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Thumbnails Jan 16

by Tony Medley

The Revenant (9/10): This is a compelling and mostly accurate account of fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was attacked by a bear while on a fur trapping expedition along the Missouri river in 1823 when he was 43 years old, highlighted by gorgeous cinematography. Filmed in both Canada and Argentina, the cast endured the elements of mountain life first hand. At one point the temperature descended to -27°. That certainly adds to the verisimilitude of the film. Tom Hardy gives an award-quality performance as the bad guy.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (10/10): This movie has a lot going for it like Grade AA special effects and weird looking characters, along with some familiar ones from the original. It’s also got two star turns, by old-timer Harrison Ford, who brightens up the screen every time he appears, and gorgeous newcomer 22 year old Daisy Ridley. They are aided by 135 minutes of eye-popping action with wonderfully enjoyable special effects. I can’t see any reason to see it in 3D, though. I did, and the fact that it was in 3D was completely forgotten after the opening roll.

In the Heart of the Sea (9/10): While this is a spellbinding tale of the story of the destruction of the whaling ship, Essex, in 1820, and while it uses the real names of the people involved, Captain George Pollard, Jr. (Benjamin Walker) and first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), the film has lots of Hollywood fiction in it. Regardless, this is a terrific movie, filled with tension, fine acting, and eye-popping cinematography. Although the latter is dark, it reflects the mood of the film. The whale, created through CGI, is disturbingly real. It also captures the brutality of whaling that still goes on today, courtesy of the Japanese and a few other heartless countries. Throughout the film, I found myself rooting for the whale.

The Danish Girl (7/10): The acting is superb, but that’s what I expect from Alicia Vikander who has already established herself in my opinion as the best actress extant, if not of all time. Eddie Redmayne gives an equally impressive performance as a woman, even though the transgender community is ticked off that a cisgender person was chosen for the role.

The Big Short (7/10): This is a comedic, extremely inventive telling of the story of how four guys saw disaster coming as the result of the Clinton Administration’s lame-brained idea that everyone should be able to own a home, regardless of whether or not they could afford it, abetted by the Bush Administration, which did nothing to stop the lunacy. Director Adam McKay has all the arcane things like Credit Debt Swaps (CDS) explained to the audience by unexpected celebrities like singer Selena Gomez. The explanations, while comedic, do a good job of understanding what these securities really were.

Spotlight (3/10): Even though this is about journalism, while Spotlight tells the truth, the truth it tells, the disgraceful handling of pedophile priests in Boston, is lost by dismal directing and writing. It’s made without a thought of pace. The characters flounder, taking forever to finally publish the story. All the President’s Men, it is not.

Concussion (3/10): Maybe the reason this soporific film is so bad is explained by the The New York Times which reported that both the script and the marketing were changed to avoid clashes with the NFL. It said that the Sony Pictures email hacking revealed that some “unflattering moments for the NFL” were deleted or changed and indicated that a Sony lawyer took “most of the bite” out of the movie “for legal reasons with the NFL.” The result is a biopic that treats the serious problem of the outrageous attitude of the NFL towards concussions with kid gloves.