Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Top 10 Movies of 2015

I know I say this every year but I really did have a hard time with this. I've seen so many great movies and to narrow it down to just 10 was almost impossible. But I've done my best. As always, I'll start at number 10 and work my way up to number one, giving a few quick thoughts for each movie. 

10. Inside Out

  • I think the best kinds of kids movies are the kind that don't talk down to them. Ones that both kids and adults can enjoy. Inside Out is one of those movies. A wonderful story with a great message. I'm not afraid to admit I cried several times. 
9. Straight Outta Compton
  • A well made, very relevant movie chronicling the rise and fall of legendary hip hop group NWA. A few moments where it falls into the category of your typical biopic but it's definitely worth seeing. Especially for the great performances.
8. The Martian
  • Unlike Gravity, this movie is surprisingly funny. And you don't spend the whole time with Matt Damon. You get to see what else is going on as they try to rescue him after a mission on Mars goes wrong and he's left stranded. It's nice to see Ridley Scott back to making good movies.
7. Steve Jobs
  • Yes I know Michael Fassbender doesn't look a thing like the real Steve Jobs and that the movie probably isn't 100% accurate but so what? Still well made and fascinating to watch.
6. Room
  • Make sure you have plenty of tissues for this powerful drama about a 5 year old boy named Jack (played by talented young actor named Jacob Tremblay) who has spent his whole life in a 10 by 10 foot shed with his mother (Brie Larson, who's my pick to win Best Actress). 7 years earlier she had been kidnapped and put in the shed, Jack the result of being raped repeatedly by her kidnapper. They escape eventually and face their biggest challenge yet- adjusting to the outside world.

5. Spotlight
  • The more I think about it, I should've rated this movie even higher in my initial review. I think this stands a good chance at winning Best Picture, Great acting, directing, etc. 
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
  • This should come as no surprise to anyone that Mad Max is on my list. Even if Tom Hardy (who was perfectly cast as Max and did an amazing job as usual) hadn't been in the movie I still would have loved it. Director George Miller has created one of the best action movies I've seen in years. I had so much fun watching this. Major props to Charlize Theron as well for her bad ass performance. It's just as much her movie as it is Tom Hardy's.
3. The Gift
  • The directorial debut of Joel Edgerton. He also acts in it and wrote the script. I can't recommend this movie enough. It could've easily fallen into the category of your typical thriller but it didn't. Yes it has some jump scares but they actually worked. The best thriller I've ever seen. I hope Joel Edgerton continues to direct. He's really good at it. 
2. Beasts of No Nation
  • For the longest time, this was my number one movie of the year. Now it's a VERY close second. I know I never did an actual review for this and I saw it on Netflix instead of in a theater. But I just had to put it on my list. It stars Abraham Attah (who judging from this performance has a bright future ahead of him) as Agu, a child soldier in Africa fighting in a civil war under the leadership of the Commandent (Idris Elba). Much like 12 Years a Slave, it's a movie I feel everyone needs to see but you'll only watch it once because it's so damn depressing.
1. Creed
  • Being such a huge Rocky fan, I was skeptical when I first heard they were making this. Seemed unnecessary. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. Director Ryan Coogler has created a wonderful movie that perfectly fits into the Rocky universe but at the same time does its own thing. Stars Michael B. Jordan as Adomis, the son of boxing legend Apollo Creed. He's also a fighter but is determined to make a name for himself. Needing a trainer, he goes to Apollo's friend and former rival Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, who gives his best performance in a long time). One of the best theater experiences I've ever had. Everyone was on the edge of their seats cheering and clapping. It really is the feel good movie of the year.

Honorable Mentions:
Here are a few more movies that I loved this year and are worth checking out. The only reason they didn't make the list is because I simply ran out of room-
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Labyrinth of Lies
  • Brooklyn
  • Black Mass
  • Cinderella
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (IMAX 3D)

Just to let you know, this will be a SPOILER FREE review. 

AHHHHHHHH! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! Sorry, I'm still recovering from a massive nerdgasm. I had to get that out of my system. As you can already tell, I absolutely loved The Force Awakens. I can't even remember the last time I was this excited for a movie.

Normally this would be where I talk about the plot but I've decided not to do that with this review. For me it was an even better experience going into the movie not knowing too much other than what's already been shown in the trailers. All I'll say is it's set 30 years after the events of the original trilogy. It brings back many of the classic characters including Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and many more. At the same time you're introduced to new characters- scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), former Storm Trooper Finn (John Boyega), and Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). They must face new enemies, one of them being Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

You can tell that director JJ Abrams not only is a huge Star Wars fan but that he did his research. It was amazing to see all the attention to detail. Everything from the dirty and used feel of things reminiscent of the original to the look and design of the robots and creatures and so much more. There's practical effects as well as CGI. But unlike the CGI in those fucking prequels, it doesn't look fake and isn't overkill.

