29 September 2011

Oscar Senses Tingling, Part One

The Tree of Life
What it's likely to get nominated for: Supporting Actor (Pitt), Cinematography
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Best Picture

Many have viewed 'Tree' as divisive and very few can agree on what it means, but with the new Best Picture formula (must have 5% of first-place votes) and the die-hard devotees of Malick's latest I think it may sneak into the big dance.

What it's likely to get nominated for: Supporting Actor (Brooks)
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Brooks)

The violence will most likely turn off Academy members from voting for Drive into the Best Picture field, but the main purveyor of said violence stands the best chance of a nomination. Albert Brooks is beloved by nearly all of the Academy and his against-the-grain turn as a mobster could very well be the lead contender in the field.

What it's likely to get nominated for: Lead Actor (Pitt)
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Best Picture, Lead Actor (Pitt)

Last year there was Blind Side, another of Michael Lewis's works, and here is a better flick that could do what that film couldn't: win the big show. The big question will come down to whether there are enough people willing to put Moneyball at #1 on their ballot. I don't know who couldn't find a space for it. If the story of a man fighting the odds constantly and consistently against the Goliaths of his sport cannot win Oscar gold, what can?

What it's likely to get nominated for: Original Screenplay
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Lead Actor

A very human look at living with cancer. The Academy is quite fond of physical transformations onscreen and if Levitt shaving his head with questionable trimmers doesn't cut it (forgive the pun) nothing else should.

28 September 2011

Follow Lee Unkrich

Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich tweeted that he will be sharing a photo a day while working on his next project for Pixar. "Today is day one on my next prject. Every day I'll post a new photo chronicling the journey.

Of course these photos won't always be thrilling, today's photo was of Mr. Unkrich's lunch. If you're generally curious please follow the Oscar winner at @LeeUnkrich

Early Concept Art for 'Woodfalls'

Looking for an artful depiction of the exploitation genre? Writer/director David Campion thinks he may have it in his upcoming film Woodfalls. Support the film on Kickstarter or hit the jump below to read the synopsis.
When a family of travelers come to a rural town, conflict ensues amongst the locals. Stigmatized as “gypsies” they are not welcome. Woodfalls revolves around the children of the family, Billy and his sister, Rebecca. Billy is trying to fit in after being misunderstood for his unconventional way of life, and Rebecca is discovering her sexuality in an effort to escape the conservative nature of a traveler’s religious culture.
Billy makes friends whilst gaining a few enemies, putting his family in danger and stirring up conflict in the small town. As things heat up, Rebecca’s innocence is tainted, and the family breaks. Acceptance would be key but is inevitably absent in this exploitation thriller that questions the value of life and what’s worth putting up a fight for.

26 September 2011

Hugh Jackman on His 'X-Men' Cameo

If you haven't seen X-Men: First Class I suggest you skip this post, but if you have give it a go. Hugh Jackman on his fun cameo for the X-Men reboot and why Matthew Vaughn should always do one extra take:

They pitched me the idea and I remember saying, 'Does anyone else swear in the movie?' They said, 'no,' and I said, 'I'm in.' [laughs] It sounded perfect to me. The actual line they used in the end, 'go f-ck yourself,' was a bit of an ad-lib. The line was originally 'f-ck off.' We did about eight takes and I said, 'Mathew, let me do just one more.'"

(Courtesy: Moviefone)

10 Words or Less: Se7en (1995)

What's in the box?!

24 September 2011

'The Descendants' Trailer

Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago to the day Nirvana's Nevermind was released. Now you may be wondering why this is being covered on a film blog, but you would only have to look at the blog's name to figure that out. I wasn't old enough to get into the grunge movement as it was going on (I was 5 when Cobain died), but I caught up during my teen years and Nirvana has been featured prominently in my life's soundtrack since.

23 September 2011

Review: Moneyball

Baseball movies. Everybody loves them. I mean everybody. Even Summer Catch has its own fans. So take a well-read book by Michael Lewis of Blind Side fame, add the ageless Brad Pitt and the rest is easy. Thankfully, the adaptation by Bennett Miller isn't as by-the-numbers as that. There is no forced romantic subplot to mull over, no downtrodden veteran giving it one last go, no rookie on the ropes trying to get a grip in America's pastime.

For once we have a strictly baseball movie. Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the new manager of the Oakland A's. The A's are not the Yankees, hell, they aren't even the Cubs. After losing several star players to free agency Beane has a choice ahead of him, play the rooks and take a beating or sign some over-the-hill guys and kill time for the rest of the season. Fortunately, Beane has Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a numbers cruncher who may have just found the way to even the score with the big boy teams.

Players like Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt, who is becoming quite the actor) have no obvious worth to some General Managers, but Beane knows different. On base percentage, walks drawn, slugging, these are mostly just numbers for baseball purists, but for Beane and Brand these numbers could take their team to the next level. As Brand says, “Your goal shouldn't be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins you need to buy runs.”

Brad Pitt is no stranger to playing the wholly committed main man. He is a mover and a shaker. He didn't come up under the establishment crowd and he won't put up with them when running his team. Pitt plays Beane with a panache that you have to have to run a multi-million dollar organization. Those scenes when he's throwing furniture after a not-so-polite meeting with his scouts are contrasted nicely when Beane retreats to the depths of the Oakland Coliseum during games.

Jonah Hill manages his transition to more adult films quite nicely with his role as Peter Brand. Not to say he isn't still the same funnyman from films like Superbad and Cyrus, but he is capable of playing the straight-man in a drama with ease.

Cinematographer Wally Pfister captures the exhilaration of the diamond wonderfully. Occasionally I caught myself wondering if I was watching game footage from the A's 2003 season. The expanses of an entire stadium filled with fans are collected along with solemn scenes with one man alone in his truck listening to another gut-wrenching defeat.

What makes Moneyball truly special is that this isn't just another baseball movie, it's a character study. The man who wants to revolutionize a game that wants no part of him.

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

22 September 2011

'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' Theatrical Trailer

Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara seem to have made their characters their own breathing actualizations of Mikael and Lisbeth. The color palette ranges from amber-ish flashbacks to the cold stark winters of Sweden. And Christopher Plummer... could someone get this man a goddamn Oscar already?!

21 September 2011

'The Grey' Trailer

Looks like a return to form from Narc director Joe Carnahan. Rugged survival in one of the harshest places on Earth. Liam Neeson was a perfect choice.

20 September 2011

'J. Edgar' Trailer

Two things come to mind about Leonardo DiCaprio in this trailer: 1) his accent seems to come-and-go (which could be intentional depending on which Hoover biography you read) and 2) that age makeup. Hopefully, both of these issues will not overshadow his performance.

17 September 2011

Review: Drive

Ryan Gosling's Driver seems right out of a magazine pictorial that the current star frequents anymore. His stare is cold and indefinite. His trademark jacket is a little out of date, but it says who he is without words.

A nameless protagonist is not a regular occurrence in cinemas today, though it would fit right in with the westerns of years ago. In a lot of ways Drive is the new western, with a fresh decal. Stoic leading man, a lot of money at stake, and several bad men waiting to get their hands on it.

Drive has been oft-described as a genre film, and stylistically it is. Nicolas Winding Refn has the same flair for chases, fights, and the type of blood lust that would make one think Quentin Tarantino is being too safe in his older age. The violence is quite stylized though, if your stomach is strong enough to take it.

However, Drive is more character focused where other films like Collateral are about plot. A stuntman by day, getaway driver by night, Gosling's Driver doesn't resemble what most people refer to as an "L.A. Guy". He keeps his mouth shut, does his job, and waits for something to thrill him in the meantime, that is until he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan).

Upon meeting Irene the Driver's life spirals into more hideous acts of brutality than he ever could have anticipated. And having him blend into that world right before her eyes is a shocking experience for her and the audience. He wants love, though we all know he probably won't ever have it.

Michael Mann's Thief and William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. are inspirations, but Drive is more conservative in its focus. Refn lights L.A. up beautifully, there are no slums here. Just neon lights and sun-lit rivers for skipping stones. The long takes don't bring to mind the ADD focus of the Fast and Furious franchise, each second spent lingering tells us everything we need to know. Cliff Martinez's score throbs like a heart beat amped on Red Bull. Often scores find a way to inadvertently tone down chase scenes, but Martinez nails it here.

Gosling may have finally shed his Notebook image with a McQueen strut and corresponding toothpick hanging out of his lip. I don't know if Gosling can sneak into a crowded Best Actor field but, God, would that be something. Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston are cast against type here, but they excel in their respective parts. Ultimately, Drive is a non-starter for the Oscar season, but it is one damn fine film.

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

Striking 'Dragon Tattoo' Promo Art

Full poster after the jump. Similar to last year's Social Network poster, but the story is in what you don't see. I don't know if this is ultimately all for a Best Picture push, though if it isn't then we still have this wonderful art.

(Courtesy: Mouth Taped Shut)

16 September 2011

Your Thoughts on 'Drive'

The stylized genre flick to end all genre flicks. Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between? Leave your take in the comments below.

15 September 2011

An 8 Minute Trailer?

I'm a big fan of viral marketing, always have been. So when reports came out that David Fincher was releasing an additional trailer attached to a screening of Straw Dogs it seemed like a great idea. Then it came out the trailer was eight minutes long. Which given that 'Dragon Tattoo' isn't that heavy on plot may be a bad idea.

Here are /Film's Peter Scirreta's thoughts on the footage he saw:

The trailer is awesome. While some two minute trailers completely ruin an entire movie, this 8-minute piece gives you enough to understand the story but not so much that you feel like you’ve seen it all. Somehow it feels like just an enticing appetizer — a teaser trailer. So if you’re afraid of watching this if it is ever released more publicly, don’t be.

The look and tone is very sterile yet moody — a feel I would compare to Se7en, but shot on an updated version of the RED cameras that Fincher used to shoot The Social Network.

Now before you go buying a ticket to Straw Dogs this weekend, the trailer is apparently not attached to the film. So see Drive instead.

(Courtesy: /Film)

12 September 2011

'Tinker, Tailor' U.S. Trailer

This trailer features more unseen footage and a rigid emphasis on Tom Hardy's character.

10 September 2011

'Shame' Picked Up by Fox Searchlight

Shame was purchased today by Fox Searchlight. Whether the film would be bought or not was in question because Steve McQueen refuses to cut the film in any way. According to producer Iain Canning the film will not be edited in any fashion and a NC-17 release is likely:

I would hope that pushing the boundaries and pushing the level of performance as an actor would be recognized. Everybody that’s talking to us now about U.S. distribution understands that this film is in its final form.

(Courtesy: Deadline)

'Martha Marcy May Marlene' Trailer

09 September 2011

Review: Contagion

Steven Soderbergh is not a cuddly director, as exhibited in Che, he likes to bring you into the grit. This is a global scare and not one of us is safe. Not one. The horror of the film is that it is not like The Andromeda Strain or Outbreak, this is entirely conceivable.

We first meet Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) on an overseas trip and upon returning to her home she randomly becomes sick. Her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) has no idea of what is happening and no inclination of what to tell his kids. The infected start spreading and soon the population is eating itself whole. Bloggers and talking heads, some with good-intentions and some not, are all part of media in this century prioritized to be panic-centric.

Jude Law plays a journalist whose name hits the stratosphere when he uploads a video of a man dying on a bus. There is no context to the death, but that doesn't matter. By inciting a panic he can become the new Kingmaker of nightly news. Law embodies the sentiment, “Blogging is not writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation.”

Contagion is unique in that the film spends a great deal of time in the CDC. Dr. Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) is handling the crisis in a modern age where globalization is a boon to the economy, yet a death knell for spreading disease. He sends Dr. Orantes (Marion Cotillard) to Hong Kong to investigate the disease's origin and Dr. Mears (Kate Winslet) to treat a very distraught Mitch in Minnesota.

Soderbergh and writer Scott Burns aren't just interested in genetic viruses, but the viruses that plague our communication systems. And it's a pleasure to see a film with a laser-focus on what the actual danger of an outbreak is: human behavior. We create distance, yet we never choose to do so at the appropriate time. When we go to work sick and endanger others, we don't care. Ironically, the closeness that gets us infected is all but abandoned when the crisis hits.

Despite the high caliber cast, a majority of the focus is only on Damon, Law and Lawrence Fishburne. Kate Winslet, and Marion Cotillard are good, though their cumulative screentimes leaves one wanting more, as does the brisk running time at 100 minutes.

The only flaw to Contagion - if it is a flaw in the eyes of Steven Soderbergh - is that there is very little audience connection to the characters. The film is framed as if we are looking down and instead of seeing people, watching growth inside of a petri dish. And it fits to some degree because Contagion acts not as a story, but a cold, lab-engineered, sterilized cautionary reminder of human behavior.


07 September 2011

'Shame' Seeks Distribution

Steve McQueen's (no, not that one) latest smash from the Venice Film Festival has been receiving critical applause as of late. With no distributor as of yet, a relatively unknown lead actor (though Michael Fassbender apparently gives a haunting turn), no rating and strong subject matter you would think the bidding would be low. Not the case:

This year’s festival hasn’t started and already there are fireworks. Deadline broke news yesterday that Harvey Weinstein would start a VOD business, making the acquisitions market for fringe films more competitive; and last night, I heard that a bidding battle had already broken out for the Steve McQueen-directed Shame, which should be sold by the time it screens Sunday. Fox Searchlight is the favorite, Sony Pictures Classics is in the mix and I’ve heard that The Weinstein Company is hovering.

(Courtesy: THR)

Listen to the 'Drive' Soundtrack

The soundtrack to Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive is out. Composed by former Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Cliff Martinez, the soundtrack is a shot of 80's excess and electronica. Give it a listen.

02 September 2011

'Killer Joe' Poster Reveals Darker McConaughey

McConaughey seems to be enjoying a career renaissance of late with this in the books and Steven Soderbergh's 'Magic Mike' up next. Anyone who is familiar with the stage play knows that he will not be a jolly guy this go-around.

(Courtesy: Coming Soon)

01 September 2011

'Martha Marcy May Marlene' Blends Dream with Reality

Fox Searchlight looks like it has another winner on its hands. The buzz for this have been spectacular and I am willing to love any film that gives John Hawkes an opportunity to shine.

(Courtesy: Fox Searchlight)

Telluride Film Festival Announces Lineup

Telluride starts tomorrow and for many of us the lineup would be a mystery until today. With the list of films released I think it's safe to say that this is a solid group. Notably, A Dangerous Method, The Artist, and Albert Nobbs. More announcements are expected in the days to come. After the jump check out the official feature films listed.
38th Telluride Film Festival is proud to present the following new feature films to play in its main program, the ‘SHOW’:

ALBERT NOBBS (d. Rodrigo Garcia, U.S., 2011)
THE ARTIST (d. Michel Hazanavicius, France, 2011)
BECOMING BERT STERN (d. Shannah Laumeister, U.S., 2011)
BITTER SEEDS (d. Micha X. Peled, U.S., 2011)
BONSÁI (d. Cristián Jiménez, Chile, 2011)
A DANGEROUS METHOD (d. David Cronenberg, U.K.-Switzerland-U.S.-Canada, 2011)
THE DESCENDANTS (d. Alexander Payne, U.S., 2011)
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (d. Lisa Immordino-Vreeland, U.S., 2011)
FOOTNOTE (d. Joseph Cedar, Israel, 2011)
THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD (d. Joshua Marston, U.S.-Albania-Denmark-Italy, 2011)
GOODBYE FIRST LOVE (d. Mia Hansen-Løve, France, 2011)
LE HAVRE (d. Aki Kaurismäki, Finland, 2011)
HOLLYWOOD DON’T SURF (d. Greg Macgillivray, Sam George, U.S., 2011)
IN DARKNESS (d. Agnieszka Holland, Poland, 2011)
INTO THE ABYSS: A TALE OF DEATH, A TALE OF LIFE (d. Werner Herzog, U.S., 2011)
THE ISLAND PRESIDENT (d. Jon Shenk, U.S., 2011)
THE KID WITH A BIKE (d. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium, 2011)
LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD (d. Martin Scorsese, U.S., 2011)
PASSERBY (d. Eryk Rocha, Brazil, 2011)
PERDIDA (d. Viviana García Besné, Mexico, 2011)
PINA (d. Wim Wenders, Germany, 2011)
A SEPARATION (d. Asghar Farhadi, Iran, 2011)
SHAME (d. Steve McQueen, U.K., 2011)
THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY (d. Mark Cousins, U.K., 2011)
TARGET (d. Alexander Zeldovich, Russia, 2011)
THE TURIN HORSE (d. Béla Tarr, Hungary, 2011)
THE WAY HOME (d. Dr. Biju, India, 2010)
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (d. Lynne Ramsey, U.K., 2011)

2011 Fall/Winter's Most Anticipated

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Taut thrillers have been left by the wayside in recent years - action films and rom-coms are more sure investments - but here, a prize one, has been placed right into our laps. George Smiley (Gary Oldman) has been tasked with finding a mole in his agency. When men start dying the stakes cannot be higher. But who can you trust?

Stuntman by day, criminal by night. Everything comes easy to (Gosling), whether it be flipping a car at exactly the right moment, or escaping hordes of police cars, nothing really frightens him. So when a score goes horribly awry, the adrenaline kicks in and the man paid to run goes on the prowl.

The Ides of March
The cast alone should convince you to purchase a matinee ticket. Clooney, Gosling, Hoffman, Giamatti. Running for President is treacherous. The only thing more treacherous is ambition. When idealistic aide (Gosling) is convinced he can become a Kingmaker to charismatic (Clooney) a sure thing quickly unravels and everyone becomes a liability.

A Dangerous Method
Michael Fassbender has been a very industrious man. If you look closely enough you will notice he has been in every film this summer. So it should come as no surprise that he leapt at the chance to work with Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg on a project that explores the dark recesses of the human mind.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I was not a fan of the original, but along came a very tantalizing teaser trailer and know I'm curious. Rooney Mara nailed every one of her scenes in The Social Network, so the prospect of giving her much more screentime and a juicier role is hard to resist. And the tagline: The Feel-bad movie of Christmas. Perfect.