‘The 355’ trailer: five badass women, one world to save

A stellar cast of amazing actors? Check. A plot to destroy the world? Check. An American agent forming a deniable team of badasses to take on the threat? Check. Each badass has a distinct speciality? Check. Said American agent having a badass nickname? Check.

The 355 hits all the checkboxes that an action movie should but with one difference: the team is all women. I, for one, think this looks awesome. It looks dumb as a bag of hammers and exactly up my alley. Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “‘The 355’ trailer: five badass women, one world to save”

It Chapter Two Review: This movie is a million years long.

It Chapter Two

Some stories are beloved by their fans. This isn’t a terrible thing, but it can make stories difficult to adapt for the screen. What parts of the story can you trimmed down? What parts can be excised completely? These are difficult questions, and if your viewers are those that love the text their answer will be "nothing."

It Chapter Two is a long movie. It’s not a poorly made movie or a poorly acted one, but it is long. Too long. Like, way too long, and I feel like the filmmakers didn’t have adequate answers to those two questions I posed above.

Continue reading “It Chapter Two Review: This movie is a million years long.”

‘Crimson Peak’ Review: del Toro Delivers A Sensual Ghost Story

Crimson Peak / Tom Hiddleston / Mia Wasikowska

_Crimson Peak_ is billed as a scary movie but isn’t scary. It’s also billed as a ghost story but it’s actually just a story that happens to have ghosts in it. What it is is another entry in the Guillermo del Toro catalogue of movies with pitch perfect atmosphere, in this case dark, brooding, and sensual.

Continue reading “‘Crimson Peak’ Review: del Toro Delivers A Sensual Ghost Story”

Awesome New ‘Interstellar’ TV Trailer Is Awesome


WE still don’t 100% know what Christopher Nolan’s _Interstellar_ is really about (saving the world?) and this trailer doesn’t feature much in the way of new footage but on the other hand all the footage is amazing and you get to hear Michael Caine read _Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night_ so just watch it already because that’s awesome.

Continue reading “Awesome New ‘Interstellar’ TV Trailer Is Awesome”

2013 Oscar Predictions

85th Academy Awards

The Oscars are later tonight and Simon and I will be live blogging them. Just for fun, I’m going to lock myself into a few predictions.

#### Sundry Categories

Without going into too much detail on these ones here are how I’d like to see a few of the categories with less fanfare to play out.

* “Skyfall” to win Best Original Score.

It’s the only memorable one of the nominees.

* “Skyfall” to win Best Original Song.

Best Bond Song in years and just a great song. Outside chance for _Everybody Needs a Best Friend_ from Ted, but doubtful.

* Roger Deakins to win Best Cinematography for “Skyfall”.

[There’s lots of reasons to love Roger Deakins](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Deakins#Filmography), but more to the point he’s never won the awards despite some brilliant work _and_ Skyfall is a gorgeous film.

* “Prometheus” for Best Visual Effects.

Prometheus is not a good film, but it’s a gorgeous film and the effects are seamless.

* Animated Movies

I haven’t seen all the nominees for best Animated Feature, so I have no idea who will win. I have hoever seen all the nominees for Best Animated Short and I really hope that ***Paperman*** wins.

And now, on to the big ones.

#### Best Adapted Screenplay

* “Argo” – Chris Terrio
* “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
* “Life of Pi” – David Magee
* ***”Lincoln” – Tony Kushner***
* “Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

I want to say Argo, but it will probably be ***Lincoln***. In the battle between American heroism and America’s most beloved president, I think it’ll go to the president.

#### Best Original Screenplay

* “Amour” – Michael Haneke
* ***”Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino***
* “Flight” – John Gatins
* “Moonrise Kingdom” – Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
* “Zero Dark Thirty” – Mark Boal

***Quentin Tarantino*** has to win this one. Django is almost entirely overlooked in the nominations, but there’s no denying the screenplay is the best this year. Tarantino’s dialogue is amazing as always. You can question his directorial choices but you can’t question how he writes.

#### Actress in a Supporting Role

* Amy Adams – “The Master”
* Sally Field – “Lincoln”
* ***Anne Hathaway – “Les Miserables”***
* Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”
* Jackie Weaver – “Silver Linings Playbook”

Are you kidding me? ***Anne Hathaway***. Everyone here is great, I wish that Amy Adams will win because she is as amazing as everyone else in The Master, and also because I’d really like to see the Academy slightly embarrassed by having all the actors win while their movie nor director is nominated, but Anne Hathaway plays a hooker with a heart of gold, doing everything for her kid, with a debilitating disease, in an adaptation of a beloved stage musical.

Yeah, it’s Anne Hathaway’s year.

#### Actor in a Supporting Role

* Alan Arkin – “Argo”
* Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”
* Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
* ***Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”***
* Christoph Waltz – “Django Unchained”

No clear winner here. Everyone is amazing and everyone has won before. I don’t see Christoph Waltz winning since he did just a couple years back for a very similar role, I don’t see Robert De Niro winning because unlike Jennifer Lawrence (whose performance is elevated above the movie she is in) he’s good but not great.

Alan Arkin was great but also was how Alan Arkin always is.

So that leaves Tommy Lee Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’d love to see Philip Seymour Hoffman win because he and Joaquin Phoenix are both spectacular in The Master, but ***Tommy Lee Jones*** I think might win for Lincoln because Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t going to win his trophy.

#### Actress in a Leading Role

* Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
* ***Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”***
* Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
* Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of Southern Wild”
* Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”

Do we even have to talk about this? I’m pretty sure this is Jennifer Lawrence’s award to lose as of this moment. Silver Linings Playbook may not be a great film however Jennifer Lawrence is great in it. She’s already been robbed once (have you seen _winter’s Bone_? She’s amazing) too so that pretty much locks it down.

So here’s hoping that Jessica Chastain wins next year, because ***Jennifer Lawrence*** is going to win this year.

#### Actor in a Leading Role

* Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
* Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”
* ***Hugh Jackman – “Les Miserables”***
* Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”
* Denzel Washington – “Flight”

As with the Best Supporting Actor category there doesn’t seem to be a clear front runner here. Everyone did great. I was particularly surprised by Bradley Cooper who is getting better and better. However, I think it’s going to go to ***Hugh Jackman*** because say what you will about Les Mis, he acted the shit out of it.

It’s too bad too, because Joaquin Phoenix was amazing in The Master.

#### Best Director

* “Amour” – Michael Haneke
* “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Benh Zeitlin
* “Life of Pi” – Ang Lee
* ***”Lincoln” – Steven Spielberg***
* “Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

***Steven Spielberg***. Honestly, of all the directors eligible to be nominated this year he’s the only one on this list that would also be on mine. Paul Thomas Anderson, Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, and Quentin Tarantino are all missing for the record.

#### Best Picture

* ***”Argo”***
* “Django Unchained”
* “Les Miserables”
* “Life of Pi”
* “Amour”
* “Lincoln”
* “Silver Linings Playbook”
* “Zero Dark Thirty”
* “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Argo has already won almost every major award there is in this category, including the Golden Globe, Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and SAG awards. You know why? Because it’s a great film and it deserves to win.

It’s also the safest bet because unlike _Zero Dark Thirty_, which I think is a better movie, it’s a story about one man’s heroism and the Academy eats that up.

Outside chance for _Les Miserables_, but for all the fanfare at its release no one is talking about it anymore.

So, ***Argo*** it is.

Later tonight we’ll be live blogging the show so you can watch in real time to see how I did with my predictions then! In the mean time, do you guy have any predictions or movies you are pulling for to win?

Screen Actors Guild Award Winners and Reactions

Screen Actors Guild Awards

The 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were this past weekend. I know I’m a few days late but here’s a quick roundup of the winners for movies and some thoughts to go with them.

Note: I’m not going to talk about the TV awards, but the coles notes version is this: Hooray for Kevin Costner, Bryan Cranston and Alec Baldwin.

Winners shown in bold a the top of each list.
You can [read the full list of winners here](http://www.sagawards.org/awards/nominees-and-recipients/19th-annual-screen-actors-guild-awards “SAG Awards Winners List”).

### Screen Actors Guild 49th Annual Life Achievement Award

* ***Dick Van Dyke***

I grew up watching Dick Van Dyke movies my parents had recorded off the television so this makes me smile.

### Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

* ***Daniel Day-Lewis – _Lincoln_ as Abraham Lincoln***
* Bradley Cooper – _Silver Linings Playbook_ as Pat Solitano
* John Hawkes – _The Sessions_ as Mark O’Brien
* Hugh Jackman – _Les Misérables_ as Jean Valjean
* Denzel Washington – _Flight_ as Whip Whitaker

This isn’t a surprise to me in the slightest. Say what you will about _Lincoln_ but Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing playing the man. At this point I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win the Oscar.

It’s nice to see John Hawkes get the nod for _The Sessions_ as well.

### Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

* ***Jennifer Lawrence – _Silver Linings Playbook_ as Tiffany Maxwell***
* Jessica Chastain – _Zero Dark Thirty_ as Maya
* Marion Cotillard – _Rust and Bone_ as Stéphanie
* Helen Mirren – _Hitchcock_ as Alma Reville
* Naomi Watts – _The Impossible_ as Maria Bennett

At this point Jennifer Lawrence has won the Golden Globe _and_ the SAG award for playing Tiffany Maxwell. The Oscar is now hers to lose if it wasn’t already and I think that’s how it’s going to go. I’d love to see Jessica Chastain win because I preferred _Zero Dark Thirty_ to _Silver Linings Playbook_ and I think that Maya was a far more complex character to play, but Tiffany is exactly the kind of quirky, loveable, bird with a broken wing but still independent and strong, feel good, cliche character that people love.

That’s not to say Lawrence isn’t an amazing actress or that she wasn’t amazing in the film, because she was and this is one of those parts designed to win Oscars.

### Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

* ***Tommy Lee Jones – _Lincoln_ as Thaddeus Stevens***
* Alan Arkin – _Argo_ as Lester Siegel
* Javier Bardem – _Skyfall_ as Raoul Silva
* Robert De Niro – _Silver Linings Playbook_ as Pat Solitano Sr.
* Philip Seymour Hoffman – _The Master_ as Lancaster Dodd

Nice to see Tommy Lee Jones take home the trophy. Also cool to see Javier Bardem get the nod for his roll in _Skyfall_. He was brilliant as Silva and thats not the type of roll that usually gets recognized.

This is going to make the Oscar race in this category a little more interesting. Alan Arkin already took home the Golden Globe and everyone who’s nominated (swap out Javier Bardem for Christoph Waltz and its the same list) had already won to this one is anyone’s game.

### Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

* ***Anne Hathaway – _Les Misérables_ as Fantine***
* Sally Field – _Lincoln_ as Mary Todd Lincoln
* Helen Hunt – _The Sessions_ as Cheryl Cohen-Greene
* Nicole Kidman – _The Paperboy_ as Charlotte Bless
* Maggie Smith – _The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel_ as Muriel Donnelly

No surprises here. Anne Hathaway has already taken home all the awards for this role. If she doesn’t win all the awards that are left I will be incredibly surprised.

### Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

* ***Argo – Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Rory Cochrane, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Denham, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy, and Chris Messina***
* _The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel_ – Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Penelope Wilton
* _Les Misérables_ – Isabelle Allen, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Daniel Huttlestone, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Tveit, Colm Wilkinson
* _Lincoln_ – Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, David Strathairn
* _Silver Linings Playbook_ – Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Anupam Kher, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Jacki Weaver

In a year where Lincoln, a timely political story about America’s most beloved president came out I didn’t see this happening but Argo has now won the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for best picture.

It’s well deserved. It’s a brilliantly crafted film from start to finish and I’m glad to see it getting all the recognition it deserves.

It’ll be interesting next month to see if it takes home the Oscar as well, since Ben Affleck isn’t nominated for best director. That might end up being this years big “wtf” moment.

### Conclusions

Awards Season this year has been interesting so far. The films I thought would be a lock haven’t been winning and the ones I thought were entirely deserving but would get passed over have. The ladies categories are pretty much locked in for the Oscars at this point I assume, but the gentlemen’s categories as well as the best picture and director categories are up in the air as far as I can tell.

I like the SAG awards as well because you get films like Skyfall, which is a great film and completely overlooked by the Oscars and the Golden Globes, getting recognition from their peers. Make no mistake Skyfall was one of last years must-see movies but it’s no surprise that it’s only up for technical Oscars.

Make all the jokes you want about millionaires giving each other statues, but I enjoy watching great films win accolades (and Simon and I will be live blogging The Oscars on 24th Feb. while they air).

What are your guys thoughts on the matter? Do you agree with the wins here? How do you think the Oscars are going to play out?

Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty might seem like it’s come and gone already, but since it finally came out in wide release this past weekend, I finally had a chance to see it. It seems like the best place to start is the beginning, so let us start there.

A few years ago, Kathryn Bigelow was developing a movie about the search for Osama bin Laden. To that point, he had eluded all efforts to find him, and the film was meant to end at the [Battle of Tora Bora](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tora_Bora “Battle of Tora Bora on Wikipedia”) where they had thought he was hiding, but ultimately they failed to find him.

The film was meant to end on an ambiguous note, sort of a “what do we do now?” type feel, but one day, the world found out that US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden. Interestingly, the film wasn’t reworked that much, wasn’t turned into propaganda “America, FUCK YEAH!” movie.

And the result is pretty spectacular.

Zero Dark Thirty is a spy film but not what you’d normally expect from a spy film because the main character, Maya, isn’t jumping from rooftop to rooftop or saving the world from a mad man or ferreting out a mole; she’s diligently and tirelessly searching for a single man, using all the resources available to her.

As if we needed reminding of the situation, the film starts with a black screen with radio communications playing from 11th September 2001, something I found particularly effective. I’m not American, but I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when it all went down, as I expect all of you do as well.

