Oscar Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave

You know what? The opening that I had planned for this year strayed a little bit too much on the uncomfortably dark side of the “Edgy” spectrum, and so, considering the subject matter, I decided to just jump right in.

12 Years a Slave

  Directed By: Steve McQueen (No, not THAT one)

  Produced by: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Steve   McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Anthony Katagas

 Written by: John Ridley

Based on: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

 Genre: Epic, Biographical drama

 Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt

Other Actors: Adepero Oduye, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Michael K. Williams, Garret Dillahunt, Alfre Woodard, Quvenzhane Wallis (Jesus Christ, that name!)

Oscar Nominations: Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Adapted Screnplay (Ridley) Best Supporting Actress (Nyong’o) Best Supporting Actor (Fassbender) Best Actor (Ejiofor) Best Director (McQueen) Best Picture

Plot: Solomon Northup is a free black man living in 1841 Saratoga Springs, New York. He has managed to eke out a nice living for his family as a carpenter, and an extremely talented fiddler. While his wife and children are away on a trip, Solomon is offered and accepts a two week job as a travelling musician. Unfortunately, at the tour’s end in D.C., his employers (McNairy and Killam) drug him, and he wakes up bound in chains, kidnapped, and about to be sold into slavery.

Heads Up: This plot summary is a little more revealing then I’d like it to be, normally, so if you don’t want to learn too much about the story (Although I don’t actually mention any spoilers) go ahead and skip to the photo of Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and Peter Dinklage being cute.

Solomon is packed onto a ship and shipped to New Orleans, where he is renamed “Platt” (The name of a runaway slave from Georgia) and put on the market by the evil, unrepentant slave owner, Theophilus Freeman (Giamatti), which has got to be one of the most ironic last names in the history of cinema. Freeman sells Solomon to the plantation owner, William Ford (Cumberbatch). Ford is generally a good person (Or, you know, as good a person who believes that owning other people is fine by God could possibly be), and takes a liking to Solomon after the latter engineers a waterway for transporting logs through the plantation, even giving him a violin in gratitude.

Unfortunately, not everybody on the plantation is as fond of Solomon as Ford. The plantation carpenter, John Tibeats (Dano), resents him , and routinely verbally abuses him. One day, Tibeats pushes Solomon over the edge, and Solomon attacks him, beating him with his own whip. However, this provokes a lynch mob, and, to protect himself and Solomon, he sells his prize slave to a cotton plantation owner, Edwin Epps (Fassbender). While Ford probably wasn’t as compassionate as he thought he was, Epps is much, MUCH worse.

Epps uses a literal interpretation of the Bible to justify his and his wife (Paulsen)’s horrific abuses of their slaves. While there, he befriends Patsey (Nyong’o), a young slave woman who has gained Epps’ favour by picking a shitload of cotton every day (Slaves on Epps’ plantation are expected to pick 200 lbs of cotton each day, or they get beaten to hell) and Samuel Bass (Pitt), a Canadian carpenter who displays anti-slavery sentiments.

Man, what could I say about the story of 12 Years a Slave that hasn’t been said already? Yes, it’s heavy-handed (But y’know, so was slavery) and it was extremely brutal, disturbing and difficult to watch sometimes (But y’know, so was slavery).

And yeah, you may routinely shed tears (As I admit that I nearly did) over the suffering being witnessed, and you may wish that Solomon would pull a Django Unchained and just start massacring these slaving sons of bitches, but that’s just not realistic, and ultimately, it’s a necessary viewing experience that everybody should experience at least once (Y’know, unlike slavery) to truly understand some of the darker truths of the history of the Americas. And for all the ugliness, the film still manages to be beautifully shot, and the locations really take you back to the Deep South in the 19th century.

Acting: The actors had a fantastic script to work with (Kudos to John Ridley) and each and every one gave it their all. Even the bit players (Pitt, Dano, Giamatti, Raising Hope’s Garrett Dillahunt, etc.) all make their marks on the movie. Benedict Cumberbatch and Sarah Paulsen are also excellent as William Ford and Edwin Epps’ evil wife, Mary.

