February 27th, 2014
Welcome back readers!
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed the first half of my Oscar predictions, and are now ready for the rest of these predictions.
These remaining categories are in prestigious picture, acting, directing and screenwriting fields, AKA the major categories that most viewers will want to see.
Just for fun, not only will I be listing the winner, but I’ll also reveal who I’d rather see win, as well as a write-in vote.
See them all below, and don’t forget to watch the 86th Annual Academy Awards airing this Sunday, March 2 on ABC.
Best Original Screenplay
The nominees are:
Dallas Buyers Club
The Academy will want to somehow reward each of the Best Picture nominees, leading to a well-deserved win in this category for Spike Jonze’s sci-fi romance Her.
Predicted/Preferred Winner: Her
Should’ve Been Nominated: Enough Said
Best Adapted Screenplay
The nominees are:
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
With the exceptions of Before Midnight, all of these nominees are also nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
This category is actually quite harder to predict than originally thought. 12 Years a Slave has the edge since it’s the one in this category with the best chance of winning Best Picture. However, it’s not exactly a lock since it missed out on some major precursor awards, such as the Golden Globes and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (the British Oscars).
The best chance for an upset is the genteel Philomena, which has become something of a hit with indie audiences and its screenplay won the BAFTA award a few weeks ago, so we know it has the support of British Academy members.
Predicted Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Preferred Winner: Before Midnight
Should’ve Been Nominated: N/A
Best Supporting Actress
The nominees are:
Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska
In what has arguably turned into the tightest category of the year, American Hustle’s Jennifer Lawrence and 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o have largely been duking it out for this prize.
Since many people may feel that Lawrence is too young for her second Oscar, and Nyong’o is nominated for the most “important” movie, I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter ended up winning.
Honestly though, I’d rather see Lawrance take home the Oscar. Yeah, a win for Lawrence will probably intensify the hatred many have for her but, despite her limited screen time, she’s the most fun of these nominees.
Plus, if voters don’t want to see American Hustle going home empty handed, then this is most likely the chance to get the film recognized.
Predicted Winner: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Preferred Winner: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Should’ve Been Nominated: Scarlett Johansson – Her
Best Supporting Actor
The nominees are:
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
This one feels like such a no-brainer.
Leto has practically been reaping nearly all of the awards this season for his role as a transgendered hustler in Dallas Buyers Club. The rest of the nominees don’t stand a chance of winning. This is practically unfair to the other nominees, especially American Hustle’s Bradley Cooper and Captain Phillips’ Barkhad Abdi, who are much more fun and interesting to watch onscreen than Leto is.
Predicted Winner: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Preferred Winner: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Should’ve Been Nominated: James Gandolfini – Enough Said
The nominees are:
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
Blue Jasmine is, in my opinion, one of Woody Allen’s weakest films. The film is tonally uneven and so cartoonish and sloppy that it feels disinterested in its characters.
However, Cate Blanchett is absolutely stunning in the lead role. The fact that she’s able to elevate this sour affair is worthy of an Oscar alone, so good thing that her performance really is the best of the nominees. Blanchett has been winning every single Best Actress award in existence, that at this point, the Oscar is her’s to lose.
The only way that an upset can happen (which it won’t) is if the uproar over the Allen/Dylan Farrow abuse allegation causes Academy voters to punish Allen by unfairly not awarding the Oscar to Blanchett.
Sorry Amy, better luck next time.
Predicted/Preferred Winner: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Should’ve Been Nominated: Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha
The nominees are:
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
If I was a risk-taker, I’d predict a win for Leonardo DiCaprio.
There’s a lot of things working in DiCaprio’s favor, such as the fact that this is his fourth nomination and Academy voters may think he’s due for a win, but I’m going to play it safe and predict that McConaughey will win.
Following a trio of wins from the Golden Globe, Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild awards, as well as starring in the acclaimed HBO drama True Detective, McConaughey is practically unstoppable.
Predicted Winner: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Preferred Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Should’ve Been Nominated: Robert Redford – All is Lost, Joaquin Phoenix – Her, Michael B. Jordan – Fruitvale Station, Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis, Daniel Bruhl – Rush.
Wow, there was a TON of great male performances this year.
The nominees are:
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity
Alexander Payne – Nebraska
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
Like Ang Lee for last year’s winner Life of Pi, Cuarón is the definite winner for marrying art and technology in the effects-heavy, 3D survival thriller Gravity.
Cuarón creates such a terrifyingly beautiful environment with so much depth and heart that I can’t see anyone else winning this award.
Predicted/Preferred Winner: Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
Should’ve Been Nominated: Shane Carruth – Upstream Color
The nominees are:
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
12 Years a Slave and Gravity have been battling it out for this award for months now. Due to a last-minute surge of support, American Hustle has popped up as a potential upset, but I feel as if enthusiasm for that movie has been muted.
Besides, this race is all about 12 Years and Gravity. Many are confident that a rare split between the Best Picture and Director winner will occur here, with the former taking home the big prize while the latter takes the Directing award, but I cannot see it happening.
Most of the support for 12 Years a Slave stems from how the film is too “important” to pass up. Personally I think this idea adds some pressure on Academy members because it makes them feel as if not voting for that movie will make it seem as if they don’t care about history or something. Besides, I feel as if the one movie that people will remember years from now is the groundbreaking Gravity.
With a win from the Producers Guild of America (albeit tied with 12 Years a Slave), and several potential Oscar wins in its favor, this film seems like the one to beat by a very small margin.
Predicted/Preferred Winner: Gravity
Should’ve Been Nominated: Before Midnight
What are your predictions?
Comment below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!
February 20th, 2014
Update: Read Part 2 of these predictions here.
Well gang, Oscar season is almost over. With the 86th Annual Academy Awards set to air live Sunday, March 2 I figured it’d be a good time as any to start predicting the winners in the categories.
This first part consists of the documentary, shorts and craft/technical categories that go into making a film, but don’t get as much attention as the big eight categories (i.e. picture, direction and acting).
These predictions were made by looking at the winners in precursor awards and gut instincts. Winners are in bold and italicized just because it looks fancy. Enjoy reading through them, and don’t forget, if you use any of my predictions in your Oscar betting pool, you’re obligated to give me a portion of your winnings.
Let’s start this off by lumping together all the Oscars that acclaimed space thriller Gravity is a clearly a lock to win.:
All of the nominees in this category are either first-time Oscar nominees (Nebraska’s Phedon Papamichael and The Grandmaster’s Phillipe Le Sourd) or veterans of this category who have yet to win despite multiple nominations. Gravity’s Emmanuel Lubezki, who has six nominations under his belt, will win his first Oscar for the film’s thrillingly claustrophobic camerawork.
For most of the film’s runtime, Gravity’s score by Steven Price is the only sound you hear in the film. In a movie that’s surrounded by terrifyingly immersive silence, Price’s hauntingly beautiful score guides us through such awe-inspiring imagery, ranging from the destruction of a space station and astronauts in zero gravity that we see, but cannot hear.
Sound Mixing/Sound Editing
Part of what makes Gravity such a transcendent cinematic experience is how it astonishes not just because of its visuals, but also because of its sound, or rather lack of it.
Since there’s no sound in space, the movie is surrounded by silence, save for the muffled sounds coming from the inside of Sandra Bullock’s space suit. This adds to the disorienting, but immersive, feeling of being lost in space alongside Bullock, which only serves to make her struggle feel more urgent and personal.
Gravity will win. No explanation needed.
*From here on out, there will be no more mention of Gravity in this post*
Best Animated Feature Film
Maybe the Academy will want to recognize acclaimed anime director Hayao Miyazaki for his 20th feature, The Wind Rises, a historical WWII drama which Miyazaki has said would be his last film.
However, the edge goes to the critically acclaimed Frozen, which, let’s face it, is the one that most members of the Academy are familiar with.
Dear Academy, if Frozen’s “Let it Go” doesn’t win, a riot will happen.
Sincerely, every Frozen fanatic.
12 Years a Slave could win here for its subtle, simple sets. But seeing how this category usually rewards the film with the most lavish, beautiful sets, expect The Great Gatsby to win instead.
Make-up and Hairstyling
How the heck is American Hustle not nominated here?!?! Christian Bale’s elaborate comb-over is worthy of an Oscar alone.
Anyway, how hilarious would it be if the the Jackass spinoff Bad Grandpa won this award? I doubt it’ll happen though, so I’m giving it to Best Picture nominee Dallas Buyers Club.
The most acclaimed film in this category is the Indonesian documentary The Act of Killing, which focuses on Anwar Congo- an Indonesian militant responsible for the deaths of 1,000 “communists” during a genocide in the mid-1960s. The documentary features Congo and several of his colleagues reenacting the murders they’ve committed that turned them into local heroes.
Personally, I think that The Act of Killing might be too dark for the Academy’s taste, so they’ll probably go for the “inspirational” pick 20 Feet From Stardom, a critically acclaimed documentary that explores the lives of background singers.
Foreign Language Film
The Italian drama The Great Beauty has a couple of advantages that will help it emerge victorious in this category. After all, the film won in this category at the Golden Globes last month and at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (the British Oscars) last weekend.
The closest competition it has is the Dutch romantic tragedy, The Broken Circle Breakdown, in which two musicians fall for each other due to their love for American Bluegrass music.
Documentary Short Subject
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life tells the story of Alice Herz Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and living Holocaust survivor. Admittedly, I haven’t seen any of the nominees here, but this category usually rewards the most uplifting film in the category, and Number 6 looks like it fits the bill.
Animated Short Film
Disney’s Get a Horse! has the advantage of starring Mickey Mouse, which to me is good enough to see it win.
Live Action Short Film
Another category in which I’m not familiar with any of the nominees. Going by the plot description alone though, I can see the British short The Voorman Problem, in which a psychiatrist squares off against a patient who claims to be God, winning because it sounds really cool.
What are your predictions? Comment below, follow me on Twitter, and keep an eye out for Part 2 of my predictions next Thursday!
February 13th, 2014
We’ve officially reached the pinnacle of cinema, ladies and gentlemen. That’s all. Go home. No need to see any other movie ever, for nothing else you see will surpass the quality The Lego™ Movie provides.
As the film’s theme song says, everything is awesome!
Am I overselling it? Yes. However, heed my advice when I say that The Lego Movie is the kind of cinematic spectacle that is balls-to-the-wall-crazy, whose irreverence recalls The Simpsons and South Park in their heyday. Presented to us is a movie that is so chock-full of laughs delivered at a breakneck pace, often moving with a sense of unhinged enthusiasm that is usually reserved for an eight-year-old playing with an unlimited supply of toys, that it never stops surprising you.
As the title implies, The Lego Movie is set in a world in which everything is entirely built out of Lego, those colorful, interlocking bricks everyone played with as a kid (Maybe you still play with them. If so, awesome). Literally, EVERYTHING is made out of Lego. The characters eat Lego drumsticks, drink overpriced Lego coffee, shower with Lego water and fire guns that shoot Lego bullets (Over 15 million Lego pieces were used in the making of this movie).
However, this world is ruled by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a fascist tyrant who rules the city of Bricksburg with a iron plastic fist. That all changes when construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt) finds “The Piece of Resistance,” a non-Lego piece that, as a prophecy foretells, will cause the finder of the piece to become “The Special,” a savior who will save the Lego universe from Lord Business’ reign of terror.
The problem? There’s nothing special about Emmet at all. This is a guy who has literally never had a creative idea before and loves following the rules. He’s a Joe so average that when asked what his favorite restaurant is, he blissfully answers “Any chain restaurant.”
The plot is one you typically watch in any of those movies where a nobody saves the day. What separates The Lego Movie from those other storylines though is how flashy and self-aware the entire movie is. In one scene, when a complex backstory is being explained to Emmet, it’s dismissed as “unnecessary” exposition. This is a film that knows it’s silly, and it wants the viewers to know that they know.
Also, this is a gorgeous film. Made with a combination of CGI and stop-motion animation, The Lego Movie is vibrant with so much color and inventiveness that your inner child will be screaming with joy. I mean, where else are we going to see a movie in which characters from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the DC Universe and more interact with each other in the same room? It helps that the film features an enthusiastic voice cast that includes Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett and Alison Brie, all of whom are game to whatever the script throws at them.
Of course, with so much energy on display (one can only handle so many jokes thrown at you in 90 minutes), the film does get a tad exhausting toward the end. However, a surprisingly daring third act, one which I dare not spoil, sees the film spinning in an unexpectedly emotional and profound direction. This is an act that raises the kind of deep, poignant questions about the nature of creation and imagination while also elevating the film from a standard kiddy movie into one that’s sure to become a classic.
The most cynical viewer would dismiss the movie as nothing more than the biggest product placement ever seen on film. While the film will undoubtedly see Lego stock rising, this movie is so much more than that. Here is a film that expresses how toys are an outlet for creativity, a right that should not be denied, but nurtured. This is the best kind of cinematic product placement out there: one with heart.
December 21st, 2013
The Desolation of Smaug is perfect for those who hated An Unexpected Journey.
Personally, I enjoyed the former, but I agree with many of its critics who think that An Unexpected Journey is too busy and noisy. Some detractors even label the film as a “bloated” mess with little plot advancement actually happening throughout the film’s nearly three-hour run time.
So what makes this sequel an improvement over the original? Whereas the first film got caught up in its own sense of whimsy, this sequel is grandly somber.
For one thing, since introductions were made in AUJ, Desolation jumps straight into the unrelenting action (it helps that the film is based on the most exciting chapters of the novel).
In this chapter, reluctant hero Bilbo, the wizard Gandalf and the company of dwarves continue their quest to reclaim their ancestral homeland at the Lonely Mountain-and its ginormous pile of treasure-from the villainous dragon Smaug.
As I mentioned earlier, Desolation is much more eventful than its predecessor. Lacking any boring exposition that would otherwise bog the story down, our characters make their way across a sinister forest where they do battle against terrifying spiders and an army of Elves that concludes with a jaw-dropping river escape sequence- all during the film’s first hour!
The quick pacing in this entry of the saga is a sense of fresh air that makes this film feel more alive than An Unexpected Journey. Stakes are also raised as we see our characters grapple with the corrupting powers of greed and temptation. The fact that the film manages to retain its boyish sense of adventure, even as the tone of the film turns grim, is a remarkable achievement.
As with the other films set in Middle Earth, The Desolation of Smaug boasts a dazzling array of visuals, ranging from gorgeous scenery and inventive sets (Lake-town, a river community where the second act is set, looks remarkably Dickensian). The new chapter also introduces new characters. These include Stephen Fry as the corrupt Master of Lake-town, Luke Evans as a Lake-town resident who has a huge role in the next film and Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, an elf who was created specifically for the film.
I approve of the addition of Tauriel, who was created as a way to confront the fact that the source material has zero female characters; she’s a kick-ass character. However, I can’t help but be annoyed over the fact that her biggest contribution to the plot involves being sandwiched between Legolas and Kili in a ridiculously underdeveloped romantic triangle that adds little heat to the story.
Speaking of heat, Smaug the dragon brings a lot of it. Brought to life by Benedict Cumberbatch’s (Sherlock) motion capture performance, Smaug is an astonishingly designed and photorealistically rendered creature. Smaug is bursting with all the fiery brimstone and portent one could only dream for this daunting villain. He’s awesome and his scenes, which offer an unlikely Sherlock reunion between him and star Martin Freeman, pushes the film to the same heights of epicness as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Not only is Smaug a delight to see onscreen, his presence also teases a new direction for the concluding chapter, while also providing one of the most frustrating, yet titillating cliffhangers in recent memory.
However, the tease of what will be in the finale is a bit disappointing. It involves a villain we’ve already seen get vanquished a decade ago in the Lord of the Rings trilogy that might make you wonder what’s the point of bringing it up again if we already know what will happen.
No matter. I say: do whatever it takes to make up excuses to make us return to the world of Middle Earth. Personally, as someone who loves the world that Jackson has created, I’m all for spending as much time in it as I can.
Bring on the finale, There and Back Again!
What are your thoughts on Desolation of Smaug? Comment below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!
December 20th, 2013
Matthew McConaughey is capable of being a good actor. This is something that we haven’t really noticed because, let’s face it, all of us have been too distracted by, well, other things regarding McConaughey.
None of those things are in effect in Dallas Buyers Club, a film based on the true story of Ron Woodroof. McConaughey stars as Woodroof, a straight, homophobic cowboy with a devil-may-care attitude. This lifestyle catches up to him when he’s diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and is only given 30 days to live.
Rather than taking his death sentence lying down though, Woodroof illegally acquires the then experimental drug azidothymidine, or AZT, in order to survive. When that doesn’t work, he travels to Mexico to receive alternative medications, leading him to set up the titular black market, where he smuggles unapproved drugs from around the world into the country and sells them to other infected patients for affordable rates.
McConaughey, who lost a reported 50 pounds for the role, is perfect in this movie. After a string of strong performances, ranging from the 2011 thriller The Lincoln Lawyer and this year’s Mud, McConaughey disappears into a role in which his swaggering, lively personality is perfectly suited. His charming character contrasts his bony, thin frame that leaves McConaughey virtually unrecognizable.
Equally as good is Jared Leto, who plays a transgender woman that partners up with Woodroof. Their chemistry makes the film come to life, even if their relationship is mostly played for odd-couple comedy.
It’s a shame that the film, despite such a great pair of performances, is nothing more than an average David-versus-Goliath story that is a tad too eager to please audiences.
As with any by-the-numbers biopic in which our hero stands up to a big corporation, the film devolves into simplistic conventions.
