Sunday, February 26, 2012


Wanderlust is the latest film from director David Wain, known for his cult-favorite comedies like Wet Hot American Summer and the TV show Stella.  The movie follows a New York couple, played by Paul Rudd and Jennifer Anniston, who buys their first apartment.  Unfortunately both of them lose their jobs right after they buy it and are forced to resell - but there's no interest in the market for a studio apartment (or as the realtor is insistent on calling it a 'micro-loft').  While they are making the trip to crash at his brother's house due to their recent homelessness, they find the closest motel through their GPS and shack up at a hippie commune.  Once living at his brother's house becomes unbearable, Rudd and Anniston decide to give the tree-huggers another go, and the rest of the film boils down to a series of hippie-related gags.

I really wish more of the jokes landed in this film because the few that work really work.  Paul Rudd's mirror scene is totally hilarious and the strong cast of familiar comic faces help to make this thinly plotted film enjoyable.  In a comedy like this I don't even really care that much about plot, as long as something resembling one is there to move the jokes forward; Wanderlust does have that at least.  The problem is that the good jokes are too few and far between - they really needed an Airplane! style, rapid fire joke assembly line.  I appreciate Aniston's recent foray into R-Rated comedies (she was also funny in Horrible Bosses) and there are some scattered moments of inspired material, but I doubt this film will live a life beyond playing in the background on Comedy Central for the next 10 years.

Rating: C

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Predicting the 84th Academy Awards (EVERY CATEGORY) [UPDATED]

The biggest movie awards show is about to celebrate its 84th year on February 26; it's sure to be a night of celebrity ass-kissing and Hollywood back-deals, but it's still fun to speculate (for me anyway) and to get to  "root" for a particular favorite film or films.  For kicks, I'll post my predictions EVEN if I haven't seen any of the nominees, and maybe I'll go into who I want to win - but this is strictly business.  These are my bets, not my tastes or opinions of who or what should win (really, most of the movies/people I want to win aren't even nominated).

* = Haven't seen it...yet

[UPDATE: The actual winners will be highlighted under the nominations]


The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

I Predict:  The Artist

Let's get this out of the way: 2011 was a pretty lackluster year for movies.  Sure in terms of technology and boundary-breaking techniques (sometimes literally with the addition of a third dimension) it was a notable year, but there just weren't many "powerhouse" releases like we've seen the past few years. Anyway, enough with that rant, based on what pretty much everyone is thinking, The Artist is going to take it home this year.  Especially considering the majority of the Academy is packed with old white guys that probably remember being there during the silent age, the current-era ode to 1920's American silent comedies has been the clear frontrunner for Best Picture.  If anything else wins it'll be a shocking evening.


Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

I Predict:  Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

As it typically goes the Academy hands this award to the Best Picture winner, so I'm going to say it'll be a very Artist evening.  This is a strong list of directors, but really what chance do Allen or Malick have?  There's a 99% probability that neither of them will even be in attendance so I was surprised to see them nominated at all.    Scorsese and Payne are solid runners up, but again, I'm imagining this will go hand-in-hand with Best Picture.


Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners*
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I Predict: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

This is a tough category.  Unlike the past few years, there no "that's the one" performance on the list (like in 2010 with Christoph Waltz).  I feel guilty even guessing seeing as I haven't seen 2 of the 5 films, but I think Christopher Plummer may take home the prize.  He's been in the biz a long time and has yet to get himself on Oscar, so I think he might win.  I loved Jonah Hill in Moneyball but there's no way in hell he will win.


Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Mellisa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Knobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help

I Predict:  Octavia Spencer, The Help

This seems like kind of an obvious one to me (but as always there's no telling what could happen).  Why Viola Davis isn't in this category but instead is nominated as a lead actress confuses me, and it's a shame because I think she would have beaten out her co-star.  I'm very happy that Mellisa McCarthy is nominated (even though she, like Jonah Hill, has no chance of winning), especially because comedic roles like that tend to get lost in the awards season shuffle.  


Demian Bechir, A Better Life*
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

I Predict:  Jean Dujardin, The Artist

This is an incredibly difficult category to predict, as there are quite a few heavy hitters here.  I think Pitt doesn't stand a chance, and I have yet to experience A Better Life, but The Artist relied so heavily on Dujardin's performance and it's through his energy and silent film pinashe that even modern audiences don't get lost or bored with this dialogue-less movie.  But crap, then there's Gary Oldman, who could earn an Oscar similarly to Plummer in a "they've been in the business a long time and they deserve a trophy" fashion.


Glenn Close, Albert Knobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady*
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

I Predict:  Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

This is another strong category this year, but I think the Academy will fall for The Iron Actress, Meryl Streep.  I personally want Michelle Williams to win, who is slowly becoming one of my favorite actresses working today.  She might have a chance considering the relatable era to the Academy voters (aka old dudes), but Streep is a award-sucking machine, and with Harvey Weinstein Oscar-campaigning extraordinaire behind her I think she'll have to make even more room on her mantlepiece.


A Cat in Paris*
Chico and Rita*
Kung Fu Panda 2*
Puss in Boots*

I Predict:  Chico and Rita

This one's a little more difficult since I haven't seen most of the nominees (yet), and A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita seem to be in a much different, more "indie" zone of animation.  Depending of the mood of the voters I think Rango is the frontrunner of the mainstream titles, but Chico and Rita, the more I hear about it, is supposed to be artistic and very well-made.


The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo, Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

I Predict:  Hugo, Robert Richardson

Damn, 2011 was a year of amazing cinematography.  All 5 of these flicks deserve an award, this is a damn near impossible category to predict - but I'm still going to place my bet.  Why not Hugo?  It's beautifully shot AND it's the first 3D film from the legendary Martin Scorsese.  The movie blends the old with the new, which is right up the Academy's alley.


Bullhead*, Belgium
Monsieur Lazhar*, Canada
A Separation, Iran
Footnote*, Israel
In Darkness*, Poland

I Predict:  A Separation, Iran

A totally blind speculation but this one seems to be getting the most attention (plus it's nominated for Best Original Screenplay).  A Separation is the only foreign film on this list that I've seen; from what I hear Bullhead is supposed to be a "wild card" pick that likely won't win.


The Descendants
Ides of March*
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*

I Predict:  Moneyball

Aaron Sorkin is a writing god.  He's practically a character in Moneyball and totally deserves an award for it.


The Artist
Margin Call*
Midnight in Paris
A Separation

I Predict:  A Separation

Maybe I'm crazy, but why should The Artist win for Best Original Screenplay?  There's no dialogue in the entire thing, and most of the magic came from the actors and the style.  The story was pretty much a carbon-copy of other silent films.  If you ask me, A Separation should and could win because the whole thing works because of its script.  Not knowing a word of Farsi, I still felt the impact of the words the characters spoke through the subtitles.  It might be a stretch to think the Academy would hand this off to a foreign picture, but I'll stick with it.


"Man or Muppet," from The Muppets
"Real in Rio," from Rio*

I Predict:  "Man or Muppet," The Muppets

This is like a joke category.  We all know The Muppets will win; it's kind of sad that there are only two songs "good enough" to be nominated.


The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
War Horse

I Predict:  Hugo

Even though the "leading" film this year is The Artist, Hugo is still nominated in the most categories this year.  Clearly the Academy took a liking to the first kid-friendly Scorsese film, and I think it'll be in these smaller categories where it will win.


The Artist
Jane Eyre*

I Predict:  Jane Eyre

Every nominee in this category is a period piece - so what now?  I'll give it to Jane Eyre, it just seems like it's the type of thing aristocratic costume-people would faun over.


Hell and Back Again*
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front 1/2* (I never finished it on Netflix)
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory*

I Predict:  Pina

Don't know anything about most of these movies, so I'm going to go with the one I've heard of the most!  Clearly you're reading the words of a true authority figure on this.


The Barber of Birmingham*
God is the Bigger Elvis*
Incident in New Baghdad*
Saving Face*
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom*

I Predict:  Incident in New Baghdad

I literally know nothing nor have heard one thing about any of these, but clearly the one about Baghdad is going to win.


The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 

I Predict:  The Artist

I really am not an expert when it comes to these highly technical aspects of film, but The Artist really did have some pretty clever uses of editing (especially towards the end of the film).


Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady*

I Predict: Albert Nobbs

I don't agree with this at all, but I do think Albert Nobbs will win.  Glen Close never looked more like a woman than when she was dressing up as a man in this film.


The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
The Artist, Ludovic Bource
Hugo, Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*, Alberto Iglesias
War Horse, John Williams

I Predict:  The Artist, Ludovic Bource

The score is the only thing we hear the whole damn movie; it's hard to look past something like that.  I did find myself surprisingly enjoying Tintin's soundtrack, but I'm disappointed that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was not nominated.  Damn Academy.


The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

I Predict:  La Luna

I actually have seen all of these shorts, and none of them were particularly spectacular.  La Luna was Pixar's entry and accordingly it was cute and clever as always.  A close contender might be The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, but despite high quality animation, I thought it was not at all good.  Wild Life is the most "artsy" (with each frame being an actual painting) and probably would win if this were a different awards show.


The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

I Predict:  Raju

I've also seen all of these shorts as well; the live action shorts were so much better than the animated ones.  I personally enjoyed Time Freak the best, but it seemed too light and more likely to live a life on College Humor than to be awarded an Oscar.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon*
War Horse 

I Predict:  Transformers: Dark of the Moon

I'm not going to pretend like I know the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, but I do know that those big robots sound cool.  I'm probably stupid for not going with Hugo for the two sound categories...


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon*
War Horse

I Predict:  Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Just look at that guy in the picture.  Looks like he knows what he's doing, look at his beard.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel*
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon*

I Predict:  Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This movie really paves a step forward for legitimizing motion-capture technology.  Andy Serkis's performance is captured perfectly onto a big CGI monkey and transforms this cheese-territory b-movie into a grade-A summer blockbuster.

Well that's it.  Feel free to comment or whatever about who/what you think will win, and we can see how ridiculously off I was in every category!

[UPDATE: Yeah, ok.  I got 11 out of 24 right...I'm sorry - but I did at least get all the major categories right.  If I'm still blogging by this time next year, I promise I'll do better.]

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Triple Review: Little People, Ghosts, and Nic Cage

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance:

I was very excited to see this movie.  Sure the first Ghost Rider sucked, and sure Nic Cage has recently been a harbinger for trash, but with the guys behind the Crank movies as the directors and with a script from David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Dark Knight), I was expecting a totally awesome current-era Grindhouse adrenaline rush.  Although there are a few sequences in this film that do deliver on its promise of fiery demonic action, most of the acting is completely awful and the story is such a nonsensical waste of time that it ruins the fun.

Nic Cage may not be the most respected actor working today, but there's a certain subculture that has learned to harness his over-the-topness for their own entertainment.  I've recently jumped on this bandwagon, and it's only in Cage's few moments of "Cageiness" that work - everyone else either is bad at acting or has one of the worst roles of their career.  I don't even know if I can describe the story; I know it had something to do with Cage having to find a kid who has the potential to become a demon or something, so he has to stop him from being killed off by this bad guy (played by Ciaran Hinds).  I don't know, you shouldn't care about the plot anyway.

The overall style and handful of action scenes are solid enough for a film like this (I particularly liked the frenetic camera-work during the chase sequences), but the story isn't just bad or dumb, it doesn't even make sense.  Seriously, how hard is it to come up with an excuse for Ghost Rider to go around disintegrating bad guys?  Spirit of Vengeance could have been one of the best Marvel movies had it a solid story, but this is just frustratingly bad because unlike the first Ghost Rider, this has those few nuggets of awesomeness (most of which were shown in the trailer) that show this could have been something special.

Rating: C-

The Secret World of Arriety:

Studio Ghibli is the world renowned Japanese animation studio that has brought us films like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro.  I tend to enjoy their more "epic" efforts like Princess Monoke and Ponyo, but I decided to check this one out anyway despite knowing going in that this leaned more towards the kiddish, "Totoro" side of things.  The story, based off of The Borrowers, follows a tiny family that lives within the walls of a house unbeknownst to the owners.

