Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

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Cinema Clash podcast: Kong Skull Island; The Ottoman Lieutenant; The Last Word; Neruda; The Marseilles Trilogy

On this edition of the Cinema Clash with Charlie and Hannah: An epic monster movie that’s thin on story but big on spectacle; a love triangle wrapped in a weak war drama set in the Ottoman Empire; Shirley MacLaine gets the The Last Word in a film that Charlie detests and Hannah struggles to defend; a Chilean poet-turned-politician gets the fictionalized biopic treatment; and not one, not two, but three French films for the cinephilic Francophile (aka Charlie). Ooh-la-la! Listen now, or download for later!

Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie spectacle. If you like the likes of King Kong, Godzilla, and Jurassic Park, with a bit of Apocalypse Now thrown into the mix, then you’ll surely be satisfied with Kong: Skull Island. If the aforementioned titles don’t get your cinematic juices flowing, then you can skip this latest spin on a really, really big ape and the island he reigns over. I didn’t not like it, but I wasn’t blown away either, because I’m simply not a monster movie maven. It took me decades to get around to seeing the original Jurassic Park. This film has a similar vibe. Humans invade the turf of giant creatures and pay a hefty price.

Cinema Clash podcast: Logan; Table 19; Before I Fall; Land of Mine; My Life as a Zucchini

On this edition of the Cinema Clash podcast with Hannah (Mainstream Chick) and her movie nemesis Charlie: A grim final farewell to Logan; Table 19 serves up some lukewarm wedding comedy; Before I Fall aims for the YA crowd; Land of Mine wins Charlie’s vote for best foreign language film; My Life as a Zucchini (Ma Vie de Courgette) offers up a smart, animated tale about orphans, not veggies; and Hannah mixes up her mammals. #oops #BeerFail #WhatIsAWolverineAnyway?

Just click on the box and Tune in!

Logan

Logan could be one of the most divisive Marvel movies of all time. Hardcore fans of the Wolverine mythology may appreciate this dark, R-rated send-off to the most iconic and sardonic of the X-Men superheroes. But I was not prepared for, and did not enjoy, the grim final farewell (or so it appears) to Logan/Wolverine, portrayed for nearly 20 years by the multi-talented and seemingly ageless Hugh Jackman. I’m not a huge X-Men fan (I prefer the Avengers), but I’ve always had a soft spot for the bitter, sexy, ripped, self-healing Wolverine who was blessed and cursed with immortality and killer claws. This Wolverine is different. He’s bitter, aging, self-loathing, and just no fun at all. Apparently, that’s what the filmmakers were going for. And that’s what some film critics and fanboys are raving about. But I don’t like hyper-violent, bloody, raw, and depressing. Especially in my Marvel movies. Deadpool earned its R-rating with unexpectedly entertaining raunchiness and wit. Logan gets its R-rating from a string of curse words and a very high body count. Heads will roll… literally.

Fifty Shades Darker

Defending this movie is like Donald Trump defending one of his executive orders. The built-in base will eat it up. Others will accept it, with reservations. And everyone else will run for the cinematic equivalent of Canada. So the bottom line is this: If you’ve read the books (as I have) and were at least okay with the first film (as I was), then you may feel compelled to escape back into the unconventional romantic fantasyland that is Fifty Shades Darker. It’s not a must-see now, unless you’re into instant gratification, but it is essential to the climax of the film adaptation of the steamy story arc detailed in the best-selling trilogy by E.L. James. Part three, Fifty Shades Freed, has already been shot and is scheduled for release next Valentine’s Day, 2018. So you have a year to debate your inner goddess (as Anastasia would say) on the merits of seeing this relationship through to its happily-ever-after. This is, after all, nothing more than a risqué fairytale written –without apology– in the vein of Twilight fan-fiction. Shakespeare it aint. But it is a very lucrative enterprise. So somebody’s making out.

The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us is a hot mess of a sci-fi drama about a boy who was born on Mars after his astronaut mother, Sarah, apparently failed to take an Early Pregnancy Test before setting off on a super-long shuttle mission to colonize the Red Planet. In a sad twist of events, Sarah discovers shortly after take-off that she’s pregnant, and then dies from complications during childbirth. That’s not a spoiler. It’s in the trailer, and sets up the rest of the story about the life and times of Gardner Elliott, an extremely bright but socially-awkward kid who grows weary of life in a Martian bubble. As puberty hits, Gardner gets rebellious and decides to visit his home planet Earth – to meet a cool girl he’s met online, and maybe even find his mysterious, unidentified father. (Sadly, it’s not Matt “The Martian” Damon.)

Cinema Clash: Split; xXx: Return of Xander Cage; The Founder

Mainstream Chick faces off with her cinematic nemesis Charlie over: M. Night Shyamalan’s creepy psychological thriller Split starring James McAvoy as a guy with 24 alternate personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls; xXx: Return of Xander Cage, an action movie starring Vin Diesel in the second sequel of a franchise I’d never heard of. It’s pure camp. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!; and The Founder, a not-so-feel-good biopic starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s “founder” Ray Kroc.

Collateral Beauty

Collateral Beauty is a bittersweet drama that could be either a tough watch, or cathartic, for anyone feeling the pain of loss during the holiday season. If I had to pick a target demographic, I’d go with fans of A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, or (to allude to something more current) the television drama This Is Us. It’s about finding the good – the collateral beauty – when life hurls a few ugly curveballs.

La La Land

Believe the buzz. La La Land IS the best movie of 2016. It’s certainly my top pick for top honors in the Oscar pool. But here’s the twist. I had to see it twice to fully appreciate the story and the spectacle. The first time I saw it was at the Middleburg Film Festival in October, in cramped seats in a hotel ballroom. About a month later, I saw it again – on a big screen, in a real theater, with a good sound system. And I was hooked. It doesn’t fit neatly into any particular genre. It’s part musical, part drama, part comedy, part fantasy, part romance… all packaged together in a unique, thought-provoking, entertaining and bittersweet film about dreams, relationships, and the paths taken – or not taken – in life.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

It’s got that sweeping, familiar-sounding score. And on-screen text that instantly takes you back a long time ago, to a galaxy far, far away. And it’s got battleships, space creatures, men and women ready to sacrifice themselves for a cause, and of course, that Darth Vader guy and some references to the Force. In other words, Rogue One delivers exactly what the subtitle promises: A Star Wars Story. And Star Wars fans will eat it up, especially if they’re well versed in all the characters and chronologies that span decades of Lucas filmmaking. As far as I can tell, Rogue One is the first in an Anthology Series that is not to be confused with the Sequel Trilogy that began with last year’s The Force Awakens, or the Original Trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) that began in 1977 and spawned a Prequel Trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith) that I somehow managed to miss between 1999 and 2005. Now that we’ve got out of the way… here’s the gist of Rogue One: