Film Review: Red Sparrow (dir by Francis Lawrence)


God, this film was a mess.

Red Sparrow is a spy thriller that features a lot of spies but not many thrills.  Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika Ergova, a Russian ballerina whose career with the Bolshoi is ended when another dancer drops her on stage.  Fortunately, Dominka’s sleazy uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) has a new career in mind!  Maybe Dominka could be a sparrow, a spy who seduces the enemy!  Just in case Dominka doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life seducing westerners, Ivan arranges for her to witness a murder and then informs her that she’ll be eliminated as a witness unless she does what he tells her.  This, of course, leads to Dominkia attending State School 4, where she is schooled in the arts of seduction by Matron (Charlotte Rampling).  Upon graduation, Dominka is sent to Budapest, where she falls in love with a CIA agent named Nash (Joel Edgerton) and a lot of predictable spy stuff happens.  Despite all of the sex and violence, it’s just not much fun.

Red Sparrow has all the ingredients to be an enjoyably trashy 90-minute spy flick but instead, it’s a slowly paced, 140-minute slog that just seems to go on forever.  Throughout the film, director Francis Lawrence (no relation to the film’s star) struggles to maintain a steady pace.  Too much time is spent on Dominka’s life before she suffers the injury that should have opened the film.  Meanwhile, the only interesting part of the film — Dominka’s education at State School 4 — goes by far too quickly and, despite the fact that she was giving one of the few interesting performances in Red Sparrow, Charlotte Rampling vanishes from the film early on.  Once Dominkia gets to Budapest, the film really slow down to a crawl.  Joel Edgerton’s a good actor and an even better director but he gives an overly grim and serious performance in Red Sparrow and he and Jennifer Lawrence have next to no romantic chemistry.

(That lack of romantic chemistry petty much dooms the final forty minutes of the film.  It’s easy to imagine a much better version of Red Sparrow in which Bradley Cooper played the role of Nash.  True, that would have been like the 100th time that Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence starred opposite each other but why not?  It worked for William Powell and Myrna Loy.)

As for Jennifer Lawrence, her performance is okay.  It’s not one of her best and there’s a few moments where it seems as if she’s more concerned with maintaining her Russian accent than with what’s actually going on in the scene but, for the most part, it’s a good enough performance.  That said, you do have to wonder how long she can go without having another hit film.  Despite being heavily hyped, Passengers, Mother!, and Red Sparrow all underperformed at the box office.  (In defense of Mother!, it was never going to be a box office hit, regardless of who starred in it.)  As talented as she is, it’s sometimes hard not to feel that, as an actress, Jennifer Lawrence has lost some of the natural spark that took viewers by surprise in Winter’s Bone, launched a whole new genre of dystopian YA adaptations with The Hunger Games, and which previously elevated unlikely films like The House At The End Of The Street.  She was a far more interesting actress before she became J Law.

Here’s hoping that she finally gets another role worthy of her talent!

Here Are The Oscar Nominees!


Oscars

I am so happy that Mad Max, Brooklyn, and Room were nominated but considering how many great films were released in 2015, it’s hard not to be disappointed with the nominees for Best Picture.  No Carol.  No Ex Machina.  No Sicario or Inside Out.  No Straight Out Of Compton, Creed, or Beasts of No Nation.  Is The Martian the only best picture winner to even have more than one African-American prominently featured in the cast?  10 years from now, when people can see past the politics and concentrate on the filmmaking, The Big Short will be recognized as one of the worst best picture nominees of all time.

As for other snubs, I am so sad to see that Kristen Stewart and Benicio Del Toro were not nominated in the supporting races.  For that matter, Rooney was the lead in Carol and that’s where she should have been nominated.  It’s also interesting to note that Mark Ruffalo was nominated for giving the worst performance in Spotlight.

I know that Spotlight is the official front runner but, looking at the nominations, I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Revenant win.  Or maybe even (bleh!)  The Big Short.

