Sunday, February 22, 2015

87th Academy Awards

For the past 2 years I've shared my thoughts on the Academy Awards. This year my hearts not in it but why stop now. I'm not going to hit every category because for example, I haven't seen any of the Documentaries nominated or any of the Shorts. And I've only seen one of the Animated films that's nominated.

Let's face it, The Oscars have always been political due to the method of campaigning. When I watched the annual ceremony growing up the “campaigning” didn't bother me, because of course I didn't know it was going on. As an adult watching it seems the politics have gotten worse. I'm not sad, that's just how it is. What I do find sad is the snubs that happen every year. But that's a whole different blog post.

Okay let's get this party started! The award for Best Visual Effects, and the nominees are:






I think it will be between INTERSTELLAR and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. This is a difficult choice for me but I'm going to root for INTERSTELLAR just because I'm a fan of practical effects and miniatures. This film rocked it in 70mm IMAX!

This next one I'm uncertain about. The award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the nominees are:






The popular safe bet is probably between THE IMITATION GAME and THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. In my opinion the one to look out here for is WHIPLASH. Yep, I'm rooting for WHIPLASH.

Now here are the nominees for Best Original Screenplay: BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)





I don't think there is any doubt with this one, BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) will be the winner.

For Best Sound Editing the nominees are: AMERICAN SNIPER





Don't count out AMERICAN SNIPER in this category but I think it's a safe bet INTERSTELLAR will nab most if not all the technical awards this year.

The nominees for Best Sound Mixing: AMERICAN SNIPER





Again, like I said INTERSTELLAR is the obvious pick here. But BIRDMAN just might upset the Christopher Nolan masterpiece.

Best Production Design, the nominees are: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL





Disney always seems to do well in this category so I'm going to say INTO THE WOODS will win. But I kind of want THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL to win!

This next category I would generally skip, but there is a film nominated here that should win hands down and that is GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY for Best Makeup and Hairstyling!

Best Music – Original Score:






If fit the movie but I wasn't too impressed with Zimmer's score for INTERSTELLAR. And where is GONE GIRL, BIRDMAN, and NIGHTCRAWLER? All three has awesome original music. Seeing that THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING won a Golden Globe for this category, I'm sure it'll win an Oscar as well.

The nominees for Best Film Editing are: AMERICAN SNIPER





This one should only really be between BOYHOOD and BUDAPEST HOTEL. If AMERICAN SNIPER wins in Sound Editing and or Sound Mixing, then it might sneak an win. But let's face it, AMERICAN SNIPER isn't going to win anything. I can totally see why WHIPLASH is nominated here. The intensity of music performance and acting had me by the balls! Worthy nomination!






No doubt in my mind that it'll be another win for Emmanuel Lubezki with the excellent BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)






I'm 99% certain the award will go to Richard Linklater for BOYHOOD. But Alejandro G. Iñárritu may steal for the win with BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

Patricia Arquette – BOYHOOD

I have not seen WILD or INTO THE WOODS yet so I cannot make a honest pick. But from what I have seen, Patricia Arquette is my pick to win.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

Do I even have to list the nominees? We all know J.K. Simmons will win for WHIPLASH!

Best Actress in a Lead Role:

I cannot speak for three of the performances so as far as I'm concerned it's a free for all. But I loved Rosamund Pike in GONE GIRL!

Best Actor in a Lead Role:

Steve Carell – FOXCATCHER

Bradley Cooper – AMERICAN SNIPER

Benedict Cumberbatch – THE IMITATION GAME



Yes! I want Keaton to win an Oscar.

And last but not least, the nominees for Best Picture AMERICAN SNIPER








If BIRDMAN won I wouldn't complain but I think we all know the winner will be BOYHOOD.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Ever since STAR WARS I have had a deep love and interest in science fiction and space fantasy films. As a kid growing up there were 4 movies on heavy rotation at my house. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, FLASH GORDON, THE NEVERENDING STORY, and THE LAST STARFIGHTER. These films along with a few cheesy ones like BEASTMASTER cemented my love for fantasy.

JUPITER ASCENDING reminds me of going to the bookstore as a kid and looking at all the paperbacks in the Science Fiction section. I would always pick up something “lite” like a Star Trek book. But the others with their cool looking covers would send my imagination into overdrive. And for me, JUPITER ASCENDING was The Wachowskis bringing those awesome book covers to life.

There is a good 90 minute version of JUPITER ASCENDING somewhere within the films 127 minute runtime. The more I describe the new Wachowskis film to friends, I find myself liking it less and less. But rest assured I'm still a fan of their work and willing to give the film a second chance if a extended version or director's cut becomes available on home video.

Essentially the film is a Cinderella space opera set in a bright and colorful future. Mila Kunis plays Jupiter, a destitute caretaker who's life life is about to change. What Jupiter doesn't know is that she is the reincarnation of a queen. To keep things simple lets just say she is the reincarnation of a space queen. Queen to a intergalactic royal family of spoiled brats. These brats are actually thousands of years old.

To keep this less convoluted as possible I'll try to explain things even simpler. Balem Abrasax has his claim of Earth, but Jupiter Jones is the rightful heir. An assassination attempt is made and Titus Abrasax hires Caine Wise (Channing Tatum)to find Jupiter Jones and keep her safe. Once safe and sound Jupiter bureaucratically becomes royalty and rightful heir to Earth. The Abrasax family secret of harvesting earthlings to make cell rejuvenation cream is discovered. Will Jupiter forfeit Earth to save her family and the entire human race? Or can her and Caine put a stop to Balem?

Like I mentioned earlier, the more that I think about this film the less I like it. Besides the convoluted plot, we've got a severely miscast lead in Mila Kunis. After the Star Wars prequels I could understand why Natalie Portman would be done with space adventures, but I think she would have been a far better choice for Jupiter Jones.

And I felt Channing Tatum was under utilized. He did an okay job but I honestly felt he was more bad ass in the 21 Jump Street films. Sorry, but his gravity boots weren't as cool as the movie wanted you to think they were. I never thought I'd say this but I'm finding Tatum far more compelling in films like FOXCATCHER than in action/adventure roles.

As action is concerned, this movie could've had more of Channing Tatum and Sean Bean kicking ass, and less of Mila Kunis falling through the sky and screaming. It happens a lot and quickly annoying.

Yes, Sean Bean is in this thing and he's cool as usual. One thing though. I didn't quite catch his genetic splicing ability? His name is Stinger because he was spliced with a bee. And the house he was living in could double as a hive. But I guess his “ability” was loyalty? I mean Caine was spliced with a dog or wolf, and at least he did some dog like stuff whereas with Stinger I was never sure. It doesn't really matter I guess.

But the acting highlight of JUPITER ASCENDING is Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax, the films villain. I had a blast with his performance. It's peculiar to down right laughably bad. It begs the question, what was he thinking! Especially after knocking it out of the park with THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING where he played Steven Hawking. I was talking to a friend a work and we both think that Eddie's chances of an Oscar this year are completely shot now. But holy cow, wouldn't it be amazing if he won! It'd be hilarious, but that's just me.

For me the only thing JUPITER ASCENDING has going for it is the visuals. The production design and costumes are awesome. The special effects were a nice change of pace from all out CGI. Most of the action was shot with blue screen. A practice you don't see much anymore. While it does look dated I prefer this old school method over heavy CGI. Because it feels like you are watching a film, not a video game.

I'd only recommend JUPITER ASCENDING to those who like space adventure movies. Especially ones from the 80's. This would make a great double feature with FLASH GORDON (1980). Just make sure you watch JUPITER ASCENDING first, that way you don't fall asleep.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Humphrey Bogart is one of my favorite actors. And the four films he made with Lauren Bacall, his wife, are among the ones I like the most. Most notably KEY LARGO and THE BIG SLEEP. But their first outing together, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT might be number one for me.

