Monday, January 28, 2013

Random Movie Stuff - 1/28/13

- Anna Paquin (Rogue), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde) and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) will all be back for X-Men: Days of Future Past.  It features an alternative future for the mutants where they're all being hunted by Sentinels.  Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Professor X), James McAvoy (young Professor X), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Michael Fassbender (young Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (young Mystique), and Nicholas Hoult (young Beast) will return as well.  Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men movies, will be back.  It will open July 18, 2014.

- Paul Giamatti is in talks to play the Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  He'd join Jamie Foxx, who's playing Electro, as the two villains Spidey must face.  Meanwhile Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) will play Mary Jane Watson and Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) will play Harry Osbourne.  Felicity Jones (Hysteria) is in an undisclosed role.  Andrew Garfield (Peter), Emma Stone (Gwen), and Sally Field (Aunt Mae) are returning.

- Since JJ Abrams has signed on to direct Star Wars 7, he won't be able to direct Star Trek 3 but will remain on as a producer.  Star Trek into Darkness opens this May.  Abrams will also produce Mission Impossible 5 with Tom Cruise.

- Lucasfilm has decided not to release Star Wars Episodes 2 & 3 to the big screen in 3-D.

Coming in the next few months:

- Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) is returning to his crime-drama roots with Trance, starring James McAvoy as an auctioneer named Simon who helps steal some priceless art for a mob boss (Vincent Cassel) but after getting knocked unconscious, Simon can't remember where he hid the art.

- Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) will next appear in Twelve Years A Slave, based on a true story about a mid-18th century New York educated free-man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who was kidnapped and sold for slavery in the South.  Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard and Benedict Cumberbatch co-star.

- Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd will star in They Came Together, a parody of You've Got Mail and romantic-comedy trappings in general.  Michael Shannon, Ed Helms and Cobie Smulders co-star.

- This Is the End will open June 14.  It's written and directed by Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen (Superbad).  It stars Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson as fictional versions of themselves, trapped in Franco's house after "a series of cataclysmic events" destroy Los Angeles. Something tells me at some point they all smoke pot.

Hansel & Gretel #1

Box office for the weekend of Jan. 25-27.

1.  Hansel & Gretel - $19 million - 1 wk (Par)
 . . . 3372 screens / $5635 per screen
2.  Mama - $12.86 ($48.65) - 2 wks (U) -54.7%
 . . . 2682 / $4795
3.  Silver Linings Playbook - $10 ($69.47) - 11 wks (Wein) -7%
 . . . 2641 / $3786
4.  Zero Dark Thirty - $9.8 ($69.9) - 6 wks (Sony) -38%
 . . . 2929 / $3346
5.  Parker - $7 - 1 wk (FD)
 . . . 2224 / $3147
6.  Django Unchained - $5.01 ($146.3) - 5 wks (Wein) -35.5%
 . . . 2007 / $2494
7.  Movie 43 - $5 - 1 wk (Rel)
 . . . 2023 / $2472
8.  Gangster Squad - $4.2 ($39.65) - 3 wks (WB) -51.4%
 . . . 2590 / $1622
9.  Broken City - $4 ($15.27) - 2 wks (Fox) -51.6%
 . . . 2622 / $1526
10. Les Miserables - $3.91 ($137.24) - 5 wks (U) -47.8%
 . . . 2201 / $1777
11. Lincoln - $3.87 ($167.06) - 12 wks (BV) -29.2%
 . . . 1909 / $2029
12. A Haunted House - $3.35 ($35.55) - 3 wks (OR) -59%
 . . . 2002 / $1674
13. The Hobbit - $3.31 ($293.25) - 7 wks (WB) -46.4%
 . . . 1675 / $1976
14. Life of Pi - $2.65 ($103.49) - 10 wks (Fox) -20.9%
 . . . 941 / $2816
15. Parental Guidance - $2.53 ($70.87) - 5 wks (Fox) -40.6%
 . . . 1736 / $1454
16. The Last Stand - $2.1 ($10.63) - 2 wks (LG) -66.6%
 . . . 2913 / $721
17. The Impossible - $1.98 ($13.34) - 6 wks (Sum) -20%
 . . . 782 / $2532
18. Argo - $1.83 ($117.58) - 16 wks (WB) -19.4%
 . . . 635 / $2874

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mama - Movie Review

Starring Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nelisse and Daniel Kash.  Directed by Andres Muschietti.


It's this year's Insidious.

A harried father rushes his two girls, ages 3 and 1, into the car and drives away as fast as possible. We hear on the news about a shooting, and we gather this man is responsible.  He speeds down a snowy highway, worrying the 3-year-old.  The car spins out of control, off the road, down a slope.

He staggers through the woods with the girls and comes upon an abandoned cabin.  It's there that they meet "Mama"...

The movie has great pace and atmosphere.  The girls, now ages 8 and 6, are found and given to their uncle Lucas (Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his live-in girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain).

Seems odd to see Chastain (The Help, Zero Dark Thirty) here, but her agent was smart in getting her in this movie.  Not only is it doing good box-office, but it deserves to for being one of those rare scary movies.  Director Andres Muschietti expands his 2008 short to a satisfying full-length feature, and if I had quibbles, it would be the ending.  It's not bad; it's just okay.  But the suspenseful journey's worth traveling.

Silver Linings Playbook - Movie Review

Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles, John Ortiz and Shea Whigham.  Directed by David O. Russell.


This movie is essentially a well-made romantic comedy.  Quirky characters trying to find happiness.  But it's so well-made, it doesn't feel formula until we get to the finale and then go "Ah." But by then we're really rooting for everyone to succeed.

Cooper gives a career-best performance as Pat, a bipolar man who's just been released to his parents' care after eight months of institutionalization.  He went in for violently beating his wife's lover after catching them in the act.  But "he's better now" and determined to win his wife back.

He winds up becoming friends with Tiffany (Lawrence), sister-in-law of his best friend.  Tiffany has her own issues, having dealt with the death of her husband by sleeping with everyone at her office and getting herself fired.

The bizarre relationship of Pat and Tiffany works because the chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence is electric.  Not only that, but Robert DeNiro as Pat's father gives his best performance in about fifteen years.

It's just a terrific feel-good movie done with more skill than usual.

2012 Screen Actors Guild Award Winners

BEST CAST - Argo (Affleck, Cranston, Goodman, Arkin, etc.)
BEST ACTOR - Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
BEST ACTRESS - Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

BEST CAST COMEDY - Modern Family (O'Neill, Bowen, Stonestreet, etc.)
BEST CAST DRAMA - Downton Abbey
BEST ACTOR COMEDY - Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
BEST ACTOR DRAMA - Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
BEST ACTRESS DRAMA - Claire Danes, Homeland
BEST ACTOR MOVIE/MINISERIES - Kevin Costner, Hatfields & McCoys

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Random Movie News - 1/24/13

- The wait is over.  Star Wars Episode VII now has a director and it is J.J. Abrams, the man behind Super 8, the Star Trek reboot, and the upcoming Star Trek into Darkness.  Abrams got his break in TV, with series like Felicity, Alias and Lost, and later expanded to movies.  He directed Mission Impossible III as well.  The Star Wars Episode VII script is being written by Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3).

- Joaquin Phoenix is reuniting with director Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) for Inherent Vice, based on the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel about a psychedelic 1960's private eye roped into a kidnapping scheme by his ex.

- Grudge Match will open November 15.  It stars Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro as two old boxers who still dislike each other who decide to have one last match even though they're in their 60's.  Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger and Kevin hart co-star.  Stallone and DeNiro previously worked together in 1997's Cop Land.  Peter Segal (Get Smart) directs.

- Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern), Mirielle Enos (The Killing), Rosario Dawson (Sin City) and Scott Speedman (The Vow) will star in Queen of the Night, about the father of an abducted daughter who receives clues eight years later that she might still be alive.

DVD Roundup - Dredd, Hysteria, ParaNorman, Pitch Perfect

DREDD (★★★) Starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey and Wood Harris.  Directed by Pete Travis.

This is a fairly decent entry into the action shoot-em-up genre, and it's much better than the Sylvester Stallone-Rob Schneider starrer Judge Dredd from 1995.  Here the role of Dredd goes to Karl Urban (Star Trek), and true to the comic book, he never takes off his helmet.  He's training a rookie in the near-future to be a judge, when the role of officer, prosecutor and judge are all wrapped up into the same job.

Most of the movie takes place in a high-rise building, so that saves money on set locations.  Lots of bullets fly, and it has a perverse sense of humor about all the blood splattering.


HYSTERIA (★★) Starring Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Pryce, Felicity Jones and Rupert Everett.  Directed by Tanya Wexler.

It starts out as a wink-wink 1880's British comedy about how clueless men were, and particularly doctors, regarding women's mental health and sexuality.  It also never changes its tone, even when things should feel serious.

This movie says it's based on true events, but a quick Wiki peek shows that it's so loosely based on what happened, they shouldn't have bothered with the "based on true events" line at all.  It's essentially about the accidental invention of the vibrator.  Hugh Dancy plays the dithering doc who values science more than his contemporaries, and Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the before-her-time feminist who inspires him.  It's jolly fine for a while but it never wavers from the level on which it started.


PARANORMAN (★★½) Starring the voices of Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, John Goodman and Jeff Garlin. Directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell.

This stop-motion animated film has its pleasures, but also its pitfalls.  It's in that uncanny valley of "who is this movie for?" It's about a boy who can see ghosts, but no one believes him, but they have to when the dead start walking due to the curse of a witch.  It's not bad for a rental, but it's no Coraline or Frankenweenie.


PITCH PERFECT (★★★½)  Starring Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Alexis Knapp, Adam DeVine, John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks.
Directed by Jason Moore.

