THE FILM YAP » george clooney We Never Shut Up About Movies Sun, 19 Oct 2014 04:10:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Monuments Men Sun, 18 May 2014 04:26:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The Monuments Men - inside

One of the more disappointing films of the last few months, “The Monuments Men” was an OK movie that could’ve been great.

You had an offbeat, interesting subject: the citizen-soldiers who labored during World War II to save art works and antiquities from destruction or theft by the German Reich. And a reliable director, George Clooney, who also co-write the script (with Grant Heslov, a frequent partner-in-crime). Plus, in addition to Clooney, an eclectic cast of (mostly) older white guys: Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin.

Alas, this is a gumbo with a whole list of great ingredients that just didn’t come together in a flavorful way. “Men” is alternately silly and somber, and the incongruity cancels out the effectiveness of each.

The film takes great liberties with the historical record – starting with the fact that the Monuments Men are depicted as a small motley group of art experts when, in fact, hundreds of people were involved with the effort.

In trying to turn this into, effectively, a “Dirty Dozen” type of story, Clooney and his cast and crew try to do a whole bunch of things, and end up not doing anything particularly well.

Video extras are similarly so-so. The DVD comes with two making-of features: “George Clooney’s Mission” and “Marshaling the Cast.” Go for the Blu-ray version and you add some deleted scenes and two more featurettes: “The Real Monuments Men” and “A Woman Amongst the Monuments Men.”

Film: 3.5 Yaps
Extras: 3 Yaps

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Gravity Sun, 23 Feb 2014 05:54:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Gravity - inside

Despite being only 91 minutes long, “Gravity” is a bona fide cinematic epic, a film with a big story and jaw-dropping special effects. Seen in IMAX or on a big screen, it was an engrossing adventure — part thrill ride and part sobering drama.

But how will “Gravity” fare on video, where even the largest flat screen TV can’t match the big canvas of a movie theater? We’re about to find out.

My take is it’s still a thoroughly engaging experience, but a more intimate one. No, the heart-churning sequence where the Hubble Telescope is taken out by space debris doesn’t carry quite the same weight when you’re not enveloped by those images and sounds. But the scenes where it’s just Sandra Bullock trapped in her spacesuit, frantically huffing away her last few breaths of oxygen, become even more gripping.

Story-wise, it’s essentially just a tale of survival. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a medical engineer and novice astronaut, while George Clooney plays Kowalski, a glib veteran. They’re the only two left alive when their shuttle and the telescope are destroyed and must make a desperate attempt to reach a nearby station before it, too, is turned to fragments.

Big screen or TV, “Gravity” boasts a whole lot of heft.

Extra features, which are the same for Blu-ray and DVD versions, are somewhat disappointing. There are three making-of featurettes, titled “Gravity Mission Control,” “Shot Breakdowns” and “Sandra’s Surprise!”.

You also get “Aningaaq,” a short film by co-writer Jonás Cuarón, and a public service documentary, “Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space,” narrated by Ed Harris.

Film: 4.5 Yaps
Extras: 3.5 Yaps

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The Monuments Men Thu, 06 Feb 2014 16:38:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The Monuments Men - inside

“The Monuments Men” was expected to be a major contender in the Oscar race but got pulled at the last minute from its December 2013 release and moved into February. That rarely speaks well for a movie’s quality, so it’s no surprise that the latest from director/co-writer/star George Clooney is a disappointment.

It’s not a bad movie, certainly, and isolated sections are quite enjoyable in a breezy, been-there-done-that sort of way. It’s a World War II story that owes a lot of plot points to other war pictures and also copies their look and tone. Because it stars all middle-aged actors, with the average somewhere in the early 50s, one could dismiss it as “Saving Private Ryan with Geezers.”

(Indeed, Matt Damon, a whippersnapper when he played the title role in “Ryan,” is now the youngest guy on the team.)

The concept is certainly a departure from the norm. Instead of the usual dogfaces-in-their-trenches action or generals agonizing over war plans and lost lives, this is the story of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program, an Allied effort to preserve antiquities being stolen or destroyed by the Nazi machine.

