Saving Mr. Banks


As a preface to writing about ‘Saving Mr. Banks’, I want to mention that I do not have a full recollection at anytime of having watched ‘Mary Poppins’ in full. I know I have seen it, and I, as many others will as well, remember parts of the film. The key part of knowing this is that ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is based around Walt Disney’s final attempts to get Mary Poppins’ creator, P. L. Travers, to sign over the film rights to her character.

I have to say that this film was actually quite an emotional roller coaster. From laughs to to misty eyes at the end, ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ does a wonderful job of showing just how hard it can be being protective of something you have created, especially when that something is based on your own life.

Emma Thompson is simply fantastic as P.L. Travers and brings out the entire wide range of emotions of the film. From distant opening to heart warming middle to teary eyed finale, Thompson walks you through the bitter end to what had been a life full of sadness resulting from an inability to move beyond the depths of her childhood.

To counter that, Tom Hanks produces his second best acting job of 2013, behind his performance in ‘Captain Phillips’ as head of the Mouse House, Walt Disney. While it is always hard to find a big name actor to portray a well known real life person, Hanks does quite an amazing job in bringing a larger than life person to the big screen.

In the end, I really wish that ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ had of come to my town sooner so I could have seen it last year, as this would have one hundred percent made my top ten list for 2013. I highly recommend this to movie goers in general, and ‘Mary Poppins’ fans in particular.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.


Ride Along


The first big commercial hit of 2014 is ‘Ride Along’ featuring comedian Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. Playing off of the stereotypical buddy cop formula, this film puts a modern twist on it as the main character isn’t yet a cop.

While not ground breaking in any real way, the unique twist of the main character being a school security guard whose expertise comes from video games gave the film enough of a difference to stick out. Kevin Hart is breaking into films from his stand-up act, and a breakthrough hit like ‘Ride Along’ will go a long way into solidifying him as a star.

The main reason that ‘Ride Along’ is worth a watch is that has a January comedy, it is enough to break up the stream of films that come out at the turn of the year. All of the award season bait has been released and with high concepts and depressing themes behind us, a light-hearted comedy is just what the doctor ordered.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit


For the fifth time in the past thirty years, Tom Clancy’s most famous creation, Jack Ryan, appeared on big screens everywhere. While not the strongest of the five films, ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ is an interesting change in how the films have been presented to the masses.

Paramount continues their hopes of making Chris Pine this generations go-to action star. Following up on his success at James T. Kirk in the rebooted ‘Star Trek’ films, here he portrays a young CIA analyst Jack Ryan in the reboot of this character. And to be honest, Pine is not what is wrong with this film at all, aside from the poor chemistry he has with Keira Knightley.

There are a couple of things wrong with this film, and aside from the previously mentioned poor chemistry between Pine and Knightley, the big issue here is Kenneth Branagh as the antagonist in the film. From the poorly conceived Russian accent to just not being menacing enough, Branagh falls short in this film. Adding insult to that complaint is that Branagh is also the film’s director.

Kevin Costner is wonderful in his smaller bits as Ryan’s CIA handler Thomas Harper and it is hard to imagine a time when Costner won’t be able to steal scenes. He continues to carry a quiet confidence and it really pays off in ‘Jack Ryan’. It will be interesting to see if Costner will also be playing this role in the long-rumoured John Clark film based on another Clancy character and that Costner would be the first bridge between them.

Should Chris Pine ever get the opportunity to have a well crafted and well written action film given to him, he will be a huge star. The signs are all here in ‘Jack Ryan’ and it is a shame that the movie falls flat at times. Should a second film in the rebooted universe come along, it could really be something.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

Ten Favourites of 2013

About Time


Released – November 1st

Box Office – $15 million North America/$68 million Worldwide

‘About Time’ is and should be the biggest surprise on this list. A Sci-Fi time travel film disguised as a romantic comedy, this film is quite possibly the best rom-com I have ever seen. What should not be a surprise is that a quirky British comedy rated highly with me. There really are days when I think I should be British.

The key to this film was a quiet but wonderful turn by Bill Nighy as the father of the main character. Utilized twice as a plot device to both introduce the key plot element but then to also further along the film later on, Nighy’s charm breathed life into what could have otherwise been a flat character, and allows him to hold ‘About Time’ together in the end.

While allowing the viewer an opportunity to think about what they themselves would do if in a similar situation, ‘About Time’ manages to avoid the usual trappings of a “normal” time travel film. Staying away from the usual tropes of survival or riches, ‘About Time’ creates a nice change of pace from the average film.

Captain Phillips


Released – October 11th

Box Office – $105 million North America/$109 million Worldwide

My biggest issue with “Captain Phillips’ has been spending the past couple of days figuring out how Tom Hanks did not get another Best Actor nomination for the 86th Academy Awards. He is this film. We all know just what an exceptional actor Hanks is, but for the first time in almost twenty years, he truly shows it off in this film. Hanks is once again worth the price of admission to a film again.

What that doesn’t actually tell you though is just how wonderful ‘Captain Phillips is as a whole. Director Paul Greengrass crafts a film that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire run time, despite the fact that you know pretty much how the film is going to end. That is always an exceptional feat to pull off.

Another amazing aspect that really helped ‘Captain Phillips’ be a strong film was the performance put forth by Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the band of pirates. Abdi manages the rare feat of actually stealing scenes against Hanks and it is no wonder that the was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.



Released – November 22

Box Office – $336 Million North America/$426 million Worldwide

‘Frozen’ continues the return of Disney to the top of the animation mountain. Having been supplanted by Pixar and DreamWorks, Disney has returned to form with recent hits ‘Tangled’ and ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ and ‘Frozen’ makes it a trifecta of all-around amazing films. Featuring a tour-de-force return to the hapharzardly abandoned fairy tale princess sub-genre that is Disney’s animated calling card, this film offers something for everyone.

Two straight years running and three of the last four years, Disney has produced what I would consider to be the best animated film of each year by offering films that out-Pixar Pixar while also bringing in both sexes with films that steal DreamWorks thunder. From jokes for all to amazing Oscar quality songs that are catchy, ‘Frozen’ is everything that you would expect from the House of Mouse and more, breaking down barriers as it goes.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


Released – December 13th

Box Office – $249 million North America/$585 million Worldwide

Peter Jackson took what could be considered some unwarranted criticism from last year’s ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ for trying to meld a children’s book with his cinematic version of Middle Earth.  However, what Jackson managed to do was to make an even finer quality return to Tolkien’s world with ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’.

The most amazing aspect of the second Hobbit film is the dragon, Smaug, himself. When you finally see something come to life that you have long imagined from your childhood, you may get a little concerned about it. Well, in the end, Jackson and company pull off a wonderfully looking Smaug, and one that is key to this film. The other aspect, aside from the look, that sets Smaug apart is the voice work done by Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch’s voice is now how I will read Smaug’s lines whenever I read the book in the future.

While still suffering a little from the middle film syndrome, ‘Smaug’ is still a rambunctious ride and does its job perfectly of delivering our characters to the third act to come with this December’s finale, ‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’.

Iron Man 3


Released – May 3rd

Box Office – $409 million North America/$806 million Worldwide

The first film that Disney and Marvel have released in their post-Avengers world did not fail to deliver. Showcasing everything we have come to expect from Marvel Studios in general and Robert Downey Jr. in particular, ‘Iron Man 3’ was a great way to launch Marvel’s Phase Two much like ‘Iron Man’ did for what became Phase One.

While presenting a seeming end to the arc of Tony Stark, and to the franchise in general should RDJ not come back, ‘Iron Man 3’ did so with a bang. Featuring one of the visually best action scenes of 2013, this film further entrenched Iron Man as a character to be reckoned with at the box office, right up there with Batman and James Bond.

‘Iron Man 3’ also showed that Marvel will not rest on its laurels in Phase Two, but will work to push the envelope further, by making us all ask the question: “What will become of Iron Man moving forward?”

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


Released – December 25th

Box Office – $55 million North America/$105 million Worldwide

‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ spoke to me very much on a personal level. That it did so was a great change of pace from the normal kind of films that I watch, or even other films that some would consider similar to this one. It spoke to me as I myself have at times been lost in thought and what ifs and doubts, very much something that afflicts the main character in this film.

That the opening act of the film, while showcasing those moments, was a little slow and dodgy is something that is easy to overcome once the film starts picking up in the second and third acts. While at times it can seem that the real world adventures of Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty are even more day dreamish than his day dream adventures, the fact that it shows that once you take a chance you don’t know where you will end up highlights how amazing that can be in life.

