Friday, July 29, 2016

Topic Of The Day: What Were They Keeping Out Of "The Great Wall"? Asians Out Of Hollywood, Apparently

So the trailer for the fantasy pic The Great Wall starring Matt Damon and helmed by Chinese director Zhang Yimou just hit and I have to say that I am once again upset at how antiquated Hollywood is with its continuing whitewashing.

Despite the film depicting historic Asian culture and being set in China with a predominantly Chinese cast, it still has a Caucasian actor at the forefront. So even if Damon isn't playing a character with a Chinese name, you still have a film with a "white savior" complex which has been done to death in films like Avatar and Dances With Wolves. 

I find this rather unfortunate because this is a U.S. and Chinese co-production and they had the opportunity to finally allow an Asian actor to be the lead of a Hollywood film. The worst part is that roles that end up being whitewashed go to actors that are never hurting for roles. Matt Damon never will be. Scarlett Johansson, who's playing Motoko in Ghost In The Shell, isn't hurting for roles since she is already Black Widow. Emma Stone, who played the part-Asian Allison Ng in Aloha, isn't banging on people's doors for a great role.

Some people will probably defend Damon's casting, saying "Well, lead ethnic actors don't sell movie tickets." But at this point, I say that isn't an excuse. Ridley Scott tried defending the whitewashed cast of Exodus: Gods and Kings, essentially saying that he couldn't get a foreign actor who doesn't sell movie tickets as the lead of his film. Yet Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton sell movie tickets?

Now, I do like that the U.S. and China are co-producing a flm together and I don't want to sound ungrateful. But I care a lot about seeing opportunities given to people of color and seeing them be the stars of their own pictures. Like Idris Elba once said, "The talent is there. The opportunity isn't." Until we see more opportunities given to people of color and also women, I am going to continue to speak on the diversity issue. I may be speak on it a little too much. But again, it's only because I care.

What do you guys think? Are you as tired as I am about seeing history being whitewashed or do you see this as business as usual? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Review: Jason Bourne (2016)

       Jason Bourne continues the story of former CIA operative Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) who has come out of hiding to uncover even more hidden secrets from his past and crosses paths with CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), a younger operative named Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), and a mysterious villain from Bourne's past (Vincent Cassel).

      One of the few positives I can come up with is Matt Damon's performance. Since he has a rather sparse amount of lines, this could've very easily been just a paycheck for him. But thankfully he still delivered as he always does and he is one actor I would never accuse of mailing in a performance.

      Another standout, to me, was Riz Ahmed who plays a young Zuckerberg-type CEO named Aaron Kalloor who becomes involved in a subplot about a special operation between his social media app and the CIA putting the country under surveillance. The subplot goes absolutely nowhere and Ahmed wasn’t given much to do but he still left an impression whenever he was on screen. He was also a standout as the moral center of Nightcrawler and I look forward to his future work that includes a movie called Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. 

       Just as a heads up, you may want to watch the first three films with Matt Damon before going to see this because there is a chance you will get completely lost. That's quite problematic because when you make a sequel, you do want to continue the ongoing storyline but you still want to make it so that people not familiar with the previous films won't be lost and the sequel won't seem too "inside baseball."

       Also, some of the supporting actors I felt were pretty underutilized. Alicia Vikander's character was not only underdeveloped but I thought her American accent was quite distracting. Vincent Cassel's character was too mysterious given that he has no backstory and depth and the only reason we hate him is simply because he's a bad guy. While Matt Damon's performance didn't feel like a paycheck one, Tommy Lee Jones almost seemed like he wanted to take the money and run.

       Overall, Jason Bourne does feature a solid return from its leading actor but unfortunately, the film surrounding him is full of wasted talent and too much inside baseball. It does have some nice action scenes but if you take those out, you don't have much else.

Grade: C-

Thursday, July 28, 2016

73rd Venice Film Festival Lineup Has Been Announced

So the Venice Film Festival lineup was announced this morning and I have to say that I can't help but feel disappointed by their selections. You can read the full list of films in competition by clicking this link here and hopefully try to make sense of this mess.

First off, I'll get the positives out of the way. It's neat that they have The Magnificent Seven as their closing film even if it's out of competition. They also have The Light Between Oceans in competition which is neat because I'm pretty excited for that one. They even have the biopic about First Lady Jackie Kennedy called Jackie starring Natalie Portman and directed by Pablo Larrain. So they have some female-centered films in the mix which is nice.

However, what left me disappointed is that even in the films not in competition, there are hardly any women directors represented. In the main competition slot, the only films directed by a woman are The Bad Batch by Ana Lily Amirpour and Spira Mirabilis which is co-directed by Martina Parenti. That's less than the amount of women directors in competition at Cannes this year and they had three. Also, there were some films I was hoping would make it that didn't like Una, How To Talk To Girls At Parties, A United Kingdom, and Moonlight. Una, I think could've used a competition slot so that it could maybe get picked up by a U.S. distributor sooner rather than later since it is already competing at Toronto. But we'll see what happens when it screens at Toronto and/or if it gets picked up before then.

Thankfully, the Venice Film Festival isn't as much of a factor in the awards race as Telluride and especially Toronto. But they will likely serve as a factor for films that are in the running
like La La Land, Arrival, and Nocturnal Animals. They're in competition so they will likely be watched by critics and awards pundits like a hawk. Also, because both Arrival and Nocturnal Animals star Amy Adams, she's looking stronger for Best Actress.

Anyways, those are my thoughts on the Venice Film Festival lineup for this year. Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section on what you think and whether or not you're as disappointed as I am. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TIFF 2016 Lineup Officially Announced

We are getting closer and closer to awards season as the fall festivals are starting to announce their official lineups. Today, the Toronto International Film Festival just announced their lineup of films being premiered. This festival is very key because it can often be "do or die" for potential Oscar contenders that haven't screened at previous festivals.

So films like Loving, Elle, Birth Of A Nation, and Manchester By The Sea don't have a whole lot to worry about as they already screened at Sundance and Cannes. But one film that is really looking stronger is La La Land which'll premiere here at Toronto and open the Venice Film Festival. Also, Queen of Katwe will premiere here and at the BFI London Film Festival. That film is looking pretty strong thus far so we'll see where it goes.

One thing that I also noticed is that both Isabelle Huppert and Rooney Mara each have three films premiering. Huppert of course has the controversial rape drama Elle, Things To Come which won Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival for Mia Hansen-Love, and the film Souvenir. There's a chance she could be the "Marion Cotillard" of this year if the critics rally behind her like they did for Cotillard when she got nominated for Two Days, One Night. Rooney Mara has got Una opposite Ben Mendelsohn, the Harvey Weinstein biopic Lion opposite Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, and The Secret Scripture opposite Vanessa Redgrave and directed by Jim Sheridan. Mara could be on the outside looking in when I think about it. 

