Tuesday, April 30, 2013

20 Most Anticipated Performances of 2013

I'm sure you would agree that it has been slim pickings at the movie theater this far. Fret not though, summer is around the corner and from here on there are lots of exciting films in store. In addition to the films themselves, I'm always on the lookout for potentially great acting performances. As such, I've compiled a list of my Top 20 Most Anticipated Acting Performances of 2013. Hopefully we'll still be talking about some of these performances come Oscar season:

Monday, April 29, 2013

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: The Dirty Dozen

This week I would like to bring your attention to a solid little war flick from 1967 - "The Dirty Dozen". Set during World War II, this film follows a US Army Major who is assigned a dozen convicts and is ordered to train them to carry out an assassination mission.
Despite that plot synopsis and the implications of the title, this film is a light affair by modern standards. The "dirty" in the title is actually more literal than you'd expect, relating more to the physical hygiene of the men rather than their wicked ways. In fact, most of the men were simply unfortunate victims of a corrupt legal system who were harshly punished for making a mistake (some were on death row). Unlike your typical war films which highlight the brutality of wartime, this one focuses on the bonds that are formed in training.
The way the story is constructed feels quite old-fashioned, but it's very effective. The narrative has a clear focus and moves along briskly. It's an example of good editing, as every scene felt directly linked to the central plot. It certainly didn't feel like a 2 1/2 hour film. As the story develops, we become invested in the characters as the script pays close attention to crafting each individual character. We get to know each of the dozen as individuals with unique personalities and skills. This attention to detail is a great attribute of the screenplay and it's enhanced by the acting ability of its ensemble cast.
Indeed, the acting is a major draw for this film, as it features a fine ensemble of famous actors in some of their earliest roles. It's really a treat to watch the likes of Donald Sutherland, Charles Bronson and John Cassavetes in their youth. The main attraction however, is the lead role of Major Reisman, played by Lee Marvin. I must confess, I had never even heard of him before, but he definitely made a good first impression. He brought this calm confidence to the character that just commands your attention. He is quite unlike other interpretations of "drill sergeant" characters. Whereas other films tend to portray them as ruthless caricatures, Reisman is undeniably firm, but he is also fair. It goes a long way in creating a believable situation where he is able to get his motley crew to work together.
For the most part, watching Major Reisman and his "dirty dozen" prepare for their pivotal mission is a lively, entertaining experience. Unfortunately, the film takes a strange sadistic turn towards the end. The cruelty of the mission's execution felt quite inconsistent with the overall tone of the film and it lessened my appreciation for the film. It's made even worse by the fact that we never get to see the cruelty of the enemy. It's understood that the Nazis were evil, but the way it's depicted almost demonizes the Americans and makes you sympathize with the Germans. I'm sure that wasn't the intent, so I would call this an unfortunate misfire. This is of course my personal opinion, so its likely that many other persons wouldn't be as disturbed by it. I would definitely recommend checking it out and deciding for yourself.

This film is part of my List of Shame.

Friday, April 26, 2013

#FF Sleeping in the cinema, reviews and more...

Jessica brought up a great question this week in response to a situation where a critic rated a film 5-stars even though he was caught sleeping during the screening. Let's be honest, we've all dozed off in the theater (especially when the seats are comfy and the room temperature is just right) but how do we feel about assessing a film if we do take a brief nap? Check out that post below among other good reads from the past week:

Jessica posed the question "Should film critics disclose their naps?"

Alex lists his Top 10 Supporting Performances by A-List Stars.

A Potpurri of Vestiges recently invited guest writer Sanjeev Kumar to do an informative post on The Evolution Of Indian Cinema Over The Last 100 Years.

James assesses the pros and cons of Seth McFarlane returning to host the Oscars.

Sarah reviews Martha Marcy May Marlene, calling it "an amazing cinematic jolt to the nervous system".

Tom reviews the utterly depressing Grave of the Fireflies.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Welcome back to Hit me with your best shot, as we look at our 3rd Judy Garland film (Nathaniel is clearly a fan) - "A Star Is Born". It's often classified as a musical, which is somewhat misleading considering the usual comedic connotations of gleeful singing and dancing. In fact, Judy Garland is the only person who actually sings in the movie and the plot is very much a drama. It reminded me of this year's Golden Globe situation where the most dramatic film of the year (Les Miserables) was categorized alongside real comedies! Likewise, this film is quite easily one of the most tragic stories ever told. In choosing my shot, I had quite a varied selection but I went with one that captures this tragedy.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, April 22, 2013


For this "Movie of the Week", I go back to the beginning of a famed filmmaking career with Terrence Malick's "Badlands". Released in 1973, this film is loosely based on a real-life murder spree carried out by a young couple in Dakota. Focusing intently on this pair of characters (played by Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek), the story provides Malick's most focused narrative to date.
As we are introduced to these eventual criminals, we immediately get a sense of dread, foreshadowing the ill consequences to come. It goes without saying that this film has Malick's trademark brilliant cinematography, but here I found other elements that drew my attention. Along with the visuals, the mood is also evoked through music, with a subtlety that is chillingly effective.
The biggest surprise however is the writing. This is one of the most complete, rich scripts to come from any filmmaker, which makes it all the more impressive coming from Malick's decidedly visual-minded ouevre. Unlike his other films, "Badlands" is plot-driven with a clear 3-act structure, making it very accessible. More importantly, the characters are richly developed with full character arcs. This lack of ambiguity is a welcome change from Malick's recent work.
Specifically, we have the naive curiousity of Holly (Spacek) and the wild confidence of Kit (Sheen). Holly is a slight 15-year old, enchanted by this handsome older figure who promises her a more exciting life. As she goes on this adventure with the 25-year old Kit, she becomes a fascinating proxy for the audience. Like her, we are initially allured by this James Dean-esque bad boy. In fact, thanks to Sheen's down-to-earth appeal, it actually takes a while to accept that you are indeed watching a cold-hearted serial killer. Of course, Holly soon becomes aware of the dire consequences of his actions and as a result receives a rude awakening. As she realizes how much she has thrown away (Kit has killed her only family) for little benefit, the film becomes a unique coming-of-age tale. Despite the thrill of romance, Holly is smart enough to understand that love is not enough. Much of her thoughts are communicated through excellent use of voice-over, allowing us to fully engage with and understand her character. Even though their murderous ways are horrifying, it's easy to see how she would get caught up in this crazy ride. It's a testament to the power of love and misguided ambition.
In my overall analysis of this film, I was hard-pressed to find any faults. For my money, it's Malick's best film to date and one of the best debut feature films in cinematic history.

This film is part of my List of Shame.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


In keeping with the theme of my FYC banner, here's how I feel right now...

As some of you may know, The Lammy Awards are currently ongoing and...I received a nomination! I was nominated among 4 other fantastic candidates (And So It Begins..., The Awards Circuit, Bonjour Tristesse, Cinematic Paradox) for Best Awards Coverage and I feel so honoured. It's a great feeling to be recognized by your peers. Of all the categories I was submitted for, this is the nomination I wanted the most. I'm so glad you appreciate my Oscar obsession! In the upcoming season I hope to bring you even better awards coverage, so stay tuned!

Again, many thanks to my fellow lammies. Of course, I would appreciate your vote for the final awards stage if you feel so inclined. Happy voting!

Here's the full list of nominees: http://www.largeassmovieblogs.com/2013/04/the-2013-lammy-nominees-full-list.html

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Monday, April 15, 2013

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

I recently watched the original Star Trek film (the 1979 version) and was definitely not a fan, so of course, I was quite apprehensive going into "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan". Thankfully, this sequel was a major improvement.
The plot of this film sees Admiral Kirk and his Enterprise crew do battle against the evil Khan, who gets his hand on a device (called "Genesis) that is able to manifest life. As they try to stop him, we embark on an exciting journey through the cosmos.
The film starts out slow, showing signs of the dull talky nature of the first film. However, it quickly picked up the pace and kept getting increasingly more engaging as the film went on. Unlike the previous film, the quiet moments here are able to build anticipation for the inevitable battle scenes. These sequences are worth the wait too, as they are well-executed and provide lots of thrills and excitement.
A great sci-fi adventure always needs a memorable villain and Ricardo Montalban is certainly up to the task. He plays Khan as suitably devious and maniacal and it's very fun to watch. His actions also bring some surprising dark elements that lent some much needed seriousness to the otherwise "PG" atmosphere. Also adding some depth to the film is the fascinating scientific theory behind the creation of life. Much like "Jurassic Park" (a film I recently re-visited), it poses the question "even if we develop the ability to play God, is it ethically justified?". I love when sci-fi digs into meaningful scientific debate and this is definitely an interesting topic for this film.
Other than these thematic elements, there are other more specific things that made this film standout for me. In addition to the aforementioned Montalban, William Shatner is very magnetic as Kirk. I love the sense of humanity that we get in this film, especially when it comes to Shatner's relationships with the other members of his crew. Notably, his relationship with Spock brings some big emotional pay-offs. Spock himself is a surprisingly compelling character. Despite being stone-faced throughout, Leonard Nimoy manages to make you care deeply for Spock.
Like many other young boys, I once dreamed of becoming an astronaut and this film perfectly captures the reasons why. You've got the cool outfits, funky gadgets, slick production design and the endless possibilities for adventure. It was a treat to watch this splendid cinematic recreation of my youthful imagination. It's what dreams are made of.

This film is part of my List of Shame.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A ROTTEN TOMATO: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Ugh, what a drag. After the thrilling cinematic experience of 2009's Star Trek reboot, I was curious to compare to it the original film. Unfortunately, this 1979 relic didn't hold up well for me. Considering this film came after "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", it's strange and frankly disappointing that it comes across as so much more dated than its sci-fi predecessors. Granted, there are some cool visual effects images, but otherwise it fell flat.
The main problem is that the film seems to be completely in love with its own mythology, rather than creating an engaging story. In the opening, there is a long sequence where all we see is Captain Kirk (played by William Shatner) gazing admirably as he approaches his beloved spaceship. Combined with the lovely music and shots of the ship, it starts out majestic but soon becomes self-indulgent. Much of the plot(what is this movie about anyway?) is similarly navel-gazing and its obvious that they were clearly pandering to the Trekkies. Unfortunately, I have no deep attachment to this franchise so it failed to pique my interest. Case in point, I was dumbfounded that there is no action in the film! It really became tedious and in the end, made me wonder what was the point of it all. If this is the "true" concept of Star Trek then sorry, I'd rather take J.J. Abrams' "inauthentic" interpretation any day.

Friday, April 12, 2013

#FF The Place Beyond The Pines reviews

I've been fascinated by the seemingly divisive reactions to "The Place Beyond The Pines", a film which I personally loved. As a result, this post is dedicated to reviews of the film. Check out a few of my favourites below:

Mike from Should I See It? gives the film a positive review, praising the performances.

Silver Screen Slags appreciates its ambition, but thinks it loses steam towards the end.

James from Sobriety Test Movie Reviews notes the film's various flaws, but is intrigued enough to recommend it.

Nathan of Temple of Reviews really liked the film and believes it accomplishes most of its goals.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


This week on Hit me with your best shot we go back to the summer of 1993, as we re-visit the Spielberg classic "Jurassic Park". If you were watching movies in the 90s, you must have known about this film and chances are, you probably saw it (and loved it). Despite being a key film in my early childhood, I hadn't gone back to this film in at least a decade, so I was very excited when Nathaniel selected it. As expected, it brought back many memories. However, these memories weren't only about the film itself. Instead, I experienced an instant wave of nostalgia for the amusement park trips of my childhood and more recently, game drives in Southern Africa. In my younger days, my family went on summer vacation to Orlando almost every year and the film perfectly captures the excitement and wonder that accompanied these excursions. As I watched this film, I immediately fantasized about the potential awesomeness of a real-life Jurassic Park and how ridiculously profitable it would be (a sentiment that was later re-iterated by the greedy lawyer in the film). Of course, that excitement quickly went away when the park's security system fails and all hell breaks loose.

With such amazing visual effects, there were definitely many options available for the purposes of this assignment. Even the scenes without dinosaurs are beautifully composed. As I narrowed down my choices, I decided to pick a shot that captures the immense terror of coming into contact with aggressive, carnivorous dinosaurs.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, April 8, 2013

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Enemy of the State

This week's choice for Movie of the Week is Tony Scott's "Enemy of the State". Released in 1998, the film is about a group of corrupt intelligence agents who kill a US Congressman and try to cover up the murder. Evidence of this murder is accidentally captured on tape (by a wildlife researcher) which falls into the hands of an unwitting lawyer Robert Dean (played by Will Smith). As these agents try to push their agenda (increased homeland surveillance under the guise of national security), they hunt down Dean to ensure that this evidence remains hidden. The events that ensue portray a high-octane manhunt that certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Perhaps more renowned for his other work, "Enemy of the State" remains one of Scott's most underrated films in my opinion. It's capably directed, with a surprisingly dense script that gave him a lot to work with. He's definitely in his element, creating a sense of real-time urgency that reminded me a lot of the TV series "24". The thrills come hard and fast, as the film moves at quite a frantic pace, impressively maintaining its energy for the lengthy running time.
While Scott gets to show off his stylish technique, the fine ensemble does strong work in conveying the intriguing story. I've long been a fan of Will Smith and this performance is a perfect example of why I've been so loyal in my support. He exudes such confidence and charisma that you can't help but get involved in his character. He certainly proves himself as a worthy leading man. Despite Smith's efforts however, Gene Hackman turns out to be the MVP, playing a retired agent that aids Smith in clearing his name and fighting the bad guys. He arrives around midway through the film and basically runs away with it. Drawing from some of his character traits from films like "The French Connection", he is constantly dynamic and compelling.
Story-wise, the film is a fascinating time capsule that captures the rising technological revolution of the late 90s, while curiously foreshadowing the paranoia that followed the 9/11 attacks. As someone with a slight "Big Brother" complex myself, it was very interesting to see this topic explored, especially considering its timing (it was made before the signing of the Patriot Act). It proves that people have always had apprehensions about trusting their neighbour, even in the absence of an obvious threat. It really makes you wonder how much personal privacy you would sacrifice in the name of both national and personal security.
On the whole, "Enemy of the State" is a solid action-thriller that should appeal to most viewers. I would readily admit though that it could have been trimmed down a bit (it's a bit overlong) and the direction sometimes draws too much attention to itself. Apart from that, it's certainly better than your average thriller made in a similar vein. It keeps you entertained and gets you thinking, which is a compliment in and of itself, as that's a rare combination in today's output of films in this genre.

