Friday, February 27, 2015

McFarland, USA Review

It should be no secret that I am a big sports fan. Also being a big movie fan, it seems really logical that I would love my sports movies, right? If you were to make that assumption, you would definitely be right. However, I can actually be somewhat picky with my sports movies. Not every inspirational sports story needs to be turned into a movie, but sometimes Hollywood gets a little carried away and does so anyways. Thus sports movies can be extremely cliche at times. To please me, the movie needs to prove to me that they are justified in turning that specific sports story into a movie. It's also a plus if they don't butcher the actual story that the movie is based off of. I get the need to Hollywoodize things a bit, but getting too carried away can be frustrating. Thus when I go into a sports movie, I'm always cautiously optimistic, with emphasis on the word cautiously. Now if there's one person that knows how to do a sports movie, it's Kevin Costner. On top of that, Disney is usually pretty good at them, too. With those two aspects combined, I was actually pretty excited for McFarland, USA. As it turns out, my excitement was justified. This is a pretty darn good sports movie.

First off, I'm not sure why they felt the need to add the "USA" onto this title. This movie was originally scheduled for the end of last year before postponing it to this February. Before they postponed it, it was simply called McFarland. I think I would've liked that better. But oh well. Minor concern. In McFarland, USA Kevin Costner is a high school football coach that has had some serious problems keeping a job due to various circumstances of which includes him losing his temper at least once. Because of this, he is left with no choice but to take a job at McFarland High School in McFarland, California, a small, poor town with mainly just Hispanic people living there. He initially sees this as a temporary job until he finds something bigger and better that can support his family. His stint as football coach doesn't last long, but pretty soon he learns that the kids here can run, so he starts up a cross country team.

There's several things that really make this movie work. The first is the fact that it's cross country. As much as I like basketball, football, and baseball movies, they've all been done like a hundred times each at least, so if you are going to do that, you really need to make a concerted effort to make your movie stand out. Cross country is something that hasn't really been touched on much, so that's a huge plus right there. Also, while I'm personally not a runner, there is a lot of lessons and symbolism that can be taken from running a race that makes the subject rather beautiful. This movie takes advantage of that. There are a lot of themes that you can take from this movie at apply it to your life. One example of this is comes when the boys hit a hill for the first time. They're great at  running when it's flat, but when they hit  that hill, they really struggle because McFarland isn't a hilly place. Such is a metaphor for life. It's easy to be happy and upbeat when everything is just smooth sailing, but what are we going to do when suddenly we run into an uphill battle? As Kevin Costner tells his bunch, everyone goes through pain as they are running the race, but the people that are going to succeed are the ones that are tough enough to deal with it.

Another thing that really makes this movie work is that it's not just a cool story about a cross country  team that came out of nowhere to do really well in the late 1980's. I would contend that the main focus is actually on Kevin Costner and his family adjusting to life in this small, Hispanic town. Costner is searching for the typical American dream and thus he and his family really have a hard time adjusting to this new life and overcoming all these cultural barriers. If you yourself are Hispanic or you have ties to the Hispanic community, you are sure to love this movie because this movie hits home how amazing the Hispanic people are. They are a hard-working people with a lot of heart, have a lot of strong traditions, and are especially focused on family. They can easily be misunderstood and taken for gang-bangers that are violent and can't be trusted. For these reasons, Kevin Costner has a hard time adjusting to living in McFarland. But once he is able to see these people as the amazing people that they are, that's when he is really able to connect with his team and help them do great things. It's really touching.

And of course what puts it all together are the fantastic performances by everyone involved. Kevin Costner specifically was born to star in sports movies. Yes, he's good in whatever he does, but I feel he especially thrives in these sports roles. In fact, he does such a good job that he can single-handedly carry a movie that is otherwise very average. An example of that is last year's Draft Day. When you think about the logic and realism in that movie, there's a lot of things that don't quite make sense, but Kevin Costner does such a good job as this fictional GM of the Browns that it makes the whole movie really good and entertaining to watch, despite the flaws. That's the power of Kevin Costner. What's optimal, of course, is when he doesn't have to be the only one carrying the movie. That's the case here. This is a very well-written, well-shot movie with fantastic, emotionally-driven performances from everyone involved. I can't think of one character who I wasn't emotionally invested in because of the superb acting and writing. Add Kevin Costner to the mix and you have one dang good sports movie because you know Costner will be at the top of his game and of course he is.

In the end, McFarland, USA is a sports movie that I quickly fell in love with. Can you say it's a predictable movie? Sure, I suppose you can. But this is a genre where you don't need to be crazy and unpredictable. It's like performing the national anthem. Some singers try to get super fancy when they perform the national anthem at the beginning of a game and that actually bothers me. I just want them to sing the national anthem and sing it well. Same thing with sports movies. You have a formula that works really well. You don't need to get all crazy and weird with it. Just tell the story and tell it well. That's what McFarland, USA does. It's not fancy or unpredictable. It hits all the notes you would expect a sports movie to hit, but it hits them very well and that's why it works. It's an inspiring movie with a lot of powerful themes that will even be a tear-jerker at times with how well it's done. This definitely deserves to be added to the long list of great sports movies. My grade for McFarland, USA is a 9/10. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Still Alice Review

I don't know how it started, but last year everyone dumped a bucket of ice water on their heads in support of the terrible disease of ALS. This caused a whole ton of money to be raised for ALS which I think is rather fantastic. Later in the year, we then got a movie about a man named Stephen Hawking who suffers from that disease. That movie was called The Theory of Everything. I hope I don't sound insensitive towards Stephen Hawking or anyone who suffers from ALS, but I actually wasn't super impressed with the movie, mainly because I've always had mixed emotions about Stephen Hawking. His survival is an inspirational story, but outside that he's kind of a jerk. I bring this up because there's another movie that just got released that I find a lot of similarities to The Theory of Everything. As the title of this review revealed, that is Still Alice. We didn't dump buckets of ice water on our heads in support of Alzheimer's disease, but maybe we should do something like that because it is also a terrible disease. We did get a movie, though, which I think everyone should go see. While The Theory of Everything failed to connect with me emotionally, Still Alice actually hit home.

Perhaps part of the reason why Still Alice didn't get as much popularity is because it's not a biopic of a super famous scientist. Rather it's just based off a novel of the same name by Lisa Genova, who writes fictional novels about characters dealing with neurological disorders. In Still Alice we start with a very normal family. Alice, the mother of the family, is a professor of Linguistics at Columbia University. Her husband, John, is a successful businessman. They have three kids who are all grown up. Their oldest daughter and their son live fairly close. The oldest daughter, Anna, is married and pregnant with twins while their son, Tom, is happily dating a girl. The youngest daughter, Lydia, lives on the other side of the country and has a bit of a rocky relationship with her mother because she is pushing her hard to go to college while she instead wants to find success in theater. Things get really interesting as Alice visits her neurologist and gets diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. This changes the family dynamic as they all have to try to figure out how to properly deal with this new challenge.

Like I've said, Alzheimer's disease is an awful disease in and of itself. However, what makes it worse is the fact that there is no cure. Slowly losing your memory and the ability to perform simple tasks is definitely a traumatic experience for those who have this disease. There was a time in my life when I regularly visited an Alzheimer's unit and it is truly sad to see these great individuals who have lived great lives suffer from this disease because they have lost the ability to function as a normal human being. It's also sad knowing that there is nothing that can be done to prevent or cure this disease. You just have to love and support these individuals. In my opinion, this movie did an excellent job of portraying how sad this is. It's really heart-wrenching as you watch this amazing woman played by Julianne Moore start to deteriorate mentally. It's also really hard to watch her family deal with this. Suddenly I put myself into their shoes. What if down the road I was diagnosed with this disease. How would I react? How would I feel? Also down the road, what if my wife was diagnosed with this disease? What would I do? How would I help her. Finally, what if either of my parents were diagnosed? How would I deal with this? Suddenly as I was thinking of all this while I was watching this movie, I was almost brought to tears because it effected me so heavily. I felt for these characters. More importantly, I started to feel for those in real life who have had to go through this. It was a very emotional experience for me.

