Friday, July 31, 2015

Review: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

                      A 'Mission' I Would Happily Accept
      It's very refreshing to see that, in a year of great spy movies that have reinvented the genre, we still have one that retains the traditional tropes without it seeming too dated like a self-destructing device that constantly explodes and rebuilds itself.

     Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation follows the story of MI6 agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) who finds himself on the run after MI6 has been disavowed. Coupled with his team that includes tech wiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), they all must confront a new enemy that threatens to target the various world governments.

    Because this includes the typical tropes of a spy movie, like a mysterious villain trying to take over the world as well as a femme fatale thrown in the mix a la James Bond, what doesn't make the formula seem so tired, in my opinion, is how the villain is giving a plausible motive and fleshed out much more than the villain in the previous film. Plus, the female lead character, a rogue agent named Ilsa Faust played by Rebecca Ferguson, isn't displayed as eye candy that accompanies Hunt on his journey or reduced to being a damsel. Faust is very sly, cunning, and offers a well-balanced mix of brains and beauty, proving herself to be an equal to Ethan Hunt. That is thanks in large part to Rebecca Ferguson's performance. This sort of brings me to my next point.

    I really liked the ensemble of actors here. For such a big movie star, Tom Cruise is an absolute pro. Not just because of how he does his own stunts, but he is a true ensemble player that never tries to upstage or battle it out with his co-stars. I also loved Simon Pegg as Benji. He brings such great comedic relief, as well as small moments of humanistic drama, allowing him and Tom Cruise to have such good chemistry on screen While Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames weren't given much to do, they still did a fine job with what they were given.

    While I loved the film and thought the climax was pretty intense, I still thought the climax was pretty drawn out and kind of dragged the film. The film itself is pretty fast-paced and cuts to the chase pretty early on, but towards the end, it got more slow.

    Overall, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is a fun traditional popcorn spy flick that incorporates typical tropes without them seeming too tired. I love the action sequences, the ensemble cast, and how game Tom Cruise was, both with his stunt work and his co-stars. If there is one thing that this film and this franchise have proven about Cruise: The man has still got it!

Grade: B+

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Oscar Watch: Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, today I have another trailer review as part of my Oscar Watch. The latest trailer I will discuss is Beasts of No Nation which stars Idris Elba and will make its premiere at both Venice and Toronto.

Beasts of No Nation is about a West African child named Agu who is thrust into a civil war and forced to join a band of military fighters, led by Idris Elba's character, after the death of his father. It is being directed by Cary Fukunaga, the Emmy-winning director of True Detective. 

Even before watching the trailer, I knew that it wouldn't be a pleasant watching experience as it deals with children thrust in war. But the look of it is very TV like an HBO or Netflix show. Although that makes sense since Netflix is distributing it and releasing it in theaters the same day it goes up online. Plus, it doesn't look like it has a Lifetime feel like the American remake of Secret In Their Eyes does (that one is a contender I have absolutely no faith in). This one, however, could be a more formidable contender since war movies tend to do pretty well with the Academy and this shows a kind of war story we rarely see. I can imagine a push for Idris Elba since he is the biggest name. But his best bet might be for Best Supporting Actor since the Lead category might once again be too crowded. I do think it'll be an intense watching experience. But it could be good.

Beasts of No Nation will be released on Netflix and in limited theaters on October 16th.

So those are my thoughts on the trailer for Beasts of No Nation. Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section and whether you think it'll be an awards player. Thanks for reading!

Oscar Watch: Room (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, here is another trailer that was just released as part of my Oscar Watch. It is for a film that was just given an awards season release date known as Room.

Room is based on a 2010 novel by Emma Donoughe about a child and his mother (Brie Larson) who are confined in a 10 by 10 room, which is the only world the boy has ever known. But he and his mother decide to escape the tight space they are confined in.

Due to Brie Larson's involvement, this film had me pretty intrigued. But after finally seeing a trailer, I am very enticed into seeing this. At first, the trailer had a very chilling and ambiguous tone, then became more serene with Larson singing "Big Rock Candy Mountains" in the background as the mother and child escape the room. It had me wondering, "What happens now that they've left" and I love that it left me wanting more.

The film is distributed by A24 Films (Ex Machina, Obvious Child, Under The Skin) and is directed by Lenny Abrahamson, who directed last year's Frank starring Michael Fassbender. It not only stars Brie Larson, but co-stars "Oscar club" members William H. Macy and Joan Allen. It'll be given a limited release date on October 16th, then expand nationwide November 6th.

Brie Larson is somebody that has been on the fringes of a breakthrough and with this and the sleeper hit Trainwreck out the same year, as well as her landing the female lead in Kong: Skull Island, Oscar could shine a light on this young, on the rise talent. When I update my Oscar predictions, I will have her as a dark horse for Best Actress.

So those are my thoughts on the trailer. Please feel free to write your own thoughts in the comments section and whether you think it looks like an awards player. Thanks for reading!

Topic Of The Day: Why Some Sequels Don't Work

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. You know how whenever a sequel comes out, sometimes people think "Was it really needed?" or "It was worse than the first one!"? Well, for today's topic, I will offer my own insight as to why that is.

Now sequels are meant to be a continuation of the same story and characters. But one main reason some sequels don't work is because they don't feel like a continuation and recycle the same storyline. Take, for example, Avengers: Age of Ultron. I thought it was entertaining, but it didn't really feel like The Avengers 2, per se. But rather The Avengers 2.0. It didn't have its own identity. You also have Terminator 3. It had the same plot structure of the second one with Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator protecting John Connor from an evil Terminator with the only difference being that the terminator in the third is female.

We have also seen plenty of comedic sequels that never measure to their predecessors. The main reason that is is because they either recycle the same jokes and of course, the same storyline. Take for example, The Hangover: Part II. It is an exact blueprint of the first one with a different setting.

Plus, a lot of horror sequels, like all those Friday the 13ths and Halloweens, literally have the same exact story: Killer hunts stupid teens one by one, killer gets killed off, comes back in the next sequel. Exact. Same. Storyline.

One great example of how to do a sequel correctly is without a doubt The Dark Knight. Its predecessor, Batman Begins, was mostly a simple origin story. But The Dark Knight was more a character study that served as an allegory for post-9/11 America with the Joker acting as a terrorist leaving Gotham City in panic like how Americans were in a state of panic after the plane crash on the Twin Towers. In the film, the different figures of justice (Batman, DA Harvey Dent, Commissioner Gordon) use their own methods to stop this act of terror, questioning their own morality in the process. The film's sophisticated storytelling has it surpass its predecessor.

Another great example of how to do a sequel correctly is The Empire Strikes Back. While the first Star Wars is a fun spectacle that reminds us why we go to the movies, The Empire Strikes Back is even better because it has a little something for everyone. Of course, it has great action. But it also has a bit of romance, suspense, horror, and is a bit of a tearjerker. Plus, it manages to successfully be a continuation of the same story with Luke slowly learning the ways of the force and doesn't feel like a recycled version of the first story.

So those are my thoughts on why certain sequels don't work. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Oscar Watch: Spotlight (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another special episode of Trailer Talk where I give a quick look at trailers for upcoming Oscar contenders. For this episode of Oscar Watch, I will discuss the upcoming film about a Massachusetts sex abuse scandal known as Spotlight. Here we go:

After it was just announced that this film will appear at Venice and Toronto, the trailer already appeared online and I have to say, it looks pretty intense. I am usually intrigued by films about journalists entering dangerous territory like All The President's Men and Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Plus, what a cast it has: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Billy Crudup, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci. If there is anybody that I think will be nominated, it could be Michael Keaton, whose role gives off vibes of Jason Robards from All The President's Men, who won Best Supporting Actor for his performance. But I hope that Rachel McAdams can score a hit with this after the mixed to negative reception of Aloha, Southpaw, and the second season of True Detective. If she doesn't break through to Oscar with this, I don't what it's going to take.

So I think this film does seem like a viable contender since it checks important boxes: Based on topical real-life story? Check. Pedigree cast? Check. But I'm hoping the movie is amazing and Oscar worthy and not Oscar bait. At least it's not walking a thin tight rope like Freeheld is.

Those are my thoughts on the trailer. If you have seen it, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section about whether you think it looks good or seems like a viable awards contender. Thanks for reading!

Oscars 2016: Venice and Toronto Film Festival Lineups

Hello, Bloggers, we are finally off to the races. The awards races, that is. Two very key film festivals, the Venice and Toronto International Film Festival, have announced their lineups and since those sights are where buzz starts to build, I figured I'd offer my own insight as to what might be legitimate contenders this year. Here we go:

Now, one film that will be premiering at both festivals that had me unsure whether it'd be a serious player is Black Mass with Johnny Depp. Right now, I'm predicting Depp as a dark horse in the Best Actor race but if it gets any rave reviews coming out of both festivals, I might end up putting Depp in my final five. Also, the film Spotlight starring Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Billy Crudup, and Stanley Tucci about a real-life sex abuse scandal covered by the Boston Globe will premiere at both festivals. A good sign for that film. The topical biopic The Danish Girl will also premiere at both festivals, confirming its status as a highly buzzed Oscar contender that'll likely have Eddie Redmayne gunning for Oscar #2. Interestingly, Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, will also premiere at both festivals. Because it is being by distributed by Netflix and newly founded distributor Bleecker Street, I figured it would have trouble competing with the big wigs (Weinstein, Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, etc.). But it could be the "little movie that could" a la Beasts of the Southern Wild. 

But there are some contenders that haven't been announced on the lineup of both festivals that have me a little concerned about them: Adam Jones, Tulip Fever, The Light Between Oceans, Macbeth, Suffragette, and I Saw The Light. Because the first three have Alicia Vikander,  I'm guessing they don't want her to compete with herself since she will already be in the running for The Danish Girl. It's like how Michael Fassbender already has Steve Jobs premiering at the New York Film Festival so with Macbeth and Light Between Oceans not premiering at Venice or Toronto, he won't have to compete against himself and risk getting a vote split. I would express my concerns about The Revenant, but that won't be completed in time for the festival circuit because they're still finishing up. There is also Bridge of Spies, but it's Spielberg and Tom Hanks. They don't need the buzz. That's why Joy doesn't need to do the festival circuit. It has David O. Russell re-teaming with Jennifer Lawrence. They don't really need the buzz. I was a little surprised Carol isn't making it to Toronto, but it already garnered its buzz at Cannes and won Best Actress for Rooney Mara with Cate Blanchett getting rave reviews. The only question is whether it peaks too early.

But some of the contenders in Toronto that seem to be taking shape are the biopic Trumbo about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston, The Martian, which could be this year's Gravity, Sicario starring Emily Blunt, the LGBT biopic Freeheld starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, Legend starring Tom Hardy, and Youth starring Michael Caine.

If I had to pick which festival was more key in garnering buzz, it would likely be Toronto. I remember last year, I thought The Judge and Men, Women, and Children would be viable contenders. But after they screened at Toronto and the reviews came in, they both stumbled out. Plus, The Imitation Game won the People's Choice Award at last year's festival and that went on to have 1-7 record on Oscar night. So while Venice is key, the real apex is Toronto.

So those are my thoughts on what now seems like more viable awards contenders. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Also, here are lists of the full lineups of both festivals:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)

                  'Horrible Bosses 2' Is Indeed Rather Horrible
            I may have mentioned this before, but I hate when a film has little for me to review because it makes my review seem as mailed in as the film itself.

      Horrible Bosses 2 continues the story of Nick, Kurt, and Dale (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis) who decide to start a business and become their own bosses. When they find an investor named Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) for their product, Hanson ultimately leaves them in debt after backing out of their deal. The trio then decides to kidnap his son Rex (Chris Pine) and mayhem ensues from there.

     I did like Kevin Spacey's tiny cameo. Despite his small role, he was the one that interestingly got the most laughs out of me. Also, I loved how Chris Pine did his best to try and elevate the subpar material he is given since he brought a lot of energy on screen.

     First, I'll go into Jason Bateman. When watching this film, I couldn't tell whether his character is such a downer this time around or if Bateman just wanted to collect his check and go home because Nick, who is supposed to be the voice of reason, is constantly so negative and talking down on everyone. His negative energy brings the film down as a result. Also, the supporting players like Jennifer Aniston and Christoph Waltz are wasted. Especially Waltz because he is literally given nothing to do. Jamie Foxx also returns and other than the climax, he doesn't do much either.

    Like with other sequels, the film also felt more of the same with the same plot structure. Some of the same jokes are used and even the newer jokes fell completely flat. Because this felt like such a carbon copy, it made me wish I was watching the first again.

    Overall, Horrible Bosses 2 is a barely serviceable sequel to its predecessor with near-invisible laughs and wasted talent. I do applaud some of the actors for trying to make it work, but it felt like they just wanted to be horrible bosses themselves and fire their agents.

    Would I Recommend It?:
   Sadly, no. Just watch the first one.

Grade: D+

Sunday, July 26, 2015

For Your Consideration: Jake Gyllenhaal for Best Actor for Southpaw (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, here is another FYC post for a performance that the Academy should highly consider to nominate. This performance is Jake Gyllenhaal's transformative turn in Southpaw. 

As I mentioned in my review, the film itself is very standard and by the books. But the only reason that it works and that I would highly recommend anybody to go and see it is for Jake Gyllenhaal's performance. Much like in Nightcrawler, he loses himself in the role body and soul. While in Nightcrawler, he is very gaunt, here, he is very ripped and his commitment to a role could very soon put him among the likes of Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio.

But the genius of his performance is not just the physicality of it, but how he even acts out the boxing scenes and makes you feel the fury behind his punches. He hardly even requires any dialogue to showcase the gauntlet of emotions his character goes through and how he struggles to prevent his fury in the boxing ring from leaving it once he is instigated by a rival fighter. His Billy Hope is like a ferocious animal that acts on instinct and defends and nurtures his pack that is his family.

Compare that to his Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler. Lou Bloom is a different kind of animal as his skinny appearance makes him seem like a starving coyote that will devour anything in his path for personal gain. Almost everything that comes out of his mouth sounds like a sales pitch and as his high-putched voice breaks, his aggression and drive slowly start to build up. Yet Gyllenhaal creates a gray area that has you looking at his character in disgust yet still hooing he gets the job done. Billy Hope wouldn't come within a mile radius of this guy.

So I not only think Jake Gyllenhaal should be rewarded for his master class work in Southpaw, but also for his versatility that he has proven. Gyllenhaal has been knocking it out of the park and he should be justly recognized for that. To any AMPAS voter in the acting branch that may stumble across this, I hope that you consider putting Gyllenhaal's name on your ballot.

Also, to any blogger reading this that has seen Southpaw, whether you agree or disagree that Gyllenhaal is worthy of Oscar consideration, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Review: Southpaw (2015)

          'Southpaw' Is Hardly A Knockout, Yet Its Lead Actor Throws A Giant Punch
      It would certainly make sense that, as part of the recent career roll he's been on, Jake Gyllenhaal would give another performance that throws a big punch, screaming "I'm back, baby!".

    Southpaw follows the story of a boxer named Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) who seems like he is riding high until one night, a fellow boxer antagonizes him, resulting in a fight as well as the death of his wife (Rachel McAdams). Now, having lost everything including his daughter to child services, Hope must aim for a shot at redemption and get back in the ring.

     I'll start off with the tour-de-force by Jake Gyllenhaal. Having finally capitalized on his early promise he showed in films like Brokeback Mountain and Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal continues the roll he is on with his work in this. The genius of his performance is that while he showcases Billy's redeemable qualities, he isn't afraid to show his negative sides as well and how he tends to take his rage in the ring outside of it. His Billy Hope wouldn't come within a mile radius of his Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler, further solidifying his chameleonic range and I am excited to see his next moves. Even though Rachel McAdams has limited screen time, she certainly makes the most of it as Billy's wife Maureen, who is the glue that holds him together. McAdams is given the typical "stressed out wife" role that we often see in sports or biopic movies, but she elevates it by providing a mix of warmth and quiet toughness. I also would like to acknowledge Oona Laurence, who plays Billy's daughter Leila. For such a young child actress, she not only plays the role as someone wise beyond her years, but doesn't play up the maturity factor and act too adult. Laurence simply portrays Leila as a girl going through the motions. Forest Whitaker also provides solid support as a former boxer who trains Billy for the climactic fight and also regularly trains young boys in the city to help them escape their environment.

       I also liked how it demonstrated the theme of trying to escape your environment. At first, it is hinted that Billy didn't have the greatest upbringing and that he grew up an orphan. But his upbringing slowly comes back to him as he loses his fortune and his daughter is put in Social Services. While I didn't feel that angle was explored enough, it is still interesting they went in that direction at least.

       To me, the biggest problem lies in the script. Not only was it predictable, but it is sort of boxing you on the head with its sentimentality, begging you to feel sorry for the main character when he loses everything. I would've preferred they had just maybe kept the wife's death so that he would have one main motivation to get back in the ring and redeem himself for what happened. Thankfully, as Billy predictably changes his ways, Gyllenhaal handles his arc very nicely.

       Overall, Southpaw is ridden with cliches, or "hit with too many punches", yet its material is elevated by Oscar-worthy work by its leading actor. He also has an astounding cast supporting them that elevate the material they are given as well.

       Would I Recommend It?:
       While the film is predictable, I would still recommend it just for Jake Gyllenhaal's performance that is mentally and physically transformative.

Grade: B-

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review: Trainwreck (2015)

                                 'Trainwreck' Is Anything But

           Since it has a female stand-up comedian in the lead role, because it is doing nicely at the box office which obviously means it has a wide audience, thankfully, Trainwreck isn't the Obvious Child of 2015 and isn't 'flying off the rails' so to speak.

          Trainwreck follows the story of a thirtysomething journalist named Amy (Amy Schumer) who has lived by the belief that monogamy isn't realistic so she sleeps around and gets drunk a lot. That is until she is given an assignment to profile a sports physician named Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) and she slowly begins to feel complications about love.

         First off, I'll say that a star is born with Amy Schumer. Obviously, she has excellent comedic timing but she also nails every dramatic nuance and is incredibly three-dimensional as a woman who seems brash and complicated yet is really a lost soul who has been told about how the thought of sharing your life with someone can drive you mad. Schumer also has an excellent supporting cast surrounding her to help humanize her character. Bill Hader is excellent and very endearing as Amy's love interest Aaron and makes you realize why Amy would slowly warm up to someone like him as they both have great chemistry. Brie Larson is also in this as Amy's sister Kim, who has gone against their father's views on monogamy by settling down and getting married, and she is quite naturalistic as someone who is very stern in her rough patches with Amy yet provides warmth and support in the positive times and times of need. I also thought Colin Quinn has quite a presence on screen as Amy and Kim's bigoted father as he delivers harsh yet funny quips yet still helps drive the main character's narrative forward. We also have Tilda Swinton as Amy's boss Dianna. In typical Tilda fashion, Swinton stole every scene she was in with her deadpan delivery and colorful transformative appearance with her wig and tanned skin. Speaking of scene-stealers, though, I'll go into perhaps the biggest surprise of the film. That is LeBron James as himself. He NAILS the humor as he plays a fictionalized, exaggerated version of himself. Maybe we'll get to see him do more comedies in the future. Overall, I thought the cast was astounding.

         Much like with his previous work, I love how director Judd Apatow incorporates his typical crude humor, yet still makes the characters and the film seem very real. In some of his previous films, he successfully manages to offer something poignant like how The 40-Year Old Virgin reminds people that it's never too late to lose your virginity or at least do things that a lot of people do when they're young. Also, Knocked Up deals with a man-child slowly starting to become a man raising a child. Here, the protagonist slowly figures out that sometimes relationships aren't as dreary as they can be made out to be. The mix of crude humor and poignancy is also thanks to the screenplay written by Amy Schumer herself as she creates the characters that contribute to Amy's growth as the movie progresses. Even when the film sails into deeper dramatic territory, it never goes too deep.


         Overall, Trainwreck is another worthy entry from Judd Apatow that features a euphoric mix of raunchiness and poignancy as well as a star-is-born performance from Amy Schumer both as an actress and as a screenwriter. Even though Schumer has a hilarious supporting cast surrounding her, she still gets to allow her own comedic talents to shine through.

        Would I Recommend It?:
        Yes, but not to everybody. Apatow's form of humor, while funny, isn't for everyone. But if you like his stuff and if you like Amy Schumer, you'll definitely enjoy this.

Grade: A+

Oscar Watch: Freeheld (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another special episode of Trailer Talk known as Oscar Watch, where I delve into trailers for upcoming Oscar contenders. Today's trailer is the LGBT biopic Freeheld starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page.

As I mentioned in my top 10 list of oscar films that will either flourish or crash and burn, critics will either be moved by this or find it emotionally pandering because of all the boxes it checks off as it is about a real-life lesbian couple fighting for pension rights while one half of the couple battles cancer. Plus, it features a pedigree Oscar club cast with recently anointed Best Actress winner Julianne Moore (I can still hear the hallelujah chorus just saying that), recent Best Actor nominee Steve Carell as well as previous nominees Ellen Page and Michael Shannon. So it could either by labeled as Oscar worthy or Oscar bait.

Now onto my thoughts. I'm on the fence about this one. While I'm sure the actors are very good in their roles, the film itself looks like it might have a Lifetime-y feel. Not really as cinematic as other topical films in the race might be like Carol. I do hope that I'm wrong, though. If it gets strong buzz towards the end pf the year, I'll maybe check it out. But whether it fares well or not, it is still great timing to release this, along with other LGBT films like Carol and The Danish Girl, in the year where the ban on gay marriage is finally lifted.

So those are my thoughts on the trailer for Freeheld. If you have seen the trailer, please feel free to write your thoughts about it in the comments section and share whether you think it seems like a legit Oscar contender. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ranking The Marvel Phase 2 Movies

Hello, Bloggers, with the release of Ant-Man, we have reached the end of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So I figured that I'd rank all the Phase 2 films from worst to best, in my opinion. Here we go:

Thor: The Dark World: Starting off the bottom of the barrel is perhaps the first hiccup in the MCU, Thor: The Dark World. Wow, was this terrible! The effects were overbloated, half the actors are sleepwalking through a paycheck, the villain is underdeveloped, and while it was nice to see Loki, even he wasn't really needed. The only saving grace is Chris Hemsworth as Thor and of course, Tom Hiddleston as Loki. It's just a shame they were stuck in a lame sequel.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Certainly not as bad as Thor: The Dark World, but it was still a colossal disappointment. Yeah, it had good action scenes and James Spader was an awesome Ultron. But the storyline is very jumbled which means some of the Avengers weren't given as much face time as the other Avengers, the pacing dragged on forever, and..yeah, this was a big letdown. I wanted to love it, but I just couldn't.

Iron Man 3: Iron Man 3 is, in my opinion, the best film in the trilogy. One of the main reasons is that it demonstrates how Tony Stark gets the job done with his smarts and not just his suits. Also, the terrorism angle they went in with the character of Mandarin was very realistic. Speaking of which, I loved the twist involving Mandarin. I'm sure a lot of die-hard fans were let down, but I loved that twist. Even if I am not crazy about Iron Man as I am about the other MCU heroes, this one was still an amazing ride.

Ant-Man: While Ant-Man feels slightly more smaller-scale than some of the other Marvel films due to it having a lower budget of around $130 million (which is chump change compared to the budget of other MCU movies), what it lacks in grand effects, it makes up for in not just fun, but heart. Paul Rudd is very likable and grounded as Scott Lang and he has an amazing cast supporting him (Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, a scene-stealing Michael Pena, Bobby Cannavale, etc.). Plus, it not only works as a superhero film, but it's also a heist movie and even delves into the themes of fatherhood with both Hank Pym and Scott trying to redeem themselves. I also appreciate its self-awareness with its meta references ("Why don't we get the Avengers?") as well as how it demonstrates plot points we've seen before without going too deep into them. All in all, this one just rocks.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Now my pick for number one was a toss-up between this one and my actual top pick. But not only is Captain America: The Winter Soldier a more than worthy addition of the MCU, but it even surpasses its predecessor. The action is well-constructed and not overdone, the pacing is smooth, the performances, especially from Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, are tops, and like how Ant-Man works as a heist film as well as a superhero film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier works as a political spy thriller and also transcends its superhero genre.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Not only is this film the best of Marvel Phase 2, but I would even go as far saying...wait for is even better than The Avengers. While The Avengers, which I really enjoyed, feels like a typical superhero film, Guardians of the Galaxy also felt like a space opera and an homage to Star Wars without replicating it completely. I loved the chemistry between the actors, the colorful effects as well as the action sequences, and of course, the soundtrack! Holy cow, is it awesome! I also appreciate how it brought the fun back to the superhero genre in the midst of a lot of these serious or semi-serious superhero films we have gotten over the years. Rock on, Guardians! I can't wait for the sequel. Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga Ooga-Chaka!

So those are my rankings of the films in Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you have seen these films, be sure to leave your own rankings in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Ant-Man (2015)

        'Ant-Man' Is A Fun-Sized Blockbuster Of Near Gigantic Proportions
        Well, two things: One is that it left me happy because it did get the bitter taste of Avengers: Age of Ultron out of mouth. Another is that it left me very sad that we might not get a sequel while we're getting another unnecessary Spider-Man movie. You know, the one we don't need.

     Ant-Man follows the story of a thief named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who, after getting released from jail and looking for a new lease in life, is given a shot at redemption once billionaire Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has him pull off another heist and become the superhero known as the Ant-Man.

    Now, I'll start off with Paul Rudd. The film lies mainly on his shoulders because he is the main star and he nails it. He nails the humor, the charm, and even brings layers of emotional depth. Rudd makes Scott Lang seem like a real person trying to get by and I would say both he and Chris Pratt prove themselves as very likable entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even if we don't get an Ant-Man sequel, I still want to see more Rudd in the suit. I also really liked Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and thought he had a nice presence when he was on screen. Evangeline Lilly, aka Kate from Lost, is also in this as Hank's daughter Hope Van Dyne and she was very good. She and Rudd had very colorful chemistry and I thought the scenes between her and Douglas were very touching. I would say Lilly gives us the best female character in the MCU since Black Widow as Hope is determined, witty, and willing to throw a punch. But the real scene stealer is without a doubt Michael Pena as Scott's fellow thief Luis. He constantly brought laughs to the screen when he appeared and he continues to prove how undervalued he is as an acting talent. All the actors bring in their A-game in this which is neat because in films like these, it can be pretty easy for most of the cast to sleepwalk through a paycheck in the midst of the grand effects thrown at them (*cough*Thor: The Dark World*cough*).

   However, while this film has its fair share of amazing visual effects, it is still effective in its simplicity. One thing that I can appreciate about this film is its self-awareness. It already introduces the villain as the villain without any mystery and demonstrates the film's plot points involving Hank's wife as well as the friction between Scott and his daughter's stepfather quickly enough in a way where they don't feel like footnotes. It's as if they said, "We have seen these sort of things before, so we won't delve too deeply into them", yet I loved that. The film pretty much kicks in from the beginning and doesn't stop even when the film slows down.

   Another thing that I liked was how, much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, it weaves in a different genre to make it more distinctive from other Marvel movies as it is a heist film as well as a superhero film.

   I thought the main villain, Yellowjacket, played by Corey Stoll, was pretty underused, but that's a problem that has plagued most Marvel movies. With the exception of Loki, a lot of Marvel villains are introduced as cardboard cutouts. I also thought Judy Greer, who plays Scott's ex-wife, was also pretty underused yet still made the most with what she was given.

   Overall, Ant-Man is a fun superhero/heist romp that relishes in its self-awareness. It features a well-rounded performance from its lead actor, has nice visual effects, a terrific supporting cast, and is overall, just a fun ride.

   Would I Recommend It?:
   Absolutely. Even though there are some swears, I would take the entire family. It's not too intense for children and it is something they will get a kick out of.

Grade: A-

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Retro Review: Jaws (1975)

                                 After 40 Years, 'Jaws' Still Has Teeth
             One thing that I just noticed is that Universal is having a killer summer at the box office. It would make sense that they would lay claim to this summer movie season 40 years after they released THE blockbuster that helped coined that term: Steven Spielberg's Jaws.

             Jaws follows the story of a police officer named Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) who, along with a local fisherman named Quint (Robert Shaw) and an oceanographer named Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), tries to fight off a shark that is killing off the town's local residents.

             Where do I begin? I'll start off by saying that what makes this blockbuster work so well is that it succeeds in the simple aesthetics of a great film. Blockbusters nowadays are usually cinematic junk food with explosions, minimal character development, and half-assed CGI. But Jaws' minimalism has helped it hold up to this day and I think because it taps into a common fear people have while demonstrating relatable characters, that kind of realism drew people into the theater to have an emotional experience of some kind. That's one main reason we go to the movies in the first place. To connect and experience.

           Anyways, the first thing about this film I liked is the famous score by Mr. John Williams. The genius of his score is how in the shark attack scenes, the score grows louder and louder as the shark gets closer, increasing the tension in each scene.

          Next, I'll get into the editing. From the minute the film opens, we are given an idea of what the film is about and it keeps going forward from there. Even when the pace slows down, it doesn't feel like it's dragging. One of my favorite edited scenes is one of the shark attack scenes where Brody is watching different beach goers in the water and there are quick cuts from one beach goer to another, indicating that the shark will claim its next victim but you don't know who. I also loved how director Steven Spielberg doesn't allow us to see the actual monster until towards the end. When we do see it, things get frightening, but it's even scarier when we don't and we are in the point of view of the shark when it is underwater.

        As I mentioned before, the film has very relatable characters and that is thanks in large part to the writing as well as the actors portraying them. You have Brody, the everyman captain trying to protect the citizens of his summer town that slowly tries to overcome his fear of the water, Quint, the bloodthirsty fisherman who demands a large bounty for the shark yet, in one haunting monologue, reveals his deep motives behind his vicious manhunt, and Hooper, the young marine biologist who serves as comic relief.


       Overall, Jaws is a perfectly crafted blockbuster that, like Star Wars, is a reminder of why we go to the movies. It is filled with horror and suspense yet also has moments of action and light humor and is expertly directed by Mr. Steven Spielberg. It is ultimately not just a well-crafted film, but an experience.

      Would I Recommend It?:
      Absolutely. It's a classic and should be experienced by everyone. There are some scenes of blood and violence, but even those aren't that terrible. But it is required viewing for anyone who loves film.

Grade: A+

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Review: Tammy (2014)

         'Tammy' Hits Like A Minor Speed Bump In Melissa McCarthy's Career

       (possible spoiler alert)

       Well, I guess I could look at this way: Tammy might just be a simple excuse for the lead actress to spend time with her director husband. Nothing more, nothing less.

      Tammy follows the story of a down on her luck woman named Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) who was fired from her job and her husband cheated on her. So in order to escape her dreary and mundane life, she goes on a road trip with her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon), thus hijinx ensues.

     I did think that Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon had some great scenes together with funny banter. I didn't buy that Sarandon could be McCarthy's grandmother, but hey, it's Hollywood. They always want you to suspend disbelief, right? Kathy Bates also appears later in the film and I thought she showcased solid comedic timing. The good stuff kind of ends there.

     While I thought McCarthy and Sarandon had some funny scenes, for the most part, the film fell pretty flat. When it tries to be hilarious, the jokes don't always land and when it even tries to be touching and emotional, it still falls flat. There are these subplots shoehorned involving Pearl having diabetes and sleeping with Tammy's father and they just go nowhere.

     I also thought the film dragged a lot. For a road movie, it doesn't really have a lot of energy driving it forward. Not much excitement. Just....nothing.

     Overall, Tammy is a mildly amusing yet incredibly disappointing vehicle from its star. I am a huge Melissa McCarthy fan and thankfully I find this to be a mild hiccup since she was able to quickly rebound with Spy. 

    Would I Recommend It?:
    Not necessarily. Even if you like Melissa McCarthy as much as I do, I wouldn't try to watch it. Watch one of her greater comedic efforts like Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy instead. Even in St. Vincent, she shows us what her talent is really made of.

Grade: C-

Friday, July 17, 2015

Oscar Watch: The Revenant (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another special edition of Trailer Talk. Like with my reviews for the trailers for Brooklyn and Joy, I will continue my Oscar watch and review trailers for upcoming contenders. For this post, I will discuss Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's The Revenant.

Now when I first heard about this one, I was pretty pumped. I loved Innaritu's last film, the recent Best Picture winner Birdman and I am a huge fan of the main stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. But after watching this trailer, it is safe to say that I will be keeping this film on my predictions list. It looks amazing! I love how the cinematographer Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki uses natural lighting and I also like the use of the ominous music. Westerns have seen success at the Oscars, like Unforgiven, Dances With Wolves, and Django Unchained. So that could be a good omen for this film if lightning is able to strike twice for Alejandro G. Innaritu who is fresh off of winning three Oscars (producing, directing, winning) for Birdman. But could this be the one that gets Leo's name called on the Oscar stage? We shall see.

So overall, I am really excited for this and I still feel it is a viable Oscar contender. If you have seen the trailer, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section about whether you look forward to this or think it'll be an awards player. Thanks for reading!

Topic Of The Day: Diversity In The Industry

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, since the Emmy nominees were just announced, I will use this opportunity to discuss the nature of diversity in the entertainment industry. Here we go:

As a lot of us know, the Oscars received a lot of flack for its lack of diversity among the nominees last year which led to cries of racism and misogyny due to there not being a lot of minority or female-centered films, actors of color, or female directors nominated. But that is mostly because there weren't a lot of minority-centered films in the conversation and the one that was, Selma, peaked too late which may have cost its star, David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay a nomination. They did have a female-centered film in the conversation with Gone Girl which was still underrepresented, but that might be because they wanted Gone Girl to stay gone.

However, the Emmy nominees are another reflection of diversity and how, unlike with film, it is starting to shape up in the television industry. Here is a sample of minority performers that were nominated:

Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
David Oyelowo for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Limited Series or a Movie
Queen Latifah for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series or a Movie
Anthony Anderson and Don Cheadle for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
Angela Bassett, Regina King, and Mo'Nique for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series or a Movie
Andre Braugher, Tituss Burgess, and Keegan-Michael Key for Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Key and Peele for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

Also, with shows like Orange Is The New Black, Transparent, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Veep nominated as well as miniseries' and TV films like The Honorable Woman, Bessie and Olive Kitteridge being represented, the Emmys have represented female-centered stories as well as LGBT-centered thanks to Transparent. 

So as we continue to talk about the struggle of diversity in the entertainment industry, the way I see it, we're starting to see more diversity in the field of TV more than film. Fortunately, we have seen a recent onslaught of female-led films being box office powerhouses and in the upcoming awards season, we have female-led (Brooklyn, Joy, Suffragette) and LGBT-centered (The Danish Girl, Freeheld, Carol) films in the conversation. So the film industry might be in a step in the right direction.

Those are my thoughts on the state of diversity in the entertainment industry. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Topic Of The Day: What Makes A Paycheck Player?

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I will discuss two franchise players: On whose obscene payday for his franchise work has been announced and another who suggested that she'll return based on what she could be paid. The reason I would love to go into this is because I am wondering whether these stars are starting to become paycheck players. Here we go:

The first star I will go into is Robert Downey, Jr.. It was recently announced that he just received $80 million for both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. To me, what is so crazy about that is he isn't playing Captain America and yet still getting paid more than Captain America is like a slap in the face. He may be the star of the Marvel universe, but he is starting to overstay his welcome. Also, if you look on his IMDB page, you'll see that he only has the Captain America sequel lined up next, along with the rumored Sherlock Holmes sequel, and will potentially have the next Avengers movie lined up. So I think with his recent comments on indie films and him resting on his franchise laurels, he's starting to seem more like he is in this for the money rather than the craft. On a side note, though, his big paydays are probably an indication of Marvel's rep for being so stingy with their dough.

The next star is everybody's imaginary BFF Jennifer Lawrence. After the hacking scandal at Sony Pictures, where it was revealed in certain e-mails where the female American Hustle co-stars were getting paid less than their male counterparts, Jennifer Lawrence and her team made a deal with Sony for her latest film Passengers where she gets paid $20 million upfront against 30% of the grosses. The fact that she is getting $20 million isn't bothersome because other A-list stars get the same price tag and I never complain. What is crazy is that she would command such a high salary after getting a low pay in American Hustle when she had such a small role in American Hustle. So of course, she is going to get paid less and I don't care how big of a star you are. If you had a small role, you should get the lowest pay. To me, that seems very fair. Also, when she said that she would continue to do more X-Men films, it would depend on how she feels and how much she gets paid if she does agree. That statement was also pretty bothersome because she already stood firm on her Passengers deal and it makes it seem like she is only in the role of Mystique for the money. Now, everybody does a job for the money. But if she were to potentially coast on the franchise while collecting fat paychecks, it would take away from an actress that might want the role more than she does. This sort of thing is why I never ask about pay when I am in a job interview and I am not even a public figure. However, like Lawrence herself said, it depends on if she even wants to come back.

But let me compare RDJ and Lawrence to two other franchise players: Michael Keaton and Keira Knightley. After Tim Burton left the Batman franchise, Keaton could've easily continued on without him despite being offered a big payday and being uncomfortable with the direction the franchise went in. But out of loyalty to Burton and his vision, Keaton left as well, proving that he is about the artistic integrity in the projects he does.

Also, after the third Pirates movie, where her character's story practically ended, Keira Knightley could've easily coasted on the franchise a la co-star Johnny Depp and appeared in more bloated and unnecessary sequels. But because her character's story came to a close, she respectably didn't overstate her welcome in the franchise. But unlike Keaton and Knightley, stars like RDJ and Lawrence don't seem to care about the direction their franchises go in, or whether they phone in a big paycheck gig. Just as long as they get that big paycheck.

So those are my thoughts on why I think RDJ and Jennifer Lawrence are paycheck players that are starting to seem more interested in the digits rather than their craft. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Oscars 2016: Best Actor Update

Hello, Bloggers, it was just announced that Demolition will be pushed into an April release date which means we can all take Jake Gyllenhaal off our Best Actor predictions list. (Man, what is it going to take for him to get that elusive 2nd Oscar nod?) Since I had him on my update predictions list, I will once again update my current prediction in that category.

Michael Caine, Youth
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Tom Hiddleston, I Saw The Light
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

With Gyllenhaal out, I think Michael Caine could sneak in. One reason is that he is both a veteran and Oscar royalty as he has 2 Oscars for Best Supporting Actor for Hannah And Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules. He also has Lead Actor nods for Alfie, Sleuth, Educating Rita, and The Quiet American. Plus, he has the rare distinction of being nominated for every decade from the 60's to the 00's. So they might not resist the opportunity to give him his first nod in the 10's if the film strikes a chord with voters. Although, we could see Gyllenhaal as a dark horse for Southpaw where he physically transforms himself despite the film's mixed reception and summer release. Voters love when actors check that box.

If I had to pick a winner as of now, it'd be either DiCaprio or Fassbender. DiCaprio is because of the real-life person/overdue factor since he currently has a 0-5 record and Fassbender because of the real-life factor as well as the fact that he is in an Aaron Sorkin film and even though his lead actors never win, that could change here. He also has the films Macbeth and potentially The Light Between Oceans to keep him fresh in voters minds.

There is talk that Redmayne could go back-to-back a la Tom Hanks. It makes sense given the topical nature of the film about a transgendered woman and Tom Hanks won his two Oscars for playing a gay man in '93 and a disabled man in '94. If Redmayne repeated for his similar roles, it would happen in reverse. There is also the fact that he is a thirsty campaigner since out of all the Actor nominees last year that were on the awards trail, he was the most aggressive. But I'm holding out hope that they can maybe see through all that and give it to Leo or Fassy!

So those are my updated Best Actor predictions as of now. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Oscar Watch: Brooklyn & Joy (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to a special edition of Trailer Talk. They just released trailers for two upcoming potential and female-centered awards players: the coming-of-age romance Brooklyn starring Saoirse Ronan and the biopic Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by David O. Russell. Here are my thoughts:

I'll start off with Brooklyn. When I first heard about this film, I didn't really have an aching desire to run out and see it. Mainly because it didn't seem like my cup of tea. That is until I saw the trailer. Holy cow, I did not expect to love it as much as I did. I think Saoirse Ronan is going to be as amazing as she was in Hanna and she and Emory Cohen (AJ from The Place Beyond The Pines), who plays Ronan's love interest Tony, look like they have great chemistry. I think that might be the biggest selling point for me. Plus, the cast also includes Ex Machina's Domnhall Gleeson, Julie Walters aka Mrs. Weasley, and Jim Broadbent. It has an awards release date in November and I might check it out to potentially get homework done for Nomination Day and because it looks great.

Now onto Joy. While I loved Silver Linings Playbook and only liked American Hustle, I am not overly crazed about this one despite the involvement. One reason is the casting of Jennifer Lawrence. I like Jennifer Lawrence as an actress, but I think O. Russell casting her as women about twice her age is getting a little distracting. Also, it feels like American Hustle 2.0 because it has the same band of actors, looks like it has similar choppy editing, and David O. Russell might potentially give his actors as many histrionic Oscar bait clips as possible. I like the talent involved, but if I were a director, I wouldn't want the same actors to appear in all my films. I'll wait until a new trailer comes out. That is where my true potential feelings about seeing it will be clinched. Although if it gains significant buzz, I'll likely see it to get my homework done.

So those are my thoughts on the trailers for these two films. If you have seen any of these previews, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section on whether or not you plan to see them. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Liebster Award

I have been nominated by Heather Martin over at That Film Girlfor the Liebster Award, which allows bloggers to discover other amazing blogs, and I want to thank her. This nomination is amazing.

Here are the rules that I have to follow:
1. Thank the blog that nominated you and link back to them
2. Nominate up to 11 bloggers
3. Answer 11 questions from blogger that nominated you
4. Give 11 random facts about yourself
5. Ask 11 questions to the bloggers you nominate when they post their nomination.

Here is who I nominate:
And So It Begins..
The Cinematic Spectacle
A Fistful Of Films

My Questions:
1. What movie is responsible for making you a film buff?

Tough question, but one that really inspires me is Star Wars. Ever since I watched it, it made me want to create my own fictional universe.

2. What is your favorite current TV show?

Family Guy.

3. What is your favorite TV show that has ended?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

4. The last (new) good movie you saw?

Inside Out. My pick for the best film so far this year.

5. If you could live in any fictional land/country/universe, where would it be?

I would go with the Wizarding World in Harry Potter. It's literally magical.

6. Is there any actor/actress/directors that you'll see their movies, no matter what?

In terms of actors, I'd go with Leonardo DiCaprio. But one director who always has me anticipating his next move is Christopher Nolan.

7. What's your favorite animated film?

Finding Nemo. Easy.

8. Where's your favorite place to watch movies/TV?

My living room.

9. What's your favorite thing to snack on during a movie?

A little traditional, but I like eating popcorn.

10. How many movies do you own?

About 196.

11. How and why did you become a blogger?

I have always wanted to become a writer and my father suggested that I created a blog to help myself get better at it. Since movies have always been my passion, I created a blog devoted to the world of cinema.

11 Random Facts:
1. The first Oscar ceremony I ever watched was in 2001 when Gladiator won Best Picture
2. Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton are my favorite actor and actress
3. Jude Law is my current cinematic crush
4. I occasionally like to bake peanut butter cookies
5. I am going for my Bachelor's in English
6. I have an intense fear of clowns
7. I can quote almost every line from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Nutty Professor, and Almost Famous
8. I like to sing karaoke
9. My favorite film genre is horror
10. I am a fast typer
11. Wedding Crashers is currently my favorite comedy

My Questions For My Nominees:
1. What film is your biggest guilty pleasure?
2. What is one film that you hate but everybody else loves?
3. What kind of moviegoer do you find the most annoying?
4. What is your favorite film genre?
5. What is one film that makes you cry?
6. Which Oscar win do you think the Academy should take back and why?
7. (stealing this) Favorite movie snack?
8. What was your first R-rated movie?
9. What movie is your most quotable?
10. (stealing this) How and why did you become a blogger?
11. Favorite time of day to go to the movies?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dream Cast: Han Solo Prequel

Hello, Bloggers, it has recently been announced that there will be a Star Wars prequel about Han Solo. So because I am a fan of the series and the character, I figured I'd offer my own thoughts as to who should play him.

Obviously, because it's a prequel, Harrison Ford can't return and they'll have to go with someone younger. So, my cast pick would be Jack O'Connell from Unbroken, 300: Rise Of An Empire, TV's Skins, and the most underrated film of 2014 and of the decade, Starred Up. While he doesn't fully resemble a young Harrison Ford, he still has the chops. In Starred Up, he proved that he could nail the swagger and the sharp wit as well as the emotional depth. He even does a lot of physical acting in that film which would be beneficial for the action scenes. O'Connell is a very underrated talent, in my opinion, and I think a role like this would give him the breakthrough that he truly deserves. He would also do a solid job promoting it because in a lot of interviews I've seen him give, he seems very affable and willing to crack a joke yet still dedicated to his work.

My other cast pick would be fellow Brit breakout Taron Egerton from Kingsman: The Secret Service. Like O'Connell, I think Taron Egerton would nail the "cocky smuggler with a heart of gold" persona. He practically played a young Han Solo in Kingsman, so it would be neat to see him tackle the real thing.

So those are my thoughts on who I think should play Han Solo in the upcoming prequel. Whether you agree or disagree or would like to offer your own casting picks, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Topic Of The Day: Michael Eisner's Sexist Comments

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I will go into some recent news that really had me flustered when I found out about it. Recently, ex-CEO of Disney Michael Eisner spoke with Goldie Hawn at the Aspen Ideas Festival and said how, with Hawn herself being an exception, unbelievably beautiful women aren't funny. So I wanted to touch upon his choice words and why I think he is such a sexist pig.

Now, I would like to ask something: What planet is this guy from? I mean, seriously, if he believes that it is hard for a woman to be funny without sacrificing their beauty, try telling that to Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Sofia Vergara, Melissa McCarthy, Emily Blunt, Rose Byrne, Jenny Slate, Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Emma Stone, Kristen Wiig, Rachel McAdams, and Amy Schumer. Even Margot Robbie had excellent comedic timing in The Wolf of Wall Street and look at how beautiful she is.

Now that I think about it, Eisner's comments are one aspect of the sexism problem in Hollywood because it's hard to find a beautiful or handsome male comedian and nobody says anything. But putting women in a box and saying they can't have it both ways speaks to the gender issue that is prevalent in the industry with not just wage equality, but how actresses are trying to be cornered in terms of the roles they are given.

We have also seen female-centered comedies become a force at the box office like The Heat, Bridesmaids, Spy, Inside Out, and the Pitch Perfect movies. Not just comedies, but films in general like Hunger Games, Maleficent, Gravity, Frozen, Cinderella, Lucy, Gone Girl, and Divergent. Even Ex Machina did well in its limited release run grossing $36 million against a $15 million dollar budget. Like Cate Blanchett said in her acceptance speech at the Oscars, people want to see stories about women and it isn't a niche since those films earn money. It seems audiences are starting to progress, so I think it's time for the industry to progress as well. Why do you think a lot of films nominated for Best Picture are films about men in crisis? They don't seem willing to make change.

So those are my thoughts on Michael Eisner's rather sexist comments. Whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Oscars 2016: July Predictions

Hello, Bloggers, here are my updated Oscar predictions in the sis major categories. Like with June, some things have changed, but most things are the same. Here we go:

Best Picture:
The Danish Girl
Inside Out
The Revenant
Steve Jobs

Left out Bridge of Spies because the trailers just aren't really clicking with me. I have my doubts as to whether it'll be a viable Oscar contender. Instead, I have Inside Out as the ninth film. That one has gotten some strong buzz.

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

Best Director:
Sarah Gavron, Suffragette
Todd Haynes, Carol
Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, The Revenant
David O. Russell, Joy

Replaced Steven Spielberg with Tom Hooper. Didn't want to, but if his film gains heavy traction, Hooper is easily going to come along for the ride.

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

Best Actor:
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Jake Gyllenhaal, Demolition
Tom Hiddleston, I Saw The Light
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Replaced Tom Hanks with another Tom: Tom Hiddleston whose biopic I Saw The Light just received an awards season release date. I also have Gyllenhaal for Demolition due to the slightly mixed reception Southpaw received and Fassbender for just Steve Jobs instead of both that and Macbeth like I did in my June predictions

Dark Horses: Michael Caine, Youth, Don Cheadle, Miles Ahead, Bradley Cooper, Adam Jones, Bryan Cranston, Trumbo, Ben Foster, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden/The Walk, Jason Segel, The End Of The Tour

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

No real changes.

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

Best Supporting Actor:
Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
Robert De Niro, Joy
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Seth Rogen, Steve Jobs

Replaced Alan Alda and Samuel L. Jackson with Benicio Del Toro and Michael Keaton. Keaton is slight wishful thinking, but I'm crossing my fingers that he gets a Birdman apology soon (Seriously, he really shouldn't have lost). Early reviews of Sicario have suggested that Del Toro has a juicy role, so we could see him pull for a 3rd bid.

Dark Horses: Josh Brolin, Sicario, Steve Carell, Freeheld, Bradley Cooper, Joy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Black Mass, Samuel L. Jackson/Bruce Dern/Walton Goggins/Demian Bichir, The Hateful Eight

Best Supporting Actress:
Jane Fonda, Youth
Diane Ladd, Joy
Rooney Mara, Carol
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Replaced Jennifer Jason Leigh with Kate Winslet who, judging by the trailer, looks like she might have some juicy clip moments in Steve Jobs.

Dark Horses: Helena Bonham Carter/Anne-Marie Duff, Suffragette, Elizabeth Olsen, I Saw The Light, Ellen Page, Freeheld, Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria, Naomi Watts, Demolition

So those are my current predictions for the Oscar race. If you would like to offer your own predictions, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Anatomy Of A Performance: Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls (2004)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Anatomy Of A Performance where I take a certain performance and dissect the internalities and nuances behind it. For today's performance, I will be going into a more outside the box choice: Rachel McAdams as the sinister Queen Bee Regina George in Mean Girls. 

One example from the film I will use to demonstrate my analysis of this performance is Regina's big monologue on Janis Ian where she sells Regina's malice in a short span of lines:

As Regina goes on her diatribe about Janis and the slow descent Janis went on, the way McAdams handles her dialogue makes it seem like Regina is unaware of the severity of Janis' slow descent. Because of how Regina jumped to conclusions about her ex-best friend being a lesbian and brushed off both their mothers fighting, it seems as if Regina is vicious yet blind sided by her own naivete and McAdams sells the character, as well as the monologue, perfectly.

But something about this next clip strikes me when I think about it:

When McAdams delivers the line "Sweatpants are all that fits me right now", she manages to speak it with layers of subtext. As Regina is rejected by her own clique, McAdams reveals her more human side, showing how hurt her character is. Even though Regina had less redeemable qualities, she still gets her feelings hurt like everyone else. It seems like we're not supposed to feel bad for her, but in this scene, we almost can't help it. But immediately after that "Sweatpants" line, McAdams delivers a funny quip with "Fine. You can walk home, bitches!", proving how she nails the character's comedic timing with a tint of pathos.

So I think the two scenes shown above reveal the rather hidden nuances to the character that McAdams nails: her comedic timing, her humanistic vulnerability, and her malicious naivete.

Those are my thoughts on the performance by Rachel McAdams. Whether you agree or disagree or would like to offer your own analysis of this performance, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Tips For Picking An Oscar Host

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I will give some suggestions that the Academy should consider when picking out the host for the next ceremony and for others in the future. Here we go:

Find Someone Who Can Do Improv: One of the chief complaints that Neil Patrick Harris received was how some of his jokes fell flat. But that I pin on the writers. So I would suggest picking someone who can do comedic improv really well so that the host can potentially have good timing and not succumb to poorly written jokes. Maybe a stand up comedian.

Pick Someone Who Has Hosting Experience: Hosting the Oscars is a tricky gig. Because it is such a prestigious event and the biggest night in Hollywood there is bound to be pressure on the host who has to be lively and keep the guests entertained.  So it would be wise to select someone who has hosted other awards ceremonies. That's why Neil Patrick Harris seemed like an easy choice as he hosted the Emmys and the Tonys. Even Chris Rock hosted the MTV Video Music Awards.

If You Go With A Pair, Go With People That Have Experience Working With Each Other: I would highly suggest Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, but apparently, they don't want to take the gig. There is also two other SNL alum, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Anyonw who has seen The Skeleton Twins knows they have great chemistry and they could successfully play off one another on stage. One of the reasons James Franco and Anne Hathaway didn't fare too well as hosts is because Hathaway had to be full of energy throughout the entire show to make up for Franco's lack of energy and physical presence. So if I were to go with a pair, I'd go with actors who are already accustomed to playing off one another on screen like maybe two actors from the Judd Apatow clan (Steve Carell and Will Ferrell or Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, etc.) or Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin if they want to appeal to the older demographics.

Possibly Pick Someone Who Is Active On Social Media: I'm sure one of the reasons last year's Oscars had such high ratings is because Ellen broke Twitter when she made that celebrity selfie. Because the Oscars are watched by millions of people across the globe and because a lot of younger viewers are on social media, it would be neat for those younger viewers to be pulled into watching the show because of a famous host who uses Twitter.

But one person I would suggest to possibly be the next host is Kevin Hart. He has experience in stand up comedy, previous hosting experience, and is not only active on Twitter, but because he is such a big name, he can attract a young and diverse demographic. Here's another bonus: He wants the gig! So he'll surely bring the right zing the show needs. If I were to put him in a pair, I'd go with Anna Kendrick as his co-host. Sure, she doesn't have much experience hosting other awards shows.  But like Hart, she's active on Twitter and could bring in a younger crowd. Plus, she has good comedic timing and can be musical. They already had good chemistry when presenting at the Oscars this year, so that's a good start.

So those are a few tips I would give to the Academy when picking out the next Oscar host. Whether you agree or disagree or would like to offer your own tips, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Anatomy Of A Performance: Ben Mendelsohn in Starred Up (2014)

Hello,Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Anatomy Of A Performance where I take a certain performance and dissect the internalities and nuances behind it. For today's performance, I will go into the second male performance in this segment, Ben Mendelsohn as the convicted and conflicted father Neville Love in Starred Up. 

In Starred Up, Mendelsohn plays a rather complex figure as Neville is somebody who acts as a rather uncompromising mentor to his son yet is only desperate to get his son out of prison away from the "big boys." But Mendelsohn showcases Neville's desperation through sudden shifts in his eyes and body movements. Take for example, this scene:

Notice how in the beginning, he is all shaky and clutching his hands. Then as he starts spewing out cusses, when you look closely in his eyes at about 0:32, you can see the scared anxiety behind that rough exterior. Yet Mendelsohn never dwells on the melodrama. But when the camera cuts back to a farther distance, the therapist, played by Rupert Friend, remind Neville how he wasn't there for his son as Eric suffered abuse in the past. Suddenly, Neville turns on a dime and goes on an angry tangent. Even from a distance, you can witness his sudden switch in emotions, ranging from anxious and scared to guilt ridden and insecure. That is thanks in large part to how Mendelsohn uses his facial and bodily shifts to showcase Neville's complexity even in just one scene like this one.

So those are my quick thoughts on Ben Mendelsohn's performance as Neville in Starred Up. Whether you agree or disagree on my thoughts and would like to offer your own analysis on his work, please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

2012 Film Guy Awards

2012 was a pretty good for movies. We saw plenty of quality blockbusters, like Bond and Batman, as well as plenty of quality indie pictures. So we got to see the best of both worlds. While the Oscar's pick for Best Picture, Argo, doesn't necessarily represent the best of 2012, it is still a fine film regardless and worse crimes have been committed. The Oscars may have played it a little safe, by omitting films like Skyfall and The Master from the Best Picture lineup, but they didn't play it safe to the degree of the year before. So from all angles, 2012 was a decent film year. There are films that I loved that were on people's radars as well as some films I loved that weren't. But again, that's the fun of creating your own personal ballot. Here are the 2012 Film Guy Awards. Enjoy!

* indicates the winner

Best Picture:
The Dark Knight Rises
The Master*
Perks of Being A Wallflower
Rust and Bone
Wreck-It Ralph

Best Director:
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master*
Jacques Audiard, Rust and Bone
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best Actor:
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Logan Lerman, Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master*
Matthias Schonaerts, Rust and Bone

Best Actress:
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone*
Ann Dowd, Compliance
Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect
Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games

Best Supporting Actor:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Michael Fassbender, Prometheus
Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike*
Ezra Miller, Perks Of Being A Wallflower

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, The Master
Judi Dench, Skyfall
Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises*
Kerry Washington, Django Unchained
Emma Watson, Perks Of Being A Wallflower

Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Hunger Games
Perks of Being A Wallflower
Pitch Perfect
Rust and Bone*
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Original Screenplay:
Django Unchained*
The Master
Moonrise Kingdom
Wreck-It Ralph

Best Editing:
Cloud Atlas
Django Unchained
The Master
Rust and Bone*
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Cinematography:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Master*
Moonrise Kingdom
Rust and Bone
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Production Design:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Cloud Atlas
The Hunger Games*
Moonrise Kingdom

Best Costume Design:
Cloud Atlas
The Hunger Games*
Les Miserables
Moonrise Kingdom
Snow White and the Huntsman

Best Makeup:
Cloud Atlas*
The Hunger Games
Les Miserables

Best Sound:
The Dark Knight Rises*
Les Miserables
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Original Score:
Beasts of the Southern Wild*
Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises
The Master

Best Visual Effects:
The Avengers*
Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises
Snow White and the Huntsman

Best Original Song:
"Safe and Sound" from The Hunger Games
"Skyfall" from Skyfall*
"Breath of Life" from Snow White and the Huntsman
"Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from Ted
"When Can I See You Again?" from Wreck-It Ralph

(subject to change)

Revisiting Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Hello, Bloggers! Back in 2013, when this blog first started, I wrote a rather scathing review of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. But ever since then, I've grown accustomed to Anderson's work by watching The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Both of those I loved. So I went and rewatched Moonrise Kingdom a couple times and I grew to like it much more.

In my original review, I said that there wasn't anything to like about it. But now, I have found plenty to appreciate about it. First off, I loved the cinematography. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and to me, the tinted yellow color represents the optimism of young love while contrasting with some of the darker events that occur.

Another thing I liked was how even though the film has a typical quirky Anderson-y feel with its set and costume designs and such, it still feels grounded in reality. Much like The Royal Tenenbaums, the characters in this feel like people you might already know: You have the boy, Sam, who is an orphan, the girl, Suzy, who feels like an outsider despite coming from a well-off family, the girl's overbearing parents, the lonely cop Sharp, and the sensitive yet neurotic scout master Ward. Now that I think about it, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola's screenplay manages to delve into the humanistic themes of young love and loneliness, which all the characters deal with. Plus, the actors all do an outstanding job bringing their characters to life. At first, I thought that the talent in this film was wasted. But now, not so much.

When I first saw this film, I didn't really get Wes Anderson's style nor did I see his previous work. So as I said before, I had to watch some of his other work to appreciate this more. But if you haven't seen any of his other films and plan to watch this, I would suggest watching The Royal Tenenbaums first so that you can a clear idea of what Anderson's vision is like.

After subsequent viewings of Moonrise Kingdom, I now give it a B+ and say that it is a colorful yet poignant take on young love and the loneliness felt by both kids and adults. I may need some more viewings to appreciate it even more, but what matters is I now have a great respect for Wes Anderson's vision. Thanks for reading!

2011 Film Guy Awards

2011 was a pretty dodgy year for the Oscars in my book. While The Artist deservingly took home Best Picture, I still felt the overall lineup at the ceremony was rather neutered. In a year full of edgy and modern films, well-crafted genre films, and even comedies, the Academy still stuck to tradition by nominating safe topical films and used their prevalent "buddy system". But no matter because that leads to the fun of creating your own ballot. Here are the 2011 Film Guy Awards. Enjoy!

* means the winner

Best Picture:
Attack The Block

Best Director:
Joe Cornish, Attack The Block
David Fincher, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Andrew Haigh, Weekend
Steve McQueen, Shame
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive*

Best Actor:
Tom Cullen, Weekend
Michael Fassbender, Shame*
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Chris New, Weekend

Best Actress:
Olivia Colman, Tyrannosaur
Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
Charlize Theron, Young Adult*

Best Supporting Actor:
John Boyega, Attack The Block
Albert Brooks, Drive*
Patton Oswalt, Young Adult
Brad Pitt, Tree of Life
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Supporting Actress:
Jessica Chastain, Tree of Life
Melanie Laurent, Beginners
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Carey Mulligan, Shame*
Kim Wayans, Pariah

Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Descendants
Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We Need To Talk About Kevin

Best Original Screenplay:
Attack The Block

Best Cinematography:
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Tree of Life

Best Editing:
Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Best Production Design:
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II*
Midnight in Paris

Best Costume Design:
The Artist
Midnight in Paris
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Visual Effects:
Attack The Block*
Captain America: The First Avenger
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
X-Men: First Class

Best Makeup:
Attack The Block
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II*
X-Men: First Class

Best Sound:
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Super 8

Best Original Score:
The Artist
Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Best Song:
"Star Spangled Man" from Captain America: The First Avenger
"Nightfall" from Drive
"Real Human Being" from Drive*
"The Immigrant Song" from Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
"Marcy's Song" from Martha Marcy May Marlene

(updated 08/21/15)