Friday, February 25, 2011

Oscar Predictions - 2011

It's that time of year again: when all the movies I want to win awards, don't. Ok, some of the time the movies/actors I like win, but mostly not. This year I'm pretty certain my favorites aren't going to win, but unlike some years, there are a lot of good nominees that I wouldn't mind winning as well. I highlighted the movies I've seen in blue. For a full list of movies I've reviewed, click here. On with the predictions:
UPDATED: I updated the highlighting on movies I've seen. Also noted who actually won.

xWho won
*Who I think will win
^Who I wish would win
Best Motion Picture of the Year
The Academy always seems to pick movies like "The King's Speech" and I've heard it's fantastic, but I simply enjoy Inception too much to pick anything else.

127 Hours (2010): Christian Colson, Danny Boyle, John Smithson
Black Swan (2010): Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin
The Fighter (2010): David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Mark Wahlberg
^Inception (2010): Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas
The Kids Are All Right (2010): Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Celine Rattray
X*The King's Speech (2010): Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
The Social Network (2010): Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Ceán Chaffin
Toy Story 3 (2010): Darla K. Anderson
True Grit (2010): Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin
Winter's Bone (2010): Anne Rosellini, Alix Madigan

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
I've seen 2 of the 5. Colin Firth has been unstoppable at every other award show.

Javier Bardem for Biutiful (2010)
Jeff Bridges for True Grit (2010)
Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network (2010)
X*Colin Firth for The King's Speech (2010)
James Franco for 127 Hours (2010)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
I like Natalie Portman, and she too has been unstoppable at the other award shows, so I'd like to see her win.

Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole (2010)
Jennifer Lawrence for Winter's Bone (2010)
X*Natalie Portman for Black Swan (2010)
Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine (2010)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale deserves some Oscar recognition. Haven't seen this yet, but I've heard good things.

X*Christian Bale for The Fighter (2010)
John Hawkes for Winter's Bone (2010)
Jeremy Renner for The Town (2010)
Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech (2010)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Same deal as every other acting award, all runaways (supposedly). But, Hailee Steinfeld deserves
some recognition ESPECIALLY (but not solely) since it is her first big role.

Amy Adams for The Fighter (2010)
Helena Bonham Carter for The King's Speech (2010)
X*Melissa Leo for The Fighter (2010)
^Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit (2010)
Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom (2010)

Best Achievement in Directing
In reality, I think Christopher Nolan deserves this for Inception. But, Fincher is a great director. That being said, I think "True Grit" really shows how great the Coen brothers are at tackling genre filmmaking.

Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan (2010)
^Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for True Grit (2010)
*David Fincher for The Social Network (2010)
XTom Hooper for The King's Speech (2010)
David O. Russell for The Fighter (2010)

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
"Inception" deserves to win for it's originality. Even though it's not based on a book, "The King's Speech" is still based on true events, so that takes it down a bit for me.

Another Year (2010): Mike Leigh
The Fighter (2010): Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington
^Inception (2010): Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right (2010): Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
X*The King's Speech (2010): David Seidler

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
I'd definitely say that if you can write a screenplay based on the founding of a social networking site and make it work, that's some pretty good writing.

127 Hours (2010): Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
X*The Social Network (2010): Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 (2010): Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
True Grit (2010): Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone (2010): Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Pixar is in their own league when it comes to animation. This year did see a lot of very good competition, but it still wasn't a contest.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010): Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
The Illusionist (2010): Sylvain Chomet
X*Toy Story 3 (2010): Lee Unkrich

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Haven't seen any of these, just kind of went with a guess based on buzz I've heard.

Biutiful (2010): Alejandro González Iñárritu(Mexico)
*Dogtooth (2009): Giorgos Lanthimos(Greece)
XIn a Better World (2010): Susanne Bier(Denmark)
Incendies (2010): Denis Villeneuve(Canada)
Outside the Law (2010): Rachid Bouchareb(Algeria)

Best Achievement in Cinematography
This was a tough one. "Inception" has amazing cinematography, but so does "True Grit." In the end, I went with my gut.

Black Swan (2010): Matthew Libatique
X*Inception (2010): Wally Pfister
The King's Speech (2010): Danny Cohen
The Social Network (2010): Jeff Cronenweth
True Grit (2010): Roger Deakins

Best Achievement in Editing
"The Social Network" was a very clean, well put together movie (and the only one I saw off this list).

127 Hours (2010): Jon Harris
Black Swan (2010): Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter (2010): Pamela Martin
The King's Speech (2010): Tariq Anwar
X*The Social Network (2010): Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall

Best Achievement in Art Direction
"Inception" is simply visually stunning.

