Monday, February 29, 2016

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Wrap up - The Good, The Bad, & The Glorious

The cinematic year of 2015 officially came to a close last night with the 88th Academy Awards. As with every year, the Oscars gave us plenty to talk about. Here is the Good, Bad, and Glorious from the ceremony:


-As host, comedian Chris Rock had the tough task of acting as an ambassador for the movie-industry while having to address the controversy surrounding the lack of diversity in this year’s class of nominees. Did he have to address it? Sure…better off facing the elephant in the room than running from it. Rock’s opening monologue, in which he poked fun at the Academy and the people who chose to boycott the ceremony, was spot-on and very funny. Unfortunately, as the night went on, the racist-jokes started to become old and started to dominate the show. Rock however seemed enthusiastic about his duties, and it will be good to see him as host during a year where he isn’t stuck having to address hot-button issues.

-The Open preceding Rock was perfectly edited featuring many films which were not nominated for anything; proof that the Oscars are about celebrating all films.

-Smart move running the winner’s list of thank-you’s on the bottom of the screen, which encouraged better speeches not packed with boring thank you’s; although we couldn’t completely get away from it.

-Rocker Dave Grohl covering The Beatles’ Blackbird during the In Memoriam was perfect, and the video had perfect send-offs for Christopher Lee, Leonard Nimoy, and David Bowie.


-The In Memoriam, despite being very well done, omitted notable names such as Abe Vigoda, Fred Thompson, and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, who won Oscars for THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

-Mark Rylance, who won Best Supporting Actor for BRIDGE OF SPIES, was an upset over favorite Sylvester Stallone for CREED. Rylance put in a fine performance, but Stallone was able to find something new in an old character and was packed with emotion. Off the screen, it’s unlikely Stallone will be a nominee again.

-Sam Smith winning for Best Original Song. His boring sleepy lounge-singer styled Writing’s On The Wall for the recent James Bond film was not only met with critical drubbing, but it had the unfortunate task of being awarded just minutes after Lady Gaga’s powerful performance of her nominated song, ‘Til It Happens To You, in which she was surrounded by abuse victims. Lady Gaga sent everyone over the moon, and Smith brought them all crashing down.

-Sam Smith continued his Oscar travesty by referring to himself as the first openly gay man to win an Oscar. Not true; others who have come before him include Bill Condon, Alan Ball, Stephen Sondheim, and Elton John. Let’s not invite Sam Smith to the Oscars ever again.


-George Miller’s thunderous and fiery MAD MAX: FURY ROAD deservedly won in every category it was nominated for, save for Cinematography and Best Picture; going home with six overall…the most of the night.

-Chris Rock’s gag with his daughter’s Girl Scout troop; selling cookies on the spot which pulled in a shit-load-of-money.

-STAR WARS alums/droids C3PO and R2-D2 taking the Oscar stage for the first time in decades…and joined by newcomer BB-8. Cute and fun and timely.

-EX MACHINA taking home Best Visual Effects. Easily the special-effects achievement of the decade.

-Composer Ennio Morricone becoming the oldest person to win an Oscar at 87 years old for Best Original Score for THE HATEFUL EIGHT. It’s never too late to do something great.

-Alejandro Innaritu becoming only the third person in history to win Best Director in consecutive years.

-Leonardo DiCaprio finally taking home Best Actor. Well deserved for his physical powerhouse performance in THE REVENANT.

-SPOTLIGHT winning Best Picture. Despite MAD MAX sweeping the technical categories, it all came down to Innaritu’s visceral revenge-piece THE REVENANT and Tom McCarthy’s journalistic story SPOTLIGHT. SPOTLIGHT was not the sexy or flashy choice, and didn’t seem cinematic enough, but as this Blogger wrote last week (here), it had all of the elemental nominations that a Best Picture needs to have. Perhaps the true Tell of the night was that THE REVENANT was not nominated for Best Screenplay, which is a basic requirement for a Best Picture winner (there have only been seven films to win without that Screenplay nomination, with the last in 1997). SPOTLIGHT was not only nominated for its screenplay, but won. This tells us that the Academy favors good writing over spectacle, and maybe that’s the way it should be. In that case, the right film won.

- It’s also worth discussing that if one of the many reasons the Oscars broadcast a ceremony is to showcase the variety of film, then mission-accomplished for this year. The three films which won the lion’s share of the awards could not be more different from each other; we had a furious science-fiction beatdown, an 18th century wilderness bloodbath, and a real-world, real-life journalistic procedural. In form, content, and in style, these films had a vast range. How’s that for diversity?


See all the winners HERE

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks, Part 2

Movies. We love the best of them and care enough about the art to hate the worst of them. The moving picture gives us stories that inspire us, characters that move us, and worlds that exist only in dreams. To see a dream on the big screen in all of its moving glory…that is where the magic of cinema begins.

