Monday, February 22, 2016

Criddic's Picks 2015

BEST PICTURE (Top Ten)

1. Brooklyn
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Carol
4. Straight Outta Compton5. Bridge of Spies
6. Inside Out
7. Mr. Holmes
8. The Hateful 8
9. Sicario
10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens


BEST DIRECTOR

John Crowley, Brooklyn

F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton
Todd Haynes, Carol
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

BEST ACTOR

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant 
Michael B. Jordan, Creed
Ian McKellan, Mr. Holmes 
Will Smith, Concussion

BEST ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
 
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Paul Dano, Love & Mercy 
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Jason Mitchell,
Straight Outta Compton
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone
, Creed


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful 8
Laura Linney, Mr. Holmes
Sarah Paulson, Carol
Alicia Vikander, Ex-Machina
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Bridge of Spies

The Hateful 8
Inside Out
Spotlight 
Straight Outta Compton


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Big Short 
Brooklyn 
Carol
The Martian
Room


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Brooklyn
Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario


BEST COSTUME DESIGN


Brooklyn
Carol
Cinderella

Mad Max: Fury Road 
Mr. Holmes

BEST FILM EDITING

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Creed
Mad Max: Fury Road 
Star Wars: The Force Awakens


BEST MAKEUP

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared
The Danish Girl
 Maggie
 Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Bridge of Spies
Carol 
The Hateful 8
 Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST ORIGINAL SONG


""Feels Like Summer" — Shaun the Sheep Movie
"One Kind of Love" Love & Mercy
"See You Again" — Furious 7
"Simple Song #3" — Youth
"Writing's on the Wall" — Spectre

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Bridge of Spies
Cinderella
Mad Max: Fury Road 
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST SOUND EDITING

Ant-Man
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Straight Outta Compton 
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST SOUND MIXING


Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Jurassic World

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Song of the Sea
When Marnie Was There


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM


The Fencer (Estonia)
Goodnight Mommy (Austria)
Mustang (France)
Son of Saul (Hungary)
The Tribe (Ukraine)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: "Concussion" ***NEW***

Concussion ★★★
Directed by Peter Landesman.

Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), a neuorsurgeon, becomes interested in the case of former NFL football player Mike Webster (David Morse), whose death he eventually links to brain damage during years of game play. In order to prove his findings, he must show that several other players suffered the same damage, leading to an Alzheimer's-like deterioration of mental function. Despite heavy resistance from the football league, Omalu finds an ally in Dr. Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin), a man whose loyalty to the game is overcome by his concern for the players. With the help of Bailes, as well as forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks), Omalu gains the confidence to use his own resources to continue his research and get the truth out.

This is the exact type of story that we would have seen years ago on the NBC Movie of the Week, and might have played well on HBO or Showtime today. It's an interesting movie, reasonably well told, but it isn't cinematic in any real way. However, it does have a good cast. At it's heart is Will Smith's strong performance to recommend it. He is completely convincing as the Nigerian-born doctor who is brilliant but socially awkward. It is further proof that Smith has come a long way from his "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" days.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

2015 Reviews, Part 1

Goodnight Mommy ★★★ 
Directed by Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala


A woman (Susanne Wuest) comes home from an auto accident wrapped in bandages. Twin brothers Elias (Elias Schwarz) and Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) become increasingly skeptical when the woman begins
behaving in a manner contrary to expectations, and begin to suspect she is not really their mother. So, they plot to force her into confessing through a series of rather disturbing events, during the course of which a "twist" is revealed about the true nature of the situation.

This film is slow-to-start, but gradually leads to a series of engrossing confrontations between the "mother" and the boys. Despite the very horror-like scenario, it is not a scary movie. Rather, it builds a kind of creepy suspense. Some may find it hard to stay patient through the first half, but most should be interested enough to see it through. A worthwhile effort. (from Austria, and spoken in German with English subtitles)


Boulevard ★★½
Directed by Dito Montiel

Middle-aged bank clerk Nolan Mack (the late Robin Williams) decides to change his monotonous life by reaching out to a troubled street hustler named Leo (Roberto Aguire), which forces Nolan to confront his suppressed sexual identity. A chain of events ripples through his life, both professionally and in his marriage to Joy (Kathy Baker), which is loving but distant.

