Monday, June 30, 2014

Indie Review: Brokeback Mountain (2005)

                        'Brokeback Mountain': A Quietly Devastating Meditation On Same-Sex Love
             Before Brokeback Mountain came into the picture, there were doomed romance pictures dealing with opposite-sex couples. But this film brilliantly shows that couples of the same sex undergo harsh struggles like heterosexual ones do, but in a rather different manner and it shows us this by hardly showing anything at all.
                     Brokeback Mountain follows two cowboys named Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) who fall in love when going up to the titular mountain for a job at a local ranch. Eventually, they go on to marry women and have children, only to meet at Brokeback Mountain from time to time. As they become more separated, it begins to take a toll on each of them, but in different ways.

                    What I Liked About It:
                  What I thought was incredibly amazing about this film was how it talks about a social movement, but unlike most films that talk about social movements or issues, does it in a more quiet way that doesn't make it seem too "on the nose". What I mean is it demonstrates how society is discriminative of homosexuals without having a character used as a plot device or whatnot to tear the main characters apart. The film just showcases the romance between these two men and then just going their separate ways because they fear what other people would say if they were caught holding hands. It really makes you feel some type of emotion and that is what artistic films are meant to do. As I always say, the point of films used as art is to get some type of emotion out of you and that is exactly what this amazing film does.

                  I also thought that the performances from the two leads were quite brilliant. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal have brilliant chemistry yet once they get into a conflict, the film becomes devastating to watch. Even though these are two characters that society thinks shouldn't be together, I wanted them to be together. I wanted to see these two men find the kind of happiness that opposite-sex couples do. But one actress that I would like to acknowledge is Michelle Williams, who plays Ledger's wife Alma. Williams brilliantly showcases what her character is going through without having to actually say anything as her performance lives in her eyes. It's like her character is yet isn't an antagonist as she quietly separates her husband from the man he loves. Anne Hathaway, who plays Gyllenhaal's wife Lureen, is also quite good even though she honestly wasn't given a whole lot of screen time.

                Another thing that was brilliant was the direction from Ang Lee. He really creates a rather quiet feel, with the low use of music as well as the isolated setting, the filming of the actors physically showcasing their emotions without the use of dialogue, and the implicit demonstration of discrimination against homosexuality, but I give him a lot of credit for that. Lee's heavy use of restraint really creates a captivating feel.

               What I Didn't Like About It:

              Overall, Brokeback Mountain is a brilliant yet quiet meditation on a blissful yet conflicted romance. It has amazing performances from the cast, fantastic direction, and despite dealing with a social issue, does it in a less patronizing manner. This one might make some viewers uncomfortable because of the sexual content, but I would still say give it a watch because it might make you develop a new perspective on homosexuality.

Grade: A+



Retro Review: Erin Brockovich (2000)

                 'Erin Brockovich': A Quiet And Inspirational Meditation Of A Real-Life Woman Who Refused To Stay Silent 

            Normally, films are used as either art or entertainment and not typically a blend of both. But here comes a film that does find a happy medium of the two as Erin Brockovich becomes grounded in reality while using the titular woman's story as a backdrop for a feel-good story to lift our spirits.
                    Erin Brockovich is based on a real-life story about a struggling mother of three named Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) who lands a job at a law firm. While working there, she stumbles across a real estate case involving poisoned water supply which greatly affects the surrounding townsfolk. This investigation then leads to one of the biggest lawsuits in American history and greatly affects Erin as it takes a toll on her personal life.

                   What I Liked About It:
                  First off, I absolutely loved Julia Roberts' performance. One thing that was so unique about her portrayal was that she takes the quirks that she is known for, in particular her big smile, and uses them to showcase the more serious-minded character's drive. She even has scenes where she pulls off masterful nuance. For example, there is a scene where her boyfriend, played by Aaron Eckhart, is telling her about her daughter's first word while they are on the phone. In that scene, Roberts shows us what is going through the character's mind without having to even say anything. So, Julia Roberts is absolutely brilliant in this movie and proves that she is a capable dramatic actress as well as a comedic one. I also really liked the scenes between her and Albert Finney, who plays Erin's boss Ed. The two of them have a wonderful non-romantic chemistry and the scenes between the two were some of the film's highlights.

                  Another thing I liked was how director Steven Soderbergh was able to take a mainstream film and through his direction, give it artistic merit. The film does have some entertaining light-hearted moments that could please the general public and manages to be a story that lifts our spirits, but could easily satisfy the cinephiles thanks to Soderbergh's realistic direction. One scene that was well-directed that I really liked was the scene where Erin meets a client who runs over to tell her kids to get out of their pool and the camera focuses on the woman running outside then cuts over to Erin's quiet reaction.

                What I Didn't Like About It:

               Overall, Erin Brockovich is a masterful and entertaining biopic with artistic merit that features a fantastic performance from Ms. Julia Roberts. If you are a fan of Roberts, I would put this high on your watch list. If you aren't a fan of hers, I would still say give it a watch because she just might surprise you.

Grade: A

Friday, June 27, 2014

40th Saturn Award Winners/Reactions

Hello, Bloggers, the 40th annual Saturn Awards, which typically celebrates sci-fi, horror, fantasy film and television, has just announced their winners and I figured since I saw plenty of the films nominated, I would offer up my reactions to the winners.

First off, Gravity won Best Science Fiction Film, which I'm sure wasn't much of a surprise. Honestly, seeing this film win big at the Oscars was a big surprise since the Academy doesn't always warm up to big budget fare, but here, not so much. The film's director Alfonso Cuaron ended up with another trophy for Best Director for his mantle and he was quite deserving. Sandra Bullock also won Best Actress and that was a semi-surprise because I thought it would be either or J-Law for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Gravity also won Best Editing and Best Visual Effects.

Director/writer Spike Jonze also won another trophy for his mantle for Best Screenplay for Her, which also won Best Fantasy Film and even Best Supporting Actress for Scarlett Johansson. Johansson's win was one of my favorites of the bunch since she won for acting with just her voice. Her Avengers co-star Robert Downey, Jr. won Best Actor for Iron Man 3 and I thought that was pretty neat, along with Iron Man 3 winning Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture just because it won over Thor: The Dark World, which I still detest.

Another win I was excited about was Ben Kingsley winning Best Supporting Actor for Iron Man 3. I thought he really stole the show and I was thrilled that he got recognition for his performance. Even though J-Law didn't win for her film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire still won Best Costume Design, so it was nice that it didn't go home empty handed. Prisoners was another film nominated and that didn't go home empty handed either as it won Best Makeup. It was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Melissa Leo and Best Thriller Film but lost that award to World War Z, which I thought belonged in the action/adventure category. 12 Years A Slave was also nominated for and won Best Independent Film.

Now I'll go onto some of the Television Awards. Breaking Bad won Best Television Presentation, as well as Best Supporting Actor (Aaron Paul) and Best Guest Actor (Robert Forster). It wasn't too shocking even though I haven't seen the show just because the show just ended and the different awards shows probably want to give it whatever awards they can. But Mads Mikkelsen won Best Actor for Hannibal and Vera Farmiga won Best Actress for Bates Motel. I was pretty stoked about those wins because it is nice that Mikkelsen is getting quite the recognition here in the States and Farmiga rarely wins anything, so it was nice that she too is getting the recognition she deserves. Speaking of which, her film The Conjuring won Best Horror Film and I was pleased with that win as well since it surpassed some of its competition, including Mama and The Purge. 

