Red Rental Summer Reviews

Redbox_Free_CodesOh how I love me some RedBox movie rentals. So many choices, so little money. And I’ve seen my share of their selections over the summer months. Here are some quickee reviews to get you moving in the right direction as the summer starts winding to an end…

300: Rise Of An Empire (R)

Oh I dunno. I really liked the first one and I thought Gerard Butler was phenomenal as King Leonidas however in this follow up, Butler is replaced (because he was killed in battle…remember?) with Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles, a warrior of the sea. It’s nowhere near as good as the first one but despite that…I wouldn’t rule it out as a rental if you’re into this type of film.

Rating: C

Divergent (PG-13)

Based on the novel of the same name, this film piggybacks on “The Hunger Games” by appealing to the teen audience. Overall it’s not a bad film and I liked Shailene Woodley as the lead, but the love interest (played by Theo James) is kinda wooden and I never really fell for the characters. That being said, my daughter LOVES this film and so…if you have kids who are of sound mind and can follow a storyline that very much centers around societal selection & oppression, then by all means….RENT IT!

Rating: B

The Lego Movie (PG)

Despite the obvious comparisons to “Wreck It Ralph,” this film has it’s own style. I wasn’t as happy with the storyline but everyone else in my family enjoyed it so…I’ll say give it a go. By the way…Batman steals the movie…

Rating: B-

Under The Skin (R)

What can I say about this movie? It’s an homage to Stanley Kubrick? Obviously. It’s weird and slow? Yes…it is. It’s got an odd soundtrack that is somewhat annoying at times. Yep…got that. It stars the hottest actress on the planet right now? Yes….Scarlett Johansson is in it and she’s very good. It’s about an alien on Earth who lures men (and possibly women) back to her lair to be used for…something but we don’t know? Yeah…got that. Sooooo…what do I think? I think it’s awesome. But ya gotta be in the right mood for it. And it’s DEFINITELY not for kids.

Rating: A

Her (R)

I don’t know what to say about this movie other than this….I tried watching it 4 times and could never get more than 20 minutes into it at a time before falling asleep. How it was up for Oscar consideration is beyond me but hey…maybe I was just sleepy. But to me…the main character is a bore (which I think is part of the point) and the idea of falling in love with your cell phone is kinda dumb. Just sayin’. Also not for kids…

Rating: D

Adult World (R)

A young woman needs to grow up after college so her folks tell her that her time has come….get a job or else. Unfortunately, Amy (Emma Roberts) is a wannabe poet with a penchant for screwing things up. So…she gets a job working at a mom & pop porn shop. In steps her mentor and favorite writer (John Cusack) to tutor her in the ways of the world…and writing. It’s not a great movie but it passed the time. I’m always gonna like Cusack (except for The Crow…which sucked) so it’s got that going for it. Eh…you could do worse.

Rating: B-

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (PG)

I dunno what it is about this movie but I liked it. Walter (Ben Stiller) works for Life magazine as a photo developer. When it begins to fold and Walter is set to lose his job, he sets out on an adventure to find the one photographer who has always treated him with respect and honesty. Its not an exciting premise but the leads (Stiller & Kristen Wiig) squeeze a lot out of a little. And the soundtrack is excellent also. A good family flick!

Rating: B+

Guardians Of The Galaxy vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

guardians-galaxy-movie-previewI have been, for the better part of 4 months, waiting to see “Guardians Of The Galaxy.” It appeared to be EVERYTHING I could want in a movie. It had action, suspense, the Marvel name, action heroes I’d never heard of before, a talking raccoon AND a WALKING TREE?!?! For crying out loud!!!! That sounded AWESOME!!! So…it was with great anticipation that I waited to see “Guardians Of The Galaxy.” For 4 months. After 1 month, I was pretty sure I could wait it out. “Captain America” was a rockin’ good time and I had “Godzilla” and a couple other flicks in between to quell my thirst for the summer blockbuster so…I waited patiently. And then “Godzilla” kinda sucked. And so did “Spiderman.” And “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” was kinda “Eh.” And then I found myself backtracking and watching movies like “Divergent” and “How To Train Your Dragon 2″ to kill the time. So then July hit and “GOTG” was EVERYWHERE! It was an ONSLAUGHT of promotion. Even Vin Deisel, the guy VOICING the walking tree character that only says 3 words, was promoting the movie! It was an deluge of promotion and so….when I walked into the theater to FINALLY see this blockbuster that I had waited so long for, it is safe to say I had rather high expectations.

