Film Review: The Big Short (2015)

Release Date: November 12th, 2015 (AFI Fest)
Directed by: Adam McKay
Written by: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay
Based on: The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Music by: Nicholas Britell
Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, Karen Gillan, Margot Robbie (cameo), Anthony Bourdain (cameo), Selena Gomez (cameo)

New Regency Productions, Plan B Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 130 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t get it. Why are they confessing?” – Mark Baum, “They’re not confessing.” – Danny Moses, “They’re bragging.” – Porter Collins

I never saw The Big Short, even though I read the Michael Lewis book several years ago. I liked the book and thought that it did a good job of telling the stories about the real people who were important figures during the 2008 financial crisis caused by the housing bubble.

I guess I felt inspired to watch it because of the recent events surrounding WallStreetBets and their attempts at fucking over hedge funds. However, I’ve watched and reviewed several other finance industry movies over the last few months, so I figured I’d give this one a shot too. Plus, it has a stellar cast.

Oddly, I had no idea that this was directed by a guy that’s mostly just directed Will Ferrell comedies. The director, Adam McKay, did a pretty good job of transitioning to drama while also still having a bit of comedy added in. This is still a serious film, though, and it tackles the subject matter quite well.

My only real complaint about the film is the editing style and pacing. It often times felt sporadic and I felt like I was jolted around so much that I was losing my footing.

The acting is so good that I really wanted to focus on the performances, especially Steve Carell’s but the the quick, flashy edits often times pulled me out of the picture and the moment. I feel like it was hard to build the proper emotional connection to certain scenes because they kept overlapping scenes with one another.

Still, I did enjoy this and when you can actually zero in on specific performances, it was really entertaining, emotional and kind of impressive. Carell truly takes the cake in this, though, and I definitely felt closer to his character than any of the others, as he sort of represents what this film’s audience should feel about what these banksters were doing just to fatten their pockets at the expense of the average American.

I can’t see this as a classic like several of the other finance industry movies that I’ve recently reviewed but it’s still a good, enjoyable picture that maps out and explains the housing crisis well enough for the average Joe to understand while also entertaining its audience.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other finance industry thrillers like the Wall Street films, The Wolf of Wall Street and Boiler Room.

Film Review: Step Brothers (2008)

Release Date: July 25th, 2008
Directed by: Adam McKay
Written by: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, John C. Reilly
Music by: Jon Brion
Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Rob Riggle, Ken Jeong, Phil LaMarr, Seth Rogen, Horatio Sanz

Relativity Media, The Apatow Company, Mosaic Media Group, Gary Sanchez Productions, Columbia Pictures, 98 Minutes, 106 Minutes (unrated cut)

Review:

“I wanna roll you up in a little ball and shove you up my vagina… You could just live there, it’s warm and it’s cozy… Oh I’d just walk around with you in there and just knowing, whenever I feel a little tickle or scratch it’s your hair on my vagina!” – Alice

Full disclosure, I’m not a huge Will Ferrell fan. I did like him on Saturday Night Live, in an era where the show was good, and I do like his chemistry with John C. Reilly. But still, that’s not enough to make this film work for me.

The problem is that Will Ferrell’s comedies have a few jokes that land but they’re usually lost in a sea of misses. And really, most of his jokes have been recycled to death and predate him.

I do like a lot of stupid comedies but Ferrell’s don’t do much to help that genre evolve. He relies on low brow humor and by milking the same cow that the worst comedians have been milking for decades. He just makes his movies zanier, which I guess is supposed to make them funnier.

Now I mostly liked this film the first time that I saw it but it’s not something that I ever needed to watch again. Also, from a narrative standpoint, nothing that happens here matters or holds any sort of weight. There really isn’t much of a story, there’s just a plot thread set up to weave together a bunch of fart and dick jokes. Also, there’s the obligatory over the top profanity because yelling out “fuck” in the middle of a joke’s delivery makes it funnier or something.

I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting on the guy or this movie but by the time that this did come out, his shtick really ran dry for me. Although, I do have friends that adore this movie for some reason.

It is funny in parts and the two leads have charm and always seem to work well off of one another. However, Reilly has proven he’s a much better actor than this and he’s actually superior to Ferrell in regards to his comedic roles.

I don’t know, this is just a stupid film to me. It doesn’t have a lot of replay value and I have to deduct points off of any movie that has Rob Riggle in it. When people were boycotting the NFL because of freedom of expression being un-American, I was boycotting it because Rob Riggle was hired to work on a Sunday pregame show.

