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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Revival? Upgrade?

Filmsnork has been dormant for a long time. Has it been too long? That is the question I am presenting myself (and you) with at this moment. Of course, it is in desperate need of a rebrand, but how extensive should that be? If I revive the site, do I drop the Filmsnork name?

Monday, February 25, 2019

My Official, Late (but Legit) 2019 Oscar Picks

OSCAR PREDICTIONS Correct picks marked with * 15 total. Not bad. The 4th year in a row I did not predict the Best Picture. Best Picture Roma Director Alfonso Cuaron* Actor Rami Malek* Actress Glenn Close Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali* Supporting Actress Regina King* Adapted Screenplay BlackKklansman* Original Screenplay The Favourite Foreign Language Roma* Animated Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse* Cinematography
 Roma* Costume The Favourite Doc Feature Free Solo* Film Editing Vice Makeup Vice* Score Blackkklansman Song Shallow* Production Design The Favourite Sound Editing First Man Sound Mixing Bohemian Rhapsody* Visual Effects First Man* Animated Short Bao* Live Action Short Marguerite Doc Short Period. End of Sentence*

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Incredibly Creepy Teaser Trailer the New "IT"

It has been decades since I read the novel, so I cannot tell you how true to the source material it will be. One thing I can say for sure is this looks terrifying. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

FilmSnork Official 2017 Oscar Picks

This year's Oscars seemed like an easy crop to predict... UNTIL I was making my selections.   Upon completion, I questioned did I properly think through my picks or over-think them.  La La Land seems like a shoe-in for at a handful of awards.  The real question is will it carry its momentum to a near sweep or will some other films snag some lesser categories?  Personally, I loved La La Land so I will be happy to see it take home lots of Oscar gold.  My picks don't always reflect that love.  So, if the Academy share my love for the film, then my picks may not fare particularly well this year.  Keep watching to see how I do and post your picks below. 

La La Land

La La Land

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea 

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Emma Stone, La La Land

Viola Davis, Fences



Manchester by the Sea 

La La Land

La La Land

The Salesman

O.J.: Made in America

Star Trek Beyond


La La Land

“City Of Stars,” La La Land

La La Land

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

The Jungle Book


Joe’s Violin

Ennemis Intérieurs

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Filmsnork Review: Ghostbuster (2016)

Ghostbusters (2016) had an uphill battle from the day it was announced (sexism is alive and well in this country.) Along the way that hill became much steeper when the studio chose the wrong director and writers delivering this embarrassingly bad revival of the Ghostbusters franchise.
Unlike what some people would like to hear, the casting is not the problem here. Good films let you forget you are in a movie theater (on your couch or in a subway car) and transfer you into the film's world to escape for a couple of hours - not this Ghostbusters. The fatal flaw is the dialogue - it never feels natural, (with the exception of a few) EVERY line delivered in a way that you'd assume the script notes consistently read "wait for laughter to die down" after each line. When you try too hard to deliver laughs you often lose the human qualities that make up a good character. What you are left with ad are "joke" delivering caricatures - each actor/actress is given a well-defined role to play and only delivers specific jokes to match that respective personality. A script like this is constricting for the actors, leaving very little room for authentic feeling dialogue. It is similar to an ensemble sitcom that has passed it's prime, the characters no longer feel like people with real thoughts/emotions/etc. You can essentially anticipate what they will say every time it is their turn to open their mouth. This can work with the right script and direction, but here the jokes are shallow and repetitive and the direction does nothing to help. Every line is played for the laugh. A perfect example of this are the receptionist jokes. How many Chris Helmsworth, dumb-hunk jokes can you have in a two hour movie? Answer, too many. The problem only becomes compounded when all those jokes lead to little or no laughter. Comedy is about timing and instead we are hit with a barrage of jokes that fall flat. If the four Ghostbusters are on screen they are trying to amuse you. It is numbing. The ratio of joke to non-joke is way off. Fix this and the film is automatically better.
There are hints of what could have been scattered throughout the film. One scene I actually enjoyed has a frantic Kristen Wiig coming across like a crazy conspiracy-theorists in a fancy reference complete with a very funny Jaws reference. The scene works because the character is not just delivering a clever joke, there is much more at play. Come to think of it, the original GB worked best when the core four were in the room together to play off each other, that is the opposite here.
As for the fan service, there's plenty - they could not cram in enough. It is as if the writers were convinced that referencing the original film would be considered clever. It's not, especially the couple dozen times it is done here. That is the equivalent of shouting "How about them Cubbies?" during a concert in Chicago. You can only shout out "How about them Cubbies" a couple times before it loses it's impact. And, with whole scenes dedicated to these shout-outs to the original, how can this new BG interpretation come into its own? I love a good cameo now and then, but today's cameos have become so ham-fisted that they have lost their luster. It is obvious, when the camera is avoiding to show something/someone that's at the core of the scene, something/someone nostalgic is about to appear - oh brother. The whole wink at the camera approach is played out. Instead of winking, the time would have been better spent exploring the new characters is wasted with reveal upon reveal upon reveal of fan service. (FYI, if you want to see a great cameo, watch Zombieland.) 
Director, Paul Feig, could not piece together enough pieces to make the film the fans deserved. Instead of a team of outcasts we can all get behind as they try to save the world, we are delivereda group of comedians in a room trying to out do each other for laughs. I have hope that the right director could harnesess enough from the talented cast to turn this franchise around. Here's hoping that Hollywood doesn't pull a DC bring back the wrong director for a second chance. 
In a typical review, I'd usually delve into the acting, but in this case there is little to say here. These ladies had nothing to work with. And, although some haters out there are probably happy with that, I was completely let down. Ghostbusters was the very first film my family rented when we we lucky enough to have a VHS player. It will always hold a special place in my cinematic heart. I wanted to love this (or at least like) - to have a film to share with friends, fans and family. Sadly, that didn't happen and all we have here is a forgettable mess of a film. That is why I am giving it 3.5 out of 10.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