It takes many elements to make a movie, and each year since 1929 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honors the achievements in the grand wide world of film. The path to Best Picture is a twisty and windy one, and in this second and final part of Oscar Picks, Reel Speak takes a look at the elemental categories leading to the grand prize. Here are Reel Speak’s picks:

Best Adapted Screenplay

Every movie begins with the written word, and this year’s nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay all did great work in adapting their source material for the screen while still forging their own identity as a film. This year’s clear frontrunner is Adam McKay for THE BIG SHORT. Tackling the dense layers of the financial world is no easy task, and although THE BIG SHORT was often like trying to understand drunken ancient pig-Latin, it presented itself in a way where we could at least understand what was happening in broad strokes. McKay, who is mostly known as a comedy writer and director, stepped way outside of his comfort zone in taking on this film, and that alone is a good reason to give him the gold.

Winner:  Adam McKay for THE BIG SHORT

Best Original Screenplay

Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer’s script which would become SPOTLIGHT is getting a lot of attention, not only because the film was very high-profile, but because it made the usually mundane world of print journalism exciting and dramatic to watch. SPOTLIGHT centered on the now infamous Catholic Church sex scandal in Boston in 2001, but it was less about the cover-up and more about the reveal, and it made watching reporters dig through files and basements a thrill. SPOTLIGHT is the favorite, but Pixar’s brilliant INSIDE OUT could very well be a spoiler.

Winner: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for SPOTLIGHT

Best Editing

If filmmaking begins with the written word, then it ends with the cutting. For 33 consecutive years, from 1981 to 2013, every Best Picture winner had also been nominated in this category, with two-thirds of the Best Picture winners also winning for editing. This year’s nominees are in a tight race. THE BIG SHORT had a lot of snappy cuts with high energy and some creative ways to present its information, while thrillers like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS always had that all-important feeling of forward momentum going on at all times. THE REVENANT had some amazing single-camera one-take shots, but that points more towards the on-set directing than editing, and SPOTLIGHT was a very straight-forward effort. THE BIG SHORT had the most creative presentation, but it was very derivative of many films from the past (coughScorsesecough). The incredible visceral experience of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD should be the winner here, and one of many technical wins for George Miller’s cinematic thunder.


Best Director

Similar to Best Editing, this category and Best Picture are closely linked. Of the 87 films that have won Best Picture, 63 have been awarded for Best Directing. And speaking of history, Alejandro G. Inarritu has a chance to make some…a win this year for THE REVENANT would make him the first director to win back-to-back Best Director awards since Joseph L. Mankiewicz won in 1949 and 1950, and only the third in history. But Inarritu has stiff competition. George Miller has already picked up many awards for MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, and Adam McKay is also getting a lot of attention for THE BIG SHORT. This seems to be a case of THE REVENANT vs. MAD MAX, and both directors are very-much deserving. It’s not unlike the Academy to split Best Director and Picture, which means Miller has an excellent shot. But Inarritu has the all-important Director’s Guild win, which is a strong indicator of which way the tide is turning. On the screen, both films accomplished some amazing things, with THE REVENANT doing just a little bit more. Al should win this, but don’t be surprised to see George thunder up that stage.

WINNER: Alejandro G. Inarritu for THE REVENANT

Best Picture

This year it’s a four-horse race for Best Picture. Starting with the off-screen factors, THE BIG SHORT recently had a surprise win at the Producer’s Guild Awards, which have correctly predicted the Oscars’ Best Picture eight years in a row. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD has also picked up some awards, and SPOTLIGHT has important wins from the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild. THE REVENANT cleaned house at the Golden Globes, and won Innaritu the all-important Directors Guild Award. Back on the screen, THE BIG SHORT can be painful to understand, and is full of characters no one would like to hang out with. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is a legit contender, but its status as a genre film (sci-fi/fantasy), means it doesn’t speak to a lot of people. SPOTLIGHT is the sleeper as it’s unlikely to win any of the flashy and sexy categories (acting, directing), but has enough nominations in all the vital categories (editing, screenplay, directing), to sneak out the big win; similar to ARGO in 2012, it’s the quiet guy in the corner at the party who always goes home with the girl. But SPOTLIGHT is very much straightforward…maybe too much, and that’s why this Blogger leans towards the ambition and boundary-pushing done by THE REVENANT. A Best Picture, as a good friend of Reel Speak has said, should move the industry forward, and this is the kind of film which should inspire younger filmmakers to be different and bold. It's a film which puts most of lazy mainstream Hollywood to shame, and everything about it seems ten times more than everything else; ten-times the idea, the effort, and the on-screen result.



Read Reel Speak's picks for the acting categories HERE

The Oscars will be awarded February 28th.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks, Part 1

The Academy Awards aren’t just about golden statues and red carpets, or who wins and who loses (although that’s a big part of it, of course), it’s also about a celebration of the past year in film, and a celebration of the art of filmmaking overall. The 24 categories represent the best in the many elements that are required to make a film, and a study in the nominees and why a winner should win is a study into the art itself.

Making selections is easy, but making the correct selections is not. Looking back at history helps, with the key being why a selection should win. In this first part of Reel Speak’s Oscar picks for the upcoming 88th Academy Awards, this Blogger will make selections in the most visible aspect of filmmaking, the Actors and Actresses.

This year’s categories are all alike in that they are a one-or-two horse race, while also hinting towards which film will take home Best Picture. Here are Reel Speak’s picks.

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh was a huge surprise in THE HATEFUL EIGHT, but her performance was a bit on the cartoonish side (a new trademark for Quentin Tarantino), and that may work against her. Rooney Mara turned in an excellent performance in CAROL, but doesn’t show anything we haven’t seen from her before. Rachel McAdams was very good in SPOTLIGHT and could act as a spoiler. The real contenders seem to be Alicia Vikander in THE DANISH GIRL and Kate Winslet in STEVE JOBS. Winslet has the Golden Globe win in this very category, and the situation is very similar to Tilda Swinton’s Oscar win in 2007 for MICHAEL CLAYTON. Vikander however, had the meatier, more emotional role as a wife whose husband had turned into a woman. Actors who have to work harder are usually rewarded, and in the grand picture, this is likely the only award THE DANISH GIRL will take home…and the film is too good to go home empty-handed. Vikander for the gold, but don’t be surprised to see Winslet glide across that stage.  

WINNER: Alicia Vikander

Best Supporting Actor

Sylvester Stallone, fresh off of his emotional win in this category at the Golden Globes this year, is the sentimental favorite to win. Stallone did not receive a nomination for a Screen Actors Guild award, which could open the door for Christian Bale (THE BIG SHORT) and Mark Rylance (BRIDGE OF SPIES). Tom Hardy was magnificent in THE REVENANT, and Mark Ruffalo turned in an expected good performance in SPOTLIGHT. The field is wide-open, but similar to Alicia Vikander, Stallone is the one who had the meatiest material to work with; his character was nearing the end of his life and had to display all of the emotional power that comes with such a situation. Stallone handled it perfectly in what may be the surprise performance of the year.

WINNER: Sylvester Stallone

Best Actress

This year’s Best Actress winner may signal a passing of the torch in this category. The frontrunners seem to be young rising stars Brie Larson (ROOM) and Saoirse Ronan (BROOKLYN), who gave the most emotional performances out their fellow nominees. Past-winner Cate Blanchett was her standard great self in CAROL, and Jennifer Lawrence, who has won an Oscar before, could be a smart bet…but her film JOY was not very good and it’s rare to see a winner come out of a so-so film.  And unfortunately, not enough people have seen Charlotte Rampling in 45 YEARS to make much of an impression. Larson has won the Golden Globe in this category, and ROOM seems to have connected with a lot of people. Larson wins her first.

WINNER: Brie Larson

Best Actor

Perhaps the most coveted prize of Oscar Night, the title of Hollywood’s top leading man, has a juggernaut leading the way. Leonardo DiCaprio’s outstanding performance in the brutal conditions of THE REVENANT offered the world several things never before seen on film. His closest competition is previous Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne, who vanished into the role of a transgendered woman in THE DANISH GIRL. Matt Damon (THE MARTIAN) and Michael Fassbender (STEVE JOBS) were effective but not mind-blowing, and Bryan Cranston’s performance in TRUMBO was fine, but his film was so-so. It comes down to DiCaprio vs. Redmayne, and while Redmayne was mesmerizing, its DiCaprio’s deeply committed physical performance that gives him the lead…and the win.

WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio


Read Reel Speak's picks in the elemental categories leading to Best Picture HERE

The Oscars will be awarded February 28th.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Reel Review: The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films

Each year, the Oscar-nominated Short Films are released into theatres as a showcase for the art of the short film; a very refined genre of filmmaking which always has a strong focus on storytelling and characters…a focus that is often lost on feature films with too much time and money to work with. Short films can arguably be the most pure form of the cinematic arts, and the annual release allows us to catch these very-well done films on the big screen where they rightfully belong.

The most glorious aspect of the world of animated film is that it is never restricted to one style. With so many methods of creating animated moving pictures; CGI, hand-drawn, sketching…the sky is always the limit and this year’s group of most-excellent nominees is a true example of how wonderful the art can be.

The nominees are…

PROLOGUE – Done in a black-and-white pencil-drawn style which takes place in a person’s sketchbook, the story involves a bloody sword-and-sandal war.

This is one of the first, if not the first animated selection to run with a disclaimer warning of the graphic nature. Taking place during the Spartan-Athenian wars, naked men with their naughty-bits swaying about stab and spear each other to a bloody end. There’s no real story, but the real shock is the reveal which has a young girl witnessing it all. It’s a evidently a prologue for the young girl’s life, and the one single shot gives the film a deeper meaning which isn’t seen coming.

WORLD OF TOMORROW – A young girl takes a trip through time, guided by her future offspring.

This is a mind-bender in which a girl is given a look at a grim future, even though she’s way too young to understand any of it. It’s a beautiful film to look at, especially considering that it’s presented by way of stick-figures in front of simple bold color backgrounds. The many high-concepts are thrown at us at warp speed, and the true genius of it all is that despite the grim future the film predicts, once we’re back in the present with a carefree child who just wants to play…all is right with the world.

SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM – In this annual nominee from Pixar, a young Eastern Indian boy and his father clash over tradition.

This short played in front of Pixar’s THE GOOD DINOSAUR in 2015 and is the most recognized of this year’s nominees. A true gem which looks at a child’s fascination with Western pop-culture (specifically, superheroes), which clashes with his father’s old-school traditions. Done with no dialogue, it’s an interesting and fun look at generational gaps, along with offering the question of who our heroes really should be.

BEAR STORY – In a world populated by walking and talking bears, a lonely bear tells his tragic life-story through his mechanical puppet-box.

A magnificent little film which mostly takes place inside the main character’s mechanical diorama-box. The CGI here is beautiful and the design is jaw-dropping, and the feelings of family and love are always up-front.

WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT COSMOS – Two cosmonauts who are close friends train for an important mission.

A simple, hand-drawn style with no dialogue which looks at two best friends and how one of them copes with loss. It’s a very funny film which has a dramatic shift in tone when tragedy occurs, and in a blink goes from a comedy to a tear-jerker.


Review for the Live Action Short Film nominees HERE

The Oscars will be awarded February 28th.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


“Do you spook easily, Starling?”

This month marks the 25th anniversary of Jonathan Demme’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

A mash-up of a chilling horror tale with a police procedural, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was based on Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name, and was the second film to feature the character Hannibal Lecter, with the first being MANHUNTER (1986). With MANHUNTER a financial failure at the box office, enthusiasm to bring another Harris novel to the big screen was met with resistance. The project floated around Hollywood for nearly three years with actor Gene Hackman looking to direct and star as Hannibal Lecter.

By late 1987, Hackman would depart the project, and when the rights went to Orion Pictures, a screenwriter by the name of Ted Tally would come on board. Young director Jonathan Demme agreed to direct after reading the novel and before the script was completed.

The story, in which a young FBI trainee named Clarice Starling seeks the advice of an imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecter to catch a serial killer, required acting of the best caliber. Actress Jodie Foster was interested in playing the role of Agent Clarice Starling immediately after reading the book, and was hired despite Demme looking to cast Michelle Pfeiffer. For the role of Hannibal Lecter, Demme originally wanted Sean Connery, who turned it down. Daniel Day-Lewis was also considered. The role would eventually go to Anthony Hopkins, who was offered the part based on his performance in THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980). Also signing on was Scott Glenn and Ted Levine.

Filming would take place in Pennsylvania over a period of five months. Howard Shore provided the score. Upon released, the film was a quiet hit which flew under the radar for most of the year, but did well at the box office and gained critical acclaim.

The rewards would come over a year after release at the 64th Academy Awards. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS would become only the third film to win Oscars in all top five categories; Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster), Best Director (Demme), Best Screenplay (Tally), and most importantly…Best Picture. It was the first, and to this day, the only film widely considered to be a horror film to be nominated for Best Picture, after THE EXORCIST (1973), and JAWS (1975).

Its legacy would go on past the Oscars. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS appears on several Top lists by the American Film Institute, including 100 Years, 100 Movies (#65), 100 Thrills (#5), and Villains (#1). In 2011, the film was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry by the U.S. Library of Congress.


This Blogger enjoys looking at a film through the eyes of his friends. It is a useful method which can offer new perspective and new light on a movie. This Blogger has one friend who is scared silly over the film, while another friend, who happens to be a young female FBI agent, loves to be called Clarice; that speaks to the range that the movie reaches. This Blogger also has an appreciation for films which can handle the burden of carrying two different genres, and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS strikes the perfect balance between a cops-and-robbers flick and straight-up horror; especially horror since the idea of serial killers in our own backyards is much more believable than ghosts and goblins. But perhaps the true legacy of the film comes from the quiet yet epic showdowns between Clarice and Hannibal; a war of carefully-chosen words in which each combatant tries to get under the opponents' skin and inside their heads. In doing so, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS gets under our skin and inside our heads. In an age of filmmaking where showdowns between characters are done over and over, the industry can learn a lot from revisiting the battles between a Starling and a madman.

“Have the lambs stopped screaming?”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Reel Review: The Oscar Nominated Live-Action Short Films

Each year, the Oscar-nominated Short Films are released into theatres as a showcase for the art of the short film; a very refined genre of filmmaking which always has a strong focus on storytelling and characters…a focus that is often lost on feature films with a lot of time to work with. Short films can arguably be the most pure form of the cinematic arts, and the annual release allows us to catch these very-well done films on the big screen where they rightfully belong.

When this year’s nominations were announced, there was controversy over the lack of diversity in the selections. Those empty cans who are rattling the most clearly did not pay due attention to the complete list of nominees, as this year’s nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film are a virtual tour across the world in an examination of culture.

This year's nominees are:

AVE MARIA – The mundane routine of five Palestine nuns is interrupted when an Israeli family crashes their car into the convent.

Short on plot but very light on humor, this is a culture-clash of nuns who have taken a vow of silence who reluctantly break those vows and their coveted routines to help out a Jewish family. Although it’s thin on story, it’s an interesting examination of what it means to be true to your beliefs, and if the strictest of worship is best for our fellow man.

EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY – A divorced father in Austria picks up his eight-year old daughter for a day of fun, but his actions quickly become suspicious.

