Brooklyn – a second opinion

Movie Man Mike finally reports in.

Brooklyn.   A.  There is a good reason this film got an Oscar® nomination for Best Picture.  It’s terrific.  Everything about it is terrific.  The screenplay is well-written.  The characters and their interactions are so very charming.  From the little old lady who runs the boarding house where Eilis lives in Brooklyn to her rigid supervisor at the store where Eilis works, these characters are engaging and believable.  What’s more, with the exception of Jim Broadbent and Domhnall Gleeson (both appearing in the Harry Potter films), the cast consists of relatively unknown actors.  Yet each and every one nails their performance.  Set in the 1950’s, the story is about a young woman named Eilis (Saiorse Ronan, City of Ember) living with her sister and mother in Ireland.  The job market in Ireland is not good but America is the land of opportunity, so the family arranges through their church to send Eilis to America.  The story follows Eilis on her journey to America and we get a glimpse of what life was like in the 1950’s for the single working woman.  Eilis is homesick until she meets Tony (Emory Cohen, The Place Beyond the Pines), an Italian boy with an eye for Irish girls.  As the story moves forward, Eilis finds herself in conflict over her love for Ireland and the place she makes for herself in Brooklyn with Tony.  This is truly a beautiful story filled with rich characters.  Sairose Ronan received a well-deserved Oscar© nomination for her role in this film.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

New from The Movie Snob.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens  (D+).  I was around 10 years old when I saw the original Star Wars in its original theatrical run, and I have been a fan ever since.  But despite all the critical acclaim and crazy box office this new movie has reaped, I just didn’t care for it.

Seems like everyone else is being careful to avoid spoilers, so I’ll be careful too in case there is still someone out there who hasn’t seen it.  Suffice to say, even though it looked like the Rebellion had completely routed the bad guys at the end of Return of the Jedi, thirty years later bad guys are still pretty much running the show in that galaxy far, far away, requiring a new generation of plucky heroes and heroines to rise up and save the day.  I’ll admit liking a few things about the new movie.  The actress (Daisy Ridley) who plays the new heroine, Rey, is pretty likable.  There were a few homages to the original Star Wars that brought a smile to my face.  But on the whole, I didn’t feel the magic.  It just felt like a lot of breathless running hither and yon (and at 135 minutes, there’s a lot of running to be done).  I thought the two main bad guys were pretty badly miscast (Domhnall Gleason, Brooklyn, and Adam Driver, While We’re Young).  Oscar Isaac, who was so good in Ex Machina, is wasted in a tiny role here.  And I know this is science fiction, but director J.J. Abrams conjures up some technology that seems way, way, way beyond anything even hinted at in previous Star Wars movies.  (I thought he committed the same sin in Star Trek Into Darkness.)  Finally, I found myself thinking all too often, This is just goofy.  In short, I thought the movie was a big disappointment.

Ex Machina – a second opinion

A new review from Movie Man Mike.

Ex Machina.  A-.  What does it mean to be sentient?  I think, therefore, I am.  These are questions that are central themes of this film.  The film opens with Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson, known for playing Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter series) having won an special internship to work for the founder of the company he works for, which is a large internet company.  Caleb is whisked off to a remote location, where the reclusive founder, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), reveals that he believes he has developed a sentient android.  Caleb is tasked with testing the android to ascertain whether it is, in fact, sentient.  For Caleb, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  The dynamics that follow  between the very odd founder Nathan, Caleb, and the android are fascinating and surprising.  No spoilers here.  If you are a sci-fi fan, by all means, go see this film.  I, for one, can imagine all sorts of awesome sequels and I do hope that there will be one.  Performances by all the actors are terrific.

Ex Machina

A new review from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Ex Machina  (B+).  The paper said this was a taut, twisty little sci-fi/suspense movie, and I have to concur.  Domhnall Gleeson (Frank) plays Caleb, a programming drone who works at a giant Google-type company.  He wins some sort of employee lottery, and lickety-split he gets whisked off to the remote, bunker-like hideaway of the genius-recluse founder of the company, Nate (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis).  There, Nate gives him a task—talk to Ava, a robot Nate has built, and see if Nate has successfully created true artificial intelligence.  The movie is unsettling from the start.  Nate clearly has some serious issues, and I sensed that he had a classic mad-scientist laugh pent up inside just waiting to be unleashed.  His ultra-high-security house is creepy.  Ava has the human face of the lovely Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina), but the rest of her body, shaped like that of a human woman, is either metallic or clear, exposing her inner wires and gizmos.  And what’s up with the weird Asian house servant, Kyoko, who allegedly can’t speak English?  Anyway, I thought it was top-notch.  First-time director Alex Garland is one to watch.  Check it out.

Frank

The Movie Snob goes alt-rock.

Frank  (B-).  A work colleague saw this movie, hated it, and basically dared me to see it.  Truly, I didn’t think it was half-bad.  Domhnall Gleeson (Calvary) stars as John, a forlorn British office drone who spends his days writing half-songs in his head and dreaming of rock-and-roll stardom.  Through sheer chance, he becomes the keyboardist for an extremely alternative rock band whose lead singer—Frank (Michael Fassbender, X-Men: Days of Future Past)—wears a large plastic head over his own head and never takes it off.  The band’s music is unlistenable (it reminded me of a blend of The Doors at their most pretentious and early Pink Floyd at its spaciest), but John doggedly tries to build up a following on the internet while simultaneously nudging the band—mostly in vain—to produce a slightly more accessible sound.  It’s not clear who’s crazier—the older members of the band, or John for thinking he can domesticate them.  I thought Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart) was sadly underused as the band’s angriest member.  Not bad for a matinee, if you’re up for an odd story about an odd rock band.