Saturday, August 27, 2016

Guest Review: Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016)

By Keith Noakes

Rebellious teenage orphan Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is shipped off to live with a foster family in the New Zealand countryside. Unhappy with his new surroundings, he attempts to run away and hide in the unforgiving wilderness. His reluctant caretaker Hector (Sam Neill) eventually finds him, and the unlikely duo survive in the harsh terrain as a nationwide manhunt is launched to find them.

Chalk this one down to not living in one of the big cities. I missed it the first time around, then it left, and then it came back. I definitely wasn't going to let it get away from me again. No, I haven't seen What We Do in the Shadows but I am familiar with director Taika Waititi and his quirky brand of comedy. The trailer was funny and showcased the beautiful New Zealand landscape.

Ricky Baker (Dennison) is an orphan born on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak. In order to try to straighten him out, he is sent to live with a foster family living in the New Zealand countryside. This comes as a big culture shock for him. It's probably easy to guess what happens next but it's better than that. Once he learns more about his foster parents, Hector (Neil) and Bella (<span class="itemprop">Rima Te Wiata), and the area, he is persuaded to stay. After a freak tragedy, Ricky is now forced to leave his new foster home. In revolt, he runs away into the wilderness, getting lost and eventually being found by Hector.</span>

Hounding them was Ricky's over-the-top social worker Paula (Rachel House). She had taken great offense to Ricky's unwillingness to leave and had made it her mission to get him back. She went to great lengths for this mission which led to some funny moments of her own as she seemed to take it more seriously than everybody else. Of course things escalated with Ricky and Hector becoming fugitives and the whole nation looking for them. Ricky doesn't want to go back to the city so he and Hector hide together in the wilderness to avoid capture by Paula and the authorities. The two must move around, trying to survive by living off the land, running into countless quirky people along the way.

What was noticeable early on was the contrast between Hector and Ricky. Hector knows how to survive and live off the land and Ricky does not. Watching Ricky learn to survive was fun because since he was so likeable, it was easy to get invested in him. Hector wasn't much of a fan of Ricky to start off with but over time grew closer to him as he started to break down his own walls. Their chemistry made them dynamite together as the film did a good job at playing with the generational gap between the two. Over that time, Ricky kind of rubbed onto Hector which led to some amazing exchanges with dialogue coming from the smart and funny script.

Again, the film was a great showcase of New Zealand and its wilderness. This led to some amazing shots of the countless trees and mountains and such. This was just a very beautiful film to look at. This also made it so the film never got boring as there was always something to look at. While the film is mostly Ricky and Hector, there was still a lot more on here as the story had a surprising amount of depth to it. This was a coming of age story for Ricky but it also was for Hector in a way.

The acting here was excellent with Dennison and Neil carrying the film. Dennison stole a lot of scenes, often looming above the more experienced Neil. His charisma made him very believable in the role as the street kid. His screen presence and likability allowed him to stand out in many scenes. Neil was just as good as well as the grumpy Hector. He fit the part perfectly. All the people they met along the way were pretty much caricatures but their quirkiness was very endearing.

Overall, this was a beautiful, fun film with a great story and led by excellent performances by Dennison and Neil.

Score: 9.5/10

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Oscar Watch: Lion (2016)

Harvey Weinstein is someone who knows how to make Oscar catnip. Films like The Imitation Game, The King's Speech, and Philomena are all films that fit the Academy’s typical mold while also being commercially viable as well because all three films made at least $100m worldwide. In fact, the first two films made at least $100m domestically.

His upcoming Lion, about an Indian man adopted by an Australian family who sets off to find his birth parents through Google, certainly looks like it'll be a crowdpleaser. It comes out right around Thanksgiving and other Weinstein films that came out around that time like Silver Linings Playbook and The Imitation Game would go on to become Oscar juggernauts. So maybe there really is something to this one. You can watch the full trailer here.

It stars Dev Patel who starred in the Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire as well as 2-time Oscar nominee Rooney Mara and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman. Kidman I think could be someone to watch out for in the Supporting Actress race since she looks to have a baity role as the main character's adoptive mother. If there is one thing the Supporting Actress category will never tire of, it's mom roles. Plus, she gets to wear a wig and have a big crying scene so there's some showiness to the performance. Dev Patel could also contend for Best Actor since, like Best Supporting Actress, that category is looking so baron that I absolutely have no idea who to predict. Certainly not until the festivals start taking place (Telluride, Toronto, New York, Venice.)

As a film in general, it looks pretty decent. It's not at the top of my watch list but it doesn't look absolutely unwatchable. I would probably see it if I wanted to get my Oscar homework done before Nomination Day.

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: A United Kingdom (2016)

  As of right now, Loving is looking to be a major contender in the Oscar race. But it is possible it may have another real-life interracial marriage drama to contend with this season: A United Kingdom starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike and directed by Amma Asante.

  Unlike Loving, which appears to be more of a low-key drama, this one looks to have more of a sense of grandeur with its use of big speech scenes and slightly on-the-nose dialogue with people reminding the main characters of the consequences of them getting married due to their skin color. But with 2014's Belle, Amma Asante proved that she can provide a blend of exposition and letting the camera do the storytelling.

   The performances by both David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike look quite spectacular. Oyelowo I think could be very strong for Best Actor considering how the category is looking like such a wasteland, his Selma snub could bring him a lot of goodwill, and his performance looks pretty demonstrative and unreserved. It's usually the kind of performance voters love. Rosamund Pike could be a contender for Best Actress as well for what is a more likable turn than her previously nominated performance in Gone Girl.

   The film currently doesn't have a U.S. distributor but if it gets picked up, it could contend not only for major categories (Picture, Actor, Actress, Screenplay, etc.) but below-the-line categories as well like Costumes or Production Design because it's a period drama. If the film delivers, I do hope that Amma Asante can be a strong contender for Best Director. It was unfortunate that Ava DuVernay couldn't make history with Selma as the first black woman to be nominated for Best Director. So we shall see if Asante could achieve that milestone.

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!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Oscar Watch: Manchester By The Sea (2016)

Netflix tried to enter the Oscar fray last year with Beasts Of No Nation only to end up with zero nominations. Now Amazon Studios, another streaming service, is looking to do the same for the upcoming family drama Manchester By The Sea starring Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, and Michelle Williams and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.

Now, judging by all the positive reviews thrown in the trailer and how they suggest that actors like Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams could be in the running for Oscar nominations, it is a very un-subtle way of Amazon saying that they are ready to be in the Oscar race. In my opinion, it's a less subtle approach.

The film looks very good, though. In fact, it looks better than I thought it would because I didn't have very high expectations before I saw the trailer. However, I don't know if intimate family dramas are an Oscar thing these days since we're years away from the days when films like Ordinary People and Terms of Endearment took home the Best Picture trophy. Boyhood, another Sundance wonder, was a strong contender for the Best Picture trophy but it only took home Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette. So clearly voters weren't that passionate about it.

Judging by the overwhelmingly positive critical response that the trailer suggests, it could for sure be the critical favorite of the season and result in likely major nominations but as The Social Network losing Best Picture taught us, critics don't vote in the Academy.

Overall, I think this looks like a strong film and even though I won't be updating my predictions for this month because I'm waiting for the festivals very soon, I'm currently predicting it for Picture, Actor for Casey Affleck, Supporting Actor for Lucas Hedges, Supporting Actress for Michelle Williams, and Best Original Screenplay. It comes out on November 18th.

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!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

    Kubo And The Two Strings follows the story of a boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson) who must locate a magical suit of armor to defeat his grandfather called The Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and his twin aunts known as the Sisters (Rooney Mara). Aiding Kubo is an anthropomorphic monkey (Charlize Theron) and a half human/half beetle (Matthew McConaughey).

   I really enjoyed the voice work by the cast. However, while Art Parkinson was terrific as Kubo, I found the real standouts to be the adult actors. Charlize Theron brought a lot of humanity to the role of Monkey as she plays her as both a warm maternal presence and comedic "straight man." Matthew McConaughey served as great comic relief as Beetle who is very thick-headed yet has a heart of gold. Rooney Mara was also a standout, using her calm soothing voice to fit the psychopathic menace of the evil Sisters.

   Next, the animation. This film has perhaps the best animation that I've seen in a film so far this year. Watching Kubo strum his shamisen to turn papers into birds or a bunch of leaves into a ship was an absolute marvel to behold. Admittingly, I don't usually see a lot of stop-motion animated films. But I was still amazed by what I saw and how the filmmakers managed to blend ancient Asian culture with modern Hollywoodized stop-motion technology.

   Lastly, I loved how the film manages to delve into the power of storytelling. For example, when Kubo goes to the village to tell stories to the townsfolk by summoning pieces of paper into origami with his magical shamisen, it entertains the townsfolk and lifts their spirits. That's why a lot of us tell stories. We tell stories to make us feel something and to connect everyone around us.

   The ending I found to be slightly anti-climactic. But I didn't really feel that the film was about all the action that took place. It's more about the characters and their interactions, the visuals, and the morality surrounding the story.

    Overall, Kubo And The Two Strings strums an eclectic and harmonious tune about the power of stories. It's got tremendous voice work and is a feast for the eyes of the imagination.

Grade: A+


Monday, August 22, 2016

Guest Review: Indignation (2016)

By Keith Noakes

A young Jewish atheist from Newark, New Jersey named Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) attends college in 1951 Ohio, where he clashes with both the school's established social order and its Dean Caudwell (Tracy Letts) as well as his overbearing parents' hopes for his future. At the same time, he falls for an attractive, complicated classmate named Olivia (Sarah Gadon).

Again with a film based on a novel. This film is based on a novel called "Indignation" by Philip Roth. Of course I didn't read it so I can't speak to its accuracy. The main draw for me here was the trailer, which looked good, and the cast featuring the like of Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, and Tracy Letts. What was notable here was that I am a fan of Tracy Letts and seeing Lerman in a starring role in a serious film is interesting. Sorry, the Percy Jackson series are not serious films.

The film takes place during a tumultuous time during the Korean war where young men are being drafted. This greatly affected a certain Jewish community within Newark, New Jersey where a young, Jewish atheist named Marcus Messner (Lerman) lives with his parents. They are worried because they think they will lose their only son to the draft but luckily for them, Marcus chooses to go to college which protects him from the draft. This still doesn't stop them from worrying because he is leaving them just as his father is beginning to lose his mind, much to the chagrin of his mother.

Once Marcus gets to college, he has a hard time adjusting to his new life. He just wants to study and work but everyone else doesn't understand this and choose to have unrealistic expectations of him which puts him at odds with everyone. Another issue for him was that since Marcus is of Jewish descent, everyone assumes that he is Jewish but he is quite atheist and vehemently disbelieves in religion which put him at odds with his college and Dean Caudwell (Letts). His biggest problem with the college was the mandatory attendance of chapel in order to graduate which conflicted with his beliefs.

Things quickly changed for him once he meets an attractive, young classmate named Olivia (Gadon). The two grow very close as she seems to be the only one who can break through the walls that he has built up and sees him for who he really is. Marcus has a very intense, serious personality which makes it hard for him to make friends and/or carry serious relationships but there was something different about her. Olivia later surprises Marcus by taking their relationship to a level which leaves him confused and uncomfortable. This confusion caused a rift within their relationship which grew further once he learned about Olivia's troubled past. He did not know how to deal with this information so he did what he always does and hid from the problem with his studies instead of dealing with it head on.

