Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Worlds' End - Review

The Worlds’ End - Review

Actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite again for a third film following the successes of "Shaun of the Dead" (2004), "Hot Fuzz" (2007) and “Paul” (2011). In "The World's End," 20 years after attempting and falling short of an epic one night visit to 12 consecutive pubs for at least one pint of beer, five childhood friends reunite as adults when one of them Gary King (Simon Pegg) becomes obsessed on trying the drinking marathon once again.

We discover early on in the film that Gary is a 40-year-old unaccomplished man trapped in the outdated adolescent pranks of his youth, with way too many cigarettes, and his rather uncouth behavior towards women. Still with some measure of charm he manages to convince his more established professional pals to reluctantly return to their hometown and once again attempt to reach the final fabled 12th pub – The World's End. What they don’t know is that the citizens of their small home town are not the same people they use to be resulting in the five friends (with one girl in tow) being entangled in an unplanned epic life struggle not only for their future but for all of humankind as well. Ultimately, their reaching The World's End pub for a simple beer is the least of their worries.

Rotten Tomatoes pool of critic gave this film an incredibly high score of 91% out of 100. Well, consider my review of this film in the 9% who didn’t think much of it at all. Yes, it has a certain charm with its rather typical dry but uniquely clever British humor and a couple of genuine humorous and smart scenes. But overall, I found this film virtually an incoherent mishmash (meaning a collection or mixture of unrelated things; a hodgepodge) of ridiculous make it up as you go along scenes with a bungling film Direction to match. If you want a sense of this films 90 minute running time affect on me, just imagine watching a 12 year old after a non-stop 24 hour sugar high trying to use a video camera to archive a family reunion. Better yet, imagine some lanky long hair kid who’s high on a skateboard trying to juggle 10 priceless Faberge eggs. Or finally imagine a professional football player in the Super Bowl with 12 inch women’s high heels on trying to run to catch the winning pass in the Super Bowl. Though you already know the outcome is not going to be very good you just can’t help but keep watching in the hopes that it might not end so bad. WRONG.

I was genuinely disappointed in this film as Pegg and Frost in their previous three other films were pretty funny. If you still want to watch this, think of it as a slow Sunday afternoon stuck in the house with no money until pay day and it’s free on basic cable.

The only redeemable thing I remember about this film is British Actress Rosamund Pike is very, very pretty, but I digress.  

2 – 1/2 Stars

Monday, August 19, 2013

2013 Oscar Film Season

2013 Oscar Film Season

The 2013 Oscar Film Season will soon officially - unofficially begin starting from September 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013.

Now, according to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, in order for a film to quality to be considered for Best Picture a feature-length motion picture "must have a running length of more than 40 minutes and have been exhibited theatrically on 35mm or 70mm film, or in a qualifying digital format. The films must open in a commercial theater, for paid admission, in Los Angeles County between January 1 and midnight December 31, and run for seven consecutive days. Films that receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any manner other than as a theatrical motion picture release are not eligible for Academy Awards in any category. Official screen credit forms and copies of the main and end title credits must have been submitted to the Academy by December 1. Films are not eligible if they have appeared on the Internet, on home video, or on television prior to their theatrical releases. Got it? Good!

So, to get ahead of the game and to have a bit of fun, I have taken the time without having seen most of the potential films (because they haven’t been released yet) that I believe will be in the discussion late this year for a coveted 2014 nomination for the most recognizable prized awards in all of entertainment industry both in history and worldwide – the golden bald statue from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science called Oscar.

Based on research from various sources and a lot of guessing on my part I have listed what I believe will be the no more than 10 and no less than 5 films that will nominated for Best Picture for the 2013 film season.

There are 35 films listed below of which only 6 films have already been widely released, so I am throwing a lot of caution to the wind here and at the same time giving you the potential heads up of what could be on everyone lips as being an Oscar worthy effort.

A Bolder Font suggests having a higher probability of getting a nomination based on internet buzz - speculation. Of course, there is always a surprising film each year that no one has heard of just yet.

2013 Best Picture Contenders

All Is Lost
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Before Midnight
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Blue Jasmine
Captain Phillips
Fruitvale Station
Grace of Monaco
Inside Llewyn Davis
Labor Day
Lee Daniels' The Butler
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
Out of the Furnace
Saving Mr. Banks
The Counselor
The Dallas Buyers Club
The Fifth Estate
The Hunt
The Monuments Men
The Past
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Spectacular Now
The Wolf of Wall Street
Twelve Years a Slave

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lee Daniel's The Butler - Review

Lee Daniels The Butler – Review

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" tells the story of a White House butler named Cecil Gaines whose early child hood is marred by both illiteracy and the brutal hardship of back breaking work as cotton pickers on a plantation in rural segregated Georgia with his father and mother.

