Focus

Posted: February 25, 2015 in Reviews

After starring in only two movies (M.I.B. 3 and After Earth) in seven years, Will Smith is finally back in top form in Focus. It may lack the weight that I think it is fully capable of carrying, yet it’s a satisfying, beguiling experience anyways. Most of the credit must go to the spark between Smith and the stunning Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street). Their chemistry is undeniably alluring and the film truly rides that to the very end. A smart choice by directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (Crazy, Stupid, Love) when you’re dealing with an oversimple plot.

Smith plays a third generation con man named Nicky who is sly and tremendous at deception. He’s good. He’s damn good. After discovering and falling for Jess (Robbie), an amateur in his line of work, he makes her his intern, but more importantly, a part of the plan. So what is first thought as love is not and Nicky and Jess are no more. Three years go by and Nicky is doing what he does best. He’s cooking up an elaborate scheme worth millions. But his past shows back up in the form of Jess in a captivating red dress and she’s playing for keeps this time around.

Focus is an easy, stylish trickster of a film. It gets off on messing with you by being able to shift your attention from one scene to the next without you even realizing what you have just witnessed. Unfortunately, there’s not enough substance which leads to a missed opportunity to reach its full potential. Requa and Ficarra have the capability to take this story to a higher, distinctive level along with the terrific talent to support it. There’s no doubt Smith and Robbie make a dynamic duo.

Disappointingly, Focus loses just that—-it’s focus. It settles for just enough instead of going for broke.

On February 22nd, I’m hoping a solid golden statue is presented to Michael Keaton. There’s my first prediction for the Oscars! You’re welcome.

Anyone who loves movies or even watches them knows the Academy Awards are the main event. If you become an Oscar winner then you’ve officially made it in the film industry. It’s a fact.

This years’ nominations, like every year, had disappointments and surprises. First off, including Whiplash (my favorite film of 2014) in the Best Picture category was stunning yet well deserved. Laura Dern finally not being ignored for Best Supporting Actress was nice to see. Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Going to Miss You” being nominated for Best Original Song was a terrific decision by the Academy.

But some of their decisions make absolute no sense. I loved How to Train Your Dragon 2, but I can’t deny that The LEGO Movie should’ve been nominated for Best Animated Feature. Also, leaving out Roger Ebert’s documentary Life Itself and Keep On Keepin’ On in the Best Documentary category is borderline insane. With all that said, nothing sickens me more than the complete disregard for Nightcrawler. Nothing for the film, director, Jake Gyllenhaal or Renee Russo!

WTF Academy! Sorry I yelled.

Now as usual, I don’t predict all of the categories just the main ones that we sit through 4 hours to hear the winners. So below are the categories with all of the nominees with who I think SHOULD and WILL win.

I’m going for a perfect record this year! I believe I’ve had enough practice.

 

Best Animated Film

Song of the Sea

Big Hero 6

How to Train Your Dragon 2

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Boxtrolls

Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Best Documentary

The Salt of the Earth

Last Days in Vietnam

Citizenfour

Finding Vivian Maier

Virunga

Should Win: Citizenfour

Will Win: Citizenfour

Best Foreign Language Film

Timbuktu (Mauritania)

Tangerines (Estonia)

Wild Tales (Argentina)

Ida (Poland)

Leviathan (Russia)

Should Win: Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a single one yet.

Will Win: Ida

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall- The Judge

Edward Norton- Birdman

Ethan Hawke-Boyhood

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons- Whiplash

Should Win: J.K. Simmons

Will Win: J.K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette- Boyhood

Keira Knightley- The Imitation Game

Emma Stone- Birdman

Meryl Streep- Into the Woods

Laura Dern- Wild

Should Win: Laura Dern

Will Win: Patricia Arquette

Best  Actor

Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything

Steve Carell- Foxcatcher

Michael Keaton- Birdman

Bradley Cooper- American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch- The Imitation Game