Anyway, I really like and respect Mary Steenburgen, so I’ll say that she’s a beaming light of sunshine and positivity in this but I really don’t need to ever watch this again because I saw this movie before it was even made.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Will Ferrell movies and “bro” comedies of the ’00s and ’10s.

Film Review: Ant-Man (2015)

Release Date: June 29th, 2015 (Dolby Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd
Based on: Ant-Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Christophe Beck
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Anthony Mackie, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, Michael Douglas

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 117 Minutes

Review:

*Originally written in 2015.

Ant-Man is the next film in a long line of Marvel films that are a part of the Avengers universe. Ant-Man being one of the original Avengers means that this film is long overdue. In fact, I had hoped that it would have happened in Phase One of the Avengers film line and not as the last film in the Phase Two set of movies. Regardless, it is nice to finally have Hank Pym in the Avengers fray. Oh wait, I mean Scott Lang.

Yes, Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) is the hero here even though Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) is in the film. Pym however, is Lang’s mentor and the original Ant-Man, who we knew nothing about until now. Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp, is also shown in costume via flashbacks. There is kind of a nice set up, in the film’s intro, that shows us a very young Michael Douglas (thanks to CGI) bantering with Howard Stark and Agent Peggy Carter in 1989.

Scott Lang is one of the more unique characters to be on the Avengers roster, even though he hasn’t achieved that status yet, in this film. He is a thief turned hero – on a quest for redemption in order to have a normal relationship with his young daughter. The Scott Lang character kind of takes the best parts of Hawkeye’s character in Avengers: Age of Ultron and magnifies them much more. You care about Scott, his daughter and their relationship probably more intimately than the relationship of any other characters in the Marvel movie mythos except for Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter.

Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas do a superb job in bringing life to this long overdue Marvel character. Evangeline Lilly is also great, as the daughter of Pym and the Wasp. Corey Stoll was okay as the villain who eventually becomes Yellowjacket. Although, Yellowjacket isn’t a villain in the comics, he is just another alias of Hank Pym.

Yellowjacket being the villain just seems half-assed. He is essentially the same thing as Ant-Man except he can fly and shoot lasers. Ant-Man has the advantage in that he can summon armies of ants. I’m sorry, but an army of ants against a tiny guy with lasers isn’t going to bode well for the tiny guy with lasers. What could one guy with a laser gun do against an army of ravenous orcs? This also goes back to a recent comment George R.R. Martin made about how Marvel too often pits its heroes against villains with the same set of powers and it isn’t as interesting as heroes matching up with something that is a contrast to their abilities. I couldn’t agree with Martin more.

Despite the villain issue, this film is better than that mess Avengers: Age of Ultron. When I stated in my review of that film that the solo Marvel films are better due to story, character development and not being forced to fit too much into one movie, Ant-Man just solidified that point for me even more. It is more fluid, more organic and tells a human story, unlike those massive CGI-littered Joss Whedon action fests.

To be honest, Ant-Man is one of the best Marvel films to date. It is better than both Avengers, both Thor films, the first Captain America, the second and third Iron Man, that one Hulk film with the other actor and whatever else there is except for Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier and the first Iron Man film.

It isn’t a picture without flaws though. At times, it got a bit too hokey. The humor was great for the most part and I loved the comedic characters, especially Lang’s crew played by Michael Peña, T.I. and David Dastmalchian (the one with the Russian accent), who you might remember as the Joker’s henchman that Harvey Dent abducted in The Dark Knight.

The film felt rushed at times and the editing was a bit shaky. Like other Marvel films, things feel like they got left on the cutting room floor. Where some characters felt well developed, others were lacking. Corey Stoll’s role just seemed disjointed at times, as his motivations were never all that clear and his slip into insanity just kind of happened. It just didn’t feel like an organic metamorphosis.

Additionally, the sound editing was problematic. When Lang is taking direction from Pym in his helmet, it sounds like voice over work and doesn’t sound natural. Other Marvel films have had similar problems. Also, when Lang is ant-sized, in some scenes he can’t be heard by normal-sized characters but in others he can. I’m not sure if this was explained and I missed it or if it is just some Marvel-sized plot hole.

Judy Greer is also in this film, which makes me wonder how many more summer blockbusters will she cameo in? And using her for a minor role was a waste of her talent, unless they have plans for her later on. I feel like she could have been used for a bigger Marvel role than the 14th Avenger’s baby mama.

I liked this film. Be sure to wait for the mid-credits scene and then for the post-credits scene. We get two special bonuses with this film. Granted, they don’t necessarily lead to anything profound but they put in motion the next steps in the Ant-Man branch of the Avengers franchise family tree.

Rating: 7/10