Posted in Movie Reviews, movies, 1001 Movies

The Dark Knight – Movie Review

Director:  Christopher Nolan

Cast:  Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman

Plot:  Following the events of Batman Begins, Batman and police Lieutanant James Gordon are continuing to bring down organized crime in Gotham, along with newly appointed district attorney Harvey Dent. But when a mysterious and crazed criminal known only as The Joker arrives in Gotham, everything Batman and Harvey Dent have worked for is thrown into chaos. Now, with everything he loves on the line, Bruce must confront his inner demons to bring down his most disturbed adversary yet.

(Warning! This review contains some spoilers. Consider yourselves warned)

First Thoughts:  Following the huge success of Batman Begins, it was time for Christopher Nolan to step up his game. Despite thinking it couldn’t be topped, somehow he pulled it off. I watched this movie again in preparation for this review, and I am still blown away by how much this movie improves upon Batman Begins. And not just because of Heath Ledger’s Joker (I’ll get to that later), but the film as a whole just feels like such an improvement, and it really broke the mold for superhero movies to come.

Story:  Right off the bat, what makes The Dark Knight such a great film is the fact that it really does feel at times like an intense, gritty crime thriller, even more so than Batman Begins, because even though that film had some crime thriller-esque moments, it still did feel very much like a superhero origin movie. This film definitely feels like a straight-up crime thriller and the Batman stuff is kind of pushed to the side. But is that really so much of an issue when the rest of the film is so good? Nope. Because even though the film doesn’t feel like a Batman movie, that actually works in the film’s favor. The film also has some great foreshadowing with the character of Harvey Dent when he says the line “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”, which perfectly sets up his eventual downfall and transformation into Two-Face.

Technical:  I’ve already said this numerous times in my other Nolan reviews, but pretty much every single one of his films are absolutely beautiful, and The Dark Knight might be one of his best looking films. Not only is Wally Phister’s cinematography extremely gorgeous, and very much improved when viewing the IMAX enhanced scenes, but all of the makeup work and the CGI that is used in the film, because even though Nolan doesn’t really like CGI that much, he does use it on occasion, and whenever he does use it, it’s always used very well, especially for Two-Face. It actually still looks very realistic looking, even after almost ten years. And the action scenes in the movie are also very much an improvement over Batman Begins, because even though the action in Batman Begins were good, I feel like Nolan wasn’t quite as skilled back in 2005 as he was when he was making this film. All of the fight scenes in this movie are beautifully fluid with excellent fight choreography and terrific editing. I also love the new design for the Batsuit, because early in the film, Bruce is attacked by these dogs and he tells Lucius that he wants to be able to turn his head, since with other movie and TV iterations of the character, the cowl was connected to the rest of the suit, so whenever they wanted to turn their head, they’d have to turn their body as well, so making a new Batsuit where he can actually turn his head is a really great idea.

Performances:  Heath Ledger’s Joker. What more needs to be said? Okay, I’ll say more. Okay, we all know that Christian Bale’s Batman is really good, as is the entire main cast, but we all know who the real star of the show here is. Heath Ledger as the Joker. This was his last completed role before his death in January 2008, and what a damn shame, because he gives his all in this movie. He is clearly having a ton of fun with the role. He perfectly balances the menacing aspects of the character as well as his dark sense of humor. And it’s so sad that he wasn’t able to see the final product, because his performance is truly legendary. Something else I feel was improved over Batman Begins is the character of Rachel, and if you saw my review of Batman Begins, you’d know that I really did not think that Katie Holmes was very good in that film, and I think they heard those complaints and recast the role for Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is most definitely better at delivering Rachel’s lines, even though her character is still a little underdeveloped and isn’t helped by her abrupt death, but Gyllenhaal is so much better than Katie Holmes. Aaron Eckhart is also really great as Harvey Dent, and what really works about his character is that during the first half, he is such a likable character and you connect with him and his crusade to rid Gotham’s streets of crime, but in the second half where he becomes Two-Face and reluctantly teams up with the Joker, he seeks revenge against the dirty cops in Jim Gordon’s unit for what they did to Rachel, and his transition to the dark side was actually one of the film’s biggest hooks. And of course, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are all fantastic.

Final Thoughts:  If it weren’t already apparent enough, I think The Dark Knight is one of the best movies ever made, and possibly the best superhero movie of all time as well. It’s everything I want out of a good superhero movie, or any type of movie for that matter. And when I say that everything about this movie was improved over Batman Begins, I really do mean everything. It’s not just with the villains, but Christopher Nolan’s direction, the performances, the action sequences, the story, the cinematoraphy, EVERYTHING was improved. As this is probably the most famous superhero movie ever made, I’d be surprised if anyone hasn’t seen this film yet.

