Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Reflection

It's not often that we get a year like 2013. It's not often that we get so many movies that are so fantastic in one year. 2013 was an absolutely spectacular year for movies, and I've really only scratched the surface. There have been several films that I haven't yet seen like Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor, Mud, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Mandela and many more. That's why my top fifteen list for the year will not be posted until January 12. I want to make sure that I see as many movies as I can, and not releasing the list until that day gives me time to see those films. However, even if all of those films that I listed are disappointing, 2013 still will have been the best year for film in a long time. From dramas like Rush and 12 Years A Slave to comedies like The World's End and American Hustle to action films like Star Trek Into Darkness and Fast and Furious 6, 2013 has been a great year across the board. 2014 needs to do its best. Because it'll need to be one heck of a year to top 2013.

I want to devote this post to everybody who's viewed The Movie Guru's Blog this year. It's been a fantastic year for this site, and it's grown exponentially over the course of the year. I've had a great year and I hope that you have as well. Thank you all so much for viewing this site. Happy New Year!




Sunday, December 29, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks review

Saving Mr. Banks has to be the first film about a specific studio, that was made by its own studio. The film stars Emma Thompson as author PL Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, and it depicts the struggle between the two personalities as the film version of Mary Poppins is made. Saving Mr. Banks has gone through a lot over the years, and even made the annual Blacklist, which lists the best film scripts not yet produced. It eventually got picked up by Disney, and was set for a prime Oscar season release. Before watching this film, I thought that it could really go two ways. I thought that it could be a really good film with compelling performances, or that it would be a schmaltzy Disney propaganda piece (which I wouldn't have minded). It ends up falling somewhere in the middle. Saving Mr. Banks is a half decent film that never really compelled me all that much. It has some good performances, but it ends up being another relatively standard period piece thanks to a story that you don't care all that much about.

Saving Mr. Banks is the story of author PL Travers (Emma Thompson), despite what the marketing may lead you to believe. Travers wrote the Mary Poppins series, and for years Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) begs her to let him have the rights. Travers eventually yields to Disney's requests and goes to Los Angeles to discuss the film. Travers is appalled by Disney's treatment of her characters, and treats the entire Disney team including famed songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak) like garbage. Eventually, we get better insight into Travers' behavior through flashbacks that show her tumultuous childhood and explain why the Mary Poppins characters are so important to her.

Saving Mr. Banks is a light film in that it is easily consumed and features almost no content that will offend anyone. There is some dark stuff, but I still feel that Saving Mr. Banks is one of the lighter films that has been released this Oscar season. For those reasons, I would say that Saving Mr. Banks is prime viewing for families this holiday season who have already had their fill of Frozen. However, for anyone else, there are better films out there. This is a mildly enjoyable film that never engaged me. I was compelled by Travers' story at times, and felt that the emotion was there towards the end, but I was never overly impressed throughout the rest of the runtime. I really don't have anything bad to say about this film, it's just a decent film.

Saving Mr. Banks has some really good performances. Emma Thompson is really good as Travers, and delivers a powerhouse of a final scene. Yet I never really thought that it was Thompson who involved me emotionally in the character. The flashback scenes make you understand her character better, and you might be emotionally engaged with her at the end, but other than that, I'm not sure that you'll really like or care about Travers. Hanks is good as Disney, but he's not spectacular. I thought that his performance in the fantastic Captain Phillips was better. My favorite performance probably came from Jason Schwartzman. He brings a warm, friendly presence to the film. Paul Giamatti is also very good as Travers' chauffeur.

The whole behind-the-scenes aspect of Saving Mr. Banks never really compelled me. I typically love films that go behind the scenes of Hollywood films, but this one just wasn't that interesting. There are a couple of magical scenes, but the film doesn't focus on them all that much. There's more emphasis on the flashback scenes, which develop the character of Travers, but they go on for too much of the runtime.

This is a difficult review for me to write. There really isn't much that's bad about this film. I can completely understand if someone wanted to give this film an A+, say that they loved it, and move on. So why am I going to give a lukewarm grade to a film that made very few mistakes? Maybe it's because there isn't a whole ton to like about this film as well. There's a little bit of emotional involvement, some nice nostalgic moments, and a couple of good performances. Nothing I can't find in a better movie this year.

Saving Mr. Banks is a schmaltzy holiday movie. It's perfectly safe, makes very few mistakes, and yet isn't all that likable. I was never truly interested in what was going on. I was entertained, but not much more than that. This is an Oscar bait film, and it really is not ashamed to say so. It has everything that Academy members love and takes absolutely no risks. There are a couple of great scenes towards the end, and some interesting character dynamics, but this is a rather safe film in the end.

Overall, I liked Saving Mr. Banks. Just not that much. It's a nice little holiday diversion, and nothing more. Travers is interesting, but also a mean person, and the film never really does explain that. I think that a lot of people will like Mr. Banks, but I can't say that it's anything daring, new or interesting. I'm not saying that everything has to be new and fresh, but Saving Mr. Banks just feels too safe. It's simply a decent film that never strives for great.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B-                                           (6.7/10)



"The Hobbit" leads, "Frozen" amazes, new films flop at weekend box office

With such a crowded frame, there were bound to be some disappointments. Christmas day saw the release of five films, and not one of them grossed over $35 million in the five day frame. Three of the releases were big time flops. In first place at the box office this weekend was Warner Bros.' The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The fantasy adventure grossed $29.8 million over the weekend, and $49.3 million over the 5-day holiday, which was enough to raise its total to $190.3 million. That's an impressive 5% drop from last weekend, and shows some serious legs for the film.

Disney's Frozen finished in second place with a $28.8 million weekend, along with $43.7 million over the 5-day frame. The fact that this film came out a month ago, and yet, is still making a ton of money is a testament to how well its doing with audiences. Frozen has now grossed $248.3 million. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues also seems to be doing well with audiences. The comedy finished in third place this weekend with a $20.1 million weekend, and $35.7 million over the 5-day frame. That's enough for a total of $83.6 million. Anchorman 2 has been a bit of a financial disappointment thus far, but with word of mouth and a small budget, there's no doubt in my mind that this will be profitable.

Two somewhat similar films fought it out for fourth place and for the weekend, American Hustle came out on top. The David O. Russell comedy/drama grossed $19.5 million over the weekend and $33.3 million over the 5-day frame. American Hustle has now grossed $60 million and will likely fly over $100 million at any time. That's quite impressive. Martin Scorsese's raunchfest The Wolf of Wall Street was very close behind American Hustle with a $18.5 million weekend in fifth place. In fact, The Wolf of Wall Street actually topped Hustle with a $34.3 million 5-day weekend. That's a decent opening for the Oscar contender, but Wolf's "C" Cinemascore is not encouraging at all.

Saving Mr. Banks managed to post some spectacular grosses this weekend with a sixth place finish, a $14 million weekend and a $23.6 million 5-day frame. Mr. Banks' 3-day weekend saw a 50% increase over its opening weekend. The Disney drama has built on strong word of mouth to become a modest hit. Look for it to keep going strong throughout January. So far, Saving Mr. Banks has grossed $37.8 million. Another new release this weekend was Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The fantastical comedy grossed $13 million over the weekend in seventh place, along with $25.7 million over the 5-day frame. Mitty received a "B+" Cinemascore, which indicates decent audience support. Look for the film to keep going strong.

In eighth place, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire continued to go strong with a $10.2 million weekend and $15.7 million over the 5-day weekend. The blockbuster has now grossed $391.1 million and is looking to become the second 2013 release to gross $400 million (Iron Man 3 is the other). Universal's 47 Ronin finished in ninth place this weekend with a $9.8 million weekend, along with $20.6 million over the 5-day holiday. 47 Ronin is a mega-flop, but with a solid "B+" Cinemascore, the film could find some audience. And rounding out the top ten, we have Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas. The comedy grossed $7.4 million over the weekend along with $12.4 million over the five day frame. A Madea Christmas has now grossed $43.7 million.

Also, some noteworthy films finished outside the top ten. Grudge Match couldn't find an audience, and grossed a weak $7.3 million over the weekend and had a $13.4 million 5-day weekend. The "B+" Cinemascore is encouraging, but I doubt that this film will see profitability. Justin Bieber's Believe flopped hard. The music documentary grossed $2 million over the weekend and $4.2 million over the 5-day frame. That shows how far Bieber has fallen. Wow.

Next weekend sees the release of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. What a way to start 2014.

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug- $24.4 million
2. Frozen- $19.3 million
3. American Hustle- $15.1 million
4. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones- $14.8 million
5. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues- $12.4 million
6. Saving Mr. Banks- $11.3 million
7. The Wolf of Wall Street- $10.1 million
8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty- $9.2 million
9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire- $6.6 million
10. 47 Ronin- $4.9 million



Image Credit: Ain't It Cool News

Saturday, December 21, 2013

American Hustle review

Back in the late 1990's and early 2000's, David O. Russell was a filmmaker that very few people had on their radar. He directed several small films like Spanking the Monkey, Flirting With Disaster and I Heart Huckabees. His biggest hit was 1999's Three Kings, but even that wasn't a major box office success. In fact, these films seemed to get Russell a bad reputation, and many people said that he was difficult to work with. However, Russell has seen a resurgence in recent years. He found his way onto the Academy's radar with 2010's The Fighter, and continued his hot streak with last year's Silver Linings Playbook. Russell has now managed to become one of Hollywood's hottest directors, and has found a group of actors that love working with him. American Hustle is Russell's latest film, and probably his craziest and biggest film yet. American Hustle features a large cast of characters and a twisty plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It's one of the complex films of the year. And it's also one of the absolute best.

American Hustle tells the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a con artist in the 1970's. Rosenfeld works with his girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) to scam people out of money along with selling faulty art to unsuspecting buyers. One day, the two criminals are caught by Richie DeMaso (Bradley Cooper), an FBI agent who's out to trap con artists. DeMaso strikes a deal with Irving and Sydney: they can get out of jail if they help DeMaso trap other con artists. They agree, and DeMaso starts his sting operation. However, when DeMaso learns that he can trap bigger politicians and mafioso through Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the operation starts to become dangerous and is threatened by Irving's uncontrolled wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).

American Hustle is a film that you need to watch carefully. This is not a film that you can watch mindlessly. You have to be paying attention constantly, otherwise you'll get lost quickly. This is a complex, detailed film, and that's why it's one of the year's best. Films of this level don't come around very often. American Hustle is a film packed with details and twists and on first viewing, is a little hard to keep up with. However, Russell definitely continues his hot streak here with a fantastic period setting, a solid story, and a fantastic cast of characters for a film that is definitely a must watch for everyone.

I absolutely loved this movie, so let me get a few of my little problems out of the way first. The film is complex and a bit confusing. That's both a positive and a negative so I can't really count it. American Hustle moves very fast and doesn't ever stop, which makes for a fantastic experience. However, I found myself slightly lost at times in terms of where the plot was going. Also, it's a bit long, and at times you feel the length of the film. Yet, every scene deserves to be in the plot, and I can't imagine the movie without any of the scenes.

It's impossible to talk about a David O. Russell movie without talking about the performances. The director always gets excellent performances from his actors and the Academy has recognized that. Absolutely nothing changes with American Hustle. The film is brimming with colorful, crazy performances, and I'm pretty sure that some of these guys will be picking up Oscars in March. Christian Bale is fantastic as Irving Rosenfeld. He's a good bad guy who cons people, yet knows that the sting operation is not the right thing to do. Amy Adams is also very subtle as Sydney. Adams is less flashy in her performance than the rest of the cast, but her wardrobe makes her fit right in with the rest of the crew.

Jeremy Renner is also great as the slightly crooked mayor with good intentions. He makes Carmine a truly sympathetic character, and there's a scene late in the movie that is truly tragic to watch. The two best performances come from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in supporting roles. Cooper plays the coked-out FBI agent with a mixture of emotions and his character is truly crazy. Lawrence also proves that her performance in Silver Linings Playbook was no fluke: she's the real deal. Her performance here is absolutely hilarious, and she's also more than slightly unstable.

Russell's pacing here is just right. The film is hectic and crazy, yet moves at a pace that feels leisurely. American Hustle feels like a film straight out of the era that it's portraying, and that's truly special. The first half hour is quite fantastic, and it makes you really root for the relationship between Irving and Sydney. The rest of the film moves from point A to point B very fast, yet it lets the dialogue and characters breathe. It's a true balancing act, and the film holds together exceptionally well. This is a true feat of screenwriting and directing by Russell.

With this film, it also seemed like Russell had found his true directing style. I can't even really describe it. It's just his. Russell's films are hectic with wide circling shots and cool camera angles. American Hustle truly embraces that and puts a little bit of the 70's grittiness in there as well. It's a very well directed film, and I definitely anticipate Russell picking up another directing nomination when the Oscars roll around.

The style and flow of this film is helped by the excellent soundtrack and the colorful costumes. These things truly immerse you in the era and help make the film feel more authentic. American Hustle embraces its inner weirdness and lets it flow with the costumes and songs. It's quite a fantastic film in terms of style. It's probably better than last year's Argo.

The script was originally written by Eric Warren Singer, but Russell came in and made his own changes. American Hustle fits into Russell's filmography very well. You get to know these characters very well, the dialogue is crisp, and the performances are fantastic. Russell did a great job with this film. The plot can get a little hectic at times, so it's good that he put an emphasis on character.

Overall, American Hustle is a fantastic film, and one that I believe will only get better after multiple viewings. It's a dense, complex film, and you might not catch everything at first, but the film is worth seeing over and over again. These characters are so much fun to be around, and the film is so well constructed and funny. American Hustle is a masterpiece and a film that will eventually become a classic. It's one of the year's best films. Plain and simple.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                             (9.8/10)



Friday, December 20, 2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues review

Nine years ago, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was released. The film was a low-budget production with several stars who were relative unknowns. Will Ferrell was a rising star, but very few people knew who Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Paul Rudd were. Anchorman was not a major success, taking in only $90.5 million worldwide. For years, a sequel was planned and plotted by star Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay, but Paramount didn't bite. Finally, they decided that it was a venture worth taking, and the $50 million comedy was greenlit. Now, the real question is: did they need to make it? After seeing Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, I can't really answer that question. Is Anchorman 2 a good movie? No, not particularly. However, it's not necessarily a bad one either. All I can say is that Anchorman 2 is a good time at the movies and is very funny, but offers nothing more than that.

Anchorman 2 continues the story of famed San Diego newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell). Ron is working at a station in New York with his wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). One day, after several slip-ups, Veronica is offered the lead anchor job and Ron is fired. Ron is angry and returns to San Diego to become an announcer for Sea World. Just as he's hit rock bottom, Ron is found by Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker), a talent recruit for GNN, which stands for Global News Network. Shapp wants Ron at the station to be one of their anchors, and he accepts. But first, Ron must assemble his news team which is comprised of sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and field reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd). The boys are thrust into the big city life in New York, and have many interesting experiences over the course of the story.

The original Anchorman was a very funny comedy, but not necessarily a great one. It's very quotable and well written, but also a little low budget and stupid. That being said, I was very excited for Anchorman 2, and the movie met my expectations in some ways. It's quite hilarious and I was consistently laughing throughout. However, while the original Anchorman mixed the humor with a story that you could follow, Anchorman 2 does not. Is Anchorman 2 as funny as the original? Yes. Is it a good movie? No.

It's always hard to critique acting in a comedy. Basically, all of the actors shine in one scene or another. Will Ferrell is consistently funny and Paul Rudd also has some great scenes, but Steve Carell is the one who really shines in this film. His character is off the wall crazy and you never truly know what's going to happen with him. David Koechner isn't in the film that much and Meagan Good doesn't have much to do as Ron's new girlfriend. However, all of the actors have at least one funny scene in the film and that's good.

The plot in this film is utterly terrible. That's all I can really say. The plot is unfocused and doesn't even seem that well thought out. Anchorman 2 is a bunch of jokes thrown together into the shape of a movie. Before I saw the movie, I read several reviews that called the film a series of skits and I refused to believe that would be the case. It's true. It really is. There's an outline of a story, but there's nothing that keeps you invested in the movie.

The original Anchorman is a very random movie. But this one ups that to a whole different level of insanity. I can't even really tell you why half of the things that are in Anchorman 2 are in there. There's no rhyme or reason to the movie. It's just a constant mess of jokes. And it's a long one at that. Anchorman 2 is two hours long, and while I didn't really feel its length, there was a lot of extra fat that could have been trimmed off of this movie. Also, this film feels really awkward. There's a lot of improvisational comedy involved, and I'm not sure it works. The movie has no flow to it at all.

However, despite all of the negatives, one thing keeps this movie alive and those are the jokes. Despite all of its inconsistencies, Anchorman 2 is a downright hilarious film, and one that certainly has some insanely memorable quotes. My friends and I have already added a few lines from this film into our daily vocabulary. The fact that I was laughing throughout this whole movie keeps it from getting a negative grade.

Anchorman 2 is a hilarious movie. I will not deny that. It's funny from start to finish and the outlandish humor and celebrity cameos will always find a way to shock you. It's just too bad that the film has absolutely no flow, and plays out like a series of jokes barely held together by a plot. The Anchorman universe has some interesting social satire and there are lots of funny jokes, but they just aren't movies. There are tons of subplots introduced that go nowhere and characters that serve little purpose at all. It's just a weird, weird film. I can only describe Anchorman 2 as a mixed bag, because that is what it is. If you liked the original Anchorman, you'll probably like this one, but I can't say that it was worth making or that it was a good movie. It's just too messy.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C+                                          (6.4/10)


Sunday, December 15, 2013

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" leads, "Madea Christmas" disappoints, "American Hustle" great at weekend box office

This weekend saw the release of one of the biggest films of the holiday season, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The sequel to last year's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey received stronger reviews than its predecessor, but that didn't necessarily translate to stronger box office. While An Unexpected Journey grossed $84.6 million on its opening weekend, The Desolation of Smaug grossed $73.6 million. That's a bit of a drop, but most box office pundits are quick to point out the stronger competition along with the negative word of mouth that came with the first film. The Desolation of Smaug also received an "A-" Cinemascore. That's lower than An Unexpected Journey's "A" according to Box Office Mojo. Still, The Desolation of Smaug could be a big hit. The holiday break is coming up and typically The Lord of the Rings films hold very well. However, there is stronger competition as Anchorman 2, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, Walking With Dinosaurs, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Mandela, 47 Ronin and The Wolf of Wall Street are all opening in the next week and a half. We'll see how it goes from here.

In second place was Disney's Frozen, which dropped a meager 30% for a $22.1 million weekend. That's a light drop and the animated juggernaut has now grossed $164.3 million domestically. Frozen is a fantastic film and will continue to hold well over the Christmas break. Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas disappointed in third place with a $16 million weekend. That's the lowest opening for a Madea opening so far, and about half of what I expected it to gross. However, there's little direct competition for it over the break, and I expect it to finish with over $55 million.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire continued to fall down the box office rankings with a fourth place finish and a $13.1 million weekend. The film has now grossed $356.9 million. Catching Fire could gross over $400 million, but with its upcoming competition, I really doubt it. Behind Catching Fire in fifth place was Marvel's Thor: The Dark World with a $2.7 million weekend. The Dark World has now grossed $198.1 million and is inching its way towards $200 million. Out of the Furnace finished in sixth place with a $2.3 million weekend. The dark revenge drama dropped hard after a weak opening weekend. Out of the Furnace has now grossed $9.4 million.

Delivery Man took its first hard drop this weekend (50%) and grossed $1.8 million in seventh place. The comedy has now grossed $27.9 million. Not bad after its weak opening. Philomena built off of its Golden Globes buzz and finished in eighth place with a $1.7 million weekend. The drama has now grossed $11 million. The Book Thief finished in ninth place with $1.67 million, which was enough to raise its total to $14.8 million. That's a pretty solid total for the film. And rounding out the top ten was Lionsgate's Homefront, which grossed $1.63 million this weekend. The revenge actioner has now grossed $18.4 million.

In limited release, American Hustle dominated with $690,000 in six theaters. That gives it a per-screen average of $115,000, which is quite impressive. Saving Mr. Banks didn't fare quite so well with $421,000 in fifteen theaters for a per-screen average of $28,067. Despite the lack of early success, I'm still betting that Saving Mr. Banks will be a hit when it goes wide.

Next weekend sees the release of Anchorman 2, Walking with Dinosaurs, and the nationwide expansions of American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks. Here are my predictions:

1. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues- $41.1 million ($56.2 million 5-day)
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug- $32 million
3. American Hustle- $27.5 million
4. Saving Mr. Banks- $22 million
5. Frozen- $16.2 million
6. Walking with Dinosaurs 3D- $13.1 million
7. Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas- $9.3 million
8. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire- $6.4 million
9. Thor: The Dark World- $1.8 million
10. Inside Llewyn Davis- $1.7 million


Image Credit: Book Riot

"Lawrence of Arabia" actor Peter O'Toole has died at 81

It's a very sad day in the film world after news broke today about the passing of legendary actor Peter O'Toole. According to his agent, O'Toole died after a bout with a "long illness" at the age of 81. O'Toole died in London on Saturday. The actor was most famous for starring in Lawrence of Arabia, the 1963 classic by director David Lean. O'Toole's performance in that film is utterly fantastic.

To this day, Lawrence of Arabia is still one of the cinema's most epic films. It's truly amazing to watch, and O'Toole's performance certainly contributes to that. O'Toole was also the star of many theatrical productions, along with other films. O'Toole starred in films such as The Last Emperor, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and Ratatouille. O'Toole will surely be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with the O'Toole family at this time.

First "Interstellar" trailer debuts

One of the things that excited me most about seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on Friday was that I would be one of the first to see the trailer for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. The new sci-fi epic from the filmmaker is, without a doubt, my most anticipated film of 2014, and I couldn't wait to get a first look at the footage. There wasn't much footage from the film shown, but the trailer still made me very excited. Now, the trailer for the film has flown onto the internet. Here it is:




"When a wormhole is newly discovered, a team of explorers and scientists embark on a voyage through it transcend previous limitations on human space travel"

That's the official synopsis of Interstellar according to Deadline, and this trailer shows us absolutely none of that. Instead, we get some Matthew McConaughey voice over about how our greatest achievements are ahead of us. Despite the lack of actual film footage involved, the trailer still gave me chills. The trailer gives some hints at the plot, but nothing is confirmed at this point. All in all, Interstellar has the potential to be Nolan's most daring film yet, and I'm very excited. Interstellar stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Ellen Burstyn, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy, and David Oyelow. The film is directed by Christopher Nolan and will be released on November 7, 2014.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug review

Last year's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a big disappointment to some. Many fans were expecting Peter Jackson's return to Middle-earth to be just like his Lord of the Rings trilogy, and when the film didn't match up to those lofty expectations, there was some backlash. In addition, before the release of that film, Jackson announced that The Hobbit would be turned into a trilogy. That made some fans look at the trilogy as a cash grab, which hurt its reputation. I just looked at the first film with indifference. After viewing it again this week, I stand by my original opinion for the most part. It's enjoyable, but overlong, and it only contains a few moments that match up to The Lord of the Rings. With that in mind, I went into The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, part two of The Hobbit trilogy, with my expectations lowered slightly. The film pretty much met them. It's an enjoyable film, with a second half that is really good, and it's certainly superior to An Unexpected Journey. However, The Desolation of Smaug could trim off a hour and lose absolutely nothing, which is slightly frustrating. Despite its failings, The Desolation of Smaug is a step in the right direction for The Hobbit trilogy and an undoubtedly better film than part one.

The Desolation of Smaug picks up right where An Unexpected Journey left off with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitrage) and the dwarves of Erebor on a quest to reclaim their homeland. The dwarves are being pursued by a band of Orcs who wish to stop them, and must go through elvish territory. After an escape from the elves, Bilbo and the dwarves arrive at Lake Town, and finally, The Desolation of Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is on his own quest to find an evil Necromancer, and save the world from the evils of a very notorious villain in the Lord of the Rings universe.

This film is better than An Unexpected Journey. There's less talking, less meandering and a lot more character and plot development. However, it doesn't start that way. The first hour of The Desolation of Smuag is essentially an extension of An Unexpected Journey, with the dwarves running around in the woods, narrowly escaping every threat in their path, and randomly encountering characters from Lord of the Rings. Once the action hits Lake Town is when Jackson lets loose, and when The Desolation of Smaug becomes a good movie. For that first hour though, this movie goes absolutely nowhere.

Let's talk more about the first hour of this film. It's pretty terrible. The Desolation of Smaug begins with a flashback, which actually has some interesting information in it. Then, we go back to the present day. The film begins with a useless chase scene, followed by an encounter with a bear/man named Beorn, and then the action hits Mirkwood. All of these scenes are completely inconsequential and that includes the things that happen in the elvish land. The Desolation of Smaug could have one chase scene, followed by the barrel escape (a truly fantastic action scene) and the film would be no worse. It actually would have been much better. The additions of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) add nothing to the story but an entirely unnecessary subplot. I wish that Jackson would only keep the things that were necessary to the story he's trying to tell, because when the scenes advance the plot, the movie is so much better.

The second half of the film is leagues better than the first half. It still has its shortcomings (too many subplots attempting to set up Lord of the Rings), but the film starts to go somewhere and becomes ridiculously entertaining. After the dwarves escape in barrels from King Thranduil (Lee Pace) and the elves, they run into a merchant from Lake Town named Bard (Luke Evans). The dwarves travel back to Lake Town and finally reach The Lonely Mountain after nearly four and a half hours of film. The film comes alive after the barrel escape, and actually manages to recapture the feeling of Lord of the Rings. That's an accomplishment.

The character development in this film is also much stronger than in the first one. For the entire runtime of the first film, I can tell you with certainty that I never cared about a single one of the characters. While The Desolation of Smaug still didn't make me care THAT much about the characters, it still made me care about them enough that I felt connected to the movie. Bilbo Baggins has become a very brave and interesting hero and is a lot of fun to watch. This film also spends a bit more time on the quest at hand, which made me more invested in it. All in all, Jackson developed the characters very well in this film.

The actors fit their characters quite well at this point. Armitrage has the fiery determination of Thorin down pat, and Freeman is quite good in the role of Bilbo as well. The best character addition to the plot is certainly Luke Evans' Bard. I really enjoyed his character, and thought that Evans played him well. Cumberbatch is also great as Smaug and he brings the dragon to life in a way that I'm not sure anyone else could.

Finally, the technical aspects of this movie are brilliant. All of the sets are exquisitely made, and the visual effects are excellent as well. The Hobbit trilogy finally has a look and feel of its own, and Jackson mixes the CGI with practical sets very well in this film. The visual effects on Smaug are quite fantastic, and are probably some of the best that I've seen.

Despite all of the things that Jackson improves in The Desolation of Smaug, there still are a lot of shortcomings. The ending is a slight problem, but the fact that unnecessary subplots are thrown in is a much bigger problem. The Desolation of Smaug focuses mostly on the dwarves, but there are also subplots involving Tauriel and the elves, along with subplots for Gandalf, Radagast, and Kili (one of the dwarves). Some of them work well. The subplot involving a mortal wound to Kili is interesting and gives you some perspective on what's happening at Lake Town while the dwarves are at the mountain. However, all of the other subplots are pretty unnecessary. They bog down an otherwise very good film, all for the sake of building to The Lord of the Rings. And we've already seen that film.

All in all, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a good film, and a step-up over An Unexpected Journey. It has a pretty awful first hour, but it regains steam after an exhilarating action scene, and keeps that momentum going for most of the film. There's still a lot of extra material that doesn't need to be there, but there's enough good in Desolation for be to give it a positive mark. I think that Lord of the Rings fans will enjoy it even more than me, but I think that general audiences will enjoy this one more as well. It's got a good cliffhanger ending that will leave you wanting more.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                            (7.2/10)


Image Credit: BookRiot

Friday, December 13, 2013

Emilia Clarke and Jason Clarke to star in "Terminator: Genesis"

One of the most interesting film projects that will be hitting theaters in the next few years is Alan Taylor's Terminator: Genesis. Alan Taylor was the director of Thor: The Dark World, which was very good, and now he'll be taking on the Connor family and Skynet in Terminator: Genesis, which is currently dated for July 1, 2015. Rumors about this film have been swirling for months now. There have been rumors of a time-traveling plot that could involve Dwayne Johnson joining the cast. Arnold Schwarzenegger has also been rumored to join. However, nothing had been made official until today, when Paramount announced that Emilia Clarke and Jason Clarke had joined the cast of their new Terminator film.

Emilia Clarke is a much bigger star in television than she is on the big screen. She has starred in one other film, 2012's Spike Island. That's a pretty small filmography. However, she's also starring in next year's Dom Hemingway. You also can't forget that she plays a pretty major role on the hit HBO show Game Of Thrones. Now, she's taking on the role of Sarah Connor in Genesis. That's a huge career step forward for her, and it's undoubtedly her biggest role yet. I haven't watched Game of Thrones, but from descriptions of that show, it looks like Clarke can mix being tough and beautiful, which works perfectly for Connor. 

Now for the other big star of Genesis, Jason Clarke. The actor has been in films such as Public Enemies, The Great Gatsby, Lawless, and most famously, as the lead CIA torturer in Zero Dark Thirty. Clarke will also star in Everest, Child 44, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Clarke's career is certainly on the rise and I think that he fits the role of John Connor well. This practically confirms the time-traveling plot, as the two Clarkes are around the same age. I'm confident in this casting and as long as rising stars continue to attach themselves to the project, I have confidence in Terminator: Genesis. 



Golden Globe Nominations: "12 Years A Slave", "American Hustle" lead, "Saving Mr. Banks", "The Butler" snubbed

After the announcement of the SAG awards yesterday, we now have the Golden Globe nominations as well. Here they are:

BEST MOTION PICTURE- DRAMA


12 YEARS A SLAVE

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

GRAVITY

PHILOMENA

RUSH


BEST MOTION PICTURE- COMEDY/MUSICAL


AMERICAN HUSTLE

HER

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

NEBRASKA

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET


BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE- DRAMA

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Idris Elba, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

Tom Hanks, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

Matthew McConaughey, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Robert Redford, ALL IS LOST


BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE- DRAMA


Cate Blanchett, BLUE JASMINE

Sandra Bullock, GRAVITY

Judi Dench, PHILOMENA

Emma Thompson, SAVING MR. BANKS

Kate Winslet, LABOR DAY


BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE- COMEDY/MUSICAL


Christian Bale, AMERICAN HUSTLE

Bruce Dern, NEBRASKA

Leonardo DiCaprio, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Oscar Isaac, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Joaquin Phoenix, HER


BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE- COMEDY/MUSICAL

Amy Adams, AMERICAN HUSTLE

Julie Delpy, BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Greta Gerwig, FRANCES HA

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, ENOUGH SAID

Meryl Streep, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY


BEST PERFORMANCE BY A SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE

Barkhad Abdi, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

Daniel Bruhl, RUSH

Bradley Cooper, AMERICAN HUSTLE

Michael Fassbender, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Jared Leto, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB


BEST PERFORMANCE BY A SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE

Sally Hawkins, BLUE JASMINE

Jennifer Lawrence, AMERICAN HUSTLE

Lupita Nyong'o, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Julia Roberts, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

June Squibb, NEBRASKA


BEST DIRECTOR- MOTION PICTURE

Alfonso Cuaron, GRAVITY

Paul Greengrass, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

Steve McQueen, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Alexander Payne, NEBRASKA

David O. Russell, AMERICAN HUSTLE


BEST SCREENPLAY- MOTION PICTURE

Spike Jonze, HER

Bob Nelson, NEBRASKA

Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan, PHILOMENA

John Ridley, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, AMERICAN HUSTLE


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

THE GREAT BEAUTY

THE HUNT

THE PAST

THE WIND RISES


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

THE CROODS

DESPICABLE ME 2

FROZEN


BEST ORIGINAL SONG- MOTION PICTURE


"Atlas"- THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

"Let it Go"- FROZEN

"Ordinary Love"- MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

"Please Mr. Kennedy"- INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

"Sweeter than Fiction"- ONE CHANCE


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE- MOTION PICTURE

Alex Ebert- ALL IS LOST

Alex Heffes- MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

Steven Price- GRAVITY

John Williams- THE BOOK THIEF

Hans Zimmer- 12 YEARS A SLAVE


So, there's that. The Golden Globes made several interesting picks this year. I haven't seen all of these movies, but I'm very happy about the nominations for Rush. All in all, I'll find more to root for once I see every one of these movies.

Image Credits: Flicks and Bits, IhearttheTalkies, TimeOut, GoldDerby, Beyond Hollywood, Buzz Sugar, Yahoo! Movies, GoldDerby, Vulture, The Guardian, IndieWire, EscapePod, Geek Tyrant, The Couch Sessions

Thursday, December 12, 2013

SAG Award Nominations: "12 Years A Slave" leads with four nominations

I know that the SAG awards are handed out to both movies and TV shows, but since this is a movie blog, I'm only reporting on the movie awards. Yesterday, the SAG award nominations were announced and featured several snubs and surprises. Here they are:

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE


12 YEARS A SLAVE

AMERICAN HUSTLE

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER


OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE


Bruce Dern, NEBRASKA

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Tom Hanks, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

Matthew McConaughey, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Forest Whitaker, LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER


OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE


Cate Blanchette, BLUE JASMINE

Sandra Bullock, GRAVITY

Judi Dench, PHILOMENA

Meryl Streep, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Emma Thompson, SAVING MR. BANKS


OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE



Barkhad Abdi, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

Daniel Bruhl, RUSH

Michael Fassbender, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

James Gandolfini, ENOUGH SAID

Jared Leto, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB


OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE



Jennifer Lawrence, AMERICAN HUSTLE

Lupita Nyong'o, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

Julia Roberts, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

June Squibb, NEBRASKA

Oprah Winfrey, LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER


The SAG awards did not really surprise me at all this year. They picked pretty much everything that was expected, and there were not many surprises. Except for a few. The Wolf of Wall Street was shut out completely due to a lack of screenings. Inside Llewyn Davis got nothing as well. American Hustle came away with only two nominations, which is slightly surprising. And Lee Daniels' The Butler and August: Osage County managed to get multiple nominations. Right now, I'm going with American Hustle as the ensemble front-runner, but 12 Years is not far behind. Also, at this point all of the acting races are way too close to call. We're in for a fun Oscar season.

Image Credits to: Africana-Studies.Williams.edu, The Hollywood Reporter, Gold Derby, The Guardian, Yahoo! Movies

New trailers for "Godzilla", "Edge of Tomorrow" and "Jupiter Ascending"

One of the things that I always look forward to when it comes to the Holiday movie releases are the trailers for the upcoming summer blockbusters. With The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug arriving in theaters tomorrow, we've been treated to three new trailers that will be attached to the film. In addition to these three trailers, The Hobbit: TDOS will also feature a trailer for my most anticipated movie of 2014, the big budget sci-fi flick, Interstellar, which is directed by Christopher Nolan. Pretty awesome. Anyways, here are the trailers for Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, and Jupiter Ascending.

JUPITER ASCENDING


After first watching the trailer for Andy and Lana Wachowski's new film, I really had no idea what to think. I was completely puzzled by the whole thing, and it didn't seem to make much sense. After viewing the trailer a view more times, I've come to the conclusion that this film COULD be one that shapes the future of sci-fi. It looks like a fantastic film visually, and if the Wachowski's can get the story down, and make sure that everything makes sense, Jupiter Ascending could be a great film. Jupiter Ascending stars Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, and Doona Bae, and will be released on July 18, 2014. 

GODZILLA


Now this is what I'm talking about! This year's Pacific Rim brought the Kaiju movie back into the spotlight, with solid domestic grosses and a massive international total at the box office. However, if the trailer for 2014's Godzilla is any indication, that film is going to blow Pacific Rim out of the water. This was such a fantastic trailer. The frightening size and scope mixed with that music from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey just sent chills down my spine. This movie from director Gareth Edwards looks like it has everything right. Let's hope it's as good as this trailer. Godzilla stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, and Juliette Binoche and will be released on May 16, 2014. 

EDGE OF TOMORROW


There's a lot to like about the first trailer for Edge of Tomorrow, but none of it says that it will actually be any good. Edge of Tomorrow looks like it has some truly thrilling action scenes, yet it seems so unappealing at the same time. It looks like it will fall in a lot of the same pitfalls as Cruise's Oblivion, which was a pretty poor effort. However, if director Doug Liman can find a cohesive way to tell the movie's story and make it exciting, then I'm all for Edge of Tomorrow. I'm hopeful at this point. Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, and Jeremy Piven and will be released on June 6, 2014. 

All three of these films look to be promising sci-fi efforts, but we'll see if they can deliver. At this point, I'm most excited for Godzilla, by far. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Frozen" leads ahead of "Catching Fire", while "Out of the Furnace" flops at weekend box office

The weather outside was frightful, and the forecast for the cinemas was Frozen as well. Sorry for that awful opening. I just couldn't help it. On a weekend that saw a ton of bad weather hit the country, Frozen topped the box office with $31.6 million in first place. That's a fantastic 53% drop, which is stronger than 2010's Tangled. The film should stay strong throughout the holiday season. Frozen is an excellent film, and with little animated competition, should dominate and finish with above $275 million. Its current total sits at $134.2 million

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire placed in second this weekend with $27 million. That's a steep drop of 64% for the dystopian sequel but with $336.6 million in the bank so far, it's safe to say that Catching Fire is in good shape. However, with strong competition coming soon, I'm not certain that Catching Fire will be able to top its predecessor. The only new wide release of the weekend was Relativity Media's Out of the Furnace, which starred Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson. The dark revenge drama finished in third place with a $5.3 million weekend. That's a very weak total, and with little Oscar buzz, and a "C+" Cinemascore, I doubt that the film will go anywhere.

After that, the box office is pretty desolate. Thor: The Dark World placed in fourth with a $4.7 million weekend. That film should pass $200 million soon, but currently sits at $193.6 million. Delivery Man finished in fifth place with a $3.7 million weekend. The film has seen solid word of mouth, but still is far from being a big hit. So far, Delivery Man has grossed $24.79 million. Sixth place belonged to Homefront, which grossed $3.38 million this weekend. That's a 51% drop, which is neither spectacular nor disappointing. The film has grossed $15.2 million so far.

The Book Thief, which had a slow rollout into theaters, finished in seventh place with $2.7 million. That's a bit of a drop from last weekend, but the drama from Fox has now grossed $12.07 million. That's a decent total for the film and could increase in the coming weeks. The Best Man Holiday fell hard to eighth place with a $2.67 million weekend. The film, which received an "A+" Cinemascore, yet disappointed in the following weeks, has grossed $67.2 million so far. I doubt it will go much higher. Philomena finished in ninth place with $2.2 million. The British drama fell only 38% and has now grossed $8.2 million. And finally, Dallas Buyers Club rounded out the top ten with $1.45 million. The AIDS drama has now grossed $12.4 million.

In other news, Gravity crossed the $250 million milestone at the domestic box office. Also, Inside Llewyn Davis finished with $401,000 this weekend in four theaters, for an impressive $100,250 per theater average. Inside Llewyn Davis expands into more theaters on December 20. On the foreign front, 47 Ronin flopped in Japan with $1.3 million.

Next weekend sees the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas. Here are my predictions:

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug- $78.5 million
2. Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas- $26.2 million
3. Frozen- $20 million
4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire- $13.4 million
5. Thor: The Dark World- $3.1 million
6. Delivery Man- $2.8 million
7. Homefront- $2.6 million
8. Out of the Furnace- $2.5 million
9. The Book Thief- $2.2 million
10. Philomena- $1.78 million


Saturday, December 7, 2013

12 Years A Slave review

Every once in a while, a film comes along that critics say everyone must see. Not because it's a great film, but because it is a great film and a necessary one. Necessary, in the sense that the film helps us to understand our gravest errors as humans. To understand the inhumanity of the human race. To understand the horrors that were committed in our past. To understand history. In past years, films such as Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, and Hotel Rwanda have become known for their ability to show us our past mistakes, and bring the atrocities of history to life in a way that books simply can't. According to critics, 2013 has brought us another film that critics have called a necessary film. 12 Years A Slave, the new film from acclaimed British director Steve McQueen, takes a brutal, horrifying and flat-out unbelievable look at American slavery. While the film has a few flaws in its narrative structure, there is so much power in this film. There are some scenes in this movie that will stay with you forever. I agree with the other critics: 12 Years A Slave is a necessary film, for sure.

12 Years A Slave tells the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Northup is a free man in Saratoga, New York. He's a fantastic violin player and gets along with the white men in Saratoga very well. However, one day, Solomon is offered a job with a traveling circus by two white men, Brown (Taran Killam) and Hamilton (Scoot McNairy). Solomon comes to trust the men, but is eventually deceived and sold into slavery in the south. 12 Years a Slave chronicles the long journey of Northup from the house of the kind Master Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) to the house of an evil plantation owner, Epps (Michael Fassbender) to the joys of freedom. 

12 Years A Slave is not the most fun movie you will see in theaters this year. It probably ranks near the bottom of the pile. There are some truly grueling scenes in this movie, and they will certainly make you cringe. Yet, I never found the film to be overbearing. I never thought that it was too intense. Director Steve McQueen found just the right tone to tell his story, and it worked really well for this film. Add that up with some truly spectacular performances, and several great scenes, and you have one of the best movies of the year.

You can't talk about this film without talking about the performances. The performances are downright spectacular. Chiwetel Ejiofor is fantastic as Solomon and his performance is undoubtedly one of the year's best. Ejiofor gives you so much insight into the mind of Solomon with so few words. His performance is fully based in emotion, and those emotions show so much throughout the film. It's a great performance, and in a less competitive year, I would say with certainty that Ejiofor would win best actor. Still, even if he doesn't win, it's a great performance. Lupita Nyong'o is also garnering Oscar buzz for her performance as Patsy, the slave who falls victim to the torture of Epps. She's quite good, and her character is truly tragic. However, I wasn't quite as enamored with her performance as other critics seem to be.

Also, the film features some truly despicable villains. The character who I hated the most was Paul Dano's Tibeats. There are crueler characters in the film, but almost none that I found more awful than Tibeats. Dano plays him with such jealousy and hatred, and it's quite the performance. Right on the same level with Tibeats is Michael Fassbender's Epps. He's an interesting character, because he's quite obsessed with Patsy, but he's still a horrible, disturbing human being, who's capable of extreme cruelty.

The story is the rare spot of trouble in the film, although it's not entirely its own fault. 12 Years A Slave isn't exactly a traditional narrative. There's a narrative cycle to it all, and the film has a clear beginning, middle and end, but at times, the film feels like it's merely a series of scenes. Especially during Solomon's slave years, the film feels like a series of scenes to develop the characters at hand. That really works for the film, as you get to see the emotions of the characters and understand their mindset, but it's slightly jarring when the most intense moment of the film is followed by a conversation between Ejiofor and Brad Pitt.

The direction of 12 Years A Slave is masterful. McQueen definitely deserves a lot of the attention that he is getting for this film. The way that McQueen sets up his scenes is completely masterful. While I made a slight complaint in that last paragraph about the fact that the film feels like a series of scenes at times, McQueen makes every scene pop off the screen. There are scenes in this movie that will stick with me forever. The introduction of Michael Fassbender's character is one of the best villain introductions of the year. The scene where a lead character hangs off a tree, clinging for his life, had me unable to breathe. McQueen's directorial style often involves a few too many nature shots and indie flourishes for me, but he sets up each scene so well and so memorably, that you can't help but be drawn into this film.

The technical elements of 12 Years A Slave are also brilliant. The score by Hans Zimmer is never overused, and always has an impact on the scene at hand. The cinematography by Sean Bobbitt is fantastic as well. 12 Years A Slave is also an incredibly well edited film. The film shows some signs of being an independent film at times, but McQueen holds the camera steady for most of the film. He also knows how long to keep a scene going for. It's fantastic film making.

12 Years A Slave is a rated R film, and deservedly so. There's horrific cruelty, sexual content and nudity. I believe personally that everyone should see this film. It can be a tough watch, but it's very rewarding in the end. I don't want to give an age for who I think should watch it, because I think that with a film like this, everyone will respond differently to the violence. Personally, I did not think that the film's violence was overly graphic or intense. In fact, I wouldn't say that Slave is a bloody or graphic film at all. However, 12 Years A Slave is a film that doesn't rely on showing you tons of blood or gore to get across the horror of its violence. It does that by the terrifying and disturbing screams of the victim, which you consistently hear. It does that by the sounds of the violence. It relies on McQueen's visceral style to convey its violence to the audience. Those things are what make 12 Years A Slave a disturbing and difficult film to watch throughout. In addition, 12 Years A Slave is a film that disturbs you by its inhumanity. Not only are there beatings and hangings, there are also scenes of unimaginable cruelty, with characters that treat other human beings like animals. Some of the scenes in this film are truly unbelievable.

12 Years A Slave is a film of emotion. Every character, every scene, and every direction gushes pure emotion. It is truly pervasive throughout this film. Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance is built solely on emotion, and so are the performances of Fassbender and Nyong'o. This film would be nothing without the pure emotion that everyone involved gives it. 12 Years A Slave is a film that you simply must watch. It's literally a string of fantastic scenes with great performances at every corner. This is a film that will be tough to beat in the Oscar season. You won't be able to get it out of your head. It's that good.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                               (9/10)




Thursday, December 5, 2013

X-Men: Apocalypse set for release on May 27, 2016

The superhero movie train just keeps on rolling. Today, 20th Century Fox and Bryan Singer announced the release date of an upcoming X-Men film, now known as X-Men: Apocalypse. The film will be released on May 27, 2016. There is no further information on Apocalypse at this time. According to Collider, Apocalypse is the name of an all-powerful mutant who happens to be immortal. Sounds interesting. However, I can't say that I'm all that concerned about the film at this time. On paper, it's a cool concept, but so was The Wolverine.


On May 23, 2014, you'll be able to see all the X-Men back in action in the sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past. That film combines the casts of both the original X-Men trilogy and the prequel X-Men: First Class for a time-traveling epic. The film stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Peter Dinklage and many more. That film is one of my most anticipated of 2014, as First Class was far and beyond, the best X-Men movie yet.


Image Credits: Wikipedia

Release Date Shifts: "Warcraft", "Anchorman 2" shift dates, Bourne Sequel, "Heart of the Sea" and more set dates

I missed all of these release date shifts last week so I figured I would put them on the site quickly. Here we go:

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues- Paramount- December 18, 2013


Draft Day- Lionsgate- April 11, 2014

The Purge 2- Universal- June 20th, 2014

Jane Got a Gun- Relativity- August 29th, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To- Universal- November 14th, 2014

Untitled Michael Mann- Universal- January 16th, 2015

Seventh Son- Universal- February 6th, 2015

Heart of the Sea- Universal- March 13th, 2015

Friday the 13th- Paramount- March 13th 2015

Insidious Chapter 3- Focus- April 3rd, 2015

Max Mad: Fury Road- Warner Bros.- May 15th, 2015

Untitled Bourne Sequel- Universal- August 14th, 2015

The Jungle Book- Disney- October 9th, 2015

Mission: Impossible 5- Paramount- December 25th, 2015

Warcraft- Warner Bros.- March 11th, 2016

The Mummy- Universal- April 22nd, 2016

Alice in Wonderland 2- Disney- May 27th, 2016


So now that all that's out of the way, let's get down to my reaction. Anchorman 2 moving up two days is not a big deal to me. I'm very excited to see it, but two days is not that much of a difference. However, it does bump American Hustle back two days which makes me mad. Other films that I could care less about include Dumb and Dumber To, Seventh Son, Friday the 13th, Insidious 3, and Alice in Wonderland 2. The other films I have some interest in. 

Draft Day sounds like a fun, high concept comedy. It's about the NFL draft and has a solid cast. Sounds like an entertaining movie to me. The Purge 2 is interesting because I don't know where they'll go with it. I haven't seen The Purge, but I think that there's potential in the franchise. Jane Got a Gun is going to be an interesting mess, and a Michael Mann project is automatically interesting. The Jungle Book sounds cool as well, but Disney's live action stuff is quickly wearing thin. 

Now, I'm much more interesting in the few films that are left. Warcraft, with the right budget and director, has the potential to be fantastic. Let's hope it breaks that video game to movie streak that Hollywood has going. The Bourne sequel could go somewhere interesting with Justin Lin as well. I just don't know enough about it yet. And finally, I'm most excited for these three films: Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission Impossible 5 and Heart of the Sea. 

Mad Max could go two ways. It could end up like Star Trek (2009) or it could end up like Terminator: Salvation. Either way, it's interesting. Mission: Impossible 4 was great, so I can't wait to see where they're going with this one. And finally, Rush is my favorite of the year so far, so a re-teaming of Howard and Hemsworth for Heart of the Sea is very exciting for me. 

That's all for now, but I'm sure there are many more release date shifts to come. 

Image Credits: Filmeye, Bloody Disgusting, Total Film

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Frozen review

In the 1990's, Disney ruled the world of animation. The studio put themselves back on the map with 1989's The Little Mermaid and continued to make hits such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Hercules, Mulan, and most famously, 1994's The Lion King, throughout the decade. They were the kings of animation. However, the 2000's were ruled by Pixar. They brought Toy Story to the world in 1995, and then continued their rise to the top of the animated world. Pixar was infallible throughout the entire decade. Until 2011, when the studio released Cars 2. That film went on to be their first bona fide critical flop, and the streak continued with Brave and Monsters University. Those films received positive notices, but nowhere near the raves that Pixar's earlier films did. While Pixar suffered their first critical misses, Disney Animation was climbing back to the top. The studio released some minor hits like Meet the Robinsons and The Princess and the Frog, but really broke out with 2010's Tangled. They went on to continue their hot streak with 2012's fantastic Wreck-It Ralph. The question now is: can they beat Pixar and reclaim their spot at the top? After seeing their latest effort, Frozen, I can tell you with absolute certainty that they can, and in some ways, already have. Frozen is a musical, magical delight that should be around for years to come.

Frozen tells the story of two sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). After an accident involving Elsa's magic powers hurts Anna, their parents decide to remove the memories of Elsa's powers from Anna and lock up Elsa. The gates of the castle are shut and no one comes in. That is until Elsa must become Queen. Anna's excited, but Elsa is nervous about controlling her powers. Of course, Elsa cannot control her powers and the kingdom is frozen. Elsa locks herself in an ice palace and the land freezes. Anna must team up with a rugged man named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) to save her sister and bring back summer to the kingdom.

Frozen is loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, The Snow Queen. I've never read the story, so I don't know how truly it stays to the story, but I can imagine that changes were made by the filmmakers. However, unless you're a true Anderson purist, I doubt that you will care. Frozen is a beautiful film and an absolute pleasure to watch. The pacing, humor, and animation are all pitch-perfect. While Wreck-It Ralph was fantastic, it felt like Disney imitating Pixar. Nothing wrong with that, but that's what it felt like. Frozen feels like true Disney. There's music, magic and a beautiful design to the animation.

Frozen's official runtime is 1 hour, 48 minutes. You wouldn't believe how fast it goes. It may start slightly slow, but it quickly becomes classic Disney. The film has all the magical elements that you would expect from a Disney princess tale, and it's a lot of fun. Frozen also works as a fantastic musical. I don't know if animated movies can be nominated in the comedy/musical category at the golden globes, but Frozen should be. Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell are fantastic singers, and the big show-stopping music sequences really work here.

The voice cast is pretty fantastic. Menzel and Bell are great in their roles, and the animators have fully developed their characters. Jonathan Groff is good as Kristoff as well. The standout of the voice cast is Josh Gad however. Gad plays the snowman Olaf, and he brings some fantastic comic relief to a story that has some rather serious elements.

The animation is also beautiful. The very first scene of the movie features nothing of consequence to the plot, but the animation is stunning. I could have sworn that some of the men cutting the ice were real. It was that good. However, the animation in Disney and Pixar movies is always good. But what sets Frozen apart is the design of the animation. The snow and the ice is so beautiful on screen and it is truly stunning. Props to the animators here.

The writers have also given all the characters fully fleshed out back stories. No loose ends here, you understand exactly who each character is and why they are here. The only possible hole was how Elsa got her powers. Other than that, each character was fully developed and that was great to see. The writers and directors clearly took time to flesh out all the characters and that's a great thing to see.

However, despite all the technical brilliance of Frozen, and despite the fantastic story, what makes Frozen a great film is its sense of magic and fun. This feels like the Disney that we all grew up with. This feels like a film that is comparable to Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. Heck, I might even say that it's better than The Lion King aside from the songs. Frozen is such a beautiful story and a fantastically animated film, that I feel like it could usher in a new era of great Disney films. While Frozen has a great sense of magic and feels like a classic Disney animated film, it also rewrites the rules of Disney movies at times. This movie could change you interpretation of true love. Seriously.

That last paragraph might be slightly hyperbolic. Frozen didn't save Disney animation, because Disney animation had already been saved. Frozen just solidifies the fact that Disney animation is back on top and here to stay. And with no Pixar film next year, it seems that Disney will stay there for a while. This has the potential to be a full-on hit across all demographics. I'm a young male and I truly loved this film. That's saying something. In the end, Frozen brings back the magic to Disney animation with great music, memorable characters, and a great story. And while it might not top some of the Disney classics, it certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same category.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                            (9.4/10)

Note: The film starts with a brand new Mickey Mouse short called "Get a Horse!". It's absolutely fantastic and I won't say much more than that. Don't let anyone tell you too much about it.



"Catching Fire", "Frozen" light up with massive grosses at weekend box office

This weekend saw the release of four films. All four were released on Wednesday. Three of the films tanked, but one soared, and helped the box office perform spectacularly. However, despite the box office success of Disney's Frozen, Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire still led this weekend. Catching Fire grossed $74.5 million over the weekend, along with $110.1 million over the long Wednesday to Sunday frame. That's a spectacular second weekend for the sequel, and it now has grossed $296.5 million, enough for third place on the domestic yearly chart, behind only Despicable Me 2 and Iron Man 3. This weekend's numbers almost guarantee a $400 million+ gross for Catching Fire.

In a close second this weekend was Disney's Frozen. The $150 million animated feature grossed $66.7 million over the weekend frame, and a fantastic $93.1 million over the five-day weekend. After a one theater showing last weekend, Frozen has now grossed $93.3 million. The Disney animated feature out-grossed both 2010's Tangled, and Toy Story 2, both of which opened over the Thanksgiving holiday (although Frozen and Tangled had the 3D advantage and Toy Story 2 did not). Frozen is now set up for a healthy run that could end up with grosses over $300 million if it holds like Tangled did. Also, the fact that Frozen received an "A+" Cinemascore and is an absolutely fantastic movie won't hurt it at all.

After that, there really isn't that much to report. Thor: The Dark World finished in third place with $11.1 million over the weekend and $15.4 million over the five-day frame. The Marvel superhero flick has now grossed $186.7 million. The film should cross $200 million by the end of its run. Behind Thor in fourth place was The Best Man Holiday which grossed $8.4 million over the weekend and $11.1 million over the five-day frame. After a strong opening and an "A+" Cinemascore, The Best Man Holiday has slipped up and only grossed $63.4 million. In fifth place was the Jason Statham thriller Homefront, which grossed $9.79 million over the five-day frame and $6.97 million over the weekend. Add that up with a "B" Cinemascore, and you get a film that won't hold very well at the box office.

Delivery Man finished in sixth place with a $6.9 million weekend and a five day weekend around $10 million. The comedy held pretty well after a disappointing opening and has now grossed $19.4 million. In a large expansion this weekend, The Book Thief finished in seventh place with $4.85 million over the weekend frame for a $6.4 million weekend. The Fox drama has now grossed $7.8 million. Black Nativity was one of the weekend's bigger flops as it grossed $3.88 million over the weekend and $5 million over five days for an eighth place finish. That's a disappointing start, but the "A-" Cinemascore is encouraging.

And finally, rounding out the top ten in ninth and tenth were Philomena and Last Vegas. The Judi Dench dramedy grossed $3.789 million over the weekend and $4.6 million over the five day frame in ninth place. The film has now grossed $4.754 million. And finally in tenth place, we had Last Vegas. The film grossed $2.785 over the weekend and a $3.82 million five-day weekend in tenth place. The comedy has now grossed $58.7 million.

Also, all the way down in seventeenth place was FilmDistrict's Oldboy, which grossed $850,000 over the weekend and $1.25 million over the five-day frame. What a flop.

Next weekend sees the release of Out of the Furnace. Here are my predictions:

1. Frozen- $51.7 million
2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire- $36.1 million
3. Out of the Furnace- $14.5 million
4. Thor: The Dark World- $6.8 million
5. The Best Man Holiday- $5.3 million
6. The Book Thief- $5 million
7. Delivery Man- $4.5 million
8. Homefront- $3.3 million
9. Philomena- $2.9 million
10. Black Nativity- $2.67 million