Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Top 10 Movies of 2013

2013 was another great year for movies. This list was harder to come up with than I thought. I realize that not everyone will agree with me, but that’s okay. We’re all entitled to our own opinions. Enjoy and I hope all of you have a wonderful New Year.

10. The Conjuring
·         I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to see this well directed horror movie that actually scared the crap out of me. Everything about it was creepy, and I mean that in a good way.

9. Pacific Rim
·         Never did I think this movie would make it onto my list. When I first saw the trailer I figured it was just going to be some Transformers rip-off. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Transformers wishes it was this cool. Guillermo del Toro delivers a strange but visually stunning sci fi action adventure. It has something for everyone- kick ass action scenes and for the ladies there’s Charlie Hunnam hehe.

8. Fast & Furious 6
·         Yes, I know these movies are dumb and have no real plot. But I don’t care- I love the hell out of them! Normally I can’t stand movies like this, but what makes Fast & Furious different are the characters. They’re all really interesting in their own way and the movie actually makes you care about them.

7. Captain Phillips
·         I’ve always been a big Tom Hanks fan. Here he delivers another Oscar worthy performance (although I don’t think he’s going to win it this year. More on that in a bit.) as the title character. It’s based on the true story (for the most part) of Captain Richard Phillips, who in 2009 found his ship being hijacked by Somali pirates. The leader of the pirates is played by actor Barkhad Abdi. From what I understand, he had never acted before this. Not that you can tell at all. His performance was so good it was scary. I’d love to see him get a Best Supporting Actor nomination. This movie had me on the edge of my seat and also nearly in tears, especially Tom Hanks’ performance in the last few minutes.

6. Dallas Buyers Club
·         Had a chance to see this back in October at the local film festival. It tells the true story of Ron Woodrow, a Texas bull rider who in I believe it was the mid-eighties was diagnosed with AIDS and given only 30 days to live. Refusing to accept this, he sets out to find alternative drugs/vitamins, going so far as to smuggle them in from other countries since the FDA wouldn’t approve them (even though these medications were perfectly safe). He ends up forming a “club” to help other AIDS individuals but instead of selling them the drugs themselves, he sells memberships and gives them access to all the drugs they need. Along the way he meets a transgender person named Rayon (who becomes his business partner), played brilliantly by Jared Leto. They might as well just give Jared an Oscar now he was that good. Heartbreaking, yet at times funny. Matthew McConaughey has really redeemed himself lately. I hope he continues to do more movies like this.

5. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
·         Another great movie I saw at the film festival. It’s about the life of the late Nelson Mandela, based on the book of the same name that he wrote himself. It’s spans most of Mandela’s life from the time he was a young lawyer and political activist, his 27 year imprisonment, right up until he becomes President of South Africa. He’s played by the amazing Idris Elba, who’s having a great year. While he doesn’t look like Nelson Mandela, he captures who he was so well that it doesn’t matter. In addition the movie has some gorgeous cinematography and a powerful musical score.

4. Star Trek into Darkness
·         I know this movie had a lot of flaws, especially in the last third, but I still loved it. Plenty of action, humor, and great characters. Benedict Cumberbatch really surprised me in this. He makes a great villain. Director JJ Abrams does a pretty good job here, although I really wish he would stop using those damn lens flares. While this wasn’t as good as the 2009 movie, it was still a lot of fun.

3. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
·         I just loved this movie so much. Peter Jackson is amazing. I liked how he developed the characters this time around especially the dwarfs. Kili was my favorite. While I wasn’t crazy about the higher frame rate, visually this movie was beautiful and the  action sequences were a lot of fun, especially the barrel scene. Smaug looked absolutely badass. The movie does end on a big cliffhanger though. I just wish we didn’t have to wait a whole year for the conclusion to these wonderful movies.

2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
·         A rare instance when the sequel is better than the first movie. I loved the story a bit more this time around. And thank god there was no shaky cam! Jennifer Lawrence is such a great actress. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Katniss. The arena looked amazing too. It’s a wonderfully made movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat and will probably make you shed a tear or two. If you liked Hunger Games, then you’ll love Catching Fire.

1. 12 Years a Slave
·         Some might think it an odd choice, but I just couldn't put this movie at anything but number one. While I admit, there were other movies that I enjoyed more (in the sense that I walked out of them feeling really happy and not seriously depressed like I did with this one), I can’t deny that 12 Years A Slave was the most well made movie this year. I've said it many times, Chiwetel Ejiofor is going to win the Best Actor Oscar for his incredible performance as Solomon Northrup, a free man from Upstate New York who was tricked, drugged, and sold into slavery. It’s an extremely brutal movie that had me turning my head away from the screen several times and wanting to shout, “Enough! I can’t take this anymore!” That’s the point though. It’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable and if you don’t there’s something seriously wrong with you. Steve McQueen deserves the Best Director Oscar this year for making this powerful, flawless movie. It really is well made- from the cinematography to the haunting musical score by Hans Zimmer. I walked out of 12 Years a Slave and found myself thinking about it for days afterward. Not many movies these days do that to me. And when one comes along that does, it deserves the number one spot on my list. It really needs to be seen by everyone, unless you have a weak heart or stomach. But for me it’s kind of like Schindler’s List, a cinematic masterpiece that’s so depressing you’ll only watch it once.

Monday, December 23, 2013

2014 Golden Globes: My Predictions

With the awards season fast approaching, I thought I’d give you my predictions for the Golden Globes. This is who I think WILL win, not necessarily who I WANT to win. Although, there are so many great nominees this year so it’s worked out pretty good. I’m just going to do the major categories and put in bold who I think will win. Enjoy ;)

Best Motion Picture (Drama):
12 Years A Slave
Captain Phillips

Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy):
American Hustle
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Performance by an Actor (Drama):
Chiwetel Ejifor - 12 Years A Slave
Idris Elba - Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford - All is Lost

Best Performance by an Actress (Drama):
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock - Gravity
Judi Dench - Philomena
Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet - Labor Day

Best Performance by an Actress (Musical or Comedy):
Amy Adams - American Hustle
Julie Delpy - Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig - Francis Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - Enough Said
Meryl Streep - August: Osage County

Best Performance by an Actor (Musical or Comedy):
Christian Bale - American Hustle
Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Leonoardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix – Her

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence -American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years A Slave
Julia Roberts - August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:
Barkhad Abdi- Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl - Rush
Bradley Cooper - American Hustle
Michael Fassbender - 12 Years A Slave
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club

Best Director- Motion Picture:
Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen - 12 Years A Slave
Alexander Payne - Nebraska
David O’Russell - American Hustle

So there you have it. I’d love to hear what you guys think. I’m going to try and put together my top 10 favorite movies of 2013 list so be sure to keep an eye out for that within the next week.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (IMAX 3D)

This year has been filled with nerdgasms for me. So it's only fitting that my (most likely) last review of the year is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It's an amazing adventure that I actually think is better than An Unexpected Journey.

After a small scene which would've worked better had it been in the first movie, things pick up pretty much where they left off. Bilbo and the dwarfs continue on their quest to reclaim Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug (played by Benedict Cumberbatch through the use of motion capture). Along the way they encounter Orcs, Elves, creepy looking spiders, and much more.

Peter Jackson does an amazing job once again. He really makes you feel like you're in Middle Earth. Yes, the editing could've been a little tighter in certain scenes but it wasn't too bad. For me, those three hours just flew by. I easily could've sat in that theater for another three hours. The action scenes were well done, especially the barrel scene. It was just so much fun and looked incredible in 3D. The cinematography was gorgeous as well. The movie looks wonderful on an IMAX screen. The special effects were great for the most part. Although it was a bit much at times, mainly with the Orcs. I think practical effects would've been better in that case. But I trust Peter Jackson and think he knows what he's doing.

Martin Freeman is back as Bilbo. Surprisingly for being the title character, he really doesn't have as much screentime in this one. But the scenes he does have are really memorable. Especially his scenes with Smaug. Speaking of Smaug, how badass was he? Excellent job by Benedict Cumberbatch and the special effects team.

I really enjoyed Richard Armitage as Thorin. The way he was able to show such emotion simply with his eyes was amazing. I loved learning more about this fascinating character .

Luke Evans plays Bard, whom Bilbo and the dwarfs encounter in Laketown. I think he was a great choice and I'm really looking forward to seeing more of him in There & Back Again.

But my favorite characters were Kili (Aidan Turner), whom I must admit is pretty hot for a dwarf, and the Elf warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lily). Now I know Peter Jackson completely made up Tauriel for the movies and I'm okay with that. Lets face it, there is a lack of female characters in Middle Earth. So it's refreshing to she her character who completely fits into this world. She's smart and strong. It's great seeing her kick ass and save the day.

As some of you may have heard, there's a love triangle thrown in between Tauriel, Legolas (Orlando Bloom. It's so great seeing this character again and how he was before the events of LOTR) and another character that's a bit of a surprise. When I first heard about the love triangle I thought it was crazy and unnecessary. I have nothing against love triangles (although the Twilight movies seem to have ruined them for a lot of people). I think if done correctly they can be fun to watch play out. After seeing this movie, I'm totally okay with it. In fact I loved it. Yes, the dialog is extremely cheesy at times, but overall I thought the whole thing was really sweet.

Howard Shore once again provides a beautiful score that works perfectly with each scene.

I must warn you though, if you're not a fan of cliffhanger endings, boy does this movie have one. Probably one of the biggest cliffhangers I've seen a movie pull of recently. When it cut to black and the credits rolled, I literally was like, "What the hell? Nooooo!! It can't end now." Damn you Peter Jackson for making us wait a whole year for the last movie. Although I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.

The only complaint I really have has to do with the higher frames per second issue. In An Unexpected Journey I got use to it after awhile. But for some reason in this one it bothered my eyes in certain scenes. I don't know if it's the higher frame rate, maybe it wasn't set up right by the theater I was in, or it could be because I have astigmatism. Normally I don't have any issues watching 3D movies. Who knows. I'm definitely going to back and watch the movie again, but maybe this time in regular 3D or in 2D.

The Desolation of Smaug is a fun, action packed movie that I think everyone can enjoy. Especially if you're a big LOTR fan. Did The Hobbit need to be split up into three movies? Well, no. Are they as good as the LOTR trilogy? Of course not. But I still had a great time watching it.

My Rating: 9/10

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Catching Fire (IMAX)

WARNING: There might be some slight spoilers in this review. I tried my best not to, but my definition of a spoiler might be different than someone else's. I can tell you that there are some MAJOR spoilers for the first movie/book. Although if you haven't seen the first movie, why are reading this? lol. You've been warned.

I want to start off this review by saying to the director, Francis Lawrence- thank you, thank you, thank you for not using shaky cam! It was nice coming out of the theater not having a headache or feeling nauseous for the rest of the weekend. That was my biggest complaint about the first movie. I'm not saying Gary Ross didn't do a good job or anything. I respect him for having his own style of directing. I've just never been a big fan of shaky cam. Moving on.

Catching Fire is one of those rare sequels that's better than the first movie (and I love Hunger Games). It picks up I believe about six months after Hunger Games. Katniss (Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) has returned after winning the 74th Hunger Games and is still trying to deal with what happened. Her and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) must now embark on a Victors Tour through the various districts of Panem. Along the way she can sense that, because of her actions in the Games, a rebellion is brewing. Also happening is a special version of The Hunger Games known as the Quater Quell. This 75th Hunger Games will set in motion events that will change Panem forever.

I still remember that people weren't too happy when it was announced that Jennifer Lawrence was going to play Katniss. I'd like to think she's proven them all wrong, especially in Catching Fire. The way she able to portray such raw emotions is incredible. You really buy her as this young girl struggling to survive such horrible situations.

Someone who really surprised me was Josh Hutcherson. His acting has gotten a lot better this time around. Not that he was terrible in Hunger Games, I just didn't really buy him as Peeta whereas in this one I did.

But the person who surprised me the most was Sam Claflin as Finnick. When they first cast him I just couldn't picture it. One, because I had read the books beforehand and had my own idea of what Finnick should look like. And two, the most recent movie I had seen him in was Snow White and the Huntsman. I liked the movie itself but thought he was terrible in it. So I went into this with low expectations. It was such a nice surprise to see what an outstanding job he did. Sam really captured the character well- someone strong and very charming, but was more than meets the eye.

Woody Harrelson is back as mentor Haymitch. How awesome is he? I just can't imagine anyone else playing the role.

I'm sure people are curious about Liam Hemsworth as Gale. While I think he was very good, some of the advertising for this movie has been very misleading. Just like in the first movie, his character isn't in it all that much (he definitely has a bit more screen time in Catching Fire for sure, but still). Don't worry though- Gale will be featured much more prominently in Mockingjay.

There are so many other amazing actors who gave great performances- Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, and many more. I just don't have time to talk about them all individually. All I'll say is I can't really think of anyone who gave a bad performance.

I already mentioned before how happy I am with director Francis Lawrence (whose previous movies include Water for Elephants and I Am Legend). He really brought this book to life. I was especially blown away by the look of the arena. The budget for Catching Fire was about double than that of Hunger Games. He certainly put that money to good use. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with Mockingjay.

I'm not sure who the costume designer was, but he/she deserves an award. I absolutely loved all the clothing, especially Katniss' dresses.

The composer for Catching Fire was James Newton Howard, who also did the score for Hunger Games (you hear hints of it in this one. I'll admit, I cried when I heard Rue's theme again. Music is very important in a movie. It has to fit just right with each scene and if it doesn't, it could very well ruin the movie. I've seen it happen. Luckily that's not the case here. The score for this movie was beautiful and really sets the tone for each scene.

There's only one reason I'm not giving this movie a perfect score. This is nothing negative about the movie itself, it's more of me nitpicking since I read the books. There was one or two scenes from the book that I really wanted to see but sadly didn't make the cut. I completely understand though. Any time you're turning a book into a movie things are going to change. Whether it be for time or the scene just doesn't work in a movie setting. Overall though, Catching Fire is a VERY faithful adaptation. Probably the most faithful I've seen in awhile.

If you liked The Hunger Games then you'll LOVE Catching Fire. If you're lucky enough to live near an IMAX theater, definitely splurge and see it in that format. The movie looks amazing on a huge screen, especially the scenes in the arena. You really feel like you're there.

I'm so looking forward to Mockingjay now. Why why why must we wait a whole year?

My Rating: 9.5/10

Sunday, November 17, 2013

12 Years a Slave

I’m calling it right now. Chiwetel Ejiofor is going to win the Best Actor Oscar this year. Hell, they might as well just give it to him now. 12 Years a Slave is one of the most powerful, brutal, haunting movies that I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely one of the best (if not THE) movies this year. Everyone walking out of the theater, myself included, was speechless and amazed at what we saw.

12 Years a Slave is based on the true story of a man named Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from New York with a wife and two children. He is tricked, drugged, and sold into slavery. It shows his struggle to survive and the people he encounters along the way.

The movie is directed by Steve McQueen, whose previous films include Shame and Hunger (both of which also included Michael Fassbender). Everything about his directing is flawless- the beautiful cinematography, the way the scenes were edited together, and the powerful performances he was able to get out of each actor. This was the first slavery movie I can remember where you actually got a feel for what life was like for these poor people. It was absolutely horrific and heart breaking. *SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT* There was a whipping scene in particular which looked and sounded so real that all of us in the theater literally jumped in our seats and gasped.*END OF SPOILER* Steve is a truly talented director and I look forward to seeing more of his movies in the future.

Every actor, I felt, was perfectly cast, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor. The way he was able to show such wide range of emotions was unbelievable. Watching him on screen had me in tears several times.

Another standout performance was Michael Fassbender as the cruel (and that’s putting it mildly) slave owner named Edwin Epps. Michael, from what I’ve seen in interviews and other appearances, seems like a nice guy but his performance in this makes you hate him so bad. That just shows you what a talented actor he is. He’s another one that could get an Oscar nomination. Infact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie got nominations in almost all the acting categories. Particularly for supporting actress. *SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT* There’s a subplot involving Epps and one of his slaves named Patsey, played by newcomer Lupita Nyong’o. How she was able to portray such raw emotion I’ll never know. Her scenes are so powerful but at the same time difficult to watch. This actress will definitely be one to watch in the future.*END OF SPOILER*

I seriously can’t think of a bad performance. The rest of the amazing cast includes- Benedict Cumberbatch, Dwight Henry, Paul Giamatti, Sara Paulson, and Brad Pitt. Brad was actually a producer on this movie as well. He (Brad) doesn’t have much screen time at all but his role is VERY important.

The music is beautiful as well. What can I say? I have a thing for movie scores. I probably have more of them on my iPod than anything else. Hans Zimmer, whom I’ve always been a fan of, provides the score that perfectly fits with each scene. I got goose bumps listening to it.

So do I recommend this movie? Absolutely.  I think it’s a must see. But I’m giving this recommendation with a warning- if you have a weak stomach or heart problems this movie is NOT for you. I’m being serious. I have a pretty strong stomach but even I felt nauseous and had to turn away from the screen several times. I look at this movie the way I look at Schindler’s List- a cinematic masterpiece that everyone needs to see, but it’s so depressing that you’ll probably only watch it once.

Rarely does a movie make me walk out afterward and keep thinking about it days later. 12 Years a Slave is one that I can honestly say has no flaws. I’m looking forward to seeing how this movie does during awards season.

My Rating: 10/10

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (3D)

I'm not afraid to admit I'm a huge superhero fan. I've seen just about every superhero movie that's been released in the last several years. If that makes me a nerd than so be it. So you'll understand when I tell you that I'm still recovering from the massive nerdgasm I got while watching the awesomeness that is Thor: The Dark World. 

Without giving too much away, the basic plot of the movie is that thousands of years ago the Dark Elves wanted to take over the universe and send it into darkness with a special weapon known as the Aether. They were stopped by Asgard warriors, but the leader of the Dark Elves named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) escaped. Now he's returned and it's up to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who forms an uneasy alliance with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), to stop him. Added into the mix of course is Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor's love interest. 

There's a lot of things going on in this movie and at times it can be a bit confusing, but it's worth the effort. As much as I love the first movie, I think I like this one a little better. My biggest complaint about the first Thor was that they spent way too much time on Earth and not enough on Asgard. Luckily in The Dark World there are very few scenes on Earth and it takes place mostly on Asgard. I absolutely loved how the director explored this amazing world. It was cool to see what life would be like there. And the cinematography as well as the costumes were beautiful. 

Then there's Chris Hemsworth. What can I say? The guy is gorgeous and does a great job as Thor. His scenes with Loki were epic. By far my favorite part of the movie. Speaking of Loki, how awesome is Tom Hiddleston? I can't imagine anyone else playing the role. They just need to hurry up and give him his own movie already. If you haven't seen the videos of Loki talking to kids you've got to go search for them on YouTube. They're hysterical. 

The music, composed by Brian Tyler (whose previous soundtracks include Iron Man 3 and Fast Five) is beautifully done and fits perfectly with each scene.

There were only a couple of flaws that I noticed. Nothing major and certainly nothing that should stop you from seeing it. The special effects looked good for the most part, but there were a few moments were they looked cheap. The villain, while he looked cool, wasn't all that great compared to other movies like this. 

The biggest flaw was the 3D. I had hoped that they would've learned their lesson from the first movie. Sadly they didn't. The 3D was barely noticeable. Save your money and go see this in regular 2D. I'm a fan of 3D if it's done right. Seriously, if you're not going to actually film in 3D don't even bother. Enough with these cheap conversion jobs. I could spend all day talking about this, but I'll spare you and move on. 

Like the other Marvel films, be sure you stay through the credits. There's actually two scenes this time- one in the middle of the credits and the other at the end. All I'll say about them is one if them sets up another Marvel movie that's coming out in the not so distant future. 

Despite a couple of flaws, Thor: The Dark World is a really fun movie. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

My Rating: 8/10

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

I've never really been a big Jackass fan. I watched the show once in awhile (and I think I might've seen the first movie at one point) and sure it was funny at times, but overall I thought it was stupid. But when I saw the trailer for this awhile back, I thought this could be really funny. 

Unlike the show and the other movies, which really just went from skit to skit, Bad Grandpa has an actual plot (even if it is pretty thin). Johnny Knoxville plays the Grandpa named Irving. He has to take his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) across the country to live with his father. Along the way they get into all sorts of trouble. The people around them are real people, not actors. Some of their reactions are priceless. It pretty much follows the same formula as Borat. 

This was probably one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time. At times I was literally laughing so hard my stomach hurt. Most comedies I see these days I'm lucky if they make me chuckle. 

My favorite part of the movie was definitely the little boy who played Billy. He was so adorable and funny. He'll be one to watch in the coming years. He has the potential to be a great comedic actor. His timing was just perfect. I don't know how he was able to do some of those scenes and keep a straight face. 

Not to say that the movie was perfect. Some of the pranks were a little too much (for my personal taste anyway) but I expected that with this kind of movie. My biggest complaint though was that they showed a little too much in the trailer. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of funny moments that surprise you. But they should've kept more surprises for the movie itself. 

Bad. Grandpa obviously isn't going to be winning any awards, but if you're in need of a good laugh, go see it. I promise you'll have lots of fun. 

My Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Film Columbia 2013

I know, it’s been WAY too long since I’ve updated this thing. But as most of you know, it was a pretty rough year. Plus, I kind of got tired of doing reviews for a while. Anyway, I started a new job back in May so things are finally starting to look up. I’m also at a point now where I want to start reviewing movies again, especially with a lot of great movies coming out in the coming months (Thor, Hunger Games, etc.)
So I figured what better way to mark my return to the blogging world than to give you my review of this year’s Film Columbia. I had a blast this year, as I always do. I ended up seeing eleven movies in the span of 6 days. It was exhausting to say the least but it was totally worth it. As I say every year with this, because these movies haven’t been released theatrically yet I’m only going to give very brief summaries of what I thought and my rating. I’ll do my best to keep them spoiler free. Enjoy J

Judi Dench can do no wrong in my opinion. In this movie she plays an Irish woman searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption fifty years ago. Very touching and at times funny as well. Could’ve been a bit longer and maybe developed some of the characters/side plots a bit more. But other than that I enjoyed the movie. Great way to kick off the festival. My Rating: 8/10.

This was such a charming, funny movie. Directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) and shot in black and white, which I thought was a bit odd at first since it’s set in the present day but by the end I understood why he chose to do it that way. It’s the story of a father and son relationship. Bruce Dern plays the father. I think he could very well get an Oscar nomination for his performance. The actor who really surprised me was Will Forte. I had only ever seen him on SNL and wasn’t sure how he’d do in a role like this. But he did a great job. The movie did drag a little at times though. My Rating: 8/10

When I Walk:
This moving documentary is about filmmaker Jason DaSilva, who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 25. Very difficult to watch at times, but that just shows you how well made it is. I believe it’s going to be airing on PBS sometime in the next few months so be sure to check it out. My Rating: 8.5/10

How I Live Now:
A very odd film based on a book released in 2004. It stars Soairse Ronan as a teen from NYC who is sent to England for the summer to stay with relatives. While there, a nuclear bomb goes off. It’s one of those post-apocalyptic survival movies. It wasn’t bad or anything. It’s just been done many times before and way better. Still worth a watch if you’re into these types of movies. My Rating: 6.5/10

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom:
Probably one of my favorite movies at the festival. It’s about the incredible life of former South Africa president Nelson Mandela. Idris Elba was fantastic in the role. The movie was two and a half hours long but it didn’t feel like it. It kept me engaged the whole time. Beautiful cinematography and musical score (other one to add to my iPod). My Rating: 10/10

Like Father, Like Son:
A very touching Japanese film about two families who discover that their six year old sons were switched at birth. The actors did a great job. I really hope they don’t do an American remake like I heard they might. So unnecessary. My Rating: 9/10

Inside Llewyn Davis:
Another movie from the Cohen brothers. While I liked some of their previous work, I have to say I wasn’t really crazy about this one. I mean I liked the music and thought John Goodman was good in the small role he had. But other than that I just couldn’t get into it. My Rating: 6/10

The Invisible Woman:
A beautifully shot movie directed by Ralph Fiennes (who also plays the role of Charles Dickens). It’s about Dickens and his long affair with actress Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones) whom he met when she was just seventeen. The pacing seemed very slow at times, but I liked this movie overall. Plus I’m a big Ralph Fiennes fan and enjoy almost anything he’s in. My Rating: 8.5/10

Dallas Buyers Club:
This was the Saturday night sneak movie and unlike this year, I was not disappointed. It takes place in the 80’s during the AIDS epidemic and tells the true story of Texas electrician Ron Woodroof, played unbelievably by Matthew McConaughey. He lost about fifty pounds in order to play an AIDS patient. Anyway, Ron gets diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and given only thirty days to live. He refuses to accept this and searches for alternative treatments, eventually smuggling in medication in from other countries and helping other people with the disease get the drugs they need. Very moving to watch (even funny at times) and I especially found myself cheering during the scenes where Ron was taking on the doctors or the FDA. Jared Leto plays a transgender woman named Rayon whom he encounters along the way. I was blown away by his very realistic performance. His character is the heart of the movie. They might as well just give him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar now. The movie opens this Friday and I highly recommended everyone go see it. My Rating: 10/10

The Book Thief:
Based on the popular book. It takes place in Germany during World War II and tells the story of young Liesel (Sophie Meminger) who’s adopted by a couple (Geoffrey Rush & Emily Watson). She finds comfort in stealing books and sharing the stories with others. They eventually take a young Jewish man into their home, keeping him hidden in the basement. Strong performances by all. My biggest complaint is that the ending felt really rushed. My Rating: 7.5/10

August: Osage County:
What a wonderful movie to close the festival. An all-star cast including Meryl Streep (who will probably get another Oscar nomination for her role), Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and many more. They play a strong willed, dysfunctional family, led by Meryl Streep’s character Violet, who comes together during a crisis. Based on a play of the same name. Very sweet and moving at the same time. I think a lot of people can relate to it. A perfect blend of comedy and drama. My Rating: 9/10

And there you have it J I’m looking forward next year’s festival. In the meantime, I’m going to start doing my regular reviews again hopefully this week. I’ll try not and disappear again. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Tyler Perry's Temptation

I should have known better than to go see a Tyler Perry movie. Well, one that doesn’t have Madea in it I should say. But I saw the trailer for this awhile back and it looked kind of interesting, minus the fact that Kim Kardashian is in it (thankfully her role is very small). But it’s far from interesting. It’s pretty bad. But to me Temptation falls under the category of “It’s so bad it’s good.” Myself and the other people in the theater had a good time laughing at how bad it was and making little comments out loud every so often. So at least I got some entertainment out of it.