So, overall, I was pretty impressed with the list of winners of the 40th Saturn Awards. If you have read the list of winners and feel the same way or disagree, please feel free to write in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Trailer Talk #17: The Good Lie, Fury, Frank, The Judge, Birdman, Kill The Messenger

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Trailer Talk. For today's episode, I will discuss slightly smaller films, some of which are potential Oscar contenders being released at the end of this year. Let's take a look:

The Good Lie: First up is the trailer for The Good Lie starring Reese Witherspoon. Now, I'll start off by saying that it looks like Reese Witherspoon might be having a little "McConaissance" of her own this year to try and recapture her former Oscar glory after her Best Actress win back in 2006 for Walk The Line. She might be successful since she has a biopic (Wild), a film by a prestigious director (Inherent Vice), a "white savior" film (The Good Lie), and is even producing a potential Oscar contender (Gone Girl). But onto The Good Lie. I have read that some people feel like this film might just be The Blind Side 2.0, and from the trailer, I can definitely see why. The trailer looks similar and the film itself is even made the executive producer of The Blind Side. Unlike some, I actually really liked The Blind Side but because this film might be one of those "been there, done that" type deals, I think I'm going to skip this one.

Fury: Next is the upcoming Oscar contender Fury starring Brad Pitt. Now, before I saw the trailer, I wasn't too crazy about seeing the film, but after watching the trailer, my opinion might just change. I have become quite a Brad Pitt fan over the years, so he is quite a selling point for me, as well as co-star Logan Lerman (Perks of Being A Wallflower, Percy Jackson movies). Plus, it looks like it might have a different feel from other WWII movies like Saving Private Ryan. Those kind of films tend to do pretty well in the awards circuit and I certainly got no issue with them, as long as they variate themselves from each other. I don't usually go see war films in theaters, but with this one, I just might.

Frank: Next up is the indie pic Frank starring Michael Fassbender. Now, this one looks like a change of pace for Michael Fassbender as this film is more comedic territory. But, this transition looks like it'll pay off handsomely for the Fass as it looks pretty funny. My favorite part in the trailer was when he started singing his happy song at the very end. Now, I would imagine some females would probably skip this film since the very handsome Fassbender doesn't show his face. But, if this film happens to maybe pop up online, I'll give it a watch because I do want to see this.

The Judge: Next is the upcoming comedy-drama The Judge starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall. Now, when I started my Oscar coverage not too long ago, I made a prediction that this film might be a potential Oscar contender and judging by the trailer, it might just be. One reason is its fall release date as well as the cast behind it that includes RDJ, Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, and Vera Farmiga. But after watching the trailer, I think the film does have some promise. I am quite a RDJ fan, so he is a selling point for me. Plus, the film looks funny yet dramatic without cheap sentiment and that is one thing I dislike about dramas, just to throw that out there. But, I may check this one out in theaters.

Birdman: Next up is another Oscar contender called Birdman starring Michael Keaton. Now, before the trailer came out, I thought the film seemed pretty interesting. But after watching the trailer, I am a little unsure of what to make of it. I mean, the cast is spectacular (Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, Zach Galifianakis), but I'm not sure, I might have to wait for a second trailer. Normally with a cast like this, I'd say "yes" in a heartbeat, but for now, I'm not sure.

Kill The Messenger: Finally is the film Kill The Messenger starring Jeremy Renner. Now, this film deals with the kind of investigative journalism we've seen in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and All The President's Men, but I love films like those. I like the kind of films that deal with going on a quest for the truth even when there are people telling you to just let it go and keep quiet. I find them quite exciting. Now, this film doesn't really look like one of those to rush out and see in theaters despite some of the action. But, this is one I do want to see nevertheless. It does have Jeremy Renner who I am quite a fan of and I am quite pleased to see that despite going commercial by doing films like The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy, he has still retained his artistry by doing films like this.

So, that was episode 17 of Trailer Talk. As always, my next episode will come when I have seen a new film in theaters or watched a bunch of trailers online. Until then, thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Indie Review: Spring Breakers

                                  A Colorful Yet Red-Blooded 'Spring Break' From Hell
           Even though I wasn't fond of the last film I saw by director Harmony Korine, Gummo, I still feel that Korine is a director that has a voice. With his latest film, Spring Breakers, Korine certainly and brilliantly showcases his unique voice in a film that works like Drive meets Britney Spears on acid.
                   Spring Breakers follows four college friends (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine) who long to see something different and go away for spring break. In order to get some money, they decide to rob a restaurant and head to Florida. Once they get there, they stumble across a rather enigmatic man who goes by the name of Alien (James Franco) and gets them involved in rather dark escapades.

                  What I Liked About It:
                 First off, I absolutely loved the cinematography. The film has such colorful lighting and in my opinion, it really adds to the rather acidic feel the film has. I also really loved the way the film was edited. Usually, I never describe a film's editing, but here, it was spectacular. My favorite sequence in the film was the one where Alien is playing the song "Everytime" by Britney Spears and while he is and the girls are dancing, it cuts back and forth between them dancing and singing along, and bits of them robbing different people. I would imagine that scene will stick to my head for quite a while, along with James Franco's performance, which I will get to next.
                Holy crap, was James Franco awesome in this. Not only does Franco physically become Alien, through the heavy use of tattoos as well as donning cornrows and grills on his teeth, but performance-wise he just became Alien. He really captures the character's enigmatic nature through the use of his sleazy grin. He was funny, devious, and at times chilling. Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, two former Disney darlings, are also very good as well and it is quite wonderful to see them take a risk by doing a film like this. Gomez is especially good as the film's moral center who coincidentally enough is the only non-blonde female. Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine, who play the other two main females, are also brilliant.

                One thing that I thought was pretty interesting was how it plays on the whole theme of the pursuit of the American Dream, yet does it in its own unique spin. It is done in a much more colorful way, through the demonstration of today's younger generation influenced by rap music and partying college students. The incredible and fast-paced score by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez also adds to this unique narration as well.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:

               Overall, Spring Breakers is a fast-paced nightmarish action flick that is ironically, beautiful to look at. It has brilliant cinematography, a soundtrack with repeat value, and a scene-swallowing performance by James Franco. This may not be for everyone since it is violent at times and has scenes of nudity and drug use. But, if you like dark comedy with some action thrown in, I would put this high on your watch list.

Friday, June 20, 2014

4th Annual Critics' Choice TV Awards Reactions

Hello, Bloggers, the Critics' Choice TV Awards aired last night and I figured after my predictions were made and the winners were announced, I would announce my reactions. Let's take a look:

First off, I'll go into the wins I was excited about. Breaking Bad won Best TV Series- Drama and Best Supporting Actor for Aaron Paul, which I got right, along with odds-on favorite Matthew McConaughey winning Best Actor in a TV Series- Drama. Plus, The Normal Heart won Best TV Movie and Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie for Matt Bomer, which I was really excited about and I am really rooting for The Normal Heart to really make an impression on the road to the Emmys or even the Globes next year.

Next, I'll get into the surprises. First off, odds-on favorite Cicely Tyson lost Best Actress in a Miniseries/TV Movie to Jessica Lange for American Horror Story: Coven. I like Lange on AHS, so I wasn't too upset about my prediction being wrong. Plus, it was a good night for Ryan Murphy, I know that. For those of you who don't know, he is the producer of shows like Glee, AHS, Nip/Tuck, and even The Normal Heart. He won a special award called the Louis XIII Genius Award for his excellence in television and versatility in terms of the different shows he produced. Plus, not only did The Normal Heart win a few awards, but one of his Normal Heart actors, Jim Parsons, won Best Actor in a Comedy Series for The Big Bang Theory, upsetting frontrunner Louis CK for Louie. I actually really liked Parsons' speech because he seemed genuinely surprised since he apparently didn't think he was going to win. Another surprise was Tatiana Maslany winning Best Actress in a TV Series- Drama for the BBC series Orphan Black. It was a surprise because it was pretty expected that Robin Wright would take it for House of Cards. But, I say good for Maslany because I have seen her work in the past in the Canadian horror gem Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed. So, it is nice that she has reached the level of acclaim that she has here in the States. But a few wins that were kind of expected were Fargo winning big, in particular winning Best Miniseries and Best Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie for Billy Bob Thornton, as well as Allison Tolman semi-upsetting Julia Roberts for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/TV Movie.

