Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2017 Films For Possible 2018 Oscar Gold

2017 Films For Possible 2018 Oscar Gold 

‘Annihilation’ - A biologist's (Natalie Portman) husband disappears. She thus puts her name forward for an expedition into an environmental disaster zone, but does not quite find what she's expecting. The expedition team is made up of the biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and a surveyor.

‘Call Me by Your Name’ - A 17-year-old boy living in Italy during the 1980s meets Oliver, a 24-year-old academic who has come to stay at his parents' villa, and a passionate relationship develops between them. See Armie Hammer.

‘Mercy’ - Lucy, the daughter of a man who is on death row, falls in love with Mercy, a woman on the opposing side of her family’s political cause. As a result, Lucy’s value for truth is tested as her world begins to unravel. Kate Mara & Ellen Page.

‘Mother’ - Acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky is teaming up with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem for a mysterious film about unexpected guests who wreak havoc on a happy couple's lives.

‘Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?’ – Lee Daniels Directs, along with Mike Epps starring in the biopic, which will be produced by Jay Z and co-star Eddie Murphy and Oprah Winfrey.

‘The Big Sick’ – Ray Ramano and Holly Hunter The Big Sick is based on the real courtship of Kumail Nanjiani and his now-wife, Emily Gordon. Kumail's traditional Muslim family are unhappy with his relationship with Emily, an American. When Emily is waylaid by a mysterious illness, Kumail must take charge of the crisis with her parents, Beth and Terry.

‘The Death of Stalin’ - Is an upcoming film directed by Armando Iannucci and chronicles the events that transpired after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953.

‘The Finest Hour’ - While it is not guaranteed a spot in the Best Picture category, Gary Oldman's shocking transformation into Winston Churchill is sure to land him in the Best Actor race.

‘The Florida Project’ - The story of a precocious 6-year-old girl and her friends whose summer break is filled with mystery -  filmmaker Sean Baker (TANGERINE) to write and direct. Wilem Dafoe

‘The Glass Castle’ - Chronicling the unconventional upbringing of a family plagued by poverty, The Glass Castle is based on a memoir by Jeannette Walls. The movie is also stacked with Oscar favorites including Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelson.

‘The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara’ – Steven Spielberg directs story in June 1858, a police posse and a Catholic inquisitor invaded the house of a Jewish merchant, Soloman Mortara, in Bologna, and seized his six-year-old son, Edgardo. With this scene, David Kertzer begins his investigation of the kidnapping that would eventually lead to the end of the church's governing power in Italy.

‘The Personal History of Rachel Dupree’ – 2017 Oscar Winners Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali are husband and wife set during the early 1900s in South Dakota, Rachel (Davis) and Isaac Dupree (Ali), an African American couple, raise their family on an isolated ranch in the Badlands.

‘The Zookeepers Wife’ – Jessica Chastain and Daniel Bruhl in the true story about the Warsaw Zoo keepers couple Jan and Antonina Żabiński, who saved many human and animal lives during World War II by hiding them in animal cages.

‘Wonderstruck’ - Set in 1927 and 1977, Rose (Millicent Simmonds) escapes her home in New Jersey to catch a glimpse of her idol Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore) while Ben (Oakes Fegley), who lives with his family in Minnesota, runs to New York after his mother dies and he finds a mysterious note.

'Battle of the Sexes' - 2017 Best Actress winner Emma Stone will carry her awards energy into this period piece, the true story of tennis star Billie Jean King's 1973 face-off against Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

'Beauty and the Beast' - The original "Beauty and the Beast," the 1991 classic, was the rare animated movie to earn a Best Picture nomination. The live-action version will be directed by Bill Condon, whose turn on "Dreamgirls" landed the musical film eight nominations in 2007.

'Blade Runner 2049' - The sci-fi sequel, which will follow the 1982 masterpiece, will be a lock for nominations in special effects and other technical categories. Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins will be behind the lens: could this finally bring his Oscar moment? Cast includes Harrison Ford - Ryan Gosling  Jared Leto.

'Coco' - Pixar rules the Oscars' animated film category, and this film, due in November, should be no different. The title follows a 12-year-old boy, Miguel, in a magical story about Dia de los Muertos.

'Downsizing' - Oscar directing favorite Alexander Payne returns in December with a sci-fi comedy, this time starring Matt Damon—no awards slouch himself, despite the jabs of '16 host Jimmy Kimmel—and Kristen Wiig.

'Dunkirk' - The summer-due World War II drama is the next film from director Christopher Nolan, whose work on films such as "The Dark Knight" and "Interstellar" has bridged the often disparate worlds of genre imagination and critical praise.

'Mary Magdalene' - The Biblical drama will be a showcase for Rooney Mara in the title role, starring opposite Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. The pair previously starred in sci-fi oddball "Her."

'Mudbound' – A Sundance hit set in Mississippi in the 1940s and starring Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan a family who have relocated to rural Mississippi find themselves trying to cope with numerous issues, including racism and a relative's return from World War II. A Netflix production.

'The Current War' - Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse's scientific fight to master electricity might not sound like the stuff of Oscar glory, but when it stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon and has the Weinstein Company behind it, time to plug in.

The Detroit Project – (Title could change) - "Zero Dark Thirty" director Kathryn Bigelow's next effort stars "Star Wars" breakthrough John Boyega in a circa 1967 crime drama.

'The Greatest Showman' - The peerless Hugh Jackman will star as P.T. Barnum in the musical drama, which will feature original material from "La La Land" songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Get Out - Review

Get Out

Jordan Peele, one part of the comic duo of Key and Peele previously of the Comedy Central Network, takes his stab at blending his cutting edge comic talented mind with a turn at telling a dramatic feature film story in his directorial debut simply titled “Get Out”.

“Get Out” as a plot backdrop is about a young African-American named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, "Sicario")  who is having a meaningful and loving relationship with an affluent White Woman named Rose (Allison Williams, HBO "Girls"). Rose has convinced Chris he has reached the “meet-the-parents milestone” of dating with her inviting him for a weekend getaway at her parent’s upstate home with her mother named Missy (Catherine Keener, "Captain Phillips") and Dean (Bradley Whitford, NBC "The West Wing"). 

Upon his arrival at her parents estate, Chris feels out of place by the family’s subtle, but obvious over accommodating manner towards him in every way which he attributes to an uneasiness on their part with their daughter’s interracial relationship with him. But as the weekend progresses with the arrival of prominent affluent locals arriving to the estate for a social evening gathering, Chris uneasiness becomes more acute as he begins to become more increasingly aware of the disturbing behaviors by those who work at the estate, which results in Chris discovering the real truth. Something that he could have never imagined…….EVER!!!!!

“Get Out” is a highly imaginative, smart and well written piece of film making. With shades of Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese, the film showcases the real strength of this effort through Peele’s directing, which I found to be very mature in its mannered approach of simply being patient in letting the story tell itself; allowing it to unravel slowly under its own building tense weight. That along with the use of long silences and timely unnerving syncopated music, the film slowly creates real ever increasing palpable tension throughout the entire film without any faux melodramatic gimmicks. But it is also has its moments of honest humor, mostly through the filter of a friend of Chris’s named “Rod” who works for the TSA. “Rods” work of profiling people at airports gives him a slight edge in always being overly suspicious of any slight behavior. His character gives the overall film just the right amount in dosage the needed disengaging comedy and laughter relief at just the right time.

Clearly Director Peele draws from two films and two historical periods in human history. First the 1967 landmark Sidney Poitier film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” a story about a young prominent African American Doctor and an affluent White woman and the racial lines that become unhinged when the daughter introduces him as her fiancé.  The second film is the 1975 provocative effort titled “The Stepford Wives” which tells the story of a woman named Joanna Eberhart who has come to the quaint little town of Stepford, Connecticut, but soon discovers there lies a sinister truth in the all too perfect behavior of the female residents. The two historical periods involves the behind the scenes sinister behaviors of Nazi Germany during World War 2 and the likewise sinister behaviors leading up to the American Civil War. Collectively Peele takes these four prominent pieces mashes them together to tell a brilliantly entertaining satirical story about the cultural tensions that exist between races in both suspicious directions. Not so much on the obvious surface where we typically associated people using hurtful words towards one another, but far more stealthy in that area of our subconciousness that lies underneath, which causes the uneasy psychobiological nervous by one person towards another person simply because of their race.

“Get Out” is at times memorable, horrifying, violent, sharply witty, out loud  funny, both subtle and conspicuous, stereotyping, racially charged, sinister, complex, thrilling, filled with fury and definitely creepy.

Peele in my mind has created as far as first time directing debuts goes a masterpiece in first time story telling that will have you saying under your breath every 5 minutes ………….. “What the “F#@K?..........“What the“F#@K?........ “What the “F#@K?

So, get out of your house and see the smart horror flick “Get Out” in the theaters now………….so you can say as I did…………….. “What the “F#@K?

