31 January 2012

The Year of Nostalgia (Best Films of 2011)

Nostalgia hurts, so it came as a surprise that so many films this year were aimed at people opening old wounds and experiencing the joys of childhood again. Hugo mystified many this year and The Artist recreated a whimsical feeling in moviegoers that had gone unfelt since the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close made us wish for the innocence of a child before the fateful morning of September 11th. Midnight in Paris reminded us that nostalgia of an era we never lived in is just sentimentality.

But it wasn't just nostalgia for another time, it was for any semblance of normality. A return to a time when raising a family wasn't so damn hard. When your rivals couldn't simply outspend you. When your friend getting married didn't mean that she had to move away. When cinema could help audiences forget the troubles of the world. Few films have touched upon wish fulfillment in bulk the way that this year has. Even few have done so as well as Take Shelter, if there is a film that can better embody the feeling of the average family trying to pull through a recession, I never found it.

A lot has been said about 2011: that it doesn't compare with 2010's class of films; that is was weak; that it didn't have any heart. At the end of the day I would put this year up against any. It reminded us of a time we all longed for.

Colin's Top Ten
10. Bridesmaids
9. The Guard
8. 50/50
7. The Descendants
6. Hugo
5. Moneyball
4. Drive
3. Win Win 
2. Jane Eyre
1. Take Shelter

All 'The Dark Knight Rises' News Fit to Print

Being the most anticipated film of the year comes lots of news stories. In order to avoid reader fatigue combing the posts seemed like a simpler idea. Why take up three stories what you can do with one?

The above image comes from the prologue that came out in December.

Tom Hardy on Bane and his resistance to go to a dark place to play him:

Hardy described the character as "brutal" and "heavy-handed", but "I didn't get into a dark place at all. A lot of dark characters are easy to have distance from, it's something I feel comfortable with, I suppose."

Christian Bale on his mindframe playing Bruce Wayne/Batman:

For me he is an anarchist and a free spirit. He knows that there are parallels between him and his enemies because life is never stable – you always have to fight for it. Keeping in mind that it may never be boring and that nobody is obliging you to behave like a superhero and to always have your muscles flexed and bulging.

(Courtesy: Comic Book Movies)

30 January 2012

ArcLight Interviews: Gary Oldman

Thanks to ArcLight for providing us with an insightful look at how and why Gary Oldman took on the character of George Smiley in his Academy Award nominated performance in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

29 January 2012

Review: Brave Ideas (A Dangerous Method)

With any innovative idea there are vultures surrounding them, these vultures are both advocates and detractors just waiting to pick apart. Success has many fathers, but failure has just one. The "talking cure" that Dr. Freud (Viggo Mortensen) has implemented could either bring psychoanalysis to the mainstream or destroy the reputations of all doctors willing to treat their patients with it.

Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender, in yet another solid performance) likes to fancy himself a practitioner of the talking cure, but a new patient in the form of Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) could reveal him to be a student.

Sabina's psychosis is not a common one: she is excited by humiliation. Underneath all of this dilapidating fear, Jung sees a kindred spirit, a woman with insights of her own. He can find a way to cure her of this "disease", but in doing so he must tread lightly. His resolve is being corrupted by Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel), a man who represses nothing. Sabina has a proposal and Jung may halt the psychoanalytic movement before it even begins.

With Jung's sessions, Sabina blossoms into a analytical mind of her own, and as a lover for Jung. This presents complications when Jung finally meets Freud.

Despite Freud's gossamer-like touch regarding sexuality, he would better serve other interests if he shifted his focus elsewhere, Jung concludes. The cigar-chomping doctor seemingly does not care enough about a patient's problems enough to obtain any actualized solutions. Jung finds this unacceptable. Sexuality does not define any one person's actions consistently, he refuses to believe it. The growing feud between these therapists develops into a life-long one.

David Cronenberg's film relies on its actors to keep the audiences' attention onscreen as A Dangerous Method does not lend itself to cinematography. A majority of the film takes place behind a desk, in armchairs, and at the dinner table. Fortunately, Knightley, Fassbender and Mortensen all give it their all.

