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Showing posts from January, 2016

Timmmaaaaay's Top 10 of 2015

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I had originally planned to get this list posted earlier in the month, but as you can tell, that didn't happen.  It's funny how spending the better part of two days shoveling snow sucks the motivation to do anything else right out of you.  There are still a handful of films that have been nominated for this year's Academy Awards that I would like to see, but seeing as though we've already made it to the last day of January, I figure I shouldn't delay my annual Top 10 list any longer!

I've compiled such a list four of the past five years, so those of you familiar with the blog may remember the stipulations I use when putting this list together, but for those who are not, here are a couple of quick points before we get started:
The list is pulled only from the movies released in 2015 that I actually saw (a second list comprised of the films from 2015 that I would still like to see appears after my Top 10).These are the films that I enjoyed or appreciated the most …

Rental Review - The Martian

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The Martian (2015), PG-13, 141 minutes - I had originally hoped to see this film back in October when it first hit theaters, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, I didn't have the opportunity until its recent blu-ray release.  So after having to wait (not so patiently) for that to happen, my wife (who has read the book) and I sat down this past week to see if The Martian was as good as everyone said it was.

If you've read Andy Weir's book that was the source material for this film, then you already have a bit of an idea of what to expect (although my wife informs me that there are plenty of differences).  According to her, some plot points are more heavily focused on than others but fear not, the basics of the story remain intact!  If you're like me and were excited by the trailer but were too lazy to read the book first, it goes a little something like this: Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is part of the Ares III crew that comprises the first manned mission to Mars.  A…

Review - Steve Jobs

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Steve Jobs (2015), R, 122 minutes - I saw this film a little while ago and just haven't gotten around to getting my thoughts down 'on paper' so to speak.  As is evident by its title, this film focuses on its namesake, using backstage interactions from three landmark product launches to give us insight into the man behind Apple's rise to prominence in the computer industry.  

This film from director Danny Boyle is very dialogue heavy, which may be a bit worrisome if not for the fact that the screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin.  Michael Fassbender (Jobs), Kate Winslet (Joanna Hoffman), Jeff Daniels (John Sculley), Seth Rogan (Steve Wozniak), and Michael Stuhlbarg (Andy Hertzfeld) bring that screenplay to life in a very engaging manner that speeds the film along at a pace that belies its two hour run time.

I was a little surprised when I saw that the entire film plays out over snippets from just three days over the course of twenty years, but it really provides a fas…

Rental Review - Terminator Genisys

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Terminator Genisys (2015), PG-13, 126 minutes - Yes, they are still making Terminator films.  Despite the fact that they haven't been able to recapture the franchise's magic in the time since 1991's Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Terminator Genisys now marks fifth film in the franchise.

Genisys begins in line with the story we all know: in a war torn future where Skynet has all but taken over, John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to the early 1980's in order to protect his mother Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from a Terminator attack.  But when Reese arrives, things are not as he expects.  Sarah is already aware of the existence of Terminators.  Not only that, but she is collaborating with one she calls 'Pops' (Arnold Schwarzenegger).  This allows for a bit of role reversal as Sarah drops the 'come with me if you want to live' line as they attempt to evade a T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee).

With all of the time travel and attempts at cha…

Review - Straight Outta Compton

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Straight Outta Compton (2015), R, 147 minutes - I was born in 1979, and having grown up in a small, very rural, very middle-class New Hampshire town, I was about as far removed from the gangsta rap movement led by NWA as you could have been.  The earliest memories that I actually have of any of these artists are of their various projects from after their falling out.  So for me, this biopic was very intriguing, providing some historical perspective on their rise not only in the music world, but in society in general.

Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr. - the real Ice Cube's son), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Easy-E (Jason Mitchell), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) were friends from in and around Compton, CA who had similar musical tastes.  Unable to play or perform 'their kind' of music - based on the lifestyle they new and experienced, they decided to record and produce themselves.  They financed and released their first single, 'Boyz-n-the-Hood' unde…

Rental Review - Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

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Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015), R, 88 minutes - My wife and I have generally enjoyed this franchise (the first two films in particular), so rather than waiting for it to be available from redbox or Netflix, we decided to rent it through Amazon Prime last week.

For anyone familiar with the Paranormal Activity films - and six films in now, you've either seen them or get the gist - this installment implements the usual 'found footage' presentation to depict events from 2013 in order to help fill in the 1980's cult-filled back story of sisters Katie and Kristi (who, as adults, were the stars of the first two films).

