Oscar Picks

oscars

The Oscars are on tonight and it will interesting to see who wins in a number of categories. Best Picture, Original Screenplay and Best Actress all look to be highly competitive categories, with many of the nominees in each category deserving of an award. All in all, I suspect Gravity will have the night; it is just too good of a film to be shut out. Anyhow, below are my predictions which I’ll be going with in my Oscar pool – feel free to plagiarize.

Best Picture Prediction: Gravity
Other Nominees:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

To me, Best Picture this year comes down to American Hustle, Gravity, or 12 Years a Slave. I think one of these films is likely to pick up the most awards tonight and my money will be on Gravity. The dark horses here are likely Philomena and Captain Phillips, but I think in the end Gravity will take the award. As I said earlier, Gravity is just too good of a film to be overlooked.

Best Actor Prediction: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Other Nominees:
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

I could see this going to Bruce Dern or Chiwetel Ejiofor; if it does go to Ejiofor then 12 Years a Slave is likely sweeping the night. McConaughey picked up a Golden Globe for his performance and I suspect tonight he’ll also pick up his first Oscar as well; he’s the safe bet for this category.

Best Actress Prediction: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Other Nominees:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

All actresses nominated this year have put in tremendous performances in their respective films. Gravity is a special effects only film without Bullock’s stellar acting, Streep is razor sharp in August: Osage County and both Amy Adams and Judi Dench turn in excellent performances in their respective films. That said, Blanchett is outstanding in Blue Jasmine and will likely pick up the award tonight, though I would be okay with a tie and all nominees receiving Oscars in this category this year.

Best Director Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Other Nominees:
David O. Russel, American Hustle
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Cuarón has picked up a lot of “Best Director” during the awards season and is the favorite for the Oscar. I really cant see any of the others winning, except perhaps McQueen (and if so, 12 Years is likely sweeping everything else). That said, Cuarón is the favorite and the safe pick for this category.

Here are my predictions for a few other categories:

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russel, American Hustle

Reviewed: 3 Days to Kill

3 Days to Kill

3 Days to Kill: * 1/2 (out of 4)
Stars: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen
Writers: Luc Besson & Adi HasakDirector: McG

3 Days to Kill is a discombobulated mess of a movie that, while possessing moments of entertainment, struggles to find the right tone, the right pace; the right anything really. Kevin Costner (making a bit of a comeback these days) stars as Ethan Renner, an aging hitman for the CIA who discovers that he has months to live after his disease inconveniently manifests itself while he’s chasing down a bad guy. After this is revealed to him, he quickly retires and heads to Paris, hoping to reconnect with his long forgotten wife and now teenage daughter. Unfortunately for Renner, his apartment is being occupied by squatters (the first of a few odd and disjointed subplots) and the CIA won’t leave him alone. He is quickly roped back into duty at the behest of a truly bizarre character named Vivi Delay, played by a half-crazy Amber Heard. Renner resists at first, but ultimately relents due to the CIA luckily possessing an experimental drug that may or may not cure or slow Renner’s disease. This leads Renner to juggle his family and work, leading to some truly odd scenes and sudden shifts in tone.

At this point, the film simply derails and careens back and forth between a Liam Neeson badass action flick to a family drama about an absent father reconnecting with his wife and daughter, with bizarre dark humor sprinkled throughout the mix. While the action sequences have a bit of pop to them and some of the comedic attempts elicit laughter, the emotional drama falls flat which translates into us not caring about the characters. Costner practically sleepwalks through the film and the scenes between him and his daughter come off as either forced or clichéd. This all goes without mentioning the extremely contrived ending, which can only be explained by the writers discovering they had 10 minutes to wrap up the film and hastily complied.

3 Days to Kill is a bizarre mish-mash of gritty violence, dark humor, odd-ball characters, plot devices and overused clichés. It attempts to be original by combining these different elements and it results in poor cohesion and a disjointed film. Clocking in just under 2 hours it’s hard to believe this is a result of poor editing; rather the problems likely have more to do with the writing of Luc Besson and Adi Hasak. If they had made this a leaner story and shed some of the proverbial fat, the results may have been better. As it stands, 3 Days to Kill is simply a messy and ultimately unrewarding experience.

A New Year

2013 was an extremely hectic year for me, so hectic it carried over into January, hence my New Year’s post arriving closer to February. That said, it is a New Year and having gotten a lot off of my plate, I intend on turning back to this neglected blog and writing a lot more in the coming year. While I plan on focusing a lot more on movies, I will also offer commentary on various political or current events as well. My goal for this space range from helping you find a pick for a movie night to provoking thoughts and discussion about various other topics. As always, if you agree, disagree, or just find something I’ve written intersteing, please leave a comment as I appreciate any and all honest feedback.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

 

Winter Movie Roundup

Due to school, work and laziness I’ve written far less than I’d like to recently. I have, however, managed to see a number of films over the past couple of months and unfortunately, unlike last year which featured some very high quality films (such as The Grey) released early in the year, this year’s offerings have been rather bland and abysmal. Here’s my take on the latest films I’ve seen:

Snitch ** (out of 4)Snitch
The Rock plays the owner of a small trucking company who is on his second marriage. His life is abruptly interrupted and thrown off the rails when his son knowingly accepts a package of drugs shipped to him by a friend, who then rats him out turning him into the victim of a DEA operation. In order to save his son from serving a lengthy mandatory prison sentence, he agree to infiltrate a network of drug dealers as a mole. Despite a solid cast including Barry Pepper, Susan Sarandon, Jon Bernthal, and Benjamin Bratt, the movie is a bit of a let down. It tries to be a serious drama while delivering a message about the US justice system and drug laws, but due to a very unbelievable plot, weak script, and poor character development, its difficult to take the film seriously. Rather than leaving the theater contemplating US drug and justice policy, I left it thinking about how utterly silly it is to try and run an 18 wheeler off the road with a sedan.

Safe Haven *
Yet another lame and hamfisted adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks book. The two leads in the film (Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel) have zero chemistry and screen presence together. Cardboard cut outs of each actor could have potentially provided better performances and more chemistry than the two leads do in this dreck. The film starts out with a troubled young woman (Hough) fleeing from a couple of detectives – she narrowly gets on to a bus which leaves just in the nick of time, before the cops are able to find her. She eventually turns up in some perfect sleepy southern town in Georgia and is able to find a job at a local diner, catch the eyes of a widowed single father who owns the local general store (Duhamel), and find a cute little house that is in need of some tender love and care. Will she be able to leave her troubled past behind? Will she be able to move on and let a new man into her life? Will you even care by the end of the movie about the logic-defying plot twist? If you’re like me, you wont; you’ll laugh out loud as the credits roll and will quickly try to forget about this vapid and empty waste of time.

Broken City *1/2
This is one of those movies where you look at the cast and think “Hmmm, this cant possibly be that bad of a movie” – and then you watch it and wonder what well known actor/actress was thinking when he/she agreed to do said film. Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe star in a ludicrous film that resembles a prime time soap opera more than it does a major Hollywood movie with an A-list cast. Russell Crowe plays a sleazy mayor and Mark Wahlberg is an ex-cop with baggage turned private investigator (there’s an original character) who gets sucked into some dirty municipal politics. The mayor is running for re-election, so naturally in a film like this, his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is sleeping with the mayor’s opponents campaign manager. There are also murder, sketchy backroom land deals, document shredding, oh, and Mark Wahlberg’s everyman of a character is having a tough time keeping his 2 person PI operation open. By the end of the film, it becomes rather difficult to keep track of everything that was going on. The film is one preposterous plot twist on top of another until you are simply sitting there rolling your eyes wishing the film showed some form of restraint which would have resulted in the movie keeping a tiny amount of plausibility. The only thing redeeming about the whole mess is Russell Crowe’s unrestrained performance of a unrepentant crooked mayor – I only wish it had been in a better film.

dead_man_down_movie_poster-colin_farrell-noomi_rapace-dominic_cooper-terrence_howard
Ohhhh Colin Farrell

Dead Man Down **1/2
An intriguing film from the director of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (not the Daniel Craig-David Fincher remake) that ultimately stalls towards the latter part of the film. The movie stars Colin Farrell and takes some time to get going; slowly the audience is able to piece together the plot as it slowly begins to emerge as the film unfolds. Farrell appears to be a gun for hire for a local crime syndicate, which is managed by Terrence Howard (who does a good job as the villain here). The film seems to get its wires crossed halfway through as it morphs from an intriguing crime drama into a romantic redemptive tale. Ultimately, it becomes a stalled anticlimactic affair that could have been a stronger film had the script gone through another rewrite and some polishing. I loved the opening of the film and the steady buildup, but was let down by the weak romantic subplot and third act of the film.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone **
Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, and Jay Mohr in a comedy? I’ll definitely be seeing that…and I did….and I was rather underwhelmed. Carell and Buscemi star as lifelong friends who have had a successful magic act for years that is starting to falter. Jim Carrey plays an up and coming “magician” who undertakes stunts that resemble Jackass more than they do magic. Carell is in airhead mode, which he plays well -particularly opposite Carrey who is in zany mode. The film isn’t bad, but its not as funny as I’d hoped – the supporting cast is somewhat underutilized although Jay Mohr is particularly funny in his scene stealing role as a lousy lounge-act magician.

Identity Thief *1/2
Oh what a waste – what an utter waste this film was. Two very funny leads (Jason Bateman and Melissa McCartney) are wasted as this film attempts to be both a slapstick goofball comedy and a serious emotional drama at the same time – it fails. There are a few funny moments but those moments become less and less funny the more and more the film tries to be a serious drama. If anything, the film does show how talented the leads are – but their antics are spoiled by a movie that ironically has an identity crisis.

A_Good_Day_to_Die_Hard
Yipee-Ki-Yay

A Good Day to Die Hard **1/2
I hope to goodness they keep making these movies; not because they’re good, but because the titles and how they incorporate Die Hard into them just amuses me to no end. Bruce Willis stars again (have to wonder how many more action films he has left in him) as John McClane, who heads over to Russia to get his son (who he hasn’t spoken with in years) out of jail. However, he ends of screwing up a CIA operation while on “vacation” to rescue his son and shenanigans, explosions, and one-liners ensue. A pretty typical Die Hard movie, which is a bad or good thing depending on your point of view. The only thing rather disappointing was a lack of a particularly snarky and devilish villain which, until now, had been a staple of the series.

Side Effects ***1/2
Steven Soderbergh is a very talented director and his habit of making extremely entertaining and high quality films continues with Side Effects.  Going into the film – based on the trailers – I was expecting yet another movie where the villain is some nameless, shadowy, nefarious corporation (in this case, a pharmaceutical); boy was I wrong. Instead, we are treated to a smart and sordid tale full of twists and turns that don’t push the realm of believability like the aforementioned Broken City. The film begins with the release of Channing Tatum from prison – he has just finished his sentence for insider trading. His wife (Rooney Mara, very stellar in a nuanced role) has waited very  faithfully and patiently and is wanting to get life back on track. However, she is depressed and after an event (which I won’t spoil), she seeks the help of psychiatrist (played by Jude Law). This film develops from there and is so well executed, there were times where I was questioning the motivations of all the main characters. Side Effects is a smart and skillful thriller well worth the time.

Some say I'm opinionated….

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