Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Review
There are several trailers I see on YouTube or a movie website or in theaters that I feel can't be wrong. "How could this possibly go wrong?" I think to myself. When you see so many of your favorite actors together, when you see a comedy that looks really funny, a horror movie that looks really scary and so on and so forth, its easy to get hooked. I have taken one look at a trailer and told myself that the film in question will be a classic, and sometimes I am right. Based upon your personal interests, you can read movies pretty well. But lets not be so naive, trailers are designed to sell something specific, designed to hit every sweet spot a human being can possibly have. These are made by studios trying to make money. Sometimes I completely misjudge a trailer, and the result of seeing a disappointment can be infuriating.

"Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" seemed like something that could be immensely fun. I laughed and laughed at all the film's marketing. I think Adam DeVine is one of the very best things about ABC's "Modern Family," a show already filled to the brim with very good things. I think Aubry Plaza is one of those hidden comedic talents that I wish was better known. I think praising Anna Kendrick is getting so hard, solely because she surprises me with awesome every year. Zak Efron is hit or miss, but with so many good people to act off of, what could go wrong? Add in a little Stephen Root and I felt like we had a winner on our hands.

Sadly "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" is a colossal miscalculation of everything that is good in comedy. Its a comedy where nothing funny happens, where all of the film's richest comedic footage is shown in the trailers. Its a movie that completely wastes all of its fine actors, and forces you to remember one thing when it comes to Zak Efron: If Seth Rogen isn't next to him, buyer beware. Its a movie with one overdone cliche after another. Its nothing like the great comedies its imitating, like "The Hangover" or anything Judd Apatow. "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" is one massive misstep after massive misstep.

Let me make this quick for you. "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" is about four core people, played by DeVine, Efron, Plaza and Kendrick. They are all four self-absorbed and flawed individuals, and they use a situation for their personal gain instead of anything else. Low and behold, after  the situation passes, they learn something concrete about themselves and stop being self-absorbed and flawed individuals. I just wish the movie would have shown us this epiphany on a title-card instead of wasting an hour and a half of my life. Sure, I laughed here and there, but only at the stuff that is really funny you've already seen in the commercials. There are other moments where they aim big for laughs, including a sauna masturbation scene and a message-gone-wrong scene. But those scenes fall so flat that it just looks they were desperate.

If you want some particulars, I can give you those. Mike (DeVine) and Dave (Efron) are two booze-selling brothers who always embarrass themselves at family gatherings. When their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) is getting married, their father (Root) forces the brothers to get dates, so that they don't get crazy together. They try a host of dating services and websites, all with failing results. So they go on an Opra-ish talk show to announce their dilemma. Tatiana (Plaza) and her best friend Alice (Kendrick) are watching. Alice just got out of a very bad almost-wedding and she hasn't been herself since. Tatiana wants to get her friend out of the funk she's in, so she gets them to meet Mike and Dave. Mike falls for Tatiana and Dave falls for Alice, and soon the foursome is off to Jeanie's destination wedding. 

Can you see where this is going yet? Because its pretty much telegraphed from the start. We see Mike lusting after Tatiana, but Tatiana not reciprocating the feelings. We see Alice and Dave creating a deeper relationship. The film's conclusion can be seen from a mile away. I don't have a problem with formula, but when a comedy barely makes me laugh, that is when I have my problems. If you are going the ordinary route, that's cool, but if you are making a comedy, please make me laugh.

All the actors do good work here. But the whole time I am constantly watching for Aubry Plaza. Seriously, how is she not a bigger name than she is. She easily steals every scene, every moment, every line of dialogue from everybody else. It almost doesn't even seem fair how good Plaza is and displays the best performance in the entire movie. I think everybody else does what they can, but when you have a non-funny foundation, its hard to soar.

So the next time you see that cool looking trailer in the darkness of a theater auditorium, always be cautious. What that movie is selling you may not be wanting. 

FINAL GRADE: D+   

Who Played It Best? Batman Rematch!

Who Played It Best?

REMATCH!

Batman
I haven't done this in awhile, and I felt like it was time to do another. I feel really bad about not doing one of these in awhile. I could give you a thousand excuses, but instead lets move on. We are in a time in movies were our biggest pop heroes are constantly being portrayed by a slew of different actors. So much so that these polls cannot ever be set in stone. If we go a generation or even a decade believing one performance is the end-all, be-all for the character, things can change at a moment's notice. That is why I don't mind running these rematches. Every once in awhile, I will do a REMATCH Who Played It Best? Just to see how well these performances truly stack up.

The very first edition of "Who Played It Best?" was between the four major actors who had played Batman. (Something you can find, right here!) No surprise, Michael Keaton won that vote. Of course, a few years later, we would see a brand new actor playing the Caped Crusader. Everybody was trying to guess who would throwdown against Henry Cavil's Superman in "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," I even wrote who my top ten predictions were  and looking back on that list, I felt it was pretty solid. But usually when there is so much hype around a certain actor or if fans are pointing to a certain actor, usually the studio goes in a completely different direction. I still remember all the backlash when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. I had mixed feelings at first, or did I? I just remember not being able to really get my head around seeing a new Batman, an older and more mature Batman. That was the most exciting part for me. This wasn't some young guy that just got done traveling the world, he was weathered. He'd been defending Gotham for decades. That was a cool avenue to travel down. 

Whether you are a fan of Affleck or not. Whether you think he was or was not right for the role. He certainly brought it for "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice." My thoughts on that film remain. But I think Affleck did what he could do. Since Michael Keaton was our very first "Who Played It Best" champion, he will be defending his Batman title. Who played it best?

