Tag Archives: 2015

My Top 10 Movies of 2015

Yep, it’s that time when I publish my opinions on what were the top movies and films of the year. 2015 was a better year than 2014 in many ways. It gave people lots of reasons to go see a movie. It also gave a lot of good quality films as well. Basically the year gave a lot to be admired. It also helped the film industry breathe a sigh of relief as they may have felt that they were losing crowds because of new media forms.

Nope, people still like going to the cinema to see a movie. And 2015 gave lots of good reasons from your typical superhero movies to the return of a maverick series to a sci-fi film that came from nowhere to amaze people to a film that will infuriate you over bankers to a bear attack for the ages.

So without further ado, here are my Top 10 films of 2015:

Big Short

  1. The Big Short
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Ex Machina
  4. Bridge of Spies
  5. The Revenant
  6. Spotlight
  7. Room
  8. Straight Outta Compton
  9. Carol
  10. Inside Out

Honorable Mention:

  • The Hateful Eight
  • Brooklyn
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Love and Mercy
  • Anomalisa

And there you have it. My Top 10 films of 2015. For my past lists, just click on the links below:

 

My 2015 Academy Award Predictions

Chocolate Oscar

No kidding there was a lot of news about this year’s Oscar nominees from the lack of diversity and the boycotts and AMPAS reform that followed to how this being one of the most unpredictable years as far as Best Picture is concerned. Despite the protests, Chris Rock will still host the Oscars.

As for me, I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees. This makes it the fifteenth year in a row I’ve seen them all before the awards night. It almost would have been my last as I was losing faith in the Academy as the last two Best Picture winners failed to gross $100 million both individually and combined. For the record, 2012’s Argo is the last Best Picture winner with a gross of higher than $100 million. However that could change with The Revenant being a strong favorite.

Collectively I have seen enough films and shorts to make up 86 of this year’s nominees. It’s a shame there won’t be any more members at large because I think I’d make a better Oscar voter. Anyways here are my predictions for this year’s Oscar winners. Note that the bigger categories will get the focus as well as my prediction. Only in few smaller categories will I elaborate. Also you will receive links to my reviews.

Best Picture 2015

BEST PICTURE SUMMARY

This year’s eight Best Picture nominees are quite different. Some have a lot of similarities but there are some surprises. Who would’ve though a Mad Max movie would be one of the nominees? Or even The Big Short would be a heavy favorite? Anyways here’s my summary with the titles hyperlinked to my review:

-The Big Short –  My favorite of the Best Picture nominees and my Should Win pick. I admire it for it being unconventional and making sense of something very technical. However I feel it may come up a bit short to my prediction for the winner.

-Bridge Of Spies –  I feel this is the most underrated movie of the whole Best Picture race. It did a great job in capturing the eerie feel of the Cold War and even the political tension behind it. Too bad it finds itself out of contention for the win because it is deserving of it.

-Brooklyn – It’s easy to think Brooklyn has all the bait of what would win the Academy over. However this was a tightly competitive year. Plus the Academy will always surprise you about what it thinks ids the best.

-Mad Max: Fury Road –  Very rarely does a science fiction movie have a chance at winning Best Picture. This film surprised everyone about how good a sci-fi story can go. A deserving winner, but the competition was tight and also I don’t think the Academy will make it Best Picture.

-The Martian –  Space stories have been winning over the Academy more often lately. Two years ago, it was Gravity.Now The Martian. A good choice for a nominee but I think there were too many parts that were a bit cornball.

-The Revenant –  It may have a lot of buzz but it doesn’t completely guarantee it will win Best Picture. The Revenant may have won the Golden Globe and BAFTA but Spotlight won the Critics Choice award and The Big Short won the Producers Guild. The buzz however is too hard to ignore and I feel that The Revenant Will Win Best Picture. Anyways I find it refreshing having a movie that made over $100 million win Best Picture, especially after Birdman’s poor gross.

-Room – One of two Canada/Ireland entries for Best Picture. Very well-acted and well-written but I don’t think a movie about two young people abducted makes for a Best Picture winner. It deserves respect for making this scenario watchable on screen but not enough to make it a winner.

-Spotlight –  This is this year’s critical darling. It has a lot to offer with a great ensemble of acting, an excellently-written story and well-directed. It has what it takes to win Best Picture. However I feel its November release has hurt its chances for the win. It still has some good chances to win but it faces rivalry against later releases like The Revenant and The Big Short.

BEST DIRECTOR:

-Should Win and Will Win – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – The Revenant – This last while has been the emergence of Inarritu. He first burst onto the scene in 2000 with Amores Perros. He received his first Best Director nomination for Babel. Last year, he won for Birdman. This time around he directs an epic thriller and he succeeds excellently at it. Also it pays off at the box office this time.

BEST ACTOR:

-Should Win and Will Win – Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant – Everybody’s saying “Leo should win it.” It’s easy to see why. He’s done a lot of great performances. Plus winning the Oscar could be the case of career culmination for him. It’s too easy to declare career culmination for his anticipated Oscar win. However you have to see The Revenant for yourself to see why. It involved a lot of physical acting as well as a lot of acting moments involving no speaking at all. You can easily see why he’s a deserving winner.

BEST ACTRESS:

-Should Win and Will Win – Brie Larson – Room – Often enough winning an acting Oscar is often a case of career culmination. Other times it can be that case where you’re lucky to have that role of a lifetime. This is the case for Brie Larson. She was mostly unknown and her biggest work up to then was acting in Trainwreck. However her turn as Joy Newsome as a woman braking free from her kidnapping and struggling to live life in what should be freedom is that role of a lifetime.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

-Should Win – Mark Rylance – Bridge Of Spies – I’ll only base my decision on the supporting performances I’ve seen. Mark was excellent as he had to embody the character of a frail 50 year-old man from head to toe. Not only that but give him a unique charm that’s able to steal the show away from Tom Hanks.

-Will Win – Sylvester Stallone – Creed – I’m not a fan of Sylvester Stallone. In fact I can easily see why the Golden Raspberry awards like to give him accolades. However if there’s one role in which he knows how to do right, it’s Rocky Balboa. I believe with this being possibly the last movie of the Rocky saga, Stallone will win it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

-Should Win – Rooney Mara – Carol – I have to say of all the supporting actress performances I’ve seen, I’m most impressed with Rooney Mara. She played a young woman who was insecure with herself and just learning about herself until Carol helps her to understand herself and not be afraid to love.

-Will Win – Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl – I admit I have not seen The Danish Girl. However Alicia’s performance has already generated a ton of buzz. It seems like a no-brainer she’ll win. Some are already touting her as the biggest thing out of Scandinavia since Liv Ullmann. We’ll see.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

-Should Win – Matt Charman, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – Bridge Of Spies – I liked Bridge Of Spies and how it captured the time of fear and paranoia of the Cold War. This was a unique collaboration of Spielberg and the Coen brothers. I thought Bridge Of Spies was one of the smartest films this year.

-Will Win – Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer – Spotlight – Spotlight is one film that has gotten a lot of renown for its story of trying to bring a story to the presses. It’s a deserving winner as it is a story that will keep you interested and intrigued from star to finish. At the same time, it makes a film about sexual abuse by the clergy actually watchable.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

-Should Win & Will Win- Adam McKay and Charles Randolph – The Big Short – All I can say is the script was full of energy. It defied convention and at the same time made sense out of a confusing topic which only those inside the banking world can fully understand. A deserving winner here.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

-Should Win & Will Win- What can I say? Inside Out is the animated movie of the year. It’s very much the case that when Disney/Pixar releases an original film, it’s bound to be the class of the field in terms of animated films. Heck, the script was even nominated for Best Original Screenplay so how can you rival that?

Here are the rest of the categories. I will only predict who Will Win. As well as give some notes if I feel so.

BEST ART DIRECTION:

Colin Gibson & Lisa Thompson – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

-Robert Richardson – The Hateful Eight

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

-Jenny Beavan – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

Amy

BEST FILM EDITING:

-Margaret Sixel – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

-Son Of Saul – Hungary

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

-The Revenant

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

-Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

-“Til It Happens To You” – The Hunting Ground

As far as songs go, that’s the biggest talk about Til It Happens To You and Lady Gaga winning the Oscar. I’m cool with it. As long as she doesn’t wear a meat dress.

BEST SOUND MIXING:

The Revenant

BEST SOUND EDITING:

-Mad Max: Fury Road

Actually I will have my final prediction in this category Saturday evening as that’s when we’ll know the Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild winner.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

-Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It seemed like a no-brainer to predict Star Wars to win that category. However it’s not to say it didn’t have it rivals. Accolades have also been given to the effects of The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road.

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM:

Click here for reviews and predictions.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM:

Click here for reviews and predictions.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT:

-Chau: Beyond The Lines

JUST ONE MORE – TOP OSCAR UPSETS

This is something new for me. I’m picking the five most likely upsets of the evening, especially those that will go against my own predictions:

  • The Big Short to win Best Picture
  • Mark Rylance wins Best Supporting Actor for Bridge Of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road win Best Visual Effects
  • Mustang (from France) wins Best Foreign Language Film
  • Sandy Powell wins Best Costume Design for Cinderella

And there you have it. My predictions for Hollywood’s night of nights. You might only care about who wears what but see who wins on Sunday the 28th. Even attend a party. You might win prizes.

Reviews Of Other Nominated Movies Viewed:

-Joy

-Ex Machina

-Straight Outta Compton

-Anomalisa

-Boy And The World

-Cinderella

My Predictions For The 2015 Academy Award Nominees

Chocolate Oscar

Yes, my chocolate Oscar. Find out who gets nominated for the real ones Thursday.

Another year, another set of Oscar predictions. All summer I didn’t think I would be up for predicting again. I think Birdman‘s win left a bitter taste in my mouth. Actually I do get a bit disheartened when any movie that gives nothing to really admire or appreciate wins Best Picture. These last few weeks, I’ve been accelerating in terms of my movie viewership. I even watch Bridge Of Spies coming home. Review coming soon. This is the third year I’m  doing the ‘laxed’ Oscar tracking while maintaining the same amount of enthusiasm. In addition to my ‘laxed’ Oscar tracking, I decided this year to only bother making nomination predictions for 14 categories instead of the whole thing because it’s easier and also there are contests that ask just for predictions for the Top 8 categories. I didn’t think the whole thing was worth it. So here are my predictions for the nominees:

BEST PICTURE:

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge Of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Carol
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton

BEST DIRECTOR:

  • Todd Haynes,Carol
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
  • Adam McKay,The Big Short
  • Ridley Scott, The Martian

BEST ACTOR:

  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Leonardo Dicaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS:

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

  • Christian Bale, The Big Short
  • Idris Elba,Beasts of No Nation
  • Mark Rylance,Bridge of Spies
  • Michael Shannon,99 Homes
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh , The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
  • Helen Mirren , Trumbo
  • Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

  • Ethan Coen, Joel Coen & Matt Charman, Bridge of Spies
  • Josh Cooley, Meg Lefauve & Pete Docter, Inside Out
  • Alex Garland,Ex Machina
  • Josh Singer & Thomas Mccarthy, Spotlight
  • Quentin Tarantino,The Hateful Eight

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

  • Emma Donoghue, Room
  • Adam McKay,The Big Short
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu & Mark L. Smith, The Revenant
  • Phyllis Nagy,Carol
  • Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

  • Anomalisa
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Inside Out
  • The Peanuts Movie
  • Shaun The Sheep Movie

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

  • Amy
  • Best of Enemies
  • Cartel Land
  • He Named Me Malala
  • The Look of Silence

BEST FILM EDITING:

  • Hank Corwin,The Big Short
  • Tom McArdle,Spotlight
  • Stephen Mirrione,The Revenant
  • Pietro Scalia, The Martian
  • Margaret Sixel,Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

  • The Brand New Testament (Belgium)
  • Embrace Of The Serpent (Columbia)
  • Mustang (France)
  • Son Of Saul (Hungary)
  • Theeb (Jordan)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

  • Carter Burwell, Carol
  • Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai & Ryuichi Sakamoto,The Revenant
  • Johan Johannson,Sicario
  • Ennio Morricone,The Hateful Eight
  • John Williams,Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

