Monday, December 3, 2007

Movie Review: "No Country for Old Men"

What It's About: A low income Texan finds a LOT of drug money.

What I Was Expecting: You know, it's the Coen brothers. Expectations have been really high since "Fargo." Given that many of the reviews called it the "best film this year." Yeah, I'd say my expectations were pretty high.

What I Got: And my expectations were exceeded. I still can't decide whether or not I liked this better than "Fargo". How about this? There are moments in this one that are better than anything in "Fargo", but "Fargo" was better. Now, that's a cop out. Not really. This actually would've been the better film if it ended when the plot did, but it goes on for another 20 or so minutes. I mean, it just meanders. When the whole movie has focused on the plight of one character, it's not the best idea to spend so much time on the resolution of issues with peripheral characters, and in one case, resolving nothing, that didn't play a huge part in the overall plot. That said, the first 90 minutes are just lights out brilliant. There are many moments that are so intense, it's amazing. And then it has the Coen brothers quirky sense of humor to make things all better again.

Grade: A-

Oscar Potential: Where do you stop? Best Picture, easy. Best Director, a lock for a nod. Best Actor nod for Josh Brolin, strong possibility. Best Supporting Actor nod for Javier Bardem, for sure. Best Adapted Screenplay, likely winner. Then throw in cinematography and editing to boot. This will be a big player at this year's Oscars.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:

Is that the dude from "The Goonies?" It sure is. Where did he learn to act?
2. Javier Bardem will go down as one of the classic screen villians.
3. I got a big smile on my face when they introduced Stephen Root's character. Stephen Root is probably best known as Milton from "Office Space." In my opinion, any movie he is in can't be all bad because any scene he is in will be good. This guy can play anything. He was also the fish obsessed with the bubbles in "Finding Nemo." And the boss on "Newsradio." And Bill on "King of the Hill." Just phenomenal actor. He also funded the Stephen Root Acting Studio at the University of Florida. Nobody's perfect.
4. Man, Tommy Lee Jones is getting old.
5. Seriously?! That's the older brother from "The Goonies"?!

The Trailers:
The Orphanage:
I don't know much about the film, but the trailer scared the bejesus out of me.
In Bruges: If you thought really hard, could you come up with a worse title for a film? I was making my notes while watching the trailer. I wrote down "look up Colin Farrell" because 5 seconds after the trailer was over, I couldn't remember the name. That said, the film looks mildly amusing.
Pride and Glory: Is Colin Farrell the new Jude Law? Back to back trailers with him in it. At least this one has Ed Norton who does not make enough movies for me. They give WAY too much away as far as plot goes. Still looks good.
The Great Debaters: Denzel Washington and Forrest Whitaker about a debate team from an all-black college taking on Harvard's debate team in the...40s? 30s? Doesn't matter. It may follow the "Rocky" formula to a T, but damn, I'll go see this one. Looks terrific and inspiring.
Charlie Wilson's War: First trailer I've seen of this one. I cannot wait. Could play spoiler for "No Country" come Oscar time.
There Will Be Blood: Oh damn, I hope this one's as good as it looks. Daniel Day-Lewis pretty much playing the same character from "Gangs of New York", but this movie looks good. Can't wait.

Movie Review: "Enchanted"

What It's About: Disney princess from the animated world gets thrown into Manhattan..

What I Was Expecting: My wife had seen the film before I had and kept spouting that it was the best Disney movie ever. I had seen the trailer and had serious doubts that it would be better than "The Lion King" or "Aladdin."

What I Got: Definitely not the best Disney movie ever. It's goofy. It's a lot of fun. It's entertaining as heck, but it runs out of places to go. The ending itself has almost no logic to it. In fact, I would go as far as saying that they chose the wrong ending. I would explain further but it would require spoiling it. The performances are near perfect. I can't imagine a better cast and the mostly on location shooting was inspired in how they used it. Particularly the scenes in Central Park which left me...well...goofy.

Grade: B+

Oscar Potential: Best song, for sure. I would also make the argument that Amy Adams deserves a recognition. So many actors get recognition for portraying real people, but she just nails the Disney princess stereotype. Close your eyes and just listen to her and you would think it was an animated film. Special effects is another possibility.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:

All these big musical numbers and not one using Idina Menzel who has made a career in musical theatre. Go figure.
2. Wow! This movie would've gotten an A if it weren't for that awful ending.
3. Are Amy Adams' eyes really that big or did they tweak them digitally to get the full Disney princess effect?
4. Is Patrick Dempsey supposed to be a mediator or is he an attorney for the wife? They aren't really clear.
5. For as little time she spends in the movie, Susan Sarandon is really good.

The Trailers:
Golden Compass:
I can't help but wonder when this movie bombs, will the religious right try and take credit for it or will they just realize that it was the crappy trailers that drove people away?
Water Horse: I loved the movie Babe. I know it's from the same author, but man, this movie looks stupid.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: In a previous blog, I blasted a trailer for this movie. This was a new trailer. And I laughed out loud. This movie might be subversive enough to work.
Definitely Maybe: This trailer looked so good that I saw the title on my notes and for the life of me, I can't remember a thing about it.
College Road Trip: Oy vay. Is Martin Lawrence the new Robin WIlliams? When you make a career out being crude, don't do the family film please.
NT2: Wow. I need to take better notes. It took me five minutes to remember that NT2 meant National Treasure 2. I hope it's as fun as the first one. And just as implausible.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

DVD Review: "Zodiac"

What It's About: The Zodiac killer who terrorized San Francisco from the late 60s to the mid 70s.

What I was Expecting: I like David Fincher a lot as a director. On a blog posted on another site, I predicted that "Zodiac" would be a strong contender at the 2006 Oscars, but due to delays, the film failed to qualify for last year's awards. So, I guess you could say my expectations were a little high.

What I Got: Everything that I was hoping "Zodiac" would be. It's a slow-burning, creepy, highly effective thriller filled with a terrific cast. I missed it on its initial release due to my own personal post-Oscar burnout and I'm sorry I did. I imagine on the big screen that what was merely creepy on the small screen was downright terrifying. What I don't understand is the general reception to the film. Was it the lack of a shoot out ending or true resolution? Was it how it started off as a "Silence of the Lambs"-esque thriller and fades into something more less defined? That was a complement, by the way. The film plays out much like the real-life investigation of the murders. Tight with an attention to detail at first. Slow and unfocused as the details become more obscure. I believe this was entirely intentional. What the audience is made to feel towards the movie ("are they going to find out who did it or not?") is exactly what the characters thought and felt. How else can you do a film about a killer who was never caught?

Grade: A-

Five Random Thoughts:
1. The film is so filled with character actors who don't look like their normal selves, you'll find yourself often distracted and rewinding going, "wait! I know that guy."
2. It took watching the reading of the first Zodiac letter 3 times before I realized it was John Terry from 'Lost.'
3. Charles Fleischer is in this movie. The voice of Roger Rabbit. I boo him because he picked on me for a good 10 minutes at a comedy club one night. Boo!
4. So much for Roger Ebert's economy of characters. The rule is: Any recognizable actor must be important to the plot or else it would be a no name actor. Not true in this film. I kept expecting Ione Skye of "Say Anything" fame to turn back up after her one, albeit important, scene, but she never does.
5. Mark Ruffalo should be added to my list of actors who will win an Oscar soon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Movie Review: "The Simpsons"

What It's About: Much like your typical episode of "The Simpsons", there's about 10 storylines.

What I Was Expecting: Well, "The Simpsons" has always been daring for regular TV, so I was expecting them to, very slightly, push the envelope here. Basically, I knew they would probably use one obscenity because using one, and just one, would be their style.

What I Got: Well, I got my one obscenity. And it comes when you're not expecting it, from someone you wouldn't expect (not Flanders). Overall, it's right up there with the best episodes of the show. It's funny, subversive and heartwarming. The exact same tight rope the show has been walking since Bart kissed his teacher in season 1 after getting a D on his history exam. Basically, if you enjoy the TV show, you'll enjoy the movie. It won't win any new fans. But then again, after nearly 20 years, I doubt there are any new fans to win.

Grade: B+

Oscar Potential: It has a shot at Animated Feature and really nothing else. Somehow, I doubt "Spider-Pig" will make the cut.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:

The opening joke is really funny. To me, anyway. I was the only one who laughed at the screening I went to.
2. Gee, Schwarzenegger sounds an awful lot like Wolfcastle. Why bother making the joke about Arnold?
3. How many times has Albert Brooks done the Simpsons? Answer: Not enough.
4. They overpromoted the movie. It was mildly amusing, but audience members recited jokes that were in the commercials.
5. They credit the voice for Patty and Selma, but were they even in the movie?

The Trailers:
Dark Knight:
The teaser trailer for the next Batman. Cool trailer, but a TAD disappointed that Heath Ledger was doing the Joker very similar to Jack Nicholson's.
Daddy Day Camp: Not only has Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s career sunk this low, but I had to explain to my nephew over the weekend that hugging Michael Jordan in the Hanes commercial does NOT mean he's gay.
Game Plan: This year's "The Pacifier". Take that as you may.
The Bourne Ultimatum: I think this one will be considered weak by default simply for not one-upping the first two films.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Jason Lee's filmography for 2007 include Underdog AND Alvin and the Chipmunks? This makes me sad.
Horton Hears a Hoo: Because the last two films based on Dr. Seuss books were SO good. I don't think reuniting Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell will save this one.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Movie Review: "Hairspray"

What It's About: The chubby Tracy Turnblad takes Baltimore by storm.

What I Was Expecting: I loved the original film. I've never seen the stage show, but my wife has and loves the CD, so i pretty much knew the music. But, beyond that, I really had no expectations.

What I Got: A classic. I noticed about halfway through the film that my cheeks were aching. I wasn't sure why until the next number started and the broad smile returned to my face. And then I started to think about what might make this film any better. The answer I came up with? Nothing. Hairspray is about as perfect as a film can get. Nothing seems forced or false. It is filled with one joyful moment after another. It's exciting and fun and damn near impossible not to like. Every actor, every song, every scene feels like it is exactly where it needs to be. It's funny. It's touching. It has this amazing, almost tangible, energy. Towards the end of the movie, the crowd I saw it with was clapping along with the songs and cheering the heroes and applauding at the end of the numbers. Almost as if you were there watching in person. In the ride home, I realized how truly great I thought this was when I asked my wife, "How many musicals would you say were better than that?" We started with the latest string and worked our way back. Chicago wasn't even close. Moulin Rouge? Nope, Hairspray is better. To make a long story short, we decided that the only better musicals we could come up with were Singing in the Rain, West Side Story, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music. And that's it. And none of those are nearly as fun. Hairspray is a genuine classic.

Grade: A

Oscar Potential: I thought about this during the movie. I came up with 14 strong possibilities, setting a record. Picture and director if it's a slightly slow year. Strong shots for Best Actress and Supporting Actor. Adapted Screenplay. Cinematography is a possibility. Arti Direction, Costume Design and Makeup you can bet on. One, maybe two, nods for song. Score. Sound and Sound Editing.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:

What can one say about Amanda Bynes? How many actresses can make a successful career by being what can only be described as a knucklehead.
2. Does Queen Latifah still rap?
3. The songs that were cut out of the movie? Don't miss 'em.
4. You really do forget that's John Travolta. And I'm the kind of movie watcher that tries to look for the details.
5. I keep waiting for Corny Collins to shoot Michelle Pfeiffer with the lasers from his eyes..

The Trailers:
August Rush:
I bet this movie looked great on paper.
Across the Universe: The preview they showed is one that worries me. That it might not be as brilliant as it looks.
Enchanted: Yeah, this one is going to be good. Disney cartoon on acid. I just hope it has more to it than just the gags.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age: The first Elizabeth, I loved. It was the Godfather as a costume movie. I don't think this one will have quite the same impact.
Rush Hour 3: What on earth happened to Chris Tucker? Is this all he does anymore? I looked up on imdb. He is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. And this is the third movie in the last ten years. The other two movies? Rush Hour 1 & 2. The man has talent. Why doesn't he use it more often?
The Golden Compass: If a studio tries to promote their new film by comparing to a previous movie they had success with, that's desperation talking. Comparing the story of a little girl in some land of magic to the Lord of the Rings movie, films that had some of the highest body counts in history, that's a stretch. This movie keeps looking worse and worse. But hey, it's from the director of American Pie.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Movie Review: "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"

What It's About: Our hero, Tom Riddle, tries to do away with the dreaded Harry James Potter once and for all.

What I Was Expecting: Gee. Fifth film in the series. I think the expectations are pretty much set at this point.

What I Got: I really don't care what anyone else says. This one is the best of the series so far. The critics seem to be basing their reviews on memory. My guess is that they haven't seen the previous films as many times as I have. "Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Goblet of Fire", the best reviewed films of the series, do NOT hold up as well to repeat viewings as the first and second films do (even with the line "Your phoenix may have blinded my basilisk, but he can still hear you!") In fact, I gave "Azkaban" an A when I first saw it. Now I can barely sit through it. Not much happens in that film. And after catching "Goblet of Fire" on cable lately, I find the character of Harry to actually be unlikable. "Order of the Phoenix", at first, falls into the same trap. Harry going off on his dearest friends for no apparent reason. But as the movie goes on, Harry becomes a sympathetic character again. There are so many elements to this one that make it superior to the previous entries, namely the bigger battles and montages. And that's what sets "Order" apart from the rest.

Grade: A

Oscar Potential: The techie trifecta, Sound, Sound Editing and Visual Effects are deserving. I was especially impressed by the art direction and costumes, but unless this movie has legs, it won't stick around come awards time.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:

Emma Watson has said she has no interest pursuing acting after the series is over. I can only say, "Thank God!" Her first moment in the film is "line of dialogue....pause...line....pause....line." When the whole thing should have been said in one breath.
2. The final battle at the Ministry of Magic is, by far, the best scene of the series to date. Will certainly be topped by the battle at Hogwarts in the next film.
3. I can't think of another film that wastes so much major talent. Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman....all of them are barely in the film. Alan Rickman's first line on screen is over an hour in.
4. If you hadn't read the book, you might think that Harry and Loony were going to hook up. They had real good chemistry. Especially compared to the forced chemistry of Harry and Cho.
5. One scene made me chuckle. Harry, Ron and Hermione are talking in the bridge, it's foggy. This must have been an issue because it seems that the lenses were taken out of Harry's glasses.

The Trailers:
Balls of Fury: At first, I was thinking "Dodgeball"/"Beerfest" meets ping pong. The difference looks to be that this one made me laugh.
The Golden Compass: This is one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year. I'm sure the anticipation will die now that the trailer is out. Looks BORING!!!
Water Horse: Legend of the Deep: If you put a bunch of random words in a hat, do you think you could come up with a worse title? I saw this trailer and remembered a joke I'd heard this week. To paraphrase, you're in a room with the guy who made this trailer, Hitler and Mussolini. You've got a gun with only two bullets. What do you do? You shoot the guy twice. There is a GREAT twist to this story and they give it away in the trailer. What looked cute is now on my "I never need to see this movie" list.
Enchanted: It has become a rare occurrence that a trailer for a comedy makes me laugh. Much less common is two on the same night. This trailer is funny as hell. It's going to be a HUGE hit.
The Bourne Ultimatum: I cannot wait to see this one. I'm really late in jumping on the Bourne bandwagon. I saw the first two movies at the same time...on DVD. That's late. But they are brilliant and this third one, particularly the bit when Bourne is in David Straithairn's office, is great.
Get Smart: When I heard this movie was being made (shortly after Evan Almighty hit theaters), I thought, "Wow! Steve Carrell is finished in movies!" Now that I've seen the trailer, he MAY have a shot. Some good chuckles.
Fred Claus: Three trailers in one sitting that made me laugh. I liked the teaser trailer better (although I don't think it showed any of the movie itself) and the story looks really obvious, but there's potential for a great comedy.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Never Nominated, but Will Win Eventually

About 10 years ago, I did a list. A list of people who I thought that, even though they'd never received a nomination, would deserve an Oscar one day. I'd long since lost the list, but I do remember three entries that had caught flack. I had just seen "The Peacemaker" with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. Although I didn't think the movie itself deserved any recognition, I felt, based on that film alone, that Clooney, Kidman and director Mimi Leder would win Oscars within 10 years. Oh, people also thought I was kidding about Paul Giammatti, based on his turn in "Private Parts."

2 out of 3 isn't bad. And, if "Pay It Forward" had a smarter ending and became the new "It's a Wonderful Life" it should have been, I might have hit all three.

Now, it's ten years later. And here is a brand new list for the world to see of five actors, actresses and directors who I think will go home with the gold in the next ten years even though they've yet to even receive a nomination for anything they've done.

1. Christian Bale -
Not a toughie here. Bale has done a number of award worthy performances over the last decade. What's especially unique about him is the wide range from "American Psycho" to "Batman" to "The Prestige" and, especially, his villainous turn in the better-than-it-should've-been "Shaft". Mr. Bale may not have to wait long with two films coming out this year that have Oscar potential, "3:10 to Yuma" with Russell Crowe and directed by James Mangold ("Walk the Line") and "I'm Not There" with Cate Blanchett and directed by Todd Haynes ("Far from Heaven").

2. Dennis Quaid - A perennial of the list. It's mind blowing, given his career, that Quaid has never even been nominated for an Oscar. His brother, Randy Quaid, not the highest caliber of thespian, has been nominated before. "In Good Company," "Far from Heaven," "Traffic," and "The Rookie" all deserved consideration. And that's just this decade. Throw in his turn as Doc Holliday in the otherwise forgettable "Wyatt Earp", as well as "The Big Easy", "Everybody's All American" and as Gordo Cooper in "The Right Stuff". He may still have to wait to get his Oscar. Nothing listed on imdb that he has coming really jumps out except for "Shame on You", which he's also directing. It worked for Roberto Benigni.

3. Ewan McGregor - Based on his choice of movies of late, this might not actually happen. But that may be changing. "The Tourist" with Hugh Jackman may have potential. "The Number 13", a Hitchcockian thriller that takes place ON the set of a Hitchcock film sounds good. And "I, Lucifer" could get him a supporting nod although Daniel Craig as the Devil will likely steal the show. Just please, Ewan, don't try doing a Southern accent like you did in "Black Hawk Down."

4. Bruce Willis - It WILL happen. He was not on the previous list because the only movies he'd done worth considering up to that point were "Die Hard" and "Pulp Fiction." Just keep working with M. Knight Shyalaman and you'll get one eventually. He needs you as bad as you need him.

5. Daniel Craig - The only actor on the list I hadn't even heard of ten years ago. Now he's James Bond. And could possibly go down as the greatest James Bond ever if he does three or four more and they're comparable to "Casino Royale." But he was the best thing about Spielberg's "Munich." He has the highly-anticipated "The Golden Compass" coming later this year. He'll also be starring as the Devil (see above) and in Edward Zwick's next film, "Defiance", which, like every Zwick film does but falls short, has Oscar written all over it.

Coming Soon....The Actresses

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Movie Review: "Transformers"

What It's About: A high school kid finds his first car is more than meets the eye.

What I Was Expecting: Let's see. It's a Michael Bay film (strike one) based on a toy (strike two) being released on the 4th of July and not starring Will Smith (strike three).

What I Got: The best of the big budget actioners so far this year. Far better than "Spiderman 3" in every regard. The movie is still basically a dumb, loud, special effects extravaganza, but it far surpasses what it seems to be trying to do, much like Michael Bay's previous pleasant surprise, "The Island." The film is far from perfect, for sure. But it is a lot of fun. Surely destined to be a cable classic. The kind you pass while flipping channels on a Saturday afternoon and stop, because you know it's worth it.

Grade: B+

Oscar Potential: The techie trifecta, Sound, Sound Editing and Visual Effects are locks. It will never happen, but Shia LeBouef's performance as the high schooler destined to save the world is one of the best performances in an action film I've ever seen and an open-minded academy should give it consideration. Watch his face when he's running with the cube. It's not determination. It's pure fear. It certainly won't happen with this film, but Mr. LeBouef will win an Oscar someday.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:

Aren't the Transformers supposed to be able to join together into one huge robot?
2. This movie is great, but please, God, don't let anyone try to capitalize by doing a GoBots movie.
3. Why is John Turturro in this movie?
4. If the Autobots can use the internet to find the kid, why couldn't the Decepticons?
5. Does Michael Bay know his prior movies suck? He takes a dig at "Armageddon" that's pretty funny.

The Trailers:
The Simpsons Movie: I can't wait. Every trailer is funnier than the previous.
The Invasion: Of the Body Snatchers? That is what this is, right? With Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. It must be better than it looks to get them in here. At least it seems like the movie is going for creepy and not just another remake to do better effects.
Superbad: I've seen trailers that make this look funny. This trailer doesn't I'm not even quite sure what the movie's supposed to about.
Hot Rod: Well, it has Isla Fisher. That's a plus for any movie. And a comedy about a guy trying to be Evel Kneivel has potential. Just didn't see it in the trailer other than when the stunts painfully fail.
"Cloverfield": I use quotes here because that's what the film is rumored to be called. They don't actually tell you anything other than produced by J.J. Abrams and coming 1-18-08. Basically, it looks like "Godzilla" meets "The Blair Witch Project." Someone had sent me the trailer via email. Looked better with less sound. On the big screen and better sound (e.g. you could hear the monster), it kind of lost something. We'll see.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Movie Review: "Ratatouille"

What It's About: A rat (blue russian rat, to be a rat snob) that knows how to cook.

What I Was Expecting: It's getting to be the standard, but it's yet another Pixar film whose trailer left me "bleh!"

What I Got: This year's Oscar winner for Animated Feature. Hands down. And if they still gave animated films consideration for Best Picture, I'd say it belongs in that hunt as well. From a technical standpoint, the animation is ASTONISHING! No detail goes on the screen without being given the utmost care. From a story standpoint, it is by far the most adult of the Pixar films. And that's saying something. I went with my 7 year old son, who loved it as well, but I imagine most of what's really happening on screen was lost on him. In a nutshell, the film deals with the very serious issues of what one feels called to do versus what one feels obligated to do. And making the choice between the two. That's an issue that, even at the ripe old age of 34, I still deal with on a daily basis. And this "kiddie" movie had me relating to a rat. That's quite an accomplishment. This movie is very funny, as well. Well worth seeing regardless of your age.

Grade: A

Oscar Potential: Animated Feature, for sure. Possibly screenplay and score.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:

This may seem a tad infantile, but that's a pretty hot and heavy kiss for a kiddie film.
2. Was it my imagination or, when Remy is about to float down the waterfall in the sewer, did I hear an echoing voice say "Dead men tell no tales?"
3. I'm not familiar with the guy who voiced Remy, but great work.
4. Peter O'Toole. Busting out the kiddie film. Another great performance.
5. Warning. After you see this film, you WILL want to eat. Desperately.

The Trailers:
Bee Movie: Where has Jerry Seinfeld been anyway? Hope the movie is as good as the trailer. Lots of good chuckles.
Daddy Day Camp: Yet another sad chapter in the post-Oscar career of Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium: Wow! This one is either an instant classic or a complete bust.
Mr. Bean's Holiday: I didn't think the last film was funny. This one doesn't look to change my opinion of this character.
Underdog: This one hurt to watch. They aimed for the kiddies and not the subversive nature of the original cartoon. Could've been great.
Wall E: Wow! Can Pixar do anything wrong? The big whopping 10 seconds they actually show of the film makes look like the next E.T. Cannot wait.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Oscar Bum Movie Review: "Spider-Man 3"

"Spider-Man 3" starring Tobey Maguire and what's left of Kirsten Dunst.

What It's About: The countinuing adventures of your friendly neighborhood spider person, just not so friendly this time.

What I Was Expecting: The reviews and advance buzz weren't good, so my expectations might have been a tad low.

What I Got: A suprisingly moving comic book movie. I thought the reviews were rather unfair. Oddly enough, I thought the review were off-base for the second Spidey film, which I felt was WAY overrated. It's not a perfect film by any stretch. But it's a nice companion piece to the other 2 films. Where the first film was about discovery and the second about duty. The third movie is about redemption. Maybe the critics have been ripping it because it's a more mature spidey. A spidey where things are not all black and white, or red in this case. The major flaw in this episode is the villains. It's overkill. One villain too many. And that's a script problem since all three villains are necessary for the payoff at the end. Which I felt was a beauty.

Rating: B+

Random Thoughts:
1. For the love of God, someone please give Kirsten Dunst some money to buy food. Or at least tell her that her boobs wouldn't fly all over the place if she hadn't dropped all the weight.
2. I can't help but wonder if the movie would've been better received if the Sandman had stayed man-sized.
3. Stan Lee. Stupid cameo. Bruce Campbell. Great one, although the scene was overlong and unnecessary.
4. I just loved how the Spidey/Sandey battle resolved.
5. In another unnecessary know what...the movie's full of them. Scenes where the only motivation is to setup the next scene.

The Trailers:

1. Catch a Fire - What is this title even supposed to mean? It's an apartheid movie, I think. I don't know if you knew this, but I guess apartheid is bad. So grateful to Hollywood for pointing these things out.

2. Deja Vu - Okay, if you are going to do a movie called deja vu, you CANNOT do a film that looks like every other Tony Scott/Jerry Bruckheimer P.O.S. Props to any critic who can review this film and NOT turn the title into a description of the film itself.

3. Stranger than Fiction - I cannot wait for this film. Will Farrell, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman? Looks hilarious.

4. The Good Shepherd - Bob De Niro pretends he's Martin Scorsese and even casts Matt Damon in the "real history" of the CIA's beginnnings. Ummm...if it were "real", it'd be a documentary, folks.

5. 300 - What the hell is this garbage? I thought it was a joke at first, like I was going to hear a cell phone ringing at any point. Nope, this is serious. 300 is also the number of reasons this film should never have been made. I could only stop and think all the starving people the $60 million spent to make this garbage could've fed. This movie will NOT crack $10 million at the box office. I guarantee.

6. The Blood Diamond - This one could go either way. I kind of got the impression that they're going for an Indiana Jones meets Black Hawk Down. Takes guts to even try. The controversy from the diamond industry over their potray

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who Should Have Won? (Part III)

Heading further into the 80s, there was an almost unbroken string of wrong choices. Some, certainly debatable. Others, unquestionable. But, on the other hand, there were one or two toss-up years, where any of the nominees were worthy.

Winner: Platoon
Deserver: Platoon

1986 was certainly a year for building up an Oscar race for the sake of making it interesting. Hannah and Her Sisters is one of Woody Allen's finest movies. But put any scene from that film against the march out of the arsoned village from Platoon. Yeah, I didn't think so. And who would've thought that out of that entire cast, Johnny Depp would be the "serious" actor 20 years later. Ah, hell. I still see him as that annoying 21 Jump Street guy and I didn't watch the show.

Winner: Out of Africa
Deserver: Toss Up

Frankly, there's not a really memorable film in the bunch. If I had to choose, I suppose I'd go with Witness or Prizzi's Honor. I thought Africa and the Color Purple were overrated and boring. I still haven't seen Kiss of the Spider Woman, so I can't comment there. 1985 was a year of ALMOST great films. Agnes of God, Silverado, White Nights, Ladyhawke, Mask. All at least watchable, but all somehow missed the mark. In fact, in retrospect, the only film receiving nods in 1985 that has had any staying power is Back to the Future. Can't see that winning in any year. Although, I always wondered, "What if Back to the Future was made in the 50s? Told from the perspective of the mother?" That would be interesting.

Winner: Amadeus
Deserver: Amadeus

Very similar to 1985 in the sense that there were no great films nominated. Except for Amadeus. This film could have been done so many ways. For one, they could've used accents. But didn't. And it doesn't matter. They could've used name stars, but didn't. Mel Gibson, Kenneth Branagh or Tim Curry, instead of Tom Hulce. But it still works. I don't know if it's Peter Schaeffer's script, Milos Forman's directing, or what. It just works. The other nominees that year, solid films that fall short of greatness.

Winner: Terms of Endearment
Deserver: The Right Stuff

You can say it. It's because I'm not a chick. I can take it. TofE doesn't do it for me. The Right Stuff is perfect for my Star Wars addled brain. Ok, there's not much in common with Star Wars, but anyone who bothered to read the book The Right Stuff will tell you that the film is a minor miracle. Philip Kaufman is a genius for pulling that adaptation off in the first place. Which makes the whole thing absolutely shocking that Kaufman was not nominated for director nor screenplay. Shocking, I tell you.

Winner: Gandhi
Deserver: Tootsie

Yeah, I know E.T. is a classic. But Tootsie is better. Tootsie should've been a one joke comedy. Lord knows we've seen enough of them to know how bad these films can go. But it's not. It's a damn serious film that has a lot of funny stuff happen. Gandhi just doesn't do it for me. How a film about a dude who did so many amazing things just drag on and on....So, why not E.T.? This may sound weird but E.T. was too easy. Tootsie could've fallen apart anywhere, but doesn't. For me, it's a greater acheivement.

Winner: Chariots of Fire
Deserver: Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981 is one of Hollywood's and the Academy's better years. So truly fine films made the cut. Reds, Atlantic City, On Golden Pond, but the two that really stood out were Chariots and Raiders. Chariots is a great film, don't get me wrong. But Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of those all-time great cinematic experiences. You are taken to a completely unique time and place. It's amazing how many people can remember the first time they saw it. I know I was completely blown away and I saw it in a drive-in. As good as Chariots is, there aren't that many films from any year that beat Raiders.

Winner: Ordinary People
Deserver: Raging Bull

But not by much. People want to write off Ordinary People for a ton of reasons. It's actually more of a testament to how good Raging Bull is because Ordinary People is just as violent of a film, just not physically. Mary Tyler Moore...I want to write that again...Mary Tyler FREAKIN' Moore turns in a classic performance and her emotional self-destruct is just painful. Why did it beat Raging Bull? Same reason Crash beat Brokeback Mountain. More of us can relate to it. So why do I say Raging Bull deserved it more if Ordinary People is so damn good? Have you seen Raging Bull?

Winner: Kramer v. Kramer
Deserver: Kramer v. Kramer

I know what you're probably thinking. That Dustin Hoffman film over Apocalypse Now?! Yes, as a matter of fact, I am saying exactly that. It's much easier to say Apocalypse should've won now. But I think it's because of the legendary production problems and the miracle that it even got finished. Apocalypse is chock full of great scenes, but the overall story kind of left me blank. Kramer on the other hand has lost so many points over the years because of how much it's been copied, mainly by crappy made-for-TV movies. But I think a revisit to its brilliance is warranted. The performances alone make it worth watching. But the overall film itself is what puts it over the top. This could have easily fallen into the "message" picture bastion, but it dodges it beautifully and just tells a story that is at times both eloquent and simple.

Winner: The Deer Hunter
Deserver: The Deer Hunter

Michael Cimino's best film. Okay, that's saying nothing, but even today, it's a brilliant film. People tend to give it crap for the wedding scene and the events leading up to Vietnam, but the film doesn't work any other way. There were some other good nominees that year, namely Coming Home and Midnight Express. How Heaven Can Wait pulled a nod is lost on me. It looks like crap now, but I don't think it would've looked much better than. And it's one of the worst performances I've seen Warren Beatty give. No, The Deer Hunter was, by far, the most deserving film that year.

Winner: Annie Hall
Deserver: Star Wars

If those Academy Awards happened now, Star Wars would still win. Much like Raiders, it's a one-of-a-kind moviegoing experience. With the countless Special Editions, re-releases and the lousy prequel trilogy, it's easy to discount how good the original really was. It wasn't until this past weekend when I plopped down and watched the original theatrical release when I remembered what a great movie it is. Particularly when you are watching a version that hasn't been screwed with. Annie Hall is, in my opinion, Woody Allen's best film. But pit it against Star Wars and there's really no comparison.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Who Should Have Won? (Part II)

Winner: The English Patient
Deserver: Fargo

If only Fargo had come out in Oscar season instead of 8-9 months earlier. I have no doubt that the Coen brothers would have Oscars already. Oh...wait. They do. Well, for Best Picture then. I am a fan of The English Patient. Although I do agree to a point that the title can substitute as a description of a Brit who likes this film. But Fargo was such a unique experience. Funny and even chilling at times. It's not likely the Coens' will do any better than this.

Winner: Braveheart
Deserver: Babe

Oh, God, where do I start? Braveheart had no business winning ANY award, much less the top prizes. It's crap. It has one or two decent moments, but it's crap. And that was such a good year too. Dead Man Walking missed the cut. So did Leaving Las Vegas. And if you want to look at lasting impact, how about Toy Story and The Usual Suspects? Not to mention the other films that DID get nominated, Apollo 13, Sense and Sensibility and, of course, Babe. Unusual does not begin to describe it. But saying it's an ordinary film told in an extraordinary way does. Wonderous is the first word that comes to mind and if the Academy would have opened its eyes that a universal message picture about a talking pig shouldn't be written off as a kiddie movie, it could've won against films like Il Postino.

Winner: Forrest Gump
Deserver: Toss up

Who would have thunk it? A little more than ten years later and the most beloved film of the nominees from 1994 is....The Shawshank Redemption? I saw Shawshank opening day, first showing. I couldn't wait and I loved every moment of that film. And then sat in utter shock after seeing it open in TENTH place at the box office. Duds don't win Best Picture, usually. Which is why could've ruled out Quiz Show as well. A dynamite film, but just missed that extra added who-knows. Four Weddings? You can wipe my butt with that movie. Which leaves probably the most influential film since Star Wars. Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. So influential that it has lost a ton of its impact from being copied so often.

Winner: Schindler's List
Deserver: Schindler's List

It's odd to look back and think about what year that was for Spielberg. People tend not to remember where his career was at that point. He hadn't had a non-Indian Jones hit since E.T. And then came Jurassic Park. And Steven was back on top of the box office. Little did we know what would hit later that year. Certainly not something as gut-wrenching and powerful as Schindler.

Winner: Unforgiven
Deserver: The Crying Game

I will always argue, probably because I'm a writer, that the Best Picture is usually won in the Original Screenplay category. This year was a perfect example. Unforgiven is tremendous. My favorite Western of all-time. But The Crying Game was something special. On a personal note, it has the distinction of being the film I have seen the most times in the theater. Even knowing "the surprise", I just loved that film. So, rather than make the logical argument, let me just chalk this up as a personal preference rather than make the futile argument why I feel it's better. At least Scent of a Woman did not win, as it had at the Golden Globes.

Winner: The Silence of the Lambs
Deserver: The Silence of the Lambs

No twist endings. Nothing really that exceptional, from a story standpoint, about the film. And yet, there is something really remarkable about it. Everything is so matter-of-fact. It lays it out there and we just suck it right in. Deserving of every Oscar it won, although Anthony Hopkins had no business being in the lead category. But if he had been, Nick Nolte might have an Oscar and we never would've seen Jack Palance and the one arm pushups.

Winner: Dances with Wolves
Deserver: Goodfellas

Yeah. I was kidding in the previous blog. But only only the merits of the release versions. Both films run too long. Goodfellas is more painful because of how strong it is earlier in the film. Where as, Dances with Wolves works better when it's longer. The four-hour extended edition is even better than the original. So many of the side stories are fleshed out, whereas in the origunal version, they just felt like little asides. Goodfellas on the other had, it brilliant right up until they kill off Joe Pesci.

Winner: Driving Miss Daisy
Deserver: Driving Miss Daisy

I'm really not sure what the beef exactly is with Daisy's win over Born on the Fourth of July. Is it the lack of a directing nomination for Bruce Beresford? The lack of "epic" quality? The fact that it's a comedy? I don't know. But if seriousness is an issues, how about Daisy's Pulitzer Prize win? How about the fact that the film greatly expands on a 3-person play? Or how about the fact that it is just one terrific character study? Driving Miss Daisy is about good as it gets and totally deserved its win.

Winner: Rain Man
Deserver: Rain Man

I'll tell you right up front my own personal bias towards this film. Two children with autism. Before then, I didn't care much for the film. I just didn't buy it. But seeing what a autistic person is like on a daily basis, it became shocking to me the attention to detail in it. And then I started to believe it. Whereas before, I didn't quite believe Hoffman's performance, now I see him completely disappear. The other films nominated that year were okay. Working Girl is fluff. Mississippi Burning should work, but doesn't. If it did, it would've won over Rain Man. The Accidental Tourist didn't belong in this group. A Fish Called Wanda was more deserving. I'll admit, I've never seen the film Dangerous Liaisons, mainly because I didn't like the play. Although seeing Donna Mills in the Glenn Close role might've had something to do with it.

Winner: The Last Emperor
Deserver: The Last Emperor

I didn't see Bertolucci's masterpiece until about 5 years ago. It just didn't seem like the kind of film I just had to see. So I plopped down on the couch one afternoon and watched it. Completely blown away. The very critic-like phrase of "masterful epic" comes immediately to mind. I sat there transfixed for 3 hours, losing all my bitterness and certainty that Broadcast News was the real Best Picture of that year. Just a superb film.

Up next: 1977-1986

Why couldn't the Academy get ANYTHING right for most of the 80s? Woody Allen or Oliver Stone? Was 1985 the single worst year for Best Picture nominees? Amadeus vs. 4 Salieris. Man in diaper or cuddly alien? How about neither? Man running for his country or man running from 2 ton boulder? Raging Bull or raging menopausal mother? How on earth do you choose from the 1979 slate? Soldiers in Vietnam or out of Vietnam and why the hell is Beatty nominated? Woody Allen or George Lucas?

Friday, March 9, 2007

Who Should Have Won? (Part I)

The Academy Awards are a beautiful thing in the sense that it tends to bring up the kind of fire, passion and devotion usually reserved for the Super Bowl or the World Series. People have their favorites and watch the show to root for them. Which is why the years films like Return of the King and Titanic do so well in the ratings and why the years when films like Chicago and The Hours are the front-runners, no one watches. And most every year, a debate begins over who deserves it more. Not since Schindler's List won in 1993, has there been a year where there was an overwhelming preference to one particular film to go home with the statue. And hence this list:


Winner: The Departed
Deserver: The Queen

There was no question that Martin Scorsese was going to win Best Director. It was so long over due, it was disgusting. But, for me, The Departed did not even belong in the Best Picture category. For one, it's a remake of a very good film. Secondly, if it doesn't have the name Scorsese attached to it, it doesn't even get considered. Thirdly, just by looking at its other nominations, it's obvious the Academy wasn't thinking that highly of it either. A film with DiCaprio, Damon and Nicholson and the only acting nod is for Dirk Digler? No nod for Cinematography or most any other technical award except Editing (which it most certainly did not deserve.) No, the Best Picture of 2006 was a much smaller, more personal film. Stephen Frears' The Queen told a story that most nobody knew, yet it was about a situation that touched most of our lives. The film's most amazing ability is to take extremely well-known figures in our time and make us feel like we really don't know them at all. Plus, a mind-smashingly, epic performance from winner Helen Mirren. If the weakest turn in a film is James Cromwell, you know something is going right. Of the five films chosen, The Queen was the true standout film.

Winner: Crash
Deserver: Capote

Screw Brokeback Mountain. Time will more than likely bring a much truer to life love story between two men. Hell, I have a script about two gay NFL players that has more impact than this one did. And Crash? It's a watered down Do the Right Thing. It is a good film. But there were much better choices that year. Capote was nothing short of brilliant. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers one hell of a performance and rightfully walked away with the Oscar. But the whole movie is full of terrific performances. And just plain heart-stopping from start to finish. Definitely a case when the "message" films should've taken a backseat to the better story.

Winner: Million Dollar Baby
Deserver: Sideways

2004 will probably go down as one of the Academy's finer years for their choices in the Best Picture category. It was painful to watch Martin Scorsese lose to an actor turned director for a third time. But at least Clint Eastwood has been directing for a while. The Aviator is good, but bloated and not one of Scorsese's finer moments. Baby is a great film, but will not have the lasting effect of Sideways. Notice that 3 years later, the wine section in your supermarket is still much bigger than it was before Sideways came out. It's both funny and heart-breaking. It uses it's gimmick merely as a stepping stone to a larger commentary on love and the choices we make.

Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Deserver: See above

There was no question who would win this year, although many were rooting for a Lost in Translation or Mystic River upset. But it wasn't meant to be. Nor should it have been. There's no question that the Rings series will go down as a monumental achievement in filmmaking. Is the final chapter the best one? It's debatable. The multiple endings does get a little wearing. But the sheer spectacle of the whole business along with some classic storytelling and there was just no reason to hand out the grand prize any other way.

Winner: Chicago
Deserver: The Pianist

Where Schindler's List told its tale on a much grander scale, The Pianist drove the added nail home. The holocaust from the perspective of one person. The argument could be made that Polanski's long overdue directing win was about the career more than the film itself. But Adrien Brody's win sort of nullifies that argument. Unlike most people, I still think Chicago is an amazing film. But it's flash over substance leaves it off the list of movies you just had to give it to. Likely, it was more of an award to finally getting it made versus actually being the best picture of the year.

Winner: A Beautiful Mind
Deserver: Moulin Rouge

Much like 2006's Pan's Labyrinth, the film Moulin Rouge was unique in its ability to take a relatively ordinary story and tell it in an extraordinary way. Some people were turned off by the use of modern tunes in turn of the century Paris. But they are just not looking past the fact that they weren't just picking the well-known songs, they were picking the lyrically correct songs for the scene. For me, the scene where we are shown the Moulin Rouge for the first time and the can-can dance that follows it, it is, very simply put, why I go to movies in the first place. It's been just over 5 years since A Beautiful Mind took home the gold and it's already considered an unwise choice.

Winner: Gladiator
Deserver: Traffic

The other time this decade where the better film won Best Director, but the showier film won Best Picture. I'll be honest. I didn't particularly like Gladiator. Outside of Chocolat, I thought it was the weakest of the nominees. And considering this was also the year it went up against Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Erin Brockovich, not to mention Almost Famous, Billy Elliott, Wonder Boys and Requiem for a Dream, films that weren't even nominated, it's kind of amazing that Gladiator was even a contender at all given it's rather cliched subject matter. Traffic, on the other hand, manages to be both entertaining and enlightening. A handful of outstanding performances and carries the kind of multi-layered story the Academy prefers of late. (Crash, Babel)

Winner: American Beauty
Deserver: The Insider

1999 truly left me scratching my head. True, The Insider did not stand a chance, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why. It's a Hollywood insider story. That should've appealed to a lot of people. Pacino and Crowe, there's two more great reasons. True stories tend to win this category. So why not give it to The Insider? It's quite simple. Disney has no idea how to market a serious film for the Oscars. And it was right in the FYC ad wars of Miramax vs. Dreamworks. As a result, a brilliant film like Insider fell by the wayside and an exercise in nihilism takes the prize.

Winner: Shakespeare in Love
Deserver: Toss-up

To this day, I still have no beef with Shakespeare beating Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg's WWII epic is only brilliant in the first 20 minutes. It's just good after Normandy. The story has some major holes and that's what kept it out of the winners' circle. If more people had seen it, The Thin Red Line might have had a shot. Elizabeth felt a little too much like a recycled Godfather. And Life Is Beautiful, that just wasn't going to happen. At the time, and even now, Shakespeare was not a bad choice.

Winner: Titanic
Deserver: L.A. Confidential

It's funny that one of the gripes about Brokeback losing to Crash was based on the former's dominance of the awards leading up to Oscar night. But few remember how badly Confidential obliterated the competition in those same pre-awards in 1997. It swept. But Titanic was the overwhelming crowd favorite. And walked away with the trophy.

Next up in Part II:
Who should've beat The English Patient, Braveheart, Forrest Gump, Unforgiven and Schindler's List (?!). Why Dances with Wolves, Driving Miss Daisy, Rain Man and The Last Emperor really did deserve it. Until then, see ya next week....

Thursday, March 8, 2007

2007 Oscar Recap

Another Oscar year has passed us by and for an unprecedented two years in a row, I picked the wrong damn Best Picture. Well, the Academy did anyway. How they managed to screw it up in each of the feature categories is beyond me?

The only Best Picture nominee NOT better than "The Departed" was "Little Miss Sunshine." But after blowing several opportunities to reward the right Scorsese film, they give it to the wrong one. "The Departed" wasn't even the best version of the film.

"Happy Feet" was definitely not the Best Animated Feature and I thought the timely release of "Cars" on DVD would've given the Academy a second chance to see why.

To be fair, I haven't seen the film that won Foriegn Language film yet, but I can't even imagine it is half the that "Pan's Labyrinth" is, since there are only a handful films that can even compare.

And don't get me started on Documentary. Okay, "An Inconvenient Truth" is an important film. It should be shown in classrooms everywhere. But that's not really how you're supposed to judge these films are you? "Fahrenheit 9/11" would've won for the same reason, but I'll be damned if it was half as compelling as "Super Size Me", which didn't win either, but hey. "Truth", as important and informative as it is, is not nearly as fascinating as "Jesus Camp."

The awards for Director, Actor, Actress and Supporting Actress were gimmes, as well as Original Screenplay. Supporting Actor was a mild surprise, but very mild. Adapted Screenplay was a little more surprising. I was sure this was where Hollywood was going to thumb its collective nose at the right wing and award "Borat." But on repeat viewing of "Infernal Affairs", I think giving it to "The Departed" is a good call.

Among the "lesser" awards, you know, the awards most people don't care about but are the people who make good movies great, "Pan's Labyrinth" got what it deserved in Art Direction, Cinematography and Makeup. I thought "Pirates of the Caribbean" would've snagged Sound Effects with its Visual Effects win, but "Letters from Iwo Jima" was a good choice, if for no other reason than to put this year in Oscar trivia history as one of the few years where all Best Picture nominees won at least one award. Sound for "Dreamgirls" and Score for "Babel" were deserving. I thought the costumes for "Prada" were more impressive, but Costume Design is one of the Academy's most subjective categories.

The only category I vehemently argue is Film Editing. As good as it was in "The Departed", it did not hold a candle to the work in "United 93." Watch the film again some time. It's subtle, but pay attention to how much faster the edits come as the tension grows. It's what made it a brilliant film. The whole film falls apart without it, much like "Black Hawk Down" a few years ago. Why the Academy got it right then, but not now, who's to say?

To sum up, respectable picks this year and everyone can FINALLY shut up about Scorsese never winning. Now, maybe people can start paying attention to the fact that Spielberg has won 2 directing awards without ever having directed an actor to an Oscar. Hell, he's been nominated for 6 times for director, almost as many as the 8 times an actor has even been nominated from one of his films. And 3 of those were for "Color Purple". 2 were for "Schindler's List." In other words, 6 Directing nods, 5 films with any acting nominations. That either makes him even more brilliant or totally overrated as far as spectacle over substance. Let's go there.