Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks - Part 2

This second part of Oscar Picks selects the winners in the elemental categories leading to Best Picture. For Reel Speak’s picks in the acting categories, read Part 1 HERE



As stated in Part 1, predicting the Oscar winners usually begins with the Guild awards; the actors (SAG), directors (DGA), writers (WGA), and producers (PGA). By looking at those winners and comparing past stats and trends, we have a solid stepping-off point simply because many Guild voters are also Academy members. Studying other major awards such as the Golden Globes, British Academy (BAFTA), and the technical societies honoring editing, visual effects, and sound can offer insight as well. 

But this year, that old approach has been disintegrated, as many Guild winners did not make the cut in the Oscar nominations, and for the first time in history, all major Guilds were won by different movies. Many people look at this as a mess, but this Blogger considers it a good thing; the fact that anything can win points towards a very diverse slate of films.

Here now are Reel Speak’s predictions in the vital categories leading to Best Picture. 

Best Adapted Screenplay

All movies begin and end with the written word. The Academy knows this and honors it; no movie has won Best Picture without a screenplay nomination since TITANIC in 1997. This Blogger really likes Spike Lee’s BLACKKKLANSMAN, which won this category at BAFTA, to take the Oscar. It is a profound statement on race relations in America today and in its ugly history;  sometimes the truth is hard to watch, and BLACKKKLANSMAN is boldly and bravely written just for that purpose. 

Winner: BLACKKKLANSMAN 

Best Original Screenplay

The recent WGA awards provide some insight into this very competitive category. THE FAVOURITE was absent from this year’s WGA because of eligibility reasons, and many expected GREEN BOOK to win with that absence. But GREEN BOOK lost, and with no love from the Guild, seems unlikely to take the Oscar. That leaves THE FAVOURITE, which won here at BAFTA.

Winner: THE FAVOURITE 

Best Editing

How important is editing? Only two films in 40 years have won Best Picture without an editing nomination. Adam McKay’s VICE has that snappy cutting style that would seem to be a likely winner, but it’s the same exact method he used in 2015 in THE BIG SHORT, which failed to win in this category. Spike Lee’s BLACKKKLANSMAN is masterfully edited, but it hasn’t received much love from the Guilds. Those same Guilds have awarded both BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and THE FAVOURITE for their editing, and although RHAPSODY has some oddball cutting here and there, its ability to rouse people out of their seats and re-create historic performances goes a long way. 

Winner: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Best Director

Of the 90 films that have won Best Picture, 64 of them have had have been awarded Best Director. Alfonso Cuaron’s personal story ROMA has thus far earned him every directing win there is this season; Globes, Critics’ Choice, BAFTA, and DGA. Spike Lee for BLACKKKLANSMAN could pull the upset, but it’s hard to see Cuaron not completing the sweep. 

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron

Best Picture

Looking back at history, any film that is not nominated for Editing, Screenplay, or Directing does not have the odds in its favor, so that practically eliminates BLACK PANTHER, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, A STAR IS BORN,  GREEN BOOK, and possibly ROMA. The films left that have all the right boxes ticked are VICE, BLACKKKLANSMAN, and THE FAVOURITE. Both VICE and BLACKKKLANSMAN are strong, but neither one has had much success in the Guilds. That leaves THE FAVOURITE, which has all the right nominations. It’s also a film where actors rule, and the Academy does love its actors. ROMA has had a ton of success this season, having won Best Picture at BAFTA and the Critics’ Choice. Its lack of an editing nomination is a problem, but its unique style is akin to 2014’s BIRDMAN, which overcame that issue to win Best Picture. However, no foreign language film has ever won Best Picture, and that’s a long 90 years of history to overcome. And on top of that, this Blogger feels that this year’s winner will be determined in the screenplay categories; eight of the last 10 Best Picture winners also won screenplay. THE FAVOURITE wins with the written word and wins the final one. 

