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Movie Reviews Archives for 2016-12

Regional Media Movie Review Assassin's Creed

I cannot win with this review. I can, in my mind, already hear the voices of those who say that because I don’t like videogames I cannot appreciate a videogame movie. Then there are those who will recall the number of times I have decried the videogame movie subgenre and will also claim I went into “Assassin’s Creed” with bias. My only response to these spectral voices is believe whatever you want, Assassin’s Creed is simply not a very good movie, videogame adaptation or otherwise.

 

Michael Fassbender stars in “Assassin’s Creed” as Callum Lynch, the son of a murdered mother and a murderer father who grows up to be a killer himself. We meet the adult Callum on the day he is to be executed for what we can only assume was some sort of murder spree. The execution however, does not take and Callum wakes up in Spain where he’s been kidnapped by the Knights Templar who plan to hook Callum to a machine that can access the memories of his ancestors (just go with it).

 

Callum’s ancestors were members of an ancient order of Assassins known as the Creed. The Creed were created to battle the Knights Templar and specifically keep the Knights from getting their hands on The Apple, literally the apple taken from the tree knowledge in the Garden of Eden. For the reasons of the plot the Apple has the power to remove free will from the world and grant the Knights Templar the power to enslave humanity.

 

Through his time in the machine, called the Animus, Callum will learn the story of the Creed and will polish his assassin skills. Will he use those skills to continue his family legacy? Yeah, probably, the Knights Templar are obviously the bad guys here. Nevertheless, I will leave some mystery for you to discover if you choose to subject yourself to “Assassin’s Creed,” though I do not recommend that you do that.

 

“Assassin’s Creed” is a forgettable bad movie, not one that will leave much of any lasting impression. Michael Fassbender and co-stars Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and Michael K. Williams are all professionals who give life to the material even if it proves unworthy of the effort. Fassbender is a physical specimen whose glower certainly can petrify an enemy but he’s at a loss to overcome the CGI splattered all around him in messy edits that render every frame of “Assassin’s Creed” a minor eyesore.

 

“Assassin’s Creed” comes from Director Justin Kurzel whose adaptation of “MacBeth,” yes that “Macbeth,” also starred Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and was similarly an eyesore. At least his “MacBeth” has ambition, Kurzel’s “Assassin’s Creed,” on the other hand, feels like an attempt to appease a studio eager for a well-known product to churn into a formula franchise that creates new revenue streams and elevates stock prices.

 

Poor Michael Fassbender; he seems lost in a Hollywood that doesn’t understand his gifts. Despite that chin that could cut glass and eyes that could pierce steel, Fassbender isn’t a classic “movie star.” We, the popcorn chomping blockbuster masses, simply respect him as an actor too much to watch him act below his skill level. Sure, his version of the “X-Men” villain Magneto is well liked but we’d all hoped that was his “one for them” studio picture that would let him get back to being a real actor.

 

Instead he has stranded himself in “Assassin’s Creed” as another “one for them” movie and we are left to lament the kinds of performances he could be dedicating his time too. Quirky, wonderful indie flicks like “Frank” and “Fish Tank” gave us the Michael Fassbender we truly want while “X-Men” was supposed to be the insurance for the next “Frank” or “Fish Tank.” Now, with “Assassin’s Creed,” who knows where Fassbender may be headed, probably cruddier looking CGI claptrap. What a shame. 

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Regional Media Movie Review Lion

Themes of identity, race, time and family are raised in the new drama “Lion” starring Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar as two versions of the same character, a boy and a man named Saroo. Based on a true story and a bestselling novel, “Lion” warmly and intelligently tackles large themes in a satisfyingly dramatic fashion that is at times too conventional but with enough emotional weight to make it work.

 

“Lion” tells the story of Saroo, who, at 5 years old, was separated from his older brother Guddu at a train station, ends up on a train, falls asleep and wakes up hundreds of miles away from his village. Now in Bengal, Saroo does not know the name of his village or his mother’s real name and has no way to get home. After a series of near misses with some very scary people, and a couple of lovely moments with some generous souls, Saroo finds himself in an English run orphanage where he is soon to be adopted by a couple from Australia.

 

The couple, John and Sue Brierly, (David Wenham and Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman) adopt Saroo and take him back to their home in Tasmania where he will grow up and eventually seem to forget his time in India. Soon Saroo has an adopted brother, another Indian boy named Mantosh, for whom the transition from India to Tasmania is much, much more difficult. The brothers never really connect with each other and their boiling resentment provide yet another metaphor for Saroo’s relationship to his past.

 

Some 20 years after Saroo’s adoption he is college graduate and is beginning to pursue a career in Hotel management. It is here when Saroo meets Lucy (Rooney Mara) who will become his wife but not before a chance encounter with fellow Indian students convinces Saroo to try to find his family back in India.  Using some amateur detective skills, research, and math, Saroo hopes to find the train station where he was first lost and use that information to find his family.

 

“Lion” is based on a true story so I am not sure if discussing the ending of the film would be considered a “spoiler.” I am choosing to leave the ending for you to discover but even for those who know the story it does contain quite an emotional wallop. Dev Patel plays the grownup Saroo and the final scenes of “Lion” are some of the best work of his relatively young career.

 

 “Lion” was directed by Garth Davis who is best known in America for his work on the excellent mini-series “Top of the Lake.” Here Davis does a fine job of contrasting the grit and grime and danger of India with the crisp, clean, even sterile, setting of Tasmania and using this juxtaposition to underline the film’s themes of disconnection, longing, family and identity. Saroo feels resentment toward his family for maybe not looking hard enough for him but he also feels guilt about having enjoyed life in Tasmania while having left behind his family in poverty.

 

Saroo’s task in locating his family is incredibly daunting and the strain it puts on his relationship with his mother and his girlfriend is a strong driver of the second and third act of the film. I was very moved by Saroo’s scenes with his adoptive mother who attempts to hide her jealousy and hurt feelings over Saroo’s search but soon comes to terms with it out of love for her son. Lucy and Saroo meanwhile almost completely lose touch as his obsession with train speeds and stations grows and it is a strong testament to the performances of Patel and Mara that the strain feels real and threatening.

 

“Lion” is a tad too conventional but the performances and the emotional weight of the story make the simplicity of the plotting easier to accept. Dev Patel has never been better and it is great to see good work from Nicole Kidman again as it feels like ages since she was turning in Oscar caliber work. Director Garth Davis needs to work more before we can begin passing judgement on his style and where he fits in the directorial landscape but from his work here, he has me excited to see what he does next.

 

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Regional Media Movie Review Why Him?

Why Him is an ungainly, awkward, mess of a movie. The film stars James Franco as one of the most off-putting characters ever brought to the screen, a tech billionaire named Laird who has no concept of how normal people interact. This could be a funny idea, the super-rich can tend to lose connection to the concerns and proprieties of the common man, but, Franco's performance isn’t merely that of a charmingly out of touch kook, but rather a genuinely out of sorts sociopath played as a comic creation.

 

Bryan Cranston co-stars with Franco in Why Him and is apparently trying to create a character just as annoying as his co-star. Cranston is Ned Fleming, the father of Stephanie (Zoey Deutsch) who has gone off to college in Silicon Valley and fallen madly in love with Laird. Stephanie has invited the whole family, including her mother, Barb (Megan Mullally), and brother Scottie (Griffin Gluck), to fly to California from their home in Michigan to spend the holidays with her and Laird who they will meet for the very first time.

 

Laird's shtick is that he says everything that comes into his head with no filter. He curses to a degree that would shame Melissa McCarthy and is so incredibly disconnected from everyday small talk that he has no problem discussing sex with his clearly offended future in-laws. Even as everyone around him is clearly offended and uncomfortable with Laird's behavior he is completely oblivious and somehow this is supposed to be funny. It's not, it's just hard to watch.

 

For his part, Cranston plays Ned as a joyless crank. He’s miserable from the moment he arrives in California from Michigan and remains miserable through the films forced and predictable finale. So, Ned is a miserable character with no sense of humor, no jokes to leaven his miserable premise and the most that Cranston can seem to do with the character is physical shtick that is more like watching someone amid a mental breakdown than someone attempting physical humor. Cranston gesticulates and tenses every muscle and spits every line of dialogue and never once does something funny.

 

The supporting players in Why Him come away far better off than the leads. Megan Mullally, a veteran of TV sitcoms, seems to know just where to pick her spots for her few jokes, while poor Zoey Deutsch spends most of her time trying to dodge the two leads whose gesticulations as they strain for every joke had to be rather dangerous for any co-star who wandered too closely. Keegan Michael Key, playing Franco's oddball, German accented, assistant Gustav, at the very least could fight back. His running gag is randomly attacking Laird as a way of developing his self-defense, a joke that falls flat, especially once Cranston begins trying to explain it.

 

Why Him is completely derailed by a pair of lead performances that could not possibly be less appealing. The fact that both Cranston and Franco are former Academy Award nominees only compounds the problem. We know these two actors are better than this awful material and watching them act down to this garbage idea is just depressing.

 

I blame Director John Hamburg for most of the problems with Why Him. Having allowed his actors to do a great deal of improvisation, at least I assume that was improv, otherwise there is an editor who needs to find a new profession, Hamburg created the sloppy, slapdash environment that lead to this mess. Even worse, Hamburg fills out the awfulness by relying on bathroom humor with toilets and urine playing significant roles in the film.

 

What is it with John Hamburg and bathrooms? Bathroom issues have figured prominently in his humor in most of his movies from the cat that could flush a toilet in Meet the Parents to Ben Stiller's irritable bowels in Along Comes Polly to the fart jokes of Hamburg's one good movie, I Love You Man, Hamburg seems either obsessed with bathrooms or he's merely childish and lazy. Toilets figure prominently throughout Why Him which ends with a post-credits scene all about toilets with pictures of people using the toilet. Ewww. 

 

At the very least toilets are an apt metaphor for Why Him. This movie needs to be flushed.

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Regional Media Movie Review Passengers

I really wanted to like Passengers, the new sci-fi adventure starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. I am a big fan of both Pratt and Lawrence, each of whom are veterans of the blockbuster genre having starred in Guardians of the Galaxy and The Hunger Games respectively. Unfortunately, Passengers sticks Pratt and Lawrence with one majorly flawed story choice that even their charm cannot overcome. 

Chris Pratt, dialing back on his usual Chris Pratt schtick to a welcome degree, plays Jim Spencer, a mechanic who has signed up to travel to a new space colony, a journey that is supposed to last 120 years. Jim is supposed to be in hibernation during the entire trip but a malfunction wakes him up after only 30 years. Alone, Jim at first tries to get his sleeping pod working again. When that fails he begins to get a tad stir crazy. 

With a robot bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen) as his only friend, Jim begins to think about doing something terrible, waking up another passenger. He even has his eye on one in particular, Aurora, played by Jennifer Lawrence. After reading her file in the ship's archives, Jim begins to fall for Aurora but he knows that waking her up is basically a death sentence. 

I won't tell you whether it is Jim or some other circumstance that leads to it, but, indeed Aurora is awakened and after a short while of rehashing Jim's failed attempts at restarting the sleep pods, she resigns herself to Jim as her only companion and the two begin developing a relationship. Naturally, their idyll will have to be disrupted and when another pod fails we begin to find out just how much trouble our heroes are in for. 

The major flaw of Passengers is one that could have easily been avoided. A simple rewrite of the script, one simple decision by the writer or director, and a major flaw could have been corrected. Unfortunately, Director Morton Tyldum apparently preferred the forced and predictable drama of this flawed choice over something more satisfying and less damaging to one of our main characters. 

Sorry to have to dance around the problem so much but I don't feel it is my place to spoil this movie for people who still want to give it a chance. The film does still have two incredibly appealing leads and they are beautiful to look at, especially when they begin to fall for each other. There are other positives as well such as Michael Sheen's robot supporting player and the ship sets which have both a modern gleam and an old school Kubrickian-sci-fi majesty to them. 

In the end, Passengers is not a bad movie, just one that is ruined by one silly, kinda creepy, poor storytelling decision that leads to a lot of false, unnecessary and predictable melodrama, all of which could have been easily avoided. This movie could have played out in much the same way that it does without this one stupid plot contrivance. 

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Regional Media Movie Review Rogue One A Star Wars Story

Rogue One A Star Wars Story stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Urso a petty criminal with a deep dark secret. Jyn's parents were kidnapped when she was a child and her father was forced to work for the Empire. When we meet grown up Jyn she is rescued from an Empire prison work camp by forces of the Rebellion and given a choice, help find the dangerous Jedi Warrior who raised her (Forrest Whitaker) or go back to jail. What she discovers could lead her back to her father while also helping the Rebellion gain an advantage over the Empire. Here is my review of Rogue One A Star Wars Story. 

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Regional Media Movie Review Fences

"Fences" tells the story of a family that is slowly falling apart. Based on the stage play by August Wilson, "Fences" was Directed by Denzel Washington who also stars as Troy Maxon. Troy is a gregarious man who seems like the life of the party. On closer examination however, the mask comes off and reveals a man whose gregariousness hides a deep well of pain and resentment. The older Troy gets, and the further he gets from his dreams, the more his pain and resentment comes out and is aimed at his family including his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and son Cory (Jovan Adepo). 

 

Troy is a former Negro Leagues baseball star who was deemed too old by the Major Leagues after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. With few options for employment in his adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, Troy took a job as a waste collector, a job he's held for years when we are introduced to him. It's a good job that has put food on the table but the meager $75 a week isn't what gave his family a home and is yet another story of pain and resentment for Troy related to his wounded army veteran brother Gabe (Mykelti Williamson). 

 

The various resentments and frustrations of Troy Maxon's life are presented by Denzel Washington as lengthy monologues, some filled with metaphoric rage and others where the bitterness rises to the top. The film was directed by Washington from the stage play by August Wilson and Washington's performance reflects the stagebound nature of the story. 

 

That stagebound quality is the biggest problem with the otherwise compelling "Fences." The transition from stage to the screen is often quite awkward with Washington at times belting his stagy monologues to the back of the nonexistent theater. He's Denzel Washington so most of the time even the belting to the back of the room is compelling but there are still many awkward moments. 

 

Viola Davis delivers a far less affected performance as Rose. Though Davis is no stranger to stage theatrics, she strikes a more measured and realistic tone for her performance. Davis isn't trying to reach the back of the theater, even her biggest emotional moments, she seems to better understand the intimacy of the film medium more than her director and co-star. 

 

Washington directs "Fences" as if it were still on the stage. There are a limited number of sets in the film with the family backyard being the main stage and the dingy interior of their modest home the other most prominent space and it's not hard to imagine these sets constructed for the stage. This, much like the heavy monologuing, makes for more than a few awkward, ungainly scenes, especially at the end which nearly tips over into kitsch.

 

"Fences" is in many ways a fine film. For all of the awkwardness in the transition from stage to screen, it's hard not to be compelled by Washington and Davis and the themes of lost youth, resentment, and betrayal. It is nearly impossible not to feel something deep for Washington as he exposes Troy Maxon's vulnerability while maintaining his vitality and strength. Davis is even more outstanding as Rose whose righteousness drives the final act of the film. 

 

Perhaps another director might have managed the translation from stage to screen better than Washington. As a huge fan of August Wilson and an actor who can't resist a good monologue, Washington likely fell in love with the stage version too much. A Director without that identification with the stage play likely could have rounded "Fences" into something more cinematic and less awkward. As it is, "Fences" is flawed but compelling. 

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New Poster and Trailer for Frank Grillo's The Crash

Vertical Entertainment has released a new poster and stills for "The Crash" starring Dianna Agron, Minnie Driver, Frank Grillo and John Leguizamo. "The Crash" tells to story of a disgraced stock trader in the near future who is recruited by the government to help thwart a cyber-attack on the Stock Market. Take a look at the new trailer and let us know what you think..... 

 

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The Cast of Nocturnal Animals Reacts to Golden Globe Nominations

Writer-Director Tom Ford and the cast of "Nocturnal Animals" are reacting to the film receiving 3 Golden Globe nominations on Monday. "Nocturnal Animals" was nominated for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Aaron Taylor Johnson. 

 

Writer Director Tom Ford: 

"I am extremely honored to have received today's Golden Globe nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay.  I am incredibly proud of this film and to be in the company of such accomplished directors and screenwriters is humbling.  I am also very happy that Aaron Taylor-Johnson's work was recognized with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.  I am very grateful as these nominations are also a testament to the brilliantly talented cast and crew who helped to bring NOCTURNAL ANIMALS to life.” 

 

Co-star Aaron Taylor Johnson 

"Waking up to this news in an early dawn light made going into the darkness to bring this character alive all the more worthwhile. I'm truly grateful to the HFPA for recognizing the transformation I went through to create this role with Tom Ford. This is all very overwhelming and exciting. It's such a tremendous honor."

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Book of Henry Poster Debut

The movie "Book of Henry" arrives in theaters June 16th, 2017 and Focus Features released the fiilm's first new poster for the film starring Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay from "Room," Sarah Silverman and Dean Norris from "Breaking Bad." 

 

"Book of Henry" tells the story of a mother raising two sons, one of whom is a genius. 

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2016 Golden Globe Award Nominations

The nominations for the Golden Globe Awards were announced this morning in Los Angeles with La La Land coming away a bigger winner once again with multiple nominations along with Hacksaw Ridge, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight proclaiming themselves the top contenders for the Academy Awards. On the TV side Blackish and The People vs O.J Simpson came up big in the biggest categories. A partial list of nominees is below.... 
 
Best TV Series Comedy

Blackish
Atlanta
Transparent
Veep

 

Best TV Series, Drama

The Crown
Game of Thrones
Stranger Things
This Is Us
Westworld

 

Best Actor in a TV Series, Drama

Matthew Rhys - The Americans
Rami Malek - Mr. Robot
Billy Bob Thornton - Goliath
Bob Odenkirk - Better Call Saul
Liev Schreiber - Ray Donovan

 

Best TV Movie or Limited-Series

American Crime
The Dresser
The Night Manager
The Night Of
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

 

Best Actor in a Limited-Series or TV Movie

Riz Ahmed
Bryan Cranston
Tom Hiddleston
John Turturro
Courtney B. Vance

 

Best Actress in a Limited-Series or TV Movie

Felicity Huffman
Riley Keough
Sarah Paulson
Charlotte Rampling
Kerry Washington

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited-Series or TV Movie

Sterling K. Brown - The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Hugh Laurie - The Night Manager
John Lithgow - The Crown
John Travolta - The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Christian Slater - Mr. Robot

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Limited-Series or TV Movie

Olivia Colman
Lena Heady
Chrissy Metz
Mandy Moore
Thandie Newton

 

Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy

Rachel Bloom - Crazy Ex Girlfriend
Sarah Jessica Parker - Divorce
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - Veep
Gina Rodriguez - Jane the Virgin
Issa Rae - Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross - Black-ish

 

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

20th Century Women
Deadpool
Florence Foster Jenkins
La La Land
Sing Street

 

Best Motion Picture - Drama
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama

Amy Adams - Arrival 
Jessica Chastain - Miss Sloane 
Isabelle Huppert - Elle 
Ruth Negga - Loving
Natalie Portman - Jackie

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama

Casey Affleck - Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton - Loving
Andrew Garfield - Hacksaw Ridge
Viggo Mortensen - Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington - Fences

 

Best Director - Motion Picture
Damien Chazelle - La La Land
Tom Ford - Nocturnal Animals
Mel Gibson - Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins - Moonlight 
Kenneth Lonergan - Manchester by the Sea

 

Best Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
Sing
Trolls
Zootopia

 

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

Moonlight
La La Land
Arrival
Lion
Hidden Figures

 

 

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Fate of the Furious Trailer Review

As the rare film critic who has loved most of the Fast and Furious movies I was quite excited about this next chapter in the series. However, I am not loving this premise: Dom Torretto turns on his family. It's obvious that Vin Diesel's Dom is being blackmailed or hypnotized or some other silliness by Charlize Theron's villain. Then again, all of these movies are predictable so I can't be to annoyed. The Furious franchise isn't about plot, it's about the biggest, silliest stunts imaginable and this trailer definitely delivers on that front. On a different note, when I first saw the tite "Fate of the Furious," I thought it was a twitter joke. Nope, that is the actual title. Watch the trailer and let us know what you think. 

 

 

 

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Regional Media Movie Review Loving

Loving tells the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the real life couple who in 1958 traveled to Washington D.C to be married and then were arrested days later because Richard was white and Mildred was black. Nearly six years after their arrest and being forced to leave their home in Virginia, they would team with the ACLU to fight their conviction all the way to the Supreme Court in a case that changed the U.S Constitution. 

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Regional Media Movie Review Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane stars Jessica Chastain as the title character, a Washington D.C lobbyist, who takes on the NRA in a battle to pass gun control legislation. Is she against guns? Not really, rather she just likes a challenge and their are few bigger challenges in D.C than battling the richest and most influential lobby in the country, the gun lobby. Here is my review of Miss Sloane. 

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My Critics Choice Awards Vote

The Critics' Choice Awards are happening this Sunday, December 11th, at 7 Pm on A & E and hosted by the very funny T.J Miller. Voting for the awards among members of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association and the Broadcast Film Critics Association opened this morning and I have cast my ballot. In keeping with my policy of putting my name on my choices I am here choosing to post the votes I cast this morning. Be sure to watch the show on Sunday night to see if my choices match those of my fellow members of the BTJA and the BFCA. Cannot wait for Sunday night, it's going to be a great show, filled with stars and honoring the best there is this year in movies and television. 

 

Best Picture

Arrival

 

Best Actor

Ryan Gosling – La La Land

 

Best Actress

Amy Adams –Arrival

 

Best Supporting Actor

Michael Shannon –Nocturnal Animals

 

Best Supporting Actress

Naomie Harris –Moonlight

 

Best Young Actor or Actress

Hailee Steinfeld –The Edge of Seventeen

 

Best Acting Ensemble

Hell or High Water

 

Best Director

Denis Villaneuve-Arrival

 

Best Original Screenplay

Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Eric Heisserer –Arrival

 

Best Cinematography

Seamus McGarvey –Nocturnal Animals

 

Best Production Design

La La Land

 

Best Editing

Tom Cross-La La Land

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Best Costume Design

Colleen Atwood –Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

 

Best Hair and Makeup

Star Trek Beyond

 

Best Visual Effects

Arrival

 

Best Animated Feature

Finding Dory

 

Best Action Movie

Deadpool

 

Best Actor in an Action Movie

Ryan Reynolds –Deadpool

 

Best Actress in an Action Movie

Gal Gadot Batman Vs Superman Dawn of Justice

 

Best Comedy

The Nice Guys

 

Best Actor in a Comedy

Ryan Gosling The Nice Guys

 

Best Actress in a Comedy

Hailee Steinfeld –The Edge of Seventeen

 

Best Sci-Fi /Horror Movie

Arrival

 

Best Foreign Film

Toni Erdmann

 

Best Song

Audition(The Fool’s That Dream) –La La Land

 

Best Score

Justin Hurwitz –La La Land

 

TV

 

Best Comedy Series

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

 

Best Actress in a Comedy Series

Ellie Kemper –The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

 

Best Actor in a Comedy Series

Donald Glover –Atlanta

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Jane Krakowski –The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Louie Anderson –Baskets

 

Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series

Larry David –Saturday Night Live

 

Best Animated Series

Bob’s Burgers

 

Best Reality Competition Series

Skin Wars

 

Best Structured Reality Series

Chopped

 

Best Unstructured Reality Series

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown

 

Best Talk Show

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

 

Best Reality Show Host

Ru Paul –Ru Paul’s Drag Race

 

Best Drama Series

Mr. Robot

 

Best Actress in a Drama Series

Keri Russell –The Americans

 

Best Actor in a Drama Series

Rami Malek –Mr. Robot

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Constance Zimmer –Unreal

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Christian Slater –Mr. Robot

 

Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series

Mahershala Ali –House of Cards

 

Best Movie Made for Television or Limited Series

The People Vs O.J Simpson

 

Best Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series

Sarah Paulsen –The People Vs. O.J Simpson

 

Best Actor in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series

Bryan Cranston –All the Way

 

Best Supporting Actress in Movie Made for Television or Limited Series

Regina King –American Crime

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series

John Travolta –The People Vs. O.J Simpson

 

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Regional Media Movie Review Nocturnal Animals

“Nocturnal Animals” is a daring film of unique power and affect. Directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, the film stars Amy Adams as Susan, a desperately unhappy Los Angeles art dealer whose past comes back to haunt her in the form of a book written by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). Reading the book, alone in her enormous and empty home over a weekend where her husband (Armie Hammer) is out of town, Susan is struck by feelings for Edward she thought she’d lost years ago.

