Quick 2016 Reviews

September is filled with wrapping up 2015 reviews followed by the 2015 RyMickey Awards.

However, I'm still seeing some currently released 2016 movies as well.

Full reviews will pop up in October, but for now, here's a little sticky post with very quick thoughts.

Florence Foster Jenkins - Nice performance (as always) from Meryl Streep and an amusing story, but not imperative to see it on a big screen

The Light Between Oceans - Beautifully filmed, fantastic performance by Alicia Vikander

Pete's Dragon - Well-acted, but rather dull and not enchanting considering the whimsical subject matter

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Best Supporting Actor

The weakest of this year's acting categories (ensemble and youngest actor included), Best Supporting Actor had the least amount of contenders vying for a top five berth.  Quite honestly, were I an Oscar or Screen Actors Guild voter, my top spot would be the only one for whom I'd have been really rooting.  Rather shockingly, you'll note that only one of the men nominated for an Oscar finds his way to my list.  Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), and Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight) simply didn't blow me away or move me in any way.  Much talk was also made of Jacob Tremblay from Room missing out in the Best Supporting Actor category -- I find the talented young actor to have a leading role in that film which is why you won't find him here either.

Best Supporting Actor of 2015
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix // SoA = Streaming on Amazon // SoH = Streaming on HBO)

Honorable Mentions
(in alphabetical order)
Bobby Canavale - Danny Collins (SoA)
Sam Elliott - Grandma
Michael Shannon - 99 Homes - (SoA)

And the Top Five Are...

#5 - Emory Cohen - Brooklyn
Emory Cohen brings a charm and naturalness to the very Italian character of Tony Fiorelli.  We readily understand what Saoirse Ronan's character of Eilis sees in Tony.  It's tough not to have a smile on your face as Cohen's Tony looks lovingly on his new girlfriend. (SoH)

#4 - Oscar Isaac - Ex Machina
Too smart for his own good, Oscar Isaac's portrayal of reclusive tech genius Nathan is a bit ominous from the outset growing infinitely moreso as Ex Machina continues.  His intelligence is what is most frightening and Isaac conveys that quite well.

#3 - Idris Elba - Beasts of No Nation
Giving a fantastic no-nonsense performances, Elba's character should be hugely frightening, but it's a credit to the actor that we understand why his minions listen to him.  It isn't just out of fear -- he's charmed them into a corrupt way of life and this fine line is walked well by the actor. (SoN)

#2 - Seth Rogen - Steve Jobs
Usually the star, Rogen is relegated to second banana here, but his Steve Wozniak is desperate for attention from his father figure in Steve Jobs.  Rogen's depiction of Woz's woeful despondency and his deteriorating relationship with Jobs is a huge emotional crux of the piece for me. (SoH)

#1 - Sylvester Stallone - Creed
In Creed, Stallone's Rocky Balboa is a bit more weathered, a bit more wearied of jumping back into the boxing world.  His pace of everything -- the way he talks, the way he walks -- has slowed as time and his boxing past has taken its toll on him.  Stallone plays Rocky very vulnerable here and this adds huge layers to a character we've known for a long time.  I found myself quite moved by Stallone -- more than I ever could have expected -- and I think this is a fitting end (if it is the end) to this beloved character.

Previous RyMickey Awards Winners
2014   ---   2013   ---   2012
2011   ---   2010   ---   2009

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Theater Review - God of Carnage

The 2015 RyMickey Awards will return tomorrow with its final six days of awards.  For now, a one-day respite for a review of a local theatrical production that is quickly selling out multiple performances.

God of Carnage
Written by Yasmina Reza
Translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Kate Buckley
Where: Studio Theatre at the Roselle Center for the Arts
(University of Delaware, Newark, DE)
When:  Thursday, September 22, 7:30pm
Photo by the REP

The University of Delaware's Resident Ensemble Players kick off their 2016-17 season with the comedy God of Carnage which explores the uncouth side of human nature that lies just beneath the civilized façades some folks erect to hide their true thoughts and feelings.  The plot is most basic -- two couples meet up in a Brooklyn apartment after the son of Alan and Annette (Robert Gerard Anderson and the REP's Elizabeth Heflin) knocks out two teeth of the son of Michael and Veronica (the REP's Hassan El-Amin and the REP's Kathleen Pirkl Tague) during a small brawl in a park.  However, with this set-up introduced in the opening moments, the play's remaining intermissionless eighty-five minutes turns into a contest of wits, oneupmanship, and marital and sociological carnage.  This play, as we soon discover, isn't about the unseen kids at all, but rather about shifting viewpoints, ever-changing allegiances, and the animalistic nature that claws its way out of us humans every now and again.

With little plot from which to build interest, the audience is placed squarely at the mercy of the actors onstage, reliant on them to create reasons for us to comprehend their characters' feelings and emotions.  This quartet does a fine job of taking us on their individual journeys which may very well start the play in one hemisphere and end the play in one that is its polar opposite.  While guest actor Robert Gerard Anderson and debuting REP member Hassan El-Amin both nicely portray the masculine attributes gifted them by playwright Yasmina Reza (and translated from French by Christopher Hampton), for regular REP-goers, the real treat lies in seeing longtime troupe members Kathleen Pirkl Tague and Elizabeth Heflin spar one another with great gusto.  Their mannered civility quickly devolves and the interactions between Annette and Veronica seem to shift minute-to-minute from hostile to considerate and then back again, yet these two talented actresses make their characters' motivations and feelings always ring true.

Taking place on a rather lovely, sophisticated, and somewhat posh apartment set created by the talented REP designer Stefanie Hansen -- the type of environment that seems too ornate to really be lived in like the initial façades worn by the characters -- director Kate Buckley shrewdly utilizes the setting of the REP's small black box Studio Theater by constantly moving her actors around so all three seating locations of the audience feel as if they're squarely in the action of the play's increasingly brutal and hilarious proceedings.  As the god of Carnage begins to emerge onstage, I can't imagine there was a bad seat in the house.

Ultimately, a repeat viewing would likely help with better grasping the various motivations of characters' ever-shifting allegiances and tones.  Don't get me wrong, nothing here is confusing in the slightest, but there were a few minor instances here or there where I found myself going, "Why is X reacting this way to Y at this very moment?"  This is in part because your focus as an audience member is pulled four different ways at nearly every moment.  Who do I want to have my eyes on now because they're all great, you find yourself asking.  And that's a good thing.  For a play to create four characters all with their own distinct personalities, desires, and motivations which are all relayed to you in the audience so vividly in a real-time setting -- meaning the 85 minutes in the play are 85 continuous minutes in the lives of these characters -- is quite a feat.  The REP is certainly up to taking on this task and they open their season with much success.  I've wanted the REP to tackle this play for quite a while now (I even hoped for it in this 2012 review) and I greatly appreciate the group tackling some of these more modern classics as part of their great repertoire.  I'll say this again -- you can't get a better deal on theater than the Resident Ensemble Players at the University of Delaware.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Best Director

For the second year in a row, my Best Director wasn't even nominated for an Oscar.  You'll also see that the eventual Oscar winner - Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu - doesn't even make an appearance here despite his film having several fascinating sequences.

Best Director of 2015
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix // SoA = Streaming on Amazon // SoH = Streaming on HBO)

(in alphabetical order by film)
Cory Joji Fukunaga - Beasts of No Nation (SoN)
Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione - Circle (SoN)
Niki Caro - McFarland, USA
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (SoH)

Honorable Mentions

8 - Ridley Scott - The Martian
Keeps things moving at a surprising clip, effectively balancing the various tones the movie creates. (SoH)

7 - Kenneth Branagh - Cinderella
Plays things old-fashioned in this modern era and there's an undeniable charm that accompanies this decision.

6 - Alex Garland - Ex Machina
Debut director has me looking forward to what I hope is a promising future. (SoA)

And the Top Five Are...

5 - Ryan Coogler - Creed
The visceral, in-your-face style Ryan Coogler (and his cinematographer) bring to the fighting sequences of Creed haven't been seen before in Rocky flicks.  The lengthy one-take fight sequence is blissfully choreographed and amazingly shot, leaving me awestruck.  Coogler also adeptly lets the quieter moments shine as well.  Fantastic work from this young director in what is only his second film.

