30 August 2011

'Tree of Life' Goes Exclusively Blu-ray

The year's most complex film is heading to shelves in the weeks to come, but not in the way you think. Fox Searchlight will be selling the Tree of Life exclusively as a Blu-Ray Combo Pack. The decision makes sense in that the audience for Terence Malick's latest film is a very small one and already likely to own a Blu-Ray player.

If that doesn't grab you then maybe the 30 minute documentary featuring commentary by Christopher Nolan and David Fincher will.

The Blu-ray Disc presentation utilizes maximum bit rate encoding and 7.1 audio and a 2.0 stereo mix to bring Malick’s visually stunning masterpiece to life providing consumers with a premium cinematic viewing experience for the home. An exclusive 30-minute documentary on the making of the film, Exploring The Tree of Life, allows fans to dig even deeper into Malick’s visionary work and his cinematic legacy through interviews with his collaborators and cast members as well as with directors Christopher Nolan and David Fincher who share an appreciation for his work.

'Drive' Poster Features A Real Hero

The pink font may turn off some, but it fits the film perfectly.

28 August 2011

'Rum Diary' Trailer

Interested in a second course of Gonzo Journalism? Just switch out massive drug usage for booze binges and you'll be set.

24 August 2011

Pixar's Untitled Dinosaur Film

What if that life-changing asteroid missed Earth? Director Bob Peterson’s hilarious tale depicts a world where dinosaurs never went extinct.

Yes! Cars 2 may not have been the critical success Pixar was hoping for but between this, Brave, and the other film from a co-director Up set in the mind, they have probably just blew the expectations of every moviegoer sky-high.

(Courtesy: /Film)

23 August 2011

10 Words or Less: Iron Man (2008)

The entrepreneur's new clothes.

21 August 2011

The Vault: Hoop Dreams (1994)

It’s no secret ladies and gentlemen, the films we gravitate towards and embrace forever, are the pictures that make the film going experience a personal one. Steven James’s brilliant and downright breathtaking documentary Hoop Dreams, shared with me two deeply personal matters: the city of Chicago and of course, the game of basketball.

There was a time, like I’m positive all of you who are reading have had, where I thought professional basketball was in my near future. Sure, I was quite good and stood out on my team, and most places I played. But the chances of every making it into the NBA or any professional sport are so slim you have a better chance winning that 400 million-dollar lottery.

But hell that was the beauty of being child: we dreamed big, perhaps a bit naïve, but when you’re 9 years old the sky is the limit. That’s not to say we as people don’t chase our passions – but there is a time where one must face reality and the fortunes that come along with it.

William Gates and Arthur Agee, the subjects of Hoop Dreams, are breaking the chain and planning to do something bigger and better in their lives. Director Steven James follows these two kids and their respective families for six years. With this all-access pass in these households, we witness some honest behavior and sad realities for the two, primarily poor families.

We embark on a journey; watching these two kids casually shooting hoops on the schoolyard, transpire over the years into an opportunity to play for a college team. Every second Arthur and William are on the court counts. These games and outcomes mean so much more than winning or losing, but in fact dictate the future of these two kid’s lives.

In basketball it’s all about being recognized. If you’re really good, there’s a shot you may be recruited. Arthur and William fall into this category. Their talents are beyond comparison with others they play with. So, with a hint of fortune and a whole lot of luck, the two, rather deprived kids get offered a chance to attend a largely white prep school in Chicago (St. Joes) with tuition money being decreased, as long as they play basketball (very well mind you) for the school.

It’s an understatement to say these kids had no idea what they were in for: long commutes everyday, a new snooty social environment, academics held to a certain high standard, family pressures, and of course, rigorous basketball coaching.

For me to capsule and pick point what occurs in Hoop Dreams would be an injustice to everyone involved with his masterful picture. Those who have problems with documentaries, give it a chance: these stories on screen are for more fascinating than anything you will find in Hollywood.

I was moved, in shock, and engrossed in what was unfolding in front of my eyes. Here is a documentary that is painstakingly honest with its subject matter. These are genuine families, ones with legitimate worries and fears. And we have William and Arthur’s ambitions to be in the NBA peak and falter simultaneously throughout this 6 year journey James and company invested their lives in.

Hoop Dreams is a mammoth in documentary filmmaking: one that capsulated people’s hopes, emotions, and dreams greater and more dramatic than anything I’ve ever seen. The film’s three hour run time flies by, but the impressions and thoughts Hoop Dreams left, will last me a lifetime.

You can find all my reviews at Duke & The Movies & follow me on twitter @DukeSensation

12 August 2011

It's Time, Academy

Apparently I should have saved this post for a year later or so. Andy Serkis's lauded performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes is garnering some traction for a Best Supporting Actor bid - who is he supporting exactly? - but I think it's time we either acknowledge his motion capture performance as an a Special Achievement Award or just give it its own category.

We all know that the Academy is slow to acknowledge innovation and when they do traditionally it's too late for it to matter, but here's hoping that a burgeoning field will be rewarded soon.

In 2001 the Academy created the Best Animated Feature category, presumably, to garner attention to animated masterworks that were languishing come award season. Prior to last year's Best Picture nomination for UP only Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Film. Since the addition of that category animation has seen a renaissance of sorts. One might have hoped that films featuring motion capture could be nominated for Best Animated Feature, but, according to the Academy:

"An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of greater than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time.”

So no luck for films like A Scanner Darkly, and A Christmas Carol, but will performances in these films be featured come award time? They haven't yet so far.

Performances such as Andy Serkis's work in the Lord of the Rings trilogy King Kong, Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol and Zoe Saldana in Avatar have gone unrecognized. Brad Pitt's portrayal in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, predominantly provided by motion capture or heavy makeup, was rewarded with a nomination for Best Actor in 2008. When I saw Button in theatres two Christmases ago I never stopped and thought about the CGI it ebbed and flowed with the film. During Avatar I completely bought the concept of Neytiri as a real, feeling, being. Her voice, mannerisms, etc. sold the performance. There was no distinction between the two presentations except the Academy deemed one more viable.

Serkis never really acts so much as completely embodies Kong. The wistful look in his eye he gives Ann (Naomi Watts) as he collapses from the top of the tower could only be delivered by an actor, the dead eye effect that plagued early mo-cap could not have created that haunting ending. Carrey, always known for giving it his all in his roles was Chaplin-esque in A Christmas Carol, sacrificing his body for the end result. The Academy has been willing to correct its wrongs as of late (the ten Best Picture nods), but will they create a category for Best Motion-Capture Peformance or Best Motion Capture Film? We will have to wait and see.

08 August 2011

First Look at Henry Cavill as Superman

It's hard to say we couldn't have seen this coming. The most frequent complaint about Singer's Superman Returns is that is was short on action. So it should come as no surprise that the first look at Zack Snyder's upcoming film features a lot of destruction. The changes to the suit are interesting (though one might be tempted to say it looks like fish scales) and another redub of Donner's suit would have alienated fans. Overall, not bad.

(Courtesy: Warner Bros.)

05 August 2011

Review: Attack the Block

A woman (Jodie Whittaker) walks alone down an empty street, the assumption is that something foreign to this world lurks around the corner will leap out at her. She is attacked, but not by aliens, just a gang of teens. The gang led by Moses (John Boyega) and Pest (Alex Esmail) are notorious on this block. They rule the nights with impunity. These are the "heroes" of Joe Cornish's Attack the Block.

Before they successfully get away with her purse, an alien crash lands into a car nearby. While they beat the alien to death, the nurse gets away. Nurse Sam eventually receives help from the authorities only to watch them killed by the aliens. Sam has a choice to make: try to get away while the aliens sit outside, or risk staying with the gang that robbed her.

Fireworks drown out the aliens' arrival, so it comes down to Moses and his crew to save the block. No cops and no army to help them out, but no one knows this South London complex better than these kids.

Moses and co. lead Sam around the block initiating her into their squalor of a lifestyle and the criminal element responsible for their late night activities. When it comes down to it, the relationship with the main ensemble is a difficult one to maintain and while Joe Cornish attempts to show some growth amongst the youth, if the teenaged "heroes" are only a little better than the monsters, rooting for them is just that much harder. Jodie Whittaker is a bright spot however, she does great as Sam, evolving from the victim to a hero in her own right by the film's end.

The line between comedy and horror is thin as Attack the Block never fully succeeds in either fashion of the genre mash-up. With the exception of Nick Frost, the film's chief comic relief, who plays a bohemian drug dealer with a fondness for National Geographic to the hilt.

Block's aliens are unique in their design, bright, neon-blue teeth illuminate their mouths and they have no faces to speak of beyond that. Black fur hides every other feature of the extra-terrestrials. Quick editing and shooting the film at night keeps the aliens from appearing fake.

How you view Moses, Pest and the rest of the crew will influence how you respond to Attack the Block. If you can run with them, the film will be a blast, if not the film is a brief 88 minutes.

03 August 2011

The Vault: The Producers (1968)

Before there was the movie based on the musical, there was the musical based on the movie. That first movie is The Producers. The film tells the story of failed broadway producer Max Bialistock (Zero Mostel), and a scheme hatched by fellow producer Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder). Their plan is to raise more money in investments than the show will earn, then abscond with the investment money. It's a stupid plan, but that doesn't stop Max and Leo from going through with it.

They set out to make the worst musical in Broadway history. With a Hitler-reverent script written by a former Nazi soldier, an overly flamboyant and inappropriate director, and a burnout lead actor aptly named LSD, they are sure that they've come up with a sure-fire flop.

The film is a product of its time. With its go-go dancing Swedish bombshell, hippie freakouts, and vaguely offensive portrayal of homosexuals, not to mention the muted colour palette, it's certainly a film from the late 1960s. However, the film is a pillar of the pop-cultural canon, hilarious, and timeless, and better than 96% of the new movies coming out today.

01 August 2011

New Webslinger, New Suit

Director Marc Webb has been out and about recently sharing his thoughts about webshooters and the films' new suit:

We paid attention to the question of 'How would a kid make it?" And obviously we took some license with it. We also wanted a design that would make the body longer and more lithe, more of an acrobat, someone incredibly agile, and the legs of the spider [symbol on the chest] were something we used to emphasize that. We made a bunch of different suits for different lighting conditions. I wanted something that worked in the night a little better.

(Courtesy: Sony/LA Times)