|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on June 20, 2012 at 10:55 PM||comments (1)|
Released: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen (as General Aladeen), Ben Kingsley (as Tamir), Anna Faris (as Zoey), Jason Mantzoukas (as Nadal), Bobby Lee (as Mr. Lao)
Director: Larry Charles
Runtime: 83 minutes (remarkably short)
Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity (explicit), language and some violent images
out of 100
Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The cry for democracy has been a movement eternal and recent, as dictators such as Hosni Mumbarak and Moammar Gaddafi have fallen to rebellions demanding a government for the people, of the people, and by the people. The tragic deaths that resulted from these tragic rebellions should be mourned, yet certainly not disdained in any satire like "The Dictator." Yet however deplorable in its multitudinous racial slurs and sexual double entendres, this comedy-cum-disgrace provokes uninterrupted laughter and entertainment. Actor Sacha Baron Cohen, the same comedian that brought the vulgar and riotous "Borat" and "Bruno" to audiences, will offend every race and ethnicity imaginable to elicit uncomfortably hilarious humor. One of the few consistent points in a film with a wildly inconsistent tone, the uproariousness of the satire carries "The Dictator" when its virtually nonexistent plot, a haphazard heap of gags slovenly threaded together, cannot. Even if director Larry Charles crosses the line throughout the film, this otherwise farrago of unconvincing acting, slipshod editing, and vapid dialogue would catastrophically plummet beneath any line without the broad, obscene steps he takes innumerable times. Though "The Dictator" belabors its theme championing the fall of dictatorship, audiences will likely hear the cry for democracy far less than the cries of laughter that will ring out in theaters across the globe, oppressed or free. 60/100
|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on May 22, 2012 at 7:50 PM||comments (5)|
|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on April 14, 2012 at 11:25 PM||comments (6)|
The Hunger Games
Released: Friday, March 23, 2012 (Wide Release, also released in IMAX)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (as Peeta Mellark), Lenny Kravitz (as Cinna), Elizabeth Banks (as Effie Trinket), Donald Sutherland (as President Snow), Stanley Tucci (as Caesar Flickman), Amandla Stenberg (as Rue), Liam Hemsworth (as Gale), Willow Shields (as Primrose Everdeen), Wes Bentley (as Seneca Crane),
Director: Gary Ross
Screenwriters: Billy Ray, Suzanne Collins, Gary Ross
Runtime: 142 minutes
out of 100
Hungry for Better
Thousands of eager fans. Box-office records shattered. One of the most popular science-fiction novels alive on screens across the globe. The games have indeed begun with the odds ever in the favor of Hollywood investors but unfortunately, not in the audience. While indubitably deluged in anticipation and commercial success, The Hunger Games is mired in dismaying paucity of the frissons of exhilaration and suspense that its engrossing source material offered. The unexceptional direction of Gary Ross, coupled with particularly lackluster visual effects for a multi-million dollar blockbuster, rarely highlight the dystopian quality of the uncivilized civilization Panem, offering only a narrow vision of the society so intricately pictured in the novel. By significantly subduing the monstrosity of children slaughtering one another for entertainment, the tension of the games evaporates into vacuous cavities where colorless scenes of forestry replace the stimulating action and wide spectrum of emotion of the novel. While Jennifer Lawrence superlatively embodies central character Katniss Everdeen, the substandard screenplay inhibits her from illustrating the dimensionality of her protagonist, too often exhibiting the skilled hunter rather than the fiercely independent yet compassionate heroine. The inferior portrayal, not performance, of this character reflects the caliber of The Hunger Games as a whole; an edible yet insipid dish of flavorless ingredients when more ambrosial ones are available just with the desire to explore out of the convention. 43/100
|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on April 8, 2012 at 12:40 AM||comments (3)|
Released: Friday, December 30, 2011 (Limited Release)
Starring: Peyman Moaadi (Nader), Leila Hatami (Simin), Sarina Farhadi (Termeh)
Director and Screenwriter: Asghar Farhadi
Runtime: 120 minutes
out of 100
A Separation from Modern Filmmaking