These include the Food and Drug Administration being portrayed as villainous bullies who do everything in their power to to shut down Woodroof’s black market, potentially killing off hundreds of patients. The FDA, according to the film, will stop at nothing to make sure they earn a profit. This leads to the movie outright condemning AZT.
The drug, which is still used today, is heavily criticized throughout the film. Woodroof deems it as as a “toxic” and deadly medication that does more harm than good. Woodroof, who nearly dies while taking the drug, advises fellow AIDS patient that they should stop taking the drug and flush it “down the toilet.”
It’s odd to see the film take such a stance against a life-saving medication, especially since a lot of the facts that the film presents to audiences isn’t really that accurate. It doesn’t help that Woodroof nearly dies from the medication because he was mixing it with alcohol and other narcotics, a point that no one seems to mention and makes the anti-AZT stance lose a lot of credibility. It’s nothing more than a movie so desperate to get us to root for our hero that it simplifies and villainizes anything or anyone against him.
Despite the movie’s shortcomings though, there’s something undeniably affecting about seeing Woodroof’s evolution from an unsympathetic asshole to an asshole who becomes more empathic as the film progresses. Watching him get educated on the disease and becoming a better person by viewing his customers he once hated as kindred spirits, and even friends, is an impressive feat. It’s a stirring achievement in a film that serves as a reminder of the universal reaction to AIDS in the 1980’s, while also showing us how far we’ve come since then.
November 12th, 2013
Well, gang, we are officially six weeks away from Christmas and are now two weeks into the Holiday Movie Season. Which means it’s time for our Holiday Movie Preview!
This season, which kicked off last week, sees Hollywood releasing several of their last blockbusters in the hopes of attracting moviegoers desperate to escape the upcoming cold weather. As a bonus, Oscar season is upon us. In this counterprogramming measure, studios release several of their smaller films in the hope of getting them recognized just in time for the Academy Awards this upcoming March.
With more than 40 movies set to be released within the next few weeks, I’ve created this helpful blog post filled with what movies you should keep an eye on.
Click on the title of the film to see its trailer, and enjoy!
Dallas Buyer’s Club (Limited)
I’m indifferent when it comes to Matthew McConaughey, but lately he’s been surprising me.
The man has starred in a string of good films so I’m looking forward to his latest feature.
Based on a true story, McConaughey stars as an Ron Woodruff, an HIV-ridden man who begins to smuggle meds for him and other HIV-ridden patients.
The film has gotten strong reviews, with many praising McConaughey’s performance as well as that of Jared Leto, who plays Woodruff’s transgendered sidekick. As an Oscar watcher, that’s reason enough for me to check it out.
The Book Thief (Limited)
Admittedly, I’m just including it here because a ton of my friends are huge fans of the novel the film is based on and are dying to watch the movie.
The Book Thief centers around a young girl who, as World War II breaks out, turns to literature to escape her surroundings. Sure the trailer makes the movie come across as incredibly saccharine, but it might be worth a look if it ever comes to the RGV.
Yes, I mentioned this movie in my Fall Movie Preview a few weeks back, but I’m putting it here again because the film is set to (presumably) expand to the RGV this weekend. If not it should be here the week after.
Based on a true story, 12 Years a Slave revolves around Solomon Northup, a free African-American who was kidnapped and sold to slavery. Strong word of mouth from audiences and rave reviews hint that the film will sweep the Academy Awards come Oscar night, so why not see what the buzz is all about?
PS, the new Robert Redford drama All is Lost is also coming to our local theaters this weekend. I recommend also checking that movie out. Or making a double feature with that and Gravity.
Dear Mr. Waterson (Limited)
Sadly, this isn’t a film adaptation of the famous Calvin and Hobbes comic strip (and we’re probably never getting a movie by the way). For now though, let’s enjoy this documentary that explores the popular comic strip and its influence around the world.
It will also be released On Demand in case you don’t want to wait to watch it in theaters.
In this new film from Academy-Award winning director/screenwriter Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) SNL’s Will Forte stars as a son who is driving his father (Bruce Dern) to Nebraska to claim prize money.
Reviews have been enthusiastic and the film seems like it’s filled with Payne’s trademark dark and dry humor. Dern has also gotten tons of Oscar buzz, including winning the best actor award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the Hunger Games book series, nor of its blockbuster film adaptation (which I consider to be one of the worst films of 2012).
However, I’m surprisingly looking forward to the film sequel, which finds Katniss and Peeta competing in an all-star edition of The Hunger Games. The trailers for the film have hinted that the movie will explore the social criticism featured in the books, but was missing in the first movie.
Also, yay to no more shaky cam!
Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in a road-trip movie?
Sign me up!
Be warned though, the trailer sells the movie as a light comedy, but in actuality this based-on-a-true-story film is more of a tragedy as it accounts the saga of Philomena Lee, a woman who was forced to give up her son for adoption as a teenager. Coogan is the reporter who tags along with her on her search to find her son.
Confession: I have very little interest in watching this movie.
First of all, based on the marketing material, this film bears very little resemblance to the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Snow Queen, that the film is based on.
Speaking of the marketing material, all the ads have highlighted Josh Gad’s character, a living snowman. I find Gad to be one of the most grating human beings alive, so why would I want to watch a movie featuring him?
However this review from Indiewire, a site that I trust with my life, positively compared the film to Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite animated movies ever. Looks like I’m watching it just to see if the comparison is apt.
In this U.S. remake of the South Korean classic thriller, Josh Brolin stars as a man who was imprisoned for two decades, only to be mysteriously released.
The film follows his quest to uncover the truth behind his own kidnapping.
Admittedly, I haven’t seen the original version (don’t worry, it’s on my Netflix queue) but with a cast that also includes Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson and Sharlto Copley, this seems like an intriguing film that I hope can stand on its own.
However, I wonder why anyone thought releasing this movie during Thanksgiving was such a great idea.
This is a new film from The Coen Bros about the 1960’s folk music scene. How can one NOT be excited for it?
American Hustle (Limited)
Batman, Lois Lane, Mystique, Hawkeye and Bradley Cooper all star in what looks like a ‘70s heist movie from the director of Silver Linings Playbook.
Inspired by the real-life FBI ABSCAM investigation, American Hustle follows two con artists forced to work with with an FBI agent to bring down a shady New Jersey mayor.
With an all star cast that also includes Louis C.K. and that fabulous wardrobe that the actors are sporting (plus that Liberace hair Jeremy Renner is totally rocking) this looks like a fun time at the movies.
American Hustle is set to expand nationwide on Dec. 20.
If you remember, I was in the minority of actually enjoying the first Hobbit movie, An Unexpected Journey.
Most critics of that movie complained of the film’s excessive length, joyless visuals and its meandering plot. This film ought to correct those mistakes in the eyes of its haters.
The Desolation of Smaug, the penultimate film in the series, has Bilbo and the company of dwarves encountering the dragon Smaug, and as the title says, killing him. Kind of anti-climatic to have the ending in the tile, no?
Anyway, the trailer promises an action-oriented tale with less traveling and more fight scenes. Not sure if that’s a good thing, but whatever.
Looking at my list, I realized that very little of my picks are family friendly.
I’m making up for it by including Saving Mr. Banks, a dramedy that captures Walt Disney’s struggle to buy the film rights of the classic novel Mary Poppins in order to adapt it into what would become one of the greatest movies ever.
Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson plays Mary Poppins’ author P.L. Travers.
Reviews so far have been praising the film so it looks like something that both parents and their kids will enjoy.
Saving Mr. Banks is scheduled to expand nationwide Dec. 20.
Do you love Anchorman, but wish that the film had more quotes for you to endlessly repeat?
Have no fear then! For the sequel, The Legend Continues, will finally see the light of day!
It’s kind of a big deal.
From Director Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are) this sci-fi-romance stars Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely, Los Angeles man in a not-too-distant future. Reeling from a divorce, he ends up falling in love with the A.I. operating system in his phone (think Suri, but voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
The film premiered at the New York Film Festival last month to critical acclaim. As a fan of Spike Jonze and Joaquin Phoenix, I’m definitely looking forward to this movie.
Her is scheduled to expand nationwide Jan. 10.
The Past (Limited)
Have you seen A Separation? The 2011 Oscar-winning Iranian film about a couple in the middle of a divorce?
If you haven’t, then you should watch it immediately before checking out director Asghar Farhadi’s follow-up film The Past, a drama about a couple whose divorce is complicated following a shocking revelation from a family member.
A Separation is a brilliant film that captures something as intimate and painful as a divorce and yet filming it as an epic thriller that would’ve made Hitchcock proud. This is my most anticipated film of the season and I’m hoping it recaptures the magic of A Separation.
Inspired by the infamous Japanese tale of the 47 Ronin, leaderless samurai warriors who seek vengeance against the one responsible for killing their master, Keanu Reeves stars as an outcast samurai who joins the ronin in an effort to avenge their master.
However, this being 2013, producers of the film felt that they needed to make this movie “cool” for audience members. Hence this adaptation features dragons, orcs witches and 3D.
Admittedly, this looks incredibly stupid; which is why I’m watching it. You’re talking to the guy who unashamedly enjoyed The Lone Ranger, of course I’m going to want to watch this!
August: Osage County (Limited)
Based on the award-winning stage play, August follows the Westons, an estranged family who are reunited when the family patriarch dies.
To be honest, I doubt that I’ll rush out and see the film when it’s released. Having read the play, I was disappointed that everything came across as cliched and generic.
In fact, I’m only keeping the movie on my radar because it stars
God Meryl Streep.
Lone Survivor (Limited) Jan. 10
This action war drama, which features Mark Wahlberg, Eric Bana, Taylor Kitsch and more of Hollywood’s Hotties, recounts the true story of a failed 2005 SEAL Team mission that left all but one member dead.
The film will open nationwide Jan. 10.
First of all, let’s take a minute to appreciate how foxy Ben Stiller got.
Now that that’s over with, let’s discuss the movie.
Stiller plays an introvert with an active imagination that inspires him to travel around the world to make his fantasies come true.
Granted early reviews for the film are downright awful, and there are more important films to watch instead of this movie, but it seems harmless enough to give it a shot.
Martin Scorsese’s latest masterpiece will be released on Christmas Day. A gift from him and star Leonardo DiCaprio for all of us.
Originally set for a release this month (but delayed till Christmas Day to trim about 25 minutes from it) The Wolf of Wall Street centers around the rise and fall of former Wall Street Banker Jordan Belfort. Belfort, a party boy and swindler whose antics look like it will translate into a lot of fun for us (and possibly Oscar Nomination numero cuatro for DiCaprio).
So, what films are you looking forward to this Holiday Season? Any film that I didn’t mention here that you want to see?
Sound off below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!
October 31st, 2013
One of the best things to do during Halloween is to curl up on the sofa with a good scary movie with the lights off.
I thought it would be fun to recommend some movies to watch during the season.
However, I know several people who can’t stand a horror film, so I’m also including a few non-scary films to watch during Halloween.
Below is my list, which has the films ranked from least to most scary. Enjoy and have a great Halloween!
Hocus Pocus (1993)
This is the one Halloween movie that you watched all the time. Don’t lie, you know it’s true.
In what is without a doubt the silliest Halloween movie ever, three kids battle a trio of resurrected witches who are out to drain the life force of the children of the town to regain their youth.
There’s nothing scary about this as it’s nothing more than pure campy fun. Also, it’s another great example of how the villains in a Disney movie are much more entertaining than the main characters.
(Availability: Redbox and DVD/Blu-Ray)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Aka the only film that can be watched on Halloween AND Christmas.
Where else will you watch such bizarre, scary creatures in a film filled with so much Christmas cheer? It’s the perfect film that perfectly blends Christmas and Halloween with so many catchy songs that it demands to be adapted into a Broadway musical?
(DVD/Blu-Ray and streaming on Netflix)
Army of Darkness (1992)
This is the final film in the Evil Dead trilogy (though a sequel may be in the works). Our hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) is transported to medieval times and must battle the undead to return to the present.
However, unlike the first two films, Army ditches the horror element in favor of lowbrow, slapstick humor.
On the bright side, the film retains the series’ creative visual effects and camera work and manages to be laugh out loud funny. Definitely worth a look.
(Availability: Disk delivery through Netflix)
World War Z (2013)
It’s got zombies. therefore it counts as something to watch during Halloween.
Also, Brad Pitt is in it, so there’s eye candy.
(Availability: DVD/Blu-Ray and Redbox)
The Witches (1990)
This is based on a novel by Roald Dahl, so you know that it’s suitable for kids while also being creepy as hell.
The film follows a young boy and his grandmother who confront a group of witches who are planning to turn children into mice.
Also, has Anjelica Huston been better? And scarier?
(Availability: DVD and streaming on Amazon and veoh.com)
Carnival of Souls (1962)
This one will indubitably get under your skin.
Candace Hilligoss stars as an organist who is the lone survivor of a car crash that killed her two friends. Afterwards, she moves to Utah for a job and finds herself drawn to an abandoned local carnival, and stalked by a mysterious ghoulish figure.
Set to a creepy organ score, this is a horror film that relies on an uneasy sense of dread that is hard to shake off. Despite being more than 50 years old, the film has aged well and packs a horrific punch.
(Availability: DVD, Netflix and streaming on YouTube)
Other than The Descent (which you should also check out) this is one of the truly great horror films I’ve seen in the last decade.
Ethan Hawke stars as a writer whose investigation into a murdered family leads to a deadly encounter with a demon. Like Carnival of Souls, Sinister relies on a growing sense of dread that explodes into a truly horrifying climax.
(Availability: DVD/Blu-Ray and Redbox)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Why not take the time to watch a classic horror film that helped define the slasher film genre?
Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a group of teens who fall victim to a family of cannibals. The film’s low-budget gives it a raw, visceral feel that no modern horror film with a high budget can recapture.
Fun fact, when the movie was released, it was marketed as a true story (it’s not), thus making the viewing for audiences in 1974 much more scarier. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Another great horror classic that should be seen by all.
The film follows five college students who go to a cabin in the woods to party, and end up unleashing several demonic spirits.
Part of the fun is the film’s low-budget film which led to several inventive visual effects and a sense of dread that runs through the entire film.
Also, I had the pleasure of meeting Betsy Baker and Theresa Tilly, two of the stars of the film during South Texas Horror Con last weekend. They were a blast!
(Availability: Streaming on Netflix)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Does this count as horror? Debatable. Personally, I’ve yet to experience a film as terrifying as this.
Jodie Foster stars as a rookie FBI agent who seeks the help of an imprisoned serial killer, Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter, to catch another serial killer.
It’s a smart, intoxicatingly beautiful psychological thriller that also provides such terrifying scenes that will have you screaming with fear.
Also, so far The Silence of the Lambs stands as the only horror film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. And if you can, make sure to check out Hannibal, the prequel series to the film that is without a doubt the best drama on network television.
Those are my picks, what are your favorite movies to watch during Halloween? Comment below and don’t forget to follow me on twitter!
August 22nd, 2013
It’s official. AMC’s Breaking Bad is more popular than ever, and the ratings prove it.
Last week’s midseason premiere drew in nearly six million viewers, double its average from last year.
Breaking Bad is arguably the most acclaimed TV show of the last decade and anticipation for the show has never been higher. And now, after five seasons, it is ending.
The series finale, which is set to air Sept. 29, is already being considered the TV event of the year. How can this event be more awesome?
Academy Award-Winning Director Steven Soderbergh has an idea for how to make the finale more epic: show it in theaters.
Soderbergh’s idea involves AMC showing only the last six episodes of the series as a teaser for the film, which would’ve been the last two episodes edited together into a 90-minute movie that would premiere in theaters the Friday after the penultimate episode had aired.
This made me wonder, would we be willing to watch our favorite TV shows on the big-screen?
Theaters themselves have already been showing TV episodes in theaters, albeit as special events.
For example, for the last few years Fathom Events, a company dedicated to screening special events in theaters nationwide, has been showing several of the best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation in theaters, with our local Cinemark Hollywood USA theater in Mcallen participating in it.
Also, the 50th Anniversary Special of the hit BBC show Doctor Who will be broadcasted in theaters in the United Kingdom.
Before stuff like DVR or anything that allowed viewers to watch TV the day after, watching series finales live were huge events. According to this list of the Top 10 Series Finales from Business Insider, several of these finales had as much as 30 million viewers or higher.
Heck, the 1983 series finale for the medical dramedy M*A*S*H was watched by over 105.9 million viewers, a record for the most watched TV event of all time until the 2006 Superbowl (106 million viewers.)
I’m curious, how many of you guys have participated in events like this? And if you haven’t, would you?
As movie viewers, we’re always worried about whether or not we’ll like the latest film release, but by showing TV shows in theaters, we know we’ll like it.
This would definitely be something that I’d kill to participate in. Several of the shows I watch have arresting visuals that look cinematic, so viewing them on the big screen would make the viewing experience so much cooler.
I’m definitely open to the idea of showing the Breaking Bad finale in theaters and I think several TV series finales could benefit from that luxury.
As fans, we’ve invested several years of our life into a TV show. By the time the finale is about to air, we’re brimming with excitement, anxiety, theories and burning questions. Isn’t that how we feel during a typical film premiere?
Of course, this would have to be for TV shows that are cinematic enough to be shown in theaters. So that means that shows like Big Bang Theory, despite being the most watched comedy on TV, wouldn’t work since it’s too small-scaled to be seen in theaters.
Something with big visuals like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead would benefit from it because of how cinematic they look like.
So, would you be willing to watch TV shows in theaters? Comment below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!
July 17th, 2013
The year 2012 came and went without the prophesied apocalypse that many assumed was going to happen. That’s not stopping Hollywood from churning out apocalyptic themed works though.
Last month people saw the release of the horror-comedy This is the End, the action thriller World War Z and the premiere of the TV series Under the Dome. All three of these works have proven themselves popular with general audiences, but are any of them good? Let’s find out!
Adapted from a Stephen King novel, Under the Dome (airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBS) is about a small Maine town whose residents are trapped when a mysterious dome encloses everyone, cutting them all off from the outside world.
The novel is an engaging work that has an ending that’s way too criticized for its own good. The show is deadly dull.
Aside from an interesting pilot episode that does a good job of setting up the premise, the rest of the show falls flat on its face. One reason why this happens is because how little in common this adaptation has with the novel.
Several characters are changed to the point of being unrecognizable. Barbie, the lead character, gets little screentime and is converted from an old fashioned hero into a morally ambiguous character. Which would be interesting if he was given anything to do other than brooding. There’s also the issue of an addition of several new characters who, like most of the cast, are essentially useless, stupid and do nothing to advance the plot in any way.
I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing if an adaptation makes some changes from its source material, but it is bad when they make so many changes from the source that both works are unrecognizable.
But Under the Dome isn’t just a poor adaptation; it’s a poor show. Period.
Instead of going the miniseries route (which would’ve been a lot better), someone got the smart idea to stretch the series’ thin plot into a series.
Aside from that, the dialogue is laughable and every single one of these characters are blandly written and act like complete idiots throughout the show.
The biggest nuisance in the show, though, is how three episodes into the series, no one seems to be taking the premise seriously. Most of the townspeople seem to be OK with the fact that they’re cut off from the world and don’t seem too interested in attempting to escape.
Also, the show has a predictable crisis-a-week formula that has the townspeople putting aside their differences to team up and fix whatever issue is going on. If the series continues going down this route, then I don’t see how this show can continue to keep audiences watching it.
Meanwhile, the apocalyptic comedy, This is the End (now playing everywhere) is insanely hilarious.
The film, which features several well-known comedy actors such as Seth Rogen and James Franco, playing fictionalized versions of themselves as they’re trapped in Franco’s house during the apocalypse. Predictably raunchy and profane shit ensues, resulting in cinematic gold.
Let me go on record to state that I hate practically every single one of the leads here, and yet I still ended up loving every minute of this film. Featuring inventive humor, a barrage of self-deprecating performances, non-stop laughs and a surprisingly emotional center, This is the End may be my favorite movie of the year. It’s definitely the most fun I’ve had in the theaters all year.
These aforementioned works are small-scaled pictures, so if it’s big scale that you want, look no further than World War Z.
World War Z (now playing everywhere) features Brad Pitt as an ex-United Nations agent tasked with finding a cure when a worldwide zombie apocalypse happens. While zombie movies aren’t new, the film tries to add some originality to the genre by posing an interesting set-up: How would our governing bodies act in a crisis as fantastical as a zombie apocalypse?
However, aside from the set-up the film offers nothing new to the genre. The action and plot is pretty predictable (big, loud, etc.) but it is pretty entertaining for the most part.
The film, which has a troubled production history, certainly does a good job of feeling epic thanks to several large-scale action scenes and exotic locales. The film also deserves some praise for its climax, which revolves around Pitt and company finding their way around a zombie-infested medical facility.
The scene manages to be tense and edge-of-your-seat scary. Too bad the rest of the movie is pretty unmemorable.
Granted, the film is pretty blah, blame it on how unscary the zombies are (the movie could’ve used some R-rated violence and gore). But on the bright side, it’s a film that entertains throughout. On the down side, you probably won’t remember this movie a few days after watching it.
Sure, like Under the Dome, World War Z has practically nothing in common with the source material (the author went on record to publicly disown the film), however, unlike Under the Dome, World War Z can stand on its own and is entertaining enough to be forgiven.
Under the Dome: C-. This is the End: A. World War Z: B-.
Those are my thoughts. Have you seen any of these works? what did you think of them? Comment below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!
July 6th, 2013
With last week’s announcement that Captain Planet and the Planeteers, an environmentalist animated show from the ‘90s, is getting a movie and The Lone Ranger opening in theaters this week, I couldn’t help but think of other movies based on TV shows.
TV shows adapted into movies are a no-brainer for Hollywood. Whenever studios want to greenlight a movie, they pick projects that audiences are familiar with in the hopes that the same fanbase will go watch the movie.
With that in mind, I decided to look at several of these TV-to-movie adaptations and rank my favorites. Below is my list of those films.
10) In the Loop
Based on: The Thick of It, aired on BBC Four, 2005-2012
Totally depraved, but also completely hilarious, this modern-day Dr. Strangelove sends up the events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as it follows several political players treating politics as a game without consequences.
The film captures several political machinations we’re all familiar with. These include: the constant manipulation from everyone involved, back-door tactics and the frequent posturing for political career gain. Like many great satires, the film underscores each scene with such hilarity that it, at times, makes you feel bad for laughing at this.
Bonus: the late-great James Gandolfini is good here as a peace-loving general who becomes unhinged by the end of the film.
Based on: The Brady Bunch, aired on ABC, 1969-1974
This 1995 film adaptation based on the classic sitcom that revolves around a large family is part homage to the classic sitcom that also serves as a satire of the series.
This film adaptation places the original sitcom characters, with their 1970s sitcom family morality, in a contemporary 1990s setting. The following film is a culture clash that ridicules the family for being so outrageously outdated as they face such topics like sexuality and puberty and other topics that would never have been covered in the show.
It also spawned an equally hilarious sequel the following year.
Based on: The Simpsons, FOX, 1989-still on the air
When it was released in 2007, anticipation was high for the film adaptation of what is arguably the most popular show in the history of television. While the film, which has the Simpsons running away from their hometown of Springfield after it’s covered in a dome, isn’t exactly a game changer, it’s every bit as hilarious and heartwarming as any episode of the series.
The Simpsons are known for their scathing social commentary and the film delivers on the front by taking shots aimed toward religion, government bureaucracy and loads of irreverent physical gags. It certainly ranks with several of the show’s above-average episodes.
Based on: Mission: Impossible, CBS, 1966-1973
An unrelenting thrill ride, this adaptation of the popular espionage show finds our heroes on the run after being framed for a terrorist attack. Never boring and elevated by the chemistry between the cast, the Mission: Impossible film series is known for releasing a film that surpasses the previous one.
This leaves me very excited to see what the fifth movie will bring.
Based on: Star Trek, NBC, 1966-1969
As much as I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness, I was insanely bothered with how many of the film’s scenes served for no other purpose than to recreate iconic scenes from this movie. This led to me rewatch the first sequel of the film series, which depicts the crew of the USS Enterprise as they explore space, and discover that it still stands as the best film in the series.
Coming off a first film that was a critical and financial disappointment, Wrath of Khan was made with a drastically reduced budget that left the filmmakers no choice but to rely more of dramatic storytelling rather than showy special effects (something that JJ Abrams can learn a thing or two about).
The result was an action packed meditation on death, resurrection and old age that’s still one of the smartest blockbusters around.
Based on: The Addams Family, 1964-1977
This sequel provided one of the best depictions of Thanksgiving ever shown on film, how can you not love it?
In all seriousness, the biggest strength of this film, a sequel to the successful Addams Family Movie, was that it retained the madcap macabre humor that made the show so popular, but was toned down in the first film.
The film, which has Uncle Fester marrying a Black Widow who intends to make him one of her victims, is filmed with such ghoulish zaniness that it actually surpasses the original.
Based on: Monty Python’s Flying Circus, BBC One, 1969-1974
Generally regarded as one of the greatest comedies ever, this medieval farce based on the classic British sketch show, chronicles King Arthur and his quest to find the Holy Grail.
Of course, the narrative of the film really serves to provide Arthur’s episodic encounters as sketches that are made with the same manic energy that the show provided.
Nearly four decades since its release, the film still holds up with several scenes jam-packed with so much lunacy and wit that makes this film a hoot that demands multiple viewings.
Based on: South Park, Comedy Central, 1997-still on the air
Not only is it one of the funniest animated movies ever, it’s also one of the greatest musicals ever. Period.
The film, which holds the Guinness World Record for most swearing in an animated film, has our characters cussing non-stop after viewing an R-rated Canadian film, resulting in their parents declaring war on Canada.
South Park is known for offending people as much as provoking thought, so it makes sense that the film adaptation lampoons the Motion Picture Association of America, the film rating system that’s notorious for being too strict on films with naughty language and sex, but is totally lenient on films with violence.
Granted, the “violence is more corruptible than sex and language” argument isn’t new, but that’s forgivable because the film manages to live up to its title by being, well, bigger than the show.
No longer restricted by the FCC, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker go wild in this move, unleashing such gleeful mayhem that would never have been able to get past the censors on TV.
Also, the musical numbers on this film are flat-out brilliant.
Based on: Batman: The Animated Series, FOX, 1992-1995
It’s a shame that everyone acts as if before Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy there was no good Batman adaptation.
To be fair, that trilogy is great, but this animated series did a fantastic job of grounding the show in reality while successfully mixing the fantastical elements of the comic that inspired it that Nolan left out of his series.
The theatrical feature film (a flop due to a lack of marketing) finds Batman on the hunt for a mysterious vigilante who is killing off all of Gotham’s crime bosses. It’s also more romantic than any Batman film as Bruce Wayne is reunited with an old-flame with dark ties to his past.
The film’s greatest accomplishment is how it expands on the series’ universe while providing insight into the Batman mythology as a whole. Also, it lacks the narrative incohesiveness that plagued last year’s The Dark Knight Rises.
As a huge fan of animation, I find Mask of the Phantasm to be a strong example for why animation as a medium should be taken as seriously as live action works. Not only can this medium provide visuals that live action can’t successfully produce (watch the film’s breathtaking climax to see what I mean) it can also be as emotionally compelling as any live action film can be.
Filled with gorgeous animation and stellar voice acting (unsurprisingly, Mark Hamill as The Joker is a huge scene-stealer) Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the type of movie that even those unfamiliar with the show will appreciate.
Based on: Twin Peaks, ABC, 1990-1991
Released one year after the popular ABC soap opera was canceled due to declining ratings, the film was met with a negative reception from both critics and viewers.
Critics called the film a morbidly joyless affair while die-hard fans of the show criticised how little the film was like the show. To be fair, they’re both right, but I think this a damn good movie.
The show was a mystery about an FBI agent who travels to the mysterious town of Twin Peaks to solve the murder of Laura Palmer, the town’s popular high school homecoming queen.
The movie, a prequel that depicts the last week of Laura Palmer’s life, lacks the quirky and fun tone that made the show so popular. In its place is a sense of dread that makes the film hard to watch as we watch Laura get repeatedly *spoiler alert* abused by her father who ends up killing her.
Also missing are several fan favorite characters from the show’s diverse cast. The roles of the characters who do show up, such as the star of the show, FBI agent Dale Cooper, are reduced to nothing more than glorified cameos.
Still, there are several things working in the film’s favor.
Sheryl Lee as the titular (doomed) heroine gives a mesmerizing performance as the young woman slowly accepting that her death is imminent. Her effortless shifts between Laura’s devil-may-care-attitude and her depressed, tortured inner self elevate the film and provides it with higher emotional stakes that the show (as well as other films from director David Lynch) generally lack.
And again, the film’s menacing tone can make this movie hard to watch, but under the direction of Lynch, the film also provides a riveting experience that had me thinking of the movie long after I watched it.
So, those are my picks, what are yours? Was there a film here you think I should add, or one I should remove?
Comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!