Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 SAG Awards Recap: Surprises Galore!


At last evening's 18th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards we learned one thing and one thing only, almost no Oscar race is a safe bet. With 3 major wins at yesterday's ceremony, including a Best Female Actor (Viola Davis) and a Best Supporting Female Actor (Octavia Spencer), Tate Taylor's The Help has risen to the forefront. The summer blockbuster also managed to claim the highly regarded Best Ensemble category as well. Evident by its trio of victories, The Help proves to be a favorite among SAG members. Since the overlap of SAG and Academy members is large, The Help has clearly surpassed Alexander Payne's The Descendants as the main competitor for Best Picture frontrunner, The Artist.

Another notable surprise came in the Best Male Actor race. George Clooney (The Descendants) had been smooth sailing to February 26th's Academy Awards, but The Artist's Jean Dujardin spoiled the ride. Dujardin pulled off the major upset and it has left insiders uncertain of who will claim the Oscar. Furthermore, with consecutive precursor wins for Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Octavia Spencer, the two Supporting stars seem like the only safe bets for the Academy Awards. For a full recap of last evening's events, click here (courtesy of Matt Goldberg at Collider.com)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

DGA Winners and Tonight's SAG Awards


Every year, the race to the Oscars is a grueling, yet tactful, process. Major precursors like the Critics Choice and Golden Globe Awards are intended to create interesting match-ups for the Academy Awards. Then, between the Golden Globe Awards and the Oscars, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced their respective winners. The kicker being that these two groups have a more significant overlap of Academy members than any other voting bodies. Major Oscar races truly take shape with the DGA and SAG announcements. For example, very few insiders (emphasis on very) expected a Demian Bichir nomination for Best Actor. However, while watching tonight's SAG awards at 8PM on TBS and TNT, you'll notice Bichir was one of the 5 finalist in that very same category. Believe me, it's no coincidence.

With the DGA winners being announced last evening (for more coverage on the DGA awards click here) and the SAG awards happening tonight, this becomes a very telling weekend. Yesterday, the DGA's victor for Outstanding Directorial Achievement was given to The Artist's own Michael Hazanavicius. The win reaffirms that The Artist is the safe bet for Best Picture at the Oscars. With The Descendants steadily fading into the background and only a small amount of love still circling around The Help and Hugo, a SAG victory in the "Outstanding Performance by a Cast" category would all but solidify The Artist as this year's Best Picture winner. Therefore, be sure to tune in tonight for the 18th annual SAG awards to watch all the drama unfold live on stage.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Hangover 3 Update


Like most of you, I was extremely disappointed in this past summer's blockbuster sequel The Hangover 2. Being nothing more than a rehashed story with a new setting, I just about threw in the towel on the franchise. However, recent reports claim that director Todd Phillips has promised a second sequel to help close out the trilogy. The third installment, which may begin filming as early as September 2012, will branch out from the usual "night of forgotten debauchery" theme. Early rumors are speculating that The Hangover 3 will involve the old crew breaking Alan (played by Zach Galifianakis) out of a mental hospital. At this point, I'd take any storyline I haven't seen already.

Perhaps the biggest winners from The Hangover 3 announcement will be its trio of stars. Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, and Ed Helms have created a unified front and are asking the studio for $15 million each. After receiving $5 million a piece for the second film and under $1 million a piece for the The Hangover, it sounds like a major payday is in order for the stars of the franchise which has grossed over $500 million in box office sales. For more information on The Hangover 3, click here (courtesy of Adam Chitwood at Collider.com)

BRAKE - Official Trailer

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Man on a Ledge - Official Trailer [HD]

Man on a Ledge



Film: Man on a Ledge

Starring: Sam Worthington (Avatar), Elizabeth Banks (The Next Three Days), and Ed Harris (Gone Baby Gone)

Director: Asger Leth

U.S. Release: January 27th, 2012 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Thriller

Runtime: 102 minutes


Director Asger Leth was given the keys to the vault for his first major motion picture release, Man on a Ledge. Being financed by Summit Entertainment, Leth was given every resource imaginable to deliver the best possible finished project. His debut action thriller, which stars A-List actors Sam Worthington and Ed harris, couples a talented cast with a sizable $38 million budget. The bar has been set, and all Leth can do is wait and see what happens.

Man on a Ledge follows a former police officer turned fugitive named Nick Cassidy (played by Worthington) as he climbs out onto a hotel ledge in the middle of New York City. When law enforcement responds to the situation, Cassidy refuses to talk to any officer other than Lydia Mercer (played by Elizabeth Banks). However, the longer Mercer spends trying to talk Cassidy off of the hotel ledge, the more she senses that he has an ulterior motive.

Asger Leth's directorial debut proves to be a remarkably mediocre affair. Much like the movie's name, Man on a Ledge proves to be a bland, over-the-top piece of film making. For starters, the feature's plot causes the viewer to ask more questions than the movie can answer. And as the film steadily progresses, the movie resolves in an incomprehensible fashion. Although Man on a Ledge manages to keep the story intriguing, its culmination is beyond believable. As a result, Man on a Ledge losses credibility as a plausible feature.

In addition to its inconceivable flow of events, the film offers a poor usage of one of its central characters. Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks do enough to keep the movie enticing, however, the pair of leads fail to carry the movie to another level. Also, Ed Harris co-stars as the film's primary antagonist, David Englander. Englander's character is completely under-utilized and far from impressionable. If properly used, a four time Academy Award nominee such as Ed Harris is capable of great things. Yet, Leth and Man on a Ledge's writer, Pablo Fenjves, miss out on the opportunity.

Notwithstanding each of the detectable flaws in Man on a Ledge, the film still serves as a suitable source of entertainment. This action-packed thrill ride contains its fair share of laughs and adrenaline-pumping scenes. With a runtime barely passing 100 minutes, Man on a Ledge begins and ends without a yawn.

As it turns out, mediocrity reigns supreme in Asger Leth's debut effort, Man on a Ledge. The film is sure to entertain, yet the movie relies too heavily on that bright spot. Otherwise, it's story is far from believable and all too unconvincing. Man on a Ledge has almost no depth and it offers little more than being an easy watch. I recommend waiting for the DVD.


Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2012 Oscar Nominations: Snubs & Surprises



It's finally arrived. At about 8:40 am (Eastern Time) 2011 Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence took the stage alongside the president of the Academy and announced the 2012 Oscar nominees. As it happens every year, the Academy offered plenty of snubs and surprises with its nominations (click here for a full list of nominees, courtesy of Indiewire.com). Martin Scorsese's Hugo topped the field with 11 combined nominations and the Best Picture frontrunner, The Artist, tried to keep pace with 10 nominations of its own. Congratulations are in order for all of the nominees, but what everyone will be talking about is the snubs and surprises. Here are today's most notable shockers:


SNUB: Michael Fassbender (Best Actor) - Shame

After garnering a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor (although he missed out on a SAG), very few insiders expected Michael Fassbender to be left off of the list. Shame's NC-17 rating aside, Fassbender was extraordinary in his role as a sex addicted professional living in New York City. Also in the Best Actor category, longshot Michael Shannon gave a beyond worthy performance in the indie thriller Take Shelter. These two fine actors deserved a much better outcome than the one they received.


SURPRISE: Demian Bichir (Best Actor) - A Better Life

As an unfair world reminds us, one man's loss is another man's gain. In the Best Actor race, A Better Life's Demian Bichir is the surprise winner. The underdog, who did receive a SAG nomination over Fassbender, was one of this morning's most shocking nominees. But in all fairness to Bichir, I haven't watched the vastly under-seen film A Better Life (you can be sure it's moved to the top of my "must see" list).


SNUB: Albert Brooks (Best Supporting Actor) and the film Drive

It wasn't so long ago that the Best Supporting Actor category was Albert Brooks' race to lose. Brooks gave a spot on performance as the antagonist in Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive. Alongside Brooks and his entire cast and crew, Drive was the most snubbed film of the year. It's lone nomination came in the Best Sound Editing category, which is almost laughable.


SURPRISE: Max von Sydow (Best Supporting Actor) and the Best Picture nominee Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

At the expense of Albert Brooks, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close co-star Max von Sydow walked away with a Best Supporting Actor nomination. In similar fashion to this year's black and white silent film, The Artist, Max von Sydow garnered a nomination without even speaking a word. Even more surprising than his recognition was the Best Picture nomination handed out to his film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Steven Spielberg's War Horse and Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life were also other somewhat shocking inclusions to the Best Picture race.


SNUB: Tilda Swinton (Best Actress) - We Need to Talk About Kevin

Perhaps the most outrageous snub, in my opinion, was Tilda Swinton being overlooked in the Best Actress category. Her role in the psychological tailspin We Need to Talk About Kevin was explosive and, by all means, groundbreaking. Without taking anything away from the excellent on screen work of Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Glenn Close (although I have yet to see Albert Nobbs), Swinton and Best Actress nominee Viola Davis (The Help) were in a league of their own this year. It's a shame to see such an amazing piece of film like We Need to Talk About Kevin go completely unrecognized by the Academy.


What do you think were the biggest snubs and surprises with the 2012 Oscar nominations? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

Monday, January 23, 2012

CARNAGE Trailer 2011 - Official [HD]

Carnage



Film: Carnage

Starring: Kate Winslet (Contagion), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids) and Jodie Foster (The Beaver)

Director: Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer)

U.S. Release: December 16th, 2011 (Limited - Rated R)

Genre: Comedy

Runtime: 80 minutes


In the late 1960s and early 1970s director Roman Polanski walked taller than just about anyone. With award winning films such as Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown, Polanski was virtually untouchable. However, in 1977 everything changed for the acclaimed director. After being arrested for sexual abuse of a 13 year old girl and pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, Polanski fled to London and eventually settled in France to avoid further sentencing. The director's career took an inevitable hit, and many believed Polanski would never reach such heights again. Yet, his 2002 masterpiece, The Pianist, took home 3 Oscar wins including a Best Director nod for Polanksi himself. Since his 2002 conquest, Polanski has managed to string together some well regarded films, including his latest work, Carnage.

Carnage is a comedy set against the backdrop of a school yard skirmish that ends with Zachary Cowan hitting Ethan Longstreet in the face with a tree limb. But when the parents of Zachary (played by Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) venture to the Longstreet's (played by John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster) home to try to resolve the issue in a civilized manner, all hell breaks loose.

Roman Polanski's Carnage is a riotous comedy that fluently satisfies from beginning to end. It's success hinges on the hilarious performances of its four leading actors and actresses. Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, and Christoph Waltz deliver 80 minutes of laugh out loud footage that mirrors each of our own lives in many ways. In an effort to avoid singling out anyone individually, each actor and actress does a fantastic job in their respective role. As two couples trying to address a delicate (or not so delicate) issue, Carnage dives head first into this socially uncomfortable situation. As the ordeal progresses, Polanski swims further and further into the depths of irrationality. Each character offering a unique view point, Carnage does a wonderful job of tackling the issue of too much parent involvement.

Despite the film's abundance of comedic flare, Polanski's Carnage opens with a weak first act. However, to the its credit, the movie manages to pick up quickly and never look back. Furthermore, since it's a comedy, Carnage offers very little emotional connection to its main characters. Far from groundbreaking, Polanski's latest piece is more of an entertaining and outrageous journey into the minds of four crazed adults than anything else. Carnage is the type of film you'll hardly remember, but you'll certainly enjoy.

Carnage is an outlandishly original comedy that goes beyond the traditional laughs. The film is highly entertaining as its 80 minute runtime flows by effortlessly. The collection of these four gifted actors and actresses allow for amazing chemistry and an assortment of laugh out loud scenes. Unfortunately, Carnage won't be out in theatres much longer. Therefore, I suggest getting out to see it ASAP or taking a flyer on the movie and checking it out on DVD once it arrives.


Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4.

Grade: B

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012 Oscar Nominee Predictions



After a boring weekend where Underworld 4 ruled the box office and with Oscar Nominations slated to be announced on Tuesday January 24th, now seemed like as good a time as any to offer up my predictions on the nominees. I'm going to keep this as short and sweet as possible and restrict my opinions to the 6 major motion picture categories.


Best Picture

Who's In: The Best Picture category can now have anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees depending on how member voting goes. The no-brainers are The Artist (who just picked up a valuable Producer's Guild Win yesterday), The Descendants, Hugo and The Help. I see the critically acclaimed films Midnight in Paris and Moneyball sneaking in as well, leaving 6 nominees this year.

Who's Out: Although I don't predict it happening, I wouldn't be shocked if The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or War Horse (or both) walked away with a nomination too. Sorry to fans of Bridesmaids, Drive, Ides of March, or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I don't see any of those figuring into the mix.


