Sunday, August 31, 2014

Indie Review: Under the Skin (2014)

                            The Film's Inconsistent Drivel Just Really Got 'Under' My 'Skin'
                When it comes to film reviewing, it doesn't necessarily bother me when I have to review a bad film. I have just figured out that if there is one thing that irks me, it is whenever I have to discuss a film that doesn't give me anything to review, which makes my reviews shorter and don't allow me to discuss the craft of the acting and filmmaking and all of that wonderful stuff. Unfortunately, Under the Skin is that type of film.

          First off, I did think the cinematography was gorgeous and I loved the opening scene that is very Kubrickian. Plus, the scenery was beautiful and the score is very chilling and reminiscent of the score from The Shining. The good stuff ends there.

          My biggest issue is that while I was watching the film, I was left going "Wuh?". Seriously, I did not know what the hell was going on. The film is literally just Scarlett Johansson driving her van, seducing men and luring them to some black pond. Plus, you have shots of the beach and fog and close-ups of Johansson' face. That is all the film is. I get that the film is trying to be deep, but in order for a film to be deep, it needs to have a coherent plot and not just beautiful shots with an extravagant score. This is why 2001: A Space Odyssey is complete drek. That film is literally shots of space and about 30 to 45 minutes of an interesting character and that character is a freaking' computer! A COMPUTER! I am very much into artistic films, but watching this one was like watching paint dry.

         Overall, Under the Skin is an incoherent bore that, even though I watched it for free, made me wish I had my money back. It has no plot, no character development, no resolution, NIL. This review may have been short, but that is because there wasn't anything for me to review.

           Would I Recommend It?:
         If you are a heterosexual male and want to watch Scarlett Johansson naked.

Grade: D-

Oscars 2015 Predictions (Updated)

Hello, Bloggers, it's that special time of year again: Festival season, which means the Oscar campaigning really kicks in. So, I figured that I would make my predictions in six of the major categories so far: Picture, Director, Lead Actor/Actress, Supp. Actor/Actress. Let's take a look:

Best Picture:
Gone Girl
Inherent Vice

In case they want to go with 9 like the last few years, I put in nine predictions. So far, Birdman has been getting strong buzz and received praise after its Venice screening. Every Best Picture has a little indie that could and this year's indie could be Boyhood, since it is making a profit at the box office and has a near-perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Director Bennett Miller has a perfect Oscar track record so far with his first two films (Capote and Moneyball) nominated for Best Picture and it looks like the third time might be the charm with Foxcatcher. Fury might be another major player since it has a somewhat awards-friendly release date in October. Plus, it is about WWII and those types of films tend to fare pretty well with the Academy. After The Social Network came pretty close to nabbing the big prize and after The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sort of went under the radar, David Fincher is going to give it another go with Gone Girl, a film based on a best-selling novel and starring recent Best Picture winner Ben Affleck. Paul Thomas Anderson will reunite with his Master star Joaquin Phoenix for Inherent Vice, which is also based on a novel and if successful, could fare well like most of PTA's other films. Another director who might be given his due is Christopher Nolan who has the sci-fi opus Interstellar, starring recent Best Actor winner Matthew McConaughey. This film might have good timing since the success of Life of Pi and Gravity have shown us that the Academy has slowly warmed up to mainstream fare. If it fares well, Angelina Jolie could find herself battling it out with her husband Brad Pitt as she has a WWII film of her own up her sleeve: the biopic Unbroken, which is co-written by the Coens and stars potential breakout star Jack O'Connell. Lastly, we could see Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee hitting a double with the biopic Wild. After working with Matthew McConaughey, who is going through a career resurgence known as a "McConaissance", Vallee will direct former Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon, who looks to have a McConaissance of her own. I wonder if stars will line up to star in his films to try and reinvent themselves.

Dark Horses: A Most Violent Year, Big Eyes, Grand Budapest Hotel, Imitation Game, Into The Woods, Selma, Theory of Everything

Best Director:
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Angelina Jolie, Unbroken

Originally, I was going to add Christopher Nolan for Interstellar, but I left him off just to be safe because who knows if he'll have to make a period piece to finally get nominated despite the outrage over that Inception snub. But since his film is getting strong praise, director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu could easily be recognized for orchestrating the film that received this amount of praise. Plus, if Alfonso Cuaron's win or Steve McQueen's nomination showed us anything, it is that the Academy is being more diverse in terms of who they hand out their awards to or nominate. Richard Linklater won Best Director at Berlin for Boyhood and the fact that he is being recognized for his directing and not just his writing, which he received Oscar nominations for, could land him his first nod for Best Director. As I previously mentioned, Bennett Miller has a perfect Oscar track record with his first two films nominated for Best Picture. Not only that, but he did just win Best Director at Cannes for Foxcatcher and sometimes, that is a good indicator for who will make it to the Final Five. But while David Fincher may not have a perfect Oscar track record, the films that he does land nominations for never go home empty-handed and if he is nominated once more, one could wonder whether it could be his time to win, especially after missing out for The Social Network and the Academy likes to right their own wrongs. While the Academy likes to recognize male movie stars that reinvent themselves as directors, why not recognize one of the most powerful females in Hollywood? Angelina Jolie has an Oscar friendly film under her belt and her influence could very well carry into this category.

Dark Horses: David Ayer, Fury, Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice, Christopher Nolan, Interstellar, Jean-Marc Vallee, Wild

Best Actor:
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Jack O'Connell, Unbroken
Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner

As I have mentioned before, the Academy loves to see movie stars or even comedians reinvent themselves, which Steve Carell seems to have done with Foxcatcher. Not only is he going serious but he is altering his appearance (which they also love). So, this could easily be a double punch. Benedict Cumberbatch has just received strong praise at Telluride for The Imitation Game, which has Harvey Weinstein behind it and deals with a real-life man persecuted for his homosexuality while trying to crack the Nazi's enigma code in WWII. The Academy might just eat this one up. Not only do they like to see movie stars reinvent themselves, but they do love a good comeback, which Michael Keaton is undergoing with his praised performance in Birdman. Plus, they love to push forward the next generation, which means a possible nod for breakout star in Jack O'Connell in Unbroken. But how about a steadily-working actor's actor that has one role that could finally earn him recognition? That actor is Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter), who just won Best Actor at Cannes for Mr. Turner, which is directed by Oscar favorite Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Happy-Go-Lucky). That trend of actor's actors landing one role that earns them recognition is quite present in this category and it could very well continue.

Dark Horses: Ben Affleck, Gone Girl, Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Bill Murray, St. Vincent, Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice, Brad Pitt, Fury, Eddie Redmayne, Theory of Everything

Best Actress:
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Now, for both the Lead and Supporting Actress categories, I'm noticing that plenty of the actresses in contention are either Oscarless or overdue. I'll start with Amy Adams, who is 0-5 and has Harvey Weinstein at her corner for the film Big Eyes. Then, there is Jessica Chastain, who looks to have another banner year with films like A Most Violent Year, which could be her best bet at a nomination, in my opinion. Next, we have Julianne Moore, who has a 0-4 record with the Academy. Some wonder whether she'll go Supporting but because this isn't a very loaded category this year, I figured I'd just put her in Lead for now. Originally, I was going to put her in Supporting, but it wouldn't make sense for Rosamund Pike to be put in that category for her performance in Gone Girl when she is playing the "Gone Girl". Lastly, we have the only one in this category who has an Oscar: Reese Witherspoon, who has been getting strong buzz for the biopic Wild and as I have mentioned, is undergoing a McConaissance of her own.

