits from actors who refuse to phone in their performances despite the somewhat derivative material. A better director might have done something to elevate it though but as it is, it's a pretty solid entertaining crime thriller about an aging hitman protecting his son from his old bosses. It's a good enough time-killer.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B-


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