Upon witnessing an unbearable event for anyone much less a child, the plantation owner takes young Cecil under her wing (so to speak) by teaching him what appears to be both a practical and suitable skill for Negroes at that time as a house servant. It is from this point we see young Mr. Gaines seize upon this misfortunate opportunity as a way to honing his new found trade into a highly marketable skill leading to his eventually securing rare employment at the nation’s White House as a butler where he served eight American presidents over three decades of his life.

LD’s The Butler may not be or end up being the best picture of the year; it is clearly one of the more moving films I have seen this year. And while the first 20 minutes of the film seemed to be a bit hasty, the remaining film is adroitly executed by maintaining its story telling to an even pace with a balance of genuine tenderness, human reflection, well timed clever intelligent humor and noted history.

I personally have a problem with any film that tries to sum up anyone’s entire life in a two hour time frame, especially in this unique case where Mr. Gaines story has so many major historic events that are filtered through his personal and professional life. Still, Director Daniels manages not only to pull it off skillfully he does so with a sweeping patient and sense of respect to all the principles involved whether they be historic by name or they operated in perpetual anonymous shadows. And so it is with his patience Daniels keeps this brave and determined mans story in steady focus throughout the film as we are witnesses to his life’s few small joys and his many quiet moments of torment and pain.

What I especially like about Daniels direction is he manages to revisit some all too well known brutal images of our racial past without being mean, vitriolic, spiteful or venomous about it. He doesn’t rub racial bigotry spitefully into the audiences face, instead he simply shows various images of it in such a way as to illustrate just enough of what these harsh events were about and to poignantly remind us of our country’s past without making any of the viewing audience to feel any need to withdrawal into guilt or react in rage. He’s uses these historic images with the expressed interest of connecting the overall story’s dots; meaningful historic dots if you will in such a tangential and respectful way as both a parallel backdrop to a nations tragedies and to Cecil’s life.   

It is way too early to talk about Oscar nominations with so many other films to come. But I would not be a bit surprised if in late January 2014 Forrest Whitaker is nominated as Best Actor, as he was simply immersed and amazingly so as both Cecil the individual man as well as the symbolic embodiment of national pain through a tumultuous period in our history. Also, Oprah Winfrey who plays his wife could get a Best Supporting nomination as well as she was splendid in her performance as his emotionally committed, but equally conflicted by the temptations of loneliness and alcohol as Cecil’s wife and devoted mother to their two boys. She from the very first moments of the film transitions with incredible ease away from her real life iconic figure we all know her for to a touching, uniquely funny and loving partner to Cecil’s story.

In addition, it has been along time since I could honestly say that I saw so many actors in one film that were nearly perfectly cast to round out the overall film, with especial attention given to some fine performances by Terrence Howard as the philandering neighbor, Daniel Oyelowo as the oldest son and Cuba Gooding Jr. as the head White House butler and family friend. Also, the cinematography was richly elegant looking as well as the wardrobe designs seemed to be especially proper in its detail and reflective of that period of time.

In the end LD The Butler is a sweet, gentle and moving film. But what makes this film uniquely special is it’s simplicity by telling a story of a single self made man, who while somewhat flawed was nevertheless a kind man diligently dedicating himself to over come his flaws by working daily with a keen sense of professional purpose inside the walls of the world’s most iconic symbol of democracy, freedom and equality and yet be wholly deprived of these very same virtues in every meaningful way.

Cecil Gaines story is the more shadowy low profile version to Jackie Robinson’s more high profile illuminated story. That being when w
e do hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, if given the chance to living out that wonderful creed than people like Cecil and others like him will be equally valued as people who are trustworthy and hard working too.

4 Stars

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Elysium Review

“Elysium” – Review

Starring Academy Award Winners Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, the film takes place in the year 2154, where the Earth has been devastated by pollution, overcrowding, poverty, crime, and disease. The wealthy class have finally found a solution to Earth’s hardship existence by leaving it entirely and living on a luxurious space station in orbit called Elysium where all of their needs are met with optimum care and where all illnesses are curable. For in the future the wealthy few have left the rest of earth’s humanity bound to fight over the scraps they left behind to survive on the scarred planet.