Dark Horses: Jessica Chastain, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Hilary Swank, The Homesman, Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars

Best Supporting Actor:
Albert Brooks, A Most Violent Year
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

Whenever the Academy makes a slight error, they like to correct it as soon as they can, which means that Albert Brooks could land a nod for Best Supporting Actor for A Most Violent Year after getting unjustifiably snubbed for Drive. If that were to come to fruition, it would be his 2nd nod in this category since he was nominated before for 1987's Broadcast News. Since the supporting category is usually kind to veterans, Robert Duvall could easily land a spot for his work in The Judge, which would be his first in a while since his last nomination was in this same category for A Civil Action back in 1998. Since Boyhood is getting strong praise and buzz, a light could easily shine on the actor playing the supportive father, Ethan Hawke, who already has nominations for writing the Before.. sequels and an acting nod in this category for Training Day. Much like how Michael Keaton is undergoing a comeback for Birdman, the same is being said for his co-star Edward Norton, who fell off the map due to creating a rep for being difficult by fighting for creative control over his projects. Apparently, his role in the film is a parody of himself, so the Academy could easily recognize him for lampooning his own faults and bring him back to Hollywood's good graces. Not only that, but they could put him in competition with the next actor to don the Hulk mantle: Mark Ruffalo, who is in contention for his work in Foxcatcher, potentially scoring a 2nd nomination in this category within about four years. Even if Ruffalo doesn't land a slot in this category, he still has his fair share of gold with his Emmy win for producing The Normal Heart as well his fair share of green for his part as the Hulk in the successful Avengers franchise. He can still have his cake and eat it too.

Dark Horses: Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice, Johnny Depp, Into The Woods, Logan Lerman, Fury, J.K. Simmons, Whiplash, Miyavi, Unbroken, Channing Tatum, Foxcatcher Tom Wilkinson, Selma

Best Supporting Actress:
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Anna Kendrick, Into the Woods
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman

Patricia Arquette has gotten quite a bit of buzz for her work in Boyhood and I am quite thrilled about that. She may have a hefty amount of screentime, but it is easy to see why they could put her in this category since the Supporting categories are usually more kind to veterans/character actors/relative unknowns and Arquette falls in between the first two. But the next veteran on this list is previous Oscar nominee Laura Dern who might be in contention for her supporting turn in Wild. One thing that could possibly help her chances, besides her apparently meaty role as the main character's mother that slowly succumbs to an illness and appears in flashbacks, is that it has been a while since Laura has been nominated. Her last outing was back in 1991 for her lead turn in Rambling Rose and the Academy does like to give those that haven't been in contention in a while another shot. Now onto a few more previously-nominated ingenues. The first being Anna Kendrick, who was previously nominated in this category for Up in the Air. She has a role in the musical Into The Woods, which is directed by Chicago's Rob Marshall and he has had pretty good luck with landing nominations for his actresses. There is also Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep to look out for in the same film. Anyways, the next previously-nominated ingenue on this list is Keira Knightley, who was nominated for her lead turn in Pride and Prejudice back in 2005. Ever since that nomination and the end of her part in the Pirates franchise, Knightley has leaned towards smaller films and one of them is the Weinstein-geared film The Imitation Game, where she plays the love interest/partner of the main character and the Academy is a sucker for those types of roles. Lastly is a younger actress is a Hollywood darling that has never been nominated as of yet: Ms. Emma Stone. Stone has gotten pretty close to an Oscar nod with her breakout work in Easy A, but this year, she has a few smaller films up her sleeve which could allow her to channel her artistry, with one of them being the buzzed-about Birdman.

Dark Horses: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rosewater, Emily Blunt, Into The Woods, Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher, Meryl Streep, Into The Woods, Naomi Watts, Birdman/St. Vincent 

So, those are my predictions in the major categories as of right now. Whether you agree or disagree with any of my predictions, please feel free to write your thoughts down in the comments section. Thanks for reading and here is to a great awards season!

Monday, August 25, 2014

66th Primetime Emmy Awards Live News Feed

Hello, Bloggers, for tonight's Primetime Emmys, I figured that, because I haven't done something like this before, I will do a live news feed to document my thoughts and reactions on the winners and such. I made my predictions on Gold Derby, so I will even say which one's I got wrong or right. Here we go:

Seth Meyers' monologue is good so far. I'm still a little nervous about the nominations or which category will be presented first.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy is first. I am predicting Andre Braugher, although Tony Hale could repeat.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Ty Burrell in Modern Family

He's great on the show. Thought his speech was pretty endearing.

Comedy Writing is next. I'm going to skip that one.

On second thought, I won't, since Louis C.K. won for Louie. Got that one right. Yeah! I liked Louis CK's work on Blue Jasmine and American Hustle. Love his speech. Short, sweet, and to the point!

Now, Jimmy Kimmel is presenting. Loving his jabs at Matthew McConaughey. Those are funny.

"Alright, alright, alright", already! LOL. Good one.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Alison Janney in Mom

Got that one right! So far, so good.

Now that I think about it, if McConaughey wins tonight, it'll feel like he still can't escape his mainstream shirtless days. Even though he's reinvented himself as an actor, he'll still keep winning golden naked men.

We're back from commercial, finally.

Next is Directing in a Comedy Series. Not too worried about that one and they just announced the winners for Best Guest Actor/Actress in a Comedy Series: Jimmy Fallon for SNL and Uzo Aduba for Orange is the New Black. Got those two right.

Didn't even know Jodie Foster got nominated for the Emmy. That's pretty neat.

Anyways, Best Directing in a Comedy Series: Modern Family

Didn't really get that one right, but whatever.

Only three more Comedy categories left. They'll probably go with the Miniseries/TV Movie categories next. Those I am psyched for since The Normal Heart, Fargo, and AHS: Coven are nominees. I'm especially psyched for The Normal Heart. Very powerful story.

Ok, so Best Comedy Actor is next. Louis CK could get it, but I picked Jim Parsons just to be safe.

Best Actor in a Comedy Series: Jim Parsons in The Big Bang Theory


First Jimmy Kimmel, now Fallon. He is quite funny.

Best Actress in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep

Picked her. Haven't seen the show, but I do really like her. I still constantly replay the "English Patient" episode of Seinfeld. 

Now, we're onto Best Reality Competition Program. All of whom I never watched.

Best Reality Competition: The Amazing Race

Picked The Voice, but whatever. I'm saving my worries for the Miniseries categories.

Ooh, Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries is next. Picked Julia Roberts for The Normal Heart and am rooting for her, but Alison Tolman could pull off the upset for Fargo. I'd even be happy with any of the American Horror Story gals winning (Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Frances Conroy).

My mistake. Now we're onto Best Writing in a Miniseries/TV Movie. Come on, Normal Heart!

Best Writing in a Miniseries/TV Movie: Sherlock

Wow! All I have to say. I'm not upset, just wow! But I do love a good upset. The Oscars could use more of those.

NOW, we're onto Best Supporting Actress. There we go!

Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries/TV Movie: Kathy Bates in AHS: Coven

Not a bad choice. Like I said, I was pulling for Julia Roberts, but Kathy Bates killed it on AHS, like she always does.

So far, The Normal Heart is 0-2, but it has 4 more categories to get to, so we'll see. I just hope it doesn't go home empty-handed.

Now, we're onto Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie. My heart is racing with this one.

Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie: Martin Freeman in Sherlock: The Last Vow

Damn it! As soon as Stephen Colbert said "Ma-", I had a small glimmer of hope that it would be Matt Bomer. Now, I am getting pissed. Matt Bomer got seriously robbed.

Can it win Best Director? I am not too optimistic, but we'll see.

Best Director in a Miniseries/TV Movie: Fargo

I was right. I think Fargo is pretty good, but now I am REALLY getting pissed. I blame Dallas Buyers Club since it was a film about AIDS that came out first and it pales in comparison to The Normal Heart. All Heart has left is both Best Actor and TV Movie.

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are next. Can't wait to see them present.

Best Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie is next. Predicting Mark Ruffalo, but Billy Bob Thornton could take it.

Best Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie: Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock: His Last Vow

I'm sure his band of "Cumberbabes" are happy about this, but I'm not. But that's only because The Normal Heart is losing. I feel like they are going by all the Miniseries/TV Movie categories on purpose just to piss me off. Sorry to whoever may potentially read this if I'm a little rough, but tough shit, it's my blog.

