Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ten Movies to See in November

10. Tower Heist

Tenth on the list because of some pretty poor recent track records on Eddie Murphy and the director Brett Ratner. However, Ratner can make an entertaining movie when he wants to, Eddie Murphy NEEDS to return to form. His career has been a joke for the past... 15 years maybe? But, who wouldn't love to see live-action Eddie Murphy be funny again? And coupled with Ben Stiller, it should be interesting to see how they work together.

9. Immortals

Tarsem Singh is an interesting filmmaker, but I'm not too keen on these types of films. Especially since studios simply don't know how to market the sword-and-sandal epic anymore, especially after 300. So, I'm approaching caution with this one, but it would be cool if it turned out great.

8. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

The red band trailer looks crazy and it's always fun to see Harold and Kumar back even if the sequel wasn't all that great. They're smart by waiting every 3-4 years to release a film or else we'd probably be sick of them. It looks as if they've upped the insanity up to a considerable degree, it'll be fun to see how far they go with it and Harold and Kumar are just two characters with such great chemistry that just watching the two of them riff of each other is worth watching alone. Plus, it's a Christmas movie... in 3D!

p.s. I was too lazy to find the red band trailer, you're gonna have to find it yourself... or maybe I'll look for it tomorrow.

7. J. Edgar

Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, judging from the trailer, it's Oscar bait to the max. But you know what, I love the chances Leo takes with each of his roles. He's played a wide range of characters, although he never really strays too far from characters who are constantly at war with themselves. Still, the combination of him, Clint Eastwood's efficient directing, and the up-and-comer Armie Hammer should make this interesting to watch. Eastwood, however, hasn't really been knocking them out of the park lately. His last few films have been kinda weak, but you can't help but marvel at his work ethic. It's not a bad world to be in when Clint Eastwood's making a film once a year. Let's just hope he can make a few more classics even at his old age.

6. The Artist

You don't know it now, but this could be the film that will be getting all the awards attention early next year. Trying to revive the silent film genre in 2011 sounds like a tough task and yet, I think it's an ingenious move, especially if the film is really as good as the hype is making it sound.

5. Melancholia

Lars von Trier, ever the provocateur, actually has a film coming out this year. Kinda overshadowed by his Nazi comments at Cannes, but there was actually a good critical response to this film coming out of Cannes and even though he's hit-and-miss with me, I'm pretty much over what got him in trouble a few months ago. Plus, Kirsten Dunst gets naked, that's pretty cool, right? But no, seriously, this might be worth seeing at the local arthouse theater.

4. A Dangerous Method

The hype for this one has been a bit muted, maybe a bit toned down, but Cronenberg, Viggo, Michael Fassbender... and they're playing Freud and Carl Jung? I can't help but be intrigued. Word on the street is that Keira Knightley's performance has divided some people, so viewer beware.

3. Hugo

Martin Scorsese making a family adventure film in 3D. Yes, it is happening and you know what? The reviews coming in for this film has been very encouraging. Apparently this is Scorsese's love letter to both film and childhood and that he has a masterful control over the 3D form. Thank God. But also, should we be surprised or should we be that much more impressed with someone like Scorsese? He's entering his sixth decade of filmmaking (his very first film came out in the '60s) and this is his second film in two years. The man is still going strong and he's still showing people how it's done. Don't let the studio's poor use of pop music in the trailer fool you, this could be a truly great film to watch during the Holiday season.

2. The Descendants

I do this often, but let me tell this to you all again, please go see more dramas in the theaters. I know it's more convenient and easier to wait to DVD, but it really does hurt the process that much more. Mainstream studios don't make dramas anymore and films like The Descendants will wind up coming out less and less if we don't go and see them. Alexander Payne is one of the great filmmakers of the last 15 years and he's made four great comedy/dramas in his career. The Descendants is his first film since 2004, starring George Clooney, and the word is that he hasn't missed a beat since he left the cinema world with the Oscar-nominated Sideways. I'm looking forward to this a lot because I've really grown to respect and admire Payne as a filmmaker since his seven year hiatus and I won't take his effortless filmmaking skills for granted this time around.