4 - Lenny Abrahamson - Room
Mr. Abrahamson keeps the audience riveted with a emotionally intense relationship between a mother and son, getting great performances from his two leads.  In addition, he is adept at formulating a suspenseful atmosphere (that escape sequence!) as well as wonderfully lensing both the confines of Room and the wide-open spaces outside of the small enclosure. (SoA)

3 - Sebastian Schipper - Victoria
Could Sebastian Schipper have found a way to make his lengthy story a bit shorter?  Yes.  However, what he was done with his 132 minute-long single take movie is astonishing.  No tricks, just masterful camera work and well-thought-out timing.  Sure, it's a gimmick, but it's a gimmick that I always love. (SoN)

2 - John Crowley - Brooklyn
Brooklyn is a film that could've been made in the 1950s and director John Crowley embraces the simplistic and gentle aesthetic accompanying that era.  It's a heartwarming story filled with fantastic performances that exudes charm and elegance.  Plus, it's beautifully and lushly lensed. (SoH)

1 - Danny Boyle - Steve Jobs
Lensing Aaron Sorkin's talky script is no easy task, but Danny Boyle steps up to the plate and hits a home run with Steve Jobs.  He creates a rhythm that causes this talky, play-like film to move at a surprisingly breakneck pace.  The real-time aspect of the film (broken up into three acts) ingeniously keeps the tension palpable.  Plus, the decision to film each act using different formats of film (16mm, 32mm, and digital) creates unique visual imprints for the viewer.  Stunning work.  (SoH...Sept 24)

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2014   ---   2013   ---   2012
2011   ---   2010   ---   2009

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Best Screenplay

Note: Slight update on 9/23 after a re-watch of Room.

A solid year for screenplays, for sure, including what I think is one of the best screenplays of the last decade (which was inexplicably not nominated for an Oscar).

(SoN = Streaming on Netflix // SoA = Streaming on Amazon // SoH = Streaming on HBO)

Best Original Screenplay of 2015
#5 - Dan Fogelman - Danny Collins
A hidden gem that isn't without clichés, but is full of witty wordplay spouted by amusing and well-rounded characters.  (SoA)

#4 - Josh Mond - James White
It takes a little bit to get going, but Josh Mond has crafted such a detailed, complex relationship between a son and his cancer-ravaged mother that it proves to be one of the best dramas of the year. (SoN)

#3 - Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi - What We Do in the Shadows
Mixing horror, comedy, and documentary clichés into a hilarious mash-up about a clan of vampires, the New Zealand duo of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi made this sleeper flick (that you've likely never heard of before) one of my favorites of the year.

#2 - Alex Garland - Ex Machina
Sure, it's a little talky, but what it has to say about society is pretty darn intense.  A second watch recently further increased my appreciation for Alex Garland's work. (SoA)

#1 - Amy Schumer - Trainwreck
I've never seen Amy Schumer's tv show, but her debut screenplay is both charming and disarming at the same time, creating a film that feels both modern in terms of its raunchy humor and classic when it comes to romantic comedy tropes. (SoH)

Best Adapted Screenplay of 2015
Honorable Mentions
Cary Joji Fukunaga - Beasts of No Nation (SoN)
Jesse Andrews - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (SoH)

#5 - Drew Goddard - The Martian
Surprisingly funny, Drew Goddard's flick does a great job of being intelligent in its sci-fi aspects without ever feeling haughty or boring.  Much more clever than I expected. (SoH)

#4 - Ryan Cooglar and Aaron Covington - Creed
Creating new layers for a well-known iconic character is not an easy task, but Ryan Cooglar and Aaron Covingron do just that with this latest chapter in the Rocky Balboa saga.  But it's not just a Rocky film either, introducing a new character that holds his own in the presence of cinematic royalty.

#3 - Nick Hornby - Brooklyn
While this film could land here for its hilarious women's boarding house dinner scenes alone, Nick Hornby has created a compelling love story with three members of a love triangle all feeling incredibly well-developed. (SoH)

#2 - Emma Donogue - Room
Adapting her own book, Ms. Donogue nails the tricky and tenuous emotional roller coaster of her two main characters.  Without ever feeling strained or cloying, the script is a riveting one packed with heart, compassion, and gutsiness. (SoA)

#1 - Aaron Sorkin - Steve Jobs
Even after a second viewing, my thoughts feel completely the same as they did after my original review, so I'll simply post my previous comments below:

Rarely do I write a review where I find myself giving tons of credit to the screenwriter, but in the case of Steve Jobs, I think what Aaron Sorkin does to create an atmosphere where the obviously manufactured set-ups [in which Jobs meets various people leading up to important product launches] works is something of a revelatory experience.  Part of the reason I think the three-act structure is so hugely successful is Sorkin and director Danny Boyle's insistence to have the scenes play out in real time [which has us in audience] gradually inching towards the edge of our seats desperate to see whether everything will be resolved by the time Jobs needs to take the stage.  As the film progresses and the second and third acts begin, we in the audience are now aware of the gimmick and the insistence of Sorkin to have Jobs meet up with [each person in the cast] and the anticipation we felt in Act One grows even more as we now find ourselves desperate to discover how Jobs's relationships will either become positively or negatively affected by his actions.  This concept is a writer's conceit  but it, along with Sorkin's fast-talking highfalutin dialog, works.

How Aaron Sorkin didn't get nominated for this is flabbergasting to me because Steve Jobs really is a screenwriting master class. (SoH...Sept 24)

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2014   ---   2013   ---   2012
2011   ---   2010

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Best Ensemble

While I don't think Best Ensemble is a category the Oscars can honor, I appreciate the Screen Actors Guild for having this be their top award every year.  While they have some silly rules determining who makes up "the ensemble" (the person has to be billed on their own title card on the screen), the RyMickey Awards do no such thing.  The point of an ensemble is honoring some of those "lesser known" folks whose agents may not have the pull to get them their own singular title card, but who nevertheless add to the overall story and aesthetic of the film.  Now, I'm not saying my awards are more prestigious than a SAG award, but they sometimes make a lot more sense.

The biggest difficulty I faced this year in this category (which is one of my favorites) was the fact that there were several fantastic films with relatively small casts that excelled in the acting department.  I had to draw the line somewhere and I will admit to giving a little more credence to films with bigger casts when it comes to this award.

Best Ensembles of 2015
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix // SoA = Streaming on Amazon // SoH = Streaming on HBO)

The Magnificent Duos
Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong - Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg (SoN)
The Last Five Years - Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan (SoN)
Wanted to give a quick shout-out to the two films mentioned above.  Seeing as how there were essentially only two speaking roles in each film, I couldn't quite give them spots in the Ensemble category.  That said, the two duos excelled as they played off each other and created believable relationships.

(in alphabetical order)
Everest (SoH)
McFarland, USA 
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (SoH)

Honorable Mentions
#10 - Spotlight (SoN)
Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Jamey Sheridan, Billy Crudup, Len Cariou, and Michael Cyril Creighton

#9 - Danny Collins (SoA)
Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Christopher Plummer, Nick Offerman, Josh Peck, Melisa Benoist, and Giselle Eisenberg

O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown, Jr., Aldis Hodge, and Paul Giamatti

#7 - The Big Short (SoN)
Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, John Magaro, Finn Witrock, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Adepero Oduye, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, and Brad Pitt

Billy Crudup, Michael Angarano, Moises Arias, Nicholas Braun, Gaius Charles, Nelsan Ellis, Keir Gilchrist, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Mann, Ezra Miller, Logan Miller, Chris Sheffield, Tye Sheridan, Johnny Simmons, James Wolk, and Olivia Thirlby 

And the Top Five...

#5 - Circle
Fifty relatively unknown actors -- the epitome of an ensemble -- full list found here
While Circle may not be the best film on this list and, quite frankly, may not have the cast that moved me emotionally in any way, it's pretty difficult to not include it on this list.  A cast of relatively unknown actors -- some character actors you may have seen before, some bit actors presumably struggling to make a living, some making their debut -- stand around a circle and talk for ninety minutes as one by one they are killed by a mysterious entity.  Despite a heavy premise, this low budget film is all about the talking and, naturally, actors must carry the burden of the script and these folks do a great job of communicating the terror of their story. (SoN)

Golshifteh Farahani, Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Mani Haghighi, Merila Zarei, Peyman Moaadi, Ahmad Mehranfar, Rana Azadivar, and Saber Abar
A talented cast with a script that gives characters individualization while being inherently steeped in its Iranian culture, About Elly isn't so much about the mystery that drives its story, but rather the characters' reactions to said mystery.  (SoN)

Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Issac, and Sonoya Mizuno
Ex Machina would perhaps have inched its way to the #2 spot (maybe) had there been more than the only three major characters that drive the story.  Still, Gleeson, Vikander, and Isaac keep this incredibly talky piece compelling while adding layers to their characters that are rather unexpected in science fiction films such as this. (SoA)

Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston, Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Mackenzie Moss
Masterfully executing screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's incredibly quick dialog is a difficult task and the entire ensemble of Steve Jobs excels in this area.  Not only that, but none of them come off as being overly loquacious, instead using the dialog to further their characters' emotional drives.  (SoH Sept. 24)

#1 - Brooklyn
Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Jane Brennan, Fiona Glascott, Jessica Paré, Eva Birthistle, Eileen O'Higgins, Eve Macklin, Emily Bett Rickards, Nora-Jane Noone, Jenn Murray, Brid Brennan, Mary O'Driscoll, and James DiGiacomo
The dinner table scenes in Brooklyn are pitch perfect examples of how an ensemble should be created by a casting director.  Some of these folks aren't even in any other scenes in the movie, but they've created characters in their short time onscreen that feel lived-in, real, and relatable.  Even beyond the dinner table sequences, the entire acting ensemble (from an Irish-American who speaks a few lines in a courthouse to a co-worker at the department store who has one scene opposite the main character) is so finely assembled that it's impossible not to fall in love with everything you're seeing onscreen.  Add to that, a fantastic leading cast with nary a bad apple in the bunch and you've got a film that you must see. (SoH)

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2014   ---   2013   ---   2012
2011   ---   2010   ---   2009

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Best Younger Actor/Actress

For the purposes of this category, nominees must be under 21 years of age at the time of the film's release.  Placing in this category does not preclude placing in other acting categories.

Because of that stipulation above, I'm going to remove the fantastic Saoirse Ronan from Brooklyn from the equation.  She was likely 20 when filming Brooklyn, but the film was released over six months after her 21st birthday, so I drew the line.  Needless to say, she'll show up in a future list so I don't feel so bad.

Best Younger Actor/Actress of 2015
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix // SoA = Streaming on Amazon // SoH = Streaming on HBO)

Honorable Mentions
(in alphabetical order)
Asa Butterfield - A Brilliant Young Mind
Perla Haney-Jardine - Steve Jobs (SoH...starting Sept 24)
Jacob Lofland - Little Accidents (SoA)

And the Top Five Are...

#5 - Elias and Lucas Schwarz - Goodnight Mommy
Essentially a three-person film with twins Elias and Lucas Schwarz taking two of the spots, Goodnight Mommy is an ever-increasing tension-filled horror flick.  While the film itself has a few faults, none of them are due to Elias and Lucas in their first film who carry on the movie tradition of creepy blonde-haired kids wreaking havoc started way back when with The Bad Seed. (SoA)

#4 - Shameik Moore - Dope
The intriguing thing about all the nominees in this category this year is that they all were leads and, considering their age, they more than held their own against the perhaps more experienced actors around them.  Shameik Moore only appeared in one other film prior to Dope and that was as "Choir Master" in Joyful Noise so for him to take charge of this clever and engaging flick was perhaps not an easy task, but he does so imbuing his character with charisma and intelligence.  (SoN)