Pros:

  • Heath Ledger’s Joker
  • Better direction
  • Better action sequences
  • Better performances (especially Maggie Gyllenhaal)
  • Better cinematography
  • Feels like a crime drama in the best ways

Cons:

  • None

Overall Grade:  10/10

So… I think I may have to call off the rest of my Christopher Nolan reviews. I hate to say this, but doing all of these reviews have put a lot of stress on me. I hardly have enough time to watch the movies and sometimes it can be hard for me to write them. The same is gonna have to go for finishing my Edgar Wright review series. I will still review Baby Driver and Dunkirk when they come out, but due to all the stress I’m going through, I’ll have to hold back on my reviews. Holy crap, this has been harder than I thought it’d be.

Posted in 1001 Movies, Movie Reviews, movies

The Prestige – Movie Review

Director:  Christopher Nolan

Cast:  Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, Piper Perabo, David Bowie

Plot:  At the turn of the 20th century, Robert Angier, his wife, Julia McCullough and Alfred Borden are friends and assistants of a magician. When Julia is accidentally drowned, Robert blames Alfred for tying too tight of a knot and the two become enemies. Now the two magicians are constantly trying to 1-up and sabotage each other. When Alfred pulls off a successful magic trick, Robert becomes obsessed with discovering his secret.

(Wanring! This review may contain spoilers! Consider yourselves warned)

First Thoughts:  After Batman Begins was so successful, Christopher Nolan was beginning to become a household name, but he wasn’t quite there yet. A year after the release of Batman Begins, Nolan was brought on to direct this film. The odd thing is, despite Nolan’s name and the cast list being one of the best in his entire filmography, the film wasn’t really all that successful, despite making back it’s $40 million budget. But over ten years since it’s theatrical release, The Prestige has become one of Nolan’s most beloved films, and certainly one of my favourites.

Story:  It’s hard to talk about the story of this film without ruining everything, so if you weren’t already turned away by that spoiler warning, now’s your chance to leave. Okay, here we go. First off, I love the way that this story is told. It’s a very Nolan-esque way of telling a story, starting off near the end of the film where Borden is being accused of Angier’s death when he drowns in a water tank. The film then proceeds to unfold through journal entries from both Angier and Borden. And the film just gets more and more fascinating from there. You see how at first, the two are friends, but when Angier’s wife accidentally drowns and he blames Borden, the two magicians strive to one-up each other, with both of them attempting to pull off the perfect magic trick. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly where this ends up. You find out that Angier’s trick, The Real Transported Man, could actually clone him and he uses this to his advantage and this leads him to frame Borden and assume a new identity. You also find out that Borden’s original take on the Transported man utilized his twin/body double, Fallon. So, what exactly is happening? Well, Fallon (disguised as Borden) sneaks below stage to find out how Angier is really pulling off his trick. When he’s framed for Angier’s death, he is sentenced to death and is hanged at the end of the movie. Now, Borden (disguised as Fallon) sneaks into the basement of the theatre where Angier performed his trick and shoots Angier. Borden then explains his methods as Angier dies, and as Borden is leaving, he notices the water tanks around him are filled with Angier’s clones that resulted from the use of the machine that Tesla made for Angier. If all of this is confusing, maybe it’s time for you to rewatch the movie. In all seriousness though, I think this is one of Nolan’s most cerebral movies and it really forces you to think and analyse it, and I love that about this movie.

Technical:  Like I said with the other Nolan films I’ve reviewed, no matter what, his movies are going to look beautiful, and The Prestige is absolutely no exception, as Wally Phister’s cinematography is once again fantastic, and it actually remains one of Nolan’s best looking films in regards to how it’s shot. The film’s production design is also fantastic and really captures the time period extremely well. It’s really no wonder that both the cinematography and production design got Oscar nominations. Sorry that I don’t really have much to say about the film’s technical qualities, but I feel like there isn’t really that much to say.

Performances:  In my opinion, The Prestige has probably the best cast Nolan has assembled to date. I mean, you’ve got Wolverine, Batman, Black Widow, Alfred Pennyworth, Maya Hansen, Gollum and Ziggy Stardust all in the same movie. How could you possibly go wrong? In all seriousness though, every actor in this movie shines and it’s really hard to point out one specific actor as the standout of the movie. Hugh Jackman is pretty much always great in everything he’s in, and that’s no exception as his character is very tormented by the death of his wife and becomes increasingly more jealous of Christian Bale’s character, who seems to have the happiness that he was robbed of. Christian Bale is also phenomenal and you can tell that his obsession is taking a hold of him just as much as it is for Hugh Jackman’s character. The entire supporting cast is great as well, but there are definitely two performances that standout among the supporting players, that of Andy Serkis and the late David Bowie. First of all, how many mainstream roles can you think of where Andy Serkis isn’t doing motion capture? Thought so. Second, David Bowie is surprisingly great as real life electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, and seeing him on screen as one of history’s most revered scientists is something so unexpected that it’s actually brilliant.