Winner: THE FAVOURITE 

*

The Oscars will be awarded February 24th





Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A Reel Opinion: Oscar Picks - Part 1



The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have been awarding achievements in film for over 90 years. Their nominations are announced well in advance (over a month), leaving fans of the silver screen plenty of time to try and predict the winners. These predictions are usually done by studying past stats and trends, along with winners of the Guilds, Golden Globes, and the British Academy (BAFTA), while others go for methods of tea leaves, conspiracy theories, or just good old-fashioned gut instinct. 

The Academy has a large overlap with the Guilds, especially the Screen Actors (SAG), and in the past studying those awards have given sound logic to predicting the Oscars. But in this odd year, many of the films, actors, and actresses who have won in the Guilds have not been nominated in the Oscars, which throws a mighty wrench in the works and brings us back to the tea leaves. This Blogger has been known to drink a lot of tea (among other things), so here are Reel Speak’s picks in the acting categories…with Part 2 covering the elemental categories leading to Best Picture. 

The nominees and predictions are…

Best Supporting Actress

This is the toughest acting category of the year to call. Regina King from IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK is considered the favorite; having won this category at the Golden Globes in January. She was not however included in the SAG nominations, and her film was not nominated for Best Picture which could be a deal-breaker; only 9 times in 24 years has this category been won by an actress without a Best Picture nomination. That leads us to Rachel Weisz from THE FAVOURITE, who won this category at BAFTA. But Weisz has won an Oscar in this category before, and no actress has repeated here since 1994. But THE FAVOURITE is an actor-driven film, and the Academy does love its actors; with Weisz being one of three nominated from THE FAVOURITE. Weisz’s co-stars are unlikely to win in their respective categories, so this seems like the only place THE FAVOURITE can win an acting Oscar. The performances are too good to walk home empty-handed. 

WINNER: Rachel Weisz 

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali from GREEN BOOK should win this one easily. He’s already won at the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA…and no Supporting Actor has ever swept those awards and then lost the Oscar. There’s been a fair amount of controversy over GREEN BOOK, but no debate in just how good Ali’s performance was. 

WINNER: Mahershala Ali 

Best Actress

Glenn Close seems well on her way to winning her first Oscar in her long and successful career for her performance in THE WIFE, having won here at SAG, Globes, and a shared-win with Lady Gaga at the Critics Choice. But this category is ripe for an upset. Similar to the Best Supporting Actress category, THE WIFE is not nominated for Best Picture, and Close’s nomination is the only representation the film has; only three times since 1994 has a sole-representation won this category. Close could be upset by Lady Gaga from A STAR IS BORN, or by Olivia Colman from THE FAVOURITE…who also won the Globe and BAFTA. It’s close, but the odds favor Glenn.

WINNER: Glenn Close

Best Actor

Rami Malek for the divisive and troubled Queen biopic BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY seems on his way to his first career Oscar, having won this category everywhere else this season. Christian Bale could sneak in for his transformative performance in VICE, but that role owes a lot to the hair and makeup department. The huge upset could come from Bradley Cooper from A STAR IS BORN, whose snub in the Directing category could be pulling votes for his acting instead. Malek’s film has been drenched in controversy all year long; ranging from just how good the film actually is, to its historical accuracy, to its director being fired and accused of unspeakable crimes. All that may be enough to derail Malek, but anyone who has seen the film and witnessed Malek’s replication of the late great Freddie Mercury should only be voting for what they saw on the stage and screen. 

WINNER: Rami Malek 

*

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

The Oscars will be awarded February 24th




Friday, February 15, 2019

A Reel Review - ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL



Visionary director James Cameron, the man who has brought us mega-hits such as ALIENS, TERMINATOR, TITANIC, and AVATAR, has long labored to bring ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, the popular Japanese manga comic to the big screen. Technically he still hasn’t, as Cameron steps back into the writing and producing role and passes the directing torch to Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY). Fans of the comic have been waiting for this film for 20 years, with hopes that it will be worth it. 

