Sunday, January 31, 2010

2010 Oscar Nomination Predictions UPDATED

So here you have it, one of, probably, the least shocking Oscar nomination announcements of recent memory. I guess the biggest shock would probably be The Blind Side being a Best Picture nominee, but the more one thinks about it the more it makes sense... it's a feel good movie that plays well on DVD, made gobs of cash, and it has a winning performance from one of America's favorite actresses. It had everything going for it that something like Star Trek didn't. Did we really think there would be room for 3 best picture nominees with aliens? I think not. What The Hangover didn't get nominated? How could that happen? Oh wait, THIS ISN'T THE MTV MOVIE AWARDS. I'm a tad disappointed that 500 Days of Summer failed to get a Screenplay nod, but it's a small film that I'm sure was a little ways off the Academy's radar. At least James Cameron didn't get one either. Up is now the 2nd animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. And Up in the Air's chances of winning best picture is zero to none now that it didnt score that all-important Best Editing nod. Avatar and The Hurt Locker tied with 9 nominations a piece. It's definitely between them, and I'd have to give the edge to The Hurt Locker. I mean it was nominated for Best Score for pete's sake. The Basterds are nipping at their heels with 8 nominations, Hans Landa is ready to exterminate any film that gets in his way, so watch out. See you March 7th. see all the nominees here:

(from Monday) So here we have it, Oscar nominations are finally making themselves known on February 2nd. Anyone who’s anyone just simply can’t wait to hear the Academy announce their first list of ten Best Picture nominees since 1943. Will it be filled with Blockbusters (ie “Star Trek”)? Will it be filled with little movies no one’s seen (“The Messenger”)? No one knows how this is going to work out including me. How many shocks can we expect on nomination day? Can Zoe Saldana become the first CGI performance capture performance to get Oscar recognition? Will something like The Blind Side actually be nominated for Best Picture? Heck, will the “Star Trek” reboot actually compete for the top prize? Will “Up” be the first animated feature to be nominated since “Beauty & the Beast,” or will it be relegated back to the cartoon animated feature ghetto? And what’s with no one predicting “Ponyo” as a best animated feature nominee? I think the categories I’m most anxious to see (besides best picture) are the supporting acting races. How many surprises will we see? Anthony Mackie and no Stanley Tucci? How about neither? Will Penelope Cruz overcome “Nine’s” critical and box office drubbing and actually breakthrough? Will one of the female Basterds get recognition? Will the “King of the World” knock out 500 Days of Summer in the Original Screenplay category? Only time will tell. Here are my fearless predictions. See you Tuesday.

Best Picture
“District 9”
“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“A Serious Man”
“Up in the Air”

Best Director
James Cameron, “Avatar”
Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”
Lee Daniels, “Precious”
Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
Or what about…Viggo Mortenson, “The Road”

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
Meryl Streep, “Julia & Julia”
Or what about… Emily Blunt, “The Young Victoria”

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
Or what about… Anthony Mackie, “The Hurt Locker”

Best Supporting Actress
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Samantha Morton, “The Messenger”
Julianne Moore, “A Single Man”
Or what about… Diane Kruger, “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“District 9”
“An Education”
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“Up in the Air”

Best Original Screenplay
“500 Days of Summer”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“A Serious Man”

Best Art Direction
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Public Enemies”
“A Serious Man”

Best Cinematography
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“The White Ribbon”

Best Costume Design
“Julie & Julia”
“Coco Before Chanel”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“The Young Victoria”

Best Film Editing
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Star Trek”
“Up in the Air”

Best Makeup
“District 9″
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
“Star Trek”

Best Original Score
“Sherlock Holmes”
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“The Informant!”

Best Original Song
“I See You” from “Avatar”
“The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”
“I Want To Come Home” from “Everybody’s Fine”
“Cinema Italiano” from “Nine”
“Almost There” from “The Princess & the Frog”

Best Sound Editing
“District 9”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Star Trek”

Best Sound Mixing
“District 9″
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Star Trek”

Best Visual Effects
“District 9”
“Star Trek”

Best Animated Feature
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“The Princess and the Frog”

Best Foreign Language Film
“Ajami” (Israel)
“A Prophet” (France)
“Samson and Delilah” (Australia)
“The Secret in Their Eyes” (Argentina)
“The White Ribbon” (Germany)

Best Documentary Feature
“The Beaches of Agnès”
“Burma VJ”
“The Cove”
“Food, Inc.”
“Under Our Skin”

Mr. Gilliam’s Wild Ride: “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” Has Imagination to Spare But Not Much Else

I can pretty much say that movies like “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” are not exactly my cup of tea. I’d pretty much rather watch anything else, but it’s certainly something I can appreciate. This movie is super strange. I mean even the title is strange. Even Microsoft Word has no idea what an “imaginarium” is. So having said that I’m not sure I’m “qualified” to review such a think as I have very little to compare it too since this isn’t my favorite type of film. The one thing that stands out, and is the main reason I even watched it, is for the last screen performance of the late Heath Ledger. Ledger died in the middle of production and it was decided to have other actors (including Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) fill in for the parts he was unable to film. It’s an interesting premise and if you’re a fan of any of the actors mentioned, you might enjoy yourself.

“Doctor Parnassus” takes place in modern England. A traveling theater company made up of Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), young magician Anton (Andrew Garfield), and Mini-Me himself Verne Troyer as Percy. They put on a show for people and for a small fee people can step inside the “imaginarium” where they experience all kind of strange emotions and feelings. Apparently Parnassus is immortal cause he made some pact with the Devil years ago. He’s known here as Mr. Nick and he’s played by Tom Waits. They rescue a drifter hanging from a bridge named Tony (Ledger) and he joins their troupe. From there on it’s a mystery to me what is actually going on.

Whenever an audience member is sent into Parnassus’ imaginarium Tony changes form into whatever the person he’s with desires. For instance, Valentina has a picture from a magazine on her wall with a man who bares a striking resemblance to Colin Farrell, it simply makes sense that when she enters the imaginarium Tony looks like Colin Farrell. This, I will say, is probably something that makes this film truly unique. And in a way, the absence of Ledger doesn’t hurt the film one bit. It seems like this should feel gimmicky and yet it doesn’t. and I’m sort of surprised how much the make-up artists and costumers can make Depp, Law and Farrell resemble Ledger’s character.

Don’t even try to ask me what’s going on in the last third of the film. There’s some conflict involving the fact that Tony is a “bad guy.” He has some goons after him and it’s implied that he’s some sort of con artist or similar type criminal. And he just may in fact want his way with Parnassus’ daughter. I’m sure fantasy hounds will be all over this movie and it’s certainly a wildly original vision but like I said it’s not something I necessarily find entertaining. And just because a movie has to be weird doesn’t mean it has to be confusing. I mean can anyone really figure out what’s going on in the last half of this film?

I have to give credit to the filmmakers, including super weird director Terry Gilliam who made the equally imaginative, yet much more watchable “12 Monkeys.” He displays an interesting knack for wild CGI creations and imaginative sets and costumes (both of which just received Oscar nominations) but besides a creative imagination and good performances from some great actors, I can’t really say “Doctor Parnassus” offered me very much else. This is why I turn to Tim Burton when I need my fantasy fix. I can’t wait for “Alice in Wonderland.” GRADE: C+

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Basterds, Balloons and Na’vi, Oh My! The Best Films of 2009

It’s been a rather odd year. I would say it’s a step above last year except to be honest, I had a little trouble coming up with my ten favorite movies. And that’s not because there were too many to choose from but rather too few. There are plenty of good films but not many outstanding ones. I will always remember 2009 as the year that gave us “500 Days of Summer” which went straight into my top 50 favorite films of all time. It’s simply magical filmmaking. I have a rather strange mix of films that range from romantic comedies to horror to animation. Some are Oscar hopefuls and others are… not. Here are my top ten favorite films of the year…

1) (500) Days of Summer
Probably best described as one of the most “delightful” films of the year, (500) Days of Summer happily takes one of the most clichéd-filled genres (rom-com) and turns it upside down. This is a wonderfully fresh tale of a guy who meets girl. Except this time it’s the guy who believes in fate while the girl who is the one who doesn’t believe in the existence of “love.” It’s all put together superbly by first time director Marc Webb who employs some fabulously witty cinematic tricky that never feels gimmicky but rather feels just right. You couldn’t hope for a better screen couple than Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel who simply sparkle together on screen and I’d be surprised if you weren’t as emotional attached to these people as I was. Simply charming!
FUN FACT! The film's blue-centric color scheme was done to bring out Zooey Deschanel's eyes.

2) I Love You, Man

If (500) Days of Summer is the best romantic comedy of the year, then “I Love You, Man” is the best bromantic comedy of the year. This film somehow spoke to me. I somehow identified so easily with Paul Rudd’s Peter Klaven. This story involves Peter getting engaged and realizing that he has no male friends to be a part of his wedding party. No best man! So he sets off on a quest to make friends and he finds one in Sydney Fife (Jason Segal) who is someone (almost) everyone would want to be friends with. He’s funny and charming yet rude and brutally honest. Peter and Sydney’s awkward courting consists of some of the warmest and funniest moments in movies this year. I love this movie.
FUN FACT! J.K. Simmons, who plays Paul Rudd's father, is only 14 years older than him.

3) Up in the Air
Up in the Air will stand the test of time. It is simply a movie for our time. A movie that will reflect our society 10 years down the line, 30 years down the line, 70 years down the line. It will be remembered. From Jason Reitman the guy who brought us Thank You For Smoking and 2007’s super hip hit Juno, Up in the Air is an anything but formulaic drama about a guy (George Clooney) who fires people for a living. He spends his life alone, although he thinks he’s “surrounded” and prefers a life up in the air traveling across the country living in and out of airports and hotels for his work. Of course, things change when a young employer (the fantastic Anna Kendrick) with the company devises a way to fire people over the internet. A subplot involving a sassy traveling businesswoman (Vera Farmiga) makes the whole film simply shine with outstanding performances and assured direction and storytelling.
FUN FACT! With the exception of the famous actors, every person we see fired in the film is not an actor but a real life recently laid off person.

4) Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Precious feels important because it feels real. It feels legitimate. The story takes place in the 80s in Harlem and an overweight teen named Precious is pregnant with her second child. Her father rapes her (and impregnates her). Her mother, played with monstrous authority by Mo’Nique, is abusive and careless. Precious is one of the most introverted characters on film this year and yet newcomer Gabby Sidibe plays her with the talent you’d expect from someone who’s been in the business for years. I was really shocked at how flashy and innovate Lee Daniels’ direction was. We really get into the mind of Precious and realize the only way out of her life is actually in. This is powerful filmmaking.
FUN FACT! Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe was cast a mere six weeks before the start of shooting after being forced to audition by friends.

5) Up
Surprise, surprise, Pixar has made yet another winning movie. Up is wonderful as all the others but reaches emotional depth that took me, and I’m sure most people, off guard. The relationship between a cranky old man and a young well-intentioned adventure scout isn’t something I would have necessarily pegged as “emotional” but somehow it works. Carl misses his late wife, who like him longed for adventure and fun, and yet they never really were able to take all the adventures they always hoped for. So he straps thousands of balloons to his house and accidentally takes little Russell with him. They find lots of other fun characters in South America where they encounter talking dogs and a colorful bird named Kevin. Up is a warm journey that can be loved by all and should be. Its theme of making the most out of life is universal. This is Pixar at its best (Although ‘Finding Nemo’ is still my favorite).
FUN FACT! Very first animated film, as well as the first 3D film, ever to open the Cannes Film Festival.

6) Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi returns to his horror roots with this odd horror tale about a lone officer who is cursed by an evil gypsy woman. Its too bad that this hysterical and horrifying movie sort of got lost in the busy summer schedule, but if you like gross-out gags and dark humor than Drag Me to Hell is right up your alley. If you were turned off by the PG-13 rating, which I was at first, don’t be. This film features plenty of gross shocks and disgusting images. Sure there may not be much actually bloodshed, but make no mistake this movie is actually pretty frightening. It’s utterly over-the-top in a way that only Sam Raimi could pull off. This is fun, flashy horror worth seeking out.
FUN FACT! The license plate of Sylvia Ganush's car is 99951. When it is turned upside-down, it reads IS666.

