Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Ultimate 2016 Movie Preview - Part I

As we push through this rigorous January movie lull, guest columnist, Greg Rouleau (Reel True), steps in to offer a detailed and heavily cataloged examination of the upcoming cinematic year. This two-part movie preview will begin with a "coming soon" section, then a look at the animated/family titles arriving in 2016, as well as a list of this syear's biggest blockbusters. Next week we'll reprise the column with an outline of the 2016's most anticipated comedy and horror releases, along with a breakdown of the presumed Oscar hopefuls. Enjoy!

Coming Soon (February - April)

Hail, Caesar! (Feb 5) – It’s a treat to see best of the year potential as early as February, and judging by the insanely fun looking trailers, we should be circling February 5th on the calendar for the Coen Brothers Hail, Caesar!  Josh Brolin stars as a Hollywood fixer that goes on a mission to uncover the whereabouts of a missing star (George Clooney) who mysteriously disappears from the set of the big budget film.  Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, and Jonah Hill round out the ensemble.

Zoolander 2 (Feb 12) We’ve seen Anchorman 2 and Dumb and Dumber To – comedies with their originals nearly a decade or more behind them – released in recent years to disappointing results.  Should we expect the same with Zoolander 2? The trailer looks somewhat promising, all things considered, so let’s hope there’s enough laughs amongst the stupidity of Derek and Hansel that it’s worth the price of admission. 

Midnight Special (Mar 18) – Once set for a 2014 release, Midnight Special is finally reaching theaters in March of this year.  From the director of Mud and Take Shelter, Jeff Nichols, Midnight Special tells the story of a man (Michael Shannon) on the run from authorities when they discover his child possesses supernatural ability.  The idea of a quasi-superhero movie on a smaller-scale is intriguing and with his previous films, Nichols has displayed a talent for directing young actors.  The director also has a drama called Loving – about an interracial couple in 1950s Virginia – set for a late 2016 release.  Both films star Joel Edgerton and Nichols regular, Michael Shannon. 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Mar 25) – It’s difficult to feign a lot of enthusiasm for BvS: DOJ, which is a sequel to the highly disappointing Man of Steel, but I would at least expect box office returns to be strong on opening weekend.  The release date was switched around numerous times before finally settling on March 25.  The trailers have been lackluster and there’s been word of a multitude of production problems, and now rumors are circulating that this movie could be more than the advertised showdown between the classic comic heroes…let’s just leave it at that. 

Everybody Wants Some (Apr 15)  – This spring we can look forward to the latest from indie director Richard Linklater, who is a couple years removed from his critical darling, Boyhood.  Everybody Wants Some has been described by Linklater as a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, which focuses on the lives of a group of college baseball players including Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street) and Tyler Hoechlin (Road to Perdition). 

Also Coming Soon: Race, Deadpool, Grimsby, Triple 9, Knight of Cups, Demolition, The Huntsman Winter’s War, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. 


The Jungle Book (Apr 15) – This spring, director Jon Favreau returns to the world of family entertainment with his live-action version of Disney’s The Jungle Book.  The trailer looks to have a slightly more serious tone than the animated feature, with plenty of thrills and a talented cast to voice the animals including Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray and Christopher Walken. 

Finding Dory (Jun 17) Finding Nemo was a major hit in 2003 that dominated the box-office and went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.  Dory will find Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks reprising their roles for the much-anticipated sequel that finds Dory in search of her family after rekindling some childhood memories. 

The BFG (Jul 1) – Steven Speilberg finally returns to the genre where he made such hits as E.T. and Hook – possibly ending his latest excursion through dramatic period pieces – and brings an adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel to the screen this summer.  The late Melissa Mathison, who also wrote E.T., adapted the screenplay and Spielberg regulars Janusz Kaminski, Michael Kahn and John Williams are on board in the craft departments, so you can expect more than the typical family fare.  Bridge of Spies’ Mark Rylance stars as the title character, Big Friendly Giant, in what looks to truly be an entertaining story the entire family can enjoy.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Nov 18) – With the Harry Potter franchise finishing up in theaters five years ago, author and screenwriter, J.K. Rowling and company will take the The Lord of the Rings route and release a three-part prequel epic, with the first chapter, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, set for release in November.  Beasts is the story of author Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his adventures in writing the textbook that shares the film’s title.   

