Saturday, January 28, 2012

Guide to the SAG Awards, this Sunday at 8pm EST

The 18th annual SAG Awards will be aired this Sunday at 8pm EST, on both TNT and TBS, live from the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center. Here are the nominees for the major film categories, with my picks in italics:
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture:
The Artist
Bridesmaids
The Descendants
The Help
Midnight in Paris
~This is a tough call. I'm hoping that either The Help or Bridesmaids wins, but really any of these movies could win, as they all have great ensemble casts.

Read the rest of the article and my SAG Awards picks at Examiner.com.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pina

The documentary Pina is about the life works of choreographer Pina Bausch, who died suddenly in 2009, five days after being diagnosed with cancer. A documentary was supposed to be made about her, but she passed away during the preparations for it; production was canceled, although the dancers involved still wanted to make the film. It focuses on modern dance, which is a little hard to understand for some, and the film was strange but many of the dance sequences were very beautiful.

The movie has four separate sequences: Le sacre du printemps, Café Mueller, Kontakthof, and Vollmond (Wikipedia). In Le sacre du printemps, we see men with rakes cleaning the stage, as it is covered in what looks like sand, but which is actually peat. It's a strange way to start the film, but it does catch the audience's attention. In Café Mueller, we see a cafe with various chairs strewn about, and different people doing repetitive actions in each of the corners and in the middle. Kontakthof, which was my favorite, features a ballroom of sorts; at first, you see younger dancers in a line, but as the camera shifts, all of a sudden older dancers, wearing the same dresses and suits, are in their places. The last, Vollmond, features a flooded stage, as Pina was a fan of using the elements in her work, and the dancers are splashing about and moving through the water.

Man on a Ledge

Man on a Ledge does something that no movie in recent memory has done: it combines two different types of movies, the "desperate man hanging off of a ledge" movie with a heist film, because the "man on the ledge" is covering up the bigger picture, a robbery happening at a nearby building. When you combine these two "genres" with an all-star cast, you get an interesting, crazy ride that never fails to hold the audience's attention throughout its 102 minute runtime.

Former police officer Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington, The Debt) was sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit - stealing the 40 carat diamond of one of New York's "movers and shakers," David Englander (Ed Harris, Salvation Boulevard) - and when he is released for a day for his father's funeral, he disarms the guards that were assigned to him and escapes. A year or so later, he finds himself perched on the ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel building, threatening to jump and saying that he will only talk to Detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks, Our Idiot Brother). Once Mercer is retrieved, she tries to talk him down from the ledge, but she soon finds out that there is a lot more going on here than just a desperate man trying to commit suicide: Cassidy's brother, Joey (Jamie Bell, Jane Eyre) and his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez, TV's Entourage), are breaking into Englander's safe to prove that he still, in fact, has the diamond, and the "show" that Nick is doing out on the ledge is simply a cover-up for this.

Albert Nobbs

Early on in Albert Nobbs, Mia Wasikowska's character calls the title character "a weird little man," and the same can be said about this movie: it's a little strange, but somehow it works, and either way you'll be thinking about it long after you leave the theater. As a testament to the acting in the film, Glenn Close has been nominated for an Oscar for playing Albert.

Our title character Albert (Glenn Close, TV's Damages) lives in a hotel in Dublin, where he works as a butler. "He" is actually a she, but nobody else knows, because if Albert was to reveal his true identity, he would not be able to support herself and probably would be working as a maid instead and making lower pay.

(I will refer to her as "him" in this review, however, to avoid confusion)

A Mr. Page (Janet McTeer, Tideland) comes to paint the hotel one day and the hotel owner says he can sleep with Albert in his bed; when Albert is undressing, Mr. Page finds out that he is a woman, and Albert, in the only scene where he is very emotional (like a woman), begs him not to reveal his identity to anyone. Mr. Page has a secret of his own, however, and is more like Albert than Albert would have guessed.

The Grey

The Grey could be used as an anti-tourism ad for Alaska: your plane will crash in the snowy wilderness somewhere and you will get eaten by wolves ... welcome! However, the film was better than I expected - even if it's grisly and bloody in parts - and Liam Neeson gives a great performance, as does his supporting co-stars.

Ottway (Liam Neeson, Unknown) is preparing to fly back to Anchorage with his coworkers. He is a hunter of sorts for the company; he kills wolves when he sees them get too close to where the men are working outside. Ottway just wants to be left alone so he can sleep, he tells the man who sits next to him (Joe Anderson, The Crazies), whom quickly switches seats when he encounters the grouchy Ottway. The plane hits some turbulence mid-flight, and a digital map shows they are somewhere over Alaska.

What follows is most intense plane crash I have seen in any movie, even including some 9/11 films. When Neeson wakes up, he is shivering and his face is half-covered with snow; he appears to be alone, but when he walks over the snowbank, he sees the wreckage of the plane and bodies and suitcases strewn everywhere. He quickly finds himself a hat and a heavier coat out of one of the suitcases, and then looks for survivors - there are no more than ten. They huddle in the plane and try to decide what to do, and Ottway quickly establishes himself as the leader of the group, because of his survival skills. This is a good thing because on their first night they encounter an unpleasant surprise: there is a pack of wolves in the area who are angry at them for disturbing their hunting space. Ottway and the others decide to head for the trees in an effort to avoid the wolves, but the survivors soon begin to be picked off one by one.

Monday, January 23, 2012

INTERVIEW: Chandler Massey, 16-Love and Days of Our Lives

Chandler Massey is currently starring in the feature film 16-Love, where he plays Farrell Gambles, a tennis amateur and the love interest of Ally, Lindsey Shaw's character. I got the opportunity to interview him via phone about the movie, playing tennis, and his character on Days of Our Lives; here's what he had to say.
How long did it take you to learn how to play tennis like you do in the movie?
Actually – fortunately – I grew up playing tennis with my family, so I didn’t have to completely learn.
Did you take tennis lessons when you were a kid?
Yes, I did. I took lessons. I lived in Georgia, and they had these young ALTA and young USTA tennis teams and I was always involved with those.
Read the rest of the interview at Examiner.com.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

INTERVIEW: Lindsey Shaw, from 16-Love, Pretty Little Liars, and 10 Things I Hate About You
















Lindsey Shaw is currently starring in the film 16-Love (click here for review), which is playing in limited release across the country and on On-Demand. She is also a recurring guest star on the TV show Pretty Little Liars, and from 2009-2010 she played one of the leads, Kat Stratford, in the TV series version of 10 Things I Hate About You. I recently got the chance to chat with Lindsay via phone about the movie and her other roles.

I watched 16-Love and it was really cute. I was wondering how long it took you to learn how to play tennis like that.
Thanks for watching it. When I first booked the role, they hooked me up with a tennis coach right away and I did three-hour practices with him every day. That was for about a week and a half. Then we went down to San Diego for a week of rehearsals first and they matched me with a tennis coach down there as well, for the same thing – every day practices, for two hours a day. It was only for about two and a half or three weeks that I really got to have intensive practice - and then, of course, during filming. It wasn’t long, but it was very intensive.
Read the rest of the interview at Examiner.com.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

16-Love

16-Love is an indie film that opened yesterday (January 20th) in limited theaters and also on video-on-demand, and is from the same writer/producer as A Cinderella Story. When I first heard about it, I knew I wanted to see it, mostly because the trailer looked very good but also because Lindsey Shaw, an actress I like from TV's 10 Things I Hate About You and Pretty Little Liars, is in it. The movie focuses around her character being the #1 tennis player, and what happens to her when she twists her ankle and can't play for a few weeks. Some of her co-stars, too, are no strangers to the big (and little) screen, and they make for a fun group of teens to watch.

Ally Mash (Lindsay Shaw), aka "Smash Mash," the 16-year-old tennis veteran, is playing against one of her rivals, Katina Upranova (Susie Abromeit, Battle Los Angeles), when she lands awkwardly and twists one of her ankles. Her father, Dave (Keith Coulouris, Shadow People), a former tennis pro and U.S. Open winner, orders her to default (lose the game), and he hires a bevy of professionals that will help Ally repair her ankle, both physically (a yoga instructor) and mentally (a sports psychologist). What he doesn't count on, however, is Ally being distracted, as she's just met an amateur tennis player named Farrell Gambles (Chandler Massey, TV's Days of Our Lives), and is starting to fall for him. Ally helps Farrell improve his tennis game, and in the process, he shows her what life can be like for a normal teenager. Ally must still train once her ankle heals, however, because the championship game is fast approaching, in which she will be facing Upranova again to try to reclaim her #1 spot.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Red Tails

Red Tails tells the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all African-American Air Force unit that served as pilots in World War II in Italy at a time when many Americans believed that African-Americans were not "mentally and physically able" to serve in the military. The Airmen, who fought in Italy during World War II, not only proved that they were able, but in fact quite adept members of the armed forces, and their story is one that has never been told on the big screen until now.

The pilots and their commanders include Major Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr., The Hit List), Colonel Bullard (Terrance Howard, The Ledge), "Easy" (Nate Parker, The Secret Life of Bees), "Junior" (Tristan Wilds, TV's 90210), "Joker" (Elijah Kelley, Hairspray), "Smoky" (singer Ne-Yo), Joe "Lightning" Little (David Oyelowo, The Help), and others. Some of the boys had their own side plots as well; Joe Little was dating a local Italian woman (Daniela Ruah, TV's NCIS: Los Angeles), even though he couldn't speak Italian, and Major Stance was fighting for the Airmen's right to serve in the war, as there were still a lot of racists around who didn't like the idea of African-American pilots. Because of Stance and their natural talents, the Red Tails soon get a major opportunity - escorting bomber planes into Berlin - and they take advantage of it to show their flying abilities.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was released in limited markets on Christmas Day 2011, to qualify for Oscar season, but is just now being released nationwide. It's based on the acclaimed novel by Jonathan Saffran Foer, whose novel Everything is Illuminated was also made into a movie. EL&IC is one of the more realistic 9/11 movies I have seen, and the fact that it is told from a child's point of view, for the most part, makes it all the more powerful.

Oskar Schell (newcomer Thomas Horn) lives in New York City with his mom (Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side), and his father (Tom Hanks, Larry Crowne), a man of science who owns his own jewelry store. Oskar is definitely precocious, and was tested for Asperger's Syndrome but "the results were inconclusive," he explains early in the film. Indeed, it appears he does have Asperger's, as he has a hard time talking to people, he carries around a tambourine that helps him through his fears, and he obsesses over anything and everything. His father assigns Oskar clever assignments, masquerading as "challenges," that involve him having to interact more with people and the world around him, and this seems to be helping his condition. Oskar's world is turned upside down on 9/11, however, as his father is in the Twin Towers for a meeting, and cannot escape. Oskar's world already revolved more around his father than his mother, and is changed irrevocably. After finding a key of his father's that he thinks was meant for himself, Oskar embarks on a "challenge" to find the lock in which it fits, convinced that it is a message of sorts from his father.

Haywire

Michael Douglas! Channing Tatum! Michael Fassbender! Antonio Banderas! Ewan McGregor! These men plus a newcomer, MMA fighter Gina Carano, make up the A-list cast of Haywire. Its trailer makes the movie seem like it will be a fast-paced secret-agent movie, but instead it's rather slow and reflective in parts; however, the fight scenes, mostly due to Carano, are great, and that is where this movie excels.

Mallory (Gina Carano, Blood and Bone) is an agent who works for a private company that is contracted by the government. She's just returned from her last job in Barcelona when her handler, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor, Beginners), asks her to take a "cake job" in Dublin, where her cover will be that she's married to Paul (Michael Fassbender, Shame). Mallory and Paul will need to extract a journalist to get him home safely. She and Paul attend a party at a castle-like home in Dublin, and when they get back to their hotel room, things go awry; she soon realizes that she's been set up, and she needs to get out of Ireland ASAP. She can't trust her handler anymore so she calls Coblenz (Michael Douglas, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), the government agent who hired her company, and explains the situation to him. Mallory must find her way back to the U.S. safely on her own since she is now being labeled as a "rogue agent," and Kenneth will stop at nothing to find her.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Golden Globes to air this Sunday, 8pm on NBC

Ricky Gervais will host for his second year
The 69th Annual Golden Globes awards will air tomorrow (Sunday, 1/15/12) from 8pm-11pm EST on NBC. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has chosen Ricky Gervais to host again, even after some of his more acidic barbs towards the stars last year, so it should be an interesting night.

Check out my picks of the winners at Examiner.com.

Friday, January 13, 2012

DVD review: Answer This!

Film: A- (4 stars out of 5)
Special features: B-

Chris Gorham and I at the
Ann Arbor premiere, Oct. 2010
By now you should all be familiar with Answer This!, an indie film I have written a few articles about. It has recently been released on DVD by Lionsgate, and it held its world premiere in Ann Arbor at the Michigan Theater in October 2010, where I was able to interview Chris Gorham (TV's Covert Affairs) and Arielle Kebbel (TV's The Vampire Diaries, and John Tucker Must Die). It also had a smaller premiere in Royal Oak this past October as well. I loved the film, although I'm definitely biased because it was filmed at my alma mater, the University of Michigan, and in fact is the first movie EVER in which the university allowed its specific name to be used. I also wrote a fun article about the places I recognized in the film and detailing a few which have had "location changes" for the movie, so to speak.

Read the rest of the article at Examiner.com.

Contraband

Contraband looked like it could either be an awesome heist film or a vessel for cliches, but luckily it ended up being more of the former. Much of the movie was over the top and unbelievable, but overall it was a fun film that anyone who is a fan of heist or gangster movies will enjoy.

Reformed criminal Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter) got out of "the life" when he married his wife and had kids, but now his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones, X-Men: First Class), owes some bad guys a lot of money because he didn't fulfill his end of their bargain. Chris must do one more job in Panama in order to pay the guys (including Giovanni Ribisi, The Rum Diary) what Andy owes them; if he's unable to cough up the money, they will kill Andy and then come after Chris and his family.

Beauty and the Beast 3D (2012)

It's a tale as old as time (or as old as 1991, anyway): Beauty and the Beast, now back on the big screen in Disney Digital 3D. I used to own the film on VHS (and here's where I lose the young ones ...), but I hadn't seen Beauty and the Beast in quite some time. It was nice to see it back in theaters, although I'm not sure if the 3D added much; it was good in some scenes, but a little shaky in others.

The plot, for those of you that don't know it: Belle (voiced by Paige O'Hara) lives a "provincial life" with her inventor father, Maurice (Rex Everhart), and is an avid reader. However, the most handsome man in town, Gaston (Richard White), wants her as his wife, and he will stop at nothing to have her. On the way to an inventor's fair, Belle's father gets lost in the woods, and he ends up at the Beast's castle. The enchanted fixtures there welcome him in, but the Beast (Robby Benson) is not as hospitable; he throws him in the tower, not caring about his well-being. When Belle goes to find her father, she offers herself to the Beast as a trade, so that Maurice may go free. The Beast agrees and Belle must be his prisoner, and live in the enchanted castle, for the rest of her life.

Although the Beast is harsh on the outside, Belle soon finds that he has a softer side too. What she doesn't know, however, is that he used to be a prince, before a spell was cast on him that made him look the way he does now; he must break the spell by his 21st birthday by finding someone to love him, or else he will look like a beast forever. His former servants now are the fixtures in the house, as well - there is Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury), the teakettle, and her son Chip (Bradley Pierce); Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers) the clock; Lumiere (Jerry Orbach) the candelabra; and the Wardrobe (Jo Ann Worley), among others.

Joyful Noise

I saw the trailer for Joyful Noise a few days before seeing the film, and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the movie. I'm not a huge fan of gospel music, but I do like Queen Latifah, and it seemed that she and Dolly Parton would make a good pair. The movie, armed with a hilarious script, ended up exceeding my expectations, and it is a film that anyone - gospel fan or not - will enjoy.

Vi Rose (Queen Latifah, Just Wright) lives in the small town of Pacashau, Georgia, with her 16-year-old daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer, Red Hook Summer) and her son, Walter (Dexter Darden, Standing Ovation), who has Asperger's syndrome. Vi Rose and Olivia are very active in their church's choir, and they are heading to the regional finals for the Joyful Noise competition for the second year in a row. The choir director (Kris Kristofferson, Dolphin Tale), however, passes away shortly before the regional finals, and his wife, G.G. (singer Dolly Parton), hopes to be named the new director, but is disappointed when the honor is given to Vi Rose instead.

At the same time, G.G.'s grandson Randy (newcomer Jeremy Jordan) arrives from New York, where he's run away from a bad home situation. He becomes interested in Olivia, and realizes that to get closer to her, he will have to join the church choir; luckily, he has an amazing voice. He develops some new versions of classic songs for the group to sing, but Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance, Final Destination 5) is not having any of it, and says that if the choir doesn't do the older songs, the church will not sponsor them in the competition.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Angelina Jolie Live Q&A and GIVEAWAY: Limited edition In the Land of Blood and Honey poster

Angelina Jolie will be doing a live Q&A about her new movie In the Land of Blood and Honey on January 12th, and you can see it here. In addition, I have a promo "limited edition" poster from the movie to give away.

To read more and to enter the contest, check out my Examiner.com article. Contest ends on Sunday, January 15 at 5pm EST.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Catch a Tangled short before Beauty and the Beast 3D

The short film Tangled Ever After will be shown before Beauty and the Beast 3D - I'm seeing a screening of it tomorrow, actually - and Disney has a preview clip to share with its Tangled fans. Check out the clip below, which seems to be of the wedding between Rapunzel and Flynn:



And don't forget to check out Beauty and the Beast in Disney Digital 3D in theaters on the 13th.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has an impressive cast list including Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, and Tom Hardy, among others, which is impressive. It also has the dubious distinction of being one of the only movies of recent memory that completely confused me and also almost put me to sleep, as it was very, very slow. At the screening I attended, we were given a "dossier" of sorts that explained the plot and the characters in the film, and it appears that I should have read this more closely, because the plot explains nothing and leaves it up to the audience to decipher its various components.

Only three parts of the plot were clear: one, there was a mole in the "Circus" (what they call their intelligence agency); two, they were trying to find out who that was; and three, Strong's character gets shot in the very beginning, although the particulars of this change later on in the movie. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based on the novel by John le Carré, who writes decent spy novels - I've read a few - and to further understand the film, I looked at the Wikipedia page for the book. I also asked a friend who also saw it to explain it to me, and his explanation is much shorter. To paraphrase: "Oldman was the boss and they wanted him out."