Sunday, January 25, 2015

Predicting the 2015 SAG Awards!

Tonight is the 21st Annual Screen Actor's Guild Awards.  While I could complain about how none of the other guild awards are televised, I'll let it go, because this is a big stepping block to Oscar night, especially after the Producer's Guild Awards last night.  The Producer's Guild honored Birdman as the best produced film of 2014, so with Boyhood having won a Golden Globe, and The Grand Budapest Hotel having won both a Golden Globe and the Critic's Choice Award, this Oscar race has gotten exceptionally interesting.  If The Imitation Game wins best cast tonight at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards, the Oscar Best Picture winner will be really difficult to call (as if it already isn't).  As it is, I do not expect too many big surprises tonight.  I really think the acting and directing categories are the easiest to predict this year.  The only real blip in the radar can come in leading actress (Reese Witherspoon perhaps) and ensemble, with wins for Birdman, Boyhood, or The Imitation Game all possible.  Here are my predictions for the SAG awards, and as always I do not predict the TV nominees.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role - Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role -  J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role -  Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role - Michael Keaton, Birdman
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture - The Grand Budapest Hotel

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Movie Review: "Paddington"

Children's literature is full of lovable talking bears, but there is only one Paddington.  After decades upon decades of TV adaptations (animated and live action), Michael Bond's creation finally finds his way to the bigscreen courtesy of producer David Heyman (the man responsible for the Harry Potter series).  With the unique talents of Mighty Boosh writer/director Paul King, Paddington manages to be an inventive children's film that rivals the classic slapstick comedies of the Marx Brothers, while also retaining the innocence and charm that makes Paddington one of my personal childhood favorites.

The thing that separates Paddington from the pack of almost every other children's movie, is that everything in this movie feels like it was carefully thought out.  We are told how Paddington and his Aunt and Uncle in darkest Peru learned how to speak English, thanks to a British explorer who tells them that they will always be welcome in London.  When Paddington must relocate, his Aunt sends him to England, where he discovers London isn't as friendly as they thought.  Even still, he meets the Brown family, the kind of Mary Poppins-like family that only works in movies and yet are entirely lovable in their own right.  The Browns ultimately take in Paddington as their houseguest until he can track down the British explorer.  Safe to say, hijinks ultimately ensue as Paddington becomes the ultimate immigrant.  He is a bear adrift in a human world after all, not understanding many human customs, but always trying to do the right thing through kindness and gentility.

I just have to say, Paul King has directed a film that is genuinely as magical as the books upon which it was based.  If there was perhaps any other writer/director, the movie would not be the same.  King gives Paddington this sense of cartoonish whimsy that allows you take everything that the story does seriously.  Very often, movies mess up when trying to basically make a live action cartoon, and that is because they often don't make the story enough of a fantasy and too realistic.  This story accepts the absurdity of a talking bear and never really comments on it or pokes fun at the idea, but embraces it.  From the moment Paddington first arrives in King's Cross station, there is never a human that is confused by the sight of a talking bear, they just treat him like another human being, selling the fantasy reality that King has created.

Thanks to the perfectly realized collision of Paddington and the world of humans at King's Cross, it allows the audience to go along with the fantastical visuals that King uses to illustrate the story, recalling directors like Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry with a lot of King's off the wall visual concepts that I found always delightful and completely engaging.  For example, when the camera goes toward a doll house and then the house unfolds, revealing the Browns inside their own home, I was speechless as we see what each and every member of the family is doing in their individual rooms.   I was also amazed at how every set and costume was meticulously color coded by King and his collaborators, with the color red representing adventurous thinking (sported for most of the movie by Mrs. Brown), and the color blue often representing the established order (most often sported by Mr. Brown).   Of course, the true test of making a movie about Paddington was going to be in whether or not the filmmakers would be able to pull off Paddington himself, and they do so to glorious effect.

VFX house, Framestore, has created a CGI Paddington that is designed somewhere between a big teddy bear and a real bear from Peru, that allows Paddington to interact with the humans and do all of the crazy fun things he does in this movie.  However, what really brings Paddington to life is the voice.  The voice was the killer thing that the filmmakers knew they had to get right, because if you chose the wrong voice, Paddington wouldn't have the sweetness that he needs to be lovable.  The voice of Paddington was under much scrutiny when last year it was announced that Colin Firth amicably left the project because he and the filmmakers decided that his voice just wasn't fitting well with Paddington.  While I would be curious to see the version of Paddington with Firth's voice, I must say it would be hard to imagine.  Firth's voice is a lot more grown up sounding than that of his replacement, Ben Whishaw's.  Whishaw's voice has a youthful sound to it that makes Paddington sound a whole lot more innocent and naive, but no less kind or gentle.  It is with Whishaw that the success of this movie really relied upon, and thankfully he delivered, but that's not to say the rest of this cast aren't good.  Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins manage to sell the wacky ideas of this film by playing Mr. and Mrs. Brown deadly serious.  Then there is Nicole Kidman as an evil taxidermist, who is evil, but never hammy, which would have been an easy line to cross with material like this.  In short, the cast coupled with Whishaw's voice, King's script and direction, and the work of the VFX crew, bring to life a new children's classic.

I really think Paddington is the sort of movie that appeals to all.  The jokes in it are funny no matter how old you are, and the thematic ideas of isolation and home are so universal that anyone can relate to them.  The movie made me laugh extremely hard, while also touching me and inspiring me.  Few movies nowadays actually make you optimistic about the world we live in and make you smile and feel good about yourself and humanity in general, and that's what Paddington does wholeheartedly.  Just a note, this movie is best watched with a marmalade sandwich (not that I am proposing you sneak food into a movie theater) .

I give Paddington a 10 out of 10!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Reactions to the 2015 Oscar Nominations


So, wow!  The Academy manages to throw a few wrinkles in the Oscar contest this morning with their announcement of the nominees for this year's Academy Awards.  Here are the nominees for Best Picture:

American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

At first glance, that seems as if everything went as most predicted, but you've got to look deeper to realize what's truly a contender and what must have made it by the skin of its teeth.

First and foremost, I've got to point out that the Academy really loved The Grand Budapest Hotel, giving Wes Anderson's latest 9 nominations, the most any film got this year.  While I personally wasn't a big fan of the film, it is nice to see Wes finally get some much deserved recognition in the Best Director category.  They also loved Birdman, which got 9 nominations as well.

