Mad Max: Fury Road

What a lovely movie.

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My rating: 5 reels out of 5

I only remember bits and pieces of the old Mad Max films starring Mel Gibson. They would come on tv in the middle of the afternoon and I would have no idea what is actually going on. It’s been so long that if I sat down and watched them now, my now “adult” brain and my so-called movie knowledge would perceive the movies differently now. It never occurred to me that the director of those films, George Miller, actually directed this one too. George Miller flies under the radar and apparently is a versatile director, having also directed the animated movies, Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two. George Miller is quite the genius as he brings us an action packed film and creates a vibrant world that is Mad Max: Fury Road.

The world is now a wasteland and everyone is out of their minds. Max (Tom Hardy) is a former officer trying to survive in that world. After being captured by a tyrannical leader’s army, Max is thrusted into a middle of a conflict when the leader has his property stolen from him.

Fury Road is highly detailed from the environment, down to the smallest role in the film. The great thing about the details of the film is that it helps paint a picture of the world without stating it with words. What people are willing or unwilling to put with in order to survive. It’s the little details that give life to every character in the movie. The way they behave and what is governing their actions. An army worshipping their leader and having a warrior’s death to secure their place in the afterlife. Filmmakers took some care in the little things and it shows.

From beginning to end, the film is a non-stop adrenaline rush. Well maybe not non-stop, we do get moments where things calm down so we can catch our breath. Never a dull moment and we are provided with a variety of action sequences. You also have to appreciate the filmmaker’s using as little special effects as possible. Makes the action sequences even more amazing.

Guaranteed I know who George Miller is now. After watching this movie, makes me want to watch all the previous Mad Max films now. Fury Road is easily one of the best action movies that has come out this year, if not the best.

My expectations: 4 reels out of 5, expectations exceeded.

Appeal: Target audience is most likely adult men but with strong female leads and characters, it’s a film that could potentially translate to many.

Re-watch value: Can easily watch this movie again.

Memorable: Definitely

Formats: 2D, 3D, Dolby Atmos (where available), D-Box (where available).

And the Oscar goes to…

It’s that time of the year again where the old people of the academy choose what they think is the best film of the year. Sometimes I agree with them, and sometimes I don’t. Going over each category, I’ll pick my personal favorites of those nominated and who will probably win anyway. For those I’m in an oscar pool with, don’t cheat and copy me, haha.

Best Short Film – Live Action

My favorite: The Phone Call

Probably will win: The Phone Call

This is a tough category for me, enjoyed all of them for different reasons. Throwing out Boogaloo and Graham and Butter Lamp. Two well made films but just underwhelming compared to the other films. Aya, is driven by an interesting character. Parvaneh is an interesting look at an Afghanistan girl working in the rural Swiss alps to send money back home to her family. The Phone Call is probably the most complete short. Grabs you from the beginning, has an emotional arc to it, and it’s something that really hasn’t been seen before (at least to me).

Best Short Film – Animated

My favorite: The Dam Keeper

Probably will win: The Dam Keeper

A great crop of short films filmed with love, humor, and life lessons. The most compelling one though was The Dam Keeper. Beautiful from beginning to end.

Best Documentary, Short Subject

I don’t have a favorite because I didn’t see any of them.

Based on subject matter and awards won, it’s probably going to come down to Joanna, Our Curse, or Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1Joanna and Our Curse have garnered more recognition but you can’t ignore the subject matter of Crisis Hotline. My best guess is Joanna.

Best Documentary, Feature

Another category where I didn’t see any of the nominees.

It will probably be Citizenfour. 

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

My favorite: Guardians of the Galaxy

Should win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Probably will win: Interstellar

There’s really none in this category that I didn’t like. Really happy with any one of them winning. But with the motion capture special effects of Dawn, that should be the real winner.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

My favorite: Interstellar

Probably will win: American Sniper

Interstellar borrows from other sci-fi films in terms of being able to not hearing sound in space, which is probably why it won’t win. American Sniper has the most realistic depiction of the ground war in Iraq. Sound definitely had a big role in this movie.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

I find that sound mixing and sound editing usually go hand and hand together at the oscars. Refer to category above.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

My favorite: Being Again “Lost Stars

Probably will win: Selma “Glory”

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

My favorite: Interstellar

Probably will win: The Imitation Game

Loved the combination of Hans Zimmer and organs. Interstellar was like a religious experience. The score of the The Imitation Game really helps drive the movie though.

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

My favorite: Guardians of the Galaxy

Probably will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Didn’t see Foxcatcher, but not sure Steve Carrell’s fake nose can win an oscar. The

makeup for Drax was impressive. For the overall look and scheme of a film though, the award should go to Grand Budapest.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

My favorite and will probably win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Achievement in Production Design

My favorite and will probably win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Production Design is usually a character itself in Wes Anderson movies.

Best Achievement in Editing

My favorite: Whiplash

Probably will win: Boyhood

My favorite category! Takes a lot of patience to edit together a movie over 12 years.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

My favorite and probably will win: Birdman

There’s no denying that Birdman should win with the illusion of one long seamless take. I felt I was distracted from the rest of the film because I was captivated by the effort that was put into the picture.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Another category where I didn’t see any. All signs point to Ida.

Best Animated Feature of the Year

My favorite and probably will win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Only saw two films in this category. The other being The Tale of The Princess Kaguya. Japanese films hardly appeals to a general audience. Dragon is a film that manages to match the success of its predecessor if not exceeds it,

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

My favorite and probably will win: Whiplash

I just loved this movie! The characters were very strong in this movie. It’s hard for a movie to have you like a character despite them being an asshole. If you hate what they do but still like them, that’s an accomplishment.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

My favorite: Nightcrawler

Probably will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler was a compelling movie but Budapest has more creativity in it.

Best Achievement in Directing

My favorite and probably will win: Alejandro González Iñarritu

Spoiler alert, directing and best picture winners usually go hand and hand.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

My favorite: Emma Stone for Birdman

Probably will win: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood

Surprisingly, the weakest in this category is Meryl Streep. She can’t win them all. Look for Arquette to take home the statue.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

My favorite and probably should win: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

Can’t imagine what the movie would be without him.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

My favorite: Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl

Probably will win: Julianne Moore for Still Alice

Rosamund Pike’s devilishly performance I still think is the best but it’s probably going to Julianne Moore because she has been snubbed a handful of times. Don’t get me wrong, her role as a Linguistics professor dealing with Alzheimer’s disease is a strong performance.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

My favorite: Michael Keaton for Birdman

Probably will win: Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything

Close race on this one. I’m torn between Keaton and Redmayne.

Best Picture

My favorite: Whiplash

Probably will win: Birdman

Boyhood was leading the pack but Birdman has gained momentum. Don’t necessarily agree with the choice but I don’t hate it.

Phew! Thanks for reading all the way to here!

Best of 2014

Haven’t compiled a “Top 10″ list in a few years. So rather than a top 10 list, here’s a list of “Best of.”

Best Movie That No One In The USA Saw – Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Post-apocalyptic movie about survivors of a failed global warming experiment that are traveling around the world on a train. It was a smart movie that failed in the US because Harvey Weinstein thought it would be a movie that US audiences wouldn’t understand, so it wasn’t really advertised as much. Catch it on Netflix stream if you missed it. It’s action packed and it’s a movie that makes you think, in a good way. It would gross over 4.5 million in the states while overseas, it grossed over 82 million.

Best Straight To Internet Movie – Stretch

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A few weeks ago, I saw a video on the works of Joe Carnahan. One of the most underrated directors working today. In the video, I noticed that there was a couple movies of his I haven’t seen and found one was streaming on Netflix. In fact, it was a straight to internet release. Stretch turned into an unexpected, and wild ride. Was very pleasantly surprised.

Best Movie To Bring A Smile To Your Face – Begin Again

Begin Again

Such a heartwarming movie about the beauty of friendship, love, and redemption.

Honorable Mention: Chef

Best Auteur Film – Interstellar

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Christopher Nolan is easily one of the most powerful directors in Hollywood today. One who is able to do as he pleases and let’s no one stop him. Interstellar is dense piece about mankind’s future on Earth and the start above it. A movie that you appreciate more each time you see it.

Best Actor – The Theory Of Everything

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Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking is the best performance for an actor I’ve seen this year so far. He should at least get a nomination.

Other Best Actor Consideration: Jeremy Renner in Kill The Messenger

Best Thriller / Best Movie That Messed With My Mind / Best Actress – Gone Girl

Gone Girl

When I say it’s a film that messed with my head, I don’t mean it had a mind bending twist at the end. From a psychological standpoint, it made me afraid. It was a film I wanted to see again but felt I needed some time to decompress what I just saw. Also, I believe best performance from an actress this year easily goes to Rosamund Pike.

Best Thriller Honorable Mention: Kill The Messenger

Best Horror Movie: Dead Snow: Red vs Dead

Dead Snow

Horror is my least watched genre. By default, the only horror film I watched this year wins. It’s really more like an action movie, with lots of gore and dark humor. Nazi Zombies, Russian Zombies…what more do you need?!

Best Animated – The Tale of Princess Kaguya

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By default, the only animated film I saw this year wins (I didn’t see The Lego Movie, so sue me). Princess Kaguya is a film that stuck with me days after I saw it. In a subtle way, made me very reflective on my own life.

Best Comedy – They Came Together

They Came Together

A spoof comedy on romantic comedies. Basing on which films made me laugh the hardest, They Came Together was easily the best comedy I saw.

Best of Sundance (Literally) / Best Drama  WhipLash

Whiplash

There’s a reason why Whiplash won Best of Sundance because it really was the best film I saw at Sundance. Powerful performances by J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller. It will stick with you after the final frame.

Honorable Mentions: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, The Skeleton Twins

Best Action Movie – The Raid 2: Berandal

The Raid 2

The most highly anticipated movie for me this year and it did not disappoint. Quite possibly one of the best action movies of all-time if not just this year. One of few sequels that exceeds the original.

Best Popcorn Flick / Best Science Fiction Movie / Best Comic Book Movie / Best Blockbuster / My Personal Favorite Of The Year – Guardians of the Galaxy

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Has become one of my favorite Sci-Fi movies of all-time. A perfect blend of action and humor, with a dash of heart.

Best Blockbuster Honorable Mention: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Best Comic Book Movie Honorable Mention: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Other Honorable Mentions: 

The Drop – Because of two words: Tom Hardy

Boyhood – Best movie that took years to make, haha

Birdman – Great acting and cinematography

Movies That Disappointed Me or Wanted To Enjoy But Just Didn’t

Men, Women and Children – A rather uncomfortable movie to sit through.

Under The Skin – No amount of Scarlett Johansson nudity could relieve my boredom

Movies That Sucked

Lucy – Just a bad year for Scarlett Johansson movies for me, I guess.

Transformers 4: Age of Extinction – Longest 3 hours of my movie watching life…well maybe except Alexander.

Interstellar

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

interstellar

My rating: 5 reels out of 5

I’m a Nolan fanboy, so I’m going to be bias when it comes to a Christopher Nolan film, and the funny thing is, I admit before even watching a Nolan movie that I’m not going to be initially blown away. His movies are so dense with information from beginning to end, you don’t quite catch it all. Last night, I was entranced for 169 minutes and forgot all my worries. There are thrilling moments and moments of strong emotion. By the time it was all over, I just sat there thinking, with not much to actually say.  I thought I’m going to let this one marinate overnight, and wait to see it again (in film projection) before I write about it. Then when I woke up this morning, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

What I like about Nolan’s films is that he conveys his message in a subtle way. It resonates with me how a certain line of dialogue in the movie could initially be passed off as humorous but later turns out to be the premise for a character’s journey. It’s a journey to the far reaches of space, testing mankind’s endurance and spirit to survive. Exploring themes of hope and despair.

When explorers discover a wormhole, they use it to go beyond the limits of human space travel to try find a new world for humankind. Filled with an all-star cast including Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Michael Caine, and a mesmerizing score from Hans Zimmer. Interstellar is a movie that demands your attention. Executed flawlessly. An epic movie with outstanding visual effects and subject matters that everyone can understand. Interstellar is a visual masterpiece that embodies what experiencing a movie in a theater should be like.

My expectations: Because it’s a Christopher Nolan film, I can’t help but set my expectations very high. I expect a grand epic movie, and that’s what I got. Expectations Exceeded.

Recommendation: Nolan fanboys are going to love the film. Cinema lovers will love the film. It’s the kind of movie that NEEDS to be experienced in a theater.

Re-watch value: It’s a long one to watch but so worth it. May even have to take a 4 and a half hour drive to see it in a 70mm IMAX film projector.

Memorable: Definitely a memorable film.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

My rating: 4 1/2 reels out of 5

With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

Gone Girl, comes from director David Fincher, director of such films as Fight Club and The Social Network. His films are always captivating and moving, and Gone Girl is no different.  I usually don’t leave a David Fincher film feeling afraid, but this film is still resonating its hold on me. Fear was among the many emotions I was feeling while watching this movie. The film carried an air of mystery and puzzlement. You experience sympathy, anger, and then empathy for the characters. It was a movie that kept you guessing and it will haunt you after the final shot.

As much crap as Ben Affleck gets as an actor for some of his roles, this was a good role for him. From the trailers, we get a sense that his character, Nick Dunne, is hiding something. Affleck played his role perfectly. He was charming and mysterious. There was something off about his character that kept you wondering.  David Fincher has turned some unknowns into dynamic leading ladies, most recently Rooney Mara in the remake of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. The leading lady in Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike, is first on my list of actresses this year that deserve an oscar nomination for their role. Amy Dunne is a character that is smart and captivating, a character that you just can’t ignore. If Rosamund Pike is going to be remembered for a role, it would be this one. Overall, the entire cast was fantastic. Tyler Perry even plays a likable lawyer.

I went blind into this film, only knowing that David Fincher directed and Ben Affleck starred in it. With David Fincher, I expect at least a decent film, and I got more than that. I don’t think he can do any wrong. With re-watch value, aside from one really uncomfortable scene, I could watch this again but not in any hurry to. Recommending this film, David Fincher fans will enjoy it. General audiences may enjoy it. My favorite part of the night was some of the immediate reactions of some of the people around me after the movie. The film is memorable, I won’t forget it.

David Fincher creates a very somber mood through the lighting of the film and the score. The movie takes twists and turns you would not expect. All gets revealed at the right moments. The writer of the book also pens the screenplay. To keep readers interested in the movie and to avoid spoilers, she writes a different ending from the book. I feel compelled to read the book now. The heart of the movie is the characters. I felt a roller coaster of emotions from anger to sympathy and then to hate, and most of all, fear. I haven’t felt so disturbed by a film for a while.

10/5/14 Update: apparently there is no difference between the book and movie ending. I have been misinformed.

Begin Again

Delightfully charming

Begin Again

My rating: 4 1/2 reels out of 5

 A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.

Going into this movie, I knew who directed and starred in it and that was enough for me to want to see it. Begin Again was directed by John Carney, who directed the modern day musical Once, a movie which contains one of my all-time favorite scenes in movie history. Begin Again has Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, one of my favorite actresses and actors. I wanted to watch it earlier but my friend thought it sounded like a romantic comedy (would’ve taken our bro-date to another level I suppose, haha). We went to another movie instead and I saw Begin Again later in the week. My friend’s suspicions were true, it was a romantic comedy but it’s not the conventional kind. Between Carney’s Once and Begin Again, the two movies contain themes of second chances, romance, and the bond of friendship. Begin Again is a wonderfully delightful movie that brought nothing but a smile to my face.