This is a slow-burning nail-biter which gets more and more frightening as it goes on. Basically a story about a dad who is quietly plotting to kidnap his own daughter, it is a calm thriller with an emotional wallop of ending, and is an astonishing example of how a short film can be so moving while working with so little. It’s also an acting powerhouse, with eight-year old Julia Pointer as the highlight.

SHOK – The friendship of two boys is tested as they try to survive the war in Kosovo.

The war between Serbian and Albanian people is seen through the eyes of two children, which brings one shocking turn after another. The war in Kosovo is often forgotten by most of the world, and by seeing it through the eyes of a child, makes it new with all of its horror. Told through a bookend with the adult version of one of the two friends, SHOK is powerful and shocking.

STUTTERER – A young man with a severe stutter travels to London to meet his online girlfriend for the first time.

A true charmer which takes a look at dating in this century and how it can change our perceptions of a person. It’s a very well-done tale which generates a lot of empathy for the main character who can barely spit out two words, and the ending which involves a long-awaited meet with his online girlfriend has a twist that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud.

DAY ONE – A new interpreter arrives at a war zone (presumably Iraq), and immediately falls into a situation where she has to deliver a baby.

On paper, DAY ONE seems very light on story, but it is also a look at culture-clashes as strict traditions ban certain people from doing certain tasks, which puts the new interpreter in one sticky and dangerous situation. It’s a great little war-story with a bittersweet ending, although the time taken to get there is a little bit of a grind.


Review for the Animated Short Films HERE

The Oscars will be awarded February 28th.


Friday, February 12, 2016

A Reel Review: DEADPOOL

DEADPOOL, the latest superhero entry from Fox Studios, is a film which tries to strike many balances. First off, it is true to its comic origins; the main character is seemingly aware that he is in a comic-book movie, just as his counterpart always knew that he was in a collection of colored pages. That automatically makes the film a spoof, yet it is a spoof which still has to operate as a superhero film. Second, DEADPOOL is front-loaded with dick and ass jokes that a 14-year old teen would love, but also packed with enough bloodshed, tits, and F-bombs to more-than earn its R-rating and keep those 14-year olds out of the theatre. It’s a juvenile movie for adults, for sure. First-time director Tim Miller and star/producer Ryan Reynolds are swinging for the fences here, and the hits keep on coming…

Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a mercenary for-hire who falls in love with Copycat (Morena Baccarin). When Wade is diagnosed with a terminal disease, he undertakes a risky procedure led by Ajax (Ed Skrein), which leaves him disfigured but with super-human strength and healing powers. Wilson becomes Deadpool, and heads out on a revenge tale…

Superhero films tend to stray from their source material, mostly in an effort to avoid any goofy stuff that wouldn’t work on film and to appeal to non-comic readers. DEADPOOL is a film which doesn’t give a shit about any of that (the film will tell us just that), and fully embrace the wackiness and crudeness of the character. Crude jokes are often made about sex, self-pleasure, and genitalia…all while heads are being blown off, arms chopped off, and bodies are blown to bits while surrounded by blood, gore, and naked women. It’s a lot of heavy dressing in what is really the standard hero-tale of discovery, rise, fall, and rise again, but it’s dressing that does give it a fresh feel…and it does feel very good.

DEADPOOL walks a very fine line between a straight-up superhero film and a parody. While the film does take care of its own business as the former, as the latter Deadpool talks directly to the audience often, openly makes fun of other super-flicks, and draws attention to the fact that the character is existing in a movie. It’s an odd mix and a little jarring. For example, DEADPOOL takes place in the already well-established X-MEN universe, and yet X-MEN star Hugh Jackman is made fun of…along with the popular character that he plays. It’s odd and quirky, but the overall message seems to be that none of what’s happening is meant to be taken seriously…and that is the true breath of fresh air that DEADPOOL brings to the genre. DEADPOOL is also told in a non-linear fashion; nearly starting at the climax, flashing back to the origin, and working its way back up while flashing ahead again. It’s well done, and is never confusing. The action scenes are fun and well staged, although first-time director Tim Miller gets a lot of help from his visual effects team.

Ryan Reynolds is a blast here, and seems born to play part. Aside from pulling off the wise-cracking stuff easily, he really gets to show his chops when Deadpool is going through the torturous procedures. Morena Baccarin gets to show quite a lot (literally), but Ed Skrein as the Big Bad is very one-note and has zero depth. Gina Carano appears as the Big Bad’s sidekick and gets to strut her action skills, and an extended cameo by some new X-MEN is a welcome addition.

Despite wanting so hard to break away from the mold of superhero movies, DEADPOOL can’t fully get away from what it truly is, and finishes the film with a big action set-piece with a zillion CGI effects-shots. The finale isn’t as thrilling as it thinks it is, but since the laughs and wise-cracks are still relentlessly coming, it’s barely noticeable. The crudeness and toilet-humor isn’t for everyone, and may be a dealbreaker for some, but overall DEADPOOL is too much to fun to dismiss.



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Reel Birthday

This month marks the 6th anniversary of Reel Speak.

