Best of the Month: May 2014

Posted: June 15, 2014 in Best Of

Best Films

Godzilla (2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Past

 

Best Actor

Steve Coogan- Alan Partridge

Don Johnson- Cold In July

Andrew Garfield- The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Jesse Eisenberg- The Double

Phillip Seymour Hoffman- God’s Pocket

Michael C. Hall- Cold In July

Joaquin Phoenix- The Immigrant

Jon Favreau- Chef

Sam Shepard- Cold In July

James McAvoy- X-Men: Days of Future Past/ Filth

 

Best Actress

Emma Stone- The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Marion Cotillard- The Immigrant

Gugu Mbatha-Raw- Belle

Angelina Jolie- Maleficent

 

Best Director

Bryan Singer- X-Men: Days of Future Pasts

Gareth Edwards- Godzilla (2014)

Jim Mickle- Cold In July

Jon Favreau- Chef

Whether you like his brand of humor or not, Seth MacFarlane is a comedic genius. He’s created a handful of successful shows and his first feature film, Ted, is one of the highest grossing R-rated movies of all time. With all of that said, it saddens me to say that his new film, A Million Ways to Die in the West, doesn’t deliver the laughs. Now are there funny parts? Of course. It’s sexual, crude, disgusting and violent. Everything you could possibly want in a rated R comedy, yet there are only moments of actual laughter. It falls victim to not only revealing too much in the previews, but there’s simply not enough story or jokes to carry itself through 2 hours.

MacFarlane plays a sheep farmer named Albert who despises the wild west. It’s a place where anything and everything has the capability to kill you. Albert likes to talk things out before shooting from the hip and that’s not very popular where he lives. You’re seen as a coward which is why his one and only love Louise (Amanda Seyfried) leaves him for Foy (a scene-stealing Neil Patrick Harris) who is better and more superior than Albert due to his glorious mustache. In a surprising, desperate attempt to capture Louise’s heart once again, Albert challenges Foy to a duel. But don’t forget, Albert is a talker not a fighter. Obviously, he is probably good as dead.

That is until a mysterious but gorgeous woman comes to town. Her name is Anna (Charlize Theron) and not only do her and Albert form a friendship, but may be something more. She is an accomplished gunslinger and offers to help Albert so he doesn’t die face-down in the dirt in front of everyone in town. And while sparks and bullets fly between the two, Anna doesn’t tell him about her invective husband named Clinch (Liam Neeson), a notorious outlaw who is feared by all. And guess what? He’s coming to town.

We can’t forget about Albert’s best buds Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his prostitute girlfriend Ruth (Sarah Silverman). They are both Christians whom are waiting to have sex until they wed. However, Ruth is having meaningless sex 15-20 times a day with strangers, but Edward is a very understanding boyfriend. They not only provide some of the best lines, but the filthiest as well.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is outrageous, raunchy, and ridiculous, which is to be expected by MacFarlane. Let’s be honest, that is what we want. Unfortunately, what works in Ted does not work here. It’s an impressive cast but hearing MacFarlane is different than seeing him as a leading man. The role just doesn’t fit well on him. He looks out of place. More importantly though is the lack of laughs this movie suffers from. Most of the jokes we’ve heard before or may have already been told on Family Guy. And there’s not as much as dying as you might think, but the deaths that do occur you’ve seen over and over in the trailers. But I will give MacFarlane credit to actually trying to make some time for romance. That may be the most shocking part of the movie.

A western spoof is a tough thing to not only create but succeed at it. A Million Ways to Die in the West isn’t trying to be Blazing Saddles. That would just be foolish to begin with. But it does try to be this rare western comedy with relevance to the times we live in today. MacFarlane doesn’t completely fail at doing so and some jokes undoubtedly make their mark. The problem is so do the missed opportunities.