In the year 2563, long after a devastating war, Dr. Dyson (Christoph Waltz), a cyborg scientist, discovers the wrecked, yet functional body of Alita (Rosa Salazar), a cyborg in the form of a teenage girl. Once functional again, Alita has no memory of her past, and sets out to discover her own secrets despite threats from Vector (Mahershala Ali) and his assistant/lover Chiren (Jennifer Connelly)…who want Alita for her parts. 

BATTLE ANGEL has a lot going on. Alitia is out to discover who she was, Dr. Dyson is dealing with the loss of his daughter while taking on the duties of a clandestine bounty hunter hunting down cyborgs, and the Earth is basically split into two classes; with the lower class scratching out a living on a wrecked Earth and the upper class in a hovering city. The economy in this world seems to center on the Motorball games (a roller-derby competition with cyborgs), which has a black-market underbelly which Alitia’s boy-crush Hugo (Keean Johnson) has a hand in. The weaving script, which Cameron co-wrote, does everything in broad strokes and gets characters from place to place well enough, but it often becomes so convoluted with its own mythology that it becomes hard to follow. But what’s worse is that the stakes here are very low; it all comes down to hunting Alita for her parts for the Motorball games. Ho-hum. 

While the story is messy and un-engaging, Cameron and Rodriguez are building a fantastic looking world. The design of the wrecked future Earth is stunning, and the cyborgs, which are mostly mechanical bodies with human heads…border on grotesque to fascinating. The action sequences; ranging from the Motorball games to closed-quarters hand-to-hand combat, are an absolute thrill with more than one moment to stand up and cheer over. Visual effects for the most part are stunning, although some are somewhat cartoony. The design of Alita herself takes some getting used to with her oversized eyes, but the motion-capture is done well enough that she becomes a full-fledged character that works. 

Acting is all over the place. Rosa Salazar sounds great but it’s hard to tell how much of Alita’s presence on the screen is actually her or just CGI wizardry. Maherashala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, and Christoph Waltz are just walking planks. Keean Johnson has all the charisma of a toaster, and his character is more of a pain-in-the-ass than a help.  The film also has a handful of surprise cameos that are hit-and-miss. 

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL has a lot to enjoy; its production design, set-pieces, action sequences, and technical wizardry are fantastic all around. It could have been a knockout if it delivered at the end, but the last 20 minutes feel rushed and frantic; almost to the point where it feels like it was improvised on the spot, and way too much is punted down the road for a goddamn sequel. It may be fun and Alita just may steal a few hearts, but its messy story and who-cares stakes makes the long wait for her not really worth it. 

BOTTOM LINE: Rent it 


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Reel Review: The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films


