Reviewing the ‘Paranormal Activity’ Franchise

Reviewing the ‘Paranormal Activity’ Franchise

Reviews of ‘Paranormal Activity 1’, ‘Paranormal Activity 2’, ‘Paranormal Activity 3’, ‘Paranormal Activity 4’, ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’, thoughts on each film individually, as a whole, and the future of the franchise.

by Mitch Burns


Downloads27‘Paranormal Activity’ (2007 Limited / 2009 Wide Release)

Director: Oren Peli

Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat and Mark Fredrichs

The film that started not only the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise, but in a lot of ways, the hand-held camera craze. It also saw a trend of studios putting faith in smaller budget horror films, with a decent story and some originality, and reaping the rewards.

‘Paranormal Activity’ is about a young couple, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat), who move into a new home and begin to notice many strange things beginning to happen to them. Katie is convinced that they are being “Haunted”, so Micah begins recording their life, and the two of them while they sleep. The recordings capture something horrifying and things only start to worsen for the young couple.

On the surface, it’s very easy to see the issues with ‘Paranormal Activity’, The acting isn’t great, the characters are a bit one note, and in the case of Micah, slightly annoying. These issues aren’t entirely bothersome in the grand scheme of things, as the movie does so much with a reported $15,000 budget. ‘Paranormal Activity’ is freaky and creepy, I’m glad I didn’t see this in theaters as I can only imagine how much scarier it would have been amplified on the big screen.

The creators found a way to make something incredibly spine-tingling, on a small budget, avoiding a low-budget feel. I often found myself asking “How did they do that?”. The film creates a compelling mystery as well, one that has spanned 5 films, and I am still intrigued to learn more about. After making almost $200 million ‘Paranormal Activity’ has surpassed cult classic, and become a straight up classic, a notion that I know will be correct on even in 20-30 years.

Grade: A-

‘Paranormal Activity 2’ (2010)

Director: Tod Williams

Starring: Molly Ephraim, Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Seth Ginsberg, Vivis Cortez, Micah Sloat, and Katie Featherston

‘Paranormal Activity 2’ continues with the story established in the first of the series, instead of being a direct sequel, they decide to go the prequel route, which is an interesting premise. ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ centers on Kristi (Sprague Grayden), the sister of Katie (Katie Featherston), and Kristi’s family, her husband Dan (Brian Boland), their young son Hunter, and Dan’s daughter from another marriage Ali (Molly Ephraim).

Several weeks before the events of the first film, Katie’s sisters family has their house broken into and trashed, so Brian has security cameras installed throughout the entire property. The security cameras begin to catch some Paranormal Activity…

Unfortunately, ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ takes a major plummet in quality from the first film to the second. ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ has some issues, among those issues are terrible writing and bad dialogue and two terrible characters, Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Dan (Brian Boland), who are not helped as the actors playing them give appalling performances.

If the film was as scary as the first I may have been able to overlook some of the problems the film has, but not only is the film lacking in scares, it can be dull in spots. I started to feel some fatigue with the product as well, as I found myself thinking that the film felt quite like “More of the same”, and ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ shouldn’t have these problems being only the second in a franchise.

The franchise overall may have a problem with this film (and the fourth, but more on that later), as there are questions raised in ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ that the creators may never be able to answer and will forever remain plot-holes. luckily, myself and most audiences won’t see this film as so bad because the last 20 minutes are shocking, interesting and leave you wanting more.

Grade: C-

‘Paranormal Activity 3’ (2011)

Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

Starring: Chris Smith, Lauren Bittner, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Hallie Foote, Dustin Ingram, Sprague Grayden and Katie Featherston

‘Paranormal Activity 3’  is a prequel to a prequel, taking place in 1988, nearly 18 years before the events of ‘Paranormal Activity 1′ and 2. With a larger amount of story layered in, in order to weave the films together, and it makes ‘Paranormal Activity 3′ all the more interesting.

In ‘Paranormal Activity 2′  we were never shown that a box of video tapes were stolen from Kristi (Sprague Grayden) and Dan’s house in the robbery that resulted in them installing the security cameras. These video tapes belonged to Kristi and Katie’s (Katie Featherston) mother Julie (Lauren Bittner) and boyfriend Dennis (Chris Smith). The tapes were made by Dennis, a wedding photographer, who began to notice some supernatural events surrounding a young Katie (Jessica Tyler Brown) and Kristi (Chloe Csengery), and began to film the house.

The decisions made actually feel necessary and interesting instead of forced like in ‘Paranormal Activity 2’, (and all of ‘Paranormal Activity 4’). Taking the film back to the beginning of the haunting’s surrounding Kristi and Katie, which were only hinted at in 1 and 2, actually answers some questions, creates a few new ones, and remains scary. ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ is probably the most well made film of the entire series, it has a larger budget, and  likeable characters, good acting, and it may take a bit to get moving it does have an interesting, multi-layered story.

‘Paranormal Activity 3’ falls victim to an irritating trend that besieges most horror films, and even the first two in some fashion, those moments when no one will believe anyone. It’s basically just common knowledge that if you are in a horror film, and you see a ghost or something creepy, nobody will believe you, no matter if it’s your significant other, parents, siblings or best friend, they won’t believe you, and it’s irritating.

Also, put the damn camera down if you’re being chased, you’re trying to save someones life, and it is a life or death situation. The first two didn’t have this problem, but 3, 4 and the spin-off do, and it is quite unbelievable that these people would still be holding a camera while running scared, and so well.

Grade: B-

‘Paranormal Activity 4’ (2012)

Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman 

Starring: Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Aiden Lovekamp, Brady Allen, Alexondra Lee, Stephen Dunham, and Katie Featherston

It’s now 2011, a young girl named Alex (Kathryn Newton) and her family, her Mom (Alexondra Lee), her Dad (Stephen Dunham) and her littler brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp), get some new neighbors across the street. One night, cops and ambulance’s surround the new neighbors house, and Alex and her friend Ben (Matt Shively), discover the child, Robbie (Brady Allen), who just moved in across the street in their treehouse.

After Alex’s mom discovers that Robbie’s mom is in the hospital, she decides to take him in to their home. Shortly after, mysterious things begin to happen and Alex, with the help of Ben, begin to film the house using webcams, phone cameras and more to capture what is going on.

The film immediately makes my blood boil as they treat the film’s star Kathryn Newton, who was 15 at the time of filming, as a sexual object. Her friend Ben (Matt Shively) is the most irritating character I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing on-screen and he is consistently trying to seduce the young Alex, trying to get her to show her boobs, talks about being cock-blocked and watches her sleep!

The film then begins to shit on any good reputation the first three films had already built up. The scares aren’t handled well in ‘Paranormal Activity 4’, while the first 3 developed a creep factor, and worked to scare you, here the imagination is completely turned off and they throw anything at the audience to try and make the jump. The film fails, miserably. and you won’t be scared at all, in fact you will definitely find yourself rooting for the evil to win.

I don’t know how the franchise is going to work themselves out of the hole ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ dug, the first 3 created a mystery, and the 4th screws it up, at least in my opinion. I don’t know what they have planned for future installments, but the logic flaws, plotholes and lack of information actually makes me angry.

I’m trying to remind myself why I went with a D- and not an F, I know I didn’t completely hate it, probably because it is in the ‘Paranormal Activity’ universe which I do like. Although, when you take all the issues I’ve stated above, it can only get worse when you add the typical bad acting (Matt Shively), underdeveloped characters (supposedly Alex’s parents are fighting?), the predictability (if you don’t see what’s coming, you’re an idiot), and no one puts the camera down even when they are being chased.

Grade: D-

‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ (2014)

Director: Christopher Landon

Starring: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Welsh, Renee Victor, David Saucedo, Gloria Sandoval, Molly Ephraim, Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston

‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ is a spin-off according to creators, after having seen it, I would call it essential viewing if you are a fan of the franchise. The spin-off takes place in 2012, essentially after all four films, although (for all spoiler-free purposes) it doesn’t really connect to those first four films (but it does, but I didn’t tell you that).

The film is set in a small apartment complex, where new high school graduate Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) lives with his Grandmother (Renee Victor) and his father (David Saucedo). He has two close friends in Hector (Jorge Diaz) and Marisol (Gabrielle Welsh), they buy a camera from a pawn shop and begin to film their surroundings. When one evening Jesse’s neighbor below him, Ana (Gloria Sandoval), is murdered, he teams up with Hector and Marisol to figure out what is happening.

‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ takes a while to get going, and if it weren’t for the likeable characters, the beginning would be a complete bore. These characters are probably the most likeable characters since Katie in the first film, the film actually builds some good relationships, friendship and family. I applaud the franchise for adding some ethnicity into the series, while most films wouldn’t dare trying something like this, I think adding a Latino family adds something different and fresh.

While the film is interesting and actually funny at points, the first hour goes by without almost a single scare, which is very odd for a horror film, it leans more towards thriller or even mystery. I think at this point the franchise needs something to liven it up, this could have been it but it still wasn’t as scary as I would have liked it to be, but still a lot scarier than the fourth film. Again, I will decry the handheld camera portion as the last 20 minutes of the film are spent with a lot of running and screaming, and any sane person would discard the camera for certain.

Although, I enjoyed ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ for its differences, for its characters, and maybe because I had just come off ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ and anything is better than that. This is a direction the film should go towards, but amp up the scares and get the story moving a little faster please, some editing and cuts would make this a tighter, scarier thrill.

Grade: C

Thoughts on the entire Paranormal Franchise

It’s 2015 and I’m just watching the Paranormal franchise, so what are my thoughts? 1 and 3 are definitely the best, 2 and The Marked ones aren’t bad, and 4 is almost unwatchable.

Ranking: In order from my favorite to least favorite, although it’s probably pretty obvious by my grades.

#1- ‘Paranormal Activity’
#2- ‘Paranormal Activity 3’
#3- ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’
#4- ”Paranormal Activity 2′
#5- ‘Paranormal Activity 4’

Did I enjoy my time watching these films? Yes, it’s a fun little franchise, and there were many points that I had to turn the volume down or almost closed my eyes. They’ve tapped into something scary, using the handheld camera style makes the horror seem real and tangible.

Am I looking forward to more? Yes! The mystery the franchise has built up intrigues me, I’m hoping they can wrap it up in one or two more films, but these movies make so much money that I could see why they would continue forever.

The Future of the Paranormal Franchise

Seeing as I am now excited about the Paranormal Franchise and where it is going, I’ve looked into it a bit. Christopher B. Landon, who helped write all but the first film, has said that there is an end planned, and that it will take a few more films to see that out. If fatigue doesn’t hit the franchise at all, I could see that being 2, maybe 3, more films.

The next film in the franchise is titled ‘Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension’, a title that suggests a link to events that happened in ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ , which should be interesting. It is also being seen as the fifth film in the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise, as  ‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ was a spin-off. The film is due in theaters October 23, 2015, but after having been delayed about three times already, and not knowing much else about the film, I’m a little worried if we will see it on that date. It will center on a family of four, with Katie Featherston reprising her role as Katie, the only actor to have been in every film so far.


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The Best Films of 2014

This Photo is made up of brief snippets of the posters of my top 20 films, which you will find below!
This Photo is made up of brief snippets of the posters of my top 20 films, which you will find below!

By Mitch Burns

If you can’t tell, I’m passionate about film, I put a lot of work into this list. I see a bunch of films to prepare for this list and to prepare for “The Hollywood Persona Awards”, which are coming up shortly. I’ve seen over 100 films this year, a little less than last year, but I’ll chalk it up to being a little busier recently. There are a good 20-30 films I’d like to still see from 2014, but I just don’t have the time. I like to have my “Best of” list out before the Oscars, afterwards these things just don’t seem to matter anymore, I guess we have to move on to 2015 at some point.

At the end of the year there is always the conversation about whether or not it was a “Good year for Movies”. At one point, I might have said it wasn’t a great year for movies, but once I started to put together my top ten, I realized I could barely narrow it down. There were at least 26 films I considered putting on my top ten at one point. To show how good of a year it’s been, here’s a little breakdown on the grades I gave this year:

Fullscreen capture 2212015 85745 PM.bmpThe amount of grades in the A range is astounding. I really didn’t give out a lot of grades in the D-F range, which is very interesting.

Although, I did narrow it down to ten, and that’s coming up. What I’ve also done, like past years, is given “My Next Ten”, which technically makes this list a top 20. Anyways, enjoy!

10. Edge of Tomorrow – (A-)

While it’s being branded as “Live. Die. Repeat.”, “Edge of Tomorrow” is one of the smartest, funniest, action movies to come along in a while. What may have prepared me to love it so much was how little attention it garnered at first, the marketing for “Edge of Tomorrow” was lackluster to say the least. I didn’t have high hopes going in, so when it hit me like a ball of electricity, I couldn’t have been happier.

9. Fury – (A-)

Writer and Director David Ayer, and star Brad Pitt, are what got me in the door. Brad Pitt has hardly picked a bad project since 2005, and I loved David Ayer’s cop drama “End of Watch”. What made me love “Fury” is it’s nail-biting action, and five awesome characters, portrayed wonderfully by five very talented actors. It’s one of the better War films we’ve had in a while.

8. Only Lovers Left Alive – (A)

“Only Lovers Left Alive” didn’t seem like something I would normally flock to, but enough good word of mouth and I finally gave it the shot it deserved. “Lovers” is about a depressed vampire, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) who’s lived for centuries with his one true love, Eve (Tilda Swinton). The portrayal of depression in this film, against the backdrop of a beautiful romance, made “Only Lovers Left Alive” one that struck a chord, and resonated deep.

7. Nightcrawler (A-)

Full review here

“Nightcrawler” is an insanely tense, balls to the wall, thrill-ride I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I seen it 5 months ago. “Nightcrawler” is insane, shocking and scary, but grounded in reality. Gyllenhaal gives one of the best performances of the year, and should be one of the five Acting nominees at The Academy Awards, as should Rene Russo, both in their respective categories. This film is one entertaining film I can’t wait to watch again, and I know I will have a lump in my throat, even on repeated viewings.

6. Gone Girl – (A)

Full Review here

I had complete faith in David Fincher, I knew he could pull it off, and he did. “Gone Girl” is a psychological thriller unlike any other, it had me squirming in my seat, almost afraid to go home with my wife after the movie. If it weren’t for Julianne Moore’s wonderful performance in “Still Alice”, the Academy Award would be Rosamund Pike’s for the taking. “Gone Girl” is just such a slick, marvelous achievement in film-making, you can’t help but watch in awe, mouth agape.

5. Interstellar – (A)

People will do whatever it takes to pick apart “Interstellar”, it has its flaws, but in my opinion, you REALLY have to be looking for them. Christopher Nolan has created such a grand, epic adventure, that I was sucked in unlike anything I’ve seen in a while. A story spanning time, space and dimensions, smart as can be, with terrific acting, and enough emotion and wonderment that should make prickliest critic happy. “Interstellar” is an adventure that demands to be had.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel – (A)

For most directors you’re first few pieces of work are usually your best, they come out of the gates running and tend to lose steam. Wes Anderson seems to keep topping himself, getting better, and wittier, with each film of his. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is hilarious, and incredibly brilliant, wonderfully acted by the entire cast. Budapest feels extremely fleshed out, each character has a complete, unique personality, and it all comes together to make what I consider Anderson’s best comical outing.

3. The Imitation Game – (A)

I wasn’t expecting all that much from “The Imitation Game”, a traditional biopic, nothing too special. What we’re given isn’t traditional at all, “The Imitation Game” is an incredibly accomplished biopic. It’s a story about an incredibly interesting man, Alan Turing, portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch who gives a wonderful performance. Alan Turing’s story is one I’m happy to have seen on film, there is so much complexity to the man himself. The story hits its high and low points, but director Morten Tyldum, and writer Andrew Hodges move the story along wonderfully. perfect pacing and tone, a beautiful score from Alexandre Desplat, and great performances from Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode.

2. Whiplash – (A+)

“Whiplash” is a complete bombshell of a film, the moment J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller appear on-screen together, to the last moments, it’s incredibly tense and explosive. The acting from the two leads is terrific, especially Simmons, who must have a spot already clear on his shelf for the Oscar he so deserves. Damien Chazelle, Writer and Director, has crafted something brilliant here. In a time when kids are drafted to the team just for applying, and told “Good Job” just for trying, this is a film that needs to be seen, and felt.

1. Boyhood – (A+)

Full Review Here

“Boyhood” is a tremendous achievement, a million and a half things could have gone wrong with this film and they didn’t. Boyhood caused me to reminisce on my own journey through life, it affected me in a most overwhelming fashion. It takes a true artist to do something as profound as Linklater has done here. “Boyhood” is something I will watch many times over, something I will put on to make me feel better, it’s something that will stick with me always.


The Next Ten

Ten more films that I enjoyed, a few of these were most likely in my Top Ten at one point, but we knocked out along the way! Give them a watch!

11. Locke – (A)
12. Life Itself – (A-)
13. Birdman – (A)
14. Calvary – (A-)
15. Under the Skin – (A-)
16. Guardians of the Galaxy (A-)
17. Noah (B+)
18. Obvious Child (B+)
19. John Wick (B+)
20. X:Men: Days of Future Past (B+)


A Few Honorable Mentions

Okay, now I’m just being greedy, Ten more is ridiculous! That’s 30 films?!?! Well I enjoyed these ten films as well, and I just wanted to mention them.

21. The Rover – (B+)
22. Snowpiercer – (B+)
23. Two Days, One Night (A-)
24. Blue Ruin – (B)
25. Still Alice – (A-)
26. Cake – (B-)
27. Foxcatcher – (A)
28. The Theory of Everything – (B+)
29. St. Vincent – (B-)
30. Selma – (A-)


Wanna see “The Worst and Most Dissapointing Films of 2014”, well click the link and revel in the hatred!

As Always, thank you for reading! 2014 was fun, I hope we get some great movies in 2015!

Find Mitch on Twitter @mitchydaily

Like The Hollywood Persona on Facebook

Follow the official The Hollywood Persona Twitter page @THPersona

Posters of my favorites!
Posters of my favorites!

The Worst and Most Dissapointing Movies of 2014

Worst
by Mitch Burns

2014 is over, it’s time to take a look back on what I consider to be the Worst movies of 2014 and the most disappointing. A bad film is honestly a sad, sad moment; in most cases it means money lost, talent squandered, and my precious time wasted, when it could have been spent on something much better.

The “Worst Movies” of 2014 are just that, 10 films, chosen out of more than 100 movies from 2014 ,that I saw, which I consider to be the most atrocious and terrible of the year. The “Most Disappointing” movies of 2014 are the movies I had high hopes for and looked forward to, just to have my high expectations squashed. “Most Disappointing” can, at times, be a bigger upset than my “Worst Movies” list because I was obviously looking forward to these films for a reason. Whether it be the cast, director, story, etc, I was intrigued, and then I saw these things go to waste. Now that we understand the rules, Lets Begin:


Worst Movies of 2014

I actively try and avoid the bad ones, but sometimes it’s intrigue or friends dragging me to see it, that ropes me in. Not much is worse than watching a bad film, you feel as if you’ve wasted your time, for me it’s time I could have spent watching an older film that I’ve yet to see.

A few films almost made it on this list, but lucky them, they narrowly escaped. Films like the exorcism/cop movie “Deliver us From Evil” starring Eric Bana, which was a bore. “I’Frankensteincould have been here, if it weren’t for the mildly amusing characters, and how how I would have loved to have “American Sniper” here, out of pure anger over the praise it is undeservedly getting. My last (un)honorable’s mention go to “Maleficent” and “Hercules”, which are pretty bad, but I had to limit it to the ten worst…

10. The Purge: Anarchy (D-)

One night a year, the government allots a 12-hour period where all crime is legal. Sounds interesting right? Think of the politics surrounding this situation, how it would affect our society, and who would and wouldn’t be involved! Did you think about it? What you thought about is probably ten times more complex than what the creators of “The Purge: Anarchy” have lazily scrambled onto the screen.

9. Pompeii – (D+)

I literally couldn’t remember a thing about “Pompeii“, and it’s about a VOLCANO WIPING OUT AN ENTIRE ANCIENT CITY SET IN 79 A.D. The film is as bland as they come, and with such interesting source material you’d think making that would be a hard thing to do…

8. Divergent – (D+)

It’s difficult to harp on this film when everyone around me seems to adore it, but it is one of the most inconceivably built young adult worlds to date. Nothing in the film makes sense, it’s a mystery as to why anyone would live in a world like the one “Divergent” has set up. On top of that, it’s filled with terrible acting (Zoe Kravits, Jai Courtney, etc.), horribly developed characters, and is ultimately dull, boring and predictable.

7. Zombeavers – (D)

After the success of films like “Piranha”, I had hopes for more of the same. The film starts of with one of the funnier scenes I’ve seen all year, but sharply declines after that. “Zombeavers” ditches any semblance of what could have been a dark comedy/horror, and switches to an unfunny, schlock-fest. Instead of picking either humor or horror, or a mixture of both, it decides to be nothing… nothing but a waste of time.

6. Sex Tape – (D+)

I’ll admit to not being a huge Cameron Diaz fan, but I can be easily swayed, as I did quite enjoy most of 2011’s “Bad Teacher”. Pairing her up with Jason Segel again seemed like and easy choice, as they seemed to be have some form of chemistry. Not only do Diaz and Segel not have chemistry here, in “Sex Tape” they brutally work against each other, to the point where I found myself rooting for a divorce. Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper are the only reason for the + on the end of my D.

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – (D)

Why can’t they leave my childhood favorites alone! “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” worked so successfully in the 80’s and 90’s, that you would have to put some actual thought into recreating it. It’s difficult to make something old, new again, when you try to rejuvenate it with everything that makes today’s cinema terrible, such as horrible dialogue, bad acting, silly jokes and Micheal Bay explosions.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – (D)

Marvel taking Spider-Man back is great news, seeing as Sony hasn’t done anything half decent with Spider-man since the last Spider-Man 2, with Tobey McGuire. The wonderful chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield can’t save the film this time, as it could barely do it in their first outing. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ is cinematic trash, stuffed with explosions, terribly written characters and a script so messed up you’ll half expect characters from other films to come traipsing through.