They saved millions of pieces of art, and it’s an engaging, relatively unknown subject that received the spotlight in a book by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter, adapted for the screen by Clooney and longtime collaborator Grant Heslov.

Of course, liberties have to be taken to translate such a grand undertaking for a movie, and the film does so liberally. The primary conceit is presenting the Monuments Men as a tiny group of art experts who trade in their magnifying glasses for rifles when, in reality, more than 400 soldiers and civilians were involved.

This automatically brings up similarities with other WWII movies like “The Dirty Dozen,” where a ragtag team of castoffs are thrown together and given a big, seemingly impossible mission. The film also has similarities to crime caper flicks because our guys are essentially trying to steal the art before Hitler does (though with the intention of giving it back to the original owners).

As a result of this and some of the casting choices, “The Monuments Men” has a curiously comedic vibe. Bill Murray plays Campbell, the resident architect and droll quip-man. Bob Balaban is Savitz, the chief target of his jokes and an intemperate little man who resents being looked down upon. John Goodman is Garfield, much too old and large for Army gear, and Jean Dujardin is Clermont, the obligatory French guy.

Damon plays Granger, an art expert who gets sent ahead to be the advance man as the Germans retreat, and Hugh Bonneville is Jeffries, a stiff-upper-lip British type looking to redeem himself after past failures. Clooney is Stokes, who came up with the idea for the Monuments Men and acts as leader.

Dimitri Leonidas is the add-on as Epstein, a Jewish-German emigre who gets conscripted because he speaks the lingo. Cate Blanchett turns up as a bookish French art expert who worked for the Nazis and has to be convinced by Granger to give up her secrets.

The biggest problem with the movie is inconsistency. Some sections sing while others feel flat and by-the-numbers. For instance, the conflict between the Damon and Blanchett characters that eventually turns to feelings of ardor seems preordained.

Clooney & Co. go for a certain amount of gravitas in certain sections, but that’s undercut by all the humor. For instance, after operating as the comic relief for the entire movie, Murray suddenly gets a dramatic scene with a message from home; the whole thing feels forced and false. There’s another scene where Garfield and Savitz share a tense moment with a young German soldier that seems to come out of nowhere and recede just as quickly.

They’re not helped by a bombastic score by the usually reliable Alexandre Desplat (“The King’s Speech”), who appears to have come up with the music by copying passages from other WWII movies. Good film music should add to the atmosphere rather than try to substitute for it; Desplat’s score pushes the audience around.

The lack of a compelling villain also hurts. We get a succession of German officers who appear and then disappear as the chief baddie; Clooney gets a big face-off scene with a smirky SS officer but the moment carries little real weight because we’ve only seem him once before. Late in the game, the movie also adds a competing Soviet “trophy brigade” snatching up all the art for Mother Russia, but all they seem to do is ride around in vehicles — more existential threat than antagonists.

“The Monuments Men” is something of a puzzle. It has all the pedigree of a good or even great film but falls flat. I’m reminded of “American Gangster,” another movie loaded with talent that just couldn’t seem to come together.

As a filmmaker, Clooney has usually been ol’ reliable, lighting up everything he touches. Despite being a movie about the preciousness of artistry, the magic is missing here.

3.5 Yaps

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Gravity Wed, 02 Oct 2013 14:11:33 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Gravity - inside


Everyone knows they’re going to die, Dr. Ryan Stone muses during a rare peaceful moment in “Gravity,” but it’s an odd thing realizing that your death will happen today — most likely in the next few minutes. This gripping new science-fiction/dramatic thriller is the story of one woman accepting, and then rejecting, the embrace of her impending doom.

Director Alfonso Cuarón, who co-wrote the screenplay with his son Jonás, uses state-of-the-art cinematic technology to make a very old-fashioned type of movie. It’s classic “you are there” filmmaking, in which the audience is inserted right into the harrowing action, experiencing it as it unfolds from the perspective of the characters as it happens.

