Friday, February 24, 2012

Wanderlust and My Fearless Oscar Picks

My ViewWanderlust (2012) A married couple (Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd) lose their jobs and decide to leave New York and move to Atlanta. On the road trip to Georgia, they stay a commune in the country and love it so much, they decide to stay. The commune is filled with eccentric individuals and is led by a charismatic hippie (Justin Theroux) who is just a little out-of-touch with how the world works these days. I liked Aniston in her role as the wife, who, initially doesn’t want to live at the commune, but then fully commits to it.  I felt, though, that Rudd was a little too restrained in his role.  And with most Judd Apatow films (he produced this one), it’s pretty raunchy in some of it comedic moments and it takes a few situations and milks them way too long.  Be warned - there is a ton of full frontal male nudity in this film with one of the main characters at the commune a nudist that makes wine.  Be sure to stay through the credits, there is a brief, very funny bit at the end of the film.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Wanderlust Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film)Rampart  (2012)Set in 1999 Los Angeles in the wake of the “Rampart scandal” of the 1990’s, a reckless cop (Woody Harrelson) tries to survive the bad choices that he keeps making. He is the type of cop who delights in antagonizing criminals he deals with, and his life becomes complicated when he is caught on video beating a man who crashed into his patrol car.  Harrelson's character is also a womanizer and picks up women on a nightly basis at bars while he has two ex-wives, each who have a daughter by him.  Ironically, the ex-wives live next door to each other, so it's convenient for him to visit the families at the same time.  Harrelson does an amazing job playing a man whom you end up hating, and the supporting cast in this is very strong, with Ned Beatty and Robin Wright in standout roles.  Overall, though, the script lets down the actors and makes this film a very long ride along with a very bad man.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Rampart Website
The Academy Awards was on Sunday. Here were my Fearless Oscar picks for the 2012 season:

I was correct on 9 out of 11 of my Oscar picks.  Hugo took home 5 awards (Sound Mixing , Cinematography, etc.), not surprising since it was the best use of 3-D I have seen since Avatar.  When an actress like Meryl Streep has been nominated a record-setting 17 times, you can’t say her winning was an upset.  I did, though, think Viola Davis was going to win Best Actress.  All the other major awards went as expected.  Let’s hope more movie-goers will give The Artist a chance now that it has won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. 

Correct answers highlighted in Green, wrong answers in Red.

Actor in a Supporting RoleChristopher Plummer Beginners    Plummer is superb in the role of a dying gay man. Max Von Sydow, in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, who was the best thing about the 9/11 film, could sneak in, but I think Plummer is a sure bet.

Actress In a Supporting RoleOctavia Spencer The Help    I think Spencer will win and should win, as she has won just about every other award for her role. Berenice Bejo for The Artist could sneak in, but I doubt it. Spencer is the sure thing for the night.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne, Jim Nash The Descendants    Alexander Payne is well-respected for his writing talents. John Logan for Hugo might slip in because of Hollywood's love for Martin Scorsese.

Writing (Original Screenplay)Woody Allen Midnight In Paris    This is without a doubt the best film Allen has done in years. Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist just might get in because of a very creative script.

Foreign Language Film: A Separation (Iran)    This is almost a sure thing, though Bullhead (Belgium) has received lots of good reviews.

CinematographyEmmanuel Lubezki The Tree of Life    While a lot of people walked out of screenings for The Tree of Life, no one would say it wasn’t a visually stunning film. Guillaume Schiffman could win for The Artist if that film sweeps all its nominations.

Animated Feature FilmRango     The Johnny Depp voiced film will win in what is probably the weakest field the Academy has had since they started this award. This category had so few strong nominees that the Academy had to add two foreign films to fill out the category. The infrequently-seen Spanish film, Chico & Rita, could get in, but it’s a long shot.

Actor in a Leading Role: Jean Dujardin The Artist    Dujardin is brilliant as a silent film actor who sees his world crumble when sound comes to film. This year, this category is the most wide-open race, as George Clooney for The Descendants or Brad Pitt for Moneyball could easily win.

Actress in a Leading RoleViola Davis The Help    Her performance in The Help is the reason to see the film. Meryl Streep inThe Iron Lady probably would have won if the film was written better.

Directing: Michel Hazanavicius The Artist     Should be a big night for The Artist. Too bad there isn’t a Best Animal award for the dog, Uggie. Martin Scorsese could win for Hugo, another film that celebrates the silent film days.

Best Picture: The Artist     This awe-inspiring silent film (yes, it’s a silent film) should win the big award. The Help is the type of movie that Hollywood loves, with its big, sweeping cast in a film that runs full-circle with social meaning and message, so it could take The Oscar.

Until Next Time!

Friday, February 17, 2012

This Means War

My View:   This Means War (2012) Chris Pine and Tom Hardy play two best friend CIA agents who are saving the world from terrorists.  Both men meet Reese Witherspoon’s character at separate events and unknowingly, each begin dating her. When they find out they are both interested in the same woman, winning her heart becomes a contest, and they use every resource the CIA has to gather Intel on her and thwart each other’s advances.  If you are going to have any chance at all at enjoying this film, you will have to leave your mind at the door because the plot holes in this film are large enough to drive a tank through. I did enjoy a couple of scenes, especially one where there is a nicely choreographed movement where Reese is home, and she thinks she is alone.  While she's making popcorn, the two agents stealthily bug her apartment without her or each other’s knowledge.  Tom Hardy is the best thing about this movie, and the audience will certainly root for his character over the slick character that Chris Pine plays.  Ultimately, though, we just can’t buy the premise, much like we can’t buy it that Reese’s character is so dateless that her local restaurant calls her “Sushi For One."   My Rating: Cable   This Means War Website
Family Fare:   The Secret World of Arrietty (2011) Based on the beloved children’s book, The Borrowers, this film, from the Japanese animation studio Ghibli, is about a family of four-inch tall people called, the Borrowers, who live in secret and take just what they need to survive from the Beings living the big house above.  A young, determined girl named, Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler), a borrower, is discovered during one of their borrowing raids by a sickly boy (voiced by Mark Strong) who has just moved into his aunt’s home. This meeting changes Arrietty and her family's world forever. This is a beautiful film, full of rich colors and incredibly detailed animation. While it may be too slow for young children, older children and adults will delight in this incredible tale.  It also doesn’t hurt that the cast who voice this film include Will Arenett, Amy Poehler and Carol Burnett.   My Rating: Full Price   The Secret World of Arrietty Website
Indyfest(A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film):   A Separation (2011)  Almost a sure bet to be the winner of this year’s Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film, this film, from Iran, is about a couple at crossroads in their married life. The wife (played by Leila Hatami) wants to move to a country in the west so that her daughter can get a better education. The husband (played by Peyman Maadi) wants to stay in Iran so that he can continue to care for his father who has Alzheimer's. Things start to go wrong as soon as they hire a caretaker to manage the household, and a series of events cause things to quickly spiral out of control. This is a fascinating look at a world we, in the west, get very little exposure to.  This film shows us that even the littlest thing can be a catalyst toward the destruction of a family.    My Rating: Full Price   A Separation Info

The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#25 Worst Film
Ishtar  (1987) This “comedy” film is about two untalented lounge singers (Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty) who travel to Morocco for a gig and get involved in the possible overthrow of a country. This film cost an incredible amount of money to make as a great deal of it was re-shot after studio executives saw a rough-cut of the film. The biggest problem of this film is Hoffman and Beatty can’t sing and the songs they sing are some of the worst ever written for film, which makes this a tough film to watch. How two Oscar-winning actors ever got involved with this mess of a film would probably make a better film.   Ishtar Info
Forgotten Film:   The Doctor (1991)  William Hurt plays a successful, workaholic surgeon, whose marriage is on auto-pilot and whose bed-side manner is lacking in care and compassion. His belief is that his mission as a doctor is to save lives, not become involved in them.  Things, though, begin to change when he is diagnosed with throat cancer, and he has to see his world, now, through the eyes of a patient. With the help of a fellow cancer patient (played by Elizabeth Perkins), he comes to realize that a people need not only the skill of a surgeon to be healed, but the touch and care of a fellow human being.    My Rating: Full Price   The Doctor Info

In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):   The Rum Diary (2011)  Based on the life and writings of “Gonzo Journalist” Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp plays a failed novelist who moves to Puerto Rico to find work with a local newspaper. He quickly becomes involved with a number of characters that inhabit the island, including a wealthy publicist’s fiancée (played by Amber Heard). Overall, I didn’t like this film, as a few funny scenes don’t make up for the overall feel of the film that is too long and too disjointed to really be enjoyable.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Rum Diary Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):   Project X (2012) Three high school losers throw a birthday party to make a name for themselves, but things get out of control.  Can I just watch a couple of home-made YouTube party videos instead and call it a night?   Project X Website

Weird Credits:   From the credits of This Means War: CIA consultant (As one of my fellow critics said the night of the screening, about all the consultant did on this film was say, “yep, that’s what the CIA logo looks like”).

