31 July 2010

Thor Trailer

It's a little lengthy and some spoilers could be had, but after watching the Comic-Con trailer for Thor I feel more comfortable with the casting of Chris Hemsworth. Kenneth Branagh has full confidence, but Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) seemed like the better fit. Agent Coulson is featured again in the trailer and he may very well be the funniest player in the Marvel universe.

30 July 2010

Review: Dinner for Schmucks

They should have called this Brick Tamland meets the straight man. Tim (Paul Rudd) is a 6th floor analyst for a distressed assets firm (this alone would be the basis for a movie about schmucks) and with the dismissal of a higher-up, Tim has the opportunity to break it big-time. Fender Financial is in the red and could use a big boost to its liquidity with the addition of Swiss millionaire Müeller to the firm. 

Unfortunately if Tim wants to get to the 7th floor to play with the big dogs William (Daily Show's Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore) and Caldwell (Ron Livingston) he'll have to invite an idiot to dinner with big boss Lance Fender (Bruce Greenwood). Oft-proposed girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak) doesn't like this side of Tim and tells him to decline, which he would have done had an prime candidate not came into his life in the form of taxidermy enthusiast Barry (Steve Carell).

Paul Rudd has made a career as of late playing the straight man to the drunken (Sean William Scott's Wheeler in Role Models), the bro-like (Jason Segel's Sydney in I Love You, Man) and the high (Seth Rogen's Ben in Knocked Up). He doesn't try to outshine Carell's Barry, rather he allows everything to bounce off of him. He and Carell are in prime form, it's the story that fails them. 

Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) steals the show as Keiran, an artist who ponders life's little moments - being arm deep inside a zebra giving birth and the lifestyle of a goat herd - while keeping it straight-laced. That's the devotion of Barry and Keiran they both know that they're a little off, but Carell and Clement have to play it straight, as to not go meta, and distract from the film.

The biggest problem with this film is the primary problem with all of Jay Roach's comedies: there is always a lengthy storyline where the protagonist's life is seemingly destroyed only to have it all put back together in the last fifteen minutes.

Carell is entertaining without resorting to the kind of antic one would expect from a Jared Hess movie. He is the heart of the film that the French original lacks. Some might say the French original, Le dîner de cons, is better, but in my experience with french comedies they come off as extremely mean-spirited and this film does not sink to that spiteful level.

Even with the heart, Dinner for Schmucks is tedious in places and the comedy is a little lazy in places.


29 July 2010

What's Next for the Nolans?

With Inception placed firmly into the history books of cinema it is now a good opportunity to look at what the Nolan Bros. will do with their other superhero story.

I may be the only one that feels this way, but after watching Cillian Murphy as Robert Fischer Jr. in Inception, his performance made me think he could pull off the Clark Kent/Superman dynamic. The problem with the casting of a Superman (one actor rumored right now is Joe Manganiello) is that you are also casting Clark Kent. Murphy can pull off that believable fragile Kent down-to-earthness where others cannot. It also helps that Murphy has those intense blue eyes that could register as alien-like to some degree. While he is a tad slim, so was Tobey Maguire before Spider-man, muscle can be put on.

Another persistent rumor is Jon Hamm, but he has skirted the issue several times when asked and he might not be the right choice for WB if they are looking for a younger actor. But if WB is willing to go older (Robert Downey Jr. has done pretty well for the Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes franchises) Hamm is the quintessential American man on Mad Men and has gravitas to spare for Superman. Plus, having Christopher Nolan mentor this film could persuade him otherwise.

Well there wasn't any big news from Comic-Con, but I would expect some sort of news from the Brothers Nolan within the next few weeks (title announcement?). Showbiz talks now have Joseph Gordon-Levitt suiting up as the Riddler and cinematographer Wally Pfister shooting the entire affair in IMAX. Three years ago when news for The Dark Knight was scarce a week after Comic-Con the title for the Batman Begins sequel was announced and shortly after Heath Ledger was officially casted as the Joker. The wait may seem a little lengthy, but it will be worth it.

Listen to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Soundtrack

I can't believe that Edgar Wright had the Universal theme done up in an 8 bit video game intro vibe. From the soundtrack "Black Sheep" from Metric and Beck's "Ramona" are my favorites. On the score Beck's "We Are Sex Bob-Omb" & "Death to All Hipsters" are fun to rock to as well. This movie is going to be great fun. Spaced fans rejoice!

28 July 2010

Give Him the Kick!

In case the ending needed any clearing up...

(Courtesy: Last Exit to Nowhere)

Black Swan, The Town, & Buried Hit Toronto

The highly anticipated thriller from Darren Aronofsky starring Natalie Portman will be seen at Toronto's International Film Festival. Along with that is crime-caper The Town starring Ben Affleck and Jon Hamm and the Ryan Reynolds led indie hit that premiered at Sundance Buried.

Other noteables to hit the Festival are Robert Redford's The Conspirator, Casino Jack, Alejandro Gonzalez Innarittu’s Biutiful and a sure-fire contender for Best Animated film The Illusionist.

26 July 2010

The Vault: Space Camp

Relatively enjoyable because of the fantasy aspects, SpaceCamp's downfall is the poor execution of the details.

As is standard in children's films, each of the characters is introduced by the archetype they are most immediately identifiable with. This isn't really a bad thing; there are only so many minutes in a movie, and it's often better in a simple film like this just to reference which character a role is and get on with the plot. You don't watch a movie about four nerds accidentally being shot into space by an overly literal robot for the character study.

The acting errs toward the ham-fisted, with the worst performance being turned in by eventually Oscar nominee Jaoquin Pheonix. He was only 12 at the time, so you can give him a break for that. Lea Thompson turns in her usual (at the time) nerdy pretty girl routine, but it was done much better in Back to the Future.

The most entertaining part of the movie was yelling at it about all of the logical inconsistencies in the accidental space flight. Of course, a lot goes wrong while the crew is in space, but most of it didn't make too much sense (wait for the scene when only the kid can reach the oxygen tanks).

So there's nothing fantastic to report about SpaceCamp. It wasn't terrible, but I wouldn't recommend it as a movie to watch because it happens to be on TV when you have nothing better to do. Read a book instead.

23 July 2010

My Favorite Scenes: The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

The first time I saw this film I remember walking away with the feeling that "hey anyone can make a heist scene look cool, but only Pierce Brosnan can make returning a painting look that damn awesome." To boot, Nina Simone's "Sinnerman" is a pitch-perfect compliment to this scene.

20 July 2010

Stone Trailer

It shall be seen whether or not Stone will be the gritty crime thriller that one would expect with the involvement of De Niro and Norton, or Righteous Kill redux. Edward Norton hasn't had an intense role in a while and the trailer looks like he's been given a shot at a solid performance.

19 July 2010

The Town Trailer

This trailer is tense. While I held some interest in this before the spot, it shot right up to most anticipated right after the Coen's True Grit remake. Following Gone Baby Gone is no easy task, but this looks like it has a great chance. An ace cast in Affleck, Hamm, Hall, Renner and Cooper. I'll be waiting for this one eagerly.

16 July 2010

Review: Inception

Kafkaesque is a word used frequently, and for the most part incorrectly, but an entirely appropriate term to reference Christopher Nolan's latest, Inception.

Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has one last score to make before he can get his life back. Saito (Ken Watanabe) needs Cobb and his crew to infiltrate the mind of Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) and plant an idea. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is skeptical and very vocal about it. Inception, that is, the placing of an idea into someone else's subconscious hasn't been successful before, but Cobb is willing to risk it all.

Deception has always been a motif in Nolan's films and Inception is no different. This film does not hesitate to subvert what the audience's expectations are and leave you grasping for air trying to figure it all out. Irrationality lurks everywhere in our dreams. Events taken and shoved into a random assortment of our collective conscience lead down rabbit holes too uncomfortable for us to face in the daylight. Unfortunately, for Cobb this is where he works. The manifestations of their marks spring to life quickly and often in a deadly manner. Unsettling things follow us from the dream world into the next. 

An interesting trend is occurring among protagonists in Nolan's filmography. All of his films are centered around men who have lost everything. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) in Memento - his memory and his wife, Will Dormer (Al Pacino) in Insomnia - his partner and his sanity, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) in The Prestige - his wife and his inability to end his compulsion to finding Alfred Borden's secret, and of course Bruce Wayne - what hasn't he lost? Cobb, like the aforementioned characters, is not heroic by any means. In fact his motives could be seen as selfish, but there is a method to his actions (even if the missteps result in horrifying consequences).

If Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't already getting attention for Shutter Island, he has turned in another stellar performances in a still developing year. While Shutter Island may get more votes one could argue that this work is just as deserving of accolades. Gordon-Levitt and Page are stand outs as well, if their roles were indeed auditions for the third Batman they aced with flying colors. And Cillian Murphy whose role was understated in the trailers is truly excellent.

