The 1st Annual Moore Review Awards

mr2017Welcome, to the first annual Moore Review Awards… or “The Brady’s” for short. There are tons of award shows out there, but few manage to encapsulate all of the film genres and show appreciation for the movie going public who can find enjoyment with the mindless action film as well as the thought provoking Oscar bate. That is what the Brady’s are for. Good performances don’t just come in dramas or period pieces, and my awards highlight all of the movies that make us laugh, cry, and sit on the edge of our seats. Quick side note before we get into the awards, films up for nomination had to have been released in 2016 (even if limited) to be considered. Also, as this is a recap of all of the films of last year, there is a SPOILER WARNING for this article. Now, without further ado… enjoy the first annual Moore Review Awards and feel free to comment and share.

BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE

Bronze: Zack Efron (Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates) – Efron is quickly becoming one of the best actors at comedic performances, and he managed to steal the show in this offbeat comedy.

Silver: Alan Tudyk (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) – The unfiltered droid, K2-SO,provided some of the best comic relief in the franchise’s history


Winner: Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) – C’mon. Was there any doubt? Deadpool was one of the best movies of 2016 mainly because it simply let Ryan Reynolds be Ryan Reynolds. And that’s almost always hilarious.

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Other nominees: Dwayne Johnson (Central Intelligence), Kevin Hart (What Now?), Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters)

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Bronze: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – If the newer Star Wars films have taught us anything, it’s that for this franchise, practical effects work better than CGI.

Silver: The Jungle Book – Jon Favreau and company managed to make an entire jungle and talking animals look incredibly lifelike.

Winner: Doctor Strange – It wasn’t just cool CGI, but the use of it that made this film look mesmerizing. The added 3D effect really helped bring the psychedelic world to life like nothing we’d ever seen in a superhero film.doctorstrange_teaser_trailer

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Other nominees: Assassin’s Creed, Kubo & The Two Strings, Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them

BEST SOUNDTRACK

Bronze: Moana – Lin Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton fame, put his stamp on this Polynesian inspired soundtrack.

Silver: Suicide Squad – the plot may have been a mess, but the soundtrack was a perfect combination of old hits and new music that captured the essence of the ragtag characters.

Winner: La La Land – Old Hollywood musical meets new school Jazz. Even without seasoned vocalists, the music in this film was captivating from start to finish.

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Other nominees: Sing, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Kubo & The Two Strings

BEST ACTION SEQUENCE

Bronze: The Spanish Inquisition Chase Scene (Assassin’s Creed) – Not a lot to love about this movie, but the parkour chase/fight sequences were exhilarating.

Silver: Darth Vader fight scene (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) – In a matter of seconds, we got to see why Darth Vader is one of the most menacing villains in pop culture.

Winner: The Airport fight scene (Captain America: Civil War) – The most awesome scene in the history of comic book films. So many heroes doing so many cool things!5289551-3439904924-top-5

Other nominees: The Mirror Dimension fight (Doctor Strange), Batman rescues Martha Kent (Batman v Superman), Quicksilver mansion rescue (X-Men: Apocalypse)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Bronze: Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures) – The songstress played Mary Jackson with lovable spunk and a headstrong vigor that made her the woman you’d want to fall in love with.

Silver: Noami Harris (Moonlight) – While the drug addict mother is a bit of a cliché character, Harris played the role with gut wrenching intensity.

Winner: Viola Davis (Fences) – Davis somehow managed to out act Denzel Washington with a few monologues that had beautiful emotional execution.

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Other nominees: Viola Davis (Suicide Squad), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Gal Gadot (Batman v Superman)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Bronze: Robert Downey Jr. (Captain America: Civil War) – RDJ gave his best performance as Tony Stark yet, as a conflicted hero whose sense of retribution pit him against his closest friends.

Silver: John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane) – Goodman’s creepy performance was what made the simplistic film so suspenseful.

Winner: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) – An up-incoming actor who played the mentor role with perfection. The biggest flaw with Moonlight is that he isn’t in it enough.

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Other nominees: Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad), Chiwtel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange)

 

BEST ADAPTATION

Bronze: Captain America: Civil War – While it was a watered down version of the comic mini-series, the film succeeded in giving a ton of a heroes reason to be onscreen together and come into conflict with each other.

Silver: Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly’s historical account was well crafted into a heartwarming story about African American women overcoming prejudice.

Winner: Deadpool – No comic film has been adapted as perfectly as this film was. They kept the violence, humor, and fourth wall breaks intact without compromising the endearment of the characters.

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Other nominees: Fences, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

 

BEST ONSCREEN ROMANCE

Bronze: Ryan Reynolds & Morena Baccarin (Deadpool) – Even with all of the violence and humor, the chemistry between these two is what gave the film its heart.

Silver: Multiple actors who played Black & Kevin (Moonlight) – Same sex relationships are rarely shown on screen, even fewer between men. This film’s portrayal of such a relationship was both groundbreaking and emotionally captivating.

Winner: Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling (La La Land) – The two actors are insanely likable apart, and their chemistry in this film helped drive an already interesting narrative.

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Other nominees: Matthew McConaughey & Charlize Theron (Kubo & The Two Strings), Seth Rogen & Kristen Wiig (Sausage Party), Lamorne Morris & Margot Bingham (Barbershop: The Next Cut)

BEST ONSCREEN TEAM

Bronze: Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones (Ghostbusters) – Despite the unfair comparisons to their male predecessors, this group of female comedians had a fun dynamic onscreen and each had a moment to shine.

Silver: Team Cap (Captain America: Civil War) – Unlike Team Iron Man, this team was cohesive and got a surprising MVP performance from Ant-Man.

Winner: The Rebels (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) – This team provided a great blend of different characters from noble Chirrut Inwe to snarky K2-SO. Despite their wide range of personalities, they all had a likable trait and they meshed beautifully in accomplishing their ill-fated mission.

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Other nominees: Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone (La La Land), The magnificent seven (The Magnificent Seven), Jonah Hill & Miles Teller (War Dogs)

BEST VILLAIN

Bronze: Oscar Isaac (X-Men: Apocalypse) – Sure, the Apocalypse character was a bit too cliché megalomaniac. But Isaac brought great charisma and a deviously regal aura to the role.

Silver: Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe) – Creepy, intimidating, and arguably not a villain. Lang’s eerie blind man made this suspense thriller a must see.

Winner: John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane) – Goodman’s character might’ve been the only one creepier than the Blind Man. The fact that this murderous, kidnapping, conspiracy theorist turned out to be less crazy than we thought just makes the character even more frightening.

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Other nominees: Ed Skrein (Deadpool), Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), The Shark (The Shallows)

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Bronze: La La Land – An endearing idea of molding classic Hollywood musicals with modern jazz as the backdrop to a love story where both characters  are struggling to follow their dreams.

Silver: Moonlight – It’s often amazing how few films there are about same sex relationships. Combining that concept with the element of a character’s childhood, adolescents, and adulthood help add to the splendor of this thought provoking film.

Winner: 10 Cloverfield Lane – Making a movie where virtually all of the scenes take place in two rooms between three characters isn’t easy, but to make one as suspenseful as this one is a testament to a sensational script.

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Other nominees: Zootopia, The Nice Guys, Don’t Breathe

 

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Bronze: Kubo & The Two Strings – Gorgeously animated, stylish, exciting and clever with a wonderful cast of characters.

Silver: Finding Dory – A sequel as good or better than its predecessor. This movie gave us a tear jerking story and a host of wonderful new characters to go along with the ones we loved from Finding Nemo.

Winner: Zootopia – Smart, funny, and incredibly socially relevant for a children’s film. Zootopia is a modern Disney classic.

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Other nominees – Sing, Moana, The Secret Life of Pets

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Bronze: Denis Villenueve (Arrival) – Breathtaking cinematography and brilliant non-linear framing helped make this thinking man’s sci-fi film into one of the most beautiful film’s of the year.

Silver: Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe) – This movie was proof that good direction can make or break any film. Claustrophobic camera angles and an eerie score helped make Don’t Breathe a memorable slasher/thriller film.

Winner: Damien Chazelle (La La Land) – There were so many memorable scenes that stand out in this film. The musical numbers were sensational and the ending montage was the cherry on top of a well crafted, enjoyable film from beginning to end.

Director Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone on the set of LA LA LAND.

Other Nominees: Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), Travis Knight (Kubo & The Two Strings), Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book)

 

BEST ACTRESS

Bronze: Emma Stone (La La Land) – Stone’s performance was both charming and soulful and had audiences rooting for the struggling actress from her first audition.

Silver: Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) – The sensational depths of her performance as Katherine Johnson can be  summed up in her powerful monologue after having to run in the rain to the ‘colored’ restroom.

Winner: Amy Adams (Arrival) – A movie with such a somber tone has to have a solid leading lady to keep things flowing. Adams is both clever, headstrong and endearingly vulnerable in her performance as Louise Banks.

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Other nominees: Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad), Emily Blunt (Girl on the Train)

 

BEST ACTOR

Bronze: Ashton Sanders (Moonlight) – All of the people who played Chiron were great, but Sanders’ performance as the teenage boy struggling with his sexuality was easily the most incredible. Sanders’ portrayal helped illustrate the boy’s transition from meager bullied kid into a tough and relentless man.

Silver: Denzel Washington (Fences) – Denzel will always deliver. In Fences he had one gripping monologue after another and helped carry a narrative that might’ve dragged without his (and Viola Davis’) performance.

Winner: Ryan Gosling (La La Land) – Sauve, charismatic, and intensely soulful. Gosling made the character of Sebastian easily the most fun and likable character on screen in 2016. He also gets extra credit for actually learning how to tap dance and play the piano for the role.

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Other nominees: Tom Hanks (Sully), Will Smith (Suicide Squad), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)

 

2016 MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Bronze: Deadpool – Making a unique superhero film in this day and age is not easy. And yet, Deadpool manages to be a satire of the genre while also providing intense action and a charming romantic subplot.

Silver: Zootopia – Pertinent to the point that it should be required viewing in schools, Disney’s masterpiece also manages to be heartwarming and incredibly funny for a film with such a thought provoking subject matter.

Winner: La La Land – Fun, beautifully filmed, smart, soulful, and lead by two actors with infectious charm this musical reminded us of what was so wonderful about old school Hollywood filmmaking.

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Other nominees: Arrival, Hidden Figures, Captain America: Civil War, Sully, Finding Dory

There you have it ladies and gents. The first annual MooreReview.com Awards is in the books. Thanks for reading and I look forward to 2017’s nominees. Please like/share and feel free to comment who you think the winners should’ve been. As for the 2016 Academy Awards, expect films like La La LandMoonlight, and Fences to rack up.

Redbox Reviews: Kubo & The Two Strings

Laika has quickly become a studio known for sensational filmmaking. Paranorman was one of my favorite films of 2012, and even though their last film, Box Trolls wasn’t as strong of a story, it still managed to dazzle with its unique animation and generally charming message. Their newest film, Kubo and the Two Strings, feels like an old bedtime story with all of the magic, mysticism, and heart that make old legends so entertaining.

kubo_and_the_two_strings_posterLike all of Laika’s films, Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop motion animated film. It tells the story of Kubo (Art Parkinson), a boy who lost his eye when his mother escaped with him after her magical father (Ralph Fiennes) and sisters kill her husband. When Kubo’s magical twin aunts (Rooney Mara) track him down, the boy must journey with his talking monkey guardian (Charlize Theron) and an amnesiac beetle samurai (Matthew McConaughey) to find the only thing that can protect him: his father’s legendary armor.

As mentioned, all of Laika’s film are gorgeously animated. Knowing the meticulous nature with which these films are made only adds to the splendor. But even if it didn’t look incredible to the eyes this film would still be a triumph. The story is filled with wondrous adventure and incredible action sequences that never slow. And at the heart of it all are some of the most endearing characters in any animated film. Monkey is a harsh, but caring mother figure and Beetle is a bumbling but brave sidekick. Even a mute, magical origami samurai that guides Kubo provides a touch of comic relief and a dash of nobility.

With memorable characters, great animation, soothing music, and a captivating story that is great for all ages (although perhaps a bit frightening for the youngest viewers), there is nothing to dislike about Kubo and the Two Strings. It is undoubtedly one of the best films of 2016, and if you failed to catch it in theaters as I did, then you should rush to your nearest redbox if you’re a fan of any period adventure film.

FINAL GRADE: A

Moonlight (Full Review)

It’s always nice when a film explores seldom acknowledged and often completely untouched subject matters. The best films and the best actors aren’t afraid to enlighten. Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, is as unique a coming of age story that can be found in cinema. Exploring themes such as homophobia, bullying, and existentialism, it is undoubtedly a story that has power and value.

moonlight_2016_filmThe film tells the story of a boy, who becomes a teen, and then a man. The boy (Alex R. Hibbert) is a quiet child who is struggling with being bullied and whose mother (Naomie Harris) is a drug addict. He is eventually taken in by a caring drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend (Janelle Monae) who become his mentors. By the time he becomes a teen (Ashton Sanders), his social issues have only compounded as he continues to battle with his sexuality and his relationship to his more popular best friend, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). By the time he has reconnected with Kevin as a man (Trevante Rhodes), he has become a drug dealer himself and is still attempting to come to terms with his own identity.

