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‘Hateful Eight’ Not That Great

The_Hateful_EightNothing says “holiday season” like over-the-top blood and f-bombs.


“The Hateful Eight” is, ironically, the eighth feature film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino. When eight strangers (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern) get trapped in a lodge during a blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming, they begin to realize that not everyone is who they say they are.


I’m not a huge Tarantino fan, but I do think every one of his films are varying degrees of solid, with “Inglourious Basterds” being his crowning achievement (and one of the better films of the past 10 years). So I went into “Hateful Eight” just expecting fun dialogue and explosive shootouts, as have come associated with Tarantino films. And it is with regret that I say that this is the first time I have come out of one of his films feeling something close to disappointment.


It takes a while for “Hateful Eight” to get going, as the first almost hour is just characters coming into the story, and this is my first gripe with the film. Most every single character is introduced to fellow characters, and the audience, the same way: a third party says something along the lines of, “no way! Is that really [insert character’s name, occupation and claim to fame here]?!” It is pretty lazy to get exposition out of the way using this method, but coming from Tarantino, the so-called master of dialogue, it is almost insulting.


Once things start to get going, they do get going, with some intrigue and a nice little mystery. Only the film doesn’t allow you to play along and solve the mystery yourself, it just lets things play out. It is interesting to see how everything goes down, but since there aren’t any clues given, all you can do is sit; guessing and seeing if you were right would’ve been more fun.


There eventually is all the blood that Tarantino is known for, and as far as quantity of it this may be his most plentiful yet. But if you’re catching on to the trend of this review, this compliment is accompanied with a “but.” And the but here is since the whole film takes place inside of a one room cabin, the action feels compacted and isolated; there’s no space for the characters to really breath. One could argue that is the point of the film and it very well may be, but it does sometimes just take away a sense of fun from the Tarantino shootouts we’ve been spoiled by over the years.


I enjoyed “The Hateful Eight” in bits and pieces, but it is definitely a letdown. The twists aren’t quite mind-blowing enough, the action isn’t quite satisfying enough, and the dialogue just doesn’t have quite enough pop. There are a few smart moments of political and social insight that may get some thinking, but otherwise there isn’t much in this movie worth remembering, and that’s a gosh darn shame.

Critics Rating: 6/10



‘Concussion,’ Smith Let Down By Script

Concussion_posterWell…it’s going to be awkward watching my next NFL game…

Based on a true story, “Concussion” stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who fought against the National Football League from suppressing his research on the brain damage suffered by football players. Albert Brooks and Alec Baldwin co-star as Peter Landesman writes and directs.

Will Smith doesn’t do too much acting nowadays, but when he does the film ranges from average (“Focus”) to dumpster fire (“After Earth”); it can be argued his last good movie was “I Am Legend” in 2007. “Concussion” falls into the former category, as it is a film that has an important message and a strong central performance, but falls flat in most every other category.

Movie accents are a fickle business. They can sometimes propel a performance, like Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond,” but all too often they come off as cheesy and derail a film before it can even get going. Luckily, Will Smith’s African accent isn’t distracting and actually adds to his performance.

Smith’s Omalu is a kind, sympathetic man who growing up in Nigeria wanted nothing more than to be an American. So he continuously does things to try and fit in and help his fellow countrymen; which makes it all the more painful and confusing to him when they reject his discovery of what football hits do to the brain. Smith does a lot with his eyes, and even though he is at the center of the plot and in most every scene, it is a nuanced performance.

Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks both give entertaining and dedicated performances as two of Omalu’s associates, continuing to back him even when the NFL and even FBI threaten him.

Much like “Spotlight” angered us by what the church did to hide the priest sexual abuses, “Concussion” does not paint the NFL in a good light. Not only did they reject Omalu and his research, but they had known about what multiple concussions does to the human brain for years and had said nothing. It is a problem that has come into the mainstream in the past several years, but it isn’t going away anytime soon. I love football and played it for eight years, but this film isn’t going to make me (or likely anyone) stop watching, and that may make you feel guilty when you see what men go through, essentially risking their minds and lives for our entertainment.

Impactful story and performances aside, there is really nothing else done here worth mentioning. The script acts like a cliffnotes of what happened with Omalu, flowing more like scene-scene-scene than an actual fluid film. The film doesn’t even build to any real head, but instead jumps ahead a few years to show the aftermath of everything. The editing is also at times awkward and off-putting, with various cuts to different angles mid-monologue, with the dialogue is almost lagging behind. And this was shocking to me because it is spliced together by William Goldenberg, who won an Oscar for the brilliantly edited “Argo.”

Combining the confused script and the editing, several sequences simply make no sense. There is one scene when Omalu’s wife believes she is being followed by a car, and then in the next scene she is shown having a miscarriage. The correlation? The purpose? Not a clue.

“Concussion” is the very definition of a rainy Saturday afternoon cable movie. You can have it on in the background and if you miss a scene here or there it won’t affect your understanding of what’s going on. Smith’s efforts are to be commended (he earned a Golden Globe nomination) and the film’s intentions are pure, but really I was never moved by the film itself, and by the time it really starts to become anything resembling interesting, it is almost over.

Critics Rating: 5/10



‘Force Awakens’ Thrilling, If Not Familiar Adventure

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Theatrical_PosterThere isn’t a review in the world that will change your thoughts on whether or not you plan on seeing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” but let’s give this things a whirl anyways.

The first film of a new trilogy and the seventh overall, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” picks up 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” When a new evil force known as the First Order rises to replace the Empire, members of the Resistance (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac), with the aid of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), race to find the location of the self-exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). J.J. Abrams directs.

I have always enjoyed the Star Wars films (except the dumpster fire that is “Attack of the Clones”), and despite not being a super-fan looked forward to “Force Awakens” with great anticipation. I trusted that super-nerd Abrams would make a solid film, after all, he had a blueprint on how not to make a Star Wars film, see: “Attack of the Clones” (but don’t actually see it because, dumpster fire), and I liked the idea of the film focusing on new characters and not completely on the old. So does “Force Awakens” live up to the hype? Yes. Well, kinda. Mostly.

For starters, all four of the new main characters absolutely knock their roles out of the park. John Boyega plays Finn, a Stormtrooper who realizes very early on that what the First Order is doing is wrong and betrays them. He and Daisy Ridley’s Rey have great chemistry as two young nobodies who are thrust in the middle of a growing war they don’t want to be a part of. Oscar Isaac plays a pilot and there are several points where he almost comes off as vintage Han Solo, saying a Cool Guy Joe one-liner even in a serious situation.

The real star, though, is Adam Driver, who plays Kylo Ren, the film’s main antagonist. Ren is vicious and ruthless, but we also see him as a morally-torn man who believes that what he is doing is right but at the same time knows that maybe this isn’t the path he is meant to be on.

The action is clean and beautifully shot, and even if those darn Stormtroopers’ aim hasn’t gotten better over the past three decades, the shootout sequences are still as entertaining as anything.

What is “Force Awakens” strongest strength is also arguably its biggest weakness, and that is that it feels like the original Star Wars films. You get the sense of fun, excitement and childhood whimsy, however with that comes familiarity, especially in the plot. Much like “A New Hope,” our heroes must recover information stored in a robot in order to stop a giant death machine that can destroy planets in one blast. It may be easily overlooked for some, but for me it really just felt like Abrams gave the original film a wax job to make it shiny and tried to pass it off as new.

The film does try to throw in some curveballs but all of them can be seen coming from a mile away. There is one in particular that could have had the impact of the “Luke, I am your father” reveal (oh yeah, sorry, Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Spoiler.) but the film gets it out of the way very early on and then makes sure you get the influence it has on the plot by repeatedly forcing it (pun?) down your throat every ten minutes.

I really did enjoy most of “The Force Awakens” and I think it is a fantastic building block for what could become the best Star Wars trilogy, but I just wasn’t wowed by this film has much as I wanted to be. Still, despite all its recycled points and few temporary moments of lag, there is a lot of spectacle to behold, and the cast absolutely nails it. “Force Awakens” isn’t the best Star Wars film we’ve gotten but it is far from the worst (which, if you were wondering, is “Attack of the Clones”), and at the end of the day, that is really all one hope for.

Critics Rating: 7/10



Cranston Is Solid, ‘Trumbo’ Is Not

Trumbo_(2015_film)_posterAt least once a year there is a film that has a very solid central performance, however it is the quality of that performance that exposes the mediocrity of the film they’re in.

“Trumbo” stars Bryan Cranston as the titular screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who along with others was branded a Communist in 1950’s America and blacklisted. Trumbo then begins to write uncredited scripts, all while trying to stay true to his beliefs. Diane Lane, Helen Mirren and Louis C.K. co-star and Jay Roach directs.

“Trumbo” should be right up my alley because I love me a good script, Bryan Cranston is good in anything he does, and 1950’s Los Angeles is my favorite period in time. So it is all the more disappointing that “Trumbo” is an average film with an above-average performance, and a few fun and interesting points can’t save a dragging narrative and workmanship execution.

Dalton Trumbo’s real-life story is a fascinating if not frustrating one as he was jailed, shunned and all but exiled simply for his political beliefs. And the film does do a decent enough job illustrating Trumbo’s struggles, however it never really delivers the message home to the audience as much as it thinks it does. The film wants to make the viewer angry that the screenwriters were fired and blacklisted simply for belonging to the Communist party and that their first amendment rights were infringed upon, but you never truly feel like they were cheated beyond the fact the characters continue to spoon-feed you lines about equality and freedoms.

Cranston does a very good job in his portrayal of Trumbo. Trumbo was an eccentric character, writing scripts in his bathtubs and walking around with a parrot on his shoulder, and Cranston does a good job to make this unique man relatable. He seems to want to give every person the benefit of the doubt and hates to disappoint people, even those who testified against him in court. Meanwhile Louie C.K. does some nice nuanced work as a fellow blacklisted writer, who constantly questions Trumbo’s intentions and points out that he “talks like a radical, but lives like a rich guy.”

The biggest problem with “Trumbo,” ironically, is its screenplay. A lot of the dialogue comes off as exposition or made-for-TV schmaltz, and the plot is all over the place, and really none of it is paced well. It is almost like the filmmakers wanted to get all the cliffnotes of Trumbo’s career into the film (his arrest, ghostwriting for B-movie studios, writing “Spartacus” for Kirk Douglas) but weren’t sure how to make that 20 year period mesh well together, so they just filmed them and hoped it would all work out well in the end; it didn’t.

I am going to be honest: this is one the worst paced films I have seen in years. When Trumbo gets released from prison I thought to myself, “well geez, there’s probably only 30 minutes left in the movie, they really are going to have to cram a lot in.” Except there wasn’t a half hour left in the film; there was probably an hour 15. Then the film takes forever to wrap up before finally concluding with Trumbo delivering a speech, which essentially acts as a summarization of everything we have just seen for the previous two hours.

Several points throughout “Trumbo” a character tosses a script on the table and says, “this isn’t great, but there’s a good story in here,” and that’s exactly how I feel about this movie. Cranston is great and some of the behind-the-scenes of old-time Hollywood are interesting, but all too often the dragging plot and cheesy dialogue are too much to overcome, and that’s a shame, because Trumbo’s story and struggles deserve to be shared and honored. The movie is admirable in its efforts, but unfortunately underwhelming in its execution.

Critics Rating: 5/10



‘Ridiculous Six’ May Be Sandler’s Worst

The_Ridiculous_6_posterAdam Sandler may not be funny, but give him credit; he is one heck of a businessman.

“The Ridiculous Six” is the first of Sandler’s four film deal with Netflix (because he wised up and realized people have gotten too smart to pay theatrical price for his “comedies”). The film stars Sandler, Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, and Luke Wilson as half-brothers who must set out to rescue their father (Nick Nolte) in the Wild West. Frank Coraci directs.

I personally gave up on Sandler long ago, and I was never a huge fan in the first place. I think he is great in films that he doesn’t write/produce (like the underappreciated “Funny People”), but all too often (aka always) he phones in his performances and instead just delivers an unfunny film as an excuse to go on vacation with his friends. Clearly Sandler realized audiences were wising up to his act and decided to strike up a deal with Netflix (which, why, Netflix? You’re doing so well…), where his films cannot be judged off their lack of box office success. But maybe not having the stress of the box office would make Sandler try, and maybe being with director Frank Coraci, who directed Sandler’s arguable best film, “The Wedding Singer,” would be the kick-in-the-butt he needed. Yeah. And maybe Donald Trump isn’t insane.

I went into this movie thinking it was going to be a bad, lazy, sexist, racist, unfunny Adam Sandler film, and lo and behold, I was right. But there is just something about “Ridiculous Six” that seems even worse. It is somehow worse than his film from earlier in 2015, “Pixels,” and arguably the worst film of his career (it is without a doubt his worst performance).

I guess I’ll break this film down by what it is and what it isn’t. First: in true Sandler fashion, it is lazy. You want an example of one of the jokes? A donkey projectile poops against a wall for five seconds. Now if you thought that wasn’t funny the first time, you’re going to stare in amazement at the next four occurrences. No joke, I was leaning over to say something to my friend (who had the misfortune of watching this alongside me) and the first time the donkey did its thing I genuinely exclaimed, “what the [expletive] was that!?” Not because I was frightened by a jump scare, but because it is so random and so juvenile that it mere existence took my inner-being by surprise.

The film is also racist and sexist, per ush. There are plenty of Native American “jokes” sprinkled throughout the film (and I don’t put jokes in quotes because they’re tasteless and I’m being PC; I put it in quotes because they never show anything resembling an attempt to be funny). There are also black and Mexican jokes galore; Rob Schneider plays a Hispanic man who wears a sombrero the entire film. Get it? Because he’s Mexican? And they ride donkeys and have sombreros? HA!

There’s then a scene where the Six come across Abner Doubleday as he is inventing baseball (the film’s only scene of merit, as it pokes fun at some of the sport’s sillier rules). However, and I kid you not, in the moment leading up to the scene I turned to my friend and said, “well I mean the Natives and Hispanics are getting hit pretty hard, but at least Sandler is leaving the Asians alone.” I jinxed it. Because mere moments later, the men come across Doubleday talking to a group of Asian men, all wearing stereotypical Asian headwear, and I let out a long sigh and “offff course.”

Then there’s the classic Sandler trope that God-forbid any female character impacts the plot. Also may Hell freeze over if any woman has ANYTHING to offer besides their cleavage. The one woman person who has the benefit of being more than a flesh trophy is captured and escapes in the same scene, begging the question why the scene exists, and then only returns to become a damsel in distress in the film’s climax.

And the editing in this film, oh my God. Some scenes just draw on forever (did I mention this film is two hours long?). My only theory is the film made it through the first cut of edits and the editor quit because he could not in good conscience watch any more of this film, much less take part in sending something out into the internet that would be seen by millions of innocent, underserving civilians.

I’ll give the film a pat on the back, at least it is…watchable? Like it isn’t like “Fantastic Four” bad where I was squirming in my seat and needed the film to be over. I was having a good enough time making fun of it, and I did laugh maybe three times, albeit I instantly felt guilty for doing so.

Here’s the bottom line about “The Ridiculous Six” besides “don’t watch it.” It is just another and yet somehow worse Adam Sandler film, and further proof he does not care about you or any another movie-lover. He only cares about getting richer and hanging out with his friends, and for that he is a brilliant and ruthless businessman. It will be interesting to see if Netflix honors the remaining three films on Sandler’s contract, because I cannot see a single person itching to see anymore Sandler anytime soon.

Critics Rating: 3/10


Emotionally Powerful ‘Creed’ Is One of Year’s Best

Creed_posterIt’s OK, Michael B. Jordan. All is forgiven for “Fantastic Four.”

“Creed” is the seventh installment in the “Rocky” franchise and the first since 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” The film follows Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son (Jordan) as he attempts to come out of the shadow his father left behind. In order to be taken seriously as a boxer, he reaches out to the retired Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him. Ryan Coogler directs and co-writes.

Michael B. Jordan was put on mainstream Hollywood’s radar after 2012’s found footage superhero film “Chronicle,” however it was the following year’s “Fruitvale Station” (directed and written by Coogler as well) that made everyone start to see him as a possible star. “Creed” finds both Jordan and Coogler at the top of their game, and shows why Stallone and the studio made the right choice putting their faith in two under-30 guys to continue a historic franchise.

I liked how “Creed” isn’t a full-blown “Rocky” sequel, nor does it try to be. As a person who doesn’t know much about the series outside the major cliffnotes, it was important that I could relate to and understand what was happening throughout the film. I’m sure I missed a callback here or inside joke there, but I knew the characters and motivations without the film spoon feeding them to me.

The film is shot masterfully, with numerous long takes. There is even a fight in the middle of the film that is one single take, and it’s amazing. Being one take adds immense tension to the scene, as there aren’t cuts to give us a chance to breath and relax. Coogler and his team deserve massive props for pulling this off, because people get cut and bloody but there aren’t chances for makeup teams to have applied it. Movie magic, I suppose.

The film uses hip hop for much of the backdrop, which gives the film a unique and “modern” feel compared to the other “Rocky” films, however still has some nice instrumental moments, including the famous theme (even if it initially feels a bit cheesy for its cliché timing).

The film flows at a nice pace for most of the time, although it does slow a little when Creed is preparing for the big final fight. The film also decides to add a dramatic twist to the story, which definitely feels a little forced and formulaic however does give Stallone the opportunity to deliver a nice speech (possibly his “For Your Consideration” moment for the Academy?).

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t getting a little choked up during the climax, which features both powerful bits of dialogue as well as an engaging fight. “Creed” works as both a standalone and a revival to a franchise that many thought had its best days behind it. It is one of the year’s best films and a star-confirming vehicle for Michael B. Jordan, and also shows that maybe Stallone still has more to offer than cheesy “Expendable” action flicks.

Critics Rating: 8/10



‘Spotlight’ a Well-Acted, Infuriating True Story

Spotlight_(film)_posterMichael Keaton probably should’ve started this whole “drama acting” thing a while ago. He could have a lot more Oscar nominations.

“Spotlight” tells the true story of the Boston Globe team of journalists (Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) that worked to uncover the child abuse by Catholic priests, and the extents the church went through to cover it up. Tom McCarthy directs and co-writes.

Keaton earned his first career Oscar nomination for last year’s “Birdman,” and many think he could score another nomination for his work here. Keaton, along with pretty much the entire cast, does solid and nuanced work in “Spotlight,” a film that is more about the little moment and aftertaste it leaves in your mouth than the wide scope.

The story told in “Spotlight” is something many people may have heard of, but few likely know the extents the journalists went through in order to uncover the conspiracy involving the Catholic Church. As a journalism major, I appreciate a film that shows the work newspapers go through to break a story and the inner-conflicts they have on how and when to run them.

Director McCarthy does a very good job subtly showing the power and influence the Church has over the institutions and families of Boston, by doing things like showing churches in the background of many establishing shots. The script, which he co-wrote with Josh Singer, has some nice interplay between the characters, and gives each actor an individual scene to shine.

The real stars of the show to me, however, are Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci. Ruffalo is arguably the lead of the ensemble cast, given the character with most emotional weight. He has one scene that will likely be used as his “For Your Consideration” reel, and the scenes that he and a small but effective Tucci share are when the film is at its best.

The film does take a little while to get going (the team kicks the story around before they realize the magnitude it could have), and at times people throwing out names of so many priests, lawyers, and victims, half of which never get a face placed to them, can get confusing in-the-moment.

The film will make you angry that so little was done to stop and punish the priests who abused so many children, but that is just good filmmaking. At the end of the film is lists cities that have since had sex abuse scandals brought up against the Church, and it’s enormous.

“Spotlight” isn’t groundbreaking cinema, and it isn’t intense throughout the entire runtime as it is in some individual moments, but those moments that do excel are as effective and entertaining as anything at the movies this year.

Critics Rating: 8/10



Bond Is Back But He’s Been Better

Spectre_posterI really should learn to stop getting excited for things; it only leads to heartbreak.

“Spectre” is the 24th and latest entry into the 007 franchise, with Daniel Craig returning for his fourth (and possibly final) portrayal of James Bond. This time around Bond must track down the head of a secret criminal syndicate (Christoph Waltz). Sam Mendes returns to direct and Ralph Fiennes returns as M, the head of MI6.

The opening scene of “Spectre” really is something to behold. Set in Mexico during the Day of the Dead festival, the opening sequence of the film is a four-minute single tracking shot and it is amazing. We are then treated to some more amazing cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema replaces Roger Deakins as director of photography and doesn’t miss a beat) and a very intense fist fight that takes place in a flipping helicopter. And it is after this adrenaline rush that “Spectre” decides to take a break; a break that for the most part continues through the credits.

The problem with “Spectre” is that most of the film is just Bond following paper trails and trying to find out identities. And this would be fine if (A) the hunt was exciting, or (B) it built up to something grand. But it does neither and the ultimate payoff really wasn’t worth the 2+ hour wait.

Casting Christoph Waltz as a Bond villain should have been an instant home run. He gave us one of the best bad guys in cinema history with Hans Landa in “Inglourious Basterds,” so he should be great and menacing facing off against James Bond, right? But aside from one scene where he just sits at a table like he’s head of a school board meeting, Waltz doesn’t show up until the final 40 minutes of the film. And the few scenes he does have he is just ranting and bragging about everything bad he’s done in the past and how he’s ruined Bond’s life.

This came off as both annoying and anticlimactic, because we never really see him do anything menacing or cool (it’s like the 50-year-old who keeps talking about how good he was at varsity football) and because from a narrative perspective it is really rather lazy to have every event from the previous three films connect back to one single point.

As I said early on, the film is shot beautifully, and the set design is great as well. This is a very good looking film; Mendes and crew know what they are doing. But Bond tossing maps and loading a gun without ever shooting it can only keep us entertained for so long (there are a few action sequences but aside from one train fight they are all brief and without tension).

I was really looking forward to “Spectre” but like many films in 2015 it disappointed. It is very well crafted and some of the throwback nods to the original Bonds are welcome, but I was disinterested throughout much of the film, and since they had all the pieces to make a classic 007 romp, the letdown is even more upsetting. It’s not a bad film, and it is better than “Quantum of Solace,” but that’s like complimenting “Revenge of the Sith” for being better than “Attack of the Clones;” that bar is just set too low to hit.

Critics Rating: 5/10



Bullock Saves ‘Brand’ from Being a Crisis

Our_Brand_Is_Crisis_(2015_film)_POSTERWell this movie may not be a crisis, but it isn’t that good, either…

“Our Brand Is Crisis” stars Sandra Bullock as a political strategist who comes out of retirement to help a Bolivia presidential candidate. Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie and Joaqium de Almeida also star as David Gordon Green directs. The film is partially based on the true story of the 2002 Bolivia election.

The film is produced by George Clooney, and was at one time supposed to feature him in the starring role as well as the director’s chair. But somewhere along the line the role went to Bullock and the character was rewritten as a woman, and we have the movie we have. The movie may have been different with Clooney in the starring role, however I can’t imagine it would have been much better. As I’m sure Clooney would have done, Bullock is the saving grace of the film, lifting it up and at some points saving it from a script that is scattershot and features major shifts in tone.

The interesting thing about Bullock in “Our Brand Is Crisis” (a role that screams Golden Globe nomination) is that she seems blissfully unaware of how poor the movie around her is. She skates along, spewing out quotes from politicians and military leaders, and occasionally gives passionate speeches. It is an interesting character and by far the best part of the movie. Every time things seem to be slowing down Bullock gives it a shot of energy, however her flare may expose the flaws the film has.

The tone of the film is all over the place. There are a few chuckles that come out of nowhere (thanks to the always likable Anthony Mackie) but the film isn’t constantly funny enough to be a comedy. On the flip side the film’s dramatic heft stems from randomly inserted story points, like Bullock’s character disclosing randomly halfway through the film that she suffers from depression; and then never touching on that topic again. There’s a point where Mackie’s character says negative ad campaigns are like a bomb, you can blow your opponent up but you don’t know where the votes are going to land. The tone of this film is a lot like that; they just set off an explosive in the genre factory and prayed things ended up in the right place (they didn’t).

Oh, and can we talk about Billy Bob Thornton’s character because what the heck was that? He plays the political adversary to Bullock and when he’s not making sexual innuendos at Bullock (a storyline that never reaches fruition), he’s coming off very uncomfortable for the viewer. And one may say that’s the point, he’s a sleaze ball; well the presidential candidate is a scumbag human, too, but at no point did I feel a sense of awkwardness just seeing his character on screen.

Some of the behind-the-scenes of political campaigns is fun, and like I said Bullock steals the show (and made me want to start researching quotations that I can spew out at random) but all too often I found myself disinterested in “Our Brand Is Crisis.”

Here’s the bottom line: I saw this film yesterday, and it already feels like it was a month ago, that’s how far this thing has already faded into my mind. If you’re a Bullock fan is this worth checking out if it’s on TV one Friday night? Sure. But to most everyone else, you’ll find the film about as fun as watching a real presidential debate; maybe less because there’s no Donald Trump.

Critics Rating: 5/10

our brand


‘Steve Jobs’ Near-Perfectly Acted and Written Biopic

SteveJobsposterIt’s going to be awkward when Michael Fassbender wins the Oscar for Best Actor over Leonardo DiCaprio for a role that DiCaprio turned down…

“Steve Jobs” is a biopic based on the man of the same name. Fassbender plays the titular Apple co-founder, while Seth Rogen portrays Steve Wozniak, Kate Winslet plays Joanna Hoffman, and Jeff Daniels portrays John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple. Based off a script by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, the film follows Jobs in the hours leading up to the three biggest product launches of his career in 1984, 1988 and 1999.

I have been anticipating this movie for a very long time. I am absolutely in love with Aaron Sorkin’s brand of fast-paced dialogue and long monologues, and this film is a showcase for his craft. I also enjoy Seth Rogen, so even though he isn’t smoking weed and getting into hijinks with James Franco, he was a joy to watch, and he gives the most genuine performance of his career. However the real star of the film is Fassbender who while bearing very little physical resemblance to his real-life counterpart, embodies the brilliant, calculating and at times frustrating nature of the late-great Jobs.

The film is broken up into three main acts, each taking place in the hour leading up to an important product unveiling: the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT box in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. Each one of these time periods is shot on different types of film (16mm, 35mm and digital), so each has a different look and feel. Overall, I really liked these approaches, and thought it was a very unique way of approaching a biopic.

The writing in the film is nothing short of excellent, if not perfect. Like I said, I may be a bit biased because I love me some Sorkin (“The Social Network” is the best written film of all-time, fun fact), but his ability to have characters we should hate become likable and sympathetic. Plus his trademark rapid-fire, almost irrelevant conversations that are often side-splittingly funny, all make Steve Jobs, a man who neglects the acknowledgment of his daughter and makes the lives of all his co-workers a living hell, a man that we want to see succeed.

The acting in the film is all spot on as well, and that is likely a byproduct of the script. Like I said, Rogen is shockingly effective and emotional as the under-appreciated Wozniak, Winslet is quietly great as Jobs’ long-time confidant Joanna, and there is great fun in Michael Stuhlbarg’s abused engineer, Andy Hertzfeld. But much like the title of the film, the stage belongs to Fassbender, who is a tornado of energy and emotion. He is condescending, unreasonable and probably not a very good guy, but he continues to win us over with wise-cracks and breaking things down so that just maybe we can try and see the world how he does.

Director Danny Boyle, like Fassbender, does a great job keeping the energy going, especially for the first two thirds of the film. When Jobs is building Apple up and the trying to tear it down, it is near perfect filmmaking. It’s the third act, the final 30 minutes or so, that the film starts to get winded. It is probably just by comparison, but it felt like the stakes were never as high, and all the real conflict had already been dealt with. The third act, much like most any film, is where we get resolutions and closure with many characters, and I just wanted to go back to the days when Jobs was telling his engineers that if they didn’t fix a problem he would go out on stage and publically name them responsible.

The first act of “Steve Jobs” is fantastic, the second is great, and the third is good, which all in all combines to a pretty great end product. It is hands-down one of the best films of the year, and the writing, directing and acting will all likely win the film some shiny trophies come award season.

Critics Rating: 8/10