Just as a heads up, my frustrated feelings may carry through this live blog.

Best Actress in a Miniseries/TV Movie: Jessica Lange in AHS: Coven

Predicted Cicely Tyson and was hoping for Sarah Paulson, but it's still nice that AHS is getting plenty of love. Jessica Lange is really good on the show, so it's all good.

Hey, Weird Al is performing. This ought to be good! Freakin' love Weird Al. Was going to get up from the couch and have milk and cookies, but I'll wait until after.

Now, Best TV Miniseries. I'm thinking Fargo will take this.

Best Miniseries: Fargo

Big freaking surprise!

Now, I can drown my sorrows in a cup of milk and a few homemade peanut butter cookies.

Best TV Movie! Come on, Normal Heart!

Best TV Movie: The Normal Heart

YYYEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!! Yes! Yes! Now I can go to bed and watch the rest of the show a happy man!
I was getting soooo scared this would be shut out Color Purple-style.

Oh, and Ryan Murphy: Very amazing speech!

Seriously, I can deal with a film like American Hustle getting shut out, but if Normal Heart ended up like The Color Purple, I would have been speechless.

Nice! Key and Peele are presenting. I loved those two on MadTV, which I miss.

They just ran through the Variety Emmys, which I haven't paid much attention to.

Now onto Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. I predicted Aaron Paul since Breaking Bad is closing and they're going to want to end the show on a high note.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad

Like I said. They'll want to end the show on a high note.

Knew Robin Williams would be saved for last in the In Memoriam segment. I think Billy Crystal's tribute to him is very heartfelt and he is right, his light will continue to shine on us forever. He is a legend in the comedy world that never failed to make us laugh.

Best Directing of a Drama Series: True Detective

Predicted that because it was the odds-on favorite.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Anna Gunn in Breaking Bad

Predicted her to win and I was actually quite relieved just because Maggie Smith didn't. Seriously, she never goes to those things so it'd be kind of pointless to always award her.

Best Writing in a Drama Series: Breaking Bad

Should I have to guess what'll win Best Drama Series?

I could listen to Viola Davis read a phone book. Seriously.

Best Actress in a Drama Series: Julianna Marguiles in The Good Wife

Got that one wrong. Thought Robin Wright would get it but Marguiles is a good actress, so I have no complaints.

So, Best Actor in a Drama Series might be next. I feel it's Cranston vs. McConaughey. I worry that if McConaughey wins, people will just get sick of him winning and say "Alright, alright, alright", already. But we shall see.

Best Actor in a Drama Series: Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad

Did I mention that they want to end the show on a high note?

Now the final two biggies. First, Best Comedy Series.

Best Comedy Series: Modern Family

Wow! I predicted Orange Is The New Black, but I do like Modern Family. Pretty wonderful show.


Best Drama Series: Breaking Bad

Picked this as my Super Bet on my Gold Derby predictions. Thrilled I got this one right!

That does it for me for this evening. Overall, I am somewhat thrilled with the results (Glad The Normal Heart won the big one) and thought it was neat there were some surprises. Plus, I thought Seth Meyers was a nice host. This is Matt St. Clair of Film Guy Reviews, signing off!

Indie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

             This 'Hotel' Has Plenty of Vacancy For Both A Colorful Atmosphere And Storytelling
          I have said to myself before that even if I am not a fan of a director's work, I can still respect his or her filmmaking style. A while after I saw Moonrise Kingdom, I said how I wasn't a fan of the film at first, yet I still applaud Wes Anderson for still having a special creative mind. However, after watching this film and Royal Tenenbaums, I have come to both respect Wes Anderson's filmmaking style while still becoming a fan of his work.

      The Grand Budapest Hotel follows the story of a hotel concierge named Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) that finds himself on the run with his lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) after he is framed for the murder of a rich woman named Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). It is up to those two to try and prove Gustave's innocence as the story progresses from the first to second World War.

     First off, I absolutely loved the production design. Director Wes Anderson is known for his visual eye and here, his vision really shows as we are taken to different places of different colors. We go from the titular hotel, which is very pink with everyone wearing purple to a light-green and less ravishing prison to even a monastery with everyone donned in white, yet I just found myself wanting to be a part of this journey. I even thought the costume design was very rich. One thing that I even noticed was that, in Madame D's last scene, she is wearing red, which would foreshadow what happens afterward.

     I also really liked the acting from some of the cast. Ralph Fiennes just stole the show as Gustave H. Fiennes was so good that he made we wish that his character had his own movie. Not only is he played for laughs, but there are even quieter moments where we see a more human side to Gustave as he begins to show a softer side. Tony Revolori also really shines as young Zero and I loved the scenes between him and Fiennes as I thought they had wonderful chemistry. If there were other standouts in the cast, I would say they are Willem Dafoe as the mysterious henchman Jopling and F. Murray Abraham, who is very poignant as the older version of Zero. All the other actors, who are too numerous to name, were quite good, even if plenty of them had smaller roles.

     Another thing that I really liked was the story. What I thought was neat about the story was how it was a murder mystery, only Wes Anderson-ized with a twisted dark sense of humor. Yet, because this story is set in between the Wars, the titular hotel is used as a metaphor for the Wars and fascism. It is even used as a demonstration for the decline of civilization. In the early past where the adventures of Gustave and Zero take place, the hotel is very colorful and ravishing. But in the more present day, even though the hotel has its fair share of colors, it still now seems very vanilla.


    Overall, The Grand Budapest Hotel is an extravagant colorful treat with a complex and rather humanistic storyline. It has outstanding direction, wonderful production/costume design, and a scene-chewing performance from Ralph Fiennes. After watching this and The Royal Tenenbaums, I have finally started to warm up to Wes Anderson and his creative genius.

     Would I Recommend It?
    If you are a Wes Anderson fan, I would say absolutely. But if you aren't too familiar with his work, then I would say watch this and keep an open mind or watch The Royal Tenenbaums to become more accustomed to his filmmaking style.

Grade: A

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Retro Review: Rocky (1976)

                    'Rocky': A Heartfelt Underdog Story That Really Hits The Punching Bag
          I feel that when we go to the movies, sometimes we go for reasons that we go to an art museum, to be inspired. We want to see a film that make us believe that we personally can defy the odds and have hope for a better day. Rocky is a brilliant film that epitomizes that very feeling.

   Rocky follows the story of a boxer named Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) who is struggling to make ends meet. However, a heavyweight champion named Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) decides to give an underdog a shot at the title and he chooses Rocky aka "The Italian Stallion". Rocky accepts the challenge and along the way, Rocky looks to defy the odds against him as he falls in love with his best friend's sister Adrian (Talia Shire).

   One thing that I really liked was how the film mostly gives us a glimpse into the main character's life. We see how this man is simple and kind-hearted which gives us a reason to root for him. He looks to go from being a "nobody" to a "somebody" and we, the audience, are taken for the journey. I also thought Sylvester Stallone was quite amazing as the title character as he is very likable and I especially loved the scenes between him and Talia Shire, who is excellent as the shy countergirl Adrian. Another actor I really liked was Burgess Meredith, aka The Penguin from the Adam West Batman series, who plays Rocky's trainer Mickey. Meredith gives a very heartfelt performance as the trainer who seems hard-nosed yet is only that way just because he had high hopes for our main hero.

    Honestly, another thing that I really liked was the ending. I don't want to spoil it for those that haven't seen it and don't know the ending already, but I'll just say that it might not be what you expect. Yet, I still just couldn't help but love it. I don't want to ruin it, but I'll just say that the end helps the film become the true underdog story that it is: A story about a man with the odds against him that seizes what could be a once-in-a-lifetime shot with the support of his peers. One bonus the film gets is the famous well-directed scene where Rocky runs on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art that features the song "Gonna Fly Now"by Bill Conti. I thought that scene was very nice.