XAlice in Wonderland (2010): Robert Stromberg, Karen O'Hara
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010): Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
*Inception (2010): Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Douglas A. Mowat
The King's Speech (2010): Eve Stewart, Judy Farr
True Grit (2010): Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

Best Achievement in Costume Design
"Alice in Wonderland" has fantastically over-the-top costumes. But "True Grit" has some great, gritty (yes, I went there) western duds.

X*Alice in Wonderland (2010): Colleen Atwood
I Am Love (2009): Antonella Cannarozzi
The King's Speech (2010): Jenny Beavan
The Tempest (2010/II): Sandy Powell
^True Grit (2010): Mary Zophres

Best Achievement in Makeup
They actually did use makeup effects (and some CGI) for "The Wolfman," which was kind of a nice touch considering the original.

Barney's Version (2010): Adrien Morot
The Way Back (2010): Edouard F. Henriques, Greg Funk, Yolanda Toussieng
X*The Wolfman (2010): Rick Baker, Dave Elsey

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Everyone seems to love Reznor and Ross' soundtrack. I enjoyed it, but wasn't completely wowed. Inception, however, was Zimmer's grandest soundtrack in awhile.

127 Hours (2010): A.R. Rahman
How to Train Your Dragon (2010): John Powell
^Inception (2010): Hans Zimmer
The King's Speech (2010): Alexandre Desplat
X*The Social Network (2010): Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Haven't really heard any of these. Randy Newman always sounds the same to me, so I ruled out the one movie I've seen. 127 Hours won at another award show, but lost to the not nominated "Burlesque" at the Golden Globes.

*127 Hours (2010): A.R. Rahman, , Dido("If I Rise")
Country Strong (2010): Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, Troy Verges("Coming Home")
Tangled (2010): Alan Menken, Glenn Slater("I See the Light")
XToy Story 3 (2010): Randy Newman("We Belong Together")

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
"Inception" is just one of those movies that isn't fully experienced unless it's in digital surround sound.

X*Inception (2010): Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick
The King's Speech (2010): Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen, John Midgley
Salt (2010): Jeffrey J. Haboush, William Sarokin, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell
The Social Network (2010): Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Mark Weingarten
True Grit (2010): Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, Peter F. Kurland

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
I'm not such an expert that I can explain the specific differences between mixing and editing.

X*Inception (2010): Richard King
Toy Story 3 (2010): Tom Myers, Michael Silvers
TRON: Legacy (2010): Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Addison Teague
True Grit (2010): Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey
Unstoppable (2010): Mark P. Stoeckinger

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
All have very good effects, but Inception's are more subtle and realistic.

Alice in Wonderland (2010): Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas, Sean Phillips
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010): Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz, Nicolas Aithadi
Hereafter (2010): Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky, Joe Farrell
X*Inception (2010): Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, Pete Bebb, Paul J. Franklin
Iron Man 2 (2010): Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright, Daniel Sudick

Best Documentary, Features
I think "Exit..." but I'm not 100% sure since the Academy seems worried about what Banksy might do...

*Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010): Banksy, Jaimie D'Cruz
GasLand (2010): Josh Fox, Trish Adlesic
XInside Job (2010): Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs
Restrepo (2010): Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger
Waste Land (2010): Lucy Walker, Angus Aynsley

Best Documentary, Short Subjects
Complete guess.

Killing in the Name (2010): Jed Rothstein
Poster Girl (2010): Sara Nesson, Mitchell Block
XStrangers No More (2010): Karen Goodman, Kirk Simon
Sun Come Up (2010): Jennifer Redfearn, Tim Metzger
*The Warriors of Qiugang (2010): Ruby Yang, Thomas Lennon

Best Short Film, Animated
Mostly a guess, but it's the Pixar short, so it should be a good guess.

*Day & Night (2010): Teddy Newton
The Gruffalo (2009) (TV): Jakob Schuh, Max Lang
Let's Pollute (2011): Geefwee Boedoe
XThe Lost Thing (2010): Shaun Tan, Andrew Ruhemann
Madagascar, a Journey Diary (2010): Bastien Dubois

Best Short Film, Live Action
Complete and total guess.

The Confession (2010/IV): Tanel Toom
The Crush (2010): Michael Creagh
X*God of Love (2010): Luke Matheny
Na Wewe (2010): Ivan Goldschmidt
Wish 143 (2009): Ian Barnes, Samantha Waite

List gathered from IMDb

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Other Despicable FreakoGruber

Alright, I've been sitting on a couple of the reviews here for awhile so I thought it was time to get them out there. I've been also slowly working on my Oscar picks and Favorite Movies of 2010 list, so those should be out here, soon. But for now, here are three movies and one failed attempt at stretching one joke into a feature length film:

Despicable Me - (3 1/2 Stars)
There have been a lot of animated movies released in 2010, of which a surprising amount have actually been pretty good. Despicable Me is just another example of what a great year 2010 was for animation.