  • Jurassic World
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MOST LIKELY UPSETTERS:

Here is where I predict who will most likely upset in my predictions for the nominees. I only predict in the ones I feel I can make a good judgment for an upsetter:

BEST PICTURE:

  • The Hateful Eight
  • Inside Out

BEST DIRECTOR:

  • George Miller,Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

BEST ACTOR:

  • Will Smith, Concussion
  • Johnny Depp, Black Mass

BEST ACTRESS:

  • Helen Mirren, Woman In Gold
  • Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

  • Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Jane Fonda, Youth

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

  • Andrea Berloff & Jonathan Herman, Straight Outta Compton

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

  • Drew Goddard, The Martian
  • Nick Hornby,Brooklyn

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

  • Minions

BEST DOCUMENTARY:

  • Where To Invade Next
  • Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

BEST FILM EDITING:

  • Michael Kahn, Bridge of Spies
  • Alfonso Concalves, Carol

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

  • The Fencer (Finland)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

  • Thomas Newman, Bridge Of Spies
  • Howard Shore, Spotlight

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

  • Ex Machina
  • The Walk

And there you have it. My predictions for the Academy Award nominees. The official results will be seen live Thursday at 5:30 Hollywood time. Did all that money on all those For Your Consideration ads pay off? We’ll see.

2015 VIFF Wrap-Up: An Excellent Year

CinemaDISCLAIMER: Okay, I know this is a month late but I’ve had some busy times and two colds plus I was waiting for some certain facts that took forever to come. Nevertheless I decided to finally publish this VIFF wrap-up today.

The Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped itself up the night of Friday, October 9th. The sixteen days were full of excitement throughout the city. It was also quite warm which allowed for some people to pass up films in favor of savoring whatever sunny weather we’ll have left for the year. Nevertheless this year’s VIFF was still bustling.  The format that worked the two previous years continued to work again this year. The three Tinseltown theatres gave the VIFF four extra days.

Volunteering was also good this year. Funny thing is this year we were only to do a single theatre this time around. I originally requested to volunteer for the VanCity theatre. Thing is it was loaded with volunteer requests. They asked me to do one of the other theatres. I obliged to do Tinseltown. That worked for the most part but the thing with me is I like to volunteer on both opening day and closing day: the two days Tinseltown isn’t part of the VIFF. That led me during the volunteer training to negotiate with one of the heads of volunteering and she gave me the option of doing Cinematheque those two days. I was happy with that, especially since I could get free popcorn.

Volunteering started off somewhat easy on opening day at the Cinematheque. Things became a bit more difficult when I worked the Tinseltown theatres. There one would have to deal with big crowds. Almost reminding me how busy it was over at the late Granville 7. There was even one time Tinseltown was so booked with volunteers, I was asked to volunteer the Sunday at the nearby SFU theatre. One film was a special event film where one corporate sponsor was giving people popcorn. Problem was food couldn’t be allowed in the theatre. You can imagine how peeved the people were. I also remember how busy closing Friday was. I had to do something over at the Centre for Performing Arts in between volunteering at the Cinematheque. Hey, film fests are busy things.

As for films I watched, I saw fourteen including the Reel Youth shorts fest. The feature-length films I saw came from Canada, USA, UK, Germany, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Greece, Ireland, India and Denmark. I saw a lot of good live-action movies as well as some good documentaries. I think the edgiest film I saw was Nina Forever. Hard to say what my favorite was. I found 100 Yen Love the most entertaining and A Flickering Truth to the the most eye-opening documentary I saw. I was hoping to see some Canadian live-action but it just wasn’t to be this year.

Anyways here is the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival by the numbers:

140,000: estimated gated attendance

710+: Film and Television forum delegates

930+: hours of film screened

900+: volunteers

-520+ accredited industry guests

549: public screenings

370: films shown (shorts and feature length)

99: Canadian Films and shorts shown

85: countries entering films

114: Canadian premieres

  • 35: North American premieres
  • 24: International premieres (first screening outside home country)
  • 11: World Premieres

-198:  meetings with industry leaders and delegates at VIFF Industry Exchange

104: guest speakers

14: entries in the Best Foreign Language Film category for this year’s Oscars shown

16: days of showing films

9: screens showing films

7: theatres participating in the VIFF

Now I know some of you want to know the award winners. Here they are:

ROGERS PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

-BROOKLYN (UK/Ireland/Canada), dir. John Crowley

VIFF MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARD

-INGRID BERGMAN: IN HER OWN (Sweden), dir. Stig Bjorkman

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN DOCUMENTARY AWARD

-HAIDA GWAII: ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, dir. Charles Wilkinson

VIFF IMPACT: CANADIAN AUDIENCE AWARD

-FRACTURED LAND, dirs. Damien Gillis & Fiona Rayher

VIFF MOST POPULAR CANADIAN FILM AWARD

-ROOM (shared with Ireland), dir. Lenny Abrahamson

VIFF IMPACT: INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE AWARD

-LANDFILL HARMONIC (USA, Paraguay), dir. Brad Algood

#mustseeBC Award (for most anticipated BC film)

-TRICKS ON THE DEAD, dir. Jordan Paterson

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM AWARD

-SLEEPING GIANT, dir. Andrew Cividino

EMERGING CANADIAN DIRECTOR AWARD:

-THE SOUND OF TREES, dir. Francois Peloquin

BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM AWARD

-BLUE-EYED BLONDE, dir. Pascal Plante

MOST PROMISING DIRECTOR OF A CANADIAN SHORT FILM:

-NEVER STEADY, NEVER STILL, dir. Kathleen Hepburn

BEST BC FILM:

-FRACTURED LAND, dirs. Damien Gillis & Fiona Rayher

BC EMERGING FILMMAKER AWARD:

-THE DEVOUT, dir. Connor Gaston

Those were awarded at Friday’s closing gala. After the VIFF closed, VIFF repeats happened at the VanCity theatre until Thursday the 15th. The volunteer party went from being held close to the end of the fest to being held on Halloween. It all started at the VanCity theatre as volunteers were treated to three circus-themed thriller films. The first one was held at 10 in the morning and was 1933’s Freaks which is frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies. The second was the 1960 British film Circus Of Horrors. The third and last was 1966’s Berserk starring Joan Crawford. Goodies and pastries were around for us to much on. Of course there were candies. There were prizes given away as well as prizes for costumes. Then the festivities ended with a three-hour dinner and dance at a nearby cabaret. It was a fun Halloween, that’s for sure. Great to see this year’s VIFF end on an exciting note.

So there you go. The 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival ended with continued success if not a record and fun for all volunteers. Next year’s VIFF is anticipated to be from September 23rd to October 8th, 2015 and should be bigger and better. It’s 10 months away but I still can’t wait. Anyways we’ll see how things go for next year’s VIFF. See you next year!

2015 Box Office: On Pace To A Record Year

Movie (640x306)Usually during the year, I do a lot of focus on the box office and how it’s doing. This year I’ve been involved with so many other blogs, I’ve been distracted from it. However with only two months to go, I decided to do a focus on the box office of 2015 and boy has it been bustling!

Once again, I thank Box Office Mojo for all the monthly details.

The $405 million of January 2015 was not a record breaker but it was almost $20 million higher than January of 2014. They year started with the continuation of the success of the last Hobbit movie leading into Taken 3 and the monstrously successful American Sniper which had four #1 weekends.

February 2015 was a rather dull month with the successes of the SpongeBob movie, Focus and the critically panned 50 Shades Of Gray. The box office didn’t even hurt that much as its $711.1 million in February was only $1 million less than the previous year.

The $858 million of March 2015 was not the highest-grossing March by far but it outdid March 2014 by $17.2 million. The box office saw the #1 spot with a variety of movies and movie styles like Cinderella, Chappie, Focus, Insurgent and Home.

The $639 million of April 2015 was not only more than $100 million less than the gross of April 2014 but it lost whatever gains 2015 had accumulated over 2014 and sent it at least $60 million behind pace. Basically Furious 7 was not only the biggest thing that month but pretty much the only happening thing that month.

The summer season began in May on a questionable note as well with $1.182 billion. That was more than $50 million less than May of 2014. Sure, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron grossed enough to be one of the Top 10 highest grossing movies ever but most of the other movies did not perform as well despite pushes from Pitch Perfect and Tomorrowland. Even Mad Max: Fury Road and San Andreas didn’t perform well enough for the May to overtake last year’s May.

Leading into June 2015, trailing last year’s box office by $100 million seemed like a lot of ground to make up at first until the monster success of Jurassic World helped that along with strong openings from Inside Out, Spy and Ted 2. Three box office records were set this June. Two were by Jurassic World for highest opening-weekend gross of $208 million and highest non-opening weekend gross of $106.6 million. I believe that’s the first time a movie grossed more than $100 million in a weekend that wasn’t their opener. Also that weekend, Inside Out opened at $90.4 million making it the biggest opening weekend gross for a movie not at #1 for the weekend. June 2015 ended $1.378 billion, way more than the $997 million of June 2014 and putting 2015 back into pace of setting an annual box office record.

July 2015 continued outgrossing the year before with $1.293 billion: almost half a billion more than July of 2014. Keep in mind the June and July of 2014 were the first months in years to gross under a billion. You can imagine how much of an upper the summer of 2015 was. The month began with Inside Out finally taking #1 and releases like Ant-Man, Minions, and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation pumping in that energy.

Box Office Mojo doesn’t have an exact total for August 2015. They have it at $546.5 million which is noticeably off if you look over the weekly charts of that month. One thing is sure and that August 2015 was less than the $1 billion made in August 2014. M.I.: Rogue Nation continued its reign at the top at the beginning of the month but the month delivered the summer’s biggest surprise hit in Straight Outta Compton. It’s safe to assume August 2015 made at least $700 million.

September is traditionally the quietest month of the movie calendar especially since the summer months went for it and now people are returning back to either work or their schools. This September set a record for September’s total gross: $690.5 million. You could tell the month gave a lot for moviegoers to see in September such as War Room, The Perfect Guy, Maze Runner 2 and Hotel Transylvania 2.

October 2015 is another month Box Office Mojo hasn’t totaled correctly. They have it at $550.1 million although it should be totaled around $700 million. Still it’s less than October 2014. This October was dominated by The Martian that was at the top all but one weekend which was taken over by Goosebumps.

November hasn’t ended yet so it’s too soon to tell if the total will outdo November 2015. This November’s tour de forces were The Peanuts Movie, Spectre and Mockingjay Part 2 which just opened surprisingly lower than expected. Next weekend will be Thanksgiving weekend and there’s a lot of promise for movies like The Good Dinosaur, Creed and Victor Frankenstein. December also has a lot of movies with buzz like Christmas Eve, MI: 5, In The Heart Of The Sea, The Big Short, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Sisters, Joy, the latest Chipmunks movie and The Hateful Eight.

I will admit there’s no guarantee that 2015 will set a new box office record–that will be decided at the very end of the year– but its chances are good. Anyways stay tuned. And go out and see a movie.

Election 2015: Canada Votes

ElectionsCanadaToday on October 19th, all of Canada will vote for who will lead the country over the next four years. For over ten years and three terms, Conservative leader Stephen Harper has led Canada. He seeks a fourth term but faces tough opposition from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. Possible challenges come from the Bloc Quebecois and Gilles Duceppe and the Green Party under Elizabeth May. One thing about this election is that it has proved that anything can happen and no one is guaranteed the label of ‘winner.’ It’s been that close and full of yo-yo statistics. Here’s my rundown:

-Conservative Party: Stephen Harper – You can’t go anywhere without people talking about Stephen Harper. He ran for Prime Minister for the first time in 2004 and was seen as the one to help put conservative muscle back into Canadian politics. Even though he didn’t win, he did succeed in bringing the conservative side back into politics. The Conservative party had 99 seats, up from 72 in 2000, and the victorious Liberals under Paul Martin were left with a minority government after three terms as a majority under Jean Chretien.

Then in January 2006, a new election was held at the sudden revelation of the corruption of Liberal leader Paul Martin and after Governor General Michaelle Jean dissolved parliament. This worked for the benefit of Stephen Harper as the Liberal Party lost enough seats to give Harper’s Conservatives victory. Sure it was a minority with 124 seats but it was enough to give the Liberal party their first loss on the national level since 1988. This meant new changes for Canada with a Conservative government having most of the power albeit only with a minority.

There were many varied opinions about the first term of Stephen Harper. There were many on the left who felt he was too right-wing or making a lot of decisions they felt were wrong. There were others who admired him simply because ‘he says he’s gonna do some thing and he does it.’ I think that’s what wins people: a politician that actually delivers on their claims. This was enough for Harper to be able to win the next election in 2008. He increased the number of seats from 127 to 143 but it was still a minority.

Over time, people across Canada, especially in BC, were expressing their disappointment with his policies. I especially remember the arts community unhappy about the cuts in funding they were dealt in 2008. Then in March of 2011, the Conservative Party was found to be in contempt of parliament. The Government General, like in 2005, again dissolved parliament. This time things went the reverse. Harper’s Conservatives won a third term, this time with a majority of 166 seats.

The time since has been loaded with corruption and complains to Harper and the Conservatives. They run the gamut from political overspending on advertising to reducing door-to-door delivery of mail to the point there will only be mail boxes by 2019, to denying funding for science to promoting the controversial Keystone pipeline for boosting the export of crude oil to the controversial bill C-51 which appears to threaten Canadian’s privacy freedoms the same way the Patriot Act threatened Americans’ privacy rights. A lot of his misdoings appear to make good things he did like provide tax breaks to families and transit users.

-Liberal Party: Justin Trudeau – The Liberal party is one party that has had its biggest struggles ever these past ten years. It started with the Paul Martin fiasco leading the Liberals to their first ever election loss after winning the previous four. It continued with Stephan Dion in 2008 as their seat total declined from 95 to 77. However it was at the 2011 election under Michael Ignatieff where the Liberal party hit what appeared to be rock bottom by winning only 34 seats. They weren’t even the official opposition. After Ignatieff’s resignation just days later, they looked for a leader who could fill the spot. They found it in Justin Trudeau, the 43 year-old son of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. In fact, Justin was born while his father was Prime Minister.

The buzz around him grew but it hasn’t been without controversy. Justin has been faced with accusation that he’s riding off the coattails of his father’s legend. His only jobs before have either been a raft guide or a school teacher. This was especially noteworthy in Stephen Harper’s ads attacking Trudeau with the claim he’s “Just not ready.” It included the comment, ‘Nice hair, though.’ I myself even felt he didn’t deserve my vote because “He hasn’t proven himself politically. He’s all image and no real cred.” Even some of his campaign claims like his promise to legalize marijuana or prostitution have caught the disgust of many. Last poll had him in the lead. Whatever the situation if he wins, he will have to prove he deserves it.

-New Democratic Party: Tom Mulcair – The 2011 election was a landmark for the NDP. Actually it started months after the 2008 election when the NDP led by Jack Layton teamed up with the Liberals for a coalition takeover of parliament in order to reduce Harper. It didn’t work but it did catch the eye of the nation and it caused Canadians to look more favorably to the NDP party: a national party who were often lucky enough to just finish third in national elections.

The 2011 was a landmark for the party as they won 103 seats, up from 36 and the most they’ve ever won. Leader Jack Layton became the head of the official opposition. He only had months to enjoy his victory as he would die of cancer later that year. It would take time to find a new leader of the party and they found it in Tom Mulcair. Since he assumed power, he has been seen as Harper’s toughest political rival most able to put pressure on the Conservatives. He has hoped to take that with him to the election. It worked in August when the campaign trail began. However the NDP have been in a struggle since to win back the approval ratings they had back then and sit third. Only tonight’s election will tell the tale.

-Bloc Quebecois: Gilles Duceppe – If any party has had it harder than the Liberals since 2011, it’s the Bloc Quebecois. It’s not even just because of slipping to two seats. It’s of going through three different leaders after Duceppe resigned from incumbents to leaders voted in. After all the frustration, Duceppe is back in. He’s hoping to bring the Bloc’s power back into Canadian parliament and push for Quebec independence.

-Green Party: Elizabeth May – One party on the grow is the Green Party. They’ve been around for decades but it’s only in this century that they’ve been able to see their political power grow. I know. I’m from BC where the Green Party appears to have possibly its biggest support. Elizabeth May has done a lot to boost this party which holds left-wing policies and ideas noticeably different from the other two leading liberal parties: Liberal and NDP. In fact the Greens won their first ever seat in Parliament back in 2011 but it was not May.

The Green Party may have a candidate in almost every riding and their policies may appear to be the best for the country but they still have to develop more political muscle before they can be considered a serious contender. However May has done nothing wrong as a leader and should keep doing what she’s doing and take it further.

Since the start, the election has been called anyone’s game and hard to predict. The NDP had a lead at the start but it appeared to deteriorate over time and they hang at third in the polls. Harper and the Conservatives only had a brief lead in September for a week or two but found themselves soon slipping and now find themselves at second. Right now the Liberals lead at 37% at the last polls. Anything can happen on Election Day. In fact in BC, Christy Clark’s Liberals were expected to lose according to the polls but they won. The biggest shocker is the advance polls held during the long weekend of October 9-12. Voter turnout was way higher than expected. An increase of 16%. The increase resulted in a lot of long line ups. I myself had to wait almost a full hour to vote. nevertheless this is an optimistic sign as it shows more Canadians are willing to vote in this year’s election as compared to 2011.

Whatever the situation, it will be decided by 8pm Pacific Time who will be the Prime Minister of Canada. It could be decided earlier upon final results in Ontario but you never know. Anyways history will be decided tonight.

Funny thing but if the US presidential election can best be described as “two five year-olds fighting over the same toy,” what should the Canadian national election be described as?

VIFF 2015 Review: A Syrian Love Story

A Syrian Love Story focuses on a Syrian couple from the start of 2011's Arab Spring to the present.

A Syrian Love Story focuses on a Syrian couple from the start of 2011’s Arab Spring to the present.

I saw quite a few documentaries at this year’s VIFF. A Syrian Love Story was one documentary that gets one thinking.

This is a documentary filmed year by year over five years. It starts in 2010 while Syria is going through its start of political turmoil. It had been under turmoil since the 1970’s when Hafez Al-Assad took power and any reforms promised by his son Bashar, who succeeded Hafez in presidency after his death almost ten years earlier, doesn’t deliver in the reforms he promised. Images of protest met with a violent response from government forces are too common. Caught in the middle is a married couple of Amer Daoud and Raghda Hasan. They have four sons from 6 to 22. Amer is living in Damascus being a father to the children. Raghda is in a prison for publishing a book about their relationship of all things. Amer and Raghda are no strangers to political oppression in their home country. Raghda has face imprisonment because she’s a communist revolutionary and Amer was once imprisoned with his ties to the PLO. In face they both first met in prison and fell in love through communicating through a prison wall.

Sean McAllister is in Syria looking for something about Syria’s crisis to film but something out of the ordinary. He finds it in Amer and Raghda. McAllister also shows us their four sons. The first year he films Amer’s phone conversations with Raghda while she’s in prison. He gets her sons to talk with her as well. McAllister was even imprisoned for a few days for a journalism crime and was able to listen first-hand to the torture in Syria’s prisons. He even meets the older son who broke up with his girlfriend because she was pro-Assad. Despite all this, McAllister does show a case of hope for the future, for all.

In 2012, Raghda is finally free. She is reunited with her husband, sons and the rest of her family. But they can’t stay in Syria, not while there’s civil war that started once Syrian people revolted against Assad during 2011’s Arab Spring. The family move to a refugee area in Lebanon. They do it not simply for the sake of themselves but their sons too. McAllister is nervous for the couple’s future since he knows behaviors of prisoners after they’ve been freed. He hopes Raghda doesn’t exhibit behavior that will hurt their marriage.

In 2013, they find themselves in Paris, France. Things are definitely better for the two youngest children Kaka and Bob. Bob is in a good school and Kaka is able to become a disc jockey at his high school. Things appear to go well for Amer and Raghda as they’re able to make a living for themselves but there’s a sense that something’s wrong. The children sense it.

In 2014, we get a good sense of what’s wrong. Amer and Raghda’s marriage is crumbling. Amer feels distant from Raghda and has a French girlfriend of his own. It upsets Raghda to the point she changes the password on his laptop. She even attempts suicide by cutting her wrists. No doubt it upsets everyone. She them admits she never had the chance to find herself and she feels that despite her  political freedom in France, she still feels she can do more for Syria or for others hurt by war.

The film ends in 2015. They two youngest sons have a promising future in France. Their older son reveals his pro-Assad former girlfriend was killed. Asad runs a chicken farm in France and is without Raghda. He wishes her well in whatever she does. Raghda is now in Turkey in a city 20 miles from the Syrian border. She works with refugees and is happier with her life now.

This is a unique story of love that starts with one hoping for a happy ending. We know Syria won’t turn out for the better but we hope that Raghda will be free and will return to her family and they’ll live happily ever after. We all want that storybook ending. Unfortunately it doesn’t end up that way. McAllister knows the problems prisoners exhibit after they’re free and he lets Amer and all of us know it. Over time, it shows after the moves, after Syria’s continued strife and after one senses the love between the two fading over time. It was unfortunate. The moment of hope doesn’t end up being when Raghda is free but rather when Amer is still in France and Raghda is in Turkey. That’s where the true scene of hope for the better is present.

The story is not just about the couple. It’s also about the surrounding family. This is especially noteworthy of the two youngest sons, Kaka and Bob. Bob is six at the beginning and the youngest. He tried to be a carefree child but the hurt of knowing his mother’s in prison is evident. Kaka is ten at the start and familiar with the realities in Syria. He’s able to tell Sean in good enough English his feeling of the situation, and of how he’d either like to fight or kill Assad. As they grow, the changes are present. Bob is getting bigger but has difficulties fitting into his school in Paris because his long hair causes other boys to call him a girl. Kaka is getting a better education but can’t ignore what’s happening to his parents. He can sense what’s happening and has his own opinions on what he feels should happen. Although the two are not the main protagonists, their presence in this story is vital.

One thing about this documentary is that the story focuses more on the fading marriage than it does in the strife in Syria from civil oppression to public outcry to a civil war to the eventual crisis with ISIS. However it does focus on the couple as they were fighting their own war with each other. They go from loving each other and having a closeness while Raghda’s in prison to the love fading over time after Raghda is free and they’re together again. It’s sad that they were closer together when Raghda was in prison. It’s even hard to pinpoint who’s the bad guy. Is it Amer for his fading commitment? Or is it Raghda for her inner strife? Amer appears like a jerk not even willing to try when he says things like “Syrians love prisoners,” but Raghda’s suicide attempt gets you wondering was she thinking of her family at the time?

Watching this documentary, I believe that this isn’t the type of documentary meant for the big screen. With the camera quality, editing and McAllister’s voice over, it fares much better as something for television broadcast. I’m sure that’s what it intends to be. I have to give McAllister credit for having the ability to do all this filming over time and to present a unique story. I also give Amer and Raghda credit for McAllister willing to film them while their marriage was hitting rock bottom and they were showing terrible behavior such as Amer threatening to smash his laptop and Raghda slitting her wrists. It surprises me that they were willing to show things that personal on camera.

A Syrian Love Story may not be a documentary meant for the big screen but it’s a very revealing story that reminds us not all love story has the fairytale ending. despite the hardships they show, it does end on a hopeful, if not happy, note.

VIFF 2015 Review: Reel Youth Film Festival

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I’ve been to the Reel Youth Film Festivals of 2013 and 2014. I went to this Year’s Reel Youth Film Festival to see what they had to offer. I was impressed.

2013 was a focus more on young film makers. 2014 was still a majority of young filmmakers but did more focus on film directed to young people rather than focus on the age of the directors. Films made for young people by directors 20+ in age were more welcome that year than the previous one. This year was return to more focus on filmmakers up to age 19 and less focus on films by directors 20 or older.

This year there were 19 films. Seven were from Canada with four from BC. Six were from the United States with entries from Latvia, Kosovo, Iran, Georgia, India and Australia. Films focused on issues but they also had some fun too. The fun films included an animated short of a man and his dog on a stranded island, a boy asking another boy out and redoing it until he gets it right, a dating situation that can best be described as ‘a gas,’ human life from a dog’s eye view, life that starts in a smalltown and takes you back there, an animated film of a mantis’ first date and a simple task of getting a selfie with a 20 foot pink elephant that’s not so simple.

Issues however was the top focus of the festival and the shorts did speak about their issues. Issues included homelessness, bullying, missing indigenous women in Canada that often go overlooked, harassment at work, youth poverty in Canada and young disabled people.

Some of the films included dramatic settings such as a friendship between a man and a dog in tough times, emotional states relating to colors, a young person’s journey through life and the unfriendliness of our modern times, especially in urban India. There were some films that were biographical or focal like the homeless shelter cook from San Antonio, teenage musicians from BC with dreams that seem ignored by the school system and an 85 year-old woman with the self-confidence of a movie star.

Despite a lot of issues, there were films with messages of hope. Messages focused on homelessness in San Antonio, finding joy in pain the way Charlie Chaplin did, being comfortable in your own skin and making a disabled child feel like they’re not a misfit. Even a plotless short from Iran of a young grandson in a house with a leaky roof trying to keep the rain off his sleeping grandmother seemed like it had a message to say.

I think that was the point of this year’s selected shorts. These were films that focused on life, on emotions, on issues of concern, on problems and on hope. They all had something to say whether it be humorous or whether it be serious. Some had top-notch cameras or animation quality. Some were amateurish in writing, acting or even conveying their issue. Nevertheless all had their qualities that made it worth showing to the audience.

Once again, we were given our ballots to select our three favorite films and our favorite local film. Here were my picks:

  1. Love On Wheels – A Georgian film of a wheelchair-bound boy who’s accompanied by his father (actually played by his brother) who’s also in a wheelchair so that he doesn’t feel cut off from the world.
  2. Priorities – An animated short from Latvia of a man and his dog stranded on a deserted island during a rainstorm. Excellent animation quality.
  3. The Second Right Off Main Street – An Ontario short of an adolescent growing up in a small town, moving away to pursue bigger and better things and finding himself back in his town.
  • Local1 in 5 – About a bully a teen girl can’t seem to stand up for herself against: poverty. Title reflects the statistic of youth poverty in BC. Filmed in New Westminster.

And there you go. That’s my look at this year’s selection of shorts at the Reel Youth Film Festival. If you know a young filmmaker, I recommend you let them know of the Reel Youth film society.

It’s VIFF Time Once Again

CinemaYes, it’s that time when I volunteer for the Vancouver International Film Festival and see movies for free. At least when I have that lucky chance during my usher duties.

The festival opens Thursday September 24th and runs until Friday October 9th. This year’s festival looks full of energy. If you remember last year, it set a per-screen attendance record. Hopefully they can break it again or even break the total attendance record this year too. This is especially relieving since the future of the VIFF was questioned when the Granville 7 theatre closed. The last two VIFFs have been able to run very successfully under the new format and set-up. Having many theatres within various areas of the downtown and even including the Rio has not hurt attendance.

There aren’t that many changes in terms of screening of films. One minor change for the Rio is that they will be showing films on five nights at 11pm instead of 11:30. Another difference is that there’s an increase in the number of days films at the three screens of the International Village will be shown. It used to end on the last Sunday of the fest. Instead it will end the day before the fest closes: four more days. That will allow for more showings.

As for this year’s lineup, there will be 375 films shown over nine screens and sixteen days. Films with big buzz include:

Brooklyn – John Crowley directs this drama/comedy starring Saoirse Ronan that is loaded with buzz. Opening Gala film.

I Saw The Light – Tom Hiddleston takes a break from playing Loki and plays Hank Williams in this biopic. Closing Gala film.

Arabian Nights – Portuguese director Miguel Gomes directs a trilogy of films inspired by, but not adapted from, the novel.

Beeba Boys – Deepa Mehta directs a crime drama. Definitely one to raise eyebrows, especially among Indo-Canadian communities.

Dheepan – This year’s Palme d’Or winner from Cannes. Spotlights Sri Lankan refugees trying to make a living in Paris.

High-Rise – Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel that seems like a 70’s version of 50 Shades Of Grey.

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words – Ingrid Bergman like you’ve never seen her before in rare film footage and an intimate look at the legend.

Louder Than Bombs – A family melodrama starring Jesse Eisenberg and Amy Ryan that can get overheated but touches on human emotions.

Room – Stars Brie Larson and William H. Macy. This Irish-Canadian drama may seem like a focus on one family until you learn its ugly truth.

A Tale Of Three Cities – A Chinese romance/drama directed by Mabel Cheung that is based on the real life story of Jackie Chan’s parents.

This Changes Everything – a documentary where Naomi Klein puts the right-wing pundit and other global warming critics in their place.

Youth – Remember how I did The Great Beauty? Director Paolo Sorrentino makes his English-language debut of a retiring director reflecting on his past. Stars Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda and Paul Dano.

As for volunteering this year, we’re now back to doing a single venue. However there are exceptions such as advertised jobs at certain venues such as in the case of disassembling and various other duties. Or my case where I work the International Village but want to volunteer on the two days it’s not operating such as yesterday. Fortunately I was given the bonus option of volunteering for Cinematheque. It was a good first night where I ushered and I was able to see a film. Review coming soon.

Anyways the VIFF has begun again. Be prepared for more films, fun and excitement.

2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup: Intro and Group A Focus

Canada will host the sixth edition of the FIFA Women's World Cup.

Canada will host the sixth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is coming and Canada is to be the host nation. This is to be an exciting time for both the country and the sport of women’s football.

This marks the first time Canada has ever hosted a World Cup. Canada has hosted past soccer tournaments for FIFA like the 1987 U-16 World Championships, 2002 U-19 Women’s World Championships, 2007 Men’s U-20 World Cup and last year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup. It’s up to the challenge. And a new challenge for the Women’s World Cup as this year the number of competing teams have been expanded from 16 to 24.

