Movie Review: Arrival (2016)

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Plot: When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.

Since I haven’t read one bad review about Arrival and about ten million people asked me whether I’d seen it, I was really rather excited to get to this. I also loved Sicario, which at that stage had been my exposure to director Dennis Villeneuve’s work.

Arrival is one of the most unique and well thought out films I’ve watch in ages. It is some of the best work I’ve seen from 2016, and would certainly have altered my Top Ten list of 2016. Villeneuve has a talent to direct the dark and dreary. His signature style is tense and the subsequent underlying tension makes him a formidable force to watch in the future. He knows how to get the most intense emotions from his films’ stars, most evident in the way Amy Adams, Jermey Renner and Forrest Whitaker portray their part of Arrival.

"Story of Your Life" Day 37 Photo: Jan Thijs 2015

I guess I see now why people were so riled up when Amy Adams was not nominated for best actress. She was fantastic as Louise, a linguist who is tasked to extraterrestrial beings when they mysteriously appear in random locations across the globe. The lingual exploration was fascinating, which explored the dissection of communication and language. It made me realize that we take language for granted and how it forms and changes us. Talking is so natural, we rarely pause to consider how remarkable it is that we are talking.

I am also appreciative that Villeneuve once again provided a film with such a strong female lead. He obviously has an appreciation for strong female characters – can we have more of him please?!

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I always feel like a complete noob when talking about CGI. Visual design is one of the areas where I truly have no experience in (or a desire to get experience in). My adventures into more serious films have shown me however how much tone and proper CGI can affect a film. Arrival has incredible CGI. The Aliens are formed in a way that is slightly revolting and highly fascinating, light years away from our perception of beady eyed human forms. There is a particular scene with Adams that was mesmerizing – I get goosebumps just thinking about it. The directing also is sad and heavy and dark, and impresses the sadness which Adams’ character carries with her.

The eventual conclusion to this two hour masterpiece will stay with you – I am still wondering about the implications of it all. The focus, despite the entire plot, is not truly on the Aliens. It is more about how would we even talk to Aliens should they arrive on the planet.

Rating: A well-deserved 9/10

Movie Review: The BFG (2016)

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Plot: A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kind-hearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.

Rating: 6/10

Something went wrong with this movie. Despite the gorgeous animation and one lone little orphan’s impressive performance, The BFG is sufficiently boring enough to put people to sleep.

I’m never going to do cartwheels when I’m informed that I’m going to watch an animation. I rarely watch it as a personal choice, and it is not that I hate it; I just think there are other genres I can occupy my time with. I was favorably impressed by Inside Out in 2015, it is just that good a movie. I really liked Finding Dory and its’ predecessor, The Incredibles is my favorite animation and I’m a huge fan of any old Disney classic. Even Zootopia was cute despite getting life lessons hammered into your brain without a choice.

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But BFG just lacked for me. It was boring and I couldn’t be engaged no matter how hard I tried. The kid is pretty cute and did a great job. The giant made me worried – his kidnapping and his insistence to have a child present in such a dangerous environment. But anyway. It felt too long and winded and the resolution was a solid 9 on the WTF scale.

The good things? The visuals were lovely. I really did like the kid actor. That’s about it. The BFG is an overindulgent mess where people just let Steven Spielberg run amok. It seems really easy to create a  financially success animation, but even this one thing of getting parents to watch and kids to enjoy was unreachable to this production. Definitely not my favorite film of last year and it is miraculous I’m keeping this at a 6 rating.

Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

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Plot: A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.  

Rating: 8.5/10

Director Taika Waititi has a quality that most men don’t have – the ability to me laugh hysterically. I still haven’t recovered from watching What We Do in the Shadows, one of the only films where the term LOL was quite literal. Thus, I was naturally on board with watching another film done by him, even though many people told me that the Hunt For the Wilderpeople is completely different to WWDITS, I was still willing to give it a go. Critical acclaim and word on the ground that it was a fine film? Count me in.

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Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a troubled teen who is sent to live with new foster parents Bella (Rima TeWiata) and Hec (Sam Neill). He is verbose, obviously intelligent, well informed on popular culture and very fond of Haiku. He quickly forms a relationship with Bella, but the personality differences between Ricky and the stoic bushman Hec is quite significant. Heartwarming hysterics ensue when it is mistakenly assumed that Hec kidnapped Ricky and a manhunt, led by an overzealous agent, is initiated to find the two in the New Zealand bush. An unlikely bond and friendship is born, and the two set on an epic quest to evade the quickly escalating man hunt.

