Monday, June 29, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Why Younger Actors Are Hit With The Supposed Oscar Curse

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I will be dissecting the supposed Oscar curse and whether it exists by going into why actors that win very early on are hit with it. Here we go:

Now, the idea for this topic came from when I was reading an article on about the Penny Lane Effect, which goes into the difference between being a great actor and giving a great performance. Of course, the basis for that article is Kate Hudson, who gave the performance of her career as Penny Lane in Almost Famous. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, yet was upset by Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock. Hudson's filmography post-Almost Famous hasn't really capitalized on her early promise, leaving a lot of us wondering whether she is a good performer who got lucky with a great performance or a great actress in desperate need of a career intervention.

So those that won very early on in their careers that struggled post-win, like Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cuba Gooding, Jr., seemed unable to capitalize on their early promise either because they either were good actors lucky enough to land the roles that got them the gold or are great actors who haven't picked their scripts wisely. But I wouldn't say they are cursed for having won in the first place because I think when you win, a lot of momentum is based more on what projects you do next and/or whether the performances you give surpass or match the one you won for. In Hollywood, you're only as good as your last movie, critically and/or financially, and a few false moves can put you back to where you started.

This has me fearing for Eddie Redmayne, who won Best Actor at the young age of 33. He was given the role of a lifetime with Stephen Hawking, but around Oscar season, he received negative reviews for his work in Jupiter Ascending. Not only that, but some of his work pre-Theory of Everything, like My Week With Marilyn and Les Miserables, while not terrible, doesn't really measure up to his work as Stephen Hawking. So that leaves me wondering whether he is a good performer who was fortunate enough to give a great performance in the role of a lifetime or if he truly is a great actor and his earlier work hasn't built up on his talent. So I think The Danish Girl might be the apex, proving whether he can truly build upon his hype because if his work in that film matches or even surpasses his performance in The Theory of Everything, and if the upcoming Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a financial success, then he will likely blossom in the industry. If not, then he'll likely be back to where he started before his first win.

So I don't think that there is an Oscar curse that hits certain actors simply for winning. It has more to do with the actor trying to build up on their early promise, proving whether they are a great actor or gave a great performance of a lifetime way too soon. Whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts, please be sure to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Review: Ted 2 (2015)

       'Ted 2': The Thunder Buddies Strike Thunder Rather Than Lightning

          With some of the more serviceable sequels released this year, now I'm really crossing my fingers that, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out, it doesn't fall under that category.

           Ted 2 continues the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and his teddy bear named Ted (Seth MacFarlane). Ted and his wife Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) want to have a child, but because Ted isn't a person and is considered property, he must fight for his human rights.

          The chemistry between Wahlberg and MacFarlane is still there. The two of them still work very well off each other and they also have great chemistry with Amanda Seyfried, who plays Ted's pot-smoking lawyer Sam L. Jackson. Some of the other returning players, like Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Barth, and Patrick Warburton, shine as well.

          I even liked some of the celebrity cameos. One in particular that I loved was Liam Neeson as a grocery store customer buying a box of Trix.

          Thankfully, one of my biggest worries going into the film, of whether or not they would use the same jokes as the first one, were thrown out the window. While the jokes used in this one were repeated sometimes, it wasn't bothersome.

          Now, the whole idea of Ted trying to convince people he is a human being wasn't very realistic. I know that the movie isn't meant to have any deep storytelling, by any stretch. But the movie is still about a talking teddy bear trying to convince people he is a person even though it is pretty clear that he is an anthropomorphic object.

          I actually thought the first film was deeper than this one because of how it deals with Jon trying to let go from a friend he's lived with his whole life. While the first had the same raunchy and colorful humor, it still had plenty of heart underneath it all.

          Overall, Ted 2 has the laughs, but doesn't quite capture the heart of the first. The chemistry between Wahlberg and MacFarlane is still there, but the film still feels like a 2 hour episode of Family Guy. But thankfully, that is what I expected going in.

          Would I Recommend It?:
         If you like Seth MacFarlane and his brand of humor, then yes. I would suggest seeing the first film before in case you get lost. Just don't expect anything deep or of awards caliber snd you won't be disappointed.

Grade: B-

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Oscars 2016: Worthy Contenders Half Way Through The Year

Hello, Bloggers, since we are nearing the end of the first half of 2015, I figured I'd share my thoughts on films that came out in the first half of the year that I feel are worthy of awards consideration and reveal which categories they should be considered in. Here we go:

Clouds of Sils Maria: While the film overall is a slow burn, it's greatest strength lies in the chemistry of both Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart that is comical, tragic, and at times sensual. Binoche gets to showcase her more darkly comedic side while Kristen Stewart is slowly leaving Twilight behind her with her career-best work in this. Both are worthy in Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

Kingsman: The Secret Service: One of the best surprises to come out this year, this action-packed film is, while entertaining, also a heartfelt story about a young man trying to better himself. Taron Egerton gives a terrific star-is-born performance while he also has a great cast surrounding him including a newly found action hero in Colin Firth and a scene-stealing Samuel L. Jackson. The last two actors are worthy of Best Supporting Actor while I wouldn't be against the idea of Egerton in the Best Actor category. Realistically, I could see it landing a tech nod, like Sound Editing/Mixing.

Ex Machina: As I mentioned in my review, this is an intellectual sci-fi masterpiece that serves as an answer to the rather dismal and disappointing Avengers: Age of Ultron. While that film is likely to get Visual Effects, Ex Machina is worthy of recognition across the board. Not only do I think it deserves a spot for Best Picture, but also Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Score, Best Supporting Actor for Oscar Isaac, and most importantly, Best Supporting Actress for Alicia Vikander. Her being nominated for this performance would be the cherry on top of a banner year for her.

Spy: Since the Academy will occasionally shine a light on a full-on comedy like Bridesmaids, also directed by Paul Feig and also starring Melissa McCarthy, it doesn't seem far fetched to think this one can be a legitimate contender. Obviously, I think the Spy herself, Melissa McCarthy, should get a push for Best Actress for her best work to date. Also, there is Best Original Screenplay for Paul Feig and Best Supporting Actress for both Rose Byrne and Miranda Hart.

Mad Max: Fury Road: While it has a near-perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has audience support, its biggest Achilles heel working against its favor of getting major recognition is that it's a genre film. But Charlize Theron's turn as Furiosa has drawn comparisons to Sigourney Weaver's work as Ripley which did garner her a nomination for Best Actress for Aliens back in 1986. So, there is hope. There should also be talk for the traditional tech categories, but here is hoping it gets buzz in other areas, so to speak (i.e., Best Picture, Director, Actress, Editing, etc.).

Dope: After all the bad press the Academy received for its lack of diversity, here comes an opportunity to recognize a different type of film dealing with the black experience. While most black films that get recognition are ones that deal with racial tension between blacks and whites, here comes a coming-of-age story set in the ghetto with a Scorsese feel. While some minor race issues are addressed, it is mostly about three inner city kids trying to escape their surroundings. Like other films on this list, I think it is worthy of recognition across the board: Best Picture, Best Director for Rick Famuyiwa, Best Actor for Shameik Moore, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Zoe Kravitz, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and even Best Song for "Don't Bring Me Down."

Inside Out: Lastly is my current pick for Best Film of the year. Obviously, this is going to be in the conversation for Best Animated Feature and thanks to the expanded Best Picture field, it could also sneak in for Best Picture. Thanks to its box office success and critical acclaim, getting into the latter category is plausible. I would also include it for Best Original Screenplay, Best Score, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Director for Pete Docter, and even Best Actress for Amy Poehler. Sure, it is a voice performance, but like Scarlett Johansson in Her, Poehler creates a three-dimensional characterization with mainly the use of her voice which is pretty difficult to pull off.

So those are my thoughts on which films that came out so far this year I think are worthy of awards consideration. If you have seen any of these films, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Sticking to 5 to 10 Best Picture Noms: Blessing or Curse?

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. After some speculation as to whether the Oscars would go back to 5 Best Picture nominees, it was just announced that they were sticking with 5 to 10 nominees like they have the past few years. Here are my thoughts:

Now, I'll start off with the positives. The good news is that it could leave room for a true independent film that is on the outside looking in. While a lot of smaller scale films usually make up the Best Picture category, they are studio films that do the limited release strategy to create some buzz. They are what I call "semi-indies." They get released in a few theaters at first, then slowly work their way up. Anyways, the expended field could leave room for a Beasts of the Southern Wild or Whiplash-type indie to sneak in.

Now onto the negatives. By having a varied amount of nominees, it could mean that the popular films that voters seem so hesitant about nominating for Best Picture will be weeded out and the ratings problem will still continue since a lot of the public don't see these "semi-indies" that are campaigned for consideration. I do feel there should usually be at least one blockbuster, or at least a film that a huge portion of the public saw, in the Best Picture category so that the masses that have no interest in these Oscar bait movies that always come out can have something to be excited about. I mean, Guardians of the Galaxy was only nominated for Visual Effects and Makeup, yet it still made more money than all 8 of the Best Picture nominees. Go figure.

Because of this fluctuation, I think they should stick to 10. That way, we might actually see something for everyone. An actual indie, and not the "semi-indie" I just referred to, would have a fighting chance. That popular blockbuster which would get the masses excited and add some diversification to the lineup could be on the outside looking in. Usually, it is dramatic "men in crisis" films that have the best luck with the Academy rather than action, comedy, sci-fi, and even horror. Even if any film under the genres I just mentioned wouldn't have a shot at winning, it would still make the lineup less vanilla and less traditional. It would be one way to solve the diversity problem because while they do have a diversity issue regarding race and gender, they also have a diversity issue with genres that needs serious fixing.

So those are my thoughts on the Best Picture lineup staying as it is. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Indie Review: Dope (2015)

                                           'Dope' Is Dope
     Dope follows the story of a high school student named Malcolm (Shameik Moore) who tries to distance himself from the rough neighborhood he lives in by applying to college and getting straight A's as well as becoming accustomed to 90's hip-hop culture. But after he and his friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jip (Tony Revolori), get invited to a drug dealer's party, they become embroiled in a drug smuggle that shapes their views of their surroundings.

    I'll start off with the brilliant editing. I thought it was so unique how the editor, Lee Haugen, incorporated different editing techniques into the film ranging from sudden pauses to split screen to even having the actors break the fourth wall. It all had a Scorsese vibe, but without replicating him. One of my favorite edited sequences is the opening where as the main characters are introduced, the film would cut to a glimpse of their backstory like when we cut to Diggy being surrounded by her family who is trying to "pray the gay away from her" right after Diggy is first introduced.

    Next, I'll get into the performances from the cast. Shameik Moore delivers a performance that I hope will get people to take note. He was amazing as a driven young teen who is slightly arrogant yet desperately trying to find his way out of the ghetto. Moore gives his character quite a grey area as he doesn't paint Malcolm as a martyr nor a saint. His Malcolm felt like a real person. Moore also has an astounding cast surrounding him. Tony Revolori pulls off a complete 180 from his demure Lobby Boy in The Grand Budapest Hotel as Malcolm's more outgoing pal Jip. Kiersey Clemons is a very spunky presence as the lesbian Diggy whose sexuality only adds to Clemons' complex characterization of her as Clemons acknowledges the fact that Diggy is gay, but doesn't play it up as a gimmick for laughs. Zoe Kravitz provides a harmonious level of authenticity to the film as Malcolm's love interest Nakia and delivers some of the best work of her career. Another standout I'd love to acknowledge is Chanel Iman who plays the sexed up sister of a drug dealer named Lilly and not only nails the sensuality of the character but also the comical tragedy that eventually takes place within her short screen time.

    Much like the character of Malcolm himself, the film overall is a grey area and I loved that. It shows how the characters get caught up in the drug dealing scene they've always tried to avoid, but so they can get further away from that scene and their rough neighborhood. As the film progresses, it'll have you wondering whether we truly can escape their roots if we ever physically leave them behind. So while there are some colorful characters, as well as slight humor, to be found, there is still quite a powerful and underlying tragedy to be found as well. It even gets across a point on social media and, without giving too much away, shows how one person's clumsy mistake can turn into a meme played for laughs.


    Overall, Dope is a unique coming-of-age story that is like John Hughes meets Goodfellas in the ghetto. It has slick editing, outstanding performances from the young cast, and has a delicate balance of comedy, tragedy, romance, and social commentary. Dope is simply, dope.

    Would I Recommend It?:
    Absolutely. Whether you are white or black, go and see this. You'll enjoy it yet still find yourself asking questions towards the end.

Grade: A+

Monday, June 22, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Why The Struggle?

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I will discuss a slight issue regarding the Oscars that I have thought about for quite some time. Here we go:

Now, I have thought about how the Oscars have recognized films that center on black, female, and gay protagonists. But usually the only time films with those protagonists get that type of recognition is when they deal with the black, female, or gay struggle. So I asked myself, "Why the struggle?" Why is it whenever a black film is in the conversation, it has to only portray the main characters dealing with slavery or fighting for civil rights? While slavery is something nobody should ever have to endure, there are still films about the black experience that don't deal with that sort of thing. The same thing with the women. Whenever there is a female driven film in the conversation, the female is often battling their husband's illness, overcoming their own illnesses, or is a struggling mother. Lastly, when a gay film is recognized, the gay protagonist is often fighting for gay rights or battling AIDS. Now, I am not saying that these stories about slavery, women's rights, or AIDS shouldn't ever be told. What I am trying to get at is that when a black, female, or gay film is recognized, look beyond the struggle. That's why the Best Actress category last year was SUCH a missed opportunity because there were such rich and complex female roles (i.e. Essie Davis in The Babadook, Jenny Slate in Obvious Child, Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, etc.) that slipped through the cracks because they hardly deal with the female struggle and that's a shame.

Still, I ask myself why a black, female, or gay film that gets awards recognition has to be about their struggle? Is it because, since the Academy is mostly made up of white and presumably straight males, they are trying to feel better about themselves? Is this the result of studios pushing for these struggle films, hoping that voters will take pity? Are the studios running the campaigns not paying any mind to their own films about the black, female, or gay experience rather than the struggle?

What do you guys think? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section if you have an answer and if you agree or disagree with my thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: Inside Out (2015)

                         'Inside Out' Gives Me Positive Feelings
          Interestingly, Pixar had to tell a story about the insides of a girl's head to get outside of their own head after the minor hiccup they had with Brave.
       Inside Out follows the story of the emotions that control the inside of a girl's brain: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader). After the girl, Riley, and her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco, the emotions struggle to help her adjust to her new life.

      I'll start off with the voice performances. First off, Amy Poehler as Joy: Perfect. Casting. She nailed this role and even handles the character's arc very well as Joy always tries to keep Riley happy, but realizes she can't always be that way. Lewis Black was fantastic as Anger and I thought stole the scenery everytime he appeared. Phyllis Smith also excelled as Sadness, a character that appears negative and one-dimensional, but in reality, is someone with good intentions and is more valuable to her fellow emotions than they realize. While Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling weren't given a whole lot to do, they still breathed plenty of life into their characters.

     For a kid's film, this one had some pretty sophisticated storytelling about the difficulties of growing up and adjusting to a new place. Not only that, but the filmmakers manage to weave in those humanistic themes with the world building that occurs within Riley's brain. I also loved how they revealed how Sadness is valuable to the emotions. I won't give it away, though.

     Even though this kind of thing is expected from Pixar, the animations and visuals were absolutely stunning. I loved the look of the different emotions as well as the colorful universe they live in. We even get a small glimpse inside the heads of some of the other characters like the parents. I thought that was very nice. There were even some scenes that I thought were masterfully shot like one where Joy is watching an old memory of Riley's and she is dancing to it.


    Overall, Inside Out is colorful feast for the eyes of the imagionation mixed with zany humor and poignant storytelling about the struggles of growing up. Its voice casting is also pitch perfect and the film as a whole should hopefully be a contender for not just Best Animated Feature, but Best Picture.

     Would I Recommend It?:
    Absolutely. Even though this has sophisticated storytelling for adults, it still is something that kids can still enjoy.

Grade: A+

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Are We The Problem With The Academy Awarding Sentiment?

Hello, Bloggers,! Just as I thought I would try to take a small break from doing Oscar posts, here I am with another one for you folks. For this post, I will discuss something that recently occurred to me. Now, a lot of films that appear on people's Worst Best Picture lists are often sentimental pieces and I had a thought as to whether or not we are part of the problem.

To demonstrate my point, I will bring up Boyhood's Best Picture loss. When it lost to Birdman, plenty of websites have already called it a mistake. A writer for even called Boyhood's loss the Academy's worst mistake in 20 years. But, I think the outrage from the critics stems from sentiment over Richard Linklater and co. filming Boyhood for 12 years. Now that I think about it, if Boyhood did actually win, I would've been completely on the fence about it because its win would have more to do with people, especially the critics, saying "They made this movie for 12 years! Honor it for that reason!".

