Sunday, February 26, 2012

CST's 2012 Oscar Predictions

Of course, this is pretty much who I think should win.

Best Picture: The Help

Best Director:  Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Best Actor: George Clooney (The Descendents)

Best Actress:  Viola Davis (The Help)

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help) or Jessica Chastain (The Help)

Best Supporting Actor: Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

Well, those are my hopes and predictions.  We will see how correct I am tonight.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fireflies in the Garden


Ryan Reynolds                         Emily Watson               Hayden Panettiere
Carrie-Ann Moss                     Willem Dafoe               Ioan Gruffudd            and Julia Roberts

Everyone who knows me, knows I love sitting down to a nice dysfunctional family drama and/or comedy.  I first came across Fireflies in the Garden a couple months ago when the trailer appeared on the Yahoo movies page.  I knew this was a movie that was right up my alley.  Also, as you can see from my list above, this film has quite an impressive cast.  But have you ever noticed that these sorts of movies, the dysfunctional family all getting together for a holiday or tragedy plots always has an impressive cast? Some examples: Home for the Holidays, The Family Stone, Eulogy, Little Miss Sunshine, This Christmas, Death at a Funeral.

Fireflies in the Garden follows the Taylor family, past and present.  The film begins with the family coming together to celebrate the matriarch's, Lisa Taylor (Julia Roberts), late-in-life college graduation, when a major tragedy strikes.  We are introduced to the abusive Taylor patriarch, Charles, who is portrayed in all his nasty glory by Willem Dafoe, a man who shines in these sorts of roles and did again in this role.  Then there is the eldest Taylor son, Michael, played beautifully and with so much soul by Ryan Reynolds.  Michael's aunt and also Lisa's younger sister, Jane (Emily Watson), is very intricate to the plot which follows the Taylor family, not only in the present day, but flashes back to one particularly stressful summer when Jane is visiting her sister.  In the flashbacks, Hayden Panettiere plays young Jane and for the first time, I see real dramatic chops in this actress.  She exudes all the dread and sorrow needed for her small, but pivotal role.    

Now, this movie was made in 2008 but, because of reasons unknown to me, was released straight to DVD in February 2012.  I wish I could have a why oh why conversation with the person in charge of that decision because there was some serious award winning performances in this movie.  However, I have to choose two stand-outs: Emily Watson and a serious tour-de-force performance from Julia Roberts.   I haven't seen that much intensity from her since Erin Brockovich.  Ryan Reynolds proves once again that he can win in a dramatic role (please rent Buried!).

Fireflies in the Garden, which get it's title from the Robert Frost poem of the same name, is a fine American drama.  The film shows a seriously broken family, trying to piece its self back together, not only after this one tragedy but after decades of cracks and breakage.  The acting is flawless, the writing and storytelling is intense.  However, from the middle to the end, the movie starts to wane a little.  It is still a great drama, but the hold it had on me in the first 30 to 45 minutes started to loosen.  But I still highly recommend this film, if for anything, to see some powerhouse performances by a powerhouse cast.  If anything, the Taylor family will make your own family seem far less broken.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Being Human (The UK Version) - Seasons 1 - 3


I have yet to use the expression diamond in the rough but in this case, it isn't only needed but extremely necessary.  I have to say I am loving this resurgence of the horror/supernatural television series.  In the past there was The Twilight Zone, Dark Shadows, and more recent, the incredibly amazing The X-Files.  Some people considered Buffy and Angel in there.  I never really became enthralled in those shows but the episodes here and there I saw, they seemed a little goofy to me.  Now, we have Fringe, The Vampire Diaries (a little campy at times but I enjoy it), American Horror Story (which I have not seen yet but looking forward to it), and of course the awesome True Blood

I of course first came across the US version of Being Human on Netflix just a short time ago.  The storyline was intriguing to me so I watched Season 1 and enjoyed it.  I like the actors and the characters, some surprisingly awesome special effects, and some creepy scenes, especially towards the end of the season.  Then, some friends told me to watch the original version from the UK that airs on BBC.  Well, let me tell you people, even though I enjoyed the US version very much, I have to say the UK wins in this match up. 

Being Human is the story of Mitchell, George, and Annie, three twenty-somethings sharing a flat in Bristol.  However, these are not your ordinary roommates.  Mitchell is a vampire, George is a werewolf, and the awesome Annie is a ghost.  These three genuine souls work their collective asses off to just live in the world and be human.  Well, of course to produce an interesting drama series, that would just be plain boring, and boring this show is not.  Mitchell, the smoldering, yet tortured century old vampire. George, the loveable, optimistic teddy bear who, for one night a month is a ferocious werewolf.  Of course there is Annie, the naive ghost who, even though she is dead, still wants the world to be magical and happy place.  The main word for these three is genuine.  They share their lives together and because their lives are so difficult to live (living being the operitive word), they forge a bond I haven't seen between characters in years.  The casting is phenomenally good  and I love the addition of the cute as a button (but do not make the mistake and underestimate her) Nina.  These actors, of course unknown to US audiences, are so good in every episode, whether they are being comedic (and there are many of those moments), scared, or sad.  I mean hell, during many of the episodes, I felt their emotions.  The show is also very dark, sinister, and no holds barred creepy which I find to be great entertainment.  Of course, the BBC gets away with a lot more adult content than the SyFy channel where the US version is aired, and this is definitely an adult show.

