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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Robin Williams Lists

The Robin Williams Lists 

Robin Williams. What can we say that has not already been said? He was a truly gifted actor. He set the standard for comedians crossing over to make a name for themselves as successful dramatic actors. Williams was a  four time Academy Award nominee (winning once, in 1997, for Good Will Hunting), won several Golden Globes, Grammys, and many other awards in a four decade-plus career.

From the stories being told by those who knew him best, he was clearly a very kind-hearted and generous man as well. The world, not just Hollywood, lost a truly great man this week. And in the midst of the countless tributes to him, Dan and I offer our Robin Williams Lists, to humbly share how he and his films forever touched us both:

Chris's List

5 - Insomnia / One Hour Photo
Robin Williams had long since proved his mastery of both comedy and drama by the early 2000s when these films came out. But with them, he displayed his ability do dark and creepy as well. Both are sinister, eerie performances from an actor that most people expected nothing but laughs.

4 - What Dreams May Come / The Fisher King
Though it is one of his most polarizing films, I personally love What Dreams May Come. Sure, it is flawed, but it is a truly beautiful film with an extremely interesting premise and a fantastic performance from Williams. The Fisher King, on the other hand, is a really good film (with another great Williams performance), but is often overlooked in his diverse filmography. 

3 - Mrs. Doubtfire / Hook
These two movies are perhaps how I will remember him best. For a movie watching child of the '90s, they are the quintessential Robin Williams.

2 - Aladdin / FernGully: The Last Rainforest
No one could do more voices than Robin Williams. These two animated, off-the-wall characters were tailored made for his multifaceted, rapid fire style of comedy and they were beloved by children everywhere.

1 - Good Will Hunting / Dead Poets Society
Perhaps Williams' finest two performances from two of his best remembered dramatic films. Williams made both of these films great. I'll just leave it with this:

Dan's List

5 - Jack
Sure it was probably pitched with one sentence and is a kind of a gimmick film, but it's also funny, heartfelt and really proved that Robin Williams could do anything. I cannot think of a single other actor that could make Jack work. When he gives the graduation speech and the score kicks in, it gets a little dusty in this house.

4 - Dead Poets Society
I firmly believe that most, if not all, teachers want to be like John Keating. Inspiring, candid and brilliant, he took a class of repressed, Vermont prep-schoolers and made them realize that there is some beauty in art and life. Sure they got him fired, but he definitely made an impact.

3 - Mrs. Doubtfire
The little comedy that could, Mrs. Doubtfire finished second at the 1993 box office to Jurassic Park and at the time, was the fourth highest-grossing comedy in history. The virtuoso performance won Williams a Golden Globe and introduced an entire generation to his talent.

2 - Aladdin / Good Morning, Vietnam
Let Robin Williams do his thing. Both of these films were built around and carried by that simple concept. Before Will Ferrell was improvising his way to an empire, Williams was the guy who gave screenwriters the day off. His creative charm made both of these films huge hits, and gave us a song to be treasured forever.

1 - Good Will Hunting
"Sorry guys, I gotta see about a girl." This scene and film will always be my favorite work from Robin Williams. His character carries so much weight on his soul that you can feel it with every story and action. He deservedly took home an a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role and gave us an acting master class that we can take over and over. Rest in peace, Mr. Williams and thank you for everything.

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And Check Out Our Other Best Of Lists:
Christian Bale – Matt Damon – Johnny Depp – Jamie Foxx
Wes Anderson - Ron Howard – Tony Scott – Michael Bay – Stanley Kubrick 
Badass Ladies – Movie Lawyers – Movie Bars – Concert Movies
Baseball Movies – Films From 2000-Now – Movie/Video Game Combos - Kill Bill 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Chris's Review: ‘Boyhood’ is admirable, but falls short of perceived greatness

Late in Richard Linklater’s episodic and ambitious new film, Boyhood, the main character, Mason, asks his father, “So, what’s the point?” To which his laissez-faire father laughs and replies, “What’s the point? I sure as shit don’t know. But neither does anyone else. We’re all just winging it. The good thing is you’re feeling stuff.”

As if explaining life and the film all in one line, that is a pretty neat and tidy way to tie up and add meaning on to a grand, yet scattered film. And for the most part, it works within the confines of the film, and against my better judgment, actually provides a quasi-satisfying ending.

North/South Film's Top 10 Films of 2014 . . . So Far

Chris's Top 10 (In Loose Order)

10 – The Double
A puzzling film, that wasn’t quite what I expected it to be (not a bad thing). But once you settle in to its off-kilter tone and atmosphere, it gets much more enjoyable and filled with bizarre humor.  

9 – Joe
David Gordon Green is one of my favorite filmmakers. And after last year’s return to form with Prince Avalanche, he is back with another gritty, Southern coming-of-drama starring a subdued, but still electric Nicholas Cage. Read my review here.

8 – Guardians of the Galaxy
I really liked, but didn’t quite love Guardians. In any case, the film was still a lot of fun. A delightful mix of Star Wars and The Fifth Element. An energetic sci-fi tangent from the Marvel Universe. Read my review.

7 – Venus in Fur
Not a film I thought I would like going in, but I was more than pleasantly surprised with the latest from director Roman Polanski. The film, which takes place in one setting with only two characters, is a sensual and playful blending of film and theater. Read my review here.

6 – Enemy
This film utterly baffled me while watching it and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. Dark, atmospheric, and full of twists and weird turns. Cronenberg meets Hitchcock with one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best performances.

5 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The first of two great comic book movies this year (the previously mentioned third one, just falls into the really good category). Cap is quickly coming to rival Tony Stark as my favorite Marvel hero (they both pale in comparison to DC's Batman though). Read my review here.

4 – X-Men: Days of Future Past
The other great comic book movie. A brilliant, highly opportunistic melding of two of separate, but, of course, interconnected film series. Fun, ambitious, well-made, and hugely entertaining.

3 – Snowpiercer
A rich, multi-layered social commentary disguised as a summer blockbuster (minus the big box office numbers, unfortunately). The film has a really cool premise, a fantastic set piece, multiple great action scenes, and several terrific performances (Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Allison Pill).

2 –The Grand Budapest Hotel
How could you not love this movie? So elaborate, whimsical, and hilarious. Featuring a fantastic cast and probably the best performance of the year from Ralph Fiennes, Wes Anderson’s latest is a farcical homage to the classic comedies of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Read my review of the film here.

1 – The Immigrant
They don’t make movies like this anymore – classic cinema on the grandest scale, 1970s style. This overlooked early year film from director James Gray stars Marion Cotillard as a newly arrived immigrant forced into unfortunate circumstances upon her arrival in 1921 New York City.  The film also stars Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner. Barely in theaters, the film is now available on Netflix Instant, so check it out!

Honorable Mention:
Godzilla, Boyhood, 22 Jump Street, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Films I Haven’t Seen Yet That Might Have Made It On The List
Edge of Tomorrow, Locke, Obvious Child, Only Lovers Left Alive

Best Performances:
Jake Gyllenhaal – Enemy
Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Marion Cotillard – The Immigrant
Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer
Allison Pill – Snowpiercer 

Movies I Am Most Looking Forward To For The Rest of 2014:
The rest of the year is all about 3 movies for me – Foxcatcher, Interstellar, and Inherent Vice 
But I also really can’t wait to see: Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt. 1, FrankBirdman, and Whiplash.

Dan's Top 10 (In Absolutely, Definitive Order)

10 - 22 Jump Street

It didn't live up to the greatness of its predecessor, but that's okay, it still had plenty of laughs.
Jonah Hill continues to impress me and I'd love to see a third Jump Street with him and Channing Tatum as the Captains, tutoring the next generation. I'm thinking Bobb'e J. Thompson and Chloe Grace Moretz would be perfect.

9 - X-Men: Days Of Future Past
It wasn't the big reunion film I hoped for, but it still had enough cool stuff to make the list:
Quicksilver, Magneto lifting RFK Stadium, Sentinels and of course, Jennifer Lawrence. I have yet to find a flaw with J-Law or her work, so I'll keep showing up every time her name is on the marquee.

8 - Neighbors
Do me a favor? Just go ahead and put Rose Byrne in every comedy. 
She's an absolute riot and carried the film.

7 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Some of the best action sequences that we've seen in the Marvel Universe films.
I was glad Black Widow got a lot of screen time and thought Anthony Mackie, as Falcon, was a welcome addition to the series and I'm fully on-board with the possibility of him taking over the Captain's shield. 

6 - Lucy
Luc Besson knows how to make a movie. Last year, I loved his dark comedy The Family and with a such a diverse filmography, I have no problem calling him a master. Lucy is a wild action romp, even though it tries to be cerebral. I have a gut feeling it will have a huge afterlife on television and that we could also see some (probably terrible and straight to DVD) Lucy sequels.

5 - Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

You can go ahead and add Dawn to the list of sequels that surpass the original. Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar was brilliant and is yet another example of why motion capture and voice performances should be eligible for Academy Awards. Did you see Where The Wild Things Are? James Gandolfini brought me to tears with his work. Movies are about imagination, so don't negate great art simply because you can't see it.

4 - The Grand Budapest Hotel

The biggest challenge of Wes Anderson's career will be attempting to surpass his previous work. At this point, Grand Budapest as my least favorite film in his cannon. However, it's still a quality film with many high points (the toboggan chase, everything said and done by Ralph Fiennes) and is easily one of the year's best so far. Average Wes is still better than 90% of the films I see, but I really wanted to see a dissected shot of the entire hotel and its various, absurd occupants.

