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Showing posts from January, 2011

Wha?

Who saw this coming as short as a month ago? The Social Network was cruising through the critic's circuit and taking award after award. Now, The King's Speech has taken the last three important steps: wins at the PGA, DGA and SAG. Only once has a film won those three awards and lost Best Picture, and that film was Apollo 13. So the question has to be asked: was The Social Network the game-changer the critics predicted it as, or simply a well-crafted film?
Either way I guess we should have all expected as much. The King's Speech is a period piece, a triumph over hardship and features Colin Firth. Realistically that film had it in the bag a long time ago. It comes as a shock to many because in past years the Academy has gone with non-traditional films for Best Picture.  While many lament this is just another example of picking the "safe, formulaic film", The Departed, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker are hardly considered prestige films. This year the Academ…

Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Street art and graffiti never really became a phenomenon until the internet became a household mainstay. If you felt like placing an homage to Space Invaders on the side of the bridge it was something you could acknowledge on your way to work/school/whatever.
Now, within minutes, your passion can be searched and copied on Google within seconds. Artists like Shepard Fairey, Space Invader, Banksy were all relative unknowns, now, they are legends of the underground art world.
Documentaries function best when they take a subject most are unaware of and delve into it with a sense of verve. Covering such material without overloading the audience on jargon is also a plus. By letting us into a world which we are unfamiliar documentaries enlighten and expand upon unseen vantage points of life.
The subject of this particular documentary? One of the most mysterious pop culture figures in recent history, the man known only to the world as Banksy.
Little is known about Banksy, his work is scatter…

Review: The Rite (**)

It's frustrating to watch a movie that almost draws you into the experience, but leaves you teetering on the edge of getting into it for stupid reasons. The Rite was almost enthralling, but some gaps in the script left me feeling just shy of enjoying the film.

As I understand it, exorcism and demonic possession are part of the faith of the Catholic church and of certain fundamentalist sects. For most protestants, to say nothing of the pantheon of other religions out there, it's a bit of an alien notion. Regardless, it seems that people from all stripes enjoy exploring the idea of possessions. The Rite does a good job in this respect; for the most part, the religious aspects of the film were quite interesting and well done.

The protagonist of the film is a young priest who is also an atheist. It's hard to believe the character because he maintains his atheism even after witnessing all kinds of demonic phenomenon. In the same situation, I would be running to church to sing …

The Snubs of 2010

Well the nominees are out and - just like every year preceding this one - someone deserving of a spot in the big dance is robbed (what does Christopher Nolan have to do?). Ryan Gosling, Daft Punk, and Barbara Hershey all come to mind, but in my mind these are the some of the lesser known snubs of 2010.

The most glaring snub this year has to be for Leonardo DiCaprio for Shutter Island. Creating a portrayal of psychosis that leads the viewer to invite themselves to his point of view without going into judgement is easily one of the hardest performances to create. That it is also easily one of the scariest descents into madness captured on film is due to Mr. DiCaprio. The Supporting Actor field was quite crowded this year with Bale, Rush, Renner and his own 'Social Network' co-star Andrew Garfield, but Armie Hammer made a large splash in his big debut. He has it all: strength, wealth, and rugged good looks. Thankfully, he also can appreciate the irony of himself and his twin cha…

83rd Academy Award Nominees Announced

Well, a few surprises: Tron Legacy getting snubbed in visual effects, John Hawkes for supporting actor, Christopher Nolan getting shafted for Best Director again!
Best Picture “Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“Inception”
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The King's Speech”
 “127 Hours”
“The Social Network”
“Toy Story 3”
“True Grit”
“Winter's Bone"
Actor in a Leading Role Javier Bardem in “Biutiful” Jeff Bridges in “True Grit” Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network” Colin Firth in “The King's Speech” James Franco in “127 Hours”
Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale in “The Fighter” John Hawkes in “Winter's Bone” Jeremy Renner in “The Town” Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right” Geoffrey Rush in “The King's Speech”
Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right” Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole” Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone” Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”
Actress in a Supporting Role Amy Adams in “The F…

Acceptance.

This man has accepted his fate. All the drugs, the drinking, the battles of his trade, they all have taken their toll. We can see it in his face as well as the scars that mark his body.
What allows The Wrestler to leave such a lasting impact is that we can all recognize the face Randy wears at the end of the film. Acceptance. He does not care if he dies in the ring because the ring is the only place that really allows him to exist. Life has chewed him up and spat him out but here, among the cheers of his legion, he is King.

The Vault: PCU (1994)

It's fair to say that a lot of comedians, and people in general, have had issues with political correctness, particularly when it is taken to extremes. People worry, and rightfully so, about cultural movements that aim to limit freedoms. PCU was released in 17 years ago, in 1994, when public worries about political correctness were cresting. It's a standard college comedy with the standard cast of characters: the everyman, Jeremy Piven plays the Van Wilder archetype; the stoner, Jon Favreau puts in an early role as the oft-confused Gutter; David Spade takes a turn as the wealthy elite; we also have the frosh, the love interest, and other standards.

PCU fails to make a coherent argument against political correctness. The premise is that all the tolerance of different groups is fracturing society, while it would be better if we were all as one. You know, e pluribus unum and all that jazz. It's a pretty weak thesis, considering that political correctness originated as a way t…

Bane, Catwoman Confirmed for 'Dark Knight Rises'

It has been decided. Tom Hardy will be playing Bane and Anne Hathaway is confirmed as Catwoman in the third and final Nolan-helmed Batman film. Hardy seems like perfect casting - if you have seen Bronson anyway - and Hathaway has a darkness that could be mined for her role in the third film as well.
The questions now are: is Bane associated with a new League of Shadows? Or is he a rogue agent? Is Catwoman a villain or an interloper?

10 Words or Less: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Men Who Hate Women would have been more fitting.

The Vault: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Two notable films have been made about the transition from silent film to talkies, Singin' in the Rain is the funniest (if not simply just because the other film is Sunset Boulevard) it is frequently referred to as the best musical of all-time and sits at number five on the AFI top one-hundred films lists.
Don Lockwood's motto is "Dignity, always dignity." Just don't ask the matinee idol about how he started in Hollywood and that motto will stand true. He along with his best pal/songman Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) have hit it big and are enjoying their Hollywood lifestyles. Currently Don is linked to his frequent co-star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) but in truth he can't stand her and she is too dumb to know the difference. 
Talkies are ushering in a new age of film and even people like aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) are starting to take notice. Don's latest picture The Duelling Cavalier is going to be transformed into a talkie, but yo…

Review: Black Swan

Grace, endurance and a tolerance for pain, these are all three aspects of a talented ballet dancer. They are also characteristic of a wrestler, so it should be no surprise that Darren Aronofsky followed up his 2008 hit The Wrestler with Black Swan. Both films focus on the sacrifice asked of these professionals: self doubt, surreal expectations, and extraordinary committment, so much so that it begins to tear them apart. So when it was announced that Natalie Portman would be taking the lead I was hesitant. She had never pulled of anything like this before.

Natalie Portman, much like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, is playing a mirror of herself. She has never really acted in any darker material previous to Swan, but that only serves to make her performance here much more impressive. It is only when Nina's mother says, "where is my sweet little girl?" and Portman snaps back, "she's gone now!" that the implications are realized, Portman is done playing the gir…

Sony Releases Spider-man Screenshot

This photo looks like a Gotham-y Spider-man, but Andrew Garfield seems to have pegged the look of your friendly neighborhood web-slinger. It is much appreciated that Marc Webb did not just copy and paste the look of the film from the Raimi series.
(Courtesy: Sony)

Review: The King's Speech (***1/2)

I enjoy history, but when it comes to the history of British royalty, I'm a bit of a commoner. I can't say this is ever been a problem, I don't tend to hobnob with royalty, well, ever. When it comes to films likeThe King's Speech it can come in quite handy--it means I can sit back an enjoy the story for what it is, rather than compare and contrast it.

The story starts with a rather disastrous speech given by Prince Albert (Colin Firth) at Wembley Stadium in 1925. It isn't the speech, it's the manner in which it's delivered-- and as I'm sure you all know from trailers and synopses-- Prince Albert, or 'Bertie' as he is called by his family, has quite the stammer. It is because of this that Bertie's wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) goes out searching for better treatment options and comes across Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian-born speech therapist.

The relationship between his majesty and Logue is kind of a rocky one to start…

Most Valuable Performances: Kate Winslet

Clementine. We have all known a Clementine in our lives. The person that we thought was "the one" but eventually the newness fades away and we see these Clementines for what they are. Fragile human beings who have the same worries and fears as the rest of us. They aren't perfect and we should never have expected them to be.
What makes Winslet's performance so impressive is that we never not once see Kate Winslet, Academy Award winning actress. We see the one who broke our hearts. Winslet only plays one half of the onscreen couple in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, yet ultimately she is the sole focus. Joel (Jim Carrey) can't stand knowing that she had him erased from his memory so he seeks to perpetrate the same act against her.
What Joel comes to find out and what we already know is that you can't remove that presence from your life. These people are an influence on our lives and what wisdom they place with us as they depart should not be dispensed.…

Review: The Fighter

Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) just needs one big fight to get him where he needs to be. Just one.

He sits in a resort in Atlantic City awaiting his next step on the ladder to a title match. His opponent has been scratched, they can bring in a new fighter, but he outweighs Micky by a weight class. Alice, the matriarch of the Ward clan tells Micky to take the cash and fight the sub. Flash forward a few hours later and Micky sits bruised and humiliated, the substitute was not the schlub that was promised. Prison left nothing to do but lift weights and work-out. Micky was over-matched.

That feeling doesn't stay in the ring either. Alice (a very feisty Melissa Leo) and her domineering daughters surround Micky and sway him in all of his decisions. To boot, Dicky (a transformed Christian Bale), who is in and out jail more often than people change socks, serves as Micky's trainer. Dicky is what Micky ultimately hopes to become, but rails against. A champion who started beating himself. …

Review: Blue Valentine

Boy and girl meet cute, go out on a few dates and fall in love. Very few films cover what occurs after that moment, even fewer do so with such flourishes of authenticity. The stupid jokes and awkward laughs afterward. The brief bouts of indecision to decide whether or not to fully disclose our backgrounds. The dinners with each others' families that leaves one, or both, itching to run out of the room.

Cindy has been itching to run out of the room now for the considerable part of her marriage. The stresses of what she is asked to do and what Dean can't has run her ragged. They are the kinds of things that drive a marriage apart.

The future room is the make-or-break getaway for Dean and Cindy. An opportunity to hide from the problems of domesticity: a lost dog, work problems, and arguments. An opportunity to make love, to drink, to just be them. To say that this event could be the defining moment of their marriage is an understatement.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams go for …

FYC: Tron Legacy

Well this year might be another clean sweep for technical awards again as it was last year with Avatar. Tron Legacy may have been empty below the surface but it was indeed rife with visual flourish.

And please Academy give Daft Punk their do. They deserve it.

Coming Soon: 30 Minutes or Less

Zombieland Director Ruben Fleischer and star Jesse Eisenburg reunite for 30 Minutes or Less. In the action-comedy, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) a small town pizza guy is kidnapped by two self-deluded criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson).
Now Nick is forced to rob a bank or he will explode. With limited time to pull off the heist, Nick enlists the help of his ex-best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari). The film also stars Michael Pena and hits theatres August 12, 2011.

'Social Network' DVD Only $13

Amazon is offering The Social Network on DVD for less than $13 and the Blu-Ray is $16.99 That is a great deal for those of us who love movies, but also have no money. This film is going to be a major contender for Best Picture and if you have not seen it in theatres this is your chance to watch it now!

Review: Tron Legacy 3D

The first Tron was, for-better-or-for-worse a product of its cold-war paranoia time. Yes, it was fused with (what was at the time) ground-breaking technology and featured a storyline about computers, but Neil Flynn's adventure into the webverse was littered with metaphors for communism throughout.
Now, there are no metaphors for the war on terror or other pressing foreign conflicts in Tron Legacy, but it does take on one issue: addiction to technology. "You can be a slave to your preferences" and the film makes that point abundantly clear. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) was a man who used his technological prowess to create some of the most superior videogames around. Now, he is a monk in a world that refuses to let him leave.
Years ago Neil Flynn, alongside Tron managed to save the webverse. Clu (also Jeff Bridges), was created to manage the grid and keep peace. However what happens instead is a betrayal most intimate. Flynn's creation holds Flynn hostage and sets the …

Paprika vs. Inception

Months before Inception hit the theaters forums were alive with rumors that Christopher Nolan either accidentally or intentionally stole some details from another film, the Japanese anime Paprika. The biggest point of comparison for some bloggers and forum runners was the fact that both of the films featured a device that allowed a person, or people, to travel into another’s dreams and delve into their subconscious.
Minor points of comparison include scenes in Paprika where the character Paprika breaks through a mirrored wall by holding her hand to it, as well as a scene where a police detective falls his way down a hallway. Claims have been made that Inception abounds with imagery similar to or exactly like the anime movie, but with the recent release of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray, and with Paprika available for several years now, an examination of the two plots can be made more fully.
Let us begin with the primary claim—Inception stole the idea of a dream machine from Paprika. It …

The Vault: The Fog (1980)

John Carpenter's early films had an immersive nature. Upon viewing, one is wrapped up in the moody visuals and tailor-made soundtracks.
The Fog was released in 1980. It tells the story of a town haunted by the ghosts of fishermen who were drowned 100 years prior. Carpenter masterfully whips up the tense mood with the dramatic telling of the ghost story, as seen above. The feeling is heightened throughout the film, all the way to the stunning climax.
The Fog also features a great cast, including Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, and horror icon Janet Leigh.

The Year of the Double Take (Best Films of 2010)

2010 saw many things; the rise of more original scripts, the box-office flops of properties that were thought to be assured, and surprisingly films with adult audiences did well in a year that could have killed them. Mind-fucks seemed to be the theme of the year as Shutter Island, Black Swan and Inception stirred up audiences considerably. I myself needed two viewings of both Shutter Island and Inception to fully grasp what happened.
The Town took Affleck's sophomore effort into the realms of some of the best crime drama offered and the two weeks of December had Jeff Bridges go from neon-cloaked Zen Master to drunken Marshall with a penchant for killing.
Animated and foreign films did not make the cut for me personally, especially after Up and Fantastic Mr. Fox debuted strongly last year, but Toy Story 3 did make up for much of the slack. I did not get a chance to catch How to Train Your Dragon so that probably colored my opinion of the genre this year. However, documentaries wer…

Review: True Grit

Why remake a western starring one of its genre's most legendary icons? Why take an unknown as the lead? Why cast a man most widely known for playing a stoner as Marhal Rooster Cogburn? Why the hell not?
This may come as blasphemy, but it needs to be said: John Wayne may have won his Oscar for True Grit but his take on the role is nothing close to what the novel sought. Current Marshal Cogburn was once a Confederate soldier who participated in the massacre at Lawrence, Kansas. The Duke had too much of a clean-cut image to live up to to take on the more despicable qualities of his character, so Bridges has enough room to make the character his own. Bridges's Cogburn is a man that an orphaned girl (Hailee Steinfeld) can turn to for true grit.
She hires the Marshall to take vengeance against the man who killed her father and insists on riding shotgun because she can't trust him to go it alone. Along for the ride is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon, sporting a glorious mustach…