The Big Short (2015) Film Review

Set in the months leading up to the financial crash in the mid-2000s, The Big Short follows several characters who predicted what was going to happen and used their knowledge to do stuff. I know that sounds vague, but I actually watched this a while ago, and now cannot recall the ins and outs – I just know that watching it, I found it fascinating, and now I recall it being interesting, but I can’t recall the details. The good news is that I’ll be able to watch it again and find it interesting. What do I recall? Steve Carrell playing another weird and fabulous character. Brad Pitt playing another annoying holistic kind of character. Christian Bale being playing an intelligent weirdo. Don’t remember Ryan Gosling in it at all. Right, I am actually going to watch this film again and then finish this review.

Okay, so Christian Bale plays Michael Burry, an oddball character who does a whole heap of research and discovers a flaw in the financial world, relating to bad mortgages and trading on them (technical, technical stuff… blah blah). Then Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett, which pushes this on to Mark Baum (Steve Carrell). When Mark and his mates go out to investigate, they discover NINJA loans (no income, no job, no asset) which are being packaged with the genuinely AAA mortgages. Then there are a couple of young guys who get in on it and turn to a retired guy, Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) which knows a lot about the market and is quite suspicious about what is going to happen to the world of finance. The film sets all of these guys up, and while I may not have understood it all, I knew that it was not good. But the film? That is good. Brain challenging movie.

The Big Short won an Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Christian Bale), Best Achievement in Directing (Adam McKay) and Best Achievement in Film Editing.

 

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Film Review

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This was one of those films that I felt that I needed to watch years ago. So, when it was on sale somewhere, I picked it up, took it home and watched it. And thought it was boring, a complete waste of time. Yet, I held on to the DVD. I think I knew that I was missing something. I moved into a new place, and I’ve been cutting down on belongings. I never had a huge DVD collection, but I’m culling. But, there have been several DVDs and books that I don’t want to get rid of until I give them another chance, and this was one of them. And thank goodness.

I cannot recall what mood or state I was in when I first watched this, but it mustn’t have been great.

Essentially, the film tells of the later months of the legendary criminal, Jesse James. It is a story of conspiracy and mistrust, with Jesse and the various new members of his gang that he doesn’t trust, and who don’t trust each other. They visit each other, they lie, and eventually (it’s not a spoiler –it’s in the title) Jesse James (Brad Pitt) is killed by Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), a young man who idolised James throughout his young life.

It is very slow-moving, but it is so beautiful. The slow pacing gives the space for deep, deep emotion. The relationships are complex. And the soundtrack is amazing – but what more can we expect from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Casey Affleck) and Best Achievement in Cinematography (Roger Deakins)

 

 

Megamind (2010) Film Review

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After his world was destroyed, an alien was sent to Earth. Just like Superman. Only, not unlike Superman, there were two babies. Megamind (Will Ferrell) a blue creature who just cannot quite get it right, and Metro Man (Brad Pitt), a real Superman type. As children, Metro Man always won over Megamind, and Megamind decides, along with Minion (David Cross), he decides to be a real villain. He falls into a routine with Metro Man – he kidnaps Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey), Metro Man saves her and they go on. But one day, he kills Metro Man, and their world is turned upside down. Depressed, Megamind realises he needs a foe to continue, and he makes Titan (Jonah Hill), the hero. But nothing goes quite as expected.

It is a fun film, but it was only when I got about three-quarters of the way through when I realised that I had seen it before, so it clearly did stick in my mind. Good points? David Cross is fabulous as Minion, the strange fish companion. The character of Roxanne is being saved a lot, but there is a lot more to her. She still is the only significant female character, which is a shame. And I love that Megamind mispronounces everything.

 

Inglourious Basterds (2009) Film Review

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Imagine if you could go back to World War 2 and kill a whole heap of Nazis… how would you like to do it? How about get Brad Pitt to lead a bunch of Jewish soldiers as a small unit that sets out to kill them, striking fear into the heart of leadership, including Hitler himself. Now imagine you are a young Jewish girl whose family are slaughtered by the soldiers of one really nasty Nazi. And imagine you had the chance to get him and many other main Nazis… including Hitler himself. Now imagine all of that is directed by Quentin Tarantino. Yup, that is how excellent this film is.

It gets totally and utterly ridiculous at times; wonderfully, really. Funny and absurd. If you don’t like violence, it’s not going to be your cup of tea. But I would recommend watching the opening sequence – I think it is the best opening sequence of a film ever (although then there is Sexy Beast…) Christoph Waltz is utterly amazing in this role.

Inglourious Basterds won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Christoph Waltz) and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Quentin Tarantino), Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Quentin Tarantino), Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Achievement in Sound Editing.

 

Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) Film Review

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Like the two films leading up to this, it’s a big, exciting heist film with lots of misdirection and cleverness. This time, it’s all about revenge on Willy Bank (Al Pacino), a casino operator opening a new hotel, who has ripped off one of their own, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould), causing heart failure and a coma.

My big issue with the last two films was the women in the film having very little character and being (sometimes willingly) manipulated very obviously by the men of the film. This time, it wasn’t the wives or girlfriends. The one female in the film, Bank’s top assistant Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin), initially appears to be in control and in charge, strong and spotting the bullshit being weaved around her. Then, she is painted as a ‘cougar’ (such an insulting term, but I won’t get started on that one today) and manipulated into seducing Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), one of the eleven who is playing a character as part of the plot. I guess the big question is – how good does the film need to be to be able to ignore this? (Or perhaps a bigger question – after being annoyed by this in the first two films, why did I go on to watch the third?)

