Sunday, November 24, 2013

Catching Fire - SPOILERS (well, if you haven't read the book..)

The movie about "The Girl on Fire"! The second movie in the "Hunger Games" saga and boy was it intense. I've read the books, I re-read this particular book the weekend before the movie came out and I've already seen it TWICE since that time. There will be spoilers below! So, if you have not read the books, you might want to turn back now! Guys....get ready.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Directed By - Francis Lawrence 
Written By - Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt, & based on the book by Suzanne Collins 
Top-Billed Cast - Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, & Liam Hemsworth 

We're back in Panem, right after the last Hunger Games ended and just before the start of the Victory Tour. Katniss and Peeta are much as they were at the beginning of the last story: virtual strangers only thrown together by the games. Threats, uprisings, fiery costumes, and lots of violence move this tale along.

Pros - 

* I was happy to see that this movie, unlike its predecessor, did not open with a shaky-hand-held montage of District 12. I enjoyed the reality of that picture, but it also made me queasy. Steadicams for the win!

* In the book, the first half felt a bit slow to me. Yes, there's a lot that goes on...but those things are separated by huge blocks of time that are filled with a lot of Katniss planning and being at war with herself. While, in some instances, I wish they hadn't sped things along for the film, I was glad to see that things were moving at a bit faster of a pace.

* Since the book is first-person-narration, the movie is faced with the task of communicating Katniss' thoughts out loud and, specifically in regards to the Gale situation, I think they did a great job. Those in the audience that hadn't read the books (tisk tisk!), could see the "inner" conflict in that situation.

* Props to Elizabeth Banks and her seemingly effortless portrayal of Effie Trinket. There are bits carried over from the first movie that are just gems and lots of direct quotes from the book itself; one does not leave the theater wanting when it comes to Effie!

* Since the first movie cut out the Madge character, and she's so heavily referenced in the second book, I was really curious and a bit skeptical about how they were going to deal with her absence. While I sort of thought they might just add her in, they did not. Instead of Katniss seeing the beginnings of the rebellion on Madge's father's TV, she sees it on the train on the Victory Tour; an excellent switch, in my opinion.

* I'm a fan of James Newton Howard. Don't know who that is? He's not an actor or director...he's a composer and his work is amazing.

* I missed the conversation between the two district escapees and Katniss but I almost believe it happened and they just cut it due to her reaction at the end when Plutarch casually mentions District 13 and she's just like "but Peeta". I'm putting this here because I want to believe it happened...

* I give the extras in this movie a pat-on-the-back for doing a much better job than the ones in the previous film at the District 12 salute. I re-watched the first movie before seeing this one and I lost count of how many did it incorrectly. Good job, Catching Fire cast, good job.

* The cat is the right color! I'm not sure if you noticed, I'm sure you did, but there is a different Buttercup in this movie and I'm super stoked. Somehow, it got past all the people that Buttercup is supposed to be "muddy yellow" and cast a black & white cat in the first movie. WHAT? Come on, people. The color-corrected-cat is in several scenes in this film and I smiled every time.

* I'm sure there are already loads of posts up regarding continuity errors but I'm not going to be one. What? I can compliment's not like I always complain about that or anything. Anyway, I'm really only speaking of a specific scene. A scene in which it would have been super easy to have an error and they did not. I'm not sure, though, if the credit belongs to the continuity person or if it should go to Jennifer Lawrence as it appears as if this scene was done in a single take and chopped to work in another camera angle. Either way, I salute you people for leaving her hair alone.

* JLaw gets an asterisk. We've seen a lot more of her since she was first cast as Katniss Everdeen and I wasn't sure what that would mean for this movie. I never doubted her ability, I doubted my ability to see past Jennifer Lawrence running through a set in order to see Katniss Everdeen running through the jungle. I needn't have worried. I especially enjoyed watching the "switch" in the very last shot.

* I thought the interview with Johanna was hilarious. I was both surprised and pleased that they opted to bleep out that word and I thought it gave the scene a nice reminder that this was something broadcast out to the districts, not just a play for the Capitol.

* Stanley Tucci. Need I say more? I will, but I don't think it's really necessary. From the purple eyebrows, to the monstrously large laugh, Stanley Tucci brings Caesar Flickerman to life in a way I don't think any other actor could.

* Speaking of actors bringing characters to life, Donald Sutherland is creepy as President Snow. But, we all knew that already. I was a little worried that we wouldn't be able to "smell" the rose and blood that accompanies him in the book, but the screenwriters added in a little gem during the final stop of the Victory Tour that does the trick.

* The arena. I don't know what else to say. CGI included (though, I did chuckle once or twice at actors swinging weapons at non-existent foes). I loved the fog, I loved that I could actually see what was happening, even at "night", and I loved the JabberJay scene. It was just well done.

Cons - 

* Ok, it wasn't all beautiful music and accurate portrayals....Let's start with the thing that bothered me from the start: Katniss' hair color change. What the heck? Did the "the girl on fire" get singed? For those wondering why Jennifer Lawrence cut her hair...I think you can see the reason in this movie. Get the girl some conditioner.

* "It's a chink in the armor". Yes, that is what it is. What did they actually call the flicker in the force field, though? A "flaw in the system". While, yes, they are basically the same thing...THEY AREN'T. It's a line, guys, it's not a character that you'd have to cast and pay and make time for. It's differences like this in book-to-screen adaptations that annoy me most because they're pointless. Katniss says that phrase at least three times in the book and it's uttered zero in the movie. I don't understand.

* Why didn't Mags talk in the movie? I guess I can sort of give a pass because those that hadn't read the books might be frustrated if they couldn't understand her, they can go to the library.

* While I realize that it's something I just need to get over...I couldn't get past Sam Claflin (Finnick)'s accent. Yes, he's English, and yes I even gave him a bit of a "well, he's been around the Capitol a lot longer than a lot of these other have.." pass. Still, consistency is key. Same goes for you, Liam Hemsworth.

* This was probably just a time thing, no pun intended, but why couldn't we take a second to see Plutarch's MockingJay watch during that dance? I mean, they danced, they talked...there was time. Just a quick flick of the wrist, a comment, a look, and they're out.

* I'm going to take a moment to speak for those that haven't read the books and are watching with a skeptical eye: I'm also confused as to why Peeta "died" when he hit the force field but Katniss didn't even lose consciousness. I'm also assuming that the force field opens to allow the hover crafts in to get the dead bodies.

* I don't know this for sure, so I am completely prepared to say "I was wrong" later, BUT...during my second viewing I might have played a game called "when is Finnick really carrying Mags". It was a short game. -insert collective "aww"-

* Raise your hand if the Cinna/Katniss scenes make you uncomfortable.. -hand raise-

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13. There's murder involved, a lot of violence in general, and some really scary monkeys. Other than children killing each other and one scene of a-bit-more-than-implied nudity, though, it's fairly clean. There are a couple of "f-bombs", but they're bleeped and the rest of the language is fairly mild. Be prepared to talk about war, sacrifice, and the dangers of a corrupt government without any fail-safes.

Overall, I liked this movie and I thought they did a fantastic job. The few things that I felt they messed up on are overwhelmingly made up for in the things they left in. Did they add some extra romantic-tension? Yes. Did they take some other liberties? Yes. But, in the end, it's a movie and not a book. You just can't have a 2 hour movie and have in include every single detail. I liked this movie better than the first and I hope I'll feel the same about the next two! May the odds be ever in your favor... 4.5/5 stars.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Gravity - A Heavy Hitter

I've been looking forward to seeing this movie since I first heard of its existence. Space terrifies me but the cinematography in the previews, along with the promise of great performances from Bullock & Clooney drew me in.


Directed By - Alfonso Cuaron 
Written By - Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron 
Top-Billed Cast - Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and Ed Harris

Floating in the true last frontier are seasoned astronaut, Matt Kowalski (Clooney), and medical engineer-turned-astronaut, Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock). While performing some out-of-station maintenance, disaster strikes and they must fight to survive in a place not meant for life.

Pros -

* If I didn't start this with cinematography, this whole thing would be pointless. It was pretty intense at times (ok, the entire movie), but I'm fairly certain there were less than 15 cuts in this whole film. That's insane! It was just so seamless; using the drifting of the astronauts to change camera angles and the use of reflections was just brilliant.

* I don't know how they did it and I really don't think I really care (ok, I do, and I'll be buying the DVD so I can find out), but the weightless shots were just incredible. The use of the floating objects, both inside and outside the craft, was great.

* Thank you George Clooney for comic relief! This is an intense movie, to say the least, so there was def a need for some moments of tension release and Clooney delivered. His role in this movie is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

* Get ready for's rare but it's coming...the CGI in this was fantastic. Now, I did not see this movie in IMAX or 3D, so if you're going to see it on something other than the regular-sized screen, you might see something I didn't. But, from my seat? I had few complaints in this department, and we all know how much I complain about CGI!

* At the beginning of the movie, there is a choice made that I find just, brilliant. I won't spoil, but there is a moment that would have had much less impact had they opted for a...more visual and less auditory approach with a character.

* The score. I love a good score and while, yes, there were times that the plot was sort of "given away" by the music, it was still subtle enough and pretty enough for that to be overridden in my mind.

* I know I said cinematography first but...MAN. It deserves two asterisks.

* For this being (almost) "Cast Away" space, I was sort of expecting to get bored or tired of the silence. Didn't happen. Bullock's performance in this movie is incredible. I sort of feel like she probably won't get the critical attention she deserves, and that saddens me. The physical AND mental aspects of this role are spectacularly conquered.

* The writers of this movie do a really good job at telling a well-layered story. This movie isn't just about some people floating around in space, this movie is about who these people were before they left the planet and who they hope to be upon their return. There are some real tear-jerker moments in the performances and the levels of emotions in one particular scene, for me, was intense.

Cons - 

* There is a bit of CGI at the tail-end of this movie that almost ruined the entire thing for me. Ok, it wasn't that bad was close. I just start to question the meetings that took place to decide to add that bit in and it makes me sad that it was approved, digitized, and left in.

* Now, I fully understand that this movie is about space and that communications between people both in space and people on earth is hard, BUT, there were some minor sound issues that bugged me. I really can't put my finger on it and I honestly don't know how on earth (haha, see what I did there?) you would avoid it but, it bothered me and I feel the need to note it.

* Towards the end of the movie, there was an interesting bit that I felt would have been better as a deleted scene. I get what they were going for but, for me, it totally took me out of the movie. I think the same thing could have been accomplished without the total loss of reality but, I sort of understand the reasons why it was left in.

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13 and it is really intense. There is some language, but honestly it's probably "cleaner" than any awards show you would see these days. Be prepared to discuss death, details about space, and margaritaville.

Overall, this movie left me speechless. I mean, there are only three cons and one of those I really stretched for. It is such a beautiful movie. I know that a lot of people want to go see movies to escape the stress of their everyday lives, so the thought of coming to see such an intense film isn't at all appealing but, I implore you to see this one. Yes, it is intense. Yes, you might get a tad motion sick at first (I did..). Yes, you're going to feel things that your average rom-com wouldn't bring out. BUT, it's worth it. If not just for the visuals, which I will be paying to see again, but also for the truly uplifting story. I give this movie 4.5/5 stars.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Way Way Back

I finally got to see this movie! It's quite frustrating to see all these people you follow tweeting about how awesome a movie is and then find out that that movie won't be coming to a theater near you for way too long a time. This is the story of a summer, a family, and a water park.

The Way Way Back

Directed By - Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Written By - Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Top-Billed Cast - Steve Carell, Toni Collette, & Allison Janney 

A summer vacation to work out the kinks of a merging of families. At least, that's what it was supposed to be. The reality was that Trent (Steve Carell), the boyfriend and father of his own rebellious daughter, had no real interest in truly connecting with his girlfriend's (Toni Collette) son, Duncan (Liam James). The movie follows Duncan as he tries to find his place in this new city, in his family, and in the world as a whole.

Pros - 

* I hated Steve Carell's character in this movie. For me to hate the character, I had to believe the performance. Hats off to Mr. Carell for that.

* I laughed a lot. I think there was an expectation for this movie to be funny based on the cast but, once it got going, I was really surprised at how much I laughed given the intensity of some of the plot points.

* The supporting cast in this movie were just awesome; they all pulled their weight and pretty much every line was memorable for one reason or another.

* The setting and the sets themselves were well thought out. This isn't the story of a billionaire and his fantastically furnished beach house, this is the story of a regular set of people and you can really see that in the design.

* While a great cast can get you far, having good writing is what takes you the rest of the way. This movie is fast-paced at times, but the dialogue is both witty and weighty when the situation calls for it.

* The way the subplots intertwine and complement the main story works really nicely.

* This is a movie that makes you really wish your job had the camaraderie that is seen among the staff of the "Water Wizz" water park. Or maybe just that your job was at the "Water Wizz" water park..

Cons - 

* So an Australian woman and a Canadian kid walk onto a movie set... wait, this isn't a joke. I know, I know, I need to get over it. But I can't. While, for the most part, everybody did a great job at sticking with dialects, there were times when it was just painful. And, in a movie where I can remember very little that I didn't like...this must be included for balance.

* There were parts of the story that I didn't feel quite wrapped up. I'm sure that was intentional but as a fan of complete stories with no major questions hanging in the air, it was a bit frustrating. I understand the lack of answers to certain questions, but minor plot points? Can't we just wrap those up nicely?

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13 for brief language and some sexual innuendo. Be prepared to talk about drug use (brief), cheating, and you might have to explain the title. It's a fairly "clean" film, though, and does a fantastic job at telling a somewhat difficult, albeit increasingly common, story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie, as is made obvious by the TWO cons I've listed. Seriously, that's never happened before. There are tiny things I could nitpick, but I honestly don't think it's worth it. This was a good movie and it's one I'll likely own. It's honest, it's funny, it's endearing, and you should go see it. 4/5 stars from me!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Heat

Breaking my prolonged critiquing silence to review a movie about an FBI agent and a Boston Detective? Yes. Yes, I am. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy headline this straightforward and, for me, highly anticipated comedy.

The Heat

Directed By - Paul Feig
Written By - Katie Dippold
Top-Billed Cast - Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, & Marlon Wayons

When an uptight FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is given the opportunity to chase down a druglord in order to secure a sought after promotion, she does whatever it takes to make the unwanted partnership with Detective Mullins (McCarthy) work. Hilarity and violence ensues.

Pros - 

* Any time you have Melissa McCarthy on the bill, you're going to get laughs and lots of them. Her delivery is spot-on and knowing that a LOT of her lines are completely ad-libbed makes them that much funnier.

* This is rare for me so...get ready... I'm going to compliment the CGI. Wait! Before you click the X and assume that I must be crazy...hear me out. It's not that the CGI was incredible or anything, it's more that it wasn't as horrible as I expected. So it's a basically a backhanded compliment.

* There are a lot of sunglasses in this movie and, with that comes a lot of opportunities to see things you shouldn't in reflections. I didn't. Good job, post!

* Sandra Bullock's slow evolution from uptight to easy going really was nicely done.

* The supporting cast in this film were fantastic, especially Mullins' family. While occasionally over-the-top, they were supposed to be so the scenes involving them and Ashburn were great at showcasing the contrasts of the two detectives.

* It took a while to find the stride, to me, but once there, the jokes were hilarious and things you wouldn't necessarily even find that funny normally.

Cons - 

* For the first....thirty? minutes of the movie I was fairly certain I was watching the first half of "Miss Congeniality", so that was weird. Sandra Bullock as an uptight FBI agent? Seen it.

 * The end of the movie left some questions for me, which I won't spoil here, but it should be noted that there are loose ends. Sequel? Eh..

* There was a lot more violence than I expected to be in this movie. I don't really know if this is really a con...but that's where I'm putting it. In most comedies that I've seen, there might be violence, but it's usually not all on screen; they'll have the gun pointed at the bad guy, cut to the face of the shooter & then we hear the shot...we don't see it. We see it in this movie. A lot.

