Muppets Most Wanted

muppetsWhen Jason Segel convinced Disney to let him work on bringing The Muppets back to the big screen, no one was happier about that thought than I was. The fact that 2011’s ‘The Muppets’ was one of the best Muppet films ever was an even more amazing fact.

Bringing in a fresh human cast and introducing another brand new Muppet, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ tries its hardest to bring a caper style film to audiences of all ages. The fact that it manages to succeed while also struggling at times is a perfect example of the greater impact of The Muppet franchise.

There were nods to previous Muppet outings, many funny lines, but at times the songs seemed to actually drag the film down, something you would not expect from anything with the Muppets, and something I hope can be fixed again in the future.

With The Muppets, you expect songs, silliness and sly jokes. We got all three of those in ‘Muppets Most Wanted’, but I will freely admit, at times it seemed to be a little off. I will also add that the Tina Fey Russian gulag character was completely pointless to the entire film. Take her out of the the film, and I think you would notice a significant uptake in overall quality.

In the end, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ is a step down from ‘The Muppets’, but the 2011 film was near perfect and it was always going to be hard to match up to that with any subsequent film. If you are a fan of The Muppets, go see this film. The more people that see it, the more likely we are to have further films down the road.

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

Advertisements

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

peabodyI grew up watching ‘The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’. As a kid, I lived in a city that had a Bullwinkle’s Restaurant, essentially a much cooler Chuck E. Cheese’s. Moose and Squirrel, as they are not-so-fondly-called by the show’s main villain, and the other characters of the show are a big part of my life. That is why I was excited for ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’, and that is also why I found myself in the minority on this film. It was not what I was hoping for.

To be honest, it is hard to peg down exactly what this film could have been. It is based on a short from the old show, featuring two time traveling characters who gave not so reliable accounts of historical people. That element is actually in this film. So what did I not like about it?

Personally, I found ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ to be lacking in all the fundamental categories that make an animated film fun. There was a lack of stunning visuals, a near complete absence of jokes aimed at all members of the audience, and a sheer lack of any “adult-friendly” inside jokes. For a fan of all the short cuts from the original ‘Rocky & Bullwinkle’, this was an absolute miss of a film.

While there will more than likely be laughs for younger children, this is a film that I would recommend avoiding if you can, and if you are a parent and are subjected to ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’, do it at home where you can at least do housework or something else while the kids enjoy it.

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

Non-Stop

nonstop

The fact that I am about to present has been years in the making, but is still a bit of a shock: Liam Neeson is the only true small-budget action film star we have in this day and age. From ‘Taken’ to ‘The Grey’ to this year’s ‘Non-Stop’, Neeson has established himself as a bankable early season draw, unlike anyone else in Hollywood today.

As for ‘Non-Stop’ it is exactly the kind of film you expect it to be, while also being a little out of left field as well. A thriller that thrills, a suspense that is suspenseful, but also a film that allows you to analyze it without telegraphing the ending is a nice change of pace today.

Taking a film and placing it firmly inside of a plane for two hours is a bit of a dangerous thing to do, but that is exactly what happened in ‘Non-Stop’, and it worked damn well. By limiting the setting, Neeson was allowed to be the star that he is an carry this film to where it really had no business being: entertaining.

By no means is ‘Non-Stop’ perfect, or even great. At times it wastes the film in trying to keep the audience second guessing themselves, and Julianne Moore is wasted in a supporting role, one that is meant to throw us off the trail but one that is never convincing in doing so.

In the end, Liam Neeson proves once again that he is a bankable action star in the current day in a film that was more enjoyable than it should have been, but also a film that was short of what it could have been.

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

300: Rise of an Empire

300_rise_of_an_empire_2014.psd

Back in March of 2007, theatre patrons were hit with, at that time, one of the more unique films we had seen in a while. When ‘300’ opened, Gerard Butler was not a household name, Zack Snyder was nowhere near doing a ‘Superman’ reboot, and enhanced CGI slo-mo films were not a dime a dozen.

Fast forward seven years, and a prequel-sequel-companion film, ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ is out to prove that even though films like this are all over the place, when done properly they can still be a sight to behold.

Despite having Butler in a couple of scenes culled from the original and only having Snyder back as a producer, ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ does something rare in telling a story set around the same time as an original, and one that is actually a fun watch. Unlike ‘The Bourne Legacy’ back in 2012, this film doesn’t destroy the previous films by trying to be something it isn’t.

Featuring an all-new cast for the most part along with some characters from the first film, ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ tells a glorified take on the Athenian-led naval battle to defeat the Persian Empire at the Battle of Salamis. Using much of the same premises and designs from the first film, we get another unique look into a critical time in the history of Ancient Greece.

One of the most critical things to remember when it comes to the ‘300’ franchise, is that they are actually based on some of the most important events in human history. Had the Persians defeated the Greeks, the Ancient Greek era never happens, and who knows what Western civilization looks like today without that.

It is always great to see fresh takes on stories you have read about in the past, especially stories from the past, and that is exactly what we got with ‘300’ and what we are getting with ‘300: Rise of an Empire’.

For fans of the first film, this is a must see. Enjoyable, great visuals, and amazing fight scenes. Everything that we should be expecting.

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

86th Academy Awards

12yearswin

So, the 86th Academy Awards have come and gone, and looking back on the winners, there really was only one real surprise from the categories that I had looked at in my preview. The Oscars seem to have become a little predictable. Hell, a Canadian baseball player went 18-for-18 in his predictions. A baseball player!!!!!

That being said, let’s take a quick look back on the winners from last evening in Hollywood. The big winners were ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Gravity’, and neither of those would be considered shocking. ’12 Years a Slave’ picked up three Oscars, while ‘Gravity’ picked up seven trophies, and in the process became the first film since ‘Star Wars’ in 1977 to win six or more trophies and not win Best Picture.

Both ‘Gravity’ and ‘American Hustle’ had ten nominations going into the ceremony, but unlike ‘Gravity’, ‘Hustle’ came away with zero awards. Only two films in history, ‘The Turning Point’ in 1977 and ‘The Color Purple’ in 1985, have had more nominations without any wins, both at eleven nominations.

The winners are as follow:

Best Visual Effects: ‘Gravity’ – Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould

Best Film Editing: ‘Gravity’ – Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger

Best Costume Design: ‘The Great Gatsby’ – Catherine Martin

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ – Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

Best Cinematography: ‘Gravity’ – Emmanuel Lubezki

Best Production Design: ‘The Great Gatsby’ – Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn

Best Sound Mixing: ‘Gravity’ – Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

Best Sound Editing: ‘Gravity’ – Glenn Freemantle

Best Original Song: “Let It Go” from ‘Frozen’ – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Best Original Score: ‘Gravity’ – Steven Price

Best Animated Short Film: ‘Mr Hublot’ – Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares

Best Live Action Short Film: ‘Helium’ – Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson

Best Documentary – Short Subject: ‘The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life’ – Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed

Best Documentary – Feature: ’20 Feet from Stardom’ – Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers

Best Foreign Language FIlm: ‘The Great Beauty’ – Paolo Sorrentino

Best Animated Feature Film: ‘Frozen’ – Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho

Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay: ’12 Years a Slave’ – John Ridley

Best Writing – Original Screenplay: ‘Her’ – Spike Jonze

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o for ’12 Years a Slave’

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett for ‘Blue Jasmine’

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey for ‘Dallas Buyers Club

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron for ‘Gravity’

Best Picture: ’12 Years a Slave’ – Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas

At the end of the night, most of the awards fell the way most were expecting. ‘Gravity’ won in most of their technical categories and for Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron. Jared Leto won Best Supporting Actor and Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, a film in which both actors underwent significant personal transformations, something that the Academy absolutely loves.

Cate Blanchett won Best Actress, which was the worst kept secret of the entire evening, while Lupita Nyong’o overcame the unwarranted publicity of Jennifer Lawrence to bring home Best Supporting Actress for her role in ’12 Years a Slave’.

Of course, the big award for the evening was Best Picture, which had a total of nine nominees, but in my honest opinion, only one truly viable winner in ’12 Years a Slave’, and I am quite happy that the voters of the Academy agreed. ’12 Years a Slave’ is one of the most wonderful, gut-wrenching, heart-breakingly beautiful films I have ever seen, and rightly deserved to win the big one.

One last thing to add quickly here at the end, and that is that I really wish Best Actor could have been a tie last night, because as much as McConaughey deserved to win, so to did Chiwetel Ejiofor for ’12 Years a Slave’, and I truly believe that this is a role that will go down in history as hauntingly beautiful.

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

86th Academy Awards Preview

oscars

Well, it is that time of year again. That time when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out their Oscars to deserving films and actors, and sometimes some undeserving ones as well.

Much like last year, I will look at the major awards from the 86th Academy Awards, but unlike last year, I am going to be adding in the two writing categories as well, trying to see if I can figure out those awards this time around.

I also want to mention that I am not going to be looking at the technical categories, as we all know that ‘Gravity’ is going to win them all anyways.