I was also surprised that The Magnificent Seven was announced as the opening film for the festival. I don't know if it'll be an Oscar player but I'm still really looking forward to seeing it. The closing film, though, will be the coming-of-age film Edge of Seventeen starring Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, and Kyra Sedgwick. I guess seven really is a lucky number like they say it is.

You can read the full lineup by clicking on the link here. Also, please feel free to share your own thoughts on the lineup of films slated to premiere. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

      Star Trek Beyond continues the story of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew whose ship has been ambushed, leaving them stranded on a strange planet and separated. It is now up to them to reunite and combat a new enemy named Krall (Idris Elba) who is quite familiar with the Federation the crew works for and looks to take it down.

     I thought that the entire cast was quite on their A-game. To me, the two biggest standouts were Karl Urban as the Enterprise doctor "Bones" McCoy and Chris Pine as Captain James Kirk. I loved the comic relief that Urban brought to each scene as well as grounded dramatic support to both Kirk and the character of Spock, played expertly by Zachary Quinto. While Zoe Saldana and John Cho weren't given much to do as Uhura and Sulu, respectively, even they still did a good job with what they were given. Sofia Boutella, who you may remember as the blade-legged henchwoman Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service, has a role as Jaylah, an alien on the planet the Enterprise crew lands on and I thought she was pretty good. She plays someone who is very steely yet with hints of vulnerability and profundity. Thank goodness the cast was very game and worked well off of one another because since the film hinges greatly on its characters and their personalities, if one actor didn't bring a lot of energy, it would've dragged the film down a bit.

      There are a few solid action sequences to be found. But the film manages to successfully be story and character-driven. It's about the crew finding their way back to each other and doing so through sheer tactic and will. The fact that it is so character-driven helps set it apart from other tentpole sequels that came out this year like Batman v. Superman and X-Men: Apocalypse which were all about effects and action sequences with casts so large, it'll have you playing the game of "Count All The Award-Nominated Actors There For A Paycheck."

     One gripe I have is with the scene where the Enterprise is being ambushed. Mainly because the editing was way too frenetic so I couldn't tell what exactly was happening or who got off in what escape pod and whatnot. I did like how it happened early in the film, though, so that it could already kick the film into high gear. Other than that, I have no egregious gripes with the rest of the picture.

     I will say that Idris Elba wasn't able to shine as much as the rest of the cast even though he's the main villain. But that's only because it's difficult to give a layered performance when you're buried under layers of prosthetics throughout most of the picture. I did think Krall's backstory, which I won't reveal, was interesting and I thought that him having attack ships moving together like bee swarms was very cool.

     Overall, Star Trek Beyond is a well-executed and harmonious mix of spectacle and storyline. Even if it isn't packed with action scene after action scene, the film kicks into high gear immediately and its band of actors are a ball to watch. This is some of the most fun I've had at the movies this summer.

Grade: A

Lastly, I just want to acknowledge the late great Anton Yelchin who stars as Pavel Chekov. I have enjoyed your performance in this and in all the other films that you have done. You were, and are, an on-screen treasure and you will be missed. Rest In Peace.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

52 Films By Women: Big (1988)

      Big follows the story of a boy named Josh (David Moscow) who, after being told he's too short to go on a ride, makes a wish at a fortune teller machine that he was taller. But the following morning, he gets an even bigger problem when he wakes up as an older man (Tom Hanks) and he must try to find the same machine where his wish was granted to be young again.

       First off, the film's brightest spot is Tom Hanks as older Josh. He perfectly captures the role of his inner child in an adult's body. Hanks manages to find a balance between both childlike wonder and sometimes melancholic weariness of the adult world.

       Next is the direction by Penny Marshall. What Marshall manages to do is take the film's fantasy elements and ground them into reality. Even though there aren't any visual effects shown on screen, you can still get a sense of the fantasy-driven storyline thanks to the plot.

      Also, much like the similarly plotted 13 Going On 30, I felt that the film manages to successfully convey the message of not growing up too fast and enjoying life while you're young. But another message that this film conveys that 13 Going On 30 didn't is that even when you grow old, it doesn't mean you have to always grow up. That message is thanks in large part to Hanks' performance since while his character deals with the responsibilities of being an actual adult, he'll still frolic on a trampoline like he's his 13-year old self or dance on a big toy piano with his boss.


      Overall, Big is a fantastical gem mixed with profound realism and successfully anchored by Tom Hanks' performance. It certainly has the right title as it is packed with big laughs and heart.

Grade: A+



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

    Ghostbusters follows the story of a college professor named Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) who teams up with former friend and collaborator Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) to go back to investigating the paranormal along with Yates' engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and subway worker Patty Nolan (Leslie Jones). Together, they try to stop a villain looking to amplifify ghost activity in New York City.

     One thing that I loved about this reboot is how even though the four main characters bare slight similarities to their original male counterparts, they don't feel like direct carbon copies. Erin is the "Peter" of the group but only she's less sardonic. Patty is the "Winston" of the bunch since she's the newcomer to the group but she joins the team for different reasons since while Winston joined the Ghostbusters just for the job, Patty joins to protect the city she loves. Jillian is like a female Egon since she's the technician of the group, but her personality is completely different since she's a lot more acerbic than Egon is. That means Abby is the "Ray" of the group since she is the most devoted to the discovery of the paranormal. But even Abby is able to stand out from her make counterpart because of how the relationship between Abby and Erin is depicted and how much depth it is given throughout.

     Next, I'll get into the four main performances. Honestly, how can there be so much hatred towards this when we have four of the funniest women in show business starring?! Melissa McCarthy, of course, is hilarious and continues to make comedy magic with director Paul Feig. Kristen Wiig continues to build a case as to why she should headline more movies. Leslie Jones is also hilarious and in my opinion, has a less stereotypical role than the trailers suggest. But Kate McKinnon, though, is a real standout amongst the pack. Almost everything that comes out of her mouth just had me in stitches and I can only hopes she gets more film offers thrown her way. Chris Hemsworth, who plays the receptionist role as Kevin who is incredibly handsome yet thick-headed, also got a few laughs out of me and I also liked how his character isn't a carbon copy of the more neurotic receptionist Janine from the original.

     I'll just give a heads up that the original cast members do make a cameo in this. But oddly enough, I wasn’t overly fond of Bill Murray's cameo because in the scenes that he had, he acted like he was held against his will which is a shame because this is the franchise that helped make him a star. He's barely in it so he didn't drag the film down too much. But still, it was unfortunate that he didn't seem too enthused about returning.

    Overall, Ghostbusters is an exciting revival of a classic gem that packs plenty of laughs thanks to its quartet of actresses. Even if I still think the original is the best, because that's how I feel with every reboot, sequel, etc.., this one is still a ghoulishly good time and I seriously hope that you guys consider it.

