31 December 2012

Review: A Long Journey (The Hobbit)


The Hobbit saw a great deal of turmoil cast its way before the first reel was ever shown. MGM went bankrupt, Guillermo Del Toro dropped out of the project and if all of that weren't bad enough, the first buzz about the film was that the high frame rate made it look like an afternoon soap.

Peter Jackson was always going to have a difficult time bringing another of J.R.R. Tolkien's books to life, given the enviable success he had with Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is considered to be the lighter of the two stories and when Jackson announced that he was going to extend the story into a trilogy, sighs could be heard "he's doing it again."

The story is familiar enough: a hobbit is asked by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) to undertake a journey that could prove dangerous. Bilbo may survive, Gandalf contends, but he will never be the same. Thorin Oakenshield and the remaining members of his clan aim to reclaim their kingdom from the dragon Smaug that ravaged their homeland so many ages ago.

There's nothing inherently wrong with The Hobbit, but the repetition and excessive runtime creaks and groans. To boot, it has to contend with the massive expectations created by The Lord of the Rings. Still, the missteps seem to pile up the further the film goes on.

The fourteen dwarves are virtually impossible to distinguish. Characters aren't fleshed out and even the titular Bilbo (Martin Freeman) disappears for long stretches of time. Battle scenes feel tacked on and insignificant. The highs aren't as high and the lows are lower. Everything spectacular has been seen in the previous trilogy, so during the lags you can feel the seconds tick away. The Hobbit only really starts to display a pulse when Gollum (Andy Serkis) challenges Bilbo to a deadly game of riddles.

With all of that said, there is no need to push the Episode I panic button just yet.

Ian McKellen's Gandalf is still as wry and clever as ever as he ever was. Martin Freeman embodies all of the hearth of the Baggins patriarch while incorporating some of Ian Holm's quirks. Richard Armitage also lives up to the mythic reputation as Thorin. These characters are the saving grace of the flick and if Jackson could cleave some of the extra material he added, the dynamic relationships between characters that made Rings so special could be utilized here.

Peter Jackson crops little from the picture and one hopes that the next film is considerably trimmer. The first portion of The Hobbit series stumbles over itself, but the next installment will feature a lot more of Smaug. Let's also hope that it features more Bilbo.

**1/2 out of ****

25 December 2012

Review: Django Grabbed His Gun (Django Unchained)


Eight directorial outings into his filmography, Quentin Tarantino has become his own genre. Riffing on gangster films, Asian cinema, war flicks, and with Django Unchained, the Western. The Western is perhaps the most sacred film to most Americans as its inception unfolded in the U.S. It seems fitting that Tarantino should try to rip the band-aid off of America's great shame in a Western.

With all of that said, all the anxiety punctuated by talk of race is swept aside quickly and efficiently. This is not a dissection of slavery, it is a tale of the lengths one man will go to save his wife. Django (Jamie Foxx, exemplifying the words on Jules Winnfield's wallet) is freed by a German bounty hunter on the hunt for the Brittle Brothers.

Only Django has seen these men's faces and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) offers him a deal: help him find the brothers and he will help Django find Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Schultz teaches Django the tools of the trade and he picks it up quickly.

To Django's horror, Schultz informs him that Broomhilda is being by none other than Calvin Candie.

Calvin Candie (a despicably entertaining Leonardo DiCaprio) is the proprietor of Cleopatra Club, a place of refinement, where slaves are forced to beat each other to death or be killed. Candie is a boy who was never told he couldn't have sweets, now, that has led to lurid activities brought to the forefront for his endless amusement. The term schadenfreude may have been invented specifically for him.

If Django is to get her back, he and Schultz will have to avoid the watchful eye of Candie's servant Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).

Casting has always been a specialty for Tarantino, yet this may be his finest lineup to date. From the great pairings of Foxx/Waltz and DiCaprio/Jackson all the way down to character actors like Don Johnson and Walton Goggins. Everything is aces. There were those who were skeptical of Foxx's casting originally, but he has the charisma to pull this off. Similarly, DiCaprio playing a vicious slave-owner could have resulted in career suicide, yet his devilish turn succeeds.

A film like this could only have been handled by Mr. Tarantino. All of his films involve a knowing wink at the audience and while that worked with revisionist history in Inglourious Basterds, covering race in such a bold manner could raise more viewer's dander. Django Unchained could have very quickly become crass, with such a non-reverent take on a divisive subject, but the riveting dialogue and superb performances from the three leads guarantee entertainment throughout the picture.

