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Rating History

The Finest Hours
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"In the coast guard they say you go out, they don't say you gotta come back."

Director Craig Gillespie and Disney team up once again following their 2014 film, Million Dollar Arm. This time the true story is based on the 1952 Coast Guard rescue attempt at Cape Cod. The film counts with a stellar cast starting from the always charismatic Chris Pine, and including some strong supporting performances from the likes of Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Holliday Grainger, and John Magaro. The Finest Hours captures the fifties with delicacy while also remaining old school. The film is by the books and told in a way that most movies based on true events are, so it doesn't stand out. The effects are believable but they never accomplish much visually. There are some thrilling moments and the film slowly builds the tension during the final act, but it does take a bit too long setting the premise and trying to establish a love story that doesn't seem to be all that interesting or relevant.

The Finest Hour begins by introducing us to the hero of the story who is about to go on his first date with the woman who will eventually become his fiancée. Chris Pine is Bernie Webber, a shy man who follows orders and likes to do things by the books, while Holliday Grainger is Miriam, a woman who is set on going after what she want. The love story lacks emotion and therefor it is the weakest link in the film. It is the reason why the first half of the film didn't work for me and why I wished the film focused more on the events taking place in the split oil tanker during the storm. Pine is playing against type here since his character is rather timid and that takes away a lot of his charm. I will give him credit for trying to play a different character, but I don't think he was the right choice for the part. Casey Affleck is the true standout, playing one of the crew members in the oil tanker fighting for their survival. He reminds us what a great actor he is and I wish the film focused more on his character. The rescue mission is exciting and thrilling, but the film takes too long to set itself up.

Perhaps The Finest Hours is one of the better films being released in January since this is considered the dumping ground for most movies, but it still isn't good enough to get a fresh grade from me. The film has its moments and Casey Affleck should be getting bigger roles, but other than that the movie does fall flat and lacks the emotional depth other rescue films have. I'm usually a fan of Chris Pine, but I didn't enjoy his performance here and this is one of the few films from him that I haven't liked. If you are nostalgic for old-fashioned adventure films than this might be the right film for you, otherwise skip it.

The Revenant
The Revenant (2015)
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe... keep breathing."

It's only been a year since Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu delivered the award winning Birdman and somehow he managed to deliver another visual masterpiece in record time. To follow up such a groundbreaking film like Birdman, with an epic adventure film like The Revenant is mesmerizing. But Gonzalez doesn't deserve all the credit, his films have stood out because of Emmanuel Lubezki's groundbreaking cinematography. The best thing about The Revenant is without a doubt its visual style. And the same could be said about Lubezki's previous efforts: Gravity and Birdman. In three years Lubezki has delivered some of the most beautiful looking films of our decade (and I'm not even including The Tree of Life which he worked on in 2011). This man is pure genius and will without a doubt win his third Oscar in a row. I hope the two continue to work together and deliver more visually inspiring films.

Leonardo DiCaprio deserves all the accolades he's received for his physically demanding performance here. From the very first scene we see him face one obstacle after another as the opening sequence takes place while he is being attacked by a group of indians during a fur trading expedition. It's not much later when the much commented bear mauling scene takes place, but that is only the beginning of his struggles. DiCaprio gives it his all and even though this isn't the best performance of his career, it will finally be the one that gives him the Oscar. Tom Hardy also delivers a fantastic supporting performance as John Fitzgerald, the man who wants to leave him behind. The film ends up feeling like one long chase in a similar way as Mad Max Fury Road, although at a much slower pace. A survival/revenge film like this has never looked so beautiful. The film is a bit too long and it eventually begins to wear down, but it's a constant feast to the eyes despite the exhaustion.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"You call yourself a free spirit, a "wild thing," and you're terrified somebody's gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you're already in that cage. You built it yourself."

Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of those classic films that has stood the test of time and turned the lead protagonist into a fashion icon. Audrey Hepburn will forever be remembered for her role here as Holly Golightly, the New York socialite that made everyone fall for Tiffany's. Her performance is so iconic that sometimes we forget everything else about the film: the original song, "Moon River" which continues to be included in many modern day movies, the adapted screenplay from Truman Capote's novel, one of America's most revered writers, and Blake Edwards's comedic direction which still stands today as one of his funniest films. Not even the love story is as effective as Hepburn's presence, and what seemed to be a miscasting for some producers ended up being the major strength of the film. Everything about Breakfast at Tiffany's is now resumed in two words: Audrey Hepburn. Her presence even makes us forget about some of the weak elements in the film, such as Mickey Rooney's performance as Mr. Yunioshi (a terrible casting decision). We forgive anything that doesn't work in the film because Hepburn's presence simply takes over the screen and she makes the film such an endearing one.

Room (2015)
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"When I was small, I only knew small things. But now I'm five, I know everything!"

It doesn't feel right to call Lenny Abrahamson's latest film a small one because it is such a rewarding and emotional experience. Yes, it is a low key and small scaled film, but it has such a profound impact on the audience that it is far from being small. The first half of the film takes place in a very confined space, which makes the second half of the movie even more rewarding as the world around these two protagonists expands. Very few times in film has a director captured such an interesting and authentic mother and son dynamic as we find here with Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay's performances. Larson is guaranteed to win the Oscar for her lead role here and she fully deserves it as this mother who has endured the worst of times, but found a means of surviving through her son. She truly lives a nightmare, but Abrahamson doesn't focus on that as much as he does at making us experience their world through the young son's eyes. He is innocent and has never seen the world outside of the small room in which he unknowingly has been held captive since his birth. His mother has done everything she can to give him a happy and normal life despite the situation. Tremblay delivers an equally impressive performance, and his young age shouldn't have been a factor when it came to voting for the best performances of the year. He was outstanding and held his own in each scene he shared with Larson. The two performances are the main reason why Room has achieved such greatness.

Room is based on Emma Donoghue's best selling novel about a 5 year old boy who experiences the world in the confined space of a small room. The only person he has direct contact with is his mother. His only contact with the outside world is through a small TV, but his mother has told him that the images are of other universes far from theirs. Jack also knows there is one other person that exists in their world, as some nights a visitor comes into the room from a locked door, but his mom orders him to keep away from him and stay in his wardrobe. Jack's mother has done her best to give him love and nurture, but as his curiosity begins to grow there is only so far she can go with her story. What will happen when young Jack realizes that there is actually more to the world than the small room in which they have been confined in? What follows is a deeply emotional and profound thriller that shook me to my core.

Lenny Abrahamson is known for delivering original and unconventional stories. Previously to Room he had directed Michael Fassbender in Frank, a film in which the main protagonist wore a giant paper-mache mask throughout the story. Room however goes a step further delivering a thriller in a very unconventional way as we get to experience the harrowing events through the innocence of a five year old boy and the depths his mother goes through to give him a normal life. From the very opening scene we know there is nothing normal about their lifestyle, but at the same time the film avoids the typical atmosphere we are used to seeing in crime related films. I don't want to say too much about Room because the less you know about it the better, but the second half delivers even more thrills and engages the audience with even more to ponder about. Finding freedom is only have of the battle, and most of the time these films fail to focus on it, but Room manages to deliver on both ends. This is an effective and powerful film and I'm finding it incredibly hard to put into words how much it affected me.

99 Homes
99 Homes (2015)
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"Don't get emotional about real estate."

99 Homes is a powerful drama that resonates with the current economic state of the United States in the same way that Wall Street did in the 80's. Michael Shannon's Rick Carver as a realtor who makes his living by evicting families from their homes and cheating on the bank system, is in a way the modern Gordon Gekko (a character that turned Michael Douglas into an iconic figure for business people around the globe). 99 Homes is a morality play and a film about greed which poses interesting questions as to how far one would go to achieve the American dream. The film could be a great companion to McKay's The Big Short which focused on the housing bubble collapse, although this film focuses exclusively on the real estate brokers who managed to make a fortune upon the disgrace of the hard working blue collar families. Director, Ramin Bahrani, however doesn't try to turn Carver into a charismatic character. He is a greedy, selfish, calculating, and cold blooded man who doesn't care one bit about the families he is evicting from their homes. There is no glorification of his character whatsoever and it truly shows what kind of person you have to be to live with such low morals.

Andrew Garfield's Dennis Nash on the other hand is the character the audience can relate to because he goes through a deep struggle as Carver's protege to accept his new line of work. Dennis was a former construction worker who due to the real estate crisis is left without a job. He lives with his mother, Lynn (Laura Dern), and his young son Connor (Noah Lomax) in the family home he's always grown up in. Unfortunately due to the current economic situation he is evicted from his home by Carver who shows up at his door and gives him two minutes to take his belongings and move out. As much as he hates the situation there isn't anything he can do so he is forced to relocate his family in a nearby cheap motel. After realizing his tools are missing during the eviction, Dennis goes to confront one of Carver's handymen. Dennis arrives at the right time because a crisis ensues and Carver realizes that his construction experience can come in handy. Despite not liking his boss one bit, Dennis begins to realize there is an easy way to make money and he justifies his actions by wanting to give his son a better life. The question then becomes how far Dennis will be willing to go to be like the man he despises.

Ramin Bahrani isn't a director that many people know because he has made several small independent films, but if you were an avid reader of Roger Ebert's film reviews then you know Bahrani was one of those small directors that he had high praise for. That is how I actually ended up hearing about his movies and decided to check out Goodbye Solo, a film focusing on two strangers who form an unlikely bond. Bahrani is passionate about delivering social films and you can see traces of it here in this much bigger film. The cast elevates the material even more as both Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon deliver superb performances. There was even some talk of Shannon receiving an Oscar nomination, but his work was overlooked once again. 99 Homes works as a morality play but it still is concerned on the social issues present in today's world. It might not have the same character development and dynamics that we saw in Goodbye Solo, but that is because there is so much more suspense and thrills going on here. I personally prefer his smaller films, but this was a memorable film that still remains provocative and resonant in today's economy.