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robert downey jr.

Movie Review: THE NICE GUYS

nice guysShane Black, the screenwriter who shot to fame with the Lethal Weapon movies, may have had a few stumbles in the last three decades, but with The Nice Guys, a 1970s noir detective story Black cowrote with Anthony Bagarozzi, Black is firmly in his element.

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe play low-rent PI Holland March and enforcer Jackson Healy, respectively, who meet in a painful way—at least for March—but then team up when clues indicate that Healy’s missing client, a girl named Amelia (The Leftovers‘ Margaret Qualley), may be in grave danger. When they step up their search for her, the violence escalates, as mysterious parties either don’t want her found or they want her dead.

Part of the fun of viewing this movie is in its bizarre twists and turns so I won’t say much more about plot. It’s reminiscent of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a low-budget gem Black also wrote and directed, in its style and tone, and in how much of the action occurs during one very long night.

The biggest pleasure is in watching Gosling and Crowe sling Black’s signature rat-tat-tat lines at each other with perfect comic timing. Yes, the movie is seedy and brutal, but the, ah, Black humor makes it very funny also. The actors’ chemistry is so good, you’d think these guys have been partners for decades. Gosling displays physical comedy chops I didn’t know he has, and it’s the loosest Crowe performance in years.

Also noteworthy is Angourie Rice (you wouldn’t now she’s Australian by listening to her) as March’s tween daughter Holly, who often has to be the adult in her dealings with Dad. Rice delivers her lines in a dry, weary, but sharp-witted way, depicting a girl who understands much more than her father gives her credit for, and is usually the only sane person in the room.

The city of L.A. is a character in itself, all seductive at night despite its crumbling Hollywood sign and porn industry and drug-addled parties. Another selling point? This movie isn’t a sequel or remake and there are no superheroes in sight.

Nerd verdict: Funny, noirish Nice

Photo: Warner Bros.

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR Movie Review

Marvel

Marvel

Do you have superhero fatigue? Were you tempted to skip this post when you saw the title? What if I told you the movie is terrific?

Which is what I’m doing. Captain America: Civil War is one big bundle of entertainment, something that other recent superhero movie decidedly was not.

Also unlike that other superhero movie: the feud between Captain America and friends makes sense. After the heavy collateral damage that occurred in the Avengers movies, world governments want oversight of the heroes, to monitor and approve their involvements in combat. Some agree to the arrangement, others do not. Hence the discord.

The best conflicts are ones in which neither side is all wrong or all right, and that’s how it is here. Each hero has valid arguments for the side he/she chooses, because they’ve all come from different places—and time, in Cap’s case—and lived different lives. What makes it painful for them is that they really don’t want to fight. They plead and remind one another they’re friends, but ultimately feel they have no choice because each believes his/her position is just.

By now these seasoned actors know exactly what they’re doing in their respective roles, and the group is a well-oiled machine. There are many characters but each has moments to shine. Their chemistry and banter are tight.

But hey, here comes the new guy, joining the Avengers on screen for the first time.

As soon as he appeared, from behind—just his butt, really, walking down the hall—I yelled, “Spideyyy!” It was actually Peter Parker, but, you know, same difference.

I have liked Tom Holland since I saw him play Naomi Watts’s son in The Impossible, so when the announcement came about his being cast as the new Spider-Man, I thought it was a great choice, much better than Andrew Garfield.

And Holland delivers in Civil War. His Chatty-Cathy Spidey is endearing, especially during fight scenes, when all the other heroes are busy throwing punches and no one wants to converse with the young webslinger.

Let’s talk about the fight scenes. I’ve become inured to them in heavily CGI’d action flicks, and they’ve all started looking the same to me. Boom! Pow! Crash! What else is new?

But one pivotal fight scene in this movie—the one at an airport—made me say, “Whoa!” It caused my eyes to go big and gave me that sense of wonder I used to get at the movies as a kid, that feeling I wasn’t sure I’d ever experience again since I’m now old and jaded. As I was sitting there smiling, Civil War threw in a Star Wars reference. My poor nerdy brain could barely handle it.

Oh, and the Stan Lee cameo? Best one ever. He made me laugh out loud.

This movie is a great big bang-up, with very few hang-ups, and like a streak of light, these heroes arrive just in time.

Nerd verdict: America the wonderful 

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Movie Review: IRON MAN 3

I went into this movie not knowing what to expect, since I really enjoyed the first one, but thought IM2 was too loud and chaotic. And this time Jon Favreau handed over directorial duties to Shane Black, who also cowrote the screenplay with Drew Pearce. Black is known for writing the Lethal Weapon movies, as well as the underrated The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a witty noir thriller in which Black directed Robert Downey Jr. in a comeback starring turn after the actor’s stints in prison.

The two have another winner on their hands with this latest collaboration, a big summer blockbuster that showcases more of Tony Stark’s humanity than the last installment.

The adventure starts in 1999 in Switzerland, where Tony meets a couple of brilliant scientists, Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Killian tries to get Tony interested in his think tank, while Maya is experimenting with an idea called Extremis, or the rewiring of DNA that would enable a damaged body to do neat things like heal itself and regenerate new limbs.

These scientists come back to haunt Tony in the present, just as he’s facing down a global villain called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who Really Hates America, is killing innocents, and threatening to kill many more. The plot spins and twists from there so I won’t say more about it.

I do want to mention, though, the writing and acting. As mentioned, Downey has to spend more time as just Tony in this one, which is a joy to watch because what grounds the franchise is his presence, not the flying iron suit. His chemistry with Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts was already evident in the previous movies, and Pepper is even more Tony’s equal here.

Downey also has some great interaction with a child actor named Ty Simpkins, who impressively maintains verbal volleys with Downey without being too precocious.

Can’t reveal much about Kingsley’s performance without possibly giving away spoilers, but the man sure seems to be having more fun than he’s had in years on screen, and we are right there with him. And one of my favorite things about this movie is that the screenwriters gave even bit players funny one-liners and memorable moments.

But it all comes down to the central character. Yes, the movie has wowza action scenes involving the superhero, but we get to see a lot of the man who built him, and that beneath the glowing arc reactor is a beating human heart.

Nerd verdict: Bright and glowing Iron Man 3 

Photos: Marvel.com

P.S. Are you still here? Just checking to see whether you like hanging around until the very end of things, because like other Marvel movies, you should stay until after all the credits have rolled by.

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Quick Movie Notes

Here’s the first poster for The Dark Knight Rises. It’s clever in that Magic Eye way, which, come to think of it, I was never good at. But I figured out the trick in this one right quick so I was pretty proud of myself.

Below is the full trailer for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (man, that is a pain to type). I’m still iffy on whether I’ll love it but I remain hopeful. The movie opens December 23.

UPDATE: Finally, here’s the trailer for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (what is WITH these long-ass titles??), which opens December 16. Once again, Downey is nekkid. OK, maybe only half-nekkid but it works for me.

Which are you most looking forward to?

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Movie Review: DUE DATE

Due Date left me flummoxed, much like how Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Peter, feels towards Zach Galifianakis’s Ethan in the movie. While I didn’t think it was a complete wreck, I did find it chaotic and not very funny, a small problem for a comedy. It’s more mature—if only slightly—than director and co-writer Todd Phillips’s previous endeavor, The Hangover, but that’s not saying much since I thought that movie was a laughter-free showcase of men behaving like morons.

Peter is an architect trying to make it home from a business trip to his pregnant wife (Michelle Monaghan) who’s about to give birth. After a couple of disruptive encounters with Ethan at the airport, the two end up on the no-fly list so the only option is to drive from Atlanta to Los Angeles together. They encounter all sorts of outrageousness along the way, mostly because of Ethan (surprise!), but in the end come to a better understanding of each other.

Wow, I got bored just now writing that synopsis. It sounds tired because it resembles the basic plot of all the road movies that have come before—much better ones. Though Galifianakis seems to be a favorite of Phillips’s, Date‘s one saving grace is undoubtedly Downey. His Peter is our link to sanity as we travel through the Crazytown in which Ethan lives. Without Downey’s grounding presence, I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate Ethan, who is imbecilic, annoying and strange for strange’s sake. Galifianakis is not a bad actor; he handles Ethan’s few quiet moments well. I’ve just never been amused by the actor’s schlubby shtick. The best comedy is rooted in reality, with an ounce of truth viewers can relate to, but Galifianakis’s characters might as well be aliens considering how weird they are. His act is predictable and he’ll be typed as a one-trick pony if he doesn’t re-invent himself soon.

Elsewhere, Monaghan doesn’t have much to do besides talking to Downey on the phone and Jamie Foxx shows up in a small role as Downey’s friend. Perhaps the movie would have been much more enjoyable if Phillips had given these charismatic actors more screen time instead of spending so much of it on Ethan’s antics.

Nerd verdict: Let’s hope there’s no second Date

Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon

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Nerdies for Best & Worst of 67th Annual Golden Globes

I usually love me some Globes but last night while they were on, I was deep in HTML hell so my wrap-up will be a bit more succinct than usual. If you’d like a complete list of winners, go here. I’m just going to run down the moments that stood out for me.

Best She-Cleans-Up-Well Award: Mo’Nique. I whooped with joy when my girl won for Precious, and then she moved me with her eloquent, heartfelt acceptance speech, a completely different kind from the terrifying one she makes in the movie to the social worker.

Least in Need of Airbrushing: Meryl Streep. Did you see her skin?! Whatever she’s using, I want several buckets of. She was so glowy, if the lights had gone out, she would have been the only person in the room you could still see clearly.

Best Sense of Humor about Himself: Mel Gibson. Ricky Gervais introduced him by saying, “I like a drink as much as the next man…unless that man’s Mel Gibson!” Then Gibson proceeded to play along by slurring his words as he presented the award for best director.

Most Disturbing Dresses That Were Actually Half Gorgeous: Drew Barrymore’s and Christina Aguilera. Barrymore looked radiant (she won her first Globe!) but I could not take my eyes off those lumps on her shoulder and hip. They looked like baby porcupines that had fallen into jars of glitter. Aguilera looked good, too, but her two-toned dress made it look as if she forgot to tuck her right boob back in after she breast-fed her child. And speaking of breasts…

B(r)e(a)st Smackdown: Halle Berry vs. Mariah Carey. These two ladies wore plunging necklines that showed most of their womanhood to the world. But while Berry managed to look sexy, Carey just looked cheap and porny. Put them away, Mariah. They’re not that precious.

Most Handsome Nerd: Dude, Zachary Levi was smokin’ in his tan and tux! If he keeps that up, who’s going to buy him as a nerd on Chuck anymore?

Biggest Failed Attempt at a Clever Speech: Robert Downey Jr. I’m not happy about that; I’m crazy about him as an actor. But when he won for Sherlock Holmes (what the…?) and pretended he wasn’t going to thank anyone, he sounded like an ass instead of charming and funny the way George Clooney and Hugh Grant did when they pulled the same stunt in the past.

Hottest Train Holder: Jon Hamm. During the red carpet arrivals, Jennifer Garner had a problem with her train. As she struggled with it, Hamm came along and gallantly held it up for her.

Best Dress: Zoe Saldana‘s gorgeous red ruffled gown. I’m not usually a girly girl but took one look at that and thought, “Oooh, pretttttty.” Louis Vutton knew how to do ruffles, unlike the designers of the Chloe Sevigny’s and Anna Kendrick’s dresses.

Best Put-Together: Jennifer Garner. Despite all the rain (even Heidi Klum had flat hair!), Garner was perfection from head to toe.

What did you like (or not) about the Globes? Who did you think was best dressed?


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Reviews of SHERLOCK HOLMES, INVICTUS & CRAZY HEART

While I was away on holiday, contributing writer Eric Edwards was busy taking in multiple screenings of Oscar-bait films. He was kind enough to submit the following reviews.

Did you see any of these? What did you think?—PCN

Photo by Alex Bailey/WARNER BROS.

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is bored and depressed. His genius sleuthing abilities keep him from helping the throngs of people who write him because he solves their cases before he even finishes reading their letters. Dr. Watson (Jude Law) wants to get married, leaving Holmes’s childish behavior and their shared lodgings behind. Thankfully, a challenge to Holmes’s intellect arrives in the form Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a villain dealing in the black arts and one whom Holmes and Watson recently apprehended for Scotland Yard.

Screenwriter Anthony Peckham (who also penned Invictus; see review below) has taken the brilliant Holmes we’re all familiar with and attempts to make him more hip by adding martial arts to the detective’s arsenal. Holmes is even shown proving his prowess in the ring at an underground boxing arena. Oddly enough, in scene after scene in which he goes up against actual bad guys, Holmes doesn’t fare well.

In portraying the famous detective, the usually charming Downey, Jr. carries the burden of an English accent and it’s cumbersome. By contrast, Law’s put-upon Dr. Watson is much more interesting to watch because his accent is genuine and the actor uses a less-is-more approach. As Holmes’s former flame Irene Adler, the very talented Rachel McAdams is mired down by a script that doesn’t give her much to do. This movie is a mess that can be skipped by all but die-hard Holmes fans.

Photo by Keith Bernstein/WARNER BROS.

Invictus

The major problem with this “inspiring true story” of how newly elected President Nelson Mandela employs South Africa’s national rugby team to unite the apartheid-torn country is that it lacks a balance between earnestness and heart.

It’s supposed to be the end of apartheid in South Africa, but the hate between black and white still remains and Mandela (Morgan Freeman) needs to help his beloved country move forward. He looks to emulate the business plans of successful countries such as the United States and China. But how to appeal to the working-class citizen? Create a hero they can get behind.

Mandela summons South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to a meeting and they hit it off. While the president sets about memorizing the player’s names and stats and attending their matches, Pienaar visits Mandela’s former prison cell to better understand his new benefactor. A mutual respect blooms between the two.

Director Clint Eastwood sacrifices what could have been a heartfelt story and spends most of the film developing the relationship between Mandela and Pienaar. Damon and Freeman work well together and both deserve accolades for their performances, but as a whole the film is less than compelling. Each character, from Pienaar’s family maid to Mandela himself, speaks in clunky soundbites uncharacteristic of Eastwood’s usual subtle style. We never really get to know the rugby players, resulting in apathy on our part when we’re supposed to be rooting for the team. And if we don’t care about whether or not it wins the match and helps unite the country, the entire point of the film is lost.

Photo by Lorey Sebastian/FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Crazy Heart

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), once a famous country singer/songwriter, has seen better days. Five marriages and a hard-drinking, heavy-smoking lifestyle has left him broke, forced into playing rundown bowling alleys and small dives across the Midwest just to make ends meet. Bad can still put on a show, but his fans are fewer, much older and his brand of “real country” is no longer relevant to today’s country music fans. What he needs is the inspiration to write a hit song. Enter budding journalist and would-be muse Jean Craddock (a completely miscast Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her 5-year old son, Buddy (Jack Nation).

Bridges’s performance, which includes doing his own singing, is solid throughout. His frustration with the cards life has dealt him is subtle, but etched as deeply as the lines on his face. Any frame of this movie without Bridges is a stark reminder of how much the film needs him to stay alive. It wasn’t the age difference between him and Gyllenhaal I found myself wincing at, it was the complete lack of chemistry between the two. Bridges, channeling a younger, better-looking version of Kris Kristofferson in his heyday, so richly deserves a more engaging companion to be inspired by and fall in love with than Gyllenhaal, who displays no allure whatsoever.

Colin Farrell shows up as Bad’s former protégé and current country superstar Tommy Sweet, and surprises me with his strong singing skills. Who knew? Both Farrell and Bridges could easily have careers as singers.

Writer/composer T-Bone Burnett provides the very catchy songs in Bad’s repertoire, but I wish the inspiring song that leads to his salvation was more memorable and not so morose. What should have been uplifting instead strikes one of the wrong notes in the film.

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The Nerdy Hot 10 List

Maxim released its annual Hot 100 List today, focusing on women with exceptional beauty and bodacious bods. (House‘s Olivia Wilde got the top spot.)

Looking at some of the names, I thought the chosen women are indeed gorgeous but physical perfection is only one way to judge hotness. Year in and year out, the same people seem to end up on these lists.

So I decided to release my own Nerdy Hot 10 List, with male celebs who are sexy not because of their ripped bodies (though some might have them), but because of something a little imperfect, goofy, or nerdy about them. So here’s my list, in no particular order, and the reasons why these guys made the cut.

1. Colin Firth. Firth is the epitome of the awkward man who always gets tongue-tied around a pretty girl. But that awkwardness is what makes him so endearing, as evidenced by the hilarious scene in Love Actually when he publicly proclaims his love in halting, butchered Portuguese to the object of his affection. And remember those dreadful reindeer sweaters he sported in the Bridget Jones movies? He’s hot for having the courage and good humor to wear them.

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2. Hugh Laurie. He often appears slovenly and unshaven on House and behaves like an ass. But then you hear him play piano, sing a funny ditty on a talk show or give a humorous, humble acceptance speech for an award and all is forgiven.

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3. Paul Rudd. He’s most famous for doing bawdy comedies as part of the Judd Apatow gang; his blue eyes and boyish charm allow him to get away with all the mischief. But he can also do Shakespeare (I saw him do Twelfth Night in a Lincoln Center production), write scripts, sing, produce and all these hidden talents add up to one sexy guy.

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4. Robert Downey Jr. The first time I saw him was in The Pick-Up Artist, where he played a pretty geeky guy trying to hit on Molly Ringwald. What a difference twenty years make. Despite all his legal troubles and drug abuse, he’s somehow managed to salvage his quick wit, intelligence and ultra-sized talent. You may be well aware of his acting prowess but have you ever heard him sing? Forget about it. He’s got a voice that can melt inhibitions.

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5. James McAvoy. He may not be the tallest, most muscular or dashing man but oh, is he romantic. Check out those intense blue eyes. When he looks at his leading actresses in movies like Starter for 10 and Atonement, he really looks at them, as if they’re the most exquisite creatures he’s ever seen. And we the audience can almost feel him gazing right through the screen into our own eyes.

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6. Jon Hamm. I tried watching one episode of Mad Men and Hamm did nothing for me as Don Draper, though he was certainly groomed and dressed well. Then I saw him on 30 Rock as Tina Fey’s hapless boyfriend and developed a crush immediately. Hamm was ridiculously funny as the guy who was so beautiful, no one would tell him the truth about anything. He played tennis atrociously but thought he was awesome, rode a motorcycle like a drunk but thought he was cool and was clueless about the correct usage of the word “ironic.” I think Fey is a comedy genius and for Hamm to keep pace with her is sizzling hot.

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7. James Franco. He’s not that interesting as Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man movies but when he’s goofy, like in Pineapple Express and funnyordie.com videos, he gets my sexy stamp. Plus, he gets extra points for being a nerdy academic, with an English degree from UCLA and working towards graduate degrees in creative writing and film at Columbia and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, respectively.

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8. Bret McKenzie. As half of Flight of the Conchords, he doesn’t have much luck in his career or with the ladies on the show. But he, along with Jemaine Clement, makes me laugh hard with brilliant, kooky songs and their hilarious, clever lyrics. I don’t get starstruck much but if I ever meet him, I’d be completely tongue-tied and that’s a true sign of hotness in my book.

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9. Daniel Craig. Yeah, he beefed up for Bond and looks great in a tux but before that, he played a scrappy drug dealer in Layer Cake, a murderer in Infamous and an unsympathetic Ted Hughes in Sylvia. His face isn’t conventionally pretty, with rough features that look like he’s been in a few brawls, but I’ll take him over the typical Calvin Klein model any day.

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10. Brad Pitt. I swear he’s not on this list for the obvious reasons because, frankly, I find him rather bland when he plays heroes and pretty boys on screen. But he rocks my socks when he plays crazy like in Twelve Monkeys or a doofus like in Burn After Reading. A funny man who also happens to look like Pitt? Smokin’.

What do you think? Who else should be on the list? To see who’s on my Nerdy Hot 10 List—Female Edition, click here. (UPDATE: Check out my new 2010 Nerdy Hot List here.)

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2009 Oscars Fashion Round-Up

There were a lot of beautiful dresses tonight so it’s hard to pick a best. Even the “bad” ones weren’t horrible. But Nerdies need to be given out so here goes:

Best Dressed—Female: (Tie) Anne Hathaway and Marisa Tomei. I usually don’t like “no-color” dresses like beige or silver but these two dresses were magnificent.

Hathaway’s Armani Prive’ looked like a fluid, light-emitting column of tiny mirrors, making Hathaway the fairest of them all.

Actress Anne Hathaway arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

I’d never seen such intricate pleating like on the skirt and train of Tomei’s Versace gown.

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Best Color: Natalie Portman’s pink dress. The color was so soft yet striking in a theater full of neutral colors. Alicia Keys’ dress was of a similar color and style but I liked Portman’s just a little more because it had more interesting tucking and details in the bodice.

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Best Dressed Male: Daniel Craig. He ain’t just Bond on screen. He looked lethal-weapon sharp on the red carpet, too.

Actor Daniel Craig (R) and Satsuki Mitchell arrives at the 81st

Most Improved from Previous Award Shows This Year: Robert Downey Jr. He looked like a bum at the SAG Awards, chewing gum, sporting sneakers and dirty hair. Look at him here. Damn! Somebody got a facial and full makeover.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. and guest arrive at the 81st Annual Acad

Oldest Gown: Penelope Cruz. Her 60-year-old vintage Balmain was older than most people there. It’s held up remarkably well, though, and makes Cruz look like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

Actress Penelope Cruz arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

Best Jewelry: Angelina Jolie. I couldn’t take my eyes off her green dangling earrings and ginormous cocktail ring. I don’t know why she looks so pissed here, though.

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Most Resembling a Bridesmaid Dress: Amanda Seyfried. C’mon, doesn’t this look like it escaped from 27 Dresses?

Actress Amanda Seyfried arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Award

Most Unfortunate Bow Placement: Tilda Swinton. The top half’s draping is pretty, but look where the giant ruffle is on her skirt. Unless you’re Cher circa 1987, you should never wear a gown that calls attention to your crotch to the Oscars.

Actress Tilda Swinton arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

Most Age-Inappropriate Dress: Sophia Loren. She’s still hot but what’s with all the ruffles? Twenty-four-year-old Freida Pinto may have been able to pull it off but it’s all wrong for Ms. Loren. She should take style lessons from Helen Mirren on how to look sophisticated and hot.

Actress Sophia Loren arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards h

Baggiest Mess: Jessica Biel. She looks like someone draped a towel down the front of her dress. She could hide a couple of the Slumdog kids under there.Actress Jessica Biel arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards h

Who were your favorites? Who looked like they made their own clothes? Discuss!

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81st Oscar Nominations are Here! My Predictions and Reactions

I can’t believe I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to hear them announced live. I haven’t seen this side of morning since…never. Here are nominees in some of the major categories (winners will be announced Feb. 22):

Best Picture

Best Actor

  • Richard Jenkins—The Visitor
  • Frank Langella—Frost/Nixon
  • Sean Penn—Milk
  • Brad Pitt—The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Mickey Rourke—The Wrestler

Best Actress

Best Supporting Actor

  • Josh Brolin—Milk
  • Robert Downey Jr.—Tropic Thunder
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman—Doubt
  • Heath Ledger—The Dark Knight
  • Michael Shannon—Revolutionary Road

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams—Doubt
  • Penelope Cruz—Vicky Christina Barcelona
  • Viola Davis—Doubt
  • Taraji P. Henson—The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Marisa Tomei—The Wrestler

Best Director

  • David Fincher—The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard—Frost/Nixon
  • Gus Van Sant—Milk
  • Stephen Daldry—The Reader
  • Danny Boyle—Slumdog Millionaire

You can see the complete list of nominees here.

Didn’t expect Kate Winslet to be nominated for Best Actress for The Reader, though it only reinforces my belief she’ll win this category.

Revolutionary RoadOverall, I agreed with most of the nominations. LOVED that Michael Shannon got a nod for Revolutionary Road. He was exceptional. The Supporting Actor category is ridiculously jampacked with really strong contenders. Last December, I picked Josh Brolin and I’m holding on to that for now, but Shannon just made this category impossible to handicap, Heath Ledger aside.

2008_tropic_thunder_034I also loved Robert Downey Jr.’s performance so I refuse to consider it a “surprise” nomination (the live audience at the announcements ceremony gasped loudly then chuckled). There’s precedence for a great comedic performance to be nominated in this category: Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda and he won. RDJ’s feat as “the dude who played the dude who played a black man” in Tropic Thunder was astounding. He completely transformed himself into two different characters—even in the brief moments when he wasn’t “black” in the movie, he was a platinum blond, blue-eyed Australian guy and there wasn’t a hint of RDJ in either guise.

Loved that In Bruges got a Best Original Screenplay nomination for Martin McDonagh. I’ll stop shoving that movie down your throats now.

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Loved that WALL•E was nominated for Best Animated Picture though it could well contend for Best Picture, period. Then again, it’s sure to win in the animated category. It also received a Best Original Screenplay nod for Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter and I wouldn’t count them out but I think Dustin Lance Black will take it for Milk.

Other categories I’m calling (I already predicted acting winners last month): Best Director—Danny Boyle, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture—Slumdog Millionaire. I also think the film’s A.R. Rahman will take Best Score and one of the Best Songs, and Anthony Dod Mantle will win for Slumdog‘s cinematography. When Mantle talked about shooting in Mumbai among the crush of people, running after children, trying to keep everyone from looking at the cameras, I’m amazed he managed to pull it off.

E!’s movie critic Ben Lyons, who annoys me because he can’t even get titles right (at the Globes, he said “Welcome to the Golden Globe” at one point and then called Meryl Streep’s next movie Julia & Julie when it’s actually Julie & Julia), said right before the announcements that he thought Clint Eastwood would get a Best Actor nom for Gran Torino. I was vigorously shaking my head because I couldn’t disagree more. Eastwood squinted and growled like a junkyard dog throughout the movie and I thought it was ridiculous. I kept thinking, “I get it, you’re a tough guy, stop with the overly indicating.” I’m glad Richard Jenkins got nominated instead for his funny, sweet performance but was disappointed to see Michael Sheen omitted from this category for Frost/Nixon. He was just as good as Langella.

What did you think of the noms? Any mentions really excited you? Any egregious omissions? Leave me a comment. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts but right now, it’s roughly 6:30 and I’m amazed my brain is even functioning at all.

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Sneak Peeks at 2009's Most Anticipated Movies

Happy New Year! Hope you all enjoyed the holidays and had a chance to see some movies. Now that the new year has begun, there’s a whole new slew of films to look forward to. There’s something for everyone (if it’s underlined, click on it to see the trailer):

THE BIG, FAT EXPENSIVE MOVIES

WatchmenWatchmen (March 6, tentatively)—It has a great cast, looks good, I did voice work on it so it’d better make lots of dough. Make sure you see it several times with large groups of friends!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1)—It’s all about Hugh Jackman. ‘Nuff said.

Star Trek (May 8)—I’m not a Trek fan but it’s directed by J.J. Abrams so we’ll see. If it’s as good as the best episodes of Alias, I’m there.

terminator4-poster1Terminator: Salvation (May 21)—The last installment was not great but Christian Bale is taking over as John Connor so this could be awesome. I’m ready for a full-time kick-ass Connor, as opposed to the whiny, teenager version we’ve had to tolerate for almost two decades.

Avatar (Dec. 18)—No one knows what the funk it’s about but it supposedly has newfangled, groundbreaking FX and James Cameron’s last movie, Titanic, is still the undefeated box office champ so this one won’t be hurting for an audience.

THE PRESTIGE FILMS OVERSTUFFED WITH TALENT

Duplicity (March 20)—Tony Gilroy follows up Michael Clayton by directing Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (Gilroy must have a clause in his contract that reads “I only direct huge movie stars”) in a spy movie partly filmed in Rome. The trailer looks slick, sexy and funny. I can’t decide which is prettier, Rome or Owen, and it’ll be nice to Roberts in a starring role again. (Read my review here.)

State of Play (April 17)—Based on a BBC series about reporters working with a police detective to solve the murder of a congressman’s mistress. The presence of Helen Mirren makes the trailer look Prime Suspect-ish. The cast also includes Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, Viola Davis and Jeff Daniels. (Click here for my review and comparison with the BBC version.)

p-enemiesPublic Enemies (July 1)—Michael Mann directing Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis, plus Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and Billy Crudup in supporting roles. This is an embarrassment of talents. Plus, how cool is Depp in this photo?!

Shutter Island (Oct. 2)—Martin Scorsese directing Christian Bale…er, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson in an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s thriller (read my review of the book here). I loved the book and this cast is top-notch so if the movie sucks, it would be quite a feat.

robert-downey-jr-sherlock-holmes-06Sherlock Holmes (Dec. 25)Guy Ritchie directing Robert Downey, Jr. as the infamous detective and Jude Law as Dr. Watson (had no idea Dr. Watson was blond and hot). Rachel McAdams (this year’s female Christian Bale) is also along for the ride. I devoured everything Holmesian as a kid and think RDJ is a foolproof actor when it comes to riveting performances (if not necessarily good films) so this had better be good.

The Lovely Bones (Dec. 11)Peter Jackson steering Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Saoirse Ronan (as Susie Salmon) in the adaption of Alice Sebold’s bestseller. Must admit I didn’t love the book but this is a great cast and I love Peter Jackson (I even liked The Frighteners) so I’d have to check this out.

this-side-of-the-truthThe Invention of Lying (formerly known as This Side of the Truth, Sept. 25)—This movie, co-written and co-directed by Ricky Gervais, stars Gervais, Christopher Guest, Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey, Patrick Stewart, Jason Bateman, Rob Lowe and Jeffrey Tambor. Do you need any more info than this? I’m just gonna show up and expect to laugh ’til I crack.

FARE FOR THE LADIES

Bride Wars (this Friday, Jan. 9)—Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway turn into Bridezillas when they both want the same wedding date at the Plaza in New York. Hudson and Hathaway are talented, charismatic actresses but the trailer is shrieky and Kristen Johnston seems to have all the best lines. Think I’ll pass.

New in Town (Jan. 30)—Renee Zellweger as a businesswoman transplanted from Miami to Minnesota who falls in love with Harry Connick, Jr. The leads are very charming performers but this looks like a big-screen version of Men in Trees and the trailer didn’t offer one laugh. Yikes.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Feb. 13)—Isla Fisher stars as Becky Bloomwood, the heroine in the series of popular books by Sophie Kinsella. It’s odd that Fisher has to speak in a Yank accent when Becky is British and Fisher is Australian, but she’s funny enough to embody Becky and Hugh Dancy is a great choice as Luke. The leads are supported by the likes of Joan Cusack, John Lithgow, Lynn Redgrave and John Goodman so this could be a smart comedy. (Read my review here.)

The Ugly Truth (July 24)—I can’t stand Katherine Heigl and from the trailer, the movie looks cliched and predictable. It’s rude when studio execs make bad films for women and then say they don’t make money so they don’t have to make more. It’s sad to see the magnetic Gerard Butler wasted in dreck like this. (Read my review here.)

2009_julie_and_julia_001Julie and Julia (Aug. 7)—Meryl Streep stars as Julia Child and Amy Adams is a woman who tries to use all the recipes from one of Child’s cookbooks. Streep is on fire and Adams hasn’t made a false move yet so this could be entertaining. (UPDATE: See my review of this movie here.)

ENTRIES FOR THE KIDDIES

Monsters vs. Aliens (Mar. 27)—From Dreamworks Animation, this is about a woman who gets hit by a meteor and turned into a giant. She then joins other mutants to fight aliens when they attack Earth. I’m hoping the great voice cast—Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Paul Rudd, Kiefer Sutherland and Stephen Colbert as President of the United States—will make it more enjoyable than the so-so trailer.

Hannah Montana: The Movie (Apr. 10)—I’ll just say there are worse things impressionable young girls could be obsessed about.

Up (May 29)—Pixar’s latest entry about a curmudgeon who flies off in his house by attaching it to a bunch of balloons. Doesn’t really matter what it’s about; Pixar’s never made a bad film so I’ll line up for this.

2009_where_the_wild_things_are_0031Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16)—Spike Jonze is adapting Maurice Sendak’s classic so it’s gotta be trippy. It’s taken a while to come out but the movie stills look more textured and sophisticated than usual kiddie fare so I think it’ll be worth the wait.

FILMS POSTPONED FROM LAST YEAR

He’s Just Not That Into You (Feb. 6)—This has been much delayed plus the entire movie stemmed from one line in a Sex and the City episode so I dunno. The line was funny when originally uttered by Ron Livingston to Cynthia Nixon but now it’s so dated. But the cast is chock full of huge names like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, and Scarlett Johansson so there must be some merit in the script, right? Right?

The Soloist (April 24)—My man RDJ and Jamie Foxx in a film based on a true story about an L.A. Times writer who befriends a Julliard-trained but schizophrenic musician living on the streets. It was directed by Joe Wright who’s two for two in my book with Pride and Prejudice and Atonement so I’d watch him go for three.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15)—This has the big death so it promises to be the series’ first tearjerker. David Yates is back as director so I’m excited. Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix are the best so far and since we can’t have Alfonso Cuaron back, I’m happy with Yates.

2008_the_road_003The Road (October 16)—Looks depressing as hell but Mortensen always does compelling work and Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce also star so it should be interesting.

What are you looking forward most to seeing? Which sounds like a rental or definite pass altogether? Something not on the list that you’re madly anticipating? Leave a comment and discuss!

(UPDATE: Check out my fall 2009 movie guide here.)

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