Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Snitch" - Movie Reviiew


“Snitch” starring DeWayne (“The Rock”) Johnson is a solid piece of movie entertainment.

Based on true events, the plot revolves around John Matthews, owner of a construction company. Early in the film he discovers his estranged son Jason from a previous marriage has been arrested on federal charges of distribution of illegal drugs, with his charges carrying a mandatory minimum of a 10 year prison sentence which can only be mitigated by leading to the conviction of another drug dealer. But because John’s son has nothing to offer in exchange he desperately decides to go under cover on behalf of his son to find a major drug dealer to offset his son’s sentence.

While DeWayne Johnson does an adequate job as the sympathetic father in the film exuding the right balance of confidence, courage, fear and ultimately love for his family, the real strength of this film is the ensemble cast lead by one of my personal favorites and not working enough actors Barry Pepper (aka the sniper in “Saving Private Ryan”) who plays “Agent Cooper” with his scraggly ZZ Top-ish facial hair.

Also providing solid performances were:

Susan Sarandon (aka Sister Helen Prejean in “Dead Man Walking”) as the federal prosecutor;

Jon Bernthal (aka Shane Walsh on “The Walking Dead”) as parolee Daniel;

Michael Kenneth Wallace (aka Chalky White on HBO “Boardwalk Empire”) as drug dealer Malik; and

Benjamin Bratt (aka Det. Rey Curtis from “Law and Order”) as drug dealer kingpin Carlos Pintera.

While the conclusion to this story is pretty much figured out long before you take your seats in the theater, it still has the right balance of tension, plot appropriate violence and directorial - story telling pacing.

BUT, the real core element in this film’s plot is its not too subtle disdain for federal mandatory sentencing guidelines, AND ,it’s equal disdain for plea bargaining from frighten defendants who are inevitably ”Russian Routlette”  compelled by fear to negotiate reduced sentences by continually nourishing the  “snitching food chain” with more and more criminals - big or small.
Still, even with this obvious political component woven in and its overall TNT movie of the week feel to the story………….  I enjoyed “Snitch”.

3 Stars

Friday, February 22, 2013

Two Possible Oscar Nominations in January 2014

Two Possible Oscar Nominations in January 2014

It’s never too early to start talking about possible Oscar nominations, even if it’s almost a full year away in 2014.

So, you know me, I enjoy the guessing game about films and awards, so I will jump on that wagon now and offer up at least two predictions for a couple well known working actors in Hollywood. They both could very well hear their respective names announced one early morning in January of 2014 as Best Actress and as Best Actor nominees.

And the 2014 Academy of Arts and Sciences early nominee envelope says:

*  Naomi Watts – Best Actress Nomination in “Diana”.

* Matthew McConaughey – Best Actor Nomination in “The Dallas Buyers Club”.

“Diana” (2013) -

“Diana” is a film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. Its story is about the last two years of the life of Diana, Princess of Wales. The biopic centers largely on her relationships with heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan played by Naveen Andrews of “Lost” fame and Dodi Fayed played by Cas Anvar.
Actress Naomi Watts will play the role of Diana.

The film is set to be released in late 2013.

“The Dallas Buyer's Club” (2013) -

“The Dallas Buyers Club” is a film directed by Jean-Marc Vallée  starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner. Loosely based on the true-life tale of Ron Woodroof, a drug addict, womanizing, and homophobic man who, in 1986 was diagnosed with full blown HIV/AIDS with less than thirty days to live. Desperate, Ron takes all remedies known including smuggled non-toxic, anti-viral medications from all over the world, that were then still illegal in the U.S.
Inevitable and unintentionally these efforts by Ron help create the Dallas Buyers Club; a center providing its paying members with these new alternative treatments, but all at the peril of the FDA and pharmaceutical companies waging war against him.

The film is set to be released in late 2013.



Lester's Top Films - 2012

1 “Zero Dark Thirty”
2 “Lincoln
3 “Silver Linings Playbook”
4 “Argo”
5 “Flight”
6 “Life of Pi”
7 “Compliance”
8 “Amour”
9 “The Impossible”
10.”The Sessions”
11. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Drama –  Dark Psychological Thriller – Tilda Swinton – John C. Reilly
12. Searching for Sugar Man– Drama – Documentary
13. Skyfall– Drama – Daniel Craig – Judi Dinch
14. Rust and Bone– Drama - French –Subtitles – Marion Cotillard
15. Prometheus - Drama – Science Thriller – Charlize Theron –Michael Fassbender –Guy Pearce
16. Batman: The Dark knight Rise = Drama –Action Thriller – Christian Bale – Morgan Freeman – Michael Caine
17. Beasts of the Southern Wild– Drama – Quvenzhane Wallis
18. Arbitrage - Drama – Richard Gere – Susan Sarandon – Brit Martling – Tim Roth
19. End of Watch DramaDrama – Police Thriller – Jake Gyllenhaal – Michael Pena
20.. Your Sister’s Sister– Drama – Comedy – Emily Blunt
21. Django Unchained = Action – Western  – Jamee Foxx – Leonardo DiCaprio – Samuel  L. Jackson –Kerry  Washington
22. Looper - Drama – Thriller – Bruce Willis – Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Emily Blunt
23. Moonrise Kingdom  – Quirky Comedy – Bruce Willis – Ed Norton – Frances McDermott- Bill Murray – Tilda Swinton
24. Killer Joe  - Dark Comedy – Drama – Matthew McConaughhey – Gina Gershon - Thomas Hayden Church
25. Undefeated – Drama – Sports Action – Documentary
26. Headhunters – Drama – Thriller – Norway – subtitles
27. The Perks of Being a Wallflower– Drama – Logan Lerman – Emma Watson
28. Les Miserables - Musical – Drama – Hugh Jackman – Russell Crowe – Anne Hathaway
29. Samsara - Documentary – Drama
30. Cloud Atlas– Drama – Tom Hanks – Halle Berry
31. Seven Psychopaths– Drama – Comedy - Colin Farrell – Christopher Walken – Woody Harrelson 
32. Jeff Who Lives at Home - Comedy – Drama – Ed Helms
33. Bernie - Comedy – Drama – Jack Black – Shirley MacClaine – Matthew McConaughey  - True Story
34. Celeste and Jesse Forever - Comedy –Drama – Rashida Jones – Adam Sandberg    
35. Marvel – The Avengers - Action – Drama – Samuel L. Jackson – Robert Downey Jr.  
36. The Master– Drama – Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Amy Adams – Juaquin Phoenix – Laura Dern
37. Hope Springs– Drama – Comedy – Meryl Streep  - Tommy Lee Jones – Steve Carell
38. The Grey– Drama – Action – Liam Neeson
39. Sound of My Voice  – Drama – Brit Marling          
40. Rampart  – Drama – Action – Woody Harrelson
41. Jack Reacher   Drama – Tom Cruise
42. Hitchcock  – Drama – Anthony Hopkins – Helen Mirren – Scarlett Johansson
43. Ted  – Comedy – Mark Wahlberg – Mila Kunis.
44. Monsieur Lazhar  – Drama – French - Subtitles
45. Snow White and the Huntsman  – Fantasy - Drama – Charlize Theron – Kristen Stewart – Chris Hemsworth
46.  Hysteria  – Drama – Comedy – True Story – Maggie Gyllenhaal
47. Any Day Now  – Drama - True Story – Allan Cumming
48. Chronicle  – Drama – Action – Dane DeHaan
49. The Hunger Games  – Drama – Action – Jennifer Lawrence – Woody Harrelson – Stanley Tucci
50. Hyde Park on Hudson - Drama – True Story – Bill Murray – Laura Linney
51. Men In Black 3  - Comedy – Will Smith – Josh Brolin – Tommy Lee Jones
52. Killing Them Softly  - Drama – Action – Brad Pitt
53. Contraband - Drama – Action – Mark Wahlberg
54. Haywire - Drama – Action  - Gina Carano
55. The Deep Blue Sea   - Drama – British – Rachel Weisz
56. This Must Be the Place  - Drama – Sean Penn
57. Anna Karenina - Drama – Keira Knightley – Jude Law
58. Sparkle- – Drama – Whitney Houston - Jordan Sparks – Derek Luke
59. Frank and Robot  – Drama – Light Comedy - Frank Langella – Susan Sarandon
60. 2 Days In New York  - Comedy - Drama –English/French – Subtitles – Julie Delpy – Chris Rock
61. Easy Money  - Drama – Violence – Sweden – Unknown Actors
62. The Raid: Redemption  - Drama – Martial Arts - Action – Indonesia – subtitles
63. Chimpanzee  - Nature - Light Drama – Disney
64. The Five Year Engagement  - Quirky Comedy - Light Drama – Emily Blunt 
65. Big Miracle  - Drama – Action – Drew Barrymore
66. The Bourne Legacy  - Drama– Jeremy Renner – Rachel Weisz – Ed Norton
67. Farewell, My Queen  - Drama – French Subtitles – True Story - Diana Kruger
68. Savages  - Drama – Action – Salma Hayek – Blake Lively – Bernicio Del Toro
69. The Campaign - Comedy – Will Ferrell
70. The Amazing Spider Man 2012  - Drama – Action – Emma Stone – Edward Garfield – Martin Sheen
71. Safe House - Drama – Action – Denzel Washington
72. Act of Valor - Drama – Action        
73. 21 Jump Street  - Drama – Action – Comedy – Noah Hill
74. Lawless   - Action – Drama  - Tom Hardy – Shia LeBeouf – Jessica Chastain – Guy Pearce - Gary Oldham
75. Total Recall - Action – Drama – Colin Farrell – Kate Beckinsale – Jessica Beal
76. Man With The Iron Fists  - Action – Drama – Russell Crowe – Lucy Liu - Rza
77. Friends with Kids - Drama –Comedy - John Hamm – Myra Rudolph
78. Being Flynn  - Drama – Robert De Niro - Paul Dano
79. Footnote  Drama – Foreign Language – Israel - Unknowns
80. Cabin in the Woods  - Drama – Horror –Sigourney  Weaver
81. Lockout  - Drama – Science Fiction – Guy Pearce 