Mortensen takes the cigar and ability to throw battery acid onto a fresh-paint veneer like only Freud could. Watching the veteran pick apart the confidence of his peers must be what got Viggo the part. Michael Fassbender—so shortly after Shame—comes to prim and proper so naturally that even the hairs on his mustache stand at attention. Watching him loosen his morality as if it were a tie is a vicarious thrill. His scenes with Knightley revel in all of the kink that fans said that Cronenberg no longer had in him.

What we indulge in may bring us to the brink and A Dangerous Method proposes that in order to live, we may have to give it all up.


27 January 2012

Review: Red Tails

It’s here! It’s finally here!

After 23 years of rejection, cinematic torture, and pure lack of interest from every conceivable motion picture studio, George Lucas’ retelling of the Tuskegee Airmen’s battle against racism and the Germans during WW II, has at last been released and is now playing at a theater near you.

The question is: is it any good?

Well, in a word … no. In a sentence … Red Tails takes a passionate and serious subject matter, glamorizes it, and then morphs the story into a unconvincing, incoherent, action frenzied mess.

Director Anthony Hemingway’s directorial debut is the type of film you want to embrace, though. It’s a feel good blockbuster that doesn’t degrade society or dismantle morals, but rather cultivates them. How unfortunate that substance is too often substituted with hyper kinetic (Lucas driven) CGI.

We pick up the story in Italy, 1944. It’s the height of WW II and a new program entitled The Tuskegee Airmen has been set in motion. Despite malicious racists in Government and all across the country, these gentlemen are the first African American pilots to fight in war.

Red Tails has no genuine main character. Naturally, we receive some more fascinating than others. Joe ‘Lightning’ Little (David Oyelowo) – an eccentric pilot who falls for a gorgeous Italian woman, starts a fight in a bar, and talks back to his superiors. And his best friend, Marty ‘Easy’ Julian (Nate Parker) – who leads the “negro” pilots into combat and his ridden with an alcohol problem.

The African American generals are played by respected actors, Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. The former is compromising with government to allow the “negro” soldiers to fight in the air. And Gooding’s character does one thing: smoke from a Sherlock Holmes-like pipe, while strolling around the army base.

The historical narrative of these Tuskegee Airmen is bold and emotionally wrenching. George Lucas’ vision and ultimate creation of these events, is not. 
While the film certainly speaks to our patriotic sensibilities, delivering monologues on equality and the selflessness one must have in warfare, Red Tails does little to provoke any honest feelings. The stakes don’t feel crucial and John Ridley’s story perpetually avoids scenes that could be utilized as a springboard for emotion and deeper significance.

Instead, the films priorities lie within its visual craft. Lucas knows the sky – and understands how to create ingenious combatant action sequences. Most are first person, cutting between wide lens shots of battle and quick close ups of the pilot.

But like all momentary enjoyment, this becomes tiresome.

We’re then left with a young cast that provides – what feels like – impersonations, rather than nuanced performances. A meandering script lacking the depth of the issues that were present during the war. And to top it off, editing that leaves little room for one to care about these diligent soldiers on screen.

Signs of maturity and hope are sporadically sprinkled throughout Hemingway’s Red Tails. However, what’s more aggravating than obtaining small doses of quality during a film, is seeing a subject as vital as the Tuskegee Airmen being debased to a level of farcical entertainment.

For those truly interested in the story of these valuable individuals, check out the film entitled The Tuskegee Airmen. Directed by Robert Markowitz, made in 1995.

25 January 2012

Hungarian 'Shame' Poster

Given that Shame has played in maybe 40 theatres across the entire world, the only real look at Steve McQueen's divisive film has been at posters and trailers. Fortunately, these posters have been great. And here is the latest one coming to you all the way from Hungary.

