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Rating History

A Call Girl (Slovenka)
2 years ago via Flixster

A student turns tricks on the side, hiding her profession from her father and the police.
As a genre, a character study should have an interesting character, but it seems as though the filmmakers believe that Sasha profession alone makes her interesting. It doesn't. Compare Sasha to Elizabeth Shue's character, Sera, from Leaving Las Vegas When we're introduced to Sera, she takes pride in her work and her ability to transform herself; A Call Girl doesn't explore Sasha attitude regarding her work, but we can deduce that she looks at it with an insouciant shame. Sera has a cruel pimp who's eventually killed; Sasha has cruel would-be pimps, but the plotline gets dropped halfway through the film. Sera falls in love with the Nicholas Cage character; Sasha settles for some guy we see twice in the whole film, and their relationship history is reduced to "I wanted to ask you to the movies before." "Why didn't you?" "I don't know." Clearly, Sasha simply isn't developed, and the main conflict of the film, her money troubles, reduce the resolution to a math problem rather than a human problem.
Overall, A Call Girl is how not to do a character study because it missed the important point: have a character worth studying.

Bridge of Spies
6 years ago via Flixster

An American lawyer goes to Cold War era Berlin to negotiate a hostage exchange.
Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, who surprisingly won Best Supporting Actor, lead this cast in a decently tense Cold War thriller. While it's true that the relationship between Donovan and Abel is underdeveloped, there's enough in this film to make their connection believable. And the plot moves slowly but surely.
Spielberg, however, has no restraint in his message. The film is about American exceptionalism and the primacy of American Values (never mind the fact that several other countries share similar values). Yes, there are token "Bad Americans," but seen especially in a pair of scenes in which Germans attempting to climb a wall are killed and Americans attempting to climb a wall are safe (and not shot by police), the film pounds us over the head with just how wonderful we are. Without getting into a disagreement about the validity of Spielberg's point, we can simply say that the film lacks subtlety.
Overall, there's a decent film here even if it's heavy-handed in parts.

The Hateful Eight
6 years ago via Flixster

A bounty hunter, his charge, and other sundry characters are stuck in a cabin.
About an hour and a half of this nearly three-hour film is absolutely useless; the film could've started in the cabin and lost nothing, yet there is a long sequence of getting to the cabin and an equally pointless flashback scene that only adds a character inconsistency (if the owner of the cabin is so racist against Mexicans, why doesn't she mention it in the flashback?). And there's a useless voice-over, stupid chapter breaks, dumb monologues, and just a bunch of shit. Tarantino jerks off to visually striking panoramas, and it's just adorable that he gets to play with his new 70 mm toy.
Overall, see this film only to see the absolute nadir of a once-great director's career (unless you count Kill Bill Vol. 1, which might be worse).

Sicario (2015)
6 years ago via Flixster

An FBI agent joins a task force in a border-crossing battle in the war on drugs.
This would be a great movie if the protagonist wasn't basically useless. Doe-eyed in parts, foolish in others, and mostly stripped of any real chutzpah, Macy, played by the usually awesome Emily Blunt, is the opposite of a compelling character; most of the plot happens to her, and the few occasions when she has the opportunity to shape the story, gutless screenwriting thwarts any chance that Macy has to be compelling. The supporting characters are far more interesting, especially personal-vendetta-driven Alejandro. Their amoral commitment is far more interesting than Macy's moral tergiversation.
The film's brutal depiction of the borderland's social and political battles is actually as intelligent as the great classic Traffic as the film seems to have a nuanced understanding of how even everyday people's lives are thrown into disarray.
Overall, if only the protagonist wasn't such a boring character, this would've been an incredibly compelling film.

The Danish Girl
6 years ago via Flixster

Lili Elbe becomes the first transgender person to undergo sex reassignment surgery, which shakes her marriage to Gerda Wegener.
Despite the many talents of Eddie Redmayne, fresh off his Oscar win as Stephen Hawking, Alicia Vikander is the reason to watch this film. She gives a nuanced, remarkable performance, alternately loving Einar unconditionally, then realizing that conditions are a part of life and love.
The rest of the plot doesn't do a lot. Most of the plot events are predictable and aren't all that incredibly rendered.
Overall, Alicia Vikander won Best Supporting Actress, but she's really a co-protagonist, carrying this film from beginning to end.