Michael Keaton, left, and Mark Ruffalo in a scene from “Spotlight.” The movie was nominated for eight Critics’ Choice Awards, including best picture. Ruffalo was nominated for best supporting actor.
Photo courtesy of Kerry Hayes/Open Road Films
I am a longtime member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, a group representing more than 300 critics in the U.S. and Canada, and today the organization announced nominees for the 21st Annual Critics’ Choice Awards. As usual, some of my personal favorites made the cut and others did not (I’m only one voter among hundreds). Regardless of my personal preferences, it’s a strong field of movies, and you can use the nominee list (below) to seek out the best in film. This year’s awards are slated for broadcast Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. (PT) on A&E, Lifetime and LMN. This event will be particularly special because — for the first time — the movie awards are being combined with honors doled out by the Broadcast Television Journalists Association.
NOMINATIONS FOR THE 21st ANNUAL CRITICS CHOICE AWARDS
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
A WALK IN THE WOODS
Robert Redford and Nick Nolte star in “A Walk in the Woods.”
Photo courtesy of epk.tv
Critical rating: 3 stars out of four
Directed by: Ken Kwapis (“Big Miracle,” “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants”)
Starring: Robert Redford and Nick Nolte
Rated: R for language and some sexual references
The story: Screen adaptation of writer Bill Bryson’s bestselling, 1998 memoir, “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.” The film, like the book, focuses on Bryson’s attempt to walk the 2,200-mile trail with his friend Stephen Katz.
The scoop: A comedy for mature audiences that value strong acting and subtle humor over car crashes and a barrage of crass gags. “A Walk in the Woods” is consistently funny, but it’s also a reminder that older folks needn’t act as though their best days are behind them. The movie is a likable mix of comedy and drama made better by the wonderful performances of Nolte and Redford. Like a hiker on a long journey, director Ken Kwapis takes an easygoing pace, covering a lot of territory but taking time to breathe and enjoy the scenery.
Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart star in the action-comedy “American Ultra.”
Photo courtesy of EPK.tv
Critical rating: 2½ stars out of four
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh (“Project X”)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo and Bill Pullman
Rated: R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, drug use and some sexual content
The story: “American Ultra” is an entertaining action-comedy about a youthful slacker (Jesse Eisenberg) who easily dispatches two assassins that attempt to kill him, leading to the realization that he is really a former CIA agent who had his mind wiped. His loyal girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) is along for the ride.
The scoop: There are funny moments, and director Nima Nourizadeh mixes them with sequences of brutally graphic violence. Viewers will have a good time if they can look beyond the glaring plot problems and focus on the solid performances and Nourizadeh’s emphasis of style over substance. Those who demand more from their filmmakers will see “American Ultra” for what it is: a lightweight Tarantino clone.
June 12, I talked about “Jurassic World” during a short segment on Action News Now in Northern California. Click on the link to watch: http://www.actionnewsnow.com/videoplayer/?video_id=8051&categories
Critical rating: 3½ stars out of four
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”)
Produced by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
The story: Years after the events depicted in the original “Jurassic Park” films, businessmen have figured out a way to make a dinosaur-themed amusement park a reality. Sadly, interest in the facility is dwindling, so scientists up the ante by creating a genetically altered predator that’s as big as a T-Rex but smarter and considerably more dangerous. The creature is meant to create excitement and attract more visitors. Instead, it escapes.
The scoop: “Jurassic World” has all the requirements of a first-rate, summer blockbuster. It is action-packed, entertaining and filled with jaw-dropping special effects. Like most films in its genre, there is some silliness, but that’s no big deal thanks to an excellent cast and solid direction by director Colin Trevorrow.
The following home video releases are available in most formats as of June 9 …
Kingsman: The Secret Service
3½ stars (out of four)
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language and some sexual content
20th Century Fox
Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Mark Strong and Mark Hamill
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn (“Kick Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”)
The scoop: Story of a troubled young man (Taron Egerton) who is invited to try out for a top-secret spy organization. His mentor is a long-time agent named Harry Hart (Colin Firth). The movie is a delightful mix of comedy and action, and the cast is outstanding. The film is also extremely violent, which is to be expected since it came from the director of “Kick Ass.”
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying
Starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Nick Eversman, Bella Thorne and Bianca A. Santos
Directed by: Ari Sandel (first feature-length, fiction movie)
The scoop: A high school senior (Mae Whitman) throws her school’s social order into disarray when she fights back after learning that everybody knows her as the “designated ugly fat friend.”
Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual content
Starring: Johnny Weston, Sophia Black D’Elia, Sam Lerner and Allen Evangelista
Directed by: Dean Israelite (first feature-length movie)
The scoop: Documentary-style picture about a group of friends who build a time machine only to discover that their meddling has unintended effects that puts everyone in danger.
Critical rating: 2½ stars out of four
Directed by: Brad Peyton (“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”)
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Alexandra Daddario, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson and Ioan Gruffudd
The story: A massive earthquake rattles the San Francisco coast, forcing a rescue chopper pilot (Dwayne Johnson) and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) into a desperate search for their missing daughter (Alexandra Daddario).
The scoop: Movies don’t get much stupider or more overblown than “San Andreas.” As with most disaster movies, the severity of the destruction and loss of life are belittled by the fact that only a handful of characters receive significant screen time. Nevertheless, there is something relentlessly entertaining about all this nonsense. The special effects are astonishing, and Dwayne Johnson is charming even when he’s working with an insipid script. “San Andreas” is a guilty pleasure in the guiltiest sense.