The film then plays out the entire ten-year search in its gritty, gruelling and bureaucratic detail, spearheaded by Maya.

To say it’s an effective movie would be the understatement of the year. Simultaneously showing what they had to do, including torture, groundwork, and long sleepless nights, shows the toll on us all through Maya and Jessica Chastain weathers it like a champ. She’s already won a Golden Globe for the role, and she deserves her Oscar nod more than anyone else I’ve seen so far for the upcoming ceremony. But, make no mistake; the Oscar is hers to lose.

Everything in this film is utterly compelling. When we finally get to the final act of the raid on bin Laden’s compound by Navy Seals, the idea that realistic military tactics and execution thereof isn’t filmable in a meaningful way is shown to be false. In fact, any time anyone says this to you from now on, tell them to watch Zero Dark Thirty.

This film deserves to win all the awards it’s nominated for. It probably won’t win them all, but it should, and in addition to everything above, because it tells us what happened but doesn’t tell us how we should feel about it. The torture and humiliation is on screen, but there’s no heavy-handed speech about how it’s terrible but necessary or how it is destroying the country’s soul or any of that. Just, here it is, feel how you feel.

That, in and of itself with such talked about yet delicate subject matter, is a pretty major achievement.

2013 Oscar Nominees, Reactions, and a Few Predictions

It’s that time of year again: Awards Season. The Golden Globes are on this weekend and this week the [nominations for the 85th Annual Academy Awards were announced](http://oscar.go.com/nominees).

My reactions to the nominations are varied, but as per usual I’m more surprised by what’s _not_ on the list than what is.

I’m going to be up front about this too: I still haven’t seen all the films that are nominated, so my opinons here are a little skewed, so I’ll stick to talking about the ones I know (where I can).

The 2013 Oscar Nominations and my commentary thereon:

#### Best Picture

* “Argo”
* “Django Unchained”
* “Les Miserables”
* “Life of Pi”
* “Amour”
* “Lincoln”
* “Silver Linings Playbook”
* “Zero Dark Thirty”
* “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

My initial reaction here is that they can have as many as _ten_ nominations, they’ve nominated _nine_ films and The Master isn’t on the list. I mean, love it or hate it, The Master is the type of film the academy usually goes all in on.

Also, and while I personally didn’t care for it, I’m a little surprised that _The Dark Knight Rises_ isn’t on here in recognition of the trilogy that Christopher Nolan put together. I mean, they did it for Peter Jackson, why not Nolan?

I honestly don’t know what I’d pick from this list, I still haven’t seen Les Miserables, Django Unchained is amazing but Silver Linings Playbook is pretty much exactly the type of “quirky people” movie that actors love playing and love voting for, so we’ll see.

#### Actor in a Leading Role

* Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
* Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”
* Hugh Jackman – “Les Miserables”
* Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”
* Denzel Washington – “Flight”

I’m kind of shocked to see Bradley Cooper on this list, but then again as I mentioned before _Silver Linings Playbook_ is pretty much the type of film the Academy goes in for. Denzel is a bit of a wild card to me, he was great in Flight but I didn’t expect to see him here.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Hugh Jackman are completely not surprising: They’re both great actors and they’re both in great films.

I have a feeling that Day-Lewis or Jackman will take this category but I actually hope for Joaquin Phoenix. The man is completely transformed for his role in _The Master_. His slight slur, his ability to go from calm to explosively violent in a heartbeat, and even his hunched posture, the man disappeared into Freddie Quell.

And of course the lingering question: where the hell is Jamie Foxx’s name?? Or John Hawkes? Geez!

#### Actress in a Leading Role

* Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
* Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
* Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
* Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of Southern Wild”
* Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”

To be fair, I haven’t seen Amour, Beasts of a Southern Wild or The Impossible yet so I have no idea who is going to take this. I do, however, love the idea that either Jessica Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence might win since I honestly think they were both robbed in the past (Chastain in _The Help_ and Lawrence in _Winter’s Bone_).

#### Actor in a Supporting Role

* Alan Arkin – “Argo”
* Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”
* Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
* Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”
* Christoph Waltz – “Django Unchained”

Interesting fact: All five nominees here are Oscar winners already. Interesting Fact: Leonardo diCaprio has not won an Oscar before, was the scene stealing standout of the show in Django Unchained, and isn’t on this list.

Now, i don’t mean to demean any of these guys work but at the same time I do mean tot point out that Leonardo has been _fucking robbed_ this year.

As to who will win? I’m pulling for Phillip Seymour Hoffman. His work in The Master is stellar and he deserves to go home with his second trophy for it.

