Rob Watches Movies

Reviews of every film I watch. The Good, The Bad and The Mothman Prophecies.

Category: Oscars (page 2 of 4)

The Big Short – 9/10

Further confirmation that the world is indeed a fucking awful place…

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Trumbo – 8/10

Bryan Cranston smokes cigarettes in the bath…

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Spotlight – 9/10

‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’ – Deuteronomy 32:35

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Room – 8.5/10

Take a fucking bow Brie Larson…

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Hollywood is blessed right now with two spectacular actresses in Elizabeth Olsen and Jennifer Lawrence. Brie Larson impressed in The Spectacular Now, dazzled in Short Term 12 and with Room she has taken acting to a level that even Olsen and Lawrence are yet to reach. Before you accuse me of hyperbole, Larson has yet to prove she can carry a franchise or show the sheer range that Jennifer Lawrence has or the ability to star in a blockbuster like Olsen but in terms of a singular performance, Brie Larson in Room is right up there with any dramatic turn from anyone. She really is that fucking good.

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The Martian – 8/10

Matt Damon makes a film much more fun than his last space outing…

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Since Gravity in 2013 there has been one big space movie every year. Last year it was Interstellar and 2015 brought Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Now whilst there is no denying the visual brilliance of Gravity or the huge critical acclaim of Interstellar, at times they are both ponderous and humourless affairs. The Martian‘s great strength is that it combines breathtaking effects and science, with a brilliantly down to Earth (sorry) performance from Matt Damon.

Unlike say Interstellar, The Martian is laugh out loud funny on numerous occasions and credit must go to Ridley Scott for combining comedic actors such as Kirsten Wiig and Community‘s Donald Glover with a plethora of excellent acting talent like Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels. Daniels in particular is perfect for the tone of the film as he is equally comfortable in both dramatic and comedic roles and he gets a chance to do both in The Martian.

Leading the pack is Matt Damon who carries the early part of the movie where it is basically just him and the scenery with ease. Damon has made a career out of playing understated but charismatic characters and his Mark Watney is both likeable and relatable despite being an astronaut and genius botanist.

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Rounding of the cast are Kate Mara and Michael Pena who are both on their way to becoming household names already and it is this incredibly talented collection of actors that make for an engrossing story that never outstays it’s welcome even at over 2 hours.

The Martian shows that you can combine serious science with heart wrenching emotion and still end up with a fun and easy watch. In the movie space race of the last three years, The Martian is easily taking home the gold medal.

JFK – 7/10

3 hours and 25 minutes of really intense dialogue is softened by Kevin Costner’s lovely sorrowful eyes…

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Kevin Costner – actor and dreamboat

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Short Film Sunday – Curfew

Title: Curfew

Director: Shawn Christensen

Released: 2012

Length: 19 min

 

Shawn Christensen writes, directs and stars in this Oscar winning short film about loneliness, family and redemption. Curfew opens with Richie sitting in the bathtub having just split his wrists. He receives a call from his sister begging him to look after his niece, a moral dilemma…

Christensen is excellent as the beleaguered protagonist and questions about his past are left vague enough to keep things interesting. In 19 short minutes the likeable Christensen has the audience rooting for him and the ending is emotional without feeling forced or contrived.

Not content with writing, acting and directing the damn thing, Christensen also wrote and performed the song that plays over a seminal and beautiful dance sequence in a bowling alley. Indeed the soundtrack is in general very good with Alex Ebert’s (of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s) beautiful track Truth fitting perfectly over the end credits.

Curfew has been my favourite of the Short Film Sunday series so far and it is easy to see why it won an Oscar back in 2013. Christensen turned this short into a critically acclaimed film titled Before I Disappear.

 

The Revenant – 8.5/10

Leonardo di Caprio goads the academy with another breathtaking performance…

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How unusual is it for the one of the best films of the year to be released only two weeks in? The Revenant is due to hit cinemas on the 15th of January in the UK and it is difficult to imagine too many superior films coming out next year.

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s previous film Birdman is not actually that indicative of his earlier work. 21 Grams and Babel are long, studied takes on faith, death and loss and The Revenant is a startling return to those themes.

Whilst 21 Grams and Babel were both visually stunning, Iñárritu failed to match the lofty ideas and visuals with a compelling story line, rendering both films quite a difficult, if rewarding, viewing experience.

On The Revenant everything has come together beautifully for Iñárritu and his astonishing cast. Tom Hardy is an actor in the prime of his career at the moment and in a year of excellent performances, The Revenant is his best. Barely recognizable as the Bill to DiCaprio’s The Bride, Hardy is a grotesque, barely intelligible figure.

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Tom Hardy as Fitzgerald

His co-star Leonardo DiCaprio is also in a sparkling run of form in recent years. His last five films: The Wolf of Wall Street, The Great GatsbyDjango Unchained, J. Edgar and Inception. Wow. However I am actually not massively surprised that Leo hasn’t won an Oscar during this run. As compelling as the performances were, his last three roles are very similar. We know that Leo can play a Jordan Belfort or a Jay Gatsby.

His performance here though is a thing of beauty. DiCaprio conveys more emotion with barely any dialogue than anything he has appeared in since Blood Diamond. Combined with Hardy’s career best turn, yet another strong performance from Domhnall Gleeson and a breakout performance from Will Poulter and you are left with a show stopping and incredibly disparate set of characters and actors.

Visually The Revenant is awe inspiring. The scenery is harsh but constantly beautiful and the CGI whilst used sparingly is unforgettable. One scene in particular will be remembered for years to come but I don’t want to spoil it here…

The Revenant is a director, and various actors, at the very top of their games, with a simple yet effective story, and a clear but harsh message of faith and forgiveness.

Mad Max: Fury Road – 8/10

A heavy metal apocalypse…

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36 years after the original Mad Max, director George Miller returns to the iconic franchise for an update. As reboots go Mad Max: Fury Road is probably the most successful since Batman Begins in 2005. As with Nolan’s dark, gritty take on the dark knight, Miller refuses to tell the same story again with Fury Road a totally different story to the original Mad Max.

The world presented in Mad Max: Fury Road is nightmarish and obsessed with violence and greed whilst still remaining vibrant and colourful. The landscapes are so pronounced as to almost be overbearing but the star power of Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron brings the human element of the story into sharp focus. Nicolas Hoult also impresses in an unrecognisable turn as Nux further cementing his position as one of Britain’s top actors.

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Actor and handsome devil Tom Hardy.

While Hardy, Theron et al are very good it is the action sequences that are the real star of Fury Road. Imagine the car chase sequence from Blues Brothers but two hours long and set in a desert occupied by Tolkien’s murderous Orc’s and you are somewhere close to the constant high octane action that courses through Fury Road.

Underneath all the explosions and violence though there is a number of high quality performances, some stunning visual flair and cinematography and a memorable and fitting soundtrack. In this reboot Miller has created one of the most successful reboots and one of the best out and out action films in years.

George Miller’s last film before Fury Road was Happy Feet 2 in 2011. Happy Feet 3 should be interesting…

American Sniper – 7.5/10.

He might shout at empty chairs once in a while but Clint Eastwood knows how to tell a story…

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First off, the elephant in the room. Any film about the war in Iraq is always going to be controversial. A film celebrating the life of a sniper in the U.S army who described Iraqi insurgents as ‘savages’ and also told of how he ‘loved’ killing them, takes this controversy to a new level. American Sniper is not a propaganda film or a recruitment video however. It is at its essence entertainment and should be treated as such.

With that out of the way is American Sniper actually any good? I am happy to say that it is mostly successful. Bradley Cooper continues his incredible trajectory with another confident and touching performance. To receive Oscar noms in three consecutive films as diverse as Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and American Sniper is quite the achievement for Cooper and all the work that he put in to become protagonist Chris Ryan pays off in spades.

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American Sniper does dip a little in the middle with a long Zero Dark Thirty style shoot out. I always think the most boring parts of any war film is the actual fighting itself which is one of the reasons I enjoyed Jarhead so much. Even in these moments Bradley Cooper injects a personal touch into what should be disconnecting fighting scenes.

Cooper smoulders with an intensity that bubbles under even in the quieter scenes and his co star Sienna Miller overcomes any doubts that anyone could have had about her ability to pull off a role as emotive as Chris Ryan’s wife Taya. Eastwood has a history of getting the most out of his cast and everyone in support seems to have bought into what is an astounding story no matter what your political alliances are.

Is Chris Ryan a hero? It depends who you ask. Does it matter? Not in the context of this film. A stunning return to form for Eastwood and more of the same from Cooper.

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