The Danish Girl - Review

R  |  120 min  |  Biography, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

**In select theaters December 18th 2015**

SynopsisThe remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.

Review1920's Denmark is the backdrop on which Director Tom Hopper paints a beautiful, dramatic portrait with THE DANISH GIRL. At first glance it would seem like this is just a bandwagon film latching on to some 2016 pop culture headlines. But do not let that distract you from, in my opinion, the more powerful story; that of Gerda Wegener. 

Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) is a female painter in a male dominated world. Her husband Einar (Eddie Redmayne) is the successful and well respected artist in the family. The two have a passionate, outgoing, and affectionate marriage. They are peers in the artistic world and admire each others talent. When Einar expresses to Gerda his desire to dress in women's clothing and openly admits that he feels more comfortable living as a woman their marriage takes a turn. But it is Gerda's compassion and patience that makes this movie powerful. Her acceptance and struggle is the story worth telling. 

Vikander is an amazing actress and in this role she truly gets to show what she is made of. We have seen her in the comedy action realm ( The Man from UNCLE) and the sci-fi world (Ex Machina) this year but this award worthy performance solidifies her place within the young Hollywood elite. Gerda is a struggling artist trying to get her work noticed. She has to deal literally with the other woman who is slowly stealing her husband away from her. You can see her toil against what her heart is saying, what society deems as acceptable, and what this means for her future as a wife. The more Lili Elbe emerges more pieces of Einar Wegener dies. And it is her pure love for Einar that allows her to embrace Lili. Vikander weaves all those emotions in a tapestry of dramatic brilliance. 

Eddie Redmayne caught the attention of everyone with his Academy Award winning performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. His slow transformation was riveting. The same thing happens here. We see him start out as an introvert artist who adores his wife and career. With each scene we see him morph and poke through the cocoon. There is no question that he has struggled with the inward pull of Lili for sometime. Once he feels the freedom to emerge as a woman outwardly it brings healing to the woman inside. Eddie has the soft features and timid smile that helps the outward appearance. It transcends just acting. Like Hawking, his physicality aides in the performance. 

The true story of Gerda and Einar is tragic and groundbreaking. There are nuances that could never be fully manifest on the big screen. This is not the modern world where transgender's are applauded as woman of the year. Instead they strapped you down and tried to drive out the perversion with radiation. Lili comes at a magnificent price. And Gerda spends all she has to aid in her birth. 

Hooper does an expert job of utilizing Lucinda Coxon's script with Danny Cohen's Cinematography to make a beautiful film. There are a lot of soft edges and filters to make a relaxing motif. This helps Redmayne and Vikander to pop off the screen. It is certainly one of the best looking films of the year. 

THE DANISH GIRL is rated R for some sexuality and full nudity. It is an adult drama visually and topically. The nudity and sexuality is handled with the same soft filter as the rest of the film so it is neither shocking nor salacious. Neither Redmayne nor Vikander flaunt their body or sexuality. The story is a journey for both characters and they each offer up powerful and stirring roles. It gets 4.5 out of 5 brush strokes regardless of who's story you think this is. 

Sisters - Review

R  |  118 min  |  Comedy
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters December 18th 2015**

SynopsisTwo sisters decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home.

ReviewThe premise for SISTERS has been done a hundred ways with a hundred different actors. But it is worth experiencing again simply because of the comic hilarity of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Love them or hate them there is no question that together they are an unstoppable funny force. This was no exception.

Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler) and Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) are similar only in name and family. Though they are very close they have quite different personalities. Maura is the Poehler opposite of Kate. She is responsible, caring, and always looks for a way to help those less fortunate. Kate is none of that. When their parents announce they are selling the family home Kate and Maura decide to have the party to end all parties. Chaos ensues, 80's references abound, and Saturday Night Live alum take on character roles that are ridiculous but somehow fitting. Think Project X for old(er) people. 

What Fey and Poehler do so well is make light of themselves. They are quick to take stabs at other characters but equally turn the spotlight of their own flaws. In one scene they are trying on dresses for the big night and never try to hide their less than perfect bods. It is in embracing the humor in getting older that makes audiences feel comfortable enough to laugh out loud with them. Both deliver rapid fire commentary and jokes so effortlessly that to give them a script would be like putting a bit in a wild horse. Those moments are very entertaining and what make the movie succeed.

Normally we see them in an atmosphere where they are somewhat censored; whether on SNL or hosting a prime time award show. In the realm of an R rated comedy they have the opportunity to let it all hang out and fly. This may come across as off putting and inappropriate but honestly if there was anywhere it was appropriate it would be here. The sophomoric jokes and goofy delivery isn't everyones idea of box-office entertainment but for those who like to laugh at nonsense will overdose on sarcastic, crass one liners. 

SISTERS is also a high five for those older adults who miss the crazy parties of their younger years. It is a chance to vicariously live through some 40-somethings who take one night to forget kids, jobs, and responsibility to dive head first into youthful shenanigans. As Kate tells her guests at one point, "We didn't go to all this trouble so you could rush home to watch Flip or Flop!". And like most of these movie plots there are a lot of High School friendships that need rekindling and mending. Kate and Maura relive the wonder years in full force. 

The party itself becomes a monster all its own. Anything that could happen does. Kate and Maura threw great shindigs in their youth and want this last one to outshine them all. Many funny faces grace the guest list played by well known SNL peeps like Bobby Moynihan and Maya Rudolph. Several scenes play out like late night skits but that is ok. When put end to end they blend together enough to make for one laughable experience.  

The film is rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use. It is undoubtedly an adult film and one for those who do not mind the off color joke or pun after pun of the human anatomy. Yet, Fey and Poehler make it endearing and not nearly as embarrassing as male driven comedies. They lend their tongue in cheek, non pretentious delivery to each line which sort of softens the blow. I give it 3 out of 5 pedicures. Certainly a must see for those, like me, who love watching these two together, uncensored, and off the leash.




The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association voted the newsroom drama SPOTLIGHT as the best film of 2015, according to the results of its 22nd annual critics’ poll released today. This year’s awards are presented in memory of Philip Wuntch, the longtime Dallas Morning News film critic who passed away in October.
                Rounding out the composite list of the top 10 films of the year were THE REVENANT (2), CAROL (3), SICARIO (4), MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (5), THE BIG SHORT (6), THE MARTIAN (7), ROOM (8), THE DANISH GIRL (9) and BROOKLYN (10).
                For Best Actor, the association named Leonardo DiCaprio for THE REVENANT. Runners-up included Michael Fassbender for STEVE JOBS (2), Eddie Redmayne for THE DANISH GIRL (3), Matt Damon for THE MARTIAN (4) and Johnny Depp for BLACK MASS (5).
                Brie Larson was voted Best Actress for ROOM. Next in the voting were Cate Blanchett for CAROL (2), Saoirse Ronan for BROOKLYN (3), Charlotte Rampling for 45 YEARS (4) and a tie between Charlize Theron for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD and Carey Mulligan for SUFFRAGETTE (5).
                In the Best Supporting Actor category, the winner was Paul Dano for LOVE AND MERCY. He was followed by Mark Rylance for BRIDGE OF SPIES (2), Tom Hardy for THE REVENANT (3), Idris Elba for BEASTS OF NO NATION (4) and Benicio del Toro for SICARIO (5).
                For Best Supporting Actress, the association named Rooney Mara for CAROL. Runners-up were Alicia Vikander for EX MACHINA (2), Kate Winslet for STEVE JOBS (3), Alicia Vikander for THE DANISH GIRL (4) and Jennifer Jason Leigh for THE HATEFUL EIGHT (5).
                Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was voted Best Director for THE REVENANT. Next in the voting were Thomas McCarthy for SPOTLIGHT (2), George Miller for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (3), Todd Haynes for CAROL (4) and Denis Villeneuve for SICARIO (5).
                The association voted SON OF SAUL as the best foreign-language film of the year. Runners-up included THE ASSASSIN (2), THE SECOND MOTHER (3), MUSTANG (4) and GOODNIGHT MOMMY (5).
INSIDE OUT was named the best animated film of 2015, with ANOMALISA as runner-up. Thomas McCarthy and Josh Singer shared the Best Screenplay award for SPOTLIGHT over Emma Donoghue for ROOM.
The award for Best Cinematography went to Emmanuel Lubezki for THE REVENANT, followed by Edward Lachman for CAROL. The association gave its award for Best Musical Score to Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto for THE REVENANT, beating out Ennio Morricone for THE HATEFUL EIGHT.
                The association voted TANGERINE as the winner of the Russell Smith Award, named for the late Dallas Morning News film critic. The honor is given annually to the best low-budget or cutting-edge independent film.
                The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association consists of 31 broadcast, print and online journalists from throughout North Texas. For more information, visit www.dfwcritics.com or follow us on Facebook or Twitter @dfwfilmcritics.