Category Archives: Adventure

The Revenant – Director, ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU

This film has garnered 12 Oscar nominations including all the big ones except for the screenplay. It deserves maybe two of them. Di Caprio does not deserve a Best Actor award for one of his most forgettable performances ever. There is no real acting just a lot of grimacing and staring into the distance. On the other hand, Tom Hardy, who is one of my favourite actors, deserves a nomination for his role as the villain. He really does act and his scenes are among the best in the whole movie. He gets no recognition for some reason for some simply awesome character acting including Legend and The Drop to name but two. This is a great performance and deserves recognition but its not enough to save this disaster. The other nomination it deserves is for cinematography which is stunning but OMG… it just goes on and on. This is a very bad movie with the exceptions noted. It runs over 2 ½ hours and could easily be an hour shorter with no loss at all. I fell asleep briefly in one part and only stuck it out to the end to see how they were going to finish it. The story is of a scout who is leading a group of fur trappers back to what counted as civilization in the early American Northwest. They are attacked by native Americans who kill many of them and the survivors struggle on. Di Caprio’s character – the scout – is attacked by a bear and just survives but he is too badly injured to continue. His companions try to take him along but have to give up assuming he will die and they abandon him leaving one of their number to stay with him until he dies and then bury him. Di Caprio’s son also stays back. Needless to say the caregiver fails in his mission and abandons di Caprio assuming he will die and murders his son in the process. He heads back to join the others. He has miscalculated and of course di Caprio survives and comes back for revenge. The journey is long and grueling and actually totally unbelievable. The flintlock guns they use are deadly accurate (which is totally impossible) even over distances of hundreds of yards. The falls, cold and so forth di Caprio survives despite his grievous injuries are literally impossible to survive and it all becomes almost funny. The character played by di Caprio is totally unlikeable and his connections to the local native Americans are poorly drawn and not made a significant part of the story. For the last hour I must have looked at my watch every 10 minutes praying for the end to come. To be perfectly honest the only times I was captivated were with Tom Hardy’s scenes but even that, at the climax of the film, was poorly written. Also I take back my comment about the cinematography. One more shot of bleak wintery forests and mountains was one too many. Two thumbs down so to speak.

The Martian – Director, Ridley Scott

This is one of the first Oscar nominated films I have seen so far this winter. Telling the tale of an astronaut isolated on Mars with only his wits to help him survive, it is thrilling, funny, uplifting and Matt Damon is excellent, carrying the film very much on his isolated shoulders.  With 3 of its 6 Oscar  nominations for sound and production design and visual effects it is also great to watch.  The science is mostly pretty good according the geeks who have seen it. Sure there are lots of misses and miscalculations to those who choose to pick at it but all forgivable in my opinion for an excellent cinematic ride.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – Director, Guy Ritchie

 

 

Hmmm one of my favourite 60’s TV series and one of my favourite directors, what could go wrong? Well nothing much really except that this movie was not quite the quality I had hoped for. I guess I was hoping for a new Bond franchise and it just didn’t happen. This is not to say it is a bad movie by any means. The cast is great especially Armie Hammer as Ilya Kuryakin, and Hugh Grant as Waverly. Henry Cavill is good as Napoleon Solo but then I was never impressed with Robert Vaughan in the role and I think it’s the role’s fault more than the actor’s. Anyway everyone always like David McCallum the best, Right? Reviewers were all over the map on this one and I have to admit those who dumped on it had a point. Ritchie fails to recreate the atmosphere of the original TV series but lets face its been 50 years since McCallum and Vaughn created the roles, that audience is aging fast, and the Cold War is old news at least the one from the 60’s. The series needed a reboot to make it interesting to contemporary audiences but I fear that although it was fun to watch, it just didn’t quite cut it. The ending clearly sets up the possibility of a sequel with the two stars and hopefully Ritchie behind the camera but with the lack of critical success it will, I fear, not make it to a second romp in the Cold War. Still its fun and worth your time.

