Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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Edited by: Pat Aldo (cousin, co-author, Marvel expert)

Avengers: Age of Ultron is an exciting, action-filled spectacle and a new mark in the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since the first Avengers, I’ve been waiting for this group of heroes to team up again, and here it is. I thought it would be hard to recreate the same kind of magic as seeing them assemble for the first time, but it wasn’t. There’s more character development this time around and we get to see the relationships within the team evolve. Everything I loved about The Avengers is back in Age of Ultron, with the addition of some new, interesting heroes and a different kind of villain. Marvel fans will likely be pleased with the result, but for those who aren’t quite on that bandwagon, it’s still a pretty fun blockbuster and there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it too.

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are back together as an epic team to take down a HYDRA bunker run by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), who is in possession of Loki’s scepter and is using it to experiment on humans. Siblings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are two such humans who have developed abilities as a result. Scarlet Witch is capable of telekinesis and mind control, while Quicksilver can run at the speed of light. Because they have a personal vendetta against Stark, they allow him to take back the scepter, knowing full well what he’ll use it for will backfire. Ultimately, he and Banner use it to jump start a peacekeeping program called Ultron. Ultron, after seeing the kind of destruction people like the Avengers can cause, becomes a new threat who believes the only real path to peace is their extinction.

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Despite whatever feelings one might have about the movie’s flaws, Joss Whedon deserves a ton of credit for creating such a giant film that successfully juggles a large group of characters, ties up loose ends from the previous events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and sets up for the next few films to come, while at the same time, still maintains its own unique story. That may sound daunting, I know, but it never gets as overwhelming as you’d expect. What’s necessary to accept about the MCU is that “it’s all connected,” which means you’re going to get a lot more out of every film if you’ve been following the timeline up until this point. That’s not to say that none of the movies can stand up on their own, because many do, including Age of Ultron, but knowing what’s going on in regards to the bigger overall story is certainly going to affect your experience with it.

For me, there’s a special nerdy excitement I get out seeing these characters that I’ve been watching for the past 7 years interact with one another. What makes this experience different from the first Avengers is that the characters all know each other now so the relationships between each have had a chance to evolve. The smaller moments in the film where the team’s hanging out together are some of the best scenes, like when they’re partying at Avengers Tower and Thor challenges his fellow Avengers to try and lift Mjolnir. It’s also nice to see that some of the supporting characters from other movies aren’t totally forgotten about, like James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) from the Iron Man movies and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) from The Winter Soldier.

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The action is just as good, if not better than in the first movie, starting out with a tracking shot following the team while they work together to breach the HYDRA bunker. It’s quickly paced and full of adrenaline, and of course, you’ve got the trademark humor and one-liners spread throughout. Take it how you will, some people enjoy the humor and others don’t. The jokes are excessive at times and it does down play the threat a little bit, but Marvel’s thing isn’t to be super serious, and that’s a theme that runs throughout all its films. If you haven’t accepted that by now, you probably never will.

The formula for Age of Ultron is definitely cut from the same mold as the first. There’s some build up of story which leads to a climactic battle, and then it winds down towards the end. Most, if not all superhero films follow this formula, so it may seem a bit repetitious, but the way it is executed definitely helps. There are plenty of epic moments in the action that make up for the over-familiarity and I love seeing the teamwork in play.

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One thing I was somewhat disappointed with was that Ultron wasn’t as menacing as the trailers made him seem. I think James Spader did a good job, but the most threatening aspect of his character was the fact that he can travel through the internet and access anything he wants, gaining him the upper hand. He’s also able to upload his consciousness to any of his robot legion as well. But these individual bots are pretty easily defeated, and thus prevent Ultron himself from contributing to the larger battle sequences. I think that besides Thanos, who’s been portrayed as the puppet-master of sorts, Loki remains the MCU’s best villain to date.

Additionally, I wasn’t overly fond of what they did with Black Widow’s role in this film. I like how both her and Hawkeye have more to do this time around, and Hawkeye’s character development is great, but I can’t help but feel like Widow was reduced to a stereotype. The romance between her and Banner seemed unwarranted, and it was too random for me to get behind. Their scenes together seemed cheesy and forced, and basically, I just wish they hadn’t made the only established female character on the team a love interest. I enjoyed finally discovering Widow’s backstory, but her character can be so stiff at times. This could just have something to do with Whedon’s take on her. Something my cousin, Pat, actually pointed out to me was that Widow and Scarlet Witch don’t exchange any dialogue in the film. I think if Marvel can improve on anything in the future, it’s the way they handle their female heroes, and I’m eager to see how they fare with the Captain Marvel movie, since it’ll be the first film in the MCU centered on a female character.

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The Maximoff twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, are both incredibly welcome additions to the film. The Witch’s abilities are, admittedly, cooler than Quicksilver’s speed, but they both work well together. I found her capability to manipulate the Avenger’s minds particularly awesome, allowing the team’s human nature and vulnerability to be revealed. Though the twins’ Eastern European accents may have proven to be a struggle at times, I think Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson fit their roles perfectly. I only wish that they had a little more screen time.

The best addition, however, would have to be the Vision. Hands down, Vision is the MCU’s latest breakout character, and his presence was insanely rewarding. This beloved comic book character, often referred to as “the Android Avenger,” is especially visually appealing, showcasing phasing abilities and powerful energy blasts. It’s fantastic to see Paul Bettany, who has been voicing Tony Stark’s A.I. program JARVIS for years now, finally assembling with the Avengers on-screen in physical form. He serves as a wealth of knowledge and powerhouse for the team, moving forward, and his addition to future installments is incredibly exciting!

The next adventure for our heroes will be in Captain America: Civil War in 2016. Judging by the emerging conflicts shown between Stark and Rogers, I’d say Age of Ultron has already set a pretty solid foundation for this upcoming plot. Despite whatever small faults I may have had with it, I think Whedon did a job worth recognizing with such a difficult task. Avengers: Age of Ultron is an enjoyable addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and an exciting reunion for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I truly loved it.

4.5/5

Ex Machina (2015)

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There’s little I enjoy more than some quality sci-fi. Even though many of the themes have been redone over and over again, it’s the way these themes are presented that separate a good sci-fi from all the rest. If you’ve seen the trailer for Ex Machina, you can probably guess that the film is about a man’s creation of an A.I, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Alex Garland, who penned the scripts for acclaimed movies like 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd, makes his directorial film debut here. It’s a beautiful, confident and smart first shot at directing, as well as a completely enjoyable and thought-provoking experience that just might be the best of the year so far.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is an intelligent programmer who works at an internet company named Bluebook. He wins a company lottery for a one week visit to meet the CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), at his remote home somewhere in the mountains. When he gets there, he learns that Nathan wants him to perform a Turing test on his humanoid A.I. named Ava (Alicia Vikander) to try to distinguish whether or not she is a conscious machine.

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Nathan’s home is beautiful and sleek, but it’s also claustrophobic, empty and uninviting. All doors are sealed off and can only be opened by a special key pass, of which Caleb’s access is limited. Yet somehow, it seems the perfect reclusive dwelling for a genius billionaire.

Nathan, played impressively well by Oscar Isaac, whose career seems to be really taking off ever since Inside Llewyn Davis (and rightfully so), is an unpredictable character. When Caleb first meets him, he is quick to skip the formalities, acting not like the typical genius billionaire you’d expect him to be, but rather like more of a “dude bro.” You’d think this would make him more likable, but on the contrary, it makes him more suspicious. You know right away there’s something off about him, but you don’t know exactly what it is.

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Caleb is exactly what you’d expect him to be. Polite, smart, and excited to take part in an important event of scientific discovery, even if it means he has to sign off his freedom to tell anybody anything that transpires during his visit. His sessions with Ava are meant to be nothing more than a simple conversation between the two of them in a room that is separate by reinforced glass. Ava is a remarkable looking robot, with a human face and a translucent body. Alicia Vikander brings a human elegance to the character, but even when she hides her robotic parts under feminine clothing, you never forget exactly what she is.

Although Ex Machina does feature some impressive special effects and some beautiful cinematography, it thrives on its story and small number of characters. It doesn’t have to resort to inconsequential action scenes to be involving, and that’s what I like about it. It’s slow paced, but that doesn’t mean it comes anywhere close to being boring. It slowly builds up tension as the relationships between all the characters continue to change.

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Ava and Caleb’s sessions together are mildly uncomfortable, since it’s clear there’s some sexual tension building between the two. All the while you have Nathan watching everything that transpires through camera and audio. None of these characters are black and white and the story is mostly unpredictable. I thought I knew exactly what direction it was going in right off the bat, but then it turned. That’s really all I can say without giving the plot away, and I already feel like I’ve said too much. For anyone who hasn’t seen this yet, avoid as many spoilers as you can because you don’t want to deprive yourself of the wonderfully oblivious experience.

It’s not all technical, serious and tense, though. There’s some genuine comedic relief spread purposely throughout, including an unexpected scene with one of the characters that I don’t even want to give away in this review because it’s so random and perfect that I refuse to take the “wtf” factor away from anyone.

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Filmmakers have been interested in the idea of artificial intelligence for years. Everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey, to The Terminator, to this year’s Chappie. Perhaps the most interesting idea about artificial intelligence is that it isn’t completely fictional. The very questions these characters bring up in this film about consciousness, humanity and sexuality are no doubt some of the same questions we’ll be asking ourselves one day in the near future. If a robot can achieve consciousness, then what will continue to separate humans from machine? There’s so much more presented here, though, which I can’t get into due to spoilers, but you can see for yourself if you watch it. It’s a really incredible film.

Ex Machina is a wonderful sci-fi, full of amazing visuals, a great script, and complex characters who are played by some very talented actors. Alex Garland has shown that he can do much more than write the hell out of a script, this is an impressive directorial debut. It’s a smart, tense film that stuck with me and left me thinking after I exited the theater. I know it’s only April, but in my opinion, this is the best theaters have had to offer so far this year. It’s an absolute must-see for 2015.

4.5/5

Netflix: Expiring Soon (April 2015)

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Below you will find lists of titles expiring on Netflix during this month (April) in the US, Canada, and the UK. For anyone wanting to know what has been added this month, you can find that list here. I try to keep it as updated as possible.

As usual, if anyone comes across any expiration dates that are not on this list, leave the title in the comments and I will add it. Enjoy!

Note: Unless any of these titles are renewed, the dates below represent the date of the last day these titles will be available for you to watch.

Netflix US

4/22
Phantom (2013)
4/23
ABCD: Anybody Can Dance (2013)
Albatross (2011)
Just Like Being There (2012)
The Hunting Party (2007)
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013)
4/24
A Place of One’s Own (2009)
Actresses (2009)
Adrift in Tokyo (2007)
Any and Every Which Way (2010)
Baby and Me (2008)
Before Valentine (2009)
Black Night (2006)
Blackout (2007)
Boat (2009)
Chicken Tikka Masala (2005)
Crying Ladies (2003)
Dream (2008)
End Call (2008)
Everyday Is Valentine (2001)
The Executioner (2009)
Fading of the Cries (2011)
Feathers of Passion (2003)
Fighting Express 3: End of the World (2009)
Fly High (2006)
Girl Scouts (2008)
Heartbreak Library (2008)
Highway Star (2007)
Housewife’s Afternoon Delight (2010)
I-Fak (2004)
La Visa Loca (2005)
Land of Scarecrows (2008)
Last Scene (2002)
Looking for Cherry Blossoms (2009)
Marathon (2005)
Marrying the Mafia 2 (2005)
Meteor (2004)
More Than Blue (2009)
Mr. Lee vs. Mr. Lee (2007)
The Naked Kitchen (2009)
Nightmare Detective 2 (2008)
Oh, Saigon (2007)
The People vs. George Lucas (2010)
Pinoy/Blonde (2005)
Raised from Dust (2007)
Sad Movie (2005)
Texture of Skin (2007)
Time Traveller (2010)
Viva! Love (2008)
Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)
Where is Francis? (2007)
4/25
The Warrior’s Way (2010)
4/26
Battleground (2012)
Kon-Tiki (2012)
The Sapphires (2012)
4/29
Basic (2003)
Photographic Memory (2011)
4/30
The Accused (1988)
Across the Great Divide (1976)
Airplane (1980)
Airplane II (1982)
Along Came Polly (2004)
Bitter Moon (1992)
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
Cecil B. Demented (2000)
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002)
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Finding Forrester (2000)
Funny Face (1957)
Hell Is for Heroes (1962)
Ichi the Killer (2001)
Kidnap and Ransom – 2 Seasons (2011) (TV)
A Knight’s Tale (2001)
License to Drive (1988)
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Little Odessa (1994)
Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola (2013)
McLintock! (1963)
Mean Machine (2001)
Robocop (1987)
Romancing the Stone (1984)
The Jewel of the Nile (1985)
Sabrina (1954)
The Secret Life of the American Teenager (2008-’12) (TV)
The Secret of NIMH (1982)
Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country (1991)
This is Not a Film (2011)
Twisted – 1 Season (2013) (TV)
Ulee’s Gold (1997)
Valkyrie (2008)

 

Netflix Canada

4/21
Season of the Witch (2011)
4/22
Just Like Being There (2012)
4/29
I’ve Loved You So Long (2008)
Photographic Memory (2011)
4/30
88 Minutes (2007)
Air Force One (1997)
Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
Exporting Raymond (2010)
Fire with Fire (2012)
Ichi the Killer (2001)
1-Ichi (2003)
Lords of Dogtown (2005)
Marie Antoinette (2006)
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
Outlaw Country (2012)
Passengers (2008)
Premonition (2007)
River of No Return (1954)
Spring Breakers (2012)
Trance (2013)
Underworld (2003)
Unforgiven (1992)
Untraceable (2008)
Waking Life (2001)
5/6
Veronica Mars – 3 Seasons (2004-’06) (TV)

 

Netflix UK

4/21
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
In the House (2012)
4/23
Sacred Planet (2004)
4/24
The Errand Boy (1961)
The Patsy (1964)
4/26
First Position (2011)
Lore (2012)
4/28
The Smurfs (1981) (TV)
Welcome to the Punch (2013)
4/30
Alphas – 2 Seasons (2011-’12) (TV)
Burning Bright (2009)
Deceived (1991)
Make It or Break It – 4 Seasons (2009-’12) (TV)
Miss Potter (2006)
The Ninth Gate (1999)
No Ordinary Family – 1 Season (2010) (TV)
Scrubs – 6 Seasons (2001-’06) (TV)
What Dreams May Come (1998)

Netflix: Expiring Soon (March 2015)

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Below you will find lists of titles expiring on Netflix during this month (March) in the US, Canada, and the UK. For anyone wanting to know what has been added this month, you can find that list here. I try to keep it as updated as possible.