I love CASABLANCA. What film fan doesn't? It's a classic! But the film I gravitate more to is the 'other' CASABLANCA, which is TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT. Both movie are similar. Strikingly similar. Both films are set during WWII, each one has a cool night club, and Bogart plays a cynical expatriate in each. The list of similarities goes on and on.

Yes, CASABLANCA is probably the better film. Director Michael Curtiz could light a B&W movie like nobody. I just happen to think that TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT is cooler. It's a Howard Hawks film, so you know the dialogue is going to be witty and fast paced, which I like a lot. Plus Bogart is way cooler in this one.

Bogart plays Harry Morgan, an American expatriate hiding out in Martinique during WWII. Harry and his first mate Eddie (played by Howard Hawks regular Walter Brennan) make their money by taking customers out deep sea fishing. One night at a club they run into a client who has yet to pay up. The gentleman's date for the evening, Marie, wants to get payed as well. Harry catches Marie (Lauren Bacall) pickpocketing her date. Shy about $500 dollars Harry stops her hoping to collect.

The chemistry between Harry and Marie begins almost immediately but the night is cut short when Vichy authorities/the Gestapo shoot up the place due to some French opposition. Both Harry and Marie are interrogated but released. The Vichy authorities intend to disrupt any activity that might prove detrimental to German interests. It is about this time that Harry decides it is probably a good time to leave, and decides to help the Free French resistance find a base to continue their opposition.

So it's probably because TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT is more of a adventure film than CASABLANCA is the reason I like it more. That, and the fact that I love the chemistry of Bogart and Bacall. From the moment of Marie's opening line “Anybody got a match?”, it was love at first sight after that. A Hollywood match made in Heaven!

Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 13, 2015


It's a toss for up for me concerning FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3, there are things I really like about the third film, but there are things about it that really bug me.  Things I even hate about it.  While it's not my least favorite entry in the series, I do think it's one of the weakest.  It was made to be seen in 3D and if you can't view it that way then quite frankly the film does not hold up very good.  According to interviews with cast and crew the movies budget focused on the 3D more than anything. And believe me it shows.

Until Paramount Pictures releases a proper home video 3D release of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3, it will continue to be the ultimate dud of the series.  What we are stuck with for the time being is a headache inducing 3D that requires the use of those lame red and blue lenses glasses.  They're lame because they don't freaking work half the time!  It's hard not to see a double image most of the time.  And if you are lucky to have the 3D work, the colors are very washed out and the picture has a blue and or reddish hue to it.

With the 3D being the main selling point of the film, everything else seemed to take a backseat. None of the acting is very good. There are plenty of entertaining moments but I cannot help but notice weak spots in performances throughout. It probably has to do with the script or lack of one. I have heard stories and seen interviews where production had started even before a script was completed. And when there was a script, rewrites were happening constantly.

Now while the acting is a tad sub par I think it's worth noting that the characters remain likable. And what little story FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 does have, you do have to admire the “final girl” characters story arc and how it actually comes full circle. Say what you will about slasher flicks just being “women in peril” schlock, but I found Chris's fight with Jason quite entertaining and empowering.

Chris and her friends go to her family's lake house for the weekend. This is a big thing for Chris, seeing that she was raped the last time she visited the lake house. It's time to put her fears to rest, as she puts it. Little do Chris and her friends know that there is a killer on the loose.

Fresh off his killing spree in Part II, Jason Voorhees takes his reign of terror from Camp Crystal and moves it to the other side of the lake. The weekend at the lake house turns bloody as Jason kills the “party goers” one by one. And Chris will literally have to face her fear as she discovers that it was Jason who raped her 2 years ago.

In terms of continuity the plot of this movie sucks. It makes zero sense continuity wise, but in all honesty continuity in a Friday The 13th film went out the door in the first sequel. I like these movies because they are apart of my childhood and pop culture, but Parts II – VIII have all been one glaring plot hole.