The characters aren’t very deeply drawn because they’re mostly there to serve as a stand-in for the people watching. Stone, played by Sandra Bullock in a mesmerizing turn, is something of an enigma at the start — a medical engineer given a crash training course by NASA to fix a faulty computer on the Hubble telescope. By the end of her journey, we don’t know too much more about her than when we started, other that her resignation has turned to resolve.

Using a mix of CGI and live-action shots, Cuarón creates a landscape in space hundreds of miles above the surface of the Earth that feels genuine, both in its eerie beauty and its utter lethality. A thoughtless mistake can quickly result in a horrible death, made even more dreadful by the knowledge that it will occur in total silence because sound doesn’t transmit in space.

Watching entire space stations rendered into dust without any corresponding sound effects somehow makes it even more terrifying.

It seems as if Cuarón’s camera is roaming freely through this space, so occasionally it is very far away from Stone and Matt Kowalski, the savvy veteran astronaut played by George Clooney. Other times, we’re right up in their faces, or even seeing things from out the claustrophobic viewport of their helmets.

Likewise, sometimes we’re assaulted by the sounds of Stone’s heavy breathing as she rapidly consumes her precious oxygen or by the musical score by Steven Price. The voice of mission control (Ed Harris) soon fades away completely, though Stone and Kowalski still keep transmitting as if they can be heard.

Ostensibly, it’s in case they do manage to get back into contact with those on the ground, but we get the sense their self-narration is mostly for posterity.

Things are set into motion mere minutes in, as a cascade of destroyed satellites creates a minefield of debris. Their space shuttle is shattered and the rest of the crew killed, and Stone is sent tumbling off into the darkness of night. Kowalski is a jabber and a teller of tall tales, but his bravado is comforting to the withdrawn, clinical Stone, and when they’re separated, she begins to panic.

I can’t go into all the different legs of Stone’s arduous journey to find a way back safely to Earth because it would spoil your experience. Suffice it to say it makes “Apollo 13″ look like a cakewalk. Stone must leverage her meager skills as a space voyager against her analytical mind, learn to risk all instead of playing it safe and improvise on the fly.

Watching “Gravity” is much more a visceral experience than an intellectual one. The movie grabs you by the chest and sucks the air out of your lungs, and while you’re sitting in the theater, it’s an utterly immersive experience. I’m just not sure if it’s the sort of film that lingers in your brain for months and years afterward.

Still, I’d be lying if didn’t call this one of the best films I’ve seen this year, because it is.

4.5 Yaps

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INDIANAPOLIS! Win Passes to “Gravity”! Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:08:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

INDIANAPOLIS! Win passes to a special advance screening of the new movie “Gravity,” starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, Tuesday, Oct. 1!

To enter:

1) Go to The Film Yap (, find a story that interests you, read it, and leave a comment at the bottom of the story page.

2) Send an email to telling us which story you commented on!


In Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity, Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) in command of his last flight before retiring. But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone–tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness.

The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth…and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left.

But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.

Be sure to follow The Film Yap on social media!


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Reinventing Batman: Part One Sun, 15 Jul 2012 16:17:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Early Batman

Tim Burton took the reins from the 1960s camp TV show and transferred the character to the big screen with his 1989 blockbuster hit “Batman.” His Bat superhero was much darker and had an edge of dangerousness compared to Adam West’s portrayal in the TV series. It was more akin to Frank Miller’s darker series of Batman comics, “The Dark Knight.” Burton’s heavy gothic themes, though impressive, keep the character and Batman universe in the area of whimsy and remain, until a few years ago, still a sort of joke. Cinematically speaking, his and Joel Schumacher’s subsequent films, were more for the masses. However, Burton’s darker vision is still praised today and his Batman, Michael Keaton (1988’s “Beetlejuice”), is seen as the best among him, Val Kilmer (2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) and George Clooney (2010’s “The American”).

Director Christopher Nolan

No one really wanted to touch the Batman franchise again after the barrage of abuse aimed at the last Batman film, “Batman and Robin” (1997). Since then, studios have tried many times to regenerate the Batman franchise. Finally, keeping a tight lid on the project, indie-cult director Christopher Nolan was hired by Warner Brothers on a new Batman project. With him at the helm, it was fair to say that this was going to be a very new and different approach to the superhero. Fearful of anything leaking onto the Internet, meetings about the new Batman film were held in top secret at his house. Nolan says he was influenced by the Superman franchise, in particular Richard Donner’s 1978 film that explores the origins — something he felt hadn’t been covered before for Batman. He was also aiming for a darker and more realistic tone and wanted to use as little CGI as possible, preferring grand-scale sets, up-to-date costumes and sleek gadgets.

Batman Begins

Nolan and his co-screenwriter David S. Goyer go behind the mask, uncovering the mystery of Bruce Wayne and his transformation into Batman. The relationship between superhero and society and how society views the superhero/vigilante type is explored.

We go right back to when young Bruce first discovered the bat cave underneath his parents’ sprawling mansion and the circumstances of his parents’ death. Scenes before the tragedy seem almost bathed in light and warmth, then everything after is muted in shades of blue and black. Years later their killer Joe Chill (Richard Brake, 2007’s “Hannibal Rising”) is murdered by crime boss Falcone’s assassins for testifying against him, robbing Wayne of his chance of revenge. This sparks a quest to learn of the criminal underworld, leading him to the harshness of a Bhutanese prison and then training with the League of Shadows under Ducard (Liam Neeson of 2008’s “Taken”).

Wayne returns to Gotham City, reintegrating himself to society and creating his alter ego in secret — a hero who lives in shadows, creating fear in his enemies. Fear and guilt are big themes for Wayne and Nolan’s film in general. Wayne utilizes the bat symbol, a representation of his own fears, as it was this fear that led his parents out into the alley the night of their death. He feels incredible guilt over this and being unable to exact his vengeance, which becomes a motivator for him. Fear is also a very modern theme that resonates with the audience — fear of terrorism, of being afraid to go about daily life, and also fear of the corrupt government.

Bruce sees that his family was failed by the system when Joe Chill was allowed parole for testifying against Falcone. The people of Gotham (the cityscapes are a mix of real ones such as Chicago and New York, making Gotham more real for the audience) live in fear every day, not only from the sheer number of criminals and high crime rate but also because of the corruption in the city’s government — the people they should trust to protect them. Wayne/Batman is a crimefighter, but he is also in conflict within himself. Christian Bale’s Batman is clearly influenced by his previous roles as the very dark and monstrous Patrick Bateman in 2000’s “American Psycho” and the realistically pained Trevor Reznik in “The Machinist” (2004). In the end, his devotion to Gotham (something he shares with his father) and its people brings hope for them and the possibility of an end to the hold criminals and the corrupt have.

The After Effect

What a difference a few years make. We couldn’t be further from Schumacher’s trashiness and the camp TV show. The Penguin and the Riddler would look seriously out of place and out of their league in Batman’s modern city. Here we have a true vigilante for modern times, fighting back against the criminal underworld with all the swanky gadgetry money can buy. He’s saved the city and given hope back to its residents. Four and five stars are the average rating for the regenerated Batman film, the critics studios feared the most are satisfied and the crew can breathe a sigh of relief. The next challenge: the sequels.


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The Descendants Tue, 13 Mar 2012 04:23:11 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

George Clooney is having a spectacular film career. But at the age of 50, he was about due for a shakeup.

For years now, he’d been coasting by on roles that exploited his easy, natural charm and the rascally twinkle in his eye. Most of his leading men over the last decade fell into a recognizable pattern: loners who have a way with the ladies but have difficulty making a commitment to a relationship or to a cause.

Even his more ambitious roles, such as “Up in the Air,” featured some variation on this character recognizing the inevitable dead end of his ways. It is notable that the men he plays are almost invariably single.

That’s why “The Descendants,” aside from being one of the best films of 2011, was a really bold choice for Clooney and a game-changer for the path of his career.

He plays Matt King, a harried, hectored married father of two daughters whose existence is thrown into turmoil when his life is left comatose in a skiing accident. A detached “backup parent” by his own admission, Matt cannot grasp the level of resentment directed at him by his oldest child, Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), until she reveals that Matt’s wife had been cheating on him.

For once, Clooney is not playing the suave guy with all the answers, but the befuddled and very vulnerable man searching desperately for a way to make sense of it all.

Here’s hoping that Clooney’s career in his 50s will continue down this audacious path — perhaps mirroring that of Jimmy Stewart, who set aside his aw-shucks persona for his most daring roles (“Vertigo,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” etc.).

Video extras are long on quantity but a little short on quality. The DVD version comes with just three featurettes — one about Clooney’s popularity, another about writer/director Alexander Payne and the third on the movie’s Hawaiian setting.

Upgrading to Blu-ray essentially brings more of the same, with featurette titles like “Working with Water” and “Waiting for the Light.” You do get a handful of deleted scenes, some music videos and a Q&A with Clooney and Payne.

Film: 4.5 Yaps
Extras: 4 Yaps

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Coming to DVD and Blu-ray March 13 Sun, 11 Mar 2012 02:24:36 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

The Descendants

George Clooney stars in this Academy Award-winning film about a father trying to make sense of his life after his wife is critically injured in an accident. With his wife in the hospital, Matt King (Clooney) struggles to find a line of common ground with his two daughters and comes to terms with the realities of his marriage.

Rated R

My Week with Marilyn

Michelle Williams stars as the iconic Marilyn Monroe in this film based on the book by Colin Clark. The story follows time Clark spent with the young Hollywood star when she was filming on location of Laurence Olivier’s “The Prince and the Showgirl.” Also starring Kennth Branagh.

Rated R

Also on DVD & Blu Ray this week:

“The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” (Daniel Craig, Rated PG)

“Young Adult” (Charlize Theron, Rated R)

“Melancholia” (Kirsten Dunst, Rated R)

“The Three Musketeers” (Milla Jovovich, Rated PG-13)

“Happy Feet Two” (Elijah Wood, Rated PG)

“Stuck Between Stations” (Josh Hartnett, Rated R)

“Mama I Want to Sing” (Marvin Winans, Rated PG)

Coming Soon

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (Daniel Craig, 3/20)

“The Sitter” (Jonah Hill, 3/20)

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Gary Oldman, 3/20)

“Hop” (James Marsden, 3/23)

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Oscar Picks and Predictions Wed, 22 Feb 2012 15:08:53 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
One of the few good things about a feeble cinematic year is there is no overwhelming favorite set to dominate the 84th Academy Awards. For 2011, things are especially up in the air.

Consider that the two films with the most nominations — “Hugo” with 11 and “The Artist” with 10 — have a combined box office total of less than $100 million. The also-ran — “The Descendants” with five nods — barely passed the $70 million mark.

Brisk ticket sales often don’t correlate with quality filmmaking. Just look at the 10 most popular movies of 2011, nine of which were sequels (and the other was “Thor”).

But when hardly anyone has seen the films being honored, that makes for little enthusiasm among potential Oscar-watchers. Even with the blessed return of Billy Crystal as emcee, I expect this year’s Oscar telecast to be among the lowest-rated.

For those of us who like to see the awards spread around based on actual achievement rather than following the bandwagon of a swaggering favorite, it’s an exciting time.

Here are my predictions of who will win the Academy Award in each category, followed by my personal pick of who I think most deserves the statuette. For fun, I’ll also suggest someone who should’ve been nominated, but wasn’t.


Winner: “The Artist”
Pick: “The Artist”
What About?: “A Better Life”

A very tough call here. It had appeared to be a two-way race between “The Artist” and “The Descendants,” but then “Hugo” popped up in a late rally to take the lead in Oscar nominations. There’s no end of love between the Academy and Martin Scorsese, flavored with a dollop of guilt because it took him until late in his career before he finally won an Oscar. But I’m betting my own pick, “The Artist,” will follow in the footsteps of “The Hurt Locker,” and the Academy will vote its conscience for a little film that truly is the best of the year. An even littler film that hardly anyone saw is the wonderful immigration drama “A Better Life.”


Winner: Michel Hazanavicius
Pick: Hazanavicius
What About?: Pedro Almodóvar

It appears the director of “The Artist” will pick up the directing Oscar and he deserves to. Hazanavicius won the Director’s Guild prize, which has proven one of the most reliable bellwethers for the Academy Awards — though, as noted above, the chance for a Scorsese upset is never to be discounted. Spanish auteur Almodóvar deserved more love for “The Skin I Live In,” his most dazzling movie in at least a decade.


Winner: Jean Dujardin
Pick: Brad Pitt
What About?: Michael Shannon

This category is as interesting for who was left off the list as who will win. There was much gnashing of teeth about Michael Fassbender (“Shame”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“J. Edgar”) being passed over. But the most worthy snubee was Shannon in “Take Shelter.” Dujardin of “The Artist” won this prize from the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which usually preludes the Oscar winner. I would’ve thought George Clooney was the frontrunner for his game-changing role in “The Descendants;” the Hollywood establishment adores him. For my money, I thought Pitt gave the performance of his career in “Moneyball.”


Winner: Viola Davis
Pick: Meryl Streep
What About?: Tilda Swinton

Davis of “The Help” seems to have this award wrapped up despite early frontrunner status by Streep. It’s a familiar spot for the grand dame, who always seems to get passed by a younger competitor late in the race; despite 17 nominations, Streep is still looking for her first Oscar win in three decades. The feel-good political correctness of “The Help” seems to be buoying Davis; she would be only the second African-American woman to win this prize. Personally, I thought her role, in both scope and depth, was a supporting one. I have a lot of problems with “We Need to Talk About Kevin” — starting with that title — but Swinton is amazing in it.


Winner: Christopher Plummer
Pick: Plummer
What About?: Andy Serkis

Plummer, playing a septuagenarian widower who comes out of the closet in “Beginners,” has this category totally locked up. A lot of people were angry Albert Brooks wasn’t nominated for his turn as a gregariously malevolent mobster in “Drive,” but from my perspective it was just Brooks doing a very good Brooks impression … with razors. Serkis, whose digitally augmented performance carried “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” practically needs his own category.


Winner: Octavia Spencer
Pick: Spencer
What About?: Jessica Chastain

Another foregone conclusion: Spencer took a role in “The Help” that had been custom-written for her by a friend and knocked it out of the park with sass and soul. Ironic that Chastain was nominated for “The Help” when she was so much better in several other roles during a fantastic breakout year, including “The Tree of Life,” “Coriolanus” and “The Debt.” Her turn as a supportive but realistic housewife in “Take Shelter” was probably her best.


Winner: “Kung Fu Panda 2″
Pick: “Rango”
What About?: “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”

Astonishing that “Tintin,” Steven Spielberg’s first animated film, was not nominated. It’s not a great movie, but head and shoulders above limp sequels “Puss in Boots” and “Kung Fu Panda 2.” Something tells me, though, that one or the other will win. The history of this relatively young category runs more toward “most popular” than “best.” “Rango” was clearly the latter.


Winner: “The Artist”
Pick: “The Artist”
What About?: “Rango”

Many were overjoyed about “Bridesmaids” picking up a screenwriting nomination, but for me it falls into that category of movies that aren’t nearly as funny as they seem to think they are. Plus, say what you will, it was a knockoff of “The Hangover.” Michel Hazanavicius, who wrote and directed “The Artist,” came up with the most truly inventive and fresh story of the year. The only challenger for sheer originality would be the wonderfully weird “Rango,” but animated films rarely get nominated for writing.


