Sunday, November 25, 2012

100th Post!

This is officially my 100th post to my blog. Woo hoo.  Thanks to everyone who has ever read it; I have fun writing it, so if someone out there enjoys reading it then my life is validated and I won't hang myself.  I wasn't sure what to make of this centennial post, but  2013 is just 'round the corner and Oscar nominees will be announced in mere months, so why not predict what I'll be predicting?  I'm just going to place my bets on the major categories on who/what will be nominated; it might be fun!  (I emphasize might).

*Pic unrelated to anything


Beasts of the Southern Wild
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
The Master
Moonrise Kingdom
The Sessions
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

It's tough to choose at this point, but it's safe to say Lincoln, Life of Pi, Argo, and Les Mis are "locked in."  Kathryn Bigelow and David O. Russel are Academy-friendly so their Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook are solid bets as well.  The Sessions, The Master, and Moonrise Kingdom are the dark horses, but to me, all sparkle with that Academy glow already.  I'm sorry fellow Tarantino fans, I just don't think Django Unchained will make it.  I also think Skyfall and The Hobbit won't see a nomination either, but I'd be happy to be wrong.


Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
John Hawkes, The Sessions
Denzel Washington, Flight
Anthony Hopkins, Hitchcock

Phoenix and Day-Lewis are the obvious candidates here, and Hawkes has an easily nominateable turn as a man struggling in an iron lung.  The dark horses for me are Denzel, and with an even lesser chance, Hopkins as Hitch.


Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

This category was the toughest for me, as Zero Dark Thirty and Les Mis have yet to be released.  These are all strong female performances, many of whom are Academy-friendly names.  Quvenzhane Wallis is young, but much like Gabourey Sidibe in Precious, it's the type of breakthrough role that is sure to get nominated.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Some more Oscar-bait

Silver Linings Playbook:

Hangover star and People's "sexiest man alive" Bradley Cooper is miscast as the leading actor in David O. Russell's dark romantic dramedy about a man with bipolar disorder finding love in an equally crazy, medication-ridden wreck played by The Hunger Games' tween-girl icon Jennifer Lawrence.  The film starts out with Cooper's character coming home from the looney bin with his mother (Jacki Weaver).  When they get home Cooper wants to get his life back in check, including trying to get back together with his wife - who he caught cheating on him with an English professor while their wedding song was playing in the background.  But enter Lawrence's character, who he meets at a dinner party, bonding over the various medications they've taken, and from there on it's an awkwardly scripted romantic comedy that only thinks it's in the league of Woody Allen.

The only "silver lining" in this movie are the performances.  Although Bradley Cooper was an incredibly odd choice for such a neurotic character, he did show more of his acting chops.  And this is probably the best "acting showcase" for Jennifer Lawrence we've seen so far, and she is more than likely to be nominated come Oscar season.  Robert DeNiro, playing the football-loving OCD father, gives one of his better performances in a while for a script that doesn't deserve it.  Something about the way the characters interact was so strange. The emotions the actors convey feel very real, but I just can't put my finger on what's so unappealing about the dialogue; maybe they just talk a little too fast and a little too smarmy for real life.

The story is really muddled at times, balancing very intense emotional scenes with light comedy and for me it didn't really work.  I really do like the style and edge David O. Russell and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Warrior, The Grey) infuse into it, but overall this film comes as a disappointing follow-up to The Fighter.

Rating: C-

Life of Pi:

Ang Lee, the director of such critically lauded films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, is taking on an "unfilmable" novel with Life of Pi, an ambitious story about religion, survival, and the act of storytelling itself.  As with Cloud Atlas, I applaud the film on a pure technical scale, but unfortunately for me it was not the cinematic equivalent of a religious experience.

The story is about a man, named Pi, recounting his life to an author in an effort to prove to him that God exists.  We see the origin of this boy and his religious background and his family life, and after about 15 to 20 minutes of that crap, we finally get to the shipwreck scene that was promised from the trailer.  The cargo ship Pi was on was holding various zoo animals, and once the storm settles down, oh fuck, he realizes there's a god damn tiger on the boat.  Then it kind of becomes becomes Cast Away-on-acid with a tiger instead of a volleyball.

First the positive: the CGI is fucking amazing.  The tiger, named Richard Parker after a mishap at the zoo, is pretty much photo-realistic.  I can definitely see why James Cameron has his official seal of approval because I'd say it's in the same ballpark as an Avatar on a purely visual scale.  While I'm still very much anti-3D, this film will certainly give the pro-3D losers some ammunition for their [weak] arguments on the medium.  The way the sea is shot, sometimes perfectly reflecting the sky above is gorgeous.  And you could definitely feel the shadow of Titanic in the shipwreck scene.

Maybe I'm not the perfect person to be reviewing this film, but I just did not "get it."  There's all kinds of religious symbolism that is often times not subtle whatsoever.  I liked the idea of how the film centered around storytelling, using religion as an example, but the execution was pretty iffy.  I loved the stuff on the boat, because the relationship between Pi and the tiger was pretty grounded in reality and the stakes were clear, but once the movie goes into hippy-dippy land, I just checked out.  Like Cloud Atlas or Tree of Life, it tries so hard to be profound and I simply have a hard time with those types of films.  On a pure technical level it's totally worth seeing, but I think it went overboard with its own ambition.

Rating: C

Friday, November 16, 2012

5 Dolla Billz - Lincoln Review

I have a feeling this review is mostly going to be me apologizing because it seems like everyone is sucking Lincoln's dick right now.  Steven Spielberg's latest features the world's finest actor portraying the world's finest American; there seems to be a bigger-than-life mystique to the film before even seeing it based on the level of talent and the Oscar-bait nature of the material.  I have to say, this film looks amazing.  The period detail sucks you right in, and if it weren't for me recognizing all the faces in the cast I would've believed I was in the Civil War.  Long time Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski is doing phenominal work here, often making Lincoln look like the stoic icon that he should be.  Technically this film is the work of a master - but... (here we go) for me at least, it didn't engage on an emotional level.

The problem with a film based on historical events is that you know what's coming.  Lincoln takes place in the last four months of Lincoln's presidency, while he was fighting to pass the 13th amendment which would abolish slavery.  Spoilers for real life: he of course passes it, but the film tries so hard to ratchet up the tension.  Oooh, will he get all the "ayes" he needs?  It's kind of like watching a cheesy sports flick - you know the Mighty Ducks or whoever is going to win, so it just brings a false sense of dread when you think the odds are stacked against them.  Now, I know this may sound stupid because hey, I still love Spider-Man even though I know he won't die at the end, but here the entire movie consists of people talking about getting this damn amendment passed.

History buffs will love this film, but personally I found it pretty dry.  It all depends on what you go to the movies for, but I couldn't help myself from yawning.

Rating: C+

*I apologize if the blog title is stupid and/or insensitive
*I must also add that my blogs are a reflection of my own tastes, nothing more
*I must also add that there was not enough vampire hunting in this film

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Take the Bloody Shot!" - Skyfall Review

After the overall disappointment of Quantum of Solace and the near-bankruptcy of MGM, the fate of James Bond seemed hopeless, and it was up in the air as to when and if we'd ever see him again. But luck turned around, and Skyfall has already earned itself 90 million dollars at the box office, which makes it the biggest Bond opening ever and a sweeping victory for MGM.  Sam Mendes, the Academy Award-winning director behind American Beauty, and Roger Deakins, the legendary cinematographer for many of the Coen Brothers' films, joined forces to create not only one of the best looking Bond films, but one of the best looking action films EVER.  Every shot of this film is stunning; it would not surprise me in the least if scenes from this film will be dissected by future film school students.

Unlike the dizzying, more action-oriented execution of Quantum of Solace, Skyfall is a mature, smart, adult film that felt more like something from David Fincher than Michael Bay.  The characters were great, and we get to see a side of the James Bond character that hasn't really been seen before (kudos to Daniel Craig).  And god damn Judi Dench is the best bloody actress you'd ever want to run the MI-6.  As always every word she says is epic, and it's her relationship with 007 that is at the heart of this film.  Javier Bardem also shows us yet again how great of a bad guy he can be, displaying a Hannibal Lector-esque sense of himself as he delivers some of the best villainous lines of the recent Bond films.

I could but I won't go into much more detail about the film, but I gotta say I was amazed at how good this was.  The opening action scene is perhaps the best all year, and all the others were not only heart-pumpingly good, but also furthered the plot and meant more than just a surface-level chase scene (unlike the beginning of Casino Royale where Bond chases after some random bad guy, in this he has a clear motive, and M giving him direction over an earpiece makes it all the more tense).  I loved this movie - although I did have some minor quibbles here and there, this is a must-see for any fan of Bond or any fan of film.

Rating: A-

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cloud Atlas & Wreck-It Ralph

Cloud Atlas:

Cloud Atlas is a massive undertaking - three directors, six intertwined storylines, actors playing both different roles and races, and all to uncover the meaning behind humanity's existence.  The Wachowski Siblings, the masterminds behind The Matrix (formerly the Wachowski Brothers, before Larry cut off his wiener and became Lana Wachowski), are back in the ring after the under-performing Speed Racer with an adaptation of a 2004 novel that I've never read so I'll shut up about it. Along with a third director, Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), this ambitious epic stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, and asian actress Zhou Xun all playing multiple roles across multiple timelines, past and present.  And as much as I appreciate the effort and work that went into this movie, it ultimately falls flat.

Much like The Tree of Life, this film is steeped in pretentiousness; it tries to uncover the meaning of life and explore not one or two or three themes like a normal film, it tries to tackle every theme imaginable.  This movie is so tightly packed together you will not necessarily be bored during its ~3 hour run time, but the "heavy" feelings that were intended will be lost because it's hard to latch on to any of the characters when the film jumps from timeline to timeline in the same span of time it takes to heat up a Hot Pocket.  At one second we're following a period piece, the next it jumps to a futuristic sci-fi film, the next it's some kind of farce involving the elderly, the next it's even farther into the future -- it just tries to do too much.

Also, good god some of the makeup in this is not only bad, but is slightly racist as well.  I understand the filmmakers wanted continuity between which actors play which characters in the timeline, but trust me, Hugo Weaving with "Asian" makeup is one of the worst things in any movie ever.  Also, the future-future I mentioned employs this evolved form of English that is extremely frustrating to follow; not only that but the movie starts off in that dialect.  If you have the patience for this film and perhaps an interest in philosophy, there are some cool nuggets of thought in here (and I loved how the score was implemented into the movie), but ultimately I don't think the film works on an emotional level.

Rating: C-

Wreck-it Ralph:

Video game fans have had to wade through so much bullshit at the movies.  We've been bombarded with half-hearted cash-ins like Doom and all the crap from Uwe Boll, that gamers just want a film that doesn't insult their demographic.  I think Wreck-It Ralph may have crossed that threshold and there can finally be a motion picture to be held high by joystick-wielding mouth breathers everywhere.  The film follows the personal lives of the characters in the games at an arcade, in the same fashion as Toy Story, but instead of Mr. Potato Head we actually get to see nostalgic game characters like Pacman, Qbert, and Sonic go about their day.  They all congregate at game central station, which is basically the power strip all the machines are plugged into (that's so clever and inventive, Disney, how nice). Ralph happens to be the bad guy of his video game but wants the glory of being a hero - so he breaks the rules and leaves his game, starting a cause-and-effect shitstorm that leads to his possible "unplugging."

I thought the execution of this pretty straightforward Disney flick was amazing.  Although we've seen this "hero's journey" an excruciating amount of times, we've never seen it in this particular untapped world before.  Every scene in this film is bursting with visual jokes and little amazing details in the background.  The animation alone is worth seeing this for, and it does have that Disney trademark sweet, sentimental story.  I do wish there were more "worlds" in the film though.  We really only get to see three different games, and it would've been nice to have Ralph traversing through many different genres; the majority of the film takes place in this Candyland-inspired kart racing game.  It's really well realized, but I'm just saying, had they added more worlds it would have been even nicer than its current level of nice.  Overall though, this is a must-see for old school gamers.

Rating: B+

PS. The animated short titled Paperman that plays before Wreck-It Ralph was really quite good and pulled my god damn heartstrings.

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