Honorable and well acted, Trumbo serves as a tribute to one of Hollywood’s greatest screenwriters, Dalton Trumbo, during its darkest times … the Blacklist era.
Bryan Cranston’s old glory upholds the film to serve as a nice biopic to superior screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, as his acting skills smooth out the rough patches. Cranston plays the hell out of the role of Trumbo as he grabs an Oscar nom in doing so. Due to a scare from the rise of the Communist Party, the Hollywood blacklist started up in the late ‘40s and lasted until the '60s. This was a dark period in our entertainment industry as many creative writers, producers and directors were banished from making the very thing they loved … movies.
Trumbo was one of them when he joined the Communist Party. In 1947, he was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, along with nine other screenwriters. Trumbo, of course, refused to name names and spent nearly a year in jail away from his family and work. From being apart of the blacklisted Hollywood 10, Trumbo lost his job, home, fortune and close friends. Trumbo went into hiding and continued to write incredible scripts. He used a fictitious name to write Roman Holiday and The Brave One, winning two Oscars that he couldn't take credit for. It was a damn shame.
He also went on to write classics like Spartacus and Exodus. Nothing could match Trumbo’s ego, as he wrote constantly on scripts, sometimes, in his bathtub. Booze, cigarettes and passion are what fueled Trumbo to write masterpieces for our viewing pleasure. Even when Trumbo wrote cheap scripts for the King Brothers (a hilarious John Goodman), he continued to keep his name alive. That’s what the film serves as, a tribute to a man whose talent wrote some of the greatest scripts shown on screen. In the end, Trumbo had the last word.
Trumbo is rated R (Restricted). For language including some sexual references.
While nailing its attention to detail and also being fiercely funny, The Big Short is the comedy king over the subject matter of the 2008 financial crisis.
It’s one of the most daring scripts in recent years all thanks to the angry direction of director Adam Mckay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights and The Other Guys) and a great ensemble cast consisting of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. The film takes a serious and complex approach to the 2008 financial crisis that shadowed over America. But that doesn’t stop the film from being funny, trust me, you’ll laugh your ass off.
It may also empower you to yell at the screen due to frustration over the big banks as it did to a gentleman during my showing. Something must have snapped in him as he repeatedly began to yell “those sons of bitches!’’ at the screen. It made my night! This black comedy entertains its audience through a difficult and depressing time. The film is adapted from Michael Lewis' bestseller The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, which focuses on the housing a credit bubble of the mid-2000s.
Baffling and tragic The Big Short fires through the zing and the pop culture of this generation. This is probably McKay’s most mature film to-date as the it received 5 Oscar noms, including Best Director and Best Picture. So we are introduced to four denizens (Bale, Carell, Gosling and Pitt) of the world of high finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse. During this discovery they decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight. It's a showdown between the people and the banks.
The Big Short brings out the fireworks, while sparing no mercy to anyone. McKay gives each actor room to play and evolve into their character’s own identity. Bale is intense and awkward in the role of Michael Burry. Carell plays Mark Baum, a fierce and bombastic little man. Gosling is a complete ass and loves every minute of it. He plays pretty-boy Jared Vennett; while Pitt stays contained and refrained from the outside world as Ben Rickert. Each character grapples with life, liberty and the corruption of the US banking system. Big, clever and insightful are just a few reasons that made The Big Short a true comedic hit.
The Big Short is rated R (Restricted). For pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity.
Well-blended characters (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara) fill the screen with 1950's pop culture; Carol is a groundbreaking source of material in the shape of love.
While Carol was recently snubbed out of two grand Oscar noms for Best Director and Best Picture, don’t let the Academy's ignorance fool you. Carol was a spectacular film filled with strong female leads (Blanchett and Mara) that told a story of humane and organic love. The film really excels thanks to the keen camera eye of director Todd Haynes (Safe and Far From Heaven). Carol receives a five-star review from me.