I am happy to report….my expectations were realized. Now…let’s not get too crazy here. “GOTG” is NOT “The Avengers.” That movie is the pinnacle of the Marvel world, in my opinion, and the next Avengers movie has a LOT to live up to. But this little flick, with it’s odd characters and unknown commodities, was the perfect summer movie and it quenched my thirst for something new wrapped up in a familiar package. Let’s be straight up here, shall we? I am a summer blockbuster nut. I LOVE big, bombastic, explosive, fun flicks that get my engine revved up and that make me want to jump around and get all happy and stuff. And this movie made me giddy! All of the 5 main characters are excellent. I loved Chris Pratt as “Star Lord,” an average guy who finds himself wrapped up and a crisis so extreme that he’s forced to become something he’s not. Zoe Saldana is good as the green-skinned beauty, Gamora. If there was one downside to this movie it’s that they set Gamora up as a vicious fighting machine, however we get to see very little of that side of her. Yes…she has her fight moments but I never really could see her as being the lethal warrior that they set her up to be. Dave Bautista is the super strong dude called Drax. He does a fine job and manages to get some laughs. The 2 animated characters are also a pivotal part of the movie with Rocket the Raccoon being the mechanic expert (he can build super cool stuff like MacGyver) and Groot being the loveable but deadly talking, walking tree that literally only says 3 words (and one has to wonder how much Vin got paid to do THAT gig). There are also appearances by Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly & Benicio Del Toro and they all fit the bill.

The plot? Well…it’s all Marvel. And if you know anything about the Marvel Universe right now, it’s all about Thanos. After making a brief appearance at the end of The Avengers, super bad guy Thanos has been all the rage on fan boy websites and comic book chats. Thanos is the destroyer of worlds and apparently he is on a collision course for Earth. The Marvel universe has been laid out in many parts, with Captain America 2 and GOFG being a part of the 2nd wave of films that, I assume, are leading up to “The Avengers 3″ sometime in 2017 or 2018 where they will face off against Thanos. Everything that Marvel has done up to this point has been leading somewhere and GOFG continues that effort. Everyone in this movie is after an orb with mystical powers. When Star Lord finds it, it sets up a chain reaction of events that pulls the Guardians together and forces them to work as a team to defend the galaxy against Ronan The Accuser, a henchman for Thanos and a traitor who attempts to take the orb for his own use.

If you love action & adventure in the same vein as “Star Wars” or “Star Trek,” you will undoubtedly love “Guardians Of The Galaxy.” Comparing it to anything else this summer would be a disservice however, considering that a week later, a movie with 4 animated turtles that fight like ninjas and love pizza hit the theaters, I guess it’s what I’m gonna do.

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-movieHere’s the deal…I had ZERO interest in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” when I saw the trailer. I had ZERO interest in EVER seeing it once I heard that Michael Bay was involved with it. And I certainly wasn’t gonna pony up money to see it in 3D. Buuuuuut…that’s exactly what I did when some of my colleagues voted to see it this week. So, begrudgingly, I went. And oddly enough…I had a good time!