  I'm not going to lie, there were some small points where I thought the film dragged. Although that could just be because I watched the film in the morning and I was feeling quite tired. But like I said, the points where I thought the film dragged were only small and don't take away from the film much.

 Overall, Rocky is a well-crafted underdog story that features an endearingly commanding performance by Stallone. It is very heartfelt and may inspire us to defy whatever odds are against us, whether it'd be our background or age or whatnot and to me, that is part of the reason why we watch movies. We watch them to feel something, whether to be inspired, terrified, or even learn a life lesson. This is an essential sports classic that I would recommend for everybody to watch.

Grade: A-

Friday, August 22, 2014

Anatomy Of A Performance: Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List (1993)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to a new episode of Anatomy Of A Performance, where I take a performance and try to dissect the internalities behind them. For today's episode, I will go into the first male performance on this segment. That performance is Ralph Fiennes as the sociopathic Nazi Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. Let's take a look:

  I'll start off by discussing this scene above. In this scene, Amon is seemingly seducing his servant, Helen Hirsch, played by Embeth Davidtz. At first, he seems very charismatic on the surface, yet as he cavorts her, she is shaking and as soon as he looks like he is about to kiss her, he suddenly flicks the switch and turns violent. It feels like that even though this man is a monster, he has a bit of self-loath as he hates himself for loving this woman.

      Now, in this next scene, both Amon and Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, are talking about power. As Oskar is trying to explain what power really means, Amon just implicitly brushes it off. However, as Oskar explains his meaning of power, the look that Amon gives indicates that maybe he thinks that Oskar is right, but brushes it off, showing that he is in denial. The way that Fiennes portrays this character makes it seem that even though Goeth is a monstrous human being, he might just feel trapped by the path of evil he chose to take.Yet Fiennes doesn't play it for pity or force the audience to gain empathy for his character.

     So, what I found to be quite complex about Fiennes' portrayal is how he lets his quiet force of restraint carry through Goeth's sinister and rather hollow externality. Yet, there are some quiet moments, like how he almost kisses Helen and how he may believe what Oskar is saying about power is true by the look on his face, which indicate how despite being an embodiment of evil, might just feel trapped by his path that he took. Since Amon Goeth is a sadistic Neo-Nazi commander, there is probably no going back for him and you might just wonder whether he is self-aware without feeling sorry for him. To me, that is quite a difficult task to pull off. To humanize a villain without making him humanistic enough to make us feel for him. In my opinion, Ralph Fiennes' multi-dimensional performance is a demonstration of the kind of commitment an actor can bring to his character without having to just undergo a physical commitment.

So, that was my analysis of Ralph Fiennes' brilliant performance as the sadistic Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. If you agree or disagree or would like to add your own input, please feel free to write in the comments section, as always. Thanks for reading!



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Retro Review: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982)

                                   'E.T.': A Sci-Fi Classic Of Astronomical Proportions
              In my mind, what makes a film a classic in general and not just in its specific genre, is a film that not only has the mechanics of a great film: direction, acting, story, score, etc., but a film that manages to weave in elements of different genres while demonstrating its own so that in can appeal to a wider audience. Plus, some added humanistic drama. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial certainly has those makings of a great classic and might hopefully inspire me to make a classic of my own.

 E.T. The Extra Terrestrial follows the story of a young boy named Elliot (Henry Thomas) who, while in his backyard, discovers a tiny alien that he calls "E.T.". E.T. not only befriends Elliot, but becomes acquainted with his siblings Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert McNaughton). Over the course of this alien's stay, Elliot starts to develop a special physical connection to him.

   Now, for this part of the review, I won't just discuss what I liked about the film, but also use it for an analysis of its themes, which I will start with. Now, because Elliot and E.T. have a psychic connection, to me, it makes E.T. seem like a representation of Elliot's father. Not only does the film deal with the titular alien, but Elliot copes with the divorce of his parents as well. So, I feel that possibly E.T. represents the father that Elliot badly wants to come back home. One scene that I feel demonstrates this is the one where Elliot cuts himself and E.T. uses his special light to heal him, like any parent would do if their child injured themselves. Steven Spielberg himself said the film draws inspiration from his own parents' divorce. The film also deals with the theme of loneliness. Elliot is not a child of divorce, but is an outcast at his school, or "alienated" so the actual alien serves as his best friend. So, E.T. is like both a father and a friend to Elliot and I thought that was quite fascinating.

   Next, I'll get into what I actually liked about the film. First off, I thought the design of E.T. looked genius and realistic since animatronics and such were used to create it. I also thought the score by John Williams was spectacular, especially the famous theme where E.T. and Elliot are flying on the bike. The direction by Mr. Steven Spielberg was brilliant, of course. One thing I liked about his direction was his use of lighting, like in the scene where E.T.'s finger lights and heals Elliot's finger. As I said, I felt that scene was rather symbolic of the father-son relationship those two have and when E.T. presses his finger on Elliot's, it is like they have the "same light". Plus, the scenes where E.T. and Elliot are flying on the bike looked quite realistic, even if they were more than likely green-screened. I also have to give major props to the writer Melissa Mathison for creating such a well-realized story. It manages to not only be a sci-fi film grounded in reality, but a coming-of-age story as well as a tearjerker with some comedy thrown into the mix.


   Overall, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial is an amazingly complex family classic that assemble's a sci-fi film's essentials to perfection: Direction, thought-provoking sci-fi, score, etc. It will make you laugh, yet might also make you cry (seriously, if you don't cry at the end of this movie, you might need to check your pulse). I would recommend this to everybody, both young and old, especially since this is a classic for the ages.

Grade: A+


Indie Review: In The Bedroom (2001)

                 'In The Bedroom': A Hauntingly Subtle Telling Of Small-Town America
              Every now and then, we hear stories about violent crimes coming from places that you wouldn't normally think that crime would take place in. In The Bedroom is quite demonstrative of that as it not only shows that violence can come from unexpected places, but unexpected people.

      Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl) has just come home from college and is dating a single mom named Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei). Frank's parents, Matt and Ruth (Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek), have their reservations but are warm to Natalie. That is until Natalie's ex-husband comes back into the picture, causing a tragedy to take place and things slowly take a turn for the worse.

     I'll start off with the acting, which is brilliant. Sissy Spacek is a quiet masterclass as Ruth Fowler, the mother who is loving yet skeptical. But when the tragedy takes place, she slowly becomes cut off and develops a boiling rage that shows through her cold silence. Tom Wilkinson is equally as astounding as Matt, who is the more lenient father that, unlike Ruth, tries to put on a brave face after the aforementioned tragedy yet has a bit of a quiet rage locked inside. Since grief is channeled in different ways, both Spacek and Wilkinson showcase the different forms of grief perfectly. The film is very much about grief and that theme is handled very realistically. Next, I'll get into the acting of Marisa Tomei. It was very complex, in my opinion. Tomei brilliantly plays a woman who slowly realizes that she has made a mess of things yet by the way she shrugs her shoulders, still feels like she is caught in the middle. She doesn't even have to say anything to showcase that. It is all expressed in her eyes. Spacek, Tomei, and Wilkinson were all just splendid and I thought they all rightfully deserved their Oscar nominations. Nick Stahl was also very good as he was very endearing as the lovestruck son.

     I also thought the film was rather haunting in a way. It had a bit of chill to it because of how, not just because the theme of grief is showcased, but because it is one of those films that shows how, kind of like Last House on the Left, the most heinous or horrific crimes can come from the most simple towns or even people. Except this film is definitely not as violent as Last House on the Left. The direction by director/writer Todd Field was also quite brilliant. He has a background in acting and to me, it really shows as he flawlessly was able to get masterclass performances out of his actors. I especially liked how he directed some of the more intense scenes, like when Ruth and Matt finally come to terms with their grief and start to fire at each other. I feel that Field creates a feeling of the actors being enclosed, which fits the "bedroom" of the title. The "bedroom" is said to refer to a lobster trap that can hold up to two before they start to turn on each other.


