“Get a Job”

I’m not sure what it is about Miles Teller. He’s been in two of my favorite movies of this decade (the underrated “The Spectacular Now” and the unforgettable “Whiplash”), but then he’s been in some of the decade’s worst (“Fant4stic”). Now, he’s in “Get a Job”, which surprisingly isn’t very empathetic.

Teller plays Will, a recent college graduate who’s stunned when he doesn’t get his dream job after graduation. He lands a corporate videographer position, but isn’t very happy there. We also have his overly successful dad who loses his long-term job (Bryan Cranston), Will’s levelheaded girlfriend Jillian (Anna Kendrick), stoner chemistry teacher Charlie (Nicholas Braun), stock broker Luke (Brandon T. Jackson), and their stalker entrepreneur friend Ethan (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). They all share wacky and ultimately unfunny adventures of achieving success in today’s competitive working world.

I didn’t have terribly high hopes for “Get a Job”, but I wanted to at least relate to it. I’m 24, graduated from school three years ago, and I’ve struggled with finding jobs. I was expecting to root for someone who doesn’t irresponsibly spend their graduation money on a large television, and actually tips at a strip club (Will only goes for free food, not expecting to be judged).

Five minutes into “Get a Job”, I pretty much hated every character. Luke is a cartoonish player, who’s put in unrealistic hazing activities that Jordan Belfort wouldn’t even condone. Ethan wants to design an app that allows him to stalk people after receiving their text and location, and sells it? Ugh…

Cranston’s character begins very likable and levelheaded about working, not tolerating Will’s crap for most of the movie. He then proceeds to look for other jobs by stalking the CEO at his dream company and secures a position? Persistence is appreciated in the job force, but not when you’re risking a restraining order.

Will is an entitled brat that we’re supposed to root for, but would you identify with someone who spitefully posts their boss’s sex tape on a projector at a company party? Someone who answers his phone during an interview, and leaves other potential job offers hanging? How in the hell does he still get these jobs?!

We get some semi-entertaining supporting work from Allison Brie and Jorge Garcia as Will’s colorful coworkers, but they’re mostly caricatures. Kendrick’s Jillian is the most empathetic character, who starts out successful, loses her job, and then decides she’s okay with figuring out what she really wants to do. Too bad she doesn’t get enough screen time!

“Get a Job” was shelved for three years, and released on VOD, which isn’t surprising. It’s more of a cautionary tale on how not to act in the real world than a smart commentary on today’s job market.

Grade: D+

“Zootopia”

The trailer for “Zootopia” made it look as if the only standout moment was that now-famous sloth scene. The trailer editors should be fired because there’s way more to “Zootopia” than satirical DMV commentary.

It’s a world run by animals and our protagonist is the first rabbit cop, Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin). Tired of being assigned to parking duty, she steps up and investigates a missing otter case with the help of a con artist fox named Nick (a terrific Jason Bateman). And like in all cop mysteries, the case is bigger than they expected.

“Zootopia” is the biggest surprise so far this year because going in, I didn’t expect this to be Disney version of Film Noir. I didn’t expect a five-minute-long “Breaking Bad” parody. I especially didn’t expect meta and fast-paced jokes reminiscent of “The Simpsons'” golden age (makes sense since co-director Rich Moore directed some of the best episodes).

We’re treated to wonderful voicework from Bateman, Goodwin, and Idris Elba as the stern police chief cape buffalo, who delivers some of the film’s best lines (keep your ears open for the monologue about real life). The script is also well-rounded in world building, as we see how an animal-run society functions.

Predators are ten percent of the population and have the most authoritative positions while smaller animals (like rabbits) are looked at as underdogs. Foxes are treated cruelly due to their savage reputation. This makes Nick and Judy a terrific buddy cop pair. They’re the outcasts out to prove to Zootopia that the outcast animals can succeed.

There’s social commentary present that is by no means preachy or heavy-handed. Between a scene where Judy addresses being called cute as inappropriate and scenes involving Judy’s discouraging parents, it’s a good lesson for younger audience members.. That’s if they can make it that far without being bothered by the jump scares.

Moore and co-director Byron Howard are also behind other recent Disney greats such as “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Frozen”. Those two were also meta, grandiose, and surprisingly dark like “Zootopia”. “Zootopia” is more on par with “Wreck-It Ralph” in terms of style, but still as magical as the latter.

Grade: A

“Deadpool”

If meta humor and mayhem-fueled action tickle your fancy like it does mine, “Deadpool” is for you.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD, CHILDREN! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

This is Ryan Reynolds’s passion project (he’s the star and producer) as he portrays Wade Wilson, an invincible wisecracking mercenary seeking revenge. Wilson has a twisted sense of humor while on his bloodthirsty rampage (he makes a joke about killing someone in five minutes while chasing them on a Zamboni).

Ryan Reynolds hasn’t had the best luck over the last seven years with a long string of critical and commercial failures (“Green Lantern”, “RIPD” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” are just a few to name). Reynolds even expressed disappointment in “Origins: Wolverine”, but props to him for taking control over “Deadpool”. This is a faithful adaptation and easily a career revival for Reynolds.

Reynolds cracks self-aware jokes and pop culture references throughout “Deadpool” in the middle of action sequences. This isn’t limited to making fun of himself in “Origins: Wolverine” and “Green Lantern”, referencing the “X-Men” franchise, “Alien 3”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Matrix”, and Jared from Subway. Yeah, pretty good sense of humor for a disfigured maniac .

It’s the writers’ (credited in the genius opening credits as the “Real Heroes of the Movie”), script that make Reynolds shine. It’s a combination of dark comedy, romantic drama, revenge thriller, and superhero satire. First time director Tim Miller (credited as “An Overpaid Tool”) does a great job directing the intentionally clumsy and energetic action sequences without giving us a headache.

The supporting cast also has their fine moments with TJ Miller (“Silicon Valley”) as Wilson’s best friend, Morena Baccarin (“Firefly”) as Wilson’s equally sassy and vulgar girlfriend, and Ed Skrein (the original Daario Nahares in “Game of Thrones”) as a violent-yet-overly insecure villain.

The movie isn’t perfect since it’s a semi-origin story and has mild pacing issues with drawn-out flashbacks. Aside from that, “Deadpool” wastes no time entertaining us with its warped humor and badassery.

Grade: A

“The Boy”

I rarely see January-horror flicks because well… January flicks are usually terrible. “The Boy” is that kind of terrible that’s almost worth recommending.

In a formulaic intro, we meet Greta (Lauren Cohan), who’s hiding in London from an abusive ex-boyfriend; she takes a nanny gig at a creepy old mansion reminiscent of the one in “Crimson Peak”. It gets better – she’s babysitting a doll named Brahms! Greta ignores the basic rules she’s supposed to follow with Brahms and soon learns the hard way that Brahms might be alive.

Cool horror premise, right? Sure. The premise in “The Boy” is like something you’d read in a gothic mystery novel, but it’s executed like a teen soap opera. It’s still entertaining nonetheless.

Director William Brent Bell (2012’s god-awful “The Devil Inside”) has an eye for suspense. Horror movies are craftiest with editing and “The Boy” is a fine example here. Cuts between characters walking in creepy hallways to close-ups of the terrifying Brahms doll sent shivers down my spine at times.

The first act is a cliched horror movie opening with us meeting the quirky protagonist, tense parents, characters breaking rules we know they shouldn’t, and a couple of nightmare sequences, but the second act is the strongest segment in the movie.

SPOILER ALERT (Eh, sort of)

When Greta grows attached to Brahms and pays more attention to him for personal reasons than the handsome grocery boy (Rupert Evans) adds a mild psychological-driven tone to “The Boy”, but this is sadly a bit short lived.

The final act is ridiculous with confrontations between the protagonists, the ex, and BRAHMS! There are also twists and revelations that are compelling upon first viewing, but don’t make a whole lot of sense after digesting the movie.

“The Boy” is a better January-horror movie than “The Devil Inside”, “My Bloody Valentine 3D” (2009), “Daybreakers” (2010), and many more titles I forgot, but the third act could have been as fleshed out and compelling as the second act.

Grade: C+

“The Revenant”

I’m disappointed that Alejandro Inarritu’s (“Birdman”) “The Revenant” wasn’t released before 2015 ended. Why? Because this would have easily made my top 10 list of the year!

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as legendary frontier man, Hugh Glass. Glass was the survivor of a vicious bear attack and left for dead by his men, but he survived and tracked his former comrades down for revenge. The frontier member he wanted the most retribution against was the scarred John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a self-aware psychopath who murdered Glass’s son in cold blood.

SPOILER ALERT

This is more of a fictionalized take on the events and we watch Glass suffer through grisly wounds, ride a horse off a cliff, slide uncontrollably down a stream, evade a vengeful Arikara tribe, and eventually engage in a gory knife fight with Fitzgerald.

“The Revenant” is an epic, beautiful, and overwhelmingly intense adventure that contains elements of some of the best blockbuster movies like “Gladiator” and some more artistic period films like “There Will Be Blood”. Every shot in this movie is filled with great attention to detail.

DiCaprio gives his most expressive and quiet performance to date, acting with painful expressions. There were reports of him suffering through this shoot and we can almost see his pain in his performance. Tom Hardy is just as good, sometimes stealing Leo’s thunder as the philosophical villain.

“The Revenant” is quite different from “Birdman”, due to the lack of dialogue, the setting, and dark tone, but it’s still just as energetic and as much of a great experience. It’s loaded with long takes that occur during a harrowing battle sequence and an unforgettably violent bear attack.

The violence and heavy handed dream sequences might turn some viewers off, but this is a movie I’d strongly suggest all film lovers to give a shot.

Grade: A

“Creed”

In a year with several sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and reboots, who knew that one of the year’s best movies would be “Creed” – a sequel and spinoff to the “Rocky” franchise?

Michael B. Jordan (“The Wire”, “Fruitvale Station”) stars as Adonnis “Donnie” Creed, son of Carl Weathers’s Apollo Creed from the previous “Rocky” installments. He’s a rising accountant who abandons his job to follow his dad’s footsteps. And who does he enlist as his trainer? No one else but Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone returning to the role).

The two make a great duo as Donnie gives Rocky a new found purpose and Rocky helps Donnie grow as a fighter, eventually making him a top contender.

“Creed” is one of the year’s biggest surprises thanks to director Ryan Coogler’s (“Fruitvale Station”) visionary direction and emotional roller coaster of a screenplay. His visceral and innovative boxing sequences, along with Michael B. Jordan’s heartfelt performance, bring new life to the franchise.

Jordan’s performance as Donnie isn’t by any means reminiscent of Weathers’s Apollo. Donnie is insecure about his name and angry at the world, and Jordan is believable in his portrayal of these emotions. Stallone is once again great as Rocky, showing a more vulnerable side to the character than in previous installments.

Coogler directs some of the franchise’s greatest moments in “Creed”, including a fast-paced fight filmed in a long take that’s the highlight of the movie. I’m able to forgive the film’s flaws thanks to Coogler and the cast.

The antagonist (Tony Bellew) is the movie’s weakest point because he’s not well-developed. There’s an earlier confrontation between Donnie and a different fighter that sets up the climax, but he quickly disappears and we’re given Bellew’s dull “Pretty” Ricky Conlan as our antagonist. He’s no Ivan Drago or Clubber Lang.

“Creed” may not be a perfect new installment, but it’s open for some promising sequels and is a solid revival to the “Rocky” franchise.

Grade: A-

“The Martian”

I almost lost faith in Ridley Scott after seeing “The Counselor” two years ago. I’m so glad that “The Martian” restored my faith in the man because this is not only one of the best movies of the year, but also one of Scott’s best movies ever.

“The Martian” stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars after a mission goes wrong. After his second day of being stranded, he says, “I’m not going to die here,” and immediately begins an epic fight for survival. He finds an innovative and scatological way to grow food, entertains himself with disco music and “Happy Days” reruns, and eventually communicates with Earth, letting his superiors know he survived. NASA, Watney’s team, and eventually the whole world want to help bring Watney home.

What surprised me and charmed me the most about “The Martian” was its cheerful attitude and witty sense of humor. I was expecting something grim and tragic like most of Ridley Scott’s previous works, but this was a nice change for him. It’s also Scott’s most restrained film to date due to his focus on the characters instead of scenery. Don’t get me wrong, “The Martian” is beautiful to look at, but it’s a rare space odyssey (or Mars odyssey) about characters.

Matt Damon delivers one of his best performances of his entire career. I’ve always liked him, but he reminded me of how charismatic and funny he can be. With his likable personality, he portrays Watney as the most levelheaded and optimistic hero this year (Mad Max would hate him).

This isn’t “Cast Away” on Mars because we spend time on Earth and in space getting to know everyone else involved. And everyone in this movie are just as likable, sassy, and charming as Damon. We have the great Chiwetel Ejiofer as the protagonist on Earth, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, and Kate Mara as Watney’s team, Sean Bean and Jeff Daniels as clashing NASA superiors, and Donald Glover from “Community” as a mad genius engineer.

It’s Drew Goddard’s (“The Cabin in the Woods,” “Daredevil” (2015)) confidence and sharp wit that make “The Martian” work so well. We do get a few too many “We can’t do this in X time,” banters, but it’s forgivable. Scott’s grounded direction and change in tone paid off and made me wish I paid more attention in science class.

Grade: A