The Theory of Everything (Movie Review)

Oscar-nominated stars Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) and Felicity Jones, who you may remember from the 5-second tease she got in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Felicia Hardy. Godammit, Sony, first you squander Paul Giamatti, and now this?

Right, enough with the filler posts, it’s time to look at  one of the most brilliant men to ever  live on this planet of ours. One who has tested the boundaries of physics and changed the way many people think about the universe.

It’s time to examine: Dr. Stephen Hawking’s love life!!!

You’re elated. I can tell.

 The Theory of Everything

 Directed by: James Marsh

 Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten

 Screenplay by: Anthony McCarten

 Genre: Biographical romantic drama

 Based on: Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Harry Lloyd, Emily Watson, Maxine Peake

Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson

Plot: In 1963, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is just your average brilliant astrophysics student attending prestigious Cambridge University, where his hobbies include math, physics, not having a topic for his thesis, and hanging out with his buddy, Viserys Targaryen from Game of Thrones. One day, while doing whatever it is that upper-class university students do, he meets a student of Romance Languages named Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), and the two young whippersnappers fall in love almost immediately. What follows is the story of their long, loving, frequently troubled relationship, through Dr. Hawking’s devastating struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (You know, ALS). You know, Lou Gehrig’s disease.

You know, the thing everyone was doing this for a few months back.

Admittedly, this movie was far from the movie I wanted to see most out of this year’s Best Picture nominees. I had heard good reviews, just not overwhelmingly positive ones, and I just thought it looked like one of those movies that are specifically crafted to rack up nominations by simply existing within the Academy’s wheelhouse (Recent examples include PhilomenaThe Artist and Everything that Meryl Streep Has So Much As a Goddamn Cameo in).

Also, I think I speak for many beleaguered high school students of the world when I say that physics can go fuck itself.

Just imagining it makes me want to start texting and put off studying.

Anyways, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely incorrect in that assumption as the film does, in fact hit many familiar beats, but it is executed in such a way that made me shrug my shoulders and say “Who really gives a crap?”. It’s not the most creative movie in the class of ’14, but I thought it was still a terrific movie that deserves all the recognition it can get. Unlike my next reviewed movie, which I would erase from everybody’s memory if I had the flashy pen-type things from Men in Black.

DO SOMETHING!!!

While the main reason that this movie works as well as it does is, as you may have guessed, the two leads, whose relationship actually came super close to making me shed man-tears, the other aspects of the movie are very well done, to boot. It’s very well directed, and the cinematography is downright gorgeous, to the point where it can kinda feel like they’re romanticizing a bit much, but I didn’t find it to be that much of a problem. The writing’s fine, and done in a way that actually made me understand more about physics than I did in three years of high school, even if it does wisely take a backseat to the relationship between Dr. Stephen and Jane (Those of you wanting to learn more about Dr. Hawking’s work would probably be better off going to a library. Or Wikipedia, whichever).

Also, the score, composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson of Iceland (A country whose musical output I’ve greatly respected since learning about Sigur Rós), is very beautiful, and quite memorable if you’re not an idiot like me who enjoys watching so much movies in such a short period so that all the soundtracks sound the same to you. Seriously though, it is beautiful.

While the lead actors do get a lot of deserved buzz for their performances, the very talented supporting cast also shines as well, with no real weak links among the bunch. Charlie Cox (Of Boardwalk Empire fame) is super-charming as a friend of the Hawking-Wilde family, which bodes well for his upcoming role as everyone’s favourite blind Marvel superhero).

Madame Web, Obviously.

I’ve watched this movie twice so far, and during neither viewing did I realize that the dude who plays Brian, Dr. Hawking’s college roommate, is the same guy (Harry Lloyd) who played Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. I guess I didn’t recognize him without his sadism, creepy relationship with his sister or flowing platinum locks. Or it could’ve been the noticeable absence of liquid gold cascading over said platinum locks. Yeah, probably that. Anyways, he does a really solid job, as does David Thewlis as Hawking’s professor. Stephen Hawking himself makes a cameo as his own computerized voice and really disappears into his role in a way that nobody else could.

Obviously though, the actors that have really captured everybody’s attention are Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, and as emotionally poignant and fantastic as Jones is, Redmayne’s is the one that truly stands heads and shoulders above damn near everybody else this year. I’m not just being my usual lazy self when I say that I can’t come up with a way to describe this performance (Although that is playing a part). You truly need to see it for yourself to know what I’m talking about.

So, for all my fanboying out over this movie, do I have any complaints with it? Well yeah, it’s not a perfect movie.

Now this… THIS is a perfect movie.

For instance, while the makeup and prosthetics team did a fantastic job with Eddie Redmayne to help him look the part of somebody with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, they really didn’t do that great a job of aging Felicity Jones to make her look like a fifty-year old by the end of the movie. I’m not bashing her performance by any means, and this doesn’t rate as a huge issue in my book, but it still took me out of the movie.

I guess it’s not like Felicity Jones can help the fact that she looks eighteen.

Also, this may just be a personal pet peeve of mine, but I am so fucking done with love triangles as a film trope, and there are two of them in this movie. TWO (This isn’t a spoiler, you see them coming from a mile away). I get that it’s what really happened, but I can only take much before it gets annoying. I suppose it’s handled well enough to cut out the “will-they, won’t-they” bullshit, but it still irks me quite a bit. I dunno, maybe the first season of Legend of Korra just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall: It’s more or less a conventional Oscar movie, but if you get as entranced by the emotional resonance of the movie as I was, you won’t give a damn.

