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.

Best of the Month: February 2014

Posted: March 3, 2014 in Best Of

Best Films

The LEGO Movie

The Past

 

Best Actor

Tahar Rahim- The Past

Oscar Isaac- In Secret

Ali Mosaffa- The Past

Kevin Costner- 3 Days to Kill

 

Best Actress

Jessica Lange - In Secret

Paulina Garcia- Gloria

Elizabeth Olsen- In Secret

Bérénice Bejo- The Past

 

Best Director

Asghar Farhadi- The Past

Phil Lord & Christopher Miller- The LEGO Movie

Oscars 2014

Posted: February 28, 2014 in Oscars

This Sunday the biggest night for film will be on in living rooms around the globe!

Of course I am talking about the 86th Academy Awards!

Nominations were announced last month, and not surprisingly there were snubs that left a sting. I was really rooting for Robert Redford to be nominated for Best Actor with his commanding performance in All Is Lost. It would have only been his second acting nomination ever! He was nominated over four decades ago for The Sting. Yet Bruce Dern kicked him out of the fifth and final slot for his overhyped performance in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. So while that was certainly disappointing, I almost fainted when Tom Hanks was completely ignored for Captain Phillips! I truly believed his nomination was guaranteed.

For Best Supporting Actress, Oprah deserved a nomination. Her performance in Lee Daniels’ The Butler is terrific. And while we are on the subject, just because you cannot see the actress does not mean she is not acting. The voice acting done by Scarlett Johansson in Her not only gives life to a machine, but to the film as well. I won’t even get in to Best Director, but the Coen brothers and Paul Greengrass should have been included and replaced David O. Russell and Alexander Payne.

By the way, the fact my favorite film of 2013, Prisoners, did not get any love from the Academy almost pushes me over the edge!

Why do the Oscars always try to get me fired up?! Let’s move on.

This year, like every year, I will have a Should Win which is my personal choice on who I would give the Oscar to and a Will Win that basically means who will actually walk away with Oscar in their sweaty hand on March 2nd, 2014.

Of course, there is no way I’m doing every category. I broke down the 9 main categories that most people know and tune in for. So here is what I see when I look in to the future….

 

Best Animated Film

The Croods

Despicable Me 2

Frozen

Ernest & Celestine

The Wind Rises

Should Win: Frozen

Will Win: Frozen

 

Best Documentary

Cutie and the Boxer

The Act of Killing

Dirty Wars

20 Feet from Stardom

The Square

Should Win: 20 Feet from Stardom

Will Win: 20 Feet from Stardom 

 

Best Foreign Language Film

The Hunt (Denmark)

The Great Beauty (Italy) 

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)

The Missing Picture (Cambodia)

Omar (Palestine)

Should Win: Honestly, Doesn’t Matter

Will Win: The Great Beauty 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Jared Leto- Dallas Buyers Club

Bradley Cooper- American Hustle

Jonah Hill-The Wolf of Wall Street

Michael Fassbender - 12 Years A Slave

Barkhad Abdi- Captain Phillips

Should Win: Jared Leto

Will Win: Jared Leto

 

Best Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins- Blue Jasmine

Julia Roberts- August: Osage County

Jennifer Lawrence- American Hustle

June Squibb- Nebraska

Lupita Nyong’o- 12 Years A Slave

Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o 

 

Best  Actor

Christian Bale- American Hustle

Bruce Dern- Nebraska

Chiwetel Ejiofor- 12 Years A Slave

Matthew McConaughey- Dallas Buyers Club

Leornado DiCaprio- The Wolf of Wall Street

Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio/Matthew McConaughey

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey 

 

Best  Actress

Cate Blanchett- Blue Jasmine

Meryl Streep- August: Osage County

Amy Adams- American Hustle

Sandra Bullock- Gravity

Judie Dench- Philomena

Should Win: Cate Blanchett

Will Win: Cate Blanchett

 

Best  Director

Alexander Payne- Nebraska

David O. Russell- American Hustle

 Alfonso Cuarón- Gravity

Steve McQueen- 12 Years A Slave

Martin Scorsese- The Wolf of Wall Street

Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón

 

Best  Picture

Gravity

Her

The Wolf of Wall Street

Philomena

12 Years A Slave

Dallas Buyers Club

American Hustle

Nebraska

Captain Phillips

Should Win: 12 Years A Slave/ The Wolf of Wall Street

Will Win: 12 Years A Slave

Best of the Month: January 2014

Posted: February 3, 2014 in Best Of

Best Films

Her

Big Bad Wolves

 

Best Actor

Joaquin Phoenix- Her

John Hawkes- Low Down

 

Best Actress

 Elle Fanning- Low Down

Amy Adams- Her

Meryl Streep- August: Osage County

Scarlett Johansson- Her

Glenn Close- Low Down

Julia Roberts- August: Osage County

Kate Winslet- Labor Day

 

Best Director

Spike Jonze- Her

Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado- Big Bad Wolves

Paolo Sorrentino- The Great Beauty

Low Down

Posted: February 2, 2014 in Reviews

Music and drugs. Have you heard this story before?

