The Golden Globes took place last weekend, and the Oscar nominations were announced on Thursday. It seems it is time for my yearly movie post. Interestingly enough, I didn’t seem to see as many of the nominated films this year as in the past. I did see a lot this year though. School breaks are when I get the most in, but my trip to Europe in December gave me 20+ hours to see a few that I had missed in the theater. While many of the films I saw were good, they were released early in the year so not award worthy I guess. Anyhow, in order of release date…
Promised Land – Let me preface this by saying I like most films Matt Damon (sigh) is in. He plays a natural gas (read fracking) representative trying to buy out a small town in the Midwest. He learns his company has been pulling the wool over the customers’ and his own eyes on the havoc fracking wreaks on the earth. The movie is not nominated for anything, as far as I know, but it is a nice film.
A Place Beyond the Pines – Wow! This Ryan Gossling/Bradly Cooper film was intense. From the previews, I had assumed that the two main actors acted together in the film, but in fact they actually play in two different time periods. The movie spans over a generation and it has some twists and turns which are not expected. Again, this film came out early in 2013 so it isn’t earning any awards this year.
The Company You Keep - Meh, Robert Redford is on the run as a past environmental activist. I think that’s what happened anyways. I fell asleep about halfway through and woke up as the film was ending…and yes, I was at the movie theater. That probably says something.
The Great Gatsby – I enjoyed Baz Lurhmann’s take on this classic tale. Leo Dicaprio was very good as Jay Gatsby. With Lurhmann’s award success on the Australia film, I’m surprised this one didn’t open later in the year so it would be in award contention.
Now You See Me – A film about magic – not just pull-a-quarter-out-of-your-ear or guess-your-card-magic, but over the top Vegas-style magic. A fun cops and robbers film with a surprise twist at the end.
Side Effects – What starts out looking like a film about the side effects of using medication for depression/anxiety turns into a murder mystery that was completely unexpected. Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Rooney Mara (Lizbeth Salander in the American version of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), and Catherine Zeta Jones star in the psychological (literally) thriller. Without spoiling it, the ending was a complete SURPRISE! (for me anyways) Side Effects is probably one of my top films of 2013.
The Heat – Ha Ha Ha! I wasn’t so sure I wanted to see this because I’m not much of a fan of slapstick, over the top humor. I much prefer dramas. However, this one is laugh-out-loud funny. A Boston cop (Melissa McCarthy) and an FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) are paired together to solve a case or two. There are certainly some unrealistic moments, but the writing/the jokes are really good. I’d like to see it again just to catch anything I missed the first time through.
White House Down – Appropriately, I saw White House Down on the 4th of July. Jamie Fox plays the president and Channing Tatum plays the wannabe Secret Service agent that saves his life when the White House is taken over by terrorists. It is an exciting action film that was very entertaining.
The Way Way Back – A young teenage boy spends the summer at the beach with his mom (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend (Steve Carrell). The boyfriend is emotionally abusive to the boy, and he escapes it by spending most of the summer at a nearby waterpark. The waterpark employees (Sam Rockwell and Maya Rudolph) befriend him. When they take him under their wings, he begins to come into his own – very sweet.
Blue Jasmine – The best way to describe Blue Jasmine…A Woody Allen Film. After a rich New Yorker (Cate Blanchette) loses all her money, she moves in with her less than rich sister in San Francisco. She keeps her caviar attitude while sinking to the bottom of her barrel so to speak. Blanchette won the Golden Globe for best actress (also nominated for an Oscar), and it was well deserved. However the film made me so uncomfortable and sad. That does say something about the acting – they did their job – but it was hard to watch this woman’s life just fall apart.
The Wolverine – A guilty pleasure…I love the Xmen, which is odd since I’m not a sci-fi/comic book fan at all. This was the second film highlighting Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).
2 Guns – Denzel Washington and (Marky) Mark Wahlberg, play a DEA agent and a Naval intelligence officer who go undercover as criminals to take down a Mexican drug lord. For the first half of the movie, neither character knows the other is undercover. It has lots of twists and turns, and the witty banter banter between the two main characters is fun.
We’re the Millers – This was another film that I didn’t really care if I saw or not because it looked a bit too silly for me. It was silly, but entertaining as well. A pot dealer (Jason Sedakis - best known for Saturday Night Live) and an aging stripper (Jennifer Anniston), along with two street kids, pose as a suburbanite family to smuggle drugs over the border from Mexico. They take a motor-home south, pick up the drugs, and then (of course) run into one road block after another trying to get home. At times it leaned towards slapstick, but mostly entertaining – kind of cute.
Closed Circuit – Eric Bana plays a defense lawyer, or is it barrister, along with Rebecca Hall’s character. When a marketplace in London is bombed, a suspect is taken into custody, and the two attorneys are assigned to his case. Turns out they discover the suspect is being framed due to a cover up by MI-5. This movie did not get very good reviews at all, but I liked it.
Enough Said – LOVED IT! A very sweet film about two divorcees, (Julia Louise Dreyfuss and James Gandolfini) with kids going off to college, getting together. The twist is that Dreyfuss’s character befriends Gandolfini’s ex-wife without knowing it at the time. Of course, that throws a wrench into the relationship. It was a little hard to watch because it was released after James Gandolfini’s death. He was very likeable (so different than Tony Soprano) which made it kind of sad.
About Time – Another sweet movie. I enjoyed and already reviewed it. :)
The Book Thief – Hmmmm, being that the book of the same name has made a deep impression on my psyche I have to be quite hard on the film. Others who saw it liked it, and it was fine as a stand alone film. But I compared it to the book the whole time, and that’s a bad idea. Liesel Meminger is such a wonderful/empowering character in the book, and the little girl (Sophie Nelisse) who played her in the movie is just darling. She did a good job. In fact all the actors (Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and Ben Schnetzer) were very good. It mostly followed the book, but the end changed a lot. I didn’t like that, but worse, I found it emotionally vacant in comparison to the book. I think if you haven’t read the book, it’s a nice movie, but I had a lot of expectations. And they weren’t fulfilled.
The Armstrong Lie – The only documentary I viewed at the theater this year. Very well done and very interesting. Originally filmed to follow Lance Armstrong’s comeback to the racing world, but slowly morphed into a different kind of film as the truth about his performance enhancing wins trickled out. The filmmaker admits he had planned to make a film celebrating Armstrong, but in the end it is a very honest film. Terribly interesting, but such a disappointing story.
Delivery Man – Somehow, I took in a lot of movies that are pretty far out of my preferred genre this past year. While I’m a Vince Vaughn fan due to Swingers, most of his films are a little too silly for me to pay good money to see at the theater. I’ll rent them usually. I don’t know what made me go (old age maybe), but I did and surprisingly liked it. Vaughn’s character is kind of a slacker guy who, years ago, generously donated to a sperm bank. When he is notified that he has over 500 children due to a clerical error, he decides to become responsible and watch over his “kids” from afar. It was pretty funny, and Vaughn plays the slacker part very well.
Philomena – A true story (The Lost Child of Philomena) based on an Irish women (Judi Dench) who was sent to a convent after becoming pregnant as a teenager. Her child, were sold to an American couple without her permission. Steve Coogan plays the journalist who helps her try to locate her lost son 50 years later. It’s a very sad story, but has a silver lining in the end. Dench has been nominated for several best actress awards. She did a very good job, but it wasn’t a part so outside her box in my opinion. Steve Coogan, known more for his comedic performances, was fantastic in this drama while still bringing some humor. He hasn’t been nominated for any acting awards in the US, but is up for some screenplay awards.
Saving Mr. Banks – P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), who wrote the Mary Poppins’ books was wooed by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) so he could buy the rights of her books to make a film. Mary Poppins is a classic film, and I found it very interesting to learn more about the making of it. This was a cute film. Tom Hanks was endearing and Thompson played the quirky and very particular Travers well. Shortly after seeing the film though, I read an article about the real woman, and she wasn’t a very nice person in a lot of cases.
American Hustle – Well, I wanted to like this movie soooo much. It came out just days before I left on my trip, and I was afraid I’d miss it in the theaters. However, I did catch it while still on vacation. Clever scam movies are right up my alley. The four main actors (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper) were good, very good characters. The scams were also clever. So I don’t know why I didn’t care that much for it. I think the story ran VERY slow. Maybe I was still suffering from jetlag, but man it was hard to keep my eyes open during the middle third of it. It’s nominated for a ton of awards and Jennifer Lawrence won a Golden Globe (she was fabulous by the way). Overall though, I was disappointed.
August: Osage County – The previews have been out for months with this one; A huge all-star cast (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, the list goes on) in a dark, dark film about an extremely dysfunctional family. The movie is based on the stage play of the same name. It has had mixed reviews and the ending probably plays a part in that. The ending was sudden and untidy, but that adds to the dysfunctional aspect of the film. There were parts that were so hard to watch and others that were laugh-out-loud funny – just like a dysfunctional family, right? Meryl Streep has been nominated for several best actress awards. She was wonderful at being awful. This was also an unusually meaty part for Julia Roberts (Golden Globe/Oscar nominated for best supporting actress) who’s forte is lighter films.
The Wolf of Wall Street – I know, I know, I’m always pushing Leo DiCaprio films, but WOW this one was good. It was probably the most fun of the year, and shockingly it’s true. This Martin Scorsese film tells the true story of Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street stockbroker who, after falling on hard times, reinvented himself by defrauding investors on penny stocks. The film highlights the amount of money this man raked in on the backs of others and how his wealth changed him. Sex, drugs, alcohol…it was utter debauchery. Now, not condoning this person’s actions by any means, the film was very entertaining because his life was so over the top. In the end, he gets indicted and served prison time, albeit white collar prison time. DiCaprio won a Golden Globe for his role – he was fantastic in it – and has been nominated for an Oscar. He has been snubbed by the Academy for years, but fingers crossed he gets it this year. Fun! Fun! Fun! An interesting tidbit I read somewhere…F#$% was said in this movie over 500 times.
Lone Survivor – OMG! I think I spent 150 minutes out of 160 with my gut tied in knots. Marky Mark Wahlberg played one of the 4-man Navy SEAL team who participated in Operation Red Wings. The name of the film kind of gives the fate of that team away, but wow, what an operation it supposedly was – as usual there seems to have been some creative license taken. The team was dropped off in the mountains of Afghanistan and set out to locate and capture a high level al-Qaeda operative. While set up and resting until nightfall, three goat herders happened upon the SEALS. After some debate about letting them go or killing them, the team decided to let them go…a moral decision they would regret. The herders returned to the camp and told of the soldiers. Knowing the mission was most likely compromised, the team headed out, but before they made it up and over the mountains they were surrounded by al-Qaeda. For the entire film my muscles were so tense. Although most of the team, along with some of their support, were killed in the operation, there was a touching ending for the survivor. The film was well done, but very difficult to watch.
In the end, I only saw three of the nine films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. I never made it to (but wish to see) Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, and Twelve Years as a Slave. None of the three came out nearby nor were they out for very long. With the Oscar nominations, I bet they will come out again. If so, I will try to catch them this time around. I probably won’t worry about Captain Phillips, Her, or Gravity. I do hope that Wolf of Wall Street wins the Oscar as it was the most entertaining film I saw this year.