Friday, February 26, 2016

My official predictions for the 88th annual Academy Awards.

This weekend, all eyes will be turned towards the 88th annual Academy Awards ceremony, but maybe not for all of the usual reasons. This year's Oscar race has been one of the most controversial, but rather than it being for the Oscars shunning populist entertainment, for the second year in a row, this year's acting categories have featured a strictly white slate of nominees, continuing last year's #OscarsSoWhite outcry. It's the kind of event that has led the Academy to make drastic changes within it's branches, even if it's only a symptom of much larger problems within the diversity-lacking Hollywood system, but that's a discussion for another time. It certainly doesn't help that the Academy's decision to feature performances from three of the five Original Song nominees means transgender nominee Antony won't be able to perform her song "Manta Ray", but at least these boneheaded decisions should give host Chris Rock some excellent comedic material.

As for the likely winners... that's a conundrum all its own, with frontrunners in several categories having shifted back and forth for months. However, this late in the game, it's still much easier to call many of these categories than it has in some recent years, and while anticipation on the big night likely won't be a big surprise, the build up has been a truly wild ride.

So like in previous years, I'm going to list out all of my predictions for the winners of all 24 categories. As always, some of these aren't in 100% confidence, but they're as good as I'll get. Let's begin.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Deadpool movie review.

Valentine's Day has come and gone, and loving couples around the world celebrated in the usual ways: Gifts, parties, and romantic dinners... or maybe their tastes were more specific, geared towards the violent and the vulgar. In which case, Deadpool ticked those boxes off one by one.

A fan favorite in Marvel's legendary roster, the crude and meta-satirical "merc with a mouth" had previously appeared in the now non-canon X-Men Origins: Wolverine, played by Ryan Reynolds, and bearing little resemblance to the character comic book fans had fallen in love with, what with his mouth being sewed shut and being equipped with Adamantium blade arms.

For years, fans had waited anxiously for the character to receive his own film, with star and producer Ryan Reynolds fighting hard to get one off the ground. Flashforward to February 2016, and fans get the movie they always wanted: A hard R, rapid fire laugh-a-minute and brutally violent thrill ride that, despite its issues, gives its lead the movie he deserves.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My top 15 most anticipated films 0f 2016...

About a week ago, I kicked off 2016 when I went to see Dreamworks' Kung Fu Panda 3, which was already a pleasant surprise in the traditional January dumping ground, and hopefully bodes well for the rest of the year that follows. With the nostalgic reinvention of 2015 finally past us, this now gives way to another potentially exciting year in cinema.

Outside of the traditional epic blockbusters around the year, it should be a year that sees some refreshing experimentalism and intriguing prestige pictures, with everything from dazzling fantasies and jazzy musicals, to powerful dramas and not one, but two animated offerings from Disney's animation branch. Just like last year, it ended up becoming such a competitive list that once again, I found myself forming a list of my top fiften most anticipated films rather than a traditional top ten, with ten additional honorable mentions, and that still wasn't covering every new film I was excited about.

As always, forming this list came with a set number of rules. As always, I'm mainly sticking with films that have a guaranteed release date set for this year, but I am going to allow for a bit more speculation regarding some films, even if I'm not entirely sure some will even be released this year. Another new stipulation I've decided to add on is that if the film made the list last year, but didn't get a proper release until this year (such as Gavin O'Connor's Jane Got a Gun), it won't be included on this list. Also, this list is purely in the moment, and is likely not going to be set in stone as I discover more and more smaller films coming out.

And as always, this list is mainly catered to my personal tastes, so if a film you're anticipated isn't on here, I probably haven't heard of it, I am looking forward to it, but not enough to crack the list, or I may not be looking forward to it at all. In other words, Assassin's Creed and Passengers won't be on here.

Now with all of this established, first let's look at what just missed out on the main 15.

 Honorable Mentions include:
25. Suicide Squad

24. The Zookeeper’s Wife

23. Christine

22. Doctor Strange

21. Untitled Terrence Malick Austin Music Scene Project

20. The Story of Your Life

19. Finding Dory

18. The Seagull

17. X-Men: Apocalypse

16. The Discovery

And now on to the rest...

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Top Ten Best Films of 2015...

With all the negativity of last week's 10 worst films of the year out of the way, let's get to the top 10 best films of the year, because despite the fact that I saw plenty of bad films to go around, the good was absolutely great.

That said, there were a lot of films that struggled to get noticed with how competitive (though not always) the yearly slate was. This was a year firmly built on the grounds of old-fashioned nostalgia being reinvigorated by new blood, as was made very evident when Jurassic World claimed the new world record for highest domestic box office opening. However, even World (as well as Mad Max and Creed) were also feeling pressure, as 2015 was dominated by two words... Star Wars. Unsurprisingly, it was a gargantuan success, besting the domestic opening weekend record, and shattering Avatar's domestic intake total. Even as I write this, it shows no signs of slowing down.

On top of that, we saw the action genre get reinvigorated in a big way with the release of George Miller's continuation of Mad Max, Pixar returned to their former glory with Inside Out, and even the Oscars are the hardest they've been to call in recent memory, with spectacular films the like of The Revenant and Mad Max, as well as smaller scale gems like Room and Brooklyn, all competing against each other. I've loved quite a number of movies this year, and I look forward to watching some of the higher profile titles I've missed (like Son of Saul) in the near future. So with all that addressed, it's time for my best films of the year list.

As always, let's start things off with some honorable mentions. Just missing out was Todd Haynes' Carol, which was a refreshingly subdued and naturalistic look at the once frowned upon idea of a Lesbian relationship that doesn't disservice it by playing it as overly fantasized, but would be nothing without Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett's powerful performances. Spotlight was a suitably naturalistic look at modern history, covering its topics of Catholic Church sexual abuse and elaborate conspiracies with disturbing detail, and made great use of a stellar ensemble cast. The Martian was an atypical return to form for director Ridley Scott, featuring one of Matt Damon's most charismatic and witty performances yet, and owing much of its thanks to Drew Goddard's hilarious and lovably geeky script. Upon reflection, I actually realized I loved Amy the more and more I thought about it, making for a powerful sit thanks to its seamless editing skills and fine soundtrack choices, as well as Asif Kapadia's superb emotional beats. Beasts of No Nation saw Cary Joji Fukunaga tackling the very heavy and gruesome transformation of an innocent young village boy be molded into a merciless killer with haunting effect, and featured Idris Elba in one of the year's most terrifying turns.
But above all else, while I technically consider it a 2009 release, the fact remains that About Elly was the best movie that I saw all year, immediately skyrocketing its way into my top ten favorite films of all time. From the moment that it began, I was entranced by its atmosphere, and every moment of Asghar Farhadi's masterpiece roped me into its emotional experience. It features more of Farhadi's signature themes of familial conflicts and life shattering secrets, but manages to blend them with the analysis of hypocrisy, with much accusations being thrown around an individual most of the characters don't even know, and actually going so far as to paint themselves as more vile people than the one they insult by their own selfish needs for self-preservation. Such things are showcased in morally gray areas with no clear cut answer, and the film is also blessed with some of the finest acting I've seen in any movie ever. The moment that it ended, I immediately jumped right back into it to experience it again. So if you still haven't seen this movie, why is it taking you so long?! Stop reading, go watch it on Netflix Instant, and then come back to this list.

And now the moment we've all been waiting for. These are my choices for the 10 best films of the year.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Brief Thoughts on Kung Fu Panda 3.

A good movie opened in January? Is the fabric of the space-time continuum being shattered?

Actually, no. Despite January often being seen as a dumping ground acting as whiplash to the Oscar contenders that finally make their way stateside around that time, Kung Fu Panda 3 is most certainly not one of those awful slot fillers that so many movies making their official wide releases are. Much like it's rock solid 2008 first installment and its 2011 predecessor (which is greater than you remember it being), Kung Fu Panda 3 is equally thrilling, touching, and hilarious, even if it falls back on familiar cliches.