26 February 2010

'Perrier's Bounty' Trailer

23 February 2010

The Vault: The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Criticisms of corporate culture often cast a naive outsider as the protagonist. The Hudsucker Proxy's proxy is a man, perceived as an incompetent, who is instilled as the president of Hudsucker Industries so that the company's stock value will plummet, allowing the board of directors to scoop up the devalued stock on the cheap.

Tim Robbins stars in the titular role, with Jennifer Jason Leigh posting an incredibly likable performance as a reporter investigating Robbins' rapid rise, and the always venerable Paul Newman plays the man pulling the strings on the board of directors. Written and director by the Coen brothers in collaboration with Sam Raimi, this film is beautiful, and sharp as a tack. With all of this incredible talent involved, it's no surprise that the film is so enjoyable.

If the Coen brothers had released this film today, it wouldn't have been met with as mixed reception as it was back in 1994. The groupthink in reviewing circles has definitely swung to the Coen's corner since then. It's a bit of a shame that this is so, because honesty is so important in reviewing; the film does incorporate a lot of non-standard imagery and formative elements that reviewers aren't generally kind towards; it would only be fair for the reviews to remain bad today. However, that would just be another reviewing prejudice informing the opinion. Therefore, the film is not only very enjoyable, providing valuable social commentary for the intelligent viewer, it also exposes a weakness in the reviewing community.

Last Call Oscar Predictions

VoucherCodes.co.uk is hosting an Oscar contest with a grand prize winner of 250 pounds ($390) in Amazon vouchers.

If you also would like to participate in an Oscar pool with Ben and I head to AwardsPicks and make your predictions!

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Directing: Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds
Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique - Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Writing (Original Screenplay): Inglourious Basterds
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Up in the Air
Animated Feature Film: Up
Original Song: T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham ("The Weary Kind") - Crazy Heart
Original Score: Michael Giacchino - Up
Cinematography: The Hurt Locker
Film Editing: Avatar
Art Direction: Nine
Costume Design: Nine
Makeup: Star Trek
Visual Effects: Avatar
Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Sound Editing: Avatar
Foreign Language Film: The White Ribbon - Germany
Documentary Feature: The Cove
Documentary Short: The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
Short Film (Animated): Logorama
Short Film (Live Action): The Door

21 February 2010

Review: Shutter Island

It has been almost twenty years since Martin Scorsese has last took on a genre film like Cape Fear but with his latest effort Scorsese has returned to the horror landscape once again.

Let me clarify that Shutter Island is not a horror film like The Wolfman where the "scares" are primarily from a loud musical score at a select moment and at least thirteen gallons of blood. This is real horror; the things that keep you up at night long after watching them like The Shining, or Jacob's Ladder.

Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo)is on investigation to find out how patient Rachel Solando disappeared from the Ashecliffe Institute on Shutter Island. The only ferry that comes to the island is under control of the institute and the island is more than ten miles away from the Boston shore. Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) is concerned with the safety of people on the island after the escape of Solando, but he is keeping something from Teddy and Chuck. As more and more is unwrapped about Ashecliffe Teddy's motives become clear Shutter Island is capable of more than it is letting on and someone needs to blow this out of the water.

DiCaprio at this stage of his career reminds me more and more of Martin Sheen during his peak runs in Badlands and Apocalypse Now. The struggle of his characters are internalized such a degree that he doesn't even know who he is anymore. The Departed was the greatest example of this, but with Shutter Island DiCaprio might have given his best performance yet. With this film and Inception out in July DiCaprio will definitely be nominated for Best Actor this year.

Robert Richardson, who previously shot Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds this past year turns in a solid effort in nailing the atmosphere of the film. A constant threat of being found out lurks around the Ashecliffe Institute and that fear is evoked in the audience thanks to Richardson's deft touch of shadowing and light.

Steven Spielberg has made several World War II films during his career, but his counterpart Scorsese has not. But in a roundabout way Shutter Island is his WWII piece. Men committ sometimes terrible atrocities during war and when they come back life isn't always the same. Not everyone comes home like Private Ryan did.

Shutter Island is masterfully crafted by Martin Scorsese. There are references to Hitchcock, Kubrick and old classic horror auteurs (even one of Scorsese's favs The Red Shoes). Never once does the film resort to loud scares just a slowly mounting tension that never lets you out of your chair. The cinematography, score and performances all round out the best film of the year so far.


18 February 2010

Review: Defendor (****)

Vigilantism exists in the grey fuzz that surrounds what society deems to be ethical behaviour. Actions taken in this vein may benefit society, but the subjective application of justice has the potential to do more harm than good.

In Defendor, Woody Harrelson plays the titular hero, a man of below average intelligence who suffered deep mental and emotional scarring in his childhood. As a self-styled superhero, he roams the city by night dealing street justice to those he deems (as Dirty Harry once famously did) "punks."

The film is beautifully shot, using a range of cinematic techniques to calmly elicit appropriate emotional responses in the viewer. The film is about the grittiness of a big city, and its vistas of Hamilton, the old industrial city, are hauntingly beautiful and enticing.

Woody Harrelson plays an impressive combination of Woody from Cheers and Mickey from Natural Born Killers. Woody may not be considered one of the acting greats of our day, but its easy to see why the man garned an Oscar nom for his work last year in The Messenger. His performance in Defendor is easily up to that level.

While the visuals and acting are both great, where the film really excels is in its writing. The subtle dialog explores themes of vigilante justice, police corruption, friendship, heroism, and goodness. The leitmotif is that justice is a tricky concept; the film is essentially an ode to moral relativism, sprinkled with some guilty laughs.

Shot on a shoestring $4 million budget, the movie demonstrates that cinema is not a medium whose strengths are best expressed by big-budget special effects, but by the careful, heart-wrenching examination of the human psyche, by touching drama, and by strong performances. Defendor is a movie about the dumb hero in all of us, about overcoming our inadequacies to do great things. It's a shame that a film like this will probably be overlooked, because it was truly lovely.

Oren Moverman to Write/Direct Cobain Bio

The Playlist & Deadline Hollywood report writer/director of The Messenger Oren Moverman is in talks to pull double duty on the Universal produced Kurt Cobain biopic previously written by David Bienoff (Brothers, 25th Hour).

Considering how well The Messenger has been receieved I have high hopes for this project. Of course you have to take into account what kind of effect widow Courtney Love will have on this project (hopefully minimal). No actors have been attached to play Cobain or Love, but I imagine casting will commence soon.

16 February 2010

Review: Crazy Heart

It was shocking to read that Jeff Bridges of The Big Lebowski, Bad Company, The Contender, The Fisher King, and countless other great films has received not a single Oscar for his efforts. That will change this year.

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) has been around the bend a few times. Most men stop the circuit of hard drinking and crashing in cheap motels, but Blake is more than comfortable with it. He performs at a club, bar, what have you and then he retires to a handful of drinks.

The drink has consumed more than just his liver though, it's draining his talent. Gigs are hard to come by for Blake, too often he has had to play to audiences of apathetic bowling fans.

Rewarding Bridges for his performance as Bad Blake in Crazy Heart is not a collective award, it is for the best performance of the year. Sure, the redemptive angle of a hard-luck veteran has been played out before and often, but Bad Blake is one of those characters that when you look into the man's eyes years worth of pain, regret, and weariness phase themselves into your inner psyche. Bridges completely immerses himself into Bad.

Now that's not to say that Bridges is the sole interest of the film, just the biggest. Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is one of the many surprises of this film. In Jean, Blake sees a reflection of hurt and lost opportunity. A single mother whose chance meeting with Blake could set her up for at least a little while longer. Blake knows immediately that there is something more than an interview to be had and he knows he can't let her go out that door without knowing he will see her again.

Colin Farrell, another pleasant surprise, actually pulled off a southern accent and is enjoyable as Bridge's former protege and current country superstar. The feud between the singers never reaches that scripted back-stabbing shenanigans that is seen so often.

Admittedly, country music does not really appeal to me, wait scratch that, I do not like country music at all. And it should attest to Jeff Bridges talent that I enjoyed Crazy Heart so much.

The story goes along at mostly the same pace as The Wrestler, but the thing is you don't care that you've seen this before. It is a chance to watch one of the greatest actors ever occupy the screen. Jeff Bridges has to been seen in Crazy Heart. It's a fine character study.


12 February 2010

Looking for a Valentine's Movie?

Now neither one of these films will have the "best feel-good splendor ever" (soon to be Pete Hammond's credit on the DVD box) of Valentine's Day coming out this weekend, but they are in fact warmer and thought-provoking so stay in with your loved one and give these two a watch.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has been gushed about quite a bit the past few months and if you have not seen this film yet do so immediately. Joel (Jim Carrey) is stuck in life and after breaking up with his girlfriend he can't bear to be with his own memories. So he decides to have her erased from his mind. But what happens after is perhaps the most warming sentiment on film. There is something about Clementine (Kate Winslet) that both makes you rue and ache for your failed past relationships.

I saw Lars and the Real Girl during my winter break and never got around to writing about it. It makes much more sense to post it now anyway. Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a shut-in living in the garage of his older brother Gus (Paul Schneider, how has this guy not been given a movie by now?) and his wife Karin (Emily Mortimer). He doesn't talk much or at all after the death of his father except to tell the co-worker he shares his cubicle with, "that he got coffee last time." He has an admirer in Margo (Kelli Garner) but Lars in content with going to work, nodding hello and going about his business as if you were not there.

For the most part no one really pays attention to Lars until he purchases a sex doll - don't worry there is nothing but the best intentions for that doll - dresses it up in Karin's clothing and parades it around church, dinners, parties and around town. Gus who already thought his brother was nuts pleads with Dr. Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) to fix him as quickly as possible. Lars and the Real Girl had a premise that could've been exploited very easily into a formulaic rom-com, but the interest in the story comes not from Lar's romantic opportunities but the town that embraces its own. A modern Capra film if there ever was one.

