Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Captain Phillips

*Just an FYI, this is a critique of the movie Captain Phillips I was not there, so of course I have no comment on the actual events.*

Nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Let's face it, Tom Hanks still has it!  But seriously, did he ever loose it?  I mean, yes there may have been some misfires here and there over the years, but he doesn't have near as many as some cinematic icons do.  He is only the second actor to win the Best Actor Academy Award 2 years (1993 and 1994) in a row (behind Spencer Tracy who did it in 1937 and 1938).  He starred in Castaway almost completely by himself and that went to earn $430 million worldwide. 

Captain Phillips was never really high on my movie radar this season.  We are getting deeper into the heavy hitter award contenders now and I read the buzz for this movie then saw the trailer at the theater.  The trailer itself looked pretty intense AND I had just watched Cloud Atlas the night before and was blown away by that entire movie, the incredible plot, and one of the best acting ensembles ever put together.  It was like my man crush for Tom Hanks was suddenly awakened again.  Then tonight, I just watched Forrest Gump and of course that goes without saying.  The movie is of course based on the book, A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea and it was written by Captain Richard Phillips, who is portrayed by Tom Hanks.

The movie flowed as easily and flawlessly as an unobstructed river on a beautiful summer day.  Even the scenes at the beginning, introducing all the characters, which as we know already are on both sides of the world, kept me intrigued and were not at all boring.  Normally in movies like this, the introductory parts at the beginning can be dull and my mind will start to drift if it doesn't hurry up and get going.  I am usually up and ready to give every movie a chance but nowadays, as I get older and busier, I find out I do not have time for all that nonsense and also do not have the patience I once had. There was no nonsense at all to worry about in Captain Phillips.

The movie follows Richard Phillips, captain of an American container ship, the Maersk Alabama, while on a trip to Mombasa.  The ship is hijacked by four Somali pirates led by a young man named Muse, who is eager for a big payday.  It is a race for survival for all who are on board.  The rest of the movie is intense, but not in a dark thriller kind of way, but in an emotional and compelling kind of way.  Barkhad Abdi is the actor who portrays Muse.  According to his IMDb page, he is from Somalia and his family settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota when he was 14.  Captain Phillips is his only acting credit.  I have a feeling his life is about to change though.  Abdi's performance showed years of film experience and is generating much award buzz.  This is one of Tom Hanks' most emotional roles, keeping me captivated up to that final tear-soaked scene (and yes, I had to wipe them away too).  If the entire movie does nothing for you, stay for that final scene at least.  You will definitely need to hijack some tissues, or your shirt sleeve.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carrie vs. Carrie

*Just FYI, this will be long since it is a comparison of two movies. So go pee now, grab a snack and enjoy!*

    In 1974, a relatively new author burst onto the scene with a book about a teenage girl with telekinetic powers. The girl, Carrie White, uses those powers against everyone at her school during the prom after a malicious prank.  The young author started on the manuscript, which was meant to be a short story, but later threw it in the trash before finishing it.  His wife, Tabitha, retrieved it out of the garbage and told him to finish the story.  That book would simply be titled Carrie and that writer is of course, the incomparable Stephen King.  The book was not exactly a runaway success at first but with what he earned from selling the paperback rights, he was able to quit his teaching job and write full-time.

In 1976, a film adaptation of the book was released in theaters.  It was directed by Brian DePalma (Scarface, Carlito's Way, The Black Dahlia) and drew immediate critical praise.  Produced for $1.8 million dollars, it would go on to gross $33.8 million dollars and be one of the most acclaimed movies of 1976, even earning 2 Academy Award nominations for it's two lead actresses: Sissy Spacek for Best Actress (Carrie White) and Piper Laurie for Best Supporting Actress as her mother, Margaret White.  That is still to this day, unheard of for a horror movie.  Roger Ebert called it "an absolutely spellbinding horror movie."

