Review: Pacific Rim

A damaged Jaeger collapses after a battle in 'Pacific Rim.'

A damaged Jaeger collapses after a battle in ‘Pacific Rim.’

Director Guillermo del Toro clearly never identified with those people who live by the adage ‘less is more.’ His movie Pacific Rim, a sci-fi epic that pits human-powered robots against giant monsters, is as colossal a summer blockbuster as there ever was or ever will be. Del Toro’s greatest directorial challenge is ensuring that it never collapses under its own weight. Miraculously, he pulls it off. Pacific Rim succeeds against all odds; it’s a visually dazzling powerhouse that packs both emotional resonance and an unfailing sense of fun. In a word, it’s awesome. In two words, it’s really awesome.

As towering human-powered robots called Jaegers fight even larger monsters called Kaijus to save humankind from annihilation, the sheer size of Pacific Rim‘s action is jaw-dropping. Even more shocking is how Del Toro miraculously keeps the film’s battle sequences coherent and clear, never losing his footing despite the film’s scale. It’s a testament to his talent that a scene’s action can encompass an entire city without the audience losing track of what’s what.  

Pacific Rim‘s top-notch cast also helps the movie soar, particularly Idris Elba, who’s outstanding as stoic commanding officer Stacker Pentecost. His performance, complete with booming voice, soulful eyes, and surprising emotional depth, demands the audience’s attention. The chemistry between leads Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi, two unlikely Jaeger pilots who become humanity’s last hope against the Kaijus, is also terrific. Del Toro staple Ron Perlman shows up to deliver some cheesy but still great lines as larger-than-life black marketeer Hannibal Chau. And Charlie Day nearly steals the show as an energetic scientist studying the monsters, providing laughs and heart in equal measure.

However, the biggest thing that Pacific Rim has going for it is ever-present energy, courtesy of del Toro. This is his ode to the Japanese monster movies of his youth, executed with due reverence, visual gusto and expert aplomb. No matter how large the action gets, del Toro successfully emulates the simple magic of a kid playing with toys in a sandbox, letting the audience bask in that youthful exuberance as well. His boundless enthusiasm for the genre shines through.

Although Pacific Rim‘s action sequences take up a huge chunk of the movie, they never feel drawn out or artificial. One colossal battle in Hong Kong is terrific fun, both exciting and remarkably innovative. A smaller-scale martial arts scene with fighting sticks is just as cool to watch. And the film’s grand finale, a fast and furious fight to the death on the ocean floor, is a thrilling pièce de résistance.

Throughout the film, Del Toro’s confident direction allows the film to take risks with its narrative and cinematography, and those risks pay off tremendously. For one, Pacific Rim doesn’t shy away from the human cost of war against the Kaijus, capturing both the perspectives of civilians caught in crossfire and of the monster-mashing pilots. As such, the most devastating moment of the movie comes early on, as a terrified young girl finds herself in a Kaiju’s path of destruction. Additionally, the direction often highlights the strange beauty of the movie’s creatures – both the Jaegers and Kaijus are wondrous to behold, dazzling CGI behemoths which move with an almost celestial grace at times.

The only time when Pacific Rim ever really stumbles is when it overreaches with its story. Some ideas the script puts forth about the origins of the Kaijus don’t sit well, and other plot points in the story’s set-up are undeniably weak. But even with those few shortcomings, Pacific Rim ultimately succeeds both as a tribute to Japanese monster movies and a resuscitation of the same. Any gripes with the plot don’t even register once Hunnam and Kikuchi strap into their Jaeger and throw down with fearsome Kaijus in any of the film’s breathtaking action sequences.

As far as action goes, there’s no better film to see this summer. Pacific Rim is an imaginative and thrilling popcorn-pleasure spectacle that doesn’t let gargantuan scale sacrifice a big heart and sense of fun. What more do you need to hear? Go get lost in Del Toro’s crazy-cool childhood fantasy, and experience the breathtaking grandeur of his fully-realized vision for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. A-

Photo Courtesy: Warner Bros.

DVD Review: The Call

Halle Berry picks up the phone in 'The Call.'

Halle Berry picks up the phone in ‘The Call.’

The Call is a better movie than it needs to be, and you should be grateful for that. After all, this is a thriller arriving in the middle of March, where most studios usually bury their duds. But lo and behold, save for a final fifteen minutes that throw credulity out the window, The Call is a bona-fide nail-biter that mostly delivers on its intriguing premise.

Halle Berry stars as Jordan Turner, a veteran 911 operator who answers a call from teenager Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), who has been abducted by a serial killer (Michael Eklund). As Jordan and the police race to find Casey, Jordan realizes that the girl’s captor is the same man who abducted and murdered a teenage girl six months earlier.

The screenplay cleverly takes a familiar idea and makes it taut and suspenseful by confronting intelligent characters with believable obstacles. Casey’s phone is disposable, which prevents the police from tracking it. Signal strength varies in and out. Computer screens load agonizingly slowly. No one makes any bone-headed moves that take the audience out of the story, a refreshing change from typical thriller fare.

Berry is aces as Jordan, presenting her strengths and weaknesses without making her either superhuman or pathetic. She’s a compulsively watchable heroine, and Berry succeeds in dialing up the tension to almost unbearable levels. Breslin, all grown up, is just as good as a kidnap victim who keeps her wits about her even under the most terrifying circumstances imaginable. Though The Call is her first thriller role, it certainly won’t be her last after this pulse-pounding performance. And Eklund is scary good as the story’s resident maniac, savoring every homicidal giggle.

As Jordan attempts to keep Casey on the line long enough to locate her, The Call is a top-notch thriller. It’s only once Jordan gets out from behind the desk that the movie loses its momentum. The last fifteen minutes, viscerally satisfying though they are, end The Call on an odd, almost sour, certainly implausible note. Less, for The Call, would have definitely been more.

That implausible ending aside, any March thriller that keeps me glued to the edge of my seat as consistently as The Call did is hard to dismiss as common trash. It’s better than most of the generic thrillers that major studios churn out year after year, and that’s noteworthy in of itself. The Call, though it careens wildly out of control in its final act, is an entertaining and accessible way to spend an hour and a half. B

Image Courtesy: Gorgview.com.

DVD Review: The Last Stand

Schwarzenegger prepares for battle alongside Knoxville.

Schwarzenegger prepares for battle alongside Knoxville.

Though billed as Arnie’s big comeback to acting, The Last Stand only really ever adds up to the Governator spinning his wheels and spitting out paltry clichés. What should feel exciting and fresh in this actioner instead comes across as cloying and threadbare, a wasted opportunity. Painfully stilted line reading from the entire cast, especially Arnie, doesn’t help. Sadly, The Last Stand ultimately does more harm to Arnie’s rep than good; Schwarzenegger looks shockingly old, and he’s given agonizingly little to work with.

The Last Stand doesn’t waste much time with set-up. A bad man in a fast car is heading for the border, and only a small-town sheriff (Schwarzenegger) and his motley crew of deputies can stop him. It’s a simple premise but not an unpromising one. And as Arnie, partnered with Jaime Alexander (Thor), Rodrigo Santoro (300), and resident Jackass Johnny Knoxville, preps for battle and comes out guns blazing, the film has a certain charm. What a shame that the energy it should have dissipates so quickly.

Schwarzenegger knows he’s best at kicking ass, so that’s what he spends a good portion of the movie doing. It’s once he’s required to start talking that the film really starts to fall apart; between his thick accent and the often incomprehensible script, nothing but the action works. And it’s not even all Arnie’s fault. The supporting cast, composed of typically fine actors like Forest Whitaker (playing a DEA agent) and Alexander, is for some reason incapable of delivering any good lines at all. Most of them are so mediocre that they fade from memory before the end credits roll. Watching Whitaker pace as his prisoner escapes him is less fun than watching paint dry. It’s only Knoxville who manages to make some jokes land with his typical manic, daredevil energy, but his part is strangely limited to only a few scenes. A buddy-cop flick with the Governator and the Jackass would have been much more fun to watch. Alas, they share only a few minutes of screen-time, spouting hackneyed dialogue all the while.