There is something else that bugs me about FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 and that's the costume/production design. In order for the 3D to work there had to be a lot of the color red and the color blue in front of the camera. The majority of the cast was wearing something either red or blue. The production design was the same way. The van they drove was blue, the lake house had a red barn, and the general store had red vending machines. You get the idea.

I think it's worth noting that this is the film where Jason gets his iconic hockey mask. A trademark that lasted the rest of the series. It wasn't until recently that I found out a little history behind the famous mask. Apparently the original idea was for Jason to not have a mask, but someone thought that the characters make-up wasn't scary enough so they stuck with the mask. One of the best ideas in the history of the franchise if you ask me!

I can only recommend FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 to those interested in the history of the slasher flick sub genre of horror. Other than that, you're perfectly fine with just checking out Part IV, my personal favorite of the series.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Saturday, February 7, 2015


WHIPLASH kicked my butt! The most intense film I saw last year wasn't LONE SURVIVOR nor was it NIGHTCRALER. No, WHIPLASH utterly drained me. Between the scenes of Andrew (Miles Teller) playing the drums till his fingers bleed and countless moments of Fletcher (J.K Simmons) the band leader/conductor drawing blood from a stone to make sure his jazz band is the best, I was white-knuckled for most of the films 107 minute runtime.

No way am I a musical prodigy, but in a small way I could relate to WHIPLASH. A very small way. I played saxophone for 8 years, 5th grade through my senior year in high school. Up until high school I thought I was pretty great. It was in high school that I found out that being excellent at sight reading music wasn't going to cut it. And my jazz band experience humbled me quite a bit.

While I never had a band teacher that was driven quite like Fletcher, I did see glimpses of my instructors from high school. So if you were ever enrolled in band at school, you might be able to say “I remember that” if you see WHIPLASH.

Andrew is enrolled at a elite music school in New York. He is a jazz drummer in hopes of becoming the next Buddy Rich. He's good. He's so good that he catches the eye of Fletcher, a instructor/mentor who stops at nothing to get the best out of the students of the conservatory. Sometimes Fletcher can push a little too far. But how far is too far if students like Andrew truly want to be the best?

I've been a fan of Miles Teller since the FOOTLOOSE remake. Take note kids, this guy is going to be one of the next great movie stars. But the real star of WHIPLASH is of course J.K. Simmons as Fletcher, the instructor who will break a student to reach their potential.

The role is mesmerizing. I found myself laughing one moment only to be shockingly speechless the next. It makes you wonder if this guy is crazy, or does he truly have a point? While I disagree with his teaching methods, I totally believe the message of Fletcher.

We as a society, as a culture are dumbing down the future with “just okay” becoming the new “that's great”. It's a variation on the “everyone's a winner” and “no one's a looser” mentality.

WHIPLASH is the second feature from filmmaker Damien Chazelle. He also wrote the screenplay for the highly entertaining thriller GRAND PIANO. Now playing on Netflix, which I highly, highly recommend. I'm expecting great things from Mr. Chazelle in years to come. A true wonderkind.

So go see WHIPLASH for the amazing performance from J.K. Simmons, and stay for the cool jazz music.


Really don't want to review this one because of how political this film has become. I know it's not impossible to talk about AMERICAN SNIPER without bringing up politics, so I'm going to give it a shot. To help move this along I'll get the politics out of the way right off the bat. I supported the war, I support our troops, and any form of terrorism should be eradicated from this world.

I am overjoyed at how well AMERICAN SNIPER is performing at the box office. Before you get mad, it's not for the reasons you're probably thinking. This time of year is a ghost town for movie theaters across the nation. Hollywood and your local multiplex needed this. Heck. Clint Eastwood needed this! I think it's now officially become his highest grossing picture or something like that?

Sadly AMERICAN SNIPER doesn't live up to the hype. I was a big fan of GRAN TORINO but Eastwood's last great film was probably MYSTIC RIVER. Which is currently streaming on Netflix, so I should give it a re-watch to see if I still feel the same way about it as I did roughly 10 years ago.

As of late Eastwood films have felt very point and shoot movies. And his stories get a big budget just because of his name. Where did the director of UNFORGIVEN go? Maybe Quentin Tarantino was correct in saying that directing is a young man's game? But look at Martin Scorsese and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET? That my friends is an amazing picture!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that AMERICAN SNIPER felt like it could have been directed by anybody. Would it be doing the business that it is at the box office if Clint's name wasn't attached? It's possible, but I don't think so.

Unless you've been living in a cave, you all know what AMERICAN SNIPER is about. Bradley Cooper plays Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, who was a war hero saving countless lives on the battlefield during the Iraq war. At home between tours Chris finds it hard to leave the war behind. After 4 tours and suffering from PTSD, he finds help in helping others with the terrible disorder.

Once my patriotism wore off after a couple days from seeing the film, I found myself nitpicking the war movie cliches that I am will to put money on saying they didn't happen. Best example being, the solider who just got engaged and gets shot in the face immediately after telling his fellow Seals. Now I do realize I am watching a dramatic interpretation of the source material and the film is more about what war does to a man. But these war movie cliches sometimes took me out of the movie. Sorry if that sounds heartless.

I will go ahead and recommend AMERICAN SNIPER for two reasons. Bradley Cooper does an amazing job! Going in I didn't think he'd be able to pull it off, but his portrayal of a solider suffering from PTSD moved me. The second reason is two words, fake baby.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


THE IMITATION GAME is one of the biggest let downs in recent memory. When I first heard about the film it sounded like pure Oscar bait to me. Then a friend at work told me the story about Alan Turing. A British mathematician who cracked the Nazi enigma code during WWII. In 1952 he was prosecuted for being homosexual and accepted chemical castration as a alternative to prison. Two years later he killed himself. Such a sad story for a man who helped end a world war and basically invent the first computer.

If you want to know the story of Alan Turing I suggest you read the book that the films screenplay was based on, because you'll probably be more satisfied than what THE IMITATION GAME has to offer. THE IMITATION GAME is an incomplete film. It's incomplete on a emotional level. A total whitewash if you ask me!

The film shows us three significant times in Alan's life. In 1952 being interrogated/filing a report for a break-in at his home, During World War II being hired to crack the Nazi enigma code, and we see him in boarding school getting picked on for being different. Most of the films running time focuses on Alan and other mathematicians trying to break the code.

This was really only the best part of the movie. I really liked how Cumberbatch played Alan as the smartest mathematician in the room. The cast is great all around. Strong characters, especially Joan Clarke played by Keira Knightly. Two great scenes involving Keira, the first one being her introduction. To pick a team worthy of working beside Alan, he creates a test that has to be solved in under 10 minutes (or something like that) and Miss Clarke solves it in the quickest time. It's a really good scene. The second one is where Joan reveals to Alan that she knows he's gay buy still wants to marry him because of the mission and to keep him safe.

It's after Turing and his team crack the code that the film starts to loose it's steam. It looses it's identity. Throughout the movie we are giving clues that he is gay. Which by the way added nothing dramatically to the story. I say this because all the build up leads to nothing. He's gay, so what? Why should the audience feel sympathy for this character when we are not taken on that journey as film goers?

Possible spoiler alert!

The film ends several years after the war and Joan comes to visit Alan. He is weak and frail. Putting two and two together it's because of his court ordered chemical castration. Then the film ends with text telling us Alan was prosecuted because he was gay...his war heroism was kept top secret because of national security...he later killed himself because of his chemical castration. Tragic? Absolutely! Do I care? Yeah, but I'll have to read the book to truly grasp what Alan Turing really went through, meaning the whole story. Because the movie certainly failed detailing the events of his life after WWII. But that's just my opinion.

The Oscar nominations that THE IMITATION GAME has received is a clear indication just how deep the pockets of Harvey Weinstein truly are. This film shouldn't be in the running, especially for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.