My Two Cents
Keaton had tougher competition last time. Let's be honest here. Keaton was going up against Christian Bale, who I believe played the character just as well as Keaton did. There is also Val Kilmer and George Clooney and...we'll we don't need to get into them. My point is that Keaton went up against four unique actors in the last round, and still came out on top. I think even though just as many actors have played James Bond but Connery and Moore stick out to most people. When an actor connects with a character, they can set a lifelong standard. It doesn't help that Affleck had the cards stacked against him going in. It doesn't help that "Batman vs. Superman" script was tedious and uninspired and it made Affleck look a lot worse than he wanted. Affleck did what he could and he made a credible performance. But not one that matches the near-perfect work laid out by Keaton. This time, its no exception, Keaton gets the edge.

Agree? Disagree? Fire away in the comment section below. You can also email me (bloggershawn@gmail.com) and I will also set up a voting poll on the home page of the blog. You will have one week vote and I will reveal the winner a week from today.

LAST TIME ON WHO PLAYED IT BEST...
 I have not done this in so long that I have two votes to present. The last two times on "Who Played It Best," we looked at Jed Eckert from "Red Dawn" (1984) and "Red Dawn" (2012). We also looked at the performances of Ashton Kutcher and Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs. The results have been sitting here awhile and here is how the vote shook out.

Michael Fassbender was voted best Steve Jobs

Patrick Swayze was voted best Jed Eckert.

If you would like to see the archives for "Who Played It Best" click here!

See you back here next week!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The BFG Review

The BFG Review
For his entire career, Steven Spielberg has always been obsessed with the wonder that drives people to the movies. His movies tap into a certain kind of enrichment and mindset and he definitely crafted his own signature over the course of his career. He is drawn to the strange and the wonderment of the strange. It makes him a perfect candidate to adapt Roald Dahl's book "The BFG." A story about a elderly friendly giant who takes an orphaned girl who suffers from insomnia. The girl must stay with the giant because she has seen him. Together, they overcome their fears.

Steven Spielberg is someone who hits a home-run more often than he strikes out. So when a movie comes out that is mediocre, it feels like a failure. Finally seeing the movie,  I can see why it was a box office disappointment. I think Spielberg has a much better "BFG" movie in him, but this is definitely not it. I am not quite sure what went wrong in the process. But let me please on the emphasis, "The BFG" is not a bad movie, just not up to par with Spielberg's other filmography. In fact, its not quite up to par with children's films filmography.

First of all, its awfully long for a children's movie, clocking at almost two hours. I don't know if running time plays a huge role when it comes to children, especially if something really grabs their attention. The problem is, I am not sure how much of "The BFG" will be grabbing the attention of many children. Not a whole lot goes on, and the quiet moments between Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) and BFG (Mark Rylance) are almost too quiet for any audience member to bear. There is a conflict between BFG and other giants, there are a couple moments of BFG showing off his dream powers, and there is a scene where they go to a magical realm, forest place. Its all breathtaking to look at, but it doesn't do much as far as story or structure are concerned. These are pretty pictures, and I am not trying to say that there is no story here. It just seems there are fragments of a storyline with smaller storylines sprinkled in. It will come off confusing and boring to children.

But like I said, the special effects imagery is off-the-chart, just as you would expect from a Spielberg movie. Its graciously acted by both Mark Rylance and especially by Ruby Barnhill who emerges as a real talent here. Spielberg has proven over  his career that he is a master of directing children, and he can pull magic out of the smallest of youngsters. The collaboration between Barnhill and Spielberg is no different. We can feel all the emotions Barnhill puts on display here. We can feel her bewilderment and wonder in the places she is visiting. It is magnificent work. There is also good supporting work done by Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Penelope Wilton. The other giants in the movie are also mesmerizing to look at and provide good voice work by their actors. Jemaine Clement, Bill Hader, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, and Adam Godley all create remarkable characters based on their voices alone.

All the mechanical and technological pieces of the movie are some of the very best work done in any movie so far this year. That coupled with the near-perfect acting makes this movie absolutely worth seeing. It's also a shame that its mostly used for a storyline that is way too convoluted for children and just plain boring for everyone else. Still, even the not-quite-perfect Spielberg is a movie worth your time and attention.

FINAL GRADE: B

Monday, August 29, 2016

Guardians Trailer

In a world where superhero movie mania has gripped Hollywood for over a decade, it only makes sense that countries around the world would follow suit.

I have watched the trailer for "Guardians" several times. Its an upcoming Russian superhero movie which will hit American shores in February 2017. I don't know anything about the cast or crew involved. I don't know much about the property at all. I know is that I am curious as hell to see this thing. It looks like balls-to-the-wall, crazy flick. 

I mean, there is a half-human, half-bear with a Gatling gun. 







I hope that for the American release, that they drop the dubbed English and present the film in standard Russian language with English subtitles. I know lots of people who can't stand reading subtitles, but it personally takes me out of the experience to listen to dubbed words. The special effects on this film may not look Avengers in scale, but this is Russia, not Hollywood. I think for what they could put together, this looks pretty awesome. I am eagerly waiting to see  this.

RIP Gene Wilder

RIP Gene Wilder
One of the all-time great comic actors has passed away today, and I couldn't be more devastated.

As I have read the outpouring of articles about Wilders death, it seems like everybody only remembers Wilder for his unforgettable performance as Willy Wonka. I can see why. "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" has been apart of my life for as long as I can remember. I remember one night when I was very young, my brother made me watch it. While I wasn't interested as first, I was suddenly pulled into this world of wonderment and engagement. I was invested thanks to the fantastic performance by Wilder. Wilder's Willy Wonka was gifted man, but also someone who took sinister glee in tormenting tedious children. That moment near the end of the film, when Wonka tells Charlie he doesn't win the prize for stealing. That wasn't always meant to be shouted. Wilder shouted in that line to throw the other actors off. When you see Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket trembling in the scene, its not acting. Its a visceral, emotional response. 

