Movie Review: The Finest Hours (2016)

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Plot: The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952

On the 18th of February 1952, Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bernard “Bernie” Webber, Andrew Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard P. Livesey saved the lives of 32 men that were stranded on the SS Pendleton. They raced against unimaginable odds and time to reach the broken ship, and their heroics to this day stands as the greatest rescue in the US Coast Guard history.

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It’s an inspirational story that is bound to get your heart pumping and leave you in awe of the four men that set out on a tiny boat in a big storm to save the lives of desperately endangered men. But Disney got their hands on it, and a Disney film will never produce the horror and adrenaline that event surely had. It was a watered down, poorly directed film that made an actor like Casey Affleck look awkward and misplaced and uncomfortable as hell. I’ve seen him now in a few things, so that might just be his personality.

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Finest Hours contains a staggering number of cheesy phrases. There were constant yelling of things like “hold on boys” and “if I can do it so can you” and “we can do this” and “great job”. It was awkward, I felt awkward and the entire thing can be summed up in that one word – AWKWARD.

The beautiful Chris Pine continues to be everywhere. His beautiful mug is showing up in a lot of places these days, and you won’t hear me complaining. I just saw Wonder Woman, which places him pretty high on my list of Chrises (that list must happen), so this was obviously never going to end up as my favorite role of his. He’s not bad, however, and he is very convincing as Bernie Webber. Shy and sweet and loyal to his work, Bernie has some baggage. Pine does everything he can to make you like Webber. When Webber meets Miriam Pentinen (Holliday Grainger), their relationship is as sweet and stereotypical of the 1950’s as you can think it to be. Miriam chooses Bernie despite her fear of water – as she says “how do you know what lies underneath?” quite often. I share this sentiment with her, which is why I’d never date a coastguard. I can’t understand why she would choose that either. But anyway.

The disbelief in this film is too much for the real life events to seem authentic. It is poorly scripted and most of the time I really didn’t know what was going on. Miriam only seemed selfish and unsupportive of her fiancé, and that irritated me quite a bit. The cheesiness of the lines is bad enough that I’m sure the actors had a difficult time saying it out loud and not visibly cringing.

Sadly, The Finest Hours is not as fine as the title might suggest. Cheesy, silly and at places downright unbelievable, Disney did not do a good job honoring Bernie Webber.

Rating: 5/10

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Movie Review: Sully (2016)

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Plot:The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight’s passengers and crew.

Situations where airplanes malfunction rarely have a happy ending. It’s either disappearances or crashes and morbidity is synonymous with these events. So when Captain Chelsea “Sully” Sullenberger sent out a mayday signal on the 15th of January 2009 after birds took out both of the engines on the Airbus 320 on Flight 1549 which Captain Sullenberger was the pilot of, no one believed it possible that Sullenberger could put down the plane on the Hudson River successfully. In doing so, he saved the lives of his 154 co-passengers. The successful landing was a combined result of a lifetime of experience and a man that not only excelled at his job but was born to do it. I followed this story obsessively when it came out, and recently checked again the technical difficulty this landing required. I love stories about human courage and defeating unimaginable odds (who doesn’t?), and the event kept me glued to the screen for weeks.

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That said, I’ve burned my fingers the last few months with real life events turned into movie adaptions. It’s a seemingly difficult task for directors to tell these stories accurately and keep the inspirational levels as well as the truth intact. However, with Sully, director Clint Eastwood made a film that wasn’t only true and inspirational, it is Oscar worthy.

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Tom Hanks plays veteran pilot Chelsey Sullenberger. He does so by portraying a pilot who had the correct level of confidence in his abilities, which he combined with good sense and humility. Hanks shows you all the sides – the PTSD, the stress he and his family is shouldering, the fatigue and overpowering sense of media frenzy. Aaron Eckhart is the lighter of heart Co-pilot Jeff Skiles. His importance to the success of the landing is paramount, as he did not, as I would have, started yelling “what the fuck” at the top of his lungs.

The passengers get their moments too – a woman with her elderly mother, a mother with her infant daughter, business men and women, a father and his sons rushing to make the gates for the flight – real people with real lives all just planning a quick trip. It adds a human element, and the chanting of the passengers as they braced for landing is heartbreaking to listen to.

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I was engrossed by Sully. It is chilling and inspiring and I will definitely watch it again. Eastwood and Hanks are a power combination that should be explored further. If you need to feel inspired, watch this. It is a story about thinking on your feet, being insanely courageous and calm, and using the experience life has given you to fulfill your life’s work.

Have you seen Sully? What did you think?

Rating: 8/10

Movie Review: Bad Moms (2016)

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Plot: When three overworked and under-appreciated moms are pushed beyond their limits, they ditch their conventional responsibilities for a jolt of long overdue freedom, fun, and comedic self-indulgence.

I really expected to be either wildly irritated or exasperated by Bad Moms. I wasn’t – It was actually a surprisingly fun film and catered exactly for its target audience. Mila Kunis plays Amy, an overworked mother of two young children. If you can believe she’s supposed to be washed out, well, you can believe anything. She’s still crazy gorgeous despite her wearing adult clothes all the time. Her husband is her third child – a boy-man who does nothing to help her with raising children and is eventually caught in an online cheating scandal. This understandably leads Amy to lose her shit. She drops pretending to be the perfect mother that actually cares about the strict rules Gwendolyn, who is the perfect president of the Parents association, sets. Gwendolyn subsequently loses her patience and war erupts in the pretty suburban life of these women. Amy decides to run for president at school and she teams up with Kathryn Hahn’s Carla, and Kristen Bell’s Kiki, and eventually ends up winning (if you don’t expect this you are a dumb-dumb) and shows the mothers their children are supposed to be kids and be fun and have a good time.

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I didn’t expect this amount of heart in this silly little film. There is warmth and humor and some prodding reminders that children are supposed to be young and play outside, not to be rushed from exams to sports to cultural activities. Hahn has some funny moments, though she really is typecast at the moment. It is always good seeing Kristen Bell in anything – she’s so adorably weird and this film doesn’t try to change that – Kiki is weird as hell.

I can’t really comment on more in this film – it is just a for fun film, there is a pretty hot guy, some pretty hot moms and just a film to relax with. This really isn’t for all you I-only-watch-serious-movies people, so if you don’t want a silly comedy, just don’t watch it J

Rating: 6/10

Movie Review: Jackie (2016)

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Plot: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.

Focusing on the aftermath of one of the most defining moments in American history, Jackie, as I’m sure you know by now, focuses on what Jacqueline Kennedy had to face following her husband’s assassination. It is expertly and cautiously approached. There are careful hints at the infidelity of JKF, though accusations are never outright thrown. The focus is on Jackie, and the horror she experienced witnessing a bullet travel through her husband’s skull while she was right next to him. It is shown that even while their marriage probably had a few cracks, she was as drawn to the man as the rest of the world and certainly depended on him. The film is shot in an eery way, making her fragile state of mind a visible shot.

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Natalie Portman shows her impressive acting abilities to the fullest of their extent. Jackie is vulnerable yet in control, she’s learnt to master her emotions in the public eye. Her outbursts are private and only with close confidantes. Her beautiful friendship with Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) is shown and how Nancy was one of the few people Jackie Kennedy could trust and rely on. There is also a really close bond with Robert F. Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), who is forced to take control of the situation while grieving his brother.

Yet for all the excellence in directing and acting I had no lasting emotional attachment to the film. It did make me think of more than the assassinated president – it is impossible not to sympathize with Jacqueline Kennedy’s plight. The horror she had to go through – the immediate and the prolonged effects of being ripped from your life. Sudden death will always be a complete shock to the system, and facing the grief for a lost one on such a public stage is beyond our “normal” people’s comprehension. It is difficult to remain interested in a film where the main event has already passed. The assassination is briefly shown on screen but the aftermath is the sole focus. It is admirable, it is excellently portrayed, but it is never thrilling and there is no climax. I was impressed, but not moved. It is worth a watch if only for Portman’s admirable portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy, but personally I won’t be rushing to get another view in of this film.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Rating: 7/10

Movie Review: Underwold Bloodwars (2016)

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Plot:Vampire death dealer, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.

Although my fondness for the franchise has not dimmed in the least, the last two Underworld films have been really bad compared to the previous three. It feels like they story has veered far off from what the original was about. Bloodwars does not mention what happened in Awakening. Apparently the human race conveniently forgot that vampires and lycans exist and just happily ceased the war that they subsequently raged on them. Seline’s daughter was spirited away by executive producers for no other reason. There are some strange new vampires that have been to the other side. Seline soon joins them and gains delightful highlights. It seems like the writers are desperately trying to replace Scott Speedman with Theo James. I’ve said it in my review of Awakening too, so please note that Theo James, for all his deliciousness, isn’t the character we want to end up with Seline. There is no one for her but Michael, and whatever issues the directors have with Scott Speedman better be resolved before the next film because no one believes the easy copout they sicced on us. I enjoy his inclusion as David, but really, give me my Michael back. Tobias Menzies as Marcus was okay. He provided the necessary antagonist, but was he really convincing? The character isn’t developed or explored. He has a terrible backstory, similar to Michael and Lucian, but he isn’t properly introduced and felt like an empty antagonist by the end of it.

Underworld Bloodwars is the sloppiest of the franchise, with bad writing and heartless performances. It certainly isn’t my favorite of the bunch, and I do hope that when the sixth film gets the light they will have a story to tell again.

Rating: 5.5/10

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Favorite Movie Quote: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

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I recently had the pleasure of watching Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for the third (?) time. It is such a fun adaption of the original work. I really do hope to get to the PPZ book soon as I am currently finishing up the original Pride and Prejudice.

As for today’s quote: The famed letter that Mr. Darcy writes to Elizabeth were he explains himself is beautiful across all the adaptions.The entirety of this letter is explanatory and heart breaking, but I am particularly fond of this paragraph:

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Of all weapons in the world, I now know love to be the most dangerous. For I have suffered a mortal wound. When did I fall so deeply under your spell, Miss Bennet? I cannot fix the hour or the spot or the look or the words which lay the foundation. I was in the middle before I knew I began. But a proud fool I was. I have faced the harsh truth: that I can never hope to win your love in this life. – Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Here’s my review if you haven’t seen it yet!

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Movie Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

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Plot: A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale.

Nocturnal Animals is self-indulgent, narcissistic bullshit. It is also incredibly dull. I’m surprised it got such a good feedback – I watched it specifically because of said good feedback. Instead I watched some weird shit for two hours without a proper ending. For a film written and directed by a fashion designer the main character spent the majority of the film with lipstick that didn’t suit her features. It is a small thing, but it made me hate this film even more.

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The acting is the best part of Nocturnal Animals but it isn’t enough to save the film. Jake Gyllenhaal is persistent in his mission for me to like him, and so far he is winning. I’ve inexplicably never liked him much. Maybe because until recently I only saw him in Donny Darko, which is the strangest film I’ve ever watched and that is saying something. Southpaw impressed me despite such deliberate emotional punches, and I’ve since been getting more exposure to this man. I liked him here too – he had a character that underwent great development and he handled the phasing well.

The story makes a valiant attempt at being mysterious and fails admirably. It tries to be artistic and visually stimulating. Its opening sequence is a desperate visualization of the attempts to make this film more than it is – a self-indulgent expedition of Tom Ford. Ford can be glad his fashion designs aren’t this desperate to be liked or he’d have failed as a designer a long time ago.

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Nocturnal Animals has a litany of celebrities taking part and they have no idea what to do about it. Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Aaron Taylor-Johnson have the most screen time, and they do their best to make their characters work. Taylor-Johnson proves that he is more than just a pretty face. He’s a creepy mcCreeps in here, and I was so freaked out by his strange and awful character and felt dirty every time he was on screen. Amy Adams had the hardest work set out for her – to make the selfish Susan worthy of our empathy. It is hard to sympathize with a woman whose unhappiness stems from every decision she ever made. She had a good, kind man who she left because he wasn’t successful. She’s led a life she swore she wouldn’t, choosing a rich man who sleeps around over a poor man who loved her. Her treasonous acts reach unparalleled heights for which we judge her harshly (well, I did anyway), so sympathizing with her was really hard.

Michael Shannon is such a serious looking bloke, and thus all these serious bloke roles suit him well. He’s this strange cop in the story, with his own little built in mission, and I enjoyed him immensely.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I marginally liked the story more when I realized what was going on. I’ll say this – it is stories within a story. The within story was better than the actual story. It was a meaty revenge piece. It disappointed, but it remained better than the obvious story. I’ll stop using the word “story” now, because it is starting to irritate me.

The cast that gets a few seconds on screen – Isla Fisher, Michael Sheen, Pam from True Blood, Jenna Malone – so much to work with and yet so little attention paid to them. I love Michael Sheen now, my Underworld exposure made me team-Sheen, and I was happy to see him only to be disappointed a few scenes later.

Nocturnal Animals is way too long. I just wanted to get to the end, and then the end sucked so much I felt even more aggressive. It’s an open ending, and we all know how I much love that. Sure, I’ll think a bit about what I watched but dammit, give me a proper ending or watch me rage.

I consider this movie a terrible waste of time and am still upset that I will never get these hours back. The only good thing I got from this was writing this review, it was my catharsis to this terrible piece of shit.

Rating: 4.5/10

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.

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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.