1. The Muppets

This is basically me going back to relive old childhood memories right here. Not only that but they've done a great job of marketing this film in really creative and clever ways. Add the fact that Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) are behind the film and there's much intrigue and desire to go see this movie. It does concern me that the great Frank Oz didn't participate in this film mainly due to his disagreement with the script, but I'm willing to take a plunge into the Muppets world if Segel and Stoller do a good enough job with it. How could you not want to see this film? Holy shit, right? The Muppets are back!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Let me briefly go into the next few months...

Definitely want to see:
The Descendants
The Muppets
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
War Horse

Very interested in:
J. Edgar
A Dangerous Method
Young Adult
The Adventures of Tintin
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Could be very good/more curious than excited:
The Rum Diary
Like Crazy
The Artist
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
We Bought a Zoo

Just for fun/some I may skip, but is on my radar for now:
A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas
Tower Heist
The Sitter
Sherlock Holmes 2
Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

I'll go into more detail about some of these movies in the next few days/weeks.

So, a recap on some of my favorite films of the year

Best films of 2011, as of 10/17/2011

1. La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In)
2. Drive
3. Moneyball
4. Bridesmaids
5. X-Men First Class
6. Contagion
7. Super 8
8. 50/50
9. Ides of March
10. Source Code

Then there's Win Win, which is getting more and more forgotten as the months go by. There are loads more films that look really good coming out in the next two months so I don't expect this list to remain nearly the same by the year's end. But this is where I stand so far. Four films with a 9.0 rating or higher, three with an 8.5. Things are starting to heat up. Can't wait to see what November and December bring.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

50/50, Ides of March, and The Skin I Live In


So 50/50 came out a few weeks ago and didn't really make a big buck in the box office and that's a shame because it really is a great movie about a guy's personal struggle through cancer. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, the film is based on a true story. In fact, it's actually the personal account of the screenwriter of the film who wrote the script based on his battle with cancer. It's not hard to tell, either. 50/50 is a refreshingly honest film that deals with the disease maturely and yet still has a sense of humor. They always say humor is the best medicine. 50/50 manages to have funny scenes and dramatic scenes without too much sentimentality and it does its best to avoid the big cliche tearjerker scenes. Although, it's easy to be moved by the film emotionally.

The film tells the story of Adam, a 27 year old man who works for a radio station and is best friends with, Kyle (played by Seth Rogen). Soon after you get to know Adam is when he finds out that he has cancer. From this, he has problems with his girlfriend (played by Bryce Dallas Howard), his mother (Anjelica Huston), and also has a hard time connecting with a young psychiatrist (played by Anna Kendrick). The movie does a great job of not feeling too formulaic and it gives off more of a relaxed, slice-of-life type vibe than anything else.

That said, I wasn't too keen on all the performances and sometimes I feel like it used the comedy scenes with Seth Rogen as more of a crutch. Even though those scenes played out pretty well and Seth Rogen does a great job, the film does self-consciously try to strike a balance between the comedy and drama. This makes the film pretty easy to swallow. And there's nothing particularly wrong with that, it just doesn't make the dramatic scenes feel as strong. For me, the comedy of the film plays off a lot more convincingly and I found myself moreso looking forward to those scenes than the scenes with the mother or the psychiatrist. What makes this film great though is how it all sorta comes together for a very strong finale.

Overall, 50/50 is a great film that puts a bunch of great young actors on display and it does a remarkable job of attempting to maintain a consistent tone. Some scenes may be more stronger than others, but the great final act kinda makes the whole ride very much worth the time.

Rating: 8/10

Ides of March

The most exciting thing about George Clooney's career is the way he has improved as a filmmaker. Ides of March is the fourth film that he's directed and it's his most controlled and contains great performances. Even though the plot may be a bit much and some of the details sort of come off as a little far-fetched, the great performances from Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti makes this film more fun to watch unfold.

That's especially true with Ryan Gosling, who gets the most screen time and plays Stephen Meyers, one of the top staff members of Mike Morris's presidential campaign (Morris played by George Clooney). Stephen, along with Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) attempt to come up with the best strategy in order for Mike Morris to win the democratic primaries. The film is smart in focusing on the relationships between the characters because the few times it attempts to go into details about the political issues Morris supports, it sometimes falters. This is a political drama that pays the most attention on its characters, especially Stephen Meyer's attempts to make a name for himself in the political scene.

