31 August 2010

'Social Network' Site Launched

Columbia has launched a new site for David Fincher's The Social Network.

 It features 46 new photos (promos, and stills), the trailers released so far and a hint of former NIN frontman Trent Reznor's score for the film (shades of Why So Serious from The Dark Knight soundtrack). And if that weren't good enough for you there's a blurb of Rolling Stone's four star rave that suggests this could be the best film of the year so far.

29 August 2010

The Vault: Solaris (2002)

Steven Soderbergh has always been an interesting filmmaker, but for the most part all of his wide variety of films have been centered around: a cool heists (Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Out of Sight), biographies (Erin Brokovich, Good Night & Good Luck, Che), and the odd (Kafka, Bubble, Schizopolis). Solaris is a venture of sorts for Soderbergh as it is his most intimate film to date. There is no cool sheen to replace substance - only a heart that beats throughout the story.

Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) is urged to the space station by friend and colleague Dr. Gibrarian, whose distressed message to Earth lures him away from his grief of his dead wife. Once aboard the Prometheus Chris finds his friend dead on a slab and two distraught crew members left. There appears to be a small child, but Chris shrugs it off, or at least until he finds out the truth: everyone on the Prometheus has either gone mad, or killed themselves after receiving a "visitor".

Rheya (Natascha McElhone) is Chris's dead wife. So at first Chris does not know how to react to her sudden existence at his side in bed the following morning. His wife is dead, but here Rheya is. She looks like her, speaks like her and shares her memories and feelings. Pain-stricken he traps her into a pod and launches her into space. Chris speaks with Snow and Gordon (Viola Davis) about this phenomena. Gordon theorizes that Solaris is to blame for the facsimiles and warns Chris not to treat her as his dead wife.

After dreaming of her again Rheya appears with Chris the following morning and he decides to make it work. Unfortunately, Rheya becomes self-aware after speaking with Gordon and attempts suicide. She heals almost instantaneously and Chris's determination to keep her alive stops her from completing the act, momentarily.

George Clooney has been extremely brave in choosing roles this past decade. He could have just coasted off of his People's Sexiest Man Alive awards, but instead he chooses films like this and The Men Who Stare at Goats, and Michael Clayton. Hardly box office assurances. The character of Chris Kelvin involves ripping open a lot of still healing wounds and Clooney never sells a false emotion throughout.

For many Solaris 2.0 was merely a love story in space instead of an adaptation of the provocative Lem novel before it. I have never seen the original and can not speak to whether Soderbergh's attempt is better or worse, but I will say that this is a superb drama. What can we really know of the people we love? Rheya's utterings of "I'm suicidal because that's how you remember me." "I'm not the person I remember. I don't remember experiencing these things." suggest that maybe Chris didn't know his wife. These aren't merely replicants but actualized, thinking beings, that probe into our consciousness. It asks the audience, "What really makes us human?"

27 August 2010

Review: Winter's Bone

Winter’s Bone starts off in the comfortable warmth of a small wood-fired cabin. This pocket of an intimate moment between Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) and her siblings is about to be ruptured.

A visit from the sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) comes to inform Ree that her father is in trouble with the law again. Ree's father has a reputation as a meth cook and his product has lead him to jail several times. His absence suits Ree fine, she can take care of her near-catatonic mother as well as her brother and sister.

The only problem with his latest arrest is that he has put up their home as bail. If he doesn't appear for his trial, Ree and the family will lose their home. Her father's court appearance is near and he cannot be found. Ree can shoulder a lot of weight, but she needs her home to keep everyone on their feet.

If Ree wants to keep her family together she will have to navigate the dangerous Ozark terrain. The occupants of the backwoods are slavishly devoted to their kin and some of Ree's questions prove a little too probing. Teardrop (John Hawkes) could find answers to these questions, but he knows the virtue of not venturing into the affairs of others. Still, Ree won't find her father without the aid of her fearsome uncle.

At first look you would never suspect that Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes aren't natives to the Ozarks. Lawrence, until now was only known for her role in the Bill Engvall Show, so her naturalistic realization of Ree absolutely floors you. Character actor John Hawkes bends and conforms to most any role offered, but Teardrop's mix of rage and unnerving calm is absolutely frightening. Hawkes could only communicate in a glare and yet say everything that needs to be said.

Winter's Bone succeeds largely because of its little-known cast who shape-shifts into the characters onscreen and a star-making performance from a young Jennifer Lawrence.

Between Lawrence and Hawkes' riveting performances, the third most prominent character is the small town where everything unfolds. Debra Granik uses the camera as an eye into the harsh beauty of the Missouri woods. Ree treads over thin ice in her search for her father and the landscape effortlessly lends itself to the violence that lurks in her neighbor's hearts.

Ree's harrowing trials only serve to teach her an incredibly valuable lesson: those with little will do everything to keep it.

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

26 August 2010

I Love You Phillip Morris Gets Release Date

Finally! Reports have it that Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment have the rights to I Love You Phillip Morris starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. Roadside Attractions has set a December 3 release date. For a long while it was thought that this film was never going to see the light of day which is disappointing because Carrey himself said that reading the script for this was like reading Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he just had to do it. And now we will get to see the fruits of his labor.

(via: Deadline)

25 August 2010

127 Hours Trailer

I may never have been a big fan of the politics of Utah, but jeez does that state look beautiful on camera. Anthony Dod Mantle (collaborator with Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire) may need to find room on his Oscar shelf come awards season. Franco is really starting to get away from that Saul Silver (Pineapple Express) Daniel Desario (Freaks and Geeks) image and given a lot of solo screentime he will have to carry this film.

24 August 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (***1/2)

Without going so far into the realm of self-conscious comedy as Wright's past masterpieces, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World raises the bar for hipster-nerd comedies.

The film is an ode to the modern day slacker; Scott (Micheal Cera) is living through the proverbial quarter-life crisis of the average 22 year-old. He's dating a 17 year-old high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) to avoid the serious hurt suffered in relationships past. Meanwhile, the drummer in his band Kim (Alison Pill, excellently cast) harbours similar feelings toward him.

Soon enough, Scott meets the woman of his dreams (literally) when Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) skates into his life. His sole source of grounded discourse comes from an unlikely source, his gay room mate Wallace, with whom Scott shares a bed (played by Kieran Culkin, in the film's show-stealing role). If this mess of relationships seems like a load of spoilers, don't worry; we're not yet out of the first 10 pages of the graphic novel.

The film is targetted directly at the market of 20-something's who've grown up listening to indie-rock, playing video games, and struggling through relationships. It also features some of the best cameos of the year, with appearances by Don McKellar, Chris Evans, and the lamentable Jason Schwartzman.

It's necessary to point out that the film wasn't as good as Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead. While Wright isn't up to his past form, he's still doing better than most any other modern comedic director, especially as an auteur. The failing of this film may lie in his decision to release the reigns somewhat on the writing aspect of the production of the film.

23 August 2010

The Ending: Inception

After watching Inception for a second time this weekend I can say with certainty that I know which world Cobb is in.

It should go without saying that this discussion will invoke spoilers so people who have not seen Inception (and honestly how many people could that be?) tread carefully.

Armed with a secondary knowledge of all the tricks to distinguish between Cobb's (Leonardo DiCaprio) dreams and the waking life my girlfriend and I spent our Saturday deciphering every little moment in Christopher Nolan's latest mind-bender. For every dream Cobb is in his wedding band is placed securely on his ring finger, when he is not it disappears. A key point to remember during the last scene of the film. As Cobb sets down his luggage to spin his totem one last time his band does not appear on his hand. More importantly, the children are wearing different clothes than the same outfits during all the previous scenes.

Whether Ariadne (Ellen Page) is a plant by Miles (Michael Caine) to convince Cobb to "come back to reality" or just a concerned bystander is for you to decide. Personally, the Saito-Fischer substory seems too real for it to be a facade to lull Cobb back to the real world.

Now, let's address those questions surrounding how Cobb got back from his dream to limbo to real life. The first is easiest to explain, after Mal (Marion Cotillard) dies Cobb presumably dives off the crumbling building in the same fashion as Fischer (Cillian Murphy) and Ariadne where he is transportated to Limbo. Not long afterward Cobb washes ashore and is taken to Saito (Ken Watanabe). Gun in hand Saito and Cobb help each other recognize why they are there and what Cobb has to do to get back. The last shot is of Saito picking up Cobb's gun before we jump back to the airline. Christopher Nolan could have been more clear in lengthening the scenes before the cut-aways, but the point of Inception was to always leave a little doubt in your mind.

