Tag Archives: Michael Fassbender

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans is a film for the literary sort. It’s poetically paced, languid in its development. It’s about a man (Michael Fassbender) who, having survived the war, is keen on some isolation and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a lonely island. He doesn’t count on falling in love, and is delighted to double the population of his rock when he takes a wife (Alicia Vikander). Now all they need is a baby and they’ll have a real population boom on their hands.

the-light-between-oceans-heroine-alicia-vikander-picturesBut wait. The babies aren’t coming so easily for this young couple. In fact, the only baby that comes is one that washes ashore, screaming in her dead father’s arms. It’s the lighthouse keeper’s duty to report orphaned baby to the mainland, no matter how much his distraught, infertile, grieving wife may want to keep her. Right?

The Light Between Oceans is beautifully shot by DP Adam Arkapaw; you’ll be sick of the postcard-perfect scenery by the end of the movie. We get it, it’s gorgeous. Fassbender and Vikander fit right in (once she shaves off his mustache anyway), pantomiming love so well they actually fell in love themselves, and are a couple to this day. They’re committed in their roles and aren’t to be blamed when this film ultimately falters.

What makes it stumble?  The pace may be a deterrent. While I was okay with the unhurried the-light-between-oceanspace, I worried that Sean was bored. Or asleep. He assured me he was neither, and I nearly believe him. Second, and hugely, is the contrived plot which forces the characters to behave rather stupidly. As much as you want to like them, and have liked them, you will grow frustrated. And emotional: director Derek Cianfrance is adamant that you cry. He will not be satisfied, or leave well enough alone, until you do.

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X-Men: Apocalypse

When I first saw X-Men: First Class in the theater, I was frustrated by Hugh Jackman’s cameo as Wolverine. “That’s so stupid,” I told my friends. “How can he show up in the 60s and look the same  as he does in the present?”.

Okay, so clearly I don’t know much about the X-Men universe. But I have since seen all the movies and tend to enjoy them. After Days of Future Past, which I thought was the strongest entry in the series by far, I had pretty high hopes for Apocalypse.

Nine films in a series can start to blend into one so I can’t always remember what happened in which but I am pretty sure that Apocalypse is my submission for the worst- certainly most boring- X-Men movie so far. What could have gone wrong since Bryan Singer’s triumphant return to the franchise two summers ago?

I can’t help feeling that Wolverine is the most important element of Future Past that is missing from Apocalypse. Sure, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is one of the best performances that I can think of in any comic book character ever but that’s not even what I’m missing. Future Past was told mostly from the perspective of Wolverine so we were introduced (or, in many cases, reintroduced) to most characters as they became relevant to Wolverine’s mission.

Like Days of Future Past, Apocalypse has A LOT of characters. Even by superhero movie standards. But without picking a single character’s perspective to focus on, it jumps around a lot. In fact, it probably spends a good half hour on each character’s separate introduction. Like Batman v. Superman, Apocalypse has a habit of cutting away to an unrelated scene just when it’s feeling like it’s starting to get good.

X-Men: Apocalypse is disappointing but does manage to benefit from both the past and future films in the series. Professor X and Magneto, both in their respective story arcs and in their relationship with each other, coast on their strong starts in their last two films and continue to captivate thanks to strong performances by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Everyone else is fine- even good- but these two are clear standouts in a crowded cast where you need to be great to even be noticed.

Having so many new characters necessitate a lot of scenes that feel more like obligatory preamble than part of the story. But just as the returning characters benefit from the smart choices made in previous installments, the new characters (Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Jean Gray) benefit from the promise of better movies in the future. They’re well-cast and likeable, giving hope that they’ll be better utilized next time.

Macbeth

 

Presumably we all know the plot of Shakespeare’s Scottish play: Macbeth is an inspiring leader until his own greed and ambition (and – let’s face it – his macbeth1-2015wife’s) bring him low, low, low, low.

Justin Kurzel’s interpretation is full of striking imagery, some of it colder than I would have thought, some of it feeling a little empty. But we all know we’re really here for the two powerhouse (king-making?) performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

Fassbender was the first on board; Kurzel was selected to complement his style, and both wanted Cotillard for Lady M. Cotillard, you may have noticed, or gleaned from her name, is a French actress, and a rather good one. Language is no barrier to her here; the Shakespeare rolls off her tongue. But they have nonetheless kept her French accent, a rare choice. Shakespeare never specified Lady Macbeth’s provenance, though it’s usually presumed she’s macbeth06Scottish liked bloody everyone else. But in this adaptation, she’s got this slight sense of foreignness and we begin to think what it might be like if she was just a little outside the community to begin with. Where exactly does her allegiance lie?

Fassbender makes Macbeth look easy, and it’s nothing of the sort. He communicates tonnes even with long stretches of silence between lines. The eerie, synthetic music is not always welcome, but you do sometimes get the sense that maybe style is valued slightly over substance. And the movie certainly begs the question: is it okay to re-write Shakespeare? Because images3XFZL3VNwhile I’d say Kurzel stays 90-95% faithful to the source, 5% is still cheating, isn’t it? The world hardly needed yet another Macbeth adaptation, so if you’re going to the trouble, you’d better have something new to say. But who is brave enough to believe they can best the bard? Justin Kurzel, evidently, a young director of just one prior movie,  which I’d never heard of before. And there are three writer’s names in the credits, 3 brazen takers of liberty. Are they right? Can you take liberties with Shakespeare? Will the audience accept it? Forgive it?

Fassbender and Cotillard’s take on the first couple of power and greed (this was before Kim and Kanye) is pretty exceptional. She comes off as having a Macbeth-2015-movie-poster-1thing for bad boys, and he’s trying very hard to live up to her fetish. But it’s clear he isn’t as strong as she is. She is the driving force. Lady Macbeth has always been the one to watch, and Cotillard has always been eminently watchable. But then, having relished playing Dr. Frankenstein, she suddenly feels guilty for having created the monster. They’re a couple of complex characters, perhaps the best ever written, and if there are indeed actors worthy of them, these two come close.

Slow West

Slow West tells the story of a young Scot named Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee doing his best Jay Baruchel impression) travelling across Colorado in search of his lost love Rose (Caren Pistorius).  Almost immediately, Jay is saved from bandits by Silas (Michael Fassbender) and from then on, it’s a western version of The Odd Couple, except writer/director John Maclean replaces much of the comedy with despair.  The wild west depicted in Slow West (which incidentally is New Zealand standing in for the midwestern plains) is the saddest, loneliest place imaginable.  Still, in spite of its melancholy, Slow West manages to be a very enjoyable movie, and even a surprisingly funny one at times.

Going into Slow West, I had one expectation: that the title would have some deep meaning to be revealed during the course of the movie.  I was let down in that regard but that was really the only disappointment I had coming out – I still don’t understand the title and feel like there’s something there to get.

Anyway, as far as the movie itself, Fassbender and Smit-McPhee make a very good pair, and that’s fortunate because we spend a lot of time with them as they make their way to Rose.  Fassbender gives us a convincing tough guy with a heart of gold silver tin.  Smit-McPhee is well cast as the naive, good-hearted foreigner.  Ben Mendelsohn, who really impressed me in Mississippi Grind, makes a quick appearance as a scummy outlaw and looks the part.  And yes, everything in this paragraph reads like a back-handed compliment, but it’s coming from a good place, I swear.

Slow West climaxes in a shootout.  I don’t
think I have to tag that as a spoiler,  do I?  You knew it was going to happen.  The way the shootout plays out, though, is well done and is much different than I expected.   It even includes a few surreal moments that worked really well (especially one involving a jar of salt).

Overall, Slow West is a solid, though sad, tale from the wild west.  Much like the story told by an old gang member, it entertained me throughout its 85 minute run time with its unusual mix of sadness and death with a hint of offbeat comedy.  It’s definitely worth tracking down, and I give it a score of eight wanted posters out of ten.

 

Hits & Misses

Steve Jobs: This movie is underperforming at the box office right now so my expectations were tempered, but the truth is, I was the-intense-first-trailer-for-aaron-sorkins-steve-jobs-movie-paints-a-picture-of-an-egotistical-and-difficult-manriveted. Yes, riveted, for the entire 2 hours. Aaron Sorkin has crafted a film in 3 acts, all three covering the moments before big product launches and pivotal times in Jobs’ life. 1984: the Macintosh is launched just days after that historic Superbowl ad while Jobs is angry at having lost Time magazine’s Man of the Year to a computer in part because of his vehement denials of paternity to 5-year-old Lisa. 1988: after the failure of the Macintosh, Jobs has left Apple and is launching the NeXTcube with his eye on the bigger picture. 1998: back at Apple, he’s launching the iMac, computer of tomorrow. Jeff DBildschirmfoto-2015-07-03-um-11_47_44aniels plays the Apple CEO and Kate Winslet plays Jobs’ right hand woman; both exactly as brilliantly as you’d expect. Michael Fassbender is of course Jobs himself, and I have no qualms about his portrayal of an extremely complex man. He’s an egomaniacal dick, and yet we still see his humanity. The surprise for 11730-4866-2536097E00000578-0-image-a-27_1422709812751-2-xlme was Seth Rogen who plays Steve Wozniak, who is a very interesting character. He’s very much the affable, humble counterpart to Jobs’ mad genius, but is also the one who actually knows how to design and build computers (Jobs being more of an idea man). Rogen manages to strike a balance between being second banana, and also being the only one who can truly stand up to Jobs. Colour me impressed, Seth Rogen. Danny Boyle has a well-crafted beast on his hands – maybe a little too rigidly structured, but admirably made. I didn’t expect to love this, but I really did.

Truth: An icon playing an icon – Robert Redford portrays Dan Rather as he becomes embroiled in the journalistic snafu that would end his enviable career. In 2000, Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) was about to break the story of George Bush’s spotty military career. You may remember the highlights: that he pulled strings to be admitted to the National Guard in order to avoid service in Vietnam, then went AWOL and never really completed even that much. It was going to be a big deal inrather an election ultimately decided by just 500-odd votes, but that summer Mapes’ mother died and the story never aired. Four years later, though, the story is revived when someone comes forward with documents. Mapes and her team (Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid) bust it wide open after a lot of teasing and research and legwork, and Dan Rather presents the case on 60 Minutes. But of course Republicans were never going to let this 75story sit, and pretty soon the internet trolls are working feverishly to discredit whatever they can. Truth becomes not just a story about journalism, but about government corruption at the highest level. 60 Minutes is on CBS. CBS was owned by Viacom, a conglomerate that relied on government tax breaks. Can they afford to upset the presidency? Truth, the actual truth, gets lost somewhere in the shuffle. Sean felt it made a better story than a movie, and he may be right. Blanchett is note-perfect, and Redford surprised me – he doesn’t do an impression of Rather, but he does capture his cadence and persona in a way that felt convincing but not mimicky. The film, though, is pretty conventional, and it’s oddly paced. I absolutely believe that a journalist’s job is to ask questions,b ut that doesn’t mean I needed 18 different soliloquies on the topic. I have a headache from being hit over the head with this message. Relax, James Vanderbilt; your premise is solid and the movie is good if not great. No need to be so sanctimonious.

