Category Archives: Film Reviews

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky Review

War is dirty. War is a sickness. War is pain for all, with scars that will never truly heal. This one of the central themes of the original Mobile Suit Gundam (MSG) that first graced television screens in 1979 with its bleak, sometimes horrifying rendition of what war might look like when mankind finally breaks free of Earth’s atmosphere to colonise the depths of space. That was a timeless story, where forces on two opposing sides, the earthbound Federation and the spacefaring Principality of Zeon, both suffered and committed unspeakable atrocities to one another, along with every innocent caught in the crossfire. Studio Sunrise now revisits this idea in Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt, an adaptation of a manga that originally aired as a 4 episode web series before being compiled into a full-length film called December Sky.

Poster

Running in parallel to the original Mobile Suit Gundam series and taking place during the final days of the One Year War, Thunderbolt presents the battle for the ‘Thunderbolt Sector’, a shoal zone filled with the remains of a destroyed space colony and plagued by electrical storms. Federation forces are attempting to retake the area surrounding the colony, but their advance is halted by Zeon’s ‘Living Dead Division’, a unit of snipers filled with amputees. In the midst of battle, an encounter between two opposing ace pilots begins a deadly obsession that torments them both to a psychotic degree. Their fight is only further escalated by the introduction of a new type of mobile suit, whose name is now infamous on both sides: Gundam.

Before going any further, if any of the things mentioned in the previous two paragraphs meant nothing to you, Thunderbolt is likely not for you, yet. Existing knowledge of the major conflicts presented in the original Mobile Suit Gundam are not absolutely required, but knowing clearly what is happening in the background of this film definitely makes the viewing experience a lot smoother. Though its visuals are extremely dated, I recommend watching the original 1979 TV series first (or at least its three compilation films) before coming back to Thunderbolt. The original series remains to this day, one of the greatest science-fiction visions of warfare ever put on film and Thunderbolt, though sometimes floundering in rushed character arcs, overall serves as a worthy and engrossing supplement to the original story.

This is the third time that other areas of conflict in the One Year War have been explored outside of the original Gundam series. 1980’s War in the Pocket viewed the effects from a civilian standpoint while 1996’s The 8th MS Team took place from the perspective of ground forces fighting across the Earth. Both had varying tones, yet still many a time still tried to maintain a hopeful outlook that at least some manner of peace could come from all the fighting. Thunderbolt takes the polar opposite approach, offering the full spectrum of wartime horrors to the viewers on a gritty, blood-soaked plate.

Darly

The outlook is refreshingly mature from the start, the opening minutes featuring snippets like Federation pilots kissing their partners goodbye before heading out on what is seemingly a suicide mission to attempt to breach the Zeon sniper net. Right from these opening moments, director Kou Matsuo shows a keen attention to detail with these small touches that help to immerse the viewer in Thunderbolt’s gritty and death-laden setting, assisted by sharp, expressive character designs and an equally sharp script that, for the most part, manages to clearly present the effects that war has military and civilian populations, without the messages ever seeming ham-fisted. Considering the number of themes on display here and the admiral showcase of each, Thunderbolt does a pretty decent job of balancing its thematic significance with a fast paced mecha war story.

The compiled film clocks in at only 69 minutes, moving briskly from loud, jazz fuelled action set pieces to solemn and almost disturbingly quiet personal moments, yet still manages to cram in mostly satisfying, if limited, character arcs into the short running time.  The two leads, Federation hotshot Io Fleming and Zeon ace Daryl Lenz form a fairly competent, if predictable, dichotomy, yet it’s the supporting cast of both sides that really make up the bulk of the interesting and relatable personalities, specifically Claudia Peer, the captain of the Federation division, and Karla Pitchum, a Zeon scientist using the Living Dead division as research subjects for advancing the mobile suit arms race. Both these characters get a little too caught up in their positions and it’s both simultaneously gratifying and tragic to see how the battle for the Thunderbolt sector pushes them over the edge.

Fleming

As par the course with Gundam projects, the voice cast does a stellar job, with both English and Japanese dub turning out memorable performances. I’d personally recommend watching Thunderbolt in both languages, mainly just to see the, at times, wildly different interpretations of Io Fleming the voice actors have.

