Chris Pratt

May 17, 2017

‘Guardians Vol.2’ Lacks the Magic, but That’s Not All Bad

It would be putting it mildly that the expectations were out of this world for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.” James Gunn’s oddball superhero action comedy introduced fans of the MCU to a brand new type of hero and extended the storytelling into outer space. Sure, both “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World” took us into the mythical world of Asgard, but the colorful landscape of deep space was something to behold.

Also, the fact that Marvel/Disney was willing to take a chance on a Troma-alum like Gunn who seems to have an affinity for tentacle Hentai porn and graphic violence, was a breathe of fresh air. You had the prefect blend of heart, family-friendliness and of course sexual innuendo, hence the first “Guardians” was a smash hit.

Take us three years to 2017 and Gunn is back at it again with “Vol. 2,” a flawed, but fun, sequel that is essentially a companion piece to the MCU as opposed to any type of film that progresses the overall story arc in the MCU. More importantly, it seems like the shackles were completely off of Gunn to create a film in the way that he sees fit, and that is where the film both shines, and trips over itself at times.

We meet our heroes back in 2014, fresh off the heels of their big victory against Ronan the Accuser and turning over the Power Stone to the Nova Corps on Xandar. This time they are helping the Sovereign protect some batteries from a giant tentacle monster. With their job complete, the Guardians receive their reward; the captured Nebula.

Of course, things go south quick and our heroes crash land on a lone planet and are greeted by a man names Ego, who tells Star Lord that he’s his father and wants to show him his birth rite. At this point our heroes part ways and the film gets the plot moving.

It’s difficult to put into words what’s wrong with this film without sounding like a cranky old man that doesn’t like cutesy Disney-like characters, the use, or overuse, of music, and a couple of jokes and scenes that are a little too self-indulgent. But I guess that’s what you get when you let an inmate run the asylum.

The biggest criticism from most people is that the sequel isn’t as good as the first one. Wow, what a criticism to make…the sequel isn’t as good. Hard hitting stuff. However, I have been pounding the drum in my perceived notion that there has been a recent dip in the quality of Marvel product. But this could also be my perception since the quality has been high for nearly decade, that is was inevitable that a few leaks would start to spring from the hull of the Titanic that is Marvel Studios.

I have to admit, during the title sequence of “Vol. 2” nearly took me out of the film. Unlike Chris Pratt’s trounce through Morag dancing and singing to “Come and Get Your Love,” the Baby Groot dance to “Mr. Blue Sky,” while the rest of the team is fighting a massive alien set the tone that I was going to be annoyed with cute antics. Pratt’s dance set the tone for fun and personally I rather see a REAL HUMAN character on screen than a computer generated creature pimped put to sell Pop! Vinyl figurines.

However, the film rebounded from that and turned into a pretty fun, stand-alone Marvel film. There is meditation on family and abandonment and the idea that the heart should drive you as opposed to your brain, and those themes were handled quite well considering all the boombastic action going on for about 80% of the film.

This brings me to one of the things I really liked, and that was Gunn’s freedom to pay homage to his friends on screen, namely Michael Rooker and his brother, Sean Gunn. The additional screen time and plot progression of Rooker’s Yondu, and Gunn’s Kraglin is something unexpected and a breathe of fresh air. Being close to the director is certainly a perk, but the way both Yondu and Kraglin are treated in “Vol. 2” is something a lot of studios with millions of dollars invested in a film wouldn’t allow to happen; make them a central part of the film. But low and behold, they are given much more screen time and are allowed to play pivotal roles, especially at the film’s climax.

At the end of the day, these films are bulletproof. No matter the reviews or criticism, “Vol. 2” will make close to a billion dollars worldwide, and the Marvel juggernaut just keeps chugging along. In all fairness, however, it’s fair to openly criticize this film, because it’s not perfect, and has it’s flaws, but don’t criticize it just to criticize because overall, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” is a harmless Summer blockbuster that is just another piece of the Marvel machine heading towards the inevitable “Infinity War,” and if anything, at least this film is proving that you don’t need to shoehorn things into a universe that is so bloated that at times it seems to be collapsing in on itself.

