Sunday, November 29, 2015

Indie Review: Love and Mercy and The End of the Tour (2015)

Hello, Bloggers! So, I have not only watched two films this weekend, but two biopics about two famous male artists. So I figured I'd create a post where I review them both. The first one I will start off with is Love and Mercy, which is about Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys and depicts his bouts with paranoid schizophrenia as well as the woman that saved him and nurtured his condition.

What I thought was so incredibly fascinating about this film was that it wasn't necessarily a biopic per se because it doesn't give any deep focus on the rise and fall of the Beach Boys' or Brian Wilson's fame. It is mostly a character study on a man with mental illness and focuses on how it influenced his artistry as well as those around him that enhanced his condition making it worse, or helped him overcome it. It does show us Wilson's unorthodox methods of making music which I wasn't aware of despite being a big Beach Boys fan.

Despite its serious subject matter, though, it's also quite entertaining. During the opening sequence and the scenes where the Beach Boys are recording music, I would start doing a little dance or moving my head because it captures the magic of their music. As I'm writing this review, their music is still ringing in my head. Yet I love it.

Now onto the filmmaking aesthetics. I loved the cinematography by Robert Yeoman and how he shot the scenes with Young Brian as if they were filmed on a Super 8, capturing the 60's feel. Some of the editing is also pretty spot-on. My favorite edited sequence is one where after Older Brian and Melinda, played by Elizabeth Banks, are kissing each other goodbye after their first date, the film cuts back to Young Brian playing "God Only Knows" on the piano. The performances are also spot on. John Cusack was a great Older Brian, capturing the nature of Brian's condition, and Paul Dano was in top form as the Young Brian who slowly succumbs to his condition. Because they are playing the same character, the two actors luckily complement each other nicely. I also want to give a shoutout to Elizabeth Banks as Brian's eventual wife Melinda. Despite given the traditional supportive wife/girlfriend role that is typically incorporated in "man in crisis" movies, Banks is able to incorporate refreshing authenticity and sympathy into what could've been a stock character.

Overall, I would say Love and Mercy is a refreshingly unorthodox biopic that works as both a character study on mental illness and a fun nostalgic trip. I'd give it an A.

Now onto The End of the Tour, which depicts author David Foster Wallace, played by Jason Segel, and David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who did an interview with him for Rolling Stone. As the interview progresses, not only does Wallace reveal details of his past, but Lipsky starts to learn a bit more about himself.

The first thing I'll delve into that I liked, and for this I'll create a little FYC campaign: Best Adapted Screenplay. The script is a beautifully flowing ocean as it is one conversation between two men almost stretched out to its 110-minute screen time. Not only does the film live or die by its screenplay and dialogue, but it does so by the two actors speaking the dialogue.

Jesse Eisenberg provides solid and steady work as David Lipsky. But as great as he is, Jason Segel is a revelation as David Foster Wallace. An absolute transformation in mind and not just physically with how he wears glasses and long hair. While he showcases a rather low energy, Segel is able to use that as a tool to mask Wallace's turmoil while channeling his demure nature. Wouldn't be surprised to see him be the latest member of the Apatow clan, along with Steve Carell and Jonah Hill, to score some awards love in the future.

Overall, I would say that The End of the Tour is another unorthodox biopic that is a demonstration of how one long conversation can change your perspective on life. The screenplay is able to grasp you in despite it being dialogue heavy as well as the actors that lift it from the pages. This film might be too pseudo-intellectual for some, and drags in small places, but I would still recommend giving it a watch. I'd give it an A-.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Top 5 Cinematic Discoveries Of 2015 I'm Thankful For

I might be a day late on this since Thanksgiving happened yesterday. But I figured I'd share my thoughts on five actors that I have discovered this year that I'm thrilled to have seen and can't wait to follow in the future. 

5. Jason Mitchell: While I enjoyed the main trio of Straight Outta Compton, the one in that trio that stole the show, in my opinion, was Jason Mitchell as Easy E. Fresh off of Compton's success, he snagged a role in the upcoming blockbuster Kong: Skull Island. So we get to see his talents shine in a literally bigger picture soon. 

4. Taron Egerton: A star was born back in February in Taron Egerton with the release of Kingsman: The Secret Service. He was funny, charming, and got to give us a spy as cool as James Bond. Then I got to see him immediately ditch his Kingsman swagger in the period drama Testament of Youth and pretty soon, I'll be lining up to see him star alongside Tom Hardy in Legend.

3. Amy Schumer: Before 2015, I had never even heard of Amy Schumer. Then came the MTV Movie Awards where she hosted and of course, her comedic star turn in Trainwreck. Cut to November, she is now one of my favorite comedic leading ladies in the biz.

2. Alicia Vikander: First came Testament of Youth where she gave a luminous portrayal of WWI nurse Vera Brittain. Then about a few days after, I went and witnessed her immediate 360 as the android Ava in Ex Machina. I haven't seen a lot of the other films she's had released this year yet I am still in awe of her versatility and ability to bounce from genre to genre. What's crazy is that she's only 27! Who knows where her career goes maybe five years down the line but I can't wait to witness it.

1. Jack O'Connell: This one is a minor cheat since I feel like I've discovered him when I watched Starred Up early this year which came out last year. But I'm still including him regardless. Not only did his work in Starred Up really capture my eye, but I also saw him the 2008 horror film Eden Lake where he plays the main villain Brett and I never knew until now that it was O'Connell as the villain. Even more amazing: His off-screen persona could not be more different from his Eric Love or his Brett. When filming Harry Brown with Michael Caine, Caine shouted "Star of the future!" at him. Got that right, fine Sir!

So that is my list of the Top 5 Cinematic Discoveries Of 2015 I'm Thankful For. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section and share who you were happy to discover this year. Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Indie Review: Room (2015)

                                 'Room' Is A Rare Masterpiece 
    someone who loves films, I can honestly say not very many films have me going through a spectrum of emotions like this one does.

      Room follows the story of Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson) who are trapped in a shed that they call Room which is the only world Jack has ever known. Eventually, the two are able to escape Room, but must deal with the hardships and wonders of the outside world.

      I'll start off with the acting. Brie Larson delivers once again an absolute marvel of a performance. In Short Term 12, she gave us all a signal showing us what she is made of. But in this, she gets to throw out a gauntlet of emotions as she is unconditionally loving yet reveals a rather self-loathing maternal psychosis through sudden shifts in the way she lifts her eyebrows and tone of voice. Her Ma tries to shield Jack from the world yet is still aware that she can't hide him forever and seems afraid to face the world herself. But another star who is also a complete revelation is Jacob Tremblay as Jack. Even in the grimmest of situations, he is still able to capture a childlike wonder as we see the world and story through his eyes while at the same time, he captures an anger and frustration that is wise beyond his years. What a find this kid was and here's hoping he has a bright future ahead of him. Joan Allen is also in this as Jack's Grandma and while she has a smaller role, she is still a very warm and graceful presence that serves as a perfect foil to Ma.

      Next, I'll delve into the direction from Lenny Abrahamson. Wow, this guy is a genius. What he, and the rest of the filmmakers do, is capture the grim and claustrophobic nature of Room in contrast to the bigger and brighter world. The writer Emma Donoghue captures the grayness amongst the two main characters and does a great job making it seem like Room is its own small world with how Jack greets the various objects around the room each morning and how both characters use their television as their main means of connection to the outside world. The cinematographer Danny Cohen creates a brilliant contrast of Room and the world by using a darker color scheme in Room and when he films the skylight of Room, where we see the sun shine, he uses that as something of a bridge between Room and the world. Also, the editor Nathan Nugent deserves a special shout out for keeping the film at a tight pace, thus creating tension that literally had my heart pounding. Plus, when the film begins and we're in Room, I appreciated how we were kept in Room until Jack finally escapes. It doesn't cut to the police or the townspeople trying to find them. We don't leave until Jack and Ma do.


     Overall, Room is a rare masterpiece that will leave your heart pounding as the film begins and progresses then overwhelmed with joyous yet tearful emotions by the time the credits roll. This movie is about the parent and child in all of us as well as the powers of motherhood and its gripping realism will likely still have me trembling for days and maybe months to come.

Grade: A+

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Oscars 2016: How About Those Spirit Nods, Eh?!

Hello, Bloggers, the Independent Spirit Awards have just announced their list of nominees and even though I haven't seen many of the films in the mix, they have quite a mix up in store for this year. Let's take a look:

Full list:

Best Film:
Beasts of No Nation

Very surprised by the exclusion of Room and love for Beasts of No Nation considering the former film has developed such strong legs. Anomalisa is also surprising to see. I have to say, though, we have quite a diverse lineup: An animated film, a film set in war-zoned Africa, two LGBT-centered films with Carol and Tangerine, and an ensemble drama with Spotlight.

Best Director:
Sean Baker, Tangerine
Cary Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Thomas McCarthy, Spotlight
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows

Love the David Robert Mitchell nod!

Best Male Lead:
Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, End of the Tour
Koudous Seihan, Mediterranea

MENDELSOHN!!!!!! Agh, I'm so happy he got in. Don't think he'll win. But holy toledo, his inclusion made my morning!

Best Female Lead:
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, Diary of a Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

More diversity as we have a Hispanic transgendered actress and corrected category fraud with Mara being included in this category. Divine!

Best Supporting Male:
Kevin Corrigan, Results
Paul Dano, Love and Mercy
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Nobody here is an Oscar frontrunner, or in the Supporting Female category, which is nice.

Best Supporting Female:
Robin Bartlett, H.
Marin Ireland, Glass Chin
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Cynthia Nixon, James White
Mya Taylor, Tangerine

Interesting to see Jennifer Jason Leigh included for her voice work. Hopefully, this'll indicate that voice acting counts as an actual performance since the other voting bodies seem to indicate otherwise.

Best Screenplay:
Bone Tomahawk 
End of the Tour

Best First Screenplay:
Diary of a Teenage Girl
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
The Mend

One of Room's only other nominations.

Best First Feature:
Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos Sucias
Songs My Brother Taught Me

Best Cinematography:
Beasts of No Nation
It Follows
Songs My Brother Taught Me

More It Follows love! Yay!

Best Editing:
Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Manos Sucias

Best International Film:
A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence
Embrace the Serpent
Son of Saul

No Ex Machina, sadly. I was sort of hoping it would get in since it is a British production. Oh, well.

Best Documentary:
Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
Look of Silence
The Russian Woodpecker
(T) Error

Neat to see Best of Enemies score some love. I saw it a while ago and I think it's pretty neat to see a documentary I actually saw get recognition.

Overall, I am very pleased with these nominees. It is very refreshing that it doesn't feel like the Oscars 2.0 which is a problem that has plagued them quite recently. But we not only have more legitimate independents, but a diverse array of indies: genre films, female-centered films, LGBT-centered films, an animated film, and so on. They might've just embodied what the Spirit Awards should be about: Honoring true independent voices and not acting as a practice session for the Oscars the night after.

What do you guys think about these? Are there any snubs that surprised you and which nominees were you happy with? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trailer Talk: Alice Through The Looking Glass and The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Trailer Talk. For this episode, I will delve into trailers for two upcoming fairy tale sequels/prequels. Those films are Alice Through The Looking Glass and The Huntsman: Winter's War. 

I'll start off with Alice Through The Looking Glass. I have pretty mixed feelings on this. I don't quite love the first Alice in Wonderland the way I did when I first saw it. I'm also weary on Johnny Depp who I fear is just collecting another paycheck this time around. Also, despite the first film doing very well, I'm not really sure whether it really needed a sequel. The film obviously looks great. It looks much more colorful than the last one did. But I don't really go see movies because they look amazing.  Although, I do certain films because they are meant to be seen in the theaters. But I don't know about this one. I'm ambivalent as of now.

Now onto The Huntsman: Winter's War. While there didn't seem to be much demand for a Snow White and the Huntsman prequel or sequel or whatever this is, I am psyched for this one. For one or two reasons, in particular: Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron as the villainous queen sisters. You also have another one of the best actresses in the business, Jessica Chastain. Chris Hemsworth is also very good and I'm really pulling for him to build a career outside of Thor. Not saying I don't love him as Thor. I do love him as Thor. It's just that whenever an actor is cast as a superhero, sometimes they have trouble building a career outside of that. and if this one does really well, then he might be able to do so and have another franchise to rest on. 

I also loved the song used in the trailer, "Castle" by Halsey. It keeps ringing in my head. I love everything else about this trailer as well. I would definitely go and see this in theaters. Also, on a side note, the three actresses in this are on my dream list of actresses to play Captain Marvel. 

What do you guys think? Do you think any of these trailers look good? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part II (2015)

       'Mockingjay- Part II' Is A Solid Swan Song For An Astounding Franchise

      When it comes to watching a film based on a novel, do you ever get the feeling that you wished it weren't so faithful to the book..or is it just me?

      The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part II concludes the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her quest to take down the Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) after her beloved Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was rescued from the Capitol and "hijacked" into thinking she is the enemy. This time, as she enters the Capitol, war begins to be unleashed.

    I'll start off with Jennifer Lawrence. While it took a while for her main co-stars Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth to grow into their roles, Lawrence was, and is, Katniss. She was kind of just going through the motions in Part I, but in Part II, she gets to really bring her A-game.

    Another thing I loved was how director Francis Lawrence brought the sense of danger that I felt when reading the book. I felt that anybody could go and anything could strike. It felt like I was in the battle zone. One of my favorite action sequences was the one where they are all in the sewers, fighting off the mutated fish monsters. I felt it was chilling before the monsters even showed up because of how they were all in the dark and we knew they were going to strike, but we didn't know when.

    My problems mainly stem from having read the book. Without spoiling anything, I'll say that I wasn't crazy about how in certain areas, it was faithful to the novel and out of all the novels in the trilogy, Mockingjay is my least favorite one. Because that one was split into two parts, some of the secondary characters in Part II lose their luster and they are quite underused.

   I actually would've preferred that Catching Fire was split into two movies. Partially because it's my favorite book in the trilogy. But also because if it had two parts, there would've been more buildup to the second part and this one felt like an extension of Part I, which was mostly just exposition.

   Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part II is a solid swan song for a saga that I've grown to love in recent years. While I've had some qualms with how my least favorite book was the one split into two parts, I still enjoyed this one. I would say that out of all the young adult films or franchises in recent memory, The Hunger Games is the best.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Oscars 2016: November Predictions

Hello, Bloggers, here is my updated list of Oscar predictions for the month of November. For this post, I will post my absolutely crazy Best Picture predictions.

Best Picture:
Bridge of Spies
Inside Out
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Steve Jobs
Straight Outta Compton

I'm going to do the whole "Anne Thompson" approach in this category and predict movies that have already been screened with one exception of course. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will likely be one of the biggest movies of all time and I feel that if it has the reviews to back it up, it can be a late player in the awards race. It may not be screening for the earlier critics groups, but it doesn't need them. I also have Straight Outta Compton on here because I've been following Hollywood insiders like Pete Hammond from Deadline and Tom O'Neil on Gold Derby and they say that voters really like this one and if you factor in the film's amazing box office, reviews, and timeliness, it'll likely be a factor in this year's Best Picture race.

Dark Horses: 45 Years, The Big Short, The Hateful Eight, Joy, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Son of Saul, Youth

Best Director:
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Thomas McCarthy, Spotlight
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott, The Martian
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

Even if Mad Max doesn't crack Best Picture due to the crowded field, I believe Miller can still get in here as a passion pick if the film is still beloved. Also, since the film will likely score many craft nods, they may want to recognize the man who made those crafts happen, I hope.

Best Actor:
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

While Michael Caine is a threat for the veteran slot that might be occupied by Ian McKellen, Caine doesn't have the overdue factor that McKellen will likely have since he has yet to win while Caine has already won 2 for Supporting.

Dark Horses: Steve Carell, The Big Short, Bryan Cranston, Trumbo, Johnny Depp, Black Mass, Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies, Tom Hardy, Legend, Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight, Will Smith, Concussion 

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Dark Horses: Emily Blunt, Sicario, Blythe Danner, I'll See You In My Dreams, Rooney Mara, Carol, Carey Mulligan, Suffragette, Amy Schumer, Trainwreck, Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Lily Tomlin, Grandma, Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Best Supporting Actor:
Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight 
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Spotlight could be the first film in 24 years to have two Supporting Actor nominees from the same film. Keaton looks to have an "I.O.U." factor after losing Best Actor last year and Ruffalo looks to have the showiest role amongst the cast. So they both definitely have something in their favor.

Dark Horses: Paul Dano, Love and Mercy, Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation, Jason Mitchell, Straight Outta Compton, Seth Rogen, Steve Jobs, Jacob Tremblay, Room, one of the Hateful Eight actors (Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, etc.)

Best Supporting Actress:
Joan Allen, Room
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Isabella Rossellini, Joy
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander are being pushed here, but I fear that because of the Globes announcing them being put in lead, they'll suffer category confusion and be left out. So far, I think Winslet is the safest bet in this category.

Dark Horses: Elizabeth Banks, Love and Mercy, Diane Ladd, Joy, Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria, Julie Walters, Brooklyn

Best Original Screenplay:
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out

Dark Horses: Bridge of Spies, Love and Mercy, Mad Max: Fury Road, Son of Saul, Straight Outta Compton

Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Martian
The Revenant
Steve Jobs

Dark Horses: 45 Years, The Big Short, Carol, The Danish Girl

So those are my updated predictions for the month of November. I'd love to hear what you guys think. So please be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Oscars 2016: Globes Update: Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander To Go Lead

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I will share an update that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who hosts the annual Golden Globes, has announced. Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander are getting a rather controversial campaign for Supporting Actress for Carol and The Danish Girl, respectively. But the HFPA fought back and said that Mara and Vikander will be pushed in Best Actress-Drama.

This news I am quite happy with. I haven't seen either film yet, but I'll believe that these two actresses being pushed in Supporting is category fraud. With these two in Lead, this now has me curious as to how Best Actress-Drama will play out. Possibly like this:

Cate Blanchett, Carol 
Brie Larson, Room 
Rooney Mara, Carol 
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years 
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn 

But let's say that because Blanchett and Mara are competing against each other, there is a vote split, resulting in both missing out. It might play out this way:

Emily Blunt, Sicario 
Brie Larson, Room 
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years 
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn 
Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road 

I'm still unsure of Vikander's chances with her going Lead since Best Actress-Drama has become more packed and her film's buzz isn't as strong as Mara's film. But it's better to miss out in a category where you belong than to cheat your way through and get in a category you don't belong.

You may also notice how I don't have Jennifer Lawrence in here. That's because there is a debate as to whether Joy will go Comedy which is where the film's team is submitting it. In case she makes it in there, it might look something like this:

Blythe Danner, I'll See You In My Dreams 
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy 
Melissa McCarthy, Spy (Alt. Anne Hathaway, The Intern or Meryl Streep, Ricki and the Flash)
Amy Schumer, Trainwreck 
Lily Tomlin, Grandma 

But if Lawrence does compete in Drama, then I think it's Anne Hathaway that gets in. It seems crazy to underestimate Streep getting in at the Globes, but it seems everyone's forgotten about the film since it came out in the summer, did poorly at the box office and had mixed to negative reviews. Usually, when Meryl gets name checked, it is when her films make money (Mamma Mia!, It's Complicated, Hope Springs). But not only did Hathaway's film come out at a better time, but it has done impressively, grossing almost $200m worldwide.

Now, this leaves what happens with the Supporting Actress category. Now that Mara and Vikander are where they belong, what about the Supporting ladies? Possibly like this:

Joan Allen, Room 
Jane Fonda, Youth  (Alt. Elizabeth Banks, Love and Mercy or Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria)
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight 
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight 
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs 

What do you guys think? Do you agree with any of my predictions and how do you feel about Mara and Vikander being bumped into Lead? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

FYC: Ben Mendelsohn for Best Actor in Mississippi Grind (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, here is yet another For Your Consideration post. Now this will be an FYC post/review. So, I'll delve into why the performance deserves recognition while also praising the film he's in. That performance is Ben Mendelsohn in Mississippi Grind.

Ever since his breakthrough back in 2010 with Animal Kingdom, Mendelsohn has been working consistently in the States, appearing in great films like The Dark Knight Rises, where I first noticed him, and then Place Beyond The Pines, Slow West, TV's Bloodline, and the upcoming Star Wars spinoff Rogue One. He may have become typecast as villains or schmucks, but he is always great in each role. But with Mississippi Grind, he is given a rare leading role and he knocks it out of the park. As Gerry, a down on his luck gambler on a losing streak, Mendelsohn showcases Gery's dead end despair through radiant charisma and rather childlike anxiety through the way his body shakes. He may be playing a scheming deadbeat here, but he pulls it off with more original nuances. While his Neville in Starred Up was pretty anxious as well, his Gerry is much more charismatic and cool. You want to hug Neville and tell him everything will be fine while you root for Gerry to win at the end and that's what really sets them apart. A nod for Mendelsohn here would certainly be the cherry on top of a banner year for the actor as he already scored an Emmy nod for Bloodline and also had Slow West and Black Sea. 

The film itself, though, is a fine road movie. It has smart writing from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and Mendelsohn has solid support from Ryan Reynolds. Even if both actors share a similar amount of screen time, it's still mostly the Mendelsohn show. In the hands of a lesser actor, Mississippi Grind would've actually been just a find road movie. But thanks to the chemistry of both Mendelsohn and Reynolds, it is made even better. I'd give it a solid A-.

What do you guys think? If you've seen the film, do you agree that Ben Mendelsohn deserves Oscar recognition? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Star Wars: The Force Awakens To Skip Early Awards Shows

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I will discuss some news that is surprising yet not surprising. According to The Wrap, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will sit out the early awards shows in December. It'll skip the National Board of Review Awards, won't screen for the Screen Actors Guild Awards and won't screen for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association or the New York Film Critics Circle.

Now the aforementioned critics bodies (NBR, LAFCA, NYFCC) usually go for smaller fare anyway. Also, Star Wars: The Force Awakens likely isn't an actors movie. It's more important to land a Producers Guild nod, though, and those nominations aren't announced until January, thankfully. Like the article said, it isn't going to sit oit the race entirely. They're just trying to keep the film under wraps as much as possible before the film comes out. This film is already a phenomenon so expectations are quite high and it would be unfortunate for them to potentially ruin it with bad word of mouth. Although, because the film is already a global phenomenon, I think it'll still have a potential chance at Best Picture if it fires on all cylinders (fans, critics, and especially the industry).

Not only that, but it wouldn't be the only late arrival to make a big splash on Nomination Day. When we think there is an early frontrunner, sometimes, a film can appear late in the game and steal plenty of thunder. So while the words "sitting out the early awards shows" may sound worrisome, it might just be waiting for the more important ones to take place. If the film is good, then I hope it can gain some momentum even though it has plenty of it in general.

What do you guys think? Are you worried by this recent announcement or do you think it still has a chance at Best Picture? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Oscars 2016: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I figured I'd discuss a factor in awards season that has REALLY pleased me recently. That is how competitive Best Actress this year. Normally, I hear complaints about how Best Actress is notoriously hard to fill. I think that is because people aren't looking hard enough for the juiciest performances, but I digress.

The first actress that I feel is pretty safe for a nod is Cate Blanchett for Carol. Yet, she'll also be competing for her equally-raved work in Truth. Also, Brie Larson for Room seems pretty safe and Larson is finally getting the true breakthrough she has deserved for quite some time with her raved work. Jennifer Lawrence is throwing her hat back in the Oscar race with the Miracle Mop biopic Joy and according to early test screenings, buzz is quite loud on her performance.

Now onto others who aren't quite safe, yet are still looking competitive to enter the Final Five. Saoirse Ronan has just opened with Brooklyn which has done pretty nicely in its limited run and her rave reviews can allow her to be welcomed back to the ceremony after her first nomination for Atonement back in 2007.

But how about some of the more veteran names out there? Some of whom haven't gotten their due yet. Such names include Lily Tomlin for Grandma, Blythe Danner for I'll See You In My Dreams, and Best Actress winner at the Berlin Film Festival, Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years. 

It has also been a good year for genre ladies as well with Charlize Theron's already iconic turn as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road which is looking to score major love including in Best Picture. Theron's work has drawn comparisons to Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley and Weaver did score an Oscar nomination for Aliens back in 1986. We also have Emily Blunt as the Clarice Starling-esque Kate in crime thriller Sicario as well.

Wait, I haven't even gotten to the indie dark horses yet. Sarah Silverman earned strong notices for her work as an addict in I Smile Back, allowing the possibility of her pulling a Cake (comedian going serious like Jennifer Aniston). Bel Powley was quite a breakout in the little seen Diary Of A Teenage Girl and Kitana "Kiki" Rodriguez looks to make history as the first transgendered actress to get an Oscar nod for Tangerine. 

Also, while they are quite a longshot at the Oscars, if funny ladies Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer get in at the Globes and Critics Choice Awards for Best Actress-Comedy for Spy and Trainwreck, I would expect them to be dark horses as well.

What do you guys think? Do you agree that it is a killer year for actresses? Also, how do you feel about the claims that Best Actress is always hard to fill? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pick Their Franchise: Jack O'Connell


Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Dream Cast. For this episode, I'm going to be doing something different. These days, when pushing new and young talent, Hollywood tends to give emerging stars their own franchise or at least a part in one. Since Jack O'Connell is a fast rising star and is likely, or will, getting franchise offers, I figured I'd share my thoughts on which one, or which character, he should sign on for to raise his profile. Let's take a look:

Han Solo: I've already discussed why why he should be in the upcoming Han Solo prequel, but I'm going to continue to. Thankfully, the prequel isn't set to come out until 2018. So hopefully his schedule will be free by the time they film.

Robin: Robin is a character in the Batman universe I haven't been too crazy about. But if there is one actor that I believe will make him cool if he were reintroduced on screen, it'd be Jack O'Connell. Also, if they were to introduce Robin's tragic backstory involving the death of his parents, O'Connell could also pull off the required gravitas as well.

Venom: He may not be as hulking as the character in the comics, but anybody that has seen Starred Up knows that he is pretty cut. He's fit enough for the role and if Venom were introduced in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, O'Connell could give us the best MCU villain since Loki. Especially considering how poorly Marvel handles their villains.

James Bond: Sure, he might be a little too young at 25. But Daniel Craig's days as Bond are quickly becoming numbered due to his age and they might want someone who will be around for a while to play the character. He could also introduce a newer more rugged Bond to reinvent the character and make it his own.

But what do you guys think? Which of these characters do you feel should make O'Connell the star he deserves to be or do you think he should play any of these characters? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Indie Review: Goodnight Mommy (2015)

              'Goodnight Mommy' Terrifies Even When Watched In The Light Of Day

        You got to love those Europeans. When American horror films fail us, we can count on those from across the pond to remind us the genre isn't dead. Even of they take a familiar story or plot twist, they still find a way to reinvent it. How do they do it?

   Goodnight Mommy follows the story of two brothers named Elias and Lukas (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) whose mother has returned from receiving cosmetic surgery with her face all bandaged. But it turns out that their mother is acting differently than before, making them wonder whether she really is their mother at all.

    I'll start off by discussing the cinematography. What I loved about what the cinematographer Martin Gschlacht does is how he consistently keeps all three main characters in the dark. Not only does that create an uneasy feeling, but it creates a visual deception, making you wonder who is completely evil and who is not.

    I also thought it was neat how there is almost no music or sound effects and because of that, as well as how your mind creates certain events that take place, it brings back memories of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre which is almost a bloodless film yet is still remembered as one of the bloodiest films ever. This kind of constriction is thanks to the direction and writing by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. Not only do they create an unsettling atmosphere by making you wonder who is the bigger villain by having the mother and the children act out of the ordinary, but there is also a big reveal at the end that is slightly familiar yet pulled off in a different manner.

   Lastly, I'll get into the performances. I thought the kids did a very nice job and Susanne Wuest who plays the mother. Even when Wuest has the bandages wrapped around her head, she was still quite unsettling and that is a great testament to her acting ability.


  Overall, Goodnight Mommy is an unsettling and atmospheric yet incredibly well-crafted horror gem that brings back fond memories of classic fare like The Shining and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Grade: A  


Friday, November 6, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Why Certain Films Open Against Blockbusters

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I figured I'd delve into a topic that struck me recently involving film releasing in case other people wonder the same thing that I did. When certain smaller-scale films come out against tentpole blockbusters that smash the box office records, I wonder to myself "Why do the studios risk doing such a thing?". But now I understand why: Counterprogramming.

The studios pull off this move so that the films they release can be used as alternatives for those that don't want to see the tentpole blockbusters offered to them as options for the weekend. For example, when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part II comes out, it'll be up against The Night Before, Legend, and The Secret In Their Eyes. Legend and The Night Before will likely cater to the male adult crowd that isn't interested in these kind of YA film adaptations and The Secret In Their Eyes to a much older adult crowd interested in crime dramas and/or fans who still want to see Julia Roberts in theaters.

Also, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out, it'll be up against Sisters starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler which will cater to not just women, but women who don't want their male significant others to drag them to Star Wars. 

Another great example is when Winnie The Pooh came out in July 2011. To me, it was released as an alternative for children whose parents won't take them to see Harry Potter. 

So because tentpole blockbusters tend to be most of the rage when it comes to the box office, studios tend to release films on the same weekend as those that may not open at number 1, but will still be alternatives for those that want to get away from those blockbusters and the alternatives can make a semi-decent profit.

What do you guys think? Do you believe as well that counterprogramming is why certain films compete with blockbusters? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Review: Spectre (2015)

             'Spectre': An Entry In The Bond Franchise That Goes Down Like A Bitter Martini

         Earlier, when I did a review of Bridge of Spies, I mentioned how it has been a banner year for spy movies. Yet one of the bigger disappointments of the year turns out to be a film in THE spy movie franchise. Like the great Alanis Morissette once said, "Isn't it ironic?"

   Spectre follows the story of James Bond as he pursues a global organization known as Spectre which looks to invade the governments of countries all over the world and is led by Ernst Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).

   I really loved the opening sequence which incorporated a long tracking shot. I thought that was very nice. I kind of wished that technique was used throughout to make things a little more interesting. Also, the cinematography by Hoyte von Hoytema was absolutely beautiful. One of my favorite sequences was the one where Bond infiltrates a meeting of Spectre members and once Blofeld enters the room, he is mostly in the shadows. I thought that was haunting and masterfully done.

     Lastly, I loved that we got to see more of M, this time played by Ralph Fiennes, as well as more Q and Moneypenny and I liked the scenes they all together.

    My biggest problem, that really disappointed me, was how it is the same old formula. Granted many other Bond films follow the same formula. But after Skyfall, which is the best Bond film with Daniel Craig and reinvigorated the Bond film formula, I was left so disappointed that we were given something so basic. Also, with the whole plot of Spectre invading global governments, it felt like I was watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier again but without the political thriller elements that Captain America had.

     Also, while Daniel Craig does a fine job as Bond, some of the actors see their great talents go to waste. Lea Seydoux has a pretty sizable role as the latest Bond girl Madeleine, and is quite good in the role, but she doesn't have much to do. Christoph Waltz wasn't as wasted yet I still felt it was a paycheck performance from him as he spoke his lines rather phonetically. Monica Bellucci has a smaller role as the wife of a member of Spectre and she is WASTED. She does a fine job with what she is given, but she only has one big scene then disappears from the rest of the film which I thought was unfortunate.

     Not only was the storyline involving Spectre cliched, but there was even a big twist towards the end that I could easily sniff from a mile away and in which I won't reveal in case you guys want to see the film.

   Overall, Spectre is a disappointingly back-to-basics Bond film that features deja vu-inducing storytelling and wasted talent. The action sequences are fine and some of the actors have roles that flesh out their talents, but none of these elements could really save the film.

 Grade: B-

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

British Independent Film Awards Nominations 2015

Hello, Bloggers, the awards show known as the British Independent Film Awards, which are like the U.K. Independent Spirit Awards, has announced its list of nominees. While they don't carry as much emphasis or indication as say, the Golden Globes, they still have a neat list of nominations that includes films that even won't be much of a factor into the race. They also just had the Hollywood Film Awards, but that's more of a publicity pit stop than an actual awards show. You don't really win one. It's just gives you a kick to your Oscar campaign. Anyways, let's take a look at the takeaways from the nominations.

Full list of nominations here:

First off, I LOVE that Ex Machina got major love for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and a few Craft nods. However, I'm a little perplexed that the three actors got snubbed, especially Oscar Isaac who I'm crossing my fingers is a major dark horse in the Supporting Actor race. They did nominate Alicia Vikander for Best Actress but for The Danish Girl. Contrary to the Supporting Actress campaign she is getting. Shows how they are trying to point out the fallacy of her Supporting campaign, I suppose.

Speaking of The Danish Girl, it only got a nomination for Best Actress. Now I don't think this spells doom and gloom for the film, or for Eddie Redmayne who didn't get nominated. But if I were on the film's campaign team, I wouldn't be optimistic as of now. If the film does poorly at the box office then, couple that with the mixed reception it received, it will definitely spell doom and gloom for the film.

It is also neat that Amy got major love outside of Best Documentary over in Best Film and Best Director. That film is on my to-do list, so I'm intrigued to see it. Macbeth also received major love including Best Actor for Michael Fassbender. I think that nod for him will help his momentum for Steve  Jobs and give him a "prolific year" narrative despite the poor box office of Steve Jobs. 

Coincidentally, they have three Toms in the Best Actor category: Tom Courtenay for 45 Years, Tom Hardy for Legend, and Tom Hiddleston for High Rise. Much like Fassbender, Hardy's nomination could help build a "prolific year" narrative with Legend, The Revenant, and Mad Max: Fury Road under his belt. While I don't think The Lobster will get very far in the Oscar race, its nominations have me even more intrigued to check it out somehow.

So those are my quick thoughts on the nominations for the British Independent Film Awards. Please feel free to write your own thoughts about them in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Oscar Watch: Anomalisa (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of my Oscar Watch where I discuss trailers for upcoming Oscar contenders. For this post, I will delve into the upcoming stop motion animated pic Anomalisa by Charlie Kaufman.

Before I saw the trailer for this, I was pretty curious about it. One reason is its R rating and another is Charlie Kaufman being behind it. This is the same mind behind Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so I can expect this one to be just as unorthodox. But it is neat to see Kaufman trying something different and not just doing live-action.

I also like the voice talent that includes David Thewlis aka Professor Lupin, Tom Noonan, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. All great talents. But while I think it'll likely get nominated for Best Animated Feature, I'm wrestling with whether or not it can overthrow Inside Out. This does have a late December release date which is a double edged sword for many Oscar contenders that go that route. Some fare okay but others end up too late to the party. We'll see how this one ends up, but I am very intrigued by it.

But what do you guys think? Do you think it looks like a viable Oscar contender? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Review: Bridge of Spies (2015)

                     Spielberg And Hanks Are Like 'Spies' With The Right Kind Of Gadgets

  has been quite a year for spy movies, hasn't it? Spy, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible, possibly Spectre, and now a spy movie that is mostly negotiations. Who knew?

   Bridge of Spies is based on a true story about an insurance lawyer named James Donovan (Tom Hanks) who is asked to defend a Soviet spy named Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) held under custody in the United States during the Cold War in exchange for the release of a U.S. pilot held in captivity even though it means being slowly ostracized by his peers and delving into uncharted territory.

    I'll start off with the direction by Steven Spielberg. Now, like with Meryl Streep in acting, it becomes tiresome to say that Spielberg did an amazing job directing. But he does an amazing job with the direction. One thing I liked was how he was able to keep my eyes glued to the screen thanks to the constant shots of the camera zooming in on the actors. Also, he does a lot of great visual storytelling like the scene where we see the Berlin Wall being built. It is little moments like that which hook you into the grand picture and it is a testament to Stevie's direction. The great performances do as well.

   Next, I'll go right into the acting. Tom Hanks is not only good as always, but he manages to make his everyman character even more endearing through hidden nuances like the way his character stutters and blinks his eyes over his doubt and anxiety. As great as he is, though, the movie belongs to Mark Rylance. Rylance plays, by far, the most intriguing character in the film with Rudolf Abel. He plays Abel as very calm and collected in the face of the scrutiny he is put under and quietly steals the show. Whenever he disappeared from the screen, I would always wait for him to come back. Amy Ryan, who plays Donovan's wife isn't given very much to do, but she does a fine job with what she is given. The rest of the cast has small roles as well, because this is clearly the Hanks-Rylance show, but they are all pretty good.

   I also appreciated how the film demonstrates that when it comes to the conflict between the U.S. and the Soviets, it doesn't feel like we're too different because of how in the film, we capture one of their own and they capture a few of our own. The title of the film, Bridge of Spies, serves as a metaphor for the one that the two nations cross and captures quite a grey area. The title also refers to an actual bridge shown at the climax of the story.

   Now, I thought the film could've been just a little shorter. There was never a point where I was anxious to get out of the theater yet I probably would've loved it even more than I already do if there was more cutting in the editing room. That's the one gripe I have.

    Overall, Bridge of Spies is a very noble effort from the dynamic duo of Spielberg and Hanks that made it a relief to see Spielberg going back to doing what he does best after a short absence and to continue seeing Hanks do what he does best. In the hands of a lesser team, it probably would've been tedious to watch since it is all talking, yet these two still manage to make it work.

Grade: A-

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Oscar Watch: The Big Short (2015)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of my Oscar Watch where I discuss trailers for upcoming Oscar contenders. For this post, I will delve into the trailer for The Big Short which stars Stebe Carell and Christian Bale and deals with the housing bubble crisis that took place.

Originally, I wasn't going to cover this trailer because it doesn't look like Oscar material. But I think given its pedigree cast of Carell, Bale, and even Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, as well as the fact it is based on a true story and is being released at the end of the year, I wouldn't be surprised if it got some traction.

But to me, this film looks like diet Wolf of Wall Street and I can't really imagine it being a commercial hit due to its competition like Star Wars, Concussion, Joy, The Hateful Eight, and The Revenant. Around Christmas time, I doubt people will want to spend their gift cards on a movie about the housing crisis. Not when you have Star Wars, J-Law, DiCaprio, and Tarantino to complete with. While pundits are predicting it'll land major Oscar nominations, I'm just not seeing it. Also, on a side note, the makeup on these actors is incredibly distracting and it's another thing that is pulling me out of the film.

What do you guys think? Do you agree that it doesn't look like Oscar material or do you disagree? Also, is this something that you would pay to see in theaters and around Christmas time. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Topic Of The Day: Regarding The Hollywood Wage Gap

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I figured I'd delve into a subject in Hollywood that, to me, is getting out of hand. That is the wage gap between actors and actresses.

Recently, Jessica Chastain did an interview where she claimed that she was paid less than a quarter of her reported salary in The Martian. It was reported that she made $7 million but only made less than $1.75 million while her male co-star Matt Damon likely made 8 digits. However, in my opinion, that seems pretty fair considering how small of a role she had and that Damon is a big contributor to the film's success. Sure, she's a 2-time Oscar nominee, but with all due respect to her, her name doesn't fill multiplexes. She's a respected name but respect and awards don't always equal being a big draw. Hilary Swank has an enviable 2-0 Oscar record yet she still doesn't command a high salary because she is simply not a draw. It's the same thing with the guys too. Look at Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He has hits on his resume (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, etc.), but plenty of films he's done where he was the lead haven't all fared well. So if actresses, and actors, want a high salary, they need to be somebody that people will pay to see. Even if you have hits on your resume, it doesn't automatically mean you are a draw.

When I was reading a list of actors who can still command a $20 million payday like Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, and Robert Downey. Jr., I can see why they still get that much because they are a significant factor in the success of the films they star in. Jennifer Lawrence just joined that club with the upcoming Passengers, but Sony was reluctant to give her that much. Mainly because they wanted to keep the budget down but I'm sure another reason is because Lawrence won't be shapeshifting or carrying her bow and arrow and David O. Russell won't be directing. The biggest wins on her resume have been her franchises and work with David O. Russell so Sony must've felt it would be a big risk giving her such a high chunk of dough when she doesn't have the three things I just mentioned. If Passengers is a big hit, then she'll likely be able to command a high price tag. But if not, her negotiating power will start to wane. Not because she is a woman, but because she wouldn't be bringing as many people into the theater and, like I said, it is the same thing with the guys too. On the list of actors that I've read who can still command a $20m fee, names like Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp weren't on because they don't have the same kind of staying power as before. If your name alone brings people in, then you get the big paychecks or at least take a small fee and get your $20 million on the backend which is what I think actors should do.

I personally prefer to see actors take a small fee upfront, then get more money on the backend so they can help the suits preserve the budgets on their films. That's why when Jennifer Lawrence's Passengers salary was announced: 20 million upfront plus 30% of the grosses, I was a little miffed. Even though it was in response to the Sony hack, where it was revealed that she made less than Jeremy Renner on American Hustle and had less backend points despite their roles having a similar size, I'm left thinking to myself "Why not just ask for a small bump on your upfront fee and higher backend points?" I think if all A-list actors were to take a small fee upfront and get the same amount of backend points, it would be one way to solve the wage gap problem in Hollywood and make their starring vehicles more profitable because it would keep the costs down.

So, I just wanted to share my thoughts on why I think the Hollywood wage gap situation is getting a little out of hand, with actresses like Jessica Chastain chiming in, and what can be done to fix the whole issue. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for