Reel Speak was launched on a foundation of love for the movies; a love affair which began in a darkened theatre in the spring of 1977. That movie launched the ever-ending imagination of a four-year old boy; a boy which still lives on every time the lights in a movie-theatre dim and the big screen brightens. That glorious night in 1977 was the launching pad for this Blogger in life, and to this day, the message of movie magic, and more importantly, the light of hope lives on in his blogging and everyday life. It’s easy to be cynical in today’s world, especially when it’s the popular way to go, but that is a path Reel Speak chooses to never take. A New Hope lives on.

In 2010, this Blogger launched Reel Speak as a way to help share that love for film with friends, family, and eventually the rest of the world. This 6th birthday is once again the perfect time to share this Blogger’s 20 reasons for loving the movies. This list of direct and indirect references has changed and evolved over the years, but serves as a look at the man behind the curtain; for the movies you love and wear on your sleeves says a lot about you.


20. Because the trick is not minding that it hurts.

19. Because if they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you.

18. Because a Jaguar Shark ate my best friend.

17. Because we will not walk in fear of one another.

16. Because of John Williams.

15. Because I have been, and always shall be your friend.

14. Because in space, no one can hear you scream.

13. Because Red October was hunted.

12. Because the only Virtue is Vengeance. A Vendetta.

11. Because Crom laughs at your four winds!

10. Because it’s a wonderful night for Oscar.

9. Because they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

8. Because Claire once wore angel wings.

7. Because every man dies. Not every man really lives.

6. Because I will drink your milkshake.

5. Because if someone asks me if I’m a god, I say yes.

4. Because they needed a bigger boat.

3. Because there had to be snakes.

2. Because the Fellowship will not fail.

1. Because of what happened on May 25th, 1977.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Reel Opinion: The Super Bowl Movie Trailers: The Good, The Bad, & The Glorious

The National Football League; the premier sports-league in the United States, and the movie industry have evolved into a mutually beneficial relationship over the years. The NFL often uses cinematic themes and borrows from popular films to sell its product with all the drama and fun it can find, and the movie industry is more than happy to spend a few million promoting their films during and at games. There is arguably no other event in sports that is bigger than the Super Bowl, and the film industry always capitalizes on the opportunity to catch the attention of people it might not otherwise get. This year, at the 50th Super Bowl, there was, once again, plenty of Good, Bad, and Glorious efforts. Here’s how they broke down:
JASON BOURNE – If you’re going to debut a new trailer at the Super Bowl, you might as well show something new. The fifth entry in this action-spy franchise used the opportunity to not only debut new footage, but for the first time, give up the title of the film; JASON BOURNE. High marks for taking full advantage of the night.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS – Looked exactly like you’d expect a movie to look like involving mutated turtles and rhinos running around fighting each other. Plus it gave us the first look at a fan-favorite villain for the first time.
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE – Actually ran before the game started, but this quick spot for the CLOVERFIELD sequel created a lot of tension without giving away the farm.
DEADPOOL – The latest, and perhaps one of the last trailers for the much-anticipated comic-book flick was full of laughs and action. If someone isn’t sold on this character by now, they never will be.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE – Started off strong with aliens attacking a formation of military jets doing a flyover at a football game (nice tie-in), but then regressed into an unfocused mess of CGI overload. No semblance of story or character to care about. And while we’re at it…the film feels like it’s taking itself way too seriously. The first INDEPENDENCE DAY film was all about fun.
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE – Fans of this long-running superhero franchise were thrilled to get a good look at fan-favorite Psylocke (Olivia Munn), but the rest of it was another unfocused headache of CGI overkill. No hint of a story to care about.
GODS OF EGYPT – Just more CGI fuckery with Gerard Butler yelling really loud.
THE NO-SHOWS – You get negative points for not showing up. The new GHOSTBUSTERS film has been met with vile from long-time fans, and a good Super Bowl spot would have been a great time to try and turn the tide. They didn’t bother, so they’re still ice-skating uphill. There were also noticeable absences from big releases such as WARCRAFT, NOW YOU SEE ME 2, THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR, LONDON HAS FALLEN, and Pixar’s FINDING DORY.
THE JUNGLE BOOK – This brilliant trailer was presented under the guise of a widescreen format (with black bars on the top and bottom of the screen), only to have the various animals leap out of that frame in a great effect that was better than any goddamn 3D. And as a bonus, we finally got to hear Bill Murray as Baloo the Bear.
EDDIE THE EAGLE – This trailer for the film about Britain’s first Olympic ski-jumper was packed with real-life NFL players. It was a nice tie-in and a natural fit.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR – United we stand, divided we fall! That was the chilling chant which kicked off the new trailer from the third CAPTAIN AMERICA solo film and the next chapter in Marvel’s series of connected films. Lots of new footage was shown in this epic showdown of super-friends battling each other.
HULK VS. ANT-MAN – Not really a trailer, but a commercial for Coca-Cola (cross-promotions are becoming more and more of a thing), had Marvel’s biggest hero (the Hulk) and their smallest (Ant-Man) fighting over a can of Coke. It was funny, it was fun, and a pleasant surprise.
BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE – Again, not really a trailer, but a commercial for Turkish Air which came in two versions. The first spot promoting this highly anticipated film of rock-em-sock-em superheroes actually aired before the game, and was set up as tourism commercial for Gotham City…complete with Ben Affleck in character as Bruce Wayne. It was short and sweet, and looked legitimate enough to fool anyone in the first few seconds, and it gave us a first real look and feel for Affleck’s take on the character. This was followed up by a similar tourism commercial for (ahem) rival city Metropolis; complete with a few quick flybys by the Man of Steel, and Jesse Eisenberg in character as Lex Luthor. Both spots ended with a nice standoff between The Batman and Superman. Very well done.
Watch all of the trailers HERE

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Reel Review: HAIL CAESAR!

