Friday, July 7, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Sony's back with Spider-Man, head for the hills! Wait, Andrew Garfield is gone? Yes, no more emo Peter. Marvel is in control of the film? They haven't outright failed with an MCU film yet. Was it better than Rami's first couple of films? Yes and no. Well hell yeah then! "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is the second foray of Peter Parker into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His first appearance being in "Captain America: Civil War" was stellar. Tom Holland is someone who was an unknown going into the MCU and now he's a bonafide star. The rest of the cast was pretty alright, the story was kinda bare bones, the CGI and action are okay, while the emotion and humor are top notch. As an MCU origins film it's one of the better ones. The original Iron Man still tops the list, but I'd put this film just ahead of Ant-Man and Dr. Strange.

"Spider-Man: Homecoming" is set after the events "Captain America: Civil War" and follows the story of Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Holland) as he juggles school, life, superpowers and hunting down Adrian Toomes / Vulture (Michael Keaton). We open with Toomes and his construction crew cleaning debris from the wreckage after the Battle of New York, they get booted from the job as the government is taking over the work. They end up with a piece of alien tech and decide to start up a criminal organization. Jumping to present day, we learn that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) doesn't think Peter is quite ready to be in The Avengers, so he resumes his studies at school, where he recently departed the decathlon team, against Aunt May's (Marisa Tomei) wishes. One night after Peter stopped Toomes men from robbing a bunch of ATMs he sneaks back home only to be greeted by his best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), finding out his secret identity and wanting to be his 'Guy in the Chair.' With the school abuzz about Spider-Man the two get invited to a party held by senior Liz (Laura Harrier), who Peter likes. Peter leaves the party to get some air and notices a fiery blue explosion in the distance and saves a local gangster, Aaron Davis (Donald Glover), from more of Toomes' men. Thus begins Peter's hunt for Toomes, because he realizes that he is a bigger threat than Tony and Happy (Jon Favreau) think.

The first thing you notice about this film is that it has a character driven tone, alongside humor and emotion, with action sprinkled in. Peter Parker, played superbly by Tom Holland, is introduced to the MCU with a bang. You learn about his knowledge from his decathlon prowess, his humor and wit from any encounter with anyone and his emotion from most of the final act and his interactions with Stark. Peter Parker is a great character and I think playing the younger 15 year old fits the big screen much better than the older Parker from Rami's films. Elevating the character is the performance by Tom Holland. He's gotten the comics version of Parker down better than Tobey and the overall character much better than Garfield. The Spidey quips are on point as well, better than Deadpool, fight me. We also get a great character in Adrian Toomes played by the great Michael Keaton. Toomes isn't just a bad guy being a blackmarket-like dealer because he's evil. We learn why he becomes what he does, the government taking one of his biggest jobs, he is loyal to his crew--for the most part--and puts his family before anything else. He also doesn't mix work with play. Toomes is one of the more interesting villains because he's not hellbent on taking over the world like almost everything else in the MCU. The earth isn't at stake or anything of the sort, but the menacing of Vulture and his crew, if left alone, is not lost on Peter. Michael Keaton is superb as Toomes / Vulture, he's one of the best villains/characters in the MCU. He feels real and has conviction, not to mention he's one of the best acted villains, right up there with Loki. Showing you don't have to be a big-time baddie to hold weight. Plus, Peter and his interactions throughout the film are spot on.

The rest of the cast is okay. What more is there to say about RDJ as Tony Stark? He's got charisma with everyone, although I want more out of him and Spider-Man since his and Hollands rapport is off the charts. Favreau always has a fun role in these MCU films as Happy, especially when you have Stark razzing him all the time. Marisa Tomei is far too beautiful and it's quite distracting thinking of her in that way as Aunt May. But the character works because Peter is really young, so Aunt May can be younger too. The younger guys around Peter for most of the film are okay. There's not enough of Zendaya as Michelle Jones, but she's got some good comic relief (and possibly a Taylor Swift shirt at one point). Donald Glover's small role as a gangster is fun and his couple scenes with Spider-Man is funny. The same with Hannibal Burress' bit role as their PE teacher, like I mentioned this film has legit laughs. Ned is great comic relief and a great friend to Peter from start to finish and is played well by Batalon. "Do you lay eggs?" I hope they finally finish that LEGO Death Star model. Harrier as Peter's love interest Liz is okay, and seeing Flash Gordon (Tony Revolori) as a smug rich kid bully was kind-of weird. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all the hilarious Captain America PSAs throughout the film as he tries to teach kids how to be moral like himself. "So your body is changing, I know how that feels..."

