September 05, 2015

Tag Archives: Kevin Costner

“5 to 7″ and “It Follows”: The Best of the First Quarter of 2015

Time flies. Believe it or not, we’re now three full months into the 2015 movie calendar, which means we’re literally a quarter of the way through the film slate. That got me thinking about what the best of the bunch so far this year has been. Since now is the time when the film slate begins to transition into summer flicks (cough, Furious 7, cough) and counter programming independent fare, I thought it was the perfect time to praise the best of 2015 so far. Basically, anything that hit screens between January 1st and March 31st will be up for grabs here for my personal honors. I do have one release from this weekend that I’ve included, but only because of how eager I am to talk about it. Other than that, there’s no cheating…I swear!
Below you’ll find my top ten of the year so far, along with my awards for the first quarter of 2015. Here you go, and enjoy:
10. The Rewrite – A charming and simple Hugh Grant film, it likely would have been a hit had it come out a decade ago. Grant is at his wittiest in a while, with J.K. Simmons turning in yet another solid supporting performance as well. It’s nothing to go crazy over, but it’s a quietly enjoyable movie that I’ve already revisited more than once since it hit Blu-Ray and DVD last week.
9. Black or White – Even though this got a qualifying run at the end of 2014, it’s officially a 2015 release, at least in terms of its wide bow, so it counts here in my book. Kevin Costner is fantastic, while Octavia Spencer is very good too in Mike Binder’s latest flick. It made a few bucks, but it definitely deserved a much bigger audience than it received. The film is hardly perfect, but its heart is most certainly in the right place.
8. While We’re Young – I first saw this as the New York Film Festival’s Secret Screening, but it’s just as appealing here in the first quarter of 2015. Noah Baumbach’s most mainstream outing to date, he really gave us a great quartet of characters, ones essayed by Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, and Amanda Seyfried. It’s not on the level of some of his best films, but I still really liked it.
7. Amira & Sam – One of the bigger surprises this year […]

Brad Pitt – “Moneyball”: The Best Baseball Films of All Time

Play ball! With Baseball season coming next week, I wanted to do something a little bit fun and look at not just the best sports movies, but the best baseball movies ever made. There’s more than a few to choose from, with a solid handful starring Kevin Costner, I might add. I’m even going to make some potentially controversial choices, as you’ll see below. It’s all in good fun though, and as I get set to spend another year getting my heart broken by the New York Mets, I wanted to put this out there for you all. Enjoy and get ready for baseball…
Here are the ten best baseball movies of all time:
10. Rookie of the Year – Perhaps a lot of this is nostalgia fueling the pick, but I have a real soft spot for the story of a kid who winds up pitching for the Chicago Cubs. It’s wish fulfillment for pre teen boys and a little on the scattershot side, but it’s certainly got a charm. I couldn’t resist putting this on my list, since it’s, you know…my list.
9. Major League – Baseball often transitions to comedy, with this film perhaps being the most successful pure comedic outing of the lot. The sports movie cliches and elements are handled well here, but they’re buoyed by the laughs that are liberally spread out through the entire film. It’s just a ton of fun.
8. Fever Pitch – I really dug the look at baseball fandom contained within this romantic comedy. I’m not sure how appealing it is to die hard baseball fans of sole rom-com nuts, but if you have an affinity for both sides, this merges the two worlds surprisingly well. I think it’s incredibly underrated, quite frankly.
7. Little Big League – The slightly more mature version of Rookie of the Year’s wish fulfillment, this movie looks more at coaching and the front office than at playing ball. It’s still plenty silly, but the premise gets a little bit more gravitas, as it were. Still, nostalgia is at work here, no doubt about that.
6. The Natural – An undisputed classic, I’m not quite a high on it as most others, but I still recognize it for what it is. This is a great film that perhaps suffers a small bit from heavy praise, but clearly deserves its place in history all the same. I like it a lot, […]

Veteran actors who can follow the Tom Cruise/Liam Neeson action hero path

Between last week’s Liam Neeson release Run All Night marking one of the final times that Neeson will play an action hero and yesterday’s debut of Tom Cruise defying age in the new Mission: Impossible trailer, I got to thinking about who could take their places going forward. Obviously, Neeson is almost done and Cruise won’t be kicking ass forever, so there must be an heir apparent or two out there, right? Well, no one who is out and out gunning for that gig, but there’s plenty of middle aged actors who have at least dipped their toes in the water. As such, I came up with a list of actors who could certainly take the mantle from these two, perhaps even pushing this sub genre of action to a slightly new level. It’s mostly a list in good fun, but there’s certainly some truths contained within. Hey, maybe in a few years I’ll have been proven prescient about a couple of career arcs!
Below you’ll see the ten gentlemen I’ve selected, listed alphabetically:
Javier Bardem – Most people acknowledge that Bardem can do just about anything, including turning in a couple of terrific villain turns, so why not an action hero? One of those turns is especially iconic (No Country for Old Men) and he even has a part in the recently released action flick The Gunmen, so he’s orbiting that action hero planet in a big way. I think he’d do a great job too.
Kenneth Branagh – Here’s another actor who has tried out the villainous role, but Branagh seems tailor made to perhaps play a veteran spy. He’s firmly entrenched in his directing career, which makes this a long shot, but anything is possible. Maybe he could be given his own franchise to headline both in front of and behind the camera? That might do the trick.
Kevin Costner – For a while Costner was an action hero, of course, but those days have passed him by. If he were to return, it’d be as a second generation hero, which certainly has an appeal. There’s a risk of having this feel like someone who fell out of The Expendables, but Costner has played around in the action genre recently, with last year’s 3 Days to Kill (which had the aforementioned Branagh as the bad guy) as one example. I hope he sticks with it, in addition to his strong dramatic […]

Kevin Costner shines in “Black or White”

One of the interesting things about the month of January is that we not only see the expansion of Academy Award nominated films, but also the release of many would be contenders that simply weren’t recognized by Oscar. One such movie this month is Mike Binder’s Black or White, which happens to feature a tremendously good turn from Kevin Costner. When I saw the film a few months ago, I thought Costner had a chance to impact the Best Actor field…now, that obviously didn’t happen, but at this point others can finally see what I was talking about. Costner and Binder have something here with Black or White, which opens on Friday.

The movie, which got a small qualifying run last month, is a drama centered around a custody fight over a little girl. Costner stars as an attorney caring for his mixed race granddaughter after his wife passes away. They had been caring for the girl after the death of their daughter, with her biological father out of the picture, dealing with drug problems. Costner’s character has a prickly relationship with his granddaughter’s paternal grandmother, played by Octavia Spencer. The grandmother begins to push to see the girl more, eventually looking to sue for custody. A court battle then ensues. Binder writes and directs, with the cast also including Bill Burr, Jennifer Ehle, Jillian Estell, Andre Holland, Gillian Jacobs, Anthony Mackie, and more.
In a perfect world, Costner would have been a far bigger Best Actor contender for this role. It’s not only one of his best performances in some time, it might very well be one of his best ever. At the very least, it’s top five, that much is almost inarguable. Costner has turned in a similarly strong performance before in a Binder flick (The Upside of Anger), so it’s no surprise that this pairing is producing quality. Costner also gets to show his age in a new way, playing a grandfather for the first time, I believe. It might be the start of the next act of his career, so even though it didn’t manage to crack the Actor lineup (though I think he got a handful of votes), it could lead to a lot of good things in the next few years for Costner. Just watch a particular speech that Costner gives on the witness stand. It might be one of his finest moments ever.
Going forward, as […]

The films that will sadly be shut out on Oscar nomination morning

In less than two weeks, the mystery is going to be solved in terms of who and what receive Academy Award nominations (with some mystery going away earlier today with the announcement of the Producers Guild of America nominations, but I’ll chime in on that tomorrow). At the same time, we’re also going to find out about the films and performances that are going to be snubbed for Oscar love. In some cases, movies are going to be shut out entirely. Most of the time, it’s more or less deservedly so, but their are always contenders that should have fared better in the awards season. Today, I wanted to shed some light on the flicks that almost assuredly are not going to be cited in any way, shape, or form, by members of the Academy. Sure, Oscar voters could surprise you, but I wouldn’t hold my breath…
Here now are ten films that are unfortunately set to be shut out when nominations are announced:
10. Tusk – No Kevin Smith film has ever competed at the Oscars (though rumor has it that Chasing Amy was the number six in Best Original Screenplay that year) and this horror-comedy won’t change that run, only in part due to mostly poor reviews (even if I dug it). At the same time though, Tusk features old school monster movie makeup and a rubber suit costume that I would have loved the Academy to have noticed/recognized. It won’t happen, but I’d do backflips if a Best Costume Design nomination came through.
9. Draft Day – A theme you’ll see a few times here in this column today is unfairly maligned films, with this sports drama being another prime example. It’s got a good enough script to have at least competed in Best Original Screenplay, though that field is obviously stacked. Ivan Reitman’s flick was unjustly ignored, something his son can also sympathize with this year as well (more on that below). It deserved a better fate than it received, plain and simple.
8. Edge of Tomorrow – Now, there’s a small chance that a tech nomination could come through for this Tom Cruise vehicle, but in a fairer world it would be a lock for a Best Film Editing nomination. Doug Limon’s movie didn’t do quite the business most expected it to, but it was a critical favorite and one of the more satisfying blockbusters of 2014. It might […]

