Friday, July 27, 2012

The Master and Killing Them Softly switch release dates

The Master is now being released on September 14th, Killing Them Softly gets the October 12th release date. Why? I don't really know. The Master already has a trailer, a teaser poster, and two clips posted. Killing Them Softly still doesn't have a trailer... maybe they wanna spend more time planning a marketing strategy for Killing Them Softly? Considering Andrew Dominik's last film and collaboration with Brad Pitt didn't garner a huge audience when it first came out. Anyway, it's good news for people waiting to see The Master. There's still some debate as to what festival The Master will land at. Rumor has it PT Anderson isn't a fan of the big festivals which is why it's not appearing at Venice or Toronto. Still, it has a chance to be seen at Telluride. Some even say it might get a surprise screening at Toronto. Who knows... thing is, the Weinsteins love film festivals so you know they're gonna push for a festival appearance somewhere.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cloud Atlas trailer, teaser poster

Finally we get to see what Cloud Atlas is all about. Directed by both the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. This film looks like a visual delight and a complete mindfuck. Six separate stories that are interconnected with each other through time and space. The six-minute trailer has left me with more questions than answers, but I guess that's a good thing. This will be a tricky sell for audiences I think. Halle Berry and Tom Hanks are in it and it looks great. I hope it's great. The trailer definitely makes it look great.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Toronto International Film Festival Lineup announced this morning

Lots of good ones in there... including... wait... Noah Baumbach has a new film coming out? Since when??

World Premieres
"Looper" (Rian Johnson) (Opening Film)
"Cloud Atlas" (The Wachowskis & Tom Tykwer)
"Argo" (Ben Affleck)
"The Silver Linings Playbook" (David O Russell)
"Love, Marilyn" (Liz Garbus)
"Free Angela And All Political Prisoners" (Shola Lynch)
"The Place Beyond The Pines" (Derek Cianfrance)
"Midnight's Children" (Deepa Mehta)
"Hyde Park On Hudson" (Roger Michell)
"Great Expectations" (Mike Newell)
"Inescapable" (Rubba Nadda)
"Twice Born" (Sergio Castellitto)
"English Vinglish" (Gauri Shinde)
"The Perks Of Being A Wallflower" (Stephen Chbosky)
"Thanks For Sharing" (Stuart Blumberg)
"End Of Watch" (David Ayer)
"Imogene" (Robert Puccini and Shari Springer Berman)
"A Late Quartet" (Yaron Zilberman)
"Much Ado About Nothing" (Joss Whedon)
"Frances Ha" (Noah Baumbach)
"The Time Being" (Nenad Cicin-Sain)
"Writers" (Josh Boone)
"At Any Price" (Ramin Bahrani)
"Venus And Serena" (Maiken Baird)
"Byzantium" (Neil Jordan)
"Quartet" (Dustin Hoffman)
"Ginger And Rosa" (Sally Potter)
"A Liar's Autobiography" (Ben Timlett, Bill JOnes, Jeff Simpson)
"Foxfire" (Laurnet Cantet)
"In The House" (Francois Ozon)
"The Impossible" (JA Bayona
"Hannah Arendt (Margarethe Von Trotta)
"Mr. Pip" (Andrew Adamson)
"Capital" (Costa-Gavras"
"The Attack" (Ziad Doueriri)
"Zaytoun" (Eran Riklis)
"The Deep" (Baltasar Kormakur)
"Dreams For Sale (Nishikawa Miwa)
"The Last Supper" (Lu Chuan)

International/North American Premieres
"To The Wonder" (Terrence Malick)
"Anna Karenina" (Joe Wright)
"The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (Mira Nair)
"The Company You Keep" (Robert Redford)
"Jayne Mansfield's Car" (Billy Bob Thornton)
"A Royal Affair" (Nikolai Arcel)
"Dangerous Liasons" (Hur Ji-Ho)
"Thermae Romae" (Hideki Takeuchi)
"Caught IN THe Web" (Chen Kaige)
"Dormant Beauty" (Marco Belloccchio)
"Everybody Has A Plan" (Ana Piterbarg) w/Viggo Mortensen
"Kon-Tiki" (Espen Sandberg
"Reality" (Matteo Garrone)
"A Few Hours Of Spring" (Stephan Brize)
"The Hunt" (Thomas Vintenberg)
"The Iceman" (Ariel Vromen)
"Lore" (Cate Shortland)
"No" (Pablo Larrain)
"OUtrage Beyond" (Takeshi Kitano)
"Rust And Bone" (Jacques Audiard)
"The Sapphires" (Wayne Blair)
"Tai Chi O" (Stephen Fung)

Canadian Premiere
"The Sessions" (Ben Lewis)
 

Mid-way Point, part 3, looking ahead to September and October

As I previously mentioned, August still has a few interesting films left: David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis, Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer, and John Hillcoat's Lawless.

I'm not gonna go too far ahead and talk about November and December movies right now, we'll get there when the time comes. There are a lot of films coming out in September and October that I want to bring my attention to. Instead of ranking them in terms of importance, I'll just list them and tell you their release date. After all, this is just about giving these films attention first and foremost.

Let's go to September:

Gangster Squad



There's really just three movie titles that perk my interest in the month of September, the first one is Gangster Squad. Only problem with Gangster Squad is that Warner Bros recently decided to re-shoot the now-controversial scene of the gangsters shooting in the movie theater. That scene is apparently a very climactic scene in the film and it appeared in the trailer. Well, now they're planning on re-shooting and re-writing that scene. Sounds risky, especially considering the release date is just over a month away. It's likely that the film's release will have to be delayed so it's only on this list right now because they haven't changed the release date yet.

Having said that, this is a film with Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone directed by Ruben Fleischer. This would be Fleischer's first film that's not a comedy but his previous films Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less had a lot of visual flare to it. I think it'll be interesting to see how his style translate to this film, which definitely looks to have a lot of style. Let's hope there's enough substance to match that style.