Should Win: Michael Keaton

Will Win: Michael Keaton

Best  Actress

Marion Cotillard- Two Days, One Night

Reese Witherspoon- Wild

Felicity Jones- The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore- Still Alice

Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl

Should Win: Julianne Moore

Will Win: Julianne Moore

 

Best  Director

Richard Linklater- Boyhood

Alejandro G. Iñárritu- Birdman

Bennett Miller- Foxcatcher

Wes Anderson- The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten Tyldum- The Imitation Game

Should Win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Will Win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Best  Picture

American Sniper

Foxcatcher

Birdman

Selma

The Theory of Everything

The Imitation Game

Whiplash

Boyhood

Should Win: Whiplash

Will Win: Boyhood

Best of 2014

Posted: February 14, 2015 in Best Of

Do what?! 2014 is over?!

My goodness. Time flies when you’re spending God knows how many hours in a dark theatre with crumpled up napkins and old popcorn on the sticky floor. With that said, I wouldn’t take any of those hours back—well maybe a few (I’m looking at you Under the Skin).

Looking back over the year, it’s been a nice, diverse 12 months of many different films with incredible, brave, creepy, and fearless performances. Whether they were mainstream or animated or a controversial documentary or perhaps the tiniest independent movie, their stories left a mark that has stayed with me.

Now that I have seen most of the limited releases from 2014 (American Sniper, Selma, A Most Violent Year, Inherent Vice) in this first month of 2015, I feel my Best of 2014 is now complete and untouchable. So let’s see if you agree with how 2014 went for me at the cinemas!

Brace yourself….

 

Best Comedy Film

Obvious Child

Runners-Up: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The LEGO Movie

Best Horror Film

The Babadook

Runner-Up: The Den

Best Animated Film

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Runner-Up: The LEGO Movie

Best Foreign Film

Big Bad Wolves

Runner-Up: The Raid 2

Best Documentary Film

Keep On Keepin’ On

Runners-Up: Life Itself, Butterfly Girl, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, Citizenfour

 

8 Most Surprising Films of 2014 (no particular order)

– Edge of Tomorrow

– Blue Ruin

– A Most Wanted Man

– John Wick

– The Babadook

– Chef

– God’s Pocket

– Joe

 

8 Most Disappointing Films of 2014 (no particular order)

– Dumb and Dumber To

– Annabelle

– The Amazing Spider-Man 2

– A Million Ways to Die in the West

– Lucy

– Maleficent

– Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

– The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1

 

Top 3 Worst Films of 2014 (no particular order)

– No Good Deed

– Under the Skin

– Devil’s Due

Some more awful films:

– Winter’s Tale

– Need for Speed

– I, Frankenstein

– The Other Woman

– Into the Storm

 

Best Actress

Runners-Up:

– Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Birdman)

– Robin Wright (The Congress)

– Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins)

– Laura Dern (Wild)

– Jenny Slate (Obvious Child)

- Renee Russo (Nightcrawler)

- Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything)

- Essie Davis (The Babadook)

- Jennifer Aniston (Cake)

- Eva Green (300: Rise of an Empire, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For)

- Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

- Shailene Woodley (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars)

- Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)

Sienna Miller (American Sniper)

- Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)

- Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

- Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Carmen Ejogo (Selma)

 

Top 5 Actresses of 2014

5) Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beyond the Lights)

4) Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods)

3) Keira Knightley (Begin Again, The Imitation Game)

2) Reese Witherspoon (The Good Lie, Wild)

1) Jessica Chastain (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year)

 

Best Actor

Runners-Up:

– Brad Pitt (Fury)

– Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher)

– Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins)

– Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

– Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything)

Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year)

– Edward Norton (Birdman)

- J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

- Chris Evans (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Snowpiercer)

- Mark Wahlberg (The Gambler)

- Macon Blair (Blue Ruin)

David Oyelowo (Selma)

- Bill Murray (St. Vincent)

- Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)

- Nicolas Cage (Joe)

- James McAvoy (Filth, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby)

- Andy Serkis  (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

- Jeremy Renner (Kill the Messenger)