Oscar Predictions

LESTER's PREDICTIONS...........,so to speak – more like my conflicted guesses:

Anyway, my feeling is in a year with a wide variety of quality films up for nomination (comparatively speaking to recent years), the wealth of Oscar reward could be spread around a bit, so that everyone will have something to feel good about.

Best Picture:

Will win: "Argo"
Favorite to win: "Argo"
Could win: "Lincoln"
Should win: "Zero Dark Thirty" - "Lincoln"

Best Director:

Will win: Steven Spielberg
Favorite to win: Steven Spielberg
Could win: Ang Lee
Should win: Kathyrn Bigelow (but she was not nominated)

Best Actor:
Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Favorite to win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Could win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress:
Will win: Jennifer Lawrence

Favorite to win: Jennifer Lawrence
Could win: Jessica Chastain -  Emmanuelle Riva
Should win: Jessica Chastain

Best Supporting Actor:
Will win: Robert DeNiro (My upset pick)
Favorite to win: Tommy Lee Jones
Could win: Robert DeNiro
Should win: Robert DeNiro

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Anne Hathaway
Favorite to win: Anne Hathaway (Not sure why)
Could win: Helen Hunt - Sally Fields
Should win: Helen Hunt
Original Screenplay
Will win: "Django Unchained"
Could win: "Amour" or "Zero Dark Thirty"
Should win:  "Zero Dark Thirty"

Adapted  Screenplay

Will win: "Lincoln"
Could win: "Silver Linings Playbook"
Should win: "Silver Linings Playbook"

Best Foreign Language
Will win: "Amour"
Could win: "Amour"
Should win: "Amour"

Best Documentary
Will win: "Searching for Sugar Man"

I think the story is incredible and is probably a lock to win here.

Best Cinematography
Will win: "Life of Pi"
Could win: "Skyfall"
Should win: "Lincoln" or "Life of Pi"

For 2013 - Vampires Out, Zombies In

For 2013 - Vampires Out, Zombies In

If you haven’t noticed yet, I believe the public’s movie and TV viewing fascination; appetite if you will (pardon the pun) for Vampire stories may be coming to a peak. It doesn’t mean these types of programs and films are going away anytime soon or completely for that matter. No, just a little less exposure of these somewhat predictable, overly androgynous quasi romantic stories to take up our increasingly valued sequestered time. Just a little less of unnatural special effects by those conveniently chiseled handsome men and exquisitely gorgeous women zipping from tree to tree in the blink of an eye to mesmerize us………….. (“Oooh I wish I could do that, the zipping part………… not the Vampiring part”).

Just a little less of Vampires retracting and extending their elongated pearly whites on command forewarning us that either something really bad is going to happen or its Vampire foreplay time again………… AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN.

After all, if you have been a follower of the “Twilight” films or HBO’s “True Blood” for any time at all you will see what I discovered that they both have by my estimation covered every single possible new ground and nuance on being a modern day Vampire, including covering most all of the social taboos and cultural mores that any screen writer could squeeze into a script specifically tailored with contemporary plot twists to maintain our short attention span.

So, where do we stand today on possible new Vampire story lines? Well, by my count, there are still two story areas left for these “children of the night” and their willingly naïve – gullible human counterparts to explore together.

One, Vamps learning the solution to walk with humans in the day light with matching cups of Starbucks cappuccinos after a fabulous luncheon outing at Spago Restaurant in Hollywood. And two, Vamps cultivating far better Vogue dressing - grooming techniques by utilizing their new found discovered reflections from their images in mirrors and pictures……………… At least give Editor Anna Wintour a reason to approve.

Of course I am kidding here because it’s obvious to all; there are no more areas for Vampires to explore.

So, who is going to take over that coveted number one spot from those stylized Vampires who look more like GQ and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models for our horror viewing attention? What creature from the dark depths will be the new pursuer of human flesh?  What apocalyptic monster’s menu will humans become the filet mignon entre on their food chain?

Well, I believe the new crazed monster to claim that mantel to frighten us, to intrigue us and to seduce us by those Hollywood executive creative minds (is that an oxymoronic expression?) will be the mainstream film projects of our not so friendly, stuttering and grumpy, stiff peg legged moving but sometimes speedy, desperately needing a shower and absolutely needing a dental plan without co-pay “Zombies”.

Oh yes, starting all the way back in 1968 and Director George A. Romero debut of the cult classic creation ‘Night of the Living Dead”, zombie films have been for the most part been left largely unexplored by HW other than each year some slightly simple low budget independent type projects that hardly ever hit the big screen or they subsequently went directly to cable or DVD right after the final editing.

But in 2002, that changed with a fabulous updated reboot to this science fiction theme with “28 Days Later” and it's equally successful, smart and entertaining 2007 sequel “28 Weeks Later” which I highly recommend both. But what I believe made HW executives and film makers start to sit up and take real notice to the fertile untapped money making possibilities of these “flesh eating dead” to wreak unholy havoc on our collective big box office psyches is the highly entertaining dramatic weekly TV series “The Walking Dead” on AMC. 

Beginning just this month in February we had the first of more of these mainstream film efforts to come out this year with the release of “Warm Bodies” which is still currently in theaters.

Now if you are looking for a film to hide your hands over your face, this is not that type of Zombie film…….This is more of a kindlier and gentle type Zombie film, rooted in a romantic comedy plot line. Reference point, it’s similar to Zombieland.

I must say, I went to this film (Warm Bodies) a bit skeptical, thinking that it would not hold my interest, but overall it turned out to be mildly entertaining, with funny moments scattered throughout, with good direction – action and again at its core a romantic plot that subtly worked, ………..along with a few new twists and new turns on the nature of Zombie–ism do’s, don’ts and can’ts ………………….Is that a word I just created? Zombie-ism. …………Any way I digress.

So what else is on tap of the Zombie menu for this year and beyond?……Now, that was a poorly constructed visually descriptive question on my part. Once again, I digress.