The Vault: Lost in Translation (2003)

There are those airplane conversations with a stranger in which you reveal far more about yourself than you ever could to someone you know. For Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson) it's simply because you're in a space with someone who speaks the same language.

Charlotte's husband (Giovanni Ribisi) is a photographer who in his short time in Tokyo has adapted it as his home and tells Charlotte that she wouldn't have any fun going around with him anyway - more likely is that he is infatuated with the attention he receives from starlet Kelly (Anna Faris). Bob is an actor whose career has relegated him to doing caricatures of Roger Moore for whiskey ads. Murray doesn't go for broke in playing Bob rather being wryly sardonic than play for the guttural laugh. It took a lot of restraint for Murray to play Bob Harris and he was handsomely rewarded with a nomination for Best Actor for it. 

This year's Best Actor race reminds me quite a bit of the 2004 Academy Awards. Sean Penn after being nominated several times, but not winning for Dead Man Walking, Sweet and Lowdown and I Am Sam is nominated again for Mystic River and his biggest challenge is Bill Murray for Lost in Translation. While both performances are remarkable Murray's character is the one you want to hang with, yet ultimately the Oscar went to Penn for his collective works. Flash forward to this year's race Colin Firth and George Clooney both give great performances, but Jeff Bridges has gone unrewarded so long that it really would be a travesty to not give him the Oscar for Crazy Heart.

Marriage is hard and Bob has known this for quite some time, but Charlotte in her youth is just catching up to that fact. Two kindred spirits unfocused and unsure where their lives are headed take solace in each other's company during Bob's stay. Coppola could have gone for the lusty melodrama but instead allows Bob and Charlotte to just be with one another. Whether Bob tells Charlotte he loves her, to go back to her husband, or whatever, the whisper they share at the end of one of the finest endings ever.

09 February 2010

Nolan Officially on 'The Dark Knight Rises'

For a long time it was speculated that director Christopher Nolan would not be participating in the third Batman film, but it appears that those fears can be laid to rest as Nolan has officially signed on to direct Batman 3 (or whatever the hell it will be titled soon).

You Voted and Performance of the Decade Was...

Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. DDL received nineteen of fifty five votes to take this contest with Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker close behind with seventeen votes. Winslet received only two votes for playing Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Hoffman got one pity vote for his portrayal of Truman Capote (it's up for debate between Ben and I whether this or Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is the best of his career).

It's no surprise that Day-Lewis won and is on the top of many lists for playing Plainview with such a menace, yet remain one of the most captivating performances since Welles in Citizen Kane, or Al Pacino in The Godfather. Plainview unfolds like a nightmare that at once is pleasing, but is never more than a few seconds away from becoming terrifying. The manner in which he drug himself, after breaking his leg mining silver, is an amazing examination of the drive that Plainview exhibits in becoming the wealthiest man in this century. The drive to be best all men.

To Recap:
Day-Lewis 19
Ledger 17
Winslet 12
Hoffman 9

03 February 2010

The Snubs of 2009

Every year it's the same thing some surprises - In the Loop for Original Screenplay - some disappointments - no love for Mackie - and down right stupid selections - Cruz for Supporting Actress.

Melanie Laurent - Inglourious Basterds - Lead Actress
While Pitt and gang were the face of the film Shosanna played an integral part of the story and was the center of attention in the most tension-filled scene all year. Try eating a strudel without shuddering.

Marion Cotillard - Public Enemies - Supporting Actress
The heart of John Dillinger's affections Cotillard delivered as a coat check girl caught up in the celebrity whirlwind of being a gangster's girl. While it is safe to assume Cotillard wasn't recognized because she just won Best Actress two years ago, good performances should not go unnoticed.

A Single Man - Best Picture
For every reason I stated in earlier in my critique of it a Best Picture contender (I understood that the ten nominees were to include popcorn films, but with Avatar in there Blind Side did not need to be nominated) this should've been a contender.

Where the Wild Things Are - Best Cinematography
While one could argue that the story was flimsy and that it was more "where the emo things are", it cannot be said that this was one of the most exquisitely shot films of the year.
Which snubs bothered you most?

02 February 2010

Cameos of the Year

We are all familiar with Bill Murray's surprise appearance in Zombieland, but what other cameos made audiences glad they came to the cinema?

Sam Elliot in Up in the Air

Elliot isn't given much to work with in brief role as Captain Maynard Finch, but come on, it's Sam Elliot!

Edward Norton in The Invention of Lying

Norton hasn't appeared in a comedy in a long while, but when he appeared onscreen after pulling over Louis C.K. and Ricky Gervais with the addition of a sporting mustache I couldn't help but laugh. The fact that he's a dirty cop pulling people over to support his coke habit is just a cherry on it all.

Jon Hamm in A Single Man

Though Bill Murray may have the cooler cameo in Zombieland, the overall winner in cameos from this year is Jon Hamm's small turn in A Single Man. Hamm's turn as a relative delegated to calling George (Colin Firth) after the death of his lover is an ace casting move in the hands of director Tom Ford. He already nailed the feel of the 60's in A Single Man and adding the man who is Don Draper is just genius in an already superb directorial debut.