February 27, 2010

Cop Out - 2010

Director: Kevin Smith

Writers: Mark & Robb Cullen

Starring: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Seann William Scott, Adam Brody, Kevin Pollak, Michelle Trachtenberg

Originally titled A Couple of Dicks (title change due to advertising issues), this film follows two New York cops, Jimmy Monroe and Paul Hodges (Willis & Morgan), as they search for a valuable baseball card stolen from Monroe by a parkour-talented thief (Scott), entangling them with local Hispanic gang activity along the way.

The critics are slaughtering Smith's latest work, and I personally can't fathom why. From the film's establishing shots of New York (set to the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Til Brooklyn") to the twists and turns taken by the very Smithesque script written by the Cullen brothers (who previously worked with Smith on a pilot to a show called Manchild which I also recommend), there's not a disappointing moment to be had. Willis and Morgan's characters have a similar relationship of Randal and Dante (the titular clerks of two of Smith's other films); their antics are as far from dull as possible. The jokes have been called immature by others, to which I say that as long as they don't cross the line of poor taste, letting one's inner child die is a great shame. I'm breaking with the mainstream critics and calling this the most entertaining non-Oscar film of 2010 so far. Kudos to everyone involved for their stellar work.

February 24, 2010

Bring it on, little gold man.

In all my preparations, I forgot to mention it here: the night before the Oscars, I'm going to be on a local radio station offering my predictions (which have changed since my earlier Oscar post).

We recorded earlier this evening, and I think you'll all enjoy it very much (mostly because the brilliance of editing makes me sound like I actually know what I'm talking about). I know I definitely had a good time tonight, even though 58 minutes of two people talking ended up taking 4 hours to record, plus a promo that will air on the station earlier that week.

Would you like to hear the promo?

Saturday, March 6, 2010
6 - 8 PM
89.5 WFIT (Brevard County readers)

Also, all future Twitter updates regarding film will be handled at http://www.twitter.com/autandova (if you're into that sort of thing). Any further questions, feel free to email me at carterradams@gmail.com. No spammers, please.

February 21, 2010

Crazy Heart - 2009

Director: Scott Cooper
Writer: Scott Cooper
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell

"I used to be somebody, and now I'm somebody else." Thanks to the awards buzz, you've all heard of this film by now. Bad Blake (Bridges) is a washed-up country music legend whose first real gig in years is opening up for his protege Tommy Sweet (Farrell). Along comes Jean Craddock (Gyllenhaal), a young reporter who reinvigorates Blake's lust for life.

Several things make this movie remarkable:
  • Both Bridges and Farrell do their own singing (although a third man, Ryan Bingham, is on the OST)
  • Bridges, Gyllenhaal, and Farrell all have flawless accents, which I can't say for certain other Oscar nominees
  • It made me not hate country music, if only for two hours
  • This adorable child
If this doesn't win at least two of its Oscar nominations, I'll be raising hell come March 8th.

Shutter Island - 2010

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Laeta Kalogridis
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine

"Don't you get it? You're a rat in a maze." Set in 1954, the latest work from renowned Martin Scorsese follows two US marshals (DiCaprio & Ruffalo) on an assignment to investigate the seemingly impossible escape of a mental patient from a high-security institution off the coast of Massachusetts.

All the actors are in top form, especially Haley (nigh unrecognizable, compared to his portrayal of Rorshach in last year's Watchmen). DiCaprio once again proves he's come a long way from being Jack on the Titanic, and even Levine gives a powerful, albeit short, performance. While I don't think this will go down in history as a Scorsese epic along the lines of Taxi Driver or Goodfellas, it's not the worst thing out in theaters right now, or even of 2010 so far (and definitely not of films to come). The film's ending is a love-it-or-hate-it type thing, and its one great flaw lies in its length; the final two scenes could be cut from the film with seemingly nothing lost, and the penultimate scene is just a visual of what the audience spent the prior scene being told in excruciating detail. Personally, I had moved on to awaiting The Invention of Hugo Cabret before Shutter Island's credits began.

February 17, 2010

Lovely Bones - 2010

Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Phillippa Boyens, & Peter Jackson
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon

"I wasn't lost, or frozen, or gone... I was alive; I was alive in my own perfect world." Yet another film based on an acclaimed novel, Lovely Bones follows Susie Salmon (Ronan, first name pronounced "Sasha") in the two years after her murder as she watches over her parents (Wahlberg & Weisz) and killer (Tucci).

Stanley Tucci gives a great performance, definitely deserving of his Oscar nomination--from the moment you see his face, anyone living in the "watch your children, so they don't get snatched" age will get an instant creepy pedophile vibe. The film's set design instantly immerses you in the era of the action (1970s middle America), and the scenes in heaven are absolutely breathtaking visually. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is just mediocre, except for a couple scenes with Wahlberg; it's always nice to see a wimpy character (he starts out as a ship-in-a-bottle-building accountant) grow a spine, and then start using it (vigilante justice!). Ronan's also improved quite a bit since her role in Atonement. All in all, I'd say definitely worth a rent, maybe a buy if the extras are good, but not full theater price.

Blind Side - 2009

Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Kathy Bates, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron

"The first check you write is for the mortgage, and the second is for the insurance. The left tackle's job is to protect the quarterback from what he can't see coming. To protect his blind side." Based on the book by Michael Lewis, Blind Side tells the true story of Michael Oher (Aaron), and how he overcame the unfortunate circumstances around his youth with the aid of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (McGraw & Bullock).

If you want to see yet another tearjerker about upper-class white people helping out urban youth, or are a football fan, or an especially big fan of Oher (I'd never heard of him before), I'm sure you'd like the movie. From a filmmaking perspective, it's got quite a few flaws:
  • starts off with a scene that occurs chronological near the end of the film
  • emotional moments not backed by score
  • no explanation of how Michael can drive
  • lapses in Bullock's accent
  • pointless dialogue (Kathy Bates's character "confesses" to being a Democrat, like that's a bad thing)
There's also a strong religious element not depicted in the trailers ("We need to help him because we're good Christians"), racism from Bullock's character (who later defends Michael against another racist), and an application of "Charge of the Light Brigade" to football. To me, it's wholly unremarkable, and I'm ashamed that the Academy would consider this Oscar-worthy. Also, the kid playing SJ Tuohy is just plain annoying.

February 14, 2010

A Serious Man - 2009

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Writers: Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Sari Lennick, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Aaron Wolff, Jessica McManus

"The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can't ever really know... what's going on." In the latest film from the famed Coen brothers, Larry Gopnick (Stuhlbarg) is a Midwestern, 1967 version of the Biblical character of Job, with countless levels of stress amounting from the troubles of his unfaithful wife (Lennick), his socially inept brother Arthur (Kind), a student threatening to sue him, and his son's (Wolff) upcoming bar mitzvah.

This is a great movie; don't get me wrong. It's absolutely remarkable in all aspects, and the two Oscar nominations are well-deserved. However, considering the duo's past work (Fargo, Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading), laughs in this film are relatively few and far between, so this might not be everyone's cup of tea. Also, the Coen's upbringing (mid-1960s Minnestoan and Jewish) runs much more strongly in this film than any of their others, and the supplemental feature "Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys" found on the DVD was of great help to me to fully appreciate the film, as I'm not fortunate enough to be one of the Chosen People. All that's left is to see what the Academy thinks of it come March.

February 9, 2010

In the Loop - 2009

Director: Armando Ianucci
Writers: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci, & Tony Roche
Starring: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, Chriss Addison

"Linton has set up a secret war committee. I just know it. I mean, Linton is an absolute lunatic, Liza. He is dangerous. The voices in his head are now singing barbershop together." In a way only the British can deliver, In the Loop is a send-up of the behind-the-scenes events between the British and American governments leading up to the Iraq War.

I'll keep this one short and sweet: the cinematography and writing strikes me as an uncensored British Arrested Development, it's the best political/war satire since Dr. Strangelove, and a strong contender against Up in the Air for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Hurt Locker - 2009

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

"This box is full of stuff that almost killed me." Bigelow, ex-wife of director James Cameron, has produced a film (written by a former embedded journalist) following a United States bomb-defusing squad over a 38-day period in 2004, in the early days of post-Saddam Iraq.

I've never been a fan of traditional war movies, even though many of them turn out to be remarkable, mostly because I don't do well with gore, and when bullets fly, there tends to be a lot of graphic bloodshed. That said, Hurt Locker is one of the best movies I've ever seen. A few of the many good points:
  • For a war film, there's surprisingly little gore (aside from one particular scene) or cursing.
  • Between the little-known actors and the cinematography (same guy who shot United 93, and it shows), you're one step away from it being a documentary, much like some scenes in the latter half of Full Metal Jacket.
  • THE SCORE. I don't even know how to describe it.
There's a couple things I didn't like (a big continuity error I noticed, the casting of Ralph Fiennes amongst little-knowns, and some monologues that come out of nowhere near the end), but I'd say everyone needs to see this, and I wouldn't be disappointed if it won every Oscar it's been nominated for, especially if Bigelow's acceptance speech is something along the lines of "SUCK IT, JAMES!" Wait...it's only because of him that she directed this movie? Damn it.

February 7, 2010

An Education - 2009

Director: Lone Scherfig
Writer: Nick Hornby
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson

"If people die the moment that they graduate, then surely it's the things we do beforehand that count." The triple-Oscar-nominated film An Education tells the story of Jenny Miller (Mulligan), a 16-year-old girl growing up in postwar, pre-Beatles England, and how David Goldman (Sarsgaard), a man nearly twice her age, shakes up her humdrum life.
Greetings, true believers, and welcome to (if I've counted right) my 25th theatrically-released-film review. I've come through hell and high water to get it posted, but it's all for the worthiest of causes--you, my loyal fans! An Education is nearly without fault--newcomer Carey Mulligan (who might as well be a British Audrey Hepburn) is stunning, especially playing a character six years her junior; the supporting cast of (mostly) British actors creates a firm pillar on which she stands with the surest of footing; and Nick Hornby's screenplay is a work par excellence, even five minutes in, especially when it comes to making a relationship between two people with that great an age disparity (especially a younger woman) not seem incredibly creepy. So go see the film, and maybe you'll learn something about interpersonal relations as well.
Apologies to Stan Lee for shamelessly ripping him off in the first couple sentences of the preceding paragraph.

February 2, 2010

2010 Oscar nominees

Because of my lack of success with the Golden Globes, I've decided to underline the films I want to win, and italicize the ones I think the Academy has actually selected. After the list, I will provide selective commentary.

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
  • George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
  • Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
  • Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
  • Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Matt Damon in “Invictus”
  • Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
  • Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
  • Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
  • Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
  • Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
  • Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
  • Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
  • Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
  • Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
  • Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
  • Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Animated Feature Film

  • Coraline” Henry Selick
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox” Wes Anderson
  • The Princess and the Frog” John Musker and Ron Clements
  • The Secret of Kells” Tomm Moore
  • Up” Pete Docter


  • Avatar” James Cameron
  • The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow
  • Inglourious Basterds” Quentin Tarantino
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels
  • Up in the Air” Jason Reitman

Best Picture

  • Avatar” James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
  • The Blind Side” Nominees to be determined
  • District 9” Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
  • An Education” Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
  • The Hurt Locker” Nominees to be determined
  • Inglourious Basterds” Lawrence Bender, Producer
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
  • A Serious Man” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
  • Up” Jonas Rivera, Producer
  • Up in the Air” Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers

Visual Effects

  • Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
  • District 9” Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
  • Star Trek” Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • District 9” Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
  • An Education” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
  • In the Loop” Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
  • Up in the Air” Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
  • Inglourious Basterds” Written by Quentin Tarantino
  • The Messenger” Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
  • A Serious Man” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • Up” Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
  • I’ve heard nothing but great things about Jeff Bridges’s performance, and he got the Golden Globe and SAG award, so he’s pretty much a shoo-in, but George Clooney was just so good I have a hard time believing it.

  • Christoph Waltz also won the Globe and SAG, and deservedly so.

  • Sandra Bullock has had a long, fulfilling career, and she needs to stop stealing awards that rightfully belong to Gabourey Sidibe. Also, nice to see a comedic role get a nomination for a change.

  • Mo’Nique got the Globe and SAG, so I’ll give her benefit of the doubt.

  • Pixar has every awards organization in their pocket somehow, which is a shame, considering how good Fantastic Mr. Fox was.

  • As long as Avatar doesn’t win anything besides Best Visual Effects, I’ll be okay.

Tune in March 7th and see how it all turns out.