Quick Hit: Dev Patel turns in a fantastic performance in the story of a man that just wants to find home.
Hello and welcome to Oscar’s time here at DoubleFeaturePreachers.com. Time is short, and so unfortunately, we won’t be able to watch all the movies for all the categories for the Oscars. So, instead, what we are going to do for you, is watch all the nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress. This will inevitably cover a lot of the heavy hitters (I believe that will cause us to hit all the submissions for Best Director and most of the ones for the supporting categories as well), but it pains me to state we won’t be able to watch every submission. This will all lead up to the Friday before the Academy Awards, in which we will state our predictions for any categories where we have watched all the films. How does that sound, Faithful Readers?
So, without further ado, let’s start with a movie that was nominated for six Oscars : Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Dev Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman), Best Adapted Screenplay (Luke Davies), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Greig Fraser), and Best Original Score (Dustin O’Halloran).
Lion starts with a young boy and his brother stealing coal from a train. It’s obvious that they’re very poor – both boys are skinny and wearing a bit more than rags. But young Saroo (played by Sunny Pawar) is simply outstanding. As the movie progresses, Saroo is lost. He traverses a lot of bad things before eventually finding his way to an orphanage. Throughout this entire time period, he is simply trying to find his way back home.
He’s then adopted by two Australians, played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. They simply want to love their new child, and they do, eventually adopting another more troubled child, Mantosh. From here, we fast forward twenty or so years. Saroo is now a young man (Dev Patel), going off to college. There he meets Lucy (Roony Mara), and Lucy and his friends eventually pull a memory of childhood out of him. After the idea of finding his family is brought up to him, Saroo becomes obsessed, foregoing his relationships, his job, and his hygiene, in order to track down his mother using Google Earth and his memories.
This film is very well put together. There is a very compelling story when it comes to finding your way home – it’s one that is visited over and over in movies (Hello? E.T. phone home anyone?). Therefore it’s beautiful to watch a young man accomplish this, even at the expense of everything else. It’s in these scenes, when Saroo is at his lowest point, where Dev Patel really earns his nomination. He’s tremendous, looking thoroughly haunted, as his hair hangs around his face and he clicks continuously on the screen.
Another thing (and Academy voters recognized this as well) that was great was the score. Music can add or detract so much from a film, and the variety of instruments used in different parts of the movie really added to the emotion that you felt in different scenes. Make no mistake, the content is plenty emotional (there were very few dry eyes in the audience), but the music sells it further. As you listen to the swell of the classical music, you can’t help but feel the movie in your heart.
Overall, Lion is a beautifully shot film with a beautiful story, and well worthy of its Oscar nominations. I’m going to give it an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: A wonderful soundtrack with breathtaking island songs, Moana starts extremely fresh before going slightly stagnant in the second half.
I like the way Disney has been slowly branching out culturally over the years. I understand some of the movies have had some racist undertones reflective of the times (Dumbo and Aladdin at times), but these days I think the intent is more on the education of other cultures. Disney moves kids around the world with their movies, and presents people as just that: people. It doesn’t matter what color we are folks, as long as we all enjoy a good flick.
Moana is just that, a good movie. It follows the young chieftess-to-be Moana, a young girl so touched by the feeling of wanderlust that she all but swims off the island that is her home. Her father works tirelessly to keep her on the island, but his mother consistently refers to a time of gods and of wandering. One demi-god that her stories refer to is Maui, a mischievous demi-god (think Loki but more Hawaiian and more buff), who stole the heart of one of the goddesses. Moana’s mission, as passed down by her grandmother, is to return the heart to the goddess by forcing Maui to help her.
The songs are the best part of Moana. Much like the Hawaiian people themselves, they’re filled with color and motion. There are almost no songs when the singer stands still, and that’s for the better. It infuses the songs with the motion of the singer, and you absolutely feel the rhythm of the songs (my shoulders swung and my feet tapped along). The vocal performances, especially by Auli’I Cravalho, are inspiring. I can’t imagine anyone else singing the songs, and that’s something because many Disney movies could be substituted with other vocal artists (hence their constant covering by others). Of particular note is Jermaine Clement (yes of Flight of the Concords) playing a giant hermit crab who is a stand-in representative of Smaug (ie he collects shiny things).
