A Walk to Remember

a-walk-to-remember-559158l

This one is syrupy enough to suck the whole state of Vermont dry.
★½
Movie Review #1,061

walk_to_remember

Distributed by Warner Bros. Drama, Romance. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. Rated PG for thematic elements, language and some sensual material. Released January 25, 2002. Directed by Adam Shankman. Screenplay by Karen Janszen, from the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Starring Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Coyote, and Daryl Hannah.

A brief note to the reader: I am returning to reviewing mostly older movies now, since it has become increasingly difficult to find the time and money to visit the movie theater on a regular basis. I suppose this is a better idea, anyhow, because let’s be honest: a Netflix date is just as good as dinner and a movie, and it’s far cheaper and far less time-consuming.

You can’t go wrong with Nicholas Sparks. His books have been adapted into eleven different films so far, seven of which have been released over the last seven years. His movies have an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 24%, with all but one of them falling somewhere between 8% and 32%; the outlier is “The Notebook”, whose middling score of 52% seems almost too good to be true. And yet despite the quality of these films, as well as the fact that most are released during the dump months of January and February, the films inspired by his books have reeled in a total of nearly $890 million worldwide.

The man practically gets away with murder, and there’s nothing that makes that more evident than the lasting popularity of “A Walk to Remember”. It was released 14 years ago and only managed to reach #3 at the box office, but somehow, it’s become something of a cult classic in the time since. That’s to say that it is better “remembered” than Sparks films that grossed nearly twice as much, such as “Nights in Rodanthe” (2008) or “The Best of Me” (2014). How the film managed to succeed so well is beyond me, but I guess Father Time is the only man alive who can polish a turd.

I guess it was a bit of a mistake to tell my girlfriend that I hadn’t seen “A Walk to Remember”, because I wouldn’t have ended up watching it if I hadn’t. It’s not that I don’t like syrupy “chick-flicks.” I think they can be quite amusing, especially when the amusement isn’t intended. “A Walk to Remember” is a prime example of that. The dialogue is a choppy bastardization of how real people speak in normal conversation, both by writing and by performance. Just as laughable is the soundtrack. There is some good music here, and most of it is from the Christian rock band Switchfoot. Unfortunately, those songs that we actually enjoy are recycled several times throughout the movie. What’s more, the rest of the soundtrack highlights the exact sort of music from the early 2000s that we were all glad we’d forgotten: post-grunge and alternative rock. Not the enjoyable kind that we got from bands like Linkin Park, but rather the kind you get from unknown bands like Cold and Fuel. I like the idea of using up-and-coming bands in teen movies, because young people truly do like to listen to new artists. But when you look back on a movie and realize that those bands never even became famous, it’s a little embarrassing.

I cannot judge how faithful “A Walk to Remember” it is to the book on which it is based, but having seen other Nicholas Sparks movies, I will attest to the fact that it adheres very faithfully to the formula that pervades Sparks’s filmography. Rebellious boy and goodie-two-shoes girl meet, try not to fall for each other, but end up doing so anyway. I’m not good at predicting movies. My mother is, and I’m always amazed by it. But I suppose I amazed myself when I was watching this very movie, so much that I felt like my mother. I was predicting the movie left and right. It wasn’t even twenty minutes into the movie that my girlfriend decided to ask me if I had actually seen it.  “This is my first time watching it,” I responded, “and yet it seems I have already seen it a million different times, under a million different titles.”

Sisters

SISTERS

Very funny, until it starts to feel like a disaster movie.
★★½
Movie Review #1,060

sisters

Distributed by Universal Pictures. Comedy. Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes. Rated R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use. Released December 18, 2015. Directed by Jason Moore. Written by Paula Pell. Starring Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, Dianne Wiest, Madison Davenport, Dan Byrd, James Brolin, John Cena, John Leguizamo, Bobby Moynihan, Greta Lee, Rachel Dratch, Kate McKinnon, Chris Parnell, and Paula Pell.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are a really, really funny pair.  If you don’t believe me, go back and watch clips from the Golden Globes, which they co-hosted from 2013 through 2015, or their respective impressions of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton on Saturday Night Live.  That being said, their collaboration in “Sisters” offers many good laughs.  But unlike their comedy as a standup pair, “Sisters” has a plot, and it often seems to stand in the way of humor.

“Sisters” reunites sisters Kate (Tina Fey) and Maura Ellis (Amy Poehler).  Kate is a careless woman who works as a hair stylist from home, and doesn’t even bother to do a good job with that.  Even her teenage daughter is embarrassed by her sloppy way of life, and so she moves out frequently and refuses to tell her mother whom she is living with.  Maura, on the other hand, enjoys helping people.  She’s a nurse, and she’s starting to find a new life for herself after a recent divorce.

One prominent message here is that people don’t change.  The two recount stories of when they were teenagers: Kate was a party animal and would host house gatherings that she dubbed Ellis Island on a regular basis.  Maura would be the “party mom” during these parties, which essentially means that she made sure nobody died from choking on their own vomit, and of course that she served as the designated driver at these parties.  Now, both of them are in their forties, and their house is being sold.  Kate wants to bring all their high school friends back for one last ride at Ellis Island.  However, she also needs a place to stay, having been recently evicted.  Maura agrees to the party, and vows to help Kate get back on her feet again, but only under one condition: that she gets to party this time and Kate gets to be the “party mom.”

The cast is complete with members and recent alumni of Saturday Night Live.  Fey and Poehler, as already mentioned, make as great a team on film as they do on the late-night program.  Maya Rudolph plays a former wannabe who never got invited to the Ellis Island parties, and wants revenge when she finds out she wasn’t invited to the most recent one, either.  Rachel Dratch, Chris Parnell, Paula Pell (who also wrote the screenplay), and Kate McKinnon all have their moments to amuse, as well, but the one whose performance truly takes the cake is Bobby Moynihan.  Moynihan plays a guy who loves telling jokes but isn’t funny.  But he seems ignorant to the fact that nobody’s laughing, which makes his character a laughing matter, anyway.  Kudos for the scene where Moynihan snorts cocaine and poorly impersonates the movie “Scarface”.  Maybe the one character who delivers more laughs in the entire movie is John Cena, who plays a muscular, overly serious drug dealer.

If the Ellis Island reunion were a normal party, this movie might have been a fun, albeit predictable, time.  It certainly starts off that way, but it doesn’t last long.  What starts as a house party becomes an out-of-control apocalypse in “Sisters”.  Every step in the process of gradually demolishing the Ellis house is meant as a joke, but the feeling seeing it all happen grows tiresome and even a little stressful to watch.  Watching a character on drugs spray painting a gigantic penis onto a wall is rather amusing.  Seeing a group of Asian characters pour an entire container of laundry detergent into a washing machine to make a giant bubble bath flood the house, not so much.  At that point, we’re not laughing; we’re dreading the conclusion.  By the time the conclusion finally arrives, there’s a massive sinkhole in the family’s backyard, and the house is in absolutely no condition to be sold anytime soon.  Sure, the idea of destroying a house on the market can be very funny; I just feel writer Paula Pell took the concept way too far.

National College Decision Day

Today is National College Decision Day, and I would like to formally announce where I will be going to college.

UNCW-film-school

Starting this August, I will be studying at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, otherwise known as UNC Wilmington or just UNCW.  I’m planning on double-majoring in Film Studies and Political Sciences.

Not familiar with UNCW?  To some, it’s the school that (barely) lost to Duke this year in the NCAA Tournament.  To others, it’s the school near a beautiful shore called Wrightsville Beach.  To me, it’s the school that I visited about two years ago and have been madly in love with ever since.  I’m not gonna lie: moving from Pennsylvania to North Carolina for college isn’t going to be an easy change.  But it’s 100% worth it: I’m going to be living in the Hollywood of the East!

A few fun facts about Wilmington:

  • It was settled along the Cape Fear River, which might ring a bell if you have seen the film Cape Fear with Gregory Peck or the remake directed by Martin Scorsese.  I still haven’t seen the older version, but I highly recommend the remake.  It’s one of those movies that you forget about for some reason, but then you hear someone mention it in conversation and suddenly you remember what a great movie it is.  (I wrote a review on it a while back, while I was on my Scorsese marathon.  Click here to read it.)
  • The Cape Fear River is a blackwater river.  As in, old black water, keep on rolling, Mississippi moon, won’t you keep on shining on me….okay, I’m getting a little sidetracked.
  • The riverfront in Wilmington was named the Best American Riverfront in 2014 by USA Today.
  • Screen Gems has a studio in Wilmington.  In fact, it’s the “largest domestic television and movie production facility outside of California,” according to Wikipedia.  And no, I’m not citing an edit that I made myself.
  • George Washington Glover is buried in Wilmington.  He was the first husband of Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the religion of Christian Science.

And, since it’s the Hollywood of the East, here’s a list of just a few films that were shot in Wilmington:

  • A Walk to Remember
  • Blue Velvet (another David Lynch movie, Wild at Heart, mentions Cape Fear and Wilmington in the beginning, as well)
  • The Conjuring
  • The Crow (the movie that killed Bruce Lee’s son)
  • Enchanted
  • Firestarter
  • The Hudsucker Proxy
  • Iron Man 3
  • Maximum Overdrive (the only movie Stephen King directed)
  • Safe Haven
  • The Secret Life of Bees
  • Sleeping with the Enemy
  • Tammy
  • Weekend at Bernie’s
  • We’re the Millers

I’d say the next four years of my life are going to be pretty enjoyable.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

batman-v-superman-the-complete-guide-to-frank-miller-dark-knight

Zack Snyder’s weakest movie, but Ben Affleck makes a great Batman.
★★
Movie Review #1,059

batman_v_superman_dawn_of_justice_ver8

Distributed by Warner Bros. Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi. Running time: 2 hours, 31 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality. Released March 25, 2016. Directed by Zack Snyder. Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, and Gal Gadot. With cameos from Charlie Rose, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dana Bash, Kevin Costner, Nancy Grace, Anderson Cooper, and Brooke Baldwin.

By now, everybody and their dog has seen the viral “sad Affleck” video, where Affleck looks extremely forlorn as he hears an interviewer tell him that his newest film, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, has been receiving mixed reviews. Let’s give the guy a break, though. He has every right to be sad. I can’t say just how much it sucks to know that you’ve given a great performance in an otherwise half-baked movie, but I would imagine that it sucks quite a bit. Expectations have been all over the map since Affleck was cast as Batman. His performance in “Batman v Superman” is comparable to, and perhaps even better than, Christian Bale’s performance in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy (2005-2012). Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t hold a candle to those three superhero greats.

Hence why “Batman v Superman” may not be as accurate a title as “Batman v Batman”. We sit through the entire movie wondering which Batman is better: Bale or Affleck. No one gives a shit about Superman, other than for the fact that without Superman, we wouldn’t have Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Except for those among us who do appreciate a wooden, monotonous Superman, none of us really cares to watch Henry Cavill’s performance as the alien/superhero. His did a fine job in “Man of Steel”, but that performance looks like a should-have-been Oscar winner in comparison to his effort in “Batman v Superman”.

Where “Man of Steel” played out like a genuine superhero movie, “Batman v Superman” played out like fan fiction. The writing is shoddy, the dramatic setup unrealistic and the dialogue forced. I’m betting that the screenplay would be an enjoyable read simply because poor writing can be a reader’s guilty pleasure. On film, though, that can feel rather confusing. I’ve always been a huge fan of Zack Snyder’s, as is evidenced by the fact that I gave rave reviews to “300”, “Watchmen”, and “Man of Steel”. In my opinion, those are modern classics, and I might be the only one in the world who thinks so. It truly says something when, despite my admiration for the director, I am willing to admit that his latest film could have been a hell of a lot better.

By the Sea

010b3718d9c52a9f4d95100fbceba5b942650146.jpg__0x1500_q85-1200x675

Complete and utter merde.
½
Movie Review #1,058

by_the_sea_ver2

Distributed by Universal Pictures. Drama, Romance. Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes. Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity, and language. Released November 13, 2015. Directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt. Written by Angelina Jolie Pitt. Starring Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt, and Mélanie Laurent.

“By the Sea” marks the tenth anniversary of Brad and Angelina Jolie Pitt’s meeting each other on the set of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”. Once again, the two play a couple whose marriage is crumbling, except it’s less interesting this time.

The first hour of “By the Sea” bores us with the dull and depressing details of this declining marriage. Brad and Angelina are vacationing in the south of France. He wants to go there to cure his writer’s block, even though she clearly wanted the trip to be romantic getaway. Worse yet, he gets distracted from his writing and instead drinks every day away. Meanwhile, she takes walks around the beaches and starts spying on their newlywed neighbors through a hole in the wall. Somehow, the script manages to waste an entire hour by repeatedly glossing over the same events. It runs out of things to say pretty damn fast.

Just when you think it can’t get much worse, the story goes from banal to weird. Angelina shows Brad the hole in the wall, and they grow obsessed with watching their neighbors make love on a daily basis. There’s a voyeuristic aura to these scenes that makes them increasingly uncomfortable. But Brad and Angelina are a lot kinkier than we thought. Somehow, watching their neighbors have sex reignites their own love for each other. Their marriage starts to seem fine again, because of that creepy-ass hole in the wall.

“By the Sea” seems like a story of the marriage between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. If only Jolie Pitt’s writing was half as good as theirs. Don’t get me wrong: Angelina Jolie Pitt is a decent director and a wonderful actress. But her ability to write amounts to rubbing shit on 120 pieces of paper and calling it a screenplay. It’s heinously bad. So bad that her writing cuts heavily into her ability to deliver in the role of Vanessa.

I’m not even sure if we’re supposed to be commiserating with Vanessa. On an objective level, she deserves better. Her husband is a drunk, she has nothing to do all day, and she’s essentially trapped until he finally writes the novel he’s been obsessing about. But the film seems to bias more toward the husband. It’s made clear to us that the depressed wife is to blame for their crumbling marriage. Clearly, her depression is causing her to distrust her husband and become a manipulative bitch. And for the record, those are not actual signs of depression. They’re signs of Jolie Pitt trying to get away with being stupid. We’re never able to get into the mind of the protagonist/antagonist because she’s so goshdarn shallow.

“By the Sea” is a boring chronicle that ultimately goes nowhere and means nothing to its audience. The best the film has to offer is a nude Angelina Jolie Pitt. Even so, watching her have sex with her fully clothed husband in a bathtub is too dumb a sight to dismiss without laughing.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

whiskey-tango-foxtrot

The title is “WTF” in the NATO alphabet.  Which makes sense.
★½
Movie Review #1,057

whiskey_tango_foxtrot

Distributed by Paramount Pictures. Comedy, War. Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes. Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use and violent war images. Released March 4, 2016. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Screenplay by Robert Carlock. Based on the book “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan” by Kim Barker. Starring Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Christopher Abbott, and Billy Bob Thornton.

Where the art of film meets the art of deception lies the craft of film editing. You can quite literally turn anything into its polar opposite this way in a matter of a few clicks. Coke becomes Pepsi. A Hillary Clinton campaign ad becomes a documentary on the charitable deeds of Mother Theresa. A dry, bleak romantic drama becomes the trailer for a wonderfully upbeat, hysterically funny comedy.

That last one has a name: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”, which is “WTF” in the NATO alphabet. The title has absolutely nothing to do with the film itself, other than that it describes the reaction you’ll have watching it. It’s almost adorable that directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra think this film is a comedy. It’s a shame it was marketed as such. “WTF” is a comedy in the same way “Billy Madison” is a drama. That movie had some sentimental moments, particularly in developing the relationship between the titular character and his love interest, but overall it’s just a silly Adam Sandler comedy. Likewise, “WTF” just isn’t that much of a comedy.

This is an interesting story that has been bled dry as a bone. An unmarried journalist is sent to Afghanistan to document her experiences during the War on Terror. It’s a very unique story starting off, but then said journalist’s boyfriend cheats on her, and the story whips around into a traditional romance movie. It becomes a story about a shallow woman who is trying to decide whether or not she has romantic feelings for some British guy she is staying with in Afghanistan (the horribly miscast Martin Freeman). Is Hollywood truly advancing as fast as society? Because by now it’s pretty much common knowledge that a woman is allowed to be single. She doesn’t need to be by a man’s side her entire life, particularly I’d she’s Tina Fey and he’s some ugly, creepy British guy from “The Hobbit”. If you can picture what a ’90s Julia Roberts movie would look like with Tina Fey and without very much humor, you can probably skip “WTF” because you already know what’s going to happen.

My endorsement of John Kasich

1935622_988976657862533_6239864334382665180_n

10603586_988977227862476_3832333114333524428_n

In my four and a half years as a film blogger, this is the first time that I have posted about something other than movies.  This post may also be the most important post I have ever written, and I encourage you all to read every word of it.  My blog has 3,897 followers, and if each one of you reads this PSA, and spreads the word to every American voter you know personally, then together we could make the change that America truly needs.  I now present to you my personal endorsement of Governor John Kasich as President of the United States, which I posted on Facebook only a few minutes ago:

I had said at an earlier time that I would donate money to Marco Rubio’s campaign when I got money back from filing taxes. Unfortunately, Marco has ended his campaign. Lately, however, John Kasich has started to seem more and more like the President America needs. I plan to contribute regularly to his campaign and vote for him in the primary election. I encourage every one of you to do the same.

I have great hope that Governor Kasich can win the Presidency. If he and Ted Cruz can together earn enough support to stop Donald Trump from receiving 1,237 delegates by July, then the result will be a brokered convention. Seeing as the Republican establishment does not want Trump as their leader, we will see a battle between Cruz and Kasich. If Cruz earns the nomination, the Republicans will lose to the Clinton machine this year, but if Kasich prevails, we will have an honest, moderate President who sincerely cares about America.

Seeing Kasich win the general election would be a beautiful catharsis to the chaotic state of politics during this primary season. I support him not as a Republican but as a centrist American thinker. Kasich is the only Republican candidate who is well-loved by Democrats. If he earns a nomination, then America earns a President that fits the interests of all people. As a governor, not a senator or a businessman, he is the only candidate in either party who has the experience most needed in a President.

Kasich has proven to be an underdog in the race for the Oval Office. He has seemingly been an unknown in the race until recently, and I am positive that he has a chance to win the election in November. I encourage all of you to support and vote for John Kasich as your great nation’s next leader.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

BTS0522.CR2

Some neat action sequences, but not much else.
★★
Movie Review #1,056

crouching_tiger_hidden_dragon_sword_of_destiny

Distributed by The Weinstein Company and Netflix. Action, Adventure, Drama. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. Rated PG-13 for martial arts violence and brief partial nudity. Released February 26, 2016. Directed by Woo-Ping Yuen. Screenplay by John Fusco. From the book by Du Lu Wang. Starring Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh, Harry Shum Jr., Jason Scott Lee, and Natasha Liu Bordizzo.

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” is the third feature film to be distributed directly through Netflix streaming. The good news is that it’s Netflix’s first original film to be mildly entertaining, if only for how thoroughly corny it is. At the end of the day, nothing in the film makes up for the fact that this is a pointless movie. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” didn’t need a sequel, and the one it got came a decade and a half late. Netflix is establishing a reputation for producing films that big-league studios are throwing out. In this case, you can pretty much see why.

“Sword of Destiny” follows “Crouching Tiger” the same way “Hannibal” followed “The Silence of the Lambs”. The mood and setting are astronomically different from what Ang Lee captured in the original film. There’s no real plot here, just a string of motifs that one might recognize as major stereotypes for a Chinese martial arts film. Had it not been for Michelle Yeoh’s role in the film, or the titular sword that was so prominent in the first film, you might be led to believe that this is a completely unrelated movie.

“Sword of Destiny” is what it looks like to westernize a traditionally eastern genre. Rather than the other way around, it was filmed in English and then dubbed into Chinese. Ironically, the English-language delivery in “Sword of Destiny” is just as stale as the memorably horrendous English-language dubbing in the original film. You kind of pity writer John Fusco (yes, the writer is American), not only because he’s doing everything in the wrong language, but also because his script is very dull. Even Michelle Yeoh’s solid performance is reduced by the sort of dialogue she’s given.

What keeps our interest is the action. The film benefits from the fact that Woo-Ping Yuen, the award-winning choreographer of the original “Crouching Tiger”, is its director. The martial arts scenes in “Sword of Destiny” are cartoonish but fun. Particularly during the final half hour, special effects and choreography come together awesomely. However, not everything on the technical side of “Sword of Destiny” is so good. The cinematography offered by Newton Thomas Sigel is a distracting exhibition of bright colors. It’s no wonder the film’s working title was “The Green Legend”, because the green of every plant and shrubbery seems to stand out in every frame. You start to wonder if you’re supposed to be in ancient China or Oz.

Up until about eight months ago, “Sword of Destiny” was planned to be a nationwide IMAX event that would be simultaneously available through Netflix streaming. Then its original August 2015 release date was pushed to February 2016, and during the time in between, IMAX grew less interested in the film. Now it’s an overlooked Netflix film that can also be viewed in as few as 10-12 IMAX theaters.

So basically you have three options. One is to go see it in IMAX. It’s not playing within 40 miles of Boston, Philly, Miami, Detroit, or Phoenix, but it is playing in Elizabeth, NJ, and Industry City, CA. I would not recommend this unless you have a car with good gas mileage, the theater validates parking, and you’re willing to spend twenty bucks on a ticket. The second option is to watch it on Netflix. You can sign up with Netflix for $7.99 a month, though I’m sure as soon as you start browsing for “Sword of Destiny”, you’ll find a dozen better movies and watch them instead. The third option, of course, is to skip the movie altogether, which I recommend, because it’s free and you’re not missing out on anything.

How to Be Single

HTBS Video 1

Sure to be a “single” watch, if you choose to see it at all.
★★
Movie Review #1,055

how_to_be_single

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.  Comedy, Romance.  Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.  Rated R for sexual content and strong language throughout.  Released February 12, 2016.  Directed by Christian Ditter.  Screenplay by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox.  Screen story by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein.  From the book by Liz Tuccillo.  Starring Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Leslie Mann, Damon Wayans Jr., Anders Holm, Nicholas Braun, Jake Lacy, Jason Mantzoukas, and Colin Jost.

“How to Be Single” is a catchy title, and a seemingly direct one. We know right off the bat that it could act in same way as a guide to living life to its fullest without a significant other. A better title would be “How Not to Be Single”, or maybe “How to Be Single Even though It May Not Seem Like It”. Because, in all fairness, the movie depicts its four female leads hooking up with the same set of guys over and over, to the extent that it pretty much seems like they’re each in a relationship.

Or perhaps an even better title would be “How to Be Incoherent”. Or, if we consider just how glaring the incoherence is, “The Idiots’ Guide to Incoherence”. First we have Alice (Dakota Johnson), who has just broken up with her boyfriend. Actually, they’re on a break, in the familiar sense that Ross and Rachel were in Friends. Alice finds a friend in Robin (Rebel Wilson), who would have already earned her Master’s in being single by the time such a degree. The story is fine up to here. Then the film starts on a trip down ADHD Lane, growing overly distracted with characters and stories that we just don’t care much about. Alice lives with her sister Meg (Leslie Mann), an OB/GYN. It seems that whenever the screenwriter hits a wall with Alice’s story, he shifts ever so awkwardly to Meg’s story. A full third of the movie becomes an unnecessarily bloated shtick about Meg’s desire to have kids, her impulsive decision to do in vitro fertilization, and her acquiring of an idiot boyfriend. As a brief reminder, remember that she’s supposed to be single.

But back to Alice. She has a thing with the bartender, whose name probably doesn’t matter, because his one-dimensional characterization makes it easy to confuse him with any other bartender in any other movie. And remember, Alice is supposed to be single, per the movie’s title. We just have to keep telling ourselves that, despite what it looks like, the “thing” going on between Alice and the bartender is a bunch of one-night stands and isn’t at all romantic.

But I digress. While he’s in this quasi-relationship with Alice, the bartender is lusting after a girl in his bar named Lucy (Alison Brie). She’s the only character in the film who appears to have a brain, so we can conclude that this bartender is probably a good guy because he doesn’t pick his women based entirely on their looks. How do I know Lucy has a brain? She is designing an app that allows the user to find his or her soulmate quickly and easily. How do I remember this? It was a small plot device that somehow expanded to the size of one-third of the story. “Appendix” seems an accurate description of how significant her app should have been to the movie, so I suppose this is just an unfortunate case of appendicitis.

“How to Be Single” isn’t perfect by any means, nor is it overall a good movie. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it bad, though. Even to say it was in enjoyable is to discredit some genuine moments in the movie. At its best, “How to Be Single” is either sugar-sweet or pleasantly funny. The entire side story about Meg’s desire to have a baby, while almost completely unnecessary, is absolutely adorable. Furthermore, watching Dakota Johnson and her eventual boyfriend’s daughter bond over the song “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is quite touching. Rebel Wilson of course is the film’s greatest investment as far as humor is concerned. The fat, obnoxious Australian persona is a stock character that she has by now overused. I have yet to see her break that character, and although I would really like to, I don’t exactly mind it when that stock character struggles to climb out the window of a taxicab, or spontaneously creates the word “dicksand.” The downside is that the story jerks around for so long that it feels like hours have passed by the time we hear this verbal concoction.

Final Oscar Predictions, 2016

rs_1024x819-160112073250-1024.88th-academy-awards-ChrisRockPR2_rgb

All righty, it is now officially Oscar weekend, and I’m pretty darn excited. I shall now reveal my predictions on what will more than likely win and what deserves to win, in all 24 categories.

Two years ago, I only got 2 or 3 categories wrong, but last year I missed about 5 or 6 categories. Fingers crossed for a perfect 24/24 this year.

I’ve known some people to use my predictions to choose one final movie to run out and see before Oscar Sunday (or rent on demand, in some cases). I’ve also known people to follow my predictions during the Oscars to see how accurate they are. And again, I’m hoping my predictions are 100% accurate this year.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my predictions for the 88th Academy Awards. Titles in bold have been reviewed.

UPDATE: I correctly predicted 17/24 categories accurately.  I’ve added the winners to each category.

BEST PICTURE

“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Brooklyn”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Room”
“Spotlight”

WILL WIN: “The Revenant”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “The Big Short”
SHOULD WIN: “Spotlight”

WON: “Spotlight”

DIRECTOR

Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant”
Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”

WILL WIN: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant”
POSSIBLE UPSET: George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
SHOULD WIN: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant”

WON: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

WILL WIN: Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”
POSSIBLE UPSET: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
SHOULD WIN: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”

WON: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”

WILL WIN: Brie Larson, “Room”
POSSIBLE UPSET: Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”
SHOULD WIN: Brie Larson, “Room”

WON: Brie Larson, “Room”

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”
Matt Damon, “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”

WILL WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
POSSIBLE UPSET: none
SHOULD WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

WON: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”
Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”

WILL WIN: Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
POSSIBLE UPSET: Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”
SHOULD WIN: Rooney Mara, “Carol”

WON: Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“Bridge of Spies”
“Ex Machina”
“Inside Out”
“Spotlight”
“Straight Outta Compton”

WILL WIN: “Spotlight”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “Inside Out”
SHOULD WIN: “Spotlight”

WON: “Spotlight”

ANIMATED FEATURE

“Anomalisa”
“Boy & the World”
“Inside Out”
“Shaun the Sheep Movie”
“When Marnie Was There”

WILL WIN: “Inside Out”
POSSIBLE UPSET: none
SHOULD WIN: “Inside Out”

WON: “Inside Out”

FILM EDITING

“The Big Short”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“Spotlight”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

WILL WIN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “The Revenant”
SHOULD WIN: “The Revenant”

WON: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

“Body Team 12”
“Chau, Beyond the Lines”
“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
“Last Day of Freedom”

WILL WIN: “Body Team 12”

WON: “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“The Big Short”
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“The Martian”
“Room”

WILL WIN: “The Big Short”
POSSIBLE UPSET: none
SHOULD WIN: “The Big Short”

WON: “The Big Short”

SOUND EDITING

“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

WILL WIN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “The Revenant”
SHOULD WIN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

WON: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

SHORT FILM, ANIMATED

“Bear Story”
“Prologue”
“Sanjay’s Super Team”
“We Can’t Live without Cosmos”
“World of Tomorrow”

WILL WIN: “Sanjay’s Super Team”

WON: “Bear Story”

ORIGINAL SCORE

“Bridge of Spies” (Thomas Newman)
“Carol” (Carter Burwell)
“The Hateful Eight” (Ennio Morricone)
“Sicario” (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (John Williams)

WILL WIN: “The Hateful Eight”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
SHOULD WIN: “The Hateful Eight”

WON: “The Hateful Eight”

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“Embrace of the Serpent” (Colombia, in Spanish)
“Mustang” (France, in Turkish)
“Son of Saul” (Hungary, in Hungarian)
“Theeb” (Jordan, in Arabic)
“A War” (Denmark, in Danish)

WILL WIN: “Son of Saul”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “Mustang”
SHOULD WIN: “Son of Saul”

WON: “Son of Saul”

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Ex Machina”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

WILL WIN: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
SHOULD WIN: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

WON: “Ex Machina”

SHORT FILM, LIVE ACTION

“Ave Maria”
“Day One”
“Everything Will Be Okay”
“Shok”
“Stutterer”

WILL WIN: “Ave Maria”

WON: “Stutterer”

ORIGINAL SONG

“Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey” (music/lyric by Belly, Stephan Moccio, Jason Quenneville, The Weeknd)
“Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction” (music by J. Ralph, lyric by Antony Hegarty)
“Simple Song #3” from “Youth” (music/lyric by David Lang)
“Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground” (music/lyric by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren)
“Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre” (music/lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith)

WILL WIN: “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre”
SHOULD WIN: “Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”

WON: “Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre”

PRODUCTION DESIGN

“Bridge of Spies”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”

WILL WIN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “The Revenant”
SHOULD WIN: “The Revenant”

WON: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

CINEMATOGRAPHY

“Carol” (Ed Lachman)
“The Hateful Eight” (Robert Richardson)
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (John Seale)
“The Revenant” (Emmanuel Lubezki)
“Sicario” (Roger Deakins)

WILL WIN: “The Revenant”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
SHOULD WIN: “The Revenant”

WON: “The Revenant”

COSTUME DESIGN

“Carol” (Sandy Powell)
“Cinderella” (Sandy Powell)
“The Danish Girl” (Paco Delgado)
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (Jenny Beavan)
“The Revenant” (Jacqueline West)

WILL WIN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “Cinderella”
SHOULD WIN: “The Revenant”

WON: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

MAKEUP

“The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”

WILL WIN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “The Revenant”
SHOULD WIN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

WON: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“Amy”
“Cartel Land”
“The Look of Silence”
“What Happened, Miss Simone?”
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom”

WILL WIN: “Amy”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “The Look of Silence”
SHOULD WIN: “Amy”

WON: “Amy”

SOUND MIXING

“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

WILL WIN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”
POSSIBLE UPSET: “The Revenant”
SHOULD WIN: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

WON: “Mad Max: Fury Road”