As much as I want to commend Thunderbolt for its engaging thematic exploration of the effects of war, the real highlight of the film is easily the animation and music. In a time when many Japanese animation studios are looking towards 3D CGI for use in their films and TV series (Sunrise themselves are even extensively using it in the Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin film series) it’s incredibly uplifting to see a mecha anime where everything is gorgeously rendered in sharp, crisp and colourful 2D glory. Thunderbolt’s battle scenes are some of the most fluid and well-crafted I’ve seen in a long time, with mobile suits that swiftly zip between chunks of debris to avoid oncoming fire, only to whizz around for the kill moments later. Matsuo triumphs here again with memorable images, such as nearly minute long POV shot that plays out a pilot’s last moments before his suit is destroyed. Character animation is equally as impressive, an early scene featuring Fleming drumming away in the cockpit of his mobile suit being a prime showcase.

Speaking of drumming, not only does Thunderbolt get a perfect score in the sound design department thanks to it including a massive plethora of authentic sounding mechanical effects, but music plays a much greater role in this film than perhaps in any other Gundam project. Both the main characters listen to very different genres of music, Fleming dabbling extensively in jazz, while Daryl listens to pop. These genres make up almost the entirety of Thunderbolt’s score and not only are the individual songs well produced, they’re effectively utilised both typically and atypically throughout the film, as the makers play with the placement of specific tracks in thematically relevant ways.

Sniperfire

Thunderbolt may not be a clear entry point into the Gundam franchise, and its breakneck pacing and somewhat underwhelming main characters may not work for all viewers, but for everyone else, the film showcases the highest possibilities of what can be achieved with a dedicated creative team using traditional 2D animation. Its technical merits bolster an already strong narrative foundation to make Thunderbolt a worthy addition to the Universal Century timeline. This is the best Gundam has been since the debut of Unicorn in 2010 and I certainly will be keenly looking forward to many more projects both from this creative team and this franchise (nudge, an adaptation of Crossbone Gundam please Sunrise). Thunderbolt is a stylish triumph, absolutely worth the little time it asks of its viewers.

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X-Men Apocalypse Review

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I trust professional critics in many scenarios. They’re people who’ve made a career on reviewing films. They’ve probably seen a lot more films than I have and are probably a lot more knowledgeable than me too. On many occasions, I tend to agree with the critical consensus for the most part. However, sometimes the critical consensus falls into a viewpoint I cannot bring myself to agree with. X-Men: ­Apocalypse currently (at the time of writing) sits at a relatively poor 51% on Rotten Tomatoes, a rating especially low when compared against Bryan Singer’s other outings at the helm of an X-Men film. Yes, the film has some serious issues in regards to its pacing and treatment of some of the cast, however, X-Men: Apocalypse has managed to do something no other comic book film to date has ever done to date, to bring the scope of the original comic’s mythos successfully to the screen.

X-Men­: ­Apocalypse begins in 3600 B.C. as a rebellion in ancient Egypt causes the god-like mutant Apocalypse to fall into a long stasis. In 1983, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has taken charge of a new generation of mutants at his school and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is living a life of peace with a family. However, their idyllic lives are now shattered by the re-emergence of Apocalypse, who recruits four powerful mutants, including Magneto, to be his horseman in a mad quest to take over the entire planet. It is up to the X-Men, old and new, to stop him.

X-Men-Apocalypse-Poster-No-Text.0.0

Apocalypse has been widely criticised as being extremely dull and with a 144-minute runtime, the film definitely takes its sweet time getting to the grand finale. But what it does use that expansive runtime for is key bits of world building, and as a comic-book and literature fan, I’ll take good world building over a rushed, propulsive plot any day. Apocalypse has an epic scale, and the massive build up certainly helps to add weight to the explosive climax, but some elements of the film’s scale work against it. The cast is huge and many members are either underutilised or under-written to an embarrassing degree. Lensherr/Magneto has a compelling, dramatic story in the film’s beginning, but gets little to no resolution when the dust clears. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is as aptly mysterious in her motivations as ever, while Beast (Nicholas Hoult), barely has an identity in the bulging X-Men roster. The Four Horsemen are the worst offenders, with Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy) practically having about 5 lines of dialogue between them in the entire film.