“Vol. 2” is the closest thing we’ve had to a stand-alone Marvel movie, thus far. No need for cute cameos or a character just passing by. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t mind just seeing a “Guardians of the Galaxy” film universe. It’s ripe for the picking and there are plenty of things to cherry pick and create some fun films. Hell, a talking racoon and a tree are some of the most talked about characters in the MCU; who’d of thought they would be more beloved at this point than Iron Man or Captain America. People are looking for their heroes to be against the grain, and that is why “Black Panther,” for my money is going to blow people away, but tread carefully when giving the masses what they want, the disappointment could also be monumental and remember; with great power, comes great responsibility.

February 1, 2015

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 37) February 2015


FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

In this Super Bowl Edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast, we…um…don’t talk about the Super Bowl.  We do talk to Dan Clark from The Talking In Circles Podcast.  Dan gives us his take on Pratt possibly being cast as Indiana Jones. In exchange for his well thought out analysis the boys force him to share deep dark secrets about himself on a segment we like to call Simply Ashamed.  DJ reveals how he lost his one true love, Matt reveals a hidden musical talent, and all three of them take great pleasure in the absurdity of the film Lean On Me.  All this and more on this Super Bowl/Non Super Bowl Edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast

SHOW NOTES
MUSIC NOTES
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August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (Matt’s Take)

ANTI

Guardians of the Galaxy – Anti

Usually once a year, there is that one movie that you know is a foregone conclusion. I won’t dance around it, it’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” this year. But before I get into the meat of this review, a brief story; the night before I was all set to watch “Guardians” the next morning, a sense of dread washed over me. I thought, “what if this movie isn’t as good as I thought it would be?” “What if I walk out feeling slighted?” “What if everyone else is walking out happy and I’m walking out disappointed?” I would have to really take a look into my soul and see what was wrong with ME? Alas, that wasn’t the case, “Guardians” was wonderful, it was great, it was down-right groovy. For me, “Guardians” is the anti-Marvel movie. It plays by it’s own rules, and for the first time in Marvel’s Phase Two films I wanted more, got more, and wasn’t letdown, and before you attack, I also loved “Captain America 2” but “Guardians” has taken that big step forward that Marvel was lacking; it’s expanding the universe to places you wouldn’t believe.

“Guardians” tells the tale of Peter Quill, aka, Star-Lord, a space pirate working with Yondu, leader of the Ravangers. While exploring the desolate planet of Morag, Quill stumbles upon a mysterious orb and is attacked by Korath the Pursuer, but escapes. Needless to stay an adventure plays out that features Quill teaming up with a living tree named Groot, a sexy, green, ass-kicking assassin with a past, Gamora, a gun-toting, wise-cracking raccoon called Rocket, and Drax, a tattooed convict with nothing left to lose. Together the “Guardians of the Galaxy” have to save the planet of Xander from Kree extremist, Ronan the Accuser. It’s typical comic book storytelling with a rebellious and anti-Marvel bite that we haven’t seen since “Iron Man.”

Since day one, it just seemed that “Guardians” would succeed, but only with those that were willing to give it a chance, and after it’s first weekend $160 Million international haul, plenty were willing to give something new a chance. The cast is one of the best, but one of the oddest that you might ever see. Led by Chris Pratt, who so many know as the former Pawnee City Hall shoe shiner Andy Dwyer in “Parks and Recreation”, makes it known he’s ready for Hollywood in a “star” making performance, and the cast only gets better. From Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, and even Glenn Close, the cast is the perfect mix for a film this eccentric.
While the parts played by humans are great, it’s the CG characters that really steal things and create an unexplainable emotional connection with the audience. Who would think that a raccoon and a humanoid tree creature would create some of the most emotional scenes in film this year. It’s a testament to direction, which I’ll get into shortly, script, and performance. You believe that Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, is real, and his implied tragic back-story brings the feels in a major way, and this leads me to his relationship with Groot, his bodyguard/whipping tree, if you will. At heart, their relationship is simple; Rocket is a raccoon, who lives in a tree. The beauty is in the simplicity. The most human emotions out of the entire film are from the film’s two non-human characters.

However, nothing would work in “Guardians” if it wasn’t for one person; director James Gunn. From humble beginnings working with Lloyd Kaufman at Troma Studios to his first directing gig on the ultra-underrated throwback creature feature “Slither,” and now as Marvel’s golden child directing what could be the high-grossing film of the year. It’s been quite a road. What Gunn brings to Marvel is a rebel mentality. He’s never been a guy to conform, but at the same time he knows how to strike the perfect of pleasing the fans, while still creating something that fits his twisted sensibilities. Plus, he cares about the material. While on the media trail, all Gunn would talk about is how everyone is going to love what he called “the raccoon.” Normally, directors will build up their biggest stars and the big action set pieces, but all Gunn went on about is how Rocket is going to steal the show…..a raccoon….was going to steal a nearly $200 million dollar space epic produced by Marvel and Disney in the middle of the Summer movie season? Well, Gunn was right, he….was….right.

So many things could have gone wrong with this film too. One, not many people know about the “Guardians” outside of hardcore comic fans. For the normal reader I’m sure the idea of talking trees and other misfits might be a little “alien.” Two, this was a huge gamble for Marvel/Disney. Taking a chance on Gunn as a director and trusting in Pratt as the lead wasn’t something on anyone’s radar, except for Kevin Feige. Three, creating another comic book team up, but only doing it in two hours as opposed to three movies (I would count “The Incredible Hulk” but for some reason people don’t see that as canon now). Comparing “Guardians” to “The Avengers” is natural; their both team-based films fighting a big bad, oh, and they argue a lot. What sets “Guardians” apart however is the heart it has. I’m not saying that Joss Whedon doesn’t have heart, hell, he’s one of the biggest fanboys working in film today and Marvel wouldn’t be where they are without him, but Gunn not only created something out of what could have been considered nothing, and surpassed “Avengers” in my opinion. And yes, “Guardians” has become a huge comic commodity recently but only if you are a true die-hard comic reader could you say with a straight face that you’ve been a “Guardian” fan from the jump. That, or you’re almost 50 years old at the time of this reading.

This might sound sacrilegious, but “Guardians” is better than the “Avengers.” Yes, it is. On first viewing I still had “Avengers” in the lead by a little bit, but sitting down the second time, this time with the wife, I felt so much more emotion watching it again. First, I could relax a little more and simply enjoy the film this time and not worry about the overall story. I had the chance to focus on the little things that made the film special. Gunn has a habit of including little tid-bits for fans of his older films, including the always entertaining cameo by his mentor Kaufman. The other thing was watching this with my wife. At heart, we’re both nerds; however, we butt heads when it comes to things like Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings, but this is one of the films that we were both looking forward to this year. Not only is “Guardians” great fun, but it also brings my wife and I closer together. We cried in the same parts, we cheered when our heroes finally came out victorious, and most importantly when we walked out of the film we both looked at each other said, “let’s see that again!” That’s a win in my book, and something I’m sure a lot of people are doing around the world.

Finally, and this is for the cynics. I understand your stance on comic films. They are campy, fairly vapid, and maybe worst of all, don’t add much to the film landscape in terms of increasing awareness of women’s rights, the plight of those overseas, or contain some sort of message that is supposed to make us better people. Well, maybe it does, at least with the last point. When a person walks out of a film and wants to see it again, or that little kid falls in love with a gun-toting raccoon, maybe that’s their way of changing the world. It’s making it a better place to live when we can all be together in a darkened theater and enjoy what is happening on the screen and feel like we are one community sharing a goal; to have fun. Look, I enjoy art-house film as much as the next person, but in a world that is this shitty, and hard to live in, why not have some fun with a wise-cracking rogue, a walking thesaurus covered in tattoos, a genetically engineered killer looking for redemption, a tree that gives flowers to little girls, and of course the raccoon. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is everything it was meant to be; a fun, balls-to-the-wall space adventure that gives cynics the finger and allows someone who I consider the “anti-Michael Bay” to show the world what he can do on the grandest of all stages, and its worthy of your love, admiration, and at times, tears.

Fun Fact: After you put the kids to bed, make sure you check out James Gunn’s “PG Porn.” It’s arousing.

August 2, 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy (DJ’s Take)

REWARDING

The road to Guardians Of The Galaxy has a been a strange one if you think about it.  When Marvel’s cinematic universe potentate Kevin Feige announced at 2012’s San Diego Comic-Con that the next big film coming down the pipeline was going to be Guardians, many were floored.  It was supposed to be a victory lap for Marvel after The Avengers changed the comic book movie genre forever…but they decided to come out with Guardians Of The Galaxy next?