Marcus was compelling and fun to watch as he is a very likeable and relatable character. While his serious and intense personality can be a little off-putting to some but it was nice to see him go through his own inner-struggles as he is yet to experience a lot of what life has to offer. He was a surprisingly complex character where we got to watch him doubt and question himself and learn things for the first time. His debates with Dean Caudwell on religion and life in general were great to watch and the best parts of the film. Because Marcus is such a likeable and relatable character, he doesn't come off as arrogant and you actually root for him here as you can understand where he was coming from. Their interactions as well as the rest of the dialogue were great because of the smart script. This continued in the scenes with Marcus and Olivia. These were mostly just two people talking but it was easy to hang onto every word. They were fun to watch together as they had great chemistry.

They did have great chemistry but there wasn't much to Olivia. The film failed to develop her character as much as Marcus. She did have flaws and had a troubled past but the film could have gone much further with her. This would have made her motives a little easier to understand. Marcus is a complex, complicated character who has lived a seemingly sheltered life but a little backstory would have helped in understanding him more. This is a beautiful film with great cinematography, full of beautiful shots. The cheerful. mostly piano score was also great at setting the mood. The performances were great with Lerman and Letts being the standouts with Lerman great at depicting the character's vulnerability and complexity and Letts for primarily going head to head with Lerman's Marcus.

Overall, this is a great, beautiful, and smart film, featuring great performances by Lerman and Letts.

Grade: 9/10

If you want to see more, please read my other reviews here and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @keithlovesmovies and like me on Facebook.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Indie Review: Hell Or High Water (2016)

    Hell Or High Water follows the story of two brothers named Tanner and Toby (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) who commit bank robberies in order to save their family farm from foreclosure. However, as they are on the run, they are being pursued by a soon to be retired sheriff named Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges).

   I loved the acting by the main cast. Even though the film is about robberies and is a bit of a road movie, it is much more of a slow burn because director David Mackenzie, who gave us the frustratingly underrated prison drama Starred Up, focuses a lot more on the characters and the craftsmanship in the performances. Chris Pine and Ben Foster were aces as two brothers who are the yin to each other's yang. Foster's Tanner is someone who robs because he gets a thrill out of it while Pine's Toby is the more wholesome of the two. Toby takes part in the robberies that take place yet when you look into his eyes, you can tell he isn't in total favor of what he's doing. Chris Pine gives perhaps his best work in quite some time and he continues to prove that he's more than just Captain Kirk.

  Jeff Bridges was also reliably good as the sheriff on the hunt for the two brothers but one actor I would love to acknowledge is Gil Birmingham who plays Marcus' right hand man Alberto. I liked the chemistry he and Bridges have and felt he was the film's true moral center whose profundity translates into comic relief and hidden anguish.

   Even though the film isn't non stop action, there were a handful of scenes that are packed with suspense and adrenaline. For example, in the opening scene where the two brothers start robbing a bank, it immediately seems like it is a normal day for the bank teller heading inside until she is out of the blue held at gunpoint and the once serene feel of the sequence takes an immediate 180. That switch works quite well because as the teller is walking out of her car and heading to the bank, the camera keeps lingering on her. Then, when held at gunpoint and the mood changes, it cuts to the brothers and the teller inside the bank. A lot of the credit goes to the cinematography by Giles Nuttgens and the editing by Jake Roberts.

   While the writer Taylor Sheridan who also did the masterfully written Sicario does a wonderful job with the characterizations in the script, I had some problems with the dialogue. I found the dialogue to be almost minimalist and as a result, I didn't have an immediate idea on what the story is about. But thankfully, the film is more focused on its characters which is the film's greatest strength.

   Overall, Hell Or High Water is a worthy follow-up to director David Mackenzie's Starred Up that is a masterful morality tale which also happens to be a road movie that had me hooked within its first 10 minutes. Even if it isn't very high octane throughout, it makes up for that with its tension filled robbery scenes and the incredible performances from the cast.

Grade: A-


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Nate Parker Rape Scandal

I initially wasn't going to post this. I do usually cover what is going on in the film world and this scandal does pertain to it. It especially pertains to awards season. But this scandal is a whole lot bigger than awards and while I won't comment on its awards chances, I will say why this scandal is bigger than some PR cleanup for an Oscar campaign.

Birth Of A Nation filmmaker/star Nate Parker and his co-writer Jean Celestin were accused of raping an unconscious woman back when they were in college with Celestin being found guilty but Parker being acquitted. The past trial was brought up when Parker did an interview for Deadline, which you can read here, about how he is trying to move on from it and how it was one of the most painful moments of HIS life. Basically, he is trying to say how he is a victim of this situation while not talking about the actual victim who eventually committed suicide. When reading about that interview and how he's worried that the trial will overshadow the film, you can get the sense that he, and Fox Searchlight who purchased the film for almost $20 million, are worried about its awards prospects. I say to look at the bigger picture.

Parker being made out to be a victim is yet another example of trying to get the public to sympathize with the abuser rather than those who were abused. It's a lot like the situation with Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Even though Heard was photographed with bruises on her face and even has video evidence of Depp being abusive, Depp's fans are leaping to HIS defense on social media. 

You also have the case involving Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer that got put to trial for raping an unconscious woman 
like Parker did, and got sentenced to six months of prison. Turner's father dismissed his son's crime as him getting punished for "20 minutes of action" and the rest of his family started a support fund on Facebook called the Turner Family Support Fund. Blood may be thicker than water. But they haven't done anything to suggest the severity of what the victim will go through and above all, the importance of consent and that a woman being intoxicated and unconscious does NOT equal consent. 

So when looking at the Nate Parker case, I ask you to look past its awards prospects which are looking SOL at the moment and look at the bigger picture. Remember how the media tries to get us to sympathize with the abuser and not the real victims themselves. People like Johnny Depp may be celebrities and Turner and Parker may have been star athletes. But that doesn't mean it's okay for them to get away with such heinous crimes. 

I will end this post by saying that I will be boycotting Birth Of A Nation. Nate Parker will not receive a dime from me and I will not be posting a review of it. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Are No Girls Allowed On The Sandbox?

So last week, they announced seven of the eight main actresses in the upcoming female Ocean's Eleven reboot called Ocean's Ocho. Sandra Bullock will star and co-produce while her co-stars are Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, and Asian pop star Awkwafina who you may have spotted in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising as one of the sorority sisters.

So far, they have a terrific cast but I still don't have very high feelings about this project. Mainly because I am not a fan of dividing up genders, having a boys and a girls team. By having a female-driven cast, it makes me feel like it isn't a movie for me. So while they're trying to represent the female gender and women of different ethnicities, since the cast is ethnically diverse, I feel that they're still being rather exclusive. Instead of making an all-female Ocean's movie, I wish they had called it something else and made an original heist film with a gender neutral cast with men and women.

If we want to see more progression on screen, we want to make movies for everyone. Look at Furious 7. It had a gender-neutral and multi-ethnic cast and it is the first film in the Fast and Furious franchise to join the billion dollar club. Lucy was sold entirely on Scarlett Johansson's name and yet it still had a diverse cast with Morgan Freeman and Choi Min-sik as the main co-stars. It cost about $40 million to make and made $463 million worldwide. Even if Bad Moms had a predominantly female cast, it was an original concept that cost $20 million yet so far it has made $70 million domestically, likely making $100m in the near future. So if you want to make more female-centered films, at least greenlight an original concept. I like who they have in the cast for the Ocean's movie. But if they put them in an original film, I would probably still go see it even if it might not seem like it is geared towards my demographic.

But what do you guys think? Do you think this reboot is a good or bad idea? Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Oscar Watch: Hidden Figures (2016)

Fittingly, on the night of the Olympics, a trailer for the upcoming biopic Hidden Figures starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, was aired. I say fittingly so because the film is an inspirational true story and the Olympics are all about inspiration.

The film about a group of black female mathematicians who helped NASA compete in the Space Race between the U.S. and Russia. One thing I love about the trailer is how it looks like it's mostly told from the point of view of the mathematicians themselves rather than from a white voice which is a common trope among films that center around people of color like The Help and Dances With Wolves. Interestingly enough, Spencer from The Help and Kevin Costner from Dances With Wolves star in this.

Taraji P. Henson, who is hot on television right now thanks to Empire, looks like she has a great role on the big screen and Janelle Monae could be somebody to watch out for in the Best Supporting Actress race since she has both this and Moonlight out this year. Previous Oscar winner Octavia Spencer could be someone to watch out for as well depending on what kind of role she has.

From the looks of the trailer, it looks like a light-hearted crowd pleaser. Even if the actual product itself is less light hearted than it appears, you still want to do whatever you can to sell your product and make it appear as accessible as possible. When I saw that the film was trending on Twitter once the trailer was released, there were a lot of excited tweets so there definitely looks to be plenty of audience interest in it. I know I'm excited for it. The film will receive a wide release on January 13th with a possible awards-qualifying release at the end of December.

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!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Oscar Watch: Allied (2016)

 So one of Oscar's favorite types of movies is the WWII film. Especially films about Nazis and with Oscar pedigree involved. That is what we have with the upcoming Allied directed by Oscar winner Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Flight, Cast Away) and starring Oscar winners Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. It deals with two spies who fall in love in Casablanca and marry during a mission to kill a German official.

  When I first heard about this film, I wasn't exactly over the moom about it. Mainly because it seemed like it would be tailor made for awards glory given the fact it's about WWII and has a lot of Oscar pedigree.

  But after watching the teaser, I'm pretty intrigued by it. I think Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are well-casted for this period romance because they have such movie star auras that bring back the glory days of movie stars like Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. I am a big Brad Pitt fan and I absolutely love Marion Cotillard. Cotillard alone is enough to get me to buy a ticket and this seems like a great role for her. I also underestimated her when she got in Best Actress for Two Days, One Night so she could be strong for either Lead or Supporting Actress depending on whether the film deliver and where her placement will be.

   The film also co-stars Jared Harris, Matthew Goode, and Lizzy Caplan and it comes out on November 23rd around Thanksgiving. It's a perfect awards season release date and I think it could either play like gangbusters or be one of those films that seems tailor made for awards glory only to be shut out or land a pity nomination for Costume Design or something.

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!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: Sausage Party (2016)

     Sausage Party follows the story of a weiner named Frank (Seth Rogen) who, along with his fellow food items at the grocery store, is convinced he will be picked up from his store aisle and be taken to "The Great Beyond." However, as the film progresses, he slowly has realizations about what "The Great Beyond" really means as well as the truth of his own existence.

    While the film definitely lives up to being the raunchy comedy that it is being sold as, there is a lot more going on than what is on the surface. This film is interestingly a satirical demonstration on theology, sexual repression, and even racial relations. The characters talk a lot about being chosen by "the gods" who are actually grocery store customers yet it serves as a successful metaphor for being chosen by the actual gods to go to Heaven or the different representations of Heaven that several religions believe in.

    The themes of sexual repression lie particularly in the relationship between Frank and a female hot dog bun played by Kristen Wiig. At first, they are sitting on the same shelf, packaged up in different bags and they talk about having relations yet the only way they would make contact is by their fingertips. Also, Salma Hayek voices a lesbian taco named Teresa that keeps making moves on Brenda yet because they believe they are under the watchful eyes of "the gods," Teresa never acts on those feelings.

    At first, I found a lot of the characters to be rather stereotypical: Salma Hayek's taco character, A Jewish bagel voiced by Edward Norton, an Arabic flatbread voiced by David Krumholtz, a pack of grits voiced by Craig Robinson, and a Native American liquor voiced by Bill Hader. But then I realized because the film depicts racial relations, these stereotypes play into the film's intricate themes and satirical elements.

    I also thought the voice work from the cast was pretty spectacular. Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig were as funny as they always are. But a few standouts, in my opinion, were Edward Norton who did his best Woody Allen as Sammy Bagel, Jr., Salma Hayek as the lesbian taco Teresa, and Nick Kroll who played a villainous douche called Douche.

    While this is something that I am used to when watching a film with Seth Rogen and his crew, I thought that there were WAY too many uses of the F-word. I get that they were trying to push the envelope for an animated film. But they just used it one too many times. Because of its foul language and brand of raunchy humor, I would highly recommend that parents do not, and I mean, do NOT bring their children into this. It is very R-rated.

    Also, the film is about 89 minutes, yet towards the end, it felt a lot longer than that.

    Overall, Sausage Party offers off plenty of thought provoking ingredients to create a recipe for a flavorful comedic farce.

Grade: B+

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Oscar Watch: Moonlight (2016)

One of my most anticipated Oscar contenders is the film Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins and starring Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Naomie Harris, and Mahershalal Ali. I have to say, after watching this trailer, I have to say that I have a good reason to be excites because....WOW!!

This trailer is EVERYTHING!!! I adore the beautiful cinematography, the harmonious violinic score, the performances from its cast, just....AGH!!! I cannot even put into words just how excited I am for this!!! You can check out the trailer here.

I also have faith that this film could be this year's "little engine" that could. Nowadays, there is always a little film that makes a big Oscar impact like Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Whiplash, and last year's Room. Also, A24 Films is coming off of three Oscar wins: Best Actress for Brie Larson in Room, Amy for Best Documentary, and Ex Machina for Best Visual Effects, and the film is co-produced by both A24 Films and Plan B Entertainment which is Brad Pitt's production label. Pitt was able to get 12 Years A Slave, Selma, and The Big Short all into the Best Picture category with 12 Years A Slave winning the prize. So it has a lot of good things going for it. It'll be premiering at the Toronto and New York Film Festival in a few months. Another good sign since those two are usually pit stops for films with awards campaigns.

So this looks absolutely amazing and looks like something that could go all the way in awards season. It comes out on October 21st.

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: Suicide Squad 2 Ideas (Part II)

So I posted Part I of my ideas for the inevitable Suicide Squad sequel. In that post, I shared my thoughts on how they can improve on the previous film's story structure and character development. For this post, I will share my thoughts on which new characters they should bring in and why they should be introduced. Let's take a look:

First and foremost, I think they should bring in more female characters. The audience turnout for Suicide Squad on its opening weekend was 46% female. So they should continue to reflect its female audience and what it brings to the table.

One character that they should bring in is Poison Ivy. After Batman and Robin, the character could use a do-over and it would be neat for them to explore the dynamic between her and Harley Quinn from the comics. Plus, seeing Harley in a bond with someone who's a less dominant and more loving equal to her could make the film more accessible to those uncomfortable with the mistreatment of Harley from the Joker in the first film.

Since El Diablo is (*spoiler alert*) unable to appear in the sequel, so to speak, they could certainly use another metahuman. So I would go with Killer Frost. One reason being that her powers of ice manipulation with her hands are super cool and she was already a member of the Suicide Squad in the animated film Batman: Assault on Arkham. 

Now, I would go with someone like Catwoman to join the team. But I'd rather shine a spotlight on someone less well known like Plastique who is an explosives expert. Sequels are supposed to think bigger and in this case, bigger means more action. Explosives help equal more action.

However, one big name that I would introduce is the Oracle, aka Barbara Gordon who was Batgirl but became the Oracle after being paralyzed by the Joker. If the Joker becomes the villain the sequel, they could have the Oracle aid the mission as a part of her own personal vendetta.

Now onto the boys. First off is Deathstroke. In a way, he is similar to Deadshot except Deadshot is the type of assassin that will figure out who he's shooting at before doing so while Deathstroke will strike first then ask questions later. But that would make Deathstroke serve as a perfect foil to Deadshot. Plus, because he could serve as such a great foil, he could either be a villain or join the team.

Next up is the lesser known Clock King because he is very tactful and a master planner which could make him a valuable asset to the team. With how he puts a lot of emphasis on being timely and plotting, that would provide an easy window for collaboration amongst the team which is something I found to be severely lacking in the first film.

Lastly, while I wouldn't introduce Catwoman, I would throw in the underrepresented Catman. He is somebody that audiences can identify for a couple reasons: One is that he is kind of like El Diablo because of him being an anti-hero struggling with his morality. He also identifies as bisexual and the LGBTQ community is typically underrepresented in the superhero genre. They did well in the diversity department in the first film and they do want to be sure to continue to represent everyone.

So those are my thoughts on who they should bring in for the Suicide Squad sequel. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: Bad Moms (2016)

      Bad Moms follows the story of a mother named Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis) who seems to have it all but is succumbing to the pressure of being a perfect mother. So she and her newfound friends Kiki and Clara (Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) decide to free themselves from their traditional motherly responsibilities and rebel against the Queen Bee-type PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate).

     What really makes this film work is the terrific ensemble. After a few major hiccups with Oz: The Great and Powerful and Jupiter Ascending, Mila Kunis is given a vehicle that is worthy of her comedic yet also dramatic talents. Kristen Bell was also quite good as her line delivery showcases a rather comedic desperation from her character who enjoys her newfound freedom yet feels trapped in her traditional form of motherhood. However, as great as those two ladies are, Kathryn Hahn was an absolute scene stealer as Carla. I've seen Hahn be funny before on Parks and Recreation but it was interesting to see her play a character that is more crass and raunchy. Almost every line that comes out of her mouth had me in stitches.

     Also, I thought it was interesting how some of the film's funniest scenes involved the use of slow motion. Usually, we see a heavy use of slow motion in action films. So I'm guessing that the filmmakers for this film wanted to make it somewhat unique and innovative so that it doesn't seem like yet another raunchy female-centered comedy.

      Lastly, I want to give the writers/directors Scott Moore and Jon Lucas points for coming up with a more original concept and allowing some themes to unfold. Because our main character feels so caught up in being a Mary Sue-type mother figure, she loses sight of the fact that no mother or parent for that matter is perfect. So by liberating herself, she and the other characters in the film begin to realize the fact that no mom is perfect and not only improve upon their flaws but somewhat embrace them. Parents will often make mistakes and sometimes, that's okay.

      Now, I won't lie, the story does get predictable at the very end. But other than that, there's not really a glaring flaw that I can think of. It was never going to get any Oscar traction whatsoever. But as long as you go in expecting some laughs, you'll probably enjoy it for what it mostly is.

      Overall, Bad Moms is a hilarious romp thanks to its triumphant performances from the cast with a humanistic story about persona growth hidden underneath all its raunchiness. If you think it might just be another crass female comedy like Bridesmaids, I'd say go and give it a chance. Go with some friends on a night out and have a fun time!

Grade: B

Monday, August 8, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Suicide Squad 2 Ideas (Part I)

Those of you who have read my review of Suicide Squad will know that I was heavily disappointed by it. However, I am still curious about the direction in which the sequel will go in. The film is already breaking box office records so a sequel is inevitable. So I figured I'd offer up my own ideas on how they should formulate the sequel. I'm going to be splitting this up into two parts. In this post, I'll talk about plot ideas and in the second, I'll suggest which new characters they could introduce.

First off, in terms of its characters, they might have to trim some fat. Out of the current Suicide Squad members, I would keep Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc weren't given anything to do and when you look at the long Suicide Squad roster from the comics, you'll see that the amount of characters they can introduce are endless. So they could easily give the boot to Boomerang and Killer Croc. Plus, according to The Wrap, Will Smith and Margot Robbie were two of the biggest pulls for the first film. So Warner Bros. would be wise to let Deadshot and Harley Quinn stick around along with Viola Davis' Amanda Waller who runs the Squad.

As for Rick Flagg and Katana, though, I would say keep Katana but get rid of Flagg. There is a scene where we get a glimpse of Katana's backstory and if she is brought back, there could be an opportunity for us to get to know her more. So out of all the returning characters, I would bring back Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, Katana, and possibly The Joker. He basically had a glorified cameo in the first film. So I'm sure fans would want to see more of him and perhaps be the main villain.

I also want to see it become less of the Deadshot show and focus on the Squad as a whole so that there is room for more character development and synergy amongst the group. One of the first film's biggest flaws is that because most of the characters are so underdeveloped, you couldn't care less what happens to them. So when you bring in new people and/or bring back the original band of members, flesh them out more so that when or if they get killed off, you're like "Damn!"

Next, bring in an actual villain. Even though Enchantress is the main villain in the first film, she never does anything other than turn people into her minions, dance like she's on a hula hoop, and create a beaming blue light. We don't get a grand idea of what her evil plans are. So introduce a villain that has clear motivations, a memorable personality, and proves to be a possible foil for one of, if not all, the members of the Squad. Either bring in someone new or make The Joker the main villain.

Lastly, more action. Another one of the film's biggest flaws is how boring it was and how there wasn't a high octane rhythm to it like the previews suggest. A sequel is always supposed to think bigger so incorporate more action sequences and make it more high octane.

So those are my thoughts on what can be done for the inevitable Suicide Squad sequel. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading and look our for Part II soon!

Guest Review: Cafe Society (2016)

From special guest writer Keith Noakes from Keith Loves Movies

Looking for an exciting career, young Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) leaves New York for the glitz and glamour of 1930s Hollywood. After landing a job with his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), Bobby falls for Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), a charming woman who happens to be his employer's mistress. Settling for friendship but ultimately heartbroken, Bobby returns to the Bronx and begins working in a nightclub along with his brother Ben (Corey Stoll). Everything falls into place when he finds romance with a beautiful socialite named Veronica (Blake Lively), until Vonnie walks back into his life and captures his heart once again.

There aren't many writer/directors more prolific than Woody Allen. Here he is once again with another romantic-comedy set during the time of old Hollywood. The story here is about a young man named Bobby Dorfman (Eisenberg) who decides to leave New York and move to Hollywood to start a new life along with the help of his agent uncle named Phil (Carell). Once there, he falls for Phil's secretary named Vonnie (Stewart) with whom she has a secret relationship with. When their relationship falls apart, he moves back to New York to work in a nightclub with his brother Ben (Stoll). Things appear to get better for Bobby when he falls in love with a socialite named Veronica (Lively) but once Vonnie shows up again, they start to change.

In terms of Woody Allen films, this one fits the norm, so expect the usual cast of kooky characters and witty dialogue. This is most evident with Bobby himself who is just an extension of Allen. Technically Allen is speaking to us through the film but he did this the most through Bobby. While the character wasn't exactly groundbreaking, it was hard to imagine anyone other than Eisenberg playing the part as his personality just matches Allen's trademark neuroticism. Since he was the lead character, the film either succeeds or fails depending on his likeability. While he didn't quite fail, he didn't exactly succeed either. This wasn't all his fault as we was good here but we never got a real chance to get invested in him. The film used narration which was a little distracting and frequent time jumps that glossed over important plot and character development.

The film started off well enough with Carell's uncle Phil in the middle of a glitzy Hollywood party who is then interrupted by a phone call by his sister Rose (<span class="itemprop">Jeannie Berlin), telling him that his nephew Bobby was moving to Hollywood. It looked like it was going to be more about old Hollywood, perhaps in the vein of Hail, Caesar, but instead focused more on Bobby and his love life. This included his relationship with both Vonnie and Veronica. The better pairing was Bobby and Vonnie because of their chemistry. Being Eisenberg and Stewart's third film, this wasn't too hard for them as they still had it here. 

Bobby's journey was interesting but wasn't overly compelling. This was due to reasons mentioned above and the fact that the plot moved so slowly and was seemingly going nowhere which made the film feel boring for long stretches. What didn't help the film's case was that besides Bobby, Vonnie, or Phil, it was hard to care about any of the other characters as they were not interesting. While the Hollywood half was promising, it could have gone much further. Because of the unexplained time gap, the New York did not have as big an impact.

Despite the film's boring nature, the performances were good all around as Allen always seems to get the best out of his cast and the dialogue definitely doesn't hurt. The best part of the film has to be the soundtrack and the cinematography. The jazz music from the 20s and 30s was cool to listen to. The film was beautiful to look at and did a great job at capturing the time period.

Overall, the film had promise and has great pieces but just failed in its execution, leaving a pretty yet boring film.

Score: 5.5/10

For more, please visit and follow me on Twitter @keithlovemovies. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The U.T.C.: Adepero Oduye

Chances are a lot of you may not know who Adepero Oduye is. She had a slight breakthrough with her leading turn in the frustratingly underrated 2011 film Pariah but it never made any waves. Hardly anybody saw it and the farthest the film got in the awards circuit was the Independent Spirit Awards, with a John Cassavetes Award win and a Best Female Lead nod for Oduye, who also got a shoutout from Meryl Streep at her Golden Globes speech when she won for The Iron Lady. Never hurts to get that kind of praise.

While other actresses like Felicity Jones and Elizabeth Olsen, who also had breakthroughs back in 2011, would go on to bigger things, Oduye hasn't gotten the kind of opportunities they have.

Since Pariah, she had a small role in 12 Years A Slave as the slave Eliza that the main character meets early on who has her children taken away from her. She also had another small role in The Big Short as a banker that Steve Carell's character works for. Both of those films were produced under Brad Pitt's production label Plan B. So because Hollywood is all about who you know, and Brad Pitt is never a bad person to collaborate with, perhaps he will give her a significant role for her to sink her teeth into.

On the horizon, she has the family drama The Dinner opposite Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall, and Laura Linney and directed by Oren Moverman who guided Woody Harrelson to an Oscar nomination for The Messenger. Also, she has the science fiction disaster film Geostorm opposite Gerard Butler and Abbie Cornish.

Recently, Disney announced that they'll be rebooting the 1991 cult classic The Rocketeer but with a black female lead. Personally, I think she would be a great choice for that and it could be the true "star is born" moment that Pariah should've been. Even if it doesn't get her Oscar nominated, at least people will try to learn how to pronounce her name.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

     Suicide Squad follows the story of a band of supervillains: Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Slipknot (Adam Beach), recruited by CIA agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to go on a mission to defeat a mystical evil that plans to threaten human existence in exchange for their freedom.

    The biggest saving grace within this film that I could find is Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Granted, Viola Davis is good in everything that she's in. But she managed to salvage some life out of this mess of a film with her performance.

    With all due respect to Davis, though, the performance I was the most excited to see was Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn because it was the first time we get to see the character up on the big screen and Robbie was my personal choice for the role. She does what she can with the material she is given because Harley Quinn unfortunately isn't given a whole lot of face time due to there being too many characters to focus on.

    Also, Jay Hernandez managed to do what he could with what he was given as El Diablo and in my opinion was the co-MVP along with Viola Davis. Despite being saddled with cheap mechanisms from the script, he did his best to make it work.

    Yeesh, where do I begin? Well, there are way too many characters. As a result, there is a good portion that are underdeveloped with only a few given more face time than others. Will Smith is given the most face time which to me was problematic. Because he has such a big personality on-screen, I felt it overshadowed the rest of the cast. Another actor given a huge chunk of face time is Joel Kinnaman, who plays Rick Flagg, a CIA operative assigned to keep watch on the Suicide Squad and I honestly didn't think his performance was very strong.

    I also wasn't a fan of how most of the female characters were given the short end of the stick with them being hypersexualized and/or unable to exist without a male influence. If Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation were real and saw how the women were portrayed in this film, she'd have an absolute heart attack. It is nice that we have more main female characters in a superhero film than usual. I just wish they were given more dignity.

    I applaud the film in general for the representation in its cast. But I felt that there was unfortunate tokenism involved. For example, you have El Diablo, a Latino gangster covered in tattoos, Rick Flagg's mostly mute henchwoman Katana who is a mystical Asian swordswoman, and Slipknot, the token Indigenous character who (*spoiler alert*) gets killed off as soon as he gets introduced. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because I love seeing representation in film. But I just don't like seeing it in this manner.

    Next is the screenplay. One thing about it I didn't like was how manipulative it was. When we learn about the backstories about some of the villains and how they had or have families, I felt it was used as a cheap ploy to gain sympathy from its audience. I know that these main characters are villains and are said to be the "worst of the worst," but they don't have to be likable to gain our attention. All they have to be is characters. Characters with personalities, development, and dignity yet half of these characters don't have any personality and I could not have cared less what happened to them.

    Lastly, for a film marketed to be so high octane and packed with action, I did not expect it to be so. damn. BORING!! Seriously, right before the big climax, I actually said to myself "What is this, a play? Let's go fight someone." Towards the end, when things start to actually kick into high gear, I could not have cared less and it's a shame because I was really looking forward to this.

    Overall, Suicide Squad is a colossal disappointment filled with undignified, underdeveloped characters, a jumbled script with cheap mechanisms, and a sadly slow pace. This is the biggest disappointment I've seen all year.

Grade: D+


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Review: Lights Out (2016)

      Lights Out follows the story of a malevolent spirit that only appears whenever someone turns the lights off and haunts a disturbed family that it has mysterious ties to.

     Even though we've seen stories about malevolent ghosts and entities before, this one stands out because of its original concept and how it revolves a lot of humanistic drama. Even though it is rightfully marketed as a horror film, at the center of it all, it is a family drama and focuses greatly on the turbulations between the mother, played brilliantly by Maria Bello, and her daughter who is also played brilliantly by Teresa Palmer. The family dynamic between Bello and Palmer was pulled off very realistically as well as the bond between Palmer and Gabriel Martin, who plays her sibling.

     Another thing I greatly appreciated is how it gave our main villain a very detailed backstory that made her even more terrifying than the beginning where we first see it. If it wasn't given any backstory whatsoever and didn't have a reason for terrorizing the main family, it would just be yet another malevolent spirit.

     Lastly, just when you think you'll run into traditional tropes (i.e., kid sees ghost and family doesn't believe him, etc.) it'll trick you. There are hardly any cliches to be found here because there aren't much jump scares until the moment calls for it, the characters don't make dumb decisions, and while you're watching the movie, you're even constantly wondering how it'll end.


    Overall, Lights Out is a rare amazing horror film that features a humanistic family drama under the guise of bone-chilling horror. It's extremely well acted, its story is inventive, and it's possible you may end up sleeping with the lights on by the time you go to sleep.

Grade: A+

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Since When Did Critical Opinion Warrant A Place On Change.Org?

So the reviews of Suicide Squad are starting to roll in and because it is getting a mixed reception, there is already a petition to get Rotten Tomatoes shut down due to critics not being in line with opinions of the moviegoing public. As somebody who has enjoyed comic book movies, I think this petition is absolutely ridiculous.

First off, the critics that are giving it negative reviews are only expressing their opinions. It is their job to critique movies and influence the public, telling them what to see and what not to see. Also, it's not like they're completely biased against comic book movies. They'll like them if they are well made movies like Captain America: Civil War, The Dark Knight, and X-Men which all did receive a positive reception. If you don't agree with their opinion, then that's fine. But there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for you to chastise or punish them for it while you have free reign to express your own opinion and say that it's better. It's a double standard.

Another reason this petition is frustrating is because Suicide Squad hasn't even come out yet. The majority of the moviegoing public hasn't even seen the movie to judge for themselves and they are already up in arms about the reviews. To all you DC fanatics that may be reading this, I say give me a goddamn break!!

On a side note, with the backlash towards critics after the reception of both this and Batman v. Superman, the DC Universe fanatics are starting to ruin the DC films for me and frankly, I think they're going to alienate a lot of people who aren't normally comic book fans but enjoy watching superhero films.

We've never heard anything about Marvel fans being up in arms when critics turn savage towards Marvel movies. But I think that's because Marvel happens to make better films. Now, they don't always make great films because I thought Avengers: Age of Ultron was terribly disappointing and Thor: The Dark World was anemic and torturous to sit through. So if a Marvel film ends up being a stinker, I will openly say so because it is my personal opinion because I do not go along with what everyone else says. Plus, as a Marvel fan, I'm likely not going to see Doctor Strange. So there you go.

But to everyone that is reading this that still wants to go see Suicide Squad despite its mixed buzz, I say you should not only go but go and judge it only for yourself. Go in with an open mind and don't go along with what everyone else is saying by the time the movie ends. Formulate your own opinion and judge for yourself.

Anyways, those were my thoughts on the petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 1, 2016

The U.T.C.: Isla Fisher

Back in 2005, we saw the release of a film called Wedding Crashers which was a box office hit that certified Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as comedic stars and even helped thrust Rachel McAdams into the spotlight. But for me, the real shining star was Isla Fisher who made her big breakthrough as Gloria, the nymphomaniac bridesmaid who falls a little too in love with Vince Vaughn's character Jeremy.

As Gloria, Fisher shows an uncanny ability to turn on a dime as she can be hypersexualized one minute and then go completely berserk the next. She can give an animalistic, primal look and then get into a girlish glee. Even if the film doesn't make me laugh a minute whenever I watch it, Fisher's performance still elevates it. Not that there was ever going to be a campaign for her, but she deserved at least a Best Supporting Actress nomination that year. Though of course, those of us that follow the Oscars know they have a love-hate relationship with comedies. They'll have no issue awarding a comedic performance in a dramatic movie (i.e, Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain, etc.) but it's rare for them to nominate a funny performance in a funny movie.

Since Wedding Crashers, though, Isla Fisher has worked consistently. But she hasn't really gotten a role that has reached the same memorable heights as her Gloria. Then again, maybe she's one of those performers who is content with just being a working actress like Emily Blunt, Rose Byrne, and Rachel McAdams. I've read quotes from those actresses that suggest they're happy with how their careers are.

This year, though, she gets to play the female lead in the spy comedy Keeping Up With The Joneses opposite Zach Galifianakis, Gal Gadot, and Jon Hamm while starring in the ensemble drama Nocturnal Animals for director Tom Ford who guided Colin Firth to an Oscar nomination for A Single Man. Who knows how Nocturnal Animals will play to the Academy. But even if they don't, here's hoping she gets recognized somewhere down the line.