However, the rest of the film’s cast manages to salvage their parts in fantastic fashion. Singer used Days of Future Past to establish the ‘First Class Timeline’ as standing alongside but separate to the original X-Men film universe and James McAvoy continues to distinguish himself as a different Professor X, who’s funny and yet heartfelt performance stands alongside Patrick Stewart’s iconic portrayal of the character. Newcomers Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Game of Throne’s Sophie Turner) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) bring a fresh and welcome set of perspectives to the film and it’s nice to finally see a Cyclops audiences can truly empathise with onscreen. Oscar Isaac does the best he can as the maniacal main villain, Apocalypse, but the character is fairly one-dimensional and audience reactions to him will be hit or miss depending on your preference. A character that has been proven to be consistently excellent and a standout, though, is Evan Peter’s Quicksilver, who plays a much larger and more involved role here than his previous outing in Days of Future Past. He has another standout, spectacle scene and probably the best action sequence in the film all to himself. This speedster is right on the money with solid characterisation and a strong performance from Peters.

X-Men-Apocalypse-Movie-Quicksilver

Despite all negatives I could pick with the slow-moving plot, some weak sections of the cast and a few other completely forgettable technical nit-picks, Apocalypse certainly knows how to show its audience a good, fan-service filled time. One thing I could never criticise the X-Men franchise of is becoming stale, especially Singer’s entries, which is a lot more than I can say for most of Marvel’s last few entries in their cinematic universe. With the original film, Singer redefined the superhero genre in cinema, with X-2 he created a multi-layered conflict between multiple factions of humans and mutants and with Days of Future Past he gave audiences a gripping time travel adventure. Apocalypse takes a step even further away from the franchise’s ‘based in reality’ roots but does so with grandeur and confident swagger, while retaining a sense of realistic emotion and genuinely funny humour that never overplay’s itself. The film is a behemoth, a comic-book epic of a level of ambition I’ve never seen successfully put to screen before. The film does something that no other film has ever done: made me feel like I’m watching a comic brought to life from page to screen right before my eyes, and the feeling is absolutely glorious.

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The action is electrifying, the powers bright and flashy and displayed in their full glory, from Psylocke’s energy sword to Cyclops eye beam. This is X-Men for the people who loved the original stories in their Chris Claremont days or grew up watching the 1992 animated series. The soundtrack even gets into the sometimes ridiculous mood of things, jumping from eighties pop to a grand, bombastic score when appropriate. By the time the obviously shoehorned in Weapon X appearance comes into play, you’re too immersed in the spectacular gravitas of the film to care and you’ve strapped yourself securely in for a rollicking good time. The final scene before the credits packs a special punch for long-time X-Men fans that I won’t spoil here, but in many ways, they make the entire film almost worth the price of admission alone.

In the end, X-Men: Apocalypse ends up being one of the most memorable comic-book films to date, perhaps because it is easily the most comic-booky film I’ve seen yet, in that it showcases this set of compelling super-powered characters in an event of such grand scale, I thought it could only appear on the page. Ignore the critics and make your way down to your local cinema to make up your own mind. Any fan of superheroes, especially of X-Men, will most likely appreciate the ambition on display here, even more so that it works so splendidly. In my opinion, though maybe not superior to Civil War in terms of overall quality, I enjoyed this film significantly more. In fact, X-Men: Apocalypse may well be my favourite comic-book film since X-2 came out in 2003, and it definitely serves as an appropriate send-off to the ‘First Class’ as a new generation of X-Men begins.

 

*Update – I apologise for the lack of content over the past month. University and exams have kept me busy. The final parts of Adapting the DC Universe are still on the way. Thank you for your patience.*

 

Adapting the DC Universe: Part 1…

Note: beware of possible spoilers below…

I love superheroes. I love comic books. I love stories that take my favourite characters in brand new directions. But I really don’t like Dawn of Justice. I just can’t get behind it at all, even though the film is heavily inspired by two of my favourite graphic novels of all time, The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman. The characters, in many cases, are poorly brought into the DC cinematic universe and to put it plainly, are not yet fully rounded individuals. Over the next three weeks I will be discussing adaptations of DC’s heroes, so to get the trash out of the way first, this first article will focus on the failures of Zach Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in establishing the characters of this universe. Next week will focus on what I consider to be the best adaptation of a DC property, the animated, fan-favourite TV series Young Justice and why that was so critically successful. Finally, my third article will focus on the comic book storylines I’d like to see turned into live action films or series, somewhere down the line in DC’s cinematic history.

So it finally seems like the uproar left in the wake of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s release has finally begun to subside. I’ve no doubt even those living under rocks have heard at least taste of the appalling critical reception it got so let’s jump past that quickly. In my opinion, it’s a great film about Batman’s quest to destroy Superman, trapped inside the suffocated husk of another film designed solely to capitalise on existing IPs and rush DC’s cinematic universe to an inevitably even more incomprehensible Justice League. It’s an unfortunate 4 or 5/10 at most, though at least the soundtrack is beastly.

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Anyway, perhaps the film’s greatest failing is its treatment of the DC ‘Trinity’, its three most iconic characters: Superman (Clark Kent), Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Wonder Woman (Diana Prince). It’s admirable that Snyder and the writing team have tried to take these characters in engaging new directions, but they’re attempting to walk in the footsteps of significantly superior writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore, who have not only created beloved renditions of many comic book characters, but have also been able to subvert existing interpretations in exciting ways (see Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns for a prime example). From everything we’ve seen so far, Snyder and the people at Warner Bros. are simply not up to the task, especially at the accelerated rate they’re introducing new characters. They’ve failed to create a cast of fully rounded characters with believable personalities and motivations, and even have some that have zero purpose whatsoever.

Superman:

Let’s begin with the big one, the ‘Man of Steel’ himself, Superman. This version of Superman we have, especially in Dawn of Justice has a compelling debate in theory. The world is reeling from Superman’s wrecking of Metropolis in Man of Steel and Superman’s place on the Earth is being debated; is he a saviour or a bringer of doom. The best complements I can give to this idea is that Superman is fundamentally both. He is a being of godlike power, capable of saving it or destroying if he chooses. Humanity both reveres and is terrified by this being because he holds their lives in his hands.

Yet in response to the compelling nature of this debate, this Superman displays very little response, outside of a few key scenes. In many regards this version of Superman is unfit for his position, quick to anger and displaying very little mercy to anyone who crosses him. This Superman is different from his comic and pop culture variants, yet not in the good way. In every manner he deserves his negative reputation, and as pointed out by Bruce Wayne, he is a hypocrite, and an unequivocally dull one at that.

It almost all falls down to poor execution and presentation. A Superman that destroys the drone which is very understandably sent to track him, and that openly threatens to break the limbs of people who harm him is not a protector of the Earth and certainly not the leader of the Justice League, at least not any League that I remember. Even in the comics and other adaptations, though Superman is not always right, that doesn’t mean that without extreme justification he should resort to murder.  Snyder’s Superman is not only a Superman that is unlikable, but also a character that doesn’t (yet – I shall hold out hope) deserve the admiration he should based upon his glaring personality flaws. Also, this Superman will never have a tense moment again because some idiot decided to show him essentially resurrecting in the final seconds. Whoever thought that was a good idea wants sacking, right now if they haven’t been already.

Wonder Woman:

I’m interested to see the movie critics who were absolutely loving Wonder Woman were watching, because it certainly was not Dawn of Justice, where the Amazon warrior has about 5 minutes of screen time, if that, zero motivation and no purpose in the movie other than to attract an extra demographic.

I’m not displeased in the little bit of personality we see from her, easily the most uplifting of the three main heroes, yet what we’ve seen barely constitutes a character, especially not one I can get attached to yet. This is Wonder Woman we’ve never seen before, one already fully integrated into modern society, having spent the last hundred years among us and I’m interested in seeing the opinions she voices about normal humans, having lived among them instead of being divided by her heritage. Yet despite the promise her character shows, I simply haven’t seen enough of it to make a decent judgement call, which ultimately, is the fault of Batman v Superman being a franchise movie.

Batman

I’ll admit it, Batfleck turned out to be incredible and I couldn’t be more excited by the upcoming solo movie supposedly being written by Affleck and the great Geoff Johns. There are only really two things I will say about Batman that urk me about his presentation in this film, the first being his apparent willingness to not only use firearms but also to kill many of his foes outright without any attempt at a use of nonlethal force, and the second being his sudden change of attitude to Superman when he realises they have mothers with the same name.

The first point is ‘somewhat’ understandably glossed over for the most part, besides a single conversation with Alfred early on in the film. Bruce Wayne is understandably enraged and angry, seemingly frustrated with his inability to contend against Superman, and that for all his efforts to defeat crime in Gotham, not only in 20 years has he not been able to do so (even costing the possible death of Robin) but now he is nearly powerless to contend against threats from the stars. He has turned ‘cold’ as Alfred says in his age. The debate about the morality of Bruce Wayne’s more brutal tactics at this point is a large point of contention in The Dark Knight Returns, and would probably take up a very large amount of screen time in an already crowded and long film. All I can say for now is that it is hopefully covered in a future movie, for it definitely needs to be addressed.

The second point, about Batman’s sudden change of heart, is just sloppy writing and the less said about it, the better. Perhaps if Bruce had looked into Luther more, he might have seen he was being manipulated, but there’s nothing we can do about it now without pulling a Days of Future Past style retcon.

Dawn of Justice has many more issues to do with its writing alone, not to mention some of the other aspects, but there’s been enough negativity in one article by now so I’ll not mention them here. It’s a deeply flawed, yet important film that I urge everyone to go see at least once if they haven’t already. The potential to create an enthralling DC cinematic universe is still alive, at least if the first Justice League film turns out to be better. Adaptation that is both very accessible and yet satisfying for existing fans is extremely difficult, especially with a pantheon of characters like DC has, but next week we’ll look at an adaptation that has managed to pull off this gargantuan task marvellously.

Until then, prepare for Darkseid…

The Oscars 2016: Best Picture Roundup

Another year, another season of awards to grace us with their presence. In previous years I’ve never had the chance to check out so many of the nominees before, but this time I managed to see most of the films on display. Here’s my brief roundup of the nominees for Best Picture from this year’s Academy Awards, in alphabetical order…

*Unfortunately I never checked out Bridge of Spies, nor do I have much intention to in the future. It seems like a perfectly competant Spielberg film, but everything that went into promoting the film to me painted it as an incredibly by-the-numbers Cold War drama. It’s not that that can’t be a great thing, but Bridge of Spies never captured my attention enough to make me see it.*

BrooklynBrooklyn

Directed by: John Crowley

Crowley’s adaptation of the Colm Tóibín novel is definitely lovely, inspiring film about experiencing new ways of life and finding yourself. It’s soars thanks to solid, often charismatic performances from it’s leads, especially Saoirse Ronan and Julie Walters (a spinoff series starring Walter’s character is even being developed by the BBC). The film shines in establishing a mood and tone in its New York and Ireland settings, though unfortunately upon the return to Ireland part way through, all the life is sucked out of the picture and it becomes almost painfully dull and predictable for a good third of the run time. Though this choice was likely deliberate (if so it was handled remarkably), it ultimately soured my overall experience with Brooklyn and left me less than satisfied come its conclusion. As for the film’s chances of winning, I’d put them at slim to none.  Outside of Best British Film at the BAFTAs, Brooklyn hasn’t managed to pick many other prolific awards from the main circuit, despite a large number of nominations. The film is a great watch, especially for the performances, but outside of that I feel like it simply didn’t have much else to offer, especially in comparison to some of the other nominees.

Mad Max: Fury Road Mad Max Fury Road

Director: George Miller

Though I expected Miller’s post apocalyptic death metal album cover to sweep the technical categories, a nomination for Best Picture was quite unexpected, considering the Academy’s usual focus on dramas. However, despite unexpected occurences, it’s undeniable that Fury Road is a marvel of filmaking craft, rivaled this year only by The Revenant. The film, which is essentially a single 2 hour chase scene, takes the concept of practical stuntwork to an appropriately insane degree, showcasing some of the most ridiculously entertaining action set pieces I’ve seen in recent years. Whether it’ll manage to actually bring home the award, I don’t know (the film has 10 nominations, meaning there’s the possibility of another sweep scenario like we saw with Return of the King in 2003), but as much as I enjoyed the film, in some regards it is very thin on the ground, singular in its own madness. It’s also definitely not Tom Hardy’s strongest performance this year. Yet in spite of all these things, when I watch Fury Road, all I have to say is “What a lovely day.”

RoomRoom

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

One of my favourite themes to explore in film and television is discovery. The Macross franchise is an excellent example of this and even the previously discussed Brooklyn presents a kind of cultural discovery, though few things have presented the theme as well as Room. Brie Larson is deservedly the favourite for Best Actress as Joy, the mother, and it’s a crime that Jacob Tremblay, hasn’t received more praise for what is, to me, the easy standout performance of the year as Jack, the boy whose spent the majority of his life within a small room, knowing nothing of the world outside except through what he sees on TV.  Room is an unusual film in that it climaxes about half-way through and then proceeds to explore the consequences of Jack and Joy’s experiences on them. It’s an expertly constructed narrative, simple yet deeply intimate, based around the perspective of a child learning about just how big the world really is for the first time. This is definitely my pick for the film that should win Best Picture, though it’s unfortunately stuck towards the middle of the pack when it comes to actual odds of victory. In any case, Room has easily become one of my favourite films in general, and probably my favoruite film of 2015.

SpotlightSpotlight

Director: Tom McCarthy

Focusing on the Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight’ team as they uncover scandals of sex abuse from Catholic priests, McCarthy’s picture takes my pick as the most polished film among the nominees. Not only is it a winner in terms of strong performances across the board, paired with an engaging and wide reaching wide-reaching subject matter, but Spotlight is exceptional in the way in which it’s central issue is slowly escalated throughout the film. The build up to the investigative team’s reveal of what they uncovered is impeccably paced and sharply written, making Spotlight the standout of the numerous nominees based on real-life events. This is one of the top contenders for the Best Picture award, deservingly so. Described in one word, the film is enthralling and I happily wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if it ended up taking the award on the night.

The Big ShortThe Big Short

Director: Adam McKay

You could argue that one of Adam McKay’s aims with The Big Short was to make an entertaining satirical comedy that also makes the complicated causes of the 2008 economic crash dramatically accesible. Outside of its constant use of economic jargon, there is quite a lot of on offer in the form of hilarious, yet gut wrenching entertainment. The main issue with the film is that it clearly takes many stylistic inspirations from Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street. It’s not that these inspirations are not well founded, but having multiple sections of the film where shoe-horned in celebrities attempt to explain shady economic practices to the viewer is distracting and ultimately hurts the picture. I’m also wondering how Christian Bale is the one getting nominated in an acting category, while Steve Carrell is not. As a dramatic actor, Carell has really come into his own following last year’s Foxcatcher, and has the easy highlight performance of The Big Short. Like Spotlight, the film is one of the ‘big’ frontrunners for Best Picture, especially after picking up the Producer’s Guild Award.

The MartianThe Martian

Director: Ridley Scott

This years big realist science-fiction film brings together a few of my favourite things: a stellar and visually striking outing from Ridley Scott, an array of great performances from an ensemble cast including the consistently excellent Jessica Chastain, along with a healthy dosage of space drama to round out the overall package. The Martian successfully hearkens back to simple, yet tense and engaging pictures like Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, never getting bogged down in it’s adherence to scientific accuracy, but embracing it with flying colours. Damon soars in his finest performance since The Departed as stranded astronaut  Mark Watney, possibly the finest performance of its kind since Sam Rockwell in 2009’s Moon. As it for it’s chances of winning, if the Academy’s track record is anything to go by, unfortunately The Martian probably won’t be able to nab the coveted statue, despite being victorious at the Golden Globes (strangely for Best Comedy or Musical), though it was not competing against the final nominee in those awards. Nevertheless The Martian is a standout work from Ridley Scott, his second best film of the 2000s behind Black Hawk Down.

The Revenantrevenant-leo

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Hot off the astounding critical success that was last year’s Birdman, Iñárritu delivers yet another tour de force of filmmaking craft, though in a much more divisive manner this time around. Much has been made of the arduous efforts from both cast and crew that it took to make the film (shooting only in natural light, the consumption of raw animal flesh etc.) and it certainly comes across on screen in a brutal, ravishing fashion. Yet for all its many marvelous technical achievements (especially the film’s phenomenal opening battle scene), the film disastrously fails when it comes to telling an engaging story. Leonardo DiCaprio (who really, really wants that trophy) gives a certainly determined run as Hugh Glass, the fur trapper left for dead and looking for vengeance against Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald, in an arguably far superior and more interesting role, but the film spends too much of it’s already lengthy run time making the audience watch Leo grunt and suffer his way through horrible situations, meanwhile simultaneously riffing drab and derivative flashback sequences straight from Gladiator. It seems all for nought in the end as well, as both lead actors are ultimately outdone in acting prowess by an angry, CGI bear. The Revenant starts exceptionally strong, but after the 30 minute mark never manages to recapture the magic from the opening moments that made it so engaging. The film is a remarkable piece of work don’t get me wrong and is sure to nab Iñárritu his second award for Best Director, but as for Best Picture, this will be the film I put my money on that will win the award, even if I think it doesn’t truly deserve it. As for Leo winning Best Actor or not, I’ll take it as a running gag right now, laughing wholeheartedly if he doesn’t win it, but at the same time, hopeful that if not now then soon he receives at least an honorary award for his overall body of work.

Who I want to win:  Room

Who I think should win:  Spotlight

Who I think will win:  The Revenant