I had the privilege of writing a guest blog post for RJ.com and for NFTY on encouraging our teens to give diver Torah more often.
R, 84 Minutes, 2015
Starring: Greta Gerwig as poster child of today’s 30-year-old, Lola Kirke at poster child of who we want to imagine 18-year-olds are today
Directed: Noah Baumbach (of talky, angst ridden, hyper contemporary movies like Frances Ha and While We’re Young)
Best Thing About It: Very witty dialogue with good laughs
Worst Thing About It: Dialogue all feels manufactured by excellent writers (Baumbach and Gerwig). None of it feels like things people would actually say, but what they wish they had said.
Oddest Thing About It: Great New York City piece, but as I am neither 18 or 30, I have no idea how real it is. But it sure looks cool.
Overall: Of-the-moment film with winning and complicated parts by leads. More interesting than the plot summary leads you to believe.
Rating: 2 ½ RaMaKs
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
PG-13, 131 Minutes
Starring: Tom Cruise at his charismatic best, Jeremy Renner as Throwaway Second Fiddle, Simon Pegg as Comic Relief, Rebecca Ferguson as New Girl, and Ving Rhames as I am the 1 Black Person in each of the 5 films
Best Thing About It: Ridiculous over-the-top students (and knowing Cruise did his own stunt work)
Worst Thing About It: Prime Minister’s being the only voice for the Red Box. What if there were new elections?
Oddest Thing About It: How much Rebecca Ferguson looks like previous M:I star Michelle Monaghan. Ethan Hunt has a type.
Overall: High-octane and lots of fun. A great popcorn film amazing carried once again by 53-year-old cruise
Rating: 3 ½ RaMaKs
Jurassic World is definitely a sequel. It offers far too numerous homages and call-backs to the first film, but it also runs like a reboot with a plot that is identical to the original movie. It is saddled by many of same failings of other actions films. The characters are all one-dimensional and never branch out beyond an initial casting call description. The exception is “frigid boss woman” played by Bryce Dallas Howard. We know from the first moments she will eventually “lighten up” in order to be a suitable match for the easy-going hero (Chris Pratt). As is found regularly in PG-13 action today, the body count is incredible high with many innocent bystanders being horribly and anonymously killed, but off-screen and bloodless, so the movie thinks it is okay.
The security system was in the Jurassic World amusement park is really really terrible – especially notable as it is an amusement park located on an island with giant carnivores and a troubling past. I am sure Disney does more to contain The Big Bad Wolf and Beast at Dsneyworld than Jurassic World does to its dinosaurs. The special effects are impressive, but lack a wow factor 22 years after Spielberg’s original. We’ve seen dinosaurs and lots of other cool CGI beasts since then. Only the big sea dinosaur (who apparently isn’t a dinosaur but mosasaur) was really exciting.
But despite it’s flaws, I was rooting for the characters and got caught up in the tension. It’s a fun, summer action blockbuster to be seen in theaters and mindlessly enjoyed.
Spy is the exact same movie as Kingsman: The Secret Service, but written by adults. They have almost identical plots, lots of mind-blowing action, and laugh out-loud comedy. But Kingsman would devolve into the completely crass jokes, most notably the final scene of the movie.
Spy has its share of sophomoric jokes, but they are generally funny. Melissa McCarthy is outstanding with both sharp verbal humor and believable actions scenes (that are completely unbelievable) giving homage to James Bond (including the opening credits and song), Jackie Chan, and others. Post-credits funny scene alert.
Final Result: A very funny action-comedy worth seeing
This year there is supposedly suspense – Best Picture between Birdman and Boyhood; Best Actor between Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne.
But there is no suspense when you do the picking yourself. Welcome to my picks for who I would vote for if I had an Oscar ballot. This is not who WILL win. This is who SHOULD win. Oscar voters are notorious for voting with their heart – for their favorite actors, to reward past performance, and to vote against films and filmmakers. I’m no better.
And unlike many Oscar voters, I’ve seen all the nominees in the Top 8 categories.
Picture – Selma – Although I picked The Grand Budapest Hotel as my favorite film of the year, Selma is a better choice for the “Oscar.” Yes, I’m a sucker for the pomp and circumstance of Oscar, the “importance” of it. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t write a blog post about it.
- Most “Oscar” film are too depressing
- Films from a decade ago are better than the films now
- I don’t see enough foreign, arty, and documentary films
That being said, 2014 had some good films. Only 4 of the Oscar Best Pictures make it into my Top 10 this year (Last year 7), but 3 of the other 4 are in my Top 20. “American Sniper” is lone exception.
Oscar analysis will come later. Here are my Top 20…