American Ultra – Director, Nima Nourizadeh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was inspired to watch this movie because of Jesse Eisenberg and the premise plus a few online suggestions that it was one of the more underrated films of 2015. It had pretty terrible reviews on Rotten Tomaotes but nonetheless I was impressed despite the low rating. The movie is very strange and one is never sure whether to laugh or cry but mostly I laughed. It is incredibly violent but more in the style of Tarantino (though I would not put it in that category of quality) and tongue in cheek. So I would put this in the same category as Cop Car. It is interesting that the comments, unlike the reviews, on Rotten Tomatoes were almost universally positive and did not support the large number of negative critical reviews. There is no question that the critics misread their fans here. It’s no Oscar nominee but it is fun and deserving of more favourable opinion.

Eisenberg plays a young stoner who is living a pretty boring and uneventful life in small rural town. His girlfriend is clearly in love with him and he desperately wants to marry her and make her happy but his attempts to propose and take her away on a celebratory holiday are stymied by the fact that for some reason he just can’t leave town. Any time he tries he falls violently ill. Unbeknownst to him however he is the result of a secret CIA experiment to turn out the perfect secret agent and a highly trained killer. He has been brainwashed or at least brain wiped and has no memory of his role or his skills. Internal squabbles at CIA headquarters results in a decision to have him terminated as a failed experiment but the agent who trained him decides to save him and travels to the town to “wake him up”. The resulting chaos, confusion and copious bloodshed is the rest of the film. Again, like Cop Car, not the stuff of Tarantino or Coen Bros. but worth the 90 minutes of B movie thrills and fun.

Cop Car – Director, John Watts

Gotta love Kevin Bacon. This may not be the best movie he has ever made but it is a lot of fun. Set in rural America, two 10-year-old boys out exploring in grassland find an abandoned police cruiser, unlocked, with the key in the ignition. Not able to resist they steal it and take off. Of course you wonder how an abandoned police cruiser would ever find its way to so remote a spot and with no police around and the film answers with a flashback to Kevin Bacon as the cop arriving, opening the trunk, and dragging a body out to be buried in an unmarked grave. He assumes of course that the car will not be disturbed but does not count on the kids. The balance of the film continues with Bacon, clearly a psychotic killer and cop, trying to retrieve his vehicle before the police department finds out about his way of dealing out justice.

Cop Car premiered at Sundance and so it is interesting that this movie was little noticed. To be fair, despite the violence and story line it is neither the stuff of Tarantino or the Coen Brothers but if you don’t pay too much attention to that you will have thrilling ride with a film that, as a NYT reviewer noted ” doesn’t ask much of you narratively or ethically.” A good comment.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Director, George Miller


This reboot of the Mad Max franchise is a visual extravaganza with wonderful performances from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. While I enjoyed it very much and clearly so did the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, I am like many who saw the new Star Wars movie. Yes its great but…. The original was much more mind blowing if you were lucky enough to be around and see it for the first time in 1977. The original Mad Max with a very young Mel Gibson came out in 1979 and was a great sci-fi post-apocalyptic vision with a pretty low budget. It rocketed Gibson to international fame and its sequel Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) was a brilliant follow up. There is no question that this latest take directed by the same director but 35 years later is very good and very special but it’s a sequel and a reboot and it just didn’t grab me the way the original did. So that’s the perspective of a 66 year old movie reviewer. It is interesting that a movie like Mad Max can have a much greater impact when it is first released in the context of movies of the time then it can to younger fans who see it 10 or 20 years later in a world already influenced by those films. It is less of a thrill and less of a novelty and clearly no longer ground breaking since it already did that previously. I will riff on this a bit more in my review of the new Star Wars movie. But for all my reaction from the perspective of an old movie fan don’t get me wrong, this a really fun movie and a great ride just not the same one I was on in 1979.

