Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Best and Worst of Anne Hathaway

“The Best and Worst of” series chronicles the career highlights and lowlights of an actor starring in one of the week's new theatrical releases. This week, I take a look at the filmography of “Serenity” star Anne Hathaway.

Films starring Anne Hathaway that I've seen:
The Devil Wears Prada
Get Smart
Rachel Getting Married
Love & Other Drugs
One Day
The Dark Knight Rises
Don Jon
The Intern
Ocean's 8

Best Performance: Rachel Getting Married (2008)
The Devil Wears Prada established Hathaway as a bubbly, vibrant screen presence who could anchor the hell out of a romantic comedy. Rachel Getting Married proved that off-the-charts charm wasn't the only tool in her acting arsenal. Her nuanced turn as a self-absorbed recovering addict that alternates between being completely insufferable and genuinely sympathetic gives this uneven family drama a consistently compelling element that prevents it from completely falling apart.
Worst Performance: Havoc (2005)
A lot of high-profile actors have a little-seen dud as part of their early resume. Hathaway's is a direct-to-video crime drama called Havoc that was filmed shortly after The Princess Diaries was released. Her questionable performance as a rich, rap-loving LA teen that becomes enamored with joining a real street gang isn't raw or daring enough to help this misguided project obtain the sense of grittiness it desperately wants/needs.      

Best Film: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Since it suffered the unfortunate fate of following one of the most universally beloved movies of the last 25 years, The Dark Knight Rises is largely viewed as a monumental letdown. Personally, I think the final chapter of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight saga is absurdly underrated. An abundance of huge action set pieces are badass, a legendary over-the top comic book villain (Tom Hardy's Bane) and the tense, cathartic final act made this the perfect swan song for an epic trilogy that changed the way superheroes movies are perceived forever.

Worst Film: One Day (2011)
It's been so long since I've seen or thought about One Day that it's hard for me to recall much about it. What I do remember is being bored as hell and thoroughly unconvinced that the two main characters (Hathaway, Jim Sturgess) were soulmates brought together by chance as this time-hopping flat romantic melodrama limped along for a little under two hours.

Thank you for reading this week's edition of “The Best and Worst of”. The next victim of my praise and ire will be “Miss Bala” star Anthony Mackie.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Top 25 Hip-Hop Beats of 2018

Every year I like to wrap up my year-end retrospective lists with a celebration of the finest production in hip-hop. Here are the 25 beats I enjoyed the most in yet another amazing 12 months for the geniuses behind the boards.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
A$AP Rocky-OG Beeper (Producers: Nez & Rio and Boys Noize)
Cardi B-I Like It (Producers: Craig Kallman, J. White Did It, Tainy and Invincible)
Lil Baby and Gunna-Never Recover (Producer: Tay Keith)
Rae Sremmurd-Rock n Roll Hall of Fame (Producers: TM88 and MP808)
Young Thug-Anybody (Producers: Rex Kudo and Charlie Handsome)

25.Denzel Curry-Black Metal Terrorist (Producers: FnZ, Taz Taylor, Ronny J and M-Sol):

24.Future-Wifi Lit (Producer: Zaytoven):

23.Travis Scott-STARGAZING (Producers: Sonny Digital, B Wheezy, B Korn and 30 Roc):

22.Playboi Carti-Right Now (Producer: Pi'erre Bourne):

21.Cardi B-Money Bag (Producer: J. White Did It and Laquan Green):

20.Metro Boomin-Dreamcatcher (Producers: Metro Boomin and Allen Ritter):

19.Young Thug-Now (Producer: DJ Spinz):

18.BROCKHAMPTON-NEW ORLEANS (Producers: Romail Homnani, Joba, Jabari Manawa and Bearface):

17.Pusha T-If You Know You Know (Producer: Kanye West):

16.Travis Scott-NO BYSTANDERS (Producers: WondaGurl and Mike Dean):

15.Playboi Carti-R.I.P Fredo (Notice Me) (Producer: Pi'erre Bourne):

14.City Morgue-33rd Blakk Glass (Producer: Thraxx):

13.A$AP Rocky-Praise the Lord (Da Shine) (Producer: Skepta):

12.Flatbush Zombies-Big Shrimp (Producer: Kirk Knight):

11.Travis Scott-ASTROTHUNDER (Producers: Travis Scott, Frank Dukes, Thundercat and John Mayer):

10.Metro Boomin-Space Cadet (Producers: Metro Boomin, Wheezy and Allen Ritter):

9.Metro Boomin-Don't Come Out the House (Producers: Metro Boomin and Tay Keith):

8.Denzel Curry-Black Balloons (Producers: FnZ and Mickey de Grand IV):

7.Playboi Carti-Shoota (Producer: Maaly Raw):

6.Drake-Nice for What (Producers: Murda Beatz and Blaqnmild):

5.Post Malone-92 Explorer (Producers: London on Da Track, Aubrey Robinson and Kendall Roark Bailey):

4.Travis Scott-YOSEMITE (Producers: June James, Turbo and Ramy):

3.Kyle-Games (Producers: BOSSMAN and Naz):

2. Metro Boomin-10 Freaky Girls (Producer: Metro Boomin):

1.Playboi Carti-R.I.P. (Producer: Pi'erre Bourne):

Monday, January 21, 2019

91st Annual Academy Award Nomination Predictions

All eyes in the world of cinema will be on a luxurious Los Angeles hotel conference room tomorrow morning around 8:20 EST when the nominees for arguably the most wide open Academy Awards in recent memory are announced by Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross. Here are the names and movies I expect to be up for the most coveted awards in the film industry.

Best Picture:
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born

Locks: BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born
Toss-ups: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, If Beale Street Could Talk, Vice
Dark horse contenders: Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Crazy Rich Asians, First Man, First Reformed, Mary Poppins Returns

Best Actor:
Christian Bale (Vice)
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)
John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)
Locks: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Rami Malek, Viggo Mortensen
Toss-up: John David Washington
Dark horse contenders: Willem Dafoe (At Eternity's Gate), Ryan Gosling (First Man), Ethan Hawke (First Reformed), Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased), Robert Redford (The Old Man & the Gun)   

Best Actress:
Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Glenn Close (The Wife)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Lady Gaga (A Star is Born)
Mellissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Locks: Glenn Close, Olivia Colman, Lady Gaga
Toss-ups: Yalitza Aparicio, Mellissa McCarthy
Dark horse contenders: Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Viola Davis (Widows), Regina Hall (Support the Girls), Nicole Kidman (Destroyer), Saiorse Ronan (Mary, Queen of Scots)

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy)
Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)
Sam Elliott (A Star is Born)
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Locks: Mahershala Ali, Sam Elliott, Richard E. Grant
Toss-ups: Timothee Chalamet, Adam Driver
Dark horse contenders: Joel Edgerton (Boy Erased), Cedric the Entertainer (First Reformed), Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk), Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther), Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams (Vice)
Claire Foy (First Man)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)
Locks: Amy Adams, Claire Foy, Regina King, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
Toss-ups: N/A
Dark horse contenders: Elizabeth Debicki (Widows), Laura Harrier (BlacKkKlansman), Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased), Margot Robbie (Mary, Queen of Scots), Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians)

Best Director:
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)
Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Peter Farrelly (Green Book)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)
Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Locks: Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee, Yorgos Lanthimos
Toss-up: Peter Farrelly
Dark horse contenders: Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk), Adam McKay (Vice), Paul Schrader (First Reformed)

Best Original Screenplay:
The Favourite
First Reformed
Green Book

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Black Panther
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born

Best Cinematography:
The Favourite
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born

Best Score:
Black Panther
First Man 
If Beale Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Marry Poppins Returns

Best Animated Film:
The Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Documentary Feature:
Free Solo
Minding the Gap
Three Identical Strangers
Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Best Foreign Language Film:
Cold War

Best Editing:
The Favourite
First Man
A Star is Born

Best Costume Design:
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Production Design:
Black Panther
The Favourite
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Original Song:
"All the Stars" (Black Panther)
"Girl in the Movies" (Dumplin')
"I'll Fight" (RBG)
"The Place Where Lost Things Go" (Mary Poppins Returns)
"Shallow" (A Star is Born)

Best Visual Effects:
Avengers: Infinity War
Black Panther
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns
Ready Player One

Best Sound Editing:
Black Panther
First Man
Mission-Impossible: Fallout
A Quiet Place
A Star is Born

Best Sound Mixing:
Black Panther
First Man
Mission-Impossible: Fallout
A Quiet Place
A Star is Born

Best Animated Short:
Animal Behaviour 
Lost and Found

Best Documentary Short:
Black Sheep
End Game
Period: End of the Sentence
Women of the Gulag

Best Live Action Short:

Friday, January 18, 2019

NFL Conference Championship Predictions

Last week's record: 3-1 (Correct: Rams, Patriots, Saints Incorrect: Colts)
Overall record: 4-4

New Orleans Saints over Los Angeles Rams: Both of these offenses have lost a bit of explosiveness since their Week 9 shootout that ended with the Rams being handed their first loss of the season. With splash plays likely to be less prominent this time around, this game should come down to the quarterbacks, defenses and coaching staffs-all of which lean in favor of the Saints. Drew Brees tends to be an efficient, clock-draining machine at the Superdome, Sean Payton has a gift for coming up with varied gameplans that confuse vulnerable defenses and even with the loss of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins to a torn Achilles, they have the personnel upfront to slow down the prolific rushing attack that the Rams need to establish in order to make Jared Goff comfortable as a passer.    