Final Thoughts:  If it wasn’t apparent already, I think The Prestige is a masterpiece among an already impressive filmography. There’s just something so magical about this film that I just absolutely love. If it looks like I’m running out of things to say… well, I am. All I’ll say is that if it’s been a while since you’ve seen The Prestige, I’d highly recommend watching it again.

Pros:

  • Top-notch performances across the board
  • Nearly perfect direction
  • Gorgeous cinematography
  • Perfectly realized setting
  • A story that keeps you guessing throughout
  • One hell of a chilling final shot

Cons:

    • None

    Overall Grade: 10/10

    Posted in 1001 Movies, Movie Reviews, movies

    Memento – Movie Review

    Director: Christopher Nolan

    Cast:  Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

    Plot:  Told in reverse chronological order, the film follows Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator whose wife is murdered and he is hit in the back of the head, resulting in his short-term memory loss. Now determined to avenge his wife, Leonard tries to piece together the clues about his wife’s murderer, going so far as to tattoo the clues he does know about him to his body in order to remember certain details. Along the way, he is helped by an undercover cop named Teddy and a woman named Natalie, who just might have different motives for Leonard.

    Before I start the actual review, welcome to my Christopher Nolan series of reviews! What’s the occasion, you may ask? Well, Dunkirk is coming out in July, so I figured since Christopher Nolan is my favourite filmmaker of all time, what better excuse do I have to talk about his filmography? I decided to skip his 1998 debut Following, since I tried to write a review for it and honestly couldn’t come up with much. And just because I know some people have not seen Memento, I am gonna keep this review spoiler free, so anyone who hasn’t seen it, you’re in the clear.

    First Thoughts:  Where the hell am I supposed to start with this one? Well, Christopher Nolan was a name that a lot of people didn’t know back in 2000/2001, and even between the release of this film and Batman Begins in 2005, it was still a name that a lot of people didn’t know. But over time, this film has become a phenomenon, with over 800,000 ratings on IMDb and worldwide recognition. Now the first time I saw it, I really liked it, but having seen it a second time knowing how certain things connect, the film got even better.

    Story:  Memento did something with storytelling that even to this day is incredibly unique, Nolan made the decision to tell the story in reverse, even going so far as to have the first scene in the film play out in reverse. This is actually quite interesting since Leonard has short term memory loss and can’t make new memories, so making the decision to tell the story in these fragments, it’s mind-boggling. Some people maybe aren’t fans of the way the story in this movie’s told, but I think it’s fantastic, and it really forces you to go back and rewatch it multiple times just so you can understand it. The other thing I love about the film is how it manipulates you into thinking certain things are one way, but then it turns the tables on you. And without spoiling anything, I will say that this film has a really good way of connecting things that happen at the beginning of the film and the end of the film.

    Technical:  Even this early in his filmmaking career, Christopher Nolan’s directorial vision is meticulous. There’s just something in the way he directs Memento that is a thing of beauty. He directs the moments of tension with such passion, and the more dramatic moments with just as much passion. Also, this film marked the first collaboration between Nolan and cinematographer Wally Phister, who is one of my favourite cinematographers, being right up there with Emmanuel Lubezki, and the cinematography in Memento is gorgeous. It truly gives the film this intense aura that wouldn’t have been there if Phister hadn’t been behind the camera.

    Performances:  In my opinion, Guy Pearce is one of the most underrated actors alive, and with this movie being so critically acclaimed, it’s kind of a wonder why people don’t notice him more, because he is so good in this movie. He’s a very broken character, which causes him to be very much an unreliable narrator, and that’s what I love about his character and the writing. Carrie-Anne Moss has also rarely been better than she is in this movie. You can talk about The Matrix forever, but I do believe that she’s at her best in this movie. She gives a lot of emotion to her character and you really do get the sense that she just wants to use Leonard for her own selfish purposes, which I really don’t want to get into here. Joe Pantoliano is also great as a cop who wants to help Leonard seek justice against his wife’s killer, and you can tell that he also has his own motives.

