Tag Archives: adam mckay

The Big Short – Review

5 Jan

If I had some choices about who would be responsible for making a movie about the financial crisis of 2007, my first thoughts would go to Martin Scorsese since he tackled Wall Street in his film The Wolf of Wall Street or Aaron Sorkin because of his countless works on politics, journalism, and business. One of the last people I’d think of is Adam McKay, who is known for some very funny movies like The Other Guys and the Anchorman films. Here we are, however, in the weird alternate universe where McKay is apparently just the right man for the job and the end result is The Big Short. This is one of those rare movies that takes very serious subject matter and makes something of a joke out of it, but this is also a very intelligent and upsetting film that has become one of the highlights of film in the past year.

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Over the course of a few years in the mid-2000s, there was a group of people who saw the inevitable collapse of the housing market, and decided to use that to their own advantages. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is a hedge fund manager who first notices this and creates a credit default swap market to bet against the housing market. Because of this audacious movie, Jared Vennet (Ryan Gosling), a big shot trader, and Mark Baum (Steve Carell), another hedge fund manager, also start betting against the housing market. Baum, however, has a much more personal vendetta against the banks and makes it quite clear in his ventures. Finally, two young investors, Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) are hoping to get rich quick off this and enlists the help of retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) to help with the major financial decisions, much to his chagrin. This is the group that got rich off of this, but also fought to show the real problems with the system.

A movie about this recent financial crisis has all the potential to be way over my head and not entertaining in the least, but McKay handles this material in such a way that everyone should be able to feel involved in the story. The characters, while all based on real people, are very vivid to the point of sometimes being a little over the top, but that sort of works in really illustrating who these people were. Another problem I thought I was going to have with The Big Short is that everything just wasn’t going to make sense to me. I know next to nothing about how all this stuff works, but the makers of this movie realized a lot people don’t. In a way that’s completely in character and funny, the characters of this movie often break the fourth wall to explain things in the most basic of ways. It’s an interesting stylistic choice and one that really helped the movie a lot.

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My only complaint with The Big Short is that sometimes it felt a little bit too over-stylized. The condescending voice overs were funny and the kinetic time lapses worked well, but there were a lot of unexpected jump cuts that I wasn’t really feeling. It was just weird to have a really good, dramatic scene happening and then it’s all of a sudden cut short for the sake of style. The emotions were working just fine in the scene, and a jump cut wasn’t needed as some strange exclamation point. Still, the editing was one of the stand out aspects of the movie. It helped to convey the confusing, nonstop, and almost ADHD kind of living that these people did before the big crash.

Finally, this movie is getting a lot of buzz for the acting. This Sunday coming up is the Golden Globes, and this movie has two nominations for acting. These are for Steve Carell and Christian Bale. Really, the acting in this movie is what makes it really great. The writing and humor is all spot on and the message really hits home, but seeing all of these actors transform themselves into different people yet again is really a treat. Steve Carell gives the most dramatic performance in the movie and really walks a fine line between being hilarious and tragic. Christian Bale does exceptional work as Michael Burry by using a lot of nervous energy to really make the character whole. Ryan Gosling also steals practically every scene he’s in with all of his character’s sickening machismo. The only person that is underutilized is Brad Pitt, which is upsetting since he could’ve done a lot more.

The Big Short succeeds in everything it set out to do. It’s both funny and upsetting, chaotic and quiet, large and personal.  The performances are all top notch and deserve major recognition while the writing really breaks the story down in ways that everyone can understand it. I’m really very impressed by Adam McKay and expect to see a lot more work like this from him in the future. While there are some minor flaws that can be nitpicked, The Big Short is a big success.

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Ant-Man – Review

26 Jul

Every years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe just keeps getting bigger and bigger, which I guess meant that the next hero had to be the smallest one of them all. Before watching this movie, I really had no prior experience with the characters of Hank Pym, Scott Lang, or Ant-Man. Just a few minor detail and notes were all I had to go on, so I didn’t really know what to expect, and I was actually a little bit nervous about the whole thing. Luckily, Ant-Man is a welcome addition into the MCU, and aside from a few minor complaints, this is one of the most fun films of the franchise that dons the same kind of feel that Guardians of the Galaxy did.

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After being released from prison, professional thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is working hard to find a job in order to pay child support for his daughter so that he can finally spend time with her again. He is finally backed into a corner and decides to take a job given to him by his friend Luis (Michael Peña), which involves breaking into a house to rob a mysterious vault. Turns out that this job was actually set up by former S.H.I.E.L.D agent and scientist Hank Pym (Micahel Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). They explain to Scott that they need him to don a special suit and become Ant-Man in order to break into Pym’s old research facilities and steal a prototype for a Yellowjacket suit that will be used by the villainous Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) to wage world wars. Of course, it’s never as easy as it seems with job culminating in a fight to the death between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket.

Just a few months ago I was writing my review for Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is probably the most epic film in this franchise thus far. So, we’re going from that to Ant-Man, which is (no pun intended) a lot smaller. Luckily, the creative talent behind this movie was more than capable for making up for all that. This is a Marvel movie the likes I’ve never seen before. It’s a lot more than just a good guy against a bad guy. In fact, I would argue that that isn’t even the main focus of the movie. The main focus is actually the planning and execution of the heist to secure the Yellowjacket suit. The bottom line is that this is a heist movie starring a superhero. How cool is that?

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Like with Guardians of the Galaxy and both of The Avengers movies, the writing in Ant-Man is really sharp and quick. I credit a lot of this to the original screenwriter and director Edgar Wright, but I can’t discount the rewrites done by Adam McKay and Paul Rudd. All of these guys have shown their talent for both comedy and drama, and all of that comes together in a nice clean package here. This film is both funny and often dramatic, but never overwhelming in either of these departments. There’s a healthy balance between the two ends of the spectrum, and between those two ends is a lot of really great and inventive action. The character of Ant-Man may seem a little silly, but seeing him in action, wether he’s riding on ants or shrinking down to utilize his super strength, is just a joy to behold.

I just want to take a moment to address some of the not so great parts of this movie, because unfortunately there are some. For example, Darren Cross isn’t exactly a great villain. They just sort of explain that his brain has been poisoned by the formula that can make the suits shrink, but they don’t actually dive into that and examine him as a character. All you need to know is he’s bad and Scott Lang is good. That’s kind of disappointing. Also, there gets to be a point in the movie where things just start to happen so the story can keep progressing. I get that that may have been done to make sure the movie didn’t get overly long, but it also just felt kinda weak at the same time. These are, thankfully, pretty minor complaints overall.

So in a world where superhero movies have flooded theaters all over the world, I’m happy to say that Ant-Man is a more than welcome addition. It’s filled with humor, action, nice drama, and all of the references you would come to expect watching a movie that’s part of the MCU. Not only is it a great stand alone film, it also makes me really excited about what’s to come. Don’t miss out on this one.