Excerpt: “What We Did on Our Holiday is British comedy at its best and most awkward. They use children to deal with very adult situations in a more grown up way than the adults would have dealt with them. Writers/directors Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin show us they excel in family-centered comedies like they did with the series Outnumbered. They have shown that they can weave delicately embarrassing situations into comedic gold. The children were more the vehicles for the humor, but the adults were the ones that kept this film grounded.”
Excerpt: “Visual maestro Tarsem Singh directs this film, even though there are practically no signs of his expected visual style anywhere to be seen. The only morsels we receive are near the beginning of the film, when we see the golden decadence of Damian’s home and an upscale restaurant where everything seems curated with care. With Singh, there always seems to be a disproportionate compromise between the artistic imagery and an engaging story. We usually get one, but not the other, with the close exception being The Fall. Typically, the films have favored visual flair over an intriguing story, but Self/less gives us the rare case of an outwardly interesting premise becoming underwhelming, while the anticipated avant-garde style is all but nonexistent. Singh’s signature style over substance approach leaves us with nothing but empty gestures on both sides.”
Excerpt: “Where Terminator Genisys both fails and succeeds is in the way it panders to us as if we could be subdued with nostalgia and reworked references to the first film. They hold little charm this time around and only serve to undermine any original thought that was put into the creation of this film. Instead, the film comes off as a vehicle to restart a once-great franchise. Even though the vehicle is packaged nicely, it won’t get anywhere without an engine. The nostalgia is great at first, reminding you of why you originally fell in love with the franchise. Yet, as the film continues to bludgeon you with more references and the same gags (like Arnold’s terrifying smile), they become tragic reminders of how far these films have strayed. At the end of the film, you’re left with a sour, metallic taste in your mouth and a longing to re-watch the first two films (maybe even the third one), trying to forget this one exists. Unfortunately, like Skynet’s threat of complete human annihilation, nothing is more terrifying than the already confirmed threat of more Terminator sequels.”
Excerpt: “Magic Mike XXL is unabashedly all about entertainment, and not just the physical kind that involves hips gyrating like crashing waves along a shore. The film is like a big road trip that way, allowing us to glean how each character would act in a more relaxed environment. Through their casual conversations, they are able to reflect and give us some insight into the life of a male entertainer, or at least how they see it. It’s hard to tell if this is Channing Tatum, who helped co-write the screenplay, showing us his point of view.”
Excerpt: At this point, you may have realized that the third chapter in the Insidious saga is actually a prequel to the first film. The major difference between this sequel/prequel and the rest of the continuity is that it corrects a huge mistake made in the first film: killing off the most likeable/interesting character. Aside from the ghostly geek squad, Elise (played by the talented Lin Shaye) is the anchor to the story. Having her die in the first film was a mistake they couldn’t quite retcon, and even having her as only a spirit in the second film was limiting to the overall story. Although it would have been amusing to see the continuation of the story with Elise communicating through ambiguous signs and symbols, the only way to fix the franchise and any future sequels was to give Elise an origin story and the ability to continue to (physically) appear in the films in the form of backdated, episodic films dealing with a new case/story each film. This act may have saved the franchise and given it the change it needed to recapture our attention.
Excerpt: There is something to be said about how well synergized the Marvel on-screen universe is. The film opens mid assault on a base holding the Loki’s scepter (among other surprises). How they got their information or location to this is for the most part unimportant, and you quickly realize this after a few minutes into the film, there is a staged freeze frame that reminds you of comic book cover art. It is cheesy and completely over the top for a film, but it is a staple when for comic books, so it feels essential. Other essential things include the dynamic colors and costumes, comedic overtones and one-liners, and hordes of enemies and explosions. One major pitfall that is unavoidable when it comes to any film with fantasy and technologically advanced elements is the massive amounts of CGI needed to bring the universe alive. The first Avengers was a completely new cinematic experience, bringing together a huge ensemble of superheroes, each with their own backstories from their own respective world’s, and having them build up to this one explosive collaboration. That was the first Avengers. Lightning rarely strikes twice (unless you’re Thor), and Avengers: Age of Ultron proves that.
Excerpt: The Chicago Latino Film Festival (CLFF) has come and gone again this year, but it has left a lasting impression. Even at its 31st year, it is still as strong as ever, bringing together films from around the world (and a few from here at home) that we would have otherwise missed out on. With over 120 films and shorts, there was a little bit for everyone, and each film is a masterpiece all its own. That being said, like the audience who voted, I also had my pick of favorites for the festival. It should be noted that CLFF is not a competitive festival, but it does allow the audience to cast their vote on their favorite films in order to win the Audience Choice Award. The 31stChicago Latino Film Festival Audience Choice Award winners are:
To read my full article and listen to my interviews, go to The Young Folks!
Excerpt: The Oscars have come and gone again this year. The only difference is that they went out with bang instead of a whimper like past years. Neil Patrick Harris has really become a pro at hosting awards shows, and this year’s Oscars was easily the most entertaining in recent history. The competition was fierce and possibly the closest it’s been in a while. Here are the winners of the most popular categories, along with who I thought should have won.
There are old stories that are so well known that they transcend the genre they belong to. We all know them, even if we don’t believe in them. One such story is the sordid past of rampant whitewashing in films. The other is the story of Moses. Exodus: Gods and Kings unnecessarily reminds us of both.
