Tuesday, February 2, 2016

End of Year Mega Reviews

It's about time to release my yearly top 10 film post (coming VERY soon), but first I wanted to get out a quick rundown of the past batch of films I've seen to close out 2015 and open 2016.

Let's start with the final few films released in 2015 that I saw over the past few weeks.

The Revenant

Overall I was a bit disappointed in this film by 2015 Oscar winner Alejandro Innaritu and his all-star duo of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.  This film chronicles a predictable revenge narrative that ends up feeling way too long.  Innaritu could have turned this into a 90 minute movie rather easily, but you can't really blame him for showing off the mega-talented Chivo Lubezki.  Once again, Chivo knocks it out of the park by filming the beautiful raw landscapes of Alaska with such unfiltered brilliance.  DiCaprio is excellent (not his best career turn, but close and one which will win him Oscar easily) and Tom Hardy is just awesome in anything he does.  This is one of the best looking films I've ever seen and the visual splendor alone raises a rather forgettable film to a decent 3.5 out of 5 JRs. You MUST see this on the big screen though to take in all that Lubezki has to offer.  He will take home his THIRD STRAIGHT Oscar later this month.


Writer/Director Charlie Kaufman once again goes a bit bananas in concept with a film that's done totally in stop motion (think Team America puppets that are much more fleshed out) with only three voice actors (including Jennifer Jason Leigh).  The plot revolves around a lonely motivational speaker taking a business trip to Cincinnati and becoming infatuated with a hotel guest. The execution is not that bad (despite all the stop-motion wiener shots) but the movie is just dull and boring overall. I slept through the final fifth and was glad I used MoviePass to pay for my ticket.  Don't bother.  Inside Out has nothing to worry about in the animated category. 2 out of 5 JRs.


It seems that David O. Russell will not do any more movies without his muse (Jennifer Lawrence) and that's probably not a terrible thing because J Law is just so damn good at most everything she does. This movie chronicles the story of Joy Mangano, a real-life self-made entrepreneur who turned The Miracle Mop into a inventing and investing powerhouse. Lawrence plays Joy and gives it everything she has.  She comes across determined, likable and just "real" like most of J Law's characters.  Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro and a slew of other supporting actors including Virginia Madsen help flesh out the story.  Things get a bit muddled here and there and the story is not overly interesting, but Lawrence makes everything that Russell does with the camera and script worthwhile.  I enjoyed this a little more than American Hustle but not nearly as much as Silver Linings Playbook.  A solid 3.5 out of 5 JRs for this one.

Straight Outta Compton

I was late to the party with this one (seeing it just last weekend), but boy am I glad I watched it.  F. Gary Gray does a wonderful job of capturing the essence and birth of Gangsta Rap in an entertaining 2+ hours of film.  All of the actors are believable including an excellent turn by Ice Cube's son Oshea Jackson Jr.  I personally related to a lot of events in the film including the birth of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (two of my favorite rappers ever).  Even witnessing (a spot-on portrayal of) Tupac in the studio vibing with Dre was a joy to watch.  I had a lot of fun with this film and it although it ends on a somber note it's remarkable to see what a small group of kids in Compton were able to do with their professional careers. This is one of the best music biopics I've seen and earns a solid 4.5 out of 5 JRs and an outside shot at making my Top Ten List.

And now on to 2016 (and some awful dredge from January)!!!!! *Happy (late) New Year*

The Fifth Wave

I like Chloe Grace Moretz.  I've liked her since she played Hit Girl when she was just 14 and now that she's all grown-up I can only hope that she gets to act in better films than The Fifth Wave.  Based on a (hopefully better) book by Rick Yancey, this movie chronicles an alien invasion that happens in many phases (or waves) and one in which the "aliens" look like humans (probably because the other visual effects were so bad, nobody wanted to dare try and design actual aliens).  It's basically a mash up of all of the recent young adult films we've seen over the past decade.  There's a bit of Twilight (including a TOTALLY FORCED love triangle), a bit of Hunger Games (the "US Army" trains children to "battle the aliens") and a little bit of The Day After Tomorrow (actual running from water and floods with TERRIBLE visual effects) mixed in.  I don't know how Liev Schrieber got mixed up in this nonsense but it really way painful to watch him try to play along.  The brother of Moretz in the film looks eerily similar to my stepson, but I bet my stepson could act better than him. If you don't think a good kid actor can make or break a movie, compare this garbage to Room or The Visit.  0.5 out of 5 JRs for one of the WORST movies I've seen in quite some time.  The film ends abruptly and there is a follow-on book.  I just hope it doesn't get a movie adaptation or I will pour a little out for Chloe Grace-Moretz (who isn't that bad in this).

The Forest

This is another stinker I saw in the theater. Natalie Dormer (whom I really liked in Game of Thrones, Rush and some other films) plays a twin who sets out to Japan to locate her missing sister whom she fears has gone to a famous forest outside of Mount Fuji to kill herself (apparently a real-life trend associated with this forest).  She meets Lady Gaga's real-life boyfriend along the way and they set out together spending a night or two in the woods looking for the lost twin.  Nothing really exciting happens here and the director seems to think that lost Japanese schoolgirls are really scary for some reason.  This is just a tame and not terrible innovative film.  1.5 out of 5 JRs for a forgettable horror film that really didn't scare me that much.

Thankfully January is over and we can put those terrible films behind us.  Keep your eyes opened for my 2015 in review post.  Make sure to stay tuned to Facebook and this blog for the Third Annual Arcademy Awards Podcast I do with my friend Omar Latiri in which we'll break down everything Oscar.

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