With the Oscars coming up, I am going to attempt to make a full review of many of the Oscar Nominated Films before the big night (February 27th) along with my picks for this year’s Oscars which I will post on the 27th before the show.
However, while there are a bunch of them that I will do full reviews for (I have already posted my review of Black Swan), there are also several about which I have not much to say.
So: here are my capsule reviews of a bunch of the Oscar Nominated films:
Wolfman- Nominated for Best Makeup- Rick Baker
For those who have no idea, this film is a about Lawrence Talbot who returns to his ancestral home for the funeral of his brother, who was murdered in a grisly fashion. While investigating the murder, Lawrence is attacked by a vicious wolf and starts turning into a werewolf. He must hide this fact from the police, his family, and his burgeoning love interest while he attempts to solve his brother’s murder and stop the transformation taking place inside him.
While not a classic film by any means (and, taking it as a whole, not even close to the original 1933 film), there is still much to like here. It is nominated for Best Makeup by Rick Baker and it fully deserves the nomination! While there is some CGI wolf work here, during the actual battles, it is the actors in wolf makeup doing the terrorizing. With that in mind, along with the great detail in the wolf outfits, this is a must see for makeup fans.
Rick Baker has been nominated for 12 Oscars, winning 6 times. Infact, the Best makeup Award was created specifically because of his amazing work on 1981’s American Werewolf in London , one of his wins. The other wins were for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Men in Black, Nutty Professor, Ed Wood, Harry & the Hendersons, and Werewolf in London. Other notable credits include 1976’s King Kong, Star Wars, Howling, Videodrome, Michael jackson’s Thriller, Coming to America, Gorillas in the Mist, Wolf, batman Forever, Frighteners, Planet of the Apes- 2001 version, Men in Black 2, Hellboy, The Ring, Cursed, Click, Enchanted, and Tropic Thunder, to name only a few. He is one of the grand masters of Makeup.
I also enjoyed Danny Elfman’s score, and I am really enjoying all the work of Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving is great playing the “bad” good guy (the policeman trying to discover who is killing innocent victims). . Benicio DelToro does a great job while in the wolf makeup, but, amazingly, is not very convincing out of it. Anthony Hopkins chews the screen as well.
The film works about 50% of the time- not enough to make it a misunderstood classic, but more than to be an utter failure.
Movie Rating- 5
Film rating- 3
Makeup rating- 10
Unstoppable- Nominated for Sound editing
This is a Tony Scott directed, forgettable action film. However, while you are watching it, it keeps you on the edge of your seat. 3 years from now, no one will remember exactly which film it is, but it is fun for what it is.
Chris Pine (Star Trek) plays a new engineer who is training with longtime engineer Denzel Washington. Of course, they are not getting along and they each have personal issues which raise their ugly head on this day.
Then they get word that a train is barreling down their track, with no engineer on board and since Pine made an error on length of their train, they must head straight toward it and try to make it to a turn off where they will have room to pull off the track. While communicating with a rail traffic control supervisor (Rosario dawson) they come up with a plan to stop the train.
This film jumps from problem/resolution to problem/resolution, but the actors keep it interesting and the film is very tightly edited to keep the tension building throughout. It is an amazing Friday night rental, just don’t expect to remember much about it in 2014.
Unstoppable is nominated for Best Sound Editing and, in the theater and I am sure on the newly released DVD and BluRay versions, the sound keeps you engrossed in the film. A definite solid nomination, but all other candidates are strong as well.
Movie Rating- 8
Film Rating- 5
Illusionist- Nominated for Best Animated Film
The Illusionist has a sweet, mellow story and is not interested in any of the high flying action of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’, or any of the comedic setpieces of ‘Toy Story 3’. This is more of an animated film for adults and, while very intriguing and interesting, and never a waste of time, it also shoots for, and slightly misses, the emotional heft of ‘TS3’.
It is mostly a “pantomime” type of film- not with the annoying white-face-painted guys- but very very little dialogue. It is not “silent” as there are tons of sound effects to put you in the middle of a nearly empty theater watching a magician ply his trade, or the wind rustling through the trees as he sits on a hill in the countryside. But dialogue is not what this is here for. It is here to tell the story of a lonely travelling magician who meets a maid who is lonely as well. It could be called a love story, but even that is a slight misnomer, as it is more about connecting than love.
The animation is fabulous, even if it is not a type of animation I enjoy. I don’t even know how to describe it, but it is fluid, yet the “lines” are continually moving as well as the action.
This nomination is again very well deserved, but as a whole, it does not add up as high as the other 2 previously mentioned, and also both nominated, animated fiolms.
Movie Rating- 6
Country Strong- Nominated for Best Song “Coming Home”
This is a frustrating film. For every thing it does right, it gets another wrong and the ending feels forced upon the script instead of letting it naturally happen to the characters- and the ending gave me a slight sour taste in my mouth as I left the theater while it was much better than I felt it was while leaving the theater.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays a country star who is being taken out of rehab a month early by her manager/husband (Tim McGraw)to get back on the road and show she can make it out in the real world. Two other up-and-coming country stars join her as her opening acts. One is a volunteer at her rehab facility who plays in local clubs for the pure love of the music (Garret Hedlund), the other is a rising ex-beauty queen who has a tremendous amount of stage fright but looks great up on stage and who can sing, if she can handle her fear.
All of the main actors play their own instruments and do their own singing which is very impressive and lifts the film up from what could have been a lip and motion synced musical performance film.
The actors all acquit themselves very nicely and make you feel as if the charaxcters are real human beings. No one is perfect and no one is evil. Throughout the film, as you learn more about each character, it gives a slightly different shading to each character and to the film as a whole. At the end, none of them are the 2 dimensional characters that you first met at the beginning of the film. Paltrow never goes off the rails in her portrayal of an alcohol loving star, but plays it quite well. This is the type of role which could have screamed “Oscar bait”, but she is smart and downplays several scenes which actually make the character that much more heart breaking.
Unfortunately, in other ways, the script doesn’t let the characters live. Certain situations are imposed on them purely to bring each character to a “decision point” and it felt almost like they were asked to write a script which had points A, G, I, Q, T,U, and Z in it, but could connect them any way they wanted.
A mix of classic country songs and songs written just for this film are played over the soundtrack and on the stage. The ending place of 3 of the 4 major characters seem almost like it is a foregone conclusion and, as I said earlier, mars the proceedings, even when it is not really that much of a dealbreaker.
Coming Home, the nominated song, is the strongest of the original songs and does play an important part in the film, not just played over the end credits. It is a solid song while watching the film, but not one you will be humming as you finish the film. I still have a couple of the nominated songs to hear, but, again, a worthy nomination, but probably not my favorite.
Movie rating- 6
Film Rating- 6