#3 - Taissa Farmiga - 6 Years
While not as famous as her older sister Vera, it's obvious that acting talent runs in the Farmiga family.  While I was familiar with the young Taissa from American Horror Story (I watched the two seasons she was in and have given up on all the rest, actually), 6 Years is her first starring role.  The film certainly doesn't have any bells and whistles, but rather anchors itself with its performances from Farmiga and co-star Ben Rosenfield who create a believable romantic relationship between a young couple attending college and the difficulties facing them when "adult life" begins to shift their plans.  Of all the people in the Top Five, Taissa is the only one I knew prior to 2015 and I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.  (Note:  Slight cheat with this one.  Taissa turned 21 the day after this film was released...I'm letting her eke her way in...) (SoN)

#2 - Abraham Attah - Beasts of No Nation
Already seen as one of the top Breakthrough Performers in this year's awards, Abraham Attah would've easily taken this award in any other year, but he was in the midst of some tough competition this year from the #1 seed.  Needless to say, second place indicates compelling greatness from Attah who captivates as he takes us on his character's difficult journey.  Attah's character often doesn't speak much, but so much is told through the young man's eyes -- eyes that have seen horrors that no one, let alone a child, should see. (SoN)

#1 - Jacob Tremblay - Room
How Jacob Tremblay didn't get nominated for an Oscar last year (and, quite frankly, win) is beyond me.  Creating a compelling character, Tremblay's youthful zest for curiosity is ever-present in his character of Jack from whose perspective Room is largely told.  I'd talk more of Tremblay's talent and his fantastic take on this role, but I'll hold off for now...this young guy's bound to show up in a future list...right? (SoA)

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2014   ---   2013   ---   2012
2011   ---   2010   ---   2009

Monday, September 19, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Best Breakthrough

Who broke onto the scene in a big way in 2015?  For the first time last year, I rewarded the Best Breakthrough to someone other than an actor -- writer-director Damian Chazelle took the top spot.  Will a non-actor win this year as well?  Read on to find out.  Remember that placement in this category doesn't necessarily mean these folks were complete unknowns prior to 2015 -- it's simply that they made a significant impact for the first time in their careers.

Best Breakthrough of 2015

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
Jamie Chung - Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong
Lily James - Cinderella
Shameik Moore - Dope

And the Top Five...

#5 - Abraham Attah
Beasts of No Nation
In his first film role, Abraham Attah captivated in Beasts of No Nation, appearing in nearly every scene as a carefree boy sent into the hellish world of becoming a child mercenary.  He achieved the emotion needed for his character and really carries the heavy film on his shoulders.  Attah recently booked a role in the upcoming Spider-Man movie (featuring RyMickey Award 2012 Breakthrough fourth-place finisher Tom Holland) so I'm pleased to see he's moving on to exciting opportunities.

#4 - Alex Garland
writer/director - Ex Machina
Although he'd already written a few films (some of which I wasn't a huge fan), Ex Machina was Alex Garland's first trip behind the camera and he came up gangbusters.  Not only did he write an incredibly intelligent film, he knew how to shoot it so that it created an overwhelming sense of building tension and dread not only for the characters, but for our society at large.  Hopefully he can continue this success with his next feature which I'll eagerly await.

#3 - Dakota Johnson
Black Mass, Cymbeline, 50 Shades of Grey
I fully recognize that 50 Shades of Grey was not a good film, but Dakota Johnson is surprisingly watchable in the great amount of dreck that surrounds her in terms of a "story."  She certainly didn't embarrass herself -- which is one of the reasons no one wanted to take this part.  Although I had never heard of her before, Johnson had a decent resumé prior to the role that really put her on the map, but now she'll likely see a lot more opportunities come her way.

#2 - Jacob Tremblay
In his first live-action film role, Jacob Tremblay fascinates in Room.  Although I'd like to say a lot more about the young man here, (spoiler alert) his name is going to be popping up quite a few other categories so I'll restrain myself from effusively praising him at the moment.  Needless to say, I'm greatly hoping that his parents can help him keep a good head on his shoulders as he continues down his Hollywood path.

#1 - Alicia Vikander
Burnt, The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Although Alicia Vikander had many roles in her native Sweden, 2015 was the year she really made her mark on the US film scene.  Winning an Academy Award for The Danish Girl (a film that I despised, though found Vikander fantastic), she also starred in the fascinating Ex Machina.  2016 has already seen her take the big screen in Jason Bourne and The Light Between Oceans (the latter of which already places her in contention for next year's RyMickey Awards) so she's not going anywhere anytime soon...and that's a good thing, for sure.