Tarantino doesn't have the same across-the-board respect as a director like Martin Scorsese, but the genuine enthusiasm for cinema is there in spades. Westerns have been slowly dying over the last decade, but Django is a staple of what the genre has to offer. Tarantino knows each beat and every flow down to the final showdown. This will be one of the pictures that cements his legacy.

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

22 December 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot #10

The game where I throw out one of cinema's more obscure quotes and you try to guess it. Readers are currently 5 for 9. Let's see if you can name the holiday classic this quote is from.

"Merry Christmas, Argyle."

21 December 2012

Review: Kentucky Fried Camp (Killer Joe)


In all of the folklore presented in cinema there have been many black hats. Evil men possessed by some spirit to cause harm to others, sometimes for money, sometimes for fun. One of the first black hats that comes immediately to mind is Henry Fonda in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. Stunt casting in the truest sense of the word, Fonda shocked audiences in how indiscriminately he mowed down innocents.

I mention Henry Fonda's casting in that film because it so similarly matches Matthew McConaughey as the titular Killer Joe. For years McConaughey was the charming young man who was a staple of romantic comedies, here, he possesses a terrifying formality. Joe is hired to kill people. The good looking man seen so many times before lulls you in right before the trap snaps shut on you. It's the beauty of his casting, the smile is still there, but it hides a vicious streak.

Chris (Emile Hirsch) is a career screw-up, his best prospects came in the form of cocaine that he was supposed to sell. The problem? His mother took them and sold them out from under him. That money was going to go a long way for Chris and now he's facing the possibility of being buried alive in electric tape by men he owes $6,000 to.

Chris can came up with the money, but he'll have to convince his father, the dull-witted Ansel (Thomas Haden Church) and his naive sister Dottie (Juno Temple) to hire Joe to take her out. She has a $50,000 policy and it does not take much prodding for them to all agree they'd be better off with her dead.

Whether the proceedings can be labeled a comedy of errors, or melodrama is entirely up to the viewer. For all of the blood and brutality of the film, an act performed on a piece of fried chicken should immediately clue the audience in on the joke (seriously, John Waters has it in his top ten). Watching buffoons try this hard to become rich is vaguely reminiscent of a slapstick film from the 1920s, only with far more swearing.

Matthew McConaughey is in the midst of a career renaissance right now with Lincoln Lawyer and Magic Mike, but Killer Joe is the film that chews up his rom-com resume and sets it ablaze. It's a risk for an actor who previously hadn't taken any and Tracy Letts and William Friedkin give him more than enough material to really hang himself.

Short of Sam Shepard's early plays, very few pieces of fiction have presented such a dire portrait of Middle America: punching women, murder-for-hire, drug dealing: all in a day's work. Joe requires a skewed sense of humor to get through, but if you can keep with it, it's worth it. Someone pass the bucket.

***/****

Ryan Gosling is a Bad Father in 'Place Beyond the Pines'


Been looking forward to this trailer being released for some time. Derek Cianfrance's epic about fathers, crime and order was originally due to be released this year, but was pushed back to March after being acquired by Focus Features. Count this as my most anticipated film for 2013.

2012 Nevada Film Critics Society Awards

The Nevada Film Critics Society announced their selections for best in film of 2012. A nice mix of films are all represented as are a few of my own favorites from the year.

Film - Argo
Actor - John Hawkes (The Sessions)
Actress - TIE - Helen Hunt (The Sessions) and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Supporting Actor - Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Supporting Actress - Sally Field (Lincoln)
Youth Performance - Tom Holland (The Impossible)
Director - TIE - Ben Affleck (Argo) and Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
Ensemble Cast - Lincoln
Animated Movie - Frankenweenie
Production Design - Les Miserables
Cinematography - Life Of Pi
Visual Effects - Life Of Pi

Pegg Tweets First Look at 'The World's End'


Courtesy of Simon Pegg's twitter page, we now have out first look at the recently wrapped The World's End, the final installment of Edgar Wright's Blood & Cornetto trilogy. Judging from how the leads are dressed, Pegg is either playing a guy down on his luck, or a Chris Angel enthusiast. It's hard to say.

19 December 2012

Review: Hitch and His Ladies (Hitchcock)


Retirement is rapping at Alfred Hitchcock's (Anthony Hopkins) door and he is becoming acutely aware of it. North by Northwest has done smashingly well, yet Hitch is unsatisfied. Critics have him down to a T, he will never make another film as good as Lifeboat or The 39 Steps, they say. Maybe he should just call it quits.

