31 January 2010

Review: A Single Man

Colin Firth plays George Falconer —one of the coolest film names ever by the way —a repressed man who has woken up without his lover Jim (Matthew Goode) by his side for months. A phone call from one of Jim's cousins makes his new reality clear: Jim died in a car accident outside of Denver. George will not be allowed to come to the wedding, family only of course. This revelation shatters George's life, but Firth plays it with the quiet dignity he is renowned for.

So now the man who was only allowed some small semblance of happiness must go about his life not allowed to grieve his loss without being discovered. This would be harder for many people, but every morning George cinches his tie knot he separates his passions from his brain. Every morning he goes into work he becomes an unfeeling machine, only passing the time until the Cubans nuke us to kingdom come. Months pass and George contemplates suicide, that is until Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) one of his young students takes an interest in the cagey old man.

It would never have occurred to most that designer Tom Ford would've made a good director, but A Single Man possesses a touch that rivals great auteurs. Shots are staged just so and the pacing never flounders. When George finally acknowledges that there is more to life than what's lost, the colors flourish and create one of the most beautiful scenes on celluloid I have ever seen.

Colin Firth delivers the performance of his entire career, he may be known for romantic comedies, but that image could change if the Best Actor Oscar goes to the Brit. Matthew Goode who has also turned in quite a few good performances in The Lookout, Watchmen and Brideshead Revisited, performs the thankless task of being the lover often ignored in films like Milk. There is a cool cameo to be on the look out for as well—no sense in spoiling it for you.

A Single Man reminds me of an old Federico Fellini film. The well dressed, meticulously groomed cast, and a central protagonist plagued with existential angst. This film looks beautiful and at the least should garner four Academy Awards nods for art direction, cinematography, and costuming (not to mention the Best Actor nod that Colin Firth will no doubt get).

Grief is infrequently captured like this and, thanks to Tom Ford and Colin Firth, this is one of the most beautiful takes imaginable.

***1/2 out of ****

29 January 2010

The Vault: The Limey (1999)

Much like when Pam Grier and Robert Forster were casted as an extension of their life-long roles in Jackie Brown Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda dust off their counterculture roles again for Steven Soderbergh's The Limey.

Terry Valentine (Fonda) is a record producer, and an aging lothario who, "took the whole '60s Southern California zeitgeist and ran with it." Sadly what he ran with it into was a wall. In his efforts to keep making vast amounts of profit dealing drugs, he separated himself from the venture altogether. But when Wilson's daughter threatens to make that link between Valentine and the drugs, he kills her.

When we first meet Wilson (Stamp) he is flying to Los Angeles, he has only been out of prison for a short time but after this he doesn't care if he goes back for life. Wilson has just found out that his daughter has died. Wilson is angry and Wilson wants revenge.  There is a scene in The Limey where after doing some tough talking four guys rough up Wilson and throw him outside. Wilson immediately shakes himself off goes back in kills three of them and lets the fourth one live to tell Valentine, "I'm coming for him...Im fucking coming!"

Stamp isn't an invincible action movie cliche rather a hardened man that lucks out against a cast of aging hipsters who thought they would never age. Definitely one of Soderbergh's more fun films (better than the Ocean's Series) if you ask me.

28 January 2010

Miramax Closed

Disney will be closing the doors on indie innovator Miramax for good today. It's hard to say whether this is indicative of where indie film is going or just the bad business practices of Disney, but it is gone. Here are some of the films Miramax left us to remember them by: Pulp Fiction, Clerks, Spirited Away and Doubt.

26 January 2010

I'ma Get Medieval on Your Ass

I only own about four film posters in my house, but if more theatrical sheets look like this I might have about thirty. More minimalist posters for Quentin Tarantino's work for purchase here.

25 January 2010

'Cyrus' Trailer

The tale of a boy in his twenties (Jonah Hill) coming between his mother (Marisa Tomei) and her new beau (John C. Reilly) is a little too awkward for my taste.

24 January 2010

SAG Winners

Last night Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds took Best Ensemble Cast to my surprise, I thought for sure The Hurt Locker or Precious would take that prize.

Otherwise the Screen Actors Guild Awards were fairly predictable with Jeff Bridges taking Best Actor (Crazy Heart), Sandra Bullock for Best Actress (The Blind Side) and Mo'Nique and Christoph Waltz for their Supporting roles (Precious & Inglourious Basterds).

And for you fellow Mad Men fans out there they took home the award for Best Drama Ensemble.

