Tag Archives: survival

The Revenant – Review

19 Jan

Last year, Alejandro González Iñárritu took film making to a whole new level with his Academy Award winning film Birdman. That film really blew me away, and continues to do so every time I watch it. Could it be possible that Iñárritu has topped himself just a year later? Well, yeah. He did with The Revenant. Now nominated for 12 Academy Awards and already winning Best Drama at the Golden Globes, I was more than a little excited to see it. Now that I have, it may be my new favorite movie of all time.

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In 1823, an American hunting party is traveling through the wilderness of the unexplored north western territories of the United States. After being attacked by a hostile Native American tribe, the party’s numbers is drastically reduced. While scouting ahead to make sure the coast is clear and possibly find food, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled by a mother grizzly bear trying to protect her cubs. Glass survives the bear’s attacks but is left severely injured and close to death. Three volunteers, including Glass’ half Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) decide to stay behind and give Glass a proper burial. Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), one of the volunteers, is desperate to get home and get paid betrays Glass and leaves him for dead. What Fitzgerald wasn’t counting on was Glass’ will to live and desire to get his revenge.

What makes The Revenant a perfect movie in my honest opinion is that it sets out to do everything a movie should, and succeeds in doing so. For two and a half hours, this movie kept me 100% captivated. I felt like I was right there in the middle of the wilderness with Hugh Glass, which made it more than just watching a movie. It made it feel more like an experience. The reason for all of this excitement is because The Revenant is both an artistic masterpiece, but also tells a grueling story of betrayal, vengeance, life, and death that is filled with the rawest performances of humanity that I may have ever seen onscreen.

A scene from 'The Revenant'

Like with Birdman, one of the main reasons to check this movie out is the mind blowing cinematography. The Revenant is photographed by a name everyone should know, and that’s Emmanuel Lubezki, who won consecutive Academy Awards for his work on Gravity and Birdman. It would be pretty wild if he won three years in a row, but he honestly deserves it. Like in the previous films he’s worked on, The Revenant has a lot of really long takes where so much is put into one shot, which makes it feel even more like I was watching something straight out of reality. To add more complications, Iñárritu wanted the entire film to be shot using all natural lighting, which is a truly remarkable feat. I really can’t praise the cinematography enough.

Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Yes Leonardo DiCaprio is just as fantastic in this movie as you’ve been led to believe. It’s one of those times where I wasn’t watching DiCaprio act anymore. He looked and acted like he completely became Hugh Glass, and that’s not the first time he’s done that with a character. While it isn’t the first time, it is the fullest transformation he’s ever made. Another actor that really makes the movie work is Tom Hardy. Hardy had quite a year in 2015 and has shown himself to be one of the prominent blockbuster actors. Now in The Revenant he plays a villain that is so easy and fun to hate, which makes Glass’ story of revenge that much better.

It may just be the excitement talking, but The Revenant is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen and may have taken the top spot for my favorite movie I’ve ever seen. It has everything I look for in a movie from the story, to the art design, and the acting. This is a very intense, gritty, and real movie that at times feel hard to sit through, but that’s sort of the whole point. Alejandro González Iñárritu has really outdone himself this time and ended 2015’s film year with a resounding bang.

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The Martian – Review

7 Oct

Ridley Scott is known for his ability to craft some of the most epic movies in modern film. GladiatorKingdom of Heaven, and even the crime epic American Gangster all fit nicely into this category of huge films. Now we have a movie based off of a novel by Andy Weir, and in my opinion, this is a pretty absurd choice of book to make a movie out of. Not because it’s a bad story, but it’s actually too great of a story with different story lines that not only spans continents, but planets. If I was a major Hollywood film maker, a project like this would intimidate me, but leave it to Ridley Scott to take the source material and make it into one of the stand out movies of 2015.

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In the not too distant future, NASA sends a group of scientists to Mars to learn more about the desolate, red planet. When a violent storm cuts the mission short, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead. NASA releases the news, but are then shocked to learn that Watney is alive and well and has been stranded on Mars. Watney knows that it may be up to four years before the next mission can arrive to rescue him, so he begins working to make the dead soil of Mars into a place that he can live on. Meanwhile, NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Ares III mission director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) start devising multiple different plans to not only provide food for Watney, but also find a way to rescue him from Mars as soon as possible. This may ultimately fall on Ares III commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and the rest of her crew, forcing them to turn back around and get Watney home.

