The 1st Annual Michaels Awards

Best Picture: The Wrestler
Runner-Ups: Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, The Dark Knight, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Worst Picture: The Love Guru
Runners-Up: Camp Rock, The Happening, First Sunday, Seven Pounds

Best Director: Danny Boyle & Loveleen Tandan, Slumdog Millionaire, 
Runner-Ups: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight, John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

Best Movie That Everyone Apparently Hated But I Loved: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Runner-Ups: Cloverfield

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Runner-Ups: Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road, Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino, Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Wall-E, Wall-E

Worst Actor: Mark Wahlberg, The Happening
Runners-Up: Mike Myers, The Love Guru, Pierce Brosnan, Mamma Mia!, Ice Cube, First Sunday

Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader & Revolutionary Road
Runners-Up: Meryl Streep, Doubt, Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married, Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Worst Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Four Christmases
Runners-Up: Paris Hilton, The Hottie and The Nottie, Carmen Electra, Disaster Movie

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Runners-Up: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt, Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt
Runners-Up: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Evan Rachel Wood, The Wrestler, Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Really Good Performance In A Really Bad Movie: Justin Timberlake, The Love Guru
Runners-Up: Will Smith, Seven Pounds

Best Screenplay: Wall-E
Runners-Up: Slumdog Millionaire, Doubt, The Wrestler, Burn After Reading,

Best Action Movie: The Dark Knight
Runners-Up: Wanted, Tropic Thunder, Iron Man

Best Comedy: Tropic Thunder
Runners-Up: Burn After Reading, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Step Brothers, Role Models

Best Unintentional Comedy: Speed Racer
Runners-Up: N/A

Best Scene:
The Ending, The Wrestler
Runners-Up:
The Interrogation, The Dark Knight, The Ending, Slumdog Millionaire, Benjamin’s Death, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Musical Score: Slumdog Millionaire
Runners-Up: The Dark Knight, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Wall-E, The Reader

- RM

A pleasant surprise in ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop’

Kevin James goes kiddy-style in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a nice little surprise that struggles to find its way in the first half-hour, but gains a big heart and some cool action in its final hour. It most definitely falls prey to almost every imaginable kids movie cliche in the book.

James plays Paul Blart, a 10-year mall cop who lives with his mother and daughter. He takes his job very seriously, at one point pulling over an old man in an electric wheelchair for “speeding”. But he is a bit lonely, and desires a girlfriend. Subsequently, he falls for a kind saleswoman named Amy. But when a group of thieves take over the mall and hold Blart’s daughter and Amy hostage, Blart fights his way through the mall to save them.

The film’s best scenes are when it parodies ‘Die Hard’. A particularly memorable one is where Blart yowls in pain and lifts up his sleeve. A miniscule cut on his arm. He then applies a Hello Kitty band-aid. This is the general attitude of the film. The first 30 minutes are really bad, if only because the jokes either revolve around his weight or…well, that’s practically all the jokes are for the first 30 minutes.

When the mall is taken over, the film really picks up the pace. Seeing James as a childrens-film star is startling, but as an action star is pretty funny. It showcases his talent, and he really hasn’t been too funny since ‘King of Queens’. It’s nothing special, but it’s funny, has some cool stunts, and as a kids movie isn’t too bad. B-

The Best Movies of 2008

2008 has been a fantastic year in film. It was the year that Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr, and Tom Cruise all made comebacks. It was the year that for every major disappointment (Australia, Frost/Nixon), there was a giant surprise (Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler). It was the year that the line between big awards contenders and booming event flicks was blurred, which made for a lot of fantastic movies. Here’s my favorite movies of 2008.

1. Mickey Rourke should win the Oscar for The Wrestler, an incredibly emotional film with an ending that punches you in the gut. Although it easily could have succumbed to cliche, it doesn’t, which is a minor miracle. The story of a washed-up wrestler, no one could have (or should have) played him other than Rourke. Evan Rachel Wood stands out in 3 scenes as Rourke’s daughter. It’s not a happy movie, but man is it a good one. So good in fact, that it’s the best of the year.

2. A flick I’d barely heard of when it was released, Slumdog Millionaire was funny, suspenseful, somber, beautiful, and resonated with me more than anything else this year. Dev Patel and Freida Pinto are excellent, the script is top-notch, and the direction is stunning. Originally to be direct to DVD, thankfully it wasn’t, and now it’s taking the world by storm. An incredible achievement.

3. Not just another comic-book movie, The Dark Knight was exceptional in all areas. You want great performances? Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart and above all Heath Ledger will provide that. Giant explosions? Check. A layered, intelligent script? Absolutely. It has more in common with say, Heat or The Godfather than The Incredible Hulk or Superman. The film that action movies will be judged by for the next 20 years.

4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. An old-fashioned, technically astounding love story, the normally violent director David Fincher is surprisingly restrained here. Although he normally does more violent fare such as Fight Club, he emulates say, David Lean here. The special effects, makeup, and Pitt’s excellent performance come together seamlessly for an unforgettable movie.

5. When animation, science-fiction, romance, comedy, and an adorable title character come together seamlessly, you know you have a special movie. But Wall-E is Pixar’s best movie, a huge feat considering they’re the best, most consistent studio today. A young robot falling in love with a search probe is risky, original, and in the movie undoubtedly touching. Oh, and after the 20th time you see it, it still doesn’t get old.

6. It’s hard for a movie to inspire awe. For a documentary, it’s almost impossible. But Man on Wire, the story of Philipe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, does it at the drop of a hat. It maintains the suspense of a heist movie but entertains and enthralls, a huge feat for a documentary.

7. Rachel Getting Married has a great cast, an awesome script, and somehow pulls an Oscar-caliber performance out of Anne Hathaway, as a recovering addict going to her sister’s wedding, and the fascinating results.

8. My #8 pick is actually two movies. 2008 was an awesome year for comedies, and I just couldn’t leave these off. Burn After Reading and Tropic Thunder are radically different in content and pacing but have one thing in common: they are hilariously funny.

9. Doubt‘s script needed work, but then again it has four of the best performances of 2008. Meryl Streep is fantastic, I forgive her for Mamma Mia. Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent, both likable and shady enough to keep us on the edge until the end, which makes you question everything you’ve just seen. The breakout star is Viola Davis, who is devastating in 7 minutes as a mother whose boy may have been molested by a priest.

10. Vicky Cristina Barcelona doesn’t sound like a Woody Allen movie. Set in Barcelona, a deep meditation on love with beautiful locations and cinematography. However, the witty script and fantastic ensemble cast bring together Allen’s best film since Manhattan. For the Oscar race watch out for Penelope Cruz as the main’s protaganist’s suicidal, crazy ex-wife.

Honorable Mentions:
Changeling
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Gran Torino
Happy-Go-Lucky
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Iron Man
Kung Fu Panda
Step Brothers
The Visitor
Wanted

Eastwood proves he’s still a master in ‘Gran Torino’

Clint Eastwood became known to us first as The Man With No Name in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy”. There’s irony to the fact that he hardly spoke in the role and yet became so iconic. Which makes it really fitting that his final film role should be Walt Kowalski, an outspoken, racist, grouchy, rifle-toting old man. It’s exactly that performance that makes Gran Torino a must-see movie, despite its evident flaws.

Eastwood has become one of the best, most consistent directors in the film industry, and continues to evolve even at 78. He is actually quite versatile. He can do Westerns, war flicks, boxing movies, period dramas, literally anything. But what Gran Torino goes to show is that the man can still act, perhaps better than he can direct. It’s one of the best performances of 2008.

Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean War vet/recent widower whose Detroit neighborhood is dominated by Hmongs and gangs. The local gangs pressure a young Hmong boy into attempting to steal Walt’s ’72 Gran Torino. When Walt retaliates, he takes the boy under his wing and protects his family from the gangs.

The script is top-notch. It may sound like a violent, somber movie, but it’s actually quite funny. The problem, which is actually quite big, are the Hmong actors. Reportedly cast on the scene, they truly are not that good.

The young Hmong boy, who carries a large chunk of the film’s emotional core, is simply not up to the plate. He talks too fast, mostly stares at the ground, and delivers half the lines in an odd tone. He gets some good jokes in, but it’s a mediocre performance that needed to be great.

Gran Torino could be Clint Eastwood’s last film as an actor, although he’ll likely continue directing. Gran Torino ranks among his best performances, and despite mediocre performances otherwise, the script is excellent and the film will remain in your memory for a long time. A-

Note to ‘Seven Pounds’: I want my 2 hours back

Will Smith is undoubtedly the world’s top box-office draw, and a great actor at that. But with Hancock (well…those last 45 minutes) and this, Seven Pounds, his choices lately have been less than great. Or less than average for that matter. He’s reteaming with ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ director Gabriele Muccino.

‘Pursuit’ had its cliches, yes, but the acting was great and it was a perfectly good tearjerker. ‘Seven Pounds’ has its cliches, OH YES, the acting is mostly sub-par, and although it aims for your heart, it hits your head. Seriously, there’s so many plot holes and ‘why-didn’t-he-just’ moments, if I ever see this again I will list them. Which means I’ll need a lot of paper.

Will Smith is Ben Thomas (or is he?), an IRS agent (or is he?) who may or may not be suicidal. He most definitely lost his family, he most definitely lost his mind, and we most definitely lose our patience after the ridiculous beginning sequence. He’s possibly concocting a plan that will help seven strangers, but falls in love along the way and questions the morals of his plan.

Woody Harrelson is fast becoming the best part of several sub-par movies lately. His role as a heartbroken, blind pianist/phone operator has the best parts of the film. His first scene with Will Smith is awesome, despite Will’s ridiculous reaction. Rosario Dawson is a really good actress who unfortunately gets a lot of parts in really bad movies. Her role as Will’s love interest is underwritten and doesn’t grab our sympathy like it should.

Will Smith himself is good. So why, with all the good performances, is it so bad? I’ll tell you. The script is incredibly bad. It doesn’t matter how good any acting is, it’s what they’re acting that counts. The dialogue is terrible, and as said earlier the plot is neck-deep with condractions.

The ending is one of those ones that will go down in history, as that “You have got to be kidding me’ one. Oh, and the whole movie oddly revolves around a jellyfish. No joke. I’d tell you to see for yourself, but would you really want to waste $15? Didn’t think so. D

Sandler tries the kids routine unsuccessfully in ‘Bedtime Stories’

Adam Sandler, when given the right script, can be hilarious, (Billy Madison & Happy Gilmore) or can fall flat on his face. (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Airheads) Bedtime Stories is his first real foray into the little kids’ territory. Although there’s some cool action sequences and Russell Brand is funny, I hope it’s Sandler’s last kids movie, he just isn’t meant for Disney.

He plays a hotel handyman named Skeeter whose ridiculously uptight sister makes him watch her children for a couple of days. The kids’ normal stories consist of ‘The Organic Squirrel Gets A Bike Helmet’, so Skeeter decides to improvise his own stories. But then the next day they begin to come to life, which brings problems, as only the things the kids say come true.

Sandler is just fine. Nothing new or inventive, but he’s not awful. It seems after last summer’s Zohan, which was something of a change for him, he’s back to his old acting style. Not awful, not great either.

The huge-eyed pet guinea pig (so enthusiastically displayed in the trailers) is initially cute, and still is, but he’s a one-note joke. Adam Sandler says something, the guinea pig responds with a cute noise. Cue the ‘awws’. It must be said though, the CGI pig does look horrifically fake.

The problem is simply, its not very involving, and the pace is awful. At the very beginning, the traditional family movie music begins, and some REALLY overenthusiatic narration begins. The corniness hardly lets up. Most of the ‘stories’ are fairly lame, although one with Sander as a cowboy shows the potential the film had, and missed.

Russell Brand, a raunchy British comedian, is the last person on Earth one would expect in a Disney movie. Which is why its so ironic he’s the funniest person in the movie. He has about 10 lines, but they’re the best in the movie.

It’s sort of sad how much potential Bedtime Stories had. It has a great premise and some good scenes, but the pace is horrible and only kids under 8 can honestly enjoy it. C-

The Worst Movies of 2008

Although my reviews are mostly positive (what can I say, I like movies!), there are always movies every year that are awful. Or bad. Or face-meltingly, heartbreakingly bad. For example, even though I gave Speed Racer an F, I saw it a second time and deemed it a ‘so-awful-it’s-good’ classic.

5 While Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon seems like a good idea on paper, Four Christmases is by no means good, or entertaining, or even watchable. It’s tasteless, poorly-written garbage that couldn’t be less in the holiday spirit. Seeing Vince Vaughn play Moses in a play is priceless. A 2-minute jewel, stuck in a 90 minute piece of garbage.

4. A remake of a movie no one even liked, Prom Night was awful even by horror-remake standards.

3. Even by the low expectations I had for it, I don’t think there was a more preachy or unfunny movie this year other than First Sunday. From its incredibly annoying product placement (Look! A PSP in a Sony-produced movie) to its flat performance from Ice Cube. First Sunday was flat-out dumb.

2.Camp Rock makes High School Musical 3 look like The Godfather in comparison. The leads are charming but undeniably wooden. It’s corny from the very first second, where Demi Lovato literally sings about getting out of bed. I nearly broke into tears when my sister got it for her birthday.

1. The most awful, wince-inducingly bad of the year is undeniably The Love Guru. I love Mike Myers and hoped it would succeed. But then I saw it. When Justin Timberlake is more funny than Mike Myers in a movie, you know than Myers is falling flat. After almost every joke, he literally smiles at the camera for 5 seconds on end. And the end with the elephants? Please. It’s horribly directed by a complete newcomer, Marco Schnabel. After seeing The Love Guru, you literally don’t want to watch a movie for a long time.

Dishonorable Mentions:
- Saw V
- Get Smart: Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control
- Semi-Pro
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
- Hancock (well, the last 45 minutes)

My list of my favorites of 2008 are coming soon. Until then, find a copy of The Love Guru. It’s probably already in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. Do me, and you, and humankind a favor. Burn it.