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Free Fire – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Free Fire35

Usually the climax of an action film is the shootout, in Free Fire, the entire movie was the shootout!  In 1970s Boston, two sets of criminals arrange a gun deal, but one of the henchmen (Harry) recognizes one of the other henchmen (Stevo) from a bar fight the night before because the latter assaulted the former’s cousin.  Bernie (Enzo Cilenti), Stevo (Sam Riley), Frank (Michael Smiley), Justine (Brie Larson), Chris (Cillian Murphy) are the buyers and Ord (Armie Hammer), Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Martin (Babou Ceesay), Gordon (Noah Taylor), Harry (Jack Reynor) are the sellers.  Just when things are almost settled between the two sides someone pulls a gun and shoots someone.  Though they are initially split by geography and loose loyalties, it soon becomes a deadly game of “everyone for themselves” as everyone grabs a weapon.

Set entirely in one place (an abandoned factory/warehouse) the story is a bit claustrophobic, but I think it was saved by the characters and the cleverness of the dialogue.  While the action was completely over the top, I found it to actually be fairly realistic.  Even though they seemed to have an endless supply of bullets, our bad guys (because they are all terrible people who you can’t really root for)  do have to stop and reload.  Every one of them got shot at some point: a bullet in the arm, a shot in the leg, one man gets grazed in the head exposing his brain; and while it may be gruesome, the violence wasn’t glorified.   I also appreciated that the bad guys were not really good shots, it’s difficult to shoot and hit your target especially when you’re a target yourself, and have been hit yourself as well.

Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium) pretty much stole the show, but Michael Smiley (Luther) came really close too.  I loved the dialogue he had with Armie Hammer, almost as much as I loved the back and forths between Copley and Brie Larson.  There wasn’t really a whole lot of a message or purpose or complexity to the movie which is fine, it was pretty much just a black comedy thriller about two groups of trigger happy criminals trying to survive by killing the other guys.  It was fun, and that’s all it needed to be.  I think it’s safe to say this film was a bit of an experiment, so the runtime of 91 minutes was perfect.  I don’t think the film would have worked if it was any longer.

Bottom Line: It’s a good thing there’s no honour among thieves, because if the gun deal went down smoothly, Free Fire would have been an awfully short film…


Room – ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Room5.0 Stars

Wow.  What a story, what a film.  What a great cast and what great performances!

For Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the entire world is contained inside a single room.  “Room” is where he has spent his whole life.  A ten-foot by ten-foot prison, but it is the only world he has ever known.  Jack lives with his mother (Joy or “Ma” played by Brie Larson) who has lived in Room for nearly ten years after she was kidnapped as a teen and kept in what is little more than a shed with power and plumbing by “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers).  Old Nick brings them food and supplies and has sex with Joy.  Jack is a child of her repeated rapings.  While Joy has tried to keep that hidden from Jack, one night he sees Old Nick with his mother which leads Joy to make the decision to try to escape.  Not believing Ma that there is anything else but Room, and that there is nothing outside the door, Jack rejects the words of his panicked and frustrated mother, but eventually trusts her and the two enact a plan to break out.  The film is split into two acts, the first hour is Jack and Ma’s life in Room, and the buildup to their escape, the second hour shows how the pair cope with life and the larger world around them when they do finally escape.  Sorry, not a spoiler, because the picture on the cover of the DVD case shows them quite clearly outside and not in Room.  Both Jack and Joy are now ill-equipped to deal with the things that await them, from Joy’s family to doctors and reporters and lawyers.  Joy’s parents split up while she was gone, her mother (Joan Allen) is now in a relationship with a former friend of the family (Tom McCamus), and Joy has to deal with all the other aspects of the world that have moved on without her.  The life that she was taken from no longer exists, and that lost life is something she will never be able to get back pushing her through a range of emotions from anger to guilt and depression.  Jack has only ever seen two people before in his life, and the introduction of new lives into his universe is overwhelming.  Neither knows what to do in a world that doesn’t know what to do with them.

Based on the book by Emma Donoghue, Room is a well written story that is capped off by truly incredible performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.  The two had incredible chemistry together, which was very important since they had to effectively carry the entire first act of the film alone.  Jacob Tremblay may have only been 7 years old when filming Room, but he gave a performance that was easily on par with the other, established, adult actors of the piece.  I had seen Brie Larson in a few things before and enjoyed her performances (including her short turn as Abed’s kind of girlfriend in TV’s Community), but now I definitely think I’m a Brie Larson fan and look forward to her future films.  She absolutely deserved her Oscar for Best Actress this year.  I felt the supporting cast delivered equally spellbinding performances as well; I especially liked William H. Macy.  As Joy’s father he can’t even bear to look at Jack let alone talk to him, and through his performances you can see the weight, the emotion, the struggle, the anger and the sorrow he is feeling.  Director Lenny Abrahamson had  a difficult task ahead of him with the confined shooting quarters of Room, but also having to convey such an emotional story largely through the perspective of an isolated child.  The whole story worked but really wouldn’t have worked as well without the tandem of Larson and Tremblay.

Bottom Line: If Jacob Tremblay had been nominated for Best Actor, he would have easily beaten DiCaprio…

Trainwreck – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Product Details3.5 Stars

Alright, let’s just get the 2015 films done and behind me eh?  Another one I watched last year, but ran into a wall called life before I could review it, let’s see if I can tackle (and remember) Trainwreck.  It was quite funny, and had an interesting premise.  Amy Schumer stars as Amy, a girl who can’t commit or settle down with one man in her life.  Drinking heavily and going from one night stand to one night stand, and bouncing back to a boyfriend who thinks that they’re in a serious relationship (John Cena), Amy’s life really is a trainwreck… That is until she meets Aaron (Bill Hader) a doctor of sports medicine she is sent to write a story about for the men’s magazine she works at.  As the two seem to get serious and Amy gets her life on track, her old worries and fears of commitment resurface.  Will Amy slip back into her old ways?

Yes and no.  The movie was pretty funny at times but also pretty cookie cutter predictable.  It had a pretty good cast, as Hader and Schumer worked well together, and we even got to see Brie Larson as Amy’s sister before she won her Oscar for Best Actress in Room (yeah, yeah, I know, I’ve got to do a review for that too….).  But while Hader and Schumer were the stars, and did get most of the screen time, they weren’t the best thing about this film.  In my opinion, John Cena — a professional wrestler — and LeBron James — a basketball champion — stole every scene they were in.  Whenever there was a scene with either of them, I was in stitches.  Incredible comedic timing and delivery from two non comedians and two non actors, and unfortunately I think that speaks volumes about a movie that is lead by two comedians turned actors.  Trainwreck, which was directed by Judd Apatow and written by Amy Schumer, didn’t seem to know when to stop.  The movie itself was 2 hours and 5 mins according to IMDb, but I believe that the unrated Blu Ray cut was even longer!  To top it off, there were I believe more than 2 hours of bonus features on the disc!  Comedies should never be that long.

Good for some laughs, but it won’t be for everybody, as Schumer has made a name for herself with her “edgy” or crude humour.  I’m hesitant to say that this one may be just for Amy Schumer fans, but that may ultimately be the case.

Bottom Line: The last ten minutes of the film with the cheerleaders were absolutely pointless, and you shouldn’t need to have a “time filler” scene when you’re already pushing the two hour mark.

Spectacular Now – DVD review 3/5 stars

SpectacularNow3 Stars

Based on the book of the same title, The Spectacular Now was getting rave reviews.  I was less impressed.  The story follows Sutter, a high schooler who seems to be the life of the party, and on top of the world until he gets dumped by his girlfriend and starts failing math class.  Sutter it turns out is an alcoholic drinking his way through life and the movie.   After getting dumped by his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) he wakes up on a strange lawn, found by Aimee (Shailene Woodley) who is delivering papers to help her parents pay the bills.  Aimee is a smart girl, and a bit of a wallflower so the popular Sutter decides to give her the “boyfriend experience” in exchange for tutoring in math.  Eventually Aimee falls in love with Sutter and begins drinking herself, spiralling her own life down the same path as his.  Unfortunately paths that start this way have a tendency to end badly.

Sadly, this could be a very accurate growing up or coming of age story.  The story itself was quite engrossing, and on a whole is rather tragic, and there were several moments that stood out, but one in particular kind of bothered me.  SPOILER ALERT (but something I still have to get off my chest): Towards the end of the film Sutter and Aimee fight in his car and he pulls over and kicks her out.  At that point she is struck by a car, she’s not killed, just hurt and it does advance the plot.  My problem is how could this have possibly happened.  They pull off to the right, she gets out of the passenger side of the car (on the right) and is hit.  How on earth is there any traffic coming on that side of the car?  Was the driver of the other vehicle even drunker than Sutter and swerved all the way around?  Did he pull all the way over to the left hand side of the road before kicking her out of the car?  I don’t know, this just seems like a ridiculous flaw in logic and traffic.

The acting was quite good, but I felt the story kind of fell apart as it was wrapping up.  It’s another film where I felt the ending was being forced onto me and I was being told how to feel about what I had watched for the past hour and a half.  Sutter is once again driving drunk and arrives at home, running into the mailbox in front of his mother. He’s actually feeling remorse for his actions but then she consoles him with a heavy dose of motherly love and manages to convince him that he is loved, despite his claims to the contrary.  So after a pretend epiphany, a hug from mommy, and some backspacing on a keyboard we’re not supposed to see that he’s really a nice guy who loves and cares for everyone around him, even though we’ve just seen him turn a nice girl into a flask toting alcoholic.  In my eyes, Sutter may have been the lead of the story, but he certainly wasn’t the hero.  The happy ending just didn’t work for me, it was supposed to come off as heart-warming, but it just felt rushed to me.  One moment was enough to turn the troubled Sutter around?  If we’re to believe the extent of Sutter’s lack of self-esteem, a few hugs and soothing words from this mother, probably would not have turned him around so fast, in real life.  Filmmakers, please don’t tell me how you want me to react to your movie all in the last few minutes.  If you can’t persuade me through your ninety minutes of story you should look at the story again.

Bottom Line: Wow, lightning can strike twice.  Another film that I felt was forcing an ending and a feeling on me that I didn’t agree with, and that didn’t go over so well.

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