Category Archives: denzel washington

My Oscar Picks 2013

My opinion really doesn’t count for all that much this year as some personal issues have kept me from seeing many of the films this year, but folks expect to see my picks, so this year, I will choose by instinct and odds rather than any educated guesses. I still might get lucky. Here you go…

  • Best animated feature – Brave
  • Best animated short film – Paperman
  • Best visual effects – Marvel’s The Avengers
  • Best original screenplay – Django Unchained
  • Best original score, and song – Skyfall
  • Best costume design – Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Best direction – Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
  • Best supporting actress – Sally Field for Lincoln
  • Best supporting actor – Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained
  • Best actress – Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
  • Best actor – Denzel Washington for Flight
  • Best picture – Silver Linings Playbook
  • Yep, that’s right. I’m predicting a complete shut out for Le Miz. Nothing against the flick, but that’s just how it played out as I picked category by category.

    What do you folks think?

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    Skyfall

    Skyfall ~ This twenty-third official James Bond film, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the movie franchise, seems to be at odds with itself in my opinion. There is a passion by the filmmakers to acknowledge the past here even as they backburner and mock it. To quote the new Q as he hands Bond simply a gun and radio, “What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that sort of thing anymore.” Much of the dialogue and the plot is dedicated toward saying the Bond way is passé, over with in this day and age, while simultaneously saying it’s needed. It is a nice balance.

    I was not a fan of the first two Daniel Craig Bond films, not because of Craig’s humorless performance, or that they were rebooting the franchise for a new audience, mind you, but more because I resented them putting Pierce Brosnan out to pasture. I enjoyed Pierce quite a bit in the role. And actually Craig does a subtle humorous turn and smirk in this one. He’s winning me over. Daniel Craig is book perfect when it comes to James Bond, but I’ve been spoiled by the movie versions, and expect a little something extra, ya know?

    What really brought this film to life for me was director Sam Mendes. His stunning and startlingly different visuals light up and dim the screen significantly and lend specific mood and atmosphere to every sequence. Most stunning are the Shanghai scenes, beautiful camera work. I recently had the chance to peruse and review Greg Williams’ book Bond on Set: Filming Skyfall over at Biff Bam Pop!, and while an amazing picture book, it doesn’t hold a candle to the actual film in vibrancy and spectacle.

    Craig is flawless, as is Judi Dench as M, and new girl Naomie Harris, and Ralph Fiennes is a pleasant surprise. I absolutely loved Ben Whishaw as the new Q, but that was easy because I love him in everything he’s in, especially “The Hour.” A major complaint however comes in the form of Javier Bardem as the villain Raoul Silva. Not just over the top evil like most Bond villains, but he’s also a bit creepy in a stereotype homosexual pedophile kind of way, so creepy in fact, that he comes off like a bad joke. He is as out of place in a Bond flick as say… Jaws and his girlfriend in Moonraker. For a franchise trying to upscale itself in the audience’s eyes, Bardem was a mistake.

    The opening action sequence is perhaps one of the best I’ve seen in a while (Tomorrow Never Dies is still my favorite). The title theme song by Adele better than average and appropriate. What makes me sad is that for a movie that embraces its heritage, gives nods to its history, and celebrates its characters, even adding to their origins – it seems to back step into a simple vengeance storyline rather than a clever spy thriller – which is what it should be. I mean, let’s face it, the last sequences of this film could have easily been a Denzel action flick or perhaps another Die Hard. Revenge is the easy way out. I want to see Bond save the world, for Queen and for Country.

    All that said, I really enjoyed this movie, from the fantastic visuals of director Mendes to the titanic score by Thomas Newman, Skyfall was a terrific Bond film. Recommended.

    Safe House

    Safe House ~ There is usually something phenomenal about a Denzel Washington movie. And I mean besides the always excellent acting. There’s an unexpected twist, a shock ending, dazzling special effects, or top notch writing and/or direction. Safe House doesn’t really deliver, on that level at least. Here I felt like I was watching a mediocre Denzel movie with an adequate Ryan Reynolds performance. Or is that a mediocre Ryan Reynolds movie with an adequate Denzel performance?

    One thing is for sure, once this one gets rolling, this one never stops. The ride is full force power drive action thriller, and I repeat, it never stops until it slows at the very end. Denzel plays CIA traitor Tobin Frost who surrenders himself to a safe house in South Africa to protect himself from his enemies. Reynolds is his keeper, and when the safe house is attacked, not only are they on the run, but also trying to figure out who set them up. It’s an uneasy buddy flick with buddies who can’t trust each other – a nice twist.

    Safe House has wonderful cinematography and no nonsense chase scenes, fistfights, and gunfights. If you plan on seeing it, do your bathroom duties first, and get ready to hold your breath, this is a jet propelled bulldozer on rollercoaster rails.

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    Unstoppable

    Unstoppable ~ I was looking for a guy flick to see with my father-in-law, and I had a few different choices. There was spaceships and explosions (Skyline), cars and explosions (Faster), trains and explosions (Unstoppable) or cowboys and ninjas and explosions (The Warrior’s Way). By default of timing, we saw Unstoppable.