Godzilla (2014)

Posted: May 19, 2014 in Reviews

Godzilla first came to life in 1954 and has had almost 30 films since then. Oh and how could we forget Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla in 1998 right?! Obviously, it’s taken a lot of years, but finally ‘Zilla gets the respect he deserves on the big screen. This is because of director Gareth Edwards’ (Monsters) vision and devotion to the origins of the story and his appreciation for the most famous monster of them all. He places Godzilla back on the throne with people looking at him not only in fear, but in awe, wonder and amazement. Thanks to Edwards, this film does the same thing to its audience.

While the film is built for the monsters to raise some hell, there is a human element to it as well. Unfortunately, it’s just not as exciting. The first people we meet are Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his partner, Dr. Graham (Sally Hawkins). They have located a pod deep in a Filipino mine were a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) has escaped. Then we jump to Japan where we are introduced to an engineer named Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his scientist wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche). They work in a nuclear plant and are completely unaware of it becoming a feeding ground for the MUTO. The place crumbles and leaves Joe without a wife and their only child without a mother. The incident is blamed on an earthquake, but Joe knows it’s a cover up and spends years looking for answers.

Fifteen years pass and Joe and Sandra’s son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is all grown up and works for the Navy as an explosives expert. He’s returned to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and their son but almost immediately is pulled away to return to Japan to get his father. Joe is now seen as loopy and just plain out of his mind even by his own son. But he has heard something that will make everyone a believer. There’s not just one MUTO but two and to make matters worse, it’s mating season. However, everything changes at the Honolulu Airport. It’s here when things start to get chaotic and the only outcome is absolute mayhem. This is where we get our first look at the King of Monsters: Godzilla!

I’m sure Edwards wanted that human connection to have more of an impact on-screen, but there’s not one character that you can truly invest in. I think Ford is suppose to be that guy, yet there is an emotional attachment that’s missing. Now the acting isn’t bad by any means. It’s a terrific cast with Watanabe perhaps being the most significant supporting character only because he represents the only voice of truth to what Godzilla is and why he is here.

Don’t let the lack of emotion from the humans change your mind about seeing Godzilla. When it comes to the monsters, it doesn’t get any bigger or better. It’s visually breathtaking and, if possible, see it in IMAX because the scale and size is a perfect fit. The ground will literally shake. Edwards knows who we all came to see, which is why I respect his decision on going with a nice, suspenseful build-up that eventually leads to the revealing of the big green lizard. Why some may hate the wait, it’s undoubtedly worth it. The inspiration of Steven Spielberg and Jaws is definitely there.

Godzilla is a behemoth of a film for so many reasons, and most of them are good: the size of the monsters, the terror of the people, the explosions and the battles. It’s a sight to see. Edwards has a real gift at making all of the havoc and destruction look so damn beautiful. His tone and pace only helps the film and keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way up to when you feel his stomps and hear his roar.

Best of the Month: April 2014

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Best Of

Best Films

Obvious Child

Butterfly Girl

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Joe

The House That Jack Built

The Raid 2

Blue Ruin 

 

Best Actor

Kevin Costner- Draft Day

Nicolas Cage- Joe

Tom Hardy- Locke

E.J. Bonilla- The House That Jack Built

Jude Law- Dom Hemingway

Mark Duplass- The One I Love

Colin Firth- The Railway Man

Macon Blair- Blue Ruin 

 

Best Actress

Elisabeth Moss- The One I Love

Jenny Slate- Obvious Child

Robin Wright- The Congress

Leslie Mann- The Other Woman

Anna Kendrick – Happy Christmas

 

Best Director

Henry Barrial- The House That Jack Built

Ari Folman- The Congress

David Gordon Green- Joe

Anthony & Joe Russo- Captian America: The Winter Soldier

Gillian Robespierre- Obvious Child

Steven Knight- Locke

Gareth Evans- The Raid 2

Jeremy Saulnier- Blue Ruin

Best of the Fest: NaFF 2014

Posted: April 29, 2014 in Best Of

The Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) turned 45 years old this year, and after 10 packed days, the party is officially over. I personally saw 15 films (10 feature films and 5 documentaries) this time around which I take great pride in. However, the truth is 15 films isn’t much to some people who were there all day every day. Yet I can safely say I did all I could do and I will hang my hat on seeing as many as I did.

