The Big Short Movie Review

Four denizens of the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.
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C’est incroyable!

The Big Short was so good that it has me expressing my contentment in different languages. Easily one of the best movies I have seen in the last several years, it is truly incredible how, what otherwise could have been a relatively boring documentary, is absolutely captivating.

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Steve Jobs (2015) Movie Review — Michael Fassbender

Steve Jobs (2015) takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.
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The most important thing to know about the 2015 take on Steve Jobs is that the movie focuses almost entirely on his Steve Jobs’ personal life, which both helps and hurts the movie. After all, Jobs was a man of many facets and he arguably spent the least amount of time worrying about his personal life. This focus is also what makes this movie so interesting, however. Most people know the other sides of Steve – the self-destructive artist, the visionary and the businessman. So Steve Jobs (2015) decided to take a much closer look at the side we know less about.

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The Hobbit Movie Review — The Desolation of Smaug

The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
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The second movie in the Hobbit triology, The Desolation of Smaug, picks up where the first movie left off in reinventing the classic Tolkien story. I use the word reinventing loosely — it is more appropriate to say that the story has been completely rewritten.

The first Hobbit movie brought-on a number of arbitrary story changes; most of which did not significantly alter the story from the original. The Desolation of Smaug, on the other hand, takes this rewriting to a new level by introducing story arcs, events, and characters that were never present in the Hobbit books. Many of these changes dramatically impact the overall story, creating a bastardized version of the original.

Putting aside these major shortcomings, the movie is fairly entertaining. Like the original, one of its biggest strengths is the visuals. The high frame rate, 48fps instead of the standard 24, helps create an immersive world. The animation is also top-notch with many full character computer models being nearly indistinguishable from the real actors.

Bonus: Benedict Cumberbatch motion and voice capture for his amazing work for Smaug

The story seems to rush along at times; a common problem for book-to-movie adaptations. This is particularly odd considering a single 310 page book has been stretched into 3 movies. For some reason they decided to rush certain story arcs and add a great deal of filler for others. The biggest example of filler is the new love story that was introduced — that of the lady-elf and one of the dwarves. This love story was completely absent from the original book and clearly introduced simply to appease audiences supposedly desperate for a love story in everything.

It is these additions that earn The Hobbit a 3-star rating. If they stuck closer to the original story and resisted the urge to hollywood-ify a classic story, it would have been much better. These arbitrary additions are an unwanted distraction for those that are familiar with the story.

The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, is definitely worth watching in theatres, just be sure to try and forget the original story as much as possible to avoid disappointment.

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Gravity Movie Review

A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
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Looking for an intense and brilliant movie? Look no further than Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Introduced during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Gravity is a story of survival in one of the most perilous situations possible — lost in space. As you might imagine, Gravity is a very intense movie and Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity’s director, does a phenomenal job recreating the atmosphere of space in the theatre (pun intended!).

One of Alfonso’s tactics for creating tension and a feeling of isolation was stripping the movie of music. It was surprisingly quiet throughout — so much so, that I could hear every word spoken by the child that wouldn’t keep quiet in the row in front of me. Inconsiderate parents! But I digress.

Super condensed review, go!

  • The visuals were the best part of the movie, with animation so realistic you quickly find yourself drifting out in space. For full effect, see Gravity in 3D AVX.
  •  The acting was superb. I would expect nothing less from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, elite veteran actors. What was interesting was that, other than a few disembodied voices, they were the only actors in the movie. It’s not everyday that the leading actors are the only actors.
  • The music was primarily a heartbeat throughout the film that added a lot of underlying anxiety. If you were to record the heartbeat of someone watching Gravity, the resulting graph would be very jagged.
  • The plot was very basic, which is why Alfonso made the right choice in restricting the movie’s length to 1.5 hours. Any longer and it would have felt drawn-out. My only complaint is with the overdone religious elements included which seem out of place for what is otherwise a sci-fi / science movie.

Overall, this is a movie you definitely want to see, and it is certainly worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. As I mentioned earlier in the post, be sure to catch the movie in AVX 3D and make sure you aren’t sitting next to any children.

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Better Than the Books: The Sherlock Holmes (BBC) Series

I, like many others, am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. My experience in getting to know the numerous stories, however, is different than most. Instead of starting with the books, my first experience of Sherlock Holmes was from the movie titled . . . Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey and Jude Law.

The Hollywood movies were good and stimulated my appetite for the stories but were by far the worst depiction of Sherlock Holmes I have yet to experience.

I then moved on to the books — undeniably classic stories. Certainly a must-read series for people of all ages and walks of life. However, the books are not the best! Gasp! Instead, the best version of the Sherlock Holmes stories I have yet to discover is Sherlock, the BBC series.

Feel free to comment below if you agree or disagree. You must have actually seen the BBC series to be able to judge it, of course.

