Showing posts from February, 2017

Winter TV Roundup — Week 9

March begins tomorrow, but many of us are still in the throws of winter. And the TV is still there to keep us company. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted shows from winter. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights: 
Taken, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered February 27)
About: NBC has taken a new stance this winter, seemingly just launching new series that are brand extensions of existing properties of shows like "Taken," that are brand extensions of movie franchises. That usually doesn't work, and it certainly doesn't work with "Taken." What is the real pull of the "Taken" franchise? Is it the stories, or is it the charisma of Liam Neeson broken down in easy to swallow 90 minute bites? I think its the latter, and the pilot for this series did little to change my feeling. In the series, Clive Standen takes on the role of Bryan Mills, who in this series is younger and sans …

Oscars Night in Review

I have a long track record of falling in love with a film that I think is the best in the year and seeing it lose on Oscar night. That streak snapped last year when "Spotlight" claimed Best Picture. Moments after Faye Dunaway announced "La La Land," I thought it had happened again.

Five minutes after that, I didn't know what to think. For the first time I can remember, there was an error when reading Best Picture. While "La La Land" was announced, and the team came to the stage and made speeches, that wasn't the winner. Then, amidst confusion, "Moonlight" got the call. The teams shuffled, like seeing a turnover reversed on replay in an NFL game, and they tried to make their speeches.

Doubtless this will be remembered for a long time. I'm bummed "La La Land" lost, though it's not totally surprising "Moonlight" won. What's heart-breaking is the disservice done to those who worked on both films. It should ha…

The Oscars — My Predictions

It's time, once again, for the Academy Awards. And, as always, my quest to go 24-for-24 begins again. Below are my predictions for tonight's awards.

Best Picture:
Will Win — La La Land
About: Quite simply, "La La Land" was my favorite film of the year. It's a stunning masterpiece, and I think it will have quite a night.

Best Actor:
Will Win: Denzel Washington, "Fences"
About: This is a tough category, and I love all the nominated performances. I think Casey Affleck might have given the best performance, but it feels like Denzel has the momentum right now.

Best Actress:
Will Win: Emma Stone
About: Another tough category, but Stone has been the favorite all season for her beautiful, bubbly performance in "La La Land."

Best Supporting Actor:
Will Win: Mahershala Ali, "Moonlight"
About: He gave one of the most beautiful and nuanced performances of the year. I loved his work in a movie that wasn't my favorite. He should win.

Best Supporting Actre…

Oscars Week — Technical Awards

When it comes to the Oscars, people tend to focus on the big categories. There's the acting prizes, directing prizes, writing prizes and, of course, Best Picture. But that's only part of the field. There's plenty of technical categories that can bring films Oscar Glory. Here's a few of the bigger ones.

Best Cinematography:
* Arrival
* La La Land
* Lion
* Moonlight
* Silence

About: Four of these films are Best Picture nominees, and that's where the edge lies. The favorite here is "La La Land," which is the likely Best Picture winner. The thinking here is that the Best Picture winner will help carry the down ballot categories. And that's certainly possible. But My favorite here is "Arrival," which was the most technically accomplished film in the Best Picture field. I think it may take this category.

Best Editing:
* La La Land
* Arrival
* Moonlight
* Hacksaw Ridge
* Hell or High Water

About: This is an interesting technical category. In many years, this aw…

Best Picture Nominees — La La Land

Nine films are vying for the title of Best Picture in 2016. In the run up to the Oscars I'm taking a look at all the contenders. We have just one film left, a beautiful musical that is not only my favorite but The Favorite on Sunday night.

La La Land
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, and J.K. Simmons
Director: Damien Chazelle
Total Nominations: 14
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actress (Stone), Best Actor (Gosling), Best Director (Chazelle), Best Original Screenplay (Chazelle), Best Original Score, Best Original Song (2), Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Costume and Makeup, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing
About: Hollywood has a long history of musicals that have dominated the awards, but it's been a while since that was the case. "La La Land" is set in contemporary Los Angeles, but in a lot of ways it's a movie out of time. It feels quite retro in both its tone and storytelling. Chazelle, who is a talented you…

Oscars Week — The Music Awards

On Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hand out its annual awards, the Oscars. Until then, it's time to take a look at the races. Today, I turn my focus to the musical categories.

Best Original Score:
* La La Land
* Jackie
* Lion
* Moonlight
* Passengers

About: There's plenty of quality contenders in this race, including three of the Best Picture nominees. You could make a case for several of these films, but "La La Land" is not only a musical, but the Best Picture nominee with the most nominations and the favorite to win. Also, "La La Land" has an incredible score that has been incredibly popular and memorable. It's the favorite here and should come out on top.

Best Original Song:
* "Audition," La La Land
* "City of Stars," La La Land
* "How Far I'll Go," Moana
* "Can't Stop The Feeling," Trolls
* "The Empty Chair," Jim: the James Foley Story

About: This is another tough category, wh…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

Fist Fight
Starring: Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Dean Norris, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Tracey Morgan, Christina Hendricks, and Jillian Bell
About: Being a teacher is hard, especially during the dog days of the school year in an impoverished school environment. That's the set up for "Fist Fight." It's the last day of school, it's a poorly run and poorly funded school, and teachers are being laid off in droves. And after an incident with students, a brash history teacher (Ice Cube) and a laid back English Teacher (Day) clash. Soon, Day's character is challenged to a fight after school. He tries a myriad of things to get out of it and that leads to a new found commitment and plenty of hijinks. There's a lot of fun to be had in this film, which offer some breezy comedy and outrageous situations. I particularly liked the character played by Bell, a guidance counselor with a serious Meth issue. This isn't a deep o…

Oscars Week — Documentaries and Animated Features

It's Oscars week, and the golden statues will be handed out on Sunday. Until then, it's time to preview the races. Today I'll be looking at Animated Films and Documentaries.

Best Animated Feature:
* Kubo and the Two Strings
* Zootopia
* Moana
* The Red Turtle
* My Life as a Zucchini

About: So the big thing about this category is probably which movie didn't get nominated — namely "Finding Dory," which was a sensation at the Box Office this summer. Instead, we have a different Disney entry, two other films that got major releases and a couple independent features that few will have seen. So who's the favorite here? Well there are a lot of fans of Laika Studios, the group responsible for "Kubo," but that doesn't seem to be pulling it to the lead. "Moana" has had strong staying power at the Box Office, and is also nominated in the original song category. But many are predicting "Zootopia," which had an interesting message about tol…

Best Picture Nominees — Moonlight

We are just a few days away from this year's Academy Award telecast. Nine films are vying for the top prize in film, and in the run up to the awards I've been taking a look at their chances. We've reached the final two, in this case the films I think have the best shot at winning the top prize. Today is a tale of growing up from the mean streets of Miami.

Starring: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes
Director: Barry Jenkins
Total Nominations: Eight
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ali), Best Supporting Actress (Harris), Best Adapted Screenplay (Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney), Best Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score
About: "Moonlight" is one of the top contenders, and is a film that could very will win the top prize. From a social and political standpoint,  it's on point. The film is about a young black man coming of age in the streets of Miami. His mothe…

Oscars Week — Writers and Directors

The Oscars take place on Sunday, and in the run up to the awards I'm taking a look at the races. Today the battle for director and the writing awards takes focus.

Best Director:
* Damien Chazelle, "La La Land"
* Kenneth Lonergan, "Manchester By the Sea"
* Barry Jenkins, "Moonlight"
* Mel Gibson, "Hacksaw Ridge"
* Dennis Villenueve, "Arrival"

About: This is a strong field, and you could make a case for all of them. In fact, most of them are nominated in other categories, and collectively they represent the best chances for films to win Best Picture. So who gets the trophy? I think the battle really comes down to three primary contenders: Jenkins, Lonergan, and Chazelle. Villenueve is a great director who delivered, perhaps, the most technically proficient film in the field, but I think he's a long shot. So, too, is Gibson, whose personal history will likely cost him some votes. Among the other three, all were nominated for writing and…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 8

