Posts Tagged 'man of steel'

The 2014 Biggie Awards (& The 25 Movies from 2013 That You Should’ve Seen)

The 25th Annual Biggie Awards

aka The Biggies

celebrating achievements in cinema for the year 2013

First off, this is me patting myself on the back for 25 years of recognizing excellence in film. It’s pretty cool to hit a milestone like that. I’ve been doing these awards since I was 17 years old, aka half of my life. I started in 1997 with awards for that year’s amazing roster of movies, but eventually I retroactively went back and did my awards from 1989 forward. Why 1989? Well, basically it was so I could recognize Glory (one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time) as my first Best Picture winner. What other reason do I need? I take this very seriously, and I’m proud of the legacy I’ve been able to build here, even if that legacy exists only in my own mind. Hopefully that pride shows in how much time and care I put into this post every year.

Gatsby - glass raise“Happy 25th anniversary, Old Sport.”
Thanks, Gatsby!

As part of our 25th anniversary celebration, for those interested, here are all of my previous Best Picture winners, with the Oscars’ Best Picture winner that year in parentheses for comparison:

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Review: MAN OF STEEL

man_of_steel_ver6

WARNING: Spoilers be comin! If you’re one of 8 people left who haven’t seen this movie, know that I discuss almost every detail of the plot at one point or another during this review. There, I told you.

Man of Steel is the best Superman movie ever made, and my new NEW favorite movie of 2013. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen all year, and easily the best movie I’ve seen so far this summer. I can confidently say that the only other movies that even have a chance to compete for Best Movie of the Summer are Elysium and Pacific Rim. Most of my complaints about the film are trivial at best, so the “Didn’t Like” section won’t be as long as it has been with a lot of other movies recently. MoS is far from perfect, but I didn’t have any huge gripes with it. Sorry, no nitpicking section this go-around. Sad face. But do join me for nearly 5,000 words of astute, insightful, edumacational reviewing…

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Review: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

star trek into darkness poster final

Star Trek Into Darkness is my new favorite movie of 2013. It’s not the best movie of 2013 thus far (that would be Mud, a great little flick and the latest stop on the Epic Matthew McConaughey Comeback Tour), but I had a blasty blast watching J.J. Abrams‘ follow-up to his successful 2009 cinematic Star Trek revival. As many critics and old-school Star Trek diehards like to point out, Abrams’ version of Trek is very different in tone and style to the previous TV shows and films. I call it “Blockbuster Star Trek”. There’s a bigger emphasis on action and humor in these films, and less on actual science and the exploration of strange, new worlds. It’s easy to understand why this “dumbing down” of Star Trek would offend the diehards (a group I count myself a member of), but this new, glossed-up style is precisely the reason the 2009 film became accessible to modern summer audiences and grossed $257.7 million domestically, by far the biggest gross of all Trek movies. In other words, so long as Abrams is directing and/or producing this series with this cast, ain’t nothin changing, folks.

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Biggie’s Most Anticipated Movies of 2013

As the final few films of 2012 finish their awards season roll out, it’s time to look to the future – the near future. Overall, I think 2013 has a lot of potential, but maybe not as much potential as 2012 had (and failed to live up to). You can find lists like this on almost every big movie site, but as always, I will claim that mine might be a little more interesting and provide a lot more insight into the year ahead than the short lists the other blogs throw together. Yes, most of my choices are big budget mainstream entertainments. I feel no shame in that. That’s where my tastes run. These are the kind of movies that made me fall in love with the movies. Those are the movies I want to make. I’d rather a slick, well-funded studio film be great than a tiny budget independent film. Now that that’s cleared up, let’s get into this.

Note: In case you’re YouTube illiterate, click on the links at the top of any of these trailers to watch the trailer full-size and in HD on YouTube. I know this is complicated, but you can dooo eeeet!

10. TIE: THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (3/29) & ONLY GOD FORGIVES (TBD)

This is how much I now respect Ryan Gosling. After an unbearable full calendar year without him gracing our movie screens (and our hearts), The Gosling returns guns blazing in 2013 with no fewer than 4 new films; these two, a currently untitled Terrence Malick movie (that I’m sure will have plenty of fascinating introspective narration!) and of course Gangster Squad, which was delayed from its original 2012 release after the Aurora, Colorado theater shootings. But it’s Pines and Forgives I’m most interested in, if only because they reunite The Gosling with the directors of Blue Valentine (one of the most truthful relationship movies I’ve ever seen) and Drive (the best film of 2011), respectively. Those directors would be Derek Cianfrance and Nicolas Winding Refn. It helps that both these projects also have very interesting plots, which I just assume to be true if The Gosling has blessed a film with his presence. But seriously, no actor is making better choices than this man right now, and I look for that streak to continue throughout 2013 with these new projects. [Place Beyond the Pines IMDb] [Only God Forgives IMDb]

only_god_forgives_ryan_goslingWhat have they done to him?!

Continue reading ‘Biggie’s Most Anticipated Movies of 2013’

Review & Perspective: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

The Dark Knight Rises arrived in theaters as my most anticipated movie of 2012, and if I think about it, one of my most anticipated movies EVAR. As in, top 5 on my “keeps me up nights I’m so excited to see it” list, right up there with The Phantom Menace, The Matrix Reloaded, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers & Return of the King, Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and the first Transformers. That’s not an official list, but it gives you some historical comps. It’s been four long years since The Dark Knight rocked our socks with its awesomeness (it remains the best comic book movie ever made), and even though Christopher Nolan has continued to shit greatness in the interim (Inception), ever since 2008 I was always more excited about any and all news regarding his third Batflick. What’s the title gonna be? Who is the next villain to get the Nolan Treatment? The instant I walked out of that theater in July, 2008, I was wondering how soon Warner Bros. would announce a release date for the followup. And it didn’t happen. Forever. Even as The Dark Knight broke the almighty 3-day opening weekend box office record (which has since been topped twice by two 3D-enhanced juggernauts, Harry Potter 7-b and The Avengers), went on to gross more than $500 million domestically and just over a billion worldwide. Nowadays, when studios get results like that, they announce the release dates for the next 3 movies in a series. But it wasn’t until April 30, 2010 that they announced the release date (which I correctly predicted in 2008 would be in 2012), and the Dark Knight Rises title wasn’t announced until October 27, 2010. I remember being hugely underwhelmed by the title choice (Huh? You’re just gonna add one word to the title of the last movie? was my reaction at the time), but I trusted that it would all make sense once we saw the film. And even with all the trailers and ads prior to release, you don’t fully come to appreciate the title until literally the final shot of the movie, at which point it does in fact make perfect sense…as I thought it would. Continue reading ‘Review & Perspective: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES’

Review-a-palooza: COWBOYS & ALIENS & CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.


I loved this friggin movie. Loved it. It had gotten pretty solid reviews, but I don’t believe any of that stuff this year until I see it with my own eyes. Well, Crazy, Stupid, Love. delivers the goods. And guys, don’t dismiss it because of the title. I’ve already recommended the film to a few male co-workers and been quickly rebuked because of the title. Stop it. Grow up. It is well-written, funny, authentic, superbly shot and directed, and features a solid soundtrack. However, that all pales in comparison to the film’s best asset, and that’s its sublime [but whitewashed] cast. I should’ve realized with a cast this good that the script had to have been at least somewhat legit. I’m looking through Steve Carell‘s filmography, and yup, this is easily his best role since The 40-Year Old Virgin, which came out in 2005. It’s tougher than it looks to pull off the range this character demands. There’s real drama, real sadness, and real comedy. The guy comes across as an actual human being, as opposed to the live-action cartoon characters Carell usually plays. He’s funny without being goofy or over-the-top. And he’s subdued. Carell’s comedy is typically very loud and in your face. It’s the complete opposite here. You believe him as a loser, you believe him as a broken man, you believe him as a father, and you are even made to believe him as a ladies man after his character gets a serious style and personality makeover. Amazing work, I thought. I’m sure he won’t make it into the top 5 when it’s all said and done, but I put him on my ‘to be considered’ list for Best Actor. That’s how good he is, folks.


Next up is the impeccable Julianne Moore as Carell’s wife, whose admitted affair with the Kevin Bacon character kick starts their marital strife. Julianne Moore can do anything, it’s as simple as that. Between this, her brilliant work last year in The Kids Are All Right, and her work in the underrated Chloe, Moore is on quite a hot streak. Her character commits the ultimate marital sin, and yet because of the script, her performance, and the obvious mutual breakdown in the love between her and Carell, you don’t hate her. Again, not an easy acting task. The scenes between her and Carell are each spectacular in their own way. Bacon plays a supporting role, but does so with great skill and gets a few really good moments despite his minimal screen time. This is also yet another excellent link in the chain if you’re playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.


The last person I’ll shine the spotlight on is the phenomenal Ryan Gosling, who I seriously need to consider putting on my top 10 list of best working actors. He doesn’t always choose parts that would let you call him one, but the dude is a movie star, no doubt about it. The guy is spewing charisma in this movie. The scenes where he is changing Carell’s appearance and showing him how to talk to women are magical. This character is a model example of the old adage “Men want to be him and women want to be with him.” I love the nuance of his performance, just the looks and gestures he makes that take a really good performance and make it great. His bromance/mentor chemistry with Steve Carell is just as convincing as his romantic chemistry with Emma Stone. Gosling just has that It thing, that presence that the best movie stars always have. He can do any genre, play any part. Frankly, I wish he would get some of the roles that are offered by default to Leonardo DiCaprio, because as good as he is in all these smaller movies (Blue Valentine, Half Nelson), he’s just as good in mainstream studio films (The Notebook, Fracture). I’m actually shocked he hasn’t worked with more A-list directors. Actually, now that I look, he hasn’t really worked with any. What gives? Mr. Scorsese, Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Nolan, Mr. Eastwood, Mr. Coen & Mr. Coen, etc., get with the fuckin program.


A bedroom scene that doesn’t make you want to vomit.

Every supporting role is similarly well cast. I loved veteran character actors John Carroll Lynch & Beth Littleford as the parents of the 17-year old babysitter who has a crush on Carell. Marisa Tomei is the only one whose character seems a bit unrealistic, but she’s so good and so funny that you can look past it. Even Josh Groban, of all people, comes out of nowhere and delivers a solid little performance in his big screen acting debut. The performances of the kids are also fantastic. There’s Joey King as Carell & Moore’s young daughter, Jonah Bobo (great name!!) as their love-struck 13-year old son, and Analeigh Tipton as the kids’ babysitter. There was a lot for almost everyone to do, which is incredibly rare. It’s a true ensemble, which I always prefer to star vehicles. The only problem with the cast is that with one exception (Liza Lapira as Emma Stone’s wise-cracking Asian friend), it’s entirely white people, and I promised to point that out, and I’ll do so now, even for a movie I admire. I’m not sure any of the individual performances will hang around to earn Biggie nominations at the end of the year, but if I don’t end up giving this film a Best Ensemble nomination, this will have turned out to be a spectacular year for that category.

Aside from the cast, the thing I liked most about the film was the script, and how that script was unafraid to confront certain situations, both amongst adults and teenagers, and the fact that it does so with a PG-13 rating is nothing short of astonishing. It takes an honest look at adultery, how a separated couple handles their kids, and it even deals with teenage sexting/nudity in a way that is at once unsettling but also undoubtedly true to life in today’s twisted world. I appreciate and respect that. Most movies choose to play it safe and pander as opposed to challenging the audience in any way to form their own opinions. There’s even a pretty big plot twist, rare indeed for a romance. There’s a confrontation scene near the end of the movie that is borderline classic, because of the near-perfect execution by the actors and filmmakers. This movie will have you smiling throughout, whether you want to or not, both from the humor and because you’ll like these characters so much.


I don’t want to wrap up without mentioning who the filmmakers I keep complimenting are. The film was written by Dan Fogelman, who is known mostly for working on kids movies (Cars, Fred Claus and last year’s Tangled). It was directed by the duo of Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, whose most popular credit may be that they wrote Bad Santa, but they most recently wrote and directed last year’s semi-controversial Jim CarreyEwan McGregor flick, I Love You Philip Morris. I look forward to seeing more from all of these guys down the road.

The only semi-major issue I had with the movie is that it never quite settles on a tone. It is at parts straight comedy, at parts straight drama, at parts melodrama, and it ends with some sap (though still funny and somewhat daring) that’s normally reserved for soul-draining romantic comedies. That said, there’s almost no sentimentality but for a few moments at the end. Other than that, it probably came across like this is now one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s not quite that, but I do genuinely love it, and because it’s only the 7th movie this year I can strongly recommend (you didn’t ask, but the others so far are Hanna, The Lincoln Lawyer, Win Win, Fast Five, X-Men: First Class and Harry Potter 7-b), I got a little extra enthusiastic. Forgive me. It’s been a bad year, but this would be a damn fine movie in any year. Go see it. Pretty please. And by pretty please I mean NOW! It’s an excellent date movie, or just go with whoever you’d go see any other comedy with. Again, gentlemen, don’t be afraid because of the title. Don’t be ignant. Girls, just drag the motherfucker out if you have to. You’ll love it, and he’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (PG-13, 118 minutes)

8/10 (IMDb), 4/5 stars


I enjoyed Cowboys & Aliens more than I thought I would (the advance buzz and reviews were decidedly mediocre-to-negative), but I didn’t love it. It’s solid enough, but there isn’t much great about it, and there’s also nothing innovative about it other than the concept of aliens in the old west. As it stands, it’s a typical PG-13 summer alien invasion movie. The visual effects are above average, the stunts are really good, and the alien creature effects are pretty cool. It’s a very good looking movie and it flows well, but it does lack the heart & soul that takes a movie from “like” to “love”. That criticism is valid. The movie doesn’t do anything new with the western genre or the alien invasion formula. That said, I love westerns and I love alien invasions (though they’ve officially been played out), so with those two genres combined and the pedigree involved, there was no chance I wasn’t giving this movie a chance in theaters.

This project took about 14 years to develop from concept to graphic novel to a movie finally being released. I won’t bore you with the details (which you can find here), but such a long development period usually doesn’t bode well for the final product, though I think this turned out surprisingly well for a project that had so many hands in the kitchen. There are no fewer than 6 credited writers, which explains why the movie is pretty safe and doesn’t feel like anyone’s singular vision. It also seems like there are as many producers as cast members. IMDb lists 16 different producers, executive producers and co-producers. I’m fairly certain there was only one director (Jon Favreau), although 2 other directors (Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard) are credited as producers. Have you gone cross-eyed yet? Favreau is a capable enough director, and seems to be one of the cooler people in Hollywood, but I still think he’d be better off doing smaller movies and comedies as opposed to huge summer blockbusters. I for one am happy he’s not returning to direct Iron Man 3 (he’s off that franchise primarily because Marvel and Paramount forced him to turn Iron Man 2 in an extended Avengers trailer rather than an Iron Man story).

The cast is full of good names, and the performances are solid, but the script doesn’t give anyone the material to really stand out. That’s par for the course now on most summer movies, where the aliens, monsters and other computer-generated creations get most of the focus. We already knew Daniel Craig was a solid leading man (Bond 23 next year!), but I’m much more interested to see what he does in Dragon Tattoo in December than I was in anything he did here. Harrison Ford was pretty good, too, and it’s always good to see him, even if he has De Niro/Pacino Syndrome and isn’t really trying anymore. Here he did give a bit of an effort. I certainly enjoyed watching him more in this movie than I did in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Holy Shit What a Waste of Time. Wait a minute…how often does Harrison Ford work? Around the mothafuckin clock, son! Anywho, there are a bunch of other actors I really like in the movie (Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown, and Adam Beach), and it’s always nice to look at Olivia Wilde, even if she is fast becoming the most overexposed actress in Hollywood. And the dog! The dog gives a wonderful performance, too. Don’t forget the dog.


OH HAI THAR!

The one member of the crew I’ll single out for praise is Matthew Libatique for his damned fine cinematography. Libatique shot both Iron Man movies for Favreau and was Oscar-nominated for his work last year on Black Swan. There a lot of gorgeous, classic-looking western vistas (the film was shot in New Mexico), but he did a particularly great job in the nighttime and darkened interiors, which are very hard to shoot on film without massive, conspicuous studio lights. The scene in the center of town when the aliens first attack is especially great from a lighting standpoint (though admittedly, it seems as though they shot that on a soundstage, where you can more easily control the lighting). They managed to shoot their low light scenes without assistance from big lighting rigs, which I was extremely happy to see. One of my biggest peeves in movies are exterior night scenes where you can clearly tell there’s a HUGE studio light just off camera (it’s usually hidden behind a tree) shining a glaring white light onto a darkened street or forest or whatever. I HATE that. It’s so friggin unnatural, but audiences have been trained to accept them. I have never accepted them. To me, they’re as obtrusive and inappropriate as a boom mic showing on screen. So that’s my “dark exterior/studio light” rant.

But yeah, the movie looks great. As an aside, kudos to Jon Favreau for supposedly resisting studio pressure to shoot the movie in 3D. He reportedly insisted they shoot the movie on film (shooting in 3D usually requires using digital cameras) and not converting to 3D in postproduction (a process that is becoming increasingly ridiculed). Bravo, sir.

As far as the aliens go, I thought they were pretty cool. They don’t have a revolutionary design, but they are a bit different from some recent aliens, and they did look cool in closeup. Kudos again to Favreau, who made sure they used prosthetics whenever possible, instead of relying on CGI 100% of the time. I wasn’t a huge fan of the alien ships or their technology (really, they came to earth to mine gold?), but the creatures themselves were pretty good. My only big problem is that in the final battle sequence, it’s unclear what can and can’t kill them. Sometimes several bullets and arrows can’t kill or even slow down one alien, but a single knife stab to the chest from a child kills another. Other times, one spear can kill them, other times multiple gunshot wounds in quick succession kill them. A little consistency would have been nice.

The film has its issues, but I’ll say that it is worth seeing in theaters. If you don’t have a big TV and surround sound, you’ll be missing out if the first time you see it is at home.

Cowboys & Aliens (PG-13, 118 minutes)
7/10 (IMDb), 3/5 stars


Nice bracelet, brah.

-Before we go, I need to make a TV recommendation. HBO Documentaries recently debuted a fantastic new film called There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane. I saw the title on my cable guide and was intrigued, so I looked at the description (“Diane Schuler and seven other people die after the woman drives in the wrong direction on a parkway.”) and my interest was piqued. First off, 8 people dying in one car accident? That’s fucked up. You usually don’t hear that unless a bus was involved. And what would make this accident so interesting as to merit a documentary about it? After that brief description alone, I immediately thought those two things, so I decided to watch the first few minutes. That “first few minutes” ended up being the entire 105-minute film. I couldn’t turn it off. It is a riveting piece of human drama.

Basically, this otherwise stable woman went off the grid while driving her two kids (son, 5 and daughter, 2) and her brother’s 3 kids (all daughters, 8, 7 and 5) home from a campground. Something goes wrong during that trip, and she ends up obliviously driving full speed the wrong way on a highway, eventually causing a massive 3-car collision that killed all the children but her son, as well as 3 men (ages 81, 49, 74) in another vehicle. The film shows as many details as are available about the crash, but the mystery is in the fact that investigators can’t confirm with certainty what actually caused Schuler to become intoxicated or otherwise lose control of her faculties, despite most of the evidence pointing in one direction (the autopsy revealed her blood alcohol level was almost 3 times the legal limit, and she had traces of marijuana in her system).

The controversy in the case derives from the fact that after the accident, her husband Daniel and sister-in-law Barbara have been very public in fighting the autopsy results and have insisted that Diane would not drive drunk. They did interviews on many major news outlets (clips of which are shown in the doc), hired their own investigators, and are even fighting a legal battle to exhume Diane’s body to do a second autopsy. Both Oprah and Dr. Phil each did an entire show on the case. I guess Law & Order also did a “ripped from the headlines” episode using pretty much the exact set of circumstances. What’s most fascinating about the piece is watching this husband and sister-in-law fight every piece of evidence showing Diane was probably drunk or high, or both. I’m no psychologist, and even I have no hesitation saying that I’ve never seen two human beings in such denial. It really is stunning to observe. The husband insists she somehow had a stroke or other “medical issue” (a term they both repeat over and over again), which caused her to lose focus. The documentary also shows the families of the other victims, and how some of them are offended by the continued public denials of Schuler’s family.

On top of the spellbinding human interest angles, the film is superbly crafted by director/producer Liz Garbus. Actually, now that I think about it, pound-for-pound this is probably the best movie I’ve seen in 2011. If you have HBO and DVR (or HBO GO), I beg you to seek this out and watch it now while it’s still in heavy rotation.

Apparently, this accident was a huge news story when it occurred in July 2009, but I can’t recall hearing or reading about it, or maybe I did and dismissed it as another car accident story. The accident has its own extensive Wikipedia page (which is a fascinating read itself) and inspired a documentary, so I clearly wasn’t paying attention.

Here’s a quick trailer:


And HERE is the official page for the film on HBO.com.

BONUS: Warner Bros. just released the first image from the upcoming Zack Snyder-directed, Christopher Nolan-producer Superman reboot Man of Steel, featuring your new British Superman, Henry Cavill. I think he looks pretty damn good in costume. This was one of my most anticipated movies of 2012, but it was recently pushed back to June of 2013, which is sad, but it gives them almost another full year to work on it, which is good. Check out the flippin sweet full-size image HERE.

BONUS BONUS: Warner Bros. also released the first official picture of Anne Hathaway in costume as Catwoman. Find a good full-sized look HERE. Note that they went for practicality over sexiness, which is exactly what we should’ve expected from Nolan’s Batmovies. I like it, but now there are rumors that there might also be a sexy time costume as well. If there is, it’d be the first time Chris Nolan went down that road, so we’ll see. What I’m most curious about when I look at that photo is why she’s riding Batman’s bike. Is she not a villain in the movie? I dunno. I’m actually surprised by how many set pictures and spy video has come out from the Dark Knight Rises set. In my view, there’s been too much. It seems like every exterior scene they’ve shot in Pittsburgh has been photographed or captured in detail on video, including what look to be a couple of pivotal action scenes. I won’t even link to the set pics or video, and I’m probably gonna stop looking at it myself going forward. If you want to be spoiled, you can seek it out yourself.


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