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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: David Oyelowo

Interstellar (2014)

Huh?

It’s the near-future and the Earth is slowly dying. There appears to be huge gusts of dusty winds about every couple hours or so, but rather than surrendering and calling it quits, people on Earth have learned to just accept it and make it a daily occurrence. Astronaut-turned-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), also happens to be one of these people, yet, still finds enough time out of his day to teach his kids the simple ways of life that he wants them to live by, no matter how crazy things get for this world. That’s when the bombshell gets totally dropped on him from a former confidante of his (Michael Caine), and is given a task: Take a ship and a crew, and find if there is anywhere out there that the human-population can live on. The catch is that time is a lot different in space, so while Cooper may be traveling to the Milky Way for five or six years, on Earth, it’ll be nearly twenty years. So yeah, while it’s a big sacrifice for Cooper, it’s one that he’s willing to take and does so. But, as one can expect, when you’re out there in the vast, open area that is space, you never know what can happen, or how.

"Alright, alright, alright. What the hell's this?"

“Alright, alright, alright. What the hell’s this?”

If any person out there didn’t think Christopher Nolan was ambitious enough, well then, my friend, think again. Because while Nolan may be something of a household name by now, he still doesn’t adhere totally by the mainstream rules and regulations that so many other films out there follow hook, line, and sinker. Whereas some movies like to make their conclusions clear to us right from the very start and still ask us to just enjoy the ride while it lasts, Nolan appreciates throwing us curve-balls that we never totally expect to see coming, nor do we ever think of while we’re watching any movie, not just his. In other words, Christopher Nolan is the type of film-maker who likes to think outside the box, and in a day and age like this, where wonderful film makers seem to by falling by the waist-side, there’s something to behold and honor, rather than spit on and scoff at.

Then again though, not everybody’s perfect. Meaning, neither is Christopher Nolan.

Yes, I know, say it ain’t so! But sorry, it is. Christopher Nolan, while an ambitious film maker that loves to reach for the stars (and literally so on this occasion) with nearly everything he touches with his creative paws, every once and a blue moon (more space puns), hits a brick wall and can’t help but fumble over his own words. Sort of like how I am with cute girls at bars, but that’s a different story, for a different day, people; this is Christopher Nolan’s story here, and for that, it’s really hard to review. Not because the plot can be easily spoiled with even the slightest, teeniest piece of info/detail, but because my thoughts are still in a bit of a jumble, nearly five days after having already seen it.

FIVE DAYS, PEOPLE!!

Anyway, like I was saying before, there’s something to be said for a fella like Nolan who, while not always make perfect sense with everything he does in his movies, especially his later ones, still finds a way to enthrall his audience with enough pretty stuff on screen to keep people’s minds off of some of the more troubling-aspects of his stories. Like, for instance, how in the hell would NASA be capable of building all of these maintainable, trustworthy space ships to not just transport mostly all of the Earth’s population to a different planet, but to do so in an efficient way that doesn’t make everybody jump from being a young, rowdy, and crazy 21-year-old, to being an old, saggy, and beaten-down 88-year-old?

“Who cares though, Dan? Just look at how wonderfully exquisite deep outer-space is?”, I could imagine one of Nolan’s ultra fanboys pleading to me; to which I’d respond with a swift slap to the face and a big, “Well, yeah, you’re right. I guess,” and then I’d hate them forever for making me accept the fact. Because yes, Interstellar’s production design is beautiful in just about every instance. Although I didn’t see this in IMAX or 70mm like I would have wished, there was still plenty to gaze at and just grab a hold of. Because if there’s anything that Nolan cares about the most, it’s the way his movies look, sound, and overall, feel. If they are able to do this in a lovely manner, this his job, for the most part, is done.

"If we can't have corn, then nobody will!"

“If we can’t have corn, then nobody will!”

But that’s not to say that the rest of this movie is bad, it’s just very disappointing. For instance, the first 2/3′s of this movie are well-done, like I usually expect from a Nolan movie. He sets up the characters nice enough to where we get an understandable feel to them; he creates this futuristic world that isn’t too cheesy on the set-designs, but is more or less, just what the Earth looked like in the 1890′s, before all of this damn electricity began running our lives; and hell, though the explanation behind the main conflict is a bit fumbled, I still rolled with it because it seemed simple enough to get invested in. Simply, this is supposed to be a story about a group of astronauts going out into the deep depths of outer-space, hopping from planet to planet, and as usual, running into the occasional problem here and there.

For me, that’s dumbed-down and easy enough that I don’t care about the extraneous amount of sci-fi exposition Nolan decides to throw at me – I just want to be entertained, bedazzled, and feel as if I am apart of something. This is how the first hour or so felt, and that’s why I was totally on-board with this. In a way, I felt as if this was going to be Nolan’s most ambitious yet, but was totally going to pay-off. Maybe, just maybe, it could have been my favorite of his? The same kind of movie that I desperately plead to my fellow friends and confidantes to give another shot and look deeper into it? That’s what it was going to be, I thought.

Sadly, that’s not how it turned out to be.

See, without me saying too much and ruining the experience for all ya’ll out there, I’ll simply state this: Nolan, more often than not, in the later-part of this movie, decides that he doesn’t know how to keep this movie moving long and hard enough to sustain its nearly three-hour run-time. So, to make sure that none of our minds leave the screen, he constantly throws random plot-points, where certain character’s motivations are hardly ever explained, and we’re left to feel some sort of emotional connection to what is happening. Without saying much, certain characters do some pretty mean, distasteful, and downright idiotic things, but rather than feeling as if it’s a genuine mistake for these fully fleshed-out characters, it feels like Nolan’s just throwing whatever he can at the wall, seeing what sticks, and hoping that he hasn’t lost us just yet.

