Oscar Night 2014

It’s that time of year folks, the Oscars are upon us… for some people, it’s a chance to root for their favorite movies, and their favorite celebrities.  For others it’s a chance to look at fashions, and beauty… and for many of us it’s just another thing to do on a Sunday night.

I personally love the Oscars, since I’m not a sports fan, this is MY Super Bowl (with gowns instead of commercials).  I can’t say that I have seen every Oscar ceremony in the last 30 years, but I am sure I’ve come close.  I have my Oscar memories just like you all do, and I even have my Oscar traditions just like you all do as well.

My friend Jared and I have already recorded and released our Oscar episode of Cine-rama, which you can check out here.  But it wouldn’t be right for me to let this Oscar season go by with giving you my personal rundown and opinions on each of the Best Picture Nominees.

Ready, set, GO!

1) American Hustle:  I can’t remember if I wrote about this movie or not, but I thought this movie was a real disappointment.  The style, the cast, and the trailer had me really excited to see this crime drama set in the 70s, but in the end it fell flat and left me bored.  The movie was way way way too long, and had a ludicrous plot that was almost impossible to keep up with.  The performances by Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams were the two that stood out the most (both actors are nominated for their respected roles), but it’s Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence who have Hollywood buzzing.  A special shout out must be given to Louis C.K. for his role as Bradley Cooper’s boss who can never finish his story about his brother on the ice.  For a movie that was suppose to be hilarious, it was only Louis C.K. that delivered the humor, just by his delivery alone.

Will it win?  It’s hard to say because this movie did win the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical, so that helps its chances of winning the Oscar for BP.  Of course, in my opinion this movie is a good fit for that award, so if it’s going to get any statue it might as well be the Golden Globe, but I don’t think (or hope) it will really win in comparison to the other films nominated.

Performances? The four main actors in this film; Bale, Cooper, Adams, and Lawrence are all nominated for an acting award in their respective categories.  All of them are fine actors, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence have both won in the past, and Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper are both deserving of one, but not for this movie.  Bradley Cooper should have won for Silver Linings Playbook… just saying.

2) Captain Phillips: I liked this movie a whole lot more than I thought I would, it was intense and Tom Hanks was amazing.  As an Academy Award winner though, I’m not entirely sure… it got a lot of Oscar Buzz early on, but now that we are approaching this years ceremony, you don’t hear as much about it.  The film’s story has been tainted a bit by recent reports of the actual events that the movie has been based on, but hopefully that would not deter people from liking it or voting for it.  Tom Hanks gave one of the best performances of his career in this film (he actually gave TWO of this best performances of his career in 2013 alone; the other being Saving Mr. Banks) and sadly did not garner a nomination.

Will it win?  I think I covered this pretty well already, but this year it was hard to predict a winner, so this movie could take us by surprise and upset the rest of nominees.

Performances? Tom Hanks was great as I said above; however, Barkhad Abdi also did an amazing job in this film.  He played the main terrorist in the film, and showed a lot of great depth and emotion.  Will he win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor though?  Probably not, I think that honor may go to either Jared Leto or Michael Fassbender.  (Sorry Jonah Hill, not this year…)

3) Dallas Buyers Club:  This movie was fantastic, it had it all… powerful performances, great story, and lots of Oscar buzz.  Again, just like Captain Phillips, I think this movie was the favorite to win the top prize but as the awards season went on, this movie’s chances seemed to diminish.  If I were asked to pick the winner (why I’m not asked, I don’t know) I would have picked Dallas Buyers Club as the best.  It was such a powerful, moving picture and I think that everyone in it put their heart and soul into the performance.  Matthew McConauhey and Jared Leto especially, I mean not only did they completely transform themselves to play these parts, but they also became the characters they were playing (although, McConauhey didn’t have to stretch that far).  I was really impressed by this film in the end, and it’s too bad that it probably won’t win for Best Picture.

Will it win?  Like I said, I think that the Oscar buzz wore off too quickly for this film, and it’s pretty much all but forgotten.

Performances? I hope McConauhey wins, and I hope Jared Leto wins… At the very least, I believe that Jared Leto is a shoe in for Best Supporting Actor, and I think many critics agree.

4) Gravity: This movie was amazing, it took the old standby story of a castaway lost at sea and shot it into space.  This film was beautiful, and compelling, and I loved it.  If it wasn’t for Dallas Buyers Club, this would be my pick for Best Picture, because the amount of work that Alfonso Cuaron and his team must have put into this movie is astounding.  And Sandra Bullock and George Clooney really had to work hard to hold this movie together, (Sandra Bullock especially) because there was no one else in the film to help move the story along.

Will it win?  I think Gravity has a really good chance of winning Best Picture, I believe it is one of the top 3 contenders at this point.  I feel that at the very least, we may see Alfonso Cuaron take home the Oscar for Best Director, but you never know.

Performances? Sandra Bullock was nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role… Jared and I talked bout this at length on our Oscar podcast, and we both feel that she is the right choice for the win.

5) Her: I liked Her.  Who?  Her, yes Her… (okay enough of that).  I have been a fan of Spike Jonze since Being John Malkovich, and I couldn’t have been more excited by this film, and just as excited by the results.  Joaquin Phoenix (who is also one of my favorite actors, sorry Jared) delivered a great performance as a sad sack loner who falls in love with his operating system.  Spike Jonze picked a great time to put out this film as technology that interacts with us is starting to be a part of our lives.  The emotions, and the complexity of the relationship between Theodore and Samantha are so real, and so accurate to human interactions, it makes it harder to believe that Samantha ISN’T actually real.

Will it win? Yes, I will say this movie is worthy of the nomination, but I do not believe it has a chance of winning.  Not because it’s a bad movie, but because there’s so many other movies nominated that are so much better.  I think that Spike Jonze has definitely set himself on a path to an Oscar win, but this is not his year.

Performances? Many people know, and many people have expressed outrage over the fact that I DO NOT like Scarlet Johansson.  In my humble opinion, she is a very boring actress with very little range.  However, there are certain roles in her career that stand out as being better than others.  For example, I thought she was great in Don Jon, but not so great in The Prestige.  She was great in Matchpoint, but not so good in Scoop… however, I will give her credit because this was one of her stand out roles.  Also, Amy Adams was cute and adorable in this movie, her role was small in comparison to American Hustle but I liked her performance a lot.

Lastly, look out for director Spike Jonze in another nominee for Best Picture; The Wolf of Wall Street.  Spike has been popping up more and more these days in acting roles as well as his capacity as director.

6) Nebraska:  I’ll be honest, this movie is probably going to be my number 1 for the year of 2013.  I loved this movie so much, in so many ways.  Alexander Payne knows how to make a moving film, and one that hits you right where you live.  It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s sad, and it’s just a really great movie.  I love the use of black and white, which helps to enhance the flat, bleakness of the midwest.

Will it win? Sadly, a movie like this is the underdog… it is in a category filled with giants.  With 10 possible nominations, there’s always going to be 1 or 2 that just don’t stand a chance.  A few years ago The Reader was an example of one of those small, understated films that was honored with a nomination, but just didn’t have a chance to win.  Nebraska may be one hell of a movie, but even compared to Alexander Payne’s The Descendants it has a slim chance of winning.  But I recommend this movie to anyone…

Performances? Before this movie my knowledge of Bruce Dern was very limited, with the exception of the fact that he is Laura Dern’s father, I really did not know him.  I looked through his IMDb page trying to find something that stood out for me, but for the most part he lies in obscurity, yet he is apparently well respected by his fellow actors.

Bruce Dern isn’t the stand alone actor in the film, June Squibb who played Woody’s wife; Kate is also nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  She was really amazing in this movie, playing a strong woman who has had to put up with a lot of crap over the years.  She also served as the film’s comic relief, which is amusing considering her sons were both played by comedic actors.  Will Forte plays Woody and Kate’s son who accompanies Woody on his journey.  At first I questioned whether this Saturday Night Live veteran would be good in such a dramatic role, and boy was I surprised.  He may not have been nominated for an Oscar, but I do hope to see him in more dramatic roles in the future.  And finally, Bob Odenkirk… an actor I look up to, and I enjoy him in anything he’s in.

7) Philomena: Another film from 2013 that flew under most people’s radars is Philomena.  Based on a true story, and written by actor Steve Coogan, this film follows the eponymous characters journey to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption when she was young.  Played brilliantly by Judi Dench, and her journalist companion played by Steve Coogan, this film deserves to get a lot more praise and publicity than what it received.  It was a real eye opener to learn about the things that happened within the Catholic Church at that time, but what was brilliant about Philomena the movie, and Philomena the character is that she teaches us to forgive, but not forget.

Will it win?  I would say that just like Nebraska, it’s highly unlikely for this movie to win.  It’s another underdog that will have a very hard time competing with the giants.

Performances?  Judi Dench deserves every nomination she gets, I would certainly not be disappointed if she does win, especially for this film.  The odds are favorite is Steve Coogan for best adapted screenplay, which I think is very much deserved.

8) 12 Years a Slave: I think with most movie lovers and film critics, 12 Years a Slave was probably the last movie on the list they wanted to watch.  Movies about slavery are nothing new, and this certainly won’t be the last such movie either.  However, with this film I learned so much more than I did any other film with the same topic.  Whether I never learned about freed slaves getting sold into slavery, or it is something I had forgotten; the story of Solomon Northup is one I will definitely remember for as long as I live.  This movie surprised me, I won’t say I enjoyed the film because how can you enjoy a film about slavery, but I empathized with the film… I felt part of it.  I weeped for Solomon in the end, not because I was sad, but because this film had a happy ending… it had a hopeful ending, which was what I loved so much about the movie.

Will it win?  I would say that this movie has the best chance of winning out of all the nominees.  If it does win, I don’t think anyone would be surprised… and frankly it deserves to win.  On the other hand, it may not win… we’ll see.  (it did win the BAFTA award, which is the British equivalent of the Oscars).

Performances? Chiwetel Ejiofor is a phenomenal actor in anything that he is in… he played this part to perfection.  Lupita Nyong’o I believe will win for best supporting actress, her performance was gut wrenching, and although she’s in a category filled with amazing talent, I believe that she will win this award.

On another note, Steve McQueen is a favorite for Best Director… a lot of people are saying Alfonso Cuaron is going to get Best Director, but if this film gets Best Picture, then Steve McQueen will definitely win Best Director.  And, he will also be the first African American director to win the award… I’ll be rooting for him.

9) The Wolf of Wall Street: Save the best for last right?  Wrong… I have so much respect for Martin Scorcese, but this was easily one of his weakest film.  The 3 hour runtime made it very difficult to get through, and it didn’t help the already disjointed plot of the film.  I just did not like this movie at all…

Will it win?  Probably not… I think a lot of people would be pretty upset if this one beat out some of the other movies nominated.

Performances?  Leonardo DiCaprio is great in this movie, but he’s not doing anything he hasn’t done before.  Jonah Hill was nominated for his role in this film, a nomination that left me confused because his part was not all that great.  But, he did play it to the best of his ability… and like I said above, Jonah Hill may win an Oscar some day, but I really don’t think this is the year.

I guess that about wraps it up… don’t throw it in my face if I’m wrong, because chances are… I probably will be.  Enjoy the Super Bowl of Hollywood folks!  And if you wanna hear more about what Jared and I have to say about the Oscars, check out episode 74.2 of Cine-rama.

Episode 74.2 – in which Jared and Christian talk Oscars.

 

Here’s a new Cinematic Misfits bonus episode for you, Jared and I cranked this out this afternoon in order to get it up before the Oscars.  So, here what we have to say about this years nominees and who will wear what on the red carpet.   This is episode 74.2, a bonus episode, in which Jared and Christian talk Oscars.

You are listening to an archive episode of The Cinematic Misfits Podcast, originally titled The Cine-rama Podcast.

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: The Wind Rises

The Japanese North by Northwest

Author’s note: This review is for the original Japanese language version of film. There is a dubbed version also being shown in the U.S., but I have not seen it. Check your local listings to see what is being shown in your area if you’re lucky enough to have it screening near you.

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises is a little tough on us history majors, especially those of us who’ve studied World War II. Tough because the focus is on the creator of Japan’s Zero fighter plane, Jiro Horikoshi.

The film is a true story only in slightly more of a sense than was, say, Disney’s Pocahontas. Minus the anthropomorphic tree and plus fantastical sequences where he interacts with an Italian plane designer in their dreams. And that’s the tricky part. Jiro’s creations were used by the Japanese military to kill a lot of people. It would kind of be like doing an animated film where Wernher Von Braun is the hero. Regardless of the person or their intentions, they were working for some horrifying regimes.

In response to this, there are some things placed into the movie about Jiro speculating that Japan “will blow up.” At one point he is sought after by the Japanese “thought police” as one of his bosses refers to them, perhaps as a way to distance him from the people that would use his machines, though this is a plot thread left dangling and unresolved. But it can still be difficult to wrap your mind around the central character arc of the film, especially as a Westerner. We want to see Jiro succeed because Miyazaki makes him very sympathetic and human. But we also don’t want him to succeed at all because of what his success means. Jiro’s obsession and passion is creating “beautiful airplanes.” He wanted to be an aeronautical engineer since he was a boy and he worked hard for it. But we know his creations will be used in Japan’s attempt to conquer China and kill many Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Zero itself went on to become the plane most often used in kamikaze runs when the war was reaching its end.

As for the film itself, moral implications of its story aside, it is classic Miyazaki in tone and beauty. Like many of his films, it is mostly quiet, contemplative and often gentle, taking its time to unfold before the viewer. It is a story about feeling the need to create, regardless of what it takes. Jiro dreams of flying, but with his eyesight it is impossible. So he does the next best thing; he creates aircraft. (Seemingly under the direction of a Japanese version of Bob’s boss from The Incredibles.)

The film mixes elements about the driving nature of creation with a romance featuring no less than three “meet-cutes.” While the way the relationship comes together is ridiculously coincidental in the way that can only happen in cinema, the actual interactions between them are charming and tender, helping you care what happens to them. Despite its typically Miyazaki design and a color palate that is often quite bright, this is far more of an adult feature than most of his work. If Ponyo was for small children, this film is for the parents. There is definitely humor built into the storytelling, but the film is often moody and introspective.

It isn’t, as a friend of mine mused, Grave of the Fireflies-level depressing, though. Far from it. And it isn’t completely static, either. Early on there’s a stunning rendition of an earthquake that is such a new way of representing such an event, I was actually puzzled as to what was going on until a character explained. It is far more interesting than just a shaking camera with things falling over.

What’s great about the film is that it exactly what an American animation company would never do. Instead of an animated film, this is the kind of film we’d see made as a mid-level, live-action biopic starring someone trying to win an Oscar. For some reason, people are blind to the opportunities of the art form and put it in a box. But for Miyazaki, it is a way to capture a bygone era of Japan’s recent past. It is a way to show Tokyo being destroyed without resorting to spectacle. It is a way to show fanciful dream sequences that would be considered out of place and tone deaf in a live-action film. It is a way to resurrect dead technologies. There are so many logical reasons to film this story this way, but it isn’t an inherently family film or a straight comedy, so I have the sinking feeling some American audiences will come out of it confused based solely on their media conditioning. (Though for the record, there’s nothing in it that I’d be worried about kids seeing unless you’re fervently anti-smoking, because damn, the guy’s like a chimney.) If I’m wrong, I’ll be ecstatic about it.

Miyazaki has said this will be his last film, but then he’s said that before. Perhaps it would be wiser for him to say that he’s done until he finds another story that he feels a driving need to tell. If there’s any one thing that a person should probably be taking from The Wind Rises, it is probably that standing in the way of a creative passion is pointless.

(Four damns given out of five)

Cine-rama Episode 74.2 – in which Jared and Christian talk Oscars.

Here’s a new Cine-rama bonus episode for you, Jared and I cranked this out this afternoon in order to get it up before the Oscars.  So, here what we have to say about this years nominees and who will wear what on the red carpet.   This is episode 74.2, a bonus episode, in which Jared and Christian talk Oscars.

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Kent’s Movie Diary: Machetes, Swords, Hammers and… Ghosts.

MachetePoster

That’s right folks! It’s time for another Movie Diary, filled with what I’ve had my eyeballs glued to over the last week or two.

MACHETE/MACHETE KILLS– How does one even begin to review Robert Rodriguez’s Machete films? In a way, they’re made to be critic proof, much like the Grindhouse double-feature they spun off of (especially Rodriguez’s Planet Terror half.) I’m not even sure what to call them. The first is essentially doing little more than grafting Mexican culture onto 70s-style blaxploitation films, especially the kind that promoted the “revolution.” It almost feels like the La Raza charter was simply put into a word processing program. Because really, who doesn’t want to end their film with a good, old-fashioned race war? And then the type of over-the-top, insane action sequences you see in Bollywood film clips on youtube were randomly inserted. It’s not a parody of blaxploitation. Not in the strict sense that Black Dynamite was. But there’s far too many winks at the audience to really qualify as straight homage, either. And as Drew McWeeny over at hitfix.com pointed out last week in his review of Pompeii, because they aren’t taking themselves seriously, they don’t really count as camp.

Really what they end up being are entertaining messes. Especially the second which, while still trying to make political points with the subtlety of a baseball bat to the coconut, is far more focused on simply being as insane as possible for 90 minutes. It holds up surprisingly well considering the first film suffers in comparison to the Grindhouse trailer that preceded it.

Danny Trejo is, of course, pretty much fantastic in his star turn. His acting is terrible and spot-on at the same time. And the inability of beautiful women to keep their hands off him despite his chainsaw sculpture face is a great recurring gag. Michele Rodriguez, meanwhile, does some of the best work of her career in the films, parading around in skimpy clothes and an eyepatch, yet somehow exuding more character than all of her appearances in the Fast and Furious films combined.

Machete KillsPosterIn a lot of the secondary roles, it almost seems like these films are serving as actor rehab. Lindsay Lohan shows up in a small part in the first film and when she’s replaced by an obvious double, it’s damned funny. Charlie Sheen as the president is just plain surreal. And while I know we all hate Mel Gibson now, he tears into his role as the bad guy in Machete Kills with gusto. He seems to have just decided to own the crazy thing. Given how bad Hangover II was, he should probably be thanking Zach Galifianakis for getting him booted from that production. This suits him better. (I was going to make a comment doing some compare/contrast with Roman Polanski, but I don’t need that kind of heat right now.)

I’m not sure why it is that these films didn’t completely connect with me. Sure, I enjoyed them a lot despite the flaws. Many of which I am sure were built in. But they are cinematic Taco Bell. In one end and nigh immediately out the other. But, like Iron Sky, I’m simply glad that they exist even if they didn’t manage to be home runs. I’m sure I’ll watch them again when I need to satiate my desire for goofy bloodshed.

ZatoichiPilgramagePosterZATOICHI’S PILGRAMMAGE/ZATOICHI’S CANE SWORD– I am now more than halfway through the Zatoichi films produced through the 60s. I think I’m getting to the end of the Daiei films, but I’m not sure, I’ll have to check the book that came with it. In any case, these are two excellent entries in the series.

In Zatoichi’s Pilgrimage, our eponymous hero seeks to repent for some of the blood that he’s spilled (last measured as enough to fill a killer whale tank at Sea World) by visiting 88 temples across Japan. Of course this plan immediately goes off the rails because he’s attacked and has to defend himself. He ends up with the assassin’s sister, who takes him in. In the process, he ends up in a classic High Noon situation in which a village won’t defend itself against a gang of criminal hoods making life miserable for them. Ichi is the only one that will take them on, albeit reluctantly. The farmers haven’t seen Seven Samurai, I guess.

The swordplay is good in this one, but not spectacular. The real reason to watch it is simply because it’s a great character piece for Ichi. He doesn’t want to be a hero, but at the same time his sense of honor will not allow him to back out without defending the person he sees himself as having wronged. Regardless of how much he may try to talk himself out of it.

ZatoichiCaneSwordZatoichi’s Cane Sword, the fifteenth film, is one of the best in the series thus far. It’s got a lot of wit and manages to balance the drama with humor. Something the series can struggle with at times as different films can veer wildly from dour to fluffy. Ichi remains fairly consistent in character through them, which is why even the most mediocre of the films tends to still work on at least a level of basic entertainment. But the best are the ones that manage to be well-rounded.

The story itself is admittedly something that has been done many times within the series. Gangsters and corrupt government officials conspire to oppress the people, they kill the wrong folks to gain power, they tick Zatoichi off and lots of people die. But the power is, as always, in the execution. (Execution often being a key word with these films.) And this one is really well made. It also goes a little bit into the history of his ever-present sword cane, part of what feeds into his iconic persona. Samurai movies often manage to fetishize blades and this one does a great job of showing it done right. It definitely comes across as more rewarding than finding out about Jack’s tattoo on Lost. This wouldn’t be the first Zatoichi film I showed people to get them into the films, but it would be on the short list for people that want to pick a handful of them rather than watch the entire series.

ConjuringPosterTHE CONJURING– Who knew James Wan had it in him? After slumming around in the Saw series, he’s put out what I would say is one of the best straight-up horror flicks in a really long time.

This isn’t just because the film is well-made, however. Though it is. The cinematography, despite being partially dependent on my usually hated documentary style, is great. Shots are given room to breath and while there are definitely jumpcuts, they’re not overused. Part of this is because the film wisely uses a slow-build to the more outrageous and showy stuff towards the end. It starts with creaks and whispers interrupting periods of silence. The sense of dread is palpable.

But one of the real reasons this film is a standout is the job that Patrick WIlson and Vera Farmiga do in portraying real life, married paranormal investigators, The Warrens. It’s hard to believe that using a couple of ghost hunters actually grounds a film, but their personalities are actually believable. They aren’t portrayed as kooks. They are religious and well versed in Catholicism. They are not looking for proof in life after death. They already believe in it because of their religious backgrounds. They don’t blindly accept that everything is caused by the supernatural. They look for proof. They start every case with a healthy dose of skepticism. And they provide heroes to root for against the evil presence haunting a family in 70s Rhode Island that serves as the focus of the film.

It’s supposedly based on a true story, but we all know how far that usually goes when it comes to movies. But because of its structure, it doesn’t immediately drop a bunch of CGI slime on you. And because of that, it feels more believable. (I found the first half scarier than the second, actually.) It’s too bad more films don’t follow this mantra. I mean, Ghostbusters didn’t drop the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in during the first fifteen minutes. The Conjuring takes its time.

I’m sure there will be people that consider themselves above this type of film. Many of them are snide folks that don’t allow themselves to be scared by films or let a story pull them in. I feel sorry for those folks.

I also think the film is a travesty of an R-rating. While I certainly wouldn’t want to show it to a child, the film has very little on-screen violence, minimal gore and almost no real swearing to speak of. It’s only rated R because the people viewing it felt it was too darn effective, which is ridiculous. I would say it is appropriate for any teen that is mature enough to handle it. There are 14-year-olds that will be able to handle the film better than some middle-aged people. It’s just one more example of the fact that the MPAA’s system is flawed with its rigidity and resultant decisions.

all-hail-the-kingTHOR: THE DARK WORLD/ALL HAIL THE KINGIt’s pretty easy for folks to see what I thought about the sequel to Thor and its post-Avengers leap into deeper mythology.

(To summarize, it’s an extremely fun and confident film, especially for a first time filmmaker, that does a great job expanding on the characters.)

I think I actually enjoyed the film more the second time around. It’s not perfect, but it’s got a great energy and I love some of the weird ideas presented. I do wish they’d managed to work the blue/black designs in for the dark elves, but we can’t get everything we want.

The real thing to point out though is that the video release includes the latest and most ambitious of Marvel Films’ “One-Shot” series and it’s the best one yet. All Hail the King is a sequel to Iron Man 3 and picks up during the incarceration of Trevor Slattery. (I’m kind of assuming the people reading this review have seen IM3 considering about a quarter of the planet was represented in its box-office figures. So you are warned.)

The faux Mandarin is actually enjoying more success behind bars than he ever did during his career and he’s taking full advantage. The fifteen minute short is pretty much hilarious and Ben Kingsley is in fine form. Not only that, but it actually addresses some of the butthurt that myself and other fans of The Mandarin felt when the film universe essentially pooped the bed in his use. While I found Iron Man 3 to be extremely entertaining, I’ll admit that the twist, while funny, meant switching from a very effective villain to little more than a retread of the first two films.

King manages to fix some of that damage. For some it may be too little, too late, but for me it was a welcome semi-apology. While most Marvel cinephiles will most likely already be buying the film to continue their collections, the inclusion of the short really does increase the value of the release. I applaud Marvel for putting so much effort into it and hope for the best in the future.

PLP – Pod Shots – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

imageWe’re back with a final discussion on the world of The Lord of the Rings, with a discussion on the film: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug! For this episode, I’m joined by the host of Filmographies and Cameron Watches Movies, Mr. Cameron Rice! Throughout the discussion we talk a bit about the tone of the film compared to the previous Hobbit film, the plan of the dwarfs when it comes to Smaug, and the idea that for a film called, The Hobbit, Bilbo isn’t in the main focus of the film. We discuss the barrel fight sequence and the addition of a threads not found in the book. We get a bit into the design of some of the characters and if that takes away from one of the hosts’s enjoyment of the film or not. It’s always great talking with Cameron and as per usual this discussion is full of histories with the franchise as well as a quick dialogue about what we want out of the final installment from Peter Jackson. It’s a nice bow on what’s been a challenging undertaking watching all of these films and discussing them here on Pod Shots. Check it out!

Music:
Ed Sheeran – I See Fire

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Eric Williams, Cameron Rice, Cameron Watches Movies, Plain Label Podcast

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Filmographies: Sam Peckinpah Episode 3

On this episode of Filmographies, we hit the middle batch of Peckinpah’s work. We discuss his first work with Steve McQueen, the rodeo film “Junior Bonner,” his modern day heist film written by Walter Hill, “The Getaway” and end things with the infamous but newly reevaluated and final Western “Pat Garret and Billy the Kid.” Enjoy!

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PLP – Episode 54 – Ultimate Super-Hero Warrior Part 2

imageIn our latest episode, we are once again joined by the one and only Alan White, aka New Mutant. Our discussion is again upon Super-Hero films in our search for the Ultimate Warrior. In this episode, we discuss the films: Howard the Duck, The Crow, Hancock, Jonah Hex, and Dredd. Join us again for a beefy episode full of NSFW remarks and occasional film analysis. We discuss a few of the worst films we’ve ever talked about on this podcast and have a lot more fun discussing them, then we did watching them. We also discover what Alan’s kryptonite is… The deadly, and unflinching, Farmer’s Blow. It’s another entertaining episode of Plain Label Podcast, join us won’t you?

Music:
Ultimate Warrior Theme
Cherry Bomb – Howard the Duck

Facebook:
Eric Williams, Rachel Szelag, New Mutant, The Power Principle, Plain Label Podcast

Twitter:
@EricWilliams79, @LadySzelag, @NewMutant @PlainLabelPod

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http://www.movienoise.com/plainlabel/podcasts/PlainLabelPodcast054.mp3

Kent’s Movie Diary: Netflix Roundup

I’ve been trying to catch up on some stuff in my Netflix queue. Finally. I had the same discs sitting in front of my TV for, like, four months. So let’s take stock of some things I’ve seen lately on blu ray.

OMFUG! CBGB: Those of us who are fans of old school punk (aka those of us who listen to The Ramones and don’t just wear their shirts) all know about CBGB, the club that gave rise to great punk and new wave bands when the rest of the country was awash in the horrors of disco and arena rock. Blondie (back before they went disco themselves), Talking Heads, Television and many other bands got their start on its stage, in front of floors packed with people that weren’t smart enough to run from the bankrupt, rat-infested 10th level of hell that was New York in the 70s.

Alan Rickman is probably one of my favorite actors. Hans Gruber? Snape? The Metatron? Take your pick. He tends to be great in most things he does. However, he typically isn’t trying to play a New Jersey Jew and, honestly, his American accent has gone a little downhill since he was in Die Hard. They try to make up for this by mostly giving him monosyllabic dialogue, but it’s still more a fun excursion than a great performance as CBGB’s owner, Hilly Kristal.

The film isn’t great, but I actually did find it a pretty solid bit of entertainment for a fellow with my interests. There are a surprising number of people that you may recognize in it. Rupert Grint plays one of The Dead Boys, a band known for their outrageous stage shows involving cutting, sex and asphyxiation. Stana Katic of Castle and Bradley Whitford are record execs. That annoying guy from Big Bang Theory is a manager. (I know what you’re thinking; could you be more specific?) Donal Logue wears a hardhad at all times. It’s pretty fun playing Where’s Waldo with them.

The aesthetics are too playful for some of the darker themes of the film, though. It makes better use of a comic book framing device than Ang Lee’s Hulk did (using Punk magazine as its basis for doing so) but the whole thing seems to suffer from a tonal problem. Still, for anyone that loves this kind of music, I say check it out. It’s worth a rental.

Jurassic Park it ain't. LAND OF THE LOST: I know the critical community took a dinosaur-sized crap on this film, based somewhat loosely on the Sid and Marty Krofft television series. And when I say loosely, it’s because most of the elements from the show are present: dinosaurs, time portals, Sleestaks, pylons… but it’s presented in a way that’s completely different. Instead of a family falling through a time portal to the Savage Land, what we have instead is a couple of scientists and a redneck. Will Ferrell is Dr. Rick Marshall, a professor that ruined his career by focusing on time travel and getting into a fight with a well known TV personality. Holly is recast as a British grad student that drags him back into research and looks good in some Daisy Dukes. And then there’s Will, a tourist trap owner played by Danny McBride. He’s pretty much just Danny McBride. Again.

And I can understand why this thing flopped at the box office and audiences stayed away in droves. It’s just plain weird. Like, cult film weird.

I have rattling around in my brain some particularly memorable bits and pieces of the show because they showed reruns on CBS Saturday mornings as I was growing up in the early 80s. And it really was pretty much an insane slice of psychedelia made on the cheap, mostly distinguishable from the Kroffts’ other works by its tone. And the tone was kind of creepy, honestly. As laughable as the effects and the production values may have been, for a kid, it was kind of nightmare fuel. And the movie goes hog wild with the complete bizarreness of the world they created. The plot really doesn’t make sense in a lot of cases, but it also doesn’t pretend to. It uses logic as toilet paper. I use that metaphor because the movie is also kind of filthy. I’m surprised at some of the jokes they got away with in a PG-13 film.

That said, I actually liked the movie. Quite a bit, in fact. There were definitely gags that did not land and a lot of the references to the original show are just plain too on the nose. Actually, so much so that I think they were purposely doing them that way. You can practically see Ferrell playing chicken with the audience when he pauses with drama prior to every use of the movie’s title in his lines. But I thought Ferrell was pretty damn funny doing his pompous idiot routine. I liked the psychedelic rock used in the soundtrack. I liked the grainy, washed out cinematography. I liked the great Sleestak costumes and the terrible CGI effects. And I just plain liked the balls out ridiculousness of the script. Maybe this is based too much on it being a deserved lampooning of my nostalgia, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Or don't. Totally up to you.SLEEPWALK WITH ME: Mike Birbiglia is a stand-up comedian who became well-known for a one-man show in which he talks about his experiences with a rare sleep disorder which causes him to act out his dreams. After performing on NPR’s English Major wankfest This American Life, he and show host Ira Glass decided to adapt his autobiographical comedy act into a film.

In some ways you could say that the film is an indie equivalent to Howard Stern’s Private Parts. (Albeit a PG-13 rated one.) He says it is about 70% accurate to his life with some events mixed around and some cinematic shorthand applied. See, Mike is a pretty regular guy working a crappy job and having a dream to make it in stand-up comedy. The problem is that he’s completely awful at it. Regardless, he begins pursuing gigs while his relationship to his long-term girlfriend starts to slowly disintegrate in large part due to his fears of marriage and children. The couple’s horrible friends certainly don’t help. This anxiety triggers his ever-increasingly dangerous and bizarre sleepwalking adventures.

Despite the depressing premise of a failing relationship, the film not only manages to be funny, but it hits on being genuinely sweet at times. He doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to saying that he did things wrong which actually works in his favor. “Remember that you’re supposed to be on my side,” he apologetically says to the audience. It could come across as cheesy, but instead seems genuine. I highly recommend spending seventy minutes with him. It is definitely an excellent film.

Furious 6! Vin smash! FAST AND FURIOUS 6: I have not seen all of the F&F movies. I took the strange move of seeing the first in the theater when it came out and then seeing the fifth in the theater due to interest drummed up from rave reviews. I did not see any of the others in-between. I’m thinking I need to go back and catch the ones in the middle. Maybe make it one of the series I catch up on since I’m switching between several of them. (Currently in the middle of the Zatoichi films and the Star Trek Next Gen films, which we’ll get back to.)

Like the last film, Justin Lin (who’s best work I still consider to be the paintball episode of Community) is at the helm and he creates one hell of a fun, stupid ride. The script is an absolute mess. It’s just dumb. Like, dumb as my sister-in-law’s mentally challenged Boston Terrier. It makes Fast Five seem downright Shakespearian. There are plot points that don’t make even the slightest bit of sense, twists that make you say, “Whaaaa?” and some serious problems with physics. But damn does he know how to do action scenes and do them well. He’s basically a very talented director in search of better material.

The reason to watch this film, like always, is to see some good, old fashioned chases and wrecks. Due to CGI there aren’t enough of them nowadays and it’s great that there’s at least one franchise that is keeping stuntmen employed. Plus, with some of the vintage vehicles they pull out, you’re getting some classic car porn. The actors are still really likable. Putting them all in the same film is what really kicked the franchise into new territory when most film series would have died. The problem is that my favorite two characters are gone by the end of film, which cuts into my interest in the upcoming seventh film (currently scrambling to recover from the death of Paul Walker).

It’s hard to believe that this franchise has become one of the most successful in Hollywood history. I suppose maybe part of it is because there’s been surprisingly little imitation of it. In my head, I’m assuming it is because it was a slow-growth success where most copycats go after things that are overnight sensations. Either way, despite my misgivings about the intelligence of the plotting, I am much less insulted by this series that quietly serves its fanbase than I am more aggressively stupid fare like the Transformers films. So I say keep making them as long as they’re entertaining.

Let's listen to the Picard song on repeat! STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT- And here’s the first film in these reviews that I did not get from Netflix. I’m very, very slowly making my way through the Star Trek movies. I love the original cast and I am a big fan of the JJ Abrams helmed films (more so the first than Into Darkness, though both are well made) but I’ve never been a great lover of Next Generation. I’m a Kirk man through and through.

That said, I am a big fan of this film for multiple reasons and it was nice to revisit it. Picard actually does things. The action is handled well, even if there isn’t that much of it. It manages to build on some squiggy plotpoints from Generations in a positive way. (Mostly Data’s emotion chip.) And it has a lot of humor involved.

I guess the way I would try to sum it all up succinctly is that it doesn’t succumb to shoving its head up its own butt as I’ve learned to expect from a lot of modern Trek with Berman and Braga. The blu ray looks pretty darn good and showcases the then cutting edge work ILM did on it (watch for the cameo by the Millenium Falcon fighting the Borg cube), even if there are some examples of the problems of early CGI.

I haven’t seen Treks 9 and 10, so the next couple of films will be new to me. I’ve heard that First Contact is the one excellent film they did with the characters, so it’ll be interesting to see if I agree with fan sentiment or if I’ll enjoy them more since I’m not particularly invested.

PLP – Pod Shots – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

imageIn our latest episode of Pod Shots, we’re continuing on with our theme of Lord of the Rings films with a discussion on the 2012 film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. In this episode I’m joined by Dwight Clark and Skottie Young. We discuss the tone changes in this film from the Lord of the Rings and why some liked and some didn’t like that change. We talk about the changes the film makes compared to the book. We also discuss the Guillermo Del Toro influence the film has and what it may have been like if he had stayed on as the director of the film. It’s always a good time talking with Dwight and Skottie and this time is no different. Check it out!

Music:
Neil Finn – Song of the Lonely Mountain

Facebook:
Eric Williams, Dwight Clark, The Official Skottie Young Fan Page, Plain Label Podcast

Twitter:
@EricWilliams79, @DwightClarkArt @SkottieYoung, @PlainLabelPod

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http://www.movienoise.com/plainlabel/podcasts/PodShots043.mp3