Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

After a little bit of a hiatus, we return with the latest DC film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Directed by Zach Snyder and starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavil, and Amy Adams, it is rated PG – 13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.

From IMDB: Following his titanic struggle against General Zod, Metropolis has been razed to the ground and Superman is the most controversial figure in the world. While for many he is still an emblem of hope, a growing number of people consider him a threat to humanity, seeking justice for the chaos he has brought to Earth. As far as Bruce Wayne is concerned, Superman is clearly a danger to society. He fears for the future of the world with such a reckless power left ungoverned, and so he dons his mask and cape to right Superman’s wrongs. The rivalry between them is furious, fueled by bitterness and vengeance, and nothing can dissuade them from waging this war. However, a dark new threat arises in the form of a third man: one who has a power greater than either of them to endanger the world and cause total destruction!

4.5 out of 10

Despite maybe the new Star Wars film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been the most hotly anticipated movie in recent memory. The announcement was made all the way back in the summer of 2013 as well as the fact that Warner Brothers was going to follow Disney and Marvel in creating a DC cinematic universe in the wake of Man of Steel, all leading up to a Justice League movie, which is scheduled to come out next year. We have been bombarded with trailers for this film for over a year, some that have revealed so much of the plot in my opinion, so I won’t spoil that here. I would try to tell you the story, but it is so long winded and convoluted that all I can tell you is that Bruce Wayne comes back from retirement to become the Batman again, and comes into conflict with Clark Kent aka Superman at some point in the film. There is also a young Lex Luthor played by Jesse Eisenberg on the side trying to toy with the heroes, along with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman looming around with various points of the film.

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And failing at explaining the plot to you reveals what really doesn’t work with BvS: it’s forced use of way too many characters and side stories into one film. I feel that Dan Murrell, the editor for the youtube segment Honest Trailers, said it best when he likened the film to “walking into a Chinese buffet, only to find that they also serve caviar, pizza, Mediterranean food, and gelato,” all possible tasty foods, but just ending in a gross mush. It is basically five films (a Man of Steel sequel, a Batman solo movie, a Lex Luthor feature, a Justice League preview, and the actual Batman vs Superman conflict) all jockeying for time, which makes all five rushed and under explained. It makes last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, a film that also had way too many characters and side stories, paper thin in its plot comparison.

But before I go into specific complaint in the film’s story, let’s get positive for bit. The most controversial element of this film was the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman, and he turned out to be the most widely acclaimed part. Affleck is actually quite sensational as an older and broken Bruce Wayne from past tragedies that I am sure they will go into in his upcoming solo movie, which may be possibly directed by Affleck himself. Although there have been SEVEN other Batman live action films, this may be the most comic book accurate costumes we have seen in any of his previous incarnations. His regular costume looks incredibly stylish and his kryptonite suit that he dawns to take on Superman is directly taken from the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. There is a fight scene with Batman tearing his way through a warehouse that is easily the best scene in the film.

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The character of Wonder Woman is also pretty compelling in her limited screen time. Gadot is able to tip toe the line between tough and seductive very well and makes me very interested to see her in the first wonder woman live action solo movie next year. Although Eisenberg plays a much different Luthor in history, I found him quite interesting and a bit humorous in his role, seeing that both him and the writer’s fully went for this different interpretation. But it is the character of Superman that I felt was completely underused and mishandled. His “inner struggle” after the events of Man of Steel are lazily thrown together, and overall he’s given very little to do, along with Amy Adams’ Lois Lane, in the overall scope of the film.

As with most Zack Snyder films, the look of the film feels fully polished and strikingly beautiful, but he does rely in style over substance overall. The characters, I feel, are unnecessarily dark, without any reason as well, and is a bad idea to continue this string of darkness that Snyder portrays in the upcoming Justice League film.

Despite all of these other factors, the film could really be saved by a strong conflict by the titular heroes. And the fight, although its short length, is pretty intense and well executed in keeping both characters on a similar level, but it is the ideological battle, or lack thereof, that makes you feel very little during the conflict as well. It feels like they waste the first two hours of the film with Justice League teases or weird dream sequences and so have to slap together a very contrived reason for them to fight at the very end.

Overall, Batman v Superman is an overstuffed, mostly joyless venture with a few excellent moments and characters to look forward to, but with all of the hype going it, is a failure through and through.
~Seth

4 out of 10

You know, as a tutor (Shameless plug), I’ve really learned one overarching lesson: a mistake isn’t truly a mistake as long as you learn from it. It’s okay that you stumbled as long as you hit your stride. And, hey, Warner Brothers really stumbled with that last Supes feature so it’s time for them to start their strut, right? They hit the (comic) books and came back swinging after that last half-baked effort?

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No, no they didn’t. You forgot this is Hollywood and Hollywood is brain dead. You forgot that Hollywood has short term memory loss and can’t remember what it had for breakfast much less its last misstep. You forgot that a team of writers and filmmakers poring over cut after cut can somehow fumble Batman v. Superman (Come on, that title writes itself) even when handed the greatest Bruce Wayne actor we could’ve asked for and given heaps of source material to work off of.

Batman v. Superman is a microcosm of everything wrong with the D.C. Cinematic Universe (as if it’s earned that title). It’s a near-three hour patchwork of clumsy stabs at constructing a franchise inhabited by actors forced to spurt dry, exposition-heavy dialogue. Props to the viewer who can follow this because it’s busy as hell; there’s so much going on that you do not care what’s going on (I think I had better luck with Interstellar). Is it delightfully comic book-y? Yeah, at some points, but damned if that isn’t quickly negated by the drabness of all the proceedings.

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Let’s back up to what I said in the beginning and start with the problems that this film inherited from the last Superman installment. Again, I’m really appalled by Warner Brothers’ refusal to reform its past blunders as this film suffers from almost all the same ails the CGI bombardment Man of Steel did; there are no stakes to the deafening action and there’s no investment in the characters we should know and love. Both are lifeless because the story refuses to breath anything into either, it instead invests in convoluted detours and (your favorite word from these superhero reviews) table setting.

This round cranks both those issues up to 11 and additionally boasts some slapdash editing and a suffocating runtime on top of those issues (which by themselves could tank a film). As for the actors, well, they’re trying but they don’t have all too much to work with. Cavill and Adams are passable. Eisenberg delivers a downright weird performance as a wunderkind (Oh, it’s as weird as it sounds) Lex Luthor and Gal Gadot makes a fine Wonder Woman (Though this movie was doing poor enough with just its two heroes). The only absolutely stellar one in the bunch is Ben Affleck and let’s just say this is not the Batman movie he deserves (Reference completely intended).

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And yeah, there are some silver linings. Zack Snyder knows how to bring a comic page to life and the actual title fight does keep this film’s score from sinking a little. Yet, really, any shining moments are swiftly dragged down by the rest of this 18-wheeler. Maybe the box office dip this movie’s had these past few weeks will convince Warner Brothers to build its writing team instead of its Justice League. Or maybe (probably if this is any indicator) they’ll just keep on plugging away and making those same mistakes.
~Zach

Our 2016 Academy Award Predictions

Best Documentary- Short Subject

Body Team 12
Chau, beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

I did some reading.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: N/A
The Oscar Goes to…: Claude Lanzmann: Spectre of the Shoah

Let’s get these no clue ones out of the way first.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: N/A
The Oscar Goes to…: Chau, beyond the lines

Best Documentary- Feature

Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

For the first time ever, I saw a movie nominated for Best Documentary! Amy was great, so I’m really pulling for it.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Amy
The Oscar Goes to…: Amy

Amy took home a BAFTA and I personally enjoyed it. Best of luck to it tonight.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Amy
The Oscar Goes to…: Amy

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Best Live Action Short Film

Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
Shok
Stutterer

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: N/A
The Oscar Goes to…: Stutterer

Religious themes are always powerful.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: N/A
The Oscar Goes to…: Ave Maria

Best Animated Short Film

Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Again, couldn’t really tell you much here.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: N/A
The Oscar Goes to…: World of Tomorrow

Who doesn’t like animals, I guess?

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: N/A
The Oscar Goes to…: Bear Story

Best Foreign Language Film

Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul
Theeb
A War

I think this is the last of the categories I have absolutely no clue about.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: N/A
The Oscar Goes to…: Son of Saul

The Academy and any Holocaust drama. We all know the relationship.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: N/A
The Oscar Goes to…: Son of Saul

Best Animated Feature

Anomalisa
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

I think I remember proclaiming “Pixar is back” after watching Inside Out. It was a charming, emotional adventure with an excellent story and great voice acting. It felt like vintage Pixar, though that was ruined until The Good Dinosaur came out… Regardless, Inside Out has the story and poignancy to be one of Pixar’s most memorable films, right up there with Toy Story and Up.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Inside Out
The Oscar Goes to…: Inside out

Pixar! Get your award polish out of wherever you’ve been keeping it since Cars 2! In all seriousness, Inside Out was a welcome return to form as it really showed off just how dynamic a single film with enough genuine care could be (I can only count on one hand which films have had friends crying and laughing within the same two hours and all of them are Pixar features). Well done, Pixar. More of this please.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Inside Out
The Oscar Goes to…: Inside Out

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Best Original Score

Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Admittedly, I have yet to see Quentin Tarantino’s Western epic but everything indicates that it will take home Best Original Score. John Williams’ return to Star Wars was epic, and definitely my favorite string of compositions just because of the novelty of the music and how it made me nostalgic, but I don’t anticipate it winning. Look for Ennio Morricone to take home the gold for The Hateful Eight.

Shoulda Been Here: Inside Out
I Would Vote For: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Oscar Goes to…: The Hateful Eight

I know the Academy is too high falutin for Star Wars but come on, there’s a universal appeal when those chords thunder and that title bursts on to the screen (It even earned applause in the theatre I was in). John Williams said that continuing the Star Wars score was like finishing up a letter to an old friend: he’s stepped right back into the universe and his return has been exultant as hell.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Oscar Goes to…: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

Best Original Song

“Earned It”, Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray”, Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3”, Youth
“Til It Happens To You”, The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s On The Wall”, Spectre

This is actually a very interesting category. The Weeknd and Sam Smith both have the big name songs, with “Earned It” and “Writing on the Wall” respectively, both of which definitely have a shot at winning because of the magnitude of their names and the popularity of the movies they were featured in. That being said, Lady Gaga’s song is the best one, and probably the one that will appeal to Oscar voters the most. Plus she’s Lady Gaga…

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Till it Happens to You
The Oscar Goes to…: Till it Happens to You

Wait, the Weeknd is up for something? That’s awesome! Too bad it came tethered to a terrible movie. Next year, buddy. Anyway, Gaga is always good at banging out her work from the heart (Say what you want about her work but at least you know it’s her work) and “Till it Happens to You” proves to be a powerful anthem on sexual assault and a deep coda to the messages of the documentary it came with.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: “Writing’s on the Wall”
The Oscar Goes to…: Till it Happens to You

