The Revenant

The_Revenant_2015_film_poster

It’s only a couple of weeks until the Oscars now, and I finally get round to seeing one of the frontrunners-The Revenant. But after Alejandro G. Inarritu’s last film Birdman won Best Director and Best Picture can Inarritu possibly strike gold again a year later?

In 1823 a group of trappers are left stranded after an ambush by a Native American party. As they try to head back to safety hunter Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is badly mauled by a bear. While the majority of the group go onhead for help, John Fitzgerald -one of the men left to look after him- manipulates events to leave Glass half burried in a man made grave. Barely alive and heavily injured Glass must survive on his wits and his will for revenge to make it back.

This is a movie based on real events, and it’s an impressive story of one man’s struggle to survive against the odds. Battling aginst nature, animals and other men, Inarritu immerses you into Glass’ journey. You feel the brutal coldness of the wildlife and the harshness of the elements. Sometimes the movie feels like an endurance, which is probably exactly how Inarritu intended The Revenant to be.

There are impressive set peieces such as the attack on the trappers by the Native Americans at the beginning of the movie and the bear attack attack on Glass. The make up on display here is amazing, all of Glass’ injruies are shown in glory, bloody detail, if it wasn’t based on a true story you would think Hollywood was getting too ridiculous in it’s fight for survival stories. DiCaprio makes a strong bid for his long awaited Oscar for Best Actor, although I think his turn in The Wolf of Wall Street is still his most impressive performance. In supporting roles Tom Hardy is good but I was more impressed by Will Poulter as the conflicted, naive Jim Bridger.

However much I like The Revenant, I left feeling as though it was more a film to admire rather than love. Inarritu is a great director but as one of the front runners for Best Picture at the Oscars I feel The Big Short and Room are more deserving of the big win out of all the films I’ve seen so far. The beginning is great and so is the bear attack and the majority of Glass’ journey, but the film is 156 mins long and you really start to feel this in the second half of the movie. I was really intreaged by the subplot of the Arikara Native American party who is on their own search for revenge, but it ends up being a disapointment. And while I could suspend my disbeleief over Glass’ bear attack and recovering from being half buried alive (as these are based on real events), I was struggling more when Glass manages to survive gallaping off a cliff on a horse (the horse more realistically does not survive). There were also moments which I suspect were meant to be heartfelt and tear-jerking such as when Glass sees visions of his dead wife, but it ends up being more distracting and unintentionally funny.

Maybe this is what happens as a result of being the most hyped up movie of the Oscar season, by the time I got round to see The Revenant it was bound to be an uphill battle. Also after having seen The Hateful Eight, Everest and The Revenant in a space of a few weeks I’m getting a bit sick of movies set in the cold and the snow. Hopefully the next trend will be movies set in the Bahamas.

Rating 3.5/5 – stunning cinematography, direction and acting but way too long

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Rapid Review: Everest

Everest

Based on the real 1996 Mount Everest disaster, Everest tells the story of two rival expedition groups Adventure consultants, led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Mountain Madness led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). As the two groups prepare to climb Everest they soon find that the climb will turn into a battle for survival.

There’s no doubt that Everest is a visually impressive movie and the cinematography is amazing. You can feel the cold coming through your screen and each frostbite looks realistic as hell. The performances by the cast is great. There is nothing outstandingly wrong with the movie.

Yet despite being a well made movie something is missing. The emotional punch of the lives lost don’t hit as heavily as they should. And as impressive as the film looks no doubt it’s impact is lessened by being reduced to the small screen. I also can’t help feel the story would have been served better as a documentary.

Rating 3/5 – a well made movie but struggles to be a truly great one

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The Big Short

The_Big_Short

The Oscar race is getting close and a new frontrunner has been found in Adam McKay’s comedy drama The Big Short. But can a movie about the 2008 recession possibly win best picture?

In 2005 Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a hedge fund manager realises that the housing market is unstable and bets against it. His clients are irrate but a few groups of oddballs and outsiders hear about Burry’s theory and place their own bets. However over the next couple of years they realise the financial situation is much worse than they even imagined.

