Friday, January 18, 2019

If someone puts pieces of 'Glass' together, there might be a good film there

In its current fractured state, M. Night Shyamalan's latest supernatural gobbledygook features signature bits of "Glass" from a large cinematic goblet that remains very broken.

I mean, the guy throws up a lot of ideas and possibilities here, including shards of mythology about superheroes that are either real, imagined or simply fragments from the ever-fertile mind of the writer and director who arguably gave us the first film about comic-book obsession.

That would be 2000's "Unbreakable," which featured David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the seemingly superhuman sole survivor of a horrific train crash perpetrated by a brilliant and brittle-boned piece of work named Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson). Both men return in "Glass," the apparent ending of a two-decade trilogy middled by 2017's "Split," which, it says here, easily remains the best of the three movies mentioned in this paragraph.

It told the not-so-subtle, but truly frightening story of a creepy kidnapper (exceptionally played by James McAvoy) with 24 different personalities. Many of them also return in Shyamalan's latest, including "The Beast," with McAvoy pumping up himself and his most intimidating persona into a couple of remarkable frenzies. In fact, "Glass" begins just about where "Split" ended, when Dunn/Willis appeared in cameo and now goes on the trail of McAvoy's many -- he calls them his "Horde" -- and the quartet of skinny young cheerleaders the psychopath has primed for four more serial murders.

Naturally, Dunn, whose various powers may or may not include seeing almost-dead people, shows up just in time to battle "The Beast," and so do authorities, who put them both in an eerie, yet high-tech asylum. That's where the endless delusion-based talk from an irritating shrink (Sarah Paulson) quickly starts taking much of the starch out of a yarn that had begun rather intriguingly.

Elijah/Jackson is already there, too, but sits constantly in a vegetative state that doesn't change in time to save a movie suffering from intermittent incongruity, weird pretense, and unnecessary length. Still, it likely might have been worse, since Shyamalan has been telling media types that his original cut came in at more than 200 minutes.

Rated "PG-13": violence including some bloody images, thematic elements and language; 2:09; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Monday, January 14, 2019

'Roma' takes top awards at 24th Critics Choice gala; Gaga and Close tie, too


The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) announced the winners of the 24th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards last night, live from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Hollywood’s brightest shined at the gala event, which aired on The CW Network and was hosted by film, television, and stage star Taye Diggs. 

Close and Gaga show off their winning Critics' Choice hardware.
In the film categories, “Roma” took home four awards, the most of the night, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film for versatile filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón. “Black Panther” and “Vice” followed close behind, each winning in three categories.

The top film acting awards resulted in a tie for Best Actress between Glenn Close for “The Wife” and Lady Gaga for “A Star Is Born,” while Best Actor was bestowed upon Christian Bale for his caricature performance as former VP Dick Cheney in “Vice.”  Best Supporting Actor went to Mahershala Ali for “Green Book,” and Regina King took home the Best Supporting Actress award for her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” A complete list of movie winners follows:

WINNERS OF THE 24TH ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS


FILM:

BEST PICTURE
“Roma” (Netflix)

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale – “Vice” (Annapurna)

BEST ACTRESS – TIE
Glenn Close – “The Wife” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Lady Gaga – “A Star Is Born” (Warner Bros.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – “Green Book” (Universal)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Regina King – “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Annapurna)

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Elsie Fisher – “Eighth Grade” (A24)

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
“The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight)

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón – “Roma” (Netflix)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Paul Schrader – “First Reformed” (A24)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Barry Jenkins – “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Annapurna)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Alfonso Cuarón – “Roma” (Netflix)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Hannah Beachler, Jay Hart – “Black Panther” (Disney)

BEST EDITING
Tom Cross – “First Man” (Universal)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Ruth Carter – “Black Panther” (Disney)

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP
“Vice” (Annapurna)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“Black Panther” (Disney)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony)

BEST ACTION MOVIE
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (Paramount)

BEST COMEDY
“Crazy Rich Asians” (Warner Bros.)

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Christian Bale – “Vice” (Annapurna)

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Olivia Colman – “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight)

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE
“A Quiet Place” (Paramount)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Roma” (Netflix)

BEST SONG
Shallow – “A Star Is Born” (Warner Bros.)

BEST SCORE
Justin Hurwitz – “First Man” (Universal)

As previously announced, Best Supporting Actress nominee Claire Foy received the Critics’ Choice #SeeHer Award, which was presented by former #SeeHer Award recipient Viola Davis. Chuck Lorrecreator of such acclaimed TV comedies as “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mom,” “Young Sheldon,” and “The Kominsky Method” (which all received Critics’ Choice Award nominations this year), was honored with the Critics’ Choice Creative Achievement Award.  The cast of “The Big Bang Theory,” including Mayim Bialik, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Jim Parsons, and Melissa Rauch, was on hand to recognize Lorre, just in time to celebrate the show’s final season. 

Check out the complete list of TV winners here.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Some personal favorites, among other things, to end the year in movies

So, did you see "The Favourite," nominated for 14 Critics Choice awards by the Broadcast Film Critics Association? Or "Roma," Alfonso Cuaron's Netflix "original," which has been a darling of New York and L.A. critics groups, as well as some others? And, how 'bout "Vice," the Dick Cheney piercing which leads the Golden Globes charge with six noms from the Hollywood Foreign Press?

Well, I've watched them all and, if you check the list at left (where you'll find my ratings for many of this year's releases), you will likely determine that I must have found some worth and even charm in all three. However, each also included, in one man's opinon, a bit too much meandering and or redundancy to keep them off my personal list of favorite films from 2018.

In fact, I'm partial to these 10, in order of preference, while quickly recalling an extremely mixed bag of movie gems:

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali help open the truth-based "Green Book." 
Green Book: It's simply the year's most entertaining movie -- and on its way to becoming a holiday standard -- as surprisingly offered by one half of those generally wild and crazy Farrelly Brothers.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? This feel-good doc about a TV show host who helped raise more kids than a country full of villages deserves a Best Picture nomination.

If Beale Street Could Talk (opens Friday): Writer/director Barry Jenkins one-ups his "Moonlight" by turning a James Baldwin novel into an immaculately told, '70s love story for the ages.

A Star is Born: The year's best first 30 movie minutes might make you go Gaga, then the "Lady" herself takes over in a mainstream musical beauty from first-time director (and star) Bradley Cooper.

First Reformed: Ethan Hawke is a knockout in a comeback thriller from Paul Schrader and, yes, it might even remind you of his "Taxi Driver."

And then there's "Shoplifters," "The Sisters Brothers," "Ready Player One," "Monsters and Men," and "Black Panther."

And how about a baker's dozen more swell surprises? "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Chappaquiddick," "Crazy Rich Asians," "Eighth Grade," "Halloween," "Hereditary," "Leave No Trace," "Love, Simon," Mission: Impossible -- Fallout," "Paddington 2," "The Rider," "Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood," and "Widows."

"MVP" John David Washington went undercover in Spike Lee's "BlackKklansman"
And some MVPs (Most Valuable Performers): John C. Reilly ("The Sisters Brothers," "Ralph Breaks the Internet," "Holmes & Watson," "Stan &  Ollie," which opens here Jan. 25); Claire Foy ("Unseen," "First Man," "The Girl in the Spider's Web"); Nicole Kidman ("Boy Erased," "Aquaman," "Destroyer"); and John David Washington ("BlacKkKlansman," "Monsters and Men," "The Old Man & the Gun," "Monster").

And finally, let's end with a six-pack of the very dullest movies from a year that ends in a few hours: "Aquaman," "Creed 2," "The Darkest Minds," "The Front Runner," "The Happytime Murders," and "Venom."

Anyone for a toast to many more smart and exciting cinematic choices in 2019?

Friday, December 21, 2018

'Twas the week before Christmas and 'Poppins Returns' among 5 new films

HO-HO-HO! Five paragraphs for five movies opening in the ever-mad rush during the week before Christmas:

A confident Blunt likes what she sees as Mary Poppins. So will most of you.
Emily Blunt certainly is no Julie Andrews, but the versatile British actress is swell enough to carry the bubbly "Mary Poppins Returns" on her thin shoulders and into territory that only a grinch could hate. Following in the footsteps of the 1964 original, with a story that apparently starts about 25 years after that one's ended, magical nanny Mary actually comes back to look after the three young children of George Banks (Ben Whishaw), himself now all grown up into a sad widower facing foreclosure on his home. That's all anyone needs to know about plot, though a bad-guy banker (Colin Firth) pops up in and around some fantasy sequences in which Blunt and company happily sing, dance and take the kids on an assortment of fantasy adventures. At least one, featuring some animated characters toe-tapping along, takes another cue from Disney's first "Poppins" film, as do a couple of major star cameos, which we'll leave to personal viewing. Otherwise, the OK music, primarily comprised of all original tunes, and the chimney sweep played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose stage presence in his own "Hamilton" certainly had to be more solid than what he projects here, share a lot of screen time. It all makes for some fine family viewing, but "A Spoonful of Sugar" might have made it all even a bit sweeter.

Rated "PG": some mild thematic elements and brief action; 2:10; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Two other lovely ladies help some 16th century medicine go down in the sluggish but ultimately effective "Mary Queen of Scots." They would be young Saoirse Roman in the title role, and Margot Robbie, once again flexing her acting chops rather meaningfully as Britain's Queen Elizabeth I. Religious goings-on get in the way of politics when young, Catholic and newly widowed Ann returns from France to take her rightful place on the Scottish throne, thus setting the Protestant masses into a tizzy. War, gossip and constant wooing from weak men with ulterior motives all make Ann stronger, and her pen-pal friendship with the superb Robbie's powerful Liz, the cousin whom Ann eventually wants to succeed, offer some compelling royal intrigue. By the way, though the two never met historically, the one fictional scene they share here is both a visual and performance knockout. 

Rated "R": some violence and sexuality; 2:05; $ $ $ out of $5

Roberts and Hedges help make "Ben" a difficult watch.
"Over by the river. That's where they all wind up," becomes a key piece of dialogue in the scary holiday drug-addiction tale, "Ben is Back." This one, which covers much of the same ground that the recent "Beautiful Boy" trampled, comes from always competent writer and director Peter Hedges, whose ever-brilliant son, Lucas Hedges, stars as the title character. It begins when Ben unexpectedly returns home from a treatment center on Christmas Eve. Tension unfolds immediately since his sister (Kathryn Newton) from the same dad, as well as their stepfather (Courtney B. Vance) barely want to let him through the door. Meanwhile, his Mom (the splendid Julia Roberts) and two cute little half-siblings are mostly overjoyed to see him. After a nicely uplifting church service, the family returns to find their home ransacked and their dog, a vital creature in Ben's recovery, missing. Not a lot of holly jolly ensues, just some serious melodrama and often hard-to-take truths, with Roberts and young Hedges leading the ultra-emotional charge to uncover them all.

Rated "R": language throughout and some drug use; 1:43: $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Another of America's former screen sweethearts, Sandra Bullock, plays a tough pregnant woman who doesn't want kids early in the Netflix apocalyptic tale, "Bird Box," then learns to love not just one, but two of them while the world goes mad. Right from the start, we discover that what people around the globe are witnessing leads them to almost instant suicide. When the self-destruction epidemic spreads to the States, Bullock and fellow survivors, including crazy ol' John Malkovich, try to figure out the here and now, as intertwined with constant flash-forwards to not-so-sweet Sandy -- in full kick-ass mode and mostly blindfolded, no less -- compelling her tykes to safety. Director Susanne Bier (AMC's "The Night Manager" and a couple of decent films) keeps a novel-based screenplay from Eric Heisserer ("Arrival" and "Lights Out") absorbing, under control, and routinely bordering on the brink of outrageous thrills. The Netflix streaming begins today.

Rated "R": violence, bloody images, language ad brief sexuality; 1:57; $ $ $ out of $5

Momoa's marine man makes plenty of waves in the latest from DC Comics.
It's been a big couple of movie months for Willem Dafoe. First came his masterful Critics' Choice-nominated performance as madman artist Vincent Van Gogh in "At Eternity's Gate," and just last week "Vox Lux," featuring his indelibly snarky narration, opened in northeast Ohio. Now, comes the mainstream role likely giving Dafoe the biggest paycheck of the three when he portrays oceanic mentor to "Aquaman." Certainly, his acting skills swim circles around someone such as the muscular Jason Momoa, who gives the salty title character more of a professional rassler spin than smooth superhero. Still, the diminutive Dafoe does seem minnow-like compared to the whale-sized guy with all the tattoos in this even bigger, effects-laden adventuure. Aquaman, aka Arthur Curry, begins his watery way to an underwater throne when the beautiful queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman in one extremely odd-looking bodysuit) washes up on a New England coast and falls in love with a nice-guy lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison). Of course, it quickly becomes a lengthy lesson in DC Comics legend, but only Julie Andrews voicing a sea monster, a CGI octopus playing eight drums at the same time, and the great Roy Orbison's "She's a Mystery to Me," which backs a video-like tribute to Curry's blooming love interest (Amber Heard), gurgle up anything memorable. The rest remains clunky, junky and all wet. Regardless, expect Santa to deliver zillions into its box-office stocking, not to mention a very Merry Christmas to all!

Rated "PG-13": sequences of sci-fi violence and action and some language; 2:23; $ $ out of $5

Monday, December 10, 2018

There's a clearcut film 'Favourite' among 24th annual Critics' Choice noms


     The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) announced today the nominees for the 24th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards.  The winners will be revealed at the star-studded Critics’ Choice Awards gala, broadcast live on The CW Network from 7– 10 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13. 
      
     
Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz help boost 'The Favourite.'
“The Favourite,” which debuts on northeast Ohio screens this Friday, leads all films with 14 nominations, including Best Picture. “Black Panther” also impressed with 12 nominations, followed by “First Man” with 10; then “Mary Poppins Returns,” “A Star Is Born,” and “Vice” with nine each; “Roma” with eight, and “Green Book” with seven noms.
“    "The films of 2018 have been some of the most culturally impactful in recent history,” said BFCA President Joey Berlin. “They’ve portrayed stories from every walk of life, from all different perspectives, and have touched audiences and inspired conversations that we will continue to have for years to come.  We are so excited to have the opportunity to celebrate all of them, and the people who made them on Jan.13 on The CW!” 
Here is the complete list of movie nominees:
     
     BEST PICTURE
     Black Panther
     BlacKkKlansman
     The Favourite 
      First Man
      Green Book 
      If Beale Street Could Talk
      Mary Poppins Returns
      Roma
      A Star Is Born
      Vice

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale – Vice
Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate
Ryan Gosling – First Man
Ethan Hawke – First Reformed
Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen – Green Book

BEST ACTRESS
Yalitza Aparicio – Roma 
Emily Blunt – Mary Poppins Returns
Glenn Close – The Wife
Toni Collette – Hereditary
Olivia Colman – The Favourite
Lady Gaga – A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – Green Book
Timothée Chalamet – Beautiful Boy
Adam Driver – BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott – A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Michael B. Jordan – Black Panther

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams – Vice
Claire Foy – First Man
Nicole Kidman – Boy Erased
Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone – The Favourite
Rachel Weisz – The Favourite

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Elsie Fisher – Eighth Grade
Thomasin McKenzie – Leave No Trace
Ed Oxenbould – Wildlife
Millicent Simmonds – A Quiet Place
Amandla Stenberg – The Hate U Give
Sunny Suljic – Mid90s

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
Black Panther
Crazy Rich Asians
The Favourite
Vice
Widows

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle – First Man
Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born
Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
Peter Farrelly – Green Book
Yorgos Lanthimos – The Favourite
Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman
Adam McKay – Vice

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Bo Burnham – Eighth Grade
Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara – The Favourite
Adam McKay – Vice
Paul Schrader – First Reformed
Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly – Green Book
Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski – A Quiet Place

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole – Black Panther
Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Barry Jenkins – If Beale Street Could Talk
Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters – A Star Is Born
Josh Singer – First Man
Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
James Laxton – If Beale Street Could Talk
Matthew Libatique – A Star Is Born
Rachel Morrison – Black Panther
Robbie Ryan – The Favourite
Linus Sandgren – First Man

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Hannah Beachler, Jay Hart – Black Panther
Eugenio Caballero, Barbara Enriquez – Roma
Nelson Coates, Andrew Baseman – Crazy Rich Asians
Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton – The Favourite
Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas – First Man
John Myhre, Gordon Sim – Mary Poppins Returns

BEST EDITING
Jay Cassidy – A Star Is Born
Hank Corwin – Vice
Tom Cross – First Man
Alfonso Cuarón, Adam Gough – Roma
Yorgos Mavropsaridis – The Favourite
Joe Walker – Widows

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Alexandra Byrne – Mary Queen of Scots
Ruth Carter – Black Panther
Julian Day – Bohemian Rhapsody
Sandy Powell – The Favourite
Sandy Powell – Mary Poppins Returns

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Mary Queen of Scots
Suspiria
Vice

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Avengers: Infinity War
Black Panther
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Ready Player One

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Grinch
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Avengers: Infinity War
Black Panther
Deadpool 2
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Ready Player One
Widows

BEST COMEDY
Crazy Rich Asians
Deadpool 2
The Death of Stalin
The Favourite
Game Night
Sorry to Bother You

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Christian Bale – Vice
Jason Bateman – Game Night
Viggo Mortensen – Green Book
John C. Reilly – Stan & Ollie
Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool 2
Lakeith Stanfield – Sorry to Bother You

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Emily Blunt – Mary Poppins Returns
Olivia Colman – The Favourite
Elsie Fisher – Eighth Grade
Rachel McAdams – Game Night
Charlize Theron – Tully
Constance Wu – Crazy Rich Asians

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE
Annihilation
Halloween
Hereditary
A Quiet Place
Suspiria

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Burning
Capernaum
Cold War
Roma
Shoplifters

BEST SONG
All the Stars – Black Panther
Girl in the Movies – Dumplin’
I’ll Fight – RBG
The Place Where Lost Things Go – Mary Poppins Returns
Shallow – A Star Is Born
Trip a Little Light Fantastic – Mary Poppins Returns

BEST SCORE
Kris Bowers – Green Book
Nicholas Britell – If Beale Street Could Talk
Alexandre Desplat – Isle of Dogs
Ludwig Göransson – Black Panther
Justin Hurwitz – First Man
Marc Shaiman – Mary Poppins Returns

“Critics’ Choice Awards” are bestowed annually by the BFCA and BTJA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. The BFCA is the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. BFCA members are the primary source of information for today's film-going public.  Historically, Critics’ Choice Awards are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations.
BTJA is the collective voice of journalists who regularly cover television for TV viewers, radio listeners and online audiences.

HBO and Netflix lead networks with 20 TV nominations each, followed by FX with 16, Amazon with 12, and NBC with 11.  Topping the list of nominated series are The Americans (FX), The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX), and Escape at Dannemora (Showtime) with five each.

A complete list of nominees can be found here on the Critics' Choice Awards web site.