Most didn’t even know who the hell the Guardians Of The Galaxy were.  I, being a comic book reader since I was seven, knew who they were and still was confused.  The balls on Marvel.  The balls indeed.  This WAS their victory lap.  The Avengers success allowed them to take a chance on a property that no one knew, and have it fly under the radar pressure free.  And it did.  Until that trailer came out.  A trailer that played up the film’s unfamiliarity with audience for a laugh.  A trailer that showed us why Feige was so confident in the property to begin with.  Guardians Of The Galaxy looked like it was going to capitalize greatly on one of the strengths of Marvel.  That strength being their films are fun.  It also looked as though Guardians was going to take advantage of the growing desire for a lighthearted sci-fi space adventure before even their Disney brother Star Wars Episode VII could.  I mean look at this poster

If Only Serenity Came Out Now

Trailer after trailer came out, each looking better than the last.  Excitement grew.  Critics fawned.  DC pouted.  Then about two weeks before release…rumblings of worry began about Guardians Of The Galaxy possibly not living up to the hype.  A film about characters no one knew four years ago was now being thought of as too good to be true.  The whole thing reminds me of another risky venture that Marvel took back in 2008.  And we remember how that turned out don’t we?

THE TANK = COMIC BOOK FANBOYS’ MINDS

Guardians Of The Galaxy is merely another risky venture by Feige and the boys at Marvel.  The verdict?  Not only does it live up to the recent hype you’ve been hearing, it is possibly the most REWARDING experience you’ll have in the theater all year. 

So, what is Guardians about?  It’s about a group of emotionally scarred kindred spirits coming together to become a family.  What?  It is.  The kindred spirits just happen to be raccoon, a tree, an earthling, a deadly alien chic, and a crazed warrior.   Sure there is a plot revolving around the retrieval of a mysterious macguffin (A Favorite Trope For Marvel) and various quests for revenge.  However, this is really about the unity of these characters amidst their differences and obstacles.

You may think that I am crapping on the plot of Guardians, but I’m not.  I merely want to bring attention to the real accomplishment of this film.  That accomplishment is the quality of these characters themselves.  Each one of them are so rich and fleshed out, the story almost feels inconsequential.  You’ll fall in love with them equally and so deeply that you’d be willing to watch them regardless of their journey.  The Guardians are as uniquely lovable as Han, Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewie, 3PO and R2 or Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, River, Book, Kaylee, Simon, and Inara.  And that is just on paper.  You still gotta cast the thing.  Thankfully Gunn and Feige knocked that out of the park as well.

Matthew McConaughey is an actor that has taken a meteoric rise over the past few years.  However, his McConaugh-sance has smoke screened most from the arrival of Chris Pratt.  This guy has been in projects ranging from Parks and Rec, Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, Lego Movie and has crushed his performance each time.  Peter Quill now might very well be Pratt’s Han Solo role, while his part in the new Jurassic Park might be his Indiana Jones.  Pratt is that magnetic and the magnetically charming throughline for this entire film.  Quill could soon become a Marvel favorite after audiences get a glimpse of Star-Lord, even with Robert Downey Jr. still walking the earth as Tony Stark.  It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with this character from his very first frame on screen, much like how we did with Downey Jr. in Iron Man.

Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is not as entertainingly devilish as Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.  However, she has the tough task of being the film’s straight man or woman as it were.  Saldana is solid in the role and has undeniable chemistry with Pratt.  Whenever she is given a scene to carry, she delivers.  Dave Bautista was the one character that I was worried about.  He essentially plays the Thor role of the team, which could be bad if done poorly.  However, Gunn plays into any stilt and stiffness that Bautista could of have had and uses it as a character trait.  A decision that makes Drax possibly the most humorous characters in the film.  A stroke of genius if you think about.  Bautista’s acting, which is still quite good in this, is now nearly immune from criticism.

Diesel and Cooper make icons of their two CGI characters.  Cooper especially lends something to Rocket that I never expected.  He is the fan favorite master of wisecracking, of course.  However, there is a very terrific and subtle thread of emotional trauma that Cooper brings to Rocket.  Just one of the many examples of the detail and time that went into creating these characters.  A feat completed through the writing and directing of James Gunn.

I think Gunn might be Marvel’s new golden boy.  I understand why there were rumors of him taking over Avengers after Joss Whedon.  Gunn and Whedon’s thematic voices are different, but they seem to approach the material in a similar way.  They both never forget to service their characters first.  They both embrace fun without letting it get too silly.  And they both seem to love the material they are working with.  (Trust me…that is not always a guarantee…ahem…Marc Webb…ahem…Michael Bay)  Gunn brings so much life to this world, I’m amazed the budget was as low as it was. ($170 million)
With the freedom Marvel seemed to have given Gunn with Guardians and the success that I think it will be, I can only imagine what we will be in store for in the sequel.

Guardians Of The Galaxy was a high risk, but ended up becoming a high REWARD.  We should all go out and claim this REWARD, and by doing so, prove that strange and different is not automatically box office poison.  Hop aboard the Milano…grab a prosthetic leg…never call Drax a thesaurus…Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  And if you don’t…Peter Quill has a message for you.

February 17, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: February 2014 Edition

In a desperate attempt to gain some respectability, The Simplistic Reviews Podcast has on special guest from Insession Film, JD Duran.  But in only twenty minutes, the boys corrupt this once reputable man to the point where he is setting fire to the Academy Awards, partially stalking Jennifer Lawrence, and verbally berating Will Smith.  All in a days work for Matt, Justin, and DJ.  Enjoy this corrupting episode of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast….oh…and the boys conjure the ghosts of Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock…yeah…that happened.

 Show Notes:
Unicron
Winter’s Tale
Mission Impossible III
Almost Famous
True Detective Tracking Shot
Key & Peele Liam Neeson Commercial

Music Notes:
Birds & Brass By Sort Of Soul
The Great Escape Theme By Elmer Bernstein
Lawyers, Guns, And Money By Warren Zevon
The Best By Tina Turner


FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.
Click HERE to listen to podcast

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February 12, 2014

The LEGO Movie

INSPIRED
The LEGO Movie – Inspired

The magic of movies, at least for me, is where a film can take me back to a time in my life where I was happiest and made me feel joy.  It’s important that a filmmaker(s) be able to connect with an audience at not only an intellectual level, but also a human level.  Going to the movies is as much an experience as it can be a sanctuary for young and old.  Usually, as we get old, we get more cynical and jaded and there are times that are few and far between where we can remember what it’s like to be a kid and simply have fun.  That’s how I felt with “The LEGO Movie” an extremely inspired film-going experience that had me laughing, smiling, and nearly crying when it was all said and done.

“LEGO” from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the guys that brought us the hilarious “21 Jump Street” in 2011, channel their inner child and have created a “kids” film that will keep the little ones entertained throughout with explosions, but are still able to create an intelligent film that will have LEGO collectors, or even casual builders, in stitches throughout it’s entirety.  The film follows Emmet, voiced by Chris Pratt, as a stock LEGO-man piece; he loves to follow rules, watch “Where Are My Pants?” (which needs to be a real show by the way) and builds things like couch bunk beds.  Emmet’s world is thrown out of whack when he discovers that he’s a part of a prophecy to save the world from the evil Lord Business, voiced by Will Ferrell.  To say the least, hijinks ensue, and things blow up a lot.

What really makes “LEGO” special is the attention to detail.  You can tell that Lord and Miller really went out of their way to make the ultimate meta LEGO film.  From the obscure LEGO figurines, to the way things explode into fiery LEGO pieces, and especially how things are built.  We can all remember how awesome it was the first time we built our first spaceship, or even that weird creation that was the cross between a taxi cab, and a bathtub, its all in “LEGO.”

Aside from the incredible attention to detail, the voice cast is incredibly impressive.  You can tell that Lord and Miller have an great Roll-O-Dex of people they can contact.  From Nick Offerman to Allison Brie, with a few surprise voices thrown in for good measure, the cast simply seems…..again……inspired.

As I mentioned before, what really gets you as a LEGO fan, or just a fan of storytelling, albeit the overall plot is rather cliche, which I’m sure was the point to begin with, is how the third act of the film is something you really don’t see coming.  Again….inspired wouldn’t even do it justice.  Just when you think you are simply dealing with a film that just stars yellow building blocks, you’ll get the feeling you might have gotten in “Toy Story 3.”  Something deep down inside you will tell you “hey, it’s okay…..let it out.”  I’m not saying that I did, cry that is, but the message is beautiful, and it would be a real shame to ruin it in this review.  It’s an unexpected scene that really makes “LEGO” such a great film for not only kids, but the kid inside each and every one of us.

Yes, I’ll be one of the first people to say that I scoffed at the notion of a LEGO movie.  Personally, between video games, theme parks, and the actual toys, I was reaching a LEGO saturation point.  Boy was I wrong.  Not only is “LEGO” one of the more thoughtful kids films to come out in a while, but it’s also a film that gives you a little hope.  Some hope that people still care about making quality films and still have some original ideas left out there.  Of course this is ironic that both Lord and Miller also helmed “Jump Street,” which I also had reservations about before it came out, but it’s the way that they paid homage to the original, while still creating a funny and “original” concept.  They do the same for “LEGO” which is by far my most enjoyable film-going experience since “Pacific Rim” in 2013.  Well done guys, and keep UniKitty happy…..you wouldn’t want to see her when she’s angry.

Fun Fact:  LEGO began manufacturing interlocking bricks in 1949 in Denmark.

January 12, 2014

Simplistic Reviews Oscar Preview Podcast Trailer

Julie tries to fill in for ScarJo in the Spike Jonze Film Her.  Yeah…it’s as bad as it sounds. 

January 6, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Zero Dark Thirty (DJ’s Take)

IMPORTANT

Zero Dark Thirty is not just a film.  To me, it is a bookend to one of the greatest American tragedies in history.  It serves as our first real glimpse into the events leading up to May 2, 2011.  Some may argue that Zero Dark Thirty, as a film, is overrated.  Some may argue that Zero Dark Thirty, as a historical chronicle, is inaccurate.  However, you would be hard pressed to say that Zero Dark Thirty is not IMPORTANT.

Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatic account of the decade long search and capture of Osama bin Laden.  A subject that IMPORTANT was a cinch to rile up a debate on how to properly portray it.  Some might expect a kick-ass, romanticized war epic leading to a balls to the wall Seal assault on that compound in Abbottabad.  Thirty isn’t that type of film at all.  It is about the slow, grueling process government officials had to go through in order to finally pull the trigger on bin Laden.  It isn’t romantic or fun.  It isn’t fast paced or action packed.  And as recent criticisms have suggested, it is controversially disturbing right from the beginning.  But that is the film’s point.  The steps our government and military take to accomplish their goals are almost unfathomable for a regular person.  Especially when you account for the small amount of fanfare or celebration they enjoy when a mission is actually accomplished.   The nuances of governmental decision making, puzzle solving, tactical strategies, and yes, torture, are the compelling pieces to this compelling film. 

The moment I heard the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death, I knew a film about it had to be made.  And as more of the details about the mission’s circumstances surfaced, I knew how great of a film it could be.  My mind immediately went to hoping Kathryn Bigelow would helm it.  Bigelow had already made and been honored for her stellar film The Hurt Locker.  As chance had it, she was already developing a film about the search for bin Laden before he was killed.  And after watching Zero Dark Thirty, I can’t think of anyone who could have handled this film better.  Bigelow just knows how to shoot this material.  Much like the way Scorsese knows how to shoot gangster films or Tim Burton knows how to shoot…um…weird films.  She immerses the audience in this world and doesn’t give them room to flinch.  Every scene, every interaction between characters feels like she’s pulled the covers off of something we shouldn’t be allowed to watch.  The fact that she has already won an Oscar for directing the similarly styled Hurt Locker is the ONLY REASON she isn’t a frontrunner again for Zero Dark Thirty. 

Jessica Chastain is a revelation in this film.  Especially for me.  I had only recently been familiar with her work in Lawless and The Help.  However, my unpreparedness worked well for loving the main character of Maya.  She is a stone cold, no nonsense, sh*t kicker that takes everyone by surprise from start to finish.  It is so hard to portray that type of woman in a film and not come off as wooden or boring.  See January Jones for further evidence.  Despite Chastain’s cold demeanor, however, you can tell that there is still an angry, emotional wreck underneath.  Chastain allows it to peak out at just the right moments.  Even with a cast of constantly solid actors like Mark Strong, Jason Clarke, James Gandolfini, and Chris Pratt, Chastain shines the brightest.

As the award season approaches, Zero Dark Thirty is starting to pull away as a favorite in many categories.  Despite my praise, I don’t think it is the best picture of the year.  This is only due to entertainment reasons.  It isn’t paced or put together the way an audience might find traditionally appealing.  Though, Zero Dark Thirty is undoubtedly a must watch.  A film that we will look back on and debate for years as to whether it properly captured such an IMPORTANT time in our nation’s history.  Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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