Jem: A complete defilement of my childhood, no 80s baby is going to have anything to do with this travesty. They’ve ruined everything that made the cartoon of our innocence great: the look is wrong (she used to be outrageous!), the sound is wrong, they’ve traded in a talJemMovie00-630x420king, hologramming computer for Youtube. I spent years as a little girl putting on Jem concerts in a neighbour’s garage, so I think I know what I’m talking about. Even the earrings were botched, for crying out loud. And where was the awesome rival band, the Misfits? Jem and the Holograms weren’t just rockstars, they were businesswomen, philanthropists, crime fighters, and foster mothers. While it aired during the mid-80s, it was in the top 3 most watched kids’ cartoons. Why then did the studios spit in the eye of the franchise by making a movie that was sure to fail? And isn’t even good enough to attract a new audience? How would jemaudiences have felt if the same was done to Transformers, a movie that, according to IMDB, had an estimated budget of $150M in 2007. A couple of years later, GI Joe was given $175M and even though the first one didn’t do all that great, they found another $130M to throw at the sequel. Jem, on the other hand, was given an estimated budget of just $5M. So let’s sit with that for a minute and ask ourselves why. Yes, the 80s version was goofy and over the top, but that beats the bland, paint by numbers crap this remake is offering. It’s trying so hard to appeal to millennials it completely denigrates any nostalgic appeal and alienates the people it was first made for. Epic fail.

Against the Crowd

bannerfans_16176859Wendell at Dell On Movies has proposed this inspired idea for a blogathon: Against the Crowd. Basically, you name one movie that you love even though everyone else hates it, and one movie that everyone loves but you actually hate. I’m already licking my lips in anticipation! Thanks, Wendell, for letting us play!

 

Sean’s picks:

46a639ecd69330827bc6a3212bab82a0One I love that everyone else hates: Night at the Roxbury (11% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer) – Honestly, if you hate this movie, I don’t want to know you. It’s wonderful. It’s so funny and kind of sweet and somehow all came together out of a one-note SNL skit. It’s pure genius, like seriously, the wedding scene is the best possible way to break up your brother’s wedding to Molly Shannon. And casting Richard Greico as himself, and then having him give life advice to Dan Hedaya? Simply amazing.

 

 

One I hate that everyone else loves: Life of Pi (87% on the Tomatometer) – After reading the life-of-pi-01-1920x1080book, the movie was such a let-down, and somehow it still got a best picture nod? You know, I’m not much of a reader but this book is one for the ages and the movie simply does not do it justice, and butchers the end reveal which absolutely defines the book and makes you want to immediately read it again.

 

Jay’s picks:

One I love that everyone else hates: Mixed Nuts (7% on the Tomatometer) – This movie is not well-known, so let me paint you a picture: a small group of counsellors are running a crisis line on Christmas Eve while facing down joblessness (hello, funding cuts!), clients with no boundaries (but a transgendered Liev Schrieber does a mean tango), and of course, loads of their own personal shit. The counsellors include Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, and the esteemed Madeline Kahn. So when a certain counsellor (namely, myself) goes to work at her own crisis line on Christmas Eve, the blow is made that much softer by watching this movie that makes me feel just a little less alone, and a little more merry. The jokes are as cornball as they come, but once a year I want to see Adam Sandler play his ukulele, Jon Stewart get road rage on rollerblades, Garry Shandling dress as a Christmas tree, Anthony LaPaglia get high on tranquilizers meant for dogs. Is that so weird?