More Family/Animated: Angry Birds Movie, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, Ice Age: Collision Course, Moana.


Captain America: Civil War (May 6) Captain America: Civil War is set to kick-off the summer movie season with a bang, as the story picks up following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and government intervention is threatening to come between the group of superheroes.  On one side is Captain America, Steve Rogers and firmly against him, in favor of regulation is Iron Man, Tony Stark.  While Iron Man 2 and 3 were lackluster sequels to the outstanding first part, Civil War shows promise of the reverse, and finishing the Captain America series with two solid entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Independence Day: Resurgence (Jun 24) – After being in development for what seems like an eternity, with story ideas being pitched as early as 2004, director Roland Emmerich is finally bringing his long-awaited Independence Day sequel to the theaters this summer.  Subtitled Resurgence, the aliens have returned twenty-years later after their defeat in the climatic battle of the original, the idea here is that before their demise they were able to send out a distress signal and alert the rest of the aliens in the universe, and they’ve finally made their return.  No Will Smith this time around, but Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as well as Bill Pullman, and Liam Hemsworth joins the cast, as well. 

Suicide Squad (Aug 5) – Although I’m not entirely approving of already putting The Joker back on screen so soon after Heath Ledger’s classic portrayal, the Suicide Squad looks like it could be one of DC’s best movies since the Dark Knight trilogy.  Jared Leto’s take on the iconic villain looks like enough of a departure from Ledger’s and he won’t be the main focus here as he joins a large group of super-villains enlisted by the government to complete secret ops missions.  David Ayer (Fury, End of Watch) directs while Will Smith stars as Deadshot, Margot Robbie is the Joker’s accomplice, Harley Quinn. 

Doctor Strange (Nov 4) – While Marvel will have presumably be wrapping up the Captain America trilogy earlier in the year, come November they’ll debut another superhero when Doctor Strange hits theaters.  Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast in the title role, with Tilda Swinton portraying The Ancient One, who trains Strange in the ways of mystic arts.  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Stuhlbarg complete the impressive cast. 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dec 16) – We may have to wait until December 2017 to get Episode VIII of the Star Wars saga, but 2016 will give us our first of a few planned prequels/spin-offs of the franchise with Rogue One.  This story will go back and reveal how a group of rebel fighters were able to capture the plans for the Death Star that aid the group in their fight against the Empire.  Gareth Edwards who directed 2014’s Godzilla is slated to helm this one. 

More In Blockbusters: TNMT 2, Warcraft, The Legend of Tarzan, Alice Through the Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse, Star Trek Beyond, Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur, Jason Bourne Sequel, Gambit, Assassin’s Creed

*** Stay tuned next week for Part II of our Ultimate 2016 Movie Preview

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The 5 Worst 2016 Oscar-Nominated Films

It's been almost a week and a half since the Academy Awards announced their annual nominations and this has given us plenty of time to digest each of the recognized recipients. Therefore, January's movie list of the month takes a look at the 5 worst Oscar-Nominated films of the past year (December's List).

Honorable Mention: Carol

Tom Hooper's biopic of a transgender pioneer (Eddie Redmayne) who was one of the first documented people to undergo sexual reassignment surgery has "Oscar bait" written all over it. And for the second year in a row, leading actor, Eddie Redmayne, is dwarfed by his female counterpart, both Felicity Jones and Alicia Vikander, respectively. But while The Danish Girl managed to capture 4 Oscar Nominations in total, this punishingly slow and sloppily scripted true story never packs the punch that it intends to.

#4. Trumbo

After shocking the industry with a trio of SAG Nominations and another two from the Globes, Bryan Cranston was the lone Oscar survivor from Jay Roach's Hollywood biopic, Trumbo. This play-it-safe examination of screenwriting pariah, Dalton Trumbo (Cranston), delivers superficial dramatics and weak writing. Yet, even in my own opinion. Cranston's nomination feels like a stretch.

3. Youth

Paolo Sorrentino's latest effort, Youth, gained him a large amount of notoriety out of the Cannes Film Festival in France. Michael Caine stood as a possible Best Actor contender for most of the awards season, yet the film only earned one single Oscar Nomination in the Best Original Song category. And despite Youth's majestic and picturesque backdrop. the oddly constructed and immensely artistic narrative becomes far too polarizing for my taste.

