[#2016oscardeathrace] Spectre (2015)

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Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth

148 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Writing’s on the Wall”)

 

Well, let me assure you by saying that Spectre is the third best Bond film…featuring Daniel Craig (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Adventures of Tintin). Okay, I’m playing now.

Spectre opens with one of the single most impressive shots and sequences of the entire Bond franchise, due in large part to the masterful directing of Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, Away We Go). Sadly, it is the film’s best moment, and while the rest of Bond 24 is exciting, it is missing something.

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James Bond has lost someone very close to him. In her place, he now has M (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Invisible Woman), who has bigger fish to fry when MI6 comes under political scrutiny. While M and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later…, Southpaw) try to protect the organization, Bond is off to discover the mysterious plans of the criminal syndicate known as SPECTRE, and his connection to its apparent leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained, Big Eyes). There are a lot of spoilers to stay away from, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Sam Mendes described Bond’s dedication to uncovering SPECTRE as a more focused passion, and if that is the intention, I did not see it. Daniel Craig feels bored in this entry.

Christoph Waltz brings a healthy dose of fear to the villainous Oberhauser, and his henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) feels nicely reminiscent of Oddjob from the glory days of Goldfinger, a much better version of homage than the way Die Another Day beats you over the head with it.

Fiennes, Harris, and Ben Whishaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, In the Heart of the Sea) as Q do their collective day’s work nicely, but the film rests far too much on a personal story for James, and Craig’s best work is when he is being tortured.

Director Mendes gives us a gorgeous Bond film, even after losing the incredible Roger Deakins to other projects. In his place, we get Hoyte van Hoytema, who does some better than expected work but fails to properly convey his visual medium to the story correctly. It isn’t easy, and he certainly tries.

In Bond girls, we get some of the most well-crafted Bond girling from Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and some of the most underutilized work from Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Revolutions, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).

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Maybe that’s the problem with Spectre. It’s just so uneven. There are some truly incredible sequences, and there are some snoozy moments. It just didn’t keep me the way previous entries have. Not a bad Bond film, but a step down for the franchise, its director, and Craig (who gave us better work this year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; oh, you didn’t know that?).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Spectre? What’s your favorite James Bond movie? Let me know!

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[#2016oscardeathrace] Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

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Director: J.J. Abrams

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow

Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt

135 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Editing [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects [PENDING]

IMDb Top 250: #74 (as of 1/24/2016)

 

I’m still a little shocked that I’m sitting in my chair writing a review for a NEW Star Wars film, here in 2015. It’s a strange feeling knowing that the stories that inspired me to tell stories are back and big and (hopefully) glorious. Well, I won’t waste time covering all that I love about this franchise, and I’ll leave that to the previous reviews that you can check out below. Instead, let’s just focus on the elephant in the room: Is The Force Awakens any good?

Happily, yes.

It’s been thirty years since the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of the villainous Emperor and his disciple Darth Vader, and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness, Kingsman: The Secret Service), the face of the rebellion, is missing. In his absence, the Empire has reformed into the First Order, and new evils Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Avengers: Age of Ultron), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson, About Time, The Revenant), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, TV’s Girls, Frances Ha) have brought their special form of tyranny to the galaxy. Leia (Carrie Fisher, Maps to the Stars, Sorority Row) has dispatched rebel pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis, Ex Machina) to find her missing brother. As Poe finds new allies in ex-stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega, Attack the Block) and scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), they begin to uncover the mystery of Luke Skywalker’s location.

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I’m going to leave the plot details to this, which is probably too much already, but you probably should’ve seen the film by now. Where have you been?

So let’s look to our director, J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Star Trek Into Darkness). While the film has been criticized as being too similar to parts of the Original Trilogy, I found it to be more of an homage of where we’ve come in this franchise and where we are going. The Force Awakens is a transitionary film, and a lot of that can be credited to Abrams, plus most people forget about all the new elements to this film.