M.C. Escher could not have dreamed up a better landscape than the one provided by cinematographer Wally Pfister, special effects advisor Chris Corbould and production designer Guy Dyas. A standard for practical effects in an age where CGI reigns. Most impressive are the scenes that turn down CGI in favor of hand made sets. The hallway corridor sequence is such an example, it involved a brutal collisions on Joseph Gordon-Levitt's part but the film is much more satisfying for foregoing the computers and using an actual rotating giant hallway. Inception looks like nothing I've seen before in film. Seeing the city skyline folding in on itself in a theatre was like going to the movies for the first time again.

Nolan, a master of pace and storytelling, leaves you on the edge of your seat for almost the entirety of the film. The ending will be divisive, but its impact is shattering.


15 July 2010

The Social Network Theatrical Trailer

This is the third trailer in almost as many weeks. I can appreciate Sony trying to get this out in the public consciousness, but it might become overkill.

Here's Ryan!

Entertainment Weekly has the scoop on the new Green Lantern suit for the upcoming film. The suit is completely motion capture and, although it hasn't been seen in its entirety, it reminds me of Spawn, slightly.

(Courtesy: EW)

14 July 2010

Due Date Trailer

It's nice to see Downey Jr. in a full-fledged comedy and even better to see Galifinakis in a leading role that doesn't require him to be an idiot-savant. Shades of Planes, Trains and Automobiles can be seen but the Galifinakis's opening line eases any thoughts this is Oscar-bait.

12 July 2010

My Favorite Scenes: Catch Me If You Can (2002)

A perfectly crafted opening introduction to the film. It explains what it's about without saying anything and it manages to integrate the credits without plastering some set designer's name over Tom Hanks face when the film opens. Plus, you just can't beat a score by John Williams.

09 July 2010

Comic Book Films and the Psyche

This past decade saw an explosion in superhero films. With comic mainstays such as Batman, Spider-man and Superman, even lesser known ones like Daredevil, The Punisher, and Ghost Rider, seeing their films released in a span of time that needed heroes more than ever.

Spider-man centered around a teenager in Queens, who, after receiving a bite from a radioactive spider, rose to meet the pressures of doing the right thing in a tumultuous time. For many New Yorkers it was too easy to relate to a character like that. Bruce Wayne becomes a vigilante after seeing his parents shot down and Tony Stark see his business turned against him as the weapons his company manufactures are used to hold him ransom. The X-Men are a group of societal outcasts who are fighting simply for the right to exist. All of these heroes compartmentalized what we wanted to believe about ourselves. Forced into rigid circumstances we can do what's best.

For many these films represented a zeitgeist. Those who experienced a loss could on as a man dressed as a bat turned fear on those who prayed on the fearful. Alienated teens could be represented by a nerdy kid from Queens slinging webs across the city saving others or a group of mutants risking life and limb saving citizens who didn't, or refused, to understand them. Tony Stark dons the Iron Man suit in an effort to right the many wrongs of his past life. This collage of icons could ease the troubled minds of a society that had no one to look to. Politicians, athletes, musicians, when all of these former role models no longer provided an outlet fictional heroes became more popularized again. When no one else could be counted on to do the right thing moviegoers poured into theatres to watch idealized men and women save the world.

On the flip side of that is Spider-man 3, Watchmen and The Dark Knight. When Spider-man allows himself to be taken in a darker direction as a symbiote suit, his new persona slowly destroys Parker's life. 2007 saw a national malaise take over as a war no one foresaw lasting long overtook the national agenda and scandal after scandal involving our leaders only preceded to anger more Americans.

This triage of films suggested that in a society where we look for heroes, what we should do is look inside ourselves, rather than leave the gates of the city to tyrants. Watchmen focused on a band of guardians exhibiting the kind of behavior beknownst to psychopaths, fascists and mercenaries. Gone are the days of the unchecked optimism of a Captain America or a Superman. In the days following 9/11 Americans would have loved nothing more than Superman patrolling the sky saving victims from the wreckage. Unfortunately, most couldn't relate to the boy scouted-ness of two men devoted to the whims of a country that - in the eyes of some - left us unprotected. Superman Returns returned to theatres after a long period of national discord that left audiences distrustful with the prospect of a hero who is truly good. And accordingly the film failed at the box-office. It bears mentioning that with optimism in abundance after the election of our current President, a new Superman reboot was launched by Warner Bros. Perhaps the gleeming knight superhero film will make a comeback.

