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Monday, December 3, 2012

Life of Pi

Oscar Nominations Pi Pie
A zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a tiger hop on a lifeboat with a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian. Sounds like a joke if you haven’t read the best-selling novel, Life of Pi.

And five years ago, it would have also been a joke to film this story due to technological limitations. Luckily, the movie version waited for CG to become seamless enough to create a fully believable tiger, for 3D to become somewhat gimmick-less…and for Director Ang Lee to oversee it all.

This is more than a retelling of the familiar survival story. Life of Pi, as told from the view of a 14 year old, examines the resilience of the human spirit when faith is tested. Perhaps it should have been called The Young Man and the Sea

Simply put: Lee serves up an amazing Pi. See it in 3-D, which hasn’t been used this well since Avatar.

Award potential: Count on nominations for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Visual Effects (front-runner) and more. Suraj Sharma, the teenage Pi, will face tough competition in the Best Actor category — but don’t rule him out.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Thanksgiving Feast: 7 Oscar-Caliber Films Out Now

Thanksgiving Movies
Be grateful: It should be pretty easy to avoid a turkey at the movies this Thanksgiving weekend. Unlike the past few years, several Oscar-caliber movies are out before Christmastime.


The Family Film: Lincoln
Honestly, it’s worth the hype. Expect a political thriller, not an exhaustive biopic.
Award potential: May get more nominations than any previous film, and a likely win for Daniel Day-Lewis. Maybe one for Sally Field — who is really, really likable for redefining Mary Todd Lincoln.

The Drama: Flight
I thought this was going to be a typical airplane disaster film, but it was one heckuva different ride — with one heckuva performance from Denzel Washington.
Award potential: Denzel Washington outdoes even himself in this picture and you can expect him on the Best Actor shortlist. If the film sustains buzz, you can expect nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and some technical awards. Wild card pick: John Goodman (who’s also in Argo but better here) for Best Supporting Actor.

The Crowd Pleaser: Skyfall
It’s what you like about Bond, shaken slightly. Director Sam Mendes does a bang up job, as does Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Javier Bardem.
Award potential: There’s buzz about Skyfall taking one of the top ten Best Picture slots, but Javier Bardem and Adele’s song are better bets.

The Thriller: Argo
Hold on tight for one of the best movies of 2012.
Award potential: Hollywood saves the world? Oscar is gonna love this: Best Picture, Best Director, Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin), Original Screenplay and other technical awards.

For Dessert: Life of Pi
Follow your pumpkin pie with the newest treat from director Ang Lee.
It’s expected to be faithful to the bestseller and it’s getting early raves after playing at the New York Film Festival.
Award potential:  It’s already on most Best Picture Oscar short lists.
Life of Pi opens in theaters on Nov. 21.

The Weepie: Silver Linings Playbook.
I loved the book, and can’t wait to see the film. Those who have seen it, can’t stop talking about it.
Award potential:  It’s in the top 3 of most Best Picture Oscar short lists.
Silver Linings Playbook opens in theaters on Nov. 21.

Don’t Take Your Mom: The Sessions
50 shades of uncomfortable, but you won't be bored by this tale of a man confined to an iron lung, and the sex therapist who helps him.
Award potential: I don’t think it’s going to live up to the Best Picture hype, but I do expect nominations for John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. It won’t be the first time Oscar notices an able-bodied actor playing a disabled character and an actress playing a hooker with a heart of gold.

 The homebody: Moonrise Kingdom/Beasts of a Southern Wild
Available on DVD or pay per view.
Award potential: Both have a chance at one of the ten Best Picture slots.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Sally Field Lincoln
We all knew that Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, was going to be good. But honestly, is Lincoln “great”? Well, I’d safely put this one on the “great” Spielberg shelf with Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List — and above the shelf with War Horse and Amistad.

Wisely, the film doesn’t try to tell the life story of the 16th president of the United States. It focuses on a single moment in time: the final four months of the chief executive's life as he attempts to get The House of Representatives to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery.

Day-Lewis is haunting and powerful in the central role. Through him, we see our heroic President’s fabled communication skills and his gift for reconciling irreconcilable points of view. The dilemma of the film challenges strong men to move beyond partisan thinking to accomplish a greater good. 

Ironically, Lincoln is a story about our democratic system that couldn’t be timelier.

Simply put: Lincoln is a grand ol’ Spielberg film. Expect a political thriller, not an exhaustive biopic.

Award potential: It will certainly garner more nominations than any other film this year. And it’s very likely to have the most ever. 15? Maybe. Titanic and All About Eve had 14 nods, but unlike Titanic, this film will score with multiple acting noms in addition to nods for Best Picture and technical categories.

It’s too early to tell if we’ll have a single winner in Daniel Day-Lewis or a sweep. If Spielberg is snubbed, expect Daniel Day-Lewis to be the sole winner. Next best bet? Sally Field, who’s really, really likable for redefining the “crazy” Mary Todd Lincoln with a layered performance for the ages.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Skyfall Oscar nomination Best Picture
James Bond is back. 

And in the 50th year of the series, we get one of the best 007 films to date. Some Bond films have weighed style over substance, but the better films, Thunderball, Goldfinger, Goldeneye, Casino Royale—and this glorious one, have both.

Director Sam Mendes, obviously schooled in the Christopher Nolan School of Rebirthing Heroes, does a bang up job of delivering thrills to old and new fans and raising the bar on what to expect from a 007 movie in 2012.

It doesn’t hurt that Mendes has Daniel Craig, in full possession of the role, alongside Judi Dench (M) and pitted against an exceptional Javier Bardem (Silva) as the latest Bond villain. And did I mention the Ashton Martin yet? My vote for Best Supporting Actor.

Simply put: It’s what you like about Bond, shaken slightly. And a near perfect film. Trimming the back section a bit would have taken it to A+.

Award potential: If there was ever a time to nominate a Bond movie for one of the possible ten Best Pictures, it would be Bond’s 50th year. And since enough studios own this film, there’s a reasonable chance.

In a long shot for Best Supporting Actor, Javier Bardem’s villian is every bit as good as Heath Ledger’s celebrated Joker and a nice nod to the anniversary. One thing for sure, you can expect to hear Adele’s haunting Skyfall piece as Best Original Song on Oscar night.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.


Flight Oscar
 “No one could have landed that plane like I did. No one.”

And no one could have pulled off this movie quite like the actor who said that line: Denzel Washington, as seasoned airplane pilot Whip Whitaker who miraculously crash lands a plane – leaving devastation and mysteries to be resolved.

I was fortunate to see this film without the story being spoiled in a trailer or ad, so I won’t mention one the film’s major themes. Know only that it’s a fully layered story that additionally touches on themes of god, destiny, heroism and more.

This film is guided by director Robert Zemeckis ,who creates precise tension throughout the film, including one haunting scene featuring a single object on top of a refrigerator. Flight is one of the best surprises of 2012.

 Simply put: One heckuva ride. And one heckuva performance from Denzel Washington.

Award potential: Denzel Washington outdoes even himself in this picture and you can expect him on the Best Actor shortlist. If the film sustains buzz, you can expect nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and some technical awards. Wild card pick: John Goodman (who’s also in Argo but better here) for Best Supporting Actor.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Argo Oscar

Argo recreates the true story of a CIA rescue mission that sounds like something only Hollywood could come up with. As we soon find out, there's a reason for that.

Director Ben Affleck recreates the historical events with clear attention to detail and non-flashy casting. A montage of photos during the closing credits shows us how much the actors looked like their subjects (which was really just the filmmakers showing off). But I didn’t mind; for the previous two hours I felt like I dropped right into 1979.

And Affeck’s throwback approach is crafted like the smart, tense, heart-stopping films of that time period too. It would sit nicely on a shelf with All The President’s Men

Simply put: Hold on tight for one of the best movies of 2012.

Award potential: Hollywood saves the world? Oscar is gonna love this. Nominations and some wins for Best Picture, Best Director, Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin), Original Screenplay and other technical awards. Affleck will surely be nominated for Director, but it’s unlikely he will be recognized in the acting category.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Sessions

Helen Hunt nude bush

The Sessions give us the story of Mark O' Brien (John Hawkes), a man confined to an iron lung, who begins a personal quest that takes him to a priest (William H. Macy) and then a therapist (Helen Hunt).

Mark wants to be a better man, but the twist in this quest is that he wants to lose his virginity at age 38 and Hunt is the sex therapist who is very willing to help. It's safe to say that the story that follows is both awkward and intimate — and unlike any movie I've seen told on screen.

I certainly enjoyed the upbeat vibe of this year's The Intouchables more, and this is no My Left Foot, but my eyes were fixed to the screen to see how this true story plays out. The actors worked hard for this movie, so I feel like I owe them my ten bucks.

Like last year's Alfred Nobbs, this is a performance movie and not solid film in full. I wish that director Ben Lewin would have reworked the cheesy music score, tightened the script that leads to a few unwanted laughs — and stripped Helen Hunt of her unimpressive Boston accent

Simply put: 50 shades of uncomfortable, but you won't be bored

Award potential: Nominations for John Hawkes and Helen Hunt seem highly likely. 
Oscar loves it when a able-bodied actor plays a disabled character and when an actress plays a hooker with a heart. I don't expect the movie to go far, but I wouldn't count it out just yet. William H. Macy is shamelessly stiff in this role.

The ten buck review: Leave your money on the table. Worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

5 Oscar - caliber films you can see now

You’ll have to wait until it’s much colder to see Lincoln, Life of Pi, Linings, Les Miserables and other Oscar bait that begins with an “L”, but there are several Oscar-caliber movies that have already been released and most of them you can see right now.

Don’t underestimate the Academy’s deep love for movies directed by actors. And never underestimate their love for true stories about Hollywood. In theaters Friday.

- Early contender for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay and more

The Master 
It’s the most talked about film of October. Emphasis on “October.” I didn’t join its cult of fans, but it’s easy to see why Joaquin Phoenix has secured a nomination. In theaters.
- Early contender for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Original Score and more

Moonrise Kingdom

Other than Gabby Douglas, this may be the only gold-worthy thing to come out of this summer. It’s one of Wes Anderson’s most accessible pictures and a sleeper hit. Perfect for the Globes, maybe even Oscar. In theatres. On DVD/Blu Ray October 16th.

-Early contender for Best Picture, Original Screenplay and Original  Score

 Beasts of the Southern Wild
It won’t be eligible for SAG, but that scandal may keep this heavily praised film top of mind. Pay Per View. On DVD/Blu-Ray December 4th.

- Early contender for Best Picture and Actress

The Intouchables
It’s France's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film, and in the U.S. it was released by (drumroll) The Weinstein Company, a team who certainly knows how to turn a small film into Oscar gold. French version(subtitles) online.

- Early contender for Best Picture and Best Foreign Film

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward
Moonrise Kingdom features Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and of course Bill Murray, who has worked in director Wes Anderson’s last five films. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as two twelve-year-olds who fall in love and run away together.

This original film is charming, enchanting and warm like fond childhood memories of summer camp, but ironically it all takes place in a world that is a little too quirky and a bit too quaint to be realistic. How all this comes together so well is beyond me. But, thanks to Wes Anderson, it does. This is a perfect lil’ Sunday matinee film.

Simply put: A deadpan-funny, storybook tale for adults

Award potential: Should do well in all the comedy categories at the Golden Globes. Quirky comedies don't usually perform for Oscar nominations unless they are connected to Woody Allen, but this film could rally for Best Picture, Original Screenplay or Original Score

Bill Murray's performance here will be bonus points to his potential nomination for playing FDR in Hyde Park On The Hudson.

The ten buck review: Worth your ten bucks. Khaki Scouts honor.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Master

Phillip Seyour Hoffman Oscar award

A cult is forming around the new film by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood), and followers are already calling it an Oscar contender and one of the year’s best films. But I’m not a believer.

The Master stars a fiery Joaquin Phoenix as a troubled war veteran and a flawless Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic leader of a movement clearly inspired by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. 

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, this movie never fully explores the man behind Scientology, choosing to focus on themes of masculinity and the extremes of human behavior. Maybe. Or perhaps it was a piece about ego. Or maybe it was all just a bromance. I forget after all the dream sequences. 

The first half of the movie will pull most viewers in, but ultimately the story is too elusive and too ambiguous to satisfy.

Simply put: There Will Be Confusion.

Award potential: This film may ultimately be remembered for its two Oscar caliber performances. Bet on Joaquin Phoenix for his memorable character. Expect Philip Seymour Hoffman too.

Contender for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenwriting, Best Original Score and more, but I expect that full list will lose momentum by February.

The ten buck review: Perhaps in another life. Not worth ten bucks

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

Renner vs. Damon

The Bourne Legacy is the fourth installment in the action franchise and the first without Matt Damon. Jeremy Renner takes the lead as Aaron Cross, an operative caught up in life-or-death stakes connected to the events of the first three films. Renner and co-star Rachel Weisz serve up an entertaining espionage thriller that is a lot of fun.

The film’s only fault is that it’s not as stellar as the previous three Paul Greengrass films — yet it shares their name.

Simply put: Solid, entertaining action film in a summer that needed a good thriller. But hopefully this is not Bourne’s legacy

Award potential: None.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Watch

Raspberry Award 2012

Years from now, if DVDs still exist, you might walk past a dump bin of predictable comedies that provide a few laughs (plus the token over-the-top-tasteless bit.) You know, films that do just fine for hang time with the guys. The Watch will fall somewhere in the bottom of that bin. It’s a predictable, lazy comedy. But every so often, Jonah Hill delivers a few nice moments.

Simply put: The story is hard to watch, but Jonah Hill provides some laughs.

Award potential: 2012 Nomination for the Raspberry Award seems likely.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Need more Olympics? 5 golden movies worth downloading:

Olympics 2012

Ready for the Olympics? Here are some flicks that are not only some pretty solid films (sorry American Anthem) but also capture the Olympic spirit (sorry Munich).

Chariots of Fire (1981)
Racing, in slo-mo, to the top of the list is the film that won four Oscars, including Best Picture. Worth another visit just to hear the somehow-timeless, electronic score by Vangelis. Extra points this year for being a British film.

Miracle (2004)
Miracle gives me goose bumps every time. The story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team, of course, who took home gold medals after defeating the seemingly invincible Soviet Union team. And no, it doesn’t matter if you know how it ends. 

Blades of Glory (2007)
The comedic team of Will Ferrell and Jon “Napolean Dynomite” Heder are somehow not that much sillier than actual Olympic synchronized swimming or men’s gymnastics, but the duo find comic Gold in Olympic 
ice dancing.

Without Limits (1998) Based on the life of Olympic hopeful Steve Prefontaine. Rent this over the Jared Leto version.

The Jesse Owens Story (1984) Biopic of the most profoundly successful athlete at the pre-WWII Summer Olympics of 1936.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


seth macfarlane

Written by, directed by, and costarring the Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane as the voice of the title character, Ted is exactly the type of comedy you’d expect from him. Summarizing the movie is kind of like describing most 12-year-olds: mostly crass and sometimes quite charming.

The charming bro-ship between Mark Wahlberg’s John and talking CGI bear Ted is quite a feat. Oddly, you can feel the love whether they are in a fistfight or riffing off each other in a drug-fueled talkfest.

And thank you, Seth MacFarlane, for not making us endure a story about everyone discovering a talking teddy bear. Refreshingly, Ted has already been famous and, as an adult, he’s mirroring Gary Coleman’s career path.

The big screen allows MacFarlane to push the limits of raunch to his heart’s content. And yes, he #*@*#ing goes there.  However, as the movie runs out of steam, you realize that the small screen suits MacFarlane’s one-joke-after-another humor a bit better than a 106 minute-long film. But the hits were worth the misses and  #*#!, I laughed a lot.

Simply put:  Seth MacFarlane’s Ted is a refreshing, but raunchy comic treat. Definitely not for kids.

Award potential: Not a #*#ing one.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield new spiderman movie alan eskew dallas

This is the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), a photographer who is bit by a mutant spider and….oh, wait, I guess you know all of that from the 2002 film Spider-Man. Yes, The Amazing Spider-Man revisits the origin story, again, just ten years later. And it takes 136 minutes to work through it all again.

I wish that The Amazing Spider-Man would have taken a cue from a franchise like James Bond, and introduced a new cast without putting the audience through another origin retelling.

On the plus side; The new director, (500) Days of Summer’s Marc Webb (no pun intended), weaves an solid rom-com story with Garfield and the amazing Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. This is a slick Hollywood product, a professionally-made film and generally likeable. But in the age of The Dark Knight series and The Avengers, another slick Spidey origin movie was doomed to fall flat.

Simply put: The new cast is solid but I wish they would have skipped the origin and spun a new story.

Award potential: My spider sense says “no”.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rock of Ages

Malin Akerman

Tom Cruise’s latest impossible mission? Taking the hair band musical Rock of Ages from Broadway to the big screen. Does he rock it like a hurricane? Not really. Does he embarrass himself? Not really. Does it matter? Not really.

Taking the musical onscreen adds a reality that this karaoke fluffer can’t handle. There are a few fun moments, but this is crap for any ages.

Simply put: Tom Cruise hits the right notes. It hardly matters.

Award potential: None.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Intouchables

Omar Sy

A wheelchair bound millionaire finds his life enriched by a wise black man from the ghettos. Sounds like a horribly condescending Morgan Freeman drama or a Steve Carrell/Chris Rock buddy comedy, right?

Well, it’s neither. The Intouchables is a French film and a feel-good dramatic comedy about an improbable friendship. Credit the effortless, fun and hearty script that stays on the edge of melodrama and just shy of being trite.

And credit the chemistry of its two leads. Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy are excellent in this film. Omar’s grin is the most hypnotic smile since Julia Roberts’s smile first graced the screen. Yeh, somehow, this film just works and you realize why it’s become such a sensation in its native country.

Simply put: An enchanting crowd-pleaser. You’re likely to smile at least half the size of Omar Sy’s grin.

Award potential: France will likely enter this for Best Foreign Film. However, it’s too breezy to be taken seriously for that award.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Snow White and the Huntsman

Charlize Theron

In the epic action-adventure Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart plays the iconic Snow White — the only person fairer than the evil queen (Charlize Theron), who is out to destroy her. Chris Hemsworth is the huntsman that aspires to save her.

Too bad he can’t save this bloated film. I’d like to trim it by about 30 (long) minutes.

The film looks ravishing, but there's no heart in this grim re-imagining of the famous story. Ironically, a lot of the heartlessness rests with Snow White. Master of the single-expression, Kristen Stewart, was terribly miscast as an actress. I mean, terribly miscast as an actress who can play a woman whose heart is so pure that it will bring life to the doomed land.

Charlize has a delightful time in this role, and her scenes are unforgettable. It’s a shame the rest of the film is such a bad, rotten apple.

Simply put:  Definitely not the fairest version of them all. But Charlize Theron, as the evil Queen, is.

Award potential:  Should be on the long list for Best Costume Design.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Monday, June 11, 2012



The hype over Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, otherwise known as The Alien prequel, has been hovering over plant earth for months. This week, the sci-fi movie landed in theaters and it turns out that we didn’t get a masterpiece, we got a visual stunning mess-terpiece.

The film looks absolutely amazing on the big screen, and it’s particularly sharp in 3D.

Prometheus starts out beautifully with a fine cast, thoughtful dialogue on the birth of man and a suspenseful journey through a cavern in space. For a few minutes, I thought I was watching the thriller movie of the year — but somewhere after the first act everything gets predictable and even silly, as if someone involved with the script and characters had completely lost their head.

Prometheus comes out of the gate asking grand, curious questions, and then saves the answers for a sequel.

Simply put:  Out of this world graphics and a story that doesn’t follow through.

Award potential:  Some potential for effects.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Men In Black 3

Josh Brolin

Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back in time for summer movie blockbuster season.  And they’re back in time — specifically, 1969. 

A series of forgettable events takes J back to the 1960’s to pair up with a younger K (played by Josh Brolin). Brolin impersonating the mannerisms and vocal tics of Tommy Lee Jones is worth the price of admission alone. Yeh, sport, this could have turned into a SNL skit, but Brolin transcends simple imitations and refreshes one of the series’ best bits — the buddy routine.

Oddly, since it’s more modern, what feels tired is the series’ other bit – the creepy aliens among us. The funny yucks and the yucky 3-D gross outs are quite a bore. You can’t help but think that this feels like the last gasp of story that the series has to offer. MIB3 adds agent O, played fabulously by Emma Thompson. J, O, K….I’m pretty sure if there’s a fourth installment, we’ll know who the joke is on.

Simply put:  Fair to say that you’ll forget most of this stuff faster than you can be neutralized, but Brolin’s out of this world performance makes it fun enough for a summer escape.

Award potential:  Although Brolin is doing more impressions than Meryl these days, it’s very unlikely.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks, barely.