Julian Dennison and Sam Neill deliver excellent work. Dennison is super cute with a mobile face that accurately expresses any feeling he has. Sam Neill is a veteran and complements Dennison’s over exuberance by being the opposite – a wild, introverted bushman.

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The film is endearing, heartwarming, hilarious, sad and beautifully directed. Can you tell I liked it yet? Good. I wouldn’t have thought this is in my genre of things I like, but it has become a habit of Waititi to make you like something that shouldn’t have worked in the first place. I’m actually worried that Hollywood will ruin this superb director. His next film is Thor: Ragnarok, something that will provide him with instant star status and access to big budgets, and it would be quite a letdown if he somehow lost his unique stamp because of the money wielding machine Marvel is. I will keep my fingers crossed for the best, but in the meantime, if you need a film to pick you up and motivate you for life in general, I suggest you give this a try.

Movie Review: Sisters (2016)

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Plot: Two sisters decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home.

Rating: 4/10

It’s really hard for me to write out a review when I disliked a film but it didn’t inspire extreme anger in me. It’s hard to pull emotions then and put them into words. Anyone else have that problem?

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Sisters should have been good. With two of the best comedic actresses out there, Sisters should have been uproariously funny. It wasn’t – the humor was flat and ill-timed and badly paced. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey looked uncomfortable and it is astonishing but they didn’t have any connection on screen. I was bored most of the time and found the entire movie to be highly implausible and utterly ridiculous. A bunch of middle class Americans completely destroying a suburban house?A sink hole taking out an entire swimming pool?The owners of the house being okay with the complete wreckage? On top of all that a happy ending for everyone involved? I mean really – I can take an enormous amount of improbability in a movie but the quantity of nonsense that occurred in the Ellis house party exceeded even my high threshold of tolerance.

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Anyway, this is as much as you are getting from me. I’m really glad I didn’t travel out to go see this in cinema; it would have made it that much worse. The characters are all unlikeable, immature and just plain stupid. The forced romance is unnecessary and insincere. The charisma between the leads lacked and the entire plot was a bunch of shit.

PS: Me and my sisters are WAY cooler than this.

Movie Review: The Accountant (2016)

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Plot: As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

Rating: 7/10

What I’ll say off the bat is this: Of the two films that released in 2016 casting Affleck as a lead, The Accountant is infinitely superior to Batman Vs. Superman. Everyone, including Affleck apparently, is ready to forget all about that blunder. Ben Affleck is something of an anomaly to me. He is A-list, very famous and considered incredibly successful, and for the life of me I have no idea why. He’s a decent actor, but where does this level of fame come from? I really liked Gone Girl but that is pretty much the only film I can pin on him that went really well. In The Accountant he proves that he is worth his paycheck and works hard to give a credible portrayal as an autistic accountant. What bothered me is that his face is so tightly controlled at times it looks like he has toothache. Apart from that, I liked the character. He is meticulous and well programmed and highly functional, yet there are times when the empathy with his lonely life becomes overpowering.

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I particularly enjoyed Jon Bernthal. He seems to excel when he is playing someone cocky and arrogant, and he looks to be enjoying himself quite a lot.

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Anna Kendrick did a fine job of not being a pain in the ass. I’m still flabbergasted by her current success. It is not that I think she’s a poor actress, I just never expected her to keep going from Twilight. She is also consistently cast in the same role and that becomes tiring quickly. Dana wasn’t her typical role and it is clear that when she is given a chance, she takes it and works hard to do well. Can I just say a quick thanks here that the character at least attempted to defend herself and didn’t just curl into a ball and cry about her problems? Whoever had the balls to write a woman who would defend herself, thank you.

JK Simmons. All I see when I see this guy is Whiplash. It was good to watch him as a friendlier, saner man. Despite the excellent acting I failed to see the reason to include the treasury department in The Accountant. They served only as narrators and poor ones at that.

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The story has a very interesting premise. An interesting premise is null and void if there is no proper execution though. I was not surprised by the big aha moment in the film. If you paid attention from the start any person who has watched movies previously would have caught that. The different parts of the story failed to properly mesh – Chris has to solve who is taking out a hit on him and Dana, the mysterious man who is appearing and killing shady characters, and the Treasury department director trying to find Chris for some unclear reason. I truly think the Treasury department was only included to be the vocal part of who Chris is, because they lacked any other driving force for the film.

That stupid ending. It was nice to see what Chris did with his money and that there was a great well of caring under the tightly controlled exterior. The rest felt so rushed. It was as if the director suddenly decided they had had enough and just wanted it finished in one scene.

 

Movie Review: Me Before You (2016)

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Plot: Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of color. And neither of them knows they’re going to change each other for all time

Rating: 6/10

If you read my review of the book here, you’d know that I enjoyed the book. Me Before You is quite the controversial book with a whole lot of people being upset about the approach to both paraplegic patients and euthanasia. I’m definitely pro euthanasia, and while I certainly understand why people are against it, I DO feel that people often look at it from the survivor’s perspective and not from the patients’ perspective. This is however not a debate about that, so let’s talk rather about the film.

It lacks the personality of the book. Some filler information was left out of the film, which was a good thing because there are times where the book does feel winding. It does leave out some things that should have been included though – you are never privy as to why the bond between Lou and Will becomes so strong. You also never see how sick and uncomfortable Will is, and how much he lost after his accident. Despite the impressive acting from Sam Claflin, he still at times comes across as a petulant rich white kid in a wheel chair, which isn’t what Will was in the books.

I did like that the relationship between Will’s mother and father is much better in the film. The book has them on the edge of divorce and I think that the story has enough melodrama without a crumbling marriage as well.

I didn’t like that they underplayed the difficult relationship Lou has with her sister. They are basically frenemies in the books, and turned into besties in the film. Lou’s home life is pretty bleak in the books, and apart from the discussion of some financial woes, you never really get to understand how much Will changed Lou’s life.

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The two main characters were well cast. I find Sam Claflin a really accomplished actor and he is able to bring Will to life as much as the script writers allowed him too. I had some issues with Emilia Clarke – her facial expressions were all over the show. She did manage to be Lou though, and I liked that.

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I loved the adaption of this scene! Really exactly what I imagined in the book. It was sweet and hilarious and showed the difference between Will and Lou’s frankly terrible and egotistical boyfriend.

Why the low rating you ask when I keep mentioning the things I liked? I thought it didn’t reach the emotional depths of the book, it didn’t show us why the two characters became so attached, it never really displayed how much Will actually lost after his accident. Basically if you see this film you will be a little sad, sure, but reading the book broke my heart in the way only a really good story can. What I’m trying to say here is that Me Before You is not a terrible adaption, but it does lack the heart to make it truly heartbreaking.

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Blindspot 2016: final rankings

WOW. I’m done! Can you believe it?! I most certainly can’t. My 2016 Blindspot list was the list I’ve bitched about the most, not because of the bad movies but because I struggled so much getting time to site down and watch the films I chose. I’ve been really bad with schedules, which really ddin’t help the matter. But anyway, let’s stop that now because yet I still somehow managed to see all each and every film listed.

My list of 2017 is up tomorrow, and I’ve at least seen a number of them in preparation with my bestie and the remainders are great films won’t feel like a bit of a chore to get through. I also have most of those films already available, which was one of the reasons I took so long with 2016’s Blindspot – struggling to find these films.

Here’s a rundown of from least favorite to favorite. The scores are listed, but I’m not too worried about that right now, just basically listing what I remember actually liking the most.

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Spot #12: Home Alone (1990)

Rating: 6/10

This is definitely the movie on the list that I should have watched way early in my life to really love it. I can see why people my age would love it if they saw it as children, and probably has the same sentiment towards it as I do towards a film like Matilda, which again reminds me that I really want to watch Matilda again. Home Alone was lost on me, I really couldn’t find any interest in a story where the main character was a child.

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Spot #11: Love Actually (2003)

Rating: 6.5/10

There are people that actually think that this is one of the best romantic comedies of all time. I could not disagree more. There are critically few characters that are even remotely likeable and I was highly offended by most of their actions. Eugh.The best thing about this film is Colin Firth and Alan Rickman, and if those two men can’t convince me that a film is worth it, nothing can.

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Spot #10: Back To the Future (1985)

Rating: 7/10

The same as Home Alone here – missed my chance. It was much more appealing though as there were at least older characters, but I still felt my attention wavering once or twice.

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Spots # 8 & 9: Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)& 2 (2004)

Rating: 7.5/10 and 8/10

Yes, I am fully aware that these are Tarantino films so low on my list, but I have my reasons – mostly (and I might get shot for this bout of honesty), is that I found the story a bit lacking on both and overly violent even for Tarantino. I am such a fan of Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds (my favorite), and Pulp Fiction, and these two didn’t get anywhere close to touching my top favorite films of his.

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Spot #7: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Rating: 8.5/10

I had trouble finding films this year that convinced me of its originality, and ESotSM is one of the very few that could convince me that creative talent was still alive and well. I loved Kate Winslet with her crazy hair, I adored Jim Carrey, Mark Ruffalo was adorable and Frodo was a sufficient level of creep in here. Hey! Kristen Dunst didn’t make me gnash my teeth.

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Spot #6: Warrior (2011)

Rating: 8/10

This movie! I was bent double with anxiety. Who must win? Does any person deserve to lose? Performances by Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy were phenomenal. I cannot accept that this film tanked in the box office, it is truly great.

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Spot #5: Memento (2000)

Rating: 8/10

Another frequenter of my Blindspots has been Christopher Nolan. He’s such an intelligent man and it comes through in his films. Memento was this year’s pick, and I unsurprisingly loved it.

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Spots #3 and 4: Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986)

Ratings: 8.5/10 (both)

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Yes, I agree. How haven’t I seen these two films up until now?! I lived for 26 years without the knowledge of how awesome Ripley was or how gross the chestbursters are, and although my life wasn’t sad before, it is all the richer now.

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Spot #2: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Rating: 9/10

Both numbers one and two for me were really sad and thought provoking films that provided insight into the very best and the very worst of the human nature. Pan’s Labyrinth is the ONLY film that could have beaten out To Kill A Mockingbird.

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Spot #1: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Rating: 9/10

The winner of the year is the gut wrenching and incredibly poignant Pan’s Labyrith. This is a bit touchy feely, but watching this film made me want to cry for two reasons – the beautiful directing and the sad story of Ophelia and her desperate escape methods from the horrors of her world.

Well, there we have it. I enjoyed the majority of this list – truly it is probably only numbers 10 – 12 that really grated on me, and yet I am not displeased about spending time with them. Did you do a Blindspot in 2016? Comment below t and I haven’t discovered your undoubtedly awesome page, send me the link below 🙂

Movie Review: Star Wars: Rogue One (2016) – NO SPOILERS –

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Plot: The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

Rating: 7/10

I actually don’t have an awful lot to say about this. Can I say I really liked that I was in a cinema full of fanboys, and while the excitement was palpable they quieted down and watched the film without any raucous noise? Definite plus! It was also the first time I visited The Mall of Africa – I’d been dodging it since it opened because the people went there in droves and if you know me you know I don’t like the droves. Despite the heavy traffic getting in, that Mall is gorgeous and I’m definitely returning after the festive season to just walk around and get a feel of the place.

What was good about Rogue One? The cast. Mads Mikkelson definitely deserves a mention. He’s been on the circuit for a bit and is slowly making the transgression into mainstream films, something he’s dipped his toe into a few times but has traveled under the radar mostly. I might not have gone super fangirl about him in Dr. Strange, but I really do like the man and his role in Rogue One worked very well for him.

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Someone really rich at Disney had the idea to put Felicity Jones and Diego Luna together on screen as Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor. It Felicity Jones certainly carries the look of all the Star Wars girls – pretty and pure and innocent. It must be what the fan boys like, because there is definitely a similarity between her, Portman and Rey. I did like her however. Jones’ is a great actress and any role where the female is sharp, smart, loyal and brave is worth watching. I enjoyed Diego Luna after a bit. He got into his role eventually and became comfortable onscreen. He shares undeniable chemistry with Felicity Jones, which made the duo a great success.

The look. No doubt about it, the technology is now what Lucas always wished it would be. The different worlds are so unique it is quite mind blowing believing that this is truly a brain child of one man – such a visionary. The film looks great – typical Star Wars.

The humor was light and carefully woven into the story so that it didn’t drown it out. Most quips are given by Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) – the blind man with an uncanny ability to see around him. I liked Chirrut quite a lot, he had funny moments and was all around cool. (I can say that for pretty much everyone in this film).

What didn’t I liked? I feel that it lacked some heart and felt a bit forced. The world doesn’t need a Star Wars movie every single year, they just need really good ones every couple of years. I was a major fan of the Star Wars one last year, and still feel that it is the better film of the two. There are two things I thought could have been done a tad differently – that ending (won’t mention because it is truly a massive spoler) and the fact that the film went completely Constantine – sorry for the comparison – and despite the heavy chemistry and cute moments not one kissing scene. This definitely isn’t a romance film and I’m not wanting it to be one, but can I just say that it wouldn’t have hurt this film.

Anyway. I wasn’t blown over and I enjoyed The Force Awakens much more. It isn’t a bad film, and my fanboy brother-in-law and his friends really loved it, so I guess that says something. This is probably one of the last films |I will see in cinema for 2016, and it really wasn’t a bad way to bow out!

Movies 2016: Worst to Best

The year 2016 will be known for a number of things – an inordinate amount of celebrity deaths and an equally inordinate amount of lackluster movies. Are these two correlated? I’m not convinced its’ not. Anyway, here is my list of movies I watched this year that was released in 2016. It’s not been a good one.

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Number 19: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice 6/10

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Number 18: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them 6/10

Number 17: Before You 6/10

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Number 16: The Choice 6.5/10

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Number 15: How to be single 6.5/10

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Number 14: The 5th Wave 7/10

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Number 13: SUICIDE SQUAD 7/10

Number 12: Rogue One: 7/10

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Number 11: The Huntsman: Winter’s War 7/10

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Number 10: Legend of Tarzan 7.5/10

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Number 9: Finding Dory 7.5/10

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Number 8: Captain America: Civil War: 7.5/10

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Number 7: Zootopia 8/10

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Number 6: The Jungle Book 8/10

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Number 5: 10 Cloverfield lane 8/10

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Number 4: Dr. Strange 8/10

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Number 3: Deadpool (8/10)

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Number 2: Bridget Jones’ Baby: 8.5/10

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Number 1: Pride and Prejudice vs. Zombies 8.5/10

Blindspot 2016: Memento (2000)

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Plot: A man juggles searching for his wife’s murderer and keeping his short-term memory loss from being an obstacle.

Rating: 8.5/10

The entire point of Blindspot is to see things that we were supposed to have seen ages ago but obviously never did for a number of reasons, most notably laziness in my case. Memento is definitely one of these films, and after watching it I am so happy that 1) I finally got to it and 2) somehow avoided spoilers all this time.

Directed by one of the craftiest and most intelligent filmmakers of our time, Memento is some of Christopher Nolan’s finest work. And it should be clear that nearly all of his work is fine – Prestige was on my Blindspot in 2015, I loved Interstellar, Inception blew my mind on a level that I still haven’t written a review for it. Those Batman movies? Dark and heavy and undeniably brilliant. Memento is some of his earlier work, and definitely some of the best that he’s ever embarked on. The directing is excellent, naturally – the black and white and color alternating between past and present. GENIUS.

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Guy Pearce plays Leonard, a man with short term memory loss. That alone fascinated me from a medical viewpoint.  Memories and retention of them are so fascinating and complex and the Nolan brothers managed to bring Leonard to life in a way that gives insight to the complexity of his problem. Leonard is highly organized and tackles his memory loss by notes and tattoos. I kept hoping he had some form of a tattoo on his back that would resolve a lot of his problems. Alas, he didn’t, but his tattoos on the front of his body were highly informative and disturbing. Pearce also gives the performance of his career in my opinion – tightly controlled and methodical, this role would have been a disaster in a less accomplished actor’s hands.

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The other characters are all a bunch of shady fellows you can never quite pin down – are they bad, are they misusing our guy, what exactly is going down. Assistance is provided due to the movie moving backwards – Leonard never knows what he did yesterday, but at least we do. It quickly becomes apparent that Natalie (Carrie Ann Moss) isn’t what she pretends to be to Leonard, and it is very very easy to quickly learn to hate her. I STILL have no idea whether Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) is a villain or what. He’s most certainly not a good guy and is one of the best grey characters in the story.

The directing is unique and brilliant – stark black and white alternating between current events that are depicted in color – I have to admit I only noticed that part afterwards reading up about it – it is quickly clear that the movie is moving backwards in a way, but the clear difference isn’t something I immediately picked up on. I’ll definitely have to see this again at some stage.

So that is basically it for my second last Blindspot of 2016. I kicked against watching it, but in the end I was so entertained that it will definitely make one of my favorites of this year.