h1

2010 Preview – Movies to Watch For in 2010, Part 1 of 6

January 31, 2010

If there’s anything I learned from my original 2009 predictions, it’s that, 75% of the time, the movies you anticipate the most end up disappointing you the most and the movies you never expected to stand out much end up surprising you completely. So while the next six articles on the subject are devoted to previewing the upcoming year in film and predicting the good and the bad, things will most likely not go as planned. And when do they? Well, yeah, when a project comes up with Martin Scorsese directing a modern Boston mob drama starring Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, and Mark Wahlberg, it’s kinda destined to be a brilliant piece of awesomeness. But generally, movies sound a lot better during production than they end up playing out on the big screen on release night.

THE VIRTUOSO’S LAW OF PREDICTING THE QUALITY OF FILMS:

  • Section A — If a movie sounds too good to be true, then it will be nowhere near as good as you expect. (True exactly 91.4% of the time. Negated if the film is directed by either Christopher Nolan or David Fincher, at which point you can rest assured it will be amazing.)
  • Section B — If the plot of a movie seems to make absolutely no sense and sounds as if it would be the most boring concept ever, it’ll win an Oscar. Probably more than one. (True exactly 87.5% of the time. Unless, of course, it sounds like a film you might even possibly enjoy. Then, all bets are off on the whole winning an Oscar thing. In fact, the Academy will probably ignore it completely at that point.)
  • Section C — If a movie sounds like complete crap, give it a chance. If you expect nothing, you have the best odds of being surprised. And it’s these films that tend to surprise the most.

This preview is more of an attempt to make readers more aware of upcoming projects than it is a valid source of predictions. In fact, I hope that not all 42 movies that I’ll be anticpitating my anticipation for in this article are half as deserving of my anticipation as I’m anticipating. Because if all 42 were great, how much harder would it be for me to decide on a top 10 list in 12 months? Yeah, that’s right. I’m the guy who hopes to be disappointed by at least 32 films this year just so it’s that much easier to populate my top ten list at the end of the year. That’s a lazy “critic” thinking ahead for ya. I know, I know… I’m brilliant. Please. Save your praise for the comments.

But I digress. Bottom line… Don’t let my predictions sway your opinions about the quality of these films before you see them. Or at least until you see the trailer. UNLESS, of course, I really sound like I know what I’m talking about. At which point, I probably actually know the least about what I’m saying, but in some ironic twist of fate, I’ll end up being completely right. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen far too many times to give up on the theory now.

Anyway, let’s get on with it all… before you realize how much I’m actually discouraging you to read the rest of this potentially useless article. Read on for part 1 of 6 in this preview. Expect subsequent parts in the near future.

Read the rest of this entry »

h1

REVIEW: The Lovely Bones (2009)

January 26, 2010

The Lovely Bones is quite a complicated film that can best be described in quite simple terms: a cinematic mess. Perhaps unfair expectations were placed upon the project because of Peter Jackson’s past work, but his effort on this one seems to be considerably less apparent. Nearly everything about the film’s structure and execution seems to fall apart at some point and almost the only thing about it worthy of significant praise is its vivid and colorful visuals, which don’t even seem to fit in or provide much purpose to begin with. And in the end, sadly, this film, that originally seemed like it had such potential, ends up virtually nowhere and leaves the viewer considerably unsatisfied.

The story is a unique tale of a young girl’s murder and the aftermath, including her family’s subsequent emotional breakdown, her father’s relentless search for the murderer, and her journeys through the odd, colorful limbo she’s trapped inside of until both she and her family willingly move on. The story is accompanied by quite an impressive cast and crew list. As mentioned before, Peter Jackson directs with his usual writing crew- Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong)- who took on the responsibility of adapting Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel of the same name. British breakout star Saoirse Ronan plays the protagonist, 14 year-old murder victim Susie Salmon. Mark Wahlberg plays her obsessive father, Stanley Tucci is the creepy and deceptive killer, Rachel Weisz plays Susie’s mother, and Susan Sarandon takes on the role of the eccentric grandmother who provides comic relief in the way she manages to down at least one sip of alcohol in almost every scene she’s in.

And while the story is certainly unique and the cast list makes one hopeful, something just doesn’t go right in the execution of it all. The pace jumps around far too often for the viewer to keep up, the tone never seems to officially establish itself and stay consistent in any way, and the dialogue is simply dreadful at times. The acting potential was certainly present and Saoirse Ronan, Wahlberg, and Tucci all seemed to provide strong efforts, but they received no assistance from the script whatsoever. In fact, the consistently bad dialogue and frequently changing atmosphere seem to bring down the performances and make everything seem too over-dramatic– an unfortunate result of such potential. As a whole, the film just seemed to try too hard to be too much.

The film’s focus is all over the place and at certain times, within a span of just five minutes, it might switch between the perspectives of three or four different characters. And while the film is certainly long enough to take on such a feat of presenting multiple important characters to the audience, it never quite manages to do so in a substantial way. Instead, the movie ends with none of the several major characters completely developing and the audience walks away with no true care for any of them. And this is perhaps the film’s biggest problem– it never does appear to know just what it is trying to accomplish. Even if it does prove to be even slightly emotionally engaging, it’s not without odd and out-of-place scenes every other couple of minutes. Focus frequently switches from Susie Salmon’s fantasy-like encounters in limbo to her father’s desperate attempts to find his daughter’s killer to the comedic acts of the grandmother to the sudden dramatic breakdown and exodus of the mother. Perhaps the editing is partly to blame as well, but it’s hard to believe that a film crew can’t find a way to use 2 hours and 16 minutes to evolve and develop a couple of characters without throwing too much at the viewer in each couple of minutes. It seems half-hearted and incomplete.

Adding to the jumble and confusion, each character’s short-term and long-term conflicts seemed, at times, unclear. In fact, much of the time our supposed “main character” spent her time standing around in the beautiful limbo that’s been so carefully crafted (perhaps too carefully), not doing anything apart from giving narration that sounds like poorly written spiritual poetry from the Victorian era that eventually amounts to nothing and seems like filler. In a similar fashion, I think it’s fair to say that the entire movie came off as a pretentious “artistic” film that no one understands and that the filmmakers are apparently too brilliant to have to clearly explain. One may argue that the audience isn’t supposed “to understand” it all. “But the audience is supposed to experience Susie’s confusion and share her feeling of being lost” is not a valid counterargument. There’s a fine line between captivating the audience with a world of wonder and majestic daze and leaving so much unexplained that causes them to lose interest out of boredom and confusion.

And if you ask me, on top of all of those flaws, the amazing and vibrant visuals of Susie’s “in-between” serve no purpose but to provide some indication as to where $100 million went with this film’s production. Although I haven’t read the novel, I have heard that these colorful landscapes do help to capture the tone of Sebold’s story.But Peter Jackson overuses them to the point where they simply seem out of place- as if their repetitive appearances were only meant to charm the audience into a false feeling that the film was somehow improved by them (*cough* Avatar) and to act as a constant reminder that Jackson’s team knows how to use their computers (and if you saw any of the Lord of the Rings films, let’s face it, you already knew that).

In the end, The Lovely Bones is just a mess of plenty of things that could have amounted to something but never really do due to lack of focus and development. Peter Jackson and his team should stick to epic war battles and dramatic tales of world danger.

Sorry, Peter. I really did try hard to like it.

h1

That’s a Wrap — Top Films of the Decade (2000-09)

January 24, 2010

The first decade of the 2000s has come and gone and it was certainly a game-changer for film. Epic battle action scenes and special effects saw a major rise and CGI animation became a huge part of film. Foreign films and documentaries became more successful with the general public in the U.S. and the musical and comic-book supehero genres evolved considerably. In box office charts, films from the past decade dominate the list, with only 10 of the top 50 were released in other decades. With the introduction of DVDs and Blu-Ray and the ability to pirate movies online, the 2000s have also revolutionized the film industry and the way that people obtain and watch movies. And even though the decade is over, the ongoing cinematic revolution is nowhere near it’s end.

But now the decade has passed, here’s a look at my year-by-year top movie recommendations. If there is any movie on this list you have yet to see, I strongly recommend you check it/them out. Look for a later post with a deeper look at my top 30 in an ordered list.

Read more for the lists.

Read the rest of this entry »

h1

REVIEW: The Hurt Locker (2009)

January 20, 2010

Quite easily the best movie of 2009 and the best war movie since Black Hawk Down and maybe even beyond that, The Hurt Locker does something that few other war movies seem to be able to do. Rather than focusing on rapid-action combat scenes and the oh-so-emotional mental breakdowns that all soldiers seem to dramatically endure in Hollywood (Platoon, much?), it emphasizes the relationships of soldiers and the intensity of everyday living in Iraq– intensity that doesn’t diminish when the guns are holstered. And that’s where you’ll see the real difference.

The film introduces a seemingly new and unique idea by following a U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team as they go around defusing potential bombs all around town– a concept that allows the typical fast-action war theme to take a backseat to the dramatic intensity of the three team members’ escapades and arguments. It’s all about survival and this time around, it’s the calm, isolated atmosphere and the feeling of never being truly safe that creates the ever-present suspense. The exceptional editing is partially to thank for such constant energy and pace. Quick transitions ensure that there is never a dull moment and the audience is always thrust into the middle of the action. Plus, director Kathryn Bigelow employed some amazing cinematography (thanks to Barry Ackroyd, United 93) and some of the best shaky handheld-cam and zoom work I’ve seen yet. It seems that, for some, this might be a turn-off, but personally, I believe those who complain about shaky cam need to take a closer look at its purpose and realize that it’s far more effective in establishing a documentary-like feel for raw and engaging films such as this one.

