Tag Archives: demi moore

Margin Call – Review

30 Jun

Many economists believe that the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 is the worst of its kind since the Great Depression. I don’t find that too hard to believe, but I’m just as much an economist as I am Elvis Presley. In 2015, an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ best selling book, The Big Short, was released, and it told the story of how this all happened using a comedic edge to help unravel the proceedings. Before this movie, however, was J.C. Chandor’s debut film from 2011 called Margin Call. Unlike The Big ShortMargin Call tells a fictionalized account surrounding one corporation while also using very little to no humor to tell its story. I’m not faulting The Big Short at all, in fact, I loved that movie. Margin Call is, however, a much sterner look at the inner workings and failures that made this crisis happen while also being an intriguing and intelligent film.

On Wall Street, a company is facing a day of massive layoffs, much to the chagrin of its employees. Amongst these employees looking down the barrel of a loaded corporate gun is Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), a junior risk analyst who has the potential to be something even greater. After seeing his boss, Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), get fired, he is given a USB drive by Dale to investigate with the ominous warning to “be careful.” What Peter finds is something that will destroy the company if it is ignored. The calvary is called in which includes the Head of Trading Will Emerson (Paul Bettany), his boss Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), and all the other higher ups until CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) arrives. What’s discovered is that the historical volatility of the company, which measures the risk of investments, is stretched incredibly thin and that if assets decrease by a certain amount, the company will go bankrupt. Thus begins the war of morals that takes places in the boardrooms on Wall Street about wether or not to sell these worthless shares or take the hit and lose a fortune.

One of my biggest fears with movies like this is if I’m going to be able to fully understand what’s going on. I haven’t the slightest idea about the ins and outs of Wall Street and trading and the stock market. Luckily for me, Margin Call had an excellent screenplay that deserves a lot of praise. The way the dialogue is set up and the way the actors are delivering their lines helps make a lot of the more technical stuff clear, but it never feels like I’m being talked down to. There’s scenes where stuff is explained, but it never stops sounding like Wall Street traders are having a discussion. When this movie isn’t in financial mode, it dives deeper into its drama and the characters. This isn’t a robotic film that shows these employees just as money hungry thieves that just so happen to be operating in the gray areas of the law. These characters are written as human beings, for better or for worse, and they’re all very memorable with all their faults and achievements.

One of the first things I noticed about this film is its all star cast of really fantastic actors. Zachary Quinto is one of the main driving forces of the entire plot and he sells his role with ease. Alongside him is the always excellent Kevin Spacey in yet another performance where he just commands the screen. He gives two speeches in this movie and while they are cinematic, they also feel natural. Another standout performance is Jeremy Irons in a role that’s the closest thing this movie has to a villain. There’s something about Irons that makes him the perfect choice to play the most reprehensible people. The way he carries himself in this movie is something I’ve seen before in real life. It’s this uncompromising and in your face smug confidence that contrasts his actual lack of important knowledge and human empathy. Probably my favorite performance in Margin Call goes to Paul Bettany, who like Irons, has a lot of confidence but it wavers ever so slightly as the story progresses until we see the real weakness behind people as rich and powerful as these characters.

While the characters in this movie are all top notch and the performers play them very well, this is also where the movie runs into a fault. In the beginning of the film, Stanley Tucci’s character is introduced, and he’s great. Unfortunately, after this beginning scene he’s not in it again until the end, and when he does finally return he doesn’t get a whole bunch to do except deliver a great monologue. After the monologue, he just falls into place with the rest of the cast. Other than underutilizing Tucci’s character, the balance of the cast and how much they are used is done very well. There’s a lot of people in this movie all with unique characterizations, so seeing them all balanced so well was a relief. It’s not rare to walk out of a movie thinking how unevenly represented all of the characters were. I’m looking at you Free Fire.

To put it simply, Margin Call was an excellent movie. After it was over, I had to really push myself to think of a couple negatives. That being said, it isn’t a perfect movie, but it is one of the most intriguing films about Wall Street and financial crises that can be found out there in the zeitgeist. There’s a great cast performing a really interesting story about a company that’s failing, but it’s also a strong tale of morality and the humanity of the people making these decisions. I say definitely give this movie a watch.

Final Grade: A-

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The Seventh Sign – Review

1 Sep

Movies about the impending apocalypse can be really cool, especially when the story is immersed in literature from all sorts of religions. It’s a cool way of seeing some pretty odd beliefs about what’s to come, but all still really interesting. For Christians, it’s the coming of the Anti-Christ, which has been done very well in films like The Omen. But, hey, we’re not talking about that movie. Not yet, anyway. Today, I’m looking at a movie that I never heard of before a little while ago, The Seventh Sign. While this movie does have a cool premise and is deeply rooted in the beliefs of Christians and Jews to weave an intricate story, it’s just so so so so so boring.

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In the year 1988, signs of the apocalypse foretold thousands of years ago begin happening, like earthquakes, blood moons, and rivers turning into blood. Meanwhile, Abby Quinn (Demi Moore), a mild mannered woman desperately worried about her unborn son’s survival, is trying hard to remain optimistic along with her husband Russell (Michael Biehn). With Russell’s trial of a mentally challenged man convicted of murdering his parents going down the drain and the possibility of a baby on the way, the couple decides to rent out a room to a mysterious traveller (Jürgen Prochnow). The traveller brings a lot of strange occurrences to the Quinns, which lead to more signs of man kind’s impending doom. What Abby doesn’t realize is that her life and her unborn child’s life means a lot more to humanity than she could possibly imagine.

This sounds like it could be a pretty cool movie about the mythology that surrounds passages from different religious texts, and it really should’ve been. In fact, there were some pretty neat scenes in The Seventh Sign. Unfortunately, for every one of those cool scenes, there was three boring ones and at least one obnoxiously ludicrous one to follow. This includes one of the most unbelievably outlandish flashback sequences that nearly ruined the entire movie for me. It’s fine to add some twists, turns, or revelations, but don’t make them quite this stupid.

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But, you know, I can deal with some laughably stupid things in a movie if everything else makes up for it. Like the story for instance? Maybe? Nope. It baffles me how such a cool concept for a movie could be so mind numbingly boring. I stopped this movie several times to do something else, and then had to force myself to continue. The movie is a brisk hour and a half but it feels so much longer since the plot is absolutely devoid of any mystery or suspense. That’s also baffling considering that there’s a huge mystery at the center of the plot. All of the actually cool parts of this movie like the murder trial weaving into the apocalyptic tale would bolster the movie even more if the result was satisfying. Instead, the movie just sort of ends and that’s that.

It almost hurts saying that this is a bad movie, because it was really close. Demi Moore’s performance was very believable and I would’ve really rooted for her to succeed if I felt like the movie was engaging me even a little bit. Michael Biehn and John Taylor were also spot on, but Jürgen Prochnow unfortunately didn’t really do anything despite how important his character is. That is one of the biggest aspects of the film that had potential and was wasted by a screenplay that was trying so hard to be way more complex and mysterious than it actually was.

The Seventh Sign is a movie that has so much wasted potential, it makes me wanna puke. There are a handful of scenes and plot points that are so interesting and unique that are thrown away for a much more generic story that has been done before except a hell of a lot better. The Book of Revelations and the end of the universe is full of things that could make a movie great, but this isn’t one of those movies. This one is a stinker that made me wish I was watching The Seventh Seal or The Omen.

Bunraku – Review

19 Dec

Wow. This one is really something. I’ve seen Sin City and Renaissance, both of which focus heavily on the visual style. Even with these two filmic experiences on the table, I can still say that I’ve never seen a film quite like Bunraku. What we have here is a mix of martial arts, westerns, samurai drama, graphic novels, and dystopian science fiction. Somehow when all of these genres are put in a blender, the result is Bunraku.

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After a global war, humanity built itself up back from the rubble and put a ban on all firearms. Now the police are all armed with swords and criminal bosses have taken over cities. The most brutal and powerful is Nicola the Woodcutter (Ron Perlman), who has yet to be defeated by any other boss or their armies. Enter a mysterious Drifter (Josh Hartnett) and Yoshi (Gackt), a lone samurai on a quest. Both of these men have separate missions, but a common enemy: Nicola. With the wisdom of a Bartender (Woody Harrelson), these men join forces to fight through Nicola’s guards, including the skilled Killer Number Two (Kevin McKidd), to end his reign of terror.

The story here is pretty cut and dry. Nothing too deep about it and we’ve all seen it a million times before. My mind kept going back to Akira Kurosawa’s film, Yojimbo, because of the whole drifter without a name setting out to defeat an enemy controlling a fearful town. It’s pretty much the same story, just said a little differently. In this regard, the script is weak, from the rehashed story to the characters which really aren’t anything special. I will say that Killer Number Two is really awesome though.

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Even though the story and the characters weren’t anything special, I was never bored with this movie. There was something so genuine about the way it was being told. You can see that the writer/director, Guy Moshe,  just really loves the movies and making them as well. The effects for the backgrounds and other sets are incredible, from the almost cardboard like main street to the insanity colorful insanity of a club that seems to only play traditional Russian music. It’s times like these that I really loved to see the scenes play out and take in all the sights and sounds, the music and the color. It’s just a shame I never got too involved in the plot.

It’s really the way this movie was made that saved it for me. If it didn’t have the extra flair, it would fail to impress me. My favorite scene is a fight that starts on a rooftop and follows Josh Hartnett down the steps. The way it’s done however, is like there is no 4th wall to the building, and the camera cranes down with Hartnett’s movements. This is very reminiscent of old Nintendo side scrollers, even complete with coin sounds in the score that accompanied the scene.

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I really shouldn’t have like Bunraku. The story is unoriginal, the acting is bland, and the choreography isn’t all that great. I just couldn’t help myself. I got lost in the whole atmosphere of the movie. I will say that it’s all about style over substance in Bunraku, but I really enjoyed the style. As an objective critic, I’d say that this is a messy movie that is hardly worth anyone’s time. As a subjective critic, I would urge anyone to see it and try to enjoy and appreciate the work and imagination that goes with the style. Objectively bad, subjectively great.