Grade: A-

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Girls Wanna Have Even MORE Fun

Not only does it look like #OscarsSoWhite will be put to bed this year, but much like last year, Best Actress is once again looking excitingly competitive. 

As of right now, I still have Viola Davis predicted as the winner for Fences which recently wrapped shooting. Davis will be playing the role of the main character's wife that won her a Tony for Best Lead Actress In A Play back in 2010. So memorizing the material should be easy. Not only that, but she's having a pretty solid year with her recent Emmy nomination for How To Get Away With Murder and the upcoming blockbuster Suicide Squad while also carrying goodwill after her loss for The Help. So Davis definitely has a lot of things going for her even if we haven't seen a glimpse of the picture yet.

But Annette Bening, who currently has a 0-4 record, could easily give Davis a run for her money for 20th Century Women. Like Davis, she's been inches away from a win and a matchup between the two could make for an interesting season. 

It has also just been announced that Miss Sloane starring previous 2-time nominee Jessica Chastain will be getting a December release. Chastain's pedigree along with the story's timeliness because it deals with gun control could make her a force to be reckoned with at the end of the year. 

Ruth Negga received rave reviews out of Cannes for Loving and because Best Actress often has at least one breakthrough performer, this year, it could very well be Negga. Emma Stone looks to have a great role in La La Land that plays to her best skills: comedy, drama, and musical, making her a likely frontrunner for Best Actress-Musical/Comedy at the Golden Globes. 

As for the rest of the batch, there's Emily Blunt whose star vehicle The Girl On The Train looks like a strong emotional showcase for her that could finally land her in Oscar's good graces. While she is collecting hardware for her instantly iconic role as Cookie Lyon on TV's Empire, Taraji P. Henson will be making the jump back to film in the biopic Hidden Figures which is about a group of black female mathematicians who helped launched an important mission for NASA back in 1962.

French actress Isabelle Huppert, who has gone decades without being Oscar nominated, could finally break through a la Charlotte Rampling with her turn in the controversial rape drama Elle from Sony Pictures Classics, the same studio that scored recent back-to-back Best Actress wins with Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine and Julianne Moore for Still Alice.

Of course, there's Meryl Streep to consider for Florence Foster Jenkins where she plays the world's worst opera singer. Jennifer Lawrence, who is starting to become a default choice, has Passengers coming out later this year which has potential to be this year's Martian given that it's populist sci-fi with likable movie stars stranded in space as Chris Pratt co-stars.

Marion Cotillard has potential to score her first nomination for an English language film with the WWII film Allied opposite Brad Pitt and directed by Robert Zemeckis. In Allied, she plays the wife of a French Canadian assassin who may or may not be a Nazi spy.

Previous 5-time Amy Adams has two chances to break into the category with the sci-fi film Arrival for director Denis Villeneuve and the pulp drama Nocturnal Animals opposite Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Tom Ford. 

Already, so much strong competition and I haven't even gotten into performances that haven't gotten distribution yet like previous nominee Rosamund Pike as one half of a real-life interracial couple in A United Kingdom opposite David Oyelowo, Rooney Mara in the stage-to-film adaptation Una opposite Ben Mendelsohn, and Michelle Pfeiffer in Beat-Up Little Seagull. 

Lastly, there's Sonia Braga in her first leading role in quite some time in Brazil's selection for Best Foreign Language Film Aquarius and likely Globe contenders Sally Field and Kate Beckinsale for their sleeper indie hits Hello, My Name Is Doris and Love and Friendship, respectively. 

More years like this, please!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Oscar Watch: Aquarius (2016)

When Aquarius made its premiere at Cannes, it received a lot of waves for the performance by lead actress Sonia Braga. It didn't receive distribution right out of the gate but Netflix did eventually pick it up. The fact that Netflix picked it up may be a bit cautionary because they tried to make Beasts Of No Nation into an Oscar contender yet it didn't quite pan out due to it not making much box office business and Idris Elba being the one carrying most of the film's weight since he was its best shot at getting a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. 

But because the Oscars aren't like the Olympics which happen every four years, they may go for another round and promote Aquarius for awards season. It is Brazil's selection for Best Foreign Language Film and it seems like the kind of performance-driven film that actors often love. It also helps that Sonia Braga isn't a complete unknown in Tinseltown since she is a 3-time Golden Globe nominee and both a BAFTA and Emmy nominee. At the very least, the Globes might cite her. 

However, the film's length is about 140 minutes and the story of an aging music critic who rebels against developers looking to buy her apartment complex doesn't exactly scream Oscar bait. But to avoid a threepeat of #OscarsSoWhite, Netflix could make Sonia Braga's performance a part of the Best Actress conversation if they play their cards right this time around. 

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

Oscar Watch: Rules Don't Apply (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 I personally don't have too much faith in but could still very well be something I'm underestimating. That film is the Howard Hughes biopic Rules Don't Apply directed by and starring Warren Beatty. You can click on the link to the trailer here.

When watching this trailer, I get vibes of Trumbo 2.0. A film that some of us think Hollywood salivates over because it's a film about Hollywood only for it to be a serious underperformer on Nomination Day. I do think that like Trumbo, it'll be something that the SAG Awards will salivate over because of its large and starry cast: Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Matthew Broderick, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Candice Bergen, Ed Harris, etc..

I don't see this doing well commercially though because movies about Hollywood simply don't do that well. Hardly anybody saw Trumbo or even Hail, Caesar! and that film had stars like Channing Tatum and Scarlett Johansson. This one, however, doesn't have names that are particularly big draws. Maybe having Alden Ehrenreich, who is playing young Han Solo, will attract some interest. But I doubt that it'll play like gangbusters with audiences.

I personally don't have too much interest in this. I like the talent involved but it really does feel like Trumbo 2.0. The Academy will probably like it better than I will because it's about Hollywood, is directed by Hollywood royalty, and has a very starry, awards-friendly cast. But with the Academy inviting younger and more diverse voters, they might not veer too much into tradition. We shall see.

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

Topic Of The Day: Venice Film Festival Predictions/Hopes

The announcement of the official lineup for the Venice Film Festival will be on July 28th and I am full of anticipation for what will be in store. I will dive into what films I think will make it in and share my thoughts on what films I would love to see make the cut.

First, I'll share my predictions for what I think will make the cut. Now the only feature film, so far, that we know is competing is La La Land which will open the festival. But another I have a feeling will make it in is Nocturnal Animals by Tom Ford and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams. Ford managed to score a Best Actor win at Venice for Colin Firth when he won for A Single Man back in 2009. So given his history with the festival, it's not hard to imagine the idea of him returning. Also, Silence from Martin Scorsese could be a contender. He's Scorsese and like Tom Ford, has a history with the festival since his magnum opus Goodfellas won him the Silver Lion for Best Director. Another possibility is Arrival from Denis Villeneuve and also starring Amy Adams. It has a November release date so a Venice slot will allow it to maintain some early buzz since it takes place in the beginning of September. But if both Arrival and Nocturnal Animals land a slot and manage to deliver, Amy Adams could be strong for the Volpi Cup for Best Actress, furthering her case for Best Actress in the actual Oscars.