Watching the movie, even 37 years later, it of course oozes the 1970's but still just remains an iconic thrill ride today.  Sissy Spacek, who was a bit of an unknown at the time, was 27 and actually married to the production designer on the movie and it was her husband who asked DePalma if she could audition. I find her performance remains one of the best in cinema history. Spacek had the face of an angel, looking as if she just came off a Wisconsin dairy farm.  If I were in the room when meeting her for the first time, I probably would have never thought she could pull that off. She had the perfect amount of wide-eyed innocence needed at the beginning and then sheer uninhibited bitch mode revenge for the infamous prom scene.  She never even blinked.  Piper Laurie was much more established having been in the business over 25 years at the time.  Her performance as Carrie's overbearing, sadistic mother Margaret is a tour-de-force of how beautifully evil a true cinematic villain can be.  The supporting cast, like Spacek, were all playing high schoolers even though they were all in their mid to late twenties.  Sometimes it's easy to forget until you watch it again that a very young John Travolta is making one of his first major movie appearances.  It was also Betty Buckley's (the gym teacher Miss Collins) first role.

There was a sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2 and a television film remake but we will just put those on the back burners where they belong.

Now, it is 2013 and a new adaptation of Carrie has hit theaters.  Two phenomenal actresses were cast in the lead roles: Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass and the awesome Let Me In) and 4-time Academy Award nominee and one of my favorites, Julianne Moore.  Okay, let me get it out of the way right now, overall, this was not better than the original.  It is an excellent film nonetheless. Many people, including King himself as I have read, asked why make this movie.  Well, why do any remake then?  From what I have read, this was supposed to be more true to the book.   But, there is still some comparing and contrasting to do so lets get to it.  First, the supporting cast, much better in the original.  I know, I know, we are in a different time now and the people are different but these kids were just a little too Beverly Hills 90210 for my taste.  They just couldn't pull off the pure nastiness of the kids from the original.  The originals (1976) were nasty, mean, and fun to watch. The characters in today's version were just annoying and I wanted to slap them silly.  They tried their best but just weren't believable.  I do like Judy Greer as the gym teacher though.  Next, the prom scene. This scene set a precedent in 1976, and to this day, remains one of the bloodiest battles in movie history.  However, I did enjoy the hell out of the prom scene in the new version.  Of course, this time around, there was more money involved and more special effects.  It kept much of the integrity of the original movie's but I think, it was perfectly updated for 2013.  Now, Julianne Moore as Margaret White.  Moore is an awesome actress, one of the finest these days and did a fine job as Margaret White but she did not out-evil the original.  Of course, I am not saying at all that that was what she was setting out to do.  She portrayed her Margaret White exactly as she should be portrayed in 2013.  This version was a much more broken, exhausted woman than the original evil witch.

Then, there is our star, Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie White.  Lets get one thing straight, Sissy Spacek is Carrie, always is and always will be. First, I found it audacious but awesome that they cast someone who actually is 16 years old to play the legendary character.  Moretz was mesmerizing, definitely drawing from Spacek's schoolgirl innocence, but when it was time (and it came about sooner this time around) she was chilling to the core.  I do not like to give details away but during her rampage, you can actually hear her breathing and there was actually a raspy wheezing sound in it, almost like growling. It's giving me goosebumps just thinking about it.  She may not have out-shined the original, but still Moretz most definitely glowed on her own.

There were aspects that matched the original, some of the exact dialogue spoken, some of the same actions mimicked here and there.  However, the Carrie of 1976 is still and will always be the gold standard because it is the original.  I do recommend watching it though because Moretz and Moore do give chilling performances but there will be one big disappointment (you'll know it when you see it).  But one lesson still remains the same: do not piss off a telekinetic prom queen!

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Monday, August 12, 2013


The tagline is Do not disturb the family, but my question is, how can you disturb something so......disturbing?  You know immediately that is going to be a disturbing movie the second it begins.  Of course, it is definitely known by simply viewing the uneasy yet hauntingly beautiful trailer.

Written by Wentworth Miller, one of the stars of the television series Prison Break, Stoker tells the story of India Stoker, a young, melancholy, plane Jane of a girl who has just lost her best friend in the world, her father, in an auto accident.  While at the funeral, India meets her father's brother Charlie Stoker, whom she didn't even know even existed.  On the same day, India finds out from her uncle Charlie that he is going to be staying with her and and her mother, Evelyn, for a while.  Uncle Charlie has psychopath written all over is forehead and I knew immediately the man was up to no good.  The question that is needing to be answered is what does this man want and what exactly are his intentions.   We as the viewer are taken into the world of an extremely disturbed, upper-class family in mourning who have more layers than a 300-year old California redwood.

The imagery, speed, and tone of the movie is subtle, yet, not so subtle if that makes any sense.  Actually, once you see it, you will know what I mean.  Wentworth Miller has crafted a story laced with dark, brooding mystery and even more mysterious characters. Just to let you know, this movie is dark, very dark and I loved it!

Mia Wasikowska strays far from her breakout role as Alice in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, yet not too far.  There is so much I want to say about her character but I certainly cannot do that without spoiling this complex family drama, which I do not believe in doing.  The role was made for her.  I don't know if she as even a consideration for the part in the beginning or if it were a simple audition that won the casting director over but her portrayal of India Stoker was dead on, so to speak.  At first she is the quiet, distressed girl who keeps to herself and does not like to be touched. She's the one who sits in the back, soaked in a quiet innocence, not wanting to be noticed, not making a sound.  Another role perfectly cast was that of India's mother, Evelyn, played by the versatile Nicole Kidman.  She is grieving for a short time until Charlie arrives to help her cope with the loss of her husband, then she is betrayed and gives one of the most chilling movie speeches ever (it's at the beginning of the trailer) in an equally haunting manner. The achievement of that expression on her face is surprising to me.  I've always been a fan, always knew she was talented but that was disturbing; she....doesn't......even.......blink.  I was not real familiar with Matthew Goode.  By looking at his IMDb page, I have seen some of his movies but they did not leave an impression.  That has now changed.  However, I think I said it all before when I stated that I knew immediately he was up to no good.  Goode portrayed the cold, calculating Charlie Stoker in a total cold and calculating manner, channeling a little of the great Anthony Hopkins in the process.

I was afraid I was going to be disappointed when I first saw the trailer, but that did not happen.  The flow of the movie was slow, but it had to be to peel back all those layers these characters have.  The tagline is do not disturb the family, but please disturb your dvd player for an hour and forty minutes and soak up the intensity of the Stoker family. Then, just be glad they are not your family, or are they?

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Man of Steel

After seeing this movie, I went and had some drinks at my favorite watering hole with some friends and we had a very in depth discussion about movies: our favorite films, performances, and even our favorites by genre.  One of the genres we dove into was of course the popular action/adventure film and I asked everyone what they thought the quintessential action movie was.  Of course, the usual suspects were mentioned: Die Hard, Rambo, more recently the Transformer movies and most everything made by Jerry Bruckheimer.  Two of my favorites, when it comes to awesome action sequences, great writing and characters I want to watch over and over again are Face/Off and Bad Boys 2 (yes, I love the sequel more).  Face it, even the biggest movie snob loves a great car chase, explosions and buildings falling on each other. You know the ones, those people who claim to only watch existential independent movies full of intense, grungy people who don't bathe and are always having sex.

Last night when Man of Steel ended, my buddy and I looked at each other and literally took a breath. My first words were, "damn, I am tired now."  He says, "now that was sensory overload."  He could not have been more right.  Part sci-fi adventure, part dark drama, part disaster movie, Zack Snyder has delivered an epic, well-written, very well acted summer blockbuster.  The film has tons of emotion, depth, awesome characters and lets face it, a lot of stuff blows up.

I am the first to admit, I am by no means a comic book junkie.  I can only review these movies as a movie itself because I do not know much of the actual back story, as told in the comics of course.  When it comes to the Superman/Clark Kent saga, I have seen all the movies with the late Christopher Reeve and the Smallville television series, which I loved very much. This movie was advertised as being a much darker version and it definitely was. Henry Cavill (The Tudors, Stardust, Immortals) portrayed Clark Kent as a tortured, damaged man trying to find his way.  We've always seen that Clark Kent was a tortured guy, especially as the younger version in the series Smallville, as he was played by Tom Welling.  We saw him growing up into a man all the while trying to deal with the world almost literally on his shoulders and all he wanted to do was fit in.  As he grew and found out about how he came to Earth in a spaceship by his Earth father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner in the film), Clark always knew he had a destiny.  In Man of Steel, the audience literally gets to see his life from the very beginning on Krypton and how emotional it was for his parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) to let him go.  Cavill's performance is very convincing in showing the audience how hard the struggles are for him trying to be like everyone else.

Then, he meets Lois Lane, the iconic Daily Planet reporter played surprisingly well by 4-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams.  I only say surprisingly because her most famous roles have been in dramas, comedies, and the occasional dramedy.  When I read she had been cast, I thought it was a very surprising choice. She played the role like a violin.  She could be tough and no-nonsense and didn't take any crap from anyone and she had to deal with a lot of testosterone in this role.  Kevin Costner and Diane Lane were awesome choices as Jonathan and Martha Kent.  Diane Lane was another surprise in the casting but she nailed the role as Clark's mom.  She was more of a pivotal character, I think, because she had to carry much of her son's anguish and pain for him, like any good mother. Lets face it, this guy needed his mother many times.  Michael Shannon as the villain General Zod was hard core and intense and had to be the entire movie, which takes some chops on his part.

Man of Steel starts off with a bang and ends up being 2 hours and 23 minutes of a nuclear explosion.  Now, I don't know if the more darker tone does any justice to the story in the comic books but at the end of the day, I enjoyed the hell out of it.  It is an all out, bad ass summer action extravaganza from beginning to end, but also has just the right amount character development to show them as real life people.   A great cast was picked, many with imperfections and flaws, just like the rest of us.  Even though Clark Kent is the Man of Steel, this film shows us he has a heart too.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013)

4 STARS!!!!!!!!!!

There are some movies that are not simply movies we sit down and watch; some of them are so profound, so dazzling, so astounding that they can only be called a cinematic experience.  So, yes you guessed it, The Great Gatsby is that cinematic experience and I enjoyed the hell out of it.  I have been waiting to see this movie even since I first heard about it and especially of course, since I saw the first trailer.  I was so disappointed when the release date was moved from December of 2012 to summer of 2013.  It was the one movie I would have gone and seen at a midnight screening, which the people who know me, know I do not do.  Well, as you can tell, I did get to experience this movie, so here.....we......go.

One note:  I am not going to go into the synopsis.  Most of us read this in high school, college, etc.  If you haven't read it, DOOOO IT!  But if need be, here is my favorite trailer of the movie, the one I like to call, The Music Trailer.

First of all, kudos (and kudos again) to Baz Luhrmann, the visionary director behind Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet, and yes, even Australia, which many critics panned but I deeply enjoyed.  He has given us an awe-inspiring, eye-gasm of a movie.  I found it odd at first that it was in 3D but tonight, I definitely see it was necessary.  There is so much glitz and glamor that explodes from the screen, I almost needed an intermission to blink.