What really makes this work are excellent performances by the whole cast. I want to focus on three of those individuals that played the biggest roles. First and foremost is Julianne Moore as Alice. She just won best actress at the Oscars and let me tell you that this was well deserved. I think this was really hard because she not only had to play one character who acted a certain way, but as her character continued to deteriorate, it was as if she was playing multiple characters that had different levels of this disease. Her transition through this process feels very natural and unforced, which made it beautiful. Without spoiling what happens, there is a point in the movie where Alice, still very normal, records a message for her future self. Towards the end when she has deteriorated quite a bit, she watches this message and this is the point where Julianne Moore's performance really hit home for me because in that scene you are able to see what Julianne Moore has pulled off in this movie. It's amazing! And Alec Baldwin as her husband also did a great job. His character is faced with a major dilemma and I didn't really like the choice he made in the end, but Baldwin pulled off an excellent performance. It's also interesting that he has now played the husband of the last two best actress winners at the Oscars. He should get some sort of award for that. Or at the very least, if he plays another husband this year, whoever is playing his wife should be excited because she might be up for an award.

Next up is a woman who is one of the most made fun of actresses. She has a reputation of being one of the worst actresses in the business. That's Kristen Stewart. I'm here to tell you that this woman does know how to act. I've felt for a long time now that her awful performance in Twilight can be attributed more to a poorly written character than anything else. Maybe she didn't care. Maybe she doesn't always give her best. But to always look at her as a horrible actress and use her as a forever punchline that will never do any good is unfair in my opinion. Because yes, she does a great job in this. She shows all kinds of different emotions that a daughter would normally when learning that her mother has Alzheimer's. Being that they didn't have the best relationship before the diagnosis, I actually enjoyed watching their relationship develop over the course of the movie. If I have one complaint, it's that there wasn't enough of Kristen Stewart because I really loved her character. When she was on the screen, she totally nailed her performance. She was good enough that I would've liked to see her get a best supporting actress nomination. Yes, you heard that right. And early word on her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria is strong. She was even the first American actress ever to win best supporting actress at the Cesar Awards in France just recently. An Oscar nomination this upcoming year?

In the end, Still Alice is a movie that I searched out so that I could see Julianne Moore's Oscar-winning performance and not only was I blown away by Moore's performance, but I was really emotionally touched. Still Alice is a great movie that deals with a very delicate subject in an excellent way. I felt for Julianne Moore's character as she had to deal with this revelation. I also felt for her whole family as they had to deal with their mother's diagnosis. This movie is very well written with a great direction and superb performances from the entire cast. Yes, Rosamund Pike was my favorite performance from an actress last year, but I'm not complaining at all with Julianne Moore's win. And yes, I think Kristen Stewart did a phenomenal job as well. People should really stop seeing her as the worst actress in Hollywood because she's not. My grade for Still Alice is a 9/10.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Seventh Son Review

Sometimes people wonder why I voluntarily go see what I think are going to be bad movies. Several reasons. Yes, I actually find it fun to write a bad review of a movie that I didn't like. That's one reason. Along those lines, it is really fun to make my list of top 10 worst movies of the year. In order to do that, I actually need to see a good sample of bad movies. That's another reason. And of course I have found that I enjoy the role of warning people about movies that aren't that good. Most importantly, though, is that there are actually a lot of times where I have gone into a movie thinking it would be bad and actually had a good time with it. Being surprised like that is actually one of the best movie-going sensations in my opinion. Thus I like giving all movies a chance because there's always the hope that I will actually enjoy the movie. Seventh Son is a great example of that. It currently has a 10% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.7 on IMDb, so when I went into it, my expectations were very low. And guess? This movie isn't that bad. I mean, it's not the most epic thing you'll ever see, but I actually had fun with this.

Seventh Son is actually based off of the first book in The Wardstone Chronicles titled The Spook's Apprentice. This series is written by Joseph Delaney and is a fairly popular series that now has 13 different books in it. I have not read this series, but I have two friends who really enjoy it. One of them actually came with me to this and was also fairly impressed with the adaption. According to him, there are a lot of differences between the book and the movie, but they do keep the same general structure of the book and don't commit any huge sins like that of the movie adaption of Eragon. The book stars 12-year-old Thomas Gregory as the new apprentice to John Gregory. Gregory is what is called a Spook, someone who fights off all sorts of fantasy creatures like witches and boggarts. His previous apprentice was killed and Tom becomes his new apprentice because he is the seventh son of a seventh son. In the movie Tom is a lot older than 12. I can't remember how old the character in the movie is supposed to be, but Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia movies) is 33 years old. Or, well, he's that old right now. Since production on this started several years ago, he was probably 30 or 31 during the actual filming. But it's the same idea. He's recruited to be Jeff Bridges' new apprentice because he's the seventh son of a seventh son and together they are trying fight off the evil queen.

The movie actually started off really interesting. We see Jeff Bridges and his old apprentice fighting this queen, but failing as the apprentice is killed and Jeff Bridges escapes. Being that the reviews were so bad, I was waiting for this to take a serious dip with the story, the acting, the quality of the movie, or something like that. But it never did. They did throw in a love story with Ben Barnes and a new witch that is somewhat distracting because it just happens with very little build up. Also, Ben Barnes towards the end of the movie suddenly becomes an amazing fighter overnight after a speech by his mother, which felt a bit odd. There were a few other things like that that weren't done that well, but overall it's actually a really fun fantasy adventure. The most unique and original fantasy movie ever? Probably not. But the visual effects are actually really good. The soundtrack for the movie is great. The acting by Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes, and others is really great. There was a lot of chemistry between the whole cast that made this work. When the battles happened, they were really fun to watch.

There were a whole lot of production issues with this movie. It was supposed to come out initially in February of 2013, two years ago. But it got pushed back multiple times and even switch distributors, I believe. The marketing for the movie wasn't done very well at all and Universal decided to release the movie on the same day as Jupiter Ascending and a week before Kingsman: The Secret Service. It's as if they gave up on the movie some time ago and didn't care for success. But in the grand scheme of things, productions issues don't matter. Or they shouldn't at least. But I feel that a lot of people went in to the movie with the idea that this was a problematic movie that earned nothing in the box office and thus wanted to be good. I don't want to see people had written their reviews before they saw it, but I do think they went in with the idea in mind that they were going to hate it and just decided to find everything wrong with it to justify themselves. Because who wants to be the only one to actually like a movie? Better to go with the flow, right? In my opinion this is wrong, but it's the only thing I can think of as to why this movie is hated so much because it really doesn't deserve all the hate that it's getting.