The battle of these two iconic characters is the type of thing geeks have debated of and dreamed about for decades. On paper seems like a slam dunk - Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, what could go wrong? According to most critics, a lot. Universally they have been beating it up. And while no where near perfect I A flawed movie that I liked none the less. Most the flaws are delivered at the hand of director Zack Snyder. While he is great with delivering amazing visuals, he lacks the ability to bring much else... maybe this is a little unfair since he did not write the screenplay, but since many of the same shortcomings found in Man of Steel are still present here, I have to put the blame on him. For the film the deck was stacked against him, unlike Marvel that slowly built up to an assemble film (The Avengers) he was handed a huge task, kickstarting the Justice League universe that consisted of only one established big screen character a tepidly received Superman. This is the film's biggest problem is always feels like the kickstarter that it is. Overall, it is an overstuffed, dark mess - much of what happens on screen seems like a checklist of required storylines/backstory/characters that need to be checked off so the future Justice League franchise films can come to the big screen. Problems arise and are often resolved too easily/quickly and perhaps not all that logically. But, with the non-stop action and effects it is easier to overlook (at least on first viewing) because there is little time to think think while your senses are being bombarded.

The tone is dark from frame one until the very end with the lightest line delivered by Martha Kent (Dianne Lane) - the theater chuckled, after and before that it was dark and moody. If there was some breathing room perhaps the characters would not seem so one-dimensional. Which had me thinking, this would be a great TV series with 13 episodes to tell the same story crammed into one film... more time to develop characters, time to add some subtlety to the story and maybe, just maybe the occasional well lit scene. I get it, this is the darker, grittier superhero franchise, but they can still own a couple of 90 watt bulbs and walk outside on a day that is not overcast.

Ben Affleck was fine, not great, not memorable - just fine. His costume and the way they had him move around the screen felt very Batman-like, but his performance was pretty much one-note. Again, this may have more to do with DC trying to cram three films into one.  

The biggest head scratcher was Zack Snyder's penchant for shirtless people - very odd.

When the credits rolled, I have to admit I kind of liked it. Maybe I had lowered expectations, maybe I have to see it again to evaluate closer or maybe I liked it. No matter what is the reason I can recommend this film for any superhero fan - it has plenty of right off the comic book feel to it. As a film, not just a superhero film, it is not as successful. Still, I enjoyed the 150 flawed minutes more than expected which allows me to give it a 5.5 out of 10.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

FilmSnork Official Oscar Picks:

Best Picture: Spotlight
Actor: DiCaprio
Actress: Larson
Director: Inarritu
Supporting Actor: Stallone
Supporting Actress: Vikander
Animated Feature: Inside Out
Cinematography: The Revenant
Costume Design: Mad Max
Documentary Feature: Amy
Film Editing: The Big Short
Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul
Makeup - Hair: Mad Max
Music - Score: The Hateful Eight
Original Song: Til It Happened to You
Production Design: Mad Max
Sound Editing: The Revenant
Sound Mix: Mad Max
Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
Original Screenplay: Spotlight
Animated Short: Bear Story
Short Film Live Action: Shok
Documentary Short: Girl In the River

Picked a few with my heart... hoping for that perfect year. Fingers crossed. Enjoy the show.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Streaming Free!

Wow! They are streaming Batman v Superman in its entirety on Youtube. I would rush over there to try to watch it before it is pulled. Search for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Official Trailer 2 [HD]. Oh wait, Trailer? That's odd, they showed the whole film. I must say, Zack Snyder deserves credit, he seems to be delivering the over-stuffed mess we had expected. Someone tell him that film with a dark tone DOES NOT need to be visually dark. Where does this take place, a mine? Was hoping for the best... looks like the best didn't make it.

If you want to a rundown of the first 4/5 of the film, here's the trailer.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Sopranos Finale Interpreted - My Minute With David Chase

Attended First and Last: An Evening With David Chase. It was a screening of the pilot and finale of The Sopranos then a Q&A with the creator, David Chase.  Knowing that I may never get the chance to speak directly with him again, I made sure I was selected to ask him a question.  He responded with a very insightful answer that reassured my interpretation of the infamous ending.  A great night for a huge fan.

Most people ask David Chase, "Is Tony dead?"  (including the event curator.)  That may be why he never clearly answers the question.  He has stated in the past that alive/dead is not the point.  But, he also has said that all you need to know is on the screen.  Those two comments, in my eyes, are, in a way, contradictory.  Chase is coyly saying that the series is much more than just did he live or did he die, but there IS an answer.

I can understand his frustration.  As an artist I am often frustrated when people do not recognize the thought and effort I put into my work.  My feeling is he is too, especially that the an entire decade of his career has become focused on about ten seconds of black on screen.

