5 Things to Watch at The Oscars

neil-patrick-harris-oscars-02092015-600x450It’s about time the awards season wrapped up. Since the arrival of the new year, it feels like every Sunday has been dominated by a three-hour plus ceremony, from the good (Golden Globes) to the tedious (Grammys). Even this past weekend’s SNL40 celebration had the feel of an award show, stretching out over three and a half hours and with more celebrity appearances than most red carpet blowouts.

Fortunately or not, the season culminates at 8:30 p.m. Sunday night with the 87th Academy Awards, usually the best and always the most significant awards ceremony.

This year’s event could have a number of intriguing elements so here are five things to look out for on Sunday night.

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Top 10 Films of 2014

BoyhoodNo one could make a convincing argument 2014 was an outstanding year for films. That’s not to say it didn’t feature several outstanding films, but piecing together a top 10 list was much more difficult than it might have been in 2013 and would’ve been literally impossible if the output from the last three months of the year was not included.

Much of the year in film catered toward blockbuster action films and sequels, a trend that will continue through the forseeable future. Modern Hollywood is on the precipice of a major turning point. As in years past, the list of top box office performers was littered with new franchises and sequels.  With 25 sequels in various franchises scheduled to be released in 2015 and the film branches of Marvel and DC unveiling plans for numerous franchises and sequels over the next five years, we’re entering deeper into a world where studios bankroll projects that require the absolute least amount of risk. That’s not to say some of these films aren’t well done, but for every “X-Men: Days of Future Past” or “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” there are 10 variations on the mindless drivel Michael Bay produces. Continue reading

Interstellar is Visually Impressive, But Ultimately Disappoints

interstellarfilm5For more than 30 years, the gold standard for directors with vision, imagination and the ability to create compelling worlds that transport the viewer was Steven Spielberg. “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” are just a few of his most memorable creations over the years.

In the last 20 years or so, Spielberg has veered away from more fantastical subject matter to making films like “War Horse” or “Lincoln,” leaving it up to younger filmmakers to follow in his footsteps.

Probably the best young visionary directors today are J.J. Abrams and Christopher Nolan. Nolan drew attention with smaller films, like “Memento” and “Insomnia,” but it was his reboot of the “Batman” films that established him as a one of the most formidable talents in Hollywood. Not content with simply remaking the films, Nolan reimagined the “Batman” series by taking a more realistic look at what the world would look like if a city was protected by a masked vigilante. The second film, “The Dark Knight,” is probably the greatest action film of the 2000s and its sequel, “The Dark Knight Rises,” is not far behind.

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David Fincher’s Gone Girl Lives Up to the Hype

Gone GirlGillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was an immediate sensation when it was released in the summer of 2012, spending eight weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list and permeating the culture in the way few books do anymore.

Part of its popularity likely stems from it very much being a novel of our time, touching on the media’s penchant for sensationalizing crime while also asking relevant questions about male-female relationships and whether we can ever really know the people with whom we choose to spend our lives.

Almost immediately it became clear the novel would be ripe for a cinematic adaptation, which finally arrived this past weekend in theaters around the country. Continue reading

Movie Review: “This Is Where I Leave You” is good, but leaves you wanting more

1“This Is Where I Leave You” has everything that it needs to succeed: an amazing cast, a director with a comedy track record, a successful novel at it’s root, and a dysfunctional plot that seems to equate with today’s movie-viewing populace. On one hand, the movie turned out to be one that I enjoyed. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel as though there was more left on the table.

Before I get to the review, if you haven’t read Jonathan Tropper’s book of the same name, make sure you make the trip to your nearest bookstore and take the time to do so. It’s a fantastically written book, full of nuances and character development that you just can’t match in a two-hour movie. The fact that Tropper wrote the screen-play certainly helped, but reading the book will help fill in the holes that the movie inevitably had. Perhaps that was my fatal flaw with the movie in the end, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the two hours I spent watching this phenomenal ensemble cast do what they do. Continue reading

2014 Fall Movie Preview

Contrary to the opinions of some, theFOXCATCHER beginning of fall offers little reason for enthusiasm. The weather gets colder, the days are shorter and the days of endlessly scrapping ice off your car’s windshield are coming fast.

One positive though is we’re entering the point on the calendar where if you’re a film fan, this is the time of year to get excited. For nearly as long as the film industry has existed, the fall and winter months have been when studios role out the best they have to offer, mostly in the hopes of staying fresh in the minds of award voters.

There are of course instances of films being released earlier in the year and still gaining Academy Award attention, but it’s very difficult for a film to stay fresh in people’s minds when it’s released in May and nominations aren’t released until January. Since 2005, only 14 of 67 films nominated for Best Picture were released before September and only two of those films (2005’s “Crash” and 2009’s “The Hurt Locker”) went on to win the big prize.

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Boyhood: The First Great Film of 2014

Boyhood

Late in “Boyhood”, Ellar Coltrane’s teenage Mason is looking for purpose when he asks his father, played by Ethan Hawke, “What’s the point, of anything? Everything?” Hawke’s character, Mason Sr., can only chuckle, “Everything? I sure as shit don’t know. Neither does anybody else”

Questions of life’s meaning and the directions our lives take are deep at the heart of “Boyhood,” a nearly three-hour film from writer/director Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused, “School of Rock”, “Before Sunrise”) that is by far the best of the year thus far.

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Robin Williams, The Sad Clown

Robin-Williams-from-Good-Will-Hunting-1024x555I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve developed a habit where I need to watch TV in bed before going to sleep each night. I don’t always last too long, but I’m still unable to simply climb into bed and go right to sleep.

Last week I used that time to put in my DVD of “Good Will Hunting,” which I saw in the theater in 1997 but hadn’t watched in a few years. The film is notable as being the breakout moment for stars/co-writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who won an Original Screenplay Oscar for their work. It also features an Oscar-winning performance from Robin Williams in a dramatic turn that was a departure from his usual comedic roles.

The irony of choosing to watch this particular film hit me as I was driving home from Cincinnati  Monday evening when the radio DJ announced between songs, her voice breaking, that Williams had died earlier in the day from an apparent suicide at age 63.

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“Guardians of the Galaxy” and the Summer Film Industry

Guardians Of The Galaxy Movie 2014 HD WallpaperIn the summer of 1975, a little-known director named Steven Spielberg released a film called “Jaws” that created the template for the modern blockbuster. Two summers later his buddy George Lucas premiered “Star Wars”, and we all know how that turned out.

Those two films created the blueprint for the future of the popular film industry. Before the mid 1970s, films were released when they were ready to be released and unless they were expected to be an Oscar contender, little thought was given to strategizing their premiere.

Films like “Jaws” and “Star Wars” changed all that by showing that the summer months were prime real estate for studios to release expensive action-packed “tentpole” films they could hang their collective hats on to make a ton of money and ensure they stay in the black for the rest of the year. Continue reading

Michael Bay and The Way We Watch Movies

So it’s Friday night and you’re checking the Cinemark app to see what is playing at your local theater.

How do you decide what you want to watch or go see?

How do you judge what you think would appeal to you?

Do you base your decision on word of mouth, critical buzz of a film, or are there just certain types/genres of film that appeal to you above all else? Or are there some other factor that comes into play? Continue reading