Release date, for now: September 7th

Killing Them Softly



Andrew Dominik's third film is the crime drama Killing Them Softly starring Brad Pitt. This is their second collaboration together, their first being The Assassination of Jesse James. That was an amazing film so I'm really looking forward to this one. Great word-of-mouth came out of Cannes, a lot of them touting it as the anti-thriller for our times. I can't wait.

Release date: September 21st

Looper



Looper just looks cool as hell. I don't know how great it'll be, but the third film from writer/director Rian Johnson is a sci-fi with a simple premise but any premise dealing with time travel will always be baffling. Plus, you got the prospect of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis playing the same character and they're trying to kill each other. The trailer is just badass as well. I'm lukewarm about Rian Johnson's first two films but I think he's gonna step it up with Looper.


Release date: September 28th

October movies

Frankenweenie



This is the first Tim Burton film I've looked forward to in quite some time. Based on a short he made almost 30 years ago, it's interesting to see him go back to his past and try to make this into a feature. Featuring his trademark animated style, his animated films lately have been better than his live action films.

Release date: October 5th


Argo



Ben Affleck, as a director, has proven that he's definitely got the skills and the craft. Now he's stepping up with an interesting story that once was on the CIA's classified list. It's got a great cast and the trailer looks nice and snazzy. It'll be Ben Affleck's first period piece (set in the '70s). I'm interesting in seeing how much he has grown as a director the third time around.

 Release date: October 12th


The Master



I've probably reported on this movie more than any other this year and it's for a good reason. I'm a huge PT Anderson fan and The Master just looks brilliant. It's gotten praise from every actor PTA showed it to. Megan Ellison, the woman responsible for giving this film the green-light and the budget that PTA needed was recently quoted as saying that the film "changed her life." Wow. Joaquin Phoenix looks fantastic, Phillip Seymour Hoffman is awesome as usual. I'm not even doubting that this film will be bad, the only question I have is will the Academy like it as well? Not that the Oscars matter, but I would be floored with Paul Thomas Anderson won one. There Will Be Blood showed he's working on a different level than everyone else. I'm foaming out of the mouth over this one.

October 12th

Gambit

[no poster yet]

From a Coen Brothers' screenplay, directed by Michael Hoffman, starring Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz. Will this be any good? Maybe. I don't really have much info on it, to be honest, but with a good cast and presumably a good script, this could be pretty good.

Release date: October 12th


Cloud Atlas

[no poster yet]

Finally, we come to the Wachowski brothers and Tom Tykwer. The three of them came together on this 164-minute sci-fi epic. Starring Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, and Hugo Weaving... more info about this film will come about in the next few weeks I assume. It's been awhile since the Wachowski Bros have been involved with a film that I've been interested in, let's hope they're able to make a great film.

Release date: October 26th



The Sessions



A lot of great reviews came out about this film starring John Hawkes and Helen Hunt when it premiered in Sundance. John Hawkes stars in this film about a man with an iron lung who seeks to lose his virginity with the help of a sex surrogate. The film has a lighter tone than you would expect but I'm sure John Hawkes's performance will garner him awards attention. Either way, it's sure to have a limited release so be patient.

Release date: October 26th



Hmmm... seemed like there were more good films coming out those months, I guess not. Oh well, there's still some really solid ones there. Argo, The Master, Killing Them Softly, and Looper all look like winners at this point. Trailers will be posted when we get closer to those release dates. I was surprised to find out quite a few of those films have no trailers yet.

The Mid-Way Point part 2: The Avengers vs. The Dark Knight Rises

The Avengers is excellent entertainment, it surpassed my expectations, it was extremely fun to watch, and it brought everything together successfully. All the superheroes had their moments to shine, we got to see them interact with each other plenty. Nick Fury had many great moments as well as the villain Loki who I did not like to much in "Thor."

But The Dark Knight Rises's scope easily trumps The Avengers. I gave it an A- because that's what it deserved and in some ways I had more fun watching The Avengers than with The Dark Knight Rises. However, what Nolan managed to do with TDKR impresses me much more than what Joss Whedon did with The Avengers. Saying that shouldn't diminish what Joss Whedon did, but Joss Whedon only had to live up to one great film (Iron Man), a few good films, and some disappointments. Nolan had to live up to a movie that became a pop culture phenomenon, broke tons of box office records,  officially established the Joker as one of the greatest villains in movie history, and was an epic crime saga with an intense pace that kept me on my seat throughout its entire running time.

The Dark Knight Rises surpassing that would have been tremendously difficult and it had a couple of problems here and there that kept it from being an A film. Still, it's an extraordinary achievement. The Avengers is an A film. But for me, it's all a matter of personal preference. Review grades are subjective enough, but top 10 lists are even more subjective. The Avengers did everything it was supposed to do and it all worked for me. The Dark Knight Rises, though, tried to go beyond popcorn entertainment and got almost everything right. I admire the ambition and the scope of TDKR moreso than the scope of The Avengers which wasn't quite as high.

So, even though there's no need for me to defend myself, I just wanted to clarify my thoughts on both films. They're both great films and really the only two big budget highlights of the summer. They both should be celebrated as superior entertainment compared to the rest of what Hollywood had to offer this summer. I think they're both great films, I just happen to prefer the more ambitious one despite its flaws.

The Mid-Way Point (sort of)

While it's already a bit passed the half-way point of 2012, in movie world, I'd say we've reach the mid-point. All of the important summer movies have already come out. While there are a few more that are somewhat interesting, a few indies like Cosmopolis and Red Hook Summer for instance. The rest of the summer looks pretty weak when it comes to movies getting a wide release. John Hillcoat's Lawless comes out on August 31st which I am definitely looking forward to, but in movie world, August 31st might as well be the fall. I mean, if May 4th counts as the summer...

Before we look ahead to movies like Lawless (which was on my summer movies list), let's look back at what were the best films of the year so far. We'll have a complete overview of all the movies I've reviewed (I've reviewed more at this point this year than I've ever had in the past... one of the perks of living in NYC I suppose). I'll also talk about the Avengers vs. The Dark Knight Rises and which one I personally prefer. Then we'll look ahead to the future.

Review overview:

A brief review of Haywire, B- (it's at the bottom of the page)
Wanderlust, B+
Friends with Kids, C+
Jeff, Who Lives at Home, B+
21 Jump Street, A-
The Hunger Games, C-
Bully, C+
Damsels in Distress, B
The Cabin in the Woods, B
The Five Year Engagement, B-
The Avengers, A
The Dictator, B
Moonrise Kingdom, A
Prometheus, B-
Magic Mike, B-
Ted, C
The Amazing Spider-Man, C
Brave, C-
Your Sister's Sister, B+
To Rome With Love, C+
Beasts of the Southern Wild, A
The Dark Knight Rises, A-

My top 10 of the year so far:

1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
2. Moonrise Kingdom
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. The Avengers
5. 21 Jump Street
6. Your Sister's Sister
7. Jeff, Who Lives at Home
8. Wanderlust
9. Damsels in Distress
10. The Cabin in the Woods

But wait, you gave The Dark Knight Rises an A- and The Avengers an A...

I will explain in my next post.

The Dark Knight Rises: a satisfying conclusion to an amazing trilogy




And so ends a remarkable trilogy from Christopher Nolan in stunning fashion. Quick personal aside before I begin, this was the first film I ever saw in a real Imax theater and it was a thrilling experience. If you ever plan to see a movie in Imax make sure it's a legit 70mm theater and not just a glorified 2D screen. It makes a world of a difference, trust me.

There was a time when Christopher Nolan did not want to make a third batman film. He wasn't sure he could do it. Could he really top The Dark Knight? Could he produce a better villain than the Joker? Can he really make a film that can both stand on its own and be as great as the last two batman movies he just made? How many good third movies of a trilogy are there anyway? The one thing that allowed him to come back was to have the idea that this would have to be the last film of his series. If he was going to make a third one, it would have to be the last one. With this knowledge, the audience would go in not really knowing what's going to come. Will Batman save Gotham? Will Bruce Wayne recover from a broken back? Or will Gotham really blow to pieces?

From the start of the film, we are introduced to a character that will become a force to reckon with for the rest of the movie. That's Bane. Bane is a physical beast with seemingly no empathy for the human race. He has come to finish the job that Ra's Al Ghul intended to do years ago: destroy Gotham. And in a series of breathtaking action pieces, we watch as Bane implodes the football stadium, blows up all the bridges except for one, as well as the tunnels. There's no way out of Gotham alive.

And where's Batman in all this? Well, before Bane became a threat to Gotham, Bruce Wayne was a recluse for eight years, doing his best Howard Hughes impression. After Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent's death, Bruce Wayne has been out in hiding from the public as well. As the movie starts, a sexy jewel thief named Selina Kyle begins to perk his interest as she both charms him and steals his mother's necklace. Selina Kyle warns Bruce of the impending danger the "one percenters" such as himself are in. Selina, a loose accomplice of Bane's, is a character with a shaky moral code. We never know if she's with or against Batman. When Batman tells Selina he wants to meet with Bane face-to-face (before Bane starts his destruction of Gotham), it winds up being a big mistake as Bane proves to be a physical match that Batman cannot overcome.

There's a whole lot more to the story in The Dark Knight Rises. Jim Gordon is back, and this time, he's got a young cop named Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who he's mentoring. Blake, an orphan like Bruce Wayne, knows exactly who Bruce really is. We also have the return of Lucius Fox, who when Bruce Wayne visits him, cannot resist showing him the new toy he has created ("The Bat"). Alfred Pennyworth is also back and when Bruce Wayne flirts with the idea of putting the ol' costume back on, Alfred threatens to walk. He cannot stand to bury another Wayne.

The scope of The Dark Knight Rises is larger than any other previous Batman film, as it should be. The legend ends here, as promised in the ad campaign, and with a 165-minute running time we can certainly expect something epic to come about. There's a lot of simultaneous threads running about and, unfortunately, Christopher Nolan can't get everything right. As with the character of Miranda Tate, played by Marion Cotillard, who is supposed to help Bruce Wayne after he discovers that he's flat-out broke. She also plays one of Bruce's love interests in the film, and compared to the sexy verbal foreplay between he and Selina Kyle, there's just something rather lifeless and uninteresting between the pairing of Miranda and Bruce Wayne. As much as he wants her to be safe, we never get the sense that she's anything more than a booty call for him, on a personal level.

Of course she's important in that she's helping to save Wayne Enterprises but I don't think there's a rule in the Batman universe that every female character that's introduced has to be a love interest of Bruce Wayne. Is that really a requirement? Especially when we find out that there's much more to Miranda Tate than originally meets the eye... a twist that would be even stronger if we had just a little more screen time with her. As important as she is to the story, she's really the only case of the film handling too many different characters. Nolan handles the actors as best as he can and I admire the work he's put forth in that department, but I found the character of Miranda Tate to be underwritten and kinda dull compared to everyone else.

After all, Alfred Pennyworth probably has his most shining moment of the entire Batman lore. A character we once took for granted suddenly walks out on Bruce Wayne in protest of Bruce's decision to wear the Batman suit once again. Michael Caine's scenes are just extraordinary and they make for the most emotional scenes of the entire film. Anne Hathaway also is fun to watch here. When she's not kicking ass and taking names, she serves as the best love interest out of the all three Nolan's batman films. Tom Hardy also gives a great performance as Bane. While some may question the decision that was made about the sound of his voice, Tom Hardy as both a physical presence and a legitimate threat to Gotham, makes other villains look puny and weak compared to him. He only has one thing in mind: to destroy and to kill, and he never strays from that. Even when you find out there's more to his character, you can tell that he's in too deep to change who he is. That said, I prefer Joker's head games moreso than Bane's physical brutality. They're both enjoyable, and I think as villains they're pretty much even, but Joker really messed with Batman's head whereas Bane just proved he can kick his ass. Of course he can, he looks like he has one-hundred pounds over him and Batman is getting old. Nevertheless, Nolan did a great job with Bane and I was really impressed that he was able to write a villain that even came close to being as threatening and terrifying as the Joker.

Nolan also did a great job with the action and effects sequences. Critics even hinting at the idea that Christopher Nolan comes close to Michael Bay territory* with his action sequences need a good slap in the face. Nothing too violent or threatening is needed just a comical slap in the face. What other directors in the game are even attempting to do what Christopher Nolan has done with his last three films? You may argue that parts of the stories in TDK, Inception, and TDKR don't always add up all the time, but for the most part, he gets it right. He's getting better as a director of action, he's become more confident as a big-budget storyteller and when The Dark Knight Rises is firing on all cylinders, there's nothing that will come out this year that can be as thrilling and exciting to watch.

The Dark Knight Rises is a triumph for Christopher Nolan and his batman trilogy. It gets nearly everything right. Nolan handles everything like a pro. He even takes some chances and steers things into a pretty risky path near the end of the film, suggesting that the batman, as a symbol, will live on eternally. I think Nolan got the ending right, especially considering it's the official ending of his batman stories. We all know that Batman, as a symbol, can never truly end. Christopher Nolan managed to find a way to tie things up, staying true to the themes and philosophies of both the first and second movies while adding some new ones in the process. Nolan did the impossible task: he made a great third film of a trilogy. Kudos.

Grade: A-




*we all know that action and effects sequences are Michael Bay's forte, but when critics compare Nolan to Michael Bay, they're doing it to disparage him. As if any director that attempts big action sequences are making movies as bad and as stupid as Michael Bay.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild is pure magic






Beasts of the Southern Wild would look just as strange, unique, and wonderful in any other time as it does today. It's not just that it has a social relevance to it that it makes it such a powerful watch, but in the world of cinema, movies like Beasts of the Southern Wild always will stand out and come out on top because it's truly the work of an original voice----or original voices.

Benh Zeitlin has entered the cinema world with a bang. This, his debut feature-length film, won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Camera D'or at Cannes. It's not hard to see why. This film is just so out there and strangely wonderful yet its emotions and characters feel real and down-to-earth. Zeitlin is able to capture this secluded world, nicknamed "The Bathtub" with a certain kind of objective rawness that reminds me of Werner Herzog's films of the '70s and early '80s (if you were to exclude the more fantastical elements of the film).

"Beasts" takes place off an island of Louisiana that local residents call "The Bathtub". The island is located outside of the levees which means it's always at risk of being flooded or completely wiped out by hurricanes. It's so isolated, the people there basically only know each other. The main character, Hushpuppy, is a six year old girl growing up in The Bathtub with her tough, no-nonsense father who wants her to grow up to be tough so that she can protect herself when he's no longer around. When her father's health begins to decline due to a mysterious illness and a huge storm comes and does serious damage to the community, Hushpuppy is faced with the real possibility of having to take care of herself.

What makes this film so remarkable is the fact that it was shot on location with a very small budget and yet the performances are so strong. Every character in this film is played by someone who has never acted before. Quvenzhane Wallis plays Hushpuppy. She was 5 when she was cast for the film and 7 when shooting was finished. Her performance feels so real and natural, it's remarkable to think that those filmmakers were pretty much putting their faith on such a young girl's performance. Boy did she deliver. Dwight Henry, who plays her father Wink, had been working at a bakery across the street from where the filmmakers' headquarters were at. He only agreed to be in the film if they rehearsed with him when the bakery was closed.

Those actors, along with many other Louisiana Bayou locals who appeared in the film, helped give this film an extra dose of authenticity which took it to another level with me. It was very easy to get sucked into this little secluded world, caring about the fates of Hushpuppy and her father. This film truly represents the meaning of the word "independent." This is a film that essentially came out of nowhere with previously unknown actors and filmmakers and, for the most part, in an unknown location. What they were able to accomplish is nothing short of amazing.

Grade: A

Friday, July 20, 2012

Condolences

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims in Aurora, Colorado. Those who died and those who were seriously injured, those who witnessed that horrific event. This could've happened anywhere, it could've affected anyone of us. I'm seeing Dark Knight Rises Monday afternoon. I will try to enjoy the movie the best I can but I know in my heart that I will be thinking about those moviegoers when I enter that theater.

A lot of people are offering op-eds and a lot of discussions will come out of this, I have no other words to say. Try to have a good weekend, go to the movies, enjoy yourself. Life has to go on, we have to move past this terrible tragedy.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Teaser poster for "The Master"

[cigarettes&redvines via Huffpost]


Damn.

Director Watchlist UPDATE






Updates are in bold.



Paul Thomas Anderson, next film: "The Master" October, 2012
Wes Anderson, next film: "The Grand Budapest Hotel" Late 2013/early 2014?
Sofia Coppola, next film: "The Bling Ring" 2013
Quentin Tarantino, next film: "Django Unchained" December 2012
Jason Reitman, next film: "Labor Day" 2013
Alexander Payne, next film: "Nebraska" 2013
Darren Aronofsky, next film: "Noah" March 2014
David O. Russell, next film: "The Silver Linings Playbook" November 2012
David Fincher, next film: unknown
Clint Eastwood, next film: unknown
Nicolas Winding Refn, next film: "Only God Forgives" late 2012/early 2013
Lars von Trier, next film: "Nymphomaniac" 2013
The Coen Brothers, next film: "Inside Llewelyn Davis" 2012/2013
Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu, next film: unknown
Alfonso Cuaron, next film: "Gravity" early 2013
Pedro Almodovar, next film: "I'm So Excited" 2013
Steven Soderbergh, next film: "The Bitter Pill"  February 2013
Martin Scorsese, next film: "The Wolf of Wall Street" 2013
Steven Spielberg, next film: "Lincoln" November 9th, 2012
Edgar Wright, next film: "The World's End" 2013
Judd Apatow, next film: "This is 40" December 2012
Woody Allen, next film: "Untitled Project set in San Francisco" 2013
Christopher Nolan, next film: "The Dark Knight Rises" July 2012
Terrence Malick, next film: "To the Wonder" Fall 2012 (in festivals), 2013 (general release)
Noah Baumbach, next project: who knows?
Andrew Dominik, next film: "Killing Them Softly" September 2012
Ridley Scott, next film: "The Counselor" 2013
Steve Mcqueen, next film: "12 Years a Slave" 2013
Guillermo del Toro, next film: "Pacific Rim" Summer 2013
Danny Boyle, next film: "Trance" early 2013
Neill Blomkamp, next film: "Elysium" March 2013
Peter Jackson, next film: "The Hobbit part I" December 2012
James Cameron, next film: "Avatar 2" 2015
Derek Cianfrance, next film: "The Place Beyond the Pines" 2012/2013

In Other News...

Steven Spielberg's next film "Lincoln" starring Daniel Day-Lewis finally has a release date: November 9th. I'm sure we'll see a trailer for the film by the end of the month. [thewrap]

David O. Russell's next film "The Silver Linings Playbook" comes out in November as well, but there's already news about the film he's making after that. Titled "American Bullshit" (for now), the film already has Jeremy Renner and current O. Russell fave Bradley Cooper. Well, now Amy Adams has joined the film as well. [Hollywood Reporter]

The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson's next film and the top of my most anticipated films of 2012 list has just gotten an R rating. Good sign that the film is finished. Usually, this isn't news, but fuck it. PTA hasn't had a film come out in five years, any news about a PTA film is worth posting about. [RopeofSilicon]

Last year, film fans were bummed to find out that Guillermo Del Toro wouldn't be able to make his highly-anticipated film and HP Lovecraft adaptation "At the Mountains of Madness" which was to star Tom Cruise. Sounds like a no-brainer? Well because of a possible R rating and a massive budget, Universal pulled the plug on it. So, Del Toro moved onto another project, Pacific Rim, which is coming out almost exactly a year from now. That doesn't mean Mountains of Madness is completely dead though. He's been further discouraged when he heard about Prometheus. Apparently Prometheus has a lot of similarities to Del Toro's project. Still, he says he hasn't gotten the chance to see Prometheus. Long story short, we may get two awesome Del Toro films in the next few years. [Empire]

Teaser poster for Edgar Wright's new film "The World's End."


Also on the Edgar Wright front, there's a strong possibility that the long-gestating Ant-Man film from Marvel Studios, which is to be directed by Mr. Wright, was officially announced at Comic-Con last week. While there's no official release date yet, there's a teaser poster and word is it may come out in late 2014. We'll see if Edgar Wright can do two films in a row like that, especially considering how time-consuming and involving Ant-Man will be.

[ThePlaylist]

Could The Hobbit films be turned into a trilogy? Peter Jackson is hoping so, I hope not. [ScreenCrush]

According to a top Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, both Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" and Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" will be premiering at the Venice Film Festival. Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina" and Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines" are reported to be making their debuts there as well.

Lastly, Wes Anderson's next film already has a title: "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Hmm, sure sounds like a name of a Wes Anderson film. At any rate, Johnny fucking Depp is confirmed for the movie. So yeah, that's kinda awesome. Depp's acting resume of the last ten years has contained one too many Pirates films and Tim Burton collaboration. Let's hope him collaborating with Wes Anderson will be the start to him continuing to take on more interesting roles in the future. [The Playlist]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

To Rome With Love has a lot of funny moments, but a minor effort overall






Since I first saw "Midnight in Paris" last summer, I've seen it again at least two more times. It's probably the most watchable Woody Allen film that he's made in recent memory. It makes me wonder if I graded the film a bit too low when I reviewed it. Thing was, I came into it hearing how it was Allen's best film in years and I thought it felt a bit too light. But "To Rome With Love" is true light Woody Allen. Four interspersed stories of characters visiting/living in Rome with love being in the air throughout.

There's Hayley (Allison Pill) who meets a local while visiting Rome in the summer and almost immediately falls for him. Everything goes smoothly for them and they even talk about getting married, but first he must meet her parents (played by Woody Allen and Judy Davis). There's Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who's studying architecture while living in Rome. He happens to bump into a well-known architect (played by Alec Baldwin) and together they very cleverly assess and deconstruct the possible problems Jack might have by allowing his girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) to invite her sexy, neurotic, struggling actress of a best friend to stay with them for awhile (played by Ellen Page).

Then there's the two stories centering solely on the Italians that live and/or are visiting Rome. There's Antonio and Milly, newlyweds who are visiting Rome on their honeymoon as well as to introduce Milly to Antonio's parents. And finally, there's the story of Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) who becomes a celebrity overnight for literally no reason.

Yes, if To Rome With Love has one thing, it's variety. The way the film is cut, we never stay on a specific story for too long before we cut to another one. Since they're so unrelated, I feel that you eventually come to like one story more than another. The story of the newlyweds on their honeymoon is hilarious with one left turn after the other and Woody Allen makes a welcome return to acting playing the father of Hayley who often comes at odds with Hayley's future in-laws. This is especially true when he discovers that the father sings brilliantly in the shower.

