Saturday, February 28, 2015

'Star Trek' star Leonard Nimoy has died at the age of 83

Some very sad news broke out of California yesterday, as it was confirmed that Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy passed away at the age of 83. His daughter reported on Twitter that the cause of death was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (commonly known as COPD) and Nimoy himself had confirmed that he had COPD in a January tweet. Nimoy was an acclaimed actor and director, with his most famous role being Spock on Star Trek. Nimoy played Spock in the original TV series, as well as six movie adaptations of the show, and both films in the rebooted J.J. Abrams Trek franchise. Nimoy also did some very successful voice work, including roles in Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Nimoy had success in his directorial efforts as well. He directed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, before going on to direct films like The Good Mother and 3 Men and a Baby.

For all fans of sci-fi and movies, this is a very sad day indeed. Nimoy was a pioneer on Star Trek and the show was a major science fiction breakthrough. As a kid growing up, I was always more partial to Star Wars. I was only introduced to Star Trek later through J.J. Abrams' franchise, but one of the actors who always stuck out to me was Nimoy. He was consistently brilliant as Spock and carried that through the original series and the new versions. Nimoy was one of the most integral parts of the franchise and he will be sorely missed.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Image Credits: Death and Taxes

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Winners of the annual Movie Guru's Blog Awards

I kinda forget about this, but the awards season is pretty much over so let's find out who won the awards during my third annual competition.


Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The LEGO Movie



Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, The LEGO Movie
Christopher Nolan, Interstellar

WINNER: Christopher Nolan, Interstellar


Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Brendan Gleeson, Calvary
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
James McAvoy, X-Men: Days of Future Past
Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher

Winner: Tie- Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler and Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher


Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars

Winner: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl


Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Zac Efron, Neighbors
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Winner: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash


Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
Sienna Miller, American Sniper
Rene Russo, Nightcrawler
Katharine Waterston, Inherent Vice

Winner: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood


The Grand Budapest Hotel



Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The LEGO Movie



Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
The LEGO Movie



Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice



Big Eyes
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice



Edge of Tomorrow
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel



The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice



Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice



Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
X-Men: Days of Future Past



American Sniper
Gone Girl



The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice



Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past



22 Jump Street
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Interview



Ansel Elgort
Mackenzie Foy
Jillian Bell
Katharine Waterston
Tony Revolori

Winner: Tony Revolori


American Sniper
Inherent Vice
Gone Girl



Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens
The Hateful Eight
Furious 7
Mad Max: Fury Road


Those are the winners for the Movie Guru awards. It was a great year, but I'm ready to move on and explore everything that 2015 has to offer.

Image Credits: Wired, Screen Rant, The Guardian, NY Post, Indiewire, Indiewire, Huffington Post, NY Post, EW, 

'Jupiter Ascending' review

Andy and Lana Wachowski have long been known as two of the most innovative filmmakers in Hollywood, constantly dreaming up new films and concepts. The Matrix was considered to be an instant sci-fi classic, before The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions quickly brought the trilogy down. Speed Racer eventually became a cult classic, but was a major bomb back in the day. And the duo's Cloud Atlas was divisive, splitting fans and critics right down the middle (I personally could not get through it). That brings us to Jupiter Ascending, the latest sci-fi epic from the Wachowksis. After three weeks at the box office, it's clear that Jupiter Ascending will go down as their biggest failure- a $175 million megabudget picture that will probably lose over $100 million. But does that mean it's a total waste? Not exactly.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is an Earthbound maid, who is always wishing for something more in life. However, Jupiter is actually a direct reincarnation of the Queen of the universe, and the all-powerful Abrasax family is out to kill her. After almost being killed during a medical procedure, Jupiter is rescued by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), the half-man, half-wolf warrior who is out to protect Jupiter for Titus Abrasax (Douglas Booth), who wants Jupiter for possibly nefarious purposes. Jupiter and Caine shack up with Stinger Abini (Sean Bean), a hunter with a secret history with Caine.

After being pursued off of Earth, Jupiter finds herself on an intergalactic planet, facing off against the tricky family dynamics of the Abrasax dynasty. Titus wants to marry her (sorta bizarre considering she's the reincarnation of his mother), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) might want to help her, and Balem (Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne in a thanklessly over-the-top part) wants to straight-up kill her. Jupiter's life is in constant peril and it will take a big fight to get out alive.

Jupiter Ascending received some of the most miserable reviews of the year so far. It finished with 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics called it "baffling", "muddled" and "misguided" and said that the film was a misfire. All of this is true. Jupiter Ascending is a mess. It's convoluted, with a bounty of plot details and some completely weird stuff that just doesn't make sense. However, Jupiter Ascending is an engaging, fascinating and wholly entertaining fiasco that works through its shortcomings to become a solidly compelling flick.

First off, Jupiter Ascending is a weird, weird movie. Seriously, there's some bizarre stuff in this flick. Channing Tatum plays an albino wolf/man hybrid who is able to smell fear. Eddie Redmayne's Balem speaks in soft whispers before screaming orders at his army. And speaking of his henchmen, Balem's warriors are giant dragon/lizard combinations who fly around chasing our heroes. A large group of bees surround Jupiter because bees are able to sense royalty (apparently). The Abrasax family members are able to dip into a pool of water and instantly become young again. Gugu Mbatha-Raw's character has some of the biggest ears I've ever seen in my life. The Wachowskis have done weird stuff before, but this takes it all to a whole new level.

But if you're able to get past the weirdness and buy into this film, there's quite a bit here to like. For one, the action is absolutely breathtaking and the visual effects work is astounding. Each action scene carried a level of excitement that couldn't be matched during the rest of the film. An aerial battle through the streets of Chicago is very cool and the final war on the Abrasax planet is a compelling setpiece. The Wachowskis may not be smart plotters or intriguing storytellers, but they know how to create a visually incredible film and Jupiter Ascending might just be their most wonderfully designed film yet.

The actors do their best with the script, and nobody but Eddie Redmayne was truly terrible. Mila Kunis is okay, but I've never been truly comfortable with her as a major action star. Same goes for Channing Tatum. It's obvious that Tatum is a great actor now- 22 Jump Street, Foxcatcher and Magic Mike have proved that over the years. However, whenever Tatum takes a dip into the action world, he just doesn't manage to pull it off. He's serviceable, but doesn't bring a ton of depth to Caine. Sean Bean and Douglas Booth do decent work, and the cast is fine overall.

Despite all the positive aspects of Jupiter Ascending, there's no denying that this is a misguided film. The plot is all over the board, continually confusing itself to the point where you're just taking in the spectacle. The motivations of each character are hard to decipher and the family dynamics of the Abrasax clan are hard to get a finger on. The film is also overlong, at 2 hours and 7 minutes. The film should end in one place, but it keeps going and deals more with Balem and the total destruction on the Abrasax planet.

Obviously, Jupiter Ascending is not the instant classic sci-fi masterpiece that I had hoped for, but it's a good bit of fun. The lunacy of the film is never tamed and it's obvious that the material became too much for the Wachowskis at a point. However, it's also clear that the filmmakers put everything they had on screen and delivered a unique vision, accompanied by oddball characters, stunning action and a fresh sci-fi world that we've never seen before.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B-                                             (6.9/10)

Image Credits: Nerdist, Movie Pilot, Wired, Hollywood Reporter, Fat Movie Guy

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscars wrap-up: 'Birdman' wins big, while 'Boyhood' falls flat as lengthy awards season comes to a close

The Academy Awards were last night and they were a long, drawn out affair. Neil Patrick Harris hosted with a theatrical charm for the first half of the show, but his corny jokes and all-around awkwardness dragged down the whole thing after a while. However, NPH will always get a little bit of credit from me, simply because of his truly exceptional opening musical number. It was a brilliant tribute to movies and I absolutely loved it.

Musical performances dominated much of the night, as each of the nominees for Best Original Song were performed. John Legend and Common's performance of "Glory" from the Best Picture-nominated Selma was poignant and powerful (highlighted by Common's energetic hand-wavivng), while Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island delivered a delightful performance of "Everything is Awesome" from the snubbed LEGO Movie. Rita Ora, Adam Levine and Tim McGraw also performed. Later in the night, Lady Gaga sang a rendition of several songs from The Sound of Music, which was actually pretty good.

Despite all of that fun, the movies dominated the night and everybody got in on the action. Big Hero 6 won Best Animated Film, while Citizenfour and Ida took Best Documentary and Foreign Language film, respectively. Julianne Moore unsurprisingly won the Best Actress award for Still Alice. Each of the eight Best Picture nominees won an award and several took home multiple awards. American Sniper won Best Sound Editing, Selma won Best Original Song and The Imitation Game won Best Adapted Screenplay (great speech by Graham Moore). The Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne also took home the film's lone award for Best Actor for his terrific performance as acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking. Patricia Arquette won Boyhood's only award (Best Supporting Actress) for her nuanced and subtle performance.

Whiplash won three awards, including Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons' terrifying portrayal of jazz instructor Terence Fletcher. The Grand Budapest Hotel won big for Fox Searchlight, winning the awards for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Original Score. Finally, Fox Searchlight's Birdman was the big winner of the night, with victories in Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Picture.

All in all, the biggest surprise of the night was the total dominance of Birdman. Granted, the film's star, Michael Keaton, went home empty-handed. But the film still took four of the major categories, with many only expecting it to win Best Picture and Cinematography. The win in the Best Original Screenplay category came as a slight surprise and many were anticipating another Picture-Director split. In reality, that was not the case. Voter love shifted to Birdman late in the game and the film walked away with the victory.

For Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash, this should undoubtedly be looked at as a successful awards season. The Theory of Everything also went home with a big award, so I would count this season as a success for the Focus Features release. And American Sniper wins no matter what simply because it arrived late in the game, made a ton of money and walked away with a statue.

The unquestioned losers of the season are definitely The Imitation Game, Selma and Boyhood. The Imitation Game won a big award for Graham Moore's witty screenplay, but the film couldn't match up to Harvey Weinstein's previous successes. Selma was a total misfire by Paramount and the producers. What should have been a very big awards player ended up being a disappointing also-ran. And finally, Boyhood was destroyed after months of victories at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice. The ambitious project lost all momentum towards the end of the season, and that's just unfortunate. It's a fantastic film and I really wish that Richard Linklater would have gotten more attention.

This was a long awards season and I was relieved to see it end. However, I know that it will begin again very soon. But for now, let's look back at a great year of films and be happy that the Academy recognized some fantastic films and performances.

Image Credits: Superhero Hype

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscars Live Blog!

The Oscars start in 2 minutes. After a very long awards season, I'm ready for this show. There's definitely a lot of tension tonight and many categories are very hotly contested.

-The Oscars have begun and Neil Patrick Harris has taken the stage!

-Cumberbatch drinking from a flask was a good first gag.

-Absolutely fantastic opening. Really, really good. I'm impressed.

-Neil Patrick Harris killed the opening song. That was fantastic.

-Great opening by Neil Patrick Harris. He's done a great job so far.

-First category is Best Supporting Actor. Should be an easy victory for J.K. Simmons.

-"And the Actor goes to....."

-J.K. Simmons wins Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash. Truly a deserving victory. Fantastic performance.

-Doing the Farmers jingle after Simmons won was a stroke of genius.

-Liam Neeson is here to talk about The Grand Budapest Hotel and American Sniper.

-Dakota Johnson from Fifty Shades of Grey is introducing Maroon 5's performance of their song from Begin Again.

-Have to say, I hate the trend of performing every single song nominated for Best Original Song. It's kind of annoying.

-One award in 23 minutes. Wow.

-Chris Pine and J-Lo are here to present the second award of the night.

-Best Costume Design is our next category. Should be the first win of the night for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

-And Best Costume Design goes to The Grand Budapest Hotel!

-Cheesy way to introduce Reese Witherspoon, but whatever.

-Witherspoon is presenting the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. I have The Grand Budapest Hotel here.

-And it's another win for Wes Anderson and co. The Grand Budapest Hotel wins Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

-Channing Tatum is here to talk about the Team Oscar search. Young filmmakers make movies and six get to come present at the Oscars.

-It's been a good night for The Grand Budapest Hotel so far. Could the film end up winning some of the bigger awards?

-Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman will be presenting the award for Best Foreign Language film. Ida with the easy win here.

-Ida wins Best Foreign Language film. I'm 4/4 so far.

-That dude didn't care that they played the music. He was just going for it. That was great.

-Shirley MacLaine is up to talk about Birdman, Boyhood and The Theory of Everything.

-"Everything is Awesome!!!" is about to be performed. Very excited.

-Okay, so that was awesome. Batman, LEGO Oscar statues, celebrities, the Lonely Island. Nothing can be better than that all night.

-Kerry Washington and Jason Bateman will be presenting the award for Best Live Action Short film, one of the categories that I don't care about.

-The Phone Call wins Best Live Action Short Film. Where I had to make short films predictions, that's what I picked.

-Best Documentary Short is up next. Crisis Hotline will win.

-Once again, didn't predict Crisis Hotline on here, but in official polls, I did. No surprise here.

-Stop playing the music during the nominees' acceptance speeches. It's absurd.

-Nice David Oyelowo joke.

-Gwyneth Paltrow is up next to introduce the next song performance.

-Best Birdman tribute of all time. This is gold.

-Neil Patrick Harris onstage in his underwear. Miles Teller on the drums. Absolutely perfect.

-Miles Teller and Margot Robbie are talking about the Scientific and Technical Visualization awards.

-Sienna Miller and Chris Evans are here to present the Sound awards. Should go to American Sniper and Whiplash.

-Whiplash wins its second Oscar of the night with a win in the Sound Mixing category. I'm seven for seven so far.

-Sound Editing is up next. Should be an easy win for American Sniper.

-American Sniper gets its first win of the night for Sound Editing.

-Jared Leto is about to present the role for Best Supporting Actress. Easy victory for Arquette.

-Patricia Arquette wins Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood.

-Slightly stilted speech but a strong message overall.

-Another song performance. Can't wait to be done with all of this stuff.

-Visual Effects award is up next. Tough category, but I've got my money on Interstellar.

-And Interstellar wins! The film picks up its first win of the night.

-Kevin Hart and Anna Kendrick are here to present the award for Best Animated Short. Feast will probably be the winner.

-Feast wins Best Animated Short. Great short film. Not much of a surprise.

-Best Animated Feature Film is up next. Predicted How to Train Your Dragon 2, but I'm not sure about that pick.

-And I was right about that fear. Big Hero 6 with the win!

-Great speech by the Big Hero 6 filmmakers. Happy that it beat Dragon 2.

-The President of the.......Academy. This part is always boring.

-Chris Pratt and Felicity Jones will be presenting the next award for Best Production Design. The Grand Budapest Hotel should snag its third win here.

-I've seen The Grand Budapest Hotel many times and it never gets old. Perfect movie. I'm so glad that it won another award.

-It's Dick Poop time. Emmanuel Lubezki will win this category no question.

-Yup, Birdman with its first win of the night.

-I'm 13 for 14 on the awards so far tonight. Doing pretty good.

-It's time for the sad part. The In Memoriam segment.

-If Boyhood wins Best Film Editing, that would be a big deal.

-But alas, Whiplash has won. Could Whiplash play spoiler and win Best Picture?

-Jennifer Aniston and David Oyelowo are here to present the award for Best Documentary Feature. Citizenfour should win.

-Citizenfour picks up the win for Best Documentary Feature.

-Some of NPH's jokes have been truly cringe-worthy.

-Octavia Spencer is here to introduce the songwriters behind "Glory"

-Powerful and exceptional performance of "Glory". Didn't love the movie, but I loved the song.

-NPH killed John Travolta.

-Menzel and Travolta reunited. This is perfect.

-Okay, Travolta was kinda creepy there. Best Original Song is up next.

-"Glory" wins Best Original Song for Selma. Good song and good win.

-This show is dragging on and on. Really want to get to the big awards right now. There's still a lot left to hand out.

-Should be a win for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

-And it goes to The Grand Budapest Hotel! Fourth Oscar of the night for the terrific film.

-Eddie Murphy is presenting. Haven't seen much of him in recent years.

-First big upset of the night. Birdman wins Best Original Screenplay, solidifying it as a major front-runner for the big prize.

-The Grand Budapest Hotel was the heavy favorite here. Birdman pulled a big upset.

-Another category that I'm very unsure about. I'm hoping for Whiplash, but Imitation Game could definitely get it.

-Dang, was really hoping that Whiplash would get that one. But not truly surprised.

-The Imitation Game and Birdman won the Screenplay awards. It's crunch time. Moore will win Best Actress, but the rest are toss-ups.

-Best Director. This will decide the fate of the Best Picture award.

-Alejandro G. Inarritu wins Best Director for Birdman. This is a big win for Inarritu. Unless there's a shocking split, Birdman will win Best Director.

-Best Actor is up next. If Cooper pulls an upset, I'll be stunned. If Keaton wins, I think Birdman has this thing locked up.

-Redmayne wins Best Actor and the Best Picture race gets very interesting. Birdman or Boyhood? Or maybe a Whiplash or Grand Budapest surprise?

-Julianne Moore wins Best Actress for Still Alice. No surprise there. One award left- Best Picture.

-And the award goes to.......BIRDMAN.

-And that's it for the live blog! Thanks for following along with me.

Final Predictions for the 2015 Academy Awards

After one of the longest award seasons in history, the Hollywood parade is about to end on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre. The Oscars are the final destination after an endless barrage of guild shows, dinners and parties that the industry's best and brightest have to suffer through every year. I followed the Oscar season very closely in previous years, but I've become bored with the whole ordeal. I'm very excited for the show tomorrow, yet I'll also be glad to be done with awards season. So without further delay, here are my final predictions for the Academy Awards:


Will Win: Birdman
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash
Dark Horse: American Sniper, Whiplash

The tightest race in recent memory will come to a close today. Boyhood seemed to have this thing locked up, but after Birdman snagged wins at the Screen Actors, Producers and Directors Guild, the momentum shifted towards Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's black comedy. The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash and Selma continued to linger in the background, while Clint Eastwood's American Sniper made a late surge thanks to explosive box office results. What initially seemed like a done deal became one of the most competitive races ever.

Birdman will win because it has the historical precedence to back it up. The Directors and Producers Guild are absolutely critical awards shows, and Boyhood couldn't do anything at either. If the two films had split the awards, I would have definitely ruled in favor of Boyhood. But I think that there's too much in favor of Birdman right now. The Grand Budapest Hotel could surprise and American Sniper could come out of nowhere, but I think that the victory is safely in the hands of Birdman.


Will Win: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Should Win: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dark Horse: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman

In 2012 and 2013, Best Picture and Director split. The awards went to Argo and Life of Pi's Ang Lee in 2012, while 12 Years A Slave and Gravity's Alfonso Cuaron took home the awards in the following year. Before that, it was rare for Picture and Director to split. Now, I think that it's something that will happen quite frequently. There's no denying Richard Linklater's directorial ambition and for that reason, he will take home the Oscar.


Will Win: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Should Win: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler (not nominated- still an absolute travesty)
Dark Horse: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper

While I would like to think that this race is completely finished, that is certainly not the case. Eddie Redmayne is in very good shape, but he has yet to face off against Bradley Cooper's powerhouse performance. Cooper came out of nowhere late in the year and could definitely use his Academy goodwill to pick up a victory. And Michael Keaton has a strong chance of pulling a slight upset. But in the end, I think that Redmayne takes the cake for his brilliant portrayal of Stephen Hawking that ticks all the right boxes.


Will Win: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Should Win: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Dark Horse: None

This race is over and done with. Nobody but Julianne Moore is going home with that trophy tomorrow night.


Will Win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Should Win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Dark Horse: None

J.K. Simmons won this award all the way back at Sundance 2014. There's no way that he's losing for his monstrous, outstanding performance in Whiplash.


Will Win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Should Win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Dark Horse: Emma Stone, Birdman

Arquette is close to a sure thing, but I feel that there's some momentum shifting over to Emma Stone's corner. Not to say that she has any remote chance of winning, but I wouldn't say that this race is as finished as Supporting Actor or Best Actress. Still, Arquette should have no time walking away with the win tomorrow.


Will Win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel/Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Dark Horse: Birdman

Wes Anderson's screenplay for The Grand Budapest Hotel is very witty and charming and he should take home an easy win here. The film won't get a ton of love in the other categories, but it should have a good shot of topping Birdman here. And although I adore the screenplay for Grand Budapest, part of me is hoping for a Nightcrawler win tomorrow. It's not likely, but after a few rewatches, I realized just how brilliant that film is.


Will Win: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Should Win: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Dark Horse: Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Best Adapted Screenplay is a complete toss-up. It could go to the traditional, smart and well-written period drama The Imitation Game. Or to the intensely focused screenplay for Whiplash. Word on the street is that the Academy adores Whiplash, so I definitely could see it pulling a slight upset here.


Will Win: Birdman
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dark Horse: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography in Birdman is pretty spectacular, so I definitely understand why it will win (even though I prefer Robert Yeoman's work on The Grand Budapest Hotel). Lubezki's sweeping camera work makes the film a unique experience and he will deservedly pick up his second straight Oscar.


Will Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Whiplash
Dark Horse: Whiplash

Whiplash has fierce, intense editing and many quick cuts that give the film a sense of urgency. Boyhood, on the other hand, is a strong editing job that condensed a lot of material down to a couple of hours. Conventional wisdom says that Boyhood will win and I have to assume that will be the case. But don't count Whiplash out just yet.


Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Should Win: The LEGO Movie (stunningly not nominated)
Dark Horse: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

This race should have easily been won by The LEGO Movie, but instead, the Academy decided to snub the highly praised animated film and nominate a couple of artsy dramas that nobody saw. So, much to my disappointment, the Oscar tomorrow will likely go to How to Train Your Dragon 2. Big Hero 6 and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya have an outside shot, but this is Dreamworks' race to lose.


Will Win: Citizenfour
Dark Horse: Virunga

Citizenfour is a timely film and a movie that literally brought history to life. I haven't seen any of the nominated films, but I have to say that it's a massive disappointment that Life Itself was not nominated. A documentary about one of the most important men in the film industry and his love for life and movies should have received a nomination. Just saying.


Will Win: Ida
Dark Horse: Leviathan

Leviathan picked up a few awards, but Ida has steadily dominated all year. The Polish film should pick up its final award tomorrow night.


Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dark Horse: Maleficent

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a technically outstanding film and the costumes help to fully realize the brilliant world that Anderson has put on screen. The film should have no trouble picking up a win here.


Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Foxcatcher
Dark Horse: Guardians of the Galaxy

There are only three nominees in this category, so The Grand Budapest Hotel has a great shot of winning again here. I would love to see the subtle, interesting work on Foxcatcher get a win, and the love for Guardians of the Galaxy is there, so a victory is not out of the question. But in the end, I still think that The Grand Budapest Hotel will walk home with the trophy.


Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dark Horse: None

Even though my love for Interstellar is strong, The Grand Budapest Hotel's production values could not be matched. This was a beautifully designed film and it totally deserves a win here.


Will Win: Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Dark Horse: Johann Johannson, The Theory of Everything

This is one of the tightest races left, as The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Theory of Everything have fought it out all season. I personally believe that Desplat's work will come out on top, but I can't believe that Hans Zimmer's thundering score for Interstellar hasn't gotten more love. It's a memorable and emotional piece of cinematic music and I would love to see it shock everyone with a win tomorrow.


Will Win: "Glory" from Selma
Should Win: "Everything is Awesome" from The LEGO Movie
Dark Horse: "Everything is Awesome" from The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie was infamously snubbed in the Best Animated Feature category, and this could be a way for the voters to make up for that loss. That being said, Selma has dominated this category all year and some also believe that Selma was snubbed by the voters. All in all, this will be a tough fight, but I think that Selma will come out on top with its only Oscar.


Will Win: American Sniper
Should Win: Interstellar
Dark Horse: Interstellar

To be honest, I don't know what Sound Editing is or what Sound Mixing is, but American Sniper was the favorite on Gold Derby so I just went with that.


Will Win: Whiplash
Should Win: Whiplash
Dark Horse: American Sniper

Whiplash had some spectacular sound, so I'm hoping that it picks up a win here.


Will Win: Interstellar
Should Win: Interstellar
Dark Horse: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This is the only category that Interstellar has a shot of winning and it had some astounding visuals. It should win over the equally impressive effects on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

The final three categories are all short films, and I'm not even going to attempt to predict any of them. It should be a very interesting night and I'm hoping for a lot of surprise. Be sure to come back in an hour for my Oscars Live Blog!

Image Credits: New Yorker, Mashable, Indiewire, Hollywood Reporter, Mashable, Wordpress, The Dissolve, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, New Yorker, NY Post, Selma movie, Indiewire

Thursday, February 19, 2015

'Kingsman: The Secret Service' review

Matthew Vaughn has made a name for himself thanks to a wide variety of films like Kick-Ass, Stardust and Layer Cake. He also helped to rejuvenate the X-Men franchise at Fox with First Class, and did work on Days of Future Past as well. In my opinion, Vaughn's high energy filmmaking has put him on a level with Edgar Wright, Tarantino and Hollywood's other great comedic action directors. Vaughn's latest film, Kingsman: The Secret Service, was one of my most anticipated films of the year. A hyper-violent, Tarantino-esque spoof of the classic Bond flicks, Kingsman seemed awesome from the minute I heard about it. And it definitely delivers. Kingsman is a brash, hysterical, and viciously entertaining movie that sets up a very promising franchise.

Kingsman tells the story of Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton), an irresponsible, troubled teen in London. His father was a respected agent for the Kingsman, a modern spy agency that operates completely outside of the government's jurisdiction. After the death of one of the Kingsman agents, each of the surviving agents is tasked with picking a candidate for the open slot. Harry Hart (Colin Firth), known as Galahad to the Kingsman, tracks down Eggsy and gives him the opportunity to become a spy.

Eggsy and several other students compete in a series of ridiculously dangerous trials that test them to their limits. But when the safety of mankind is threatened by the tech billionaire maniac Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), the Kingsmen are thrust into action. Valentine's plan involves population control, climate change and a whole bunch of other far-fetched things. Eggsy, Galahad and Merlin (Mark Strong) are tasked with saving the world and preventing the genocidal nut from completing his master plan.

Kingsman is not going to be a film for everyone. I think that's a pretty safe statement to make. It's bold, absurdly violent, gleefully over-the-top, and simply insane. It's made for people who've always wanted to see Quentin Tarantino put his stamp on James Bond. The film's premiere set piece is a five minute orgy of violence set in a hate-mongering church, while "Free Bird" blasts in the background. Some may find this unappealing. And some will absolutely adore it. I definitely fell in the latter camp. While it did take some time for me to fully buy into Kingsman, the film comes together perfectly and becomes a joyous ride.

In recent years, blockbusters and spy films have gotten much more serious. Bond has featured more action recently and has focused less on the debonair aspects of the character. Granted, Casino Royale and Skyfall are brilliant films, but so much self-seriousness can become a bit tiresome after a while. Bourne, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man- pretty much all of the modern action heroes have some sort of intense moral dilemma with massively weighty stakes. Kingsman's goal is to skewer these flicks and flip them on their heads. It depicts graphic carnage, but takes a considerably lighter approach to things, allowing for the audience to have a lot of fun with the characters.

Part of the charm comes from seeing esteemed British actors like Colin Firth beat up on some bad guys. Firth gives a very good performance in this film, and he absolutely crushes the fight scenes. According to some, Firth trained for six months to do his own stunts for the Church massacre. That absolutely pays off in what is definitely one of the most memorable action scenes in recent years.

Samuel L. Jackson is also incredibly delightful as Richmond Valentine, the McDonald's loving, philanthropic, tech guru billionaire with a speech impediment. Jackson adds so much to what could have been a fairly rote villain. The speech alteration could have been a risky move, but Jackson totally crushes it and manages to make Valentine a memorable villain. Mark Strong delivers a very charming and funny performance as well, making Merlin a solid sidekick for Harry and Eggsy.

Despite those three great performances, the star of the show is certainly newcomer Taron Egerton. In this film, Egerton gets to show great range and I was very impressed by what he was able to do. Eggsy becomes a suave and sophisticated spy, but at the beginning of the film, he's a rude and profane street kid from South London. Egerton manages to channel both sides of Eggsy quite well. He's already been rumored for a few other projects and I can definitely see Egerton being a star in Hollywood.

Vaughn worked on the screenplay with Jane Goldman, who is one of the most promising screenwriters around today. She has done great work on the X-Men franchise and I believe that she'll do more great work in the future. Vaughn and Goldman's screenplay is tight, witty, very profane and simply well done. The banter between the characters is entertaining and the film has a good flow to it. The early stages are a bit too emotional and serious for a film like this, but as the film progresses, Kingsman becomes more and more fun by the minute.

With this film, Vaughn also proves that he's a clever director capable of doing unique shots and absolutely bonkers action. The church scene will certainly be off-putting to some. I know a lot of critics have trashed it for its tastelessness and the fact that it was an unnecessarily violent scene. And I won't deny either of those things. The scene is violent, graphic, over-the-top and absurd. But it's an incredibly well shot, choreographed and acted scene, and it is brimming with energy. I was laughing very hard throughout the entire setpiece and I thought it was a brilliant piece of directing by Vaughn. Throughout the rest of the film, Vaughn also manages to keep the action fresh and the film pops with a pizzazz that makes it very fun to watch.

Vaughn also manages to keep the film fresh and unpredictable. Never once did I feel like I knew where this film was headed. New twists and turns entered the picture constantly and I was very fond of that. In modern superhero movies, we pretty much know the general archetype and I always know exactly where the film is going. With Kingsman, I didn't have any clue and that was refreshing.

Kingsman was a film that seemed perfectly suited to me and it delivered on every front. This is an energetic, razor-sharp film and it is a total blast throughout. Matthew Vaughn did such a great job of creating a unique universe filled with gentlemen spies, bloody violence, and amazing gadgets. I can't wait to watch this film again and again, and thanks to the terrific box office, it's safe to say that we might be seeing a Kingsman franchise. This is one of the best films of 2015 so far, and one of the more genuinely fun action films that I've seen in recent years.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                                 (9/10)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

'Fifty Shades of Grey' and 'Kingsman' stun at President's Day weekend box office

Fifty Shades of Grey was one of the biggest literary phenomenons to hit American shores in a long time, so the movie adaptation was always destined to be a smash hit. But I seriously doubt that anybody ever thought it would do this good. The R-rated erotic drama grossed $93 million over the four-day President's Day weekend, which is a truly spectacular number. It's three-day total was the highest ever for a February release and the fourth highest-grossing opening for an R-rated film in history (behind The Matrix Reloaded, The Hangover Part II and American Sniper). Although the film received a so-so "C+" Cinemascore, Universal (Fifty Shades' distributor) has nothing to worry about. The film cost only $40 million, and in addition to the $93 million grossed in the US, the film made $172 million overseas for a total worldwide opening of $265 million. Those are blockbuster numbers and we are definitely going to see more films like this coming down the pipeline.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, Matthew Vaughn's R-rated spy caper, was also a huge hit this weekend, snagging $41.7 million in second place. For a violent actioner like this, that's a truly spectacular opening. Positive reviews and good word of mouth ("B+" Cinemascore) helped carry the film through the weekend and will continue to help the film in the coming weeks. Kingsman cost $81 million, but Fox should have no trouble recouping their budget on this one. International box office has already been strong and a finish around $100 million in the US is likely. Hopefully we'll get to see more of these films, because Kingsman was flat-out terrific.

Paramount's The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water continued its strong run this weekend in third place with $40 million. The animated film dropped only 27% from its debut weekend and will go on to make at least $175 million. Its current total is $103.1 million. In fourth place was American Sniper, which grossed $18.7 million in its fifth weekend at the box office. The film has grossed $306.4 million thus far and will finish with around $350 million. By the end of its run, American Sniper will be the top-grossing film of 2014.

The Wachowski siblings' baffling sci-fi thriller Jupiter Ascending finished in fifth place with $10.7 million. The poorly reviewed flick has now made $33.8 million, but will still go down as one of the year's biggest flops. That $33 million will do nothing to regain the film's $175 million production budget. Paddington continued its solid run in sixth place with $5.7 million, a 10% uptick from last weekend. The British kids film has now made $63.9 million.

In seventh place was (ironically) Seventh Son, the other big-budget February flop. The film pulled in $4.8 million this weekend, which was enough to raise its total to $14.1 million. A finish around $20 million should be expected. The Imitation Game finished in eighth place with $4.1 million, a mere 11% drop from the previous weekend. The Weinstein Company's word of mouth dynamo has now grossed $80.3 million and could crawl its way to $100 million.

The Wedding Ringer began to slow down its run, pulling in $3.7 million over the holiday frame. The Kevin Hart comedy has now grossed $60 million and will probably end its run in the $70 million range. And finally, Project Almanac rounded out the top ten with $3.3 million. The found footage time travel movie has now made $20.1 million.

Next weekend sees the release of Hot Tub Time Machine 2, The DUFF and McFarland, USA. Here are my predictions:

1. Fifty Shades of Grey- $31 million
2. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water- $30 million
3. Kingsman- $22.4 million
4. Hot Tub Time Machine 2- $15 million
5. McFarland, USA- $13.5 million
6. American Sniper- $12.9 million
7. Jupiter Ascending- $6.8 million
8. The DUFF- $6 million
9. Paddington- $4.9 million
10. The Imitation Game- $3.8 million

Image Credits: Yahoo, IGN, NY Daily News

'Project Almanac' review

Found footage movies are usually terrible. The trend that started with 1999's breakout hit The Blair Witch Project started with indie filmmakers and has since grown into a way for the studios to make easy profits off of cheap films. The phenomenal box office results for the Paranormal Activity franchise only increased the demand for these flicks and studios like Blumhouse and Paramount have found a way to make this a successful genre. Project Almanac, the latest found footage film, is an eclectic mix of Paranormal Activity, Back to the Future and Looper and it's a pretty forgettable experience. Not to say that I didn't enjoy Project Almanac- it's a moderately enjoyable teen sci-fi film with likable leads and some cool ideas. But in the end, it's a bit tedious and doesn't do anything that's really special or unique. Project Almanac would surely be a fun movie to watch at home, but it's not worth a theater trip.

David Raskin (Jonny Weston) is an MIT-bound genius inventor, who's just as socially awkward as you'd expect. David, along with friends Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista) and his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) go around filming everything and experimenting with all sorts of different technologies. When David discovers an old tape that features a mysterious image, he learns that there are plans for a time travel machine down in his late father's workshop. David and friends begin to experiment with the machine and discover that it works. They use the machine to go back and have lots of fun, until everything comes crashing down on them.

For a guy that is supposed to be an MIT whiz kid, David Raskin is pretty dumb. Granted, he invents a time machine and does a lot of amazing things. But when it gets bad, David just keeps making the same mistakes over and over again to the point where I questioned his sanity. The characters' idiocy is consistently a problem throughout Project Almanac, with the teenagers always making choices that are completely bizarre. If you don't think about it too much, Project Almanac will probably be a really fun time at the movies. But if you're more serious about film (or if you've ever seen a time travel movie before), you'll poke many holes in Project Almanac in no time.

Despite the plot's logic problems, the cast is absolutely terrific. These young kids have serious charisma and I enjoyed all of their performances. Sam Lerner has a great comedic career ahead of him in Hollywood and I thought that Weston and Evangelista were great as well. The girls, Virginia Gardner and Sofia Black-D'Elia, were good as well but neither really stood out to me. Those five principle players pretty much carry this entire film and there isn't much of a supporting cast. However, the main actors have more than enough charisma to keep this flick going.

I also found Project Almanac to be a constantly engaging film. I was never bored and the story, while familiar, was very entertaining. Director Dean Isrealite and screenwriters Andrew Deutschman and Jason Pagan provide some interesting scenarios for the characters to experience (like a VIP trip to Lollapalooza) and they manage to keep the film feeling fresh despite the fairly cliched story tropes.

Although the film plays it safe most of the time, the ending is appropriately baffling. Basically, in the last half hour everything gets really convoluted. Timelines change by the day and David keeps altering history and all the events that occur around him. The film seems to come to a satisfactory conclusion, but then throws a bizarre and somewhat unnecessary coda in there that questions your idea of everything that had just happened. I'm not really sure what went down at the end of this film, but I did enjoy that the film went for something different. I would have definitely liked a bit more clarity, yet the film didn't provide it.

The cast is great and the film is consistently fun, but is there much here? To be honest, not really. It's a decent flick. I know I'm damning this film with faint praise, but it's the truth. I don't have much to detract from the film and I also don't have a ton of positives. I didn't even truly have the motivation to write this review. I just didn't feel like I had much to add to the conversation.

Basically, Project Almanac is a fantastic rental. It's a movie that you'll watch and home and you'll be impressed by it. There's just not enough here for me to recommend that you see it in theaters. The actors are good, the script features some unique settings and solid dialogue and I enjoyed the puzzling ending, but most of this film is standing on well-worn ground. The moronic characters don't do much to improve things either and after a while, this film just gets repetitive. Project Almanac could launch many successful Hollywood careers, but it's only moderately successful in what it sets out to accomplish.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B-                                             (6.9/10)

Image Credits: Movie Pilot, Chicago Tribune, Flickering Myth, Screen Rant

Thursday, February 12, 2015

'A Most Violent Year' review

Director J.C. Chandor crafted two innovative critical favorites with Margin Call and All is Lost and managed to solidify himself as one of the most promising young directors in Hollywood. Chandor's latest feature, A Most Violent Year, is a gritty and complex crime drama that takes more cues from The French Connection and The Godfather than Chandor's other films. With brilliant performances from Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, amazing cinematography from Bradford Young and a strong sense of tension, A Most Violent Year is an engrossing crime thriller that becomes more and more interesting as it goes along.

Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is a New York heating and oil magnate in 1981, notoriously the most dangerous year for violent crime in the city's history. Abel and his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) are working on an important deal for a large chunk of land, but many problems have arisen along the way. On one hand, Abel's trucks are constantly being raided and stolen by competitors who are trying to get an advantage. Abel is also running into legal troubles and the District Attorney (David Oyelowo) is in the middle of investigating his company. As his empire threatens to collapse around him, Abel and Anna do whatever it takes to keep the company afloat, gain the rights to the land and keep their American dream alive.

For a film with a title that promises violence, A Most Violent Year only has one graphic scene of gangster-esque carnage. But that doesn't make it any less compelling or interesting. This is a slow film that is paced to perfection, consistently engrossing thanks to Oscar Isaac's performance and the brilliant script. The gorgeous images and sets will keep you engaged at first, but as the film progresses, the stories come together nicely and A Most Violent Year emerges as a good film to get through the January/February doldrums.

Crime dramas often live and die by their ensembles, and A Most Violent Year's is pretty solid. Oscar Isaac carries this film, officially announcing himself as one of the best actors of this new generation. Abel Morales is ambitious, polite, and hard to look away from. His goals and dreams are admirable, but the way that he goes about them is slightly more nasty. He's not a gangster and he's not violent in nature, but he's willing to do whatever it takes to keep his business alive. Isaac maintains Abel's focus, drive and intensity throughout to create a memorable character.

Jessica Chastain is also quite terrific as Anna, the corrupt, commanding and morally loose mob daughter that plays a significant role in her husband's business. Abel is willing to cut a few corners to reach his goals, but Anna is straight-up willing to cheat her way to the top. Chastain has good screen presence and good chemistry with Isaac that makes for some interesting family dynamics.

The supporting cast is led by a group of talented actors who bring a lot to their small roles. David Oyelowo has a bit of a thankless role as Lawrence, the slightly crooked DA who spends his time digging up dirt on Abel's industry. Considering Oyelowo had one of the meatiest roles of the year as MLK in Selma, I couldn't help but feel that he had too little to do in this film. Albert Brooks is very good as Abel's mobster lawyer, who is definitely willing to go to violent measures for Abel's business. Elyes Gabel plays an integral role in the plot as well, bringing a Tony Montana charm to the character of Julian. His character's subplot is somewhat of an enigma, but I was very impressed by Gabel's performance.

Chandor's script is willing to delve deep into the inner workings of business in a way that most crime films don't, which makes the film quite fresh. Abel's exact business is never made crystal clear, but through the dialogue and characters, you pretty much get all you need to know. The script succeeds in building up character and plot to the point where the film becomes expertly tense.

Despite the success of the script, Chandor's direction and Bradford Young's cinematography is what makes this movie memorable. Chandor's clear, articulate camera work builds the film up well and contrasts perfectly with the script. Young's cinematography makes good use of black, white and brown, creating a strong portrait of one of the most dangerous places in history. After Selma and now this, Bradford Young is one of the cinematographers to watch in Hollywood.

A Most Violent Year succeeds on many fronts, but it does take a little while to get going and some of the subplots feel misplaced. The first third of the film is slow and audiences without patience won't be able to stick with this one. Chandor's insistence on keeping up with Julian's story throughout is also somewhat puzzling and I was never truly sure why we needed to continue exploring that story.

In the end, A Most Violent Year is a good film and a minor achievement that will be looked at in a few years as the drama that sparked many careers. Granted, it's not as good as the movies that inspired it (stacking up to The Godfather, The French Connection and Dog Day Afternoon is a tough task), but this is still an entertaining drama with great performances, beautiful images and crisp, strong direction. Chandor, Chastain and Isaac will each go on to have great careers and it'll be cool to look back at A Most Violent Year as one of their better early films.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                            (7.7/10)

Image Credits: Black Film, CBS News, Serving Cinema, A24 Films

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spider-Man set to appear in future 'Avengers' films thanks to Marvel/Sony joint production

With the massive success of Marvel's The Avengers and the massive disappointment of Sony's latest Spider-Man franchise, many fans had long wondered when the web-slinger would head back to Marvel. Sony was hesitant for a very long time, but the pressure began to get stronger as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 disappointed at the box office, grossing only $708 million worldwide on a massive budget. During the infamous Sony hack, information was released about a possible deal that would send Spider-Man back to Marvel, but the deal fell through for the time being. But now, only a few months after that data leak, Sony and Marvel are now working together to create a new Spidey franchise that will also place the beloved character in upcoming Avengers films.

Details on the deal are shaky at best, but here's what I've deduced from the information that Marvel has given us:

-A new Spider-Man film will hit theaters on July 28, 2017. That film will be distributed by Sony/Columbia.

-Marvel will make no money off of that film. Sony will still have complete creative control over the Spider-Man films.

-Former Sony producer Amy Pascal (who recently resigned after the massive data hack that resulted from the Seth Rogen comedy The Interview) will be a producer on these new Spider-Man films.

-We could see Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, but the most likely introduction for the character will be in Avengers: Infinity War- Part 1.

-As a result of the newly announced Spider-Man reboot, Marvel has now shifted the release dates for many of its films. Here are the new dates:

                            -Thor: Ragnarok- November 3, 2017

                            -Black Panther- July 6, 2018

                            -Captain Marvel- November 2, 2018

                            -Inhumans- July 12, 2019

-Andrew Garfield and the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man will not be returning for the new film. Marc Webb also will not return in any form.

-No word on whether it will be Peter Parker or Miles Morales as Spidey. Many industry sources believe that Morales is the safe bet.

-According to The Hollywood Reporter, Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad are now executive producers with little say in the film's creative direction.

-Also according to THR, sources tell them that "no money changed hands" and both will receive easily identifiable advantages from this deal.

That's quite a bit to digest. This deal came out of left field, with Marvel and Sony breaking the news after 11:30 PM on the east coast. Many have speculated that this announcement was made because of an impending scoop that would have thwarted the reveal and that seems like a logical argument. Either way, this is huge news that affects the superhero landscape forever.

I wasn't a huge detractor of Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man films. They had their positive aspects and the relationship between Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy was very charming. But the film struggled with its villains and the action was never as sharp as it needed to be. By the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony and fans had definitely had enough of the madness that was taking place. Spider-Man needed to return to Marvel. While I'm still weary about Sony having creative control, but I'm willing to let that slide. I'm just pumped that Spider-Man will be teaming up with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. It will make for one awesome adventure. Hopefully, Marvel puts together a small teaser or a post-credits scene that will pump fans up. But for now, let's just be happy that our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is back in the right hands.

Image Credits: Screen Rant, Marvel Universe, Marvel

Monday, February 9, 2015

'Boyhood' wins Best Picture at the BAFTAs as Oscar race intensifies

The Oscar race is in the home stretch at this point, with only one guild awards show left (the Writers Guild next weekend). The Critics Choice and Golden Globes gave their Best Picture prize to Richard Linklater's instant classic drama Boyhood, which made the 12 year project an early Best Picture front-runner. However, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's black comedy Birdman surged back with wins at the Screen Actors, Producers and Directors Guild and became the new leader in the Best Picture race. With neither flick favored to win at the Writers Guild (Birdman is flat-out ineligible), the BAFTA awards (the British Oscars, essentially) were the last stop before the Oscars on February 22.

Last night, Boyhood won Best Picture at the BAFTA awards, another strong victory for the film that has fallen back in the rankings over the last few weeks. The Theory of Everything star Eddie Redmayne also pretty much sealed his Oscar victory with another win over Michael Keaton. But the bigger news is Boyhood's win, which sets up an intense battle between the ambitious coming-of-age flick and the complex and innovative comedy. Birdman still won all three of the incredibly important guild awards, but Boyhood has picked up some critical wins as well. I don't think we can call either film the favorite at this point. Pete Hammond at Deadine is even speculating that a third film could come in and steal the Oscar win. Either way, this is going to be one spectacular finish. 

Image Credits: Hypable

Sunday, February 8, 2015

'The Spongebob Movie' dominates, while 'Jupiter Ascending' and 'Seventh Son' flop at weekend box office

After a strong January that featured one of the biggest R-rated hits of all-time in the form of American Sniper, the month of February is getting off to a fast start as well. Hits like Fifty Shades of Grey and Kingsman don't arrive until next weekend, but that gave ample time for Paramount's The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water to clean up at the box office. The animated comedy grossed $56 million over the three-day frame, which is the fifth-highest grossing February weekend of all time. That's a mighty impressive opening and with no competition, SpongeBob will carry on to be one of the biggest hits of this young year. However, disappointment came in the form of a "B" Cinemascore, which is well below what many children's films usually receive. Despite that low audience rating, Sponge Out Of Water has more than enough momentum to recoup its $74 million production budget and start a new franchise. This is a huge victory for Paramount.

In second place was Warner Bros.' American Sniper with $24.1 million. Sniper has now grossed $282.2 million at the box office and shows no signs of slowing down. The film dropped only 21% from last weekend and should continue to hold strong. I'm betting on a finish above $350 million for the biopic phenomenon.

Warner Bros.' Jupiter Ascending became the first mega-budget flop of the year, grossing a paltry $19 million. The sci-fi flick cost an absurd $176 million and will cause a massive write-down for the studio (thankfully, American Sniper grosses should offset some of the costs of this bomb). Jupiter Ascending also received a dismal "B-" Cinemascore which means that audiences liked it as much as the critics did (the movie is currently sitting at 22% on Rotten Tomatoes). The Wachowskis have pretty much lost all of their Hollywood clout and will need to rebuild their brand image if they want to stay in the business.

Surprisingly, Jupiter Ascending wasn't even the biggest bomb of the weekend. That distinction went to Universal's Seventh Son, which pulled in $7.1 million in fourth place. The film is marked with a production budget of around $90 million and will cause trouble for its studio as well. Thankfully, Seventh Son has already pulled in $83 million overseas so the damage won't be too severe. Like Jupiter, the film received a "B-" Cinemascore to go along with dismal reviews (10% on Rotten Tomatoes). Seventh Son will disappear from theaters rather quickly and its doubtful that anyone will remember this film by the end of the year.

The Weinstein Company's Paddington finished in fifth place with $5.3 million, an impressive total for the film's fourth weekend. The British family flick has now made $57.2 million and will likely close with around $70 million domestically. Paramount's Project Almanac was close behind in sixth place with $5.3 million as well. The found footage film took a relatively mild 36% plunge in its second weekend and has now made $15.7 million. Not bad considering the film cost only $12 million to produce, but certainly not great.

The Imitation Game continued its strong run this weekend in seventh place with $4.8 million. The British period drama has now grossed $74.7 million and will definitely pass the $100 million mark before the end of its run. Close behind in eighth place was The Wedding Ringer, which grossed $4.8 million. The Kevin Hart comedy has now made $55.1 million and will surely make a profit for Screen Gems.

Black or White grossed $4.5 million in ninth place. The drama has now made $13.1 million, which is not exceptional. But it couldn't have cost much, so Relativity isn't in much trouble on this one. Finally, The Boy Next Door rounded out the top ten with $4.1 million. The film has pulled in $30.8 million so far.

Next weekend sees the release of Fifty Shades of Grey and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Here are my predictions for the four-day weekend:

1. Fifty Shades of Grey- $105 million
2. Kingsman: The Secret Service- $60 million
3. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water- $38 million
4. American Sniper- $25 million
5. Jupiter Ascending- $13 million
6. Paddington- $4.8 million
7. Seventh Son- $4.7 million
8. The Imitation Game- $4.5 million
9. Project Almanac- $4 million
10. The Wedding Ringer- $3.9 million

Image Credits: We Are Movie Geeks. Variety, Schmoes Know, Rama Screen

'The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water' review

As a kid born in the late 1990's, I grew up on Nickelodeon and especially SpongeBob Squarepants. The popular kids show began in 1999 and was an immediate hit, creating a massive media empire that included theme park rides, clothing, merchandise and even a successful 2004 film. The show has continued on well past its glory days, and now, the show's original creators are back for a 3D comedy adventure that is bizarre, absurd, and disappointing in equal measure. Swapping the show's charm and hilarity for a wacky aimlessness, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water has moments of inspiration, but lands with a resounding thud.

The SpongeBob Movie is about something, but I can't say I can really describe its tedious randomness in a paragraph. As usual, the Krabby Patty secret formula is in danger of being stolen by Plankton (voiced by Mr. Lawrence) and SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) has to stop him. Only this time, the disappearance of the secret formula causes society to breakdown and the apocalypse is unleashed upon Bikini Bottom. To save the town, SpongeBob and Plankton have to create a time machine to go back to the day that they caused a disaster. They meet a futuristic talking dolphin along the way, but end up messing up again. Somehow, the recipe ends up with a pirate (Antonio Banderas) on the surface and the gang has to become superheros on land to save the secret formula.

If you've ever watched an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants, you should have an idea of whether or not you'll find this movie tolerable or not. The show's detractors will obviously dislike this movie, but I can't honestly imagine many fans of the show enjoying this messy flick. The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie from 2004 is one of my favorite animated movies, with strong musical numbers, a entertaining story, and goofy, hysterical comedy. I was hoping for more of the same with this updated SpongeBob flick, but unfortunately, I didn't get it. The story is pretty stale, the comedy is trippy and baffling and the film is just sort of boring on the whole.

The first SpongeBob movie worked because it had a strong story. That is truly the key with all good animated movies. A kids movie can have fart jokes and blatant appeals to their young audiences, but if there's a good heart and a compelling story, parents will find something to enjoy. Think classic films like Toy Story 3, Beauty and the Beast or The LEGO Movie. On the other hand, you have movies like Free Birds and The Nut Job, that nobody but the youngest of children will be engaged by.

For anyone over the age of ten, The SpongeBob Movie is downright inaccessible- unless you're on a heavy dose of psychedelic drugs, you won't find much to like about this movie. The story is scatter-brained and bizarre, with only a cliched framework and not much else. Some of the humor is classic SpongeBob, but the rest of it is odd and feels like an inside joke between the filmmakers. I just didn't find the film to be that funny, and it was enjoyable only in spurts.

And unlike the original SpongeBob film, there's no sense of big-screen grandeur, outside of the film's final act that features a mix of CGI and live action. The first film had real danger, real stakes and a clear, interesting narrative that was easy for everyone to follow. This one really feels like an extended episode that was pumped up with whatever wacky thing the creators could think of. It's an amalgamation of pure weirdness and it didn't work.

As usual, the characters are infinitely appealing and likable. SpongeBob is simply a great character, and the show has always worked because of the supporting cast. Plankton plays a heavy role in this one and although Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass), Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) and Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) get a significant amount of screen time, I couldn't help but feel that many of the characters were left with little to do. Larry the Lobster isn't even in the film and Gary, Pearl and Mrs. Puffs barely even have cameos. It's sort of disappointing as a long-time fan of a show to see many characters get little screen time in the film.

While this film does play it incredibly safe with its story, the final act of this film is visually stunning and the most ambitious thing that the show has ever done. And in some ways, it does redeem the film. The mix of CGI and live action works really well for this movie and the beach atmosphere is perfect. I also liked the action and humor that the superhero theme brought and it just had this sense of fun that the rest of the film didn't. It felt fresh, which and the rest of the movie didn't.

In the end, The SpongeBob Movie will undoubtedly start a new franchise (the film pulled in an insane amount of money this weekend), but it obviously won't appeal to fans of the original series. With a more focused and unique narrative, Sponge Out Of Water might have been something special, because of its fantastic visuals and atmosphere. I loved the look and feel of this movie. Unfortunately, I just never got into it and that made the film a tedious experience.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                              (5.7/10)

Image Credits: YouTube, We Got This Covered, Cartoon Brew, Fat Movie Guy, Rama Screen

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu wins for 'Birdman' at the Directors Guild Awards

Although the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and the BAFTA's might be more fun, the best Oscar prognosticators are the guild award shows. The Screen Actors Guild and Producers Guild Awards were handed out a few weekends ago, with Fox Searchlight's Birdman winning both. Those wins solidified the high-wire black comedy as a much stronger Oscar contender and many started to look at the film as a bigger threat to presumed front-runner Boyhood. American Sniper and The Grand Budapest Hotel have continued to look strong, but neither seemed to have the momentum that Boyhood and Birdman had.

Last night, the Directors Guild of America handed out their annual awards, and Birdman came up big again. The film's director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, won the coveted award last night over industry favorites like Clint Eastwood, Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater. The Writers Guild Awards will be the final pre-cursor show next weekend, but with Birdman ineligible, it's likely that The Grand Budapest Hotel or Whiplash will pick up a win and muddle the race further.

Earlier today, Boyhood did win Best Picture at the BAFTA's (more on that later), but I'm not sure that means much. The film is obviously the critics' darling and it did pick up some important awards, yet it hasn't won where it counts. The Directors Guild and the Producers Guild match up with the Oscars all the time and based off of those awards, it's looking like a Birdman win is in the cards. We'll learn more as we approach Oscar night, but it should end up being one of the more dramatic shows in recent memory. Also, check out my current predictions for the Best Picture race:

1. Birdman
2. Boyhood
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. American Sniper
5. The Imitation Gamer
6. Selma
7. Whiplash
8. The Theory of Everything

Image Credits: Vulture

Thursday, February 5, 2015

'Furious 7' debuts a spectacular second trailer

Furious 7 has had a tragic and insane road over the last few years after the death of Paul Walker and the production delays and issues that came after Walker's passing. However, we're finally getting James Wan's Furious 7 on April 3, 2015 and it looks seriously spectacular. The Super Bowl spot for the film debuted one of the biggest stunts in the movie and blew people away around the world. The first trailer was also pretty great, but I've been waiting for more footage ever since the trailer debuted in early November. Late last night, we finally got our first long look at the film and it looks pretty awesome. Check out the trailer below:

The Fast and Furious franchise has seriously become one of the most absurd in Hollywood. What started as a simple street racing series has now evolved into one of the biggest action franchises in the world, with crazy stunts, big stars and slick locales. After the bonkers bank heist in Fast Five and the impressively insane runway fight in Fast and Furious 6, I wasn't sure if Furious 7 could do anything to top those films. But from the looks of the trailer, James Wan has crafted another awesome action film with Furious 7. I simply can't wait to see this thing. Furious 7 hits theaters on April 3 and stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Kurt Russell and Lucas Black. 

Felicity Jones in talks for 'Star Wars' spin-off

Since Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, the company has unleashed a massive plan for Star Wars, Lucasfilm's flagship franchise. We're getting J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens later this year, but the series will surely not end there. In addition to the massive merchandise roll out and theme park plans, Disney will release Star Wars: Episode VIII and Episode IX in 2017 and 2019, respectively, along with two spin-off films in 2016 and 2018. The first of those spin-offs will be led by Godzilla director Gareth Edwards and written by Chris Weitz. Earlier this week, the first casting announcements for the spin-off were revealed and they are quite compelling.

The Theory of Everything star Felicity Jones is in talks to star as the female lead for this untitled Star Wars flick, according to The Hollywood Reporter and other industry sources. Jones beat out fan favorite Tatiana Maslany and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Rooney Mara for the role and will star in an unspecified leading role. At this point in time, Aaron Paul and Edgar Ramirez are the favorites for the film's male lead. Nobody is truly certain about the film's plot, but rumors seem to believe that the film will center on a young Han Solo/Boba Fett. Whatever the case, I'm sure Disney has something big in store for these spin-off films.

Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens is my most anticipated movie of the year for sure. I absolutely cannot wait to see what J.J. Abrams and this terrific cast can do with one of the biggest movies of all time. However, I'm started to become more interested in the sequels and spin-offs, especially with the talent involved. Gareth Edwards' Godzilla wasn't a great film, but Edwards showed a lot of promise as a director. Felicity Jones is also a fantastic actress and I can't wait to see what she does with this character. And if Aaron Paul gets cast, this film will become even more compelling. A lot of great things are in store for the Star Wars franchise and it will certainly be an exciting few years for the series.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Image Credits: We Got This Covered

Universal's 'Steve Jobs' to hit theaters on October 9, 2015

After a rotating series of directors and stars, it appears that Universal is ready to debut Steve Jobs, the biopic directed by Danny Boyle. The film, which stars Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Katharine Waterston and Michael Stuhlbarg, will now hit theaters on October 9, 2015. That's a prime release date for Oscar season and the film will undoubtedly be a front-runner for the 2015 Oscars. Steve Jobs will face off against a few smaller flicks and New Line's Vacation reboot when it debuts in October, but neither film seems like direct competition to the Jobs biopic. The film should have strong box office success throughout the month of October and November before Oscar nominations in January.

To be honest, I never actually thought that this film would get made, or at least not for a long time. After David Fincher dropped out and Sony decided to let go of the movie, I figured it would be a few years before we saw a Jobs biopic. Fortunately, we're getting it much earlier and with a stellar cast. Fassbender, Rogen, Daniels, Winslet, Waterston and Stuhlbarg should make for a spectacular ensemble and director Danny Boyle will make some interesting choices as the film's director. And let's not forget the script by Aaron Sorkin. He's one of Hollywood's most talented screenwriters, and his ability to develop strong characters and sharp dialogue is impeccable. I can't wait to see this film and I hope that it lives up to the hype.

Source: Variety

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New trailers debut for 'Tomorrowland', 'Jurassic World' and 'Furious 7' during the Super Bowl

Super Bowl XLIX was one of the best games in recent memory, with many crazy twists and turns that led up to an insane finale. But the Super Bowl is often more than a game, with many TV commercials that capture the nation's attention. Most of the ads were disappointing or flat-out depressing this year (the Nationwide ad was bizarre), yet I really enjoyed the movie ads this year. We already saw the previews for Terminator: Genisys and Minions before the big game, but there were plenty of new looks at the summer's biggest film. Here are some of the TV spots from the big game:


This one had sparked a lot of debate from fans across the globe, but I saw a lot of people that were impressed by this trailer. I'm still not completely sold on the idea or another Terminator movie after the absolute atrocity that was Terminator: Salvation. However, I'm still hopeful and this TV spot debuted some promising footage for the new film.


I'm very excited to see Minions, but to be honest, there really isn't much here. This is a rather simple teaser that doesn't reveal much plot or show anything that we hadn't seen before. The first teaser trailer was better.


I don't know if this ad even played during the game, but Marvel still debuted a new sneak peek at one of the year's most anticipated movies. Avengers: Age of Ultron looks amazing and I can't wait to get another fresh trailer. In all honesty though, this new TV spot was pretty much the same one that played during the National Championship game.


Ted 2 premiered its first trailer earlier last week, but they took advantage of the Super Bowl to debut another TV spot for the highly-anticipated comedy. This one had a look at a scene with Tom Brady and his golden privates. It was a funny ad and I'm definitely looking forward to this film.


The first teaser trailer for this highly secretive sci-fi drama was promising, but I was hoping for a little bit more with this trailer. In all honesty, we didn't get that much more. But the visuals are looking good and I'm liking the look and feel of this thing. Tomorrowland seems to have a bit of an Interstellar feel to it and that is very appealing. I'm hoping to see a second full trailer for this one soon.


Universal's Jurassic World started its marketing campaign in November with a chilling teaser trailer that promised many big things to come and they followed it up at the big game with an absolutely perfect trailer. I'm starting to think that Jurassic World may truly rejuvenate the franchise and I'm so excited to see Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and the velociraptors back in action on June 12.


Furious 7 is only two months away and this new trailer sent my excitement through the roof. If anybody had doubts about how director James Wan would top Fast and Furious 6, this trailer put them to rest. This film looks truly amazing and the final stunt at the end made me explode with joy. April 3 can't come soon enough.

There were also four new trailers for Fifty Shades of Grey, Seventh Son, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water and Kingsman: The Secret Service. None of them revealed too much footage, but they definitely got some big publicity for the February releases.