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Showing posts from 2011

and the nominees are...

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Ladies and gents, since I have the Oscars on my brain lately, I decided to give you my early "Best Picture" predictions. The real nominations won't be out for another month or so, but I couldn't resist putting together my list of potentials.

Bear in mind, these are not necessarily my "favorite" movies from this year, but rather a collection of "Oscar-style" nominees based on what the Academy as done in the past, and the types of movies they normally nominate. You know, flicks that just "seem" like Oscar nominees. So, here goes:







































Ok, so maybe a couple of these are wishful thinking. What do you think?

a decade of Best Pictures

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Now that December is here, we are almost two years into a new decade! My, how time flies. It seems like no time ago that the year 2000 had arrived.

With the ending of a year, there is always the quickly approaching Oscar season. It's already been announced that Billy Crystal will be hosting next year, and that's exciting. It won't be long until the nominees are announced, as well. Hopefully it will be mid to late January. Last year was the strongest year for the Oscars, in my opinion, since 2003. Almost every movie nominated was wonderful. I can only hope next year will be half as good.

That being said, I got reflective on the last decade of Best Picture winners. I thought it would be interesting to run down the list and pick a favorite. Also, it would be interesting to start a conversation about which years were disappointments, and which ones were right on the money.






Best Picture Winners From 2000 - 2009
2009 - "The Hurt Locker"
2008 - "Slumdog Millionaire&quo…

best thanksgiving movies part 2

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After posting my favorite movies of Thanksgiving, I began to get a little frustrated. I don't think I gave that post enough love and attention. There are many movies that would be fantastic for Thanksgiving, and many of them got left out of my prior blog post.


1. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (R) (1987) *NOT FOR KIDS*
If you have kids that want to watch this, I strongly recommend the edited for television version. The "raw" version has some hard language in it that makes it inappropriate for kids. However, for older folks it is a hilarious John Hughes directed comedy classic about getting home to family for Thanksgiving. I grew up watching the tv version with my family, and I have fond memories of us all cracking up with Steve Martin and John Candy. However, if you watch the DVD version you are in for a rude awakening. There's a lot more crude humor in the unedited version.


2. National Treasure (PG) (2004)
This is a fun Mission Impossible meets Indiana Jones search …

top Thanksgiving movies

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It's a great time to get together with your families, eat turkey, watch football, and slowly sink into the abyss of torture and insanity as your loved ones drive you crazy. What better way, after the football, to shut everyone up than by sitting around the tube and watching a family favorite movie?



These movies are my favorite ones to watch at Thanksgiving. They are family-friendly (mostly), and help to cure that holiday cabin fever. Plus, they give you a bit more valuable time with the ones that matter.

1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
This is cinematic escapism in its purist form. As I get older, I appreciate its genius more and more. The characters, the setting, the theme, the visuals, and that wonderful music just improve with age. Good for kids (although a bit creepy at times) and still enchanting for adults, this is the best family movie to watch on / around Thanksgiving. It's also one of my favorite movies ever made.

2. Star Wars Epi…

Halloween Favorites

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Well, folks, All Hallow's Eve is quickly approaching. In a little over a week the country will be celebrating. I have broken up my favorite Halloween movies into different categories. You can click on the links to read each list:


Halloween for Kids

Halloween Classics

Halloween Horror


Now, I'm proud to present my top 13 absolute favorite Halloween movies. This list is a mix of the other three categories and showcases my top spooky Halloween favs! In no particular order:

13. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
12. Beetlejuice (1988)
11. Halloween: Ressurection (2002)
10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
9. Dracula (1932)
8. Campfire Tales (1997)
7. Coraline (2009)
6. Casper (1995)
5. Creepshow 2 (1987)
4. The Garfield Halloween Special / It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1985, '66)
3. The Lost Boys (1987)
2. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
1. Trick R Treat (2009)

Here's a web site of amazing Halloween games to play on your PC:


Halloween Arcade

The Magic of Kate Winslet

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Kate Winslet has earned international superstardom from the 90's blockbuster Titanic. I consider Titanic to be one of the best movies of the 90's because of its romantic interpretation of the Titanic era, the James Cameron tone and pacing, and the charismatic performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

Fastforward ten years to 2008, and audiences see a different Kate Winslet in The Reader. The wonderful thing about this bleak drama is that the story is rich with the characters' complexities, and the story weaves an unpredictable tale about the sad, difficult subjects of Nazi Germany, adolescent angst and confusion, and issues of personal loyalty. That's a lot for a movie to tackle these days, in the age of Twilight and Transformers. The Reader is based on a novel, which accounts for the complexities in the story.

