Here are the DGA winners!

The Director’s Guild Awards were given out today and Alfonso Cuaron was named best director for Gravity.  For those of you looking for some guidance while trying to predict the closest Oscar race in history, Gravity has now won honors from the DGA and the PGA, American Hustle took top honors at the SAG Awards, and 12 Years A Slave was honored by the PGA (where it tied for best picture with Gravity).

So does Gravity have the momentum now?  Perhaps.  However, Cuaron’s victory isn’t exactly a surprise.  In fact, since before the Oscar nominations were first announced two weeks ago, a lot of Oscar watchers have been predicting that Gravity would win best director while 12 Years A Slave or American Hustle took best picture.

Or perhaps, even more intriguingly, perhaps American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years A Slave could end up splitting the vote and allow one of the other 6 nominees to somehow win a totally unexpected victory.*

Anything’s possible but, for now, here are the DGA winners:


X — Alfonso Cuarón – “Gravity”
Paul Greengrass – “Captain Phillips”
Steve McQueen – “12 Years a Slave”
David O. Russell – “American Hustle”
Martin Scorsese – “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Zachary Heinzerling – “Cutie and the Boxer”
X — Jehane Noujaim – “The Square”
Joshua Oppenheimer – “The Act of Killing”
Sarah Polley -–”Stories We Tell”
Lucy Walker – “The Crash Reel”


Bryan Cranston – “Breaking Bad” (“Blood Money”)
David Fincher – “House of Cards” (“Chapter 1”)
X — Vince Gilligan – “Breaking Bad” (“Felina”)
Lesli Linka Glatter – “Homeland” (“The Star”)
David Nutter – “Game of Thrones” (“The Rains of Castamere”)


Mark Cendrowski – “The Big Bang Theory” (“The Hofstadter Insufficiency”)
Bryan Cranston – “Modern Family” (“The Old Man & the Tree”)
Gail Mancuso – “Modern Family” (“My Hero”)
X — Beth McCarthy-Miller – “30 Rock” (“Hogcock!/Last Lunch”)
Anthony Rich – “The Big Bang Theory” (“The Love Spell Potential”)

Stephen Frears – “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight”
David Mamet – “Phil Spector”
Beth McCarthy-Miller and Rob Ashford – “The Sound of Music”
Nelson McCormick – “Killing Kennedy”
X — Steven Soderbergh – “Behind the Candelabra”

Dave Diomedi – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (#799)
Andy Fisher – “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (#13-1810)
Jim Hoskinson – “The Colbert Report” (#10004)
X — Don Roy King – “Saturday Night Live” (“Host: Justin Timberlake”)
Chuck O’Neil – “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (#19018)

Louis CK – “Louis CK: Oh My God”
Joel Gallen – “2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony”
Louis J. Horvitz – “55th Annual Grammy Awards”
Don Mischer – “85th Annual Academy Awards”
X — Glenn Weiss – “67th Annual Tony Awards”

Matthew Bartley – “The Biggest Loser” (“1501”)
X — Neil P. DeGroot – “72 Hours” (“The Lost Coast”)
Paul Starkman – “Top Chef” (“Glacial Gourmand”)
J. Rupert Thompson – “The Hero” (“Teamwork”)
Bertram van Munster – “The Amazing Race” (“Beards in the Wind”)

Stephen Herek – “Jinxed”
Jeffrey Hornaday – “Teen Beach Movie”
Jonathan Judge – “Swindle”
X — Amy Schatz – “An Apology to Elephants”
Adam Weissman – “A.N.T. Farm” (“influANTces”)

Fredrik Bond
John X. Carey
Noam Murro
X — Martin de Thurah
Matthijs van Heijningen


*However, the best film of the year remains the unnominated Upstream Color.

“Devil’s Due” — (Hopefully) What Not To Expect When You’re Expecting


So, it’s January, and you know what that means — “found footage” horror is back.

Seriously, just when you think this cinematic trend has breathed its last gasp, it’s back —  usually during the post-holiday period, when studios are eager to dump off material that they think is going to play to a limited (at best) audience. And then something funny happens — one of these “hand-held horrors, ”  sometimes even a pretty lousy one at that, ends up ruling the roost at the box office for a week or two (The Devil Inside, anyone?), easily recouping its meager production costs, and the Hollywood suits decide to green-light a few more similar productions figuring that, hey, there’s life in this old horse yet.

And so there seems to be. But you do have to wonder — again! — if this persistent sub-genre has finally run its course, now that we’ve had found-footage zombie flicks, found-footage monster flicks, found-footage exorcism flicks, found-footage ghost flicks, and, in the case of the movie we’re here to discuss today, Devil’s Due, found footage Antichrist flicks.

Arriving as this movie did hot on the heels of Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones, my initial thought was that this co-directed effort from Matt Betinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (who also collaborated on a less-than-stellar segment in the less-than-stellar horror anthology V/H/S) looked like another spin-off from the PA franchise, by way of Polanski’s classic Rosemary’s Baby, and while that’s generally not too far off the mark, it also doesn’t mean this isn’t actually a pretty good film. In point of fact, it is — even if it doesn’t sound like it could, or perhaps even should, be.

Lisa Marie’s nice little write-up on these digital “pages” a week or so back got me sufficiently intrigued to go out and see this thing, and I have to say I’m glad that I did, for while its premise — not to mention its stylistic trappings — are miles away from being original, it was at the very least a deftly-handled, well-constructed, reasonably-well-acted affair that, while utterly predictable, still offered enough of a unique take on its subject matter to seem modestly refreshing and “new.”

Even though it’s not. But hey, cinema relies on at least temporary suspension of disbelief, right?

The set-up is as basic as they come (and as you’d probably expect) : mysterious orphan girl Samantha (Allison Miller) grows up and marries semi-annoying yuppie scumbag Zach (Zach Gilford), they honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, a night of debauchery and excess in a mysterious underground club ends with, we find out later, her getting pregnant, and said pregnancy is beset by weird health complications, mysterious super-powers being bestowed upon the expectant mother, strangers watching their house (one of whom bears an uncanny resemblance to the cab driver who escorted them to their night-to-remember-that-they-don’t-remember in the DR), and whaddya know? A few dead deer feasts, mysterious home invasions, and psychic attacks on priests later, Samantha’s all set to give birth to Satan’s own flesh n’ blood.

On a purely personal level,  I have to confess that Antichrist stories usually fall pretty flat with me since one usually needs to believe in Christ first in order to believe in his evil counterpart —   since I don’t, then,  I’m kind of hobbled when it comes to buying into the whole central premise here, but what the heck? Devil’s Due is paced so as not to give even viewers like myself too much time to dwell on the details, and hey, at least their “let’s record every moment of our lives for posterity” is a better pretext for all the “home movie” footage we’re getting here than some of the limp set-ups we’ve been served by other entries in this admittedly over-crowded field.

In the “minus” column, our intrepid young (I’m assuming, at any rate) directors do come a bit too close to over-playing their hand at the end — they needn’t go nearly as OTT in the effects department as they do in order to drive home their climax — but on the whole, and against all odds, their finished product by and large actually works. And on a cold January afternoon, that’s enough for me.

Devil’s Due may not be a new horror classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it does go some way towards showing that a  “hand-held horror” movie can still be effective — provided, of course, that it’s in the right hands.

Quick TV Review: Black Sails – Episode One.

BlackSailsPoster-610x903As HBO is usually pretty successful when it comes to its wide array of shows, other channels have thrown their hats into the ring. Showtime was quick to follow them and HBO’s sister channel Cinemax now has two shows under their belt with Strike Back & Banshee.

Starz is still a baby at the series game, but they’ve had an arsenal of their own. With the Spartacus series wrapped up and DaVinci’s Demons’ 2nd season prepped to go later this year, Starz is looking to get more of its shows out the door.

Black Sails is Starz’ latest entry.  It starts off running out of the gate, but it’s hard to tell if the show really has legs at this point. Although the premiere is January 25 (tonight, as of this writing), the full episode was released both online and on the Starz on Demand channel for the past week. Either they’re confident this will increase viewership or they perhaps figure the show may not get as far as it should. Either way, it’s available to see.

I like it, I do, but so far I have 3 problems with Black Sails:

1.) I feels too much like the video game Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. This is a mixed bag. If you’ve played the videogame, you know the environment and all of the sea battles in Black Sails have a familiarity to them that will leave you smiling. You may not feel as lost in the show if you’ve played the game or picked up a history book. On the flip side, because there’s a game just like it, it’s quite possible that Black Flag could steal (or already has) Black Sails’ thunder if the show doesn’t come across as exciting.  I’m hoping it’s the first case, myself.

2.) Michael Bay’s name is attached to it. It’s invoked like it’s Bruckheimer, and I suppose that when his name is mentioned, one probably thinks of explosions and girls. Black Sails has that all over the place, but that could have happened without Bay’s name. It could be a deterrent to some who still have the bad taste of films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon in their mouths. Let’s be honest, what kind of name is Dark of the Moon anyway?

3.) Rather than taking the mystical route of DaVinci’s Demons or the more swashbuckling style of something like Pirates of the Carribean or Cutthroat Island, Black Sails shoots for something more ruthless and businesslike. The ruthlessness – the blood and gore (when it happens) is welcome. The business part of it all had me hoping that the series doesn’t keep moving in that direction over time. While I understand that the entire show can’t be on the sea (like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – how I love that film), that so much of it is on land made me sigh a little. In fact, the opening sequence of this really is the only part that actually takes place on the open sea.  It’s very similar to NBC’s Dracula. You expect a dark, brooding Vampire tale in Victorian London, and you get a political battle whose biggest highlight is Dracula showing up in the day for a business meeting. That’s not really fun.

To it’s credit, as the pilot, this episode has to establish all of the players involved. The grit of it all is interesting, at least. It’s dirty, maybe even a little dark, but it’s also a little boring to all have the minutiae of the dealings thrown out there like that. If I choose to think of the pirate battles in the same vein as Sons of Anarchy’s motorcycle chases, it’s possible we could have one sea battle every two or three episodes. Maybe that won’t be too bad overall, but they’re going to have to amp this up quick before they start losing the audience. Give us a swordfight or a musket fired or something.

Okay, here’s what we have:

Hoping to bring the same flair for violence to the pilot that he brought to one of Game of Thrones’ best episodes, Neil Marshall (Doomsday, Centurion, The Descent) does his best to give the West Indies in the 18th Century a bloody introduction to the audience. He does a great job with the content he’s given. You can’t complain about what you’re seeing in terms of the atmosphere. Black Sails starts in the open sea with a ship under attack. We come to find that the ship holds the key to a special cargo, one that Captain Flint (Toby Stephens, the Bond villian in Die Another Day) is dying to get his hands on. Flint, though considered a legend among the pirate world, is having a tough time holding on to his crew. Having led them on a wild goose case, some of the crew feels it’s time to replace Flint’s leadership with someone more able to bring everyone a profit.

As Flint’s crew take over the ship, they find John Silver (Luke Arnold), who has acquired a page ripped out of a book that the cook stole. He joins Flint’s crew, saving his own skin. When Flint finds the journals (and the book with the missing page), he decides to port into Nassau to meet with Richard Guthrie, a rich businessman who helps to fund some of his escapades. While getting themselves situated in Nassau, Silver realizes that the page he has must have come from one of the books and looks to see if he can locate where it came from. We come to find through the course of the episode that the page is the key to locating  a ship carrying a near incalculable wealth, more than enough to Flint’s crew to live happy.

That appears to be the main story arc in Black Sails. The show introduces a number of characters. You have Eleanor Guthrie (Malecifent’s Hannah New), who helps to keep the pirates in business while trying to forge a name for herself outside of her father. Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy, who I may name as a Hottie of the Day), a courtesan who makes side deals out of the local brothel. I like both of the women in Black Sails, but I can’t exactly say they’re the best of roles for either individual. They’re both strong in the sense that they can take care of themselves, yet (and maybe this is just me) I hoped that maybe for Eleanor in particular was a character that was calling the shots in her position. The pilot gives the impression when you first meet her that she does, but it kind of collapses into a yield between her and Captain Vane (Zach McGowan), who’s out to make himself the number one pirate of the Carribean. Perhaps as the series goes on, this will improve. Vane is your bad guy, that’s easy to see, but there’s so little shown about him that McGowan might as have had a mustache to twirl between his fingers.

So far, of the characters, Flint is the only one I have any kind of care about, and Stephens is delivering the best performance of everyone there. No one person is bad, though. I’m hoping his character can keep the crew enthralled. I haven’t seen enough of everyone else that endures me to them just yet, which is almost the same problem as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. You know who’s involved, but give me a reason to think about them after the show fades to black. Even the slowest Walking Dead episodes leave me wondering and salivating for the next episode.

I’m ready to see where Flint goes, but I’m just not sure I’m sold on everyone else.

Scenes I Love: Nichijou


I’ve been pretty open about my love for anime and, of late, my love for the incredibly funny and irrelevant anime series Nichijou.

This is a series where it runs on it’s own logic that may not makes sense to us, but definitely adds to the hilarious scenes, moments and overall tone of the show. This particular scene is from episode 16 and has Yukko visiting the new coffee shop to try the place out. Ok, nothing funny about it so  far, but this is no ordinary coffee shop but one that serves all those fancy espresso type drinks.

So, this scene just ends up even more hilarious when one thinks of their very first time entering a Starbucks or an espresso cafe having no idea how to order those fancy drinks. For most people not in their 20’s coffee was either black or with cream and served small, medium or large. We didn’t know what that “Tall” meant small or that “Grande” meant medium and don’t even get me started on “Venti”.

This scene just brought back memories of seeing people new to such coffee houses trying to order their coffee and acting as if they know what they’re doing when everyone around them, especially the barista, knows they have no clue what’s going on.