We are just seven days from meteorological Spring, but we're still getting an influx of new winter shows. In these weekly posts I review the pilot and second episode of new scripted shows this winter. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Imposters, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Bravo (Premiered February 7)
About: This was a pilot that surprised me. I thought the story and the cast was engaging, and I thought this had some potential for being engaging moving forward. But in watching the second episode, which I thought fell off a lot and fell into a formulaic pattern that I found far less compelling, I think this would have been a great idea for a movie, but stretched out over an ongoing series I'm not sure I see how it works. I still like Inbar Lavi in the lead role, and I'd like to see her in a project that's a bit more interesting. There is a lot going on here, but not enough of it was compelling for me to add this to an already crowded …

Oscar's Week — The Actresses

As we continue through Oscar's Week, it's time to take a look at the leading and supporting ladies vying for the awards on Sunday.

Best Actress:
* Emma Stone, "La La Land"
* Meryl Streep, "Florence Foster Jenkins"
* Natalie Portman, "Jackie"
* Isabelle Huppert, "Elle"
* Ruth Negga, "Loving"

About: This is one of the major categories that, barring a true surprise, feels locked up. Streep is a perennial nominee, but her film this year doesn't have cache. And Portman, Huppert, and Negga gave good performances, but their films haven't drawn a lot of attention, either. Meanwhile, "La La Land" is a favorite for the top prize, and the bubbly and talented Stone has been sweeping up things this awards season. Expect more of the same Sunday.

Best Supporting Actress:
* Viola Davis, "Fences"
* Octavia Spencer, "Hidden Figures"
* Naomie Harris, "Moonlight"
* Nicole Kidman, "Lion"
* Michelle Will…

Oscars Week — The Actor's Races

It's Oscars week. On Sunday, the awards will be handed out. Until then, it's time to handicap the races. Today I will look at the Actor's races.

Best Actor:
* Casey Affleck, "Manchester By the Sea"
* Denzel Washington, "Fences"
* Ryan Gosling, "La La Land"
* Viggo Mortensen, "Captain Fantastic"
* Andre Garfield, "Hacksaw Ridge"

About: This is one of the more wide open competitions among the big awards on Sunday. A month ago it seemed like Affleck had this locked up, but now things are less clear. Personal issues for Affleck have muddied the water, as have the rise of other nominees. This is now somewhat of a four horse race, with only Garfield standing little chance to win. Washington, who won at the SAG awards, Mortensen and Gosling are all in the field. And you could make cases for all of them. The question is which will rise to the top, and who will pull out the win. I still think Affleck is the favorite, but there are plenty …

Overlooked by the Academy

A week from tonight, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hand out the year's top prizes for films. And, as with every year, there's performances and films that get overlooked. Here's a few of the ones I think shouldn't be missed from 2016 even if they won't be taking home a statue.

The Light Between Oceans
* Best Actor Michael Fassbender
* Best Actress Alicia Vikander
About: This is one of the most beautiful, emotionally gutting and intense films I saw in 2016. Sadly, it kind of came in under the radar after being released on Labor Day weekend. That's not typically a key time to release films that are meant for awards competition, and I think it was a missed opportunity. This was one of the most haunting films I saw last year, and that is mostly a credit to the powerful work of Fassbender and Vikander. I was surprised this film generated no buzz, and I think it's one that people should take time to check out.

Edge of Seventeen
* Best Actress Hai…

Oscar Winners, a Look Back, Part 2

Time is often the best measure of the Best movies in a given year. Last week I looked at the field from 30, 25 and 20 years ago. Today I will look back at the field from 15, 10 and five years back.

15 Years Ago
Ceremony: 2002
Film Year: 2001
* A Beautiful Mind
* Gosford Park
* In The Bedroom
* Moulin Rouge
* Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Winner: A Beautiful Mind
Thoughts: Well, this is a tough one. At the time, I thought "A Beautiful Mind" was the best, and it was the one I would have picked. Fifteen years later, that's probably still the case. But it's hardly clear cut. In fact, the movie that's probably remained highest in the public consciousness is "Moulin Rouge." I never liked that movie, so it's hard for me to go all in on that movie. But that is probably one you could make a strong case for because of what it means to people all these years later. Either way, "A Beautiful Mind" still holds up as a solid biopic that …

Best Picture Nominees -- Manchester By The Sea

The Academy Awards are less than 10 days away, and nine films are vying for the top spot. In my continuing look at the contenders, today I put a quiet New England tale that packs an emotional wallop under the microscope.

Manchester By the Sea
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, and Kyle Chandler
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Total Nominations: Six
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor (Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (Hedges), Best Supporting Actress (Williams), Best Director (Lonergan), and Best Original Screenplay (Lonergan)
About: Anyone who's seen this film knows it has a power. It's a small, intimate story, but the emotional heft of the characters' journey makes it intense. And I think it's one of three films that has a legitimate shot at the top prize. I don't think it will win Best Picture, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did. This is a memorable film, and one that's received glowing reviews for months. It's nominated for six Ac…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

Fifty Shades Darker
Starring: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Eric Johnson, Kim Basinger, and Marcia Gay Harden
Synopsis: This is the follow up to "Fifty Shades of Grey," and is the second of the trilogy of books from E.L. James. For this sequel her husband, Niall Leonard, took over the screenwriting duties and James Foley ("Glengarry, Glen Ross," "House of Cards") took over the directing duties. This one is more of a traditional love story, with some of the more laughable plot turns smoothed out. This is a better film than the first, avoiding as many groan-worthy lines and featuring better chemistry between Dornan and Johnson in the lead roles. It's still not a great film. It is a better and more watchable film. And it continues the story popularized in the books, which will be completed in the third film, due out in 2018. For fans of the material, it will likely be an encouragement. And even for those…

Best Picture Nominees -- Arrival

We are rapidly speeding toward the Academy Awards, which take place in 11 days on Sunday, February 26. Nine films are vying for the top prize this year, but only one can win. In my series reviewing the contenders today I look at an unconventional drama that uses aliens to speak to the human condition.

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, and Michael Stuhlbarg
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Total Nominations: Eight
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Director (Villeneuve), Best Adapted Screenplay (Eric Heisserer), Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing
About: Beginning this week, and carrying into next week, I am presenting the final four Best Picture nominees, and the ones I think are the biggest contenders. Call "Arrival" my wild card pick. It's still a long-shot to win Best Picture, but I think there's a chance. Last year I thought another Villenueve film, "Sicario," was one of the…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 7

February is a big time for networks, it's one of the three periods where ratings competitions really heat up. Hence plenty of new series hoping to pluck eyeballs from rival networks. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of scripted series this winter. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
APB, Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered February 6)
About: FOX launched an all new Monday night beginning in February. The first part of that is the re-boot of "24," which got the plum post-Super Bowl slot. The second part is "APB," a procedural drama that features a case-of-the-week. What makes it different is that it's about a rogue billionaire (Justin Kirk) who manages to take over a police precinct in Chicago, believing his technology can help stem the tide of unsolved crimes. Along the way his rough edges get smoothed out, and police resistance to his methods gets toned down. Of course that's already hap…

2017 Broncos Season — Off-Season Priorities

The Broncos 2016 season didn't end as they'd hoped. The team finished 9-7, missed the playoffs, and saw their coaching staff leave. Now there's a new staff in place, and Free Agency is just around the corner. If the Broncos want to contend again, they need to make some moves.

Here's a look at the top off-season priorities for this team.

* Pick a quarterback. The rumors persist that the Broncos will acquire Tony Romo. Personally, I think that's fool-hardy. The coaches have said that Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch will be in an open competition. Others have suggested the team will sign another veteran or draft a quarterback. Right now it's a mess, and it needs to be sorted out.

* Fix the lines. The Broncos' offensive and defensive lines were woeful in 2016, and that has to be job one. Donald Stephenson is likely gone, which is ideal, and Russell Okung probably won't be back. The Broncos took a gamble on the offensive line last year, and it didn't pa…

Oscar Winners, a Look Back

There is a lot of focus on Oscar night. We wonder who's going to win and it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. But, often, when you look back a few years later it's easy to second guess voters' decisions. Some have even suggested that the Best Picture prize should be handed out five years after release.

As we prepare for a new crop of films for the top prize, I'll be taking a look back at past ceremonies and considering the Best Picture fields. Today I'll look at the nominees from 30, 25, and 20 years ago.

30 Years Ago:
Ceremony: 1987
Film Year: 1986
* Platoon
* Hannah and Her Sisters
* A Room With A View
* Children of a Lesser God
* The Mission
Winner: Platoon
Thoughts: The big question is always if the winner was the right one. In that field there are a few good films. I've always been taken with "The Mission," the Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons religious drama. But "Platoon" is a film that has endured and spoken to many peo…

Return of the "Dead"

"We'll win. But we need to wait for the right moment." — Father Gabriel, "The Walking Dead."

The NFL season is over. Typically the first Sunday after the season is what I like to call "depression Sunday" since it's the beginning of a long six month football drought. But fear not, "The Walking Dead" is, as in years past, beginning the second half of its season tomorrow.

Season seven has been uneven, to say the least. Those who are regular readers here know I have been critical of this season for its level of violence and disturbing storytelling. Yet, the final episode before hiatus offered the promise of a potential shift. Something long missing returned — hope. And the second half seems aimed at getting back to the spirit that first drew us to these characters.

So as the second half of the season begins, I am hopeful for a turn around. Here's some things I'd like to see the next eight weeks.

* More time in The Kingdom with King …

Best Picture Nominees — Hidden Figures

Nine films are vying for the title of Best Picture this year. Today I continue my look at the contenders with a historical drama that shines a light on a trio of unsung heroes.

Hidden Figures
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, and Mahershala Ali
Director: Theodore Melfi
Total Nominations: Three
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Spencer), Best Adapted Screenplay (Alison Schroeder and Melfi)
About: This is one of the most enjoyable films nominated for Best Picture. It tells the story of the space race, focusing on a trio of heroes who were unsung — Katherine Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Monae) — who helped NASA win the space race. It's a beautiful and moving film, and one that's been a hit with audiences at the Box Office, too. But it nabbed just three nominations, and it's hard to imagine it winning any of those categories. "Hidden Figures" could st…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, and David Denham
Synopsis: This is one of the Best Picture nominees this year, and is based on a true story about a young Indian boy who is separated from his family and, eventually, adopted by a couple in Australia. As an adult, the boy begins a search for his birth family to let them know he's OK, and it takes him on a beautiful and fascinating journey. This is a great film, and a well-told story. To learn more about my take on its place in this year's Academy Awards race, see Wednesday's post. But this is an optimistic and powerful film, and one well worth checking out this Oscar season.
Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and some sensuality.
Verdict: Four stars out of four.

The Space Between Us
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Carla Gugino, and Gary Oldman
Synopsis: If you’re a frequent moviegoer, you’ve doubtless seen the trailer for “The Space Between Us.”…

Best Picture Nominee -- Lion

We are moving ever closer to the Academy Awards, when one of nine Best Picture Nominees will take the crown. Today, I continue my look at the contenders with a true life story of finding home.

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, and David Wenham
Director: Garth Davis
Total Nomination: Six
Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Kidman), Best Adapted Screenplay (Luke Davies), Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score
About: Of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, "Lion" is probably the most under the radar entry. It is a film set in Australia and India, and it was a foreign co-production that is just making the rounds in the United States thanks to a wider release post Oscar nominations. It is a film based on a true story, and it tells the powerful story of a young Indian boy separated from his family, adopted by a couple in Australia, and driven to find his birth family as an adult. It features some rich perf…

Winter TV Roundup, Week 6

We are into February, and the new show releases are heating up. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this winter. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
24: Legacy, Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX (Premiered February 5)
About: This latest iteration of FOX's classic series, "24," got the post-Super Bowl slot this year. It didn't get good reviews, and it didn't draw a ton of eyeballs. The second episode aired last night in its normal slot. It follows a new hero, as Jack Bauer is retired. Corey Hawkins ("Straight Outta Compton") takes the lead as a special forces soldier that gets in too deep in what will, doubtless, be the longest day of his life. It's a plot full of cliches and two-dimensional characters. I wasn't impressed with either episode, and found it to be dull. That's not a great sign, but certainly in line with early reviews. I wasn't a huge fan of the ori…