Best Actor

Who's In: There's 4 "sure things" in the Best Acting category, George Clooney (The Descendants), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Brad Pitt (Moneyball), and Michael Fassbender (Shame). Who will garner that final nomination? It's almost impossible to believe that Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) has never received a nomination before, and for that reason alone I'm giving him the 5th spot. I see the Academy looking over the oft-praised Leo and selecting Oldman, an aging actor who has an extensive history of unrecognized cinematic achievement.

Who's Out: As much as I've pushed for Boardwalk Empire's own Michael Shannon (Take Shelter), he and Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar) will end up as the odd men out in this race.


Best Actress

Who's In: The top 4 candidates are Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Viola Davis (The Help), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), and Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin). That final slot is a coin flip between Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) and Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), but I'll go with Close.

Who's Out: Even though The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has received more critical praise and the fact that it has a head of steam after its Directors Guild nomination, Rooney Mara won't be able to withstand Glenn Close. This also means no Charlize Theron (Young Adult) or Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) as well.


Best Supporting Actor

Who's In: You can lock up nominations for Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), but outside of them it's pretty murky. In a tight race with 5 suitors dueling for 3 remaining spots, I see Albert Brooks (Drive), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), and Nick Nolte (Warrior) rounding out the category.

Who's Out: By siding with the aforementioned, that means Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) and Armie Hammer (J. Edgar) will be left out. As a distant dark horse, Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) should also miss out on a nomination as well.


Best Supporting Actress

Who's In: I see 3 definitive nominees in the form of Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Octavia Spencer (The Help), and Jessica Chastain (The Help). I'll follow the Screen Actors Guild for my last two selections and choose Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids). Despite the lack of critical support for Albert Nobbs, I see McTeer and Close as a package deal and I'm banking on both.

Who's Out: The two most notable outcasts will be Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) and Carey Mulligan (Shame). Woodley could very well steal a nomination from McTeer if Mara ends up toppling Close in the Best Actress category too.


Best Director

Who's In: When in doubt, follow the Directors Guild nominees. I'll do just that and select the 4 big horses Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist), and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris). I'll also choose the DGA's 5th nominee as well, David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Fincher's film has been widely supported and its box office is approaching the century mark. There's also a hangover effect from Fincher's loss to Tom Hooper in last year's Best Director and Best Picture categories.

Who's Out: If Fincher's in, then Steven Spielberg (War Horse) and Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) are out. Since War Horse has been on a steady free fall of late, I see Malick as the stronger competition for Fincher. As much as I hate to say it, there's almost no chance of Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) having his name called either.


That concludes my predictions for Tuesday's 84th annual Academy Awards nominations. Let me know where I'm right and where I'm wrong. Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Haywire Official Trailer

Haywire



Film: Haywire

Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor (Beginners), and Channing Tatum (Dear John)

Director: Steven Soderbergh (Contagion)

U.S. Release: January 20th, 2012 (Rated R)

Genre: Action

Runtime: 93 minutes


January is the month of the year usually reserved for Oscar bait trying to make one last run at a gold statue. I guess the award winning director of the Ocean's Franchise, Steven Soderbergh, never got the memo. Soderbergh, who oftentimes has a unique way of doing things, will introduce his latest piece of action work, Haywire, to the general masses this upcoming weekend. While attempting to tackle the "covert ops revenge" genre with former female mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano, it's apparent that Soderbergh has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Haywire centers around Mallory Kane (played by Carano), a covert operative who's often hired out by Kenneth (played by McGregor) to handle various jobs for governments who can't openly be connected to a situation. Whether it be a rescue mission or an assassination, Mallory is the one you want. After returning from a job in Barcelona, Kenneth immediately dispatches Mallory to another mission in Dublin. But when her latest mission becomes botched and she discovers that she's been double crossed, Mallory returns to the U.S. to seek vengeance on those who betrayed her.

Years from now we may be thanking director Steven Soderbergh for introducing us to the action star Gina Carano. The former MMA fighter turned actress delivers a knock out performance in the high octane thriller Haywire. Carano's major motion picture debut is an obvious success and, given that she does all of her own stunts, even more credit must be sent her way. Without sounding too sexist, it can be difficult for a director to convince general audiences to buy into a tough girl lead character. However, Carano's on screen work should quiet all the naysayers as she delivers the role to perfection. In addition to Carano, Soderbergh once again offers a remarkably star-studded cast. Haywire see's a variety of roles from the likes of Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, and Channing Tatum. Perhaps the most surprising supporting role comes at the hands of Channing Tatum. Tatum, who has an extensive history of lackluster performances, gives his best work to date. Haywire's entire cast does a stellar job of allowing an overdone premise to resonate with audiences.

On the flip side, Haywire still has a handful of flaws. In conjunction with it's unoriginal back story, the film feels like a mashed up set of ideas. Built more for its action than it's plot, Haywire feels very one dimensional. It draws influence from other action hits such as the Bourne trilogy and Taken, but never quite reaches their heights. Even with the aid of Soderbergh's crafty camera skills and direction, Haywire still has a noticeable ceiling.

From its opening moments to the closing credits, Haywire is an action packed ride that's sure to entertain. You'll feel bombarded by its incredibly choreographed fight scenes, and the shock of Carano's character slugging it out with men twice her size never wears thin. It goes without question that you'll be glued to the screen throughout the film's rapid hour and a half duration. Although Haywire will never be more than an intense, fun-filled display of action, it still manages to claw past the realm of mediocrity. If you're an action junkie, take a chance with Haywire. If not, catch it on DVD sometime down the line.


Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Golden Globe Awards Recap



The match-up has been set. Last evening's airing of the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards confirmed the Oscar heavyweight bout between 2011's most recognized films, Alexander Payne's The Descendants and Michael Hazanavicius' The Artist. Both films took home Best Picture wins but, as pointed out by Seth Rogen last evening, the Hollywood Foreign Press really stretched the definition of "comedy" to allow proper acknowledgment to certain movies and actresses. The most noteworthy benefactors of this somewhat unfair tactic were Best Actress-Comedy winner Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) and the entire team behind the black and white silent film The Artist . Both pictures should have been correctly slated as dramas, but the HFP knows how to maneuver the system. In doing so, the Golden Globe Awards has set up an interesting, but somewhat expected, Academy Awards showdown. Until all of the major guilds announce their selections, no frontrunner can be assumed.