As usual, if anyone comes across any expiration dates that are not on this list, leave the title in the comments and I will add it. Enjoy!

Note: Unless any of these titles are renewed, the dates below represent the date of the last day these titles will be available for you to watch.

Netflix US

3/19
House Hunting (2013)
Miss Dial (2013)
Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011)
3/20
The Silence (2010)
3/21
Entre Nos (2009)
My Way (2011)
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
3/23
Edgar – 1 Season (2007) (TV)
Family Affair (2010)
Love Free or Die (2012)
Upside Down (2012)
3/24
Gerard Richter Painting (2011)
Girl on a Bicycle (2013)
High School Record (2005)
Hostel: Part III (2011)
L.I.E. (2001)
The Pool (2007)
Towheads (2013)
Walter Latham’s Comedy After Dark (2013)
3/25
All Together (2011)
Citadel (2012)
My Engine’s Fragile Sound (2012)
The Silent Army (2008)
3/26
Janie Jones (2010)
3/27
Faster (2003)
In Our Nature (2012)
The Nine Muses (2010)
Tales of the Night (2011)
Vampire Prosecutor – 12 episodes (2011) (TV)
When Strangers Click (2010)
Where the Yellowstone Goes (2012)
3/29
Adventure Time – 2 Seasons (2010-’11) (TV)
Childrens Hospital – 2 Seasons (2010) (TV)
Delocated – 1 Season (2009) (TV)
Metalocalypse – 1 Season (2006) (TV)
Regular Show – 2 Seasons (2010) (TV)
Young Justice – 1 Season (2010) (TV)
3/30
2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)
Bamako (2006)
The Brothers (2001)
ETXR (2014)
The Inner Life of Martin Frost (2007)
Legends of the Fall (1994)
The Libertines: There Are No Innocent Bystanders (2011)
Nightmare City (1980)
3/31
48 Hours (1982)
All.I.Can. (2011)
Amanda (2009)
America Declassified – 1 Season (2013) (TV)
The Amityville Horror (1979)
Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
Amityville 3 (1983)
Annie (1982)
Annie: A Royal Adventure (1995)
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations – 1 Season (2006) (TV)
Astonishing X-Men – 3 Seasons (2009) (TV)
Baby Boy (2001)
Blue Mountain State – 3 Seasons (2010) (TV)
The Brian Boitano Project – 4 episodes (2014) (TV)
Bruce Almighty (2003)
The Cable Guy (1996)
Caught Up (1998)
Chalet Girl (2011)
Clue (1985)
Color Splash Collection – 1 Season (2010) (TV)
Company of Heroes (2013)
Coneheads (1993)
Cousins on Call – 1 Season (2013) (TV)
The Craft (1996)
Cutthroat Kitchen – 1 Season (2013) (TV)
Daddy Long Legs (1955)
Days of Thunder (1990)
Diggstown (1992)
The Evening Star (1996)
Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012)
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
Face 2 Face (2012)
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
Friday the 13th – Parts 1-8 (1980-’89)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Get Shorty (1995)
Good Boy! (2003)
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Grassroots (2012)
Guess Who (2005)
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
Heleno (2011)
Holmes Inspection Collection – 1 Season (2011) (TV)
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence (2011)
In & Out (1997)
Income Property Collection – 1 Season (2011) (TV)
The Inexplicable Universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson (2013)
The Innkeepers (2011)
Insomnia (2002)
Inventing the Abbotts (1997)
Jane Eyre (1944)
Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)
Kangaroo Jack (2003)
The Karate Kid (1984)
The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
The Karate Kid Part III (1989)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Les Miserables (1935)
Madeline (1998)
A Man Called Peter (1955)
Miral (2011)
Mumfie’s Quest: The Movie (2014)
Murder at the Presidio (2005)
Murder by Numbers (2002)
My Bodyguard (1980)
Mystic Pizza (1988)
Mystic River (2003)
Notting Hill (1999)
Now Is Good (2012)
The Other End of the Line (2008)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Philadelphia (1993)
Pi (1998)
The Pioneer Woman Collection – 20 episodes (2012) (TV)
The Player: Secrets of a Vegas Whale (2014)
Poetic Justice (1993)
The Princess Twins of Legendale (2013)
Puzzled Love (2010)
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Raaz 3: The Third Dimension (2012)
Rehab Addict Collection – 1 Season (2010) (TV)
Reincarnation (2006)
Reindeer Games (2000)
Restaurant: Impossible Collection – 25 episodes (2011) (TV)
Retornos (2010)
The River’s Edge (1957)
The Robe (1953)
Sabrina’s Secret Life – 1 Season (2003) (TV)
Saint Nick (2010)
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Sidewalls (2011)
A Slipping Down Life (1999)
Stuart Little 2 (2002)
Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild (2005)
Submarine (2011)
Taking Lives (2004)
The Turning Point (1977)
Walking Tall: Part II (1975)
The Whole Nine Yards (2000)

 

Netflix Canada

3/21
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
3/27
American Masters: LENNONYC
3/29
Gandhi (1982)
Joe Dirt (2001)
National Security (2003)
Pineapple Express (2008)
RV (2006)
Snatch (2000)
S.W.A.T. (2003)
Taxi Driver (1976)
We Own the Night (2007)
The Wedding Planner (2001)
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2007)
3/31
The French Connection (1971)
The Inexplicable Universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson – 6 episodes (2013) (TV)
The Iron Giant (1999)
Slacker (1991)
That Thing You Do! (1996)
Wayne’s World (1992)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Yes Man (2008)

 

Netflix UK

3/19
The Haunted Mansion (2003)
3/20
Act of Valor (2012)
3/21
9 (2009)
3/22
Rambo (2008)
3/23
Movie 43 (2013)
Won’t Back Down (2012)
3/25
The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl (2005)
3/30
Bill Bailey’s Jungle Hero – 2 episodes (2013) (TV)
Brazil with Michael Palin – 4 episodes (2012) (TV)
The Iceman (2013)
Last Tango in Halifax – 6 episodes (2012) (TV)
Les Miserables – 2 episodes (2000) (TV)
Outcasts – 8 episodes (2011) (TV)
The Paperboy (2012)
Redemption (2013)
Rev. – 2 Seasons (2010-’11) (TV)
Stolen (2012)
3/31
3 Ninjas: Kick Back (1994)
Beauty & the Briefcase (2010)
Broken Arrow (1996)
Coyote Ugly (2000)
The Crew (2008)
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior – 1 Season (2011) (TV)
Crimson Tide (1995)
The Dark (2009)
The Deep End of the Ocean (1999)
Down Periscope (1996)
Greek – 4 Seasons (2007-’09) (TV)
Homecoming (2009)
The Inexplicable Universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson – 6 episodes (2013) (TV)
Insomnia (2002)
Melancholia (2011)
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
The Messengers (2007)
The Messengers 2: The Scarecrow (2009)
Pandorum (2009)
Patriot Games (1992)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Reaper – 2 Seasons (2007-’09) (TV)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Seabiscuit (2003)
Slacker (1991)
Soul Food (1997)
Stripes (1981)
Trapped (2002)
Trust (2010)
Two Can Play That Game (2001)
Ugly Betty – 2 Seasons (2006-’07) (TV)
Walled In (2009)
White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

’71 (2015)

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’71 places Jack O’Connell in yet another impressive role as a British soldier who is left behind by his unit in a hostile territory in Belfast during “the Troubles” in–you guessed it–1971. This is director Yann Demange’s feature film debut, and it safely borders the line between action movie and political thriller.

What was the Troubles, you ask? As someone born and raised in the U.S. and never taught a single thing about Irish history in my 19 years of schooling aside from maybe where St. Patty’s Day comes from, I asked myself the same question. As the movie quickly describes it, there was a conflict going on between the Protestants and the Catholics. From a British point of view, the Protestants were the “friendlies” and the Catholics were the “hostiles.” To be more specific, it was a political conflict between Protestant loyalists and Catholic nationalists or republicans. There were quite a few issues going on between the two groups, one of them involving whether or not Northern Ireland should stay within the UK. Without giving a history lesson or sounding stupid to those who were better educated than I was, let’s just say militant groups on both sides, like the IRA for example, were rioting and killing each other. The British army was involved, the government and police force was corrupt, and so on and so forth.

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So how does O’Connell fit into all of this? He plays a British soldier named Gary Hook, who, upon being caught in the middle of a riot, is accidentally left behind by his unit and has to try to survive on the deadly streets on his own. He is hunted and helped by people from both sides, and he is never really sure about who is a friend or a foe.

Last year was a break out year for O’Connell, after having starred in the critically acclaimed drama Starred Up and the not-so-acclaimed Unbroken, as well as the really terrible 300: Rise of an Empire. Regardless of how good or bad the movie was, his performances never failed to impress. It’s the same deal here, although thankfully, this movie does not suck.

’71 is seemingly a simple story about a young man who has to try and survive the night in a foreign land, but there’s actually a lot more going on in the plot than just that. You’re dealing with corruption, double agents on both sides, civilians who are coerced into acting out violently due to blind loyalty, children suffering the consequences, and many people living in fear. Hook is at the center of all of it, never knowing where to turn, having people shoot at him and bombs going off around him, you can sense his confusion and desperation to get to safety.

O’Connell is mostly silent throughout this film, but still affecting. You don’t get to know much about his character aside from the fact that he has a younger brother who is in some kind of state care facility, yet you still care about what happens to him. I will admit that the most thrilling scenes in this movie are the ones that are focused on him. His attempts at survival are, if nothing else, suspenseful. There’s an intensity I felt while watching him running down alleys and ducking into the shadows. It’s mostly well balanced, though, with O’Connell’s scenes being something closer to an action movie, and the secondary characters setting up for what would seem like more of a political thriller. Captain Browning (Sean Harris), for example, is playing both sides of the field throughout the film, but his true intentions are clear to the viewer, he is not a good guy. The suspense in these scenes come from whether or not the other characters will figure this out before it’s too late, and if there will even be consequences when they do.

Demange depicts a world where corruption goes far up the ranks, where young people get caught up fighting for causes they probably don’t fully understand, struggling between what they know is right and what they’re being told is right, and where innocent people are shot at and blown to bits. I’m not sure how true this depiction is, there are some people out there who have actually lived through these conflicts and witnessed them first hand and maybe think this plot is too simplified or not political enough, whereas others will think the opposite. I like the balance, but then again, what do I know?

'71 film still

Aside from the sometimes excessive shaky cam, the cinematography successfully captures the essence of a war torn city, there’s fires in the streets, people running about and shouting, and a general dark and grittiness to the film. Jack O’Connell, as usual, excels in the lead role and so do a lot of the supporting characters, especially Sean Harris, as well as a young, foul-mouthed boy O’Connell meets at one point in the film. Good people die, bad people live, and justice isn’t always served, ’71 is an emotional and thrilling film that illustrates these sad but true elements that often accompany violent, political conflicts. I really enjoyed it and I believe it’s one of the better movies released in the U.S. this year.

4/5

What We Do in the Shadows (2015)

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Who knew that a mockumentary about four vampires living together in a flat in New Zealand could be so genuinely entertaining? Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi co-wrote, directed and starred in this gem of a comedy that has sadly seen very limited release in the U.S. despite positive response. What We Do in the Shadows is a fresh twist on the vampire genre and it delivers consistent laughs while never straying far from old vampire clichés, and that’s not a bad thing.

So many vampire movies are either focused on horror elements or romantic elements. This movie throws both of those out the window, and what we’re left with is a lot of deadpan humor involving legitimate problems you could imagine would arise in a household of centuries-old vampires. Tension over someone not doing their chores, accidentally hitting main arteries while feeding on humans and spraying blood all over the place, not being able to enjoy a night on the town without being invited into nightclubs, and the difficulties getting dressed while not having a reflection to judge yourself in. The mundane issues that follow a group of immortal creatures who are out of touch with the modern world actually provide a lot more laughs than you would think.

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Viago (Taika Waititi) is a 379-year-old vampire who is a bit of compulsive character. He calls flatmate meetings so that he can discuss who is and who isn’t doing their chores, and why it’s necessary to put down newspaper when one of them decides to sink their teeth into their victims while sitting on the living room sofa. He still dresses like a 18th century European aristocrat with the puffy-sleeved shirts, and he tries to maintain a semblance of civility, but in the end, he’s still a vampire who needs to feed on people. The difference is he tries to give his victims a good time in the last moments of their lives, like a true vampire gentleman.

Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) is an 862-year-old vampire whose appearance is reminiscent of the Gary Oldman type in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. When we first see him, he’s in a red silk sheeted bed with three women, hissing at the camera. We learn later that he has his own torture room, although he rarely uses it anymore. He also used to have a skill for mind control, but has never been the same since an encounter with a creature only referred to as “The Beast.”

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Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) is the “cool, young vampire” at a ripe 183-years-old, looking like he stepped right out of a slightly older version of The Lost Boys, with his leather pants and stereotypical “vampires are sexy” attitude. He gets scolded for letting the dishes pile up for five years, and he has a “familiar” named Jackie (Jackie van Beek), who he orders to do daytime errands for him with the false promise that one day he might turn her. One of these errands involves finding two virgins to bring to the house for dinner. The fact that virgins are hard to come by is just one of the many problems these vampires face on a daily basis. While there’s no real need to have virgin blood, Vladislav explains the preference, saying, “I think of it like this. If you are going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it.” Fair enough.

One of the humans she brings to dinner is Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer). When he figures out he’s just been lured into a pit of vampires, he tries to escape, leading to a hilarious chase down dark hallways, with some funny wire work and use of CGI. Fortunately, he’s caught by Petyr (Ben Fransham), the fourth flatmate who has a habit of turning people instead of killing them. He doesn’t speak and he lives in the basement and sleeps in a cement tomb. He’s the Nosferatu of the four vampires, and he’s relieved of household duties and flatmate meetings due to the fact that he’s 8,000-years-old.

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With the addition of Nick, the vampires lives become a little less mundane. Now they are dealing with a very young vampire who can’t keep his mouth shut about who and what he is. His struggle to adapt is hilarious. He has trouble flying in through windows, but has an incessant need to do so just because he can. He doesn’t know that eating chips leads to projectile vomiting of blood. He also comes out to his best friend, Stu (Stuart Rutherford), who accepts him as a vampire. Stu is quickly accepted as a friend by them all for being a genuinely likable guy who works at an IT company. He helps the old vampires get reconnected with the modern world through technology. It’s funny how they take to him like a new pet.

Oh, and if the vampires weren’t enough, there are werewolves, too. The vampires run into a pack led by Anton (Rhys Darby), who insists that his pack maintain their tempers, reminding them, “We’re werewolves, not swearwolves.” Yes, there’s a lot that this film offers in terms of fantastical details, and they’re all presented humorously.

Is this one of those corny, cheap parody type films? No. It’s so much better. It’s witty and the actors have a great sense of comedic timing. I laughed the whole way through. The mockumentary style of filming is so fitting, it’s never distracting, and it contributes to the bizarreness of what goes on in the movie. What We Do in the Shadows is more on the level of films like This is Spinal Tap than anything else. There isn’t too much beneath the surface here, it’s a simple plot, but it’s a worthwhile comedy and at a brisk 84 minutes, it’s a very easy watch. It didn’t get the wide release it deserved, but if it happens to come to a theater near you, you should drop what you’re doing and go see this.

4/5

2015 Oscar Nominations & Predictions

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Well it’s almost that time of year again, where a panel of snobs tell us which movie is worthy of carrying the title “Best Picture of the Year.” Sometimes we agree with the Academy, and sometimes we don’t, but that hardly matters. We get to be entertained watching rich and famous people congratulate each other on their achievements through tears, laughter, and plenty of praises to God. I’m not being cynical, I love the Oscars and will be the first person to admit that, but they aren’t the deciding factor of whether or not I should love a movie I’ve seen or didn’t see. Nope, the best part of it all for me is seeing how many predictions I actually get right. So I’ve broken all the categories down and have named who I think the Academy will pick to win, who I personally think should win, and who I believe was snubbed. Once the Oscars air tomorrow night, I’ll be updating this post with the actual winners, and tallying up how many I actually managed to guess correctly. Fun stuff, right? Let’s do it.

*UPDATED* with the winners. After all is said and done, I was 16 for 24 in my predictions.


BEST PICTURE

NOMINEES:
American Sniper
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – *WINNER*
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Who Will Win: Boyhood
Who Should Win: Whiplash or Birdman
Who Was Snubbed: Gone Girl

Boyhood seemed like a shoo-in for much of the year, but now some people are predicting Birdman could take home the big prize. They are pretty much neck and neck at this point, but my money is still on Boyhood. It’s not a movie I loved, personally, but that matters little. If I were to choose, I’d give it to Whiplash, but seeing as how that would never happen in a billion years, Birdman would be my second choice. Also, Gone Girl should’ve at least been nominated, it’s loads better than films like American Sniper. What nonsense.


BEST DIRECTOR

NOMINEES:
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – *WINNER*
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Who Will Win: Richard Linklater
Who Should Win: Richard Linklater
Who Was Snubbed: David Fincher (Gone Girl), Ava DuVernay (Selma) and Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

Again, Birdman and Boyhood are at the head of the race, here. Even though I liked Birdman better as a whole, I have to give credit to Richard Linklater for what he did with Boyhood. It’s possible that Iñárritu could win this one, but I’m still betting on Linklater. He took home the Golden Globe, and he’s been getting nothing but praise during the whole 2014 year. I’m surprised DuVernay was not nominated, and I think she or Fincher should’ve taken the spot of Bennett Miller. They didn’t even nominate Foxcatcher for Best Picture, and yet Miller is taking up a directing spot, unbelievable.


BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES:
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything – *WINNER*

Who Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
Who Should Win: Michael Keaton
Who Was Snubbed: Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler) and David Oyelowo (Selma)

This is a close one between Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton. I think I had mentioned at one point that Redmayne deserves this one, but after having rewatched both Birdman and The Theory of Everything, Keaton stood out for me more. I still think the Academy will pick Redmayne, though, because they love it when actors play real people with diseases and disabilities (sorry, but it’s true). I won’t be mad, he was still impressive. Gyllenhaal and Oyelowo were totally overlooked, though.


BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES:
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice – *WINNER*
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Who Will Win: Julianne Moore
Who Should Win: Rosamund Pike
Who Was Snubbed: Amy Adams (Big Eyes)

Julianne Moore seems like the obvious choice. She was great in Still Alice, and she rarely ever gives a bad performance in anything, but I loved Rosamund Pike more. She was chilling as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, and her performance stuck with me longer. Amy Adams is amazing in everything she’s in, and it seemed odd when she took home a Golden Globe but wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. But it’s not a huge snub, because every lady in this category I think deserves to be here.


BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES:
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash – *WINNER*

Who Will Win: J.K. Simmons
Who Should Win: J.K. Simmons
Who Was Snubbed: Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice)

J.K. Simmons was my absolute favorite of the bunch here, and I am fairly sure he will be taking home the Oscar tomorrow night. It’s well deserved. Edward Norton would be my second choice, and probably the Academy’s too. Josh Brolin I think was snubbed because he gave what was probably the best performance in the convoluted mess of a film that was Inherent Vice. I would’ve picked him over Ethan Hawke, but most likely because I just hated Hawke’s “cool but absent dad” role in Boyhood.


BEST ACTESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES:
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood – *WINNER*
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette
Who Should Win: Patricia Arquette
Who Was Snubbed: Renee Russo (Nightcrawler) and Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)

Patricia Arquette is the best part about Boyhood. She’s the most real, relatable character of the bunch, and her performance is heartbreaking at times, especially towards the end when she realizes her kids are grown up and leaving her behind. She deserves the Oscar, and I think she’ll get it. I’ve got to say, I love Laura Dern, but her role in Wild is probably the least deserving of a nomination, she was barely even in the friggin’ movie. And Meryl Streep? Alright, I love her, but come on! Rene Russo or Tilda Swinton for her crazy, unrecognizable role in Snowpiercer should’ve been nominated.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

NOMINEES:
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – *WINNER*
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Who Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who Should Win: Nightcrawler
Who Was Snubbed: J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year)

I can see Wes Anderson taking home this one, and if he does, I won’t even be mad about it. I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel and I think the screenplay was great. Nightcrawler was just a personal favorite of mine, and I loved how the character of Lou Bloom was written, with all that crazy, manipulative dialogue. If either Anderson or Gilroy took home the Oscar, I’d be happy. J.C. Chandor and his film A Most Violent Year were definitely overlooked, that story could’ve easily gone down the cliché route, becoming a typical gangster movie, but it didn’t, and instead was a unique twist about a man trying to keep his business clean in a dirty and corrupt industry. Worthy of some recognition, I think.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

NOMINEES:
Jason Hall, American Sniper
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game – *WINNER*
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Who Will Win: The Imitation Game
Who Should Win: Whiplash
Who Was Snubbed: Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)

First of all, Whiplash shouldn’t even be in the “Adapted Screenplay” category, it should be in “Original Screenplay,” but I guess I won’t nitpick too much. I can definitely see The Imitation Game winning this one. I enjoyed it, but I think Gone Girl, which was one of the most insulting snubs of the year to me, should’ve won. But since it wasn’t nominated, I’m going with my favorite film of the year, Whiplash as my “should win” choice. But let’s be honest, it probably won’t win.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

NOMINEES:
Big Hero 6 – *WINNER*
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Who Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Who Should Win: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Who Was Snubbed: The Lego Movie

I liked How to Train Your Dragon 2, but it’s probably one of the least deserving in this category to win. I actually hope I’m wrong about the Academy, and they go with The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which is way more deserving and my personal pick. Or even Big Hero 6, I’d be okay with that choice as well. I’ll admit, I didn’t see Song of the Sea so I can’t judge it fairly. Also, The Lego Movie, one of the most positively reviewed movies to have come out last year, being left out–that was a huge surprise.


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

NOMINEES:
Citizenfour – *WINNER*
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Who Will Win: Citizenfour
Who Should Win: Citizenfour
Who Was Snubbed: Life Itself

Out of these five documentaries, I’ve only seen Citizenfour and Finding Vivian Maier. I liked both, but I’m surprised Life Itself wasn’t nominated. I probably would’ve picked that one. But out of the two I’ve seen, I liked Citizenfour best, and I have a feeling it will be the Academy’s choice as well. We’ll see!


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

NOMINEES:
Ida (Poland), Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski – *WINNER*
Leviathan (Russia), Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Tangerines (Estonia), Directed by Zaza Urushadze
Timbuktu (Mauritania), Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako
Wild Tales (Argentina), Directed by Damián Szifron

Who Will Win: Ida
Who Should Win: Ida
Who Was Snubbed: Two Days, One Night (Belgium) and Force Majeure (Sweden)

Again, I’ve only seen two out of five here, so I almost feel bad including these categories, but I’m still going to guess. Ida would be my pick for what I think will win and should win. It’s a beautiful film story wise and visually. Two Days, One Night and Force Majeure were my two favorite foreign films from last year, though. I think they both should’ve been contenders.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

NOMINEES: 
Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) -*WINNER*
Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, Ida
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Who Will Win: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Who Should Win: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Who Was Snubbed: Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar)

Birdman gets my vote for the continuous-shot filming style. It’s something you don’t see often, and it really helped make the film what it is. Ida would be a close second. I also think Interstellar should’ve been included here.


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

NOMINEES:
Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration), The Grand Budapest Hotel – *WINNER*
Maria Djurkovic (Production Design); Tatiana Macdonald (Set Decoration), The Imitation Game
Nathan Crowley (Production Design); Gary Fettis (Set Decoration), Interstellar
Dennis Gassner (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration), Into the Woods
Suzie Davies (Production Design); Charlotte Watts (Set Decoration), Mr. Turner

Who Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who Was Snubbed: Ondrej Nekvasil (Production Design); Beatrice Brentnerova (Set Decoration), (Snowpiercer)

The Grand Budapest Hotel, hands down. Loved the production design in that film, although if Snowpiercer was actually nominated, that probably would’ve been my personal pick.


BEST FILM EDITING

NOMINEES:
Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, American Sniper
Sandra Adair, Boyhood
Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel
William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game
Tom Cross, Whiplash – *WINNER*

Who Will Win: Boyhood
Who Should Win: Whiplash
Who Was Snubbed: Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione (Birdman)

Boyhood could definitely win this one, but I’m hoping Whiplash will instead. It’s really a toss up between the two for who I think the Academy will pick, but I’m leaning towards Boyhood. I also think Birdman should’ve been nominated simply because you can’t see the edits, which I guess would mean that’s pretty good editing, no?


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

NOMINEES:
Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel – *WINNER*
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner
Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything

Who Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who Should Win: Interstellar
Who Was Snubbed: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Gone Girl) and Mica Levi (Under the Skin)

The Grand Budapest Hotel is what I think the Academy will choose, although Interstellar I found to be more impressive score-wise. Gone Girl and Under the Skin should’ve been in this category, though. Both had hauntingly beautiful, mood-setting scores which deserved more recognition.


BEST ORIGINAL SONG

NOMINEES:
Shawn Patterson, “Everything is Awesome” (The Lego Movie)
John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn, “Glory” (Selma) – *WINNER*
Diane Warren, “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me)
Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, “Lost Stars” (Begin Again)

Who Will Win: “Glory” (Selma)
Who Should Win: “Glory” (Selma)
Who Was Snubbed: Lana Del Rey and Dan Heath, “Big Eyes” (Big Eyes) and Lorde and Joel Little, “Yellow Flicker Beat” (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1)

I’m going with “Glory” on this one for both. “Everything is Awesome” is a fun, catchy one, but I doubt it’ll be picked. I also personally liked “Big Eyes” and “Yellow Flicker Beat.” They aren’t spectacular songs, but are any of these really that great?


BEST COSTUME DESIGN

NOMINEES:
Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel – *WINNER*
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

Who Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who Was Snubbed: Hmmmmmm, nope. Can’t think of anything.

The Grand Budapest Hotel for the awesome purple hotel staff uniforms, among other things. Into the Woods and Inherent Vice would probably follow close behind for me.


BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

NOMINEES:
Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, Foxcatcher
Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, The Grand Budapest Hotel – *WINNER*
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, Guardians of the Galaxy

Who Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Who Should Win: Guardians of the Galaxy
Who Was Snubbed: Into the Woods

Going with The Grand Budapest Hotel, mainly for the old woman make-up on Tilda Swinton, and I think the Academy is more likely to pick this. But Guardians of the Galaxy had way more fun make-up and hairstyling, and it deserves to win at least one category, although it probably won’t.


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

NOMINEES:
Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould, Guardians of the Galaxy
Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher, Interstellar – *WINNER*
Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer, X-Men: Days of Future Past

Who Will Win: Interstellar
Who Should Win: Interstellar
Who Was Snubbed: Godzilla

Interstellar will most likely win, and it would be my choice also, although Dawn of the Planet of the Apes would follow close behind due to the effects with motion capture and the fact that the apes’ expressions looked very human. The rest of the nominees are worthy as well, but I also think Godzilla should’ve been credited for the colossal awesome looking monster.


BEST SOUND EDITING

NOMINEES: 
Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman, American Sniper – *WINNER*
Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Brent Burge and Jason Canovas, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Richard King, Interstellar
Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro, Unbroken

Who Will Win: American Sniper
Who Should Win: Interstellar
Who Was Snubbed: Uhhh, I’m going to go with…no one?

American Sniper probably because…war, bullets and all that. Interstellar deserves it though for its collaborative visuals and sound making me feel like I was being sucked into black holes and such.


BEST SOUND MIXING

NOMINEES:
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin, American Sniper
Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten, Interstellar
Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee, Unbroken
Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley, Whiplash – *WINNER*

Who Will Win: American Sniper
Who Should Win: Whiplash
Who Was Snubbed: No opinion.

American Sniper again for the reasons I stated above. But Whiplash because it deserves to win everything (bad reasoning? Don’t care).


BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

NOMINEES:
The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Feast*WINNER*
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Who Will Win: Feast

Feast is the only animated short I actually saw, and that’s because it played before Big Hero 6 in theaters, so I’m going to guess this one.


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM

NOMINEES:
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 – *WINNER*
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

Who Will Win: Joanna

Never saw a single one of these, so Joanna is just a wild guess.


BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

NOMINEES:
Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)
Parvaneh
The Phone Call – *WINNER*

Who Will Win: Parvaneh

Another wild guess, because I haven’t seen any of these. But I’m sure they’re all lovely.


Well there’s all the categories broken down by yours truly. A lot of them are just guesses, others are based on winners of other awards shows, etc. Can’t wait to see how many I actually guessed right! Who do you all think is going to take home the Oscar in the big categories? Opinions on possible winners and snubs? Feel free to discuss. And Happy Oscar Sunday, everyone!

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

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Espionage transformed into a crazy, self-aware bloodfest? Yes, please. When I first started seeing previews for Kingsman: The Secret Service, before I knew it was a Matthew Vaughn film, I thought it was going to be a clichéd kids’ movie about a troubled teenager who is turned into an unlikely hero. But between the frequent F-bombs and blood flying across the screen, I realized this is no kids’ movie. This is my kind of movie. The kind for the action lovers who get a little too much enjoyment out of a fireworks display of people’s heads getting blown off their bodies. Beyond that, it’s a love letter from Matthew Vaughn to all spy movies, and what a wonderful letter it is.

Vaughn has done for spy movies what he did for superhero movies through Kick-Ass (both adapted from Mark Millar comics). He took an overdone genre that has been taking itself way too seriously, and he breathed new life into it. Kingsman is an ode to classic James Bond movies, with the fancy gadgets and nice suits, a crazy villain with an elaborate evil plan, and a femme fatale, among other things. He took these clichés and made them original and fun, and what we got here is a movie featuring Samuel L. Jackson as a villain with a lisp who can’t stand the sight of blood, proper British gentlemen knifing people in the eye, a femme fatale who cuts people in half with her bladed prosthetic legs, and at the center of it all, a young chav with a chip on his shoulder training to become a proper British gentleman who can knife people in the eye.

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Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton) is a troubled young man whose father died when he was little, and his mother has a penchant for dating abusive losers. When a run-in with a group of thugs lands him in jail, secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) answers his call for help. Harry, who was once the mentor of Eggsy’s father, feels responsible for his father’s death, and believes he owes Eggsy the opportunity to train for a spot in the Kingsmen that was left open after fellow agent “Lancelot” (Jack Davenport) was recently killed. Eggsy’s skills and ability to follow direction are tested as he competes with other hopefuls. Meanwhile, Harry is on a mission to find out what tech savvy billionaire, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) is up to when he announces his plan to give away free SIM cards that will allow people to make calls and access the internet for free.

Taron Edgerton is a welcome new talent. He’s great at being a smart-ass, and somehow still remaining a likable character. He manages to keep the spotlight amongst a cast of people who could’ve easily out-shined him. He’s convincing in the action scenes, although he doesn’t have anything as crazy to pull off as Colin Firth does.

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Colin Firth, the man who most people have come to love in various rom-coms and British dramas and thrillers where he almost always portrays the proper, dapper gentleman will be surprised to see how well he does playing that same gentleman with an ultra violent twist. He’s 54-years-old and single-handedly beating the living piss out groups of people in this film. It’s insane, funny, and most of all, awesome. The church scene he’s in is probably my favorite in the movie, and not just because he turns to a homophobic, racist woman and says something along the lines of, “I’m a Catholic whore who needs to visit my black, Jewish boyfriend who works in an abortion clinic. Hail Satan.”

Samuel L. Jackson is hilarious as Valentine. It’s hard to take him seriously with that lisp. The fact that his character can’t stand the sight of blood really plays on the cliché that super villains never do their dirty work. He has Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) for that, the henchwoman with legs that make break dancing deadlier than walking into a giant blender.

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Let’s not forget the rest of the supporting cast, who aid in making this movie as awesome as it is. Michael Caine is Arthur, he’s somewhat of a leader in the Kingsmen, and Merlin (Mark Strong), is the man in charge of training new recruits. Sophie Cookson is Roxy, one of the other recruits competing with Eggsy for the spot, the best part about her is that she doesn’t become the typical “love interest,” although the story could’ve easily gone there. Mark Hamill, who I didn’t even recognize at first, is a professor who is kidnapped for one reason or another, but he disappears pretty quickly.

The action is balls to the wall sort of fun. Sometimes it’s more suspenseful than anything, like when Eggsy and the other recruits jump from a plane only to be told that one of them doesn’t have a parachute, but no one knows who, or when their bunks start filling up with water while they’re sleeping. Other times it’s just amusing, like when Eggsy steals a car and does a bunch of donuts in front of its owner, leading to a car chase between him and the police.

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But the violence in this movie is something else entirely. It’s incredibly over-the-top, almost cartoonish at times, like when Gazelle cuts a man clean in half and when the heads of rich men and politicians explode like fireworks. At times, it’s downright gratuitous, like in a scene where Harry massacres hate-spewing rednecks in a church while Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” plays in the background. Is any of this a bad thing? Some people who saw this and don’t take too well to Christians (even the horrible ones) being violently killed might think so. Me? I friggin’ loved it. It’s Colin Firth, for Christ’s sake! Was it necessary? No. Is it offensive? Most likely. But who cares! If you haven’t thought about how it might be sort of funny if those Westboro Baptist Church assholes got the punch in the face (not a hole in the head, I’m not that hateful, f**k) they deserve, then you must be Mother Teresa. It was hilarious, and going in to a movie like this expecting it to be serious and tasteful, especially if you’ve already seen Kick-Ass, is in the wrong state of mind. Sorry, but it’s true. A lot of people will say that Kingsman can only be enjoyed if you’re an immature teenage boy. Well, I’m neither a teenager nor a boy (but maybe a tad immature), and I enjoyed this immensely.

So to anyone wondering whether or not you should see Kingsman: The Secret Service, I would say, if you don’t mind gratuitous violence and you love Colin Firth enough to see him execute one of the craziest action sequences I’ve ever seen, if you loved Kick-Ass and you’d be interested to see a satirical twist on spy movies, and if you just simply love action movies, you should absolutely check this out. It’s not without flaws, but it’s the best time I’ve had at the theater so far this year.

4/5

Netflix: Expiring Soon (February 2015)

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Below you will find lists of titles expiring on Netflix during this month (February) in the US, Canada, and the UK. For anyone wanting to know what has been added this month, you can find that list here. I try to keep it as updated as possible.

As usual, if anyone comes across any expiration dates that are not on this list, leave the title in the comments and I will add it. Enjoy!

Note: Unless any of these titles are renewed, the dates below represent the date of the last day these titles will be available for you to watch.

Netflix US

2/16
Jem and the Holograms (1985-’88) (TV)
Moving Midway (2007)
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (2010-’13) (TV)
2/18
Broken Roads (2012)
For Ellen (2012)
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011)
Hollow (2013)
The Mooring (2012)
Trigun Badlands (2010)
2/19
Antardwand (2010)
Serving Life (2011)
2/20
A Haunted House (2013)
Post Mortem (2010)
2/22
Happy Happy (2010)
Semper Fi: Always Faithful (2011)
2/23
Dredd (2012)
2/24
Charlotte Rampling: The Look (2011)
2/25
Bindlestiffs (2012)
Kickin’ It (2011-’13) (TV)
The Runway (2010)
Spice and Wolf (2009)
2/26
Seven Days in Utopia (2011)
2/27
Monkey Trouble (1994)
Panic Room (2002)
2/28
1:1 Thierry Henry (2011)
2 Months, $2 Million – 1 Season (2009) (TV)
3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998)
3 Ninjas: Kick Back (1994)
3 Ninjas: Knuckle Up (1995)
3 Pigs and a Baby (2008)
1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)
Adios, Sabata (1971)
Adventures in Zambezia (2012)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)
The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1989)
Ali (2001)
All the Pretty Horses (2000)
Almost Famous (2000)
Anaconda (1997)
Arachnophobia (1990)
Arang and the Magistrate – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
Assassination Games (2011)
The Babysitters Club (1995)
Bingo (1991)
Black Eagle (2012)
Black Rain (1989)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Blood and Bone (2009)
The Blue Lagoon (1980)
Bo on the Go (2007)
Bobby Z (2007)
Bridalplasty – 1 Season (2010) (TV)
Brokedown Palace (1999)
The Caller (2011)
Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)
Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation (1986)
Cheech and Chong’s Nice Dreams (1981)
Cheongdam-dong Alice – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
Cool Runnings (1993)
Das Boot: Director’s Cut (1981)
Death Warrant (1990)
The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself (1998)
Desperado (1995)
Detention (2011)
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)
Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)
Dr. Jin – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
Dread (2009)
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Edison Force (2005)
The Elephant Man (1980)
Emma (1996)
Evita (1996)
The Experiment (2010)
Fido (2006)
The Final (2010)
Five Fingers – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
Franny’s Feet – 1 Season (2003) (TV)
Freaky Friday (2003)
Fright Night (1985)
A Gentleman’s Dignity – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
The Glass House (2001)
Glengarry GlenRoss (1992)
The Graduate (1967)
The Graves (2010)
The Great Doctor – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
The Hamiltons (2006)
Hard Rain (1998)
Hatari! (1962)
The Hit List (2010)
Hondo (1953)
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Hoodwinked (2005)
A Hundred Years Inheritance – 1 Season (2013 (TV)
Ice Castles (2010)
The Ice Storm (1997)
Iron Man: Rise of Technovore (2013)
It Could Happen to You (1994)
Jackass Number Two (2006)
Jesse Stone: Death in Paradise (2006)
Jesse Stone: Night Passage (2006)
Jesse Stone: No Remorse (2010)
Jesse Stone: Thin Ice (2009)
Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie (2002)
Kell on Earth – 1 Season (2010) (TV)
Kill Theory (2009)
The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
The Long, Hot Summer (1958)
Lords of Dogtown (2005)
Multiplicity (1996)
Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (2011)
The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988)
Nightmare Man (2006)
Old Yeller (1957)
Ordinary People (1980)
Penny Dreadful (2006)
The People That Time Forgot (1977)
Possession (2012)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy – 4 Seasons (2003) (TV)
Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
RoboCop 2 (1990)
RoboCop 3 (1993)
Rooftop Prince – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
The Ropes – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Seven (1995)
Saving Silverman (2001)
See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)
Short Circuit 2 (1988)
Small Apartments (2012)
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004)
Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008)
Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012)
The Sweetest Thing (2002)
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Thief (1981)
This Property Is Condemned (1966)
To the Beautiful You – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
Troop Beverly Hills (1989)
Two Can Play That Game (2001)
Unrest (2006)
Winged Migration (2001)
Workout – 3 Seasons (2006-’08) (TV)

 

Netflix Canada

2/18
Cargo (2011)
For Ellen (2012)
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011)
Trigun Badlands (2010)
2/20
Hyenas (2010)
Mandrake (2010)
Mongolian Death Worm (2010)
Red Hill (2010)
2/21
I Am Love (2009)
Mein Kampf (2009)
2/23
Legion (2010)
2/25
Spice and Wolf – 13 episodes (2008) (TV)
2/27
Baghead (2008)
2/28
The A-Team (2010)
Biutiful (2010)
Courage Under Fire (1996)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Hop (2011)
The Hustler (1961)
Nell (1994)
The Phantoms (2012)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
The Raven (2012)
Regarding Henry (1991)
Runaway Bride (1999)
Thunderstruck (2012)
Trouble with the Curve (2012)
The Verdict (1982)
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
3/1
Higanjima (2009)

 

Netflix UK

2/19
Kronk’s New Groove (2005)
Return from Witch Mountain (1978)
2/20
Superbad (2007)
2/23
The Last Stand (2013)
2/24
Stardust (2007)
Year of the Dog (2007)
2/26
Glory Road (2006)
2/28
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
Campus Confidential (2005)
Charlie’s Angels (2000)
Debra – 1 Season (2011) (TV)
Houseguest (1995)
Life with Mikey (1993)
Open Graves (2009)
Revenge of the Bridesmaids (2010)
The Ropes – 1 Season (2012) (TV)
Son – 1 Season (2012) (TV)

Project Almanac (2015)

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Project Almanac would’ve been a more fun ride had the filming not been in the awful found footage style, had the actors been a little less bad at acting, and had their characters been a little less stupid despite at least one of them being an actual genius who built a time machine. There are some entertaining aspects, specifically in the beginning, when the teenagers find the blueprints to build the machine and go through multiple mishaps during their trial-and-error phases of testing it. But eventually, like most time travel films do, it becomes burdened by horrible clichés.

What would you do if you actually built a time machine? One of the kids suggests going back and killing Hitler, another mentions traveling as far back to the age of the dinosaurs. David (Johnny Weston) eventually has plans to travel back ten years to save his father from a car accident. Of course, none of these things are very logical, so they resort to using it for stupid, trivial things–passing tests, retaliating against bullies, winning the lottery (okay, I would probably use it for that too), and going to music festivals. Of course, they have some tweaking to do before they can travel back too far, so that greatly limits their options and capabilities. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for a very interesting movie, especially when they spend a good chunk of it singing and dancing around at an “Imagine Dragons” concert.

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Aside from David, the genius who was recently accepted into MIT, the other characters aren’t very interesting. David’s sister (Virginia Gardner), for example, spends most of the time being the person behind the camera, so we rarely even see her but might hear a female voice now and again adding sarcastic commentary to a situation. David’s love interest, Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia), also doesn’t have much going on besides her looks. Sam (Quinn Goldberg) is probably the only other character even remotely worth remembering because he’s the goofy kid who says a lot of really stupid things, and the scenes with him trying to pass his test over and over again are admittedly sort of funny.

But I’ve got to say, David, the one you want to rely on for the brain power in the group, is the one making the dumbest decisions. First off, this kid who is smart but not bad looking misses every possible opportunity to move in on his giant crush, Jessie, even though she’s hardly a subtle flirt–“before the world ends, I want to fall in love.” Really? Nope, that’s not a sign, at all. Let’s screw it up and then we can just use the time machine to go back and fix it and in the mean time screw up literally everything. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

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I also think the found footage actually made this movie worse than it would’ve been had it been filmed properly. It’s bad enough when you take a potentially good sci-fi and give it a really thin plot line, but it’s even worse to make it into found footage. I don’t get why so many people are comparing this to Chronicle, except for the fact that they both feature teenagers and a shaky camera. This isn’t a movie about kids who find some alien crystal and gain superpowers. Not to mention, none of these actors even come close to the talent Dane DeHaan can bring to the screen. But more importantly, the found footage in Chronicle actually seemed like it fit the story a lot better than it did here, and it was way more realistic as far as sound and everything else. Plus, I can imagine a weird loner kid going around everywhere with a camera, making people feel uncomfortable. But why would a camera be necessary here? It makes sense for some parts, like in the beginning when we see David filming an experiment for his MIT application. But other times, it seems unnecessary. Who just whips out a camera during lunch time and starts filming conversations? And, how can you film people talking 30 feet away and still have perfect sound? No, just stop it.

Things start to get a little bit interesting towards the end again once the kids find themselves totally screwing up everything around them, which is always a factor in time travel movies. I genuinely started to feel bad for David, because Jessie’s pretty face and lack of brains persuaded him to act like an idiot. The ending was a little bit disappointing, and left quite a few plot holes that are hard to ignore, but as usual, plot holes and time travel tend to go hand in hand so there’s no point in dwelling on them. I know that I’ve mostly ripped apart this movie, but in the end, I don’t think that Project Almanac was necessarily agony to watch. It had its entertaining moments, but I think it was definitely wasted potential. Worth a rental, but not a trip to the theater.

2/5