3. Into The Storm – (D-)

“Into the Storm” has all the bad CGI, horrendous acting, over-the-top drama, and dreadful dialogue you would expect from a bad Made-For-TV movie. Yes, I understand how mean that is to say about Made-For-TV movies.

2. Annie – (D-)

I am vigorously reading through my notes, trying to understand why I didn’t give “Annie” an F, I look back with nothing but absolute hate towards this movie. The only portion I remember enjoying was Rose Byrne, although she is likeable in almost anything. Foxx, Wallace and Diaz absolutely ham it up, and not in a good way. The music is ripe with auto-tune, making for absolute terrible renditions of classics. The tone is all over the board, and everything is so loud and pumped up, it gave me a headache. That’s right, “Annie” is actively an annoying film.

1. A Million Ways to Die in the West – (F)

I have watched “Family Guy” and “American Dad” since the very beginning, spent hours laughing at McFarlane’s humor. I own “Ted” on Blu-ray, and have watched in on several occasions and been quite content the whole viewing. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” has almost ruined those for me, and anything else Seth MacFarlane touches. I’ve stopped watching “Family Guy” and “American Dad” because of it, I hope I can go back to them, but for now I just need some time. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is unfunny to the nth degree, what makes it worse is that you can see everyone actively trying, including some of Hollywood’s greatest (Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, etc.). I need this movie removed from my brain.

 


Most Disappointing

A couple of these entries could have made my “Worst of” list, like #5 and maybe #1, but they were had enough good going for them. Most of these 7 films aren’t bad per se, but they were a huge disappointment, in my eyes.

7. The Judge – (C-)

Why I was looking forward to it: Honestly, the only reason I was looking forward to it was Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, acting side by side, in a drama that looked extremly interesting.

Why it didn’t Work: While I did enjoy many moments of the “The Judge”, it’s ruined by cliche’s and movie tropes, and suffers from a overlong script, crammed with every story from every lifetime movie you’ve ever seen.

6. This is Where I leave You – (C+)

Why I was looking forward to it: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne, Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn and, of course, Adam Driver! All in a family dramedy, that looked like an absolute riot.

Why it didn’t work: Anything that might have been slightly funny was in the trailer, it’s melodrama central, and they can never get the tone quite right.

5. Tusk – (D+)

Why I was looking forward to it: Kevin Smith directing a mysterious comedy/horror, had me quite intrigued.

Why it didn’t work: Wasn’t funny, nor was it scary.

4. The Interview – (C-)

Why I was looking forward to it: Franco and Rogen had me intrigued from the moment I saw a poster, I’ll watch Rogen in anything, but I was never over-the-top excited. Then, all the hype happened, and I formed a lot of interest, and like the rest of the world, I just had to see it!

Why it didn’t work: Franco plays a completely unlikeable character, who made me quite frustrated and turned off by the end. Beyond a few funny moments, one involving a tiger, the film has a small amount of laughs, and script problems that could have been easily solved.

3. American Sniper (D+)

Why I was looking forward to it: Here is another film where the hype actually had me hyped. Clint Eastwood hasn’t made a good film since “Million Dollar Baby”, so I was never too stoked to see “American Sniper”. Then, everyone around me started praising the film, it was making loads of money, and I couldn’t wait to see it.

Why it didn’t work: “American Sniper” is completely devoid of art and talent, besides Bradley Coopers stellar performance. It’s full of cliche’s, boring plot choices, no tension, Misogyny and jingoism. I already wrote a full review here, so take a look.

2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – (C+)

Why I was looking forward to it: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is almost an A grade movie, and I’ve really enjoyed the series, and all of it’s characters thus far.

Why it didn’t work: It’s one part, an unfinished story. Stories should have a beginning, middle and an end, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” barely makes it to a middle point. Why not read my full review here?

1. Unbroken – (C-)

Why I was looking forward to it: With Angelina Jolie behind this film, we’ve heard about every single move this film has made since she came on board in early 2013. It’s based on an incredible true story, and was rooting for Jolie to work her magic.

Why it didn’t work: “Unbroken” is almost unbearable, it’s extremely one note, and it lacks any sort of energy, and emotion. It tells an incredible story, it looks good, but you can’t help but watch the clock and wait for it to end.


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2015 Oscar Predictions! Plus the Date, Time, Presenters and Performers at the 87th Academy Awards

Predicting the 87th Academy Awards

nphoscars640Date: Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Where: Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood

Times:

Red Carpet Start Time:

7:00 p.m EST /4:00 p.m PST

Show Start Time:

8:30 p.m. EST /5:30 p.m. PST /01:30 UTC

Show End Time:

Approximately 11:30 p.m.-12:00 a.m. EST / 8:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. PST (But it can run later)

Host: Neil Patrick Harris

Performers:

  • Lady Gaga
  • Jennifer Hudson
  • Anna Kendrick
  • Jack Black
  • Neil Patrick Harris (Obviously)
  • Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island – Performing “Everything is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”
  • Common and John Legend – Performing “Glory” from “Selma”
  • Rita Ora – Performing “Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”
  • Tim McGraw – Performing “I’m not going to miss you” from “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”
  • Adam Levine/Maroon 5 – Performing “Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”

Presenters:

  • Ansel Elgort
  • Ben Affleck
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Cate Blanchett
  • Channing Tatum
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor
  • Chloë Grace Moretz
  • Chris Evans
  • Chris Pine
  • Chris Pratt
  • Dakota Johnson
  • David Oyelowo
  • Eddie Murphy
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Idris Elba
  • Jared Leto
  • Jason Bateman
  • Jennifer Aniston
  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Jessica Chastain
  • John Travolta
  • Josh Hutcherson
  • Kerry Washington
  • Kevin Hart
  • Liam Neeson
  • Lupita Nyong’o
  • Margot Robbie
  • Marion Cotillard
  • Matthew McConaughey
  • Meryl Streep
  • Miles Teller
  • Naomi Watts
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Octavia Spencer
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Scarlett Johansson
  • Shirley MacLaine
  • Sienna Miller
  • Viola Davis
  • Zoe Saldana

Best Picture
“American Sniper”
“Birdman”
“Boyhood”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“Selma”
“The Theory of Everything”
“Whiplash”

The Best Picture Category is a toss up between “Boyhood” and “Birdman”, if those two split the votes then it could go to “American Sniper” but I don’t see that happening, and I really hope it doesn’t. I’m predicting, and hoping, the win will go to “Boyhood”, but I’d still be happy to see “Birdman” win.

Who Will Win: Boyhood

Who Could Win: Birdman

Who I Think Should Win: Boyhood

Missing from this Category: Gone Girl, Foxcatcher or Nightcrawler


Best Director
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

Alejandro González Iñárritu did something really different, interesting and new with “Birdman”, but can it amount to 12 years of work? In the case of Best Director I don’t think it can, and that’s why I see Linklater going home with the trophy. It doesn’t hurt that Linklater has a past of critically acclaimed films like the “Before” series, “Dazed and Confused” and more behind him.

Who Will Win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Who Could Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”

Who I Think Should Win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Missing from this Category: David Fincher, “Gone Girl”


Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

There is really no opposition here, Julianne Moore has dominated the pre-cursor awards with reigning grace. It’s her time shine, and there is no doubt she deserves it in my mind.