I’m going to say something that will make me sound like a fanboy now: I think Bruce Willis should be on this list for Looper. If you don’t believe me just go watch it again and pay close attention when he goes after his first target.

#### Actress in a Supporting Role

* Amy Adams – “The Master”
* Sally Field – “Lincoln”
* Anne Hathaway – “Les Miserables”
* Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”
* Jackie Weaver – “Silver Linings Playbook”

Here’s a category where I think the younger actresses are going to battle it out. Amy Adams is phenomenal in The Master and Anne Hathaway sang “I Dreamed A Dream” on screen, live. Completely different roles to be sure, both both are great.

Not to sound like I have Django on the brain, but Kerri Washington could likely have done with a nod here. Hell, so could Emily Blunt for _Looper_.

#### Best Animated Feature

* “Brave”
* “Frankenweenie”
* “ParaNorman”
* “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
* “Wreck-It Ralph”

Pixar has a nomination and usually that’s enough to secure themselves a win, but Brave –while great by normal standards– was just ok by Pixars usual standards.

I’d really like to see this go to Wreck-it Ralph.

#### Best Director

* “Amour” – Michael Haneke
* “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Benh Zeitlin
* “Life of Pi” – Ang Lee
* “Lincoln” – Steven Spielberg
* “Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

I haven’t seen enough of these to comment. Lincoln was incredibly directed but I’m not so sure about Silver Linings Playbook. Maybe David O. Russell is nominated because he probably should have won for _The Fighter_.

No Tarantino? No Rian Johnson? No Ben Affleck? No Kathryn Bigelow? What the hell? And what about Paul Thomas Anderson? You’re telling me that the three main actors from his film had oscar calibre performances and he had nothing to do with that? Riiiight.

And again, a little surprised to not see Christopher Nolan on this list for the same reasons I mentioned above.

#### Best Original Screenplay

* “Amour” – Michael Haneke
* “Django Unchained” – Quentin Tarantino
* “Flight” – John Gatins
* “Moonrise Kingdom” – Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
* “Zero Dark Thirty” – Mark Boal

This is the one that Tarantino will win. I can’t see how he wouldn’t given that he was snubbed on the Best Director list. But where is Rian Johnson on this list? She should be here for the same reason Tarantino is.

#### Best Adapted Screenplay

* “Argo” – Chris Terrio
* “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
* “Life of Pi” – David Magee
* “Lincoln” – Tony Kushner
* “Silver Linings Playbook” – David O. Russell

I’ve only read the source material for one of these and I haven’t seen the movie version of it yet so I’m gonna keep my trap shut.

I’m going to wager a guess that either Silver Linings Playbook or Argo takes it.

#### The Rest and Closing Thoughts

That’s really it for the major categories, the rest are mostly technical. It’s nice to see that Skyfall picked up a nomination in the original song category, I loved the song and I hope either it or _Everybody Needs A Best Friend_ from _Ted_ takes it home.

It’s more than a little strange to see _The Master_ left off the cinematography list, it’s being snubbed for best picture is one thing, it was easily the most stunningly shot film I saw in 2012.

I’m a bit sad to see that _Looper_ was passed over entirely. It’s incredibly well written and it’s cast are are great. I know that the academy doesn’t usually go in for genre film but still. Great films deserve recognition. At least give him the screenplay nod!!

Last year I [live blogged the ceremony](http://awesomefriday.ca/2012/02/oscars-2012-live-blog/) and, barring any unforeseen circumstances I’ll be doing the same thing year, so check back here on 24th of February!

Matt’s Best of 2012

It is now 2013. Another year is over, so here’s a brief look at what I thought of 2012.

Favourite Film – The Avengers

The Avengers
The Avengers

There’s so much I can say here but what it comes down to is that I’ve been waiting for this film for basically my entire life. Having been reading Marvel comics since I was a kid seeing all these characters brought to the big screen in a way that doesn’t suck on their own was good, seeing them all on-screen together in a way that doesn’t suck is fucking amazing. Because let’s face it: a lot of superhero movies suck.

You see it’s not just that this is a good film that makes it my favourite of the year, hell I’ll even admit that there are a bunch of objectively better films that came out this year, but The Avengers is the geek dream realized: comic book continuity brought to the movies. Proof that you can create an entire universe in film and the masses won’t reject it. Proof to the studios —finally— that their audience is full of intelligent people who are looking for an interconnected film series with characters that stand both on their own and as a team in a single universe. Yes, I realize I just said the same thing three times. If you think The Avengers isn’t a milestone in filmmaking consider this: Fox just hired Mark Millar to oversee X-Men continuity. DC had the ending of Man of Steel retooled to leave it open for a Justice League style team-up movie down the road.

And aside from all that, it’s just a damn good movie. It’s near-perfectly cast, they’re all clearly having fun, Joss Whedon’s script is lively and full of humour, and it features one of the best action set pieces of the year. Who knew basically destroying New York could be so fun? More than that though, Joss Whedon understands that what makes a large cast work isn’t the action or the bad guy’s plans, it’s the relationships between the characters and he completely nails this aspect of the film.

At the moment when The Avengers finally assemble for the third act of the film, I was one of the people standing and cheering, and I fully expect that the next time they assemble, I will be again.

Honourable Mentions

“I don’t want to talk about time travel, we’ll be here all day.” is my favourite line from Looper. This is the scene in which writer/director told us “stop worrying and enjoy this story because the story is what matters.” All of this is completely true. Looper is a film that tells you that it’s about time travel, but it’s really about love. That message, coupled with fantastic performances from the cast, a brilliant script make this a must-see.

Skyfall is the best James Bond story in years. It’s also the third act in a larger story that sees the latest Bond become fully realized and ready to move the franchise forward. Combine that with some of the best action direction of the year from Sam Mendes, and you’ve got a recipe for a great movie, which this is.

If you’d told me last year that one weekend in the summer all the guys I knew would be in a theatre watching a movie about a teddy bear (and all the girls were watching a movie about a stripper), I’d probably have given you a funny look, but that’s pretty much exactly what happened when Ted came out. It takes the ageing buddy movie schtick and manages to make it fresh again, it’s hilarious from start to finish, and it gives Mila Kunis a character to play. What more could you want?

Favourite Game – Punch Quest

Punch Quest
Punch Quest

I actually struggled with this category because, in all honesty, I don’t really have that many memorable gaming experiences from the year. There were a few flash-in-the-pans like Borderlands 2, but it ended up not holding my attention for more than a couple of weeks. Punch Quest, however, I can’t seem to get enough of.

There’s not really that much new stuff here; it’s an infinite runner that features punching. Strange at it may seem, that simple addition makes it completely addictive. Like all good single-player games, it engages me to keep playing by asking me to compete with myself and also by offering upgrades that make the punching cooler, routes that lead to boss battles or treasure troves, and a host of other “I can’t wait to see what comes next” moments in the gameplay.

Biggest Disappointment – The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises

You know I could go on and on and on about The Dark Knight Rises, but I am not going to go into specifics because I already did on the podcast but also because the specifics don’t really matter.

Sure, there are plot holes that you could drive a bus through, and there’s a lot of them, but you know what? Batman Begins and The Dark Knight both have some pretty big holes in them too. The difference is that where Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are both compelling stories, and The Dark Knight Rises is not.

Batman Begins had Bruce Wayne training and learning to become Batman. The Dark Knight pitted Batman against The Joker, his philosophical opposite. The Dark Knight Rises had Batman face off against his equal after learning to become Batman again, twice. This is not compelling; it’s repetition. Bane, despite Tom Hardy wearing the mask, isn’t interesting and a last-minute twist robs all his characters weight.

I feel like Christopher Nolan might have been going for fan service with this one (and let’s face it if the story were a comic book few people would complain because comics are strange), tried to work too much into the story and the end is a non-compelling mess.

And how did Bruce Wayne get halfway around the world with no money or ID in just a few days and then enter Gotham while it was on a total lockdown, anyway?

Dishonourable Mentions

Halo 4 may have made all the money, but I personally didn’t connect with it in the same way that I did the previous 5 entries in the franchise. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but every time I got stuck I got frustrated rather than spurred to push harder as I did in Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach.

Prometheus was meant to be Ridley Scott’s triumphant return to SciFi and the Alien franchise. It’s pretty safe to say that this was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so when it turned out to be a convoluted mess, you could say that I was disappointed. Listen to the podcast episode in which we talk about Prometheus to get a better idea of how I felt.

Top Three I haven’t Seen/Played

I’ve tried to see Django Unchained twice now and both times I’ve gone down to the theatre every show has been sold out. Love it or hate it, people are certainly seeing it. I have mixed feelings about Tarantino as a whole, but I loved Inglorious Basterds, and this one looks to be right up the same alley of bloody American history.

I’ve heard very mixed things about Les Miserables but I very much want to see it for myself. I love the idea of live singing in a movie, but I can see where that might detract from the show as well. Plus it’s full of people that I like, including Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.

The C.I.A. says that Zero Dark Thirty isn’t realistic but I’m not sure I care. I’ve yet to hear a bad review, and it has one of the more interesting production histories of the year. Plus, Jessica Chastain. Just sayin’.


That’s about all I have for 2012. All in all, it was a pretty good year for film for me, but not so much for games. Hopefully, that changes in 2013!

