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The Big Short

The_Big_Short_teaser_poster

For all of its juvenile tendencies, The Big Short stays grounded in harsh and distressing reality during its entire 2-hour plus running time. There hasn’t really been a movie like this about the 2008 economic crisis, and what Adam McKay has done here is make more than an accessible behind-the-scenes financial drama. The character stakes are incredibly high, as the audience knows the outcome, but McKay’s smart filmmaking allows the film to subvert expectations in every unorthodox way.

From the director of Anchorman of all places, The Big Short is based on the 2010 novel by Michael Lewis (of “The Blind Side” and “Moneyball” fame). It’s a money drama to be sure, yet the most important thing about The Big Short is that it remains accessible. For all of its talk of subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations, the film doesn’t hit you over the head with jargon, and explains the important bits when absolutely necessary (with help from a few special guest stars and some fourth-wall breaking).

The four main characters that The Big Short focuses on are described as outsiders, as they see the crisis coming when nobody else believes them. This lends tension and drives the plot, as awkward hedge funder Michael Burry (Christian Bale) digs into the nitty gritty of the housing market and bets against the market. Burry is the film’s real outsider, and I’ve never seen Bale give a performance so eccentric yet plausible. He dresses for work like a dad at a fish fry, drumming along on his drumpads while the economy collapses around him. On the other end is Mark Baum (Steve Carell), a hot-headed Wall Street trader who catches wind of Burry’s plan via Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling). Baum’s character comes away with his faith broken in the system, just like we do, as I left the film with a mix of outrage but also intrigue.

The Big Short never delves into Wolf of Wall Street territory, and that’s a good thing for a film taking on such a serious subject matter. There’s no hookers or blow, no guns, but this film is all about the money. There’s a fine line that the film straddles on how to treat the bankers involved, and the film succeeds at leaving you with the answers you need directed at the people responsible. But this isn’t a call-to-action film either, it’s rather a warning call, neither a wholly satirical one nor a dull biographical picture – it’s Hollywood entertainment after all, with top-notch performances and direction layered with razor-sharp edges. The Big Short is an important film, and it educates without pandering, while entertaining to its full extent.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Review

MV5BMjE5ODk0NjQzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk4MDA1MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Anchorman 2 is the sequel that nobody really wanted, but we’re not going to say no to. Ron Burgundy and the news team are back, this time in the 1980s, as they reunite to work at a 24-hour news channel in New York. All of your favorite characters are back, and some new ones as well. While the film is occasionally sidesplittingly funny, the film feels like a series of sporadic moments, more like SNL sketches than an actual plot. But that’s not why you see Anchorman 2. You see it for the memorable characters, the witty quotes, and the laugh out loud moments.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues once again stars Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, in his classic burgundy suit. After he is fired by his old news team, and breaks up with his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), Ron reunites the Channel 5 News Team after he receives an offer to work in New York. This set-up gives the comedy sequel a framework to use all of its silly jokes. Set in the 1980s, it manages to poke fun at newscasting and broadcast journalism in general, which leads to some funny moments.

The film brings back all the characters you love, from Ron Burgundy to Brick Tamland, as well as brings in some new faces. Will Ferrel is once again suave and ridiculous as the lovable reporter Ron. Ron now has a son, and he must juggle work and his personal life simultaneously. Christina Applegate returns as his now ex-wife Veronica, who leaves him for a new man (Greg Kinnear). She doesn’t get enough screen time, which is unfortunate, and that seems to be a recurring problem throughout the film. Trying to juggle multiple main characters results in reduced screen time for the characters we love. Everyone’s favorite news team has some hilarious moments towards the beginning of the film, like when their motorhome flips over on the highway, but after that they vanish from the film. Champ Kind (David Koechner) and Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) give the film some of the biggest laughs, but they aren’t on screen enough to make you care. Brick (Steve Carell), once again reprises his role as the goofy weatherman. He has some of the best lines in the film, and almost steals the show from Ron.

The sequel brings in a host of new characters, but none of them manage to make much of an impact. Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), the head newscaster at GNN, is forgettable in her sexy, formidable personality. She fails to provide any laughs, and instead is a source of frustration at Ron for leaving Veronica. You manage to actually miss Veronica even more as a result, and wonder when she is coming back. James Marsden stars as Jack Lime/Lame, the attractive young newscaster, and Ron’s new rival. Of the newest characters, he closest matches the rest of the crew in laughs, and he is the film’s only new memorable character. Josh Lawson plays an executive at GNN, but his Australian accent only allows for some fun wordplay, and he is quickly forgotten. Kristen Wiig stars as Brick’s love interest Chani, but even she fails to yield many laughs. Her character seems a mix of her various SNL characters, resulting in some silly and awkward dialogue that just plainly isn’t funny. The film has a hard time giving you new characters that match the rest of the cast in raw humor and acting.

Speaking of SNL, though, Anchorman 2’s plot feels a bit sporadic at times, as it jumps around of a period of a few months, cataloguing Ron’s life between his work at GNN and his relationship with his son. The film starts out solid, giving the film the framework it needs to yield these situations, but it drags on a bit too long as it tries to appeal to fans of the first film for the sake of nostalgia, and not for the sake of a cohesive plot. One sequence finds Ron losing his eyesight and retreating to a lighthouse home. This whole part could have been cut out, slimming down the film’s already long 2-hour run time. It feels like an SNL sketch gone wrong. A battle scene at the end (what a surprise!) throws in random cameos for the sake of shock value, and while it’s fun seeing who shows up, it could have been trimmed and the film would have been much better.

Anchorman 2 is still laugh-out-loud funny, though. The Channel 5 News Team delivers a constant stream of laughs, and while not every joke lands, the majority will be quoted for years to come, which I believe is their intention. A memorable song where Ron says goodbye to his pet shark, and a hilarious dinner scene come to mind when I recall the best moments of the film. This says numbers about both Ferrell’s sheer talent and the film’s ability to make stupid but hilarious and memorable moments. Although the film’s plot jumps around at times, and it could be 30 minutes shorter, Anchorman 2 still delivers with everyone’s favorite characters, and dishes up some unforgettable laughs.

Overall: 2.5 stars out of 4

Buy Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Today!

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Way Way Back Review

The Way Way BackIn a summer filled with explosions, adrenaline-filled action vehicles, and loud comedies, it’s nice when such a refreshing film as this one comes by. The Way Way Back has something those other films don’t: characters. I’ve never experienced a cast of characters like this in years, and The Way Way Back has such a charming quality about it that others don’t. More than just a coming-of-age tale, The Way Way Back is the best summer film of the year, and one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve ever seen.

The Way Way Back is the directorial debut of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who previously worked together on Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. The film follows 14-year old Duncan, who is going on summer vacation to his mother’s boyfriend’s lake house. Accompanied by his mother, Pam, Duncan reluctantly goes despite being tormented daily by his mother’s boyfriend, Trent. As his mother, Trent, and Trent’s daughter party hard with the neighbors each night, Duncan feels alone. While exploring the town, Duncan comes along to Water Wizz, a local water park, where he meets Owen, the manager. What follows is a coming-of-age tale as Duncan overcomes his socially awkwardness and his family struggles.

I left The Way Way Back with tears in my eyes. That doesn’t happen often. The Way Way Back is something special. The characters here are endearing, relatable, and perfect in every way. Everyone will see themselves in Duncan, played brilliantly by Liam James. Who hasn’t been through those awkward teenage years? As he comes into his own and makes friends, you’ll feel something and root for him. This wouldn’t be possible without the help of excellent supporting characters. Trent is nothing less than overbearing. Steve Carell nails this role, tapping into previous characters and making one of the most unlikable villains of recent memory. At the water park, Duncan strikes up a friendship with laid-back easygoing Owen, played by Sam Rockwell. The star of the show, Rockwell straddles the line between laugh-out-loud funny and extremely empathetic. As he takes Duncan under his wing at the water park, the two bond in various ways. It really is a thing to watch the two grow and watch Duncan come out of his shell.

Other outstanding performances come from Allison Janney, the hard-drinking neighbor, who provides the film with some more laughs and fun times. AnnaSophia Robb plays Susanna, her daughter, who, despite her friendship with Trent’s daughter Steph, becomes friends with Duncan and all of his awkwardness. Maya Rudolph, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash themselves also offer some laughs as fellow Water Wizz employees. The banter between Rudolph, who doesn’t always agree with the park’s management, and Rockwell, who solves problems in interesting ways, is excellent. I could go on with more standout performances, but get that The Way Way Back is perfect in its characterization and memorable moments.

The Way Way Back is something special. This won’t be a movie that goes on to win many awards. Rather this is one that you’ll want to watch over and over again, thanks to excellent acting and a brilliant screenplay. The hidden gem of the summer, The Way Way Back shouldn’t be missed.

Overall: 4 stars out of 4

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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