Haynes explores the film in new directions and dark corners or the ‘50s era. The film demonstrates that a period piece can engagingly comment on recent events in our day and age. Carol is adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel, The Price of Salt, and is beautifully executed through the script and through the lens of the camera. The story starts out rather simple; an aspiring photographer (Mara) develops an intimate relationship with an older woman (Blanchett), but soon becomes more and more complex.
Blanchett and her husband (a stern Kyle Chandler) are in the process of filing for divorce, but Harge (Chandler) doesn’t want to end the knot with Carol (the magnificent Blanchett). Carol is trying to move on in life and sparks a new fond in Therese (a wonderful Mara). When Harge finds out he decides to hold their little girl, Rindy, against Carol’s will so that she’ll have to stay with him. Harge does this through a term called a "morality clause" because homosexuality wasn’t illegal back in the 1950s. Now, Carol will have to fight for both her only daughter and Therese.
Carol is elegantly shot on Super 16 mm and shows us the beauty and shadows of the ‘50s era. Helmed by the two great leads (Blanchett and Mara), Carol soars to new directions and old glory. The visual equivalent and character development is more than enough to satisfy moviegoers alike. Carol still received 6 Oscar noms and was critical acclaimed from critics from its truly groundbreaking source of material. Carol is a romantic movie that shows us a burning love story of friendship, passion and heartache. Carol ends on touching results and is one of the year’s best!
Carol is rated R (Restricted). For a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language.
Hands down the best film of 2015, The Revenant is a beautiful time-piece of Western revenge. Led by the committed hands of Leonardo DiCaprio and the sharp eye of Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman); The Revenant is epic in every word has it challenges its audience to new heights and rich rewards.
Iñárritu’s film is an absorbing drama that kicks your ass from beginning until the end. He’s a visual poet who celebrates on human resilience and the savage beauty of nature. Leo’s performance fuels your bones with energy and adrenaline as he goes through every depth of agony imagined. This movie is not for the fate of heart as Iñárritu guides his camera through the very depths of our humanity.
Receiving an astonishing 12 Oscar noms, The Revenant has my vote for Best Picture of 2015! Just has Iñárritu won his first Oscar for Directing with last year’s Birdman, he’s bound to repeat that honor this upcoming February. Loosely inspired by true events, Iñárritu’s film is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience captured through the eyes of one man, Hugh Glass (Leo). It’s an epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit from start to finish.
The story shows us an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, where explorer Glass is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. Bloody, bruised and quest to survive, Glass also endures unimaginable grief from the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (a strong Tom Hardy). In the process, Fitzgerald brutally kills Glass’ half Pawnee-son (Forrest Goodluck) as he defends his father. Glass is now guided by sheer will and the love of his family, as he navigates 200 miles through the vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live, find redemption and kill those who betrayed him.
That my dear friends, is one hell of a story! It beats your damn soul to the ground and won’t let you up. The Revenant is a relentless visionary as it captures the raw emotion of one man striving for justice in life. Leo gives it his all and better win the Oscar or I will begin to endlessly flip tables. This is his year as he gives blood, sweat and tears in the role. My prediction is that The Revenant will win Best Picture, as it deserves every bit of that honorary award.
It is stated that Leo “had to devour a raw slab of bison's liver, even though he is vegetarian. He also had to learn to shoot a musket, build a fire, speak two Native American languages (Pawnee and Arikara), and study with a doctor who specializes in ancient healing techniques. DiCaprio calls it the hardest performance of his career.” Academy it’s time to give Leo his first Oscar, please give him the damn Oscar. The Revenant paints a brutal picture of survival, built on raw emotion and fierce direction. Hands down, it is my favorite film of 2015! It receives 5 out of 5 stars. Go see this breathtaking masterpiece now.
The Revenant is rated R (Restricted). For strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.
Ferrell and Wahlberg’s second comedy together suffers and is in serious need of childcare.
In 2010, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg scored big laughs in the clever cop-buddy parody called The Other Guys. It delivered several impressive action set pieces and the duo’s chemistry hit all of the big laughs. Now, they return together five years later, but left the genuinely funny ideas at home. Their imagination and premise is all there, but they failed to deliver them to the same degree as they did in The Other Guys. Ferrell and Wahlberg are always great to see on screen together, but I’ll have to wait and see if their comedic duo can strive in future films to come.
