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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Quiet Place

Quiet scary.  

Listen up, horror movie lovers, the spring movie to see has landed. Director John Krasinski and his wife, actress Emily Blunt, have noted their love of Jaws (1975), and it shows in their first film together. It’s a quiet shark attack that never lets up. 

Kraskinski and Blunt portray parents of one of the few families left on an earth, which has been overrun by beastly creatures that hunt based on sound. One of the reasons they are still alive is having known sign language for their child who cannot hear. 

Emily Blunt communicates everything viewers need to know without many words to speak. Surprisingly a buffer new Kraskinski resembles action hero Ben Affleck more than The Office’s Jim Halpert. They make a great pair for this thriller. 

The nightmare begins in the first minute of the film and it is relentless until the last second. Mercifully, the film is only one hour and thirty-one minutes long. Extra good because I was afraid to eat my noisy popcorn during. 

In a nutshell: A beautifully crafted thrill ride that is best seen in the theater. (I won’t reveal why.) 

Award potential: Unlikely that a spring movie would get a nomination. Of course, I would have said the same thing about Get Out, so leave some room for Best Sound.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Monday, April 23, 2018


For the privileged.

Prior to seeing this docu-drama, I knew only a few details about Chappaquiddick, and I sure couldn’t pronounce it.

I was age two in 1969, and I don’t think my history classes ever got past World War II, so I should note up front that my interest in this film was higher than anyone who was more studied about that infamous car accident.

Director John Curran’s film, Chappaquiddick, dramatizes the late-night drive off a bridge in Martha’s Vineyard, and the days that followed. The film is a mix of facts and speculation, told (thankfully) without melodrama. It’s a slow, thoughtful film that threatens to bore, but smartly wraps up at a relatively short 101 minutes.

It wouldn’t be a Kennedy film without leaving room for conspiracy theorizing of course, and in this telling there is only non-romantic friendship between Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke from Zero Dark Thirty and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Mary Jo Koepechne (Kate Mara from House of Cards and Fantastic Four), and the wreck was clearly an accident.

It’s an interesting choice. By avoiding a story of infidelity or perhaps a murder cover up, the film can focus on a story of political privilege and the man who would consider a career and family legacy over rushing to save a friend.

In a nutshell: A slow burn visualization of a completely somber story. Not a lot of fun for a Friday night, but it's a great set up for coffee chat after.

Award potential: You don't release a historical drama in April if you think it has a chance of Oscar attention.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Ready Player One

Great Scott! That was fun.

In my Wishes For 2018 blog this past January, I noted that if Ready Player One was anything less than "this generation's Back To The Future," I'd be disappointed. Well, I'm not the teenager like I was in 1985, but I expect I would have loved this film if so.

Director Steven Spielberg returns to his blockbuster popcorn movie making skills again, as well as his inability to lose those Spielberg sappy endings. No matter. Eighties movie fans will love this.
Those who loved Ernerst Cline's book, such as I, can exhale. They will likely enjoy the film version as much, and appreciate that the '80s references were kept to the perfect amount of sights and sounds. A literal version of the book would have been too much. Book lovers will likely appreciate one addition not in the book— a movie-inspired twist that translates to some bloody good, lean-forward movie magic.

Those who love CGI and gaming movies should have their new favorite film as well. 

And more importantly, everyone else should get wrapped up in this story about a glimpse at a VR-obsessed future and a boy and a girl in search of three clues that could bring some 2018 back to their world.

Spielberg has expertly and lovingly captured the spirit of '80s cinema in this modern adventure. All that, and we get to see that famous Delorean in action once again. Great Scott, that was a fun movie treat for April!

In a nutshell: Get Ready. A well-loved book gets the movie it deserves.

Award potential: While this movie may qualify for Best Animated Film, Academy purist Spielberg probably won't let that happen. If remembered, it has a chance for a Best VFX nomination.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Love, Simon

Totally awesome. Whether it’s Romeo and Juliet being pulled apart by family drama, any John Hughes character battling social cliques or the Duff finding her place with the pretty people at school, teen love is filled with conflict. Yup, from West Side Story and Pretty In Pink to Clueless and Bring It On, every generation has their “high school film.” Love, Simon falls nicely into in that lively lineup. 

The conflict at hand in 2018? Simon, a gay teen in the closet, finds a social pen pal from his school who has the same secret. Neither are confident about coming out during their high school years, even in 2018.

Simon is a light comedy with no harsh edges, but with sharp writing. This is not a gritty film about the LGBT experience today. It’s a feel good, crowd pleaser with a tone not unlike Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and it's breezy fun. 

Super producer Jack Antonoff curated the soundtrack which, like his work, borrows a few beats from the eighties. Perfect for this totally awesome film. 

In a nutshell: Is it a formulaic story or this generation’s classic teen comedy? It's both.

Award potential: It's not that type of film, and too early in the year for the Academy to remember Antonoff's "Alfie's Song."

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Friday, March 23, 2018

MoviePass - is it worth ten bucks?

MoviePass, the service that allows you to see one movie every day in 91% of the theaters in the U.S., recently dropped its price to $6.95 a month. Is it worth it? What’s the trick? 
I signed up in early 2018 and here’s what I found out about the top 12 rumors surrounding a MoviePass membership.

Rumor #1: MoviePass is difficult to use.
Answer: False 

If you can download and app and keep track of a credit card, it’s a breeze. (Sorry, Greatest Generation.) 

Here's how it works: 
After you sign up, a Movie Pass Mastercard arrives in the mail. Next, you'll download an app to search theaters, movies and times. 

Once you are set up, it’s a two-step process:
1. When you are within 100 yards of the theater, open the app and click on the movie you want to see (similar to a social check in). 
2. Step up to the ticket counter, swipe your MoviePass card and leave your money in your wallet. 

Rumor #2: Most of the good movies are blocked.  
Answer: False. I’ve seen blockbuster movies on opening night.  

You can see most any 2D movie, even popular ones on opening weekend. However, you can’t use it for 3D or IMAX movies. During my first month, the price of my opening week Black Panther ticket would have been $11.99. I covered the cost of my membership and saved myself a few bucks too.  

Rumor #3: Only a few theaters will accept MoviePass, and AMC has banned its use. 
Answer: False. Most theaters accept it at their ticket booth, gladly.  

MoviePass claims that it is accepted in 91% of the theaters in the U.S., and that matches my experience. In Dallas, AMC, Alamo Drafthouse, Angelika, Studio Movie Grill, Regal, Cinemark and others take MoviePass. Only Landmark Theares (Magnolia/Inwood) and LOOK Cinema do not participate. While AMC corporate is not a fan of CEO Mitch Lowe and his company, their public beef doesn’t trickle down to ticket booth employees who swipe your MoviePass card like any other credit card. 

Update: As notified on April 4, 2018 Landmark Theaters are now accepting MoviePass. Additionally they are offering e-ticketing so that you can reserve your seat.

Rumor #4: You wind up going to movies you normally wouldn’t. 
Answer: True  

MoviePass calls their product “bad movie insurance” because when you see a dud such as Mother, you feel better knowing that you didn’t have to pay for it. More positively, the pass does encourage you to try movies you might have waited for such as a curious documentary or a comedy that might not be worth ten bucks.  

The week before the Academy Awards, I was able to craft an event week of Oscar encores. I treated myself to second showings of Oscar-nominated films that I had paid for the year before. Yup, I saw five movies for under ten bucks that were especially enjoyable as a build up to the awards show. 

I saw some old faves too. My local Alamo Drafthouse Cinema shows classics on weeknights, so I treated myself a showing of The Fugitive to see that train crash on the big screen one more time.

Rumor #5: It’s $10 a month. 
Answer: False.  

The general answer is $10 a month. However, my own sign up was for $7.95 a month and I can cancel at any time. At the time of this blog entry, the price for new users is $6.95 with a one-time startup fee of $6.55.  

Rumor #6: You have to show up in person to get tickets — so you risk a movie selling out 
Answer: True.

This is the toughest pill to swallow and will likely separate whether MoviePass is worth it for you or not. As a city dweller, I’ve been trained to get my tickets early (and reserve my seats). MoviePass requires you to get your tickets at the theater. That can be a hassle, but I’ve been able to hack this with a little extra effort. Recently, I used the pass to get a ticket and reserve a seat for myself (and buy one for a friend) during lunch, allowing me to show up at 9:25 p.m. for the 9:30 p.m. sold out show. There are a few theaters that will allow you to reserve a seat without being yards away. In Dallas, all Studio Movie Grill locations allow you to reserve tickets from your couch at home.

April 5, 2018 Update: Landmark Theaters in Dallas now do eticketing as well as Studio Movie Grill.

Rumor #7: You can’t see the same movie more than once. 
Answer: True.  

If you were planning to see Avengers: Infinity War 30 times next month with your pass, your Spidey sense is failing you. You can only see a movie title one time, darnit.  

Rumor #8: It’s great for solo moviegoers, but not so much if you prefer group outings.
Answer: Depends.  

As a singleton, MoviePass has also made me more likely to go to movies by myself. I can make the spontaneous decision to see a movie in theaters if I have a few hours to kill.

I’ve used the pass with friends too, it just takes some coordination that is worth it some times, and not worth it other times.

If you have a significant other or bestie with MoviePass, it’s a no-brainer, gift each other a pass. If you're in your twenties, it’s likely all your friends have both Netflix and MoviePass.

Rumor #9: MoviePass collects info on its users, tracks them and sells the data.
Answer: Not exactly.  

At SXSW, CEO Mitch Lowe gave a keynote at the Entertainment Finance Forum entitled “Data is the New Oil: How will MoviePass Monetize It?” that frightened audiences. He has backtracked since, stating he misspoke at a recent industry conference. MoviePass, which is controlled by Helios and Matheson Analytics, only when checks locations when users are checking for a theater in their area and when they check in to a theater. While the company is unlikely following you for sinister reasons, MoviePass plans to use geographical information to push dinner and a movie offers from nearby restaurants. To the uninformed, this is no different than opening up Google on your mobile. Users have been able to control their tracking options within the app, but the “track all the time” option has recently been removed.

Rumor #10: It takes from 2 weeks to 2 months to receive your card 
Answer: False  

While they aren’t on par with Amazon delivery times, MoviePass seems to have recovered from their slow-to-mail stigma and their CostCo promotion overload that had the internet boiling. My card arrived in my mailbox in less than a week.

Rumor #11: MoviePass can’t buy everyone movies and it will be bankrupt soon. 
Answer: We’ll see.  

Clearly, MoviePass is losing money this year and hope that the moviegoer average (4.5 movies a year) kicks in once everyone has overused their new pass.  

While they’ve said nothing of the sort, I expect that their end game is to have a card in every hand of folks in the U.S., and then control what MoviePass pays theaters, forge deals with pre-orders on concession sales, strongarm studios for ads, sell local restaurant ads and more. Yuck overall, but this doesn’t affect you the user as much as it does your theater chain.


Rumor #12: Everyone is doing it. 
Answer: Almost true. 

It sure feels like it. At a recent visit, the ticketbuyers at the booth to my left and to my right were using a pass. 20somethings are definitely using it. MoviePass claims it is now paying for one in every 20 movie tickets purchased in the U.S., and if its projections are accurate, that figure could rise to one in every eight by 2019. Wowza.

I was suspicious of MoviePass’ too good to be true promise, but the $7.95 monthly price delivered on value, ease of use, experience — and I’ve enjoyed the flexibily of seeing a few movies I never would have seen on the big screen. 

However, my popcorn budget is up for the year.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Win Your Oscars® Pool - stats for every category

Although one feature creature film is nominated for 13 awards, this year's Oscars are shaping up to be one where the love is spread across a dozen films. Will themes of love (Shape of Water) trump themes of empowerment (Three Billboards, Little Bird) in 2018? It's a tough year to predict by gut. That’s why we’re here with our stat-tastic predictions. 

Win the Best Picture category
Films without an editing nomination don’t often win the best prize. That leaves Dunkirk, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But those stats don’t reflect the #timesup #metoo year, so Gerwig’s Little Bird can’t be counted out. But let's narrow those four down further.

For eight of the last ten years, the Producers Guild’s choice for Best Picture went on to claim the top prize at the Oscars. 19 of the past 28 have done the same. Good news for PGA winner The Shape of Water.

Win the Best Director category
Even though the Academy would love to decorate a woman (Gerwig), your statistically safe bet is to go with whoever won the Director’s Guild of America award. Those winners have matched 63 times in the past 70 years. And the Oscar goes to: Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

Win the Best Animated Feature Film category
Eight out of twelve PGA-winning animated films also won the Academy Award. And the Oscar goes to: Coco. 

Win the Best Adapted Screenplay category
The WGA award went to James Ivory. Same for the USC Scripter Awards which has accurately predicted this category for the last six years (including last year’s Moonlight). It rarely goes to the same film that wins Best Picture, so we can safely give early congrats to James Ivory’s Call Me By Your Name screenplay. 

At 89, Ivory is the oldest man ever to be nominated for an Oscar and will be the oldest to win. (Agnes Varga, the director of Faces Places which is nominated this year, is eight days his senior, but less likely to win.)

Win the Best Original Screenplay category
Through the years, the winner in this category most closely resembles the winners of the Writers Guild of America. This year, that stats point to Jordan Peele’s Get Out — besting Gerwig’s Lady Bird...maybe.  

Win the Best Actor/Actress/Supporting Actor/Supporting Actress categories
The SAG voters are all actors and are the largest block of voters for the Academy Awards. Choose the SAG winners and you’re likely to win your pool. 

In the past ten years:
90% of the SAG winners also took home the Oscar for Best Actor
80% of the SAG winners also took home the Oscar for Best Actress
90% of the SAG winners also took home the Oscar for Best Suppporting Actor
80% of the SAG winners also took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress

I wouldn’t rule out Oscar voters saving a special vote for the subtle performances of William Dafoe and Laurie Metcalf. But for your safest bet, the Oscars usually go to the loudest performances and the winners at SAG, which means: Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney are your winners.

Win the Best Cinematography category
BAFTA's 2018 Cinematography winner Roger Deakins (Blade Runner) has been nominated 13 times without a win which seems to be rallying support, but its safer to look at the stats since the track record for Deakins is "losing." When you look at the last five years, where this honor has gone to the same film that won Best Director, we can say odds are in favor of Dan Lausten for The Shape of Water. 

Win the Best Foreign Language Film category
It's too wild of a category year over year to have stats and my gut was A Fantastic Woman will be most loved, but the best bet is to look at the tally of all other international awards. This one is statistically more likely to go to the film that has made the rounds all year: The Square.

Win the Best Film Editing category
Film Editing winners don’t always align with Best Picture winners. (Hacksaw Ridge, Mad Max, Whiplash and Gravity are the past four winners). Dunkirk has a shot, but BAFTA editing winner Baby Driver should run away with this one.

Win the Best Sound Editing category
This category rewards “most aesthetic” sound design and the creating of sound effects. Whatever, the loudest movie always takes Best Sound Editing, period. Speed, Pearl Harbor, Mad Max, Zero Dark Thirty, The Dark Knight, King Kong, T2, Bourne Ultimatum and Arrival have all won Oscars in this category. Bet the farm on: Dunkirk.

Win the Best Sound Mixing category
This category rewards most euphonic sound mixing, and often varies from the Sound Editing award. Hacksaw Ridge, Whiplash, Les Miserables, Dreamgirls, Ray and Chicago are among the past winners. 
This year, it's Baby Driver vs. Dunkirk vs. Shape of Water. In six of the last eleven years, the CAS Award-winner has also won this award. Congratulations Dunkirk.

Win the Best Production Design category
This award, renamed from “Best Art Direction” in 2012, has only aligned with Best Picture three times since 2000, but that stat could change. The winner of this category often aligns with either the Critic’s Choice award which awarded the The Shape of Water, or with the BAFTA Awards which chose Shape. And the Oscar goes to: The Shape of Water

Win the Best Music (Original Score) category
While Jonny Greenwood wowed me with Phantom Thread, I can't go with my gut and all that jazz. This award most often aligns with the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, which honored Shape on February 18. And the Oscar goes to
Alexandre Desplat's splashy, beautiful, traditional score for The Shape of Water.

Win the Best Music (Original Song) category
Mary J. Blige is the first person ever to be nominated for both the acting category and song in the same year, yet there's not a lot of post-nomination love for this song. The Greatest Showman's Benj Pasek and Justin Paul memorably won just last year for La La Land —same for Stand Up for Something from Marshall, by past winners Diane Warren and Common. Oscar voters with kids will likely remember my prediction: Remember Me, from Coco.

Win the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category
And the Oscar goes to: Gary Oldman's transformation in Darkest Hour.

Win the Best Costume Design category
Last year this was the toughest category. This year it's one of the easiest. Period pieces almost always (20/25) beat modern and fantasy ones, but rarely is there a costume- centric movie like Phantom Thread, your easy winner.

Win the Best Visual Effects category
Historically, a nominee that also has a Best Picture nomination will always win in this category, but that’s not an option this year so we must look to the VES Awards. For eight of the past 13 years, the winner for Outstanding VFX has gone on to win the Oscar. Sorry Blade Runner. The Oscar goes to their winner: War for the Planet of the Apes.

Win the Best Animated Short Film category
Beginning just three years ago, ALL members of the Academy (not just category peers) can pick the winners of: Best Documentary Feature, Best Animated Short Subject and Best Live Action Short Subject. That means everyone from actors to musicians will have a say instead of just documentarians, so dumb it down a bit when making your pick — or just choose one with a famous person, involving sports, honoring a celebrated animator and with a score by John WIlliams: Dear Basketball's Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant.

Win the Best Documentary category (Feature)
With the Oscar luncheon team having a ball with 89-year old Agnes Varga's cutout, momentum is building for underdog Faces Places, but after Academy members have been watching the Olympics for the last two weeks, the Oscar gold goes to the film that had a huge effect on the games and how we (don't) trust Russia: Icarus

Win the Best Documentary Short category 

Cher is lobbying for the heartwarming Edith and Eddie, but I'd give the edge to a film that not only explores the opiate addiction crisis, but is also a story of female empowerment, Heroin(e).

Win the Best Live Action Short Film category
There aren't any YOY stats in this category of newcomers, but the early guess is the timely DeKalb Elementary, which tackles a school shooting incident.

Win the show’s-running-time tiebreaker.
In 2002, the show ran four hours and 23 minutes. Whew! But more recently, the show has trended consistently shorter. 

Here are the timings for the past nine years:
2009: 3 hours, 30 minutes
2010: 3 hours, 37 minutes
2011: 3 hours, 15 minutes
2012: 3 hours, 14 minutes
2013: 3 hours, 35 minutes
2014: 3 hours, 30 minutes
2015: 3 hours, 43 minutes
2016: 3 hours, 37 minutes 

2017: 3 hours, 49 minutes 

Win the tiebreaker: Which film will win the most awards? And how many?
Although I expect the love for Lady Bird will throw off at least one of the stats above, The Shape of Water will likely win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design and Best Original Score. A total of five for a creature feature.

High five to you and good luck with your Oscars pool, everyone!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

12 Oscar nominated movies you can watch on your couch tonight with Netflix, Amazon and HBO

Get Out
The all out most discussed picture of last year is nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay (which it will likely win.)

James Mangold's modern Western that elevated the superhero genre to new heights and made audiences forget it was a comic-book movie. Hugh Jackman's Wolverine character finally got the movie it deserved and it's bloody good. Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Kong: Skull Island
Pick a side. It's Kong vs. Planet of the Apes vs. Blade Runner for this year's Best Visual Effects Oscar.


The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon wrote the script about their relationship and Nanjiani stars as himself in one of last year's funniest and most touching films. It is nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail 

Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) showcases a family-owned bank in New York’s Chinatown that became the one and only bank in the U.S. to be prosecuted for mortgage fraud after the 2008 financial meltdown. Its story is the opposite of "too big to fail." Abacus is nominated for Best Documentary Feature. It's more captivating than this week's Shark Tank episodes for sure.


This American tale, set in Mississippi in the 1940s, is nominated for four Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Song and Best Cinematography. Mary J. Blige just made Oscar history as the first person ever to be nominated for an acting performance and an original song in a single year.

If you've been watching the Winter Olympics, see the game-changing film that altered this year's events. This documentary began as an investigation into doping cyclists, but jumps off course once it stumbles into international conspiracy. It's dope; Icarus is nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar.

Beauty and the Beast
It's a tale as old as time. At the very least it's as old as the live-action adaption of the 1991 musical, the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. This Beauty is nominated for Best Production Design and Best Costume Design. Its song, "Everymore," was snubbed for Best Original Song.

On Body and Soul
Two co-workers meet, fall in love and realize they've been sharing the same dreams at night. It sure sounds dreamy, right? But it's not. Endre and Maria work at a slaughterhouse and the film is more eerie than romantic. This Hungarian film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

Boss Baby
People were bawling over this nomination for Best Animated Feature, but don't expect Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel to make it a running joke during the telecast. He did the voicework for the father role.

Last Men in Aleppo
Similarly themed to last year's winning White Helmets, this film follows members of the volunteer group White Helmets offer aid to the wounded during the Syrian civil war. It is nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

Strong Island
This documentary investigates a 1992 murder in New York seeks answers and justice. It was nominated for Best Documentary Feature this year.

Didn't see a film that captured your interest and have a few bucks to spend? You can rent or buy these films tonight as well.

Lady Bird
A likely spoiler in most every major category. (YouTubeVuduAmazon VideoiTunesGoogle Play). Buy now or rent Feb 27.

Three Billboards Out of Ebbing, Missouri
My favorite from the year. (YouTubeVudu,Amazon VideoiTunesGoogle Play)
Buy now or rent Feb 27.

Darkest Hour
Nominated for many awards including Best Picture and Best Actor. Expect Gary Oldman to win. (YouTubeiTunesVuduGoogle PlayAmazon Video). Currently available for purchase only.

Nominated for eight Oscars and will likely win two in the sound category. (YouTubeiTunesVuduGoogle Play, Amazon Video)

The Florida Project
One of the most moving films of last year. William Dafoe could upset and win Best Supporting Actor for his fine work in this unforgettable film. (YouTubeiTunesVuduGoogle Play, Amazon Video)

Baby Driver
Nominated for for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Film Editing and will likely steal one of those.(YouTubeVuduGoogle PlayiTunes, Amazon Video).

Loving Vincent
125 artists cranked out 65,000 frames’ worth of oil paintings for this feature on Vincent van Gogh that was nominated for Best Animated Feature. (Google PlayYouTubeiTunesVudu, Amazon Video)

War For The Planet of the Apes
See the film that will beat Blade Runner 2024 for Best Visual Effects. (YouTubeiTunesVuduGoogle PlayAmazon Video)

The Square
Nominated for Best Foreign Film, this frontrunner made all the rounds last year. (Google PlayYouTubeiTunesVuduAmazon Video)