Posts Tagged 'michael fassbender'

The 2016 Biggie Awards (and My Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2015)

The 27th Annual Biggie Awards

for achievements in film for the year 2015

2015. Goddamn. “Weird” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In my view, this was the weakest year overall for movies since 2009, where I only “loved” 14 movies. In 2015, as of this writing, I added 17 films to my Love List. For perspective, since I’ve started tracking these things in 1997, this is only the third year where I didn’t love at least 20 movies. I didn’t love anything in 2015 until early May when Avengers: Age of Ultron opened, and even that was a disappointment compared to its predecessor.

This was not a year like 2000 (Gladiator), 2003 (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) or 2012 (Lincoln) where a single film dominated the year while also facing stiff competition (Gladiator fended off The Patriot, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon AND Traffic, ROTK is the most awarded film in Biggies history, but still had to face Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World AND The Last Samurai– which would have been the Best Picture winner in most other years, while Lincoln had to battle Zero Dark Thirty). The closest comp I can come up with is 2011, when Drive snuck in out of nowhere to take Best Picture in a wide open field. Drive would’ve been crushed had it come out the same year as There Will Be Blood or Titanic, but it happened to arrive in a mediocre year and was able to edge out the victory. Fast forward to now, and I don’t even know if there was a 2015 film as good as Drive. As a result, this is probably the most winnable year in Biggies history for “great but not masterful” movies, which is simultaneously really fun and disappointing by default. As I post this, I honestly haven’t decided what I think the best movie of 2015 was.

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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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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?!

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Review: PROMETHEUS

Prometheus arrived in theaters riding a wave of fanboy hype not seen since…well, since The Avengers 6 weeks ago. Regardless, it was a big deal! The primary reason for all the buzz (and the chief marketing angle employed by Fox) was that it marked Ridley Scott‘s grand return to the sci-fi genre. Of course, Scott first came to prominence in Hollywood via his early sci-fi entries Alien and Blade Runner, two movies that are almost unanimously considered classics. This is funny to me, because I actually find both of those films to be overrated. Blasphemy! I know! File a lawsuit in the Court of Cinema Opinion. Would you prefer dishonesty? Granted, I’ve only seen Blade Runner once, and it was at least 8 years ago, probably 10. I’m smarter and wiser now, maybe after another viewing I’ll ‘get it’. (By the way, at this point, which version of Blade Runner do you even watch? Aren’t there like 5 different cuts of it?) However, I’ve seen Alien more than once, and rewatched it just last fall. And though I like it, I don’t think it’s great by any stretch. I don’t find it scary, I don’t care much for the characters, and I don’t find the sci-fi that provocative. Again, sue me. Perhaps if I’d first seen it as a kid. Who knows? I understand how new and cool it was in 1979, but it just doesn’t work for me now. In general, I’m lukewarm on the Alien franchise, and to me James Cameron‘s Aliens is by far the best in the series. In fact, it’s the only Alien movie I’d say I LOVE.

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The 2012 Biggie Awards

The 23rd Annual Biggie Awards

aka The Biggies

for achievements in film for the year 2011

MMXI (that’s 2011 in Roman numerals, noobs), it was a strange year at the movies. Very strange indeed. For the first few months of the year, I thought it might end up being the worst overall year for the number of quality films in my adult life. Though there were a couple nice surprises early on (The Lincoln Lawyer, The Adjustment Bureau), it wasn’t until April that I finally saw a movie I truly loved (Hanna). After that, we went most of the rest of spring and almost the entire summer without a truly great movie, which instead was an unending string of disappointments and bland sequels. And I mean real bland, bland by even modern Hollywood standards (I mean, even Pixar made a subpar movie this year). That includes almost all of the major summer “tentpoles”. The big Marvel Avengers tie-in comic book flicks (Thor, Captain America) were both okay, but just okay. Then there was Green Lantern, which can only be described as godawful. I’m still having nightmares over the fact that a giant cloud of diarrhea was a villain in a movie that cost more than $250 million. Michael Bay continued crushing the memory of my childhood heroes with another shitty mess of a Transformers movie (Dark of the Moon, which was only 8.2% better than that atrocity Revenge of the Fallen), while Todd Phillips followed up one of the greatest comedies ever made (The Hangover) with an offensively lazy sequel that was almost literally a carbon copy of the first. I wanted more from J.J. Abrams‘ much-hyped Super 8 (hated the creature design, hated the ending), and although I enjoyed X-Men: First Class, it didn’t hold up as well upon a second viewing recently on Blu-ray.