The only genuinely funny scene in the movie was when Will Ferrell's character threw a half court shot and hit a cheerleader with the basketball in the process. This scene was actually filmed during halftime of a real basketball game between the Pelicans and the Lakers in New Orleans. Videos of the incident quickly went viral on sites such as YouTube and Vine. Besides, that hilarious scene Daddy’s Home is pretty empty on the big laughs.
Daddy's Home is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements, crude and suggestive content, and for language.
In the simplest of words, Room is astonishing and profoundly moving. Its two top leads, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, will shake you.
Room is a lurid situation that grabs you from the beginning and won’t let go. Shaking the audience’s emotional status from the get-go, it’s filled with memorable performances and is loyal to its source of material of Emma Donoghue's bestseller. Grabbing four Oscar noms (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Directing and Best Picture) for this February, Room has made its mark as one of the best films of 2015!
It's also one of the best films of the decade and mostly takes place in an incredibly small space. Unique and unforgettable, Room has it all. From its small movements to its unbearable tension, Larson and Tremblay guide the audience on an emotional roller coaster. Joy (Larson) and her son Jack (Tremblay) are prisoners, held captive in a soundproof garden shed by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers). Old Nick is a kidnapper who rapes Joy nightly, but gives her a tiny separate room to raise the son he impregnated her with; while Jack hears the muffled sex sounds at night he counts the minutes away.
Joy has been held captive for seven years now and only wants the best for Jack, her silver lining. Believe it, Room is one hell of an attention getter. It will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end and for that it deserves to be unspoiled. Director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) shows us tears, heartache and compassion through the eyes of a mother and her son. Room will remain attached to your bruised psyche in years that follow.
Room is rated R (Restricted). For language.
Ear-numbing until they fall off, it’s time Hollywood axed the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise. Please, for the love of God, no more squeakquels.
And the worst father of the year award goes to the dad who took his kids to see this pile of chipmunk dung over Star Wars: The Force Awakens on its opening weekend. Alvin's fourth featured film is one of the worst movies of 2015. Unless you plan on torturing yourself for a notorious 87 minutes, I’d advise staying far away from this chipmunk singing slog.
There has been zero effort and zero improvement for this obnoxious series since it made its first appearance on the big screen in 2007. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip also provides little qualifies as a recommendation for anyone looking to get their family away to the theaters on a breezy Saturday afternoon. These chipmunks (Alvin, Simon and Theodore) are a better use to our productive, daily lives as a fur coat. Sorry, zero stars for this road chip.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For some mild rude humor.
Director Ron Howard’s (Apollo 13 and Rush) film is old-fashioned class, but lacks the narrative sea depth and gets boggled down with bloated visuals.
In the Heart of the Sea shares thoughtful storytelling throughout; unfortunately it can’t match its dull visual panache. This supposed to-be epic sweep only makes a little ripple in the sea. Actor Chris Hemsworth and his crew take on a great beast of the ocean. It’s the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was destroyed by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and with the will for vengeance.
This real-life maritime disaster would inspire Novelist Herman Melville's (Ben Whishaw) Moby-Dick. You’ve heard this old tale many times before, now director Ron Howard brings that fascinating tale to the 21st century. Saddly, this epic tale to the big screen suffers from a shaky direction and bloated CGI even with Howard's heart put into it.
It’s not Howard’s strongest direction in his career and that’s disappointing. So if I had to recommend this man vs. whale tale to someone else, I would recommend reading the grand novel or watching the original film from 1956 (Moby Dick). In the Heart of the Sea aims high and tires so damn hard, but comes up short in the end.
In the Heart of the Sea is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence, and thematic material.
An uneven approach from director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle), but thanks to another star-studded performance from Jennifer Lawrence; Joy is able to make it through those rough patches.
Anchor by a fantastic Lawrence, Joy glides on its fascinating fact-based tale. With now three Golden Globes (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and Joy) underneath her belt, is there anything Mrs. Lawrence can’t do? She’s becoming the next Meryl Streep and is off to a grand and promising career in acting. Joy is the third collaboration between director O. Russell and actors; Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.
O. Russell has found his go-to team and I am excited to see more future films from all of them together. However, when comparing Joy to Silver Linings and American Hustle it comes up a bit short. As O. Russell guides his camera through the film he hits highs and lows all the way through. This uncertain direction of an intriguing story had moments of wonderful out bursts that sparked the audience's attention. These bursts hit both emotional and comedic trigger points, as do all O. Russell films.
What makes Joy still a fun ride until the very end is Lawrence’s ability to put on her acting chops on and off the screen. Joy is a messy story of a woman, Joy Mangano (Lawrence), on a search for the perfect invention that will lead her to a business dynasty. This invention is own as the “Miracle Mop.” Going through a dysfunctional family, multiple jobs and the heart to strive made Joy’s ability to achieve even greater.
Cooper and De Niro help lead the pack as Lawrence makes her way to the top. Through family, betrayal and heartache, Joy learns the importance of living in this dog-eat-dog world. Joy found its silver lining and sprinkled them in throughout the film. In the end, those single out bursts of light will stick with you even after the show is over.
Joy is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For brief strong language.
While staying faithful to the book, Mockingjay – Part 2 hits a progressively grim tone until the very end. Nevertheless, the film still manages to entertain and sends our heroines off on a satisfactory note.
Last year's Mockingjay – Part 1 brought tension and character development even though it was a bit slow at times. Should Mockingjay of been one film instead of two? Probably, but that’s Hollywood for ya. Still, director Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire and Mockingjay – Part 1) and his team manage to entertain and bring out the big guns for the final showdown. And like I said last year, all of you Hunger Games bigots can piss off because this is Jennifer Lawrence’s show and she’s marvelous!
Lawrence does it again as the brilliant Katniss Everdeen, sending raw emotion and grief through her character's bones. The film manages to hit all of the page-turners from Suzanne Collins' bestselling third novel. The big final is filled with action, death and consequences. It stays grim until the very end, but will leave fans and viewers alike satisfied. In my opinion, the third book was the weakest of the trilogy due to a messy change in direction and the grand spectacle of book two (Catching Fire).
Nevertheless, the book series came, killed and conquered as did the movie series. All of the actors (Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland) performed in top-notch for their final series appearance. As for Hoffman, this was his final film appearance ever on the big screen … sad. Continuing from the last film, the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts, Katniss, must bring together an army against President Snow (Sutherland), while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.
Sutherland has never been better, while Lawrence delivers the tension that she bought from the very first film three years ago. The film hits the big visual fireworks and racks up the body count bags along the way. It should have been titled "The Hunger Game of Thrones." The star of the film, for me, goes to Hutcherson who plays the beloved Peeta Mellark. He brought on the acting chops and stole multiple scenes with his burning emotion and PTSD symptoms.
The darkness of the theme showed the audience how power can corrupt heroes as well as villains. The “Girl on Fire” grapples with love, fear and a mortal composition. Mockingjay – Part 1 goes out in style and surpasses its turmoil; while the epilogue unveiled a rather light and sweet note for the series that should leave viewers satisfied … I know I did. Katniss and Peeta’s journey has finally been concluded leaving the Hunger Games no more.
Mockingjay – Part 1 is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material.
The Good Dinosaur is a beautifully animated film that shares a sweet story of dino and boy with the audience.
The Good Dinosaur is one of Pixar’s least ambitious; nevertheless, it blends gorgeous animation with charming storytelling. It’s a perfectly fine kids movie and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s a gentle tale set about 65 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth and man was still upcoming.
So remember that meteor that was supposed to hit earth and wipe out all the dinosaurs? Well, that doesn’t happen and this is the story that precedes it because that catastrophic event never took place. With dinos still roaming the wondrous landscape, we are introduced to Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) and his family. Arlo is a runty green brontosaurus, clumsy and fearful of the outside world. The audience occasionally meets friends and foes throughout the film, while they're rooting for Arlo’s journey the whole way.
