Art at its most Abstract
Anomalisa (2015): A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.
What a unique film. Anomalisa is unlike anything else you'll see this year. After all for starters this film is filmed in stock-motion animation. Actually, the story of even how this film was made is fantastic, featuring a production cycle of several years. This film was made with a painstaking attention to detail, and you can really see the love pouring through in every scene. It is literally impossible to hate this film, but when you add an incredible story of normality versus anomalies it makes this film one of the best of the year without a doubt, and easily the best animated film of 2015. You also have great voice performances from the leads David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and we can't forget the GREAT artistic choice of having Tom Noonan voice everyone else in this film. And there are a lot of other characters in this film. There are a few problems here, but they are certainly not enough to detract from one of the most unique films of 2015. It's short, coming in at only 90 minutes, and I STRONGLY recommend checking it out and seeing it for yourself. Don't take my word for it, but this film is incredible.
The Verdict: 9/10 Damn Near Perfect
A culinary disaster
Burnt (2015): Adam Jones is a chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior. He cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.
Wow. Talk about overdone. 2015 has not been a good year for Bradley Cooper. Burnt is no exception. Because here we are with another "white guy finds redemption" film featuring an absolutely despicable lead character how's arc is laughably not earned by the end when, of course, everything ultimately goes right for him. The main problem here lies in the fact that Cooper's character is simply just unlikable, so its very hard to root for him as he finds his undeserving redemption. Couple that with a supporting cast who's all over the place in terms of their performances, and you have an over-seasoned, overcooked mess featuring a (wait for it) burnt steak at its center. Boy you could say I'm.....on fire with all these food puns right now. I think I just conjured up a better dish than this film does, despite all the awesome food porn throughout its 101 minute runtime. Go watch Chef again instead. It is on Netflix right now and if you haven't seen it you should change that right now.
The Verdict: 3/10 Bad
An important story improperly told
Concussion (2015): In Pittsburgh, accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play.
Well, I decided to give this a go. And I can see why it didn't receive any nominations. The film starts out promising, but it takes too many creative liberties with its story to be truly taken seriously. As time went on in this film, I cared less and less about this story, and that's not something you should be saying about something as important as this issue and the NFL's continued attempts of covering it up. But the main problem here is in the fact that this story is really about Dr. Bennet Omalu, a man who's presence in this entire affair is sadly vastly overblown. If only this film were more about the NFL's cover-up and not Omalu. But Omalu's presence dominates this entire film. Which, on one hand is fine since Will Smith is easily the best thing about this film, but on the other hand it's not because Omalu simply just isn't very interesting. I hope in the future this story is told again, but from the NFL's perspective. And that time please please PLEASE don't cast Luke Wilson as Roger Goodell.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
In the Heart of the Sea
A disappointing Spectacle
In the Heart of the Sea (2015): A recounting of a New England whaling ship's sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel Moby-Dick.
This film makes me sad. See I was really excited to see In the Heart of the Sea, because it was initially scheduled to be released way back in March and then Warner Brothers pushed the film back to December for no real reason. To me, this lack of reason could have only meant that someone at Warner Brothers thought this film was good enough to be a legitimate Oscar contender and so they wanted the film to be released towards the end of the year. That means it must be good, right? NOPE. Not at all. Whoever thought this was a legitimate Oscar contender needs to be fired. This film tanked because of its release date, but had it been released back in March it would've been competing against other box office disasters like Seventh Son and Jupiter Ascending instead of coming out one week before that film called....um.....what's its name? Oh right. Star Wars. So why does this film suck? Well, let's start with the accents. Lol the accents in this film are hilarious and all over the place, least of which is Chris Hemsworth. His Boston accent is essentially just a deeper Thor voice. Actually, I had more fun pretending Hemsworth was Thor in this film than anything else, because the "story" surrounding these guys is paper thin, to put it lightly. While the film looks great, and the CGI whale was great to behold, just about every other aspect of this film was terrible. Ron Howard came back in a big way with 2013's Rush, but there's no doubt this film is a huge step backward for him. Go watch Rush again if you need a Ron Howard fix. (Though why would you need a Ron Howard fix....?)
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
Messy But Fun
Legend (2015): The film tells the story of the identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organised crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s.
Well, the biggest takeaway I had from Legend is that Goodfellas is one of the greatest films ever made. As much as I love gangster films, it's almost impossible for any film of the genre nowadays to break out of the shadow of Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, and when Legend wasn't throwing as many ideas against the wall as it possibly could, it was paying homage to Goodfellas to the point that it just felt like.....wait for it.....a British Goodfellas. Wooooo! But that certainly isn't a bad thing. This film was still fun to watch at points, though at 132 minutes it was way too long. Additionally, the music choices (which certainly emulated Goodfellas) were extremely obvious, and did nothing more than reiterate what we were seeing on screen at that moment. You gotta be smarter with your musical cues, guys. However, Tom Hardy was fantastic. Easily the best part of this film, Tom Hardy is pretty much the only reason anyone should see this film, though it was nice to see Emily Browning put in the best performance of her career, (though that is certainly damning with feint praise given her career) and her character actually had a bit of depth. Just a bit, but given the fact that most of the films recently the women have just had generic "love interest" roles I have to praise Legend for at least giving its primary female character some substance. Ultimately, while this film is incredibly messy from a cognitive standpoint, it was still an absolute blast to see two Tom Hardys on the screen at the same time.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average.
Suffragette (2015): The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.
I liked Suffragette. It was a fine film, but it suffered from many problems. First off, the story was a tonal mess. It struggled to find its identity, particularly with its main character, who was in more of a "witness to every major event in the suffragette movement" position than actually in the suffragette movement, and as a result I found it really hard to buy the main character. This character was also played by Carey Mulligan, who I think is one of the most overrated actresses out there right now. She's....alright, but this film really fell on her shoulders and as much as she tried to hold it up....she couldn't. That said, she had a great supporting cast around her, led by Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Whishaw. Meryl Streep also showed up for essentially one scene, but she too was excellent in that one scene, bringing all the charisma she needed to. However, the one who truly stole the show and brought out the ugly cry in me was child actor Adam Michael Dodd. Holy crap in his few scenes as the child of Whishaw and Mulligan....this kid absolutely killed it. And it's his first film too. I hope to see him again. Other than the acting there's really not much to say about this film. The production design is fine, but definitely not noteworthy until the major Derby Day scene towards the end of the film. The cinematography was aggravating, with uncomfortably close close-ups littered all throughout the film and, of course, shaky cam. But, the scene that counted at Derby Day, was shot excellently. In short, the only two reasons to watch this film are for Adam Michael Dodd (the child actor) and the Derby Day scene towards the end. Otherwise, your time is better spent watching The Big Short or Spotlight.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average.
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