Synopsis: Passengers aboard a flight across the Pacific Ocean encounter a supernatural force.
Release Date: August 31, 2012
Thoughts: OK…remember last week in my discussion of the Lock-Out trailer that I’m a sucker for films set in outer space? Directly behind that is my love of films involving airplanes. It’s strange that for someone with a fear of flying should be so drawn to films surrounding flights in peril but I guess that’s what makes me me.
Directed by Takashi Shimizu who gave us the original Japanese and American versions of The Grudge, I think this is a nice little trailer for a film that looks to be a spooky ride. An attractive bunch of young Hollywood-ers are the staff/passengers of this flight and I’m totally sold. Yeah, yeah, this one may have a bit of trouble on take-off and could have a bumpy landing but maybe having a little drink to calm you down before will add to the enjoyment. OK…enough of the flying analogies…take a peek.
Synopsis: Unemployed and newly-divorced Stephanie Plum lands a job at her cousin’s bail-bond business, where her first assignment puts her on the trail of a wanted local cop from her romantic past.
Stars: Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, Sherri Shepherd, Debbie Reynolds, John Leguizamo
Director: Julie Anne Robinson
Running Length: 106 minutes
Random Crew Highlight: Photo Double (Jason O’Mara) ~ Benjamin Jeran McGinn
TMMM Score: (3/10)
Review: Well, Heigl is absolutely on a roll. With the delayed release of One for the Money, she’s 5 for 5 when it comes to bad movies she has headlined. New Year’s Eve, Killers, Life as We Know It, and The Ugly Truth were stinkers and Heigl has effectively ix-nayed her movie star status that was hinted at with Knocked Up. I feel that her problem is that she doesn’t realize she’s playing the wrong kind of characters. I don’t see her as the romantic/comedic lead that she seems desperate to mold herself into. She’s not the Julia Roberts character in Pretty Woman…she’s the saleslady that doesn’t let her shop on Rodeo Drive.
This failure to recognize her niche is on full display as she takes on Stephanie Plum, the popular central character in Janet Evanonvich’s series of novels following unlikely bounty hunter Plum as she finds herself in increasingly dangerous situations. The books are fun and frothy with an abundance of wink-wink/nudge-nudge style that has made them so successful. Capturing that onscreen evades nearly everything and everyone that is on display in the adaptation of Plum’s first outing. The worst part is, I think a successful movie could have been made of the novel but it probably would have worked even better on the small screen. Perhaps Heigl should have parlayed her star status into creating a great television vehicle for herself but instead she shoots for the moon and hits a weeping willow.
The movie is so light that it nearly floats away. From the Bond meets First Wives Club style opening credits the film tries so hard to get the tone of the book that it ends up feeling cartoonish. Heigl’s barely there Jersey accent is only available when it has the chance to get a laugh and it’s especially out of place while hanging out with her family who lay the accent on thick. She’s supported in the film by a lot of familiar faces that get lost in the shuffle. Debra Monk has a few nice scenes as Plum’s mom and Reynolds shows up for a bit but is soon totally forgotten. I wouldn’t doubt that she had more in the film but was cut so as not to further upstage the leading lady. Thankfully, Shepherd and Ryan Michelle Bathe get enough screen time as a pair of sassy hookers so the audience at least gets to experience a few smiles/laughs…but they too vanish in a hurry. Leading man O’Mara has been good on the small screen in the little seen Life on Mars and there is some chemistry between he and Heigl but their wordplay never really lands.
The more I think about this the more I see what potential this could have had as a series. Nearly everyone involved in the movie from director Robinson to Heigl to the screenwriters have all come from TVLand and it shows in the product they have given us. If only they didn’t dream quite so big we may have had a breezy series that could service the talents of all involved. It’s a wasted effort that might make for a good rental but is best to avoid plunking down money (or Groupons) for.
Synopsis: A fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life, in which the poet pursues a serial killer whose murders mirror those in the writer’s stories.
Release Date: April 27th, 2012
Thoughts: Coming across as a mixture of Sherlock Holmes, Zodiac and The Silence of the Lambs, the trailer for The Raven is received with open arms by this viewer. John Cusack is a consistently interesting actor with a good gut instinct for movies that have resonance. The last thriller he did, Identity, was fascinating in my book and I’m anticipating more good things from this thriller. Directed by James McTeigue who gave us the flawed but dazzling V for Vendetta, from the looks of it The Raven will provide some nice twists and atmosphere.
Thank you for voting in my last poll! A review of In the Heat of the Night will be forthcoming.
