Movie Review: American Sniper

American-sniper

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper”

It’s hard to believe how Bradley Cooper got huge to play the role of Chris Kyle in American Sniper. In order to do the role justice, he had to eat 8,000 calories and worked out four hours a day. In one scene, we see him actually deadlifting 425 pounds a few sets at a time. We see Cooper disappear into the role of the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Born and raised in Texas, Kyle never knew he wanted to become a NAVY Seal. After getting married to Taya (the lovely Sienna Miller), he ends up going on four tours in Iraq. His spot-on accuracy with a rifle made him save countless lives. Back home, however, he struggles to get back to his regular self after embracing his part as a sniper.

Clint Eastwood has made a harrowing character study that doesn’t just focus on the war. But more on the effects of war, and how hard it is to let go on what you have fully embraced. The war scenes have a Zero Dark Thirty vibe to them (to be fair, this is a much better film). They are raw and intense, and it feels like we are in the middle of the action. The small parts involving Chris at home are equally powerful. However, using a fake baby instead of a real one sounded a bit lazy. This is Eastwood’s big step-up after Jersey Boys.

3.5/4

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Movie Review: Mortdecai

Johnny Depp becomes mustachioed in "Mortdecai", the lost sequel to the "Pink Panther"

Johnny Depp becomes mustachioed in “Mortdecai”, the lost sequel to the “Pink Panther”

I appreciate Johnny Depp as an actor. From playing an innocent man who has scissors for hands to a pirate going on countless adventures, his quirky nature is always quite entertaining. However, he overplays these type of roles to the extent. Mortdecai, the latest collaboration of Depp and director David Koepp (Secret Window), is no exception. Depp plays Charlie Mortdecai, an aristocratic art dealer who embarks on a globetrotting mission to find a missing Goya painting. There are rumors of a code to a Nazi bank account. His man servant, Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), comes along with him to get their hands on it before anyone else can (sound familiar?).

I cannot imagine another performance by Johnny Depp to be worse than Tonto in The Lone Ranger. Unfortunately, his performance as the title role tops it. You can tell how he’s really trying to get a laugh from the audience. The comedic timing feels off that it’s hard to get one. His jokes – notably about his mustache and having a gag reflex every time he kisses his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) – fall flat and become repetitive. With a lazy screenplay, some boring action, and a massive waste of talent by a gifted cast consisting of Paltrow, Betanny, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, and Jeff Goldblum, Mortdecai is a ginormous mess of a film. Even so, how can Jock stay alive from being severely injured many times? Easily a contender for one of the worst movies of the year and the decade.

0/4

Movie Review: Birdman

Michael Keaton gives the performance of a lifetime in "Birdman"

Michael Keaton gives the performance of a lifetime in “Birdman”

Nominated for 9 Oscars including Best Picture, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) reminds us why movies are made. People want to see something new, something rather out of the ordinary, and something that will be talked about for many years. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men, Gravity) make a technically ambitious movie using various film and editing techniques to make it look like it’s shot in one continuous take (similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope). Michael Keaton is brilliant as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor who used to play an iconic superhero called “Birdman” trying to make it big on Broadway by writing, directing and starring in a play based on a short story by Raymond Carver. Days leading up to opening day, he fights for his career, ego, and most importantly, himself. The scene where he holds a grudge on a New York Times theatre critic who is going to give his play a negative review before opening day proves that his performance might win the Oscar. Leading an all-star cast including Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, and Zach Galafianakis, this is a movie that is funny, satirical, strange, philosophical, and moving.

4/4

2015 Academy Award Nominations: Predictions and Snubs

Oscars

The Academy Award nominations have been announced this morning with The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman leading with 9 nominations including Best Picture. Despite several snubs (I’m glad Unbroken got snubbed for Best Picture because it wasn’t a very good movie), I’m quite satisfied with these nominations. I’m going to give my predictions on what nominees should win and will win in this year’s Oscars. Even though I haven’t seen all of the movies that are nominated this year, I’ll still put them in my predictions because I have been hearing great things about it. Here we go:

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

Will Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game
Biggest Snubs: Big Eyes, Foxcatcher, Fury, Gone Girl, Into the Woods, Nightcrawler, Wild

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

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
Should Win: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton (given that he won a Golden Globe), Bradley Cooper
Biggest Snubs: Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler, Ben Affleck for Gone Girl, Ellar Coltrane for Boyhood, Channing Tatum for Foxcatcher, Brad Pitt for Fury, David Oyelowo for Selma, Christoph Waltz for Big Eyes, Matthew McConaughey for Interstellar

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

Will Win: Rosamund Pike
Should Win: Felicity Jones, Reese Witherspoon
Biggest Snub: Amy Adams for Big Eyes, Helen Mirren for The Hundred-Foot Journey, Sienna Miller for American Sniper

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

Will Win: Ethan Hawke
Should Win: J.K. Simmons (given that he won a Golden Globe)
Biggest Snubs: Logan Lerman for Fury, Andy Serkis for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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

Will Win: Patricia Arquette
Should Win: Keira Knightley, Meryl Streep
Biggest Snub: Jessica Chastain for Interstellar

Best Director:
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu for Birdman
Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

Will Win: Richard Linklater
Should Win: Wes Anderson, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu
Biggest Snubs: David Fincher for Gone Girl, Clint Eastwood for American Sniper, Christopher Nolan for Interstellar, Lasse Hallstrom for The Hundred-Foot Journey, Rob Marshall for Into the Woods, Tin Burton for Big Eyes, Jean-Marc Vallée for Wild

Best Adapted Screenplay:
American Sniper
Inherent Vice
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Will Win: American Sniper
Should Win: The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything
Biggest Snubs: Gone Girl, Into the Woods

Best Original Screenplay:
Boyhood
Birdman
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nightcrawler

Will Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Biggest Snub: Fury

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

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Should Win: Big Hero 6
Biggest Snub (the biggest of all): The LEGO Movie

Best Foreign Film:
Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)

Will Win: Leviathan (given that it won the Golden Globe)
Should Win: Leviathan
Biggest Snub: Winter Sleep (Turkey)

Best Cinematography:
Birdman
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner
Unbroken
Ida

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Birdman
Biggest Snubs: Big Eyes, Calvary, The Hundred-Foot JourneyThe Imitation Game, Into the Woods, Interstellar

Best Film Editing:
American SniperBoyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Whiplash

Will Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Boyhood
Biggest Snubs: Birdman, Interstellar

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

Will Win: Interstellar
Should Win: The Grand Budapest HotelThe Imitation Game, Into the Woods
Biggest Snub: How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

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

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Into the Woods
Biggest Snubs: Belle, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The Hundred-Foot Journey

Best Makeup:
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Biggest Snub: Into the Woods

Best Original Score:
Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat for The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer for Interstellar
Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything
Gary Yershon for Mr. Turner

Will Win: Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should Win: Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Biggest Snub: Alexandre Desplat for Godzilla, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Gone Girl

Best Original Song:
“Everything is Awesome!” from The LEGO Movie
“Glory” from Selma
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

Will Win: “Everything is Awesome!” from The LEGO Movie
Should Win: “Everything is Awesome!” from The LEGO Movie
Biggest Snub: “The Last Goodbye” from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, “Big Eyes” from Big Eyes

Best Sound Mixing:
American Sniper
Birdman
Interstellar
Unbroken
Whiplash

Will Win: Interstellar
Should Win: American Sniper
Biggest Snub: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into the Woods, Snowpiercer

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

Will Win: Interstellar
Should Win: American Sniper
Biggest Snubs: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Snowpiercer

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

Will Win: Interstellar
Should Win: Interstellar
Biggest Snubs: Snowpiercer

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

Best Live Action Short Film:
Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
Parvaneh
The Phone Call
Best Documentary Feature:
Citizenfour
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Best Documentary Short Film:
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

I know I haven’t done my predictions for Best Short Film and Best Documentary. I don’t really care who wins those categories. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed my predictions and snubs for this year’s Oscars. Leave a comment below on what your predictions and opinions are. Tune in on February 22 as Neil Patrick Harris hosts the Oscars. Take care.

Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is about to break the Enigma code in "The Imitation Game"

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is about to break the Enigma code in “The Imitation Game”

Before seeing The Imitation Game, I barely had any idea who Alan Turing was. I knew I wanted to see this again the moment the credits started rolling. I found myself involved with his life. From being least popular in his English boarding school to becoming the leader of a team of code-breakers to making his own code-breaking machine named “Christopher” (his first lover in school) that is used to help his team break the Enigma code as a possibility to end World War II to becoming convicted of indecency (homosexuality). His machine became an inspiration to the computer that I’m writing this review on right now. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is a wonderful tribute to Turing, capturing his mannerisms and subtlety. I loved every bit of this funny, heartbreaking, and moving historical piece.

4/4

Movie Review: Big Eyes

Walter Keene takes credit for Margeret Keene's art in Tim Burton's "Big Eyes"

Walter Keene takes credit for Margeret Keene’s art in Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes”

Big Eyes is Tim Burton’s first biopic since 1994’s Ed Wood. He has given us a new masterpiece that is witty, thought-provoking, and tense providing two phenomenal performance by two great actors. Not to mention the essence of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) is a successful painter known for her portraits of big-eyed children. However, she doesn’t get recognition from people in San Francisco. That is because her husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) takes credit for her work, selling them in restaurants and stores, and becoming a national celebrity. While Margaret is afraid to publicly protest, their marriages begins to crumble, and soon end up in court in one of 2014’s best.

4/4

Movie Review: Wild

Reese Witherspoon faces a big challenge in "Wild"

Reese Witherspoon faces a big challenge in “Wild”

Playing the most ambitious role of her career, Reese Witherspoon – hardly recognizable without the make-up – hits it out of the park in Wild. This is the true story of Cheryl Strayed hiking on the 1,100 Pacific Crest Trail all by herself with absolutely no experience. The reason why she is doing this is because she has dealt with the loss of her mother (Laura Dern), her divorce, and becoming self-destructive (in flashbacks). Along the way, she encounters other hikers who help her move on. While carrying about 65 pounds of stuff on her back, she ponders her past – both good and bad – which gives her a sense of freedom and self-discovery. Jean-Marc Vallée (director of last year’s Dallas Buyer Club) makes the audience feel like they are on the journey with Strayed, as we see her evolve prior to and during her hike. She’s learning about how to redeem herself and move on from the rough times he had to endure. With ravishing scenery, Wild is an emotional journey that would be discussed about for years to come.

4/4