I admit I can get very confused when people try to explain how the housing crisis started. As much as I would like to understand it better I didn’t think a big Hollywood movie would give me the answers or if it did it wouldn’t be an entertaining film to watch. However The Big Shot not only manages to do this, it gives us quite possibly the film of the year (or technically the film of last year when it was released in the States).

If someone had said last year that the director of Anchorman would give us an intelligent, well made and funny film about the recession I would think you were as crazy as the bankers who were behind the housing crisis. But McKay gives us a film that breaks down to the average filmgoer how this all came to be. To achieve this characters like Ryan Gosling’s slippery trader break the fourth role to describe the situation in more detail or we get random celebrity cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie, who appear to explain words like sub prime to us (basically if you hear that word it’s not good). I admit some of it still went over my head but it was much clearer than any other explanation I’ve heard.

As well as being a very smart film it’s also very funny at times, although the laughs soon turned into a terrified, incredulous laugh by the end as the reality hits home. These events did actually happen. Bankers were that stupid and the banks engaged in illegal activity that they still haven’t been held accountable for. And it could all happen again so easily. That’s scarier than any horror movie.

There is a stunning ensemble cast here and no one is slouching on the job. It seems unfair to pick a favourite as everyone is so good but my stand out would probably be Steve Farrell as the foul mouth, grumpy Baum. Shame he didn’t get the Oscar nod although Christian Bale is a worthy best supporting actor nominee. At the beginning it’s thrilling watching these small groups of oddballs bet against the system and you almost want them to win. Until the realisation hits that by them winning we all lose. They may not be the villains but as likeable or as funny as they are they’re not heroes either. I’m glad the film didn’t shy away from showing that.

I found little wrong with The Big Short although it’s a bit light on substantial female roles, especially disappointing as there were women involved in the story as shown in book of the same name. Minor quibbles aside this is probably the best film I’ve seen in a long time and I have liked a lot of movies recently. I couldn’t recommend this enough.

Rating 5/5 – I wouldn’t want to bet against The Big Short come Oscar night

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Room

Room

Another week, another Oscar contender. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Emma Donoghue (adapted from her own best selling book) Room has four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress. But is it really an award worthy film?

Jack (Jacob Tremlay) has lived in Room all his life. He spends his days with his beloved Ma (Brie Larson) and the only other person that ever comes to Room is Old Nick (Sean Bridges). Jack is content with his life in Room, but just after his fifth birthday Ma reveals that there’s a world outside Room, one they need to get back to.

I read the book Room a couple of years ago and I’m pleased to say that the film has done the book justice. Donoughue has successfully managed to recreate the world of her novel and the characters of Jack and Ma feel as real on the screen as they did on the page. Having a dark subject matter seen through the eyes of a small child is difficult to pull off, so praise must go to director Abrahamson for getting the best performance from his young actor.

As for Tremlay himself, he has the perfect mixture of childlike wonder, niavity and his relationship with Larson’s Ma breaks your heart. Considering he’s in practically every scene it’s a lot of pressure on such young shoulders but he gives an authentic performance as a child who has grown up in such extream and difficult circumstances. As for Larson, there isn’t much to say that hasn’t been said by everyone else, she’s brilliant and fully deserving of the many awards she has won already. Surely if she doesn’t win an Oscar it will be a travesty? Her Ma is full of strength, bravery but also a vunerable and slightly damaged person.

Considering I was either in tears or on the verge of tears during the entire film, room is can be difficult to watch, probably even more difficult for those who have kids, young or older. So the subject matters of abduction, rape and imprssionment will be difficult for some to watch. But if you do watch it Room is a rewarding movie that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.

Rating 4.5/5 -an emotional and ultimately uplifting movie about human bravery and strength

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The Visit

The Visit

Once M. Night Shyamalan was Hollywood’s golden boy with critical and commercial successes like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, then came a string of flops that relied too heavily on his infamous twist endings. Now with his new film The Visit will this be a return to form?

Young siblings Becca (Olivia Delonge) and Taylor (Ed Oxenbould) are visiting their grandparents while their mum (Kathryn Hahn) is away. Due to a mysterious falling out between their mum and her parents they haven’t met them before and Becca is filing a documentary about their visit to give her mum some closure. At first Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop’s (Peter McRobbie) antics appear to be down to being old and eccentric, but then become something much more weirder. What is wrong with their grandparents?

The Visit is not on the same level as The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable but thankfully is much better than Lady in the Water and The Happening. What Shyamalan’s earlier work excelled in was his direction of young talent and Oxenbould and Delonge are fantastic. They are likeable, funny and sympathetic. They made for relatable protagonists and as we’re seeing events through their eyes (or technically through their cameras) if they were unbearable brats then we wouldn’t care what is happening. McRobbie and Dunagan are also well played going effectively between likeably quirky and just plain creepy, while Hahn is also good in her supporting role.

I thought the ‘found footage’ method would annoy me but Shyamalan actually does well in giving the kids reasons to keep the camera working and only a few instances towards the end do you think they should just drop the bloody cameras already. The format also does add tension to many scenes as Becca and Taylor sneak around with their cameras.

Unfortunately I did guess the film’s big twist which made said revelation underwhelming, although I didn’t figure everything out. While there was underlying tension and chills throughout, the film could have been much more scarier to be fully effective. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction for Shyamalan. Maybe he just needs to cast Bruce Willis in a leading role for his next film to be a smash hit?

Rating 3/5 – for once in a long time Shyamalan has brought us a movie that isn’t a complete chore to watch

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Trainwreck

It seems everyone is talking about Amy Schumer, whether its upstaging Kimye by  ‘falling’ on the red carpet or her controversial sketches on  Inside Amy Schumer. Then last year she even wrote, produced and starred in her own movie. But can she make the successful leap from TV to movies?

Amy (Amy Schumer) is a magazine writer who enjoys sleeps around and drinks too much. And she’s happy with her life, until she meets Aaron (Bill Harder) a handsome sports  doctor. But while she wants a one night stand he wants more and deep down does Amy want more too?

Trainwreck is a fun, rude comedy. Schumer enjoys playing on gender stereotypes with Amy being the commitment-phobe while Aaron wants a relationship. The script is full of witty, often raunchy jokes, and the cast are all game for a laugh. John Cena is hilarious a gym addict man Amy is seeing while Tilda Swinton is almost unrecognisable as Amy’s obnoxious boss. Brie Larson also shines as Amy’s straight laced sister.

However being a Judd Apatow directed film the movie is way too long. There was also too many sport references and jokes for my liking. Sometimes the jokes were less laugh out loud and more of a wry smile. But Schumer shows why she’s becoming so popular although perhaps  you shouldn’t watch this with your mum.

Rating 3/5 – witty and surprisingly full of heart

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The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight Picture

Quentin Tarantino is back and has returned with another western. This time however the movie is more of a mystery. But will The Hateful Eight impress me as much as his other works?

Set some time after the civil war eight strangers are trapped together at a stagecoach stopover. But what are their motives for being there and who will survive the night?

I’ve always been an admire Tarantino’s movies. He has his own distinct style, he writes cool quoteable dialogue and has excellent soundtracks to his films. He’s not perfect (I’m not a fan of his constant use of the n word) but he’s a truely original and exciting voice in Hollywood. The Hateful Eight has it’s flaws, more on which later, but it’s full of passion, good ideas and an excellent ensemble featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell.

From the outset the movie really sets the scene of this cold, hellish, blizzard, every time a character stepped outside I felt freezing, which is good as you have to believe that these strangers are literally trapped together. The harshness of the weather is nothing compared to the ruthlessness and coldness from inside the Stopover. Each character is well drawn and you can imagine the actors relished playing their roles. Every actor is good but Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy just edges out the competition to be the stand out character. Leigh throws her all into the character as she gets hit, has stew thrown on her and spits her teeth out all with an insane grin on her face. The mystery aspect is also good with the majority of the action taking place in one location and shows Tatantino has still got plenty of ideas in him yet.

As much as I liked this movie I didn’t love like some of Tarantino’s other work. It feels too long, especially at the beginning, the main characters are all pretty unlikeable and overall the movie it doesn’t wow me as a whole, although there are some great moments throughout.

It may not be as engaging or feature as many iconic characters but The Hateful Eight shows that Tarantino is not one to rest on his laurels as this entertaining movie shows.

3.5/5 – The Hateful Eight shows there’s life in the old western genre yet and in Tarantino’s imagination

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