Unfortunately, when the story itself turns to the meat of the story (essentially the story of both Moana and Maui growing up), the momentum begins to stall. Maui just isn’t that interesting, and his story essentially is that he’s scared (or perhaps more accurately, he has performance anxiety). There isn’t much other motivation, and I feel like the movie focuses too much on him instead of Moana. She’s absolutely the most interesting character, and when the story is focused on her journey, I was much more interested.
There’s plenty of comedy throughout Moana, a lot of it focusing on a small chicken. I wasn’t a huge fan (though I did chuckle a time or two), mainly just because the jokes were repeated over and over. I understand that it’s a kids’ movie, but I don’t excuse lazy comedy very often. I still think the scene of the giant hermit crab takes the cake for being the funniest. Clement has a talent for delivery of his lines, and it’s fun to watch his dry delivery through the animation.
Overall, Moana is a good film. It’s fun and you’ll immediately want to buy the soundtrack. I didn’t find it exceptional, but it is above average. Therefore, it’s going to get a “”B” from me.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: A movie that falls short of a lot of what it could have been, while still maintaining a semblance of entertainment.
Buckle in folks – it’s gonna be a long one today.
One of my fondest memories of childhood is Saturday morning cartoons. Was there any greater feeling then waking up to the Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Superman, and Batman? I remember devouring all the cartoons, particularly the last two as the represented what I wanted to be in life: a hero to those I loved.
I may have a greater affinity for Superman, but Batman doesn’t fall far in my books. He for sure has a much more interesting Rogue’s Gallery, and it’s here that I’ll begin my tale. Most of the “heroes” in Suicide Squad are Batman villains. They do justice to a few of them in the movie, but not nearly enough to the team as a whole.
I’m off topic. My thoughts about this movie are as all over the place as the plot of this poor thing.
It could have been so good! The trailers (I’ll come back to these I promise) were wonderful – colorful and different, musical and fun. However, the movie begins with a super long bit of exposition delivered to introduce us to most of the characters that we’ll see. I understand the need for this: not a single character in this film has been presented in a recent DC film (I’m struggling to think if any of them have been presented in any DC films – about the closest I can think of is the recent string of excellent DC centric TV – Arrow has presented several of the characters before). But… to do so in this format was hard because there was so much talking, it ran the risk of being boring (and for some people that aren’t comics lovers, probably will be). Couldn’t we have presented the Squad’s members’ talents/backgrounds in a way that was fuller and richer? Or if you want to go the quicker route for time purposes, why not do a montage of them performing said skills in the yard at the prison, or when they are first gathering the team? Indeed, with the small amount that was said about each character, why not just let them show us themselves what they are capable of?
So begins the first hour of the movie. The second hour picks up a bit, because we actually get an antagonist, and sheesh is it thrown together. It’s almost like they forgot to get a bad guy for the film, and at the last second, threw this in. I won’t ruin it for those… never mind. I’m gonna talk about it. Here’s a big, ole fat spoiler alert.
One of the potential members of the squad is the Enchantress. She’s magical and therefore powerful (following me so far). She ends up wanting to destroy the world, (still good) and does so by trying to build a magical machine (losing me) where she destroys different military targets (uh oh, slipping here) that she retrieves from the brain of Amanda Waller, while her magical brother (huh?) keeps hurting people, while somehow looking exactly like a mix between the Destroyer from Thor and Heimdall from Thor (ok… I got nothing).
If that sounds confusing to you, it’s because it is. The Squad is put together to rescue Waller, and eventually stop Enchantress and her brother, because Flagg, their military leader (sort of) loves the person the Enchantress is possessing.
An astute person that followed the trailers may well be asking at this moment where the Joker is. He featured prominently in the trailers and even the marketing campaign. But… his inclusion in this movie is almost pointless. I understand the desire to introduce him, I really do. He’s the most famous villain in the entire DC universe. Two (now three) very talented actors have portrayed him, and have done so in very, very different ways. I’ll talk about Leto and the Joker in general in the next paragraph, but here, I just wanted to say that the trailers (told ya I would hit them) pretty much reveal every single scene that the Joker is in. I literally don’t think there was a single moment that I hadn’t already seen. I pray that they give him a movie of his own (starring the Bat too of course) where we can dive into him more than just making him seem like another thug.