Who Will Win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Who Could Win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Who I Think Should Win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Missing from this Category: Jennifer Aniston, “Cake”


Best Actor
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Like the best picture category, it’s another tight race, this time between Redmayne and Keaton, although, this race is a little tighter. I’m really uncertain who this will go to, Redmayne has just recently picked up alot of traction, winning the SAG and the BAFTA, so that’s why I’m giving him the win here.

Who Will Win: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Who Could Win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Who I Think Should Win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Missing from this Category: Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”


Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Laura Dern, “Wild”
Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”

The women seem to have their categories locked up, like Moore before her, Arquette seems to have picked up every piece of hardware beforehand. It’s all but certain the Oscar is hers.

Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Who Could Win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood

Who I Think Should Win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood

Missing from this Category: Tilda Swinton, “Snowpiercer”


Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Edward Norton, “Birdman”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

J.K. Simmons’ performance in “Whiplash” not only will win, but deserves to win, miles ahead of anyone here, the closest to him is Norton.

Who Will Win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Who Could Win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash

Who I Think Should Win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Missing from this Category:  Robert Pattinson, “The Rover”


Best Adapted Screenplay
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”
Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”
Jason Hall, “American Sniper”
Anthony McCarten, “The Theory of Everything”
Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”

“The Imitation Game” almost seems to have the Adapted Screenplay award locked up, but I wouldn’t count “Whiplash” out just yet.

Who Will Win: Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”

Who Could Win: Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”

Who I Think Should Win: Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”

Missing from this Category: Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”


Best Original Screenplay
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, “Foxcatcher”
Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

If “Birdman” doesn’t get Best Picture or Best Actor, then maybe the academy will feel bad for it and give it the Original Screenplay award. Although, as of now, I think “Budapest” has the award locked up for a script that is sheer brilliance.

Who Will Win: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who Could Win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, “Birdman”

Who I Think Should Win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Missing from this Category: Steven Knight, “Locke”


Best Foreign Language Film
“Leviathan”
“Ida”
“Tangerines”
“Timbuktu”
“Wild Tales”

I think we can all assume “Ida” has Best Foreign Language film, as it’s the only foreign language film to be nominated in another category, Cinematography. There is a chance that Leviathan could swoop in and get the win, as it’s been the front runner for a while.

Who Will Win: “Ida”

Who Could Win: “Leviathan”

Who I Think Should Win: “Ida”

Missing from this Category: Force Majeure


Best Documentary Feature
“CITIZENFOUR”
“Finding Vivian Maier”
“Last Days in Vietnam”
“The Salt of the Earth”
“Virunga”

“CITIZENFOUR” seems to have had the Documentary feature category locked up for a while, as it covered a topic so relevant, and covered it so deeply, it deserves the win.

Who Will Win: “CITIZENFOUR”

Who Could Win: “Last Days in Vietnam”

Who I Think Should Win: “CITIZENFOUR”

Missing from this Category: “Life Itself”


Best Animated Feature
“Big Hero 6”
“The Boxtrolls”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
“Song of the Sea”
“The Tale of The Princess Kaguya”

If “The Lego Movie” were here I would probably be predicting that right now, but a lack of what we all thought was the front runner, and “How to train your dragon 2’s” win at the Golden Globes, I think Dragon has this locked up.

Who Will Win: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Who Could Win: “Big Hero 6”

Who I Think Should Win: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Missing from this Category: “The Lego Movie”


Best Film Editing
“American Sniper”
“Boyhood”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“Whiplash”

Thinking about editing together 12 years of footage, leaving so much on the cutting room floor, and seamlessly piecing together a families life, I think editing has to go to Sandra Adair for “Boyhood”.

Who Will Win: “Boyhood”

Who Could Win: “American Sniper”

Who I Think Should Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Missing from this Category: Kirk Baxter, “Gone Girl”


Best Original Song
“Everything is Awesome” from “The LEGO Movie” (written by Shawn Patterson)
“Glory” from “Selma” (written by Common and John Legend)
“Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights” (written by Diane Warren)
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” (written by Glen Campbell)
“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again” (written by Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashley and Nick Southwood)

Whenever I think of “Everything is Awesome” winning, I think of “It’s hard out here for a pimp” from “Hustle & Flow” winning at the 72nd Oscars. It would be really cool to see it win, but “Glory” all but has the win.

Who Will Win: “Glory” from “Selma” (written by Common and John Legend)

Who Could Win: “Everything is Awesome” from “The LEGO Movie” (written by Shawn Patterson)

Who I Think Should Win: “Everything is Awesome” from “The LEGO Movie” (written by Shawn Patterson)

Missing from this Category: “Yellow Flicker Beat” from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1


Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Alexandre Desplat, “The Imitation Game”
Johann Johannsson, “The Theory of Everything”
Gary Yershon, “Mr. Turner”
Hans Zimmer, “Interstellar”

Original score is a tight race as well, I’m thinking Desplat has done himself a diservice making two great scores in one year, giving Johannsson the lead here.

Who Will Win: Johann Johannsson, “The Theory of Everything”

Who Could Win: Alexandre Desplat, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who I Think Should Win: Hans Zimmer, “Interstellar”

Missing from this Category: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Gone Girl” or Ilan Eshkeri, “Still Alice”


Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins, “Unbroken”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”
Dick Pope, “Mr. Turner”
Robert Yeoman, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, “Ida”

“Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest hotel” are neck in neck here, I think It will end up going to Lubezki for “Birdman”, seeing as it didn’t get an editing nom.

Who Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”

Who Could Win: Robert Yeoman, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who I Think Should Win: Robert Yeoman, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Missing from this Category: Jeff Cronenworth, “Gone Girl” or Robert Elswit, “Nightcrawler”


Best Costume Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Inherent Vice”
“Into the Woods”
“Maleficent”
“Mr. Turner”

Who Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who Could Win: “Into the Woods”

Who I Think Should Win: “Into the Woods”

Missing from this Category: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”


Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Foxcatcher”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Guardians of the Galaxy”

Who Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who Could Win: “Foxcatcher”

Who I Think Should Win: “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Missing from this Category: “Snowpiercer”

 


Best Production Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“Interstellar”
“Into the Woods”
“Mr. Turner”

Who Will Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Who Could Win: “Interstellar”

Who I Think Should Win: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Missing from this Category: “Ida” or “Foxcatcher”

 


Best Sound Editing
“American Sniper”
“Birdman”
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”
“Interstellar”
“Unbroken”

Who Will Win: “American Sniper”

Who Could Win: “Birdman”


Best Sound Mixing
“American Sniper”
“Birdman”
“Interstellar”
“Unbroken”
“Whiplash”

Who Will Win: “American Sniper”

Who Could Win: “Birdman”


Best Visual Effects
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
“Guardians of the Galaxy”
“Interstellar”
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Who Will Win: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

Who Could Win: “Interstellar”

Who I Think Should Win: “Interstellar”

Missing from this Category: “Godzilla”

 


FYI:

The Short films are nearly impossible to see, and therefore difficult to predict.
I will do my research and try to predict the below categories as well as possible.
In my humble opinion, the Shorts should be handed out off-air.


Best Short Film, Live Action
“Aya”
“Boogaloo and Graham”
“Butter Lamp”
“Parvaneh”
“The Phone Call”

Who Will Win: “Butter Lamp”

Who Could Win: “Boogaloo and Graham”


Best Short Film, Animated
“The Bigger Picture”
“The Dam Keeper”
“Feast”
“Me and My Moulton”
“A Single Life”

Who Will Win: “Feast”

Who Could Win: “The Bigger Picture”


Best Documentary, Short Subject
“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”
“Joanna”
“Our Curse”
“The Reaper”
“White Earth”

Who Will Win: “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”

Who Could Win: “White Earth”


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Reviewing The Oscar Nominees: Boyhood

Boyhood (2014)

by Mitch Burns

Courtesy of IFC Films
Courtesy of IFC Films

Directed By: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Lorelei Linklater

6 Oscar Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Film Editing
  • Writing – Original Screenplay
  • Actor in a Supporting role, Ethan Hawke.
  • Actress in a Supporting Role, Patricia Arquette

The third film in my “Reviewing the Oscar Nominees” is Boyhood. If you don’t know the story, in 2002 director Richard Linklater embarked on a new project, a story about a family, filmed over the course of 12 years. The entire cast and crew were brought back together every year, for 12 years, to film one portion of this families life.

Boyhood tells the story of a family of four, but sets its main focus on the son, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who is 6 years old when the film begins in 2002. Mason receives the most screen time (hence the title) but his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) is on screen only a fraction less than Mason. Mason and Samantha’s parents are divorced, the kids live with their mother (Patricia Arquette), and have a distant relationship with their father (Ethan Hawke).

I’d rather not give much in terms of plot, not that the film is plot heavy, the story is more of a means to encapsulate it’s themes of growing up, parenthood, girlhood, boyhood and life. If you are a parent, a son, a daughter, or you’ve grown up, I think you will get something out of this movie, which is to suggest anyone would.

The film resonated with me very deeply, swept away and sucked in, I was a directors ideal movie-goer in that screening. I might say it has to do with my bias of having gone through boyhood, but I look to the overall praise the film is receiving and I know I can’t be alone. The film has something for all.

When you choose an actor at the age of 7 years old, it might be worry any director as to what kind of performance you can get from a 7 year old kid, and what kind of actor they will turn into. While many have found Ellar Coltrane to leave something to be desired, I think he portrayed what it’s like to grow up in the era he did. Coltrane came across as a completely typical and believable boy/young adult, and near the end really conveyed feelings of apprehension for the future and wonderment

Richard Linklater cast his own daughter, Lorelei Linklater, in the role of Samantha, casting a family member is a risk, let alone your daughter. Lorelei has said the at one point over the course of filming she asked her dad to kill off her character, as she didn’t want to do it anymore. Eventually she climbed back on board, and gave a great performance.

The best performances in the film come from Arquette and Hawke, both actors putting in 100%. For an actor, it must be great to have 12 years to really build a character, and they both do just that. Arquette gives a restrained, sobering performance, one that will remind many of their own mother.

The films score doesn’t exactly standout, it’s the films soundtrack that gives some added color, From the opening use of Coldplay’s “Yellow” to the films unofficial anthem, “Hero” by Family of the Year.

Boyhood is a tremendous achievement, a million and a half things could have gone wrong with this film and they didn’t. Boyhood caused me to reminisce on my own journey through life, it affected me in a most overwhelming fashion. It takes a true artist to do something as profound as Linklater has done here.

Grade: A+

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Reviewing The Oscar Nominees: Birdman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) ‘2014’

By: Mitch Burns

 

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Directed By: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, and Amy Ryan

9 Oscar Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Actor in a Leading role, Michael Keaton
  • Actor in a supporting role, Edward Norton
  • Actress in a Supporting role, Emma Stone
  • Best Director, Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Writing, Original Screenplay

The second movie to review in my Oscar Nominee series, Birdman, a review I found challenging to write. Birdman has many layers, it’s complex. It may just seem a simple story on the service, but it says a lot more than it might suggest; It deserves several viewings.

Birdman is the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a down on his luck Hollywood actor, known best for his superhero ‘Birdman’. Thomson has refused to star as ‘Birdman‘ in anymore movies, turning down ‘Birdman 4‘. Riggan Thomson is hoping to reinvent himself, by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.

Nothing is going well for Thomson, during a rehearsal, a light falls on one of his actors and he is hospitalized. Thomson, and his producer/friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis), are forced to find a new actor to replace him. One of the plays actors, Lesley (Naomi Watts), suggests hiring method actor Mike (Edward Norton). Mike is hired, for better or for worse, and it only adds to Riggan Thomson’s list of problems.

Thomson is also trying to mend his relationship with his rebel daughter Sam (Emma Stone), who is serving as Riggan’s assistant. He’s also working with his now girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough), and trying to keep a solid relationship with his ex-wife, and Sam’s mother, Sylvia (Amy Ryan).

On top of everything, Thomson is haunted by himself, as ‘Birdman’. Every move he makes, he is scrutinized by himself in the ‘Birdman’ costume, whispering in his ear and following his every move. It’s unclear as to whether it’s a hallucination, or what is going on, but it is effecting Riggan.

Birdman is a commentary on today’s Hollywood stars, superhero movies, and “reinventing” yourself as an actor. Keaton was the best person to play Riggan Thomson, probably one of the best casting decision in years. An older actor, who hasn’t been in many movies recently, and has a history of playing a superhero, the fact that he gives a stellar performance is the biggest cherry on top.

Birdman is an actors movie, Keaton, Stone and Norton give three of 2014’s best performances, Watts, Galifianakis, Riseborough and Smart only add to the ensemble. I am a sucker for great acting, and while everyone in this movie was great, it’s Emma Stone that really sticks out. Stone shows how talented she really is, it was easy to forget seeing as “The Help” was three years ago, and we’ve only had “Spider-man” movies to go off of since then.

It’s the movies themes of Ego, Ignorance and trying to feel important in today’s social media age. Riggan is forced to come to terms with himself, through the Broadway play, and trying to mend his estranged relationship with his daughter Sam. These characters will remind you of many of today’s actors, and that on top of the film’s many humorous moments will keep you smiling throughout.

Birdman is tense, never boring and moves along at a swift pace. The film is edited to look like it’s all one take, that and the jaunty score helps it bounce along like a bullet train. At times Birdman will come across as too clever, some moments are worth pondering, while others aren’t. Birdman will leave you thinking, although It’s not an easily accessible film. I worry about recommending it to people, and it (happily) shocks me to see it receiving so much awards recognition, as it’s probably the smartest movie of 2014.

Grade: A

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Reviewing The Oscar Nominees: American Sniper

American Sniper ‘2014’

By: Mitch Burns

Courtesy of Warner Brothers.
Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Directed By: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Max Charles, Luke Grimes

6 Oscar Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor in a leading role, Bradley Cooper
  • Film Editing
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Writing, Adapted Screenplay

It’s time to go down the line, and review the films that The Academy Awards have deemed “Best Picture Worthy”. As to not show any form of bias, I will be going alphabetically, starting with American Sniper.

American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle, based on the autobiography by Kyle called American Sniper: The Autobiography of the most lethal sniper in U.S. History. The movie opens with Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) lying on a rooftop, eye down the barrel, watching over his men like a hawk, When a little Iraqi boy sneaks out into the street. Chris keeps an eye on the boy, and is horrified when he see the boy pull out a grenade. Chris Kyle is forced to take him out, and then, take out the boys mother. It’s a bold way to begin a film, pushing us into a scene so daring and controversial to begin.

The director, Clint Eastwood, quickly loses any credibility, as he juxtaposes that opening scene with a terrible flashback. An extremely young Chris Kyle learns to hunt with his father, Ben Reed, playing one of the movies first of many cliché’s. His father is your stereotypical, rough, no-love dad, who tries to teach his son how to be a man.

Flash forward to Kyle, a little older, doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life until he sees new coverage of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings and decides to join the army. He rises through the ranks, is accepted into Navy SEAL training, and eventually becomes a fully fledged U.S. Navy SEAL.

Chris Kyle meets a girl in a bar, Taya Ranae (Sienna Miller), who soon becomes his wife. Kyle is sent for his first tour of Iraq shortly after the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11th.

Chris Kyle’s story is pretty remarkable, it is a story worth knowing, unfortunately director Clint Eastwood handles it’s transition to the big screen in such a ham-fisted manner, I can’t recommend anyone watch it. All the blame is rightfully shifted to Eastwood and newcomer writer Jason Hall, who delivers a laughable script.

Each scene in American Sniper as if it’s been rushed through so quickly that the movie is almost sloppy. Mix in some really rough editing, and it’s no wonder a fake baby doll was obviously used in one scene, it just feels par for the course here. Scenes start and end without a moments notice, characters come in and out of the story with almost no effect, I bet no one even remembers Kyle’s brother in the movie.

The films most egregious moments are centered around anything to do with Chris Kyle’s wife Taya Kyle, played by Sienna Miller. Miller works well with what she’s given, the problem being she isn’t given much above a whining, scared housewife. a scene It feels like a step back for women, and I can’t believe that the real Taya Kyle would sign off on it.

The “Action” scenes, for lack of a better word, aren’t as tense as they should be, I’ve played snipers in video games with triple the tension that we get in this movie. It doesn’t help that we’re given a mundane score, which does nothing to help these scenes along. The tension is also defeated by the fact that we don’t know any other character in movie, the only two characters we actually get to know in the film are Chris and Taya Kyle. If you know anything about the story of Chris Kyle, than you know what happens with Chris and Taya, so not getting to care for any other character in Chris’ SEAL team makes any form of tension obsolete.

Between tours, we watch as Chris Kyle adapts to home life, with his wife and two kids. Kyle’s having a rough time getting used to being home, and it’s affecting his marriage and parenting. It should be more emotional, but these scenes bore on with cliché’s and stilted dialogue that it’s quite easy to lose interest. It really lost me when we hear Taya say the standard “Even when you’re here, you’re not here” line.

The movies one silver lining (get it) is Bradley Coopers portrayal of Kyle. Cooper plays Chris Kyle remarkably, conveying his emotions, or lack there of, with a subtle grace, that many actors could have played bigger. Coopers Oscar nomination is the only nomination out of the six that I can get behind.

If American Sniper was directed by someone with a little more skill and patience, maybe I could agree with the movies six Oscar Nominations, as for now, I can think of 4 or 5 movies that should be in its spot.

I don’t want to talk to much about the controversy surrounding the film, but I can’t help agree with Seth Rogen’s tweet (See Below). We wouldn’t be talking about it if the sniper scenes, and the whole film, were handled with even the slightest hint of artistic integrity.

Grade: D+

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The 72nd Golden Globe Awards: Predictions

Here we go! The awards season is in full swing, it’s definitely snuck up on me. I’m still behind on seeing quite a few of the bigger names, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have idea of who’s taking home the awards tonight! I’m extremely excited to see Amy Poehler and Tina Fey return,as they are two of the best hosts of any awards show in the last decade.

You can take my movie predictions to heart, while anything could happen I’m pretty certain on my predictions. When it comes to TV, I’m just making slightly educated guesses.

Enjoy the Show tonight, I’ll post how I did tomorrow! for now, Predictions below:

Best motion picture — drama

Courtesy of The Golden Globes/HFPA
   Courtesy of The Golden Globes/HFPA

“Boyhood”
“Foxcatcher”
“The Imitation Game”
“Selma”
“The Theory of Everything”

Will Win: Boyhood

Could Win: Selma

Should Win: Boyhood

Best motion picture — musical or comedy

“Birdman”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Into the Woods”
“Pride”
“St. Vincent”

Will Win: Birdman

Could Win: Birdman

Should Win: Birdman

Best actress in a motion picture — drama

Jennifer Aniston, “Cake”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

Will Win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Could Win: Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”

Should Win: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Best actor in a motion picture — drama

Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
David Oyelowo, “Selma”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”

Will Win: Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”

Could Win: David Oyelowo, “Selma”

Should Win: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

Best actor in a motion picture — musical or comedy

Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Michael Keaton, “Birdman”
Bill Murray, “St. Vincent”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Inherent Vice”
Christoph Waltz, “Big Eyes”

Will Win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Could Win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Should Win: Michael Keaton, “Birdman”

Best actress in a motion picture — musical or comedy

Amy Adams, “Big Eyes”
Emily Blunt, “Into the Woods”
Helen Mirren, “The Hundred-Foot Journey”
Julianne Moore, “Maps to the Stars”
Quvenzhane Wallis, “Annie”

Will Win: Emily Blunt, “Into the Woods”

Could Win: Amy Adams, “Big Eyes” 

Should Win: Amy Adams, “Big Eyes” (Weak category)

Best supporting actor in a motion picture

Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Edward Norton, “Birdman”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Will Win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Could Win: Edward Norton, “Birdman”

Should Win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Best supporting actress in a motion picture

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year”
Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”
Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”

Will Win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”

Could Win: Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods” 

Should Win: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood” or Emma Stone, “Birdman”

Best animated feature film

“Big Hero 6”
“The Book of Life”
“The Boxtrolls”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
“The Lego Movie”

Will Win: “Big Hero 6”

Could Win: “The Lego Movie”

Should Win: “Big Hero 6”

Best director

Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Ava DuVernay, “Selma”
David Fincher, “Gone Girl”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Will Win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Could Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”

Should Win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Best screenplay

Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game”

Will Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”

Could Win: Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”

Should Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Birdman”

Best original score

Alexandre Desplat, “The Imitation Game”
Johann Johannsson, “The Theory of Everything”
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, “Gone Girl”
Antonio Sanchez, “Birdman”
Hans Zimmer, “Interstellar”

Will Win: Alexandre Desplat, “The Imitation Game”

Could Win: Antonio Sanchez, “Birdman”

Should Win: Hans Zimmer, “Interstellar”

Best original song

“Big Eyes,” from “Big Eyes”
“Glory,” from “Selma”
“Mercy Is,” from “Noah”
“Opportunity,” from “Annie”
“Yellow Flicker Beat,” from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part I”

Will Win: “Big Eyes,” from “Big Eyes”

Could Win: “Glory,” from “Selma”

Should Win: “Yellow Flicker Beat,” from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part I”

Best foreign language film

“Force Majeure ” (Sweden)
“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem Gett” (Israel)
“Ida” (Poland/Denmark)
“Leviathan” (Russia)
“Tangerines” (Estonia)

Will Win: “Ida” (Poland/Denmark)

Could Win: “Leviathan” (Russia)

Should Win: “Force Majeure ” (Sweden)


TV

Best TV series — drama

“The Affair”
“Downton Abbey”
“Game of Thrones”
“The Good Wife”
“House of Cards”

Will Win: “Game of Thrones”

Could Win: “Downton Abbey”

Should Win: “Game of Thrones”

Best actor in a TV series — drama

Clive Owen, “The Knick”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
James Spader, “The Blacklist”
Dominic West, “The Affair”

Will Win: Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

Could Win: Clive Owen, “The Knick”

Should Win: Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

Best actress in a TV series — drama

Claire Danes, “Homeland”
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Ruth Wilson, “The Affair”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