    Final Thoughts:  So having seen Memento a second time, I can safely say that it gets better upon repeat viewings. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it when I first saw it, but watching it again and knowing where the story is going, I can appreciate it so much more. In my opinion, Memento is as close to a perfect first impression as you can possibly get. Everything about Memento is spot on, from the direction to the dialogue to the cinematography, the way it’s edited, everything about Memento is so damn good. Now originally, I gave this movie 9/10 because of how it took a while for me to really grasp what was going on upon first viewing, but now that I know what’s going on, that rating has been boosted.

    Pros:

    • Guy Pearce is amazing
    • Spot-on direction and writing
    • Excellent cinematography
    • Keeps you guessing until the end
    • Nearly perfectly edited

    Cons:

    • None

    Overall Grade:  10/10

    So guys, I hope you enjoyed my review of Memento, I will be back very shortly with my review of Insomnia. So stay tuned for that next week!

    Posted in 1001 Movies, movies, Quickie Reviews

    Jaeger Quickie Reviews: Alien (1979)

    Director: Ridley Scott

    Cast:  Tom Skerritt, Signourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto

    Plot:  On it’s way home from a deep-space mining expedition, the seven-person crew of the Nostromo is awoken from hypersleep early when the ship’s computer intercepts an SOS call from a nearby moon. After a rough landing, three of the crew members leave the ship and discover a derelict spacecraft. Inside the ship appears to be a chamber containing thousands of eggs. When one member of the team gets too close to one of the eggs, he is infected by a parasite that puts the entire crew in grave danger.

    Welcome to a new series on my blog where I discuss movies that I don’t exactly want to talk about in depth. Starting with Alien. I’ve heard the hype about the Alien franchise for pretty much my whole life, particularly for the first two installments. I only just saw it for the first time yesterday (as of the time of writing this review), and I was not disappointed in the slightest. Well, maybe in terms of one aspect, but I’ll get to that later.

    Alien is a very simple movie at it’s concept. An alien finds its way on board a spaceship and the crew has to survive and find out how to kill it. This concept made for truly intense moments that make you feel as if you’re in this situation with the characters. I’m also a big fan of sci-fi films that have a very isolated setting, and Alien is said to be the film that started that trend, and it’s a good thing that trend stuck because this film truly has some very claustrophobic moments that make for genuine suspense.

    Speaking of suspense though, there is one aspect of Alien that was disappointing to me. While many consider it to be one of the scariest, if not the scariest movie of all time, and while I mostly agree with that, at least four or five times, the cat that’s on board will all of a sudden jump out at the characters, accompanied by an ear-piercing jumpscare sound effect. Now this came out in 1979, when that technique wasn’t so utilized, but since it’s being used in so many crappy horror movies today, I guess you could say that Ridley Scott pioneered that trend, which is actually kind of unfortunate because those false jumpscares took me out of the immersion, big time, and it kind of bothers me how nobody ever points this out. On the plus side though, they’re not that frequent.

    All of the things that I’ve heard about Alien for my entire life are true for the most part. The performances are all excellent, the look of the alien itself is terrifying, the tension is real (except for those shitty false scares) and it pretty much started a genre pretty much. It is easily one of the best sci-fi horror films ever made and one of the defining films of the late-70’s and early 80’s.

    Pros:

    • Excellent sense of claustrophobia
    • Fantastic performances
    • Brilliant creature design
    • Groundbreaking special effects for the time.

    Cons:

    • Those goddamn jumpscares with the cat took me out of the movie

    Overall Grade:  9/10

    Part of my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die journey

    Posted in 1001 Movies, Movie Reviews, movies

    Jaeger Movie Reviews: Drive (2011)

    Director:  Nicolas Winding Refn

    Cast:  Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac and Albert Brooks

    Plot:  Our protagonist is a Hollywood stuntman and car mechanic by day, getaway driver by night. While trying to outrun his past, he strikes up a relationship with his neighbor Irene, whose husband is soon to be released from prison, and her son Benicio. When Irene’s husband, Standard Gabriel is finally released from prison, him and the driver meet outside their apartments. Shortly after, Standard is pressured into robbing a pawn shop to pay for the protection he had while in prison. Standard won’t do it though, and after he’s beat up, he asks his neighbor for help. When the job goes south however, the driver has to protect Irene and her son from the mob.

    First Thoughts:  Having seen Nicholas Winding Refn’s most recent directorial effort (and one of my favourite films of 2016) The Neon Demon, I figured it was about damn time I checked out the film people consider to be his best. I can see why people consider this to be his best, and it’s easily his most accessible film. While it is a very art house approach to action filmmaking, it’s arguably much better than a some action movies that are released today.

    Story:  One thing that Drive is known for is that it likes to take it’s time with its story very slowly. Now that doesn’t exactly mean I’m saying it’s slow paced, but if you’re someone who is impatient, you might not gravitate towards this film. But as someone who’s already seen one of Nicolas Winding Refn’s films (and his most fucked up, mind you), the pacing actually didn’t bother me as much as it would for other people. As for the story itself, what I liked about it aside from its subtlety is actually how Ryan Gosling’s character progresses over the course of the film. He goes from being a cold, calm, calculated and nearly emotionless person, and as the film plays along, you see that facade begin to break when he starts to fall in love with Irene, and by the end of the film, you really do get the feeling like he has put his past behind him. I guess that’s saying more about the characters than the story, but it’s all I could really think of. What’s also interesting is that Gosling’s character has no known backstory aside from little things that some of the characters say.

    Technical:  If there’s one thing that cannot be said enough about Drive, it’s easily the film’s technical qualities. For one, the opening car chase is one of the best I’ve ever seen with brilliantly contained camerawork and finely tuned editing, but the cinematography in general in Drive is some of the best I’ve ever seen, which I guess I should’ve expected having watched The Neon Demon prior to this. I must also add that this movie is unflinchingly violent, although because of the pacing, it’s few and far between right up until the second half of the film. Also great is Cliff Martinez’s score, which just like The Neon Demon is pretty much the definition of euphoria, with a great 1980’s synth feel to it that is so unique for this kind of film.

    Performances:  Another thing that mainstream audience members like to complain about is actually Ryan Gosling in this film. Yes, he doesn’t have much dialogue and is very quiet for the most part, and while that was a bit off-putting for me at the beginning, it grew on me as the film went along. So while the complaints about Gosling’s stoic nature are a bit warranted, I personally don’t agree with them at all. While I do prefer his performances in The Nice Guys and La La Land, it’s hard to deny how good Gosling is in this movie, just through his facial mannerisms and body language rather than actual dialogue. Carey Mulligan is also really good in this movie, and I even though I wasn’t a big fan of her in The Great Gatsby, I think she’s definitely a talented actress, and between this and Gatsby, this is far superior. Bryan Cranston I typically like in everything he’s in, whether it be in Godzilla or the Total Recall remake, he’s always one of the best parts of every film he’s in, and that’s no exception with Drive. Same with Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman who play the main villains.

    Additional Thoughts:  I must reiterate that this is not a film for action junkies who want to see big explosions. Sure, there are two phenomenal car chase scenes and other action scenes that are awesome, but this is way more art house than its marketing will leave you to believe. I mean, someone actually tried to sue Filmdistrict for false marketing.

    Final Thoughts:  Ultimately, Drive is one of those films that people will think about for years to come because of its slick direction, excellent performances, incredible action scenes and its subtlety. If you weren’t a fan of Drive when it first came out in 2011, consider going back in with the knowledge of the film you already have and go back in with an open mind. It truly is a modern masterpiece of cinema that combines art house and mainstream cinema so well.

    Pros:

    • Brilliantly subtle direction
    • Excellent performances
    • Amazing, brutal action
    • Great soundtrack
    • Beautiful cinematography

    Cons:

    • Will require patience from viewers, which will certainly put off mainstream moviegoers.
    • Gosling’s performance was a bit off-putting at first

    Overall Grade: 9/10

    Part of my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Journey

    Posted in 1001 Movies, Movie Reviews, movies

    Jaeger Movie Reviews: The Big Short (2015)

    Director:  Adam McKay

    Cast:  Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Marissa Tomei, Finn Whitlock,  John Magaro, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong

    Plot:  Told in three separate but parallel stories set around the lead-up to the economic crash of 2008. Financial analyst Michael Burry discovers that the housing market it built in a bubble that will burst within the next few years. This causes Burry to bet against the big banks to get rich in the long run. When Jared Vennett finds out what he’s doing, he reaches out to FrontPoint Partners and gets his information to Mark Baum, an idealist who is fed up with the corruption in the financial industry. Baum and his associates join forces with Vennett, despite not entirely trusting him. Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley are minor players in a $30-million start-up company named Brownfield. When they catch hold of what Vennett is up to, they contact an old friend, Ben Rickert to help them out in getting some action of their own.

    First Thoughts:  Look, to be honest I don’t know a damn thing about banking. I don’t even know how in the hell it even works, but there was part of me that was very entertained by The Big Short regardless of that. I appreciate Adam McKay’s efforts to dumb it down for more mainstream audience members to make it understandable and also very entertaining, and most of it can be attributed to great performances and some very clever writing.

    Story:  As I stated, The Big Short is not an easy film to follow if you don’t know much about financing, but since Adam McKay takes a huge effort to make it understandable for those who aren’t smart enough to know what half the terms used in this movie are, it makes it somewhat easier to follow. The film’s main three stories are told in a very entertaining way and is arguably one of the best parts of The Big Short, with some really unconventional storytelling techniques. It switches back and forth between Christian Bale, Steve Carell & Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt’s stories, and all of them are very entertaining, even if it can be hard to follow at times. Also, what I actually really liked about this movie is that sometimes characters will break the fourth wall (especially Gosling’s character) and tell us what they’re thinking, and there’s also quite a few celebrity cameos to explain some of the more complex terminology, which to me was really funny at times.

    Technical:  In addition to the way the story is told, the direction of this movie is very unconventional for a film like this. It’s made to look like a documentary at times, with camerawork that sometimes looks unprofessional, crash zooms and very snappy editing that actually added to the sense of authenticity to it. And to think this movie was directed by the same guy who brought us the Anchorman movies. Seriously though, there were times in the movie where it felt like real events were happening on screen, even though you can recognize these actors faces, and to me the documentary style didn’t feel like much of a gimmick and it made me really immersed in the story.

    Performances:  With such a huge ensemble cast, you can expect most if not all the performances in this film to be great, and they are, in particular Christian Bale and Steve Carell. Bale’s character is the kind of guy who just knows the numbers, he doesn’t really know much about how to socialize with other people, and it really showed in his performance. Steve Carell’s character was also very entertaining, as his character is very angry. It’s one of those situations where he was already angry, but when he discovers this corruption going on within the big banks, he gets mad for the right reasons. Ryan Gosling is also a very entertaining presence,although he kind of does play a very similar character to his character from Crazy, Stupid, Love. He acts as the narrator of this story and he’s also there to explain a lot of the more technical stuff. Brad Pitt doesn’t have too much screen time, but he is good for what he’s given. And all of the supporting characters like the people that work alongside Steve Carell’s character, as well as Finn Whitlock and John Marago are really great as well.

    Additional Thoughts:  I cannot stress this enough, but if you’re not familiar with all the technical banking terms used in the film, or have kind of a short attention span, I don’t think this is for you.But if you are the kind of person who does this kind of stuff for a living and don’t mind all the technical jargon being explained to us (albeit in a very entertaining way), I think this movie will be more enjoyable for you.

    Final Thoughts:  All in all, Adam McKay did a pretty damn good job with The Big Short. Yes, it can be confusing and convoluted if you don’t know what in the hell the characters are talking about, even with the celebrity cameos to explain things, but at the end of it, The Big Short is not only informative, but also a smart, comedic look at one of the biggest economic disasters in history. It also made me realize at the end how screwed up the economy was back in 2008, and how it still kind of is screwed up. Thanks Trump.

    Pros:

    • Excellent performances across the board
    • Sharp writing
    • Unconventional directing style that I loved
    • Reminds you of how screwed up the economy was in the mid to late 2000’s
    • Explains a lot of banking jargon to make it enjoyable for mainstream audiences

    Cons:

    • Even with the explanation, sometimes it can be hard to follow.

    Overall Grade:  8/10

    Part of my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die journey

    Posted in 1001 Movies, Movie Reviews, movies

    Jaeger Movie Reviews: Once (2007)

    Director:  John Carney

    Cast:  Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

    Plot:  An Irish busker living in Dublin makes a living fixing vacuum cleaners at his father’s shop by day and performing in the streets by night. One night, he meets a Czech immigrant who plays piano whenever she gets the chance. Together, they spend a week writing and recording music, while discussing their past loves, and revealing their love for each other through their songs.

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    Right off the bat, Once is probably my favourite musical of all time, and that’s coming from someone who isn’t a fan of musicals. Sure, there are some musicals that I like, mostly Disney animated films, but there’s part of me that can’t suspend my disbelief when a group of people starts spontaneously singing and dancing. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine that is silly, but it’s 100% true. Once is a more realistic take on a musical, not just in it’s story, but also in the fact that none of the musical numbers are handled in a very organic way.

    One of the best aspects of Once isn’t just the music, but it’s actually the very low-budget sense to it. The film was shot on a couple of camcorders with a budget of €180,000 (less than $200,000), and while the low-def style might annoy me, I actually grew to love it because it matches the film so well. John Carney actually shot a lot of the scenes with the two characters conversing from far away so they would be able to converse without cameras in their faces the whole time, and that brings me to another great aspect of Once.

    Despite not being actors before the movie, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are absolutely terrific in this movie. Their on-screen chemistry is undeniable and that’s helped by the fact that the two were real-life friends prior to the film. We also don’t explicitly know much about them, not even their names. Some films try to do this in hopes of creating more relatable characters, but most of the time, they come off as dull, but not here. And of course because they’re musicians, their music is also amazing. And one of the things that’s so great about the music in this film is that not only does it feel so organic, so none of the music feels out of place, but also because it’s utilized so well. It discusses their frustrations, their hopes, and they even effectively convey exposition.

    And I must say that their friendship is one of the sweetest I’ve ever seen in a movie. And what’s great about it is that it never goes through the typical conventions that a movie like this would go through. There’s one moment when the guy has a moment of weakness and asks the girl if she wants to stay the night, but other than that, the film wonderfully avoids the stupid romantic cliches that so many movies nowadays go through. Even if the audience wants the two characters to get together by the end, that kind of ending would’ve just been, as the girl puts it, hankey-pankey.

    Once is the type of movie that I can totally see becoming a classic in the near future, I mean it’s tenth anniversary is next year, so I feel like more people really should know about this hidden gem of a movie that I feel like has fallen under too many people’s radars, similar to John Carney’s next two films, Begin Again and Sing Street. If you love musicals, it should already be on your watchlist, but if you’re like me and aren’t big on musicals, check it out anyway since it does take a more realistic approach to the musical genre. Also, the music is some of the best I’ve ever heard in a movie.

    Overall Grade: 10/10

    Part of my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Journey

    Posted in 1001 Movies, movies

    Jaeger’s 1001 Movies Journey!

    I’ve decided to start a new series on the site. If you aren’t familiar with the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a list of a thousand movies any cinephile should watch before they die. Although if you take all films from all editions of the book since it’s original publication in 2003, as of 2016, it’s actually 1187. I know it’s a lot of movies I’d have to review, but I’ll try to make most of them as brief as possible. As for all the films I’ve already reviewed, I’ll add another category and tag to them. If anyone wants a full list of all the movies, here’s a link to get a full list, at least until the 2015 edition. If anyone’s interested in a full list of the films on the list that I’ve seen and wants to track my journey, here’s a link to my Letterboxd. Alright, Lord Jaeger out.

    Posted in 1001 Movies, Movie Reviews, movies

    Jaeger Movie Reviews: Fight Club (1999)

     

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    Director:  David Fincher

    Cast:  Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto

    Plot:  An insomniac office drone attends support groups for things he doesn’t even have a problem with, because he feels like when he can cry along with these people, he suddenly feels okay. But when another faker named Marla also starts attending these groups, his life is completely changed, for better or worse. That’s when he meets Tyler Durden, and together the two men start a fight club where people can beat the crap out of each other, and they seem to get emotional fulfillment from this. However, things soon spiral out of control.

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    Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

    First Impressions:  I find it ironic that a movie with a quote like that has become one of the most talked about movies of all time, and one that actually remains relevant today. See, I only just watched Fight Club recently, funny enough it was the day I found out that Donald Trump had been elected President of the US. I had heard the hype about Fight Club for a large portion of my life (it came out the same year I was born), and unfortunately, I knew the iconic twist ending before actually watching the movie. Yeah, bad move. Fortunately, that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the film, and in fact, I’ve become a bit obsessed with it ever since I watched it.

    Story:  For someone who’s never seen Fight Club before and knowing all the twists and turns that it takes, this is one of those movies that takes pride in its unpredictability. If I had seen this movie before I knew the twist ending, I would probably be saying that it’s narratively unpredictable, which for any watching this for the first time not knowing how it ends would definitely say that. And as a film that does have a shocking twist ending, I must say that it does actually make quite a bit of sense. When there’s a movie where there’s a twist ending, sometimes that twist ending makes no sense. The ending of Fight Club does make sense. Well, mostly. At the very least it makes me think a lot. And a lot of that can be attributed to very strong writing and incredibly witty dialogue.

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    Technical:  There are few films that appear as if they’re perfectly directed, and this comes so close to getting that title of Best Directed Film. There really isn’t a single flaw in Fight Club when it comes to it’s technical construction. The cinematography is terrific, the editing is some of the best I’ve ever seen in a movie, and the action in the movie is viscerally brutal, in particular the fight between Edward Norton and Jared Leto. Woah, that’s brutal. There’s also a lot of subliminal frames thrown throughout the film that if you blink, you could miss.

    Performances:  Brad Pitt’s performance as Tyler Durden is one of the most iconic performances of the last 20 years, and for good reason. He is not only really charismatic and funny, but he also has this dark presence surrounding his character that you really feel not only through his character, but also the incredibly witty script and the fantastic direction. Edward Norton also gives possibly the best performance he’s ever given, and to me, he’s the real focus of the film, despite Brad Pitt being top billed on the cast list. You feel the entire film through his character and you really do start to care for him by the end. Helena Bonham Carter is also really underrated in this movie and gives some of the best lines in the entire film. One of the more interesting side-characters to me was Bob, played by Meat Loaf, a guy who Norton’s character meets at one of the support groups he goes to at the beginning of the movie who eventually becomes a member of Fight Club. He was also great in the movie, and come to think of it, I haven’t seen him in a movie in a long time. Hmm, I’ll have to look at his filmography.

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    Final Thoughts:  Fight Club went from being a box office failure and critically panned film to a cult favourite for a reason. Not only is it great for its twist ending, but also for its fantastic direction, excellent performances, tightly written script, and the fact that it’s sociopolitical undertones are still relevant today. If you haven’t seen Fight Club and you consider yourself a film buff, what are you doing?

    Pros:

    • Amazing performances
    • Excellent direction
    • Fantastically witty dialogue
    • Great twist ending
    • Still relevant

    Cons:

    • None

    Overall Grade: 10/10

    Part of my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Journey

    Posted in 1001 Movies, English 11, Movie Reviews

    Jaeger Movie Reviews: The Revenant (2015)

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    While on an expedition with his trading company in uncharted wilderness, frontiersman Hugh Glass and his hunting team are forced out of Missouri. Glass is then viciously mauled by a bear, yet he miraculously clings to life, despite his injuries. While making their way back to their Fort, Captain Andrew Henry makes an offer of $100 to whoever looks after Glass until he can be properly buried. One of the men, John Fitzgerald, disobeys orders and kills Glass’ half-Pawnee son, Hawk, and leaves Glass for dead. Still somehow alive, Glass sets out on a path of vengeance while also trying to survive the harsh winter.

    WOW. How did I miss seeing this in theatres? No really, how? I bet that if I had seen this in January when it came out in it’s wide release, it would’ve been on my top 10 of 2015. So, to compensate, I’ll guarantee this film will have a spot on my top 10 favourite movies of 2016. Not very high up, but still on the list since it technically was a 2015 release, but this film is too damn good to go ignored!

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    Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I can get to my actual review. Right off the bat, The Revenant has some of the best cinematography I have ever seen. Emmanuele Lubizki was DoP for this film and you can tell as this is a gorgeously shot movie, just watch the trailer and you’ll get an idea of just how good the cinematography is, especially in the exceptionally well helmed action. It never shys away from showing anything, which gives the film a great gritty feeling to it. In fact, the opening action scene alone is one of the most beautifully crafted action I’ve seen in a movie in years. What’s even more impressive is that the entire film was shot using natural lighting. What I mean by that is that there were no studio lights used in this movie. They used the elements to their advantage to make a beautiful looking film.

    If Leo’s Oscar win wasn’t a dead giveaway, he is absolutely brilliant in this film. His performance in this movie was very physical, meaning a lot of his performance relies on his facial expressions and body language and doesn’t have that much dialogue. Hell, even some of the dialogue he does have isn’t even in English. Now that’s dedication. You know what else is dedication? Eating a raw bison liver despite the fact that you’re a vegetarian. Yep. Leo did that. Tom Hardy was also awesome in this movie. His character is the type you just love to hate since he is really the main focus of Leo’s path of vengeance.

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    Even though people will describe The Revenant as a revenge story, it’s really more about survival and trying to stay alive in such harsh conditions. While revenge is a vital part of the film’s plot, a large majority of the film is Leo trying to survive when he’s mangled to hell and back and left for dead. The movie is equal parts man-against-nature and man-against-man, which is part of the reason The Revenant succeeds so well.

    The only real issue I have with The Revenant, which is a really small thing compared to how much I loved it, but the second act is a little slow and I think it did prolong the runtime a bit more than it probably should have. Yes, I understand that certain things needed to be in this film for the story to be told correctly, but that’s just a very small nitpick and didn’t affect my enjoyment of the film that much.

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    The Revenant is truly a cinematic masterpiece with terrific acting, beautiful cinematography, a hauntingly beautiful score and brutal, unflinching action that kept me on edge throughout the entire film. If there is one word I could describe this film, it would be Glorious.

    EDIT:  Okay, I watched this film again after posting this review and I have to admit that I am truly in love with The Revenant. If you scroll up a couple of paragraphs, you’ll see that I complained that the film’s pacing was a little slow, but after watching it a second time, it didn’t drag. I think that because the film is so visually arresting, that may have made the film move that much faster. The Revenant is most certainly one of my favourite movies of all time as of July 7th 2016.

    Overall Grade: 10/10

    Part of my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Journey