As for films that I hope to see, though, there are plenty of those. I'd love to see a lot of female-centered films and after the debacle at Cannes over the underrepresentation of female directors, I hope that we see more films by female directors competing for the Golden Lion. Some I hope to see are A United Kingdom by Amma Asante, the lesbian drama Lovesong by So Yong Kim and Queen of Katwe by Mira Nair. Another film I'm hopeful to see is Una starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn. I'm still predicting Ben Mendelsohn to make it in for Supporting Actor and I hope a slot in Venice can get some buzz going and help it land a U.S. distributor which it doesn't have as of now. There's also the science fiction rom-com How To Talk To Girls At Parties starring Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman and directed by John Cameron Mitchell who guided Nicole Kidman to her third Oscar nomination for Rabbit Hole. 

So those are a few of my predictions/hopes for the upcoming Venice Film Festival and I'm very curious to see what will be in store for us. Please feel free to share what films you would love to see make it to Venice down in the comments section and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

52 Films By Women: The Proposal (2009)

       The Proposal follows the story of an editor in chief at a publishing house named Margaret (Sandra Bullock) who is facing deportation due to her expiring visa. To avoid being moved back to Canada, she enlists the help of her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) by having them get married. But the real complication lies in trying to hide the real truth from Andrew's family.

      The film's greatest asset lies in Sandra Bullock's performance. Bullock once again shows that she has a knack for comedic timing while through subtle facial expressions, she is able to reveal glimpses of humanity in somebody who is rather arrogant and uptight. She and Ryan Reynolds have rich chemistry as well. If they didn't, the film probably wouldn't work as well as it does. Another person I want to give a shoutout to is Betty White as Andrew's grandmother Annie. Whenever the film slightly loses its comedic steam, White would always fill that void and it's amazing that she proves that she's still got it at her age.

      Another thing I greatly appreciated is how the screenwriter Peter Chiarelli and director Anne Fletcher help humanize the character of Margaret by having a scene where she reveals a bit of her personal backstory about her living a life of solitude incorporated into the film. Along with Bullock's performance, I felt that small scene really helped prevent Margaret from being someone who is a one-dimensional cardboard cutout and it sort of made me understand why Margaret is the way she is.

     I will admit that I felt the story was rather predictable. Also, some of the other cast members like Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson as Andrew's parents and Malin Akerman as Andrew's old flame Gertrude weren't given a whole lot to do. They did an exemplary job with what they were given, though.

     Overall, The Proposal is a simple and rather predictable romantic comedy that manages to be made special by the performances of its two main actors and a scene-stealing turn from Betty White. This is a proposal I would still gladly accept.

Grade: B+

Topic Of The Day: Monsters Cinematic Universe

Marvel and DC have their own Cinematic Universes. Now, Universal is looking to create one of their own. Not a superheroes one, but a cinematic universe involving their own classic monsters. They've already gotten a head start as filming for The Mummy is underway. Tom Cruise will star but Kingsman's Sofia Boutella will play the titular mummy. Also, Russell Crowe will make an appearance as Dr. Jekyll and will likely appear in future installments of this MCU.

They are also looking to get even more star power involved. News reports say that Universal wants Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to play The Wolf Man and Angelina Jolie to play Bride of Frankenstein while Javier Bardem is apparently in talks to play Frankenstein and Johnny Depp has signed on to play The Invisible Man. The Depp casting has me nervous, though, because due to his unfortunate box office streak in recent years, I wouldn't tie such a big property to him. 

Bardem and Jolie would be good choices, though. Jolie is pretty reliable at the box office as well. By The Sea may have been buried into the trenches by Universal but Maleficent was very successful, making $768m worldwide. So if you have her headline a big studio property, you can guarantee a decent result. 

While The Rock can guarantee a solid box office return as well, I would probably go with someone else to play The Wolf Man. Who I would go with is someone who I suggest for everything but because I think he should be everything: Ben Mendelsohn. Mainly because he physically reminds me of the character from the 1941 version of The Wolf Man. Someone with the appearance of an everyman who would be walking around in constant fear of the full moon. Also, since Mendelsohn usually plays petrifiying villains like in Animal Kingdom, it would be interesting to see him go from playing petrifiying to petrified. Rami Malek from Mr. Robot and Patrick Wilson from The Conjuring would be my alternative choices.

Next, Dracula. I don't know if they are going to make Luke Evans' Dracula from Dracula Untold a part of their cinematic universe. In case they don't, I would suggest either French actor Gaspard Ulliel or even Mozart and the Jungle's Gael Garcia Bernal in case they want to make the team more ethnically diverse since Bernal is from Mexico. They both possess the required and traditional suaveness for the famed vampire.

They also have a Creature From The Black Lagoon reboot as a part of their cinematic universe and they'll probably hire a non-actor for that role unless they make the creature one that speaks. If they did, I'm unsure who they should get to play the role.

Anyhow, I just wanted to give you guys the heads up on this incoming cinematic universe and I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading! 

Oscar Watch: A Monster Calls (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 the trailer for something that might be something of a dark horse if given that kind of awards push. That film is the fantasy A Monster Calls starring Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, and Liam Neeson. You can click on the link to the trailer right here.

Now the word "fantasy" might allow caution given the Academy's spotty history with the genre. But the three main stars are Oscar club members. Also, Felicity Jones is looking to have a prolific 2016 with this, the upcoming Dan Brown sequel Inferno, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In A Monster Calls, where she plays the main character's terminally ill mother, she looks like she has some heavy and potentially baity scenes.

Plus, the film is directed by Spanish helmer J.A. Bayona who guided Naomi Watts to an Oscar nomination for The Impossible so he at least has a history with Oscar as well.

The film, though, looks absolutely stunning. I have a feeling I might be a little teary while watching it because I'm close with my mother and she herself fought cancer. But the film looks like it'll be a marvel to look at thanks to its visuals. I'm not putting it everywhere on my Oscar predictions. But I don't think the idea of it being a contender is out of the realm of possibility.

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

Oscar Watch: La La Land (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 director Damien Chazelle's follow-up to Whiplash, the Hollywood musical La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. You can click on the link to the trailer here.

All I have to say about this trailer are three words: Yes, yes, and.....oh yeah, YYYEESSS!!!!! This trailer is EVERYTHING!! I love watching Ryan Gosling being musically charming, I like the chemistry between him and Emma Stone, the cinematography is beautiful, the costume design is luscious, and I especially loved the old school feel with the title shown at the very end and the two actors dancing as they rise up in the moonlight. Ugh, December cannot come soon enough!