Will Win: Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”

Could Win: Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

Should Win: Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”

Best TV series — comedy

“Girls”
“Jane the Virgin”
“Orange is the New Black”
“Silicon Valley”
“Transparent”

Will Win: “Orange is the New Black”

Could Win: “Transparent”

Should Win: “Transparent”

Best actor in a TV series — comedy

Louis C.K., “Louie”
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”
Ricky Gervais, “Derek”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Will Win: Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Could Win: Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Should Win: Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Best actress in a TV series — comedy

Lena Dunham, “Girls”
Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin”
Taylor Schilling, “Orange is the New Black”

Will Win: Gina Rodriguez, “Jane the Virgin”

Could Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Should Win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Best TV movie or mini-series

“Fargo”
“The Missing”
“The Normal Heart”
“Olive Kitteridge”
“True Detective”

Will Win: “True Detective”

Could Win: “Fargo”

Should Win: “True Detective”

Best actor in a mini-series or TV movie

Martin Freeman, “Fargo”
Woody Harrelson, “True Detective”
Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective”
Mark Ruffalo, “The Normal Heart”
Billy Bob Thornton, “Fargo”

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective”

Could Win: Martin Freeman, “Fargo”

Should Win: Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective”

Best actress in a mini-series or TV movie

Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Honorable Woman”
Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”
Frances McDormand, “Olive Kitteridge”
Frances O’Connor, “The Missing”
Allison Tolman, “Fargo”

Will Win: Frances McDormand, “Olive Kitteridge”

Could Win: Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Should Win: Frances McDormand, “Olive Kitteridge”

Best supporting actor in a series, mini-series or TV movie

Matt Bomer, “The Normal Heart”
Alan Cumming, “The Good Wife”
Colin Hanks, “Fargo”
Bill Murray, “Olive Kitteridge”
Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan”

Will Win: Bill Murray, “Olive Kitteridge”

Could Win: Matt Bomer, “The Normal Heart”

Should Win: Bill Murray, “Olive Kitteridge”

Best supporting actress in a series, mini-series or TV movie

Uzo Aduba, “Orange is the New Black”
Kathy Bates, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”
Allison Janney, “Mom”
Michelle Monaghan, “True Detective”
Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey”

Will Win: Uzo Aduba, “Orange is the New Black”

Could Win: Allison Janney, “Mom”

Should Win: Uzo Aduba, “Orange is the New Black”

Photo Courtesy of The Golden Globes/HFPA
                                                                 Photo Courtesy of The Golden Globes/HFPA

The Golden Globes will air live on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on January 11.

First ‘Jurassic World’ full Trailer

‘Jurassic World’ Trailer

Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures
                                                              Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Feast your eyes! We have our first, full length trailer of Jurassic World! It’s pretty marvelous, and thankfully, it actually doesn’t show too much. I watched the trailer, although I am not usually one to watch trailers, but my excitement was too high not to give it a watch… or four.

Here is the trailer below courtesy of Universal Pictures, below I give my thoughts, reactions and breakdown:

Wow! The trailer opens with a mother (Judy Greer) sending her children (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) off on a vacation to “Jurassic world”. That tells you everything you need to know right there, this is a new park, and it’s basically Disney world, a safe enough place where parents can send their kids unattended.

The trailer then gives us small moments of the park itself, Ships traveling to the island Isla Nublar, where the original Jurassic Park movie took place. Trains, monorails, and other high-tech vehicles race around the island, taking in the sites and viewing dinosaurs. We see a few dinosaurs at first, Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus and Gallimimus. It’s all great, but nothing quite monstrous yet, until…

A dead Great White Shark Dangles over the water, a stadium watches, when suddenly a huge creature erupts from the water below and snatches the Shark in its massive jaws, devouring it like a minnow. The dinosaur looks to be a Mosasaurus, an aquatic lizard which appeared in the late-cretaceous period. This is awesome, Jurassic Park fans have dreamed about “water dinosaurs” since the credits for the first Jurassic Park rolled.

The trailer has shown us enough awesome footage, now it wants to give us a hint as to what the story is about. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character explains they have created a new dinosaur, who knows why, but it’s got us excited and worried. Chris Pratt’s character tells us that creating a new dinosaur “Is probably not a good idea”. Low and behold, not many moments later we see Pratt’s character standing near a wall that looks like it’s been clawed heavily. We see many images that allude to moments of dread, such as broken vehicles, a drop of blood land on someones arm, worried looks exchanged.

after that, to quote Dr. Malcom, “there’s running and screaming”. We see the kids hiding, Pratt’s character running from a dinosaur, and large crowds of people scurrying from something. I like that we don’t see much of the new “big-bad dinosaur”, I like that things are hinted at more than they are shown.

After the logo appears, we are shown a clip of Raptors being released from stalls, the raptors don’t seem to be running after Chris Pratt on his motorcycle, they seem to be running alongside him. Maybe going on a hunt of sorts, after the new genetically created dinosaur?  I don’t entirely like the idea of dinosaurs being “Good” per-se, but that may not be what is going on, and it still makes for a great moment.

I’m entirely too excited for Jurassic World, I’ve watched the trailer a few times and my only beef with it that I can see is that the Dialogue seems a tad clunky. It’s also ridiculous to judge a movie on it’s trailer, I’m just commenting on what I saw.

Jurassic World opens in theaters June 12th, 2015. It is directed by Colin Trevorrow, written by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, and Steven Spielberg will serve as an executive Producer. It stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, who are both featured in the trailer, and look great. It, also stars Jake Johnson, Judy Greer, Vincent D’onofrio, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Ty Simpkins, and the only returning cast member, BD Wong.

Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

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‘Jurassic World’ Teaser Trailer

The Park is Open

screen-shot-2014-11-23-at-8-33-13-am
                                                              Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Jurassic Park fans rejoice! This Thursday, November 27th, we will have our first trailer for ‘Jurassic World’. For now, we have this 21 second Teaser Trailer, announcing to us the premiere of the trailer, which will take place during American Thanksgiving football this Thursday, at 6pm. Normally I scoff at the idea of a teaser trailer, but us Jurassic Park fans have waited years for this, clinging to any shred of news or gossip, it’s glorious to see something substantial.

So here it is, the trailer courtesy of Universal Pictures:

Jurassic World opens in theaters June 12th, 2015. It is directed by Colin Trevorrow, written by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, and Steven Spielberg will serve as an executive Producer. It stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, who are both featured in the trailer, and look great. It, also stars Jake Johnson, Judy Greer, Vincent D’onofrio, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Ty Simpkins, and the only returning cast member, BD Wong.

Now, my reactions from the fleeting moments we see in the trailer, I’ve watched it four times and have had chills each time. The score by Michael Giacchino, who I am a big fan of from ‘Lost’ and ‘Up’, is clearly a new send up of John Williams wonderful score, and it works perfectly here; I hope to hear more in the trailer on Thursday.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s worried looks, have us worried, but they look great. The shot of the large ‘Jurassic World’ doors opening up as a futuristic train goes through them is a wonderful throw back. The only view of dinosaurs we see here, are the Gallimimus’, who you should remember vividly from the first movie. It is still great, because you should remember when Dr. Grant (Sam Niel) and the two children are hiding behind that log, worried that the Gallimimus could attack, when a T-rex erupts from the bushes, killing one of the bird-like dinosaurs.

It’s safe to say I am thoroughly excited, and will try to have the trailer for Jurassic World up as soon as possible, once it airs on Thursday.

    Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures
                                                         Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures