Cats May Miss Award Deadlines

Christmas is a tough deadline to hit for major films looking to be under awards consideration. Films like Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street both finished just in time to have screenings before the cutoff. This year, the contentious Cats adaptation from Tom Hooper may miss those award deadlines, which may spell a death knell for the film, which has received some criticism based purely on its first trailer’s reception.

Word from the studio is that the film will not be able to be screened until the middle December, after votes close for the New York Film Critics, the Golden Globes, and the SAG Award.

This has to be very disappointing for the studio and Hooper, who is fighting an uphill battle here. Hooper directed award favorites The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, and I have to assume that they expected to add Cats to that list.

Still, they will continue working their asses off to get it done as quick as possible, hoping to at least get screenings in before the cutoff of some award nominations. This won’t spell wins all around because a late start to awards campaign can be another battle altogether.

So where do you stand with Cats? Does it stand a chance against other films competing for those coveted nominations? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019)

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, Kevin Costner

Screenplay: Mark Bomback

109 mins. Rated PG for thematic material.

 

I’m not really sure who came up with the dog-narrates-the-movie subgenre of film, but it’s a little weird, right?

The Art of Racing in the Rain, from director Simon Curtis (Goodbye Christopher Robin, Woman in Gold) is the story of a dog named Enzo (Kevin Costner, The Postman, The Highwaymen) and his owner Denny (Milo Ventimiglia, Creed II, TV’s Heroes). Denny is a GT race driver, but when he isn’t racing, he’s hanging out with Enzo, a racer at heart who loves him unconditionally. Enzo recounts his life, and all the ups and downs of his and Denny’s journey together.

I went into this one with pretty low expectations. This subgenre just doesn’t really do it for me, and I find that most of these films have the same general story outline. I was pleasantly surprised, though, with The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s very imperfect, but I found that I was so invested in Denny’s story that the Enzo narration and inclusion really only helped it along that path, and I was enthralled to see where it would end up.

It’s also the type of movie that I needed to see when I went to it. I hadn’t planned for Denny’s story to inspire me in the way it did. It’s not a fun movie at all. In fact, Denny’s story is full of tough moments, and it is in that way that the relationship between human and pet is really well-examined. I felt included, too, as a pet owner, even though my pet of choice is a cat. Unlike many of these films, where the dog is seen as heroic and there’s always an angry antagonistic cat, I felt like The Art of Racing in the Rain is about the bond between humans and animals and not so specific a pet as just saying it’s about dogs. It’s a movie about bonds.

The screenplay, by Mark Bomback (Total Recall, War for the Planet of the Apes) is nicely put together, with a few small problems littered throughout it. There’s some dialogue in the film from narrator Enzo that comes off as strange and unusual without much elaboration. Being someone who has not read the source material, I’m sure it was explained and made more sense in the book, but in the film it just didn’t translate all that well. There’s also this inclusion of the zebra scenes, which I found didn’t translate well either. I know, that already sounds silly, but let me explain. There are several scenes in the finished film that center around Enzo’s fear of a stuffed zebra toy at the house. He goes so far as to call it a demon, and I think that it kind of works with one exception, a dream sequence in which the zebra toy comes to life, something that looks absolutely silly in a section of the movie that it supposed to be very silly.

I’ve been a fan of Milo Ventimiglia’s since Heroes and I really liked him in the film, and I think the chemistry between his character and Eve (Amanda Seyfried, Les Misérables, Gringo) was particularly strong. In fact, the principle cast of the film does some admirable work even throughout some of the more melodramatic story beats, and overall, I don’t think any of them failed to convey the story.

Although, I will say the best performance in the film comes from Kevin Costner narrating Enzo’s story. This should have been something that I kept thinking about in my head. “Kevin Costner is voicing a dog…Kevin Costner is voicing a dog.” I was never once taken out of the film due to that, and I think it’s a tougher sell than anything else in this film, especially when comparing the way Enzo sees Denny as a father figure and yet Kevin Costner is much older than Milo Ventimiglia. It all worked for me quite well.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is imperfect, but even throughout all that, it’s probably the best film is this trend of dog-narration movies. I liked all the actors and voice work and the script accomplishes a lot of things that I didn’t expect to work. There’s some bumps along the way but overall this was a more impressive film than I expected. Now, I don’t think everyone will share in my thoughts about the film. It just happened to be the perfect film for what I needed on the day I saw it. The theater staff should be handing out free Kleenex for this one.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Boy Erased (2018)

Director: Joel Edgerton

Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton, Joe Alwin, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Cherry Jones, Flea

Screenplay: Joel Edgerton

114 mins. Rated R for sexual content including an assault, some language and brief drug use.

 

Joel Edgerton (The Gift) just kind of came out of nowhere. Sure, he had been acting for several years, but I never would have placed him as a more-than-competent director and writer, but he did just that with his first film. Now, he seeks to follow-up The Gift with the true-life family drama, Boy Erased.

Boy Erased is the story of Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea, Mid90s), a college student who is having a crisis of faith. He has impure thoughts about men. His mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, TV’s Big Little Lies), and father, Marshall (Russell Crowe, Les Miserables, The Mummy), sign him up for a gay conversion therapy. His father is a Baptist preacher who will not allow Jared to live in his house or visit if he remains the way he is. Jared attends classes everyday with head therapist Victor Sykes (Edgerton), a firm believer in the process who pushes Jared and others to the extreme in his quest to make them “normal” heterosexual boys again. As time goes on, Lucas comes to the realization that he is who he is and “changing” is not an option.

Boy Erased takes a while before it really kicks into high gear. The first half of the film to me was a little lost in trying to find its footing. I’m not sure what the big problem is because I like the film’s structure of beginning in media res. The writing is fine but the slow build nature mixed with some pacing issues in editing likely created this problem.

That being said, when it does get going, the last half of this film is an absolute powerhouse. Hedges and Crowe are, in particular, revelatory. There is one scene in particular toward the end of the film that these two share that brought me to tears. The raw emotion of a father and son on two completely different wavelengths is something so heartbreaking.

Writer/Director/Supporting Actor Edgerton holds a capable lens to the proceedings and he tends to just let the performances do the heavy lifting. His work as Sykes in a little disturbing and very saddening. As I said before, I think his writing stumbles a bit at the beginning, but all in all, he is a talent worthy of watching.

Edgerton has a moral focus with the film and its presentation of this conversion therapy. There are a lot of horrific things happening here and it’s made all the more shocking with his choice to end the film with some follow-up on the characters but also some facts about conversion therapy that really hit home with me. These types of endings don’t always work, but Boy Erased is a film that definitely sticks the landing. It’s just sad that a film like this even had to be made, but conversion therapy is a very real and frightening thing for LGBTQ people, especially the young ones who are already going through so much in their adolescence.

Boy Erased struggles a bit out of the gate, but when it finds its footing, Joel Edgerton proves to be a force both behind and in front of the camera. He fills his films with impactful performances that elevate his own craft in the process. It’s not an easy film to view, even with a few peppered moments of levity, particularly from Jared’s mother, but it’s an incredible moving tale about the human spirit and one man’s journey to accept himself. See this movie as soon as you can.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] The Front Runner (2018)

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Molly Ephraim, Kaitlyn Dever

Screenplay: Matt Bai, Jay Carson, Jason Reitman

113 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references.

 

If you’re planning on making a political drama, ensure that it helps to shine a light on our current political system. The Front Runner does just that.

After a failed 1984 attempt at making the ballot, Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, The Greatest Showman) is making waves in 1988 as the front runner to the presidency. Everything seems to be falling perfectly in place for Hart, until reporters from The Miami Herald unveil an affair between Hart and a young woman who isn’t his wife. Now, Hart needs to save his political future without destroying his marriage to wife Lee (Vera Farmiga, The Departed, The Commuter). His campaign manager Bill Dixon (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash, Father Figures) truly believes that Hart is the savior our government needs, but he finds that he faces a mountain of problems in righting the ship for Hart, who struggles with the notion that his free time and life outside of the office is nobody’s business but his own.

There are several award-worthy performances in The Front Runner, most notably Jackman’s. It becomes difficult at times to even think of Jackman in the role. His work as Hart is so strong and well-built as he plays the flawed potential-President. His exchanges with Farmiga are incredible, and she is wonderful as Lee Hart, a wife who understands the toll of being married to one of the most talked about men in America. Her only ask? That he not embarrass her. She gets more than she bargained for. Lastly, J.K. Simmons is a revelation as Dixon, a man who knows the state of the game and is aware of it changing right in front of him.

The Front Runner has some gorgeous visuals and it convinced me that I was in 1988 experiencing all of this for the first time. Director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Tully) has such an incredible color palette on the screen for his audience, and it makes all the drama unfolding onscreen really POP.

The biggest flaws with the narrative is the bloated nature and some of the extra fat on the story. I didn’t need the subplot with Donna Rice and Irene Kelly (Molly Ephraim, Parked, TV’s Last Man Standing). It’s important information for its own story, but I didn’t feel like it mattered to Gary’s journey. There’s also a lot of time spent with Lee and daughter Andrea (Kaitlyn Dever, Detroit, TV’s Justified) at the house holed up hiding from reporters. Again, it doesn’t do much to Gary’s journey. Interesting though it may be, I was following Jackman’s character. Trim some of the excess from the film and it will streamline the pacing so much more.

The Front Runner is quite fascinating in the current political climate. If Hart had run today, would he have won? If he hadn’t been caught, how would the world be different? It raises a lot of questions, and director Reitman puts all the pieces in play and lets them dance around. Exactly what the statement he’s trying to make is somewhat muddled, but performances and visual flair can say quite a lot. The Front Runner will likely be snubbed for a lot of potential Oscar wins as the season goes on, but it’s worth your time when it opens on Election Day. Just make sure to vote first.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2018oscardeathrace] The Greatest Showman (2017)

Director: Michael Gracey

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya

Screenplay: Jenny Bicks, Bill Condon

105 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements including a brawl.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) “This is Me” [Pending]

 

Musicals are getting a comeback recently thanks to La La Land. In 2017, the same lyricists contributed to The Greatest Showman, a musical biopic based on the life of P.T. Barnum. So can the film stand up to meet the music?

Phineas T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, Logan) came from nothing. When his father died, he was forced into a life of stealing bread and selling old newspapers just to survive, but his hard work and determination to give his beloved Charity (Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea, All the Money in the World) the life she deserves brings him to the creation of P.T. Barnum’s Museum, a building of curiosities and unique people. When Barnum’s successes lead him further away from his family, he is forced to confront what is most important in his life.

Okay, so the music is incredible here. I could not stop tapping my foot all throughout the film, and I did actually enjoy myself. The best songs in the film are the opening number and, of course, “This is Me.”

The biggest problem with the movie is that the story hits familiar beats all too often. There is a lot in P.T. Barnum’s life to cover, but the screenplay focuses on some paint-by-numbers plot points like the way Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Snowman) influences the plot and the love story between Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, The Disaster Artist) and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Zapped).

Hugh Jackman is, thankfully, a tremendous force in the film. In prepping for his role as Barnum, he read over 30 books on the famous showman. His role is joyful, emotional, and full of life. The Greatest Showman has been a passion project for Jackman since 2009, and his passion shows through here.

I left the theater with a big damn grin after The Greatest Showman ended. Much like The Disaster Artist, the film is about the need to perform and create, and in that way, Jackman’s performance shines through. He and the rest of the cast give their all in their acting and singing, but the screenplay hits a few too many beats. That being said, this is still a lovely time, especially in the theater.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

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Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth

Screenplay: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

127 mins. Rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity.

 

I have been a fan of The Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) since the original Matrix film (it took three viewings for me to properly enjoy it, but it matters not). I loved the entire Matrix trilogy, and I count Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas as two of my all-time favorite films (even if the rest of the population would rather the two films not exist), but when I saw the trailer for Jupiter Ascending, I was so excited to have the sibling directors release a new film that would draw the audience back in. For some reason, moviegoers just haven’t embraced these filmmakers since their breakthrough with The Matrix, and I was hoping for Jupiter Ascending to change that.

And then it was pushed back. Whether or not a film is good or bad, pushing it back, especially to the graveyard of the late winter months, is a death sentence. When it came out, fans gave it that death sentence. I was nervous to see the film as it has so much riding on it.

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Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, TV’s Family Guy, Black Swan) is an illegal alien working as a janitor with her widowed mother. She lives an unlikable life. That is, until she is swept off her feet by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street, The Book of Life), a hybrid humanoid creature made by splicing human DNA with wolf DNA. Caine informs Jupiter that she is the inheritor of the Earth which is currently being held by the Abrasax family who each want the Earth for themselves and want Jupiter out of the picture. They seek out help from Stinger Apini (Sean Bean, TV’s Legends, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), another hybrid, who recognizes Jupiter’s importance, and the three set out to lay claim to the young woman’s planet.

Channing Tatum has really grown as a performer in the years since bursting onto the scene, and his physicality and charismatic approach to Caine really give us a unique character to connect. His chemistry with Mila Kunis’ Jupiter is pretty strong as well. Kunis is a great everywoman, even if I wasn’t quite convinced that she was a janitor.

On the other side of those performances, I wasn’t all that content with Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, Les Miserables) as the eldest Abrasax, Balem. His delivery came off in shouts and whispers but never in a cohesive way. I also absolutely hated Douglas Booth (Noah, Romeo & Juliet) phoning his performance in as the youngest Abrasax, Titus, a sensual and foolish child.

I felt the notion of water throughout this entire film. From the cinematography, where the shots all flow in such a cyclical way, like liquid through the inside of a pipe, to the action sequences, played out like the spinning of a top, everything was just gorgeously mapped out.

Michael Giacchino’s score is another win here, with elements from Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz (two major influences on the film) in his score.

Now, the pacing is a bit off, some sequences rocketing from beginning to end, while others hitting a wall and staying there, but it could’ve been a lot worse.

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The Wachowski siblings are known from creating worlds, especially worlds that cause the audience to think and interpret, and many don’t like that. Nowadays, we as an audience ask for original content and then choose not to embrace it. Audiences and critics complained about a lot of the things in this film that don’t work (the bee scene with Kunis was rather strange, I’ll admit) that they forget about all the things that work so well here. The film is not perfect, and it doesn’t stand as the toppest of tiers for these filmmakers, which is sad, because Jupiter Ascending may serve as a death knell for these original artists, especially if their upcoming Netflix series Sense8 doesn’t work as well. I hope you see this film, I hope you embrace it, and I hope you like as much as I did, or more.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

The Theory of Everything (2014)

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Director: James Marsh

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

Screenplay: Andrew McCarten

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Eddie Redmayne)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Felicity Jones)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

 

In The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables, Jupiter Ascending) portrays Stephen Hawking in the years chronicling his debilitating disease and the unstoppable will of the human mind as his relationship with eventual wife Jane (Felicity Jones, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, True Story) heads through its most difficult steps.

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Eddie Redmayne absolutely perfects the art of becoming a human being in his portrayal of Mr. Hawking. There are so many times when I watched this movie and forgot I was watching a movie. His performance is so layered with emotional resonance, even as his disease progresses, that it becomes difficult to discern when he is speaking his lines from when his eyes convey his communication.

Felicity Jones provides pretty great, though somewhat overshadowed, work as Jane Hawking, a woman tortured by promises and unbeatable devotion to her husband. These two have tremendous chemistry.

Director James Marsh begins his films with breathtaking visuals symbolizing Hawking’s great mind but it eventually fades away which is sad as I found it to be a wholly engaging bit of visual spectacle that threads the movie together in an almost mystical way.

The Oscar-nominated score is an engaging one, a numeric tone of simple patterns used well.

Did anyone else notice that the end credits are in reverse as homage to the underlying theme of time’s nonlinear presentation.

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The Theory of Everything misses the visual marks that could make it extraordinary. Thankfully, the film is built on the wonderful chemistry of definitive stars Redmayne and Jones. It isn’t the best picture of 2014, but it is a remarkable character study of one of the most interesting characters in history.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Interstellar (2014)

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine

Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

169 mins. Rated PG-13 some intense perilous action and brief strong language.

 

Just give me one more minute so I can calm down, then we can discuss this movie.

Okay. Okay. I think I’m good now.

Interstellar. Wow. A film that needs to be seen once and then most likely again right after. This movie just took my breath away.

The world is dying. The last of the renewable food sources is almost depleted and engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey, TV’s True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club) is on his way through a black hole with a crew of scientists to find a new planet capable of sustaining human life. I don’t want to give away too much here, because this film requires you to be a participant in it.

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The plot here is one that pulls you in and keeps you there the entirety of the film. The screenplay from director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) and his brother Jonathan is just incredible, presenting ideas that are grounded in real science and also contribute to a grander understanding of the universe.

McConaughey’s Cooper is an incredibly faceted character, one that could only be played by the Academy Award winner. He is a man who is forced to make decisions that cause him and his family pain in order to save the human race, and he is not without his pain. It is as though he is constantly suffering from survivor’s guilt in a way similar to Russell Crowe’s performance in 2014’s Noah.

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, Rio 2) gives a tormented performance as Brand, a woman who is emotionally just as weak as Cooper but chooses not to see it as a connection between the two. These two are both willing to give up great happiness in the goal of the mission, and they both pay dearly for the sacrifices.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, A Most Violent Year) and Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, Draft Day) add to the strength of this cast, but the real surprise here is TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rachel Getting Married), an artificial intelligence assisting Cooper and Brand in their mission. TARS is a unique robot reminiscent of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, a lot of this film pays homage to Kubrick’s masterpiece. TARS provides comic relief while being a fascinating creature in this world created by Nolan.

The cinematography is spectacular here, and presents a quiet and lonely universe, one where the only friend you have is the mission. It is a quiet empty space with beautiful visuals that deeply sadden the viewers while maintaining a bit of wonder.

The score is equal parts quiet and enveloping. Completely engrossing and altogether despressing.

Just a note on visual effects. It’s winning the Oscar, just prepare for it.

Interstellar is one of the best films ever made. It is one of the best films out this year and I will be looking for it on the list of Best Picture nominees. Not only does it present a dismal future but also a hopeful future, and it comes down to a beautifully realized and wholly engaging story with incredible performances and some terrific surprise cameos too. Watch this movie.

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Now, I’m off to see it again.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Have you seen Interstellar? What did you think? Did you find a hit through the black hole or a extinction of film? Let me know!

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