The Oscars: What They Got Wrong, What They Got Right, and Who I like
Steven Panzarella takes his first swipe at this years Oscar Picks and also takes a look at what the Academy missed.
The Short- It is as beautiful as it is brutal but The Revenant is a fitting follow up for Oscar Winner Alejandro G. Inarritu and it could be the performance that finally lets Leonardo DiCaprio give an acceptance speech on Oscar Night. Not for the squeamish, The Revenant is at times hard to watch and nothing if not an immersive experience as Inarritu want's you to feel the cold wilderness and DiCaprio's performance is exhausting to even watch.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Hearkening back to the original trilogy, J.J. Abrams has created a proper reintroduction to the Star Wars universe. Written with just enough of that Star Wars cheesiness, loads of humor and an excellent cast all give the Force Awakens a good mix of new and nostalgia. Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac are excellent additions to the universe and Harrison Ford is back to form as the legendary Han Solo. The Force Awakens rises above the years of hype and delivers a pleasing, nearly perfect experience for fans.
Spotlight is an inspiring, overwhelming masterpiece of filmmaking about the special team of Boston Globe investigators that uncovered a massive cover-up within the Catholic Church. Tom McCarthy directed and wrote what could possibly be the year’s best film and also the best movie about Journalism since All The Presidents Men. Spotlight is perfectly cast and never loses sight of its story and it shows as a never boring, enthusiastic work of art. Spotlight should be shown in every journalism class in the country.
A Danny Boyle-Aaron Sorkin team-up seemed like a great idea on paper and it’s even better in practice. A Sorkin script directed by the Oscar winning director is a gift to viewers; it is a blisteringly paced and perfectly executed biopic that also includes 4 astounding performances from the leads that will sure garner attention during Oscar season. To put it bluntly, watching Danny Boyle direct and Fassbender and Winslet perform the Sorkin walk and talk is quite possibly one of the most wonderful things you will see all year, you can’t help but smile as each moment flows into the next in perfect harmony.
The Gift is one of those rare summer surprises that hits all of the right notes. Expertly crafted by first time director Joel Edgerton, the Zero Dark Thirty actor’s fantastic direction wratchets up tension to an incredible level then delivers with consistent thrills. By the films half way mark you will be so creeped out by not only Edgerton’s wonderful Hitchcockian plot but his fantastic performance muddles the water between misunderstood to utterly intoxicating villain.
Less about the mysteries he solved and more about the man himself, Mr. Holmes is a fascinating and beautifully acted drama about the detective as he wrestles with old age. Sir Ian McKellen gives an inspired performance that will force you to wonder why no one casted the acting legend in this role before.
Jurassic World is not without its faults, a rough script, cheesy dialogue and a few plot holes but it is a breathtakingly shot action/adventure with a suburb cast and fantastic director at the helm. It may not beat the 1993 original but Jurassic World is by far the best sequel in the franchise and is a good old-fashioned summer popcorn movie that will make history in the month of June.
When Marnie Was There
A young girl is sent to the country for health reasons, where she meets an unlikely friend in the form of Marnie, a young girl with flowing blonde hair.
Ex Machina is a wonderfully sci-fi thriller that has a number of fantastic twists, 3 brilliant performances and a chill inducing final act. Oscar Isaac gives an incredible performance and Alicia Vikander has never been better in Alex Garland's equal parts beautiful and brainy film about Sex, discovery and how scary the feature of A.I. could be.
Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.
Far From the Madding Crowd
In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.
Pitch Perfect 2
After a humiliating command performance at Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Getting off to a fast start and never relenting Avengers: Age of Ultron is Marvel's most ambitious film to date. The script is packed with the action and humor fans have come to love even if the story itself lacks the punch delivered in Captain America 2 or The Avengers. Unlike the first Avengers film, Age of Ultron is more of an appetizer for the Main course that begins in Captain America Civil War and culminates in Avengers Infinity War Part 1 and 2.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, things go horribly wrong and it's up to Earth's Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.
A unit of female Israeli soldiers at a remote desert base bide their time as they count down the minutes until they can return to civilian life.
The Water Diviner
An Australian man travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons.
Black or White
A grieving widower is drawn into a custody battle over his granddaughter, whom he helped raise her entire life.
I Can Quit Whenever I Want
A university researcher is fired because of the cuts to university. To earn a living he decides to produce drugs recruiting his former colleagues, who despite their skills are living at the margins of society.
Song and the Sea
Saoirse, a little girl who can turn into a seal, goes on an adventure with her brother to save the spirit world and other magical beings like her
The cynical moviegoer, upon noticing that the preceding short to Cinderella is Frozen Fever, will hypothesize that everyone in the audience came only to watch a Frozen sequel.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of those rarities in film that manages to break new ground in an old genre. With a cast of veteran all-stars and a couple prodigally-talented newbies, (mostly) spectacular writing and Matthew Vaughn proving once again that he’s no joke as a director, this film is a must-see.
Still Alice is an emotional tale of a women slowly succumbing to early onset Alzheimer’s. Julianne Moore is one of the greatest actresses of our time and this is her Magnum Opus. A tragic but beautiful look at a women suffering from a debilitating disease, Moore is an Oscar lock and for me it’s about damn time.
American Sniper, I am sure will be called lots of things within the political spectrum, as far as the film itself goes, it is an intense, incredibly emotional look at a military legend. It is unsympathetic and predictable but the predictable moments are overshadowed by the transformations by both Bradley Cooper and the unrecognizable Sienna Miller.
Reese Witherspoon is nominated for a Golden Globe for this film, one orphaned of any redeeming qualities outside of Witherspoon’s phenomenal acting. With no plot to speak of, there isn’t enough in this film to make it worth the watch.
Into the Woods
Very rarely do musical adaptations flow this well or go down as easy as Rob Marshalls Into The Woods, It is a musical that embraces its Broadway roots without forgetting to be cinematic. Into The Woods boasts a beautifully talented cast and is carried by the performances of the films main players, not to mention a number of scene stealing performances.
Steven Panzarella's Best of 2014 In Film
Steven Panzarella gives us his top 11 films of 2014 that may include a few surprises plus he hands out a few superlatives.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series definitely never lived up to his Lord of The Rings trilogy, yet The Battle of the Five Armies is Jackson’s shortest venture into Middle Earth even if it may not be the best film in the franchise. The finale may not reach the rarified air of the LOTR films but it is the most action packed of the series and comes to a much cleaner conclusion then Return of The King.
The deadened western genre may not be as dead as we thought. The Homesman is Tommy Lee Jones contribution to the genre with a period piece that suffers only from a somewhat weak storyline but is strengthened by a wonderful cast and a great direction.
Damien Chazelle’s directorial debut is a heartbreakingly honest and scathing look into the competitive world of Music at a Julliard-esque school. J.K. Simmons gives his most fully realized performance as one the years more ultimate villains but the beauty of Chazelle’s work is you are more likely to question whether he is a bad guy or just a teacher trying to realize his students full potential.
At Shaffer Conservatory, teacher and student come together in perfect harmony and treacherous storm to create the conflict of a rocky relationship and the motivation of someone wanting something so bad he becomes delusional. Only watch this if you like watching really, really good movies.
Jennifer Kent took a tiny budget and a simple premise and turned it into the most memorable, thought provoking and terrifying horror film of 2014. Kent takes a struggling single mother and her troubled son and turns it into a beautifully haunting tale with surreal moments that will bring you back to the hay day of the horror genre.
The Theory of Everything
The relationship between Stephen and Jane Hawking is portrayed from its inception to its ultimate demise in this biopic that contains incredible performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.
Foxcatcher might be deliberately slow storytelling and may underachieve as far as scripting is concerned but thanks to the performances from a transformed Steve Carell, a wonderfully brooding Channing Tatum and another great performance from Mark Ruffalo Foxcatcher has 3 of the year’s best performances. Carell is definitely a lock for a best actor Oscar nom and Tatum might end up being one of the year’s largest snubs, Foxcatcher is carried by its great performances.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
When The Hunger Games split it’s finale into two films almost everyone freaked out in the negative. Luckily those freak-outs were totally unwarranted, Francis Lawrence keeps proceedings moving at a good pace and thanks to a cast that turns in wonderful performances with a film containing more than its fair share of action and intrigue give us the best Hunger Games to date.
Maziar Bahari’s memoirs about his 4-month stint of being captured and interrogated by the Iranian government are brought to life in Jon Stewart’s filmmaking debut.
Lynn Shelton and Keira Knightley pair up to create a wonderfully sweet romantic comedy that’s clever, emotional, and a lot of fun to watch.
While it may feel overlong and slow at times, Christopher Nolan's most ambitious film to date is absolutely gorgeous. A complicated almost analytical script is a good enough mix of science and story that it shouldn't lose your interest but it's Nolan's visuals that are the most memorable. No matter how far-fetched it sounds Interstellar will get you believing in its crazy science and that's thanks to the substance of its characters and story.
Dear White People
The lives of four black students intertwine in this comedy/drama that attempts to address racism in a curt, humorous way but ends up with a confusing mix of storylines that’s tough to follow and loses its message somewhere along the way.
Nightcrawler is a perverse, sometimes funny, but most of the time an uncomfortably creepy look at free-lance journalism. Gyllenhaal shines in his best performance of his career; he brings this wonderfully crazy character to life to the point where like Louis' stories on murders and car crashes you just can't look away.
Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall play father and son in a compelling drama which touches on every kind of family dynamic and pulls you through every emotion you can possibly feel.
One of 2014’s biggest surprises, a nuanced performance from Keanu Reeves along with some of the most fluent and stunning action sequences to appear on film this year. John Wick is one of the most breathtaking B-Movie action flicks you will see this year with raucous violence and a fun cast.
Bill Murray and newcomer Jaeden Lieberher banter in a comedy largely bereft of funny but sitting on a great story that’s just a few hairs off of “solid.”
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
- Every now and then a movie comes along that should be talked about and studied for years to come; this year that movie is Birdman. Iñárritu’s direction is beautiful and the film’s cinematography is absolutely remarkable but nothing compares to the Tour de force work by Michael Keaton, who delivers the kind of performance that should be regarded, as one of the greatest pieces of acting in the last decade.
Kill The Messenger
Jeremy Renner steals the show with a stunningly honest and vivid performance portraying an investigative journalist driven to suicide after a major media smear campaign.
While the action is entertaining and the story will make you hopeful for a proper origin of one of the great movie villains ever, Dracula Untold never reaches anything close to its potential. Generic and flavorless, Dracula Untold is nothing short of a missed opportunity.
Jimi: All Is By My Side
If you’re bored on a weeknight and you’ve seen everything else, then yeah, okay, maybe go see this.
David Fincher takes an already brutal story from Gillian Flynn and creates a masterfully done modern day horror film. Flynn's script provides some twisted storytelling along with enough dark laughs. In a momentous performance, Rosamund Pike gives a stirring look into a very dark soul with glances and moments that will stick with you long after the credits roll.
The Double is a sub-par attempt at reviving a mid-19th century work from Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Even though it is overlong and the first 30 minutes are almost totally without action The Equalizer brings Denzel Washington into his most badass role since Man on Fire. The Equalizer may lack the brilliance of Training Day but once it gets going it is incredibly entertaining.
This Is Where I Leave You
With a cast this brilliantly constructed it is shocking that neither Shawn Levy or Author/Screenwriter Jonathon Tropper could find enough substance in a very makeable movie. The dialogue is punch less and predicable taking away from a nice cast and interesting characters. The biggest failure in This Is Where I Leave You is that with all this talent onscreen it never blows you away. It never gets close to being a memorable movie; instead it comes off as a film made to sell tickets thanks to its talent and nothing more.
The Skeleton Twins
In a year that might just be defined by comedic actors scoring big in dramas, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig come along and give the greatest acting work of their respective careers. Hader and Wiig are heartbreaking and give award caliber performances in The Skeleton Twins, following its impeccable showing at Sundance The Skeleton Twins coasts into theaters being hailed as one of the year’s best films and it really is.
Based on a short story and written for the screen by Dennis Lehane, The Drop is the crime drama you have waited all summer to see. Tom Hardy gives an Incendiary performance along with the final appearance from a brilliant James Gandolfini on screen. The Drop is a dark, twisted, crime fantasy with a fantastic script and enough tension to keep you nervously staring at the screen.
Creative and colorful, What If gets past its common Rom-Com themes thanks to the magnetic chemistry of Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. Snappy dialogue between characters and a supporting cast that includes the fantastic Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, What If is nicely directed and memorable.
A stunning documentary about the discovery of a complete T-Rex fossil found in the black hills of South Dakota and then the strange, long legal battle over who owned it. Never has a documentary about fossils been this exciting or frustrating. While it struggles with an obvious bias toward one side of the story, Dinosaur 13 has a story worthy of a big screen courthouse thriller and will leave you shaking your head in disgust.
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Nearly Ten years removed from the original, Sin City piles on the gore and nudity but has a distinct lack of the substance of the first film. It doesn't help that the timeline where this movie takes place to the original is unrecognizable. Characters who died in the first film are back, and 50% of the original cast has been replaced, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is about 5 years too late and doesn't have very much to add in the form of new material.
The Top 10 Movies of 2014...so far
It may not come as a shock but there have been plenty of movies to hit theaters this year already. Awards season is around the corner but before it hits Steven Panzarella has highlighted his top 10 best from the busy year in film.
Part 2 of John Michael McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson’s “Suicide Trilogy” Calvary is a masterfully done mystery that is helped by the best performance of Brendan Gleeson’s career along with a dark comedic script and an excellent supporting cast. The first movie of 2014 I left truly speechless.
Besides Noyce’s nuanced direction and it’s all-star cast The Giver is a weak film adaptation of a strong novel. The script lacks the emotional gut punch of the novel, while the films runtime is an easy hour and forty five minutes it is boring and easily forgettable.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
I left Michael Bay's reboot of TMNT with more questions then answers, mostly wondering why this exists and why the director turned producer Bay didn't take more credit for having his finger prints all over it. The script is only plot points and opportunities for members of the cast to talk about how attractive Meghan Fox is and the action is entertaining but the all of the human characters are lame, poorly scripted, unneeded impediments for what should have been a fun time at the movies. The turtles themselves provide the only real source of entertainment but they can't save this diabolical reboot from being on screen.
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Short-With the frenetic energy of its predecessors Guardians of The Galaxy proves that at the moment Marvel can do no wrong. James Gunn’s brilliantly funny script, and colorful direction make Guardians of The Galaxy feel less like a Marvel movie and more like what would happen if you asked George Lucas to add dick jokes to Star Wars. Gunn gets class A work from an excellent cast and a star making performance from Chris Pratt that makes Guardians of The Galaxy arguably Marvel’s best origin story and one of the best films of 2014 thus far.
The Short- Thanks to appropriate casting and fun action sequences Hercules is a real summer popcorn flick. It could have been more if not for unimaginative direction and dull writing. Dwayne Johnson embodies the character and along with Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and the rest of his merry band of warriors are worth the price of admission.
Wish I Was Here
Another successful Kickstarter campaign turns into semi successful film in Zach Braff’s sophomore effort. Wish I Was Here is funny, deeply moving, and well written with an excellent cast. If you were a fan of Garden State you will struggle to not enjoy Wish I Was Here. If you are not a fan of Braff’s and are not a fan of Garden State you may find it to be over indulgent and similar to his past work.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Thanks to a worthwhile story, a fantastic cast, and absolutely fantastic direction from Matt Reeves Dawn of The Planet of The Apes is one of the better summer blockbusters of 2014. Dawn of The Planet of The Apes is an achievement in filmmaking but also a show in superior motion capture, led by Andy Serkis.
Deliver Us From Evil
Despite its cast and the recent success of Scott Derrickson, Deliver Us From Evil never gets past the creepy stage. A poorly written script with bulky dialogue delivered unconvincingly by a good cast, Deliver Us From Evil lacks the thrills, scares, and shock value that has made Derrickson a successful horror filmmaker.
The first big film from Once director John Carney since 2006, Begin Again is brought together by the best performance of the career of Keira Knightley as well as another award worthy performance from Mark Ruffalo. The real champion of Begin Again besides the beautiful acting is the music, Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine lends his voice to a number of the original songs but it is Knightley whose impressive voice gives Begin Again its soul.
Transformers Age of Extinction
Transformers Age of Extinction Proves that Michael Bay can blow stuff up but he is incapable of telling an actual story worth watching. Age of Extinction is nearly 3 hours long and not at any moment does it make sense, It is poorly written, poorly directed and is the worst movie of 2014 so far. Age of Extinction is going to make a fortune at the box office but that doesn't take away from just how bad it is.
Unlike its Broadway counterpart Jersey Boys is less musical and more Biopic. The music, when it does occur is impressive and the story along with Eastwood’s direction helps this fairly new group of actors get through the films more character driven moments. The cast is great and even as an ode to the Scorsese classics Jersey Boys is an above average biopic and a very easy ride to take.
Obvious Child is about a woman who gets an abortion but thanks to an incredible directorial debut from Gillian Robespierre and a wonderful “star is born” performance from Jenny Slate, the abortion takes back seat to the story of an aspiring stand up comic who is having one hell of a month. Slate’s performance is beautifully tragic and hilarious and it’s Slate and director/writer Robespierre that make Obvious Child one of the first great Indies of 2014.
22 Jump Street
The success rate of comedy sequels is not very large but thanks to a fantastically meta script and direction from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller along with hilarious performances from Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and surprise scene stealer Jillian Bell, 22 Jump Street might be one of the best comedy sequels we have seen in recent years and maybe of all time.
The Fault In Our Stars
Adapted from John Green’s emotionally charged, beautifully written novel, TFIOS as it is called by its passionate fan base, is as great of a book adaptation as we have seen in recent memory. Thanks in large part to its wonderful cast and on point direction by Josh Boone, The Fault in Our Stars will surprise non-book readers and fans alike as an emotional roller coaster that breaks out from the traditional love story mold. Its greatest success is the work from its three stars; especially the Oscar nominated Woodley who gives her best performance to date.
A Million Ways to Die in The West
Trying to replicate Blazing Saddles and other classic comedies Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in The West is at times clever, at times funny but never all at once. Thanks to a miserable marketing campaign that revealed nearly every clever moment of the film (especially what should have been the film’s most Meta moment) the jokes grow tired as the film goes on. It is not without great moments but they are so few and far between that A Million Ways is only funny at times and it’s mostly thanks to a great cast
X-Men Days of Future Past
It may have taken 6 films but Director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg have finally perfected the X-Men movie. Days of Future Past should be considered a high water mark for the superhero genre as Singer and Kinberg manage to juggle 2 brilliant casts and plenty of storylines and turn it into a violent, funny, and breathtaking ride and never has something so complicated looked that easy. Days of Future Past is the best movie in the X-Men franchise, and one of the best superhero movies to ever hit theaters and never has a more complicated story been done with as much grace.
Godzilla may suffer from moments of clunky dialogue and a few under developed characters but its slow burn tease at the main attraction, and then the payoff is nothing short of spectacular. Gareth Edwards expertly directs the king of monsters return to the big screen in one of the most satisfying monster films in recent memory.
The Short- Seth Rogen Nicholas Stoller strike again in Neighbors, thanks to scene stealing performances from Dave Franco, Rose Byrne and Ike Barinholtz along with two top shelf performances from Rogen and Efron Neighbors shows that very few people are making as many consistently then Seth Rogen and company.
Million Dollar Arm
Million Dollar Arm might be packed to the brim with those Disney sports movie clichés but thanks to a fantastic cast and satisfying story it still manages to be a worthwhile sports flick. Jon Hamm and Lake Bell have great chemistry and Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi), and Madhur Mittal(Slumdog Millionaire) may not get as much screen time as you would hope for but both take advantage of each and every moment with two good performances.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Some say the problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is with its revolving door of villains, only two are featured in the film (one is shown briefly and another is never seen as her alter-ego). The real issue for me was a total change in tone; Marc Webb and company go from a serious opening film to an extraordinarily campy sequel that has both villains spouting one-liners. The best parts of this Spidey sequel are the fantastic action sequences and each and every scene between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone who are so great together on screen you wonder if any other couple could have worked so well together.
Tribeca Film Festival Review-Just Before I Go
The freshman effort by Courtney Cox may lack strength from its script with lackluster dialogue but is helped by a hilarious cast of characters and a strong performance from Seann William Scott in a role that takes the actor out of his comfort zone. Cox’s strong direction and cast make Just before I Go an above average comedy with more going for it then against it.
How to Be a Man
How to Be a Man gets off to an inauspicious start as each scene attempts to raise the bar from frontal male nudity to incredibly dirty language. At the half way mark How to Be a Man decides to be more than a dirty comedy and the characters who inhabit the story begin to flesh out into people who are just attempting to cope with their situations. At times How to Be a Man is absolutely ridiculous and at other times its thought provoking madness clears up our idiotic main character to show how real the people around him are.
An intelligent topic and visually stunning work from its director is wasted on a boring, needy, weirdly scripted sci-fi drama that fails to hammer its “beware of technology” plot home. Transcendence Fails where movies like Terminator or even Inception succeeded, it’s neither scary nor will it make you lose any sleep over the future of 21st century technology.
Draft Day may not be the perfect film but football fans will geek out at what seems to be an inside look to the NFL’s second biggest event. Kevin Costner manages to charm but is overshadowed by his fantastic supporting cast and a wonderfully topsy-turvy story that will leave you guessing until it’s conclusion.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Short- Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an upgrade from the The First Avenger but it also gives us the best possible look at The Captain and how he has become the leader of this group. Joe and Anthony Russo mix CGI and normal special effects to create memorable fight scenes and fantastic action sequences that had me on the edge of my seat. Thanks to one of the best stories Marvel has given us, quality villains, and a script that never allows Cap to take himself too seriously, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best films in the Marvel Universe.
Noah is a well-acted, well directed, and a beautifully shot biblical epic that could stand out as one of the best in a very inconsistent genre. Noah does take liberties with the original story and suffers from strange plot twists and stretches of bad dialogue but overall is one of the first quality movies of 2014.
Muppets Most Wanted
The Short- In the opening number "We're doing a Sequel" Kermit and the gang remind us "Everybody knows that the sequel's never quite as good", which is exactly the case for Muppets Most Wanted. Bret McKenzie's songs are still catchy, the comedy remains perfect for kids and adults alike and the cameos are fantastic. Yet Most Wanted lacks just a slight amount of the magic that made The Muppets 2011 return such an instant classic.
Divergent has a big cast but lacks the ferocity of The Hunger games and falls into the YA novel clichés that may make fans happy but not many others. Moviegoers new to the franchise will find nothing but stale dialogue, annoying side characters, and a strangely underutilized villain who only appears for brief moments but never for long. It's boring first hour is nearly saved once the action begins but a lame and predictable finish makes it catnip for fans but very few others.
Veronica Mars gives the fans exactly what they wanted, a 1 hour and 47 minute episode of the cancelled too soon drama. An ode to the fans that made it possible, Veronica Mars gives fans the juicy storylines and witty dialogue they yearned for while opening up the idea for newcomers to watch the movie then go home and binge the show.
Need for Speed
Need for Speed relies on plot devices and gets off to an awfully slow start, but it still manages to be surprisingly good fun in a genre that The Fast and The Furious series has beaten to death. All the troubles with its first half are made up for with a thoroughly exciting second half of non-CGI racing, led in large part by the cars themselves which should be considered the stars of the show.
300: Rise of an Empire
Rise of an Empire may have a confusing timeline for some and if you are looking for anything that even comes close to a script for this film you come up empty handed. For fans of the original it does not disappoint even if they have to cleverly get around not having key cast members returning or overusing slow motion special effects to appeal to the audience praying for more of the original.
Non-Stop may defy gravity, forsake the laws of physics, and ignore reality but it was a damn good time. If the question you ask yourself before seeing Non-Stop, “Is this a great movie?” the answer is no, if you are looking to be entertained then who else to do that in the middle of a bad late winter slate of movies than Liam Neeson. Neeson continues to appeal to the masses as a major action hero, playing a troubled air marshal who is accused of hijacking an airplane after someone begins to murder passengers. Non-Stop is exciting even if it forgets to make better use of a good supporting cast.
Steven's Selections for The 86th Academy Awards
Steven Panzarella is giving it his best shot with his Oscar Selections for 2014.
Pompeii takes the premise of an hour long special on the discovery channel and drags it out for an hour and 40 minutes, most of which is wasted trying to explain a partially formed plot. Pompeii is poorly written with a staggeringly superficial love story that never manages to make a whole lot of sense. The volcano eruption sequence is its only saving grace but bad casting choices and worse direction make it nothing more than a straight to DVD 30 minute special effects spectacle.
Surprisingly Well acted, RoboCop is much better than advertised but that doesn't make it great. A flimsy script and nearly action-less stretches make it a below average February drop in. Joel Kinnaman makes a compelling Alex Murphy and Gary Oldman is as usual excellent as the conflicted creator of the part man part machine. The action is awesome at times and sparing at others and the PG-13 rating leaves RoboCop lacking the creativity and needed violence that made the original so compelling.
The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie is one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in the last 10 years. For children or adults alike Lego is a top notch effort that takes its beautiful CGI and sprinkles it on top of a delicious and nostalgic sundae of winks and nods to the Lego products that we grew up with. Not only that but if you listen closely, Lego packs one of the most ingenious voice casts in movie history along with an end twist that might be the most meta thing to ever happen on film.
That Awkward Moment
While filled with a cast of up and coming talented actors and actresses That Awkward Moment is a by the books R rated romantic comedy that forgets to take advantage of the talent. Teller, Efron, and Jordan have good chemistry but a lack of story to utilize them. That Awkward Moment is at times funny but fails to get past the rom-com clichés and never reaches its full potential.
Comic book movies and book adaptations have ruled over the box office with an iron fist, but if you were looking for an example of a comic book series that did not need a film adaptation then look no further then I, Frankenstein. A poorly scripted and dialogue heavy mess that does not take advantage of what could have made an interesting story. Aaron Eckhart huffs and puffs through every scene, emotionless and humorless and just about the actor’s most bland performance.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
A reboot of the Jack Ryan Series (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears) with Chris Pine taking over the character made famous by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford. Chock full of spy thriller clichés with a lack of creativity and lack of chemistry between any of the major players. Branagh’s direction is unusually mediocre while his bad guy resembles that of a bad bond villain whose demise is all but guaranteed.
My Top Ten Movies of 2013
Oscar Nominations are out and the 2013 film slate is officially over, so along with movies that either missed the cut or deserve recognition, I have made a list of my top 10 movies of 2013.
Spike Jonze creates a sweet, emotional, and powerful film that tugs on the heartstrings through wonderful performances. Her also manages to be an unbelievably real and very funny parody of social media and our dependence on technology in everyday life. Joaquin Phoenix delivers his most memorable and beautiful performance, and Scarlett Johansson is terrific through her slick and sexy voice work. Her is one of the most beautiful film of the last ten years, which made it my favorite movie of 2013.
The Wolf of Wall Street
A debaucherous good time fueled by vintage Scorsese storytelling and Oscar caliber work from Leonard DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. Marred in controversy Wolf doesn’t condone the real life criminals the movie is based on but shows the effect of living such a life. Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t apologize for its graphic drug use, nudity, and F-bomb filled dialogue; In fact, it embraces all of it completely.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis is a story about an unlikeable singer looking to keep his career afloat in New York City. Filled with fantastic tunes and fascinating characters, as they explore the 1960s folk scene in lower Manhattan, Inside Llewyn Davis sheds a light into the mostly low points of a man trying to make a buck doing what he loves. Inside Llewyn Davis is not a complicated story to tell, but it is one of the most interesting stories we have seen this year. It’s the Coen Brothers at their finest with outstanding performances from Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Garret Hedlund, and John Goodman among others.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller’s most ambitious outing as a director, Walter Mitty is beautifully shot, imaginative, and fun to watch. It struggles from a flat script with choppy dialogue that takes away from the majestic beauty on screen. Sadly, the actors can't help but fall flat from the lack of depth in the script which makes this beautiful painting look more like an instagram page.
Saving Mr. Banks
Saving Mr. Banks takes the story of Mary Poppins and makes it a funny journey into the difficult making of an American classic. Tom Hanks is great as Icon Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson is Oscar worthy as the cranky, rude Mary Poppins author. Saving Mr. Banks is downright pleasant and each scene with Hanks and Thompson is excellent, even if the flashbacks scenes last a little too long. Just try not leave singing any of the classic tunes from one of the most iconic and memorable films in The Disney vault.
American Hustle is what happens when David O. Russell creates a Martin Scorsese movie, think Silver Linings Playbook meets Goodfellas. A character piece and hilarious romp that throws out five absolutely magnificent performances from some of Hollywood’s best. Along with a great script and fantastic direction American Hustle just might be the best movie of 2013.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
It may not be the instant classic that was Anchorman, but it does place its characters at the center of one of the great news satires in recent memory. Filled with quality cameos, outrageous sequences, and plenty of opportunities to allow its comic actors to do what they do best. Anchorman 2 The Legend Continues does not fall into the sequel trap of rehashing old jokes and skating by on the merits of the original.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug tops the first in the series with nonstop action and incredible special effects. Led by a top notch cast, quality script, and as usual epic direction from Peter Jackson The Desolation of Smaug is both fun and worth its 2 hour and 40 minute runtime.
FROZEN is the first animated musical from Disney since 2011’s TANGLED and one of its finest works since POCAHONTAS. Thanks to a classic story, and the talented voices of its leads Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel( Broadway’s “Wicked” and “RENT”) who manage knock each song out of the park with Gusto. FROZEN is everything you will want from a Disney musical with the addition of 21st century wit, charm, and music that catches on quickly.