Archive for December, 2013

Top 10 films of 2013

Posted: December 26, 2013 in Movies

Well folks, we’ve only got 5 more days left in 2013 and the year in film was pretty strong, in my opinion.  Maybe the strongest year in cinema in the past 10 years.  That’s not just including “good” films that’s including box office numbers as well.  Hollywood did particularly well taking money to the bank.  Disney, among other studios, took home over $3 BILLION dollars in 2013.  Talk about breaking the bank.

Here are my top 10 films from the year that was two-thousand and thirteen.

10) Frozen

Normally a Pixar animated feature is reserved for a place amongst the best animated films of the year, however, this year Disney Animation took the top prize in that category.  Frozen is a wonderfully animated and beautifully scripted feature about the bond between two sisters and how true love can conquer all, just not in the way we’ve come to know it.  Frozen may have one of the best soundtracks to any Disney feature we’ve seen in the past 30 years.  That might be a bigger accomplishment than a Disney film being on this list.

 

9) The Spectacular Now

The modern age romance film has been redefined in 2013.  The Spectacular Now redefined it.  Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are such an odd pairing – he’s not particularly good looking and she’s quite gorgeous – and have such great chemistry that the pairing works on all levels.  The Notebook was probably the last romance film to redefine the genre, but that film played into the love-bird stereotypes (scruffy boy falls for uppity girl, uppity girl can’t be with scruffy guy, scruffy guy loses uppity girl, etc, etc).  The Spectacular Now goes against the stereotypes of bad boy gets any girl he wants and we’re all the better for it.  It’s a great film that needs to be seen.

 

8) Prisoners

Prisoners lost its steam somewhere back in October, frankly because it came out too early.  It took the Argo route of release dates and became forgotten about due to other great films being released in the same time window.  However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great film, because it was.  Hugh Jackman completely steals the show as a father grief stricken over his abducted daughter that he turns to torturing her accused abductor.  It’s Jackman’s complexity of the character that makes the movie really that good.  Sure, Jake Gyllenhaal is pretty good in it too and there are a bunch of big name actors giving their best, but it’s Jackman that you’re paying money to see.  He’s going to miss out on an Oscar nomination but he’s the main reason Prisoners is even on this list.

 

7) Fruitvale Station

Heartbreaking, yet mesmerizing, Fruitvale Station is the sad true tale of Oscar Grant – played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan – a young black man who was tragically murdered by the Oakland Police Department on New Years Eve 2008.  The film, which clues you in to Oscar’s fate from the very first scene of the film, tells the story of what type of person Oscar was.  He was a carefree soul with a big heart.  An on-again-off-again girlfriend and daughter occupy most of Oscar’s time while he’s trying to turn his life around but as is depicted he gets pulled into his former life of crime along the way.  While Jordan’s portrayal of Grant is truly great, it’s Octavia Spencer’s performance as Grant’s mother that truly makes your heart break.  Spencer plays the role with such love and sadness for what Grant is becoming and what he’s become, the best scene of the film comes when she’s waiting in the hospital waiting room with Oscar’s friends for the doctor.  If that lump in your throat isn’t as big as a grapefruit, check your pulse.

 

6) Mud

2012 was supposed to be the year of Matthew McConaughey, but 2013 came and had something to say about how good McConaughey’s year has been.  Mud is simply fantastic as a story about two boys who discover a fugitive hiding out on a small island at the base of a river in Arkansas.  The boys make a pact with Mud to help him stay hidden from the law and help him try to re-establish a relationship with a former lover.  While watching the film you constantly get the feeling that McConaughey is just using the boys to get what he wants, but your faith in the character is rewarded by the end of the film.  It’s like watching an odd fairy tale where Mud is the character that looks after the child through their misadventures.

 

5) Saving Mr. Banks

“Based on a true story” of a Disney transaction, brought to you by the Walt Disney Company?  One would think that you’d be in for a disaster of a film.  However, when that particular film stars Tom Hanks as the Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers – better known as a the author of the classic tale of Mary Poppins – you’re film is going to be pretty damn good.  Saving Mr. Banks is a largely embellished story of Walt Disney trying to convince Travers to sell his company the film rights to her beloved tale.  The film explores the tribulations and relationship that Disney tries to establish with Travers, and while Hanks is convincingly believable as Disney, it’s Thompson that really shines here.  Allegedly Travers hated the final product of Mary Poppins (the Walt Disney production) and felt that way until the day she died.  Meanwhile, this is another Disney film we’re talking about and it’s meant to be a feel good story – so it is.

 

4) Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks back-to-back, this time he’s the Captain of a large shipping vessel that’s besieged by Somali pirates – another “based on a true story” tale.  This time, it’s Hanks that completely loses himself in the role.  He’s both stern as a Captain but approachable as a co-worker trying to do his job.  It’s when his ship is commandeered that Hanks really turns on the acting juices and the dialogue and emotion that is seen on his face when he’s held captive on a life boat for a couple of days.  Hanks has received as much critical acclaim as one can get for his portrayal of Richard Phillips, and it will likely pay off with an Oscar nomination.

 

3) Her

Spike Jonze’s Her is complex, beautiful, sad, and true all at the same time.  The film examines society’s obsession with technology and applies it to one man’s life as he discovers and falls in love with the voice of a computer.  And when I say “falls in love” with the voice of a computer, I mean he loves his computer but is stimulated by her voice (Scarlett Johansson).  Joaquin Phoenix is perfect as Theodore – a loner type who’s introvertive lifestyle allows him to establish a relationship with a piece of tech.  Jonze doesn’t always make great movies, but when they come along they’re especially great.

 

2) Gravity

There were a ton of films in 2013 that focused on a singular actor and particular perils they come in to along their particular journey.  Alphonso Cuaron’s Gravity is the best of them all.  His story about an astronaut who is stranded in space and has to rely on her faith in what she knows was real, is truly what makes the film magical.   Not to mention Sandra Bullock’s performance and the cinematography and the unreal CGI and the score…it’s all so perfect.  If there is one film you see to really magnify the whole movie-going “experience”, it’s certainly Gravity.

 

1) 12 Years A Slave

American cinema isn’t yet particularly comfortable with depiction of slavery and the graphic nature of what it represented, however Steve McQueen’s take on a tale of a slave who is freed but is later re-sold into slavery is heartbreaking and endearing.  While McQueen’s film and John Ridley’s script are real stars in the film, it’s journeymen-actor Chiwetel Ejiofor who stakes his claim as the best actor in 2013.  Ejiofor’s performance in 12 Years A Slave is just great, his character’s sense of taking his freedom for granted is seen in just about every scene in the movie.  McQueen could very well take home Best Director, Best Picture and every other award in 2013.

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Redbox’s 10 Most Rented Films of 2013

Posted: December 24, 2013 in Movies

DVD giant Redbox have released their 10 Most Rented Movies of 2013, with Melissa McCarthy sitting atop the list.  McCarthy has risen through the ranks of actresses in Hollywood to become the most bankable star, male or female.   Just for a little “incase you didn’t know”, McCarthy’s last three films in which she’s starred; Bridesmaids – $169M, Identity Thief – $134M, and The Heat – $159M.  She’s a certified star and it’s no wonder she’s on top of this list.

Here’s the full list:

1) Identity Thief

2) The Heat

3) World War Z

4) Flight

5) Olympus Has Fallen

6) Django Unchained

7) Grown Ups 2

8) White House Down

9) Here Comes the Boom

10) Now You See Me

 

Via Cinemablend

‘Frozen’ review

Posted: December 22, 2013 in Movies, Reviews

It’s been quite a while since Disney Animation Studios has put out a film that is worth of the title “classic”, however, the studio’s latest animated film Frozen is made of stuff that the guys over at Pixar would be jealous of.

Frozen is a coming of age story about two sisters, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), who are princesses in the kingdom of Arendelle – a lush land built around summer and surrounded by water.  Elsa, the older of the sisters, has the power of winter at her touch and as a young girl accidentally endangers the life of her younger sister.  After the scare, the King and Queen of Arendelle decide that Elsa is a danger not only to herself but to the entire royal family and even kingdom, so she’s given a pair of gloves and is shut off from the rest of the world.  After years pass and a tragic accident involving the King and Queen, Elsa assumes the role of Queen of Arendelle.  There is a coronation scheduled for Elsa that the entire kingdom is invited to and the castle’s doors are being opened for the first time in years.  Anna is the happy-go-lucky sister that wants nothing more than to experience life as its presented with no regrets.  She meets a handsome prince, Hans (Santino Fontana), who she falls madly in love with and wants to marry right away.  Anna, being Anna, goes to Elsa after the coronation requesting her blessing for their marriage, to which Elsa denies.  This only angers Anna who yells at Elsa, which angers Elsa, and sets off an eternal winter in the kingdom.   Now, of course I’m being extremely vague for a reason, but that’s the plot synopsis in a nutshell.

What makes Frozen a great Disney film, and a great film in general, is that it takes the cookie cutter Disney princess mold and shatters it completely.  Anna is the first Disney princess that is, perhaps, too down to Earth.  She’s too free-spirited.  However, it’s her fire, passion, and love for her sister that drives the film and recreates the mantra of “true love”.  Disney has brainwashed little girls everywhere that princesses fall in love with prince Charming and it’s consummated with “true love’s kiss”.  It’s that tag line that Frozen exploits for the first two-thirds of the film and then throws it right in your face with a twist that you’re going to love.

Disney has always had a knack for family storytelling, but they’ve never ventured to the “true love” aspect that can only be occupied by someone with your blood.  Anna and Elsa’s relationship is extremely rocky but you understand both sides and where they’re coming from.  You understand why Anna only wants to be Elsa’s bestfriend, you also understand why Elsa feels she has to put as much distance between herself and her sister.  Anna’s journey to reconnect with her sister and save her kingdom is something that Pixar missed the chance to establish with their last animated feature, Brave.   Merida’s strong-willed independence only endangered her kingdom but the rekindling relationship with her mother  never seemed genuine.  Brave wanted to establish Merida’s independently free spirit but then they switched it up and wanted to explore Merida’s rocky relationship with her mother.  It didn’t work, and the film suffered because of it.   With Frozen, the relationship between Anna and Elsa is established in the film’s first scenes and is explored throughout the film.  It’s genuine and the writing reflects the film’s emotions.

Frozen‘s supporting characters are also one of the film’s greatest aspects.  Anna meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a young, handsome ice-trader who’s best friend is his pet reindeer, Sven.  Kristoff is the sturdy male character that accompanies Anna on her journey through the snow-plotted mountains, but he also comes across as genuine with his feelings for Sven, towards Anna, and why he’s on this journey with her.  Anna and Kristoff also encounter a magical snowman, created by Elsa, named Olaf (Josh Gad), who serves as the film’s “funny” character but Olaf’s purpose is genuine too.  Olaf is the creation of Elsa due to her memories as a child with Anna playing in the snow building snowmen.  After Elsa almost kills Anna as a child, Anna’s memory’s were erased and she never remembered those times with her sister.  Olaf is the constant reminder that Elsa and Anna had always been bestfriend’s, even if one of them didn’t want that relationship anymore and one of the them couldn’t remember the relationship.  Josh Gad, who voices Olaf, shows off his singing chops as well as his comedic timing.  Just about every major character introduced in this animated film is perfectly written and most excellently cast.

Kristen Bell is a force as a leading voice actress, but it’s Idina Menzel’s voice who completely steals the show.  You probably wouldn’t recognize Menzel if you saw her in a film (she’s been a reoccurring character on Glee) but her voice is unmistakable, especially when she’s belting notes.  Her song in the film “Let It Go” may be one of the best Disney songs we’ve received since Mulan’s “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”.

I took my daughters to see Frozen this weekend and instantly felt gratification because the story preached family love over needing that “prince Charming” love.  It’s refreshing to see, honestly, and I’m probably going to take my daughter to see it again.  I’d recommend you do the same.

After the heartbreaking sudden death of actor Paul Walker, the future of the Fast & Furious franchise was in severe doubt, especially Fast & Furious 7, which was currently filming at the time of Walker’s death.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the last thing that matters to a family who has a loved one die is what will come of their profession/work after their death.  However, Walker was a bankable movie star – especially his resurgence with the Fast & Furious franchise (having Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in your films also help), and Universal has a ton of money tied up in the filming of the next F&F movie.

After Walker’s death, Universal shut down production of the seventh F&F film and there were talks of script rewrites – which is understandable – and even cancelling the film altogether.   I would have understood cancelling the film as all the actors that starred in the recent Fast & Furious 5/6 films were very close with Walker, especially Tyrese Gibson.   Now it looks like we’ve gotten official confirmation that the film will only be delayed a year and not cancelled.  Veteran F&F actor Vin Diesel posted to his Facebook page the last picture of himself with Walker on the set of Fast & Furious 7, with a caption that stated;

There was a unique sense of completion, of pride we shared… in the film we were now completing… the magic captured… and, in just how far we’ve come…

Diesel also attached the film’s new release date with the Facebook post as “April 10th, 2015”.   While delaying the film a year (it was originally set for a May 2014 release) is probably the best move, having the film release in April is an odd move.   More than likely the April release date is due to a plethora of blockbuster films being released in 2015, including Batman vs. Superman, Star Wars Episode VII, and pretty much everything else you can think of.  2015’s summer is a huge season for big budget films, Universal is probably calculating April as the best time for the film to make it’s tons of money.   The year and a half between now and then allows for the script to be re-tooled and cohesion to be restored.  It also likely means that Paul Walker gets a proper send off in the film, instead of just being edited out.

Via Cinemablend

As Christmas creeps closer, this week saw an abnormal abundance of movie trailers released.  While the holiday season is usually award season for the top films released throughout the year, it’s also a time for movie studio to release the first trailers for next summer’s big budget cinematic masterpieces.

Here’s what you might’ve missed this week:

 

22 Jump Street

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Starring: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Kerri Russell, Jason Clarke

 

Blended

Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Terry Crews

 

Cheap Thrills

Starring: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner

 

3 Days to Kill

Starring: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld

 

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington, Jonah Hill, Gerard Butler, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

 

The Expendables 3

Starring: Every Action Actor Known To Man

This year’s Golden Globe Award Nominations were announced early this morning in Los Angeles, as Oscar contenders 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity were well represented.

Here’s the full list of nominations:

Best Motion Picture – Drama

– 12 Years A Slave

– Captain Phillips

– Gravity

– Philonema

– Rush

*Notes: Both Philonema and Rush are surprise picks in the drama category here.  Both don’t stand a chance at winning, which is headscratching as to why they were chosen.   I would have put Prisoners in this category instead of Rush.

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

– American Hustle

– Her

– Inside Llewn Davis

– Nebraska

– The Wolf of Wall Street

*Notes: Nothing surprising here, all deserving and there really isn’t a front runner for the category; although I expect American Hustle to win.

Best Director

– Alfonso Cuaron “Gravity”

– Paul Greengrass “Captain Phillips”

– Steve McQueen “12 Years A Slave”

– Alexander Payne “Nebraska”

– David O. Russell “American Hustle”

*Notes: I really think it’s between McQueen and O. Russell, it depends on other awards but it’s really a two man race.

Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama

– Chiwetel Ejiofor “12 Years A Slave”

– Idris Elba “Mandela”

– Tom Hanks “Captain Phillips”

– Matthew McConaughey “Dallas Buyer’s Club”

– Robert Redford “All Is Lost”

*Notes: Interesting that Elba was included here, as his film Mandela hasn’t been getting any play with awards circuits.  It’s between Ejiofor and Hanks, in my opinion.

Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy

– Leonardo DiCaprio “The Wolf of Wall Street”

– Christian Bale “American Hustle”

– Bruce Dern “Nebraska”

– Oscar Isaac “Inside Llewn Davis”

– Joaquin Phoenix “Her”

*Notes: DiCaprio isn’t getting any play for his role in TWOWS but he could be a dark horse here.  I really think it’s between Bale and Dern, but what do I know.

Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama

– Cate Blanchett “Blue Jasmine”

– Sandra Bullock “Gravity”

– Judi Dench “Philomena”

– Emma Thompson “Saving Mr. Banks”

– Kate Winslet “Labor Day”

*Notes: Blanchett and Bullock are the two favorites here but Thompson is a dark horse.  Winslet’s nomination is basically an afterthought.

Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy

– Amy Adams “American Hustle”

– Julie Delpy “Before Midnight”

– Greta Gerwig “Francis Ha”

– Julia Louis-Dreyfus “Enough Said”

– Meryl Streep “August: Osage County”

*Notes: Streep will probably win the category but this is a nomination field with no front runner.  I could see Adams winning.

Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture

– Barkhad Abdi “Captain Phillips”

– Daniel Bruhl “Rush”

– Bradley Cooper “American Hustle”

– Michael Fassbender “12 Years A Slave”

– Jared Leto “Dallas Buyer’s Club”

*Notes: I’d love to see Leto win but that doesn’t seem likely, it’s probably Fassbender’s award to lose.

Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture

– Sally Hawkins “Blue Jasmine”

– Jennifer Lawrence “American Hustle”

– Lupita Nyong’o “12 Years A Slave”

– Julia Roberts “August: Osage County”

– June Squibb “Nebraska”

*Notes: It’s either going to be Lawrence or Roberts, too much star power there.

Best Screenplay

– 12 Years A Slave

– American Hustle

– Her

– Nebraska

– Philomena

Best Original Score

– All is Lost

– Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

– 12 Years A Slave

– The Book Thief

– Gravity

Best Foreign Language Film

– Blue is the Warmest Color

– The Great Beauty

– The Hunt

– The Past

– The Wind Rises

Best Original Song

– “Atlas” The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

– “Let it Go” Frozen

– “Ordinary Love” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

– “Please, Mr. Kennedy” Inside Llewn Davis

– “Sweeter Than Fiction” One Chance

Best Animated Feature Film

– The Croods

– Despicable Me 2

– Frozen

TV

 

Best TV Series – Drama

– Breaking Bad

– Downton Abbey

– The Good Wife

– House of Cards

– Masters of Sex

Best TV Series – Comedy

– The Big Bang Theory

– Brooklyn Nine-Nine

– Girls

– Modern Family

– Parks and Recreation

Best Actor – TV Series Drama

– Bryan Cranston “Breaking Bad”

– Liev Schreiber “Ray Donovan”

– Michael Sheen “Masters of Sex”

– Kevin Spacey “House of Cards”

– James Spader “The Blacklist”

Best Actress – TV Series Drama

– Julianna Marguiles “The Good Wife”

– Titiana Maslany “Orphan Black”

– Taylor Schilling “Orange is the New Black”

– Kerry Washington “Scandal”

– Robin Wright “House of Cards”

Best Actor – TV Series Comedy

– Jason Bateman “Arrested Development”

– Don Cheadle “House of Lies”

– Michael J. Fox “The Michael J. Fox Show”

– Jim Parsons “The Big Bang Theory”

– Andy Samberg “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

Best Actress – TV Series Comedy

– Zooey Deschanel “The New Girl”

– Edie Falco “Nurse Jackie”

– Lena Dunham “Girls”

– Julia Louis-Dreyfus “Veep”

– Amy Poehler “Parks and Recreation”

Best TV Mini-Series or Movie

– American Horror Story: Coven

– Behind the Candleabra

– Dancing on the Edge

– Top of the Lake

– White Queen

Best Actor in a TV Mini-Series or Movie

– Matt Damon “Behind the Candleabra”

– Michael Douglas “Behind the Candleabra”

– Chiwetel Ejiofor “Dancing on the Edge”

– Idris Elba “Luther”

– Al Pacino “Phil Spector”

Best Supporting Actress in a TV Mini-Series or Movie

– Jacqueline Bisset “Dancing on the Edge”

– Janet McTeer “White Queen”

– Hayden Panattiere “Nashville”

– Monica Potter “Parenthood”

– Sofia Vergara “Modern Family”

This year’s Screen Actors Guild Award Nominations were announced yesterday to little fanfare as there really isn’t a “wow” mainstream film this year as has been the case in year’s past.  However, the period piece 12 Years A Slave lead the pack in nominations, which is a very good indication of things to come with the bigger mainstream awards later this year.

Here are the nominations:

Best Film Ensemble

– 12 Years A Slave

– American Hustle

– August: Osage County

– The Butler

– Dallas Buyer’s Club

 

Best Film Actor

– Bruce Dern “Nebraska”

– Chiwetel Ejiofor “12 Years A Slave”

– Tom Hanks “Captain Phillips”

– Matthew McConaughey “Dallas Buyer’s Club”

– Forest Whitaker “The Butler”

 

Best Film Actress

– Cate Blanchett “Blue Jasmine”

– Sandra Bullock “Gravity”

– Judi Dench “Philomena”

– Merly Streep “August: Osage County”

– Emma Thompson “Saving Mr. Banks”

 

Best Film Supporting Actor

– Barkhad Abdi “Captain Phillips”

– Daniel Bruhl “Rush”

– Michael Fassbender “12 Years A Slave”

– James Gandolfini “Enough Said”

– Jared Leto “Dallas Buyer’s Club”

 

Best Film Supporting Actress

– Jennifer Lawrence “American Hustle”

– Lupita Nyong’o “12 Years A Slave”

– Julia Roberts “August: Osage County”

– June Squibb “Nebraska”

– Oprah Winfrey “The Butler”

 

Best Film Stunt Ensemble

– All is Lost

– Fast & Furious 6

– Lone Survivor

– Rush

– The Wolverine

 

TV

Best TV Drama Ensemble

– Boardwalk Empire

– Breaking Bad

– Downton Abbey

– Game of Thrones

– Homeland

 

Best TV Drama Actor

– Steve Buscemi “Boardwalk Empire”

– Bryan Cranston “Breaking Bad”

– Jeff Daniels “The Newsroom”

– Peter Dinklage “Game of Thrones”

– Kevin Spacey “House of Cards”

 

Best TV Drama Actress

– Claire Danes “Homeland”

– Anna Gunn “Breaking Bad”

– Jessica Lange “American Horror Story: Coven”

– Maggie Smith “Downton Abbey”

– Kerry Washington “Scandal”

 

Best TV Comedy Ensemble

– Arrested Development

– The Big Bang Theory

– Modern Family

– 30 Rock

– Veep

 

Best TV Comedy Actor

– Alec Baldwin “30 Rock”

– Jason Bateman “Arrested Development”

– Ty Burrell “Modern Family”

– Don Cheadle “House of Lies”

– Jim Parsons “The Big Bang Theory”

 

Best TV Comedy Actress

– Mayim Bialik “The Big Bang Theory”

– Julie Bowen “Modern Family”

– Edie Falco “Nurse Jackie”

– Tina Fey “30 Rock”

– Julia Louis-Dreyfus “Veep”

 

Best TV Movie/Mini Actor

– Matt Damon “Behind the Candleabra”

– Michael Douglas “Behind the Candleabra”

– Jeremy Irons “The Hollow Crown”

– Rob Lowe “Killing Kennedy”

– Al Pacino “Phil Specter”

 

Best TV Movie/Mini Actress

– Angela Bassett “Betty and Coretta”

– Helena Boham Carter “Burton and Taylor”

– Holly Hunter “Top of the Lake”

– Helen Mirren “Phil Specter”

– Elisabeth Moss “Top of the Lake”

 

Best TV Stunt Ensemble

– Boardwalk Empire

– Breaking Bad

– Game of Thrones

– Homeland

– The Walking Dead