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.

TV Review: American Horror Story (2011- )

Original Run: October 5th, 2011 – current
Created by: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Cesar Davila-Irizarry, Charlie Clouser, James S. Levine, Mac Quayle
Cast: Evan Peters, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga, Denis O’Hare, Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Lizzie Brocheré, James Cromwell, Frances Conroy, Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates, Michael Chiklis, Finn Wittrock, Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, Chloë Sevigny, Cheyenne Jackson, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr., André Holland, Billie Lourd, Alison Pill, Alexandra Daddario, Grace Gummer, Lance Reddick, Alexandra Breckenridge

Ryan Murphy Productions, Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision, 20th Century Fox, 78 Episodes (so far), 37-73 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

I just binge watched the first three seasons of American Horror Story, as I was running out of things to watch on Netflix and this was in my queue for a few years. I have yet to see season 4, as it isn’t available yet.

I have a few friends who obsess over this show, which is probably why I put it off for so long. Usually, when a bunch of people build something up really high, I am left disappointed. I think the only time I wasn’t was when I finally sat down to watch Breaking Bad.

I wouldn’t call American Horror Story a disappointment though. It was pretty enjoyable and I’ll watch future seasons, albeit at my own leisure. But I wouldn’t call the show special or hype it up to everyone I know.

The premise of the show is horror, which is obvious by the title, but other than tapping into supernatural elements and showing something scary every now and then, it plays more like a teen drama. But that is the way of Hollywood these days. Sure, most of the characters are older than teens but this is definitely a show written for them.

The show just isn’t scary and that is why I have reservations about horror being used in a television format. Sure, you can churn up a few frights and provide creepy visuals and a dark tone but over the course of a 13 episode season, the monsters you are selling get less and less scary. When the reveals have to happen early because modern audiences can’t tolerate suspense, there is nowhere else to go other than adding in more teen drama and stretching out a resolution.

I guess the one thing that irks me about the show, is how the payoffs seem rushed, the resolution happens almost too early and the final few episodes of each season play like an epilogue that is too fleshed out. The grand evil each season is conquered around episode 11. So what you get is two more episodes that really aren’t necessary. I don’t care about any of these characters that much. It’s like the ending to the extended edition of The Return of the King – you just want it to be over.

Highlights of the show include the acting talents of Jessica Lange and Evan Peters (who was Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past). The rest of the cast, at least the actors who appear over multiple seasons are all pretty good. Although, Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau was horrible. I don’t blame her, as the character of Laveau was horribly written. The writers really tarnished the well respected legacy of the New Orleans Voodoo Queen and turned her into an evil vengeful idiot. Kathy Bates was fantastic though, I do want to point that out.

I like the show more than I dislike it but it hasn’t solidified me as a fan and it is a moderately enjoyable way to waste a weekend.

Update:

After the third season, I watched two more. Each year gets worse and worse, to the point that I’ve completely stopped caring about the show. The last season I watched was Hotel and I have no more interest in the future of this anthology franchise. I think there are two more seasons after Hotel with the possibility of this going on forever… but I’m done.

Rating: 5/10