Friday, February 28, 2014

Warner Bros. and the Wachowskis rumored to be developing new "Matrix" series

Right now, this is just a rumor, but it's a very interesting one at that. After coming to a pretty definitive close in 2003, apparently, The Matrix will live on. Latino Review's Kellvin Chavez is reporting that Warner Bros. wants another Matrix trilogy from the Wachowskis and they want it by 2017 so that they can compete with Star Wars and Avatar films. While Latino Review cites no source, here's what they're reporting:

"The Wachowski siblings have a very long history over at Warner Bros. but with the exception of the Matrix Trilogy, none of their movies have had great financial success. Speed Racer/Cloud Atlas tanked and let's not kid ourselves, by the looks of it, Jupiter Ascending will not be much better. We've been told that the Wachowskis have already started the writing process with early treatments and outlines already turned into the studio. No word if they will want to direct but my money says "Claro que Si!".Warner Bros. is desperate for a surefire franchise and will be making a push to have the new Matrix films ready to up against any new Star Wars and Avatar films by 2017...........One of the early outlines was about the birth of the Matrix and now that WB is Terminator-less, some of suits would like to explore that early world but it's way too early and the story is still very fluid. I've been also told to that the previous animated Matrix films will not have any effect on the live action movies."


So, it looks like the possibility of a new Matrix trilogy is out there. As a person who only watched the original Matrix three weeks ago, I can't say that I care about this too differently. And even though Latino Review rips into Jupiter Ascending in its post, I will say that I'm much more excited for that than I am for a new Matrix trilogy. Plus, didn't most people hate the last two Matrix movies? What makes Warner Bros. think that people would want to show up for a new trilogy? All of these questions and no answers. I doubt that this news is even true. I would think that Warner Bros. would focus much more on their other properties (DC, Looney Tunes, Harry Potter) than they would on a movie series that concluded a decade ago. That's just my opinion, but I don't see the potential in this one. 




Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"The Conjuring 2", "Inherent Vice", "Entourage", and more receive release dates

After announcing a plethora of release dates last week including The Man from UNCLE, Tarzan, and The LEGO Movie 2, Warner Bros. decided to come back this week and announce some more release dates for us. I think that they are literally announcing their entire upcoming slate over these couple of weeks. It's pretty crazy. In addition, Columbia joins the fun with a release date for their upcoming Goosebumps film. Here's the full breakdown.

Goosebumps is the first film on our list and the only one not to be released by Warner Bros. This Columbia Pictures adaptation of the RL Stine horror series will be directed by Rob Letterman (Shark Tale, Monsters Vs. Aliens) and will star Jack Black and Dylan Minnette (Prisoners). Not much is known about the plot, but we now know that Goosebumps will be released on March 23, 2016, which, oddly, is a Wednesday. Interesting release date choice for the film. I believe that if Columbia targets the right audience, this will be a sizable hit.


Next up on our list is the "Untitled New Line Horror Film," which is reportedly a spinoff of The Conjuring that will focus on the Annabelle doll. According to Rope of Silicon, Annabelle will star Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton and Alfre Woodard with John R. Leonetti directing. The film is now set for an October 3, 2014 release date, so expect this one pretty soon. I'm excited for it, but I really hope that they don't go the found-footage route with this one.


Speaking of the The Conjuring, Warner Bros. announced recently that they will release The Conjuring 2 on October 23, 2015. According to Rope of Silicon, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are set to reprise their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren, with Carey and Chad Hayes taking on the screenplay. No word on if James Wan will direct the film again. I really hope that he will, since he did such a tremendous job with the first film. However, depending on the future of the Fast and Furious franchise, Wan may or may not be available to direct the sequel. Who knows.

With Kevin Hart's celebrity in Hollywood obviously rising, Warner Bros. was quick to greenlight Get Hard, a comedy starring Hart and Will Ferrell. The plot synopsis on IMDb says that the film tells the story of a wealthy investment manager who is convicted of a crime and prepares for prison with help of the guy who washes his car. Sounds like a bit of a downer, but Hart can make anything funny and I really think that the pairing of Hart and Ferrell is genius. Warner Bros. has set the release date for March 27, 2015, so we can expect this one pretty soon.

Warner Bros. also announced another possible comedy hit yesterday in the form of Mean Moms. The Jennifer Aniston-starred comedy will tell the story of a happily married middle-class mom who moves to the upper class suburbs and is thrown into the world of competitive parenting. That's according to IMDb. The film will be released on May 8, 2015 and will be directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller.

Warner also announced the release date for a film that has been in development for a very long time. After seven years on the air, Entourage signed off in 2011 with the possibility of the show coming back as a movie. Now, it's official. Entourage will be released on June 12, 2015 with Doug Ellin in the director's chair and stars Jeremy Piven, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, and Kevin Dillon all joining in on the fun. Although I never watched the TV show, I'm actually pretty excited about this. It sounds like a fun movie.


Finally, in what was probably the biggest casting news of the day, Warner Bros. announced that Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice will be released on December 12, 2014. The Oscar contender stars Joaquin Phoenix, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon and more. This film is one of my most anticipated of the year and I can't wait to see what Anderson does with the 1960's stoner tale.


While those were the main release date changes, Warner Bros. also announced that The Intern will hit theaters on September 25, 2015, Transcendence has been bumped back to April 18, 2014 and How To Be Single will hit theaters on February 12, 2016. The Weinstein Company also announced that One Chance will now hit theaters on August 29, 2014.

That's it for now, but I'm sure more release dates will be announced in the upcoming future.

Adam Driver reportedly cast as lead villain in "Star Wars: Episode VII"

An interesting report came out from Variety today that said Adam Driver (Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis) will star as the lead villain in the upcoming film, Star Wars: Episode VII. Of course, this is not yet official and could be just another false Star Wars casting lead. However, Variety seems pretty certain that this deal is going to happen. In the article, Variety's Justin Kroll says that Driver should sign on officially in the coming days after figuring out scheduling conflicts with Girls. Kroll also reports that the villain is in the vein of Darth Vader and will likely be a main character throughout most of the upcoming Star Wars saga. Disney, Lucasfilm and JJ Abrams had no comment.

While I haven't really been excited about the new Star Wars series so far, I actually really love this casting. Driver was one of my favorite parts of the otherwise annoying Frances Ha and he also had quite the spectacular turn in Inside Llewyn Davis. Clearly, he's a talent young actor and it's good to see that Hollywood studios are taking notice. Star Wars: Episode VII still concerns me, but I'm a little less skeptical now. I think that with a couple more casting moves like this, Disney could have a really promising film on their hands. I've always liked JJ Abrams as a director, and although I wish he would have stuck with Star Trek, I'm hopeful that he can do a lot with Star Wars. 



Monday, February 24, 2014

Oscar Month: Gladiator (2000)

Oscar Month continues today with yet another historical epic, Gladiator. The Dreamworks/Universal film won five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound Mixing. It was also nominated for an additional seven Oscars including Best Director (Ridley Scott), Best Supporting Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Screenplay (David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson). Gladiator is the kind of action film that I love. It's dramatic, well-acted, brutal, fast-paced and a whole lot of fun. It gets off to a great start, slows down a little bit and then quickly becomes an awesome movie.

Gladiator tells the story of Maximus (Russell Crowe), a general in the Roman army in the year 180 AD. Maximus is a strong general and has the favor of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). In fact, Aurelius wants to make Maximus the new leader of Rome and turn the nation into a republic again. Maximus is conflicted on the idea but eventually decides to take the job. However, Aurelius' son Commodus is not a fan of the idea and decides to have Maximus killed. Somehow, Maximus escapes and becomes a gladiator in North Africa, eventually working his way up to Rome to earn his freedom.


Like Braveheart before it, Gladiator is a much more commercial Best Picture winner. However, just as I said with Braveheart, that doesn't mean that Gladiator is not a worthy Best Picture winner. In fact, Gladiator is a great film and one that I admire very much. It features a terrific central performance with a strong supporting cast, amazing battle scenes and a beautiful, glossy look that makes Gladiator a terrific entertainment. It's Hollywood filmmaking at its best.

Gladiator is led by a terrific performance by Russell Crowe. I would compare his performance to Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance in 12 Years A Slave in that you feel the character's passion for survival. The main difference is that Crowe's performance is slightly more angry and vengeful. The supporting cast for this film is also strong. Joaquin Phoenix is a deliciously despicable performance as the antagonist Commodus. He's an evil, deplorable man and Phoenix makes the character come alive. The supporting cast is rounding out by acting veterans like Richard Harris, Oliver Reed and Derek Jacobi, who all give solid performances.

One of my favorite things about Gladiator is how much entertainment value this film brings. It's an exciting, thrilling, edge of your seat action film from start to finish. The action is brutal and thrilling with some of the best hand-to-hand combat scenes ever done. The arena scenes are so exciting and visceral with genuine excitement. There's no predictability in this movie and I was always wondering what would happen next.

The scope is massive and the film obviously takes some inspiration from Roman epics like Spartacus in terms of the film's tone and look. The Roman empire appears real and gritty here, but Rome itself appears to be glossy and beautiful. The art directors and probably even the director himself really did a good job paying homage to those great epic films from the 1950's and 60's.

I do have a couple small problems with Gladiator, but they are so minuscule when you look at the big picture of this film. I will say that it does move slightly fast at times. I felt like the plot progression was a little hurried and it felt like everything was going a little too fast. In addition, there was a brief period where I was a little bored with the movie.

However, Gladiator comes through because it is one of those movies where you really root for the good guys. Sometimes, that's the biggest problem with action movies. You just want to see the bad guys win and you want the good guys to fail. Old-school action flicks like The Untouchables, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Gladiator are not like that. You are rooting for the good guys the whole movie. That's what I love so much about Gladiator. It has a sympathetic hero and a deplorable villain and you can really get behind the hero in his quest.

I was skeptical of Gladiator a little bit during its first hour. I was enjoying it but I didn't really think that it was a "Best Picture Winner". However, Gladiator kills the last two hours of the film with exciting fight scenes, intelligent plotting, good writing and a hero who you can get behind. It's 155 minute runtime is justifiable and it never feels that long. Gladiator is a great example of Hollywood film making and just an all-around great film.

THE FINAL GRADE:   A+


Sunday, February 23, 2014

"The LEGO Movie" dominates, while "3 Days To Kill" and "Pompeii" disappoint at weekend box office

The LEGO Movie kept its momentum through this weekend with its third start first place finish. The film grossed $31.4 million this weekend, which is a 37% drop from last weekend. The LEGO Movie has now grossed $183.1 million, and if it keeps up the momentum, it might be able to get to $250 million. For now, a safe bet would be $230 million. However, no film besides The LEGO Movie actually had a good weekend. Second place belonged to Relativity's 3 Days To Kill which grossed $12.3 million in its debut. The Kevin Costner-starred flick actually looked decent to me, but audiences didn't quite agree. The film received a "B" Cinemascore which isn't that good. I doubt that we'll hear about this one again. 

However, when you compare 3 Days to Kill to Pompeii, the former actually seems like a huge success. 3 Days to Kill cost only $28 million, while Pompeii, on the other hand, cost $100 million. The disaster flick finished in third place this weekend with $10 million. That's an absolutely awful total and with a "B" Cinemascore, Pompeii is going to need a miracle to be profitable. Looks like you can add Pompeii to the growing list of 2014 big-budget failures. RoboCop is another film that is going to struggle to be profitable and this weekend didn't help too much. The action flick grossed $9.4 million in fourth place, which is a 57% drop. That's not an awful decline, but it certainly isn't going to help the film much. RoboCop has now grossed $43.6 million. 

The Monuments Men continued its strong run this weekend with $8.1 million in fifth place. The war film dropped 47% this weekend and has now grossed $58 million. I wasn't a big fan of the movie, but I guess audiences disagreed. However, with a $70 million budget, The Monuments Men will need to stay strong to be profitable. The big shock of the weekend was the steep drop for About Last Night. The romantic comedy grossed $7.4 million this weekend in sixth place, which is a 71% drop from last weekend. I guess the word of mouth wasn't as strong as I thought it was going to be. 

Ride Along continued to stay strong this weekend with $4.6 million in seventh place. The action comedy has now grossed $123.1 million and will probably tap out at around $130 million. Frozen also continued its strong run this weekend with $4.3 million in eighth place. The animated comedy has now grossed $384 million. Frozen will probably reach $400 million by the end of its run and is also nearing $1 billion worldwide. 

Endless Love finished in ninth place this weekend with $4.3 million. The romantic drama has now grossed $20.1 million and will probably break even for Universal. And finally, Winter's Tale rounded out the top ten with $2.1 million. The Warner Bros. flop has now grossed $11.2 million, which is pretty bad for a $60 million movie. 

Next weekend sees the release of Non-Stop and Son of God in a wide release along with Stalingrad and The Wind Rises in a limited release. Here are my predictions:

1. Non-Stop- $43.4 million
2. Son of God- $27.9 million
3. The LEGO Movie- $24.1 million
4. 3 Days To Kill- $6.4 million
5. RoboCop- $6.1 million
6. The Monuments Men- $5.6 million
7. Pompeii- $4.6 million
8. About Last Night- $4.5 million
9. Frozen- $3.1 million
10. Ride Along- $2.8 million



Oscar Month: Braveheart (1995)

Oscar Month continues today with Braveheart, an epic war film which won the Oscar for Best Picture despite winning no precursor awards. The Paramount film won five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (Mel Gibson), Best Cinematography, Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects Editing. It was nominated for an additional five Oscars including Best Original Screenplay (Randall Wallace), Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Original Score. Braveheart, in many ways, is similar to Lawrence of Arabia, another Best Picture winning epic. It's overlong and drags at some points, but in the end, is a beautiful, entertaining film.

Braveheart tells the story of William Wallace (Mel Gibson), a Scottish freedom fighter. After Wallace's wife (Catherine McCormack) is killed by the British for breaking an unjust law, Wallace assembles a team of Scots to start a rebellion against the English. Wallace's legend grows and the King (Patrick McGoohan) feels a growing threat against his kingdom. Wallace's rebellion against the English eventually spreads into a full-on invasion and a full-on war with danger at every corner.


Braveheart is one of the most controversial Best Picture winners of all time. In 1995, it beat out front-runner Apollo 13 after not winning a single pre-cursor award. In fact, Empire Magazine named it the worst movie ever to win Best Picture. And while I will agree that it's probably not the best to ever win and a far more commercial choice for the academy, it's far from the worst (The Artist is a pretty poor choice). Very far from the worst. Braveheart is a beautiful, entertaining action with a hero at its center that you can really get behind. And while it is slow in parts and is long (177 mins), Braveheart still manages to compel and entertain throughout.

Braveheart is led by a good performance by Mel Gibson as William Wallace. He's the emotional center of the film and if Gibson doesn't turn in a good performance, Braveheart doesn't work. Gibson gives a powerful performance and that leads the film throughout. The supporting cast is led by Brendan Gleeson and David O'Hara as Hamish and Stephen. The two actors play Wallace's right-hand men and give strong performances and even some comic relief. Patrick McGoohan also gives a good, but slightly overdone performance as King Longshanks.

The action in this film is part of the reason why it is so successful. This film is a crowd-pleasing one through and through. From the battle speeches to rouse the troops to the graphically violent but thrilling battle scenes, Braveheart is a movie that can be enjoyed by everybody. And that's not a bad thing. I know that some people think that the Academy should always pick the "most important" movie of the year, but they're not always going to. Although I really like Apollo 13, Braveheart is just as good of a choice for Best Picture.

Braveheart is not a film that won the Oscar because its screenplay was brilliant or because its acting was the best of the year. Braveheart won because it's a film that makes you feel good. It's themes of freedom and fighting for your right to live independently are ones that everyone can get behind. That's why Braveheart is a great film. It makes you feel good.

However, this film could have used a little bit more editing. It's very long at 177 minutes and it does drag at times. There are repetitive passages and there were a couple times where the movie didn't need another battle sequences, but put one in there anyways. There were a couple parts that felt dull as well and I was starting to get boring of the movie by the time it got to its conclusion. However, the movie does come to a brilliant, inspiring conclusion that is absolutely perfect. The ending literally bumps this movie up a letter grade.

In the end, I really enjoyed Braveheart. It's an inspiring film with themes that anyone can get behind and it features an excellent performance by Mel Gibson. It has a fantastic score by James Horner and the locations are beautiful. This movie really does have it all: exciting war scenes, romance, stunning locales. Braveheart is a pretty good film and one that will inspire and entertain audiences for years to come.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A



Saturday, February 22, 2014

Oscar Month: The Godfather (1972)

Oscar Month continues today with one of the greatest of all films, Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. The 1972 Paramount crime epic collected Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Coppola) and Best Actor (Marlon Brando) for a total of three Academy Awards. The Godfather was also nominated for an additional seven Oscars (the eighth additional nomination was disqualified) including Best Adapted Screenplay (Coppola and Mario Puzo), three nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Al Pacino, Robert Duvall and James Caan) and Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Sound for a total of ten nominations. The Godfather is undoubtedly a classic and one of my personal favorites. It's a masterpiece.

The Godfather tells the story of a Italian Mafia family in New York. The don of the family, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is a powerful man in the Mafia landscape. He's assisted by his sons Sonny (James Caan) and Fredo (John Cazale) and his adopted son/consigliere Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall). His third son, Michael (Al Pacino) is a decorated war hero and wants nothing to do with the "family business." However, when Vito gets in trouble because of his resistance to dealing with drugs, Michael must rise to power in the family and become the new head of the family.

I reviewed The Godfather back in July after watching it for the first time a couple months before that. I very much enjoyed the film and thought that it was a great movie, but I didn't really get the buzz about it. I didn't see where everyone was coming from when they named The Godfather to be the greatest film of all time. However, after watching it a couple more times, I can assure you that my opinion has changed. I do see where people are coming from. The Godfather is one of greatest of all films. It's three hours long, but you don't want it to end. The film is so well made and well acted and above all, is entertaining. The Godfather is an engaging and interesting story at its center and that's why it has stood the test of time and that's why it will be around forever.

The Godfather is a wonderfully acted film, first and foremost. Marlon Brando gives a terrific performance as Vito, but the supporting cast is even stronger in a way. Al Pacino is also spectacular in this movie as Michael, and although he's even better in Part II, his performance in this film is still great.

My favorite critic, the late Roger Ebert, wrote this in his Great Movies essay about The Godfather: "All of the other roles are so successfully filled that a strange thing happened as I watched this restored 1997 version. Familiar as I am with Robert Duvall, when he first appeared on screen, I found myself thinking, "There's Tom Hagen."" Ebert is so right. The rest of the supporting cast is so great because they fully embody their characters. That's what great acting is and all of the actors (Duvall, Caan, Cazale) commit to their characters 100 percent of the time.

The screenplay for The Godfather won the Oscar in 1972 and deservedly so. It's a complex film, but I was never confused during the entire film. Puzo and Coppola create such great dialogue and make the plot so compelling. They fully detail each character so meticulously that you feel close to all of them. This is a long film as well. It's nearly three hours, but it feels like it's over in one. That's how great this movie is. Every single moment is important in one way or another. Every scene develops either the characters of the plot and I can't think of a single scene that I would cut out of this movie.

The Godfather is also a technical achievement. It truly shocks me that the fantastic cinematography was not nominated for some sort of Oscar. Nonetheless, the camera work sets the mood for this film and captures so many brilliant shots. The score for this film is iconic and brilliant. It's a shame that Nino Rota's Oscar nomination was rescinded. This is a truly great score that, like the cinematography, sets the mood and the tone for the film.

In my opinion, a movie can be technically brilliant and well acted, but if its story doesn't compel and entertain me, it's not a movie that I really care about. The Godfather is a movie that connects on so many levels because the story is so rich and interesting and the characters so brilliant. The Godfather is one of my absolute favorite films and will be a classic forever. The Academy made the right choice in 1972. Just imagine if they hadn't named this movie Best Picture. Now that would have been crazy.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+


Friday, February 21, 2014

"Space Jam 2" with LeBron James is in development at Warner Bros.

Space Jam is a movie that I have never watched. I love the Looney Tunes and I actually am a huge fan of the 2003 reboot Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but I have never watched Space Jam. I don't know why I haven't. I guess it's because I'm not the biggest Michael Jordan fan in the world and don't really care to see a film where he plays basketball with Looney Tunes. But anyways, none of this really matters. This post is about Space Jam 2, not why Josh hasn't seen Space Jam.

Space Jam came out 18 years ago, but I guess that Warner Bros. decided that they finally had a basketball superstar who was big enough to carry a Space Jam movie. LeBron James is apparently going to star in Space Jam 2, which is in development. According to Cinema Blend, Warner Bros. is meeting with Charlie and Willie Ebersol to develop a Space Jam 2 with LeBron James as the star. There isn't any other word on the film right now besides that, but I expect that the film will be released around 2017 or 2018.

LeBron James is pretty much the only basketball player that Warner Bros. could choose for this movie. They need a big star front and center and LeBron James is that guy. Personally, I'm indifferent. I think that this movie could be good, but then again, is LeBron James really an actor? Cinema Blend also said in their article that he has a film project coming up and I know that he's been in a lot of commercials, but in the end, can he really carry a whole film? I don't know. However, this brings up a fun topic for me: Why hasn't there been a theatrically released Looney Tunes movie in eleven years?

Looney Tunes is a great property and I think that if Warner Bros. did some good stuff with it, they could literally tap into a gold mine. There's a whole generation of kids who have no idea who the Looney Tunes are and I think that if you got the right people involved, a Looney Tunes movie could become a big hit. First, they should try something like what The Muppets did, where it was basically an homage to the original series. Then, if that works, they could really tap into something. I just feel like Warner Bros. is missing out. Greenlighting Space Jam 2 is a step in the right direction, but I want a full on Looney Tunes movie. C'mon Warner Bros!


Release dates announced for "LEGO Movie" sequel, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.", "Run All Night", "Tarzan"

Several release date announcements have occurred in the last two weeks, mostly by Warner Bros., so I decided that it was time to write about all of the movies that have been dated. Warner Bros. announced the release dates for five of their upcoming releases in the past two weeks, so that gives a clearer picture of what the company is going for. Here's the breakdown.

The first film that was given a release date doesn't even have a title yet. Columbia Pictures recently announced the release date for the untitled upcoming film from Cameron Crowe. The plot synopsis says that the film is about a military man who relives his past triumphs at an Air Force base while reconnecting with his long lost love while at the same time, falling for another woman. The film will be released on December 25, 2014. Columbia is obviously positioning this as an Oscar contender and I truly believe that it will be one. I'm interested in the film already. The project stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Jay Baruchel, Alec Baldwin and Danny McBride.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was once supposed to be a major blockbuster, but I'm not sure that it will be one now. The Guy Ritchie spy thriller is now set to be released on January 16, 2015, which is just in time for the MLK weekend. According to some comments on Deadline, the industry now views MLK weekend as a valid option for films and a massive moviegoing weekend. We'll see. I'm interested in the thriller, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that my interest is not as high at this point. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris and David Beckham.

Next up is Run All Night, the latest Liam Neeson thriller. Warner Bros. will release the thriller which tells the story of a hitman who must take on his former boss to save his family. Sounds like an interesting pulp thriller. The film will be released on February 6, 2015, which is the perfect spot for the film. Run All Night is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, Non-Stop) and stars Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Vincent D'Onofrio, Genesis Rodriguez, Ed Harris, and Common. I'm actually excited for this one, but I still wish that Neeson would do a few more serious movies.

Next up is Focus, a Will Smith and Margot Robbie-led comedy. The Warner Bros. romantic comedy tells the story of an aging man who becomes the mentor for a younger woman. However, the two become romantically involved and things get complicated. By the way, all of these synopses are from IMDb. Warner will release Focus on February 27, 2015. This doesn't sound like something that I will care much about, but in the end, it could be alright.

This is a project that I know extremely little about. Last week, Columbia announced that they would release Grimsby, a comedy starring Sacha Baron Cohen on July 31, 2015. And that's all I've got for you. There's no plot synopsis or anything.

Another massive blockbuster on Warner Bros. upcoming slate is their reboot of Tarzan. While there's no plot synopsis for the film yet, I'm excited based on the cast and the director alone. Tarzan will be released by Warner Bros. on July 1, 2016 and will star Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson. The director of the film will be David Yates from the Harry Potter movies. I'm actually pretty excited for this one.

And finally, The LEGO Movie 2 will be released on May 26, 2017. The first one was absolutely hilarious and though I know very little about the sequel, I can only hope that it will be as good as the first one. Jared Stern and Michelle Morgan are writing the film and hopefully Phil Lord and Christopher Miller will return. No word on the cast at this point.

That's it for now. I'll be back soon with Oscar Predictions, more Oscar Month reviews and even some box office updates.

Fantastic Four reboot casts Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell as four main characters

Fox is making a last ditch effort to get its Fantastic Four characters on screen to prevent the rights to reverting back to Marvel with a reboot from Chronicle director Josh Trank. After rumors swirled around for months, The Wrap has reported that Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell will be the stars of their Fantastic Four reboot, which is currently set for a June 19, 2015 release date. This is a superhero movie that I'm actually really psyched for, even though I never saw Chronicle. The cast is pretty spectacular and all four actors are very interesting choices.

Here's the casting breakdown for who will play each role:

-Miles Teller will play Reed Richard (aka Mr. Fantastic)

-Kate Mara will play Sue Storm (aka The Invisible Woman)

-Michael B. Jordan will play Johnny Storm (aka The Human Torch)

-Jamie Bell will play Ben Grimm (aka The Thing)

Like I said, I'm very excited about the cast for this film because all of them are promising young actors. Teller has appeared in The Spectacular Now and Footloose, two teen movies that I never saw. Teller has done mostly light roles, so I hope that he kills it as Richards and makes it dramatic enough. Kate Mara has appeared in House of Cards and 127 Hours and seems to be a good fit for Sue Storm. I'm excited about that pick as well. Michael B. Jordan is the most famous actor out of this group and I'm super excited about him playing The Human Torch, even though I never saw Chronicle or Fruitvale Station. I really need to see both of those. And finally, Jamie Bell has appeared in exactly one film that I have seen (The Adventures of Tintin) and I have to see that I'm not really excited that he's playing the Thing. I wonder if The Thing is actually going to be CGI this time and in that case, Bell might not be a bad choice. But for now, I can't say that I'm too excited.

This film and Ant-Man are two of the superhero movies that really excite me. I'm excited for Ant-Man because Edgar Wright is directing it and I'm excited for this one because I think that Josh Trank will do a great job and the cast looks phenomenal. I really hope that this turns out to be good. The Fantastic Four is set for June 19, 2015.

Oscar Month: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

We take a trip back to the the 1960's for Oscar Month today as I review 1962's best picture winner, Lawrence of Arabia. David Lean's famed epic won seven Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Lean), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing and Best Sound. In addition, Lawrence of Arabia was nominated for another three Oscars for Best Actor (Peter O'Toole), Best Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson). Lawrence of Arabia truly is an incredible motion picture. It is one of, if the not the, most beautiful films in cinematic history and is led by a fantastic performance by Peter O'Toole. However, the film runs at nearly four hours and isn't quite sure how to end. Despite having some length issues, Lawrence of Arabia is required viewing for every cinephile.

Lawrence of Arabia tells the story of T.E. Lawrence (O'Toole), a British officer who is sent to Arabia by a colonel (Donald Wolfit) and a political leader Mr. Dryden (Claude Rains) to find out who Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness), the leader of an Arabian revolt against the Turks, really is. Lawrence makes the long trek through the desert and eventually joins the Arabic people in their quest for freedom. However, the task will not be simple. Lawrence and his friend Ali (Omar Sharif) must overcome the nonstop fighting between the Arabian tribes and the involvement of the British and French government. Lawrence teams up with Ali, Auda (Anthony Quinn), and Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle) to take down the Turks and give the Arabians their freedom. 


Lawrence of Arabia is a really long film. The running time is 227 minutes with the overture and intermission and 217 minutes without it. So if you want to watch this film, you better be prepared for the lengthy runtime. However, just because a movie is long doesn't mean that it is bad. Lawrence of Arabia certainly keeps my attention for about ninety percent of the film before sputtering out at the end. It's a majestic, beautiful film with superb visuals, excellent acting and some really amazing action sequences.

David Lean is a director who always puts his vision fully onto the screen and he does it again here with Lawrence of Arabia. The film is so cinematic, so breathtaking, that you'll most certainly be in awe. Some of the shots are among the best ever filmed in the history of cinema and are so masterful. Back in 1962, Lawrence of Arabia had a budget of around $15 million. That's a lot more money today (around $150 million). But you see every single dollar on the screen. The atmosphere of Arabia is so alive in this film and that's all because Lean insisted in filming in the desert. That was a wise move. 

The acting in this movie is also superb, despite some occasionally wooden dialogue. Peter O'Toole gives an incredible performance as Lawrence and fully invests himself in the character. It's a shame that he didn't win the Oscar for this film. The supporting cast is also extremely strong, but none of the performances really stand out to me. Alec Guinness is really good as Prince Faisal and Anthony Quinn is also very good as Auda. 

The best thing about this movie is by far the cinematography and the visuals. These visuals are the best that have ever been done and it's even more impressive that it's all real. Lean filmed Lawrence on location and he he captured some amazing shots. It's just an amazing film to behold and even if you don't enjoy the movie, you'll be astonished by the visuals. The musical score is also absolutely phenomenal. 

This movie is not as perfect as everyone might think though. Anytime your movie gets near four hours, it better stay strong throughout and I just can't say that Lawrence of Arabia stays entertaining. The ending is incredibly weak and there's really no definite conclusion. There are small moments that drag during the first three hours, but during the last half hour, it really slows down too much. I think that Lawrence could have ended at one point, but it just keeps going and I think that's a somewhat big problem. 

In the end, Lawrence of Arabia is a must see for any film fan. It has a great score, fantastic cinematography and a brilliant performance and is one of the most stunning films ever made. It's slightly overlong, but that doesn't stop Lawrence of Arabia from being a fantastic cinematic experience that is enjoyable for most of the running time. David Lean really put everything into this movie and you see it all on the screen. It's pretty amazing.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oscar Month: Rocky (1976)

Oscar month continues today with the Best Picture Winner of 1976: Rocky. The boxing classic received three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (John G. Avildsen) and Best Film Editing. Rocky also received an additional seven nominations including Best Actor (Sylvester Stallone), Best Actress (Talia Shire), Best Supporting Actor (Burt Young), Best Supporting Actor (Burgess Meredith), Best Original Screenplay (Stallone), Best Original Song and Best Sound Mixing. This is one of the Academy's most crowd-pleasing Best Picture picks. But did it deserve to beat out classics like All The President's Men, Network and Taxi Driver? I think so (although it is a tough decision).

Rocky tells the story of the titular character, Rocky Balboa (Stallone). He's a small time boxer who pretty much hangs around the streets. Rocky never really amounted to anything and although he has a lot of talent, he hasn't really done anything with it. He's also slightly insecure; he loves his friend Paulie (Burt Young)'s sister Adrian (Talia Shire), but doesn't really know how to show it. One day, Rocky gets the chance of a lifetime when Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), the world heavyweight champion, offers Rocky a chance to fight him for his bicentennial match. Rocky's life changes and his inspirational story takes him from a terrible training session all the way to the ring for the biggest fight of his life.


Rocky is one of those franchises that has become somewhat of a laughingstock because of the sheer amount of sequels that were produced. That makes people forget how great the original Rocky is. It's truly a great film and one that is both entertaining and deeply human. It's a crowd-pleasing film for sure, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. The acting is terrific, the script is fantastic and the film is just extremely entertaining. Rocky is an undisputed classic and will be for years to come.

People look at Rocky as a boxing movie, but honestly, there isn't that much boxing involved. This is a human story and a love story first and foremost; boxing comes second. Sylvester Stallone really did a great job with the script for this movie. He puts real human emotion into all of the characters and makes the film extremely compelling. It feels authentic and every conversation feels like one that could be had in real life. I love films that feel like they're ripped right out of real life.

The performances in this movie are also really good. Sylvester Stallone kills this performance and although Rocky is a little annoying sometimes, he still feels like a real, fleshed-out character. People always mention Jake La Motta in Raging Bull when they talk about insecure characters. I would definitely throw Rocky in that mix as well. He's certainly an insecure person and Stallone plays him that way. Talia Shire also gives a strong performance as Adrian. She's shy but supportive and her love story with Rocky is one of the most interesting aspects of this film. Burgess Meredith is pretty much a grumpy old man, and Burt Young succeeds in being a jerk for about ninety percent of the film. But all in all, the performances are great in this film.

Most importantly, Rocky is a very entertaining film and one that you can relate to. There's a grittiness to it, but there's also a sense of sentimentality that make this film interesting. It's a unique love story, it's an entertaining boxing movie and it's a spectacularly written drama. The boxing scenes are brutal but they also manage to invest you in the action. There are also a lot of great, interesting themes in the movie. Themes that you wouldn't expect an underdog story to explore.

So all in all, Rocky is a film that I love. It's a tough choice between All the President's Men and Rocky, but I think that the Academy made the right choice. This is an extremely well directed and entertaining film with a terrific screenplay and great actors. The series may have slipped in quality from time to time with sequels like Rocky V, but there's no denying the greatness of the original film.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Marvel releases first "Guardians of the Galaxy" trailer

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of Marvel's most intriguing upcoming projects, as most people know absolutely nothing about the characters and really don't even have a remote familiarity with the comic. However, there is major talent involved and Marvel has basically been hyping this thing up as the next Star Wars. After a fifteen second teaser yesterday, Marvel premiered the new trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel fanboys were super psyched by the trailer, but I didn't have quite the same reaction. Here's the trailer first: 



Guardians of the Galaxy was a concept that always appealed to me. I love space movies and I really like the idea of Marvel making a big space movie. Despite my initial excitement, this trailer was just dumb. It really was. There wasn't "comic relief", there was comedy. It doesn't look like Marvel is taking the material seriously at all and that just didn't appeal to me. However, when you look at this trailer from a marketing standpoint, I think that it's a success. It introduces the audience to the Guardians of the Galaxy characters and does it in an entertaining fashion. And I think that when general audiences see the trailer, they'll be impressed. However, knowing Marvel and how much comedy has been incorporated into their films as of late, a trailer that plays COMPLETELY off of comedy just doesn't impress me at all. We'll see. 

Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan and Michael Rooker. The film will be released on August 1, 2014. 


Oscar Month: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

Oscar Month continues today with 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The drama took home five Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Louise Fletcher) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Laurence Hauben and Bo Goldman). The film was nominated for an additional four Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Brad Dourif), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Original Score. This was my first time watching this film and I absolutely adored it. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is paced perfectly with two towering performances and a terrific ending. It's a classic.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest tells the story of Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a convict who is sent to a mental institution for evaluation. McMurphy is clearly not insane, but manages to shake things up with the patients in the hospital and becomes the instant enemy of Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Along with Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif), Cheswick (Sydney Lassick) and Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), McMurphy establishes anarchy at an institution run on order and fear. Eventually, McMurphy's wild side gets the best of him and the anarchic fun turns vicious, intense and deadly.


One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a movie that should not be likable. Most of the characters are mentally unstable and get on your nerves in the beginning. There was a scene early in this film that made me think that I would absolutely hate the movie. I was wrong. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest comes to life because of terrific performances and how the film makes its characters come alive. The people in this movie are not merely mentally insane patients: they're human beings who can have fun if they're not repressed. Each character has their own heart and soul and that's one of the best things about this movie.

The acting in this movie is brilliant. It really is absolutely brilliant. Each actor does a terrific job bringing his or her character to life and it's one of the things that make this movie so great. Jack Nicholson is obviously the standout. He gives what's probably his best performance as McMurphy in this film. He has a manic, frightening energy to him in each scene. Nicholson has giving some truly great performances in his career (Chinatown, The Shining), but I'm not sure that any tops this one. Louise Fletcher is also terrific as the villainous Nurse Ratched, a despicable, deplorable woman who you absolutely hate. She's an awful person and Fletcher breathes life into her and it makes for one spectacular performance. The supporting cast is also magnificent. Brad Dourif is great as Billy, Will Sampson is brilliant as the Chief and even Scatman Crothers shows up for a brief, but memorable turn.

The pacing in this movie is also perfect. There isn't a true narrative in this film. There's no point A to point B. It's strongly rooted in the characters and that's a great thing. However, director Milos Forman really paced this movie well. It never moves too fast. It's actually a pretty slow film. But each scene is so alive and is filled with so much energy that you're never bored by the leisurely pace. Forman makes almost unbearable discussions between unstable characters compelling, entertaining and sometimes even funny.

The filmmaking on this movie is also so, so good. It's filmed very much in the same way that The Shining is and that's a stroke of genius. Forman completely deserved to win the Oscar. The camera doesn't shake around too much; it lets the scenes develop and that makes the film even more compelling. I can't quite describe the level of mastery involved with the direction in this film, but when you see it, you'll understand what I mean.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest also has one of the best endings for a movie that I've ever seen. I don't want to spoil anything, but at the end of the movie, something bad has happened and it's pretty sad. However, the ending manages to turn itself around fast and it's uplifting, joyous and perfect. I was extremely happy at the end of this movie.

All in all, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is an absolutely brilliant film and one that totally deserved to beat out classics like Dog Day Afternoon, Barry Lyndon, Nashville and Jaws (though saying that Cuckoo's Nest is better than Jaws is hard). It may take a while to get used to the characters, but in the end, this film is worth it. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is an American classic and will be for years to come. I loved it.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Oscar Month: The Sting (1973)

As we move our way through Oscar month, we now arrive at the last caper film to win Best Picture: The Sting. The 1973 drama took home a whopping seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (George Roy Hill), Best Original Screenplay (David S. Ward), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design (Edith Head), Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score (Marvin Hamlisch). The film was also nominated for an additional three Oscars: Best Actor (Robert Redford), Best Cinematography and Best Sound. The Sting was a massive box office success and when adjusted for inflation, is one of the highest grossing films of all time. While not quite as spectacular as other Best Picture winners from the 1970's, The Sting is still a very entertaining caper film with a great ensemble and great chemistry between the leads.

The Sting tells the story of Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford), a con artist in Chicago. After him and fellow con artist Luther Coleman (Robert Earl Jones) con the wrong guy, Luther ends up dead and Johnny goes on a quest to con the man responsible. A recommendation from Luther leads Hooker to Henry Gondroff (Paul Newman), who put together a team to take on Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), the crime boss who killed Luther. Hooker and Gondroff navigate the dangerous world of the "big con", where danger lies around every corner and a wrong movie can be the difference between life and death.


The Sting is in many ways similar to American Hustle. The 2013 con artist flick has many of the same elements and is even similar in its setup. Only the ending ends up a bit different. However, for me, American Hustle is a much more entertaining, high-energy film while The Sting is more elaborate and slower paced. That's not to say that The Sting is not a film that I enjoy. I actually really enjoy this film and there are quite a few positives that make this a memorable film. The soundtrack is addictive and incredible and the ensemble gives an incredible collective effort.

Robert Redford and Paul Newman have fantastic chemistry. They first proved that in 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and proved it again with The Sting. They work well together and both give fantastic individual performances as well. Robert Shaw gives my favorite performance of the film as the quiet, menacing Lonnegan. He gives a lot of energy to the role and is an absolute blast to watch. Also, this is a great ensemble picture and each additional member of the cast gives a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the picture.

The film is a bit slow at times, but it is very smooth and well plotted. One of my main problems with caper flicks is that they often get bogged down with all the twists and turns. They move too fast and don't give you the opportunity to understand everything that is going on with the film. That was my one and only problem with American Hustle. That's not the case with The Sting. I always felt like I knew what was going on with the plot. It moves fast, but it gives you enough time to soak in all the information thrown at you.

The atmosphere of the film also contributes so much to the overall experience. The score by Marvin Hamlisch is iconic in every way, shape and form and adds so much to the movie. The art direction is also fantastic and all of the colors pop off the screen. The city of Chicago is practically a character in this movie. The Sting is really such a beautifully designed film. It's also edited so that it feels authentic to the era it's portraying. This movie is technically brilliant and a lot of fun to watch at times.

My main problem with the film is that it just never really gripped me. I've watched the film twice at this point and I've never really felt very compelled or actually connected to the characters. I always enjoy the film, but it moves slow at times and it can be a bit bland. The film is colorful and entertaining, but can also be pretty dull at times.

Despite my qualms, The Sting is a very good film and one that I always enjoy. It's a brilliantly designed film and the performances are great as well. It has an interesting and intriguing plot and you can't guess what'll happen in the end until you actually see the ending. It's a film that I recommend watching. The Sting is a classic film that is led by two great actors whose chemistry was always stunning: Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The Sting will survive for a long time because these two actors will always be appealing to audiences. Period.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+



Monday, February 17, 2014

Oscar Month: The French Connection (1971)

If you look back to my posts last February, you'll see a lot of them that are labeled "Oscar Month." Last year, the idea was to go back and look at films that were nominated or won the Best Picture prize at the Academy Awards. I'm bringing that back as we approach the Oscars again, and this time, I'm starting with the Best Picture Winner of 1971, William Friedkin's The French Connection. In addition to winning Best Picture, The French Connection won Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Director (William Friedkin), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ernest Tidyman) and Best Film Editing. It was nominated for an additional three Oscars. After a decade in which the Academy made some bad choices (Oliver over 2001, In the Heat of the Night over The Graduate, etc.), they got back on track when they chose The French Connection. It's an exceptional, exciting cop drama that hasn't aged one bit.

The French Connection tells the story of two NYC narcotics agents: Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Cloudy Russo (Roy Schieder). The two cops are cracking down on heroin and cocaine distribution on the streets and become aware of a deal involving a local shop owner/drug dealer named Baca (Tony Lo Bianco). The deal is worth over half a million and could make a lot of money. Baca is dealing with an investor, Joel Weinstock, who could deal the drugs out. He's also dealing with the supplier, Alain (Fernando Rey), a wealthy heroin smuggler from France. Doyle and Russo are determined to stop the massive deal from going down, and are determined to let nothing stand in their way.


The French Connection is a somewhat complicated film. There are lots of interconnecting characters and a lot of different people involved with the deal. However, when you're watching it, the film doesn't feel complicated. It's just hard to write a plot summary of the film. It's a tremendously thrilling and exciting film with spectacular action sequences, good pacing and great acting. It truly is a bona fide classic and will be for years to come.

Gene Hackman anchors the film and is quite fantastic, but he has a strong supporting cast to back him up as well. Fernando Rey is good as the drug supplier from France and makes for a despicable villain. Roy Schieder is also very good as Buddy "Cloudy" Russo, Popeye's partner. Each character feels fully fleshed out despite the fact that you never learn very much about any of them. Popeye and Cloudy both have a distinctive personality and that comes from the acting involved. Hackman truly deserved the Oscar for this role.

The pacing on this film is also astonishing. Many films from the late '60s and early '70s can be rather slowly paced, but not this one. It's exciting and heart-pounding from the word go and it never lets up. There really isn't a mystery involved in this film and there's no question about who did the crime. The French Connection is much more interested in how Popeye is going to stop these guys.

There are also some truly spectacular action scenes in this movie. The scenes work as spectacle, but the action is also very tense and thrilling. A car chase scene late in the film is regarded as one of the best ever by some critics, and truly is. For a movie made in the early '70s, The French Connection has some great action scenes that hold up better than some action scenes from movies in the mid-to-late '90s.

The tone of this film is also perfect. It's gritty and intense, but it does become slightly humorous at times. Friedkin did a great job with this film. Each scene is filmed exceptionally well and he sticks with his tone and pace throughout the whole movie. It's a consistent thrill ride from beginning to end.

The French Connection is undoubtedly a great action movie. I've seen this movie twice now and have been thrilled and excited by it each time. The acting is great, the pacing and tone is unique and thrilling and the direction is fantastic. I wholeheartedly recommend checking The French Connection out if you haven't seen it. I think that it's a movie that everyone will love.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+

Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 BAFTAs: The List of Winners and Analysis

The British Academy Film and Television Awards (aka The BAFTAS) are pretty much the last stop on the Awards circuit before the Academy Awards. It's been a pretty quiet month so far and not much has changed in terms of the big races. I should have my first set of predictions up relatively soon, but for now, here are the winners of the BAFTA awards with just a bit of analysis on who won and what it means for the race.

BEST FILM- 12 YEARS A SLAVE

At this point, the Oscar race is down to 12 Years A Slave and Gravity. And while Gravity took home its fair share of awards tonight at the BAFTAS, it was 12 Years A Slave who took home the top prize. I'm still not sure who will win. I think that American Hustle has definitely lost all momentum and will only take a few prizes. But I'm still not sure whether Gravity or 12 Years A Slave will take the Oscar. We shall see.

BEST DIRECTOR- Alfonso Cuaron, GRAVITY

In an interesting twist, 12 Years A Slave took Best Picture while Gravity took home Best Director. The debate on who will take home the Oscar continues. I am certain, however, that Cuaron will win best director at the Oscars. I think that it's almost guaranteed.

BEST ACTOR- Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 YEARS A SLAVE


This is a win that I fully support. Ejiofor's performance in 12 Years A Slave is extraordinary and I'm truly glad that he got some recognition. However, he's not winning the Oscar. Right now, Matthew McConaughey is the favorite, but I'm taking DiCaprio. I think that he has a lot of momentum and can certainly take theupset.

BEST ACTRESS- Cate Blanchett, BLUE JASMINE

While there is still talk that Blanchett could lose the Oscar race because of the Woody Allen scandal, I doubt it. She's had this thing locked up since July and nothing is going to change that.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR- Barkhad Abdi, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

I guess Dallas Buyers Club was ineligible for the BAFTAs because the film was nominated in no categories. I think that Abdi gave a good performance in Captain Phillips and I'm happy that he got a prize. Still, Leto is going to win the Oscar.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS- Jennifer Lawrence, AMERICAN HUSTLE

To me, this is the most significant win of the night. One of the races that has remained tight throughout the whole has been the race for Best Supporting Actress. It's down to Lupita Nyong'o and Jennifer Lawrence and I think that this win was crucial for Lawrence. I'm betting on her to take the prize come Oscar night.

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM- GRAVITY

There's some debate about Gravity being a British film, but it won anyways over Rush and Philomena. This win is significant for the film as well. It indicates a lot of support for the film and I believe that it is an important win for Gravity. The film is still very much in this race.

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR, OR PRODUCER- Kieran Evans, KELLY+VICTOR

BEST FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE- THE GREAT BEAUTY

This win is important for The Great Beauty and basically solidifies that the film is going to win Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. I'm actually very interested in this film and hope to see it at some point.

BEST DOCUMENTARY- THE ACT OF KILLING

This win is proof that The Act of Killing will win the documentary category at the Oscars. I was certain of it already, but now, I'm almost positive.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE- FROZEN

Wow, shocker there. Seriously, is anything else going to top Frozen? The Wind Rises has a shot, but I still don't think that enough people have seen that film.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY- David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer, AMERICAN HUSTLE

After losing the WGA award to Her, this was a much needed win for the American Hustle crew. I'm still betting on them at the Oscars, but I can't say that it's a guarantee. That branch often makes some weird choices.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY- Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, PHILOMENA

This win is not surprising. Philomena is very much a British film and I'm not surprised to see it take the top prize at the British awards show. However, I do think that this is slightly significant. This film did beat 12 Years A Slave, which is the heavy Oscar favorite. Still, I'm betting on 12 Years come Oscar night.

BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC- Steven Price, GRAVITY

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY- Emmanuel Lubezki, GRAVITY

BEST EDITING- Dan Hanley and Mike Hill, RUSH

Yeah! Now that's a win that I fully support!

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN- Catherine Martin and Beverly Dunn, THE GREAT GATSBY

BEST COSTUME DESIGN- Catherine Martin, THE GREAT GATSBY

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIR- Evelyne Noraz and Lori McCoy-Bell, AMERICAN HUSTLE

BEST SOUND- GRAVITY

BEST SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS- GRAVITY

That's my wrap-up for the BAFTA awards. Look for my first round of Oscar predictions later this week and maybe even some reviews. It's going to be an exciting rest of the month.

"The LEGO Movie" stays strong while "About Last Night" has a great debut at the weekend box office

While I didn't get out to the theater this weekend, a lot of people did. Valentine's Day falling on a Friday helped, but the good mix of movies was beneficial as well. Once again, Warner Bros.' The LEGO Movie led the pack with $48.8 million. That's a spectacular second weekend for The LEGO Movie, which has now grossed $129.1 million. The LEGO Movie dropped only 29% from its stellar opening weekend and is now on its way to over $250 million. With little competition in the family market until Mr. Peabody and Sherman, look for The LEGO Movie to continue its great run.

Out of the four new releases this weekend, About Last Night came out on top with $27 million in second place. The Screen Gems comedy stars Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy and Regina Hall and is budgeted around $12.5 million. This solidifies Kevin Hart's status as a legitimate box office draw. The romantic comedy received an "A-" Cinemascore from audiences. I expect that About Last Night will finish with around $75 million. Look for Kevin Hart's box office reign to continue later this year with Think Like A Man Too.

RoboCop finished in third place this weekend with $21.5 million. Columbia's $100 million action film had a rather disappointing debut, but the grosses picked up over the weekend and I expect that the legs will be good with the film's "B+" Cinemascore. RoboCop should finish with around $80 million. So far, the film has grossed $26.4 million. The Monuments Men had a strong second weekend in fourth place with $15 million. The WWII drama dropped only 32% and has now grossed $43.6 million. Look for The Monuments Men to keep going steady and finish with around $80 million.

Universal's Endless Love took fifth place this weekend with $13.3 million. The poorly reviewed romantic drama received an "A-" Cinemascore, but I don't believe that this film will amount to much. I believe that Endless Love will finish with a total around $30 million. Ride Along also remained solid in sixth place this weekend with $8.7 million. The buddy cop hit has now grossed $116.1 million.

The only other wide release of the weekend was Warner Bros.' Winter's Tale. The film looked intriguing, but I think that a lack of marketing took this film down. The Colin Farrell-starred fantasy grossed $7.7 million in seventh place. The film also received a "B" Cinemascore. I thought that this film would be good, but with dismal reviews and a weak Cinemascore, I don't think that this movie is going anywhere. Frozen finished in eighth place this weekend with $5.8 million. The mega-blockbuster has now grossed $376 million. Frozen is also nearing $1 billion and should pass that number in the coming weeks.

Lone Survivor finished in ninth place this weekend with $4 million this weekend. The war drama hit has now grossed $118.4 million. Lone Survivor should finish with around $130 million. And finally, That Awkward Moment rounded out the top ten with $3.3 million. The R-rated comedy has now grossed $21.4 million.

Next week sees the release of 3 Days to Kill and Pompeii. The former looks interesting, while the latter looks idiotic. Here are my predictions:

1. The LEGO Movie- $36.5 million
2. About Last Night- $15 million
3. 3 Days to Kill- $14.3 million
4. RoboCop- $12.4 million
5. Pompeii- $11.1 million
6. The Monuments Men- $10.5 million
7. Ride Along- $6.1 million
8. Endless Love- $5.9 million
9. Frozen- $4.7 million
10. Winter's Tale- $4.1 million


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nominations for the second annual MOVIE GURU AWARDS

It's been a quiet month in Hollywood. The Oscar race hasn't really changed, the box office has been affected by a series of massive winter storms and the main stories have been the deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Shirley Temple. And while I probably will write something about Temple at some point, the lack of news coming from the Hollywood system has made me not have much to write about. However, I just remembered something that I did last year that I had a lot of fun with: The Movie Guru Awards. My own personal awards show where the only voter is me. And while I still haven't seen Her or Dallas Buyers Club, I felt that now was the right time to release my nominations for the second annual Movie Guru Awards. Here we go.

BEST PICTURE


AMERICAN HUSTLE
GRAVITY
RUSH
12 YEARS A SLAVE
THE WORLD'S END

BEST DIRECTOR


David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Ron Howard, Rush
Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave
Edgar Wright, The World's End

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale, American Hustle
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave
Hugh Jackman, Prisoners
Simon Pegg, The World's End

BEST ACTRESS


Amy Adams, American Hustle
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR


Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Dane DeHaan, The Place Beyond The Pines
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave
Nick Frost, The World's End
Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS


Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Carey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn Davis
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave
June Squibb, Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels' The Butler

BEST SCREENPLAY


David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer, American Hustle
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
Aaron Guzikowski, Prisoners
Peter Morgan, Rush
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, The World's End

BEST ANIMATED FILM


Despicable Me 2
Frozen
Monsters University

BEST COSTUME DESIGN


Michael Wilkinson, American Hustle
Bob Buck, Anna Maskrey and Richard Taylor, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Mary Zophres, Inside Llewyn Davis
Kate Hawley, Pacific Rim
Patricia Norris, 12 Years A Slave

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Hans Zimmer, 12 Years A Slave
Hans Zimmer, Rush
Ramin Djawadi, Pacific Rim
Michael Giacchino, Star Trek Into Darkness
Steven Price, The World's End

BEST MUSICAL SOUNDTRACK


American Hustle
Frozen
Inside Llewyn Davis
Rush
The World's End

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY


Barry Akroyd, Captain Phillips
Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska
Roger Deakins, Prisoners
Anthony Dod Mantle, Rush

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS


GRAVITY
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
PACIFIC RIM
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
THE WORLD'S END

BEST SONG


"Let It Go" from Frozen
"Please Mr. Kennedy" from Inside Llewyn Davis
"Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" from Inside Llewyn Davis

WORST PICTURE


THE GREAT GATSBY
THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE
OBLIVION
UPSTREAM COLOR
THE WOLVERINE

BEST TRAILER


AMERICAN HUSTLE
GRAVITY
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
MAN OF STEEL
THE WORLD'S END

MOST ANTICIPATED FILM OF 2014


INTERSTELLAR
GODZILLA
INHERENT VICE
GONE GIRL
FOXCATCHER

THE HONORARY MOVIE GURU AWARD FOR 2014 WILL BE ANNOUNCED AT A LATER DATE.

The winners will be announced on Saturday, March 1. See you then!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Monuments Men review

World War II has provided the backdrop for some of the greatest films of all time. From escapist action films like Inglourious Basterds and Raiders of the Lost Ark to serious dramas like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan to my favorite film of all time, Casablanca, World War II has been the setting for many great films. When I learned that George Clooney would be directing a WWII film about stolen art, I was very excited. When I learned that the cast was led by Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin, I was even more excited. Safe to say, The Monuments Men was one of my most anticipated films of last year. I was certain that it was going to be a major Oscar contender. Then, Columbia pushed the film back to 2014. I was surprised by the move and a little worried, but I still thought that the film could be good. Even after the reviews started piling in, I was convinced that it would still be good. However, I was wrong. The Monuments Men is pretty much a total disappointment on all fronts.

The Monuments Men tells the story of a group of artists, architects and scholars that decide to rescue art from the Nazis. Frank Stokes (George Clooney) realizes that the great European art pieces are in danger and decides to assemble a team to go in and retrieve it from the Nazis, who have been stockpiling it. Frank gathers all his art friends including James (Matt Damon), Donald (Hugh Bonneville), Richard (Bill Murray), Jean-Claude (Jean Dujardin), Walter (John Goodman) and Preston (Bob Balaban) to roam through Europe to find classic pieces of art and architecture that he doesn't want the Nazis to destroy.

Once The Monuments Men was delayed from the 2013 slate, most people immediately worried. The online community said that the studio must have thought that it wasn't good enough to get Oscar attention and therefore would dump it in February. However, I remained optimistic and thought that it would be a fun movie nonetheless. Like I said, I was wrong. The Monuments Men is a bizarrely scattered, unfocused mess that has a lot to like, but a lot more to dislike. It's a tonal mess, with scenes that don't fit in the grand scheme of the plot at all. It's also random, meandering, and even boring. There just isn't much to like about this film.

I love World War II movies. The subject is thrilling and interesting and there are so many great topics that you can explore within the realm of that war. One of the things that Clooney gets right in this film is the style. This film looks great and it sounds great as well. The soundtrack by Alexander Desplat has a distinctive sound and the film livens up when the score is played. In addition, the cinematography looks cool too. It was a like a cross between Inglourious Basterds and Saving Private Ryan. It actually was pretty cool. I think that if this film was released in the thick of Oscar season, it would probably have picked up a couple of technical nominations. But that's about it.

Before I get to my long list of problems with this film, I would like to point out a few other good things that the film did. The beginning is very good. It sets up the plot well, it's funny and it's pretty entertaining. I was actually into the film for a while. Clooney did a really good job setting up the conflict and introducing the characters. Granted, you never know much about the characters, but it was still a cool montage. The film also ends well. The energy picks up towards the end and the conclusion is pretty satisfying. It's all the stuff between the beginning and the end that messes this film up.

It's hard to list what I didn't like about this film without giving the same reasons that every other critic has. It's really tough, because I essentially had the same problems. It's a mess tone-wise, the plot is all over the place and certain scenes felt completely out of place. The script really needed a couple more rewrites and the screenwriters needed to decide what they wanted the film to be. At times, it felt like they were going for a serious war film and one where everything feels important. And others times, I felt like they were going for Inglourious Basterds-style irreverence. The tone never fit and any time the film tried to be "important", a speech by Clooney was given to remind us that we were watching a serious film. Like I said, other reviews have already said this, but I'm saying it again because it's true.

My main problem with the film was the randomness of the whole thing. The midsection jumps around nonsensically and there is nothing that connects each scene. There were just so many scenes that felt like filler. A lot of the film served no purpose to the plot whether it's the guys sitting around talking in a tent or Matt Damon stepping on a land mine, not much of it advances the plot and the film's 2 hour runtime seems forced. In addition, the film is devoid of any suspense at all. There's just nothing exciting. It's a bland film.

The characters add to the list of things that this film has going against it. Sometimes, having underwritten characters isn't a problem if the characters are interesting. You know practically nothing about Aldo or Donny or Landa but they're interesting characters. They have conversations that you can involved yourself in and get sucked into. That's not the case with The Monuments Men. You know nothing about the characters and because they're devoid of personality, they're boring.

In the end, The Monuments Men is a big disappointment for me. I think that the movie could have been so much more with a better, more focused script and am sad to say that this is not a good movie at all. There are times that I enjoyed myself, but the film is so boring, slow and just plain random at times, that I can't recommend it. I hope that Clooney gets back on track with his next film because I know he's a good director. He just needs to write a better script next time.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                               (5.5/10)



"The LEGO Movie" dominates with $69.1 million, while "The Monuments Men" is strong at weekend box office

After a strong January led by breakout hits Ride Along and Lone Survivor, the 2014 box office is off to a great start and it got even better this weekend with The LEGO Movie. The animated film from Warner Bros. grossed $69.1 million this weekend, which is quite spectacular. That's the second highest February opening of all time and the eleventh highest animated opening of all time. That's higher than Frozen's opening, which was a massive holiday season hit. In addition, The LEGO Movie's opening was much higher than Warner Bros.' projections which were in the $40 million range. With fantastic reviews (read my "A+" review of the film here), little direct competition and an "A" Cinemascore from audiences, you can count on The LEGO Movie being around for a while.

The Monuments Men also had a strong opening this weekend as the film finished in second place with $22.7 million. That's a solid opening for the historical drama. The Monuments Men's opening was stronger than the opening weekend of Argo but a little bit less than Captain Phillips' opening. The drama received a "B+" Cinemascore, which is pretty good. But with weak reviews (33% on Rotten Tomatoes), it will be interesting to see how high this film goes. In third place was Universal's hit comedy Ride Along. The buddy cop film grossed $9.3 million which was enough to raise the film's total to $105.1 million. The film has had good legs and a strong run so far, so I'm betting that it ends up with around $130 million.

Despite The LEGO Movie's direct competition, Frozen continued to have a strong run this weekend in fourth place with $6.9 million. Frozen has now grossed $368.6 million and is closing in on $1 billion worldwide. It is also now the third-highest grossing film of 2013. In fifth place was That Awkward Moment with $5.5 million. The comedy had a decent hold and has now grossed $16.8 million. Still, That Awkward Moment has been a bit of a disappointment at the box office.

Lone Survivor finished in sixth place this weekend with $5.2 million. The surprise war hit has now grossed $112.5 million and could reach a total gross of $125 million. It has slowed in recent weeks, but Lone Survivor is still a hit. The other wide release of the weekend was The Weinstein Company's Vampire Academy. The YA adaptation did not screen for critics and grossed only $4.1 million in seventh place. That's a weak start for the film and with a "B-" Cinemascore, this film is not going anywhere. Add Vampire Academy to the list of failed YA films along with Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments and The Host. Studios should really stop making these movies.

The Nut Job took a big hit this weekend as it fell to eighth place with $3.8 million. Open Road's animated comedy took a hit from The LEGO Movie obviously. The film has now grossed $55 million. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit finished in ninth place with $3.6 million this weekend. The action film has now grossed $44.4 million, which is pretty bad. And finally, Labor Day rounded out the top ten with $3.2 million. The romantic drama has now grossed $10.1 million.

Next weekend sees the release of RoboCop, About Last Night, Endless Love and Winter's Tale. Here are my predictions for the three and four day weekend.

1. The LEGO Movie- $41.4 million (Three-Day), $50.4 million (Four-Day)
2. About Last Night- $29.1 million (Three-Day), $41.3 million (Four-Day)
3. RoboCop- $25.7 million (Three-Day), $34.1 million (Four-Day)
4. The Monuments Men- $12.4 million (Three-Day), $17.5 million (Four-Day)
5. Endless Love- $11.4 million (Three-Day), $16.6 million (Four-Day)
6. Winter's Tale- $10.9 million (Three-Day), $15.9 million (Four-Day)
7. Ride Along- $6.4 million (Three-Day), $9.3 million (Four-Day)
8. Frozen- $6.3 million (Three-Day), $9 million (Four-Day)
9. That Awkward Moment- $3.1 million (Three-Day), $4.5 million (Four-Day)
10. Lone Survivor- $2.8 million (Three-Day), $4.1 million (Four-Day)