However, as you may have guessed, it’s the Oscar-nominated actors who steal the show. Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o radiates tragic brilliance in her first-ever full length movie (She landed this role shortly before graduating from Yale). She had previously only appeared in a short film called East River and a documentary about the albino population in Kenya, which she also directed. Her performance was  contrasted wildly with Michael Fassbender’s wonderful performance of Evil Incarnate (Er, I meant “Edwin Epps”). It’s been a long time since a villain has frightened me as much as Epps. He’s a bully, a racist, a sadist, a slaver, and a religious fundamentalist who treats other human beings as objects or (In the case of Patsey) sex slaves for his own personal gratification. He may be everything that I despise rolled into one frustratingly good looking human being.

Wow, I immediately regret typing that.

Chiwetel Ejiofor steals the show, however, as Solomon Northup. The British-Nigerian actor has immortalized himself with this star-making performance, taking the audience on an emotional roller coaster with his facial expressions alone. Hell, if the movie was just an hour-long compilation of Ejiofor’s lines, it would still probably get a good rating from me.

What Oscar Nominations Does It Deserve?

  • Best Film Editing: Okay (I’m still unclear as to what exactly that is, but sure, why not?)
  • Best Costume Design: Yes, yes, absolutely.
  • Best Production Design: Like I said, it may have ugly subject matter, but it’s still beautifully shot.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Ridley): Yup.
  • Best Supporting Actress (Nyong’o): Absolutely. I’d even say she was better than Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle, which is significant when you consider how much of a Jennifer Lawrence fan I am.
  • Best Supporting Actors (Fassbender): Without a doubt, Edwin Epps is one of the greates (For lack of a better word) villains in film history.
  • Best Actor (Ejiofor): Hell yeah.
  •  Best Director (McQueen): Yes.
  • Best Picture: Absolutely. Hell, I’d nominate this movie for Best Animated Picture, if I could.

Overall Rating: 10/10

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Razzie Movie Review: The Lone Ranger

Have you ever wondered what would happen if they adapted one of the  Pirates of the Caribbean sequels into a western, and filled it with filler and subtle racism?

Well, look no further, my friends!

The Lone Ranger

Directed By: Gore Verbinski

Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski

Written by: Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio

Genres: Western, Action, Comedy

Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Helena Bonham Carter

Other Actors: Oh, who gives a crap?

Razzie Nominations: Worst Prequel, Remake or Sequel, Worst Screenplay (Haythe, Elliott and Rossio) Worst Director (Verbinski) Worst Actor (Depp) Worst Picture

Plot: Dateline: 1933. The Great Depression is in full swing, King Kong premieres at the RKO Roxy Theater,  and Duck Soup inspires future comics everywhere.

Elsewhere: Nazis!

At a sideshow in San Francisco centered around the Wild West, a young boy meets an old Comanche man (Depp, in stupid looking old person makeup) , who is being kept by the sideshow as a living example of a “Noble Savage”, because racism. After mumbling, feeding the bird on his head birdseed, and generally acting like your typical Alzheimer’s case, the old man begins to recount his days as “Tonto”, the sidekick of the legendary outlaw, the Lone Ranger.

Flashback to 1869, in Colby, Texas. where mild-mannered, pacifist lawyer John Reid (Hammer) is returning home, via the still-uncompleted Transcontinental Railroad. However,   the train is also transporting the cartoonishly evil criminal, Butch Cavendish (Fichtner), who is being transported to his hanging, and a rogue Comanche  named Tonto, who is there for plot convenience, basically. Cavendish’s gang attacks the train and busts him out, derailing the train. Reid arrests Tonto, for reasons completely unknown to the audience, which, at this point, has become more than just a minor quibble with the plot. Should we, maybe, know if the guy who we’re supposed to be rooting for isn’t, like, a serial killer, or something? And do lawyers even have the authority to arrest people? I’m pretty damn sure they don’t.

Anyways, John’s Texas Ranger (The law enforcement agency, not the baseball team) brother, Dan (Dale) Ranger buddies together to hunt Cavendish. However, for some boneheaded reason, he decides to bring John with him. I repeat: He brings his timid, naive pacifist brother with him to apprehend a murderer who doesn’t think twice about murdering innocent civilians, as is demonstrated several times during the opening action sequences. Already, we can see that good writing may not have been the priority in making this movie.