Best Sound Editing

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant 
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I’ve finally figured out the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing! Editing is the creation of new sounds and Mixing is literally the mesh of all different kinds of sounds that the movie features. Ok… maybe I don’t actually know the difference. This one is a toss up between Mad Max and The Revenant, but I think the scale will tip in the favor of The Revenant. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mad Max gets it though.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: The Revenant
The Oscar Goes to…: The Revenant

I really never have a terrible amount of commentary on sound but I’ll do my best: I think Mad Max had a lot of chaos that was most likely tough to work around in the booth. However, it turned out to be a terrifically loud film. Anyways, sound is indeed usually a shot in the dark so Revenant may indeed bring it home but I do think Fury Road is the safer pick, if not for its own sheer volume.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Oscar Goes to…: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

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Best Sound Mixing

Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian
The Revenant 
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Sound Mixing only tends to split in years where there are movies based around music, like Whiplash last year, Les Miserables in 2012, and Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. Otherwise they are usually the same. Since I went with The Revenant for Sound Editing, I’m going to stick with it for Sound Mixing. But like I said before, I could easily see Mad Max running the table and winning both of them. 

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: The Revenant
The Oscar Goes to…: The Revenant

It’s okay, you can look up what sound mixing is. I’ll wait right here.

Got it? Good. Anyways Revenant is a well-oiled, lean machine and boy howdy does it make sure all of its sounds work in conjunction with one another. On top of that, Revenant took home several audio work awards in BAFTA a few weeks ago so I’m also really just going off that as well.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: The Revenant
The Oscar Goes to…: The Revenant

Best Production Design

Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Spoiler alert: all the design categories are going to go to Mad Max. The Production manager is the official who overlooks all aspects of set design, costume design, etc… Basically everything visual. What made Mad Max incredible was the beautiful design that created this post-apocalyptical universe. I could see this slipping to The Revenant, but I’m gonna stick with my guns here.

Shoulda Been Here: Spotlight
I Would Vote For: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Oscar Goes to…: Mad Max: Fury Road

Yeah, strap into your crazy, over the top vehicle because Fury Road’s got a good part of this show locked. If you were a total believer in totally exclusively marching forward with CGI and computerized special effects than damned if Mad Max didn’t show you the light: these set pieces are huge and ridiculous. I think the Academy will very well see we’ll probably never get a movie of Max’s scale for years.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Oscar Goes to…: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed out
the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

Shocker: Another tight race between The Revenant and Mad Max! While The Revenant does do a great job of transforming Leo, I think that Mad Max has this one in the bag. From the character of Immortan Joe to Nicholas Hoult, Fury Road’s makeup and hairstyling is easily the best this year.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Oscar Goes to…: Mad Max: Fury Road

Halfway through Fury Road, I leaned over to one of my friends and said “Man, you’ve got to respect the actors that caked that sh** on”. I meant it from the bottom of my heart but it’s also a deep compliment to those in charge of styling and makeup for the movie who (pretty obviously) trusted their actors and let their creativity run absolutely wild. The professional critic speaking to you did not even know that the female lead was Charlize Theron until halfway through. Yeah.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Oscar Goes to…: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Costume Design

Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

This is where it gets interesting. I know I said Mad Max would win all the design categories, but I’m just feeling an upset coming on. Legendary costume designer Sandy Powell was nominated for both Cinderella and Carol, and could actually win for either. Mad Max obviously has a great shot. I’m just feeling like The Danish Girl comes out of nowhere and surprises people on this one .

Shoulda Been Here: Bridge of Spies
I Would Vote For: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Oscar Goes to…: The Danish Girl

Yeah, Mad Max is pretty set for all these aesthetic categories and for good reason: it pours its energy into this slambang, upside universe that stands somewhere between Wacky Races, the original Max films and classic dystopian posturing. The creators of Fury Road recognized that environment is derived just as much from the look of its characters as it is from setting and ran from there. The results are beautiful.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Oscar Goes to…: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Film Editing

The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Whattaya know: another tight race between The Revenant and Mad Max. Mad Max’s furious pacing can be attributed to its excellent, skin tight editing, giving it a texture that is unique and interesting. The Revenant on the other hand is filled with long, stretched out shots that extend the depth of the film. I think Mad Max gets it, but again, it could easily go the other way.

Shoulda Been Here: Sicario
I Would Vote For: The Revenant
The Oscar Goes to…: Mad Max: Fury Road

This film’s insane. Insane is ridiculously hard to articulate into film. That is all.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Oscar Goes to…: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

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Best Visual Effects

Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I think this one is more of a race between Star Wars and Mad Max, rather than the latter and The Revenant. Star Wars is obviously a helluva work of art, with incredible visual effects. That being said, it is very likely that the Academy will give the award to a film like Mad Max, since it has more merit than an action film. With that said, I would be more than thrilled if Star Wars wins.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Oscar Goes to…: Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max is some of the best action I have seen on the big screen and will probably ever see. It’s an unabashedly big and bold film bolstered well by the fact that its special effects blend in well with its extremely well done practical ones. However, I believe those special effects are few and far between which actually penalizes it in this category which means I’m turning this one over to Abrams’s team which most likely leaned more on green screen and CGI pretty deftly (Especially coming off the heels of Lucas’s phoney, Pixar-esque animated world for the prequels.)..

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Oscar Goes to…: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Best Cinematography 

Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant 
Spotlight

Emmanuel Lubezki is an absolute beast. He is on track to win Best Cinematography for the third consecutive year, following up Gravity and Birdman with another incredible job in The Revenant. The prolonged nature of the shots in The Revenant extends the brutality of everything that happens to Glass, the most notable scene being the infamous bear mauling scene. Lubezki is incredible with the camera, single handedly making The Revenant one of the most visceral films that I’ve seen in awhile. Mad Max could take this, but I think it’s very unlikely. The only thing stopping Lubezki is the fact that he’s won this two straight years.