Anyway, the movie is about a woman named Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). She’s in her mid-twenties and working at a millionaire matchmaking service, although her dream is to be a marriage counselor with her own business. She’s married to Brice (Lance Gross, whose been in several Tyler Perry productions), whom she has known almost her whole life. He works at a pharmacy. Their life seems to be going pretty good, although the two of them have been together for so long they’ve gotten too comfortable. And Brice is oblivious and sometimes takes her for granted. Then one day, in walks Harley (Robbie Jones) a charming billionaire who’s basically the African American Mark Zuckerberg. He’s interested in investing in the matchmaking company that Judith works for. At first she wants to keep things strictly professional, but being neglected by her husband and wanting some attention, she finds herself drawn to him. Will she or won’t she cheat on her husband? Come on, we all know what’s going to happen.

And that’s one of the main problems of the movie. It’s so predictable.  With the exception of one thing at the end, which just comes out of nowhere and makes you go “Really?”

I have nothing against Tyler Perry. He seems like a pretty nice guy (but with a huge ego). But for the love of god, he needs to hire a screenwriter. His writing is so bad. I found myself cringing in my seat as the characters spat out terrible dialog. The editing was choppy, the movie was overly preachy. But I knew going into this that that was pretty standard in a Tyler Perry movie.

Not to say that I haven’t liked any of his movies in the past. I thought Meet the Browns and Why Did I Get Married were okay. And I think Madea is pretty hysterical overall. Maybe he should just stick to comedies.

Getting back to Temptation, there was one thing that kept it from being terrible in my opinion. I thought that Lance Gross was good in his role as Brice. I felt kind of bad from him. Yes, he’s oblivious and even goes as far as forgetting Judith’s birthday two years in a row. But deep down he’s a good guy and clearly loves his wife.

Bottom line, unless you’re a huge Tyler Perry fan, I can’t really recommend this. If you’re curious, save your money and rent it from the Redbox or wait til it comes to TV.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen

Sorry this took so long to post. Better late than never I guess.

Wow. Could it be? A Gerard Butler movie that doesn't suck? Why yes :) I wasn't really planning on seeing this movie mainly because of him. I have nothing against Gerard Butler but lately all he seems to do is these god awful romantic comedies. But I decided to give this movie a chance when I found out Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart are in it. I'm glad I did. Olympus Has Fallen ended up being much better than I thought it would be.

All you really need to about the plot is Gerard Butler plays a Secret Service agent named Mike Banning. He has a pretty close relationship with President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his family, especially the President's son Connor. Everything is going great until one night something tragic happens and it forces Banning to take a desk job at the Treasurer's office, which he obviously isn't happy about. But then one day the White House is overtaken by a Korean terrorist who also kidnaps the President (there is a reason behind why he does this but I can't really remember what it is). As you might have guessed, Banning ends up being the only one who can rescue the President and save America from a big disaster.

Gerard Butler was the biggest surprise of this movie. Not that he was great, but  he made the character very likable  Aaron Eckhart did a good job too. I've been a big fan of his ever since he played Harvey Dent/Two Face in The Dark Knight. Morgan Freeman plays the Speaker of the House and he's amazing as always. Although he really doesn't have as big a role as the trailers/posters lead you to believe.

The fight scenes were pretty bad ass, although the editing kind of sucked. At times scenes were cut so quick that I couldn't tell what was going on. And some scenes were way too dark.

This movie is quite violent  just to warn you. Almost too much at times. Don't get me wrong, I like a good violent, bloody movie as much as the next person, but there's people literally getting their heads blown up in what seems like every other scene and after awhile it's like "Enough already!"

The dialog was cheesy at times, but other times it was pretty epic. Especially a lot of Gerard Butler's lines.

This is also one of those movies where it's best not to think too much about what's going on. Yes, the plot is kinda absurd and in this post 9/11 world there's no way in hell terrorist would get that close to the White House.

But still, the movie is pretty enjoyable if you don't take things too seriously. It's Die Hard meets 24 meets Independence Day (minus the aliens of course).

I hope Gerard Butler keeps doing more of these types of movies. He's really good in them. Maybe it's not too late for him after all and he can redeem himself :)

My Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oz the Great & Powerful (3D)

Wow. Could it be? A Disney movie that doesn't suck? (I'm of course talking present day Disney. Old school Disney movies are far superior in my opinion.) Why yes :) Oz the Great & Powerful was really good.

The movie begins much like the classic 1939 movie. It's in black and white, then once you get to Oz it's in color. It tells the story of a Kansas magician/conman named Oscar "Oz" Diggs (James Franco) who one day, gets transported (via hot air balloon) to the magical land of Oz. Because of a prophecy, pretty much everyone believes him to be the great wizard that will defeat the wicked witch and bring peace to the land. He sets out to achieve this, at first for less than noble reasons but eventually he becomes the character we all know today.

This is directed by Sam Raimi, whose previous works include the original Spiderman trilogy. He does an amazing job bringing this whole world to life. Everything looked gorgeous. I highly suggest you watch this in 3D (which for once is really good). You really feel like you're in Oz.

The whole cast did a good job overall. I'll admit, I'm not crazy about James Franco (although I liked him in Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and wasn't sure if he was the right choice to play Oz. At first I wasn't too impressed with his performance (not that it was terrible or anything)  but he eventually won me over. He's quite charming in this. I especially loved his scenes with the little China Doll girl (voiced by Joey King) , which I'll admit had me a little teary eyed. Michelle Williams was the perfect choice for Glinda. I enjoyed watching her scenes. Zach Braff does the voice for Finely, an adorable flying monkey (not a scary flying monkey we're use to, although there's plenty of them in this) who acts as Oz's faith servant and aides him on his journey.

I guess I should talking about how it compares to the 1939 movie. Is it as good? Well, it's hard for me to say either way. But it's definitely a worthy prequel/reinterpretation. There's even a few nods to the original which I thought was nice. What's great is this movie fits into that universe too. But just to warn you, this is not a musical. Infact, not counting the wonderful musical score by Danny Elfman, there's only one song (which is very brief and sung by the munchkins).

There were a few flaws, but nothing too major. The only one that really stood out was the Wicked Witch of the West's origin story. I wasn't crazy about the reason they gave for what made her who she was.

Overall this is a very sweet movie that can be enjoyed by all. I'd say it's one of the best family films I've seen in awhile. There a few scary moments which some young kids might not like, although the ones at the showing I went to seemed okay with it. Anyway, Oz the Great & Powerful is well worth seeing :)

My Rating: 8/10

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Last Exorcisim part 2

WARNING: Some major spoilers if you haven't seen the first movie.

Wow. And I don't mean wow in a good way. This movie was terrible. The only reason I wanted to see this was I liked the first one (minus the ending) and I was curious to see how it would turn out. Big mistake. I know this kind of thing has been said a million times but this was nearly an hour and a half of my life that I'll never get back.

I don't even know where to begin. I guess I'll start with the plot, although I use that term loosely. This starts off right where the last one left off. Although instead of filming it like found footage, this time it's shot as a regular film. Anyway, Nell (Ashley Bell) is the only survivor of the horrific events that occurred in the woods at the end of part one. She's sent to live at a girls home in New Orleans where she starts a new life and tries to forget what has happened to her. Easier said than done of course. For awhile things are going great. But soon the demon that was after Nell in the first one returns, determined to claim her once again.

This is the first time in a long time that a "horror" movie made me want to fall asleep in the theater. Not a damn thing happens in this movie aside from the occasional jump scare and a few disturbing images. But even those were very predictable and not scary at all. There's zero character development. I was hoping maybe they would explore the mythology behind the demon after Nell. That would've made an interesting movie in my opinion. But nope. The effects were awful. I know the movie had a low budget (about 5 million I believe) but that's no excuse. The director didn't even try! It felt like some straight to DVD crap. Seriously, there's no reason this movie needed to be made. The should've stopped after the first and left it up to the audiences imagination what happened next. But of course the studio wanted to make more money since the first movie was a pretty sizeable hit.

I really can't recommend this movie to anyone. I guess if you saw the first movie and are interested in where they take it. Even then, wait til it comes to the Redbox and rent it. Don't wast any more money than you need to. Luckily I saw an early matinee of this today so I didn't pay full price. And even better idea for you guys is go watch Sinister. It's a real horror movie that's one of the best I've seen in awhile. It's much more worth your time.

There's two reasons I'm not giving this a lower rating than I am. First because of Ashley Bell. While far from a great actress, she seemed to be the only one actually trying in this whole damn movie. Second, it's extremely short. I timed it- including the four trailers before it and the movie itself, I was only in the theater a little more than an hour and a half.

Okay, that's the end of my little rant. Now I'm going to relax, watch some real movies, and try to regain what little sanity I have left. I'm going to pretend The Last Exorcism part 2 doesn't exist.

My Rating: 4/10

Monday, February 18, 2013

Safe Haven

Well here we are with yet another Nicholas Sparks movie. I read Safe Haven awhile back and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it since I've been so disappointed with his books as of late. Same goes for the movies. Honestly, they haven’t made a good movie of one of his books since The Notebook in my opinion. So how was Safe Haven? Well, it’s not as good as The Notebook but much better than the more recent ones.

First of all, when the movie begins, it doesn't feel like a Nicholas Sparks movie at all. It starts out more like a thriller. You see a young woman named Katie (Julianne Hough) fleeing her home with no shoes on and covered in blood. Obviously something bad has just happened. She goes to her kind, elderly neighbor’s house for help. The movie then shifts to Katie with her hair dyed and cut shorter quickly catching a bus with police detective Kevin Tierney (David Lyons) following her. As the movie goes on (unless you read the book and already know) you learn Kevin’s connection to Katie and why he’s so determined to capture her. Anyway, Katie winds up in a small town in North Carolina where she finds a job as a waitress and tries to keep a low profile. Of course, things get complicated when she meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widowed store owner with two young children. I don’t think I really need to say much more since if you've seen one Nicholas Sparks movie, you've pretty much seen them all. Set in a small town in North Carolina or some southern equivalent? Check. Beautiful shots of the ocean and the beach? Check. Attractive couple falling in love? Check. Something tragic happens? Big check.

The director of Safe Haven is Lasse Hallstrom. He’s previous films include Chocolat, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and another Nicholas Sparks adaptation- Dear John. Overall I think he did a pretty good job telling what boils down to your basic sappy romance movie. The cinematography was gorgeous. He did make a lot of changes from the book, but the general story is pretty much the same. Some people may not like the changes, but I was okay with it. Any time you turn a book into a movie there’s going to be changes.  What I didn't like was his use of shaky cam at the beginning. It wasn't vomit inducing or anything; I’m just not a big fan of it. The editing could have been a little tighter. And I wish he had spent a little more time with the thriller aspects of it, but of course the main focus is the love story.

The acting was pretty average. I mean, Josh Duhamel was good he just didn't have a lot to work with. Julianne Hough did surprisingly well. I mean, I still think she should stick to dancing, but she was much better than I thought she would be. The little girl who played Alex’s daughter Lexie (Mimi Kirkland) was absolutely adorable. She was quite the scene stealer. David Lyons did okay (I liked him better when he was on ER) but he was your stereotypical villain.

As with these kinds of movies, probably the only people who will like Safe Haven are women and/or you’re a Nicholas Sparks fan. It’s a sweet (sometimes too much so) little romance movie that’s fun to watch this time of year.

My Rating: 7/10

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

My first review of 2013 and what a movie to start out with. I've been looking forward to seeing Zero Dark Thirty ever since they first announced it. It’s been getting a lot of praise lately and after seeing it last night, I can understand why. It’s an excellent movie.

Zero Dark Thirty is about the decade long hunt to track down Osama Bin Laden and the. I really don’t think I have to go into details about the plot since we all know how it turns out. Anyway, in this movie we follow a CIA operative named Maya (played by the amazingly talented Jessica Chastain) who spends several years tracking down leads and doing whatever it takes to find Bin Laden. For those of you going into this expecting some big military action type movie, you might be a little disappointed. To be honest, *POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT* the movie is a little over two and a half hours long. And for the first two hours or so it’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff. It’s not until the last thirty minutes do you actually see the big scene where they infiltrate the compound and kill Bin Laden. *END OF SPOILER*

The director is Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow. You might know her from a little film she did called The Hurt Locker, which won the Best Picture award two years ago. She does an amazing job taking you on this amazing journey where you know the outcome, but it has you on the edge of your seat anyway. I honestly think this was better than The Hurt Locker. Which was a good movie don’t me wrong, I just don’t think it was great. Maybe I’m still a little bitter that it beat out Avatar. Moving on.
One of the best parts to me was the performances. As I said before, Jessica Chastain is very talented. I knew when I saw her in The Debt two years ago that she’d be one to watch. I think it’s going to be a tight race between her and Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress this year. Jason Clarke (Lawless) was my other favorite in this, playing an interrogator named Dan. There are so many other great actors in this as well, their roles are fairly small but memorable- Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Edgar Ramirez, James Gandolfini, and many more.

The best scene is of course when they finally infiltrate the compound where Bin Laden is hiding and kill him. Wow!! It’s one of the most intense, well-made scenes I've seen in a movie in a long time. I would love to see Kathryn Bigelow make a movie just about those Navy Seals.

As much as I love this movie, it certainly isn't flawless. There’s very little character development. You leave the theater knowing about as much about the characters as you did at the start of the movie. Of course, I understand why they did this since these are based on real people and a lot of things about all this are still confidential. Also, the movie does drag a bit at times. But it more than makes up for it in the last thirty minutes.

Zero Dark Thirty is a movie I highly recommend to everyone. I have a feeling it’s going to do very well this award season. As I said in my Oscar post, I think it’s going to win Best Picture. Hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did.

My Rating: 9/10

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 Oscars: Who Will Win?

Overall I was happy with who was nominated this year. There were a few surprises though. For example, Ben Affleck not getting nominated for Best Director. He did a fantastic job with Argo. At least the movie is nominated for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor. Another surprise was no Best Actor nomination for John Hawkes. I thought he gave a very touching performance in The Sessions.

I could talk for hours about this so let’s move on. Below I’ve listed the main categories. Just to let you know, it’ll be who I think WILL win, not necessarily who I WANT to win.

Best Picture:

·        Zero Dark Thirty

·        Silver Linings Playbook

·        Les Miserables

·        Lincoln

·        Life of Pi

·        Beasts of the Southern Wild

·        Django Unchained

·        Argo

·        Amour

Best Actress:

·        Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

·        Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

·        Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

·        Emmanuele Rina, Amour

·        Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Actor:

·        Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

·        Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

·        Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

·        Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

·        Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Supporting Actress:

·        Amy Adams, The Master

·        Sally Field, Lincoln

·        Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

·        Helen Hunt, The Sessions

·        Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor:

·        Alan Arkin, Argo

·        Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

·        Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

·        Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

·        Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Director:

·        Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

·        David O’Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

·        Stephen Spielberg, Lincoln

·        Ang Lee, Life of Pi

·        Michael Haneke, Amour

Best Original Screenplay:

·        Amour

·        Django Unchained

·        Flight

·        Moonrise Kingdom

·        Zero Dark Thirty

Best Adapted Screenplay:

·        Argo

·        Beasts of the Southern Wild

·        Silver Linings Playbook

·        Life of Pi

·        Lincoln

Best Animated Feature:

·        Brave

·        Frankenweenie

·        ParaNorman

·        The Pirates! Band of Misfits

·        Wreck-It Ralph