24 January 2012

84th Academy Awards Nominees

It should be no surprise that The Artist and Hugo lead all films with eleven and ten nominations respectively.  Nice surprises in Bichir and Oldman's Best Acting nods as well as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's technical nods and Mara for Best Actress. I would have liked to have seen one of the Michaels (Fassbender in Shame or Shannon in Take Shelter) nominated though.

Best Picture
War Horse
The Artist
The Descendants
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
The Help
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Best Actress
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Best Actor
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Best Director
Michel Hazanivicus, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo, Bridesmaids
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The DescendantsJohn Logan, HugoGeorge Clooney, Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov, The Ides of MarchSteven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, MoneyballBridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Best Foreign Feature
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
A Separation
Best Animated Feature
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Art Direction
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Midnight in Paris
War Horse
The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Costume Design
The Artist
Jane Eyre
Documentary Feature
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Documentary Short Subject
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
Film Editing
Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Kevin Tent, The Descendants
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo
Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball
Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle, Albert Nobbs
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady
Music (Original Score)
John Williams, The Adventures of Tintin
Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Howard Shore, Hugo
Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Williams, War Horse
Music (Original Song)
"Man or Muppet" from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio" from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett
Sound Editing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse
Sound Mixing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse
Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Short Film (Animated)
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life
Short Film (Live Action)
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

23 January 2012

Oscar Senses Tingling, Part Three

The Descendants
What it's likely to get nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor

Alexander Payne has nailed the zeitgeist of the past decade and seemingly touched off again with this new one. The tale of one man's grief while pulling his family back together was the right amount of heart without reaching into the saccharin bag that too many films resort to.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
What it's likely to get nominated for: Best Actress, Editing, Score
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Best Actress, Best Director

We're in a reversal from last year where The King's Speech was almost the only feel good splendor in the field. This year Dragon Tattoo is the juxtaposed film against heart-warmers like The Artist, The Descendants, War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseDaring the Academy to come out of the closet regarding their genre fetishism may prove too strong to resist.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
What it's likely to get nominated for: Best PictureAdapted Screenplay, Editing, Sound Mixing
What I'd like it to be nominated for: Best Actor, Cinematography

Oldman's Smiley is not going to be brash enough to leap out at Academy voters, but his performance is no less impressive. He is glib in his answers, yet earnest in finding his own. The agency is a self-contained one, made up of huddled, tweeded masses who believe themselves to be the last line between England and the Soviet Union. A feeling of paranoia expertly captured by Hoyte Van Hoytema.

The Artist
What it's likely to get nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress

What I'd like it to be nominated for: Cinematography, Supporting Actress, Score

The apparent shoe-in for the awards this year, The Artist has captured the attention of critics and fans alike.  Though the given favorite for the Academy's votes in most categories, the attention to detail in the cinematography in the construction of the 1920s and 1930s set design and camerawork, and the emotion portrayed in the score were undoubtedly exceptional.  A nod must be given to  Bérénice Bejo for her grounded and heartwarming performance as well.

21 January 2012

Review: Haywire

The world of espionage has changed, it is now mostly ran by private contracting firms. Firms about liability clauses and the money that comes from ignoring due diligence. Along with that sort of money comes smarmy bosses like Kenneth (a despicable Ewan McGregor). Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is tired of Kenneth, his jealousy, his lackeys and his poor work ethic. Trust is a valuable commodity in her field and trust, it seems, is in short supply. So Mallory is getting out for good, or so she thinks.

The spy film has worn the tread off its tires with all the franchises based around the intelligence service over the years. Between James Bond, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt and several other one-offs, there really isn't a lot of room left to surprise us. Given Steven Soderbergh's knack for adding style and flair to even the most moth-balled of genres, Haywire succeeds in providing thrills.

Telling Mallory's story in separate pieces keeps the audience from predicting too much of what comes ahead, but we all know this much: hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And this woman fights; she does it because it is honest. Brutally honest. You can't fake your way through a fight and that is what Mallory has to her advantage: you can't lie or cheat your way to winning.

Soderbergh's capturing of fight sequences in Haywire is a sight to be seen. Every punch thrown sends the viewer back into his/her seat. The director doesn't cut away from the action and in doing so conveys what few action films do: raw intensity. Most fights are edited in such a way that the combat itself is lost, Soderbergh lets everything play out in front of your eyes.

For all of the authenticity the fight sequences are captured, Soderbergh also utilizes stylistic flourishes with black and white sequences, jazzy scores and excellent use of sound editing. The sound mixing leaves every bone-crunching blow, solidly connected kick, and broken vase felt. Mallory Kane is the best at what she does and what she does is kick ass.

Featuring an Ocean's 11-level assemblage of stars like Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas, Haywire's cast fires on all cylinders. Fassbender is fun to watch as alwaysso much in fact it is sad to see him go. But as fun as the co-stars are, this film is Carano's to lose and she ensnares the audience with each onscreen duel. One hopes for more features for Mallory Kane and Company though; betrayal has never been this much fun.

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

19 January 2012

Review: The Artist (***)

As a classic movie and silent film enthusiast, I felt it was my duty to go on and watch this similarly styled film.  Knowing from interviews of Director Michel Hazanavicius that The Artist was filled with nods to classics like Singin' in the Rain and Citizen Kane, I was hoping to be touched by this film as I had been touched by its predecessors.  

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is at the height of his popularity in 1927 Hollywood.  Applauded both on the screen in his action films, and in front of the audience thanks to his dancing skills and pet dog's tricks, Valentin barely misses a beat when an adoring fan slips between the policeman barrier and bumps into him outside of a premiere.  Why not enjoy a few laughs and poses with this pretty young lady?

Valentin's wife (Penelope Ann Miller) doesn't seem to agree with that sentiment the next morning, however.  Sour-faced and jealous, she paints a portrait of Valentin's life at home that sharply contrasts his carefree life as a movie star.  Valentin's home life also shows a lackadaisical attitude on the part of Valentin towards his wife, taking more interest in his dog, and his life-size portrait at the foot of the stairs than her scowl or questions.

Meanwhile, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), an aspiring extra fresh off the front page from her accidental photo shoot with Valentim, takes her confidence to the casting call for chorus girls.  Her confidence pays off, and she's hired to work as an extra dancer on the next-- you guess it-- Valetin picture.  When Valentin and Miller meet by chance again, their instantaneous chemistry sparks off the screen once more.

But if the movie were as simple as all that, where would the drama be?  The coming of sound pictures acts as the catalyst for drama, and the reactions by Valentin and Miller couldn't be more different.  Out with the old and in with the new, John Goodman's movie honcho Al Zimmer says to Valentin after Valentin makes it clear that he's an actor for the silent screen only, and that talking pictures are just a fad.  Peppy Miller, on the other hand, is a rising starlet in the talking pictures screen, thanks in part to the beauty spot that Valentin painted on her face.  The coming of talking pictures leads them down different paths, and their changing fortunes are simultaneously contrasted over several years.  Ultimately, though,Valentin and Miller's fates are intertwined.

This is a quaint film, earnestly acted by all parties involved (and, for the most part not overacted, as one might have heard about the art of silent film in the past).  I thought James Cromwell was wonderful  as the understated supporting character Clifton, Valentin's chauffeur, especially compared to John Goodman's Sylvester Macaroni-like performance.  Uggie the Dog was in a league of his own--I'm almost positive that the majority of the Oscar buzz is because he's so adorable in the movie.
The cinematography is quite pretty, and mimic the style of films from the 1920s for the most part.  Like the silent films, the amount of placard dialogue is kept to a minimum, although it's occasionally used to increase dramatic effect.  Though primarily a drama, The Artist does have its comedic moments as well, relying on the use of sight gags--mostly with the pup--and assisted by the excellent rhythmic timing of the score.

In all of its ambitions to pay tribute to classic Hollywood, however, The Artist still comes off feeling a little hollow for it.  Don't get me wrong, the sincerity of all those involved to make the film is apparent and plentiful.  The basic material that the film is presenting-- pride before the fall, love, jealousy, gratitude, inadequacy-- are on their own timeless.  It is simply that these themes and the performances that channel these emotions are presented as secondary to the technical aspects of this film.  All the sincerity in the world cannot help out a film when it is constructed to use a style more than to tell the story.  

As much as I wanted to love this film, I ended up being underwhelmed instead.  It could be that I expected too much, but the Oscar buzz that is being generated by The Artist seems to affirm my original hopes.  Perhaps I'm just in the minority of viewers who sees the film and longs for a classic silent film  in place of a novelty item that takes from better movies.  Don't take that to mean that doesn't mean The Artist's lack of creativity costs the movie its entertaining qualities.  It's an enjoyable piece of Oscar-bait.  I just wish I hadn't gotten the bait-and-switch.

18 January 2012

10 Words or Less: Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010)

Murphy's law was never intended for renovating a summer home.

15 January 2012

Most Valuable Performances: Jeff Bridges

Bridges' flip-flopped, stoned, modern-day incarnation of a Raymond Chandler detective is his biggest role and also his most fun. Some may say The Dude is also his laziest role, but they weren't paying attention. 

The Dude is a collection of hazy memories, recollected facts of the world and ninety-seven cent milk. You breeze through a character like this and everyone will sense a note of insincerity. Bridges roots himself in the terrycloth robe and Rayban shades. Any actor that could take a character thatfor the most partdoes nothing but bowl and get high, and make him compelling? That’s art, man.

Rent The Big Lebowski and other classic Coen brothers movies from LOVEFiLM. Sign up today at http://www.lovefilm.com/ and receive a 2 week free trial, what are you waiting for!

14 January 2012

Review: Shame

If you met Brandon (Michael Fassbender) on the sidewalk, you may be taken in by him. He is well-dressed, impeccably groomed, and confident. Women are attracted to him and men find him impossible to compete with. He is in complete control of himself, or so we are lead to believe. Underneath the veneer finish lies a secret: Brandon is an addict.

The random encounter at a bar, "the look" on the train, the smooth compliment at just the right time. He is an operator, nothing is out of reach for his sexual conquests. Yet, Brandon's troubles are beginning. The game is insufficient now. The chase is easy, the payoff is in the climax. Like every addict the stakes may be hiked in order to get the thrill anymore. And every time Brandon aims to raise them he sets himself further away from others. There's no connection with these women, just another way to wring pleasure from his existence.

That's the danger of chasing a high, it is never sated and the morning after deals a punishing blow.

Director Steve McQueen makes a visual motif of light breaking through the aftermath of a debauched evening. The film rarely sets Brandon in the light of day and it is for good reason. Light cuts clear to the truth, and whatever truth Brandon is hiding, he refuses to acknowledge it. Which is why Sissy's (Carey Mulligan) surprise stay at his apartment has set him on edge. At every turn she seeks some sort of openness from Brandon. In turn, he keeps her at a distance. He views her as a burden and nothing more. No one is deserving to know his innermost thoughts. With all of Sissy's attempts to reach him, he pushes away and goes on the prowl again.

The chase keeps Brandon from focusing on the truth. What is similarly frustrating is that McQueen acts similarly. Each step we get closer to knowing Brandon, the auteur veers off course toward a  showier, physical act. Shame never gets around to saying anything about its characters because the risque presents a constant obstacle. Orgies, gay scenes and other forms of physical gratification are understandably included, but there is even an instance of Michael Fassbender urinating.

Maybe it is my fault for expecting more to be said for the characters, but for all of the visual flourish of Shame, there is little to help sustain it. McQueen's previous effort, Hunger, combined the physical with the transcendent with much greater ease. McQueen's sophomore effort is a visual pleasure, but too manifested in the physical realm, just like its protagonist.

**1/2 out of ****

Vote for Your Favorite Bond Poster

Royal Mail and EON Productions are celebrating 50 years of 007. To commemorate the occasion they will be launching a dedicatory sheet featuring labels to sit alongside first class stamps featuring the top 10 Bond posters, as voted for by members of the public.

To vote, visit Royal Mail. Voting closes on the 27th so get out there!

13 January 2012

'Skyfall' Reveals Bond's Other Weapon (His Ass)

EON has released the first official still from the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall. And yes, I am firmly appealing to the female fans of this blog with this post. Shameless, I know, but Daniel Craig pays the bills.

700 With a Bullet

It took a long time to get here and not without an considerable amount of help. Over the last three years the staff has grown from just Ben and I to five writers now (welcome aboard Matt!). Some days it seemed like too much effort to write a post a day just to have something up, but all in all, it's been worth every second.

I'd like to thank people like Aiden, Hatter and Darren for keeping me motivated, Scott, Andrew, Dan, Rodney, Castor and Ruth for always leaving a comment and letting me know someone is reading all of this.

Thanks all! Here's hoping to 700 more.

12 January 2012

Q and A with Angelina Jolie Tonight

Remember, post your questions in the comments section as well as the PartnersHub app to win a In the Land of Blood and Honey poster!

11 January 2012

'Finding Nemo' To Get 3D Release in September

Between the success of The Lion King and, what I imagine will be a very profitable weekend for Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo will also be released in 3D on September 14th in theatres.

09 January 2012

Live Q and A with Angelina Jolie

PartnersHub is proud to present Angelina Jolie in a Live online Q&A on Thursday Jan 12th at 8pm EST /5pm PST to discuss her writing & directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey

This interactive event gives you the chance to ask Ms. Jolie questions about the film LIVE! Submit any question in the comments section and Never Mind Pop Film will pick a winner to send a poster from In the Land of Blood and Honey.

06 January 2012

Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Taut thrillers have been left by the wayside in recent years - action films and romantic comedies are more sure investments for studios - but here, a prize one, has been placed right into our laps.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens as George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is about to receive the boot. Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) and Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds) have the favor of Control (John Hurt) so the failure of their most recent assignment must fall square on the shoulders of Smiley.

Retirement suits Smiley well enough: he swims daily, reads the paper, and even decides to update his eye-wear (a nice reference when keeping track of the non-linear story). Yet retirement doesn't last long for Smiley, he is called in by Control. The Russians are have infiltrated "the circus" and Smiley has been tasked with finding a mole in his agency. When men start dying the stakes cannot be higher. But who can you trust?

Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carré’s novel gives in to the unrelenting suspicion of the Cold War where each agent is constantly wondering if the last sound they will hear is a silencer. Whether the camera closes in behind Smiley, Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) or Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy) in various states of distress, the feeling of paranoia is expertly captured by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema. Frequently placing these members of MI6 at the center of a wide-shot, looking over their shoulder, the audience wonders if it is their last appearance onscreen as well.

Spy films are very rarely this subdued, but the quiet, tension-filled moments of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy match John LeCarré's work perfectly. Gary Oldman gives one of the finest performances of his career as the quiet analyst, Smiley is not going to be brash enough to leap out at Academy voters, but his performance is no less impressive. He is glib in his answers, yet earnest in finding his own.

What impresses most about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the benign nature of it all. James Bond is the template for the genre, but this interpretation is far more honest. The agency is a self-contained one, made up of huddled, tweeded masses who believe themselves to be the last line between England and the Soviet Union, but they are just paper pushers. The real enemies are in their own ranks.

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

The Best Poster of 2011 Is...

This year proved to be a fruitful one for posters, but as 2011 came to an end only one really stood out above the others: Jane Eyre. The entire film is a masterwork of composed shadows and landscape so the choice of a gray background was a curious one, but it works beautifully. However muted it is, the intent of this one-sheet could not be more clear: as Jane goes, so goes Rochester. His ghostly face proving to be essential to her spirit.

02 January 2012

'Skyfall' Site Launches

You can now find Bond at his new online home at 007.com. Along with the new digs, a brief video can be found. Enjoy!