Category Archives: Film Listings/Ratings

The Big Short (Adam Mckay – 2015) B+

It’s scary that the events in this movie only happened a few years ago yet somehow it feels like a period piece not events from a very recent history. The movie takes place in the years preceding the 2008 real estate economic crisis when a small group of investors who saw the pending collapse coming and bet on it. Through these characters we learn a lot about what went wrong and how it went wrong. Adam Mckay keeps the pace clicking along and infuses a lot of levity and different story-telling techniques to transform what could be a very dull topic into something coherent and fun. The actors do a very good job overall, especially Steve Carell whose character I actually cared about and liked watching him evolve and change. The remaining characters are mostly one-dimensional, fun, but not much beyond what we see on the screen. The Big Short is a very good movie, it does what it intends to do with wit and style and keeps us engaged while we learn about synthetic CDOs.

Crimson Peak (Guillermo Del Toro – 2015) C-

It’s a very nice looking movie and not a bad thriller. Did we need ghosts here though? Sure they look cool and creepy but not sure they serve any purpose at all. They just happen to make frequent appearances in a film about a young bride, her mysterious new husband, his creepy sister and the creepier old estate they are trying to maintain.

NOMA: My Perfect Storm (Pierre Deschamps – 2015) B-

Interesting and a good double feature with For Grace. This is more about the philosophy of chef Redzepi, the struggle to have a balance between running the restaurant, keeping his “Best in the World” title and his personal life. The problem is that along with the wonderful food and hard work on the screen I mostly got the impression of Redzepi as very angry and high strung. I think it could’ve been a better doc with a bit more direction and refinement.

For Grace (Mark Helenowski, Kevin Pang – 2015) B+

I knew of chef Curtis Duffy and his 3 star restaurant in Chicago, Grace, and I’m a sucker for chef/restaurant docs so I checked this one out on Netflix. I expected a well made and beautifully shot film with some background about Duffy and plenty of awesome plated food shots as he struggles to open Grace. Well, I got some of that but i did not expect the tragedy in his background and how much it influenced him. This ended up more of an emotional human story about tragedy and its aftermath. Some face tragedy and can never move on, others do their damndest to get over it and build something better against the odds. I’m glad Duffy is in the latter category.

Inherent Vice ( P.T. Anderson – 2014) A

Crazy, weird and after two viewings I am not sure I know exactly what is going on or what is real vs imagined. I know it is somewhat of a cliche but really this movie needs more than one viewing. At first you were like “am I supposed to follow this story?”, you try and fail. On the second viewing you KNOW that the plot -as dense and convoluted as it is- does not matter. So, you let go and just go with the flow of the insane path that Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) starts following after Shasta tells him that her rich boyfriend’s wife and her boyfriend (the wife not Shasta’s) are planning to throw him (Shasta’s rich boyfriend that is) into the loony bin and take his money…and that’s in the first 10 minutes of the film.

This is another of those style and mood over plot. From the character names (Shasta? Amethyst? Sortilege?) to the solid 70s clothing, cars and beach-bum-hippie culture. We get a crazy beam of colors, words and settings that total up to a very immersive experience. The interesting thing is that on top of all the ridiculousness and the drug-addled atmosphere there is a sweet hopeful humanity here and a sense of loss. I am not a child of the 60s or 70s but the film oddly enough made me feel nostalgic to these time and made me feel for the sense of loss of a certain culture, neighborhood and way of life. It’s a funny film most of the time, very funny at times. It’s a movie about relationships about being with the one you love while knowing it’s not a good idea and it will end bad.

The characters are real and surreal at the same time, I’m not even sure Sortilege, our narrator even exists. As for the relationship between the oddest of odd partners, that of Doc Sportello and Det. Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen? It’s fascinating and Joaquin Phoenix and Josh Brolin go all in for those roles delivering fun, energetic and memorable performances. Big Foot is an actor turned detective (or he could be both at the same time I suppose). He abuses Doc, thinks very little of him or his life-style but also seems to listen and depend on him all the while towing the line between square white-shirt detective and bat-shit crazy.

This is obviously a very polarizing movie and P.T. Andersen’s most inaccessible work yet. It is not for everyone’s taste and that makes sense. I am glad I gave it another viewing and for me it worked very well.

The Visit (M. Night Shyamalan – 2015) B+

The movie really hinges on the two kids in it doing a good job and they do. The older sister of the two siblings is a budding documentary film-maker and we see the whole movie through her lens as she and her rap artist wannabee little brother go visit their grandparents in rural Pennsylvania. They’ve never met them before and quickly realize that there is something really wrong with grandma here…It’s a bit predictable but the film works well. The acting is good, the scenes are tense and finally Shyamalan makes a movie that is actually worth watching.