* While this movie is quite's a little slow getting there. I didn't seriously start laughing until probably 30-45 minutes in.

I wasn't that impressed with Taran Killam's performance in this movie, and I really like him on SNL so I'm not sure what the issue was.

* The fact that I was aware of how far into the movie I started laughing sort of says a lot about the pacing and overall engagement-level of the movie on the whole.

* Sandra Bullock's character has magic blood-resistant clothing. That's all I'll say about that.

* Where "Bridesmaids" had a lot of sexual-based humor, this movie takes a more..linguistic approach so while some might argue that it is "cleaner"..if your ears are at all sensitive, you might find yourself wincing.

* I realize this is a comedy, and a comedy most likely involving the director just letting the actors roll with things..but I still expect everybody to keep a straight face when they're supposed to be serious. This isn't SNL.

Now Mother..
This movie is rated R and rightly so. There is a ton of language (with the "f" word being the vocab of choice) and quite a bit of on screen violence. With that said, I do think it's probably "cleaner" than "Bridesmaids" and, if you're not bothered by language, it's really pretty mild. It's not something I'd recommend to take your kids along with to see but, if you do, be prepared to discuss drug abuse, prejudice, appropriate means of communication, and cat theft.

Overall, I laughed. I thought it was funny and a fairly light comedy that I would see again. It wasn't as funny to me as some other comedies out there but I definitely enjoyed the Bullock/McCarthy duo and I would love to see them work together again. I'm giving it 3/5 stars.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Oscars - MegaPost

The Academy Awards, the pinacle of movie-dom. This year, I was able to watch ALL of the best picture nominees, as well as all the nominated performances in the best actor and best actress and best supporting actor and best supporting actress categories! Below you will find mini reviews on all of these and my picks for tomorrow's ceremonies!

Best Picture Nominees - 
The nominees in this category cover every base: musical, drama, foreign language film, and even a bit of comedy. It's a tough group this year and I think it will be a tight race.

Amour - The story of love and age and how they relate to each other. The movie was emotionally powerful and simplistically filmed. The characters were beautifully played and incredibly believable. The lack of background music (save for a few sequences of brilliant piano playing), really drives the reality of the story, but leaves a lot to be desired in the masking of chewing noises. 

Django Unchained - This is an unconventional tale of a freed slave and his journey to find and free his wife while in the company of an intriguingly hilarious German bounty hunter. While it should be noted that this is a Tarantino film and with that comes lots of blood, violence, and spectacular explosions, the performances and story telling are well worth the gore. 

Lincoln - The story that needs no introduction. It might not technically be the longest film on the list, but it felt like it. Daniel Day-Lewis does a good job at personifying the 16th President of the United States of America. Though the characterization and portrayal of Lincoln was well done, the length and pacing of the film as well as some of the creative choices really effected the overall impression of the whole thing for me. 

Argo - One of two films nominated about daring military escapades, this movie is fast paced and very well put together. The casting, in relation to the real life people, was spot on and the cinematography brilliant. The supporting cast did a great job keeping the feeling light when necessary and the editing really brings the tension home. 

Les Miserable - The struggles of Jean Valjean in 19th century France and the toll of the French Revolution on the people. An excellently cast, costumed, and put together film for anybody that likes period pieces or musicals. A truly moving performance by Anne Hathaway made this movie worth it for me. 

Silver Linings Playbook - After completing mandatory facility treatment for bipolar disorder, Pat Solatano, superbly brought to life by Bradley Cooper, sets out to try and convince everyone, including himself that he is better and ready to get back to normal life. Just about everyone in this movie dove into their roles with such fervor and enthusiasm that it's not hard to understand why so many got nominated. The story was compelling, the filming done well, and the roles perfectly brought to life. 

Beasts of the Southern Wild - A movie about life, love, and difficulties in the deep south of Louisiana  the "bath tub". While I, personally, did not appreciate the filming style (I get motion sick pretty easily so the lack of a steadicam was not my favorite choice) I can understand why it is being praised. The mix of realism with the imagination of the youngest to ever receive a nomination for Best Actress was endearing and interesting. 

Life of Pi - A shipwrecked Indian boy trapped on a life boat with a large Bengal can you go wrong? A beautifully crafted film with spectacular use of CGI and cinematography. I will say, though, why can't they ever get the motion of CGI animals right? With that being pretty much my only complaint, though, this movie would not completely surprise me if it took home the big award. 

Zero Dark Thirty - The second of two war-time movies nominated, this film is incredibly tense and keeps you on the edge of your seat. While the drama is there, and the pacing definitely keeps you interested, the story itself left me a bit confused. It was hard to determine if this was the story of one particular person within this huge operation, or if it was the story of the operation itself. 

My Pick - My favorite movie of the above would definitely be Silver Linings Playbook. I'll see it again and will probably own it.
What will win - This is tough, I feel that Argo, Les Mis, & Silver Linings have a shot but I honestly wouldn't be surprised if any of the films took it home; it truly is a tough category this year.

Best Actor Nominees - 
From a prisoner in 19th century France, to the 16th President of the United States, to a man suffering from bipolar disorder, to a drunk pilot, to a veteran of World War II caught up in a fantastical cult..this category is quite diverse.

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) - I've seen Bradley Cooper in numerous roles over the years and, honestly, never been terribly impressed. It's not that he wasn't good, he just wasn't ever on my "oh, I need to see that movie because he's in it" list. His performance in this movie changed that for me. I feel that he truly submerged himself into the role and definitely deserves this nomination.

Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) - I saw a lot of movies preparing for this post but this was the weirdest. Despite my being really confused for a lot of the film, I have to give props to Joaquin Phoenix for his ability to pull off such a strange character. I understand the nomination and, though I would be surprised simply because of the film itself, I wouldn't be upset if he won. 

Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) - Ready your pitchforks...I wasn't that impressed. Call me crazy, but I feel that part of the job of an actor is to make me forget that I'm watching an actor play a part. While he did a great job, especially considering the whole accent thing, I still caught myself "seeing" DDL throughout the movie. With that said, I wouldn't be surprised if he won; he's a critics' fav (just not this one). 

Denzel Washington (Flight) - I'll say this, good job on playing high and drunk. There was probably a lot that went into achieving that. At the same time, as with DDL, pretty much the whole movie I was thinking "he's really good at pretending to be drunk" and, if I'm thinking that, doesn't that sort of negate the compliment? I'm not sure. And I'm really not sure why this, of all the performances out there, was selected. 

Hugh Jackman (Les Miserable) - Talk about a transformation for a role. The people in this movie went all out and they got rewarded for it. Hugh Jackman brought a frailty to this role that I think is what draws people in. While there were definitely aspects that I didn't necessarily like, the performance on the whole was incredible. 

My Pick - Again, I think my favorite performance came from Silver Linings Playbook and Bradley Cooper.
What will win - I think it's a close race between Hugh Jackman and Daniel Day-Lewis but I wouldn't be that surprised if Bradley Cooper ended up with the statue.

Best Actress Nominees - 
A war hero, a young girl, an emotionally troubled widow, a mother in the face of immense tragedy, and a wife struggling through illness...all these characters had quite the emotional toll on the audience and, I'm sure, the actors alike.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) - I'm not quite sure what to say here. I get this nomination, politically, but I'm not sure that I get it from a performance stand point. The entire movie I was trying to figure out if this was a movie about Jessica Chastain's character, or if this was a movie about capturing Osama Bin Laden. I'm still not sure. Part of that unsureness stems from the fact that there was only one truly emotional scene with this actress in it...and it was at the end and the emotion portrayed was rather confusing. 

Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) - Seeing as how she was six when she was cast, and could barely read...I understand this nomination. She was adorable and played her role well. Do I think it was an Oscar-worthy performance? Not really. 

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) - I will admit that I first saw Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, but after that I saw her other major role in Winter's Bone and I was impressed. Going into this movie, I didn't think I was going to buy that she and Bradley Cooper's character were right for each other (I have weird age-related relationship "rules")....but I was convinced. I bought it and I'd buy it again. 

Naomi Watts (The Impossible) - I honestly don't understand why this entire cast and film weren't nominated but that's beside the point. An incredible performance on such an incredibly large scale. I cried several times in this movie and I try not to do that (in public, at least) was unavoidable. This is another movie that I will buy simply so I can watch the special features and listen to commentaries. Highly recommended. 

Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) - This actress made me believe she was a stroke victim and that she was miserable. But, that's easier to do when I've not seen her in anything prior, nor have I seen any interviews. She's the oldest person to be nominated in this category, though, and I do think she did a great job. 

My Pick - Super tough for me, actually. As you might have guessed, Jennifer Lawrence tops my list but Naomi Watts was so incredible that I honestly can't choose.
What will win - Unfortunately, I think Jessica Chastain has a good shot at this but I really think Jennifer Lawrence could take it as well. I'd be really surprised if a different actress took it home.

Actor in a Supporting Role - 
This category covers slavery from two viewpoints, the life of a cult leader, and the obsessive compulsion of an Eagles fan.

Alan Arkin (Argo) - A witty supporting character that played his role well. The issue I have with this nomination is how little screen time he actually had and how similar of a role he played to John Goodman's (who was not nominated). 

Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) - For a character that basically just sat around Grumpy Catting (yes, I just made that a verb) for almost 3 hours..I'm a bit confused. His role was, technically, pivotal for the story but I'm not so sure that another actor couldn't have done the same thing he did. 

Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook) - As much as I love SLP, I'm not gonna lie...I was kind of surprised by this nomination. Don't get me wrong, he did a great job and I'd much prefer him to win than most of the rest nominated, I'm just not sure if this was that excellent of a role for him. 

Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) - Again, this was an incredibly weird movie that I do not wish to see again (not even to attempt to figure out what exactly happened). That being said, with what he was given, he did a great job. He was creepy, believable, and when on screen you couldn't ignore him.

Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) - This man is just so talented. He brought a lightness to the role that I'm not sure anybody else could pull off. I wanted him to succeed in all his murderous plots and was moved by his performance. 

My Pick - No question: Christoph Waltz.
What will win - I think it's almost no question: Christoph Waltz.

Actress in a Supporting Role - 
The wife of a cult leader, the wife of a president, a down-on-her luck mom turned prostitute, a sex therapist, and the mother of a bipolar and unstable son....these are the nominees.

Amy Adams (The Master) - As much as I like Amy Adams...I don't know. She did a good job with what she was given but I will be really surprised if she wins. She wasn't on screen all that much and spoke even less. There was maybe one or two scenes where her character said something really important and while her delivery was good and her acting convincing, it just wasn't Oscar-worthy to me. 

Helen Hunt (The Sessions) - It took me forever to find this movie and I only just finished watching it a couple of hours ago. I give her props for playing such a...vulnerable role. I believed her emotions and her performance was compelling. 

Sally Field (Lincoln) - This nomination truly confuses me. Maybe it's one of those "we're nominating you for this role, technically, but really it's a salute to your past work"? I could buy that. She did play crazy well, I guess.

Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook) - Much like Robert De Niro's nomination, I understand it but I'm not convinced it was that fantastic. She played stressed and concerned very well and I totally bought her in this role.

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserable) - Give this girl her Oscar. I'm not a fan of musicals and I'm not that big of an Anne Hathaway fan but...come on. That scene...worth the entire movie. Her role might be considered somewhat small, based on total screen time, but the performance was worth as many nominations as they can throw at her. 

My Pick - Do you have to ask? Anne Hathaway.
What will win - Anne Hathaway.

This was definitely a challenge, seeing all these films in time, but I'm really glad I did it. Tune in tomorrow to see how wrong I am about it all!  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Miserables

Once again, I don't like musicals and, once again, I didn't read the book. There just wasn't enough time in the day to read one of the longest books ever...I wiki'd it, though. All that to say this: this film version is the only version I know in regards to the story line, so if there were inconsistencies there...don't expect to see them pointed out below.

Les Misérables
Directed By - Tom Hooper
Written By - Victor Hugo (novel), Claude-Michel Schönberg (book), Alain Boublil (book), & William Nicholson (screenplay)
Top Billed Cast - Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, & Russell Crowe

The story is set during 19th century France. Things were rough, and the people were desperate. The main tale, woven throughout several years, is that of the ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman) and how he goes from a parole-skipper, to a legit business man in the eyes of all but the law. It's a story of pain, of fate, of immense sadness, and finally love. 

Pros - 

* It's a Tom Hooper film, the fact that "The King's Speech" was his last movie says a lot, I think. 

* Since it was a Tom Hooper film, I knew going in that I would probably love the cinematography...I was right. The shots in this movie, and thinking about all the technical stuff that went into the way these sequences are captured...mind blowing. 

* For a movie about prisoners and peasants, one might not expect to be commending the make-up artists, but I definitely am. Subtlety but thoroughness seemed to be their game-plan and it worked wonderfully. 

* If Anne Hathaway does not at least get an Oscar Nod for this role, there is no hope left in the entertainment business. The amount of pain she shared with the audience during a single song made the whole movie worth it for me. It was just incredible.

* On the same note, the children in this movie were fantastic! The three main ones are all movie-newbies (stage productions are a completely different animal, in my opinion), and that is just impressive. 

* For a movie that spans such a length of time, and covers so much content, I felt that it flowed fairly nicely. 

* Casting, in general, was brilliant. I'm not typically a Russell Crowe fan but his performances were awesome, as were Jackman's and even, dare I say it?, Amanda Seyfried did a great job. 

* I'll be the first to admit that though I am not a Sacha Baren Cohen fan, I'm not sure I can picture anyone else in that role. He and Helena Bonham Carter made a fantastically awful pair and the comedic relief in such an otherwise dark film, was very welcome.

* The fact that they filmed all the music LIVE, as in "here's an earpiece, he's going to play the piano part, just sing", should be respected. The amount of emotion they were able to capture and the rawness of it all, while in some parts might could have been better in a studio, for the majority of the movie it worked beautifully. 

Cons - 

* While I compliment the cinematography for the most part...there was something that bugged me throughout. I understood the filming style, and appreciated it in the majority of the film. However, when for several stansas of a song, the only part of the actor that is in focus is their right ear....that, to me, is an issue. It worked when the actor was moving about, and kind of came in and out of focus, but not so much when they were just standing there for five minutes. I learned a lot about Hugh Jackman's right ear. 

* I'm just never going to be a fan of a false-ending. This may not have seemed like a false-ending to those that know the story but for those, like me, that are experiencing it for the first was a bit confusing. 

* While I marvel at the ability to get three people singing different verses of a song (or three different songs entirely) at the same time, it's not the best way to have your lyrics heard. I'm sure these scenes were very verbose and moving, I just have no clue what was said. 

* This is mostly just a con for me because I don't like musicals but...I got bored. I fought the urge to zone out, though, and was happy I stuck with it. That doesn't erase the fact that the urge was there in the first place, though. 

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13, and I'm kind of surprised by that. There is a lot of violence, sexual innuendo (and some not so implied), "minor" language, and just intense suspense. Be prepared to talk about the French Revolution, the law versus what's right, desperation, and prison life.

Overall, it might seem like I'm not really giving this movie as glowing of a review as most. However, the fact that I could genuinely only think of the listed Cons, says a lot about my opinion of the film. The compliment the casting is to compliment the cast. Each performance, each part that was played in the making of this movie was played beautifully. The parts that bothered me were far outweighed by the parts I enjoyed, and I genuinely look forward to seeing all of the behind-the-scenes extras on the DVD when it comes out and an desperately hoping for some commentaries! I'm giving it 4/5 stars

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gollum Style

On occasion, I have some pretty amazing mental images. Today that image was of Gollum from Lord of the Rings doing the Gangnam Style song. This prompted me to make this image:

You are welcome.