Carol (2015)

How tortuous are the lives we lead, the women we love.

I’m not a lesbian, of course. That, like so many things, would be impossible. But as much as this is a lesbian movie, it is also very much a movie about lovers who cannot be together, but who dare to try. Rooney Mara plays a store clerk who falls in love with Carol, played by Cate Blanchett, a divorcing housewife. They spend more and more time with each other, causing their lives to fall apart, and yet they find safety in each other.

The film, directed by Todd Haynes, is so achingly realized, it hardly even feels like a film. You may notice the perfect framing or the painstaking art direction, but this movie, unlike many others, feels like so much more. I found myself engrossed in the mere existence of these characters.

A few of you may complain that it’s slow, and it is. But slowness to me does not always mean boring. Action movies can bore me to tears, as they do more often now.

This movie is saturated with silence, and that is why I love it–because in this silence, you can almost hear their thoughts. In this silence, you can feel the rhythm of their broken hearts. When the score finally swells, you can see the longing in every atom of their souls. Isn’t it beautiful?

3.5

Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

Swoooooooooooon. Oh my goodness, my heart cannot take it.

The plot is this: Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is an independent woman. She meets a charming shepherd, and she is still an independent woman. She inherits a farm and attracts a bachelor from next door, and she is still an independent woman. She meets a soldier, and he touches her, and she gives in–but still, she doesn’t need him. She picks one in the end, but only because she’d like to have him around. There are plenty of sunsets and plenty of sensual moments, and it’s just the best.

I finally got my dad to watch it, and I think he loved it too. “Swooning” is really the perfect word to describe what I do when I watch this movie, and I do it for a million reasons. Watching this movie, my heart is the molten wax that rests near the candle flame, melted and yet so very warm.

Far from the Madding Crowd seems to live in every moment, rarely wishing to cut away, letting the native sounds of the scene pull you in. The acting is exemplary too, and Carey Mulligan needs to do so many more movies with Matthias Schoenaerts (for the record, I spelled it right off the top of my head). Their chemistry is warm and soothing to the soul.

The story isn’t without its complications, and the film, adapted from the book by Thomas Hardy, solves them beautifully. Even better, director Thomas Vinterberg injects enough art and passion into every frame, you almost want to pause the movie to look at them.

I cannot recommend this film enough, for far too many reasons to count. My incoherence in this review shows you just how this film leaves me. Let it sweep you off your feet, as it always does to me.

3.5

Love and Friendship (2016)

What a delightful motion picture.

The plot is this: Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) has lost her husband, and she’s also lost her money. She goes around staying with family, hoping to secure some sort of future for herself and her daughter, and ends up balancing three suitors, none of whom is a proper fit.

Beckinsale, who is best known for the Underworld series, chews every single line. She’s not the one that steals the movie, though, with that duty given to Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett). His role, that of a genuine buffoon, is one of the funniest I’ve seen this decade. I have always been a casual fan of Jane Austen, but I did not know she could be this wonderfully hysterical.

There are some scenes you have to get through, which are talking for talking’s sake, but the film is more than redeemed by its comedy. I don’t even want to reveal some of the lines because you really wouldn’t believe they work. Sir James Martin goes on for minutes at a time, running verbal circles in a pit he dug for himself, and I couldn’t help but cry.

There is a story here too, but I promise you shouldn’t come for it. The movie isn’t always funny, but when it is, it has cleaner, more genuine laughs than your average Neighbors or Adam Sandler movie. I spent long periods of time with a giant grin on my face, waiting to burst into another fit of hysterics.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I made more than my fair share of sounds during this movie, sounds usually reserved for drunkards and jesters. But seeing as a lot of the audience did too, I know you’ll be in for a treat.

3

 

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

Critics be damned. I loved this movie.

The plot is this: The Hatter’s in tatters, and yes, it does matter. Poor Alice has gone from a ship to a palace, and men in her life are just brimming with malice. She has to return, as soon she will learn, to meddle with Time, who also can rhyme. She steals the man’s sphere, and she’s no longer here. She’s gone back in time, and I hope this is clear. To alter the past, she must fight to the last, and I’m glad she meanders and doesn’t go fast.

If that didn’t make any sense, don’t worry, the film actually does. I was expecting the film (written by Linda Woolverton of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King) to be a madhouse of absurdity, with absolutely no semblance of plot. The story does not matter, though, even though it does technically work.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a feast for the senses, and is even an appetizer for the heart. Nearly every frame is filled with wonder and imagination, and I did not find myself bored more than once. The critics are saying this film is absolutely terrible, and for a while I could see from where they were coming. I went in expecting nothing, and got everything in return.

Mia Wasikowska is enthralling, Johnny Depp is tolerable, and it’s just so much fun. If you cannot savor this world, then your eyes have diabetes.

Give this movie a chance. I beg you. This film is bonkers and silly and wild and absurd, and that is precisely why I love it.

3

 

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse, or: Poe Dameron Sith Fever Dream.

The plot is this: the first mutant wakes up after a few thousand years, decides that he doesn’t like the state of the world, and recruits some mutants to help him destroy it. The X-Men have to stop him, because of course they do. We deserve a world ruled by Trump and his Donald Youth.

I am not going to discount this film entirely, as there were some really great parts… with those parts being very small and unevenly dispersed. The sad thing is, I just came from the theater, and I don’t remember what they were.