Another great example of us maybe forcing the Academy into rewarding sentiment is when 12 Years A Slave won Best Picture. As Ellen DeGeneres herself put it in her opening monologue at the Oscars, "There are two possibilities: Possibility number 1: 12 Years A Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number 2: You're all racists!" It pretty much summed up the mindset the people behind the film's campaign and those that follow the Oscars had. However, while it won the big prize, Gravity was the big winner because it won 7 Oscars out of 10 nominations. It seemed like they were eager to give it Best Picture. But because 12 Years won the important precursors and was the more topical film, critics and Oscar bloggers probably had their "The Academy is racist!" articles ready if the Academy went in a different direction. Now, I'm sure fanboys think the Academy still hates sci-fi.

Also, that whole "Vote for this movie or you're racist" mentality was present with the movie Selma. After that film got snubbed, people were quick to label the Academy racist even if there were likely other factors into its snubs. As I mentioned in a previous topic of the day, maybe they just didn't like it. You know, just because it is about racism and MLK doesn't automatically mean it's amazing and that people just HAVE to shower it with praise. I may be sounding harsh, but I'm just being honest. In fact, Selma's nomination for Best Picture was mostly them saying "Here, we're not racist. Don't hurt us!". I would've rather seen them give its spot to another film. It clearly was never going to win.

So to any critic or Oscar blogger that may potentially read this, ask yourselves: Should the studios be pushing for these sentimental important films that cause people to have the mentality of "vote for this film or you're prejudice towards blacks, gays, etc."? Or should they continue making these important films but without people preparing their "Academy is prejudice" articles in case they go in a different direction?

Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Topic Of The Day: What Happened To The Blockbuster?

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, since we are in the midst of the blockbuster season, I figured I'd discuss my thoughts on the directions that I feel the blockbuster genre has headed in.

After being severely disappointed by Avengers: Age of Ultron and feeling that Jurassic World was adequate yet entertaining, because those films are making insane profits, it has me wondering about the future of blockbusters and whether people want to catch up with their favorite franchises or just be amazed by special effects thrown in their faces.

But the reason a lot of the older blockbusters have worked so well is because of their simplicity. Not only did they have more limited budgets, but their smaller scope allowed the filmmakers to focus on the film's themes, character development, etc. Take, for example, Star Wars. Sure, people love seeing the astounding action sequences. But another thing that, to me, really has people watching it again is the characters: Han Solo, the cocky loose cannon pilot with a heart of gold; Leia, the princess who is able to fight her own battles; Luke, the young kid who slowly grows into becoming a strong-willed Jedi; the witty robots C-3PO and R2-D2, and the wise Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi. Also, the famous score by John Williams still has people humming it, I'm sure. What I'm getting at is that what makes Star Wars work so well is that there is always something that people remember about it that they take with them after they see it and has them coming back for more, whether it'd be the characters, the fun action scenes, the cool-looking aliens, or the score.

Another great example of a more simplistic blockbuster is E.T.. It had a pretty simple story about a boy who befriends an alien. Yet its tale about the bond of friendship still resonates with audiences. It carries an emotional soul that I feel is lacking in certain blockbusters today because of not just its story about friendship, but because of how people can relate to the main character who is a bit of a outsider and comes from a family of divorce. Not only that, but Elliot's bond with E.T. can be left up to metaphorical interpretation, having people wonder whether E.T. is an allegory to Elliot's father because of the physical connection they begin to share.

A lot of blockbusters these days that focus on bigger budgets tend to let their amazing effects get in the way of their storytelling. One reason is that the script tends to be too jumbled with scattered storylines and characters used as time filler (i.e., The Amazing Spider-Man 2). But as long as the films have their superheroes in the title, the studios don't care. They just go, "the movie has Spider-Man in the title, so people will go see it. Let's have some cool action sequences and a little bit of plot thrown in. Bam, we have a huge hit." All they want is a huge profit. While Jack Black's musical number at this year's Oscars may have come off as anti-superhero, there is some truth to it. A good chunk of these superhero films that rack up the dough do have formulaic scripts.

There are a few recent superhero films have been done right, though. Take, for example, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was a superhero film that also worked as a masterful political thriller. You also have Bryan Singer's X-Men films which have sizable budgets, yet Singer still brings great care to the storytelling and the comic's themes involving prejudice. Lastly, there is Guardians of the Galaxy, which brought the fun back to the superhero genre in the midst of the serious superhero films released since Christopher Nolan's masterfully executed Batman trilogy, and was a throwback to films like Star Wars in terms of its characters being the film's centerpiece. I would say both GotG and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are Marvel's brightest spots at this point.

So those are my thoughts on why I think blockbusters have hit a decrease in terms of their quality. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Retro Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

                            'Jurassic Park' Is Pure Dino-Mite! 
           Well, it seems that just like how the T-Rex is King of the Dinosaurs, Steven Spielberg is the King of the Blockbuster.

   Jurassic Park follows two scientists named Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) who are invited to a special theme park created by billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) where genetically engineered dinosaurs are created. However, things slowly begin to go awry as the group slowly experiences the errors of toying with science.

    I'll start off by discussing the effects. They are done with such precision that you can tell which scenes have CGI and which have practical without it seeming too obvious, meaning that the computer-generated effects don't look half finished or anything like that. But whenever the animatronic dinosaurs were used and would close in on the different actors, it creates an uneasy feeling on the viewer since it feels like a real dinosaur is hunting these characters. That actually brings me to my next point.

     I loved how the main characters were written and how they were given development so that we actually care about who lives and who dies. You have Dr. Grant, who is cynical about children but slowly shows kindness to the child characters in the film. There is also Ellie, the scientist who is serious about her job yet still very down-to-earth; Ian Malcolm, the hot shot, John Hammond, the optimistic yet slowly doomed billionaire; Dennis Nedry, the computer operator who serves as a spy for a rival company yet gets in way over his head as he is anxious about his task; the rather mature grandchildren of Hammond named Lex and Tim, and Ray Arnold, the straight-laced chain smoking engineer. All fully-realized characters that have us glued into the film watching experience.

      I also want to point out the use of sound effects. While the dinosaurs attacking the human characters was pretty horrifying, for me, some of the scariest scenes were the ones where we hear thumping. When we see a glass of water shaking or gelatin moving on a spoon, it is an indication of the dinosaurs approaching and that helps build tension for the attack scenes.


      Overall, Jurassic Park is a definitive blockbuster that delivers meaningful sci-fi as well as tension-filled horror mixed with fleshed out characterizations to give the film a lighter touch as well. Its mix of different genres and moods truly helps it define what true cinema is and why we go to the movies in the first place.

Grade: A+

Friday, June 12, 2015

Review: Jurassic World (2015)

           'Jurassic World' Has Dino-Mite Action But Extinct Cohesive Storytelling

       Even though I didn't have sky high expectations, one of the few worries I had were still thrown out the window after seeing this: If you're a minority character in a sci-fi film, you're not automatically screwed in terms of surviving the film.

    Jurassic World follows the story of a futuristic theme park filled with genetically engineered dinosaurs. But when a new species of dinosaur called the Indominus Rex is set loose, it is up to a Raptor trainer named Owen (Chris Pratt) to take it down.

     I'll start off with Chris Pratt. Simply put, this guy is a star. As the main lead of the film, he has such presence as he is humorous and endearing yet always ready to take charge. This is almost a complete 180 from his work as Star-Lord as while in that role, he is more of a loose cannon, in this, he plays a straight man who still doesn't take himself too seriously. Jake Johnson is also in this as a control room employee and he steals every scene he is in. Even though Bryce Dallas Howard's scientist/potential love interest character was a little cliche, she still didn't play the role too straight-laced.

       Of course, the dinosaurs looked cool and the action sequences were a fun treat as expected for a film like this.

       First off, I did think it took a short while for things to pick up as the film started before Chris Pratt is finally introduced. Also, some of the main characters were used as time filler and some of their subplots didn't seem to go anywhere. Vincent D'Onofrio is also in this as the (*SPOILER ALERT*) main villain and how he was introduced as the villain when his character is introduced is too on the nose.

        I even thought some of the dialogue was a bit too obvious. In particular, regarding the Indominus Rex and how it is so advanced and such (i.e., "The Indominus can camouflage", "it clawed its tracker off", etc.). We are given those lines even when we can figure things out for ourselves.

       Overall, Jurassic World is a perfectly adequate summer blockbuster that yells a medium-noised roar. Half the characters are time filler with some being too cliche and the dialogue is too obvious, but the material is elevated by its leading man and the action does its job.

       Would I Recommend It?:
      Yes, but keep your expectations LOW. If you expect something beyond a simple yet fun action film, you will be sorely let down. You'll end up wishing your green benjamins weren't extinct from your wallet.

Grade: B

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Topic Of The Day: The Kind Of Acceptance Speech I Hate

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. Just as a heads up, this will potentially be my last post about the Oscars for a short while as I go into the kind of acceptance speech I hate when people accept their trophies at the various awards shows, especially the Oscars. Here we go:

Now, whenever someone's name is announced and they go up to the stage to say a few words, what I usually don't like is when the actor acts SO surprised and is all "Oh my god! I didn't expect this!". Even if the actor doesn't actually say those words, they still say words in that context and appear all stunned even if they are still a frontrunner and have their respective award all sealed up. While those that present those speeches seem to be the ones that want the award the most, at the same time, they're still presenting this feigned humility for a golden trophy. It's not like being a senior on the college basketball team and losing the National Championship because that only happens once while the Oscars take place every year. So if you lost on one try, there is always next year.

That is what sort of bugged me about Eddie Redmayne's Oscar win. Not necessarily because he had all the time in the world to win his first Oscar and not just because he worked the campaign circuit like he owed voters child support. In other words, he campaigned HARD and I prefer to see the actor's work speak for itself. But even though he was the frontrunner going into the ceremony, he was still acting all surprised and I'm just like "Really, dude?" I mean, he almost had it in the bag. He still gave a great performance, but it just bugged me that he didn't want people to essentially say otherwise by maybe awarding someone else. An Oscar may be the most prestigious film trophy there is and it's an honor for any filmmaker to win one. But at the end of the day, it's still just a trophy.

This is why I prefer speeches like the ones J.K. Simmons gave. Even if he gave similar speeches and seemed like he knew he was going to win every time, he was still genuine and still seemed grateful. He thanked who he needed to, said a few funny quips, and then walked off the stage. He didn't seem too eager to win because he let the work speak for itself. Even Michael Keaton was the same way.

So those are my thoughts on the kind of acceptance speech that I hate seeing actors give throughout the awards circuit. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Oscars: Tribute To The Fallen: Starred Up (2014)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Tribute To The Fallen where I discuss films that weren't nominated at the Oscars, yet in my opinion should have. Today, I will go into a smaller film that voters probably never heard of. That film is the criminally underrated prison pic Starred Up. 

