The Snowman

The Snowman

Jay and Terrence sit down to discuss the newly released crime thriller, The Snowman. Based on the novel written by Jo Nesbø, the film follows a drunkard detective named Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) as he tries to figure out why women are ending up dead in Oslo, Norway by someone who goes by the name the Snowman killer.

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Assassin's Creed

<em>Assassin's Creed</em>

Based on the video game of the same name, Assassin’s Creed joins a long list of film adaptions that Hollywood hopes will convince audiences that films based on video games can be done well. If you’re seeing this film hoping to get into the game, then this film will cause you to lose interest.

Director Justin Kurzel (2015’s Macbeth) reunites Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in a film about a criminal reliving the memories of an ancestor who was part of a secret assassin brotherhood during the Spanish Inquisition. After being saved from execution via lethal injection, Callum Lynch (Fassbender) is offered a fresh start by Sofia Rikkin (Cotillard) on the condition that he helps her find the cure for violence.

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Review: 12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave

An actual account of the American slave trade is practically impossible to find. However, Solomon Northup, an educated free man who was sold into slavery did just that. Director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) goes all out to present one of the best on screen representations of the American slave era and its gut wrenching effects on those who were victims of it. This film stars an all-star cast lead by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong'o.

Beginning with the relative normal life of a free black family in Saratoga, New York the Northups were seemingly treated like everyone else around them. The father, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), is beloved by others and they view him with a level of respect and admiration. All of this happening while the southern portion of the nation is ripe with the use of slaves from Africa. There is something particularly jarring about seeing Solomon and his family so happy and normal at these times. It feels out of place from the known history most are taught. However, life in certain areas was as it was portrayed in Saratoga in 1841.

Solomon made his living by playing the violin, and was offered money to play at a circus by two men, Scoot McNairy and Taran Killam. These men drugged Solomon and sold him into slavery. After drinking and eating with these men all night he awakens to shackles and endures beatings the very next day. The brutality and horror by which we see Solomon’s freedom be taken away is not only heartbreaking but incredibly frustrating. The notion that a human being could do this to another is unfathomable in today’s society, but it was so common place at the time. Solomon is shipped off to Georgia where he is sold to William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). However, before he arrives at Ford's plantation we get moments of the slave trade itself. The selling of slaves like animals or equipment was harsh. Watching mothers being separated from the children was a hard hitting narrative that McQueen touches on quite often. This scene prepared the audience for the emotional brutality that was to follow.

Solomon was not kept at Ford’s plantation too long before being sold into the hands of Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). Epps was a brutal tyrant in a time of many tyrants. He stands out in the crowd of despicable people in the film. He is described as a “breaker of niggers” before we even meet him. A man of religiosity and yet the purveyor of such pain and suffering, Epps plays well to the purposeful compartmentalization of Christian values and known slaver. Like many slave owners Epps had an affinity for a particular female slave. That woman was is Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), and she is one of the most profound characters I have seen in film. Dancing the line between pure innocence and unimaginable internal despair, Patsey is everything that Epps loves and hates. He feels that he must possess her in every possible way; simple ownership is not enough. Her beautiful onyx skin plays as a further contrast to who Epps is and what he wants. Solomon befriends this woman and their interactions are fascinating. She is looking for the fastest ways out of her situation, while Solomon works to tell her that she must endure; both pay dearly for their opposing views. There are no easy answers or even definitive ones, but all the characters are set on their path. When Solomon is given his opportunity to make it out, he takes it and others do the same. The idea of survival is challenged quite often with Solomon even stating explicitly, “I don’t want to survive, I want to live.”