Overall, even though some of my predictions were wrong, I was still pleased that there were upsets, which I LOVE when watching awards shows. If you have watched the show last night, please feel free to write your thoughts on the winners in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Topic Of The Day: A Year Where The People Pick The Oscars

Hello, Bloggers, for today's Topic Of The Day, I figured I'd discuss an idea that will more than likely never happen, but that I would love to see come into fruition in the future, and that is about a year where the audience votes for who wins the Oscars. Here we go:

Each year, while there are usually happy faces whenever the winners are announced or if their favorites are even nominated, there are even glum faces when an audience member's favorite to win or find a slot in the different major categories is snubbed. But, one reason the public voting for the winners or even the nominees could be beneficial is ratings. Once audiences see films that are more up their alley on the Best Picture or even Best Director lineup, they will be more inclined to watch the ceremony. They could always go traditional and go for their usual smaller films but some mainstream films never hurt and could allow the best of both worlds to represent the Oscars. Also, if audiences vote online and they don't show the results, it could make the show less predictable. The Oscars would be more inclined to have upset wins, which in my mind, are pretty exciting and very rare nowadays.

Another benefit to the public voting for the Oscars is possibly less campaigning. The studios would never campaign for the public to vote, so that's why they have the Academy do so. So, if the Academy were to suddenly say "We're going to let the "people" decide who they want to win", then there would possibly be less ass-kissing and less politics because let's be honest, Oscar campaigning can get very aggressive. Just ask Harvey Weinstein. Even if the Academy were to post a list of films being considered and the public would get to make their own list of nominees in each major category from that list like what the awards site Gold Derby does with their special film and TV Awards, and the Academy would still get to decide who wins, then the much younger demographics would still tune in because their favorites would be on the different categories. Now, I am not saying that popular films like Twilight or any of Adam Sandler's comedies should have a fighting chance, but maybe films that the studios themselves believe in and that audiences have supported. I mean, think about it. Back in 2008, The Dark Knight almost made it on the Best Picture lineup and a film like that would've really helped the telecast if it was nominated for Best Picture. But, on nomination day, there wasn't really an audience favorite to be seen. One film that was nominated was The Reader, which Hugh Jackman admitted in his opening Oscar musical number that he himself didn't see. Even independent films that were modest hits at the box office or slightly popular with audiences, like Drive, The Place Beyond The Pines, and We Need To Talk About Kevin, would make audience members happy if they had at least one nomination in a major category. I'll admit that the one downside to that is that some of the smaller films looking for a wider audience wouldn't get much exposure, but luckily, they have different award shows and festivals that celebrate independent films.

So, those are my thoughts as to why the Academy should have a year where the public picks the winners and even the nominees. If you agree or feel any differently, please feel free to write in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

                                                'Extremely' Well-Acted But 'Incredibly' Meh
                    When this film was announced on Oscar nomination day, it received plenty of backlash due to the mixed reception it received, and probably because of how it took a spot over a crowd pleaser like Drive or Bridesmaids. But while I wouldn't say the film is worthy of the backlash it received, I still don't know if I would give it a whirlwind of praise.
                      Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close follows a young boy named Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) who lives with his mother (Sandra Bullock) and is grieving over the loss of his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) who died in 9/11. The film follows Oskar trying to find the lock to a key left in his father's belongings and along the way, he meets several people who may have connections to his father.

                      What I Liked About It:
                     First off, I thought the actors were astounding. I thought Thomas Horn did an admirable job for what was his first feature film, so it was neat to see how he was able to carry that kind of weight on his shoulders at such a young age. Sandra Bullock was also astounding as the slightly confused yet supportive mother. Once again, Bullock proves that she is able to successfully pull off both drama and comedy, which she is famous for. Max Von Sydow, who plays a mysterious tenant at Thomas' grandmother's apartment named The Renter, is wordless throughout his screentime yet his performance is able to speak volumes and I liked the scenes between him and Horn. Another thing that I really liked was the scenes between Thomas Horn and Tom Hanks. I thought those scenes were very poignant and make you realize why Oskar really misses his father thanks in part to Hanks' performance.

                    One thing that actually surprised me was the ending. I don't want to give it away for those that haven't seen it, but it wasn't necessarily what I thought it was going to be and I commend the filmmakers for going in the direction that they did and for trying to tell a story about family loss while using one of America's greatest tragedies as the story's backdrop. That was pretty brave, I would say.

                   What I Didn't Like About It:
                  Now, while the actors are terrific, I thought the film itself was a little too "on the nose". It seems like it is almost set up to be an awards film since it deals with a kid with a mental disability grieving over the loss of a family member while forming a bond with a man who is mute and the film is set in the aftermath of 9/11. Although, I will say this, it is better than another awards film that came out the same year (*cough* The Iron Lady*cough*).  At least this one has more than one redeeming quality. I definitely don't think that this film is horrible by any means, but I wouldn't say it's perfect.

                Overall, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a slightly-flawed yet extremely well-acted drama. Even though this film got plenty of backlash for scoring a Best Picture nomination, I would still say give it a watch for the amazing performances from the cast.
Grade: B-            

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Top 10 Best Celebrity Role Models

Whenever we think of role models, one would say that we should think of our parents first, and that person would be right. But, I figured that since we live in such a celebrity and media-obsessed culture, why not shine a light on a few famous people that set more positive examples for those that follow their work. Here is my list of the top 10 celebrity role models:

10. Josh Hutcherson: Probably the youngest person on this list, Josh Hutcherson, star of The Hunger Games, has already set a positive example for younger men and teenagers. He is the youngest person to win the Vanguard Award from the GLAAD Media Awards for his contributions to the LGBT community and like his Hunger Games co-star Jennifer Lawrence, hasn't been photographed stumbling out of clubs thus far.

9. Anne Hathaway: One of the more polarizing actresses out there, Anne Hathaway is still a more positive example for younger women because of how she has proven her versatility as an actress, devotes her time to charitable causes, like St. Jude's Children's Hospital, and seems to make more positive life choices, since she is never in the tabloids unlike some of her contemporaries.

8. Michael J. Fox: Even though he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's early in his career, Michael J. Fox is a shining example of how you should never let whatever physical disability you have prevent you from doing what you love. Fox would still work steadily after being diagnosed and even devotes his time to being an advocate to Parkinson's research and finding a cure.

7. Taylor Swift: I didn't want to admit it at first because of how I wasn't fond of her repetitive music, but Taylor Swift is very much a good role model. Even though she has won multiple awards and earns more money than she could spent, she still hasn't let her success spoil her as she donates a lot of her money and time to numerous charitable causes, and won more special awards for her humanitarian efforts

6. Ellen DeGeneres: Not only does Ellen DeGeneres devote her time to charitable causes like others on this list, but she also is living proof that people from the LGBT community can really make it big in Tinseltown. Plus, her fun and likable personality always gets me watching her interviews.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio: Not only is Leonardo DiCaprio one of the best actors of his generation, but he is a poster child for child stars gone good. Plus, despite being one of the most successful movie stars to date, he has also become known for his philanthropic work. In particular, he receives praise for his efforts in environmentalism and fighting global warming.