The action is serviceable, with some nifty car chases and a satisfying shootout that decimates half of the sheriff’s sleepy town. But there’s not enough of it, and The Last Stand takes too long in getting to that titular climax. The first hour and twenty minutes feel like warm-up, because that’s all they are. By the time the bullets start flying in earnest, it’s too little, too late. It would be one thing if the screenwriter had something interesting to say in the scenes he stuffs with dialogue, but it’s all dull platitudes, accomplishing nothing. There are only a couple of lines that show signs of life, but those are rarities, and the monotony is grating. I’m sure that Arnie will back, and I can only hope that it’s in fare better than this. C-

 

Photo Courtesy: Spinoff – Comic Book Resources.

DVD Review: Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters

Arterton and Renner have a bone to pick with the world's witches.

Arterton and Renner have a bone to pick with the world’s witches.

Reviewing a movie like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a fool’s errand. Anyone who can read knows that this dark fantasy, starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, is not aiming to win any awards or make picky critics happy. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters wants to be exactly what it sounds like – a bloody, fun, and unapologetically loopy revenge fantasy, starring two very attractive people and a whole lot of nasty-looking weapons. And there’s something to be said for a movie that gives its audience exactly what it promised them in the first place. For most of its short (88-minute) running time, it’s a shamelessly simple, delightfully disposable take on a classic story. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

The movie picks up the tale of two extremely gullible siblings fifteen years later; evidently lacking access to therapy, they’ve dealt with their trauma by becoming formidable bounty hunters, hunting down every witch in sight with a stockpile of crossbows, shotguns, and pistols. Both still bear serious psychological and physical scars from their imprisonment (Hansel’s a diabetic as a result of his forced candy binge, a nice touch), and their mission to destroy all witches is a very personal. When they arrive in the town of Augsburg, where children are going missing, Hansel and Gretel face their toughest challenge yet: a coven of witches led by the powerful Muriel (Famke Janssen).

Director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) pulled off a major casting coup with Arterton and Renner, two stars typically found in higher brow fare than this. The two are game and have an easy chemistry both in their conversations and their witch beat-downs. They do a decent job of bringing to life their certifiably badass characters, no easy task. Their performances are intentionally serious, and while that does work with the film’s tone, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters would have been more entertaining if both the script and the actors had loosened up a bit instead of playing it straight. Arterton seems to be having a better time than Renner, whose scowl never recedes for a second, but neither one of them truly runs with the absurdity of the movie’s central concept.

Wirkola keeps the pace moving quickly, likely to hide the undercooked script, and it’s not a bad choice, because with such tight direction, the film never wears out its welcome. The director also embraces his film’s darkness, maxing out the gore and griminess in his action sequences.Unfortunately, the movie’s serious tone is a poor choice given how close the movie’s concept is to falling over the edge into parody. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is at its heart a revenge fantasy, about two screwed up adults with a bone to pick, and that refreshingly simple concept would have served a goofier film better. Even as blood and guts splatter the screen, it’s all should be tongue-in-cheek, never grim or morbid.

The film is positioned as the start to a series, which gives me both hope and concern. There isn’t much to Wirkola’s concept, enough for one movie, sure, but probably not enough for a series. Then again, with subsequent installments on the way, perhaps the leads and the script can loosen up and tell a fun story, instead of getting weighed down with introductions. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters doesn’t take place in any particular time period and accuracy was clearly not a concern in this first film, so the sky’s the limit for what they can do with follow-ups. One thing I do know is that Arterton and Renner are a team I’d watch anywhere. B

Image Courtesy: JoBlo.

DVD Review: Broken City

Crowe and Wahlberg come face to face.

Crowe and Wahlberg come face to face.

There are exciting, engrossing thrillers, and there are godawful thrillers. Broken City, boasting a terrific cast including Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, should fall into the first category, but instead winds up in the middle, wallowing in mediocrity due to its disappointingly weak script. Broken City is not a bad film, but it’s also far too meager and simplistic to measure up against the classic film noirs it attempts to emulate, like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.