The acting performances in 12 Years A Slave, were the best I’ve seen this year. The cast featured an array of big names, rising stars, and relative unknowns all playing their parts in great harmony. Lead by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who’s Solomon Northup had purpose and a genuineness that isn’t often seen. The degradation of going from a free man to a slave was no simple task in showing, but Ejiofor did it was such vigor that at moments you lose him in the role. Michael Fassbender is one of the best working actors of today. He will certainly go down as one of the best that’s ever done it, and I honestly love the guy’s work. However, I hated his guts in this film; a true testament to his skill as an actor. He is deplorable, hypocritical, and down right vicious. With two leading actors putting some of the best performances of their careers I think they were ultimately overshadowed. Lupita Nyong'o delivered nothing shy of an Oscar award winning performance. She never let up for a second. Whenever she was on screen she stole the spotlight, even from Ejiofor and Fassbender. She is the gem of the film. From being exalted by Epps to the final outcome of their relationship she runs the gamut. Nyong’o was able to portray a woman who is the absolute product of her horrible circumstances. She plays the loved slave/doll and works to become more. She accepts her plight but not before making some understandable choices. I look forward to seeing Nyong’o in more stellar roles like Patsey.

In conclusion, director Steve McQueen was able to craft a film that respected and brought to life the true story of Solomon Northup. There will never be another detailed slave story quite like Solomon’s and there will never be a film with the level of impact, brutality, insanity, and reality quite like 12 Years A Slave.

[easyreview title= "Review of 12 Years A Slave" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="5.0" overall= false]

Review: The Counselor

the counselor

A story of a lawyer who decides to enter into the world of drug trafficking but things begin to spiral out of control rather quickly for him. Directed by Ridley Scott with an original screenplay by famed writer Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), the movie features an ensemble cast that include Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Cameron Diaz to name a few. Frankly, this is one of the most disjointed films I have seen in some time. With such a powerful cast, great director, and excellent writer this movie should have been an easy victory. However, the movie just gets crushed under its own bloated weight. With a narrative that is so tangentially put together there is no wonder why I just lost interest after a while. The movie begins with the Counselor (Michael Fassbender) in bed with his soon to be fiancee Laura (Penelope Cruz) as they share what is suppose to be a sensual moment between them. However, the scene made my skin crawl, as it seemed like an adult man with an inexperienced little girl. The dialogue in that scene lacked any sort of realism between two fully functional adult sexual beings. This was my first clue that things might be going off the rails. For an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy the dialogue felt clunky and all over the place; which is sadly an overarching issue with this movie.

Throughout the movie we get to meet an array of really good looking people who are incredibly wealthy and are living life to the fullest, by any means necessary. One such couple is Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Malkina (Cameron Diaz) who play as the go betweens for the Counselor and his newly found lifestyle as a member of the drug trade. Reiner is an over the top drug kingpin who host lavish parties and is beginning to realize that his ruthless girlfriend, Malkina, is going to be his downfall. Malkina is a cold and calculating sociopath. She uses her hypersexuality as a means to seduce men and bend them to her will. She has an overarching grasp of the totalitarity of the movie’s plot, but due to poor writing its hard to understand why she does. Another key figure in this madness of a plot is Westray (Brad Pitt), a true middle man who knows the drug trafficking game and brings the Counselor into the fold. He is frequently sought out by the Counselor for advice on what happens next. Westray plays as your guide through this world of cartels, shady dealings, and vengeful women.

Cameron Diaz The Counselor

When I sat down to watch The Counselor I was so sure this movie would be a slam dunk. However, 30 minutes into the film I could not truly point to any one story thread that was going anywhere. We are treated to constant expositions by Fassbender, Bardem, Pitt, and Diaz that try incredibly hard to be relevant but just work to lead us further away from the plot. The movie seems to be setup in the style of 5-8 minute vignettes that barely tie together. Characters are introduced and then never heard from again; most of the time not even referenced. There are moments of brutal violence that play to enhance the story’s realness, but they are few and far between. There is little to no dialogue in the movie that works to push the movie forward. Fassbender’s Counselor seems to just ask questions and everyone else seems to be determined to speak in riddles and conjecture to horribly answer said questions.

There are high speed decapitations, public cartel executions, women having sex WITH cars, and those are the highlights. The Counselor, felt more like a 2 hour advertisement for good looking tailored suits, impeccably dressed women, good looking people, and international travel than anything resembling a story of greed and misfortune. The plot was so all over the place that you didn’t care about anyone’s tragedy. The deaths and misfortunes have zero impact because you never get to know anyone. An hour into the movie I thought to myself, “wow when this movie gets going this is going to be something to see.” There was nothing to see, ever.

Javier Bardem The Counselor

The truly odd thing is the acting in the movie wasn’t terrible. Fassbender was fantastic as usual. Sans two scenes in the film I thought he was relatively flawless. He was great as the new guy in this illegal business who just couldn’t turn away. He played both sides of his “normal” life and his “new” life’s work and you generally liked him onscreen. Bardem and Diaz pulled off decent performances, Bardem far surpassing Diaz here. Bardem was able to play a manic yet considerably cool customer when it came to his drug business. Brad Pitt worked well as the envoy into trafficking with his cool Southwestern motif. However, due to his small amount of screen time he was not explored fully. Outside of the principal actors the movie just threw in tons of heavy hitters and wasted them. Ruben Blades, John Leguizamo, Dean Norris, Rosie Perez, and others are absolutely wasted. As a slow truck carrying barrels of hidden drugs goes from Mexico all the way to Chicago effecting the lives of all these people forever, I just simply didn’t care. The Counselor is this year’s The Tourist. A beautifully shot movie with a great cast that should have never happened.

[easyreview title= "Review of The Counselor" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="1.0" overall= false]

Review: Haywire

Micah's Review:

Steven Soderbergh’s latest film Haywire is a very paint-by-numbers spy/action thriller.   Gina Carano stars as Mallory Kane, a covert operative that gets contracted out to do the jobs that government s can’t legally endorse.  Her latest job sends her to Dublin where she is double crossed and must find her way back home and deal with those responsible.  The film plays like a Bond film with a smaller budget.  The big issue with the film is its overall lack of energy.  There is little excitement from this film outside of the fight scenes.

Carano’s acting leaves a bit to be desired even by action movie standards.  Like a bad SNL host delivering their opening monologue, her inability to emote and dead pan delivery make it seem as if she is reading from a teleprompter.  She does a serviceable job but it’s hard not to notice her lack of strong acting ability when she’s in scenes with Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas.

What Carano lacks in acting ability she certainly makes up for with her action scenes.  Haywire delivers some of the most visceral fight scenes I’ve seen in a long time.  The brutal nature of these scenes is punctuated by the lack for musical score during the fights.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a female actor give and take a more realistic punch.

This film is ok, but just ok.  We’ve all seen this done before and we’ve all seen it done better.

Jay's Review:

There is an overarching mechanism that I could not ignore in Steven Soderbergh's Haywire. Whether good or bad the notion of sound is used heavily to control your view of this movie. Soderbergh's past movies (Oceans' 11 and the sequels) had a catchy tune and tone about them. This is also easily heard and felt in Haywire. However, there is a sound treatment that all but ruined the movie for me. The voice dubbing of Gina Carano with Carano's own voice (modified) was distracting at the least and poorly executed at the best. The movie has little sense of urgency throughout. Never did the dialogue or intensity of the characters match what was happening around them.

The fight scenes were great. The thud-like punching noises during those scenes (not my preference) are reminiscent of fight scenes in Chris Nolan's Batman films. The actual fights were visceral and as previously mentioned by Micah, are some of the better fight scenes in an American movie in some time. Carano's MMA skills were put on display here and for good reason. Cheers and jeers were heard throughout those choice moments.

The supporting cast is what got me to this movie, and what helped me get through it. Overall Carano was watchable, but I feel that she needs more time to hone her skills as an actor. She has the potential to really be a break out action star in the upcoming months/years. However, the cast that she worked with are the shinning stars. What I learned most from this movie is that Douglass and Banderas still have it. You saw their charisma pour through the screen when ever possible. While I thought Ewan McGregor was just acceptable. I am not so sure this is his fault, as his character was poorly flushed out. Channing Tatum is the most forgettable here even more so than Bill Paxton who is on screen for less time. Tatum inability to emote was just as bad as Carano's, but she gets a pass as this is her first outing. Fassbender comes out of no where with an above average performance for a below average character, nice quick job for him.

I wouldn't rush out to see Haywire, but I would check it out on a matinee for under 10 bucks. That isn't saying much for the movie, and that is deliberate. Soderbergh has performed much better with a large cast of great actors in the past. This time he falls flat, and you can not blame it all on his leading lady. On a positive note, I think Soderbergh may have launched a real action movie career for Gina Carano. More female action stars is never a bad thing. So for that reason alone I give Soderbergh immense credit.

[easyreview title= "Review Haywire" cat1title="Nerdpocalypse Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.5" overall= false]

Review: A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg’s latest film, A Dangerous Method, is an inside view of the three people who were very much on the forefront of psychiatry in the early 1900s. The triangles of academic, as well as, social conflict were on full display between the main characters. Keira Knightley portrays Sabrina Spielrein, a Russian woman tortured with her own diagnosis of hysteria. Her young psychiatrist, Carl Jung, played by the seemingly omnipresent Michael Fassbender. Jung’s mentor is the world famous Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), who counsels Jung in using “talking therapy” to help his patients, specifically Spielrein.

When the movie opens we are introduced to the Jung and his expecting wife. Jung’s relationship with her is very much one of necessity. It is made very clear that he is generally unhappy with his marital situation and just goes on with it out of the routine. Jung is a product of severe repression, but we will get to that later. Jung’s life as a psychiatrist is pretty standard for the times. The methods used are cold baths, straight-jacks, etc., yet Jung yearns to try a new method. A technique that has been created and documented by his mentor, Sigmund Freud. This method in question is transference. This is achieved by what we now know as modern day psychiatry; you sit on a couch and talk to the therapist who sits behind you.

While the talking therapy, as its referred, seems harmless on the face it takes on a life of its own in the hands of the inexperienced. Jung begins to use the talking therapy on his new patient, Sabrina, when she arrives at his facility. Knightley portrayal of Sabrina is extreme here. Whether the interpretation was Knightley alone or from some historical records she plays Sabrina to an extreme degree. Personally I liked the portrayal but I could see why some found it distracting and likely just Hollywood-esque overacting. Either way, it doesn’t last too long as Sabrina is brought into the normal world rather quickly. I would have preferred to see Sabrina’s recovery flushed out a little more here. Cronenberg seemed to be more focused on the love story and less on the psychiatry that sparked it all.

As Jung and Sabrina spend more time together you begin to see their relationship develop in slightly uncomfortable ways. This is the plays backdrop to Jung and Freud’s relationship that has moved past mentor-student levels and now into full father-son territory. Mortensen’s portrayal of the stern, sometimes funny, and charismatic Freud was a pleasure to watch. He steals every scene that he is in. Freud is such a complicated historical figure, and many have serious criticisms of his views. However, Mortensen plays him just right that you love and hate who he is. This, to me, is the best type of acting to watch. When an actor can make you feel for what seemingly are villains than they have accomplished something new entirely.

The sexual relationship that develops between Sabrina and Jung is one that I think might be exploited for Hollywood extras. Sabrina is presented in a manor of a sadomasochistic. There is not much in the historical documents to suggest this and I think its put there to get the audience into the story while simultaneously keeping it sexy. Ultimately Jung and Sabrina end their affair and Sabrina goes from a submissive character to very much a woman in control. Knightley seems to try and make up for the lackluster performance in the beginning here. She really shines when Sabrina is her own woman. This, in my opinion, is where Knightley is clearly more comfortable being. She is able to put on her best Russian accent and stand toe to toe with Fassbender and Mortensen. Sometimes overshadowing their stellar performances.

Even with Knightley really coming alive in the second half of the film, Fassbender and Mortensen are the standouts here. Their relationship/rivalry is something to watch. I could watch the build up and break down of their friendship over and over again. The aforementioned skill the Mortensen displayed makes me want to see a solo film about Freud played by him. Mortensen is very comfortable in this role from the first time you see him and his quotes and etched in to my mind. Fassbender is no slouch either. He gives us a Carl Jung who is as repressed as they come. Never really being apart of his own life, but rather just living in his work, Jung is distant and yet carries on seemingly intimate relationships with those around him. Fassbender plays Jung completely straight. He never gives you the feeling that Jung has it under control. Rather that he is a wild animal waiting to get out but all he needs is the permission…from himself. The animalistic tendencies are not just in the hypersexual realm. He also seeks this permission to challenge the system, Sigmund Freud.

[easyreview title= "Review of A Dangerous Method" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.5" overall= false]