The central character is Max (Damon) who as a small child along with his playmate friend named Frey use to dreamed endlessly about one day of living on Elysium, but when Max grew to adulthood he engaged in criminal activity that relegated his life to more hardship as a labor in a factory where he is constantly harassed by all forms of authority and former partners in crime.

But one day when he is accidently exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, Max realizes that his only hope for survival is to figure away to get to Elysium to use one of their Med Lab devices to cure him before dying in five days.

What Elysium has working for it is an amazing conceptual vision of the future where the director brilliantly and masterfully created a symbiotic mixture of endless poverty, arid desert, harsh looking city skylines, unique flying ships, robotic devices and the beautiful constructed Elysium all seemingly very dependent and connect to each other and yet from a humanity standpoint they are very much disconnected from one another when viewed through the life prism of the benefits gained from accumulated wealth.

I also like the fact the Director took great risk throughout the film by not being afraid to be creative at every turn in his set design and innovative use of new technology to push the story along, even to the point where Damon’s character Max uniquely looked like a mix of a man crossed with used industrial parts, computer wiring and a satellite navigation system.

While, it’s very clear watching this film that the Director was heavily influenced by previous movies such as 2001; A Space Odyssey, Mad Max and The Matrix, it rushed itself a bit too much in a few critical moments. Specifically what made the movie hiccup if you will was the lack of pacing patience to let the characters personalities develop a bit more. Instead the film felt a bit jagged from the leaping about in action scenes and dialog making the overall connection from scene to scene not to transition as well or as smoothly as it could have.

In addition, actor Sharlto Copley who was the lead in “District 9” played a ruthless and unremorseful assassin name Kruger who spoke with such a heavy rapid fire Afrikaner accent that it was at times very hard to understand what he was saying. And as much as I am huge Jodie Foster fan, she too with her strangely contrived slightly French erudite smug accent was hard to understand as well. In fact her performance in the film was cold, flat and uninspiring throughout. Not one of her best at all.

One side note to Foster’s portrayal of Secretary Dealcourt as the second in command on Elysium. She clearly reminded me and I believe it was intentional on her part to create a female personification of an actual American male politician who I think will be easily recognizable if you give it a bit of thought.

Elysium at its core is a political film where it analyzes the issues of health care and to some degree immigration fast forwarded to our own future. And just like in our current times we the viewers get to examine down the road what the possible consequences are under a cinematic microscope of what our future may hold on these matters when fairness, accessibility, power, greed, wealth, privilege and class are the variables thrown in the mix.

But with the political themes aside, Elysium is still simply a fictional movie that is very entertaining with enough innovative visual stimulation and decent story intrigue to keep you glued to your seat.

3 -1/2 Stars

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"2 Guns" - Review

“2 Guns” - Review

In “2 Guns you have two time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg starring together along with Bill Paxton, Edward James Olomos and Paula Patton in an explosive and action packed filled film.

In the beginning, we see Bobby Trench (Washington) and Marcus Stigman (Wahlberg) both reluctantly and yet respectfully working together as two big time players in a false IDs in exchange for drugs deal with a Mexican drug cartel boss played by Olomos that they both have been task to take down. But there in lies the huge problem with their unique alliance, for the past 12 months neither men knows that the other man is an undercover federal agent with Trench being with DEA and Stigman as undercover Petty Officer with United States Naval Intelligence.

Of course with such a secretive alliance something early has to go dramatically wrong at a critical moment that leave both undercover men scrambling to find why they are now being hunted by a myriad of pursuers who want to kill them. Thus with a great deal of suspicion they both come to the realization that the only two people they can count on are each other if they have any hope to ever come out of the messy situation alive.

What works in “2 Guns” is a lot of smart, snappy, hilarious and zinging dialog, mostly when Washington and Wahlberg are on the screen together. These two actors displayed a lot of natural witty chemistry together that was very sharp and believable. Also Bill Paxton delivers an equally strong supporting role as a man who is largely mysterious through out most of the film with a no holds barred bad ass attitude to anyone and everything that gets in his way – clearly not someone to be trifled with. And finally film Director Baltasar Kormakur does create the right mix of action, smart dialog and film pacing that made this movie effort largely entertaining throughout its many plot twists and turns.

My complaint is that the plot twists and turns of the film felt largely murky and incoherent for the most part with an ending that bordered on just being convoluted and piled on.

Still for the real great acting chemistry, look and pace of the film, I had a good time.

3 – 1/4 Stars