Song of the Day: Taking A Stand (Henry Jackman)


cap2_c

I’m a bit biased in that I do believe that at this very moment whatever film Marvel Studios releases I will probably like it. I’m very close to having drunk the MCU Kool-Aid. Which is a good thing that trashfilguru is here to keep me from drinking that delicious, overly sweetened drink by the liters.

I know that the MCU is not what one would call high-brow art, but I will admit that it’s a very entertaining piece of world-building that we really haven’t seen done in film history. Well, at least not in the scale that Kevin Feige and the creative minds over at Marvel Studios have been attempting (and succeeding) these past 7-8 years.

One film that I highly enjoyed and consider one of my favorites of 2014 (if not one of the best) was the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. This sequel was a game-changer in regards to the very cinematic universe that Marvel had been building since the first Iron Man. Captain America: The Winter Soldier looked to up-end the very foundation of this universe by making one of it’s bricks become something to not be trusted.

Lisa Marie did a great job in conveying my thoughts about what made Captain America: The Winter Soldier such a good film (I would say great, but again I have that glass of Kool-Aid). One aspect of the film that has been given little to know attention to has been Henry Jackman’s work as film composer for the sequel. In fact, the film’s score has been much-maligned just because the filmmakers made the decision to veer away from the Alan Silvestri musical cues and motifs that had become recognizable as Captain America.

Alan Silvestri did the film score for the first film, but Jackman was tasked with recoding the very musical DNA for the sequel. What we get is a film score that’s very minimalist and supplements well the very paranoia and conspiracy tone the film’s narrative took. This was quite the opposite of Silvestri’s score for the first film mirrored that film’s nostalgic and heroic themes.

The track “Taking A Stand” which scores the David Mack illustrated and Jim Steranko-influenced end credits sequence is a perfect example of why Jackman’s score for Captain America: The Winter Soldier should be put on more “best of 2014” lists.

A Quick Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (dir by Peter Jackson)


TheHobbit5Armies

It seems kind of weird to do a quick review for a 144 minutes film that not only serves as the end of one epic trilogy but also as a prequel for yet another epic trilogy.

Well, so be it.  I hate to admit it but I really don’t have that much to say about The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies beyond the fact that I saw it on the day after Christmas, I enjoyed it, and I thought Aidan Turner was really hot.  It’s not a perfect film but then again, The Hobbit has never been a perfect trilogy.  As opposed to the Lord of the Ring films, The Hobbit told a story that could have easily been told in two films.  As a result, whenever you watch one of The Hobbit films, you’re aware of all of the filler that was included just to justify doing three films.

But so what?  The Hobbit films are fun.  Despite the cynical economic reasons behind turning The Hobbit into a trilogy, director Peter Jackson’s love for the material always came through.  In the title role, Martin Freeman was always likable.  Ian McKellan and Christopher Lee made for properly enigmatic wizards.  Though apparently his inclusion caused some controversy among purists, it was nice to Orlando Bloom as Legolas.  I also liked Evangeline Lilly’s elf character, even if everyone else seemed to dislike her and her love story with Aidan Turner.  And then there was Benedict Cumberbatch providing a perfectly evil and self-satisfied voice for Smaug.

I have to admit that, with the exception of Aidan Turner, I was never a big fan of the dwarves.  They were all so surly and bad-tempered and it didn’t take me too long to get tired of Richard Armitage showing up as Thorin and acting like a jerk.  However, in the final part of the trilogy, Armitage’s surly performance started to make sense.  As Thorin grew more and more paranoid, I saw that The Hobbit was actually using both the character and Armitage’s performance to make a much larger point.  Power corrupts and most conflicts are ultimately all about money and property.  It was a good message.

When the Battle of the Five Armies started, I was shocked to discover how little I remembered about the previous two Hobbit films.  It took me a while to get caught up on who everyone was and why they were all fighting over that mountain.  As opposed to the LoTR films, it’s not always easy to get emotionally invested in The Hobbit films.  But, Jackson is a good director and he’s a good storyteller and, even though it took me a while to get caught up, I was still often enthralled with what I was watching on screen.  The images were so stunning and the battle scenes were so spectacularly done that I could handle being occasionally confused.

Battle of the Five Armies is a fitting end for the Hobbit trilogy.  It’s not a perfect film but it is exciting and fun and that’s really all that matters.  At the end of it, the audience in the theater applauded, not just for the film but in recognition of everything that Peter Jackson has given us over the past 14 years.

It was a good way to spend the day after Christmas.

Film Review: Unbroken (dir by Angelina Jolie)


Ultimately, Unbroken is a victim of expectations.

From the start of last year, Oscar watchers and other film critics were united in fully expecting Unbroken to be a great film.  No sooner had 12 Years A Slave won best picture then we were all predicting that Unbroken would be named the best film of 2014 and that Angelina Jolie would be the 2nd woman to win an Oscar for best director.

And can you blame us?

Unbroken seemed to have everything that you would expect to add up to Oscar glory.  Not only was it directed by a celebrity (and, ever since Argo, everyone has been under the impression that all performers can also direct) but it starred an exciting and up-and-coming actor.  It was not only a war film but it was a war film that took place during the only war that everyone agrees was a good one, World War II.  It was based on a true story and what a story!  Louis Zamperini was an Olympic medalist whose athletic career was put on hold when he joined the U.S. Air Force.  After a plane crash, he and two other survivors spent 47 days floating in a lifeboat.  They were finally captured by the Japanese and Louis spent the rest of the war as POW.  During that time, he survived terrible torture.  When the war finally ended, Louis set aside his anger and publicly forgave those who had nearly killed him.  When he was 80 years old, he returned to Japan and carried the Olympic torch.  It’s an incredibly touching story and it should have made for a great movie.

And, ultimately, that’s Unbroken‘s downfall.  It has all the ingredients for being a great movie but instead, it’s only a good one.

That’s certainly not the fault of Jack O’Connell, who plays Louis and gives a strong and sympathetic performance.  Actually, the entire film is well-acted, with everyone fully inhabiting his role.  Perhaps the film’s best performance comes from Miyavi, who plays “The Bird,” the sadistic head of both of the POW camps where Louis is held prisoner.  The dynamic between The Bird and Louis is an interesting one, with the film emphasizing that The Bird is in many ways jealous of Louis’s previous fame and Miyavi plays the character as if he were a high school bully who has suddenly been left in charge of the classroom.

That the cast does well should not be a surprise.  Actors-turned-directors can usually get good performances but often times, they seem to struggle with shaping a narrative and this is where Unbroken struggles.  It’s not that Unbroken doesn’t tell a worthy story.  It’s just that it tells it in such a conventional and predictable way.  The entire film is full of scenes that seem like they were lifted out of other, more memorable movies.  The scenes with Louis growing up and competing in the Olympics feel like they could have come from any “inspiring” sports biopic.  (It doesn’t help that Louis’s brother and coach has been given dialogue that sounds like it should be surrounded by air quotes.)  When Louis is joking around with the guys in the plane, it feels like a hundred other war films.  When Louis is floating in the ocean, it’s hard not to compare the film’s static and draggy approach to what Ang Lee was able to do with Life of Pi or J.C. Chandor with All Is Lost.  Miyavi brings a feeling of real menace and danger to the POW scenes but it’s not enough.  Jolie’s direction is competent but there’s not a single moment that feels spontaneous or truly cinematic.

In fact, I sat through Unbroken totally dry-eyed, which is somewhat amazing considering how easily I cry at the movies.  However, towards the end of the film, there was a clip of the real-life, 80 year-old Louis running down the streets of Tokyo with the Olympic Torch and, at that moment, his story became real for me.  And that’s when the tears came.

I really wish Unbroken had been better because Louis Zamperini seems like someone who deserved to have a great film made about him.  Angelina Jolie’s heart was in the right place but, ultimately, it’s just not enough to make Unbroken the film that it deserves to be.

Here Are The Central Ohio Film Critics Nominees!


Birdman

Yesterday, the Central Ohio Film Critics announced their nominees for the best of 2014 and they really liked Birdman!  I wonder if the Central Ohio Film Critics ever have fights with the Southwestern Ohio Film Critics or the Ohio/Kentucky Border Critics…

Here are the nominees!

Best Film

  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Boyhood
  • Gone Girl
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • A Most Violent Year
  • Nightcrawler
  • Selma
  • Snowpiercer
  • Whiplash

Best Director

  • Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Damien Chazelle – Whiplash
  • Ava DuVernay – Selma
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Best Actor

  • Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
  • Michael Keaton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • David Oyelowo – Selma
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

  • Essie Davis, The Babadook
  • Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Supporting Actor

  • Josh Brolin – Inherent Vice
  • Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
  • Edward Norton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
  • J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
  • Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year
  • Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer

Best Ensemble

  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Foxcatcher
  • Gone Girl
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy

Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work)

  • Jessica Chastain (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Interstellar, Miss Julie, and A Most Violent Year)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and The Imitation Game)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal (Enemy and Nightcrawler)
  • Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy and The LEGO Movie)
  • Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer, and The Zero Theorem)

Breakthrough Film Artist

  • Damien Chazelle – Whiplash – (for directing and screenwriting)
  • Ava DuVernay – Selma – (for directing)
  • Jennifer Kent – The Babadook – (for directing and screenwriting)
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Belle and Beyond the Lights – (for acting)
  • Justin Simien – Dear White People – (for directing and screenwriting)

Best Cinematography

  • Benoît Delhomme – The Theory of Everything
  • Hoyte Van Hoytema – Interstellar
  • Daniel Landin – Under the Skin
  • Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Robert Yeoman – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Film Editing

  • Sandra Adair – Boyhood
  • Spencer Averick – Selma
  • Kirk Baxter – Gone Girl
  • Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Tom Cross – Whiplash

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice
  • Bong Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson – Snowpiercer
  • Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl
  • Nick Hornby – Wild
  • Graham Moore – The Imitation Game

Best Original Screenplay

  • Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • J.C. Chandor – A Most Violent Year
  • Damien Chazelle – Whiplash
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Paul Webb – Selma

Best Score

  • Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Theory of Everything
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Gone Girl
  • Antonio Sanchez – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Hans Zimmer – Interstellar

Best Documentary

  • Citizenfour
  • Dinosaur 13
  • Finding Vivian Maier
  • Jodorowsky’s Dune
  • Life Itself

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Force Majeure (Turist)
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • Ida
  • Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit)
  • We Are the Best! (Vi är bäst!)

Best Animated Film

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Book of Life
  • The Boxtrolls
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • The LEGO Movie

Best Overlooked Film

  • The Babadook
  • Blue Ruin
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Enemy
  • Locke

000144.0022649.tif

Here Are The Producers Guild Nominees!


 

Tyler Perry in Gone Girl

The Producers Guild of America nominees were announced today.

The PGA is often seen as being a pretty strong precursor as far as the actual Oscar nominations are concerned.  Therefore, it’s a bit surprising to see that Selma was snubbed.  (A lot of people are speculating that it may be because the Selma screeners were sent out late.  We’ll see.)  It’s less surprising that Unbroken was snubbed because Unbroken has not exactly lived up to expectations.  (I’ll post my review of the film soon.)  At this point, it’s hard to be surprised to see Nightcrawler mentioned because — for a supposed long shot — Nightcrawler‘s been doing pretty well as far as the precursors are concerned. Finally, the producers of former front runners Foxcatcher and Gone Girl have to be happy to see that their film has not been as forgotten by the guilds as it has been by many of the critical groups.

Here are the nominees!

American Sniper

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

Gone Girl

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Nightcrawler

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

foxcatcher-trailer-hd

Here Are The Art Directors Guild Nominees!


Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-gang

The Art Directors Guild announced their nominees today!

And here they are:

Period Film
Inherent Vice
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Unbroken

Fantasy Film
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Contemporary Film
American Sniper
Birdman
Foxcatcher
Gone Girl
Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Award Season Continues! Here Are The Winners From Georgia!


selma

Yes, awards season is still going on and critics and guilds from across the country and the industry are still announcing their picks for the best of 2014!

The latest group to make their picks known?  The Georgia Film Critics Association!  Here are their nominees for the best of 2014!

Best Picture
BIRDMAN
BOYHOOD
GONE GIRL
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
IDA
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
NIGHTCRAWLER
SELMA
SNOWPIERCER
WHIPLASH

Best Director
Richard Linklater BOYHOOD
David Fincher GONE GIRL
Wes Anderson THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Ava DuVernay SELMA
Damien Chazelle WHIPLASH

Best Actor
Ralph Fiennes THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Jake Gyllenhaal NIGHTCRAWLER
Michael Keaton BIRDMAN
David Oyelowo SELMA
Eddie Redmayne THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT
Scarlett Johansson UNDER THE SKIN
Felicity Jones THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Lisa Loven Kongsli FORCE MAJEURE
Julianne Moore STILL ALICE
Rosamund Pike GONE GIRL

Best Supporting Actor
Riz Ahmed NIGHTCRAWLER
Ethan Hawke BOYHOOD
Edward Norton BIRDMAN
Mark Ruffalo FOXCATCHER
JK Simmons WHIPLASH

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette BOYHOOD
Jessica Chastain A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
Rene Russo NIGHTCRAWLER
Emma Stone BIRDMAN
Tilda Swinton SNOWPIERCER

Best Original Screenplay
BOYHOOD
CALVARY
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
NIGHTCRAWLER
SELMA

Best Adapted Screenplay
GONE GIRL
THE IMITATION GAME
INHERENT VICE
SNOWPIERCER
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
WILD

Best Cinematography
BIRDMAN
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
IDA
INHERENT VICE
INTERSTELLAR

Best Production Design
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
INHERENT VICE
INTERSTELLAR
INTO THE WOODS
SNOWPIERCER
UNDER THE SKIN

Best Original Score
BIRDMAN (Antonio Sánchez)
GONE GIRL (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross)
INTERSTELLAR (Hans Zimmer)
LIFE ITSELF (Joshua Abrams)
UNDER THE SKIN (Mica Levi)

Best Original Song
“Everything is Awesome” from THE LEGO MOVIE
“Glory” from SELMA
“We Will Not Go” from VIRUNGA
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from GLEN CAMPBELL: I’LL BE ME
“Something So Right” from MUPPETS MOST WANTED

Best Ensemble Cast
BIRDMAN
BOYHOOD
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
GONE GIRL
SELMA

Best Foreign Language Film
FORCE MAJEURE
IDA
SEPIDEH
TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT
WE ARE THE BEST!

Best Animated Feature Film
BIG HERO 6
THE BOOK OF LIFE
THE BOXTROLLS
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
THE LEGO MOVIE

Best Documentary Feature Film
CITIZENFOUR
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER
KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON
LIFE ITSELF
SEPIDEH

Breakthough of the Year
Ellan Coltrane
Ava DuVernay
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Jenny Slate
Tessa Thompson

Selma