Inspiration soon strikes him in the form of Ed Gein, the notorious killer from Wisconsin, whose exploits have turned into a scandalous new novel. The likes of which Hitch thinks he can make a great horror film with. The problem with that is Hitch is trying to make that film in 1960s America. Moral codes and overly cranky members of ratings board are going to make it nearly impossible for the infamous shower scene to be made. With Paramount also holding that tidy bit of information, it will be difficult for the Mr. Hitchcock to get the picture off the ground.

Still, Hitch has his wife Alma (the always wonderful Helen Mirren) in his corner. That is until he puts their home up as collateral. Alma has never felt like her effort has been measured with due respect, but when Hitch doesn't  even look at a story treatment she thinks might make a good story, she has had enough. Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) is offering her a story credit on his script and she takes him up on it.

Let's see if the Master of Suspense can succeed without Alma at his side. Their sudden closeness causes Hitch concern.

What strikes this writer as curious is the division Hitchcock has created amongst his fans. Hitch's detours he spends with Ed Gein are not as distracting as the psychological analysis offered by The Girl. Like a Psych 101 student, the other Hitchcock film tries too hard to interpret meaning out of everything.

These vignettes of macabre comedy serve the purpose of illuminating Hitch's paranoid delusions. Hitch starts acting much like the characters in his films, peeping through door-holes, waking up in a panic, picking sand off of the floor whilst contemplating his wife's actions.

Hitchcock is predominantly about the making of his most commercially successful film, but at its heart lies a love story about the woman behind the man. Anthony Hopkin's makeup may not win any Oscars, but Hopkins finds what ails the director. He grounds the man renowned for his skills as lost in this new stage of his career. Similarly, Mirren provides a weighty counterpart to her film-husband. Rounding out the excellent cast are Scarlett Johansson doing her best to portray the original scream queen, Jessica Biel as the slighted Vera Miles, Toni Collette, Michael Stuhlbarg and Danny Huston.

Hitchcock is one of the better acted movies of the year and the offering of a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most seminal pictures of its time only adds to the fun. Don't let the backlash keep you from giving it a look yourself. A man of Hitchcock's stature merits a biopic that is entertaining and this one delivers.

***/**** 

17 December 2012

Second 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Trailer


We boldly venture to watch another thrilling trailer with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto looking panicked...

15 December 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot #9

The game where I throw out one of cinema's more obscure quotes and you try to guess it. Readers are currently 4 for 8 . Let's see if you can name the film this quote is from.

"What is this “Hump a Limey Week” suddenly? Otto doesn’t approve. Otto might get jealous."

14 December 2012

Warner Bros. Holiday Giveaway


Warner Bros. and PartnersHub is hosting one last giveaway before the end of the year. You could win a Blu-ray Combo Pack of Magic Mike or The Dark Knight Rises (prize will be chosen randomly from the above titles!)

All you need to do is leave a comment below and one winner will be chosen at random. Contest ends December 19th, U.S residents only, please. Good luck!

Where to See Extended 'Star Trek' Previews

If you are not sure where to find the IMAX extended previews of Star Trek Into Darkness, then this list should prove fruitful to your endeavors.

Alabama
Carmike Patton Creek 16; IMAX, Hoover
Cobb Hollywood 16; IMAX, Tuscaloosa

Alaska
Regal Tikahtnu Commons Stadium 16; IMAX, Anchorage

Arkansas
Dickinson Chenal 9, IMAX, Little Rock

Arizona 
Dickinson Gateway 12, IMAX, Mesa
AMC Deer Valley 30; IMAX, Phoenix
AMC Loews Foothills 15; IMAX, Tucson


California
AMC Burbank 16; IMAX, Burbank
Edwards Fresno Stadium 22; IMAX, Fresno
AMC Century City 15; IMAX, Los Angeles
Esquire IMAX, Sacramento
AMC Palm Promenade 24; IMAX, San Diego
AMC Van Ness 14 + IMAX, San Francisco
AMC Downtown Disney 12; IMAX, Anaheim

Colorado
UA Colorado Mills Stadium 16; IMAX, Lakewood
UA Colorado Center Stadium 9; IMAX, Denver
AMC Westminster Promenade 24; IMAX, Denver

Connecticut
AMC Loews Danbury 16; IMAX, Danbury
Rave Buckland Hills 18; IMAX, Manchester