The Good Dinosaur, at times, takes a Lion King approach with its story and tone, but also adds a few new surprises along the way. When tragedy strikes Arlo’s family he befriends a wild-boy named Spot (voiced by Jack Bright). Together they will learn how to face fear in the world. Spot is essentially Arlo’s dog so it’s a man and canine relationship reversed. The Good Dinosaur is no Inside Out and that’s okay. A more light-hearted Pixar affair that’s uplifting and family-friendly from start to finish.
The Good Dinosaur is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For peril, action and thematic elements.
Actors Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander excel together on screen with memorable and humane performances; while director Tom Hooper's (The King's Speech and Les Misérables) prestige awareness and sensitive direction makes The Danish Girl one of this year's best.
Like last year in The Theory of Everything, Redmayne again goes deep and infuses suffering with acting. In this thought-provoking biopic Redmayne plays Einar Wegener, a Danish painter who became a transgender activist. Nearly a century ago, Einar became a pioneer in gender-reassignment surgery. Redmayne is once again, flat-out brilliant in the title role. You can’t take your eyes off Redmayne throughout the film as he secures his Oscar nom this upcoming February.
From the beginning, we know that there is something burning inside Einar. “This is not my body,” Einar explains as someone else is hidden inside and her name is Lili Elbe. It’s 1926 and Danish artist, Gerda Wegener (Vikander), asks her husband to be the model as a lady in her paintings, stockings, heels and all. Vikander shines as Gerda as she supports Lili through this transition. “I think Lily's thoughts, I dream her dreams. She was always there.” Lili and Einar are fighting for the same body and Hooper captures that raw and numbing struggle.
Elegantly shot and brightly captured on screen, Lili’s journey is an important message for the 21st century. A big surprise, for me, was the glorious photography of the Danish countryside throughout the film. As Einar disappears, Gerda soon realizes that her husband is no longer a man or the person she married before. Through heartache and pain, Gerda continues to love Lili until the very end. At times, Vikander is just as good, if not better, than Redmayne in the acting role. I’m rooting for her to also get an Oscar nom this upcoming February.
Hooper dodges the biopic clichés and manages to still tell the story through raw passion and a heartfelt journey. The Danish Girl is a fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Lili and Gerda. Through its rough spots and flaws, Hooper still succeeds in painting a miraculous portrait of Lili. The film is never too graphic about sex or surgery as Hooper’s sensitive direction beats with a passionate heart. “Find the courage to be yourself.” Learn more about transgender equality here: http://www.transequality.org
The Danish Girl is rated R (Restricted). For some sexuality and full nudity.
Well acted and painfully relevant; Suffragette overcomes its flaws and shares a vivid and dramatized fact-based story.
At best, Suffragette is a grand history lesson taken to the big screen and is shared through its top female leads (Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep). Director Sarah Gavron’s (Brick Lane) film is a prestige-drama focusing on the early struggle for women’s rights in England. Suffragette is a vigorous movie that fights from beginning until end for equality in women.
Bravo for Mulligan acing her role as Maud Watts, a fictional character meant to represent women of that time during the early 19th century. Mulligan is fierce in every scene as she steals the acting chops from her components. Bonham Carter also plays a fictional character named Edith Ellyn; she was somewhat inspired by Edith Garrud as well as Edith New. Bonham Cater soars in the role as she continues to fight for her equal rights. Streep makes her spiffy cameo as real-life Emmeline Pankhurst; while actress Natalie Press conquers as real-life Emily Davison.
So is Suffragette true story? Mostly, as it takes real/fictionalized people and real events and combines them into one dramatized film. While some scenes are formulaic and messy, other scenes soar with raw pain and tears. Flaws and all, Suffragette still succeeds into telling an important story of the struggle and the fight for equality in women. Revolutionary and stirring, Suffragette is a movie that matters. Stand for equality and find the movements here: http://www.womenforwomen.org/ https://www.hrw.org/ http://www.rainbo.org/
Suffragette is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some intense violence, thematic elements, brief strong language and partial nudity.
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Next Best Picture
In Their Own League
Mike, Mike, and Oscar
Squeaky Speaks Her Mind
The Movie Oracle