I can’t stress it enough that the story of The Martian felt absolutely enormous. Not only does it cover over a year of time, but also involves so many different characters that each have very important jobs to do throughout the entire ordeal. There isn’t one character that felt wasted throughout the whole thing. It was also cool to see that even for some of the most minor roles, good actors would still fill their shoes. For example, one of the people that completely changes how NASA approaches the whole problem is astronomer Rich Purnell played by Donald Glover. This character is only in a few scenes for a few minutes, but they still casted a great actor to fill that role. Other than the people I already mentioned, there’s other actors like Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Benedict Wong, and Sean Bean. It’s one of the best casts that’s been assembled in recent memory.

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What seems to be surprising most critics and audiences is how lighthearted this movie actually is. Sure, it’s very dramatic and some of the scenes can get really intense, but I found myself laughing through a lot of the movie. The character of Mark Watney is literally what this story needs. Instead of letting his situation get the better of him, he remains optimistic and cracks jokes throughout the entire movie. If it wasn’t for him keeping his good humor, this would be an unbearably depressing movie. It’s also cool to see how his optimism affects the other characters and keep them from throwing in the towel before something can be done. Pretty much, this movie keeps you feeling great the whole time, and never did I feel like the situation was absolutely hopeless.

I can’t really find anything to complain about with The Martian. Not only is it very well written and acted, but it’s also a beautiful looking movie. In order to get the perfect look for his Martian landscape Scott and the rest of his special effects team filmed in Wadi Rum, Jordan, which has a red desert. That location shooting combined with excellent special effects makes this film visually immersive. Harry Gregson-Williams’ low key score also accentuates the drama very nicely.

While Ridley Scott hasn’t made perfect movies and has recently slipped a little bit, The Martian is proof that he is still able to take huge stories, compress them, and successfully put them on film. This film is an achievement of special effects, but also stands out with it’s quick writing, believable characters, and feeling of hope and good humor that spans the entire two and a half hour run time. Nothing in this movie feels wasted, which means everything feels important and that isn’t easy to do. This is an outstanding movie.

Cast Away – Review

3 Jul

Here’s one that I’ve wanted to review for a very long time. Cast Away has always struck a nerve with me because I am absolutely not an outdoorsman. But what if I was forced to be? Each time I watch this movie, I think about that and each time I get less and less confident. Oh well. Hopefully I don’t get stranded on a desert island. But now the review.

Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is a FedEx employee who lives by time and always has his beeper in case business should call him to whatever corner of the globe. This puts some stress on his loving girlfriend, and soon to be fiancé, Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt). When his beeper goes off a few days before Christmas, Chuck thinks that this is just going to be a typical business trip. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Chuck soon finds himself on an island in the middle of nowhere after his plane crashes in the ocean after a freak accident. Now, Chuck must survive any way he can in hopes of returning home.

What’s most impressive about Cast Away is how well Tom Hanks carries the entire hour and a half mid-section by himself. That, I believe, is the true test of an actor. I was always taught in whatever theater program or class I was in that acting is reacting, but we always talked about that in respect to other actors. Hanks has no other person to react to, and must instead react to the situations and inanimate object for a big bulk of the film. He really gives a fantastic performance, which may be one of the best I’ve ever seen.

The whole concept behind this movie screams, “That would never happen to me!” Well, of course you say that, but no one plans to be trapped on an island. What I think the viewer must do for Cast Away to work at its fullest potential is put yourself into Noland’s position. His character never though that would happen to him, and it did. Once you start thinking about it, you’ll start to wonder what you would do in his place. How would you survive? Would you even survive? I’ve thought about this every time I have watched this movie and I have serious doubts about my ability to survive in that situation.

* SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT *

If you haven’t seen this movie, then don’t read this portion of the review, even though it is shown in the trailers, I don’t want to take any chances. Yes, he gets off the island. And, despite what most critics say, I find it a fascinating study of the difficulty adjusting to life after being away from it for so long. There are scenes that show Hanks’ character trying to interact with others, including Kelly, but having a difficult time. It is a portion of the movie that is criticized the most, but I think that it’s important to the overall story.

* THIS IS THE END OF THE SPOILER ALERT*

Unfortunately, there is a major flaw to this film. It is just way too long clocking in at two and a half hours. Let’s look at another one man film, Buried. This is a story about a man buried alive in a coffin and his attempt to escape. While different, it is still a movie that involves isolation and not a whole lot of dialogue, even though the character does use a cell phone. This movie is an hour and a half. I understand that Cast Away explores more themes than Buried , but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been trimmed down just a little bit. I lose interest more than once during this long story.

Despite its overly long running time, Cast Away is still a movie that will stick with you. Is it over rated? Sure, I’d say so, but it’s still a really good movie. If you aren’t interested in the story, see it for Tom Hanks’ performance. It’s certainly not one of the best movies ever made, but it’s a lot better than most of what Hollywood produces. You can’t go wrong with director Robert Zemeckis, though.