Rating: 8.5/10

Next time on PKTM: I review Left Behind/contemplate agonizing forms of suicide.

The Imitation Game (Movie Review)

As homophobic a society as the UK was in the 40’s, the soldier on the right seems pretty into what he’s doing.

 Sorry that this review took me so long (Almost a month after The Imitation Game‘s wide release, to be exact), but I’ve been super busy with school, what with there being diplomas and midterms to write, and I had to take some time to write about the Oscar ballot, which was…Something else, to say the least.

For all the movies that got screwed over (Selma, The LEGO Movie, Nightcrawler), the Academy did do justice to some of the nominees, and one of the movies that got its just desserts is The Imitation Game, which ended up with eight nominations. Especially poignant considering both the new age in technology and the turning point in the LGBT rights movement that we’re currently experiencing right now.

As well as the equally influential “Cumberbitch” movement.

 The Imitation Game

 Directed by: Morten Tyldum

 Produced by: Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky, Teddy Schwarzman

 Written by: Graham Moore

 Genre: Thriller, historical drama

 Based on: Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

 Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong,  Charles Dance, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Rory Kinnear

 Music by: Alexandre Desplat

Plot: World War II is in full swing, and, unfortunately, the good guys are kinda getting their asses kicked by the Nazis. Thanks to a highly sophisticated encryption code known as Enigma, the Germans are getting encrypted messages through to one another right under the Allies’ noses. Tired of the Nazis’ shit, the British recruit top scholars, mathematicians, linguists and such in order to try to break the cursed code. One of the mathematicians recruited by Her Majesty’s Secret Service Or Whatever is Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant man, but also an arrogant, antisocial one, who has to juggle his service to the government with his closeted homosexuality.

“Big deal!” You might say. “Gay people get married all the time today! We love gay people! Why should he fear the government?”

You might say that. If you didn’t know that back in those days in Britain, homosexual activity could be punished with jail time or chemical castration. Not exactly the most accepting environment to Come Out to.

Does Turing and his team decipher the Enigma code? Does Turing’s homosexuality land him in deep trouble with the homophobic British government? WILL THE WORLD FALL UNDER THE THUMB OF HITLER AND HIS JACKBOOTED NAZI THUGS!??!

Spoiler alert. You know, in case you’re stupid.

I know you guys can’t tell, but I just typed 700 words after this point, and then pressed a button by accident and it’s all gone now. This is why I drink. And also why backups are a good idea.

I had a whole rant about how people don’t pay Alan Turing enough respect nowadays, and how instrumental he was in shaping modern society the way he did through his technology (Helping to beat the Nazis, forming the basis for computers and such), but no way I’m retyping it. Watch this movie, and do a little research, and gain a little appreciation for the tragic genius of Alan Turing. And hey, who better to portray the guy then the man who has entranced Sherlock fanboys and fangirls the world over with his charisma and voice of James Earl Jones proportions of awesomeness?

I have a natural disdain for fanbases who give themselves cutesy names in order to give themselves an identity (Maybe Beliebers have just left a bad taste in my mouth), but I’ll be damned if I’m not a Cumberbitch at this point. The dude’s an amazing actor, and his performance in this movie is absolutely no exception. In a lesser year, he would be the frontrunner for the category, but in a year where Michael Keaton decided to resurface solely for the purpose of putting every other actor in the world to shame, Benedizzle Cumber….bizzle will have to settle for a nomination. Wow, I will never put an “izzle” at the end of anybody else’s name ever again.

“I’m not mad, just dissa-okay, no, I’m actually pissed off. Never talk about me again.”

So, Cumberbatch is great. Whatever, you already knew/assumed that. How do all the other actors do? Well, really quite well, actually. Charles Dance is fantastic as a total dick (Although not a historically accurate one, apparently), which one would expect from Tywin Lannister. Matthew Goode and Mark Strong both do real well as Turing’s rival on the team and a MI6 officer, but the supporting cast member who seems to be generating the most buzz is Pirates of the Caribbean alumni and Phantom Menace survivor Keira Knightley, who was also nominated for the supporting actress Oscar. And she does okay. Not badly, to be sure, she does a good job, but compared to the complex, layered portrayal that her co-star, Cumberbatch gives a complex, layered character, Knightley’s just seems a little bit nondescript, especially for a character as interesting as Joan Clarke. That said, I can see the Oscar nomination. Maybe it’s just the Oscar’s hard-on for historical movies, or a sign of the lack of good female roles in movies that there was last year, but I don’t have a hard time swallowing her nomination. I still would’ve preferred to see Emily Blunt for Edge of Tomorrow, though.

For that matter…

For that matter, I can’t really name anything that this movie does poorly, per se. It’s very well directed, it’s extremely well-written and paced, it didn’t feel boring as many historical dramas tend to feel once you hit the one hour mark, and you definitely feel the tension of the mission that the codebreakers feel throughout the movie. I mean, I obviously knew that the Allies won the war at the end, but I was still on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out how exactly they mean to break the code, and the personal life of Alan Turing is one replete with drama and tragedy that will leave you broken-hearted if you have any semblance of a heart. Or whichever part of your brain regulates sadness. I guess anybody has a semblance of a heart, or they’d be dead. It’s four in the morning right now you guys, I’m so goddamn tired.

