Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Room

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Room (A24)

Room Poster

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Written by Emma Donoghue  Based on Room by Emma Donoghue

Starring Brie LarsonJacob TremblayJoan AllenSean Bridgers & William H. Macy

Room is a heart-wrenching story of a woman held captive for several years in a garden shed that becomes home to her and the son she has with her rapist and kidnapper. It is hard to watch at times. I think I started crying about a minute in. But it is a great movie with two fantastic performances from the mother and son. This is not a movie. Room is an experience. One that I highly recommend.

Verdict: SPARED

Room cast

First of all, Brie Larson is incredible in this movie. I love her. I’ve loved her before. But I really love her now. This is an awesome performance. All of the emotions are there on the screen and all of the emotions are forced onto the viewer. Room is a cascade of emotions. A tour-de-force of crying your fucking eyes out. As a child of abuse, I think I started crying two minutes in. I started crying again when I realized why the title of the movie isn’t The Room but just Room and then again when fuck it… by the end of this film I needed fluids. Okay? No joke. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Jacob Tremblay in Room

But it’s Jacob Tremblay who is the true star and the main subject of Room. The movie is told from his character’s point of view and he has never seen outside room. He was born in room. And doesn’t even believe there is such a thing as outside of room. (I may cry right fucking now) He is in every scene and the movie is shot from his height and through his awareness of his surroundings and his experiences. It’s shocking. And it’s jarring. And it’s intense. And the very definition of heart-wrenching because it’s all through the eyes of a child. So we’re living it… or re-living it as him.

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay

It’s not giving anything away to let you know that they eventually get out of there. There are two parts to the film. In room and out of room. And it’s the similarities and differences in the two experiences that make the movie so good. I recommend it highly. Room is my favorite (non-action) film from last year. An incredible cinematic experience.

Room

Room is, as a matter of fact, one of the best films of all-time. Room is an insanely good movie. It really is. But if shit gets to you, then don’t even watch it. This movie made me so angry. And so sad. And so happy. And filled with such disgust. And such anger (did I mention the anger) And so scared. And so hopeful. And so incredibly drenched in tears.

Brie Larson in Room

Room is one of those movies that stays with you long after the credits are done and the awards have been handed out. And everyone’s patted themselves on the back for making such an emotionally powerful film. It is an amazing example of clever storytelling. Beautifully and skillfully directed, with two of the best performances of this century. Room is fantastic and that’s really all I can say. Except that there is nothing other than Room. Room is all there is.

Room is all there is

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Steve Jobs

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Steve Jobs (Universal Pictures)

Steve Jobs Poster

Directed by Danny Boyle

Written by Aaron Sorkin  Based on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Starring Michael FassbenderKate WinsletSeth RogenJeff DanielsKatherine Waterston & Michael Stuhlbarg

Steve Jobs is just an okay movie. A fantastic script. Oh my god what a great script. It was almost like watching a stage play. The way it basically captures the same moment three separate times in the life of Steve Jobs. It is so unbelievably cool. But as a movie. As a work of cinema, I was underwhelmed. Director Danny Boyle is hit or miss. He has directed a few of my favorite films and I like him because he doesn’t have a genre. He can do it all. But in Steve Jobs he fails to get out-of-the-way of Aaron Sorkin’s great script. He tries to do more than he needs to. He had an amazing cast and an amazing script and there was no need for the cute little touches and clumsy attempts at film artistry. You can’t really spoil a bio-pic but still…

Verdict: SPOILED

Jobs the Manipulator

SPOILER ALERT

Steve Jobs is the story of three major tech projects in the man’s life. Two failures and one incredible success. Each act takes place moments before Steve Jobs is to walk out on a stage and present his vision to an audience of rabid fans. He was not an engineer or a coder or a business person. But the people who loved him and credited him with other’s work thought he was a god. What he was is a father, a showman and really every bit of an asshole. Not the most likable guy at all.

Jobs the Asshole

In each act, Steve Jobs has an interaction with those three actual people in his life: the coder, the engineer, the business person and those three aspects of himself: the father, the showman and the asshole. This is a sensational script. Aaron Sorkin has long been one of my writing aspirations. A level of cinematic realism and cool dialogue that I would have loved to have been able to match. The dialogue is perfect. The characters are dynamic and real and known within seconds of them walking on-screen. You know these people instantly. And all the relationships are heart-breaking. Truly an amazing screenplay.

