Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Look Ahead to 2014

The 2013 movie year has yet to be forgotten, but it is never too soon to look ahead to what we will have the opportunity to enjoy in the 2014 movie year! This post will take the place of January's Great Expectations post, because no good films ever come out in January, and it is as simple as that. Below, I've put together a few different categories of movies that I am looking forward to in 2014. So, take a look, and, if you have any questions about upcoming movies or JUST CAN'T WAIT to see a film that I excluded from this list, leave me a note in the comment section or tweet me @TheTan_Man Also, as I'm sure you noticed, I have given the blog a bit of a face lift (the biggest one since I started writing it). If you just hate the new stuff, let me know, and I can change it straight back. I'm sure that most of you could care less, but you are always welcome to an opinion on here!... Enjoy 2014!!!

Top 10 Movies I Just Can't Wait to See in 2014

The Lego Movie (February)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (May)

22 Jump Street (June)

The Fault in Our Stars (June)

Wish I Was Here (September)

The Interview (October)

Gone Girl (October)

Interstellar (November)

Noah (March) / Exodus (December)

Other Exciting 2014 Sequels/Remakes 

Muppets Most Wanted (March)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (November)

Horrible Bosses 2 (November)

(Potentially) Big Movies I Will Avoid in 2014

Resident Evil 356 (September)

300: Rise of an Empire (March)

Maleficent (May)

Blended (May)

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August)

The Expendables 3 (August)

The Hobbit: There and Back Again (December)

Other Notable Films Out in 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (January)

The Monuments Men (February)

Need for Speed (March)

Divergent (March)

Godzilla (May)

The Amazing Spiderman 2 (May)

Jersey Boys (June)

Transformers: Age of Extinction (June)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July)

Guardians of the Galaxy (August)

Dumb and Dumber To (November)

Annie (December)

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The very first time that I saw the trailer for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I was hooked! And, there were only like three word in the entire trailer! Although I am a fairly straightforward and blunt, I do enjoy self-reflective films, and Walter Mitty promised an amazing opportunity to look at life from a different perspective. I know I have written, in the past, about the lack of imagination in the modern world and how that lack of imagination has tightened the gap between the fantasy that is found in film and the fantasy that is found in reality. What was once thought to be imaginative and unreachable is now a part of our everyday life, making it hard to see a fictitious story without any peak at reality. With the day dreaming of Walter Mitty, played by Ben Stiller, I was extremely hopeful that I would be able to grasp at and appreciate imagination for a couple of hours, regardless of how creatively and imaginatively challenged I may truly be...

A number of the mixed reviews that I have seen for Walter Mitty were critical of the film's inability to create a great story to go along with the obvious theme of complacency that Walter struggles with. In my opinion, the simplicity of the story allowed the audience an opportunity to truly soak in the message of the film, which encourages us to go out and do, rather than live in a constant state of "what if." Although many folks may not have the same issues as Walter, I think the story is certainly entertaining and relatable, to say the least. On a personal note, to say that Walter Mitty was relatable would probably be an understatement. Whether or not it's obvious, deep inside me, there is a lot of ambition, and, because I tend to dwell on logic and money, that ambition rarely manifests itself in my life. Going in to the film, I expected Walter to be some sort of social outcast who feared human interaction. Instead, he was just a quiet guy who had a lot on his mind. Basically, he was Tanner Jones in a movie.

I know that I already spent a lot of time of time talking about Walter Mitty, so I will try to avoid dwelling on Ben Stiller's character too much. However, Walter was the complete and total focal point of the film, so he deserves the attention. Stiller's performance was good, but the character carried the film further than Stiller's acting, by far.

While she may be ridiculously crazy, Kathryn Hahn is quickly becoming one of my favorite comedic actresses, and I have come to expect her to be hilarious in every single film or TV show in which she might appear. Although the story was about Walter, I though Hahn should have been given a bit more time to shine, as Walter's sister, Odessa. I would have liked it better if Walter's mom, played by Shirley MacLaine, had been removed from the picture and Walter was more involved in caring for Odessa. But, you can't always get what you want! Additionally, I didn't care for Adam Scott's performance as businessman Ted Hendricks. The rude nature of Hendricks was not at all typical for Scott, and it just didn't sit right with me.

The over-zealous eHarmony guy, Todd Maher, (played by Patton Oswalt) was easily the greatest minor character in the film. I wasn't expecting quite as many laughs as came along with this movie, and many of those were brought out by Todd, who helped move along Walter's relationship attempts with Kristen Wiig's Cheryl Melhoff. I really enjoyed the relationship between Walter and Cheryl, although it was over-dramatized a bit. Without Wiig's normalcy, I don't know if Walter would have been able to come across as relatable as he did, which was my favorite aspect of the film.

Over the past few weeks, my post-trailer optimism for Walter Mitty had begun to fade. After hearing mixed reviews and seeing the vague trailer over and over and over, my high expectations became mediocre. Luckily, the film was able to reach my originally high expectations and deliver the self-reflective moments that I truly love. Walter's imagination wasn't quite as bold as I had anticipated, but that just made the movie even better, to me. In fact, I could actually see myself daydreaming in the same way that Walter did (minus the blanking out). This year has contained very few films that I will be able to watch over and over, but I think The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may be this year's "Most Likely to Stay On Repeat," much like 2012's The Perks of Being a Wallflower and 2011's Midnight in Paris. However, it could be quickly dethroned by Inside Llewyn Davis, if that film would just hurry up and get to Hattiesburg! Regardless, Walter Mitty was a pleasant surprise that I would certainly encourage each and every reader to check out. Plus, it's family friendly, so grandma can come too! Plus, the music was amazing (had to get that plug in there)! I give The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 3.68 out 5 stars. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

American Hustle

I'm sure that many people will disagree with me on the amount of praise that I allot to David O. Russell, but I must admit that I have definitely hopped aboard his bandwagon after two great successes in The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. In fact, Silver Linings was third on my list of best dramas in 2012, which I'm sure Mr. Russell considers a fine honor. He probably tried to send me a thank you note or email or something, but I'm just so busy and hard to get in touch with! Anywho... After seeing the vague, star-studded trailer for American Hustle and hearing the ample amount of praise that has led to its impressive 94% on the Tomatometer, I had high hopes for a film that I knew very little about. However, my high hopes were dulled by iffy expectations. To me, the trailer was scattered and made little sense, but I powered on, clinging to the fact that Russell, Cooper, Bale, and Lawrence thought the film was worth making.

The thing that I LOVE about David O. Russell films is his ability to create dramatic films that feature some of the biggest laughs that you will find in any film of any kind. The Fighter was a great (true) story that featured great acting. Silver Linings Playbook was far from original, but the acting carried the film to an Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, the plot of American Hustle is not unique enough to carry the film by itself. Fortunately, like its predecessors, the acting carries the film farther than most any story could. If you saw Argo last year, you can understand how simply dramatic and nerve-wracking a spy/con film can be, and I promise that the unfolding of the plot, at the end of American Hustle, pales in comparison to many B-list PG-13 action flicks, much less the reigning Best Picture champion. This film is 100% carried by the great acting, which I will now take a moment to brag upon...

Much of the drama/comedy mix of a Russell film is only possible because of the great actors that he is able to recruit and pick out for perfect roles. Without the great acting of Lawrence, Cooper, Adams, and Bale, Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter are just mediocre mental illness and boxing dramas with awkward comedy mixed in. Sticking with the same acting crew, American Hustle featured an even better ensemble than last year's Playbook, in my opinion. Really, nobody was poorly cast, and it was hard for me to find something to criticize (acting-wise). However, I managed...

While the performance of Amy Adams may not be negative itself, its ability to meet my expectations was far from grand. After her great turn in The Fighter, I really thought Russell might bring out of Adams another Oscar-worthy performance, much like I believe he did with Bradley Cooper on his second go-round. Unfortunately for Adams, however great her performance as Sydney Prosser may have been, Jennifer Lawrence was there to outshine her, every single step of the way. For me, this result was unexpectedly negative.

Looking back at my list of bests from 2012, the only category in which I question my choices is the category of dramatic actor, in which I named Bradley Cooper number one for his role in Silver Linings Playbook. I thought I might have been blinded by the humor that Cooper's character brought to a great film. However, after watching his character (Richie DiMaso) in American Hustle, there is no doubt in my mind that he can freakin act! In fact, it's going to be hard to keep him out of the top spot for a second straight year! Not only did his character offer up some of the funniest moments of 2013, but he also did a great job of connecting with me, on an emotional, dramatic level, which I was not expecting at all. As I said before, I didn't know what to expect with any of the characters in American Hustle, so I may have been blinded yet again, but hopefully not. On top of Cooper's great performance, Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as the wife of Christian Bale's Irving. Her character (Rosalyn) may have been a tad bit unnecessary, but the performance by Lawrence was extraordinary! I'll be honest... She didn't impress me nearly as much in Silver Linings, so she should definitely get some Oscar attention with this performance. On top of that, great performances by Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner, and Louis C.K. made this positive character section one of the largest in the history of average criticism! So, kudos to the marvelous cast!

If you enjoyed, at all, the drama/comedy mix of David O. Russell's previous films, American Hustle is sure to please you. There is no doubt that I enjoyed the film, and I would definitely like to watch it again, so I can enjoy the comedy even more. Don't get me wrong... there is some real drama surrounding the hustle theme. But, if you don't take the film too seriously, there are so many greatly hilarious moments that I promise will blow you away. I could see how many of the jokes may miss with some people, so go in ready to laugh! Also, before you cheer on any single acting category on Oscar night, check out these fantastic performances. They are sure to please! As for David O. Russell... One of these days, he is going to put great acting and great story together, and, when he does, prepare for a best picture win. Mark my words! I give American Hustle 3.2 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Behind the Camera

To be honest with you guys, I'm no expert in picking up on the "behind the scenes" differences from one movie to the next. I don't know how to properly judge how well a movie was directed, how well edited a movie was, or whether the script was lacking in certain qualities. Sure, over time, I have picked up on many tendencies, but I am not "trained" to be able to pick a film apart in that way. I just tell you guys what I liked and didn't like about each film that I see, and that's why I consider myself average. Nothing I write is intended to be over your head, because I consider myself to be at your level. With all that being said, there are still a few film/TV-makers that I tend to enjoy, for one reason or another. Is it because of the tonal, stylistic, other-big-word nature of their work? Or maybe they tap the camera and add a little darkness?... Heck if I know! For all I know, they lucked up and tricked me into liking their work! Regardless, I like the stuff that they make, and, really, that's all that I care about.

That was a very long introduction, but it was intended to help you understand that this list may come off as a bit shallow... because it kind of is! I have listed for you a few folks that make movies and television that I absolutely love. They may direct or write or produce, but all I know is that I see there name, and I immediately want to watch. I just like them, and it really is that simple! In my eyes, these are the guys who can do no wrong behind the camera...


The Coen Brothers
As I look back on my life and ask myself "Tanner, what movie have you quoted more than any other?" I would definitely say that award would be handed to O Brother Where Art Thou. Maybe I can blame that on my being from Mississippi. I mean, I think every person in the state has seen the film. Maybe I can blame it on the fact that it is my favorite comedy of all time. I mean, who wouldn't quote their favorite comedy of all time. Regardless, I quote it, and it has basically become a consistent part of my vocabulary. Add to that their other great, country, old timey films, like True Grit and No Country for Old Men, and you have yourself quite the repertoire. And, Inside Llewyn Davis is sure to add itself to that list this month (or at least hopefully it will). I don't know why, but the Coen brothers have me hooked...


J. J. Abrams
On May 21, 2010, I, Tanner Jones, graduated high school, and I was quite proud of myself, completing 13 years worth of hard work and whatnot. However, regardless of what happened on that Friday night, all I cared about was what would come just two days later... the series finale of LOST. If you know me well or if you've ever read my blog, you probably know that I love LOST! Looking back, I probably should have soaked in graduation a bit more, but oh well! Now, after having watched the series through three whole times, I am absolutely confident that LOST is my absolute favorite TV drama of all time, and a good portion of LOST's greatness can be attributed to the great J.J. Abrams. As the co-creator and showrunner (for about four episodes), maybe Abrams wasn't as influential to LOST as Carlton Cuse or Damon Lindelof, but, without him, the show never makes it to TV. As if creating my favorite TV show wasn't enough, J.J. has gone on to bring us two fantastic Star Trek films and the underappreciated Super 8 to the big screen. Throw in all of his other successful TV shows, and there is no denying that he has one of the greatest sci-fi/fantasy minds ever. As a big Star Wars fan, I really can't wait to see where J.J. takes the franchise, and I really hope he keeps up his traditional, extreme secrecy as we get closer and closer to 2015.


Aaron Sorkin
While LOST will probably always be my favorite TV drama, my first ever TV drama love is none other than... The West Wing. Now, to be honest, I don't really understand how I had a clue what was going on with the show. I was 9 years old when the show started! 9 years old! There's no way that I could have completely understood the politics surrounding The White House, but, nevertheless, I watched the show every Wednesday night with my parents, loving every second of it. Without Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing would not have been made, and I would not have those fond TV-watching memories with my parents. Then, after years of Sorkin-silence, The Social Network came to theaters, written by none other than my main man. While watching The Social Network in the theater, I thought it was a pretty good movie. Luckily for me, Best Buy had the film for $12 on the Tuesday it was released on DVD, and I can't pass up that kind of deal. Now, after having watched the film about 100 times, it is probably my favorite movie ever. Of course, many of you will denounce me because my favorite movie isn't some 50 year old, black and white film, although each person should be entitled to his or her own opinion. I just love the movie! Add such great movies as A Few Good Man and Moneyball, and you have quite the resume. Recently, his presence has continued to engulf my life in the form of The Newsroom, which has quickly become one of my favorite dramas on television (regardless of what some critics may say about it). It had been a long time since the Emmy's made me as excited as they did when Jeff Daniels won best actor for his leading role on the show. When he was giving his speech and made the comment about Aaron Sorkin making entertainment that mattered, I just wanted to jump and shout for joy! Sorkin has truly influenced my TV-watching life, and I certainly hope that he continues to do so, as his career moves along.
Christopher Nolan
In the case of Christopher Nolan, I thought I might be a bit star-struck or something. Not only is The Dark Knight the greatest superhero movie ever, but also Batman is my favorite superhero of all time. I mean, you could probably put anyone behind the camera, and I would still like Batman. However, as I continued to think (and as Ben Affleck's presence draws near), there is no doubt that, without the Nolan brothers, The Dark Knight isn't the greatest superhero film of all time. On top of that, Inception and The Prestige are two more of my favorite films of all time, and I respect anyone who can come up with those mind-blowing storylines. In fact, we are now less than one year away from Nolan's next film, Interstellar, and I am already super duper giddy. Of the four names in this short list, Nolan is probably the one who I'm least able to determine what I like about his films. I mean, the Coen brothers are good at quirky, goofy drama and comedy, J.J. Abrams can do sci-fi unlike anyone else in the 21st century, and Aaron Sorkin can create dialogue that could make anything sound important and over your head. What does Nolan do?... I dunno. All I know is that I love everything he touches, and I hope that streak continues with Interstellar!

I don't really know how to close this post. So, in the spirit of the Coen brothers and their inability to come up with a good ending to a film... Bye!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Great Expectations: December 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

Over the past few years, there have been many months in which I have gone to the movies way, way more than the average human being. In fact, over the past few years, I dare say that has been the case with almost every month. Even so, December 2013 may possibly be the busiest movie-going month that I have ever encountered, and I cannot wait! Instead of caving like Professor Hinkle, I have decided to take this challenge head-on. Usually, in my Great Expectations post, I only list three or four movies to watch each month, but, this month, I've decided to list each and every film that I aspire to watch, in preparation for Oscar night and just for my own entertainment. This month, if you are looking for me, check at the movies first! Also, if I never post anything on here ever again, it's because I spent all of my money on movies and Christmas presents and couldn't pay my internet bill.......

Inside Llewyn Davis
(December 6)
Saving Mr. Banks
(December 13)
American Hustle
(December 18)
(December 18)
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
(December 20)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
(December 25)
The Wolf of Wall Street
(December 25)