Boy, I’m not quite sure where to start with this one. I’m known for being a very harsh critic (thus the moniker “Shea Hates Everything”), and I don’t usually shy away from stating my opinion when I disagree with the majority. Well, I’m gonna do that now. The Revenant isn’t that great of a movie. Ok, maybe that’s a little too harsh. The cinematography and directing are completely brilliant, and Alejandro Inarittu has proven that Birdman wasn’t a fluke. Obviously, the guy has been around a while and has directed several good movies, but Birdman was sort of his coming out into popular consciousness. He was nominated as a director for Babel back in 2007, but I don’t remember that movie making many waves. Birdman was all over the place, and people were rightfully applauding the cinematography and directing. Well, The Revenant has more of that brilliance, but with a completely different tone in a completely different place.
So, if I’m spending so much energy praising the directing and cinematography, why don’t I think The Revenant is that great? That’s because I basically didn’t like anything else about the film. I’m going to say something else controversial. I don’t find Leonardo DiCaprio to be this phenomenal actor that everyone else seems to think he is. He’s perfectly alright, and he’s had several good performances, but I just don’t think he reaches the heights of people like Christian Bale or Sam Rockwell. And in this movie, I just didn’t buy it. I didn’t feel the love for his son or for his wife, and while he was great at diving into the circumstances, I just didn’t believe his performance. There were too many instances of him playing to the camera, adjusting his hair to not cover his face. His acting felt a bit masturbatory to me. It’s one thing to commit to the circumstances of a character, but it’s another thing entirely to take an audience along with you into those circumstances. That’s the thing I think Leo lacks. Charm and camera presence can only get you so far.
On top of that, the normally brilliant Tom Hardy felt like he lifted his performance from an old Disney cartoon villain. And what’s with his recent foray into accents that make him completely impossible to understand? There were just so many things about this movie that I found disappointing, especially when compared to how everyone was freaking out about it. The movie was at least a half hour too long. At a certain point, it felt like I was watching a Saw movie with all of the torture porn. And to make it worse, the final confrontation was so predictable and underwhelming that it didn’t justify the slog to get there, at all. I understand that an unsatisfying resolution is part of the point considering the story, but I think there was a better way to do it. I saw the twist coming a mile away. And then why the hell did Leo look at the camera at the end? I generally hate breaking the fourth wall in a movie, and this was no exception. Up until that point, the artful cinematography had done a tremendous job of taking me to a place and making me feel like I was a part of it. I felt like I was part of the earth under their feet, part of the sky, part of the river. A passive observer to these events, yet inextricably linked to them. And then he looked at me at the end and completely ruined the illusion. This was so disappointing, but I’d argue it’s still worth seeing for the direction alone. Some of the shots were absolutely breathtaking, and I loved how Alejandro used breath on the camera.
By and large, Pixar movies tend to be the cream of the crop. Even a “bad” Pixar movie is better than 90% of the trash coming out of Hollywood nowadays. Well, I’m not sure that’s completely true of Brave, which may actually be my least favorite Pixar movie ever (though to be fair, I haven’t seen Cars 2). First, let’s talk about what I did like. The concept and message of the film are very strong. It’s important to put strong female characters front and center for little girls to look up to. Merida knows who she is and what she wants, and those things go against everything her culture thinks is important. She paves her own way, makes plenty of mistakes in the process, but eventually grows up a little while still remaining true to her character. I also loved the setting. The Celtic theme is a breath of fresh air, and I absolutely loved the music and beautiful vistas on display. The accents bordered on parody at times, but it was mostly fine.
On the other hand, the actual story of the movie didn’t feel particularly fresh to me. I don’t know what it was, but once Merida’s mom became a bear, I kind of checked out. I just didn’t find it all that interesting. The humor felt lacking, as well. Most of the jokes felt familiar or like bits that would have been cut from another Pixar movie. I’d seen most of this stuff done better before. While I really appreciate Pixar taking the standard Disney princess trope and flipping it on its head, I don’t think the movie was fully realized, or that it reached the high potential of the concept. Still, it isn’t a bad movie; it just doesn’t stand up to the insanely high bar set by most Pixar films.
Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow ended up being pretty much what I expected, which in this context is perfectly fine. It’s a fun action movie with a little bit of heart and some great set pieces. It also has the unique wrinkle that helps it stand apart from most other Tom Cruise led movies of this type, which is the element of time travel. This isn’t time travel in the traditional sense, but instead, it’s a case where every time our lead character (Tom Cruise) dies, events are reset to the beginning of the day. Why the beginning of the day? Well, that’s never really satisfactory explained, but there’s already a good deal of disbelief suspension here so I won’t begrudge the movie a few missing details.
Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt have great chemistry, and make a dynamic action duo. There’s also a surprising amount of humor to be found, mostly in watching Tom Cruise deal with experiencing the same events over and over again. The dramatic shift happens towards the end when it’s revealed that Tom Cruise has lost his ability to reset the day, and the team sets out on one final suicide mission to take out the alien menace. It’s mostly typical action movie stuff, but it’s well executed. The secondary characters have almost no impact other than to be comedic relief, as we watch them die over and over in different ways, but I actually found myself caring about what was going to happen to our leads.
This isn’t a perfect movie, however. The aliens presence isn’t properly explained. We only know they take over planets and wipe everything out, and they happen to be very good at it. There’s also a theory in the movie that these aliens are actually only one wave of a much larger army, but that’s never expanded upon nor disproven. That leaves the victorious ending feel a little less satisfying, as there’s a chance another army of aliens is on the way, now wise to our tactics. But I suppose that opens up the possibility for an unneeded sequel, Independence Day style. We all know how much Hollywood loves the unneeded sequel. My biggest complaint, though, is the ending. There’s a great moment where it seems like our heroes really did sacrifice themselves for the greater good, and it was epic. But then instead we get the Hollywood ending where everything resets for no reason and the guy gets the girl and they live happily ever after. Kind of lame.
Game of Thrones – Season Six
Going into this season, I was feeling very conflicted. I was excited to see the show diverge from the books and actually be able to surprise me. I was concerned because the last season was easily the show’s worst, and plenty of the current story threads felt uninteresting or unfulfilled. Well, season six turned out to be a very mixed bag, with plenty of epic moments, but also plenty of boring stories.
First, let’s recap some awesome moments. Jon Snow is alive (which was to be expected). Jon and Sansa reunited. Jon left the Night’s Watch and took back Winterfell in one of the best episodes in the show’s history. The Hound is back and gives even fewer fucks than before. Lyanna Mormont is everyone’s new favorite character. The Blackfish got a few moments of screen time. Benjen Stark is in fact alive. Sam made it to the Citadel, and the library looks super cool. Sansa has taken her well-earned place as a strong character. Cersei enacted a long stewing plan, and took her place on the Iron Throne. We got to go back in time with Bran and learn the origin of Hodor. Arya is back in town and killed Walder Frey. We found out Jon is half Stark, half Targaryen. Dany teamed up with Theon/Yara and is (finally) headed to Westeros.
On the other side of the Braavosi coin, there were plenty of disappointing events and storylines. The King’s Landing stuff took way too long, and ended up just wiping the character slate clean. Euron Greyjoy was underutilized (though he’ll no doubt play a major part in the next season). Dany was captured by more Dothraki leaders, and it was boring. Tyrion’s personality was wasted sitting in Meereen. Arya’s story was unsatisfying, and the stuff with the actors felt pointless. Rickon’s death didn’t have the necessary impact because he was never fully realized as a character. We didn’t get enough Brienne this season. The Blackfish died off screen (though it’s possible that he’s actually still alive). Cersei didn’t get her epic trial by combat with The Mountain. As of now, there isn’t a reason for The Hound to be back in a greater story sense. Dorne amounted to nothing after declaring war on the Lannisters in the first episode. Benjen Stark did basically nothing after his epic entrance. The White Walker story didn’t really move forward. It took Sam all season to go from his home to Oldtown, yet Varys went from Meereen to Dorne and back in a matter of hours. In general, the first half of the season felt like a lot of slow build-up, with few character deaths and too many character returns. The second half was a lot more action-packed, but also contained plenty of disappointing story wrap-ups like Riverrun, Arya’s Faceless Men, Dany in Vaes Dothrak, and Cersei’s trial by combat.
Still, this season proved to be setting up the show’s endgame, and while I’ll be immensely sad when it’s all over, I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds. This wasn’t the weakest season, but I also don’t count it amongst the best. Episodes like “The Door” and “Battle of the Bastards” help raise it above mediocrity, but season six was just too inconsistent to stand up to seasons 1-3. Let’s hope the final two seasons are more consistently good, because Game of Thrones deserves to go out on a high note.
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