Anyways, the posse is betrayed by one of their fellow Rangers, and are attacked by Cavendish and his gang. who murder all of the Rangers, including Dan, and John is shot and knocked unconscious. After Cavendish eats Dan’s heart, which is kind of dark for a movie that was marketed towards little kids.

“You know what these toys are missing? Implied cannibalism.”

Anyways, Tonto escapes from jail,though at no point do they mention how he did this. He buries the Rangers, but is stopped from burying John by a spirit horse, or whatever, who tells him that John is a “spirit walker,” or some such bullshit, who cannot be killed in battle. John wakes him up, and, after Tonto explains what happened, he (reluctantly) dons a domino mask and sets off to find Cavendish and avenge his brother as the Lone Ranger.

This plot, and the writing in general, while not quite as bad as the other Razzie movies I’ve reviewed, is riddled with problems. It’s obvious that the filmmakers were aiming for a feel similar to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, complete with elaborate action sequences, same writers producers and director, sly humour and Johnny Depp being weird in makeup, but there are several problems with that approach, mainly that a) It’s rarely a good idea to copy your own work, and b) Nobody has actually looked forward to seeing a POTC movie since 2006.

Take the repeated instances in the film where Tonto dodges the question about how and/or why he was in jail in the first place. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it seems to me that they’re trying to copy the (More popular and more funny) recurring joke about how Jack Sparrow escaped from a desert island (“Sea turtles, mate”). The problem is, it just feels like they’re reaching too hard for the whimsical humour that the Pirates movies provided.

To the film’s credit, though, when the characters shut the hell up and the action sequences get going, the movie becomes pretty damn enjoyable. The opening action sequences, the closing sequence, and, to a lesser extent, the action scenes sprinkled throughout the rest of the movie. I’d go so far as to say it ranks up there with some of the better scenes from the Pirates series. Problem is, the characters open their goddamn mouths way too often, and we’re left with a film that runs way too long, and where I lose interest in the stupid characters and the paper-thin writing about ten minutes after that initial action scene.

Acting: Oh, Jesus Christ. Please don’t make me do this.

To be fair, there were a few actors that showed a pulse. I gotta say, even though I didn’t enjoy his performance, William Fichtner looks like he’s having a grand ole’ time as the cartoonishly evil cannibal, Butch Cavendish. And I actually have a few good things to say about Armie Hammer, as the title character. He did the best with the material given to him, which is all that you could really ask for in this movie.

The rest of the actors, however, are all bad at best, and shit-tastic at worst. Tom Wilkinson was hugely disappointing, and completely uninteresting  as railroad tycoon, Latham Cole. Helena Bonham Carter, despite being in a ton of the promotional material, has about five minutes in the movie, at best. And she isn’t very good in those five minutes, either.

As for the star of the movie, Mr. Johnny Depp, he is the biggest disappointment of them all. It’s extremely obvious that he’s just rehashing his Jack Sparrow character in Pirates. And it’s really word that he’s phoning it in the whole damn time, considering that he learned the freakin’ Comanche language in order to play the part.

Speaking of Tonto, the movie doesn’t really do anything to clean up his unfavorable connotation with Aboriginal (Native American) stereotypes. Tonto is just fucking ridiculous, and his character is basically built around the premise that “Oh, those crazy Indians are so eccentric with their spirit talk, and meditation, and weird languages. He thinks the bird’s alive! That’s hilarious!”

It wouldn’t be so bad (Or, well, it might be tolerable) if Tonto was the bad-ass that the trailers promised, but he’s pretty much just a snarky jackass the whole time.

What Razzie Nominations Does it Deserve?

  • Worst Prequel, Remake, or Sequel: Well, it’s no Grown Ups 2, but it was still quite bad, so sure.
  • Worst Screenplay: Honestly, though I didn’t like the screenplay that much, I don’t think it can be ranked as one of the worst of the year, so no.
  • Worst Director (Verbinski): Sure
  • Worst Actor (Depp): Yes. It’s not like a nomination for this will do much to hurt his damn-near spotless resume, anyways.
  • Worst Picture: No. Compares to the other bad movies I’ve watched this year, this one was a stroke of genius. Nobody should mistake this for an Oscar endorsement, however.

Overall Score: 4.5/10 

Razzie Movie Review: After Earth

Disclaimer: Those who get offended by foul language may want to sit this review out.

After Earth

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

Produced by: Caleeb Pinkett, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, James Lassiter

Written by: Gary Whitta, M. Night Shyamalan (Story by Will Smith)

Genres: Science-Fiction, Action, Adventure

Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith

Other Actors: Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Kravitz

Razzie Nominations: Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Jaden Smith) Worst Supporting Actor (Will Smith) Worst Screen Combo (Jaden Smith and Will Smith) Worst Director (M. Night Shyamalan) Worst Screenplay (Gary Whitta, M. Night Shyamalan (Story by Will Smith))

Plot: It is the future, and, as you may have guessed from the title of the movie, human beings no longer live on planet Earth, having caused environmental cataclysms that rendered the planet uninhabitable for people. Attacked by aliens in their new home, Nova Prime, the humans are overwhelmed by the “Ursas”. Huge, blind monsters that find humans by smelling their fear. This is, improbably, the least stupid thing about this movie. Seriously? Couldn’t they just have nuked the motherfuckers into oblivion? I’m no science guy, but I’m pretty sure that nuclear missiles fear nobody.

Well, ALMOST nobody…

The human race is slaughtered like cattle until General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) develops the “ghosting” technique, which involves suppressing fear so that Ursas are blinded and easy to dispatch. Under the Fresh Prince’s leadership, the United Ranger Corps defeat the aliens and, years later, Cypher’s son Kitai (Jaden Smith) is training to become a Ranger himself.

When he fails to graduate from Ranger High, due to his highly emotional behavior, Cypher decides to bring his son with him on his last tour of duty before retirement, because a war zone is obviously the best place for a highly emotional teenager to be. This stupidity is compounded upon when we discover that there’s a live Ursa being taken to their destination for some reason that I was too uninterested and bored to look for. Which begs the question: In what fucked-up parallel universe is it a good idea to bring your idiotic, irrational teenage son to a dangerous planet, accompanied by a creature who’s sole purpose is to kill humans who display any emotion?

Anyways, long story short, the ship approaches an asteroid field, and the brilliant general decides to go straight through it instead of turning back. The ship crashes on the now-abandoned planet Earth, everybody except the Raiges are killed, the Ursa escapes, Cypher is crippled, and Kitai has to get to a mountain to shoot a distress flare. Seriously. My six year old cousin could write a better plot outline than this.

My main problem with this story isn’t the boneheaded plot-line, the bland special effects, the horrendous dialogue, or even the beyond-awful acting from the two leads (More on that later). My main beef is with the message that this movie is trying to get across to the audience: “Danger is real, but fear is a choice.” Cypher Raige explains, in a long-winded, boring bout of dialogue, that he believes that while danger is everywhere, “fear is an illusion created by the mind”.

No, it’s not, you fucking idiot.

What we refer to as “fear” is a perfectly normal emotion that warns us when something is uncomfortable or dangerous. One of the reasons that humans haven’t gone extinct is because we’ve had fear in the back of our minds, wondering if attempting to fly was such a good idea. When I go to El Salvador (FYI, I have Canadian and Salvadoran citizenship), I don’t just dismiss my reluctance to enter the slums in San Salvador as an illusion created by my asshole brain, blocking me from living life to the fullest. I listen to my fear, because I’d rather not get murdered for drug money by some 17-year old gang-banger with facial tattoos.

It is VERY easy to figure out who you may want to avoid in El Salvador.

Acting: You gotta give the Pinkett-Smith family props. They try so hard to try to convince moviegoers that the kids in that family (Especially Jaden Smith) are the most multi-talented little  bastards around. Problem is, they’re the only ones buying it. Setting aside Jaden’s (And his sister, Willow) halfhearted stabs at music careers, acting seems to be what they’re trying to jump into. Jaden appeared with his dad in 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness, and appeared subsequently in The Day the Earth Stood Still and the Karate Kid remake. Was After Earth finally going to be the performance where Jaden established himself among Hollywood’s elite at the age of 14?

No. Of course not. Make no bones about it, Jaden Smith’s acting gave me nightmares. And not in a “Holy shit, I’m gonna be dreaming about Hannibal Lecter dismembering me for the next thirty years” sense. The first thing I did after finishing this movie was go upstairs and start praying to any deity who exists and/or who gave a shit and pray that this kid never touches the Star Wars franchise. I’m not even religious! I just hope for his sake that his star fades quietly so he doesn’t open himself up to any more embarrassments,  but it’s unlikely, considering the pressure his family seems to be putting on him.

Speaking of his dad, I hoped that his performance would be better than advertised, because I’ve always been a big Will Smith fan, but his performance just left me depressed and longing for the days of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He’s just so damn wooden in this movie. Actually, scratch that, he looks depressed. Uninterested. Like he’s aware of all the nepotism in this project and he’s ashamed of it. Of course, it could just be that he knows that the movie was a piece of shit, but I like to think that he knows he made a mistake and can learn from it.

Although I could be wrong.

What Razzie Nominations Does It Deserve? 

  • Worst Screenplay: I dunno if it deserves to “win” this award, but the nomination makes sense, I guess.
  • Worst Director (Shyamalan): Did I seriously forget to lay into M. Night in my rants? Well the direction (Directing?) couldn’t have been less interesting in this movie, so yeah.
  • Worst Screen Combo (Smith and Smith): Actually, no, I don’t think so, but only because I don’t really think they were on-screen together enough to be considered a “combo”.
  • Worst Supporting Actor (Will Smith): He deserves the nod, for sure. Not the win, though.
  •  Worst Actor (Jaden Smith): Yep.
  • Worst Picture: Fo’ sho’. (Remind me to never say that again.)

Overall Score: 2.5/10

Oscar Movie Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Hi, everybody! If you’re not too busy buying last minute gifts for your significant other(s), I have a movie review to check out!

Hoping that I picked a nice, easy to swallow, possibly romantic Oscar movie to review for Valentine’s Day, like Her or Frozen?

Sorry.

Dallas Buyers Club

 Directed by: Jean-Marc Valee

Produced by: Robbie Brenner, Nathan Ross, Rachel Rothman

Written by: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

Genre: Biographical Drama

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto

Other actors: Steve Zahn, Griffin Dunne, Dennis O’Hare, Dallas Roberts, Michael O’Neill

Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey), Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto), Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup and Hair-styling, Best Film Editing

Plot: Dateline: Dallas, 1985. Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) is living the high life. Or, you know, as much of a high life that a poor, cocaine-abusing redneck working as a rodeo cowboy and an electrician could possibly live. However, despite living on the ass end of the poverty scale, he lives a pretty carefree lifestyle,  complete with banging lots of different women, macho posturing and good’ole 80’s homophobia. That’s why he takes it so hard when he discovers that he has been diagnosed with AIDS and is given a month to live (In those days, it was a common misconception that gay people were the only ones at risk for HIV and/or AIDS).

When he can’t get his hands on some AZT (An antiviral that was supposed to prolong the lives of AIDS patients), he smuggles some in with help from a hospital worker. However, the AZT doesn’t work (And his cocaine habit isn’t helping) and he’s checked into the hospital, where he meets both Dr. Eve Saks (Garner), who is sympathetic to his plight and Rayon (Leto), an HIV positive  transgender woman, towards whom he is irrationally hostile.

Frustrated with the care he is receiving, Ron drives across the border to Mexico to see a sketchy doctor (One of Mexico’s leading tourist attractions), who gives him a crap-load of drugs that actually work, but who have not approval from the Food and Drug Administration to be used in the United States. Back in the States with his drugs, Mr. Woodroof reluctantly teams up with Rayon to form the “Dallas Buyers Club”, where AIDS patients pay 400$ a month and, in exchange, receive all the medication they need.

While the story is based off of real events, the screenplay is completely original, and it and the plot are airtight. The movie was so engrossing that its (relatively) short 116 minute run-time felt long, not because I was in agony, but because I was so intent on seeing how everything was gonna go down.

Also, how is it that director (And my fellow Canadian) Jean-Marc Vallee wasn’t nominated for Best Director? The care taken in each of these shots is damn near perfect.

The script was downright amazing. It was funny when it needed to be, dramatic when it needed to be, and heartbreaking when it needed to be, although that may be more a result of…

The Incredible Acting: Wow. Just. Wow.

My first experience watching Matthew McConaughey on film was his supporting role in Tropic Thunder. After the 106 minutes  of hilarity that that movie brought, I found myself thinking back to his performance (For some reason) and thinking: “Sure, he was pretty funny…but can he play a dying, sickly, inhumanely skinny AIDS patient?”

You’re welcome, planet Earth.

As for his support (Leto and Garner), they both did fantastic jobs as well, especially Leto (Who you may recognize under all that makeup as being the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars) as the tragic figure that is Rayon. Garner was excellent as well, and  definitely should have been at least seriously considered for an Oscar nod.

What Oscar Nominations Does It Deserve?:

  • Best Film Editing: Sure, the editing of the…um…shots and the pacing was…great? I’m not that sure what editing is, you guys.
  • Best Makeup and Hair-styling: Yes, if only for the work they did with Jared Leto.

  • Best Original Screenplay: Yep.
  • Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto): Hell yeah!
  • Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey): Man, we’ve come a long way from Dazed and Confused, haven’t we? Yeah, he deserves it.

Overall Opinion:

It’s not often that I can safely call a film perfect, and, if I looked hard enough, I could probably find something to quibble about, but I don’t feel like it, so congratulations to everybody involved with this film (Especially McConaughey and Leto), because I’m gonna go ahead and give it my highest possible recommendation. 

Overall Rating: 10/10

(On an unrelated note, if I ever have to type the word “McConaughey’ again, it’ll be way too fucking soon.)

Oscar Movie Review: American Hustle

There’s one in every Oscar class.

Every year, in every group of Best Picture nominees, there is at least one movie that is divisive, that may be critically or popularly unloved, yet, it gets the nomination for the Big Prize. Sometimes, this scrutiny may be deserved (In the case of The Tree of Life, for instance). In others, it may not be (Winter’s Bone comes to mind). This year, the most divisive movie on the ballot is a David O. Russell-directed movie that is up for ten Academy Awards, and has broken the record for the lowest necklines in film history.

This is actually the smallest amount of cleavage that Amy Adams displays in this movie. I’m dead serious.

American Hustle

Directed by: David O. Russell

Produced by: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison

Written by: Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell

Genre: Crime Drama, Dark Comedy

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence (Be still, my beating heart!!!)

Other actors: Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Pena, Robert De Niro

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture,Best Director, Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Writing-Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing

Plot: In 1978, highly successful con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his mistress, the equally intelligent Sydney Prosser (Adams), are at the top of their game, making oodles of money off the desperate, and, in Rosenfeld’s words, doing whatever it takes to survive. Unfortunately for them, they are caught in the act by ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper).  Richie takes a liking to Sydney (Or rather, Sydney’s English alter-ego, “Edith Greensley”) and recruits Irving and “Edith” to help him fight white-collar crime, specifically, by helping him arrest four people.

I only had two problems with the plot. My first problem is with the ending (Which I’ll discuss at the end of this “Plot” section, in order to avoid spoiling it for people). My second problem was how muddled the plot was at the beginning. The dialogue was  being presented so quickly that I didn’t catch everything that was being said, and was pretty much just watching it for the performances. However, I did catch on eventually, and it really is quite an engrossing plot.

*SPOILER BEGINS HERE*

Now, while most of this movie was damn near perfect, there was one thing that didn’t sit well with me for one little bit. That would be the ending. I didn’t like how mayor Polito being incarcerated, the Mob being let off scot-free and Richie having his career ruined were presented alongside an (Admittedly, quite funny) scene between Irving, Sydney and Richie’s wife, Rosalyn as part of a “happy ending”.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize that the movie made it pretty clear that not everybody was getting out with their lives intact. But this “unhappy ending” seemed all out of whack. I felt kind of unsure what to feel when the movie cut from Richie sobbing in despair when he realizes he’s been conned, to mayor Polito being led away from his family by the police and then, suddenly, to everybody laughing about Jennifer Lawrence being in a neck brace. In my opinion (And remember, I wouldn’t know how to execute this, I’m just an armchair critic at this point), they should have had a much more melancholic ending scene with Irving, Sydney and Rosalyn. You don’t ruin the lives of two sympathetic characters, and then pretend that it’s the end of a buddy comedy.

*SPOILER ENDS HERE*

Acting: The acting in this movie is downright incredible. I’ll get into it a little more later, but these actors were PERFECTLY cast for their roles. Christian Bale is excellent, as are Cooper and Jeremy Renner (As the idealistic, yet somewhat naive, mayor of Camden, New Jersey). I wasn’t a fan of Amy Adams in Man of Steelbut she is fantastic and damn sexy in this film. Even the smaller parts in this movie (Louis C.K., Robert De Niro, etc.) are played exceptionally well.

However, the best performance, in my humble opinion, comes from the lovely Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Bale’s highly intelligent, yet mentally unstable wife. She strikes the perfect balance between being clearly not O.K., but also hilarious, and even sympathetic. J-Law has displayed, once again, why she is my favourite actress.

What Oscar nominations does it deserve?: 

  • Best Film Editing: Sure, I guess. The movie flowed very well from one scene to the other, though, as I mentioned before, it seemed kind of muddled at the beginning.
  • Best Costume Design: Yeah, for sure. The costumes had me reminiscing about the seventies right away… which is an impressive feat, considering I was born in ’96. Also, cleavage.
  • Best Production design: See “Best Costume Design”.
  • Best Writing-Original Screenplay: Absolutely. This screenplay was both intelligent and hilarious.
  • Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence): YES.
  • Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper): Cooper did a fine job as Richie DiMaso, but honestly, I think I preferred Jeremy Renner as mayor Polito.
  • Best Actress (Amy Adams): Absolutely.
  • Best Actor (Christian Bale): Yeah, sure. This is is the first Christian Bale movie in a long time in which I hadn’t been imagining him in a Batman costume and a fucked-up voice box.
  • Best Director (David O. Russell): He may be a bit of a douche, but yes, Russell deserves the nomination.
  • Best Picture: I highly doubt that it will (Or should) win the award, but it deserves every bit of that nomination.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

The Oscar/Razzie Project

It’s Oscar season once again, folks, and boy, oh boy, is there ever a lot of deserving nominations for the categories. 12 Years a Slave was a potent tale about, um, slavery, American Hustle…. Had a…Good cast, Nebraska had brilliant shots of…Nebraska, I guess, and The Wolf of Wall Street was one hell of a monster movie.

“Oh, shit! Run!”

As you probably guessed, I haven’t actually seen any of the nominees for best picture. Every year, I make a promise to myself that I’m going to watch all or most of the Oscar-nominated movies, and each year, I stay home and watch a nineties superhero cartoon on Netflix.

In my defense, I think the majority of the Oscar-watching population doesn’t actually watch any of the movies. That’s okay, because there’s so much else going on. You can (Hopefully) laugh at the host, you can see all your favourite actors and actresses wear beautiful clothes and pretend they don’t loathe each other, and you may have the chance to see somebody richer and more successful than you embarrass themselves on live TV! It’s a win for everybody, really.

However, for whatever reason, this year, I feel like watching all the best picture nominees, if only because I hate being out of the know if something is supposed to be really good. So, this year, I’ve decided to watch all of the Oscar movies (That is, the Best Picture Nominees) and, after watching, each one, I’ll post a short review on this blog.

There’s more, however.

See, I’m not content with only doing the nominees for the best in film-making. I’m also insanely curious to see what the WORST in film was like this year. Therefor, in addition to the Oscars, I will also be following the little known awards show known as the Golden Raspberries (Also known as the “Razzies”).

To give you an idea of what these short reviews will look like, here is a short review on a movie I watched last night that also happens to be a nominee for ten Razzie awards:

 Grown Ups 2 

 Directed by: Dennis Dugan (Of course)

 Produced by: Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo

 Written by: Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy, Fred Wolf

 Genre: Gross-out Comedy

  Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade (Yuck), Nick Swardson (Ick) Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Alexander Ludwig, Taylor Lautner

  Golden Raspberry Nominations: Worst Picture, Worst Director (Dennis Dugan), Worst Actor (Adam Sandler) Worst Supporting Actor (Taylor Lautner) Worst Supporting Actor (Nick Swardson) Worst Supporting Actress (Salma Hayek) Worst Screenplay (Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy, Fred Wolf) Worst Screen Combo (The entire cast) Worst Prequel, Rip-off or Sequel

Plot: A sequel to 2010’s Grown UpsGrown Ups 2 tells the continuing story of Lenny Feder, his wife (Salma Hayek) and kids, his best friends, Eric (Kevin James), Kurt (Chris Rock) and Marcus (David Spade) and their respective families, who have all moved back to their Connecticut hometown where they all grew up. I have no idea if I have any readers from Connecticut, but if so, I must ask: How often do deer break into your homes and urinate on you? Because that happens in the first two minutes of this movie.

Actually, “plot” is a bit of a misnomer. There is way too much shit going on in this movie, and none of it is the least bit interesting or funny. Adam Sandler movies have never been much for sophisticated plot crafting, but there was still at least some semblance of heart in movies like Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison and Click. I like to think of him as the poor man’s Will Ferrell. They’re two SNL alumni who make comedic movies with tons of heart under the somewhat lowbrow humour. Unfortunately, while Will Farrell is still hilarious, coming off critical and financial successes with Anchorman 2 and The Campaign, Sandler has not been even remotely near the top of his game for a few years now. Jack and Jill, That’s My Boy and now this.

But, I digress. Anyways, long story short, they decide to throw a party, hi-jinks and questionable cameos ensue.

Acting: Oh, Jesus, where do I even start?

I know that movies like this aren’t made to be Oscar-worthy, but seriously? These performances were God-awful, even by Happy Madison standards There are actually some damn talented people involved in this movie, but none of them even tried to do the best they could with what they got (Though, admittedly, there wasn’t exactly much to work with in the first place). Obviously, I wasn’t expecting too much from people like Nick Swardson, David Spade, Taylor Lautner, Kevin James or Shaquille O’Neal (Seriously), but I was at least expecting people like Adam Sandler, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock and Steve Buscemi to show a goddamn pulse, at least!

Worst of all are the portrayals of the women. They’re all depicted as shallow, overly nurturing and/or hormonal. Actually, they’re maybe not quite as offensive as this kid…

…But it’s still bad.

Oddly enough, the best performance was by Stone Cold Steve Austin. This is, however, nowhere close to being a credit to the incredible acting range of Mr. Austin.

Which Razzie nominations does it deserve?: 

  • Worst Screenplay: Absolutely. There was nothing funny about this movie, and it fails even when trying to be serious.
  • Worst Director: Yes. Dennis Dugan may be the furthest possible thing from Martin Scorsese.
  • Worst Sequel: Yup.
  • Worst Screen Combo: Absolutely. There wasn’t a single good performance in this movie.
  • Worst Supporting Actress (Salma Hayek): Yes. She may be one of the best actresses to come out of Latin America ever, but she sure as hell didn’t show it here.
  • Worst Supporting Actors (Taylor Lautner and Nick Swardson): Again, yes. Taylor Lautner sucked, and Nick Swardson has never once made me laugh. Ever. For all I know, he may be a nice person (Although if he’s anything like his characters, I doubt it), but honestly, at this point, I just hate the guy. (I would have also nominated David Spade, though)
  • Worst Actor (Adam Sandler): He definitely deserved the nomination, but I don’t know if I’d consider him as bad as Lautner, Swardson, Spade or O’Neal.
  • Worst Picture: Oh yeah, this was a disaster, through and through.

   Overall Score: 2/10