The year's most acclaimed films are often not the most visually grand features with the most recognizable stars, but the ones that quietly stun us with powerhouse performances, insightful characterization, and excellent writing and direction. Without any name recognition among Hollywood, Asghar Farhadi of Iran has not only written but also directed and produced a powerful portrait of human imperfection, one that pierces into the complex depths of human nature and emerges with one of the tensest and most captivating films of the year. The minor frailties within the variety of relationships in "A Separation" only intensify and spawn massive repercussions from seemingly trivial actions. Yet the quiet and unseen disaster that unfolds within this particularly Iranian film is not a reflection of a certain culture but of universal family circumstances applicable to people of all walks of life. The powerful yet subtle performances of wife and husband Leila Hatami and Peyman Moadin offer keen insight into complex characters who cannot be labeled as paragons nor monsters, but rather imperfect humans willing to commit the worst of sins or sacrifice even the most valuable of objects to mend damaged family bonds. Though it more than deserved the coveted title of Best Foreign Language picture at the Academy Awards, to call "A Separation" perfect would be a description of utmost irony in a story about the imperfections of man. 100/100
|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on March 9, 2012 at 11:55 PM||comments (1)|
Released: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 (Limited Release)
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin (as George Valentin), Bérénice Bejo (as Peppy Miller), Uggie (as Jack, the dog), James Cromwell (as Clifton), John Goodman (as Al Zimmer), Penelope Ann Miller (as Dorin Valentin), Missi Pyle (as Constance)
Screenwriter: Michel Hazanavicius
Runtime: 100 minutes
out of 100
Art at Its Finest
Silence is golden. And amidst all the bombastic sound of modern filmmaking comes silence in the golden form of "The Artist," a silent, black-and-white film that tells so many words without telling any words at all. Immaculately emulating the technical aspects and possessing the soul of silent filmmaking, French director Michel Hazanavicius evokes the cleverness and poetic grace of silent films, crafting a love letter that both laments and celebrates a bygone and wonderful era of cinema, the roaring '20s. In an age where sound has clouded meaning, Hazanavicius has directed not only a crafty work of entertainment but also a profound masterpiece imbued with more meaning than any modern film, a feat he could not have achieved without his fantastic cast. Jean Dujardin embodies the consciousness and character of the typical 1920s star as George Valentin, a silent actor whose descent into oblivion is countered by lover Peppy Miller, performed wonderfully by Berenice Bejo. Both of these thoroughly engaging performances demonstrate an unparalleled mastery of gesture and expression, and conjure romance, humor, and drama all with the virtue of silence. Periodic yet timeless,The Artist is a work of art that not only deserved to sweep the Academy Awards, but will also speechlessly leave you speechless. 99/100
|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on February 26, 2012 at 3:05 AM||comments (0)|
The 84th Annual Academy Awards are just a few days away and will be broadcasted on Sunday, February 26 on ABC at 7:00 Eastern Standard Time, or 4:00 Pacific Standard Time. After closely studying the guild awards and watching most of the nominated films, I have cast my predictions for this year's Oscars. Because I have not watched any of the nominated features for Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Live Action Short, and Best Animated Short, I did not cast any predictions for these categories. Here are my final predictions:
Films and performances are arranged in the order of most likely to least likely to win.
"The Descendants" seemed to be an early frontrunner but lost in the Best Picture races of the Oscar precursors. While the civil rights topic of "The Help" is a favorite of Academy voters, its failure to garner any Best Screenplay or Best Director nominations is certainly an anchor. "Hugo" took home the most nominations in this year's Academy Awards, thanks to its visual and artistic panache, but only two films in the last decade have won Best Picture without any acting nominations ("The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" and "Slumdog Millionaire.") That leaves "The Artist," one of the most magical films of the year, which won top honors in the Producers' Guild Awards and the Directors' Guild Awards and has been an awards favorite ever since it was released.