Batman is perhaps the most perplexing of the bunch, morally ambivalent, but still possessing morals, this is a man who stalks criminals at night, but draws the line at killing. The Dark Knight ends with Batman hated virtually by all of Gotham, yet he is still willing to continue in the hopes of saving his city. The Dark Knight also presents a conflicted Gotham that lets itself be swayed by a madman bent on revealing the identity of Batman. The duality of TDK suggests that the world is a pendulum where if a Batman exists so must be a Joker. A man consumed with setting the world ablaze, the Joker was an archetype of those in the world who were tired of the status quo and the corruption and sleaze. In his warped mind he could justify his actions as heroic. A superhero film would have never been that dark, even in the nineties.

As society progresses on, it remains to be seen whether this current trend of darker superhero films are nothing more than a momentary craze, or a lasting phenomenon due to the psychological stance of a public in desperate need to be saved.

Second 'Social Network' Teaser

04 July 2010

Review: Knight and Day

Girl meets boy, girl meets boy again on a plane, boy shoots everyone on plane and drugs girl so they can get away. It's a little spin on a familiar formula.

Roy Miller (Tom Cruise) is a super-spy who might need a mental adjustment, and is on the run from the government. June (Cameron Diaz) is the woman stuck with him on a flight to Boston. Things start off friendly enough, they flirt, share their future "someday" dreams and when June goes off to the bathroom, Roy dispatches everyone on the plane. Of course he is kind enough to meet her with a drink when she comes out. A kiss is exchanged and he tells her he has to land the plane.

June's flight from Wichita to Boston was to find a part for her father's GTO that she plans on rebuilding and then giving to her sister for her wedding that weekend. Unfortunately, with her new association with Roy she won't be going anywhere. Now on the run along with him, June must do everything she can to stay alive and, if possible, keep Roy alive as well.

All the credit in the world should be given to Tom Cruise. His self-effacing manner in Knight and Day is easily earns the most laughs of the entire film. To keep a straight face while shooting your way out of a situation and commenting on June's dress "The wedding is on Saturday, yeah that will be nice." The only actor that could have done it better is Mr. Deadpan himself, Bob Balaban. Cruise definitely has comedic chops (we all found that out after Tropic Thunder) and he doesn't disappoint in his role as Roy Miller.

The film's best running gags are when Cameron Diaz is drugged and she keeps coming in and out of consciousness in a more extreme situation. Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise make an excellent duo and there is much of a connection between the two as there is between George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air.

It's almost a throwback to Alfred Hitchcock romantic thrillers - right down to the MacGuffin. But from the way the film is marketed on trailers, and tv spots you could easily make the mistake of assuming it's an 80's action movie. The film's only downfall is its predictability. Anytime Peter Sarsgaard is casted in a film you know exactly what you are going to get as a moviegoer. It's still a fun ride and something to watch while theatres are packed with crowds for Twilight and Airbender.

**1/2 out of ****

03 July 2010

3D So Far

With Avatar's release last year 3-D became the instant "big thing" in Hollywood and so far it's resulted in some disappointment. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland did extremely well at the box-office, but most of that could easily be due to Johnny Depp, the 3D was panned by most reviewers.

Post conversion attempts such as The Last Airbender and Clash of the Titans were both met derisively for both their plot and 3-D, so not a successful venture either way. Most filmmakers are learning that post-conversion just isn't working and have decided to film with 3D cameras instead of making the hasty, grimy and often unappealing post process.

Saw VII, Jackass 3D, and the rest of the offerings are expected to just more of the same, tired pop-out schtick that has been passed off as the real thing for years.

One of the films being released made in production with 3D cameras is Tron Legacy. With that said that's why Tron Legacy is the first big picture I'll be looking forward to in 3D for the rest of the year. The 3-D for Toy Story 3 was nice, but nothing beyond the mainstream. I haven't seen How To Train Your Dragon so I could not speak to that. The only time that seeing the third dimension in theatres was a big deal was when I saw Avatar last Christmas. Hopefully, Tron Legacy will be more of that same full-immersion 3-D that James Cameron blew collective cinema-goers mind's with.

01 July 2010

Listen to Inception Soundtrack Now

While the soundtrack for Inception won't be out for a few more weeks you can get a sneak peek at some of the tracks now at Amazon. So far my favorite tracks are "Radical Notion" and "528491".