#2. Joy

David O. Russell's impressive Oscar streak almost came to a halt until Jennifer Lawrence officially became a Best Actress finalist for the upcoming Academy Awards. Yet, Joy surely separates itself (and not in a positive way) from O. Russell's more prolific work such as Best Picture Nominee's Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and The Fighter. Untypical of what we've come to expect from the filmmaker, Joy proves to be a jumbled mess filled with unnecessary dream sequences and minimally engaging story. 

#1. 50 Shades of Grey

It pains me to say every individual syllable, but the erotic novel turned box office smash, 50 Shades of Grey, managed to earn itself a nod from the Academy in the Best Original Song race. Now I don't know about you, but even if John Lennon rose from the dead to write and record the greatest song ever written, the Oscars should banish the tune if it means recognizing this smutty laughing-stock of a film. It's movies such as this that ruin the creativity and artistry of filmmaking. Instead, studio heads scoop up nonsense such as 50 Shades of Grey in order to turn huge profits. It's a sad and depressing reality that's altering the industry for the worse.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Rapid Reviews: The Finest Hours and Dirty Grandpa

Director Craig Gillespie has never been a household name, but I have been a fan of his past works such as Million Dollar Arm and Lars and the Real Girl. His films fail to strike a deep emotional chord, but they generally tell very interesting stories and keep the audience engaged. Therefore, I was at least mildly interested in Gillespie's latest endeavor, survival drama, The Finest Hours.

After a massive oil tanker splits in half during a wild wintry storm off the shores of Massachusetts, all nearby Coast Guard units are dispatched to the scene with their finest vessels. And in the most improbable turn of events, a second oil tanker suffers the same exact fate, splitting in half as well and slowly sinking into the frigid ocean waters. With the nearly 30 passengers on-board working tirelessly to keep the ship afloat until help arrives, responder Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is called upon to assemble a 4-man crew in a daring rescue mission with only a second-rate boat at their disposal.

It's difficult not to compare Gillespie's new release against another well known and finely executed sinking-ship drama, The Perfect Storm. Both are based on true stories and where Wolfgang Peterson's 2000 release wins the audience over with strongly developed characters and worthwhile dramatics, The Finest Hours most shining attributes revolve around its spectacular special effects. Chris Pine continues to illustrate a fine ability to carry a film and Casey Affleck's character has a few strong moments as well, but nearly everyone else becomes a replaceable piece to the puzzle. The third act's rescue mission delivers noteworthy thrills and suspense, but the film fails to create characters through which the audience can connect and have a vested interest. The Finest Hours is a decent, but far from exceptional, film that dazzles with eye-popping visual effects. And despite holding the audience's attention for nearly two full hours, its writing and overall effect fails to stack up against The Perfect Storm.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Sometimes you encounter a film where you just wish you could have those two hours of your life back. 2016 kicks off its cinematic year with one such feature, Danny Mazer's Dirty Grandpa. Sadly, this absurdly concocted comedy marks an absolute low point for both Robert De Niro and Zac Efron's acting careers.

A week before Jason Kelly's (Efron) wedding, his grandfather (De Niro) tricks him into taking a debaucherous road-trip to Daytona Beach during spring break. With the old man's last parting wish to defile a spry college-aged beauty (Aubrey Plaza) who has a "thing" for older men, Jason reluctantly goes along with the plan until he hits it off with a former classmate (Zoey Deutch) and puts his until engagement at risk.

Dirty Grandpa is a poorly written and predictable comedy that relies solely on male nudity and immature vulgar one-liners to steal laughs from the audience. The plot is formulaic and feels all too familiar while Robert De Niro force-feeds raunchy quips that miss far more than they succeed. This improvisational comedy fad that spawned from directors such as Judd Apatow and Adam McKay has lost its flavor. Pointing a camera at someone and having them say the craziest, most raunchy things that come to mind is no longer funny and definitely not creative. De Niro is a two-time Oscar winner who's starred in cinematic greats like Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II. Watching him tarnish his valuable legacy in this way is an absolute tragedy and something I want no part of. There are almost no redeeming qualities to be found in Dirty Grandpa, and I suggest holding onto your hard earned paycheck by avoiding this clunker.