Throughout the next two weeks, I will be doing an analysis of each first round group and even making judgments on who I think will come out on top, come second and even come third. I don’t think I’ll predict the wildcard advancers as that will be too tricky. I’ll just limit to a third-place prediction. The number in brackets below is the FIFA Women’s Ranking for May 2015.

GROUP A:

Canada

Christine Sinclair will captain possibly Canada's greatest women's soccer team ever. They already have an Olympic bronze to their feats.

Christine Sinclair will captain possibly Canada’s greatest women’s soccer team ever. They already have an Olympic bronze to their feats.

-Canada (8): The Women’s World Cup is where Canada can show off its football prowess. Our men have only qualified for a single World Cup all the way back in 1986 which leaves us cheering for whoever during the World Cup; most of the time the country of our ethnic background. As for our women, the only World Cup they didn’t qualify for was the inaugural one back in 1991. Canadian women have an impressive resume of their own such as two CONCACAF Championships and an Olympic bronze medal from 2012. In fact their bronze was Canada’s favorite memory of those Olympics. Even I remember the excitement I felt and even referred to them as ‘our girls.’ Naturally so since soccer is probably the team sport in Canada with the most female participation. Even more than hockey. In fact this World Cup should make Canada proud as it is one nation that has one of the best instances female participation in soccer. Heck, our female stars like Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi are bigger household names than our male stars!

However it’s not to say the women are looking for their own World Cup glory. This may be our sixth World Cup but Canada has only advanced past the Group Stage once back in 2003 where they finished fourth. In fact Canada lost all three of their Group Stage matches at the last World Cup back in 2011. Things changed after Canada recruited English coach John Herdman after he finished coaching New Zealand. After that, he helped guide Canada to gold at the Pan American Games and the bronze in London.

Canada’s chances to qualify to the knockout rounds are not only great but they also have good chances to come out on top. They beat China in their last game. They’ve won against New Zealand in six of their ten meetings and won against the Netherlands in ten of their eleven meetings. They also look good to win their Round of 16 match but things look to get tougher around the quarterfinals. Nevertheless this World Cup is anyone’s game. Women’s football has progressed to the point that there are now many equals at the top rather than one to rule them all. Canada could just provide the surprise.

China-China, People’s Republic of (16): Is it too soon in women’s football to call China a ‘blast from the past?’ It’s easy to dismiss it as one. The ‘Steel Roses’ have an Olympic silver medal from its first Olympic contest in 1996 and were runners-up to the Cup in 1999 where they lost to the US on penalty kicks. China hosted the World Cup twice during the very first in 1991 and in 2007. However they had a recent setback when they did not qualify for either the 2011 World Cup or the 2012 Olympics. Even their dominance of the AFC Asian Cup in the 90’s have faded and even finished out of the medals for the first time back in 2010. Nevertheless China are determined to comeback. They had good moments such as beating many top Asian teams last year and even winning against Argentina 6-0. However Argentina was their last win back in December of 2014. Right now it’s safe to say China’s in comeback mode but it will take a lot of effort for them to come back. A lot has changed in women’s football since their glory days of the 90’s.

NZL-New Zealand (17): How ironic is it that John Herdman’s team from the last World Cup is pitted against Canada in the Group Stage? This will be the fourth World Cup for the ‘Football Ferns’ however they have yet to establish themselves. They have not made it past the Group Stage in their three appearances. They haven’t even won a World Cup game yet. They did make it to the quarterfinals at the London Olympics showing improvement already. This World Cup looks to be one where the women want to show how much they’ve improved. They may have had recent losses to the bigger countries like the U.S., Japan, France and Norway but they have tied Brazil and Spain and even won against Denmark. This World Cup is another proving point for them. Also with the potential of three teams from each group advancing, chances look better than ever.

Netherlands Fixed-Netherlands (12): The Netherlands is one of eight teams competing in their very first World Cup here in Canada. The women, whom like the men are also called ‘Oranje,’ do not have a legacy but they have developed a reputation in recent years. In 2009, they qualified for their first-ever Women’s Euro and finished third. Even though they still lack the experience of the other three teams in Group A, they should look at this as a learning experience. It’s even possible the Netherlands will be a top challenger in the future. They could even cement their name here. They have never won against Canada and have more losses than wins against China and New Zealand but they have won their most recent meetings with both teams. Netherlands could pull an upset.

NOTE: This Women’s World Cup will act as a meet for European teams to earn berths for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The top three European teams here qualify for Rio.

MY GROUP PLAY PREDICTIONS:

This looks to be Canada’s best World Cup. The team looks in good shape, especially with Christine Sinclair as captain. I strongly believe they’ll come out on top. It’s harder to predict second or third. It can go to any of the other three. For this group, I predict China to be second and the Netherlands to be third.

STADIUM SPOTLIGHT:

Okay, just like I did with the men’s World Cup from last year, I will again do a Stadium Spotlight.  One good thing about this World Cup is you remember how during last year’s men’s World Cup the groups were ‘scrambled’ across stadiums during the group play? The women’s are more organized as the teams of all six groups will be allocated in the same stadium during their first two games. It’s only the third game for all teams where they’ll go to a different stadium. The other good thing about this World Cup is that no new stadiums were required to be built. Whatever new stadiums build or renovated were done so for the sake of its current purposes. Only two stadiums are less than five years old. And the first of the two will be focused in this blog:

WINNIPEG: Winnipeg StadiumWpg Stadium

Year Opened: 2013

World Cup Capacity: 40,000

World Cup Groups Hosting: A,B,C,D

This stadium was actually opened just two years ago. It was needed because the 50+ year old Winnipeg Stadium was long past its prime. Actually it was to be opened in 2012 but construction delays pushed opening to the following year. The stadium, which is actually anmes as the Investors Group Field, is home to the Canadian Football team Winnipeg Blue Bombers and will actually host the Grey Cup in November this year. The new stadium was also the stage for concerts by Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, Beyonce and Jay-Z and have One Direction coming in July. They even held their first soccer match in May 2014: a women’s match of Canada vs. the U.S.

And there’s my first preview of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Five more preview blogs to go before it all begins Saturday June 6th in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.