A “Warrior” for a good cause

The upcoming action drama “Warrior” is the first truly major movie we can think of to cover the world of MMA. A poster from Comic-Con signed by stars Tom Hardy — who made such a huge splash as Eames in “Inception” and who is slated to be next Mad Max — and Joel Edgerton (outstanding in last year’s “Animal Kingdom“) from Comi-Con is currently up for auction at eBay. It’s all for an outstanding cause, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, so you’ll be getting a small piece of history while helping children. However, the auction closes this afternoon (Thursday, 8/4), just a couple of hours, so there’s not much time.

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Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Oscar Recap: Anne Hathaway of making us tingly

We love the Oscars. We just wish that they loved us back. Every year we get excited about the big show, and every year we feel a little sad when they’re over, and not because the show is over, but because they just can’t surprise us anymore. The major categories are all decided weeks before the show, and the non-award pieces, save the brilliant Auto-Tune bit, were pretty flat. At least there weren’t any dancers this year.

Ah, but the show did have its good points, along with some less than good points. Here’s the Bullz-Eye breakdown of the 2011 Academy Awards.

The Good

The show was short

It was over in three hours and 15 minutes, making it the shortest broadcast since 2005. And had Kirk Douglas not done that “You know…” bit over and over, it would have been five minutes shorter. But it’s hard to fault Douglas for that since it was one of the better improv moments of the evening.

Anne Hathaway

US actress Anne Hathaway arrives for the Vanity Fair Academy Awards Party at Sunset Tower in Los Angeles, USA, 27 February 2011. Photo: Hubert Boesl

Did we mention that she’s hot, as in ‘would look good in a suit of armor’ hot? And the bit where she poked fun at her own movie by saying, “You know, it used to be that you get naked, you get an Oscar. Not anymore.” Then, one more time, wistfully, “Not anymore.” Gold. And that last dress she wore…wow. We found it extremely difficult to take our eyes off of her breasts, which was surely the point.

Inception” won more Oscars than we were expecting

We knew the technical awards were a lock, but stealing the Cinematography Oscar from the Deke (that would be Roger Deakins, who shot “True Grit“) was a shocker. And yet, despite winning four Oscars and being nominated for Best Picture and Original Screenplay, the Academy didn’t see fit to nominate Christopher Nolan for Best Director. Ugh.

They weren’t afraid to make fun of Charlie Sheen

Though, as one of our Popdose colleagues observed, the show probably would have been a lot more entertaining had he hosted.

Randy Newman

God love him. Even he knows the score that if you’re on screen, you damn well better be entertaining. “I want to be good television!” The sad thing is that, as we watched him win his second Oscar – in 20 attempts – we had a horrible thought: if he came along today, no major label would even think of signing him.

Trent Reznor is an Oscar winner

And rightfully so, though in a perfect world, he and Atticus Ross would have been dueling it out with Daft Punk (“TRON: Legacy“) for Best Score. The Frenchies was robbed, we tells ya.

The Bad

James Franco

We love James Franco. He turned in our favorite performance of the year in “127 Hours.” But he was, um, off last night, leading some to speculate that he was high. Personally, we think Franco is way too smart to do something so boneheaded; just because he played a friendly stoner in “Pineapple Express” doesn’t mean he is one. Dude’s too busy to get high. But it seemed as though he was playing his character in “Freaks and Geeks,” as if that was at all a good idea.

Cate Blanchett’s dress

Australian actress Cate Blanchett for the 83rd Academy Awards, the Oscars in Los Angeles, USA, 27 February 2011. Photo: Hubert Boesl

Everything else about Cate was stunning. Cute hair, lovely figure, wry smile, ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom. But that dress…what the hell? It looked like a tablecloth, one that had lemon cream pie spilled at the shoulders.

Tom Hooper winning Best Director

There is an argument that there is no bad acting, only bad direction, and by that standard, Tom Hooper did an outstanding job directing “The King’s Speech.” And truth be told, he did do an outstanding job directing that movie. But look at what David Fincher had to put together, the number of moving pieces, and the dialogue that his actors had to get just right. He should have won, plain and simple.

Christian Bale plugging a web site in his acceptance speech

Tacky, and the crowd let him know it.

Celine Dion singing during the “In Memoriam” piece

There wasn’t anyone else you could have found to sing that song? Really? Anne Hathaway is sitting right backstage. She can sing. And she doesn’t look like an alien.

Susanne Bier

The Danish filmmaker just won her first Academy Award for her film “In a Better World,” and here was the reaction from one of our party guests: “She has pit stains!” Ow.

  

Quick hits of the 2011 Academy Awards

It’s late, and I didn’t win the pool in our annual Oscar party (this year’s winner: Kristin Dreyer Kramer of Nights and Weekends), so I’m understandably sore, and perhaps a bit drunk. Kidding about that last part (a better word would be tipsy), but yes, I am sore that I voted against my heart in every category and proved to be wrong on most of them. There will be a full recap tomorrow, but here are the big takeaways from the evening’s events.

There is nothing that Anne Hathaway can’t do

She can act, she can sing, she can do more accents than Meryl Streep, and she’s fucking gorgeous. We knew all of this already, of course, but seeing her do the Bahston accent in the opening sequence to the Oscars, plus seeing her pretend to be Russian and Texan in “Valentine’s Day” (to be honest, I can’t remember if she did a Russian voice; I tried to forget that movie as quickly as I could), proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is the official girl of our dreams.

You can’t shake Aaron Sorkin off with ‘wrap it up’ music

Dude just kept talking a good 45 seconds to a minute after the strings kicked in. Better yet, he didn’t even acknowledge them. Why dignify it? Awesome.

Maybe everything is better with Auto Tune

That musical sequence was the best joke of the evening, by a country mile. And in case any of you were wondering where they got the idea…

Melissa Leo is the Guns ‘n Roses of actresses

I was rooting for her to win – I guess my belief that she was an underdog was just that – but I have to say that I was hoping that she would give a better acceptance speech than that. She looked like a wide-eyed teenager. I bet Anna Paquin gave a more composed acceptance speech than that.

Funniest one-liner while watching the show

Jason Zingale, upon seeing Oprah Winfrey: “You get an Oscar, and you get an Oscar! And you get an Oscar!” We were laughing so hard that we didn’t have the heart to tell him that Oprah could have him killed for saying that.

If you play in a dead pool, you should probably have Kirk Douglas on your 2011 list

I don’t endorse dead pools, because that’s just a ghoulish thing to do, but damn, man, Kirk is in a bad way. Just sayin’.

More commentary tomorrow, but until then, let us just say: what the hell was up with Cate Blanchett’s dress? Did she lose a bet?

  

Five 2011 Academy Award Upsets We’d Like to See

It should be stated for the record that while the editorial ‘we’ was used for the title of this column, the truth is that these are my picks and solely my picks. Let the first person speak begin.

The Academy Awards have become a bit of a bore in the last few years. There have been next to no surprises in the major categories, except for perhaps Marion Cotillard winning Best Actress in 2008 for “La Vie en Rose” or Alan Arkin winning Best Supporting actor in 2007 for “Little Miss Sunshine.” For the most part, it’s decided pretty early who’s going to win, which totally sucks, if you ask me. Of course, there are categories where there is a performance that clearly stands out above the others, but in many instances, people win their Oscars not because they’ve delivered something otherworldly, but because it’s their time, and they’re due, or other such nonsense. These aren’t lifetime achievement awards, and this isn’t a welfare system. If you give the award to the worthy party the first time around, there will be no need to “pay them back” later (cough, Al Pacino and Denzel Washington).