4.00 Stars

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Lester’s 2017 Oscars Predictions

Lester’s 2017 Oscars Predictions
Academy Awards presentation will air live on ABC on Oscar Sunday, February 26, 2017.

Best Actress:
Winner: Emma Stone – “La La Land”
Should: Isabelle Huppert – “Elle”

Best Actor:
Winner: Casey Afflect - “Manchester by the Sea” (Close Denzel)
Should: Casey Afflect - “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Supporting Actress:
Winner: Viola Davis – “Fences” (100% Lock)
Should: Viola Davis – “Fences”

Best Supporting Actor:
Winner: Mahershala Ali – ‘Moonlight”
Should: Mahershala Ali – “Moonlight”

Best Director:
Winner: Damien Chazelle – “La La Land”
Should: Kenneth Lonergan – “Manchester by the Sea”  

Best Picture:
Winner: “La La Land”
Should: “Manchester by the Sea”

*Adapted Screenplay: “Moonlight”
*Animated Feature Film: “Zootopia” (“Kubo” Possible Surprise)

*Animated Short Film: “Piper”
*Cinematography: “La La Land”

*Costume Design:  “La La Land”
*Documentary Feature: “O.J.: Made in America” (O.J. Will Accept - Kidding)

*Documentary Short Subject: "Extremis" (Close “Joe’s Violin”)
*Film Editing: “La La Land”

*Foreign Language Film: “Toni Erdmann” (Close “The Salesman”) 
*Live Action Short Film: “Ennemis Interieurs  

*Makeup and Hairstyling: “Star Trek Beyond”
*Original Score: “La La Land”

*Original Screenplay: “Manchester by the Sea”
*Original Song: “La La Land – City of Stars”

*Production Design: “La La Land”
*Sound Editing: “Hacksaw Ridge”

*Sound Mixing: “La La Land”
*Visual Effects: “The Jungle Book”


Saturday, February 11, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2 - Review

John Wick: Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves reprises his surprisingly successful 2014 action thriller film “John Wick” in the sequel title “John Wick – Chapter 2”. And just as in the original version we again find the retired hitman John Wick still the same reluctant, melancholy, reticent, taciturn and introverted somber loner he was once before. And also as before by events not of his making is forced back out of retirement to his darker side, this time by a mysterious wealthy former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins' guild. Bound by a blood oath marker he made to this stranger years ago, John agrees to do his request by traveling to Rome where he squares off against some of the world's deadliest killers to pay off his debt as well keep him from being killed if he doesn’t do his assignment as requested.

REVIEW: Let’s be clear, the John Wick films are specifically written and directed to be incased in an enclosed arena of seemingly anonymous looking men and women walking among us with spontaneous over top mindless violence. But what you will hopefully see as a real strength of the film is always just underneath all of the visual carnage on the screen and that is the construct of a consistent engrossing story that keeps you focused on an alternative crazy universe where the rules of civilized “law and order” don’t apply.  No, the consequences of justice are totally absent - null and void here. Only the cryptic coded rules among these array of international highly intelligent malevolent assassins take precedent over any concerns they may have of ever being arrested for their crimes. Call it honor among murders.

Stylistically, “John Wick 2” is a visual, testosterone laden, homicidal operatic symphony ballet fantasy without an actual melodic aria being sung. Instead the music in “John Wick – 2” is the endless sounds of gun fire, muzzle flashes and grunts from body blows that delivers in the two hours running time some very imaginative and exhilaratingly entertainment with the occasional disarming  “wink-wink” dialog to lessen the intensity of the high body count. Let’s be clear again, our hero John Wick shoots, kills, stabs and dispatches pretty much everything that crawls, walks and or runs across his path and you love watching him work.

Reeves makes the character work and with the film itself “John Wick 2” and Reeves share the common denominator of never trying to out think themselves by being overly clever or slick. The actor and the film itself both stay in the emotional lanes that got them here from the successful 2014 effort by remaining pure and honest.  The result is never disappointing even when it is being both a bit seductive on one hand and extremely blood thirsty on the other with all of the endless killing.

John Wick the man is a Sicario werewolf with lots of guns. He’s Vice Cop Sonny Crockett and Bruce Lee’s baby on steroids. He’s an emissary of wild, crazy and thrilling executions.  He’ delivers an endless orgy of death. And while this film is not for everyone clearly, in the end I found the conflicted vindictive and withdrawn hitman John to be Wick-edly, exquisitely, seductively good at making so many people die. "Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat", to Fortune Favors the Bold.

3.50 Stars