21 January 2010

'Buried' Teaser Trailer

Consider my ticket bought already.

19 January 2010

First Official Inception Photo

If you have seen any footage from Inception - and if you read this site you probably have - one would assume this screencap is of Leonardo DiCaprio's character after putting a silencer on his pistol in the kitchen. Beyond that I have no clue.

(Courtesy: Warner Bros.)

16 January 2010

The Vault: Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

Prison exploitation films are renowned for their depictions of graphic violence. Ricky-Oh: The Story of Ricky is a kung-fu / gore film that takes graphic violence to a comical extreme. Far from being your typical boring gorefest, Ricky-Oh has a respectable 7.1 rating on IMDB, and an Avatar-beating 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film was made in Hong Kong during Jackie Chan's heyday there. Ricky-Oh's star, Siu-Wong Fan, has nothing near Chan's skill, so the film makes up for this with a lot of super-powered fighters and cheesy effects.

The gore shots are generally only shown for less than a second. It was a good editing choice because the low production quality of the film precludes convincing visuals. It works better letting the viewers imagination fill in the details.

I just watched it last night, and haven't enjoyed a film as much as 'Ricky-Oh' for quite a while.

14 January 2010

Like We'll Forget

UPDATE: Andrew Garfield (Boy A, Red Riding Trilogy) has officially been announced as the new Spider-man. And 500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb will take over the new trilogy.

Sony has announced, after several weeks of a head-butting contest between the studio and Raimi, that Spider-Man 4 will be shelved and the Raimi-directed Spider-Man franchise as we know it is dead.

The reboot, which will be scripted by James Vanderbilt, will return Peter Parker to his high school roots where he comes into very close contact with a radioactive spider and yada yada yada.

Do we really need this rebooted less than ten years from the origin story? Well I hope Sony has realized they created a precedent. Whenever this series fails - I'm assuming immediately - they will go right back to the beginning every time. The audience cared where Peter Parker's character was going, we grew up with him. You can't identify with a perpetual teenager. I can only hope that Robert Pattinson isn't announced as Peter Parker.

Back Coco

'The Company Men' Teaser


Seemingly destined to end up on Stuff White People Like this trailer doesn't reveal much of plot, or anything really, but keep an eye out for this one.

13 January 2010

Inception Bigger Than The Dark Knight

According to Christopher Nolan himself, from his interview with the LA Times:
“It’s something that we had been talking about on and off for seven or eight years," Thomas said. "Coming off of the ‘The Dark Knight,’ the only thing we really knew is that we wanted to do something more personal. It seemed like the right time to do this. The fact that it’s really just an enormous movie -- that wasn’t ever really a factor in the decision. This story lends itself to a movie of this size."
A four dimension film? Well you can't say that Nolan has become complacent in his post Dark Knight career. The opening shot of Paris folding in on itself could have confirmed that, but the question will be how will the film perform with its large budget.

11 January 2010

Lady Snowblood and Tarantino's Kill Bill

Tarantino freely appropriates and riffs off of cult cinema classics in his work. The first half of his 2003 film in two parts, Kill Bill Vol. 1, is a story of revenge that refers to (and borrows from) the Japanese revenge classic Lady Snowblood.

Some examples of this follow:

As is common in many martial arts films, both movies feature a sequence showing the protagonist ringed by aggressors, fighting each in rapid succession. The fight scene in Lady Snowblood is more similar to the upstairs fighting scene in Kill Bill, but the overhead shot above ties nicely into my next point:

The climax of each film is in a remarkably similar locale. Each crescendo plays out in a dance hall ringed with an upper balcony and with a similar grid design on the floor.

And of course, both films feature a multitude of severed limbs. (aside: Fitz previously wrote about Tarantino's effective use of not showing the most violent act in Reservoir Dogs, instead relying on the imagination of the viewer to deepen the emotional intensity of the scene. Not showing acts of violence is one of the oldest and most formidable techniches in formative film making. By showing the myriad maimings in Kill Bill, Tarantino allows the viewer to interact on the visual rather than mental level, thereby lessening the impact of the violence.)

I admit that the shots above don't amply demonstrate the deep similarities between the two films. It's difficult to do the comparison justice with stills, and the argument is more compelling when done via video. Any fans of Tarantino or Kill Bill should definitely check out Lady Snowblood. It offers an interesting view into the production of Kill Bill, and is also an interesting film in its own right.

07 January 2010

Scott Pilgrim and The Flaming Sword

No, this isn't a Harry Potter spin-off but it could be assumed from the first official production photos from Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.