Stars: 1 star out of 4

Grade: D+

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Suicide Squad (NEW) and Neighbors 2 Trailers

While the rapidly expanding Marvel universe is conquering box offices all across the world, DC Comics has a few tricks up its sleeve. After this March's largely anticipated release, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC plans to ride its wave of success with the villain-filled follow up, Suicide Squad. The latest trailer has dropped and we find some of the most notorious imprisoned bad guys (and girls) assigned to a special task force where they'll execute dangerous missions in exchange for shorter jail sentences.Although the specifics of the plot have been largely kept tight-lipped, Suicide Squad's look and tone far exceed my expectations for Dawn of Justice.

In a sequel that I didn't even know what happening, co-stars Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac Efron return with Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Once parents Mac and Kelly (Rogen and Byrne) finally settle down after their previous neighbors, a new group swoops in to stir up even more trouble than before. This seems like a pretty unnecessary sequel, but there's still something about Seth Rogen that always finds a way to make me laugh. Either way, I was surprised by the brand new trailer for Neighbors 2.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dave's 2015 Movie Awards

We're mid-way through January and, although it took a little longer than normal, I'm ready to announce my best films, performances, screenplays and directors of the year (2014's Winners). I felt like the Academy Awards did a respectable job of identifying the best in film for 2015, but here are my personal picks for the 8 major categories.

Note: I haven't seen Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Honorable Mention: The Big ShortThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Revenant

#5. The Martian

#4. Brooklyn

#3. The End of the Tour

#2. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

And the winner is ...

#1. Emma Donoghue - Room

With easily the most compelling script of the year, author turned screenwriter, Emma Donoghue, transforms her award-winning novel into a major motion picture masterpiece. Room should benefit from a second theatrical release now that the Oscar Nominations have been handed out and it's an absolute must-see!

Best Original Screenplay

Honorable Mention: 99 Homes, Sicario and Straight Outta Compton

#5. Infinitely Polar Bear

#4. Ex Machina

#3. Spotlight

#2. The Gift

And the winner is ...

Always known for his gripping and relentless dialogue, Quentin Tarantino continues to deliver the goods with his latest film, The Hateful Eight. His post Civil War mystery-thriller is both entertaining and beautifully perverse in a manner that could only be concocted from a mind such as his.

Best Supporting Actress

Honorable Mention: Joan Allen - Room and Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl

#5. Julie Walters - Brooklyn

#4. Rooney Mara - Carol

#3. Alicia Vikander - Ex Machina

#2. Olivia Cooke - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

And the winner is ...

#1. Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs

It's hard to argue against Danny Boyle's biopic, Steve Jobs, as the most superbly acted film of 2015. And standing toe to toe with lead actor, Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet's supporting turn is completely engrossing. She delivered Aaron Sorkin's uptempo dialogue with such unburdened ease and I was thrilled to see Winslet surprisingly rewarded at the Golden Globes.

Best Supporting Actor

Honorable Mention: Christian Bale - The Big Short, Michael Shannon - 99 Homes and Jacob Tremblay - Room

#5. Benicio Del Toro - Sicario

#4. Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight

#3. Tom Hardy - The Revenant

#2. Jason Segel - The End of the Tour

And the winner is ...

#1. Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies

It's been well documented how stacked the Best Supporting Actor race is for 2015. But from the film's opening sequence on, Mark Rylance commands the screen all throughout Steven Spielberg's Cold War drama, Bridge of Spies. Despite losing out to Creed's Sylvester Stallone at the recent Golden Globes ceremony, Rylance provides a towering performance that can't be ignored by the Academy in February.

Best Actress

Honorable Mention: Jennifer Lawrence - Joy and Carey Mulligan - Suffragette

#5. Cate Blanchett - Carol

#4. Juliette Binoche - Clouds of Sils Maria

#3. Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years

#2. Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn

And the winner is ...

