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Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Beastly for the most part!
Writer-Director Cary Joji Fukunaga, the acclaimed director of the "True Detective" series, has demonstrated that he could be a beast in Hollywood director nation with his latest gripping movie "Beasts of No Nation". The film stars child actor Abraham Attah as Agu, a child whose family is murdered by an oppressed army of an unnamed African country. Agu is then sort of rescued by a rebellious group led by the domineering commander subtly named Commandant played fiercely by Idris Elba. Agu then transforms himself into a child soldier and is forced to kill many by the Commandant. That is a killer childhood no child should experience. Funkunaga transports us into a brutal African society where survival is just the matter of life, and rebellion forces becomes an unwelcome necessity. My only flaw of "Beast of No Nation" is that it was maybe twenty minutes too long. But the beastly performances from Attah and Elba more than make up for that matter. "Beasts of No Nation" is not the feel good movie of the year, but it just might be the feel important movie of the year. **** Good
Black Mass (2015)
James "Whitey" Bulger, the kingpin leader of the "Winter Hill" gang, was a notorious criminal from South Boston responsible for many deaths. He was a fugitive for many years until he was found and arrested in Santa Monica, California in 2011. Bulger was as vulgar as a criminal could get. Bulger was also an FBI informant revealing info on mafia organizations in North Boston, but that didn't stop Bulger from orchestrating his own mass killings. Director Scott Cooper has organized a crime film on the story of Bulger's violent ways in South Boston called "Black Mass". The film was a surefire hit with me, and I thought Cooper did a sensational job in orchestrating it. Johnny Depp's performance as Bulger was the best of his career, and you could "depp" on it that it will garner him a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar nomination. Joel Edgerton was also on his game as FBI Agent John Connolly who protected Whitey for selfish career purposes. Peter Sarsgaard provides a scene-stealing performance as a drug-dealer paranoid that Bulger will assassinate him. Benedict Cumberbatch did a nice job imitating a Massachusetts Senator who also happens to be Whitey's brother, ouch! Mark Malluok and and Jez Butterworth's screenplay of the picture was worthy and on its mark with its authentic narrative on the crime world of South Boston and of course Bulger's rise & fall. However, in all, it was Depp who was the biggest hit of the movie, and Johnny being bad was very very good. So witness it for yourself and then tell the masses about "Black Mass". ***** Excellent
You spotlight up my life, you give me hope, to carry on... Sorry to get all Debbie Booneish on you in my intro on my review of the spectacular movie "Spotlight". Director Tom McCarthy's movie about the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese is shaking up to the be the frontrunner of the Best Picture Oscar, and why not? McCarthy's meticulous direction of the film and his layering of its expose was a sermonial, I mean a ceremonial piece of mastery. The Boston Globe's investigative "Spotlight" department shined on unveiling this disturbing truth. What was not disturbing was the exemplary acting performances from the actors playing the "spotlight" write players; including Mark Ruffalo as the emotional Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams as the conflicted Sacha Pfeiffer, Brian D'arcy James as the cerebral Matt Carroll, and the "Birdman" himself Michael Keaton as the group's leader Robby Robinson. Keaton and Ruffalo were the standouts here, but all should be given the proper spotlight for their commendable acting. Other fine thespian turns came from Stanley Tucci as the counsel Mitchell Garadebian, Liev Schrieber as the paper's new editor Marty Baron, and John Slattery as the associate editor Ben Bradlee. It will be very sad if this acting group does not get the SAG Best Acting Ensemble Award. McCarthy's script with fellow screenplayer Josh Singer had all of the write stuff of a multi- dimensional narrative covering an uncomfortable subject matter. Sure, the film does depict journalists as literary superheroes, but their procedural process workings was their greatest weapon to get rid of the darkness of the subject they were investigating; and it isn't that what superheroes do? or something like that? Anyways, I pray that "Spotlight' receives many Oscar nominations, as it should. So, it's now time for you to see and then share the "Spotlight". ***** Excellent
Inside Out (2015)
Inside out, boy you turned me with laughter!
Disney Pixar's "Inside Out" is one movie that will stay in my "cinematic joy" memory bank for a long time. This creative gem focuses on a tween named Riley who moves from Minnesota to San Francisco with her family. Writer-Directors Pete Doctor and Ronnie Del Carmen develop this fascinating film by focusing on the mental emotions inside Riley by developing characters of her emotions; which include Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Not to sound like a Debbie Downer, but my personal cerebral character of the picture was Sadness; actress Phyllis Smith did a stellar vocal performance as Sadness, which ironically brought me much joy in laughter. Anyways, back to the narrative. When things go wrong inside Riley's brain when Joy is jumped out from Riley's memory headquarters, Riley becomes disillusioned about her new life in San Francisco and finds no joy in it. Joy, alongside Sadness, must find their way back to Riley's Cerebral Headquarters before she loses all emotion. Other solid vocal performances came straight outta the mouths of Amy Poehler as Joy, Bill Hader as Fear, and Mindy Kaling as Disgust. "Inside Out" is one smart computer-animated flick you should delve inside to and check out. ***** Excellent
I Am Chris Farley (2015)
I am Joel "Meeza" Mesa (also known as a Lobsterman in a little boat) and the following is my review on the insightful documentary on the legendary late great comic Chris Farley entitled "I Am Chris Farley". Brent Hodge and Derik Murray, who collaborated in writing and directing the documentary, interview Farley's comic collaborators including SNL peers: Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, David Spade and others; and they provide their enlightening stories on their work & experiences with Chris on the SNL set. Chris Farley's brothers also put their ten cents in the pleasure of having Chris as a brother. Sure, the doc does present on Farley's drug addiction & low self-esteem which ultimately led to his death; but Hodge & Murray prioritized more the lively, generous, caring, and vivacious talented comic that was Chris Farley by celebrating his life. Farley was not just a Chippendale, I mean chip of the old block. Even through his depression, Farley had so much life in him; and it's very disheartening that his life was short lived. So that was me, Joel "Meeza" Mesa, telling you all Tommy Boys & Girls to see the entertaining documentary "I Am Chris Farley". ***** Excellent
Loved it! So full of life!!!
The independent movie "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is a rich, creative, emotional, and inspiring narrative that is so much more than a tale of a teenager diagnosed with leukemia. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon no se rajo and orchestrates the picture as a quirky gem still respecting that one of its main characters is in a mortal state; and in no way, shape, or form, disrespects that. The film stars Thomas Mann as Greg, a high school student who evades being part of a click in high school, but not having absolute distant from any of them. RJ Cyler co-stars as Earl, Greg's best friend and also film partner. Greg & Earl make eccentric short films with a pun touch on film classics; which personally I think was masterful. My fav of the bunch was Sockwork Orange, which was bloody hilarious. Anyways, back to the story. Greg's mother pressures him to better befriend & be supportive to Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who has just been diagnosed with leukemia. Greg is hesitant at first, but then a very cool friendship blossoms between Greg & Rachel that sure had lots of life in it. Sure, there are a couple of predictable turns in the movie, but it does not hamper the film in one bit. Young thespians Mann, Cyler, and Cooke were very solid in their performances; most notably Cooke. And I loved the supporting work of the underrated Jon Bernthal as Mr. McCarthy, the unorthodox history teacher who becomes some sort of new wave mentor for Greg. Jesse Andrews' adapted screenplay of his novel is Oscar-worthy and I wish I had Jesse's world of script talent. So liven up your life just a little bit, and go visit "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl". It's the best movie I have seen so far in 2015. ***** Excellent
Deux jours, une nuit (2014)
Cotlliard with good work again
It seemed like it took me around two days and one night to complete viewing the import foreign flick "Two Days, One Night". Kidding! Please don't days off with my corny puns, but I found this film to be a bit too monotonous. Acclaimed actress Marion Cotillard stars as Sandra, a young Belgium mother who is caught up in a labor pickle. She gets news that there is a grand possibility that she will be laid off from her job, because her supervisor proposed a bonus to his employees; but for them to get their bonus, Sandra must be laid off. So it's all up to a vote for the employees, it's either "Bonus Siera" or "Axing Sandra". Sandra, fully committed to keep her job, confronts each of her colleagues and pleads for them to vote for her to keep her job. Writer-Director Jean-Pierre Dardenne overworked this process of Sandra confronting her colleagues to vote for her way too much; it did not need the overtime. Nevertheless, Cotillard's thespian labor effort was very commendable, but I do not think it warranted the Best Actress Oscar nomination it received. So I did like Marion's work, but I would vote "no" for the Oscar nom bonus as one of the top 5 female performances of 2014. In all, due to Cotillar'd effort here, it wouldn't kill you to check out "Two Days, One Night" on one of these days or one of these nights. *** Average
Love & Mercy (2014)
Nice little deuce coupe of a flick!
The bio flick "Love & Mercy" tells the tale of the professional and personal life of Brian Wilson, one of the key members of the infamous Beach Boys band. OK, so let's do the math here, I do include an enormous amount of puns in my movie reviews, and I am reviewing a movie about a Beach Boys member. So you know what that means, will have "puns, puns, puns" til my readers start to run away!!! Anyways, Wilson's challenging dilemma was no laughing matter. He battled schizophrenia throughout most of his adult life. Director Bill Pohlad marveled in presenting a double-sided chronology to Wilson's story; first as a young successful songwriter/producer/member of the Beach Boys who thought that "wouldn't it be nice" for the band to transform into a more avant- garde sound which dismayed his Wilson brother bandmates, but most notably his cousin bandmate Mike Love. Paul Dano's performance as the younger Dano was right on key. On the flip side, John Cusack magnificently plays the older Wilson who was already diagnosed with full-fledged schizophrenia and is profoundly controlled by his psychiatrist Dr. Eugene Landy. When the older Wilson meets Melinda Ledbetter, a former model turned car saleswoman, it simply leads to better times for the mentally ailing Wilson; but not without a control fight from Team Landy; let's just say Dr. Landy was a real kokomierda. "Love & Mercy" is an excellent piece, but not a perfect film; the screenplay at times was bit disoriented and repetitious. But from the instant, I picked up "good vibrations" from the supersonic performances from John Cusack and Paul Dano as the Brians, and ledbeter not forget Elizabeth Banks rousing work as Melinda. "God only knows" how people can take so many puns in movie reviews, but "don't worry baby" because I'm just about done here. "Love & Mercy" is worth riding its cinematic wave; in other words, it's beaching, I mean bitching! ***** Excellent
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Was mad with disappointment! But loved the cinematography!!!
Don't get mad with me to the max, but I was not enthralled at all with "Mad Max:Fury Road". George Miller's redux of his classic 80's Mad Max franchise was mostly about visual storytelling but there was no true connection with any of the characters, mostly the madman himself Max. If you are not familiar with this franchise, the film takes place in a dystopian future where eccentric characters set the pave to a divided society. Tom Hardy stars as Max, who is about to be killed in some type of mundane "chain to a speeding truck" kind of deal; when circumstances change, he now joins a group of female rebels led by Imperator Furiosa, profoundly played by Charlize Theron; but not to the caliber of Oscar nominated, don't get furioso with me, just my take. Tom Hardy, who is one of my favorite actors, turns out his worst performance of his career; he looked lost and stale throughout the picture. However, I am still in the Tom Tom Club as a Hardy fan; Hardy har har. Nicholas Hoult was sound as the desperate Nux. Director George Miller's direction was way over the top, and not much could be said of his limited screenplay. Hey, but I did not hate it all together. John Seale's brilliant cinematography got my seal of approval. "Mad Max: Fury Road" was a road for me that will be less traveled. *** Average
Ted 2 (2015)
The Beeeeear did not have it this time around
I absolutely had a plethora of laugh-out-loud laughs in the first 20 minutes of "Ted 2", the sequel to the very good predecessor "Ted" film. But I could not "bear" the rest of the movie with its ludicrous plot of Ted's struggle to be claimed as a person. What!!! The raunchy Ted bear is now married to his cerebrally-challenged but "easy on the eyes" supermarket colleague Tammi-Lynn. Ted is still best buddies with Mark Wahlberg's John; no not Mark Wahlberg's bathroom, but the John character he plays who is Ted's best pal and thunder buddy. John is now divorced and in a depressed state. When Ted finds out he is not being designated as a person, he gets John to help his cause for "I'm a person" justice alongside novice stoner female lawyer Samantha (which by the way, was portrayed atrociously by Amanda Seyfried). Writer-Director Seth MacFarlane, who also voices Ted, did include a few classic Ted hilarious raunchy scenes. But MacFarlane went way off the the far lane, when he tried to drive "Ted 2" into a "plight for justice" lesson- learning movie. It simply did not work, and I hate to bear this one on you also: but the bear Ted has overextended his welcome into my cinematic world; the novelty has worn off. Call me wicked, but "Ted 2" is the most disappointing (but not worst) movie I have seen so far in 2015. It just was not beary good! ** Needs Improvement