Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 Summer Movie Trailers

Here's a look at some of my most anticipated movies being released in the coming weeks and months. Enjoy!!!

March 9 - Silent House

Why you should get excited: Elizabeth Olsen (that's right, the younger sister of the Olsen twins) has recently emerged as a rising star in Hollywood and her new movie, Silent House, puts a twist on the "found footage" style of film-making by presenting the movie as 1 real-time, continuous take.

March 16 - 21 Jump Street

Why you should get excited: Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill look to bring the television show that originally starred Johnny Depp to the big screen with this R-rated remake. The premise of cops returning to high school under-cover certainly has promise and a sequel is already in the works.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Academy Award Picks

2011 was an interesting year, in that almost every category is up for grabs. Usually there is a favorite who is considered most likely to win the category. For example, last year everyone knew that Christian Bale was going to win Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Fighter. But this year most categories have a number of likely contenders for the Oscar.

So that being said, here are my picks, a mix of who I'd like to win and who I actually think will win, for this years Academy Awards.

And while you're at it, check out My Top 10 Movies of 2011!!!

Picture - The Artist
Director – Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
*This is an underdog pick. The most likely winner is Viola Davis, The Help
Supporting Actor – Nick Nolte, Warrior
*This is an underdog pick. The most likely winner is Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Supporting Actress – Berenice Bejo, The Artist
*This is an underdog pick. The most likely winner is Octavia Spencer, The Help
Original Screenplay – Midnight in Paris
Adapted Screenplay – The Descendants
Foreign Language Film – A Separation
Animated Feature – Rango
Documentary Feature - Undefeated
Film Editing - The Artist
Cinematography – The Tree of Life
Original Score – Hugo
Original Song – "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets
Sound Editing – Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Sound Mixing – Hugo
Visual FX – Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Make-Up – Harry Potter 7 Part 2
*This is an underdog pick. The most likely winner is The Iron Lady
Costume Design – Anonymous
Art Direction - Hugo
Documentary Short – The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Live Action Short – The Shore
Animated Short – The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Top 10 Movies of 2011

Unscripted Movie Reviews

2011 was a fun year at the movie theater, with a variety of engaging films filling up the Top 10. So let's get to it, with some quick house-cleaning to do first...

A Blast from the Past: My Top 10 Movies of 2010 - 2009

10 Potential Listbusters (some films I didn't see, but heard were good): Another Earth, Beginners, Jane Eyre, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Melancholia, A Separation, Shame, Submarine, Take Shelter, The Way Back

16 Honorable Mentions: Attack the Block, Bridesmaids, Captain America, Crazy Stupid Love, The Help, Horrible Bosses, Kung Fu Panda 2, Madea’s Big Happy Family, Moneyball, The Muppets, Rango, Stake Land, Super, Super 8, Warhorse, We Bought A Zoo

And now onto the feature presentation…

My Top 10 Movies of 2011:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Happened to “Bros Before Hos”?

Review: This Means War

In what is essentially an updated version of that old comic strip, Spy Vs. Spy, stars Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) go head to head to win the affections of Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde) in the new release, This Means War. Directed by a man whose only name is McG (Terminator Salvation), the movie is a light-hearted film that lacks any real depth.

The scenes in which Hardy and Pine’s characters each attempt to thwart the other’s dates and seductions is fun, creating all kinds of chaos that Witherspoon’s character never seems to notice. Adding to the fun is comedian Chelsea Handler (Are You There Chelsea?), whose witty, raunchy character juxtaposes nicely with Witherspoon’s innocence.

However, I wanted more from Witherspoon than the one-dimensional, nice-girl character she was given. She’s an Oscar-winning actress for crying out loud (Walk the Line); give her more substance to work with! But then again, This Means War was never about the girl. It was about the feuding spies, Hardy and Pine. This makes us invested in their scenes together, sure. But without letting the audience get to know Witherspoon’s character well enough, we fail to see what is so great about this girl that they would risk their very close friendship for (aside from the fact that Reese Witherspoon is so dang pretty!).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Superpowers Vs. Supernatural

Vs. Review: Chronicle & The Woman in Black

So I thought that since Chronicle and The Woman in Black came out the same weekend, I would do a "Vs. Review" of them together. Plus, I’ve gotten behind with the blog and have a lot to post in the upcoming days (reviews, 2011 Top Ten, & Academy Award Predictions), so this helps save time!

Chronicle is a low-budget film with unknown actors counting on word of mouth and an Eventful campaign to generate interest, much like the similar "Demand It" program for the original Paranormal Activity. Conversely, The Woman in Black boasts a bigger budget and big name stars, particularly in the post-Harry Potter teen heartthrob Daniel Radcliff, so frankly, it has more to prove.

The special effects in both films are believable for the extraordinary events they display. The Woman in Black was well-rewarded for the money they put into Visual FX, while Chronicle’s use of the much-disparaged handheld “shaky-cam” allowed the filmmakers to get away with more than they could have afforded in a more traditional format.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Give this Movie the (Freudian) Slip

Review: A Dangerous Method
Guest Review by Kyle Kuzemchak

The day after seeing Shame (review below), during my Michael Fassbender kick, I saw A Dangerous Method, which centers around the relationship of psychologists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, and how Jung’s experiences with one of his patients challenged their friendship.

I was extremely excited to see this movie, as director David Cronenberg’s previous film, Eastern Promises, is one of my favorite movies of all time. Boasting the same actors of Eastern Promises, Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings) and the grossly underrated Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Mesrine), I could not wait to see this team work together again. However, the intense arguments and the progression of psychoanalysis were much more dull than I was anticipating. 

The film begins with a screaming, kicking, and clawing Sabina Spielrein, portrayed by Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean), being dragged into a psych ward. Carl Jung (Fassbender) takes her on as a patient, and quickly realizes that her psychological problems are the effects of strange sexual desires. The first psychological interaction between Jung and Spielrein featured Spielrein sputtering, stuttering, and jutting out her jaw while trying to speak. Knightley played this character very well, but watching these spasms was not very entertaining. Jung then goes to Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) for help, and they begin a friendship, constantly debating over their new ideas of psychoanalysis.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It’s a Shame it Wasn’t Better

Review: Shame
Guest Review by Kyle Kuzemchak

After Michael Fassbender’s explosion onto the Hollywood scene with his portrayal of Magento in X-Men First Class, I immediately began to watch as many of his movies as possible. One of the movies I encountered was director Steve McQueen’s first film, Hunger, about a hunger strike in the brutal Irish prison system. What was an intriguing and powerful concept was ruined for me by a difference in artistic vision; Some people, like McQueen, believe that prolonged shots and drawn-out scenes stand for going against the grain and an enlightened artistic vision, while others, like myself, find it to be dull and boring. Shame featured many of these “artistic qualities” that contributed to what was a dreary experience for me.

The film centers around a man named Brandon (Michael Fassbender), who is a sex addict whose life gets turned around when his sister, appropriately named Sissy, portrayed by Carey Mulligan (An Education) moves in with him. The NC-17 rated film shows its goods, quite literally, beginning with the first scene, where a full-frontal Fassbender walks around his apartment, checking answering machine messages and using the bathroom. Nudity continues to be a dominant theme in the film, as we see sex scene, after sex scene, after masturbation scene; even Mulligan is completely nude when first on screen.

Although the performances were solid, the acting could not carry the weightless dialogue of the script. The first bonding experience we see between the newly reunited brother and sister is when Sissy sings at a bar, and Brandon looks on…and on…and on. The scene consists primarily of one single, steady shot of Sissy’s face as she performs “New York, New York” for around a grueling three minutes (which felt like ten minutes). This was the first instance where McQueen’s artistic vision collided with my vision of art, as I lost interest in the three-minute scene after about three seconds. This occurs a few more times in the film, where a one-shot take goes on for minutes longer than I felt necessary.

Despite my complaints, the film was guided by a clearly talented, unimpeded artistic direction, and the beginning and the end of the film were gripping. Fassbender and McQueen’s portrayal of the life of a sex addict make you wish you never have to deal with something like that in your life; Brandon constantly had to masturbate in the bathroom at work or pay for a hooker, and was clearly unhappy in every pursuit. But the drawn-out scenes in the middle of the film take away the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety and depression and replace it with boredom.

The Final Word: Skip It, unless you are a fan of atypical, artistic cinema, then Go Buy a Ticket

Shades of Grey

Review: The Grey

The Grey illustrates something that I continue to struggle with when considering the quality of a movie. Is a movie “good” if I am entertained, or if it is well-made? While a well-made film is more likely to entertain (and a poorly made film less likely to entertain), they are not the same thing. For example, while The Artist was perhaps the best the film of the year, my favorite movie of 2011 was Warrior. While, the latter entertained me the most, the former was a more finely-tuned film. Another example: Transformers is an awful movie; it is silly, filled with plot holes, and lacks any great acting talent. But Transformers is filled with giant, fighting robots and director Michael Bay’s infamous explosions. It’s fun from an adrenaline perspective, but awful from a cinema viewpoint. So is it “good”?

I think the answer depends on who you are and what type of movies you like. I have friends who judge a film entirely on the art-form employed in making it. Put them in the “It’s good if it’s well-made” club. I also have friends who are solely swayed on how much fun they have. They’re on the “It’s good if it’s entertaining” team. And then there are those of us who are independents; we want a little of both.

I believe this helps explain the apparent disparity in audience reactions to The Grey. It currently has a 77% on RottenTomatoes, a 7.8/10 on IMDB, Roger Ebert gave it 3 ½ stars out of 4, and I liked it too. However, the two girls I saw it with didn’t like it, expressing sentiments similar to many other reactions I saw on Facebook and heard around campus.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Look Out Below!

Review: Man on a Ledge

In Man on a Ledge, the character portrayed by Sam Worthington (Avatar), Nick Cassidy, is an escaped convict, wrongly accused of stealing a diamond from real estate mogul, David Englander, played by Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind). So why is he 20 stories up on a ledge, negotiating with Elizabeth Banks’ character, Detective Lydia Mercer? It’s all a distraction so that his brother, Joey, portrayed by Jamie Bell (The Adventures of Tintin), and his brother’s girlfriend Angie (newcomer Genesis Rodriguez) can actually steal the diamond for the first time from Englander, who had staged the first heist to accomplish an insurance scam.

This seems like high-concept, fun stuff. And it is. But the story really wasn’t handled well enough to make a truly great movie. We know that Nick will never really jump, so the agonizing height becomes a non-issue. And are we really supposed to believe that his brother and his brother’s girlfriend would be able to pull off such an elaborate vault heist? Besides, so much of the film’s plot hinges on coincidence, that Nick must be the luckiest man on the planet! Or it's a sloppy script.

That being said, even though no one really gives a stellar performance, all actors involved do decently, including Edward Burns (Saving Private Ryan), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption), and rising star Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau). And if the shaky plot doesn’t really bother you, Man on a Ledge is a pretty fun movie, even if it wasn't as gripping as it could have been.

Ultimately, Man on a Ledge is nothing special. But it’s not bad either.

The Final Word: Wait to rent it.