Florida
AMC Universal Cineplex 20; IMAX, Orlando
AMC Regency 24; IMAX, Jacksonville
AMC Veterans 24; IMAX, Tampa
Cobb Dolphin 19 ; IMAX, Miami
Muvico Parisian; IMAX, West Palm Beach

Georgia
Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station 16; IMAX, Atlanta
Regal Augusta Exchange Stadium 20; IMAX, Augusta
AmStar 16; IMAX, Macon

Hawaii
Regal Dole Cannery 18; IMAX, Honolulu

Idaho
Edwards Boise Stadium 22; IMAX, Boise

Illinois
AMC Showplace Naperville 16; IMAX, Naperville
Carmike Grand Prairie 18; IMAX, Peoria
AMC Showplace Rockford 16; IMAX, Rockford

Indiana
Carmike Jefferson Pointe 18; IMAX, Ft. Wayne
AMC Showplace Indianapolis 17; IMAX, Indianapolis

Iowa
AMC Star Council Bluffs 17; IMAX, Council Bluffs
Rave Davenport 53; IMAX, Davenport

Kansas
AMC Studio 28; IMAX, Olathe
Warren West IMAX, Wichita

Kentucky
Rave Stonybrook 20; IMAX, Louisville
AMC Newport on the Levee 20; IMAX, Newport

Louisiana
Rave Mall of Louisiana 15; IMAX, Baton Rouge
AMC Clearview Palace 12 with IMAX, Metairie

Maryland
AMC Loews White Marsh 16; IMAX, Baltimore
Regal Westview Stadium 16; IMAX, Frederick
AMC Loews Rio Cinemas 18; IMAX, Gaithersburg

Maine
Saco Cinemagic; IMAX, Saco

Massachusetts
AMC Loews Boston Common 19; IMAX, Boston
Showcase Cinemas Randolph; IMAX, Randolph

Michigan
Celebration! Cinema Grand Rapids North; IMAX, Grand Rapids
Celebration! Cinema; IMAX, Lansing
AMC Star Fairlane 21; IMAX, Dearborn

Minnesota
AMC Eden Prairie Mall 18; IMAX, Eden Prairie
AMC Southdale 16; IMAX, Edina
AMC Arbor Lakes 16; IMAX, Maple Grove
Missouri
Springfield 11; IMAX, Springfield
Wehrenberg Ronnies 20 Cine; IMAX, St. Louis AMC BarryWoods 24; IMAX, Kansas City

Nebraska
AMC Oakview 24; IMAX, Omaha

New Hampshire
Hooksett Cinemagic; IMAX, Hooksett

New Jersey
AMC Clifton Commons 16; IMAX, Cliffton
AMC Jersey Gardens 20; IMAX, Elizabeth
AMC Loews New Brunswick 18; IMAX, New Brunswick

Nevada
Brenden Theatres and IMAX at the Palms, Las Vegas
Regal Aliante Stadium 16; IMAX, Las Vegas
Regal Sunset Station Stadium 13; IMAX, Henderson
  
New York
Regal Crossgates Mall Stadium 18; IMAX, Albany
Regal Sheepshead Bay Stadium 14; IMAX, Brooklyn
AMC Loews 34th Street 14; IMAX, New York
AMC Loews Kips Bay 15; IMAX, New York
City Center 15: Cinema de Lux; IMAX, White Plains

North Carolina
Regal Stonecrest At Piper Glen Stadium 22; IMAX, Charlotte
AMC Concord Mills 24; IMAX, Concord
Southpoint Cinemas; IMAX, Durham
Wells Fargo IMAX Theatre at Marbles- Raleigh

Ohio
AMC Easton Town Center 30; IMAX, Columbus
AMC Lennox Town Center 24; IMAX, Columbus

Oklahoma
AMC Southroads 20; IMAX, Tulsa
AMC Quail Springs Mall 24; IMAX, Oklahoma City
Moore Warren IMAX, Moore

Oregon
Regal Old Mill Stadium 16; IMAX, Bend
Regal Valley River Center 15; IMAX, Eugene
Regal Lloyd Center 10 Cinema; IMAX, Portland

Pennsylvania
UA King of Prussia Stadium 16; IMAX, King of Prussia
AMC Franklin Mills 14; IMAX, Philadelphia
RC Reading Movies 11; IMAX, Reading

Rhode Island
Providence Place Cinemas 16; IMAX, Providence
  

South Carolina
Citadel Mall IMAX Stadium 16, Charleston

Tennessee
Regal Streets of Indian Lake Stadium 16; IMAX, Hendersonville
Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18; IMAX, Knoxville
Regal Opry Mills Stadium 20; IMAX, Nashville

Texas
AMC The Parks at Arlington 18; IMAX, Arlington
AMC Barton Creek Square 14; IMAX, Austin
AMC Northpark 15; IMAX, Dallas
AMC Gulf Pointe 30; IMAX, Houston
Santikos Palladium IMAX, San Antonio

Utah
ATK IMAX, Clark Planetarium, Salt Lake City
Megaplex 17; IMAX Jordan Commons, Sandy

Virginia
AMC Hoffman Center 22; IMAX, Alexandria
AMC Hampton Towne Centre 24; IMAX, Hampton
AMC Lynnhaven 18; IMAX, Virginia Beach

Washington
IMAX Lincoln Square Cinemas, Bellevue
Regal Thornton Place Stadium 14; IMAX, Seattle
AMC River Park Square 20; IMAX, Spokane

Washington DC
AMC Loews Georgetown 14; IMAX, Washington DC

Wisconsin
AMC Star Fitchburg 18; IMAX, Fitchburg

Don't worry, Canada, we didn't forget about you.

Alberta
Scotiabank Chinook & IMAX, Calgary
Empire Studio 16 Country Hills & IMAX, Calgary
Scotiabank Edmonton & IMAX, Edmonton

British Columbia
Colossus Langley& IMAX, Langley
SilverCity Riverport & IMAX, Richmond
SilverCity Victoria Cinemas & IMAX, Victoria

Manitoba
SilverCity Polo Park Cinemas & IMAX, Winnipeg

Newfoundland
Empire Studio 12 Gateway Park & IMAX, St. John’s
Nova Scotia
Empire 18 Cinemas & IMAX , Halifax
 Ontario
SilverCity London Cinemas & IMAX, London
SilverCity Windsor Cinemas & IMAX, Windsor
Empire Theatres Kitchener & IMAX, Kitchener
Coliseum Mississauga & IMAX, Mississauga

Quebec
Mega-Plex Taschereau 18 & IMAX, Greenfield Park
Mega-Plex Pont Viau 16, Laval
Mega-Plex Marche Central 18, Montreal
Mega-Plex Terrebonne 14 &IMAX, Terrebonne


13 December 2012

Globes Nominations Tread Worn Path

While the Golden Globes traditionally have been known for nominating odd performances in mismatched categories, this year the Hollywood Foreign Press have played it conservatively. The only surprises of these nominees are the mentions for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (McGregor and Blunt), which hasn't received much consideration elsewhere, and Django Unchained's two supporting actors (DiCaprio and Waltz) are nominated. Lincoln, Les Mis, and Zero Dark Thirty lead the pack, but Django didn't do too poorly either with five nods.

Quentin Tarantino had this to say about the Globes announcements: "It's very gratifying to get this many nominations from the HFPA for a film I worked so hard on and am so passionate about. I look forward to having fun at the Golden Globes with my cast mates and fellow nominees."

Leonardo DiCaprio: “I’m truly honored to be nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association today. Django Unchained was a remarkable experience and I consider myself lucky to work with Quentin and the entire cast on the film. I’m particularly proud to be named alongside my fellow Django nominees.”

BEST PICTURE, DRAMA
"Zero Dark Thirty"
"Argo"
"Lincoln"
"Life of Pi"
"Django Unchained"

BEST PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Les Miserables"
"Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
"Moonrise Kingdom"
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"

BEST ACTOR, DRAMA
Daniel Day-Lewis for "Lincoln"
Richard Gere for "Arbitrage"
John Hawkes for "The Sessions"
Denzel Washington for "Flight"
Joaquin Phoenix for "The Master"

BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA
Marion Cotillard for "Rust and Bone"
Jessica Chastain for "Zero Dark Thirty"
Naomi Watts for "The Impossible"
Rachel Weisz for "The Deep Blue Sea"
Helen Mirren for "Hitchcock"

BEST ACTOR, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Hugh Jackman for "Les Miserables"
Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook"
Jack Black for "Bernie"
Ewan McGregor for "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"
Bill Murray for "Hyde Park On Hudson"

BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook"
Meryl Streep for "Hope Springs"
Judi Dench for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
Maggie Smith for "Quartet"
Emily Blunt for "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Tommy Lee Jones for "Lincoln"
Leonardo DiCaprio for "Django Unchained"
Phillip Seymour Hoffman for "The Master"
Christoph Waltz for "Django Unchained"
Alan Arkin for "Argo"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway for "Les Miserables"
Sally Field for "Lincoln"
Helen Hunt for "The Sessions"
Nicole Kidman for "The Paperboy"
Amy Adams for "The Master"

BEST DIRECTOR
Ang Lee for "Life of Pi"
Kathryn Bigelow for "Zero Dark Thirty"
Quentin Tarantino for "Django Unchained"
Steven Spielberg for "Lincoln"
Ben Affleck for "Argo"

BEST SCREENPLAY
"Zero Dark Thirty"
"Argo"
"Lincoln"
"Django Unchained"
"Silver Linings Playbook"

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
"Rise of the Guardians"
"Brave"
"Frankenweenie"
"Hotel Transylvania"
"Wreck-It Ralph"

BEST FOREIGN FILM
"The Intouchables"
"Rust and Bone"
"Amour"
"A Royal Affair"
"Kon-Tiki"

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Adele ("Skyfall" for "Skyfall")
Jon Bon Jovi ("Not Running Anymore" for "Stand Up Guys")
Hugh Jackman ("Suddenly" for "Les Miserables")
"For You" for "Act of Valor"
Taylor Swift ("Safe and Sound" for "Hunger Games")

BEST SCORE
Mychael Danna for "Life of Pi"
Alexandre Desplat for "Argo"
Dario Marianelli for "Anna Karenina"
John Williams for "Lincoln" 
Reinhold Helil & Johnny Kilmek for "Cloud Atlas"

Slinging in the Rain: Wolverine Debuts New Art


This GIF doesn't reveal much about Wolverine or its plot, but how often do I get the chance to riff on the title of a Hollywood classic?

(Courtesy: Official Site)

'Pacific Rim' Trailer


It's official: Idris Elba is the most kick-ass man on the planet. Guillermo Del Toro confirmed as much by making him the captain on a mission that sends giant robots to fight monsters of Godzilla-like proportions. This I will gladly plant down extra money to see in 3D.

11 December 2012

For Your Consideration: Christopher Nolan


Until recently, capes and cowls were a less respected director's game. Flops like The Shadow and Batman and Robin had made it almost impossible for an A-list auteur to get withing a hundred feet of the genre. Then Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer took Spider-man and X-Men to unparalleled heights. Perhaps it was just the matter of getting the right person behind the lens.

After Warner Bros. chose him to take over the rebooting of their biggest icon, Christopher Nolan rewarded them by turning in two of the greatest comic book films of all-time. The problem that faced him afterward: ending the series on a high-note.

Nolan took all of life's anxieties and placed them in front of our eyes. A terrorist attack on a football stadium, financial market takeover, plane hijackings, nuclear weapons. The escapism of one of pop culture's biggest icons was thrown out the window. Every moral and social ill reflected on an eighty foot screen.

Similar to Peter Jackson's careful crafting in bringing an epic trilogy to a close, Mr. Nolan left nothing on the table and set upon leaving a legacy as large as the shadow Batman casts over Gotham. The Dark Knight Rises may not be the film that The Dark Knight was, overzealous marketing hyped the conclusion to a fever-pitch with almost unbearable standards to live up to. Still, that didn't stop him from amping the scale of the film up to 11. His handling of the IMAX footage created easily some of the most jaw-dropping shots of the entire year.

The Academy's snub of both Nolan and The Dark Knight in 2008 led to the rule named after the director that created for more than five films to be nominated for Best Picture. Whether or not they will see fit to reward Mr. Nolan or The Dark Knight Rises has yet to be seen. There is little word in awards races, but the AFI did include the film in its top ten films of 2012. A sign of things to come, or a casual nod to a picture that has gone overlooked? A January morning will have to tell.

'Man of Steel' Trailer


The man behind Superman, a concept that Snyder said would be hit hard and often. Many felt an origin story about the man of steel would feel redundant, but it this looks like Nolan and Snyder may pull it off.

Critics Choice Awards Nominees

The Critics Choice Movie Awards air January 10, 2013. A fun aside, the BFCA is introducing several new categories including “Favorite Fan Franchise,” where all fans vote for the winner. You can vote over at Awards Circuit!

BEST PICTURE
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
The Master
Moonrise Kingdom
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

BEST ACTOR
Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis – “Lincoln”
John Hawkes – “The Sessions”
Hugh Jackman – “Les Misérables”
Joaquin Phoenix – “The Master”
Denzel Washington – “Flight”

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain – “Zero Dark Thirty”
Marion Cotillard – “Rust and Bone”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva – “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts – “The Impossible”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Alan Arkin – “Argo”
Javier Bardem – “Skyfall”
Robert De Niro – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman – “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones – “Lincoln”
Matthew McConaughey – “Magic Mike”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams – “The Master”
Judi Dench – “Skyfall”
Ann Dowd – “Compliance”
Sally Field – “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway – “Les Misérables”
Helen Hunt – “The Sessions”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Elle Fanning – “Ginger & Rosa”
Kara Hayward – “Moonrise Kingdom”
Tom Holland – “The Impossible”
Logan Lerman – “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
Suraj Sharma – “Life of Pi”
Quvenzhané Wallis – “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
Argo
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Les Misérables
Lincoln
Moonrise Kingdom
Silver Linings Playbook

BEST DIRECTOR
Ben Affleck – “Argo”
Kathryn Bigelow – “Zero Dark Thirty”
Tom Hooper – “Les Misérables”
Ang Lee – “Life of Pi”
David O. Russell – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Steven Spielberg – “Lincoln”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Quentin Tarantino – “Django Unchained”
John Gatins – “Flight”
Rian Johnson – “Looper”
Paul Thomas Anderson – “The Master”
Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola – “Moonrise Kingdom”
Mark Boal – “Zero Dark Thirty”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Chris Terrio – “Argo”
David Magee – “Life of Pi”
Tony Kushner – “Lincoln”
Stephen Chbosky – “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
David O. Russell – “Silver Linings Playbook”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
“Les Misérables” – Danny Cohen
“Life of Pi” – Claudio Miranda
“Lincoln” – Janusz Kaminski
“The Master” – Mihai Malaimare Jr.
“Skyfall” – Roger Deakins

BEST ART DIRECTION
“Anna Karenina” – Sarah Greenwood/Production Designer; Katie Spencer/Set Decorator
“The Hobbit” – Dan Hennah/Production Designer; Ra Vincent & Simon Bright/Set Decorators
“Les Misérables” – Eve Stewart/Production Designer; Anna Lynch-Robinson/Set Decorator
“Life of Pi” – David Gropman/Production Designer; Anna Pinnock/Set Decorator
“Lincoln” – Rick Carter/Production Designer; Jim Erickson/Set Decorator

BEST EDITING
“Argo” – William Goldenberg
“Les Misérables” – Melanie Ann Oliver and Chris Dickens
“Life of Pi” – Tim Squyres
“Lincoln” – Michael Kahn
“Zero Dark Thirty” – William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
“Anna Karenina” – Jacqueline Durran
“Cloud Atlas” – Kym Barrett and Pierre-Yves Gayraud
“The Hobbit” – Bob Buck, Ann Maskrey and Richard Taylor
“Les Misérables” – Paco Delgado
“Lincoln” – Joanna Johnston

BEST MAKEUP
Cloud Atlas
The Hobbit
Les Misérables
Lincoln

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The Avengers
Cloud Atlas
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit
Life of Pi

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Brave
Frankenweenie
Madagascar 3
ParaNorman
Rise of the Guardians
Wreck-It Ralph

BEST ACTION MOVIE
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
Looper
Skyfall

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Christian Bale – “The Dark Knight Rises”
Daniel Craig – “Skyfall”
Robert Downey Jr. – “The Avengers”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – “Looper”
Jake Gyllenhaal – “End of Watch”

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Emily Blunt – “Looper”
Gina Carano – “Haywire”
Judi Dench – “Skyfall”
Anne Hathaway – “The Dark Knight Rises”
Jennifer Lawrence – “The Hunger Games”

BEST COMEDY
Bernie
Silver Linings Playbook
Ted
This Is 40
21 Jump Street

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Jack Black – “Bernie”
Bradley Cooper – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Paul Rudd – “This Is 40”
Channing Tatum – “21 Jump Street”
Mark Wahlberg – “Ted”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Mila Kunis – “Ted”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Silver Linings Playbook”
Shirley MacLaine – “Bernie”
Leslie Mann – “This Is 40”
Rebel Wilson – “Pitch Perfect”

BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE
The Cabin in the Woods
Looper
Prometheus

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Amour
The Intouchables
A Royal Affair
Rust and Bone

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Bully
The Central Park Five
The Imposter
The Queen of Versailles
Searching for Sugar Man
West of Memphis

10 December 2012

AFI Lists 2012's Top Ten


The AFI came out with their top ten list of American films this year. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see The Dark Knight Rises make an appearance, although it may have come at the expense of a film like The Master. Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty at this point have become must-haves for any top ten list for the year. If AFI's selections hold true, December shall bring a great deal of excellent pictures.

ARGO
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
DJANGO UNCHAINED
LES MISÉRABLES
LIFE OF PI
LINCOLN
MOONRISE KINGDOM
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
ZERO DARK THIRTY

09 December 2012

Stare Into the 'Oblivion' Trailer


Joseph Kosinski's new project features another star facing the prospect of being the last man left on Earth. This premise has been done many times before Vincent Price with The Last Man on Earth, Charlton Heston with The Omega Man, Will Smith with I Am Legend, etc. Those three features are all entertaining during the first 2/3rds of the film, but their conclusion leave much to be desired.

So what makes this one more appealing? Morgan Freeman.

08 December 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot #8

The game where I throw out one of cinema's more obscure quotes and you try to guess it. Readers are currently 3 for 7. Let's see if you can name the film this quote is from. I warn you, this movie is a clunker...

"Not the beeeees!"

07 December 2012

The Phoenix Project on Kickstarter


The Phoenix Project is just one of many film projects around on Kickstarter, the most famous being David Fincher's Goonies project. The site is a great concept that brings some cinematic dreams to life. This particular concept though is intriguing:

"The film is a psychological sci-fi drama about four scientists who move into a house together to try and reanimate deceased organisms while dealing with the internal balance of ethics, logic, emotion and ingenuity (think Primer, but with biology)."

If you're feeling in the giving mood for the holidays, donate to The Phoenix Project here!

06 December 2012

'Star Trek Into Darkness' Trailer



The anticipation for J.J. Abram's follow-up was already incredibly high to begin with, now, people who don't even enjoy sci-fi want to see this.

By the way, nice creepy voice, Cumberbatch.

04 December 2012

For Your Consideration: Liam Neeson


Widowed husbands are frequently used tropes in action films. It delivers empathy quickly and without wasting a lot of screentime. However, what Liam Neeson does with The Grey is more than A-B-C screenwriting. No shoe-horned breakdown scenes are inserted forcefully into the narrative for the audience to get to know Ottway (Neeson). In the midst of carnal mayhem, he clutches a small picture of his wife in his wallet before he faces what seem like insurmountable odds.

He leads these men through the snow, through the wilderness, through the darkness. That the story doesn't fall into laughable territory suggests the level of gravitas Neeson possesses. In each battle with the elements and its inhabitants, the slowly dying embers of his life crackle to life a little more.

An honest reflection of grief in a film that was marketed as anything but. This is not a performance that garners awards attention, but it should.

03 December 2012

Consider 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Teased


A person looking at wreckage facing away from camera should be its own category. Whoever we're looking at (presumably Benedict Cumberbatch's character) has caused a lot of damage and it looks like J.J. Abrams has upped the mayhem for his sequel. It will be appreciated as Star Trek Into Darkness marks the series' first attempt at the IMAX format.

02 December 2012

Thoughts on 'Les Miserables'

(this post comes from NMPF reader "Optimus Blimey")

One of the perks of being a Californian is that there is never a shortage of screenings for films that are sure to earn a great deal of buzz. I was just lucky enough to be one of a few hundred to attend Tom Hooper's adaptation of Les Miserables.

Officially, this isn't a review, just some thoughts as a favor to Colin.

Hugh Jackman, despite his hulking badassdom was born to play this part. Jean Valjean requires gravitas and Jackman has it in spades. His past performances on Broadway hint at his talents, but his scenes are some of the most exquisite I have seen in a musical.

Anne Hathaway similarly is awesome as Fantine. Hathaway must have been practicing for ages because every note she renders is bliss. I know that Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence are touted as the winners for Best Actress this year, but my gut tells me it should be Hathaway. Who is she supporting? But her time onscreen will only allow for Supporting Actress.

Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried don't pan out as well, unfortunately. While close-up, uninterrupted takes of singing onset work for Jackman and Hathaway, the effect is lost with these three. Crowe looks the part of Javert, yet his comfort level goes out the window when the music swells. One of the key functions of Les Miserables is the romance between Cosette and Marius, but it just doesn't work with these two though they give it their damndest.

As for the look of the film, director Tom Hooper is as fond of dutch angles as ever. Other than that, the feeling is right and the lighting works wonders.

So there it is!

Hit Me With Your Best Shot #7

The game where I throw out one of cinema's more obscure quotes and you try to guess it. Readers are currently 2 for 6. Let's see if you can name the film this quote is from.

"You’ve got red on you."