Winner: “The Descendants”
Pick: “Moneyball”
What About?: “The Skin I Live In”

A competitive category with several really strong nominees. It would seem to be between “The Descendants” and “Moneyball.” I thought the latter had the screenplay of the year, by script wizards Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. But the screenplay awards tend to be given out as consolation prizes, and I think Alexander Payne will be honored similarly to his last film, “Sideways,” which lost out on the biggest prizes but took home the writing statue.

Sure, it’s easy enough to make predictions for Best Actor or Best Picture. But what about those smaller, technical awards that are given out when most viewers run to the bathroom or warm up more popcorn? It takes a true prognosticator of mettle and grit to make picks for Best Soundwave Mix Editing. (That’s a fake category … I think.) Here are my stabs in the dark.


Winner: “The Artist”
Pick: “Hugo”

I have plenty of reservations about “Hugo,” but not its gorgeous look courtesy of Robert Richardson. I have no complaints, though, about Guillaume Schiffman’s vivid black-and-white photography winning for “The Artist.”


Winner: “Hugo”
Pick: “Hugo”


Winner: “The Artist”
Pick: “Anonymous”


Winner: “The Artist”
Pick: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”


Winner: “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”


Winner: “Incident in New Baghdad”


Winner: “La Luna”
Pick: “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”


Winner: “Raju”
Pick: “The Shore”


Winner: “A Separation”


Winner: “Albert Nobbs”
Pick: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2″


Winner: “The Artist”
Pick: “The Artist”


Winner: “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”
Pick: “Man or Muppet”


Winner: “War Horse”
Pick: “Drive”


Winner: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Pick: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”


Winner: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″
Pick: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”

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Return to Horror High (1987) Fri, 03 Feb 2012 06:54:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

“Return to Horror High” is somewhat of an enigma. On the surface, it’s your low-budget, schlocky treasure with boom mikes falling in and out of frame, bad dialogue and less-than-wondrous special effects. But a deeper look, I think, reveals a spoof wrapped in a a legit film’s clothing.

Going into “Return to Horror High,” I was expecting your typical slasher, blood-gushing-from-everywhere ’80s flick, and that’s more or less what I got. What I didn’t expect was the way the film is able to keep you in the dark about what’s hiding around the next corner. I’ll admit, I’m not a jumper, but I jumped a few times in this film. Kudos to you, Bill Froehlich.

Something else I didn’t expect was to find Marcia Brady and Dr. Doug Ross roaming the forgotten halls of Crippen High School. Maureen McCormick and George Clooney head a D-list cast of that includes Alex Rocco and Vince Edwards, all contributing their own brand of poor acting (with the exception of McCormick and Rocco).

Rocco is his typical solid self, but McCormick provides some of the best chuckles in the film with her actions and reactions. Definitely not what I expected. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

The movie starts with police on the scene and blood-caked body sheets filling the yard of Crippen High School. The police start to piece the story together with Arthur (Richard Brestoff, the film’s screenwriter), the lone survivor, recapping what happened throughout the shoot.

The movie centers around a film being shot at the high school five years after a series of murders rocked the town. The low-budget filmmakers decide it would be a great idea to film in the same location where the murders took place. When producer Harry Sleerik’s (Rocco) biggest requirements for the film are more blood and more nudity, a perfect recipe for disaster is set.

As the movie begins to shoot, crewmembers begin disappearing one by one, which the filmmakers attribute to the poor shooting conditions. In reality, the killer is masking his crimes in the blood and body parts scattered about the set.

The movie moves along to a predictable ending only to have one more twist left in store for us — saving the best for last. The logistics don’t really work out, but the idea is cool and a great way to close the flick.

“Horror High” is an odd bird. I loved the movie for its willingness not to take itself too seriously and the subtle schlocky touches that literally are “blink and you missed it” moments. The movies uses flashbacks to tell the story, and their clunkiness only adds to its schlock appeal. The main issue I had with the film was it didn’t go further. They could have painted the walls red and gotten away with it. It was definitely an opportunity missed.

“Return to Horror High” isn’t a master class in schlock, but it has enough of its elements to make it a nice watch. Watch for the creepy hand grab in the car scene — one of the film’s funnier moments.

3.5 Yaps


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