And The Nominees Are…

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By Danny Thompson

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Gravity –  (Released October 4th, 2013)
“Gravity” is a cinematic masterpiece. The film boldly goes where no film has gone before as it attempts to capture the vastness of outer space in a 90 minute movie. The way to watch this movie is in IMAX 3D, or on as big a TV as you can find to capture the stunning camera angles and visual effects. The camera is rarely held in a steady position, and flips and moves around with the astronauts, giving the viewer a truly spaced-out experience.

The plot revolves around two astronauts, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who are left floating around outer space after their mission to do maintenance on a satellite is interrupted by speeding space debris. The film follows Dr. Stone’s long journey, providing excellent suspense as she flies through space, nearly suffocates, almost gets cooked alive, and barely avoids drowning on her way home. Director Alfonso Cuarón has viewers on the edge of their seats throughout the film, and doesn’t let them sit back until the very end.
“Gravity” is an incredibly original movie, and definitely worth a watch.  Review by Danny Thompson

4.5/5 Stars

 

Captain Phillips –  (Released October 11th, 2013)

Tom Hanks is stunning as Captain Richard Phillips, the real life leader of the Maersk Alabama, which was hijacked in 2009 by Somali pirates. The film is a rush to watch and glues you to your chair throughout. The movie centers around Captain Phillips and his captor, the Somali pirate leader, Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who kidnaps Phillips and holds him for ransom. It’s an intense tale, made even more entrancing by the fact that it actually happened.  Review by Danny Thompson

4.5/5 Stars

 

12 Years A Slave –  (Released October 18, 2013)

Every once in a while we are reminded of the hardships African Americans experienced through a heartbreaking movie. 12 Years a Slave is that movie with a little twist.

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free African American violinist, is kidnapped into slavery after being tricked by two white men. After getting drugged, he wakes up in a dark room with cuffs on his hands and feet. When he fails to present his free man documents, he gets beaten and becomes known as Platt.

Although I want to say that I really enjoyed the movie, I have to admit that the part that was keeping me excited is the fact that it was based on true events. Throughout the movie, there were some scenes that dragged out for no apparent reason. In one part, Solomon was just staring out into space for what seemed to be an eternity. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that emphasis is important, I just wasn’t sure what they were trying to emphasize.

Other than the bizarre, dragged out scenes, the movie had a great story behind it. After the many lashes and beatings Solomon takes from the slave owners, he loses his identity. He denies the fact that he is a free and educated man to avoid getting killed. He picks cotton like the other slaves. He gives up hope on ever returning to his family: his wife, son and daughter, who he haven’t seen in years.

The performances delivered were great. Every time a slave shrieked after getting beaten, my heart started beating faster. It felt as if I was in there, watching it happen right in front of me.
My favorite part of the movie was the last scene. I wish I can spoil it for you but I really think you should watch it to see what I’m talking about. I’m a big movie crier, so as always I shed that tear at the end.
Aside from a few minor details that I didn’t like, the movie was very interesting. It took me back in time, into the home and life of Solomon. I definitely recommend it.  Review by Rand Jassar

4.5/5 Stars

 

Dallas Buyers Club – (Released November 22nd, 2013)

Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, a typical southern redneck working at a rodeo. His drive is the thrill of the rodeo, women, and the money he makes from conning people. He’s racist, and homophobic, which is why when he finds out that he has the HIV virus, he’s taken aback. HIV results in AIDS which he thought was only found amongst homosexuals. Before this incident, Ron feels that nothing would be able to kill him and that he’s absolutely unstoppable. After his diagnosis when he was admitted to the hospital after getting an electric shock at work, he falls into serious denial.

Thinking that he won’t let anything stop him, Ron has to figure out how to get medication to stop his disease from killing him. Unsure of what falls within the laws and what doesn’t, it’s interesting to see the lengths he will go to in order to save himself and others who are willing to pay from this disease.  Review by Michelle Sproat

3.5/5 stars

 

Philomena – (Released November 27th, 2013)

This film tugs on your heart strings more than the other Oscar nominated films this year. Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a journalist who just can’t seem to find a story to put under his belt. When his editor suggests he writes a human interest story, his first reaction is to refuse the offer. At a party, Martin is approached by a young woman who convinces him to do a human interest on her mother, Philomena (Judi Dench).

Philomena’s story goes like this. Growing up in 1951 Ireland under extreme Catholic influence made her unmarried, teen pregnancy a lot more difficult to cope with. Her father sent her away to a convent where she gave birth to a son and had to work for four years to give back to the nuns who took her in. She was never able to see her son, except for a very short amount of time allocated to the young mothers to see their children. Otherwise, the children were raised by the nuns. Philomena’s goal was to finish her time at the convent, take her son home, and raise him on her own. However, those plans were changed when the nuns went behind her back and gave her son away to be adopted by another family.
Flash forward to modern day. Martin meets Philomena and begins to unravel her story about the son she never knew. Following the limited amount of clues to find her son, Philomena and Martin set on an adventure across Europe and ultimately ending in the United States. The story of the love a mother has for the son she never knew and the ends she goes to in order to find him is truly going to warm your heart.  Review by Michelle Sproat

5/5 Stars

 

American Hustle – (Released December 20th, 2013)

New Jersey would typically seem like the worst place for a movie to take place. However, when it comes to a con man and his British sidekick, for some reason it all makes sense. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) met Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) in 1971. The two become romantically involved, regardless of the fact that Irving is married and has a child. His wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), knows of his manipulative schemes, however, refuses to divorce him. This just adds one layer of problems to Irvings plate.

The second layer comes when he is caught in a scheme with Sydney by an undercover FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). The con artists are given an ultimatum, either they can rot in jail, or work with the FBI and help DiMaso uncover the lies and deceit within the American political system.

It’s hard to tell who’s truly the protagonist, or if there even is a protagonist at all. You can’t help but wonder who is the true bad guy in the end, the con artists, or the FBI government agents.  Review by Michelle Sproat

4/5 Stars

 

The Wolf of Wall Street – (Released December 25th, 2013)

Although the vulgarity of this movie is overwhelming, I wouldn’t want that to turn anyone away. The drive of success on Wall Street is money, drugs, and sex. If you subtract any of those from the equation, you’re not as successful in the business as you thought. Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) was just a sub-par stock broker working subpar jobs. That is until he meets Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), the man who ultimately shapes Jordan’s career.

Jordan works under Mark and learns all the tricks of trade, including using drugs like cocaine to his work advantage. That is, until the firm that they work for gets shut down on account of bankruptcy from the infamous 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. Without a job, he applies for a job selling penny stocks, definitely a step down from his previous working arrangements. After getting the job and making a few phone calls, including selling penny stocks for a small fortune, Jordan realizes with a bit of manipulation, you can get anyone to buy anything.

With a new partner, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), Jordan starts his own business, all taking off in an abandoned auto body shop. Watching Jordan’s rise from a nobody stockbroker to the most wanted man on wall street is both exciting and heart wrenching at the same time. You cheer Jordan on as you see him defy the odds, until you ultimately see him crumble in the grasps of the egotistical, wealthy, high life of corruption. It becomes easy to see the difference between what Jordan does that’s morally wrong versus what’s against the law.

Although this movie could do without the scenes of strong sexual content, it’s definitely DiCaprio’s best performance yet. Maybe this will be the year he finally snabs an Oscar.  Review by Michelle Sproat

4/5 Stars

 

Her – (Released January 10th, 2014)

I never thought I’d be able to watch a film about a man who falls in love with his computer and not burst out laughing, but the reaction “Her” gave me makes me totally rethink that. This film is actually an incredibly believable story that gives great insight into what it means to love and be human. Like some of the other great movies on this list, it makes you laugh as well as cry.

The “OS” (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) that Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with is an incredibly well done character, even if that character is just a voice inside a computer. “Samantha,” as the OS names herself, has emotions and intuition while at the same time having the super-genius abilities of a computer. As far out a concept as this seems, “Her” is set in the near future and does a very good job of showing the direction that technology is heading in, further blurring the lines between man and machine. Part romance, part sci-fi, “Her” is a movie that all types of people can enjoy, and the feelings it pulls out of the viewer give it very good re-watch value.  Review by Danny Thompson

4.5/5 Stars

 

Nebraska –  (Released January 24th, 2014)

“Nebraska” is one of those films that comes along once in a rare while. It’s a combination of artistry and emotion, a movie that can make its audience want to laugh and cry at the same time. It’s the tale of an aging alcoholic (Bruce Dern) and his down-on-his-luck son (Will Forte), who are road tripping from Billings, MT to Lincoln, NE in order to claim a phantom million dollar prize that Woody (Dern) believes he has won.

The film is shot in black and white, and that was the perfect choice by director Alexander Payne. The simple colors reflect rural midwestern life and the inevitable hopelessness that drives the movie. It’s a story about family, life, and the past that draws the viewer in. It’s a slow moving film, and not one I would recommend to watch on a date night or a sunny day, but it’s a piece that captures the essence of time and one man’s life perfectly.

While the story itself is a sad one, there are many funny, often dry, one liners that are designed to crack the audience up in the midst of sorrow. Above all, Nebraska is a very real movie.  Review by Danny Thompson

5/5 Stars