#1. Brie Larson - Room

Brie Larson has quickly emerged as one of the premiere female talents in the industry. She follows up her magnificent snubbed work in the indie drama, Short Term 12, with a remarkably moving turn in Room. Starring as a mother held captive in a 10 foot by 10 foot padlocked room with her 5 year old son who has never left those tiny confines, it's Brie Larson's committed performance that brings this harrowing story to life.

Best Actor

Honorable Mention: Matt Damon - The Martian and Samuel L. Jackson - The Hateful Eight

#5. Will Smith - Concussion

#4. Thomas Mann - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

#3. Mark Ruffalo - Infinitely Polar Bear

#2. Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs

And the winner is ...

#1. Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant

While I wouldn't classify Leo's performance as far superior to his competitors in this category, he does go to outrageous lengths while starring in a role that many expect will land him in Oscar immortality. The Revenant offers a handful of fine performances, but Leo's nearly-muted character must convince the audience with his acting chops and he certainly does.

Best Director

Honorable Mention: John Crowley - Brooklyn, Joel Edgerton - The Gift and Adam McKay - The Big Short

#5. Guy Ritchie - The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

#4. Tom McCarthy - Spotlight

#3. Quentin Tarantino - The Hateful Eight

#2. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

And the winner is ...

#1. Alejandro G. Inarritu - The Revenant

Following last year's technical achievement, Birdman, and this year's phenomenally directed instant-classic, The Revenant, Alejandro G. Inarritu has solidified himself as one of Hollywood's most brilliant filmmakers. His unique visions are an absolute treasure to witness and Inarritu has developed into a director whose work you need to follow.

Best Picture

Honorable Mention: The End of the Tour, The Hateful Eight and Infinitely Polar Bear

#5. Brooklyn

#4. The Revenant

#3. Spotlight

#2. Room

And the winner is ...

#1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Although my year's finest film managed to become an afterthought during 2015's award season journey, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a special blend of comedy, drama and originality that results in a nearly perfect movie experience. Perhaps the film's most overlooked element is Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's exceptional direction that's both innovative and technically sound. Its screenplay is excellent and its performances are memorable which all culminate in 2015's Best Picture of the the year.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2016 Free Oscar Contest

Now that Oscar Nominations have officially been handed out, it's time to sign up for our free Oscar pool. Between now and Sunday February 28th you can enter the contest by following the directions below (all it requires is an email address with NO SPAM ever!):

Step 2: In the "Join Password" box type - oscargold

Step 3: Fill out the form including a username, password and email address

Then, once you're signed up, pick a winner in each Oscar category (once again, you have until February 28th to make/change your selections). The winner of the contest will receive a $50 gift card to a movie theater chain of their choice (Regal, AMC or Landmark Theaters). Invite as many friends as you'd like!

Note: The winner must have a mailing address in the 48 continental states.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2016 Oscar Snubs and Surprises

With every cinematic calendar year comes that fateful Thursday morning in January when the Academy Awards announce their annual nominations. This is the Super Bowl of Hollywood, careers can be made or hearts can be broken. And with so much pressure placed on who the Oscars do and do not recognize, they can't always get every call correct. So here's a look at this year's biggest Oscar snubs and surprises (full list of nominees).

What Happened to Carol?

One of this morning's craziest surprises was the omission of Todd Haynes' Carol from the Best Picture race. As a crowd-pleaser for an older artsy bunch such as the Academy, Carol seemed like pure Oscar fodder. While both of its leading ladies (or one supporting, I guess), Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, earned nominations like many expected, missing out in the Best Picture field is a huge blow to the film. Personally, I wasn't a fan of Carol, but many anticipated a much stronger showing.

No Tarantino and Sorkin?

Quentin Tarantino's (The Hateful Eight) prized screenplays always seem to be a staple with Oscar voters and Aaron Sorkin was fresh off a Golden Globe win for Steve Jobs, but both of these fine writers missed out on key nominations this morning. Instead, Tarantino's omission paved the way for a surprising, albeit deserving, entry from the collection of Straight Outta Compton scribes in the Original Screenplay race. As for Sorkin, his swing and miss opened the door for author turned screenwriter, Emma Donoghue (Room), in the Adapted Screenplay competition.

And the Wait Continues for Ridley Scott

Much like Leonardo DiCaprio, acclaimed filmmaker, Ridley Scott (The Martian), is still waiting for that elusive Oscar statue. But unlike Leo, Scott shockingly won't have a chance at winning one this year. In a bit of a twist, Scott was left out of the Best Director final five in favor of newbie, Lenny Abrahamson (Room). While I'm a huge supporter of Room, I found its direction to be the weakest element and agree with the sentiment that Scott was a more deserving finalist.

Tom Hardy Gets His First Career Nomination

There may not be an actor in Hollywood more deserving of his first Academy Award Nomination than The Revenant's supporting star, Tom Hardy. It was hardly expected, but the first-time nominee survived an immensely crowded field to leap frog the presumed nominee and awards season powerhouse, Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation). Hardy represented one of an astounding 12 nominations in total that were handed to Alejandro G. Inarritu's remarkable film.

Unleash the "Fury"

Tom Hardy wasn't only a key figure in this year's most nominated film, The Revenant (12 nods), he also starred as the title character in George Miller's massively honored Mad Max: Fury Road. Although the overwhelming Oscar support for Fury Road became more apparent as today's nominations inched closer, it was impossible to imagine Miller's return to the Mad Max universe netting 10 nods. This amazing double-digit result was good for second most by any film this year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Predicting the 2016 Oscar Nominations

With Oscar Nominations dropping bright and early tomorrow morning, insiders are scrambling to unveil their predicted nominees. Every year the Academy Awards throw in a few curve balls and, with an abnormally crowded and perplexing field such as this year, your guess is as good as mine. Either way, guest writer Greg Rouleau (Reel True) and I are offering up our best attempts at predicting this year's nominees.

Best Picture

Dave's Picks:

1. The Big Short   2. Bridge of Spies   3. Brooklyn   4. Carol   
5. Mad Max: Fury Road   6. The Martian   7. The Revenant   8. Room   9. Spotlight

Should be here: The Hateful Eight

Greg's Picks:

1. The Big Short   2. Bridge of Spies   3. Carol   4. Mad Max: Fury Road   
5. The Martian   6. The Revenant   7. Spotlight

Should be here: Sicario

Best Director

Dave's Picks:

1. Alejandro G. Inarritu - The Revenant   2. Tom McCarthy - Spotlight   
3. George Miller - Mad Max: Fury Road   4. Ridly Scott - The Martian   
5. Steven Spielberg - Bridge of Spies

Should be here: Quentin Tarantino - The Hateful Eight

Greg's Picks:

1. Todd Haynes - Carol   2. Alejandro G. Inarritu - The Revenant   
3. Tom McCarthy - Spotlight   4. Ridley Scott - The Martian   
5. Steven Spielberg - Bridge of Spies

Should be here: Denis Villenueve - Sicario

Best Actor

Dave's Picks:

1. Bryan Cranston - Trumbo   2. Matt Damon - The Martian   
3. Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant   4. Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs   
5. Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl

Should be here: Will Smith - Concussion

Greg's Picks:

1. Michael Caine - Youth   2. Matt Damon - The Martian   
3. Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant   4. Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs   
5. Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl

Should be here: Samuel L Jackson - The Hateful 8

Best Actress

Dave and Greg's Picks:

1. Cate Blanchett - Carol   2.Brie Larson - Room   
3. Jennifer Lawrence - Joy   4. Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years   
5. Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn   

Should be here (Dave): Juliette Binoche - Clouds of Sils Maria

Should be here (Greg): Emily Blunt - Sicario

Best Supporting Actor

Dave and Greg's Picks:

1. Christian Bale - The Big Short   2. Idris Elba - Beasts of No Nation   
3. Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight   4. Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies   
5. Sylvester Stallone - Creed

Should be here (Dave): Michael Shannon - 99 Homes

Should be here (Greg): Tom Hardy - The Revenant

Best Supporting Actress

Dave and Greg's Picks:

1. Jennifer Jason Leigh - The Hateful Eight   2. Rooney Mara - Carol   
3. Helen Mirren - Trumbo   4. Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl   
5. Kate Winslet - Steve Jobs

Should be here (Dave): Joan Allen - Room

Should be here (Greg): Julie Walters - Brooklyn

Best Adapted Screenplay

Dave's Picks:

1. The Big Short   2. Brooklyn   3. Carol   4. The Martian   5. Steve Jobs

Should be here: Room

Greg's Picks:

