Archive for September, 2012

‘Pitch Perfect’ review

Posted: September 29, 2012 in Movies

It’s been done before.  That age-old story about the underdogs that are stuck in their ways and won’t change for anyone or anything and that’s what is preventing them from being champions.  It’s a tried and true formula for how to tell a story about perseverance while making you root for the good guys.  Films as diverse from Coach Carter to Rudy to Bring it On, it’s been done before.  Yet, something about Pitch Perfect does it all and then some.  It’s a film that has no business being as good and funny as it is, but somehow though pulls it off.

Anna Kendrick (Twilight, Up in the Air, 50/50) plays alt-rocker chick Beca – a freshman at Barton University who just wants to move to Los Angeles and start her life/career as a professional DJ.  She’s got talent both mixing tracks and singing when no one is looking but she’s a bit insufferable when it comes to other human interaction.  In steps her Barton University professor father who tells her that she has to join a school club or he won’t help her get to LA.  Genius!  So Beca, after an awkward encounter with an a Barton Bella (the all female a capella group on campus), is convinced that she needs to try out to be a Bella member.  Long story short, Beca auditions, gets on the team/group, and quickly becomes the “it” girl.  However, she quickly makes a frenemy with senior Bella member – Aubrey (Anna Camp – The Help) – and finds herself trying to infuse the group with some new contemporary music.  Aubrey doesn’t like this, nor Beca’s budding relationship with Jesse (Dane Cook…erm…Skylar Astin) a member of the Treble Makers – rival a capella group to the Bella’s.

The film plays out like all of the movies I mentioned at the top but infused with some great humor, mostly stolen scenes from Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids) who plays “Fat Amy”.  After the movie I got to thinking she had the kindof comedic performance that launched Jonah Hill’s career after Superbad.  I was not expecting the humor in Pitch Perfect to be that well timed or that well written either, but it was and it was pretty damned good.  Kendrick, who is almost 27, plays a college freshman perfectly as she’s probably 4’10 and weighs 75 pounds.  Seriously though, she’s a fantastic actress and she’s got a set of pipes on her as well.  What really impressed me about the cast was that they all could legitimately sing.  There was no lip syncing and no one who was trying too hard.  Even Wilson, who would have been the last person I would think could sing that way, sounds impressive when you get a change to really hear her.   The heartfelt scenes seem a little bit like the script tried to hard, but I suppose it was necessary to set up the story.  There is a great reference/respect paid to John Hughes in the movie and that’s a huge deal to me, mainly because if Hughes was still alive and making movies and was interested in show choir, Pitch Perfect is exactly the type of movie he would have made.

Bottom line, if you’re a fan of Glee but you’re tired of all the tried high school drama bullshit on FOX, give Pitch Perfect a chance.  You won’t regret it.

 

 

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2012 Emmy’s – Recap

Posted: September 24, 2012 in Movies, Television

I’m not usually a big Emmy’s watcher, as I often don’t have enough time to invest in all the different mini-series and television shows that are up for nominations, so I feel I would be doing myself a disservice for rooting for one show over the other.  However, I have a few gripes with this year’s awards winners, mainly the Showtime television spy-drama Homeland.

Homeland took home the Outstanding Drama Series award, beating out other shows like Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Boardwalk Empire.  All of those shows are heads better than Homeland at the moment, especially Breaking Bad.  That’s not the big gripe though, my biggest gripe is Damian Lewis winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Nicolas Brody in Homeland.  This guy is about as stiff as an actor can get playing a guy who doesn’t really say too much in his television show.  It’s a travesty of epic proportions that Lewis beat out seasoned actors (and better actors too) like Bryan Cranston, Michael C. Hall, Jon Hamm, and Steve Buscemi.  When I heard that he won (I did not watch), I scratched my head in disbelief.

Don’t get me wrong, Homeland is a fine show – next to Dexter – it’s the best show Showtime has to offer.  However, it’s not better than all the previously mentioned shows, and I’d even throw The Newsroom and Sons of Anarchy ahead of it.  If anyone deserved their award for anything last night it was Claire Danes in Homeland, she’s absolutely phenomenal as a CIA agent with bipoloar disorder.

Here’s the full list of awards winners:

 

Outstanding Comedy Series

– The Big Bang Theory

Modern Family

– Curb Your Enthusiasm

– Girls

– 30 Rock

– Veep

Outstanding Drama Series

– Boardwalk Empire

– Breaking Bad

– Downtown Abbey

– Game of Thrones

Homeland

– Mad Men

Outstanding Mini-Series or Made for Television Movie

– American Horror Story: Asylum

Game Change

– Hatfields & McCoys

– Hemmingway & Gellhorn

– Luther

– Sherlock

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

– Alec Baldwin “30 Rock”

– Don Cheadle “House of Lies”

Jon Cryer “Two and a Half Men”

– Louis C.K. “Louie”

– Larry David “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

– Jim Parsons “The Big Bang Theory”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Damian Lewis “Homeland”

– Bryan Cranston “Breaking Bad”

– Hugh Bonneville “Downtown Abbey”

– Jon Hamm “Mad Men”

– Michael C. Hall “Dexter”

– Steve Buscemi “Boardwalk Empire”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Mini-Series or Made for Television Movie

– Bill Paxton “Hatfields & McCoys”

– Benedict Cumberbatch “Sherlock”

– Clive Owen “Hemmingway & Gellhorn”

– Idris Elba “Luther”

Kevin Costner “Hatfields & McCoys”

– Woody Harrelson “Game Change”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

– Amy Poelher “Parks & Recreation”

– Edie Falco “Nurse Jackie”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus “Veep”

– Lena Dunham “Girls”

– Mellisa McCarthy “Mike & Molly”

– Tina Fey “30 Rock”

– Zooey Deschanel “New Girl”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Claire Danes “Homeland”

– Elisabeth Moss “Mad Men”

– Glenn Close “Damages”

– Julianna Marguiles “The Good Wife”

– Kathy Bates “Harry’s Law”

– Michelle Dockery “Downtown Abbey”

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Mini-Series or a Made for Television Movie

– Ashley Judd “Missing”

– Connie Britton “American Horror Story: Asylum”

– Emma Thompson “The Song of Lunch”

Julianne Moore “Game Change”

– Nicole Kidman “Hemmingway & Gellhorn”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

– Bill Hader “Saturday Night Live”

– Ed O’Neill “Modern Family”

Eric Overstreet “Modern Family”

– Jesse Tyler Ferguson “Modern Family”

– Max Greenfield “New Girl”

– Ty Burrell “Modern Family”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Aaron Paul “Breaking Bad”

– Brendan Coyle “Downtown Abbey”

– Giancarlo Esposito “Breaking Bad”

– Jared Harris “Mad Men”

– Jim Carter “Downtown Abbey”

– Peter Dinklage “Game of Thrones”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Mini-Series or Made for Television Movie

– David Strathairn “Hemmingway & Gellhorn”

– Denis O’Hare “American Horror Story: Asylum”

– Ed Harris “Game Change”

– Martin Freeman “Sherlock”

Tom Berenger “Hatfields & McCoys”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Julie Bowen “Modern Family”

– Kathryn Joosten “Desperate Housewives”

– Kristen Wiig “Saturday Night Live”

– Mayim Bialik “The Big Bang Theory”

– Merritt Wever “Nurse Jackie”

– Sofia Vergara “Modern Family”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

– Anna Gunn “Breaking Bad”

– Archie Panjabi “The Good Wife”

– Christina Hendricks “Mad Men”

– Christine Baranski “The Good Wife”

– Joanne Froggatt “Downtown Abbey”

Maggie Smith “Downtown Abbey”

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or a Made for Television Movie

– Frances Conroy “American Horror Story: Asylum”

Jessica Lange “American Horror Story: Asylum”

– Judy Davis “Page Eight”

– Mare Winningham “Hatfields & McCoys”

– Sarah Paulson “Game Change”

 

 

 

Usually you don’t see a ton of new movies grab the attention of movie goers this late in September, it’s normally the late summer crowd catching up on all of the summer blockbusters they missed in May/June/July.  However, this weekend featured three new releases that had a photo finish on Sunday for the top spot.  The one surprising thing about this movie-going weekend was that the most publicized and marketed film absolutely bombed at the box office – Dredd.  It’s surprising that a remake of a pretty popular early 90’s Sly Stallone film would do so bad – and get reviewed so well – but Dredd only managed to pull in around $6M through the three days.  For all accounts, it’s a pretty good movie too.

Anyways, Jake Gyllenhal and Jennifer Lawrence each had movies that garnered enough interest that they ended up in a tie for the number one spot at the box office.   Gyllenhal’s End of Watch and Lawrence’s House at the End of the Street each managed to bring in $13M.  It’s no surprise that Gyllenhals’ film garnered enough viewers to get the top spot, I am however surprised that Lawrence’s not-s0-publicized horror film was able to garner the same interest.

The Clint Eastwood acted baseball film Trouble with the Curve managed to bring in $12M while the Disney re-release of Finding Nemo in 3D still brought in nearly $10M.  Rounding out the top five was Resident Evil: Retribution with almost $7M.

Here is the full top 10:
*Numbers in millions* (TOTAL)

1) End of Watch – $13 (NEW)

2) House at the End of the Street – $13 (NEW)

3) Trouble with the Curve – $12.7 (NEW)

4) Finding Nemo 3D – $9.4 ($29.9)

5) Resident Evil: Retribution – $6.7 ($33.4)

6) Dredd – $6.3 (NEW)

7) The Master – $5 ($6)

8) The Possession – $2.6 ($45.6)

9) Lawless – $2.3 ($34.5)

10) ParaNorman – $2.2 ($52.5)

 

Via Box Office Mojo

 

Warner Bros. have released a new trailer for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, featuring everyone’s favorite obsessive creature, Smeagol.

Also featured a bit in the new trailer is the wizard Radagast the Brown, who was revealed to be in the film several weeks ago.  It has already been announced that The Hobbit adaptation will be split into a trilogy of films, which could be good and bad.

An Unexpected Journey is set to release on December 14 in the US.

Sometimes you’re just born to do something.  Some people are born to be police officers, firefighters, accountants, or cashiers at McDonalds.  Daniel Day Lewis was probably born to play Abraham Lincoln.

The first trailer to Steven Spielberg’s biopic Lincoln was release earlier today amidst very little fanfare.  It’s actually kindof surprising how little attention this trailer received due to the actor who’s in it and the director who’s helming the film.  You almost can’t recognize Lewis as he completely immersed himself into the role and really transformed himself into the 16th president of the United States of America.  There were even rumors back when the movie was filming that Lewis would stay in character 24/7 as to not let go of his performance.  After seeing the trailer, I can probably say that’s about accurate.

Lincoln will garner a lot of attention come awards season early 2013 and to no one’s surprise.  The film has supporting actors that should garner that type of attention, like Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see this get at least 6 or more nominations at the Academy Awards next year.

Lincoln is out in theaters on November 16.

This review comes to you a week late, as I did see the film opening weekend (last weekend – August 31), but better late than never, right?  As with all things “based on a true story” you have to weed out the good and the bad and take what ever you are watching at face value.  Lawless is a film, based on a true story, about the Bondurant brothers who run a bootlegging operation in southwest Virginia during the early depression era.  It was a time when the prohibition drove people to do crazy things for a little bit of alcohol.

The film revolves around brothers Jack (Shia LaBeouf), Forrest (Tom Hardy), and Howard (Jason Clarke) who set up a bootlegging shop in Franklin county, Virginia.  The basic premise is that the prohibition has everyone wanting a little taste of some home-cooked moonshine, even the local authorities, and the Bondurant brothers realize this.  They develop, distribute, and control the flow of alcohol in the corner of three states but soon attract unwanted attention from a Special Deputy Charlie Rakes out of Chicago looking to shut down their operation for good.  It’s your classic “good-bad guys against bad-good guy” story.  You’ve also got the rival moonshine gangs – led by the always great Gary Oldman (in a too brief role) –  that are out to cut into the Bondurant’s profits.

What really sets the movie apart from other historical dramas is that Lawless doesn’t hold back on the violence and grit.  Every time Tom Hardy’s character is on the screen you either get that sense of dread – like something bad’s about to go down, or he’s about to whoop some serious ass.  In the big scheme of things, Lawless is Shia LaBeouf’s movie but damnit if Tom Hardy doesn’t completely steal the show as Forrest Bondurant.  Don’t get me wrong, LaBeouf acts his ass off in this film and the kid is seriously one of the best young actor’s in Hollywood right now, but Tom Hardy is just on another level.  The way Hardy can expel emotion with just the expression in his eyes is something masterful.  It’s the same way Hardy made you care about the character Charles Bronson in Bronson and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  His portrayal as Bane is probably his best work but the character of Forrest Bondurant required Hardy to bottle up emotion with very few vocal traits (after all, the character is a bit off in the head).  Hardy’s inadvertent connection with Jessica Chastain’s character, Maggie, is – at times – comical but surreal all at once.  Forrest obviously doesn’t know how to talk to women, let alone enjoy their advances, but Maggie makes it easy for him and you can see by the way Hardy acts, that it’s such an uncomfortable situation for the character.  Mastery on screen.

Now I do enjoy Guy Pearce as an actor, I really feel he’s one of the more underrated actors in Hollywood that usually delivers the goods in a role, but I felt his Charlie Rake character was too cartoonish.  Yes, he was the villain and yes his character is meant to be a bit over the top I just think the part was written wrong.  Rake is a guy who will stop at nothing to accomplish task and if that means killing some bootleggers, than so be it.  Pearce plays the character that way when it’s time but in the scenes where Rake has to interact with another character without killing them, you’re left wondering why he was there in the first place.  That’s not a good thing to have in your villain.  I believe, and this is just me, that Rake’s character should have been written the same way No Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) was.  I menacing character who’s sole purpose throughout the movie was to play death.  I felt the exact same way watching Pearce play Rake but I laughed at times because Rake was so over the top it was hard to take the character seriously at times.  You never felt that way watching Bardem play Chigurh.  It’s precisely the reason Bardem was nominated for an Academy Award for the role.

The film is not without its flaws as a whole however, the pacing is off at times and certain things go left unexplained for long periods of time that leave the audience trying to guess what just happened.  Example, there is a part in the film where Forrest gets injured and winds up in the hospital but we never see how he got there and the explanation of how he ended up in the hospital bed goes too long unexplained.  It’s a minor thing that bugged me but there were several other instances where the pacing was suspect and could have been done better.  The ending was also a bit shallow in my opinion.  I wanted a bigger payoff for LaBeouf’s character but it really never happened.  Mia Wasikowska’s character was severely under-used and she’s too good of an actor to be used in a romantic sub-plot role.

No matter the films flaws, they don’t keep Lawless from being one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

According to several news media outlets, Hollywood actor Michael Clarke Duncan has died at the age of 54.   TMZ is reporting that Duncan’s fiance was with him at the time of his passing in the hospital, but his death is being described as “sudden” and “unexpected”.

According to the sourced report, Duncan’s reps have stated that the actor never fully recovered from the cardiac arrest he suffered on July 13, 2012.  No official cause of death has been announced.

Michael Clarke Duncan was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal in The Green Mile and starred in other films such as Daredevil, Armageddon, Planet of the Apes, and The Whole Nine Yards.  His larger than life presence on the big screen will surely be missed.

Rest in peace.