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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Imitation Game

alan turring turth in film accurate?

Another genius film

Oscar season is prime time for movies about tortured geniuses. Earlier, this season, we had The Theory of Everything featuring the life story of Stephen Hawking; both are likely to move on to award nominations.

In The Imitation Game, we have Benedict Cumberbatch as World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, who is tasked with breaking the Germans' code while hiding his sexuality from 1950s British law.

It’s an amazing story. And it plays out nicely as a thriller.

Sherlock’s Cumberbatch is a natural in this savant role and Kiera Knightley is in fine form as his intellectual (and maybe too modern for this film) sidekick. Their chemistry is strong and it propels the film.

Simply put: This season’s best WWII film, and a highly-watchable thriller.

Award potential: Expect about seven nominations for this deserving film ranging from Best Picture, Actor and Actress to Best Score.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Monday, December 29, 2014


is the Unbroken film any good? Where is the duck in unbroken
An unbelievable life, underutilized.

Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 best seller, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, tells the amazing story of Olympian Louis Zamperini who survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII-only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. It’s one of the most amazing stories of the past Century.

The film was directed by Angeline Jolie, written by screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen, edited by William Goldenberg and scored by the great Alexandre Desplat. Sounds like the best movie of the year, right?

It’s a good film. But amazingly it’s not great. Fans of the book won’t be disappointed by the film’s scale or the dazzling air fight sequences; nor will they be upset by the faithful-to-the-book storytelling. But the endurance story seems to plod away at milestones without much feeling.

Some of the blame goes to the likeable but blank-faced Jack O’Connell who plays “Louie.” In his quiet moments (lots of them), I never knew what he was thinking about despite having read the biography.

More of the blame goes to an anticlimactic ending that skipped the redemptive moments, the biggest heart of Zamperini’s biography. Unbroken simply tosses them out with text at the end.

The rest of the blame goes to the choice to tell a broad story about a big life by leaving out the small details that connect to why that life mattered to future generations. Darn.

Simply put: Unbroken is good but not great. You will enjoy it, but it should have been excellent. Bridge Over River Kwai remains our best POW picture.

Award potential: I think the Oscars will like Unbroken more than The Golden Globes and myself. Best Picture is possible. Jolie for Best Director would be a nod to women directors everywhere. Miyavi (the Bird) is a distance but deserving choice for Best Supporting Actor. Best Screenplay is likely but the Coens share that category with the original writers. There was an editor before Goldenberg as well. Best Costume, Production, Sound and Sound Mixing seem likely. Best Score is the solid bet.

The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

who is the actor who plays bilbo baggins  in hobbit movies
There’s precious little time for our characters in this action packed finale

The original title of this third installment in the Hobbit series was The Hobbit: There and Back Again. I assumed that Warner Brothers altered the original title because it’s a dangerous one for a movie that is bordering on been-there-done-that familiarity. Turns out, The Battle of the Five Armies  is the more fitting title for a movie that is just about five armies fighting. Seriously, there’s very little time for anything else.

The battle is worth your time; the action scenes are the best in the whole series. But a lot of magic was lost.

It still tops in scope, fantasy storytelling and big-canvas beauty. Yet somehow you can’t quite forget that The Hobbit films never matched up to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Perhaps no series could.

What separated them at the beginning, and had such potential for this series, was the miniature-sized sweetness and heart of the main characters. Martin Freeman brings more to his hobbit than Elijah Wood did and I developed more fondness for this series' merry band of characters. There wasn’t much of that stuff in the third installment (and there is way too little screen time for Bilbo Baggins), but when tragedy threatens these characters we loved, it is all the more compelling for it.

Amazingly from fantasy master Peter Jackson, the final moments fall very flat and threaten to make to make the whole Tolkien series feel quite pointless. I’ll ignore that disappointing end because I sure did enjoy the ride.

Simply put: A middling Middle Earth installment; go for the action. This one is only a two hours and 24 minutes investment.

Award potential: Even a few technical award nominations would be a surprise. It’s not even on the short list for makeup. The Oscars have moved on.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks. This battle-centric film is worth the 3D hassle.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Golden Globes - who gets a nomination (or two) tomorrow?

The Golden Globes are voted on The Hollywood Foreign press, which is 90 foreign journalists who choose to live in Southern California — so who knows what they think. Since Boyhood told me that “life doesn’t give you bumpers,” I’m gonna try to predict their (often wild) picks anyway. Last year I was 87.5% correct.

Picture (Drama)
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Spoiler: Whiplash

Picture (Musical or Comedy)
Begin Again
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
St. Vincent
Spoiler: Top Five

Actor (Drama)
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
David Oyelowo, Selma
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Spoiler: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

Actor (Comedy or Musical)
Chadwick Boseman, Get on Up
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Bill Murray, St. Vincent

Spoiler: Chris Rock, Top Five or Mark Ruffalo, Begin Again

Actress (Drama)
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars
Spoiler: Jennifer Anniston, Cake, Hillary Swank, The Homesman or Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night

Actress (Comedy or Musical)
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Emily Blunt, Into The Woods
Angeline Jolie, Maleficent
Helen Mirren, The Hundred-Foot Journey
Jenny Slate, Obvious Child
Spoiler: Keira Knightley, Begin Again

Supporting Actor
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Miyavi, Unbroken
Ed Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Spoiler: Robert Duvall, The Judge

Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, Interstellar or A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Spoiler: Laura Dern, Wild

Ava DuVErnay, Selma
Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
Angeline Jolie, Unbroken
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Spoiler: Clint Eastwood, American Sniper

The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Spoiler: Unbroken

Animated Feature
The Lego Movie
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
Song of the Sea
Spoiler: The Book of Life


Mark Schultz Dave Schultz John du Pont Foxcatcher real truth did mark schultz have sex with du Pont
The clash of brute and blue blood is an interesting one, but this is not a Carell comedy.

Foxcatcher is a new film from Academy Award nominee Bennett Miller, who directed one of the best sports films of all time (Moneyball). Foxcatcher tells the story of brothers and Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestlers Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and their encounter with millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell).

The clash of brute and blue blood is an interesting one, but this is not a Carell comedy. In fact, this is a very dark film. The pacing is slow and downright creepy.

The performances by all three leads are a knockout. The story is intriguing but fails with some of the motivations, so I’d give that part a win by default.

Simply put: Dark sports bio with arresting performances 

Award potential: Carell and Ruffalo will be nominated. Carell’s character is not lovable enough to win over Redmayne or Keaton. Potential for Best Film and Original Screenplay nominations too, but this is a “performance film,” not a director/producer one.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Theory of everything

who will win oscar best actor
It’s more about relationships than relativity.

Surprise! The biopic of one of the most brilliant people in the history of the planet is less about Stephen Hawking's discoveries and the theory of relativity and more about the relationships with the people in his life.

Fellow physicists proclaim, “It’s brilliant,” or clap to explain to the audience that what he did just mattered. It’s an odd cop-out for a film about a man who had skills at explaining amazing concepts to average folks. This month’s Interstellar pulled that off a little better.

But I loved the non-formulatic relationship story. After seeing the film, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the film was based on wife Jane Hawking’s memoir. The tone and mood is clearly the ex-spouses’ story.

This film is full of Hollywood magic and it is one of the best films of 2014.

Simply put: A brainy bio about a refreshingly plausible but complicated relationship.

Award potential: Oscar bait. Eddie Redmayne is likely to go all the way to a win for Best Actor; I forgot he was pulling off an effortless transformation without playing up those contortions. I have no idea how he did that. Felicity Jones is a likely nominee as well. Expect 4-6 nominations between Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Johann Johansson’s Score and maybe Cinematography.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

5 Perfect December Films on Netflix

best christmas movies
Finding a quality movie that matches the chestnuts-roasting mood of the holidays is tricky. My mistakes of Christmas past include renting the holiday hatefest Four Christmases, paying ticket price for Ben Affleck’s Surviving Christmas /Reindeer Games and binge-watching BBC’s 1950’s drama Call The Midwife (yikes the drama!) These finds should make for a merrier Netflixmas:

Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular
If you missed Elton and Lady Gaga performing Gaga and the Jets, or Beaker, Swedish Chef and Animal carolling Jingle Bells (or something like that song) when this aired on TV in 2013, this is your lucky hour. Now that we are past the fatigue of Gaga’s 2013 album push, this one is much merrier to enjoy.


The Trip To Italy (available Dec 22)
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s restaurant critic characters go on  another holiday road trip. If you’re looking for a light comedy, scenic Italian views and some British humor, this will likely be your cup of tea. Their first film together, The Trip, is available on Netflix now.

White Christmas
The classic film, featuring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and George Clooney’s mom, holds up better than almost all 1950s films and it features the number one hit of all time, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. It also features my favorite, Snow.

The Wolf of Wall Street (available Dec 11) 
If your December is more car horns honking and f-word cursing than Irving Berlinish, this film should fit right in. Scorsese’s fantastic film uses that other f-word a total of 506 times.

Love Actually
This modern classic only gets better with each viewing. I want to hold a sign up for Richard Curtis’ 2003 film that says,“to me you are perfect.” It just is. 

 The ten buck review: Netflix is always worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To

My dumberest review ever

This sequel isn’t a timeless comedy like the 1994 original, but it’s a very good bad-movie. Uh, let me try to explain.

Tammy, this year’s other high profile physical comedy was insufferable. It missed on more jokes than it hit and it tried to get oddly serious at the end. That was a bad bad-movie. How To Die In The West was a bad-bad movie. Director Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s film with Jim Carrey is about what we expected and wanted from a sequel. It’s a good-bad movie.

Now that’s about the dumberest review I’ve ever given.

Simply put: To fans of the original, Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s work defies film criticism. Carrey is often hilarious.

Award potential: None, of course.

The ten buck review:
At a dollar a guffaw, it’s worth ten bucks.

Monday, November 10, 2014


It’s out there.

Interstellar has high ambitions and delivers on many of them. Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) combines intimate family drama with epic space cinema and delivers one of the most thoughtful science fiction films to date.

By thoughtful, I mean that you’ll disappear into the theater with thoughts in your mind that don’t include where you’re having coffee after. By thoughtful, I also mean that the next day you’ll find a dozen plot holes that are about as big as those space wormholes.

But this is not a documentary; it’s a space story — and an absorbing one. There are some forced plot devices and a bunch of scripted audience explanation that astronauts probably don’t say to each other, but I did like one highly criticized movie-friendly moment: unlike Nolan’s similarly mind-bending Inception, he gives audience an ending that is more definitive than say, a top spinning. It’s a hokey one, but geez I needed a solid ending after three hours in space.

More “awe-inspiring” than awesome, Interstellar is worth the ride. 

Simply put:  Field of Dreams’ magic + Inception’s mind bending + Gravity’s convenient storytelling

Award potential: For the Oscars in February, I don’t think this film is going to go far beyond the nominations in the top categories, but it is likely on the list for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and numerous technical awards. Last year’s Best Actor winner McConaughey is stellar in this, and so is Anne Hate-away, but alright,alright enough with them at the podium already.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Will Interstellar be great, or just alright, alright, alright?

I'm excited to see Interstellar from director Chris Nolan and featuring Matthew McConaughey, but one movie statistic has me worried that the film may not be all that stellar: Best Actor winners always follow up with a stinky film. 

It seems everything McConaughey touches on TV lately is more than alright, but you have to go back to early '90s Tom Hanks to find a Best Actor with a follow-up film that was watchable. Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis should quit while he's ahead. 

I hope that McConaughey ends the Best Actor curse. The past years' damage is below:

2012: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
First movie after the Oscar win: None yet

2011: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
First movie after the Oscar win: The Players (Les Infideles)

2010: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
First movie after the Oscar win: Main Street

2009: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart 
First movie after the Oscar win: TRON: Legacy

2008: Sean Penn, Milk 
First movie after the Oscar win: Fair Game

2007: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
First movie after the Oscar win: Nine

2006: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
First movie after the Oscar win: Everyone's Hero

2005: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
First movie after the Oscar win: Mission Impossible 3

2004: Jamie Foxx, Ray 
First movie after the Oscar win: Stealth

2003: Sean Penn, Mystic River 
First movie after the Oscar win: 21 Grams

2002: Adrien Brody, The Pianist
First movie after the Oscar win: The Singing Detective

2001: Denzel Washington, Training Day
First movie after the Oscar win: John Q

2000: Russell Crowe, Gladiator 
First movie after the Oscar win: Proof of Life

1999: Kevin Spacey, American Beauty
First movie after the Oscar win: Pay It Forward

1998: Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful 
First movie after the Oscar win: Pinocchio

1997: Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets 
First movie after the Oscar win: The Pledge

1996: Geoffrey Rush, Shine
First movie after the Oscar win: Les Miserables 

1995: Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas 
First movie after the Oscar win: The Rock

1994: Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump 
First movie after the Oscar win: Apollo 13

1994: Tom Hanks, Philadelphia
First movie after the Oscar win: Forrest Gump