Just like Once, Carney incorporates music into Begin Again. Unlike Once though, it doesn’t play like a musical, it’s more like a regular film with music in it. To prepare for her role, Keira Knightley learned to play guitar and sing. Playing the rockstar that dumps her is Maroon 5 singer, Adam Levine. I honestly didn’t who Levine was until this movie. He has a high singing voice which I’m not a fan of but he played his role well. To round out the musical cast, we also have Mos Def, playing a music executive, and CeeLo Green, playing a musician named Troublegum. Playing the disgraced music-business executive is Mark Ruffalo. As daughter and wife of Mark Ruffalo’s character, we have oscar nominees, Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener. Even though the music doesn’t quite stick with you, it is great. Aesthetically pleasing and fits the overall mood of the movie superbly. Great moments that you’ve never seen before. Music is a character itself in this movie but the soul of this movie is the relationship between the main characters, Gretta (Knightley) and Dan (Ruffalo).

Playing around with flashbacks, the first act of our story is admirably edited, it builds the backstory of Gretta and Dan before they first meet. Lost souls who manage to find each other.  You may reach a point in your life where everything seems hopeless. You may reach a point in your life where you have no idea what direction to go. The people around you can help you through the darkest of times. Sometimes it’s a person you’ve known your whole life or it could be a complete stranger. Begin Again is about second chances. It’s about the passions that can bring us together, such as music. It’s about a friendship that can change your life. You can probably guess how the story will go in this movie but it just may surprise you. I hope Begin Again can make you smile like it did for me.

My expectations: I was expecting a funny and an inspiring film. It’s what I got and more. Expectations exceeded.

Re-watch value: I can easily watch this movie again.

Recommendation: I can recommend this film to most anyone.

Memorable: Great memories created with this movie.

Get On Up


Get On Up

My rating: 3 reels out of 5

A chronicle of James Brown’s rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.

Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of James Brown is phenomenal, really bringing the funk and the soul of James Brown. When you have a movie about a musician, you have to have musical performances of their songs. When songs were performed, they were really well done. Good costume designing, cinematography, and sound design. The filmmakers really did their research and emulated James Brown wonderfully. The parts between those performances, were dull at times.

Why I didn’t enjoy the film? I’m not a huge music buff. I hear James Brown’s music more in passing than I do listening to it on my own accord. Perhaps it just felt like a story that I’ve seen before, musicians just seem to have trouble with money, drugs, or love. I can’t help but think of previous biographical movies such as Ray and Walk The Line. It seemed like the filmmakers tried to vary from those films as much as possible. One of the ways they attempted to do this was through editing. We jump through times in James’ life, it is highlighted by the year and some phrase to describe the chapter in that life. However, the part that would annoy me is that they would grab my attention with something but then they wouldn’t come back to it until later in the film. Attention grabbers is an effective strategy when starting a movie but when it happens a couple times in the middle of a movie, then it gets distracting.

There’s no way a movie can fully cover the life of anyone, especially James Brown. Some aspects of his life were not mentioned or were barely touched upon. Nevertheless, the movie will give you a new way to look at the Godfather of Soul. Get On Up is a well made film but it’s just not the kind of film that appealed to me. Don’t let my opinion stop you from going though because the two friends I went with enjoyed it.

My expectations: Low expectations. I wasn’t too excited to begin with. And the movie was pretty much what I expected. I found myself wondering when the film was going to end and I even had to check what time it was.

Recommendation: Recommended to those who love music, especially the funk. If you’re not interested, you may or not be surprised about it.

Re-watch value: None

Memorable: Forgettable for me.

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