Thursday, December 31, 2015

Carol (2015)

Director: Todd Haynes. Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler. 118 min. Rated R. UK/USA. Drama/Romance.

To declare that Carol, an illustration of the impossible 1950s homosexual relationship between the elegant Cate Blanchett and the always poker-faced Rooney Mara, is one of mankind's most advanced treatment for insomnia, would be the understatement of the year. People can hail Blanchett's acting achievement, critics can go berserk how great the movie is, and you may feel differently about it - but watching it, I lost track how many times I looked at my watch.

Mo says:

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Director: Quentin Tarantino. Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum, Zoe Bell. 168 min. Rated R. Western/Thriller.

I was always suspicious Tarantino's creative juices would some day come to an end, and that day seems to be on the horizon. The same multi-chaptered story-telling, the same piecemealing information to keep the viewer engaged, the same beautiful dialogue written by a movie-lover for movie-lovers. But Tarantino can only keep that up for so long. It's unnecessarily lengthy, and if there ever was a reason to stamp this with a Mojo score, it would've been for the great Ennio Morricone's haunting soundtrack, written original for this film. But this was the first time Tarantino did not blow me away.

Mo says:

Crimson Peak (2015)

Director: Guillermo del Toro. Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain. 119 min. Rated R. USA/ Canada. Fantasy/Horror.

Guillermo Del Toro doesn't work for me. You can't make an elaborate haunted house movie, and make the haunted house the only thing done elaborately. The cinematography and production design are exquisite, and the movie is just beautiful to look at, but the story of two British siblings luring a naive American girl to England to benefit from her father's fortunes had so many plot holes, I lost interest in the view way before the end. And Chastain was in the wrong role for the very first time. I understand everybody's crazy about Del Toro. I just don't get him.

Mo says:

Creed (2015)

Director: Ryan Coogler. Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad. 133 min. Rated PG-13. Drama/Sport.

The late Apollo Creed's teenage son (who for some reason loves to fight) is pulled out of a juvenile correctional facility, and later seeks out his father's opponent Rocky Balboa to train him to fame - without using the benefit of his dad's name. It's the beloved underdog story: while the younger Creed fights to become champion, the older Balboa fights his own physical and mental demons. If there ever was a fitting sequel to the Rocky movies, this is it. But they really need to stop doing this. You can't make an Avengers-type franchise out of a 70s Oscar-winner.

Mo says:

99 Homes (2014)

Director: Ramin Bahrani. Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern. 112 min. Rated R. Drama.

Critics may consider this a change of pace for the independent Bahrani, due to the use of big name Hollywood stars. But the themes are same: watching American life through the ethical (almost pitiful) point-of-view of a director with an Iranian upbringing. That description may sound like the film is preachy, but it's not - it shows the reality of the level of filth a prominent portion of the American housing market has stooped down to. This movie is tense and hurting, because it may be about you (as victim or aggressor). Best Supporting Actor Oscar possibilities for Michael Shannon here.

Mo says:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Director: J.J. Abrams. Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Domhnall Gleeson, Simon Pegg, Kenny Baker, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Warwick Davis, Max von Sydow. 135 min. Rated PG-13. Action/Adventure/Fantasy.

Seriously? Does it matter what anyone writes now about this movie? After all the brainwashing hype and advertising, if I give it a positive review, even a MoMagic score, you'd say: "Just another Star Wars fan" (after the Phantom Menace debacle, even I can't trust my own positive score), and if I see negative reviewers (4 out of 140 currently on the Tomatometer), I'd label them as attention-seekers. All I know is, Abrams directed it, and Kasdan wrote it, and I trust them to make a splendid movie. Other than that, we need a year for the dust to settle.

Mo says:

Go watch it for yourself.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Amy (2015)

Director: Asif Kapadia. 128 min. Rated R. UK/USA. Documentary.

Is this a documentary about a celebrity who was also a drug addict/alcoholic, or a picture of a drug addict/alcoholic who was also a celebrity? Amy Winehouse fans may believe it is the former; for me, unfamiliar with her or her music before her untimely death, it's the latter - because Amy, poignant as it is, was unable to bridge that gap. That's considering we're living in an era where documentaries such as Searching for Sugar Man, Part of Me or Shine a Light are making certain singers attractive to non-fans. And those singers aren't even dead yet.

Mo says:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Youth (2015)

Director: Paolo Sorrentino. Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda. 118 min. Rated R. Italy/France/Switzerland/UK. Drama.

Ahhh, that great up and coming poet, Sorrentino. After watching About Schmidt, I thought I'd understood what senility was all about. But that was a comedy, and reality is much harsher. Youth will put you into that daze, feeling how it feels to be this once great composer, who never even considered the wife he so adored, who's been invited to conduct for the Queen but resists the temptation because he's never had fun in his life and now it's too late. The beautiful Great Beauty was mesmerizing, but you won't notice the time passing by on this one.

Mo says:

Pawn Sacrifice (2014)

Director: Edward Zwick. Cast: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lily Rabe. 115 min. Rated PG-13. Biography.

I read once that ever since those two planes hit the twin towers on live TV, documentaries have become more interesting than movies. This is demonstrated here very well. The 2011 documentary was a fascinating account of Bobby Fischer, genius chess grandmaster and paranoid schizophrenic. You'd think Zwick would take advantage of all the amazing possibilities movie dramatization has to offer. He doesn't much. Tobey Maguire and Liev Schrieber are awesome as Fischer and Spassky, and the soundtrack makes some tense moments more tangible, but the film never adds any new emotion to what I'd already sensed about the man.

Mo says:

Meru (2015)

Director(s): Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. 87 min. Rated R. India/USA. Documentary.

Unfortunately, I had the same problem here I had with Everest some days ago. Even a documentary was unable to help me understand why one with a wife and kids would knowingly risk their life, and accept the risk of their friends dying, for an admittedly impossible climb such as the Meru Wall in the Himalayas. Is the motive anything other than, "Please look at me"? Again, the cinematography here is breath-talking, but again, so is the idiocy.

Mo Says:

Brooklyn (2015)

Director: John Crowley. Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Jim Broadbent, Domhnall Gleeson. 111 min. Rated PG-13. Ireland/UK/Canada. Drama/Romance.

For a very long time, I thought this movie about a young lady immigrating alone in the 1950s from Ireland to America, is either about Saoirse Ronan's blue eyes, or about how slow a movie can be paced. But that was preamble to a story that applies to any immigration, even today (experienced first-hand by myself): do you stick to what you grew up with, or dare new values in the new land? Curiously, I saw Entertainment Weekly has written what I'd told a relative a week before: this is the year's best movie to watch with your Mom.

Mo says:

Friday, December 4, 2015

Spotlight (2015)

Director: Tom McCarthy. Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup. 128 min. Rated R. History/Drama.

We've heard the story before, both in the news and in the movies, probably more crushing in documentary form: the Catholic Church child molestation scandal. Spotlight is the story of how it first exploded in the media in the early 2000s - originating from The Boston Globe, a newspaper that (at least on film) works exactly like a police crime unit. But if it wasn't for the mesmerizing acting talents of Keaton, Ruffalo, McAdamas and Tucci, this repeating narrative would've hardly seen the light of day. The Academy sure made a mistake at not giving Keaton his Oscar last year.

Mo says:

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Best of Enemies (2015)

Director(s): Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville. 87 min. Rated R. Documentary.

Chronicling the TV debates between two liberal and conservative intellectuals, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr., during the 1968 presidential campaign - which apparently was more interesting than the presidential campaign itself, because instead of discussing viewpoints, the debate became a boxing match for personal attacks and personality exposé. The documentary brings up the side (or probably main) question: if you are given a chance to publicly humiliate your opponent's character through his/her ideology, would you proceed? The film made me despise the debate winner, even though I usually lean towards his philosophy.

PS: Thank you, Mohi, for the recommendation.

Mo says: