Monday, January 27, 2014

Oscar picks 2013

Best Motion Picture of the Year
12 Years a Slave (2013)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock for Gravity (2013)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle (2013)

Best Achievement in Directing
Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity (2013)

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Nebraska (2013): Bob Nelson

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Captain Phillips (2013): Billy Ray

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Frozen (2013)

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
The Hunt (2012): Thomas Vinterberg(Denmark)

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Gravity (2013): Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Achievement in Editing
Captain Phillips (2013): Christopher Rouse

Best Achievement in Production Design
The Great Gatsby (2013): Catherine MartinBeverley Dunn

Best Achievement in Costume Design
The Great Gatsby (2013): Catherine Martin

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013): Steve Prouty

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Saving Mr. Banks (2013): Thomas Newman

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Frozen (2013): Kristen Anderson-LopezRobert Lopez("Let It Go")

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Christopher BoyesMichael Hedges,Michael SemanickTony Johnson

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Brent Burge

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Gravity (2013): Timothy WebberChris LawrenceDavid ShirkNeil Corbould

Best Documentary, Feature
20 Feet from Stardom (2013): Morgan Neville

Best Documentary, Short Subject
Facing Fear (2013): Jason Cohen

Best Short Film, Animated
Get a Horse! (2013): Lauren MacMullanDorothy McKim

Best Short Film, Live Action
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? (2012): Selma Vilhunen

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Devil’s Due – review

Devil’s Due is an okay movie.  It’s entertaining and the acting is great, but it has several plot holes that add to its list of faults. The movie is also fairly cliché in its delivery.  Still, at the very least this movie is entertaining considering it is a mild thriller about the antichrist.

Newlyweds Zach and Samantha McCall, played by Zach Gilford and Allison Miller, take their honeymoon to the Dominican Republic. They meet a cab driver that takes them to a “special” club. After the two are drugged, they pass out and a ritual is performed on Samantha so that she is impregnated and will eventually give birth to the antichrist.  As the pregnancy develops it changes Samantha. Will this birth bring forth the antichrist?

The best part of this film is that the acting. Allison Miller has a lot of range and shows a great deal of vulnerability.  Zach Gilford’s character is also well done. His struggle to come to terms with the truth as he unlocks the conspiracy is pretty fascinating.  They seem like good people so it’s a damn shame when the misfortune happens to them.

A lot of Devil’s Due could have been prevented with common sense.  Avoid non-tourist areas in third world countries; don’t trust a cab driver who wont take you to your destination; don’t drink free booze you are unsure of; turn on the lights in a dark house; things of that nature.  The characters were arguably doomed to begin with on account of their poor judgment.  There are several other plot holes as well. For example, how the hell would the police think Zach caused the damage that was done to his house when his wife was throwing a telekinetic fit? How could no one have heard of the new doctor assigned to the young couple when there would have been mounds of paper work from billing and insurance, not to mention the assistants and nurses who helped with the amniotic fluid test?

Plot holes aside, Devil’s Due is not a bad movie. While not a great movie, it is certainly worth a rental if the horror genre is usually your taste. It keeps a good pace but did not need to be a P.O.V. movie to tell its story. It was entertaining at the very least and sometimes that is all we need from our movies.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Top 10 Sequels That Are Better Than Their Originals

In the world of the unexpected there is one thing you can just about always expect- the sequel to a movie will be worse than the original.  Of course, there are always exceptions. Some movies show that they are not simply cash-ins on a franchise; they are made with care and show that the bar can indeed be raised even further.  Here is a list of ten movies that show care and skill in filmmaking and stand out even more than the original.

10. The Bride of Frankenstein- Following the events of the first film, The Bride of Frankenstein following loosely the story of the classic novel.  The Monster, played by Boris Karloff, is given more of chance to show his acting range. A new villain is introduced and the doctor must walk a moral gray area to keep those he loves safe.  In a scene involving a blind hermit and the Monster, the Monster is finally given a voice and really becomes a more pitiful creature than he ever was in the first movie.  It is a lovely film of the Universal Horror series and a classic of genre.