4. Daniel Radcliffe: You would think that an actor like Daniel Radcliffe, who was the star of one of the most successful franchises of all time, the Harry Potter series, would let all that success go to his head. But seemingly and surprisingly, no. Instead, he manages to try and keep his personal life private, and devotes his time and wealth to charitable causes, including The Trevor Project and was even one of many celebrities to donate their glasses at an exhibit honoring victims of the Holocaust.

3. Sandra Bullock: Sandra Bullock is known to film audiences as "America's Sweetheart", and it certainly seems that way since she is known for her generous donations as well as her likable personality. Plus, when the cheating scandal involving her ex-husband was publicized, she chose not to feed into that and just devote her time to her work and her adopted son. To me, that is highly commendable and shows how she seems to truly value her private life and any actor or aspiring actor that wants to try to keep their personal life private can take a few cliff notes from her as she is quite good at it.

2. Tom Hanks: Tom Hanks is unique because of how he has become one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, and is an icon thanks to his famous and quotable roles in films like Apollo 13, Forrest Gump, and A League of Their Own, yet he is still said to be one of the nicest people in showbiz. Plus, he is intensely devoted to his wife of 26 years, which is a rarity in Hollywood, and like others on this list, is pretty charitable as well. So, Hanks is living proof that you can achieve great success and still be a modest human being.

1. Oprah Winfrey: I think that this one is pretty self-explanatory.

Now, here are a few honorable mentions that didn't quite make the list:

Jennifer Lawrence
Matt Damon
Jodie Foster
Meryl Streep
Kate Winslet
Justin Timberlake

So, that was my list of the top 10 best celebrity role models. If there is anybody you would've liked to add to the list, please feel free to write in the comments section. Thanks for reading and Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Topic Of The Day: Critics' Choice TV Awards Predictions

Hello, Bloggers, for today's Topic Of The Day, I figured I'd share a little something that isn't exactly related to film, but television. I have been pretty active on my account on the award site Gold Derby and I figured that since on that site, I made my predictions for who I think will win at the Critics' Choice TV Awards this coming Thursday. Let's take a look:

I'll start off with discussing the categories that focus on the Dramatic TV Shows. I feel that the prize for Best TV Series- Drama will hands down go to Breaking Bad. I picked that as my Super Bet to score 500 points because since the show is bidding a fond farewell, they will want the show to go out with a bang and not a fizzle since it was so successful. I also picked Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn to win Best Supporting Actor and Actress in a Drama respectively and heavily predict Bryan Cranston to win Best Actor in a TV Series- Drama. Although, Matthew McConaughey, who is nominated for True Detective, might prove my predictions wrong and I think leading up to the Emmys in August, this category will be a battle between Cranston and McConaughey. Will Cranston go two-for-two and win the Tony and the Emmy this year as a fond farewell for Breaking Bad ending or will the McConaissance continue? Next, my pick for Best Actress in a TV Series- Drama is Robin Wright for House of Cards. She already has the momentum of a Golden Globe win and could easily add another trophy to her mantle. But, if anyone were to beat her, my guess would be Julianna Marguiles for The Good Wife. 

Next, I'll go into the Comedy categories. My prediction for Best Comedy Series is Veep, although Orange is the New Black is the odds-on favorite. Something just tells me that Veep is going to win it and there are times I listen to my inner voice. I even picked Julia Louis-Dreyfus to win Best Actress in a Comedy TV Series. Now, my pick for Best Actor in a Comedy TV Series was initially Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory, but Louis C.K. is the odds-on favorite to win for Louie, so I figured just to be safe, I would have him as my prediction to win.

Now, I'll go into the categories I am the most excited for: The TV Movie/Miniseries categories. I am pretty stoked about those because The Normal Heart is up for a few: Best TV Movie, Best Actor (Mark Ruffalo), Best Supporting Actor/Actress (Matt Bomer and Julia Roberts). I picked The Normal Heart to win all of those and I especially am heavily predicting wins for Ruffalo and Bomer. Although, I could see the Supporting Actress category turning into a battle between Julia Roberts and Kathy Bates for American Horror Story: Coven. Either one of those two is fine by me because I am quite fond of American Horror Story and I liked Kathy Bates' performance. Cicely Tyson is the heavy odds-on favorite to win Best Actress in a TV Movie/Miniseries for The Trip to Bountiful, so I went with her. I would've picked Jessica Lange for American Horror Story: Coven, but I just don't see it happening, despite me really liking Lange's performance. American Horror Story: Coven is also up for Best TV Miniseries, but the odds seem to be more in the favor of Fargo since that adaptation of the famous movie has become pretty well-received. If it won big in the awards circuit, it would seem like a neat way to make up for the film not winning the grand prize at the Oscars, which in my personal opinion, was master-class robbery.

So, those are my predictions to win at the upcoming Critics' Choice TV Awards. I will probably post more predictions of different awards shows that I will make on Gold Derby in the future, just as a heads up. But until then, thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Indie Review: Julia (2008)

                            'Julia': A Darkly Funny And Humanistic Gem About A Rather Detestable Human Being
                     The "black comedy" genre, in my opinion, is often underused and usually when one thinks of a black comedy, they think of the essential 1996 film Fargo. But here we have a black comedy known as Julia that in my mind is criminally undersung and is done a rather gritty and realistic way.

                    Julia follows a misanthropic and alcoholic woman named Julia (Tilda Swinton) who feels that she just can't catch a break. As she is feeling down on her luck, Julia then partners with her neighbor to stage a kidnapping of her neighbor's son. As Julia does kidnap the kid, she then uses him as ransom in order to extort money and things begin to spiral out of control.

                   What I LIked About It:
                  First off, I absolutely loved Tilda Swinton's performance. She is just astounding at playing a character that is quite detestable. The main character of Julia hardly has any redeemable qualities as she is not only an alcoholic misanthropist, but is also a pathological liar who would do or say whatever just to save her own skin and get away scott-free. What is so great about Swinton's performance is that at first she is very serious-minded yet naive but as the film progresses and things take a turn for the worse, she gets more nervous and somewhat retains her naivete.

                  Another thing I thought was interesting was how the film portrays more serious situations, yet during those scenes, I just couldn't help but laugh. I mean, that is the whole idea of a black comedy, but still. For example, there is one scene where Julia meets up with a man who gives her a gun she uses for the kidnapping and she promises she'll give him money for it, but you're just snickering, thinking she won't be true to her promise. It's a very subtle kind of humor. I also liked how the film had a darkly comedic tone and was shot very realistically. Director Erick Zonca doesn't use any special techniques of symbolism or anything like that when shooting this film. He just shoots it in a way that makes it seems like it is real ordinary folks getting themselves into forces beyond their control. Plus, the film is almost 2 and a half hours, but there was no point where I was bored. So, that's a bonus.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:

                Overall, Julia is a devilishly comedic yet realistic drama that features a dynamite performance from Tilda Swinton. This is a highly underrated gem that I think should be seen more. I watched this online and if you are online and happen to find this film, pop some popcorn and give it a watch. You will be in a for a treat.

Rating: A+

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review: Edge of Tomorrow

                        And I Continue To Hope That Summer Blockbusters Will Have A Better 'Tomorrow'

                  Even though Tom Cruise, an actor that I've grown to admire, hasn't had the greatest opening the weekend this film came out, watching Edge of Tomorrow still gives me hope that we might have a future in quality blockbuster films, regardless of the box office numbers they pull in.

                 Edge of Tomorrow follows an office of the US government named William Cage (Tom Cruise) who is forced into battle with other armed forces against a species of aliens known as Mimics. After fighting a special and larger Mimic, Cage find himself caught in a time loop and fighting the same battle each time after he dies. As he continues to fight this battle, he increasingly gets better in combat and he becomes closer with a fellow soldier named Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and they join forces.

                 What I Liked About It:
                First off, I really liked the performance from Tom Cruise. He not only pulls off the action scenes very well but he even provides very solid comic relief as well. Plus, both he and Emily Blunt have great chemistry on screen. I have always enjoyed watching Emily Blunt on screen, but after watching her play an action heroine, I would really love to see her play a role in a comic book movie. I have seen her name thrown around on a bunch of comic book fancasts.

                Another thing I liked was the creature designs. The way they looked was definitely CG, but I liked how they made the Mimics look slightly different from one another to make them more distinctive. Not only that, but I thought the 3D was excellent. If you happen to catch this in theaters, I would suggest seeing it in 3D because it makes the experience of watching the action sequences more exciting and the action sequences are very exciting. Now, the whole idea of the main character reliving the same day may have been done before, even in the sci-fi thriller Source Code, but that idea is handled much more differently in this as it is more of sci-fi actioner rather than a thriller. I know it's not wholly original, but everything is always slightly based off of or inspired by something else.

             What I Didn't Like About It:

            Overall, Edge of Tomorrow is a brilliant "turn-your-brain-off" actioner that features fine performances from the two lead actors. It is not meant to be thought provoking, but it is still a nice way to kill a few hours. I would not only highly recommend this, but I would recommend seeing it in 3D.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: Man of Steel

                                         Not Just Made of 'Steel', But Pure Gold

                       When it comes to DC Comics, I'll admit, I have always been Team Batman. But with Man of Steel, I was actually able to be invested the character of Superman thanks to how the filmmakers are able to take this powerful character and ground him in reality.

                      Man of Steel follows Clark Kent, aka Superman (Henry Cavill), as he struggles to hide himself and his powers from the world. But with the arrival of a new enemy from his home planet named General Zod (Michael Shannon) and a bond forming between him and reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams), he must decide he should reveal himself to the world by trying to save it to become a symbol of hope for mankind.

                      What I Liked About It:
                     First off, I really liked Henry Cavill's portrayal of Superman. Before I watched this, I saw his performance in Immortals, which is a film I didn't particularly care for even though he was solid, but he was leaps and bounds better in this. He is not only charismatic but also showcases the character's darkness as well since Superman undergoes a conflict of whether or not he should hide himself from the world. Amy Adams is also brilliant as Lois Lane and I loved how they didn't reduce the character to being a yelping damsel for Superman to save, as there are a few scenes where Lane gets in on the action. Michael Shannon is quite chilling in the villainous role of General Zod and creates unflinching menace through the use of his eyes. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Superman's adoptive father and mother Jonathan and Martha Kent and they both pull off some solid and low-key work as the stern yet supportive parents. One of my favorite scenes is when Jonathan is talking to a younger Clark Kent about Clark's past and Clark says "So I just keep pretending that I'm your son?" and Jonathan says "You are my son". That is a very tender moment. All the other actors, that include Laurence Fishburne, Russell Crowe, and especially Antje Traue, who plays Zod's right hand woman Faora, are all astounding as well.

                     Another thing I liked was how they were able to take the multi-powered Superman and completely ground him in reality. Zack Snyder is able to do this by his gritty direction, especially during the action scenes where he uses long takes and unlike some of his previous work, doesn't use the "slo-mo" technique. It worked for 300 and Watchmen, but if he had done that here, it wouldn't have really worked. Plus, I thought it was interesting how Kent is at first portrayed as a drifter going from place to place, which to me represents the whole conflict of Clark Kent trying to find his place on Earth. After he saves one life or many lives, he retreats to a different place as a way of possibly concealing his identity while still saving others and still struggling on whether to hide his powers like his adoptive father told him or become a symbol of hope and mankind like his biological father tells him.

                   Since I am still on the subject of the action scenes, one complaint that I keep reading is how in spite of all the destruction happening, there are plenty of deaths going on as well. But the truth of the matter is that despite how powerful Superman is, he isn't going to save everyone. He may be superhuman, but he is not a god, and if the writers had Superman able to save everyone, it would've taken away from the realism they were going for. Another complaint I've also read is that (*possible spoiler alert*) Superman never kills and there is a scene in this film where he does. But, in that particular scene, he yelps in agony after he did, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't a cake walk for him to go through that decision. Plus, as I recall when watching Smallville, Superman did take a few villainous lives, so I'm just going to disregard that argument.

                    What I Didn't Like About It:

                   Overall, Man of Steel is an astonishing and realistic adaptation of the famed superhuman character. It is not only the whole package, as it features brilliant direction, writing, and acting, but it also provides fun "turn-off-your-brain" action. This is one I highly recommend to everyone, as it might have something for everyone, especially hardcore Superman fans.

Grade: A

Indie Review: Dallas Buyers Club

          Brilliant Performances Help Carry A Problematic Film That Seems Set Up To Join The Oscar 'Club'

                      In my review of HBO's The Normal Heart, I said how Dallas Buyers Club only has a few high points but doesn't really succeed in the other departments. So, I figured I'd finally do my review of Dallas Buyers Club and discuss where I thought it failed where The Normal Heart succeeded.

                     Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story about a hustler named Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) who finds out that he has AIDS. When he refuses to be treated by the drug AZT, he then crosses to the border of Mexico where he discovers drugs that are illegal but work more strongly. That is where he forms a bond with a transvestite named Rayon (Jared Leto) and forms the Dallas Buyers Club, which is where Ron and Rayon charge a membership fee but give the drugs for free.

                    What I Liked About It:
                   Now, the thing that I thought was the high point of the film was the actors. Matthew McConaughey was nothing short of brilliant as Ron Woodroof, who initially goes from being a homophobic asshole and having a heart of stone to having a heart of gold. Jared Leto really becomes his character of Rayon physically and had me forgetting I was watching an actor when he comes on screen. Jennifer Garner is also good in this film and gives a more quiet performance as Dr. Eve Saks, the film's moral center. The actors are all astounding and are easily the best part of the film.

                   What I Didn't Like About It:
                  Now, here is what I didn't like about the film. First off, it gets very slow and when I saw this in the theater, there were times where I would drift and look away from the screen. Next, while I thought Leto's transformation into the character of Rayon was something to behold and I don't want to take anything away from his portrayal, I thought the role of Rayon itself was problematic. To me, Rayon was mainly used as a sassy sidekick and a plot device for Woodroof to undergo a character arc. So, I thought the role itself was a bit too "on the nose". Ron's arc brings me to my next problem. Another problem I had was how I felt the film doesn't tell us whether or not Ron was actually gay which makes his arc somewhat confusing. If they showed us that he was, then the film would've shown a self-loathing homosexual learning the error of his ways. But if he wasn't, his arc shown in the film would make more sense. You have something similar in Philadelphia, except that Tom Hanks is playing the man with AIDS, while Denzel Washington plays a homophobe learning the error of his ways. In that, it is made clear Hanks' character is gay and Washington's is a homophobe. Here, I was just left confused wondering "Is he or is he not?". It's not something I'm dying to know, I just would love to see some logic behind the main character arc.

              You see what made The Normal Heart so powerful is how it is done from the point of view from the gay community, which hasn't really been done before, and gives us an insight into the people suffering  AIDS themselves. Plus, while the main character was as aggressive as how Woodroof is portrayed in the film, he didn't need to go through an arc to gain sympathy from the audience. Plus, while that film showcases the horrors of AIDS by revealing AIDS patients with several lesions, possibly leaving some to think it is done to gain sympathy from its audience, it only does it to not sugarcoat the situation. As I have said, whenever I see a film dealing with a social movement or issue, I am all about showing and not telling, and in Dallas Buyers Club, I felt they did more of the latter than the former.

             Overall, Dallas Buyers Club is a brilliantly acted yet highly problematic drama. It is painfully slow at times and at times, feels emotionally manipulative, but it worth a watch only, and I mean ONLY, for its fantastic performances from McConaughey, Leto, and Garner. It's kind of "been there, done that", but it is far from horrible.

Grade: C+

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Indie Review: The Piano (1993)

                               This 'Piano' Plays Quite A Mysterious And Harmonious Tune
                   I have anticipated watching this film for quite a while since it was quite a success in the awards circuit and recently, kept trying to watch it online. But, today, I finally did and since I watched it not knowing what to expect, it completely blew my expectations away and I was amazed at how writer/director Jane Campion was able to take a romance and make it quite thought-provoking.
                The Piano follows a mute Scotswoman named Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter) and her daughter Flora (Anna Paquin) who travel to New Zealand to unite with a man Ada is forced to marrying named Alisdair (Sam Neill), bringing Ada's piano with them. When the two women settle there, Ada then gives piano lessons to Alisdair's friend named Baines (Harvey Keitel) in order to earn her piano back. Eventually, as Ada and Baines start bonding, they eventually have an erotic affair.

                What I Liked About It:
               I'll start off by discussing Holly Hunter's performance as Ada. What was so spectacular about it was how she is able to showcase what her character was going through without uttering a single peep and even scenes where she doesn't have Flora as her interpreter. In my opinion, Hunter's task of pulling off a performance that lives in her facial expressions and her eyes is more difficult than just saying her lines entirely. For example, there is one scene where Baines makes a deal with Ada where she will give Baines sexual pleasure in exchange for teaching him different piano keys and keeping her piano. In that scene, the way she expresses emotion seems like Ada knows what she is doing isn't the wisest but does it in order for him to return her most prized possession. Another actress that really shines is Anna Paquin as Flora. What was so enriching about Paquin's performance is that even though she plays the role as a normal 12-year-old, there are times where she makes it seem like Flora has a rather underlying darkness to her. Just like Ada, Paquin's character has a rather enigmatic quality to her. Sam Neill and Harvey Keitel also give wonderful supporting performances as the lead males in the film.

               Another thing I liked was how the piano was used a heavy symbol. I feel like the piano actually has more than one meaning. It is used as the 'key' to Baines and Ada's relationship and I feel is a representation of Ada herself. During one scene where Ada plays the piano in the beach, Baines finds himself drawn to her and the beautiful way she plays and it is like the piano is as entrancing as Ada is. Plus, the piano allows Ada to have some kind of release and feel free.

               I also really liked the film's beautiful scenery and the direction by Jane Campion. I thought it was interesting how she doesn't use any special visual techniques like color to tell the story or use a handheld camera to give it a more realistic feel. The way she directs it makes it seem like we are looking from the point of view of the characters. I especially liked how she directs Hunter and Paquin. There are scenes where they move their heads in the same direction and dress much similar, making it seem like Flora is like a miniature version of her mother and vice versa. Plus, I give Campion bonus points for creating a more original and different kind of love story.

              What I Didn't Like About It:
             I'll be honest and say there is one minor complaint I had towards the end. I don't want to give anything away, but there was one thing that I felt was a cheap cop-out used to create the final resolution together. It involves the love triangle showcased in the film, so I'll just leave it at that.

             Overall, The Piano is a marvelous and dark love story shrouded in mystery that is still entrancing. It features brilliant performances from its cast, has a unique premise, and masterful direction. I wouldn't recommend this to everybody because it is a rather artistic love story which won't suit everyone's taste and is definitely no Notebook. But it is still a brilliant film that I would still say give a watch.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Retro Review: The Vanishing (1988)

                                A Thriller With A Morally Questioning Story That Never 'Vanishes' Into Thin Air                     
                       Not to discourage filmmaking here in America, but I feel that European filmmaking is alive and well. Mainly because they have such creative ideas and they even take concepts that have been told here and make something fresh and new out of them. The Vanishing does just that as it deals with a missing person but tells it from a unique perspective.

                   The Vanishing is about a Dutch couple named Rex (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia (Johanna Ter Steege) traveling to France. As they make a stop at a service station, Saskia then suddenly disappears without a trace. The rest of the film then follows Rex and his obsession with what happened to Saskia, as well as the man responsible for Saskia's appearance named Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu).

                   What I Liked About It:
                 One thing that I thought was interesting was how we see both sides of the crime committed. We see the point of view of Rex and how his girlfriend's disappearance has had a great effect on him. We also get a glimpse at the life of Raymond and see how despite the fact that he is a monster, he is still a family man. Honestly, the fact that he had a family and was a criminal made me feel sickened by this character. Also, even though we figure out in the beginning who the culprit is, we never know what he actually did until the end. I think the film wanted to just give an exploration of this horrible man and show how he could be someone that you possibly know. He is just an average joe who wondered if he can do something incredibly sinister and discovered that he actually could. In my opinion, it's villains like those that scare me the most. We see plenty of Freddy or Jason-type killers, but those are just make believe. Raymond is somebody that could be your boss or your neighbor and he shows that the most horrifying monster could be standing right in front of you.

                Since I am still on the subject of Raymond, I'll now go into the actor who portrayed him. Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu is absolutely brilliant and actually does a great job at making you hate his character by just giving a simple smirk. For such a villainous performance, he is very low-key and unassuming and I really liked it. Johanna Ter Steege has a very luminous presence when she is on screen as Saskia and is very endearing. Gene Bervoets is also outstanding as Rex and really makes you feel for him as the obsesses for the truth about what happened to his long lost girlfriend. That actually brings me to my next point. I don't want to try and spoil it, but I feel the film's message is how sometimes our quest for the truth can lead to consequences or getting nothing out of it, much like the movie Doubt that came out in 2008. So, it was neat that not only is this a unique thriller but it actually conveys a meaningful moral message.

               What I Didn't Like About It:

              Overall, The Vanishing is a unique and morally questioning thriller that might just have you guessing until the very end. It honestly might not be for everyone just because it is very slow-paced and you would need to read subtitles if you aren't fluent in Dutch. But it is a wonderful film nevertheless.

Grade: A-

Review: The Normal Heart (2014)

                   A Brilliant Yet Emotional Telling of HIV/AIDS That Feels Like A Stab In The 'Heart'

           Last year saw the release of the film Dallas Buyers Club, which dealt with the issue of HIV/AIDS. Now, we have a film that just premiered on HBO that dealt with the same issue and is based on a Tony-winning play: The Normal Heart. But while Dallas Buyers Club only succeeds in the acting department, The Normal Heart succeeds on every level in my opinion as it really packs an emotional and gut-wrenching punch.

          The Normal Heart is set in the early 80's when HIV/AIDS was being discovered and follows an openly gay writer named Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) who looks to create awareness for HIV/AIDS, along with the help of his friends in the gay community, including his lover Felix Turner (Matt Bomer), and help from friends in the medical field, including a polio-stricken doctor named Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts). As Ned and his pack try to fight the AIDS epidemic, they then try to fight the social ignorance of AIDS and the gay community along the way.

         What I Liked About It:
        First off, I loved the acting in this film. Mark Ruffalo plays a character that is a bit of a stretch from the everyman he usually plays as he is more flustered yet fiercely loyal to his cause. Matt Bomer is also fantastic as Ned's lover Felix and while Ruffalo projects his emotions externally, Bomer projects his more internally. But when his character (*spoiler alert*) gets AIDS, Bomer becomes a bit more external as if he is peeling off a layer of skin and he becomes more physically and emotionally frail. Julia Roberts surprised me here like she did in August: Osage County as she plays a woman who is rather uncharismatic yet you still want her on your side. Another actor who surprised me was Jim Parsons, who plays Ned's fellow comrade Tommy, as he goes more serious unlike in his famous comedic role of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Even though Parsons provides mild comedic relief, he still gives a very heartfelt performance. All the other actors are brilliant, which include Taylor Kitsch, Alfred Molina, and Joe Mantello, who starred in the Broadway play version of this film.