The saving grace of The Reader is the wonderful performance by Kate Winslet of troubled and manipulative character of Hanna Schmitz, and David Kross as…

the best Halloween Horror Movies (you've probably never seen)

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Time for a Buzz Halloween update! This next category is Halloween Horror. These are straight up "horror" movies that scare, terrorize, and thrill those who dare to embark upon the darker, more bloody aspect of Halloween movies. They are not even necessarily "about" Halloween, but they are appropriate for the Halloween season.

I gravitate toward horror films that are in "short story" format. I guess they appeal to my short attention span. But also, they're more creative because you get a greater variety.

Horror movies always dance around the line between true terror and comedy. In the attempt to make us scared, these movies often become absolutely hilarious. These unintentional comedic moments created a whole culture of people that love to sit around and laugh at The Evil Dead, which made leading man Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi both very famous (and even legendary) in Hollywood. So, in that spirit, I suppose every one of these movies have eleme…

Halloween Classics

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Welcome to my new category of Halloween movies: Halloween Classics. These Halloween classics age like a fine wine. They're as standard to Halloween as jack-0-lanterns, costumes, trick-or-treating, and candy corn. They have endured over generations, and continue to fascinate, repulse, and entertain people on All Hallow's Eve.

You will notice that many of these movies are from Universal Pictures in the 30's and 40's. This was the golden age of the horror movie, and Universal was cashing out in a big way. Horror movies were selling tickets like hot cakes, and Hollywood business boomed. Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff became big stars in this era, and they were constantly trying to outdo each other. Many of the classic images of Dracula and Frankenstein did not originated from the original books, like many assume, but from these Universal movies.

The Exorcist is also worth special note. It was extremely controversial when it came out in 1973. It created waves worldwide. There…

Halloween Fun for Kids

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1. Halloween is almost here!
It's that time of year. The cooler weather, changing leaves, fun commercials, the yard decorations, and stores' aisles of cool Halloween stuff all mean autumn is here!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It is a magical mix of adventure, horror, fun,creativity, and excitement. And, who could forget: CANDY! It is the time of year when everyone expresses their fears, and faces them head on. And, since I am obsessed with movies, I have very strong opinions about Halloween movies.

Halloween movies are one of the best ways for groups to celebrate the holiday, in my opinion. Halloween movies express things brilliantly in a way that no other art form can. I love Halloween music, decorations, and visual arts, as well. But, movies capture the magic better than anything else because of a combination of music, visuals, character, and storytelling. All these elements combine to tap into our fears, fantasies, and nightmares.

Also, everyone has a different app…

Courageous

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my rating: 4 out of 5


Courageous is a passionate, melodramatic, and heartfelt Christian drama from writer/director Alex Kendrick. This is the same team that made Fireproof and Facing the Giants.

Courageous tells us the story of a group of police officers who fight gang members by day and try to lead their families by night. Their badges say "Albany", but everyone had a southern accent. It took a minute to realize that they are in Albany, Georgia (NOT Albany, New York!) Adam Mitchell (played by Alex Kendrick) decides to take his fathering commitments one step further. He drafts a contract, of sorts, that he wants to sign in front of his buddies, family, and God. It is a contract that lists a series of promises of how he will be a faithful father and husband. His co-officers are so moved and convicted that they, too, decide to sign the contract.

THE BAD:
Courageous has some ridiculous and awkward moments. Some of the scenes seem to be an awkward wrestling match with the dialouge, …

The Bucket List

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my rating: 3 out of 5

I have been avoiding watching The Bucket List since ever since it came out. It makes me extremely uncomfortable to confront mortality head on. It's just so inevitable: everyone will die, with no exceptions. It's just a difficult thing to dwell on. And, it can become unhealthy if you get too preoccupied with the subject.

The Bucket List is a Hollywood attempt to shed some light on the uncomfortable subjects of illness, pain, and death. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two older men who share a hospital room. They're both diagnosed with terminal cancer. They've never met before being admitted, but predictably, they begin to develop a friendship. Before long, they make a list of things they want to do before they "kick the bucket." AKA - a bucket list. Jack Nicholson's character is extremely wealthy (he actually owns the hospital he's in!) So, they set off on a journey to accomplish their lofty goals.

The subject of death is bro…

Best movies of the 00's

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With the CGI effects coming into full bloom in the decade from 00 to 09, Hollywood churned out some incredible effects-driven movies. I believe this lead to a renaissance, of sorts, of comic book movies. I happen to love comic book movies, and it was a great decade for them. It seems like Hollywood finally realized that people across a wide spectrum of demographics love seeing the hero win. (aka - will fork out lots of cash and buy lots of tickets!)

Aside from comic book movies, there were an array of interesting movies that had their own kind of indie vibe. the 00's were mostly defined, in my opinion, by the likes of Wes Anderson and films like Lost In Translation. It was also the decade that we saw the likes of Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, and Will Ferrell become huge stars. I also really loved seeing Bill Murray enter a new phase of stardom with pretty much an entire decade of wonderful indie films, filled with fantastic Murray performances.

25. Elf (2003)
This was the decade wher…

Netflix Fail

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Reed Hastings just can't win. Yesterday, the Netflix CEO sent out a mass email to all Netflix customers to "apologize" for the rushed, poor communication about the services price increase, and the failure to communicate clearly about the company splitting in half. The apology was prompted by a wide-ranging, mass rage prompted by the horrible and abrupt changes made at Netflix.

If you're not familiar with the Netflix split, let me briefly explain. They are going to have a separate company called "Qwikster" that is going to be the DVD mailing service. "Netflix" will become the streaming only service. This is a service that allows you to stream movies and TV shows to your computer, certain devices that connect to your TV, iPads, and many mobile phones. Another change to Netflix is the 60% price increase they implemented not too long ago.




As a movie blogger, I know you giant hoard of loyal readers are hanging on my every word, hoping that I'll weig…

Contagion

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my rating: 3.5 out of 5
A mysterious sickness begins to spread across America, and the rest of the world. It can be traced back to one woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) who made a recent trip to China. The Center for Disease Control must work quickly to research, contain, and find the cure for this destructive bug. Is it biological terrorism? Conspiracy? A freak occurrence of nature? Everyone must put themselves at risk to find the answers; and quickly.

Contagion is the latest film from director Steven Soderbergh, director of such gems as three OceansEleven movies, Traffic, and Erin Brockovich. How does this one stack up against those?

Not as good, in my opinion. However, it does have a lot of positive qualities. It has a hard-hitting cast, including Matt Damon as a hapless husband and father, Gwyneth Paltrow as a sick person, Kate Winslet as a disease investigator, Laurence Fishburne as a head honcho doctor at the CDC, and Jude Law as a conspiracy blogger. (who seems to be sadly absent from lead …

Paul: Now on DVD

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my rating: 2.5 out of 5
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame, star in this road trip comedy about two British nerds visiting Comic-Con who stumble upon a real live alien. There is an abundance of "blue" humor, atheism, and foul language to poison the well for me. Any charm this movie may have had has been destroyed by the negative elements.


Otherwise, there are some great actors (Simon, Nick, Bill Hader from SNL, Kristen Wiig from SNL, and Jason Bateman.) There are even a couple of surprise cameos to liven the sci-fi spirit of this cheesy comedy.

There are plenty of "inside" Star Wars references throughout, and it seems the writers / producers were enthusiastically reaching for the geek / sci-fi saavy audience. So then, why are the jokes so crude, offensive, and low-brow? Nerds are smart! We don't want half-hearted crass trash to entertain us. Leave that for the Jersey Shore crowd. Nerds need sci-fi comedy to be compelling, smart, an…

What Just Happened?

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my rating: 3 out of 5


I went into this because I love Robert Deniro. There are many great performances, however, including Stanley Tucci, Bruce Willis, and a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart as the daughter.

I find most movies about showbiz appealing. This movie is about one producer's (Robert DeNiro) battle to get a controversial movie made because there is so much money invested in it. At the same time, he is trying to get another movie off the ground that stars a very precocious Bruce Willis as himself. The editing style is embarrassingly similar to Sideways in that it allows scenes to breath, yet it will abruptly switch to a new scene every now and then. Yet, I was interested throughout and it kept the pace fast.

DeNiro is so convincing, it carried me through. A lesser actor couldn't make this work. Bruce Willis is also fascinating playing (a version of) himself. It made me curious to know how much of that was the real Bruce Willis, and how much is "put on". I rated it…

Remembering

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Ten years ago today, the United States was changed permanently. I was in college in East Tennessee. I woke up on the sunny, beautiful Tuesday morning and went to a chapel service. We had chapel services twice per week, and this particular one was honoring all the clubs, ministries, and various institutions on campus. The quaint church building was packed, and I remember a whole section of ROTC members in the pews. The picture to the right is the church where the chapel was taking place that morning.





During the chapel service, my friend recieved an "email" news alert on his cell phone. It was an unusual alert, stating that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Towers. I assumed it was a smaller plane, probably an accident or plane malfunction.


Later in the chapel, some people were whispering some things to our college President, a thing, white-haired man in his late fifties, who was sitting at the front of the church sanctuary leading the proceedings. He tentatively …

Best movies of the 90's

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Thinking of the 90's conjures images of flannel shirts, facial hair, jeans with shotgun blasts in them, and Doc Martin boots. I think of weird "alternative" rock (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Primus, etc.), and movies like Dazed and Confused,Clueless, and Scream that were defining the times for teenagers. The 90's were an oddly peaceful decade in many ways. We had a short war in the Persian Gulf under President Bush senior, and that was followed by years of relative financial prosperity. We experienced the dot com boom that brought a new flood of wealth, culture, and technology to us. This same advancing computer technology was beginning to change the way movies were made, too. Cutting edge "CGI" (computer generated images, as I always understood it to mean) were hitting the big screen. It's hard to imagine that Hollywood used models on strings, and stop-motion animation before the CGI came along.

Two movies that changed the world in terms of CGI were Terminator…

(500) Days of Summer

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my rating: 3 out of 5
Completely naive and expecting fate to pick his wife for him, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), falls hard for Summer (Zooey Deschanel). This is a great "end of summer" movie.
500 Days of Summer is a quirky and romantic look at a young person's struggle with finding true love. I didn't absolutely love this movie, nor did I hate it. Director Marc Webb definitely gets inventive with some of the chronoligical narrative, and the split-screen technique employed in interesting ways. i think that's why I gave it three stars. I want to say, in my heart, that it's a modern day version of Annie Hall, but I think people would get offended if I said that. But, I guess I just said it. :)









Best summer movie of 2011

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The summer movie season has come to a close. It has been memorable, with big movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows part 2. Vote on your favorite! Leave comments about your fav!








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Tim Allen: has he still got it?

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Tim Allen has a new sitcom coming out this Fall called "Last Man Standing". The major networks must conduct focus groups to determine the most broadly appealing, yet semi-humorous / vaguely generic titles they can conjure up. But, I kinda like the new title. I don't know if the new show will be any good or not, but the ads look funny. It's about a man living in a world surrounded by women. Most sitcoms fail miserably, so I don't expect much. I was sort of a fan of "Home Improvement", though. Love it or hate it, that show provided the next step of evolution for mediocre sitcoms. It's hard to believe, though, that the final episode of "Home Improvement" was twelve years ago!
With that being said, Tim Allen has spent the last twelve years churning out hit-or-miss comedy movies. If you like him or not, he is a comedy force to be reckoned with. I decided to give you my favorite Tim Allen comedies. There are plenty of horrendously bad movies to…

Best Movies of the 80's

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Ah, the 80's! A most beloved time from my childhood. I am a child of the 80's, and no other decade of cinema has impacted my life more than the Reagan era 1980's.
In my life experience, I have found that the 80's were a renaissance in American pop culture. Everything from movies, tv, and music were kicked into a new era of optimism and awesomeness. This list of 80's favorites is, by far, the most comprehensive and most loved list of favorites I have made. I have so many childhood memories that were shaped either directly or indirectly by some of these movies. Like, watching the Star Wars trilogy in my basement, on VHS, with childhood friends. Or, experiencing 88 mph in the Delorean with my family on our "movie night." Or, as a child, being obsessed and fascinated with werewolves because of Michael J. Fox and that cheeseball comedy Teen Wolf.
I have elminated all horror movies from this list because they fall into a different category. The 1980's was …