Animated Short Films have to play by the same rules as their Live-Action counterparts, where they have 40 minutes or less to tell their story. But with animation, the style allows filmmakers to create and explore without limits. With little time to work with but with imagination the only real boundary, the Animated Short Films are usually one of the most exciting categories to see every year. This year’s Oscar nominees have a wide range of animation styles from around the world, and almost all have recurring themes of family. Here are the Reel Reviews for this year’s nominees.
ANIMAL BEHAVIOR (Canada)
In a world populated by talking animals, a group therapy session led by a dog and including an ape, a cat, a praying mantis, a leech, and a bird…work through their issues. 
This zany romp is a laugh a minute, and brilliantly capitalizes on the traits of each animal by turning their elemental characteristics into issues that they have to work out in a group setting. It’s not much of a story and instead a series of jokes, and it does feel like a small part of something bigger…but it sure is fun to watch. 
ONE SMALL STEP (USA/China)
A single father helps her daughter achieve her life-long dream of becoming an astronaut. 
This tearjerker follows the steps of the appropriately-named Luna trying to find her way to the Moon. Presented without a word of dialogue but with a ton of emotion, this is a father-daughter story with a lot of heart as Luna goes through more than one setback in her journey not only to the Moon, but from childhood to adulthood. There’s bittersweetness at work as real-life intrudes on her dreams, and that gives it a lot of emotional weight. As joyful as the film is, there are not a lot of surprises, and we’ve certainly seen this story play out before. 
LATE AFTERNOON (Ireland)
An elderly woman has her lost memories triggered through the simplest things. 
A play on the bitterness of old age and Alzheimer’s, LATE AFTERNOON is another tearjerker that works on how the smallest detail can trigger a wave of memories. Presented in a 2D, water-colored style, the simplicity of LATE AFTERNOON is part of its charm, and it’s short running time is used well as we get an entire life story in just 10 minutes. 
WEEKENDS (USA)
A young boy bounces in-between his divorced parents; living with mom during the week and dad on the weekends. 
Less of a story and more about atmosphere, WEEKENDS takes us through the young boy’s life as he bonds with his father and tries to make sense of the situation. With no dialogue and beautiful 2D animation, the story unfolds in subtle ways, and the situation is made more and more complex when the divorced parents begin dating others. Divorce can be traumatic for a kid, and WEEKENDS sums it up with a lot of heart. 
BAO (USA)
A Chinese mother has one of her dumplings come to life, and she cares for it as one of her children. 
This tearjerker (yes, another one), which is the annual nominee from animation legends Pixar, ran in front of INCREDIBLES 2 last year, and may have confused audiences with its touch of weirdness; after all, it’s not every day we see a dumpling coming to life and growing into a stubborn teenager. But BAO has a lot going for it; the animation is stunning as always, it has a lot of heart, and by the end we realize that much of the film is a metaphor for generational gaps and how it can divide a mother and son. Another film presented with no dialogue, BAO is a joy from start to finish, and uses its short time wisely. 
*
Read Reel Speak’s review on the Oscar Nominated Live-Action Films HERE
The Oscars will be awarded February 24th



Monday, February 11, 2019

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


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a Short Film as a motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less. Since 1974, the Academy has been awarding Oscars to the shorts that utilized that precious little time the best. With such tight constraints brevity is key, and with no need to fill time or stretch things out, it can be said that Short Films are the purest of all filmmaking. 
This year, the five nominees from across the world are a powerful and sobering bunch, with four of them taking on the serious subject matter of children being in situations they never should be in. Here are the nominees, and a Reel Review for each. 
SKIN (USA)
The young son of a white supremacist witnesses his father and his skinhead friends beat a black man nearly to his death. 
The early goings of SKIN give us the impression that the film will be a morality lesson, as the eyes of a child present the ugliness of racism in horrific ways. Things get turned on its end however by the halfway point when the young son of the assaulted black man takes part in a revenge plot, and the results lead to two twists with cruel yet glorious irony. SKIN is very well acted, is presented in gritty realism, and has a lot of potential to be a feature length film. 
MOTHER (Spain)
A mother receives a phone call from her six-year-old boy who is stranded alone on a beach. 
This Spanish-speaking thriller is a closed-quarters film that takes place in the mom’s apartment and is limited to her and her own mother. It borders on a real-life horror film as the mom receives the phone call and his horrified to hear her son scared out of his mind, and the fear that the child is going through extends to his mom and grandmother. MOTHER is incredibly well acted, and the bulk of the film is done in one, single-take. If it has any flaws, it’s that it doesn’t have much of an ending and feels like the opening scene to something bigger. 
FAUVE (Canada)
Two young boys wander into a stone quarry with tragic consequences. 
Similar to MOTHER, FAUVE also feels like the opening, or middle scene to something larger, but it still carries a powerful punch. The tragedy the kids find has to do with thick mud that acts as quicksand, and the technical mastery to pull off the effect is stunning. Both boys are incredible actors, which makes FAUVE the most technically superior film of this year’s nominees. If only it had more of an ending…
MARGUERITE (Canada)
An elderly woman begins to have feelings for her nurse. 
This LGBT entry has a lot of potential to be a feature-length film, and the acting from the two actresses is excellent. The film could have gone in several different ways, and the way it goes may not sit too well with the lesbian community. When the elderly woman finds out her nurse is a lesbian, we expect her to act with disgust, but we learn that she herself once loved another woman but could never tell her. It’s a solid first step, but then the idea turns into a sexual curiosity which leads the nurse to doing some very questionable things for someone in her profession. MARGUERITE feels like it would have worked better as a feature length because it sorely needs more time to explore the issues that it presents. 
DETAINMENT (Ireland)
Two young boys in Ireland who are up to no good while skipping school abduct a toddler for sinister purposes. 
This is based on the 1993 real life, shocking murder and torture of two-year-old James Bulger by the hands of boys who were 10 years old. It’s a half-hour docu-drama based on police interviews and recordings and does fine work in getting into the heads of the two kids who did things so unspeakable to the toddler, that most of the details are still under seal. The actors playing the young killers are outstanding, and despite how horrific and gruesome the murder is, it is presented in a way that lets our minds fill in the blanks and it leads to places we really don’t want to go. Not ever. Extremely well edited, shot, and acted…DETAINMENT may make an excellent feature length one day, but it doubtfully will be as riveting as this short. 
*
Read Reel Speak's review for the Animated Short nominees HERE 
The Oscars will awarded February 24th.