New England Patriots over Kansas City Chiefs:
The 2018 Chiefs defied their tragic recent history with a strong, gusty performance in a 31-13 victory over the Colts last weekend. However, this game is a whole different beast as they have to square off against the NFL's boogeyman that just won't die- no matter "grim" things look prior to the start of the playoffs. Despite being tasked with entering a notoriously loud stadium that's hosting the most important game in its 47-year history during a season where they've played uncharacteristically ugly football away from Foxboro (their 3-5 road record is their worst since 2009), the Patriots still have the edge in this matchup. Patrick Mahomes and co. have the dynamism and creativity to score every time they have the ball, but the shakiness of their defense and Andy Reid's perpetual clock management misfortune is going to make it very difficult for them to take out a battle-tested veteran team that has delivered on this stage far more times than they've faltered. The Patriots won a shootout at Gillette Stadium when these two teams met in the regular season and unless Tom Brady puts up the type of inefficient, multi-INT dud you seldom see from him (especially during this time of year), I expect them to do the exact same thing at Arrowhead on Sunday night.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

2018 in Movies: A Year in Review

At no point over the past 12 months did I feel like I was in the middle of a great year for movies. The number of titles that really impressed me wasn't notable and there were several months (January, May, August, September) where I was barely going to see anything in theaters because I had no issue with waiting until home video to see the titles that were playing. Then while I was starting to finalize this list earlier this week, I realized that 2018 was a very impressive year after all. Just about every genre that I love (action, drama, comedy, thriller, sc-fi, superhero, every imaginable B-movie variation) had multiple standout entries, the awards slate was more consistently strong than usual and there was only about 10-12 films that I found to be completely worthless. Below you'll find a smorgasbord of content looking back on this sneaky high quality year including a comprehensive ranking of every 2018 movie I saw from worst to best (w/grades), awards that range from your traditional best acting, directing, etc. to some dumb shit including the introduction of a new annual honor and much, much more. Hope you enjoy!  

Haven't seen yet, but plan on watching in the future:
All About Nina
An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn
Bad Samaritan
Beautiful Boy
Ben is Back
Boy Erased
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
China Salesman
Cold War
Escape Plan 2: Hades
Final Score
First Reformed
Free Solo
The Front Runner
The Guilty 
The Hate U Give
Hearts Beat Loud
Hell Fest
Holmes & Watson
Hot Summer Nights
The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Hunter Killer
Instant Family
Let the Corpses Tan
The Long Dumb Road
Mary, Queen of Scots
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Monsters and Men
Night School
The Oath
The Old Man & the Gun
On the Basis of Sex
Outlaw King
A Private War
Robin Hood
Roxanne Roxanne
The Sisters Brothers
Small Town Crime
Support the Girls
Vox Lux
What They Had
White Boy Rick
Woman Walks Ahead