Of my 10 Golden Globe predictions, I picked an abysmal score of 6 correctly. The good news is that many of these races are really starting to shape up, and I expect a much better showing with my Oscar predictions. Nonetheless, there were many upsets last evening and perhaps the biggest shock was Octavia Spencer's (The Help) Best Supporting Actress victory over her co-star Jessica Chastain. It was also a slight surprise to see Martin Scorsese (Hugo) pick up the win in the Best Director category over directors Payne and Hazanavicius, but way to go Marty! All in all it was fun event thanks, in large part, to host Ricky Gervais. His partially offensive humor reigned supreme as it sparked many celebrity backlashes, good for you Madonna. The entire evening was a booming success and I expect a smooth transition into next month's Academy Awards. For full coverage on the event and a complete list of winners, click here (courtesy of Peter Knegt at Indiewire.com).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Movie Critic Dave's 2011 Awards


With the Golden Globe Awards airing tonight on NBC and this being the stretch run to the Oscars, now is as good a time as any to announce my personal picks for the 2011 cinematic year. I postponed this announcement until I could see Meryl Streep's performance in The Iron Lady. I've seen around 100 films released in 2011 alone, and this gives me a strong basis to make my selections. Before I begin, let me preface by naming a few titles that I still haven't seen:

A Dangerous Method, Albert Nobbs, Rampart, A Better Life, and Coriolanus.

Otherwise, I've seen just about every other big name Oscar contender out there. So without wasting anymore time, here are my nominees and winners for the 6 major award categories.


Best Picture

And the nominees are:

1. 50/50

2. The Artist

3. The Ides of March

4. The Music Never Stopped

5. We Need to Talk About Kevin

And the winner is ...



50/50

This perfectly scripted look at a 27 year old's surprise diagnosis of a rare form of spinal cancer is a wonderful blend of comedy and drama. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star as a pair of best friends that struggle through this unfortunate ordeal together. 50/50 is a truly powerful film that will undoubtedly hit home with most audiences, and it's my pick for Best Picture of 2011




Best Lead Actor

And the nominees are:

1. George Clooney - The Descendants

2. Dominic Cooper - The Devil's Double

3. Jean Dujardin - The Artist

4. Michael Fassbender - Shame

5. Michael Shannon - Take Shelter

And the winner is ...



Jean Dujardin - The Artist

I'm a pretty impatient person and for a black and white silent film to entertain me over the course of nearly 2 hours, the acting must be brilliant. There's no doubt about it, Jean Dujardin's fine work in this year's Oscar frontrunner, The Artist, is 2011's best lead performance. Dujardin molds together such a lovable character without ever uttering a word. It's a difficult task he's faced with, but Dujardin makes it look elementary and routine.



Best Lead Actress

And the nominees are:

1. Viola Davis - The Help

2. Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

3. Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin

4. Charlize Theron - Young Adult

5. Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn

And the winner is ...



Viola Davis - The Help

One of 2011's most acclaimed blockbusters, The Help, succeeds at the hands of it's leading star, Viola Davis. Davis will make you laugh and cry in her role as Aibileen Clark, a strong-willed black woman facing segregation in 1960's Mississippi. She is magnificent in every sense of the word and her portrayal of a small town civil rights crusader is unforgettable.





Best Supporting Actor

And the nominees are:

1. Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn

2. Albert Brooks - Drive

3. Nick Nolte - Warrior

4. Patton Oswalt - Young Adult

5. Christopher Plummer - Beginners

And the winner is ...



Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn

Each actor in this field gives a great performance, but Branagh's proved most memorable. His portrayal of actor/director Sir Laurence Olivier was spot on and precise. The film is a biopic intended to show the on site disputes between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe while filming The Prince and the Showgirl. Although Michelle Williams will be My Week with Marilyn's most remembered star, Branagh goes toe to toe with the gifted actress in every scene.




Best Supporting Actress

And the nominees are:

1. Berenice Bejo - The Artist

2. Jessica Chastain - Take Shelter

3. Carey Mulligan - Shame

4. Octavia Spencer - The Help

5. Shailene Woodley - The Descendants

And the winner is ...



Jessica Chastain - Take Shelter

Most of Jessica Chastain's notoriety has come from her strong work in The Help, but I'll argue that the gifted actress' best performance of 2011 was in the independent thriller Take Shelter. Chastain's wonderful as a loving and nurturing mother but when her husband continues spiraling further into madness, her character adds another dimension. Michael Shannon is rightfully praised for his work in Take Shelter, but Chastain's the glue that holds it together.




Best Director

And the nominees are:

1. George Clooney - The Ides of March

2. David Fincher - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

3. Michael Hazanavicius - The Artist

4. Nicolas Winding Refn - Drive

5. Martin Scorsese - Hugo

And the winner is ...



Nicolas Winding Refn - Drive

When Drive was released, it caught many moviegoers off guard. Thanks to its visionary director, Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive's stylish edge and Grimm-like plot translates perfectly on screen. Couple all of its revenge-filled madness with an ear-deafening score, and you've got pure magic. Illustrated beautifully in Drive is Refn's rare gift for storytelling and bringing words to life



This concludes my awards for the year. Feel free to drop a comment and argue my selections. Better yet, leave a comment validating my picks. Either way, let's talk these 6 major categories and all of this awards season hype.

Odds and Ends: Golden Globes and More



First, here's a reminder about tonight's airing of the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony on NBC (8PM ET/ 5PM PT). It should be a fun filled evening for fans of both movies and television shows. And who knows, host Ricky Gervais may even say something outrageous to stir the pot. If so, you won't want to miss that. There's plenty of ways to turn tonight's Golden Globe ceremony into a fun activity. You can start by printing out a copy of your own awards ballot at home, by clicking the link, and having your family or friends do the same. For any categories you're unsure about, you can refer to my Golden Globe predictions. If you're skeptical about tuning into the program, NextMovie.com offers 9 reasons worth watching the Golden Globe Awards tonight. Check them out by clicking here.

In addition to tonight's festivities, I watched two movies this week (one for a second time) that reminded me why I love film so much. First up is the Irish independent film, The Guard, which follows a hilarious, racist, out of the norm Irish police officer (played by Brendan Gleeson) who teams up with an FBI agent (played by Don Cheadle) to stop a trio of drug traffickers. Gleeson also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for tonight's ceremony. The Guard is available now on DVD, I highly recommend checking it out.