 

The book, called “Nocturnal Animals” and dedicated to Susan, is a revenge thriller about a family traveling through a West Texas desert when they are menaced by a group of criminals. We see the story play out in Susan’s imagination with Edward in the lead role of Tony, a good man but not one well suited for a confrontation with criminals. We watch as the confrontation between Tony’s family and the criminals grows from harassment to kidnapping and to something extraordinarily disturbing.

 

The film goes on to lay in the back story of how Susan and Edward met, fell in love and eventually fell apart. Susan devastated Tony and created a resentment that lasts nearly two decades. The book he’s written is in many ways a reflection of his hurt feelings but you will need to see the movie for yourself to follow that line of logic as I will not spoil anything here.

 

Michael Shannon plays a role in “Nocturnal Animals” that I am reluctant to go into in order to avoid spoilers. That said, Shannon is Oscar-level brilliant. Shannon acts with every inch of his gaunt frame and with his devastating glare. The character is not unlike a Quentin Tarentino character full of pith and anger in equal measure but slightly less morally ambivalent. It’s an exceptional performance, easily one of the best single performances of 2016.

 

“Nocturnal Animals” is the second feature film for Director Tom Ford following his artful debut, 2009’s “A Single Man” which won an Oscar for Colin Firth’s remarkable lead performance. Coming from the world of fashion, Ford has a phenomenal eye. Both “Nocturnal Animals” and “A Single Man” are gorgeous to look at even as they explore the uglier side of life. Even the grittiest moments of “Nocturnal Animals” have a beauty to them that most filmmakers would have foregone in trying to underline the grit. Ford smartly uses the crisp, clear cinematography to show that beauty exists even in the dark.

 

I must add a bit of a caveat to this review. Though I am recommending the movie highly, “Nocturnal Animals” is not for all audiences. The first moments of the film are taunting and provocative and will cause some people to walk out of the theater in protest. Full disclosure, I turned away from the screen on my first viewing and had to force myself to confront the images the second time I watched the film for this review. The opening has little to do with the rest of the movie but I appreciate how this credits sequence jolts us in the audience to wide attention.

 

Moviegoing is often a passive experience and the credits sequence of “Nocturnal Animals” breaks through that passivity in no uncertain terms. Could the film have done without the jolt? Probably. The story being told is quite good and the performances of Adams, Gyllenhaal, and especially Michael Shannon are strong enough to jolt audiences on their own. That said, I understand the inclusion of the opening and on reflection I appreciate the jolt even as it is quite forceful. 

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Regional Media Movie Review Nerdland

Nerdland features the voices of Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt as John and Elliott, loser roommates starving for fame. John is an aspiring actor and Elliott is a screenwriter though neither seems particularly interested in the work that goes into becoming famous, just the fame. There could be comedy to be wrung from a pair of fame whoring losers but Nerdland pretty much stops at making John and Elliott losers. 

 

After John fails at a lame attempt to get Elliott’s screenplay into the hands of a dopey movie star during an interview junket the two begin brainstorming awful get famous quick schemes. Among the failed attempts at becoming stars is a youtube style video where they give a giant check to a homeless person in hope that their charity will go viral. Unfortunately, Elliott fails to record the attempt and the homeless man runs away with the oversized novelty check. 

 

After fame manages to elude them in several other ways the guys take a shot at infamy, brainstorming a mass murder spree. John and Elliott visit their landlord with the intent of making her their first victim, should be easy, they reason, because she is very old. Naturally, they fail as killers as well and the film then spins off into a minor media parody after the guys witness a robbery and become the targets of both the police and dangerous mobsters.

 

Throughout the movie references are dropped in regarding a rebuilt Hollywood sign. The reveal of the sign is mentioned several times during the film and it comes up one last time during the film’s climactic scene. Spoiler alert: We never find out why the sign matters in any way. That actually may not be a spoiler as it plays absolutely no role at all in the outcome of the film or the fates of John and Elliott and yet it drags on throughout the entire run of the movie.

 

The sign bit is emblematic of how sloppy and shapeless Nerdland is but, that is not what makes the film so damn disappointing. It’s the talent that made this shapeless, sloppy, mess of a movie that is so disappointing. On top of Patton Oswalt and Paul Rudd, a dynamic comic duo coympletely wasted, we have the talents of Riki Lindholme and Kate Micucci, AKA Garfunkel & Oates, Mike Judge, Paul Scheer, Laraine Newman, Hannibal Burress and “Seven” screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker.

 

Chris Prynoski is the director of Nerdland and I have to imagine he is responsible for the final product. Prynoski has a cult following from his similarly odd animated TV shows Metalocalypse, Superjail, and the recent live action and animated series Son of Zorn. Prynoski’s style is combatively unfocused, he seems to actively not care if the audience laughs. Prynoski engages in the kind of anti-comedy that attempts to mine laughs from the absurd lack of something funny. Sometimes this kind of comedy can be exciting as a taunt toward a passive audience. In Nerdland it just feels messy and shapeless, even if you feel like you get the anti-joke.

 

I cannot for the life of me tell you why the movie is called Nerdland. I guess that John and Elliott could be considered nerds but they aren’t really interesting enough to earn any label other than loser. The one character who could rise to a common stereotype of a nerd is played by Hannibal Burress but he is such a grotesque caricature that he defies any simplistic label. Burress’s character is fat and sloppy and runs a comic book store and has access to the darkest corners of nerd culture; something the movie seems to use for narrative convenience except that Prynoski loses interest in even playing out his narrative clichés.

 

Anti-comedy is tough to pull off. The intent is to drive away lazy audiences and potentially entertain a few of the like-minded souls willing to overlook the ugliness to find the bold and daring comedy below. Andy Kaufman eating ice cream on stage at The Comedy Store is anti-comedy at its finest, a daring taunt from a comic genius who knows that the absurd silent scene on stage is funnier than most of the written material of any other comic. Chris Prynoski is no Andy Kaufman. His brand of anti-comedy isn’t as well refined or daring, merely off-putting.

 

The joke of Nerdland seems to be its own existence. It plays as if Chris Prynoski hired an all-star team of comic talents with the intention of doing nothing remotely funny with them. It is most certainly a taunt and it does provoke the audience but it lacks wit. Only Chris Prynoski knows why Nerdland is intentionally unfunny and if that self-satisfaction is enough for him then I bow to him. I don’t recommend his movie but I respect what I assume is the self-satisfying result. 

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Regional Media Movie Review Incarnate

Incarnate stars Aaron Eckhart as Dr. Ember, a physician with a unique specialty. Dr. Ember is an 'Incarnate,' a person imbued with the ability to enter other people's subconcious minds. Dr. Ember uses this ability to enter the minds of people possessed by demons and evict the demon without the use of religious exorcism techniques. The latest victim in need of his help is a young boy who happens to be possessed by the same demon that murdered Dr. Ember's wife and child. Here is my review of Incarnate. 

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Nominees for the Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards

The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) has announced the film nominees for the 22ndAnnual Critics’ Choice Awards.  The winners will be revealed live at the star-studded Critics’ Choice Awards gala, which will be broadcast from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica on A&E on Sunday, December 11at 8PM ET/ 5PM PT.  The awards broadcast will immediately follow the“Critics’ Choice Red Carpet Live” on A&E.  As previously announced, actor and comedian T.J. Miller will return as the show’s host.

“La La Land” leads all films this year with 12 nominations including Best Picture, Ryan Gosling for Best Actor, Emma Stone for Best Actress, Damien Chazelle for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, Linus Sandgren for Best Cinematography, David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco for Best Production Design, Tom Cross for Best Editing, Mary Zophres for Best Costume Design, Two Best Song Nominations for “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and “City of Stars,” and Justin Hurwitz for Best Score.

“Arrival” and “Moonlight” impressed with ten nominations each, both in the running for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score, among others.  “Manchester by the Sea” earned eight nominations, followed by “Hacksaw Ridge” with seven, and “Doctor Strange,” “Fences,” “Hell or High Water,” “Jackie,” and “Lion” all with six.

There are a number of double nominees this year including Denzel Washington for his work as an actor and as the director of the Best Picture nominee “Fences.”  Andrew Garfield is up for two acting awards for his work in “Hacksaw Ridge,” as is Ryan Reynolds for “Deadpool,” Lucas Hedges for “Manchester by the Sea,” and Hailee Steinfeld for “The Edge of Seventeen.”  Ryan Gosling is also nominated for two acting awards one for “La La Land” and another for “The Nice Guys.”  Kenneth Lonergan could earn two awards for directing and writing the screenplay for “Manchester by the Sea,” the same two categories in which Barry Jenkins competes for his work on “Moonlight.”

“This year’s nominees showcase the best that Hollywood has to offer, spanning a wide array of genres, subject matters, time periods, and more,” said BFCA President Joey Berlin.  “We hope that they will serve as a roadmap for viewers, offering guidance for movie lovers and ticket buyers as we launch this awards season.  We are so thrilled to be able to recognize these incomparable artists and look forward to bringing them together for an unforgettable evening!”

The nominations were announced by Entertainment Weekly via EW.com and the People/Entertainment Weekly Network (People.com/PEN) as part of a multi-platform content and promotionalpartnership between EW and the “Critics’ Choice Awards.”

As previously announced, HBO leads the television honors with 22 nominations, followed by ABC and Netflix with 14 each, and FX with 12.  Topping the list of nominated series is The People v. O.J. Simpson(FX) with six.  Game of Thrones (HBO), The Night Manager (AMC), and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) follow closely behind with five each.  All the Way (HBO), House of Cards (Netflix), Roots (History), and Veep (HBO) all earned four nominations.  Other multi-nominated series include American Crime (ABC), Black-ish (ABC), Killing Reagan (National Geographic), Modern Family (ABC), Mr. Robot (USA Network), Ray Donovan (Showtime), Saturday Night Live (NBC), The Crown (Netflix), and Westworld (HBO) with three, and America’s Got Talent (NBC), Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN), Atlanta (FX), Better Call Saul (AMC), Chopped (Food Network), Confirmation (HBO), Fleabag (Amazon), Outlander (Starz), RuPaul’s Drag Race (Logo), Silicon Valley (HBO), The Americans (FX), The Dresser (Starz), The Good Wife (CBS), The Voice (NBC), and Transparent (Amazon) each with two nominations.