Previous RyMickey Award Winners
2014    ----    2013    ----    2012
2011    ----    2010    ----    2009    

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Most Overrated Film

Tomorrow we move on to the more positive awards, but we'll wallow in the disappointment for one more day.  It should be noted that I didn't necessarily dislike the films below.  This category highlights either critically-praised or audience-beloved flicks that just didn't live up to their hype.

Most Overrated Films of 2015

Other Contenders (in alphabetical order)
50 Shades of Grey (C-)    ----    Clouds of Sils Maria (D+)
The Danish Girl (D+)    ----    Inside Out (B+)    ----    Southpaw (D+)
Trumbo (C-)    ----    Youth (C-)

#5 - The Revenant - C+
I recognize the quality filmmaking and there are some captivatingly stellar scenes.  However, this one was overpraised by the critics last year and the fact that this long, boring movie made so much money in the US and was in a very tight race for Best Picture is astounding to me.  I must succumb to the fact that I must not be a fan of director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu anymore despite liking a lot of his earlier English-language work.

#4 - The Big Short - B-
Well-made, well-written, and well-acted, The Big Short just didn't connect with me on a story level.  With personally no attachment to the financial crisis depicted, the film needed to reel me in and it didn't quite do that.

#3 - It Follows - C
Highly praised as being one of the best horror films in years, It Follows simply wasn't scary to me which is inherently necessary for me for a film in this genre to succeed.

#2 - Carol - C-
The critics loved this one, but I found it incredibly dull.  The performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara were both fine, but they were overpraised.  The lifelessness of everything onscreen failed to draw me in and capture my attention.

The most rewarded film at last year's Academy Awards, Mad Max: Fury Road has some fine technical aspects going for it -- awesome special effects, costumes, and production design -- but when you get down to the crux of its story, it's really just one extended chase sequence for two hours.  Character development is attempted but unsuccessful.  Director and co-writer George Miller seems to have had the attitude of "Let's throw everything at the wall and see what sticks."  And then he proceeded to think that everything stuck because as his camera zigs and zags crazily through the insanity he's created onscreen, he seems to hope that the audience can't see all the nuttiness he's left scattered throughout.

Previous Most Overrated "Winners"
2014    ----    2013    ----    2012

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Worst Performance

There are some big names on this list this year unfortunately -- one of whom was even Oscar-nominated for the very performance you'll find listed below which should be a reminder that your humble reviewer isn't simply a sheep following the critical flock.

Worst Performances of 2015
(SoN = Streaming on Netflix / SoA = Streaming on Amazon / SoH = Streaming on HBO)
(Underlined films will link to original reviews)

(Dis)Honorable Mentions
(in alphabetical order)
Jessica Chastain - Crimson Peak
Johnny Depp - Mortdecai
Wentworth Miller - The Loft (SoN)

And the Bottom Five Are...

#5 - Isabel Lucas - The Loft
Making a repeat visit to the RyMickey Worst Performances list, the picture above is probably the moment in which her character looked the most alive because when her eyes are opened, there's nothing there.  (SoN)

#4 - Keanu Reeves - Knock Knock
Dumbfounded looks and dry line readings land Reeves on the list.

#3 - Natalie Martinez - Self/less
A model-turned-actress who I'm convinced can't effectively emote onscreen.  Furrowing your eyebrows doesn't equal emotion.

#2 - Eddie Redmayne - The Danish Girl
Eddie Redmayne came "oh so close" to winning my 2014 Best Actor Award for his gripping performance in The Theory of Everything so I was excited to see how he'd follow up that film.  2014 brought us the one-two punch of Jupiter Ascending (for which he won the Razzie) and The Danish Girl (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award).  So you may be asking if I placed the wrong film title next to his name above.  No, I have not.  To me, rather than dig into the role of a man medically transitioning to become a woman, Redmayne gives an overly mannered paint-by-numbers performance.  Every moment of Redmayne's performance feels as if he is "acting" as opposed to "inhabiting" -- he's like a soft-spoken audio-animatronic rather than a real person.  Everything about the role screamed, "Give me another Oscar," as opposed to forming a true character.    (SoH)