Even though it is an original musical, since they often gravitate towards musicals based on previously written material, I can very well see this doing well with the Academy. It is a musical about Hollywood, stars two previous Oscar nominees, and is directed by Damien Chazelle who is coming off of Whiplash which took home 3 Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. It even looks like it could get below the line support in categories like Costume Design, Cinematography, and even the Sound categories. Always a huge plus if you want your film to get nominated for Best Picture. That's one reason how The Revenant, which had the most nominations with 12, was such a strong frontrunner for Best Picture. Plus, this film will be opening the Venice Film Festival later this year. That's a good sign. The film opens in theaters on December 2nd.

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Oscar Watch: Loving (2016)

Hello, Bloggers, for my 800th post, I will delve right into one of my favorite film subjects, the Oscars. As a part of my Oscar Watch, I will discuss a trailer that has just been released for one of the likely Oscar frontrunners: Loving by Jeff Nichols and starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. You can click on the link to the trailer right here.

I am positive that Focus Features will make this film their top priority to prevent #OscarsSoWhite from happening three years in a row. But this looks like a terrific film that'll help them do so. I think Joel Edgerton looks like he is doing a terrific job as he always does. But Ruth Negga looks like a real standout as well. This has certainly been a breakthrough year for her as she is also appearing on the AMC series Preacher and she came out with the blockbuster Warcraft. Judging by the trailer, I think she's looking very strong for the Best Actress race. I still think Viola Davis is the frontrunner to win Best Actress for Fences but Negga could easily give her a run for her money.

It also looks like another strong effort from director Jeff Nichols who gave us Take Shelter, Mud, and Midnight Special. All of those films feature Michael Shannon who appears in this as well. Nichols looks like he is taking a very topical film about racism and makes it seem rather accessible as there doesn't appear to be any patronizing scenes of police brutality or people hurling racial slurs. Although it certainly doesn't look very PG.

It looks like an incredible film, though, and I'm very curious to see how it lands with not just audiences but especially Academy voters. It opens in a limited release on November 4th and slowly goes wide after.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the trailer and whether you think it looks like a great film and/or a legitimate Oscar contender. Thanks for reading!

The U.T.C.: John Goodman

Up until Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his Oscar, the fact that he was Oscarless inspired a lot of hilarious memes. If you go search on Google Images and type "Leo Oscarless memes," you'll find some hilarious results. It was fun to laugh at how overdue DiCaprio was since he had 4 nominations prior to his win. But where's the love for an actor like John Goodman who is highly regarded yet has NEVER been nominated?

John Goodman's career spans much longer than Leonardo DiCaprio's as he has been around since the 80's, bouncing from film to television to voice work. He's especially been lauded for his work on television like in the show Roseanne which won him a Golden Globe and got him a slew of Emmy nominations.

But he recently starred in two consecutive Best Picture winners, The Artist and Argo, and even though his career spans over four decades, he still works like a machine, popping up in film after film, delivering every time.

Thinking of how long he's been working and now he constantly keeps delivering in film after film has me thinking, "Agh, what is it going to take to get him nominated?!" He does movies about Hollywood (Argo and Trumbo) and nothing. He's worked with Oscar darlings like the Coen Brothers and Robert Zemeckis. Nothing. Again, starred in two consecutive Best Picture winners and...NIL.

What exactly IS it going to take, I wonder? Well, I would love it if 10 Cloverfield Lane did the trick for him but the film is an early Spring release date and falls under an unfriendly Oscar genre, science fiction. Maybe the critics will revive him at the end of the year but we'll see. Supporting Actor isn't looking very competitive so he could be a wild card. Again, we'll see. He does the Boston Marathon film Patriots Day coming out at the end of the year. Maybe he has some meaty material to work with.

I'm hopeful that THE role will come his way soon and it'll probably be a supporting role since he is typically a supporting actor and the Supporting Actor category is often the "veteran achievement" award.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Topic Of The Day: The Female "Ghostbusters" Backlash

Now that the female Ghostbusters reboot is hitting theaters this Friday, I wanted to finally offer my own insight on the hatred and bigotry thrown at it since the first trailer came out.

Before I go any further, I just want to say that I'm going to do my best to be as firm and calm as I possibly can because the backlash thrown at it really upset me and I will certainly go into why.

I love the original Ghostbusters. I think it's a classic and even if the updated version delivers, it can't top the original because I'm a believer that no matter how many sequels or reboots you do to a classic, nothing ever beats the original. When I found out there would be an all-female version and who would be cast, I was excited because a classic was being revived and they got amazing people for the job. I love all four actresses that are starring and I'm also a huge fan of director Paul Feig. He gave us Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy. So I know that it's in good hands.

But for those of you who are hating on it simply because it's an all-female version, I have a simple solution for you: If you're hating on it, just don't go see it! Don't go see it or 0you can go and try to keep an open mind. But if you don't want to do the latter, just don't go. The director and cast are trying to make a great and entertaining film for you all and if it's not causing any harm to your own life, then why are you spewing out all this anger?

Now if you're saying it looks bad because it looks bad, then fine. Understandable. But just don't say it looks bad only because it's all girls because you're only causing harm to yourself.

Also, in all the superhero movies that come out, we tend to always get white dudes saving the Earth and nobody ever seems to have an aneurysm over that, saying "We're tired of always seeing white dudes saving the Earth or seeing Iron Man in every Marvel movie."

Lastly, I just want to say that we're having a lot of problems going on right now in our country. The worst mass shooting in U.S. history took place last month, the issue of police brutality is worsening, and a lot of us are simply trying to get pay the bills and keep our heads above water. All of those problems are far, FAR more serious than an all-female version of Ghostbusters, which isn't meaning to cause any harm, coming out.

Anyhow, I just wanted to let my feelings about the Ghostbusters backlash out in the open. I would love to hear about your thoughts in the comments section (Please be kind!). Thanks for reading!

52 Films By Women: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

        A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night follows the story of a boy named Arash (Arash Marandi) who finds himself forming a bond with a vampire named only as The Girl (Sheila Vand) who wanders the streets of a ghost town named "Bad City."

       I thought that the B&W cinematography by Lyle Vincent was very neatly done. It helped capture the eerie mood that tends to be present in the nighttime scenes where The Girl roams around Bad City. Some of the editing by Alex O'Flinn was also done amazingly. One of my favorite edited sequences is one where The Girl is feeding on one of her victims and the sequence keeps cutting to black as the killing takes place.

       The film has been labeled as a feminist vampire western and I can see where the "Western" label comes from because the score seems like something out of a spaghetti western. The film's plot doesn't really give off a western vibe in my opinion. But the western-style score allows the film to be very innovative. Even the opening credits are like something out of a 60's movie.