The latest from filmmaking team Joel and Ethan Coen, HAIL CAESAR!, is a true love letter to a forgotten era in Hollywood. Taking place in the 1950’s, it was a time when studios cranked out fun films like Old Westerns with singing cowboys, lavish musicals with tap-dancing sailors, Biblical epics packed with over-the-top characters and long speeches…along with sneaky gossip columnists who were the only sources of information for people with a hunger for news of their favorite stars and starlets. It is an era that the Coens likely found a lot of inspiration from in their formative years, and a perfect setting for a simple, yet fun adventure.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a “fixer” for a big studio who takes care of big problems to keep the big wheels turning. When big star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by a group of disgruntled writers while filming a major movie, Mannix sets out to solve the mystery…along with juggling an un-married pregnant starlet (Scarlett Johannson), and a young Western actor (Alden Ehrenreich) who has to improve his acting.

HAIL CAESAR! roughly covers just over 24 hours in the busy life of Eddie Mannix as he goes from set to set, office to office, and situation to situation trying to keep scandals from hitting the front pages and the production of many major motion pictures from shutting down. The central task of Mannix, to get Whitlock back, takes up much of the film, and isn’t presented as a mystery or a whodunit, but instead focuses on the Why of it all. Where Whitlock is taken and by whom is answered pretty early on, and with that answered the mystery shifts over to the inside man in the studio who made it all happen.

There’s a lot going on in HAIL CAESAR! as Mannix races from one mess to another (including a sub-plot where he is being offered a new job for a lot of money and a lot less stress), and for a while it feels like the mystery of Whitlock’s kidnapping is being treated as secondary. There’s also an episodic feeling going on as several characters appear with new sets of problems (this would make a tremendous TV series), and the film feels like it may be disjointed. But these are the Coens in charge of this production, and every plotline and character comes together nicely by the end, and even before. Some nice twists and turns come about, and through some clever scripting, ties everything up neatly.

Setting the film in a 1950’s Hollywood studio gives the Coens as much freedom as a kid in a large sandbox. The film bounces from set to set with singing and lasso-throwing cowboys (brilliantly played by Alden Ehrenreich, who is channeling Gene Autry and Roy Rogers), big-water pool musicals, and a tap-dancing sequence by WWII sailors led by Channing Tatum which has to be seen to be believed. The Coens are having a blast re-creating a very special time in Hollywood, and it’s enough to make us yearn for those days again. For a cinephile, HAIL CEASAR! is a treat.

Acting is superb. George Clooney plays the part of a big star who is clueless about the real world perfectly, and Josh Brolin is a joy to watch as the determined straight-man with a lot on his plate. Scarlett Johansson has to lay on a thick and tough Brooklyn accent and nails it, while again, Channing Tatum’s tap-dance routine is outrageously fun. Cameos by Jonah Hill, Clancy Brown, Ralph Fiennes, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton (who plays the role of twin-sister gossip columnists) are all handled well. Despite all the star power, the show is truly stolen by young Alden Ehrenreich as an Old West star; who channels the stars of old into a bright and joyful performance.

With the proceedings taking place in Hollywood the Coens are given the chance to let the big climax of the film take place on the set of a movie which is in its own climactic scene, which makes it twice as effective and double the fun. Joel and Ethan Coen have put together not only a homage to a long-dead era of movie-making, but an incredibly fun romp that can’t be experienced enough. HAIL CAESAR, indeed.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Reel Preview: HAIL, CAESAR!

This weekend, one of the best filmmaking teams working today return with their newest film, HAIL, CAESAR!. Here is everything you need to know about this release…

Who is behind this? – HAIL, CAESAR! is written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, or as the world simply calls them, The Coen Brothers. The Coen’s impressive list of screen credits include the Best Picture Winner NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007), FARGO (1996), THE BIG LEBOWSKI, (1998), O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000), TRUE GRIT (2010), and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013).  The Coens also provided the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s recent thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES.

What is this about? – Taking place in 1950’s Hollywood, Josh Brolin (who starred in the Coen’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN), plays a “fixer” who is called in when a famous actor (played by George Clooney) is kidnapped.

Who else is in this? – The brothers have assembled a super-sized cast. In addition to Brolin and Clooney, also appearing will be Ralph Fiennes (THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL), Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances Mcdormand (FARGO), Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Christopher Lambert, David Krumholtz, Clancy Brown, and Dolph Lundgren.