Take Tilda Swinton, for example. Do you know why she won the Academy Award for Supporting Actress? It’s because the voters knew that “Michael Clayton” was going to be shut out in every other category, so they threw Swinton a bone just so the movie walked away with at least one award. What the hell kind of logic is that? Did she really give the best performance or not? She was perfectly fine in the movie, but there was nothing extraordinary about it, certainly not compared to her hilariously stone-hearted harpy in “Burn After Reading.” Needless to say, the Academy’s predictability of late has led me to rebel, which is why on Sunday, I’d love nothing more than to hear the following five names be read instead of what we will probably hear.

Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, “Inception

Current Frontrunner: David Seidler, “The King’s Speech”

“The King’s Speech” is a wonderful little film. It was #7 on my list of top movies of 2010. But that story has been done many, many times before, while “Inception” was so layered that it took 10 years for Christopher Nolan to finish it. Small stories are good stories, but when someone dares to, pardon the pun, dream like Nolan did here – and better yet, pull it off, which he does in spades – that should be rewarded. It would also serve as a warning shot across the bows of every action movie director that story matters, damn it, and to get rid of the jive-talking robots.

Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech

Current Frontrunner: Christian Bale, “The Fighter

We called it three years ago: Christian Bale will win an Oscar before it’s said and done, and more likely sooner than later. Now it’s about to happen, and strangely, I wish it weren’t.

First off, credit where credit is due. Bale positively disappeared into the role of Dicky Eklund, shedding a bunch of weight to resemble the body type of a crack addict and sounding like an authentic born-and-raised Southie. It was flashy without being gimmicky, and that is the key to Oscar glory. There is just one teensy problem; his character doesn’t support the story – he’s a distraction to it, and every time the movie becomes Dicky-centric, it loses momentum. Which brings us to Rush, the heart and soul of “The King’s Speech” and without whom, as Roger Ebert astutely observed, “the movie is unthinkable.” “The Fighter” could survive without Dicky; “The King’s Speech” is dead in the water without Lionel.

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”

Current Frontrunner: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit

Now, here is the supporting performance that drives “The Fighter.” Like Bale, Melissa Leo also disappears into the character of Alice Ward, but unlike Bale, there isn’t that sense of watching someone act. Instead, it was more like watching someone be, something Leo is remarkably good at. She also seems to have a fondness for getting ugly on screen, if this and “Conviction” are any indication.

Of course, the general consensus is that Leo and Amy Adams will split the “Fighter” vote, opening the door for Steinfeld to become the latest child to win an Oscar…but she’s not really in a supporting role, is she? Nope, the academy rigged the vote so she wouldn’t have to go up against Annette Bening and Natalie Portman. Don’t you think that, should Steinfeld win, it would feel a little hollow that they bent the rules for her? Just sayin’.

Best Actor: James Franco, “127 Hours

Current Frontrunner: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
Colin Firth was humbled and regal. Jesse Eisenberg fired Aaron Sorkin’s one-liners like a sharpshooter. James Franco, meanwhile, carried his movie from start to finish. It was a one-man show, and better yet, thanks to the savvy editing, it didn’t feel like a one-man show. I think Franco’s biggest problem is that a lot of people refused to see the movie on principle once they realized they would have to watch someone (pretend to) cut his arm off, and I get that; I didn’t want to see it either, but was positively blown away by the movie, and Franco’s performance, once I did.

Firth has the buzz because he’s well liked and has carved out a nice, well regarded filmography for himself. But the race to an Oscar isn’t a marathon; it’s a sprint. And from here, Franco was running faster than everyone else.

Best Picture: “The Social Network

Current Frontrunner: “The King’s Speech”

In the interest of full disclosure, my #1 movie of 2010 was “Black Swan.” For the sake of the awards, though, I’m changing my tune.