       There is also one sequence that I thought was expertly written by writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour. When The Girl is being invited into the home of a crook that keeps harassing Arash, it is slowly revealed that she is a vampire. What I liked about that scene is that Amirpour allows the character's actions and the camera to do all of the revealing.

      Aside from the innovation in its filmmaking, there really isn't much else going on. There's hardly much of a story to be found as the characters don't undergo a dramatic arc and there's not even any real drama to begin with. Nothing happens. Not to mention, there are some scenes that either drag on for too long or have no real place in the story.

      While the character of The Girl is quite mysterious, I still found her to be severely underwritten. She has no personality and the only time she shows any real depth is when she interrogates a little boy and makes him promise not to cause any harm to others or be a bad boy. It shows that she likes to kill off people up to no good. Other than that, I don't find any reason to be invested in her. She is practically shrouded in too much mystery.

       The film reminded me a tad of Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch. While that film entirely involves vampires engaging in conversation with no structural storyline, what got me more invested in that film is its characters. They each had distinct personalities that got me invested in the conversations they were engaged in while the characters in this one don't have any personalities to begin with.

      Overall, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is an aesthetically innovative yet otherwise flawed debut by Ana Lily Amirpour. Its story is noncohesive and the characters are underdeveloped but it shows Amirpour's knack for craftsmanship and blending different genres together. Thankfully, because this is Amirpour's feature film debut, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Grade: C-

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Sulu To Be Gay In Star Trek Beyond

I wasn't going to post this immediately after the story broke out because I wanted to give my readers a bit of a breather regarding the whole diversity issue. But I wanted to share my thoughts on the story regardless.

Apparently, the character of Sulu from Star Trek will be revealed as a homosexual in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond as a way to honor George Takei who originated the character back in the 1960's series and is openly gay. But apparently, Takei himself isn't fond of the idea. 

Now as I have mentioned before, representation in Hollywood blockbusters is something I really want to see. As a gay man, I want to see my community represented on the big screen and as actual, well-realized characters rather than side comic relief and whatnot. I am glad that they have a gay character in the film. However, I'm still on the fence about this. 

When George Takei said why he's not fond the idea, he did say he's glad they have a gay character represented. But he felt that they didn't have to make a character already established as straight into a homosexual and they could've created an original gay character. 

In fact, I fear that by making Sulu gay, some fans will start to scream "Agenda!" and that this is all for political reasons. Even if that isn't the reason why this decision is made, look at the backlash for the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot with people screaming "Feminist agenda!" and I don't want to see a similar backlash hit this film.

Also, with Iron Man now being a black woman in the comics, Thor also a woman, Captain America now a black man, and the Hulk a Korean-American, even Marvel fans may wonder the same thing. 

That's why I think comic book writers and even writers of film adaptations of beloved fanboy properties should perhaps write more original characters that allow more representation. We've seen a recent trend of female heroines in Star Wars films as well as characters played by people of color. But those actors are playing new characters in an already established universe. There's speculation as to whether the character of Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, will be revealed as gay or bisexual. But Poe is an original character so they can go any avenues in which they choose. I suppose they could go in a different avenue for already established character like Luke Skywalker. But that would probably scream "Agenda!" to some fans.

But overall, even if I'm not 100% on board with the decision to make Sulu gay because they could easily write an original gay character for the film, it's not a decision I'm completely upset with. I do give the writers and filmmakers credit for trying to allow more representation.

Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section about what you think of this decision. Thanks for reading!

Top 10 Films Of 2016 So Far

Hello, Bloggers. Here is a quick at what I think are the top 10 best films of 2016 so far this year. So far, it's looking like a very decent year for film and here's hoping it can get better. Take a look:

Honorable Mentions:
The Conjuring 2 
Finding Dory 
Midnight Special 
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising 

10. 10 Cloverfield Lane: These days, when we have mindless overbudgeted blockbusters, I cherish any science fiction film that goes the minimalist route. That is certainly one reason why 10 Cloverfield Lane succeeds along with the terrific performances by the main trio and how it shows that the monsters outside the bunker are not the only ones to fear.

9. Captain America: Civil War: Despite Captain America: Civil War being a grand summer spectacle, it is far from mindless. This is some of the most fun I've had at the movies so far this year yet I couldn't help but feel that its story of heroes being put under surveillance is quite an interesting parallel to our society today in the age of Snowden and drone warfare. I would say that this is Marvel's best, and most mature, film to date.

8. The Witch: The beauty of the film's horror is that it isn't about jump scares or CGI. The Witch relies mostly on an ongoing sense of paranoia as well as an constant feeling of dread thanks to its bleak cinematography, screeching violinic score, and sound mixing. After watching this film, sometimes, I'm a little too afraid to go to the woods.

7. The Nice Guys: There's a lot of talk about us seeing a string of big-budgeters underperforming this summer. But to me, what's more devastating is that many people missed out on The Nice Guys (it grossed $35m domestically against a $50m budget). What you guys missed out on is a balls-out good time packed with action, comedy, and nostalgia. Also, it is going to be hard to find an on-screen duo that works so well together better than Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. If there is, I haven't seen it and possibly won't. 

6. Hello, My Name Is Doris: Hello, My Name Is Doris is a gem for several reasons. It shows how love and living it to the fullest can affect people at any age, it makes you laugh while tugging at the heartstrings, and above all, it proves that Sally Field, who carries this film to perfection, has still got it!

5. The Jungle Book: Perhaps the biggest surprise I've seen so far this year, The Jungle Book manages to single-handedly eclipse other live-action adaptations of Disney animated films like Alice In Wonderland and Snow White and the Huntsman. Its blend of live action and CGI storytelling is an absolute marvel (They might as well deliver the Visual Effects Oscar to those responsible) and it also manages to be a film for everyone: It's hilarious, it's scary at times, it touches the heart, and it's got a few musical numbers. After I saw it in theaters, I immediately wanted to go back to the jungle!

4. Eye In The Sky: How refreshing is it to see a war movie that doesn't take any sides? It presents the issue at hand and lets the audience decide for themselves while being a very tense film-watching experience at that. Even though the film depicts mostly people piloting drones and sitting in chairs, I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what's going to happen next.

3. A Bigger Splash: I usually don't mind films that depict people going on in conversation just as long as the director is able to make something innovative out of it. Luca Guadagnino certainly does that in spades. Its editing and cinematography are very intoxicating, the quartet ensemble is on their A-game, and overall, it is just an exhilarating experience packed with sex, rock 'n roll, and mystery.

2. The Lobster: Director Yorgos Lanthimos is someone who specializes in the unorthodox like with this 2010 film Dogtooth. The Lobster, which is set in a world where being single is illegal, was full of such original world building yet by the time it was over, I was reminded of how I'm frantically swiping left or right on Tinder. It got me thinking of how I myself feel the pressure of being single like the characters in the movie. The more I think about it, the more I might appreciate it.