The main criticisms levied at Inception is that it is flashy, yet below the surface, entirely devoid of substance. Now, that I just will not believe. There are Thoreau-ian themes throughout the film, "To be awake is to be alive." Miles (Michael Caine) mentions as much to Cobb when he begs him to, "Come back to reality." Cobb has been away from his children for, what it presumed to be, a few years running heists that won't bring him any closer back to his old life. Only in awakening can Cobb truly live his life in a "perpetual morning," which is to say that he will never experience the darkness again.

20 August 2010

New 'Town' Screencaps

It's nice to see that The Town won't be all about gunplay and shoot-em-up robberies. What was special about Michael Mann's Heat is that it showed Neil McCauley (DeNiro) on downtime and what he was like without the mask. Affleck knows what he is going for in The Town and, while it may not be an awards contender, this will top my must-see list.

(Courtesy: The Playlist)

18 August 2010

'Black Swan' Poster

This may seem redundant given that the trailer for this was just posted, but I think that this poster is easily one of the most minimalistic, yet captivating, one-sheets I have ever seen.

Black Swan Trailer

I was hesitant to fully invest myself into this picture - granted I've never been a big fan of ballet - but this looks to be just as good as Aronofsky's previous works in The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream.

17 August 2010

'The Dark Knight Rises' Wishlist

With the third Batman film looking to start production in 2011 it's time to look at a few different directions that the Nolan Bros. could go with the film.

1) Batman as an Outlaw

With the aftermath of The Dark Knight Batman is officially persona non grata to the city of Gotham. To many, he is the primary factor the Joker decided to wreak havoc on their lives. Commisioner Gordon will have a tightrope to walk handling his job duties and assisting Batman in restoring Gotham to what it could have been prior to Dent's scarring and the Joker's deadly plans. In absense of the Joker in the next film an all-out war against Batman could easily replace the hole of a more traditional villain.

2) A New Batmobile

The tumbler is destroyed, I can't see a Batwing being invented, especially with the sense of realism Director Christopher Nolan is going for. So will we see a repeat of the batpod, or a new vehicle created by Nathan Crowley (production designer)?

3) A New Batcave

And what better to go along with a new Batmobile than a new Batcave? Presumably Wayne Manor is rebuilt by now and the foundations in the southeast corner have extensive renovations. Whether we will see another supercomputer like in The Dark Knight is up for debate, but the Batcave will be improved.

4) A Menacing Villain

Heath Ledger's take on the Joker was easily one of the finest portrayals of a villain ever and whoever steps into the shoes of the next Nolan villain will have their work cut out for them. Bruce is in a very dark place right now: Rachel's death, his failure to save Harvey, and an entire city against him, whoever takes over the reins as Gotham's Public Enemy won't have to try too hard to take down Batman, but I can imagine that mind games will be a huge portion of their repertoire.

16 August 2010

My Favorite Scenes: The Big Lebowski (1998)

This particular scene is so quotable I can't even begin to pick a favorite line: "It really tied the room together." "Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature." "Donnie you're out of your element here!" The Coens have crafted one of the finest send ups of film noir, while still having you laugh out loud.

13 August 2010

Review: Animal Kingdom

A teenager finds himself thrown into the criminal lifestyle when his mother overdoses and leaves him orphaned. Joshua Cody (James Frecheville) hasn't seen his family for a long time and the more information that comes out about the dealings of the Cody clan, perhaps this was for the best.

His grandmother, affectionately called Smurf (Jacki Weaver), is the matriarch of perhaps the most violent armed-robbery crew in Australia and possesses in her arsenal the most sadistically devoted son in cinema history (Ben Mendelsohn). Mendelsohn's portrayal of Pope makes Norman Bates seem relatively tame in comparison.

After Joshua unwittingly participates in the murder of two police officers, he must make a decision and Sergeant Leckie (Guy Pearce) offers two choices. Testify against his uncles and run the risk of having to hide the rest of his life, or risk incarceration and become King of his Pride.

Director David Michôd has a lot to work to do with a virtual unknown as his lead. Whether it was an intentional choice or not, James Frecheville appears to be in way over his head and it showed. When comparing Frecheville with Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom suffers from a lack of a compelling presence in its protagonist. Edgerton must have used up most of the charisma with his presence, but the Aussie's screentime was virtually nil.

Surprisingly, the Cody most worth watching was Smurf. Jacki Weaver was absolutely devastating as a grandmother who was at times heart-warming and horrifying. There is absolutely nothing she wouldn't consider to secure her lifestyle. Nothing.

Even when the film lags in a few spots, Animal Kingdom redeems itself immediately when the film hits almost unbearably tense spots with the viewer digging their nails into the couch. One such highlight of the film occurs when Joshua and his girlfriend have fallen asleep on a couch and Air Supply’s “I’m All Out of Love” is playing in the background. A moment that could be considered sweet is subverted to a disturbing effect.

As the camera pans slowly through the room Pope is revealed. He’s been watching them sleep for a while now. As the music increases the camera focuses in on the demented glare of the malevolent uncle. It’s a truly terrifying scene and if you didn't tear a hole through your couch’s arm then you must not have a pulse.

Few crime films take such a unique stance in only covering the domestic drama behind a clan of thieves, but Animal Kingdom does it well. This family will eat you alive.


First Look at True Grit

The first still from the Coen Bros. adaptation of True Grit hit the internet today and I'm really liking what I see. Jeff Bridges seems to have nailed the look of tough U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn and I foresee another Academy nod this next February. True Grit is due to hit theatres this Christmas and this my most anticipated film of this winter.

(Courtesy: InContention/Paramount)

12 August 2010

The Town Poster

I like this poster a lot more than the previous one released that smacked of Photoshop. At least this gives the audience some idea of what they're going to be seeing September 17th.

The Vault: Let the Right One In (2008)

Oskar is a lonely child, in his spare time he finds himself playing with knives and clipping stories of homicides, arson and other calamities out of papers and pasting them in his notebook. At school he is frequently harassed by others, but he can't find it within himself to fight back. One evening Oskar attacks a tree imagining it to be one of his tormentors, Eli appears and the two, while remaining cautious strike up a friendship.

Håkan is Eli's handler and a serial killer. In order for him to feed Eli he must drain victims in the new town they find themselves strangers in. Lately, he is not able to complete his task and finds himself being pushed out of Eli's life by Oskar. When Håkan is unable to escape after trying to bleed out a teenage boy, he burns himself unrecognizably, is arrested and taken to a hospital where he has Eli feed on him. After she has her fill he falls to his death from the seventh floor window. Violence escalates for both Eli and Oskar as Eli has to hunt for herself with Håkan gone and Oskar, after retaliating against his bully and severely injuring him, faces a bigger challenge from those who could kill him.

For such young actors the chemistry between Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson) is understandably cold and makes the lingering questions about their differences somewhat less palatable. Oskar's character in particular seems like someone who has just been pushed too far, but the film portrays the boy as a semi-psychopath.

A secondary character in the film, Sweden is picturesque and Let the Right One In greatly benefits from its bleak landscape where danger is never lurking too far away.

The prospect of a remake of the film isn't too popular, but the casting of Let Me In looks solid with Chloe Mortitz, Richard Jenkins and Kodi Smit-McPhee. In fact when Håkan first pops up onscreen I immediately thought of Richard Jenkins, hopefully he will be given a meaty role to work with.

Only two problems nagged at me when I was contemplating the film afterward. First, why wouldn't anyone go to the police if the catman had seen Eli attack one of the neighbors? Secondly, why would Lacke take it upon himself to take on a vampire entirely unarmed?

Even with those thoughts Let the Right One In is still a capable thriller that provides an excellent sub-story about adolescence that despite the addition of vampires is all too familiar to us all.

06 August 2010

Review: The Other Guys

I do not know who decided to have Mark Wahlberg lead a comedy by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, but God bless whoever made the genius decision.

Detectives Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne Johnson) are the pride of New York City, they are the heroes that are entrusted to hold down the fort when things go bad, and then there are Detectives Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg).

Gamble loves nothing more than to do the paperwork that Highsmith and Danson won't and Hoitz shot Jeter before game seven, they're known as the other guys.

Will Ferrell is traditionally funnier in his straight man roles and he is here as well. Gamble is the logical, play-it-safe partner we know from such action hits as Lethal Weapon, Dragnet, and Men in Black. Hoitz is the repressed action guy that lurks underneath all desk-bound detectives. This could have ended up like Kevin Smith's Cop Out, but Ferrell and McKay make the most out of this superbly funny and timely comedy that rivals most actioners in plot, effects and acting.

There is not a false note in this film at all. From the leads down to the bit players every single actor/actress in The Other Guys nails their roles. Whether it be Michael Keaton's weary police captain (who moonlights at Bed Bath and Beyond), Samuel Jackson and Dwayne Johnson's super cops who in the chase of a misdemeanor end up destroying about 12 million dollars worth of property, Rob Riggle's and Damon Wayan Jr.'s Martin and Fosse, Steve Coogan's slimy investment banker, or Ray Stevensen's "bad guy".

What I like about The Other Guys and what most critics won't give it credit for is that it is actually a pretty smart comedy. Adam McKay takes a tale of two cops investigating investment fraud and their superiors either keep grinding them down or ignoring their case. The problem with financial crimes is this: they are not sexy. But at the end of the day they cause the most damage on a global scale. (See the most recent economical collapse)

A few months back Steve Coogan compared The Other Guys to Hot Fuzz and I can't disagree with him. Both films are finely crafted action movie parodies that don't fall back into the recent trend of genre "parodies" like Epic Movie, Vampires Suck, and the rest of that garbage.

Every ripe cliche is there for ribbing: the cop with the insanely hot wife who he treats like nothing, the battered police captain, the excessive shooting with no one getting hit, the innocuous bribes that are brushed off, instantaneous ass-kicking skills that always appear when trouble is afoot, and everything else you would expect to see in an action film is poked fun at here.


Most Valuable Performances: George Clooney

The first thing that comes to mind when Michael Clayton opens is that Mr. Clayton is a broken man. He is unkempt, his suit is a little baggy and the lack of sleep from stress is definitely taking its toll. George Clooney is not playing Danny Ocean here, or even Jack Foley, he is The Janitor.

This was a film seemingly out of Clooney's comfort zone and what made Tony Gilroy's thriller so mesmerizing is the beaten look in Clayton's eyes as he trudges through the cut-throat world of business law that seems so banal on the surface. He unknowingly brought about the death of a trusted friend and in the end has less than he started with.

A man, who after his car explodes, throws his belongings into the flames and runs into the forest. A Rousseau-ian character if there ever was one. As is the story of George Clooney's career, he lost to a performance that could not go unrewarded against Daniel Day-Lewis's Daniel Plainview. Though he went home without the gold man that evening he could hold his head high knowing he delivered the finest performance of his career.

05 August 2010

The Avengers Teaser Trailer

This features no footage, but if you like Samuel L. Jackson's voice - and who doesn't? - it's a good teaser.

01 August 2010

The Vault: Hard Candy (2005)

A clever revisionist take on Little Red Riding Hood, director David Slade does not pick sides with the cat and mouse thriller about what happens when an (alleged?) paedophile and teenage girl collide after sharing some heartfelt talks over the web.

Ellen Page is frighteningly good in the role of Hayley Stark, a young girl who is zealously devoted to her convictions. Patrick Wilson manages to both be distressed and disturb the audience as Jeff Kohlver, the thirty-two year old photographer, who invites fourteen year old Hayley into his home. 

This film is cold and, at times, disjointed but to be honest if you feel a connection to either one of these characters you might have a problem. Neither Hayley, nor Jeff are to be liked. While Hayley is easier to understand she seems to revel in her darker tendencies as well. If you have not seen Ellen Page in anything but Juno, Whip It, Smart People or her smaller turn as Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand you owe it to yourself to see Page flex her acting muscle as someone wronged looking for vengeance.

Revenge flicks rarely come so sterilized. The violence in the film is reminiscent of Se7en or The Dark Knight in that you only see previous to the cut before it gets bad and the aftermath of what happens. Other films like Death Wish and Straw Dogs come in pools of blood, but with the exception of a hard-to-sit-through-scene Hard Candy keeps it on an even keel and sterilized. However, where Death Wish would commend its vigilante protagonist, Slade takes no sides in this story. Hard Candy doesn't judge the actions of Hayley but suggests that she might be a few screw loose herself to take this kind of action into her own hands.

Hard Candy is sleek, and makes the content (which is sometimes too challenging) easier to take in. For any other film I would be tempted to fast forward through the credits but Hard Candy's trance-like score invites you into the stark contrast between a white online chat background and the avatars flirting over them. Jo Willems, who worked with Slade on 30 Days of Night, takes the tight spacing and two leads and works wonders with what could have looked very dull after a half hour.

This film may not be for everyone, but if you're feeling up to it, it's worth a watch.