I really enjoyed this film; I liked how everything in the "borrowers" world was in its proper perspective.  For instance, when they pour water or cry the water droplets are larger than what we would perceive them as.  The animation, although less detailed than the mega-budgeted 3D animated tales we normally see in theaters, was still as always beautiful to look at.  If you're into this kind of thing it's worth admission price for the animation alone.  I also liked that the film plays with some really dark, complex themes (including death and loss) despite only being rated G.

The problems I have with this film are the same ones I have with a lot of the other Ghibli films.  At times the characters can be too "cutesy" and sometimes due to the light plot sections of the film drag on a little too long.  I think if you've seen and enjoyed Ghibli's other movies you'll enjoy this one though, even if it's not their best.

Rating: B

The Woman in Black:

The latest in Hammer's "revival" period, also the first Post-Potter film for Daniel Radcliffe, The Woman in Black is complete crap.  Really, the entire thing exists for a few jump scares and almost nothing else.  I liked the costumes, the period details, and the set pieces, but there was no substance.  Nothing.  Check out Paranormal Activity or Insidious if you want a good ghost story, this is garbage!

Rating: D

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Triple Review: Cross-dressing, Superpowers, and Liam Neeson

Hey people, I know these aren't the best reviews, but I'm just kind of throwing my thoughts out there on the past few flicks I've seen.

Albert Nobbs:

Glenn Close pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man: the movie.  Set in 19th century Ireland, the film follows the staff of a motel in which you're sure to recognize some of the actors, including Brendan Gleeson, Mia Wasikowska,  and of course Close as the withdrawn "little man" Albert.  Despite all of the great performances from everyone involved (especially Close), it still feels lacking.  The film rests so heavily on this idea of Close fooling people into thinking she is a man, but it is terribly clear that she is a she.  I guess you could say it was a more naive time, but had I not known Glenn Close was supposed to be pretending to be a man before going into the film, I would've been so confused.  In fact, Janet McTeer (in an Oscar-nominated supporting role) is *spoilers* also pretending to be a man.  Supposedly a "twist," I had no clue that that was even a twist - I assumed she was a woman all along.  Because of this, I really could not get into the movie.  Just imagine if Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire spoke in a deeper voice or if the makeup was slightly "off."  Unlike Tootsie I just didn't believe the gender-bending.  You'd think it'd be a cinch to make Glenn Close into a man, come on people.

Rating: C-


I will admit I'm a true sucker for these "caught on camera" movies, but I believe Chronicle is a solid film even without the "gimmick" of a mocu-mentary (I put gimmick in quotes because the caught-on-camera style actually serves a purpose in this story).  Chronicle was directed by a 27 year old newcomer Josh Trank and was written by Max Landis, who is the son of director John Landis (Animal House, An American Werewolf in London).  The film basically follows these three kids as they discover they have the power to move things with their mind (known as telekinesis).  What results is a very unique superhero/villain story that defies a lot of the conventions of the genre.  Although the CGI can be iffy at times and the end of the film strays into "cheesy" territory, I loved this film.  The characters were fleshed out as opposed to most flicks set in high school, and the way the characters interacted seemed very true to life.  The film plays with all sorts of themes and it's completely natural and interesting how the kids learn to use their powers.  They slowly figure out how to control themselves and the progression of their strength is paced just right.  I don't want to give much away, but Chronicle comes highly recommended despite its few flaws!

Rating: B+

The Grey:

How can a gritty, bloody tale of Liam Neeson fighting off ravenous wolves not be awesome?  The answer can be found in The Grey - a mostly dull, predictable, and generally unpleasant effort from Joe Carnahan (Smokin' Aces, The A-Team).  The story is about a misfit crew of oil drillers whose plane crashes in the middle of Alaska.  The survivors must fend for themselves and try their hardest not to get eaten by the many pissed off wolves around them.  While I did enjoy the horror movie aspects coming from the wolves, everything else I felt as though I'd seen before.  Liam Neeson's character flashes back to some woman over and over, there's one guy in the group who thinks he's tough, and there are the obligatory "survival philosophy" campfire sessions.  There weren't enough original moments - it just used all the typical tropes of the survival genre.  I did like the intensity of the plane crash (nothing beats Lost though), and I liked that there was a distinct, gritty, "Rated R" feel to the picture, but I was personally disappointed.  Taken with wolves this was not.

Rating: C-
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...