1. Zootopia: Zootopia was quite a leap for Disney. While it does manage to be a fun family film with humor, heart, and mystery, it also overtly captures the cultural zeitgeist of racism and prejudice going on in our country today. When we see scenes like a couple prey animals moving away from a predator when sitting on a train, you're just like "Wow, that's like us." So I would say it's one of Disney's most mature films to date and it is the best film 2016 has to offer so far this year.

Please be sure to share your own top 10 in the comments section. Thanks for reading! 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Review: Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

      It's interesting how there's a scene where two of the main characters reference the film Wedding Crashers because while this wedding comedy can't quite top it, it is still far from terrible.

     Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates follows the story of two brothers named Mike and Dave Stangle (Adam Devine and Zac Efron) who after constantly crashing past family gatherings, are persuaded by their sister to bring dates to her wedding so they can get their acts together. But the dates that they end up with (Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza) turn out to be a little more chaotic than they bargained for.

     While the film has the names Mike and Dave in the title, to me, it is ultimately the ladies that came out the best. Aubrey Plaza was her usual hilarious self as she plays a bad girl poorly pretending to be all "peaches and cream" while Anna Kendrick proves that she has quite a gift for comedy as she pulls off a character that is sweet yet as sour as she pleases. Stephanie Beard, who plays Mike and Dave's sister Jeannie, was also a standout as she plays the role of the bride trying to react to the constant chaos taking place with great hilarity without ever coming off as a caricatural Bridezilla. As for Adam Devine and Zac Efron, though, they're fine. But it's really the ladies who steal the show.

     I will say, though, that this is the best Zac Efron comedy I've seen this year. Slightly better than Neighbors 2 and miles above the piece of cinematic excrement known as Dirty Grandpa. While there were some crude jokes in this film, I didn't find them as tasteless as the jokes in Dirty Grandpa which had jokes involving homophobia and pedophilia. (Seriously, who said it was okay to give that movie the greenlight?) So Mike and Dave never went that far, thankfully.

     There were also a lot of references to other films, like The Shining, Taken, Jurassic Park, and of course Wedding Crashers that I thought were quite funny. The good stuff kind of ends there.

    I will say that while I applaud the film for being quite diverse ince it has people of different demographics being represented. But there was one bisexual character that kind of stuck out like a sore thumb because I felt that she was just there to be the token gay character. If you took her out of the film, it wouldn't have made much alterations to the plot.

    There is even a plot point revealed very early on involving Anna Kendrick's character and how she got stood up at her own wedding which was filmed into a video. After the first time we see the video, we see it a few more times and that was a little unneeded. We already know that she was still reeling from it and we didn't neat to see the video again and again. I also thought the story in general was pretty predictable.

    Overall, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a familiar comedy in the vein of Wedding Crashers elevated by the performances of its leading ladies. Its story can be problematic but I knew going into this film that it wasn't going to be in the running for awards season. If you're looking for a good Zac Efron comedy, or a good comedy in general, to go see in theaters, you should give this one a look.

Grade: B

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Oscars 2017: July Predictions

For the first time on my Oscar predictions, I'm going to try and predict almost every category. Every category except the shorts, Documentary and Best Foreign Language Film.

Best Picture:
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
The Birth Of A Nation 
La La Land 
Manchester By The Sea 
20th Century Women 

Replaced Lion, Collateral Beauty, and Passengers with Arrival, 20th Century Women, and Loving. I feel that director Denis Villeneuve has really been building up his industry cred with nominations for Prisoners (1 for Cinematography) and Sicario (3 for Cinematography, Score, Sound Mixing). So provided the movie delivers, Arrival could really be his ticket to Oscar. Loving I put back on my predictions and 20th Century Women I'm now predicting since it got picked up by A24 Films.

Fences, I think could pull through and win it the more I think about it. After #OscarsSoWhite, they may feel compulsed to award a film about people of color Best Picture and in case Birth OfA Nation is too dark, Loving is too subtle as the reviews are suggesting, and Moonlight is too "young generation," Fences might seem like a viable option.

Best Director:
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight 
Ang Lee, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
Nate Parker, Birth Of A Nation 
Martin Scorsese, Silence*
Denzel Washington, Fences 

Replaced Garth Davis for Lion with Barry Jenkins for Moonlight. I think he could be this year's Lenny Abrahamson: An unknown that gets in for a little movie that could and I think this year's "little engine" could be Moonlight. 

Best Actor:
Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea 
Joel Edgerton, Loving 
David Oyelowo, A United Kingdom 
Nate Parker, Birth Of A Nation 
Denzel Washington, Fences*

Replaced Michael Keaton and Andrew Garfield with David Oyelowo and Casey Affleck. With Keaton out of my predictions, I think Denzel Washington can be the one to win it. David Oyelowo could be someone to watch out for, though. A United Kingdom is set to open the London Film Festival, a pit stop for awards contenders, later this year. He might also go around town, saying "Hey, you guys forgot to nominate me for Selma." He might also have that going for him.

Best Actress:
Amy Adams, Arrival
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women 
Viola Davis, Fences*
Ruth Negga, Loving 
Emma Stone, La La Land 

Replaced Emily Blunt and Isabelle Huppert with Amy Adams and Annette Bening. Science fiction isn't exactly the Academy’s cup of tea but Amy Adams is a 5-time Oscar nominee. That might allow them to overlook it if the film delivers. Annette Bening is also overdue with 4 nominations. If both get nominated, they could pose a threat to Viola Davis who is still looking like the frontrunner as of now.

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershalal Ali, Moonlight 
Stephen Henderson, Fences 
Steve Martin, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Ben Mendelsohn, Una 
Liam Neeson, Silence*

Replaced Jovan Adepo and Armie Hammer with Mahershalal Ali and Stephen Henderson. I'm predicting Moonlight to do quite well with Ali, who even just got invited to the Academy, getting in. Also, Henderson is playing the role he received a Tony nomination for and he could be this year's Mark Rylance: a primary theater actor who gets some recognition for his work in film.

Best Supporting Actress:
Naomie Harris, Moonlight 
Aja Naomi King, Birth Of A Nation 
Kristen Stewart, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 
Rachel Weisz, The Light Between Oceans 
Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea*

Replaced Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie with Aja Naomi King and Rachel Weisz. Weisz has a slew of films set for this year but this one looks like it could be her ticket back to Oscar after winning about 10 years ago. Judging by the trailers, she has some pretty heavy material to work with.