Ryan (Chris J. Murray), Emily (Brit Shaw), and their daughter Leila (Ivy George) discover an old video camera and a box full of VHS tapes in their house.  Ryan starts playing with the video camera and discovers that it allows him to see strange anomalies throughout the house.  As he delves into the numerous VHS tapes, he discovers that years a…

Rental Review - Sinister

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Sinister (2012), R, 110 minutes - File this film under 'movies I incorrectly assumed were too gory for my taste and subsequently ignored'.  My interest in this film was actually piqued in recent months after writer/directer Scott Derrickson was announced as the director for Marvel's Doctor Strange film (being released November 2016).  I wasn't very familiar with any of his previous work aside from being underwhelmed by 2008's remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.  The majority of his filmography appears to be comprised of the horror/thriller genre, so I thought I'd finally give Sinister a shot.

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a true-crime author who is years removed from his one best-selling novel.  He and his family are moving into a new home in a new town.  Oswalt likes to get as close as possible to the crimes that he is researching and writing about but this time around, unbeknownst to his wife and kids, he has moved them into the actual house at which t…

Rental Review - Fruitvale Station

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Fruitvale Station (2013), R, 85 minutes - This is a film that I've been meaning to check out for a while, and having recently seen writer/director Ryan Coogler's latest film Creed (also starring Michael B. Jordan), I finally had the motivation to seek this one out.

Fruitvale Station is based on actual events, and illustrates a single day (what turns out to be the final day) in the life of Oscar Grant, a man with a volatile past (that led to jail time), who is now trying to do right in the eyes of his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal), girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), and mother Wanda (Octavia Spencer) while trying to figure out how to do so after recently losing his job.

Shot and presented in a the style of a documentary, Fruitvale Station really lets Michael B. Jordan shine.  You feel for Grant as Jordan's performance unfolds, as you see him work his way through the day with the love he has for his family as he tries to provide for them despite his work situation and his…

Review - Bridge of Spies

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Bridge of Spies (2015), PG-13, 141 minutes - I'm a sucker for historical dramas so this film, a Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks collaboration, was a must see in my mind.  Unfortunately, I didn't get around to seeing it as quickly as I would have liked.  Fortunately though, it enjoyed a fairly decent theatrical run, allowing me to finally check it out a couple of weeks ago.

Bridge of Spies is based upon events that occurred in the 1960's: the Cold War prisoner exchange of suspected spies between the United States and Russia, and the unexpected catalyst of the exchange negotiations: an insurance settlement lawyer named James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks).  Donovan is first asked to act as defense lawyer for suspected Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance).  It is of no concern to anyone that Donovan has limited defense experience as Abel only needs representation so that the court can go through the motions of 'due process'.  At a time when the threat of nuclear war was at its …

Review - The Revenant

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The Revenant (2015), R, 156 minutes - There was a time when I couldn't care less about a new Leonardo DiCaprio film being released.  That all changed when I saw 2002's Catch Me If You Can.  In all honesty, I was only willing to tag along with my then roommate to that film because of Tom Hanks' involvement.  What I learned with that film was that there was a lot more to DiCaprio than the teen heart throb reputation that I had pigeon-holed him under previously.  Since then he has shown great diversity in his roles and has become a personal favorite, an actor whose new projects I make a point of checking out as soon as possible.  The Revenant is the result of his collaboration with Tom Hardy and reigning Academy Award winner Alejandro González Iñárritu (Best Achievement in Directing/Best Writing, Original Screenplay) to bring this story - based on events described in Michael Punke's historical novel 'The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge' from 2002 - to life.

Hugh Glas…

Review - The Hateful Eight

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The Hateful Eight (2015), R, 167 minutes (187 minutes Roadshow 70mm) - Quentin Tarantino announced this film in late 2013, about a year after he released 2012's Django Unchained.  Shortly thereafter, the script leaked online and he threatened to cancel the film entirely.  Fortunately for those of us who are fans of his work, he changed his mind after hosting a live reading of the script in Los Angeles and by the end of 2014 had begun production on his eighth feature length film.

The Hateful Eight (which is the second western in Tarantino's stable of films) takes place just years after the Civil War on a Wyoming mountain pass leading to Red Rock and finds a colorful bunch of characters holed up at Minnie's Haberdashery while a nasty blizzard blows by.  This bunch includes two bounty hunters - Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John 'The Hangman' Ruth (Kurt Russell), their bounties - including Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the new Sheriff of Red Ro…