One of my favorite things about this movie was the phenomenal performances. Harrison Ford worked his ass off. A lot of times with famous actors you just see them and not their character. Quite the opposite here. All I saw was Han Solo. Probably one of the biggest cheers from the audience was when he and Chewbacca first appeared on screen.

I was also impressed with the new cast. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley have great chemistry as well as comedic timing. There's plenty of humor here but it's never over the top. They also pull off the action and dramatic scenes very well. It's so nice having a movie where I actually care about the characters. These actors have a bright future ahead of them and I can't wait to see what they do next.

If you happen to live near a theater that has an IMAX screen I urge you to see it in that format. This is the type of movie that IMAX was made for. It really makes you feel like you're right there in the middle of the action. And the 3D is really good. For once it's noticeable, unlike most 3D movies I see these days.

I can't even begin to describe the amazing experience I had with The Force Awakens. Not only the movie itself but everything leading up to it. I met a lot of really nice people while waiting in line. The line by the way was the biggest I've ever seen for a movie. It wrapped around the whole theater and back out into the mall. Even with that big of a crowd everyone was very respectful and there weren't any issues from what I could tell.

Do I recommend the movie? Hell yeah I recommend it! Go see it. Go see it multiple times. Thank you JJ Abrams for creating this masterpiece. You've made this Star Wars fan very happy.

My Rating: 10/10

Saturday, December 12, 2015


I've been hearing nothing but good things about Room for months. So when I heard that the small theater near my house (which is owned by the film club I belong to) was showing it this week I jumped at the chance. I've seen a lot of movies this year and Room is definitely one of the best. 

Five year old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) has spent his entire life in a 10 by 10 foot space that his mother, whom he calls Ma (Brie Larson), has named Room. 7 years earlier, Ma had been kidnapped by a man referred to only as Old Nick (Sean Bridges) and placed in there. Despite their circumstances, Ma does everything she can to make Jack feel safe, loved, and have as normal a life as possible. One day they finally escape and Jack faces his biggest challenge yet- the outside world. 

The movie is just about two hours long. The first half focuses on Ma and Jack's life inside of Room. The other half is about them trying to adjust (or in Ma's case readjust) into the world. 

There's been a lot of talk that Brie Larson is the front runner to win Best Actress at this years Oscars. I would love to see that happen. Her performance is so raw and realistic. 

I hope Jacob Tremblay gets some recognition too because his performance was just as good. Very convincing. He is an amazing young actor. 

The only flaw I can think of is that the conflict between Ma and her father Robert (William H. Macy) never gets resolved. But it's such a good movie that I'm willing to overlook that. 

Room is so heartbreaking to watch that I was in tears during many of the scenes. It's a powerful, well acted, and well made movie that I think everyone should see. 

My Rating: 10/10

In the Heart of the Sea (3D)

WARNING: There could be what some consider spoilers in this review. Nothing too major. Still, read at your own risk.

I remember seeing trailers for In the Heart of the Sea well over a year ago. From what I've heard, it was originally scheduled to come out back in March but got pushed back until now so that it could compete during Oscar season. I thought it looked interesting... Oh who am I kidding? I just wanted to see this because of Chris Hemsworth. Good god that man is gorgeous! To my surprise the movie ended up being pretty decent. I mean, it wasn't great but it had its moments. 

The movie tells the true story that inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick. In 1820 a whaling ship called the Essex and its crew, which includes first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) who should really be captain instead of rich dumbass George Pallard (Benjamin Walker), set sail from Nantucket. They are then preyed upon by a giant whale that destroys their ship and strands them at sea for 90 days. During that time, they must all do se extreme things in order to survive. 

I'll say this about director Ron Howard- he knows how to make good movies (I like to pretend that his version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas doesn't exist). I loved his last movie Rush which deserved way more attention than it got. With this, there's some really nice special effects and cinematography. And all of the actors give amazing and at times heartbreaking performances. 

One thing I didn't care for as far as the direction goes was some of the camera work. It made me so nauseous at points that I had to close my eyes. I mean I expected it since most of the movie takes place at sea but still... Not fun. 

And another thing, Ron Howard does way too much telling and not enough showing. Which I can understand since there's some things you just can't show and keep it at a PG-13 rating. Mainly the scene where the crew had to resort to cannibalism otherwise they'll starve to death. I'm really glad he didn't show that. But for other reasons I wish he had home for an R rating. 

The ending of the movie felt extremely rushed. It could've benefited from being maybe 20 minutes longer. If you insist on seeing this in theaters do not I repeat DO NOT see it in 3D. It isn't even that noticeable at all. I had to keep looking over my glasses to make sure I was at the right screening. I would've preferred seeing it in 2D but those show times just didn't work for me. 

I know it sounds like I'm saying this is a bad movie but I'm not. It's actually good. I probably won't watch it again though. If you're a fan of Ron Howard or Chris Hemsworth by all means check it out (I would just wait until it comes to Netflix). They're a great team and I hope they do more movies together in the future. 

My Rating: 7.5/10