What we’re looking at is something akin to when “Forrest Gump” beat “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption” for Best Picture in 1995 (though if we’re honest, few of us knew how truly great “Shawshank” was until it was released on video a few months after the Oscars). The Academy has a chance to award a movie that will transcend time – there is a reason many people speak of “The Social Network” as a movie that will define a generation – but they won’t, and I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps the elder members of the academy can relate to “The King’s Speech” better than they can to a movie about a group of kids haggling in court over Internet money, so they’re choosing what makes them comfortable. That makes sense, I suppose. But here’s the thing – odds are, someone is going to make a movie a lot like “The King’s Speech” in the next 12 to 18 months. You won’t see another movie like “The Social Network,” however, for a long, long time.

Oh, and I’d also love to see “Exit Through the Gift Shop” win Best Documentary. The movie rules.

  

Load up on guns and bring your friends: Twenty great action movie ensemble casts

When we saw the cast that Sylvester Stallone assembled for war machine throwback that is the upcoming “The Expendables,” well, we were just giddy. It didn’t matter that Stallone’s recent writing projects (“Rocky Balboa,” “Rambo”) were as predictable as a sunrise and safe as houses – he has put together the single biggest cast of ass-kicking movie stars we’ve seen in decades, possibly ever. Indeed, as we looked back at great action ensembles from the past, we discovered just how infrequently the big stars worked together for an action movie. It happens all the time for dramas (two words: Oscar bait), but one quick look at the ‘80s in particular will tell you that action movies, by and large, are a single man’s game.

However, there are times when movie stars have forsaken the lion’s share of the spotlight in order to deliver something special, and so we salute the great guy movie ensembles of years past. In the interest of full disclosure, once we discovered that the list was going to consist almost entirely of war movies, westerns and sequels, we decided to play around a little bit with the definition of “action movie.” To the point where it included Tim Burton and Steven Soderbergh. Don’t judge.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Cast: Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Brad Dexter
The Plot: A village of farmers, frequently raided by a group of bandits, recruits a group of gunslingers to defend their town.
The Back Story: In the 1950s, it wasn’t exactly the easiest task to get the average American to go see a Japanese film, no matter how great it may have been. Fortunately, director John Sturges was up to the task of seeing Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai,” and upon doing so, he saw elements in the story and characters which would translate well to the Western genre. Boy, was he right…and if his instinct for hot properties was good, then his gift for casting was downright remarkable, given that the only truly top-shelf actor in the cast at the time was Brynner, who was riding high on the Academy Award winning success of “The King and I.” Combining these upstanding gentlemen, the inspiration of the original source material, and the classic score by Elmer Bernstein, and you’ve got yourself one of the greatest Westerns of all time.
The Money Shot: There are a lot of great small moments leading up to the big showdown between the Magnificent Seven and the despicable Calvera (Wallach), including the classic knife-throwing sequence that introduces Coburn’s character, and, indeed, the grand finale offers several immortal death sequences. None, however, match the power of Calvera’s final seconds onscreen, specifically his stunned reaction to the fact that Chris (Brynner), despite his earlier retreat, has not only returned but, indeed, successfully taken him down.

The Great Escape (1963)

Cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, James Donald
The Plot: A group of Allied prisoners plan a daring escape from a supposedly escape-proof German prison.
The Back Story: Remember what we said about Sturges’s gift for casting? It wasn’t a one-off, as this ensemble clearly demonstrates. Based on a true story, utilizing Paul Brickhill’s book of the same title as its inspiration, “The Great Escape” was adapted somewhat from its source material, pumping up the importance of the Americans in the story and adding a bit more motorcycle action. The latter was reportedly done at McQueen’s request, but whoever came up with the idea deserves a round of applause, as it makes for some of the film’s most exciting moments. Ironically, “The Great Escape” got more shrugs than kudos upon its original release, but it has since gone on to become recognized as a classic.
The Money Shot: When Hilts’s mad motorcycle ride through Germany ends abruptly when he attempts to jump the fence into Switzerland, only to get caught in the barbed wire. That’s got to hurt…

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