Here are a few big and small efforts that pricked my coming soon interest flesh to a theater near you:

·        “Warm Bodies” – Nicholas Hout – February 1, 2013
·        “World War Z” – Brad Pitt – June 21, 2013****
·        “R.I.P.D.” -  Jeff Bridges – July 19, 2013****
·        “Invasion of the Not Quite Dead”  - Andrew Ellis – Oct (TBD) 2013
·        “Gallow Walkers” – Wesley Snipes – TBD
·        “Zombieland 2” - Woody Harrelson –TBD
·        “The 4th Reich” – TBD
·        “Army of the Dead” – TBD
·        “Boy Scouts verses Zombies” –TBD
·        “Dead By Dawn”
·        “Evil Dead” – TBD
·        “Infected” – Michael Madsen - TBD
·        “The Harvard Zombie Massacre” TBD
·        “Dead World”- TBD
·        “The Curse of The Buxom Strumpet” – Ian McKellen – TBD

****Could be a hit
Now I personally take special notice and draw your attention as well to the film “Gallow Walkers” for two distinct reasons. One the story is set in a Western genre……I love westerns, they can’t make enough of them for me………..EVER.  And two, not sure when Wesley Snipes made this film given that he is currently and has been for a while in a Pennsylvania prison for federal tax evasions……………………..But I digress once again.

With no release date for Gallow Walkers(Wesley’s release date from prison is July 19, 2013) the film is basically a western and is the story of a mysterious gunman named Aman (Snipes), who is the son of a nun, who broke her covenant with God to ensure her son’s survival. Her break with God curses the son to be hunted by all those who die by his hand - When he takes revenge on a gang that murdered his true love, the gang rises as a cursed crew of undead warriors………..

TRANSLATION, they are still basically zombies, only in this case (after viewing the trailer) these “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly-ish” Zombies have interestingly a rather advanced vocabulary for a change; with far better poetic etiquette and yet who still manage nevertheless to hunt him down (Aman) with mercilessly ruthlessness seeking their walking dead revenge, all the while with Wesley creating his character’s “Aman” persona in the mold of a previous film of his “Blade” and a western classic “The Outlaw Josey Wells”.

So there you have it.  Zombies will rule the box office earth this year.

Zalk to you zoon.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Addictive Films

ADDICTIVE FILMS.............We All Have Them!!!!
We all have experienced some films that were good one time or another, a few that were even great and some on rare occasions that were even phenomenal. But every now then a film comes along that has an affect on you. Completely and totally unexplainable, the film has a personal addictive quality to them.  So much so that no matter what you are doing at that time; no matter how many times you have seen it………………each and every single time you see it on TV, hear it on TV, even if you may be in the other room, you pause to go watch it again,……….. Even if it’s just for a few minutes or a few scenes, you watch it again probably for the 231st time. But who’s really counting anyway.
But that’s not all; sometimes you may be completely unaware that some how either by intent or subliminally you begin to actually whisper a few lines of dialog verbatim. Oh, yes, word for word to that exact same cadence, same accent and sometimes even mimicking the voice of the actual actor performing. 
Sick huh?.................Oh, so you’re saying it’s just me now that has this problem?
OK, well here are a few of my” Addictive Films”:
·       Alien & Aliens
·       Godfather & Godfather 2
·       Predator
·       28 Days Later
·       Original Star Wars
·       Star Trek  - The Wrath of Khan
·       The Bourne Identity,  The Bourne Supremacy &  The Bourne Ultimatum
·       The French Connection
·       Batman The Dark Knight
·       Raiders of the Lost Ark &  Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
·       The Shawshank Redemption
·       The Silence of the Lambs
·       Man on Fire
·       Michael Clayton
·       The King Speech
·       Patton
·       Heat
·       Sling Blade
·       Red Rock West
·       Training Day
·       The Deer Hunter
·       Goodfellas
·       Casino
·       Pulp Fiction
·       2001 A Space Odyssey
·       Open Range
·       Platoon
·       Master and Commander
·       Forrest Gump
·       Jaws
·       Apocalypse Now
·       Cape Fear
·       Midnight Run
·       Titanic
·       What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
·       Kill Bill 1 & 2
·       Crouching Tiger-Hidden Dragon
·       The Last Seduction
·       The Outlaw Josey Wells
·       Unforgiven
·       The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
·       Oceans 11
·       Inglorious Basterds
·       Top Gun
·       The Last of the Mohicans
·       Tombstone