      Overall, In The Bedroom is a rather haunting demonstration of grief and small-town America that features outstanding performances from its cast and visceral direction. I wouldn't say that I would recommend this to everyone because it is a bit talky and not everyone likes films like those. But if you want to watch a film with flawless acting and powerful, artistic storytelling, then put this on your watch list.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Retro Review: Chicago (2002)


                          Killer Musical Numbers, Fun Performances, And Satire? That's 'Chicago'
     I may not have said this before on my blog, but at first, I was never that much of a musical fan early on. But as I got into different genres, I found myself enjoying musicals more. Chicago is not only a successful musical that has an old style, but speaks about issues involving fame that are still relevant to this very day.

   Chicago follows the story of a woman named Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) who has the desire to be a big star. But when she kills the man who says he can make her one but just fibbed, she finds herself in prison, awaiting the death penalty. There is where she meets a fellow inmate named Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is a vaudeville star that was arrested for murdering her husband and her sister. They both wind up in a battle of wits as they fight for fame while being represented by the famed charming lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), who looks to focus on making Roxie a celebrity while imprisoned.

   First off, I did really like the musical numbers. Of course, when you are watching a musical, the highlights have to be the musical numbers, but I really liked the ones here. If I had to choose my favorite, it would probably be "All That Jazz" which is the opening number. The director, Rob Marshall, has a background in musical theater, and it really shows. I thought it was quite interesting how he was able to weave in the musical numbers that are figments of Roxie's imagination and cut back in forth between reality and the musical numbers occurring. I also thought the cinematography was brilliant. I loved the special colorful lighting, ranging from blue to red, that was used for the musical scenes. The musical scenes are really the heart and soul of the film and they are extremely well-done.

   Next, I'll get into the acting and the satirical context of the story. Renee Zellweger really sparks as the lead character of Roxie, the jailbird trying to charm her way to the top. Catherine Zeta-Jones, however, adds her own special spark to the character of Velma Kelly, who is as scheming as Roxie is, yet is more silver-tongued. To me, Zellweger and Zeta-Jones' performances are like vines that compliment each other as they play characters with the same intentions yet different ways to get their intentions. They both try to play victims, but Roxie goes the "he attacked me" angle while Velma is all "I was so shocked, I can't remember" angle. Richard Gere is also quite a showstopper as the lawyer Billy Flynn who is charming yet has quite a bit of sleaze up his sleeve. He is quite conniving yet Gere makes you pretty enamored with his character thanks to his effortless charm. Now, onto the story. The whole satirical context of the story deals with the ironic twist of how the two main characters achieve great fame just by committing murder. Yet whenever another murderess comes along and almost upstages them, they almost become forgotten. That reminds me of how whenever there is one "It girl" that comes along, audiences move on from that one once a new one suddenly enters the picture. It is quite relevant in today's celebrity-obsessed culture, that's for sure.


   Overall, Chicago is a ravishing musical that features bravura performances from its main cast and is an intriguing period piece that features satirical contexts involving fame that are still relevant to this day. I would say that if you like or even love musicals, be sure to give this one a watch because it is a real treat for that type of crowd. If you hate musicals, however, you'd want to look elsewhere since it has plenty of singing numbers and "all that jazz".

Grade: B+


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Indie Review: Lost In Translation (2003)

                    A Rather Poignant Tale About How Friendship Needs No 'Translation'
           I always enjoy films where the main character or characters go on a physical or emotional journey. Lost In Translation is a film that is sort of in that vein except the main characters don't exactly take us on that kind of journey. Instead, as the characters bond, they just take the audience along for the ride.

   Lost In Translation follows the story of a former movie star named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) who is undergoing a mid-life crisis as he travels to Japan to film an alcohol commercial. While there, he meets a young college graduate named Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson). Together, they form a bond as they stay in the city of Tokyo and become lost in translation along the way.

     First off, I absolutely loved the screenplay by writer/director Sofia Coppola. The beginning of the film not only introduces us to its characters but manages to introduce them without the heavy use of dialogue. The film itself isn't too heavy on dialogue and I thought that was very interesting. I also thought it was interesting how there aren't much flaws to be found in the script because it is literally about two Americans who meet in a foreign land and the bond they share. Yet I couldn't help but love the story that is a balance of both light-hearted comedic moments as well as drama. I also thought the direction by Coppola was absolutely beautiful.

 Another thing I absolutely loved was the chemistry between the two leads. Even though he has some light-hearted moments, Bill Murray isn't played for laughs much which allows him to give a very genuine and heartfelt performance. Scarlett Johansson is also quite excellent as Charlotte, a rather lost soul trying to figure out what she wants out of life. As the film progresses, not to give anything away, but Charlotte starts to think that she knows what she wants and when Johansson expresses that feeling, she does it through her eyes. Both the two leads gave brilliant performances and I am quite pleased that they both got some awards recognition for their fine work.


 Overall, Lost In Translation is a rather simple tale of two strangers meeting by chance that is told rather brilliantly. It works thanks to its amazing chemistry from both Murray and Johansson, as well as the beautiful screenplay and direction by Sofia Coppola. I'm not sure if I would recommend it to everyone since it is based on its story and there isn't much action. If that is not your cup of tea, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you do like movies like those, that are based on story or dialogue, then I would say give this one a watch.

Grade: A-

Indie Review: Far From Heaven (2002)


                     Watching This Marvelous Work Of Art Is Like A Trip To Movie 'Heaven'
            I remember after I saw Pleasantville, I said how I wished I could live in the 50's since there were plenty of soda/cheeseburger joints with jukeboxes and people seemed to live simpler lifestyles. However, after watching Far From Heaven, I sort of wish I didn't because of society's stance on blacks and gays. The film demonstrates that stance, yet tells it in such a beautiful and less patronizing way.

   Far From Heaven is a story set in 50's suburban Connecticut about a housewife named Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore). Cathy's seemingly simple and well-adjusted life slowly becomes chaotic once she realizes that her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) is a closeted homosexual and she forms a bond with her black gardener named Raymond (Dennis Haysbert).

   Where do I begin? I'll start off with the cinematography. It is B-E-A-utiful with such an impressive color scheme. I thought it was amazing how the cinematographer Edward Lachman uses different colors to follow the characters around. For example, whenever the main characters are emotionally going to a skeptical place, they are surrounded by the color green, like the scene where Frank goes into a gay bar. Plus, the scenes where the color blue is present are the ones where Cathy or Frank are in a gloomy or depressed state. If you are looking to become a cinematographer, you should put this high, and I mean HIGH, on your watch list. You will be in movie heaven and want to take notes because this is not only an actor's or writer's movie, but very much a director/cinematographer's movie as director Todd Haynes and cinematographer Edward Lachman let the colors tell the story. As soon as the film started, the thing that I immediately fell in love with was the colors.

   Next, I'll get into the acting. First off, Julianne Moore's performance is an absolute masterclass. She is just phenomenal as a suburban housewife who is very confined on the surface yet once the events in the film start to unravel she struggles to look beneath the surface as she has trouble making sense of her husband's "urges" and struggles to bond with her black gardener. However, Moore doesn't play up the melodrama as whenever she undergoes a dramatic episode, she does it in a more quietly devastating way. Dennis Quaid is equally as phenomenal as Frank, Cathy's husband who struggles to make sense of his own urges and tries to suppress them for the sake of his family and his job. The other Dennis in the film, Dennis Haysbert, is astounding and plays his role as the gardener Raymond with a rather quiet dignity. Patricia Clarkson, who plays Cathy's neighbor and confidante Eleanor, is a strong supporting presence when she is on screen as she pulls off a character who tries to make sense of Cathy's troubling decline, yet not naively. To me, the film is about trying to make sense or look beneath the surface as Raymond once points out, which Cathy struggles with since, as I said, she is as confined as her fellow affluent townspeople that are out-of-touch.

