Dances With Now Playing

By: Jeff Ford
By: Jeff Ford

Is it too early to already be done with award season?


Is it too early to already be done with award season? The Academy Awards announced their nominees earlier this week with nine films vying for the coveted Best Picture Oscar. The thing I found shocking is, as of the time of this writing, I’ve only seen 1 of them, “The Descendants”. I am planning on rectifying this situation in the next few weeks. “Moneyball” is currently sitting on my DVD shelf and I’m planning on venturing to see “The Artist” within the next week. The other six I’ve either not had the opportunity to see or not had the desire. “The Help” didn’t appeal to me, nor did “Midnight in Paris” (I’ve been told to see that one anyway.) I’ve not been a fan of Terrence Malik so that ruled out “Tree of Life”. I was waiting for “War Horse” when it came out on DVD, and “Hugo” didn’t last long in theaters.
And then there was the surprise choice. It was announced last and earned a small applause from the audience (why is there an audience for an award show press conference?) It is also the film where I question the Academy’s sanity. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is currently sitting at 48% on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning that over half of the critics who saw it (62 out of 119) gave it a failing grade. The audience meter is also a low 67%. Metacritc has its average rating at 44 out of 100. The user rating on IMDB is at 6.2. How can a movie that can be called mediocre at best be nominated for Best Picture?
 Here are some films with better ratings that were snubbed so “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” can be on the list. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – Part 2” sits at 96% out of 274 reviews. “The Muppets” is at 96% out of 166 reviews. “Drive” has a rating of 93% out of 218 reviews. “Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol” is at 93% out of 191 reviews. My pick for the second best film of the year “50/50” (which received a grand total of 0 nominations…that rant may come in a few weeks) is at 93% out of 170 reviews. “Take Shelter” and “Arthur Christmas” are at 92%. “Winnie the Pooh” (shut out of the Best Animated Movie category) is at 91%. “Martha Marcy May Marlene” didn’t get a nomination for Elizabeth Olson but still managed an 88% out of 147 reviews. “X-Men: First Class” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” have an 87%. “The Ides of March” has an 85% out of 205 reviews. The horror comedy “Tucker & Dale vs Evil” managed to scare up a higher rating with an 85% out of 95 reviews. “Warrior” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” did better with an 83%. Those are just a few from Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 list from 2011. I can go on but I think I’ve made my point.
There are many other beefs I have with the Academy over this and their other nominations, but I don’t want to dwell on them right now (“50/50” getting 0 nominations is one of them…have I mentioned that already?) Over the next few weeks, I may let slip my thoughts on the Oscars (I mean “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is a 3-time Oscar nominated film and “50/50” gets shut out…let it go, Jeff). For now, let’s just get to the New Releases…(sigh)
Three films are making their way into our local multiplexes, all wanting a taste of our hard earned dollars. What is the likelihood that any of them will make me crack open my wallet?   Let’s delve in and see. First up we have…
An oil drilling team gets stranded in the Alaskan wilderness when their plane crashes. The team must survive the harsh conditions as well as a pack of wolves that sees them as intruders. Don’t feel too worried for the oil drillers, though. They are being led by Liam “Freaking” Neeson (Krull).
There are few actors these days that command the screen like Liam Neeson. Whether it’s training Batman in “Batman Begins”, bashing swords in one of the best sword fights in cinema in “Rob Roy”, or just kicking all kinds of tail in “Taken”, he is someone you don’t want to be on the wrong side. He is also a well-regarded actor. Evidence of this can be seen in his Oscar-nominated performance in “Schindler’s List”. Can the director of “The A-Team” Joe Carnahan (The A-Team) utilize him in a way to drag me into the theater?  Yep. I’m granting this 4 White Fangs out of 5. “The Gray” is rated R for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language.
This film is about… a man on a ledge. Sam Worthington (“Dirty Deeds” and “Thunderstruck”) is the ex-con on the ledge, threating to jump. Elizabeth Banks (Shaft) is the police psychologist trying to talk him down. Unbeknownst to her, the man on the ledge is merely a diversion. As everyone is focusing on him, across the street, Sam’s co-conspirators are trying to commit the biggest diamond heist ever.
I am on the fence for this “cleverly” titled thriller. The trailer reminds me a little of “The Negotiator”, “Phone Booth” and a splash of “Ocean’s 11”. I liked all three of those films but I don’t know if this can compel me into the theater. It’s one of those films where I can see myself going if I’m bored, but definitely not on the first weekend. I may check it out once it hits the Carmike. I’ll just rate that as a 3 story free fall out of 5. “Man on a Ledge” is rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.
Katherine Heigl (Under Siege 2: Dark Territory) has recently lost her job and her marriage. To make ends meet, she is hired on at her cousin’s bail-bond business. One of her first assignments is to track a local cop with whom she has a less than flattering history.
Originally set for a 2011 summer release, this film found itself pushed back into the January dead zone. That does not bode well. With Katherine’s recent cinematic history, I cannot see this doing well at all. I’ve been wrong in the past. Judging from what I’ve seen in the trailer, I don’t think that will be the case. It looks uninteresting, dull and not funny, the death knells for a comedy action film. I’m giving this one a 2 for the show out of 5. “One for the Money” is rated PG-13 for violence, sexual references and language, some drug material and partial nudity.

And so ends another Now Playing. Tune in next time when Harry Potter takes on a ghost, and three high school kids gain supernatural powers. Until then, I’ll continue questioning the Academy Awards (0 nominations for “50/50”? At least “Man or Muppet” is up for Best Original Song)

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