- Philip Seymour Hoffman (God’s Pocket, A Most Wanted Man)

- Miles Teller (Whiplash)

- Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar)

- Alfred Molina (Love Is Strange)

- Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)

- Jon Favreau (Chef)

Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice)

- Tom Cruise (Edge of Tomorrow)

Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)

- Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood)

- John Lithgow (Love Is Strange)

Gael Garcia Bernal (Rosewater)

Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up)

 

Top 5 Actors of 2014

5) Tom Hardy (Locke, The Drop)

4) Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again, Foxcatcher)

3) Jack O’Connell (Starred Up, Unbroken)

2) Michael Keaton (Birdman)

1) Jake Gyllenhaal (Enemy, Nightcrawler)

 

Best Director

Runners-Up:

– Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

– Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

– Jon Favreau (Chef)

– Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

– Christopher Nolan (Interstellar)

– Ava DuVernay (Selma)

– Jean-Marc Vallee (Wild)

– Angelina Jolie (Unbroken)

– Jon Stewart (Rosewater)

- Dean DeBlois (How to Train Your Dragon 2)

- Chris Rock (Top Five)

J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year)

- Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man)

- Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin)

- David Ayer (Fury)

- Peter Jackson (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies)

Gareth Edwards (Godzilla)

Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie)

Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow)

Clint Eastwood (American Sniper)

Michael Cuesta (Kill The Messenger)

Anthony & Joe Russo (Captain America; The Winter Soldier)

Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado (Big Bad Wolves)

 

Top 5 Directors of 2014

5) James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy)

4) Joon-ho Bong (Snowpiercer)

3) Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

2) Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

1) Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman)

 

Best Films

Runners-Up:

– Birdman

– American Sniper

– Fury

– How to Train Your Dragon 2

– The Raid 2

Selma

– The Grand Budapest Hotel

Snowpiercer

– Keep On Keepin’ On

- Godzilla (2014)

– A Most Wanted Man

– Big Bad Wolves

Wild

– Captain America: The Winter Soldier

- The Gambler

– Blue Ruin

– The LEGO Movie

A Most Violent Year

– The Drop

 

Top 5 Films of 2014

5) Kill the Messenger

4) Guardians of the Galaxy

3) Nightcrawler

2) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

 

The Best Film of 2014

Whiplash

“We love films because they makes us feel something. They speak to our desires, which are never small. They allow us to escape and to dream and to gaze into the eyes that are impossibly beautiful and huge. They fill us with longing. But also. they tell us to remember; they remind us of life.”

-Nina LaCour

 So get dressed 2014 and get on out! 2015 is looking pretty damn good!

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Posted: February 11, 2015 in Reviews

I am going to go on ahead and tell you now, do not make the mistake of thinking the previews show everything Kingsman: The Secret Service has to offer. It is a common error we make as an audience, but the trailers to this movie barely scrape the surface. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) knows how to deliver crazy, unrelenting action in style, which makes him a perfect fit for this absurd, ultra-violent yet hugely enjoyable movie.

I had no idea the movie is based on an acclaimed comic book, but it is. Galahad (Colin Firth) is a veteran agent for a super-undisclosed spy organization that recruits a rough-hewn, but promising kid who will have to endure the agency’s ultra-competitive training program if he wants to be a Kingsman—something his father once was. Since the death of his father, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has had to take care of his family by any means necessary. But with his step-father pimping out his mother, his childhood has not been great to say the least. He was heading down the wrong path and got involved with drugs and stealing, but Galahad may have come just in the nick of time. But while Galahad has the task of turning a street kid with a bad attitude in to a sophisticated spy, there is a global threat brewing from a psycho tech mastermind with a lisp. His name is Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and in order to get what he wants accomplished, he will first have to make the world go mad.

Personally, it is nice to see Firth let loose a bit. Sure, he still plays a British gent but one that can kill you by just opening his umbrella. I will not give anything away, but if you want to see Firth go nuts, just check out the church scene in this movie. It is phenomenal in a very brutal way. Without a doubt, I think Jackson is having the most fun with his character. He is over-the-top in almost every way, but it fits within this movie. Even with all of his bright-colored, matching clothes, he is never a distraction. However, it is the young Egerton who has the strongest grip on almost every scene he is in. He is definitely surrounded by great company, but he truly holds his own against all of them.

Kingsman is surprisingly impressive and a blast to watch. A sharp-wit vulgar, action spy movie that is not afraid to combine fun and humor with plenty of bloodshed. There are scenes that should not work and would not work if they were in any other movie, but Kingsman knows what to do with the material and, unashamedly, throws right back in your face.

And guess what? You will enjoy every minute of it. Call it old-fashioned, but be careful because it kicks a lot of ass.

Black Sea

Posted: February 7, 2015 in Reviews

Kevin Macdonald, director of The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, takes us to the very bottom of the ocean for a solid, well-executed submarine thriller being steered by a commanding performance by Jude Law. The most appealing and entertaining thing about Black Sea is it’s not just about this crew of guys stuck in a submarine. It’s not just about finding a treasure to hit it rich. It’s not just about the influence of greed, and how it can consume any man and turn him into something he never thought he could be.

Guess what? Black Sea is all of the above.

Captain Robinson (Law) has been on submarines for three decades and has spent the last eleven years slaving away for an ocean salvage company. And while he is the most knowledgeable man there, they fire him. He’s not the only one either. A group of his mates are desperate and submarines are all they know. This is where Daniels (Scoot McNairy) comes in to assist. He is a cheap suit with plans of his own who gets the expedition in to the water. An expedition on to the floor of the Black Sea where a Nazi U-boat sits full of gold worth millions. A lot of millions. With a crew of Brits, Russians and one unpredictable nut-so Aussie diver (Ben Mendelsohn), this journey will be challenging but could change their lives forever. A victory for the common working man. That’s only if these submerged savages do not lose their heads first.

For a deep sea story, it does lack depth and shares some familiarity with other movies like U-571, which is unavoidable. The key is Macdonald keeps changing the stakes and, in the process, adjusting the direction of the story and the mentality of the characters. I don’t care what you say, that’s exciting stuff. Black Sea uses it’s strength of performances combined with focused direction and the undeniable claustrophobia that surrounds the entire movie to elevate the tension successfully.

 

Best of the Month: December 2014

Posted: January 4, 2015 in Best Of

Best Films

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Wild

The Gambler

 

Best Actor

Steve Carell- Foxcatcher

Chris Rock- Top Five

Jack O’Connell- Unbroken

Channing Tatum- Foxcatcher

Mark Wahlberg- The Gambler

Benedict Cumberbatch- The Imitation Game

Mark Ruffalo- Foxcatcher

 

Best Actress

Hilary Swank- The Homesman

Emily Blunt- Into the Woods

Rosario Dawson- Top Five

Laura Dern- Wild

Amy Adams- Big Eyes

Meryl Streep- Into the Woods

Reese Witherspoon- Wild

Keira Knightley- The Imitation Game

 

Best Director

Jean Marc-Vallee- Wild

Rupert Wyatt- The Gambler

Chris Rock- Top Five

Peter Jackson- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Angelina Jolie- Unbroken

Morten Tyldum- The Imitation Game

Best of the Month: November 2014

Posted: December 7, 2014 in Best Of

Best Films

Whiplash

CitizenFour

 

Best Actor

Matthew McConaughey- Interstellar

Miles Teller- Whiplash

Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything

Gael Garcia Bernal- Rosewater

J.K. Simmons- Whiplash

 

Best Actress

Felicity Jones- The Theory of Everything

Jennifer Lawrence- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Gugu Mbatha-Raw- Beyond the Lights

Essie Davis- The Babadook

Jessica Chastain- Interstellar

 

Best Director

Jon Stewart- Rosewater

Christopher Nolan- Interstellar

Damien Chazelle- Whiplash

Jennifer Kent- The Babadook