What do I know about TMNT? Nothing. Unlike the hours spent scouring the internet and preparing for Guardians Of The Galaxy, I had no idea what TMNT was about. And THAT is probably why I enjoyed it. I went into this movie thinking it was totally gonna suck. And truthfully…there’s a lot of reason why I shouldn’t have liked it. Plot holes, bad dialogue, ridiculous characters, dumb situations. They’re all in this flick. But the funny thing is…unlike some movies that take themselves so seriously (see “Amazing Spiderman 2″), this movie never steps away from what it is…and action adventure for kids. Sure…it DOES have Megan Fox in it. And as a red-blooded American male, I admit that going into it, that might have been possibly the ONLY selling point it had going for it. However I was proven wrong time & time again as the Turtles moved briskly from one set piece to another, fighting their way to the finish line as they faced off against their nemesis, a ninja warrior named “Shredder.” The plot really is kinda simple and silly so it’s not worth mentioning (however there is a similar plot that was used in “The Amazing Spider-Man 1″) but I’m imagining you can kinda figure it out without putting much thought into what happens at the end.

Nevertheless…I found “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to be a really fun time and I actually LOVED the 3D in this film! The animators of the turtles did a fantastic job (they really do look real!) and I was really impressed with the way the animators and director of this movie blended the turtles into the movie. Overall, a decent effort from the Michael Bay camp. For once.

So in the battle of these 2 summer behemoths, I gotta give the edge to Guardians however…if you like your action a little more dumbed down and you happen to like 6 foot talkin’ turtles? Well…ya can’t go wrong there either.

“Guardians Of The Galaxy” Overall Grade: A- (Don’t bother with 3D)

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Overall Grade: B- (DEFINITELY see it in 3D)

Godzilla (2014)

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He’s big, he’s bad and he’s worldwide! Once again, Godzilla stomps his way onto the big screen, hoping to attract a new wave of fans and a bigger audience. Unlike the previous “Godzilla,” which featured Ferris Bueller, this film takes itself VERY seriously. And, in the end, that’s what effectively kills this movie, rendering it top heavy with too much drama and too little Godzilla.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about summer action movies it’s this…keep the action coming fast and the scientific mumbo-jumbo at a minimum. “World War X” did an effective job of that last summer and I thought it was a great popcorn movie! And then came “Pacific Rim,” which was a bombastic, over-the-top, fanboy dream with robots fighting monsters and action galore! Nevermind the ridiculous plot and generic characters…it was the action that kept me entertained and it did its job well (on the BIG screen. Not so much on my iPad). “Godzilla” spends too much time gearing us up for the “Big Showdown” between our friendly neighborhood monster and 2 ginormous bugs who are trying to mate to take over the world. Yes…I said it. Two 50-story bugs are awakened from their slumber and they are set on reproducing and taking over the world. And with that notion, their pillow talk has also awoken Godzilla from HIS long winter’s nap somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. In order to keep ecological balance, Godzilla sets out to destroy the 2 baddies and most of San Francisco & Las Vegas in order to keep the world order.

Ok…so there you have THAT plot…so let’s introduce you to a slew of characters, none of which are ever fully developed, and see if they can draw you in with their performances alone (because the script is terrible)…
Bryan Cranston – wasted as a scientist who just KNOWS there is something going on at a nuclear plant in Japan.
Juliette Binoche – an incredible actress who is TOTALLY wasted in this film in a role so ridiculous that I have no idea why it’s in this movie.
Elizabeth Olsen – an indie darling who is an up & comer who deserves a MUCH better role than this. She plays the wife of the “hero” of the movie and does nothing but act worried the entire time.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – the “hero” who is a global jumping military bomb defuser who seems to know how to get everywhere and knows everything about how to stop the destruction. As good as this guy was in the first “Kick Ass,” he’s a total bore in this film.
Gareth Edwards – Although he doesn’t have a role in this movie because he’s the director, he is the most important person involved here and I’m sorry to say…this movie is a HUGE disappointment for me. In 2010, Edwards directed and edited the independent movie “Monsters,” a classic film about 2 people who must travel through alien invaded territory in Mexico to get back to the United States. It’s a beautiful film with 2 well-developed characters and a very unique way of looking at human relationships with a sci-fi twist. A lot of people didn’t know what to make of “Monsters” because it’s not a tradition monster movie. I loved that movie and so, when I heard Edwards was helming “Godzilla,” I HAD to see what he could do with the classic monster character. Sad to say, he didn’t add much. Despite the fact that Godzilla LOOKS great, there’s not much else you can do with him other than have him knock down buildings and roar. THAT he does very well in this version but unfortunately we’ve seen it all before. So there needs to be more…but there isn’t. None of the characters have HALF the personality of the 2 main leads in “Monsters” and so this movie heads south quickly. The big finale is even a letdown after seeing “Pacific Rim” and it’s action-packed battles. I was expecting so much more and it didn’t happen.

Needless to say, I imagine “Godzilla” will rank right up there with “Spider-Man 2″ as one of the more disappointing movies of 2014. You can’t win them all, I suppose, but there was potential here and it was squandered with too little action and too much talking. Let Godzilla stomp, don’t make him tip-toe. And in this movie…the 15 minutes of stomping can’t save this one from being a ginormous bore.

Overall Rating: D

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” vs “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″

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It’s the summer showcase movie season. Multi-gazillion dollar blockbusters hit the theaters to highlight a weekend and then disappear into oblivion when the “Next Big Thing” comes out 7 days later. Every year it seems as if the “summer” season begins earlier and earlier as Hollywood stretches the summer months from as early as late March, hoping to get some early cash and extend their sales through August. And that’s okay by me! I love me some action-packed popcorn flicks! It’s why the big screen was made, after all! Who wants to see August: Osage County on a ginormous IMAX screen in 3D? Nobody. So…let’s get the aliens invading, firearms blasting, superheroes fighting movies rolling, shall we? And this summer, we start with 2 superheroes that everyone knows and loves!

First out of the gate was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” It opened to huge numbers and is, by all accounts, a hit. It’s got everything you want in a summer superhero movie. It has action, it has drama, it’s got espionage, it’s got Robert Redford and it has the extremely likable Chris Evans, reprising the Cap role. Now…I have to be honest, Captain America, to me anyway, is NOT the most exciting superhero. I never read the comics when I was a kid so I don’t have the knowledge of Cap as some but I have to say…of ALL the superhero movies out there? The first 2 Captain America movies are EXACTLY what I want in a superhero movie. The first film introduced us to the PERSON that Steve Rogers is and this movie, coupled with “The Avengers,” shows us the type of hero that Cap really is!

At this point, “The Winter Soldier” has been out for quite some time so I don’t know if I’d be giving anything away as far as spoilers go but this new Captain America has our hero once again battling a Hydra takeover of SHIELD and our planet. Along the way, he faces off against a villain very much his equal and, in a major plot twist, someone from Cap’s past. It’s all done very stylishly with well-written dialogue (lots of humor in this one) and great action sequences (the opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission). Every actor involved in this film does a remarkable job and I have to say, other than “The Avengers” itself, I think this may be the best of the bunch as far as Marvel movies go. It’s everything I wanted in a comic book movie and more! I highly recommend it!

Aaaaaaaand then came a spider.

Cut to a couple of weeks later, “Captain America” had laid waste to every other movie to come out until “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ hit theaters with a promise of new villains and a hip Spider-Man. With so many rumors flying about the “possibility” of a Sinister Six movie in the future and the death of Gwen Stacy, I was all jacked up for this installment, especially since I really liked the last one! But sad to say, this may be the biggest debacle of a superhero movie since 1997’s “Batman & Robin” which, ironically enough, ALSO featured a blue villain. In THAT movie, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. In THIS film, it’s Jamie Foxx as a disgruntled Oscorp employee who finds himself being electrocuted in a giant water tank filled with electric eels. If that idea doesn’t seem lame enough, let’s throw in a dash of Doctor Manhattan from “Watchmen” because…well…because he’s blue also and can seemingly zip from place to place, and you have this poorly constructed supervillain. So Spider-Man, who has MANY issues to deal with (his love affair with Gwen Stacy, Gwen’s dead father, HIS dead parents, his dead uncle, his Aunt May’s uncertainty, graduation, Gwen moving to England, etc & so forth), must now face off against this new foe who, for whatever reason, hates him. The REASON behind this hate is so poorly written that I can’t believe it ever made it on the big screen. You wanna know WHY Foxx’s villain (called Electro) hates Spider-Man? Because Spider-Man is famous.

Yep. That’s why.

Seems like a good reason for a villain, right? So THAT storyline goes on too long (much like this critique) and then an old friend comes into the mix. Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York when his father, the CEO of Oscorp, dies. He must now run the company. Little does Harry know that he carries a genetic disease that will eventually kill him. What can save him? How about spider blood? And so, now we have poorly constructed villain #2 who wants to kill our hero. In the comics, the Green Goblin was Spidey’s arch-nemesis. In this flick, he’s a spoiled brat with power issues and weird hair.

So there you have it. Spider-Man faces two poorly constructed bad guys, one that gets too much screen time and the other who doesn’t get enough to qualify him as a “arch nemesis” and that’s that. HOWEVER…there’s MORE! As promoted in the movie trailers, there’s a THIRD villain who may, or may not, be a part of the Sinister Six who is literally THROWN IN at the end to whet the superfan’s appetite and that is a 3 minute appearance by The Rhino, which is basically Paul Giamatti doing his best Russian mobster impersonation in a giant mechanical suit. It’s silly and a slap in the face of one of Spider-Man’s best villains.

Needless to say, I hated “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” It’s not amazing. Actually, other than the snappy repertoire between the two leads (it’s been well documented that Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone are now a real couple), this film is a complete Hollywood mess. It’s everything I hate about the machine that cranks out movie after movie with no interest in solidifying a storyline or establishing quality personalities. What this film has done is completely obliterate whatever the first film had set out to do, which was establish a franchise that had already been set not too long before with Tobey McGuire’s Spiderman character. As good as Garfield is as Spider-Man, and I DO like him more than McGuire in this role, he can’t save this disaster. It’s poorly constructed in every way and deserves to be sent straight to DVD to sit in the $3 bins at WalMart.

OVERALL RATINGS:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: A

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: F

Dallas Buyers Club

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Of course, now that the Oscars have been handed out, I have to see what all the hubub was about with this film. And I am happy to say…I wasn’t disappointed! With 2 amazing performances, a solid script and a polished supporting cast, “Dallas Buyers Club” showed me why it was a highly considered Oscar contender in 2013.

Redneck electrician Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) has contracted the HIV virus during the AIDS scare in the mid-80’s. He is told that he has a month to live. After receiving the news, he loses all of his friends, his job and his home and finds himself lost & scared. All attempts at finding a cure seem exhausted until he finds himself in Mexico, where he meets a doctor who seems to understand the nature of the disease and how it can be treated using alternative, healthy treatments. Woodroof finds himself an activist in America as he attempts to treat hundreds of patients who are dying from the deadly disease with the supplements. The FDA, however, seeks to shut he and his business down due to their lack of involvement and their push for a new drug that is being tested.

All roles in this film are spot on. Obviously, Matthew McConaughey’s performance speaks for itself as he won the Best Actor award for it. He is so immersed in his role that he lost almost a scary amount of weight and is so convincing as Woodroof that I often times forgot that it was an actor playing in a role! Jared Leto also won a golden statue for his role as Rayon, a cross-dressing homosexual who befriends Ron, despite his ignorance and hate, and helps him set up his shop. They eventually form a wonderful friendship and it’s that which drives this film. Leto is amazing in this role and I can’t imagine anyone else playing this character. Rayon is a complex person and Leto carries the role with such grace that often times you don’t realize that he is a man! Jennifer Garner is also excellent as a doctor who becomes friends with Woodroof and who is a liaison at the hospital.

I admit, I have never heard of Ron Woodroof. But this story, which has been told with a little bit fact and a little bit of fiction, is an amazing one. It’s the story of one man, fighting for his life and fighting against corporate America. It is also a coming of age story, as Woodroof finds himself to be vilified by his community only to be adopted by a new and understanding one. It is beautifully told and well directed and it deserved to be considered one of the best films of 2013!

OVERALL RATING: A

And The 2014 Oscars Go To….

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2013 was a pretty damn good year for movies! And this year, there are 9 of them that have been chosen to represent for the right to be name the “Best Motion Picture Of The Year!” I can’t say that I have seen ALL of the films that have been nominated, but I have seen my share so I thought I would take a stab at who I think will be the big winners this year and which film I would pick to represent as the best of 2013. So…without further adieu…

Let’s just skip to what I think is gonna be a sweep in several of the smaller categories, shall we? Because I have a feeling, the sci-fi blockbuster “Gravity” is gonna clean house in several of them. So…”Gravity” takes BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS, SOUND EDITING, SOUND MIXING, ORIGINAL SCORE, EDITING & CINEMATOGRAPHY. So, right out of the box, that puts “Gravity” with 6 golden statues!

Okay…now with the rest…

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Although I WANT to give it to U2 for their song “Ordinary Love” from the soundtrack of “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom,” I think the film “Frozen” might sweep in and take this one with “Let It Go.” So…I’ll go with “Let It Go” and root for U2. And I won’t be upset if I got this one wrong!

COSTUME DESIGN: “American Hustle.” I mean…here you have 4 of the most recognizable actors in the business and I never once thought to myself, “Huh…Christian Bale looks ridiculous in a combover.”

PRODUCTION DESIGN: “The Great Gatsby.” I didn’t really care much for it overall as a film, but the production design on it is outstanding and possibly the only reason (other than Leonardo DiCaprio) to sit through its 2+ hour runtime.

ANIMATED FILM: “Frozen.” I haven’t seen it but the word of mouth (which is mostly from my daughter and her friends) is outstanding!

BEST WRITING, SCREENPLAY BASED ON PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED MATERIAL: “12 Years A Slave.” Despite being an outstanding film, I don’t think it will win in many of the other categories and I see the Academy wanting to recognize it in some capacity so….here it is!

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: “American Hustle.” Who is hustling who in this film? It’s a great script that carries through to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did everyone else. Other than possibly “Blue Jasmine,” I don’t think this one could be topped in this category.

BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity.” Hands down. No question. It’s a done deal.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Having only seen 3 of the 5, I’ll go with who I would pick and that would be Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine.” But I have to imagine Jennifer Lawrence will get serious consideration also.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: I’ve heard Jared Leto is outstanding in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” but I haven’t seen it. So, until I do, I’m going with Michael Fassbender for his role as a plantation owner in “12 Years A Slave.” He’s also been a so many other films where he’s excellent that I think it’s time the guy got one…don’t you think?

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: THIS is a tough one! Here’s the deal…I HATED “Blue Jasmine.” And when I say HATE, I mean it in one of the nicest ways possible. Cate Blanchett is spectacular as a wealthy woman who is brought down to earth when her husband is indicted and sent to jail. Blanchett chews up the entire movie and I absolutely abhorred her character throughout the film. Then…you get to the end…and I found myself sympathizing with her and THAT is the sign of either A) a great actress or B) writing so amazing that the actor or actress can’t screw it up. So…which do I go with? Amy Adams’ character in “American Hustle” was dead on also (I even predicted her to win in my review of the movie) and I hear Judi Dench is also a possibility for “Philomena.” Well…I haven’t seen “Philomena” and “Blue Jasmine” was written & directed by Woody Allen. So…I’m going to go with my original first choice…Amy Adams wins for “American Hustle.” She is ultimately the absolute best in a role that I don’t think anyone else could have taken and made it what she did. Her performance is, quite frankly, the heartbeat of the movie and she deserves it!

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: I have to tell ya…Matthew McConaughey has had a pretty good year. And he’s nominated for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” So…I can see where he might end up taking this one. But I haven’t seen this film (but I DID see “Mud” and he was excellent in it!) so I can’t say if he should win or not. I also have not seen “Nebraska” and I hear Bruce Dern is extremely good and has also been a noted high-tier actor in Hollywood for years. So HE could also be in the running. But for MY money, of the 3 actors that I HAVE seen this year, Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf Of Wall Street” is probably the best. He is almost gleeful in the way he takes this reprehensible character and gives him life. Plus…we all know Hollywood loves DiCaprio and would love to see him win his first statue so…there ya go.

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR: When voting for the best film, I would have to ask myself…”In 15 years, which movie would I WANT to see again?” In this case, it’s an easy answer. For me, there is only one movie that I HAD to see again. It was everything I enjoy about the movies and it was everything I could ask for in a 90 minute package. “Gravity” may not be the most thought provoking film of the past year, but it was definitely the reason I love to go sit in a dark room with strangers, munching on popped corn kernels and drinking soda. It was exhilarating, breathtaking and as entertaining as any film I’ve seen in years. So, despite the fact that there are so many great films in this list of hopefuls, my vote is for “GRAVITY.” I’ve seen it 4 times already and it is, in so many ways, perfect. It’s an A+ in a year full of A’s…and so it gets MY vote as the best of 2013!

12 Years A Slave

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With so much Oscar talk buzzing around this film this year, I HAD to see it before the awards ceremony to know whether or not it was gonna clean house. Nominated for several awards, many are predicting that “12 Years A Slave” could be in for a great night come Oscar night. I have read where this film has been compared to “Schindler’s List” in its importance to cinema and it could be said that, on many levels, it succeeds in that regard. Slavery in America was a terrible time in our country’s history and this movie succeeds in showing the relentless brutality towards African-Americans during the late 1800’s. It is not a pretty picture nor is it what I would consider entertainment. As a matter of fact, this movie is almost more of a documentary than entertainment to me…and that is where I lost myself watching it more as historical fact than fiction.

Solomon Northup is a violinist from New York. He lives with his wife & 2 children and is a well-respected man in his community. One night, after working in Washington, DC, he is tricked by 2 men he considers to be his friends and sold as a slave. From there, he is put aboard a boat where he is transported to Georgia and sold in an auction. He is then sold from one owner to the next, working in one plantation or another, while he lives with the hope that one day he can find a way to communicate with his wife and return to his family.

First things first…this IS an amazing movie on many fronts. The acting is top notch, the roles are well defined and the topic of slavery is never watered down. It is very much like “Lincoln” in how it presents the plight of Northup. It doesn’t water down his predicament and when he is sold into slavery without his papers, it is a moment that makes your stomach ache.

Many fantastic performances in this film, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has been nominated for an Oscar in the “Best Actor” category and deservedly so. Michael Fassbender also has a turn as a drunken plantation owner who takes to beating & raping his slaves. Fassbender is also up for an Oscar and could be a dark horse. I thought his performance was spot on. And there is a brief role by newcomer Lupita Nyong’o who plays a slave who is raped and beaten, mostly because of Fassbender’s affection toward her and his wife’s jealousy. Despite her nomination for “Best Supporting Actress”, I thought her limited time on screen will hinder her chance to win, especially since she’s up against Julia Roberts & Jennifer Lawrence.

“12 Years A Slave” definitely deserves to be considered for Best Picture of 2013. It is one of the most realistic looks at slavery that has ever been put to film and I imagine it will be represented on Oscar night with a couple of surprise statuettes…

Overall Rating: A