Ok… Leto’s Joker. There’s been a lot said on the internet since the first unveiling of the picture of him, and it seems like they took the criticism to heart. The tattoos didn’t seem nearly as vibrant as in the first photo, and that’s probably a good thing because they are rather distracting (and I like tattoos!). However, his performance was just… eh. I really enjoyed his voice – it seemed like a blending of Leto’s natural talents and Mark Hamill’s from the animated series. His laugh is pretty creepy, but I didn’t really get the vibe that this Joker is insane. Like I said in the previous paragraph, he just seems like another powerful thug. Another thing I didn’t love was his pursuit of Harley. He seems SOOOOOO in love with her, but that isn’t their relationship. He likes having her around, and has affection for her, but he can’t show it the typical way. It’s a relationship that is extremely one-sided, and that wasn’t presented here. What they should have done is had him be present in Harley’s backstory, then still rescued her at the end. Take out all the middle scenes.
One thing I want to stress is that I’m glad that the director/writers/Leto seem to want to distance themselves from Ledger’s Joker. That take was so definitive that anything similar would have seemed like a copycat of what had already been done. It’s hard to follow up an Academy Award winning performance on the same character, so at least they forged onward into a new direction.
I’ll move on to the Squad themselves (sorry for this deluge of information about my thoughts – I just care a lot about these fictional characters). I thought the Will Smith did a terrific job with what he was given, which wasn’t much. Floyd Lawton is one of the best antiheroes out there, like Deadpool if he had a daughter to care for. I thought that Margot Robbie was spot on for Harley. She nailed the Brooklyn accent … most of the time anyways. She speaks a lot in clichés and things, but that’s Harley as a character. One of my main problems with the movie’s depiction of her was that she was overly sexualized. Most women comic characters are at some point in their careers, but let’s not forget – Harley is a creation of Batman: The Animated Series that I used to watch on Saturday mornings. There, she was just Mistah J’s gal – not a slutted up bimbo (that’s Ivy’s role to fill).
Most of the other characters end up being forgettable, which is a shame because so many of them are so interesting. Diablo is the only one we really get a chance to form an attachment too. Captain Boomerang is only there for comic relief, but that was mainly his job in the comics as well, so he gets a pass. I was horrified with the way they portrayed Killer Croc though, because he has a much deeper motivation than just being part crocodile. I don’t understand why they chose to make it so that he barely spoke, besides they wanted to continue to give Harley and Deadshot lines. Maybe future installments in the Batman series or Suicide Squad would give a chance to further explore some of these other characters (I mean come on! Katana is awesome! Give her some more time! A sword that contains souls!!).
Up to this point in this extremely long review (if anyone is still reading, kudos to you), I’ve been almost uniformly negative, and that’s unfortunate, because it’s not all bad. I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of the action scenes in the movie. As I said before, I loved the take on Harley, and thought that Smith was a great Deadshot. I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful performance by Viola Davis, who was crafted with being an extremely nuanced character in Amanda Waller. Indeed, almost the whole cast seemed very committed to their performances, and that is admirable and should be commended.
The soundtrack was good, but what I was confused about was the fact that it didn’t seem to match the movie at times. It’s a point my fellow blogger, Steve Donahue, brought up in his post about the movie. The trailers did it perfectly, but here, the faltered, despite the fact that very good songs were used.
The biggest positive I have (besides the acting) was the colors. They took BVS and turned it on its head here, turning up all the colors to max. I didn’t watch the movie in 3D, but I imagine that those that did were assaulted to the max with an Alice in Wonderland-like spectacle of color and action, which was enjoyable if overwhelming at times. This starts in the credits and ends in the credits, with very little slow down in between. I like this bold approach.
Overall, this movie is messy, fun, anger-inspiring, enjoyable, terrible, and lots of other things. I could post about it for days. But I think two and a half pages is enough. I’m going to give Suicide Squad a C.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"