9. Superman 2- Superman was a great interpretation of the Man of Steel.  It was fun and a bit cartoonish at times too.  Superman 2 ramped up the action and made the risks all the more interesting.  Three Kryptonian criminals escape from the Phantom Zone and come to Earth. They have the same powers as Superman and soon attempt to take over the planet. While Superman has to battle three foes that share his powers, he must also rise above the usual challenges he has faced in the past with Lex Luthor alone.

8. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was for all intents and purposes as happy an ending that a space battle movie could produce on film.  The Empire Strikes Back takes the events that occur after that movie and give it a much darker ending.  Things do not end well. It showed us that sometimes evil wins and what you need to do is escape and live to fight another day.  It is a harsh lesson to pick up from where in the last film the heroes were winning medals for blowing up the Death Star.  The final film, Return of the Jedi, was also a great movie that ended the series on a positive note.

7. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior- Mad Max was a harsh movie with great driving scenes and good action sequences.  The Road Warrior shows the mood of the apocalypse as a grim reality shown on every character’s face.  The action is amped up in a big way.  With people struggling for gasoline and ammunition, and death lurking around every corner, it is a great early Mel Gibson movie.  The characters wheel and deal and live like savages.  It paints the most fun version of an apocalyptic wasteland possibly ever seen on film. 

6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day- The first Terminator film plays a lot like a horror movie where a woman is being hunted by a seemingly unstoppable killing machine. The second movie ups the ante by making a Terminator, similar to the one in the first film, an ally and adding a new threat- hunting her son.  The action and special effects are top notch.  The liquid metal Terminator is ahead of its time as the actor moves like a shark through every scene. The sequels, while satisfactory, would never feel the same feeling of epic this film would produce.

5. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly- The movies involving the “Man with No Name” are mysterious and fun.  The Good, The Bad and The Ugly gave us a search for gold with three characters that were intricate and well developed.  It was gritty and it was as harsh as the wild west was ever portrayed in fiction.  This movie also taught us the age-old lesson if you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk. It shows a world where you fight, shoot, cheat, and steal to survive and only the smartest and quickest man wins.

4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug- While the first Hobbit film was very pretty and had a few good moments, it did suffer a lot from a dull story.  The Desolation of Smaug made up for that.  The action was revved up and the characters were made a lot more likable this time around.  The movie was actually much more enjoyable than the first film.  The appearance of Smaug was thrilling as was the scene where the dwarves escape the elves using barrels.  Seeing the ring slowly take over Bilbo’s mind is quite fascinating as well.

3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade- The Indiana Jones movies have always been fun and over the top like the movie serial that they were made to emulate.   Indiana Jones seems like the perfect person to find the Holy Grail. Not only that, but it teamed him up with several of his allies form previous films as well as his father, played by Sean Connery. Pitting him against the evil of the Nazis he must find his faith in order to find the artifacts that lead to the Grail.

2. Dawn of the Dead- After Night of the Living Dead it seemed that folks had the outbreak of the undead under control.  It turns out that the outbreak was much larger.  A group of survivors find a way to a shopping mall and decide to stay there. At first they’re happy with it and treat it like a kid in a candy store.  Soon though, raiders attack them and they have to defend themselves.  It turns out that the biggest danger isn’t the zombies but the people in this dangerous world. One of the best quotes from this movie is “When there is no room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”

1. The Dark Knight- After Batman Begins it would be hard to raise the bar- however The Dark Knight did just that.  With Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker it knocked it out of the park.  The Dark Knight explored what it meant to be a villain, that it is nothing but chaos unleashed, and what Batman actually stood for.  It was smart and took things to a whole new level. Many other superhero movies will likely look to this one for inspiration in the future. It seems that more folks will want an element of dark realism in their superhero movies to some degree.

Sequels can sometimes be very good.  Some people seem to take sequels as a challenge to learn from past mistakes or to attempt to see things in a brand new vision.  In some rare cases it works. In other cases it is a transparent cash-in of the Hollywood machine.  In either case we, as the audience, vote with our wallets when we decide to go to these movies.  Choose wisely and producers will make things that matter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Top Ten Movies of 2013

My Top Ten Movies of 2013, in no particular order.

10. The Frozen Ground
9. 42
8. Lovelace
7. The Man of Steel
6. Magic Magic
5. The Conjuring
4. Star Trek: In To Darkness
3. Mama
2. Evil Dead
1. American Hustle

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – review

At the end of the credits of Paranormal Activity 4 there was a teaser for a Latin spinoff.  Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is what became of that spinoff. While adding to the mythos it creates quite a few more questions.  The movie is well acted and at least tries new things from the rest of the series.  It takes the story in a different direction and makes things much more interesting.

Jesse, played by Andrew Jacobs, just graduated from High School with his friend Hector, played by Jorge Diaz.  When the downstairs neighbor in their apartment complex dies they sneak into her home and discover that she has many bizarre items.  Upon leaving Jesse wakes up the next day with a big bite mark on his arm.  He starts to develop odd powers, which at first seems like a boon, but soon shows signs of being a curse.

The acting is fairly decent.  Once again the producers have used actors that are fairly fresh.  They have changed a few things such as adding a brief scene of nudity, using special effects, using a Simon game to contact demons, and including time travel.  It shows that they are at least trying and attempting to give the audience some new scares and after five movies add to the storyline a bit. 

Some scenes are absolutely fun to watch.  For example, when a group of characters go into the house of the witch coven they actually arm themselves.  It became hilarious to watch the Latin gangsters shoot witches with shotguns. There are lots of aspects to this movie that are interesting and charming and thankfully they avoid doing the same bedroom camera tricks.  This movie is basically two friends playing with their new video camera.

If you are a fan of the Paranormal Activity series then you should really see this movie. If you’re looking for a stand-alone horror film, this one is not for you.   If you haven’t seen the previous movies this one might be a bit confusing.  This movie does reference a lot of the other films so it helps to have seen the others. If you can get a chance to catch this new entry to the franchise then give it a shot. You will likely enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks – review

The comedic drama Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of the creation of the Disney film Mary Poppins.  The complicated struggle to get the film rights from the very uptight P.L. Travers, played by Emma Thompson, is portrayed well against a 1960s backdrop.  Between the development scenes are flash backs to Travers childhood where she developed the characters of Mr. Banks and Mary Poppins respectively.  The acting is fantastic and the story is compelling to say the least.

P.L. Travers is hesitant about selling the rights of her book Mary Poppins to Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, so it can be made into a film.  They bring her to Southern California and soon she is contrary about every decision attempted towards making the film.  The struggles she faced as a child were shown through flash backs of her as little girl with her father, played by Colin Ferrell.  Through the movie we come to find out how she and Walt Disney came to an understanding to make the movie a reality.

Tom Hanks seems to really channel the spirit of Walt Disney.  He has many of the mannerisms of the man he is portraying and it is really fun to watch.  Emma Thompson is great as the uptight P.L. Travers.  Her path as a redeemable character makes for wonderful drama as we watch her grow and heal.  Colin Farrell shows a wide range of talent amongst this cast of heavy weights.  No one phones it in for the roles they are playing and it shows.

The story is dark and depressing at times but also uplifting as well.   Saving Mr. Banks is great vision of the challenges that come with seeing a movie come to life.  It does not hold back in the dirty aspects but you can tell that the relationship between Travers and Disney was rocky at the best of times.  Disney is not portrayed as some business mogul with dollar signs in his eyes but very human which is an entertaining take on him.

The movie is entertaining and certainly worth seeing. If you’ve seen Mary Poppins you’ll enjoy it a bit more as you will likely understand more of the in-jokes.  However, you will still run the gamut of emotions even if you have not seen Mary Poppins.  I recommend seeing it if you get a chance. You will enjoy it and will certainly enjoy the refreshing acting and story.