Star Trek Into Darkness


Released – May 16th

Box Office – $228 million North America/$238 million Worldwide

Paramount Pictures has been in the same boat as Universal Pictures lately, struggling to create new franchises that will allow it to continue to be profitable in this day and age. What Paramount does have though is a sure fire bet for North American audiences, and that is J.J. Abrams’ rebooted ‘Star Trek’ films.  The action levels have never been higher in Trek films, and in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’  they also added more of the political air back to the franchise as well.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and all have done an amazing job on not only bringing “Star Trek’ into the 21st Century but also of making these characters their own with their own unique voices, which was something that no one could have been sure would have happened when creating a new timeline to tell new stories of Kirk, Spock et al. While putting a new twist on a story many are familiar with, they also managed to tell a story that was full of humour, action and also some easter eggs for fans of the original television series as well.

This is the End


Released – May 12th

Box Office – $101 million North America/$24 million Worldwide

Only one true comedy made it to this list in 2013, and it might surprise most that it was ‘This is the End’. Featuring characterizations of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, along with others, the film parodies the reactions of movie stars to an apparent apocalyptic event.

The film is rude, crude, offensive and everything you would expect from a tongue-in-cheek take on their own lives, and as a result was the funniest film I saw in 2013.  ‘This is the End’ is also the first film I have ever seen in theatres where people got up and left due to being offended by it, and if possible, this made it all the more hilarious to me.

Near the end of the film it loses a little bit of steam as it tries to actually finish off telling a story, but for the most part, this film doesn’t take itself serious and neither should you.

White House Down


Released – June 28th

Box Office – $73 million North America/$132 million Worldwide

As I stated in my previous “Most Disappointing of 2013″ article, ‘A Good Day to Die Hard” was out-Die Harded by a couple of films last year. The best of those films was ‘White House Down’, featuring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and James Woods, which was a rollicking action film that stood out above the rest for me.

Channing Tatum channels the best John McClane for the 21st Century that we have seen so far, and plays well off of both Jamie Foxx’s President and James Woods’ villain. There are some that will tell that based off of the box office results of ‘White House Down’ that Tatum cannot carry an action film, but that is simply not the case at all. What killed this film was its release date, nothing more.

Coming out after the failed ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ and the also quite decent and also quite similar ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, ‘White House Down’ suffered from viewer fatigue at the box office, but you should do yourself a favour and check this one out. From director Roland Emmerich, this film was the best of the three.



Released – September 20th

Box Office – $26 million North America/$63 million Worldwide

Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’ was the best film that I saw in the theatres during 2013 and I cannot wait to own it when it comes out in a couple of weeks. Featuring Chris Hemsworth from ‘Thor’ and relative newcomer, to mainstream audiences for the most part, Daniel Bruhl, ‘Rush’ tells the story of the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda and its culminatin during the 1975 Formula One season.

Using a blend of CGI and practical effects, Howard crafted a wonderful film that left an exhilarating feeling throughout. The use of actual historical racing cars was a major part of making this possible. This film is more than just the two main actors, as the cars are also the stars that make this the best film of the year.

Showing off a more dramatic side than though possible, Hemsworth give a performance that makes it possible to believe that he could Academy Awards in the future. However, the real breakthrough of ‘Rush’ is Bruhl who shows off a wide range of emotions as Niki Lauda who suffers through a horrific crash during the 1975 German Grand Prix. Bruhl steals the screen every time we see him, and his resulting nomination for a 2014 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor was well warranted.

I will say this as a late addition. The fact that ‘Rush’ was completely shut out of the 86th Academy Awards with zero nominations does not accurately reflect the strongest film of 2013.

Dallas Buyers Club


In what is bound to be one of the more random films I have ever seen in the theatre, last night I took in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ featuring recent Golden Globe award winners Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. While at times a tougher watch than most films I have seen, this film was well worth going outside of my norm to see.

With today’s announcement of the nominees for the 86th Academy Awards, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ was one of the big winners, pulling down a total of six awards including Best Actor for McConaughey, Best Supporting Actor for Leto along with Best Writing for an Original Screenplay, along with the big one, Best Picture.  Quite the haul for a smaller film.

The key thing for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is not in how it portrays the AIDS fear of the mid-1980’s or the rejection that came with the extreme homophobia in Texas at that time, but in the fact that this is an accurate portrayal of these same feelings throughout most of conservative America today. Because of that mentality, this is a perfect time for this film to be released and is the main reason for its success with both critics and The Academy.

I will say that this film is all McConaughey. While Leto is receiving tons of praise for his role as a transgender AIDS victim, this film would be nothing without the stellar performance put forth by McConaughey as straight, homophobic man afflicted with AIDS and how his dream of a treatment for the virus changed his views on the world.

While McConaughey’s role is the true eye catcher of ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, I will say that I was not really a big fan of Leto’s, and for no other reason than that they did not push any boundaries with how the role was filmed.  Leto is basically playing a gay rock star in drag, and I found the performance to actually be very flat and not a stand out.

In the end, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is a very good movie, and well deserving of its Best Picture nomination, but it also could have been an even more riveting film that feels like it left some things on the table to avoid any controversy and pushing of boundaries.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

Saving Private Ryan


I took a lot of flack earlier this week after writing about ‘Lone Survivor’ and letting it be known that as of that time I had yet to ever watch ‘Saving Private Ryan’. This was done as a personal decision as I felt to give the latter film the atmosphere it warranted was to wait until I had a full sound system in our home.

Well, that day is here and while home sick with a touch of the flu yesterday, I sat down and finally watched the World War II masterpiece from director Steven Spielberg. Spielberg has directed some of the best films of the past thirty years. and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, while not his best film, definitely deserves to be amongst that list.

‘Saving Private Ryan’ is basically made on the opening half hour or so of the film.  Showing a near 100% accurate recollection of landing on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the film serves to highlight the high price paid in the liberation of Europe in World War II.

Featuring many actors you will recognize, even in smaller roles, the acting is top notch in this film. Starring a still-in-his-prime Tom Hanks as the Captain of the team sent to find the titular character in France, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is just another example of how Tom Hanks may be one of the three best actors of the past thirty years.

The visuals in this film are extremely gut-wrenching, as we see what full-scale war can do to normally beautiful lands and scenery.  From the beaches of Normandy to the destroyed villages on the interior of France, Spielberg managed to turn parts of England and Ireland into mesmerizing locales to highlight the loss of architecture that war takes from us all.

The end of the film, which features the desperation of war not only in the attempted defending of a key bridge but also the hand-to-hand brutality that exists in war, was a jarring bookend to the opening of the film and a great way to segue back to the present day where the titular Ryan is seen at one of the cemeteries in Europe to pay his respects to the man that led the mission to bring him home.

At the end of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ the only thought that popped into my head is just how The Academy voters could have passed this over in 1998 for Best Picture and gave that Oscar to ‘Shakespeare in Love’? This has to be one of the gravest travesties in the history of The Academy.

While not 100% sold that this is the best war film of all-time, what it does do is force me to find a copy of ‘We Were Soldiers’ to re-watch to compare the two and see which one comes out at the top of my list.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

Lone Survivor


The biggest film of 2014 is a film that is trying to find Oscar success possibly with a late 2013 release date and the second biggest January opening weekend of all time.  ‘Lone Survivor’ tells the story of an ill fated American military operation in war-torn Afghanistan through the eyes of a four-man SEAL team that ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Unfortunately for ‘Lone Survivor’, I found that it fell into the same trap that ‘Now You See Me’ did last year.  Both were films that I was really keen on seeing after seeing the trailer for them.  Both are films that broke out at the box office and are really hyped up by casual theatre goers.  And both left me wanting more.

That is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong or bad about ‘Lone Survivor’, just that it seemed to miss out on the final scene that would have nailed home the ending and made this a truly great film.  There was really something missing to put this over the top.

The way the film was shot, especially the chase/battle scenes I found to be really well done and really highlighted the risk that was taken by the four SEALs to try and escape their attackers.  These scenes were quite jarring and elicited a few sympathetic groans from the audience as well.

That aside, the few attempts at character building were well done but were so few and far between that ‘Lone Survivor’ really started to, at times, feel like just another generic action film.  I was really hoping for something that would set this apart from the pack but in the end this is just a slight step forward for director Peter Berg.  That being said, it is a lot better than Berg’s ‘Battleship’ from 2012.

In the end, ‘Lone Survivor’ falls short of the best war films we have had in the past twenty years.  Having not yet seen ‘Saving Private Ryan’ I cannot judge against it, but it does fall short of my personal favourite to date, ‘We Were Soldiers’.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.