Movie Reviews 

Concussion

by Alan Rapp on December 25, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Concussion
  • IMDb: link

ConcussionAdapting Jeanne Marie Laskas’ 2009 GQ article, Concussion delivers the film the NFL doesn’t want you to see this Christmas. Beginning with Nigerian-American forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu‘s (Will Smith) autopsy of former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster (David Morse) which will create a new category of degenerative disease known as CTE, writer/director Peter Landesman‘s film focuses more on the effect of Omalu’s work as the work itself.

Fighting opposition from his own superiors (Mike O’Malley), intense backlash from fans, anger from current players, pressure from the government, and a campaign of organized disinformation by the NFL that the Republicans usually reserve for discrediting Global Warming, will force the doctor to fight for the truth every step of the way.

Concussion is an interesting, if a little straightforward and simplistic, look at Omalu. Smith proves he still has some acting chops in his best role in the last couple of years. Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw lead a supporting cast as the few friends Omalu relies on while taking on the NFL.

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The Danish Girl

by Alan Rapp on December 25, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Danish Girl
  • IMDb: link

The Danish GirlAdapted from the novel of the same name by David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl is a movie that is constantly telling the audience it is an important movie without ever showing us why. The movie gives us the story of artist husband and wife Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) and Einar’s struggle with his own sexual identity leading him to take on the identity of Lili Elbe.

The movie tackles the issues of Lili’s sexual identity head-on while examining the effect of his changes on both his relationship with his wife and his artistic career. First, Vikander and Redmayne are both terrific in the film. However, aside from giving the leads meaty roles to dive into, The Danish Girl struggles in making the story of one of the first recipients of sex reassignment surgery interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, The Danish Girl a capable film that does justice to its sensitive subject matter, given Elbe’s standing in the LGBT community, but it’s certainly more notable for the performances of its two lead actors than its script. One could argue it’s dangerously close to the category of Oscar-bait.

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Joy

by Alan Rapp on December 25, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Joy
  • IMDb: link

JoyWritten and directed by David O. Russell, Joy gives us the story of a New York single mother and her miraculous invention that changed her life. Jennifer Lawrence stars as the title character Joy Mangano in a role that allows her to showcase far more of her talents than the Hunger Games franchise. The movie is completely built around Lawrence’s performance, and on her back it succeeds.

Fighting through every obstacle including her family (Robert De Niro, Édgar Ramírez, Virginia Madsen, Elisabeth Röhm), frustration, fear, money troubles, and those who attempted to steal her invention from her, Joy is a story of perseverance, determination, and conviction. If there’s a moral to Joy it’s that you have to fight for your dreams every step of the way.

Joy isn’t without its flaws, there are large parts of the story the script skips over (such as Joy’s jump to QVC’s main competitor HSN and the reasons behind it). There are also some notable odd editing and sound mixing issues, the most prominent of which takes place during pretty awful dubbing of Joy’s duet with her husband (Ramírez).

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Carol

by Alan Rapp on December 25, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Carol
  • IMDb: link

CarolMuch like Brooklyn, Carol is a beautifully rendered period piece about a young woman’s awakening highlighted by the performance of its lead actress. Sadly, much like Brooklyn, Carol also has the same deficiencies and the performances overshadow, but don’t obscure, the script’s weaknesses.

Although she plays the title character in the film, Cate Blanchett is not Carol‘s leading lady. That honor goes to Rooney Mara as shopgirl and aspiring photographer Therese Belivet whose head is turned by the glamorous older woman who she immediately connects with in a ways she has never been able to with her longtime boyfriend (Jake Lacy).

I’m not sure if Therese is a lesbian, bisexual, or just sexually curious, but then again I’m not the only one as the script itself seems unsure about who its leading character is and what she wants. Because Therese doesn’t know who she is (something characters in Phyllis Nagy‘s script directly point out at least three separate times) the movie struggles to understand her true motivations. And if the movie doesn’t know who she is, how can we?

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The Big Short

by Alan Rapp on December 23, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Big Short
  • IMDb: link

The Big ShortBased on the non-fiction book of the same name by Michael Lewis, The Big Short chronicles a small group of individuals who made money betting against the housing market after recognizing a basic flaw in the mortgage system that would inevitably cause the bubble to eventually burst.

Director Adam McKay assembles an ensemble cast (Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Jeremy Strong, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, and Brad Pitt) led by Steve Carell of those whose discovery of an amazing level of fraud in the housing market allowed them the opportunity to forecast the upcoming financial turmoil that those in the industry did their best to hide even after it became obvious what was going on. Our characters are neither heroes nor villains, just those amazed at the level of incompetence and deception perpetrated on the American public which they find a way to take financial advantage of by betting against those obscene loans ever being paid off.

The story is both fascinating and nauseating as it becomes clear to not only our characters but also the audience the insanity mortgage lenders and brokers were getting away with.

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