Now, I am reviewing seasons 1-3 because even though the season 4 premiere is a week away, I have read ahead that there are a lot of changes in store for the show and I want to let as many people know about the first 22 episodes as possible.  Without giving too much away, when you are watching this show and start to get closer to the season 3 finale, KEEP WATCHING!  It builds to such a triumphant and dramatic climax, I was literally looking at the screen speechless which is why I waited til the next night to write this.  I will tell you though, grab the Kleenex because Mitchell, George, Annie, and Nina share a scene in the season finale that is so unbelievably emotional, even a blood sucker would weep.  But the acting chops on these young stars in the making soared in that heart wrenching scene, and throughout the rest of the series.  So, with all that in mind, cozy up under a blanket with a bowl of popcorn and check out Being Human  because missing this wonderful series would be, well, inhuman.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Help

Review #2 for my And the nominees are..... series.  The Help is nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture.


This is one of those movies that should be listed in the dictionary in all bold caps under the definitions for inspiring and heartfelt. I guess this could be the 21st century's Norma Rae.  Sometimes a good social change movie can bring just the right amount of tears to your eyes with poignant moments but a great social change movie will force you jump and cheer all the while those tears are rolling down your cheeks, not that I would know anything about that damn it.

As far as I am concerned, some of the stand-out performances of 2011 are in this movie, and three of them are nominated for acting honors. In the first frame of the movie, Viola Davis' (Abileen) performance is haunting, yet electrifying throughout the rest of the running time.  She is nominated for the coveted Best Actress honor. You can find Octavia Spencer (Minny) playing some background character or guest role in so many movies and television shows.  According to her IMDb page, her first role was playing Sandra Bullock's nurse in A Time to Kill.  I recently saw her in a multi-episode guest role on Ugly Betty.  Now, she has won a Golden Globe and is nominated for the best supporting actress Oscar for her superb comedic/dramatic role in The Help.  These two incomparable talents play best friends and their chemistry is dead on.  The Help is also just one stop on the roller coaster ride that was 2011 for the talents of Emma Stone and Jessica Chastain.  Chastain is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her turn as the precocious, loveable, yet just a bit naive at first, Celia Foote.  I have to say the folks involved with casting this movie put together one of the finest group of actresses I have personally seen in years.  And kudos to putting in the great Cicely Tyson!

I am not even going to go on and on with a synopsis of this movie.  But, if you haven't seen it yet, go rent RIGHT NOW!  There is a reason why, out of the ten nominees for Best Picture, this is the number one movie in box office earnings with over $170 million in the United States alone.  Do yourself a favor on this big football weekend, rise up out of that damn chair, and help your eyes experience a tour de force film in The Help.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Tree of Life

NOTE: This is the first of the ten Best Picture Nominees for the 2012 Academy Awards I am reviewing in my And the nominees are..... series. Hoping to get to see and review all the nominees before the telecast on February 26th.

NO STARS - The sky is black on this one.

I really did give it my all when watching this movie people, but in the end, it just did not work out for me at all.  I can still remember seeing the trailer for the first time and thinking, wow this movie looks beautiful.  And I thought it had the whole dark, dysfunctional family thing going which is one of my favorite themes in movies, and of course it has one of my favorite actors of all time: Brad Pitt.  So, we've all seen movies where after they were over, we told ourselves and/or others, "There's three hours of my life I will never get back."  So, there ya go.

Honestly, just go to he IMDB page to look up the synopsis and watch the trailer.  I really wouldn't know where to begin.  I can give it my best shot though.  It begins with Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain playing parents to two little boys in the 1950's.  Then it fast forwards to present day, where one of the boys, played by Sean Penn, is apparently hating his life. Then, and this is no lie whatsoever, we are taken to at least an hour worth of images from the beginnings of Earth, including dinosaurs roaming the land.  Now, I really did open my mind for The Tree of Life and I really dug deep and tried to channel my inner deep, dark, I am more enlightened than you will ever be, coffee drinking, non-bathing, banning anything mainstream in my life because it actually makes sense goth child but, alas, in the end it did not work.  Sorry people, I need to bathe and I do enjoy a good summer blockbuster.  I do understand what director Terrance Malick (awesome director of The Thin Red Line but also a known recluse) is trying to say with the film but I just wish the execution was a bit different, maybe some actual dialogue and not just the background voices would have been nice.

However, this is certainly all my opinion because the movie has won a number of awards already and it is now nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (Oscars).  But I am sad to say, even with the beautiful images and awesome cast, this tree should fall on Oscar night.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

The Grey


If you are looking for an honest to goodness original (and these days, there has to be emphasis on the word original) action thriller, then The Grey  is the movie you have been looking for.  This is not a second hand sequel, or comic-book based with a some superhero in tights or based on based on based on something that can be equally idiotic.

This movie is brilliantly haunting, thrilling, and intense as hell.  Serious character depth is immediately felt in the first twenty minutes as the audience is introduced Ottway (Neeson).  This guy is seriously damaged as he is working on the edge of the world.  Also, when you watch this movie (and you better go and see this on this big screen if you haven't already), you need to realize that the truly awesome and bad ass Liam Neeson turns 60! this year.  This guy is in every frame being the stud he has truly been all these years and I am seriously ready for the upcoming Taken sequel.

Alrighty then, the plot goes as follows: an oil drilling team working in the cold and frigid Alaskan tundra, boards a plane for Anchorage and the plane crashes.  A race for survival ensues but it's not your normal The Edge, Alive, A River Wild generic kind of race for survival.  These are real, hard core, in your face moments by a top notch cast.  I was shivering in the theater.  Oh, and did I mention, the race trying to get away from the big ass wolves.  These are the characters in the movie that give a definite, almost, horror factor.  And speaking of the cast, these guys put their stone cold hearts and souls into their roles.  There are definite award winning performances from Neeson, Dallas Roberts (A Home at the End of the World, Walk the Line) and Durmot Mulroney (The Family Stone, My Best Friends Wedding).  On the poster it reads, Live or Die On This Day, however if it's the ladder, make sure you tune into The Grey.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.