So in the end, I went into Seventh Son with low expectations, but I found myself surprisingly enjoying the movie. It's a well-shot, well-acted fantasy adventure that I had a lot of fun with. It's not on the level of Lord of the Rings in terms of a fantasy movie, but I'm glad that I decided to give this movie a shot because it's worth your time. If you are one of the people that decided to completely ignore this movie because of all the bad reviews, I would honestly suggest that you actually give this is a shot. Because who knows, maybe you'll be like me and actually enjoy this movie. I highly doubt we're getting more of these movies because of how poorly received it was. I mean, it's actually made a small profit due to a high showing overseas, but I don't know if that's good enough to justify more. However, I am actually now interested in checking out this book series sometime in the future when I actually have time to read. When a movie based on a book gives me that desire, that's a good thing because it doesn't happen that often. My grade for Seventh Son is an 8/10.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The 87th Academy Awards: Predictions

The Academy Awards are being presented tomorrow night, so it's time to have a bit of fun! I'm going with the simple subtitle here by just calling this predictions, but in reality this post is four-fold. First, I'll give you the nominees. Second, I'm going to predict who is most likely going to win. Third, I'm going to give you my pick of which of the nominees should win if it were completely up to me. Fourth, I'm going to throw in some names/movies that I think should've been nominated. Before doing this, I made sure to see as many of the nominees as possible so that I could be a good judge. I'll admit that in some of the smaller categories I have not seen every nominee, but I can say that I've seen most of the movies that got major nominees. My main motivation for doing this? I'm no expert in the Academy Awards, but I do love following them and by doing this you'll know exactly what I'm expecting and hoping going into tomorrow. So without further ado, let's get started!

Best Picture:

Nominees: American Sniper; Birdman; Boyhood; The Grand Budapest Hotel; The Imitation Game; Selma; The Theory of Everything; Wiplash
Will Win: Birdman
Should Win: Boyhood
Should've Been Nominated: Gone Girl; Nightcrawler

Come on Academy, nominate ten films! Why only eight? There were so many deserving nominees this year, that you might as well just make this an even ten. I actually think Foxcatcher and Nightcrawler would be the other two in when you look at the other major categories, but I would've been down for Gone Girl getting in instead of Foxcatcher. Regardless, this year it's a battle between Birdman and Boyhood and I really don't know who's coming out on top because they've split all the precursors and people who have been predicting and following for longer than I have also are torn on who they think will win. So I'm taking a shot in the dark by saying Birdman will win and that's mostly because I've been on team Boyhood ever since I first saw it in July and the Academy usually goes against what I want. But hey, Birdman is my #2 movie of the year, so I won't be too disappointed.

Best Actor:

Nominees: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher); Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game); Bradley Cooper (American Sniper); Michael Keaton (Birdman); Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Should Win: Michael Keaton (Birman)
Should've Been Nominated: Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler); David Oyelowo (Selma); Tom Hardy (Locke)

Yup, if it was up to me, I would've nominated Gyllenhaal, Oyelowo, and Hardy along with Keaton and Cumberbatch. The other three were good, but in a year that's this competitive I don't think they should've gotten the nomination. My easy, runaway favorite to win the award was Jake Gyllenhaal, with Oyelowo as a distant second, which is why I was furious that neither made it in. So given the current nominees, I will definitely be cheering for Keaton to walk away with it. From what I hear, it's going to be a very close race, but I think voters will be more drawn to Eddie Redmayne's performance as Stephen Hawking because they seem to like those true story performances, but I hope I'm wrong.

Best Actress:

Nominees: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night); Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything); Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl); Julianne Moore (Still Alice); Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Will Win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Should Win: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Should've Been Nominated: Amy Adams (Big Eyes)

Still Alice is actually the most recent movie I've seen in theaters and Julianne Moore was excellent in that movie as portraying someone who is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. This is a category that is pretty much set in stone. Julianne Moore is winning. There's no question. And I'll be fine with it. However, if it were up to me, I would actually go with Rosamund Pike because she gave what I consider a legendary performance in Gone Girl. I will remember that performance for a very long time. Unfortunately it was probably too dark for the old geezers in the Academy. Oh well. And yes, I do think Amy Adams should've been here because she gave a performance in Big Eyes that was my personal favorite from her simply because it was so honest and real. I would've picked her to win over Julianne Moore as well and had it not been for Rosamund Pike, she'd be my favorite.

Best Supporting Actor:

Nominees: Robert Duvall (The Judge); Ethan Hawke (Boyhood); Edward Norton (Birdman); Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher); J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Will Win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Should Win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Should've Been Nominated: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher); Andy Serkis (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes)

This category is also a done deal. Probably even more of a done deal than Julianne Moore for best actress. Quite honestly, this is one that I completely agree with 100 percent. Everyone who has seen Whiplash also agrees. If you haven't seen Whiplash, go fix that as soon as possible and then you'll see why everyone is in agreement with this win. As far as my should've been nominated, why am I putting Steve Carell here? Yes, I know he got a best actor nomination, but I think he should've gotten the supporting actor nomination instead. That would've cleared up some space in the very crowded best actor category. And for crying out loud Academy, GIVE THE MOST TALENTED MAN IN HOLLYWOOD SOME RECOGNITION FOR ONCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes I'm talking about Andy Serkis. That man can do everything and yet he still has nothing from the Academy. It's a shame.

Best Supporting Actress:

Nominees: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood); Laura Dern (Wild); Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game); Emma Stone (Birdman); Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
Will Win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Should Win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Should've Been Nominated: Kristen Stewart (Still Alice); Jessica Chastain (pick a movie)

Yes, you read that right. I think Kristen Stewart should've gotten an Oscar nomination. She was great in Still Alice. In fact, she's had several movies this year where she was praised for her acting abilities, so people really should stop seeing her as the worst actress in the business just because of that Twilight thing because those who do are starting to be the ones who look bad. Anywho, as far as this category goes, this is the third straight acting category that is a done deal. Talk about lack of anticipation. But I'm really glad that Patricia Arquette is getting this win and I hope she's not the only representation for Boyhood. And yes, should've been here. I put that "pick a movie" statement in parentheses because she's done a lot this year and was excellent in everything she did. I was hoping that she'd get in for something, but unfortunately she got completely blanked. Sad day.  

Best Director:

Nominees: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel); Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman); Richard Linklater (Boyhood); Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher); Morton Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Should Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Should've Been Nominated: Ava DuVernay (Selma)

Unlike our previous three categories, this category is a complete mystery. What is for sure is that it is once again Birdman vs. Boyhood. In the past, the best picture winner also took home best directing honors, but recently that hasn't been the case and I think it's going to be a split yet again. Because I put Birdman in as best picture that means Boyhood goes here, giving Linklater the much deserved win. This was a 12-year project and in order to make it work, there had to be some serious directing talent. That's why this worked in my opinion, so yes Linklater deserves the win. Finally, the lack of love for Selma in terms of nominations had me disappointed. Ava DuVernay would've been the first black woman of color nominated for best director. Way to miss out on that Academy.

Best Original Screenplay:

Nominees: Boyhood; Birdman; Foxcatcher; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Nightcrawler
Will Win: Birdman
Should Win: Birdman
Should've Been Nominated: The LEGO Movie; Selma

In terms of screenplay, despite me being on team Boyhood, I will admit that Birdman is the more deserving win. There's a lot of beautifully woven in themes in that movie. From what I'm reading, Birdman is probably going to win, but the big spoiler here actually looks like The Grand Budapest Hotel, which would also be deserving. What a hilariously creative project that was! For my should've been nominated picks, Selma did an amazing job at giving us an honest, human look at Martin Luther King, Jr. while still telling us an amazing, inspirational story. And the writing by Phil Lord and Chris Miller for The LEGO Movie was beyond perfect in my opinion.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Nominees: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The  Theory of Everything, Whiplash
Will Win: The Imitation Game
Should Win: Whiplash
Should've Been Nominated: Gone Girl

It looks like The Imitation Game is going to be the movie this year with a whole ton of nominations that gets mostly ignored in terms of wins because of superiority by fellow nominees, so the Academy will probably choose this category to give it the win. I would really like to see Whiplash win this category, though, but there's probably no chance. And why was Gone Girl not given the love it deserved? Too dark for the Academy? Shame.