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

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
The Light Between Oceans 

Best Cinematography:
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk*
The Jungle Book 

Best Original Score:
Birth Of A Nation 
Finding Dory 
The Light Between Oceans 

Best Production Design:
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 

Best Film Editing:
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk*
Birth Of A Nation 
La La Land 

Best Costume Design:
Birth Of A Nation 
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them 
Love and Friendship

Best Visual Effects:
Captain America: Civil War 
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them 
The Jungle Book*
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 

Best Makeup:
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them 
Suicide Squad 

Best Sound Editing:
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk*
Jason Bourne
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 

Best Sound Mixing:
Jason Bourne
La La Land*
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 

Best Animated Feature:
Finding Dory 
Kubo And The Two Strings
The Red Turtle

Topic Of The Day: Can Actresses REALLY Not Have It Both Ways?

This post is kind of a sequel to my post about Keira Knightley and Kate Beckinsale and how they've had their looks focused on them rather than their acting ability.

Not too long ago, a cover story on Vanity Fair about Margot Robbie surfaced on the Internet and the author of the article, Rich Cohen, focused quite heavily on, survey says....her looks!

In his introductory paragraph, Cohen talks about how she's "sexy," "beautiful," and walks in a "catwalk way" as if she's a supermodel. Also, Cohen says how she rode from the beach of her hometown to the billboards around Sunset Boulevard. To me, the way he described her beauty along with her apparently "riding from the beach of her hometown" makes it seem like she got to where she is based mainly on her looks which is clearly not the case since she worked her own way into where she is now.

So instead of going on about her beauty, how about just talk about her rise to fame based on her talents?! Yes, Margot Robbie is a beautiful woman. We know that. But instead of writing like a horny high school freshman, Rich, just talk about the craft in her performances and focus on how she worked her way up to where she is now and she definitely didn't get to her position based solely on her looks. Martin Scorsese doesn't cast hacks in his movies and I know Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't work with hacks either. So, Margot Robbie is not a hack by any means.

Seeing this story frustrates me because that, along with the Keira Knightley and Kate Beckinsale situations, has me thinking: Can women in Hollywood REALLY not have it both ways?! When journalists and directors talk about working with a particular actress, is it possible for them not to talk about how they look? Guys, it's not rocket science.

We usually never hear about female reporters talking about how hot and attractive certain actors are. If that's the case, then we should stop having these males in the industry profession going on about a woman's beauty over her craft. Heck, Owen Gleiberman from Variety just did a story about Renee Zellweger, asking whether she's a different actress because she doesn't look like herself. Key word here being look. Zellweger is returning back to the screen after a long absence and is going back to doing what she loves and here, we have people commenting on her looks rather than her return to her profession. Unbelievable.

Anyways, that was my little rant about the sexism of Hollywood. I would love to hear about your thoughts about this whole situation down in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Topic Of The Day: A Summer Of Apocalyptic Proportions

So when looking at this weekend and how The Purge: Election Year, which was made for around $10m, is performing better than The BFG and The Legend of Tarzan, which had much larger budgets (a combined $320m w/o factoring marketing costs) it got me thinking that something is fishy in Tinseltown and had me wondering what could be done to fix it. How can they make films all year round and not just in the summer where they can guarantee a good return on their product?

This summer, we've had a series of colossal underperformers: In particular, X-Men: Apocalypse, Warcraft, Alice Through The Looking Glass, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows. All of those were produced for at least $100m and three of them were sequels.

One way that problem can be fixed is if Hollywood were to greenlight more original content. I'm sure there are dozens upon dozens of original scripts piling up at each studio or agency. Go find them. Hollywood is a business where you can entice your customer with a new product. Especially when we have a possible onslaught of superhero movie fatigue since superheroes are what really drive Hollywood's box office dollars these days.

They should also think on a smaller scale. Some of the most successful films so far this summer were Central Intelligence, Me Before You, The Shallows, The Conjuring 2, and The Angry Birds Movie were made on more modest budgets, below the $100m range.

Another way in which Hollywood can guarantee a successful return on their products is if they have their movie stars start taking smaller fees upfront. If a movie that has a higher budget than it needs to be flops, it's likely because they're trying to satisfy the high salary demands of their movie stars. Personally, I think the studios should negotiate a smaller fee upfront, either 6 or 7 figures, and have the actors get their 8 figures on the backend. That way, their handlers (agents, managers, etc.) can collect a good chunk of their client's earnings, they get their $20m, and the studios get a nice return on their product. Everybody's happy.

So those are my thoughts on how Hollywood can fix its box office drought. What do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section and offer your own solutions to this whole crisis. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Indie Review: Swiss Army Man (2016)

                                       (Major spoilers ahead)

      Soooo, I can't really classify what genre this film actually is. Yet that's what makes this one sort of fascinating.

      Swiss Army Man follows the story of a man named Hank (Paul Dano) who is about to hang himself on a deserted beach when he discovers a farting corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) who comes to life and slowly recaptures what it means to be human.

      First off, I thought the film's brightest spot is Daniel Radcliffe as Manny. Even as his character mostly mumbles his words and he has the same frozen face throughout, Radcliffe captures a variety of dimensions to his character, ranging from curiosity to optimism to even subtle torment. Also, kudos to Daniel Radcliffe for seeking out smaller interesting material that challenges him as an actor after Harry Potter. As for Paul Dano, though. He's fine. I like how this and Love and Mercy have shown how he's been maturing as an actor. But for me, this is Radcliffe's show.

     As I said in my opening sentence, there isn't really a particular genre I can place this film in yet that's what makes it fascinating. It isn't as if the film doesn't know what it wants to be but instead, it weaves in different genre elements into one. It feels like Cast Away with a corpse yet it is also a bit of a buddy movie about what it means to be human. Throughout the film, Manny is trying go relearn the normal aspects of human life. In particular, how it feels to love and there is even slight homoerotic subtext in the bond between Hank and Manny. There are scenes where Manny talks about how he doesn't know how to masturbate or have relations and in one scene where Manny and Hank are in the water and it looks like Manny is about to drown, Hank kisses him to metaphorically and literally bring him back to life.

      The production design on this film is some of the best I've seen all year. On the little island that Hank and Manny are on, they build replicas of places like a bus and a movie theater and I thought they looked very uncanny.

       There is even a big twist at the very end that caught me by surprised yet it also really lost me. I can't explain why without spoiling it so spoilers ahead. There is a girl that both Hank and Manny are infatuated with named Sarah, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who Manny has pictures of on his phone. But it turns out to only be Hank's phone but it is a woman that Hank doesn't know and is stalking. That is where the film lost me because at the end, it made it difficult for me to sympathize with someone who puts pictures of a strange woman on his phone. Honestly, it almost made me less appreciative of the entire picture and its inventiveness. It just really bothered me.

       Overall, Swiss Army Man is an unorthodox and inventive near gem that features an amazing performance by Daniel Radcliffe as well as lavish production design but it quite bogged down by its unsympathetic ending.

Grade: B