The other movie I watched, for a second time, is the British apocalyptic-style romance called Perfect Sense. Having first seen this film at the Philadelphia Film Festival in October, Ewan McGregor stars as a chef who meets and falls in love with a woman as an unknown plague sweeps across the entire world and eliminates the human senses one at a time. Perfect Sense, which is currently available to rent on Comcast on Demand (Movies - Same Day as Theatres - All Movies), is a beautifully artistic look into the power of love and romance.

That's all for now, enjoy the Golden Globe Awards tonight and stay tuned for my personal picks for 2011's 6 major awards (just like I did in 2010).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

'The Iron Lady' Trailer 2 HD

The Iron Lady



Film: The Iron Lady

Starring: Meryl Streep (Doubt) and Jim Broadbent (Another Year)

Director: Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!)

U.S. Release: December 30th, 2011 (limited - Rated PG-13)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 105 minutes


If you're following all of this year's awards season hoop-la, like me, you may be confused why movies like The Artist and Phyllida Lloyd's The Iron Lady qualify as 2011 releases. Chances are these film's didn't (or won't) hit a big screen near you until well into 2012. Well, the answer rests in the loophole known as "one week qualifying runs". These qualifying runs are a sneaky way for movie distributors to make their films eligible for the Academy Awards without forcing a nationwide release during the correct calendar year. You see, since the Oscars don't air on television until the end of February, many distributors use these qualifying runs to hold off wide scale releases until right before the Academy Awards. They hope that such a ploy will generate a larger buzz as Oscar voting gets under way. It's a flawed system, and completely unfair to the early year releases that become lost and forgotten (i.e. Win Win and Beginners) during the long road to the Oscars. As if Meryl Streep needs any advantage in the Best Actress competition.

Through the use of flashback, The Iron Lady tells the life story of the United Kingdom's only female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher (played by Streep). During her 11 year reign, Thatcher's no nonsense attitude helped end the Cold War and garner the nickname "The Iron Lady". Extremely controversial as well, Thatcher's hard nose conservative approach to politics made her quite the polarizing figure. The Iron Lady follows her unbelievable rise to power, and her inevitable downfall and resignation as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Phyllida Lloyd's The Iron Lady is a maddening non-chronological journey through the life and mind of Margaret Thatcher. The film spends most of its time examining an elderly Thatcher as she experiences intense hallucinations and displays early signs of dementia. Lloyd attempts to use Thatcher's final moments as a mentally capable person as a platform of internal and psychological debate. As old age creeps upon each of us, which it surely will, thoughts of regret and reconciliation become imminent. The Iron Lady is Thatcher's chance to reflect on her groundbreaking ascension to power and the price she paid for it. Through her climb to the political forefront, Lloyd clearly paints a picture of division between Thatcher and her husband (played by Broadbent) and children. However, illustrating Thatcher's deep rooted regret through her senile recollection of past events seems all too nonsensical. Lloyd's roundabout approach leaves The Iron Lady feeling unfulfilled and unconvincing.

Although the film is far from perfect, its strength can be found in its cast. A once again award winning performance comes at the hands of the great Meryl Streep. She tackles this Oscar hungry role in a credible fashion. Streep's impersonation of Thatcher is spot on and the resemblance is uncanny. But if there's any downfall to the performance, it relies solely on the character of Thatcher that is created by the director. Streep is excellent at exemplifying the Margaret Thatcher Lloyd wants to portray, however, I question if it was the right decision by the director. In addition to Streep, Jim Broadbent is admirable as well as Margaret's loyal husband Denis. From top to bottom, the film is well acted and perfectly cast.

The Iron Lady is, by far, one of the strangest biopics I've ever seen. It's tiresome fascination with Thatcher's elderly psychological instability wears thin immediately. This unusual plan of attack gives the film a creepy and dark tone, which is far too peculiar for a biopic. With such an iconic figure in world history, you can't help but expect a better final product than what The Iron Lady offers. Streep's performance is undoubtedly exquisite, but it's not worth the rest of the muck you have to sort through. Unless you're dying to see Streep's award winning portrayal, I recommend shying away from this one.


Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C

Friday, January 13, 2012

2012 Golden Globe Predictions



On Sunday evening, NBC will air the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards. With some of the closest races in recent memory, the ceremony should shape up to be an interesting affair. After my perfect 10 for 10 performance in predicting last year's Golden Globe winners, I'm much less confident in this year's picks. Either way, let's have some fun with this.


Best Picture - Drama

In the Best Picture - Drama category, I see a clear frontrunner in Alexander Payne's The Descendants. The Oscars race for Best Picture seems to be a two headed monster with The Descendants and The Artist. At the Globes, these two powerhouse films are splitting categories and splitting wins.


Best Picture - Comedy or Musical

It was quite the surprise to see The Artist squeezed into the Best Picture - Comedy or Musical category. The film's competition is far less superior to The Descendants' counterparts, however, both pictures should still walk away victorious.


Best Director

Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist) has built a head of steam during this year's precursor awards run, and I don't see anyone else dethroning him. This is a strong collection of directors, but Hazanavicius should reign supreme.


Best Actor - Drama

George Clooney should ride the wave of The Descendants' Best Picture - Drama win and walk away with the Best Actor - Drama crown. He has stiff competition with Moneyball's Brad Pitt, but Clooney will narrowly edge him out.


Best Actress - Drama

This was one of the toughest races to decide on. Meryl Streep is always a popular choice with the Hollywood Foreign Press, but I went with my gut and selected Viola Davis (The Help). Fresh off of her Critics Choice win (which will have no bearing on the Golden Globes), Davis gave a remarkable performance in the blockbuster hit The Help. She's far more deserving than Streep.


Best Actor - Comedy or Musical

In similar fashion, I expect Jean Dujardin (The Artist) to reap the benefits of his film's Best Picture - Comedy of Musical win. His competition is far more inferior than Clooney's, and that should make it an easy victory for Dujardin.


Best Actress - Musical or Comedy

Also somewhat forced into the Musical or Comedy classification was My Week with Marilyn. When you see a head scratching move like that, it should ring a bell. Perhaps the HFP wanted to recognize Michelle Williams' brilliant work portraying Marilyn Monroe and, therefore, they forced her into the category. She should have no trouble walking away with the title here.


Best Supporting Actor

The Best Supporting Actor race is another difficult one to predict. The choice is down to 2 frontrunners, Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Albert Brooks (Drive). You could probably flip a coin, but I chose the latter. I predict a win for Albert Brooks solely because it's the Hollywood Foreign Press voting and Drive has been such a phenomena worldwide. This would be an appropriate way for the HFP to acknowledge the edgy, yet spectacular, film.


Best Supporting Actress

Jessica Chastain had one of the greatest years in the history of cinema. Chastain was excellent in 5 different pieces of work this year (The Help, The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, Coriolanus, and The Debt) and she deserves the recognition. I'm expecting her victory to coincide, in large part, with The Help's leading star, Viola Davis. The two actresses will manage to share voters and wins in their respective categories.


Best Animated Film

Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin is by far the best film in its category. I'd be surprised to see a much lesser piece of work such as Rango walk away with the crown. That's why I'm placing my bets on Spielberg's animated adventure to capture the win.


On Sunday the 15th at 8PM, be sure to catch the Golden Globes on NBC! If you disagree (or agree) with any of my selections, be sure to let me know in the comments section below.


Critics Choice Awards: All Hail The Artist and The Help



The Broadcast Film Critics Association has managed to piece together a fun filled precursor awards ceremony that's available for everyone to see. The 250 member film group opens up the televised portion of awards season and, surprisingly enough, all eyes are on the Critics Choice winners. Last year, 18 out of 20 Critics Choice winners went on to win Oscars. That success rate is utterly astounding. If history just so happens to repeats itself, then 2 well known movies could be in for a huge Academy Awards celebration. At last evening's award ceremony, the big winners were the black and white silent film The Artist and the blockbuster hit The Help. The Artist took home wins in major categories such as Best Picture and Best Director (Michael Hazanavicius), while The Help reigned victorious in the Best Actress (Viola Davis), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer), and Best Acting Ensemble races. Other notable winners for the evening were George Clooney (Best Actor for The Descendants) and Christopher Plummer (Best Supporting Actor for Beginners). For a complete list of winners and other Critics Choice Award's coverage, click the link below (courtesy of Anne Thompson at Indiewire.com):



Thursday, January 12, 2012

Awards Season Update


The American Society of Cinematographers announced their nominees for the 26th annual awards and, once again, War Horse was dubbed the "biggest snub". The surprise picture to steal the nomination away from Steven Spielberg was the Cold War espionage thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. War Horse is on the steady decline and, even though you may not believe me, I've been preaching its downfall since the film's Christmas release. For more information on the ASC's awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, click the link below (courtesy of Peter Knegt at Indiewire.com):


In other news, Oscar nominations are a little over a week away, but we've got an exciting weekend lined up. Tonight (Thursday the 12th) at 8pm on VH1 you can catch the 17th annual Critics Choice Awards. Also, the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards will air on Sunday the 15th. Both of these highly touted ceremonies will offer some valuable insight into the many difficult to predict Oscar races, so stay tuned. Be sure to check back on Friday for my Golden Globe predictions, and click below to see a full list of nominees for both precursor awards ceremonies:




Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 Oscars Preview



We're just two weeks away from the Academy's announcement of nominees for their 84th annual awards ceremony. Here's a quick glance into how I envision each of the major races taking shape:


Best Picture

Sure Things - The Academy's newest set of voting rules allows for anywhere from 5 to 10 films to be nominated. There are 4 films I see locked in for nominations: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, and The Help.

Probables - At this point, I personally think that 6 films will receive nominations. The last two movies I see making the cut are the critically acclaimed films Midnight in Paris and Moneyball.

Longshots - There are a few stragglers just outside of the top 6 who could sneak a nomination. Chances are slim but you can't write off the upward trending Ides of March, the free falling War Horse, and the precursor juggernaut The Tree of Life. I'm sorry for all you fans of Drive (myself included), but there's really no chance at all that it will land in the mix .


Best Director

Sure Things - It's a safe bet to assume that Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist) and Martin Scorsese (Hugo) are all but guaranteed a spot in the top 5. The rest of the field starts to get a little tricky.

Probables - After yesterday's DGA announcement, it looks as though Alexander Payne (The Descendants) and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) have solidified themselves into the second tier of nominees. Therefore, leaving one spot up for grabs.

Longshots - David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) took home the 5th DGA nomination and he remains a solid longshot, but I'd put my money on either Steven Spielberg (War Horse) or Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life). Chances are very remote, but Taylor Tate (The Help) or George Clooney (Ides of March) could possibly sneak in that final spot as well.


Best Actor

Sure Things - The way I see it, there are 2 guaranteed nominations going to George Clooney (The Descendants) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist). They're untouchables at this point.

Probables - Rounding out the top 4 are Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Brad Pitt (Moneyball). Both of which seem like safe bets at this point, leaving one lone nomination for the taking.

Longshots - Unfortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar) has all the backing for the 5th and final spot. He received a nomination from both the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild. The more deserving, but less likely, Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) figures to be the only other serious contender. Anyone else outside of Demian Bichir (A Better Life) would be a huge surprise.


Best Actress

Sure Things - It's a safe bet to reserve two spots for Viola Davis (The Help) and the un-snub-able (and yes, I just made up a word) Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady).

Probables - It's looking like the field of 5 could be set with the likes of Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin), and a distant 5th in Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs). Close has a stronghold on the final spot as a nominee for both a Golden Globe and a SAG.

Longshots - Glenn Close could walk away empty handed, stranger things have happened. The only other female leads with a fighting chance of taking Close's nomination are Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Charlize Theron (Young Adult), both of which received Golden Globe nominations as well.


Best Supporting Actor

Sure Things - At this juncture, chalk up the freight train that is Albert Brooks (Drive) and Christopher Plummer (The Beginners) as guarantees. The two actors represent critically applauded films that most likely won't be recognized in any other categories. Therefore, they're safe bets.

Probables - Kenneth Branaugh (My Week with Marilyn) has all the makings of a solid nominee, and the surprising rise of Jonah Hill (Moneyball) make him a likely 4th contender. Hill received both a SAG and Golden Globes nomination.

Longshots - The final spot will mostly be a slugfest between Nick Nolte (Warrior) and Armie Hammer (J. Edgar). I give the slight edge to Nolte, but any Leo supporters (and there's plenty of them) will inevitably benefit Hammer. And although I think he's every bit deserving, the slightest of chances remain for Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) who was spectacular in his supporting role.


Best Supporting Actress

Sure Things - Lock up nominations for the trio of Jessica Chastain (The Help, although I prefer her work in Take Shelter), Octavia Spencer (The Help), and Berenice Bejo (The Artist).

Probables - The next tier belongs to Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), and Janet McTeer alone. Her pair of Golden Globe and SAG nominations make her a likely candidate to be recognized. However, her spot could rest solely on the shoulders of her fellow cast member Glenn Close. I see Close and McTeer as a package deal. Either they both get in, or neither of them get the votes. We'll have to wait and see.

Longshots - Since McTeer could conceivably not get in, there's an outside chance that both Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) could walk away with the final 2 spots. I'll give the slight edge to Woodley if McTeer does manage to make the cut.


Here's my latest up to date Oscar preview, be sure to check back next week (after the Golden Globe winners are announced) for my complete list of Oscar nomination predictions.


Directors Guild Announces Nominees



The Directors Guild of America announced their five nominees for Best Director yesterday, and the "snub" conversations are in full swing. The expected crop of Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), and Alexander Payne (The Descendants) all received their worthy nominations. In addition to the trio, Woody Allen returned to the center stage as a 4th nominee for his beloved film Midnight in Paris. Staking its claim as a serious Oscar contender, Midnight in Paris is the only motion picture that has now been nominated by every major guild (DGA, SAG, WGA, and PGA). In all fairness to The Artist, it was nominated in each guild except for the Writers Guild which it was deemed ineligible. The fifth and final nominee, David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), proved to be most shocking. Fincher's nomination validates the lack of love for the Oscar hopeful War Horse and its now snubbed director, Steven Spielberg. Other notable snubs include Taylor Tate (The Help), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), and the longshot Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive).

The DGA's nominees are usually a very strong indicator of the Academy Awards nominees for Best Director. Over the past decade, the DGA has matched all 5 nominees twice and has matched 4 out of 5 nominees six times. Even more stunning is the fact that the DGA's winner has taken home a Best Director statue at the Oscars 57 times in its 63 year history. Wow! For more information concerning the DGA nominations, click the link below (courtesy of Peter Knegt at Indiewire.com):





Monday, January 9, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Trailer 2011 HD

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close



Film: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks (Larry Crowne), and Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)

Director: Stephen Daldry (The Reader)

U.S. Release: January 20th, 2012 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 128 minutes


If dabbling in the stock market is your idea of a good time, then invest the farm on Kleenex tissues. Movies like Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which tackles the delicate issue of 9/11, may require the whole box ... so bring two. The film opened in a limited release on Christmas day, allowing it to qualify for February's Academy Awards. With Daldry's trio of Best Director nominations since 2001, all signs pointed to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as a serious Oscar contender. However, opening to mediocre reviews and a strong field of competition including The Artist, The Descendants, and Hugo, Daldry's latest work is becoming quite the long shot.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close follows a young boy named Oskar Schell (played by Horn). Sadly, Oskar loses his best friend and father Thomas Schell (played by Hanks) on what he frequently refers to as "the worst day" (the 9/11 attacks). Therefore, when Oskar finds a key in his father's untouched closet, he takes his only clue and ventures through the 5 boroughs of New York City in order to find its matching lock. Hoping for one last message from his deceased father, Oskar's journey teaches him more than he ever expected.

First and foremost, it's imperative to commend director Stephen Daldry on the respectful manner in which he addresses the tragic events of 9/11. Over a decade later, and the scars still feel as fresh as the wounds our nation felt on that sorrowful day. I must also warn that certain sound bites and occasional on screen imagery in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are difficult to bear. Even if you're overly anxious to see the film, only do so if you're emotionally ready to stare this tragic event in the eyes.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a jumbled journey through the mind of a troubled boy. Thomas Horn is downright excellent in his first major motion picture release. The gifted young actor plays his character to perfection and it allows the audience to view one of our nation's greatest tragedies through the eyes of the innocent. However, something is certainly off with Oskar's character. Undiagnosed throughout the film, Oskar clearly has some form of inability to socialize. Loud noises and other various things frighten the boy beyond belief. However, through his adventures around the 5 boroughs of New York City, we see Oskar's transformation into a sociably fearless young man. In addition to Thomas Horn's breakout performance, veterans Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks sustain their unmatched talents. With their limited amount of face time on screen, both of these superstars make the most of every scene and provide the film with a stronger sense of credibility. Max von Sydow's performance included, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is brilliantly acted on all accounts.

Albeit it's strong cast, Daldry's latest effort struggles to resonate with audiences. The film's sentimental intent inevitably touches each member of the viewing audience, yet Oskar's character leaves much to be desired. Having nothing to do with Horn's acting ability, Oskar's character can be irritating, overblown, and irrational (like most 9 and 10 year old children). Centering a two hour long story around someone with such characteristics can be a difficult task, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close fails at the attempt. The film begins well and ends wonderfully, however its second act wears thin rather quickly. In the midst of the boy's journey, the film becomes a jumbled mess and manages to lose sight of its purpose. But once the movie regains its focus and gets back on track, the resolve is rewarding, heartfelt, and certainly worth the wait.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a solid film but nowhere near the Oscar contender some imagined it would be. It's intriguing story and phenomenal cast thrust the film beyond the realm of mediocrity. Yet, the feature's sentimental approach wears out quickly and results in a very flawed and drawn out middle portion of the film. Ultimately, the ending wraps up in tear-jerking fashion and leaves a small sense of fulfillment. There's no harm in waiting for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to be released on DVD, but if you're a fan of the book or eager to see it on the big screen, go right ahead.


Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4.

Grade: B



Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Art of Movie Watching



If you're like me and spend an abundant amount of time watching films, you start to become ritualistic in your approach. And believe it or not, there's an appropriate way to screen movies. Here are three simple rules that will enable you to get the most out of your viewing experience:


Rule #1: Make Your Standards Known

If you're preparing to watch a movie that you've been dying to see, my first recommendation is to go at it alone. Isolation is the first step to maximizing your movie experience. However, if you're heading to a local theatre or if your significant other insists on watching it with you, then there's no way around the issue. But if you decide to screen a film in the company of others, make sure to voice your expectations. Habitual talking or untimely laughter can ruin a perfectly good flick. Therefore, before you begin the movie, let everyone around you know that you'd prefer no talking or any other kind of interruptions. Make your standards known and if you come to find that certain people have different expectations from you, then you can remember to blacklist those individuals in the future.


