29 February 2012

'Star Trek 2' Round-up

A couple of pieces of note for J.J. Abram's upcoming Star Trek sequel:

Below is a set photo of Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Benedcit Cumberbatch's unnamed villain. The Vulcan Death Grip is alive and well. Cumberbatch appears to be wearing a Space Fleet Officer shirt so perhaps a double-cross is at hand? Either that, or Cumberbatch ate Quinto's lunch during the shoot.

Finally, portions of Star Trek 2 will be filmed in IMAX! J.J. Abrams was taken with the process while serving as producer on Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and decided to implement that into the sequel. In addition to the IMAX treatment, Star Trek 2 will be post-converted into 3D.

27 February 2012

Your Thoughts: Oscar Edition

With all of last night devoted to the Academy's proclivity to reward films that show itself in a positive light, The Artist took home a great deal of awards. But did it deserve them? The floor is open...

24 February 2012

10 Words or Less: Wanderlust (2012)

White people problems

23 February 2012

Join NMPF's Oscar Pool

A reminder: the deadline to join Never Mind Pop Film's 84th Academy Award Oscar Pool is Sunday. Bragging rights are on the line, are you ready to play?

The winner of the pool can claim one of three prizes
1) A banner link for your blog on NMPF
2) I can write a post specifically for your blog OR
3) You can write a post for NMPF to promote your blog

22 February 2012

'Skyfall' Video Blog

Another exclusive video from 007.com has director Sam Mendes sharing his experiences from the set of Skyfall. Although Judi Dench apparently has final call on the film. Watch the video for more of Mendes' experiences working under the Highlander that is Judi Dench.


21 February 2012

Catch Up with the Contenders

With the Academy Awards on Sunday night seeing all of the Oscar nominated films this year before then will be pretty difficult. To make things easier for non-filmgoers Amazon is having a sale on films like The Descendants, Hugo, The Artist, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, up to half off! Grab them while you can.

Community Back on Thursdays

Community will be back on March 15th on NBC! Creator Dan Harmon confirmed the news today on his Twitter account as well as mentioning the show will be back at its regular 8pm slot. Unfortunately, in order to make room Parks and Rec has been knocked off the schedule for five weeks until Up All Night end its season. NBC giveth and NBC taketh away...

For fans of Breaking Bad, Gus Fringor as others know him, Giancarlo Espositowill be added to the cast as well.

Watch the return when Community comes back on-air in 3 weeks!

19 February 2012

Nolan's Batman Trilogy Seen Through 'The Prestige'

Cinema: A-Z

ABCinema from Evan Seitz on Vimeo.

See how many you can name before pausing.

18 February 2012

Review: Ghost Rider - Spirit of Vengeance 3D

Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is doing his best Bill Bixby impersonation in Eastern Europe when we open Ghost Rider - Spirit of Vengeance: he eats at local diners, passes onlookers with a wave, erupts into flames and spews bullets... well, I'm sure even on his best days Bill Bixby was guilty of that too.

Yet, that is where the comparisons between the two Marvel Comics characters end. While both David Banner (Bixby) and Johnny Blaze spontaneously change into their respective alter egosthe Hulk, and Ghost RiderJohnny Blaze has much larger problems: when he isn't Ghost Rider, he's Nicolas Cage.

Crank directors Mark Neveldine and Brain Taylor don't neuter the character this time around, the insanity is amplified ten-fold. When Nicolas Cage changes, he changes for the worst and the seared leather jacket and char-blackened skull makes all the difference. They have really let the jack out of the box for this one. Nicolas Cage is in full Bad Lieutenant mode for the sequel to the 2007 comic book film.

Low-level goons and other villains may find themselves more concerned when a very loose Nic Cage whispers, "he's scratching at the door and I'm gonna let him in." Whatever promise that is, I'm sure chains and hell-fire may seem like a relief after that. It's a blast for the audience though. 

The Rider is tasked this time around with finding a boy who very well may become the vehicle for Satan. You see, like Johnny Blaze, Danny's mother made a deal with the Devil too, but she did not obtain mystical powers, rather she was impregnated with the seed of Beelzebub (Ciaran Hinds in a curious casting choice).

Joined by a very drunk, very French and very fun Idris Elba, the Rider is off to save a child and maybe piss fire while he's at it. 

With all of these maleficent spirits around, two daredevils were rolling behind the camera... not actual demons, just two adrenaline-charged co-directors with a flair for capturing sequences that action lovers crave. Several animated sequences offer spectacle that was missing from the first Ghost Rider, however, that is where the joy stops with Spirit of Vengeance. The 3D is never fully actualized and the rest of the film takes a by-the-numbers approach careening toward the rosy ending.

A crazed Nicolas Cage can save a lotas attested to in so many of his filmsbut even he can't save this.


17 February 2012

10 Words or Less: This Means War (2012)

This premise works with political parties too.

15 February 2012


I'm curious how Titanic will fare given that the little-known indie film did not do very well in its initial release. Audiences stayed away from it the first time, why would they come back for a theatrical 3D re-release?

By the way, does no one care about spoilers anymore? James Cameron has made an enemy in the film going public. An enemy that will handsomely reward him for the rest of his life.

13 February 2012

Review: The Great White North (The Grey)

John Ottway (Liam Neeson) lingers in the frozen wilderness that are the oil fields of Northern Alaska. He protects the workers from the dangers that present themselves. Beneath the solid exterior of Ottway's demeanor lies a man that is lost: his wife is no longer in his life, he sees no good in what he does for the world, he sees no purpose left. He has only a day left until he flies back to Anchorage.

The plane ride is nothing more than normal, brief bouts of turbulence offset by the testosterone-laden chatter about what the workers will do with their paychecks, girlfriends, wives, etc.Turbulence becomes more noticeable than usual and the chatter teeters out; the men are scared.

The unabashed desire to live finds itself in Ottway. He straps himself into the seat and holds on for dear life as pieces of the plane start coming off around them. Now, faced with the unlikely prospect of being discovered, Ottway and the six remaining members of the flight are tasked with leaving the wreckage and trying to stay alive. To make matters worse, these seven men are in the company of wolves. Nature is to be feared. Man has progressed from the elements, but we never conquered them. They have a choice: be taken out one-by-one, or fight the bastards.

Liam Neeson has made a career resurgence of sorts lately for playing a veritable medley of tough guys, but Ottway is a different breed. He has no qualms telling the few survivors left in the woods that he is terrified. Action films of late have suffered because the characters in them are so out of touch that audiences flinch rather than feel when presented with them. Neeson makes a point of portraying Ottway as a flawed man, but one who has found a purpose in this good fight.

Joe Carnahan abandons the escapist fun that he and Neeson sought for The A-Team. Violence is not used here for big-budget awes, instead he aims for the gritty horrors of fighting for life at any cost. The Grey excels at making these horrors more real than any film before it, but what makes the film even more notable is that it reflects that human desire for life, even in unjust circumstances. Human beings are resilient. We have fears and periods of darkness, but when the time comes and we face some insurmountable hostility, the fangs come out.

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

11 February 2012

Iconic Score or Iconic Imagery?

One of my film theory professors once told me, "an audience would relate better to a blank screen with sound than to a film with no sound."

Look at the image above. Is it in any way evocative?

It is. The soaring skyscrapers have a softspoken majesty. The high contrast sawtooth of buildings so densely packed defines the city: New York. The image suggests bustling life hidden behind all of the glass and concrete. It's a beautiful and meaningful shot.

But something is missing.

Well-versed film buffs will recognize this as the opening shot from Woody Allen's 1979 masterpiece Manhattan. The wry humour and brilliant cinematography qualify this as one of my all-time favourite scenes in film. Both are top-notch, and by themselves would make a scene like this a positive addition to almost any film. The real strength of the scene, however, is the synthesis between the editing and the score, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. The relationship between the music and the visuals is what raises this scene from being quality Woody Allen to being an iconic scene.

10 February 2012

Review: Suffer the Little Darling (We Need to Talk About Kevin)

"Snail. Scary knot of desires. Hungry snarl. Small son. Why do I have to love you? How have you won?" - Anna Stevenson

Eva (Tilda Swinton) and Franklin (John C. Reilly) started out happily enough, free spirits wandering around in the rain. No cares and no worries about tomorrow. When Eva finds herself pregnant she has to give up her career and settle out in the suburbs. This is a woman who spends a majority of her pregnancy trying to find the rewind button. If a child can sense it's not wanted, then Kevin had a headstart on hating his mother.

Kevin, portrayed through the years, isn't always a monster. He begins as petulant toddler that soils himself on command, transitions to a savant of emotional blackmail and emerges from his cocoon as the sociopath played by Ezra Miller. If he manages to get parts after his turn as Kevin, I will be shocked. Few characters inspire as much hatred as this son of a well-to-do family.

That Kevin starts to look like Eva makes his acts all the more cruel, there is no fortuitous chance of having swapped children in the hospital. He is her son. She is responsible.

No one else seems to see what causes Eva panics. Kevin is quite affectionate to his well-intentioned, but clueless father. Accidents occurring around their youngest daughter, Celia, are unavoidable, not calculated. Franklin means well, but his actions have consequences in the latter part of Kevin.

Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin is a reversal of expectations, for a majority of women child birth is a joyous occasion. It is the day you are welcoming your child into your life. Instead, Kevin is referred to as an enemy. A brute whose condescending remarks cuts like a knife. The bond between mother and infant that is normally present is not offered here.

In utilizing the first-person narrative Ramsay confines the audience to only what Eva knows and experiences. Her pain is felt. The blood-red tones that bathe Eva during her most guilt-ridden are an indictment, a crusade launched against herself. The trials of a mother who did what she could.

Tilda Swinton delivers what will be etched into memory as her finest role. A chameleon for a majority of her career, this is the performance that will be played on Oscar reels. It is a triumph in a film that focuses on a women too often jarred by loss.

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

Your Thoughts on 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 3D'

Jar Jar Binks debuted in magnificent 3-D this week. Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between? Leave your take in the comments below!

08 February 2012

'Bourne Legacy' Teaser

A fractured trailer for a fractured man. The marketing team for this Bourne film has been smart; no one will forget that the last Jason Bourne was Matt Damon, but there never was just one.

07 February 2012

New 'Amazing Spider-man' Trailer

New footage, same premise. Fortunately, the cast is quite good. What I'm most curious about is how they plan on blending The Lizard's story with the disappearance of Peter's parents.

06 February 2012

BAFTA's 2012 Best Film Art

Every year the British Academy of Film and Television Arts releases artist depictions of the nominated films for Best Picture. 2012's collection stands head and shoulders over recent years. Thanks to Hey You Guys, all five nominated film brochures are available online (The Artist, Drive, The Descendants, The Help and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). Highlighted are my top three selections.

Michael Bay Wants That Oscar, People!

Opportunities for Michael Bay to earn his first Oscar are dwindling with, what is presumed to be, his last Transformers film this year. Given that Transformers: Dark of the Moon faces some stiff competition this year from Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Harry Potter and the Dramatic Conclusion, Michael Bay wants to remind you who rocked your world this year. Make Michael Bay happy.

03 February 2012

Review: Chronicle

Andrew (Dan DeHaan) is an outcast. He keeps to himself at school, takes care of his cancer-stricken mother at home and generally seeks to avoid the wrath of his abusive father. His cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), is much more outgoing and happy with his lot in life. Venturing even further away from Andrew's social circles is Steve (Michael B. Jordan). Steve lives the dream that all high schoolers wish for: popular guy, class president, letterman athlete.

Matt is pretty good buds with Steve and after much convincing, he gets Andrew to come along to one of Steve's house parties. Matt's attempt to bring Andrew out of his shell doesn't go as planned, Andrew spends his time recording the partygoers. The camera was originally intended to prevent his father from beating him so often, turned into a device to allow him to create distance from others. Understandably, the other people at the party wonder if they will end up in a recreation of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

He is pulled out of his exercise in self-awareness when Steve rushes up, he and Matt have found something incredible. They come across a site that looks like a meteor crash. A long, dark tunnel leads them to a glowing source of power which knocks them unconscious.

Cut to black.

The next day, the three have telekinetic powers that grow with each passing day. Like any teenagers they immediately resort to screwing around in malls, parking lots and convenience stores. People criticize Spider-man films for always referring to the Uncle Ben speech, but it would have done Andrew, Matt and Steve some good. As the three bond over harmless shenanigans, Andrew's powers prove to be stronger than Matt and Steve. As Andrew has trouble drawing lines with when to use them Chronicle becomes much darker, Taxi Driver dark.

Found footage films have become a considerable big draw in Hollywood, but very few have kept true to the rules of the Dogme 95. The handheld camera may make it easier to identify with teens in a story about superpowers, but the film could have been just as successful without resorting to that technique.

The concept of Chronicle as presented by the promotional spots - super-powered teenagers pulling pranks on an unsuspecting public - does the finished product a disservice. Much more is going on for the film, including a solid performances from Dane DeHaan. The shock of the tonal shift is jarring, but it lends the film gravitas.


02 February 2012

Another Year, Another Race

(this post comes from Darren Mooney of The Movie Blog)

Oscar season is on us again. Although, to be fair, it's been going since at least November last year. It's something of a tradition that, the closer we get to the awards themselves, the more certain the outcome seems. To a large extent, that's still true this year. The vast majority of pundits seem to have settled on the belief that George Clooney will pick up the Best Actor award, Christopher Plummer will pick up the Best Supporting Actor award and Meryl Streep will take home her first Best Actress Oscar in quite some time. While there are those who would disagree with these assessments (for example, I think Viola Davis might pose a credible threat to Streep), those are the broadly-agreed major categories. However, the announcement of the nominees last week threw the Best Picture race into a bit of uncertainty, creating the impression that The Artist doesn't quite have the award locked down.

Again, I'm going to concede that I still think The Artist will take the award, if only based on the sheer logistics of the thing. I think that, despite being a black-and-white silent film, it has the broadest appeal of the nominees. Indeed, that may be precisely because of the same "simplicity" and "shallowness" that the inevitable backlash repeatedly brings up. If allegations of mistreatment of child actors couldn't keep Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire from the award, I can't see "it's too light" keeping The Artist off the podium at the awards itself. Indeed, it's been doing very well over the course of the awards season, with the Directors' Guild Award serving as the latest feather in its cap. Honestly, I still see it winning in the Best Picture and Best Director categories.

But I'm not certain.

And that's the joy of this year's race. Up until the nominations were announced, Alexander Payne's The Descendants had been the movie's primary contender for the award. It was essentially competing as "counter-programming", a movie more typical of the Academy's tastes in recent years. It's the respected and relatively niche indie contender, of the same pedigree of recent winners like No Country for Old MenMillion Dollar Baby and even The Hurt Locker. It's a film that the Academy can award if they don't want to seem either too populist (with The Artist very well-liked, even among those who don't love it) or too nostalgic (being the strongest contender that isn't about cinema itself). It provides a nice focal point for those members who tend to steer away from the crowd-pleasing fare. Even with only five nominations, I think it has enough clout to be considered as a potential contender.

Of course, most Oscar races tend to be "two horse" races. Last year it was The Social Network against The King's Speech, while we all remember Avatar against The Hurt Locker. Personally, I never saw either race as especially close, if only because of the institution's pre-existing bias towards and against certain types of films. I think that The Descendants and The Artist is a much tighter race because they offer a fairly similar choice. Neither is especially "modern" (The Social Network as against The King's Speech) and neither is a picture in a genre the Academy dislike (Avatar was a blockbuster science-fantasy). However, even beyond that, I think the race is more interesting due to two of the other Best Picture nominees - one as a serious contender, and the other as a potential upset.

The announcement on Tuesday revealed that Martin Scorsese's Hugo had picked up twelve nominations, something which surprised me a bit. I had expected quite a few, but no more than eight, to be entirely honest. Although none of these were in the major acting categories, picking up the highest number of nominations at the ceremony does mark you out as a solid contender. Given that the highest number of nominations ever received at the awards was fourteen (for the Best Picture winners Titanic and All About Eve), that's no small accomplishment for Scorsese's film.

Statistically speaking, there's evidence to support a link between the Best Picture Award and the film with the most nominations. Looking at the last few years, The King's Speech had twelve nominations and won Best Picture. The Hurt Locker and Avatar both had the most nominations at their ceremony. Slumdog Millionaire upsets the trend, with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button having more nominations, but the previous year had There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men tied. I think that it's impossible to count Scorsese out. So, even with three front-runners, I think it's a tighter race than we've seen in quite some time - and I wouldn't be surprised if any of these three won. After all, we're used to a five-picture race, but with a frontrunner and somebody behind, and then the rest of the pack scatter. This is kind of exciting.

However, there's one more possible contender I refuse to count out of the race. Truth be told, I didn't even think it was in the race until the nominations were announced, and - even now - I think the chance of a Best Picture or Best Director win is small, but not outside the realm of possibility. I am talking about Tree of Life. It was a film that not only managed to surprise people with a Best Picture nomination, but surprised a lot of pundits with a Best Director nomination for Terrance Malick. It was at least as big a surprise as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close getting a Best Picture nomination, one I can proudly say that I predicted. However, Tree of Life is a potential contender, and ELIC is not, for one simple reason.

Anybody with a grasp of the voting habits of the Academy knows that it is practically unheard of for a film to win the Best Picture award without at least a Best Director nomination. Driving Miss Daisy is the most recent example, and the other two are the very first winner (Wings) and the only film to win Best Picture without any other nominations (Grand Hotel). Incidentally, this is why I dislike the "more than five Best Picture nominees" thing, because it's the five that could win and a bunch of also rans, but I'll spare you that rant. The point is that we can, thankfully, count out ELIC at this point in the race.

On the other hand, Tree of Life came completely out of nowhere. Even the people who liked it didn't expect the Academy to like it. And the Best Director nomination indicates that they loved it. Malick is one of those directors who has been working in Hollywood for a very long time, but has never won an Oscar. The closest he came was a nomination for The Thin Red Line. While his history of being snubbed isn't nearly as controversial as the way Scorsese was treated or Christopher Nolan has been treated, it is possible that the Academy might take the opportunity to recognise him.

I admit the possibility is downright remote, but the love for the film is a big surprise. I'm happy for it, and I enjoyed it (even if I didn't love it), and I think there's no way to tell how interested or disinterested in the film the Academy actually is. It isn't as if the two leads were ever contenders for the acting awards, although both Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt are nominated for their work elsewhere. Personally, I don't think it will happen, but I could see Malick and/or his film winning on second or third preferences if the three-way race between The ArtistHugo and The Descendants doesn't give a clear winner on the first ballot.

All in all, I think this might be the most exciting Best Picture race in quite some time...

01 February 2012

Bond Goes for the Kill

I don't think there has ever been a Bond with facial hair has there? Either way, Bond is back and on the prowl in Shanghai. Skyfall is due to begin its worldwide roll-out later this year in the UK and Ireland on October 26th and in North America on November 9th.

(Courtesy: 007)

10 Words or Less: Man On a Ledge (2012)

I wish you would step off that ledge my friend