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Friday, December 30, 2016

Seven movie wishes for 2017

On the eve of 2017, I’d like to share seven movie wishes for the coming year. Perhaps some Hollywood magic will make every one of them come true.

I wish for:

1. Wonder Woman to be wonderful.

If DC is ever going to have its first decent film, I’d bet on 2017 and Gal Gadot. (Mark your calendar for June 2)

2. No more production-company vanity logos that play before films. (Yeh, I wish.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love a single, studio intro (Universal, MGM, Paramount), and it was cute when PIXAR’s lamp intro played before Disney’s, but every film today seems to play a parade of hack mini-shorts featuring poorly designed logos. It’s a mood killer and those logos need to be in the end credits.

3. Sofia Coppola to make our day.

Hopefully, Coppola’s remake of Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film, The Beguiled, will revive the Western and not get, you know, lost in translation. (June 23)

4. The Academy Awards to move past #OscarsSoWhite.

This year’s quality collection of films all but guarantee nominees with diversity, so my wish is that the show gets back to business and the biggest controversy this year is whether “City of Stars” from La La Land is better than Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana. (Oscar Night, February 26)

5. More original musicals.
Sing Street and La La Land were two of the best films of 2016; perhaps they started a trend of non-stage musicals on film. For starters, I wish for All Eyez On Me, the Tupac biopic, 2 deliver. (June 16)

6. Low ticket sales for these clearly uninspired remakes and sequels:

Baywatch, The Mummy, Alien, Transformers, Spider-Man, Fifty Shades, John Wick, Annabelle, XXX, Cars, Smurfs and Kong, for starters.

7. A Hugh-mongous year for Hugh Jackman.

Jackman has rocked many iconic scenes on film, but he’s never had a great movie. Will Logan be the Wolverine film we always wanted? (March 3). Or will Hugh find his best role as P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman (December 25)? I’m wishing for both.

Of course I'd also like to see new films from directors Damien Chapelle, Barry Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan, James Cameron, Richard Curtis or Alexjandro Inarritu — but I kinda know that none of those are happening, so I sure hope these seven movie wishes come true.

Happy 2017, everyone!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Office Christmas Party

One for the naughty list.

The first disappointing thing about Jennifer Anniston’s new film, Office Christmas Party, is that it is not a sequel to her Mike Judge film Office Space. The next disappointing thing is, well, everything that follows.

There is a funny holiday film somewhere starring T.J, Miller (Silicon Valley), Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) and Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), but this is a lazy effort. It’s the same naughty, party-gone-wrong film we’ve seen before, and less fun than most.

Aniston plays a woman named Carol, but she’s basically “Rachel” trying to act like what a tough businesswoman might be like. She must not know any. It’s embarrassing and not funny at all.

There is one big laugh in the movie that comes from Carol’s Uber driver (Fortune Feimster), who ignites her average comic line with perfect comedic delivery. I was laughing all the way. Hollywood should snatch Fortune up for a starring role. Now that would be a party.

Simply put: Skip this year’s Office Christmas Party and avoid a hangover.

Award potential: None.

The Ten Buck Review: Not worth ten bucks.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Battle, we must.

The first seconds of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story are telling. The film opens with that familiar blue title card that lets us know the story takes places “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” but it quickly ditches the familiar iconic crawl of yellow story. Similarly, this Star Wars “standalone” film has nods to the legacy, but isn’t afraid to throw much of the formula out the window.

The result is refreshing, but not epic.

Fans of the original films will remember that “many died to bring us this information” and a team of Rebels stole the plans for the Death Star that revealed its weakness and set the stage for the 1977 film. This film is their story, and (spoiler alert), many die. This film puts the war in “Star Wars” from the first scenes of the film until the final, Invasion of Normandy-inspired battles.

None of the previous films without the presence of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo (Star Wars: Episodes I-III) have worked; a bit of a problem for the expanding franchise. Unfortunately, Rogue One offers no break out characters. Even Jyn (Felicity Jones) is a less-interesting Rey.

To compensate, Rogue throws in some familiar faces for minor roles: Darth Vader, Mon Mothma, AT-ST Walkers, a CGI-resurrected Grand Moff Tarkin — and more — all make stunning appearances. It works.

Rogue One
is not a landmark film, but it’s clearly the best action film of the year. More importantly, it sets up a world of cinematic possibilities for Star Wars’ future. That alone is pretty exciting.

Simply put:
The final storm-the-beach sequence through the final scene is awesome and very satisfying, but none of the characters are. Rogue One sheds the weight, but doesn’t carry it.

Award potential:
A likely nominee in Best Visual Effects and Best Sound and Best Sound Mixing categories, but it won’t be a contender for Best Picture or Best Score (without John Williams).

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

La La Land

what movies star have ryan gosling and emma stone watson thompson la la land damien chazelle predictions golden globes sag oscar
An original musical? Ooh-la-la!

I should note that odds were 100-to-1 that I would swoon over an old-Hollywood throwback film and original musical starring Crazy, Stupid Love’s Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. But will you?

If you can sit (without squirming) through the film’s first five-minutes, which is an all-out, non-satirical ensemble number, you’ll experience the most-gushing romance on-screen this year, the most captivating set pieces of 2016, the splashiest costumes of the year and original musical numbers that transport you to something that is more in the future than the past.

Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) has created the film event of the year.

In addition to Chazelle’s vision, this film also owes a lot to the onscreen couple. If this film starred, say, Julianne Hough (Footloose) and Ben Affleck (Gone Girl), this might have been the next Xanadu. Because of Stone and Gosling’s modern and inherent coolness individually, I surrendered to the song and dance storytelling. Plus, there’s that chemistry thing; they are this decade’s Kate & Leo. Together, they have the star power of the giants that made movies like this a century ago. 

Am I still swooning?

Simply put: I can’t stop singing the praises of La La Land. Go see this one on the big screen.

Award potential: It will be nominated for every major Academy Award and will battle Moonlight for Best Picture in February. Oscar loves to reward films about L.A., but they love to make a social statement in political times too. We'll see in two months.

Either way, this is a good year for the Academy to reward Emma Stone (Birdman, The Help).

The Ten Buck Review:
Worth ten bucks.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Alan's Golden Globe Nominee Predictions 2017

Best movie of 2017 2016
The Golden Globes are voted on by The Hollywood Foreign press, which is an odd bunch of 90 foreign journalists who choose to live in Southern California and nominated and voted for The Martian as Best Motion Picture Comedy last year. Who knows what they think? Well, I might. I have an 87% accuracy rate, so here goes:

Best Motion Picture (Drama) 
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Manchester by the Sea

Spoilers: Any of these "acting performance" films could sneak in: 
Fences, Hidden Figures or Jackie

Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical)
La La Land
Florence Foster Jenkins
The Lobster

20th Century Women
Sing Street

Spoilers: A true comedy such as Hail Caesar, Nice Guys or Deadpool could steal a spot ("Spy" was a best picture nominee last year.)

Best Actor (Drama)

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton, Loving
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Tom Hanks, Sully
Denzel Washington, Fences

Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic, Michael Keaton, The Founder, or Chris Pine, Hell or High Water

Best Actress (Drama) 
Amy Adams, Arrival
Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie

Spoiler: They love Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train

Best Actor (Comedy or Musical) 
Warren Beatty, Rules Don’t Apply
Colin Farrell, The Lobster
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Spoiler: Don Cheadle, Miles Ahead

Best Actress (Comedy or Musical)
Kate Beckinsale, Love & Friendship
Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
Lily Collins, Rules Don’t Apply
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Spoilers: Renee Zellweger, Bridge Jones’s Baby or Hailee Seinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Liam Neeson, Silence
Dev Patel, Lion

Spoilers: Kevin Costner, Hidden Figures, Ben Foster, Hell or High Water or Michael Shannon, Nocturnal

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, Fences
Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Spoilers: Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures or Kate McKinnon, Ghostbusters

Best Director
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Martin Scorsese, Silence
Denzel Washington, Fences

Spoilers: Famous tough guys: Clint Eastwood, Sully or Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

Best Screenplay

Hell or High Water
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea

Spoilers: La La Land, Jackie, Fences

Best Motion Picture – Animated
Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini

Spoilers: Finding Dory, The Red Turtle, or Sausage Party

Best Original Song

Runnin', from Hidden Figures
City of Stars, from La La Land
How Far I’ll Go, from Moana
Go Now, from Sing Street
Can’t Stop the Feeling!, from Trolls (ugh.)

Spoilers: Heathen by Tweny One Pilots, from Suicide Squad

Friday, December 9, 2016

10 perfect holiday films (that you haven't seen 10 times already)

For holiday viewing, you can never go wrong with It’s a Wonderful Life, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Elf or Miracle on 34th Street. But I know you already thought about those flicks. So what else is there to watch?

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 and binge-watching BBC’s 1950’s drama Call The Midwife. Whoa, didn’t need to see that.

These holiday choices and crowdpleasers should make for a merry Netflixmas:

1. The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
If you’re shopping for a romantic comedy, go for the film that inspired You’ve Got Mail (1993) and this year’s Tony-nominated musical revival She Loves Me. This black-and-white film starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan is zippy, witty, festive and it hits all the right notes. Airs on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on December 15 and 24. A
vailable on iTunes for $2.99.

2. A Very Murray Christmas (2015)
Seen Scrooged one time too many? Bill Murray stars as himself in this Sofia Coppola film that features holiday-inspired, musical duets with Miley Cyrus, Chris Rock and Jason Schwartzman. I didn’t make any of that up. It’s available on Netflix.

3. Die Hard (1988)
Could it be the Christmas office party setting? Maybe it’s the soundtrack featuring Run DMC’s Christmas in Hollis? Or perhaps it’s just that Bruce Willis’ John McClane wants to get back and save the love of his life named, ahem, Holly. But whatever it is, by golly, this "How Hans Gruber stole Christmas" tale is the ultimate holiday action flick. Available on the IFC cable channel on December 15, iTunes, and Amazon Prime for $3.99.

4. The Family Man (2000)
Here's a lighthearted way to get your It's a Wonderful Life fix, and remember that Nicholas Cage used to be dynamic in film — all at the same time. Cage carries every scene of this one like a new millennium Jimmy Stewart. Available on HBO Go and HBO Now.

5. An American Tail (1986)
Hanukkah doesn’t get played out much in film, but when young Fievel Mousekevitz gets his signature blue hat as a Hanukkah present from his father, who explains its heritage, there won’t be a dry eye or a creature stirring in the house. Available on Starz and Encore.

6. Radio City Christmas Spectacular (2007)
Forget to see a show with holiday music during the holiday busy-ness? Want something festive to play in the background while wrapping presents? Watch New York City’s Rockettes perform their magic in this feature. Spoiler alert: Santa appears. Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

7. Bridgette Jones’s Diary (2001)
Long before there were ugly Christmas sweater parties, Bridget (Rene Zellweger) first met the reindeer-sweater adorned Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) at a holiday party. Fifteen years later, you can still love this rom-com and Bridget “just as she is.” Available on Amazon, and iTunes for $2.99.

8. Holiday Inn (1942)
If you’re like me, you watch White Christmas (1954) every year (Netflix). However, if you’re looking for a change, you should check out the film that introduced the Irving Berlin song years before. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire celebrate a year’s worth of holidays in an overshadowed classic that was nominated for three Academy Awards and won one too (Best Original Song). Available on iTunes for $9.99.

9. The Preacher's Wife (1996)
This remake of The Bishop's Wife, directed by Penny Marhsall and starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, is a little too sweet for most times of year, but it's a light good-spirited crowdpleaser that pairs well with the holidays.

10. Love Actually (2003)

Go get the sh*t kicked out of you by 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. Available for free with your subscription to Netflix, and iTunes for $2.99.

10.5 Fireplace For Your Home
Didn’t see anything that matches your chestnuts roasting vibe? Try this hour-long stream of a fireplace burning. Available on Netflix.

The ten buck review: All worth ten bucks.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Manchester by the Sea

oscar films
A director you can count on.

While watching the relationships develop in Manchester by the Sea, I had a passing thought that I hadn’t seen anything like this since You Can Count On Me (2000), the generically-titled film starring Laura Linney and introducing Mark Ruffalo. So I wasn’t terribly surprised to Google the director and find they share the same one,  Kenneth Lonergan.

Lonergan has only directed three films in that time, so I’m expecting another winner in the year 2032. Manchester by the Sea is one of the best films of the year, telling a story of pain and complication with elements of humor and laughter realistically woven in just like life. I was completely invested in these characters and transplated to the small towns of Cape Ann for a little over two hours.

Producer Matt Damon was set to play the leading role early on but other commitments intervened, giving the part to Casey Affleck. Whew! We are blessed; Affleck is subtle and superb in an uncompromising performance.

Simply put:
See Manchester on the Sea.

Award potential:
Look for nominees in all major Oscar categories beginning with Best Picture. Expect high-profile nods for Affleck as Best Actor and Michelle Williams for Best Supporting Actress. I would nominate Affleck’s onscreen nephew, Lucas Hedges, but it’s a long shot for Best Supporting Actor for a relative newcomer.

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Bask in Moonlight.

Moonlight is the original, nuanced, indie drama we’ve been waiting for all year. It’s a coming-of age story told in three parts, each titled from the nicknames of the central character: Little, Chiron and Black.

Director Barry Jenkins shows us young man's struggle to find himself by following the heartbreaking journey of Chiron from age nine to adult. Chiron is repeatedly asked, “Who is you?” and so is the audience.

Moonlight tenderly touches on themes of African-American masculinity, class, race, family and drug abuse in ways that are rarely depicted onscreen.

Simply put: To the moon and back. It’s the intimate, indie drama we’ve waited for all year. Jenkins is a new voice in cinema and he and his film will surely have a powerful presence in awards season.

Award potential: Look for nominees in all major Oscar categories beginning with Best Picture. It’s a lock for a nom for the SAG’s ensemble cast award as well.

The acting awards are tricky, as three actors played the quiet Chiron, but I’d look to Mahershala Ali in the Best Supporting Actor category for his scene-stealing role as father-figure Juan. Naomie Harris is a lock for Best Supporting Actress. Janelle Moneae won’t be recognized for her work here but may be nominated against Naomie for her work in the upcoming movie Hidden Figures.

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hell or High Water

best picture nominees
Hell, yes.

“A Texas Ranger hunts bank robbers in West Texas” may not sound like the setup for a movie set in contemporary times nor does it hint that this was one of the best films of 2016, but both are correct.

Scottish director David Mackenzie, writer Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens have created a bold, original film that can confidently sit on a shelf with Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma and Louise and No Country For Old Men.

The story follows brothers Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) on a bank-robbing spree that is being followed, ahem, hunted by Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges in full Tommy Lee Jones mode) and his half-Comanche partner Alberus (Gill Birminham). It's a solid heist story, but it's something a little more too; it's a tale of small-scale justice that is in shocking synch with rebel America.

Rich dialogue. Handsome cinematography. Sizzling soundtrack. Standout performances. It's one of the best films of the year.

Simply put: It's a modern (but sepia-tone) classic that shouldn’t be missed.

Award potential: If Oscar voters remember all the way back to August, it should rack up nominations for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor Jeff Bridges (who milks every line like the pro he is), and Best Score (Nick Cave and Warren Ellis) — maybe more.

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.

Friday, November 11, 2016

15 BEST PICTURE CONTENDERS FOR 2017 (and when you can see them)

does emma stone have an oscar
Ooh, la, la-la-land! 
It’s that time of year when Oscar caliber films fall out of the sky and into theaters. Five of this year’s top films are in theaters at this writing, with three more to follow before December.

Yeah, it's too early to predict the ten Best Pictures as some of these will definitely lose momentum before January (Sorry Warren Beatty), but these dozen films are a safe bet to be totally ten-buck-worthy (and one of them features the future Han Solo). Enjoy!


Hell or High Water
Brothers Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) are on a bank-robbing spree in West Texas, and a Texas Ranger, Best Actor frontrunner Jeff Bridges, is on to it. It’s a beauty and it’s sensational.
On Demand now for sale, rental begins Tuesday, November 22.

A young man deals with his dysfunctional home life and comes of age in Miami during the "War on Drugs” era. The New York Times recently asked “Is this 2016’s best movie?” I’ll find out this week.
In theaters now.

British-American drama starring Joel Egerton and Ruth Nega as Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud).
In theaters now.

Birth of a Nation
The controversial film based on the story of Nat Turner, the enslaved man who led a slave rebellion. Directed by and starring Nate Parker.
In theaters now.

Hacksaw Ridge
Speaking of controversial directors, we also have Mel Gibson's new film. WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
In theaters now.

Manchester by the Sea
Lee (Casey Affleck) returns to his North Shore hometown and separated wife (Michelle Williams). Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me). A likely contender in many categories.
In theaters November 18.

Rules Don’t Apply
This year’s Hollywood film that honors itself, Rules Don’t Apply, follows the romantic relationship between a young actress (Lilly Collins) and her driver (Alden Ehrenreich, the future Han Solo), which is forbidden by their employer Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). This is Beatty’s first directorial effort since Bulworth (1998). Also starring Annete Benning and Matthew Broderick.
In theaters November 23.

Australian-American-British drama that follows Saroo (Dev Patel) on his search for his long lost family. Also starring Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. It’s a Weinstein film.
In theaters November 25.


Actress frontrunner Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy  in the days when she was First Lady in the White House.
In theaters December 2.

La La Land
This year’s early front-runner is a romantic musical set in L.A. starring likely Best Actress winner Emma Stone, Ryan Gossling and J.K. Simmons — directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash).
In theaters December 9.

The Founder
Supersized biopic of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) maneuvered himself into a position to buy the 1950s burger operation of Mac and Dick McDonald and create a billion-dollar fast food empire.

In theaters December 16.

Patriots Day
Sgt. Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) joins Boston Marathon bombing survivors, first responders and other investigators in a race against the clock to hunt down the suspects. Directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor).
In theaters December 21.

A historical drama set in the seventeeth century follows two Portuguese Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) who face violence when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Christianity. Directed by Martin Scorsese.
In theaters December 23.

Hidden Figures
Three women at NASA (Taraji P. Henson,Octavia Spencer and Janelle MonĂ¡e) provide NASA with important mathematical data  and play key roles behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.
In theaters December 25.

Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, a former baseball  player (Denzel Washington), now working as a waste collector,  struggles to provide for his wife (Viola Davis) and family. This Best Picture front-runner is based on the play of the same name and directed by Denzel Washington.

In theaters December 25.