Rule #2: Pick an Appropriate Setting

Now that everyone is one the same page, determine an adequate setting for your viewing experience. Comfort is key, but remember that you can always be TOO comfortable. I've heard countless stories from my friends that go something like this, "I was really enjoying the movie, but then I fell asleep". 9 out of 10 times people who fall asleep during a movie do so because they're too comfortable, and not because the film is bad. Make sure you're relaxed and cozy, all while sitting in some sort of upright position. Never lay horizontal on a bed or couch, it's the easiest way to start snoozing. Furthermore, you should also consider things like room temperature, lighting, and proximity to the screen before you begin the film. Always make sure that the mood is appropriate for the picture you choose.


Rule #3: No Distractions

Once the mood is set and everyone's ready to start the movie, do your best to eliminate all distractions. Turn off or put away things like laptop computers and cell phones. To get the most out of any movie, it will require your full attention. Filmmakers, cast, and crew pour their hearts and souls into the final product, give their work the utmost respect it deserves and remove any outside distractions. Text messages and Facebook can wait a few hours, I promise you that the world isn't going to end if you tune it out for a short amount of time. Also, remember little things that can help to avoid interruptions later on, such as using the bathroom beforehand and pouring chips or snacks into a bowl. Nothing is more irritating than the rustling of bags and wrappers during an intense moment on screen. Prepare as best you can to eliminate any possibility of noisy distractions.


These are my best suggestions for maximizing your movie watching experience. To get the most out of a feature, the responsibility ultimately falls on you. Follow these 3 simple rules and hopefully you'll notice the difference.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Wettest County Release Date Pushed Back


Apparently Harvey Weinstein and I have a lot in common ... well maybe not a lot. But either way, we both certainly agree on the fact that Tom Hardy is going to be a huge star. Just a few days after I posted on 2012's most anticipated films, The Weinstein Company announced that John Hillcoat's The Wettest County will have its release date pushed back to August 31st, Labor Day weekend. The buzzed about western, starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, and Jason Clarke as a trio of brothers who get immersed in the bootlegging business, was originally slated for an April 20th theatrical release. However, Weinstein made the change for two very intelligent, business related reasons. First, he wanted to ride the wave of the box office success from The Dark Knight Rises, which he expects to be a big boost for Tom Hardy's career. Also, The Wettest County will be premiering at the Venice Film Festival and the Labor Day weekend release aligns perfectly with the post-festival hype that's sure to ensue. For more information on the story, click the link below (courtesy of Kevin Jagernauth at Indiewire.com):


Friday, January 6, 2012

2011's Most Overrated Films



I decided to attack my list of 2011's most overrated movies by splitting them into two different categories. I'll start by listing my 3 most overrated Oscar hopefuls, and then I will follow it up with my 3 most overrated blockbusters. I also want to preface these lists by explaining my criteria for the often misused term "overrated". The films listed here are no where near the worst ones I saw this year. I classify them as overrated because I felt they weren't as good as critics and moviegoers made them out to be. Let the controversy begin!


OVERRATED OSCAR HOPEFULS


Moneyball

In 2011, Bennett Miller's Moneyball managed to gross an astounding $75 million in box office revenue and conjure up a rotten tomatoes approval rating of 95%. With a strong possibility of Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt), and Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Moneyball fell way short of my expectations. I graded the film out at a B- and 2.5 out of 4 stars, a far cry from its overwhelming critical praises. I felt that both Pitt and Hill gave strong performances, but certainly not top 5 in their respective categories. Even as a huge fan of baseball, I found Moneyball to be a rather dull look into the world of saber-metrics.


WAR HORSE

Since it's Christmas release, Steven Spielberg's epic tale War Horse has already topped the $40 million box office mark. It's critical acclaim and Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture help place the film in prime position for an Oscar nomination as well. Although I enjoyed the story of War Horse, the movie never lured me in and hooked me like it was intended. I thought the film was extremely drawn out and its ending never resonated. War Horse falls well short of my top ten films of the year (B- and 2.5 stars out of 4), and I hope the Academy agrees.


MELANCHOLIA

With the Academy's new voting process for its Best Picture category, many people fear the chance of more obscure titles topping each voter's list and creating an unexpected group of nominees. One film which could benefit from the new system is Lars von Trier's Melancholia. The world renowned director's latest feature dazzled audiences and critics all over Europe. However, I found Melancholia to be an endless journey with few redeeming qualities. The film's score is epic and its cinematography is wonderful, but that's about it. With a 78% rating on rotten tomatoes, my C- and 1.5 stars out of 4 seem far off from most other critics. Therefore, I find Melancholia to be overrated and unworthy of any Oscar praise.


Overrated Blockbusters


CONTAGION

While scouring through hundreds of people "Top Ten" lists of 2011, I was floored at the number of critics including Steven Soderbergh's Contagion. This run of the mill outbreak movie grossed north of $75 million at the box office and garnered an unfathomable 84% rating on rotten tomatoes. Contagion never manages to reach the terrifying and suspensgul peaks which were intended. It's massive number of subplots and storylines create a jumbled approach to an interesting subject matter. There were 15 to 20 minute stretches of Contagion where major storylines were ignored and, as a result, it became impossible to connect with central characters. I graded the film a C+ and 2 stars out of 4, pretty mediocre.


MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL

One of the most puzzling rotten tomatoes ratings of the year goes out to Tom Cruise's return in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. I was shocked upon seeing its rating of 93%, so I dashed to the theatre to see what I was missing. Truth be told, I wasn't missing much (C+, 2 stars out of 4). MI:4 has cleared $130 million in box office revenue all while remaining remarkably mediocre. Jeremy Renner's character was thrown into the story and the rationale to make him fit is too unconvincing. There's plenty of action and a surprise amount of laughs, but MI:4 is nothing spectacular. You'll be entertained (enough), but I was looking for more.


HORRIBLE BOSSES

I expect to be tarred and feathered for my inclusion of the comedy hit Horrible Bosses on this list. I caught this film at the tail end of its theatrical run, and perhaps that's the reason I didn't love it. Horrible Bosses raked in over $115 million at the box office last year and everyone was talking about the movie. When I watched the film I felt that Jamie Foxx's character was a hindrance and the moment Kevin Spacey's character pulled the trigger, the movie lost all sense of order. The film's third act was a major drop off and I find all 3 of its leads to be somewhat overrated themselves. I graded Horrible Bosses at a C+ and 2 stars out of 4, leaving it well below the expectations I had for it.


A few other honorable mentions to both lists are: Bradley Cooper's Limitless, the comedy Hall Pass, The family film Rango, and potential Oscar hopefuls Like Crazy and Shame.

What are your thoughts? Don't be shy and leave a comment!