Film Review : Anomalisa (2015)

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IMDB Score – 7.3

Rotten Tomato Score – 92%

Metacritic Score – 88%

Directed By – Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson

Starring – David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan

A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.

Well, now I’m depressed.

I’ve always been perplexed and intrigued by the work of Charlie Kaufman. I always thought he was able to get down to the reality of what makes us human and what drives our emotions. I didn’t understand Synecdoche, New York but actually purchased a DVD of it in order to dive into it more. I have yet to do that. I’ve seen Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind once each and while I found each of them incredibly daring and inventive, there has always been something holding me back from repeat viewings. Anomalisa will most likely join that group as I honestly don’t feel a need to see it again even though I took a lot away from it. It’s a polarizing film but ultimately a very important one.

I’ve struggled with depression and issues with apathy my whole life so the aspect of the film where every looks exactly alike and sounds exactly the same hit a chord. The use of Tom Noonan’s voice for every single character besides the main two was a brilliant move from the get go but adding the fantastic Tom Noonan to play that part was just wonderful to me. He was able to really sell each and every person as a mundane boring entity who almost attack Michael Stone with the challenge of remaining engaged and interested. Have we not all felt like that at one point or another? How many conversations do we have where we completely forget afterwards because of how routine and robotic they are? I felt the mans pain. I also think that part of the reason he was so out of touch with life is because of how selfish he was. This is something I can relate to and is the main culprit for making me feel a bit shitty after the viewing. Michael is battling himself so much that every person he comes in contact with is at the mercy of his own emotions. It’s something I’ve done for years as I try to figure out my purpose and role in life. It’s not fair to others to constantly have to hold the hand of somebody who has no idea what they want out of life. I thought the film hit that theme perfectly, honestly, and without holding anything back. It may be a reason why I feel shitty but it’s also a great takeaway from a film. I like feeling something tangible after seeing a film.

The film is also extremely intimate. We’re witnessing some very real and very personal experiences in this film. It doesn’t surprise me that the most intense and intimate moments in this film are when either one of the characters, and also both at the same time, are literally stripping away the walls we keep up to protect ourselves. The film uses the bare body a lot to kind of show how fragile and private some people are. The sex scene in the film was almost too realistic to watch. I felt like I really didn’t have a place to be there with these two characters, which is kind of funny considering they were animated. It really was a job well done by both directors to portray such a moment like that in the style in which they did.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending, which was almost as bleak as the entire film, but it’s something that left a lasting impression. Do some people have a special ability to attach themselves to other people and never lose interest or love, or do people have exciting and wild first encounters that die out emotionally and we’re left with routine and robotic relationships? It kind of reminds me of a quote from the Fincher film Zodiac. Robert Graysmith’s obsession had gone down an unstoppable path and his wife has had enough. She says it was basically “a first date that never ended”. That quote stuck with me. I think some people struggle with maintaining the passion and exciting feelings they have when they first meet somebody who stimulates them. Those feelings fade and they’re constantly trying to either recapture them or find meaning in something else. My issues are a bit different than that but I feel it’s the main theme of Anomalisa and I couldn’t help but relate to them.

I’m still depressed though. A bleak film sometimes leaves bleak aftershocks. Yet it’s definitely a window into some of the less talked about but very real emotions that a large number of people deal with. I loved the honesty and intimacy ¬†of the film and I hope that Charlie Kaufman doesn’t take eight more years to give us another film.

4.5/5

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Film Review : Spotlight (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 97%
Metacritic Score – 93/100

Directed By – Tom McCarthy
Starring – Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Neal Huff, and Billy Crudup

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was sitting in my Intro to Journalism class with excitement in my bones because I had finally gotten to the point where I was going to learn how to become something I’ve wanted to become since I was a kid, a journalist. Well, thanks to the very mediocre standards at a particular country college in New Jersey, that dream was, and still is, put on hold. Frankly, I wasn’t a big fan of newspaper journalism. I didn’t care about what was said in the town meeting this weekend because it most likely involved Mrs. Phelp’s rose bush and how she couldn’t expand it due to the stupid creek next to her house which should be filled up. I don’t care about Mrs. Phelps. I wanted and still want to be a conflict journalist. The real dream is travel the world and report on stories that aren’t so readily available to be told. Stories that Vice started to do before they started writing articles on what food is the best before anal sex. I wanted to expose crime and change how people saw the world. This would entail exposing the world as a dark evil place filled with criminals, but at least the rosey colored glasses would be puled back a bit. That dream has been put on hold while I try figure out my life in more immediate ways. That doesn’t however keep me from planning such adventures. They’re still present in my mind. They came back up to the surface in a big way after finishing Tom McCarthy’s 2015 film that thankfully doesn’t star Adam Sandler, Spotlight.

You read the synopsis at the top. You read the newspapers ten years ago. The Catholic Church is fucked up. Like, REALLY REALLY fucked up. My interest in this film was tied to the journalism aspect as I described in the first paragraph, but I also wanted to see how a major market film would handle this kind of subject matter. I turned out to be very pleased with how they decided to do it.

Spotlight is basically This century’s “All the Presidents Men”. Yes, I’m aware that this observation has been realized and written down by probably every single person who has ever talked about this film this year. It does however ring true. McCarthy decided to stay close to the procedural side of telling this story and skip all the shiny dressings that usually accompanies a salad like this. With Spotlight, you have just basic ingredients, except these ingredients are made with extreme care and focus. Gone are the things like romantic ties between main characters. Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton don’t have a secret love fling. Swirling orchestral music isn’t harpooned at us whenever something emotional or powerful happens. The film lets us do all the work when it comes down to feelings and it’s to the films credit that by the end, my gut has been falcon punched into infinity. The film stands for itself and that’s really what I loved about it. The camera work wasn’t flashy but you can really notice it in small movements during pivotal scenes toward the end. McCarthy didn’t paint a new and unheard of masterpiece with his camera, rather he decided to hunker down and make every damn shot and cut count. It’s a reason why the film got nominated for editing, director, and screenplay. Those three things are what make this film special to me. It’s a technically perfect film as far as pace and tone goes, especially with the dark subject matter. It would almost be insulting to try to throw in cheesy love triangles when talking about something as serious as the rape of A LOT OF KIDS BY PRIESTS.

Speaking of subject matter, uhhhh yeah, it’s pretty horrible. The interviews with the victims and in one case, one of the men responsible, were done extremely well. McAdams does her best work here. I’m honestly a little perplexed why she got nominated for this role as I thought that Charlize Theron was phenomenal in Mad Max, but it’s not like McAdams was in any way bad. It wasn’t special to me. Mark Ruffalo however deserved his nomination. The dude killed it like he usually does. Keaton and the rest of the cast were perfect in their roles and you can’t really go wrong with casting Stanley Tucci in anything. The cast were perfect in their handling of such dark and disturbing subject matter. They were just as invested in their roles as the journalists they were portraying were in theirs.

The film is nominated for Best Picture and honestly, I wouldn’t be upset if it won. It’s not a special effects marvel like The Revenant or Mad Max, but it does what it does perfectly and that is tell the story of one of the biggest scandals of the last couple hundred years. It’s a haunting film that stuck with me for a while after I saw it and will hopefully shed a little more light on the church. My journalism path may be on hold, but I’m happy there was a film this year dedicated to the craft of reporting stories that aren’t getting any light.

4.5/5



Film Review : Inside Out (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 98%
Metacritic Score – 94/100

Directed By – Pete Doctor
Starring – Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, and Kaitlyn Dias

After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

I’m back. It’s been a few weeks since my last review. I’ve been busy with work and trying to get rid of this flat tire I have for a stomach. Work and gym can take up a large portion of your day. I finally got out to the theater since the debacle that was Jurassic World. Ant Man and Trainwreck should be following this shortly, but first I had to get out to see something I’ve been waiting for a long time to see…PIXAR BACK IN FORM!

I’ll start this by saying that I have not seen Cars 2 or Brave. I hated the first Cars movie and I just haven’t gotten around to seeing Brave. I will say however that it has been a long time since we got the four film streak of Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. I missed those days. Finally an original idea comes back into our minds with the help of the wonder animators over at Pixar. It has to do with the brain. It has awesome voice actors I love. I’m in. I’m ready. Let’s get to this.

I have to comment on the short that preceded the film first. Guys, it was nice. I know a lot of people are REALLY digging it, my friend who saw the movie with me included, but I don’t see the huge deal. The short is about a volcano out in the ocean and how he would like a lady volcano to do whatever it is volcanoes are supposed to do when they have feelings and presumably sex organs. The whole thing is sung in a Hawaiian ukulele song by the who main characters. It was nice. I didn’t really get emotional like other people did because it was a simple story that got dark but you just KNEW it was going to get happy again. It. was. nice. Moving on…

I loved the film. There is a certain point that the great films by Pixar reach where it is hard to rank them as to which one is your favorite. I feel, on a first viewing, that Inside Out can join those rankings. I’m talking about Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and The Incredibles status. They took a fresh idea and built this fully functioning world that not only came off believable, but sucked you into the film by connecting so deeply through emotion. I mean, that’s what this whole film is about right? Emotions? Inside Out takes emotions and highlights just how powerful and important they can be in our life. I’ve always held the idea that you need to be in tune with all of your emotions to be a balanced person and this film just took that idea and ran with it.

If for some reason you haven’t seen the previews…here’s the premise. Riley is a 12 year old girl living with her parents in Minnesota. Inside her head is a vast network of “things” that help work Riley’s brain. The key five figures in this world are her basic emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and disgust. They control how Riley feels throughout her life in their little headquarters. Riley has to move to California and that act sets in motion a series of events that cause Joy and Sadness to have to work together to figure out how to save this little girl from turning into an emotionless teenager we have all seen on Law and Order SVU.

That’s some deep shit. I don’t even know of kids are supposed to GET all of that stuff. I mean, there are plenty of adults, myself included, that have no grasp of how their emotions work. Asking kids to understand these deep philosophical and neurological ideas was a task that Pixar subsequently fucking nailed. NAILED.

The script was able to balance the line between showing us what was going on inside Riley’s head and what was going on outside of her head perfectly. It was never confusing and it was always concise and fluent. I can’t say enough about the script really. It’s kind of flawless. The only thing I can say is that my favorite character Bing Bong happens to be a recycled Toy Story-esque character who has been forgotten after the child they love has grown up. It still didn’t prevent Bing Bong from being my favorite character. I won’t even explain Bing Bong cause I had no idea he was in the movie until I saw it and the fucking cotton candy elephant knocked me on my ass.

Speaking of that, Pixar has once again proven that it can handle some SERIOUS emotional circumstances with grace and without coming off too heavy handed. Scenes in this film are just as emotionally powerful as the beginning of UP, the end of Finding Nemo, and of course “THAT” scene in Toy Story 3. Especially with Bing Bong. Oh, Bing Bong. I love you so.

The film just tackled growing up so damn well. You don’t know how to feel. You want what you had when you were a kid and full of joy. Things start going in the other direction and sadness all of a sudden has a bigger role to play in your life. Kids have to be able to learn how to deal with sadness and realize that it’s a perfectly normal and important part of life and Inside Out delivered that message beautifully. The thing I love most about the film though is that there were no real heroic acts of triumph or superheros overcoming a villain. There was no villain in this film. Not even a hint of one. This allows kids to be able to get the true meaning of the film which is that you’re not always going to succeed in life. There is going to be sadness and things will change but if you try your best to go with that wave of life then you should be able to come out okay. I thought it was a much better film than say Wreck It Ralph which has similar vibes but ultimately fizzles out by the end.

Did I mention the film is also hilarious? I did forget that. There was a goddamn Chinatown reference in this. CHINATOWN REFERENCE. I loved it. The voice acting was top notch from Poehler Black, and Smith and the world building made me wish the film were four hours long. I could spend all day with the memory janitors. Hysterical.

See the film. It’s a return to top form for Pixar and a serious look at how our emotions shape and change our lives. It’s a great film for kids going through such changes or parents who have a kids going through those changes. Maybe you’re just like me and got all teary eyed because it reminded me of how I went through that period of my life and how I’m handling THIS one. Great job Pixar.

5/5




Film Review : The Boxtrolls (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 75%
Metacritic Score – 61
Oscar Nominated for Best Animated Feature
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Directed By – Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Starring – Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Toni Collette, and Simon Pegg

A young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator. Based on the children’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters’ by Alan Snow.

One of my best friends has seen this movie like five times. He likes movies but is so busy all the time that he doesn’t get a chance to see much. He saw this film FIVE TIMES. Seeing as The Boxtrolls has recently been released on Netflix, my excuses have run dry and it was time to see the film my friend calls one of his favorite movies.

I liked it. I can’t say I liked it nearly as much as he did, but I liked it.

The Boxtrolls tells the story of Eggs, a boy growing up in the sewers and aptly named after the box he wears as weird vest/shirt thing. The Boxtrolls spend their night rummaging through the garbage while the rest of the town sleeps. This garbage is taken down below and turned into crazy inventions. They’re like little elves except stinkier and not as cute. Archibald Snatcher is a lunatic that wants to eradicate the Boxtrolls from the town in order to obtain a white hat and attend cheese parties. Yes, this film is British.

Laika, the production company that makes stop motion films, made one of my favorite animated films of all time in Coraline. The film was like a dark Grimm fairy tale and the animation was fresh and alive. Their second film, Paranorman, was also dark and surprisingly very funny. The story didn’t grasp me as much as Coraline did, but I still enjoyed it. The Boxtrolls is a bit like Paranorman but less dark. These creatures aren’t scary at all. They have animalistic little voices and are generally kind spirited and fun. All the evil and darkness comes from Archibald Snatcher, voiced terrifically by Ben Kingsley. It’s a good versus evil story arch that has been done plenty of times before, but in this case a very unique and different world. That’s what made this movie work for me. The fact that it was also gorgeously shot and animated helped out a great deal too. Kids should be able to find some great lessons tucked away in the story of the film. Pride of your personality and where you came from are themes you can’t really miss. Frankly, I just enjoyed watching the way they animated this thing, and listening to the voice acting. There was some real talent on display behind the microphone here. The three henchmen played by Frost, Morgan, and Ayoade were perhaps my favorite part of the film.

It may be my least favorite Laika film, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It’s unique, funny, and gorgeously shot and should provide for some rewatchability, but maybe not five times worth.

Also, now we know what happened to Bran Stark this season.

3.5/5




Film Review : Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

It’s opening night, so ratings aren’t really needed. The reviews are unbelievably good though

Directed By – George Miller
Starring – Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, JOsh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, and Richard Carter

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

For the first time since The Dark Night, I have dragged myself out to a theater to see a big name film on opening night. I just don’t do it. I like to get to the theater on dead nights and a week or two after the film has come out. It’s just quieter. For some reason I really wanted to see this film as soon as I could due to all the rave reviews I’ve been seeing so far. Rave reviews for an R rated reboot/sequel of a franchise that hasn’t had a film in over 20 years? Yeah, I had to see it. I’m glad I did. It ended up being a fucking blast.

I haven’t seen a Mad Max film since high school. I think a bunch of us sat down and just put them on one after the other and got drunk. That being said, I’m not a huge fan of the universe. The movies were great. Don’t get me wrong. I just wasn’t part of the culture of Mad Max. I was always a Water World type of person.

That’s a joke.

George Miller’s return to non-dancing/talking animals is pretty special. I don’t think I’ve seen a resurrection like this in a long ass time. The film was kick fucking ass. I can’t really call myself a huge action film person. I love story and character development and most of them are missing those two elements. A good handful of films have been able to not only include those two qualities, but also deliver some breathtaking set pieces to go along with it. I’m a fan of the last two Planet of the Apes films. The Batman trilogy was solid. The original Die Hard is one of my favorite films. Besides Batman, I like my action films without superheroes. It’s no surprise that I ended up liking this film so much. As completely batshit insane this movie was, I didn’t really get a sense that none of it could ever happen. The action was somewhat realistic, if we were to ever get as savage as these people that is.

To be honest, I didn’t really understand what the hell was going on for the first ten minutes or so of the film. It was a little jarring to just be shoved into this world of huge lady breast feeding, white zombie looking fellas, and roving marauders with no fear of death. Thankfully this wasn’t a huge deal. I quickly learned that I didn’t need to know anything about this world that they were in. The planet is shit and most people are shit. Here’s a truck with Charlize Theron in it. Go! I was on board.

Speaking of Charlize Theron, this is her movie. I know it is called Mad Max. I know that Tom Hardy was very good in the lead role, but I wasn’t way more drawn to Theron as Furiosa. She’s the one that started this whole movie into overdrive. Hell, without her, Max would still be a hood ornament. The fact that was kicked just as much ass as Max while only having one arm was also a major draw in. I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie that completely focused on her. Theron was that good.

The action was pretty phenomenal. There were some quiet scenes that pushed the story forward a little bit but for the most part the audience is treated to balls to the fucking floor action. Like a nine year old’s Legos box, the vehicles that came from left to right over the course of the movie ranged from terrifying to hilarious. You had spiked cruisers, sand bikes, teeter totter trucks, and my favorite of all, the sound trailer. I wonder how my man got the job on the guitar? Dude has it made. Actually, Miller was able to not only show us an insane character like the guitar marauder, but his inclusion actually helped make the score more intense. I was on the edge of my seat during these car chases.

If you want to have more films like this in theaters, then go see this movie. Huge budget rated R films don’t happen a thousand times a year. Go and see this film to show that there is an audience for these kind of movies. Go see the film because it’s looney-bin crazy too. That’s also a reason to go.

4.5/5