Best of the Month: March 2015

Best Films

’71

It Follows

 

Best Actor

Jack O’Connell- ’71

Liam Neeson- Run All Night

Dave Franco- Unfinished Business

 

Best Actress

Lily James- Cinderella (2015)

Maika Monroe- It Follows

Missy Peregrym- Backcountry

Cate Blanchett- Cinderella (2015)

Shailene Woodley- Insurgent

 

Best Director

Yann Demange- ’71

Kenneth Branagh- Cinderella (2015)

Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi- What We Do in the Shadows

David Robert Mitchell- It Follows

Backcountry

Do you remember Open Water? Let me refresh your memory.  A young couple gets left stranded in the deep blue sea after their tour group leaves them behind. It’s a glorious, atmospheric survival film with suspense building from one scene to the next. Now replace the ocean with the woods and a shark with a bear.

That is Backcountry.

Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jenn (Missy Peregrym), a young adventurous couple, decide to leave the city and head out in to the Canadian wilderness. Alex is an experienced outdoorsman who is familiar with Provincial Park, but Jenn is a lawyer who cannot stay off her phone. From the beginning, she’s not thrilled about camping, but she’s doing it for Alex. He wants to take her to Blackfoot Trail—one of his favorite secluded spots with an amazing view. As the journey gets longer, it intensifies with each encounter (man and beast).  And then with every passing day, food and water becomes scarce until finally the truth is said out loud. The trail Alex once knew has vanished. They are despairingly lost.

Roop and Peregrym go together so well. If someone said they were a real couple off-screen, I would believe it. They have solid chemistry and wear the cruelties of the wilderness very well. Alex and Jenn are tested in the most extreme conditions. It is easy to see they are at war with nature and themselves, and it takes a toll on their already fragile relationship.

In his directorial debut, Adam MacDonald instantly shows his skills when it comes to messing with your nerves. By being in the middle of nowhere along with the struggle of overcoming the brutality of Mother Nature herself, a feeling of isolation, terror and panic can demolish the soul. In exceptionally smooth fashion, MacDonald demonstrates just that. His film is indisputably effective due to the execution of showing very little, but suggesting so much.

How far would I go? What would I do? How would I survive?

These questions are asked in our minds throughout movies that have a certain kind of reality to them. There’s a shocking realism to situations we never think about until it’s staring us right in the face. Films such as this one, Open Water, and the one that probably started it all, The Blair Witch Project, do such a terrific job at guiding the audience to imagining themselves in these nerve-frying situations. And the fact you know it could happen sends chills.

Backcountry is a terrific example of taking a simple concept and turning it in to something truly horrific.

Cinderella (2015)

Forgive me for assuming, but I would like to think everyone knows the story of Cinderella. No matter what age you are, you have seen some type of version of the story where every dream for a sweet, servant girl comes true. Whether it’s Walt Disney’s classic animated film from 1950 or Rodgers and Hammerstein’s version—-not the one with Whitney Houston and Brandy. My God not that one. However, if those do not sound familiar then you probably enjoyed Drew Barrymore’s take in Ever After and Hilary Duff’s in A Cinderella Story which would make you a very rare breed.

So why bring this imitable tale back in 2015?

Well I cannot really answer that because I have no idea. Cinderella is innocent, harmless fun for families, but offers no surprises along the way. It flawlessly goes through the motions—happily ever after. If it ain’t broke then why fix it right?

All of your favorites are here. The Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter)? Check. Evil stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her obnoxious daughters? Check. Mouses, pumpkins, and slippers? Check. Prince Charming (Richard Madden)? Check. One of the first things you will notice is how delightfully wicked Blanchett is as the stepmother. It is a welcome change of pace for her after her last year’s Oscar win for Blue Jasmine. Nevertheless, this movie belongs to Cinderella herself, Lily James. She captures the true essence of the titled character with not just her beauty and blonde hair, but her naturalness at being adoring and gracious. The movie’s ability to sweep you up in to its whimsical world comes from her genuinely enchanting performance.

Director Kenneth Branagh (Much Ado About Nothing, Thor) keeps everything squeaky clean (which I’m sure that’s how Disney demands it) by taking absolutely no risks. Don’t get me wrong, there is no need for this version to be dark or twisted. This Cinderella is not suppose to be that and should not. It simply plays it too conservative in the comfort of its own Mickey Mouse home. Sadly, my dream of the film being original while keeping the traditional parts alive did not come true.

And yet, Branagh makes the film flourish with splendor and color. His deep-rooted background with Shakespeare soaks through every scene and unquestionably provides a romance in it’s storytelling. No matter how hard you try, you cannot help but feel emerged in the magic.

 

Best of the Month: February 2015

Best Films

Still Alice

 

Best Actor

Colin Firth- Kingsman: The Secret Service

Will Smith- Focus

Kevin Costner- McFarland, USA

Taron Egerton- Kingsman: The Secret Service

 

Best Actress

Julianne Moore- Still Alice/Maps to the Stars

Dakota Johnson- Fifty Shades of Grey

Margot Robbie- Focus

Mae Whitman- The DUFF

 

Best Director

Matthew Vaughn- Kingsman: The Secret Service

Pawel Pawlikowski- Ida

Best of the Month: January 2015

Best Films

Selma

American Sniper

A Most Violent Year

 

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper- American Sniper

Joaquin Phoenix- Inherent Vice

David Oyelowo- Selma

Kevin Costner- Black or White

Josh Brolin- Inherent Vice

Oscar Isaac- A Most Violent Year

Jude Law- Black Sea

 

Best Actress

Carmen Ejogo- Selma

Jessica Chastain- A Most Violent Year

Sienna Miller- American Sniper

Marion Cotillard- Two Days, One Night

Jennifer Aniston- Cake

 

Best Director

Ava DuVernay- Selma

Clint Eastwood– American Sniper

J.C. Chandor- A Most Violent Year

Kevin Macdonald- Black Sea

Focus

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.

Oscars 2015

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