Thursday, June 30, 2016

52 Films By Women: The Parent Trap (1998)

         As part of the #52FilmsByWomen pledge, my first film review for the series is the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap directed by Nancy Meyers.

     The Parent Trap follows the story of Hallie Parker and Annie James (Lindsay Lohan) who are two identical twins that were separated after their parents (Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson) got divorced and first meet while at summer camp. While there, they decide to trade places and concoct a plan to get their parents back together.

     To me, what really makes the film work and holds it together is the performances by the main cast. The females in the cast especially. Lindsay Lohan gives a terrific dual performance as the two identical twins and is a reminder of the talent she possesses yet sadly would slowly become wasted. I also thought Natasha Richardson, may she rest in peace, was a real standout as she managed to blend both maternal grace and frantic comedic prowess and sometimes in the same scene. Dennis Quaid was also terrific as the father, consistently possessing a sly charm that makes you realize why the mother fell in love with him yet wonder why they would be so far apart.

    Honestly, there isn't much that I can think of that I hate about this movie. Its story is fun, touching and pretty simple while being successfully anchored by its technically three main performances. All of them well-directed by Nancy Meyers who, to me, allows her actors to be as naturalistic as possible. I would say that this is even my overall consensus. Its simple, family friendly story is elevated by the naturalistic performances of its main trio. The film itself isn't anything groundbreaking but as I said, it's a fun family film.

Grade: A


Topic Of The Day: Academy Invites 683 New Members

Yesterday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced its incoming members. They have invited 683 new members. When you look at their list of invitees, you can see that they have really made good on their promise for more diversity.

They've invited a lot more women, people of color, and even people within the LGBTQ community like Xavier Dolan, Dee Rees, and the Wachowskis. Also, they invited more actors and filmmakers from around the world.

So I'm thrilled that AMPAS president Cheryl Boone-Isaacs has really made good on her promise to diversify the Academy’s membership. However, I feel that while the AMPAS has a responsibility to diversify their members, everyone else has a responsibility as well.

Of course, it is on the industry to make more films about women, POC, LGBTQ people, etc.. But audiences also have a responsibility to actually go out and watch what diverse stories are out there. For us to see more diversity, we have to actually go out and see it.

I feel like I've sounded like a broken record when talking about the topic of diversity. But it's because as someone who has a passion for movies, I care a lot about seeing more representation. Plus, we've had all-white acting nominees two years in a row and even though it's 2016, we still have Caucasians playing roles intended for people of color. So it's something that really needs to be discussed.

Anyways, I'm glad that the Academy is starting to make good on their promise for making themselves more diverse. Even if it won't fix the problem in the industry tomorrow, it is still a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Oscar Watch: Bleed For This (2016)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of my Oscar Watch where I discuss trailers for upcoming Oscar contenders. For this post, I will discuss the trailer for the upcoming boxing drama Bleed For This based on the true story of Vinny Pazienza, played by Miles Teller, who suffered a near fatal car accident and fought his way back to the ring with the help of his mentor and family. The film gets a limited release on November 4th and then goes wide on November 23rd.

Trailer below: (this was the best link I could find),AAAAAA0Xi_s~,r1xMuE8k5Nyz5IyYc0Hzhl5eZ5cEEvlm&bctid=4998393424001

To me, this one looks ppppreettyyy....formulaic. Now, what happened to the real Vinny Pazienza was really unfortunate and I'm not trying to kick him down or anything. It's just that we've seen this type of redemption story before.

I also don't see this having much commercial potential because since we already just had Creed and Southpaw and pretty soon Hands Of Stone starring Edgar Ramirez and Robert De Niro, I think audiences might feel they are being hit with too many of the same punches. Maybe having Miles Teller, whose star is on the rise, will attract some interest. But we shall see. I think Best Actor might be too competitive for him to get in but at the very least, it's another film in his growing portfolio.

If the film does deliver, I think with this and Sully, Aaron Eckhart could be really strong for Best Supporting Actor. He does have a mentor role which Supporting Actor is often a sucker for. At the very least, he could get a nomination but a win is up in the air. As Sylvester Stallone will probably tell you, playing the mentor can get you in the Final Five but a win isn't guaranteed.

What do you guys think? Do you think it looks like a legitimate Oscar contender and do you think it just looks like a great film? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Oscar Watch: Sully (2016)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of my Oscar Watch where I discuss trailers for upcoming Oscar contenders. For this post, I will discuss a trailer for a film that to me, is a bit of a question mark in this race. That film is Clint Eastwood's Sully about famed pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.

Full trailer down below:

Even though the film is directed by Clint Eastwood, who's quite an Academy darling, I would say it is a question mark because Eastwood is very hit-or-miss these days. For every Gran Torino, he makes a Jersey Boys. Also, even though on paper, it seems to push all the right buttons: "Great man" biopic starring an Academy darling directed by an Academy darling, it doesn't always equal Oscar glory. It all depends on if the film is well-reviewed and it does business at the box office. It could achieve the former but who knows about the latter because Tom Hanks is also hit-or-miss these days. Although if this film does land, I could definitely see it do wonders for Aaron Eckhart. Whether or not Tom Hanks gets in, his supporting men do (Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips, Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies, etc.). Eckhart also has the boxing drama Bleed For This coming out later this year. That'll help his cause.

As a film, though, I don’t know if this one is jumping at me. For me, Clint Eastwood as a director is hit or miss. I really liked Unforgiven and Play Misty For Me thought Mystic River was flawed, I dislike Million Dollar Baby, and I don't think American Sniper holds up particularly well.

I'm sure the older male Academy voters will salivate over this. They're in complete love with "man in crisis" biopics and they love Clint Eastwood. It all depends on critics and audiences, though.