Robin Williams provides a solid turn as a lonely man who decides that he can't just go through the motions anymore. Unfortunately, despite an earnest cast, the film that surrounds him only occasionally comes to life. One is left feeling that Williams' final starring film was a missed opportunity.


The Water Diviner ½
Directed by Russell Crowe

Australian farmer and water diviner Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) loses three sons in the WWI Battle of Gallipoli. Presuming their sons to be dead four years after being captured by the enemy, Joshua's wife Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie, "Romper Stomper") can't handle the loss and commits suicide.

Vowing to reunite his family, Joshua sets out to find his sons' bodies and bring them home. Along the way, he enlists the help of Turkish officer Major Hasan (Yılmaz Erdoğan), who persuades military officials to assist. While staying at a local hotel in Istanbul, he begins a tentative relationship with war-widow Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) and her young son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades), suggesting that there may be a better future ahead.

Beautifully photographed by the late Andrew Lesnie ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy)
and well-acted, this is a worthy directorial debut by Crowe.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

*** NEW *** CINDERELLA

CINDERELLA * * * ½
Directed by Kenneth Branagh.

In recent years, audiences have been treated to a number of live-action fairy tales  They include the whimsical Stardust with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro; Enchanted. starring an adorably cheerful Amy Adams; the revisionist Maleficent with Angelina Jolie; the box-office juggernaut Alice in Wonderland featuring a make-up clad Johnny Depp; and last year's Stephen Sondheim musical adaptation Into the Woods.  Now we have Kenneth Branagh's take on the classic story of Cinderella.

The story is just as you remember it from Disney's animated version:  A young maiden's ideal childhood is forever lost when her mother falls ill and her father re-marries a woman who cares more about status than family.  When he also dies, our Cinderella (lovely 'Downton Abbey' actress Lily James) is at the mercy of her step-mother (a terrific Cate Blanchett) and her two cruel step-sisters, who turn her into their personal servant.  One day, when she wanders into the woods on horseback, she encounters a young man and falls in love.  Little does she know this man is really the prince (an appropriately dashing Richard Madden) and heir to the throne whose heart she has stolen so innocently in their chance meeting.  Knowing he must choose a bride who will eventually become Queen, the smitten prince declares the upcoming royal ball will be open to all the maidens of the land, including "commoners."  In doing so, he hopes to be reunited with this young woman he can't stop thinking of.  And all that leads to the magical grand ball, courtesy of her helpful Fairy Godmother (a nice change-of-pace role for Helena Bonham Carter).  Then, there is -- of course -- the fabled search for the maiden whose foot fits into a left-behind glass slipper.  Yes, there is a happily ever after.

Director Kenneth Branagh eschews the idea of re-inventing the wheel here.  This is a traditional fairy tale, complete with a put-upon maiden, evil step-mothers and sisters, cute furry mice and magical fairy godmothers.  You might be thinking at this point that this is a deadly dull affair, but you'd be wrong.  While he has ventured into other genres in the past few years, delivering acceptable diversions with the hit first entry of Thor adventures, as well as the disappointing but well-made Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Branagh reminds us of his earlier triumphs.  There is a grand ball that evokes memories of his masterpiece Hamlet (1996), with swirling dancers and vivid colors.  Sumptuous production design by Dante Ferretti and the costumes by Sandy Powell help make this a visual feast, while Patrick Doyle provides a solid romantic music score.  By telling this story straight, without tinkering with it at all, Branagh allows us to enjoy the tale all anew.  Which proves that even the oldest stories can seem fresh when told well and with style.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2014 Criddic's Picks



2014 Criddic Picks



BEST PICTURE
(Top Ten)

1. American Sniper
2. Birdman
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Nightcrawler
5. Whiplash
6. Life Itself
7. Joe
8. Selma
9. Boyhood
10. How to Train Your Dragon 2

BEST DIRECTOR


Clint Eastwood, American Sniper

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman

Eastwood becomes the first director in Criddic's history to win a third top placement in this category.  Anderson has been nominated for writing "The royal Tenenbaums" (2001), in addition to directing and writing "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012).

BEST ACTOR

Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Michael Keaton, Birdman
David Oyelowo, Selma

Gyllenhaal was mentioned for his supporting role in "Brokeback Mountain."  Cooper was previously up for "Silver Linings Playbook" (2012), and make this his first win.

BEST ACTRESS

Rinko Kikuchi, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosemund Pike, Gone Girl
Hilary Swank, The Homesman


Swank won for "Boys Don't Cry" (1999) and "Million Dollar Baby" (2004).  Kikuchi was cited in support for "Babel" (2006).  Moore had four previous nods:  Support for "Boogie Nights" (1997), "A Map of the World" (1999) and "A Single Man" (2009), as well as lead for "Far From Heaven" (2002).  This is her first win.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Tom Wilkinson, Selma


Norton was nominated for "Primal Fear" (1996) and "American History X" (1998).  Wilkinson was nominated in lead for "In the Bedroom" (2001).  Simmons wins on his first nod.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Rene Russo, Nightcrawler
Emma Stone, Birdman
Kristen Stewart, Still Alice
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods


All but Streep are first-timers.  Veteran actress Rene Russo scores her first win.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Most Violent Year
Nightcrawler


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

American Sniper
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Joe
Whiplash


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

American Sniper
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ida

Mr. Turner


BEST COSTUME DESIGN


Belle
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Maleficent
Mr. Turner


BEST FILM EDITING

American Sniper
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
John Wick
Whiplash


BEST MAKEUP

Guardians of the Galaxy
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Maleficent


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Grand Budapest Hotel
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
The Theory of Everything


BEST ORIGINAL SONG


"Lost Stars" — Begin Again
"Immortals" Big Hero 6
"I'm Not Gonna Miss You" — Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me
"Everything Is Awesome" — The Lego Movie
"Glory" — Selma

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner
Paddington
Snowpiercer



BEST SOUND EDITING

American Sniper
Fury
Interstellar
John Wick
Whiplash

BEST SOUND MIXING

American Sniper
Birdman
Guardians of the Galaxy

Into the Woods
Whiplash


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Interstellar
X-Men: Days of Future Past


BEST ANIMATED FILM

Big Hero 6
How to Train Your Dragon 2

The Lego Movie

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
The Wind Rises


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Force Majeure (Sweden)
Ida (Poland)
Leviathon (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
The Way He Looks (Brazil)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM

The Case against 8
Finding Vivian Maier

Jodorowsky's Dune
Keep on Keepin' On
Life Itself


AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD (Voted on by the public): Boyhood

TALLY:


The Grand Budapest Hotel = 9 noms/ 3 wins
American Sniper
= 8 noms/ 6 wins
Birdman = 8 noms/ 1 win
Whiplash = 7 noms/ 2 wins
Nightcrawler = 5 noms/ 1 win
Into the Woods = 5 noms/ 0 wins

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holiday Releases Part 1

INTO THE WOODS ***½
Directed by Rob Marshall

A baker and his wife encounter a witch, who tells them she'll grant them a wish to have a child if they can bring her four ingredients for a spell that will undo a curse put upon their family:  "the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold."  So the couple venture into the dreaded woods to find these items and, in the process we meet several characters from the Grimm Fairy Tales.  Each has its own story that intertwine in the woods.

Having not seen the Tony-award-winning Stephen Sondheim play this is based on, I was free from such worries as which songs were kept or which interpretation of the characters I might prefer.  A fresh perspective directly to the film.  It is mostly an enchanted affair, with an engaging cast and gorgeous production design.

James Corden and Emily Blunt are fantastic as the baker and his wife, who rekindle their passion while on this fateful journey through the woods.  Meryl Streep proves she is capable of playing just about any role, as the witch, which may not come as a surprise to most.  
I wasn't sure, after the over-hyped "August: Osage County" that this would be a worthy performance, but she performs in impressive and deliciously entertaining fashion.  Chris Pine gives an hilarious send-up of a conceited Prince Charming.  However, it is not without flaws.  Some of the musical numbers slightly overstay their welcome and the film drags a bit in spots as a result.  Yet when it soars, it really sings, and Rob Marshall's staging works quite well.  It may not reach the spectacular heights of Marshall's "Chicago," but it is nonetheless his best big-screen work since then.


FOXCATCHER * * * *
Directed by Bennett Miller

An Olympic Gold Medalist, Mark Shultz (Channing Tatum) is approached by multi-millionaire John Dupont (Steve Carell) to help him form a wrestling team for the 1988 Olympics.  Grateful for an opportunity to do do more than make speeches at elementary schools, Mark takes the offer.  A friendship starts to form between the emotionally needy Shultz and the awkward Dupont.  It becomes apparent after several months that Dupont's real goal is to recruit Mark's accomplished brother - Olympic Gold Medal winner Dave - leading to friction between Mark and John, as well as between the brothers.  Eventually Dave does join the team as an assistant coach, although he is without question the true wrestling trainer, and this unusual arrangement leads to an unexpected tragedy.


A true-to-life story, "Foxcatcher" is a unique sports-driven drama in which the resentments simmering beneath the surface lead to events that are not overtly foreshadowed.  Yet we know something will happen, because of the uneasy imbalance of the personalities involved.  The cast is uniformly superb, although little is done with the appearance of Vanessa Redgrave as Dupont's scoffing mother, whose affection is greatly desired but never granted.  Steve Carell is very good here, as a kind of creepy, just-this-side of sane.  However, even though his character is a dominating figure, he story really belongs to Mark.  Mark is the person we witness this unfolding tragedy through.  His dilemma in trying to come out from under his brother's shadow, despite his own successes, blinds him to the kind of personality Dupont truly is, until it's too late.  And while it is mainly about Mark, the heart of the film is the brother, Dave, played by Mark Ruffalo.  He wants to give his brother space, but hates what is happening to him once he joins Dupnt's team.  It is through Dave that we see the bond the brothers share.  Yet even he gets snared into Dupont's world, and ultimately his efforts to save his younger brother do not end well.  A fine film.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

*NEW* Romance Through the Ages

Elsa & Fred (Michael Radford, 2014) * * ½
Widowed Fred Barcroft (Academy Award-winner Christopher Plummer) is a grumpy, anti-social old man.  Elsa Hayes (Academy Award-winner Shirley MacLaine) is an unpredictable, energetic woman with a penchant for embellishing the truth and dreaming of being Anita Eckberg in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita."  Of course, this turns out to be a match made in Heaven.  After a bit of prying and thawing, Fred is bouncing around happily in love, but comes to wonder how much he can trust his new flame.  With a veteran supporting cast that includes Academy Award-winner Marcia Gay Harden, Oscar-nominee George Segal, and Emmy Award-winner Scott Bakula, you'd think this might be something special.  Alas, even in the capable hands of another Oscar-nominee, director Michael Radford, this is a 
pleasant-but-unremarkable diversion.  It may have been better to release this as a cable TV movie.



The Way He Looks (Daniel Ribeiro, 2014) * * * ½
Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) and his best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) spend their afternoons wondering if and when they will ever be kissed by a special someone. Leo worries especially, because he is blind and doesn't know if that would hurt his chance at a normal relationship. When a new kid named Gabriel (Fabio Audi) arrives at school, he joins the two friends and takes over some of the help with walking Leo home in the afternoons. One night, after a drinking party, Gabriel swiftly kisses Leo, and he's not sure if it was a true kiss or just the drinking. Soon the three friends are at odds with one another, until they can resolve their feelings.
This is a sweet coming-of-age tale, based on a 2011 short entitled "I Don't Want to Go Back Alone (Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho)." While they both center on the changing nature of the trio's friendship, this expansion revises much of Leo's personal struggles. In the short, he was more dependent, while here he defiantly wants to explore a life without so many restraints, particularly from his protective parents. The performances are warm and the characters likable. A really solid tale about growing up and finding love. [Official Selection of Brazil for entry in the Academy Awards Foreign Language category this year, it is in Portuguese with subtitles]