30 November 2011

FYC: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I've written about this topic before and the time is as good as ever. Motion-capture performance is just as legitimate as any other medium in film. Recognize it. Now.

Lizard Concept Art for 'Amazing Spider-man'

Today reveals yet another look at the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) from Marc Webb's upcoming Amazing Spider-man. Many didn't anticipate the antagonist to look so human, but given that Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has to empathize with him it would make more sense for a less monstrous appearance.

(Courtesy: Coming Soon)

29 November 2011

'Young Adult' Red-band TV Spot

I think we all remember the adage, "Cry over spilled wine".

'The Artist' and 'Take Shelter' Lead Spirit Awards

The Artist and Take Shelter each received five nominations from the Indie Spirit Awards this morning. Drive, The Descendants, 50/50 and Beginners will fill out the competition for Best Feature. I was a little surprised that Win Win didn't make it into the crowd, but nominations for Michael Shannon and Ryan Gosling more than make up for it.

The rest of the nominees:

Best Director:
Mike Mills (Beginners)
Nicholas W Refn ( Drive)
Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)

Robert Altman Award: Margin Call

Best Int’l Film:
A Separation
The Kid With a Bike

Best Male Lead:
Demian Bichir (A Better Life)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)
Woody Harrelson (Rampart)
Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)

Best Female Lead:
Lauren Ambrose (Think of Me)
Rachel Harris (Natural Selection)
Adepero Oduye (Pariah)
Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Best Supp Male:
Albert Brooks (Drive)
John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids)
Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris)

Best Supp. Female:
Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter)
Angelica Huston (50/50)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Harmony Santana (Gun Hll Road)
Shaileen Woodley (The Descendants)

Best Doc:
An African Selection
Bill Cunningham New York
The Interrupters
The Redemption of General Butt Naked,
We Were Here

Best Screenplay:
Joseph Cedar (FootNote)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Tom McCarthy (Win Win)
Mike Mills (Beginners)
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash (The Descendants)

(Courtesy: THR)

27 November 2011

To Be, Or Not to Be Olivier

Very infrequently does the opportunity to play an acting legend present itself . More seldom when the actor is one you have been compared to your entire career.

Kenneth Branagh has been steeped in Olivier's shadow for years, despite that no men have done more to revive Shakespeare than Branagh and Olivier. Both, well versed in stage acting, crowned with honors, etc.

Branagh is no stranger to adapting Olivier's work—he remade Sleuth in 2007, as well as wrote and directed adaptations of Henry V and Hamlet—so playing the man may have been too tempting to pass up. Few men are as decorated as Laurence Olivier (10 nominations, 3 Oscar wins) and playing Sir Laurence may finally be the push for Branagh to win the gold statue himself.

Branagh plays Olivier as a man of contradictions. He desperately wants to be as big a star as Monroe, but his selection of roles makes that transition almost impossible. He nails the voice, mannerisms, and the odd mix of modesty and arrogance that compelled Olivier to rage against others like a third world dictator. With that said Branagh still plays him as the talented man he was. And more importantly, with authenticity.

26 November 2011

'The Dark Knight Rises' Screencaps

I promised myself that I wouldn't look at any screencaps online, but surfing the web over Thanksgiving proved to be too fruitful to pass up. The focus of the final Nolan-Batman film is headed in the right direction and one can only hope that maybe... just maybe that a comic book film will get its due. The other two screencaps are available at Empire.

(Courtesy: Empire)

25 November 2011

Review: Hugo 3D

Thinking of Martin Scorsese, the top five pictures that came to mind are probably violent. The living legend of cinema has made his name on gangster films such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of the New York and The Departed, but a tale about an orphaned child in Paris wouldn't seem to be his forte. Sitting in the theatre after the lights came up, that assumption was wrong.

The story begins with a boy named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) and his father, a gifted clock-maker. His father (Jude Law) comes home bearing a gift in the form of an automaton. He perishes in an accidental fire and young Hugo is left in the care of his drunken uncle Claude. Trained to do his uncle's duties Hugo becomes the repairman for the train station, Claude disappears not long after and Hugo is orphaned.

Living in the station, Hugo scavenges for parts around the station in hopes that he finds the missing piece to his father's automaton. His hunch is that the automaton has a message from his father before he passed. In searching for parts he draws the ire of a shopkeeper (Sir Ben Kingsley) and station agent (Sacha Baron Cohen). Hugo must keep on his toes, if he is caught he will be sent to an orphanage. Hugo is not alone though, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), the shopkeeper's god daughter, is more than open to take part in his adventures.

There are a few secrets locked inside of Hugo and they should be experienced without any knowledge before hand. If the name George Melies is unfamiliar, then I will gladly let Martin Scorsese clue you in. Knowing little about the film beforehand offers a great deal of pleasures.

Scorsese's enthusiasm for the material waves a kind of spell over the audience. Aided by an excellent cast led by the vastly underrated Ben Kingsley and the two young leads with a great deal of potential. The director has a talent for drawing the best out of actors and he surprises no one in doing so again. What is surprising is the technical proficiency with which Scorsese wields 3D cameras. He doesn't go for the gimmicky shot, every sequence serves the story and dazzles simultaneously.

Hugo is part fiction, part history of film, and also a wonderful fantasy. Over his fifty year career, Scorsese has turned in one great film after another, and Hugo will most definitely be included in that class.


24 November 2011

Review: The Muppets

For a while it seemed like The Muppets would be lost to time. Their last appearance was 1999's Muppets from Space, which was a far cry from their successful run on television in the 70s and the revered films from the 80s and early 90s. The lack of films since suggested that maybe Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Fozzie and the rest of the gang may not come back.

That Jim Henson's creation may not grace the silverscreen apparently also upset Jason Segel as well. With Forgetting Sarah Marshall cohort Nicholas Stoller on hand, Segel took his childhood love and poured his heart out into the script.

Brothers Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter (Peter Linz) are without a doubt the biggest Muppet fans in the world. The two are headed on a trip to Los Angeles with some big plans: Gary plans on proposing to longtime girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) and Walter's first stop is Muppet Studios. The studio has long since been abandoned, but tours are still given. Desperate to see as much as he can, Walter breaks off from the group and explores Kermit's former office. There he overhears terrible news. Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), oilman and owner of Muppet's Studio, plans to make the studio a museum are a lie. The real reason for Richman's purchase is the body of oil underneath the studio.

With this valuable piece of knowledge in their hands, Gary, Walter and Mary head off to see the only person who can fix this: Kermit the Frog.

What the trio expect to see when they get to Kermit's house and what they find is disheartening. Kermit is there alone, Ms. Piggy left for Paris years ago and the only comfort Kermit has is his outdated 80s bot and dusty framed pictures of his old friends. With help from Gary, Mary and Walter, Kermit finds a legal loophole that would return the Studio to the Muppets if they can raise ten million dollars. The only question is will the gang reunite for one last hurrah?

The mirror between the Muppets' reputation in the film and the property since it was purchased by Disney is an interesting one. It never appeared that Disney knew what to do with the comedy group, but they have a strong platform to build off of thanks to Segel and Stoller.

The Muppets haven't aged a bit in the twelve year gap between films. Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Fozzie and the rest of the crew are just as funny now as they were thirty years ago during their heyday. Paired with Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords), the songs are top-notch and don't be surprised if you find yourself singing them during the car ride home.

A film truly made for the entire family.


22 November 2011

First Look at 'Prometheus'

The production of Ridley Scott's upcoming Prometheus has been shrouded in secrecy, but Entertainment Weekly has provided us with a look at the Alien prequel. I couldn't say what it is we're looking at, but it involves eggs and a very large head.

(Courtesy: EW/Dread Central)

Japanese 'Young Adult' Poster

Not all of the posters for Jason Reitman's Young Adult have been winners, but this one is quite nice. Each subsection reflecting the different shades of Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron). Although how many of those shades are likable is anyone's guess.

(Courtesy: Imp Awards)

20 November 2011

Empire Reveals Batman, Bane and TDKR's Timeline

According to Empire's sitdown interview with Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises will take place eight years after the events of The Dark Knight:

"It's really all about finishing Batman and Bruce Wayne's story," Nolan comments. "We left him in a very precarious place. Perhaps surprisingly for some people, our story picks up quite a bit later, eight years after The Dark Knight. So he's an older Bruce Wayne [and] he's not in a great state."

Apologies for the belated nature of these covers, but this week has been a busy one for me. They don't reveal a great deal, but Batman (Christian Bale) has one hell of a taser. Even a superb Venom-high couldn't keep that from taking you down.

