Thursday, February 28, 2013

Your Picks for The Movie Guru Awards

BEST PICTURE- THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

BEST ACTOR- Christian Bale, The Dark Knight Rises

BEST ACTRESS- Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR- Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS- Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises

BEST DIRECTOR- Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises

BEST SCREENPLAY- Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises

BEST ANIMATED FILM- Wreck-It Ralph

BEST COSTUME DESIGN- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE- Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight Rises

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY- Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight Rises

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS- The Avengers

BEST ORIGINAL SONG- "Skyfall" by Adele

WORST PICTURE- Life of Pi

BEST TRAILER- The Dark Knight Rises

MOST ANTICIPATED OF 2013- Iron Man 3



My Picks for The Movie Guru Awards

Here are my choices for The Movie Guru Awards-

BEST PICTURE- ARGO
BEST ACTOR- Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
BEST ACTRESS- Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS- Anne Hathway, The Dark Knight Rises
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR- Alan Arkin, Argo
BEST DIRECTOR- Ben Affleck, Argo
BEST SCREENPLAY- David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
BEST ANIMATED FILM- WRECK-IT RALPH
BEST COSTUME DESIGN- Jacqueline West, Argo
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE- Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight Rises
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY- Roger Deakins, Skyfall
BEST ORIGINAL SONG- Skyfall By Adele
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS- THE AVENGERS
WORST PICTURE- ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT
MOST ANTICIPATED OF 2013- MAN OF STEEL

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Looking Ahead at Oscars 2013: A 2013 MOST ANTICIPATED LIST

The Academy Awards are always an interesting time for film. The Oscars this year have been especially interesting, considering that there is no current front-runner. Today, my thoughts wondered to Oscars 2013 and what films would make it in next year. Right now, I decided that there are several contenders.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
NEBRASKA
GRAVITY
THE MONUMENTS MEN
OLDBOY
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
SAVING MR. BANKS
ONLY GOD FORGIVES
42
LABOR DAY
ELYSIUM
RUSH
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
DIANA
THE COUNSELOR

This is already looking like a stacked field and I am excited for most of these films. There are a few that I am unsure about but I know that from looking at this list, that we are in for a stacked competition in 2013. Here are some reasons why I am excited for each film and a few predictions for each.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET- A new Scorsese picture is always something to look forward to, especially with a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McCounaghey, Kyle Chandler, and Jean Dujardin. This film centers on a Wall Street broker who hits it big and lives the high life but eventually it all comes crashing down on him after refusing to cooperate in an investigation. This sounds like something that could be very exciting and from what I have heard from the book, definitely R-rated. Look for a sure best picture nomination along with a best supporting actor nomination for one of the four actors and a possible win for DiCaprio.  TBA 2013

NEBRASKA- The Descendants was the best film of 2011 along with JJ Abrams Super 8, so it would be an understatement to say that I am excited for Alexander Payne's next film. Bruce Dern and Will Forte star in this father-son road trip film about Dern's drunken father attempting to reclaim a million dollar prize from Publisher's Clearing House. It sounds good and look for it to pick up a nomination for either Dern or Forte, along with original screenplay and best picture. TBA 2013

GRAVITY- A big time space epic that I have been anticipating for a while now, Gravity sounds like one of the most interesting films of the year. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Gravity centers on two astronauts who go to space and get stuck in a damaged space station. The film was originally set for a prime 2012 release date on November 21 but ended up getting moved to 2013, where it now has an October 4 release date. What intrigues me about this film is all the buzz surrounding it. Some people say it has a 17-minute opening shot and in my mind sounds a lot like one of my favorite films, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Look for this film to get a visual effects win along with a nomination for Bullock and possibly mixture along with several technical categories. OCTOBER 4

THE MONUMENTS MEN- A film with an all-star cast about WWII directed by George Clooney. Nothing gets more Oscar-y than that. It sounds like a very intriguing premise and with the talent that is behind it, I think that there is little chance that The Monuments Men screws up and doesn't get nominated. Look for best picture, best director, and several acting categories. As of right now, this is the front-runner for best picture. DECEMBER 18

OLDBOY- Spike Lee's remake of a beloved classic sounds like a bad idea. But I think that Lee could do for Oldboy what Martin Scorsese did for The Departed. And I think that Josh Brolin fits into the lead role really well. I haven't seen the original and I don't think I will anytime soon. The one thing that I am unsure of is whether or not Film District will give it an Oscar push. That I don't know. OCTOBER 11

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS- If you asked me what the front-runner for the 2013 Oscars was right now, I would tell you that it is either The Monuments Men or Captain Phillips. The film, originally slated for a release date in March, was moved to October to get it closer to the awards season. Also, a recent historical event has proved to be a genre of interest (The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty) and this film stars Tom Hanks. The only issue might be Paul Greengrass. I am not a fan of his style of filmmaking and I don't know if that will make me dislike Phillips. But expect nominations for Hanks and best picture along with screenplay and sound nominations. OCTOBER 11

SAVING MR. BANKS- Another Tom Hanks-starred picture that could be a best picture contender, Saving Mr. Banks is an uncertainty right now. It is the type of film that Academy voters usually go for but it is a Disney film and they typically don't push too hard for Oscars. But this could mean another win for Tom Hanks because this is the kind of role that voters go for. He is playing Walt Disney and the Academy loves Disney so I think that it would be shocking if this film didn't get some attention come February. Look for a Tom Hanks nomination. DECEMBER 20

ONLY GOD FORGIVES- 2011's Drive has a lot of fans. I didn't see the film even though I am dying to, but I think that Nicolas Winding Refn now has enough clout in Hollywood that they will nominate his film. Then again, it isn't something that the Academy typically goes for. Like Drive, Only God Forgives is a stylish, brutal and bloody film that is hip and modern. Not something that attracts voters. But then again, if the year is weak enough, Only God Forgives could pick up nominations for Ryan Gosling and Refn. TBA 2013

42- A film that I would like to think is an Oscar contender but really isn't. 42 is an "Academy" film but it is coming out in April. I can't say the last time a non-blockbuster from a month earlier than August was nominated. I think that the drama just might be too small-scale for the Academy and not the sports movie that they want. It could be this year's Blind Side though. APRIL 2013

LABOR DAY- Jason Reitman has evolved from an indie favorite to an Oscar darling. With Labor Day, he jumps back into directing and tells the story of a 30-year old man who looks back on his fateful Labor Day weekend when he was thirteen. The film stars Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire and Clark Gregg and sounds like something that will definitely be nominated despite my dislike for Juno. Look for picture, actor, actress and surely screenplay. TBA 2013

ELYSIUM- Neil Blomkamp makes smart science fiction movies. That is something that the Academy has grown to like. They apparently don't like the big, bombastic action movies like Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises and seem to now go for more innovative science fiction and action films like District 9 and Inception. So to say that Elysium, with it's all-star cast of Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley and Jodie Foster won't have a shot at a nomination for best picture. I don't really know how the film will turn out but it sounds exciting. AUGUST 2013

RUSH- Ron Howard is an Oscar darling. Plain and simple. And his films typically get nominated, from Apollo 13 to A Beautiful Mind, he has won plenty of Oscars. So it seems like Ron Howard will be getting some attention for his Formula 1 drama Rush. Starring Chris Hemsworth, this film is sure to get Academy attention and could put Hemsworth on the map for good. Look for several nominations and even some technical stuff. SEPTEMBER 2013

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS- The Coen brothers are also filmmakers that get a lot of attention and their newest film sounds like it will be no different. But from just the set photos, I can tell that this looks a little more comedic than their previous outings. But there are no true comedies in the running this year, so it looks like this might be a favorite. Looks like it will get several nominations. TBA 2013

DIANA- This year's Iron Lady. Naomi Watts is Princess Diana and I think that this could go two ways. It could either be the King's Speech or it could be The Iron Lady. I think that Watts' performance will win her best actress and I think that if it is a good picture, than it will be a serious best picture contender as well. TBA 2013

THE COUNSELOR- Ridley Scott's drug drama might get Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt the Oscars they deserve. The actors are both stars in this drama and I think that this will also be a front-runner. The Counselor is written by Cormac McCarthy and he wrote No Country for Old Men so I think that we have to take this film seriously. And Scott has gotten Oscars before, including a best picture for Gladiator. Look for a serious contender here. TBA 2013

Well that is it. I mean, the race is far from over and odds are that a film that is not on this list will win. The Oscars are unpredictable.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar Winners

I don't have a ton of time and I didn't live blog last night, but I wanted to put out the Oscar winners from last night and give you guys a bit of who won and everything that happened last night. I really enjoyed MacFarlane as a host by the way. Here are the Oscar Winners of 2012:

BEST PICTURE- ARGO


BEST ACTOR- Daniel-Day Lewis, LINCOLN

BEST ACTRESS- Jennifer Lawrence, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR- Chrisoph Waltz, DJANGO UNCHAINED

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS- Anne Hathaway, LES MISERABLES

BEST DIRECTOR- Ang Lee, LIFE OF PI

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY- Quentin Tarantino, DJANGO UNCHAINED

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY- Chris Terrio, ARGO

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE- BRAVE

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM- AMOUR

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY- Claudio Miranda, LIFE OF PI

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS- LIFE OF PI

BEST COSTUME DESIGN- ANNA KARENINA

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN- LINCOLN

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING- LES MISERABLES

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT- CURFEW

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT- INOCENTE

BEST ANIMATED SHORT- PAPERMAN

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE- SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

BEST FILM EDITING- ARGO

BEST ORIGINAL SONG- "SKYFALL" by ADELE

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE- LIFE OF PI

BEST SOUND MIXING- LES MISERABLES

BEST SOUND EDITING- SKYFALL and ZERO DARK THIRTY


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscars: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

The Oscars are the best show in Hollywood. It's all the glamour and all the stars out for one big night. It's also the culmination of the Awards season and is the final result of the best in Hollywood (although everyone has different opinions on who should win). So I'm going make my final predictions and also who I think should win. Here we go.

BEST PICTURE


WILL WIN: Argo
SHOULD WIN: Argo

Best Picture of the Year. Hands Down. I got the DVD on Wednesday and have watched it three or four times since then. It's not a perfect film; the middle section is slow. But it just has this quality about it that makes me want to watch it again and again. The only film that I can say does that to me is Casablanca. So Argo will be in pretty good company tonight when it picks up its best Picture Oscar.

BEST ACTOR


WILL WIN: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
SHOULD WIN: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

DDL is a lock if there is one tonight. His performance is dead-on and he immerses himself in the character so much that you believe that he is Lincoln. He will be picking up his third Oscar tonight. But I would have picked Bradley Cooper for his fantastic performance in the fantastic film Silver Linings Playbook. He turned in a great performance and also immersed himself in his character. I thought that his performance was truly the best or the year and should have taken home the trophy.

BEST ACTRESS


WILL WIN: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
SHOULD WIN: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

I feel that this is a pretty safe decision, even though some people are convinced that Emmanuelle Riva is going to take the trophy. Lawrence gave the best performance of the year and fit perfectly into the best acting ensemble of the year. I loved her performance and I loved that film. She's going to take home the trophy tonight.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR


WILL WIN: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
SHOULD WIN: Alan Arkin, Argo

This is the toughest category to predict. I can see Tommy Lee Jones, Christoph Waltz or De Niro walking up to the podium tonight. But I'm going to go with De Niro. I think that the Academy is happy to see him back and will give it to him. He's also campaigned extremely well, something I can't say that Jones has done. And I'm not sure that there is the support for Waltz. Personally, I would have picked Alan Arkin for the humor he brought to an intense thriller.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS


WILL WIN: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
SHOULD WIN: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Another lock, just like Daniel Day-Lewis. Everyone loves her performance and even the people that despised the movie thought she was good (for the most part). And she has won everything. It would make no sense if anyone but Hathaway walks up to the Oscar stage tonight. I would have voted for her as well, but not for Les Miserables. I would have given it to her because of her fantastic work in The Dark Knight Rises this year. That was a great performance.

BEST DIRECTOR

WILL WIN: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
SHOULD WIN: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

If Ben Affleck gets a nomination for Best Director, there's a good chance that Lincoln wins best Picture. But it looks as if Argo is going to win now and Lincoln is going to walk away without an Oscar. So the Academy will reward Spielberg for the actor's showcase that he put on with Lincoln. Personally, despite my love for Spielberg, I didn't love that film. I would have chosen David O. Russell, who proved that a movie can be smartly written and have great performances but still be very entertaining.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

WILL WIN: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
SHOULD WIN: Abstain

This is another tough category to predict. I think that Moonrise Kingdom and Flight have no chance and I think that Amour is a long shot as well since it is a foreign language film. Zero Dark Thirty is a popular film that isn't going to win much but that tortune controversy is going to hurt it. Look for Django to take it here. I'm not making a pick in this category since I saw none of the movies that were nominated. Sadly.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

WILL WIN: Chris Terrio, Argo
SHOULD WIN: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

There are three good scripts in this category that could take this tonight. I think that Argo will win. It's a smartly written script filled with lots of catchy one-liners (including one that is reaching historic status) and a lot of tension. My personal pick is David O. Russell's script for Silver Linings Playbook which is just fantastic and a very real script that helps you relate to those characters.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

WILL WIN: Wreck-It Ralph
SHOULD WIN: Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph is going to take this. The love isn't there for any of the other nominees and Brave is not as good as Wreck-It Ralph. I think that the Academy is going to embrace this film. It's my favorite animated film of the year too.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

WILL WIN: Searching For Sugar Man
SHOULD WIN: Searching For Sugar Man

Searching For Sugar Man is a lock. It's going to win. I'm voting for it because it is the only of the documentaries that I saw. I watched it last night and didn't really love it. I thought that it was too much of a love letter to Rodriguez and would have liked to see more of the last twenty minutes. The music is good though and it introduced me to Rodriguez, who I didn't know before.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

WILL WIN: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
SHOULD WIN: Roger Deakins, Skyfall

The Academy has a lot of love for Life of Pi which in my opinion is garbage. However, I can recognize that the film is very good technically and should win some Oscars for that. It's going to take cinematography here and a lot of other categories as well. But my personal pick is Skyfall. That movie is beautfiul and has so many wow moments in it. Plus, Deakins has lost out for movies like The Shawshank Redemption. Time to give him the award.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

WILL WIN: Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
SHOULD WIN: Thomas Newman, Skyfall

Another Life of Pi lock is Mychael Danna. He has won most of the score awards and is the favorite over John Williams. I really didn't notice the music in the film that much but then again I didn't like much about that movie. My choice would be Thomas Newman for Skyfall because I really love action movies scores and that is a great one. I wouldn't mind Alexander Desplat winning for Argo either.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

WILL WIN: Anna Karenina
SHOULD WIN: Anna Karenina

This film is just costume design bait. I haven't seen the movie, but just from watching trailers and seeing the posters know that it is going to win.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

WILL WIN: Amour
SHOULD WIN: Abstain

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

WILL WIN: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
SHOULD WIN: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

WILL WIN: Life of Pi
SHOULD WIN: Life of Pi

BEST FILM EDITING

WILL WIN: Argo
SHOULD WIN: Argo

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

WILL WIN: Skyfall by Adele
SHOULD WIN: Skyfall by Adele

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

WILL WIN: Life of Pi
SHOULD WIN: Life of Pi

BEST SOUND EDITING

WILL WIN: Zero Dark Thirty
SHOULD WIN: Skyfall

BEST SOUND MIXING

WILL WIN: Les Miserables
SHOULD WIN: Skyfall

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

WILL WIN: Paperman
SHOULD WIN: Paperman

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

WILL WIN: Curfew

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

WILL WIN: Inocente


Well, that's it for now. I didn't do all the categories but I will be talking about them later. I'm live blogging tonight so look for that.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild review

This was a weird movie. That thought was ringing through my head while I was watching Beasts of the Southern Wild, a movie that I had always hoped to see, but never did. And it is weird. But beneath all the quirkiness of the characters and the community, along with the absurd plausibility of the apocalyptic story, lies some interesting themes and thought-provoking questions that I didn't expect when I decided to watch this movie. I can't say I really enjoyed Beasts of the Southern Wild and I can't say that I understand why people love it so much, but I can say that I think that it is a well made and interesting look at life filled with authentic performances.

Beasts of the Southern Wild follows Hushpuppy (Quvenshane Wallis), a young girl living with her dad (Dwight Henry) in the Louisiana bayou. The section they live in is called the bathtub and it is cut off from the rest of the world and basically the poorest of the poor. One day, the South Pole begins melting and the bathtub will soon be flooded. The rest of the film follows the pair as they attempt to survive the disastrous situation.

After watching the film, I couldn't help but think that if this film's ability to make you think along with the ambition had been injected into Life of Pi, that film would have been a whole lot better. Beasts has a lot of questions in it and doesn't answer them all. I love it when a film does that. It just makes it so much more magical and terrifying at the same time. That's why I didn't like Life of Pi. It tried to do that but it failed miserably. That's not the best part of the film though.

The best part is the two performances from the leads. Dwight Henry is really, really good as Hushpuppy's father and in any other normal year, he gets a best supporting actor nomination. What is amazing to me is that Henry was just a delivery man that Benh Zeitlin picked to make the film. That's really cool. But the best performance comes from (no surprise) Quvenshane Wallis. At first, I was unsure about how good she was in the role. Honestly, she doesn't have much dialogue. But there is just this subtlety and power to her performance, especially in the fantastic second half of the film.

I loved the second half of the film. I think that the film meanders quite a bit in the middle, but it eventually finds its footing. It poses a lot of questions about why the characters are so stubborn and why they are determined to stay in the Bathtub. I'm not sure that other people got that from the film but I thought that the whole hospital section was very intriguing. I was asking myself questions, which I rarely do in films. I also really liked the musical score of the movie. It isn't something a lot of people are talking about, but I noticed it and in a good way.

But this is not a perfect film like one may suspect from the raves it is getting. Benh Zeitlin's direction wasn't great and I don't think that he should have been recognized by the Academy for his work, when a far superior film was made by a different director (Argo). Zeitlin does the traditional indie movie shakey-cam thing, which annoys me beyond belief. Just put your camera on a tri-pod!!! Jeez.

Also, the film struggles to find its footing. Its epic, destruction-laced plot pulls you in, but once it does, it kind of just sits there for a while. Once the storm hits, the characters don't do anything. They rely too much on the actors and it doesn't work. The lack of dialogue was kind of surprising too, considering how well all the actors deliver their lines.

At first I was skeptical, but Beasts of the Southern Wild ends up being an enjoyable and interesting trip to a place that no one has really explored in a film before. It wasn't perfect but I think that it is worth a watch. But it certainly isn't for everyone. And then, like Lincoln, it isn't a film that I would watch again but it still is worth watching once.

THE FINAL GRADE: B-                                            (6.6/10)


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Oscar Month: Casablanca (1942)

Last year, I started a journey that I am still on. A journey through classic cinema. Before that, some of my favorite movies included Transformers and other destruction based features. And while I still like a good action film (Skyfall, Super 8 and The Dark Knight Trilogy are prime examples), I have come to appreciate a different kind of cinema. I began to look at movies in a different light. One of the films that I watched while I was looking at classic films was Casablanca. I liked the film but I didn't think it was great. A year ago, if you had asked me my favorite classic movies, the list would have been as followed: Psycho, Singin in the Rain, The Graduate, Sunset Boulevard and The Bridge on The River Kwai. But now that list would include Casablanca, a film that I love more and more each time I watch it and is closer to becoming my favorite film. Everything about it is good. I went from liking it to loving every minute of it in several viewings. Out of all of the films, I have ended up watching Casablanca the most. There is just something about it that draws me back.

If you haven't seen it, you are missing out, but here's a synopsis. The film is set in WWII. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a cafe owner in Casablanca, Morocco, who sticks his "neck out for nobody". Everybody wants out of Morocco to go to America because Hitler may take North Africa. One night, "of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world", Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid) decide to stop into Rick's. Turns out that Ilsa and Rick have a past. Then there is the Nazi general who wants to keep Lazlo in Casablanca. Then there are the people who want to go to America. Then there's the piano player who needs to "Play it again" for Rick and Ilsa. Everything culminates in decisions for the good of mankind. 

I had a hard time writing that summary. I actually had to go to Wikipedia to look up some information. It's actually extremely difficult to describe the plot of that film. There is just so much going on and so many great storylines, it is hard to describe them all. A film like this could have ended up being a mess. But it isn't. It actually is one of the greatest films of all time. It is so rich and everything is important and you always feel like you miss something. There is so much there. Then there's the setting and the cinematography. It is all amazing and you will be in awe. 

The performances are also great. Everybody in the film is stunning, from Bergman's conflicted Ilsa to Bogart's heartbroken Rick. They are both stunning and some of the best performances ever. The script is also fantastic. I can't honestly find a single thing wrong with it. Then there is its length. It is compact and I can watch it several times without getting tired of it.

Casablanca is simply one of the greatest films of all time. You must see it or you cannot call yourself a movie fan. It is a mixture of tons of great elements and that makes for a great film. It's why we go to the movies. Casablanca is one of the greatest films of all time. 



"A Good Day To Die Hard" wins 4-day weekend, "Identity Thief" holds strong

NOTE: This is a five-day weekend for Hollywood. Today I am reporting the grosses for the first four days of the weekend. So when I say four day weekend, I mean Valentine's Day and Friday, Saturday, Sunday. THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT INCLUDE PRESIDENT'S DAY GROSSES.

It was a good weekend to go to the movies. There was a little bit of something for everyone and it showed. I will be going tomorrow and you can hope for some reviews. Don't forget, this weekend is also President's Day weekend so it will actually end up being a 5-day weekend. But today I'm only reporting the four-day grosses. But it was actually a rollercoaster ride at the box office with A Good Day To Die Hard leading with $33 million over Valentine's Day and the weekend. The critically panned sequel performed well below expectations and ended up closer with its competition then previously expected. In second place was Universal's Identity Thief, which dropped 32% for another $28.7 million to add to its total gross. The comedy has grossed $70 million so far and should add a bit more on President's Day. Safe Haven also had a modest debut despite having worse reviews then Die Hard. Safe Haven grossed $30 million through its first four days which is on par with some other Nicholas Sparks adaptations. However, it isn't the size of Dear John or The Vow. The first animated offering of the year, Escape from Planet Earth grossed a decent $16 million. While it looks like a disappointment, in my opinion, it isn't. This was a little known film not from Dreamworks, Pixar or Illumination so this gross is decent in my opinion. In fifth place was Summit's Warm Bodies. I will be seeing this one and will add to its gross. This weekend it add $11.5 million for a $50 million total. It may finish around $75 million.

The biggest bomb of the week came in the sixth place slot with Beautiful Creatures. The film grossed a dreadful $10 million, which is one of the worst YA adaptation openings ever. I think the problem with the film is that it just didn't feel like a must see movie. I though about seeing it, but I'm not going to. It just looks kind of bland. Side Effects held great for another $7.5 million. The film isn't exactly tearing up the box office however and has only grossed $19 million thus far. One of the best box office stories of the year is Silver Linings Playbook, which will hit $100 million tomorrow. I'm very happy that this reached $100 million and it is one of the best films of the year. It grossed $7.3 million this weekend and only dropped 6%. This might keep going even after the Oscars. I hope it comes to DVD soon though, because I want to watch it again and again. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters dropped 40%, which was the worst of the weekend. It added $4.3 million which makes its total gross a decent $49 million. And finally in tenth place was Zero Dark Thirty which added another $3.5 million to its total. The film has now grossed $88 million and will struggle to hit 9 digits.

Next weekend is going to be one of the biggest busts of the year as Dark Skies and Snitch open. Neither will tear up the box office. But its the calm before the summer storm, which basically starts in March now.


The Impossible Review

The Impossible is one of the toughest films that I have ever had to watch. I was shell-shocked by its hard power and its unflinching portrayal of one of the most devastating events of the last century. I was shell-shocked by what it got away with for a PG-13 rating. I was shell-shocked by its special effects and sound, the way it portrays the terrifying experience of the tsunami. Walking into the theater, I expected a sentimental, Spielbergian drama that is intense and unflinching but at the same time, sentimental and uplifting. Honestly, I know people say that this movie is a uplifting story, but I felt completely different. By the end of the film, I was less uplifted, then I was depressed and shaken. The Impossible isn't a film that you watch but one you experience. You feel the pain, you feel the emotions, you feel the hope, you feel the despair. You feel the whole movie.

The film centers on Maria (Naomi Watts), a mother of three boys who takes a trip with her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and kids to Indonesia. They spend the first few days basking in paradise and enjoying themselves and their Christmas festivities. Then the tsunami hits and they are completely unaware that it is about to cause the devastation that it does. The family is seperated; Maria with her oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) and Henry with the two youngest children. The first section of the film is spent with Maria as she goes through a graphic leg injury and reaches a survivor camp. Lucas stays by his mother but also helps other people out. The second half deals with Henry as he searches for Maria and Lucas.

The performances are strong but are overshadowed by the nature of the film. Naomi Watts is fierce and powerful and practically undergoes a full transformation into the role. Tom Holland is equally intense and focused as her son and is the symbol of good in the middle of all the destruction. Those are honestly the two main actors in the film but McGregor is also good.

One shocking thing about the film that doesn't have to do with its disturbing content is the special effects. They are grand and fully immerse you in the sheer terror and force of the event. What shocked me about it was the level of mastery and realism that was in special effects that were done on a small budget. This deserved an Oscar nomination.

My one main problem with this film is how directed JA Bayona handles the aftermath. He isn't discreet and all the scenes in hospitals end up being pretty graphic at some point. And that is OK. Being graphic is a necessity in this film. But how many times can you scream and cry and give looks of pain in one scene. Bayona doesn't seem to show the horrifying nature of the catastrophe respect at times and often exploits it. He dwells on the graphic nature so much that it just becomes overwhelming at times. It is just too much. You don't need to focus on it constantly. Focus a bit more on how the people relate with each other and The Impossible is a better film.

I can say that I recommend The Impossible, but I can't promise that you will get any enjoyment out of the film. It's a disturbing film to watch and one you won't necessarily want to watch again. But it is one of those films that is immersed in realism and makes you feel important for watching it. Like Saving Private Ryan or The Passion of the Christ, it is one of those films that makes you understand the situation better. But don't expect an uplifting film.

The Impossible is rated PG-13 for intense realistic disaster sequences including disturbing injury images throughout and brief nudity. I can't stress how intense and graphic this film is for a PG-13 rating. It pushes the limits and then some. I can honestly say that I don't recommend that children watch this movie, but I think that it would put into perspective real events like this for them. My recommended age for this film is 14 and up. I normally don't do this, but I feel that it is necessary for this film.

THE FINAL GRADE: B+                                           (7.8/10)



Oscar Month: Titanic (1997)

FILM: Titanic
YEAR: 1997
OSCARS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Song, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects
NUMBER OF OSCARS: 11

I can't say that I am a great fan of James Cameron's work. I haven't seen Aliens or Terminator, love Terminator 2: Judgement Day but despise the highest grossing film of all time, Avatar. So I really wasn't sure what I would make of his other crowning achievement, Titanic. Thankfully, after a really rough start, Titanic sucks you into its shlocky melodrama and produces a long, sad, entertaining epic. It isn't perfect but it works and the performances get better as it goes along.

Titanic begins with an undersea explorer (Bill Pullman) who finds a nude painting of a woman underwater in the Titanic, the ship he has been long exploring. He ends up talking to one of the survivors of the Titanic, Rose, who tells the story of how she fell in love and survived the shipwreck. The film sends you back to the year that Titanic sank and tells the story of Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), who gets lucky and wins tickets on the Titanic. On board, Jack meets the young Rose (Kate Winslet), who is fed up with her life and doesn't want to marry her fiance Cal  (Billy Zane). They meet, they fall and love. Boom. But then the ship sinks. Spoiler Alert.

The acting in Titanic can be pretty awful, especially the first half hour where Rose and Jack are together. It is so fake, so forced, so inauthentic, that I almost considered stopping the film. None of the other members of the cast are standouts either, but as the film goes on, it gets better. By the second half of the film, the acting isn't so bad and doesn't distract from the film. Winslet ends up giving a good performance but DiCaprio isn't as strong in this as something like Inception.

The plot is also weak. It's cliched, it's boring at times, and it seems to be done just to put a human element into a major catastrophe. But guess what? It works. Hard to imagine, but it does. Like I said, the first half hour to forty five minutes on the boat is just dreadful but eventually the film sucks you into its melodrama and makes you care about two characters. Titanic is not a thoroughly entertaining love story, but it gets better as it goes along. That is rare in a film.

My biggest problems with the film involve length and the way that Cameron handles the sinking. One, the sinking takes forever. Typically, a movie speeds up events but this one basically goes minute by minute through the catastrophe. It takes about an hour out of the movie. It is long and it does get boring. But my biggest problem with the film is that it doesn't make Titanic into an event that you are horrified by. It's intense, but it feels so watered down and fake that I was cringing. Unlike Saving Private Ryan or The Impossible, the sinking is done more for entertainment than to say: look how horrible this is.

But in the end, you will enjoy Titanic. It has a little bit of everything and I can guarantee you that there is something in the film that you will like, no matter who you are. It isn't perfect and it is far from the greatest love story of all time, but it still is an entertaining three hours in the theater. It is also a must see in 3D, if you have the right television.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Jennifer Lawrence joins all-star cast in David O. Russell's Abscam movie

Jennifer Lawrence has now worked with David O. Russell on Silver Linings Playbook and Bradley Cooper on that film and Serena (scheduled for release later this year), so it's no wonder that they now will work together again. Lawrence joins Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams (The Fighter), Christian Bale (The Fighter) and Jeremy Renner in a film that was previously known as American Bull****. Of course, that film will have another title but I think that it is a very intriguing title. The film was written by Eric Singer and David O. Russell and will be directed by Russell. Lawrence is going to play Christian Bale's wife in the film. It is going to be set in the 1970's and is about Abscam which to my understanding is an FBI operation that takes down a bunch of US Congressmen. I don't know much about the story but I think that it sounds like a great premise and this is going to be a 2014 Oscar contender in my opinion, maybe 2013, depending how fast they get the film into production. A difference between Silver Linings Playbook and American Bull**** is that it will be produced at Sony Pictures by Megan Ellison, who produced Zero Dark Thirty. This film sounds right up my alley and I hope that it is as great as it sounds. Look for this film to hit theaters in 2014 or 2013, I'm really not sure. But the sooner, the better in my opinion.


Sam Mendes likely to return for Bond 24, but film may miss 2014 release date

Back when Sam Mendes was doing the press runs for Skyfall, he mentioned that he had thought up of a plot for Bond 24 and that he was going to work on the script with John Logan who wrote the film. However, Mendes hasn't officially signed on for the film and until today, it was unknown whether or not he would be the director for the next film. Today comes a report from the Daily Mail that Mendes is 75% likely to return for the sequel but is waiting for the final script to confirm his return. Also reported is that Bond 24 will be a standalone film and not a two part thing with Bond 25. One problem with Mendes returning is that he is busy into early 2014 and if he does the film, it could be pushed from 2015. That makes me extremely disappointed but I think that Mendes is a necessity for the sequel. Skyfall is one of the absolute best Bond films ever made and I just love that film. Watching it on Blu-Ray, I know now that Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins must return for this sequel. I really wanted a 2014 Bond movie and I hope that this doesn't start a trend of Bond movies taking really long to produce. But I think that if we get Mendes back, it will be worth it.



Friday, February 15, 2013

Peter Dinklage will play the villain in "X-Men: Days of Future Past"

Let's just get the information out there first. Yesterday came the news that Peter Dinklage, one of the main pieces of Game of Thrones, has been cast in Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days of Future Past. He will be playing the villain role and while there has been much speculation about who he is playing, but I could say that I really don't care. All I know is that this film is becoming more and more unstable and I think that while everyone else is excited, I'm leaning towards the fact that it is going to be a train wreck. Here is the cast list so far: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Peter Dinklage, and Patrick Stewart. And there could be more that join. Doesn't that sound like a bit much? With all superhero sequels that end up good, they add a few characters and take the same formula of the original but put a new twist on it. The bad ones add tons of new characters and ends up with too much going on. Which one does this sound like to you? It just sounds like an out of control train about to crash into a building and just be really really bad. All this anticipation is going to kill this film. I'm calling it right now. X-Men: Days of Future Past is going to be bad. I know you're shocked but it is going to be bad.



Jason Momoa could join Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt as lead

With Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy going into production in a few months, the casting list will be filling out rather quickly. Honestly, this ensemble is going to be big and it excites me to see that more actors and more characters are joining the epic Marvel universe. In case you didn't know, Chris Pratt joined the film as the lead role last week as Star-Lord, the main human character. Pratt can actually be seen in two films right now with a comedy flop in Movie 43 and a serious drama in Zero Dark Thirty. Unlike when any other superhero story comes to the big screen, this time I am completely unfamiliar with the comic book source material so I don't know if Pratt is a good fit for the role. But his ability to be in comedies and dramas at the same time excites me for the role. Those actors do best in the Marvel universe. Jason Momoa has now done a screen test and could be joining the film as Drax the destroyer. From the name of the character, it sounds like Momoa would be a great fit for the film. However, he hasn't had an especially good track record at the box office with his only starring role (Conan the Barbarian) being a flop. Drax sounds like a physically imposing character and I think that that works for Momoa. Look for more Guardians of the Galaxy casting news in the coming weeks including who's going to voice Rocket Racoon!!!! Aren't you excited!




Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Identity Thief" shocks with $36.5 million, Soderbergh's last effort disappoints

Despite a massive winter storm that may have kept most of the Northeast at home instead of at the theaters, the box office was rather strong this weekend with Identity Thief leading the way. Melissa McCarthy's first starring vehicle was an undeniable success. The poorly reviewed, R-rated comedy topped the box office with $36.5 million. That exceeds expectations by about $15 million and creates the first bona-fide hit of the year. The legs on the film may not be great however, with only a B Cinemascore. But still, Identity Thief proves that McCarthy and co-star Jason Bateman can take a film to the top and it could reach $100 million. In second place was Summit's Warm Bodies. The film grossed another $11.5 million which is only a 43% drop from last weekend. That is strong for a teenager-driven film and it could boast even better numbers over the five day weekend that will begin at the end of next week. Warm Bodies has now grossed $36.6 million. In third was Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects. After a big 2012 that boasted a big hit in Magic Mike, Soderbergh's latest only grossed $10 million. That is more in line with Haywire, his 2012 flop than any other hit of his. This film also received a B Cinemascore which does not bode well for the future. Silver Linings Playbook added another $6.9 million this weekend to reach a total of $90 million at the box office. The critical darling and audience favorite should peak next weekend with the Oscars nearing and Valentine's Day. Expect this film to finish around $120 million or higher. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was in fifth place this weekend to hit $43 million. The film added $5.7 million and has showed decent legs, which I did not expect. Universal's Mama finished in 6th place, with a total gross of $64 million so far. Zero Dark Thirty finished in seventh. The Bin Laden thriller has now grossed $83 million. This film and Silver Linings Playbook opened at around the same time and were neck and neck but it is now clear that Playbook won the battle. In 8th is our future best picture winner, Argo. The film added $2 million to raise it's total to $123 million. And to round out the top ten, Django Unchained finished in 9th with $2.2 million to raise its total to $154 million and Bullet To the Head grossed another $1.9 million. Next weekend sees the release of A Good Day To Die Hard, Beautiful Creatures and Safe Haven. Die Hard is going to be a hit but I question how well the other two will do. We'll have to wait and see.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Oscar Month: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

FILM: A Beautiful Mind
YEAR: 2001
OSCARS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay
NUMBER OF OSCARS: 4

Russell Crowe had something going back in the early 2000's. He was first nominated for several awards for  The Insider in 1999, then won an Oscar for Gladiator in 2000, was nominated again for A Beautiful Mind in 2001, was nominated in some critic circles for Master and Commander, along with a Golden Globe nomination for Cinderella Man in 2004. I'm telling you, he was on a roll. But the film that I am talking about today is A Beautiful Mind which won Best Picture at the 2001 Oscars. A Beautiful Mind poses as a sentimental biopic about John Nash, a famous mathematician, but is truly a chilling and twisting portrayal of his mental illness.

As I said, the film is about Nash, who goes to Princeton and develops a wholly original formula and theory on why men choose the blondes always. It leads to a job at MIT and then a government job, where he is cracking codes for William Parcher (Ed Harris). At around the same time, Nash falls in love with Alicia (Jennifer Connolly), who is one of his students. But soon Nash becomes delusional and gets tangled up in a bout with mental illness. The film chronicles the rest of his life as he battles the illness.

To say what exactly Nash's illness is would be a major, major spoiler. Trust me, if you haven't seen this film, you will want to go in fresh. It was really fun for me to see the plot unwind without knowing everything that was going to happen, unlike when I first saw The Sixth Sense. But it is no spoiler to say that Russell Crowe's performance is a powerhouse. It shows the timidity and anger and fear of Nash without flinching. It is truly a great performance. If Crowe hadn't won in 2000 for Gladiator, he would have won for this. Connolly is also very good as someone who has to deal with Nash's issues and she also delivers an emotional powerhouse of a performance. Ed Harris and Paul Bettany are also good and overall the cast is a terrific ensemble.

The script is also very good. It is historical fiction. Every single thing that happened in A Beautiful Mind did not truly happen in the life of John Nash and that is okay because not everything needs to be 100% accurate. A Beautiful Mind is mostly true and it is an engrossing narrative that is very interesting. The cinematography is stunning as well. It's a period piece and a glossy, awesome looking one at that.

Director Ron Howard also has a nice balance going with the film and the direction he takes it. It is a serious look at mental illness and an unflinching one at that. As much as I loved Silver Linings Playbook, it was a lighter, more fluffy version of mental illness. Pat's condition goes away as he grows to love Tiffany. Nash's never goes away and that is one of the best things about Howard's film. It isn't light and fluffy but real.

A Beautiful Mind takes a while to get into and you might be confused at what exactly Ed Harris' character wants from Nash but trust me, A Beautiful Mind is worth it. It is a wholly satisfying film and one that I would gladly watch again.


Oscar Month: Annie Hall (1977)

FILM: Annie Hall
YEAR: 1977
OSCARS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay
NUMBER OF OSCARS: 4

Woody Allen has a long and storied career in Hollywood. He's been making popular films since the 1970's and he is still making Oscar nominated hits today, with his biggest hit ever, Midnight in Paris, being released last year and garnering tons of critical acclaim from the Academy. But it all really started back in 1977 with the release of Allen's Annie Hall, which was a critical hit and shockingly beat Star Wars at the Oscars (I guess that you can blame this film for the Academy's anti-blockbuster attitude). This film establishes Allen's blend of romance and neurotic comedy as his style and it does it in a really good picture.

Annie Hall tells the story of Alvy Singer (Allen), a neurotic New York-based comedian is dealing with his break-up with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) over a year ago. The rest of the film chronicles the ups and downs of their relationship which include a record producer and Singer's neurotic insanity. Honestly, there is no story to Annie Hall. It truly is a chronicle of the relationship between Alvy and Annie.

Honestly, if you hear Annie Hall marketed as a comedy, it really isn't 100% true. Yes, it frequently is downright hilarious and has a ton of comedic elements but it really is more of a romance mixed with Allen's trademark comedy. It deserves to be in the same category as The Graduate and Silver Linings Playbook, films like that. I wouldn't say that The Graduate is necessarily a comedy. But it works as one and I could say the same thing about Annie Hall.

The acting is extremely good. Allen plays Woody Allen basically: if you have ever heard Allen describe himself or give his list of phobias, you know that he IS Alvy Singer. Singer is neurotic, paranoid, and a bit annoying and it is a great performance by Allen. But frankly, I don't know how much is acting. And I love how Keaton's performance is basically a reaction to Singer. It's a fantastic performance. There are also some weird cameos by other future stars such as Christopher Walken and Shelley Duvall, one of my least favorite actresses. Walken's is funny but Duvall's is stupid.

I honestly don't have much more to say about Annie Hall. It is a great film that is funny and fun to watch. It has a great, honest script and a duo of great performances. It is short at 1 hour and 33 minutes, but that is one of its pluses. It makes it short but sweet. Not all movies have to be two hour + epics. I really did enjoy this film and I think that it is definitely worth watching for anyone who likes movies. I can't really say whether or not it should have beaten Star Wars. Annie Hall might be the more artistic and interesting film but Star Wars is just such a great movie and it was a massive cultural phenomenon at the time and it still is. 



Oscar Month: West Side Story (1961)

FILM: West Side Story
YEAR: 1961
OSCARS: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound
NUMBER OF OSCARS: 10

One of the categories in American film that has some of the best movies is the musical genre. Singin' In The Rain is enjoyable, and The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins were two of the biggest hits ever in the history of cinema. Plus, eight movie musicals have won best picture at the Oscars over the years. One of them was 1961's West Side Story.

Basically, a New York set Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story follows Tony (Richard Beymer), a member of the Jets, who falls in love with a member of the rival gang, the Sharks. Her name is Maria (Natalie Wood) and her brother, Bernardo (George Chakiris) is the leader of the gang. If you have seen Romeo and Juliet you know this story, but in this version, instead of ancient grudge break to new mutiny, it is race. The Sharks are Puerto Ricans and the Jets are Italian.

West Side Story has a lot of memorable dance numbers and songs. Some of it is a little absurd, but it wouldn't be a musical without that quality. There are loads of songs that you could name right off your the top of your head: "Tonight", "America", "Jet Song", "Maria", "Gee, Officer Krupke", "Cool", "Somewhere". There are loads of them. And they are all good. The song and dance numbers are done excellently and are very entertaining.

The acting is not bad but then again, it is a musical and the acting comes second to the songs. It honestly is kind of neutral. I can't think of any bad performances but then again, I can't think of any that are especially good. Honestly, the best thing about this film is the set design. It has this odd, grungy kind of feel to it that makes it unique and special and not like any other film.

But there are bad things. It's long. It's absurd. Sometimes, it is really stupid. But in the end, if you are a staunch fan of movie musicals or just like movies in general, you'll like this picture. It is a fun take on a classic tale that manages to add a lot of different elements and cool characters in.




Oscar Month: The Apartment (1960)

FILM: The Apartment
YEAR: 1960
OSCARS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction (B&W), Best Film Editing
NUMBER OF OSCARS: 5

Billy Wilder is one of my absolute favorite directors. He just has this quality that is inserted into all of his films that makes it feel timeless and like it was made today. His undoubted masterpieces are Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity with Some Like It Hot thrown in there as well. They are all so so good. It is hard to make one masterpiece let alone three. But if you look closer at Wilder's career, the only one of his films to win Best Picture was 1960's The Apartment, a film about life in that era and a man who rents out his apartment so that his co-workers can bring women over and have sex with them. It is a very good film that has all of the traditional Wilder qualities, but for me didn't match up to his masterpieces.

As I said, The Apartment is about CC Baxter (Some Like It Hot's Jack Lemmon), a man who works at a cubicle farm and allows his bosses to use his apartment for drinking and sex. He is a complex character who is really conflicted about what he is doing but it helps him climb the ranks at the office and so he keeps doing it. His predicament also prevents him from having much of a life. Baxter eventually decides that he will go out with Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), an elevator operator, until he learns that she had a fling with his boss, Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). One night, Fran overdoses on sleeping pills at Baxter's apartment and the film then deals with their relationship after that.

The plot of The Apartment is a really good one. Like the rest of Wilder's films, it is funny, it is dark, and it is absurd. But it always has the human touch to it that makes it really interesting. Then there is the cinematography. The black and white in this film is stunning as it is in all of the other Wilder films. He knew how to shoot in black and white and when you watch his films you understand why he did. It fits them perfectly. Wilder deserved the director win at the academy awards.

The acting and screenplay are also very good. Lemmon gives a great performance and I found it to be much more enjoyable than his loud, shrill, overdone performance in the otherwise great Some Like It Hot. MacLaine is also good in her role. Part of the effectiveness of their characters is the script. Part of it is that they are just great actors. They make two extremely flawed characters who make questionable decisions characters that you can relate to and that is not an easy thing to do.

I really enjoyed the film yet there was just something about it that didn't feel right. When I first watched Sunset Boulevard, I was sucked in and watched the whole thing without stopping. When I first watched Double Indemnity, I was sucked in and didn't want to stop watching. Same with Some Like It Hot. With The Apartment, I didn't feel that way. I didn't immerse me in the story like the other films did. Plus, it is kind of a quirky picture. Unlike something like Silver Linings Playbook (I know, fifty year difference), it isn't a seamless blend of drama and comedy. I walks the line a little too close.

But in the end, Wilder's The Apartment has a ton of redeeming qualities and is definitely worth the watch. However it wasn't my favorite of his films. Then again, when you're going up against three all time greats. You are likely going to lose.




Oscar Month: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

NOTE: This is a republication of my 2012 review.

FILM: Million Dollar Baby
YEAR: 2004
OSCARS: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Director
NUMBER OF OSCARS: 4

Million Dollar Baby is a massive emotional punch. By the end of the film, you are completely drained emotionally because of all the things that happen throughout the film. Million Dollar Baby seems like just a regular sports movie for about the first half with above average acting and direction. But in the second half it becomes something more than a sports movie, it becomes an emotional roller coaster that just keeps going down. Rocky, this isn't.

Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank) is a poor girl from Missouri who works a job as a waitress and has virtually no money for food. She goes to a boxing gym and tries to get the help of Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to train her. "I don't train girls," is his response but as the film goes on he grows closer and closer to her. Morgan Freeman also stars as a manager of sorts at the gym.

There are two powerhouse performances in the film. Swank is wonderful and does a lot throughout the movie to demonstrate her characters power and effect. Eastwood gives a massively effective performance as a man that is consumed by guilt. Freeman is solid too but there isn't a lot of reason for him to be in the story. Freeman does the narration, which is awful, but in the end he doesn't have that much use in the story.

The star of the film for me was Eastwood's direction. The way that he uses the dark shadows of the gym is amazing. Most of the film is black and white and it is definitely very gritty.

I have to say that it takes a while to get into the story. Until the last half hour, I just felt that it was an average sports drama with good acting and fantastic directing. But in the end, Million Dollar Baby is something more. The film becomes this emotional powerhouse that is sort of the anti-Rocky. Not all stories have happy endings and Million Dollar Baby is a perfect example of that.

Million Dollar Baby is a very good film. Give it time, the film's payoff is worth it. There is a lot of great things about the film but I don't think it is perfect either. But the emotional punch that is given pushes Million Dollar Baby ahead of the average sports film.




Oscar Month: The Artist (2011)

NOTE: This is a republication of my earlier review. I recently watched the film again and have decided that it still represents my opinion on the film.

FILM: The Artist
YEAR: 2011
OSCARS: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score
NUMBER OF OSCARS: 5

A very dark and depressing Singin' in the Rain. That is how I would describe The Artist. It essentially follows the same plot as that classic musical for a while but it goes off in very grim and bleak directions. The main character loses everything, fires his beloved chauffeur (James Cromwell), destroys all his films and even puts a gun in his mouth. It isn't the most fun movie to watch but it is an interesting and well made homage to silent films.

The Artist follows George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a big-time silent film star who is at the top of his game when the talking films show up. His boss (John Goodman) proposes them to Valentin and he rejects them and it completely derails his career. Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) starts as an extra and rises up to be a talking movie star. She becomes the star of Hollywood and a very famous actress. Miller's rise happens during Valentin's fall and his resistance to talking films results in empty movie houses for his silent film. But eventually they come together and make for a happy ending.

One thing I will say is that I don't understand how this won best picture. 2011 was a strong year in my opinion and the prize should have gone to The Descendants or Moneyball, both very good and very entertaining films. I only found the first hour of The Artist to be entertaining. I liked some of the silent film homages and the overall atmosphere but it gets way too depressing way too fast. I didn't think it was great.

The acting is good. Bejo and Dujardin are quite a duo and I would say that Dujardin was deserving of his best picture Oscar (although Brad Pitt was also very good). The direction is good as well. I really don't have that much to say about this film. It's decent but it is nothing special. I think that even major movie buffs could find this film boring and it doesn't have enough upside for it to be a great film.


Travel Back Through Time with The Movie Guru's Blog's Oscar Month

Lots of people in February take a look back at the previous winners of Oscars and watch the films again. As someone who really loves this month and the Oscar ceremony, I figured that I would do the same. Some of these reviews will be my first time watching the film, and some will be rewatches. I will let you know which is which. THE MOVIE GURU'S BLOG PRESENTS OSCAR MONTH



Sunday, February 3, 2013

"Warm Bodies" brings life to Super Bowl weekend

Warm Bodies, Summit's zombie romantic comedy opened in first this weekend with a solid $20 million. That total is around what was expected of the film but it didn't shatter expectations. But thankfully for Warm Bodies, this month is weak on PG-13 teen fare beyond Beautiful Creatures so it could eventually break out into a hit. That B+ cinemascore isn't going to hurt either. I wanted to see the film but I didn't get the chance to see anything beyond Silver Linings Playbook this weekend. Maybe next weekend along with Les Miserables which I keep putting off. Another fantasy action movie, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters placed in second this weekend with $9.2 million. That is a decent hold for that film which shows that word of mouth could take it to $50 million. But with Paramount's investment on the film, it is still a flop. In third place is David O. Russell's terrific dramedy Silver Linings Playbook with $8.1 million. The film has now banked $80 million and will finish well over the $100 million milestone. Mama finished in fourth place $6.7 million. The Guillermo Del Toro produced film could go on to make $70 million. In fifth place was Zero Dark Thirty. The film should cross $100 million but business has slowed with the film only making $5.3 million this weekend. It currently has $77 million. In sixth place was another '80s movie throwback called Bullet To The Head starring Sylvester Stallone. The film made $4.5 million. Anyone remember The Last Stand? Yeah, me neither. Parker added another $3.2 million in 7th place. That film is another big flop for its studio. Django Unchained, Les Miserables and Lincoln finished in 8th, 9th and 10th respectively. They all collected around $2 or $3 million and now have totals of $150 million, $141 million and $170 million. Argo also added another $2 million to put its total at $120 million. Next week sees the release of Side Effects and Identity Thief. Will either break out? We'll see.



Oscars: Who's going to take the other categories?

With Argo's win at the DGA awards yesterday, the fate of the Best Picture race has been sealed: it's going to Argo. But that doesn't mean that the Oscar race is over. There are still a lot more categories that don't have a clear winner. Here are my current predictions for what will go down in those categories.

BEST ACTOR

Daniel-Day Lewis, Lincoln

He was going to win back in March and he is going to win now. While Bradley Cooper had a strong performance as well, Day-Lewis is just too good. There is no way anybody else will win.

BEST ACTRESS

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Lawrence gives a standout performance in a film full of standout performances and is the current front-runner in this category. I think that in the end she will win, but don't be surprised to see another contender. Quvenshane Wallis will not win. That is a fact. Naomi Watts will also not win. She gives a good performance in a film that is not that liked. Jessica Chastain will also not win in my opinion at this point. I don't think that Zero Dark Thirty has the support for Chastain to get a win. The only other contender is Emmanuelle Riva. She's old, the Academy's old and people like her performance. Therefore, she's a dark horse. But I think that Lawrence will take it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

What is there to say? She's going to win. There is no chance that anyone else beats her.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

There have been so many different winners of this award, it's ridiculous. But I think in the end, it'll be De Niro taking home the gold. However, I think that the Academy could go any way with this one so don't be surprised to see Christoph Waltz win for Django or Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln.

BEST DIRECTOR

Michael Haneke, Amour

It's upset time! I think that Haneke is going to win this award. The support for this film is very strong and while it will not win Best Picture or Best Actress, I think that in a year of weakly supported films that are nominated for Best Director, Haneke could take it. Ang Lee could also win his overdue Oscar for Life of Pi but I think that the support is bigger for Amour.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

DJANGO UNCHAINED

The Academy doesn't love Quentin Tarantino. They have never given him an Oscar for his directing and they didn't give him a Best Picture Oscar for Pulp Fiction. But I think that the support is there for his screenplays. And that is why he is going to win over Amour and the controversial Zero Dark Thirty.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

ARGO

While I would love to see Silver Linings Playbook win this award for the best screenplay of the year, I think that Argo will take this. Lincoln could easily win too. This award will become easier to predict after the WGA awards on February 17.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

WRECK-IT RALPH

BEST FOREIGN FILM

AMOUR

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

LES MISERABLES

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

SKYFALL

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

ANNA KARENINA

BEST FILM EDITING

ARGO

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

John Williams, Lincoln

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

SKYFALL By Adele

BEST SOUND EDITING

ARGO

BEST SOUND MIXING

ARGO

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

LIFE OF PI

Well, that's it for now. But look for more predictions in the coming weeks.

"Argo" wins DGA, seals up Oscar win

Well, that's all folks. One of the most exciting seasons in Oscar history has come winding down to a close. Why? Because last night, Argo took the award for Best Director at the Directors Guild of America Awards (DGA), which 90% of the time means that the film will go on to win Best Picture. Some people were holding on to hope for Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Life of Pi but the amounts of attention that Argo has gotten from the different guilds is just not something that those three films can overcome. They don't have enough support. But however, they do have support on the acting side, which I will address in a post later today.

Argo is going to win Best Picture. I think that it has been solidified. I can only see one scenario where the film doesn't take home the top prize. The Academy is made up of actors, writers, producers and directors. Argo has taken home the SAG award, the PGA award, and now the DGA award (the WGA hasn't happened yet). Those voters could feel that they have already given Affleck and Argo enough attention and vote for Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook instead. But I doubt it. This year, the Academy is going to pick Argo. It just makes sense. 

I love Argo. It was the best film of 2012 that I saw and it is great filmmaking. And Argo's direction was fantastic. And from the beginning, I've been rooting for it to win and been picking it to win. But I'm kind of disappointed to see it win every single award from the get-go. I mean, this is one of the closest Oscars in years in all categories and I was hoping that it would come down to the wire in Best Picture but it won't. I'm happy Argo is winning everything and will likely win the Oscar. I just wish that Silver Linings Playbook had taken one too and then we have a race. The rest of the categories are so interesting still and anybody could take them. Look for an article later today. 



Saturday, February 2, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook review

Quirky really isn't my thing. Some of the most acclaimed movies of the last few years (Juno) I haven't liked were just too different and out there for me. So when David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated dramedy Silver Linings Playbook was described as quirky, I got a little worried. But I really had nothing to fear because Silver Linings Playbook is one of the best films of the year (2012, that is) and truly isn't quirky at all. It is just one of the best blends of drama and comedy in recent years. It does everything that 2011's The Descendants (and to a lesser extent, Argo) did right but takes it to the next level. It is a perfect blend of both genres. Silver Linings Playbook also has a great script, a fantastic cast and a fun story that has dark and light moments.

The film follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) a man who was sent to a mental hospital for beating his wife's lover almost to death. Pat is just getting out of the hospital and is struggling to get used to life back in the real world. He is bi-polar, a condition that he just learned he had and he refuses to take his medication. It doesn't help that Pat's father (Robert De Niro) is also mental and short tempered and his mom (Jacki Weaver) doesn't know how to control his behavior. His wife has a restraining order against him but he is convinced that he will get back with her. But his condition is suppressed when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is just as screwed up as he is.

I had a really hard time writing that summary. Silver Linings Playbook has one of the craziest scripts of the year and you really can't put it into words. There is a lot going on but everything is fully developed so you can typically understand what is going on. The script is really smart. I can say that without a doubt about this movie. It is great. David O. Russell knows exactly how to make this movie and it blends comedy in drama together seamlessly. It is one of the few films that I have seen that truly deserves the title of dramedy because either there is too much drama or too much comedy. Russell shows a tough view of mental illness while also showing that not everything in life sucks.

The performances are also great. I mean, it's hard to get a good performance in a film let alone three great ones. For me, the two standouts were Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. What they do with these two characters is a feat of acting; they make Pat and Tiffany characters that you can relate to, while also showing you how crazy they are. If I was voting for the Oscars, I would definitely vote for Lawrence and probably Cooper (close with DDL). Robert De Niro was also good. He hasn't made an acclaimed film in a long time so it's good to see him back. Another underrated performance was one of Anupam Kher as Dr. Patel. His character was very funny and he delivers a great performance. I didn't think Jacki Weaver was great but she was solid.

Another great thing about this movie was how real it felt. I mean, it felt like you were really sitting with these people, watching them talk and that is a testament to Russell's script and the fantastic performances the actors put on screen. Only great films can do that. I'm not saying that Silver Linings Playbook is a great film (I need multiple viewings to decide that) but it is pretty darn good to be able to do that.

One thing that I think that some studios have forgotten, especially the independent ones, is that movies are meant to be entertainment. Take The Impossible for example. A very good film from Spanish director JA Bayona. Contains some great performances. But extremely depressing. Look at Lincoln. Well constructed film that is satisfying in the end. Two great performances from DDL and Tommy Lee Jones. But boring. I think that if something is a truly great film, it should have all the qualities of a great film but also be entertaining. In the end, those are the films that stick with us. Those are the ones we watch over and over. And the three best films this year, Skyfall, Argo, and Silver Linings Playbook all do that. That's why they are great films.

I have had a tough time grading this movie. I have decided that I'm going to give it 5 stars out of 5. I wasn't feeling great at my screening but I still really loved it. If I was 100%, I would have loved it even more.

THE FINAL GRADE: A+                                            (10/10)