The winner of Best Director for the Directors' Guild Awards parallels the winner of Best Director for the Academy Awards ninety percent of the time, making Michel Hazanavicius of "The Artist" the clear favorite. While Martin Scorcese won Best Director at the Golden Globes and his name is revered throughout the Academy voters, Hazanavicius' directorial touch is more evident in the silent, black-and-white format of his film, a departure from modern filmmaking.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Nobody expected first-time nominees Demiån Bichir or Gary Oldman to be nominated in this category, as they were practically ignored in the awards season, even though Mr. Bichir earned a Screen Actors' Guild nomination. Brad Pitt made the best performance of his life as Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics' manager, in "Moneyball," exhibiting the actor behind the celebrity. While George Clooney seemed to be an early favorite, dominating many of the awards shows for this category, Jean Dujardin earned the Screen Actors' Guild award (which predicts the winner of the Best Actor Oscar seventy percent of the time), and furthermore, his effortless and charming performance is far more unique because of the way he speechlessly made audiences speechless.
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
In my opinion, the nominated performances by Mrs. Close and Ms. Mara were not that incredible, and neither of them gained much traction in the early awards shows. Michelle Williams' spotlight in the Oscar precursors has come and passed. Meryl Streep's perfect emulation of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher filled with conviction and passion, earned a Golden Globe. However, Viola Davis' knockout performance as a black maid fighting for racial reform won a Screen Actors' Guild award, a better predictor for the Oscar winner than the Globes. She conveyed emotion, sorrow, and the weight of racism all with subtlety and expression, and the popularity of her film will certainly be helpful, whereas "The Iron Lady" has been met with general dislike.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Kenneth Branagh's character as a director of Marilyn Monroe had too little development for his performance to truly shine. However, the life that Jonah Hill brought to a character as seemingly dull as a baseball analyst, and the emotion that Nick Nolte imbued in his character as a broken father are both nothing short of outstanding. While Max Von Sydow's incredible performance as a mute grandfather conveyed so many words without any words at all, Christopher Plummer's career-best performance as a senior gay man is not only insightful and poignant but also dominated nearly all the awards shows this season.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Although interesting and somewhat versatile as a naive maid employer, Jessica Chastaine's performance in "The Help" was far from a knockout. Janet McTeer perfectly illustrated a challenging character as a lesbian worker and friend, and Melissa McCarthy's hilarious performance as a bridesmaid is unique among this year's acting nominees, considering that comedic performances are rarely ever nominated. While Bérénice Bejo's silent embodiment of a rising Hollywood starlet is even more of a rarity and exhibits a mastery of gesture and expression, Ocatvia Spencer's powerful performance as a racially oppressed African-American maid has steamrolled over all the Supporting Actress categories in the Oscar precursors. Thus, she and fellow costar Viola Davis may become the first pair of African-American actors to ever win acting awards for the same film.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
The sharp dialogue in "The Ides of March," the narrative labyrinths in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and the cinematic love letter that is "Hugo" all more than deserved nominations for ths category. Aaron Sorkin, who won the Academy Award for this category last year for his widely acclaimed screenplay "The Social Network," may have a chance at a second consecutive award for "Moneyball," for creating excitement and drama out of the dull subject of baseball analystics. Yet despite Moneyball's witty dialogue and humor, the Academy will probably favor the screenplay of "The Descendants," already recognized by the Writers' Guild of America as the Best Adapted Screenplay of the year. Its masterful depiction of human nature, depth of emotion, and insightful character illustrations will certainly be awarded this year.
Best Original Screenplay:
This category this year includes a diverse array of nominees, ranging from dramatic and intense stories to playful and hilarious screenplays. Despite being one of the most intelligent scripts of the year, J.C. Chandor's "Margin Call" was completely unexpected to be nominated, and its chances of winning are hurt by a general lack of popularity for the film. Despite its acute character portraits, the screenplay for "A Separation" is anchored by the fact that the film is foreign. Comedies rarely ever win this category, so Annie Mumulo and Kristen Wiig of "Bridesmaids" should be satisfied even if they are not awarded the golden statuette. Although the versatile screenplay of "The Artist" intertwined humor, drama, and emotion all into one fantastic film without any words at all, its lack of dialogue will prevent it from winning. Thus, like every year he has won in the past, Woody Allen, whose script for "Midnight in Paris" won Best Original Screenplay from the Writers' Guild of America, will receive yet not receive an Oscar, as he never shows up to the awards ceremony.
Best Animated Picture:
Nobody expected foreign films "Chico & Rita" and "A Cat in Paris" to be nominated for this category in the place of other mainstream animated pictures, so their nomination is their win. While "Puss in Boots" and "Kung Fu Panda 2" were certainly visually impressive, "Rango" melded state-of-the-art graphics and thrilling storytelling to become this year's best animated feature in the eyes of critics and awards shows alike. In addition, it came in theaters without the added 3-D glasses, distinguishing it in a field where the added dimension has become an anchor.
Best Art Direction:
While the art direction of all the nominated films were truly magnificent and more than deserved their nomination, especially the visually aweing "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," the costume design, subtle yet wondrous 3-D, and excellent cinematography of "Hugo," in addition to its win in the Best Art Direction of a Period Film for the Art Directors' Guild, edge the other nominees out to become the favorite for this category.
The truly magnificent and beautiful shots of the creation of the universe in "The Tree of Life," which already earned accolades in this awards season, will trump the sweeping cinematography of both "War Horse," despite its breathtaking views of rural and wartime England, and "Hugo," although it is a favorite to win in the technical and visual categories.
Best Costume Design:
With no other competitors that have extremely extravagant costume flair, The Artist's precise emulation and impressive array of 1920s Hollywood costumes will top fellow nominees "W.E," although it won the award for Best Costume Design from the Costume Designers' Guild, and "Hugo," again a favorite for the visual categories.
Best Film Editing:
The film that wins this field coincides with the winner of Best Picture two-thirds of the time, propelling the editing of "The Artist" to be the most likely to win, although "The Descendants" won Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic) from the Motion Picture Editors' Guild and "Hugo" is a favorite for all the technical categories. ("The Artist" was awarded Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy or Musical) by the same guild.)
Best Foreign Language Film:
Best Music (Original Score)
The light yet magnificent and sweeping score of "The Artist" perfectly matches the mood and drama of the scenes within the film. Because of its domination in this category in the Oscar precursors, it is likely to edge out the nearly equally wonderful score of "War Horse," by John Williams, to win.
Best Music (Original Song)
This is a two-man race, meaning each song has a fifty percent chance to win. Because its music and lyrics were written by a man who has already won a Grammy and is already renowned for his musical Flight of the Conchords, "Man or Muppet" is likely to defeat "Real in Rio," which was penned by fairly unknown artists.
Best Sound Mixing
As a favorite to win in some of the technical categories, "Hugo" will be the victor here, especially because it won the Best Sound Mixing in a Motion Picture award from the Cinema Audio Society.
Best Sound Editing
This category belongs to "Hugo" again for similar reasons. The film won Best Sound Editing: Music in a Feature Film from the Sound Editors' Guild, although it is worth noting that the same guild awarded "War Horse" with Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects and Foley in a Feature Film.
Best Visual Effects
Although "Hugo" has been visually acclaimed and the nuanced motion-capture technology in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is none short of amazing, the state-of-the-art graphics in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," the most visually aweing film of the year, will enable the film to win this category.
|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on January 2, 2012 at 12:10 AM||comments (1)|
Release Date: Sunday, December 25, 2011
Starring: Jeremy Irvine (as Albert Narracott), various horses (as Joey), Niels Arestrup (as Grandfather), Celine Buckens (as Emilie), Peter Mullan (as Ted Narracott), Emily Watson (as Rose Narracott), Tom Hiddleston (as Captain Nicholls), Benedict Cumberbatch (as Major Stewart), David Thewlis (as Lyons)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenwriters: Richard Curtis and Lee Hall
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence.
Runtime: 146 minutes
out of 100
Posted Sunday, January 1, 2012
An excellent film can be found once a season, and a masterpiece once a year or two. Yet a classic is the microscopic needle within the entire, vast haystack of films, the diamond discovered only twice or thrice in a lifetime. Equaling "Gone with the Wind," "The Godfather," and "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" in electrifying drama, grand theatricality, and emotional power, "War Horse" excels as a feat of filmmaking, one of the film events of our time. The love between a boy and his animal, here played by an unconditionally loving Albert and his horse Joey, has been explored many times, but rarely with such staggering success as Steven Spielberg's classic. Set against a breathtaking rural tapestry, their early bonding on an English farm establishes their powerful love between each other, only to be torn apart when economic hardships force Albert and his family into selling Joey to the British military in World War I. Rather than lingering on the historical and political context of the war, Spielberg illustrates its brutality, with Joey's sweeping adventure through battle as his epic canvas. Outstanding technical aspects aid the portrayal of warfare in the film rather than eclipsing it, with a spectacular visual palette, cinematography, and score amplifying the the film's grand theatricality. Depicting an enormous loss of life through theatrically staged battles, "War Horse" sears nightmarish and suspenseful images into the audience's mind that will not be forgotten for years to come. Yet in all this inhumane warfare Albert's humane compassion for his horse remains unwavering, a symbol of unconditional love that imbues the film with emotional profundity. Even all the material presents this holiday season cannot parallel the depth of feeling within the gift that Spielberg has delivered to us, a discovery of heart within the most heartless of things. 101/100
|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on December 27, 2011 at 1:50 AM||comments (0)|
Release Dates: Saturday, September 10, 2011 (Toronto Film Festival)
Friday, November 18, 2011 (Limited Release in U.S.)
Starring: George Clooney (as Matt King), Shailene Woodley (as Alexandra "Alex" King), Amara Miller (as Scottie King), Nick Krause (as Sid), Matthew Lillard (as Brian Speer), Judy Greer (as Julie Speer)
Director: Alexander Payne
Screenwriters: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash
Rated: R for language including some sexual references.
Runtime: 115 minutes
out of 100
Posted Monday, December 26, 2011
Hawaii may be a paradise in the eyes of many mainlanders, but it is a center of imperfections and frailties in "The Descendants," a transporting masterpiece that weaves a lei deep and full with life. In the best performance of his career, George Clooney plays Matt King, a disgruntled and confused parent caught in a tremendous real estate dilemma. Yet this problem quickly becomes trivial when he not only learns that his wife has been cheating on him, but also that his wife was struck with a permanent coma. This leaves Matt aggrieved with a dysfunctional family and the burden of an impending death of a loved one. Guided by his daughter, a portrait of adolescence angst performed marvelously by newcomer Shailene Woodley, Matt embarks on a precipitous and emotionally straining journey that encompasses personal renewal and discovery. Clooney's perfect portrait of his character grips onto the audience, conveying the weight of the incubus on Matt's shoulders without histrionic effect. The seemingly familiar emotional spectrum, swinging up and down like a roller coaster, is plotted without the predictability of most melodramas but with complete genuineness. Characters and lives mesh together in situations that balance devastating grief with affectionate warmth, revealing a canvas of subplost as vast as life. Although connected by thin strands, the lives of all the film's personally flawed characters are seamlessly sewed together, united to offer a perfect portrait of human imperfections. With the inexplicable grace of a calm Hawaiian ocean, "The Descendants" will captivate audiences within its tides and transport them to a paradise unequaled by even the best resorts in Hawaii. So, save a thousand-odd mile trip and come swim in one of the finest achievements of the year. 98/100
|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on December 16, 2011 at 10:20 PM||comments (3)|
Release Date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 in 2D, Real-D 3D and Digital 3D.
Starring: Asa Butterfield (as Hugo Cabret), Chloe Grace Moretz (as Isabelle), Ben Kingsley (as Papa Georges/George Melies), Sacha Baron Cohen (as Inspector Gustav), Jude Law (as Hugo's father)
Director: Martin Scorcese
Rated: PG for mild thematic peril, some action/peril and smoking.
Runtime: 127 Minutes
out of 100
Remembering the Good Ol' Days...Mediocrely
Posted Friday, December 16, 2011
"The Invention of Hugo Cabret" immersed readers within a fascinating world, meshing tales of a lost young boy, an adventurous girl, and a forgotten filmmaker like the beautiful clockwork at the center of its plot. Its film adaptation "Hugo" fails to do the same, lacking the enigmatic spark and thrilling storytelling of its source material. Director Martin Scorcese radiates his love for filmmaking in this movie, an homage that affectionately remembers the days when films were artistic sensations created by visionaries like George Melies, a character in "Hugo." That name may mean little to contemporary film audiences, but Melies revolutionized filmmaking by infusing visual panache, adventure, and most importantly imagination into the screen. Scorcese's touching scenes with Melies shape one of a great director's greatest love stories - between a man and his camera. But such affection is rarely applied to other parts of the film. Performances from excessively sentimental actor Asa Butterfield and a rather graceless Chloe Grace Morentz are as mechanistic as the automaton and clocks that form the heart of this film. Equally mechanistic is the staid dramatic pacing of a film that, despite its visually spectacular action sequences, rarely evokes the suspense and sheer fascination of its source material. Even worse is the comic timing - for a film about clocks, one would expect it to be spot-on, but a comically stale and unnecessary performance by miscast actor Sacha Baron Cohen merely brings a childish facet to an originally meaningful film. Such clockwork aspects formulate and mechanize an homage to the perfect days of Hollywood, hindering "Hugo" from equating itself with the very artwork it reveres. 54/100
|Posted by Kenneth Shinozuka on November 19, 2011 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
Release Dates: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 (limited release)
Friday, November 11, 2011 (wide release)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio (as J. Edgar Hoover), Armie Hammer (as Clyde Tolson), Naomi Watts (as Helen Gandy), Judi Dench (as Anna Marie, Hoover's mother)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter: Dustin Lance Black
Rated: R for brief strong language
Runtime: 137 minutes.
out of 100
A Biopic at Its Finest
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2011
Often revered but rarely understood, J. Edgar Hoover is now embraced as a national hero, yet few truly know the man beyond his building of the FBI. J. Edgar candidly provides an unbiased portrait of a titan whose revolutionizing of criminology and passion to serve his country spanned eight presidents. While weaving Hoover's career story together with paramount grace, veteran director Clint Eastwood neither eulogizes nor berates his subject, choosing not to depict the myriad institutional feats of his subject. Rather, the film, lighted in ashcan colors and shadowy darkness, explores the moral and personal decay of a fascinating and wicked man whose power corrupted him to his death. Time and time again, Leonardo Dicaprio, in a powerhouse, Oscar-worthy performance, showcases the multiple facades of a man whose private life was as equally controversial as his work. Hoover's sexuality gives an unexpected sincerity to a person whose acts - blackmailing, betraying, incriminating - were nearly as heinous as the crimes of the enemies he tried so desperately to stop. Yet sweeping power could not strengthen the emotional fragility of Hoover, who is further humanized with the brilliantly handled love between him and his long-time partner, Clyde Tolson. A psychological and often emotional tour de force, J. Edgar portrays the crushed soul at the center of a person who crushed so many lives. 93/100