1. The Big Short   2. Carol   3. The Martian   4. Room   5. Steve Jobs

Should be here: Brooklyn

Best Original Screenplay

Dave and Greg's Picks:

1. Bridge of Spies   2. Ex Machina   3. Inside Out   
4. The Hateful Eight   5. Spotlight

Should be here (Dave): Straight Outta Compton

Should be here (Greg): Sicario

*** Be sure to check back tomorrow for a look at all the snubs and surprises for this year's Academy Awards

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Greg's Top 10 Films of 2015

Guest writer Greg Rouleau (Reel True) is an avid film lover whose opinion I respect. Every year he's able to see a wide array of movies and here are his top ten selections for 2015:

Honorable Mention: Bridge of Spies, Carol, Creed, Spotlight and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

10 – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The fifth installment in the Mission: Impossible series proves the franchise has plenty left in the tank.  Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt continues to astound with his death-defying stunts, which includes hanging off the side of a cargo plane during takeoff– and that’s just how we start the movie.  The “M:I” films have evolved from the darkly tense thriller of the original, to action packed adventures with incredibly innovative set pieces.  There’s more than just eye candy here – and there certainly is with newcomer, Rebecca Ferguson, who turns in a nice performance as a double (or triple?) agent – there’s a decided focus on story.  Written and directed by The Usual Suspects scribe, Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation is elevated beyond the popcorn flick and cements itself as the best entry in the “M:I” series since the original.

9 – The Big Short

The Big Short is difficult to define in terms of genre.  Directed by Adam McKay – who typically finds himself helming “Frat Pack’ comedies – The Big Short shows the director taking a turn to the more serious side, but managing to stay well within his comfort zone.  Despite the label of a drama, the film never takes itself too seriously, and is able to tell the story of a complex subject matter – to anyone not familiar with the economics of the real estate industry – in an entertaining and digestible manner.  The four leads of Bale, Pitt, Gosling, and Carell are exceptional and while you may find yourself laughing at the quirky characters, and the several moments of fourth-wall breaking, there’s a harrowing truth uncovered here that stays with you long after.

8 – Steve Jobs

Danny Boyle never makes the same film twice, and he continually finds fresh, innovative ways to tell a story.  Here, working with Aaron Sorkin’s biting screenplay – which literally takes the classic three act structure and sets each in a separate period, prior to the launch of a Jobs product – Boyle employed 16mm, 35mm and digital to film each respective act.  This technique allows for a synergistic visual progression that mirrors that of the tech giant, himself.  Sorkin admirably avoids the “greatest hits” biopic route and is able to effectively display character development through this unique approach.  Michael Fassbender is outstanding in the title role and Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels and Michael Stuhlbarg also shine in support.

7 – The Martian

Compared to recent sci-fi blockbusters, it lacks the intensity of Gravity, as well as the scope and vision of Interstellar, but there’s still plenty to enjoy.  Matt Damon is outstanding and charming as the deserted Watney, forced to improvise survival methods as we hope to witness his rescue.   A surprising element of The Martian is its levity.  While there’s surely a decent amount of drama and spectacle on display, many characters in the large ensemble are given a chance to show off some comedic chops, too.  The somewhat lighthearted tone and conventional story here are surprising, but also likely key in what should be a major success commercially.   While it’s not on the level of his greatest hits, it’s welcome to see Sir Ridley on the right path again and The Martian is decidedly enjoyable from start to finish.

6 – Anomalisa

It’s not often that you can label a Charlie Kaufman film simple in terms of storytelling, but Anomalisa is the most straightforward story from Kaufman yet.  It’s also the most moving.  Here, the complexity lies in the characters – the stop-motion puppets, to be exact – which are rendered beautifully by co-director, Duke Johnson, as the emotion they’re able to convey is wonderfully heart-rending.  The story itself is so simple that going into too may details would possibly spoil the experience, and going into this as fresh as possible is the key here.  When it comes to the monotony of life and yearning for new love, no one is able to fully convey these emotions quite like Charlie Kaufman.