Steve Jobs Cast

The three products featured aren’t Steves greatest works but represent pivotal moments in the innovators life. Two major failures and one incredible success. But the products take a backseat in the film. A backseat to the broken relationships that fuel their creation. They are just a platform for an operating system. A system that uses and abuses people to get their best. All cpu. No heart. Our hero, Steve Jobs, does not emerge from this beautifully written bio-pic as anything other than a master manipulator, out and out thief, horrible father and sometime genius.

Jobs the Father

Michael Fassbender is amazing (as always) as Steve Jobs. He disappears into every role he plays. Which is difficult because the man is gorgeous. I have a huge crush on Michael Fassbender. I think I’ve loved him in every thing I’ve seen him in. He’s even good in bad movies. He is one talented and beautiful man. In this, he plays Steve Jobs as someone who recognizes emotions in himself and in others but seems to despise them as a waste of his valuable time. Make no mistake, Steve Jobs is not the hero of his own movie… just a subject. Just a cold and mechanically calculating subject.

Jobs the Genius

But Danny Boyle, who has directed some of my favorite films, is too stylized here. His music choices and other creative choices scream “Look at me! I’m directing!” Steve Jobs is a fantastic script that all he really had to do was shoot as is. But he doesn’t do that. He wants you to see him directing. This script would make an incredible stage drama. This movie would make an incredible radio drama. And yes it even would have made an incredible movie. But the director seems too enamored with his own additions to it. And he damn near ruins it all with awful creative choices. It’s maddening. Because the man knows what he’s doing but here it’s like he’s forgotten. And again this is the director of at least five of my favorite hundred films of all-time. I love Danny Boyle. What happens here is Danny Boyle takes a large steaming dump on a really good movie idea.

Jobs the Maniac

Steve Jobs, the movie, is a great story and a great script with a great cast that is helmed by a great director. A director who takes these fantastic elements and turns them into a mediocre, maybe even bad, movie. Either because he was trying to compete with the screenwriter’s amazing artistry or… I don’t know… maybe he was trying to sabotage the thing. I really don’t know. It makes no sense. The weird choices he makes make absolutely no sense. And seem to serve only to annoy. What a waste.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Jem and the Holograms

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Jem and the Holograms (Universal Pictures)

Jem and the Holograms poster

Directed by Jon M. Chu

Written by Ryan Landels  Based on Jem by Christy Marx

Starring Aubrey PeeplesStefanie ScottHayley KiyokoAurora PerrineauJuliette LewisRyan Guzman & Molly Ringwald

I don’t know for sure but this movie must have been written by a 12 year-old girl or something. It is unbelievably sloppy. This is the kind of story a kid makes up on the spot when asked. This is the scenario dreamed up while playing with toys on the kitchen floor. There is no intelligence or logic and no one associated with this movie knows anything about making them. Jem & the Holograms needs to be forgiven for being one of the worst movies of all-time because if there were adults involved in this they must all have brain tumors, large growths disturbing all cognitive function. I sometimes point out when a movie does everything wrong. Jem & the Holograms does nothing right. Nothing,

Verdict: SPOILED

Jem and the Holograms

SPOILER ALERT

Jem & the Holograms is the tale of a girl who becomes an overnight sensation. Except that she doesn’t. In the movie she puts one video up on YouTube and a record producer sends her on tour. Not a recording contract. That’s far-fetched enough but after hearing ONE song she is booked at large venues. Jem insists that her sisters be allowed to serve as her band and this too is agreed to because… I don’t know. This movie is crap. She had not heard any of them play a single note. She had only heard one song. And it was a video on YouTube. This is how the worst movie of all time begins.

Jem

There is a YouTube tie-in that forces the filmmakers (if I can call them that) to use a found footage format for most of the film. The narration is a video from the site and we are shown home movies and recordings of current and past events. Also interspersed throughout are real YouTube-ers playing music that becomes the movie’s soundtrack. But for some reason, beyond these things, the director chooses to shoot the rest of the film handheld. The camera shakes in establishing shots and close-ups and for the rest of the film. It’s a found footage style without the found footage. It’s awful.

jem-and-the-holograms is truly truly outrageous

The film should be a musical but it’s like the screenwriter forgets to include songs. And it’s supposed to be an adventure but it’s like the screenwriter forgets to add any. So they drop in some crappy scavenger hunt with only two locations. It’s supposed to be a wacky and fun comedy but the screenwriter forgets this as well, and tries to make everything dire and serious. And when it’s supposed to be dire and serious, it’s like the screenwriter forgets this too and every conflict is solved in the loopiest and flimsiest of manners. Jem and the Holograms is one of the worst written movies of all-fucking-time.

The Holograms

The actors can’t play music. I know that usually doesn’t matter but they also can’t act like they know how to play music. So what’s the point? They aren’t able to act like they’re playing the instruments. So there goes that. They can’t even keep a beat. She’s strumming at the oddest times and changing her fingering when there is no change. They can’t even fake it. Jem & the Holograms is outrageously bad. Truly, truly.

Jem-and-the-Holograms

And the main plot is stupid. The writer knows nothing about music or the music business. The subplot is hokey. Any conflicts are solved in moments. There’s a part where she goes solo and abandons all of her “sisters” and then she feels bad about it so goes back to her childhood home that she hasn’t visited in years and then all her sisters show up there because they know somehow where she is at all times and they all forgive her because they saw how she was sitting on the steps in slow motion and shit, and you got to forgive somebody after seeing that. It’s slow motion for Christ’s sake. And then the love interest shows up because he must know where she grew up from all the stalking he does or something and then they decide to break into the music company office building to rescue Jem’s earrings from the CEO’s safe because she needs them to activate the last clue on a robot her father built before he died. (I’m not kidding) Because when she was taking promo pictures in that office she had to remove her cheap fucking earrings, so the CEO offered to put them in her office safe for safe keeping instead of just letting the girl put them in her pocket or her bag or anywhere. On a table. It makes no sense. So instead of waiting for the building to open since none of this is time sensitive, they decide to break in. Well not break in more like… you know what. The movie is bad.

The worst movie of all-time Jem and the Holograms

Badly written, horribly acted, stupidly photographed and edited with YouTube videos added for filler and pop music that sounds like it came from a kit… a pop music kit that you assemble with plastic rainbow-colored pieces. With nothing done right and everything all wrong, Jem & the Holograms is the worst movie of all-time. It’s official.

Jem is bad

All hail the Queen.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Bridge of Spies

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Bridge of Spies (Walt Disney Studios Motion PicturesTouchstone Pictures & 20th Century Fox

Bridge Of Spies poster

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Written by Matt CharmanJoel Coen & Ethan Coen

Starring Tom HanksMark RylanceAmy Ryan & Alan Alda

Steven Spielberg is a master at his craft and Bridge of Spies is an excellent example of his artistry. It is the true story of a prisoner swap during the early days of the cold war with Russia. Tom Hanks is also a master at his job as well. He gives an amazing performance as the lawyer who is chosen to first defend a Russian spy caught in America and then to negotiate the prisoner exchange. Bridge of Spies is a little long and it feels like two different movies spliced together. Or a full season of a good TV show. One film about the trial of the Russian spy in America and another that’s an international espionage thriller about the negotiations and the cold war. But it’s Spielberg, so it’s amazing. Not the best film of last year, but still very good.

Verdict: SPARED

Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies

First let’s talk about Tom Hanks. I have been a big fan of his movies and there are a lot of great movies. But I want to talk about a few that nobody talks about. Joe vs the Volcano, Volunteers and Cloud Atlas. Volunteers was the first time I really thought that this guy was going to be a big star. Joe vs the Volcano is an over looked gem and Cloud Atlas is one of those films that you either love or you hate and I loved it. Mark Rylance gets all the accolades because he is amazing in this, but Tom Hanks is a national treasure. And he hasn’t gotten to the point where he’s just playing himself in every movie like a bunch of incredibly talented 70’s actors have (Pacino, DeNiro, Hackman, Duvall).

Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies

Next let’s talk about the script. It was written by Joel and Ethan Coen. These guys are among my favorite movie scribes and the conversations between the Russian agent and his reluctant lawyer. Their contentious negotiations over his defense. And the ones between the lawyer and the CIA or the lawyer and the Judge in the case, these are incredibly well-written. Bridge of Spies has excellent dialogue. I wouldn’t expect less from the Coen Brothers. They are masters of the craft.

Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies

And then there’s Steven. At this point he can do this with his eyes closed. There are a couple of Spielberg-y moments and I mean that as a bad thing. He can’t help but add a little bit of sweetness to even his darkest films. And also his films can seem a little too polished, if you know what I mean. They are perfect films. He’s so good at his job at this point that his films are a little too perfect. I know I’m nit-picking, but Steven Spielberg movies are just that… a little too perfect. Just once I want to see a boom mic drop into a shot. Or some egregious continuity error like the guy from 1957 pulls out a cellphone. Is that really too much to ask for?

Steven Spielberg Bridge of Spies

The story is a good one. About a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. right after the Berlin wall goes up and the cold war kicks off. It’s based on a true story. But it’s not the best movie of the year. And I sometimes feel like every movie Steven Spielberg makes should be nominated for best picture, and him for best director, no matter what it’s about. So Bridge of Spies is another great movie from a guy who couldn’t make a bad movie if he tried. A little long maybe. A little too perfect, yes. But very interesting and entertaining although Spielberg-y at times. And Tom Hanks is amazing. And everybody is just so fucking perfect. Are you happy? You’re all so annoyingly good at your jobs.

Bridge of Spies

Is a freaking camera bump too much to ask for?

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Black Mass

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Black Mass (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Black Mass poster

Directed by Scott Cooper

Written by Jez Butterworth and Mark Mallouk  Based on Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill

Starring Johnny DeppJoel EdgertonBenedict CumberbatchRory CochraneKevin BaconJesse PlemonsCorey StollPeter Sarsgaard & Dakota Johnson

Black Mass is a bad movie. The acting is top-notch. The story based on the true exploits of mobster Whitey Bulger, is beyond interesting, but it is told through various interviews with his associates. This narrative is awkward and confusing. It took me out of the story. And it also served to let me know who survives, taking away most of the drama. Johnny Depp’s performance is amazing but he needed a better movie. Black Mass is disjointed and unfocused. I know we’ve had a lot of mob movies at this point in film history but there’s no need to change the format. Just tell the damn story.

Verdict: SPOILED

Johnny Depp Black Mass

SPOILER ALERT

The main selling point of the movie is Johnny Depp’s performance, and it is pretty great. He physically disappears into the role. But we don’t get much of the character’s inner life. The movie primarily focuses on his years as a FBI informant. It begins years after he has been released from Alcatraz and years after the LSD prison trials that twisted his mind. So Black Mass is less the tale of Whitey Bulger and more the story of FBI agent John Connolly who ran Bulger as an informant but was actually more Bulger’s informant in the FBI than the other way around.

Black Mass

Benedict Cumberbatch does a Southie accent and it too is disturbing, as most of his American accents are. I don’t know about hearing anything but a British accent coming from his amazing pipes. It’s just weird. Like a dog standing on its hind legs for too long. It was just weird. But there are lots of great performances in the movie, up and down the cast. And it’s a well-written story for the most part. It just doesn’t go deep into Whitey Bulger’s character or his past and is preoccupied more with acts of brutal violence than developing any of the other characters.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Depp Black Mass

Black Mass plays like an FBI report on the man’s exploits. Like the film-makers were more concerned with telling only the things that were provable. Or corroborated. I would have preferred the movie took some license and took a chance and fictionalized the story a bit. I wanted more than just the stuff in the reports. At the end they do that thing where they put on-screen what happened to the narrators and the movie feels that way. Just the facts.

Black Mass Depp Edgerton

The only character that is even kind of developed is the FBI agent John Connolly who approaches Whitey with the opportunity to let the FBI help him rise to power. We see him evolve a little. His wife points this out to us when it isn’t clear in one of the more awful scene. Where they tell the audience how the character has changed. “You’re dressing better and you have a gold watch and a gold ring and a hair cut and you’re walking different and…” These are things you need to show us not tell us.

Black Mass fails in so many ways and the most egregious is how it wastes a great acting display by a guy who has never been known for his acting chops. Johnny Depp deserved a better movie. Black Mass is not good.

– Mel