But that’s exactly what happens. He not only loses us, but seems to dig himself deeper and deeper into the conventional hole of storytelling, where not only can the audience see what’s happening from a mile away, but can also say why. To me, this is an absolute disappointment coming from Nolan, the same kind of director who prides himself in being more than just your average, dime-a-dozen director; he’s the imaginative, relatively original imaginary that dares you to second-guess his directorial choices. Here though, it’s all too clear that whatever Nolan’s been doing for his whole career up to now, there’s a slight disconnect. He wants to be the cool, artsy director that challenges the mainstream into using their brains a little bit more, but still falls for the typical cliche that Hollywood has practically mapped-out for every movie to follow.

Honestly, I could harp on this aspect of the movie until the cows come home, but it wouldn’t do neither you, nor me any good; it would only confuse us more. What I do want to say though, that while the movie may get predictable for its last hour-and-a-half, there’s still always something to watch. Whether it’s in the way in how the camera glides so peacefully over a certain landscape of Nolan’s own creation, listening to that pulse-pounding score that isn’t quite over-bearing, but isn’t subtle either, or paying attention the performances from this well-stacked cast who, with what they’re given try their damn near hardest to make it resonate with anybody watching at home.

Speaking of them, I think it’s best for me to remind people that while Nolan’s movie may misfire plenty by the end, the cast always stays decent and hardly ever strays away from being as such. Matthew McConaughey is in his comfort-zone as Cooper, but it’s a comfort-zone that I almost never get tired of, especially when he’s able to make his character a complicated individual that, given what we know about the task he has, we are told to like and root for. It’s easy because McConaughey is such a charming presence and is able to make every line in which his character spouts science gibberish, seem believable.

Something that, ten years ago, probably would have never happened. But thus, we live in a world where the McConaissance is alive and well.

My feelings exactly.

My feelings exactly.

And thank heavens for that, too.

Another one to chat about is Anne Hathaway who is good in her role as another astronaut that Cooper ends up bonding with a bit, but soon begins to get annoying to watch when we realize that Nolan doesn’t have much confidence in this character to make her a reasonable, thoughtful human. Her character not only makes a few life-changing, dumb mistakes, but even has the gull to say that they happened because of “L-O-V-E”. I won’t say who she says this about, or why, but it’s absolutely ludicrous to think that Nolan would ever throw this into a film and it’s just another sign that he needed some sort of help to keep this movie’s train a movin’.

Though, as poorly-written as Hathaway’s character may be, at least she’s given something to do, whereas the rest of the cast is sort of left in the dust. Talented peeps such as Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, Jessica Chastain, David Gyasi, and yes, even Topher Grace, are mostly left in the background for the majority of the movie. And while it’s nice to see their bright and shining faces in such a wonderfully-looking movie, it feels like a waste of some genuine talents that deserve so much more to work with, all credibility aside.

But, at the end of the day, this is a Christopher Nolan movie and what it all really comes down to is this: Do you want to see it in theaters, or not? Personally, I think it’s worth the trip to the theaters, because even while it gets silly by the end, there’s still something stunningly beautiful about this movie that not only compels you enough to pay attention to what’s going on, and even think about what exactly is happening. Even if it doesn’t fully make sense, it’s still making you latch open your brain and do something with it that you maybe haven’t been able to do with many other movies.

And that, my friends, is how Christopher Nolan rolls. For better, and definitely, for worse.

Consensus: Ambitious to a certain fault, Interstellar finds Christopher Nolan grabbing for whatever he can think of next, and while it occasionally works, he falls on his face a bit too many times to make this still feel like something of a disappointment, albeit, a very interesting one that’s worth at least checking out. In the biggest, loudest, and best theaters possible. Trust me.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Uhm. Yeah.

Uhm. Yeah. This happens.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbizGoggle Images

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The Last King of Scotland (2006)

Fear the lazy eye.

Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) has just graduated from school and has no idea what to do with his life, nor how to make the best use of his talents. He then decides to spin his globe, stop it with his finger, and wherever it lands, he will go to and try out his profession there. Miraculously, his finger lands on Uganda, which leads him to an even more miraculous twist of fate when he becomes very close with Uganda’s most iconic, most barbaric figures in history: Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). At first, they develop a friendship over sheer understanding and joyfulness of just being around one another, but once things in Uganda start to get hotter and more riotous, Amin’s true colors show, and their friendship becomes strained. So strained that James wants to leave and get the hell out of town, yet, what he doesn’t know is that when he accepted Amin’s friendship, he also accepted all of the problems and pitfalls that would come along with the man’s dictatorship as well.

It seems like every other year, we get a movie about Africa suffering and how the white people came into to try and sweep it all away. Sometimes they do work and offer us plenty of thoughts to toil around in our heads, and other times, they feel like a sad-sap attempt at a bunch of white Hollywood liberals trying to throw their guilt onto us. It’s almost as if we did something wrong, just by deciding to do nothing, even though they’re country has been killing themselves from the outside-in for many, many years, and hasn’t seem to slow itself down a bit. However, this is a movie review blog, and it shall stay as that. So all political-stances aside, let’s get back on with the movie we have at hand here.

"No, no. no, my fine people. Over 300,000 Ugandans dead is a good thing."

“No, no. no, my fine people. Over 300,000 Ugandans dead is a good thing.”

So yeah, The Last King of Scotland. Pretty good movie, want to know why? Well, remember what I was just talking about in the last paragraph about how Hollywood uses the suffering of Africa to make us all feel guilty and spoiled in our righteous minds? Well, surprisingly, director Kevin Macdonald doesn’t take that stance, and instead gives us a story about the powers of evil and corruption, and how easy it is to be succumbed by. While you can tell that Macdonald feels like Africa should have been better aided in terms of where they were headed and who could have helped them out, he surprisingly keeps things rooted in a sense of realism, despite the story being fictitious in a sense.