Best Picture
“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Brooklyn”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Room”
“Spotlight”

Best Director
Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “The Revenant”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

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

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

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

Best Original Screenplay
“Bridge of Spies”
“Ex Machina”
“Inside Out”
“Spotlight”
“Straight Outta Compton”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Big Short”
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“The Martian”
“Room”

Best Cinematography
“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”

Best Costume Design
“Carol”
“Cinderella”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”

Best Film Editing
“The Big Short”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“Spotlight”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared”
“The Revenant”

Best Production Design
“Bridge of Spies”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”

Best Score
“Bridge of Spies”
“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Song
“Fifty Shades of Grey” – “Earned It”
“The Hunting Ground” – “Til it Happens to You”
“Racing Extinction” – “Manta Ray”
“Spectre” – “Writing’s on the Wall”
“Youth” – “Simple Song #3”

Best Sound Editing
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Sound Mixing
“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Visual Effects
“Ex Machina”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Animated Feature
“Anomalisa”
“Boy and the World”
“Inside Out”
“Shaun the Sheep Movie”
“When Marnie Was There”

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

Best Foreign Language Film
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Mustang”
“Son of Saul”
“Theeb”
“A War”

Best Animated Short
“Bear Story”
“Prologue”
“Sanjay’s Super Team”
“We Can’t Live without Cosmos”
“World of Tomorrow”

Best Documentary Short
“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”

Best Live Action Short
“Ave Maria”
“Day One”
“Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)”
“Shok”
“Stutterer”

Here Are The Dorian Award Nominees!


Carol_(film)_POSTER

The Dorian Awards are handed out by the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Film Critics Association.  Here are their film nominations for 2015.

FILM OF THE YEAR
The Big Short / Paramount, Regency
Brooklyn / Fox Searchlight
Carol / The Weinstein Company
Mad Max: Fury Road / Warner Bros., Village Road Show
Spotlight / Open Road, Participant, First Look

DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
(Film or Television)
Sean Baker, Tangerine / Magnolia Pictures
Todd Haynes, Carol / The Weinstein Company
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, The Revenant / Fox
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight / Open Road, Participant, First Look
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road / Warner Bros., Village Road Show

PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR — ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, Carol / The Weinstein Company
Brie Larson, Room / A24
Rooney Mara, Carol / The Weinstein Company
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years / Sundance Selects
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn / Fox Searchlight

PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR — ACTOR
Matt Damon, The Martian / Fox
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant / Fox
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs / Universal
Tom Hardy, Legend / Universal, Cross Creek
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl / Focus, Working Title

LGBTQ FILM OF THE YEAR
Carol / The Weinstein Company
The Danish Girl / Focus, Working Title
Freeheld / Summit
Grandma / Sony Pictures Classics
Tangerine / Magnolia Pictures

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR
The Assassin / Central Motion Pictures, Well Go USA
Mustang / Cohen Media Group
Phoenix / Sundance Selects
Son of Saul / Sony Pictures Classics
Viva / Magnolia Pictures

SCREENPLAY OF THE YEAR
Emma Donoghue, Room / A24
Phyllis Nagy, Carol / The Weinstein Company
Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short / Paramount, Regency
Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy, Spotlight / Open Road, Participant, First Look
Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs / Universal

DOCUMENTARY OF THE YEAR
(theatrical release, TV airing or DVD release)
Amy / A24
Best of Enemies / Magnolia Pictures, Magnet
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief / HBO
Making a Murderer / Netflix
What Happened, Miss Simone? / Netflix

VISUALLY STRIKING FILM OF THE YEAR
(honoring a production of stunning beauty, from art direction to cinematography)
Carol / The Weinstein Company
The Danish Girl / Focus, Working Title
Mad Max: Fury Road / Warner Bros., Village Road Show
The Martian / Fox
The Revenant / Fox

UNSUNG FILM OF THE YEAR
The Diary of a Teenage Girl / Sony Pictures Classics
Ex Machina / A24
Grandma / Sony Pictures Classics
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl / Fox Searchlight
Tangerine (Magnolia)

CAMPY FLICK OF THE YEAR
The Boy Next Door
Fifty Shades of Grey
Magic Mike XXL
Jupiter Ascending
Stonewall

The National Society Of Film Critics Honors Spotlight!


Spotlight

Last year, the National Society of Film Critics kept things interesting by naming Goodbye To Language as best picture.  This year, they went with Spotlight, just like everyone else.  However, Michael B. Jordan did win best actor for Creed so there was at least that.

BEST ACTOR
1. Michael B. Jordan (Creed) 29 points
2. Geza Rohrig (Son of Saul) 18
3. Tom Courtenay (45 Years) 15

BEST ACTRESS
1. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years) 57
2. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) 30
3. Nina Hoss (Phoenix) 22

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) 56
2. Michael Shannon (99 Homes) 16
3. Sylvester Stallone (Creed) 14

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria) 53
2. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) 23
3. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) 17
3. Elizabeth Banks (Love & Mercy) 17

BEST SCREENPLAY
1. Spotlight (Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy) 21
2. Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman) 15
2. The Big Short (Charles Randolph and Adam McKay) 15

CINEMATOGRAPHY
1. Carol (Ed Lachman) 25
2. The Assassin (Mark Lee Ping-bin) 22
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (John Seale) 12

PICTURE
1. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy) 23
2. Carol (Todd Haynes) 17
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller) 13

DIRECTOR
1.Todd Haynes (Carol) 21
2. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) 21 (because he was on fewer ballots)
3. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) 20

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
1. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako) 22
2. Phoenix (Christian Petzold) 20
3. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien) 16

BEST NON-FICTION FILM
1. Amy (Asif Kapadia) 23
2. In Jackson Heights (Frederick Wiseman) 18
3. Seymour: An Introduction (Ethan Hawke) 15

The North Carolina Film Critics Association Have Announced Their Nominees For The Best of 2015


Here are the nominees from the North Carolina Film Critics Association!

BEST NARRATIVE FILM
Carol
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Spotlight

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM
Amy
Finders Keepers
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Listen to Me Marlon
The Look of Silence

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Assassin
Mustang
Phoenix
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Son of Saul

BEST DIRECTOR
Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
Todd Haynes (Carol)
Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Ridley Scott (The Martian)

BEST ACTOR
Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Ian McKellen (Mr. Holmes)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
Benicio del Toro (Sicario)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

BEST ACTRESS
Elizabeth Banks (Love & Mercy)
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Brie Larson (Room)
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)
Helen Mirren (Trumbo)
Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen (Bridge of Spies)
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley (Inside Out)
Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Emma Donoghue (Room)
Drew Goddard (The Martian)
Phyllis Nagy (Carol)
Nick Hornby (Brooklyn)
Charles Randolph and Adam McKay (The Big Short)
Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs)

TAR HEEL AWARD
(To an artist or film with a special connection to North Carolina.)
Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes)
Finders Keepers
Peyton Reed (Ant-Man)

The Florida Film Critics Are Mad For Max!


MadMaxFuryRoad

On Christmas Eve, the Florida Film Critics announced their picks for the best of 2015 and they were mad for Max!  Good for them!  You can check out their nominations by clicking here and you can see the winners below!

Best Picture
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Spotlight

Best Director
1. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
2. Todd Haynes (Carol)

Best Actor
1. Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
2. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Best Actress
1. Brie Larson (Room)
2. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Best Supporting Actor
1. Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)
2. Michael Shannon (99 Homes)

Best Supporting Actress
1. Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria)
2. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)

Best Original Screenplay
1. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (Spotlight)
2. Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig (Mistress America)

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Adam McKay and Charles Randolph (The Big Short)
2. Phyllis Nagy (Carol)

Best Cinematography
1. John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road)
2. Edward Lachman (Carol)

Best Art Direction / Production Design
1. Carol
2. Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Visual Effects
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Score
1. Love & Mercy
2. Carol

Best Ensemble
1. Spotlight
2. Tangerine

Best Animated Film
1. Inside Out
2. Anomalisa

Best Documentary
1. Amy
2. Heart of a Dog

Best Foreign Language Film
1. The Assassin
2. Mommy

Pauline Kael Breakout Award
1. Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
2. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl / Ex Machina)

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For December!


For the final time this year, here are my monthly Oscar predictions.  Usually, the critic groups and the guilds help to make it a bit more clear what is going to be nominated.  That’s not so much the case this year.  It’s been a very good year for film and let’s hope the actual Oscar nominations reflect that.

You can also check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November.

Best Picture

Beasts of No Nation

The Big Short

Carol

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Trumbo

Best Director

Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

Adam McKay for The Big Short

George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road

Jay Roach for Trumbo

Ridley Scott for The Martian

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston in Trumbo

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Brie Larson in Room

Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Sarah Silverman in I Smile Back

Best Supporting Actor

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation

Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies

Michael Shannon in 99 Homes

Sylvester Stallone in Creed

Jacob Tremblay in Room

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol

Helen Mirren in Trumbo

Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria

Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina