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All is Bright-Movie Review 12/24/2015

Posted by Films to consider in American, Christmas film, Comedy, Dark Comedy, Movies, North Carolina Film Critics Association.
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All is Bright (American) 2013

Directed by Phil Morrison
Starring Paul Giamatti, Paul Rudd, Amy Landecker, and Sally Hawkins

NOMINATED, Tar Heel Award, North Carolina Film Critics Association

Dennis (Giamatti) is a thief. When he gets out of prison, he finds out that his wife Therese (Landecker) has told their young daughter that he died of cancer. Not only that, but his former partner is set to marry Therese. Still, the two men decide to go to New York City together to make some fast money selling Christmas trees.

This film is not a family film for the holidays; its ending is only slightly uplifting to keep with the spirit of the season. It’s moderately amusing, with darkish comedy mostly based on the situation Giamatti’s character finds himself in. Still, it might give you a few chuckles and get you out of any Hallmark rut you’ve gotten yourself into! And hey, it gave me a new award category.

P.S. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to post more films. Happy holidays to all and to all a good day!

107 min. Rated R.

For more info:
All Is Bright

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Whiplash-DVD Review *** 07/12/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Based on true events, Drama, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Gotham Awards, Movies, Sundance Film Festival.
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Whiplash (American) 2014

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Simmons); Best Sound Mixing; Best Film Editing; NOMINATED, Best Motion Picture; Best Writing, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Simmons); Best Editing; Best Sound; NOMINATED, Best Original Screenplay; David Lean Award for Direction (both Chazelle), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Actor (Teller), Gotham Awards

Andrew (Teller), a student at a prestigious music academy, is obsessed with the idea of becoming the next great jazz drummer. His talent and determination get the notice of Fletcher (Simmons), a top teacher at the school. To force his students to be their best, Fletcher uses a style of teaching that can only be called outright abuse.

Director Chazelle wrote this film as a result of his own experiences trying to break into the jazz drumming world. As he mentions in an interview, the reason he became a director and not a jazz drummer is essentially the story of the movie. Teller does a great job in the drumming sequences; Simmons goes over and above the call of duty in becoming the kind of teacher you don’t want to have. Chazelle and Simmons especially garnered many wins and nominations.

Highly recommended. ***

107 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Whiplash

The Grand Budapest Hotel-DVD Review *** 12/15/2014

Posted by Films to consider in American, Berlin International Film Festival, Comedy, David di Donatello Awards, Golden Globes, Movies, New York Film Critics Circle Awards, Suspense.
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The Grand Budapest Hotel (American) 2014 ***

Directed by Wes Anderson

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Mathieu Amalric, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum and several other big-name stars

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Director (Anderson); Best Motion Picture; Best Actor (Fiennes); Best Screenplay, Golden Globes
WINNER, Silver Berlin Bear-Grand Jury Prize (Anderson); NOMINATED, Golden Berlin Bear (Anderson), Berlin International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Foreign Film (Anderson), David di Donatello Awards
WINNER, Best Screenplay, New York Film Critics Circle Awards

In a formerly majestic hotel in a mountainous area of Eastern Europe, Zero Moustafa (Revolori), now an old man, tells the fantastic story of how he rose from lobby boy to owner, with the help of his former boss Gustave H (Fiennes). What ensues is a zany and fast-moving tale that features an all-star cast in roles ranging from supporting to cameo.

Highly recommended if you like a quirky comedy. Wes Anderson also directed The Darjeeling Limited and the Royal Tannenbaums.

*** Highly recommended.
100 min. Rated R.

For more info:
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nebraska-DVD Review *** 11/23/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, AFI Awards, American, Cannes Film Festival, Comedy, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies.
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NEBRASKA (American) 2013 ***

Directed by Alexander Payne
Starring Bruce Dern, June Squibb, and Will Forte

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Picture; Best Leading Actor (Dern); Best Supporting Actress (Squibb); Best Cinematography; Best Director (Payne), Best Original Screenplay, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Picture; Best Actor (Dern); Best Supporting Actress (Squibb); Best Director (Payne), Best Screenplay, Golden Globes
WINNER, Movie of the Year, AFI Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (Dern), NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Payne), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Best First Screenplay (Bob Nelson); NOMINATED, Best Feature; Best Director (Payne); Best Male Lead (Dern); Best Supporting Female (Squibb); Best Supporting Male (Forte), Independent Spirit Awards

When senile and curmudgeonly Woody Grant (Dern) becomes convinced that he must travel to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to claim the grand prize, neither his wife Kate (Squibb) nor his younger son David (Forte) can change his mind. David decides to take his father on a trip that includes a family reunion and a visit to the prize headquarters.

This film must have been up against some tough award competition; although it was nominated for many, it only won a few. Bruce Dern and June Squibb will surely remind you of some couple you know. Bob Odenkirk (lately of Breaking Bad fame) appears as the older son. Alexander Payne also directed Sideways and The Descendents.

*** Highly recommended.

114 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Nebraska

Saving Mr. Banks-DVD Review *** 11/06/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Based on true events, Empire Awards, Golden Globes, Irish Film and Television Awards, Light Drama, Movies, Satellite Awards.
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Saving Mr. Banks (American) 2013 ***
Based on real events

Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, and Colin Farrell

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Actress (Thompson), Empire Awards, UK
NOMINATED, Best Original Score, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress-Drama (Thompson), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actor-Film (Farrell), Irish Film and Television Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Thompson); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Hanks); Best Motion Picture, Satellite Awards

In the early 1960s, Walt Disney (Hanks), at the helm of the successful Disney Studios, is determined to fulfill a promise made to his daughters: that he will make a movie of their favorite book, Mary Poppins. Used to getting his way, he sets out to convince the stubborn author, P. L. Travers (Thompson), to give him the rights, pledging that the musical he has planned will honor her story. As negotiations continue, flashbacks reveal the author’s less-than-perfect childhood that inspired the tale.

I was prepared to merely “like” this movie but found that I truly enjoyed it. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson play off each other very effectively as Disney vs. Travers. Colin Farrell does well as Miss Travers’ charming but ne’er-do-well father, who encourages his young daughter’s flights of fancy. Note that the end credits have actual tapes from the negotiations and meetings that mirror what is shown in the film.

Highly recommended. ***

125 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Saving Mr. Banks

The Butler-DVD Review 09/22/2014

Posted by Films to consider in American, BAFTA Awards, Based on true events, Drama, Emotional Drama, Historical Drama, Image Awards, Movies, Satellite Awards.
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The Butler (American) 2013
aka Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Based on true events

Directed by Lee Daniels
Starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Elijah Kelley, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actress (Winfrey), BAFTA Awards
NOMINATED, Outstanding Male Actor-Lead (Whitaker); Outstanding Female Actor-Supporting (Winfrey), Screen Actors Guild Awards
WINNER, Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture (Whitaker); Outstanding Supporting Actor (Oyelowo, Howard, and Gooding); NOMINATED, Outstanding Motion Picture; Outstanding Supporting Actress (Winfrey)
Outstanding Writing (Danny Strong); Outstanding Directing (Daniels), Image Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Whitaker); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Winfrey), Satellite Awards

Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) grows up in the deep South, where he is given the chance to be a house servant instead of working in the fields. He excels and makes his way North; he is eventually hired as one of the White House butler staff. Cecil serves through eight presidencies, often putting the needs of his job above those of his wife, Gloria (Winfrey) and sons. The film follows Cecil through the turbulent decades of the Civil Rights movement, which causes estrangement between Cecil and his older son Louis (Oyelowo), and the Vietnam War, which takes the life of his younger son Charlie (Kelley).

The screenplay is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, who served in the White House from 1952-1986.

132 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Fruitvale Station-DVD Review *** 09/04/2014

Posted by Films to consider in American, Based on true events, Cannes Film Festival, Drama, Emotional Drama, Independent Spirit Awards, Movies, Satellite Awards, Sundance Film Festival.
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Fruitvale Station (American) 2013 ***
Based on true events

Directed by Ryan Coogler
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, and Ariana Neal

Among other awards and nominations too numerous to list here:
WINNER, Un Certain Regard-Avenir Prize; NOMINATED, Golden Camera; NOMINATED, Un Certain Regard Award (All for Ryan Coogler), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Best First Feature (Coogler); NOMINATED, Best Male Lead (Jordan); Best Supporting Female (Diaz), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Breakthrough Performance Award (Jordan), Satellite Awards
WINNER, Audience Award-Dramatic; WINNER, Grand Jury Prize-Dramatic (both Coogler), Sundance Film Festival

At the end of 2008, Oscar Grant (Jordan) is a 22-year-old resident of the Bay Area who has had his share of ups and downs. He is determined to fix his relationship with his girlfriend Sophina (Diaz) and make a better life for his 4-year-old daughter Tatiana (Neal). But a trip to the city for New Year’s Eve turns tragic when a fight on the subway brings police, and Oscar and his friends get singled out as trouble.

Director Ryan Coogler based his telling of Oscar Grant’s story on personal interviews with family members and close friends. With a great cast that includes Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) as Oscar’s mother, the audience gets a balanced picture of a young man who’s charming but fits right into his tough environment. It’s frightening to see such a realistic portrayal of a situation escalating out of control, but a good reminder that it can happen anywhere, anytime.

Highly recommended.
85 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Fruitvale Station

Oblivion-DVD Review 06/17/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Action/Thriller, American, Golden Trailer Awards, Science Fiction.
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Oblivion (American) 2013

Directed by Joseph Kozinski
Starring Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo, and Morgan Freeman

Nominated for several awards, including:
NOMINATED, Best Action Film, Golden Trailer Awards

In the year 2077, Jack Harper (Cruise) and his girlfriend Victoria (Riseborough) are on a dangerous patrol mission on what is left of planet Earth. They’re looking forward to their imminent return to Titan, where life will be more enjoyable. But Jack is troubled by some flashbacks that seem like they are actual memories. A chance meeting, seemingly with someone from his past, brings Jack to the brink of grasping what is real–or maybe what might have been real.

Although the storyline is somewhat confusing, it does get tied together in the end, and the special effects and soundtrack make up for any lack in that respect. Worth a look-see if you enjoy this type of movie, which I do occasionally!

125 min. Rated PG-13.
For more info:
Oblivion

Safety Not Guaranteed-DVD Review 05/24/2014

Posted by Films to consider in ALMA Awards, American, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Fantasy, Independent Spirit Awards, Romance, Romantic comedy, Sundance Film Festival.
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SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (American) 2012
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, and Karan Soni

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Favorite Movie Actress-Comedy/Musical (Plaza), ALMA Awards
NOMINATED, Most Promising Filmmaker (Trevorrow), Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Best First Screenplay (Derek Connolly); NOMINATED, Best First Feature, Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (Connolly); NOMINATED, Grand Jury Prize-Dramatic (Trevorrow), Sundance Film Festival

Darius (Plaza) is a lowly intern at a Seattle feature magazine. She volunteers to accompany coworkers Jeff (Johnson) and Arnau (Soni) to follow up on a quirky classified ad. As Darius gets to know its creator, self-proclaimed time traveler Kenneth (Duplass), she begins to question whether he is as delusional as everyone else thinks.

An unusual and enjoyable story. The movie was filmed in Seattle, with a low-key cast of actors who lend an unaffected charm to its telling.

86 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Safety Not Guaranteed

The Adjustment Bureau-DVD Review *** 04/27/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy of Science Fiction, Action/Thriller, American, Based on a short story, Black Reel Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, Drama, George Nolfi, Movies, People's Choice Awards, Romance, Science Fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
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The Adjustment Bureau (American) 2011 ***
Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick

Directed and screenplay written by George Nolfi
Starring Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Michael Kelly, Anthony Mackie, and John Slattery

Among a few other nominations:
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Blunt); NOMINATED, Best Science Fiction Film, Saturn Awards, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
NOMINATED, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Mackie), Black Reel Awards
NOMINATED, Bram Stoker Award-Screenplay (Nolfi),Bram Stoker Awards
NOMINATED, Favorite Drama Movie, People’s Choice Awards
NOMINATED, Bradbury Award, (Nolfi-writer/director), Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

David Norris (Damon), a politician on the rise, accidentally finds out from the “Adjustment Bureau” that he is not meant to be with Elise (Blunt), a dancer he fell in love with after a few minutes of conversation.

A fast-paced and interesting movie that combines a believable romance with a quirky sci-fi/action story about the forces that shape our lives: human decision-making and chance versus the possibility of other powers-that-be. [Note: said “other powers-that-be” must wear hats of some sort or other!!! I’m just saying . . .]

As a side note, Matt Damon claims this is his first romantic lead role, and he proves himself up to the task; Emily Blunt, who had no formal dance training prior to getting herself prepped for this role, does too.

Highly recommended.

106 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
The Adjustment Bureau