Don’t have me taken as an idiot: I know that Idi Amin was a real person and is considered one of the most notable faces of the 20th Century, but the story of the Scottish doctor, who later became his personal physician, only to become his personal whipping-boy, isn’t true. It’s simply a character used to place us in on the side-lines as we watch and witness all of the terrible things that Admin did throughout his reign as dictator of Uganda. However, we never quite get to see all of those terrible, horrible things, despite them being mentioned to many of times (most notably at the end when a post-script says that he killed over 300,000 Ugandans). We hear about the “disappearances” of the people closest Garrigan, and maybe one or two shots of being, *ahem*, shot and killed, but never anything so brutal and realistic to the point of where we understand this man’s brutality and horror that he bestowed upon citizens that he considered “his people”. Sounds like a weird complaint, I know, but it just made me feel like I was only getting Garrigan’s story, and nothing else; which felt like sort of a cheap-attempt at getting past all of terribly real, awful stories that actually happened, to real-life human-beings.

That said, it’s a movie, and I can’t hate on it for everything that it was supposed to be in my eyes, and not what it is. And what it is, if you must know, is a pretty solid movie considering how easily left-ended this flick could have went. The main character, Nicholas Garrigan could have easily been a distasteful piece of work that we not only love to hate, but want to see bad things happen to, just so we feel better about our own insecurities about not being as privileged, good-looking and as charming as he is. And for a quite awhile: He totally is that type of character. He’s snobby; he’s in way too over his head; he falls too quickly in love with the glamorous life that comes with the title of being the dictator’s “closest and most-trusted”; and he gets his magic-stick stuck in some places that no man would ever dream of being stuck, ever, and yet, we still care for him and want to see him come out of this whole situation alive.

A lot of that credit for making this character work deserves to go towards to Macdonald, but it also deserves to go to James McAvoy as well, because he’s able to make us sympathize with this dude, all because he shows us that he’s human, and what would a human like you or I do in the same type of situation he’s in? Would you throw away all possibilities of having a grand-spanking, awesome time living in it up in Uganda? Or, would you take it, follow the first instinct that comes to your mind in any given situation, and still live it up in Uganda? I feel like I would take it as well, especially knowing the type of guy I was dealing with in this type of situation; and for that, McAvoy deserves credit because he makes us feel like we’re watching a real, honest and truthful person that yes, makes a whole bunch of mistakes along the way, but still has his mind and heart in the right place to where you could see him pulling it all off at the end. Also, not forget to mention that every lady he runs into, instantly falls head-over-heels for him, and seconds later, fall right into the comforts of his own bed and living-space.

"Here is my third wife. You can bang her as you please. I have too many wives to keep a full-watch of."

“Here is my third wife. You can bang her as you please. I have too many wives to keep a full-watch of.”

Dirty, cad-like Scot. That Anne-Marie Duff sure is a lucky gal.

But as I’m sure you all know by now, even though McAvoy is the leading-character in this whole movie, he’s not the main centerpiece to what this story is really all about. Who is, is Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, giving one of his greatest performances ever, and I’m not just saying that because he won an Oscar for this. No, he really is THAT good and shows us that he can take a famous, real-life figure such as Amin, spin the way we view him as a monster, and make us see the world and his decisions from his side of the desk. Don’t worry though, it’s not like the movie makes a reasonable-argument for the mass-murders that he committed under his reign and shows that he was just a troubled dude; no, instead, it gives us a glimpse at a real dude, who had lovable and charming features to him, but also had some very evil and monstrous ones as well, and sadly, they began to take over his whole persona later on in his life and in his reign. But where Whitaker succeeded the most in portraying this man was not by giving us a sympathetic figure, but by showing us just how pure hatred can overcome a man, take all of the nice qualities about his character away from him, and drive away any sort of logical thinking or reasoning from his mind. It’s scary to think that this guy who one second, could be hugging and kissing a bunch of Ugandan women and babies, telling them that “they’re the future faces of Uganda”, and then the next, could be yelling at the top of his lungs about how he wants respect and will stop at nothing to get it, even if violence is needed, and was the figure everybody believed into to save them all from their dreadful days of living and pick them right up from the ground. But what’s even scarier, is how well Whitaker allows us to see a man who obviously had nice things going for him, but just lost sight of what they were once his power became too big, even for him. Great performance, and it’s one that reminds me why this dude is the finest, working-actor out there today.

All Battlefield Earth jokes aside.

Consensus: Less of a character-study, and more of a look at how hatred, anger and evilness can boil inside a person’s mind for so long, The Last King of Scotland features Forest Whitaker’s best performance of all-time, one that goes beyond the usual, “noticeably, bad guy-gone-sympathetic” route we usually see from biopics, and instead, gives us a raw, unrelenting, gritty look at what the type of man he could have been, had he not gone so far off the radar with his own sense of self-worth.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"WE! WE! WE ARE UGANDA! And some white Scot."

“WE! WE! WE ARE! UGANDA! Along with some white Scottish dude.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)

Good call on making it Lee Daniels’ The Butler, because there would have been a whole lot of confusion differentiating this movie, from the 1916 short film of the same name.

The years from 1952 to 1986 saw a lot of change. Change in economy; change in society; change in people; change in politics; and just change in general. However, the one thing that didn’t change in this world was Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), and the job that he had as a White House butler. Remember though, he was the butler for more than 8 presidential terms, and saw them all: He started with Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams) and ended with Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman), and witnessed all of the change, the turmoil, the happiness, the problems, and all of the social happenings that occurred in our country, and had the best seat in the house. However, on his home-front, away from the very white, very rich people who lived in the nation’s capitol, Cecil Gaines found it a little hard to keep everybody in his happy, mainly his drunken wife (Oprah Winfrey) and rebellious, but racially-inspired son (David Oyelowo).

When you see a movie like The Butler (which I will continue to call it for the rest of this review), you have to know what you’re getting yourself into right from the start. Obviously its going to be predictable, ham-handed, preachy, episodic, and beyond earnest, but that’s what you expect with something that people are considering “The Civil Rights movement meets Forrest Gump“, right? But like with most movies of this type of nature, if you can get past all of the politics of what the story’s trying to get across, then you can actually find yourself a bit touched by this story, even a little inspired. Nope, I am not black and nope, I am not a Civil Rights activist that still fights to this day, but I’ll be damned if this movie didn’t make me want to raise my fist up to the white man!

"Dear Lord, please get this black man out of dining-area. He's scaring the shit out of me."

“Dear Lord, please get this black man out of dining-area. He’s scaring the shit out of me.”

What’s very strange about this movie though, and what ultimately does it itself in, is that it’s seemingly two movies spliced into one, 2-hour-long feature. One is a flick about a meek and kind butler working for these rich, white politicians who are sometimes as mean a they come; while the other is a flick about a father and a son who obviously love and care for one another, but can’t find an agreement on where they both stand when it comes to the Civil Rights movement, and what needs to be done in order to get the same respect and gratitude that the white man’s been practically getting forever. One’s very interesting, if a little conventional, while the other is surprisingly well-told, and holds most of the core emotions that Lee Daniels himself has this flick bottle-up, just in hopes that it will eventually cork right open and have everybody crying in their seats.

Eventually the cork does come flying out and the emotions do run high, but it could have hit harder, had the other-half of this movie not been so coincidental.

And yes, I do get that if Gaines’ story didn’t have some sort of meaning in the grander scheme of things, then ultimately, we wouldn’t have a freakin’ flick; but some of this is just a little too hard to let slide by. A couple of scenes with Gaines and the president-at-the-time felt honest, realistic, and believable (mainly the ones with JFK, played very well by James Marsden, who not only looks, but feels the part, for as short of a running-time as he gets), but others just claw their nails into your face, just trying their hardest to get a tear out of you. The scenes with Nancy and Ronald Reagan mean well, but end up somehow spitting in the face of both of those familiar faces, making them seem more like fame-whores, rather than actual humans, that were considered at one time, the saviors of this country. I guess hating on Nixon is all fair game by now, but the Reagans? Really?!?! Oh well, maybe it’s just me, but something with their story left a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

But then of course we have the stronger-half of the movie: The father-son drama, that’s more compelling than it ought to be. I don’t know who to chalk up the credit to for this part of the movie working the most, so I’ll just give it to all involved with it. Firstly, Lee Daniels has never really impressed me with anything he’s done yet as a director, mainly because the dude’s nowhere near being subtle. Even Precious, as dramatic as it was, was completely over-the-top and got away with it all, because it was adapted from something people consider “truer than art”. Didn’t see that at all, but whatever. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid on that notion, but hey, I guess it’s time to get blind-sided every once and awhile, right?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Daniels doesn’t pull as many punches here, and it shows. When he keeps it grounded in a sense of comforting reality, you feel closer to these characters and have an emotional-placement in them and what it is that they do. Sometimes Daniels gets a little too over-his-head with various cuts to news footage of the South, where it was practically legal to kill a black person (only if you were a white person that is), but overall, the guy made sure that his story stayed on track and never lost sight of what he was really trying to tell us here. Maybe Gaines’ story didn’t impact the world like Daniels thinks it does, but it definitely is a story worth telling, especially on the big screen, and you can tell that Daniels loves that fact and doesn’t want to lose us, or our interest.

Like I was saying though, the aspect of this movie that mainly keeps it going throughout is the father-son relationship between Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo, two actors who give their best work in a long time, especially for the former, who has been churning out dull-role-after-dull-role ever since he won “The Big One” way back in ’06. Both characters, Cecil and Louis, are fighting a fight and doing it all for a cause; and that’s racism. But what separates one from the other is how they’re doing it. Cecil stays loyal, workable, and dedicated to his job, just to show that a black man can make a living in the White House, even if he isn’t at the head of it; while Louis, on the other hand, believes that taking to the streets is the one, and possibly only, way to get your voice heard and to make matters finished. At first, when he’s teaming-up with MLK, it’s all about resilience and control, but once the man gets assassinated, and Malcom X takes over the wheel, then it all becomes about violence, installing fear into society, and doing a whole bunch of other questionable acts that would end anyone in a slammer, regardless of their skin-color.

"Don't worry baby, I'll just buy you the White House."

“Don’t worry baby, I’ll just buy you the White House. I mean, cause Christ, I’m Oprah, bitch!”

Anyway though, I’m avoiding the fact that these two, despite them being both father and son, are fighting the same battle. They want to speak their minds and be heard for the rest of the world to take notice of, but are doing it completely differently, if not at the same time. But they don’t disagree with how either goes about it, and that just causes more friction between the two, even when they aren’t together. It’s very clever how Daniels stretches this aspect of their story, and it never gets old or over-done, especially since Whitaker and Oyelowo inject their characters with some real-life heart and trouble. Whitaker gives the type of tour-de-force performance that always is able to get his name noticed come Oscar season, but it’s mainly Oyelowo who shows us that he’s capable of taking someone who’s a little too young and brass to fully get a grip on the world, and still be arrogant about it. Yet, at the same time, still fully gain our sympathy because we know his heart is in the right place, it’s just that he doesn’t have the total understanding on what the world means or where it’s going to end up. Pretty interesting stuff once you think about it, and thankfully, Daniels doesn’t hammer that idea in too much, to where it practically becomes over-shadowing everything else; even if it still does, unintentionally so.

And the rest of the ensemble is great too, if not a bit too stacked for it’s own good. Going into this movie, I felt like I was going to be annoyed to high heavens of Oprah Winfrey here as Cecil’s wife, Gloria, all because it seemed like a piece of stunt-casting used just to get the movie’s name out there more and more for the rest of the world to see (because honestly: Everybody loves Oprah!). I have no qualms with Oprah, but it seemed like a dumb idea to cast her here, if not a very obvious one. However, the woman totally shocked the hell out of me with her portrayal here because she never over-does it, always brings out something new within this character, and charmed me with every scene she was in. Heck, she even made me forget I was watching Oprah act as somebody that wasn’t Oprah! Didn’t think it would happen, and nearly thought I was doomed once I saw her face on the big screen, but she sure did show my pretentious ass. Glad she did, too.

Also, glad to see my main man, Cuba Gooding Jr., getting more work and still being able to knock it out of the park. Take note, Hollywood. The man may be on his comeback trail. Guess Daddy Day Camp wasn’t such the career-killer everybody thought it was….okay, yeah, it was. But still, he’s back, baby!

Consensus: Lee Daniels’ The Butler touches plenty of schmaltz throughout it’s 2-hour running-time, but does it so in a way that will actually compel you, while also serving a history-lesson on how far we’ve come as a nation, and how many times we’ve screwed-up in the past. However, the future looks bright and that’s something I feel that is worth seeing, especially during these hard times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

When he isn't responding to politicians who want his input on legal matters, the Butler still finds enough time to stare out into space, still being unresponsive. Whatta man.

When he isn’t responding to politicians who want his input on legal matters, the Butler still finds enough time to stare out into space, still being unresponsive. Whatta man.

Photos Credit to: IMDBCollider, JobloComingSoon.net

My Predictions for the 2013 Oscars

Everybody, everybody, everybody!

It’s that time of the year again that we’ve all been waiting for. A whole year has been prepping for this and it’s finally come! The 2013 Oscars!

WOOOOO-HOOO!!

Since the Ceremony is tonight (let’s hope Seth MacFarlane doesn’t pull a James and Anne), here are my predictions on what could possibly happen, and a tiny-bit of my own thoughts because let’s face it: nobody is ever fully-pleased with the Academy Awards! That’s just the way the world works, people, but hey, enough of me, let’s get on with the predictions, shall we?

BEST PICTURE:

Will Win: Argo

Should Win: Django Unchained

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST ACTRESS:

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence

Should Win: Jessica Chastain

Dark Horse: Emmanuelle Riva

BEST ACTOR:

Will Win: Daniel-Day Lewis

Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix

Dark Horse: Denzel Washington (nobody will ever beat DDL)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones

Should Win: Christoph Waltz

Dark Horse: Philip Seymour Hoffman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Will Win: Anne Hathaway

Should Win: Anne Hathaway

Dark Horse: Amy Adams (like she’s gonna win)

BEST ANIMATED FILM:

Will Win: Wreck-it Ralph

Should Win: Wreck-it Ralph

Dark Horse: Brave

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT, BEST ANIMATED SHORT, BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE-ACTION):

I never had a chance to see any of these flicks. But I’m sure they are fine pieces of short-cinema, and hope somebody wins here.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST  COSTUME DESIGN:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Les Miserables

Dark Horse: Anna Karenina

BEST DIRECTOR:

Will Win: Steven Spielberg

Should Win: Ang Lee

Dark Horse: David O. Russell

BEST DOCUMENTARY:

Will Win: Searching for Sugar Man

Should Win: The Invisible War

Dark Horse: How to Survive a Plague

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

Will Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Should Win: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Dark Horse: Les Miserables

BEST EDITING:

Will Win: Argo

Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty

Dark Horse: Lincoln

BEST FOREIGN FILM:

Will Win: Amour

Should Win: Amour

Dark Horse: No

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Lincoln

Dark Horse: Life of Pi

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

Will Win: “Skyfall”

Should Win: “Skyfall”

Dark Horse: “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” (the guy’s hosting, so why the hell not?!?)

BEST SOUND EDITING:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Django Unchained

BEST SOUND MIXING:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Skyfall

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Will Win: Life of Pi

Should Win: Life of Pi

Dark Horse: Marvel’s The Avengers (would be pretty awesome)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Will Win: Lincoln

Should Win: Silver Linings Playbook

Dark Horse: Argo

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Will Win: Django Unchained

Should Win: Django Unchained

Dark Horse: Moonrise Kingdom

So, there ya have it, folks! Another year down, another year for the Oscar’s. Enjoy and have fun! Let’s hope that Big Ben pulls it out big in the end.

The Paperboy (2012)

Would have been better, had it been based on the Nintendo games.

Ward, a reporter (Matthew McConaughey) and his younger brother, a college drop-out named Jack (Zac Efron) investigate the events surrounding a murder to exonerate a man on death row, named Hillary (John Cusack). However, the only reason they are doing so is because the gal that wants Hillary out, a sexxed-up, piece of work named Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), just so happens to be the apple of Jack’s eyes.

I’ve been hearing a lot of crazy shit about this film and to be honest: it’s all deserved. Everybody knows Lee Daniels because he pulled-off Precious about 4 years ago and it showed him as the type of director that can get a story, no matter how gritty or despicable, and be able to make it in the least-bit inspirational for people. However, it wasn’t his first rodeo, as that honor (and I guess, dishonor) goes to a little, fucked-up movie called Shadowboxer. If you’ve never heard of it, please, don’t go watch it because it’s just an insane piece of work to watch and it will have you question whether or not you’ve just watched two films, from the same director. And if you have heard or have actually seen it, then buckle up, because that exactly the same type of crazy shit you’re going to get here.

As much as Daniels’ debut may have blew huge gonads, this flick is actually more controlled than that one and that’s probably because it’s just wild, without making any excuses for being so. There’s definitely that type of grungy, exploitative look and feel to the movie that has you feel as if you are in the dirty South, around the 60′s when racial-issues were up to the forefront and everybody was just sweating their asses off. If anything Daniels does do right in this flick, it’s at least nail the look and feel of the period that he has it placed-in, but everything else, well, it is sort of all-over-the-place.

Being “all-over-the-place” isn’t really all that much of bad thing if you can do it, and get away with it. The problem isn’t that Daniels can’t do it, because he sure as hell makes sure that everybody knows he can in every, damn second of this movie, but it’s more that he can’t get away with it. He can show two people making each other cum without ever touching one another and just simulating dirty things to one another, but it sticks out like a sore-thumb to everything else, and he can’t get away with it; he can show a girl peeing on a guy because he got stung by a bunch of jelly-fish, but it’s just odd and seems like it was only done for shock-factor, and he also can’t get away with it; and lastly, he can try and bring some issues up about the whole Civil Rights-movement, but when you compare it to the last sequences I just mentioned, it seems uneven, and once again, he can’t get away with it. Directors like Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodóvar (who apparently wanted to take this material at one time), or even Robert Rodriguez  for that matter, could take this material, do whatever the hell they wanted to with it, and at least make all of the crazy shit and melodramatic stuff gel well enough together, that you almost don’t notice it, but Daniels isn’t one of those directors. He’s just a regular-director that seems like he’s trying his damn near hardest to have us all forget about the over-weight girl story he pulled-off 4 years ago, and try to distract us with insane amounts of sex, whether it actually happen on-screen or just be insinuated. Either way, there’s a bunch of sex that seems to come out nowhere at times.

Look what you've been missing out on, Tom!

Look what you’ve been missing out on, Tom!

Is all of this wackiness and cookiness fun? In a way, yes it is and honestly, as much as I may be ragging on the film right here, I am more or less just hating on Daniels. Not to say that the guy doesn’t know how to make a story move, because he definitely does, but it focuses way too much on the personal lives of these characters and not in an exciting or electric way either, it’s just a boring, way-too-dramatic way that comes off as trying too hard. We never really care for these characters, the case they continue to push to the side, or what their relationships are with each other and how that affects one another, and I guess that was the point. Daniels is just giving us a bunch of dirty people that we can either care to like or not. Whether or not we actually do, doesn’t matter, because as long as Daniels is just allowing us to see how insane he can be, then he’s the one with the real joy in the end. That kind of ticks me off now that I think about it, because there was definitely a crap-ton of promise with this flick and premise, it’s just a shame that it had to fall so far from ever achieving that said promise.

The only promise that this flick ever does hit head-on, is the ensemble cast and what they are able to do with each of their roles, no matter how wacky or unbelievable they may be. Zac Efron is the sort-of voice of reason throughout this whole flick and is definitely growing-up right in front of our own eyes, but if you think about it, it is sort of a dull role for the guy but nowhere near as dull as the role Robert Pattinson had in Cosmopolis. Still, Efron makes this character work and his performance shows-off a kid that definitely wants to be treated like an adult, yet, still has the tendencies of a kid that just doesn’t yet know what to do with his life or who to spend the rest of it with. Sort of how Efron is now, just without being peed-on. Then again, I still have no idea what him and Vanessa Hudgens did in their spare-time.

Playing his big bro, Matthew McConaughey is good as the slick and sly reporter that can not only charm his way into getting whatever the hell he wants, but also has a bit of problems brewing underneath that he’s pretty good at hiding. This is a nice role for McConaughey and it’s one that he can practically play while sleeping, but after a year where tore the roof down as force to be reckoned with in flicks like Killer Joe and Magic Mike, this one definitely ranks the lowest-of-the-low for him. Not to say it’s bad, but it’s not to say that it’s anything special, either. John Cusack is playing really, really against-type here as the psychotic and nutty Hillary, and shows that Cusack can probably do more than any of us ever expected from him. He’s strange, he’s weird, but he’s also very sinister and I like how Cusack totally just swan-dived right into the role, totally leaving all shades and memories behind of Peter Gabriel tapes in his pathway. Not to say that this is a special performance that makes us think of Cusack in a different way now, but it’s definitely a role that shows the guy can do more than just be that old dude from the 80′s we all remember relating to when our dates walked-out on us at prom. Yeah, that he is no more.

Better get used to that look, because that's all you're going to see him look half of the damn movie!

Better get used to that look, because that’s all you’re going to see him look half of the damn movie!

The one who really steals the spotlight from the rest of these dudes is Nicole Kidman, as the starlet fire fox, Charlotte. Kidman hasn’t been this sexy or bad-ass since the days of Eyes Wide Shut and To Die For, but here, she totally steals all the glory and attention, and has all of the fun out of everybody here. She just relishes in the fact that she can be sexy, be a little dirty, but also be a little bit sympathetic as well and once things start to go South for her and this story, she’s the only one you really give a single hoot about, especially since she’s the only one that has the most believable convictions out of the whole story (she just wants love). Kidman is probably getting the most recognition and praise for her work here and rightfully so, because the gal just looks freakin’ hot and steams up every scene she’s in, whether she’s trying to seduce people and act sexy, or not. Either way, Kidman definitely had my attention in almost every scene and I’m glad so, too, because she deserved it.

Consensus: You may have a boat-load of fun with The Paperboy if you’re looking for some weird shit to happen, non-stop without any rhyme or reason as to why exactly, but if not, then you may just be bored and annoyed by how uneven everything is, despite Daniels trying his hardest to make us think or see otherwise. You strike-out this time, my friend!

6/10=Rental!!

"I triiiiiiieeeed to not get type-castedddd....."

“I triiiiiiieeeed to not get type-castedddd…..”

Lincoln (2012)

Sorry guys, no vampires this time around.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the sixteenth President of the United States of America, also known as Abraham Lincoln, and paints a portrait of him during the tumultuous final months of his life, during which he fights to abolish slavery by putting forth an amendment in the House of Representatives.

For over a decade now, we have all been waiting for Steven Spielberg to deliver on his promise of an actual, Abraham Lincoln biopic and for awhile there, it was going to happen. Actually, at one-point, Liam Neeson was supposed to star as Honest Abe but Neeson himself even declared he was “too old” for the role, even though Daniel Day is five years younger than him, but hey, if Oskar Schindler says no, Oskar Schindler means no. Thankfully though, after all of this time, Spielberg delivers on his promise and gives us a movie that isn’t quite the epic biopic we were all expecting out there. Hell, it’s the farthest thing from actually.

Instead of going for the full-scale, sweeping epic idea that he has gone with on such pictures like War Horse, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, Spielberg takes a step-back and decides to play it down a little bit and make it a more intimate, focused piece of work that doesn’t focus on Lincoln’s whole life, but the last couple months of his life where he had to put up with all of these problems, that it’s a real wonder how the guy didn’t just die of a heart-attack right then and there. In a way, a part of me wishes that Spielberg went all-out here and tackle Abe through his life, but seeing him in the latter years of his life does seem like a better fit for Spielberg to play it safe, and not get way too in over his head, like he has been known to get in recent-years. However, that’s not to say that Spielberg still doesn’t have what it takes to deliver some the top-notch directing moments we all know and love him for.

I think what really intrigued me the most about this flick was how it shows just how hard it was, and probably still is, to get a bill passed and all of the twists and turns that come along with that mission. Abe had to talk to a lot of people, had to plan out a lot of ideas in his head, had to win over a crap-load of people, and most of all, had to still keep it in his mind to do the right thing. It’s a very hard, especially in today’s day and age of politics, to not only do the right thing but also keep with that idea in your head and never mess-up on that. Abe never gets dirty with where he gets with his mission to abolish slavery, and it’s really fresh to see considering this is a guy that America still reveres to this day.

We get a great glimpse at a guy, we can only read about in bore-fest books and Spielberg, for the most part, delivers on that spectrum. The story is as simple as they come, yet, Spielberg never loses sight of what he really wants to show and what he really wants to convey and we get that perfectly. It’s a slow-burn of a movie, but Spielberg keeps it surprisingly entertaining with a couple of nice touches here and there where we feel like we are placed in the same exact setting that the movie’s portraying, and also feel like we’re on the edge-of-our-seat, wondering just how the hell this bill is going to get passed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all know that the bill gets passed and whatnot, but the film still kept me wishing and hoping that it would, considering there is so much anger and aggression against it, that’s a huge wonder how it didn’t continued to get denied until this very day.

However, I still can’t lie to you and tell you that I loved this movie, because I really didn’t. The problem I had with this movie was that it would go on for so long (it clocks in at 150 minutes, if that tells you anything already) with just talking, arguing, and political-jargon being used, that I actually felt myself dozing off a couple of times and wondering when they were going to get a move on with this story. Playing it subdued and intimate was a nice approach that Spielberg decided to use, but when your whole film is about a bunch of people just talking about a bill that we all know gets passed at the end of it all, well, it can be a bit repetitive, as well as, dare I say it, boring.

Another problem I had with this movie was that I wasn’t as emotionally-invested as I feel so many other people were with this movie. Ever since this movie came out, I’ve been seeing reviews from people that are just talking about how much they couldn’t handle their emotions during this film and just had to let out all of the tears. My question is, how the hell are all of these people crying at a movie that’s about a story we all know, a history-figure we all think we know, and features a screenplay, where everybody talks and hollers at each other in this sophisticated, political language that is rarely ever muttered in today’s day and age (thank god for that, too)? Seriously, I would get it if we all watched Lincoln from the start of his life, to the end of it but something just did not connect with me and have the water-works moving at the end. Instead, I felt like I knew the man more than I ever did before and I think that’s all I needed, really, a history lesson, not a life-changing experience.

However, I don’t blame these people for getting emotional, either, because when you have Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead, it’s hard not to tear-up. As always, Daniel Day is perfect in a lead role that shows him off to be one of the finest actors we have working today but it’s not the type of role you’d expect from the guy. With roles like Bill Cutting and Daniel Plainview being some of his most famous in recent time, it’s a refresher to see him go back to his old-ways and play soft, gentle, and kind fellow that means no harm to anyone around him, but just wants to do what he thinks is right for the country and what feels right in his heart. He’s obviously a nice guy that you can tell has some real charm to him that wins everybody over that he meets, as well as a knack for story-telling that are some of the funniest, if not thought-provoking pieces of tales that I have ever heard. How many times did Honest Abe break out of regular-conversation just to tell a story about a man and his farm? I don’t know and I don’t care. All I do know is that they were lovely stories to hear, mainly because it was Daniel Day who was delivering them in his sweet, gentle voice that doesn’t even seem recognizable in the least bit.

Daniel day lights up the screen every time he pops-up on it and delivers one of the finest performances of the year, and really does have you sympathize and feel something for a man we rarely know about how he was in life. We read about it in books, but it’s all up in the air as to what or who this guy really was in real-life, but I think Daniel Day’s portrayal is the most accurate depiction we can all go along with and agree on. If Daniel day doesn’t get a nomination this year, hell will freeze over, but then again, I think it’s a pretty sure thing that no matter what the movie the guy signs up to do, he’s going to get an Oscar-nomination regardless and you know what? I have no problem with that because this guy is an actor’s actor, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. That was a pretty obvious statement though, because everybody looks forward to what the guy does next, it’s all just a matter of how long will it take this time around.

Even though Daniel Day is perfect in this lead role, he almost gets the spotlight taken away from him from an actor that could also be considered “an actor’s actor”. Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens in a way that we all know and love Jones for playing his roles. He’s cranky, he’s old, he’s witty, and most of all, he’s a bastard that you do not want to go toe-to-toe with when it comes to an argument. As Stevens, Jones allows this fact to be even more truer than we already know it to be and really gives us a glimpse at a man that may even want this bill passed more than Lincoln himself, and there’s an amazing, final scene with him that shows us why. Jones is on-fire in this role and I really do think that he’s a sure-thing for an Oscar nomination this year and I do not disagree with that one-bit because the guy is always spectacular, he’s just been wasting too much of his time as Agent K to really allow us to see what is so spectacular about him in the first-place.

Playing Lincoln’s wife, Sally Fields probably gives one of her best performances I’ve seen from her in the longest time. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln the same exact way you’d expect her to play her, she’s weird, she’s paranoid, she’s always angry, but yet, she’s always supportive of what Abe does and to see that play out in this film is a thing of beauty, considering her and Daniel Day have great husband-wife chemistry between the two. As opposed to Jones and Lewis, I don’t think Fields is a sure-shot for an Oscar nomination this year, but hey, if she does end up getting one I will not be pissed in the least bit. The gal is great with all that she’s given and it’s finally time that somebody’s given her a role to chew down on.

This whole movie is filled with a supporting cast that will probably shock you by how many names it really does have and to be honest, there’s a bit of a problem with that. See, there are so many damn people in this movie that even though they are all so good with each and every one of their own, respective roles, it becomes a bit of a waste to see such good talent in roles that sometimes don’t show-up on-screen for any longer than 5 minutes. Having a huge, supporting cast is great if you want to make sure every character is well-done, and every performance is good but after awhile, it sort of starts to tick you off once you realize that half of these people can do some quality work in their own flicks, they just aren’t given the chance all that much. Still, it’s great to see such big names show up in a production together and show how much people still want to work with Spielberg.

Consensus: Lincoln may take some people by surprise to how it plays-out, but if you can handle a bunch of talking, then it will definitely keep you watching from beginning-to-end with a spectacular lead performance from Daniel Day, and a message about doing the right thing, no matter who gets in the way that is still relevant today, especially in the world of politics.

8/10=Matinee!!

Red Tails (2012)

It’s like a mixture of ‘Flyboys’ without all of the white people and ‘Miracle at St. Anna’ without all of the whatever the hell else Spike Lee put in there.

The film is based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all black combat squadron who fought in World War 2. Besides the war against the enemies overseas the men also had to fight against racism and prejudice in the military and back home.

And so marks my first ever press screening ever after about 2 years of reviewing films. Yay!! It was great to see the packed crowd, all of the soldiers in uniform, fellow press agents, and even the original dudes that this film is based on, but for some reason that wasn’t enough to get by the fact that this film is pretty bad in the first place.

Although the film is directed by first-timer Anthony Hemingway, it still feels very much like a George Lucas flick, who actually produced this and tried to get it off the ground for over 23 years even using his own money. This could have easily been directed by Lucas because everything here just feels like him. Everything here feels dull from the characters, to the story, to the planes, and even to the special effects which over-power just about every scene to where it’s noticeable right away and very distracting.

The film’s script also tries so hard to be funny, dramatic, and moving but just comes off as terribly hokey. I was in a crowd full of people that laughed at just about every single damn word that these characters said but I couldn’t find a single, genuine laugh other than when the characters were all trying to be serious. The tale itself though is a very important one none the less and I was at least glad that this was actually getting some love for the first time but it’s all bogged-down by the painful predictable story arcs. Anybody who has seen this kind of film before can definitely notice all of the clichés here such as the love-story sub-plot that still seems forced no matter what, the kid who just isn’t ready for war/battle, the one soldier who has personal demons of his own to fight along with the war, one soldier who gets too cocky and could put himself into danger, and the fact that not only are these soldiers fighting the enemy up in the air, but they are also fighting them on the ground…with racism!! Don’t forget to bring your check book of war-movie clichés because I can promise you that every single one will be checked off by the end of this long as hell film.

The only time that this flick actually has some life brought into it is when they filmed the aerial battles themselves. The dogfights here, have a certain energy that the rest of the flick doesn’t really have and to be honest, they are very entertaining to watch considering we don’t get to see much of aerial-fights in war films nowadays. However, even when these aerial fights do happen, they still feel like something we have all seen done before. Instead of actually giving these high-flying fights some real danger, the film feels and looks more as if it was a just another video-game sequence like ‘The Adventures of Tintin’. After all of this time, you would have thought that Hollywood and films would start to find out new and improved ways of portraying these fights in the air, but they never really change.

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard are given top-billing for this film to ensure that it has some star-power to it but the problem is that they aren’t really in the film all that much which is a shame considering that these two need a big come-back of sorts. Nate Parker and David Oyelowo are the two here that actually stand-out and give their characters some real authenticity but they can never get past the fact that they are still one-dimensional war hero’s. Out of the rest of the supporting cast, everybody here is basically just running through their lines without any real emotion or feeling, and it’s weird to say this but the one out of the whole cast who actually had me laughing was freakin’ Ne-Yo. Yes, that dude who sang that song about being so sick of love songs, was the funniest part of this film considering he had me chuckle about twice.

Consensus: Its heart may be in the right place, but Red Tails is still a terrible-looking CGI action flick with wooden performances from almost everybody involved, and cliché upon cliché to really take the heart out of what could have been an important story.

2/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

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