The story itself is pretty basic, but the characters and emotion elevate it. Without Holland, Keaton and RDJ this could be forgettable. Holland, especially in the final act, carries the film and the scene before the air heist showcases emotion not usually shown in the MCU. The dialogue is fast paced and full of humor and life. The opening vlog with Peter going through the events leading to the Civil War fight and to present, is a great opening to the film and really sets the tone. Not only that, the Keaton scenes have an air of malice behind them. Finally, the RDJ and Tomei scenes are like watching a couple parents trying to help out a growing boy. If you've seen a MCU origins film this isn't too much different. What sets it apart is a couple twists and great charisma an emotion from Holland and Keaton. The action is alright and despite what people say, the trailer does not spoil the whole film, it's a little deeper than something like "Transformers." The neighborhood chase scene, the bank robbing scene as well as the final set piece are all pretty good. There's a few wide-shots during scenes in the film that I thought were awesome. The music is fun and Marvel is doing great with all their scores and OSTs this year. The CGI is okay. The Spider-Man suits are look great, the scene where he's getting to know Karen (Jennifer Connelly) is another example of the character building in the film too. The closing line of the film is pretty fitting as well. Just about everything is this film is fun and there's not much that is "bad" that's worth nit-picking over to me.

"Spider-Man: Homecoming" feels a lot like "Iron Man" from way back now. A great film that introduces a huge charismatic hero that will be with us for years to come. Peter Parker / Spider-Man is an awesome character, and while it may not be better than say "Spider-Man 2," as a whole I think it captures the essence of Spider-Man much better. As I've echoed this is funny and more emotional than most of the MCU films. Tom Holland is great, Michael Keaton is awesome and the rest of the supporting cast doesn't detract. I'm looking forward to more Spidey interactions with the rest of the MCU going forward, there are so many awesome potential combos with people. Because lets face it, Spider-Man is the best Marvel hero.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Wonder Woman [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

This is the film that DC Extended Universe needed. They needed a win. "Man of Steel" was average at best. "Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice" was a letdown. "Suicide Squad" was an Oscar winning nightmare. So to think that a solo Wonder Woman film--an origins story as well--could be the jolt the DCEU gets, is marvelous. Gal Gadot was pretty good in her considerable on-screen role. Yes, I know she was in Dawn of Justice, but it was a supporting role at best. Chris Pine was also on point as well throughout the film. The supporting cast of Amazonians as well as the WWI infiltration team were all pretty good too. The first half of the film is a sight for sore eyes as we get some color in the DCEU, but alas it was fleeting, because it goes right back to the dark grey pallet for the second half.

"Wonder Woman" is set after the events of "BvS: Dawn of Justice." In present day Paris, Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gadot) receives the original copy of the picture of her that Bruce Wayne sends to her in the previous film. Attached to it was a note saying that Bruce would love to hear her story sometime. This is when we fade back to the WWI-era to the island of Themyscira. Wonder Woman, then known as only Diana, was born and raised here. The island is inhabited by only Amazonians. After Ares corrupted mankind and killed the other gods, women were given this island with some of Zeus' last strength, to keep them away from man's evil corruption. Diana only wants to be a warrior, but her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), forbids it. Eventually Hippolyta knows she cannot anymore. Years later, after a sparring session in which Diana exhibits a feat of strength that marvels the rest of the Amazonians, she goes off to be with her thoughts and a plane crashes into the coast in front of where she is. Diana proceeds to rescue the pilot Steve Trevor (Pine). He is running from Germans, who find the protected island and attack one of the beaches. During the skirmish, the Amazonians take casualties and take Steve into custody. Using the Lasso of Truth they find out about the Germans, that World War I is happening and Trevor has a key piece of intel that could help end it. Diana decides that it's her duty to help end this war and--against her mother's wishes--leaves with Trevor to help end the violence. Once in Europe, Diana and Steve set out to try and turn the tides of the war in Germany. Because an evil is lurking just on the outside, waiting to end the truce that is being formed and keep the war from ending.

This film works because of Gal Gadot's portrayal of the innocent, yet committed, Diana. Chris Pine is also instrumental, because he give yet another good performance. Almost any character he portrays, he does it in an extremely efficient manner. But, back to Gal Gadot. I'll be honest, I didn't have a huge amount of faith in her. I still think she doesn't quite look the part. She doesn't look like the bigger and buffer Wonder Woman we're used to seeing. Even worse I thought her part in BvS: Dawn of Justice was only okay. I wasn't sure she could carry a solo film. Gal Gadot is emotion in a popcorn flick genre with this performance. Don't get me wrong, I still think a lot of the MCU is much better--or at least on par--with Wonder Woman. But, Gadot as Diana in this film go where a lot of superhero films don't, to emotions. She's sad to leave her homeland and feel genuine pain for all that's happening in the war. Once she gets to Europe she wants to help everyone and everything. She wants to end the was an beat Ares, but she also wants to help literally everyone along the way. Her overall innocence and her ignorance to the real world, provided emotion, a bit of humor and fueled conflict as well. Diana is a decently written character in which a good performance by Gadot elevates it overall. Switching sides we get Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, the English spy that Diana saves near the start of the film. Pine has got great timing and does a great job of trying to help Diana learn the ropes in the world she's been dropped into. Most of the humorous happenings in the film, occur when the two are at odds about real world vs Themyscira. But it doesn't end at humor, the two have pretty solid chemistry and the serious, more emotional and action filled scenes between the two work well. There are a lot of small moments in the film where you get that tag team inkling. That being, knowing someone well enough that you could just look at them and know what was going to happen. Steve Trevor isn't new, he's a grizzled spy/war veteran that just wants to do one final bit of good in his life, when a woman hit him out of nowhere and helps him get there. Another example of a decently--but cliche-ridden--character, elevated by the performance of the actor.

The rest of the cast is portrayed well, though are pretty forgettable in all honestly. The Amazonians felt stiff, but it may be because they're essentially gruff and tough Greeks war goddesses, still thriving in their own society. Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen were okay as the mother and aunt of Diana in the early going. On the other end, the WWI dream team were considerably more fun, but if you asked me where Eugene Brave Rock entered as Chief for the first time, I couldn't tell you. Ewen Bremner and Saïd Taghmaoui, as a drunk sharpshooter and master of disguise respectively, were both fun roles that stood out in the second half of a film that dragged badly at times. Steve Trevor's secretary, Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) was probably the most fun and memorable of the bunch. Bringing some solid comedic moments to the early going. The directing was okay as Patty Jenkins is already leagues ahead of Zack Snyder's DCEU films. So that's pretty cool. We just need to get Snyder's name of DCEU stuff completely now. The plot was typical superhero origin story, though it did have a bit of a plot twist sprinkled in, as well as a decent enough love story. I was afraid it would feel too much like "Captain America: The First Avenger," so I'm glad that the story took on a different approach. The bad guys overall were pretty weak, like in most superhero films. An angel dust snorting German commander (Danny Hudson), a face-wrecked mad scientist inventing Mustard Gas (Elena Anaya) and an old man masquerading as Ares (David Thewlis). All were underwhelming, though like the rest of the non-Gadot or Pine characters acted decently enough. Overall the plot was fairly standard, the story took on a life of it's own while the supporting cast did well, but were mostly forgettable.

With all the good, this film does have a lot of problems. The CGI near the end of the film in the final action sequences was just plain bad. While the rest of the CGI throughout the film was adequate at best. While I wasn't expecting it to be as good as "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" or "Doctor Strange," it shows that it's nowhere near that quality. The action is pretty forgettable aside from the town rescue scene which is probably has the best action in the film. The beach fight near the beginning of the film was pretty fun as well. But, if you're going to have a two plus hour superhero film you don't want only two points of action to stand out. Another problem is right there, the length. This is a long film and while the first act is pretty good, the second act and finale devolve back into typical DCEU as of late. It's just too long and the middle portion leading to the climax drags a lot. This devolving includes going from beautiful vibrant island colors to dark tones for the rest of the runtime. DC hates color. There's an overabundance of slow motion as well. I noted that about three minutes into the film slo-mo was already happening. Not only that, the shaky cam whenever the Nazi commander did his drugs was unintentionally hilarious. Also the Wonder Woman song--you know the song--that was interjected during random action points, felt forced rather than just using some sort of score piece. There was a lot of confusing moments during the climax as well, both in the story and CGI where I simply didn't know what was going on. Maybe a second watch will clear some things up for me. DC also needs to use title cards to tell us where we're jumping to as well. Though this movie isn't as confusing as "BvS: Dawn of Justice," there's a lot of places they travel to and throwing up a "Germany, 19xx" for a few seconds wouldn't hurt at all. Finally the ending monologue form Wonder Woman before the credits roll was pretty cliche-ridden as well and not hugely needed. Especially after that walk though the crowd to touch Trevor's picture and the current day holding of his watch moments before. DC has made a stride with this but there's still a lot of things that it could do much better.

"Wonder Woman" is no joke, it's a competent enough DECU film (arguably the best thus far) that gives DC the cinematic jolt it hasn't really had since Nolan's Batman films. You just read about it's plethora of problems above, but the overall supporting cast and characters were solid if not forgettable. The writing and story have some emotion behind them and did their own thing, even though it's pretty cliche and confusing at times. Finally, Gal Gadot and Chris Pine have fantastic chemistry and the duo give us entertaining, humorous and emotional performances."Wonder Woman" isn't the second coming of superhero films, there's just too many problems for me too look past, but it's a fairly entertaining film that worth a watch or two.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The 89th Annual Academy Awards [Fat Jesus' Thoughts]

Now I try to do one of these fancy schmancy posts about the Oscars every year. I think I'm starting to be a little more loose with my writing and just say my uninhibited thoughts on a given film. So I'm going to try and bring that into what I've been doing with these posts over the past number of years. I used to reserve this posts as my "one big serious post of the year." The Oscars! They're important and infallible! Not so much. There's gonna be off the cuff remarks and "humor." My opinion over the years has started to widen and mature (or deteriorate, I suppose). The Academy Awards are not the end all be all, the biggest and probably most influential--maybe--but you shouldn't take everything they do as gospel. They're too white. They get it wrong. They don't nominate the right things. My responses to all this is don't take them as seriously. If you like the films they nominate, great! If you don't like them, that's cool too! Only two films the nominated for Best Picture are in my top 10 for the year ("Hell or High Water" and "Manchester by the Sea"). There's no need to gung-ho and political about what Hollywood wants you to think is the best. raise the films that you like and adore. "Green Room", "The Nice Guys", "The Witch" and "Nocturnal Animals" are all great films that may be nominated to little to nothing, yet are better to me than "Lion", "Hidden Figures" and "Fences" (which are all perfectly solid films.) I think I'm rambling. Watch, enjoy, complain, do what you wish during the Academy Awards this year, but don't let something as silly as rich people giving each other awards get under your skin. Don't let it consume you and let's talk about some films! (I'm not going to go over all the nominations, but I'm hitting all the bigger categories.)

-Best Picture-
This is easily the best sci-fi film of the year. Great acting, especially by Amy "I'm Not Nominated for This, but Natalie Portman is for a Film No One's Seen" Adams. She's broken out in a big way this year doing this, "Nocturnal Animals" and (if you can count it) "Batman v Superman." This is a smartly written, supremely acted and told in a great manner. The CGI was pretty underrated and not really distraction at all, so points for the production as well. The story is pretty unique and the climax is superb.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I watched this. I didn't know it was adapted from a play. I didn't know Viloa Davis was a supreme presence on-screen (though her role as Rose Lee Maxon certainly helped.) I also didn't know how much a single person could talk on screen in a film. It felt like Denzel Washington said enough dialogue to write fill three novels. I see why people liked it and Viola Davis' performance was grand, but it was not for me.

Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson, that Jew hater! Amirite? Getting off the cuff early, eh? If he's gonna keep directing films like this (like he's really done his whole career) then I'll keep praising them, regardless. I'm not a "war film" guy, but "Hacksaw Ridge" is one that crafts that feel good tingling in your heart with hyper-realistic war violence. Yeah, those two go together all the time! The story is based off of a biography of Desmond Doss, and while Gibson may have embellished thing, this feels accurate enough to history. The war scenes that make up most of the second half of the film are grisly, dark and you get sucked into the battle unfolding before you. On the flip side, the feel good energy and never give up attitude of Andrew Garfield as our focal point hero. I loved it personally, but I can't really see it getting to much traction as a true "Best Picture."

Hell or High Water
This is my favorite film out of the best picture nominees this year. I did a few on it last month, so I'll cliff notes here. Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine lead a trio (with Ben Foster) on a gritty (not as much as "Hacksaw Ridge") wild west inspired bank heist film set in our modern times. Think "No Country For Old Men" meets "The Assassination of Jessie James." Jeff Bridges proves he still has the acting chops, if not more refined than in recent years. Chris Pine, who I always pretty much saw as Captain Kirk, shows that he can pull of serious stuff. While Ben Foster can probably play any role well. I wish this would win for best picture like "No Country For Old Men" did, but I just don't think it can get past the "assumed" winner.

Hidden Figures
The biggest pure feel good film nominated here is "Hidden Figures." This is also based on the true story of three African-American women who were instrumental in helping John Glenn get to space for the first time. Taraji P. Henson, Olivia Spencer and Janelle Monae are the leads as they play Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, respectively. All three women are mathematicians, with Jackson setting her siting on being a NASA engineer. This isn't about them single handily saving the missions, but it does show they they were an instrumental part of the machine. This is film set when racial segregation was still kicking in America as well. While this is certainly about that, it's more about breaking down barriers and letting your work shine above all, no matter you gender or race. These three women seemingly helped change NASA and also helped a man get into and return from space (for the first time) safely. They were women, they were black and they were smart. The story was fine, the acting was good and everything wrapped up nicely. This is probably gonna go down as one of the most popular films to lose Best Picture (if it loses). 

La La Land
Fun film. Solid characters. Good music. Oh man, 'La-la Land' is LA! It's gonna win. (I liked this film.)

My friends and I watched M. Night Shamalamadingdong's "The Last Airbender" to start out this 2017. Don't ask me why. But, the guy who played Zuka is the lead in this. This film about a kid who gets lost in India as a child and is eventually adopted by Australian parents, who starts an emotional journey to find the home he once knew. Dev Patel is pretty decent, Rooney Mara is okay, Nicole Kidman and David Winham are fine and the kid who played young Saroo was great. It suffers from a formulaic approach to a story that needed unique direction to set it apart from the "it'll all be alright in the end" vibe I felt throughout the film. Don't get me wrong, the acting was fine and the story was cool, but it just didn't grip me like other films in this category or this year in general.

This film is about the life of a gay black man growing up and coming to terms with himself. On the surface it's your typical "Oscar-bait" film. I didn't know anything about the plot going into "Moonlight" and despite it's kinda wonky last act, it's probably the most invested I found myself watching a film out of this list. I'm not gay. I'm not black. But, I don't need to be those get into the phenomenal writing of the characters in this film. I'm not sure if Janelle Monae is the first actor/actress to be nominated in two separate Best Picture films, but even her supporting role as Teresa in this is fantastic. Everyone feels real and not like a character in a film. Mahershala Ali as Juan, Chiron's father figure and Teresa's husband, was sublime in the first couple of acts of the film. Young Chiron, played by Alex Hibbert, helps set up the supporting cast and the story. Where teenage and adult Chiron (Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes, respectively), are both the heart of the rest of the film and keep us engaged until the credits roll. Moonlight may be "Oscar-bait" but it's some of the best bait I've gone after in awhile.

Manchester by the Sea
This film, oh man, what an emotional roller-coaster. While not as gripping for me as "Moonlight," "Manchester by the Sea" is a heavy film. From start to finish you see the struggles of a man who has been through A LOT. I don't want to spoil the actual progression of the film, but Casey Affleck is out of this world as Lee Chandler (my favorite performance by an actor), a handyman working in a small town in Massachusetts. He's gets a call that a family member dies and has to take their son in as guardian. The other half of his story up until that phone call, is told in the form of flashbacks on Lee's life until he hit rock bottom. This film is a deep, introspective look into the life of a man who has--pardon for lack of a better cliche-- been to hell and back. Affleck is the driving force behind this film and his supporting cast is perfect. This should be seen by more people than it has.

Who I Want to Win: Hell or High WaterManchester by the Sea
Who Will Win: La La Land

-Best Actor-
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
As you just read above, I think Casey Affleck had the best male performance of the nominees. He gets so deep into the character of Lee Chandler it's astounding how easily I forgot this was a character. The flashbacks, the current plot weave Lee effortlessly throughout the story. Highly emotional and exceptionally real, Casey Affleck was superb.

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Spider-Man! I mean, Desmond Doss! Andrew Garfield's best performance since "The Social Network," shows that he's pretty alright when the film is capable. Like the first half of the film, it starts off awkwardly. But, once they get to the actual (kinda embellished) ridge and battle, he takes over. Garfield is the guy who keeps the film ticking and he does a pretty good job with it.

Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Ryan Gosling was alright in "La La Land." He's not a singer, so I was impressed he didn't sound awful. I do like too, that he actually played the piano (at least in the earlier scenes). He story arch was pretty cliche--like most of the film, if we're being honest--but he was perfectly good as Sebastian Wilder. I think he was better in "The Nice Guys" last year.

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Didn't see the film, so I can't really comment on his performance. This category is loaded, if he somehow wins, the one guy in Vegas who bet $1000 on him winning Best Actor is probably gonna be a rich guy.

Denzel Washington (Fences)
Washington, as Troy Maxon, said more word in this film than I've likely said since the start of 2017. Good Lord, his dialogue is overpowers everyone (but Viola Davis), but I guess that's who the Troy Maxson character is, completely controlling. Denzel, who also directed and produced this, gets in deep and probably deserves to win. I just liked Casey Affleck so much.

Who I Want to Win: Casey Affleck
Who Will Win: Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington

-Best Actress-
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Didn't see. Where's Amy Adams for Arrival or Nocturnal Animals?

Ruth Negga (Loving)
Again, didn't see. Where's Taraji P. Henson for Hidden Figures?

Emma Stone (La La Land)
I liked Emma Stone the most in "La La Land." Like Ryan Gosling, her singing was perfectly fine and her character in general was fun. She was the most relateable in the film and generally had the better humor. Also like, Gosling, her cliche story line is overcome by her ability to get into her character.

Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Didn't want to see. Jesus, it really looks like I hate women, huh? But, where's Sasha Lane for American Honey?

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Obligatory Meryl Streep nomination. Though *I heard* she was really good in the film, despite it being fairly mediocre overall.

Who I Want to Win: Emma Stone
Who Will Win: Emma Stone, Meryl Streep

-Best Supporting Actor-

Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Damn, do I love older actors in closer to modern day westerns. Tommy Lee Jones in "No Country For Old Men" and now Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton in this. "Hell or High Water" becomes a mediocre flick if Bridges isn't on his A-game. Fortunately, Bridges brings a gritty--yet down to earth--style to a Texas Ranger that is nearing the end of his career. He has the best moments and dialogue in the film and his scene with Chris Pine near the end of the film was exceptional.

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Like Janelle Monae, Mahershala Ali is nominated into two separate Best Picture films. He was fine in "Hidden Figures" but "Moonlight " is another animal. He plays Juan, a drug dealer, who starts to mentor (with the help of Janelle Monae's Teresa, his wife) a kid, Chiron, whose mother is an awful drug-dealing prostitute who treats him terribly. The scenes at the kitchen table and beach with younger Chiron are sublime. While his first confrontation with Chiron's mother was intense. I'm really hoping Ali wins this category, but it really is stacked.

Dev Patel (Lion)
Don't ask me why. But, if you told me that the kid who followed up killing it in "Slumdog Millionaire" (I still think that was a fine film) with playing Zuko, in what is considered one of the worst films of all time, would now be nominated for Best Supporting Actor, I'd would have probably done nothing. And here we are after a probably run-on and confusing sentence. I thought Sunny Pawar, the kid who played the younger Saroo Brierley, was more impactful, but Patel carried the second half of the film pretty hardcore.

Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
This may seem out of place, but if you've seen "Manchester by the Sea," then you'll know the reason he's nominated here. He's not only the 'Yang' to Casey Affleck's 'Yin,' but he's the thing that keeps Lee Chandler's character going in the second half of the film. As much as Chandler wanted to be the guy renting out a basement, helping people with handiwork, he needed Patrick Chandler more than he let on. Hedges is smart, composed and kept up with the emotional pace of this heavy film.

Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
I'm glad "Nocturnal Animals" got this nomination because I quite enjoyed it. The plot within a plot was fun, despite the overall revenge plot being rather predictable. Michael Shannon, as Detective Bobby Andes is not a character in the main plot. He's one in the book, which has one of the subplots of the film. Confusing right? Anywho, Shannon is scary fun as the character in the book is so heightened. He's not quite cliche, but he's not overly original either. Shannon plays him straight down the line as well, he doesn't stray to far enough into the cliche and that's what make him work.

Who I Want to Win: Jeff Bridges, Mahershala Ali
Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Lucas Hedges

-Best Supporting Actress-
Viola Davis (Fences)
This is one of those performances that you know is an all-time classic, so to speak. Once she was nominated, she was probably going to take the award. Davis' role as Rose Lee Maxson was transcendent. Her powerful presence, sincerity, and pure emotion was a wonder to watch. She interacted with the rest of the cast, especially Denzel Washington, expertly. You see her range from laughter to sorrow to joy and hope. Davis' performance was my favorite thing about "Fences."

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Remember the abusive mother of Chiron from "Moonlight" that I mentioned earlier? Well Naomie Harris was the one who played Paula. Her early scenes with Ali and Hibbert, set the tone about her vices. Her later scene with Rhodes in the third act was powerfully emotional. You hate her like Chiron does early on. As the film matures and grows up with Chiron, you start to see her in the light he does. She's hurt him, but she hass recognized what she's done and is truly trying to fix the wounds she inflicted. I would've liked to see Janelle Monae nominated for her role as Teresa, but Harris' performance was just as good.

Nicole Kidman (Lion)
The weakest of the five nominees is Nicole Kidman's performance as Sue Brierley, Saroo's Austirilan adoptive mother. She may be the weakest of these five, but behind Patel, she was my favorite character in "Lion" You saw true kindness in everything she tried to do. You saw the pain she felt when her kids were at odds. You saw the love and accepting in her heart when Saroo's told her about the journey to find her family. Kidman was casted well and she delivered a great performance.

Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
I don't think there's too much to say about Octavia Spencer's performance in "Hidden Figures" as Dorothy Vaughan. She was great. The chemistry between her, Henson and Monae was incredible. Not only that, her character was written well. I'm sure there was some embellishing, but she was seamless between supportive friend, amazing mother and caring supervisor. I still think Henson should've been nominated for anything, but it's great that one of the three got nominated for anything.

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Like Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, Michelle Williams as Randi, Lee's former wife, is a tale of two halves. You see a very different person in the flashbacks than what so you in present day scenes. William and Affleck tread that line very well. The different degrees of emotion is astounding. Like Chandler, Randi has gone through a metric ton of rough times and is just trying to keep going despite it. You see love and pain alike. You see the highs and lows. This is the most emotional film I watched last year and Williams did a fantastic job with her role as Randi.

Who I Want to Win: Viola Davis
Who Will Win: Viola Davis

-Best Animated Feature-
Kubo and the Two Strings
The stop motion film you've likely seen if you're looking for animation from 2016. "Kubo and the Two Strings" was a fun ride. The animation was top notch and that's the selling point for Kubo. What it may lack in great voice acting or fleshed out characters, it makes up for with a beautifully designed world and characters. The plot is pretty standard, the voice acting is okay and the characters are kind-of thin. But overall, Kubo is pretty alright, if not for seeing the animation and design alone.

I may be a little biased, but this was my favorite film of 2016. I know, I'm a 26 year old man, but "Moana" made me feel some feels, man. The second Disney animated offering released in 2016 to earn a Best Animated feature, did so in a more traditional way. with the whole singing plus "princess" route. "Moana's" score and soundtrack were my favorite of the year. While the animation, voice acting and story (even though it felt a bit rushed near the end) were all superb. The Rock was great as Maui, while Auli'i Cravalho--both singing and voicing--as Moana was outstanding. I really want "How Far I'll Go" to win Best Original song as well.

My Life As a Zucchini
The lone film I haven't been able to see off of the nominations. *I hear* it's great. And if it does indeed win over these other four, that same Vegas guy who bet on Viggo Mortensen, will have a lot more money to gamble away during the baseball season.

The Red Turtle
If Ghibli's gonna release a film, it's probably gonna get an Oscar nomination. I liked "The Red Turtle," a mostly silent film that follows the story of a man who is trapped on a desert island who suddenly finds a mysterious turtle that changes his life. Beautifully animated with a good story and great score, this is a fine nomination. Though if I'm going to have an anime film nominated this year, I'd have much rather it been "your name." by Makoto Shinkai.

This was near the top of my favorite films for most of the year. It was eventually passed by only "Moana," "Captain America: Civil War" and "Hell or High Water." I loved (almost) everything about this film, and that it was more than just a kids film. It didn't outright scream "prejudice" and "racism." It did touch on it in a way for kids to be able to get acclimated with a heavy subject at a younger age. The story was surprisingly deep, the animation was top notch and the voice acting was great as well. The only thing I really didn't like was the music, it just didn't work for me or this film.

Who I Want to Win: Moana
Who Will Win: Zootopia

-Best Director-
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
"La La Land" is projected to be big winners. They've cleaned up everywhere. I'm not convinced it was the best film, but I an convinced that Chazelle was the best director. He took what easily could've been just another musical, and turned it into a great overall experience. His musical numbers are the best parts of the film and bring out the best of the people involved. From "Whiplash" to this, he's one of the best people going right now.

Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Did I already make a "Mel Gibson hates Jews" joke? Does he even still get hate if he's allowed to appear like he did last year and get nominated like he did this year? Who knows? What I do know is Mel Gibson, even with his embellishing of things, made a damn fine war scene. His attention to detail was incredible in the second half of the film. The last half of "Hacksaw Ridge" is some of the most grisly and brutal war footage you'll ever see. Overall, "Hacksaw Ridge" was pretty good too.

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
"Moonlight" is a very intimate film. The one thing I wanted to point out while I was watching, was the use of tight shots of the face as well a only framing the person talking. Rarely in a scene would there be a wide shot or the whole room. You were always with the person talking, seeing that person as something was happening to them. At times it was pleasant, at times it was emotional. Jenkins found the perfect style that this film needed.

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
Man, Kenneth Lonergan had it easy. He was given a supreme script and story. Superb acting by Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges. All he had to do was film it. (Don't worry, I know he did more.) Everything looked great and this was a well oiled film that clicked in every single aspect.

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
I still think it's a crime that Amy Adams did not get nominated for this film. Denis Villeneuve did a great job of bringing this short story to life. The best stuff was the scenes inside the alien spacecraft and the flashbacks. The darker tone of this film, a lot of black, overcast skies and grays in general, lend to the confused and scared feeling of the world. Definitely the weakest of the bunch, but a well deserved nomination nonetheless.

Who I Want to Win: Damien Chazelle
Who Will Win: Damien Chazelle


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fifty Shades Darker [A Why Did I Watch This "Review"]

**This review and post has naughty language, inappropriate "jokes" and thoughts about a naughty "film." Don't ever view this film..and possibly this review.**

"Fifty Shades Darker" doesn't count as a real film. So I'm not going to give it a real review. I gave "Fifty Shades of Grey" a review. But, nope, not this time. The first film was bland, boring and worst of all not nearly bad enough to properly make fun of. I honestly can't remember any of it. Nor will I likely remember any of this film by the time next February rolls around.

"Fifty Shades Darker" goes above and beyond the first "film." They make sure no conflict goes immediately unresolved. It's as if they were blasting through six episodes of a soap opera in the mid-1990s. It got dialogue from local internet fan fiction forums, probably including ones for Vin Diesel. They brought the unnecessary helicopter back and let it crash. There's just so much to digest in this, I can barely comprehend all that happened. There's no plot in this, by the way. There's no plot in the first one. How are these being legitimately watched by people?

The leads, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have the chemistry of two rocks on a mountain. At least they were better in this than in the first "film." In scenes, they "act" as if they're off-brand Barbie and Ken dolls that a 5-year old is playing with. While the beautiful and vibrate setting of Seattle is perfect setting for the muddled fifty shades of dark colors and misery. The tone shifts from boring, to bewilderment, unintentional comedy, to awe, to dissecting reality and finally making peace with the deity you believe in.

Oh right, the sex. Yeah, there's sex scenes. There's front boob, side boob, side butt, butt butt. There's also sensuality with awkward dialogue, almost rape (don't worry, that got resolved in five minutes like all other "conflict"), missionary position, Mormon position and finally, you guessed it, the ever kinky and totally outrageous, missionary position! For a series that prides itself on pushing the envelope, there sure is a lot of safe stuff when it comes to the "controversy" they're trying to create.

"Fifty Shades Darker" is better suited to the people's actual imaginations that are reading the "book" series (Ew), than it is being a "film" for them. Because there is no way that this watered down, badly acted, badly written, badly everything'd "adaptation", can get more out of the people that want to see it, than actually fantasizing (Ew) can.


-Commentary From The People I Watched With-

"Ah, the bright and vibrant sweeping shots of Seattle."

"Nice boat, does it come in heterosexual?"

"How did they do anal in missionary earlier?"

"He's gonna go down on her again and she hasn't even sucked his dick."

"Look at those special f**k pants."

"Did you just say "The Boob Titties.""

"Is he gonna eat those (panties) instead of dinner?"

"F**king kill her!"

"Holy shit, he has The Force."

"Wow, hey, the tension got resolved in one scene again!"

"This sounds like the music in "God's Not Dead.""

"He's Batman dude."

"Oh, he's subbing to her now. Symbolism."

"The fire burns with the passion of 1,000 suns."

"All the oxygen can see her boobs."

"She's not even bottomless."

"I like this movie cause it reminds me of shit."

"He's planking."

"Guys, if you don't know (yet), he's rich."

"Hey look, it's Graeme."

"Hey look a helicopter again."

"They inserted this [movie long] conflict in the last 15 minutes."



"Sometimes this music is ill-timed and always bad."

"[Missionary] It's kinky, Matt."

"Are they hyping up the third film like MCU would?"

"Yo, we only have to wait a year to see part three?! THIS IS LIT!"

-Actual Lines/Things in the "Film"-

Text: Dream of me
Reply: Maybe. Thanks for tonight. Laters Baby.

"I think we should take it slow." *Later in the scene we have the first sex scene*

"You know that's off-limits."
"I'm gonna need a road map"

"I'm too dressed."

"No, you're not putting those in my butt."

"I don't know whether to worship at your feet or spank you."

"I wanna marry you."

"My arrival into the world isn't something I feel like celebrating."

"It's after midnight."
"I'm not tired."

"Wait, so this whole time, I had the answer in my pocket?"

"You taught me how to f**k, Elena. Ana, taught me how to love."

*The Chronicles of Riddick poster on the wall*

*The pointless second proposal after she already said yes to the first proposal.*


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Hell or High Water [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Ahhh 2017. Donald Trump is going to be president. MTV is racist. Buzzfeed is still prevalent for some reason. 2016 was so bad nothing could possibly go wrong in 2017. So, for my first review of the year, before things inevitably hit us like a meteor hitting the planet, I had to do it on "Hell or High Water." One of the best western crime dramas in recent memory, Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster, anchor a drama filled heist-spree that never goes over the top. Jeff Bridges proves he still has fantastic acting chops, while the relationship between Chris Pine and Ben Foster is as authentic as you'll see in a film from last year.

"Hell or High Water" follows the story of two brothers living in West Texas, Toby and Tanner Howard (Pine and Foster). Toby is divorced, while his brother is an ex-con. Tanner, being a wild-card, often frustrates Toby. They knock off a few Texas Midlands banks one morning. This draws the attention of Texas Rangers and Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) and his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are put on the case. Marcus is closing in on retirement and teases his partner about being half Mexican and Indian. Two brothers and two Texas rangers then engage in a game of cat and mouse, with nothing but the rural lands of Texas as their backdrop.

The grit, realness, and authenticity are what makes this film work. There's action, but it's not overly done. There gun fights and car chases, but they're not over-done. The story doesn't bring much new to the table, older lawman figuring out the plan of two younger criminals. What it does do, is make the characters relatable and grounded in reality. It gives us great cinematography of West Texas small towns landscapes. Just about every aspect of "Hell or High Water," aside from the cliched plot outline, is refreshing and adrenaline inducing.

This starts with the performances from the leads. Ben Foster, as Tanner Howard, is a firecracker. He's the most high-energy person in the film and brings the most intensity to every scene he's in.  The brotherly exchanges with Pine, especially the scene in the casino and the second bank robbery, were awesome. You watch him slowly devolve throughout the film up until his climax. Chris Pine, as Toby Howard, is the smarter and more calm and collected of the two brothers. He's the brains behind the bank robberies working, for the most part. He's also the more established character. We find out about his family life, divorce and plans for after this spree. The scene mid-way through the film, where he wails on the guy at the gas station, as well as the climax of the film, are contrasting scenes that show the range of his character. Finally, Jeff Bridges, as Marcus Hamilton, is the anchor of the film and proves that his acting ability is still there. Hamilton reminded me of Tommy Lee Jones' character in "No Country For Old Men." The cliched retirement angle is prevalent, but the humor, knowledge and rapport with his partner Alberto Parker (Birmingham) is perfect. A slightly racist, wise-cracking, smarter than the bad guys and completely bad-ass Texas Ranger, going out on his own terms was a pleasure to watch. The whole last act and climax of the film saw Bridges at his finest.

The overall acting is what sets the tone, lets us fully enjoy the phenomenal cinematography and the well done action. The small town shots, the small town people and the sweeping shots of landscapes drove the point home that this area of West Texas was not as well off as other places in the US. This is not a bright film, a lot of it takes place during the day, but the film gives off a dusty badlands color vibe. The car chases weren't full of unnecessary explosions. The bank robberies, with the exception of the last one they do, are smaller and intimate. There are gun fights, but they're sensible for the most part. There's some gore, but it's used for shock value and finality. Everything that supports the acting--the story, action, colors, tones--is crisp and keeps you invested until the credits roll.

"Hell or High Water" is probably the best crime film of 2016. "The Nice Guys" is the opposite of this in almost every single way, not that that's a bad thing either. It's about going to extreme heights, with the characters, acting, dialogue and plot (which is wholly original), combining to make a fun film. "Hell or High Water" goes for the more realistic approach. The acting is what resonated with me much more than in "The Nice Guys." It's a western that's light on the western, but taps into its essence when it's needed. Pine, Foster and Bridges give astounding performances in a film that people should give a watch.