Friday, February 8, 2019

Albert Finney 1936 - 2019



Albert Finney; actor, producer, and director of film, television, and theatre, has passed away at 82. 

Born in Pendleton, Salford, England, Albert Finney graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1956. His first major acting role was in the Vanbrugh Theatre’s student production of the play THE FACE OF LOVE, and later became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His first film appearance was in 1960 in Tony Richardson’s THE ENTERTAINER, and had a breakthrough role the same year in SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING. This led to his role in the Oscar-winning 1963 film TOM JONES. During this time he was chosen to play T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but chose not to accept the role. 

He directed the 1968 film CHARLIE BUBBLES, and his film appearances became less frequent as he stayed active on the stage. In 1974 he had one of his best roles as master detective Hercuel Poirot in the film MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. While he was known as a dramatic actor, he appeared in and sang in three musicals; SCROOGE (1970), ANNIE (1982), and Tim Burton’s CORPSE BRIDE (2005). He would also earn a total of 13 BAFTA nominations (nine film, four in television), and would win two. He also has three Golden Globe wins out of nine nominations.

His career would earn five Oscar nominations, although he never won. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for TOM JONES, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, THE DRESSER (1983), and UNDER THE VOLCANO (1984), and one nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000). His other notable film roles include WOLFEN (1981), SHOOT THE MOON (1982), MILLER’S CROSSING (1990), TRAFFIC (2000), BIG FISH (2003), OCEAN’S TWELVE (2004), THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007), THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012), SKYFALL (2012), and JASON BOURNE (2016). 

He won an Emmy Award in 2002 for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in HBO’s THE GATHERING STORM. 

*

Albert Finney was one of those actors that seemed to make every movie a little better. He had a larger-than-life presence on the screen, and his thunderous delivery of lines deserved our attention. Whether he was crooning as Ebenezer Scrooge or telling tall tales, Albert Finney was always a joy to watch. This Blogger will always recall his role in BIG FISH, when he played a father who was always telling stories…either for entertainment or to prove a point; much like this Blogger’s dad once did. Looking back on Finney’s life and career, it would certainly be wonderful to pull up a chair and listen to one of his stories. 






Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Reel Birthday

This month marks the 9thanniversary of Reel Speak. 
The number nine is a significant number. As the highest single-digit, it is the last birthday to be celebrated before marking a decade. In culture, it is often associated with the Chinese dragon; a symbol of magic and power. In Norse mythology, and in the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, the universe is divided into nine realms, and later this year, the 9th episode of the STAR WARS Saga will be released. 
And it was the magic and power of STAR WARS in 1977 which set this Blogger on his career and life journey, a journey that took on new meaning in February of 2010 with the founding of Reel Speak. The idea was to blog about film in a way that would share my love of the movies with friends, family, and eventually anyone else who cared. The blog has changed and evolved over the years; from reviews and news to opinions, significant film anniversaries, top 10 lists, awards season predictions and analysis, and for the first time in the past year…a special guest writer. 
Each year, to celebrate not only Reel Speak’s birthday but my love for film, this Blogger is proud to share the Top 20 Reasons Why I Love the Movies; a list of direct and indirect references to the films that live in my gut, heart, and soul. Hopefully this annual list can give the world a glimpse into what makes me tick, and maybe inspire others to examine and reflect on what films are important to them, and why. 
WHY I LOVE THE MOVIES
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 what we do in life echoes in eternity. 
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 “I love you”, and “I know”. 
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 4, 2019

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



The Super Bowl has been traditionally an opportunity for movie studios to begin marketing their upcoming releases for the year. New movie trailers have become a part of Super Bowl lore just as much as the parties, commercials, and the coin flip. It also serves as a rite of Spring; a hint of the fun Summer movies to bring us warm thoughts in February. 
This year however, many studios seem to have taken Super Sunday off. Each year nearly 10 trailers have their debuts; this year only eight, with most of them only 30 seconds long and airing before the game even started. Perhaps studios are re-thinking spending millions of dollars for 30 seconds of air time? Either way, what we got still finds its way into The Good, The Bad, & The Glorious. Here’s how they played out…
THE GOOD

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK – This took many of us by surprise. It was the first look at this horror film, produced by Guillermo del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER). It was creepy, effective, and got its message across. 

HOBBS AND SHAW – The first spin-off to the never-ending FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise debuted its full trailer online earlier in the week, and this quick spot was a re-edit of that trailer and showcased the nuttiness that these movies have been known for. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham were all over the trailer and sold it. 

US – Jordan Peele’s newest film since GET OUT showed a quick spot with no new footage, but still very creepy. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL – Marvel’s next super-adventure was mostly re-edited footage from previous trailers but was packed with that Marvel fun and flash. 

THE BAD

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL – No one seems to know what to make of this CGI heavy sci-fi romp directed by Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY) and produced by James Cameron (TITANIC, AVATAR)…and this messy trailer didn’t help much. Just lights and noise. 

WONDER PARK – This was like watching soup in a blender; frenetic, chaotic, no structure. 

TOY STORY 4 – This trailer for the latest adventure of Woody and Buzz wasn’t terrible on its own, and the animation looked great as always, but this gets negative points for its placement; it ran after the game was over and likely when most people had turned it off.

You get negative points for not showing up for work. There were notable absences from upcoming high-profile films such as LEGO MOVIE 2, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3, PET SEMATARY, JOHN WICK 3, DC Comics’ SHAZAM, and Disney’s DUMBO, THE LION KING, and ALADDIN. 

THE GLORIOUS

AVENGERS: ENDGAME – The most epic superhero series of all time unveiled a brand-new trailer before kickoff, and basically gave Marvel the win before the game even started. The short spot gave us brand new footage; showing a decimated world and shell-shocked heroes…or at least the heroes that survived the events of INFINITY WAR. The trailer shows a dark and cold world, but thanks to a quick glimpse of Captain America finally getting his lost shield back…we are assured that warmth is coming. 
*
Super Bowl LIV will be played February 2nd, 2020.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Reel Preview: The Year in Film 2019 - Episode II



The bad news about the next month of movie releases is that we’re still stuck in Movie Siberia, where the unwanted are dumped to die. The good news is, February is a short month…and we have a few hidden gems scattered about here and there. Here now is a preview for the month of February. 

Siberia continues with…

ARCTIC – Mads Mikkelsen (ROGUE ONE), plays a man stranded in the Arctic who misses his chance at rescue. 

THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART – The sequel to the 2014 smash hit. It features the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Tiffany Haddish, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, and Maya Rudolph. 

EVERYBODY KNOWS – Javier Bardem (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN), and Penelope Cruz (TO ROME WITH LOVE), star in this Spanish psychological thriller. 

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT – In a film that is probably as ridiculous as the title sounds, Sam Elliot (A STAR IS BORN), stars as a man who killed Hitler and then asked to hunt down Bigfoot. 

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY – This comedy/drama is based on the 2012 documentary which depicted the life of professional wrestler Paige. It follows her journey from an upbringing in a family of wrestlers to her rise as one of the WWE’s biggest female stars. 

THE PRODIGY – Beware of horror films not good enough for the Fall. Taylor Schilling (TV’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK), plays the mother of a child who may be possessed. 

THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS – This latest installment in the never-ending AMITYVILLE franchise which is partly based on the Amityville documentaries that aired on the History Channel.  

COLD PURSUIT – In this action film, Liam Neeson plays a snowplow driver who goes on a rampage of revenge when his son is murdered. It co-stars Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, and William Forsythe. 

WHAT MEN WANT –   In this remake of the 2000 film, Taraji P. Henson (HIDDEN FIGURES), gains the ability to hear men’s thoughts. 

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U – The sequel to the 2017 slasher film, in which a girl finds herself trapped in a time loop facing a new killer. 

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL – The long-awaited big screen adaptation of the massively popular manga comic, in which Alita (Rosa Salazar), a cyborg, discovers her hidden past and abilities. It stars Christoph Waltz (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS), Jennifer Connelly, and Mahershala Ali (GREEN BOOK). It is directed by Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY), and produced by James Cameron (TITANIC, AVATAR). 

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD – The third and final installment of the animated fantasy franchise that started in 2010. This time, Hiccup deals with an overpopulation of dragons. It features the voice talents of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Kit Harrington, Kristen Wig, F. Murray Abraham, and Gerard Butler. 

*

Next month, Reel Speak previews the month of March. 




Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Reel Opinion: The Top 10 Best Football Movies



This week brings the Super Bowl; pro-football’s championship game that has grown into an un-official national holiday. The annual big game has a lot in common with the Oscars; not only does it serve to crown the best it has to offer, but it is also a celebration of the game, and as the last game of the year in all of football, serves as a grand finale to the overall season. With this being Super Bowl week, and partially inspired by a healthy debate with a loyal reader, the time is right for Reel Speak’s very first Top 10 Best Football Movies. 

The American version of football has not been treated as well as other sports on the big screen. The game has yet to find its own version of FIELD OF DREAMS, THE NATURAL, or even HOOSIERS. The reasons for that are for another debate, and this list looks to rank and celebrate the best of what we have received. As usual, the benchmarks of story and character are in play, but it’s fair to say that football movies, just like any other sports movie, has to do something special with the game itself; to make the game mean something other than a reason to bash helmets together or make a lot of noise. 

Now it’s time for kickoff. 

10. UNDEFEATED (2011)



Our first entry on this very first list is actually a documentary, but what a documentary it is. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this film documents the struggles of a Memphis high school football team trying to overcome years of losing seasons. The film also capitalizes on the theme of football being a rite of passage for young men. Practically a required viewing for all fans of the game. 

9. NORTH DALLAS FORTY (1979)



Football is a violent sport, and perhaps no other film centered on violence as much as this 1979 classic which was based on the book of the same name. With characters based on real-life players from the famed Dallas Cowboys, the film may seem over the top by today’s standards, but it worked then, as it does now, as a peek behind the curtain of the lives of pro-football players…and the effects the game has on them after the lights go down. 

8. KNUTE ROCKNE: ALL AMERICAN (1940)


Before Ronald Reagan was President, he was an actor, and his greatest and most-remembered role came in this 1940 biography of the famed coach of Notre Dame University. Reagan played freshman halfback George Gipp, who famously said on his death bed to “win one for the Gipper”; a line which has become eternal in Notre Dame football, film, and in overall sports. A tearjerker of a movie and a nostalgic reminder of when the term “All American” actually meant something. 