Below is what I consider to be the Best of the Fest and hopefully the rest of you will be able to see them at some point this year. So be on the look out!

 

Top 5 Films (no particular order)

The House That Jack Built

Butterfly Girl

The One I Love

Obvious Child

Locke

 

Best Feature Film

Obvious Child/ The House That Jack Built (tie)

 

Best Documentary

Butterfly Girl

 

Best Actor

Jude Law- Dom Hemingway

Mark Duplass- The One I Love

E.J. Bonilla- The House That Jack Built

Tom Hardy- Locke

 

Best Actress

Robin Wright- The Congress

Toni Collette- Lucky Them

Anna Kendrick- Happy Christmas

Jenny Slate- Obvious Child

Elisabeth Moss- The One I Love

 

Best Director

Steven Knight- Locke

Henry Barrial- The House That Jack Built

Gillian Robespierre- Obvious Child

Ari Folman- The Congress

 

**Nashville Film Festival ran from April 17th through April 26th, 2014**

Best of the Month: March 2014

Posted: April 18, 2014 in Best Of

Best Films

The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

Best Actor

Adam Bakri- Omar

Jason Bateman- Bad Words

Arnold Schwarzenegger- Sabotage

Elijah Wood- Grand Piano

Michael Pena- Cesar Chavez

Russell Crowe- Noah

Jake Gyllenhaal- Enemy

Ralph Fiennes- The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

Best Actress

Jennifer Connelly – Noah

Shailene Woodley- Divergent

Emma Watson- Noah

Eva Green- 300:Rise of an Empire

 

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky- Noah

Denis Villeneuve- Enemy

Wes Anderson- The Grand Budapest Hotel

Need For Speed

Posted: March 16, 2014 in Reviews

Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) recently told “The Hollywood Reporter” he had no interest in doing ” ‘just another car film or a video-game adaptation that doesn’t work.’ ” Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened with Need For Speed. Without a doubt, Paul is a talented actor and has two Emmys to prove it. Yet his (as well as everyone else’s) character in this movie, is paper-thin and his only look is being pissed off for over 2 hours.

Director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) brings the noise and flash along with every single thing we have ever seen in a movie like this. The only exception is those others executed it better. He brings spurts of adrenaline and excitement that Need For Speed desperately needs, but it’s never enough. The movie may think it’s Fast and Furious, but, in reality, it’s sitting at a green light with its foot not even on the gas.

Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a young, talented street racer who could’ve done big things behind the wheel. However, he opted for staying low-key and running his garage. The problem is the garage is going through a tough time. A really tough time. So Marshall agrees to race his rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) and if he wins, the rent on the garage is paid for quite a long time. In pure predictability, the race goes bad and Marshall goes to prison for a crime he did not commit.

Of course, once he gets out, what does he want most?

Revenge!

The best way to do that is to beat Dino at his own game: winning the De Leon, the Super Bowl of street racing contests ran by Monarch, a race DJ played by Michael Keaton who runs wild while bringing back the spirit of BeetleJuice with every spoken sentence. Besides a few car action sequences, Keaton is the most entertaining part of the movie. Need For Speed is part racing, part road trip movie, but either way it’s still absurd and disarranged, and stalls out on almost every road the story goes down. Even its attempt at the relationship side of things between Marshall and his British sidekick beauty Julia (Imogen Poots) feels empty-hearted.

Apparently Waugh and Paul have both pointed at films such as Vanishing Point and Bullitt as inspirations, and Waugh has even had the balls to compare Paul to THE Steve McQueen. Now I doubt Paul would agree with that, but I think we could all agree that McQueen would fly by him and this movie and give them both the finger if he were alive today. I wish I could.