Archive for January, 2011

THE MECHANIC is just another hit man movie

Posted in Reviews on January 27, 2011 by Steve Mesa

The Mechanic, a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film, is the latest action film starring Jason Statham that delivers action but introduces nothing new to the story or genre.

  Statham plays Arthur Bishop, an assassin who receives his orders from a mysterious company and eliminates his targets in order to either look like an accident or to prove a point. When his mentor (Donald Sutherland) is killed, he reluctantly teaches his mentor’s estranged and violent son, Steve (Ben Foster), what Bishop knows. As they form a partnership together, they both have one goal: revenge for those responsible for the murder of Bishop’s mentor and Steven’s father.

  In this film, Jason Statham and Ben Foster are basically playing the same characters that they had always played in previous movie.

  Even though Statham always plays the same tough guy role whether it is Crank or The Transporter, but he does it well. He personifies a man who lets his actions do the talking whether it is as simple as snapping someone’s neck or planning on assassinating a Columbian drug lord in a pool to make it look like an accidental drowning. Even if he feels comfortable in the action-hero roles, it seems tiresome and I think Statham needs to step out of his comfort zone and play someone different.

  Ben Foster (The Messenger, Alpha Dog) plays yet another temperamental and violent young man, except he plays that same role in an action film. In this film, Foster makes an effective sidekick that has the testicular fortitude to follow in the footsteps of Bishop. With Statham and Foster doing what they do best in their respective roles, there is barely any chemistry between the two actors in a movie where the teacher/student relationship should have been essential.

  The action in the movie is entertaining with exciting action sequences that include Steve’s first attempt to kill a man and a methodical execution in a hotel room that ends with guns blazing and people dying. 

  The story of The Mechanic is nothing new. Whether it is a lonely hit-man who takes upon himself to have a young apprentice or a man looking for revenge to those that done him wrong, these plotlines have been done over and over again in better films. The film could have been more than just a Jason Statham action film, but the movie takes itself too seriously.  

  The Mechanic may succeed with some good action scenes, but the story and characters is nothing we have not seen before in other action movies.

  The Mechanic opens in theaters everywhere on Friday.

THE MECHANIC: 3 stars out of 5

Oscar nomination predictions

Posted in Festival/awards with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2011 by Steve Mesa

Aside from Oscar night, Tuesday morning will be the final step to determing the best of 2010 in the motion picture industry. I predicted the Oscar nominations for the last three years and I have rarely been wrong (except for maybe missing the mark by one or two). Here are my predictions for the Oscar nominations:

Best Picture

127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, The Town and True Grit

Alternative: Winter’s Bone

Best Actor

Jeff Bridges-True Grit, Robert Duvall-Get Low, Jesse Eisenberg–The Social Network, Colin Firth–The King’s Speech, James Franco-127 Hours

Alternative: Javier Bardem-Biutiful

Best Actress

Annette Benning-The Kids Are All Right, Nicole Kidman-Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence-Winter’s Bone, Natalie Portman-Black Swan, Michelle Williams-Blue Valentine

Alternative: Hailee Steinfeld-True Grit

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale-The Fighter, Andrew Garfield-The Social Network, Jeremy Renner-The Town, Mark Ruffallo-The Kids Are All Right, Geoffrey Rush-The King’s Speech

Alternative: John Hawkes- Winter’s Bone

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams-The Fighter, Helena Bonham Carter-The King’s Speech, Melissa Leo-The Fighter, Hailee Steinfeld-True Grit, Jacki Weaver-Animal Kingdom

Alternative: Mila Kunis-Black Swan

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

Alternative: Joel and Ethan Coen-True Grit

Miami Film Festival unveils this year’s lineup of film selection

Posted in Festival/awards on January 20, 2011 by Steve Mesa

  Miami-Dade College held a press conference this morning at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Miami to unveil the lineup for the 28th Miami International Film Festival, which runs March 4-13.

  The announcement was made by the MIFF’s new executive director Jaie Laplante, who replaced the previous festival director Tiziana Finzi. Even though Laplante officially started in September, he began looking for fascinating films earlier from a selection of 1200 films that he has viewed. He said that he wants to showcase and feature different aspects of Miami that  is sports, film or art culture.

  The festival will begin on opening night with Chico & Rita, the first animated film to open the festival in its 28-year history. The film is about a love story between a Cuban band leader and a singer that features songs from Nat King Cole and Dizzy Gillespie. The film that will be showcased during closing night will be Incendies, a tale about a pair of twin who travel to the Middle East in search of their family roots.

  Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (After the Wedding, Things We Lost in the Fire) will be the latest recipient of this year’s Career Achievement Tribute. The festival will also screen her latest film, In a Better World, which won the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language film on Sunday. Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) will participate in a Q&A seminar and present his latest film, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

  Aside from Chico & Rita and In a Better World premiering at the Gusman, there will be several other films that will be shown at the historic theater that includes Things Fall Apart, director Mario Van Peeble’s drama  starring Curits “50 Cent” Jackson (who also wrote the screenplay) as a football running back who is diagnosed with cancer during his senior year in college and Magic City Memoirs, a coming-of-age drama starring Dominik Garcia-Lorido (City Island) and executive produced by Andy Garcia about three friends who are on the verge of graduating high school when they risk their lives by partaking in reckless antics.

  Tickets for this year’s Miami International Film Festival will go on sale in February. For more information on the festival, visit miamifilmfestival.com

Golden Globe Predictions

Posted in Festival/awards on January 16, 2011 by Steve Mesa

Best Motion Picture-Drama

Black Swan, Inception, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, The Social Network

Who Will/Should Win: The Social Network

  Almost everybody seems to like The Social Network since the movie debut in October. The film has been carrying such a momentum that it has swept almost every major critic award for Best Picture including winning the Critic’s Choice Award on Friday night.

Best Performance by an 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

Who Will/Should Win: Colin Firth

  All the actors nominated in this category delivered tremendous performances. However, Colin Firth’s performance in the film definitely deserves the recognition that he is getting. His Golden Globe win tonight will be the first step to getting his first Oscar. Not to be outshined by Firth, but James Franco also delivered a great performance. If there was an upset, I could see Franco as the winner in this category.

Best Performance by an Actress-Drama

Halle Berry – Frankie and Alice, Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone, Natalie Portman – Black Swan, Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

Who Will/Should Win: Natalie Portman

  Mark my words: Natalie Portman is going all the way as the ballerina who loses herself in her role as the Swan Queen. This is her year to win any award she is nominated for her role because she deserves after going through physical (training for a year and losing 20 pounds) and possibly emotional toll to embody her character.

Best Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical

Alice in Wonderland, Burlesque, The Kids Are All Right, Red, The Tourist

Who Will/Should Win: The Kids Are All Right

  None of the other films nominated should have been nominated. This film should win no matter what.

Best Performance by an Actor-Comedy/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

Who Will Win: Johnny Depp

Who Should Win: Paul Giamatti

  Even though I have not seen it yet, I have heard Paul Giamatti really delivers another great performance. Judging from that, Giamatti should win compared to the other nominees. However, Johnny Depp is the HFPA’s darling by the fact that he is nominated twice for his roles in unfavorable films. I would not be surprised if he got the Golden Globe tonight and I would not be surprised if he did not win.

Best Performance by an Actress-Comedy/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

Who Will Win: Annette Benning

Who Should Win: Emma Stone

  Aside from Jolie, this is strong category. Not only should Annette Bening win, but she will get nominated for an Oscar this year. I also liked Emma Stone’s performance and first lead role in “Easy A” because she really carried the movie along with support from a great ensemble. Her performance proves that she has a bright future in Hollywood and that she belongs with the likes of Bening, Julianne Moore and Anne Hathaway.

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

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

Who Will/Should Win: Christian Bale

Christian Bale’s performance as Dicky is not only the best performances of his career, but the best performance of the year. Bale embodies every character he has ever portrayed and his role in “The Fighter” is no exception.

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Amy Adams – The Fighter, Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis – Black Swan, Melissa Leo – The Fighter, Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

Who Will/Should Win: Melissa Leo

  This is a hard category to determine as all of these actresses create amazing performances, but there can only be one winner. Carter was great as King George’s wife and so was Adams as the tough love interest in “The Fighter” and Weaver as the matriarch of an Australian crime family, but Melissa Leo will win for her portrayal of a domineering mother from Lowell, Massachusetts.

Best Director-Motion Picture

Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan, David Fincher – The Social Network, Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech, Christopher Nolan – Inception, David O. Russell – The Fighter

Who Will Win: David Fincher

Who Should Win: Christopher Nolan

  David Fincher’s “The Social Network” is not only the best film of the year, but it is Fincher’s best film he has ever directed. However, kudos goes to Christopher Nolan for directing the imaginative and surreal “Inception”. As there can only be one winner, Fincher will pull off the win and pave a road to a possible first Oscar for him.

THE GREEN HORNET sets the bar high for superheroes movies this year

Posted in Reviews with tags , on January 14, 2011 by Steve Mesa

 

  The Green Hornet, which is about a newspaper publisher who fights crime with his Asian sidekick Kato, has been showcased on different mediums from a radio show in the 1930s to the one-season stint on television in 1966 starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee. Set in modern day Los Angeles, the latest incarnation of The Green Hornet comes from director Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind) and starring Seth Rogen as the vigilante crime fighter. 

  Millionaire playboy Britt Reid (Rogen) inherits The Daily Sentinel after the unexpected death of his father, media mogul James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). After realizing he has done nothing with his life, Britt decides that he wants to fight crime. With the help of his butler and driver Kato (Jay Chou), they fight crime at night by posing as criminals in order to take down other criminals. Their escapades catch the attention of Los Angeles’ crime boss, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who sees them as competition wanting to take over his territory.

  Not only is The Green Hornet just a superhero movie, but it is also a good buddy movie thanks to the great chemistry between Seth Rogen and Jay Chou as the crime-fighting duo. They make a good tag-team together whether they are fighting a small gang or having a heated argument with each other.

  They both complement each other, even though they have two different personalities. As Britt, Rogen plays a cocky and likable jerk who knows that he has the potential to be a jerk at times. Kato is what Britt calls a “human Swiss army knife” because not is Kato a martial arts expert, but he is can also create unique weaponry and build cars like “Black Beauty”, the supped-up 1966 Chrysler Imperial that has enough weapons to supply an army.

  While Rogen delivers the majority of the laughs in this movie, Chou delivers tremendously during the action sequences. Chou plays Kato as a resourceful, charismatic and reliable character who has a greater potential to become more than just a mere sidekick.

  Watching The Green Hornet, you would not think that the same person who directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is directing this movie. However, there are a couple of scenes in the film that has Gondry’s fingerprints all over it that features some unique visual sequences and songs in the soundtrack from Gondry’s musical collaborators. Gondry also delivers great action sequences in the movie including a no-holds-barred fight between Britt and Kato and a decisive confrontation between the heroes and the villains that takes place inside The Daily Sentinel.

  While not all of the film is shot in 3D, there are certain elements in The Green Hornet where the 3D-element that is not a complete waste. The effective 3D up-conversion looks good and enhances the movie-going experience unlike Alice in Wonderland and The Last Airbender, which only gives you a headache from watching those two movies. One truly effective sequence that uses every facet of the third dimension is the fight sequences involving Kato where he uses Kato-Vision, where everything slow down and he moves at super-human speed in order to takes out multiple criminals.

  The only problem that there is in The Green Hornet is that movie becomes a lttle too long for its own good in certain places. There are a couple of scenes that could have been trimmed down by a couple of minutes in order to make the movie a little shorter, especially in a scene that takes place after The Green Hornet and Kato finished taking down the bad guys.

  Despite being a little too long, The Green Hornet sets the standard for any superhero film that is going to be released this year. The movie is a suprisingly great action/comedy movie that is an entertaining and fun ride and worthy of the extra cash to watch it in 3D.

THE GREEN HORNET: 4 stars out of 5

BLUE VALENTINE is a heartbreaking and romantic film that is anchored by two great performances

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on January 13, 2011 by Steve Mesa

 

  There are several films that mainly focus on the beginning of a passionate romance that might lead to marriage someday. There are also several films that focus on the end of a marriage. Blue Valentine manages to do both as it intercuts between the past and present to tell a romantic, but heartbreaking story of a young couple.

  Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) have been married for six years. Dean is comfortable with the life he has as a freelance housepainter where he has quite a temper and a penchant to drink beer in the morning. Cindy is a nurse who, unlike Dean, is not satisfied with her life because she is mentally and physically exhausted with her marriage.

  Even though they have a daughter (Faith Wladyka) that they are devoted to, they realize that their lives are a mess and that they falling out of love with each other. In an act of desperation, Dean and Cindy go to a tacky motel with themed rooms in order to try to rekindle their marriage.

  Director Derek Cianfrance hits a home run with his second feature film as he explores the intimate beginnings of a relationship, along with the deterioration and implosion of a marriage. The screenplay, which Cianfrance co-wrote with Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne, presents a unique narrative where the story jumps back and forth between the past and the present. It becomes extremely effective when it shows how different Dean and Cindy were six years ago by counterpointing the days as young adults sharing passionate moments with each other to where they end up in the present as bitter and sad adults unsatisfied with the way their life has turned out.

  Cianfrance shot intense and lingering close-ups using long lenses and the Red digital camera system for the contemporary moments of the film, while he used shorter lens and shot on a Super 16mm camera to capture the couple in their happier days. By using this kind of method to shoot Blue Valentine, Cianfrance captures the genuine and raw moments that they endure throughout the film whether it is watching them have their first date or fail miserably when they try flirt with each other in a small and cheap motel room.

  Gosling and Williams are on top of their game as they create the most genuine and powerful performances of their career. As Dean and Cindy, they share moments where they simultaneously fall head-over heels with each other and disintegrate in front of our eyes in the span of two hours. The actors help compliment the screenplay’s dialogue as shown in the scenes where Dean and Cindy have their first date as they are so convincing in their roles that it seems that they are actually falling in love with each other. Gosling is more effective in his performance when he has child-like fits whenever he feels insecure or gets rejected by his spouse during intimate moments. Williams has a more subtle performance as she expresses her dissatisfaction internally until she reaches a boiling point.

  Blue Valentine captures the raw emotions of falling in and out of love thanks to the performances of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams and a unique narrative structure that contrasts the character’s relationship in the past and in the present.  

BLUE VALENTINE: 5 stars out of 5

Opening January 14-Blue Valentine, The Dilemma, The Green Hornet and Rabbit Hole

Posted in Movie News with tags , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2011 by Steve Mesa

  With two movies opening wide and two more movies opening in limited release, there is a first in the month of January: a really good movie.

  That good movie would be THE GREEN HORNET, which is directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and stars funnyman Seth Rogen, newcomer Jay Chou and Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz. After the death of his father (Tom Wilkinson), the esteemed publisher of the Daily Sentinel, millionaire playboy Britt Reid (Rogen) decides he wants to fight crime, though he can’t do anything if not for the abilities of his butler and driver Kato (Chou), who not only is a martial arts expert but is also able to design and build all sorts of cool superhero gadgets. This film sets the standard for any superhero movie that is going to be released this year because it is great action/comedy/buddy movie that is a really entertaining and fun ride.

  The second movie to get a wide release is the Vince Vaughn/Kevin James film THE DILEMMA, which also happens to be directed by “Archie Cunningham” himself, Ron Howard. A man (Vaughn) discovers that the wife (Winona Ryder) of his best friend (James) is having an affair with a younger man (Channing Tatum). After discovering her infidelity, he must decide if he should tell his best friend or not. Not only does this movie have comedic stars like Vaughn and James, but the cast includes Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly and Oscar-nominee Queen Latifah.

The last two films are being released into limited theaters in South Florida, but there also happen to be the most critically-accalimed movies of last year and potential Oscar contenders.

  BLUE VALENTINE tells the story of  a couple (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) uses one night in order to try to save their marriage. As the movie progresses, the narrative jumps back and forth from the past to the present to show the contrast and status of their relationship from six years ago. BLUE VALENTINE captures the raw emotions of falling in and out of love thanks to the performances of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams and a unique narrative structure that contrasts the character’s relationship in the past and in the present.  

Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star in the big screen adaptation of the play, RABBIT HOLE. Kidman and Echart both play Becca and Howie, a couple who are trying to return to normal life after the loss of their 4-year-old son.  While the Becca still can’t cope with the loss, Howie finds comfort when he goes to support meetings with other grieving parents.