The Predator (Final Trailer)


The Predator

The teaser trailer for this Shane Black production didn’t wow me, at all. Then the first trailer came out and a red band one at that. That one was an upgrade but I was still on the fence. They’ve released more teasers, international trailers and tv spot and, once again, I was still not fully sold on the film.

Today 20th Century Fox drops the final trailer for The Predator just two weeks from it’s release date of September 14. This just days after the studio confirmed that the film will be a very hard R-rating raised my interest level.

It is this final trailer (again another red band trailer) is what finally sold me on this film as a must-see. We still know only bits and pieces of what the film will be about but the trademark Shane Black quips and smartass attitude shows up much more clearly with this last trailer.

I actually enjoyed the last Predator film and I hope this one continues the trend and just entertains it’s audience.

Film Review: 12 Strong (dir by Nicolai Fuglsig)


12 Strong begins with a montage of terror.

The World Trade Center is bombed in 1993.  Planes are bombed.  Ships are attacked.  Bill Clinton gives a speech in which he impotently condemns Al-Qaeda.  Finally, we reach September 11th, 2001.  Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) is playing with his daughter when she suddenly looks up at the TV behind him.  “Look, Daddy,” she says.  Nelson turns around and sees The World Trade Center on fire.

Even though he’s recently announced his intention to retire, Nelson reports for duty.  Despite the skepticism of his commanding officer (Rob Riggle), Nelson and 11 others are sent into Afghanistan.  Their mission is to meet up with a warlord named Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) and to capture territory from the Taliban.  Nelson is initially given 6 weeks to complete this task.  Nelson replies that he’ll get it done in three, before the harsh Afghan winter makes it impossible to move through the mountains.

Among the actors who make up Nelson’s team: Michael Shannon, Trevante Rhodes, Austin Stowell, and Geoff Stults.  Fortunately, the cast is made up of familiar faces.  Even though you might not learn everyone’s name, you still feel as if you know them because you’ve seen all of them playing similar roles in other movies.  (After his performance in Moonlight, it’s a bit disappointing to see Trevante Rhodes playing such a minor supporting role in his follow-up but still, he’s a charismatic actor and he has enough screen presence that he definitely makes an impression.)  Somewhat inevitably, Michael Pena plays the funny member of the team.  It’s not a 21st century action film without Michael Pena providing comedic relief.

(That’s actually a little unfair to Michael Pena, who is a good actor and who gives a pretty good performance in 12 Strong.  It’s just that he’s played this role so many times that it’s almost become a cliché that every action movie will feature Micheal Pena making jokes.)

When the team first meets up with Dostum, there’s immediate tension between the supposed allies.  As Dostum puts it, the United States only cares about getting rid of the Taliban but they don’t care about what will happen afterward.  When Dostum looks at Nelson, he immediately announces that Nelson does not have killer eyes.  Everyone else on the team has killer eyes but not Nelson.  Dostum and his men are even less impressed when they see the Americans struggling to ride the horses that are required to get through the mountains.  Will Nelson win Dostum’s respect?  Will he develop the eyes of a killer?

You probably already know the answer to that.  There’s really not a single moment in 12 Strong that you won’t see coming.  As soon as Dostum says that Nelson needs to prove himself in battle, you know that he’ll get a chance to do just that.  As soon as another soldier talks about home, you know that he’s going to be seriously wounded.  When you first spot the child soldiers among Dostum’s forces and you see one of them give Nelson a nervous smile, you know that child’s probably going to be one of the first casualties of the attack.

12 Strong is a predictable movie but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad one.  It’s a well-made film, with the cast all giving strong performances and director Nicolai Fuglsig doing a good job with the battle scenes.  My heart was racing during the film’s final battle.  New Mexico doubled for Afghanistan and the film features some truly stunning shots of the mountainous landscape.  The film even makes a point about why, after 17 years, there still doesn’t appear to be any end in sight to the War in Afghanistan.

Clocking in at 2 hours and 9 minutes, 12 Strong is probably about thirty minutes too long.  It’s a predictable movie but it’s well-made and the fact that it’s based on a true story does make it a bit more poignant than it would be otherwise.  It’s not a bad war film, particularly for January.

Film Review: Moonlight (dir by Barry Jenkins)


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I’m going to start this review of Moonlight by affirming something that you’ve either heard or, if you’ve seen the film, that you already know.

Moonlight is one of the best films of 2016.  Many critics have declared it to be the best.  When the Academy Award nominations are announced next month, Moonlight will receive several of them.  Barry Jenkins will not only be the fourth black filmmaker to be nominated for best director but he may very well be the first to win.  Personally, I would rate Arrival and Kubo and the Two Strings higher than Moonlight but I certainly won’t complain if Moonlight wins every Oscar that it’s nominated for.  It’s a powerful and personal film, one that might make you cry and will definitely make you think.  It sticks with you, from the brilliant opening to the powerful closing shot.  In a weak year for films, Moonlight stands one of the few legitimately great releases of 2016.

Moonlight is a film in three parts, all dealing with the life of Chiron.  Though he rarely speaks and often keeps his feelings hidden behind a wall of pain and deception, Chiron is one of the most fascinating characters that you’ll ever get to know.  Growing up in Miami, he seems to be destined to be forever on the outside.  In a country that protects whiteness and celebrates wealth, he’s black and he’s poor.  In a social environment that values being hard and demands an almost cartoonish masculinity, Chiron is sensitive and gay.

When we first meet Chiron, he’s a child nicknamed Little and he’s played by Alex Hibbert.  When we first see him, he’s fleeing both school bullies and a homelife that’s dominated by his abusive, crack-addicted mother, Paula (Naomie Harris, giving a brave and raw performance that reminds you of just how wasted she was in the role of Moneypenny in SPECTRE).  The only positive influence in Chiron’s life is a Cuban drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali, who gives a performance of amazingly subtle power) and Juan’s girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monae).  Juan is the one who teaches Chiron how to swim.  He’s the one who tells Chiron that he can be more than he realizes.  Juan is the one who encourages Chiron to be himself, regardless of what the rest of the world demands that he be.  And yet, Juan is also the one who sells the drugs that are destroying Chiron’s mom.

We also see Chiron as an awkward and withdrawn teenager and this time, he’s played by Ashton Sanders.  Chiron struggles with his attraction to his best friend, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) and does his best to avoid a terrifying bully named Terrel (Patrick Decile).

And finally, we meet Chiron as a muscular and sometimes menacing adult and he’s now played by Trevante Rhodes.  It’s when we meet the adult Chiron that we suddenly understand why the film was structured the way that it was.  As intimidating and noncommunicative as adult Chiron may be, we know who he really is.  We know that he’s still the same kid who we first saw hiding inside an abandoned apartment.  When Chiron received an unexpected phone call from Kevin (now played, quite poignantly, by Andre Holland), he’s forced to confront who he truly is.  It leads to … well, I don’t know how to tell you what it leads to without spoiling the film for you.  I will say that the film ends with a haunting image, one that will stick with you long after the film ends.

Moonlight is a heartfelt and incredibly moving film, one that will challenge all of your preconceived notions and one that will stick with you long after you see it.  Brilliantly directed and acted, Moonlight is a film full of beautiful, haunting, and often dream-like images.  (Cinematographer James Laxton is almost as important to the film’s success as director/screenwriter Barry Jenkins.)  And you definitely should see it if you haven’t.

It’s one of the best of 2016.

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The Austin Film Critics Association Has Announced Their Nominations!


moonlightThe Austin Film Critics Association announced their nominees for the best of 2016 earlier today!  So, let’s see what my fellow Texans selected:

Best Film:

Best Director:

Best Actor:

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Colin Farrell, The Lobster
  • Denzel Washington, Fences
  • Joel Edgerton, Loving
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land

Best Actress:

  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  • Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Ruth Negga, Loving

Best Supporting Actor:

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea
  • Min-hee Kim, The Handmaiden
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Viola Davis, Fences

Best Original Screenplay:

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Eric Heisserer, Arrival
  • Luke Davies, Lion
  • Park Chan-wook, Jeong Seo-kyeong, The Handmaiden
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Whit Stillman, Love & Friendship

Best Cinematography:

Best Score:

Best Foreign-Language Film:

  • The Brand New Testament
  • Elle
  • The Handmaiden
  • Things to Come
  • Toni Erdmann

Best Documentary:

  • 13th
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • O.J.: Made in America
  • Tower
  • Weiner

Best Animated Film:

Best First Film:

  • The Birth of a Nation
  • The Edge of Seventeen
  • Krisha
  • Swiss Army Man
  • The Witch

The Robert R. “Bobby” McCurdy Memorial Breakthrough Artist Award:

Best Austin Film:

  • Loving (dir. Jeff Nichols)
  • Midnight Special (dir. Jeff Nichols)
  • Slash (dir. Clay Liford)
  • Tower (dir. Keith Maitland)
  • Transpecos (dir. Greg Kwedar)

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Here Are The Nominees of the Detroit Film Critics Society!


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The winners will be announced on the 19th!

BEST PICTURE

BEST DIRECTOR

BEST ACTOR

  • CASEY AFFLECK – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
  • JOEL EDGERTON – LOVING
  • ANDREW GARFIELD – HACKSAW RIDGE
  • RYAN GOSLING – LA LA LAND
  • DENZEL WASHINGTON – FENCES

BEST ACTRESS

  • AMY ADAMS – ARRIVAL
  • ANNETTE BENING – 20TH CENTURY WOMEN
  • REBECCA HALL – CHRISTINE
  • RUTH NEGGA – LOVING
  • NATALIE PORTMAN – JACKIE
  • EMMA STONE – LA LA LAND

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • VIOLA DAVIS – FENCES
  • ELLE FANNING – 20TH CENTURY WOMEN
  • GRETA GERWIG – 20TH CENTURY WOMEN
  • FELICITY JONES – A MONSTER CALLS
  • MICHELLE WILLIAMS – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

BEST ENSEMBLE

BEST BREAKTHROUGH

  • MAHERSHALA ALI – MOONLIGHT, HIDDEN FIGURES – ACTOR
  • KELLY FREMON CRAIG – EDGE OF SEVENTEEN – DIRECTOR/WRITER
  • LUCAS HEDGES – MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – ACTOR
  • BARRY JENKINS – MOONLIGHT – DIRECTOR/WRITER
  • TREVANTE RHODES – MOONLIGHT – ACTOR
  • TREY EDWARD SHULTS – KRISHA – DIRECTOR/WRITER

BEST SCREENPLAY

  BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • 13TH
  • GLEASON
  • LIFE, ANIMATED
  • O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA
  • TICKLED
  • WEINER

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Here Are the 48th Annual NAACP Image Award Nominations!


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You can see the film nomination below.  For a full list of all the Image nominations, including the television nominees, click here.

Outstanding Motion Picture
•    “Fences” (Paramount Pictures)
•    “Hidden Figures” (20th Century Fox)
•    “Loving” (Focus Features/Big Beach)
•    “Moonlight” (A24)
•    “The Birth of a Nation” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture – (Film)
•    Anthony Russo, Joe Russo – “Captain America: Civil War” (Marvel Studios)
•    Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight” (A24)
•    Garth Davis – “Lion” (See-Saw Films)
•    Mira Nair – “Queen of Katwe” (Walt Disney Studios)
•    Nate Parker – “The Birth of a Nation” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Film)
•    Adam Mansbach “Barry” (Black Bear Pictures and Cinetic Media)
•    Barry Jenkins “Moonlight” (A24)
•    Jeff Nichols “Loving” (Focus Features/Big Beach)
•    Nate Parker “The Birth of a Nation” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
•    Richard Tanne “Southside With You” (Roadside Attractions)

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
•    Denzel Washington – “Fences” (Paramount Pictures)
•    Don Cheadle – “Miles Ahead” (Sony Pictures Classics)
•    Nate Parker – “The Birth of a Nation” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
•    Stephan James – “Race” (Focus Features/The Luminary Group A Solofilms/Trinidad/Trinity/Trinity Race Production)
•    Will Smith – “Collateral Beauty” (Warner Bros. Pictures/New Line Cinema)

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
•    Angela Bassett – “London Has Fallen” (Focus Features/Millennium Films/G-Base Production)
•    Madina Nalwanga – “Queen of Katwe” (Walt Disney Studios)
•    Ruth Negga – “Loving” (Focus Features/Big Beach)
•    Taraji P. Henson – “Hidden Figures” (20th Century Fox)
•    Tika Sumpter – “Southside With You” (Roadside Attractions)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
•    Alano Miller – “Loving” (Focus Features/Big Beach)
•    Chadwick Boseman – “Captain America: Civil War” (Marvel Studios)
•    David Oyelowo – “Queen of Katwe” (Walt Disney Studios)
•    Mahershala Ali – “Moonlight” (A24)
•    Trevante Rhodes – “Moonlight” (A24)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
•    Aja Naomi King – “The Birth of a Nation” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
•    Lupita Nyong’o – “Queen of Katwe” (Walt Disney Studios)
•    Mo’ Nique – “Almost Christmas” (Universal Pictures)
•    Octavia Spencer – “Hidden Figures” (20th Century Fox)
•    Viola Davis – “Fences” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Independent Motion Picture
•    “Lion” (See-Saw Films)
•    “Loving” (Focus Features/Big Beach)
•    “Miles Ahead” (Sony Pictures Classics)
•    “Moonlight” (A24)
•    “The Birth of a Nation” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Outstanding Documentary – (Film)
•    “13th” (Netflix)
•    “I Am Not Your Negro” (Velvet Film)
•    “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” (The People’s Poet LLC)
•    “Miss Sharon Jones!” (Cabin Creek Films)
•    “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” (Coffee Bluff Pictures)

What If Awards Season Began And Lisa Totally Missed It? Here Are The Gotham Nominations!


The_Witch_poster

As proof of how busy I’ve been over the past few days, just consider this: On October 20th, awards season kicked off and I totally missed it!

That’s right.  On October 20th, the nominations for the 2016 Gotham Awards were announced.  The Gothams honor independent films and they actually have some pretty strict guidelines regarding what they consider to be independent.  So, a lot of this year’s potential Oscar nominees are not eligible for the Gotham Awards.

That said, over the past few years, the Gothams have slowly emerged as a somewhat helpful precursor.  While getting a Gotham nomination does not guarantee any film an Oscar nomination, it certainly doesn’t hurt.  That may especially be true this year as 2016 has, for the most part, not been the great cinematic year that 2015 was.  With no real favorites having yet to emerge, every precursor counts.

So, with that in mind and just a few days late, here are the Gotham nominations!

Best Feature

Certain Women
Kelly Reichardt, director; Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, producers (IFC Films)

Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater, director; Megan Ellison, Ginger Sledge, Richard Linklater, producers (Paramount Pictures)

Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan, director; Kimberly Steward, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin J. Walsh, producers (Amazon Studios)

Moonlight
Barry Jenkins, director; Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, producers (A24)

Paterson
Jim Jarmusch, director; Joshua Astrachan, Carter Logan, producers (Amazon Studios)

Best Documentary

Cameraperson
Kirsten Johnson, director; Marilyn Ness, producer (Janus Films)

I Am Not Your Negro
Raoul Peck, director; Rémi Grellety, Raoul Peck, Hébert Peck, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

O.J.: Made in America
Ezra Edelman, director; Caroline Waterlow, Ezra Edelman, Tamara Rosenberg, Nina Krstic, Deirdre Fenton, Erin Leyden, producers (ESPN Films)

Tower
Keith Maitland, director; Keith Maitland, Megan Gilbride, Susan Thomson, producers (Kino Lorber, Independent Lens)

Weiner
Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg, directors and producers (Sundance Selects and Showtime Documentary Films)

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Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Robert Eggers for The Witch (A24)

Anna Rose Holmer for The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert for Swiss Army Man (A24)

Trey Edward Shults for Krisha (A24)

Richard Tanne for Southside with You (Roadside Attractions and Miramax)

Best Screenplay

Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan (CBS Films)

Love & Friendship, Whit Stillman (Amazon Studios)

Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan (Amazon Studios)

Moonlight, Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Screenplay by Barry Jenkins (A24)

Paterson, Jim Jarmusch (Amazon Studios)

Best Actor*

Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water (CBS Films)

Adam Driver in Paterson (Amazon Studios)

Joel Edgerton in Loving (Focus Features)

Craig Robinson in Morris from America (A24)

Best Actress*

Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship (Amazon Studios)

Annette Bening in 20th Century Women (A24)

Isabelle Huppert in Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

Ruth Negga in Loving (Focus Features)

Natalie Portman in Jackie (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Breakthrough Actor*

Lily Gladstone in Certain Women (IFC Films)

Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)

Royalty Hightower in The Fits (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Sasha Lane in American Honey (A24)

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch (A24)

* The 2016 Best Actor/Best Actress and Breakthrough Actor nominating panels also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award for ensemble performance to Moonlight, “in which actors at all levels of experience give outstanding performances that speak eloquently to one another both within and across each chapter of the story.” The awards will go to actors Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes, and Ashton Sanders.

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(AWARDS SEASON HAS BEGUN!!!)