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
Who knew there was so much drama behind the scenes of Olympic wrestling. Based on a true story Foxcatcher has seen Oscar nominations for actors Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo as well as for director Bennett Miller, can this movie live up to the hype?
Brothers Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) are both US Olympic Wrestlers, however Mark feels overshadowed by his older brother Dave. When Mark is contacted by billionaire John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) to his farm, he offers Mark to join his private wrestling team, “Team Foxcatcher” (after his land Foxcatcher Farm), Mark sees an opportunity to make something for himself away from his brother. However Du Pont’s eccentric behaviour becomes more disturbed as time goes on, and when Dave joins the coaching of Team Foxcatcher, things becomes out of control.
Foxcatcher is one of those stories in which you can’t believe you haven’t heard of it before. Or at least I hadn’t. This a well made film, full of tense atmosphere and great performances. It’s mostly a drama but with Carell’s Du Pont menacingly hanging around the edges and circling the Schultz brothers it comes across like a thriller at times. The cast is strong all round, but Carell is the performance you will remember after watching the movie.
However there has been some controversy over the making of this film with the real Mark Schultz angrily disputing some elements of the movie. With that in mind you wonder whether interactions between Mark and Du Pont are as accurate as its portrayed in the movie. It also felt slow at the beginning and ends rather abruptly after the climax of Du Pont’s actions. Also while the movie is good, it’s doesn’t stand out as much as the other movies around this award season.
Rating 3.5/5 – three fine performances grounds this true crime drama
Coming of age stories are nothing new, and few can do it better than my favourite movie ever Stand By Me. Can this new film win me over?
14 year old Duncan (Liam James) is on an uncomfortable holiday with his mum Pam(Toni Collette), her obnoxious boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). Awkward and shy Duncan expects the holiday from hell, but he finds unexpected friendship from a local waterpark manager Owen (Sam Rockwell). Slowly Duncan grows in confidence, but that doesn’t mean all his problems go away.
Written and directed by Jim Rash (Dean Pelton from Community) and Nat Fraxon-who also won the Oscar for their screenplay The Desendants, The Way Way Back is a fun, often bittersweet movie full of a lot of heart. Newcomer Liam James is great as Duncan, the quiet teenager who learns to have fun and stand up for himself. Sam Rockwell is even better as Owen, the one adult who notices Liam and tries to help him without being patronsing or insulting him. What could have been a bit of a creepy friendship is actually quite sweet, and their goodbye at the end of summer really pulls at the heart stings and made me quite emotional.
It was good to see Steve Carell playing against type as a character whose a complete jackass. I kept expecting us to see a nicer, softer side to Trent, but no, you realise he’s just a tool. It made me really angry the way he spoke to Duncan and how he treated Pam. Toni Collette also deserves praise as her role is tricky. Its frustrating at times how she seems to let Trent get away with his behaviour, but then she also manages to show her vunerable, lonely side and you can see why she stays with Trent despite how he acts.
The scenes at the water park are great fun, with great small roles for Maya Ruldolph and Jim Rash among others. Its at this place Duncan starts becoming the man he wants to be, and his intereaction with the people there enable his confidence to talk to girl-next-door Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), a subplot that manages to be sweet and cringeworth at the same time.
Rating 4/5-funny, and bittersweet at times The Way Way Back is a comedy with heart
The first Despicable Me film was a funny, joyful film following the villainous Gru and his loveable minions. The sequel unfortunately falls way below the mark.
The film picks up with Gru now retired from being a supervillain and is busy making jams and being a good father to his three adopted daughters. Then he is approached by the Anti Villain League who want him to help foil a mysterious supervillian!
The main plot, about a scheme to take over the world starts out big but then sets the majority of action at a shopping mall. From then on the film just seem to drag. Russell Brand’s Dr. Nefario is forgotten about for most of the movie. The romantic subplot between Gru and Anti Villain League agent Lucy (Kristin Wiig) also doesn’t engage as it should. The reveal of the Vi is also a let down. It’s a shame cause there are a few funny bits in this film. The minions are on good form, and Agnes, the youngest of Gru’s daughters is still as sweet as ever but it’s not enough to save the film.
It’s not often I advocate evil but I’m starting to think Gru should have returned back to his more villainess ways, or at least give him more of a mission to get his teeth into.
Having said all this, everyone else around me in the cinema seemed to be laughing, kids and adults alike. I constantly felt like I was missing out on the joke. Considering the amount of money Despicable Me 2 has already made at the cinema it would seem I’m in the minority. However I can’t help but feel like some of the magic from the first film has been lost.
Despite the hype this sequel just isn’t as inspired or charming as the original. Wait for Monsters University instead.