Be sure to check out Simon’s Best of 2012 before you go, and have yourself a great 2013!

Oscars 2012 Live Blog

Oscar night and I’m going to live blog the show. I was having trouble deciding where to start writing for the site and this seems like a golden opportunity really, just up and said “hey write about me!” So that is what I am doing. I will of course time stamp my thoughts as I have them, and hopefully provide you with enough context that you can read them without needing the show to be on in the background for you to understand what the hell I am talking about.

**17:22:** just getting set up with a place to write and record. Red carpet stuff is almost over, show about to start! Is a good thing we’re doing this without a screaming baby around. Oh wait….

**17:30:** Aaaaaaaand show starting. Morgan Freeman on stage. He’s welcoming us to the show, and also Billy Crystals parody montage.

**17:35:** Montage over. “Say ‘I’m Batman, it’ll help me!'” was hilarious, but all the jokes are pretty …. Uh…. Safe. I have a feeling this will be indicative of the rest of the show as well.

**17:37:** “Nothing takes your mind off these economic times like watching millionaires give each other golden statues.”. Awesome, if a little obvious. Now the singing. Oh the singing. If only Billy Crystal could sing.

**17:41:** I should probably point out how cynical I am about the Oscars this year, in case it hasn’t come through yet. I have a bad feeling there’ll be no risks taken tonight, and the jokes aren’t that funny so far.

**17:43:** First award is cinematography. Hugo wins. Second up is art direction. Hugo wins again. I haven’t seen this yet, but from what I have seen the film is gorgeous so this makes sense. I have no strong opinions about this either way really.

**17:47:** WTF is the band doing up in the box seats? Going back to Billy Crystal for a second my question is this: why the hell don’t they just get Hugh Jackman back again? Seriously; his song was way better and unlike Billy Crystal he _can_ actually sing.

**17:52:** And now a montage of iconic moments in film. Brett from Flight of the Conchords is in the audience and I blew Simons mind by telling him that Brett is nominated for the songs in The Muppets.

**17:55:** The Artist wins Best Costume Design. Not surprised. Everyone looked great in it. The Iron Lady wins for Makeup. They did do a. Good job of turning Meryl Streep into Mrs. Thatcher and then aging the crap out of her.

**18:03:** Montage of actors talking about their first movie going experience. Mostly boring except that Brad Pitt dropped “War of the Gargantuas” which is kind of amazing. This is a movie which you need to see if you haven’t.

**18:05:** Sandra Bullock takes the stage. She’s about to speak Chinese. In German.

**18:07:** A Separation wins best foreign film. Iranian Film meant to be gorgeous. We wonder if it’s a political decision at all, but it is meant to be an amazing film. Is that too cynical? I can’t tell anymore.

**18:09:** Christian Bale on stage to give away the Best Supporting Actress trophy. Still hoping for Jessica Chastain. Simon and Wife taking the piss out of Christian Bale’s accent. Funny, most Brits I know do this, take the piss out of every other Brits accent.

**18:12:** Octavia Spencer wins for The Help. Everyone on their feet. Kind of brilliant. She was amazing after all. I maintain that the Octavia Spencer/Jessica Chastain storyline in The Help was the best part of the movie.

**18:17:** So far Sandra Bullock speaking Chinese in German, Iranian Director giving a political speech for his acceptance, and Octavia Spencer winning are the best moments of the show.

**18:18:** Ooooh Billy Crystal makes a joke that’s actually funny. “45 minute drive indeed.”

**18:20:** Christopher Guest and co doing what appears to be ad lib focus group for Wizard of Oz. Kind of right up my alley. “I didn’t like it until the flying monkeys.” Fred Willard FTW.

**18:25:** Girl With The Dragon Tattoo picks one up for best editing. Hugo for Sound Editing and Sound mixing. I realllly wanted Drive to win for sound editing, if only so that it could have an Oscar. Kind of wish that Transformers won for sound editing just to see everyone’s reaction and also the DVD cover a Transormers film that reads “Oscar Winner.”

**18:32:** Can we have more Fred Willard please?

**18:34:** Muppets on camera. It’s a good thing.

**18:35:** Cirque du Soleil interpreting “going to the movies” in dance. This could actually be pretty interesting.

**18:39:** I wish that at some point in my life I could be half as athletic as someone from Cirque. Seriously.

**18:41:** Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow presenting for documentaries. Not being very funny. Fuck I didn’t see any documentaries this year at all. Undefeated wins. Yay?

**18:44:** Huh, first instance of someone being played off. Even cut off the mic on the guys who won best documentary. Not really fair consider there were six of them.

**18:46:** Best animated film is Rango. Fucking amazing since its clearly the best animated film from 2011 and Gore Verbinski is overdue. Maybe a bit surprising that the film that was the best was chosen.

