Category Archives: Film Listings/Ratings

Neighbors (Nicholas Stoller – 2015) B-

We have the almost-middle-aged married couple with the baby. They still want to be cool and fun. So, when a frat house opens next door they figure they can hang out and be friends…as long as the nice guys in the frat house keep the noise level down. Well this is all well and good until the couple call the cops one evening. It’s a good comedy with like-able characters and some very funny setups.

The Martian (Ridley Scott – 2015) B+

I loved the book and as is most of the time the case it is tough not to compare the two. That is why I think a film gets a much fairer shake if you have not read the source material. The movie is very good though. It moves at a good pace and has just enough geeky-science to be interesting without getting bogged down. It’s a fun and slick survival adventure of astronaut Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars and needs to survive on a planet that has no atmosphere, water or food. The Martian really works because it is fairly realistic. Everything that Watney or his partners at NASA do seems reasonable, calculated  and possible. This made for smart entertainment for the whole family.

The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu – 2015) A

This is a tremendous movie and quiet an achievement. It’s not a fun or entertaining experience but it is like nothing I’ve seen before. The story is set in the early 19th century pre-American wilderness of the Dakotas. It is cold, wild, full of misery and death. When fur trapper Hugh Glass is left for dead after a bear mauling he tries to survive and make it back to exact revenge on those who betrayed him and left him. It’s not a revenge story but that of survival in the very harsh environment where the elements, animals and humans are trying to kill you. It is a rough and harsh movie with a backdrop of awesome beauty.

Leonardo Di Caprio delivers and exceptional performance as Glass in an obviously difficult role. The way the movie is shot and framed is beautiful and terrifying. Iñárritu loves his closeups and low camera placement. He makes us live every moment with Glass as if we are there. We feel the cold, the pain, the hunger and exhaustion as he tries to make his way back. Some scenes here are so good and so effective that they will be difficult to forget, like that bear mauling. The Revenant might not be entertaining but it is a great movie that I am glad exists. After the good Birdman and now this, I am eager to see what Iñárritu is up to next.

Tangerine (Sean Baker – 2015) A-

I love these “surprise” movies (which after the fact I found out it was filmed on an iPhone! pretty cool). Every Christmas Eve I stay up very late and watch a random movie, usually and indie and possibly unknown to me. This has a bonus that it is also set in one day on Christmas Eve in L.A. It’s an energetic emotional and sometimes very funny film about a transgender prostitute who is on a mission to get to the bottom of who her pimp/boyfriend is cheating on her with. We also get a related and intertwining story of an Armenian cab driver and his family issues along the way. The way everyone performs and how the movie is shot, almost in a different Los Angeles that we have never seen before, is fantastic. It all makes sense and the final scenes are a logical and sweet payoff.

The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino – 2015) A

I got the chance to see this as part of the Special Roadshow Engagement. The experience is a homage to the grand film exhibition styles of the 50’s and 60’s when going to see a film was a big deal. The movie includes a musical overture, a souvenir program and an intermission. The movie was also filmed on Ultra Panavision 70 with a huge aspect ratio that made it look spectacular on the huge screen. All in all it was a fantastic experience.

The movie itself is another great entry in Tarantino’s record. It’s a tight multi-act play with long stretches of his trademark dialogue interspersed with those beautifully composed shots and sets, great score (by Ennio Morricone) and very strong  bloody violence. Throughout we listen to these men and woman talk scheme and murder while trying to figure out who will make it till the end of the night alive. More than any of his films I think here Tarantino plays it mostly straight. This is a rough and harsh western with a bit of mystery thrown in. The cast does a very good job especially Kurt Russel, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams – 2015) B+

The best thing George Lucas has done since the original Star Wars trilogy is sell it to Disney. Episode VII might not be the most original story-wise but it is a lot of fun, with cool characters that we care about and several great set pieces. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are so good as Rey and Finn, two new characters that carry the whole movie. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them.