Friday, April 5, 2013

#FF Roger Ebert, remakes and more...

As you've probably heard by now, the great Roger Ebert has passed away. This man introduced to me to the concept of film criticism and I'll be forever grateful. Whenever I check Rotten Tomatoes, I always made sure to look for Ebert's score and summarized review. Over time I have noticed that we share very similar taste and as such, I trusted his opinion highly. His passing truly filled me with immense sadness and I feel incapable of sufficiently writing a tribute to this great man. In light of this, I've included some tributes from other LAMB members among other interesting posts from the past week:

Courtney dedicates a post to Roger Ebert, citing him as a teacher and champion of film.

Emil also salutes Roger Ebert in his dedication post.

Sam remembers Roger Ebert's kindness in his In Memoriam post.

Dan proves that remakes can indeed be worthwhile, listing his Top Ten Remakes.

Clayton gives a nice roundup of the potential Oscar contenders from the first quarter of 2013.

Shawna names 10 Foreign Language Films that she loves.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Monday, April 1, 2013

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: The Place Beyond The Pines

"You're just like your father". It's an age-old saying that really resonated with me while I watched "The Place Beyond The Pines". This story of fathers and sons attempts to uncover the effects of fatherly guidance (more specifically, the lack thereof) on the fate of their sons. It's told in an episodic manner as the plot is divided into 3 parts as we dig into the connected stories of Luke (Ryan Gosling) and Avery (Bradley Cooper). Luke is a desperate motorcycle stuntsman who gets involved in bank robberies to provide for the young son he has just become aware of. Meanwhile, Avery is an ambitious police officer who is pressured to live up to the legacy of his father, a former state Supreme Court judge. As you can probably guess, their fates collide and their actions have repurcussions throughout the film.
The plot unfolds as a generational saga that is reminiscent of "The Godfather", while poignant individual moments capture a more Mike Leigh-esque "kitchen sink" sensibility. As a result, the film is both epic and intimate. There's a lot going on in the film, as it reaches for profound thematic depth. Gosling's storyline is a crime drama with action elements, while Cooper's plays as a morality tale as his character investigates corruption within the police force. The 3rd act focuses on their sons and is an angst-ridden high school drama.
The first act is the most compelling, as it really plays to Cianfrance's strengths as a writer-director. As we saw in "Blue Valentine", he has an incredible knack for depicting familial conflict with conversations/arguments that feel very raw and honest, while revealing so much about the characters. Additionally, the events of this section showed off his ability to direct action scenes, executing some very exciting chase scenes. I was completely floored by the awesome long tracking shots that he uses (kudos to the cinematographer) in the opening scene and subsequent scenes surrounding the bank robberies.
On top of that, Cianfrance is aided by a captivating performance from Gosling, who once again embodies his character brilliantly. Effectively playing up his attractive looks, he manages to convey a vulnerability that draws in the viewer, even when his character is purposefully unpleasant. Despite only being featured in the early part of the film, his presence looms over the entire film.
As we move away from this character, the film admittedly loses some of its intrigue. The other 3 main performances (Cooper, DeHaan and Cohen) pale in comparison to Gosling. It's further proof that he is a unique talent. The lessened interest in the latter acts can perhaps be due to a minor flaw in the film's writing. As with "The Godfather" this is a somewhat patriarchal society. However, given the detached relationship between the men and their sons, it's curious to see such unwritten female characters. It indirectly affects Cohen's character, as his distasteful personality wasn't firmly grounded in his social background and parental influence. As Cooper's wife and Cohen's father, Rose Byrne's role is woefully minuscule. It's disappointing to see as her character is so obviously important to the plot. In the other family, Eva Mendes gets a bit more to work with, but it still seems insufficient. It felt like the director got so caught up in the father-son dynamic that he neglected the women. There's a lot that was left unseen or unsaid that would have added some more "oomph" to the story.
In the end however, it all came together satisfactorily for me. The legacy of Gosling's Luke character seeps through every action and consequence, giving the film a great amount of depth and gravitas. Overall, it's a well-made film showcasing a filmmaker of considerable skill. I look forward to whatever he does next.