What do you guys think? Do you think that this looks like a legitimate Oscar contender or are you waiting for the reviews like myself? Please be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Oscars 2017: 20th Century Women Gets Picked Up By A24

A film called 20th Century Women, starring Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning, had a pretty uncertain fate when it came to its Oscar prospects due to it not having a distributor. But A24 Films has come to its rescue, picking it up for distribution and giving it a fourth-quarter release date.

The story of 20th Century Women is that it is about a single mother living in the 1970's teaching her son, along with two other women, about the state of love and freedom.

The reason I wanted to cover this story is because since I think Viola Davis is the frontrunner on paper to win Best Actress for Fences, she might have Annette Bening to contend with. Like Davis, Bening is seriously overdue, having been nominated four times and being inches closer from a win on her second nomination for American Beauty. Also, it helps that Bening is Hollywood royalty, married to Warren Beatty. Plus, the film's director Mike Mills guided Christopher Plummer to his overdue Oscar for Beginners. Maybe he can work his magic on another overdue veteran.

I also now think Elle Fanning could be someone to watch out for. She's set to have a pretty prolific 2016 with 20th Century Women, The Neon Demon already released, the upcoming How To Talk To Girls At Parties also for A24 Films, and possibly Live By Night from Ben Affleck which has a wide January release date but could get a limited awards-qualifying release date at the end of this year. We shall see.

A24 also has the film Moonlight coming out in October and American Honey coming out in September. So we'll also see if it can run a perfect campaign for those projects. Either way, A24 Films has an exciting slate of films on the horizon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Major Blog Announcement

Hello, Bloggers! I have decided to make a quick announcement about a new series of reviews that will take place on my blog.

Today, I have decided to take part in a pledge known as the #52FilmsByWomen pledge started by an organization called "Women In Film" where I watch about one film per week directed by a woman and post on social media that I am watching each film along with the name of the director for each film to keep track of the films I watch. This pledge is to help create awareness for more films directed by women and as someone who has been vocal about seeing more diversity in the film world, I couldn't help but decide to help out in the cause.

So my new series of reviews will be called "52 Films By Women" and here is hoping that I can reach that goal. If you would like to take part in the pledge, please click on this link right here. I sincerely hope that you guys decide to take the pledge as well. There are some strong female voices out there. So let's try and seek them out. Thanks for reading!

Indie Review: Neon Demon (2016)

       There's a scene where one character says how the main protagonist has that special "thing" or "it" factor. To me, that can also refer to Elle Fanning because she helped me get through this slight mess.

      The Neon Demon follows the story of a young model named Jesse (Elle Fanning) who moves to Los Angeles and as she gets her start is told that she has a special "thing" and is going to be big. However, a few fellow models (Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote) that haven't broken out yet start to become jealous of Jesse and seek to devour her for that special "thing" she has.

     I'll start right off with Elle Fanning's performance. She is able to guide the audience on her character's journey thanks to her youthful charisma and constantly expressive yet enigmatic eyes. Without her performance, the movie wouldn't be as watchable. I also want to give a shoutout to a few of her female co-stars. Jena Malone plays a makeup artist that Jesse quickly becomes friends with and she steals every scene she's in, providing a lot of spunk and sympathy to her portrayal. Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote are also quite terrific as the two models jealous of Jesse's ascent and despite their similarities in appearance, each of them has a distinct personality. Gigi, played by Bella Heathcote, is rather cold and arrogant as she brags about the different surgeries she's had while Sarah, played by Abbey Lee, is quite visible in her anguish and sadness. One of the film's best sequences is a scene when Sarah and Jesse are auditioning and when Sarah gets rejected while Jesse makes the cut, Lee is able to let her expressive face do the talking and you're wondering how else she is going to react in the next scene.

      Next, I'll discuss the score by Cliff Martinez. The score is without a doubt the best score I've heard from a film that came out this year thus far. It is a very eclectic blend of a 70's-style horror composition like in last year's It Follows and modern techno-pop. It likely won't happen but Martinez deserves serious awards consideration.

      I also really liked the cinematography by Natasha Braier. The way Braier shoots it makes it appear as if we are being transported into a colorful, kaleidoscopic underworld and it provides a nice homage to the classic horror film Suspiria by Dario Argento.

      Despite the film being directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, who helmed the far superior Drive, oddly enough, the direction is the film's weakest element. There are some directing choices that he made which simply didn't really work or come together. At first, the film serves as a demonstration of the modeling or entertainment industry with a young fresh face ascending right off the bat while older faces that have been around longer watch and grow jealous. I liked that aspect of it. Yet towards the end, it becomes a piece of graphic torture porn and the first two thirds, which serve as more of a drama, make the final act seem pretty out of place in my opinion. If Refn wanted to make a horror film as well as a demonstration of the modeling industry, it could've easily been done by weaving in horror elements throughout the story and not just suddenly making a short horror film in the last act. It just seems like a complete copout.

      There are also some sequences that seemed pretty out of place and unneeded. There's a scene where Jesse finds a cougar in her motel room and I have absolutely no idea what place that had in the story. Plus, we get a good amount of scenes with Jesse slowly posing for the camera and they just dragged the film down and made it go longer than it needed to be. The film is almost 2 hours but it could've been a little shorter.

       Overall, The Neon Demon is a rumpled yet incredibly stylish film saved by its gorgeous cinematography, killer score, and luminous performance by lead actress Elle Fanning. The direction by Nicolas Winding Refn is quite uneven but the only time the film is unwatchable is during the final act.

Grade: B


Monday, June 27, 2016

The U.T.C.: Sarah Paulson

Sarah Paulson is someone that has been proving herself to be the unsung hero in everything she does. Martha Marcy May Marlene was a breakthrough vehicle for Elizabeth Olsen yet no attention was given to Paulson as the sister trying to ground her back to reality.

12 Years A Slave was an awards juggernaut, not only winning Best Picture but gaining recognition for its three main actors: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong'o who ended up winning Best Supporting Actress. Yet despite her Mistress Epps being vital to her slave owner husband's guilt and self-loathing as well as Patsey's heartbreak, no attention was given to Paulson.

Lastly, Carol managed to score 6 nominations, including for its two lead actresses. But Paulson probably had a difficult time sneaking in because her co-star Rooney Mara was being cheated down to Supporting. Also, because of how short and analytical her performance is. The Academy does appreciate performances that are analytically subtle like Rachel McAdams in Spotlight. But Spotlight was the Best Picture winner which helped McAdams get carried over to a nomination while Carol was left out of Best Picture and was more of an underperformer.

While Paulson has had better luck at the Emmys, racking up nominations for her work on American Horror Story, even there she can't catch a break because she has yet to win an Emmy.

But will she ever get a ticket to Oscar, though? Well, if she continues to at least find a balance between work on film and television, her chances will get better. Also, if she has the right role in a Best Picture contender and/or there's no category fraud in her way, there's a chance.

Celebrate Pride Month: Happy Together (1997)

     As much as I loved this film, I wonder if the title could've been different so that those that don't know what it's about don't end up thinking it's a Turtles biopic.

         Happy Together follows the story of a man named Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung) and his lover Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) who visit Buenos Aires to rekindle their relationship which proves to be unstable, revolving around a cycle of abuse and reconciliation.

        What I loved so much about how the relationship in this film is depicted is that you could also make the film about a man and a woman or two women and it wouldn't mean any change to the story. So even though it is about two men, it is a very universal demonstration of love and how descructive it is. Not only that, but I don't think I have seen a queer film involving such a destructive relationship. Normally, we see films about a same-sex couple with one or both halves of the couple dealing with trying to come out of their own personal shell and whatnot. But here, we have an openly gay couple dealing with a struggle that can happen in any other relationship.

        Next, I think the performances by the two lead actors are terrific. Tony Leung is amazing as Lai who repeatedly allows his own happiness to be disrupted by his lover yet slowly becomes more self-aware of his lover's destructive nature. Leslie Cheung is aces as the Ho, the destructive half of the main couple who acts as a tick, sucking the life and energy out of Lai and always clinging to him.

        Even though the movie's relationship story is pretty simple, it manages to be elevated by its frenetic filmmaking style. In particular, the film is enhanced by the cinematography. The first 20 minutes or so are in black and white, which I thought was interesting. The way I see it, the black and white coloring is used as a representation of the personalities of Lai and Ho and how they are the yin to each other's yang or because they break up early on before getting back together, when they do get back together, they recapture the "color" of their relationship which proves to be ironic given how their personalities are so radically different. When they do reunite, the film starts to be in color and has a very kaleidoscopic look, I might add.

        Lastly, I'll mention the rather frenetic editing. One of my favorite edited sequences is when Lai and Ho are at Lai's apartment and when Lai is watching Ho go to sleep, the scene then suddenly cuts to Ho watching Lai go to sleep. I just really liked how frantic the editing was because, along with the cinematography, it was able to elevate the film-watching experience of what is a rather simple story about love.


       Overall, Happy Together is a rather simple yet universal tale of destructive love elevated by its terrific acting, colorful cinematography, and frenetic editing.

Grade: A+

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Oscar-Worthy Contenders From The First Half Of 2016

The first half of 2016 is done and that means it's time to do some reflection on the best the year has to offer so far this year. Here are some films that I think should be in the conversation during awards season. Let's take a look:

Eye In The Sky For Every Category (Best Picture, Director, Acting, Etc.): It is very refreshing to see a war film that is very non-judgmental, demonstrating the situation at hand and letting the audience decide for themselves where they stand. Not only that, but despite the film consisting of people in rooms making decisions, it manages to be very tense throughout. 

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling For Best Actor For The Nice Guys: These two are absolute dynamite together! Ignore the fact that this is an action-comedy. Ignore the fact that it didn't do well at the box office. Ignore all those things and consider these two. They make one of the best on-screen pairings this year if not THE best.

Sally Field For Best Actress For Hello, My Name Is Doris: It is nice to see Sally Field given another star vehicle that plays to her best strengths. She provides some of the funniest line-readings of the year ("How about Lilith Cumswell?") while also finding humanity into a woman that may be simple-minded and zany yet is still unapologetic for who she is.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead For Best Actress For 10 Cloverfield Lane: In 10 Cloverfield Lane, Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a portrayal of a sci-fi heroine that would make Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor very proud. Her Michelle is witty and very tactical while she also discovers her own self-doubt. We could use more on-screen heroines like her.

Ralph Fiennes For Best Supporting Actor For A Bigger Splash: If there is a better Supporting Actor turn this year than Ralph Fiennes as Harry in A Bigger Splash, then I haven't seen it and I probably won't see it. His character has an emotional longing that Fiennes channels to a demonic fury that lights up every single scene he's in and his performance is a worthy entry in the new comedic chapter in his career. Is there anything he can't do?

John Goodman For Best Supporting Actor For 10 Cloverfield Lane: One of Hollywood's greatest character actors who, over the course of his long career, has not once been nominated for an Oscar. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, Goodman's multi-layered performance shows that the monsters outside aren't the only ones our main character should fear.

Alden Ehrenreich For Best Supporting Actor For Hail, Caesar!: I was not the biggest fan of Hail, Caesar!. In fact, I thought it was the biggest disappointment of the year thus far. But the film's brightest spot is without a doubt Alden Ehrenreich as the Western movie star Hobie Doyle. In fact, I thought he was so good, I kept waiting for him to appear back on screen. Thankfully, since he's the young Han Solo, we will be seeing more from this young talent in the future.

The Lobster For Best Original Screenplay: Without a doubt the most original film this year. In fact, it manages to mold together dystopian world-building with real-world storytelling.

Zootopia For Best Original Screenplay: Another film that mixes world-building with real-world storytelling but with different layers to it as it is an adventure, a mystery, and a demonstration of racism and prejudice all together at once.

The Witch For Best Original Score: The film's terror lies a lot in his atmosphere and its score with the sounds of violins screeching and people making ominous sounds in the background. While the Academy isn't always accustomed to awarding horror, as the two wins for The Exorcist (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing) and win for The Omen in Best Original Score show us, they do make exceptions.

Deadpool For Best Film Editing: Thanks to the film's constant use of breaking the fourth wall, slow motion, and sudden pauses, Deadpool is able to feel very much like a comic book brought to the big screen and it is one of the reasons why the movie is so enjoyable.

"Try Everything" From Zootopia For Best Original Song: It is the end of June and I still cannot get this catchy tune out of my head! But not only is this song catchy but it helps hit the film's message home: You're going to fall on your face but you either try again or follow another path.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Review: The Shallows (2016)

                       'Shallow' Yet Never Feels Like It Drowning
   The beauty of going into a film with no expectations is that even if the movie is bad or so-so, at the end, because you didn't expect anything, you still feel like a winner. That is certainly how I felt when seeing The Shallows.

  The Shallows follows the story of a medical student named Nancy (Blake Lively) who goes off vacation in Mexico and when she goes to a secluded beach to go surfing, she finds herself going toe to toe with a vicious shark.

   I'll start off with Blake Lively. Even if the story seems too familiar, Lively successfully carries the picture on her shoulders and takes a character who could've easily been portrayed as a meek victim into sort of an everywoman warrior trying to fight her way out and put on a brave face in the midst of the terror taking place. 

   Next, I really liked the opening sequence where we see a kid looking at footage on a camera, showing a shark victim from the camera's point of view as he is being attacked. To me, that really set the tone for the entire picture. The cinematography by Flavio Labiano was also beautiful to look at. In particular, the scenes taking place during the day in the picturesque ocean stood out because they show how a vicious shark attack doesn't have to take place on a grim dark night to have a grim effect on the audience.

   As I've said earlier, the story of a person stranded on their own fighting for their lives was quite familiar. There is also a subplot involving Nancy's mother passing away that, when thinking about it, comes off as a little forced. It's interesting because it does give the character a motivation to try and survive yet at the same time, it struck me as forced and cliched. 

   Overall, The Shallows doesn't delve into any deeper waters yet is kept afloat thanks to its lead performance by Blake Lively and its beautiful cinematography. If you want something short and sweet where you can turn your brain off for about an hour and a half, I say go ahead and see it. It's nothing groundbreaking but it's worth seeing in theaters.

Grade: B 


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Oscar Watch: American Honey (2016)

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of my Oscar Watch where I discuss trailers for upcoming Oscar contenders. Now on paper, the trailer for the film in which I'm about to review might not seem like a contender on paper but is something that could hopefully get some kind of push by its distributor. That film is American Honey from Andrea Arnold for A24 Films.

A24 Films is currently coming off of three Oscar wins: Room winning Best Actress for Brie Larson, Amy winning Best Documentary, and even Ex Machina shockingly winning Best Visual Effects over blockbuster heavyweights like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So with the roll they are on, they can easily be more in Oscar's good graces with their latest projects. That of course depends on its release date and/or whether it is too "younger generation" for the older voters. One thing that does help is that Andrea Arnold is an Oscar winner for Best Live Action Short Film when she won in 2004 for Wasp. Also, the film won the Jury Prize at Cannes.

As for the film itself, how does it look? Amazing! I think newcomer Sasha Lane looks like she is doing terrifically and if the film catches fire, here's hoping she doesn't fade like Katie Jarvis, Arnold's previous discovery who starred in the underrated Fish Tank and hasn't been heard from since. Shia LaBeouf also looks terrific here but one actress who looks to be a real standout is Riley Keough as a member of the gang that Lane's character joins. I've been fond of Keough's work in her film debut in The Runaways and as one of the Five Wives in Mad Max: Fury Road. But here, she looks like a real scene-stealer. I also think the cinematography looks beautiful. Then again, why wouldn't it when it has Robbie Ryan, the same cinematographer who did Fish Tank? 

So I'm really excited for this one. I was a fan of Fish Tank so I'm anxious to see Andrea Arnold's U.S. debut. Be sure to share your own thoughts on how this looks as well as whether it seems like something that can make its way to the Oscars. Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Review: Finding Dory (2016)

                           'Finding Dory' Is Hardly Forgetful

        So when watching this film about everyone's favorite forgetful fish, the only thing that I had wish that I had forgotten is that I watched it with a very obnoxious crowd with yapping children and someone in the row in front of me texting.

       Finding Dory continues the story of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who decides to set out to find her parents while Marlin and Nemo (Albert Brooks and Hayden Rolence) tag along on her journey. Along the way, Dory reunites with old companions while making new ones and learning about the importance of love and family.

     I'll start off with Ellen DeGeneres' voice work as Dory as well as the writers of the screenplay. In the hands of a lesser voice actress and writers, the character of Dory probably would've been written off as a simple nuisance. But despite her forgetfulness and motor mouth, what makes her so easy to root for is the fact that she has a heart of gold and her compassion also shines through in DeGeneres' voice as well as her written characterization.

     A few new additions to the bunch that I thought stole the show were Ed O'Neill as a cynical and ill-tempered Octopus named Hank, Kaitlin Olson as Dory's short-sighted childhood friend Destiny, and Disney's secret weapon for their pictures this year: Idris Elba as a sea lion named Fluke. Between this, The Jungle Book, and Zootopia, Elba has been having a stellar year thanks in large part to his voice work in all those films. 

     I also really liked the beginning where we get flashbacks of Dory's childhood and how she got separated from her parents. To me, it packed a rather subtle emotional punch. The film, like any other Pixar film, does pack an emotional punch. But it comes at a rather natural flow where we just see Dory dealing with her short term memory loss and it never feels manipulative.

     My biggest problem is that, while the film itself isn't something I wish to forget, it didn't feel as fresh and original as the first one did or even last year's Inside Out. I did laugh a number of times and clap at the very end like other audience members did. But the fact that its story about Marlin and Nemo finding Dory this time around is similar to the first made it seem almost like a rehash. 

    Overall, Finding Dory is a familiar yet hilarious film for the whole family. Ellen DeGeneres helps recapture the magic of Dory along with the film's writers who have all made Dory one of the animated film genre's most colorful and rich characters. 

Grade: A-

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Plays That Should Be Adapted For The Big Screen

This year's Tonys have set quite a milestone in terms of diversity. All the musical acting winners were people of color and Hamilton, which became a recent phenomenon, pretty much swept the ceremony.

But that had me thinking about how the diversity problem could be fixed in Hollywood. It can be done so by adapting stage plays into film. Although which ones could they adapt? Let's figure it out.

The most obvious one is Hamilton. It's a phenomenon on stage and it would be interesting to see how film audiences would respond. One thing's for sure. People won't have to sell their house or pull money from their 401k to try and buy a ticket.

Another one is Eclipsed which was nominated for about 6 Tonys and is not only a story about African women, but is written and directed by women of color. If they were to do what is being done for the upcoming film adaptation of Fences and have the same team in front of and behind the stage take part in it, that'd be huge.

Recently, it was announced that Steven Spielberg is looking to adapt West Side Story for the big screen. If that were to come fruition, then because it is about two gangs with one of them being Puerto Rican, it'd be a great opportunity to seek out Latino talent waiting to be recognized. Especially for the female lead of Maria which was whitewashed in the 1961 film where the Caucasian Natalie Wood played the lead role.

Now onto some plays that'll allow LGBT representation on screen. There's also the musical Fun Home which is the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian protagonist, the play Take Me Out about a mixed-race baseball player who comes out to both prejudice and support, and the off-Broadway play The Boys In The Band that first premiered in 1968 and is about a group of gay men from different backgrounds that are revealed in a dinner party.

What do you guys think? Do you agree that these plays should be brought to the big screen and are there any other ones you'd like to add that you think would allow more representation? Please be sure to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Oscar Watch: Denial (2016)

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 a film that on paper, might play into the Academy’s strengths. That film is the Holocaust drama Denial starring Rachel Weisz and being distributed by Bleecker Street.

Full trailer below:

As Kate Winslet will probably tell you like she did in Extras, "You do a film about the Holocaust, you're guaranteed an Oscar." However, watching the trailer for this film has me thinking..probably not. To me, it looks like a middle-of-the-road "take your vitamins" movie and I don't think that it's going to have much audience support because of how straightforward it looks. Also, Rachel Weisz, as great of an actress as she is, isn't particularly a big draw. She is currently in the arthouse hit The Lobster, though. But as of now, I think her best Oscar bet is her supporting role in The Light Between Oceans alongside Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander.

Also, one thing I found a little distracting was Rachel Weisz's accent. She's playing a real-life woman from New York and listening to her accent reminded me of that skit on The Late Night Show With Seth Meyers called "Boston Accent" and there was a bit in the skit where Meyers was playing a British actor putting on a Boston accent. It reminded me a lot of that.

Lastly, if the critics also don't pull through, then I don't think this film will have the support that it needs to go all the way. To me, the film looks like middle-of-the-road awards fodder. But I'd love to know what you guys think. Do you think it looks Oscar worthy or looks like Oscar bait? Please be sure to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Worst Thing About Going To The Movies

As someone who enjoys going to the movies all the time, there are certain things about it that can really ruin my moviegoing experience. I'm sure if some people were asked what the worst thing about going to the movies is, they'd say the overpriced concessions or tickets. That honestly doesn't bother me too much because usually when I go to the movies, it is at the earliest showings when it's cheaper and sometimes I grab food either before or after the movie so I don't always pay for concessions.

What really bothers me are certain types of moviegoers that can ruin my film watching experience. First off, the type of moviegoer that I have the most trouble with is people who are on their cellphones during the movie. Whenever people are looking on their bright little screen while I'm watching the big movie screen, it gets super distracting. I mean, come on, you paid money to see a movie for 2 hours and you're checking your phone which you can do the rest of the day? Plus, whenever someone's cellphone starts ringing, it makes me just want to give that person the stank eye.

Another type of moviegoer I can't stand are people who whisper the obvious as they are watching the movie. Like, for example, if you're watching a horror movie and the people around you are like "He's behind the door" or "Go hide" almost under their breath, that can take you out of your zone. That happened to me recently when I saw Neighbors 2 as there were two women sitting next to me and kept stating the obvious. I was tempted to say "Can you please be quiet?" but I just didn't have it in me.

Lastly, I can't stand it when parents bring their children into movies that aren't really for kids because when I went and saw Batman v. Superman, there was a child who kept crying and his parent had to keep bringing him in and out of the theater and I was sitting there thinking "Why did you bring your child to this?" because while it may be a superhero movie, it was still a little too dark for kids.

Anyways, those are the types of moviegoers I can't stand. I would love to hear what kind of moviegoer that ruins your filmgoing experience. Please feel free to vent your feelings in the comments section and thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Oscars 2017: June Predictions

June is here and that means it's time for me to update my predictions in the major categories. Let's take a look:

Best Picture:
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk*
Birth Of A Nation
Collateral Beauty 
La La Land 
Manchester By The Sea 

I took off Loving because I have my fears that Loving will be this year's Carol or Foxcatcher whereas it's admired more than loved. Much like those two films, the reviews for Loving were positive yet pretty muted. So I replaced it with Collateral Beauty which not only has a December release date but has a very starry A-list cast which is something they often love. Just ask the people who won for Birdman and Spotlight. I don't know much about the plot but I'm still going to keep a sharp eye out for this one.

Best Director:
Garth Davis, Lion 
Ang Lee, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
Nate Parker, The Birth Of A Nation 
Martin Scorsese, Silence* 
Denzel Washington, Fences 

Replaced Jeff Nichols with Denzel Washington. If Fences scores well with the Academy, Washington could be a double nominee for Acting and Directing and actors stepping behind the camera have been recognized before (Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, etc.)

Best Actor:
Joel Edgerton, Loving 
Andrew Garfield, Silence 
Michael Keaton, The Founder*
Nate Parker, Birth Of A Nation 
Denzel Washington, Fences 

Replaced Casey Affleck with Michael Keaton. Even though The Founder is coming out in August, Keaton has plenty of things going for him (Starring in two consecutive Best Picture winners + real-life person + IOU factor + his performance being the movie since he's the titular founder). A handful of juicy ingredients to add to his Big Mac.

Best Actress:
Emily Blunt, The Girl On The Train 
Viola Davis, Fences*
Isabelle Huppert, Elle 
Ruth Negga, Loving 
Emma Stone, La La Land 

No changes. I still think Davis is the frontrunner on paper and I say on paper because the film hasn't finished filming yet. But like Michael Keaton, Davis has key things going for her (IOU factor + potential blockbuster hit with Suicide Squad + having won a Tony for the role she's playing + awards run with How To Get Away With Murder). With the awards she's won for How To Get Away With Murder, I get the sense that the industry is really itching to award her for the right film role when it comes along and this could very well be it.

Best Supporting Actor:
Jovan Adepo, Fences
Armie Hammer, Birth Of A Nation 
Steve Martin, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
Ben Mendelsohn, Una
Liam Neeson, Silence*

Replaced Oscar Isaac with Jovan Adepo. I also still have Liam Neeson as the frontrunner to win. But I would also lean towards Mendelsohn as a candidate for the win as well. Not just because I'm a massive fan of his but even though Una doesn't have a U.S. distributor, Mendelsohn will also be in the upcoming Star Wars, has season 2 of Bloodline, and is playing a co-lead role that just earned Jeff Daniels a Tony nomination for Best Lead Actor In A Play. Even if he is a co-lead, Supporting would be an easier path for him. Not a slam dunk, but I'd say watch out.

Best Supporting Actress:
Naomie Harris, Moonlight 
Nicole Kidman, Lion 
Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad 
Kristen Stewart, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk 
Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea*

No changes.

Best Original Screenplay:
American Honey
The Lobster 
Manchester By The Sea*

The writers branch always goes for fun, innovative choices. That's why I predict that they might nominate The Lobster. I'm also going to selfishly predict American Honey to get in. They have nominated films about women written by women (Bridesmaids, Carol, Room, etc.) in the writing categories. So I can believe Andrea Arnold can make her way in if the film lands.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
Birth Of A Nation 

This category isn't looking very competitive so far. But we'll wait and see how the rest of the year plays out.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: The Conjuring 2 (2016)

             'The Conjuring 2' Isn't Double The Scares But Is A Worthy Successor

                    Even if the liked the first film more, I still have to say thank goodness, we have a horror sequel that actually works!
       The Conjuring 2 continues the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) who are called upon to Britain to investigate a demonic poltergeist terrorizing a working class family.

       I'll first delve into the acting by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. The two of them have recaptured the same chemistry that was present in the first one and make you want to root for them in the end and see them fight the demonic evil because these two actors are so likable and believable in their roles. One actress that I'd love to give a shoutout to is Frances O'Connor as the mother in the haunted family. I thought she was brilliant as the stressed-out mother trying to hold her family together while making sense of what is happening around her.

      Another thing I really liked was the cinematography by Don Burgess. I loved how in a lot of the scary scenes, he never cuts away from the horror right in front of you. One of my favorite sequences is when Ed is talking to the evil spirit while he's in the body of one of the girls in the family. As the camera focuses solely on Ed and at first on the girl, the girl becomes more out of focus in the background and the spirit possessing her becomes more technically visible even if he's all blurry in the background.

    While the movie does have its fair share of scares, some of the scary sequences went on for a little too long and even as I was already tired when I walked in the movie, I still kept trying to stay awake during those extended sequences. I also thought the climax at the very end was a little rushed. There was a bit of suspense because of a certain plot poing that takes place during the middle of the picture that I won't give away. But towards the very end, the final battle still felt quickened.  

    Overall, The Conjuring 2 is a flawed yet worthy and well-served sequel to its predecessor. The two lead actors are good like they were in the last film (and as always), the cinematography helped heighten the terror and suspense, and overall, it's a good fun ride to see in theaters. You can see it alone or bring someone else in case things do get too scary.

Grade: B+


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Casting "Ocean's Ocho"

An all-female version of Ocean's Eleven is on its way with Sandra Bullock starring, Cate Blanchett apparently in talks to star, and Gary Ross directing. But according to its title Ocean's Ocho, instead of eleven thieves, it'll have eight. Now before I go any further, I'll admit that I'm not over the moon about the idea of an all-female Ocean's movie. But that's because I'm not crazy about the idea of having a boy's team and a girl's team and by having an all-female version, it makes me feel like it's not for me.

But for the fun of it, I'll still offer my own casting choices. Actresses that I think would be a great fit and make it a film for everyone.

So with the first two slots being filled, I will offer my picks for the remaining six. First off is Rose Byrne. One reason being that she has a gift for comedy and another reason being that she's a terrific ensemble player.

Next is Taraji P. Henson. Doing this film would be a great and exciting way to keep her occupied when she's not filming TV's Empire and she would help keep the team diverse. The second reason is why I would include Constance Wu from the sitcom Fresh Off The Boat. Also, the Twitter hashtag #StarringConstanceWu shows how much passion there is for her to appear more on the big screen.

I personally think they should even throw in a relative unknown that could be made into a star after the film's release. That's why I would go with Melonie Diaz from Fruitvale Station. While her Fruitvale co-star Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler are going on to bigger things, the same has yet to happen to Diaz and this could be a project to help her go on to bigger things.

My next choice would be Mya Taylor from Tangerine. One reason is because of the two groups she represents: women of color and trans talent, another is because so she can have a mainstream project that'll allow her to capitalize on her breakthrough buzz from Tangerine, and because if you've seen Tangerine, you know she has quite the screen presence.

My last pick is one that seems like an unfit choice for an Ocean's movie but would still be a fun and interesting addition: Tilda Swinton. While Swinton may be more of an arthouse star, I think by casting her, she would be draw in that arthouse audience and like I said, you'd want to make this a film where everyone wants to go.

I also want to add my picks for the male lead. To me, the male lead should be played by someone who has universal appeal with both men and women: Oscar Isaac. He's currently labeled as "The Internet's Boyfriend" so women think he's attractive and men like him too. But if Star Wars keeps him too busy, there's always Tom Hardy and/or Idris Elba in case they go with more than one male lead.

What do you guys think? Do you agree with any of my casting choices? Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section and write your own casting choices as well. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Indie Review: The Lobster (2016)

                   'The Lobster' Is A Very Clawing Piece Of Satire
         Even if this film is a dark comedy, I still find it quite odd that it's way funnier than other comedies I've seen this year.

       The Lobster follows the story of a man named David (Colin Farrell) who is transported to a retreat for single people and has 45 days to find a mate unless he'll be turned into an animal. But when he escapes the retreat and meets a group of single outsiders, he finds things complicated once he falls for a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz).

     I'll first delve into the screenplay. There is plenty of unique and colorful world building in a dystopian setting yet it also depicts a very relevant theme of the pressures of finding a companion and the script incorporates biting satirical humor while doing so. Even after the film was over, it got me thinking of how I'm always on Tinder, swiping left and right trying to find the right companion so that I don't feel alone while my younger relatives are getting married. I like movies that have me thinking about my own life as well as the world around me. So major kudos to the screenwriters, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymus Filippou, for crafting such a timely and complex story.

      Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, who also did the dark comedy Dogtooth, is able to ground the film's dystopian setting into reality without the use of futuristic special effects and set pieces or anything like that. The future in the film looks and seems quite boringly normal. Lanthimos focuses a lot more on the characters and their desperation to find a companion and how they are under control in an almost totalitarian regime.

     The normal looking future is also well captured by the blueish cinematography in the first half of the movie where the main character is in the hotel. Yet when he escapes into the woods, the cinematography looks brighter as if David is in a different world. Plus, the costume design helps capture the future's vanilla feel with the characters in the hotel wearing the same outfits.

     Next, I'll get into the acting. Even if he isn't in every single frame, Colin Farrell commands the screen as David. When you look into his eyes, you can see how he is quietly trying to swift his way out of each rough situation. A few other standouts include Olivia Colman as the hotel's sinister yet sardonic manager, Ben Whishaw as an aloof yet oddly sympathetic limping hotel guest, and lastly, Lea Seydoux as the ambiguous leader of the outsiders. Seydoux can easily paralyze you with just a look and the fact that she can command your attention even without any dialogue proves why she should be one of our biggest stars.


      Overall, The Lobster is a masterful black comedy about the pressures of companionship mixed in a dystopian setting. Even as I enjoyed getting lost in this new, unorthodox world, I was still given flashes of how we tend to be in the real world.

Grade: A+

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Celebrate Pride Month: Can Gays Get Their On-Screen Happy Ending?

Over recent years, I've noticed a recent trend of LGBTQ films that depict their main characters attempting to independently carve out their own happy ending. Films like Carol, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Pariah, Weekend, and Tangerine. 

To me, that is a sign of progress because usually when the LGBTQ community is depicted in more mainstream cinema, they are depicted as a stereotype and are used a punchline. We also get Oscar bait like The Danish Girl, The Imitation Game, and Dallas Buyers Club that focus on what a pity it is to be queer. I'm not saying that films like the three I just mentioned shouldn't be told. But I'm saying that there are other ways to depict the LGBT experience.

I think Hollywood reinforcing the troubles of the gay experience is a contributor to the fear that there is no audience for mainstream films depicting gays taking charge of their own stories. It's just like how there is an ongoing fear that there is no audience for movies about people of color despite that being disproven time and time again. Hollywood is a town where the only color they know is green and the aforementioned films in the opening paragraph are within the independent landscape where films within that landscape aren't expected to do huge box office business. In fact, a lot of the best films depicting the gay experience come from a foreign and/or independent landscape.

I want to see Hollywood give the LGBTQ community a chance to take charge of their own stories and prove that there is an audience for them. I know there is because one is right here typing this post. As somebody who has a passion for movies, I crave to see the world of film reflect the world we live in that includes a community I'm proud to be a part of. If Hollywood were to make films about gay or trans people falling in love or saving the Earth, it would prove that any type of film could be made in any landscape.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

                         'X-Men' Is Far From Apocalyptic

          Unlike a lot of the critics who are pouncing on this one, I thought it was better than the reviews suggested. However, I do think that after this movie, Fox needs to give it some kind of reinvention.

         X-Men: Apocalypse continues the story of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who, along with his fellow X-Men, finds himself up against a greater enemy known as Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the world's first mutant.

          I'll dive right in to the acting. I thought James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were terrific as always as Professor X and Magneto. I also thought the new band of actors, including Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as young Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler, respectively, were terrific as well. Oscar Isaac did a fine job as Apocalypse but it must've been difficult to act while buried under all those prosthetics.

         Another thing I really enjoyed was Quicksilver's big action sequence with the song "Sweet Dreams" by the Eyrithmics playing in the background. I wasn’t sure they would top Quicksilver's big action sequence in Days of Future Past. But they managed to do that.

         Jennifer Lawrence returns as Mystique and I've read reviews saying how she mailed in her performance or she looks like she didn't give a damn. But that's because she wasn't given much to do. The character of Mystique in general wasn't given any justice this time around. With how Mystique is rarely in her blue form and she becomes a reluctant hero, I was given vibes of blonde Katniss from The Hunger Games. I get that Lawrence is a big star and they want to try and market her face any way they can. But as a fan, I was kind of hoping we would see Mystique more in her blue form. Mainly because if you take away her distinctive blue form, Mystique is just another shapeshifter.

        Aside from Mystique, the side characters like Angel, Storm, Psylocke, and Jubilee weren't given much to do. While three of those side characters act as henchmen to Apocalypse, their inclusion still felt like fan service. That brings me to my next problem.

        I think the reason this film isn't exactly lighting the box office on fire is because it feels a lot like fan service with fan favorite characters like (*possible spoiler alert*) Wolverine being shoehorned into the film. That's why Batman v. Superman was quite an underperformer. It had a bit too much fan service while films like Deadpool managed to focus on being a great film for more people to enjoy that might not be as familiar with the source material.

       Overall, X-Men: Apocalypse is an adequately entertaining yet incredibly flawed entry in a film series I've loved along with the comics it's based on. Despite its flaws, I'm not saying don't go see it. You won't be bored by it.

Grade: C+

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Brie Larson Is Reportedly In Talks To Play Captain Marvel

It looks like the wait for who will be playing Captain Marvel might be finally over. Sources tell Variety magazine that Brie Larson is apparently closing in on a deal to play Captain Marvel. To me, that is amazing casting and I'll explain why.

First off, I am a huge Brie Larson fan. I was a fan even before her awards run with Room and I'm thrilled that she's entering a new phase in her career as a leading lady with films like Room, The Glass Castle, Kong: Skull Island and now potentially Captain Marvel. Larson joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe will certainly allow more mainstream audiences to really see just how talented she is.

Also, because she's 26, that means she'll likely be able to stick around for plenty of movies. But I'm sure she'll be able to do films outside of Marvel. Look at Scarlett Johansson who carried Lucy to a strong debut while venturing into smaller films like Don Jon, Her, and Under The Skin.

If you look at my list of actresses who should play Captain Marvel, you'll see that she was one of my choices for the role and that makes this choice even more exciting.

Although, I'll be honest and say that it was still a choice I sort of saw coming. For a while after her Oscar win, she didn't have any deals announced so I figured that she was in negotiations for something big and Marvel hadn’t yet announced who was going to play Captain Marvel. But it looks like we finally have our answer.

What do you guys think? Do you think Brie Larson will make an amazing Captain Marvel? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Celebrate Pride Month: 10 Movies To Watch

It is June which means it is National Pride Month! In the spirit of this month, I figured I'd share a list of top 10 recommended films to watch in no particular order. Take a look:

Beginners (2011): Despite its problematic pacing, Beginners is a very unique demonstration of how to live it up while you still can like with the main character's dying gay father, played by Christopher Plummer who took home a much deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Tangerine (2015): There's a lot to love about Tangerine. One thing is that it progressively stars two actual trans women as its leading stars and another is that it shows how by hitting the Record button on your smartphone, you can create movie magic. If you watch this, be sure to watch it with a box of donuts. When you watch the film, you'll see why.

Carol (2015): Carol is a very strong aesthetic exercise,with beautiful cinematography, luscious costume designs, etc.. But at its core, it is about two lesbian women attempting to find love and carve out their own happy ending which is something that we don't often see in mainstream cinema. Even though it is set in the 1950's, Carol feels interestingly progressive.

Weekend (2011): The film is mostly two gay men engaging in conversation for 90 minutes yet I am still head over heels in love with this film. It's got humor, it's sexy, it's got heart, and I won't lie but I almost got misty-eyed at the end. In fact, I wouldn't want this weekend to end!

Brokeback Mountain (2005): Now onto more serious territory. Brokeback Mountain is a mostly unsentimental yet understated look at a doomed gay romance that may not have won the Oscar for Best Picture but is still a love story for the ages.

Pariah (2011): Pariah is a very underrated film about the theme of growing up and figuring out your identity. It's hard to watch at times but it keeps you glued to the screen thanks to a nuanced star turn from lead actress Adepero Oduye.

Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013): Blue Is The Warmest Color is not just a film. It is also an experience. It feels like we are simply watching a young woman slowly come of age. Despite the film being three hours, you'll want the journey with our main heroine to go even longer. It's been a while since I've seen it and I can still say that it is absolute perfection.

The Way He Looks (2014): The Way He Looks is another coming of age story. But it's one that'll surely leave a smile on your face by the time the credits roll. The beauty of it is that if it were about two straight teenagers, it wouldn't have an effect on the film's plot. So it's really a story for everyone.

The Kids Are All Right (2010): It is a rather rare film that depicts a same-sex marriage on screen and manages to do so without incorporating a politicael agenda, asking whether same-sex parents are fit to raise children or anything like that. Instead, it simply portrays the main couple as they are while we watch them go through their ups and downs.

Pride (2014): Pride manages to be many things at once: a portrait of a real-life event, a story about the courage to be yourself, and what happens when different people come together to achieve their common goal. It does all those things while being both entertaining and poignant.

Honorable Mentions:
The Skeleton Twins (2014)
Laurence Anyways (2013)
Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Stranger By The Lake (2014)

Please be sure to write down any recommended films for Pride Month in the comments section if you have any and be sure to share your thoughts on the top 10 list. Thanks for reading and in honor of Pride Month, I plan to post reviews of LGBTQ films over the course of June.