Room Review

I’ve always liked Brie Larson. Ever since watching “Short Term 12,” the first movie that I ever reviewed on this site, I have her found to be a powerful, up and coming actress. She knows how to command a screen and can act with such subtle yet prominent emotion that brings you in and really makes you feel the true meaning of the events at hand. This acting ability continues into “Room” and is one of the main forces behind the success of this film. If Brie Larson isn’t recognized for her acting talents with an Oscar nomination I will have lost all hope in the Academy to truly evaluate all actors on an equal playing field whether their films are from independent, small scale production companies or larger, Hollywood run industries.

It isn’t just Larson’s acting that is good in “Room”; this movie is perfect all around. It is the perfect blend of various emotions: hope, despair, love, sadness, frustration, turmoil, relief, innocence, and anxiety. This movie is probably relatively unknown to most people so here’s a synopsis of the events. A girl and her son live in a room, which we find out is actually a shed, because this man is keeping them there against their will. In order to preserve the innocence of her son, Brie Larson’s character, affectionately called Ma by her son Jack, tells him that this room that they live in is the entire world and that everything outside of Room is simply space. When Ma decides that they need to escape Room, it changes everything for young Jack and puts his relationship with his mother under the ultimate test.

This movie is really split into two halves: the first half being about the characters time spent in Room and the second half revolving around the fallout from Ma’s decision to attempt an escape from their imprisonment. Each half is balanced so well by the director, who uses subtle techniques such as having the camera very close to the characters faces when they are in Room to add to the feeling of claustrophobia. Also, the film discusses and answers almost every question imaginable. It is a very deep script that really takes its themes to the edge of what they can provide, and as a result, gives us a complete movie experience about the topic at hand. And it isn’t just Larson who is good; Jacob Tremblay, who plays young Jack, is brilliant in his role and plays off Larson with such grace that their chemistry adds an extra layer to this already deep film.

This film isn’t an easy one to watch and definitely belongs on the “Best Movies You Only Want to Watch Once” list. It is full of tough, passionate emotion that is so relatable because most of us understand what it is like to be a small child and have such a strong dependence and undeniable love for a parent. I think what really makes this film different from other emotionally powerful films are the slow parts in the film that are deliberately placed throughout to make you really reflect on the situation that Jack finds himself in. Just imagine thinking that your entire world is this one room and then finding out that is all a lie and there is actually an entire world that is millions of times larger than what you previously believed to exist. It is so overwhelming for a child to be put in that situation and the film constantly reminds you of that while simultaneously showing that it isn’t just a child who can experience stress from a situation like this. Just because someone is an adult doesn’t mean that they have all the answers or know what the right thing to do is. Each age group has its issues it has to deal with and each has different required responses. This is a film that stays with you for a long time and still bewilders you with the thought of what could possibly going through these two individual’s heads. And somehow, this movie allows us to have a glimpse into understanding what this unfathomable situation would be like.

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Room (2015): 4/4 stars

The Man From U.N.C.L.E Review

When a movie has a bad script or a less than riveting story, we often find that those films will over-compensate in other areas to make up for this integral flaw. The remake of “Tron” tried to use 3D and other visual effects to cover up its incompetent script, and the “Transformers” series uses insane amounts of CGI to try to hide the fact that nothing about the entire franchise makes any sense in the slightest, especially the most recent entry. Sometimes these faults aren’t too bad, however. “The Iron Lady” tries to cover up for it’s ultimate story-telling flaws with an incredible Oscar-winning central performance from Meryl Streep as the unflappable Margret Thatcher. “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” is different from most films I’ve seen under this category because it decides to go with excessive style to distract from its underwhelming story, and almost gets away with it.

It was easy to tell that this film was going to be all about style and atmosphere right from the opening sequences. The beginning of the film was well crafted and stylish, and did a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the film. But with a time like the 1960’s in settings all across Europe, it is easy to have a wealth of style. The 60’s, when portrayed in cinema, are a time when class had a different definition than it does today and the biggest insult you could give to a man was questioning his sense of fashion. It was a time of real men doing real things after finally being victorious in World War II. Classy drinks, beautiful cars, immaculate outfits and brilliant set pieces aren’t quite enough to salvage this film unfortunately.

This film ultimately falls short because, like I mentioned above, the story just can’t carry it’s own weight and a good storyline is the central component of every great film. This film is a case of just too much style and not enough substance to back it up. There are films out there than can brilliantly combine style and substance, “The Godfather” and “The Matrix” being a few, so it can be done. Surprisingly, the storyline in this film is even weaker than that in “Spectre.” It’s a fun, innocent ride with brilliant chemistry from the lead characters and some funny moments along the way. There’s a loads of pomp and circumstance that is enjoyable for a bit while watching the film, but it lacks a meaningful aftertaste or anything to ponder once the screen goes black. There’s nothing in this film that is going to stick with you after you leave the theater. I may very well watch this film sometime in the future while hanging out with some friends just to make us feel a bit classier, but there’s nothing here that is going to make me want to watch the film and reflect on the message that is has to offer.

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The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015): 2/4 stars

The Martian Review

Our fascination with space has died down over the recent years. We are no longer as obsessed with the final frontier as we were in the 1960s and 70s, but to this day it still remains a brilliant setting for some of the best films in cinema history. “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Apollo 13,” and “Star Wars” benefited greatly from our obsession with space. Last year, Christopher Nolan had the chance to bring forth another space classic with “Interstellar,” but fell quite short in my mind, especially in comparison to the feats achieved by “2001.” Ridley Scott, on the other hand, has been masterful when working in space; just look at the success he has had with “Alien” and “Aliens,” and for what it was worth, “Prometheus” wasn’t too bad either. Ridley Scott is a director who knows how to make a quality movie about space, but can he do so when it doesn’t involve aliens?

Speaking of “Alien,” this film was very Alien-eque at the beginning in the way it was shot and I have a great appreciation for that. Scott knows how to be atmospheric in an environment that doesn’t have an atmosphere (ahhh space puns…). In all serious, though, the opening sequences were shot brilliantly and got the film off to the strong start it needed to keep the audience engaged. When looking back at this film, there is one thing that will always stand out and that is the incredible ensemble cast. I can’t remember the last time we had such a talented group of actors from the lead of Matt Damon, to the mid-range character played by the blossoming Kate Mara, all the way down to a brief cameo by “Community” star Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino for those music fans out there. From head to toe the cast was brilliant and was a driving force for this film all the way through until the end. While Damon may not have been the Tour de Force that Sandra Bullock was in “Gravity” a couple years ago, he is still an accomplished enough actor to be able to bear the weight of this film. His work is far from Oscar-worthy, but he does what is required of him to keep the film flying high.

The other thing I think the film did really well was having a good balance between its various elements. There was an even amount of science, drama, heart-break, elation, and humor to make this the ultimate crowd pleaser film. Towards the end, there got to be a concerning amount of jokes for my liking, but it never became too extreme, thankfully. This film is a sci-fi adventure with a “Saving Private Ryan” sense of moral compass and integrity that elevates it to new levels of emotional depth than it would have previously been.

The only complaints I really have are that it could’ve gone deeper into the themes of psychological stress and pressures for Damon’s character for being alone for so long and the fact that it was very Hollywood-ized at the end. The Academy has shown us before that a Hollywood ending doesn’t deter them from handing out the Best Picture award when they recognized “Argo” for its work despite being very cliché at the end. For me, however, a Hollywood ending makes the film feel just that little bit too cheesy. It does so many things well, and is an overall solid film but never really reaches that realm of greatness. It’s a happy medium between “Interstellar” and “Gravity” in terms of quality. It may not go down as a classic, but it will always be a film that I enjoy.

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The Martian (2015): 3.5/4 stars

Spectre Review

I saw my first James Bond film when I was only 7 years old. The film was “From Russia With Love,” and even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on, I was entranced by the entire atmosphere of the film and wanted ever so badly to be James Bond wen I grew up. As I grew older, I watched more and more of the Sean Connery and Roger Moore era Bond films and fell in love with the likes of “Live and Let Die,” “Dr. No,” and the quintessential “Goldfinger.” The gadgets, the action, and the villians: none of it was equaled by any other action film I had ever seen. The James Bond series had hit some low points during the Pierce Brosnan era, however, and I started to doubt the longevity of this franchise. Thankfully, in 2006, Jesus came down from heaven to save the James Bond franchise in the form of Daniel Craig.

With the introduction of Craig as the new James Bond, the franchise was completely revamped and revitalized. Taking a step away from the gadgets and extreme action sequences, “Casino Royale,” portrayed Bond as an emotionally cold, intense, and hard-nose badass that he had never been portrayed like before. With a greater focus on the story and less on the silly gadget nonsense, “Casino Royale” became a film that stood out as one of the best in the decade and seriously gives “Goldfinger” a run for its money as the best Bond film of all time.

Although “Quantum of Solace” had its rough patches, it was still entertaining and was as emotionally driven as its predecessor, and in “Skyfall,” was saw a completely different style of James Bond film that would redefine what we have come to know and love about this famous 00 agent. I have loved the entirety of the James Bond films under Criag’s guidance, but there was always a part of me that missed the James Bond style of old. I enjoy the emotionally deep and complex James Bond, but part of me misses the lunacy of Brosnan, the charm of Moore and the overall grandeur of Connery.

“Spectre”, thankfully, is a film that returns James Bond back to the roots of old. Yes, it is a very formulaic James Bond film and follows a predictable storyline that will be annoying to some critics and movie connoisseurs, but those who complain about that have missed the overall point of the film in my mind. This isn’t supposed to another emotionally driven James Bond, despite what the trailers may allude to. This film, rather, is a testament; a testament to everything that is classic James Bond. The gadgets, ludicrous action, and tenacious villains are back in full force. Evil henchmen, sexy Bond women, and cheesy one-liners are ever present and I couldn’t be more happy about it. One of the things that has been missing from the most recent James Bond film is a good henchman, and with “Spectre” we finally get one in Mr. Hinx.

Is it as good as “Casino Royale” or “Skyfall”? No, and granted it is far from the quality of those two films. But that doesn’t matter to me Ultimately, this film feels like one last thrill ride of a hoorah for Daniel Craig. He did an incredible job with restoring the public’s faith in the series, and it was time for him to celebrate his work with a film that is just plain fun and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The brilliant opening sequence, glorious action, amazing set pieces, and references to the Bond films of old are all good enough to cover up the problem-filled script. This film won’t go down as one of the best James Bond films, but it is the perfect film for the time in which it was made. After watching this film, I felt like I did when I first watched “From Russia with Love,” I felt like a giddy seven-year-old boy. All I have left to say is this: Thank you and job well done Daniel Craig, you have made this young film lover proud.

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Spectre (2015): 3/4 stars