Tag Archives: Natalie Portman

Preview to the Academy Awards. Best Films of 2016

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

In anticipation to the 89th Academy Awards, I have decided, unlike years prior, to post a list of my favorite films released in 2016. As it were, this is an ever-changing list which will shift and evolve as years pass, as both my tastes and my impressions on filmmaking continue to change. This is also, I presume, an incomplete list missing some highly praised bits of cinema like: The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Toni Erdmann, The Salesman, 20th Century Women, Paterson, Elle, Fences, Lion, and some others. With that in mind, I’m satisfied with the collection of more than 60 films I did manage to watch that were released in the US in 2016. The list of “favorites” adds up to 15 films, which represents the amount of movies that I gave at least a 4 out of 5 rating. 
At the end of the post I will also offer some thoughts on the top categories for the Oscars, regarding who should win and who will likely be taking an statuette back home.

Continue reading Preview to the Academy Awards. Best Films of 2016

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Month in Review: January films and tv

st-vincent

January is a month of cold weather, new year resolutions and catching up with films released in the latter part of the bygone year. It is also the month of the much-anticipated Academy Awards nominations, and a sleuth of other award shows where Hollywood practices a yearly ritual of congratulating itself.

January was a good and productive month in every respect for me. In terms of film, I managed to watch a total of 14 (more than my usual of 10 or 11) with a very high average score of 3.61 out of 5. January was also the first time in about two years that I felt compelled to give a film a perfect score (La La Land), while a couple of others received 4 out 5. This month came my discovery of SyFy’s series “The Expanse“, which is easily the best first season to a science fiction show since Battlestar Galactica.

Without further ado, below is the compendium of short reviews for films in the order in which they were watched. At the bottom you will find my impressions on The Expanse.

Continue reading Month in Review: January films and tv

Top 10 female performances of the last 5 years

Like I did with the men a couple of days ago, I give you my list of favorite female performances of the last five years in lieu of a best films of 2013 list as we are just hours away from celebrating the New Year.

I highly encourage anyone reading to make recommendations as to whom should have made my list instead.

Continue reading Top 10 female performances of the last 5 years

Mega Film Recap: July, August & September

Sunshine

In the last three months I have maintained my quota of watching 10-12 films per month, but my blogging has suffered terribly. My commitment in the short term is to get back to posting more often. The attempt to do so begins with this massive recap of films I have seen recently. In addition, I already have finished two other postings that I plan to publish in the coming days. One is a full review of Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, my 6th review in my marathon of the director (which needs to pick up). The other is a special look at the largely overlooked Netflix original show “Orange is the New Black” which will kick-off Television reviews in this blog.

Without further ado, here is a compendium of short reviews of all the films watched this past summer (in no particular order):

Continue reading Mega Film Recap: July, August & September

IMDB Top 250: Leon: The Professional

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Jean Reno (Leon), Natalie Portman (Mathilda), Gary Oldman (Stansfield)

Year: 1994

Before emotionally troubled hitmen were popularized once again by characters like Jason Bourne, director Luc Besson brought “Leon: The Professional” to the big screen. Played by the effortlessly cool and capable Jean Reno, the film has amassed a cult following ever since it was released in 1994, helping to cement its position close to the top of the IMDB Top 250 list.

Jean Reno plays Leon, a rather unremarkable middle aged hitman who has grown to become the ultimate expression of strategic and methodical violence. He works for a single client, local mob boss Tony (Danny Aiello), who has taken him under his wing ever since he landed as an illiterate immigrant in the New York harbor. Continue reading IMDB Top 250: Leon: The Professional

2011 in film, a preview to the Oscars

Seeing that the Academy Awards are just around the corner, I would like to cave to the award craze and present a list that is representative of my take on the last year in film, which is intended to be a substitute of the top 10 of 2011, which I still can’t publish because I’m missing some promising films. I hope you all enjoy it.

The Year of Brad: arguably the best year in Brad Pitt’s career as he was involved in the awe-inspiring Tree of Life and the touching Moneyball.

Continue reading 2011 in film, a preview to the Oscars

2011: a horrible year for movies and for my pocket (so far)


I have seen around 13 movies released in 2011 and the verdict is in: 2 in 13 movies are great, another 3 are good enough to satisfy and the other 8 are either okay, not good enough or god-damn awful.

These are statistics, for as poor as they may seem, that are probably too flattering for the movie industry. Once you consider the fact that I tend to avoid films that seem a complete waste of my time (for audiences and critics alike), then you realize that even after you try to be selective, Hollywood makes sure that you’ll end up regretting your decision to sit and watch a movie.

Due to the unstoppable decay in the quality of films Hollywood puts out and my limited movie-goer budget, I have only sat in front of a big theater screen 6 times this year, spending around 6$ every time (and that is after a 5$ discount I get). The rest of the films released in 2011 I have rented, mostly from RedBox, which is where I have found the true garbage of Hollywood due to the tempting 1$ per night deal.

For my IMDB challenge, I usually resort to Netflix in the form of their instant online offerings or the one-at-a-time USPS movie rental that costs me 8.99 $ a month.

All in all, I probably spend 17 to 20 dollars a month in movies (monthly Netflix at 8.99$ + RedBox at 1$ for 2 to 4 movies a month + Movie Theater at 6$ for one film per month). The number goes up to around 105 to 120 $ for the first six months of the year. However, these numbers tend to be considerably higher as the movie offerings in the summer (blockbuster season) and Christmas (Oscar-worthy season) seem more appetizing and I find myself in the theater a bit more often.

Here is a quick recount of the movies I have seen this year starting from the worst and leaving the best for last (I may be missing one or two forgettable films). This could get long, so bear with me.

Just Go With It (Redbox rental – 1$): out the window goes my so-called “selective” nature on a night of boredom. Mind you, I would never pay to go into a movie theater if I see the name “Adam Sandler” associated with a film at any level. His movies have gone from the somewhat bad (earlier in his career) to the disgraceful status as of late. That his films do well at the box office is yet another testament to the poor taste of the average movie-goer (who is not to be confused with the avid movie-connoisseur). In any case, Sandler and his co-star Jennifer Anniston match perfectly in making horrible cinema with dumb-down plots, unfunny jokes, poor acting and a complete lack in making works or art.

Rating: 1 out of 5 (horrible)

I am Number Four (Redbox rental – 1$): In this case I was searching for a guilty-pleasure type movie and what I found was yet another mediocre film filled with gorgeous young Hollywood characters (not to say actors). Number Four is mildly entertaining here and there, but the concept is poor (not to say stupid), the effects are not convincing (not to say stupid), the acting is flat (not to say awful), the dialogue is pedestrian (not to say stupid) and the plot is a bunch of stuff put together by the minds of one or two nerds without much imagination and nothing better do.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 (very bad)

The Roommate (Redbox rental – 1$): some of you might have started to notice a pattern. Most of the movies that seem to be falling in the bad category come directly from RedBox and its tempting 1$ rental scheme. The Roommate starring Minka Kelly and Gossip-girl turned movie star Leighton Meester is wildly uncreative. I mean, how many times do we have to see films of young women going psycho-stalker for love, for acceptance or for friendship? There are elements that are acceptable in this film, like the explosions of violence and sexuality convincingly displayed by Meester. Besides all that, the cast surrounding the famous Gossip girl is flat-out awful, only servicing the film with their pretty faces and youthful exuberance.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

The Green Hornet (Redbox rental – 1$): Another comedy by a slimmed-down Seth Rogen on a remake of the tv series that famously starred Bruce Lee as Kato, now played by Jay Chou. The biggest pleasure we can find in this movie is not in the dumb-down storyline and lackluster performances of big names like Cameron Diaz, but rather on the larger-than life role of the fabulous Christoph Waltz as the evil Chudnofsky. Everything else about this film is subpar and it would also be a waste of time to tell you precisely why that is.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

Little Fockers (Redbox – 1$): The third installment of the famous pairing of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. All of the joys of the first two are now reused in this one with a bit less of the disaster-prone quality of Stiller and more of the obnoxious paranoia of an increasingly unlikable Jack (De Niro’s character). What seemed like comedic before, now seems repetitive and not very funny. The script seems to have been put together in about 5 seconds in detriment of less screen time for the always entertaining Barbra Streissand and Dustin Hoffman.

Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)

Paul (Theater – 6$): It seemed like a risk to watch a movie about a rather common-looking Alien with human-like demeanor voiced by Seth Rogen. The risk proved true at times, but not at others. It is really not Rogen’s fault that he’s been so overexposed (although he should start saying no to scripts) instead it is a far too common problem in Hollywood to cash in on once cool and different actors/comedians and shove them down audiences throats so often that the effectiveness of films like Paul is significantly reduced. As for everything else, the movie resorted to the typical formula of road trip buddy type movie but with a slightly more nerdy, awkward and British pairing than we are used to seeing.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)

Insidious (Theather – 6$): Here is perhaps the best half hour to 45 minutes of film I have seen this year. Sadly, the movie didn’t know what to do with itself and it ended up ruining everything it had built so wonderfully at the beginning. The last half was as bad as the first half was suspenseful and incredibly terrifying. Once we begin to see what is truly happening and the film begins to take itself too seriously, we’re lost in a pointless and unsophisticated back-story that makes everything rather comical and unimpressive.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)

Thor (Theather – 6$): When it comes to superheros, Hollywood has been able to find ways, for years now, to profit from the inventive minds of the people at Marvel and other comic book publishers. Thor is yet another installment that follows the never-ending formula of the powerful brat that needs to learn within less than two hours of film how to become a great man and, in the process, fall in love with a girl he just met. Taking out the very unoriginal premise and the unconvincing twists that the story tries to provide, there are moments of humor and entertainment in Thor that make up for a good part of the absurdity.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)

Gnomeo & Juliet (RedBox – 1$): I had the feeling that this animated movie worked within all the expected parameters of a typical family film. It took a common story of the seemingly doomed and tragic romance and adapted it to a setting that we haven’t seen before: the garden gnome world. The film offers some clever humor and it manages to make fun of itself quite often, but it never tries to fully defy the expectations and go off the script to give us something truly original.

Rating: 3 out 5 (above average)

Kaboom (Theater – 6$): An indie film about a group of young students at a college where strange things happen. Kaboom is fresh, sexy and exciting for most of its running time, or until the mystery surrounding the group starts to take over the film. The cast was surprisingly apt and the stars were successful, for most of the time, to walk the fine line between characters that belong in comedic parodies and realism. As the movie progresses, so does the strange mystery and with that the movie loses its freshness and its grip, leaving me with the feeling they were trying to rush to an odd conclusion.

Rating: 3 out of 5 (above average)

Super 8 (Theater – 6$): The childish and innocent quality of Super 8 is the movie’s most interesting aspect. The young teenagers embodied their character with ability and talent. Their relationships are convincing, real and entertaining. A good part of the audience probably felt more identified than the rest as the movie tries to capture, rather successfully, the feel of suburban America in the late 70s to early 80s. As long as the movie focused on the talented Hollywood bunch it assembled, the film remained magical and untouchable. The movie loses its character as more stuff happens and we discover more and more about the mystery. Once again, director J.J. Abrams builds up our expectations too high to then be unable to match them with a rather tacky and expected ending.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (good)

Rango (Theater – 6$): Rango was a true piece of originality that is defined within the ancient formulas of Hollywood. We have a guy who does not know exactly what he is or where he belongs, faith has it that he is put in a very difficult situation, and when faced with adversity, our hero rises to the challenge unexpectedly and heroically. However, Rango gives us a richly detailed set of characters, an ever-formidable and complex central character voiced by Johnny Depp, and a context that feels familiar yet fresh and surprisingly beautiful. In many ways it is an animated Western that takes cues from all sorts of pop culture sources, which most of the time are effective comedic relief in a movie filled with adventure, political undertone and extremely detailed characterization.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (great)

Bridesmaids (Theater – 6$): I’ll keep it simple for what is the best movie I have seen this year. This is a incredibly hilarious film with jokes that feel modern, that don’t seem forced, and that stick every single time. There were entire scenes that had me laughing uncontrollably, and even after the movie had ended. The audience sitting with me in the theater applauded and seemed genuinely happier coming out than when they came in. This is what comedy is truly about. Bridesmaids sticks to the formula just enough to make it familiar, but it remains always clever and unpredictable in the direction and tone of its humor.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (excellent, a masterpiece of comedy, comfortably in my own personal TOP 250 films of all-time).

Niels