Despicable Me
Gru (Steve Carell) is a super-villain. In fact, he's the best (worst) super-villain of them all and he's saved his best heist for last: to steal the moon. But, when another clever villain steals the Great Pyramid, the villain community begins to lose faith in Gru, which leads him to finally put his big plan into action. Along the way, Gru encounters a young group of orphans who vie for his attention. In fact Agnes, the youngest, steals most of the movie.

The movie is funny, well cast and endearing at parts. But at other times it felt like a mash-up of Incredibles and Monster's Inc. Mostly due to the atmosphere and feel of the movie, not from borrowed plot devices or characters.
(95 minutes - Rated PG for rude humor and mild action - 2010) (Netflix)

The Other Guys - (3 1/2 Stars)
There are certain movies out there that are so dumb, they're funny. The Other Guys fits right into this category. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are partners Gamble and Hoitz at the NYPD. They don't really get along and are always being overshadowed by two other larger-than-life cops. But, when a change at the department leaves a void, Gamble and Hoitz attempt to fill it.

The Other Guys
"The Other Guys" is a lot of what you'd expect from Will Ferrell and his director buddy Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights). There are plenty of laughs and one-liners. Ferrell does his usual bit, and it works. Wahlberg works well against Ferrell as well. Michael Keaton as the Captain is particularly funny, stealing a couple scenes from Ferrell and Wahlberg. Keaton seems to have found his niche in funny, supporting parts (he was also great in Toy Story 3 as Ken).

As with most other movies of this type, the laughs do slow down a bit towards the end when they have to wrap up the storyline, but there are enough other laughs throughout to make it worth watching. 

(107 minutes - Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material - 2010) (Netflix)

Having had the books recommended to me, I went to my local library last year and quickly read both Freakonomics and its "sequel" SuperFreakonomics. I was excited, or at least had my interest piqued, when I heard they were attempting to make a documentary out of the books utilizing various filmmakers, such as Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), who's work I also enjoy, among others. While the end result is not bad, it's doesn't particularly add anything to the books.

FreakonomicsThe movie includes both of the authors, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, as narrators of sorts for the whole movie. They also fill in the gaps between the various segments. Each segment takes its inspiration from chapters from both books and are written and directed by a different documentary filmmaker. The problem becomes that out of two books that were already packed to the brim with information, we end up with four full "chapters" and various short segments that just don't do enough justice to the books. Basically, just go read the books.
(93 minutes - Rated PG-13 for Elements of violence, sexuality/nudity, drugs, and brief strong language - 2010) (Netflix)

MacGruberMacGruber - (1 1/2 Stars)
I mentioned before movies that are dumb, but funny. MacGruber is just dumb. I did laugh at some parts, but overall the rest of it was the big equivalent of a fart joke. Not much else to say for this SNL spin-off.
(90 minutes - Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, violence, language and some nudity - 2010) (Netflix)

^Available on Netflix Watch Instant

Friday, February 11, 2011

Just Go With It - It's an Adam Sandler comedy...

Just Go With It - (3 Stars)
In Adam Sandler's latest comedy he plays his usual likable, slightly schmucky version of himself, this time named Danny Maccabee. Danny is a plastic surgeon who, after a failed wedding, finds himself carrying around a wedding ring as a way to get women to sleep with him. The plan works great until he meets the attractive Palmer, played by model Brooklyn Decker, (I never figured out if this was supposed to be her first or last name) who is instantly attracted to him, but instantly disgusted when she finds the wedding band and believes him to be married. Enter Jennifer Aniston as Danny's assistant, who he tasks to be his fake ex-wife asking her to "just go with it."

Just Go with ItOut of the gate, "Just Go With It" is definitely funnier than Sandler's last movie "Grown Ups," which felt more like a filmed chance to hang out with his buddies than a movie. This is due in part to two things. First of all, Sandler didn't write this one. It's actually based off of an old movie called "Cactus Flower" which is actually based on a stage play. Sandler's influence is definitely still there in the script as everything still has the same feel as his other movies. Secondly, Aniston is there to play off of instead of a group of comedians. She does a decent job of being a foil to Sandler's antics and even holds her own in terms of comedy.

The story itself is pretty predictable, as is the norm for this type of movie (Not really a spoiler alert: I guessed the ending the first time I saw the trailer). The comedy is mostly a combination of sight gags (mostly not funny) and one-liners, all of which got a good reaction out of the audience I was watching the movie with. It also has elements of romance to it, but in the same vein as Sandler's other similar works ("The Wedding Singer," "Click"). Once the movie got into "ending mode" (this is what I like to dub the point in a comedy where they realize they have to wrap up their story and not just do endless gags) things got less funny, and felt a bit rushed. It all ends rather abruptly with most of the resolution appearing off-screen.

The bottom line is that those that liked "Grown Ups" will like this even better. Those that like Adam Sandler in general will enjoy it and anyone that hates Adam Sandler and still saw "Grown Ups" and didn't like it, well, they probably won't enjoy this one either (although, I'm not sure why anyone who doesn't like Adam Sandler would still be seeing his movies). Much like the character's in the story, the audience's best chance at enjoying the movie is to "just go with it" and try not to think too much about it.
Soundtrack Note: It felt as if almost every song in the soundtrack was either solely by Sting and/or the Police or was a remix/mash-up of their work. Nothing to this observation, I just found it interesting.
(116 minutes - Rated PG-13 for frequent crude and sexual content, partial nudity, brief drug references and language- 2011) (Netflix)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World - What's the website for

After spending most of his directorial career working with his friends Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Edgar Wright comes out with his first movie without either one of his go-to stars in the graphic novel adapted "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." While it's not as sharp as his previous two movies (Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead), it's still a geektastic, comedic thrill ride through the world of indie/nerd culture.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The WorldScott Pilgrim is dating a high school girl. He's in between jobs and lives with (and effectively contributes nothing to) his friend Wallace. So, to Scott, things seem to be going pretty good until he meets the girl of his dreams (literally) in Ramona Flowers. But, in order to date Ramona he's going to have to defeat her seven evil exes.

"Scott Pilgrim..." is one of the most visually appealing movies of the year chock full of visualized sound effects, dream sequences and crazy video game style fights. This movie is for anyone who has either enjoyed Wright's previous works or is an avid video game player, comic book reader or just straight pop culture aficionado. Or, if you read between the lines: nerd. But, I that's not to say everyone else will dislike it. At it's surface, the movie is a funny, highly exaggerated and over-the-top take on the romantic comedy with a lot more focus on the comedy.
(112 minutes - Rated PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references - 2010) (Netflix)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Easy Schmucks

Well, the movies are starting to come in quickly so I'm doing my best to watch and review them and get it posted. The latest batch is a pretty decent group that offer some good laughs and stories that, while not entirely original, are still enjoyable. I actually have about 3-4 other movies already rated, but the reviews aren't quite ready so I'll get you started with these two reviews that are:

Dinner For Schmucks - (3 Stars)*
The idea, taken from another foreign movie, is that Tim (Paul Rudd) wants to move up in his company. In order to do so, he must find and bring an idiot to a dinner in order to impress his boss. However, his girlfriend is not to keen on this idea. So, Tim is stuck until he runs into Barry (Steve Carell). What follows is one awkward moment after the other as Barry slides his way into every aspect of Tim's life.

Dinner for SchmucksThe movie is decently funny, with many lines that are definitely quotable. But, it's not going to go down as the funniest movie of 2010. With that being said, I found myself more enjoying Tim and Barry's journey. It's a pretty typical "by numbers" type of character growth, but it's still enjoyable because of the outcomes. Carell plays well off of Rudd's Tim with his sometimes endearing oft-times annoying Barry.

Overall, "Dinner for Schmucks" is just a fun movie that has you rooting for the poor unwitting idiots brought to dinner by the real schmucks: the business executives.
(114 minutes - Rated PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language - 2010) (Netflix)

Easy A - (3 Stars)
Emma Stone stars as the smart, witty Olive Penderghast who has problems being noticed at school until a rumor about her losing her virginity is circulated around the school. Realizing the benefits, she begins to perpetuate the rumors in order to help herself and others succeed. However, she quickly learns that there are consequences to her choices.
Easy A
The movie starts out rather quickly and with a good amount of laughs. Stone is a natural as the verbose, well-read teen. It makes it very easy to root for her as she goes about the school. Perhaps the funniest parts involve her parents, played wonderfully by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson. However, things get a bit tired after awhile when the film doesn't really seem to know where to go with itself. I found myself enjoying most of the movie up until the ending, which seemed a bit anti-climactic.
(92 minutes - Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material - 2010) (Netflix)