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:   Friends with Kids (2012) Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein), directs and stars in this film about two best friends who decide to have a child together but there's a twist:  they want to keep their relationship platonic.   Friends with Kids Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Safe House

My View:  Safe House (2012) A young, inexperienced CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) is in charge of a remote safe house. His world is changed when a legendary criminal (Denzel Washington) becomes his prisoner. The safe house comes under attack, and he has to move his prisoner to a new location. I enjoyed the interplay between Reynolds and Washington, but this film is extremely predictable, and I really didn’t like the “shaky-cam” action sequences. It’s always fun to watch Denzel be the bad guy.  I just wish this film had a few more twists and turns to its plot.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Safe House Website

My View The Vow (2012) A newly married couple (Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams) are in a car accident and, when she recovers from a coma, the wife doesn’t remember anything that has happened in the last few years, including all her time with her husband. So, now he must try and court her again to win the heart of the woman, his wife, who now doesn't know him. This film is based on a true story and is not a Nicholas Sparks book (The NotebookMessage in a Bottle), but it plays exactly like one. The biggest problem this movie has is that McAdams doesn’t do much more than act either mad or confused, and the film asks Tatum to carry more of the acting load, a job he isn’t quite up to doing.  I watched this film  while I was sitting next to two twenty-something girls who started crying 5 minutes into the film, and they didn’t stop until the film ended. So, between that, and the fact that Tatum takes off his shirt 6 times (7 if you include a photo of himself shirtless that the camera lingers on in one shot), I believe the film hits its target audience (twenty something girls, gay men, etc.).   My Rating: Cable   The Vow Website

Family FareJourney 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) A young man (Sean Anderson) gets a mysterious coded signal from his grandfather (Michael Caine) and sets out with his step-father (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to find the Mysterious Island that Jules Verne wrote about. They crash on the island in a helicopter and set out, along with the helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) to find the grandfather. The island is full of giant bees, tiny elephants, and humongous lizards (which The Rock punches in the face) that they encounter in their travels. This is a horrible film with bad special effects, hardly any use of 3-D and equally bad overacting complete with a storyline that will bore all ages.  Let’s sum it up this way:  this is a film where The Rock sings, not once, but twice, What A Wonderful World….no it’s not Rock,  not if your going to make a film like this.  Note:  There is a fun Warner Brothers cartoon before the film called Daffy's Rhapsody.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Journey 2: The Mysterious Island Website

The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
26th Best Film
The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Directed by John Ford (for which he won an Oscar), this is a tale of hardship and redemption as we follow a family who are kicked off their land in the “Dust Bowl” through their travels across America to the promised land of California.  The family, though, finds that even when things appear to be better, there are still hard times ahead. Henry Fonda, in one of his best roles, is brilliant as the oldest son, who tries to fight for his family and his fellow man against the odds.  This is a deeply moving film that is heartwarming one minute and heartbreaking in another.  A timeless film for the ages.   The Grapes of Wrath Info

Forgotten Film:  Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) In a modern-day telling of the Daniel Defoe tale, instead of a ship-wreck in the ocean, an astronaut (played by Paul Mantee) crash lands on Mars and must learn to survive on a barren and hostile planet with only a monkey (who was along for experiments in space) as his companion. This is a beautiful film, full of rich colors, and the film plays out much like the original book.  Crusoe may think he is alone on this planet, but there may be other inhabitants, some who may want him dead.   My Rating:  Full Price   Robinson Crusoe on Mars Info

In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):  The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I  Bella and Edward are getting married! Who’s coming to the wedding? Where will they honeymoon? Will Bella survive the honeymoon night of lovemaking with a vampire? If you want answers to these questions and more, see the film.  If not, stay far, far away from this film.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   The Twilight Saga Website

In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Seems Like a Bad Idea):  Act of Valor (2012)  A film about a team of Navy SEALS who go on a mission to rescue an American agent. The film stars real Navy SEALS, so don’t think the acting will be the top priority of the film.   Plus it’s from the same people who gave you Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer and Shark Night 3D.   Act of Valor Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: Mr. Johnson’s Hair Stylist (His head is bald in this film.)

