29 October 2010

10 Words or Less: Funny Games (2007)

It's not a game if you keep changing the rules.

28 October 2010

FYC: Alice in Wonderland

Can't really say this is a surprise considering how much money this earned at the box office, but I was expecting more from Disney, more specifically a Best Picture for your consideration ad for Toy Story 3, not for a lazy re-imagining from Tim Burton. As the award season goes on I imagine more qualified films will make a push.

(Courtesy: Entertainment Weekly)

27 October 2010

Third Batman Film Titled 'The Dark Knight Rises'

As reported by the LA Times Hero Complex blog writer Geoff Boucher in an interview with Mr. Nolan himself. Also noted in the interview is that The Riddler will not be featured in the third film and it will not be shot in 3-D.

The title gives us a clue as to what the third film will be about, redemption of some sort for Bruce and his alter-ego Batman, but now - and this is just an assumption - I'm thinking that Tom Hardy ends up playing a task force leader sent after the vigilante known as Batman. Anything after that you'll have to ask Christopher Nolan.

26 October 2010

New 'Tron' Track

This is the distinctive beat that I was hoping for when it first broke that Daft Punk would be scoring Tron Legacy. Give it a listen.

25 October 2010

Daft 'Tron' Poster

Sorry about the belatedness of this post, but I wanted to hold out until I could get the poster with the complete effect. Really looking forward to this soundtrack's release, every Daft Punk album is an event and I expect this to be no different.

22 October 2010

Rabbit Hole Trailer

After her brilliant performance in Dogville Nicole Kidman seems to have disappeared from any critical roles. Austrailia was what it was, and Nine hardly gave her anything to work with at all so it will be a pleasant surprise to see her do something of substance in Rabbit Hole.

10 Words or Less: The Sixth Sense (1999)

Cole sees dead people. Lots of dead people.

20 October 2010

Mortensen as Freud in A Dangerous Method

Here is a look at Viggo Mortensen in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method The film also stars Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung and Keira Knightley as Sabrina Spielrein, the girl who causes a rift between the mentor and protege. 

(Courtesy: The Playlist)

19 October 2010

Second 'Fighter' Trailer

Now this is the trailer for The Fighter that I anticipated to begin with. David. O Russell's take on the true life story of Mickey Ward would not be a shot-by-shot remake of Rocky. The trailer that featured during the season finale of Mad Men eludes to a domestic drama with Ward's (Mark Wahlberg) family leading him down a path that may benefit everyone but Mickey.

18 October 2010

The Vault: No Country for Old Men (2007)

When good men do nothing the path to evil is left obstructionless. Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is a man of a distant time, his father a relic of an era where lawmen carried no weapons. Anton Chiguhr (Javier Bardem) is a man of principals, unorthodox principles to be sure. With a cattle stungun in one hand and a silenced shotgun in another he is death incarnate. Between these two archetypes of good and evil lies Llewelyn Moss, a former Vietnam veteran who stumbles across $2,000,000.

Bell's bewilderment at the state of crime today echoes the sentiments of many Americans. In an age where cowardice is more common than bravery only fate can save us. Jones is very familiar as a lawman he has played it many times, but it is his weariness and fear that separates this performance from the rest. He is a man afraid and, rather than go out and be a part of this world, he will seek solace from the world. Jones' delivery during the, "then I woke up" scene is perhaps one of the best pieces of subtext I have ever seen used in a film.

Bardem is excellence itself as the mop-topped contract killer, Chiguhr whose wandering eye strikes fear into every man he meets. Some interpretations of the film make him out to be an angel of death who is cleansing the world of injustice, others see him as the personification of death. The Coens strive to keep Chiguhr as free from association as possible. If Chiguhr is human you would never know it from his Jaws-like ability to come and go leaving havoc in his wake.

Like it's sequel-in-spirit A Serious Man, the Coens create a world where fate decides what lies for us, it doesn't wait on us certainly, for that would be vanity. Whatever actions lead you to your current situation are inarguable in the face of cold, calculating death.

The Coens subvert the genre brilliantly with No Country for Old Men and in doing so craft one of the finest westerns ever.

15 October 2010

New Black Swan Poster

The full poster after the jump. Three new posters for Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan debuted today and of the three this one strikes me the most. The first poster utilized only three colors as well, but this is hand drawn and plays upon the themes of fear and transformation. As the rest of the academy award-worthy films draw near this film intrigues me the most.

(Courtesy: Empire Online)

14 October 2010

10 Words or Less: Batman Begins (2005)

Bruce Wayne has anger issues.

13 October 2010

Tom Hardy Cast in 'The Dark Knight Rises'

Deadline is reporting that Tom Hardy has been cast in a "lead role" in the upcoming third Batman film, reuniting Hardy with Inception helmer Christopher Nolan. It hasn't been said whether he will be playing a villain or not, but the rumor mill has started regardless.

12 October 2010

Mara, Craig and Fincher on 'Dragon Tattoo' Set

Here's your look at Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig and David Fincher on the set of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo set in Sweden. If I didn't know that the picture on the left is Rooney Mara I would've never guessed that it was her.

11 October 2010

The Vault: Freaks (1932)

In a lot of ways Tod Browning was the first visionary for the horror genre. His film featured terrifying characters that were the best for their time, foreboding scores and unsettling mis en scene. Dracula was well-recieved when it came out, but when Freaks was initially released the studio cut a half an hour of the film and disowned the final product.

The cast was essentially made up of actual disfigured people and lends authenticity to the entire film. You would tend to think that as the film goes on the "freaks" are the members of the traveling show, but they are in fact the able-bodied Hercules and the fair Cleopatra.

Hans, the leader of the traveling show, is swept up by the beauty of Cleopatra. Freida, the woman who secretly loves Hans, pleads with Cleopatra not to keep toying with Hans, when she inadvertantly slips that Hans is due to inherit a great fortune. With this knowledge Cleopatra plans on marrying Hans and running away with Hercules, the strong-man of the circus, who she has been having an affair with.

Eventually they are engaged and Cleopatra spends much of the engagement party mocking the other members of the show and poisons Hans' drink. Hans takes ill afterward and, believing him to be dead, Cleopatra tries to run away with Hercules. Hans is revived by a doctor and the freaks, after finding out Cleopatra's nefarious plot to kill Hans and take his money decide to deal with her in the most fitting way possible. I could say more, but the thrilling climax of Freaks must be experienced for yourself.

Review: Easy A

After being sent on assignment to see Buried, I was in the mood for a pick-me-up, so I snuck into a showing of Easy A. It definitely delivered a light-hearted and uplifting experience.

The film was blatantly open about its being a tribute to the films of John Hughes, and it did a good job of it. John Hughes was a talented film maker, and I'd love to see more films in this vein.

The acting is pretty good. Emma Stone has proven that she can carry a film. We'll be seeing more from her in the coming decades. This is likely to be something like a Pretty Woman breakout role. The supporting cast is great as well, most notably the performances of Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as the charming parents.

I'd definitely recommend checking out Easy A if you're looking for a lighthearted good time.

10 October 2010

'Blue Valentine' Trailer

Gosling strumming a ukelele? Williams doing softshoe? This looks like the film that Hollywood needs (not more Katherine Heigl romcoms). Whether or not this turns out to be as good as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind I'll be waiting in line opening day.

09 October 2010

Review: Buried

Buried is, more literally than most times the term is used, an exercise in constrained film making. In this respect, parallels can be made to the Hitchcock classics Lifeboat and Rope. More generally the film is Hitchcockian inasmuch as it places an everyman character in a terrifying what-if situation. The build up of emotion in the film is intense. While there may have been too many plot twists for what could be expected from an hour and a half in a box, the scripting was quite remarkable for being able to remain interesting in such a setting.

The film has two main strengths. Firstly, the direction, cinematography, and set design were all perfect; each was surely a triumph of film making prowess. Buried is a movie that people will be watching in 50 years to talk about the technique with which it was made. The second great strength of the film is Reynolds' performance. He almost single-handedly carries the film. It's no small feat, as he is the only actor with on-screen time for the whole 90 minutes.

Where Hitchcock generally used his films to probe the quirks of the human psyche, Rodrigo Cortés uses the last act of the film to explore morality. In the end, it doesn't matter whether or not the protagonist escapes, but what got him in there. It's an interesting and valuable life lesson.

08 October 2010

127 Hours Poster

To the point, concise description, great poster. Using the tagline from the director of Slumdog Millionaire seems odd. I don't know if Slumdog Millionaire will attract people to see this film, but who knows?

(via: Imp Awards)

127 Hours Theatrical Trailer

If I wasn't sure before I'm positive now, this film is going to look beautiful. 127 Hours will give Franco the star-making opportunity he sorely deserves that Howl will not be able to provide for a mainstream audience. Given the screentime he will have to fulfill and his magnetic personality I'd say we're looking at a Best Actor contender. Danny Boyle might be looking at two Best Director Oscars in three years.

07 October 2010

Demon Seed vs. Deadly Friend

People have always feared change. Different people experience this to different degrees. The unknown always supplies contrasting emotions: fear and excitement. When vast cultural changes come about, artists will explore these themes in their work. This is what led to the wave of anti-technological films that crested in the late 70s and early 80s.

Demon Seed is a story about a computer that gains sentience and thereafter wants to gain telepresence as well. It's quite a well done film; the antagonistic computer in this film acts with a cold logic that seems inhuman when you watch the film, but on later reflection becomes all too familiar.

Deadly Friend is a film that was released much later. Computers still weren't common-place, and very few people had much idea what they were capable of. The film came out after the wave of anti-technological films had begun to recede.

In this film, the protagonist is a nerdy anti-hero who is trying to become romantically involved with the attractive blond girl next door. He is also a genius roboticist. When the love interest is shot by an overly armed neighbour, the nerd implants chips from his home made robot to save her life. The result of this medical experiment is that she loses her own personality and becomes a homicidal maniac.

In spite of how stupid and pointless Deadly Friend is, it's still almost worth seeing for the infamous basketball scene.

What these two films illustrate is that the fear of the unknown sparked the creation of a sub-genre of film that has now essentially died out. As the general public became more aware of what technology is and isn't capable of, it became more difficult to make a movie about how scary computers are. It is a bit of a shame that movies critical of technology aren't really being produced anymore, considering that many members of the new generation of movie goers can't stop texting for long enough to sit down and watch a movie.

Listen to The Social Network Soundtrack

I've written a few pieces on The Social Network already, but Trent Reznor's cut of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" must be heard.

Listen to Let Me In Soundtrack

This is quite a departure from Michael Giacchino's last work isn't it? "Hammertime" and "Sins of the Father" prove he can do creepy as well as his heart-breaking work in Up. I don't know what it is about using a child's choir, but it is rather unsettling and "The Blood Flood" reminds me that all too well.

06 October 2010

Which Man Will Lead Nolan-Snyder's Superman?

With the announcement that 300 and Watchmen Director Zack Snyder will be taking the reins on the Superman reboot there is only one question left: who will be playing Superman?

From day one my choice has been, and will be Jon Hamm. He plays the quintessential All-American already on Mad Men and a man of his talents could bring some actual depth to the man would be a God. However, Hamm is forty years old and if Warner Bros. is looking for a several picture deal they may look to be going younger. And if that's the case Armie Hammer's impressive performance in The Social Network has to have him in consideration of some sort. 

Wherever Nolan and Snyder go with casting we know that General Zod will be the villain (sorry Luthor) hopefully they can convince one of these two to become the man of steel.

05 October 2010

10 Words or less: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Singing and dancing make poverty and hardship go away.

04 October 2010

True Grit Theatrical Trailer

Looks like Jeff Bridges will be shooting first, shoot again, just keep shooting and if there's a question to be had later he'll ask it.

01 October 2010

Review: The Social Network

There was a time when the response to the word Facebook was only, "huh?" Now we live in an age where many cannot go without it. Social networking has been primed for a lampooning for a considerable while and who better to deliver that than Fight Club helmer David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin?

If there a difference between dedication and obsession Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) doesn't know it. He created Facemash to spite an ex-girlfriend (Rooney Mara). Said site later grows to become so popular he crashes the network at Harvard. The Winklevoss twins want him to create the most exclusive site for Harvard students, but Zuckerberg is beyond that. He wants a billion dollar entity. Zuckerberg then spends the rest of the time defending it from the man he thought was a good friend in Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). And a lurid lifestyle never before experienced offered by Napster founder Sean Parker sends Zuckerberg to unparalleled heights right before the fall.

It's ironic that Zuckerberg created Facebook. A man that alienated from society, why create a social network? Because then he creates the rules, and you have to play by them. Eisenberg, for some time, has lamentably been labeled Michael Cera-lite, but he comes into his own in The Social Network. There is a lingering trace of malice behind Zuckerberg's cold eyes in the light of the reflection of his monitor and he has proven to moviegoers everywhere that he is his own man. Michael Cera couldn't dream of pulling off this performance.

The book struggled to get past the conventions of most rock n' roll biopics. The source material from which the film is based never elevates past debauchery and courtroom drama. Sure, the story lends itself to sex and drugs, but more was expected - whether it was a reflection of this generation, or a condonement of greed and excess in the aughts - and I can't help but feel it wasn't delivered. The film, however, exceeds everything expected of it. It's been compared to Citizen Kane as the film of its generation: a story of a young man who obtained everything he ever wanted and found out the taxing toll of getting what he wish for. I wouldn't hail The Social Network as a masterpiece yet, but after a few more viewings it could grow on me.

I had always been a fan of Sorkin's work on The West Wing and his script pops here with every barb hoisted between Zuckerberg and Saverin. Everything uttered onscreen feels alive and is delivered handily by Eisenberg, Garfield and Timberlake as the main triumvirate of Social Network. Garfield - recently casted as the new Spiderman - is superb here and in a different world where the Academy didn't vote for acting categories by who has paid their dues Garfield, and Eisenberg would get nominations.

By the way could they have cast a more perfect personification of everything that is celebrated in this country than Armie Hammer? He has it all: strength, wealth, and rugged good looks. As one man playing two of the most self-entitled people on Earth he does his job admiringly, even if I dislike the characters he plays.

The editing is superb. I don't want to spoil anything, but the way Fincher splices three ongoing stories at once simultaneously takes it to Memento-like levels of storytelling. This isn't his best work, but it is certainly his most polished. Trent Reznor's score infuses the film with a dance beat that continues long after Zuckerberg feels like leaving the floor.

I'd like to think we live in a world where Reznor's works and Daft Punk's Tron Legacy score could compete come awards season, but I don't think we're at that point yet. As with all of David Fincher's recent films, Jeff Cronenweth's cinematography is so distinctive you know it right away. Keep on the lookout for when Zuckerberg tosses a beer to one of Sean's friends, it's why filming in digital allows for new opportunities.

What needs to be asked at the end of The Social Network is this: are new technologies such as Facebook and Twitter bringing us together? Or merely putting up another wall?

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

Review: Let Me In

Prior to production of Matt Reeve's remake of Let the Right One In, a lot of critics were skeptical as to why there needed to be an English version of a film that was less than two years old. In effort to not get sucked into the is this better, or worse than the original argument, I'll say this: Matt Reeve's adaptation of Let the Right One In is trying to accomplish something different than its Swedish counterpart.

This is not a shot-for-shot remake like Michael Haneke's Funny Games, Reeves keeps what works, but he adds his own vibe to the picture. Worries about the gore being amped up in a U.S. version are all for naught. The violence remains the same as well as the creeping tension of the original.

Owen is the product of a broken home, he keeps to himself and doesn't have many friends. In between classes he is tormented by bullies at school. Abby is the new girl next door and when her "father" isn't out at strange hours, he is skittish toward the locals. The two of them bond over their collective alienation and what strives to tear them apart may make them resort to some terrifying acts.

Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee's performances made it a lot easier to identify with the central characters, which was a problem with the youth from the first film.

Moretz is riding a wave this year with Let Me In and Kick-Ass and she makes Abby, a 300 year old vampire feel as real as Owen, which is no easy task. Portraying a vampire older than the country she inhabits takes the gravitas of an actress twice her age, yet she does not disappoint. Richard Jenkins is given a good role to work with and it's great to see him really sink his teeth into a morally ambiguous character rather than the bumbling father or comedic relief.

This version doesn't cover the sexuality of the original, but for me that's not really a loss, for me at least. It took me out of the film and wrecked its focus on a love story between two children on a subplot that should have been left to subtlety.

A few story flaws that were present in Let the Right One In are corrected here and keeps the film from delving into material that is better left on the cutting room floor. What Let Me In keeps that made the original so compelling is the circumstances we find ourselves in when we are forced to protect those we care about. In the end is Abby any more of a monster for defending who she loves than regular citizens walking down the street? Is Owen?