Tag: Amy Adams

Dear Evan Hansen

Have you ever wanted a musical to come to film?
Have you waited for a casting and a release date to announce?
Have you ever jumped so much you could shout?
Like you could sing, and everyone would hear?

Okay, to leave the lyric land. Maybe you also found yourself super pumped because Dear Evan Hansen was being directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also directed Rent, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and more. And you were excited that Ben Platt was reprising the role!

And then you saw the trailer and were like, wait, what, no.

That is a big thing going on for this musical. People really hated the trailer because of how much Ben Platt stuck out in it. He looked so old and uncomfortable. He played a high school senior just two years ago in The Politician and it didn’t look that terrible. Why is it so uncomfortable?

Ehhh, most people would probably blame it on the hair. The very awkward curls to make him seem, I don’t know, younger? But in reality, well, it is definitely the hair and it does not work. But something else seemed amiss too, and it was hard to tell, I had to see it to believe it.

I already planned on being uncomfortable the whole time

For those who don’t know why this musical, is really awkward, then hold on to your butts. Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), he has a lot of anxiety and depression issues. It is hard for him to talk to anyone. His mom (Julianne Moore) is a nurse working extra hard so they can live an okay life, still kind of poor, and his dad is away and out of the life. His therapist wants him to start writing letters to himself, from himself, about his life so they can help with strategies during sessions.

Well, Evan prints it out in the library and is waiting to get it, when another student, Connor (Colton Ryan) who is addicted to drugs and a little off, signs his cast as an apology for yelling at him earlier. But when Connor sees the letter, and it mentions Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever), Connor’s sister and a girl Evan likes, he takes the note and storms out, assuming Evan was just another student trying to mess with him.

Evan’s big worry is that the note will be posted on the social medias and he will be made fun of. But Connor doesn’t come back to school. Later, Evan is brought to the principal to talk to Connor’s parents (Amy Adams, Danny Pino), where they tell him that Connor killed himself. And the only note he seemed to leave behind was a note to Evan, since it began Dear Evan Hansen and was signed by “Me”.

He originally tries to deny it, but they also see CONNOR written on his cast, and its big and the only name. They must have been friends. He is uncomfortable, but doesn’t want to disappoint these nice people, so he tells some lies about their friendship to help their grieving. But these lies also make Evan feel like he is gaining a family in their grief. And these lies begin to snowball, until eventually, the truth has to come out.

Also starring Amandla Stenberg and Nik Dodani.

Signing casts are bigger deals than promposals I have heard.

Will you be found enjoying this musical? Maybe. It might depend on your experiences and love of the Broadway version. At least five songs are cut from the musical and reprises of others. And if you ever listened to the musical, you will find it feeling a bit sparse on music already. Or maybe it is just me, since it came out the year after Hamilton which is to the brim with music so it is hard to really compare it. But this movie at 2 hours and 17 minutes feels musical-lite. Most of the songs are slow and sad ones too.

We open with a famous song (different than Broadway) and then it takes almost another 20 minutes before we get another song. Musicals not having enough songs is a big issue. Its the sort of issue some Disney musicals have where they have only like five or six songs and most of them are in the first half. If you are a musical, commit to it, and give more songs, you know? Two of the songs in here are also original, trying to get that Oscar nomination. I appreciate them actually including them instead of just stamping them on the credits at least. But neither might secure a nom either, unfortunately.

Did I cry? Surprisingly only once. It was with Moore singing So Big / So Small, and I honestly figured that would be cut too, since they cut her other song that would have been a duet with Amy Adams.

I knew going into this movie that the plot was all sorts of fucked up, and just like I thought with the musical (Which I hadn’t seen, just heard the songs from and read outlines), I don’t think it really dealt with the consequences enough. It just filters out near the end. Life moves on, that is fair point, but this is a movie and I would like some better closure.

I appreciate the movie/story dealing with some really awkward and uncomfortable circumstances. Usually if things are uncomfortable, there is a clear solution and way to handle it all, but after the ball was rolling it was hard to find both what should be done and what should happen when it starts to fix. And complications in life and film can be a good thing.

Ben Platt was a good idea to still be the lead, but I don’t know why short haired one from the musical and The Politician wouldn’t have seemed to fit in better. Or maybe just casting a lot of other older high schoolers, confuse us that way you know? Halfway through it, I did forget the weirdness of the look, I will say and let the story better consume me. I think it gets better.

And on that note, a better Dear Evan Hansen musical should have existed, and now won’t.

2 out of 4.


Adam McKay shocked the world when in 2015 he moved away from his normal brand of movie directing, and instead gave us The Big Short. A true story, that is funny, terrifying, and well acted? What is this? The Big Short ended up being my favorite movie of the year when I made the list (but since then, I know for a fact that Steve Jobs is my real number one after a few years).

So the big question is, can he do it again?

This time his attempt is to go slightly further back in history and give us a movie about Dick Cheney. A hated, loved, and not fully understood politician who was Vice President under George W. Bush. Of course the title has a double meaning here, McKay is hoping to tell this story in a similar way. Narrator being a character, lot of various plot lines, and frankly, weird shit going on.

A funny movie, that is also maybe going to make you sad/angry/scared. Seems like a good idea for a slam dunk.

This is the face republicans will make watching this movie.

Dick (Christian Bale) grew up as the type of person who was going to go nowhere. He had a basic job, and spent most of his money getting drunk at night. This lead to some DUIs, barroom fights, the normal stuff. But his wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) wasn’t putting up with his basic bitch problems. She was still in her prime and could have any man. It was time for him to put up, or shut up, and save this marriage before it was too late.

And apparently, he still had some fight in him.

He eventually got himself a job as an intern in DC, where he met Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), who was a big Republican at the time, and who knew how to play the game. Cheney quietly learned the same tricks and I do mean quietly. He wanted to have the power, without showing it off. He wanted to do without saying and just become great. He wanted to maybe become president one day, and every little bit was just a step along the way.

And Cheney also didn’t care what he had to do to get it. He learned of many legal loopholes about what the president can and cannot do, along with the vice president job. He became CEO of Halliburton, raised a lesbian daughter, and shot a guy in the face who later apologized for getting shot. He clearly is a man with a story, even if that story makes him out to be a total shit bag.

Also starring Alison Pill, Bill Camp, Don McManus, Eddie Marsan, Jesse Plemons, Justin Kirk, Lily Rabe, LisaGay Hamilton, and Sam Rockwell as George W., with Tyler Perry as Colin Powell.

Somewhere in there is Christian Bale.

Vice is a polarizing film because it goes hard after Dick. This is not remotely a fluff piece. He is the bad guy of this story. Even if you think it is going to talk about how he is a go-getter, who works hard. No, he is bad. A mastermind. Explicitly working to gain power regardless of precedent. Now, whether all of this is factual is the question. What matters is that a lot of it IS factual, even if the motivations we have to more guess about.

It also is extremely unique in its story telling, so much that the message can get easily lost. After all, there is a lot going on, and if you don’t believe anything happening, you might just call it a silly movie.

The acting is what we really have to talk about here. Bale completely transformed himself. Outside of young Cheney, he looks completely like a different person and it is easy to forget he is even inside that body. His transformation is this year’s Darkest Hour. Adams and Perry are limited in their roles, but do outstanding jobs. Carell has done better in other roles, but still carries his own weight here. Rockwell is a natural fit for George W. and should play that character more often.

Vice, on its own, is basically an insane film. It definitely isn’t as good as The Big Short (I think…?), but it is a film I feel like I need to see 2 or 3 times overall before I fully can grasp its scope. I am annoyed at myself for having to write this while only seeing it once. It is definitely going to be deserved of acting praise from Bale, but I am not sure what else it might walk away with for rewards.

Either way, McKay, hats off to you for trying new and polarizing work.

3 out of 4.

Justice League

Justice League promised to be The Avengers, but for the DCEU. Obvious comparisons are obvious.

Unfortunately, unlike Marvel, most of the films that led up to Justice League were either shit or average. The only one to break the mold a bit was Wonder Woman, but it still couldn’t fully escape the terrible grasps of these franchises by having a completely shit and eye sore ending.

So I didn’t go out of my way to see Justice League. One of those fool me four times, shame on me sort of things. It didn’t help that it had behind the scenes director changes, a lot of issues with reshoots, and extreme studio interference. Clearly another great film to fit the theme week of ones I should have watched last year.

Is this the whole team? Eh, close enough.

Batman (Ben Affleck) really wants to bring all these super people together, to fight off giant threats that they cannot do on their own. Remember Superman (Henry Cavill)??? He totally died, but didn’t die as they made clear at the end of the last movie, so they gotta work together to beat future gods.

Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is generally on board. They just have to find more people. These people beings who will eventually go by their names of The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa).

Unfortunately, the next biggest threat is just some god dude from the Wonder Woman mythos. His name is Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), who is maybe where the band got their name from. He was here a long time ago, got defeated by the races of men, Amazons, and the Merfolk. There were some power cubes that they all split up to defend, and now he is back, wanting all three cubes, to have so much power.

So their goal is to prevent him from getting all the cubes, and once he still gets them, then hopefully defeat them and split up the cubes. Pretty basic plot.

Also starring Amber Heard, Amy Adams, Joe Morton, Jeremy Irons, J.K. Simmons, Connie Nielsen, and Diane Lane.

It was hard to find a good picture of the villain. Clearly I still failed.

When it comes to Justice League, there are so many places you can point to in order to determine what went wrong. And you’d be right! All of those reasons are why this movie was so poor!

First of all, Steppenwolf. What a goddamn terrible villain for us care about. Some CGI’d dude who is just super strong, and oh no, he might destroy the world. He has no great backstory, and he doesn’t even feel threatening on any scale. Sure, they show he is strong, but also, he doesn’t feel like a real threat. Not one bigger than Ares in Wonder Woman at least.

The CGI is a travesty. And so much of the film is just drenched in it. From the terrible Amazon horse fight scene, to the climatic battles, this one just reeks of cheap graphics.

Our characters come together and never feel like a team. It is clunky. Aquaman is shown as badass and strong, but never really embraces the powers unique of Aquaman. I have no idea if I care about Cyborg still, which is less a human with powers and more a…robot. But then again, Batman is on this team, so whatever.

And fucking Superman is in this movie. Once he finally shows up, he basically does most of the work on his own. They point out that he is indeed faster than The Flash, and the strongest, and can do no wrong. Steppenwolf is a villain who can kick most of the Justice League’s ass. Unfortunately, the one he cannot can also do it on his own.

Justice League is just a farce of a great movie. It is amazing how the DCEU just hates its characters so much that it continuously pumps out these mediocre or worse films.

1 out of 4.

Nocturnal Animals

I wasn’t able to see Nocturnal Animals before it came out, mostly due to screening conflict. But without knowing the plot of the film, I was interested in the cast alone.

But given that I wanted to see it, the title did a lot of work with only two words.

Nocturnal. Animals. It sounds mysterious, secretive, and of course, primitive. It riles up a lot of fears, especially for those people afraid of owls.

Jake Gyllenhaal already had a good year thanks to Demolition, so regardless of how this one went, I consider it to just be bonus Gyllenhaal.

And a bonus amount of this guy, who I didn’t recognize in the film.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is miserable. She lives in a giant house, with her husband (Armie Hammer). She is an art director, but feels like it is all junk. They are close to being poor, selling their items, waiting for a big business deal to come through, but she doesn’t care. She cares that her marriage is just a shell and pointless.

Then she receives a package from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). He is a writer, she criticized him a long time ago, he just didn’t write from his heart. But now he has a new story, one he says was inspired by her, to write from his heart, even dedicated to her. It is even called Nocturnal Animals, his old nickname for her to explain her insomnia.

The story is about a family, a husband (Gyllenhaal), his wife (Isla Fisher), and teenage daughter (Ellie Bamber). They are driving through Texas in the middle of the night, heading to a vacation, empty roads, no signal, simple. Until they do catch up to a few cars, who are up to no good and willing to make a few choices to ruin a few lives.

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Robert Aramayo, and Karl Glusman as some bad dudes, Michael Shannon as an older, smoking cop, and Laura Linney as Susan’s mom. Real mom in this story, not the book mom.

But also all of these people are fake anyways because: acting.

Nocturnal Animals made me feel a whole lot of emotions. Fright, scares, hope, sadness, angst, tension, extreme sadness, indifference, and even a bit of confusion. Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat from some parts of the film, and sinking into it later to try and escape the pain.

Nocturnal Animals tells a story, a story in a story, and it does both points so goddamn well. It both made me want it to never end, and to subsequently hurry up so that it could potentially become a sunshine, happy ending. But it sticks to its tone guns and it delivers exactly the perfect ending at the conclusion.

Everyone involved with this project should simultaneously be slapped and hugged because of what I imagine they had to go through to really convey those emotions. The acting, cinematography, directing, fuck, even the costumes, why not. It all just feels so planned to maximize the angst I felt inside.

This movie is extremely hard to talk about because in all honesty, it is something that should be experienced. It isn’t for the feint of heart, it goes into some heart wrenching areas. But if you give it a shot, you will get a smart film that doesn’t hold your hand, some of the best performances of 2016, and a story that will stay with you for a long time afterwards.

4 out of 4.


To be honest, 2016 has been an above average year for Sci-Fi. And no, I am not talking about Star Trek Beyond or Star Wars Rogue One.

But the Science Fiction films that make you think, that assume you are paying attention to the film and are here for a ride. Sure, we were given Allegiant, The 5th Wave, Independence Day: Resurgence, but they aren’t the only films out there. We were also given Midnight Special, which I gave a 4 out of 4 to, and 10 Cloverfield Lane, which I only had minor issues with.

And yet despite the better than average year, Arrival raises the bar higher and blows them all away.

That is important. That means something.

Arrival of course opens up with a parent losing her child, because movies want desperately for me to be sad always. We see a quick montage of Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) narrating over brief glimpses of her daughter, Hannah, and eventually succumbing to cancer in the late teens of early twenties. Fuck. Okay, let’s start off somber.

Dr. Banks is a linguist and teaches at a university level. She knows quite a few languages and just how they develop better than almost anyone. She has some government clearance too, thanks to helping decode some terrorist messages. So when the aliens come, she is quickly swept up to help figure out their language. The aliens are in twelve giant intimidating oval shaped pods around the world, with the only one in the US landing in Montana. Banks quickly determines that the best way to communicate and learn from them is an attempt to communicate both vocally and through a written language.

Her science team is lead by a theoretical physicist, Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), with the head military guy being played by Forest Whitaker, the head of operations guy being played by Michael Stuhlbarg, and of course, Tzi Ma, playing a Chinese general.

Suit up
Suiting Up is always important when meeting someone new. Even if it is a biohazard suit.

Denis Villeneuve is a god amongst men. Sure, he didn’t come up with Arrival on his own, it is based on a book Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. But Villeneuve is consistently doing films that seemingly no one else is attempting. He is not defining what is right or what is wrong. He is not holding your hand to give you all the answers in his stories. This is true for Enemy, Sicario, and Prisoners, and now it is true for Arrival. Many other directors would have made the film a lot more in your face, but Villeneuve assumes we are smarter than that and wants to focus on the experience and narrative, rather than pointing out the subtleties.

After the director it is hard to say where else I should go with this. The cinematography is beautiful, a lot of longer shots. We even get the indie “camera following the main character walking” shot a few times, which I normally get annoyed at, but this time it seems to work really well. The aliens themselves are stunning and a bit scary, shrouded in their mystery. And the music is a hard thing to ignore, all over the place and really putting the watcher in the right mood.

Adams pulls off a hell of a performance and is likely to be nominated from it. She is such a different person in this movie, even though she clearly looks like Adams, she feels like someone else. A lot of the crazier moments come up through and about her character and it is thrilling ride the entire time. Adams made me cry. Multiple times.

The film addresses a lot of powerful themes, and to talk about most of them would feel like a spoiler. Such is the problems of a reviewer.

Arrival is the sort of film that will actually get better with subsequent viewings. It ends up going places I didn’t think possible, and will stay with me for quite a long time.

4 out of 4.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I love Ben Affleck. Wait let me rephrase that.

I love Ben Affleck. Oh, apparently that is what I meant. I am not saying Affleck is perfect. He had the bad stretch in the early 2000’s. But he is making a hell of a comeback and I have been cheering him on the whole time.

I was excited to hear he was playing Batman from the get go. Finally, a Batman from Boston. Obviously he won’t be from Boston in this film, so one dream was crushed, but I still feel he has the look and power to pull it off.

That is why I am excited to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I hope that it is better than the mediocre Man of Steel. I am also glad that the slate of DC movies is now determined for the next decade or whatever. After MoS, they initially said there would be a Man of Steel 2 like, a year later, then Justice League film to bring in everyone. I guess MoS2 turned into this, a Justice League prequel. A much smarter move.

Blue eyes
God damn, look at those dreamy blueish Batfleck eyes!

Metropolis got fucked over by Zod and Superman (Henry Cavill). You might remember it because it was a big source of frustration for many film goers at the lack of consequences. So in this film, they decided to make consequences.

Like by pissing off Batman (Ben Affleck). One of his financial buildings was destroyed in the fight, with many people who used to work for him killed and one worker (Scoot McNairy) lost his legs. His legs!

So now, two years later, Superman has been around for awhile and generally doing good. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and the rest of the newspaper seem to be on his side and write good stories. Batman has been a vigilante for a long time as well, long before Superman arrived.

But now, two years later, a large source of Krptonite has been found in the ocean, and thanks to research by LexCorp and Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg), they have found that it can damage Kryptonian skin. Ooooh. He wants to build a Superman deterrent, just in case. You know, that is something that Batman can get behind.

And then a whole lot of other things happen. Like Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot)! She is here too, damn it!

Also starring Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Tao Okamoto as Luther’s assistant, Laurence Fishburne as head of the newspaper, Holly Hunter as a senator, and Callan Mulvey as a generic bad dude.

Shit, does everyone have glowing eyes?

Batman v Superman, because the s in “vs” is one too many characters, is a bit over 2 and a half hours. And if you haven’t heard, there will be a directors cut with the Blu-Ray release that is about 3 hours and rated R. Yes, they made the bold decision of announcing a director’s cut before actual theatrical cut, something that is mostly unheard of. I think it was to mostly announce the R-ness, after the success of Deadpool.

With a long run time, there is of course a lot going in. Even though everyone in the world knows about Batman, they still have to give us a bit of an origin story for him. For the majority of the film, it is implied that Batman has been Batmanning for a long time, perhaps even 20 years at this point. He has a lot of history that they don’t get into, but it is something I will believe, because it implies past Joker interactions, everyone involved in Suicide Squad, and more. But if Superman has been here for almost two years, you’d think the two of them would have interacted at some point before now, given Gotham and Metropolis being across a bay from each other.

I am coming from a very pro-Batfleck back ground, but I think he knocked it out of the park as our caped crusader. And not just because of his chin. We have a lot less material to work with still, but I think he is definitely better than Nolan’s Batman (Batlan?) already. He is raw, he is angry, and he is calculating. Jeremy Irons does a wonderful Alfred, but I’d be honest, I think I liked every Alfred.

Wonder Woman was also very exciting. We really only get to see her for one fight scene, but when she appears, she commands the screen. She shows no fear, fights like a god, kicks ass, and even uses one of her trademark weapons. I wanted more Wonder Woman, hell, I wanted all of the Jusice League, but the other characters were only teased.

Cavill as Superman is more of the same from Man of Steel. Nothing too drastically different here, although his 6th sense of detecting if Lois is in trouble gets a bit ridiculous. He is a bit more of a tragic character in this film, with the Christ allegations no longer being subtle.

Lastly, in terms of characters, Eisenberg as Luther I am still mostly unsure about. A lot of the character seems to be similar to half of Eisenberg’s other characters. Smart aleck, talks fast, etc. By the end, it almost seemed like they wanted to turn him a bit into the Joker with a sort of madness behind him. Let’s call him passable.

No cool glowing eyes, but hey, one group shot so I don’t show favoritism.

Back to the movie as a whole. This film is all over the place. And honestly, early on the plot feels a bit convoluted. Most of the Lois Lane plot in retrospect feels a bit pointless. Everything is supposed to connect by the end, in a shower of brilliant planning, but it feels instead like it is full of holes and unnecessarily complicated. (“Hey, that’s what convoluted means! You already said that!” – Gorgon Reviews reader complaint).

The actual Batman v Superman fight scene was really cool, but in all honesty it just seemed like it was mostly to showcase how awesome Batman was. Superman never really went “full Superhero” during it, and the ending of the fight seemed sudden and a bit tacky.

As for the actual big crazy fight scene, which I won’t spoil despite the second trailer doing just that, it was occasionally nifty, while also often being messy. I really enjoyed the fight scenes between Zod and Superman in the previous film because it did a great job of showing how intense a fight between virtual gods would be, but this one takes place in the dark, with tons of explosions and flashing lights. It is harder to follow actually what is going on, which was only a problem in the Krypton pats of the first film. Basically every fight is in the dark and at night, making it annoying. We do get to see how the different characters fight and they aren’t just all bam bam pow.

Annoyingly, Batman seems to do something in the final fight that makes no real tactical sense. In fact, it seems like it is him doing something that he was angry at Superman for doing. They try to explain it off with a line, but as it was spoken, I could only shake my head wondering how something so stupid could be included in the film.

Favoritism, schmavoritism. Batfleck was clearly superior and everyone knows it.

The film doesn’t go about explaining a lot of smaller plot points. Sometimes it makes sense, as it assumes the audience is competent and knows a thing or two about these heroes. However, on Batman’s side, there are a lot of weird…dreams, moments, and references, that seem to mostly be teasing for the future and leaving me a bit perplexed at times. They tended to feel out of place and actually slow the movie down since they aren’t relevant yet.

And finally, FINALLY, the ending. Good news, it might be controversial again although not in the expected way. The whole time I was sitting there, I was confused. There were two routes it could have gone. One would have been really bold and a creative direction to take the future films, the other would be very obvious to any movie goer and thus have absolutely no impact. And yeah, it went the no impact route. The last 5-10 minutes seem to be almost cancelled out thanks to final scenes. On its own it will rustle at least dozens of jimmies.

Here is the good news. I think this film is a step in the right direction. There is a lot of good in there, just also a lot of meh to overall bring it down some. But it did still have me excited for Justice League and excited for Wonder Woman. As for Suicide Squad, the trailers still have me as mostly indifferent. This could be a fantastic film franchise and a nice foil to Marvel, it just will take a few more steps than The Avengers took to get there.

2 out of 4.

Big Eyes

I would like to think I have my finger on the pulse of the movie community, being pretty aware of when movies are coming out and what I need to see and when.

But I feel like Big Eyes was grossly under advertised. We have people who have been nominated for Academy Awards in the lead and winners as well! Our female, nominated five times, and our male, nominated, I dunno, two? But he won both of them. And it is directed by Tim Burton WITHOUT Johnny Depp. This seems like something people would talk wildly about.

I mean. Shit. It won a Golden Globe or two (I really just don’t remember).

But instead we get it as a sort of limited/secret/whatever Christmas release, all while my TV was filled with ads for Unbroken.

Cat Eyes

Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) left her husband before it was cool. She just up and divorced and left with her daughter (Delaney Raye or Madeleine Arthur, you know, depends on when during the movie). She wasn’t Margaret Keane at this point, but I don’t remember her maiden/first marriage name.

She left to become an artist, and started doing quick sketches of kids or families at festivals for super cheap just to get by. She couldn’t sell her work for a lot because people didn’t care for women artists.

Well, there she met a man. A Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) (psst, now you know they get married), who does mostly scenic landscape pictures from France. He is a skilled artist in his own right and really likes her work. Well, things get moving, and partially out of love of art and of each other (and a need to be secure financially or else she loses her daughter maybe), they get hitched!

They even sell work that they did. Well, Walter sells the work. He is a natural salesman, able to hype anything up. He accidentally claims that one of his wife’s paintings is his too! Because you know, he wanted to close the deal, and buyers always like to meet the artist. She isn’t a great seller herself. She hates this. Like. A lot. But goes along with it because it brings them money early on.

Oh and hey. Then he does it intentionally. And after they get to be super successful, he basically blackmails her into continuing along with it, taking no credit. Because hey, now they have committed fraud, and if she were to tell everyone, they’d lose everything. Sucks to be a sort of slave in your own home getting no credit.

Did I mention this is a true story?

And then, you know, also people like Jason Schwartzman, Danny Huston, and Krysten Ritter as Margaret’s best friend!

Slanty Eyes
I think the main conflict in this picture is the war between big eyes and shifty eyes.

Big Eyes was such a quaint, nice feeling movie. I liked that it was set in the mid 1900s, but also, I wasn’t given some shitty filter over the whole thing so that I knew it was set in the past. No, it was just given nice regular camera work and the whole thing looked crisp. It wasn’t dark and broody, so it was something very un-Burton like, which was another nice surprise.

Another unexpected treat was Mr. Waltz. He didn’t have the same character as his Tarantino roles. And the only other role I can think of is Water for Elephants, which isn’t like this either. He was a villain, obviously, and a smooth talker, but a lot less stable than his past roles.

Amy Adams also did a solid job.

The thing is, this movie didn’t have enough plot for me. At one point it just felt like I was getting more of the same over and over again. She is still sad about her paintings and feels bad about lying. He still sucks and has schemes to keep her artwork being bought. On and on and on. The eventual court room scene was kind of fun. But still, I thought something was lacking throughout the whole film. Acting was fine, story wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped, but it was still a well shot and pretty movie.