**18:50:** Any voice actors in the audience? I’d like to hear what you have to say abut Chris Rock’s little description of your job. I’d be willing to bet that you’re maybe wanting to go all Hulk SMAHSH right now?

**18:54:** Emma Stone is amazing. That is all.

**18:55:** Lots of good choices for visual effects but Hugo wins. Seems like Hugo is going to win all the technical awards. I wonder how that bodes for the beat picture/director awards… No I don’t, it bodes poorly.

**18:59:** Best Supporting Actor award. Christopher Plummer wins! Yes! About time. He’s generally speaking always great.

**19:10:** You know, I think they should just let the hosts of these shows run wild. When these jokes are so blatantly scripted they aren’t funny. If they’d just let them ad lib and make fun of the audience it might actually be good. So far Billy Crystals best jokes have all been off the cuff remarks, like the one to the president of the academy, “mister excitement.”

**19:13:** The Artist is totally going to win best score.

**19:14:** The Artist won best score. I mean, how could it not? The film is all music. On top of that the score is really good, too. Also John Williams had two nominations for the same score. YEAH I SAID IT.

**19:18:** Will Ferrell and Zach Galifiniakais presenting for best song. Muppets to win, right?

**19:19:** Bret Harrison of Flight of the Conchords is now an Oscar winning musician. Fuck Yes. Muppets FTW.

**19:25:** is it just me or is Angelina Jolie not looking super healthy? She looks like a stick figure. Either way, The Descendants just won best adapted screenplay. I’m sure it’s great but I was really pulling for Moneyball.

**19:29:** I really hope Woody Allen wins for best original.

**19:30:** Woody Allen wins. Fucking A. I’d really like to see him win best picture as well but don’t see it happening.

**19:37:** You know, the technical awards should get more than just a 2 minute recap. But maybe I’m a huge nerd.

**19:39:** Maya Rudolph and Kristin Wiig making innuendo about short vs long film should be cliche but somehow is just funny.

**19:42:** Are all the best documentary nominees seated in the nose bleeds? Do they get to give their speech after the next awards when they finally get to the stage?

**19:45:** That’s a capitol hat the guy who won for best animated short is wearing. Jaunty angle as well.

**19:50:** Michael Douglas is clone of Kirk Douglas right? Time for the best director. Thinking that The Artist will likely win. If something I don’t want to win is going to win though, let it be Hugo. If something I want to win wins let it be Midnight in Paris.

**19:53:** aaaand The Artist wins for best director. Le sigh.

**19:57:** Governors awards. Again, wish they weren’t given such a brief recap. Just make it part of the show. Or, better yet, replace the red carpet BS with them.

**20:00:** Only best actor, actress, and film are left. Not hopeful for anyone involved in films that don’t rhyme with “de smartest.”

**20:03:** Time for the in memoriam. Usually this is when we get to hear how famous people were by how loud the crowd claps, but no one is clapping. Fucking finally.

**20:13:** ok the show is starting to feel dragged out. But at least Natalie Portman is on stage to give ay the best actor award. I’m sure Rene Dujardin will win, but we’ll see. Nice little unspoken exchange between her and Gary Oldman as she talked about his performance in Tinker Tailor.

**20:18:** Jean Dujardin wins. Not surprised in the slightest. Don’t get me wrong, while I didn’t think the movie was worth all the awards it’s winning or even like his character? He did a brilliant job. That said, GARY OLDMAN WAS NOMINATED.

**20:24:** Here’s Colin Firth to give the best actress award. No idea who it will be. Meryl Streep won the BAFTA but that’s British isn’t it. Viola Davis needs to win, Rooney Mara I want to win, but I have a feeling it’ll be Bernice Bejo.

**20:29:** Oh wait Bernice Bejo wasn’t nominated. Fuck. I had kind of assumed that she was. Either way, Meryl just won and it’s about fucking time. Even if Viola Davis should have. But seriously, about time. 13 nominations between wins?? Too many.

**20:32:** Tom Cruise to present best picture. With a montage. It’ll be The Artist, but I really want it to be … Well, they’re all good, but Midnight in Paris. Or Moneyball.

**20:36:** And The Artist wins. Quel surprise. Between Hugo cleaning up the technical awards and The Artist cleaning up everything else it doesn’t seem like anything else won much of anything.

You know, this ceremony wasn’t very exciting. I hope next year there’s some risks, some more varied choices, and that the theme is a little more specific than “we like movies.”. I’m going to sleep on it and recap in a day or two with more feelings on who won and who didn’t but long story short: boring, Emma Stone hot, Angelina Jolie not hot, and very few surprises.