Contraband/Chronicle (2012) Review

Both of these reviews are long overdue and I honestly forgot about both of them so I just decided to combine them into two mini-reviews.

Contraband
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, J.K Simmons
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur 
Rated: R

Here’s a movie that is such major wasted opportunity, the fact that it’s the remake of a foreign film is even more depressing. Mark Wahlberg stars as Chris Farraday, reformed criminal and family man who used to be the world’s best smuggler. Once his young brother-in-law blows a job for the ridiculously cajun-accented Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) he must perform one last job. (Cue eye roll) I’ll give Wahlberg the benefit of the doubt and defend him as an actor because when he wants to be, he’s charming, likable, and a believable badass, but in movies like Contraband, his character is as flimsy as a sheet of cardboard. His character might as well be named Mark Wahlberg.  The movie is so A to B you know exactly what’s going to happen at the end in Act 1, which leaves the rest of the film devoid of tension and suspense. Wahlberg’s character is so good at what he does and so infallible that I never doubted that everything would work out for one second, even at the end of the film everything works out and Wahlberg walks away unscathed with all his problems solved, no repercussions and coming out ahead even richer than before without even knowing it. Must be nice. Even when there’s a shocking moment involving what might be a lead character’s death, it turns out they are actually perfectly fine. ugh. The movie is so afraid to not please it’s audience it takes no risks and tidies everything in a nice little bow and then bakes a cake on top it. Even the movie ends on the song “Boom Boom Boom Boom.” The film is a remake of the icelandic film “Reykjavik-Rotterdam” starring the director of Contraband. Maybe on a smaller scale with unknown actors the story flourishes but with a bigger budget, and well-known actors the story is just running through the motions. Even with a cast of extremely talented character actors like Foster, Ribisi, J.K. Simmons, Lukas Haas, and Diego Luna, it’s sad to see their teaming up led to something so mediocre and unoriginal. My biggest complaints? I seemed to be the only audience member to recognize a Jackson Pollock painting in the film, and Central America should really get some good sporting goods stores because those duct-tape face masks must be a pain-in-the ass to remove.

Rating: 4/10

Chronicle
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
Directed by: Josh Trank
Rated: PG-13

It was just a matter of time before the found-footage genre broke away from horror films and tackled other sub-genres.  The superhero genre only seemed like a logical choice. An original superhero story mixed with the found footage aspect by using the excuse that kids document everything is a legitimate reason that works for a majority of the time. Cleverly dissecting superhero and modern teenage archetypes is a testament to Max Landis’ Large scale story told on a smaller budgeted scale. The use of practical effects, the simplistic storyline, and the likability of the three relatively unknown leads is what really pumps the heart of this film. DeHaan as the outcast Andrew and Jordan as the ultra-popular Steve are standouts and actually create a believable friendship between the three leads, making it feel realistic from the discovering of their superpowers to their inevitable downfall. The characters gain telepathic abilities that give reason for the camera floating around at different angles along side them but my biggest question was why? Obviously the film is footage recorded from a digital video camera so you can get away with creative low-budget CGI, but I thought the story was compelling enough on it’s own then always wonder the reasoning for a camera recording an intimate conversation. The last action set-piece is vicersal and clever but becomes too contrived in trying to discover different ways of having footage recorded from obscene angles. Smaller intimate moments like when the three friends pull pranks telepathically and when Dane’s character pulls a spider apart with his mind is when the movie has it’s brightest moments. I enjoyed Chronicle way more than I should have and surprisingly really enjoyed the three leads and where the story went, and serves as an interesting experiment, but please: No sequels, although I wouldn’t have minded a longer cut of the Jessie J – Price Tag singalong.

Rating: 7/10

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Oscar Predictions 2012

 

If you know me it’s not uncommon that I wait till the last minute for everything. I love the Oscars despite their long stretches of boredom. I like to think I have the Academy Awards figured out (old, rich, jewish, white men). I’m pretty damn good at predicting the winners usually. Last year, I even outguessed Ebert by one and surprisingly picked the Best Foreign Language film pick despite it always being a name out of a hat.

2012 Oscars Nominations 

Best Picture
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Help”
“Moneyball”
“War Horse”
“The Tree of Life”

Who Will Win: The Artist
Who Should Win:  The Artist
Dark Horse:  The Descendants

A couple months ago this race was anyone’s game, hell even Tree of Life had a chance but nothing can derail the powerhouse train of “The Artist” beloved by some, overhyped by others, The Artist is a black & white silent gem winning the hearts and prizes of a majority of all the film awards this year. Don’t expect it not to go empty handed tonight.

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

Who Will Win: Jean Dujardin
Who Should Win:  Gary Oldman
Dark Horse: George Clooney

A great category that always has a completely out of the blue random pick (Demian Bichir) but this category belongs to Dujardin who has also been sweeping up awards like nobody’s business. Clooney and Pitt turned in great performances and I’d love to see Oldman get recognized finally but this is no doubt the year of the french.

Best Actress
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

Who Will Win: Meryl Streep
Who Should Win:  Viola Davis
Dark Horse: Viola Davis

Another tight category full of great performances that will no doubt be given to Meryl Streep’s performance as Margret Thatcher. While I think she is undeserving of a win, statistically she has been racking up more best actress wins this year than any other. I wish Viola Davis would finally get recognized for her talent, but there’s a reason I suppose that Meryl Streep has more nominations than any other actress.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Who Will Win: Christopher Plummer
Who Should Win:  Christopher Plummer
Dark Horse: Max Von Sydow

Another tight category that becomes a one-on-one for lifetime achievement between Plummer and Von Sydow. Both are extraordinary actors and deserving but Plummer has been cleaning up in his performance for “Beginners” and I see him picking up the Oscar as well.

Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

Who Will Win: Octavia Spencer
Who Should Win:  Octavia Spencer
Dark Horse: Berenice Bejo

A stronger category than the Best Actress one, this category has long since belonged to Octavia Spencer’s wonderful performance. I wish all of the ladies here could get recognition but Spencer is going to be tough to beat.

Best Director
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

Who Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius
Who Should Win:  Terrence Malick
Dark Horse: Martin Scorsese

A tough category to predict since the directorial awards have been all over the place. It is more or less between Hazanavicius and Scorsese and usually Best film and Director go hand-in-hand which is why my money is on the Director of the Artist.

Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
JC Chandor, “Margin Call”
Asghar Farhadi, “A Separation”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, “Bridesmaids”

Who Will Win:  Midnight in Paris
Who Should Win:  Midnight in Paris
Dark Horse: The Artist

Tough to predict but Midnight in Paris was highly acclaimed and I don’t think The Artist had enough of a script to warrant a win.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
John Logan, “Hugo”
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, “The Ides of March”
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, “Moneyball”
Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughn, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Who Will Win: The Descendants
Who Should Win:  The Descendants
Dark Horse: Hugo

The obvious choice. The Descendants is 2nd to The Artist for Best Picture and this is usually the consolation prize.

Best Animated Feature
“A Cat In Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”

Who Will Win: Rango
Who Should Win:  Rango
Dark Horse: Puss in Boots

I haven’t seen any of these films but Rango seems the most distinct and likable by most Award ceremony’s and critics to beat the other nominees.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Bullhead (Belgium)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)

Who Will Win: A Seperation
Who Should Win:  A Seperation
Dark Horse: Bullhead

An impossible category to predict. Usually the most obvious choice is never the winner but A Seperation has a lot of momentum behind it. Still the most well-known foreign film never wins so it’s anyone’s game.

Original Score
“The Adventures of Tintin,” John Williams
“The Artist,” Ludovic Bource
“Hugo,” Howard Shore
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” Alberto Iglesias
“War Horse,” John Williams

Who Will Win: The Artist
Who Should Win:  The Artist
Dark Horse: Hugo

Tough category but I think that The Artist is so much music to carry it that it’ll probably topple any other contender.

Best Original Song
“Man or Muppet,” The Muppets; Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio,” Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Who Will Win: The Muppets
Who Should Win:  The Muppets
Dark Horse: Rio

50/50 shot. I chose Muppets over African Birds.

Best Achievement in Art Direction
“The Artist”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“War Horse”

Who Will Win: Hugo
Who Should Win:  Hugo
Dark Horse: The Artist

Best Achievement in Cinematography
“The Artist”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

Who Will Win: Tree of Life
Who Should Win:  Tree of Life
Dark Horse: The Artist

If Tree of Life doesn’t win, I give up on the Academy Awards.

Best Documentary Feature
“Hell and Back Again”
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”
“Pina”
“Undefeated”

Who Will Win:  Paradise 3
Who Should Win:  Paradise 3
Dark Horse: Pina

A hard category to pick. Pretty much anyone’s game. 

Best Documentary Short Subject
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement?”
“God Is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face”
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

Who Will Win: The Barber of Birmingham

Random pick.

Best Animated Short Film
Dimanche/Sunday
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Who Will Win: La Luna

Best Live Action Short Film
“Pentecost”
“Raju”
“The Shore”
“Time Freak”
“Tuba Atlantic”

Who Will Win: Raju

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo”
“Real Steel”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Who Will Win: Harry Potter
Who Should Win:  Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Dark Horse: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Harry Potter seems to be the fan favorite and also the top choice. I won’t complain.

Best Achievement in Costume Design
“Anonymous”
“The Artist”
“Hugo”
“Jane Eyre”
“W.E.”

Who Will Win: Jane Eyre
Who Should Win:  The Artist
Dark Horse: W.E

Always pick the period piece. W.E. may have a chance though. eh.

Best Achievement in Makeup
“Albert Nobbs”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“The Iron Lady”

Who Will Win: Harry Potter
Who Should Win:  Harry Potter
Dark Horse: Albert Nobbs

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
“Drive”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Moneyball”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Who Will Win: Hugo
Who Should Win:  Hugo/Drive
Dark Horse: Transformers: Dark of the Moon