1. Victor Frankenstein - Even with all of the reviews that ranged from mediocre to bad, I still had faith that this movie would succeed in entertaining me. I've never really watched any of the Frankenstein movies; obviously I know the story, but I've never watched it all play out. It's a great story, with a strong message of the importance and the history of the "mad scientist". It was just all a bit dull. The actors gave it there all, and there are few really strong scenes, but it's just not very memorable or entertaining. I love James McAvoy, and he was definitely the best part of the movie (and of all movies that he's in). He has a great camaraderie with Daniel Radcliffe, who is definitely growing into his own and becoming an acceptable actor (if only he was as good during the Harry Potter movies, maybe I wouldn't have hated them so much). There's just really not much to say about this movie, and that's where the problem lies. It ends with a really fun scene, but I wish the rest of the movie was as fun.
2. The Danish Girl - I know a lot of people found the casting of this movie problematic, but I think having a movie with this subject matter, is at the very least, a step in the right direction. Right now, transgender stories and transgender rights are a "hot topic" (please, excuse the flippant term, but I can't seem to find the right term) at the moment, but I appreciate a story that focuses on a transgender person who lived a century ago. It proves that this isn't something new, but people are more vocal about it, and eventually it will be seen as "normal" (whatever that means). As Einar (Eddie Redmayne) explores life as female, she is told that she is insane and delusional and that her partner Gerda (Alicia Vikander) is only hurting her by supporting her. Instead of backing down, they persist, Einar undergoes the first gender reassignment surgery. I looked up to see if this was based on true characters, but it's fiction. The first gender reassignment surgeries were performed in the 50s, this film took place in the 20s, but that doesn't mean they didn't happen. They probably happened exactly as this story explores - as an extremely dangerous surgery, that was not sanctioned by any hospital and most likely led to death, and was therefore not reported about. Alicia Vikander is the stronger actor in this movie; and it definitely is a lead performance not a supporting (how did they get away with that?). I don't think Redmayne's casting is necessarily problematic, but his performance definitely is. Smiling coyly does not make one feminine. And, while the history of this fictional love story is interesting, the idea that one is "feminine" when they smile a lot, gaze at their own appearance in the mirror constantly, and flirt with boys is disgustingly reductive.
3. The Revenant - I was really excited about this movie when I first saw the trailer, and then literally every person I know told me that it's awful, and I read a bunch of negative criticism, I kept putting off watching it. I don't know what's wrong with everyone, but I think it's excellent. If you read this blog, then you already know that I'm a big fan of Alejandro G. Inarritu. He made two of my favorite movies, 21 Grams and Amores Perros. While Babel and Birdman aren't among my favorites, they are both still incredibly beautiful, well-made movies. Do I think they should have won awards? Well, no, but that doesn't mean they deserve some of the criticism they've received. What I appreciate about this movie, is that I feel like it's the first time that Inarritu might have listened to some of this criticism (which is noble) and he did something that I'm sure was out of his comfort zone - he made a simple movie. The Revenant, in all of it's gore and violence, is a simple revenge tale - it's good vs evil, man vs nature, storytelling at it's finest. While I still think Jacob Tremblay gave the best performance last year, Leo definitely deserved an Oscar for this performance (and many past performances). The supporting cast is incredible as well - Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, all truly quiet, but solid performances.
4. Hush - *slight spoilers ahead* I think the horror genre is the hardest for me to enjoy lately. I expect to be terrified, and I am always disappointing. This type of horror movie is definitely more terrifying for me than others (like supernatural horror movies), but I guess it doesn't really do anything new enough to give me nightmares (FYI, movies that gave me nightmares: Halloween, Scream 1, 2, & 3, Sleeping with the Enemy, When a Stranger Calls (original), Firestarter, Straw Dogs, just to name a few). This movie is extremely referential of past horror movies, with a few tweaks and updated technology. However, just because I wasn't scared, doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. It is a very sleek, well-made, fast-paced, horror movie. My biggest criticism is the foreshadowing - I mean, it was blatant right from the very beginning - the cork screw being left on the table, the phone sliding into her neighbors back pocket. The shots just lingered a little too long. My other, more minor, criticism is that there are many times that she could have saved herself (as a woman, her first instinct would be to dial 911 and she just waits waaaaay too long. There are several times in the movie, where she does exactly what I would do....just a few minutes too late. I get that some people's brains don't work in emergency situations, but mine does. I am so alert during emergencies, but the aftermath leaves me a bumbling mess. Anyway, she also should have jumped in and helped her neighbor when he attempted to fight. Two against one, would have won.). Also, there are many things that just don't make sense - For one, why did he leave her house when he was already inside? And wouldn't she have had some sort of automatic 911 call attached to her fire alarm? Considering that she is deaf - she has it set up so that it lights up as well, but I think a woman in her situation would take more precautions. The deaf aspect is certainly interesting - it would be hard to be silent, if you don't know what makes noises, like, what if she stepped on a floor board that creaked? The sound design definitely enhanced the terror that she would be feeling. Kate Siegel is wonderful in the role; I actually looked up whether she was really deaf because she seemed so natural with sign language and using her facial expressions to show fear. John Gallagher Jr. is just as wonderful as a low-life psychopath. Overall, I definitely recommend this movie and if you scare easily, then double-check to make sure your doors are locked before you press play (actually, do that anyway!).
5. Jane Got a Gun - I don't know why or how, but for some reason, I was under the impression that Natalie Portman directed this movie??? She did not; she has a producer's credit but so do most A-list actors nowadays (because SMART). I always thought that film journalists made a big deal out of this movie (for what seems like years) because it was Portman's directorial debut and a Western seemed like an odd genre for her to dip her feet into. So, I guess the importance of this movie is that it is a Western, but it is a female story, which is definitely unheard of. Females are usually relegated to very small, but mostly important, roles. This female role still relies on a man to save her and ends in a love story, so I question what the fucking point of it all was, but it does have it's moments. I love Natalie Portman, but she didn't fulfill the intensity of this role at all. I felt like she slept-walked through it. The rest of the cast is good - Noah Emmerich, Joel Edgerton, and HOLY SHIT THAT WAS EWAN MCGREGOR?! How did I not even recognize him until the end of the movie?? The plot felt a little Home Alone-y. She even says "if they come to my house, I'm gonna protect it". I started to get a little confused with the past and present timelines, and it got a bit boring about 45 minutes in. But I definitely did not expect that twist at the end - I wasn't even expecting a twist, so I was a bit blind-sided. Then, just when I thought "ok, that was a decent movie", it ended the sappiest way possible - *spoiler* they literally rode off into the sunset. Fuck off.