One I hate that everyone else loves: Can I possibly pick just one? Sean suggested “any thing comic book” which is almost but not quite true (maybe more “anything super hero” but even that’s not fair, because a couple have transcended the genre but otherwise, yes, I’m tired, and they’re clichéd and over-reliant on CGI), and then “anything franchise” which again is almost but not quite true – and I don’t think it’s fair for me to pick Lord of the Rings or Star Wars Or Hunger Games because the truth is, I haven’t seen them. I just hate them on principle. So I’m left with two movies that will assuredly get me into hot water: The Hurt Locker (98% on the Tomatometer), and 12 Years A Slave (96%). I hate them both for basically the same reason: while I wouldn’t say either is bad, I’d say both are derivative and listless. I’ve seen better, more memorable movies in both their respective genres. However, I suspect these particular movies garnered their excessive attention from the Academy for reasons other than strictly merit. And that’s really frustrating. I saw The Hurt Locker almost immediately upon release and was like: “meh.” I don’t like Jeremy Renner. I’m pretty sure this movie was supposed to be suspenseful but when you spend the whole time thinking, “God, why won’t he just die already”, it sort of cooks the goose. And I know it’s a proud American tradition to demonize one’s enemies, but the situation in Iraq was so much more complex than this movie knows how to give it credit for. It has no point of view. Yes, dismantling a bomb is a gruelling job. But where are these bombs coming from? Who is making them – and why? This movie wants to be important but congratulates itself for being “apolitical” when political context is exactly what’s needed. 12 Years A Slave I watched before the Oscars of course, but late enough after its release that I’d heard all the hype and went in believing it. There is one scene, one particular scene, where he is left hanging from a tree, with his toes just barely brushing the ground, left there for hours, constantly on the verge of death, and worse still (for me, the viewer anyway), all the other slaves witnessing this scene yet completely helpless to do anything about it – fuck. That scene went on WAY too long, which was exactly the right amount of way too long because it makes us the right amount of crazy uncomfortable. That scene was the only redeeming moment in the whole 12 years. The rest was torture porn, every bit as exploitative of Django Unchained was accused of being, only without Tarantino’s style. Chiwetel Ejiofor is sublime, communicating so much with his eyes – but he has to. The script sure isn’t giving him much more than the same trite lines that have already been recited. In fact, it almost feels like this movie belongs to the villains – Fassbender has the juiciest bits, that’s for sure. McQueen is intent on making us flinch, making this film feel like a slavery-themed edition of the Saw series. The Academy awarded what should have been a movie of hard truths, but in reality it was just hard to watch. (Dear white people: hating this movie doesn’t make you racist!) The gruesome images served to shock people into forgetting there was no emotional complexity here. And even if there was, it would come to a screeching halt with the Brad Pitt stunt-casting. How is it even possible to over-dramatize a movie about slavery? McQueen finds a way. I’ve read Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years a Slave and you know what? The material deserved a better treatment.

What about your picks? Half as juicy as mine?

p.s. Matt – you’re it!

 

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I watched this movie with Jay on our way to Paris and it was awesome. Guardians of the Galaxy is still my favourite superhero movie of 2014 but Days of Future Past was almost as good, and I was not expecting that at all.

I read X-Men as a kid and loved it (it was probably my 2nd favourite comic behind Spider-Man). Then in my early 20s, the first X-Men came out, and I loved that! And the 2nd movie was possibly better than the first. And then the third movie came along, and it was so awful it ruined everything that had come before. It was very similar to the Matrix trilogy in that way. But unlike the Matrix, this franchise has done the impossible and resurrected itself.

This movie works in a lot of ways. It is a bridge between the entertaining prequel (X-Men: First Class) and the original trilogy. It is a standalone timetravelling adventure starring a bunch of familiar faces (it was very cool to see so many people from the previous movies make appearances, and all of them felt natural rather than squeezed in). And it is probably the most satisfying reboot I have ever seen. Too many superhero franchises have been rebooted lately, for no real reason other than a lack of imagination. I don’t need to see Peter Parker get bitten by a spider again. I didn’t ask for a new take on the Fantastic Four whose only purpose seems to be retaining the movie rights. But I was satisfied, and even excited, to see the slate wiped clean here and feel that the future for this franchise is brighter than ever. I am looking forward to see where they go from here (and apparently it involves Apocalypse!!!).

By the way, please stop putting extra scenes in the credits. It was alright once or twice but it’s played out at this point, and for the last several movies I have had to look it up onYoutube after the fact.

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable movie, though probably too dense and convoluted for someone who isn’t a fan. But better that than another origin rehash! It gets 9 angst-filled outcasts out of 10.