Now, the film wasn't on the Academy's eligibility list, but it still had some minor traction from the National Board of Review who named it one of the Top 10 Independent Films of the Year. Plus, a lot of breakthrough notices for lead actor Jack O'Connell were awarded for his work in Unbroken and this.

Even if it was eligible and had more steam, I would imagine that it still would slip through the cracks for a few reasons. One is that it is very brooding and violent. Plus, almost every sentence is laced with a cuss word. While they did recognize a film like Foxcatcher, which was also pretty grim, that was more into the Academy's wheelhouse: 2-hour running time, famous comedian playing it straight and laced in makeup, based on a true story, etc. But Starred Up doesn't fall into any of those categories. Quite a shame because this film is ten times better than that one and even surpasses half of the actual Best Picture nominees. Because of that, it made me a little saddened to see a near perfect film like this not appear anywhere while watching the Oscar ceremony. On the surface, this seems like a violent prison film. But in reality, it is a film about the bond between fathers and sons and the will to hopefully start again, putting our rough pasts behind us.

Next, I'll go into the categories in which it deserved attention. First off, there is Best Picture and Best Director for David Mackenzie. Also, Best Original Screenplay by Jonathan Asser, who demonstrates how a harmless group therapy session can suddenly become a verbal dogfight, as well as Best Actor for Jack O'Connell. Plus, there is Best Sound Editing/Mixing, and most importantly, Best Supporting Actor for Ben Mendelsohn. I loved Whiplash and J.K. Simmons' performance, but in my mind, Ben Mendelsohn was the true best supporting actor of the year. As I mentioned in my review, Mendelsohn is very multi-dimensional in this as he walks with intimidating swagger yet behind all that, reveals a concerned father terrified for his son. He rules his prison with an iron fist, yet you will want his shoulder to cry on. In the end, I did get pretty emotional and that is thanks in large part to his work.

So those are my thoughts on why I think Starred Up deserved some Oscar love. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Trailer Talk #28: Bridge of Spies, Macbeth, Suffragette, The Walk, The Martian, Steve Jobs

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Trailer Talk. This is a special Oscar edition as here, we have films that will potentially be in the conversation. Here we go:

Bridge of Spies: First up is the trailer for Bridge of Spies directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. This one I have incredibly mixed feelings about. One reason is that it doesn't seem like my cup of tea. Another is that while I love Steven Spielberg, his last film Lincoln was a real chore to sit through so that has me curious about whether this will fare nay better. He is reuniting with Tom Hanks and they did create magic with Catch Me If You Can and Saving Private Ryan. But can lighting strike thrice? We'll see. I'll probably see it if it gets positive buzz. But if it ends up being this year's Unbroken, it might be a rental.

Macbeth: Next up is the latest adaptation of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Just so you guys know, I am NOT a Shakespeare fan. Reading his work in high school was more painful than having your teeth slowly plucked from your mouth. But I am super excited for this. You might ask why, that is. Three words: Mikey and Marion. These two are some of the best working today and anything they touch becomes a marvel to watch on screen. The film also looks gorgeous and looks like it'll have some cool battle sequences. Only those two actors can get me to Shakespeare.

Suffragette: Next is the film Suffragette starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meryl Streep. It seems like perfect timing to release this after Patricia Arquette's rousing acceptance speech at the Oscars about equal rights for women since this film deals with the women's suffrage movement in Britain. But the trailer has me completely unsure about its prospects. One reason is that it looks a bit too one-sided as it shows the women essentially engaging in warfare because they feel that men are treating them unfairly yet so far, we don't really get the point of view of the men. While it is nice that we see the women's side, we don't see the opposing side to create a gray area. Will I see this in theaters? Probably not if it doesn't fare well. If it does, I'll give it a view. Hopefully, I'm proven wrong by its apparent one-sided direction.

The Walk: Next is the latest biopic The Walk starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit, the man who walked on a tight rope from one of the Twin Towers to the other. Now, this one I am unsure about seeing in theaters. Not because it looks terrible, by any means. But because I have a fear of heights and some of the shots of Petit walking on the tight rope gave me an uneasy feeling. So, I worry that if I saw it on the big screen, I will be tossing and turning in my seat. If it fares well in the awards circuit, I'll be brave and give it a try, but if not, my money will be spent elsewhere.

The Martian: Next is the trailer for The Martian starring Matt Damon. When I first heard about this one, I was unsure about whether I would check it out. The chief reason is director Ridley Scott. He did give us Alien and lately, he achieved with Prometheus. But the less said about The Counselor, the better. So he has had a spotty record as of late. After watching the trailer for this one, however, I might have been sold. One reason is Matt Damon, who looks like he is doing a fantastic job. He also has quite a cast surrounding him including Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, and even Kristen Wiig. It also looks slightly different from other space movies we have seen as of late, like Gravity and Interstellar, so that's another thing that has me pretty hopeful.

Steve Jobs: Lastly is the teaser for Steve Jobs starring Michael Fassbender as the titular character. This is one that I am being hopeful for due to those involved: Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Danny Boyle. Some are worried about its prospects due to the fact that Michael Fassbender looks little like Steve Jobs. But to me, that doesn't matter. As long as he delivers, who cares about his resemblance. They did make him look quite a bit like Jobs, though. The teaser, though, gave me vibes of The Social Network, which might be a good sign because that was quite a success. I will likely see this one in theaters and cross my fingers it does well.

Here are my final ratings:

5-Gotta See It!
4-More Than Likely
3-Eh, You've Peaked My Interest

Bridge of Spies-Rental
Macbeth-Gotta See It!
The Walk-Rental
The Martian-Eh, You've Peaked My Interest
Steve Jobs-More Than Likely

So those are my thoughts on the trailers for these upcoming Oscar players. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section about how they might pan out. Thanks for reading!