5 – The Revenant

The Revenant is another simple affair in terms of storytelling, as it portrays a classic revenge story set in the early 1800s Pacific Northwest.  Leonardo DiCaprio gives a gripping, wild and brilliant performance that should make him a lock for his first Oscar.  Tom Hardy also turns in a stellar showing as Fitzgerald, the man who leaves DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass for dead.  Another aspect that makes this drama stand out is the exceptional craft on display.  From the beautiful landscapes and imagery captured by the uber-talented, current back-to-back Oscar winner for Cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki, to the adept direction of last year’s Best Director Oscar winner, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant is a visual and technical masterpiece that deserves to be experienced on the big screen.

4 – Room

What better way to adapt a novel to film than have the author pen the screenplay herself?  Emma Donoghue successfully turned her award winning work into one of the most compelling dramas of the year, thanks to the brilliant work of the two leads, Brie Larson and the young Jacob Tremblay.  The two tell the story of a mother and son kept in captivity for nearly a decade that hatch a plan to escape from their captor.  Some of the best moments are in the aftermath, as Brie Larson’s Joy watches her son experience the “real world” for the first time and struggle to reconnect with an estranged family.  Room is enthralling, emotional, and uplifting, and easily one of the best of 2015.

3 – The Hateful Eight

One of the great theater experiences of the year came from The Hateful Eight 70mm Roadshow screening.  Quentin Tarantino dusted off the ultra Panavision lenses – not used since the 1960s – to film his Mystery-Western and have it projected on film across nearly 100 theaters in the US.  This showing would be complete with a program, an overture of the great Ennio Morricone’s score and a perfectly timed intermission for the 187-minute epic.  This isn’t to say the film itself wasn’t truly outstanding.  Samuel L. Jackson continues to prove the theory he was born to be in Tarantino films, as he turns in another gem as Major Warren.  Jennifer Jason Leigh is also excellent as the convicted felon, Daisy Domergue, on her way to execution at the hands of Kurt Russell’s John Ruth.  With most of Tarantino films you can expect long monologues, gratuitous violence and liberal use of explicit language, but would you really have it any other way? There’s also a mystery element to the story here that isn’t quite hinted at in the trailers.  With the excellent story and performances, as well as an absorbing Roadshow experience, The Hateful Eight ranks in the upper echelon of Tarantino films.

2 – Brooklyn

It almost feels strange to sandwich a movie like Brooklyn in between Tarantino’s bloody Hateful Eight and the ultra violent Sicario, but this story of a young Irish immigrant finding love in a new home plucked at my heartstrings more than any other film this year.  I’ve been an admirer of Saoirse Ronan’s work since her Oscar nominated performance in Atonement where she was a scene-stealer amongst her elder counterparts.  Here, she once again delivers as Eilis, the young Irish girl torn between suitors across the Atlantic, while she attempts to find her place in the vast city as a young adult.  With plenty of drama and emotion – enough to find you fighting back the tears – there’s also an abundance of laughs that make this coming of age story one of the best of the year.

1 – Sicario

At last, fall movie season has arrived and with it, brings one of the best movies of the year, Sicario.  Denis Villeneuve’s tightly paced thriller is a masterwork of crafting tension and a brutal, violent, bloody look at the war on drugs around the Mexican border.  Benicio Del Toro, giving his best performance since the actor’s Oscar winning turn in Traffic, oozes machismo as Alejandro, the government agent with an ambiguous past.  Emily Blunt shines in her role as the FBI representative who aids the special task force assigned to locate a Mexican drug lord.

Throughout much of the film, Blunt’s character is kept in the dark when it comes to specifics of the mission and even certain team member’s allegiances.  Villeneuve does a fantastic job of putting us in her shoes, particularly in one of the film’s best scenes, when the task force heads to Juarez to extradite a prisoner.   With such a powerful subject matter, Sicario does leave a little to be desired when it comes to examining the intricacies of the actual task at hand; it’s pretty much here’s the bad guy – let’s get him.  But with the stellar performances, I’d be remiss to not also mention Josh Brolin, and a plot that unfolds in such a gripping manner, it’s easy to overlook a few shortcomings.   It’s also worth pointing out the wonderful technical craft on display, in particular, Roger Deakins’ always beautiful cinematography and Oscar winner Johann Johannsson’s intense score.   Sicario is 2015's finest film.