A December Oscar Predictions Update

Well, the calendar has turned to December folks, so now we’re getting serious here in terms of Oscar predictions. Precursor awards are in full swing now, so expect the Academy Award picture to begin to clear itself up little by little. As I keep saying, that doesn’t mean that from now on we’ll suddenly know how the whole thing will go down, but we’re close to the point where things should make more sense. Without any unseen contenders left, all that’s left is figuring out how these various Oscar hopefuls will do. Well, that’s what I’m here for ladies and gentlemen, so let’s figure it out!
The big new piece of information here is that I’ve now seen and digested Angelina Jolie’s film Unbroken. Honestly, I’m skeptical that it’ll be a major player, which is why I now have it snubbed in the Best Picture category and not going home with a single win. I could be wrong, but I also think that Jolie will fall short in Best Director and Jack O’Connell won’t be able to break through in the Best Actor race. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good movie, because it is, but it doesn’t feel like something that can stand up to the major players in this race. As such, voters might leave it behind.
This leaves us mostly with a race that’s going to come down to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, and Ava DuVernay’s Selma in terms of Best Picture as well as Best Director. You can make the case that Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a potential dark horse, but aside from that, it’s those three. You’ll see what I think will happen below, but get used to seeing those titles a lot, because those are the names that will compete for Oscar glory.
Anyway, it’s time to get down to business, right? Without further delay, here is how I see the Academy Award nominations going at this current juncture, with once again my next in line picks listed for completion/as a bonus. Behold:
BEST PICTURE
1. Boyhood
2. Selma
3. The Imitation Game
4. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
5. Interstellar
6. Gone Girl
7. Whiplash
8. The Theory of Everything
9. Foxcatcher
10. A Most Violent Year
Next in line: 11. Unbroken 12. American Sniper 13. Into the Woods 14. Fury 15. Rosewater 16. Wild 17. Mr. Turner 18. Inherent Vice 19. Nightcrawler […]

A Mid-November Oscar Predictions Update

I’m going to keep it short and sweet today folks, or at least a bit shorter than usual in terms of set up. You all know by now that it’s time for my middle of the month Oscar predictions update piece. Sometimes, there’s only a tinker or two to be done, but today…today I have a seismic shift to include, namely in the arrival of Selma on the scene. It’s gone from being shut out (what was I thinking?) to contending for wins in multiple major categories. In fact, more than one of the big eight categories have new winners listed, so this is a definite change in thinking. Some of it might be short lived, but that’s what the upcoming new set of predictions next month is for, right? I’ve also added the three short form categories (Animated Short, Documentary Short, and Live Action Short), though I know that’s not quite as big a selling point. Still, they’re there now, so don’t ignore them.
Anyway, let’s get down to business, shall we? Without further delay, here is how I see the Academy Award nominations going at this current juncture, with once again my next in line picks listed for completion. Behold:
BEST PICTURE
1. Boyhood
2. Selma
3. The Imitation Game
4. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
5. Interstellar
6. The Theory of Everything
7. Gone Girl
8. Whiplash
9. Foxcatcher
10. Unbroken
Next in line: 11. A Most Violent Year 12. Rosewater 13. Into the Woods 14. Fury 15. American Sniper 16. Inherent Vice 17. Mr. Turner 18. Wild 19. Nightcrawler 20. Still Alice
BEST DIRECTOR
1. Richard Linklater – Boyhood
2. Ava DuVernay – Selma
3. Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
4. Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game
5. Christopher Nolan – Interstellar
Next in line: 6. David Fincher – Gone Girl 7. Damien Chazelle – Whiplash 8. Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher 9. Angelina Jolie – Unbroken 10. James Marsh – The Theory of Everything
BEST ACTOR
1. David Oyelowo – Selma
2. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
3. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
4. Michael Keaton – Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
5. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Next in line: 6. Jack O’Connell – Unbroken 7. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler 8. Bradley Cooper – American Sniper 9. Matthew McConaughey – Interstellar 10. Kevin Costner – Black or White
BEST ACTRESS
1. Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
2. Julianne Moore – Still Alice
3. Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
4. Reese Witherspoon – Wild
5. […]

Oscars®: Draft Day – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella, Denis Leary, Tom Welling, and many others
Past Oscar relations: Ivan Reitman was nominated for co-producing Up in the Air and Kevin Costner won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for Dances with Wolves
Here now we have the next article in this series on 2014 contenders hoping to compete for Oscar attention at the 2015 ceremony. Next up is Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day, which hopes to essentially be the next Moneyball, just with the NFL Draft as its focus. That film was a bit of an aberration, but this one has a bit in common with it, so perhaps the Academy is more open to sports movies than they have been in the past? Reitman has sports film icon Kevin Costner in the lead role, so that’s certainly a plus, along with a strong ensemble that includes Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella, and Denis Leary, to name a few. They’re in the service of a fine film, one of the better ones to come out this year so far, in my humble opinion. Being a quality bit of cinema is the first step towards becoming a contender.
What this flick has going in its favor is a crowd pleasing plot and a top notch script, not to mention a great role for Costner to sink his teeth into. Costner always is great in sports films, and this is no exception. Reitman also shows an able hand at drama, something he’s rarely attempted during his illustrious career. As for the screenplay, Black List winning scribes Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman have crafted something that both hardcore football fans like myself and newbies can enjoy equally. Moneyball was able to do this, and that screenplay damn near won an Oscar, so especially in the writing field, this movie should have a chance to contend for a nomination.
Working against Draft Day is that it is a sports movie without an awards centric pedigree. Yes, it has a Black List winning script, but that doesn’t always make a huge difference. Costner also has never been nominated for one of his sports outings, so it’s likely that he won’t break that trend here. That makes it Best Original Screenplay or nada in all likelihood, and having that narrow a focus makes it a dicey proposition. Draft Day […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Kevin Costner

Here we go with another installment of my Spotlight on the Stars series. Each week, I’ll look at an actor/actress/filmmaker that I’d like to celebrate in some kind of a way. It could be due to something of theirs coming out that weekend (like last week and this week, for example) or just because I feel they deserve to have a moment in the sun, but each time it’ll be a bit of positivity about someone who I’d like to pay tribute to.
For this week’s piece (number three overall so far), I wanted to take a look at our first male actor…Kevin Costner. Some see him as a bit of a has been, but I disagree and not only still see a movie star, but an underrated actor as well. Costner is a throwback to an older generation of actor. Very much a man’s man and a real movie star, but one with a softness to him as well. His best performances have perfectly highlighted that. He can be an excellent action hero, that’s for sure, but I’ve always preferred him as a bit more of a working man, be it as a baseball player or just a middle class Joe like he was in The Company Men.

Yes, his best films often involve sports (particularly baseball), but how is that a knock against him? Especially with the very good Draft Day hitting theaters this weekend, it’s just evidence of him knowing where he really fits and playing to that. From Bull Durham to Field of Dreams to For Love of the Game and Tin Cup (and also The Upside of Anger, where he plays a retired player), the sports genre really seems to serve him well. That being said, he’s hardly out of his element when removed from athletics.
Costner has usually challenged himself more than he’s been given credit for, especially considering his directorial career. He won Best Director and Best Picture for Dances with Wolves, and even his projects that were deemed unsuccessful weren’t for a lack of ambition. He can be a risk taker behind the camera, even as he’s a calming and grounded presence in front of it. That’s particularly on display with Draft Day, even when his character is far from calm.
Overall, Costner is am underrated actor with an undeniable screen presence, like I mentioned above. As he begins to enter somewhat of a Hollywood elder […]

A biopic of R.A. Dickey could be an Oscar winner

As a longtime New York Mets fan, one of my great recent delights in the sporting world was seeing R.A. Dickey come of age while in his thirties. A supposedly washed up pitcher, Dickey developed the knuckleball (a very unique pitch that is almost impossible to master and even harder to hit) and eventually caught on with the Mets, where he went on to dominate for a few years, culminating in winning a Cy Young Award, which is the baseball equivalent of an Oscar win. He wrote a memoir about his life around that time called “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball” and a documentary called Knuckleball! was made, centering heavily on his story. Now, he’s actually sold the rights to his memoir to actors Logan Marshall-Green and Ben McKenzie, who’ve started a production company and want to take Dickey’s life to the big screen. Friday Night Lights scribe Buzz Bissinger is writing the screenplay, and I personally can’t wait to see this flick. Beyond that though, I think that this has a real chance to become an awards vehicle.
The reason that I think Dickey’s story is tailor made for Academy voters is the fact that it reads like a movie on its own. He was molested as a child, yet still rose to become a high draft pick, though he lost most of his bonus money and was told his career would never amount to much after doctors found out he was missing an important ligament in his arm. Unfazed, Dickey pressed on, bouncing around the minor leagues and making unremarkable appearances in the bigs, until of course he harnessed the knuckleball. The rest is literally history. That triumphant tale is exactly the sort of one that Oscar voters flock to.
So who could play Dickey? Apparently neither Marshall-Green nor McKenzie are looking to take on the role, so it’s going to go out there for some talented actors to circle. While he most closely resembles Timothy Busfield, I don’t see that bit of casting coming about. A decade ago, I wouldn’t have discounted Kevin Costner playing the role either, but that’s also not happening. In my eyes, I actually would like to see Matt Damon potentially play Dickey, but that’s just something off of the top of my head. Another top notch pick that actually looks a touch like Dickey in the […]

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