Random Facts – For the 12th time, the Coen Brothers have enlisted the services of master cinematographer Roger Deakins * This is the first film Deakins has shot on 35mm for a Coen film since TRUE GRIT (2010) * This is the 8th time Frances McDormand has appeared in a Coen Bros. film * This is George Clooney’s 4th time out with the Bros. * This is the first time Christopher Lambert and Clancy Brown have appeared in a film together since HIGHLANDER (1996) * Josh Brolin’s character of Eddie Mannix is based on a real person. Mannix was a film studio executive and producer, and Bob Hoskins played a version of the character in HOLLYWOODLAND (2006) * Channing Tatum sings in a musical in a film-within-a-film, and it will appear on the soundtrack release *

What to expect? – Right away, the release date is a minor concern, as nothing great ever comes out of the first two months of the year; it’s Movie Siberia where movies deemed not good enough for Awards Season or the fun Summer months are sent to die. But the Coens don’t seem capable of making a true stinker. Even their lesser films still manage to entertain and are still better than the best from a lot of other filmmakers out there. Outside of that, it’s good to see the them dip back into the land of comedy, as their last two outings, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS and TRUE GRIT, were very serious films. The Coens have excelled at playing with different genres, and have proven to be masters at dark comedy (A SERIOUS MAN, 2009), and straight-up yuks (THE BIG LEBOWSKI). We can expect good laughs and a finely crafted film, and the involvement of Deakins promises a great-looking picture. The Coens are also good for recycling a lot of their old ground, in a good way, so we can expect some twists and turns with kidnapping plots gone awry and ransom-drops messed up. To top it off, the Coens always get great performances out of their cast, and this time out they’ve put together a great one. HAIL CAESAR! Looks like something worth hailing.


HAIL, CAESAR! arrives February 5th.




Monday, February 1, 2016

A Reel Preview: The Year in Film 2016: Episode II

The bad news about this time of year is that we’re stuck in the middle of Movie Siberia; where low-expectation films and cast-offs are sent to die. The good news is we’re also in the midst of the fun of Awards Season, and there are also some long-expected releases with some big names attached. Here are the upcoming notable releases for the month of February…

THE OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS; ANIMATED AND LIVE-ACTION – Get a jump on your Oscar Pool by screening the nominated short films in the Live-Action and Animated categories. Ranging from indie-productions, arthouse, and big-studio efforts such as Pixar, this limited release is always a treat to take in.

HAIL, CAESAR! – The acclaimed directing team of the Coen Brothers (FARGO, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) dip back into their comedy roots with this little mystery about a 1950’s movie star (played by George Clooney) who vanishes. Stars Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlet Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Christopher Lambert, and Dolph Lundgren.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES – This comedy-horror is based on the popular novel of the same name, which mashes the classic Pride and Prejudice with a zombie invasion. Stars Lily James, Charles Dance, Lena Headey, and Matt Smith. Directed by Burr Steers (IGBY GOES DOWN).

DEADPOOL – Officially part of the X-MEN series of films, the popular Marvel comics character known for his twisted sense of humor finally gets his R-rated big-screen adventure. Ryan Reynolds (THE GREEN LANTERN) plays the title role, and he is joined by Morena Baccarin (SERENITY).

ZOOLANDER 2 – Ben Stiller directs and stars in the sequel to his 2001 hit. Co-stars Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penelope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Milla Jovovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian.

HOW TO BE SINGLE – The popular book of the same name arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day as a romantic comedy. Stars Dakota Johnson (50 SHADES OF GREY), Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, and Damon Wayans, Jr.

WHERE TO INVADE NEXT – Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE), returns with a jaunt across the world in which he explores other countries’ methods of dealing with social and economic problems.

GLASSLAND – This drama has Jack Reynor (TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION) playing a young man trying to help his mother (played by Toni Collette) with her alcoholism. Directed by Gerard Barrett (PILGRIM HILL).

REMEMBER – Screen legends Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau star as two friends who set out on a cross-country journey to find the Nazi’s responsible for their families’ deaths. Directed by Atom Yeghoyan, who has two Oscar nominations under his belt.

RISEN – In this historical drama, Joseph Fiennes plays a Roman Centurion who is sent by Pontius Pilate to investigate the rumors of the risen Christ. Directed by Kevin Reynolds (ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES).

THE WITCH – Beware of horror movies not good enough to be released in October. This Robert Eggers film involves a Puritan family encountering evil forces in a nearby woods.

GODS OF EGYPT – In this fantasy, the Egyptian god of darkness takes over the throne of Egypt. Stars Brenton Thwaites and Gerard Butler (300). Directed by Alex Proyas (THE CROW, DARK CITY).

EDDIE THE EAGLE – This biopic tells the true story of Eddie Edwards; a British skier who in 1988 became the first ski-jumper to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. Taron Egerton (KINGSMAN), stars as Eddie, and Hugh Jackman (WOLVERINE), stars as his trainer.

RACE - Speaking of the Olympics, Stephan James plays Jesse Owens in this sports drama; centering around his historic performance at the 1936 Games.

TRIPLE 9 – John Hillcoat (THE ROAD, LAWLESS) directs this crime thriller about Russian gangsters and corrupt cops. Stars Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ojiofor (12 YEARS A SLAVE), Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul (TV’s BREAKING BAD), Norman Reedus (TV’s THE WALKING DEAD), Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, and Gal Godot.


Next month, Episode III previews the month of March.