Aside from that, the other nomination leaders were The Imitation Game with 8, American Sniper and Boyhood with 6; Foxcather, Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, and Interstellar with 5; Mr. Turner with 4; and Into the Woods and Unbroken with 3.  I was personally happy to see Unbroken get the three nominations it got, considering a lot of pundits were predicting it might get none, but I still find it a shame that the movie isn't nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, or that Miyavi didn't get a nom for his turn as the Bird.  Granted, I thought Roger Deakins' cinematography was one of the best things about Unbroken and so the nomination in that category helps to soften the blow.  However, the biggest surprises out of the nomination leaders were Foxcather getting in for Best Director, but missing out entirely on Best Picture.  A similar thing happened with both Mr. Turner and Interstellar getting a lot of mentions, but drawing a big ol' goose egg in the bigger categories.  It seems like those are movies that the Academy respected, but didn't really love.

Another big surprise for many is surely going to be the omission of The LEGO Movie in the Best Animated Feature Film category.  For once the Academy seemed to go with the more traditionally animated films like drawn by hand beauties Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and even the stop motion stylings of The Boxtrolls.  But before anyone bemoans that there aren't any CG animated films, both Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 made the cut (with the latter probably now becoming the frontrunner).  I guess The LEGO Movie will have to find solace in its sole nomination for Best Original Song.

Of course what's sure to be the biggest running story of the whole next month and a half leading up to the actual show (amongst critics and Oscar bloggers at least), is the fact that Selma only got 2 nominations, one for Best Picture and one for Best Original Song.  I think this is indicative that the film never really caught on the way that so many critics were trying to make it.  The bottom line is, the major question of the story's accuracy in regards to people who actually were real, probably hurt the film big time when it came to the Academy.  I for one was not surprised it got snubbed royally, but is it really being snubbed when you still manage to eke out a nomination in the biggest category of all, granted that's a nomination that more than likely would have not occurred had there still been only five nominees for Best Picture like there used to.

If we still did five nominees for Best Picture, I'd say they'd be:  American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Imitation Game, judging by the way that the nominations shook out, and here's why.  Typically the two races to watch in terms of predicting Best Picture are Best Director and Best Film Editing.  Out of those two categories, only three films managed to get nominated for both:  Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game.  After that it doesn't take much more deduction to realize that American Sniper and Birdman, both with their high nomination tallies, would have probably made the cut as well.  This leads me to say that your Oscar winner will more than likely be either Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, or The Imitation Game, for all of the reasoning I just listed above.  Out of those three, all three of them have a play on the big award and I wouldn't be surprised if any of them wound up winning.

In my gut I feel that The Grand Budapest Hotel will win a lot of awards, but will miss out on the key awards it will need to win Best Picture (i.e. Film Editing and Director).  I think whatever wins Film Editing and Director will be very telling come Oscar night.  If the same movie wins both, then that's your Best Picture winner, but if it is split between two different movies, we'd better watch out.  I could very easily see The Imitation Game getting Film Editing and Boyhood getting Best Director, and if that happens we might really have a fun time at the Oscars wondering about which film will be in that Best Picture envelope.  So if I had to make a prediction now, I would go with The Imitation Game eking out the win.  Not that Boyhood isn't deserving, it's just important to note that Harvey Weinstein (the most infamous producer/studio head of campaigning for Oscar) is the backer of that film.  Just saying.  Besides, The Imitation Game is a very good movie, and at the end of the day it is the kind of movie I could get behind as the Best Picture winner if it does indeed wind up being the winner.  However, there is still a lot of campaigning left to be done, so nothing is set in stone.

The 87th Annual Academy Awards will air on ABC Sunday Feb. 22nd at 7e/6c.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My 2015 Golden Globe Predictions


And we're off!  Tonight is the 72nd annual Golden Globes, which means one thing, award season is here.  The Golden Globes are kicking off what is sure to be a fun week for fans of this sort of stuff, with Oscar nominations coming in on Thursday and then the Critics Choice Awards on Friday.  Personally, this is one of my favorite times of the year (aside from the always enjoyable Summer movie season).  With the Golden Globes being the first of all the major award shows, it really is the hardest one to predict, not to mention the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association often makes questionable choices to begin with.  As is the norm, I don't predict the TV winners, because I just really am not well versed enough in that world to make good predictions, but I do love to predict the movie winners.  With that all said, onto my predictions.  As always, check back after the show to get a quick recap of what I thought about the night overall, and for a full list of nominees click here.

Best Original Song, Motion Picture - Selma
Best Original Score, Motion Picture - Antonion Sanchez, Birdman
Best Screenplay, Motion Picture - Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Best Director, Motion Picture - Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture - Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture - J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Best Foreign Language Film - Ida
Best Animated Feature Film - The LEGO Movie
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy - Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy - Michael Keaton, Birdman
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama - Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama - Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical - Birdman
Best Motion Picture, Drama - The Imitation Game

UPDATE:  Nothing is ever really predictable with the Golden Globes, I got 7 out of 14.  With the Golden Globes being the first major award show out the gate, they can sometimes set the tone for what to expect from all of the others.  With that said, their division of comedy and drama, not to mention the fact that these awards aren't chosen by people in the film industry themselves like the Oscars or all of the guild awards, makes their choices often not line up with other award shows.  One thing I can say is the Hollywood Foreign Press shared the love this year with the only real dominant player of the night being Boyhood.  Here are my quick takeaways.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a serious award season player.  Michael Keaton, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, and Patricia Arquette had better be clearing room on their mantles for their Oscars (just my opinion), as should Richard Linklater.  I was also exceptionally pleased to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 win, continuing to make the animated race this year one of the most hard to call of any.  Finally, I have been hesitant to say it for a while, but I think it's safe to say it now...  Boyhood is the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar, and you know what, I'd be perfectly fine with that.  It's a unique, one-of-a-kind filmmaking experiment, and wouldn't you want a movie like that to be the one remembered as this year's Best Picture winner 50 years from now?  While nothing is by any means set in stone, I think the love shown to Boyhood tonight, and the love the film will receive from the Broadcast Film Critics on Friday night, will have a lot of Academy members who haven't yet seen it rushing out to see it now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Movie Review: "The Imitation Game"

The Imitation Game is the kind of movie that could win Oscars, now whether or not the competition will be too stiff for it to do so is another matter.  The most fascinating thing about The Imitation Game is that it is a stylish history lesson that manages to remain entertaining thanks to some intriguing visual ideas and stellar performances from its cast.

The movie tells the true story of Alan Turing (played in this film by Benedict Cumberbatch in an Oscar worthy performance), who was a British mathematician who is considered one of the most influential men in computer sciences.  Turing's biggest claim to fame was when he created a computer for England in World War II to break the seemingly unbreakable Nazi enigma code.  It is the drama that occurred around the creation of the said computer that is the primary focus of the story, with majority of the movie playing like a war film without really ever seeing much war.  In a way, you could say that this is a war film honoring the smart men and women who solved problems from the homefront, while often not being able to solve their own personal problems.

What The Imitation Game tries and succeeds at illuminating is that the greatest tragedy of Turing's life truly isn't the fact that he was persecuted for his being different, but that he was a man who did so much for humanity but could never quite crack the code to his own humanity or that of others.  The whole film sort of plays like a puzzle, with the story being told in three concurrent timelines:  when Turing was at boarding school as a child, when he was decoding Enigma, and when he was arrested in 1951 for homosexuality, with his time decoding Enigma making up about ninety percent of the story.  However, by interspersing these other time periods into the story, you see the future for Turing and we have to often venture into the past to piece together all of the details of the man, to understand why he was the way he was and how he eventually got to the point he was in.  It is in constructing this movie like a puzzle that gives it an extra bit of pizazz that keeps this movie from being like a made-for-TV movie.

Director Morten Tyldum works with his cinematographer, Oscar Faura, and editor, William Goldenberg, to create a visual language, at times similar to that of Christopher Nolan from The Prestige.  There is some truly spectacular crosscutting between scenes in the past, present, and future, that really astounded me as a fellow filmmaker.  One matchcut in particular, going from a Nazi u-boat firing a torpedo, to a sideways shot showing a cigarette being snuffed out in an ashtray, is perhaps the most powerful cut I have seen in a movie in a long time.  The way that Tyldum and company work in conjunction with Graham Moore's taut script, makes every scene of the film another piece of the puzzle to the eventual outcome.  Often you watch a movie and feel there are extraneous scenes, but each scene in The Imitation Game builds toward the tragedy of Turing in his final years.  Then there is the music from Alexandre Desplat, that is both simple in its themes and motifs, but exceptionally complex in how it uses a lot of moving parts to aurally illustrate Turing's always mobile mind.  From a technical standpoint, this is about as well made a film you can find, but what gives the film its heart and soul is the actual way Turing is represented.

The greatest feat that The Imitation Game accomplishes is in the way that it makes Turing a character you root for and pity.  Turing was a very anti-social, slightly arrogant man, who did not know how to deal with people all that well and who struggled with his closeted homosexuality for his entire life (which was against the law at that time in Britain).  The credit really goes to Cumberbatch (and those soulful eyes) for showing the heartbreaking humanity inside of Turing.  There are few actors currently working who can play the calculating man with the heart that Cumberbatch brings to these roles.  You genuinely feel that Cumberbatch's Turing is not a man who is ever intentionally being mean or offensive, he just does not know how to properly behave.  He has been bullied and disliked his entire life, with only a small handful of people who ever genuinely cared for him, with one such person being Joan Clark, the only woman who worked on Turing's team of codebreakers.  Keira Knightley does some of her best work ever here as Clark, managing to decode Turing even when he doesn't seem to figure himself out.

In short, The Imitation Game is for anyone who enjoys well made movies.  The movie isn't explicit and would play well to a high school history class, but it also has a little more to it than just a good history lesson.  Alan Turing was a tragic, broken man who was isolated from an early age, with the only ones who ever took a vested interest in him always leaving in the end.  Any man or woman who can never manage to solve the riddle of emotion and connect with other people is one that I pity.  I think we all often struggle with how best to connect with people, and that to me is what The Imitation Game is all about.

I give The Imitation Game a 9 out of 10!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My Most Anticipated Films of 2015


2015 has finally arrived!  This has been the year that every movie fan has been looking forward to now for nearly three whole years.  Why?  Because of the seriously stacked year long line up of awesome looking movies, that's why.  It's insane to look at a list of all the good looking movies that are coming out this year, and a lot of them we don't have to wait too terribly long to see if they have the goods or not.  Unlike most years, there is at least one or two movies every month that look like they have something special about them.  While invariably a bunch of these highly anticipated movies will fail, there are so many this year that the chances are good that more films than normal will actually live up to their hype.  So the movies I am about to talk about are the movies I am personally most jazzed for in the coming year, but this by no means reflects every movie I think looks good.

This January brings Paddington to the big screen (one of my childhood favorites), while director Michael Mann returns with a new cyber thriller starring Chris Hemsworth called Blackhat.  Not to mention there are a lot of other potential surprises hidden within this super stacked year, from another Chris Hemsworth-Ron Howard collaboration with In the Heart of the Sea, to Kingsman: The Secret Service, all the way to the Whitey Bulger biopic Black Mass.  Plus there are a few big budget films that have me interested in seeing if they pull off their lofty concepts with Jupiter Ascending, Pan, Terminator: Genisys, Chappie, and an adaptation of Goosebumps starring Jack Black as a fictionalized version of R.L. Stine.  Plus, there's the new Robert Zemeckis film The Walk (starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the man who walked on a wire between the World Trade Centers), and Victor Frankenstein, which retells the classic tale from the point of view of Igor (Daniel Radcliffe).  On top of all that there is an animated Peanuts movie coming out, as well as two live action interpretations of classic Disney movies with Cinderella (which actually looks quite stunning) and The Jungle Book (with Bill Murray as Baloo).

I say all of this to point out that I could easily have done a list of my 20 Most Anticipated Films for this year, but I showed restraint and kept it at 10.  While this is by no means a prediction of what I think the 10 best movies of 2015 will be, these are the 10 movies that I think have a lot of potential on paper.  Out of the 10 movies I listed last year, 7 of them did wind up on my year end top 10 list, and 6 from the year before.  So here we go, these are the 10 movies I think everyone should have on their radar for 2015.

****


10.  The Good Dinosaur
2015 has not just one, but two Pixar movies coming out.  While this one has had a great deal of behind the scenes woes and delays, this isn't the first time Pixar has dealt with such things (case and point being Toy Story 2, Ratatouille, and Brave).  If there is one thing that separates Pixar from the rest of the animation world is that they have really become an entity unto themselves.  Pixar's brain trust (the original founders) manage to keep a consistency throughout their films, and they have never done a poor movie, and on paper, The Good Dinosaur sounds like it has the makings to be another Pixar classic.  Imagine if the dinosaurs never went extinct?  That is the core idea of this movie.  The early concept art coming from the film has been nothing short of intriguing, so I am already sold on it.  Here's hoping that Pixar delivers yet again.
(In theaters Nov. 25th)

Concept Art from the Film

****


9.  Tomorrowland
While 2015 is the year of the sequel, it's also the first year in a long time where there are more big budget, original films coming out than in recent memory.  Tomorrowland is one such movie.  While the movie is loosely based upon the area at Disney World, no one really knows what to expect because director Brad Bird and screenwriter Damon Lindelof have really kept a tight lid on everything regarding this movie.  All we really know is that in this movie there is a mysterious place trapped somewhere in time and space known as Tomorrowland (a place Lindelof describes as a scientist's Hogwarts), with George Clooney playing a former boy genius who teams up with a bright young girl played by Britt Robertson to search for Tomorrowland.  As far as what's actually in store for us come this May, details are very scarce.  While I have heard rumors of robots, jetpacks, and other cool gizmos, this is a movie that really is shrouded in secrecy.  Disney deserves some huge credit for keeping one of their biggest financial risks this closely guarded for so long.
(In theaters May 22nd)