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012) Many critics were shocked and outraged that Tilda Swinton didn’t get an Academy Award nomination from this film about a mother who deals with the fact that her son went on a killing spree at a local high school.   We Need to Talk About Kevin Website
Until Next Time!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Big Miracle

Family Fare:  Big Miracle  (2012)  Based on a true story, this film is about a TV reporter (played by John Krasinski) in a small, far-north Alaskan town, who discovers that three grey whales are trapped by rapidly forming ice.  He recruits his ex-girlfriend (played by Drew Barrymore), a Greenpeace worker, to help mount a rescue effort.  I enjoyed this film, which has a smartly-written script and a great exceptional supporting cast including Ted Danson, Stephen Root and Kathy Baker, which makes this film cut above many of the other "family friendly" films.  Sure, it tugs at the heartstrings and Drew gets a little schmaltzy in her effort to get people to care about the whales, but ultimately it hits the mark and makes you want to root for whales and the people who try to save them.  There is a nice touch at the end credits where we see the actual news reports about the whales, and the people behind this rescue are featured.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Big Miracle Website
Indyfest (A Look at a Small, Indie or Foreign Film):  The Iron Lady (2012)  A look at the incredible life of Margaret Thatcher, who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom through, what seems to be, just sheer will and determination.  Meryl Streep is marvelous in the role, but I wish the writing was up to her acting standards.  The film is told through flashbacks as Thatcher is near the end of her life, and most of these flashbacks are brought about by conversations that Thatcher has with the ghost of her late husband (played by Jim Broadvent).  The conversations make the film seem, at times, a little silly and very stagey.  I would have been much happier with a conventional storyline.  Streep, though, is the reason to see this film, and she is outstanding in her performance.  My Rating:  Cable   The Iron Lady Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#26 Worst Film
Hercules In New York (1969)  This was Arnold Schwarzenegger's first film, and his accent was so thick that a different actor dubbed all his lines. Schwarzenegger plays the mythical strongman becomes bored of Mt. Olympus and decides that taking a trip to see the sights of New York would be fun.  This film is supposed to be a comedy, with the fish out of water Hercules trying to live in NYC, but saying that this film stinks like a 3 day-old fish is an understatement.    Hercules In New York Info
Forgotten Film:  My Life as a Dog (1985)  This Swedish film is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who went on to direct such films as The Cider House RulesChocolat.  Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius) is a troubled 12 year-old boy, whose mother, is terminally ill, but he doesn't know it.  When the boy becomes too much to handle, he is separated from his brother and sent to live with his uncle in a small town in the country.  The town is full of eccentric characters, and the boy, who sometimes acts like a dog, fits right in.  This is a strange and charming film about how to deal with the loss of a loved one seen through the eyes of a very unusual person, a boy whom you grow to love by the end of the film.  My Rating:  Full Price   My Life as a Dog Info
In Case You Missed it (A Film Just Released on DVD)Drive (2011) A lot of critics put this film on their top ten list, but I wasn't as crazy about it because I feel Ryan Gosling wasn't quite up to playing the part of the part-time stunt driver, who moonlights as a getaway driver.  I am still shocked that Albert Brooks didn't get an Oscar nomination for his brilliant performance as a crime boss who is not afraid to "get his hands dirty."  My Rating:  Cable   Drive Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): The Dictator (2012)  It's never a good sign when you see a trailer for a comedy and you don't laugh once.  I am not a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen (I am still convinced that he is the reason I didn't love Hugo), and I don't think I will like this story of a dictator of a small Middle Eastern country who will try anything to stay in power.   The Dictator Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Big Miracle:  Whale Construction Designer

Coming Soon to A Theatre Near You:  Salmon Fishing in The Yemen  (2012)  Ewan McGregor plays a fisheries expert who is contracted by a publicist to help a sheik realize his dream of creating a place in the desert for fly-fishing.  The very cute Emily Blunt plays the love interest, and that would be enough of a reason to see this film, but it's also getting a lot of good press from the film festival circuit. Salmon Fishing in Yemen Website 
Until Next Time!