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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Concussion, Joy & The Big Short

Dearest Blog: A point I've previously belabored: Awards Season necessitates sacrifice, and, thus, yesterday I found myself drowning in a triple-bill of critical darlings at Marquee Cinemas, rather than enjoying the second Star Wars viewing I'd have preferred. Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers or, I guess, from real life, as all three of these films are based (at least loosely) on actual people and events. 
First on my agenda: Concussion. After uncovering the disturbing results of repeated head trauma among former players, a medical examiner faces off with the National Football League. Dear reader(s), I gotta be straight with ya: I don't like football. 
There, I said it. In a place where the sun rises and sets on the Pittsburgh Steelers, where many fans would sacrifice a virgin, cut off a limb, or bop their neighbors on the head with a hammer for that seventh Super Bowl ring, I couldn't possibly care less. Thus, I figured Concussion for the lemon in yesterday's lineup. I figured wrong. 
Will Smith is extraordinary as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Allegheny County coroner who first discovered the potential link between the game's violence and former players' mental and physical troubles. As enthusiastic for new knowledge as he is horrified by his findings and determined to prevent further damage, Smith is sincere, believable, and fierce. A non-believer myself, I found it oddly comforting that Omalu is portrayed as both a man of science and a man of faith, two things that seem almost mutually exclusive in today's world. 
Concussion's supporting cast is solid, and the story is fascinating and well executed, as Omalu and a few allies butt heads (see what I did there?) with a juggernaut reluctant to acknowledge a very serious potential black mark on its image. 
Concussion clocks in at 123 minutes and is rated PG13 for "thematic material including some disturbing images, and language." Concussion is a well-written, well-acted film that will have no trouble holding your attention from start to finish, even if you don't know the difference between a quarterback and a cornerback. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Concussion gets eight. 
Next up: Joy. A young divorcee hopes to improve her complicated life with a new invention. Joy is essentially a showcase for Jennifer Lawrence, who is fantastic in the title role, yet the constantly-exaggerated circumstances leave her looking a bit like a female Forrest Gump. The supporting cast includes notables like Robert DeNiro, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini, and Edgar Ramirez, but their characters are little more than paper dolls, every move entirely predictable. 
Bradley Cooper turns up for a cup of coffee, only because, of late, it seems director David O. Russell doesn't want to make a movie without him, a sad waste of his talent and charm. The story's a jumble that always seems to be moving, yet never gets anywhere, making the movie feel longer than it is. All in all, Joy is much more interested in showing off its star than it is in being a great movie. 
Joy runs 124 minutes and is rated PG13 for "brief strong language." It's nothing special, but Joy is still an enjoyable watch. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Joy gets six and a half. 
And the final item on yesterday's docket: The Big Short. A handful of financial fringe operators predict (and attempt to cash in on) the big bust of 2008. 
The Big Short is a hard film to pin down. It's funny, but it shouldn't be. These guys the film would have you rooting for? They're in the market to rip someone off just as much as the ones you're rooting against. 
The terrific cast has already nailed down some awards love, but nobody turns in a game-changing performance. Smart, funny dialogue gets lost in a sea of gratuitous swearing. (Deadwood fan here, so I'm not timid about bad words, but they're not always the right fit.) The story is frenetic, yet the movie seems slow and long. 
The narrative setup is interesting, I love the way the film marks time, and, though the characters are comical, The Big Short eventually brings home the gravity of a disaster that destroyed millions of lives. The Big Short runs an excessive 130 minutes and is rated R for "pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity." A comic take on a story that's anything but funny, The Big Short is depressing and entertaining at the same time. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Big Short gets seven. 
Until next time...may the Force be strong enough to scare off unwanted holiday visitors, so I can squeeze in another Star Wars screening before going back to work! 


  1. Had you been involved in what is termed "finance" (better known as sell em high and fast), you'd know that the vernacular of the movie was part of the versimilitude the movie desired to capture. Which is why- as depressing as the subject is- making it funny AND scary AND an easy lesson- is why you cheated it out of Weasleys. (Maybe you were too weaselly!)

    1. "Thanks for reading and commenting! I don't doubt The Big Short achieved exactly what it meant to, but, in this case, it just didn't work for me. As for Joy, well, Bradley Cooper is a terrible thing to waste! Happy New Year to you both! :-) Cindy Prascik"

  2. ugh what a really meh year of movies. I didn't even notice much of a supporting cast in Concussion, and I found The Big Short and Joy to be disastrous. (you're right, O'Russell has no idea what to do with Cooper)

    1. "Thanks for reading and commenting! I don't doubt The Big Short achieved exactly what it meant to, but, in this case, it just didn't work for me. As for Joy, well, Bradley Cooper is a terrible thing to waste! Happy New Year to you both! :-) Cindy Prascik"


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