The following are the many reasons why Sherlock (the BBC series) is by far the best version of Sherlock Holmes:

  1. The already virtually perfect characters, Sherlock and Watson, are further perfected (if that makes sense). Every piece of dialogue is carefully delivered and well thought-out and helps to develop other dimensions of Sherlock and Watson beyond the books. Although the dialogue in the books is incredible, it does have its flaws. For example, the way in which Sherlock Holmes comes to deliver his genius deductions sometimes seems a bit forced, in the interest of the reader. These explanations are done with somewhat more grace in the TV series.
  2. The series is modernized in a genius way. The way in which the series incorporates modern technology and circumstances into a story as old as Sherlock Holmes is nothing short of brilliant. Letters become texts, journals become blogs, and deductive processes include modern forensics. Much of the original charm is maintained while the show manages to rocket the series forward by more than a century.
  3. The show is funnier! At least somewhat so. The Sherlock Holmes series is not known for being particularly comedic but it is one of the only imperfections of the book series. After reading Catch 22, I have developed a taste for comedy, even in a serious story. Comedy helps round out a masterpiece, in my opinion.
  4. What was perfection before, remains perfection now. Almost everything that made the original Sherlock Holmes stories great has been maintained, with the points mentioned above added to polish what was already a perfect series.

Don’t take my word for it! Take a look at the Sherlock Holmes BBC series. You will be glad you did.

P.s. if you haven’t read the books, there is a great complete Sherlock Holmes Collection available in hardcopy and digital format that I can vouch for.

Spring Breakers Movie Review

Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work.
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The super short review: Spring Breakers was bizarre, sexy, funny and unique. If you are not a fan of the naked female form, perhaps you should opt to watch Safe Haven instead.

Spring Breakers is not the movie you think it is. It is far more “artsy” and “deep” than you could possibly expect from its title and premise. In this case, it was mostly a good thing.

It helps to know what to expect going in to the movie, so pay attention. If you are looking for a lighthearted comedy or mainstream flick, look elsewhere. Spring Breakers has its funny parts and some mainstream good times, but it is far more than that. You will frequently find your brain melting, for example. Not from stupidity but rather from trying to comprehend the insanity you are watching.

Overall though, the movie works. It depicts a life that few of us ever live — the true “wild side” of life — so it is impossible to watch expecting the plot points to be normal. The direction helped add to the bizarre feel of the movie which seems to cause eye-glazing among the general public. A hit with the critics; less so with the general public. If nothing else, Spring Breakers is a very unique movie and should be appreciated for that.

Prudes beware: nudity abounds. Spring Breakers earns its 18A rating within the first 2 minutes with more breasts in the movie than there are aliens in Alien. Although there is no doubt that the nudity helps appease the male audience, it is used in such a way that it actually adds to the validity of the setting. Some nudity, of course, has been thrown in to increase word of mouth.

James Franco does a surprisingly good job playing a drug dealer/rapper/straight-up gansta. His performance was very refreshing after The Great and Miserable Oz. The ladies (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) were great performance-wise as well, though they were largely eye-candy.

In summary: if you go in expecting a weird but unique movie with a lot of boobs, you will not be disappointed.

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Django Unchained Movie Review

With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
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Movie Poster - Django Unchained CastDjango Unchained is both very intense and very good. Be warned, however, that the movie has many uncomfortable scenes, even by my standards. Racism runs throughout the entire movie and, although uncomfortable, appears to be an accurate depiction of the monstrosities of the past.

Django Unchained is a movie that does not hold back in any way. Quentin Tarantino seems to fear no one, not even mixed reactions from the audiences, so he does not hold back. This is what separates Quentin Tarantino from other directors — the fact that he has a back bone.

What has always stood out to me about Tarantino movies is the amazing balance he is able to find between dead-seriousness, ridiculous over-the-top violence and pure comedy. As dark as some scenes in Django Unchained were, many were hilarious. And do not get me started on the witty dialogue!

Christoph Waltz is without question, one of my favourite actors and the way he delivers his witty lines is nothing short of amazing. Those that believe they are not familiar with Christoph Walz, may remember his spectacular performance in Inglorious Basterds as part of a hilariously bizarre opening scene (see video below). Needless to say, Waltz is an incredible actor that I hope to see take on many more roles — currently he is primarily a favourite of Tarantino’s.

Django’s character, played by Jamie Foxx, was more simplistic than Waltz’s, however Foxx still crushed the performance. It certainly seemed like the entire purpose of the movie was to first build-up how atrocious slavery was and then have Foxx come in an make up for the harm that was done in glorious fashion. This, he most certainly accomplished.

The plot was simplistic but did not hinder the movie in any way. In fact, I tend to think it a characteristic of some of the best movies – following the Keep-It-Simple-Stupid principle. Instead of a convoluted plot, Django Unchained focused all of it’s attention on Tarantino’s signature blend of action and dialogue and the outcome was very satisfying.

To finish up this post, I figured I would leave you with a checklist that can help you decide whether or not you should see this movie. You should definitely watch Django Unchained if any of the following are true:

  • You are a Tarantino or Christoph Waltz fan
  • You enjoy a movie with a blend of action, comedy and dialogue
  • When you see gore you do not hide in a corner and cry