Next, there is the cast, the wonderful, tour-de-force of a cast. Tobey Maguire portrays Nick Carraway, the wide-eyed wannabe Wall Street tycoon who moves in next to Gatsby and becomes his friend.  I had my reservations about Maguire at first but he ended up delivering an intensity which hasn't been seen from him in some time, at least not since Brothers.  Another casting decision I was surprised to see was Isla Fisher, portraying the small but pivotal role of Myrtle Wilson.  We've mostly seen her in comedies (Wedding Crashers, Hot Rod) so, being a fan of hers, I was itching to see if she had the gusto.  As far as I am concerned, she extended her versatility to new heights.  She made you laugh and broke your heart at the same time.  Elizabeth Debicki, who is mostly a stage actress, plays Jordan Baker, a female golfer and friend to Daisy Buchanan.  The expressions on her face are almost haunting and as the viewer, I almost got lost in her big, bold eyes.  She was mesmerizing even when not speaking.  Now, I wasn't real familiar with Joel Edgerton, but with his award worthy turn as polo player and husband to Daisy, Tom Buchanan, I am definitely familiar with him now.  He made the famously arrogant character bolder and sometimes, almost filthy.  Then there is the porcelain, fresh faced Daisy Buchanan who is married to Tom but we find out is the love of Gatsby's life.  Carey Mulligan has already, at the age of 27, accrued quite the versatile acting resume and this role just added a juggernaut of a portrayal to it.  You can see that hidden pain in her face throughout most of the movie. She just broke my heart, I wanted to put her in my pocket.

And then, there is the magnetic, titanic force that is Leo!!  Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby was brilliant casting. There is no doubt in my mind that this guy is not finished with throwing pure and utter acting brilliance in our faces.  His turn as the iconic Great Gatsby was, no I really mean IS, the performance of the year!!! I know I am just a little early but this can be his first for your consideration, someone hand that man an Oscar! As the philosopher, Forrest Gump would say, "that is all I have to say about that."

The entire production is just simply stunning and explosive. You have to watch it in 3D for sure.  The music is awesome and I love how they incorporate modern music into the movie.  That just made it dazzle even more.  The party scenes make you want to jump up and do the Charleston.  If I saw this in IMAX, I think I would know what it felt like to be in 1920's New York City.  So, I don't think I can go on with any more praise.  If you are reading this before seeing it, get your butt up and go to the theater.  Just remember, there is no intermission, so don't forget to blink.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Entertainer Profile - Matthew McConaughey


 Sometimes I think it is kind of a shame that Matthew McConaughey had the juggernaut year as he did in 2012.  Many times, when someone has that kind of year, it is hard for them to replicate it, which is exactly what I would like for him to do.  He had four major roles, which should have garnered him much award love, but did not, which is a big disappointment.  However, he demonstrated some serious versatility and if he is going to stay on this route, I cannot wait to see what he has in store for the future.

He was born in Uvalde, Texas (a town just a little over 5 hours west of where I am sitting right now) in 1969 but grew up in Longview, Texas, a town just east of Dallas.  His mom was a substitute teacher and dad was in the oil business.  While attending the University of Texas at Austin and studying to be a lawyer, Matthew suddenly decided he had another calling and changed his major to film.  After directing some short films, he was introduced to Richard Linklater (director of Dazed and Confused) and from there, a talented career began.

Dazed and Confused (1993) - He burst onto the scene in Richard Linklater's cult classic following a group of high school students enjoying their last day of school in 1976.  His character, David Wooderson, was the older guy of the bunch who had a deep affection for high school girls.  The character took being a loser to astronomical levels and McConaughey turned "David" into a cinematic icon.
Boys on the Side (1995)
Lonestar (1996)
A Time to Kill (1996) - This is still, to this day, my favorite John Grisham adaptation.  It was an emotional American drama that dealt with extremely sensitive and controversial issues and as far as I am concerned, one of the best casts ever assembled.  This was Matthew McConaughey's breakthrough performance and made him the new 'it' actor in Hollywood.
Contact (1997)
Amistad (1997)
U-571 (2000)
Frailty (2001) - A little known dark psychological thriller that I have always thoroughly enjoyed.
Reign of Fire (2002)
We Are Marshall (2006)
The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
Bernie (2012) - This movie was great and if you are from Texas, you will love it and appreciate this true story out of Carthage even more.  Jack Black received a very well-deserved Golden Globe nomination but Shirley MacLaine and especially McConaughey should have received some award love too.


Killer Joe (2012) - I was really looking forward to this movie when I first saw it.  I was really looking forward to it until I recently saw it that is.  The acting was good, it really had a great cast, but the movie as a whole failed to draw me in.  However, there was Matthew McConaughey's chilling portrayal of Killer Joe, police detective by day, hired assassin by night.  His character was just an all around bad seed. But, he made that seed grow and blossom into his most sinister villain since Frailty.

The Paperboy (2012) - This movie was also quite the stinker in the plot department but was packed full of great performances by Nicole Kidman, Macy Gray, John Cusack, and Matthew McConaughey.

Magic Mike (2012) - What is so phenomenal about this performance is before this movie came out, it was hailed as nothing more but a bunch of eye-candy for the ladies, and of course, it was.  McConaughey portrayed the sleazy, aging male strip club owner in an all out awesome performance and nearly got nominated for an Oscar for it, well at least there was a lot of buzz which I guess is the same thing.

There were several missteps between Reign of Fire and The Lincoln Lawyer (except for We Are Marshall of course).  To name a few:  Failure to Launch, Fool's Gold, Sahara, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and Two For the Money.  However, he bounced back brilliantly as far as I am concerned.  He bounced back so well in fact, he should have been nominated (Oscar, Golden Globe, what have you) for one or more of the last 4 movies in the above list.  He was quite the chameleon in these movies, reinventing himself every time.  I know I am not the only one who thinks so because he was applauded by critics.  From what I have read though, we can expect the same level of tour-de-force versatility in the near future and I say bring it on Matthew.  From one Texas boy to another, ya done good son.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Warm Bodies

3 1/2 STARS

 I have to admit, there were other movies I wanted to see tonight at my local cinema.  There were even a couple I needed to see for the sake of my "And the nominees are...." series.  However, I had a buddy of mine with me and we decided on the weekend's number one movie at the box office, Warm Bodies.  I have to say, what a pleasant and most interesting surprise.

Warm Bodies was written and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50).  When the film begins, we meet R who is not only a young zombie, but he just so happens to be a zombie with a conscious who wants more out of his life (I know right).  He basically spends his days sloshing around an airport in a post-apocalyptic world where an epidemic infected most of the population....well, you know the rest of the story.  It's a plot that we are seeing a lot of these days.  However, there is a twist in this tale.  While a group of young humans leave their heavily guarded city, which is surrounded by a massive wall, to obtain medical supplies, they run into a group of the undead and of course a bloody battle ensues and at the same time, R set his sights on Julie and is immediately smitten with her.  He whisks her away to his airport home and an actual friendship begins to develop, but of course this is very forbidden.  Is this starting to sound familiar?  There is a definite Romeo and Juliet going on here.   Another twist to this, as you find out from watching the trailer, is as R and Julie get closer, he starts becoming more human starting with a beating heart.

Warm Bodies is original and funny with a much more interesting and watchable love story than any of these predictable romantic comedies we are bombarded with these days.  Now, just to let you know, this film is not bust-a-gut, laugh out loud funny but you will do plenty of chuckling.  The writing is smart and I thought it flowed at just the right pace in its 98 minutes and if there is a soundtrack, it will rock!  Some awesome throwback songs make appearances.  I was also impressed the young actors in their roles, especially the star-crossed lovers.  Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, X-Men: First Class) portrays R and does very well in a role that could not have been easy.  You will know what I mean when you see it. Teresa Palmer (Julie) is quite the fresh face and plays her part in awesome form, bouncing from tough as nails to vulnerable with ease.  One of my favorites, John Malkovich was cast in the role of Colonel Grigio, who leads the band of unaffected humans, and played the unemotional jackass leader as only he can, brilliantly.  Rob Corddry was a surprise and a pleasant one I might add.  He brings much of the comic relief of course as R's friend M, as he does with many of his roles, but he also showed some much broader acting chops in this one and I was impressed.

So, I, of course, say go on over and see Warm Bodies.  I guarantee you will leave not feeling like a cold fish.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild

**This is part of my 2013 Academy Award Best Picture nominee series.  Also nominated for Best Actress,  Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.**


"An almost apocalyptic tale set right in our back yard, and yes, in this century. Poignant, original, heartbreaking, and worst of all, it is all really happening."

Beasts of the Southern Wild seemingly came out of nowhere this awards season.  For a few months last year, I had heard about it on news shows and saw its title pop up in articles online.  It may have been some time in December of 2012 when I finally saw the trailer.  I was still under the impression this was some National Geographic documentary taking place somewhere in Africa and then when I found out this amazing story is set less than 5 hours east of where I am sitting right now in Southeast Texas, I was stunned.  I am still stunned at the utter brilliance of how this movie is laid out.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie set in the southern most part of Louisiana in an area of the bayous called the Bathtub.  It focuses on a small group of people who still call the small island home.  I know now that it was the intention of the movie makers to make us, the audience, think we were going into a NatGeo documentary about a family on another continent, but it was so subtle and so sly that I have to give them a standing ovation.  The main human character would be Hushpuppy (played by, as of now, the youngest actress ever nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award, Quvenzhane Wallis) who also narrates the story of how she, her father, and a band of Bathtubians (my own choice word) are surviving extreme poverty and flooding of their low lying area.  Her father, known as Wink, is in failing health but refuses to leave the Bathtub and tries to encourage others to stay even when a major storm is about to hit their shanty town.

During all of this plight, more extreme than most of us can only imagine sitting in our warm (or cool) comfortable homes, Hushpuppy is learning, far too early, about courage and how far the human spirit, and human imagination, can take you in this life.  Quvenzhane Wallis is way ahead of her time in actual life also.    The nine-year old Houma, Louisiana native shines in this powerful role.  Much of the cast are, in fact, Louisiana residents.  Hushpuppy's father, Wink, is portrayed in a haunting performance by Dwight Henry, who owns a bakery in New Orleans's seventh ward. Now, the movie does get a little wabbly in the middle.  It seems to not know where it wants to go. However, it does quickly get back on track and ends up leaving you speechless.  The performances are powerful, the plot is uber original, yet frightening.  When you finally see Beasts of the Southern Wild, hopefully you will see Hushpuppy and her gang as less beast and more beauty.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Once Upon A Time (TV series)

Once upon a time, something brilliant came to television.
Once upon a time, something smart came to television.
Once upon a time, something energetic came to television.
Once upon a time, something........fantastical came to television.

This is so audacious for a network, but lets face it, networks have to put their balls to the wall these days to compete with all the original series on the cable networks, who can do, say, and be as naked as they want.  The actors and actresses on cable can take their characters anywhere they want, be as extreme, as daring, as....well......audacious as they want.

ABC seemed to have told themselves they needed to bring something to our living rooms that was completely different, and they did.   Now in its second season, Once Upon A Time is set in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine where it turns out all the residents are under the curse of an evil queen.  Actually, they are all the characters from the fairy tales we all grew up reading (and from the Disney movies we watched) who, because of the curse, were transported from their world to ours.  Half of each episode takes place in present day in the town of Storybrooke and the other half shows them all as their fairy tale character in their own world.  As far as I am concerned, it is an ingenious plot oozing with originality. 

Leading this amazing ensemble is Mary Margaret Blanchard (played beautifully and innocently by Ginnifer Goodwin, Walk the Line) who is also Snow White from the fairy tale world.  There is also Prince Charming/David Nolan, The Evil Queen/Mayor Regina Mills, Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold (in a, as far as I am concerned, constant award worthy performance by Robert Carlyle), Ruby/Little Red Riding Hood,and so on and so forth.  Another great aspect of the show is the constant introduction of more and more intriguing characters.  Season 2 has seen the introduction of Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, and Captain Hook (played by the dashing Colin O'Donoghue).  The special effects are also pretty impressive especially for network television.  Even though the characters come from stories we already know, the story lines are extremely fresh and original for these times of every subject known to man being portrayed on television now.  I absolutely love the originality, and everyone who reads my blogs knows I devour originality.

So, for all of you Netflixers who have been skipping over Season 1, stop and start watching now then go onto and get on board with Season 2.  Once upon a time, you will be happy you did.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Django Unchained

**Now nominated for the 2012 Best Picture Academy Award.**


"One of the rawest and most unhinged movies of 2012. Tarantino nailed it and gathered up a group of the best performances ever!"

Well 2012 is over and we are only a few days into 2013.  However, we are dealing with the slough of movies that come out before the end of the physical year to make the deadline for awards season.  Yes, you know all the serious, dramatic fare that comes in the fall after all the explosions from the summer have wined down.  It's those movies that make the people on the award panels salivate profusely. In the middle of all the nominations for Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, and Argo, there's Django Unchained.

"The new film by Quentin Tarantino" is raw American movie making at it's most primal, and at it's finest.  Django Unchained is set three years before the beginning of the American Civil War and almost immediately we are introduced to Dr. King Shultz (Christopher Waltz, Inglorious Bastards), a very colorful character throughout the movie who comes upon our hero Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave chained together with some other slaves on their way to a plantation.  Dr. Shulz, who is a bounty hunter, buys Django his freedom and they become partners in the bounty hunting business.  However, Django has another agenda.  He is on a journey to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who was  taken from him and sold as a house slave to evil plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

So, the paragraph above is the gist of the story and if you haven not seen it yet, that is all you need to know.  I am now going to get to the performances and the movie itself.  Django Unchained is violent and in your face bloody.  I mean, it is splattering everywhere, but lets face it, after you see it, you will realize and know that it needed to be that way.  It was a very violent time in American History.  As of the writing of this review, the Academy Award nominations come out tomorrow.  No doubt, there should be nominations for Jamie Foxx, Christopher Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kerry Washington.  However, I have come back down to Earth and know that could not happen because I also think a few people here and there in Lincoln need to be nominated and win too.   All these people were so good, so intense, so unbelievable.  Jamie Foxx as the hero and lead character has all the emotional cues down, he needed to be hardcore and angry as hell of course but I saw, in the scenes where the anger had to turn, his face would make this gradual change, but you could see the angst when he just wanted to cry. He almost looked like a sad little boy and I thought that was better than spilling the tears.

Oh, what to say about Leo's Calvin Candie?  This movie was released Christmas Day and this character has already been billed as the, I guess you could say, most villainous villain of 2012, even beating The Dark Knight Rises Bane.  This man is nasty but if you go into the theater without knowing a thing, at first you are going to think, wow this is a real fun guy.  Lets face it people, Leonardo DiCaprio is one the greats of our time, I mean, the man is an artist and Calvin Candie is  sprayed all over the canvas like muck from a barn floor.  I had only seen Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Bastards and he was of course, phenomenal in that but I am not familiar with any of his other work.  Comparing his phenomenal Bastards performance to this one, this one is a juggernaut.  You literally have to see the character of Dr. Shulz to believe it. We all know Samuel L. Jackson and his very wide range of work, but this role just expands his range to the size of the Grand Canyon.  His role as Stephen, the head of the house slaves for Calvin Candie, is part grouchy old man, part wiseass, part sociopath.  Honestly, I don't know if he would have been my first choice to play the character but he turned out to be utter perfection.

Django Unchained is awe-inspiring original story telling by one of the great screenwriters and directors of our time.  Quentin Tarantino weaves a story so compelling and raw, yet comedic, it is very reminiscent of his other great movies like Pulp Fiction.  It is also reminiscent of the westerns from the past with Tarantino's awesome modern twists of graphic violence mixed in.  I also loved the music in the movie.  I definitely plan on buying the soundtrack.  This movie is so raw and unhinged, it could also be described as, well, unchained.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.