Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Another immensely entertaining and smartly-made film from Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg, by far my favorite of 2015 and my favorite of their handful of movie collaborations. Based on an actual incident which occurred in 1960, where a Brooklyn insurance lawyer (played by Hanks) defends a captured Russian spy at his trial, then must help to negotiate a trade of captive spies between the United States and the Soviet Union. Just perfectly executed all around, and as always, Hanks is just flat-out wonderful. And though I thought Spotlight was an excellent film, I was truly shocked when Bridge of Spies did not win Best Picture…and Hanks and Spielberg for Best Actor and Best Director.
Not only a great movie, but one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen. Leonardo DiCaprio is a trapper in the early-1800s who is mauled by a bear and left for dead; he survives and seeks revenge on the man who deserted him, and killed his son. Filmed using natural light, in scenic wilderness areas throughout Canada and the US, the film deservedly won an Oscar for its cinematography (also winning were DiCaprio for Best Actor and Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Best Director). The opening Indian attack sequence was beyond harrowing; even on the small screen, I felt like I was smack-dab in the middle of it, and my tension level was off the charts.
So far there hasn’t been a Mission: Impossible film I haven’t liked (okay, maybe that John Woo one was a little iffy), and they seem to keep getting better and better with each new chapter. Tom Cruise is back as Impossible Missions Force agent Ethan Hunt, who this time around becomes a fugitive after the IMF is absorbed by the CIA, and tries to prove the existence of an international crime consortium called the Syndicate. Lots of action, lots of memorable set pieces, and all the cool technology you’d expect from an M:I film. If you’re a fan of the series, or action films in general, I’d say it’s a must-see.
The only reason I went to see this was because it had been nominated for Best Picture; otherwise, I would’ve skipped it. Well, I’m glad I didn’t. Another one based on a true story, as a newspaper’s investigative team looks into sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in and around Boston. I loved following the investigative aspect of the story (it reminded me of All the President’s Men), and how the characters—made up of a great collection of actors—were fairly relentless in their approach to uncover the truth. Well-written and engrossing; not the most cheerful of subject matters, but the characters and their work really pulled you in and held your attention.
After suffering through the less-than-stellar trio of prequels to the Star Wars saga, I wasn’t expecting much from this first post-Lucas entry. But I was surprised; I liked it enough that I saw it twice in theaters…the first time I’d done that in quite a while. The story was fairly straightforward (and familiar), but the eye-popping visuals, connections and references to other Star Wars films, and appealing new (and old!) characters more than compensated for it. And thank heavens there was no Jar Jar Binks (and I do mean the goofy Jar Jar, not the possible Sith Lord variation of Jar Jar).
Mad Max: Fury Road