Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Cold Goes On, But So Must The Show!

The cold lingers, now I'm in this wonderful place of having a runny nose, while hacking out my lungs, while my head feels like it's caught in between Rocky and Clubber Lang - so yeah, not much better. But I'm not going to let that stop me!

The Oscar Best Picture viewing continues and today I bring you the next two selections, Gravity and Captain Phillips. Keeping to alphabetic order, I'm going to kick off today's show with Captain Phillips.

Captain Phillips is the based on real events story of a cargo tanker and her crew being hijacked by Somali pirates and then in order to save the crew, the ship's captain agrees to go with the pirates. If this starts to sound familiar at all it's because it pretty much made every news headline around the country back in 2009. Staring in one of his best roles in a good long while, Tom Hanks is our titular captain who is frequently threatened and beaten at gun point by the leader of the pirates, Muse, played incredibly by Barkhad Abdi in his(to date) only film credit. Directed by Paul Greengrass(there's a "grass is greener on the other side" joke in there somewhere) this is an incredibly well directed, impeccably well acted film, that for me, sadly, doesn't really amount to much - and I'l explain why.

Okay so this is a pretty impressive production. The film opens with a terrific juxtaposition between Captain Phillips' life in America and Muse's life in Somalia; both men are ready to do what it takes to survive and care for their families. Captain Phillips gets his crew ready for their journey around the tip of Africa, and Muse gathers the men he needs for a mission to capture a shipping vessel to hold for ransom.

From there it becomes a cat and mouse game as Captain Phillips and his crew try to outwit the pirates who, with every passing moment, are getting closer and closer until they're finally able to take the ship. Having to settle for only $30,000 in the ship's safe, the pirates capture Phillips and force him to go with them in the ship's life boat as they are determined to make millions of dollars from his ransom. The only problem with their plan, the United States Navy has other designs.

Now don't get me wrong with this, everything is here to create a terrific thriller, the cast is there, the director is in peak form, the only problem is - we know how this ends. This is a similar problem I had with Argo last year. I knew the outcome. I read all about what happened after President Clinton declassified that operation, and the subsequent Wired Magazine article. I knew what was going to happen from the moment the show started, and I wanted to see that end sooner rather than later. The same problem plagues Captain Phillips - only far worse in my estimation since it's a much more recent event. I knew about the standoff with the Navy. I knew the SEALS show up and do what they do best. So the whole time Captain Phillips and his crew are doing their thing and trying survive - I just wanted the SEALS to show up(maybe not Charlie Sheen and Michael Biehn though).

When you're ready for the end of the movie at the beginning of the movie - that's not a good thing! This is why I don't read the ends of books, and why I don't read comment threads when movies are released - I hate spoilers. This move was spoiled by the fact that it was big news for a really long time. At least for me. Maybe there were some that weren't paying attention at the time that can still get caught up in it, but I'm just not one of them. I know many people love it, and I can totally see why, and I get why it has a 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes, it just doesn't do it for me. I really wanted it to, but it doesn't. I loved Tom Hanks' performance, he's incredible, so one thing I have to admit to, is that if  you're going to watch it, it's for him. And I truly hope Barkhad Abdi is someone we see more from in the future. That dude has talent! As it stands now in the rankings, it's the least likely to win Best Picture, especially since it's lead actor, Tom Hanks isn't even nominated - as he rightly should be!


Gravity! Okay all I can say about this movie really is "Oh My God What A Ride!" This is movie making splendor at it's absolute best! From frame one you're drawn into this "world" of outer space and the characters that inhabit it. Staring Sandra Bullock, in justifiably her best performance, the audience is taken on a thrill ride as a catastrophic event destroys her shuttle sending her adrift with minimal oxygen left. Along for the ride is George Clooney, whom is also great in his part, but make no mistake, this is Sandra's show through and through. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, this is one of the most suspenseful, well crafted films of the year, if not several years.

Taking four years to film and complete, this movie is a technical marvel to behold, and the 3D imagery is nothing short of breathtaking. Seriously, if you're not watching this movie in 3D, you're not fully experiencing the film. And as a side note, it's also the best post conversion 3D films ever released. Yes, that's right. This movie was not initially shot in 3D due to the fact that the actors had to be filmed in multiple ways utilizing a variety of techniques to created the perfect weightless effects. So any 3D naysayers out there can go take a powder because this conversion effort is incredible and does exactly what good 3D is supposed to do and suck you into the film.

If I'm not describing the plot much, well, even I'll concede this, there isn't much plot to discus. Ship blows up, astronauts have to get back to Earth any way they possibly can. That's about it. While the plot is basic, it's the way this show is presented that makes it so compelling and rewarding. This is where having a simple plot helps. There is just no need to over think this and muddle the proceedings in the process. And like I said before, Sandra's performance was incredible, especially since she's the emotional anchor for the entire picture. Nominated for Best ActressDirector, as well as Best Original Score - which I fully endorse as well - this movie is the one to beat. I loved it, and I know I'll be watching it many more times to come.

Is it a strong Best Picture contender in my book? You bet! All the way to the top of the list in fact(so far). Like any movie there is a fair level of criticisms to be leveled at this one. Are their technical inaccuracies? Sure, but then I'm not an astrophysicist so I'm not going to gripe. I have also heard some gripes from people about the performances, and to be flat honest, if you're not moved by Sandra's emotional roller coaster in any way, you've got to be one cynical dick. And I know cynics, I am one, but even I won't shoot this movie down like that.

Best of all for this film, It is available to purchase on Blu-ray today! Why you'd watch this on DVD I have no idea. At over 80% HD market penetration, if you're not onto Blu-ray yet, this is the movie to start the collection with! ALSO if you have a 3DTV set, yeah you're wasting your money if you don't have this one in there. So far this is hands down the favorite of the Best Picture race in my opinion.

Come back tomorrow where I'll take on 12 Years A Slave, and Nebraska. Until then, be good out there and do what ever you can to not get this cold! If I have managed to give it to you by coughing on my screen - I apologize!
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