    I wasn’t expecting much, in any of the choices really, but at least here, Denzel Washington usually picks excellent scripts, even when it comes to mindless action flicks. I have to say I was impressed. Except for the first five to ten minutes of character set-up, and of course a quick crash course (pun unintended) in trains and how they work, this film was non-stop tension and suspense.

    Even when Denzel and Chris Pine were not directly involved in the tension, you knew eventually that Denzel and young Captain Kirk would be in the thick of it soon and save the day. If I had complaint, it would be they should have been in the mix much earlier. Denzel easily plays the hero while still acknowledging his age, giving Pine a chance to shine age appropriately, which is not only realistic, but courteous as well. And I could just look at Rosario Dawson forever.

    I wouldn’t have thought walking in, but Unstoppable is a hell of a nail-biter, a thriller worth seeing. It never lets up and delivers what it promises. Check it out.

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    The Book of Eli

    The Book of Eli ~ Every once in a while, actor Denzel Washington takes a side trip into science fiction or the paranormal and we get a terrific high quality genre film. The Book of Eli is one of them. This dark post-apocalyptic flick is filmed in sepia tones close to motion capture, adding an edge to every scene no matter what is going on in it. I think this technique was a good choice by the Hughes brothers, very stylistic.

    The film opens with Denzel, as Eli, killing and eating a cat. While eating the cat, he offers some to a rat. There you go, the tone is set and the character defined. On the other hand, where’s PETA when you need them? Seriously I always like show over tell. Eli is real and alive in our minds after that moment.

    Eli holds a book from ‘before’ that can change humanity, hopefully for the better. That book is, and spoilers, folks, The Bible. And those are only sarcastic spoilers as its identity, while not mentioned ’til halfway through the movie, is pretty obvious. If you can’t figure it out in the first ten minutes you’re not paying attention even though the flick makes it seem like brain surgery. Anyway, many blame The Bible for whatever happened to mankind while others see the book as a path to power.

    Gary Oldman plays one of those men who seeks to take over using the words from the book and regularly sends his henchmen across the wasteland that was America to find books, specifically The Bible. And most books are gone, as they were all burned along with The Bible because that caused all this mess. Yeah, this is like the negative aftermath of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” but it works.

    Oldman is always amazing and always surprising, a joy to watch no matter what the role. Ray Stevenson of HBO’s “Rome” is his lead henchman and Mila Kunis plays the damsel in distress. Along with Denzel, all impress.

    The Book of Eli is simple but powerful. Props to the Hughes brothers. And watch out for the very M. Night twist of an ending. Highly recommended.

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    Pelham 123, Take Three

    One of my favorite suspense flicks of the 1970s is up this summer with its second remake, this one with Denzel Washington, John Travolta and James Gandolfini.

    The Taking of Pelham 123 opens June 12th.

    Quickies 8-9-2008

    Picture This! ~ An Ashley Tisdale vehicle to whet the kids’ appetites for the High School Musical sequel hitting theatres in October, this really isn’t as bad as it could have been. As a matter of fact, it’s quite a lot of fun. Clever cellphone hijinks abound in this Disney family flick as well as a musical number or two. And Ashley is much more grounded and likable here than in the HSMs. Recommended.

    Fallen and Others


    Fallen ~ I’ve never gotten around to seeing this until recently and was surprised at how good it was. Denzel Washington is not just one of our finest actors, but he also has tremendous skill in choosing roles. Even when he stars in action flicks, or like here, borderline horror, he maintains his integrity by playing thinking protagonists as opposed to those who shoot or punch first and thinks later. Fallen also features some great locations in and around Philadelphia, excellent sidekick work from John Goodman and a very chilling performance from Elias Koteas. It’s also interesting to see “Sopranos” brother and sister James Gandolfini and Aida Turturro together pre-“Sopranos.” Definitely recommended.

    3:10 to Yuma (2007) ~ I really wanted to like this, especially because folks whose opinions I respect loved this version, but it just couldn’t overcome the original Glenn Ford/Van Heflin flick. In my opinion, while the performances are first class, the story was only made unnecessarily violent and complicated. Just not as good as it could been – this one was a missed opportunity.

    Domino ~ Director Tony Scott brings us this sharp and clever bounty hunter flick starring Keira Knightley very against type. Think Quentin Tarantino meets Shoot ‘Em Up meets reality TV. Great fun.

    Vanilla Sky ~ This remake of the Spanish Open Your Eyes was a surprise, not just because I never expect much from Tom Cruise flicks, but because folks told me that this was the Cameron Crowe film that Cameron Crowe fans hate. Honestly, as a CC fan, I don’t see his touch, but considering he didn’t write this one I didn’t need to. I liked the twists and turns in the story, although I figured it out early. If I hadn’t this would have been a lot better. Acting-wise, no one is bad but no one stands out either – Cameron Diaz is suitably creepy though.