The interaction between the soldiers is a key point of the film and the entire project is clearly intended to be largely character-driven. You will more than likely find yourself sympathizing with all of the main characters at some point and several others along the way. More than just observing a character’s breakdown at the scene of war such as in films like Jarhead, The Hurt Locker immerses the viewer in the world of the characters themselves and practically forces you to care for them– and I mean that in the best way possible. And perhaps the difference is also partially distinguished by the quality of acting. And if there’s anyone who deserves recognition for their acting, it’s most certainly Jeremy Renner, who surprises with a top-notch performance as Staff Sergeant William James. His performance will have you laughing at bits of humor scattered throughout, gasping in disbelief at one point, shedding a sympathetic tear at another, and yelling at him in exasperation in yet another scene. The characters are never two-dimensional and the film always manages to provide constant reminders that all of the soldiers are just normal people in war situations, driving its purpose home even more effectively. Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty are impressive in their own roles and share great chemistry both with each other and with Renner. The relationships between the three follow no stereotyped guidelines and their interactions are almost always unpredictable. Further down the billing, Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes also give solid performances worth mentioning.

Overall, The Hurt Locker is a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through and packs a visual and cinematographic punch without the over-the-top Hollywood action scenes and special effects. While the storyline may be inaccurate when it comes to certain little details (as many war vets have noted), it’s a unique one and allows for much more realistic and well-rounded characters. You’ll walk away with your heart still beating fast for a good while after the credits roll and it’ll make you think for an even further extended period of time. Everything about its design and execution will stick with you.

h1

67th Golden Globes Preview – Television

January 17, 2010

Be sure to check out my Film Preview also for the 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards, broadcasting tonight at 8 PM EST on NBC. But here is my much less in-depth and potentially much less accurate preview of the TV side of things. More than anything, this was just for fun for me and I will honestly say I have much less insight about TV-related awards this year.

“Read more” for my predictions.

Read the rest of this entry »

h1

67th Golden Globes Preview — Film

January 17, 2010

The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards will air Sunday at 8 PM EST on NBC, officially kicking off the entertainment awards season of 2010 (for reasons that I think are pretty obvious, I refuse to include the People’s Choice Awards).

I’ve always enjoyed the Golden Globes more than just about any other awards show every year. They always seem to be less hardcore-artsy than the Oscar’s and it’s the only chance all year to see a legitimate show that balances TV and film awards. And after the great year in film that 2009 was and with a brilliant host choice like Ricky Gervais, I have high hopes for this show.

So without any further ado, here is my preview of the film section of the show complete with my predictions, my hopes, and my snub/surprise list.

Read on for the breakdown…

Read the rest of this entry »

h1

2009 Comes to a Close / Update

January 1, 2010

Well, after nearly 2 months, I’m back again. Hopefully I can be a little more consistent with my posts in the future, but hey… it WAS Christmas season, so I think I’m at least a little justified in taking so much time off. And now that I’ve lost whatever kind of reader base I didn’t have to begin with, it’s time to get BACK to work on here and at school. I’m overjoyed.

Oh and Happy New Year.

It seems like just a month or two ago that I was checking out 2009’s movie release schedule and jotting down the titles I was most interested in. If there’s one thing I can tell you about this year in film, NOTHING went the way I had expected. Well, that’s not true. Transformers 2 sucked and still made a boatload of money. Watchmen wasn’t nearly good as the trailer made it look. Angels & Demons was ALMOST as boring as the Da Vinci Code. And J.J. Abrams did an incredible job on Star Trek. Those 4 little factoids may be the only things that I expected from the get-go.

It seems that this year was a year of unexpected hits, surprise sleepers, and dissapointment. All the movies I couldn’t wait to see weren’t quite what I had expected (exception: see Star Trek). All (or at least most) of the movies I let slip under my radar were surprisingly good. And the funny thing is… The year is over now but my queue of 2009 movies to see is only half empty AKA I still have 30 movies to sit down and watch before I can make my end-of-the-year evaluations.

Until that’s complete, I thought I’d at least drop in and let WordPress know that I wasn’t dead. In the near future, expect some more reviews- many of which will be of 2009 movies, some of which I may have seen for the first time months ago- and also some opinions on the upcoming awards shows. I’ll let you all know who should win at the Golden Globe’s and who will actually win (since the two never seem to go hand in hand, in my opinion) and then I’ll give you my Oscar’s predictions. AND… I’ll give you my breakdown of the best movies of the 2000’s, which movies from 2009 you should and shouldn’t see, and a preview of the upcoming year of 2010 in film. (No doubt my expectations will be shot in the face repeatedly once again).

I can safely promise you to expect more soon.