Ocean’s Twelve (2004) Film Review

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So, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is back out of jail (again) and he and the rest of the eleven have found things to spend their millions on. But Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) has found them, and insists on compensation. And then there is Francois Toulour (Vincent Cassel), a super-rich, super-clever gangster who wants to compete against Ocean to be considered the best thief in the world, and Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) a beautiful police officer who was dating Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), but now is set to catch him and arrest him.

Again, there is a lot of fun, trickiness and playing with expectations, but it is, yet again, ruined for me by the representations of the females in the film. At least Tess (JuliaRoberts) gets a bit of a better go this time, actually doing something (even if she is forced into it by a whole bunch of men she doesn’t even know… creepy) (although seeing her play a character pretending to be Julia Roberts was a lot of fun). Then there is the Catherine Zeta-Jones character, a high-ranking police officer who is driven to fraud by her emotions – the need for revenge against her ex, and who (spoiler alert) is manipulated into giving up her very successful career by the very same ex and her father, who she believed was dead. Men manipulating women a lot. Way to spoil a good, fun film.

 

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) Film Review

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Danny Ocean (George Clooney) has two goals when he gets out of jail; to win back his ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts) and to rob the casino that belongs to her current beau, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). He gets together a crack team of specialists (ten others to be exact… hence the Ocean’s Eleven).

A heist film is great. A casino heist film is even better. And with a whole bunch of hunks and spunks, clever writing and fun technology, plus twists that have you thinking one thing then it flips? What more could one want? How about a half decent female character in here? There is only one woman of any significantce in this film, and she is an object to be possessed. What’s more (spoiler alert), when she learns that her current beau is not the nicest guy, does she go and work her own life out? Hells no. She goes back to the man who lied to her and ruined her life. Sheesh, this film would have been better with no women at all. Annoying, because I really liked the rest of it.

 

Sleepers (1996) Film Review

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Hell’s Kitchen, 1960s. Four boys, best of friends, hang out, are altar boys together until they play a prank that results in them being sent to juvenile detention. Inside, they are abused horrifically by four of the guards. Fourteen years after they are released, two have become notorious gang leaders and killers, one is a journalist and the other is an assistant DA. A series of events lead to them attempting to get some justice.

At the end of the film, there are statements from several places stating that the several official channels deny the events of the film, but the author of the book it is based on claims that, with changed names and dates, the entire story is factual. Even if this series of events is not true, it is not that much of a stretch of the imagination that such abuse would happen. I think it is an excellent though very tough film; one hell of a cast doing top performances.

Sleepers was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Score

 

Fight Club (1999) Film Review

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There is a man, played by Edward Norton, who is not given a name throughout the film, who is suffering from insomnia. He gets some sleep after attending various illness support meetings where he manages to get some relief through the grief of others, such as Bob (Meat Loaf). Then Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) starts attending, and he needs to find an alternative way to get some sleep. Then he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and they start Fight Club, a group where men get to be men again and beat each other up a lot. But this is just where it starts.

This is one of those films that I’ve watched several times and love. I love the performances; I love the concept of eschewing societal norms and breaking free; I love the fighting. (In reality, and in most films, I find punching hard. I think it is that they get so much joy from being beaten up). And watching it this time, I still loved all of that. But then I started to wonder about the misogyny of the film. A brief scan of the internet found quite a few articles, both academic and less-so about this concept and all look at Marla. She is just about the only woman in the film (well, the only other I recall is the woman who is dying of cancer and begs for sex) who is treated poorly and blamed by the main character for everything. But. She is also not a very nice person, she hates herself and she doesn’t treat other people well, and perhaps because of this, none of that bothered me. No, it was this whole bunch of men who gang together and exclude women altogether. There is a line, let me find it online: “We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.” Is that misogynistic? I reckon you could find a ton of people who could argue each side. What do I think? I don’t know. It makes me uncomfortable, but then, Fight Club is not a film to make you feel comfortable. What I do like about this is that it has made me think. Even if the minutiae of the situation is a bit confusing and difficult, at least I am thinking about it. And I still think it is a truly excellent film.

Fight Club was nominated for an Oscar for Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing.

 

12 Monkeys (1995) Film Review

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It’s 2035. Back in 1996, a massive proportion of the world’s population have been killed by a deadly virus and those remaining have retreated underground. Here, they send ‘volunteers’ to collect samples from the surface, but have also developed time travel technology and send people back in the past to gain information about The 12 Monkeys Army who they believe caused the disaster. When prisoner James Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back, he ends up in a mental institution alongside Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) and being treated by psychologist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe). Consequent visits change attitudes until there is more than one fight happening.

This is an extremely beautiful film. The future is horrible, the present not much better. (Or should it be the present is horrible and the past is not much better – it’s challenging talking about time travel). The story is typical Gilliam in that it is not typical of anything at all. Any time you think you know what is happening, things twist and turn and change. I saw this film several times back in the late nineties, but haven’t watched it for ages. Seeing it now gives me a different idea on the end, though I am still not sure on quite what happened.

12 Monkeys was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Brad Pitt) and Best Costume Design.