Sunday, January 30, 2011

'The Mechanic' Trailer

The Mechanic

Film: The Mechanic

Starring: Jason Statham (The Expendables and Snatch) and Ben Foster (The Messenger and Alpha Dog)

Director: Simon West (Con Air)

U.S. Release: 2011 (Rated R)

Genre: Action

Runtime: 92 minutes

Combining one of the most type-casted actors (Jason Statham) with one of the most underrated young actors (Ben Foster), The Mechanic is definitely an intriguing film. Director Simon West, best known for Con Air, once again tries tackling the action genre with this remake. And yes, I said remake. As you may not have known, the original The Mechanic (starring Charles Bronson) came out in 1972, and was generally enjoyed by the public audience. Nowadays, the "remake" tag seems to be a death wish (no pun intended for and Charles Bronson fans) for new releases. Truth be told, I've never seen the original. However, if 2011's The Mechanic is starring Ben Foster, how bad can it be?

Arthur Bishop (played by Statham) is a hitman. Just don't tell him that. Bishop refers to himself as "a mechanic". A man who fixes situations. Precision is his job, but it becomes difficult when the reckless Steve McKenna (played by Foster) wants Bishop to teach him the trade. Since Steve's late father, Harry McKenna (played by Donald Sutherland), was Arthur's mentor, it's difficult for him to refuse. While Steve learns all the tricks of the trade, Bishop has some discoveries of his own. After completing a difficult job, Arthur finds out he was mislead by his employer. Desperate to seek vengeance, Steve and Bishop attempt to settle the score.

Entertaining to the core, The Mechanic offers great action sequences and strong acting. With a mere 92 minute runtime, the film flows nicely. Never boring or drawn out, Simon West once again crafts an easy watch. However, you always have to take the good with the bad. Keeping the film short and to the point, The Mechanic contains a few noticeable holes in the plot. Furthermore, Steve's transformation from a rugged young man to a legitimate hitman seems to happen instantly. Showing the audience Steve's development into a meticulous killer would have been an interesting angle, yet Simon West fails to do so. At its conclusion, it's evident that Foster and Statham's solid performances couldn't blanket all of The Mechanic's mistakes.

If you're a true fan of the action genre, there's plenty to enjoy here. However, if you're looking for a stellar plot and a well crafted picture, this is not it. The Mechanic is strictly a mediocre movie, and I'd personally suggest waiting for DVD.

Stars: 2 out of 4.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Watch the Official The Green Hornet Trailer in HD

The Green Hornet

Film: The Green Hornet

Starring: Seth Rogen (Funny People and Knocked Up) and Cameron Diaz (My Sister's Keeper and Vanilla Sky)

Director: Michel Condry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind)

U.S. Release: 2011 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Action

Runtime: 108 Minutes

Whether you are aware of it or not, the (somewhat) new Action/Comedy The Green Hornet has a cult following. Based on a popular comic book series, the film follows a Batman-esque approach as the main character uses his large inheritance to try and fight crime, with a twist. There's nothing "super" about the slacker-turned hero, instead his nifty gadgets get him out of the occasional predicament. When the announcement of the film's release was made at Comicon, its anticipation grew immediately. However, it's safe to say that I wasn't one of those fans eagerly awaiting The Green Hornet's release. Instead, I went into the showing completely blind to the backstory.

The Green Hornet opens with a young Britt Reid (played by Rogen) being scolded by his father after a school yard fight. Even though the child lost his mother at a young age, his father James (played by Tom Wilkinson) still neglects him. James runs The Sentinel, a prestigious newspaper, and quality father-son time doesn't factor into his lifestyle. In the meantime, Britt continues to grow up a rowdy, good for nothing parasite. Living off of his father's dime, Britt is unemployed and out of school. However, when his father shockingly passes away from an allergic reaction to a bee sting, Britt is left to head The Sentinel. Lonely and overwhelmed, Britt befriends his father's ex-employee Kato (played by Jay Chou), and they have an very unique bond. They take their twisted superhero approach to the streets and create quite the stir.

The Green Hornet is a fun film that has an inevitably low ceiling. Despite my reservations going in, I left the theatre feeling as though the film slightly surpassed my expectations. With occasional laugh-out-loud humor, the movie is certainly entertaining, yet far from groundbreaking. It's hard to see Rogen as a believable superhero, but he does a decent job convincing the audience. Jay Chou's fantastic action sequences are pivotal to the film as well.

It was a bit of a surprise discovering Michel Gondry directed the film. Best known for his independent masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Gondry demonstrates his versatility with The Green Hornet. However, I must note that Cameron Diaz was miscast for her role as Britt's attractive and intelligent secretary Lenore Case. Easily one of the biggest downfalls of the movie, Diaz brings nothing to the film. Lenore's character is essential to the story, and Diaz was a glaring weakness.

Mostly mediocre in every regard, I suggest waiting for DVD. The Green Hornet is entertaining and comedic to say the least, but it by no means breaks the mold. It's very difficult to create something fresh and innovative in the superhero genre. The Green Hornet attempts to, but it doesn't quite reach that peak.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 Academy Awards (Oscars) Outlook: Snubs and Surprises

With all the glitz and glamour that comes along with being a Hollywood celebrity, the Academy Awards are an actor's way of gauging his or her ability. Sure the money is nice (and the paparazzi isn't), but deep down we all just want to be recognized as the best at what we do. Whether it's a teacher, a physician, or even an A-List actor. So you can bet your bottom dollar that all ears were perked up when the Oscar nominations were announced this morning. The Super Bowl of the awards season, an Academy Award is what every actor and actress dreams of winning. Sure the Golden Globes are a nice touch, but it doesn't quite pack the same punch as an Oscar's victory.

First and foremost, you can find a full list of ALL nominees at the following website:

It's no exaggeration when I say I spend A LOT of time watching movies. I'm nearing 100 titles released in 2010 alone. That being said, it's still a long ways off from the 240 titles submitted for this year's Oscar contention (foreign films included). Despite only seeing about 40% of all submitted films, there's only one movie that's nominated for a major category that I haven't seen (Biutiful). So allow me to do what I do best, and offer my opinion on this year's Snubs and Surprises for the 2011 Academy Awards.

The Surprises:

The first major surprise I noticed was Javier Bardem's Best Lead Actor nomination for his film Biutiful. All early indicators are that the film is excellent and Bardem is truly brilliant in it. He plays a father whose life is in a free fall as he battles back on a road to redemption. Bardem's Eat Pray Love co-star Julia Roberts even lobbied for his nomination.

Taking a page out of the Golden Globe's book, another huge shocker came from John Hawkes' nomination for his supporting role in the 2010 Sundance Winner Winter's Bone. His performance was stellar, yet such recognition is unwarranted. With this one, Hawkes benefits from the Academy's desire to acknowledge one of the year's best independent films.

Not as much of a surprise here, but many would argue that Mark Ruffalo's role in The Kids Are All Right is far from Oscar worthy. He was above average, but there were many other notable Best Supporting Actor performances out there this year. The film's multiple Golden Globe wins definitely sealed the deal for his nomination.

The Snubs:

More so out of personal spite, I am amazed to see Robert Duvall overshadowed in the Best Lead Actor category. He was magnificent in this year's most-snubbed film Get Low. Without receiving a single nomination, my personal pick for best film of the year definitely deserved some sort of recognition. Many believed Get Low would receive it with its brightest star, Duvall, sneaking a nomination. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

The Best Director category was overflowing with worthy candidates. However, the Oscars get it wrong this time. With one of the year's most talked about films, Inception, how could its established director Christopher Nolan go unnoticed? Many expected him to be a frontrunner alongside David Fincher, however, the academy has left Nolan out of the running. Clearly a mistake.

Another deserving director is Danny Boyle for his film 127 Hours. The film centers around a stationary character, and Boyle does a standout job keeping the audience's attention. With James Franco as Boyle's one trick pony, he managed to offer a more enjoyable film then most of his nominated peers. For instance, David O. Russell had a brilliant cast (Bale, Leo, Adams, and Wahlberg), yet his film fails to offer the same substance as Boyle's.

Moving on to the Best Supporting Actress category, it's hard to imagine Mila Kunis being left out of the race. Her gritty two-faced portrayal in Darren Aronofsky's psycho-drama thriller Black Swan was excellent. After the credits role and you have an understanding of what actually happens in the film, Kunis' performance becomes even more accomplished.

Finally, a less shocking snub goes out to Andrew Garfield for his role in The Social Network. As Eduardo Saverin, the initial financier of Facebook, Garfield exemplifies the only strong-moralled character in the entire film. The soft spoken, innocent bystander that experiences greed and betrayal first hand. Many expected him to be nominated, despite being overlooked.

What we know now, post nominations:

The Social Network has been nothing short of a freight train pummeling its competition for Best picture. The ten nominated films were all what I expected, and now that we've seen this year's nominees, we could have a big upset on our hands. David Fincher's film is strong in every regard, but a few other titles surprised us with their bulk of nominations. The Social Network could be this year's Avatar (losing in Best Director and Best Picture).

One of the other two films alongside of The Social Network receiving a ton of recognition is David O. Russell's The Fighter. Having been quite down on the film myself, I was surprised by all of the nominations it received by the academy. Perhaps it could dethrone The Social Network, but I honestly doubt it. The Fighter will get plenty of wins in other big categories, most likely Best Supporting Actor (Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Leo or Adams). However, the chances of O. Russell winning Best Director or the film itself winning Best Picture is a little far fetched.

The true underdog to watch out for is Tom Hooper's brilliant film The King's Speech. The film contains everything the academy looks for in a movie. Charming characters, witty dialogue, strong acting, and wonderful direction. After seeing the lofty number of nominations for The King's Speech, my first thought was watch out for this one. I was remarkably surprised by The Hurt Locker's Best Picture win last year, but it showed me something. The academy wants to differentiate itself from the Golden Globes. By acknowledging The King's Speech over The Social Network, the academy certainly would do so.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Way Back Movie Trailer Official (HD)

The Way Back

Film: The Way Back

Starring: Jim Sturgess (21 and Across the Universe), Ed Harris (Gone Baby Gone and A Beautiful Mind), and Colin Farrell (In Bruges and Crazy Heart)

Director: Peter Weir (The Truman Show and Dead Poets Society)

U.S. Release: 2010 (limited release), 2011 (wide release) and rated PG-13

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 133 minutes

It was almost three months ago (November, 2010) when I first heard about Peter Weir's epic tale The Way Back. I was skimming an article about films on the Oscar's radar, and I was surprised to come across a title I hadn't heard about. I looked into it a little further, and I decided it was something I needed to see. As the trend has gone lately, the end of the calendar year brings the most talked about films to theatres everywhere. The Way Back is no exception.

Set during the early stages of World War II, The Way Back follows a group of prisoners as they escape an internment camp and trek over 4,000 miles to freedom. Germany invaded Poland from the west, and Russia invaded it from the east. As we all know, the alliance of communist juggernauts began conquering most of Eastern Europe and Asia. Some of the most brutal prisons in recorded history existed in Siberia. It's no surprise to hear that countless prisoners (whether they deserved imprisonment or not) tried desperately to escape these harsh conditions. Despite many valiant efforts, most of these escapees wound up being caught or freezing to death in the blistering cold. The Way Back tells the rare story of a group of survivors who defeated the odds.

Peter Weir is a highly regarded director. Some may argue that he's a bit over appreciated (me being one of them), but nonetheless his credentials are hard to overlook. Couple this prominent director with an all-star cast (Sturgess, Harris, and Farrell), and you'd figure to have an unforgettable film. That's exactly what many critics and writers anticipated. However, The Way Back is just another run of the mill persecution/survival tale. Far from epic, it's a pretty bland script with a sprinkle of clever dialogue. The film is far from the timeless classic many expected it to be.

Almost certain to go unrecognized during tomorrow's Oscar nominations, The Way Back does have a few bright spots. The film contains strong acting and solid character development. Also, its 2 hour and 13 minute runtime is surprisingly easy to sit through. However, the biggest flaw with The Way Back is that it fails to offer any memorable scenes. Thus leaving the film much closer to mediocre than iconic.

The Way Back finds itself only playing in select theatres, but I still recommend waiting for its DVD release, if anything. This certainly isn't a film worth going out of your way to see.

Stars: 2 out of 4.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Movie Critic Dave's 2010 Awards

With the Oscars quickly approaching and the Golden Globes having come and gone, I decided to announce my personal picks for the 2010 cinematic year. Based solely on my personal opinion, I'll be selecting the top 5 (in order) for each of the following categories: Best Picture, Best Lead Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.

I've seen almost 100 films released in 2010, but have missed a few notable titles. Some of the more raved about films I haven't seen this past year are: Barney's Version, Frankie and Alice, Another Year, Made in Dagenham, and Animal Kingdom. Those aside, I still have a very strong assortment of titles to choose from. So without further adieu, my selections are:

Best Supporting Actor

#5) Bill Murray - Get Low

#4) Jeremy Renner - The Town

#3) Sam Rockwell - Conviction

#2) Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech

and the winner is ...

#1) Christian Bale - The Fighter

Bale gave an excellent portrayal as the drug-addicted brother of Micky Ward, Dickie Eklund, in the boxing tale The Fighter.

Best Supporting Actress

#5) Mila Kunis - Black Swan

#4) Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit

#3) Kristin Scott Thomas - Nowhere Boy

#2) Melissa Leo - The Fighter

and the winner is ...

#1) Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech

She was superb as the backbone of King George VI during the origins of World War II. It's the best she's ever been.

Best Screenplay

#5) Simon Beaufoy & Danny Boyle - 127 Hours

#4) Joel & Ethan Coen - True Grit

#3) David Seidler - The King's Speech

#2) Christopher Nolan - Inception

and the winner is ...

#1) Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network

With fantastic dialogue and one of the most entertaining scripts of the year, Sorkin captivated audiences with his story about the origins of Facebook.

Best Lead Actor

#5) Jeff Bridges - True Grit

#4) Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network

#3) Colin Firth - The King's Speech

#2) Robert Duvall - Get Low

and the winner is ...

#1) James Franco - 127 Hours

Franco delivers a brilliant portrayal of outdoor enthusiast Aron Ralston who found himself in a life or death situation when his right arm was trapped in a canyon in Utah.

Best Lead Actress

#5) Michelle Williams- Blue Valentine

#4) Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right

#3) Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone

#2) Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole

and the winner is ...

#1) Natalie Portman - Black Swan

Portman is the centerpiece of the dark thriller Black Swan that follows a dedicated dancer trying to give a convincing role as the lead in her company's production of Swan lake.

Best Director

#5) Joel & Ethan Coen - True Grit

#4) Danny Boyle - 127 Hours

#3) Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan

#2) David Fincher - The Social Network

and the winner is ...

#1) Christopher Nolan - Inception

Nolan's futuristic thriller about shared dreaming created a world we've never seen before. He challenged the audience and stirred up controversy, all while generating huge ticket sales. He's the hands down winner.

Best Picture

#5) The King's Speech

#4) 127 Hours

#3) The Social Network

#2) Inception

and the winner is ...

#1) Get Low

The perfect combination of a solid story and top-notch acting, Get Low follows a local hermit, Felix Bush (played by Duvall) in 1930's Tennessee. Mr. Bush decides he wants to have a funeral while he's living, and a big incentive attracts a large gathering to this spectacle. But as Felix's true interior motive unravels, we finally get to hear his story.

'No Strings Attached' Trailer HD

No Strings Attached

Film: No Strings Attached

Starring: Natalie Portman (Black Swan and Closer) and Ashton Kutcher (The Guardian and The Butterfly Effect)

Director: Ivan Reitman (Kindergarten Cop and Ghost Busters)

U.S. Release: 2011 (rated R)

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 108 minutes

It's fair to say that Ivan Reitman has somewhat fallen from grace. Outside of producing a few hits like Up in the Air and Old School (and we know how little producing can entail), Reitman hasn't directed anything of note since his 1993 semi-hit Dave. Perhaps reuniting with Kevin Kline, as he does in his latest film No Strings Attached, could help restore Reitman to the same glory he once had in the 80's and early 90's.

Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) have a history. Ever since they were teenagers together at a camp, the pair has had an almost cosmic connection. Randomly crossing paths from time to time, their chemistry immediately seems obvious. When they both reach exhausting times in their lives, a drunk text leads them together again. One passionate evening leads to an ongoing friends with benefits scenario for the destined pair. Can such a situation really work? And if it can't, will it end well?

No Strings Attached tries too hard to dissect this ironic lust to love predicament. The first 45 minutes are undeniably filled with vulgar, yet laugh out loud humor. However, after the film's initial comedic punch, it begins to take a nose dive with its unconvincing emotional storyline. Portman and Kutcher are both proven actors with plenty of successful romantic-comedy experience, yet even these two stars can't help mask the poor script and prolonged ending. Not only is the writing bad, but Reitman forces multiple flat storylines to go alongside Emma and Adam's strange relationship.

No Strings Attached would have been better off sticking to the comedy and laying off of the cliche dialogue and pseudo-iconic tone. There was a ray of hope with its side characters Eli (Jake Johnson) and Patrice (Greta Gerwig), but ultimately Reitman disregarded their contribution and returned to the same, overdone boy meets girl story that we're use to. It felt like a bad 80's chick-flick. Unless you're absolutely forced to see it by your significant other, I recommend trying to avoid this sub par romantic comedy.

Stars: 1.5 out of 4.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Trailer: Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine: Where Do I Begin?

Film: Blue Valentine

Starring: Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson and The Notebook) and Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain and Shutter Island)

Director: Derek Cianfrance (Brother Tied)

U.S. Release: 2010 (limited), 2011 (wide) - Rated R

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 112 minutes

Desperate to blog about my personal picks for 2010's major motion picture awards, I couldn't write it until I saw Blue Valentine. Now that I've finally seen it, you should expect my blog later this week. Now, back to the film. There's quite a big backstory to the widely regarded Indie hit Blue Valentine. While circuiting the festival scene, Cianfrance's sophomore release garnered an NC-17 rating. The movie's studio refused to push the film until it dropped down to an R rating. After a long dispute and various minor changes, finally the film rating board granted Blue Valentine its wish. The studio has placed the movie on a somewhat wide release, and as the old saying goes, "the rest is history".

Crafted as a non-chronological piece, Blue Valentine spans the relationship of a working class couple living in Scranton, Pa. The film centers around an evening spent by Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams) in hopes of saving their crumbling marriage. Dean's a content man who sees his job painting houses as a luxury (it allows him to crack a beer open at 8am), while Cindy is a nurse who wishes more out of her husband. Once deeply connected by passion, the couple finds themselves emotionally distant and in dire need of a change. But can a romantic getaway simply solve their problems?

Blue Valentine is such a realistic depiction of love found and love lost. Cindy's character has a bit of dialogue that beautifully captures the whole essence of the film. While discussing the topic of love, she asks her grandmother (allow me to slightly paraphrase) "how can you trust your feelings, when they can change on you so quickly". Cianfrance does a wonderful job showing us origins of love and how real and authentic they can be. However, in the end, it's up to the individuals to make it work. And if not, "Sometimes love just ain't enough".

Gosling and Williams are two young artists with such amazing talent. If you had told me it was reality television, I may have believed you. One part of the film is so emblematic of their talents. While shooting a scene on a bridge, Cianfrance asked the pair to do some improvisation. Cindy (Williams) has just discovered she's pregnant, but doesn't want to tell her boyfriend Dean (Gosling). Desperate to know what's troubling her, Cianfrance instructed Gosling to do whatever is necessary to get the secret out of her. As the camera rolls with no safety net in place, Gosling climbs up and over the fence of the bridge. In true danger as he's dangling hundreds of feet above the water, Williams, obviously convinced, breaks down and tells him the troubling news. It's a very powerful scene that perfectly depicts Gosling's abilty.

Despite its convincing gritty and raw nature, Blue Valentine is not a film for everyone. The characters are flawed as human beings. Their flaws are evident to the audience, but not to each other. Witnessing their stubbornness on screen can be draining at times, but it's essential to the story. Their inability to listen or change is what's transformed their love to resentment.

If you enjoy a good indie flick, and if you can handle the little nuances of these imperfect characters, I definitely recommend Blue Valentine.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4.

Grade: B

Golden Globes Wrap-Up: 3 Things We Learned

The camera began zooming out as host Ricky Gervais said "Good Night" to the star-filled audience gathered in the illustrious Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles. Typically, the day after a major awards ceremony like the Golden Globes, people spend more time discussing fashion than the real implications of the winners. With the Oscars only a month away, the Golden Globes clearly will have an impact on who wins or losses those major Academy Award races.

In 2009, of the 6 major categories (Best Lead Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, Best Director, Best Picture), the Golden Globes and Oscars shared 4 winners. The only difference was the Golden Globes rewarded Avatar for Best Picture and Director (James Cameron), while the Academy granted wins to The Hurt Locker and its director Kathryn Bigelow. Hence, we better expect last night's ceremony to greatly influence next month's biggest award show.

For the record here were the Major winners last night:

Best Picture - Drama: The Social Network
Best Picture - Comedy or Musical: The Kids Are All Right
Best Actor - Drama: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
Best Actor - Comedy or Musical: Paul Giamatti (Barney's Version)
Best Actress- Drama: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Best Actress - Comedy or Musical: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Best Director: David Fincher (The Social Network)
Best Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Film: In A Better World (Denmark)
Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
Best Original Score: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (The Social Network)

The Social Network ruled the evening with 4 wins, clearly making it the frontrunner for the Oscars. Despite its pair of wins, I don't expect The Kid's Are All Right to fare well in February. However, The Fighter, the underdog who also took home a pair of wins, could possibly pull off the upset.

There were few surprises from some of the closer races. Ultimately, the Golden Globes unfolded exactly as expected (I went 10 for 10 on my predictions blog). That being the case, there are 3 major things we learned as we approach the stretch run to the Oscars.

#1) The Social Network is unstoppable. For a while, people had it slightly ahead of The King's Speech, but a tight race nonetheless. Yet, with back to back wins at The Critics Choice Awards and now The Golden Globes, it's almost a certainty that it's going to win Best Picture next month. Bet the farm on it,

#2) Much like The Social Network, Best Supporting Actress nominee Melissa Leo (The Fighter) will reap the benefits of back to back wins. Having also taken home the the hardware at The Critics Choice Awards and The Golden Globes, Leo heads into the Oscar race as the clear frontrunner ( to the disliking of her fellow co-star Amy Adams and Helena Bonham Carter).

#3) Finally, with all due respect to Christopher Nolan (director of Inception), it's looking like his hopes of an Academy Award are dwindling daily. David Fincher (The Social Network) held a slight edge in their race, but his victory over Nolan last night may have sealed the deal. Although, if the Academy wants to differ a little from the Golden Globes, I could see Nolan being the appropriate upset winner.

Gear up, and I'll be back soon my Oscar predictions and snubs.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Last Minute Golden Globe Predictions: and the winner is ...

Tonight marks the 68th annual Golden Globe Awards. The ceremony acknowledges outstanding performances, direction, and writing for Television and Film alike. And although I know it's rather last minute, I thought I'd throw a few predictions out there for who the big winners will be tonight.

Just to clarify, I will only be picking a few of the major cinematic categories. Sorry for all you Dexter and Man Men fans out there, I'm staying away from the television competitions. So here are my predictions for this year's Golden Globes:

Best Motion Picture - Drama

The Social Network

David Fincher's real life story of the origins of Facebook has been sweeping the awards circuit, and I predict its reign to continue tonight.

Best Lead Actor - Drama

Colin Firth (The King's Speech)

It wasn't too long ago when The King's Speech was the front runner for Best Picture. The tides have turned, but the film will find due recognition in Firth's victory.

Best Lead Actor - Comedy or Musical

Paul Giamatti (Barney's Version)

He's the only performance I didn't see this year, but I wasn't a fan of the others (excluding Kevin Spacey). He wins by default.

Best Lead Actress - Drama

Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

Who would've ever imagined a film about ballet creating such a stir? Due to an outstanding performance by Portman, Black Swan truly is a must see film.

Best Lead Actress - Comedy or Musical

Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)

As much as I loved Emma Stone, the clear front runner here is Bening. She gave a solid performance in this slightly over-hyped tale of a lesbian couple raising a pair of teenagers.

For time's sake, the rest of my predictions are:

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale (The Fighter)

Best Supporting Actress
: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
: The Kids Are All Right

Best Director:
David Fincher (The Social Network)

Best Animated Feature Film
: Toy Story 3

The NFL game should be finishing up right around 8pm ET when the Golden Globes start, so tune in and check out the ceremony. It's the first big step towards the Oscars. Enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blog Updates!

Happy 2011 everyone! I wanted to kick off the new year by giving everyone a little update on the blog. In an effort to become an official Online Critic for the movie website, I created an account on their website. After days of coordinating my Critic Profile on their site, I've finally managed to link it to my blog.

My Critic Profile at RottenTomatoes offers the same features as my blog and more. On my personal page, users can click the "ranking" icon and search for any movie title they'd like. If I've rated the movie (there's about 800 films listed), then my personal ranking will appear.

You can access my RottenTomatoes Profile Page by clicking the link on the right hand side of the page. Enjoy.

What to expect over the next month or two:

With 2010's awards season kicking off this month, I"ll be blogging on an assortment of topics.

First, I'll post my personal nominations and picks for 2010 using the 6 major categories (Best Lead Actor/Actress, Best Supporting Actor/Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture). Solely based on my own opinion.

Then, I will do my own 2010 Razzies. It will include the 6 same categories, all recognizing the worst films and performances last year had to offer.

And once the official Oscar Nominations are released, I'll be blogging on who I think will walk home with the hardware. Last year I went 5 out of 6 in the major categories (you can find it in the archives section to the right), so you won't want to miss that!

Finally, later this month into February I will be blogging about the vision of a director. I'm interviewing a local friend and filmmaker named Daniel Speers. Dan's taking the time out of his schedule to answer some of my questions and he's also invited me to come watch him shoot and direct his latest sci-fi picture. It will give me (and hopefully you) a better perspective about what goes through a director's mind, and some insight into the film making process. It should be very interesting, so stay tuned!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Country Strong

Film: Country Strong

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow (Shallow Hal and Seven), Garrett Hedlund (Four Brothers and Tron: Legacy), and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side)

Director: Shana Feste (The Greatest)

U.S. Release: 2010 (limited release) and 2011 (wide release - Rated PG-13)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 112 minutes

Country Strong's latest trailer reads "A Golden Globe Nominated Picture". To be fair, the movie actually did receive a nomination. To keep things in perspective, it's lone acknowledgement was for "Best Original Song in a Motion Picture". With a newbie director, Shana Feste, and an up and coming young cast, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical prior to viewing the film. Reviews for Country Strong have been overwhelmingly negative and I saw Feste's only other major release, The Greatest, earlier this year. I found her first picture to be heartfelt, but terribly over-dramatic and over-acted. Inevitably, I set the bar pretty low for the film. However, as I always do, I remained objective.

Country Strong centers around a Country music megastar named Kelly Canter (Paltrow). One year prior, Canter, who was five months pregnant at the time, tripped over a wire and fell off the stage during a concert in Dallas, TX. While being treated at the hospital, the doctors found she had a 0.19 blood-alcohol level. She was charged with Disorderly Conduct and sent to rehab (again). While in rehab, Canter meets a young, talented musician name Beau (Hedlund). When her husband/manager, James Canter (McGraw), arrives at the rehab facility to discharge her a month early, Beau clearly objects and senses trouble. Kelly, not fully treated, must get back on the road to do a short three show tour in Texas. Teamed with opening acts Chiles Stanton (played by Leighton Meeseter) and Beau's band, Kelly must face her demons all the way back to the big finale in Dallas.

Country Strong is very different from what I initially imagined. I was expecting something along the lines of the 2009 Academy Award winning film Crazy Heart, except with a female lead. Well it's safe to say Paltrow is no Jeff Bridges, but this film isn't a one-trick-pony. Filled with multiple story lines and main characters, Country Strong feels more like a 2 hour soap opera than a movie. Much like her role in the Mathematics based drama Proof, Paltrow once again shows she's an expert at overacting. I saw a similar effect in the director's other 2010 piece The Greatest. In that movie Susan Sarandon spends the entire film bawling her eyes out, and it's completely unnecessary. Country Strong contains many not-so-shocking similarities.

Despite its countless flaws with Paltrow, the plot, and the direction, Country Strong offers strong acting from its two male leads. Tim McGraw shows his range by pulling a complete 180 from his character in The Blind Side. When it comes to his prize possession, Kelly Canter, he is a manager first and a husband second. He has his reasons, which I won't give away, but McGraw is easily the antagonist in the film. As a major underlying theme in the movie, you can't have fame and love. At this point in their marriage, McGraw clearly chooses fame. Not all musicians can make it as an actor or actress in Hollywood, however McGraw clearly has a future on the big screen. Furthermore, Garrett Hedlund was excellent in the film as well. His character finds himself mixed up in this web of drama, yet it's evident that he's the only one who truly "gets it". In the end, the story is as much about Beau as it is about Kelly. Because of Hedlund and McGraw, the movie is tolerable.

Unless you're a huge fan of Country music I suggest shying away from this film. It's slightly below average, but tolerable. A few aspects of the film felt regurgitated, and there's at least 15 minutes that could be shaved from the film. All in all, Country Strong has very little to offer.

Stars: 1.5 stars out of 4.