As a way to get him to open up more about the final scene, my plan was to discuss the ending by approaching it from a art/film perspective.  Which is why, out of EVERY response he has given about the end of the show that I have read (and I have read a ton) the answer he gave me was the most insightful.  I believe he finally gave fans of the show the answer they have wanted, but he was able to do so in the context of the thought process behind editing the final scene, not a yes or no answer.

As I said, I almost did not ask my question - then I thought, I have a hundred questions for him.  I would love to breakdown the final scene shot by shot, but I only have one chance and I knew the question.  My question was about the use of three individual shots of the family eating onion rings in a fashion very similar to taking communion (watch it again, it is VERY obvious.)  My interpretation, it was symbolic of the Last Rites (the sacrament performed before death.)  He said something along the lines of "that's it."  I said back, "that's all I need to know."  He quickly responded, "I didn't say he's dead."  Then the magic - he continued speaking to me, expanding on his answer.  The funny thing was he brought more into it than I had been able to ask about.  To me, it felt like he was finally getting a question that respected his work and he wanted to take the opportunity to reveal more.

Here is a write-up discussing the response to my question.

Chase seemed to confirm one of the key points of those who believe that the ending does depict Tony getting whacked, namely, a pattern identified in which a bell rings, signaling the diner’s door is being opened; then the camera shows Tony looking up; and then the camera assumes Tony’s point-of-view. The fade-to-black comes right when we would have assumed Tony’s point-of-view. The bell, Chase explained, is an allusion to a scene between Tony and Bobby Baccala on a lake, in which a bell also rings. (He didn’t mention that this is the same scene in which Bobby says, “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens,” a line Tony remembers in the penultimate episode and which is basically Exhibit A for those who believe that Tony gets killed.) “I had read that very often in Zen ceremonies they ring a bell like that, and what it’s supposed to do is bring you to the present, to keep bringing you to the now—the right now,” Chase said. And he went on to explain the camera-shooting structure: “It would come somewhere, see the person he was going to talk to, cut back to him, and then cut to him walking into his own point of view.”

Another article, in the New York Observer, mentions my onion ring question: A quiet question from the back cut in. “In your mind, do you know if Tony lives or dies?” (not me) “Maybe he choked on an onion ring,” Mr. Chase said. Which brings us to the most novel observation of the evening: the onion ring sequence. Each member of the Soprano family places one on their tongue in succession. “The last rites?” one gentleman wondered aloud. Mr. Chase froze. “Good,” he said.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Beat FilmSnork: 2014 Oscar Edition

Think you can beat me, make your picks in the comments section.
If you beat me there is no prize besides bragging rights for the rest of your life.  
Give is a shot.   

And the nominees are

"12 Years a Slave"
"American Hustle"
"Captain Phillips"
"Dallas Buyers Club"
"The Wolf of Wall Street"

Alfonso Cuaron, "Gravity"
Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave."
Alexander Payne, "Nebraska"
David O. Russell, "American Hustle"
Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Christian Bale, "American Hustle"
Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave"
Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Amy Adams, "American Hustle"
Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Judi Dench, "Philomena"
Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County"
Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"

Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"
Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle"
Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave"
Jonah Hill, "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"

Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"
Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"
Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"
Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County"
June Squibb, "Nebraska"

"The Croods"
"Despicable Me 2"
"Ernest & Celestine"
"The Wind Rises"

"The Grandmaster," Philippe Le Sourd
"Gravity," Emmanuel Lubezki
"Inside Llewyn Davis," Bruno Delbonnel
"Nebraska," Phedon Papamichael
"Prisoners," Roger A. Deakins

"American Hustle," Michael Wilkinson
"The Grandmaster," William Chang Suk Ping
"The Great Gatsby," Catherine Martin
"The Invisible Woman," Michael O'Connor
"12 Years a Slave," Patricia Norris

"The Act of Killing"
"Cutie and the Boxer"
"Dirty Wars"
"The Square"
"20 Feet from Stardom"

"Facing Fear"
"Karama Has No Walls"
"The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life"
"Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall"

"American Hustle," Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
"Captain Phillips," Christopher Rouse
"Dallas Buyers Club," John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
"Gravity," Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger
"12 Years a Slave," Joe Walker

"The Broken Circle Breakdown," Belgium
"The Great Beauty," Italy
"The Hunt," Denmark
"The Missing Picture," Cambodia
"Omar," Palestine

"Dallas Buyers Club," Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," Stephen Prouty
"The Lone Ranger," Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

"The Book Thief," John Williams
"Gravity," Steven Price
"Her," William Butler and Owen Pallett
"Philomena," Alexandre Desplat
"Saving Mr. Banks," Thomas Newman

"Happy" from "Despicable Me 2"
"Let It Go" from "Frozen"
"The Moon Song" from "Her"
"Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"

"American Hustle," Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler
"Gravity," Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
"The Great Gatsby," Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
"Her," Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
"12 Years a Slave," Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

"Get a Horse!"
"Mr. Hublot"
"Room on the Broom"

"Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)"
"Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)"
"Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)"
"The Voorman Problem"

"All Is Lost," Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
"Captain Phillips," Oliver Tarney
"Gravity," Glenn Freemantle
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," Brent Burge
"Lone Survivor," Wylie Stateman

"Captain Phillips," Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
"Gravity," Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
"Inside Llewyn Davis," Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
"Lone Survivor," Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

"Gravity," Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
"Iron Man 3," Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
"The Lone Ranger," Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
"Star Trek Into Darkness," Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

"Before Midnight," written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
"Captain Phillips," screenplay by Billy Ray
"Philomena," screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
"12 Years a Slave," screenplay by John Ridley
"The Wolf of Wall Street," screenplay by Terence Winter

"American Hustle," written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
"Blue Jasmine," written by Woody Allen
"Dallas Buyers Club," written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
"Her," written by Spike Jonze
"Nebraska," written by Bob Nelson

My official Oscar picks:
"Gravity" (will probably lose, but it is my favorite and I am picking it.)

Alfonso Cuaron, "Gravity"

Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"

Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"

Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"

Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"


"Gravity," Emmanuel Lubezki

"The Great Gatsby," Catherine Martin

"20 Feet from Stardom"

"The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life"

"Gravity," Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger

"The Great Beauty," Italy

"Dallas Buyers Club," Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

"Gravity," Steven Price

"Let It Go" from "Frozen"

"The Great Gatsby," Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn

"Get a Horse!"

"The Voorman Problem"

"Gravity," Glenn Freemantle

"Gravity," Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

"Gravity," Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould

"12 Years a Slave," screenplay by John Ridley

"Her," written by Spike Jonze

Good luck.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Prisoners (2013) - review

A Thanksgiving get together for a pair of families takes a sudden turn for the worst when their two young daughters disappear without a trace.  It is a uncomfortable premise and from that point onward the film only gets more grueling and dark, raising moral questions that are uncomfortable even considering.  The stellar cast lead by Hugh Jackman, who plays against character, as a father ofone of the missing girls that will do anything he can find his daughter.   The ever surprising, Jake Gyllenhaal, delivering one of his best performances, plays a young detective that is determined to solve the mystery by the book.

The film is full of intrigue and mystery that will keep you engaged as you try to piece it all together.  But, be warned it is a very tough film to sit through at times.  It sets a dark tone and you are not given a hint of a break- there is no humor, no light scenes, just grimness straight through.  The film delves into numerous religious themes that add even more weight to an already draining story.  This is masterfully handled in one scene that turns a recital of Our Father into an powerful moment of doubt and self-evaluation.  It is just one of many scenes that will have you trying to determine which way your moral compass would point in the face for such a horrific situation.

Although it is a great film full of stellar performances I recommend you proceed with caution before watching, it may be too much for some to handle.  Especially if you are a parent, it is may be too emotionally gut-wrenching for you to appreciate it.  Go hug your kids and watch something lighter instead.

8.5 out of 10

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Lego Movie (2014) - Review

When I first read about the plans for turning the classic building blocks toy into a feature film I suffered flashbacks of other such attempts to convert kids toys into movies.  G.I. Joe, Battleship, Transformers 1, 2, 3…. I shudder.   Before I could finish reading the headline I had written it off as another ill-conceived money grab.  12 month later, I saw the film's first trailer.   Not only was it not off-putting, it looked, uh, good.  How could this be?  After about five minutes into the film, I got the answer to that question.  The reason the movies is not just another toy based feature film bust is, actual writing.  Unlike so many films before it, this film has something to say.  Actually, it has a lot to say - perhaps too much to say for just one viewing.  And although the story is nothing groundbreaking, the way it is told is.  The film is a not only a tolerable 90-minute surprise, it is much more.  It is a clever, smart and hilarious - even touching at times.  This satisfying romp may even play better to adults than to the kids that dragged them to go see it.

The story focuses on Emmitt, an average yellow, plastic joe, that goes to works, buys overpriced coffee and does what any good person is supposed to do, fit in.  In order to not make waves he follows the instructions he was provided.  Until one day he breaks away from the routine and unexpectedly ends up in the middle of a rebellion to stop the Lord Business who plans to use his ultimate weapon, Kragle to take control of the universe.  The Emmitt is determined to be The Special - the supreme master builder that will find a way to save everyone.  Unfortunately, Emmit knows he is nothing more than ordinary.

The story is somewhat formulaic, but the surrounding madness is fresh enough to compensate for that.  Like most films, to get the most of the film, it is better to come into it with as little knowledge as possible and experience it organically.  For this reason I will reveal as little as possible.  There are some surprises though out, never-ending sight gags and wonderful cameos.  Some of the said surprises add a satisfying fullness to the film, preventing it from wearing out its welcome.

As I write this, so many of the clever moments pop up in my head - they are numerous - and I would love to discuss them, but would rather you enjoy them for yourselves and discuss them in the comments section.  As I previously stated, the film will probably take several viewings to catch all the jokes and pointed satire crammed into the 90 minutes.   The film is certainly not without fault - when I say crammed, it is like a suitcase that you have to sit on to zipper and after you get it shut you realize you still need fit your deodorant inside.   What feels like effortless humor comes so fast and furiously that before you can finish enjoying one laugh the next one may have already passed.  That is not to say this is a film of loosely strung together jokes - it is not.  This is not rambling buts of humor - the jokes serve a purpose.  I just wish they had more time to breath.

If you need another reason to see the film, here are two.  1) the visuals - simply amazing.  It looks so photo realistic that you will believe it actually shot with real Legos (maybe it was.)  Just incredible.  2) The acting - a great cast including Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett and about a dozen more, bring with them great comic timing that ties it all together.

Oh yeah, be prepared to being singing "Everything is Awesome" for at least a few days.

If you have seen this, please feel free to list some of the funniest moments in the comments.

8 out of 10

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Conjuring (2013) - Review

Have you ever been woken up by a dream that scared the living heck out of you?  You know, one of those dreams that no matter how old you are or how illogical it was, still scared you enough to prevent you from leaving the safe confines of your bed?  This film treads in that territory.  It sneaks past the adult defenses you gathered through the years and goes straight for those fears you thought you left behind with your youth.

Wether it is a doll that is not in the same position it was last time you saw it, a noise coming from what you thought was an empty room or a door that seems to shut on its own - an adult should be able to easily dismiss such things.  It is not that easy.  For some reason these things resurface the scared little kid inside all of us.  Director, James Wan, does not invent many new scares, he embraces old scare techniques and craftily uses them to do what they have done in the past, scare you.

The story is classic haunted horror tale - a family moves into a new house are realizes they may not be alone.  After a series of unexplained events they bring in paranormal experts to help determine just what is going on.  Thankfully, it avoids a major storytelling pitfall of so many recent films by forgoing CGI effects.  Sometimes a whisper in a dark room is much more effective than all the CGI in the world - this film proves that.

The film also benefits its surprisingly strong cast consisting of Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lilly Taylor and Patrick Wilson.  Honestly, off the top of my head, I can't think of a more skilled horror cast.  Combine their work with the atmospheric CGIless setting and you are already well ahead of the game.

Horror is very subjective.  I still get the chills just talking about the end of The Blair Witch Project.  Other people find it a complete waste of time.  Hopefully, you are like me and find this to be a chilliest.

8 out of 10

Saturday, January 25, 2014

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2012) - Review

I was captivated by this film from minute one. The editing was extremely done, teasing questions to answers we were not given privy to. As more pieces of the puzzles were revealed, there were just so many unsettling, uncomfortable and warped moments that I could not focus on determining what it was all leading to. Typically, I see how a film is going to conclude fairly early on, but in this situation I was so involved that it blindsided me.

Tilda Swinton is one of my favorite actresses (if you have missed it, like so many have, see her in the terribly underrated "Julia.) For me great acting is often what you do between your lines rather than how you deliver them. Swinton's work here exemplified mastery of just that. She often sat in silence, but you knew what she was thinking or at the very least could feel the grief, confusion and pain just with a glance.

As a whole, the movie was messed up. I will never watch it again based solely on how effective it was. A very unique film that proves terror does not need to be blood and ogre, true terror, like good acting can be found not only in the actions, but ofte in a simple glance.

The more I think about it, the more it turns my stomach.

8 out of 10

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: Christmas with the Kranks (2004) - 12 Days of Christmas Movies #4

Plot: After their daughter announces she will not be coming home for Christmas the Kranks (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) decide to forgo Christmas for a cruise, much to the chagrin of their neighbors.

Review:  Christmas movies are supposed to provide a little bit of hope, that the world is not the ugly place we all suspect it to be - that underneath it all, there is good in the world.  This film seems to preach a different message.  It is an uneven holiday farce that has the Kranks taking on an entire town that has nothing better to do than to berate a family for going on holiday rather than celebrating one.  Things get even zanier when they find out that their daughter is actually coming home and they need to stage the massive Christmas party they just cancelled. 

Based in a reality that I have never know, the majority of the film feels false.  The characters never feel like real people, most the time acting in a way that people simply do not act.  Whether it is the intrusive carolers that are so desperate to have their song heard they peer into windows of the home or two women rolling across the aisles of the supermarket in a fight for the last honey baked ham - almost every character and every scenario feel off.  The ineffectiveness of the phony characters and the paper thin plot are only multiplied by the addition of some poorly fitting slapstick humor.  Maybe the odd mix of humor is there to distract you from the senseless plot.  There is not a conflict in the film that could not be resolved with a 30 second, truthful conversation. The results are a predictable, unauthentic, holiday film that is difficult to relate.  I understand it is a comedy and you are supposed to suspend disbelief, but it is tough when the entire film is comprised of awkward, forced scenarios including a not so unexpected Santa cameo.  

With all that said, the film still does provide some softer, saccharine sweet moments that too feel false, but do counter some of the ugliness that takes place.  If you are looking for a holiday film to watch with the kids, this is probably not it - the message is all wrong and poorly told.  If you are downing some egg nog (you know, the good kind) and you want something Christmas-ish on the TV while you do so, you can do worse.
4.5 out of 10

Christmas Joy Grade:  I can't really say that is message of conformity is very joyful or that the bullish way the neighbors treat each ot
her is an example of "do on to other as you would like done to you," or that the focus on the materialistic aspects of the holiday are anything but of putting, but when the neighborhood works together to provide Claire with an old-fashioned Krank Christmas, it kind of works... that is until the next in a long line of awkward, forced moment derails any true feeling of Christmas joy.  D+

Christmas Choke-up Grade:  Not much here to stir up any real emotion besides one scene at the end that surprisingly works even while surrounded by so much other things that don't.  B-

Memorable Lines:

Marty:  I really think you need an umbrella!
(That's the best I could do.)

Did You Know?:
The film has several appearances by former classic sitcom actors including Tom Poston (Newhart)  and David Lander (Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley.) 

The films is based on a book by John Grisham, the author of The Firm, The Client and A Time to Kill.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blackfish (2013) - review

A several ton creature leaps out of the water, flies high in the air then crashes into the water creating a wave big enough to splash and soak several rows of audience members.  Few, if any, theme park experiences can produce such awe as the killer whale show at Sea World.  Little to the audiences knowledge, even though the show tells you about the playful, happy lives of their whales, all is not well at the marine park. 

In recent years, the parks have been in the spotlight after the much publicized attack during one of the family oriented shows.  Long time trainer, Dawn Brancheau, was dragged under the water by a whale named, Tilikum, held under water until she drowned.  The rest of the staff was helpless, unable to do anything but wait for the whale to release the trainer's body, which did not happen for quite some time and only after it had dismembered and caused great distress to the body.  Sea World dimissed it a tragic case of trainer error, a rare incident.  The doc reveals the incident is not isolated and makes a case for it not being trainer error at all.

The whale, Tilikum, has a sketchy past - from bites, aggressive behavior to three deaths.  The film educates the viewer about the intelligence and emotional complexity of the creatures and uses that as the basis for the argument that these "incidents" are often not accidents, but rather the actions of a highly intelligent creature that has been held in captivity for way too long.

Why keep it as part of the act if it is putting trainers in danger?  The simple answer is what you would expect, money.  Tilikum, as displayed in somewhat unsettling detail, is used to breed other killer whales - a multimillion dollar business.  When there is no logical answer, the real answer is usually money.

The doc may be a bit one-sided (most docs are.)  Seeing that Sea World was unwilling to be interviewed for the film there is not much of a counter argument.  Since its premiere at Sundance, the doc has lead to terrible press for the amusement parks and the cancellation of several musical acts that had scheduled performance there.  Since then they have purchased several full page ads in national publications refuting some of the claims of the film.

It is hard to watch this film and not be affected.  I have viustied the park numerous times over the years.  Can I take my family to see a show that provided me with so much joy during my youth?  That's something I will need to answer for myself.  Like an effective documentary should do it has me thinking, questioning and discussing.

8.5 out of 10

Find it streaming on Netflix

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Joyeux Noel (2005) - 12 Days of Christmas Movies #3

Plot: On a Christmas Eve during World War I opposing German and French troops put the war on hold to celebrate Christmas.

Review:  As a war movie it is not as brutal as it could be, less blood and violence than you may expect which works perfectly since I am watching it as part of a Christmas movie fest.  The film focuses on a pair of lovers that were pulled into the war, literally right off the stage at their theater.  The film is a bit slow as it builds to the moment the warring armies decide to take a timeout.  I am not sure how historically accurate the film is, but the simple idea Christmas can unite people allows me to enjoy it no matter how true it is, fable or fact.  7.5 out of 10

Christmas Joy Grade:  Not your typical Christmas tale, there are guns, bombs and fatalities.  Still, the spirit of Christmas shines through when the make shift Christmas celebration with enemies occurs.  The message behind the film is pure Christmas.  B-

Christmas Choke-up Grade:  When the soldier starts singing Stille Nacht (Silent Night) and the troops go silent, the chills kick in hard.  B

Memorable Lines:

We were talking about a cease fire, for Christmas Eve. What do you think? The outcome of this war wont be decided tonight. I don't think anyone would criticize us for laying down our riffles on Christmas Eve.

Did You Know?:
This film is dedicated to the soldiers who fraternized on Christmas 1914 in several places on the front. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review: Elf (2003) - 12 Days of Christmas Movies #2

Plot:  After accidentally being picked up by Santa during his rounds, a human named Buddy is raised an elf in the North Pole.  Upon learning that he is not an actual elf he travels to Manhattan to find his real father, who just happens to be on the Naughty List.

Review:  Director, Jon Favreau's goal was to have Elf be one of those yearly holiday TV movies and I think most people will attest that he succeeded.  What makes the film works on many levels is it made by someone that understood the make up of the holiday classics that came before it.  By combining some of the classic elements with some new Elf comes across like an extension of the holiday films/specials we grew up on, making it very accessible.

This can be seen throughout the film, the elf costumes are exact replicas of those worn in "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," the sets and claymation also borrow from the style of the classic holiday TV specials.  Even though it was a new story, upon first viewing the film already felt familiar.

As a comedy the film succeeds at delivering laughs to a broad audience - the combination of sight gags/physical humor and clever plays on fish-out-of-water humor work well with young and old.  Whether Buddy is eating an overflowing, disgusting plate of pasta covered in candy and syrup or shouting out congratulations to the diner that makes the "World's Best Cup of Coffee" viewers will be having a great time watching what he will do next. 

Most importantly, it is a family film that can be enjoyed by young and old - no questionable content, no fast forwarding needed.  Nothing is worse than a holiday film that loses focus on who its audience is.  Too many "Christmas" films are focused on delivering a preachy message than entertaining the audience.  Others themes are so far removed from the spirit of the season, you wonder why it was a Christmas movie in the first place.  Favreau finds a great balance - delivering a good message while making sure that when all is said and done you finish with the warm holiday feel.   9 out of 10

Christmas Spirit Grade:  A
From the opening credits Favreau captures what a holiday film is all about and keeps you wrapped up in that warm feeling throughout the entire film.  It is full of classic Christmas songs, a visual style that evokes the Rankin and Bass classics, a Christmas romance, a sing-a-long, and best of all a redemption story (my favorite.)

Christmas Choke-up Grade:  B+
Even after seeing Elf about a dozen times, I still find myself choking up and getting the chills every time the group sing-a-long of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" produces enough Christmas Cheer to send Santa's sleigh flying through the sky.  Honestly, the choked up feeling usually start when Zooey Deschanel finds the courage to start the sing-a-long and stay that way until the credits start rolling.  Makes it tough to join in the sing-a-long when you are worried about blubbering in front of your kids.

Memorable Lines:
You smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa.

The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.

What's more vulnerable than a peach?  (not that well know, but makes me laugh every time)

Did You Know?:
The elf Ming Ming, who appears briefly in the beginning of the film, is played by Peter Billingsley, who starred as Ralphie Parker in the classic holiday film A Christmas Story.

When this screenplay was written in 1993, Jim Carrey was attached to star in the lead.

Favreau wanted to rely on as many “old techniques” of filming as possible to preserve its nostalgic feel. One of the simpler tricks involved the elves’ diminutive look.  Favreau used an old movie trick called “forced perspective” to make the elves appear smaller in the presence of Ferrell, Asner and the other human-sized actors.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) - 12 Days of Christmas Movies #1

Plot:  The musical, which takes place the year before the 1904 World's Fair, follows the Smith family sisters through a series of life lessons.   The family is preparing for their reluctant move from St. Louis to New York City - while doing so, the two oldest daughters seem focused on one thing, getting some men to propose to them.

Review:  This wonderful slice of American "life" never feels authentic, but then again, that's not why you watch musicals.  The musical numbers carry much of the load and the there is enough charm to keep your interest even when the thin plot is at its thinnest.  You would expect the biggest draw to be Judy Garland, and she does deliver a great performance, but it is her youngest sister Tootie (Margaret O'Brien) that steals the show with her awkward-yet-cute delivery.  This film can be watched an enjoyed by all, if you can handle musicals.  7 out of 10

Christmas Joy Grade:    C-
Although, it did debut the classic holiday song, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," this is not much of a Christmas film, more of a film with a Christmas portion.  Then again, shortly after Garland sings the iconic song, Tootie goes nuts and starts smashing her snowmen with a stick.

Christmas Choke-up Grade:  C-
Tootie's tear filled eyes during "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" may pull at the heart strings - otherwise, the saccharine sweetness of the entire film puts a protective glaze on your emotions.

Memorable Lines:
Agnes Smith: And then he burns the cats at midnight in his furnace. You could smell the smoke...
'Tootie' Smith: ...and Mr. Braukoff was beating his wife with a red hot poker... and Mr. Braukoff has empty whiskey bottles in his cellar.

Did You Know?:
Judy Garland recorded "The Trolley Song" in a single take.
Margaret O'Brien was awarded a Special Oscar for Best Child Actor.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

FilmSnork 12 Days of Christmas Movies

UPDATE (12/16/2013):  After numerous fantastic submissions I have decided on the following, diverse list of films for the 12 Days of Christmas Movies:

Dec 16 Meet Me In St Louis 
Dec 17 Elf
Dec 18 Joyeux Noel
Dec 19 Christmas With The Kranks
Dec 20 Christmas In Connecticut
Dec 21 Miracle on 34th Street
Dec 22 It's a Wonderful Life
Dec 23 Home Alone
Dec 24 Muppets Christmas Carol
Dec 25 Christmas Vacation
Dec 26 Scrooged
Dec 27 Gremlins

Tis the season for holiday movies.  Love them or hate them, I am going to watch them.

Here is where I can use your help.  I am looking for your recommendations for Christmas movies to watch during the 12 days around Christmas (December 16-25) - ten leading up to it and two after to help ease out of the season.

There are no limitations of the number of type of recommendations you can make - classic, animated, Christmas-themed or simply a Christmas setting.  One request, only recommend films you actually like. This is not an exercise in futility, rather an exercise in joy.  Each film selected will be uniquely reviewed.

-FilmSnork is not dead nor doth he sleep

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Now You See Me (2012) Review

This film promises an entertaining good time - a group of skilled magicians team up, using their magic to rob banks. Sounds great! About twenty minutes into the film it performs one the greatest magic tricks ever filmed - the ability to strip a film with a tremendous premise and a stellar cast of all fun and intrigue. Now THAT is magic.

I am sure when they pitched this film they described it as Oceans 11 with magic - a nice balance of personalities, intrigue and entertainment. The film does not deliver on that, the poorly used cast (including Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo) are undermined by a convoluted plot and a large CGI budget.

After a trick or two are "performed" you realize this is not a film about magic, it is a preposterous story full of CGI illusions - no magic to be found. Even if the plot is disappointing you would expect the magic aspect would help retain some interest in what is happening on screen. Sadly, there is NO magic - the film is stripped of that early on when you realize instead of illusions that feel real they are preposterous CGI displays.

