‘The Big Short’ (2015) Review

The Big Short (2015) Review: Honest Con When it comes to Biopics, the underlying conceit is, because it’s a true story, that makes it matter more. There’s a genuine atmosphere that comes with them that makes audiences all the more invested in the narrative. All the work that a piece of fiction has to do to sell itself to an audience is pretty much cut in half with a biopic, since the world we’re seeing is the world we’re in. However, this automatic authenticity might be good for creating tension, but sometimes, it’s a bit disconcerting to know that the things that are happening on screen that seem larger than life, actually happened. That perfectly describes the discomfort I had watching ‘The Big Short’. Based on the true story of the financial crisis of 2008, ‘The Big Short’ chronicles not just what happened, but follows the lives of a few good men who had the fortune to realize what was happening when it was already too late to stop it. So what did these men do when they were gifted with the knowledge of the oncoming economic turmoil? They took everything they had and made a bet against the then undefeated housing market, and thus “shorted” the US economy. You might think it’s impossible to root for anyone who would seek to profit off of the misery of millions, and usually you’d be right, but not this time. Instead, ‘The Big Short’ does the brilliant thing of not trying to…

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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (2015) Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Review: A NEW New Hope I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, I'll start out with that. I watched the movies when I was younger, it didn't really register with me the same way something like Terminator or Spider-Man did. I thought lightsabers were cool and Darth Vader was bad ass but for whatever reason, I could always take or leave Star Wars at the door. Having rewatched the films in preparation for Episode VII, I don't think that's changed, but I think I do "get it". It's a classic good vs evil story, not very nuanced, kind of loud, and pretty damn fun when it's good. Of course, I'm of the opinion there are only 2 good Star Wars films, of which one is half of A New Hope and half of Revenge of the Sith, so maybe I'm not the best judge. Regardless, I went into 'The Force Awakens' not too hopeful, but I wasn't down on the movie either. At the very least I was happy to be back in a galaxy far far away. And for the most part, the movie did it's job. It got me invested in the larger plot of it and it gave me moments that felt like Star Wars at it's best. The story goes that 30 years after the events of the Return of the Jedi, The First Order has risen from the ashes of The Empire. Kylo…

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‘Creed’ (2015) Review

Creed (2015) Review: Rocky Episode VII In my review for Southpaw, I mentioned how the sports movie, and more specifically the boxing movie, is a rarity in film in that, rather than evolve from the tropes and cliches it's known for, it revels in it. Audiences even find it a travesty if the film doesn't include the things they came to see. Of course, you can't talk about that phenomenon without mentioning the OG boxing film, Rocky. The Rocky franchise is a perfect example of repeating a winning formula to the point of self parody. From a first film about rising out of the gutter to be a superstar, to symbolically winning the cold war in a fist fight with Russia incarnate, Rocky has always been about something, just not with as much subtlety as it used to. Each film is a take on the first Rocky, just with a twist that's usually preceded by "Except this time...". This is something that breaks most franchises, but like the titular main character, it just keeps getting back up. One thing is for certain though, there must be montages. With that in mind, I went into the newest film in the Rocky franchise, 'Creed', expecting to be entertained as I always was with these movies. I'd be engrossed in the main characters plight, watch him fail, train, and then win in a way that meant he'd overcome his personal obstacles, but may or may not have actually won…

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‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2’

Man of Steel (2013) Review: Another one bites the dust. Yet another YA novel franchise reaches its ultimate conclusion. I say ultimate because technically this film had an ending to its ending. Yes this is another adaptation that took it upon itself to split the final part of its saga into two films, part I and part II. Of course, this was done because the story was just too epic to be told in the standard 120 minutes. Maybe I'm a cynic, but I doubt it was for artistic purposes. More likely, it's because making the split gives you two box office debuts to draw from. Taking apart a narrative that was intended as one whole, doesn't seem like the best strategy for quality storytelling. Of course, since this film is 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2', it already has the added ‘umph’ of a finale to make it more worthwhile than its immediate predecessor, which ultimately felt like a set up for the payoff that is this film. At least that's the intent. The story picks up immediately where the last film left off and sort of feels like it experienced a year-long intermission. Peeta has rejoined our cast of rebels and the fight must continue on against the evil oppressive capitol. This time, in place of an actual ceremony, the de facto Hunger Games is in the form of a series of booby traps set in the path of our valiant heroes. Along the way there are betrayals, twists,…

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‘Steve Jobs’ (2015) Review

Steve Jobs (2015) Review: Sorkin Overload Every great filmmaker has a signature style to identify them. They might dabble between different genres and mediums, but at the core of it, the audience is able to say "That felt like one of theirs". Some are easier to pick up on than others but nevertheless the song remains the same. Aaron Sorkin is one such artist. Give that man an office, some hallways and a few deeply flawed characters and you'll have a "talkie" in every sense of the word. His dialogue is so recognizable that fans of his work can suss out the specific lines he's used in various projects. As Sorkin was the mastermind behind the last big biopic to come out of Silicon Valley, it seemed only fitting that he be the one to peg a Steve Jobs film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g2dkDh4ov4 God Complexes: Aaron Sorkin's forte A Sorkin film this most certainly is. At this point it's impossible to not have at least some idea who Steve Jobs was. There's already been a biopic with Ashton Kutcher, a documentary and a best-selling biography. Steve Jobs is not an unknown property, so the "Untold Story" aspect of this biopic wasn't exactly at the focus. Instead, the movie actually takes an interesting (?) direction with the way it's set up. Essentially, the film shows you 3 days in Steve's life with a few flashbacks here and there. Each of those three days takes place…

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‘Spectre’ (2015) Review

Spectre (2015) Review: James Bland James Bond films are somewhat event cinema. With a history that dates back to 1962, the series has developed success both critically and commercially, and the following that comes with it. More than that, the series has developed to the point where it has essentially become its own genre, with its own cliches and tropes. You need the car, the gadgets, the monologuing villain, Q, M, and of course, the Bond girl. He's gotta introduce himself like he's in a job interview. He's gotta order a drink to be shaken, not stirred. These are the things that make up a Bond movie. So essential are these elements that to not include them sounds like sacrilige. The problem is, at a certain point making a James Bond movie stops being a labour of love and feels more like a shopping list. A movie made of a checklist of prerequisites that doesn't so much entertain is it does qualify. With 'Spectre' it seems to be a little of both. The film kicks off with the usual opener, Bond on a mission, but this time it's set in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead. The scene shows Bond covering up a loose end of Judi Dench's M, which of course leads him into the main story. However, Bond has become somewhat a liability for his boss, Ralph Fiennes M. So of course, Bond pulls an Ethan Hunt and decides to go rogue with…

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‘Goosebumps’ (2015) Review

Goosebumps (2015) Review: Go Read A Book The films we see today are usually based on some other medium; whether it be comics, a TV show or based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Regardless, these films are the ones that get put under the closest scrutiny as fans of the original source material automatically rally behind that age old battle cry, "the book was better". Trouble is though, I'm not sure we should be comparing the two. Yes, the film adaptation takes its cues from the book but a true adaptation should be celebrated in its differences. We should look to the film version to see what it did differently and why it worked for the change in medium. Not only that, why would you want to have the same thing twice? That seems to be a set up for disappointment because no adaptation is ever going to match the imagery of your own imagination. 'Goosebumps' tries to circumvent that mess of fan expectation by not adapting just one of R.L Stine's classics, but instead crafts a subpar picture about the 'Goosebumps' craze. Main character Zach is a city boy who has trouble adjusting to his new small town life. Thankfully though, Zach has a bonafide Sam Raimi Spider-Man, girl next door, love story in cute girl next door Hannah. After Zach assumes Hannah's father is a danger to her, he sneaks into their creepy house and accidentally knocks down what…

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‘Bridge Of Spies’ (2015) Review

Bridge Of Spies (2015) Review: I Spy A Damn Good Movie How long should a movie career last? The best filmmakers typically, after a long enough run in hollywood, build a quality body of work that people revere. The trouble is, after too long, filmmakers tend to lose their resolve. Suddenly the directors that people loved will become the butt of the joke. Rather than revered they get ridiculed as the old fogey who can't seem to admit that they're out of touch. Audiences determine this, but then again, sometimes the audience isn't so right. This year alone we've seen the renaissance of visionaries like Robert Zemeckis and Ridley Scott. Both had been regarded as stuck in the shadow of their own success, and yet, they proved that they still had something to say at the movies. Spielberg himself furthers that trend with 'Bridge of Spies'. Based on a true story, the movie takes place in the late 50s, early 60s, and follows the story of Jim Donovan, played by Tom Hanks. Donovan is an insurance lawyer and a pretty good one too. So good in fact, that when the US government captures a Soviet spy on their soil, Donovan is tasked with providing him with a defence to show he's had due process. Suddenly, he's thrust into a world of international nuclear relations as he becomes the only man in America with the misfortune of defending a cold war combatant. What…

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‘The Walk’ (2015) Review

The Walk (2015) Review: Impossibly Good Film-making is all about illusion. Every year people spend their hard earned time and money to sit in a dark room where they're told to be quiet, all so they can watch the wool being pulled over their eyes. The actors pretend to be someone they're not, and the camera tricks you into thinking you're in another universe. It's a pretense through and through and despite this, we still go. Of course we go. Because not so deep down, we're willing to suspend our disbelief, and submit ourselves to be transported, for a just a moment, to a place of wonder. That's why we get so riled up over movies. We know how we feel when that illusion works, and it's a disappointing shame when we're robbed of that opportunity. 'The Walk' performs one of the greatest illusions of the last decade. The movie tells the tale of Philippe Petit, a frenchman with a fascination with tightrope walking. Played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, Philippe's fascination is not that of the typical circus artist. While most performers are generally content with a consistent audience, Phillipe has bigger aspirations. Much bigger. From his introduction to tightrope walking at 8 years old, to his development as a money making street performer, 'The Walk' chronicles the life of Phillipe Petit, as he prepares to, illegally, walk between the Twin Towers. The then tallest structure in the world. Right off the bat you should understand something about Phillipe Petit. He lays…

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‘The Martian’ Review (2015)

The Martian (2015) Review: Cast Away In Spaaaaaaaace. Ridley Scott is an interesting director to say the least. While his beginnings of 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner' cemented him as a sci-fi great, Scott's curriculum vitae is as broad as the xenomorph's skull. He's done a war film in 'Black Hawk Down', a gangster movie in 'American Gangster', historical epics through 'Gladiator' and 'Kingdom of Heaven' and even a political thriller in 'Body of Lies'. Whether or not you're a fan of Scott's, you have to admit that's quite a feat. Despite that, he is still very much regarded as a sci-fi director, and that's probably because that's where his best films come from. Recent years however, Scott has had more misses than hits. Even returning to the franchise that introduced him to the world in 'Prometheus' had mixed reactions at best. Whenever this happens, it's only a matter of time until a director's prestige isn't enough to let him get off scot-free. Wait that's his production company? HE'S BEEN PLANNING THIS THE WHOLE TIME This is why it's so good that 'The Martian' is so good. 'The Martian' is based on the novel of the same name by Andy Weir and introduces audiences to a world in which missions to mars are established as common experiences. Every few years NASA sends a team of researchers on a mission to study the planet for months at a time. Upon one of those missions, something goes horribly wrong and…

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