#1 - Rebel Wilson - Pitch Perfect 2
One can see in the images above from a single scene from Pitch Perfect 2 that Rebel Wilson's acting skills are anything but subtle.  Her shtick as gotten tiresome and her interpretation of Fat Amy in this film series adds nothing to the film other than initiating eye rolls of frustration from viewers.  She really is becoming gradually unwatchable and needs to find a way to curb back the in-your-face bluntness of her one-note humor. (SoH)

Previous Worst Acting "Winners"
2014   ----   2013
2012   ----   2011
2010   ----   2009

Friday, September 16, 2016

The 2015 RyMickey Awards - Worst Film

I think I've grown nicer in my old age.  Either that or I've just grown less likely to stick it out when it comes to really bad movies.  While I can't vouch for the veracity of the former, the latter is most definitely true.  Particularly in these final months of my 2015 movie watching, I was not keen on making myself sit through something that I knew was going to be truly awful.  So, in that regard, the movies listed below were at a disadvantage as most of them I watched during the first half of my 2015 viewing year.  Films partly watched during the second half -- including the critically dismissed Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Walt Before Mickey (which was truly heinous for the fifteen minutes I watched), Rock the Kasbah and the critically praised White God and Son of Saul to name just a few -- were just outright stopped by me if I knew I wasn't going to get into it.

With that said, the movies listed below deserve your utter and complete consternation.  Watching them is a risky proposition that I wouldn't undertake were I you.

Worst Film of the Year
SoN = Streaming on Netflix / SoA = Streaming on Amazon / SoH = Streaming on HBO

(Dis)Honorable Mentions
(all films ranked 'D' or below)
(underlined titles link to original reviews)
Fantastic Four (SoH)  --  Macbeth 

#15 - Little Boy - D  (SoN)
#14 - The Danish Girl - D  (SoH)
#13 - Adult Beginners - D  (SoN)
#12 - The Loft - D  (SoN)
#11 - Ride - D   (SoN)

And the Bottom Ten Are...

#10 - Aloha - D
Unable to balance an abundance of storylines, Aloha is a film that is unsure of where it's going evident by the fact that an hour into the flick, I had no clue what the main plot point was.

#9 - Tomorrowland - D-
Yes, even this self-proclaimed Disney lover is able to place one of their films in his bottom ten.  So ambitious, yet so painfully lacking in the story department.

#8 - The Boy Next Door - D- 
A low budget tv movie that made it to the screen because of its "star" in J. Lo and the fact that it showed male buttocks.  (SoH)

#7 - Out of the Dark - D- 
A horror film that so literally dark -- meaning lit so poorly -- that I couldn't tell what was happening onscreen. (SoN)

#6 - Blackhat - D-
One of the blandest films I've seen in a long time that tries to morph into an action film in its final act, but it's much too little too late. (SoH)

#5 - The Lazarus Effect - D-
Its eighty minute runtime feels interminable with no scares whatsoever as it brings out every horror cliché in the book. (SoN)

#4 - Hot Pursuit - D-
A heinously unfunny comedy in which two actresses are forced to try and act their way through one of the most poorly-written scripts I've seen in a long time. (SoA)

#3 - Jupiter Ascending - D-
I really enjoyed the Wachowski's Cloud Atlas, but Jupiter Ascending was a mess with a script that barely makes sense and a group of actors that are typically good floundering about in some of their worst roles to date.  (SoH)

#2 - Unfinished Business - F
Perhaps the worst directed film on this list, I turned this one off forty minutes in only to finish it because I knew it would end up near the top of this ignominious list.  (SoH)

#1 - Mortdecai - F
A purported comedy, not only did I not laugh once, but a smile never even came across my face.  A jumbled mess of tone and style, this film never finds its footing.  Attempts at being a sex comedy come across as childish.  Action sequences are out of place and poorly staged.  Everything about Johnny Depp's performance as a bumbling art dealer is so over the top and heinously misguided by the director with Depp feeling as if he were taking part in a completely different film.  

Previous Worst Film "Winners"
2014 -- 2013 -- 2012