Shoulda Been Here: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I Would Vote For: The Revenant
The Oscar Goes to…: The Revenant

We’ll get more into the power of the extended shot when we get to the directing category but, for now, let me just pat cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki on the back for what is sure to be his hat trick. Lubezki was handed an even greater challenge this year as he had to work with more disorganized movement and brutal action (This is the Wild West after all.) yet he spun it into absolute gold, nailing action scenes without sacrificing the film’s fluent and slower pace. Unless the Academy somehow decides a triple is too much, Mr. Lubezki can sit tight for most of the evening.

Shoulda Been Here: N/A
I Would Vote For: The Revenant
The Oscar Goes to…: The Revenant

Best Writing-Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Spotlight 
Straight Outta Compton

Screenplay awards are actually very underrated in their importance. I think it says a lot about a film if it has the best writing in a single year, because it also means it’s got the best story, best characters, etc. I personally think Inside Out was the most creative film this year and if I were a part of the academy, would vote for it in a second, but Spotlight will definitely be the winner here. It has an intriguing story filled with rising tension and interesting characters. This might be the only award Spotlight takes home.

Shoulda Been Here: The Hateful Eight
I Would Vote For: Inside Out
The Oscar Goes to…: Spotlight

Spotlight is carefully crafted and professionally paced without losing some of the raw excitement and power of other films involving investigative journalists (Think All the President’s Men, which I believe Spotlight has surpassed). The characters are real and struggle with reconciling their day job with the morally hefty work it involves in a very balanced way that betrays Hollywood dramatics. Above all else, like any great story, it knows just when to start and just when to end to pack its punch and boy does it succeed.

(That Tarantino snub hurts. Poor guy. Poor crazy, crazy guy. Maybe the Academy’s a little wise to his act though.)

Shoulda Been Here: The Hateful Eight
I Would Vote For: Spotlight
The Oscar Goes to…: Spotlight

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Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room

I first have to acknowledge the atrocity that is the snub of Aaron Sorkin’s masterful adaptation of Steve Jobs. This was probably the best writing of the year, Adapted or Original, and would be by vote. But since that is obviously not an option, I think The Big Short has this in the bag. It is the most interestingly crafted story of the year, breaking the fourth wall and using a nonlinear structure to make it as cool as it is. The Big Short is very well done, making it the hands down favorite to win Best Adapted Screenplay.

Shoulda Been Here: Steve Jobs
I Would Vote For: The Big Short
The Oscar Goes to…: The Big Short

Do I have to even say on this damn blog one more time how important of an ability it is to make a heavy topic bite size and intriguing without compromising its weight? Big Short breezes through the causes of the recession without failing to justly lampoon the blind “too big to fail” shrugs of Wall St. and the unbridled, ugly avarice of those who prey on average albeit financially illiterate Americans. It’s a dark and scary message….but it’s funny as hell.

(Academy, where’s Aaron Sorkin? We all get a little tired of walking and talking and quick silver tongue wit but guys, come on.)

Shoulda Been Here: Steve Jobs
I Would Vote For: The Big Short
The Oscar Goes to…: The Big Short

 

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Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies 
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

This is one of the awards that I’ve got no clue on. I could see any of Hardy, Rylance, Ruffalo and Stallone winning, though after Stallone won the Golden Globes, the scale is slightly tipped in his favor. Everyone likes a good underdog, comeback story and Stallone provides just that. Personally, I loved Hardy the most for his turn as the villainous John Fitzgerald in The Revenant. I would also be pleased to see Ruffalo win, though I think this is more of a long shot. Stallone looks like the favorite, but it is not a lock by any stretch of the imagination. If Jacob Tremblay had been nominated here, then I really would have loved to see him take home the win since I legitimately feel that he was better than anyone else in this category. Unfortunately, that’s not happening.

Shoulda Been Here: Jacob Tremblay, Room
I Would Vote For: Tom Hardy
The Oscar Goes to…: Sylvester Stallone

For lack of a more eloquent phrase: oh geez. This is the tightest category there is. My mind tells me Tom but my soul tells me Stallone (I love both.). But of course, as they said in the Film & Criticism class I never attended, you always have to go with your heart which means I’ve got to pick Sly. And, really, that’s not just the fanboy in me speaking: Stallone did a helluva job slipping back into the character as an aged and worn fighter who has lost a little more than just his groove. Is half of my decision here based on the image of seeing Sly getting up on that stage one more time and getting handed the gold? Maybe, maybe but I wouldn’t be absolutely despondent if Hardy took it either. This could go plenty of ways.

Shoulda Been Here: Jacob Tremblay, Room
I Would Vote For: Sylvester Stallone
The Oscar Goes to…: Sylvester Stallone

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Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Don’t be confused by my statement that Alicia Vikander was snubbed but she is also going to win. I haven’t seen The Danish Girl, but it looks to be a two horse race between her and Winslet and I think Vikander will get it due to the Academy’s apparent disdain for Steve Jobs as a film in general. Winslet did win the Golden Globes, but everything since then points to Vikander. I personally think she should have been nominated for Ex Machina rather than The Danish Girl, but it’s ok if she wins either way. I have a feeling she’ll get some votes for having a great year either way. This is another race that I’m saying will go one way, but could easily go the other way. In other words, my predictions are far from being a sure thing. It’s a pretty crazy year.

Shoulda Been Here: Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
I Would Vote For: Kate Winslet
The Oscar Goes to…: Alicia Vikander

Behind every great narcissist master of the universe is a woman, right? Of course. Well, Winslet laid out a powerhouse performance as headstrong Joanna Hoffman, a key commander of the fledgling Apple and NeXT launches and an assistant and designated “work wife” to Jobs himself. Who else to bounce between professional and family squabbles with Fassbender’s Steve than this patient yet powerful portrait on Winslet’s part? Winslet does a terrific job acting as Jobs’ conscience/part-time mom and almost a voice of the audience against his corrosive attitude.

On top of that, not for nothing but the Eastern European accent doesn’t seem manufactured at all. (I don’t know I think doing a dialect is underratedly tricky and it deserved some recognition).

Shoulda Been Here: Helen Mirren, Trumbo
I Would Vote For: Kate Winslet
The Oscar Goes to…: Kate Winslet

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

The two leading actor categories are probably the only two categories with clear cut winners this year, maybe with Best Animated Feature. Leonardo DiCaprio is the hands down favorite to finally get the Oscar that has alluded him for a long time. He has lost four times and been snubbed countless more times, so this is well deserved. If anyone has a chance to beat him, it’s Michael Fassbender, who I actually thought would win immediately following my viewing of the film, but don’t expect that to happen. His determination to get that Oscar is evident, though that’s probably because he literally eats bison liver… This role put him to the test, physically and mentally, and he was up for the challenge. For perhaps his finest performance to date, expect Leo to win Best Lead Actor and get a standing ovation for it.

Shoulda Been Here: Johnny Depp, Black Mass
I Would Vote For: Leonardo DiCaprio
The Oscar Goes to…: Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo, it’s time.

I honestly thought I’d be dead before it would happen. Leo winning the Oscar always seemed like the idea of a cure for cancer, the end of mass starvation or the invention of the flying car: it was the stuff of fanciful dreams for the future. But it appears God is a DiCaprio fan because he has given him one more big swing at the Academy and all signs are pointing to a home run. The Oscarless actor has swept all awards for his performance in The Revenant and do I dare find it a little darkly comedic that, after a series of well-crafted, well-researched performances on his part, it’s the grunt-y, blink-y one that gets the gold? Absolutely.

(As an aside, I just want to say that I really wish Fassbender hadn’t picked this year to dole out the Jobs performance he did. Some other time, buddy. You’ll get them.)

Shoulda Been Here: Johnny Depp, Black Mass
I Would Vote For: Leonardo DiCaprio
The Oscar Goes to…: Leonardo DiCaprio

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Ramping, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Like I said, the two leading acting categories are essentially set in stone, with 26 year old Brie Larson looking like the favorite for Best Actress. This one is a little closer, as Saoirse Ronan’s performance in Brooklyn was also very impressive, but in the end all she is is a very, very dark horse. She delivered one of the most powerful performances of the year as ‘Ma’, a woman kidnapped and trapped in a room with her young son. She shows maturity beyond her years and is inspiring from beginning to end. The category this year was a bit of a mess, with Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander sneaking into the supporting actress category, but regardless, Larson is the clear winner for her heartbreaking performance in Room.

Shoulda Been Here: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
I Would Vote For: Brie Larson
The Oscar Goes to…: Brie Larson

Yeah, Brie Larson seems to be the favorite (Snagging a Golden Globe and conquering BAFTAs, the Oscars’ weird foreign cousin.) and it’s not hard to see why: Larson handles a relationship-driven film pretty spectacularly. She simultaneously captures the raw stress of being captive but also well exhibits the basic issues of motherhood while attempting to preserve your child’s well being through a hardship. Could she face a challenge from Ronan? Maybe but Larson did have get to flex her ability to be dynamic more, navigating some more heavy-hitting scenes.

Shoulda Been Here: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
I Would Vote For: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
The Oscar Goes to…: Brie Larson

'Room' is a journey out of darkness, director says

Best Director

Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant 
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

If you thought I was mad about Sorkin, then you don’t want to know how I feel about Ridley Scott not being nominated for Best Director. He clearly did a better job with the space odyssey that is The Martian than Lenny Abrahamson. Shame. As for the winner, I think this will be one of the tighter races of the night. Alejandro Inarritu seems like a very good pick to win, but he did win last year, and George Miller did an incredible job in making Mad Max the well rounded, ace of a film that it was. I think Inarritu will win in the end, because The Revenant was ultimately better than Mad Max and a more impressive film artistically. The Revenant is a favorite across the board, Best Director included. Miller is a sleeper, but I could definitely see him winning.

Shoulda Been Here: Ridley Scott
I Would Vote For: George Miller
The Oscar Goes to…: Alejandro G. Inarritu

I’ve always been enamored with lingering, slow shots that take their time with the world at hand. To me, they just instantly involve the audience. Well, I was a sucker for Birdman last year and the lengthy takes work even better here amidst the tumult of The Revenant. Long shots help to introduce the vicious environment the characters are combatting (If you want your heart to hammer a little, see the amazing opening scene of the movie at least) but also quietly build a certain apprehension and anxiety. It takes talent to make a grey, snowy forest seem absolutely awake and hellish instead of drab and, of course, we should all give a little respect to how exhausting the logistics of the filming process was (Also, Mr. Inarritu doesn’t do half bad with an action scene either.).

Shoulda Been Here: Ridley Scott
I Would Vote For: Alejandro G. Inarritu
The Oscar Goes to…: Alejandro G. Inarritu

Best Picture

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

And here we are, the most important award of the night. I had never witnessed a battle as close as the Birdman-Boyhood battle last year, but this year is definitely more exciting than that. A three horse race between Spotlight, The Revenant, and The Big Short, I could see any of these films winning. Spotlight was my personal favorite, but it has lost steam since it first came out and is following Boyhood’s downward trajectory. The Revenant won Best Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, but the GGs are not necessarily reliable because Birdman actually lost last year. The Big Short won the Producer’s Guild Award for Best Picture– which has correctly predicted the Best Picture winner for the past nine years (save for a tie between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave)– which means it has a shot as well. Ultimately, I’m going to go with The Revenant because it was the most ambitious film and seems like a favorite across the board. That being said, I would not be surprised or upset at any of the three winning. A lot of the categories this year are tight, which is why it is appropriate that Best Picture might just be the closest of them all.

Shoulda Been Here: Steve Jobs
I Would Vote For: Spotlight
The Oscar Goes to…: The Revenant
~Vig

To me, the Best Picture winner has to command surprise from the viewer above all else. It has to be such an overall feat of production that it renews that sense of wonder and thought to the moviegoing experience (It should make you ask “My God, how’d they even do/think of that?” more than few times.). Moreover, it should it be a film crafted so well that it warranted the visual medium; to tell it using any other way would corrupt the story itself. Well, this year, the champion by those metrics is The Revenant, a piece that surges to new heights of absorption and intensity. Think of all the moving parts to its success: absolutely every element of production massively contributes to its living and breathing world. A true Best Picture demands that all its cogs mesh together in perfect synergy and damned if Revenant doesn’t fit the bill. Congrats, Alejandro. I truly hope there’s space on your awards shelf.

Shoulda Been Here: Steve Jobs
I Would Vote For: The Big Short (I loved it, sorry.)
The Oscar Goes to…: The Revenant
~Zach

2016 Oscar Contest!

Hi viewers! For the second year, we are giving you an opportunity to win a prize! Send in your predictions for the following categories to screenwars@gmail.com by Sunday at 4:00. The person with the most correct answers will receive THREE bonus tickets to any Bow Ties Cinema.

Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Original Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Animated Feature
Best Cinematography
Best Costume Design
Best Foreign Language Film

Tiebreaker: Length of Chris Rock’s Monologue

Click here for a  full list of nominees:

Good luck!

Creed

Though we’re done with the Best Picture nominated films, we’re going to take a look at the Rocky-sequel Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, the latter of which is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. It is rated PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality.

From IMDB: Adonis Johnson is the son of the famous boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died in a boxing match in Rocky IV. Adonis wasn’t born until after his father’s death and wants to follow his fathers footsteps in boxing. He seeks a mentor who is the former heavyweight boxing champion and former friend of Apollo Creed, the retired Rocky Balboa. Rocky eventually agrees to mentor Adonis. With Rocky’s help they hope to get a title job to face even deadlier opponents than his father.

9.5 out of 10

The first time my dad showed me the original Rocky from 1976, I didn’t quite understand why it was so iconic in film history. I had seen all of the same plot points in other sports movies I had watched, though they had came after Rocky, and didn’t think there was enough boxing in the actual movie. It took me a few years after I had seen it to realize that the movie took the subject of boxing to tell a grounded, realistic love story. But then the sequels went to ridiculous points from Rocky fighting Mr. T to singlehandedly ending the Cold War and although that can be fun, I can say with much confidence that Creed brings back what makes the original movie great.

creed 3

When I first heard that they were making a Rocky spinoff movie, I completely dismissed it as an unnecessary cash grab of a property that had once been great. But my interest initiated then I heard that the director of Fruitvale Station (great film to check out if you haven’t) Ryan Coogler as well as the main actor in that film, Michael B. Jordan, signed on to the project. In Creed, Jordan plays Adonis Creed, the son of Apollo Creed, who fought Rocky in the original film but the two went on to be friends until he died fighting in the ring. Adonis, without a father, bounces around Juvenile prison and gets into other mayhem around Philadelphia until he finds his father’s passion for boxing, so much so that he gets an older Rocky, played again by Sylvester Stallone, to train him.

The directing is a standout in its brilliance. Coogler was able to take bits and pieces from the franchise to make it feel like a Rocky film but not hit you over the head with it to make it original in its own right. The most incredible moment I find from the film involves a boxing match in the middle of the film that is all shown through one shot. This reimagining of a sequence that we have seen executed so many times is incredibly impressive considering he choreography that must have been done to be able to weave the camera around the boxers.

creed 1

As well as the excellent direction, the acting is what makes you feel connected to the story. Jordan is great in portraying Adonis’ inner that he slowly translates onto the boxing. Also, the actress who plays Adonis’ love interest, Tessa Thompson, is very good and the two create a genuine relationship where each relies on the other for support. But Stallone really steals the show not by playing the grizzled veteran, but coming off as sensible and kind hearted. Every time he appears on the screen, the audience either wants to laugh, smile, or cry.

These three along with Coogler are able to transcend the story beyond boxing to be more about the relationship between the protagonist and their arcs. It brings all the same emotional pull that the original does, but in a new way.

Flaws are hard to come by in this movie, but if I were to nitpick I would say that sometimes the movie relies a bit on boxing movie cliques with the training montages and how the final fight is set up.

But a film that can cause an entire crowd to scream out in joy when the Rocky theme is teased for a couple of seconds, is a success.
~Seth

9.5 out of 10

Filmgoing sportos, which do you like better: a comeback story or an underdog one? Lucky for you, Creed boasts such a dynamic duo that you don’t even have to choose. Yes, Sly’s latest feature is a nice little reunion/reboot combo that gives fans the best of both worlds.

If you’re looking for a rightful descendent of the old Rocky films, you better believe it’s here. Creed fits neatly in with the whole saga as it acknowledges the canon, picks up right where we left off and drops a few tasteful tidbits of nostalgia (Just the right serving, I promise.). Heck, even some of the franchise’s goofier moments aren’t forgotten here and the jabs at them are brief but welcome.

But if you’re the one guy who hasn’t experienced classic Rocky, this film is still damn entertaining. The choice to focus on newbie Michael B. Jordan’s character over the Rocky everyone knows and loves was a bolder one (Heck, listen to it. It sounds like a typical Hollywood cash-in spinoff begging to spin out the series.) but it paid off quite well: our new lead Creed and the team in his corner (A host of characters who are all granted dimension beyond being a set of cheerleaders) prove to be exceedingly engaging enough to court any viewer, well acquainted with the previous films or not.

creed 2

Which brings us to the Stallone/Jordan team-up that drives the feature: it’s a sublime passing of the torch. Stallone isn’t merely talking with the camera on or trying desperately to slip back into old Rocky form, he knows the character’s changed and he’s changed right with him, deftly demonstrating the Italian Stallion’s descent into illness and old age without sacrificing his lovable tough guy attitude. Jordan, in turn, holds his own with Academy Award hopeful, delivering his own great grit. Are there some typical, somewhat cliche partner push-pull moments that you can tell the direction of pretty easily? Yes, but the chemistry is more than enough to carry you through.

Perhaps the real guiding star of the movie though is director Ryan Coogler who crafts some marvelously paced fights. It takes especial talent in shooting and editing to make a rapid sport like boxing seem deliberate and demanding of tact shot for shot yet Coogler gets the job done as he lays out what very well could be the Rocky series’ jaw dropping slugfests (They’re so good they’ll make you feel even worse that you actually paid for Mayweather-Pacquiao that one time). The climax in particular used bursts of action and slowmo breathers so well it demanded a few gasps from the audience I saw it with.

creed 4

Creed stands among the best installments of the franchise (Objectively and technically in fact, it’s probably the best Rocky film to date.) and leaves things nicely open-ended as it could very well be a stepping stone to a spin-off (Which I’d oddly welcome after seeing all this renewed story.) or a knockout closer to a series that has certainly had its ups and downs. Will Sly get some good news come the 28th? Maybe. Let’s put American flag shorts on Tom Hardy and call him Apollo until then.
~Zach

 

Thoughts on… Oscar Nominations 2016

Nominations for the 2016 Academy Awards were released this morning, which, per usual, came with snubs, controversies, and surprises. Here are our thoughts on this year’s Oscar noms.

Best Picture is Wide Open

For the first time in a few years, there are no clear cut favorites for Best Picture. Last year, we had Birdman and Boyhood, the year before that 12 Years a Slave, and earlier we had the juggernaut The Artist. Spotlight seemed to be the favorite a few weeks ago, but The Revenant’s surprise win at the Golden Globes made the race much murkier. Could The Big Short pull the upset? Aside from Spotlight, it’s the only one nominated for Best Ensemble at the SAGs, which has been a virtual requisite for Oscar Best Picture winners of late. Also here is The Martian, Bridge of Spies, Mad Max, Room, and Brooklyn. Noticeably not here is Carol, the top entry from Harvey Weinstein, who goes without a nominee for the first time in a decade.

Best Actor and Best Actress Aren’t

While Best Picture remains a question mark, the lead actor awards appear to be relatively decided already, a month out from the Oscar ceremony. Leonardo DiCaprio is the heavy favorite for his role in The Revenant, despite having a very limited number of lines. Eddie Redmayne, last year’s Oscar winner, is also nominated for The Danish Girl and Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs. Room’s Brie Larson looks like a lock for Best Actress, although she’s joined by Academy darlings and potential spoilers Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence.

#OscarsSoWhite Resurfaces

Once again, the acting nominees lack diversity. Last year, people criticized the Academy for failing to recognize Selma in many major categories, and this year, it’s Straight Outta Compton. Many, myself included, thought Idris Elba would snag a nomination for supporting acting for his role in Beasts of No Nation, a Netflix original movie.

Sylvester Stallone Nominated as Rocky Over 25 Years Later

Stallone was nominated for Best Actor for his starring role in 1976’s sports drama and Best Picture winner Rocky, although he failed to win the statue. He is one of only five actors to be nominated for the same role twice, and he looks like the favorite to win this year following his win for Creed at the Golden Globes.

Star Wars Has Triumphant Return to the Oscars

The well-received recent entry in the Star Wars franchise has been well reviewed (although I personally disliked it) and the Academy has responded with five nominations, although all in technical and special effects categories. It was a long shot for Best Picture, although some thought it had a chance. Inside Out also mixed out. I think the Academy should have made room for it with those two potential extra Best Picture nominee slots.

And the Award for Biggest Snub Goes To:

Not Aaron Sorkin, who was snubbed in Adapted Screenplay for Steve Jobs, and not Carol, which was omitted from Best Picture contention, but Ridley Scott, who wasn’t nominated for his direction of The Martian. Many had him pegged as the likely winner, but he was cut out in favor of Room director Lenny Abrahamson.

Screenwars Abroad with Nic

What’s up, what’s up, Nic checking in once more. I know I haven’t been posting as regularly as I once did but senior fall/college apps really got to me. However, once you see what I have in store for you loyal readers today I promise all will be forgiven. As my bio states, I am a man of a fair few nations and recently I had the opportunity to visit not one, not three but TWO of those nations! What I bring to you today is a traveler’s report of sorts, a journal of my film-related experience and, as always on Screenwars, a dollop of review.

toronto.lpg

My first experience came during a recent visit to the true home of Drake, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Crystal Castles and yours truly. I saw The Martian, which I seriously enjoyed for its light-hearted yet worthy portrayal of a beloved book. Matt Damon certainly deserves kudos for his performance in a movie that despite solid performances from the overall cast occasionally feels like a one-man show, albeit a thoroughly enjoyable one. I won’t say too much more as the film has already been adeptly reviewed on this very site and besides I think everyone should enjoy it for themselves. What I will say some words about, however, was the theater in which I had the pleasure of watching the film. The Scotiabank Theater in downtown Toronto is absolutely massive in every way. It houses approximately 5,000 people, the screens are massive and, perhaps most importantly, the selection of concessions is immense.

the martian bring him home

Now you might think attending such a big theater would make you feel like just another sheep being herded in for its weekly dose of entertainment. In fact, I felt almost the exact opposite. There was some magic in gathering with so many diverse people on a Saturday night, united in our common enjoyment of the movie. Ironically, just earlier that day someone had described the big lectures they attend at university as like going into a movie theater in how you totally forget the rest of the audience’s presence. During The Martian, I was clearly aware of the audience’s presence in the very best way and walking out into the Arctic wind swept Toronto streets I felt extremely connected to everyone I had just spent two and a half hours with and, in a way, intensely human. You should try it. (I also felt intensely cold having not packed a proper coat but that’s not as romantic)*

bridge of spies

My second unique film experience came a week later over in my other homeland Great Britain. Bridge of Spies was a long experience (which as you will see was not such a bad thing in this particular case), but it merited its length with suspense until the end and some intelligently nuanced performances from big man Hanks et al. Another reason that I was absolutely not complaining about the length of the film was the theater I had the pleasure of viewing it in. The Electric Cinema in London provides true luxury theater experience, cashmere blankets and all. In stark contrast to the Scotiabank, it only houses about 80 pampered viewers but everyone sits in divinely soft armchairs, covered by the aforementioned blankets and with legs up on a very comfortable leather footrest. There is also a proper bar and pick’n’mix selection to match that considerately closes as the film begins. There are also beds to sprawl out on in the front and, if you like a serving of spice with your cinema, intimate sofas for two in the back. These are curiously rather more expensive than even the beds right at the front. My only major criticism of the film was that having eaten dinner before the film I was quite full and didn’t appreciate Spielberg shoving the whole America is so cool and light and free, Berlin is so depressing spiel (get it) down my throat at some points.

On the whole, two good films and two great theaters.

Until next time,

NTG

*Full disclaimer: I did go see shows at this theater a lot when I visited Toronto in my younger and wilder days and that could have easily had a Proustian influence on my enjoyment of the experience. I would still heartily recommend it though.

10/19 Quick Post

Hi everyone! This week we’ll have three more quick updates, this time by our friend Seth. Enjoy his take on Sicario and The Walk. Again, we may be reviewing these films with full length reviews in the near future, so stay tuned!

 sicario

Sicario
9.0 out of 10

Sicario had been on my radar for a little bit with star power such as Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin starring in it as well as the director of Prisoners and Enemy, Denis Villeneuve, helming the flick. The film takes place in the escalating war against drugs on the border between U.S. and Mexico where Emily Blunt’s character, Kate Macer, is an FBI agent elected to government task force, and slowly becomes slowly entrenched in the mayhem.  And Sicario is pretty brilliant.

The story is the weakest part of the film, with nothing really incredible in terms of its storytelling of the drug trade protruding, especially if you have seen Breaking Bad with its use of the cartel. But the film’s excellence is in its execution of a middling story. Villeneuve creates a slow burn throughout, leading to some pretty suspenseful scenes, paired with the cinematography of Roger Deakins who is a favorite mine, to set up a technically beautiful film.  The long, slow shots of the desert or of the task force vehicle driving may seem unnecessary, but is all used to set up the dirty, grungy tone of the film. Paired with the film’s physical beauty, the performances of Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro are some of the best this year, with the viewer feeling for the innocence of Blunt’s character and interested in the dark past of Del Toro’s character.

I would strongly recommend seeing Sicario, but not without the understanding that it is much more of a character driven, art piece than a straight up thriller like it has been marketed as. Very few films today are made with such precise care and intelligence.

the walk

The Walk
7.0 out of 10

I was skeptical when I heard about The Walk, the incredible true story of Phillippe Petit, a Frenchman who walked across the Twin Towers in the 1970s on a tightrope, because of how great the documentary about the story was in Man On Wire, so didn’t feel it was necessary to make another retelling And while this version doesn’t have the surprising emotional punch that the documentary had, it did showcase the scale of his feat. With Robert Zemeckis, the director of the Back to The Future trilogy, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away, helming the film, it has some pretty awesome visuals and camerawork, especially the walk on the wire itself. I saw it in IMAX 3D, and even though I know the result because of seeing the documentary, my palms were sweaty and eyes hurt to keep watching as he took each step out on the wire. Also the heist element in the second act leading up to the walk was also very well done as you felt the suspense of the whole operation as Petit had many associates to get him on the top floor of the towers and string a wire between them.

Yet what didn’t work for me was the part before the actual day and the characters themselves. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Petit, and although he is trying his best to bring wonder and interest into his role, it seems odd to see a guy who you usually see speaking in an American accent still speaking English, but in a French accent as well as his odd voicovers on the Statue of Liberty that tried to force you to feel one way, which is never good. It would have made more sense to have casted an actual French actor in the rol. Also while some depth his given to his character, the rest are simply caricatures and stereotypes whether they were French and American, despite the good acting talent.

Yet despite the hokey nature of the first act and poor characters, The Walk’s finale is suspenseful enough to go see it in the biggest screen possible, and then go home and watch the documentary as well.