Thursday, December 16, 2010

The spin on the 'Globes'

I’m a couple of days late at commenting on them, but the nominations for the Golden Globes were announced earlier this week. The Globes, which are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are often considered a precursor to the Academy Awards, as a number of the nominees here will reappear when the Oscar nomination are revealed next month. Of course, the ceremony also veers off from the Oscars, with fewer overall categories, but splits up drama from the comedy/musical genre, and includes TV in its nominations. That makes it the rare broadcast that mixes the movie and television mediums in one award show.

But enough babble about the awards format. Here’s some of the nominees:

Best Motion Picture - Drama
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“The King’s Speech”
“The Social Network”
This would seem to be quite the competitive category. Heck, I don’t think I could even make an accurate prediction of which film will win.

Best Actress - Drama
Halle Berry - “Frankie and Alice”
Nicole Kidman - “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence - “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman - “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams - “Blue Valentine”
Portman is likely the frontrunner here, but I’m a definite fan of the work by Lawrence and especially Williams in their respective films.

Best Actor - Drama
Jesse Eisenberg - “The Social Network”
Colin Firth - “The King’s Speech”
James Franco - “127 Hours”
Ryan Gosling - “Blue Valentine”
Mark Wahlberg - “The Fighter”
I was very happy to see Gosling get recognized for his performance in the emotionally resonant “Blue Valentine.” But he’s a definite underdog here, with Firth the veteran and likely winner in an otherwise young field of nominees.

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
“Alice in Wonderland”
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The Tourist”
“Kids” should be the overwhelming favorite in this category, with some of these films not even popular with critics (“Burlesque,” “The Tourist”). Any other film winning would be a shocker.

Best Actress - Comedy or Musical
Annette Bening - “The Kids Are All Right”
Anne Hathaway - “Love and Other Drugs”
Angelina Jolie - “The Tourist”
Julianne Moore - “The Kids Are All Right”
Emma Stone - “Easy A”
This race is a little tough to call, as the two frontrunners would appear to be Bening and Moore, who are in the same movie. They could split votes, allowing someone else to pull off an upset.

Best Actor - Comedy or Musical
Johnny Depp - “Alice in Wonderland”
Johnny Depp - “The Tourist”
Paul Giamatti “Barney’s Version”
Jake Gyllenhaal - “Love and Other Drugs”
Kevin Spacey - “Casino Jack”
This is another of those “who knows?” kind of categories, with Depp competing against himself. That’s the kind of nomination oddity that you’ll never see at the Oscars. But I would think his Mad Hatter in “Alice” will likely win out.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams - “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter - “The King’s Speech”
Mila Kunis - “Black Swan”
Melissa Leo - “The Fighter”
Jacki Weaver - “Animal Kingdom”
This is one of those categories where the Globes occasionally springs surprises, but I’m thinking either Adams or Leo will win here, unless they split votes – always a possibility.

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale - “The Fighter”
Michael Douglas - “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”
Andrew Garfield - “The Social Network”
Jeremy Renner - “The Town”
Geoffrey Rush - “The King’s Speech”
His nomination (in what most would consider a lead role) could see the rare public appearance in recent months of Douglas, who has been battling cancer. But him winning in this category is unlikely, with Bale and Rush looking to be the top possibilities.

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky - “Black Swan”
David Fincher - “The Social Network”
Tom Hooper - “The King’s Speech”
Christopher Nolan - “Inception”
David O. Russell - “The Fighter”
Fincher and Nolan appear to be the heavyweights in this battle, with both building quite the career of critical and commercial successes. Fincher probably has slightly more momentum with the more recently buzzed about movie, but Nolan’s film was a true technical marvel.

Best Screenplay
Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle - “127 Hours”
Christopher Nolan - “Inception”
Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko - “The Kids Are All Right”
David Seidler - “The King’s Speech”
Aaron Sorkin - “The Social Network”
Another tough category to call, with Nolan a double nominee at the Globes. He probably won’t win in both categories, which could make Sorkin a likely selection. Still, it’s hard to rule out Beaufoy and Boyle, who had a lot of success when collaborating on “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The Golden Globes will be held on Sunday, Jan. 16 on NBC, with Ricky Gervais back as host.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of Dec. 14)

“The Other Guys” (PG-13)
Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson
Directed by Adam McKay

Garnering a large measure of its success from the oddly effective chemistry of its stars (Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg), “The Other Guys” is a better action-comedy than it probably should be. After all, mismatched cops working together on a big case is hardly original. But this film is well aware of the cliches that fill the genre, and even gets some laughs poking fun at them. Ferrell , who seems to do his best comedic work with director Adam McKay (“Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights”), is enjoyably nerdy with a dark side, while Wahlberg shows a knack for comedy. Michael Keaton, as the duo’s captain (and a manager on the side at Bed Bath & Beyond) is a standout in the large supporting cast.
Grade: B+

Other releases:
“The A-Team”
Starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Wilson, Gerald McRaney
Directed by Joe Carnahan

“Cyrus” (R)
Starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener
Directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass

“Despicable Me” (PG)
Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segal, Kristen Wiig, Julie Andrews, Danny McBride, Russell Brand, Jermaine Clement, Miranda Cosgrove
Directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin

“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” (R)
Starring Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers, Kathy Griffin, Emily Koslowski, Don Rickles
Directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg

“Nanny McPhee Returns” (PG)
Starring Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans and Maggie Smith
Directed by Susanna White

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Movie review: "Winter's Bone"

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt
Directed by Debra Granik

Let’s be honest: the darkly effective, small-budgeted thriller “Winter’s Bone” doesn’t serve as the greatest promotional tool for the Missouri Department of Tourism. But it can’t really be argued that the movie takes unfair liberties with its depiction of the backwoods residents in the Missouri Ozarks seemingly consumed by the production of methamphetamine.

Based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, the screenplay by director Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini is sharply crafted in establishing the mood and atmosphere where the characters reside, but avoids bludgeoning you over the head with their drug-infested lives. Interestingly enough, for a movie so steeped in conversation about drugs, there’s very little use or production of it taking place on screen.

But lest the film sound like spending a couple of hours in unpleasant company, not every character inhabiting the story has drugs on their mind. In fact, the main character, Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence, in a star-making performance) wants nothing to do with them, even though they’ve likely been surrounding her for all of her 17 years of life. Ree is the entry point into the film, as she’s had to take on the task of becoming the main caretaker for her two younger siblings, with a mother rendered practically useless by a debilitating depression, and an absentee father.

The fact that her father is gone isn’t really a bad thing for Ree, as he’s been a longtime meth cooker, who has apparently skipped bail as the movie begins. But his disappearance has placed an added burden on the family, as he has used the house as collateral for his bail. Ree is told by the local sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) if her dad doesn’t make his court date in a week, the family will lose the house. The determined teen tells the sheriff she will find him, launching her on a journey among suspicious neighbors and extended family members.

Along the way, she gets varied degrees of assistance, but mostly runs into brick walls from people who would rather she leave well enough alone. But with the thought of homelessness (not to mention the possible breakup of her small family unit) weighing on her mind, Ree pushes forward to find her father, possibly putting her life in peril during the process.

The pacing of the film is a little sluggish at times, but great mileage is gained by the authentic location shooting (in Taney and Christian County) and moody cinematography from Michael McDonough. Granik’s cast, a mix of professionals and first-time actors, provide just the right amount of authenticity to the material, with John Hawkes, as Ree’s dyspeptic uncle, Teardrop, a real standout. His character, although an addict who is at first resentful of Ree’s mission, has an itching desire to know what has become of his brother.

But the film’s success generally depends on Lawrence, as her character’s steely determination drives the story forward. Having only had a few small roles leading to her starring role here, Lawrence is extremely impressive as a teen considering the Army as a chance to give herself a new life (and her family some much-needed money). In her expressive face that has to hide a lot of the fear and uncertainty she’s feeling, Lawrence captures Dee’s desire to get at the truth, no matter the consequences for her. In one standout scene, she pleads with her basically unresponsive mother to tell her what to do, only to realize it's her own instincts that have gotten her this far. In a chilling environment that has sapped most of the life force from those that surround her, Ree’s desire to do right by her family is a true spot of warmth.

Grade: B+
(Rated R for some drug material, language and violent content.)

Monday, December 06, 2010

What's New in Blu? (Week of Dec. 7)

“Inception” (PG-13)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine
Directed by Christopher Nolan

Following up the huge success he achieved with “The Dark Knight,” writer/director Christopher Nolan crafted another commercial and critical hit with “Inception,” an exciting and original concoction that has a twisty narrative on a par with 2001’s excellent “Memento” (also a Nolan picture). Aided by a great cast, the ambitious action-packed thriller jumps onto four continents and six countries, following a small crew of thieves with the ability to extract information from the subconscious of their subjects. The crew leader, Dominic Cobb (DiCaprio, in a strong performance that echoes his work in “Shutter Island”), is given a chance to reunite with his children in exchange for successfully executing one last job, which has all the makings of his most difficult. Some of the visuals in the movie bring to mind the best parts of “The Matrix” films, with a storyline that will keep minds engaged, if not overworked.
Grade: A

Other releases:
“About Last Night …” (R)
Starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, James Belushi, Elizabeth Perkins
Directed by Edward Zwick

“The Big Hit” (R)
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate, Bokeem Woodbine, Antonio Sabato Jr., China Chow
Directed by Kirk Wong

“The Mission” (R)
Starring Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally, Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn
Directed by Roland Joffe

“Restrepo” (R)
Directed by Tim Hethrington and Sebastian Junger

“Shrek Forever After” (PG)
Starring the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Eric Idle, Justin Timberlake
Directed by Mike Mitchell