I know that I loved Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, and appreciated the production values, and found a few new characters enjoyable too. But for all the media coverage that Psylocke and Storm got, they were little more than glorified cameos, and Oscar Isaac was just not meant for this. He can do anything, but that does not mean he should.

In the end, you won’t hate this film; you’ll just be really bored. You’ll roll your eyes at some of the genuinely terrible lines, and you’ll chuckle at a few. You’ll wonder how, when they need to escape, Cyclops doesn’t just shoot beams out of his eyes. You’ll wonder if the script is crappy fan-fiction. You’ll understand that the only logic in this film is the logic fabricated by the filmmakers so the story doesn’t stop.

I would have given X-Men: First Class three green stars, and I would have given Days of Future Past two-and-a-half yellow. This is a problem. Generally speaking, when the stoplight goes from green to yellow to red, you stop. I wish the filmmakers would take a break from this franchise, just for a bit. If they keep going, they’re bound to crash.

2

The Nice Guys (2016)

Behold, the movie that was everything I wanted and more.

I have been a Ryan Gosling superfan ever since Drive, and I have been tolerant of Russell Crowe for many, many years. Thankfully, they are both at the top of their games here, and there’s a surprise third partner in Gosling’s daughter.

Throughout this film, set in 1980s Los Angeles, I was getting vibes of L.A. Confidential (a film also starring Crowe and Kim Basinger…), and the plot, when you think about it, was not so different. The Nice Guys is what would happen if L.A. Confidential had a baby with a sense of humor.

There were brief periods where I was not laughing, and they could have been trimmed, but there were also moments where I was simply so glad to be alive. The picture was so refreshingly confident in its voice and narrative. When a major twist happened, other movies might have wrapped things up, but I could tell there was another act to the story, and I could not have been more thrilled to have it.

It was my 22nd birthday today, and seeing this was the one thing I had to do. I got one of the best presents Hollywood could ever give me (besides a Star Wars film): I was treated to the most complete and rewarding film experience of the year so far.

3

 

Top Gun (1986)

The photo should tell you all you need to know.

This. Movie. Is. Awesome. Tom Cruise approves, and so do I.

Believe it or not, I had never seen Top Gun, but the 30th anniversary was two days ago and I was feeling like some Tony Scott. What I got was one of the most fist-pumping, exhilarating, homoerotic films I’ve ever seen. From the jam-worthy soundtrack to the killer nicknames to the surprise appearance of Meg Ryan, I loved this movie so, so much.

It did still have its flaws, though, like some interesting point-to-points in its narrative. I wasn’t always able to follow the dogfights, and the romance was so bad I loved it. These were small problems, though, which didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.

The bottom line is this: Hop into this cock pit.

I hope you see what I did there, and I hope you agree.

3

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

If you’ve ever made a movie, ever wanted to make a movie, or even seen a movie, you’ve got to see this film.

Well, it’s a documentary about a film, “the greatest film never made.” Before David Lynch made Dune, Alejandro Jodorowsky almost did, and it would have been amazing.

At one point, he’d recruited Orson Welles, Salvador Dalí, Moebius, H.R. Giger, Chris Ross, and so many other talented people to make this film. If you don’t know who those people are, just look them up. Jodorowsky wanted to make a movie that would simulate having an acid trip (if you can’t tell by the picture).

What’s amazing is the man’s passion. You see him talk about movies, and you cannot help but want to make them too. He’s the type of man who could have changed the world if only filmmaking weren’t about money. You need it to make films, you need it to sell films, and you need to make a lot to make more films. I loathe that, but I understand.

My only problem with the documentary is that I wish it were longer. At 90 minutes, there was so much more they could have shown. Still, though, it’s 90 minutes about a movie that only one man ever saw, and that’s the best we may ever get.

3

 

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

I recently took a class on the French New Wave, and this film came up. Evidently, just like the New Wave filmmakers had been inspired by American films, Hollywood started taking cues from across the pond.

This film would not have been the same without the French New Wave; it very likely would have been better. That’s not to say I don’t love Truffaut’s works and Godard’s and all that, but this film was aimless to me. Nothing really happened. It’s as if the filmmakers drafted the script with a vague impression of Breathless, not understanding that the characters don’t have to change, but the audience should.

They stripped out the art, leaving nothing but forced emotions and beautiful people.

Bonnie and Clyde was the final film I needed to see for the Hollywood Reporter Top 100, and I wish I’d chosen another. For a film that ends with a swarm of pops and bangs, my yearlong journey fizzled out.

3

Predator (1987)

Testosterone, the Movie.

If you’ve seen it, you’ll agree. If you’re a fan of any guy movie ever–that is to say, something with strong men, language, guns, violence, cheesy catch phrases, and/or Carl Weathers–then you’re going to love this one. I was torn between three stars and four, but in the end, my conscience got the better of me. If I gave this four stars, to be honest, it would lower my standards for the future.

Still, though, it did precisely what it set out to do, and that is most laudable.

I did not realize that John McTiernan directed it, and before Die Hard (and that he undeservedly went to prison). This guy is a master. His fluency in film language is well-displayed throughout.

The basic gist of the film is that the Predator killed a crew, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s crew goes looking, and the Predator kills them one-by-one. It’s laughable every so often, but the special effects are really phenomenal, enough to make up for even the worst offense.

If you haven’t seen this movie, watch it. The franchise might not noteworthy, but there’s a reason there’s a franchise. Even the ugliest towers have a strong foundation. This movie is just awesome.

3.5