3 - Guardians Of The Galaxy
It was one of the year's biggest question marks and it far surpassed most expectations. It's the most adult film in the Marvel Universe and completed the task of introducing many new characters and worlds with ease. Chris Pratt vaulted himself into leading man status with his charisma and heart with edge. Don't be surprised when you hear his name getting thrown out there for every big project coming up (like an Indiana Jones reboot).

2 - The LEGO Movie

Everything is awesome in this movie! Fun songs, Brooding Lego Batman, very cool animation, a smart plot twist and that guy mentioned above, Chris Pratt. Throw in fun voice work from Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman and Will Ferrell and a world full of crazy characters and now you've got the beginnings of an epic franchise that could go in a ton of directions.

1 - Edge Of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt both kick all kinds of ass in this sci-fi, action thriller. Even though much of the film takes place in a groundhog day scenario, it never gets bogged down and is genuinely exciting throughout. The man who gave us the streak didn't disappoint and for sure earned the "Do It To 'Em Cruisey" that I will inevitably shout out at his next release.

Dishonorable Mention:
Robocop- A truely pathetic reboot. Give me action, give me comedy, just give me something!
The Monuments Men- If Bill Murray can't make it good, something has gone horribly wrong.

Films I Haven’t Seen Yet That Might Have Made It On The List
A Most Wanted Man, Godzilla, Chef, and Snowpiercer  

Best Performances:
Andy Serkis – Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Chris Pratt – Guardians Of The Galaxy
Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Emily Blunt – Edge Of Tomorrow
Scarlett Johansson – Lucy
Rose Byrne – Neighbors

Movies I Am Most Looking Forward To For The Rest of 2014:
Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -Pt. 1, Inherent Vice and Foxcatcher
Also: This Is Where I Leave You, Nightcrawler and Gone Girl
Check out many of the trailers here.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Trailer Roundup: Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Interstellar, Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, Gone Girl and Frank

Greetings from The North,

I am glad to report to report that GUARDIAN'S OF THE GALAXY was well worth the wait!
It's a smart, funny, action-adventure and an absolute, must-see film.
You can check out a full review from The South right here.
GUARDIANS was near the top of our Most Wanted Lists for months.
With it off the boards, it's time to check out trailers for some the films we are still eagerly awaiting.

Our hero, Katniss Everdeen (North/South favorite, Jennifer Lawrence), has been drafted into a war for control of the world. Her inspirational actions have become the rallying point for the other Districts to rise up against the dominating force of The Capitol. This has the potential to be the best film in the series when it hits theaters on November 21st.

Christopher Nolan looks like he is trying to redefine the term "epic" in the latest trailer for INTERSTELLAR. I'm happy to be kind of in the dark with the plot details of this film. Yes we know there will be space travel and that the Earth needs some saving, but I really don't care to find out any more than that. Nolan is one of the best directors in the business and while his Batman series was good, I can't wait to see another one of his original visions. It hits the big screen on November 7th.

Jake Gyllenhaal gets creepy as a guy who likes to take crime photos in NIGHTCRAWLER.
It's written and directed by Dan Gilroy who goes behind the camera for the first time after writing numerous screenplays (FREEJACK, THE BOURNE LEGACY) and creating the story for 2011's underrated, REAL STEEL. This film looks dark and twisted which fits Gyllenhaal's talents perfectly. Get ready to be spooked on October 17th.

There is already a ton of Oscar buzz surrounding FOXCATCHER. It stars Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and a heavily made-up Steve Carell. It's based on a true story and is directed by Bennett Miller who did a great job with MONEYBALL and also won best director at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for his work here. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT read up on the actual events the film is based on, just wait until November 14th.

While director David Fincher's version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was brilliant, it did not do enough at the box office to green-light the rest of the series. That hasn't stopped him from going back to the literary well for GONE GIRL, starring Ben Affleck in his last pre-Batman role. Fincher is one of the best when it comes to adaptions, FIGHT CLUB, THE SOCIAL NETWORK and ZODIAC were all just words on a page before he turned them into film hits. Hopefully he can do the same when GONE GIRL debuts on October 3rd.

If you watch the trailer for FRANK and don't want to see it immediately, I don't need ya! The always awesome Michael Fassbender trades his Magneto helmet for a paper mache head in this oddball comedy. Although he is relegated to verbally describing his facial expressions, Fassbender's performance is already getting some heavy praise and I am hoping/praying desperately that our dual home bases, Burlington, Vermont and New Orleans, Louisiana get this film during it's limited theatrical release.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is an energetic, sci-fi tangent in the Marvel Universe

Throughout its production and especially in the days/weeks leading up to the theatrical release, most critics and movie fans have persistently bandied about a certain sci-fi space opera from the 70’s whenever Guardians of the Galaxy is mentioned. And while all the comparisons to Star Wars are suitable, the latest superhero adventure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is more along the lines of Luc Besson’s 1997 sci-fi romp, The Fifth Element. And in no way is that bad, in fact, it is quite a favorable, if less lofty, comparison – which is just perfect for Guardians of the Galaxy.