7) Avatar
Odds are you’ve hear of this little movie called “Avatar.” It’s from that guy who make that movie about the boat that hits the iceberg. Yeah you remember him? He declared himself ‘King of the World’ at the 1998 Oscar ceremony. Well his next film, which took him twelve long years to come to fruition, is worth the wait. Early advertisements toted “Avatar” as a film that would change movies forever and you’d never be the same after seeing it. I’m not sure about that, but this is a wonderfully imaginative film in the future about a tribe of alien people named the Na’vi who come under attack by humans who are after a precious mineral. They’ve come up with a way to use “avatar” bodies that are psychically linked with a human mind to infiltrate the indigenous race. James Cameron has done it again and delivered a rip roaring adventure in glorious 3D and state of the art motion capture special effects.
FUN FACT! In much of the movie, Sigourney Weaver's avatar is wearing a Stanford shirt. Weaver attended Stanford in the early 1970s.

8) Knowing
If you had asked me before I saw “Knowing” whether it would be any good, I don’t think I would have answered yes. I think I’ll award “Knowing” the ‘surprise’ movie of the year in that its marketers made it seem like a generic end of the world movie and yet it’s so much more. It’s a film that seems like any other movie at first and just grows and grows. Some may say it gets utterly ridiculous and unbelievable. Sure it’s unbelievable, it doesn’t make the movie any less entertaining or well-made. Nicholas Cage plays a college professor whose son participates in the unearthing of a school time capsule. His son receives an envelope that has a bunch of numbers scrawled on it and Cage soon figures out that all of the numbers are predictions of every major deadly disaster on the planet Earth. Sound ridiculous? It is and it’s fascinating to watch and just one example of great science fiction filmmaking in the year of 2009.
FUN FACT! The perceptual phenomenon of people looking for patterns in randomness (number strings, faces in trees, shapes in clouds etc.) is called Apophenia.

9) Inglourious Basterds
I certainly couldn’t predict that Quentin Tarantino’s Nazi-killing-epic would have garnered the amount of critical accolades it has received so far, especially since it's not nearly his best film. It seemed like, in a career as successful as his, he’s been bound to have a critical bomb at some point (He’s already had a financial bomb, that was his half [Death Proof] of the severely underrated “Grindhouse” double feature). Only Tarantino could rewrite history the way he does in “Inglourious Basterds.” And yes that title is intentionally spelled wrong, which have been wrecking havoc on computerized spellcheckers everywhere. “Basterds” takes place during World War II and instead of focusing solely on Jews getting slaughtered as part of Hitler’s grand scheme, the tables have turned and Nazi slaughtering is on the menu instead. Every bit of Tarantino’s trademarks are present and accounted for including long talky scenes with quotable dialogue, disturbing violence, and a mish-mashed narrative structure ala “Pulp Fiction.” Think “Kill Bill” with Nazis.
FUN FACT! Quentin Tarantino intended for this to be as much a war film as a spaghetti western, and considered titling the movie "Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France". He gave that title instead to the first chapter of the film.

10) Brüno
Ist ze tenth best of ze year! I was honestly dumbfounded when it came to rounding out my top ten. It could have been ‘The Princess and the Frog’ it could have been ‘A Single Man’ it could have been ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’ But something about ‘Brüno’ just makes sense to me. If you loved “Borat” you’re probably going to love this as well. Sacha Baron Cohen has never been funnier than he is portraying Bruno, a gay Austrian fashionista who’s blacklisted in his home country and comes to the United States looking for fame. Sure structure-wise it’s basically just like Borat, but you know what? When it’s funny once, it can be funny twice. And it is. You have to admit how amazing Cohen makes you believe the characters he portrays. Almost no one else is capable of that. You believe him as Brüno. His interactions in this hysterical mockumentary with stage moms, TV focus groups, talk show audiences, redneck hunters, and a religious “gay converter” are simply too priceless for words. It’s shocking and disturbing (whoa that ending!) and yet this film (as does “Borat”) simply reflects this strange society we live in. Wunderbar!
FUN FACT! The sequence where Bruno enrolled at the Alabama National Guard, filmed at the Alabama Military Academy, went undetected until a young cadet who recognized him from ‘Borat,’ notified elder officers who were unfamiliar with the actor.

Honorable Mentions:
A Single Man
Where the Wild Things Are
The Princess and the Frog
Fantastic Mr. Fox

Bad Judgment Call (on my behalf):
The Hurt Locker

Dishonorable Mentions:
Halloween II
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Monsters vs. Aliens

Friday, January 22, 2010

Too Cool for Shul: The Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man” is Seriously Strange

I am not Jewish. Therefore I feel like I can say that I don’t understand 90% of Joel and Ethan Coen’s film “A Serious Man.” Parts of the film are spoken in Hebrew and Yiddish and while there are subtitles it would have been nice to have subtitles that describe what the heck is going on. But I do sometimes get the Jewish jokes in other movies, after all I am a big Woody Allen fan, but for some reason too much of “A Serious Man” went seriously over my head. I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.

“A Serious Man” is loosely based on the Book of Job from that book known as the Bible. So automatically this stuff is over my head. Maybe I’m not the best person to review this movie. I think it’s cool that the Coens can find a way to use that text as inspiration for a completely original film. After all they are the ones who received a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination for “O, Brother Where Art Thou” which was based on Homer’s “The Odyssey.” “A Serious Man” follows Jewish family man Larry Gopnick (Michael Stuhlbarg) right as his light is falling apart. His wife wants a divorce and his brother has moved in with them and has been exceptionally annoying. Apparently his only hope is trying get help from various rabis.

Oy vey. I do remember laughing during this movie, but I’m not really sure I remember what exactly I laughed at. The Coens have a very specific sense of humor, which I understand for the most part. After all I really enjoyed that last comedic effort “Burn After Reading.” They do seem to get pleasure in creating dire situations for their protagonist. But then again that’s something that can be seen in all of their films. Knowing the original Book of Job text helps. I’m told it’s basically the story of this guy named Job who has everything and the Devil says to God that the only reason Job cares about God so much is because his life is so great. So God takes away all of Job’s good stuff (aka kills his children and animals) to prove that even though Job has nothing left he’ll still be faithful to the lord almighty. Or something like that.

“A Serious Man” while confusing and at times distancing works because of Stuhlbarg’s performance. Unfortunately I think he’s number 6 in the Best Actor rankings, which is unfortunate but he’s very good here. I enjoyed the 1960s period design that actually seems pretty legit. And Carter Burwell adds another interesting score to his repertoire.

I guess I just want to say that I’m not exactly the target audience for this film. I really know nothing of the Jewish culture and there are other people who will appreciate it a lot more than me. And like any good Coen brothers movie the film just ends without any explana GRADE: B-

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good Grief: Colin Firth is Terrific as “A Single Man”

My knowledge of fashion designers is limited to what I was able to glean from the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” I know that Tom Ford is a fashion designer. At least he was now that he’s taken on producing, writing and directing his first feature length film “A Single Man” which is adapted from the novel of the same name. I guess knowing that the film is an art-house flick with lots of symbolism and odd color schemes one can make sense that a man from the fashion world created this film. This is Tom Ford splashed up onscreen. And he fills his screen with beautiful and haunting images. Every person looks like they walked out of a photo spread. Everyone is impeccably dressed and made up. This guy could have invented mise-en-scene. And for all the flashy images being poured out before our eyes, Ford remarkably manages (along with co-screenwriter David Scearce) to never lose sight of the story being told.

“A Single Man” tells the story of a man named George (played here wonderfully by Colin Firth) who is completely grief-stricken. His male lover Jim (played in flashbacks by Matthew Goode) has been killed in a car accident. And since the film takes place in the early 1960s the funeral is for “family only.” In fact a cousin of Jim calls George to tell him what happened more than a day since the accident much against Jim’s family’s wishes. Although at first we don’t know much about George and Jim’s relationship, we learn so much from Firth’s tremendous performance. We literally see George’s heart ripped out of his chest once he realizes his life is practically over. And it is practically, because we see him with a gun and we think that George might be dead by the time the film ends.

The film takes place pretty much during one long day in George’s life. We’re not exactly sure how long it has been since Jim was killed, but we can imagine even if it was a long time ago, it’s something he has not been able to get over. George goes about his day at his job as an English professor where one of his male students flirts with him. This is Kenny (About a Boy’s Nicholas Hoult) and we notice that during one of their early conversations, Kenny’s face literally lights up the screen. You see Ford has insisted his cinematography shoot the film as if it were black and white. Everyone looks pale and colorless. This certainly reflects George’s depressing state. But sometimes a simple conversation with another human being literally brightens up George’s day. It is a startling and effective stylistic choice.

Another person who George has a connection with is his best friend Charley. Charley is played by Julianne Moore who simply shines. She makes the most of her small part and employs a convincing British accent. She’s so extravagant and done up here I’d love to see her as one of Austin Power’s British leading ladies. It seems Charley and George have a past and Charley harbors feelings for George that he just can reciprocate. Their scenes together are magnificent.

“A Single Man” is definitely not a film for everyone. I’m counting on a few Oscar nominations come February, with Colin Firth with his memorable performance certainly a lock for a nomination. Those with art-house sensibilities and an open-mind will find a lot in the film to enjoy. But mostly it is an engaging and beautiful movie about lose and love. GRADE: A-

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Far From Heaven: Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones” is a Tonally Uneven Film

So the long-awaited film adaptation of “The Lovely Bones” is in theaters and I have to say that’s it is not as horrendous as most film critics would have you believe. It is however full of flaws. I wouldn’t call it deplorable as Roger Ebert puts it. I mean the film is a difficult one and that’s mostly because of the disturbing subject matter. But if so many people love the book so much, I can’t really see why the movie is any different. I guess some books should just stay books?

Coincidentally I think Peter Jackson, who is known for his wild imagination and putting fantastical images on screen, makes the mistake of making the film too fantastical. The story involves the rape and murder of a teenage girl named Susie Salmon (played well by former Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan) who is sent to an “inbetween” world. It’s not quite heaven but there’s lots of colors and magical things going on there. And she can somehow look down at what’s going on with her family in the real world where her father becomes obsessed with tracking down the person who killed her. I felt bad thinking that this story would of worked better as a made-for-TV movie rather than a big budget fantasy directed by the guy who made “The Lord of the Rings.” It seems odd that after being raped and murder Susie would be sent to this “magical place” where she’s free to do what she wants. I guess it’s a pretty good parting gift for being raped and murdered. Although I mean what do you want really? Would have it been better if after being raped and murdered she was sent to hell or some evil, scary place?

Probably the best thing going for “The Lovely Bones” is its cast and their wonderful performances. Ronan is great as Susie and she’s on track to be one of Hollywood’s most talented young stars. Mark Wahlberg plays Susie’s dad and he’s very good, however he still seems a little young to have a teenage daughter. But that’s more of the casting director’s fault than his. I don’t care if he is turning 40 next year. Rachel Weisz, who stole the Oscar from Amy Adams way back in 2005, does a good job portraying a grief stricken mother. But I think that’s still Acting 101. Susan Sarandon gives a great performance as Susie’s wise-cracking, booze loving grandmother. However her character was definitely in another movie entirely. And probably the standout is Stanley Tucci as the killer. He is chilling and disturbing and he deserves to be the film’s only Oscar nomination come February 2nd.

I want to assume that fans of the novel will enjoy the film if only because they enjoyed this story in the first place. If you’re one who likes reading the misadventures of a raped and murdered girl be my guest. I wonder if the book is mismash of genres the way the film is. There are funny parts and there are dark and serious parts. It seems like this is a film that would appeal more to women, yet it almost seems to cry out for fanboys to love it since their God Peter Jackson is behind the camera. The film simply works better when the screenplay (written by Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens) focuses on the stuff going in the real world. However, since we know who the killer is initially there really isn’t that much room for suspense, save for a scene towards the end which is pretty tense.

Overall the film is just sort of awkward. I wouldn’t call it horrible and it’s a far cry from a masterpiece. I’ll file it under disappointment. When its trailer was release months ago I would have bet you that it would be the Best Picture frontrunner. It’s too bad because I think everyone gave it their all, but sometimes things just don’t work out the way they should. GRADE: C+