So yes, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" works because Gene Wilder in the character worked. But that doesn't even begin to touch on the watermark Gene Wilder has left us. "Young Frankenstein" is one of my favorite films of all time. In my mental list of top ten favorite films, the movie sits at number three. There was a period of my life where "Young Frankenstein" was my favorite film of all time. A long period. I can never get that movie out of my head, thanks to the work done by Wilder. The man was a comic genius. I don't throw the genius word around often, but in Wilder's case, its true. There are so many comedic actors working today that carry the same personality in the same film. There have been so many comedic actors who hold onto some type of gimmick which guides each of their performances. Wilder was more of a method actor. Willy Wonka is nothing like Victor Frankenstein in character. And those two characters aren't like The Waco Kid, or Leo Bloom, or Dr. Doug Ross, or Sigerson Holmes, or Eugene Grizzard or Dave Lyons. He created a whole new character with each new movie.

He also wasn't just an actor. Not only did he star in "Young Frankenstein," he co-wrote it with Mel Brooks. "Young Frankenstein" works better than most modern spoof movies because there is a genuine understanding of the material Wilder and Brooks made fun of. With each frame of "Young Frankenstein," you can tell that both Wilder and Brooks soaked up Universal Horror Films before sitting down to write this script. There was a cunning and calculated understanding to the many movies that Wilder wrote and would eventually direct, like "Haunted Honeymoon" or "The Woman In Red." Wilder was also an accomplished stage actor. He starred in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" on Broadway in 1963, that had to have been something to see.

Continued words almost fail me when I try to describe the legacy Wilder is leaving, and how well it is going to be cherished. I just hope now in heaven, he feels the warm embrace of his wife Gilda Radner and a firm handshake from his friend, Peoria's own Richard Pryor. I you seek out "Haunted Honeymoon" and "The Woman In Red" and the other films Wilder wrote and directed. I hope you rekindle with "Blazing Saddles" or "Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Too Afraid To Ask)." I hope you check out his smaller yet sincere roles in "Bonnie & Clyde" and "The Little Prince." I hope you study the scope of what Gene Wilder's career could offer. It's more than worth it.



Saturday, August 27, 2016

Don't Breathe Review

Don't Breathe Review
Before this movie started, I caught a trailer for the new "Rings" movie, a film that will revitalize the "Ring" franchise which had two films in 2002 and 2005. The 2002 film is a modern horror classic, the sequel was a load of crap. This new "Rings" movie to me, represents everything wrong with the horror genre. A bunch of young people who can barely act getting scared at a bunch of jump scares and some hermit telling them that they've "opened a door to something terrible!" Is that truly where we are with horror movies right now? It sure seems like it, we have been so conditioned to the mediocrity and blandness of the genre that when something truly awesome like "The Witch" comes along, everybody ignores it.

If "Rings" looks to be everything wrong with the horror genre, then "Don't Breathe" represents what I believe every horror filmmaker should be chasing right now. An ambitious, smart, and edgy horror movie that gives its audience an experience rather than some cheap thrills. "Don't Breathe" has a lot more to it than the commercials would lead you to believe, and if your lucky enough to catch it in theaters, you are in for quite a surprise. 

Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three Detroit delinquents who spend their days robbing houses for loot. Rocky has a horrible home life. Her father left, her mother blames Rocky, she has gangster boyfriends over at the house and isn't very involved in her children's lives. So Rocky robs houses in order to make enough money to move to California. Its just not enough though. One day, Money gets a tip on a house that may contain three hundred thousand dollars for a settlement involving an blind Iraq veteran (Stephen Lang). Stealing tons of a money from a blind man, seems pretty easy right? 

Well of course it isn't going to be easy. When the trio gets into the blind man's house, the blind man hears them break in and the film becomes a cat-and-mouse game. Can the three burglars make it out of the house with the money or their lives? All movie long, the film exploits the familiar house invasion tropes and every time the movie finds a way to shatter them. This blind man isn't who they think he is, and this makes this regular burglary much more dangerous. 

The acting by Levy, Minnette and Zovatto is quite impressive. These aren't dumb young characters making (mostly) dumb decisions. Something we see way too often in this genre. These are crafty burglars, clear on the fact that they have been doing this for awhile. They can almost see every angle at play, except they don't know how to react to a dangerous, blind man who just keeps coming like he's Michael Myers. All three young actors bring a rewarding detail to their character work and they get us to care about them, even though they are breaking the law. I have loved Stephen Lang since I saw him playing General Pickett on "Gettysburg" in 1993. I could never fathom why he wasn't a household name, because he should be. After the big punch in 2009, including "Public Enemies," "Avatar" and "Men Who Stare At Goats," he just might be heading in that direction and its about time. Lang does stunning work and when the big twists of his character begin to set in, its unbelievable how great he is. This is a movie that doesn't have a whole lot of dialogue and the actors rely mostly on actions and its still superb.

"Don't Breathe" would also make an awesome double-feature with Netflix's "Hush." Also a home invasion thriller about a deaf woman who has to fight off an assailant in her home.

Its so refreshing to see a horror movie with such a smart script. A horror movie that feels like its about to end, but then just keeps going, keeps racking up the tension until you feel like your heart is about to fall out of your chest. I am praising this big and there is still some character work that doesn't quite work. In some of classic horror films, the characters behave intelligently all running time long, here not so much. But there is so much to appreciate here, that I didn't care about a couple minor character hiccups. I can't forsee how "Don't Breathe" will do at the box office, but I am willing to bet that this is going to be a little horror film that gets a lot people talking and buzzing after this weekend. I bet this will be one that ends up in conversation on several occasions in the future. Young actors who can't act running from nothing, featuring lots of needless gore and nudity don't make a horror movie. Clever characters and storyline go a much longer way, and "Don't Breathe" proves that.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dogs in Film

Today is National Dog Day and I wanted to write a very special entry on this special day.

I think its special. My fiance and I have a dog. Growing up, there was rarely a time I can remember where my family did not have a dog. I have grown to care about dogs a lot and I find them to be brilliant animals. So of course, any movie with a dog suddenly pulls on my heart strings. I thought about making a list of the best dog movies ever made, but that can so widespread as to what does and does not qualify. So I decided to give out some miscellaneous awards to dogs in movies. I think you'll find all of this to be fun.

The Ten Best Dogs From Movies.
These ten dogs are the coolest of their species to ever set foot on film. If you haven't seen any of these movies and not know these dogs, check them out. I think you'll agree you adopt any of these doggies if you could.

1. Marley (Marley and Me)
Because even problem dogs are the best dogs ever.

2. Shadow & Chance (Homeward Bound)
I this is a one-two punch, but any pet who would travel for better or worse to find you, just to make sure you are okay is a good dog in my book.

3. Milo (The Mask)
Any dog who would help you break out of jail to prove your innocence and put on a magical mask to help fight the bad guys is an equally good dog.

4. Baxter (Anchorman)
I would love to have a dog who could survive a long fall into an ocean, then come back and talk a bear out of eating me. Plus, who wouldn't want a dog who speaks Spanish?


5. Hagen (White God)
Easily the most badass dog on the entire list. I usually don't advocate violence of any kind, I don't mind a dog that organizes an entire group of canines to hunt and kill the humans who wronged them.

6. Uggie (The Artist)
Everybody deserves a dog who will rescue them from a fire!

7. Samantha (I Am Legend)
If I am stuck in the apocalypse, I would rest a lot easier knowing I had a four-legged friend watching over me!

8. Beast (The Hills Have Eyes)
When you are trapped in a desert being hunted by cannibals, you need a dog whose gonna watch your back!

9. Pongo (101 Dalmations)
Any dog who risks their life to save their own pups is a father to look up to.

10. Toto (The Wizard of Oz)
Because good dogs hate witches.

If you are wondering, the two biggest honorable mentions for this list are indeed, Beethoven and Bolt!

Now I have two other special awards to hand out this evening, this next award goes to the best dog lover in all of movies. You may be surprised by the result!

Best Dog Lover in Movies
John Wick (John Wick)
John Wick was a hitman who worked for the Russian Mafia in New York. He fell in love and wanted out of the killing business. The Mafia said okay...after one more job. This job was a suicide mission, but Wick pulled it off, killing all of the Mafia's competition. For this, the Mafia had no choice but to let Wick go, and he married the woman of his dreams. But that woman of his dreams ended up dying of cancer and her last dying wish was to give her husband something he can continue to love and cherish, which was a dog named Daisy. When a couple punks want to buy Wick's vintage car from him, Wick refuses. So the punks track him down, beat him up, steal his car and kill Daisy. One of these punks happens to be the son of the Mafia don Wick worked for and Wick goes on a blood-ridden rampage of revenge on those who killed his dog. I think John Wick easily trumps any other dog lover in movies. I think you can appreciate a guy who would destroy an entire organization for killing his dog.

Honorable Mention
Bob Saginowski (The Drop)
Bob was a bartender who acted as a courier for the local mob. When one day, he noticed a beaten and malnourished puppy in a dumpster. He takes it home, cares for it, and plans to adopt it. When the villain who did the poor deeds to the pup comes back demanding the dog back, Bob fixes the problem in the best way possible. One bullet to the neck, the other in the face.

Really guys, I am NOT  a violent person.

So let me finish tonight with one last dog-special award in movies.

The Most Underrated Dog Movie
Seriously, I can't believe this movie isn't brought up more. This is a mockumentary comedy focusing on various dog-owners who prepare their dogs for a dog show. We learn that each group has their own quirks, but in the end, they do love their dogs. This movie is hilarious and a definitely a different kind of dog movie for those who don't need a tearjerker ever so often. 









I hope all you dog-lovers out there enjoyed this little exercise. I hope your fur babies enjoyed a national holiday in their name. I also hope you seek out and enjoy each of these movies! Have a good one.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Secret Life of Pets Review

The Secret Life of Pets Review
My fiance and I have a four-year-old Morkie dog named Charlie. We have had Charlie together ever since he was a puppy. Since both of us work all day, five days a week, my fiance has often asked me "What do you think Charlie does all day when we are gone?" Sadly, I couldn't even fathom to brainstorm an answer. What do our pets do when we are gone all day? Do you ever wonder that? My fiance and I have even discussed putting cameras in our apartment, just to see what Charlie is up to. 

"The Secret Life of Pets" is a film about what our pets are up while we are away. Its takes the family-friendly, fun route in delving into the lives of our pets and focuses on an apartment complex full of domesticated animals and how they all hang out and have fun while their owners are at work. The main character is a dog named Max (Louis C.K.) who loves his owner very much. He's spoiled, and his life revolves around his human. So much so that he spends his day starring at the apartment door, hoping for the moment his master walks through the door. One day, Max's master brings home another dog named Duke (Eric Stonestreet) whom she adopts to keep Max busy during the day. Max feels Duke is invading his territory and the two can't seem to get along. 

One day, when Max and Duke's master is at work, they leave the apartment and go to the park. There, Max takes Duke into an alley to try and get him lost. After a tussle with a group of alley cats, Max and Duke loose their collars and are taken away by Animal Control. They are rescued by a group of abandoned pets, led by a bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart). Max and Duke must make their way back home, still being hunted by Animal Control and Snowball and his crew once they don't pledge allegiance to him.

"The Secret Life of Pets" was made by a group of filmmakers who really know the norms and fundamentals of owning a pet. There are several pet-owning jokes throughout the entire film that are both clever and hilarious. The voice work by the actors is spot-on and includes additional work by Ellie Kemper, Hannibal Burgess, Steve Coogan, Albert Brooks and Lake Bell, all of whom do splendid work. The animation is, without a doubt, flawless in just about every aspect.

The thing with "The Secret Life of Pets" is that it doesn't really break any new ground. Its not a Pixar movie. Its not "Shrek" or "Despicable Me" or something that I think I would stack with all the animated all-time greats. In fact, it kind of feels like pieces of other movies. One could argue that this is a version of "Toy Story" with animals. Others could argue that its just another version of "Despicable Me" about finding identity and finding a place of belonging. Look, I am not trying to say that every new animated movie HAS to break new ground. But there when half a dozen movies get released a year about wanting to belong, sometimes movies get lost in the shuffle.

I will say this, "The Secret Life of Pets" certainly does love to throw laughs at the audience. They end up sticking more often then not, and I think the more tender, emotional parts of the movie hit me harder simply because I am proud pet-owner. Its just that "The Secret Life of Pets" just won't stick like the great animated films do. I think while Illumination Studios is still playing with ideas and concepts, they still haven't quite found their voice as a studio yet. But boy, they are getting close and they are having some fun along the way.

FINAL GRADE: B

How I picked my 100 Favorite Films of the 21st Century.

Last night, I discussed the BBC top 100 films of the 21st Century and how I wanted to make a list of my own. I spent all of last night, deciding which movies I wanted to pick ,which films that meant the most to me, played around with placements and came up with a list that I really like. If it were up to me and me only, these are the movies I'd crown as the best films of the 21st Century. Now, this might be an odd list. Because as I choosing films, some of them made the list because they define the century for me so far, others made it on there because they've had such a profound impact on our culture so far, some are a little bit of both. The point being, its a little silly when we try to compare different genres and differeny styles of film and try to actually say this or that is the "best." My lists on this blog have always been my favorite films, which movies moved me the most and which ones I know that I will return to the most. There are plenty of classics out there that I know are conventionally great, but I just don't feel the need to revisit that often, so how can I honestly say that its the best?

I think all 100 movies in my list are films I dig the living you-know-what out of, but I also think most, if not all, of these movies will be in film discussion for many years to come. Whether its discussion of awards won, box office numbers, or just how good and how detailed they are. These are all movies that have hit a certain audience a certain way. Of course, that's not what makes them great, but these movies also hit me a certain way too. So much so that I would feel bad not having them on any type of list.

1. Memento (2001)
2. No Country For Old Men (2007)
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
4. Boyhood (2014)
5. There Will Be Blood (2007)
6. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
7. Holy Motors (2012)
8. The Social Network (2010)
9. Children of Men (2006)
10. Oldboy (2005)
11. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
12. Her (2013)
13. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
14. 12 Years A Slave (2013)
15. Anomalisa (2015)
16. Mulholland Drive (2001)
17. Take Shelter (2011)
18. Gravity (2013)
19. Melancholia (2011)
20. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
21. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
22. A Separation (2011)
23. Toy Story 3 (2010)
24. Zodiac (2007)
25. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

26. Selma (2014)
27. Inception (2010)
28. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
29. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
30.  City of God (2002)
31. A Prophet (2009)
32. Lost In Translation (2003)
33. 25th Hour (2002)
34. The Departed (2006)
35. Spirited Away (2001)
36. Black Swan (2010)
37. Argo (2012)
38. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
39. Wall-E (2008)
40. The Revenant (2015)
41. Before Midnight (2013)
42. Bronson (2008)
43. Inherent Vice (2014)
44. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
45. Let The Right One In (2008)
46. Minority Report (2002)
47. The Act of Killing (2012)
48. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
49. Once (2007)
50. Enemy (2014)

51. The Wrestler (2008)
52. Battle Royale (2000)
53. The Artist (2011)
54. Avatar (2009)
55. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
56. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
57. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
58. Inside Job (2010)
59. The Master (2012)
60. Midnight In Paris (2011)
61. 28 Days Later (2003)
62. Nobody Knows (2004)
63. Crazy Heart (2009)
64. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
65. Attack The Block (2011)
66. Into The Wild (2007)
67. Four Lions (2010)
68. High Fidelity (2000)
69. Gangs of New York (2002)
70. The Incredibles (2004)
71. Drive (2011)
72. Sideways (2004)
73. Crash (2005)
74. District 9 (2009)

75. The Avengers (2012)
76. The Ring (2002)
77. Requiem For A Dream (2000)
78. Superbad (2007)
79. Irreversible (2002)
80. Anchorman (2004)
81. Belflower (2011)
82. Eastern Promises (2007)
83. Traffic (2000)
84. Donnie Darko (2001)
85. Finding Nemo (2003)
86. Super Size Me (2004)
87. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
88. Casino Royale (2006)
89. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
90. Gladiator (2000)
91. Boiler Room (2000)
92. American Psycho (2000)
93. The Hangover (2009)
94. Frozen (2013)
95. A History of Violence (2005)
96. The Bourne Identity (2002)
97. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
98. Enter The Void (2009)
99. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
100. In Bruges (2009)

Now, movies like "There Will Be Blood," "The Dark Knight," "No Country For Old Men," "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Children of Men" all appeared on the BBC list. So when a movie is so good, its hard to resist. When making this list, I tried to take into account every genre and what was good of that genre from the last sixteen years. That is why I had to include horror films like "28 Days Later" and "The Ring." Too often on these lists, horror films get forgotten by critics, and I felt the need to put some on there. Same with comedies like "Anchorman," "The Hangover" and "Superbad." 

I felt like something like "The Avengers" has completely changed how we digest superhero movies, so I felt it had to be represented on this list. And as much as I find "Frozen" overrated thanks to working with kids for the last three years. Its had a profound impact on our culture and felt it had to be represented here. For the past sixteen years, there have been two events that have impacted art as a whole, 9/11 and the 2008 Financial Crisis, which is why I included "Inside Job" a great movie about how the crisis took hold.

Its been a good sixteen years of film so far, and I hope you enjoyed my list. What films do you like from the early onset of the 21st Century?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

An Introduction to my Top 100 Films of the 21st Century

Today, BBC brought 177 film critics in a poll to decide the 100 best films of the 21st Century. Which means, its a collection of the best films of the last sixteen years so far. Some people have already complained about it, since its what people do, that we are not even halfway through the century yet. So what's the point of this exercise? Me? Well, I love any to read any type of ambitious list of films, so I couldn't help but dive right in. I have to say that its an impressive list. I haven't seen everything on it, but I have seen most. The films I haven't seen will only serve as a side list of movies to get to eventually. There are even movies on the list that I downright reject (Honestly, what are professional critics obsession with "Spring Breakers?") But any list that can mold "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," with "Holy Motors," and "Mulholland Drive," and "Ratatouille" and "The Dark Knight" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" is a list worth reading about and worth discussing.