Director Allen Hughes treats the audience to some gorgeous images of the cityscape, focusing in on looming, opaque skyscrapers as if to expose the city’s darker, more sinister side. New York feels alive and dangerous, and the cinematography is often striking; one brutally fast car crash is so potent that it gave me whiplash. The director’s skill in transforming his setting into a secondary character suggests a major talent. Unfortunately, Broken City‘s undercooked script doesn’t give Hughes much to work with.

Protagonist Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) is an ex-cop working as a private eye after killing a homicidal rapist who got off on a technicality. Struggling to make ends meet, he sees an easy way out when Mayor Nicolas Hostetler (Crowe) offers him big bucks to look into his wife’s affair. But when Taggart starts to dig deeper, he finds himself in over his head and in the ruthless politician’s crosshairs.

Wahlberg, sporting a thick Boston accent, plays Taggart with a mix of streetwise wariness, moral indecision, and sullen anger. Crowe one-ups him as the charismatic, slimy Hostetler; he’s a simultaneously charming, menacing, and unsettlingly plausible villain, a ruthless Machiavellian fat cat who delights in playing puppet master. It’s an unconventional part for Crowe but one that he plays well, filling every line with dangerous verve. And Zeta-Jones brings a sense of class as the elegant and sultry First Lady, as cunning and cold-blooded as her husband. The supporting cast is also strong, especially Alona Tal as Taggart’s loyal assistant and Jeffrey Wright as an unscrupulous police commissioner.

As Wahlberg and Crowe face off, the movie comes to life with a powerful kick, upping the tension with every line. But outside of those few compelling snippets of dialogue (Crowe’s rousing, guileful speech during a mayoral debate comes to mind), there’s very little going on. It’s all style, no substance; ultimately, Broken City‘s plot is its weakest link. Like Crowe’s politics, despite all the posturing and presentation, what it all comes down to is unabashedly straightforward. With a cast as great as this, a more interesting, layered story would have elevated Broken City above standard genre fare. As it is, the movie is diverting without being particularly smart, thoughtful, or exciting. It’s a no-frills B-movie masquerading as something much more interesting. B-

Photo Courtesy: ScreenCrave.

Review: The Purge

Ethan Hawke expects some unwanted visitors.

Ethan Hawke expects some unwanted visitors.

Is mankind inherently evil? If murder was legal, would you kill someone? Is the letter of the law the only thing preventing carnage on a massive scale? James DeMonaco’s micro-budgeted horror thriller The Purge has a lot of big questions on its mind. What a shame that it’s never given the opportunity to answer them.

The Purge imagines America in 2022 as “a nation reborn.” Poverty and crime are at all-time lows because, for twelve hours a year, citizens are given carte blanche to kill, rob, rape, destroy, you name it, in the name of purging all of their most angry base instincts. It’s a neat concept, perhaps one that doesn’t completely hold up under close scrutiny (the impoverished and starving don’t feel hungry enough to steal any other time of the year?), but one that’s innovative nonetheless.

The film narrows its scope too much by focusing on the Sandins, a wealthy family living in an affluent suburb. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) works as a home security developer, while his wife Mary (Lena Headey) deals with the difficult kids, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). They live an idyllic life, until the Purge starts, and stupid/innocent Charlie momentarily lifts the fortifications to allow a man running for his life into their home. As the man’s pursuers attempt to break into their home, the Sandins find themselves fighting for their lives, and the film  begins to dissolve into horror-movie cliches.

Hawke clearly embraces his ‘action-hero’ role, and he pulls it off for the most part. His fight scenes are exciting and believable. Hawke lacks the physical presence of Liam Neeson, for one, but he succeeds in holding the audience’s attention. Headey is also well-cast, showing off a dramatic range typically reserved for higher-caliber movies than this. A psychotic Rhys Wakefield plays his small part well. No one else stays on screen long enough to make an impression.

After its promising beginning, as DeMonaco showcases some of the horrific violence perpetrated during the Purge, the film becomes disappointingly bogged down by its plot, which refuses to allow The Purge to move past the home invasion subgenre to address its most compelling ideas.The film’s bigger themes are buried by ceaseless, senseless violence, frustratingly so.

Faceless baddies lunge from the shadows, blood spurts everywhere, there’s a predictable third-act twist, and none of it sticks after the credits roll. Inexplicably, the film’s only original aspect – its thought-provoking premise – is sidelined in favor of cheap, gory, toothless kicks. The audience gets few answers, and with a running time of only 85 minutes, The Purge is too slight to pull off the thoughtful social commentary it’s striving for.

The Purge is a serviceable home invasion thriller, but it gives hints that it could have been more. With such an intriguing central idea, it should have been much more. For a high-concept movie about a society reliant on heinous violence, The Purge is dismayingly tame.  C+

Photo Courtesy: The Hollywood News.

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Adds a Mutant

Evan Peters has joined the new 'X-Men.'

Evan Peters has joined the new ‘X-Men.’

Evan Peters, the breakout star of FX creepest American Horror Story, has landed a main role in the upcoming X-Men sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past. The new entry will bring together characters from the X-Men trilogy and prequel X-Men: First Class.

Singer broke the news over Twitter: “Before he was an #Avenger, he was just a REALLY fast kid. Thrilled to say #EvanPeters is joining#XMen #DaysOfFuturePast as#Quicksilver.”

Peters will portray Quicksilver, a mutant with the ability of super speed. In the comics, Quicksilver was Magneto’s son, and he later joined The Avengers along with his sister Scarlet Witch. How he will factor in to the film’s growing cast has yet to be determined.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter. 

Photo Courtesy: Collider.

Critics’ Choice TV Award Noms Announced

Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson of FOX's 'New Girl' are both up for awards this year.

Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson of FOX’s ‘New Girl’ are both up for awards this year.

Nominations for the 3rd Annual Critics’ Choice TV Awards have been announced, with lots of surprises.

Awards heavyweights Modern Family (ABC) and Mad Men (AMC) were both almost entirely passed over, while underdog shows like FX’s The Americans and Netflix’s House of Cards received more nominations than I could have hoped for.

In the individual acting categories, recently cancelled shows like ABC’s Happy Endings and TNT’s Southland received multiple nominations, surely causing network execs on those two channels to sigh in regret.

Strong performances in underrated shows were highlighted – Don Cheadle, Laura Dern, Danny Pudi, Andrew Lincoln, Timothy Olyphant, Vera Farmiga, Tatiana Maslany, and Abigail Spencer, among others, received very well-deserved recognitions.

My personal wishlist is below (in red), followed by the actual nominations:

Cinema Sentinel’s Best in Show:

     Best Comedy Series: Happy Endings – ABC

     Best Actor – Comedy: Louis C.K. (Louie) – FX

     Best Actress – Comedy: Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) – NBC

     Best Supporting Actor – Comedy: Danny Pudi (Community) – NBC

     Best Supporting Actress – Comedy: Casey Wilson (Happy Endings) – ABC

     Best Drama Series: Game of Thrones – HBO

     Best Actor – Drama: Timothy Olyphant (Justified) – FX

     Best Actress – Drama: Claire Danes (Homeland) – SHOWTIME

     Best Supporting Actor – Drama: Jack Gleeson (Game of Thrones) – HBO   

     Best Supporting Actress – Drama: Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) – HBO

And now the nominees….

BEST COMEDY SERIES

The Big Bang Theory – CBS
Louie – FX
The Middle – ABC
New Girl – FOX
Parks and Recreation – NBC
Veep – HBO

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Don Cheadle (House of Lies) – Showtime
Louis C.K. (Louie) – FX
Jake Johnson (New Girl) – FOX
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) – CBS
Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) – NBC
Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory) – ABC

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Laura Dern (Enlightened) – HBO
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) – FOX
Lena Dunham (Girls) – HBO
Sutton Foster (Bunheads) – ABC Family
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) – HBO
Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) – NBC

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Max Greenfield (New Girl) – FOX
Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) – CBS
Alex Karpovsky (Girls) – HBO
Adam Pally (Happy Endings) – ABC
Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) – NBC
Danny Pudi (Community) – NBC

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory) – ABC
Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory) – CBS
Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) – ABC
Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) – CBS
Eden Sher (The Middle) – ABC
Casey Wilson (Happy Endings) – ABC

BEST GUEST PERFORMER IN A COMEDY SERIES 

Melissa Leo (Louie) – FX
David Lynch (Louie) – FX
Bob Newhart (The Big Bang Theory) – CBS
Patton Oswalt (Parks and Recreation) – NBC
Molly Shannon (Enlightened) – HBO
Patrick Wilson (Girls) – HBO

BEST DRAMA SERIES

The Americans – FX
Breaking Bad – AMC
Downton Abbey – PBS
Game of Thrones – HBO
The Good Wife – CBS
Homeland – Showtime

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) – AMC
Damian Lewis (Homeland) – Showtime
Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead) – AMC
Timothy Olyphant (Justified) – FX
Matthew Rhys (The Americans) – FX
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) – Netflix

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Claire Danes (Homeland) – Showtime
Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) – A&E
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) – CBS
Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) – BBC America
Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) – AMC
Keri Russell (The Americans) – FX

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad) – AMC
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) –HBO
Michael Cudlitz (Southland) – TNT
Noah Emmerich (The Americans) – FX
Walton Goggins (Justified) – FX
Corey Stoll (House of Cards) – Netflix

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) – Showtime
Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) – HBO
Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) – AMC
Regina King (Southland) – TNT
Monica Potter (Parenthood) – NBC
Abigail Spencer (Rectify) – Sundance

BEST GUEST PERFORMER IN A DRAMA SERIES

Jim Beaver (Justified) – FX
Jane Fonda (The Newsroom) – HBO
Martha Plimpton (The Good Wife) – CBS
Carrie Preston (The Good Wife) – CBS
Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones) – HBO
Jimmy Smits (Sons of Anarchy) – FX

BEST MOVIE OR MINI-SERIES

American Horror Story: Asylum – FX
Behind the Candelabra – HBO
The Crimson Petal and the White – Encore
The Hour – BBC America
Political Animals – USA
Top of the Lake – Sundance

BEST ACTOR IN A MOVIE OR MINI-SERIES

Benedict Cumberbatch (Parade’s End) – HBO
Matt Damon (Behind the Candelabra) – HBO
Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra) – HBO
Toby Jones (The Girl) – HBO
Al Pacino (Phil Spector) – HBO
Dominic West (The Hour) – BBC America

BEST ACTRESS IN A MOVIE OR MINI-SERIES

Angela Bassett (Betty & Coretta) – Lifetime
Romola Garai (The Hour) – BBC America
Rebecca Hall (Parade’s End) – HBO
Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Asylum) – FX
Elisabeth Moss (Top of the Lake) – Sundance
Sigourney Weaver (Political Animals) – USA

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MOVIE OR MINI-SERIES

James Cromwell (American Horror Story: Asylum) – FX
Peter Mullan (Top of the Lake) – Sundance
Zachary Quinto (American Horror Story: Asylum) – FX
Sebastian Stan (Political Animals) – USA
David Wenham (Top of the Lake) – Sundance
Thomas M. Wright (Top of the Lake) – Sundance

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MOVIE OR MINI-SERIES

Ellen Burstyn (Political Animals) – USA
Sienna Miller (The Girl) – HBO
Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Asylum) – FX
Lily Rabe (American Horror Story: Asylum) – FX
Imelda Staunton (The Girl) – HBO
Alfre Woodard (Steel Magnolias) – Lifetime

BEST REALITY SERIES

Duck Dynasty – A&E
The Moment – USA
Pawn Stars – History Channel
Push Girls – Sundance
Small Town Security – AMC
Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan – BBC America

BEST REALITY SERIES – COMPETITION  

Chopped – Food Network
Face Off – Syfy
Shark Tank – ABC
So You Think You Can Dance – FOX
Survivor – CBS
The Voice – NBC

BEST REALITY HOST

Tom Bergeron (Dancing With the Stars) – ABC
Cat Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance) – FOX
Gordon Ramsay (Hell’s Kitchen/Masterchef) – FOX
RuPaul (RuPaul’s Drag Race) – Logo
Ryan Seacrest (American Idol) – FOX
Kurt Warner (The Moment) – USA

BEST TALK SHOW

Conan – TBS
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – Comedy Central
The Ellen DeGeneres Show – Warner Brothers Television Distribution
Jimmy Kimmel Live! – ABC
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon – NBC
Marie – Hallmark Channel

BEST ANIMATED SERIES

Adventure Time – Cartoon Network
Archer – FX
Phineas and Ferb – Disney Channel
Regular Show – Cartoon Network
The Simpsons – FOX
Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Cartoon Network

Photo Courtesy: US Magazine.

DVD Review: Gangster Squad

Mickey Cohen (Penn) unleashes a firestorm bullets on his opponents.

Mickey Cohen (Penn) unleashes a firestorm bullets on his opponents.

“A cop that’s not for sale is like a dog without rabies,” growls an almost unrecognizable Sean Penn as Los Angeles mob boss Mickey Cohen, “There’s no medicine for it. You just got to put ‘im down.”

And so it goes in Gangster Squad, Ruben Fleischer’s sleek, shiny, mostly entertaining 1940s-set crime thriller about a group of policemen who go outside the law in their quest to bring down Cohen. The dialogue, hammy and over-the-top as it is, gives the film’s thin plot a much-needed boost and keeps the audience engrossed. The movie looks and sounds like a gritty film noir, with witty one-liners, terrific costuming, and stylish direction. If only everyone involved had committed to making Gangster Squad more than just a fun, goofy shoot-’em-up thriller, which is what, despite its noir trappings, the film ultimately reveals itself as.

Though some of the earlier scenes in the movie promise a gritty, stylish crime drama, Gangster Squad quickly succumbs to its desire for high-octane action sequences. The camera slows down to capture each bullet flying during the many shootouts, and by the time the film’s finale rolls around, the movie has given up any pretense of refinement, settling instead for an exhilarating, pulpy gun battle complete with slo-mo exploding ornaments and enough blood to satisfy the Red Cross. That’s not a bad thing. Though Gangster Squad misses out on the opportunity for film noir intrigue, it’s ultimately a rollicking good action thriller that makes the most of its visually-splendid setting. In my book, that’s above and beyond what most crime flicks bring to the table.

The movie’s first-rate cast helps Gangster Squad go down a lot smoother. Ryan Gosling does his best to give cool-as-a-cucumber Sergeant Jerry Wooters some depth, while Josh Brolin is gruff yet effectual as square-jawed, straight-shooting squad leader John O’Mara. Sean Penn, buried under hours of makeup, gives the best performance of the bunch as coldly ruthless, gleefully homicidal mob boss Mickey Cohen, an East Coast thug who has worked his way up the ladder of power using only his fists and quick trigger-finger.

The rest of the Gangster Squad are all under-utlized, including Gionvanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, and Robert Patrick, but they play their parts well. The requisite eye-candy appears in the form of Emma Stone and Mireille Enos, two women with little to do other than support their men but who still manage to wring some gravitas out of their few lines. And watching Nick Nolte (Chief Bill Parker) and Brolin, two birds of a feather in terms of surly delivery, is a strangely hilarious and absorbing optical illusion.

The thing I appreciated most about Gangster Squad is that it doesn’t take its subject matter too heavily, keeping the film light, zippy, and consistently fun. I felt transported to 1940s Los Angeles by Fleischer’s direction and the film’s great attention to detail. The cars, the guns, the clothes, the people, the atmosphere, all of it is impressively immersive. Gangster Squad is such a visual treat and pleasant diversion that its weaknesses are ultimately irrelevant.  For a Saturday night movie, you can’t ask for too much more. B+

Photo Courtesy: Wet Paint.

New Poster for ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

A new poster for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, out November 22, recently appeared on The Hunger GamesInstagram account. It features Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) standing atop a mountain with her bow and arrow, as the clouds form the wings of the mockingjay, a symbol of rebellion in the series.

The poster’s tagline reads: “The sun persists in rising, so I make myself stand,” a quote from Catching Fire clearly referring to Katniss’s reluctant acceptance of the rebellion in the Capitol of Panem (a dystopian North America) that she inadvertently stirred during her stint as a tribute in the Hunger Games during the first film.

Check out the poster below:

hunger-games-catching-fire

Image Courtesy: Instagram.