“The Critics’ Choice Awards” are bestowed annually by the BFCA and BTJA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. The BFCA is the largest film critics' organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. BFCA members are the primary source of information for today's film-going public. BTJA is the collective voice of almost 100 journalists who regularly cover television for TV viewers, radio listeners and online audiences. Historically, the “Critics’ Choice Awards” are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations.

“The 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards” will be produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment.  BFCA/BTJA are represented by WME and Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig.

 

Follow the 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards on Twitter and Instagram @CriticsChoice and on Facebook/CriticsChoiceAwards.


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FILM NOMINATIONS FOR THE 22ND ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

BEST PICTURE

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Lion

Loving

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

Sully

BEST ACTOR


Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Joel Edgerton – Loving

Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling – La La Land

Tom Hanks – Sully

Denzel Washington – Fences

BEST ACTRESS

Amy Adams – Arrival

Annette Bening – 20th Century Women

Isabelle Huppert – Elle

Ruth Negga – Loving

Natalie Portman – Jackie

Emma Stone – La La Land

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

Ben Foster – Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel – Lion

Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Viola Davis – Fences

Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women

Naomie Harris – Moonlight

Nicole Kidman – Lion

Janelle Monáe  – Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS

Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

Alex R. Hibbert – Moonlight

Lewis MacDougall – A Monster Calls

Madina Nalwanga – Queen of Katwe

Sunny Pawar - Lion

Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge of Seventeen

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE

20th Century Women

Fences

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

BEST DIRECTOR

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water

Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Denzel Washington – Fences

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Barry Jenkins - Moonlight

Yorgos Lanthimos/Efthimis Filippou – The Lobster

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Jeff Nichols – Loving

Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Luke Davies – Lion

Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals

Eric Heisserer – Arrival

Todd Komarnicki – Sully

Allison Schroeder/Theodore Melfi – Hidden Figures

August Wilson – Fences

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Stéphane Fontaine – Jackie

James Laxton – Moonlight

Seamus McGarvey – Nocturnal Animals

Linus Sandgren – La La Land

Bradford Young – Arrival

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Arrival – Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte/André Valade

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Stuart Craig/James Hambidge, Anna Pinnock

Jackie – Jean Rabasse, Véronique Melery

La La Land – David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco

Live by Night – Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

 

BEST EDITING

Tom Cross – La La Land

John Gilbert – Hacksaw Ridge

Blu Murray – Sully

Nat Sanders/Joi McMillon - Moonlight

Joe Walker – Arrival

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Colleen Atwood – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Consolata Boyle – Florence Foster Jenkins

Madeline Fontaine – Jackie

Joanna Johnston – Allied

Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh – Love & Friendship

Mary Zophres – La La Land

BEST HAIR & MAKEUP

Doctor Strange

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hacksaw Ridge

Jackie

Star Trek Beyond

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

A Monster Calls

Arrival

Doctor Strange

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The Jungle Book

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Finding Dory

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

The Red Turtle

Trolls

Zootopia

BEST ACTION MOVIE

Captain America: Civil War

Deadpool

Doctor Strange

Hacksaw Ridge

Jason Bourne

 

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE

Benedict Cumberbatch – Doctor Strange

Matt Damon – Jason Bourne

Chris Evans – Captain America: Civil War

Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE

Gal Gadot – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Scarlett Johansson – Captain America: Civil War

Margot Robbie – Suicide Squad

Tilda Swinton – Doctor Strange

BEST COMEDY

Central Intelligence

Deadpool

Don’t Think Twice

The Edge of Seventeen

Hail, Caesar!

The Nice Guys

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY

Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys

Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins

Dwayne Johnson – Central Intelligence

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY

Kate Beckinsale – Love & Friendship

Sally Field – Hello, My Name Is Doris

Kate McKinnon – Ghostbusters

Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge of Seventeen

Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE

10 Cloverfield Lane

Arrival

Doctor Strange

Don’t Breathe

Star Trek Beyond

The Witch

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Elle

The Handmaiden

Julieta

Neruda

The Salesman

Toni Erdmann

BEST SONG

Audition (The Fools Who Dream) – La La Land

Can’t Stop the Feeling – Trolls

City of Stars – La La Land

Drive It Like You Stole It – Sing Street

How Far I’ll Go - Moana

The Rules Don’t Apply – Rules Don’t Apply

BEST SCORE

Nicholas Britell – Moonlight

Jóhann Jóhannsson – Arrival

Justin Hurwitz – La La Land

Micachu – Jackie

Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka – Lion
 

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