****

Spielberg & Tom Hanks

8.  Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller
Usually I am skeptical when a movie has no title with less than a year to go till its release, but when that said is movie is being directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tom Hanks, I make exceptions.  This movie has all of the makings to be a Spielberg classic on paper.  The film details the true story of an American lawyer (Hanks) sent by the CIA in the Sixties to negotiate the release of an American pilot detained in the Soviet Union.  Featuring a script from the Coen Brothers, this movie has all of the right pieces in place to be a Hitchcock meets Spielberg masterpiece.  While everyone is wanting to already talk about potential Oscar prospects for this movie, we've yet to even have the Oscars for 2014's movies, so I'm not wanting to get the cart before the horse.  What I do know is that with Spielberg being my favorite director ever, and with Tom Hanks one of my favorite actors, this one is almost a sight unseen slam dunk.
(In theaters Oct. 16th)

First Still from Behind the Scenes

****


7.  The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
To be as excited as I am about a movie based on a TV show that I've never seen almost seems insane when I think about it, but everything I have heard and seen about this movie just has me excited.  Adapted from the Sixties TV show of the same name, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. tells the story of an American spy and a Russian spy teaming up to stop an evil criminal organization.  This one gets extra brownie points from me by setting the film in the Sixties, rather than trying to refit everything for modern day.  I love that the movie is going more for that old James Bond type feel and director Guy Ritchie is the right guy to do that.  He has long been a fan favorite to do a Bond film, and this might be the closest he will ever get to do that.  His adaptation of Sherlock Holmes proved he can handle action and make it cool, so here's hoping he can do the same here.  Plus, this is our first chance to see what Man of Steel star Henry Cavill can do since that movie, as well as if co-star Armie Hammer can make a blockbuster come back after The Lone Ranger.  We'll see, but I'm optimistic.
(In theaters Aug. 14th)

First Still from the Film

****


6.  Jurassic World
Jurassic Park is one of the most beloved blockbusters of all-time, and neither of its two sequels really captured the magic it factor that made the original the highest grossing film ever upon its release.  It was that proper balance between heart, wonder, and terror that still makes the original so much fun to experience.  Jurassic World I feel is trying to come from the exact same place.  The story takes place about twenty years after the first film, with the original Jurassic Park having been opened for real and rechristened Jurassic World.  Now everyone can go to see dinosaurs like they can go to Sea World, but things go horribly wrong when a hybrid dinosaur created by Jurassic World scientists gets loose and wreaks havoc.  This little wrinkle in the story (that I am sure would please Michael Crichton) makes Jurassic World different than any of the other three films in the franchise, but that's not the primary reason I am excited for this one.  The main reason I am pumped for this movie is the cast.  Chris Pratt is coming fresh off of two of the biggest movies of 2014 and his natural charisma and his ability to play the hero could make him the new Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm all wrapped in one package.  Then there's young Ty Simpkins, who stole every single scene in Iron Man 3 he was in from Robert Downey, Jr., as the little kid that Tony Stark befriends to help him rebuild his suit.  These two cast members are just the tip of the iceberg for a really talented cast that may surprise everyone by how likable they can all be.
(In theaters June 12th)



****


5.  Ant-Man
Similar to what I said about Pixar earlier, Marvel has really become an entity unto itself.  There is such a strong brain trust of creative people at the center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that even the worst Marvel films are always fun and feel like Marvel.  While the behind the scenes drama on this one really ticked off a lot of fans, with original director Edgar Wright leaving just a mere month or two before shooting, there is no cause for alarm here.  In truth, Wright left because of Marvel trying to make his vision for Ant-Man fit better with their established universe.  Neither Marvel nor Wright are bad guys in this situation, it's just a matter of creative differences.  I see no reason to be worried for Ant-Man.  The cast is sensational (I mean Michael Douglas as Hank Pym) and the movie has a unique take on the origins of the character.  The film takes place in modern day, where the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, has not been Ant-Man now for many decades and must help con man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) use his Ant-Man suit to shrink in size and grow in strength to perform a heist and save the world.  Now who doesn't want to see that movie?
(In theaters July 17th)



****


4.  Spectre
My excitement for James Bond's 24th adventure pretty much explains itself.  Not only is Daniel Craig back once more as 007, but pretty much the whole cast and crew of Skyfall are back for another go around.  Skyfall was a welcome return to a lot of the Bond roots, while also being the most original Bond film probably in the whole history of the series.  To put it simply, I expect great things from Spectre.  Not only is Christoph Waltz portraying the villain, but this movie is confirmed to be the return of the criminal agency Spectre, you know the one that Bond faced for pretty much every movie till about the mid-70s.  While we don't know if Waltz is really playing Blofeld, the leader of Spectre and the murderer of 007's wife, my shrinking suspicion is that if he isn't Blofeld, the character will still be teased.  Perhaps all we'll see is a man's lap with a white cat in it.  Hey, I don't know much about this movie other than who's in it and the title, but you don't drop the Spectre bomb on fandom and deny us some Blofeld-Bond action.
(In theaters Nov. 6th)

Daniel Craig (Center) with Spectre cast members (L-R):  Naomie Harris,
Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, and an eyes closed Christoph Waltz

****


3.  Inside Out
The other new movie from Pixar this year, Inside Out, could very easily be one of the most unique films I have ever seen.  The concept is simple, imagine the emotions inside your brain's control center  (represented as cartoons looking like people) dictating your reactions to everything that goes on around you.  Add on top of that the fact that the movie takes place primarily inside a preteen girl who has just moved to a new city, and you have a situation ripe for comedy.  It's a tricky concept to relay to the audience, but one that the first few trailers have illustrated brilliantly to hilarious results.  Pixar has always been known for its crazy, original ideas that manage to somehow work, and with director Pete Docter at the helm, I have no worries whatsoever about Inside Out.  Docter, who directed both Monsters Inc. and Up, is one of the initial five of the Pixar brain trust and he has consistently remained the most original of them all in my opinion.  This one cannot come soon enough.
(In theaters June 19th)



****


2.  Avengers: Age of Ultron
In any other year this would probably be my most anticipated film, but in 2015 this is just number 2.  I absolutely love The Avengers.  I believe it to probably be the pinnacle of the whole superhero movie genre, so the sequel to what I deem to be quite possibly the best superhero movie ever is definitely one movie I am going to see as soon as possible.  The greatest thing about Age of Ultron is that we are now just under 5 months till release and Marvel has still kept a lot of this one underwraps from the general public.  Sure, while the first trailer teased the new bad guy Ultron (a highly intelligent robot bent on killing humanity), as well as eventual new Avengers Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, there is still a whole lot that Marvel is keeping from us, namely the Vision.  Yes, there is yet another Avenger we are going to meet in Age of Ultron.  In the comic books, the Vision was a robot built by Ultron to do his bidding, eventually though the Vision began to think for himself and chose to side with the Avengers.  This is a major character that has been confirmed and talked about, but we have yet to see even a single image officially released of the Vision in this film.  Safe to say, since Marvel has remained so tightlipped about this one this close to release, might there be a few surprises waiting for us come May?
(In theaters May 1st)



****


1.   Star Wars - Episode VII: The Force Awakens
This is the movie that most geeks never thought would happen and it's not only happening, but it's now less than a year away.  Star Wars - Episode VII will be in theaters come this December!  The Force is with us!  I am a Star Wars fanboy, I admit it.  My walls are covered in Star Wars posters, my favorite TV show of all-time is The Clone Wars, and my all-time favorite movie is The Empire Strikes Back.  If this isn't the movie I am most eager to see in 2015, you should probably have my head examined.

I think the thing that has so many people excited is that this is the return of Luke, Han, and Leia, to the franchise.  While little is known about this movie, we do know it is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi and features the original cast alongside a slew of newcomers who will be taking center stage this go around with the old characters playing the supporting parts.  In truth that's all we know.  Sure, we know it's being directed by J.J. Abrams and being shot on film, but those aren't the things people really want to know.  Is unknown actress Daisy Ridley really playing Han and Leia's daughter?  Is Kylo Ren (the dude with the cool broadsword lightsaber from the trailer) Adam Driver?  And if so, is he the new Darth Vader type dude?   Is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) really the dumbest Star Wars name ever created?  Maybe.  These are just a few questions fans are chomping at the bit to know the answers to, let alone what's happened since Return of the Jedi.  Is the Empire still in control of the galaxy?  Is there a New Republic?  A new Jedi Order?  What's been going on?  Did Han marry Leia?  Did Luke ever get counseling for kissing his sister?  I kid, mostly.  The point is, we are less than a year away and we know nothing, which is how Disney and Lucasfilm want it.

Personally, I think that a lot of the rumors that have come out recently are starting to clarify a little bit of what the movie will be about, so with that in mind I will theorize what I think the plot is.  The word is that the movie starts with Luke's lightsaber floating in space (you know, the one that he lost in The Empire Strikes Back).  Eventually the lightsaber crashlands on a desert planet where it is found by a stormtrooper named Finn, who is deserting the Empire.  On this planet he meets Rey, the daughter of Han and Leia (once again, this is all theory), and she hooks him up with her Dad as they go searching throughout the cosmos for Luke, who has been missing for a few years.  We'll see in December if I'm right.  Until then I plan on enjoying the ride.  While a part of me is slightly worried because this is the first Star Wars that George Lucas hasn't played a role in its development, I have to believe that his successors know the Star Wars universe well enough to make a good movie.  If Disney and Lucasfilm nail it, this will be the movie of the year, I can guarantee it.
(In theaters Dec. 18th)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Top 10 Films of 2014


What more can be said about 2014?  It was a so-so year of moviemaking, but as with even the worst years of moviemaking, there is still always movies worth remembering and 2014 was no exception on that front.  These 10 movies listed below are the movies that I feel best represent what 2014 was all about.  Now, let me clarify first and foremost...  When I rank these films, I am ranking them not based purely on how well made they are on a technical level, but also on how much they entertained or moved me and how likely I am to rewatch the movie again.  It's a delicate three-way balance that dictates the positioning on any list counting down my favorite whatever.  Having said all of that, these were my 10 Favorite Movies of 2014!

****


10.  Guardians of the Galaxy
(Last Year:  Ender's Game)
Everyone thought that Marvel was going to fall flat on their face in adapting this more obscure comic book from their vast universe, and guess what, they proved all of the naysayers wrong yet again.  Guardians of the Galaxy was such a huge hit because it was cool, funny, and surprisingly emotional.  From the exquisitely chosen music for the soundtrack to the quips from Star-Lord and his gang, I don't think there was another single movie from 2014 that was this much fun.  I think that's why this film was so popular, because it is not the best of the Marvel movies.  The villain was bland (Ronan was poorly used) and the camaraderie of the team felt forced, and yet no one cared, because the movie made you have a good time.  I don't think you can watch this movie and not have a smile on your face by the end of it.


9.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
(Last Year:  Captain Phillips)
When director Francis Lawrence came onboard for Catching Fire, he really found the right groove for this franchise, and he proved that yet again with Mockingjay - Part 1.  It's always important to have a director who understands the source material when adapting a book, and Francis Lawrence does, but not only that, he also is a cinematic maestro who knows how to create emotionally charged movie moments.  The cast was stronger than ever with this particular installment and the tension was just as high.  While some criticized the slower pace and the lack of action, Mockingjay - Part 1 is just that, the first part in a two part story.  While it feels incomplete right now, I can't wait to watch Part 1 & 2 back-to-back, because I feel when they can be seen in sequence like that, everything that I love about Part 1 will become even more apparent to everyone else.


8.  Robocop
(Last Year:  Jack the Giant Slayer)
Chalk this movie up as the biggest surprise of the year for me.  I had never seen the original Robocop before, so perhaps that helped me in my viewing of this remake, but that also left me in a place of indifference toward the movie before its release.  Why should I care about the remake of a movie I've never really had much of a desire to see?  In short, it's the heart that director Jose Padilla managed to inject into the proceedings.  I actually cared for the characters in this film, I pitied them and rooted for them, and that's a necessity for a film like this that could easily have been more of a moral lesson than anything else.  The thing that I loved the most was the idea that no matter how much technology gets integrated into our lives (and in the case of Robocop, our bodies), our humanity will still always win out in the end.  Plus, Michael Keaton was crazy awesome as the villain.


7.  How to Train Your Dragon 2
(Last Year:  Thor: The Dark World)
I absolutely adore the first How to Train Your Dragon, and in truth there was no way that the second one could ever live up to it, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 comes awfully close.  The main thing that I love about this movie is that they do not try to repeat the first movie.  The characters are older, the story is slightly more mature in tone, and the stakes are even higher.  I said it after I first saw the movie, seeing this movie is how I feel people must have felt seeing The Empire Strikes Back for the first time.  It's noticeably the same universe as the first film, but it's not the same old, same old, because like life, you cannot stay in the same place forever, you must grow, and that's what happened here.  This is a much more grown up film than How to Train Your Dragon, but writer/director Dean DeBlois manages to keep the humor in the midst of all of the life-and-death stakes, while also delivering some gut wrenching emotion and death defying action and adventure.  This is almost the perfect blueprint for a blockbuster sequel, and it's one that a lot of film franchises should try and dissect.


