Remember this trailer? #4 – “Top Gun” (1986)

Classic Trailer Flashback – “Top Gun” (1986)

“I feel the need, the need for speed”. It’s a ridiculous, cheesy, and absolutely fantastic line that captures what makes “Top Gun” such a great movie especially for teens of the 1980s. It actually wasn’t the trailer that first got me excited for “Top Gun”. It was the music video for “Danger Zone” by movie soundtrack superstar Kenny Loggins. But when I saw the trailer with my family my dad was sold. The movie actually had something for everyone and the trailer shows that. It is 100% a product of the 80s which may hurt it with younger audiences, but I loved “Top Gun” as a kid and…well….I still do.

So, do you remember the trailer for “Top Gun”? What do you think?

Random Thoughts: The 2017 Oscars

It’s hard to believe another year and another Oscars ceremony has come and gone. As expected a lot of things went the obvious route and there were very few surprises. The were some great speeches, some weird moments, and relentless political babbling from Jimmy Kimmel . But the 2017 Academy Awards will forever be remembered for its ridiculous goofup to end the night. As a whole it was a fun celebration of the past movie season. As I do every year, here are a few random thoughts.

  • Jimmy Kimmel had some decent moments. There were some good gags particularly his constant bit with Matt Damon and some of his political stuff hit the mark. Eventually politics got old yet Kimmel milked it dry. He ended up helping the show run about 40 minutes over. Overall not bad hosting but nothing special.
  • Let’s get right to it. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s Best Picture announcement is now etched in Oscar history. The win went to “La La Land”, they had time to walk up to the stage, they hugged and celebrated, gave acceptance speeches, and then someone magically got word that “Moonlight” was the actual winner? I’m not a conspiracy theorist but something seems a little fishy.
  • Beatty has gotten a lot of heat, but it’s pretty clear he and Dunaway aren’t to blame. The production team and PricewaterhouseCoopers are more responsible for the flub. Who knows the full truth, but it sure is a lot to swallow. Pretty embarrassing. It was a kind move by Kimmel to try and deflect the blame towards himself.

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  • As for “Moonlight”, it remains my least favorite of the Best Picture nominees. I just don’t share the adoration. It’s a very okay movie that loses a ton of steam once Mahershala Ali leaves the screen. Aside from Ali and some striking camerawork, “Moonlight” takes a long time to say much of anything, but it does check several important boxes that will help Academy voters to feel better after last year’s drumming.
  • Hats off to Jordan Horowitz, producer for “La La Land”. In what had to be a major disappointment he was incredibly gracious is handing the trophies over to “Moonlight”. Wonderful appreciation shown back by Barry Jenkins. Both men showed a lot of class.
  • “La La Land” didn’t go home empty-handed. The film won six Oscars despite missing a well-deserved Best Picture win. There were hints it could lose the biggest award. For some reason many naturally rebel against movies that earn a lot of awards attention. Plus with so many people currently hellbent on division why would the Best Picture Oscar go to a nostalgic movie aimed at making us feel good and offering a cinematic and musical escape? Unfortunately the writing was on the wall.
  • Remember when “Hacksaw Ridge” won for Best Editing? Historically there’s a strong link between winners of Best Editing and Best Picture. I thought for a second that we might be blindsided at the end of the show. Actually we were but for much different reasons.
  • Predictably Casey Affleck won the Best Actor Oscar for “Manchester by the Sea”. Great performance but Denzel Washington was my hands-down favorite. I knew he was a long shot to win, but he gave a performance not to be forgotten. And what an amazing presence at the Oscars!

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  • Speaking of Affleck, notice how he got a standing ovation yet many still treat Mel Gibson as a pariah? Another case of selective forgiveness?
  • And speaking of Mel, it looked like he was having a good time and took Kimmel’s ribbing like a champ. It was also nice to see his genuine joy for the others who won for “Hacksaw Ridge”.
  • My goodness, Viola Davis. Not only did she give one of the best performances in “Fences”, but she gave the best speech of the night. She was gracious and genuinely moved. Supporting Actress was a strong category but Davis was definitely the best. It was so good to hear her name called.
  • While we are on great speeches, the humility shown by Mahershala Ali was incredible. His Supporting Actor win clearly touched him which is always great to see. He gave three really good performances in 2016 and it’s good to see his work rewarded.
  • The parachuting candy thing – did they really need to do it THREE times?
  • On the other hand the tour bus bit was pretty funny. Imagine that surprise! And thanks to it #garyfromchicago became a thing!
  • One of the real treats of the night was seeing winners spread out among most of the Best Picture nominees. “La La Land”, “Moonlight”, “Hacksaw Ridge”, “Manchester by the Sea”, “Fences” and “Arrival” each took home statues.
  • Sunny Pawar was absolutely delightful. Kimmel looked a little goofy during their moment but how adorable was Pawar?

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  • The In Memoriam was particularly brutal this year. Many scoff at the Academy’s “death montage”. I actually appreciate the honoring of their memory. Fisher, Hurt, Kennedy, Riva, Reynolds, Wilder, Paxton, Yelchin, Kiarostami and so many more. Tough losses.
  • And Sara Bareilles’ singing of “Both Sides Now” during the In Memoriam – emotional and beautiful.
  • The Best Picture goof up wasn’t the Academy’s only mistake. During the In Memoriam costume designer and four-time Oscar nominee Janet Patterson was shown. She passed away last October. Here’s the problem, along with her name was a picture of Jan Chapman, a producer who is quite alive. Come on Academy, really?
  • Here’s a fun Oscar fact that may have went unnoticed. Kevin O’Connell won the Sound Mixing Oscar for “Hacksaw Ridge”. It was his 21st nomination without a single win…until last night!
  • Despite taking up a Best Actress spot from several more deserving women, they still found a way to give Meryl Streep a standing ovation. Yes, we get it, she’s great, move on.
  • I’m usually not that into the musical performances on Oscar night but a couple really stood out. I mentioned Bareilles, but how about young Auli’i Cravalho ? She hit the audience with a soaring rendition of “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”. It was fabulous despite her being hit with a flag. And then she ended it with a sweet genuine exhale. Her expression was priceless.

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  • “Suicide Squad” is now an Oscar winner! Can DC now claim victory over Marvel in the superhero movie genre? Not even close.
  • Back to the Kimmel vs Damon bit, when Damon came out with Ben Affleck to present he was announced as “guest”. Any time Damon would try and speak Kimmel had the orchestra play him off. Everything about it worked. Hilarious.
  • Asghar Farhadi wins his second Foreign Language Oscar for “The Salesman”, a film that still hasn’t opened around me. He remains one of my favorite working directors and I love seeing him honored.

Those are just a few random thoughts on what was a really weird night. As usual the Academy had several hits and misses, but still the art took center stage. How about we do it again next year?

REVIEW: “Paterson”

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“Paterson”, the beguiling new film from Jim Jarmusch, is certain to be criticized by some as slow and mundane. They wouldn’t be wrong. But the great joy of the film lies in Jarmusch’s unfettered assurance in his story and in the way it should be told. And when a true craftsman is confident in what he’s creating you can bet there is purpose and meaning hidden in the film’s every corner. So it becomes our duty to look deeper into the supposed minutia and see what he is trying to convey. That’s always been part of the allure of Jarmusch’s films.

“Paterson” is no different. It’s a cinematic poem about a poet and the everyday life that inspires his poetry. To understand the film we must understand the man. And to understand the man we must understand his life. To do that Jarmusch takes us through seven ordinary days for a man named Paterson (played by a perfectly subdued Adam Driver), a bus driver from (poetically) Paterson, New Jersey.

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Paterson’s life is one of routine. Each morning he wakes up around 6:15, snuggles with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and eats a bowl of cereal before walking to work. When he gets home they have dinner then he walks their cantankerous English bulldog Marvin (an absolute scene-stealer). While out he stops at a corner bar where he treats himself to one beer. We usually leave him staring into his half-empty or half-full mug, depending on how his day went. The next morning this creature of habit gets up and does it all over again.

But it’s the spaces in between this daily routine that give the film life – the collections of seemingly small things that make even the most ordinary day unique. Jarmusch fills these spaces with an assortment of the simplest conversations, observations, and interactions. He never feels compelled to manufacture melodrama or conflict. Instead he allows life to happen without any dramatic prodding. And it’s these modestly presented moments that give Paterson his identity.

With his soulful face, tempered emotions and unassuming presence, Driver couldn’t be better suited for Jarmusch’s low-key vision. His Paterson eases through life, accepting and embracing what it has to offer. That mindset feeds into his poetry which he pieces together during the quiet moments of his day. I’m not the guy to say whether his poems are good or not, but where they come from and what they reveal about Paterson is far more important than their quality. His poetry is a window into one of Jarmusch’s running themes – appreciation for the little things. I mean he wrote an entire poem about a box of matches.

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Even his relationship with Laura reflects a gentle, relaxed perspective. They delightfully compliment one another despite their noticeable differences. Look no further than their creativity. Paterson’s poetry is personal and he keeps it tucked away in his notebook. Laura’s creative ambitions are flaky but earnest and she doesn’t mind sharing it with anyone. Paterson is dedicated to poetry despite his lack of confidence. Laura goes with her artistic flavor of the moment. It may be cupcakes, interior design, or country music guitar. Yet both are equally supportive of the other. Some of the film’s sweetest moments have Paterson taking in Laura’s excitement and then offering encouragement. Again, no spectacular artificial tension. Just life.

“Paterson” is indeed about appreciating the little things. It’s also about the convergence of art and everyday life. It’s even a tender story of love and contentment. As in his previous films Jarmusch’s approach is minimalist yet subtly robust. His structure resembles stanzas of a poem and they are filled with relaxed easygoing rhythms that sweep you through from start to finish. You’ll notice other Jarmusch signatures – his quiet off-beat sense of humor, his compelling use of location, and the fascinating mellow harmony with which he works. If you are a fan of his films like I am, “Paterson” will be an absolute delight.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

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R.I.P. Nellie, an absolute scene-stealer as Marvin.

Remember this trailer? #3 – “The Lost Boys” (1987)

Classic Trailer Flashback – “The Lost Boys” (1987)

I was a teenager during the 1980s and even then movies were a big part of my life. On July 31, 1987 a witty little horror picture from director Joel Schumacher hit theaters. It was “The Lost Boys”. It featured a fantastic blend of horror, humor, great songs and style. And then there was they cast featuring an assortment of young 80s talent. The trailer highlighted all of these elements and did its job of making this a must-see for me. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate it for a number of things it does well, but at the time I remember thinking “vampires, cool music, and Jamie Gertz”. That was enough for me.

So, do you remember the trailer for “The Lost Boys”? What do you think?

 

REVIEW: “Split”

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It’s probably a bit of an understatement to call M. Night Shyamalan’s career one big roller coaster ride. I’m actually far more fascinating by the mass reactions from moviegoers who treat him like a true auteur who has fallen from cinematic grace. I think that’s giving Shyamalan a tad too much credit. “The Sixth Sense” is really good. “Unbreakable” is superb. I’m a big fan of “Signs”. These are three solid movies with a certain cultural standing, but they are hardly great enough to make his subsequent decline so fiercely noteworthy.

Still there is no denying that the quality of Shyamalan’s movies fell like a ton of bricks. And I will freely admit that getting the taste of “Lady in the Water”, “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth” out of your mouth is next to impossible. For many people hope returned with 2015’s “The Visit”, a movie I had a lot of fun with. But for those unwilling to entertain the idea that Shyamalan’s career was back on the upswing, let’s just say “Split”  just might change your mind.

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For the most part the trailer sets up the entire premise. Three teenaged girls are kidnapped while leaving a birthday party. There abductor is Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy), a man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder. We learn through his sessions with his psychologist Dr. Karen Fletcher (played by Betty Buckley) that Kevin possesses 23 unique personalities. Collectively they refer to themselves as The Horde.

While held captive the three girls encounter several of Kevin’s identities including the creepy  “Dennis” and the creepier “Patricia”. But they also meet gentler personalities from within Kevin’s mind, a sign of the intense internal conflict going on inside of him. McAvoy dives into his role head-first and shows off how crafty he can be when let off his leash. He is one of the film’s biggest strengths and it’s mind-boggling watching him bring out personality in each of the identities. It may be through accents, mannerisms, or even the slightest facial expression. Incredibly he makes each of them easily recognizable without any blatantly obvious markers.

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Of the three girls, Casey proves to be the more resilient. She’s cool-headed and observant – qualities learned from her deeply troubled past which Shyamalan feeds to us through a smattering of flashbacks. Casey is wonderfully played by Anya Taylor-Joy who gave an equally strong performance in last year’s “The Witch”. Performance-wise her fellow captives don’t fair as well. In their defense Shyamalan hands them some of the movie’s worst dialogue before leaving them locked up and in their underwear for the entire second half of the movie. Aren’t we tired of that yet?

Shyamalan leans heavily on scenes between Dr. Fletcher and one of Kevin’s more amiable personalities “Barry”. There is a psychological cat-and-mouse element to their sessions which is compelling. Shyamalan may lean on them a tad too much, but that’s not to say the scenes are without meaning. Also they allow for some of McAvoy’s best work. Through these scenes (and for that matter the entire film) Shyamalan maintains his sharp instincts for suspense and his skills with the camera are as good as ever.

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Then you have the finale. You’ll find no spoilers here and do yourself a favor – avoid them at all costs. Shyamalan has an impressive knack for causing you to immediately reevaluate his film after seeing its ending. It has never been more true than with “Split”. Shyamalan twists are a signature of his movies but prior to “The Visit” you could say he had become a parody of himself. “Split” proves he can still completely broadside any audience.

Shyamalan once again shows he is still a filmmaker worth paying attention to. “Split” is a movie with a few problems, some of which were easily avoidable. At the same time James McAvoy gives a stand-out performance and Anya Taylor-Joy continues to show she is the real deal. But most importantly Shyamalan sticks his ending with an insanely clever twist I never saw coming and that immediately compelled me to see the film again. Rarely has a conclusion surprised or impressed me quite like this. See it for yourself.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

The 5th Annual K&M Random Movie Awards

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Today marks the fifth (yes fifth) year that I have put together this highly esteemed and barely anticipated final look back at the previous year in movies. I simply call these the K&M Random Movie Awards. Even the name drips with prestige and significance. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill awards drivel. They are completely random categories yanked out of the air and presented to you. Now, without further delay, the red carpet ceremony is over. Lets get to this year’s ‘winners’…

Best Ensemble Cast – “Hail Caesar!”

The Coen brothers do a lot of things right in their films. One of them is assembling a cast. Just look at these names from “Hail Caesar!” – Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ray Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson. And that’s not even including the young star Alden Ehrenreich. What a cast.

Worst Movie Title – “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

I mean come on. Just say it to yourself a couple of times? Every time I say it I compulsively add an 80’s movie trailer voice-over to it. It’s so corny I can’t help myself.

Best Animated Film- “Kubo and the Two Strings”

I was late coming to this movie but I’m so glad I did. What a visual and emotional delight. The animation is gorgeous and strikingly unique. The same could be said for the story which was a fresh escape from the normal stuff we get.

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Funniest Scene – “Church-Hill” (“Love & Friendship”)

When Tom Bennett gives us a proper introduction to his character in “Love & Friendship” the result is comic gold. In this particular scene his lovable buffoon is hysterically awkward trying to explain his unannounced arrival to Churchill. I will leave it at that so you can enjoy the rest on your own.

Best Soundtrack  “La La Land”

What can I say, I love the music of  “La La Land”. It ranges from romantic to heartbreaking, aching to exhilarating. It’s a joyous mix of big orchestration and old-school jazz with some incredibly catchy riffs that I’m still humming today.

Best Fight Scene – “The Lobster”

Who says a fight scene has to be full of great choreography and visual effects? That certainly isn’t true for the brief and utterly absurd fight in “The Lobster”. A conversation about animals turns into a fight between John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw. It’s just as hysterical as it sounds.

Best Shootout – “Anthropoid”

Out of all of the cinematic gunplay of 2016 nothing matched the climactic firefight at the end of “Athropoid”. Since it does come at the end I won’t spoil anything, but it is intense and incredibly well shot. It also plays heavily into the the story which makes it all the more enthralling.

Creepiest Movie Animal – Black Phillip (“The Witch”)

Of the many creepy things about “The Witch”, who can forget the film’s horned villain Black Phillip? This menacing billy goat terrorized a New England family in the 1630s. How can a goat be so chilling?

Biggest Surprise Movie – “The Jungle Book”

I had zero expectations for this film. None whatsoever. What an incredible surprise. Not only does the film look amazing, but its story was far more satisfying than I ever anticipated.

Best Child Performance – Sunny Pawal (“Lion”)

For the first half of “Lion” Sunny Pawal is the focus. It’s a difficult role but the expressive young boy is marvelous. In scene after scene he breaks our heart and all at the tender age of six.

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Weirdest Casting – Morgan Freeman (“Ben-Hur”)

While “Ben-Hur” wasn’t quite as bad as some people said, it still made some odd choices. Perhaps the biggest was casting Morgan Freeman as a Nubian sheik. Here’s the thing, he never gets out of Morgan Freeman mode which makes it impossible to see him as anyone else.

Best Directorial Debut – Garth Davis (“Lion”)

Directing feature films can’t be easy which is why Garth Davis’ debut is so impressive. “Lion” is a wonderful that balances two timelines. Davis handles it brilliantly. On top of that his film has received six Oscar nominations. How’s that for a first movie?

Goofiest Scene – Geoffrey Rush vs Giant shadowy space demon (“Gods of Egypt”)

Doesn’t the above description say at all? I don’t really know how to put the absurdity into words. A shorn, flaming Geoffrey Rush duking it out in space with a big smoky mass of evil. Seriously, what else needs to be said?

Best Chase Sequence – “Assassin’s Creed”

It’s far from your traditional chase sequence, but the rooftop chase in “Assassin’s Creed” was nothing short of exhilarating. It’s fast-paced, intense and beautifully shot.

Worst Sequel – “Independence Day: Resurgence”

Twenty years since the first film and this is all they can come up with? “Resurgence” is such a bland and lifeless sequel not to mention full of some of the year’s worst performances. I feel for whoever green-lit this mess of a movie.

Best Performance in a Horrible Movie – Margot Robbie (“Suicide Squad”)

“Suicide Squad” wasn’t good in any regard except one – Margot Robbie. Her version of Harley Quinn was the one true highlight. She gives it 110% and ends up capturing what makes that character such fun. Too bad no one else involved could do the same.

Best Ending – “Arrival”

I was already sold on “Arrival” before it reached its finale, but those final 10 minutes cemented it as a truly great film and my favorite of 2016. It’s not only  cerebral, it also packs an unexpected emotional punch.

Best Movie No One Saw – “The Innocents”

I pains me how few people have seen “The Innocents”. Whether its moviegoers or film critics, hardly anyone talked about it by the year’s end. What a shame. “The Innocents” is such a powerful story told with great vision.

Best Villain – The Shark (“The Shallows”)

Forget the routine super-villains, terrorists, or psychopaths. The shark in the surprising thriller “The Shallows” was a terror. This giant predatory menace made Blake Lively beach visit an absolute nightmare.

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Best Horror Movie – “Train to Busan”

Zombies on a train. Sounds silly, right? Actually “Train to Busan” is fantastic. This South Korean horror film is a master class in pacing and tension-building. I couldn’t turn away.

Most Eye-Opening Performance – Kate Beckinsale (“Love & Friendship”)

I’ve always liked Kate Beckinsale but never considered her among the top actresses in the business. That was until “Love & Friendship”. Beckinsale shows acting chops that rivaled any performance from 2016.

Best Voice Acting – Idris Elba (“The Jungle Book”)

I could listen to Idris Elba read a telephone book. He has that type of hypnotic voice. In “The Jungle Book” he gives us one of the year’s best villains. Elba is so entrancing that it doesn’t matter he is a scar-faced tiger. You completely buy it.

Most Overly Praised Film – “Zootopia”

Messages are good. Bludgeoning your audience to death with them is not. “Zootopia” starts off good, but the second half becomes a heavy-handed drumming at the expense of its story. Yet it still has a huge following and will probably win the Animated Feature Oscar.

Most Unfairly Maligned Film – “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”

Before it even hit theaters “BvS” became a fashionable punching bag for many. It has let up a little, but it’s still showered with overblown criticisms and now Razzies in every category. Good grief.

Best Non-La La Land Dance Sequence – “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”

Happy Birthday Ricky Baker! There are several things in “Wilderpeople” that come completely out of the blue. One is the forest dance scene where Ricky busts some serious moves. Sam Neil’s expression makes it even better.

Worst Comedy – “The Do-Over”

Adam Sandler. Do I have to say anything else. I probably could but I would rather not.

Best Superhero Film – “Captain America: Civil War”

The Captain America movies have been some of the very best from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That continued with “Civil War”, a film that could just as easily be called “Avengers 2.5”.

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Best Movie Mustache – Colin Farrell (“The Lobster”)

I could come up with all sorts of oddball categories for “The Lobster” – Best Use of a Toaster, Best Cameo by a Peacock, and so on. Instead I’ll stick with Best Mustache, an award that Colin Farrell wins with ease (depending on how you define “best”).

Best Visual Effects – “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Okay, a couple of CGI characters may have been a bit a little jarring, but aside from that “Rogue One” looks absolutely stunning. From the space battles to the new worlds, it’s hard not to be wow’d by the incredible effects.

Best Western – “In a Valley of Violence”

Ethan Hawke verses John Travolta in the wild west? That’s an automatically selling point. Actual the film is a lean, fresh take on the western genre from writer/director Ti West.

Biggest Letdown – “Jason Bourne”

“Jason Bourne” isn’t a bad movie. It’s just incredibly flat and utterly forgettable. Not at all what I expected from the returning Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass. Maybe I need to give it another chance. The first viewing left no impression.