Even me, a die-hard movie fan, has a list of movies they are ashamed to admit they either haven’t seen or don’t remember seeing. I’m not going to air all my shameful misses now…but here are three that I sincerely regret not seeing.
You hold the cards (or remote, if you will)…let your vote be counted!
Voting is open until next Sunday (February 5) and please leave a comment as to why you chose what you chose 🙂
To cap off an especially lazy weekend, we have a nice little awards show on tonight.
I’ve always been a particular fan of The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards due to the fact that they retain some of the glitz and glam of The Oscar while keeping their tongues planted firmly in cheek. This is really a ceremony for actors by actors and it shines through every year. I like how they go into the audience and have random stars give their reasons why they are proud to be a member of SAG. Some are funny, some are poignant…but all are interesting.
While actors nominate the acting awards for the Oscars, the Academy as a whole votes for the final winners. Here, members of SAG are nominated and voted on by their peers…which is why many winners say how much this particular award means to them.
As to who will win? I’m thinking the winners are going to stick pretty close to the awards that have already been given out this year. I’d love a few shockers but it’s been a good year for acting/ensembles so all truly are winners.
Here are the nominees for tonight…I’ve underlined who I think will walk away the winner.
Synopsis: In small town Alaska, a news reporter recruits his ex-girlfriend – a Greenpeace volunteer – on a campaign to save a family of gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle.
Stars: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, Dermot Mulroney
Director: Ken Kwapis
Running Length: 107 minutes
Random Crew Highlight: Alaska Transportation Captain – Peter Kalamarides
TMMM Score: (3.5/10)
Review: In 1988, I was a tad young to remember the national headlines that inspired this movie. Between episodes of Muppet Babies and He-Man my exposure to the nightly news was limited to, well, never. So going into Big Miracle I was aware of the situation but not to how big of a story it actually was. It’s a pity, then, that the story that captured the world has become a movie that makes the audience feel like they are the ones stuck in the ice.
The review just can’t begin until we get Barrymore out of the way. For an earthy actress that has been in the business for so long it’s amazing that she can’t pull off playing a Greenpeace volunteer. Now I like Barrymore but to say she’s out-acted by an animatronic whale isn’t accurate…she’s out-acted by THREE animatonic whales. Even without Barrymore baby-talking her way through inane political dialogue, we would know she’s a Greenpeace volunteer because, y’know, she has unkempt hair, wears lots of frumpy clothes, and cries at the mere mention of an environmental issue. It’s a weak performance that nearly submerges the whole film. When she suits up and goes underwater to get a closer look at the whales I secretly hoped the film would change genres and have the whale gobble her up.
Barrymore isn’t the only culprit here. By now I think it’s time we all admit that Bell is no movie actress. Like Barrymore’s character, we know Bell is a news reporter because she wears tailored (80’s) suits and has big reporter hair. Acting with no motivation or purpose, Bell never lands on an arc for her character. We don’t know if she’s a good guy or a bad guy – to not settle on one or the other is frustrating to watch. Also frustrating to watch are some dreadful performances by some local extras and Vinessa Shaw as a White House aide. We know she’s a White House aide because…oh never mind…you know where this is going.
There is some good news. Krasinki makes for an affable semi-leading man…even though he’s basically playing a similar version of the character he plays on The Office. He works easily off of everyone else in the film and his delivery is pretty spot-on. I’d like to see him play a darker character one of these days but for this film he is serviceable. Danson and Mulroney are willing mouthpieces for the environmental agenda that soaks each scene and plot device but the characters appear almost as afterthoughts.
That’s the big problem with the movie. The central story revolves around the whales and everything else is in direct service to them. No matter then that full storylines are dropped, characters are forgotten, and things happen just…because. Without spoiling too much…there is actually a family of four characters the film keeps coming back to that are never explained or even named. I know they are there representing “the worldwide audience” as a whole but for all the time that the film cuts back to them I wonder if the filmmakers simply forgot to include a wrap up.
Director Kwapis never can decide on a theme of his project even though “Save the Whales” is the overreaching battle cry from opening credit to closing scroll. It all begins to weigh the film down and feel like a two hour ad for Greenpeace. I’m all for environmental protection but when it’s handed to us in ham-fisted ways like this it’s hard to swallow. And that’s too bad because I think there was a decent film waiting to be made. The opening moments have elements of mythology and tribal pride/history and I couldn’t help but thinking back to the fantastic Whale Rider when these moments would pop up. That film used the tribal mythology as its core and let the story flow freely from that. Were Big Miracle film to have cut out about 15 extra characters and really told the story rather than use the events as a jumping off platform for a political statement, I think it would have been more successful.
Synopsis: A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates.
Release Date: April 20th, 2012
Thoughts: If there is one type of movie that I’m an absolute sucker for, it’s any film set in space. This has opened the door to my viewing of some pretty great films and a whole slew of schlocky bombs. I’m not expecting much from Lock-Out (originally titled MS One: Maximum Security for its international run) but there’s a nice Escape from NY vibe to this that has me more than a little interested. Not so interesting to me? The leads. I’ve found Maggie Grace to be a little more than window dressing and Guy Pearce hasn’t lived up to his original potential from the late 90’s/early 2000’s.
The French production company that financed this movie led Taken and The Transporter to huge success and both of those were enjoyable B-movies. Filmed in Serbia, the production values on this look more expensive than its 30 million dollar budget so I’ll surely give this one a chance when its released in April.
Synopsis: A car accident puts Paige in a coma, and when she wakes up with severe memory loss, her husband Leo works to win her heart again.
Stars: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange, Scott Speedman
Director: Michael Sucsy
Running Length: 104 minutes
Random Crew Highlight: Costume Cutter – Nancy Coulson-Dasilva
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: Are you familiar with the scene in many a movie that I refer to as the ‘Rock Star Parking’ scene? You know what I’m talking about. The lead actor/actress is shopping/dining in a busy part of town and they just happen to find a parking spot directly in front of the location they are headed. They find this parking for no other reason than the movie dictates it. It doesn’t further the plot, it doesn’t flesh out the characters. It just happens.
That’s largely how one could describe The Vow after making it through nearly two hours of this “inspired by true events” movie showing people that don’t exist in reality. That it’s inspired by true events bears no weight on any of the proceedings…a quick title card and picture at the end show us a couple that probably never imagined they would be played by actors such as Tatum and McAdams.
If we are to buy into movies like this we must be invested in our two leads and unfortunately McAdams and especially Tatum are nowhere near up to the task. McAdams seems to be distracted (probably wishing she’d just made The Notebook 2 and closed the book on her romantic dramedy career) and Tatum is called on to act way more than his range allows him to. It’s pretty bad when our lead actress has more sparks with her ex-fiancée (Speedman) than her husband that she can’t seem to remember after a well-filmed car wreck leaves her with amnesia. If Speedman and Tatum had swapped roles we may have had a movie to talk about…but he’s left with a half baked character that is inserted into scenes when Tatum and McAdams need extra tension.
For a woman that just comes out of a serious car crash and head injury, McAdams is remarkably perky from the moment she opens her eyes. I want to go to whatever hospital she was in if I’m ever in a head on collision (knock on wood) because aside from the whole amnesia business, she’s up and at ‘em in no time flat. Tatum does a lot of pouting and posing as he grasps at struggling to realize that the earthy, free-spirited woman he fell in love with and married doesn’t know him or remember their life together. McAdams misses some choice opportunity to give the character some journey to go on…instead she comes off as cold, callous, and unworthy of Tatum’s repeated attempts to help her memory.
Director Sucsy is helming his first theatrical motion picture after the nice success of the television movie of Grey Gardens. He ports over Lange from that film and it seems he didn’t give her time to take off the majority of her Big Edie make-up. I love Lange (she deserves every accolade for her tremendous work in FX’s American Horror Story) but here she looks pretty frightening. She’s playing against type here in a role that’s fairly beneath her. Neil brings zilch to the table and appears to be wishing he had a dinosaur or two to climb on. The rest of the cast is littered with forgettable people playing Tatum and McAdams friends and family…one only wishes we could forget most of their earnest “look at me, Ma, I’m in a movie” performances. The only standout is Tatiana Maslany who turns in the single performance with any sort of authenticity as a business partner of Tatum’s.
Releasing just in time for Valentine’s Day I’m sure this film will attract devotees of romantic flicks and their boyfriends. With so many better choices out there, it would be a shame to plunk your money down for a weak effort like this. Choose another film and let that unspool as this one (hopefully) fades from movie cinema memories.
Synopsis: A gardener in East L.A. struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents while trying to give him the opportunities he never had.
Stars: Demián Bichir, José Julián
Director: Chris Weitz
Running Length: 97 minutes
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: It’s not hard to see why there was a big grassroots effort to get Bichir an Oscar nomination for his role in A Better Life. It has all the makings of a performance that the Academy likes to take under its wing. I had heard buzz about a nomination for him being an upset so I wasn’t too shocked to see his name come up first when the Oscar noms were announced. Of course A Better Life was one of two movies nominated for major awards that I hadn’t seen so I snagged a copy from Redbox and had a look. The results were disappointing to say the least. Bichir is good, don’t get me wrong, but how a nomination for him bested Michael Fassbender in Shame or Ryan Gosling in Drive (I would have even said Leo DiCaprio in J. Edgar was robbed…but that movie was so bland that I can’t blame the Academy for ignoring it) is beyond me.
The performance of Birchir is the only noteworthy thing about this exceedingly ordinary film. I found it to be a pretty heavy handed affair that continually deluges the viewer with images meant to invoke sympathy. The problem with that is when the audience recognizes they are being manipulated to feel a certain way, sooner or later they will rebel against it. The immigration angle has been done to death in not only films like this but television news specials that are far better and more insightful. The muddled gang storyline is ripped straight from multiple shows on TNT or Law and Order and the “will he or won’t he join” question is asked and answered fairly quickly. The only arc that hooked me was the interaction between father and son…but even these fleeting scenes were presented in such a saccharine and Hallmark-y way that it took away from overall emotion intended.
Director Weitz doesn’t like to be tied down in any genre…starting with American Pie and moving through About a Boy to The Golden Compass and Twilight: New Moon he clearly has some range of film scale. Here his film comes across as more of a Public Service Announcement about immigration and illegal aliens than it does about a father trying to get on track. Birchir’s performance is almost squelched by a lot of nonsense (and he’s not helped by Julián’s rote performance as his son) but he does his best work with no dialogue at all. Of the many obstacles he has to overcome, what he conjures up in his weathered face shines a bright light in a grey kind of movie.
If you are an Oscar completist you either have seen or will see this film to check off having seen Birchir’s role…but to everyone else I’d say skip this. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before and there are more rewarding options out there.
Ah…this is one day I look forward to every year. I can’t remember the last time I missed watching the Oscar nominations live on television. Back in the day 7:30 seemed so early and crazy dark that it felt like a special occasion. Now that I’m a “grown-up”, watching them live actually made me a little late for work 🙂
Even if I think I know who will be nominated for an Oscar I am always surprised by something. I do get goosebumps when they start to announce the names/titles of who are the lucky nominees of the year. While the Oscars are pretty political when you get right down to it, there’s something about the prestige and history of the awards ceremony that I can’t get enough of.
The full list of nominees is here but I wanted to go through my initial reactions in my update for today. Over the next few weeks I’m going to delve deeper into these categories and highlight some movies/performances you need to see before the big day. Also…check out my entry detailing the movies you need to see before Oscar night…they are pretty spot-on.
Here we go…are you ready?
Best Picture: (I’ve seen all 9 of the movies nominated)
The Artist (The Weinstein Company), Thomas Langmann, Producer The Descendants (Fox Searchlight Pictures), Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Warner Bros. Pictures), Scott Rudin, Producer The Help (Touchstone Pictures), Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers Hugo, Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics), Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers Moneyball (Columbia Pictures), Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight Pictures), Nominees to be determined War Horse (DreamWorks Pictures), Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
OK…so I finally was understanding why they moved from 5 nominees to 10…but this year we knew beforehand that anywhere between 5 and 10 films would be nominated. This year the number turned out to be…9. Why they couldn’t do a solid 8 or full scale 10 is a little strange — even though the final list wasn’t a huge shock…there are still some interesting choices.
The year belongs to The Artist and while I liked The Descendants better both are ideal candidates for a Best Picture win. I’m leaning toward The Artist if I were a betting man — it embodies Hollywood’s Golden Age and while it is touched with melancholy it’s much more lighthearted fare than The Descendants. Not taking anything away from the beauty of The Artist but I was more moved by the family at the center of The Descendants.
As for the other nominees, I enjoyed The Tree of Life but the polarizing nature of that movie is visceral. I’ve met people who had teeth-gnashing disdain for Terrence Malick’s strange movie but the more I think about it and analyze it, the more it makes a lot of sense. Moneyball and War Horse are critical favorites but don’t stand much of a chance here. Hugo has a lot of steam behind it but I’ve a feeling it won’t get itself into the Oscar station. Midnight in Paris is a fun little movie and Woody Allen’s biggest hit in years — it deservedly earns a spot here. The Help was a blockbuster (that for some reason people were surprised was as big of a hit as it was…the movie had everything going for it) but it’s performances were the real selling point here.
While I loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, this was clearly the shocker of the list. Reviews have been mixed (not mine!) and it’s failure to gain nominations in other award ceremonies didn’t bode well for it. I’m glad it’s included here.
Still…it all comes down to The Artist or The Descendants…and I’ve a feeling that the little silent film that could will be holding Oscar gold.
Best Director: (I’ve seen all five movies nominated)
No real shockers in this category…with the possible omission of Steven Spielberg for War Horse. The nomination would have been a courtesy anyway so it’s best that Malick took his place.
Usually the Best Picture/Best Director winners go hand in hand so Michel Hazanavicius should win it for The Artist.
Best Actor: (Oscar always slips one in on me…I’ve seen four of these performances)
Demián Bichir in “A Better Life”
George Clooney in “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin in “The Artist”
Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”
The nomination of Demián Bichir for A Better Life is not from out of left field as you may imagine. There has been a strong campaign for his work in the film and the nomination is quite similar to Javier Bardem’s surprise nomination for Biutiful last year. I’ve yet to see this movie (review coming soon) but from what I’ve heard it’s a deserved nomination. Unfortunately, that put Ryan Gosling out in the cold. The actor had a great year and could have snagged a nomination for his work in The Ides of March or the superior Drive…but after being snubbed for Blue Valentine last year it’s another year at home for Gosling.
A surprise snub here was Michael Fassbender for Shame. Gary Oldman’s understated turn in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy probably edged out Fassbender which is a…for lack of a better word, shame. As good as Oldman was in the movie, Fassbender was better.
Much like the directing and acting categories…this will come down to Dujardin or Clooney.
Best Actress: (I’ve seen four of these performances)
Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis in “The Help”
Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn”
Undoubtedly the surprise here was Rooney Mara’s nomination for her take no prisoners performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Worthy of a nomination, it does make me sad that Charlize Theron in Young Adult and Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin were passed over. Swinton especially had a lot of push going into today so to come out without a nomination was a disappointment.
Glenn Close’s performance is one I’m seeing this week and I’m happy to see her up here. It’s too bad that she’s nominated against Streep and Davis…one of whom will surely take the award. Odds are on Streep but don’t be shocked if Davis is picking up the award. As much as Streep wants to win it, I secretly think she wants Davis to win it more and that may be the deciding edge when voters are considering who they choose.
Best Supporting Actor: (I’ve seen all five of these performances)
Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn”
Jonah Hill in “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte in “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”
Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
The supporting categories are always the most fun and the most ripe for upsets. This year, I think these categories are already locked up with Plummer in line to take home his first Oscar. He may have some competition from Nolte’s powerful turn and Von Sydow’s lovely work. I just don’t think, though, that Plummer’s excellent work will be ignored (nor should it).
The snub here was for Albert Brooks in Drive. I kind of choke when I hear that Hill will now be able to add “Oscar Nominee” before his name but he wasn’t too bad in his nominated film…he wasn’t better than Brooks though.
Best Supporting Actress: (I’ve seen four of these performances)
Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain in “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer in “The Help”
Let’s get the snub right out of the way…Shailene Woodley was robbed of a nomination for The Descendants and that’s really a bummer. Going toe-to-toe with Clooney while creating a nuanced and interesting teenager is no small feat and she rose to that challenge. It was a heart-breaker for me to see her name missing from this list. As much as I loved Chastain in everything she did this year, a nomination for The Help isn’t what I would have gone with.
Going into today, this was Spencer’s award to lose. I still think she’ll take Oscar gold but don’t count out McCarthy just yet. I favor Spencer’s performance but what McCarthy did what that role is what Oscar upsets are made of. When I saw Bridesmaids the day it opened back in May I said to myself “She’s going to get an Oscar nomination for this movie”…and I was right 🙂 Does she deserve to win? Not over Spencer but I wouldn’t be totally sorry to see it happen.
I loved seeing two foreign films competing for the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar. In years past they’ve stuck us with some pretty lame movies nominated here…this makes/keeps things interesting.
I was happy to see Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo get nominated for Bridesmaids which could be an upset win. If an Affleck/Damon combo won this award previously, why can’t too funny ladies win it too?
The cinematography nominations are spot-on. All five did wonderful work and are deservedly recognized.
Only TWO songs are nominated this year for Best Original Song. When your choices are tunes from Rio and The Muppets you know there is a problem in this category. The rules for this category are pretty cruddy which disqualified many valued contributions.
The Documentary Short Subject, Short Film (Animated) and Short Film (Live Action) were categories we used to just guess at. This year I look forward to seeing them all in their showings at The Riverview of The Lagoon. Serious movie-goers will make sure to catch these…it just may help your overall office pool 🙂
That’s it for now friendly readers…I’ll be going into more detail about the nominations in the coming weeks as we lead up to Oscars Big Night.