Worst to Best Rankings:
124.Gotti (D-)
123.Love After Love (D-)
122.Sorry to Bother You (D)
121.Hereditary (D)
120.Breaking In (D+)
119.Acts of Violence (D+)
118.Beirut (D+)
117.Suspiria (D+)
116.Slice (D+)
115.Unsane (D+)
114.The Kindergarten Teacher (C-)
113.Apostle (C-)
112.Braven (C-)
111.The 15:17 to Paris (C-)
110.Kin (C-)
109.Eighth Grade (C-)
108.Borg vs. McEnroe (C)
107.The Hurricane Heist (C)
106.Leave No Trace (C)
105.The Equalizer 2 (C)
104.You Were Never Really Here (C)
103.Skyscraper (C)
102.Tully (C)
101.Maze Runner: The Death Cure (C+)
100.Dude (C+)
99.The Cloverfield Paradox (C+)
98.Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (C+)
97.Pacific Rim Uprising (C+)
96.Unfriended: Dark Web (C+)
95.Peppermint (C+)
94.Crazy Rich Asians (C+)
93.Action Point (C+)
92.Isle of Dogs (C+)
91.Flower (C+)
90.The Meg (B-)
89.I Feel Pretty (B-)
88.First Man (B-)
87.Adrift (B-)
86.Gemini (B-)
85.Proud Mary (B-)
84.Death Wish (B-)
83.Ibiza (B-)
82.Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (B-)
81.SuperFly (B-)
80.Extinction (B-)
79.The Nun (B-)
78.Calibre (B-)
77.The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter (B-)
76.Ready Player One (B-)
75.The Week Of (B-)
74.Bohemian Rhapsody (B-)
73.Assassination Nation (B-)
72.Gringo (B-)
71.Tomb Raider (B)
70.Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (B)
69.A Futile and Stupid Gesture (B)
68.The Commuter (B)
67.Ocean's 8 (B)
66.Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot (B)
65.The Happytime Murders (B)
64.Rampage (B)
63.A Simple Favor (B)
62.Kodachrome (B)
61.Set It Up (B)
60.Venom (B)
59.Solo: A Star Wars Story (B)
58.Mile 22 (B)
57.Private Life (B)
56.The Mule (B)
55.Never Goin' Back (B)
54.6 Balloons (B)
53.Ant-Man and the Wasp (B)
52.The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (B)
51.Bird Box (B)
50.The Girl in the Spider's Web (B)
49.Love, Simon (B)
48.Aquaman (B)
47.American Animals (B)
46.Mom and Dad (B)
45.The Package (B)
44.Blindspotting (B)
43.Destroyer (B)
42.Searching (B)
41.Like Father (B)
40.Hotel Artemis (B)
39.Game Over, Man! (B)
38.Uncle Drew (B)
37.The Spy Who Dumped Me (B)
36.Thoroughbreds (B)
35.Super Troopers 2 (B+)
34.Widows (B+)
33.Hold the Dark (B+)
32.The Predator (B+)
31.Sicario: Day of the Soldado (B+)
30.If Beale Street Could Talk (B+)
29.Three Identical Strangers (B+)
28.The Favourite (B+)
27.BlacKkKlansman (B+)
26.Red Sparrow (B+)
25.Halloween (B+)
24.Destination Wedding (B+)
23.Green Book (B+)
22.Bad Times at the El Royale (B+)
21.Won't You Be My Neighbor? (B+)
20.BumbleBee (B+)
19.A Quiet Place (B+)
18.Annihilation (B+)
17.Den of Thieves (B+)
16.Deadpool 2 (B+)
15.Mission-Impossible: Fallout (B+)
14.The First Purge (A-)
13.Tag (A-)
12.Blockers (A-)
11.Vice (A-)
10.Upgrade (A-)
9.The Night Comes for Us (A)
8.Mandy (A)
7.Overlord (A)
6.Mid90s (A)
5.Avengers: Infinity War (A)
4.Creed II (A)
3.Game Night (A)
2.Black Panther (A)
1.A Star is Born (A)

Best Picture: A Star is Born
Best Actor: Christian Bale, Vice
Best Actress: Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Best Supporting Actor: Na-kel Smith, Mid90s
Best Supporting Actress: Emma Stone, The Favourite
Best Director: Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Perez, Game Night
Best Adapted Screenplay: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper and Will Fetters, A Star is Born
Best Cinematography: Benjamin Loeb, Mandy
Best Score: Johann Johannsson, Mandy
Best Visual Effects: Aquaman
Best Animated Movie: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Documentary: Won't You Be My Neighbor?  
Best Villain: Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), Black Panther 
Best Performance in a Bad Movie: Charlize Theron, Tully
Worst Performance in a Good Movie: Robert Duvall, Widows
Best Performance by a Suspect Actor: Keanu Reeves, Destination Wedding
Worst Performance by a Talented Actor: Tessa Thompson, Sorry to Bother You
Best Overacting: Nicolas Cage, Mandy
Worst Overacting: Alex Wolff, Hereditary 
The 1st Annual "Carry a Movie on Your Back" Award (presented by Greg Jennings): Shaliene Woodley, Adrift 
Best Theater Experience: Overlord
Worst Theater Experience: Suspiria
Best Action Sequence: Kitchen Fight, Upgrade  
Worst Action Sequence: Everything in Acts of Violence
Best Blockbuster: Black Panther
Worst Blockbuster: Skyscraper
Finest Hidden Indie Gem: Destination Wedding
Most Insufferable Indie Trash: Love After Love

Biggest Surprises:
1.A Star is Born
3.Den of Thieves 
5.Uncle Drew

Biggest Letdowns:
1.First Man
4.Sorry to Bother You
5.Death Wish

Most Underrated Movies:
3.Red Sparrow
4.Destination Wedding
5.The Spy Who Dumped Me

Most Overrated Movies:
1.Sorry to Bother You
3.Eighth Grade
4.Leave No Trace
5.Crazy Rich Asians

Top Performances:
1.Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
2.Christian Bale, Vice
3.Na-kel Smith, Mid90s
4.Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
5.Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
6.Emma Stone, The Favourite
7.Rachel Weisz, The Favourite 
8.Shailene Woodley, Adrift
9.Nicole Kidman, Destroyer
10.Daniel Kaluuya, Widows

Breakthrough Performances:
1.Na-kel Smith, Mid90s
2.Sunny Suljic, Mid90s
3.Millicent Simmonds, A Quiet Place
4.Cynthia Erivo, Bad Times at the El Royale

5.Letitia Wright, Black Panther
6.Jasper Paakkonen, BlacKkKlansman
7.Olan Prenatt, Mid90s
8.Y'lan Noel, The First Purge
9.Lex Scott Davis, The First Purge
10.Geraldine Viswanathan, Blockers/The Package

Best Acting Ensembles:
1.A Star is Born
3.Game Night
4.Black Panther
5.Creed II
6.The Favourite
10.Deadpool 2

10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2019
1.Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
2.Hobbs & Shaw
4.John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum
5.Avengers: Endgame
6.The Irishman
7.Zombieland 2
8.Toff Guys
9.Untitled Seth Rogen/Charlize Theron Project (aka Flarsky)
10.Toy Story 4

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Top 10 Movies of 2018

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
The First Purge
Mission-Impossible: Fallout

No disrespect to the excellent blockbuster Mission-Impossible: Fallout, but this low budget cyberpunk passion project from veteran horror scribe Leigh Whannell was my favorite action movie of the year. With its inventive fight scenes, liberal amount of gore and justified paranoia about the seemingly limitless capabilities of AI, Upgrade successfully brings the grimy yet socially conscious  mentality of the grindhouse era into the modern day.    

9.The Night Comes for Us: 
The Raid series established Indonesia as a brutal powerhouse in the world of martial arts. Using a cast that features many of that franchise's key players (Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Zack Lee), The Night Comes for Us further bolsters their esteemed reputation. Over the course of two unrelenting hours, writer/director Timo Tjahjanto is able to showcase the inhuman athleticism, intricate fight chorography and use of improvised weapons alongside traditional hand-to-hand combat that makes Silat so exhilarating to watch.                  

Does Mandy serve as an excellent excuse to have overacting legend Nicolas Cage repeatedly lose his shit? Absolutely. However, Cage's trademark freakouts aren't even close to the best thing about this wild revenge flick. Between its stunning psychedelic cinematography, doom metal score and truly insane collection of characters, Mandy brings an impressive level of nutso creativity to something that could've easily just been a straightforward vigilante story. Major props to Panos Cosmatos and whatever hallucinogenic substances helped bring this deranged B-movie masterpiece to life.  

Genre mashups are always a risky proposition, but when they're made by someone who understands the conventions of each individual part of the equation and how they can cohesively mesh together, they're immensely satisfying. War/horror hybrid Overlord is one of the biggest triumphs to come out of this ambitious movie blender in recent memory. Combining the real life horrors of World War II with the supernatural ones of zombies made this a distinctly harrowing experience that never lets up on tension or entertainment value.

Coming-of-age movies often resonate with people because they see themselves or someone they know in the characters. Despite seeing more of these type of movies than I can count, this isn't a phenomenon that I've ever felt. That changed with Mid90s. Watching this group of LA kids talk good-natured shit to one another, make inexplicably reckless decisions and have serious heart-to-hearts made me feel like I was reliving my own teenage years. That personal connection I had with the characters combined with the accurate way it portrays the sophomoric vulgarity, camaraderie and acceptance of people from different backgrounds that makes skateboard culture such a cool niche movement made this a really effective, heartfelt slice of nostalgia.

5.Avengers: Infinity War:
Those assholes at Marvel really pulled it off. Infinity War was an engrossing, high stakes saga that somehow lived up to the epic billing Kevin Feige had placed upon it years before its release without ever coming across as overstuffed or incoherent. As optimistic as I am about Endgame, the slow-building sense of impending doom that served as the backbone of this film is going to make it very hard to top.  

4.Creed II:
Ryan Coogler's absence didn't end up harming Creed II in the slightest. New director Steven Caple Jr.'s confidence behind the camera, terrific performances from its returning leads (Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Sylvester Stallone), and the palpable, deep-rooted emotion that drives every component of the story made this just as much of a knockout as its predecessor.

3.Game Night:
Several consecutive years of underwhelming box office receipts is causing less and less comedies to go into production. Thankfully, something as inspired as Game Night was among the lucky handful of major studio-backed productions to make into theaters in 2018. A perfectly-assembled ensemble cast (Rachel McAdams, Jesse Plemons and Billy Magnussen are the MVP's among this murder's row of comedic talents), clever script that's full of surprises and an abundance of laugh-out-loud moments made this the best pure comedy I've seen since Popstar.

2.Black Panther:
Marvel's decision to task a young director (Ryan Coogler) and relatively unheralded ensemble cast (Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Ny'ongo, Danai Guerra, Daniel Kaluuya, Letita Wright, Winston Duke) with bringing Black Panther to the big screen proved to be a stroke of genius. Crafting an elaborate espionage saga with political undertones while also delivering the likable heroes, compelling villains and pure popcorn spectacle you want out of a superhero movie is the type of ambitious feat that only an immensely talented group of creative people like this could pull off so effortlessly.  

1.A Star is Born:
If you were to write out the events of A Star is Born, I'd likely assume that it was just a run-of-the-mill Hollywood melodrama. 1.Popular artist meets a talented unknown singer by chance. 2.They fall in love. 3.Popular artist use their platform to jumpstart their partner's career. 4. Unknown artist quickly turns into a sensation. 5.Personal demons and jealously of their partner's newfound success leads popular artist into a downward spiral. 6. Inevitable weepy ending. The tremendous execution of Bradley Cooper's take on this iconic entertainment biz rise-and-fall love story is an important reminder of why a rough overview ultimately doesn't mean shit. Through nuanced direction, powerful performances and an electric chemistry between Cooper and Lady Gaga, this familiar narrative turns into an engaging, grounded and truly devastating drama that has haunted me since I left the theater.

(Side Note: The original songs are also fantastic.)     

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Best and Worst of Sarah Paulson

“The Best and Worst of” series chronicles the career highlights and lowlights of an actor starring in one of the week's new theatrical releases. This week, I take a look at the filmography of “Glass” star Sarah Paulson.

Films starring Sarah Paulson that I've seen:
Held Up
The Spirit
Martha Marcy May Marlene
New Year's Eve
12 Years a Slave
Ocean's 8
Bird Box

Best Performance: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Elizabeth Olsen's commanding lead performance may be the anchor, but it was far from the only great piece of acting in this haunting psychological drama about a young woman trying to reintegrate into society after escaping from the clutches of a cult in the Catskills. As the sister of Olsen's character who takes her in immediately afterwards, Paulson flawlessly pulls off the balance of compassion, confusion and aggravation that is to be expected from someone who is tasked with helping a loved one overcome a traumatic experience that's impossible to prepare for or comprehend.

Worst Performance: Ocean's 8 (2018)

This is more of a personal vendetta against the filmmakers then an indictment on Paulson. Handing someone with her vibrancy as an actor such an anonymous character was a baffling miscalculation that was partially responsible for this disappointing albeit respectable film's failure to live up to the strong pedigree of its ensemble cast and the Ocean's brand.

Best Film: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
If you're not opposed to super bleak movies, I can't recommended Martha Marcy May Marlene enough. Sean Durkin's grounded character study centered around a woman (Elizabeth Olsen) in her early 20's trying to readjust to everyday civilian life after escaping from a cult where she experienced unspeakable horrors on a daily basis is a harrowing, brilliantly-acted piece of work that delivers the type of devastating emotional gut punch that the medium rarely achieves.

Worst Film: New Year's Eve (2011)
The late Gary Marshall spent the final part of his storied career pumping out holiday-themed romantic comedies starring boatloads of talented, instantly recognizable actors. While I have no takes on Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, New Year's Eve was not a particularly enjoyable watch. Despite its noble intention of showing the various ways the new year can bring people from various walks of life together, these loosely connected stories offer up little in the way of laughs, heartfelt sentiment or overall memorability.

Thank you for reading this week's edition of “The Best and Worst of”. The next victim of my praise and ire will be “Serenity” star Anne Hathaway.