It’s a path that is all too familiar and Low Down adds absolutely nothing new to it. This film seems like a labor of love for director Jeff Preiss and his passion for Joe Albany and his music is undeniable. However, even with a terrific, first-rate cast, Low Down is a desolate, tedious journey with no end in sight.

While the film’s driving force is Joe Albany (the always incredible John Hawkes), the story is told completely from the perspective of his young daughter Amy-Jo (Elle Fanning). As a matter of act, the film is based on her memoir that was published back in 2002 about her rough upbringing in California during the 1960s and 70s. Now do not feel embarrassed if the name Joe Albany does not sound familiar. He was a gifted jazz pianist who played with all of the great, but could never become one himself due to his unvarying battle with heroin addiction.

Amy-Jo loved and adored her father because he was all she had since her mother rather stay in a bar than in her daughter’s life. Joe put himself and Amy-Jo through hellacious situations, but she never gave up on him. No matter what. From day-to-day, she never knew which version of Joe would come walking through the door: her loving father or the heroin junkie. She would have to stay with Joe’s mom Gram (a furious, heartbreaking performance by Glenn Close) when his lifestyle would catch up with him and had to go to jail or flee the country. But Amy could ignore it, if only for a moment, when she would witness his magic and genius every time his fingers touched the keys of a piano. I do not think I have to tell you there is no happy ending to this tale.

The good news is Low Down does manage to set the tone and atmosphere quite nicely. Preiss confidently lays out the culture and mindset of this particular timeframe. But his biggest accomplishment is the cast he was able to put together. Hawkes and Fanning are dynamite. Their relationship is full of love, but pain and hurt is always interfering with it. They each allow themselves to be torrid yet vulnerable. It is definitely frustrating and deeply sad to watch their relationship deteriorate. Then there is Close who provides the care and nurture that not only Amy needs but the film itself. She’s the spark that is so desperately needed.

Yet with all that said, the look, feel, and strong performances are almost buried six feet under because of the lack of direction of the story. Preiss cannot pull it all together to make a strong, stable narrative. There is no hope. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. It is like listening to a depressing, one-note song on repeat. Low Down is simply just running around in circles and it is exhausting to watch.

Big Bad Wolves

Posted: January 26, 2014 in Reviews

Big Bad Wolves starts out as its own dark fairy tale, but soon reality sets in and murder and revenge take over with brute force. Israel directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado present a terrifying story about a child serial killer, a disturbing subject matter that you do not want to hear about much less watch. Yet surprisingly no matter how morbid the film gets, they find the perfect moments to lighten the mood with scolding humor. You practically feel guilty for laughing. With the help of strong performances, Keshales and Papushado not only balance humor with horror, but they keep things unpredictable. Big Bad Wolves sinks its teeth in to you and does not let go causing you to never forget.

 This twisted tale begins with a young girl disappearing and we immediately know she is not the first. A tenacious and determined cop named Miki (Lior Ashkenazi) believes he has the suspected pedophile Dror (Rotem Keinan) at his mercy, but due to lack of proof and Miki’s rather rough interrogation techniques, Dror is released and Miki is suspended. It does not help matters when their entire encounter makes it on the internet for the whole world to see and leaves the rest of the police force pissed and embarrassed. But lying low is not Miki’s style.

Instead, he goes rogue with the intent of capturing the suspect and making him talk. He’s going to finish what he started. But his plans completely fall apart because the missing girl’s father, Gidi (Tzahi Grad), beats him to the punch. What follows is pure torture and punishment in order to get a confession and find out the truth. And this is where Big Bad Wolves gets really interesting because it has not even been considered that Dror may actually have nothing to do with any of this. Miki and Gidi seem absolutely certain about having the right guy, but what if they do not? What if they are slowly killing not only the wrong man, but an innocent one?

Big Bad Wolves is gutsy and disturbing with amazing tone and clever twists. Vengeance, mystery, and shock lives and breathes in this film, and it captivates to the fullest. It makes the audience question what they see and who to believe. There’s this blurred line separating the guilty from the innocent, and no one realizes how close it is or when they have crossed it. However, once it is crossed, there is no turning back. On the outside, this film is a gruesome revenge thriller about murder and truth, but know it cuts deeper than that.  It’s about us and humanity as a whole. Therefore, providing no easy answers to the film’s unsettling moral questions.

Big Bad Wolves is a tough look in the mirror about the monsters we can allow ourselves to become.