The film relies a lot less on the seasoned performers than I’d thought. Instead, we meet so many colorful characters to liven up the franchise and move it forward. Daisy Ridley is the most impressive to me as Jakku scavenger Rey, who finds herself in a much lonelier place that Luke Skywalker did at the beginning of A New Hope. She lives a solitary life on the planet of Jakku, where she steals from the relics of the previous Empire and uses it to survive on the desolate desert planet. Her emotional resonance as a forced heroine is astounding and impactful and her character is the strongest female we’ve seen in this franchise so far.

Also throw in John Boyega, who provides a nice amount of true terror and comic relief without becoming a stock character. Finn has to deal with a life he learns he doesn’t want, and while I feel like the start of the film doesn’t do him justice, he grows to be lovable by the film’s climax.

Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver aren’t novice performers even if they aren’t exactly household names, and both turn out incredible performances as Poe and Kylo, two opposite ends of a spectrum. Poe could be a repeat of Luke but becomes something entirely different. Kylo Ren could just be Darth Vader 2.0, but the film is as much his origin story as it is Rey’s, and Kylo Ren is no Darth Vader. He is angry, spiteful, emotionally unstable, and mentally broken, which makes his character’s evolution something very interesting to see in the film.

Now, our returning actors are top notch as well, and of them, this is Han Solo’s (Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Age of Adaline) film. It’s nice to see Ford really giving it all to this franchise again, and even his relationship with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew, Killer Ink, Dragon Ball GT: A Hero’s Journey) has grown and changed in the past three decades. On that note, Chewie gets a lot more development in this film than I expected.

Abrams isn’t afraid to bring something new to this franchise (and I don’t mean lens flares, though there are a few), and that can be seen from his choice in cinematography and editing. Though this feels like a Star Wars movie, it has a lot of updated choices to its camera movement and pacing that add to the excitement.

John Williams returns to the franchise, too, and his score, which has been nominated for an Oscar, is astounding. I was taken aback by the sheer amount of new music Williams created for the film, which has its cues in the themes we’ve had before, but so much more, and it makes him deserving of the gold statue.

From a production standpoint, it’s easy to see the attention and care given here by the use of practical effects, which also elevate the visual effects and style of the movie throughout.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an awakening to the entire franchise, bringing us back to that childhood wonder of the original film while scoring a path to future adventures. It angers me that I find myself more excited for the next installment because of how much I enjoyed this one. Now, the film is imperfect in a few ways. I didn’t feel like every new character landed the way they were intended to, and some of the film’s most climactic moments (in the spoilery territory) faltered and their impact lessened. That being said, I found myself nitpicking Episode VII because of how much fun the movie was. Why haven’t you seen it yet? If you have, why haven’t you seen it again? Go. Go now!

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, click here.

For my review of Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, click here.

[#2016oscardeathrace] The Hateful Eight (2015)

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Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern

Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino

167 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Jennifer Jason Leigh) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Cinematography [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score [Pending]

 

What happens when eight morally ambiguous humans find themselves snowed in for the weekend? You get The Hateful Eight, the newest film from writer/director Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained). We are first introduced to Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chi-Raq), a famed bounty hunter known for his past transgressions in the civil war. He is out amongst the snow when he is met by John Ruth (Kurt Russell, The Thing, Bone Tomahawk), a fellow bounty hunter known as “The Hangman” who is delivering the notorious Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Machinist, Anomalisa) to the proper authorities in Red Rock. Along the way, the three come across the new sheriff of Red Rock, or so he says, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, TV’s The Shield, American Ultra), and the group make their way toward Red Rock before being stranded at Minnie’s Haberdashery in the blizzard. Now, John Ruth is under the impression that one amongst the group snowed in is out to free Daisy and kill anyone in her way in this thrilling whodunit.

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There’s no way to get this film confused with the work of any other filmmaker. This is pure-laced Tarantino from its deepest core. There are all the stylings of this one-of-a-kind director like the gripping dialogue, the extreme violence and Samuel L. Jackson, who eats up the screen. He is matched in prowess with Kurt Russell, who proves to be perfectly matched for our director in style and wit. Jennifer Jason Leigh also steals her scenes as the morbidly chilling Daisy, but to be fair, everyone is playing their A-game here, from regular performers Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Selma) and Michael Madsen (Kill Bill vol. 1, Hell Ride) to Demian Bichir (TV’s The Bridge, The Heat) as the hilarious Bob and the Bruce Dern (Nebraska, Twixt) as the racist General Sandy Smithers.

Then there’s the cinematography, expertly handled by DP Robert Richardson. The film, if you hadn’t heard, was shot using an Ultra Panavision 70 and projected in a 70mm cut, which is absolutely excellent. The frames are stark and beautiful and rich and actually help to drive the story even if a large amount of it takes place in a single shack. If you didn’t get the chance to see it in 70mm, let me assure you that both cuts of the film are terrific, so don’t feel too bad.

I also fell in love with Ennio Morricone’s original score, the first original score from the famed composer in decades. He is almost ensured to win the Oscar for it.

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The Hateful Eight could have been shorter, but I really loved the feel and grandeur of such a simple and intense whodunit like this. After two viewings, the film has continued to grow on me, and while it isn’t top-tier Tarantino, it certainly is still one of the best films of 2015.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, and Quentin Tarantino’s Sin City, click here.

[#2016oscardeathrace]

Well, here we are again. The 2016 Academy Award Nominations. As many of you know, I came across a fun little cinephile idea online several years back called the Oscar Death Race. It’s an enjoyable excursion and test to see how many Oscar nominees you can see before the big night. Below you will find the nominees and links to any reviews I had previously done. Join me on this little adventure by using #2016oscardeathrace and let’s enjoy 2015’s best in film.

 

Best Picture

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Spotlight

 

Best Director

  • Lenny Abrahamson, Room
  • Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
  • Adam McKay, The Big Short
  • George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Actor

  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

 

Best Actress

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

 

Best Supporting Actor

  • Christian Bale, The Big Short
  • Tom Hardy, The Revenant
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

 

Best Original Screenplay

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Ex Machina
  • Inside Out
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Big Short
  • Brooklyn
  • Carol
  • The Martian
  • Room

 

Best Animated Feature

  • Anomalisa
  • Boy & the World
  • Inside Out
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie
  • When Marnie Was There

 

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • Mustang
  • Son of Saul
  • Theeb
  • A War

 

Best Documentary

  • Amy
  • Cartel Land
  • The Look of Silence
  • What Happened, Miss Simone?
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

 

Best Original Score

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Carol
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Sicario
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

Best Original Song

  • “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey
  • “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction
  • “Simple Song #3” from Youth
  • “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground
  • “Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre

 

Best Sound Editing

 

Best Sound Mixing

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

Best Production Design

 

Best Cinematography

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant

 

Best Costume Design

 

Best Film Editing

 

Best Visual Effects

 

AlmightyGoatman’s 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2016!

 

Note* This list is not the countdown so these are not numbered. This list contains films that have a release date for 2016 and will not contain the 10 films I believe will be the best. This is the films I have become aware of that I am looking forward to. No, your indie film didn’t make the cut because I just haven’t heard much if anything about it. I’m sorry, but you have a whole year to change my mind.

 

Honorable Mentions: Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, The Free State of Jones, Connor4real, The BFG

 

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Hail, Caesar!

I love the Coen Brothers. I don’t always love their movies, but I love that these two great artists can conjure up so much grandeur while at the same time creating so many personal stories. Hail, Caesar! is an exciting farcical comedy about a kidnapped actor back in the heyday of show business and the studio man tasked with finding him. There is a lot of madcap, a lot of fun in the trailer alone, and a lot of Coen.

 

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I’m not even all that convinced that this movie will be good. The trailer didn’t entirely convince me and I wasn’t a big fan of Man of Steel by any means. I’m mostly excited to see this film because it appears to be the must-see popcorn flick of 2016, much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. The only problem: I was convinced by the great marketing campaign for Star Wars. Batman v Superman, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a big supporter of Zack Snyder (loved Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen, even liked 300) but lately, he just hasn’t been hitting the mark.

 

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Snowden

I actually know very little about this project except the touchy subject matter and Oliver Stone, who has become the king of the biopic. With so many great ones under his belt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead, Snowden looks to be an interesting property for this year.

 

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The Nice Guys

When I say Shane Black, you say what? Exactly, he isn’t a household name yet, but I feel in love with his style based on Lethal Weapon alone. He’s been hitting it out of the park lately with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang several years back and then 2013’s Iron Man 3, and now, a 1970s highly stylized buddy cop picture with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Yes, please.

 

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The Conjuring 2

I tried to pick the most interesting horror film of the mulch this upcoming season, and The Conjuring 2 is it. Never mind Annabelle (truth be told, haven’t seen it yet), The Conjuring is an excellent horror film that learned from all the great work and all the mistakes of director James Wan’s career, and coming off of Furious 7 (a difficult production giving us one of the best in the series) and you have me excited.

 

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Suicide Squad

Even if Batman v Superman is a dud or a hit, 2016’s real pressure of the DCEU is Suicide Squad, the third film in the Expanded Universe features some of its best villains, and they aren’t even the villains of the film. Confusing, I know, but at this point in the MCU, we were getting Iron Man 2, and we hadn’t even dipped a toe in the pool yet. The real test of the DCEU is Suicide Squad, so baby, dip that toe!

 

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A Monster Calls

An interesting property with Liam Neeson playing a monster. Yeah, a monster, and Juan Antonio Bayona (recently off of World War Z 2, dodged a bullet there) at the helm, A Monster Calls seems on par with a Boy and his Dog vibe and the magic of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Check out the teaser if you get the chance; it slipped right in under the radar last year.

 

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Doctor Strange

The reason I didn’t include Captain America: Civil War on the list this year was because of Doctor Strange, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as our new Marvel hero, Mads Mikkelson as the villain, and horror director Scott Derrickson at the helm. This has the potential to be what Fantastic Four, or Fant4stic, or whatever it was last year, tried to be.

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

These last two are no-brainers. Of course I am excited to see where JK Rowling and director David Yates take us in the ninth installment of what is becoming the Harry Potter expanded universe. Everyone’s doing it! I like the idea that you can play with a new tale in a world already established with rules made to be bent. Add in Academy Award Winner Eddie Redmayne, fresh off The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl (which will likely garner him another nomination tomorrow morning), and you have made a delicious nerd soufflé, and I can’t wait to try it.

 

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

See Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for my reasoning behind this film. Let’s face it, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great, and this will be the first opportunity for Disney to actually experiment with the formula without killing our hopes and dreams. And what a story to tell, featuring a tale between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope about the plot to steal the Death Star plans. Expect to see some hints dropped at Star Wars: Rebels and The Force Awakens, perhaps even a cameo or two. Sounds like an exciting December.

 

Hell, sounds like an exciting 2016!

So what do you think? These are just my choices. What are yours? Leave me your own 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2016 below in the comments and I look forward to talking this year with you for at least 12 months…

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

@AlmightyGoatman

“The Revenant” about to unseat “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” this weekend!

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Reports have been coming in all weekend claiming the bitter feud between Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s new drama The Revenant and J.J. Abrams’ newest entry in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens. It would seem though, according to the numbers I have been seeing, that The Revenant is out in front, if only slightly.

We were all wondering what film would unseat The Force Awakens, and many, like myself, saw February’s Deadpool as the first likely contender, but perhaps we were wrong, as many in the box office tracking community saw The Revenant coming in at a respectable but lower $20 million. It now appears like the possible Best Picture contender is racing for somewhere around $37-38 million.

For star Leonardo DiCaprio, the recognition must feel good. DiCaprio, often thought to be cursed from ever getting a Best Actor Academy Award for his countless wonderful performances, seems to be, for now at least, considered one of the front-runners.

The Revenant, a definitely on-the-radar film for the Oscar season, is directed by Inarritu, known for last year’s Best Picture winner Birdman, and stars DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domhnall Gleeson, and was in a very limited release starting Christmas Day before opening wide on Friday.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is, of course, the newest entry in the long-thought-dead film franchise, renewed by Disney in their purchase of Lucasfilm. It also feature Gleeson, who, no matter what this weekend, comes out a winner.

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Both films are in wide release right now.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what do you think? Does Star Wars deserve another week at the top or are you out in the wild with Leo fighting to take the #1? Let me know!