But the other two stories were a bit more uneven. The story concerning Jack and John (Baldwin) and the love triangle Jack is involved with definitely has its moments and I really got a kick out of the way the two of them provide commentary on Jack's inevitable attraction to Monica (Ellen Page). Still, the story itself is rather run-of-the-mill. On the other hand, Leopoldo's unexpected fame may have made for an interesting movie on its own but the story kinda feels out of place in a movie with predominantly romantic themes. While there's initially a lot of laughs as the media and the press asks Leopoldo mundane questions, the story loses its steam by the end.

Overall, Woody Allen offers us a nice glimpse into the city of Rome and it's a very charming movie. There's a lot to the film that makes me believe that Woody Allen  may have a few more Midnight in Parises in him, after all, the main problem with this film is simply that some of the stories are more fun than others. As good and as fun as it can be from time to time, To Rome With Love merely ends up feeling like one long, well-made tourist commercial for the city instead of being a great Woody Allen film in a great European city.

Grade: C+

Your Sister's Sister is really good despite a somewhat weak ending






It's fitting that Mark Duplass would star in Lynn Shelton's new film "Your Sister's Sister." They've worked together before, but it fits for me because the two of them are on a very short list of "reasons why I'm thankful for mumblecore." The other two being Mark's brother and Greta Gerwig. The only things that have ever been seriously wrong about mumblecore have been the camera aesthetics and the often-tiresome meandering characters that populate the films. Other than that, there's nothing wrong with films that are down-to-earth and are just trying to explore human relationships. In fact, we could use more films like that... as long as the filmmakers can learn how to hold the camera properly and give some more purpose to their characters.

Lynn Shelton and the Duplass Brothers have been the standouts of that sub-genre because they know how to write characters and they come up with interesting-enough scenarios for those characters to explore. The filmmakers, lately, have also been gradually entering more mature waters, using more recognizable actors in the process. With "Your Sister's Sister," shot on a $125,000 budget and co-starring Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt, Lynn Shelton is really starting to show that she might be the most talented filmmaker of them all. 

The film is about three 30-somethings: Jack (Duplass), Iris (Blunt), and Hannah (DeWitt). Jack has been stuck in a rut ever since his brother died a year ago, his best friend Iris wants to help him out of that rut. So she invites him to stay at her father's isolated cabin which is located on an island off Washington state (and it's gorgeous-looking) so that he can unwind and have some time for himself. He takes her advice and bikes his way over there, but when arrives, discovers that Iris's sister Hannah is also at the cabin.

Though an initially awkward situation, Hannah and Jack manage to get along and they start having a few drinks. Hannah just ended a seven-year relationship with a woman. Add that with Jack's issues, and you have two people drowning their sorrows over a couple of drinks. The drinks start to multiply and eventually they get drunk enough to talk of the possibility of the two of them having sex. Their ensuing relations inevitably causes problems when Iris unexpectedly shows up the next day.

Lynn Shelton does a great job of spacing this premise out and letting the characters really get into the nuances of the situation. We soon discover that the trio have much, much bigger problems than any of them could initially imagine and it just escalates from there. Unfortunately, once the film hits its climax, it doesn't seem to know where to go from there. As a result, we get a rather extended montage sequence and what feels like a forced resolution. Shelton really put these characters in quite a trying situation which made for some great drama, but she didn't really seem to know where to go after that.

Part of this could be because, in Shelton's films, the dialogue is completely improvised. With a slightly tighter and more prepared structure, this could've been a great drama. I mean, it's very easy to care about all three characters. They're played by very likable actors and their problems are both trying and relatable. It's because the characters are so likable and well-played by the three leads that I'm somewhat willing to forgive the last 10-15 minutes.

Nevertheless, this is still a really good film and I definitely recommend fans of indie film to give this a viewing. Lynn Shelton has really grown as a filmmaker since "Humpday" and has proven she can bring out some really strong performances from established actors. It'll be interesting to see where she goes from here. Mark Duplass also impressed me with his performance. This is a man who can not only make good movies, but he's also growing as an actor. The two of them, along with the always-adorable Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt who has proven multiple times to be a very strong actress who deserves more leading roles----they all help to make "Your Sister's Sister" one of this summer's most refreshing films.

Grade: B+



Friday, July 13, 2012

Brave: an unspectacular fantasy




Brave, at its best, is a fairly enjoyable film with great visuals. It's something we've all come to expect from Pixar, but one thing this film lacks is what Pixar used to be best at: the story. There's no interesting spin on the Disney fairytale, other than the fact that the princess doesn't marry a prince at the end. For the longest time, Pixar had a great run telling these very imaginative stories in these worlds that you felt could go anywhere and do anything. Brave stuck too closely to a specific formula, it went to places you pretty much expected it to go, and at the end, it wasn't all that fun to watch. Pleasant? Enjoyable? Here and there. But the lack of imagination was all too abundant.

Princess Merida is a young red-headed Scottish princess; her father King Fergus, pretty much lets her do whatever she wants; her mother Queen Elinor, tries to teach her how to act like a princess much to Merida's chagrin. As a child, her father protected her from an angry bear which took his leg while he fought it off. Now, in her teens, she is to be betrothed to the first son of one of King Fergus's allied clans. This is news that Merida isn't too happy with.

She's so unhappy about it, in fact, that when she escapes during the Highland Games (where the suitors compete for her hand) she comes across a witch who agrees to give Merida a spell, intended for her mother, that would "change her fate." Of course, once she gives her mother the spell, things do not go as planned... and then her mother turns into a bear.

To me, it's as if the writers were running out of the ideas right about this time, wondering what they should do once the Queen takes the spell. And now obviously we're gonna spend time watching Merida and her mother try to cope as Merida has to explain that she MADE her mother turn into a fucking bear. Even though Elinor, at the end, changes back from being a bear (through a series of circumstances, you know how it goes), I would imagine it's not easy to forgive your daughter after something like that. After all, you've given her everything she could possibly need as a child.

The main problem with Brave is that the story just doesn't give Merida enough justification to poison her mother, turning her into a bear. Unless you're a child, it's kinda hard to feel too sorry for Princess Merida. Having to eventually marry a potential suitor kinda sucks, but later in the movie, it didn't take much for her to eventually convince the allied clans to nix that tradition altogether. There just wasn't enough to this fairytale story. This doesn't mean "Brave" is a bad movie, it's just a hugely disappointing one. It goes from point A to point B without ever really giving a good enough reason to go to point B. It's entirely too simplistic, especially for a Pixar movie.

Brave has some humorous moments and, as I said before, it's a pleasant watch, but its enjoyable moments came from little jokes and nice little visual touches. The movie had the promise to be a fate-changing fairytale movie, all we wound up with was a couple of one-dimensional characters turning into bears and the bitch that made it all happen.

Grade: C-

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man just felt ordinary







When you entirely reboot a movie franchise after the previous film came out only five years before, you better make it different enough so that it doesn't remind us too much like the previous first movie. As it is, The Amazing Spider-Man is sorta, kinda, pretty much the same movie as the 2002 Spider-Man just with different actors, slightly altered storylines, a new love interest and villain.

Being forced to watch a second origin story of one superhero in ten years can be quite the chore especially if you pretty much know what to expect. This makes evaluating The Amazing Spider-Man much tougher. As a stand-alone, does the origin story work? For the most part, yes. But they wanted to reboot the Spider-Man franchise because Spider-Man 3 sucked, not because of the first two. The first two Spider-Man movies of the 2000s were actually pretty good. Having said that, I was still interested in watching The Amazing Spider-Man to see what the differences were and while they introduce interesting new storylines for Peter Parker, it was frustrating to see the majority of them go to waste.

As it begins, Peter Parker's primary focus is trying to figure out what happened to his parents. When he was a kid, his mother and father left Peter to Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Now a teenager, Peter understandably has questions about the whereabouts of his parents. His curiosity ultimately leads him to Dr. Curt Connors who works as a scientist at OsCorp. Connors had worked with Peter's father a number of years ago as they were doing research on cross-species permutation (or something to that effect, not too familiar with scientific terminology). It's not long after Peter introduces himself to Dr. Connors that they start working together on experiments... forgetting about the whereabouts of Peter's parents altogether.

It's as if, throughout the film's running time, they introduce plot points only to abandon them when something "more interesting" comes along which does little to justify its 136-minute running time. Especially considering the fact that for a superhero film, there isn't all that much action. For the most part, Spider-Man seems outmatched and overpowered by The Lizard (who is what Dr. Connors becomes after a failed experiment on himself) and the action scenes just feel run-of-the-mill with very little suspense involved. It's not that I'm asking for more action, it's just that when you're going to provide some, you better make it thrilling to watch. The first Iron Man had very little action, but what it had to show was pretty fucking cool. The Amazing Spider-Man had very little to show for itself for a reboot except for updated technology.

That's not entirely true, actually. The acting in The Amazing Spider-Man is, more-or-less, an improvement over the Raimi films. Andrew Garfield captures the youthful spirit more than Tobey Maguire and Emma Stone is a more fun female lead than Kirsten Dunst. But, even though The Lizard was an improvement looks-wise over The Green Goblin, Rhys Ifans can't really hold a candle to Willem Dafoe, from an acting standpoint. As a scientist, Ifans as Dr. Connors was pretty much on-point, but as a villain? He wasn't quite there. Willem Dafoe always had that gift of giving off creepy vibes even when he's acting extremely nice so, comparatively speaking, that kinda puts Rhys Ifans at a disadvantage.

While The Amazing Spider-Man was better, in some respects, to the 2002 Spider-Man, it also did some things worse. This begs the question: why even bother with a reboot at all? And honestly, are superhero origin films all that fun? Except for Iron Man, which learned that if you're going to spend most of the time with the origin story then you better make it fun to watch, watching how a superhero gets his powers has just become tiresome for me because there have been so many damn superhero movies over the last decade. Even with all that riding against it, The Amazing Spider-Man still could've justified its existence if it wasn't so all over the place, plot-wise.

I knew that after watching 500 Days of Summer, which I loved, that Marc Webb would do great with the love story and the high school scenes. He delivered there. But I was worried about how he was going to deal with the action and the more convoluted story lines; it looks like my worries were justified. Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is really just your average by-the-numbers superhero origin story. I won't hold my breath for the sequel.

Grade: C

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A couple of funny moments here and there can't save Ted





Seth McFarlane's first film "Ted" is successful in that it manages to capture McFarlane's humor that he has showcased, and subsequently squandered, with shows like Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show. Thanks to Mark Wahlberg once again showing some impressive comedic chops, "Ted" winds up being a lot better than it could have been. Of course there are laughs to be had, but like Family Guy and American Dad, the laughs go in as quickly as they go out.

There's really nothing to savor about "Ted" as it has an overly-familiar premise and a very thin plot that doesn't really stretch out too well in 106 minutes. Once you get past the fact that John Bennett's (Wahlberg) best friend is a foul-mouthed anthropomorphic teddy bear, you start to see just how painfully average this movie really is.

Age 8, John Bennett makes a wish one Christmas night that his large teddy bear could talk and be his best friend. To his and his parents' surprise, that wish comes true. Ted and John Bennett grow up and do everything together, but once John starts dating Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) it starts to threaten the friendship between the two. Ted is forced to get his own apartment and a job while John Bennett tries to make things right with Lori. But it doesn't take long before he screws things up by abandoning Lori at a party so that he can party with Ted and Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones makes a lengthy cameo appearance).

The Flash Gordon sequences are among the funniest bits in the film but it also showcases Seth McFarlane's terrible knack for relying on old pop culture references to make his jokes for him. We laugh because "oh my god it's Flash Gordon!" but the laughs never go any further than that. To his credit though, at least McFarlane never goes overboard with the non-sequiturs and sticks closely to the plot. If only there was more to the plot than just Ted-John-Lori triangle.

In an era where manchild comedies are coming out left and right, Ted just feels so run-of-the-mill. It's like they couldn't get past the initial premise that Ted is a filthy womanizing talking teddy bear. While Ted definitely lives up to that billing, he's simply not as funny as he or Seth McFarlane thinks he is. The potential was there, but the execution just felt lazy.

Furthermore, actors like Mila Kunis and Joel McHale are stuck playing one-dimensional characters. There's the weak, completely predictable subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi playing a creepy weirdo who is obsessed with Ted and tries to kidnap him which unfortunately makes the third act of the film devolve into a car chase scene which feels very out of place with the rest of the film.

Don't get me wrong, I laughed quite a few times when I watched this film but just over 24 hours later, I hardly remember much of it. An overly simple premise and plot keeps this film from being the crude comedy classic it aspires to be.

Grade: C

Monday, July 2, 2012

Just in case you missed it: my top 100 movies of the 1980s

I never made it easy to navigate through my list so, months later, let me do that now:

Enjoy!

Top 5 of 2012 so far?

Well I missed a lot of June movies because I was busy working on the set of a little indie film the past month and I hope I'll be able to catch up fairly soon. But, essentially disregarding most of the month of June (save for Prometheus and Magic Mike), here's my top 5:

1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. The Avengers
3. 21 Jump Street
4. Jeff Who Lives at Home
5. Wanderlust

Hmm, I really gotta catch up on those June movies...

Magic Mike review






From the first time I heard that the movie was being made, Magic Mike was intriguing to me. Steven Soderbergh directing a male stripper movie with Channing Tatum and, most importantly, Matthew McConaughey just sounds interesting to me. McConaughey has been picking very interesting projects lately, Tatum has been working hard to prove he's a serious actor, and Soderbergh is one of the most important directors to have come out in the last 25 years. Does that mean everything he makes is gold? No, in fact, his filmography is pretty spotty overall, but he always seems to be capable of making a movie that's interesting. Some of them are great and some of them are failures, but they're always interesting.

Another intriguing aspect of the film was the fact that it was drawing from Channing Tatum's past when he worked as a male stripper. That gave the film a necessary addition of authenticity. This wasn't just going to be a film where hunky beefcakes strut their stuff (and there's plenty of that), but we're going to be introduced to a world that we otherwise would never know about unless we were in the business. Like "The Wrestler," Magic Mike is about a profession that's so cut off from other professions that its workers basically live in their own little world. Magic Mike's world is more fun than The Wrestler's, but it's also a profession that I'd imagine would be tough to exit from. If you're in the prime of your life physically and you have nothing else going for you in your professional life, why wouldn't you want to dance your ass off every night, dry humping horny ladies for cash?

That's one of the questions Magic Mike asks and the movie is at its best when it portrays this secluded world because, thanks to Soderbergh's direction, it's all treated in a very matter-of-fact way. The movie goes through a very familiar rise-and-fall storyline where the veteran takes "the kid" in and shows him the ropes. The veteran being Mr. Magic Mike himself (Tatum) and the kid is Adam (Alex Pettyfer). Basically the kid is someone who has nothing else going for him as far as being able to earn a living for himself so naturally he winds up under Mike's wing to become the new star at Xquisite which is managed by the very charismatic and up-to-no-good Dallas (Matthew McConaughey).

Never mind all the dancing montages and the film's subject matter, regardless of how you feel about all of that, you cannot help but admire Matthew McConaughey's spirited performance here. The guy goes all out and showcases the best of what he can offer as an actor. There's no wonder why the ladies go crazy over him. His relaxed, charismatic Southern drawl pulls them in and he shows absolutely no fear in his performance. He's only bested by Channing Tatum who has the advantage of previously being a male stripper. Still, Tatum shows that if he wanted to, he could go right back to that profession.

But that's why the film is mostly successful. All the actors show no fear in going out to the platform and dancing their asses off including former WWF wrestler Kevin Nash. It's when the film strays from the nightclub where it starts to falter. Magic Mike's relationships with women (portrayed by Olivia Munn and Cody Horn) aren't handled as confidently. Cody Horn plays Adam's sister who tries her best to protect her brother but can't help but be won over by Mike's charm. The scenes between the two, however, just feel weak and the stakes never really go as high as they should. This is also true when Adam falls into the trap of drugs and crazy druggy women; aside from a scene depicting him overdosing, the film never really goes far enough and only hints at Adam's possible downfall instead of explicitly showing us.

I also felt that the film kinda copped out at the end. While I don't feel it all needed to wrapped up at the end in a perfect bow, I still feel like it ended at the most interesting part. Is Mike really going to quit? Is Adam going too far? Is Dallas moving the nightclub to Miami going to payoff? I guess we'll never know. Steven Soderbergh has said in the past that he has no interest in making serious films anymore and that he's bored with the craft of filmmaking. In some ways, you can tell. He's definitely still a great craftsman but he shows no interest in pushing the envelope any further than he has to. This makes Magic Mike merely decent entertainment instead of what could've been a really interesting expose of the world of male stripping. I like movies that show me worlds I would otherwise never know about and Steven Soderbergh is still a good enough director that he can keep Magic Mike from entering "Step Up" territory. I just wish that fire and passion he has for film was still there because I think this could've really been a great movie instead of just a pretty good one.

Grade: B-