Best Animated Feature: 
Nominees: The Boxtrolls; Big Hero 6; How to Train Your Dragon 2; Song of the Sea; The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Should Win: The Boxtrolls
Should've Been Nominated: The LEGO Movie

WHY WAS THE LEGO MOVIE NOT NOMINATED?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Biggest snub in Oscar history? I don't know. I haven't been alive for 87 years. But in all my years of watching the awards it is. Forever stain on the Academy because of this snub? For me, yes. I won't forgive this. That said, without The LEGO Movie in place, I'm totally down for the Academy giving love to the stop motion animation genre because of how much time and effort goes into making those movies. I know the genre has been given love in terms of surprise nominations, but it'd be nice to see a win. But it looks like that won't be the case. Oh well.

Best Foreign Language Film:

Nominees: Ida, Leviathan; Tangerines; Timbuktu; Wild Tales
Will Win: Ida
Should Win: ?????
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

I honestly have not seen any of these films. But I should because foreign films are good things. However, if I'm picking a winner, I'll say that Ida will get the win because it got other nominations outside this category, which makes me think the Academy likes it.

Best Cinematography:

Nominees: Birdman; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Ida; Mr. Turner; Unbroken
Will Win: Birdman
Should Win: Birdman
Should've Been Nominated: Interstellar

There was a lot of editing and cinematography magic in Birdman that made it one of the most brilliant movies ever in terms of all the technical categories. I mean, the whole movie appeared as if it was done in one shot. So yes, it definitely deserves the win here and I think it's going to get it. However, if Roger Deakins were to finally get his win, I wouldn't be complaining too much, although I do think it would be a lifetime achievement award and I'm not really a fan of those. And why was Interstellar not included in cinematography? I may have not liked the movie's ending, but it did deserve at least a nomination in all the technical and sound categories.

Best Editing:

Nominees: American Sniper; Boyhood; The Grand Budapest Hotel; The Imitation Game; Whiplash
Will Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Boyhood
Should've Been Nominated: Birdman

Speaking of what I said in the cinematography category, Birdman had a lot of editing and cinematography magic that made it brilliant. So why did it not get nominated here? That would've been my pick to win. But oh well. I suppose that means I'll go with the 12 years of footage edited into one three-hour movie. That seems deserving of an Oscar, right? Although if you go watch Whiplash again and pay attention to all the individual cuts, that's also some brilliant editing work there.

Best Production Design:

Nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel; The Imitation Game; Interstellar; Into the Woods; Mr. Turner
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

The Grand Budapest Hotel got a lot of surprise nominations and because of that, I have a feeling that it might run the table in a lot of the smaller categories and I won't be arguing, especially when you think of production design.

Best Costume Design:

Nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel; Inherent Vice; Into the Woods; Maleficent; Mr. Turner
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Into the Woods
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

Like I said, Budapest is probably going to win a lot of these smaller categories. Costume design? They did have a lot of great costumes and outfits for their characters, so I won't argue with this win either. However, I would like to see Into the Woods take the win in this category. Great costumes for everyone involved in this musical.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Nominees: Foxcatcher; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Guardians of the Galaxy
Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Guardians of the Galaxy
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

Steve Carell should be very appreciative of the makeup and hairstyling people from Foxcatcher. I mean, half the reason why he was so creepy in that movie was because of all the makeup they put on him everyday. But come on Academy. Give this to Guardians. Just look at Gamora and Drax!

Best Original Score: 

Nominees: The Imitation Game; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Interstellar; Mr. Turner; The Theory of Everything
Will Win: The Theory of Everything
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should've Been Nominated: Birdman, Whiplash

This is one of my favorite categories to judge because I love music and it's really fun going back and re-listening to all of the scores that were nominated. They're all good. Alexandre Desplat got a double nomination for Imitation Game and Budapest. That's fun for him. Had Unbroken been nominated that would've been three for him. As far as the favorite goes, I really do love the epic score from Hans Zimmer in Interstellar, but I love the random awesomeness from Desplat's Budapest score even more. It looks Johans Johannson is taking the cake with The Theory of Everything, though. And were was the awesome Jazz score from Whiplash or the awesome drum score from Birdman? Not eligible? That's dumb.

Best Original Song:

Nominees: "Everything is Awesome" (The LEGO Movie); "Glory" (Selma); "Grateful" (Beyond the Lights); "I'm Not Going to Miss You" (Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me); "Lost Stars" (Begin Again)
Will Win: "Glory" (Selma)
Should Win: "Glory" (Selma)
Should've Been Nominated: "Yellow Flicker Beat" (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1)

Once again, music. I love music. Part of me wants the Academy to make up for their stupidity in snubbing The LEGO Movie from the animated feature category by awarding it here. But I have to be honest and objective. Out of these five songs, "Glory" by Common featuring John Legend is the best of the five. Thankfully it looks like it's the front-runner. However, I am saddened by the fact that Lorde's "Yellow Flicker Beat" from Mockingjay - Part 1 was left out. That's a great song that did get a Globe nomination, so I was hoping for an Oscar as well.

Best Sound Mixing:

Nominees: American Sniper; Birdman; Interstellar; Unbroken; Whiplash
Will Win: American Sniper
Should Win: ?????
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

I don't have of an opinion on sound mixing, but I have a feeling that this is where the Academy awards American Sniper.

Best Sound Editing:

Nominees: American Sniper; Birdman; The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; Interstellar; Unbroken
Will Win: American Sniper
Should Win: ?????
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

Fans of the Hobbit finale are probably upset that this is the only nomination their movie got. But this is the same as the previous category. I don't have an opinion, but I think its going to American Sniper.

Best Visual Effects:

Nominees: Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; Guardians of the Galaxy; Interstellar; X-Men: Days of Future Past
Will Win: Interstellar
Should Win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Should've Been Nominated: Godzilla

And here we have the one category that the Academy sets aside for big blockbusters of the year. Thankfully we don't have a random best picture nominee to steal the thunder this year. Personally I wouldn't mind Marvel to grab a win here. I'm always down for that. However, the motion capture technology from Andy Serkis and company added to some of the best visual effects in recent memory makes me really hope that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes this home. But I feel the Academy is going to take this moment to award Interstellar, which I wouldn't complain too much. The visual effects in that were good. It was a pleasant surprise to see Days of Future Past included here. It's about time the X-Men franchise get an Oscar nomination. However, if I'm being honest, I think Godzilla was more deserving. Thankfully there was no Transformers or Hobbit this time around. That made me happy.

Best Documentary, Feature:

Nominees: Citizenfour; Finding Vivian Maier; Last Days in Vietnam; The Salt of the Earth; Virunga
Will Win: Citizenfour
Should Win: ?????
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

Add these movies to my list of movies to watch. I like documentaries. I just don't usually search them out or try to see them in theaters. For the record, though, Citizenfour has been the front-runner here for a long time, so I would be surprised if it loses.

Best Documentary, Short Subject:

Nominees: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, Joanna, Our Curse, The Reaper, White Earth
Will Win: ?????
Should Win: ?????
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

I'm even more lost when it comes to these. Sorry.

Best Animated Short:

Nominees: The Bigger Picture; The Dam Keeper; Feast; Me and My Moulton; A Single Life
Will Win: ?????
Should Win: ?????
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

Well I have seen Feast since that was Disney's short film that showed in front of Big Hero 6. That was adorable. But I haven't seen the others. These I really do want to find and watch because they are really fun. I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Best Live Action Short: 

Nominees: Aya; Boogaloo and Graham; Butter Lamp; Parvaneh; The Phone Call
Will Win: ?????
Should Win: ?????
Should've Been Nominated: ?????

Sorry to draw a complete blank on these last few categories. I at least wanted to share with you the nominations so that you know what they are.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Strange Magic Review

So a few weeks ago I saw this movie called Strange Magic. Now generally I like being on top of things with my movie reviews. However, sometimes life gets in the way and I get behind. I feel bad when that happens. I really do. But yeah, no one saw this movie. No one cared about this movie. Quite honestly, I didn't make it a priority to write my review because there was more interesting things to write about. As you can tell, I have written plenty of movie reviews recently of movies that I saw after Strange Magic. But do you know what, I decided that it was time to finally sit down and write this movie review. Then I realized that I have almost forgotten what this movie was about. Sure, you can blame my memory for that. But in my defense, this movie is so darn forgettable that you really can't blame me for this one. In fact, when I went to Wikipedia to look up the plot to remind me of what I had seen, Wikipedia was even confused. "Strange Magic? You mean the song by Electric Light Orchestra?" No, Wikipedia. I mean the movie that was released a month ago. See what I mean? Wikipedia even forgot this movie existed.

So I read the plot summary. Oh yes. That's what happened here. And do you know what, I usually don't do this, but I'm going to let Wikipedia introduce this movie for you. I won't post the whole plot summary. But here's the first of three paragraphs:

"The realm is divided between a land of fairies and light, and a land of bog creatures living in the dark forest; Primrose flowers, which are a crucial ingredient to love potions marks the border between the lands. Marianne; a fairy and heir to the throne of the Fairy Kingdom is engaged to be married to Roland; a handsome warrior who breaks her heart when she discovers him kissing another fairy on their Weeding Day. Scorned, Marianne vows to never fall in love again. Sometime later; her sister Dawn, who frequently says she is in love is distraught over the upcoming Spring Ball over which boy she could meet there. Her best friend Sunny, an elf who has a crush on Dawn tries to cheer her up with a song, but they are nearly devoured by a giant lizard before a hardened Marianne rescues them. Sunny, having fallen through the border of the dark forest finds a Primrose petal, which he subsequently hides when fleeing the forest." 

Yup. That's our movie. And if you think that's hard to follow, try watching this whole movie. My goodness, it was a chore. This here sounds like it was at least half of the movie with everything that happened, right? HA! This was like the first 15 minutes. They tried to shove so much into this movie that it ended up being rushed, choppy, incoherent, and convoluted. If you want to get an idea of the tone and feel of the movie, just go watch the trailer. By goodness that was honestly one of the worst trailers I have ever seen. I didn't even have a clue what the movie was going to be about outside the fact that there were a bunch of goblins and fairies and a whole bunch of confusing nonsense going on. Ok, I thought. I've seen horrendous trailers for good movies before and I've also seen amazing trailers for movies that were complete and utter crap. Perhaps this movie will be good despite the trailer. Nope. The movie is about as confusing and off-the-wall as the trailer.

"From the mind of George Lucas."

Once upon a time that used to be a good sign for a movie. I mean, the man is the creator of Star Wars. STAR WARS!!!! One of the greatest trilogies of all time, if not the greatest. I mean no disrespect for the man. I will always have a special place in my heart for George Lucas. I mean that in the most normal way possible because the man created Star Wars. I want to love everything he does. But something is off. I know I'm the last one to jump on this bandwagon. Shortly after Star Wars, he started doing weird things like Howard the Duck. The he re-released Star Wars into theaters having made a lot of changes. He got so obsessed with making changes that every subsequent release on DVD and bluray and whatnot also included a whole bunch of changes. I'm not one to really complain about that, but I know a lot of Star Wars fans I can point you to if you want to hear a few good rants. Then there's this thing called the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Once again, I'm not one to really complain about them because I like them a lot more than many people, but I do admit that they are a HUGE step down from the original trilogy. I mean, the special effects are breathtaking and the lightsaber duels are totally epic. The basic structure of the story is also just fine. But man, the acting, the script, and the dialogue are honestly putrid throughout. Those are the types of things that you can point to the director as being the problem.

Getting my vibe? George Lucas became the most respected and loved filmmaker of all time after creating possible the greatest movie universe ever. Then over the course of the next 20 or so years, he went and burnt down all his bridges, alienating most of his fan base in the process. Everyone still loves Star Wars. But George Lucas himself has become a laughing stock and a punchline. Once again, I am usually one to defend him, but did you see that Red Tails movie he did a few years ago. Horrible. And this? Strange Magic? Ouch. I can't defend him anymore when he consistently has proven that he is not a very good filmmaker anymore. Technically, he did not write, direct, or produce this movie. He was merely an executive producer. But this is his story. He'd been wanting this to get done for like 15 years. It was his passion project. I don't get it, George. Why? Why did you think this was a good idea? What trip has your mind been on these last 15 years? This is a mess. A complete and utter mess.

Oh but I'm not done quite yet. This movie is a musical. As I hope I've proven to you, I absolutely adore a well-made musical. I'm a musical person. I was in band throughout grade school. I like to sing. I like listening to music. I love music. Always have. Always will. But there is almost nothing worse than an atrociously done musical and this is a prime example of that. Every single scene they break out into song. None of it's original. Most of it is current pop music. Some of it I think comes from A Midsummer Night's Dream. That's what I've been told and read, anyways. I'm not exactly familiar with that specific Shakespeare play. The actual singing in the movie isn't bad. The problem every single song is poorly timed and grossly out of place. This did not need to be a musical. I don't know why it was. I got 15 minutes into the movie and was just sick of the music and every subsequent song after just made me cringe. But it kept going for the whole movie. In fact, they unnecessarily broke out into song during every single. Every. Single. Freaking. Scene.

I don't know if any of you actually wanted to see this movie in theaters. If you did, it's gone. As a sign of how no one cared about this movie, during opening weekend, it was booked in over 3,000 theaters. It kept those theaters in its second weekend. Weekend three it lost over half of those screens as it was down to just 1,300 theaters. This past weekend, weekend number four, it lost most of that 1,300 and thus only played in 175 theaters. That's embarrassing. So in order to see this, you're going to have to wait until it comes out on DVD. But really, I hope I've convinced you that this isn't worth your time. It's a mess in just about every way. I mean, the animation itself is actually good, but that's it. If anything, this is the type of movie that might be a decent option if it comes to Netflix and you need something to distract your three-year old kids for a few minutes. But overall, this is just embarrassing for George Lucas, Lucasfilm Animation Studios, and everyone else involved. I'm giving Strange Magic a 3/10.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

It's Valentine's Day today, which means if you're heading out to the theaters, you have a choice between the romance movie and the action movie. Speaking of the romance movie this year, Fifty Shades of Grey, if you were anticipating my review of it, I'm just going to inform you right now that that review won't happen. Usually I'm good at seeing all kinds of movies, but that is one that I am choosing to not see. Sorry. However, if you want to know about how I would've felt about the movie, I encourage you to check out Chris Stuckmann's review right here. He's a YouTube reviewer that I have grown to trust and his review is both informative and hilarious. Now I really hope that you made the decision to go with the action movie this time around because Kingsman: The Secret Service is really good. If you didn't see a movie this weekend, but you were planning on a President's Day trip to the theaters, I highly recommend you give this movie a shot.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is actually based on a comic book. Being that I'm not actually into comic books, especially ones that aren't Marvel or DC, this was actually news to me a couple of weeks ago. The movie is an action spy thriller that you can compare to the James Bond movies. In fact, the movie itself compares itself to James Bond, which is kinda fun. There's even references to Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer, so this definitely knows what type of movie it's trying to be. And by goodness does this take you on quite the wild ride. Colin Firth, Michael Caine, and Mark Strong are our trio of goodies in this that belong to a secret spy organization known as the Kingsman. They dress up like gentlemen in nice suits and are hidden in a tailor shop. But underneath they have all sorts of fancy gadgets to go along with their intense training that combined make them kick some serious butt. Newcomers Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson are brought in as two of the young people competing for a spot on the Kingsman while techie genius played by Samuel L. Jackson comes up with a crazy, sinister plot that the Kingsman need to stop.