7. THE LONGEST YARD (1974)



This sports classic has Burt Reynolds playing an incarcerated pro-football player who recruits fellow inmates to play a game against the prison guards. Sold as a comedy, it has a fair amount of emotional weight, and the game of football exists in the story to give the prisoners their only taste of freedom and life outside the walls. Realistic and brutal and the game means everything to every character. 

6. HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978)



Nominated for 10 Oscars, Warren Beatty directed and starred in this fantasy/comedy in which a pro football player is killed and sent to heaven by accident. It’s a screwball comedy but still has enough weight to make us care, and the ensemble cast of Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Jack Warden, Charles Grodin, and Dyan Cannon make the film one of the best of the 1970’s. The game of football serves as a great passion and love for the main character, which nearly turns it into a love story. 

5. NECESSARY ROUGHNESS (1991)



Scott Bakula takes the field in this comedy about a middle-aged quarterback who goes back to college to play quarterback for a decimated football program. Loaded with zippy one-liners and a laugh-a-minute, NECESSARY ROUGHNESS shows that the game doesn’t always have to be taken so damn seriously. 

4. REMEMBER THE TITANS (2000)



Denzel Washington led the way in this true-story drama about an African-American high school football coach who tried to integrate the school football team in Virginia in 1971. It’s a simple tale told in the most direct manner, but sports and civil rights in America have come clashing together from the early days to the modern-day NFL stories of kneeling players, and REMEMBER THE TITANS stands as one of the most important stories to speak about it. And most of all, it shows the bonding power of the game. 

3. THE BEST OF TIMES (1986)



Current and ex-football players tend to replay games in their heads, for better or for worse, but no one actually gets to replay those games on the field. But for Kurt Russell and the late great Robin Williams, that’s exactly what their characters got to do in this comedy/drama. The two old friends get the teams back together for a rematch to a game that had ended in a tie decades before, not only for themselves but for their dying hometown. It’s a story of redemption, family, smalltown America, and the importance of missed opportunities in life. And on the field, the football is shown as brutal and violent as it can get. 

2. RUDY (1993)



Everyone loves an underdog story, and perhaps football is the toughest sport for any underdog. Based on a true story, RUDY tells the tale of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who had lifelong dreams of playing Notre Dame football despite his academic and physical limitations. It’s a movie about chasing dreams no matter what, and Sean Astin plays the character with so much heart that one would have to be soulless to not root for him. It’s a film that makes us stand up and cheer, and that is an important, if not rare, accomplishment for any film. Some movie fans may always remember Sean Astin as a Goonie or a Hobbit…but many more will always remember him wearing that blue number 45 jersey with his arms up in victory. 

1. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (2004)



Before it was a TV show, it was a film. Peter Berg’s gritty take on the true story of a Texas high school football team, its coach, families, and players…captures the essence of the game both on and off the field. The love of the game, the pressures, and the joy that tossing the pigskin around is all there, and despite having a tough ending to swallow…still sends us out on a high note. The cast and acting are excellent, and Berg’s talent for dropping us right into the thick of the action makes the film a visceral experience. It’s a statement on the rabid fandom of the game all the way down to the high school level and makes even high school football seem like the most important thing in the world. The film plays with history, but what we see on the screen is all that should matter, and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS hits the hardest. 

REEL SPEAK'S TOP 10 BEST FOOTBALL MOVIES

  1. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
  2. RUDY
  3. THE BEST OF TIMES
  4. REMEMBER THE TITANS
  5. NECESSARY ROUGHNESS
  6. HEAVEN CAN WAIT
  7. THE LONGEST YARD
  8. KNUTE ROCKNE: ALL AMERICAN
  9. NORTH DALLAS FORTY
  10. UNDEFEATED