   Since the affluent town in the film is so confined that the people live in their own bubble, plenty of them are slightly out-of-touch when it comes to dealing with minorities and homosexuality. I loved how the film took the two social issues of racism and homosexuality and didn't portray them in a rather patronizing way. The film didn't have to spoon feed to the audience that racism is bad. It just showed that back then, when a black person, or "negro" as they were referred to, would communicate with a white person, people would murmur. Plus, in the 50's, people viewed homosexuality as an illness, but the film just had Frank himself talk about beating "this thing" like it is an illness and no manipulative scenes of gays being beaten or anything like that. We are just shown that people fear what they don't understand.

 Overall, Far From Heaven is a perfectly realized tale of race, homosexuality, and social class weaved into one. Its direction is beautiful and has you glued to the screen thanks to its colors. The acting is simply phenomenal and the story is quite powerful. Like I said, if you want to go into directing or cinematography, be sure to give this one a watch and take notes. But whether you like to study or just watch films for the sake of watching films, I would highly recommend you give this a watch. It is, as I said the minute it was over, perfect.

Grade: A+

Monday, August 18, 2014

Retro Review: Pleasantville (1998)

                            'Pleasantville': A Black-And-White Town That Is Absolutely Colorful
            It's films like this one that make me as optimistic as the townspeople of Pleasantville. That is because it makes me able to cherish the fact that there are people out there who CAN create something original and Pleasantville is something that I had never seen before.
     Pleasantville follows the story of two siblings named David and Jennifer (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) who, while fighting over their remote, suddenly get transported into David's favorite TV series called Pleasantville. Since the series is black and white, both David and Jennifer are black and white like everything else in the town. But as they continue their stay, however, they literally bring "color" to this colorless town.

    First and foremost, the thing I loved the most was the cinematography. I liked the scenes where, as the town becomes colorful, they show people turning colorful while some people remain black and white. I also thought the whole idea of color literally being brought into this colorless town was very interesting. To me, the townspeople having their black and white colors stripped from their bodies is an amazing metaphor for their masks being taken off and them being able to discover what their wants and such are. I give major kudos to director/producer/writer Gary Ross for creating such an amazing idea and I thought it was perfect that he used a 50's town as the setting with cheeseburger joints, curly-haired housewives, the paperboy throwing newspapers from house to house and such. I feel that society back in the 50's and those types of towns were looked at as idealistic and seemingly flawless. So, to use that type of setting for a film where the wants and even insecurities of the different characters are revealed seemed very fitting. Not to spoil the film, but there is even a point where the uncolorful people decide to segregate those that aren't in black and white, also known as the "colored" people. So the film even demonstrates racism without using race. It's a very multi-layered story.

    Also, while I thought all the actors were very neat, there are a few standouts I'd like to acknowledge. One is Joan Allen, who plays David and Jen's TV mother Betty. Allen excels at playing a June Cleaver-type housewife who develops new experiences and becomes less confined once her colors start to show. What makes her performance work so well is the force of her restraint. Allen is one of our most refined actresses and her subtleties amazingly help carry this colorful multi-layered performance. Another standout in my opinion was Reese Witherspoon as Jennifer. Witherspoon's bubbly charisma that she brings not only helps her character that greatly influences the idyllic town of Pleasantville but is a great reminder as to why she became a star in the first place. I really enjoyed her when she was on screen.

    Overall, Pleasantville is a fascinating fable that successfully remains grounded in reality. It has phenomenal storytelling, beautiful, and I mean, BEAUTIFUL, direction and cinematography, as well as brilliant performances from its splendid cast. This one I would highly recommend to everybody as it is a feast for the eyes of the imagination with realistic storytelling. Honestly, watching this film makes me wish I lived in 50's so I could go to a cheeseburger joint for a milkshake. I am SO glad I discovered it!

Grade: A+

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dream Cast: Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Hello, Bloggers, here I have another Dream Cast for a hypothetical remake of yet another classic. However, this classic is the 1968 horror pic Rosemary's Baby. They may have done a mini-series on TV, but if they were to, for some reason, bring the story back to the big screen, here is who I would cast:

Carey Mulligan as Rosemary Woodhouse: Now, Rosemary was quite a difficult role to choose because it is hard to top Mia Farrow's portrayal. But then I thought of someone who could not only bring her own take to the character, but bears a similar resemblance to Mia Farrow. That actress is Oscar-nominated British thesp Carey Mulligan, who you may know as Daisy in the new The Great Gatsby (a role originally tackled by Farrow in the 1974 version) and from 2011's Drive. I'd say give her the short Rosemary haircut and she's good to go.

Bradley Cooper as Guy Woodhouse: Onto another role that was difficult to pick, Rosemary's husband Guy Woodhouse, which was originally played by John Cassavetes. If they were to do a remake, my pick would be Bradley Cooper. He may be a little older than Mulligan is, but I feel that he could bring a special kind of sleazy charm to the role of the conniving husband. He may have played scumbags before in the past, but those are nothing compared to this character and it would be interesting to see what he could bring to this villainous role.

Jacki Weaver as Minnie Castevet: Now onto the villainous neighbor from hell Minnie Castevet, originally played by Ruth Gordon, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. If there is anybody that I think could really fill her shoes, it is Aussie actress Jacki Weaver. Those of you that have seen her performance in Animal Kingdom know that this chick can go dark with ease. Minnie may be another sweet-looking old lady with sinister intentions, but I would imagine Weaver could play Minnie differently and owning the screen.

Max Von Sydow as Roman Castevet: Next is the role of Minnie's husband Roman Castevet, originally played by Sidney Blackmer. My cast pick for the role would be Swede legend Max Von Sydow. It isn't just because he is old enough, but because he played the heroic Father Merrin in the original Exorcist and since the character Roman is a devil worshipper, it would be interesting to see him flip the coin and switch sides by going bad.

Stellan Skarsgard as Dr. Sapirstein: Next is the role of the scheming doctor Dr. Sapirstein, originally played by Ralph Bellamy. My personal choice for the role would be Swedish character actor Stellan Skarsgard, who you might know as Robin Williams' former college buddy Professor Lambeau in Good Will Hunting, or Dr. Erik Selvig in the Thor movies or Martin Vanger in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Plus, he is one of auteur Lars Von Trier's regulars. Dr. Sapirstein may be a relatively small role, but because Skarsgard is so good at playing villains, I could see him leaving an impression by bringing an enigmatic quality to the character.

Jeff Bridges at Hutch: Now onto a more light-hearted role. That role being Rosemary's old pal Hutch, originally played by Maurice Evans. Hutch is one of the film's more sympathetic characters in the film and I figured that I'd go with someone who I feel could play the older man you'd want on your side, so I went with Jeff Bridges. He may have played bad guys in the past, but he's played his fair share of good as well.

Sally Hawkins as Terry: Lastly is the much smaller role of Terry, a woman that the Castevets took in before her death, originally played by Angela Dorian. Like I said, Terry is a smaller role, but I went with a casting choice because I am such a fan of this actress that I just chose her. That actress is Ms. Sally Hawkins, who you may know from Happy-Go-Lucky and her Oscar-nominated work in Blue Jasmine, as well as her role in the new Godzilla. To me, she is one of those actresses that, no matter how big or small role is, always manages to leave an impression and if she were to play a small role like this, it would be no different.

So those were my casting picks for a potential or hypothetical remake of Rosemary's Baby. If you agree or disagree with my choices or would like to add your own, please feel free to write in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: There Will Be Blood (2007)

                  'There Will Be Blood' Drills Deep Into The Heart of The Flawed Greedy American                             
       After seeing his work over the years, I feel that director Paul Thomas Anderson has become the successor to the late and great Stanley Kubrick. Both have made films that are so perfectly-directed that if they were just meh, the direction would always lift the film's so-so material. But There Will Be Blood is certainly far from so-so and since it is my favorite Kubrick film, might just be Anderson's The Shining. 
       There Will Be Blood follows the story of an oil tycoon named Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis). The film focuses on his rise to power as well as his relationship with his adopted son H.W. who he took in to seem more like a "family man". Along the way, he even finds himself in a battle of wits with a rather scheming preacher named Eli (Paul Dano).
      I'll start off by discussing what makes the film besides PTA's brilliant direction: The performance by Mr. Daniel Day-Lewis. Just wow. He is such a force of nature in this film that you forget that you are watching an actor giving a performance. It is amazing how he goes from charismatic and manipulative oil tycoon to raging monster and does it in such a subtle way that this performance more than has my respect. So, this is yet another powerhouse performance from DDL and it doesn't shock me that he won an Oscar for it that compliments his other two for My Left Foot and Lincoln, showcasing his range as an acting chameleon.

     Next, I'll get into the direction by Paul Thomas Anderson, aka PTA. What can I say? The man is an artiste. I have loved his other films that I have witnessed and I really love this one too. I can't even say what my favorite well-directed scene was because I'm just like "How do I choose?". Every scene is perfectly directed. I also loved how he wrote it. The opening 10 minutes don't have a peep of dialogue yet I found myself glued to my computer screen. At first, he just lets the action do the talking. Plus, even though the film is the Plainview show, we even get a glimpse of Eli's point of view and how he handles the rivalry between him and Plainview.

    Another thing I really liked was probably the film's score. Some of the best scenes involving the score were the ones where there is a use of fire, including the one where Daniel's well catches fire and the one where H.W. sets fire to the house. The score used for those scenes was quite chilling to be honest and almost add "fuel to the fire". Speaking of which, the fire is essentially a representation of the film's themes: Power, Authority, and Destruction. The scene with Daniel's well catching fire shows how Daniel destructs whatever he touches. But the scene where H.W. sets his house on fire, in my opinion, shows how he has a bit of power or "fire" in him, indicating that he may be more like Daniel than Daniel himself believes. *Film gets bonus points for being engaging despite 2 and a half hour running time.

   Overall, There Will Be Blood is an engaging opus into the nature of greed, destruction, and power. It features a powerhouse performance by DDL as well as flawless direction/writing by Paul Thomas Anderson. This one I would highly recommend since it has become a modern day classic that has already become quotable thanks to its "I drink your milkshake" line. This film is one tasty milkshake that you could just gulp with a straw.

Grade: A+

Retro Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

                                                This 'Ring' Fits The Finger Just Right
              Up until I finally saw this film in its entirety, the only fantasy fare that I have become acquainted with was Harry Potter. Even though that series was a part of my childhood, I feel that now that I have grown into adulthood, even though I still cherish Harry Potter, I have now found a new wondrous fantasy series to latch on to. That one is the subject of this review: The Lord of the Rings.

        The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring follows the tale of a hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) who finds himself caught up in a quest involving a very powerful ring once it ends up in his hands. Along with the help of his fellowship; which includes the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), his fellow hobbit comrades, a ranger named Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), an archer named Legolas (Orlando Bloom), a dwarf named Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), and Boromir (Sean Bean), he must go on this treacherous quest to destroy the One Ring to rule them all.
      One thing that I really liked about the film was the scenery. I loved how they filmed it on actual landscapes and not on a sound stage or anything like that. To me, it makes the film seem grounded in reality even though it is a fantasy fable. I also loved the designs of the different creatures, like the Orcs. They used actual makeup effects and I loved that because as I have said before, I prefer practical effects over CGI. CG is alright with me as long as it has to be used and they seem to have used it at the right moments, including the scene where the Fellowship fights the big Troll.

     Another thing I really liked was the direction by Peter Jackson. I thought it was very cool how he was able to take the actors playing the hobbits look like actual hobbits. For that, he just used camera tricks and I might have to watch a little "Making Of" video just to see how he was able to pull it off with hardly any computer effects. But one scene that I thought was very well-directed that he did was the scene where the different characters form a council at Rivendell to decide what to do with the Ring and as some of the characters glance at the Ring, they have different reactions.

    I even thought the acting was very good. Ian McKellen stole the film as Gandalf, the wise mentor to Frodo, and gives Professor Dumbledore a run for his money when it comes to badassery in my opinion. Dumbledore is cool, but Gandalf happens to have that "You shall not pass!" scene. One of my favorite scenes in the film has to be the one where Gandalf locks staffs with Saruman, played by Christopher Lee, and they start having a magical rumble. It was just a treat seeing those two acting titans going at it. Cate Blanchett also has a role as the elven queen Galadriel and even she excels at pulling off her character's quiet strength. The actors playing the hobbits all have great chemistry and bring quite a humorous touch to this somewhat serious film, which brings me to my next point. I feel that the film is not only fantasy, but adds elements to other genres. It has got a bit of humor, has a few chilling moments thanks to Lee's performance as the villainous Saruman as well as the Orcs, quite a bit of action, and is just an adventure that takes you on its epic ride thanks to its colorful characters.


  Overall, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is an epic multi-layered adventure that is a feast for the eyes of the imagination. It has got action, humor, drama, horror, and of course adventure. If you love fantasy, put this at number 1 or 2 on your watch list because these films are like poster children for the fantasy genre. However, if you don't like fantasy, or can't stand it, it'll probably make you want to do what my dad did when he saw it and go shopping for groceries. In other words, steer clear. But if have no opinion on fantasy fare, I would say give this one a watch. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.

Grade: A


Retro Review: Crash (2005)

                                                  'Crash' Is Caught Up In Its Own Smoke

       We have obviously seen films that deal with racial intolerance over the years (i.e., 12 Years A Slave, Do The Right Thing, The Help, etc.). But up until now, I don't think I have ever seen a film deal with race in such a patronizing and preachy manner. Crash is sadly just that.
     Crash follows the lives of different people in LA of different ethnicities as they crash into each other and become involved in a web of racial intolerance.

     If there is one thing I did like, it was the acting. Despite the dialogue and story being too ham-fisted, the actors really do a great job at trying to lift it and make it work. One actress that really stood out, in my opinion, was Ms. Sandra Bullock, who plays a woman that comes off as racist after being carjacked, but only is that way out of fear and anger. Despite having about 3 scenes, Bullock really makes the most of it and she shows us a rather different side of her that we haven't really seen from her. All the other actors do a fine job, but it's Sandy who steals the show.

    First and foremost, I severely disliked the inane dialogue. The dialogue is just way too patronizing and "on the nose". Not to mention, it makes the film come off as preachy, which it is. For example, there is a scene where Ludacris and his friend complain about how the white people at a coffee shop they went to were worried that they might be thugs. Scenes like that would've worked much better if we actually saw what happened and not have the characters explain everything. Plus, I found the film to be quite emotionally manipulative as well. For example, the film tries to make us feel sorry for a bigot cop, played by Matt Dillon, just because his father is sick. My biggest problem with the film just lies in the script. It is filled with preachy dialogue and has cheap machinations. Even when some of the characters start to learn the error of their ways, it is way too forced. Since the script is so flawed, in my opinion, it is what really brings the film down.

   Overall, Crash is a preachy and patronizing take on racial intolerance that, outside of its amazing actors, is really brought down by the cheap mechanics of its overindulgent and flawed script. I guess I would say give it a watch because it won the Oscar for Best Picture (even though I'm obviously one of those that think it shouldn't have), or just to formulate your own opinion. But, I wouldn't put this high on your watch list.

Grade: D



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: Boyhood (2014)

                              'Boyhood': An Odyssey Into Simply What It Is Like To Grow Up
       This magnificent film made history by having the longest film shoot ever of 12 years. After finally seeing it, I feel more than fortunate that I seized the opportunity to catch the film that accomplished this feat. Much like how we see performances that are so invisible that you can't see the acting, I feel this film is practically so invisible it doesn't even feel like you are watching a film but a simple odyssey into a child's life.

     Boyhood follows the story of a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and follows him as he grows up until he is 18. Over the course of the film, we see him struggle with divorce, adolescence, and whatever comes with simply growing up.

    I'll start off with the acting. After the film was over, I said to myself "Where did this guy come from?" when marveling over Ellar Coltrane's performance. Despite having a starring role, Coltrane just plays his role with absolute ease as he grows up. It doesn't even feel like he is acting. It feels as if he just "does" and he unassumingly takes the audience on his journey. Hopefully, we see more of him on the horizon. A few other actors also really stood out. Patricia Arquette, who plays Mason's mother Olivia, was phenomenal. There were even scenes where she gave me flashes of my own mother and her struggles. Much like how we see Mason grow, we see her grow as well, but emotionally. Another standout was Ethan Hawke as Mason's father. He really brings it home as the struggling father trying to make things work for his children and you really feel for his character. Very soulful performance that when thinking about it, really strikes a chord with you.

    One thing that I thought was interesting was the film's use of different songs played in the film to give an idea of what year the film is into as it progresses. For example, the beginning has Mason's younger sister Sam, played by Lorelai Linklater, singing "Oops, I Did It Again", indicating the film started shooting in the early 00's. Plus, there is one scene where Sam shows her stepmother the music video of Lady Gaga's song "Telephone" on her iPhone, telling us the film is going into the late 00's. I liked that aspect because then the audience isn't left wondering what age Mason is or when the film is taking place as it progresses. I also really liked the direction by Richard Linklater. There was one technique I noticed where once Mason notices his mother talking to a different man, the camera just focuses on his eyes and his reaction, then cuts to Mason living with his family and this new man in his mother's life. He even uses the long tracking shot trick and I thought that was also very nice. Linklater directs this film very naturalistically and I really applaud him for that. I also have to applaud the editor. Even though the film is almost 3 hours long, the way the editor, Sandra Adair, puts the film together allows the main character's transition from kid to teenage run smoothly while still being able to cut to the different points in Mason's life without it being cut too hastily.

    Lastly, I'll get into the story, which can be described in one word: Flawless. I think what makes the story so grand and so void of flaws is that there is hardly a story. The film just consists of us watching a child grow up and there is hardly a story needed. The story is pretty self-explanatory. *Film gets bonus points for the song "Hero" by Flavor Of The Year that plays in the film's trailer.


  Overall, Boyhood is an odyssey that really reaches out for the heart and soul from the minute the film starts to the minute it was over. Its writing is flawless, the direction is beautiful, and the actors are just phenomenal and so invisible, you can't even see the acting. This one I highly recommend you see. I would recommend this one to everybody. It's not too light-hearted, too patronizing, or too dark and depressing. It just simply "is".

Grade: A++

Monday, August 11, 2014

RIP Robin Williams (1951-2014)

So, it was announced today that comedian Robin Williams suddenly passed away and it was not only a shock, but quite a tragic loss. Just like with Philip Seymour Hoffman, I will, as a fan of his work, offer up my own little eulogy to Robin Williams.

Now as I mentioned in my list of the Top 10 Actors To Successfully Transitioned To Film From TV, Robin Williams has had quite an iconic career in film. Some of the famous films he has done include Aladdin, Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and his Oscar-winning turn in Good Will Hunting. I thought his work in Mrs. Doubtfire was quite a treat as well as his work in Jumanji. But his performance in Good Will Hunting is something to behold as it is a true showcase of his dramatic talents. Plus, I thought he stole the show in his supporting role as a Russian doctor in Nine Months. I even remember seeing what I thought was one the first films I ever saw in theaters that starred him in it: Flubber. Luckily, I was able to catch The Butler, one of his last movies to come out in theaters. Robots is another one of his I saw in theaters. Flubber and Robots were family treats while in The Butler, he had a small role but really left an impression. To me, Williams was one of those actors who would always leave an impression whether he is in a lead or supporting or even a voice or cameo role. Plus, he was successfully able to balance both comedy and drama.

So, that was my little eulogy on Robin Williams and his eclectic career and acting skills. He was in some of my favorite films and I'm sure he was in some of your favorite films. Plus, he might be in your future children's favorite films. He is an icon that has lived on through the big and small screen, as well as his comedic, dramatic, and voice work. Mr. Robin Williams, thank you for all the laughs you have given us over the years. You will be missed!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dream Cast: Network (1976)

Hello, Bloggers, it has been ages since I last did a Dream Cast, so I figured that after a while, I would finally do a second one. Now, the classic film Network has become so essential, that the thought of it being remade might just be crazy. But I figured, just for fun, I would come up with my own dream cast in case they were to be crazy enough to remake it. Let's take a look:

Rebecca Hall as Diana Christensen: First I'll get into the juicy lead role of Diana Christensen, originated by Faye Dunaway. My cast pick for Diana would be Rebecca Hall, who you may know from The Town and Iron Man 3. When I was thinking of who could play the role of Diana, I thought of Hall's brilliant, multi-layered performance in Transcendence. I thought that if she were to play this role, she would inhale it and pull off Diana's cunningness without completely replicating Dunaway's portrayal.

Alternate Choices: Amy Adams, Jessica Chastain, and Reese Witherspoon

Liam Neeson as Max Schumacher: Now, Max was quite a difficult role to cast. But because William Holden , who originated the role, was in his 60's when the film was made, I searched for famous actors in their 60's and I thought of Liam Neeson. A role like this would really give Neeson a chance to shine in fare other than action films he has become known for and remind us that he is a capable dramatic actor as well. Plus, I imagined him doing the scene where Max confesses his infidelity to his wife and just nailing it.

Alternate Choices: Tom Hanks

Mark Ruffalo as Howard Beale: Next is the juicy role of Howard Beale, originated by Peter Finch. Like Max, Howard was another difficult role to cast, especially since Finch's portrayal has become so iconic. But if there is anybody that I feel could fill his shoes, it is Mark Ruffalo. He may be known for playing everyman-type characters, but in some of his more recent roles like in The Avengers and The Normal Heart, he has shown quite a bit of angry fire and the role of Howard is just flaming hot.

Peter Sarsgaard as Frank Hackett: Now onto a more low-key role: Frank Hackett, originally played by Robert Duvall. The role of Frank Hackett is quite villainous, so I figured I'd go with an actor that can play quite a good villain in a rather subtle way, so I went with Peter Sarsgaard. Not only do I think Sarsgaard would be quite good in this role, but a role like this would finally give an actor like him his due.

John Goodman as Arthur Jensen: Next is the much shorter role of Arthur Jensen, originated by Ned Beatty. Now, Arthur Jensen is a character that only has one scene, so I figured that I would pick an actor that has become Hollywood's go-to guy for 5-minute roles: John Goodman. Seriously, Goodman takes 5-minute role after 5-minute role and nails it every single time. If he were to play Arthur, it would be no different.

Laura Linney as Louise Schumacher: Now onto the only other 5-minute role on this list and in the film, the suffering wife Louise Schumacher. The role was originated by Beatrice Straight, who won the Oscar for her portrayal. But whether the role were to be just as short or longer, one actress I could imagine nailing it is Laura Linney. The only films I have seen with her thus far have been supporting roles but she is absolutely splendid in those. Plus, like Rebecca Hall as Diana, I could see Linney doing the role justice without replicating Straight's short but sweet portrayal.

Alternate Choices: Cate Blanchett

Lupita Nyong'o as Laureen Hobbs: The final role on this list is African-American underground activist Laureen Hobbs, originally played by Marlene Whitfield. For this role, my casting choice is Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o. The character itself is somebody who is very fierce and strong-willed and an actress like Nyong'o could easily benefit from a role like this one. One reason is it would demonstrate her range as an actress and another is that decent roles for actresses of color are hard to come by and Nyong'o could easily benefit from a role like this, especially after winning an Oscar.

So, those were my casting choices for the film Network if they were to remake it today. If you agree or disagree with my choices or would like to offer your own casting picks, please feel free to write in the comments section. Thanks for reading!