Friday, January 1, 2016

45 Years, The Hateful Eight, Concussion, Where to Invade Next, The Revenant, Joy, Daddy's Home, Anomalisa, What's Coming Soon to Jordan On Film

45 Years
The Hateful Eight

Where to Invade Next

The Revenant

Daddy's Home

Quick capsules on the final at-bats for a year with many singles and doubles but few home runs:

The critical darling “45 Years” didn’t do much for me. (Neither did “Weekend,” director Andrew Haigh’s overpraised previous film, about a lost weekend between two gay men.) Too many ponderous scenes of Charlotte Rampling staring into space. Her Kate seems vaguely unhappy to begin with, and at the end, even after Tom Courtenay’s Geoff has delivered a fawning toast to her at their anniversary party, she still looks at him with something like Resting Bitch Face… Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” treads much of the same terrain the master covered in “Django Unchained,” and a late plot twist comes straight out of the opening set piece from “Inglourious Basterds.” But damn if he doesn’t keep you laughing for three hours as nobody else can, with the most daring and subversive dialogue in the current cinema and a nonpareil talent for filling the wide screen with sight and sound… The fact of Peter Landesman’s “Concussion” is more daring than anything about its down-the-middle narrative structure. The NFL deserves to be excoriated for its cowardice and duplicity toward its players, and Will Smith does a solid job of conveying Dr. Bennet Omalu’s righteous indignation. But too much time is devoted to his family life (with Gugu Mbatha-Raw of “Belle” and “Beyond the Lights”), and too little to the national treasure that is Albert Brooks, as the chief coroner of Pittsburgh… Michael Moore returns to his muckraking roots with the surprisingly entertaining “Where to Invade Next.” Looking too much like Mrs. Doubtfire for comfort, Moore traverses Western Europe, “stealing” their ideas (more vacations, better school lunches, prisons focused on rehabilitation) and making the best possible case for socialism. Bernie Sanders should host screenings… Best Director winner Alejandro Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” is the rare movie that I recommend (marginally) even though I’d pay not to see it again. I’m a big Leo DiCaprio fan, but an Oscar for this performance would be strictly career-achievement. (Think Al Pacino for the embarrassing “Scent of a Woman.”) Tom Hardy is more memorable as the villain in a thin storyline redeemed by half a dozen scenes of breathtaking beauty or jaw-dropping action… David O. Russell’s genre-bending biopic “Joy” is the most soulful of his Bradley Cooper-Jennifer Lawrence trilogy. I liked it more than “American Hustle” and much more than “Silver Linings Playbook,” but audiences won’t – too messy. Like her character, the Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano, Lawrence is called upon to do all the heavy lifting, and delivers… A few big laughs, but too much scatology and juvenile humor in the Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy “Daddy’s Home,” which too infrequently achieves the offbeat comic effect of their prior team-up, “The Other Guys”… Finally, a huge thumbs down for Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s “Anomalisa,” which ends the year on a true sour note. Only a nap through half of its offensive 90-minute runtime kept “Anomalisa” from sapping my will to live à la Kaufman’s last bomb, “Synecdoche, New York.” It’s a work of stop-motion animation featuring eerily inhuman looking people all voiced by the same actor (meaning every woman in the movie sounds like a man), with a wafer-thin storyline about a married customer service guru’s (?) doomed affair with a mousy groupie at a Cincinnati hotel. It’s full of Kaufman’s obnoxiously quirky ideas - a gay hotel manager with a cavernous basement office complete with golf cart and “sunken meeting area” – but utterly devoid of heart. Filmmakers such as Kaufman, Spike Jonze, and Wes Anderson love the sound of their own voices far more than anything else the human species has to offer.

In the days to come, I’ll post my complete star rating guide to the 270 releases I reviewed this year, as well as my choices for the best and worst feature films of 2015, noteworthy performances, and a review of the year in documentary film. It’s all coming soon... to Jordan On Film.

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