Surprisingly fun, fast-paced comedy about competitive a capella groups in college.  Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air) brings street cred to the role of the outsider, but there's game performances from Brittany Snow (Hairspray), Anna Camp (True Blood), and Rebel Wilson, as well as Christopher Guest-worthy commentary from John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks.  This is so much more than Glee: The Movie.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Compliance - DVD Review

Starring Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy and Bill Camp. Directed by Craig Zobel.


This is a movie that should have been over at 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 40 minutes, and it keeps going.  99.999% of people that this would happen to would have stopped it long before it goes to where it goes.  When it was over I went to the internet to see just how loosely it was based on a real incident.  Turns out that in real life, it really did go this far.

It centers on a fast-food manager who gets a call from a man claiming to be a police officer, and he's accusing one of the register girls of stealing money out of a customer's purse.  The manager takes the employee to the back and goes through her purse, tells her to empty her pockets, all at the behest of the officer.  The girl's situation gets worse and worse as no one thinks to question the authority of the man on the phone.  It's an interesting observation of how far people will go to please an authority figure.  It's uncomfortable and squirm-inducing to sit through.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekend Box Office - 1/20/13

1.  Mama - $28.12 million - 1 wk (U)
 . . . 2647 screens / $10,624 per screen
2.  Zero Dark Thirty - $17.6 ($55.95) - 5 wks (Sony) -28%
 . . . 2946 / $5974
3.  Silver Linings Playbook - $11.35 ($55.31) - 10 wks (Wein) +126%
 . . . 2523 / $4499
4.  Gangster Squad - $9.11 ($32.22) - 2 wks (WB) -46.6%
 . . . 3103 / $2936
5.  Broken City - $9 - 1 wk (Fox)
 . . . 2620 / $3435
6.  A Haunted House - $8.33 ($29.98) - 2 wks (OR) -54%
 . . . 2160 / $2856
7.  Django Unchained - $8.24 ($138.36) - 4 wks (Wein) -25.3%
 . . . 2516 / $3276
8.  Les Miserables - $7.81 ($130.37) - 4 wks (U) -19%
 . . . 2579 / $3030
9.  The Hobbit - $6.41 ($287.4) - 6 wks (WB) -30.1%
 . . . 2323 / $2757
10. The Last Stand - $6.3 - 1 wk (LG)
 . . . 2913 / $2163
11. Lincoln - $5.39 ($160.53) - 11 wks (BV) -14.8%
 . . . 2174 / $2482

Jessica Chastain is enjoying the top two spots, with Mama and Zero Dark Thirty.

Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe couldn't combine their star-power to get people interested in seeing Broken City.  And no one cared to see Arnold Schwarzenegger's comeback vehicle The Last Stand.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty - Movie Review

Starring Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, James Gandolfini, Chris Pratt, Mark Strong, Edgar Ramirez, Harold Perrineau and Stephen Dillane.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.


The ultimate procedural.

This movie offers a straight-forward account of a chain of events that culminates in the killing of Osama bin Laden.  Not much is said of Bush or Cheney or Obama.  When we meet Leon Panetta, he's never called by his name. James Gandolfini is simply credited as "the CIA Director."  This is about the boots on the ground and the middle-management above them.  And pushing it all is the single dogged determination of Maya (Jessica Chastain).

We don't get any backstory on Maya.  She just shows up at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, where the story begins.  We see some harsh interrogation techniques being used against a detainee.  There's no grand Sharpee to highlight how effective or ineffective torturing is/was.  It's something that happened.  Maybe bin Laden would have been caught five years earlier or never had torture never happened; we'll never know.

Chastain's central performance of Maya is crucial and captivating.  We want her to catch "UBL" as much as she does.  I marveled over and over at the different cuts, angles and subtleties of Bigelow's direction, too.  Absolute crime she was snubbed for a Best Director nom for this.

Jeff Who Lives at Home - DVD Review

Starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon and Rae Dawn Chong.  Directed by Jay & Mark Duplass.


The Duplass brothers have made a nice living dominating the Mumblecore genre, and now they've finally made a movie I could recommend.  It centers on Jeff (Jason Segel), a 30-year-old slacker who lives at home, but he's seeking meaning in life through random signs.  The movie isn't as profound as Jeff thinks his life is, but I liked the chain of events spawned from Jeff following whatever he thinks Fate wants him to do.

It also focuses on his older brother (Ed Helms) trying to save his marriage, and his mother (Susan Sarandon) who discovers she has a secret admirer at work.  It makes for a pleasant 85 minutes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Total Recall - DVD Review

Starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, Bokeem Woodbine, John Cho and Will Yun Lee. 
Directed by Len Wiseman. 


There were two good things about this movie.  First, the special effects are great. Good job by the tech team, and I imagine it looked good in 3D on the big screen.  Second, there's a scene where Quaid (Farrell) is taking a break from all the chasing, and he rests against a piano, something he wishes he knew how to play. But then he discovers he can play it. It's a nice moment of discovery by Farrell, a good human pause to all the mindless action.

But the rest of it is high-speed junk.  There's turning off your brain, and then there's turning off the laws of physics.  There's a gunfight in zero-G that just took way too many liberties with logic. There's the plot twists you'd see coming a mile away even if you're not familiar with the original.  There's the fact that Jessica Biel's in it, and when's the last time her presence signified a good movie?  There's the deliberate borrowing of the art direction from Minority Report.

Stick to the Arnold version.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild - DVD Review

Starring Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry and Lowell Landes. Directed by Benh Zeitlin.


I'm glad I saw this before the Oscar nominations were announced. I've been sitting on it for a while because I've been trying to piece together what I feel about it.  The fact that I'm still puzzling over it is a plus in its favor.  But it's also one where I enjoy the experience of thinking about it afterwards than actually watching it at the time.

The movie glorifies those living in extreme poverty as saints.  It takes place in the Bathtub, a forgotten strip of land south of the levees in Louisiana where the handful of residents live in rundown, make-shift houses propped up on stilts.  No sane person should live there, but these few people are stubborn.  That, and they're so poor their only other option seems to be homelessness.

The movie centers on 6-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), and the movie is seen through her eyes. She's being raised by her single dad Wink (Dwight Henry), and she loves him, even if he's scary sometimes.  As adults, we can see he should lose custody of her, and there's all kinds of child-endangerment issues going on. For starters, he has her live in her own house, where she cooks breakfast by turning on the gas stove and lighting it with a blowtorch. On one hand, I got a kick out of the survivor-mindset but on the other hand, that child's going to burn her house down.  Also, when Wink gets upset, he slaps her.  Maybe it's because I have a 6-year-old daughter of my own, but I spent most of the movie wanting someone to "save that child!"

There isn't really much plot to it.  One day the rains come and flood the Bathtub, and so the residents take to their pieced-together boats and just stay afloat until the waters recede, also avoiding detection from any government agency that might force them to leave.  Hushpuppy envisions ancient beasts unfrozen by the storm, roaming the Earth once more, and heading down to the Bathtub.  I thought for a while the Beasts were going to take the story on a more magical slant, but after a while it was clear that wasn't going to happen.

It lingers like a childhood dream, which is why I can't dismiss it.  The memory of the journey is better than the actual experience.  I suppose it's worthy seeing if you go on in knowing you're not getting a movie, you're getting an Art Film.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2012 Golden Globe Winners

BEST ACTOR DRAMA - Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
BEST ACTRESS DRAMA - Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
BEST ACTOR MUSICAL - Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
BEST ACTRESS COMEDY - Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
BEST SCREENPLAY - Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
BEST SONG - "Skyfall" by Adele, Skyfall
BEST SCORE - Michael Danna, Life of Pi

Cecil B. DeMille Award - Jodie Foster

BEST DRAMA - Homeland
BEST ACTOR DRAMA - Damien Lewis, Homeland
BEST ACTRESS DRAMA - Claire Danes, Homeland
BEST ACTOR COMEDY - Don Cheadle, House of Lies
BEST ACTRESS COMEDY - Lena Dunham, Girls
BEST ACTOR MOVIE or MINISERIES - Kevin Costner, Hatfields & McCoys
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Ed Harris, Game Change
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

- Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were terrific hosts.  They should duke it out with Neil Patrick Harris for all hosting gigs.

- Sorry, Game Change crew, but HBO was the opposite of "Heroic Brave Operation" for cutting out 3/4 of the book to focus only on Sarah Palin.

- I love how Adele sounds like a character from "When the Whistle Blows", the show-within-the-show of Ricky Gervais's Extras.

- Standing O for Bill Clinton. I wonder what would happen if George W. Bush came out.

- Boo to winner Maggie Smith and Ed Harris for not being there!

- Very nice tribute to Sally Field from Anne Hathaway.

- I'm amused how everyone's pretending Salmon Fishing on the Yemen is a good movie.

- Biggest shocker: Brave for Best Animated Film. One of Pixar's worst.

- I love Jodie Foster.

- I saw two episodes of Girls and thought it was awful. I really don't get where all this love is coming from.

- Absolutely thrilled and surprised by Argo's wins. Actually, I really like how the wealth was spread this year. Very happy for Ben Affleck.

Zero Dark Thirty wins b.o. weekend

1.  Zero Dark Thirty - $24 million - 4 wks (Sony) +790.2%
 . . . 2937 screens / $8172 per screen
2.  A Haunted House - $18.82 - 1 wk (OR)
 . . . 2160 / $8712
3.  Gangster Squad - $16.71 - 1 wk (WB)
 . . . 3103 / $5385
4.  Django Unchained - $11.07 ($125.4) - 3 wks (Wein) -44.7%
 . . . 3012 / $3674
5.  Les Miserables - $10.13 ($119.21) - 3 wks (U) -36.8%
 . . . 2927 / $3460
6.  The Hobbit - $9.08 ($278.12) - 5 wks (WB) -48.2%
 . . . 3012 / $3015
7.  Lincoln - $6.31 ($152.58) - 10 wks (BV) +16.6%
 . . . 2027 / $3115
8.  Parental Guidance - $6.1 ($60.65) - 3 wks (Fox) -37.1%
 . . . 2957 / $2063
9.  Texas Chainsaw 3D - $5.15 ($30.75) - 2 wks (LG) -76.3%
 . . . 2659 / $1927
10. Silver Linings Playbook - $5 ($41.31) - 9 wks (Wein) +38.2%
 . . . 810 / $6173

With the Oscar nominations announced, movies like Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook were able to add some screens and take advantage.  Zero Dark Thirty was also able to open wide on the eve of being announced as a Best Picture nominee.