The Hateful Eight – Director, Quentin Tarantino

If you like Tarantino, you will like this movie and if you don’t you won’t. Personally I am a big fan and loved this movie. Set in a single room for most of the 187 minutes it all hangs on the acting and that is top notch. Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell as the leads are very good but the best performance is turned in by the only major female character played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. The supporting cast are also all wonderful with great performances in particular from Tim Roth and Bruce Dern. The claustrophobic setting lends great tension to a movie that sparkles all the way through. I am tempted to look at my watch in any movies that extend past 90 minutes but not this time. One is never sure about the agenda of each character or who is going to die in some over the top violent manner until the final twist ending(s) and the script and timing keep you on the edge of you seat throughout. Great stuff delivered with skill and humour from Tarantino who continues to improve with each outing.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Director, J. J. Abrams

Okay this movie is likely to make more money than any movie in history and has had great reviews ranking in the 90’s on Rotten Tomatoes and generally could not miss as a hit. It is not 1977 however, and this is not Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope which set the stage for all the special effects blockbusters to follow. Those of us who were stunned and thrilled by the first movie will be a tad disappointed in this one but that is not to say it is not great fun. There is much to like and lots of nostalgia to enjoy. There is a real challenge with rebooting a franchise like this. Abrams did an awesome job with Star Trek but this was by far a bigger challenge. He has to deal with the old characters and old story, introduce the new cast and set the stage for the next 2 movies in the trilogy. That is a lot to do in one movie but I believe they were successful. I enjoyed every moment of it.

There a few plot issues like how the new lead star managed to learn how to do Jedi mind tricks all on her own and it worked and that is not the only one. Time to suspend disbelief dear readers and just relax. After the movie when my guests were discussing this scene in particular our youngest guest (9 y.o.) noted that “The Force is strong in this one”. Nuff said. Enjoy.

Victoria – Director – Sebastian Schipper

I am not entirely sure about this movie. It is not the best I have ever seen and it is a wee bit too long but all in all very entertaining. Victoria is a German film but most of the dialogue is in English. Set in Berlin it tells the story of a young Spanish student who hooks up late one night or really early one morning with four guys who are out for the night partying. What starts out as a fun encounter and a blossoming romance with one of the guys slowly turns darker as the guys are coerced into a bank robbery and the girl – Victoria – becomes the driver of the getaway vehicle. I will not give away the whole story but needless to say it all starts to go awry until the climactic ending. The characters speak English because the guys are German and Victoria is Spanish. The common tongue is English which they all speak relatively well and which makes for interesting dialogue.

What is unusual about this movie is that it all happens in real time and is shot in one continuous take. Apparently they did three versions and the final one is the one that was released. The dialogue is all ad libbed which is a credit to the actors since it is mostly in English which is a second language for them all. The pace of the movie picks up slowly over the time and ends in a rush. Great fun really and although one can punch all kinds of holes in the plot, the nature of the filming is unique and the story compelling so you really want to see how it all comes out at the end and definitely stay hooked. Not sure when this might be released. The film will be at several film festivals including Vancouver and Berlin and hopefully will get general release in the New Year if not before. Definitely worth the effort to see.

http://tiff.net/festivals/festival15/specialpresentations/victoria

Into the Forest – Director – Patricia Rozema

This is officially the worst movie I have seen so far at TIFF. I was intrigued by the theme about two sisters in an isolated house in the US northwest when all the electrical power goes out for good all over the world. How will they survive? Some will remember back in 2003 when the entire northeast of the continent lost power for three days. It was survivable but a wee bit scary when you realize how dependent we are on electricity and how fragile it really is. This movie promised to help us understand that but it fails on many levels. I was not overly impressed with the script which was written by the director. The story fails to make any sense on so many levels as to be unbelievable and basically it was really boring. To go back to the Hitchcock film – there was really no suspense. The events were so predictable there was literally no tension in what should have been a very scary or at least anxiety provoking movie.

I think the director was trying to explore how a crisis like this might affect the relationship between two people particularly family members who are caught in a trap from which they really have no way out. The problem is that this scenario was not believable. The film is not science fiction or apocalyptic particularly so it was just too artificial and in the end overly melodramatic. It was also way way too long. We got the point about 30 or 45 minutes in and the rest was denouement. Oh yeah a story generally has a climax and then a denouement but this film has no climax because it really never goes anywhere.

I was also irritated by the fact that no explanation of the power outage was ever given or any sense that the country was at least adapting in some way to the crisis. The result was really a plot and story that was totally unengaging. I should tell you that this movie is well liked by many and has a high rating on IMDb for some reason yet to be made clear to me. So if you like the actors and like the director by all means go but don’t say you weren’t warned.