        Another thing I liked was how the film was brave enough to show us the physical horrors of AIDS patients. We see plenty of scenes that show different AIDS patients with lesions and frail figures, which at times, makes the film difficult to watch but still gives us a visual demonstration of the issue at hand so it doesn't become sugarcoated. There is even a scene that has an underlying tragedy, in my opinion, where most of the main characters are slow dancing at a gay club and people with AIDS are just watching in the background because they can't come in physical contact with non-infected people. I liked how even though the film shows us why AIDS was so horrible and does it from the point of view of mostly homosexuals, which is pretty rare, it does it in a way that doesn't seem too "on the nose", in my opinion. There were even points in the film where I almost started bawling because it is so sad. Even though the characters are fictional, I was just still hoping for them to find happiness and live to fight this dreadful illness and that is what the experience of watching a film is supposed to be. You want to be taken along the journey that the characters go through, even if it is a painful and rough journey and feel something.

         What I Didn't Like About It:

        Overall, The Normal Heart is an emotional and heartfelt drama that may leave you feeling defeated at the very end. As I said, it is definitely not an easy watch and might make some viewers uncomfortable in terms of its graphic and sexual content, but it really makes you open your eyes about the sheer horror of HIV/AIDS. It is On Demand now and is airing on HBO, so if you get the chance to watch it, you should. You might open your eyes as wide as I have.

Grade: A

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Indie Review: Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

                              A Masterful And Artful Look At What It Means To Be In 'Love'

                    Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam Sandler. For those of you that love film, those are two different personalities in the film industry one would probably never expect to be in the same sentence. But watching Punch Drunk Love, I was amazed at the combination between these two as Anderson manages to bring out the best performance of Sandler's career.

                   Punch-Drunk Love follows a lonely man named Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) who is constantly tormented by his sisters and tries to find a loophole in a frequent flyer miles program by purchasing extensive amounts of pudding. He then starts to become less lonely after meeting his sister's co-worker Lena (Emily Watson) but finds himself in a complication involving a corrupt phone sex line led by a mattress salesman (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

                  What I Liked About It:
                 Before I get into the direction by PTA, I'll first go into Adam Sandler. All I have to say about his performance is Damn. He shows us a side of him that we almost never see on screen as he reveals a rather unnerving intensity. Plus, he completely and almost relievingly ditches his "man-child" routine. I'll admit, I do enjoy watching him do that routine, but a little variety never hurts. So, I was very pleased with Sandler's performance and will be patient enough to see him do another film like this because I have a feeling it will be for a while.

                  Next, I'll discuss Paul Thomas Anderson's direction. One word: phenomenal. He really incorporates the "mise en scene" approach to his directing as there are plenty of visuals used to tell the story. For example, there is a harmonium that suddenly drops outside Barry's shop and it plays into the plot as it represents a musician trying to find his voice or his song. Plus, he has heavy use of the colors blue, white, and red. Barry wears a blue suit throughout the film and I am sure that is a representation of his loneliness. I normally think that red represents guilt, but I think here it is a symbol of love as Lena is constantly wearing that color. There is even a scene where Barry flies over to Hawaii to visit Lena and he is greeted by two female flight attendants in red before he heads into the plane. Now that I think about it, it shows how the color red is always leading Barry to his feeling of satisfaction or his love. But white is the opposite. Throughout the film, Barry is practically encased by the color white in different places and to me, that shows how he is enclosed in his own world, like he is trapped in a fish tank. Anderson also uses the long tracking shot technique at plenty of points in the film. One scene that was my favorite is Barry is talking to a phone sex operator the morning after the night they first talked and as the scene progresses, the lady on the phone gets more aggressive and Barry then just stands still. Paul Thomas Anderson won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his work in this and when you watch and look into this film, it is definitely not hard to see why.

                What I Didn't Like About It:

               Overall, Punch-Drunk Love is a masterful and artistic look at the feeling of being in love. It has a tour-de-force performance from Adam Sandler and master class direction from Paul Thomas Anderson. Whether you are a fan of Adam Sandler or completely dislike his work, I would say give this a watch nevertheless. If you fall on either category, you will still be completely surprised.

Grade: A



Topic Of The Day: Lupita Nyong'o Joins Star Wars VII

Hello, Bloggers, I am only a little late on this but I figured I would do a quick post where I could share my thoughts about one of the new casting choices for the upcoming Star Wars film. That is the announcement that the Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o will join. Here are my thoughts:

When it was announced that Nyong'o will officially join, I was very excited. I wasn't just happy because I think she is a brilliant talent, but because this is a great way to capitalize on her Oscar win. Starring in one of the most successful franchises to exist is pretty much having a guaranteed win on your filmography and that certainly helps in a business-driven town like Tinseltown. Also, the casting choice of Nyong'o could prove that black actresses that are darker than Halle Berry can make it big in a white-dominated industry. With all due respect to Halle Berry, actresses with much darker skin seem to have a harder time making it big in the mainstream. That could change with Lupita Nyong'o, even if she is put in a supporting role in Star Wars. I am personally rooting for Nyong'o to really prosper in this industry and hopefully this potential box office win will help her along the way. They also said that a younger version of Storm will appear in X-Men: Apocalypse and hopefully my dream choice of Lupita Nyong'o in the role will come to fruition.

It has also been announced that Gwendoline Christie from Game of Thrones will join. I haven't thought too highly of this choice only because I haven't seen her in Game of Thrones. But, she will be playing Commander Lyme in the upcoming Hunger Games sequel or sequels because it is being divided into two parts. I already know I will be seeing those. Plus, I'm sure this casting choice will persuade the huge Game of Thrones fanbase to come out and see it.

So, those are my quick thoughts on the casting choice of Lupita Nyong'o in the upcoming Star Wars sequel. If you agree or disagree, please feel free to comment. But if you disagree and make racist comments, I will immediately try and disable the comments section. So, if you disagree, please be courteous. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Topic Of The Day: Favorite vs. Best

 Hello, Bloggers, for today's Topic Of The Day, I figured I'd discuss something that just sprung into my mind. I was just thinking about how there is a difference between a film being a favorite movie of mine and a film that I consider one of the best of all time. So, I figured that I would share it with you guys.

Now, if there is a film that I consider a favorite of mine, it is because I would watch it whenever it is on TV or if its On Demand or whatnot. It is a film that usually is more enjoyable. As an example, I will use two of my top three favorite films: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Nutty Professor. Now, those two wouldn't exactly make the Criterion Collection or win the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. But, I would still watch them because I enjoy them. However, there are some that I consider the best which just happen to be some of the best movies ever. One example would be Election, starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. It is a film that I enjoy watching that is also a unique satire on politics and even high school. Plus, there is the 1994 classic Forrest Gump, which is an entertaining film to watch that also has artistic merit with its meaningful storytelling. Since I just saw The Royal Tenenbaums, that could be another example in the upcoming future.

So, a film that I would just consider one of the best of all time but NOT a favorite of mine would be one that makes me feel something or is just powerful filmmaking. Take for example, Schindler's List. Schindler's List is a phenomenal work of art that I would consider one of the top 3 best movies ever. It doesn't mean I would watch it over and over though, just because it deals with such heavy subject matter and the first time I saw it, I was almost a teary mess. I would watch it again, just not every night like I would for a film like Election. There is also the film Requiem For A Dream. I consider that a brilliant and powerful film that deserves its place among the best movies ever and to be watched by almost everyone, although it isn't an easy watch. One more example I will use is Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. I consider that one of the best movies ever as it is brilliantly directed and tells a story about how we are all beasts and how we can "cage the beast". Yet I have only seen it on one or two occasions just because of how its explicit material doesn't make you click the button when you see it is on. Make no mistake, though, Orange, along with Requiem and List, are essential films that have earned their respective places in the film history books.

So, that is my Topic Of The Day about the difference between what I consider a favorite film, what I consider the best of all time and some films that are a blend of the two. Please feel free to write in the comments section some of your favorite movies or what you consider some of the best movies ever. Thanks for reading!

Indie Review: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

               'The Royal Tenenbaums': An Offbeat Comedy With Underlying Drama That Runs In The Family

                Life is about many things, including chance. After I saw Moonrise Kingdom, which I honestly detested, I said to myself I would give another shot at Wes Anderson at the chance that Kingdom was maybe just a hiccup. It turns out I was right and I was glad I took another stab at Anderson as The Royal Tenenbaums is not only a great movie, but one of the best I've ever seen.

               The Royal Tenenbaums follows the story of a man named Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who is separated from his wife Ethel (Anjelica Huston) and three children who were former child prodigies: businessman Chas (Ben Stiller), playwright Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), and tennis player Richie (Luke Wilson). Royal then claims that he is suffering from cancer which brings the whole family together and creates rather unusual complications.

             What I Liked About It:
            I'll start off by discussing the brilliant acting. I was amazed by watching just how all the actors became their characters. Gene Hackman disappears into the character of Royal, a man who has less admirable qualities yet a few tender ones that make him rather endearing. Gwyneth Paltrow stole every scene she was in as Margot, as she showcases her character's range of emotions through a more deadpan and monotonous voice. Luke Wilson is also brilliant as Richie, who is in my mind the heart and soul of the film as he is the film's moral center. All the other actors, including Ben Stiller, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Danny Glover, are are equally spectacular.

            Another thing I liked was just how relatable these characters are. Since this film deals with family dynamics, almost every character in this film might remind you of someone you know or someone in your own family. Margot is the rather invisible child who is very secretive. Richie is the concerned child who tries to keep the family together. Chas is the bitter child who is unforgiving of his father's dastardly deeds he committed in the past. Royal is the messed-up father trying to work his way back into the family's life and Ethel is the mother concerned about her children being educated. It is amazing that even though these characters are so offbeat, they are still very realistic and I applaud screenwriters Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson are creating a more original story about family dynamics. Speaking of Anderson, I loved the way he colorfully directed this film. Despite my problems with Moonrise Kingdom, I did love the way Anderson directed it and I especially loved the way he directed this. One of my favorite scenes is where Richie is talking with Royal about a public meltdown he had on television in a tennis match, and the scene cuts to the tennis match being shown on the television rather than just giving a traditional flashback. So, I applaud Wes Anderson as a director and after watching this film, I have much greater respect for him as a screenwriter. Plus, he and Owen Wilson manage to give the film funny moments but still create underlying drama that honestly touches on the heartstrings. The film was marketed as a comedy-drama, but I personally think it is the other way around.

           What I Didn't Like About It:

          Overall, The Royal Tenenbaums is an artistic and offbeat drama-comedy that really hits close to home. I am more than happy I gave Wes Anderson another chance and checked out this masterful film that is the whole package: It has a wonderful and humanistic story, great performances, and brilliant direction. I'll be honest, this may not exactly be for everyone because Wes Anderson is one of those love-hate directors. But, I would still say give it a shot. You might find yourself as surprised as I was.

Grade: A+


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Oscars 2015 Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

Hello, Bloggers, I just got through three of the major acting categories for my predictions of the upcoming Oscars, so today, I'll get to the final acting category: Best Supporting Actor. Let's take a look at who could get nominated:

Albert Brooks, A Most Violent Year: A Most Violent Year seems like a potential Oscar contender set for release in November. If it is any successful, there could be some love shown for its actors like veteran comedian Albert Brooks, who has done a complete 180 back in 2011 with his supporting turn in Drive. Although, the Oscar still remained elusive. Since this is another serious turn for Brooks, the Academy could continue the tradition of honoring a famous actor or actress reinventing themselves, like with this year's Best Actor winner, by rewarding Brooks with a nomination, which could also make up for that Drive snub.

Robert Duvall, The Judge: As I have pointed out before, the Academy loves veterans. Especially veterans that are a staple in Hollywood as Duvall has delivered character work over the years in films like the first two Godfathers, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Apocalypse Now. Not only that, but the Academy likes to hand out "it's been a while" nominations for those that haven't been nominated or won in quite a while. In fact, the last time Duvall won was back in 1984 for Best Actor for Tender Mercies and his last nomination came in 1999 for his supporting turn in A Civil Action. Plus, an actor like him getting nominated would easily make his category look good, which is partially why the Academy likes to honor older players very often.

Edward Norton, Birdman: As I just said about Robert Duvall, the Academy loves to offer "it's been a while" nominations and it's been about 16 years since Edward Norton's last nomination for his leading turn in American History X he was even nominated for his debut performance in Primal Fear back in 1996.
He remains Oscarless (which is a little hard to swallow), and his profile has mellowed out in recent years, but a nomination could give his career a bit more "juice" by allowing him to do work beyond the Verizon commercials he was in recently.

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher: When I first did coverage for this past Oscar season, I predicted Ruffalo would land a nomination for Foxcatcher, and I still feel it could happen. It may have gotten cold feet last year due to the crowded Oscar race, but Ruffalo could still have another shot at a 2nd nomination in the supporting category to compliment his first for The Kids Are All Right. The film itself is getting plenty of awards traction and just won Best Director at Cannes, so that could mean the actors, including Ruffalo, could get some heat. Even if he doesn't get nominated, Ruffalo still has The Avengers as a consolation prize and that's not a bad one either.

Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher: As I've mentioned before, while the Academy likes to honor older players, they like to push forward the next generation. Tatum has become quite a name in recent years and with his role in Foxcatcher, it seems he is looking to protect his artistry as well. Academy members could be keenly aware of this and nominate him to capitalize on his star power and as a potential reminder to gravitate towards smaller films as well to not make a potential nomination seem like a fluke. But like how Ruffalo has The Avengers, if Tatum doesn't get nominated, he still has his role as Gambit in X-Men: Apocalypse on the horizon.

Now onto the "dark horse" contenders:

Josh Brolin/Benicio Del Toro/Owen Wilson (Inherent Vice): The film has a smorgasbord of actors, and is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. So, if the film's lead Joaquin Phoenix doesn't get nominated, they could still reward another one of the film's actors. Either Brolin with a 2nd nomination, Del Toro a 3rd, or Wilson, a comedian doing a 180, a 1st nomination.

Johnny Depp (Into The Woods): Would be his first nomination in the supporting category and 4th overall. Depends on how the film plays out.

Logan Lerman (Fury): His role is apparently a co-lead, from what I've read, but the much younger players are usually in the supporting category.

Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys): It is a musical directed by Clint Eastwood, who is an Oscar darling. Plus, as I pointed out, the Academy loves to givee "it's been a while" nominations and Walken's last was back in '02 for his supporting turn in Catch Me If You Can. 

Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes): He just won his 2nd and is 2-0, so a nomination depends on whether the Academy will glance over him thinking "He already has two"

So, those are my predictions for who could be nominated for Best Supporting Actor and the potential dark horse contenders. Next, I will do either Best Director or Best Picture. Until then, thanks for reading!