Every performance in Moonlight is transcendent. The three actors who portray  the lead character, Chiron, do so with poetic, yet gut wrenching depth that makes the character both endearing and heroic. Mahershala Ali brings soul and a calming, nuanced wisdom as Chiron’s young mentor, Juan. Naomi Harris is equally brilliant as Chiron’s emotionally abusive mother although the character does feel a bit like a drama film cliche.

But Moonlight is not without its flaws. As a narrative, it never quite flows. The film is constructed into segments centered on each stage in Chiron’s life, but in doing so, a lot gets left off the table in its overall presentation. The segment about his childhood feels like it ends too soon, while the climactic scenes about his adulthood feel like an overall footnote. As a result, sensational characters like Mahershala Ali’s Juan are underutilized and many experiences that could help shape the character once we’ve seen him mold into an adult are left to quick exposition or mere speculation.

The performances allow us to see where Chrion’s journey takes him, but because of the abrupt shifts in narrative, we never truly experience it. The exception is the middle segment which easily feels like a story which has a beginning middle and end, but the rest feels like a television season where we’re missing episodes. It doesn’t take much away from an overall splendid film with wonderful acting and beautiful cinematography, but it did leave me wanting just a little more from its compelling story.

FINAL GRADE: B

Hidden Figures (Full Review)

History lessons can often be a bore. That is, unless you’re being taught something generally interesting that has significance to your own life. As Americans, the 1960’s space race is something that is ingrained in our history. And thanks to the phenomenal research of author Margot Lee Shetterly, we now have a new wrinkle to a familiar story that should inspire us all.

the_official_poster_for_the_film_hidden_figures_2016Hidden Figures tells the real life story of three African American women who overcame racial prejudice to help pioneer the first American space mission. Taraji P. Henson portrays Katherine G. Johnson, a mathematical genius who works under Space Task Group Director, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), to plot the successful trajectory of the first American orbit around the Earth. Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughn, a NASA mathematician and natural born leader fighting for a much deserved promotion with her white supervisor (Kirsten Dunst). Lastly, Janelle Monae portrays Mary Jackson, a brilliant woman seeking to become NASA’s first African American female engineer.

The problem that plagues most biographical films is pacing. Even a phenomenal film like Selma had its occasional slow moments, but Hidden Figures manages to avoid these narrative lulls. The movie juggles its subplots beautifully, and smartly puts most of its focus on Katherine and her struggles to traverse a hostile environment along with her romance to a military colonel (Mahershala Ali).

The other women get their time to shine, but it is ultimately Katherine’s story that provides the most powerful moments. From an immensely powerful scene involving segregated bathrooms to all of the endearing dialogue shared between Henson and Costner, Katherine Johnson’s story becomes the epitome of the struggle between race relations as well as the ultimate theme of accomplishing goals through unification.

The film is filled with the uncomfortably unsubtle prejudices of our past, but by the end every heinous character has experienced growth. In the month when we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and just before Black History Month, a film that reminds us that we can only progress if we are unified against our worst natures is incredibly pertinent. Having a magnetic cast of actresses and actors capable of bringing charm and fervor to their roles is certainly a plus too.

FINAL GRADE: A, a must see

Fences (Full Review)

Denzel Washington. There are very few people in existence who can give a monologue like him. But he might have met his match, at least for this film, in the form of fellow Oscar winning actress Viola Davis. Like Denzel, Viola can shine even in mediocre films. The two sensational performers join forces as Denzel steps behind the director’s chair to adapt August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play.

fences_filmFences stars Denzel as Troy, a 53 year old former Negro League baseball player struggling to make ends meet as a garbage man with his wife, Rose (Davis), in 1950’s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Together, they navigate Troy’s struggles with his mentally handicapped brother (Mykelti Williamson) and his rocky relationship with their teenage, athlete son (Jovan Adepo) and Troy’s illegitimate, musician oldest son (Russell Hornsby). As an original play, the film is low on thrills, but heavy on drama and emotion. The movie itself feels very much like a play and with that comes the pros and cons of most stage play to movie adaptations. The movie is long and very slow, but dragging moments are lifted by the sheer power of the two leads.

To no surprise, Washington and Davis are both brilliant in their performances. Washington is both charismatic and emotionally jarring. His scenes with Jovan Adepo provide some of the best dialogue on film. But when the real drama sets in toward the end of the film, Viola Davis takes the lead as the most magnetic person on screen. Her portrayal is filled with the soulfully endearing passion that makes her the hero of the entire narrative.

If you go in knowing that the film will be methodical then the sluggish pacing won’t be nearly as off-putting. Filled with magnetic monologues from not just Davis and Washington, but every major player, Fences is a movingly poignant story of African American culture in the 1950’s that is beautiful to witness. And I can die happy knowing that two of the best in the business were able to bring it to life.

FINAL GRADE: A-

The Birth of a Nation (2016) Full Review

Yes. I do have a very strong opinion about Nate Parker and fully understand the controversy surrounding this film that he wrote, directed, and starred in. But I can put aside my thoughts and feelings on the person to both watch and critique his film without bias, because the story of Nat Turner is an interesting one. And it is a major part of American history that, like all of our country’s dirty lineage, deserves to be told.

the_birth_of_a_nation_2016_filmParker stars as Turner, a slave taught to read the Bible at a young age who grows up to become a preacher. When word gets out of a slave preacher, Turner’s master Samuel (Armie Hammer) begins making money escorting Nat throughout the south and using his preaching ability to tame slaves. Along his journey, Turner witnesses the harsh treatment of his people and eventually insights a rebellion.

It’s important with any historical film to do some homework. Movies always take certain liberties in order to change history to fit a 2 hour narrative. So fact checking The Birth of a Nation is as important as fact checking a Presidential debate. There are moments and characters thrown in simply for this story. An example of this is Jackie Earl Haley’s Raymond Cobb, a character that serves as a too convenient rival to Nat Turner almost solely for the purpose of a final cathartic adversary.

Regardless of the details changed or lacking in the film, the story is paced well and certainly doesn’t skimp on the discomforting brutality of the era, navigating the horrendous lives of slaves with gut wrenching fervor.There is lynching, whipping, rape (though it is never actually shown on screen), and the verbal degradation that too many Americans nowadays would like swept under the rug. Thus, it is an undeniably powerful and thought provoking film.

But I couldn’t help feeling like too much of the film was a reminder of the past, without actually delving deeper into the philosophies that created it as well as the crucial aftermath. The actions that followed the rebellion, such as legislation passed to limit the rights of even those blacks who were free, are reduced to an explanatory sentence at the end of the movie. The slave revolt itself, which was very tactical and well thought out by Nat Turner in actuality, is boggled down to a few scenes in the final act making it feel more like a compilation of poorly coordinated brawls. Most of the focus is placed on what led to Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion, but chances are anyone watching the film knows that slavery was horrible. We’ve seen it in films over and over again, so focusing on this aspect is a missed opportunity to show why these events mattered instead of just reaffirming that they happened.

Religion and it’s use to both condone slavery and keep slaves docile plays a pivotal role and is perhaps the biggest factor in making this film feel unique. But from a filmmaking standpoint, Parker’s direction at times tries to be a bit too artistic. There are random cuts of visions and shots of things like bleeding ears of corn that never truly feel well placed. So while Birth of a Nation is pertinent and full of solid performances, it isn’t as memorable as a film such as 12 Years a Slave. And that’s important. Because those who truly need to see the film will likely avoid it (and not because of Nate Parker). Those who understand it’s importance will be reminded of the country’s dark past, but not educated on it as much as they could’ve been.

FINAL GRADE: B-

The Revenant Review

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterLast year, Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu landed the Academy Award for Best Director for the film Birdman. It was well deserved. This year, Iñarritu has reloaded with another stellar cast, and after watching his newest film The Revenant, it is clear this talented director is no fluke.

Loosely based on actual events, The Revenant stars Leonardo Dicaprio as Hugh Glass, a member of a group of fur traders in the 1800’s. After an attack by a native tribe searching for their chief’s daughter forces the group to retreat from an expedition, Glass is attacked and severely injured by a wild grizzly bear. The attack causes tensions to flare between the group’s captain (Domhnall Gleeson) and hothead John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) about whether to abandon Glass. After taking matters into his own hands and killing Glass’ half Native American son, Fitzgerald leaves Glass to die, only for him to fight for survival and make a quest across the winter wilderness in search of vengeance.

Revenge is a key theme of this film, but survival is perhaps the word that best describes the tone. Most of the movie is dominated by Leonardo DiCaprio giving a very realistic performance as a wounded survivalist; building a fire, finding shelter, and running from angry natives. Many of those elements make the film drag and grow a bit stale in parts. The subplot about the Native American chief in search of his daughter also takes up too much screen time.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s long quest for an Academy Award has dominated the press for this film. But it is actually Tom Hardy’s menacing performance that really drives the narrative. From the start, Hardy’s John Fitzgerald establishes himself as a selfish, greedy, but fiercely intelligent character. The quotable moments delivered by Hardy and some beautiful cinematography of the northern landscapes are what truly make The Revenant a film worth seeing. That and, of course, the gripping final showdown between DiCaprio and Hardy at the film’s climax.

FINAL GRADE: B+