Best Animated Short Film

"GET A HORSE!" ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Nominees: Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr. Hublot, Possessions, Room on the Broom

Will Win: Get a Horse!

Should Win: Get a Horse!

Won’t get into this category too much other than to say that this should be a slam dunk for Disney with ‘Get a Horse!’. Appearing in front of ‘Frozen’ last November, a return to the big screen for Mickey Mouse using both traditional and 3D animation, there is little doubt in my mind that ‘Get a Horse!’ wins this award.

Best Original Song

letitgo

Nominees: Happy – Despicable Me 2, Let It Go – Frozen, The Moon Song – Her, Ordinary Love – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Will Win: Let It Go – Frozen

Should Win: Let It Go – Frozen

Curveball: Happy – Despicable Me 2

Originally a five nominee category, Best Original Song is now down to just four nominees following a rare disqualification of one of the entrants. While that may be the story of this category, it will not change how a winner is crowned here.

This is another runaway slam dunk category for Disney in my eyes. Yes, U2’s “Ordinary Love” won the Golden Globe for this category, yes, it’s a song from a popular band about one of the most influential men of the 20th Century, but a Disney song is a Disney song.

“Let It Go” from ‘Frozen’, sung by Idina Menzel, is one of the most powerful songs to have ever come out of an animated film, and let’s be honest, Disney has one hell of a track record in that category. A curveball on this front could be Pharrell’s “Happy” from ‘Despicable Me 2’, just on the strength of his Arby’s hat.

Best Animated Feature

frozen

Nominees: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celstine, Frozen, The Wind Rises

Will Win: Frozen

Should Win: Frozen

Curveball: The Wind Rises

Okay, I think it is completely safe to say that Disney may be back on top of the animated film summit. Thanks to recent hits like ‘Tangled’ and ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, Disney had started to catch up on Pixar and DreamWorks, and a return to the fairytale princess stories of old with ‘Frozen’ has seen them reach that summit again.

‘Frozen’ was won of my favourite films of 2013 and is head and shoulders above anything else in this category. The curveball here could be the final film from renowned film maker Hayao Miyazaki. Should the voters determine that is enough, this could be a major upset.

Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay

12years

Nominees: Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

Curveball: Before Midnight

One of the easiest categories to call, but also one of the hardest as well. Four of these films are also up for Best Picture, and if one of them wins that award, it will be foreshadowed in the Adapted Screenplay category.

For myself personally, the winner here is ’12 Years a Slave’. Adapting a memoir from the 1860’s is hard enough, but making it relevant, poignant and heart breaking all at the same time is something special indeed.

The curveball here would be ‘Before Midnight’. Critics have a love affair with this love story trilogy and if the Best Picture winner does not come from the other four films in this category, it could count an upset.

Best Writing – Original Screenplay

her

Nominees: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska

Will Win: American Hustle

Should Win: Her

Curveball: Dallas Buyers Club

Much like the Adapted Screenplay category, the Original Screenplay category features four of the nine films up for Best Picture, but unlike its sister category, I would be shocked if the winner of this category ends up winning the big one at the end of the night.

That being said, this category will go a long way in telling us just what the voters are thinking. If ‘American Hustle’ has withstood its much warranted backlash, it wins this category, even over quite possibly the most original film in years in ‘Her’, which would be the film I would vote for here.

‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is my curveball in this category as it was, to me, the best film of the five that are nominated for Original Screenplay.

Best Supporting Actress

nyongo

Nominees: Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine, Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle, Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave, Julia Roberts – August: Osage County, June Squibb – Nebraska

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Curveball – Julia Roberts – August: Osage County

I have a real sneaking suspicion that this will be the biggest joke of the evening. There is a very deserved winner of the Best Supporting Actress awards that is going to be be completely disregarded so more people can give a completely unwarranted trophy out. The clear winner of this category, based on actual performance and emotional impact, is Lupita Nyong’o for ’12 Years a Slave’.

Instead, the Academy seems sure to bestow this award on a third rate, meaningless and totally un-impactful performance in ‘American Hustle’ to last years Best Actress winner, Jennifer Lawrence. Don’t get me wrong, Lawrence is the best young actress in Hollywood today, but take her out of ‘American Hustle’ and you end up with pretty much the same film.

Outside winner here, and one that would be a huge shocker, would be Julia Roberts for August: Osage County. If Meryl Streep ends up not winning Best Actress, I would say that the chances of Roberts winning her would go up.

Best Supporting Actor

fassbender

Nominees: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips, Bradley Cooper – American Hustle, Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave, Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street, Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Will Win: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Should Win: Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

Curveball: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

Much like Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor seems to be a shoo-in for Jared Leto for his performance in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’. While both the film and his performance were well done, all I kept seeing was a rock star in drag on screen, and as a result of that, I would look elsewhere for this category.

My personal choice would be Michael Fassbender for his role as a plantation owner in ’12 Years a Slave’. Showing the worst of what a rich white man could be in the middle 1800’s, and doing it so convincingly, is why my vote would go here.

If you took Fassbender off the board for Best Supporting Actor, I would immediately turn to newcomer Barkhad Abdi for his role as a pirate in ‘Captain Phillips’.

Best Actress

bullock

Nominees: Amy Adams – American Hustle, Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock – Gravity, Judi Dench – Philomena, Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Will Win: Sandra Bullock – Gravity

Should Win: Sandra Bullock – Gravity

Curveball: Judi Dench – Philomena

Best Actress is a very tough category to call this year, as four of the five nominees seem to have very legitimate hopes of winning the trophy, which of course means that this could be the one category where the curveball comes out on top.

This really should be a two actress race between Sandra Bullock for ‘Gravity’ and Cate Blanchett for ‘Blue Jasmine’, and I would not be surprised to see it go either way. Bullock seems to be the favourite here, as she carried her film on her shoulders almost 100% solo, so I feel she takes it home.

Should the four front runners cancel themselves out, I would love to see Judi Dench win for ‘Philomena’.

Best Actor

ejiofor

Nominees: Christian Bale – American Hustle, Bruce Dern – Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave, Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

Curveball: Bruce Dern – Nebraska

Best Actor is truly a two-man race between Matthew McConaughey for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ and Chiwetel Ejiofor for ’12 Years a Slave’. It is a bit of a shame that Tom Hanks isn’t here for ‘Captain Phillips’, but such is life.

If you go for best year, and inexplicably include what he is doing in HBO’s ‘True Detective’ right now, along with what he did earlier in 2013 in ‘Mud’, this is McConaughey’s Oscar to lose. If you are going with the best performance from any actress or actor on film from 2013, you are going to the bank with Ejiofor’s performance, hands down.

Ejiofor’s performance as Solomon Northup in ’12 Years a Slave’ may just be the single best performance I have ever witnessed, and for my money is the runaway winner here.

Off the wall chance goes to veteran Bruce Dern for the black and white ‘Nebraska’, as we all know how the Academy loves older style films.

Best Director

gravity

Nominees: David O. Russell – American Hustle, Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity, Alexander Payne – Nebraska, Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave, Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

Will Win – Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

Should Win – Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

Curveball – Alexander Payne – Nebraska

Best Director is another very tough category to predict. For myself, there are two clear front runners for the Oscar, but when taking into account the voters themselves, it brings four of the five into play, which of course means that there could be an upset from the fifth nominee.

For my money, I can see it going to either Alfonso Cuaron for his revolutionary ‘Gravity’ or to Steve McQueen for crafting a film in ’12 Years a Slave that is both wonderful and hard to watch all at once. I truly believe that there is a good chance that if either director wins here, they also pick up Best Picture for all the same reasons. I would dearly love for McQueen to win here, but I think this is all Cuaron all day long.

Should there be a canceling out of the voters, look to a shock win for a second straight year, this year to Alexander Payne for ‘Nebraska’.

Best Picture

12slave

Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

For the second year in a row I feel like I truly have nailed down the Best Picture winner, and for the second year in a row, it is a film that was long in the public eye before the nominations came out.

To be completely honest, I don’t think this is anywhere near as close as many believe it to be. ‘American Hustle’ is nowhere near as good as many make it out to be. ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is too bloated with swearing to win over the Academy. ‘Her’ is just to weird for most voters to have even seen. ‘Philomena’ and ‘Nebraska’ are just too small to be taken as legitimate contenders. ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is all about the two main stars, and “Captain Phillips’ suffers from not having its main actor or director get nominations.

That leaves ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave’. One is a redefinition of what can be done to put a film on the screen, and the other is simply the most heart breaking film that I have ever seen. Here is how I break them both down: ‘Gravity’ was a great “movie”, one that needed to be experienced in the correct cinema environment. ’12 Years a Slave’ is a pitch perfect “film” that I will be able to watch over and over again due to the entire experience, from the silent scene featuring only Chiwetel Ejiofor’s eyes, to the use of actual plantations and clothing from the era.

No curveball or surprises here.

Check back on Monday for my review of what actually goes down at the 86th Academy Awards.

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