FYC: Rose Byrne for Best Supporting Actress in "Spy"

Hello, Bloggers, since awards season is slowly approaching, I figured I'd create my own For Your Consideration posts for films that I feel are worthy of Oscar praise. My first FYC post is for Rose Byrne for her comedic work in Spy.

As I mentioned in my review, while Melissa McCarthy was funny as always, Rose Byrne was a true scene stealer as the main villain Rayna. Byrne nails her rather deadpan delivery as well as the character's spoiled and egotistical yet in over her head nature. The few outbursts she gives are also comedic gold.

Next, I'll get into what could be her Oscar clip if she were considered.

In that scene, where Rayna talks about her mother to Susan, she gets slightly heartfelt at first, but then in a subtle switch, reverts to her normal cattiness, yet still reveals how she isn't necessarily a one-dimensional psychopath. Doesn't mean she is all that wholesome, but she isn't void of emotion.

Rose Byrne is a very underrated actress that has proven she can be dramatic and more recently has shown her comedic prowess in films like Bridesmaids, Neighbors, The Internship, and now this. By giving her an awards push for her work in this, her comedic ability would finally be recognized, especially considering how difficult it is for one to have comedic timing.

So, to any Academy voter, critic, or member of 20th Century Fox Studios that may stumble across this, I strongly hope that you consider giving Byrne's performance, or even her film, an awards push, allowing a more outside of the box contender to be in the conversation. Last year, there was talk about the female acting categories being hard to fill, but that is because people weren't looking hard enough or looking outside the typical dramatic realm.

Whether anyone agrees or disagrees, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. If you agree, feel free to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or even on Google Plus so we can get as much support as possible and each of us won't end up a "sad Bulgarian clown." Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Oscars 2016: June Predictions

Hello, Bloggers, here are my updated predictions for the six major categories. Most of the predictions are the same, with some changes. This time, I also included some dark horses. Here we go:

Best Picture:
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
The Revenant
Steve Jobs

Dark Horses: Demolition, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road (Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, PPPLLLLLEEEEEAAAAAASSSEEEEEE!!!!!!), Sicario, Trumbo, The Walk

So, I left out Demolition and The Hateful Eight in favor of Brooklyn, which will likely be one of Fox Searchlight's biggest contenders, and Paolo Sorrentino's Youth. I also just had 9 nominees in case they go in that direction.

Best Director:
Sarah Gavron, Suffragette
Todd Haynes, Carol
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, The Revenant
David O. Russell, Joy
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

Dark Horses: Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl, Paolo Sorrentino, Youth, Jean-Marc Vallee, Demolition, Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

Best Actor:
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Macbeth/Steve Jobs
Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw
Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

More of the same except I have Gyllenhaal for Southpaw instead of Demolition because since Harvey Weinstein is behind the former and believes Gyllenhaal will get nominated for that one, he's going to make sure it happens. Guarantee it. But Michael Fassbender has two potential players in Macbeth and Steve Jobs that both look promising.

Dark Horses: Michael Caine, Youth, Don Cheadle, Miles Ahead, Bradley Cooper, Adam Jones, Bryan Cranston, Trumbo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden/The Walk, Tom Hiddleston, I Saw The Light

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Lily Tomlin, Grandma

I originally had Marion Cotillard on here, but I left her out in case she goes supporting and put Saoirse Ronan in her place. Everything else is more of the same.

Dark Horses: Emily Blunt, Sicario, Marion Cotillard, Macbeth, Julianne Moore, Freeheld, Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Alicia Vikander, The Light Between Oceans/Tulip Fever, Naomi Watts, Demolition

Best Supporting Actor:
Alan Alda, Bridge of Spies
Robert De Niro, Joy
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight
Seth Rogen, Steve Jobs

More of the same except for Ken Watanabe, who I swapped with Seth Rogen due to the negative reception of Sea of Trees. If Steve Jobs fares well, I could easily see Seth Rogen making a play in this race, making him the next member of the Apatow club to join the elite Oscar club.

Dark Horses: Josh Brolin/Benicio Del Toro, Sicario, Bradley Cooper, Joy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Black Mass, Michael Keaton, Spotlight, Kurt Russell/Demian Bichir/Walton Goggins/Bruce Dern, The Hateful Eight, Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Best Supporting Actress:
Jane Fonda, Youth
Diane Ladd, Joy
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Due to Irrational Man's meh reception at Cannes, I swapped Parker Posey in favor of Jane Fonda, who has gotten pretty strong buzz for her apparently small role in Youth. 

Dark Horses: Helena Bonham Carter/Anne-Marie Duff, Suffragette, Rachel McAdams, Southpaw, Elizabeth Olsen, I Saw The Light, Ellen Page, Freeheld, Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria, Rachel Weisz, The Light Between Oceans/Youth

So those are my quick thoughts on who I think will get nominated at next year's Oscars as of now. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Review: Spy (2015)

                                   'Spy' Fulfills The Mission

          After watching this movie, I was able to realize one reason sequels are made: so that we can continue seeing a particular character's journey. That certainly applies here as I cross my fingers for a sequel to Spy because it was an absolute treat.

      Spy follows the story of a CIA agent named Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) who helps crack the best cases by aiding her partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law) through his earpiece and from her desk. But after being put in her desk for far too long, Cooper decides to finally get in on the action and take down a villainess named Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) who knows the location of a powerful nuclear weapon.

     I'll start off with the performances. Melissa McCarthy delivers what might be her best comedic work to date and with Susan Cooper, creates a very authentic character as Cooper is someone who is timid at first when she finally escapes her desk, but still pursues this mission out of loyalty to her partner. Hopefully, we will see more of Susan's journeys in a sequel. Jason Statham is also in this as Ford, an agent who is a bit of a loose cannon. He and McCarthy have such hilarious chemistry and it was a real treat to see Jason Statham do a role like this. While we have seen him do action films where he delivers funny lines, we haven't really seen him do a full-on comedic role. One actress that really stole the show, in my opinion, was Rose Byrne as the main villain Rayna. I loved how she was so deadpan yet would occasionally lash out in a hysterical fit. There is also Miranda Hart, who also left quite an impression as Susan's stoic yet excited co-worker Nancy. Even Jude Law impressed as Susan's slightly arrogant partner Bradley. Quite an astounding comedic cast.

     Next, I'll get into the direction and writing by Paul Feig. I liked how he was able to incorporate different styles of comedy like physical with Jason Statham's character, deadpan with Rose Byrne and Miranda Hart's characters, and even some raunchy comedy. Not only that, but Melissa McCarthy incorporates all those different types into one colorful performance. Plus, since the film is a spy film, Feig still manages to focus on the spy movie elements with the typical tropes of the genre like the action scenes and twists and turns unfolding and such. I also loved how when the plot kicks into high gear with Susan going on her mission, the film just kept going and didn't drag in places.


      Overall, Spy is a comedy that delivers the laughs yet never loses sight of the conventions of the spy genre thanks to its high octane action and fast pacing. The performances all created one of the best ensembles of the year, the writing and direction by Paul Feig is very focused, and the laughs are present from start to finish.

       Would I Recommend It?:
       Absolutely. Whether you are a fan of Melissa McCarthy or not, I would recommend you check this one out.

Grade: A    

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Oscars: Tribute To The Fallen: We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Tribute To The Fallen where I discuss films that weren't nominated at the Oscars and go into why I think they should've gotten recognition. Today's film is the 2011 dark "killer child" drama We Need To Talk About Kevin. 

Now, those that have seen the film know that it is pretty easy to figure out why, even though Tilda Swinton came very close for a Best Actress nomination, it was entirely shut out. Much like Shame, it is very grim and cynical. It deals with a mother who resents her child, who grows up to become a sociopath. Voters like their mothers and children to be nice. While they did nominate Linda Blair for The Exorcist, she was still playing a possessed victim. But this film is quite the opposite of a film like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which deals with a more sympathetic kid raised by likable parents played by likable movie stars. Bigger emphasis on likability. When films like this get snubbed, it has us asking questions like "Should we recognize the best pieces of filmmaking, or do we choose the most sympathetic, when picking the best films of the year?" I mean, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a well-intended movie and it aims to tug at the heartstrings, but it doesn't mean it's automatically amazing.

Not only do I think it deserved a Best Actress nomination for Tilda Swinton, but also Best Director for Lynne Ramsay and even Best Cinematography for the scenes where they incorporate the red color palette, in particular. There is also Best Adapted Screenplay as well and possibly Best Supporting Actor for Ezra Miller's creepy depiction of the older Kevin. Even if it wouldn't make my Best Picture, I would still recognize it almost across the board.

So those are my thoughts on why I think We Need To Talk About Kevin deserved Oscar love. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Indie Review: Short Term 12 (2013)

              A 'Short' Film Packed With A Big Emotional Punch That Stays With You Long After It Ends

            Here is the Starred Up of 2013: An under appreciated film with universal acclaim yet still had a poor audience showing and an almost non-existent awards canmaign. If films like these continue to slip through the cracks, I don't know if I want to live on this planet anymore.

          Short Term 12 follows the story of a woman named Grace (Brie Larson) who works at a short-term foster care facility for troubled youths. With the arrival of a young abused girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), Grace starts to find her own personal demons starting to unravel.

          I'll start off with the performances. Brie Larson is a quiet revelation as the rather reserved Grace and lets the audience inside her head through the use of only her eyes even when she is building invisible walls between her and everyone around her. Larson has quite an ensemble of actors surrounding her. John Gallagher Jr., who plays Grace's more outgoing fiancee Mason, is a warm presence on screen and always makes you want to leave your door open for him. Next, I'll get into the brilliance of Kaitlyn Dever. Dever is an absolute marvel as Jayden and brings such humanistic layers to a character that could've easily been a caricature. Dever portrays Jayden as someone who will physically lash out, yet still let a simple scratching of her thumb give a large backstory and will showcase witty yet blunt candor. Another standout I'd love to acknowledge is Keith Stanfield as Marcus, a slightly older patient who seems unable to face the outside world. Stanfield's portrayal of this troubled character makes you want to hug him and tell him everything will be fine. The ensemble of actors are all amazing, whether they have a large or smaller role.

          I also loved the way the movie was written by writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton. Not only does he give all the main characters a chance to shine, but he does so without it ever seeming chaotic. It all flows perfectly. Plus, we are given backstory for these characters without ever having to see any backstory. It is also through their scars, their facial expressions, their writings, or in Marcus' case, his music as he has one song that he sings which gives us his troubled background.

         Finally, I want to give points to the editor for allowing these characters their day in the sun without any quick cutaways, helping the ensemble piece seem less chaotic. The film is also beautifully shot by Brett Pawlak, who gives the film a documentary-type feel with colorful lighting to capture the mood of a light-hearted and constrast the heavily emotional scenes.


         Overall, Short Term 12 is a mesmerizing yet gut-wrenching look at the lives of troubled individuals about the will to allow people to heal each other. The cinematography is stunning, the performances are flawless, and the screenplay and direction are very nuanced, showing us every angle from the patients to the main character. The whole thing is a simple yet powerful marvel.

          Would I Recommend It?:
         Absolutely. See it any way you can.

Grade: A+