What I found most fascinating about the film was how it divulged into something that we all kinda feared about presidential campaigns: that it's more about the people working the political campaign than it is about the presidential candidate himself. Mike Morris tends to take the backseat in this movie and this is primarily Stephen Meyers and Paul's ride. But Stephen Meyers is going to learn a few harsh realities about what it's really like to work on a presidential campaign as a few rookie mistakes puts his whole career in jeopardy.

The movie soon starts to unfold and the shit starts to hit the fan and soon Stephen Meyers is scrambling to keep some of the mistakes that he made away from the press. There's a lot of backstabbing, double-crossing, and manipulation involved in the movie and it makes for some really great drama. Like I said before though, things are sort of amped up to the point where it feels like it's sort of getting far fetched, almost to the point where you almost get taken out of the movie. Some of the character motivations don't particularly add up, but for the most part, the movie tends to stay away from being a convoluted mess. This is George Clooney's best film and he proves to be a director with considerable skill. As much praise needs to be given to the films actors, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman who proves yet again that he is a brilliant actor. If you're a fan of good acting, you will enjoy this movie.

Rating: 8/10

La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In)

What a movie this is.

La piel que habito is Pedro Almodovar's newest film and it's another brilliant film from a filmmaker who has made quite a few of those in his career. What's so great about this film is while it contains a lot of the same subjects that Almodovar loves to delve into, it's completely different than any film Almodovar has made in the past and his direct, focused approach to the material gives it the necessary edge that is needed for a film with such a strange premise.

Basically, I will do my best not to give anything away about the film because it's so important for you to go into this with as little plot details as possible. Set in Toledo, Spain in 2012, Antonio Banderas plays a surgeon who has spent much of his time trying to create skin that cannot burn. He has made speeches within the scientific community that go into the work he has done, saying that he has done his research with only mice. But, in his large home where he conducts his research, it is discovered that he has been doing all of his research on a woman that he's been holding captive. His main assistance is from his servant, Marilia, and she helps to provide the necessary amenities for the captive, but is mostly kept in the dark about Robert's (Antonio Banderas) true intentions with her. And so are we, for a brief period of time, until the film starts going back in time a few years and the truth starts to reveal itself in one of the most shocking and unbelievable twists I have seen in quite some time.

What is so brilliant about this film is the way Pedro Almodovar plays with the audience and keeps his cards close to his chest until he finally decides to tell you what is really going on. It's a masterstroke from someone who has been making excellent films for four decades now, this might just be one of his best. As what tends to happen with some Almodovar films, some details within the plot get a little bit messy, but the best thing about the film is how slowly it stretches out the story and you really get into the intentions and motivations of Antonio Banderas's character. Antonio Banderas, by the way, has never been better. Another one of Almodovar strengths are just the way he's able to get such great performances out of his actors. Antonio Banderas is no exception. He, like Penelope Cruz in some of Almodovar's other films, bring their A-game when working with the legendary Spanish filmmaker and the results are just beautiful.

It's tough to say just how great this film is because repeated viewings are absolutely necessary. Surely, the second and third time that I watch this film, they will be completely different experiences than from the first time I watch the film. And because Pedro Almodovar does such a great job with playing with audience expectations, repeated viewings will be just as fun and the twist will be just as satisfying as it was the first time. It's not that you can't figure out what's going to happen, it's just that you can't believe and imagine that it's actually going to happen. Pedro Almodovar is such a great filmmaker though and he is at the point in his career where he can have the balls to go through with such a story like this. Easily one of the most original premises I have witnessed in a long time. The Skin I Live In is the best film of the year so far and it's going to be really tough to beat it.

Rating: 9.5/10

50/50 and Ides of March are really great, solid dramas. Honestly, so far, September and October have been very satisfying months with The Skin I Live In being the biggest surprise for me so far this year. I'm not particularly interested in the rest of the movies coming out this month (maybe The Rum Diary, but I wasn't too impressed by the trailers). Very soon, I'm going to go into the films that I am most looking forward to in the closing months of 2011. Stay tuned.