Archive | October, 2015

99 Homes Review

27 Oct


99 Homes is a scathing thriller that kicks off with an intensity unmatched by the rest of the film. The early eviction of Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield, in a role that is thankfully not Spiderman) is brilliantly done, the frustration, embarrassment, and eventual acceptance of the situation captured perfectly by Garfield and Laura Dern; on the other side, Michael Shannon establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with right off the bat, and his character–Rick Carver–is the most fun to watch throughout. As for director Ramin Bahrani, he keeps the camera moving, doubling down on certain beats in order to hit us hard with the story. “How would you act in this situation?” he asks.

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The Leftovers “Orange Sticker” Review (2×04)

25 Oct


“There are no miracles in Miracle.”

Once again, The Leftovers tackles the desire to explain the unexplainable, to feel 100% about various beliefs, actions, or events. “Orange Sticker” takes a look at people who believe one way, but ultimately crumble under the weight of the world they live in now. It’s an interesting episode both plot-wise and theme-wise, and it features an absolutely stellar Carrie Coon performance throughout.

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Room Review

19 Oct


Note: This review deals with minor spoilers revealed during the trailer (regarding the structure of the film). If you’ve watched the trailer or know the story, feel free to read. If you want to go in completely cold, don’t read ahead.

Their world is Room. Ma and Jack live their lives in this windowless prison, pushing through the difficult nights with their captor and passing time with each other during the days. Light shines through a skylight above, a constant reminder that the world doesn’t end with this claustrophobic space, that there’s so much to be learned and explored outside the confines of Room, of innocence, of childhood. This is a movie about the emotional trauma of imprisonment, but it’s also a fascinating look at what it means to grow up and to be a parent.

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The Leftovers “Off Ramp” Review (2×03)

18 Oct


“Well, let’s give them something.”

What’s great about The Leftovers is its ability to acknowledge the complexities of the systems we’ve put into place over the years, the systems that make up society as a whole. From a slightly more cynical viewpoint, believing in something can also be seen as buying into something. However, the key point here is: belief tethers us to something tangible or metaphorical or both, and there can certainly be value in a support group around us. The show isn’t so much concerned with critiquing belief systems like religion as it is explaining why they exist in the first place, and a telling encapsulation of this idea comes in this episode’s “THEY MAKE SENSE!” (in reference to the Guilty Remnant). It’s easier to have something to believe in, after all.

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Truth Review

17 Oct


“We’re the gold standard,” Cate Blanchett’s Mary Mapes insists midway through Truth, a detail-oriented look at the 60 Minutes Killian documents controversy in 2004. It’s nowhere near as polished or compelling as James Vanderbilt’s script for Zodiac–then again, not much is–but it’s driven by some solid performances and an interesting real-life story. Cate Blanchett in particular is a fiery presence here, her character having to deal with the mounting pressure from all sides as she watches her story crumble. Even when the material isn’t quite so strong, Blanchett has a good handle on what’s needed for her character.

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Bridge of Spies Review

16 Oct


The opening to Bridge of Spies consists of the film’s most riveting scenes. Largely wordless and scoreless, they introduce us to Soviet spy Rudolf Abel as he goes about his secret nickel-opening, coded message-receiving ways. He’s immediately an intriguing presence, Mark Rylance utilizing a bit of restraint in his great performance in order to subtly unearth layers. Rylance and Hanks–playing attorney James Donovan–are the one-two punch of the movie, their characters creating the central dynamic upon which Spielberg builds the story. Abel and Donovan are on two sides of the same coin, and the way we look at the two of them can be expanded to how we look at the Soviet Union and the United States or at the Cold War era and present day. There are connections galore.

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Steve Jobs Review

12 Oct

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The first act of Steve Jobs is an extremely entertaining half hour, with rapid-fire dialogue throwing us straight into the backstage flurry prior to Jobs’s 1984 Macintosh launch. It’s a great way to set up the movie’s tone and characters and conflicts, and its extremely kinetic nature brings Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle crashing together from the outset. Unlike with Fincher, however, the director takes a backseat to the writer here, and all of Sorkin’s precious babies–walking and talking, explaining, lack of time for breathing during dialogue–are at the forefront. That’s not a bad thing for the first act, however, which is definitely the tightest and most propulsive of the three. There’s a ton of energy here, and the movie’s setup and backstage settings are reminiscent of Birdman (whether that’s a good or bad thing is your call).

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The Leftovers “A Matter of Geography” Review (2×02)

11 Oct


“Nobody’s okay.”

“All I see is what’s done,” Kevin Garvey Sr. tells his son midway through this episode. “I could either sit around and cry about how the world fucking ended, or I could start it up again.” Seeing as this show is concerned with the idea of loss and how we deal with it, it’s interesting to see these characters attempting to finally move on with their lives. Sure, we saw some of that last season, but it seems like the desire is coming out in full force right now, literally driving them to another location known as Miracle. It’s all about escape from recent events, about trying to restore some sense of normalcy into a world described aptly by Garvey Sr.: “Would you agree that the laws of fucking nature [seem] a bit upside down as of late?”

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Strike Back: Legacy Episode 10 Review

9 Oct

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“Without this life, I am nothing.”

Strike Back is primarily an action show, but it’s by no means a mind-numbing drive through a series of shootouts and explosions. It features its action beats in a propulsive and energetic manner, the entertaining characters and wonderful set design both contributing to a sense of freshness in what can be a stale genre. This is a show that knows exactly what it wants to be, and it does so with aplomb. Whether we’re talking about the steamy sex scenes or the thrilling action set pieces or the badass characters, watching Strike Back has been one of the most enjoyable television experiences I’ve had.

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The Leftovers “Axis Mundi” Review (2×01)

4 Oct


A perfectly understandable reaction to this premiere would be: “What the hell?” That was mine, after all, when we were introduced to the season through a 10-minute sequence involving childbirth, an earthquake, and a snakebite. There are certainly a plethora of ways you can look at it, and that can be both a frustrating and an engaging aspect of the viewing experience. I think it’s clear, though, that the series is more concerned with the emotional fallout of the Departure–or in this case, the lack thereof–than with the concrete answers.

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