Currently browsing the "Oscar Isaac" tag.

Spoiler-free Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Chances are, if you’re reading this review (and I use the term loosely), you’ve already seen The Rise of Skywalker (so now it’s okay to look), you couldn’t care less about the film and are looking for validation, you trust that I won’t give anything away because you’ve read enough of my stuff to know better, or, you’re somewhat curious if you should see the movie, at least eventually. To the first group I say, “Hope you enjoyed it. How ‘bout that ending?!” To the second group, I say, “You probably haven’t seen a Star Wars movie since 1977 (if at all) and that’s okay. No need to start with this one.” To the third group, “I couldn’t spoil it if I wanted to; I’m just a casual fan, familiar with the broad strokes of the epic saga but not obsessed with the minutiae; and to the fourth group, here’s the deal: “If you saw Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi then you should definitely see The Rise of Skywalker (aka Episode IX), for closure.

Review: Life Itself

Don’t let the trailer fool you. Life Itself is not This Is Us. Yes, it is a multi-generational family drama written and directed by This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, and yes, you will need tissues. But even Fogelman will tell/warn you that Life Itself is darker and heavier than his serial television weep-fest. It’s a melodramatic soap opera of a film that tells the story of two families – in New York and Spain – whose lives are connected by tragedy. It’s heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting even as it seeks to manipulate our emotions with a heavy-handed theme that ‘Life’ is an unreliable narrator of our story. The film is broken up into “chapters” to drive the point home.

Quickie Reviews: Annihilation; Game Night; The Party

Annihilation is interesting and weird, slow and methodical, and dare I say, bordering on boring. Hyper-sensitive fans of the film may ream me for not fully grasping or appreciating the deeper meaning, the metaphors, the beauty in the bizarre, yadda yadda yadda. But that’s okay. I didn’t love Arrival either. Annihilation is a cerebral sci-fi horror flick from Alex Garland (Ex Machina) based on the “Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff VanderMeer. If you’ve read the books, you’re probably ahead of the game and more likely than most to love this movie. Here’s the gist: Natalie Portman plays Lena, an Army veteran and cellular biologist whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) was believed killed in action during a secret military mission. He reappears a year later, extremely ill, with no memory of what happened. Government agents nab the newly-reunited couple and take them to “Area X”, an unspecified locale that borders a mysterious “Shimmer” that’s been expanding along the U.S. coastline.

Spoiler-free review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Don’t worry Star Wars junkies. You’ll love The Last Jedi. Problem is, I’m not a Star Wars junkie – I’m just a casual fan – so (gasp!), I wasn’t as blown away by “Episode VIII” as the somewhat Comic-Con-obsessed crowd that I saw it with. Not that I didn’t enjoy most of my two-and-a-half hour visit to a galaxy far, far away. I just happened to like 2015’s nostalgia-fueled The Force Awakens a bit more. The Last Jedi picks up right where that one left off. The franchise’s young new heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds herself on a distant planet, face to face with the elusive Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). She’s there to return his light saber, get some Jedi training, and convince him to rejoin the Resistance led by his sister, Princess/General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher). You know the rest. I’m just kidding. You don’t, unless you’ve seen the film or read the spoilers. I’m not enough of an expert to know what constitutes a spoiler, so I’ll just err on the side of caution and keep it brief.

Review: Suburbicon

Clooney. Damon. Moore. The Coen Brothers. Sounds like a slam-dunk, no? Well, not quite. George Clooney’s Suburbicon is entertaining, to be sure, but ultimately it can’t quite seem to decide what it’s trying to say. Set in a 1950s perfectly planned suburb, Matt Damon plays Gardner Lodge, father of adorable preteen Nicky (Noah Jupe, The Night Manager) and husband to invalid wife Rose (Julianne Moore, Still Alice) whose twin sister Margaret is a regular guest in the house. The peace of their idyllic neighborhood is broken suddenly by two unconnected incidents: A violent home invasion at the Lodge’s house and the arrival of the subdivision’s first black family who move in right next door. You would expect that these two things might somehow intersect eventually. You’d be mistaken.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Oh my, such anticipation! Is it worth it? The answer is a resounding, yet somewhat surprising ‘yes’ given my lack of fandom obsession. I’m sorry, I can’t really tell you why it works. The less you know going into this movie, the better. No spoilers here, I promise! In fact, I will speak (or write) in broad generalities because if you already have your tickets, are planning to see it in the days or weeks ahead, or might be still be on the fence, here’s all you need to know as you contemplate transport back in time, to a galaxy far, far away:

Ex Machina

In his directorial debut Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, has served up an intriguing minimalist sci-fi thriller that is more about what isn’t onscreen than what is. It’s a very simple story about an evil genius’s quest to design a sentient robot and the pawns he uses in the perfection of his plan. The cast of three (Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac) spends most of the film sequestered away in a remote house/research facility and the audience spends most of its time wondering if things can possibly end well, as layer upon layer of artifice is stripped away.

A Most Violent Year

Writer/director J. C. Chandor knows how to keep an audience glued to their seats. With his first film, Margin Call, he had us wondering until the final scene whether a Wall Street firm would crash and burn. And in his second, All is Lost, he was able to make a man all alone in a life raft compelling for nearly two hours. With his third film, A Most Violent Year, he has found another story that would not seem to be terribly interesting and found the tension that forces the audience to care. Set in 1981 in the heating oil trade, it is the tale of a good guy trying to keep his integrity when everything is set against him. Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) plays the central character Abel Morales, an immigrant made good who is doing everything he can to build a business and take care of his family, but it is the most violent year in modern New York City history and you’re not sure if he can make it.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis is one of those indie films that you either love – or don’t. I wanted to. But I didn’t. Fans of folk music and the Coen Brothers will surely appreciate the film’s soundtrack and gritty portrayal of a week in the life of a young folk singer in Greenwich Village in 1961. But others may find it kind of slow and depressing.