(Courtesy: Empire)

19 November 2011

Save Community

Granted, the show has not been cancelled, but why wait for it to come to blows before we get out there? All together Community fans should be able to muster six seasons and a movie. Plus, watching it makes you smarter: The top three shows of people with four or more years of college are Parks and Rec, The Office and-you guessed it-Community.

(Courtesy: Vulture)

17 November 2011

'Shame' Quad Poster

Bravo to the marketing team behind Steve McQueen's Shame! Impressive posters like this haven't been seen since Black Swan last year.

(Courtesy: EW)

New 'Avengers' Banner

The Disney/Marvel team seems pretty insistent on not revealing the Hulk at all. Granted, one should not complain that much considering that it isn't another poster where they are all pointing their weapons at each other inadvertently.

(Courtesy: IMP Awards)

15 November 2011

'Dragon Tattoo' Soundtrack Cover Art

Still no release date, track names, or anything really, but we have the cover art now. And the soundtrack is still by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross so it will be worth the wait.

(Courtesy: The Playlist)

14 November 2011

Oscar Senses Tingling, Part Two

The Ides of March
What it's likely to get nominated for: Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Hoffman)
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Lead Actor (Gosling)

I don't know what Ryan Gosling has to do to seriously warrant some Oscar consideration, but come on! Nominations for Hoffman and 'Ides' are a lock. Clooney would probably net something for his dichotomous role as Governor Mike Morris, if it weren't for The Descendants.

Martha Marcy May Marlene
What it's likely to get nominated for: Lead Actress (Olsen)
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Supporting Actor (Hawkes)

This year's Best Actress field is a fiercely crowded one. Between the legends of Close and Streep, you have the solid Viola Davis and underdog character actors Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur). Olsen may not be able to pull off what Jennifer Lawrence did last year with Winter's Bone.

J. Edgar
What it's likely to get nominated for: Best Picture, Lead Actor (DiCaprio), Supporting Actress (Dench)
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Lead Actor

J. Edgar may have its faults--or several depending on who you ask--but Leonardo DiCaprio is certainly its strongest aspect. He took a man made of shadows and myths and presented him in his entirety. Despite the makeup he embodies a man obsessed with secrets, though he clings desperately to his own.

13 November 2011

The Vault: Rebel Without A Cause

Rebel Without A Cause is made for a certain generation. One that was desperately in search of a hero, a patron saint, a man who could obtain freedom and show expressing yourself is the key of life. James Dean, in 1955 and throughout the 50’s and 60’s, was that hero. 

However, it is with great melancholy that Nicolas Ray’s touted and beloved classic is a deplorable, languid mess of a picture.

The film follows Jim Stark (Dean) a rebellious teenager, upset with everything and everyone. Particularly his father Frank (Jim Backus): a symbolic character, who represents Stark’s quest for manhood and integrity (neither of which his apron wearing father contains).

Written by Stewart Stern and adapted by Irving Shulman’s novel by the same name, the plot in Rebel Without A Cause is not only scarce, but irrelevant. There’s next to nothing in quantity and quality in the film. Perhaps that’s on purpose, though.

The film is not so much lacking purpose, as it is perplexed in it its way of direction. Ironically it represents Jim in every which way. A soft-spoken teen, fussed about nothing too serious, but is tired and discontent with his surroundings. All the characters consistently acknowledge their problems – yet none can ever quite eloquently articulate it.

Beyond Jim’s life of discontempt, is a plethora of hyperbolic symbols vividly captured in the film. For instance, during the first day of school Jim meets John ‘Plato’ Crawford (played by Sal Mineo) a teen seeking for any resemblance of a friend. The two instantly strike up a friendship. The undertones lie with their mutual comfort. Perhaps purposely concocted, the film displays clear signs of homosexuality for Plato – who clearly is infatuated with Jim.

Does Jim share mutual feelings? Not likely. Especially when he meets the mysterious Judy (played with great angst by Natalie Wood).

James Dean and Natalie Wood star in "Rebel Without A Cause"
In resemblance of a Shakespearean play, the two instantaneously gravitate towards each other. Star crossed lovers. Lonely hearts in search of endearing counterparts. Love or infatuation, it doesn’t matter. At last they’ve found… someone.

And albeit all its brilliant qualities, Rebel Without A Cause is far too sporadically plotted to be considered delightfully spontaneous – it’s merely exposition, absurd action, and vapid consequences.

Surely it makes valid social commentary on rebellious teens in Suburbia and the fight for uniqueness. Within doing such, though, Nicolas Ray simply does construct a consistently interesting endeavor.

I understand such films like Rebel Without A Cause are touchy subjects for a great deal of people. It represented an era and a sort of cultural attitude–and that is forever noteworthy.

Regardless, the film is supremely dated, unequivocally incoherent, and lacking the animosity that, at the time, made for such upheaval and praise.

Great films stand the test of time. Configure and adapt within their screenplays to remain contemporary. Rebel Without A Cause wallows in obnoxious tyrants and teens that are far more obsessed with manhood than dignity.

✭✭ out of ✭✭✭✭

You can read all my writing at Duke & The Movies and follow me on twitter @DukeSensation 

11 November 2011

Review: J. Edgar

A sprawling bio-pic about one of history's most controversial figures directed by Clint Eastwood and written by an Academy Award winner seems like it should be one of the year's best pictures. However, films like J. Edgar prove that this is why movies are watched before their success is speculated on.

J. Edgar Hoover was not a well-liked man, he was intensely private and let personal prejudices color his mind when enforcing law. Despite his contempt for authority, he outlasted eight presidents and made the FBI one of the most powerful institutions in the United States. A man of public outstanding morals, it is ironic the most lasting legacy of the man is that he was a rumored cross-dresser. Even that isn't verified.

This much secrecy leaves Clint Eastwood and Dustin Lance Black in a tough spot trying to reveal some insight into a man that guarded. There isn't an issue inherent with dramatizing history, but when a film presents itself as an authoritative depiction of a man, audiences take issue.

Still, without a definitive portrait of the man, his story can be told through three very influential figures: Annie Hoover (Judi Dench), Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts).

His mother does her best to outdo Faye Dunaway as the worst film mother ever and Hoover's idiosyncrasies become all too clear. Later on in the film, when Hoover and Gandy go on a date, he spends his time showing her his prowess in cataloging. Their romantic relationship fizzles immediately, but she becomes his personal secretary for life. Hoover's introduction to Clyde seems to unfold in exactly the opposite fashion. Their romance is a subtle one and well-handled by the two talented leads.

Leonardo DiCaprio, buried under make-up, does his damnedest to give an accurate reflection of a man who no one really knew. A man so restrained, if he were to let loose, he may very well explode. DiCaprio finds a maintained balance between the vicious self-loathing that plagued Hoover, and the imposing image he presented to the world.

Objectivity is hard to achieve in film, but Eastwood's handling of the material does suggest an even-handedness that is appreciated when covering such a divisive figure.

As good as the performances are, there are a few curious choices. Cinematographer Tom Stern envelopes the film in a murky stain that lends a sense of ugliness to the picture. J. Edgar shifts between decades early and often, but without any real reason. For many biopics this could add some fresh air to the proceedings, but for this film, it adds nothing.

What is most frustrating about J. Edgar isn't the poor makeup and odd chronological deviations, but that they consistently kill any momentum that Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer's strong performances build.

**1/2 out of ****

10 November 2011

'Haywire' Clip Kicks Ass

Unfortunately, only Entertainment Weekly has the trailer so you'll have to hit the link  below to witness Gina Carano grapple with Michael Fassbenderwatch this and tell me he shouldn't be the next Bond.

(Courtesy: EW)

09 November 2011

Review: Take Shelter

Curtis (Michael Shannon) has a good life: a loving wife, a daughter and a job with decent benefits. His nights as of late have been sleepless. Inescapable storms and faceless people linger threateningly in his dreamscape. He awakens, short of breath and covered in sweat.

Nothing is quite as frightening as the sight of a tornado cloud. No matter how far we run, a storm cloud will cover the distance. It is as if the fury of God is actively playing out against us. If a storm were to hit tomorrow Curtis and his family would have no place to hide. Leaving his family in a gulch is no substitute for a storm plan, so Curtis takes steps to update the shelter he has out back. It may cost some money, but they can't go without.

As plans are made without consulting his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain) everyone around him begins to worry. Loans are signed, money they don't have is spent on plywood. Their daughter, Hannah, is hearing impaired. She has a surgery that's been scheduled for months that they already can't afford, what is he doing?

Curtis's mother slipped into psychosis at a similar age, is he going already?

Mental illness or not, he won't give up his family. He can't be losing his mind, he's just providing for his family. To add to Curtis's distress, he can't seem to separate his dreams from reality. The editing of Take Shelter seamlessly blends the horrors of Curtis's nightmares with the minutiae of work, signing lessons and Lion's Club dinners.

Michael Shannon is a revelation as a man unraveling at a frenzied pace. He is primarily a character actor, but given a leading role in Jeff Nichols's second effort he mesmerizes. The pain in Shannon's eyes as he finds himself apologizing for one thing after another breaks your heart. The odds are unlikely of either Michael Shannon or Michael Fassbender garnering Oscar nods, but one can hope.

Speaking of great performances, Jessica Chastain hands in yet another—what is this—her sixth one this year? The housewife role in domestic dramas often suffers at the hands of ham-fisted writers, but Chastain embodies a sense of dignity throughout her ordeal.

A great deal of films have recently tried to capture the existential panic of living on the edge during a recession, none of them have succeeded quite as brilliantly as Take Shelter. Scenes where Curtis and Samantha argue over their debts is as fraught with tension as some heist sequences.

David Winger's score is reminiscent of wind chimes blowing in the breeze, calling to a future storm. The score meshes with the film so effortlessly that the mere hint of it sent shivers down my spine. It should come as no surprise that the stunning conclusion did as well.

A beautiful film visually and in its execution, Take Shelter leaves one lost for words upon exiting the theatre —it is quite simply mesmerizing.


07 November 2011

'Skyfall' Starts Today

@007 has posted the first set pic from the 23rd Bond film today. Once it's the first day of production it is hard to do better than Roger Deakins as your cinematographer. And maybe it's just me, but is this the same bathroom from the opening of Casino Royale?

"I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."

Stuck in space, millions of miles away from help. The only assistance Dave has is HAL and HAL isn't cooperating. His life has become secondary to the mission and no one else is left. He is a man abandoned. Worse yet, the machine knows that Dave is a liar. We fear that HAL's programming is faulty, rather it works too well.

04 November 2011

An Evening with MST3K's Cinematic Titanic

We don't get much here in Reno, though every once in a while we get lucky enough to catch something special. Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been touring around the country recently with their new venture Cinematic Titanic.

The evening's film was the fantassssstic Rattlers and the audience eagerly awaited to relive some part of their childhood--thirties for the most of the audience--in the form of a terrible seventies horror film. A herpetologist is called out to the desert when reports of snack attacks are becoming too frequent for the small town sheriff who expects about 2-3 calls a day.

Enter Dr. Tom Parkinson who, to his dismay finds out he has to work with a woman! ("She doesn't even have a safari jacket") The two scour the desert ("I drew the place on the map where those two kids died") and come upon an even military plot to release chemicals into an old cave. The snakes are now exposed to the nerve gas and... well, you don't care about the terrible movie. But you do want to know if Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as good as you remember. And trust me, they are.

The people that made talking during a movie acceptable, Mystery Science Theater 3000 may have been off the air for a few years, but they are still as sharp as a scythe. The comic timing is still perfect and the audience's applause was so loud they had to occasionally skip a joke.Who can I call to get this back on the air?

Whether you like old Servo, or new Servo, the dozens of jokes delivered at a gatling-gun pace will make everyone smile. If you're worried about the comedy being dated, don't. References range from the Tea Party to Betty White and everything in between. Hodgson, Beaulieu, Coniff, Weinstein, and Mary Jo Pehl are still at the top of their game, fielding a winner here tonight.

03 November 2011

Bond 23 Is Officially 'Skyfall'

The wait is over! Daniel Craig is returning as Bond on the bigscreen. MGM and Sony Pictures officially announce today that Bond 23 will be called Skyfall. Javier Bardem is indeed the film's villain, Naomie Harris will play Eve, with Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney rounding out Skyfall cast.

The official plot synopsis, as posted by the @007 Twitter account, reads as follows: “Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

(Courtesy: 007)

01 November 2011

New York/Boston Tour Giveaway

Want to eat in the same pub that Jack Nicholson broke Leonardo DiCaprio's hand in The Departed? Hit the club from Boardwalk Empire? See the Bandshell from Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

On Location Tours is giving away two tickets (airfare not included) to tour all of these locations and more in New York City and Boston. All you have to do is have the most comments for the month of November. At the end of the month the comments will be tallied and you and a friend can see all these sites and more.