6.  X-Men: Days of Future Past
(Last Year:  Star Trek Into Darkness)
The X-Men franchise finally returned to form with this latest installment that worked as a prequel, a sequel, and a reboot, all wrapped into one nice, tidy package.  Days of Future Past almost looked as if it had bit off more than it could chew by trying to tell a story set in two different timelines with the original cast of X-Men and the cast from First Class, alas director Bryan Singer managed to keep it all together, and in the process made me actually excited for new X-Men movies again.  The time travel aspect of the story was expertly handled, with the idea that the changes Wolverine makes in the past not affecting the future until he returns to the future, being the best explanation a movie has ever come up with for the cross cutting of action between the past and the future.  While this installment was lighter on action, it made up for it in big emotional, fan service moments, such as seeing two generations of Professor Xavier, James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart, share a scene together.  This was a surprisingly emotional film that had me giddy when I saw Cyclops alive at the end.  With Bryan Singer firmly back in the director's chair for these films, X-Men is now back on track, and with Days of Future Past having corrected the wrongs of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it wiped the slate clean for the First Class cast and literally anything can happen now.


5.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
(Last Year:  Rush)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a good movie, its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is a great movie.  When I first reviewed this movie, I said this was the kind of film that I go to the movies to see, and I stand by that statement.  Director Matt Reeves just seems to have had so much confidence with this material.  This was one of those rare Summer blockbusters that seemed as if genuine thought had been put into every single thing you see onscreen, because while this movie does feature war between humans and intelligent apes, it's not really about that.  The thing that makes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes such an emotional movie is the thematic idea at the heart of this film, that there is good and evil on every side, ape and man.  It's this simple idea that really drives the whole story and it's an idea that I think is very important to always remember for our real world.


4.  Belle
(Last Year:  Monsters University)
I am admitting it, I have a weakness for the period costume drama.  There's something about these powdered wig, corset movies that just feels like everything I think of when I think of a movie, however while Belle falls into this category, it also manages to transcend it by just being a good movie in general.  Belle tells the story of a mulatto gentlewoman in 1779 England named Dido.  She is the niece of the Chief Lord Justice, who is currently deliberating over an important case that could bring about the end of the slave trade, all the while Dido is fighting the constraints placed upon her in society by having wealth but being of mixed race.  It would be easy to boil this movie down as a romance film, and while there is a romance at the core of this movie, this is also simply a movie about the restraints society places upon us in all of our everyday lives.  You can't say this, you can't do that.  Every character, even Dido's white cousin finds herself trapped between a rock and a hard place upon realizing that no one wants to marry her because her father left her no dowry.  In short, while you could call this a movie about racial equality, I think this movie is more for everyone who often feels as if they cannot say or do what they actually think or feel.  We're all human and we all have more in us than others realize, that's what I got from this movie.


3.  Unbroken
(Last Year:  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)
Being completely honest, I was not expecting to like Unbroken as much as I did when I saw it.  I am usually skeptical when an actor tries to direct, but Angelina Jolie proved with Unbroken that she's as good as any other.  The thing that moved me the most about Unbroken is the simple fact that Louis Zamperini went through some of the most challenging things any human could go through and he managed to come out the other side and live a full life.  Other critics may call Unbroken schmaltzy, sentimental, or safe, but I don't.  It's daring to make an emotionally honest film like this.  Bottom line, if it didn't make these critics actually feel uncomfortably human, they probably wouldn't be saying these things.  I think this is a movie that everyone should experience because this truly is the kind of movie that should win Oscars (though critical backlash wont let that happen).  Regardless as to whether or not Unbroken finds favor with others, I've found myself continually remembering the line from the movie, "If I can take it, I can make it."  That simple line I think sums up the whole movie for me and is one that I think everyone could live by.


2.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier
(Last Year:  Saving Mr. Banks)
With Guardians of the Galaxy being the newest kid on the Marvel block, I feel like Captain America: The Winter Soldier has gotten a little overlooked in hindsight.  While Cap doesn't harbor as much humor as Guardians does, the film more than makes up for it in good old-fashioned action moviemaking, marking Captain America: The Winter Soldier the best Marvel film aside from The Avengers.  Few movies are good enough to remind me why I love superheroes and comic books, but Marvel Studios manages to continue doing that, and a large part of that is owed to the casting.  Chris Evans is Captain America, as a matter of fact, I love him so much in the role that I would literally follow his Cap anywhere they choose to take him on film.  While you get a lot of snark with Iron Man, and you get the epic scope with Thor, with Cap you get the classic hero.  He's black-and-white, he's the ultimate good guy who does what is always right, even if the right thing is the hardest thing to do in such a morally gray world.  At the end of the day, that is the core question of Captain America: The Winter Soldier:  How can Cap come to modern day and continue to do the right thing?  I think this movie answers that question while continually delivering great thrills, awesome one-liners, an emotional story that rocks Cap to his core, and most importantly, fun.  There are too many blockbusters nowadays trying so hard to be taken seriously that they forget to have fun.  Thank goodness Marvel hasn't.


1.  The Wind Rises
(Last Year:  Gravity)
Sure, this was nominated for an Academy Award last year but it did not get released in theaters till February of this year, so it's a 2014 film.  This movie just succeeded for me on every level that I want a good movie to succeed.  It was entertaining, it moved me, it was expertly crafted and superbly animated, and I also have already rewatched it a couple of times and will continue to do so.  Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki, just knows how to craft timeless films.  This is a movie that could have been made fifty years ago and been the same movie, and more times than not, those are my favorite kinds of movies.

Loosely detailing the life of World War II Japanese aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, Miyazaki has made yet another masterpiece that is probably his most personal work to date.  It is hard not to find parallels between Jiro, the character, and Miyazaki, the director.  The two share similar pacifistic views on war and violence, while also both harboring a deep seated affection for their work.  I think that's why I like The Wind Rises so much, because I ordinarily am opposed to filmmakers twisting real events to make a story that is partly true but mostly fiction.  This movie is probably the closest the world will ever come to actually knowing Miyazaki himself, and that's why I cherish this movie so much as a huge fan of Miyazaki's work.  He is the most unique filmmaker to ever live in my opinion, and The Wind Rises is a fitting finale to an exceptional career.  While he has said he is retiring before, I really do think he means it this time, so enjoy his most realistic and romantic film that he's ever made.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014, Best in Film

This is one of my favorite things to do every single year is to kind of do my own mini-Academy Awards where I honor the movies that I felt were worthy of recognition.  I often go differing ways from critics and the industry as a whole due to my love of Hollywood blockbusters, but I think that's what makes my blog unique is that I am an amateur movie critic who's more ingrained in what is actually popular.  There is a lot of ground to be covered in one post, so I wont waste too much more space on idle chit chat.  Here is what I thought was the best work in film from 2014, and come back in a day or two to see what my 10 favorite movies of 2014 were!

****


Best Song - "Where No One Goes" from How to Train Your Dragon 2
This category is simply the best use of a song in a movie, period.  Whether the song already existed before the movie, or was written for the movie, it all boils down to how perfectly the song works with the visuals onscreen at that moment.  "Where No One Goes," is a picture perfect example of that.  Co-written by Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi and film composer John Powell, the song mixes the unique musical stylings of Sigur Ros with the unforgettable How to Train Your Dragon theme penned by John Powell to create an empowering song that is adventurous and hopeful.
Runners-Up
2.) "Everything is Awesome" from The LEGO Movie
3.) "Come and Get Your Love" from Guardians of the Galaxy
4.) "For the Dancing and Dreaming Kind" from How to Train Your Dragon 2
5.) "Hiko-Ki Gumo" from The Wind Rises


Best Make-Up and Hair - Guardians of the Galaxy
From turning Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista into green skinned aliens, to turning Michael Rooker, Karen Gillian, and Lee Pace into blue skinned aliens, Guardians of the Galaxy was a rare modern blockbuster that utilized as much traditional make-up and hair work as it did CGI.  In the words of Stan Lee, "'Nuff said."
Runners-Up
2.) Snowpiercer
3.) Unbroken
4.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
5.) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Best Costumes - Belle
Period costume dramas almost always win this category at the Oscars, maybe because these types of films tend to feature such showy costume pieces.  Well, I am not going to break from tradition here, cause I loved the costumes in Belle.  Yes, it is another period costume drama, but when costumes are this beautiful, elegant, and intricate, to where a close-up captures such amazing detail, you've just got to give props where props are due.
Runners-Up
2.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
3.) X-Men: Days of Future Past
4.) Noah
5.) Interstellar


Best Sound - The Wind Rises
The sound of The Wind Rises was just utterly innovative.  The sound designers utilized humans making the noises of airplanes rather than actually recording real aircraft, and it created a unique, dreamlike feeling to the idea of flight.  Then there was the myriad ways that the noise of wind was utilized almost like music.  Simply put, The Wind Rises sounds unlike any other film ever made, and that's why it gets this honor.
Runners-Up
2.) Godzilla
3.) How to Train Your Dragon 2
4.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
5.) The LEGO Movie


Best Special Effects - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The work done by WETA digital on this film was nothing short of spectacular.  With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, WETA took another huge leap forward in the art of performance capture technology by filming so much on location and not in a controlled environment, proving that there really are no bounds to what mo-cap can do.  The effects work in this movie represent the future of moviemaking.
Runners-Up
2.) Interstellar
3.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
4.) Unbroken
5.) Godzilla


Best Production Design - Snowpiercer
I can only imagine the headache of shooting an entire movie on a train, but Bong Joon Ho managed to do that with Snowpiercer and I believe his success is all thanks to the production design.  Each train car is unique from the last, with varying forms of architecture being represented throughout the train.  To think that they built all of these claustrophobic train cars is astounding.  Since the spaces they were working in were so small, these sets had to be detailed, and they always pass inspection.
Runners-Up
2.) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
3.) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
4.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
5.) Interstellar


Best Editing - X-Men: Days of Future Past
Truthfully, this one has a leg up on its competition due to the back-and-forth editing that editor John Ottman had to employ to tell the story in two separate time lines at the same time as if they were happening in one.  Sequences like the one in Paris in the the middle of the film, where Kitty Pride nearly loses Logan's consciousness in the future while chaos is unfolding in the Seventies, is a highlight of Ottman's career as an editor.  It doesn't hurt that he's also the composer, so there's a timing to every cut he does visually that matches the sound perfectly.
Runners-Up
2.) Noah
3.) Interstellar
4.) Unbroken
5.) Godzilla


Best Cinematography - Unbroken
Roger Deakins is arguably the best Director of Photography currently working in the industry and his work in Unbroken is a perfect example of why.  The way he uses natural light without forsaking the clarity of the image is just breathtaking and makes me envious as a videographer.
Runners-Up
2.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3.) Belle
4.) Noah
5.) Interstellar


Best Animated Film - The Wind Rises
This was no contest, the final film from one of my all-time favorite directors, how can it not be the best animated film of 2014?  The Wind Rises was a unique movie in Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki's repertoire, forgoing a lot of the traditional fantasy elements of his works for his most realistic film to date (though there are some pretty awesome dream sequences in the film).  This is a unique, one-of-a-kind biopic, loosely detailing the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Japanese Zero Fighter used in World War II.  What is fascinating about this movie is that it feels less about Horikoshi at times and more like its really an autobiography of Miyazaki.  While Miyazaki did rearrange a lot of events in Horikoshi's life to tell the story the way he wanted to tell it, when it's done this artistically, I don't care one bit.
Runners-Up
2.) How to Train Your Dragon 2
3.) The LEGO Movie


Best Supporting Actress - Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
Let's be honest, Tilda Swinton is always good, but she was great in Snowpiercer.  To say that she plays a villain almost feels like an overstatement after all is learned in the movie.  While she does heartless things, she's so brainwashed it's almost hard to not somewhat pity her as if she were a small child who just didn't know any better.  Key word is almost.  She still is sleazy, though Swinton manages to bring a comic goofiness to the sleaziness that also exudes a slight innocence and ignorance that makes her latest turn at playing a villainess one of her best, though still nowhere close to her work as the White Witch in Narnia.
Runners-Up
2.) Karin Konoval, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3.) Julianne Moore, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
4.) Jessica Chastain, Interstellar
5.) America Ferrera, How to Train Your Dragon 2


Best Supporting Actor - Toby Kebbell, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arguably this was the best performance of the year for me, though Miyavi's work as the Bird in Unbroken came awfully close.  I have always been a big proponent for motion capture and voice performance, and Toby Kebbel's mo-cap performance as Koba in Dawn is arguably one of the best examples of what this technology can achieve.  Take an awesome actor like Kebbell, turn him literally into an ape through computer technology, and magic happens.  And on a character level, Koba was also just the best villain in any movie this year.  He had strong motivations, and when Koba finally went bad, he became just like a livewire, you never knew what he was going to do and that was all credit to Kebbell.
Runners-Up
2.) Miyavi, Unbroken
3.) Tom Wilkinson, Belle
4.) Gerard Butler, How to Train Your Dragon 2
5.) Anthony Mackie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Best Actress - Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle
Mbatha-Raw has been around for a few years, but she really started to breakthrough this year, a large part thanks to her performance in Belle.  Her work as Dido is nothing short of revelatory, playing a free mulatto gentlewoman in 1779 England.  She plays the role with a quiet ferocity that is just so miraculous to behold.  Her character starts off more Age of Innocence reserved, but as she falls harder and harder for British lawyer, John Davinier, she becomes more outspoken about those hidden feelings that Mbatha-Raw was able to deliver earlier in the film through just looks.  The clear character arc that Mbatha-Raw manages to convey with Dido is the best of both worlds for an actor, she gets to do subtle, reserved, and showy all in one remarkable role.
Runners-Up
2.) Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars
3.) Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
4.) Angelina Jolie, Maleficent
5.) Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow


Best Actor - Chadwick Boseman, Get on Up
Let me preface by saying, I loved Boseman's performance in Get on Up but didn't like the movie itself.  Boseman's lived in portrayal of James Brown is what saved Get on Up from being another biopic that just tried to do too much in two hours.  This is the same actor who played Jackie Robinson perfectly and is now going to play the Black Panther for Marvel.  He is such a diverse young actor and an immense talent, perfectly capturing the unique rhythms of Brown's movement and speech.  Even when the old age make-up was sketchy in the scenes representing Brown's later years, Boseman still managed to sell the performance.  This is an Oscar worthy performance that unfortunately has gotten overlooked because of the poor reception the movie received.
Runners-Up
2.) Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars
3.) Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
4.) Jay Baruchel, How to Train Your Dragon 2
5.) Chris Pratt, The LEGO Movie


Best Ensemble - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
I seriously don't see how you can look at the cast list of this movie and not say this is the best ensemble of any movie this past year.  When you have Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, not to mention the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, you have magic.  This is like watching a football team with an insanely deep bench.  Even the most minor of characters in these films are played by phenomenal actors.
Runners-Up
2.) How to Train Your Dragon 2
3.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
4.) Unbroken
5.) Guardians of the Galaxy


Best ScreenplayThe LEGO Movie
So I'm going with the movie that made me laugh the most this year, I don't care, The LEGO Movie was funny.  The most spectacular thing about the script is how it adheres strictly to the traditional three-act structure of Hollywood storytelling,while also lampooning it at every turn, ultimately having a nice, emotional twist at the end to make it something unique in the realms of animation.  Plus, this movie is chock full of quotable lines at every single turn.
Runners-Up
2.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
3.) Unbroken 
4.) The Wind Rises
5.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Best Director - Angelina Jolie, Unbroken
Angelina Jolie proves with Unbroken that she is one of those rare entertainers who is a better director than they are an actor.  With this movie, she joins the ranks of Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, and Emilio Estevez.  She just has a good eye, being able to figure out where best to place the camera, not to mention her ability to speak with fellow actors and lead them to great performances.  Also, those action sequences she directed in this film were insanely engaging.  I really think that Angelina Jolie should direct an action film after seeing this one, but even if she doesn't, she proves with Unbroken that she can probably direct anything you throw at her.
Runners-Up
2.) Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises
3.) Matt Reeves, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
4.) Joe and Anthony Russo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5.) Gareth Edwards, Godzilla

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015's Resolutions


So it's finally 2015!  The dawn of a new year, or simply another day in a larger story, no matter how you look at it, my favorite thing about a new year is that it simply feels like a fresh start.  In so many ways, it feels like everything that's happened over the past 365 days (or even every other year of your life) has been expunged and we now have a chance to start anew.  While we obviously can't start completely over, we can try and change simple things that we don't like about us personally and physically.  There are things in life we have no control over, but over the things that pertain to us directly, we do.

I have already mentioned in previous posts how I feel some awesome changes are just around the corner for me and my family and friends, but I am not exactly sure what shape or form those changes will come in.  One thing I do know is that in order for any change to occur you must meet it halfway, which is why New Year's resolutions are so important.  Now while there is no resolution police force that makes you keep your resolutions, by sharing your resolutions with other people it helps you in feeling like you're being held accountable to keep those resolutions.  In a way, anyone reading this is the resolution police.

To be perfectly honest, I have never fully kept any resolution I have ever made, but there is always a first time for everything, and that is why this year I wont just be making one resolution, but multiple.  The law of averages dictates that I will at least fulfill one of them.  So here I have concocted 5 New Year's resolutions for myself, and I need you all to read them and hold me accountable to meet at least one of them.  Can you all do that?  Alright, here we go.

1.  Lose 20 Pounds
The most cliche of New Year's resolutions, but one that I need to get a better handle of in 2015.  I had lost over 30 pounds in 2013 only to put most of it back on in 2014.  My goal is to take all of that weight back off in 2015, which means I need to get back to exercising and making the healthy choice when it's meal time rather than the easy choice.

2.  Watch 365 Movies I Have Never Seen Before
Whether it's seeing brand new movies in theaters or watching a classic movie that I have not seen, it is my goal in 2015 to watch at least one movie I have never seen every single day.  While I know there will be days that I miss here and there, I still want to reach 365 movies by doubling or tripling up on days where I have nothing to do.

3.  Stop Being Afraid of Life
This might be the most hard resolution to see a clear path to because it's one that is completely internal, but I cannot tell you how long I have lived in fear and how I despise it.  To clarify, I don't despise myself, I despise the fear.  My anxiety disorder feels like it's put the life I'm supposed to have on hold for 6 years and I want 2015 to be my breakthrough year where I push through the fear and embrace actually living life for a change.  In a lot of ways, I am not sure if I've ever truly lived life because I am such a cautious person, so 2015 is going to be the dawn of living for me.

4.  Write and Direct a Feature Length Narrative Film
So I resolved last year to make my first feature length narrative film, and lo and behold I made a feature length film, just not the kind I initially thought I would.  While I didn't believe that the documentary I was making was going to be a feature, it did sort of fulfill that resolution, so this year I am going to make the same resolution and hopefully I'll fulfill all of it.  I want to make a feature length narrative film.  I have multiple scripts that I have been developing, and whether I'm lucky enough to get financing, or I have to finance it myself, I want to produce one of those scripts and make a movie to send out to film festivals to jumpstart my career as a Hollywood moviemaker.

5.  Find Distribution for My Documentary
This is the final resolution and its one that is no less important.  While my documentary, The Red Barn: A Legacy of Love, is completed, the journey is far from over.  We've started submitting to film festivals and I am hoping out of that we can find a distributor to release the film nationwide on some sort of platform.  The Red Barn is a genuinely special place and I want as many people as possible to experience it.

With all that said, those are my 2015 resolutions.  What are yours?