The Little Things Review

The Little Things movie posterSynopsis
Former Los Angeles detective and current Kern County deputy sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) returns to LA to pick up some evidence. While there, he notices similarities between one of his unsolved cases and a current case being investigated by Detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malick). Deacon teams up with Baxter to solve the case.

Review
A good psychological thriller will find a hook that gets you into the story then won’t let you go and keep you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. The Little Things manages to do just that. The film finds new ways to pull you in as it goes on, adding new wrinkles to the story, providing new revelations and tension. It manages to keep a good mystery and paces itself well for the most part. As the mystery deepens and more is revealed, we the audience have just as much information and as many details as the characters on screen have, making the story more engaging as we are trying to solve the case at the same time as Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) and Detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek). For the majority of the film, the lens is on the the three leading men of Washington, Malek, and Jared Leto. Together, they carry the film expertly and naturally play off each other. Leto in particular was fantastic and easily the stand out of the trio. As is typical in this type of story, the movie is a bit of a slow burn, and as such it feels like it can drag out at times. The cryptic ending doesn’t wrap things up as much as expected but at the same time, it leaves the resolution open to interpretation, which feels fitting for this film.

I thought The Little Things was GOOD πŸ™‚ It’s easy to find similarities between this film and other crime psychological thrillers, but it does everything it’s supposed to do. An engaging story and a core cast that’s at the top of their game provide thrills right up until the very end.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
John Lee Hancock – Director / Writer
Thomas Newman – Composer

Denzel Washington – Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon
Rami Malek – Jim Baxter
Jared Leto – Albert Sparma
Chris Bauer – Detective Sal Rizoli
Michael Hyatt – Flo Dunigan
Terry Kinney – LASD Captain Carl Farris
Natalie Morales – Detective Jamie Estrada
Isabel Arraiza – Ana Baxter
Joris Jarsky – Detective Sergeant Rogers
Glenn Morshower – Captain Henry Davis
Sofia Vassilieva – Tina Salvatore


There is still plenty of time to join the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021. For all the details, check out the announcement post.

Tenet Review

Tenet movie posterSynopsis
A CIA agent (John David Washington) is recruited into a secret organization known as β€œTenet,” who are trying to prevent a catastrophe worse than Armageddon.

Review
Over the years, Christopher Nolan has made a name for himself with his high-concept films, containing multiple levels, where nothing is exactly what it seems, and often require several rewatches to fully grasp the nuances and details of the story. With Tenet, Christopher Nolan might have made the most Christopher Nolan film to date. From the explosive opening scene to the mind-bending final scene, Tenet continuously leaves you feeling one step behind as you try to put the pieces together before realizing you aren’t even working on the same puzzle as Nolan is working with.

One thing I really appreciate in Nolan’s style of film making is his commitment to practical effects. Zero green screens were used during the production of this movie, which is an impressive feat given the idea that people and objects can move backwards in time or the scale of some of the action pieces. Nolan’s sincerity in wanting to keep everything in-camera creates a level of authenticity in Tenet that very few action films these days have. We’ve seen directors more and more in recent years move away from CGI back towards practical effects and I for one could not be happier. While there have been some really great worlds created with computer special effects, nothing beats feeling like what you’re watching on screen is real. Hopefully with this film, Nolan has inspired more directors to do more of the same.

In today’s world of remakes and reboots, Nolan has stood out as a director and writer who regularly brings original concepts to cinema. While Tenet does take inspiration from espionage thrillers of the past, and time travel movies have been done numerous times in Hollywood, there is still something that feels fresh and unique about the film. As I said, one of Nolan’s trademarks is a multi-layered story filled with details easily missed in the initial viewing and that is no less true in Tenet, which given the way the film uses time-travel, multiple watches are almost a necessity.

But with this film’s complexity comes a slow start. As exciting as the opening scene was, it took some time to get going. In order to properly get the idea of inversion across required a bit of exposition. Also, not much is given on what the organization of Tenet is or what exactly they are doing. As a result, a fair chunk of the beginning I felt lost as to what John David Washington’s character was doing and working towards. I don’t think the character knew exactly either and by keeping the audience in the dark as well, Nolan was trying to put us in the same boat as the character. While this can work, taking too long to get to the payoff can become frustrating and remove the audience member from the film. Once I really got into the idea of inversion and at least some idea of the plans of Washington’s character then I was able to settle into the film more. However, there was still a lot left unrevealed until the final act, and sometimes even the final minutes. The same can be said for the characters themselves, who receive very little in terms of development. Even though much is disclosed in the end, it does little to help their development.

Of course, what might have contributed to my confusion was the fact that it was very difficult to hear what the characters were saying half of the time. Another signature of a Nolan film is a boisterous score. And while such a score can work, the sound mixing in Tenet made it more of a burden than an enhancement. It’s hard to understand what is happening when you cannot hear the exposition.

I thought Tenet was GOOD πŸ™‚ In classic Christopher Nolan fashion, this film has an ambitious concept with a very intricate plot that will certainly require multiple viewings to fully catch all of the details. As a fan of great action sequences, this film is chock full of amazing set pieces all done using practical effects for an absolutely stunning experience. However, the beautiful wrapping covers up a lack of any character development and the score is the most in-your-face and obtrusive of any of Nolan’s films. Nonetheless, Tenet’s originality and creativity is refreshing in today’s landscape of remakes and reboots.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Ludwig GΓΆransson – Composer

John David Washington – The Protagonist
Robert Pattinson – Neil
Elizabeth Debicki – Kat
Kenneth Branagh – Andrei Sator
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Ives
Himesh Patel – Mahir
ClΓ©mence PoΓ©sy – Barbara
Michael Cain – Michael Crosby
Dimple Kapadia – Priya
Martin Donovan – Victor
Fiona Dourif – Wheeler

You Should Have Left Review

There are still several spots left for this year’s Christmas in July Blogathon. If you’re interested in joining in, check out this post.


You Should Have Left movie posterSynopsis
Theo (Kevin Bacon), his wife Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), and their daughter Ella (Avery Essex), take a trip in the Welsh countryside where their vacation house is not as it seems on the outside.

Review
For a long time I stayed away from any film in the horror genre. However, over the years I have found that supernatural horror is a niche that I do enjoy. When the trailer for You Should Have Left dropped just two weeks ago, it seemed like a film right up my narrow horror film alley. According to the trailer it had supernatural elements, some thriller pieces, and Kevin Bacon. Those are ll things that I enjoy in a film, so I gave it a chance. I was right that is was the kind of film I would enjoy, unfortunately it was better on paper than it was on screen.

Everything about You Should Have Left falls way short of being bearable. Firstly, the characters have little to no actual development. Theo, Kevin Bacon’s character, is completely defined by the death of his ex-wife. He does not go through any kind of growth as the film goes on, nor is his ex-wife’s death really expanded on. By the way, he was tried for and found innocent of his ex-wife’s death. You would think that would be a larger part of the Theo’s character but it hardly registers throughout most of the film. Susanna, Amanda Seyfried’s character and Theo’s much younger wife, also gets minimal development in the film. To be honest, other than Susanna is an actress, I could not tell you anything about her. Bacon and Seyfried, two great actors, are truly wasted in this film.

It doesn’t help either that two-thirds of this movie is used to set up this big mystery about the house Theo, Susanna, and their daughter Ella (Avery Essex), are staying in while on vacation. An attempt is made to create a mystery about the house, at the same time the film is also trying to build up the β€œtroubled past” of Theo mind you, but like the human characters, building the mystery around the house simply falls flat. Even as the credits roll, little explanation is provided about the place, other than some vague remarks by a local shopkeeper (Colin Blumenau). It’s not until the final thirty minutes or so before the mystery is even begun to be explored. With little time left, the film feels like it is sprinting towards the end, finding a way to wrap up the β€œarc” for the characters and gets lost along the way.

For a film billed as a supernatural horror and thriller, You Should Have Left has very little of any of those elements. The scare attempts are amateurish at best; the supernatural is a little science-fiction-ish but with little explanation it’s hard to even determine which one it is; and the thriller is completely reliant on the mystery element and since that falls short, so too does the thriller aspect. I am honestly surprised a film this abysmal was made by a filmmaker with such a storied history as David Koepp.

I thought You Should Have Left was BAD 😦 I am usually fairly optimistic when it comes to reviewing films. Even in widely panned movies like the recent Artemis Fowl I can often manage to uncover some sort of redeeming quality buried within the mound of bad. Regrettably, I can’t find anything in this film that I really enjoyed. The characters were flat, the set-up took too much time, the mystery wasn’t that gripping, the reveal wasn’t even that good either, and the payoff simply didn’t exist. In a perfect world I would not have taken the time to watch this at all. The next best scenario is I would have seen this in theaters rather than on-demand because there is no price worth the admission for this film but at least in the theater, I would have payed less for such a poor experience.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
David Koepp – Director / Screenplay
Geoff Zanelli – Composer

Kevin Bacon – Theo
Amanda Seyfried – Susanna
Avery Essex – Ella
Colin Blumenau – Shopkeeper
Lown Ann Richards – Welsh Woman
Joshua C. Jackson – Production Assistant – Susanna’s Movie
Eli Powers – Susanna’s Assistant

Inception Review

This review was originally posted as part of Table 9 Mutant‘s IMDb Top 250 project then updated and reposted for the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Inception movie posterSynopsis
Dream extractors Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and their team are hired by Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) to perform inception, or plant an idea in someone’s mind, on Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito’s dying competitor.

Review
Christopher Nolan is a writer and director who is known for films that are bold, that go big, and that are completely original. One of his boldest and biggest films came between the latter two films in his influential The Dark Knight trilogy. Inception has all of Nolan’s trademark elements and, most importantly, the cast to make it work. And it works. It works in a spectacular and unforgettable fashion.

Sometimes movies try to explain their world before getting into the story, often using an overbearing amount of exposition. But Inception doesn’t do that. Rather than use the beginning to set up the technology or concept to enter one’s subconscious, it is used to introduce the notion of dreams within dreams, which becomes an important aspect of the story later on, and also simply give an idea of what it the technology does. The movie accepts that entering dream space is already an established technology so it can start with a bang. However, later in the film we do get the exposition needed to explain such a high concept technology. This information is given to us through Ariadne (Ellen Page), who acts as the bridge between the movie and the audience. But again, it is done in a way that is neither pandering nor dull, somehow making exposition exciting and entertaining.

Although there is a large ensemble, almost everyone gets their fair share of screen time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the main focus but they handle the attention well and give amazing performances. They play off each other humorously and you can feel that their characters are close friends. I haven’t seen many of Cillian Murphy’s films but I’m impressed with his performance here, playing well opposite, and later along side, DiCaprio. Ellen Page is the newcomer to the team and acts a great surrogate for the audience. She offers an innocence and a bit of naivete to the group. However, I would have to say my favorite performances is Tom Hardy as Eames. He brings a charisma that fits his character perfectly.

Cobb has become one of my favorite characters in cinema. He is very complex and it’s easy to forget that he is a thief. He is an antihero but is one because of the circumstances and wants nothing more than to return to his family. Most antiheroes say they have good intentions and only become so out of necessity but secretly enjoy being a thief/killer/whatever kind of antihero they are. Cobb, on the other hand, is truly not a bad person and is only leveraging his skills in a way he believes will allow him to return to his family the quickest, even though it is not a way he would prefer.

I have mentioned many times in other reviews how important the score can be to a movie. Like most other aspects of Inception, the sound work and music beautifully complements what is happening on screen. The movie can get loud to accentuate the action going on but it also gets very quite, making these moments more intimate. Hans Zimmer is my second favorite composer (behind the wonderful John Williams) and for a good example of why he is amazing just look at this movie. His score is memorable and gives a certain gravitas to the events unfolding on screen.

There are some amazing visuals, too. Working inside a dream allows the action to be limited only by the imagination. One of the coolest is an early scene when Ariadne is learning about molding dreams. She is walking around Paris and makes the city fold on itself, among bending the streets and architecture in other ways. There is also a fight scene in zero gravity in a hotel hallway. And these are just a few! On top of that, many of the effects are done practically rather than with computer animation. Even though this film takes place in the dreamscape, it adds a bit of realism in a world that is anything but real. The effects department truly outdid themselves.

I thought Inception was GREAT πŸ˜€ Like most of Christopher Nolan’s films, it features a grand and unique concept. Even though the concept is big, it is never dumbed-down or spoon-fed to the audience. The film assumes that they can figure things out for themselves and moves on accordingly, offering marvelous and extraordinary action pieces and character moments. Each character is complex yet relatable and all the actors and actresses play well off each other. Nolan has proven time and again his place as one of the biggest and best storytellers in Hollywood today, and Inception just might be his crown jewel. So far.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Arthur
Ellen Page – Ariadne
Tom Hardy – Eames
Ken Watanabe – Saito
Dileep Rao – Yusuf
Cillian Murphy – Robert Fischer
Marion Cotillard – Mal
Tom Berenger – Browning
Pete Postlethwaite – Maurice Fischer
Michael Caine – Miles
Lukas Haas – Nash

Uncut Gems Review

Uncut Gems movie poterSynopsis
New York City jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is always looking for the next big score and always pushing his luck to find it. When he comes across a β€œsure thing,” it puts him at odds with friends and enemies alike.

Review
It has been a long time since I have seen a new Adam Sandler movie. I’m talking like 2011’s Jack and Jill and 2008’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan before that. I’ve even missed Pixels, which my aunt has assured me I would enjoy given the amount of video games I play. But Uncut Gems piqued my interest because it looked like a different kind of Sandler movie. Even by my own admission I haven’t seen many of his movies outside of his early popular hits to compare to, but his role in Uncut Gems is unlike I have ever seen from him and might just be his best performance.

Sandler is absolutely brilliant as Howard Ratner, a shifty jeweler in New York City. Sandler is mostly known as a comedic actor but his role as Howard shows that he can branch out to other types of roles if he puts his mind to it. Howard is not a good person and is involved in shady dealings. Sandler bring a schizophrenic element to the part and makes it seem natural. The further I got into the film, the less and less I believed the person on screen was Sandler and not some doppelganger. Compared to other roles in his filmography, he is unrecognizable. After watching him in this film, I would like to see Sandler take on more dramatic roles such as this.

As I said before, Howard is not a good person, you might even call him a downright awful person. Usually a main character of a film has some sort of redeeming quality so the audience can connect and root for them. Not Howard. This disconnect from the audience actually works towards another purpose. Since he is such a terrible individual, I continuously expected something terrible to happen to him. This is where I found the suspense of the film to come from. I was constantly wondering when something will go wrong for Howard. Once this thought took hold, I was glued to the screen, always expecting the worse to happen in every scene.

The cinematography was expertly used to elevate the tension as well. Tight angles and small, crowded spaces were often used to create a sense of claustrophobia, making the audience more uneasy being up close and personal with such despicable people. Kudos to the Safdie brothers and cinematographer Darius Khondji for creating an uncomfortable feeling using just the camera.

If I had one complaint about the film it would be that it is a bit too long. At 2 hours and 15 minutes, it does drag on a points. If one or two subplots would have been cut to shave the run time down by 20 or 30 minutes, I think this film would have found that sweet spot.

I thought Uncut Gems was GREAT πŸ˜€ Adam Sandler completely transforms himself in what is probably his most dramatic role to date. I found myself on edge expecting the worst to happen. While it was just a smidge too long, Uncut Gems is unrelenting and extremely raw, dragging you into Howard’s seedy world and never letting go.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Benny Safdie – Director / Writer
Josh Safdie – Director / Writer
Ronald Bronstein – Writer
Daniel Lopatin – Composer

Adan Sandler – Howard Ratner
Julia Fox – Julia
Idina Menzel – Dinah Ratner
Lakeith Stanfield – Demany
Kevin Garnett – Himself
Eric Bogosian – Arno
Keith Williams Richards – Phil
Mike Francesa – Gary
Judd Hirsch – Gooey
Noa Fisher – Marcel Ratner
Jonathan Aranbayev – Eddie Ratner
Jacob Idielski – Beni Ratner


On Monday, the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon was announced! If you would like to participate, all the details can be found in this announcement post.

Knives Out Review

Knives Out movie posterSynopsis
Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) investigates the death of mystery author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer).

Review
I have a weird relationship with Rian Johnson. I’ve only seen two of his films: Looper, which I enjoyed a lot, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which I have very mixed feelings about. The trailers for Knives Out definitely did their job of piquing my interest. So despite my feelings for his last movie, I thought I would check it out his latest endeavor. Johnson has one crazy imagination! Knives Out is filled to the brim with twists and excitement.

This film is a classic whodunit, something you would expect to play out like a game of Clue. Normally, the reveal about the murder is the final twist at the end. This movie separates itself from other murder mysteries by revealing the events of the murder in question at the end of the first act, which was much earlier than I expected. However, even after these events are revealed, it still kept my attention. The rest of the movie becomes a cat-and-mouse chase which maintains the intrigue and left me on the edge of my seat, constantly saying β€œoh, no,” but in a good way, under my breath on many occasions. Because the film explained the murder early on and shifts from a classic mystery to more of a thriller, the final twist felt like a let down. It was a wheels-within-wheels type reveal that wasn’t quite as hard-hitting as Johnson probably wanted it to be.

Despite this small gripe with the story, this movie is well written. As I said, even after the tonal shift partway through the film, it was still exciting. By the end of the film, all of the breadcrumbs that were laid out are cleaned up. Also, many lines that sound like throwaway comments have meaning later on, so pay attention closely or you might just miss something. Of course, this captivating script is only made better by such a fantastic cast. Everyone is clearly having a good time. Ana de Armas is arguably not as big of an actress as much of the rest of the cast but she holds her own when sharing the screen with the likes of Daniel Craig, Chris Evens, Jamie Lee Curtis or any of the rest. She is surely an actress to be watching out for.

I thought Knives Out was GREAT πŸ˜€ I wasn’t sure what to expect from Rian Johnson, a director with whom I have a love-hate relationship, but I think it’s safe to say at this point in time, I like more of his films than I dislike. Your classic whodunit script gets a twist and you won’t want to take your eyes off of the screen. The well-written script and excellent cast make Knives Out a thrilling ride from start to finish.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rian Johnson – Director / Writer
Nathan Johnson – Composer

Daniel Craig – Benoit Blanc
Ana de Armas – Marta Cabrera
Chris Evans – Ransom Drysdale
Jamie Lee Curtis – Linda Dysdale
Michael Shannon – Walt Thrombey
Don Johnson – Richard Drysdale
Toni Collette – Joni Thrombey
Katherine Langford – Meg Thrombey
Jaeden Martell – Jacob Thrombey
Riki Lindhome – Donna Thrombey
Christopher Plummer – Harlan Thrombey
K Callan – Greatnana Wanetta
LaKeith Stanfield – Lieutenant Elliott
Noah Segan – Trooper Wagner
Edi Patterson – Fran