I think Burton picked it accidentally. He saw the title Big Eyes and since he loves eyes so much, he assumed it would involve just giant floating eyeballs playing tricks on kids or something. Yeah, that makes sense in my head.

2 out of 4.


I have been putting off watching Doubt for quite a long time. The only reason is, in 2007, before the movie came out, I ended up seeing the play version for free. The play version of Doubt has only four characters: priest, old nun, young nun, kid’s mom. That is it. No children at all in it, so side nuns, nothing. Just these four characters and it was a very powerful play. A play that asked a lot of questions, made a lot of assumptions, and did it in a very simple format.

So I never really wanted to watch the movie, as I would no doubt just compare it to the play. Who cares how many awards it was nominated for?

And then? Then Philip Seymour Hoffman died. I still haven’t reviewed a movie with him since his death, but was able to get a Paul Walker movie within two weeks of his death. Even had a shitty Cory Monteith tribute review, kind of.

But Mr. PSH was kind of special, and I knew I just would have to eventually go and watch this movie for him, before anything else of his came out. I just knew it had to be Doubt.

I guess you could say there was no doubt in my mind I would see this movie soon.

Doubt takes place in a land without cell phones, the past. I assume somewhere in the 1960’s, mostly because they are dealing with issues of segregation.

It also takes place at a Catholic Church / school, where nuns teach, and the word of God is rule. The most feared nun in the nunnery is Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), who is the main nun and will have no shenanigans. She doesn’t want the church to get away from its traditional teachings, or give into technology, or all of that crap.

But then the school has its first black kid in its midst, a boy. They were worried the kids would be picking on him, but no one seems to care. No one, except Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who takes the boy under his wing, makes him an alter boy and protects him.

However, Sister James (Amy Adams), a fresh new nun, who doesn’t want people to fear her, notices something strange about the boy. He seems dejected. He seems to have lost whatever spirit he had. He seems to have…alcohol on his breath?

Doubt asks the age old questions, really. Is the Catholic priest conducting in inappropriate behavior with a student? If so, is their any proof? Viola Davis plays the kids mother.

Red hot Catholic bench action right up in here.

In honor of the play I obviously only tagged the four main characters.

For whatever reason, the movie felt very short. It was only 1 hour 40 minutes, but the first 20 or so are just character defining scenes to get you to know our cast, and the rest of it feels like only four or five scenes. The scenes are all very long with tons of dialogue (see: the fact that it was a play), and they are also incredibly intense. All four of the main cast members had their moments to shine in the movie, displaying a lot of emotion in a simple way.

Was Hoffman good? Yeah, he was excellent. Was Streep good? Yeah, she was excellent. So were Adams and Davis, in fact, this may now be some of my favorite roles for the last two, even if it was arguably Streep’s movie overall.

Great plays make great movies. Simple fact as that. A nice watch, although again, the timing on it felt a bit odd while I watched it. Large cast was necessary I guess, but they could have given the kids less lines and made them mostly background characters.

3 out of 4.


Without a doubt, Her was one of my most anticipated movies of 2013 to watch. That is why I was disappointed I had to wait until 2014 to see it! It is one of those rather annoying ideas by the guys trying to win Oscars. They release a movie on a limited run near the end of the year, then wide release in early January after it has built up steam.

Living in the middle of Iowa, where they have zero movie previews, you will always get the short end of the “limited release” stick.

Despite the wait, Spike Jonze has made some great movies in the past (Being John Malkovich/Adaptation), so I was hoping he could deliver on his first major release that he both wrote and directed.

Especially with a topic as serious as this one.

Her is set sometime in the distant future. In this world, human interaction is basically nonexistent. Everyone is attached to their computer devices that they carry around with them, more extreme than it is now. In fact, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) works at a job where he writes hand written letters for people, because people really don’t know how to do that anymore. They’d rather leave their intimacy to strangers.

He is also going through a divorce with Catherine (Rooney Mara), but he is reluctant to sign the papers because he doesn’t want that part of his life to end.

Regardless, Theodore decides to upgrade his computer’s operating system, as it comes with a new artificial intelligence software that will adapt and learn over time. His new operating system, which gives herself the name Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), immediately makes his life more organized and better. In fact, he now has someone he can talk to who seems real. Yay, human-ish contact!

Then, Samantha and Theodore fall in love.

The only other main character is Amy (Amy Adams), his long time friend (who he once dated), who is also currently married (Matt Letscher). She provides an actual human constant experience to his life. Chris Pratt and Olivia Wilde also make appearances.

Mr. Phoenix
I bet overall, Theo is actually in love with himself.

The basic concepts of Her are not entirely unique. Futuristic society and very smart computers who have human personalities. See, even Disney had a made for TV movie, Smart House along the same lines. But rarely is love touched upon.

Phoenix, like we have come to expect, did phenomenal in this role. He was a dreamer, but alone, a lover, but afraid. The movie is mostly dialogue based, most of which is between Theodore and Samantha, leaving the camera on Phoenix for most of the film to react and talk. Since Samantha doesn’t have a face, the film just falls on his shoulders. Despite his crazy good performance, he will probably fall short of Best Actor Oscar thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

I thought the writing and dialogue in the movie felt incredibly realistic for what was going on. It was also quite beautiful. You could tell that the main character had a lot bottling up inside of him, so every time he started to talk with Samantha, he could let it all out and be real to himself. The love between him and the operating system was by far one of the more heart felt performances of the year.

Because the subject matters of Her are so serious, I can say that after one viewing I don’t think I was really able to understand and get everything I needed out of the movie. This is the type of film that might require multiple viewings, not because of plot twists or surprise endings, but to really capture and appreciate everything that happens subtly through facial expressions and dialogue.

Her is by far one of the more relevant films of 2013. I don’t even have to go into detail about how it relates to modern day life. I’d suggest watching with an open mind and an open heart.

4 out of 4.

American Hustle

A lot of hype went into American Hustle and rightfully so. After all, it is the third movie from David O. Russell in four years, with the last two (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook) being wildly successful and nominated for numerous awards.

Not only that, but he took the two best people from each of his previous two movies (Sorry Marky Mark), and put all four of them together in this to create some sort of mega-moviestar-zord.

Featuring Bale, who has once again recklessly warped his body for a role.

One reason why I really enjoyed American Hustle is that I could never tell what was going to happen next. They had very descriptive trailers, but the plot was left vague so you could still experience the movie. So I will try to be vague here as well.

Ever since Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) was a boy, he was a con man. His dad owned a glass company, and he broke windows. So he grew up gaming the system and perfecting his craft. Next thing you know he stealing money to give out make believe loans to the crooked and desperate. Easy cash for the late 1970s. But then he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), and he realizes she is special.

Soon they start scamming together, but eventually they get too big and reach too far and get busted by the FBI. Next thing they know, they are taking orders from rambunctious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who has big lofty goals of getting even more criminals taken down. The only way Irving and Sydney walk, is if they help out. But Richie has big dreams, can ever really be satisfied?

Oh yeah, and Irving has a wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and kid. That is important, I guess.

Jeremy Renner plays a small town mayor who gets mixed up in the bribing network, with Michael Pena as another FBI agent, and Louis C.K as a local head of FBI. Yeah, really, Louis C.K.

Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook was my Halloween costume in ’13.
Will this be my Halloween costume in ’14?

American Hustle truly was an experience. Despite the fact that it was over 2 hours in length, I still am a bit surprised at how much material was fit into that movie. Tons. A lot. I remember a specific scene that felt like the final climatic show down, that actually ended up being the halfway point of the movie. It blew my mind, in the best way possible, that it continued to go and tell the story. I was shocked that the story continued to build and reach new heights. That somehow, I couldn’t for the life of me guess correctly what would come next.

After all, this is a con movie at its core, so you are going to expect a lot of twists and turns of the plot. The biggest problem with a con movie is that if it all relies on a twist, sometimes future viewings are dampened, already knowing what to expect. American Hustle feels like a film I could watch over and over again, never getting tired of it, thanks to the brilliant acting and writing that went into the movie.

It is based on/inspired by/whatever by the actual Abscam operation that occurred in the late 1970s, for those history buffs out there.

For those of you out there who already like David O. Russell movies, you will probably like this one too. For those of you a fan of any of the actors/actresses mentioned, you will definitely find their role awesome. If you don’t like David O. Russell movies or the actors/actresses involved in this one, well, your opinion is wrong and you will like this movie too.

4 out of 4.