I should mention that this is a very intense action movie with a lot of over-the-top action sequences that get quite violent at times. If that's not your type of movie, then I would suggest something a bit softer for you. But if you do like high-powered action movies, then buckle up and prepare for quite the ride. While this is very intense, it's not your dark and serious type of action movie. It's actually rather light-hearted and comedic. I was busting up with laughter for most of the movie. The fact that it's way over-the-top makes it very entertaining. On our Kingsman crew, Michael Caine and Mark Strong are mostly our behind-the-scenes people while it's Colin Firth that's our major action star. I've seen a lot of Colin Firth movies and I really like him as an actor. However, I don't think I've ever seen him in a role like this. He usually sticks to his dramas and romances, which makes him very impressive in this because he goes about this movie as if he is a seasoned veteran in the action business and he does a dang good job. The other impressive performance on the side of the Kingsman is newcomer Taron Egerton who is actually our main character. During the second half of the movie, he's the main one out there kicking trash and he also does a dang good job. This is his first big role and I hope it leads to other big roles because I saw a lot of potential with this young actor.

On the villainous side of this, Samuel L. Jackson is the season veteran in movies like this. You know he's going to do a great job because he always does a great job and of course he delivers. The only weird thing about his performance was that he has this lisp that he talks with which took a bit of getting used to at first, but overall it didn't bother me. On Samuel L. Jackson's side is his sidekick, a female known as Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella. Her character has these prosthetic legs that remind me of the South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, you know the guy who was such an inspiration to most before he shot and killed his girlfriend (perhaps on accident?). Anywho, I saw her character in the trailers and was really excited to see her in the movie. Holy cow does she not mess around. She's not just casually fighting with her legs that double as swords. She's out there cutting limbs and heads off with those legs. She even chops a guy in half vertically with one swipe. Yup. Like I said, she doesn't mess around. Also like I said, this movie is very violent and thus not for everyone.

Finally, what I want to mention in closing is that not only is this a well-acted, hilarious, entertaining action movie. It's also very smart and surprisingly unpredictable. In movies like this, I can be good at turning my brain in order to have a good time. I don't need super elaborate, unpredictable action movies to entertain me. But I'm very impressed when action movies go that way. Like, there's a point in this where our main characters do a break-the-fourth-wall type of thing and talk about what a typical, yet entertaining old action movie would do in the end and then say, "that's not this movie." Suddenly it takes you for several turns that you do not expect at all. That earned it major points in my book. So yes, if you are looking for a movie that will entertain the heck out of you and you love intense action movies, then Kingsman is the movie for you. I loved it and I really hope that it does well enough for us to get more Kingsman movies. My grade is a 9/10.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water Review

SpongeBob SquarePants is a kids cartoon on Nickelodeon that has been around since 1999 and has now released its second theatrical movie. Love it or hate it, there's no doubt that this is a very popular cartoon. What's baffling to me personally is how popular this is among adults. I understand how this can be popular among the younger crowd. This seems like a fun cartoon that a 6-year-old would enjoy. Yet there are people that are my age and older who love SpongeBob. If they grew up on it, I understand. There are a lot of cartoons that I watched when I was little that I still love today mostly because of the nostalgia factor. But there's people that were in their mid to late teens when this show started that love the show. I don't get it. I've watched my fair share of SpongeBob and I just don't understand how or why this is so popular among adults. This is not a show that entertains me. So why would I decide to go see The SpongeBob Movie? A few reasons. First is watching and reviewing movies is what I do. I wanted my opinion on SpongeBob officially out there. Second, I heard from some review that you don't have to be a fan of SpongeBob in order to enjoy this movie, so I figured I'd go give it a shot. Third, I was honestly interested in how this live-action CGI SpongeBob was going to work out, because that's what we were getting, right? Ha!

First and foremost, I want to let you all know that this has been false advertising to the extreme. Every single trailer, TV spot, and advertisement has emphasized the fact that this is a movie where SpongeBob and friends leave their world and enter ours. They even put it in the title: The SpongeBob Movie: SPONGE OUT OF WATER (emphasis added). All this leads you to believe that the movie is going to start in their world, spend 10 or 15 minutes there, then go out and spend the majority of the time in the live-action world. That's not what happens here. If each episode of SpongeBob were about 20-25 minutes long, then this movie is the equivalent of watching four straight SpongeBob episodes where the first three episodes are classic in-the-water episodes with part of the last episode being live action. Like really, it's over an hour into this 93 minute long movie before we go on land. Then they spend about 15-20 minutes there before it's back in the water. I was shocked. I feel they lied to us, but yet I haven't decided if this is a good thing or a bad thing because they earned a whole heck of a lot of money opening weekend that I don't think they would've come anywhere near had they not tricked everyone into thinking the whole movie was live-action.

In thinking about this, I've decided that when they were discussing this movie that someone mentioned the idea of doing a live-action SpongeBob movie in order to separate this movie from the rest of the SpongeBob universe. This idea was well received, but suddenly they got cold feet because they thought this idea would alienate their fanbase, so they ultimately just made it a small part of the movie and did classic SpongeBob for the rest of it. If you are a SpongeBob fan, I think you'll actually appreciate this. In the movie, the secret recipe for their beloved Krabby patties goes missing and because of that all of Bikini Bottom goes into an apocalypse. SpongeBob ends up teaming up with the villain Plankton in order to try to find the secret recipe and restore order. The kids in the theater were laughing. A lot of their parents were laughing right along with them. The movie went in all sorts of different directions making it very good for people with short attention spans and taught all sorts of good lessons for kids like having teamwork to solve problems.

So like I said, I think this is a very good movie for kids. If your kids love SpongeBob, then this is an excellent movie to take them to. If you are a SpongeBob fan right along with your kids or you don't have kids but you still like SpongeBob, this might be the movie for you. I personally was bored through most of it, just like I always am when SpongeBob is playing. So if you are like me and you don't like SpongeBob, then don't think this will convert you, because it won't. It plays to its fanbase and it does that well. However, despite me being bored for most of the movie, when they finally went on land, that's where I actually got into it. It was clever, whitty, and fun. The CGI made them look like big, plastic toys instead of actual characters, but whatever. That didn't bother me that much. Being that I thought this was the best part of the movie, I actually wish that the movie played out like they advertised it by spending most of their time on land. But oh well. When it does go on land, Antonio Banderas is in the movie as a pirate and he looks like he is having a lot of fun in this kids movie, so kudos to him.

In the end, if you are a SpongeBob fan and this movie had you worried because it seemed like it was going to spend most of the play time on land, then rest assured that it actually isn't like this. You get classic SpongeBob for most of the movie and I think that fans of SpongeBob will really appreciate that. Also, if you have kids that like SpongeBob, then this is a very good movie to take them to. They should love. All the little kids that were with me in the theater looked like they were really enjoying their stay. So I have to give kudos to this movie for playing well to its target audience. If you are part of that target audience, my personal opinion isn't one that you shouldn't really trust. It feels weird saying that, but it's true. People who like SpongeBob enjoyed this movie and that's what's most important. However, I do have to let my opinion be known and I have never been a fan of SpongeBob. I went in hoping that I would enjoy this movie anyways, but I didn't. I was bored for most of. Yes, I was entertained for the 15-20 minutes that we spent on land, but that wasn't enough for me to be entertained and call this a great movie so my personal grade for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water is a 6.5/10.

Jupiter Ascending Review

I'm always down for a good sci-fi movie, which is why when I first heard of Jupiter Ascending I was actually fairly excited, especially since it was being made by the Wachowskis and had a fairly decent cast. While the Wachowskis haven't been on the greatest run since making The Matrix, I was still hoping for a return to form. After all, this was a summer movie, right? It should be really fun. But then it got delayed from this past July till now. That's when all kinds of red flags went up in my mid. They claim was they wanted to finish the movie, but in reading between the lines I began to worry if perhaps they didn't feel confident about what they were putting on the screen. Did they think that their movie wasn't good enough to compete with the other summer blockbusters? Is this why they chose to release the movie in February where they didn't have to compete with superior blockbusters? I mean, wanting more time to make sure the movie is as good as possible is something I can respect. But from July to February? I became nervous. But I was still hoping that it would be good. Then more trailers started to arrive and suddenly I began to realize that this movie is probably going to suck. But wow! Even with low expectations, I totally didn't expect the pile of garbage that I got when I saw it. This movie is terrible!

Let's start with the opening scene. Here we have a happy young couple where the wife is very pregnant. Nothing wrong so far. But then they start obsessing over the wife's bare pregnant belly. They lift up the shirt a bit so they can both stare at the belly and then the husband grabs Vaseline to rub it all over her belly and starts kissing it over and over and over. Maybe this is something married people do all the time, I don't know. I'm not a married person. But to me it started to get awkward. Not sexual or explicit. Just awkward. The kind of awkward you feel if your friend, roommate, or sibling just starts making out in front of you and they don't stop despite the fact that they can obviously tell you're uncomfortable. I was begging this movie to move on, but it didn't. It just dragged on. Then this husband brings up this weird idea of naming their daughter Jupiter while he's pretty much making out with his wife's belly. The wife doesn't like it and for good reason. Who names their daughter Jupiter? But of course, since you know the title of the movie already, you know what's going to happen next. I felt zero remorse when it happened because they just both annoyed the heck out of me in that opening scene.

Not a good start. But oh well. Perhaps the rest of the movie would be entertaining. Can't get any worse, right? Ha! By goodness it can! Mila Kunis, who plays Jupiter, is raised in this Russian household in Chicago where they treat her terribly by making her wake up at 4:45 a.m. every morning and do all the chores like make breakfast, clean the house, scrub the toilet, etc. Just like she's Cinderella. Then I got thinking. The opening was the exact same as Finding Nemo. Then we get Cinderella. I thought the Wachowskis were known for coming up with their original ideas? Negative points for being unoriginal. But let's continue. Shortly after watching Kunis' boring life with this not-so-fun family, she is in the room of a female friend(?) helping that friend pick out a dress. Friend is just standing in her underwear because she can't decide which dress to wear when suddenly aliens arrive in the room. Suddenly nearly naked friend is in a trance and is being lifted up in the air. What does Mila do? Run? Hide? Help her friend? Nope. Let's just get out our phone and calmly take a picture. Because, you know, that totally makes sense. Why would she help? And of course, she forgets the whole thing Men in Black style.

I'm not here to describe the whole plot scene by scene. But I did want to do that to paint a picture of how terrible this movie is when it starts off. I don't know how long it took to get to the main action, but it was all super boring and terrible. But perhaps this movie was going to be a lot of fun once it got going. Oh my goodness. Nope. In fact, I am here to tell you that it got a lot worse. This movie went downhill rather quickly. You know how I picked apart the opening of this film in the previous two paragraphs? I kid you not, I could do this for the entire movie. I mean, after we present in a terrible way of how Mila Kunis' life is boring, suddenly she is trying to buy a telescope for some reason, then she is doing this operation that has nothing to do with anything when the doctors turn into aliens and try to kill her when suddenly Channing Tatum, who is part dog (not as weird Sean Bean who is part bee) arrives to rescue her because for some reason she is like the most important woman in the universe which starts this absolutely freaking ridiculous plot of them fighting over her and earth and something weird and crazy with none of it being executed very well at all. Convoluted is a popular word being used to describe this movie and I'd say that's pretty accurate. This movie lost me really quickly and I never recovered or experienced even one sequence of entertainment.

I was told in a film class that I shouldn't just completely rip a movie apart and call it complete garbage. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to make. Each film is someone's personal project that they spent a very long time on, so I should try to find the good in each movie. Ummmmm... ok. This movie looks really pretty, so long as you ignore the fact that visually it looks exactly like Phantom Menace. Channing Tatum is actually really good in the movie. Sure, I respect the amount of time it took to put this thing together. But I have to be honest. The final product was a mess to me. Speaking of Channing Tatum, let's talk about a few more the actors. Mila Kunis. She looked bored. That worked for the beginning because her character is supposed to be bored with life. But the problem is she never got unbored. She shows very little emotion the whole movie. Not to mention she was just a useless damsel in distress for the whole movie. I mean, how many times did Channing Tatum have to rescue her? A lot. That's not her fault, though. That's the writers' fault. If you're making a movie where the female character's name is in the title of the movie, she should probably be a strong female character that actually does something, especially if she's the most important girl in the universe.

Moving on to another actor that deserves his very own paragraph. Eddie Redmayne. The man did a decent job in Les Mis. His performance didn't stand out, but it wasn't bad. Then he did this movie called The Theory of Everything. Personally I thought the movie was a bit overrated, but I can't argue with the fact that Eddie Redmayne totally knocked it out of the park as Stephen Hawking. No I don't think he deserves to win the best actor award over the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Bradley Cooper, or Michael Keaton, but I'm not going to deny that he did an amazing job. The guy is a good actor and I'm excited for his future. But holy cow! Whatever he was told to do in this movie just didn't work out at all. I don't know who all to blame for this, but this performance was outright terrible. In fact, this is so bad that those people who didn't see Les Mis or The Theory of Everything just may walk out of the theater thinking that Redmayne is a really bad actor and regardless of what he does in the future, I really think that there are going to be a group of people that will be forever scarred by his terrible performance in this movie and may never forgive him for it. I really hope that this doesn't ruin his career.

Man, I've talked so much about this movie that I think it's time for me to wrap it up. However, the sad thing is that I feel that there is a lot that I have left out that I could've talked about. Alas, I do realize that people's attention spans aren't always that big when reading movie reviews, so I'm not going to say all that I could say because that would take way too long. Needless to say, this movie was a disaster. I was hoping for it to be good. Even though it was delayed to February, trailers looked bad, and reviews were coming in poor, I still went in hoping that I was going to be at least somewhat entertained, but I wasn't. I know people spent a lot of time on this project, but the honest truth is that the final product really isn't that good at all. In fact, this was a painful experience for me that made me feel trapped in the theater. Yes, the movie looked pretty and some of the acting (namely Channing Tatum) was good, but in the end I'm going to give Jupiter Ascending a 4/10.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Movie Preview: February 2015

Thanks mostly due to a historical run by American Sniper, this January became the best January since 2009 when Avatar was still in the process of taking over the world. This huge boost from American Sniper also helped start 2015 in an excellent way by notching up the first billion dollar month of the year. This presents a fairly good omen for the rest of the year, a year that is full of huge movies that should make this a very healthy year for the box office. However, outside of American Sniper there weren't a whole lot of movies to write home about, especially when you only look at the new 2015 releases (this would exclude American Sniper and Selma which are both considered 2014 releases). Outside Paddington, all the new releases ended up below 40% on Rotten Tomatoes and over half of them below 20%. Even Paddington (which is at 98% right now) could be removed from this conversation due to the fact that it was initially intended as a Christmas movie before being postponed due to heavy competition. This just cements the idea that January is seen as a dumping ground for studios. February is usually a little better. You could say it's a combination of January and March in that it has several movies that studios are just dumping there in hopes to earn a bit of cash as well as some bigger movies that could draw a lot of interest. This is definitely the case for this February as it has quite the variety of films, both good and bad, big and small. So let's dive in!

February 6th - 8th-

The final weekend of January saw the failure of a movie in Project Almanac that went through a whole lot of production issues. Production issues don't always equate to failure, just ask World War Z, but nonetheless this first weekend we get two such movies are being thrown on the schedule. Before we get to those, though, one of the most popular cartoons is getting another shot at the big screen and that is The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water. SpongeBob has a pretty big following as it first aired on Nickelodeon back in 1999 and went for nine seasons with rumblings of a tenth coming soon. This time around, SpongeBob is going where no other SpongeBob movie or TV episode has gone before. Into the human world. A pirate has stolen something valuable, so they have to follow him and find it. A live-action SpongeBob movie with the classic characters being CGI is a bold move for sure that may or may not work out for SpongeBob fans. They like their classic cartoon SpongeBob and doing this could upset many. Or it could be seen as a genius move that sets this SpongeBob movie apart from all the other SpongeBob material in a good way.

Now to talk about the two movies that have gone through production issues. First off is the movie by the Wachowski siblings, Jupiter Ascending. This was supposed to come out back in June, but got delayed because the Wachowski's said they needed to polish it up, which is respectable. But going from big summer month to a quiet off-month doesn't show a whole lot of confidence. Or perhaps they are just trying to release in a quieter month where they can dominate. Which, if true, turned out to be an unlucky choice because this February is turning into a very competitive month. Early word on Jupiter Ascending is that the visual effects are top notch while the rest of the movie leaves a lot to be desired for, so that's not a good sign. However, what it does have on its side is an excellent cast that includes Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

In a lot more trouble is the fantasy movie Seventh Son. This is based on a popular book series, but as history has shown us, that isn't all that's needed to have success. This movie was originally scheduled to come out in February of 2013. That's two years ago. I can't even begin to describe all the reasons why it kept being pushed back again and again and again. Let's just say that it's had a whole bunch of issues and now it seems like it's just being thrown on the schedule so that they can get this over with. Are there are enough fans of the book series to help this do well? Better yet, do the fans of the book series know it's even coming out? Doesn't seem like there's been a huge marketing push. But Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son can't succeed this weekend and it's going to be hard for either of them to do well against Kingsman: The Secret Service coming up on the weekend of Valentine's Day. It seems like Seventh Son will be the odd one out.

February 13th - 15th-

Friday the 13th is happening this month and it comes the day before Valentine's Day. That seems like a bad omen for many. But not for the box office. Valentine's Day always seems to have a romance movie for the girls and an action movie for the guys. That way those wanting a happy lovey movie for Valentine's Day will be happy while those who want to boycott romance will also be happy. This Valentine's Day definitely follows that trend with two very high profile movies from each genre. To the chagrin of many, the romance movie this Valentine's Day is in fact the very controversial Fifty Shades of Grey. Controversy sparks publicity, which in many cases sparks curiosity. So those who are passionately against this movie and voice their opinions on it might be unintentionally helping its cause, if that makes any sense. Speaking of curiosity, that's the tagline on a lot of the marketing. Curious? Come take a peak. How many are going to give into this? A lot actually. Love it or hate it, this is a popular book with a lot of fans that has had a huge marketing push, so it looks to be quite successful. Those who do know exactly what they are getting into as it got its R-rating (yes R -- not NC-17 or PG-13) for "strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language."

Those not wanting to dive into the sexually charged Fifty Shades of Grey movie have the option to dive into the high profile action movie Kingsman: The Secret Service. This is also an adaption, although of a comic book, not a novel. Those who love action movies are certainly in for a treat because this looks like it is loaded with a whole bunch of crazy, physics-defying action-packed scenes throughout. The purpose of this is to provide a whole lot of fun for its audiences and it looks like it will do just that. Helping that is that this is also a comedy, so its definitely not taking itself seriously. Finally, this has quite the cast as it stars Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Hamill, and Michael Caine among others and also has Matthew Vaughn on board to direct, who previously directed Kick-A--, X-Men: First Class, and Stardust. Action? Comedy? Cast? Director? This is a big recipe for success.

February 20th - 22nd-

After what should be a fairly solid first two weekends this month, the third one looks like it may slow things down a bit, allowing for the holdovers from Valentine's Day to dominate once again. There are three new releases to talk about, though, the first of which being Hot Tub Time Machine 2. This was originally supposed to come out on Christmas, but it shied away due to all the press from The Interview, which ended up not getting much of a theatrical release. February was probably a better time for this, anyways, because the last couple of years have shown us that February is a decent time to release an adult-themed comedy. Last year About Last Night did decent business while Identity Thief was the biggest February hit from two years ago. So this sets up nicely on paper. The issue here is did people really want a sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine? Since its release in 2010, there have been a ton of adult comedies that have been huge hits that have already had successful sequels. But this was only a decent hit in the first place and it wasn't extremely well-received. They also probably waited too long to get this out, which will often hurt a sequel even if the first was liked.

Next up we have Kevin Costner doing what Kevin Costner does best. Starring in a sports movie. This time around he's a track coach in McFarland, USA. Sports movies are a tricky thing to do sometimes because there's really only so many ways you can go with the story before coming off as cliche and repetitive. At the same time, if you have a good cast with a good enough story, then people going into the sports movie will be ready for a happy, feel good story. But still, in order to attract huge audiences, you need to stand out. Can McFarland, USA stand out? Can Kevin Costner put the movie on his shoulders if it doesn't stand out. Costner's sports movie last year was Draft Day and that wasn't super impressive and neither was Disney's sports movie from last year in Million Dollar Arm. In fact, both ended with around $30 million, which seems like a fair place for this to end up in.

Speaking of comedies that people might not be interested in, our final movie of the weekend is The DUFF. This is definitely a comedy aimed at teenage girls as this is about a girl in high school being labeled as the "DUFF," which stands for "Designated Ugly Fat Friend." I didn't know that being a DUFF was a thing, but yet it's been a while since I've been to high school, so maybe that's a new thing for high school. Either way, self image is a pretty big thing for high school girls, so this seems like it could be relevant for that crowd, but are they actually going to show up to see it? It doesn't have a known director and it's biggest actor is Robbie Amell, star of CW's The Tomorrow People and The Flash. That's not the best sign.

February 27th - March 1st-

The final weekend of February, which includes one day of March, gives us two new titles, one including one of Hollywood's biggest stars in Will Smith. This movie is Focus. Given Will Smith's box office track record, it's hard to bet against him, especially in this one where he is teamed up with The Wolf of Wall Street star Margot Robbie. In Focus, Will Smith plays a con artist who takes Margot Robbie under his wing as a partner, but things get complicated when he starts losing... uhh.. focus. Because, you know, it's really easy to fall in love with Margot Robbie, so you can't blame the man. The movie is part crime drama and part comedy, so it looks like it has a very good balance. While betting on Will Smith to succeed just because it's Will Smith isn't a bad strategy, it's worth noting that his last big movie, After Earth, was a big failure, so even the best can fall short.

Last and possibly least, February rounds thing off by delivering us another horror movie with The Lazerus Effect. Horror movies are a dime a dozen and recently have been very poorly received. Recently being last year of course as there were many different horror movies that ended up on peoples' worst movies of 2014 lists. Is The Lazerus Effect going to change the genre's luck around by giving horror fans something can cheer for? Director David Gelb previous work includes.... documentaries? Nope. No feature length films. Nothing horror related. But if it can provide scares, then that's all that matters, right? The premise here is that a group of researchers finds a way to bring people back to life. Hence the Lazerus effect. And of course you know things are going to go wrong. This is only PG-13, so perhaps it's trying to attract the teenage crowd?