2013 tends to be a dumping ground for Hollywood movies, but the low-budget A Haunted House made all its costs back in the first weekend, and the long-delayed Gangster Squad did okay in its own right.  Texas Chainsaw 3D dropped a whopping 76.3% in its second week, meaning word-of-mouth is "don't bother."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Looper - DVD Review

Starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano and Piper Perabo. Directed by Rian Johnson.


JGL does an amusing Bruce Willis impression, and that's just one of the smaller pleasures of this movie.  JGL plays Joe, an assassin in 2044 who kills people for the mob in the future.  But when his 2074 self is his next target, he hesitates, and Old Joe gets away.  Joe needs to catch and kill his old self, or he may not be allowed to live to see 2045.

The movie has several twists and turns, and it's another home-run for Rian Johnson (Brick), who's quickly becoming one of my favorite directors.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 Academy Award Nominations

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Amour, Michael Hanake
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Flight, John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin,
Life of Pi, David Magee
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall, Roger Deakins

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart

Argo, William Goldenberg
Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
Lincoln, Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Amour, Austria
Kon-Tiki, Norway
No, Chile
A Royal Affair, Denmark
War Witch, Canada

Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Lincoln, John Williams
Skyfall, Thomas Newman

“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, music and lyric by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted, music by Walter Murphy; lyric by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, music by Mychael Danna; lyric by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from Skyfall, music and lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from Les Misérables, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Anna Karenina, Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
Les Misérables, Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi, Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Lincoln, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head over Heels
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”

Buzkashi Boys
Death of a Shadow

Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
The Avengers, Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Django Unchained - Movie Review

Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Don Johnson, James Russo, Tom Wopat, M.C. Gainey, Dana Gourrier, Laura Cayouette, Franco Nero and Jonah Hill.
Directed by Quentin Tarantino.


QT does for slaves here what he did for Jews in Inglourious Basterds - gives them a violent reimagining of history, boiling it down to a revenge flick.  Which is all fine and good.  When Tarantino puts history through his 1970's blaxploitation spaghetti-western worldview, he uses staples from his favorite B-flick genres, and by scrambling events through his prism, we get another ironic staple.  Cinematically alive and consistently engrossing, this Django doesn't disappoint.  It's not his best, but it's another impressive addition to his filmography.

When we first meet Django (Foxx), he is a slave being moved with a chain-gang across various terrains.  That gang is stopped by Dr. King Schultz (Waltz), a dentist turned bounty hunter who needs Django to help him identify some men he's hunting down.  Waltz gets to demonstrate all the charisma he had for Hans Landa, but for a slightly more moral man.  The Schultz-Django dynamic is like a fun buddy-cop period piece.

Schultz trains Django in the art of gunfire, and as they collect bounties and make money, Schultz makes a deal with Django. He hates slavery and feels bad he's benefiting from its trappings by owning Django, so after they've made some money, he agrees to set Django free and help him find his wife Broomhilda (Washington).  They learn she was sold to Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), owner of one of the largest plantations in Mississippi.

The second half of the movie takes on a more heart-of-darkness feel.  Our heroes enter deep into the property of Candieland, and we hope they're going to somehow pull off their con and get out alive.

Candie's side business is "mandingo fighting", having slaves fight no-holds-barred to the death, and placing bets.  Schultz poses as an interested investor, and Django is his expert on black stock.  They intend to buy one of Candie's best fighters, then casually buy Broomhilda on the side.

One wrench in the plans comes from Stephen (Jackson), Candie's right-hand house slave whose subservient dicrepitude hides a steel mind and loyal soul to Candie.  Stephen plays his Uncle Tom role well, but behind closed doors, there's clearly more respect and trust than outsiders can see.  Stephen is unlike anything Samuel L. Jackson's played before, and while Waltz and DiCaprio were both nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the Golden Globes, I hope come Oscar time one of those slots goes to Jackson.  The Django-Schultz relationship paralleled with the Stephen-Candie one is just another sign there's a method to QT's madness.

There's been controversy due to the movie's frequent use of the n-word. QT's dialogue is always so quotable, but this is one where white people won't be able to casually quote some of his best lines because that word's in there.  Well, historically it seems to fit right in. It's as though QT's rubbing our face in the history of race relations, that unpleasant bit of business our great-great-great grandparents went through.

The violence, especially the last half-hour, explodes like a comic opera.  Each bullet explodes its target like a Ziploc baggie full of Karo syrup.  People who've found previous Tarantino flicks distasteful should not hope he's calmed down for this one.

Texas Chainsaw 3D is #1, Django #2

For the weekend of January 4-6.

1.  Texas Chainsaw 3D - $23 million (LG)
 . . . 2654 screens / $8666
2.  Django Unchained - $20.08 ($106.35) - 2 wks (Wein) -33.3%
 . . . 3010 / $6672
3.  The Hobbit - $17.53 ($263.82) - 4 wks (WB) -45.1%
 . . . 3755 / $4667
4.  Les Miserables - $16.12 ($103.61) - 2 wks (U) -40.9%
 . . . 2904 / $5550
5.  Parental Guidance - $10.13 ($52.76) - 2 wks (Fox) -30.4%
 . . . 3368 / $3006
6.  Jack Reacher - $9.3 ($64.8) - 3 wks (Par) -31.6%
 . . . 3288 / $2828
7.  This Is 40 - $8.56 ($54.46) - 3 wks (U) -31.5%
 . . . 2931 / $2920
8.  Lincoln - $5.26 ($143.93) - 9 wks (BV) -28.3%
 . . . 1901 / $2766
9.  The Guilt Trip - $4.53 ($31.21) - 3 wks (Par) -30.8%
 . . . 2312 / $1959
10. Promised Land - $4.31 ($4.66) - 2 wks (Foc) +2379%
 . . . 1676 / $2573
11. Monsters Inc 3D - $3.92 ($27.92) - 3 wks (BV) -39.2%
 . . . 2103 / $1865
12. Silver Linings Playbook - $3.61 ($34.67) - 8 wks (Wein) -11.5%
 . . . 745 / $4847
13. Skyfall - $3.2 ($296.9) - 9 wks (Sony) -29.4%
 . . . 1307 / $2448
14. Life of Pi - $2.85 ($91.08) - 7 wks (Fox) -24.6%
 . . . 965 / $2953
15. The Impossible - $2.76 ($3.42) - 2 wks (Sum) +1411.7%
 . . . 572 / $4825
16. Zero Dark Thirty - $2.75 ($4.46) - 3 wks (Sony) +769.1%
 . . . 60 / $45,833
17. Rise of the Guardians - $2.6 ($97.15) - 7 wks (DW) -46.9%
 . . . 1507 / $1725
18. Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 - $1.45 ($289.21) - 8 wks (Sum) -38.5%
 . . . 825 / $1758

Texas Chainsaw 3D did what The Devil Inside did this time last year - debuted to a surprisingly high amount.  The first weekend of January is now primo horror territory.  Already booked for January 3, 2014, is a found-footage sequel to The Amityville Horror.

Django Unchained and Les Miserables have both hurdled the $100 million mark domestically.

The Hobbit's made over $800 million worldwide, so the investment back to Tolkein's world was worth it.  Personally I wonder if they'll cut the second one down to a more manageable 150 minutes.

Promised Land flopped in its expansion, as did the tsunami drama The Impossible.  Zero Dark Thirty goes wide next week and should be a hit.  Gangster Squad and A Haunted House also debut next week.

DVD Roundup - Pirates, Hope Springs, Arbitrage, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Killer Joe, Red Lights

THE PIRATES!: BAND OF MISFITS (★★½) Starring the voices of Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Brendan Gleeson and Anton Yelchin.  Directed by Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt.

From the makers of Wallace & Gromit comes this late cash-in on the Pirates craze.  Hugh Grant ventures into voicework as a Pirate Captain who wants to win this year's Pirate of the Year award, but things have been slow going for him and his crew.  It takes the movie a while to find its groove, but there are some laughs to be had after some slow parts.


HOPE SPRINGS (★★★) Starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell.  Directed by David Frankel.

This movie's a great excuse to showcase the acting chops of Streep and Jones.  They played an old couple who lost physical intimacy years ago, and so they take couples therapy to rekindle that spark. At least, she pays for the course without asking permission, and he grumpily decides to go along. Carell plays it straight as the therapist.


SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (★★½) Starring Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas.  Directed by Lasse Hallstrom.

This pleasant enough diversion is about a shiek who wants to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen.  Cue some existential moments of peace via A River Runs Through It.  McGregor and Blunt make a cute couple. The story's as light as a feather, and most of it's forgotten a few days after viewing. The fact that it was nominated for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes tells me it was a weak year for comedy.


ARBITRAGE (★★★½) Starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and Brit Marling.  Directed by Nicholas Jarecki.

Richard Gere has rarely been better in this story of a hedge-fund billionaire trying to keep all of his balls in the air even as his world crumbles around him.  The triumph of the movie, and of Gere, is that the central character is sympathetic even though all of his acts are villainous. He's hiding a $400 million discrepancy in the books so he can sell the company, and if caught it'll not only ruin him but his CFO, who's also his daughter.  He's having an affair, hiding that from everyone, and then there's a criminal investigation he's the target of where we wonder how he's going to squirm out of it. Sarandon plays his long-suffering wife who enjoys the high-life he provides, and Tim Roth plays the police detective who knows Gere's guilty, but he just needs to find the proof.


KILLER JOE (★★) Starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple and Gina Gershon.  Directed by William Friedkin.

The subject matter of this movie is gutter level.  A trailer-trash family decides to hire a hitman named Killer Joe to kill the mother so the rest can collect the insurance money.  We know early that this stupid family is going to get on Joe's wrong side eventually.  But McConaughey's performance as Killer Joe is hypnotic.  He's a calm, dangerous man. I wound up feeling sorry for the other actors. Not the characters, the actors.


RED LIGHTS (★½) Starring Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert DeNiro, Toby Jones, Elizabeth Olsen and Joely Richardson.  Directed by Rodrigo Cortez.

The first half of this would-be psychological thriller is well done, following two skeptics (Weaver, Murphy) who work at a university and debunk fraudulent clairvoyants in their spare time.  When one of the world's most famous psychics (Robert DeNiro) comes out of retirement, they decide he needs to be investigated.  The movie's strengths disappear as the plot gets more convoluted, the dialogue more nonsensical, and the twist ending doesn't have near the impact the filmmakers hoped it would have.  It's a great cast but a lost opportunity.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Movie Review

Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Aidan Turner, Sylvester McCoy, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving and Andy Serkis.
Directed by Peter Jackson.


I decided to read The Hobbit last month. I've made it through six chapters, approximately 120 pages.  That covered this 170-minute movie.

I don't mind at all being transported back into the world of J.R.R. Tolkein by way of Peter Jackson, and it's nice to be a lighter adventure than the broody end-of-the-world Lord of the Rings.  Here we meet a younger Bilbo Baggins, played here by Martin Freeman (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Love Actually).  Gandalf shows up on his doorstep one day and volunteers him for an adventure.  Bilbo will join the wizard and thirteen dwarves on a quest to help the dwarves reclaim their homeland from a greedy dragon.

I wanted to be able to name all the dwarves and tell them apart, but unfortunately it'll probably take a couple viewings and seeing Part 2 before I'll be able to do that.  We're given all their names; we're just no introduced to half of them as distinctly as some others.  For instance, within the first hour I could tell you who Thorin, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Dori, Bofur and Bombur were.  It's taking me going through the IMDB pics to put the names with faces of the other dwarves.

Once the fourteen set on their quest, it becomes a series of one darn thing after another.  They run into trolls, goblins, orcs, storm giants, elves, eagles, etc.  They're in danger, they get out. They're in danger again, they get out.  Any time a dwarf gets injured, he shakes it off for the next scene.  Even for dwarves, half of them would need weeks to just rest in a hospital somewhere and let their bones mend.

The highlight of the movie is deep into the movie, when Bilbo meets Gollum.  I don't remember if he shows up again in the book, but it wouldn't surprise me if Jackson didn't find a way to get him in a sequel or two somehow.

Looking forward to Part 2. Curious to see how Jackson's going to stretch it out.  But I think most folks are going to feel like this could have been a half-hour shorter without losing much.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Les Miserables - Movie Review

Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Daniel Huttlestone, Colm Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.  Directed by Tom Hooper.


This didn't feel like its own movie. It's an enhancement, part of a package to the Les Miserables experience.  It's another way to live through the material.  Les Miz the play is still the way to see this, but the film allows more acting to move to the fore.

Tom Hooper's decision to do lots of close-ups pays off more often than it doesn't. It also means the actors are singing live for the camera without the benefit of being dubbed in a studio. It means that the acting matters more than the singing.  Russell Crowe, for instance, gives a very good physical performance as Javert, but singing-wise most of his songs are beyond what he's capable of nailing. He'd go in and out of nasal quality and strain for those higher pitches, which is a good two-thirds of Javert's lines.  More than once I felt bad for him.

The majority of the cast comes off quite well.  Hugh Jackman, I thought, was tremendous. Vocally he's there (even if he isn't Alfie Boe), and we really feel the pain behind songs like "Who Am I" and "Bring Him Home."  It'd be a crime if he weren't nominated for this.  Anne Hathaway is as good as you've heard. Her "I Dreamed A Dream" is heartbreaking, and by my eye, done in one take.

Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn) is also the first time I kind of liked Marius.  It's easy not to like him when he falls in love so easily with Cosette and ignores Eponine, but I credit Redmayne's performance. The first tear the movie got from me was when Marius sings his final note in his "Little Fall of Rain" duet with Eponine. (Eponine is played by Samantha Barks, who also played the role in Les Miserables in Concert 25th Anniversary.)

Faring the worst were the Thenardiers. I expected Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter to be over the top, but all the close-ups for them ruined the humor of "Master of the House." It actually reminded me of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a hilarious musical that made for a bad movie under Richard Lester's direction in 1966.

This movie is an experience. It's flawed, but it leaves an impact, and it let me see Les Miz in a new light. That must count for something.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Worst Ten Films of 2012

For the record, I never saw such (alleged) stinkers as One for the Money, W.E., Project X, A Thousand Words, Damsels in Distress, The Raven, LOL, A Little Bit of Heaven, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Bel Ami, That's My Boy, People Like Us, The Watch, Cosmopolis, The Apparition, The Oogieloves Movie, The Words, The Cold Light of Day, Stolen, House at the End of the Street, Bringing Up Baby, Butter, Here Comes the Boom, Atlas Shrugged Part 2, The Man with the Iron Fists, Red Dawn, Playing for Keeps, Parental Guidance or anything with Tyler Perry.

But of what I have seen, these were the worst.

Dishonorable Mentions:

360 - I only watched the first forty minutes, and I'd seen enough.  Just a slow, slow slog meeting a bunch of boring or unpleasant people, and supposedly all their storylines tie together in the end, but even with a cast of Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, etc., I just didn't care.

AMERICAN REUNION - These kids are too old for this excrement.

LOCKOUT - Guy Pearce gives a great tough-guy performance in an "Escape from New York in Space" movie that might have been cool to me if I'd seen it in 1990.

MAN ON A LEDGE - Sam Worthington's star power's faded.  The whole thing felt predictable and cheap, and it really falls apart if you think about it. ("Please don't think about it!" pleads the studio.)

THE PAPERBOY - Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman and John Cusack all give great performances in a story not worth telling.  (Why am I watching Kidman pee on Zac Efron?)  This slice of Southern Gothic is not enough Lee "Precious" Daniels and too much Lee "Shadowboxer" Daniels.

RED LIGHTS - Starts off promising but gets progressively worse until we hit our twist ending that has no impact whatsoever.

ROCK OF AGES - Not counting any scene that had Tom Cruise.  It's worth seeing on DVD or cable to just watch Tom Cruise's scenes. Everything else about the movie is terrible.  Had it come out in the 1970's, it'd be the next cult midnight show where people yell at the screen.  Who on Earth thought having three Foreigner tracks on the soundtrack was a good idea?

TOTAL RECALL - Director Len Wiseman and wife Kate Beckinsale probably shouldn't make movies together anymore.

And now...

... My Worst Ten

10. Taylor Kitsch in JOHN CARTER and BATTLESHIP - Neither movie is as bad as you may have heard. I actually kinda liked John Carter, whereas Battleship only ceased being the worst movie of the year once the aliens showed up.  But Kitsch is the worst thing about both movies, and he was the lead.  His movie career will go the way of Josh Hartnett.

9. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER - This movie could have, should have been campy fun, but it's poorly lit and surprisingly uncreative.  I credit them for casting Benjamin Walker, who looks like a young Liam Neeson, but I thought it might have more creative weaving into history while Abe slaughters vampires on the side.

8. THE EXPENDABLES 2 - The first movie was a fun reunion of all these old muscle-headed action stars.  Now while it's cool that Jean-Claude Van Damme shows up, and he's a villain, this sequel wears out its welcome early.  Just empty-headed mindless gunfire at a bunch of faceless foreigners.

7. THE DEEP BLUE SEA - Poorly-paced melodrama about a woman who leaves her affluent husband for a younger man who doesn't love her back. But they have passion. On the days that he likes her.  There's a three-second pause after every line.

6. & 5. GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE and SEEKING JUSTICE - How far hath Nicolas Cage fallen. Dude won an Academy Award, you know.  Academy. Award.   First, he's starring in arguably the worst comic-book hero franchise, and then he's doing these VOD projects that make about $75,000 in theaters before disappearing.  We know he doesn't manage his money well, so maybe that's it.

4. THE DEVIL INSIDE - A low-budget horror movie where the characters don't behave rationally. I know, they make a hundred of these a year. But have you ever watched one that ends on a cliffhanger then directs you to its website to what happens next. Its website?!

3. UNDERWORLD AWAKENING - The fourth time is not the charm. Kate Beckinsale is back, but it doesn't matter. It's the future where vampires are known and the humans are trying to exterminate them.  The plot's the thinnest yet.

2. BENEATH THE DARKNESS - Dennis Quaid tries his hand at playing a psychopath in this trifle where the mystery is obvious from the beginning, but the participants on screen pretend that it isn't.

1. TAKEN 2 - The first movie had a visceral satisfaction to it. A great trailer, and a movie that lived up to it.  Even though it's the same director, the sequel is almost a parody of the first one. After the traumatic events of the first movie, the wife and daughter decide to surprise Dad by showing up... in Istanbul?  You'd think the daughter would never leave the mainland USA again.  Relatives of all the dead Eurotrach from the first movie seek revenge in the second, and several of them get dispatched with ease.  The whole thing has an unpleasant sheen to it.  It's a cynical cash-grab.