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Ten Actors I Love Right Now (and Five That I Don’t)

The title is fairly self-explanatory, right? In case it isn’t, here’s some background. This post was a completely random idea, but it’s those random ideas that I find usually end up being the most interesting posts on this blog, so I’m running with it. I still have to do my “Most Anticipated Movies of 2012” list, and another post that I’m working on that might be my most important one yet, but this particular idea came to me almost fully formed, and as I started to work on it, it basically wrote itself, which is always a good sign. 2011 was not a phenomenal year for movies, but several actors made the most of their opportunities, and several of these people have been exceedingly impressive for several years now, as I’ll remind you throughout.

Some of these will be obvious choices, but for good reason. Despite what I’ve said in the past about casting overexposure, some actors deserve to be in a lot of movies, and I’m at my happiest as a moviegoer these days when these actors are on the screen. This is not a list of my favorite actors overall, but because these people are all doing great work in interesting movies right now, they might be my favorite actors right this minute.

The list is in A-B-C order. I wasn’t intending to show preference, just to point out the people I think deserve the success they’re having, or people I think deserve to be bigger names that aren’t yet. I wish there were more minorities on the list, but let’s face it, in a town full of left-wing liberals, Hollywood’s greatest hypocrisy is the way it whitewashes its movies.

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Review: X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

I went into X-Men: First Class with fairly high hopes. I wasn’t expecting it to be Best Picture material (though I’d have been thrilled if it was), but I definitely expected it to at least be the best of the 4 comic book movies this summer (the others of course being Thor, Captain America and Green Lantern). X-Men is by far my favorite comic book property, and by extension my favorite Marvel property. I love a lot of these characters, and have since the X-Men cartoon in the early 90’s (as with every other comic book movie, I never read the comics). Magneto in particular is my favorite individual comic book character, and he’s also one of my favorite villains in all of fiction. The themes and issues X-Men deals with grant it the potential for the best, most real world-based storylines of any major comic property. As much as I love pure fantasy, it’s much more challenging (and thus rewarding when it’s done well) to credibly place superhuman characters in the real world, which is what X does best. Hollywood’s cinematic versions of X-Men have produced mixed results. I’d say Bryan Singer‘s X-Men (2000) was very good, X2 (2003) was great, Brett Ratner‘s X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) was fucking awful, and the first spinoff, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), is entertaining, but can only be described as seriously flawed at best. In other words, X-Men has been very hard to get right.

I was happy to see Fox decide to go in a new direction for this reboot/prequel (because really, Last Stand had driven the franchise off a cliff creatively), and I thought at the time that Matthew Vaughn was a capable enough choice to take the director’s chair. Vaughn started out as a producer (he produced Guy Ritchie‘s classics Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch), and has moved smoothly into directing, first with Layer Cake, then on to Stardust (which I have no interest in ever seeing) and last year’s underrated and underseen Kick-Ass. I think he’s developing nicely as a director, and his second foray into the comic book genre is a great improvement with regards to his filmmaking style and the quality of the effects, stunts and production value. Of course, the main reason for that is the fact that the budget of this movie was probably greater than the combined budgets of every other project he’s ever been involved with. He did especially well when he put together his crew. He used Ridley Scott‘s cinematographer (the great John Mathieson), Christopher Nolan‘s editor (the great Lee Smith) and stunt coordinator (the great Tom Struthers), as well as the legendary Brian Smrz as his second unit director. Basically, with a crew like that, my mom could direct this movie. I kid, of course (no offense, mom). Vaughn clearly had a vision here and brought his own sensibilities to the project.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD THROUGHOUT. I can’t cover this movie the way I need to without giving stuff away, so my best recommendation is not to read this until after you’ve seen the movie, or if you just don’t care about being spoiled. Most of you don’t need this review to decide whether or not you’ll see the film, you’re just reading it to get my opinion. But in case you haven’t decided, go see it. If you’re a fan of the first two X-Men movies, this is definitely worth your time. On top of that, you don’t have to pay extra for crappy 3D! What else could you want?

WHAT I LIKED

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr/Magneto & James McAvoy as Charles Xavier. These two actors, and their characters’ relationship, are the glue of the movie, and that glue is strong. I was a bit hesitant when I first heard about McAvoy being cast, but as the trailers came out, those fears were quickly alleviated. He’s a fine actor, and gives another fine performance here. I loved seeing what pre-wheelchair Xavier was like, particularly early on when we see the playboy side of him. In the other movies, Patrick Stewart‘s Xavier is always The Great Mentor. Those of you unfamiliar with Fassbender (most of you will remember him either from 300 or as the British officer involved in that great bar scene from Inglourious Basterds), best get used to seeing him a lot in the next couple years. He is the latest actor that Hollywood is trying desperately to make a movie star out of, and for the first time in a long time, I hope in this instance that they succeed. This guy has it all, and in the end, First Class is his movie. His Magneto is exactly what I wanted, and it was also cool seeing this character in action as a younger, more vital man (one who speaks 4 different languages in the movie!). No disrespect to Ian McKellen, of course, who was superb in the role in different ways.

Notice that I was able to avoid the now-popular Michael F. Assbender jokes. But seriously, learn his name, because he may be the single most in demand actor in the industry right now. And he’s got the talent to back up that demand.

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw. I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I didn’t realize going in that Bacon was going to be the primary villain. I loved every minute of him in this movie, especially in the beginning, when he’s a German concentration camp officer as a young Erik Lensherr learns firsthand what humanity is capable of. I was most impressed by his near perfect German accent and his delivery of the language. He clearly had a lot of fun filming that stuff. Later on, he’s a more typical scheming comic book villain, but he’s a believable and worthy foe, and that’s all we really needed. I know Bacon has done villain work before, but to carry the primary baddie role in a huge movie like this? That’s certainly a first for him, and I thought he was excellent. I like that he’s the one that creates the telepath immunity helmet Magneto will later take as his own.



He didn’t spend 6 years in evil medical school to be called Mister, thank you very much.

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. Other than Xavier and Magneto, she has the strongest character arc and the most to do. For those of us who saw Winter’s Bone, there’s no surprise that she’s so good here, but she’ll truly hit the big time next spring as the star of the first Hunger Games movie. I like her early friendship with Xavier (though I do find it dubious he considers her “just a friend” and was able to resist being attracted to her all those years), and I bought how she eventually came around to Magneto’s way of thinking. When she joins him for good at the end of the movie in her “turn to the dark side” moment, I bought that as well. She’s fantastic, and I’d say she has a bright future, but with an Oscar nomination at age 20 and prominent roles in two big franchise movies, that future is now. I just hope she’s not stuck doing only X-Men and Hunger Games movies for the next 5 years, though it’s entirely possible.

-I liked most of the other mutants. I say most because I hated one (see below), thought another was completely wasted, and was utterly confused by a third. We’ll get into that in a minute. Nicholas Hoult was really good as Hank McCoy and later in some fantastic makeup as Beast. He gets the most character development of all the secondary characters. Lucas Till made good use of little screen time as Alex Summers/Havok (I assume this is Cyclops‘ future dad?), and Caleb Landry Jones was okay as Banshee, though he’s mostly relegated to the role of comic relief. Sebastian Shaw’s mutant henchmen had almost nothing to do character-wise, but Jason Flemyng certainly looked cool in makeup as Azazel (future father of Nightcrawler).

The 1960’s period art direction. It’s refreshing to see a big summer movie done completely in period. You often see these movies with futuristic settings and technology, or set in medieval/ancient times (Gladiator, Troy, etc.), but rarely do we see these movies set in the 60’s and 70’s (we’ll get another 70’s-set summer extravaganza this week in Super 8). They did a fantastic job putting us in that time period. A lot of people have said parts of the movie feel like an old James Bond flick, and I can see the comparison. You especially feel it inside Shaw’s secret, diabolical submarine. I half-expected him to sit there in the captain’s chair with his pinky in his mouth, Dr. Evil style. He clearly had sharks with frickin laser beams on their heads somewhere inside that thing. Other times, some of the sets had a very 2001/Clockwork Orange/Dr. Strangelove Kubrickian tone to them.

The visual effects. Were excellent. ‘Nuff said. Because a lot of  movies nowadays are rushed to completion because of predetermined release dates they MUST meet, many of them are often lacking in the overall quality of their visuals. For the most part, that is not the case here. Vaughn even cleverly uses some of his effects shots in ways that most directors doing their first big effects flick seldom do. Case in point is Hank McCoy’s big transformation into Beast, which I thought was cleverly shot as a POV sequence. Very cool.

-The Hugh Jackman/Wolverine cameo. I’m sooo glad I didn’t know about this going in. (And sorry if I just ruined it for you, but you were warned about spoilers)This was quite literally one of the best cameos I’ve ever seen. Just brilliant. It was quick, it was efficient, it made sense within the context of the plot, and it was restrained.

There was also a very subtle, but cool blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Rebecca Romijn cameo during one of Mystique’s transformations that I thought was very well-placed. She really does look like an older Jennifer Lawrence.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

Zoe Kravitz as Angel. Let’s just say she wasn’t up to par, particularly when surrounded by a group of such great actors. I’m wondering, what exactly are her credentials, other than being Lenny Kravitz‘s daughter? Because being cast in a major motion picture should require more than that. Second, I think Angel is just a lame character, at least as shown here. I know they had to scrape the barrel for the secondary mutants (as obviously people like Cyclops, Colossus and Storm can’t be introduced until years later in this storyline), but surely they could have thought of SOMEONE better than this. Apparently not, so instead we have a mediocre actress playing an uninteresting character. Not a good combination. Was I supposed to give a shit when she turned bad? Cuz I didn’t. Speaking of which, I had to laugh later on in the film when she’s supposed to look intimidating flying around with her mosquito wings, spitting fire loogies at people.

-I also could have gone without Tornado Man, aka Alex Gonzalez as Riptide. I don’t think he has a single line of dialogue, and all he really does is walk around with his best “evil mutant” face, and occasionally twirling his hands around to create mini twisters. I dunno, it was just cheesy. They should’ve found another evil mutant or just given someone else more screen time in his place.

Darwin’s death. Sigh. Do I just go full on rant mode here or try to exercise restraint? Ehhh, who am I kidding? So one of the mutants Xavier and Magneto recruit is Darwin (played by Kenyan actor Edi Gathegi), whose power is to…adapt to his surroundings (e.g. if he sticks his head into an aquarium he grows gills). Unfortunately, this power is not put to any practical use…until it’s time for him to sacrifice himself for the white mutants. Of course! What I’m getting at is that once again, I have to sit through a situation where the only motherfucking black male in the group of main characters dies FIRST and dies prematurely. Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?! Let’s put this in perspective; you’ve got the black female playing the weakest, least interesting mutant, and the black male mutant being underutilized and killed off early. Fuck you. I love this shit. Almost every major player in Hollywood is openly liberal, yet time after time after time, we are forced to put up with completely whitewashed casts, with the minority characters (a vast majority of the time) forcefully inserted either to meet a race quota (which is typically 1) or simply to act out racial/ethnic/cultural stereotypes. The hypocrisy of it is stunning, and I’ve f’ing had it. Put this cliché to BED, and take your fake white liberal guilt and shove it up your ass. I’m done with rich white liberals, three words that constitute quite the oxymoron. STOP. KILLING. THE. COLORED. GUY. FIRST. COCKSUCKERS.

-I got a little tired of Xavier putting his fingers on his head every time he used his powers (as if he were pressing the “telepathy ON” button), but I suppose he had to do something other than intently squinting his eyes. I suppose. I don’t recall this being an issue with the earlier films, but I guess I’ll have to go back and watch em again (the first two, anyway).

-Once again we have an X-Men movie without a memorable score or set of themes. I guess it’s just not meant to be. I guess it’s too much to ask. Composer Henry Jackman (who also did the music for Vaughn’s Kick-Ass) has crafted a perfectly competent score that hits the right marks at the right times. Problem is, I don’t remember one note of that score, and thus have no desire to own it. Am I crazy in thinking there should be an awesome X-Men theme (the cartoon had one!) and that Magneto should have his own “Imperial March”? I don’t think so, brah.

I rest my case:

Going forward into the summer, there’s some potential with the other two big comic book movies, with Alan Silvestri scoring Captain America and James Newton Howard working on Green Lantern. Silvestri has created some of the greatest themes in movie history (Back to the Future, Predator, Forrest Gump, etc.) and James Newton Howard is James Newton Howard.

WHAT CONFUSED ME

January Jones as Emma Frost. It’s like, I think she’s a good actress, but I still can’t say for sure, even after seeing her twice now this year (she was in Unknown if you’ve already forgotten). That’s probably a bad sign that I’ve subconsciously chosen to ignore it because I think she’s gorgeous. Logic dictates that she isn’t really trying, her part wasn’t written well enough, or she’s just not very good. Those are the only options. I haven’t yet gotten around to watching Mad Men (for which she’s received 2 Golden Globe nominations), which I guess would be the best evidence for or against her having any talent. I mean, okay, she looks good in her ridiculously out of place white outfits, and I thought the “diamond person” effects were actually pretty solid. She also has a couple of good moments where she uses her telepathy, most notably the scene with the Russian general.

One more thing about her character: why the fuck does she disappear during the climax of the movie?! Through the whole movie, she’s shown as being Sebastian Shaw’s Number 2, the one he cares about most, but when it all comes to a head she’s sitting on the bench. Okay, so we see her in CIA custody, she overhears two guys talking about a war with mutants, then cuts a little hole through the one-way glass with her diamond finger and taunts them, and then…she’s gone. She can cut a hole through the window with her diamond finger, but apparently has no desire to further use her considerable powers to escape. When we next see her, at the very end of the movie, she’s literally laying down on a slab, just chillin’, when Magneto and his boys come and rescue her. Did no one else notice this?

No really, this actually happens in the movie. (I couldn’t get the fuckin thing to embed.)

-This movie does nothing to explain why a kid growing up in Westchester, New York has a British accent. I’m talking to you, Charles Xavier.

-I don’t know if this really confused me more than it did simply amuse the F out of me. LOL, why does Havoc do a techno dance as he’s using his power?

-At the end of the movie, Moira MacTaggert (as played by the lovely Rose Byrne) promises Xavier she’ll never reveal where he and the other mutants are hiding. My question…why would they need her to in the first place? The CIA knows his name, because he just f’n worked with them. Yet no one in the government will think to look for him at his family’s gigantic estate?! Am I the only one who instantly thought of this?


He prefers…Magneto.

So, where does the series go from here? I honestly don’t know. Obviously, they’ll want to keep this cast together for probably 2 more movies, which means they can’t skip ahead in time to the 2000’s and bring in Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue or the other more popular X-Men characters. The writers will have to come up with more period storylines, presumably one set in the 70’s for the next film. I have no idea where that will go, except to beg the filmmakers not to make the Vietnam War a major plot point. Anything but that for the love of God! Regardless, for now we have another solid X-Men movie, and in this dismal moviegoing year, we can at least be thankful for that.

I don’t have an official list, but this is easily one of the top 10 comic book movies ever, maybe top 5. I have to see it again before I definitively place it, but I’m not on board with those who say it’s the best X-Men movie. It might be better than the first one (only slightly if it is), but X2 is still the best in the series, and still the second best comic book movie ever, behind the almighty Dark Knight.


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