I have been so impressed and inspired by BBC's efforts that I have decided to take the challenge and I will be writing my own list of 100 best films of the 21st Century. I have been reflecting on it all day, and I am still trying to figure out which movies qualify for the list for me. You will see some of the same stuff on my list, because hey, when its right...its right. But I hope provide some new stuff too. No two lists are ever alike, and I hope you enjoy mine just as much as the BBC list. I am sorry for being late, but as always, I don't do this professionally. 

I think a list like this is important. I love film, but recently its tough being a film fan. When every studio is out trying to find a brand they can use for the next decade, when everybody is rushing to get the next Young Adult novel adaptation going, when Hollywood is remaking a classic except with all-women, and there are all the rehashes, homages, prequels and sequels we never asked for. Well, it gets tough being a film fan. That is why I applaud BBC's efforts here. I love that 177 critics participated. When the present is going so hot in movies, its a great idea to remember what came before. That film has a bigger history than just the here and now. This type of list reminds that we have been blessed with many good things over the years, and that those experiences should not be taken for granted. It reminds us that good film is everywhere, we just need to go find it. This type of list inspires me to get going on new editions of "Essentials" and "Overlooked Film of the Week," and I am kicking myself for falling off with those. I didn't mean to stop those, because they are important to me. But when you have a forty-hour work week, a forty-five minute commute, and a fiance formerly known as girlfriend, its tough getting that free time.

This list proves how dense the history of film is and that each era of time had their good films and their bad films. I can hardly wait to get started on my list. In the mean time, check out BBC's list. Its a pretty good list, if I do say so myself. Starting tomorrow, I will have my list complete and I will start a fun countdown and present my list by quarters. I hope you enjoy it the next few days.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Ghostbusters Review

Ghostbusters Review
I've been dragging my feet all summer on seeing this. I have already written dozens upon dozens of words on what I thought of the initial idea of an all-women "Ghostbusters" movie, I wrote about the trailers and how they displeased me, and also the unfair backlash and controversy the movie created. "Ghostbusters" is sentimental to me, and on top of not understanding the point of remaking a classic for no reason, I had no hope for a remake of "Ghostbusters." But I tried really hard to approach this film on its own terms. I was going to plunged into an all-women "Ghostbusters" movie head first and I ain't afraid of nothing on the other side.

What's astonishing is there is some good stuff in this "Ghostbusters" remake. Okay. There. I said it. There is some good stuff in this movie. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and especially Kate McKinnon all do profound work together. They have a radiant chemistry that, at the very least, keeps you interested in the film. Chris Hemsworth as the male secretary is comedic gold, and Hemsworth will carve a good comedic career after he's done doing the whole God of Thunder thing. There is even a good story hidden in this film, even if it could use a polish or two, that I feel like could have been a third film in the original franchise. You'll notice some cameos made by Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts and yes, Bill Murray. They each actually made me smile, some made me giggle. (Except the Murray cameo, surprisingly that was a waste.) There is some good energy from the film that I just did not expect.

The thing is, that doesn't carry for the entire film. There is a massive feeling throughout the film that this reboot is trying way too hard. That's its biggest drawback, it feels forced. It feels like its trying, instead of existing as its own entity. Most of the humor seems way too easy, (there is a moment when McKinnon and McCarthy are using technology that reads ghost movements, but all they record is a loud fart. Really?) and I am shocked how little of it is actually funny. This is a movie that features Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, how did I barely laugh? Like I stated about the trailers, the ghosts look so fake that it becomes distracting. I know that this is comedy and I shouldn't take so much of it seriously, but when the 1984 film has better special effects than a 2016 film, that kind of feels off to me. This being a remake, there are several callbacks to the first film, but they all feel phony and out-of-place, further reminding me why classic films don't need to be remade.

Wiig plays Dr. Erin Gilbert and McCarthy plays Dr. Abbey Yates. Years before the film, Gilbert and Yates wrote and published a book together about the paranormal, and Gilbert walked away from the project, much to Yates' dismay, after the book was published. Years later, Gilbert confronts Yates, who published the book without Gilbert's permission. Yates still believes in the paranormal, and she goes on a paranormal siting with her new accomplice Dr. Holtzmann (McKinnon), Gilbert goes on a whim. They discover a ghost and Gilbert renews her faith in paranormal activity. The threesome decide to help the paranormal problem in New York, with a MTA worker Patty Tolan (Jones). Together they must stop a man named Rowan (Neil Casey) who is creating a device that draws ghosts to him, and open a portal to the ghost world.

Out of the four, McKinnon has the best material. She has perfect comedic timing, she has the best moments and she positively flies with them. Wiig and McCarthy are, as expected, good together. However, they just don't get much funny material at all. They get all of the easy jokes, and they can't really make them land. I think Leslie Jones came to play, but she's playing the typical loud, street-smart, not-head-smart-like-all-the-rest stereotype. I thought, is that the best they could do? They couldn't have made her character anymore of a token black character. A treatment Ernie Hudson never got in this franchise. Chris Hemsworth is pretty good in this, and it has some scenes that stick out. There is also good acting done by Charlies Dance, Michael K. Williams, Andy Garcia and Matt Walsh. The acting isn't bad by any account, but I just wish this great cast was funnier.

As I alluded to in my "Suicide Squad" review, "Ghostbusters" is about the billionth movie this summer that featured a glowing McGuffin. Yes, Rowan's character builds a device. Yes, it shoots lights into the sky. Yes, the Ghostbusters must venture into a basement to essentially turn it off. End of movie. Its so familiar and uninteresting that I really wonder what the point of it was. What is it with blockbusters and having the exact same climax? Do they really have this little faith in audiences?

In the end, I wasn't expecting to give this movie this much credit. There is some good stuff in the film, I only wish that I got a whole movie of it. Since the original is so dear to my heart, this had to be perfect for me to really give myself over it. I carry baggage, even though I try not to. So perhaps if you go and see this, you may enjoy it more than me. While I do have baggage, I attempted to let it go and join the film on its own terms. There is some good work done by director Paul Fieg and I applaud his efforts. Making a reboot of a classic like "Ghostbusters" couldn't have been an easy feat, and he deserves credit for stepping up to the plate. There is still too much wrong with the film that I can't give my whole heart over to it.

FINAL GRADE: C   

Will Hollywood Ever Figure Out its Race Problems?

The big movie news over the weekend that Zendaya, the singer who recently joined "Spiderman: Homecoming" will be playing Mary Jane Watson in the movie. The iconic love interest of Peter Parker/Spiderman. Of course, the internet was in an uproar. Why? Take a wild guess. What's been the big topic of just about everything over the last two or so years? Zendaya isn't a white girl with red hair, so obviously that means she can't play Mary Jane, can she? The racist trolls of the internet came lashing out, saying how upset they were that a non-white actress was playing the iconic role that has been white since the birth of the character in the comics. Sadly, this is no surprise. Last year, there was a big deal when Michael B. Jordan, a black actor, was playing Human Torch in the "Fantastic Four" remake, a character who has always been white in the comics. As much as minorities hate it when Hollywood white-washes roles, apparently there can't be any diversity in our big budget blockbusters.

But who is right and who is wrong in this argument? Yes, I think its wrong when Hollywood white-washes roles. I made my stance pretty clear on the #OscarsSoWhite movement earlier this year, and I stand by my feelings. But when Chris Rock hosted the Oscars, he made the best point I hoped he'd make. Hollywood needs to provide more opportunities for African American actors. Diversifying these blockbusters seems like a perfect way to do that. The big blockbusters are movies people see, the movies that arguably break records each year. So it makes perfect sense that they'd add some diversity to the roles. So why do some people get so made when an actor of color plays a character who was white in their long-running source material? Does race really matter or how the actors in question play the characters? Just as long as Zendaya becomes Mary Jane, does race really matter? Honestly, I say no, but sadly there are people who think so.

So why there are plenty of racists with an internet connection in this world, there are others who would wish roles would stay race appropriate when adapting a source due to storytelling reasons. Currently, Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" is now being adapted into a movie, and the book's hero, Roland, has always been portrayed as white. Stephen King literally modeled him after Clint Eastwood. For the movie, African actor Idris Elba will portray the character. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but Roland's race becomes paramount to the storyline once he meets a character named Suzannah. Suzannah is a African American woman who is a Civil Rights Activist who is prejudice against white people. They are two people who are thrown into an extraordinary situation and how they work together adds a layer to the story given their personalities and beliefs. The movies won't really work if a black Roland works with a black Suzannah. Now, there is nothing stopping the studio from tweaking things a bit in order to make the movies make sense. But a white Suzannah with a black Roland just seems a little overplayed, doesn't it? They could just completely write Suzannah out, sure King fans would pout but Peter Jackson got away with writing Tom Bombadil out of "Lord of the Rings," didn't he? My point being, is there a difference between being a racist twat or wanting to keep a certain race in a role for storytelling reasons? 

Despite some blockbusters attempting to diversify in their films, there is still plenty of whitewashing going on in Hollywood. Earlier this year, there was some huge beef with the live-action adaptation of "Ghost in the Shell," a Japanese anime film. The main character will be portrayed by Scarlett Johansson, who isn't Japanese by any means. So of course, there was some big arguments there. I get it, its hard to set a movie in Japan and your actors not be Japanese. Aren't there enough Japanese actresses who could have taken the lead role? That just seems like an excuse to get an A-lister and nothing more. Or how about Tilda Swinton portraying The Ancient One in "Doctor Strange" earlier this year. The Ancient One in the comics is seen as from Tibet in race, but Marvel Studios wanted a white actor so that the Chinese audience wouldn't be offended, due to the turmoil going on in the Tibet reason. So they changed the race and the origin of The Ancient One to essentially sell more tickets. Is that cold? Doesn't justify the white-washing? Possibly. So white-washing roles is still alive and well. Especially still in big blockbusters. Can it be possible to be offended by white-washing, but not when its the other way around? I don't like white-washing because I love it when movies are as authentic as possible, but does that mean I should be offended when somebody like Zendaya plays Mary Jane? I also support the idea of diversifying these big box office smashers? Is it all one in the same?

Earlier this weekend, "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn said it best in this arugment:

"People get upset when something they consider intrinsic to a comic book character changes when adapted for a film. I get this. There are movies I dislike because I think there's a basic misunderstanding of the story or the character when the comic is transferred to film (I still hate how in the first Batman movie the Joker was revealed as the murderer of Bruce Wayne's parents, for instance.)
That said, I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin. When Michael B Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm I didn't understand the uproar. The primary characteristic of Johnny was not, to me, that he was white, or that he had blonde hair, but that he was a fiery, funny, big-mouthed braggart of a hero. I was happy that he was going to be played by one of the finest and most charming young actors out there.
Yesterday, a rumor broke out that the character of Mary Jane was being played by a young black woman, Zendaya, and all hell broke out on the Internet (again). I tweeted that if people find themselves complaining about Mary Jane's ethnicity they have lives that are too good. (For those of you who think this means I'm confirming that Zendaya IS playing MJ, realize that although I've read the Spidey script, and I've met the actress in question, I have no idea what her role is. There's a good chance someone told me at one time or another, but, if so, I can't remember. I'm going to find out when I go into Marvel this afternoon, but I feel free to speak until that time because it's about the concept about a black woman playing Mary Jane, not the actuality or hypothesis of it.)
I got a thousand or so responses to my tweet. Most of them were positive. Some folks disagreed - they thought the character should look like what she looks like in the comics - but were thoughtful. And a handful were flat out racist.
I can't respond to the racists - I'm not ever going to change their minds. But for the thoughtful majority of you out there:
For me, if a character's primary attribute - the thing that makes them iconic - is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she'll work. And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ's primary physical characteristics - she's a tall, thin model - much more so than actresses have in the past.
Whatever the case, if we're going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we're going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world. Perhaps we can be open to the idea that, although someone may not initially match how we personally conceive a character, we can be - and often are - happily surprised."

Well said, Mr. Gunn and thanks for saying so. If Zendaya plays Mary Jane as we know her in the comics (if that is indeed who she is playing) then I will love her for it. I could care less about her ethnicity, just as long as she can play the role well. I have never seen Zendaya act so I can't judge her as an actress yet. I do know that Marvel has made incredible casting decisions since the beginning, so I think the role is in good hands. We need to remember to judge these performances on the actors work, not the color of their skin. We should promote opportunities for minority actors to shine and I think these big blockbusters should represent the diverse world we live in currently. I don't think Hollywood will ever get over its race problems. When a role that is usually white turns black, I assume racist brutes will burst out of the woodwork as usual. When a minority role goes to a white person, there will be an equal amount of backlash. I just  hope we judge these movies based on their merit and not because of some kind of ethnic swap. I also hope for a Hollywood that cools it on the whitewashing. What are your thoughts on all of this?


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Girl Asleep Trailer

"GIRL ASLEEP tells the story of Greta (Bethany Whitmore) - a new girl and a new school, about to turn fifteen, and navigating all of the challenges that this age brings with it - attraction, trying to make friends, dealing with a weird family that just doesn't get you, try as they might. Against her wishes, her mom decides to throw her a birthday party to try to make her transicition to her new school a little more smooth. When it finally all becomes too much, Greta is pulled into a strange and wonderous world where she meets amazing, beautiful and sometimes frightening creatures as she attempts to find her way back home."

This sounds like a dramatic-comedy version of "Pan's Labyrinth" although I don't think "Girl Asleep" is going to be anywhere that dark. I got to say, I really enjoyed this trailer. It looks fun and there were some funny parts in it. I have already heard that the buzz from this film's festival run is incredibly positive. So I think this will be one to look forward to. It hits theaters September 30th.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What I'm Watching: "The Siege" (1998)

What I'm Watching

The Siege
I hadn't seen this movie in a long time and when I saw it on a distant movie channel tonight, I thought I'd give it another shot. I don't think I've even seen the movie from start to finish. When I did originally watch it, it was on TV and I didn't quite understand the politics of it all. Now, being 27 years old and gone through some free thinking, this movie hit me in a brand new way. Its especially relevant today. Its weird re-watching this movie in 2016. Back in 1998, we had no idea that 9/11 was coming. Nor the huge slew of terrorist attacks that have occurred just this past year. There has lots that has been said how to handle refugees from the Middle East who try to enter this country, and whatever you think about that subject, you can't look at a film like "The Siege" and not be a little afraid of it.

We've got Denzel Washington playing FBI Agent Anthony Hubbard. We have Bruce Willis playing General Deveroux. We have Annette Benning CIA Agent Kraft. Hubbard is investigating a terrorist cell loose in New York City. This brings Hubbard into contact with Kraft who is using the Muslim population to find the terrorist cell. While the FBI are able to stop some of the upcoming attacks, they don't stop them all, which leads General Deveroux to come in with an Army and create Marshall Law in New York City by order of the President. Hubbard and Deveroux started out as allies, but now turn to foes as Deveroux bends his power in order to find the terrorist cells.

Sound familiar yet?

I don't like using this blog as a political soap-box, but watching this movie today was shocking in a lot of ways. I am not sure director Ed Zwick knew that this movie would be so relate-able so many years later. But this is something we can all relate to today and depending on who wins this years Presidential election, it could be even more relevant. "The Siege" begs us to fight the good fight, but is it enough? And when is it okay to take the white gloves off in freedom. Can we save the world by taking away the freedoms of others? These are all good questions, and "The Siege" doesn't really offer any easy answers, because there are no easy answers. All we can do is remain moral in the face of fear.

The movie itself is incredibly intense, and how the film slowly builds on its tension is pretty good for the 1990s. This decade had lots of really good tense drama, but this sticks out in way for me. Telling from the cast, the acting is really great. It ends in a typical 1990's stand-off, but everything leading up to that point is worth it. "The Siege" may not be talked about much these days, but it definitely should.



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Photos from the set of IT!

I've been discussing the fluctuation of the IT adaptation for quite awhile now. I am overly psyched that we are getting a new "IT' movie very soon. A few months back, I wrote about the first image of Bill Skarsgaard in full Pennywise garb. Today, we got a new, full-frontal image of Bill as Pennywise.

What do I think of the image? Well, I read the book in grade school. It hit a personal spot for me because I was the exact same age as the children in the book. The costume Bill is wearing is much truer to the garments Pennywise wore in the book. There has already been a whirlwind of controversy and negativity over this image, especially people who find Tim Curry's portrayal back in 1990 as sacred. Personally, it shows me who hasn't read the book. There is nothing wrong with Pennywise's costume here. I just hope he doesn't have that creepy look on his face all throughout the film. In the book, Pennywise wasn't a creepy clown. He would act sweet, funny and innocent to children in order to gain their trust. Once he had it, then he'd turn on the scary right before killing and devouring them. (Pennywise is not of Earth!). If they force Pennywise to be overly-creepy, it could kill this remake.




The images above should also excite fans of the book. The silver bike was Ben's beloved bike from the book. The red gate with the twenty-nine represents the house on Neibolt street. The 29th house on Neibolt street was where IT appeared to Richie as a Leper demanding a blowjob. Yep, Pennywise came in many forms, but you'll have to see the movie in order to figure out what that means. Why is Richie missing? Well, I am not sure.

What I am sure of is these images suggest a very dark, disturbing, scary movie that I hope finally gets made!

SOURCE:

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialStephenKing/?fref=ts