We know the story well. Moses (Christian Bale) and his brother (in the comradery sense) Ramses (Joel Edgerton) were both the Pharoh Seti’s (John Turturro) favorite, with Seti favoring Moses a little bit more. Seti’s wife and mother of Ramses Tuya (Sigourney Weaver) hated this fact and would find any reason to banish/kill/imprison Moses. After meeting with Hebrew elder Nun (Ben Kingsley), and being told he is also Jewish, Moses kills a guard and leaves the other for dead. Tuya finally has her excuse so with Ramses’ blessing, he is exiled to the dessert where he meets a woman, has a child, chases some sheep into the mountain, has a grave head wood, sees God as a British child, and sees a burning bush. Hallucinations be damned, he goes into Egypt, under the occasional guidance of child God, also with the help of Joshua (Aaron Paul), and demands the freedom of his people. Then the plagues come into play, only to placate us until the climax that should have been parting of the Red Sea. It was, like the rest of the film, anything but climactic.
There is no point in retelling a story that has been told so many times before unless you’re adding something new to it. Despite Noah‘s many flaws it did at least introduce original aspects, unlike Exodus. Hell, we’ve even seen this story whitewashed before in The Ten Commandments, and whitewashed Egyptians in Cleopatra, so what does this film have to contribute to the already over-produced story of Moses freeing the slaves from Egypt? Nothing, but some fodder for religious skeptics and more than a few angry religious believers. The only reasons The Ten Commandments and Cleopatra were able to get away with it is because not only was is a completely different time in American cinema, but also because of the grand scale of the production.
This production was grandiose in it’s own way. The sheer amount of computer generated people and battles will make you think you’re in Middle Earth instead of Egypt. That’s not all! The accents will make you think you are in England. The only thing that keeps this over-the-top production from being an outright joke is Christian Bale’s completely serious and professional approach to it. He portrays Moses with a sort of respect even though everything else about this film is disrespectful on more than a few levels.
There will not be a mass exodus from Exodus: Gods and Kings. Frankly, the people who will go see it, those not part of the #BoycottExodus protest against the film’s whitewash casting, won’t get a chance to make their exit until the end. You will be left in the theater long after the credits have ended, only to be woken up by the theater usher telling you that you need to go so they can clean up. Despite Bale’s performance, there is very little reason to go see this film. This is one of those films that deserves to be watched if only so you can tell your friends how right they were to boycott it/not see it. It commits many cinematic sins, but the two most unforgivable ones are that it wastes your time and it wastes your money. Neither of which you can ever get back, no matter how much you pray.
Being based in Chicago, the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA) Awards are kind of a big deal to me. Their nominees are as follows (with my personal pick to win being italicized):
BEST PICTURE Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Under the Skin
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
David Fincher, “Gone Girl” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Christopher Nolan, “Interstellar”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler” Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
David Oyelowo, “Selma”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
Scarlett Johannson, “Under the Skin” Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin, “Inherent Vice”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Edward Norton, “Birdman”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher” J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood” Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year”
Laura Dern, “Wild”
Agata Kulesza, “Ida”
Emma Stone, “Birdman”
BEST ORIGNAL SCREENPLAY “Birdman”, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo “Boyhood”, Richard Linklater “Calvary”, John Michael McDonagh “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Wes Anderson “Whiplash”, Damien Chazelle
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY “Gone Girl”, Gillian Flynn “The Imitation Game”, Graham Moore “Inherent Vice”, Paul Thomas Anderson “Under the Skin”, Walter Campbell “Wild”, Nick Hornby
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM Force Majeure Ida Mommy The Raid 2 Two Days, One Night
BEST DOCUMENTARY Citizenfour Jodorowsky’s Dune Last Days in Vietnam Life Itself The Overnighters
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE Big Hero 6 The Boxtrolls How to Train Your Dragon 2 The Lego Movie Tales of the Princess Kaguya
BEST ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN The Grand Budapest Hotel Interstellar Into The Woods Only Lovers Left Alive Snowpiercer
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY “Birdman”, Emmanuel Lubezki “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Robert Yeoman “Ida”, Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal “Inherent Vice”, Robert Elswit “Interstellar”, Hoyte Van Hoytema
BEST EDITING “Birdman”, Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrion “Boyhood”, Sandra Adair “Gone Girl”, Kirk Baxter “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Barney Pilling “Whiplash”, Tom Cross
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE “Birdman”, Antonio Sanchez “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Alexandre Desplat “The Imitation Game”, Alexandre Desplat “Interstellar”, Hans Zimmer “Under the Skin”, Mica Levi
MOST PROMISING PERFORMER
Ellar Coltrane, “Boyhood” Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Belle”/”Beyond the Lights”
Jack O’Connell, “Starred Up”/”Unbroken”
Tony Revolori, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Jenny Slate, “Obvious Child”
Agata Trzebuchowska, “Ida”
MOST PROMISING FILMMAKER Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”
Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”
Jennifer Kent, “The Babadook”
Jeremy Saulnier, “Blue Ruin”
Justin Simien, “Dear White People”
The winners will be announced December 15th, so keep an eye out for them. You also have a few days to watch every movie on this list you can, so get on that.