I guess the only real flaw  is that when you take the focus of the movie away from Cumberbatch (Which isn’t often, admittedly), it kind of becomes not so much the classic historical drama and LGBT Rights movie that it could become in the future and merely a very good movie. The supporting characters are just not that interesting when you take Turing out of the equation. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often at all, and not enough to detract from this movie’s credentials as one of the best films of 2014.

Overall: A pretty freaking great movie about a really freaking influential human being, The Imitation Game is… Really good you guys? I dunno, it’s five in the morning, I’m going to bed.

Rating: 9/10

Johnny Depp isn’t the only one phoning it in this weekend!!!

The 5 Biggest Oscar Screw-Ups of This Year’s Nominations

Even the statues seem miffed about Jake Gyllenhaal getting snubbed.

The nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced early Thursday morning, and, merely a year removed from the pleasant surprises that were the nominations last year, I was feeling pretty positive about the Academy’s ability to make smart decisions about who they would nominate.

And then, this clusterfuck of a ballot surfaced. Ho-ly-shit.

I’m sure there must be other colossal mistakes that just aren’t coming to me, but these are the biggest blunders that come to my mind when I think of this year’s ballot. Let’s dive right in.

5. No Recognition for Voice or Motion Capture Performances

The Oscars: Once again proudly displaying their bias against black people, women and tiny Englishmen with whiteheads all over their faces.

Look Academy, I don’t expect too much forward progress from you guys when it comes to movies that aren’t entirely live-action. Hell, it took you guys until 2001 to actually make a Best Animated Film Category, seventy-four years after the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I’ll get into the animated movies later, but using this logic, we can safely assume that it’ll be sixty-one years (Seventy four years after Gollum’s appearance in The Two Towers) before motion capture gets the respect it so rightfully deserves.

I’m not saying that you give Andy Serkis a nomination for Best Supporting actor, because a) Wasn’t he the lead actor in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? And b) I have no idea how to compare motion capture performances to live-action performances. That said, shouldn’t voice and motion actos get some kind of recognition? “Best Actor Whose Face doesn’t Appear in the Movie?” Something like that, maybe!?

4. No Best Animated Film Nomination for The Lego Movie!?!?!?!?

See Oscars? Even Benny the 80’s astronaut thinks you’re out of touch.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Despite everybody deeming The Lego Movie to be the movie to beat in this category, I did not want The Lego Movie to win this award. I wanted How to Train Your Dragon 2 to win this award. When How to Train Your Dragon 2 upset The Lego Movie at the Golden Globe Awards, I was ecstatic. So, in a sense, I’m happy that How to Train Your Dragon 2 now has less competition for the award.

That said, The Boxtrolls over The Lego Movie? Get a goddamn clue, will you Oscars? The Boxtrolls was fine, but it was no ParaNormanThe Lego Movie was earning consideration for a screenplay nomination.

Eh, at least that annoying song was nominated, so I can’t be too mad.

3. Selma…… Where are you Selmaaa……..

Sorry guys. We clearly have a ways to go yet. 

It’s so surprising to me that the power behind Selma (Oprah Winfrey, the American equivalent of Kim Jong-un) was unable to drum up a few more nominations for the movie, especially such an important, controversial one as Selma. I haven’t seen it yet (I plan to this weekend) but I have very high expectations, given everything that I’ve heard about it so far. The Oscars, being forward thinking as always, jumped at the chance to nominate David Oyelowo, who has been described by many to be the living embodiment of Dr. King.

Oh… He wasn’t nominated? Well, surely, the Academy jumped at the chance to nominate Ava DuVernay, the first black woman to be nominated for Best Director?

No? You’re gonna nominate the guy whose movie wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture?

…You people make me sick.

2. Lead Actor Shananigans

Yeah, I feel you, buddy.

This is just ridiculous. Jake Gyllenhaal and David Oyelowo being left off of the ballot is a damn disgrace. While I may end up eating my words when I do end up seeing Selma (I doubt it) I find it hard to believe that Steve Carell in a glorified Supporting Role (Admittedly, a great performance) or Bradley Cooper in his umpteenth consecutive nomination for a movie that is getting by on Clint Eastwood’s reputation, from what I’m hearing (I still need to see American Sniper) is topping somebody who has been called a present-day embodiment of one of the biggest heros this planet has ever seen.

And ditching Jake Gyllenhaal? Ridiculous. Fuck you, Academy. What the hell are you people thinking!?

1. Two “Best Picture” Slots Left Vacant

Look at that. Even the trophies don’t feel so good about this situation.

No, I don’t agree that accepting more movies dilutes the legitimacy of the ceremony. I think that even if a bad movie (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, for example)gets in, it’s not very likely to go anywhere when Judgement Day arrives, and that’s what really matters in the end. So when I booted up my laptop, I was so disappointed when neither Nightcrawler nor Gone Girl nor Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were nominated.

I thought I was gonna end with me guns-a-blazing, spewing vitriol, but I’m just too sad, honestly. The nominations are actually fine, mostly, it’s just that all the nominations, with the exception of Best Actor and Best Animated Film, are the safe choices, and I was also really hoping that maybe they could make some history with Ava DuVernay… I guess I’m just disappointed. Mostly pissed off, though.

Despite my whining, I’m still going to watch the Oscars in February, and I still plan on reviewing all the Best Picture nominees that I haven’t reviewed yet (What else am I going to do? Watch The Wedding Ringer?). I should have my Imitation Game review out within the next couple of days, and if I get through those relatively quick, I may review a few more of the nominated movies. You know, if I feel like it. Also, I have something special coming up that involves Batman, so keep an eye out for that.

Oh..Dark Knight was a movie that got snubbed… I’m depressed again.

Birdman (Movie Review)

Pffft. Whatever man. This is Tuesday for me.

If you read my review of Boyhood, the presumptive favourite for the Best Picture award at the next Academy Awards, you know that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the movie (It’s great, just not the best movie of the year, in my opinion). Knowing this, you may be itching to think what movies I think are good enough to displace what some are calling the best movie of this current decade?

I’d say Birdman is a pretty solid bet (And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America…).

Oh fuck, it’s Mothman!!!

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Produced by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher,  Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone,  Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo

Genre: Black comedy

Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts

Music by: Antonio Sánchez

Plot: Birdman revolves around a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The play is being written and directed by Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), who is also starring in the lead role. Riggan used to be one of the biggest actors on the planet, back when he was the star of the crowd-pleasing Birdman franchise, which he left after the third movie, languishing in obscurity ever since. His bid for newfound relevance is being threatened by prima donna actors (Edward Norton, Naomi Watts), his temperamental daughter (Emma Stone) and his own overblown ego.

Alejandro González Iñárritu has made a name for himself in Hollywood, directing weird, dark foreign movies that are nonetheless accessible for mainstream audiences, such as Amores Perros and 21 GramsBirdman is Gonzalez’s first entirely English-language movie, and has gained quite a bit of publicity since debuting at the Venice International Film Festival in August. In many ways, this is a turn towards more conventional storytelling for the director, as he sacrifices his trademark epic, non-linear. intertwining  storylines for what is essentially a frequently darkly comic character study of Michael Keaton (Kinda).

That doesn’t mean Gonzalez doesn’t try to put his own personal fingerprint on this movie, because it has his heavily stylized fingerprint all over it. The usual orchestral score music one would find in most award-bait movies is replaced by some maniac frantically playing the shit out of his drums, even making several appearances throughout the movie itself. Instead of conventional film editing, that is, carefully selecting shots and arranging them into sequences to create a finished movie (Like a loser) Gonzalez decided to go the really strange route of, through extremely clever editing, making the entire movie look like it was filmed in one continuous take, with no noticeable separation between scenes. It’s weird. It’s unconventional. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.

I FUCKING LOVE IT. 

The preceding sentence should always be read like Christian Bale’s Batman, for full effect.

The frantic pace of the music, editing (And the movie as a whole, really) really compliments the rest of the, relatively short, film perfectly. It’s very rare that the fact that a movie felt longer than its runtime is a compliment to the movie, but in this case, it absolutely is. This movie throws SO much stuff at you in its two hour runtime, which would get boring and/or exhausting if every. Single. Goddamn. Thing that happened on screen wasn’t so visually captivating, or if damn near every line of dialogue spouted by the fascinating characters wasn’t so interesting and/or intellectually stimulating.

I do mean that last sentence, by the way. As I was leaving the theatre, so many themes from the movie were swirling through my mind, and none of those themes felt tacked-on for dramatic effect. The dilemma of fame is brought up. The idea of staying relevant and the human desire for immortality is referenced abundantly. Blockbuster movies versus “high art” mediums too. Hell, even the usual theme of a parent-child relationship gone sour is fitted in among all this other stuff. And you know what? It’s all done fucking beautifully. As much as I loved 12 Years a Slave last year, and it was my favourite movie of 2013, and as much interesting things it had to say about the human condition, I can watch it maybe once every six months or so without getting horribly depressed and angry at humanity in general. What I’m getting at is: As great as 12 Years a Slave is, it doesn’t have very much immediate replay value. In fact, more often than not, I just want to put it out of my mind after watching it.

Right after watching the matinee showing of Birdman, I was fully prepared to pay full price for an evening ticket, just so I could analyze the movie’s themes again. The only thing that prevented me from doing so was the fact that I had already spent all my money on comic books by the time evening rolled around.

I guess what i’m trying to say is that I think that a movie about the harrowing conditions that slaves faced in the United States before the civil war wasn’t as interesting to me as a movie where this happens:

I think I’ll just go ahead and let the majesty of this image sink in.

Admit it, you can’t take your eyes off of Edward Norton’s bulge either. It’s okay, none of us can.

Good storytelling can go to shit without good characters, though. Thankfully, this movie delivers on that front as well. All of these main characters are written so well that by the end of the movie, I genuinely like each of them, and want to see everything go well for them, even when they’re being the biggest collection of dickbags on the planet (Which is often). Zach Galifianakis erases my memory of his crappy turn in Are You Here with a great performance as Riggan’s lawyer and best friend, while Naomi Watts is also great as a first-time Broadway actress trying desperately to make something of herself.

The three performances that seem to be attracting the most Oscar buzz, however, are those of Keaton as Riggan Thomson, Norton as a superbly talented, yet pompous asshole of a method actor who could make or break the play and Emma Stone. As much as I hate mindlessly conforming the the general consensus, I’ve gotta say that I agree with everybody else. They’re all fantastic, and I would be more than happy to see them nominated come January.

However, while Norton and Stone seem to be facing some very stiff competition from their peers, Michael Keaton is straight up eating the competition alive. It’s great to see Keaton back doing prominent work again (Not that he was dead in the water or anything, it’s just he wasn’t as big of a name as he was back when he was doing Batman), and even better to see him totally owning a role that is pretty obviously meant to be portrayed by him, even if it’s not always a portrayal that most would consider flattering. Needless to say, he absolutely kills it in this movie. Even if I do joke that it’s basically Michael Keaton playing Michael Keaton, he still disappears into the role and breathes life into what could have easily been a pretty phoned in performance. The only real competition that I’ve seen so far that can really stand toe-to-toe with him is Eddie Redmayne, but more on him later.

Overall: Watch this movie. Do it. Drop whatever you’re doing, drive to whatever independent theatre is showing it in your hometown, pay full price, and plunk your ass down in the theatre seat to watch it. I guarantee you will not regret it.

Rating: 10/10

The Norton-Bulge commands it!!!

Boyhood (Movie Review)

“And that‘s why Uma Thurman can go fuck herself!”

Before Texan director Richard Linklater, the master behind Dazed and Confused, the Before Sunrise trilogy, School of Rock, A Scanner Darkly (Which I haven’t actually seen, it’s just fun to say) and Bernie, first unveiled his latest movie, Boyhood, way the hell back in January at the Sundance film festival, people didn’t know what to expect. A movie shot over…twelve goddamn years? What a weird fuckin’ concept, right? Yeah, good luck running up the Oscar nods on that premise, Richard. You best stick to your cute little art movies, alright?

And then, the critics saw the movie. What was the reaction? Well, I’ll just let Rotten Tomatoes do the talking for me.

Transformers is also here. Y’know. For some reason.

Needless to say, I had pretty high expectations upon watching this movie. How did I feel about it after?

Well, I’ll tell you, but if you’ll excuse me real quick, I need to do a quick change of clothes.

Never leave home without it.

I’m sure Ethan Hawke must have loved it when he learned that both the child actors were credited before him.

 

 Boyhood

 Directed by: Richard Linklater

 Produced by: Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland,  Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss

 Written by: Richard Linklater

 Genre: Drama

 Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei  Linklater,  Ethan Hawke

 Plot: Ha! Good one.

In all seriousness, there really isn’t much to the plot of this movie, which is kind of the point. There’s no real unifying obstacle to tie this movie together. Just the day-to-day obstacles that this kid and his family have to face.

The simplest way to really summarize the movie is this: Over twelve years, Mason Evans, Jr (Ellar Coltrane) grows from boy to man, experiencing life with his friends, his older sister (Lorelei Linklater) and his divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette).

So, judging by my slightly ambiguous intro, you must really be expecting me to spout an unpopular opinion on this movie, like I didn’t think it was great, or, God forbid, I thought it sucked. If you do want me to tear into this movie apart, then I’m sorry to say you’re going to be disappointed.  The vast majority of what this movie sets out to do, it does very, very well. It’s a very different kind of movie than what one would expect, even besides the fact that it was filmed over twelve years. This kind of filming over several years to show the passage of time has been done before (Several documentaries, such as Hoop Dreams, come to mind) but never over a scale as large as twelve years, and never in a movie that has received this much notoriety.

So, how does the story work as a movie? Pretty damn well, I’d say.  It’s not told in a traditional three-act structure (How could it be, really?), it’s more of a look into the life of the main character as he grows up. Of course, he has somewhat of a rough life, because this movie would be boring otherwise, and there are some moments where that fact feels kind of needlessly tacked on. That said, it also helps us empathize with the character of Mason, who is portrayed well enough by Ellar Coltrane, even through his perilous child actor years.

Watching this movie must be one hell of a mind-fuck for him.

Is the story engaging enough to keep one occupied during the entire 165-minute runtime? For the most part, yeah. I (Part of the Millennial audience  I believe the film was aimed at) wasn’t bored for the majority of the movie, and I could relate to a lot of what Mason was going through. Okay, maybe not everything. My parents aren’t divorced, I’ve lived in one neighbourhood my whole life, and I haven’t lived in a home where drug, alcohol and domestic abuse were prevalent. I did, however, relate more to the smaller things he was going through. Hanging out with sketchy friends-of-friends, eagerly anticipating the next Harry Potter book, talking excitedly about the next Star Wars with my friends back when I hadn’t realized the prequels were garbage, discovering that girls were actually pretty cool to hang out with, murdering my first homeless person on my eighteenth birthday, the list goes on. There are scenes that seem to have little to no meaning that really, really should’ve been axed, though. There is one scene, for instance, when it looks like Mason is about to enter into some sort  of altercation or long-term rivalry with a bully, and I kept expecting it to come back later in that point of his life, but it never did, and the little bully prick never showed his face again. I guess you could argue that this is very much how that situation would play out for some people in real life, I certainly have never had that big of a problem with bullies that I haven’t been able to suppress with expired painkillers by now, but this scene in particular just seems like something they stuck in to make some people nod and say “Oh, yeah, remember that?” If that’s what you’re looking for in a movie, fine, I guess, but I’m personally not a fan of relying on nostalgia for critical and commercial success.

If the Rolling Stones were to read that last sentence, they would be laughing their asses off at me right now.

Even when the movie does slow down and get less interesting, as it does once Mason gets into his later teens, I was still able to gravitate towards the characters thanks to the performances. I already mentioned Ellar Coltrane and his fine performance, which, surprisingly, doesn’t appear to be generating much Oscar buzz (Especially considering the massive hard-on that the awards higher-ups have for every other aspect of this movie), but I guess that makes sense when you look at the other premium actors in contention. Most likely making the cut, however are his movie parents, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, who should easily be in the mix for the big prize come February. Those two were so fucking good that I actually wish that the movie focused more on them and less on Mason. I thought that Ethan Hawke finding his own way in his life and Patricia Arquette going through all the shit she goes through in the movie probably would have amounted to something, well, better.

How was Lorelei Linklater? Well, all I’ll say is it must be nice to be a highly regarded director’s daughter and not have to get jobs through, you know, being a good actor.

Look, I still really, really like this movie. I may even go so far as to call it a great movie that is necessary viewing for film fans. That said, after watching the movie, I stopped and thought, and I realized that not only was it not my favourite movie of the year, but it wasn’t even in my top 15 (More on that later). I watch this movie and I see a great movie that I don’t ever want to watch again on account of it being the length of a Lord of the Rings movie and not as entertaining. I definitely don’t see “one of the greatest films of the decade” as Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian apparently sees.

Also, there’s a line in the movie in which a kid welcomes Mason into a new school by saying “Welcome to the Suck.” This is such a terrible line that I fell to the floor laughing for ten goddamn minutes. What can I say? It helped pass the time.

Overall: Is it the masterpiece that everyone seems to think? I certainly didn’t think so, but judging by the massive acclaim for this movie, you may disagree. In my personal opinion, Boyhood is a highly innovative, must-see movie that gets by on the strength of its performances, and the relatability of the characters.

Rating: 8.0/10

I barely liked this movie more than John Wick. Bizarre, right?

Interstellar (Movie Review)

I can now believe that this movie was filmed here in Alberta.

Christopher Nolan is brilliant. Let’s make that abundantly clear. This review is not meant as a middle finger to the man who made Batman cool again. That said, the combination of pulse-pounding suspense with intellectualism that seemed to be so easily achieved in The Dark KnightInception and Memento is not exactly a given in Nolan movies, apparently.

Mmmm… I can already smell the fanboy hatred brewing.

   Interstellar

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Produced by: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst

Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

Based (In part) upon: Kip Thorne’s theories

Genres: Science-fiction, adventure, drama

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael    Caine, Ellen Burstyn, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Topher Grace, Timothée Chalamet, Matt Damon

Voices of: Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Plot:  As is the case in seemingly every high-concept science fiction movie, it is the near future and the Earth is, slowly but surely, dying out. Due to unspecified issues, the planet is ravaged by dust storms, and the entire planet has reverted to an agrarian society. One of the many farmers whose plots of land litter the devastated American landscape (Which brings to mind the Dust Bowl) belongs to Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former engineer and NASA pilot who lives with his father-in-law (John Lithgow), his son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and his eccentric daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy).  When Murphy leads him on a wild goose chase to find her imaginary friend, Cooper stumbles upon a yop-secret NASA base, especially shocking, considering that NASA was thought to have been disbanded years ago.

The NASA facility is led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a brilliant scientist who, along with the rest of the tattered remains of NASA, is desperately trying to find ways to save humanity. Driven to desperation, Brand’s Hail Mary plan is to send Cooper up to space in a spaceship with a couple scientists (David Gyasi and Wes Bentley), Brand’s daughter (Anne Hathaway), and a couple of robots ( and shoot ’em up into a recently-discovered wormhole around Saturn, taking them to a whole other galaxy, where humanity could find another place to settle down.

Seriously, before I get into this movie’s problems, I must stress that I did like the movie, despite its’ shortcomings, I enjoyed myself for, oh let’s say, 75% of the movie.  The movie’s almost three hours long, but throughout the first bit, it actually felt like it was breezing along, although not fast enough for me to miss out on the ever so important interactions between the characters. The score is composed by Hans Zimmer, who I have to thank for the soundtrack to The Lion King and Gladiator, meaning that he is one of my favourite human beings of all time. Unsurprisingly, he delivers some beautiful, atmospheric music that may not be hummable upon leaving the theatre, but it sure as hell worked in the context of the movie.

The performances were also great, which is kind of a given with Matthew McConaughey as a lead these days. Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine were both good in their role, as was Jessica Chastain in her role as an aged Murphy, and I never once felt the urge to strangle the child actors in the movie, which is always a positive in my book. Mackenzie Foy, especially, was really terrific as young Murphy, and surprised me by displaying a lot of chemistry with McConaughey. Especially surprising, since her breakout role was in the goddamn Twilight saga.

“Don’t listen to him, guys. I’m sure we won’t be working at a car wash within five years.”

I gotta say, though, the character of Tom, Murphy’s brother (Ably played by Timothée Chalamet and, later, Casey Affleck) seemed completely unnecessary to me. It could just have easily been a household comprised of Cooper, his in-law and his daughter, completely eliminated the character of Tom, and there would have been no less of an emotional impact to the proceedings in the movie. I dunno, I guess it was nice to see Casey Affleck in something.

It also bears mentioning that the movie is really, really gorgeous. From what I’ve heard, they actually had Kip Thorne be a sort of consultant on what things in space would look like (For lack of a better noun), so when you see a black hole, that’s what scientists are pretty sure  an actual black hole looks like. That’s pretty frickin’ rad.

Christopher Nolan has done a pretty solid job at incorporating shorter, emotional scenes in mainly serious movies, but he has set a new bar for himself with Interstellar in terms of emotional punch. I wouldn’t say it emotionally wrecked me, but holy crap does it get intense. Go ahead and skip to the end of this paragraph if you really don’t want to know anything about the movie going in, go ahead and skip to the end of this paragraph, but my favourite scene in the entire movie was when, due to the theory of relativity, Cooper discovers that his kids are now older than him. It’s not only a brilliant way to explain relativity to somebody, but also the best scene of the movie thanks to its emotional resonance.

Fuck me, that was the saddest damn thing.

However, it can work to the movie’s detriment too. The movie, for the most part, does a really good job of accurately portraying the science that would go into a space voyage, which makes sense, given that theoretical physicist Kip Thorne served as an executive producer. However, as much as I appreciate the science behind the movie, it loses me a little when it starts emphasizing the main theme in the film, that love transcends space and time, being, essentially, the strongest force in the universe.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against that being a theme in the movie. My problem is when the characters start spewing some bullshit about “quantifiable love”. I’m not going to go much more in depth for fear of venturing into spoiler territory, but seriously? I’m no physics major, that’s for damn sure, but I’m fairly sure that’s not actually a thing. The “power of love” crap may work in a movie such as Harry Potter, when the real-world applicability of the movie is non-existent, but in a movie such as Interstellar that puts such a large influence on the science, while keeping the human element mostly separate, you lose some brownie points from me when you try to spoon feed me with “quantifiable love.” It’s just too much of a stretch for a cynical bastard like me.

“Is…Is this love you’re feeding me? What the fuck is wrong with you!?!?”

Also, the dialogue seemed really clunky at times. I had to restrain myself from exclaiming “what!?” after Cooper explained to Murphy why he named her after Murphy’s Law. Most of the time, it’s a pretty typical, slick Nolan screenplay, but at other times…Ugh.

Another thing that was working against me was the length of the movie. Whenever a movie goes beyond the 160 minute range, it’s already gotten on my bad side. It’s not like I automatically hate it (The Lord of the Rings movies are three of the best movies of all time. Try and dissuade me of that, hipsters. I dare you.), it just has to do a bit more in the way of keeping me interested in the story to keep me distracted from the fact that I just blew three hours of my precious time. This movie did not do that. There were several times during the last 30 minutes of the movie when I felt that it should’ve ended, but it just kept trudging along, and it got to the point when I was just willing the movie to end, which is a pity, because looking back on it, it was a damn smart ending to a pretty damn good movie, but the ending was presented in such a hectic and drawn out way that I just got lost. Maybe I’m just stupid, I dunno.

One cursory look at my physics grade should have probably told me how much I would understand this movie.

Overall: It’s overly long, complicated, and occasionally displays stiff dialogue, but it’s a visual treat and an engrossing experience as well. It may not be for everybody, but it’s worth a watch. Just plan your day around it.

Rating: 7.5/10

The Wolf of Wall Street (Oscar Movie Review)

Yeah, we get it, you’re richer than us, you slimy douche.

Now that I’m done writing about baseball for a while, I’m jumping back on the (Long  departed) Oscar review train and reviewing a movie that I saw before the actual ceremony, but that I put off reviewing (Along with Her and Philomena) for some inexplicable reason until now, which is odd, because I happen to have some pretty strong opinions on it. I also have, like six more Oscar reviews coming after this one (Namely the two aforementioned moviesFrozen, The Great Gatsby, Blue Jasmine, and The Great Beauty) and a couple of Razzie reviews.

Actually, now that I think about it, forget the Razzie reviews. Life’s just too short to waste an afternoon devoting myself to an analysis of A Madea Christmas and Temptations of a Marriage Counselor.

Besides, I’ve gotta free up some time to go to a couple of other movies I really wanna review, namely The Grand Budapest Hotel, because it has seriously piqued my interest, and Noah, because ditto and I’m a sucker for religious debate, and, just from looking at the movie’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, I can tell that  this is a movie that will be argued about for a long time.

+1000 points for not having Russell Crowe sing.

Anyways, let’s just get to this insane freaking movie, shall we? It’s got Leonardo DiCaprio in it, so it must be great, right?

 The Wolf of Wall Street 

 Directed by: Martin Scorsese

 Produced by: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz,  Joey McFarland, Emma Tillinger Koskoff

 Written by: Terence Winter

 Based on: The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort

 Genres: Black Comedy, Crime Drama

 Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie,  Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin

Oscar nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay (Winter), Best Supporting Actor (Hill), Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Director (Scorsese), Best Picture

Plot: The film opens to stockbroker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) showing his exploits off to the audience, namely his opulent salary, highly entertaining workplace, unreal home on the Gold Coast of Long Island, and his beautiful ex-supermodel trophy wife, the beautiful Naomi Lapaglia (Robbie). Oh, and his ability to consume insane amounts of prescription and not-so-much-prescription drugs. How did he get to where he is in life? Well, let him tell you through narcissistic narration!

The setting flashes back to 1987, when Jordan is just busting into Wall Street as a  low-level commissioned stockbroker (Or whatever) at L.F. Rothschild. While working there, his boss (McConaughey) suggests that he adopt a lifestyle based around cocaine, casual sex and masturbation in order to relieve tension and stay on top of his job. This works out well for him and the firm until Black Monday (A global crash of the stock market), after which the firm closes down and Jordan finds himself out of a job.

Jordan ends up taking a job with a Long Island boiler room, where he takes advantage of the lax regulations of penny stocks and earns his fortune. Eventually though, he quits this and starts Stratton Oakmont with his buddy, Donnie Azoff (Hill), a burnout with similar tastes in drugs, and starts aggressively scamming people out of millions of dollars, which ends up attracting the attention of FBI agent Patrick Denham (Chandler).

When outlined neatly, as I like to think I just did, the plot is pretty airtight. Sure, it can be a little bit hard to follow, especially when he explains all the fiscal jargon that goes into stockbroking and running a scam, but as far as I know, there aren’t any holes in the plot. Martin Scorsese directs the movie excellently, like he do, although the editing was kind of haphazard.

Honestly though, the movie is three hours long, and it only really heeded to be two and a half hours long. You could skip, let’s say, from the 30-minute mark until, say, the 90-minute mark, and you will have missed nothing except a lot of sex scenes and other scenes of debauchery that didn’t need to be there.

Now that I’ve mentioned it, I guess I should mention my biggest problem (And, I suppose, one the biggest controversial aspects of the film) with this movie, which are the gratuitous sex and drug use depicted in the first half of the movie. Now, if any of you are thinking of calling me a sheltered, conservative prude, I’d like you to take a moment to remember that I’m a 17-year old straight kid. Do you honestly think I’d have a negative reaction to a nude female body without a good reason? Especially when that nude female body belongs to Margot Robbie? Get real.

No, it’s not that these scenes are evil, or immoral, or whatever. It’s just that we’re given so many of these scenes in such a short period of time (An hour is a shirt period of time in a Scorsese flick) that it just ends up losing any shock value that it might have previously possessed, to the point where I realized that I had just been watching an extremely explicit orgy in an airplane that involved several gorgeous women  and Leonardo DiCaprio (Because come on, nobody’s that straight) and felt absolutely nothing emotionally or otherwise. That really sucks, because a) I like seeing hot women in various states of undress (I just realized that this post is starting to make me sound like a huge pervert. Thank God for internet anonymity!) and b) There are so many ways that these scenes could have been used constructively but weren’t.

SPOILER BEGIN

One example in this movie of a well-placed sex scene is the one near the end of the film where Jordan is banging his wife for the last time before she leaves him. This is a great scene because it exposes Jordan Belfort as the pathetic human being that he has become, begging his wife for sex and whimpering, if I remember correctly (Screw double-checking!). I fail to see how a scene detailing how Jordan and Donnie “double-teamed” some woman in an office is supposed to convey as much importance, though.

SPOILER END

With that said, I feel like I should mention that, in all fairness, the movie cuts down on most of the filler after the halfway point, and became miles more engaging. It doesn’t elevate it to legendary heights or anything, but it’s still excellent. It’s just a damn shame that the second quarter of the movie, or so, is so fricking weak.

And as for the complaints about this film being “amoral”, I have these two points to mention to anybody using this weak excuse to discredit a movie.

  1. What exactly did you expect from the guy who directed Taxi Driver and Goodfellas?
  2. Get off your fucking soapbox.

And with that, Kenny Rollins was awarded the “Resisted swearing at his audience for 1000+ words” award.

Yeah, this movie is amoral. So was Pulp Fiction, and it’s a universally loved movie. If you wanna criticize this movie, try focusing on its’ legitimate flaws and try not to base your argument on a completely subjective feeling like morality.

Acting/Writing: As you will soon be able to tell from the briefness of this section and the interminable nature of the last one, I don’t have nearly as much to say  about the actors. They do a great job with what they have (Which is also great). What else do I need to say?

The two Oscar nominees shine, obviously, with DiCaprio giving a great (If not too close to being his greatest) performance, even channeling a little bit of his role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape at one point, and Jonah Hill further distancing himself from his links to Judd Apatow and turning in a wonderful darkly comic performance. Australian actress Margot Robbie is fantastic too, and kudos to her for managing to hold her own on the screen with Leonardo DiCaprio while being somewhat of a newcomer. Also, she’s the hottest human being on the goddamn planet.

What nominations did it deserve?: 

  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Winter): Yeah, I can see it being nominated.
  • Best Supporting Actor (Hill): Yup.
  • Best Actor (DiCaprio): He deserved the nomination, even if he didn’t deserve to beat his co-star, MConaughey.
  • Best Director (Scorsese): It’s no Aviator, but sure.
  • Best Picture: Actually, no. I think it’s flaws are too numerous to ignore, and I think that it’s kinda sad that it was nominated over, say, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Final Rating:

7.5/10