By definition magic are: mysterious tricks performed as entertainment. Magic works because you allow yourself to suspend disbelief to be entertained by the mystery. Half the fun is trying to figure out how they did it. This film makes the fatal mistake of stripping away that mystery by using massive amounts of CGI. You KNOW how they performed the tricks, by using computers and that's not intriguing in the least. After each "trick" is performed, including the less than stupefying climax, you are left scratching your head - unfortunately not wondering how they created the illusion, rather how they messed this film up so badly.

4.5 out of 10

Saturday, October 26, 2013

10 of the Best Horror Movies To Watch At Your Halloween Party... and 5 to Avoid

Take into account, this is not a list of the best horror films of all time.  Although some of these are definitely at the top of that list, this list is to provide you with optimal background visuals during your Halloween party.  When the sound is down and people are more focused on mingling and drinking a different set of films is required than when actually watching the film.   This list will help you fill your screen without upsetting or boring your friends.   When the party is done, grab the one that caught the audience's attention and watch it with the lights off - every film on the list is worth watching. Since the numbers of dreadful horror movies is so vast, the list of films to avoid are actually good films, just not party material.  Sound off in the comments section.  Like us on Facebook.

The Standards:
Halloween  - The quintessential Halloween movie.  It captures the feel of cool Halloween night perfectly. Everything you need, a damsel in distress, a small town setting, a mysterious killer and the best horror movie score since Psycho.  Almost 100% gore-free and still scary as they come - take note torture-porn directors.  This is the film that literally had me pee my pants as a kid, rather than walk to the bathroom by myself.  Too much information?

Scream - The first ten minutes are some of the best crafted horror moments ever put on tape making Ghostface one of the most recognized character in horror history.  A little gorier than most on this list.  If you can, put the sound up loud enough just to hear one phone calls with that classic voice.

Evil Dead 2 - While your party guest are trying to explain to each other what their costumes are supposed to be, this is a great film to slip into the DVD player.  Its creepy setting and heaping amounts of physical humor/horror - you can't go wrong.

Not So Standard:
Troll 2 - Do not expect to be scared or even see anything remotely scary.  If hosting expect questions like, "What in the hell is this movie?"  Known as the worst movie of all time (so infamous it inspired a documentary about it, "Best Worst Movie"), it lives up to the title.  Laughable costumes, over the top acting and a plot you have to see to believe - it may be the worst movie ever, but it is also a hell of a lot of fun.  Plan ahead and have some bright green Jello and dips being served as your guests watch.

Bride of Chucky - Not going to show up on many lists of best horror films, but it is certainly not without its charms.  The tongue in cheek humor including a doll on doll love scene will certainly create a few double takes.  Not to mention, watch the chip dip fly as your guests spit take at the sight of Katherine Heigel in all her pre-Grey's Anatomy glory take the screen.

Night of the Living Dead - Black and white classic.  Perfect background to any party.  Simple instructions: turn it on movie and walk away - look like a scholar that enjoys the finer things, like black and white films.  You are now a film snob and you did not even know it.  Wait until the see Bride of Chucky, you'll probably lose the title.

Poltergeist - This 80's classic is sure to get your guests reminiscing about the the good ole days, when all you needed was a clown doll and a rocking chair to scare the crap out of people.  Your guests will come to the light... of your TV screen (wink, wink, elbow nudge).

Drag Me to Hell - Even if you have never seen it before, this dark comedy/horror mash up has enough creepy visuals to add the perfect ambiance - whether it is the talking goat, the chin sucking old lady or the bloody nose from hell - your company will get a kick from it or at least throw up in their mouths a little.

Better than the Original:

Dawn of the Dead - Maybe I am missing something about the original.  Sure it has its charms, but the bad makeup and effects are distracting.  If you want to be freaked out, this is the version to watch.

Man You're F'd Up:

Audition- This film is not for the faint of heart.  With that said, if your audience can handle it (sorry grandma, leave the room) then you may want to mix it up with this Japanese horror film.  The good news is the sound can be down and the film can be followed due to subtitles.  The bad news, a big bag appears about half way through the film, that is all I can say.

Skip These Films Until After the Party
Not every horror film is created equal.  Just because it is considered a classic or won awards it does not mean it is worthy of your party.

Psycho - A genuine classic, but other than a scene or two it will not play well with all the noise of a party.  If you cannot hear the score you may as well not watch the film.

Silence of the Lambs - Academy Award winning films need to be seen and heard.  Once again without the sound you miss a lot hear.  The "fava beans and a nice Cianti" scene will be downgraded from a horrifying insight into a killer's mind to the feeling you get when someone stares at you on the train.  Wait until most guests have gone and watch it with the sound up and lights off.

Sixth Sense - Seeing dead people only works when they look like dead people, otherwise they just look like Bruce Willis.  Not visually exciting enough to show guests.  If you want scary discuss the decline of M. Night Shyamalan.

Blair Witch - With the sound down it just looks like a motion sickness enducing, hiking home video.  With the sound on it just looks like a motion sickness enducing, hiking home video.  Scary film, just not a party film.

Martyrs - Be warned, this is a gory mess of a film.  Your guests may not only turn their backs to the screen, but also may take you off their Christmas card list.  If your party invite lists can handle hardcore horror, this film may be up their ally.  For the rest of us, it is preferred this does not play while eatting pepperoni slices and cheese.