How one cannot surrender to the brilliance of Julie Delpy is beyond me. The frank, open beauty of all that she is, not as an actress nor a writer nor anything else, but as a human. She is almost palpable on the screen, every strand of hair and flicker in the eye confirming her status as the most vivid yet regular screen presence. Through her, we enter Before Midnight, magnetised to her peculiar allure, as if literally entering her mind and body, and experiencing life as Richard Linklater dictates. But she is achieving something higher than what she and many others in this film are attempting to. Because life as Richard Linklater dictates is just an imitation of life as we know it. Before Midnight exists on its characters and their dialogue and has utterly no other significant concerns. And when Delpy and Ethan Hawke plunge ever deeper into the ugly crevices of their relationship, they have opportunity to explore these characters with greater insight than is usually afforded actors, and when the stars align and every detail of this film coalesces to create brief tonal perfection, the effect is magical. But what problems plague the film - from the excruciating literary pretensions early on to the corny cop-out at the end, and through it all, an awry focus - Linklater, Delpy, Hawke and Kim Krizan are making a film from the perspective of a viewer, catching up with Celine and Jesse after nine years. In what reality - and Before Midnight is assuredly rooted in supposed reality - would a couple with such unique history save up all these stories from their pasts, and issues in their relationship for just one random day? The feeling is that this couple haven't communicated in nine years, until now they do and suddenly the cameras are rolling and it's time to DISCUSS! Delpy and Hawke still have an awkward chemistry, defined by disingenuous laughs at bad jokes and a curious misunderstanding of one another. This may be where people want to see this couple nine years on, but it's just not where they would be.
Sunday, 30 June 2013
It is to my utmost shame that I am a full three weeks late in posting an obituary to the Spanish film producer Elias Querejeta, who died on the 9th of June in Madrid. Known particularly for his collaboration with seminal director Carlos Saura, with whom he worked on such films as The Hunt, Cousin Angelica, Cria Cuervos and Mama Turns 100, he was one of the most important figures in bringing Spanish cinema to life during the '60s and '70s, towards the end of fascism in the country and thereafter. He also served producing duties on films such as The Spirit of the Beehive, El Sur, The City of Lost Children and Mondays in the Sun. I'm looking forward to Saura's upcoming 33 Days, starring Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso and Gwyneth Paltrow as Dora Maar, which Querejeta co-wrote, and which will be shot by the great Vittorio Storaro. His name may not be known to many, but his considerable contribution to cinema was undeniable.
Saturday, 29 June 2013
An exceptionally troubling film, in that it exemplifies a talented director so distracted by the demands of the project they believe they're making that they can't see the project it has become. At Any Price nearly stopped my heart a couple of times: once when I realised that I wasn't imagining it, and it actually was as bad as I thought it was, and again when I realised that it wasn't going to recover. Amid pallidly pretty shots of Iowa countryside set to a bland ambient score, a story about business, family, community, agriculture - big themes in small towns. Ramin Bahrani's slant on these themes slots in snugly with most other films' - he seems daunted by the detours he must take in order to tailor a new spin on such familiar tropes, and so sticks to the straight and narrow, and well-trodden path square in the middle of the road. The stereotypes who inhabit Bahrani's tale are supposedly interesting because of the journeys which they are on, journeys which any fool could predict minute by minute, and this alarmingly predictable film allows them to go through the motions, with an earnestness that suggests Bahrani has faith in their potency, a blind faith, I have no doubt. Some cack-handed lite-action scenes mimic bad Saturday morning serials. The script is uncommonly curt and corny (not a pun, believe me), as if all the real dialogue were drained away and only trailer-ready soundbites were left in its wake, as characters distill entire lives into ten seconds' screentime. Dennis Quaid gives a bizarre performance, overworked to the level of mania. At Any Price is also horribly sexist, depicting women as sex objects or facilitating housewives and parents. They serve and support their men, and are occasionally heard to offer up a calming platitude or provide a piece of ass. They have no desires of their own. They do not participate in business. This may be an accurate reflection of the world of small corn businesses in the Midwest, but I distrust the narrative outlook of a filmmaker who can choose to dedicate their film to such a topic and not see an egregious issue therein.
Friday, 28 June 2013
If you don't speak French, you won't have a clue what this lot is on about. But since it's a Claire Denis film, you could probably count the number of words spoken in the entire film on one hand, so you're likely not missing a lot. It's more about Agnes Godard's (AMPAS member, #YES) cinematography and Tindersticks' music, all of which naturally appeals to me. Cannes critics weren't all very pleased...
You can find the full list over at Awards Daily. I ain't posting it here. Don't have the patience to format it properly! Tough shit! Below is an abridged list of my absolute motherfucking favourites. A crop of bona fide geniuses who ought to have been members since birth.
Lee Ping Bin
As the world apparently runs out of ideas (I mean, I have none, do you?), the Terminator franchise is to be rebooted, and Paramount, Skydance Productions and Annapurna Pictures have revealed that its ETA will be the 26th of June, 2015. Arnie let us all know, a couple of weeks back, that Terminator 5 was on its way and that he'd be in it - he was right that he would, but wrong that it would be T5, as it will assuredly be a reboot. There was a T3, remember? Then there was a fourth one... I know! Srsly! Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) will write alongside Patrick Lussier, whose resume I shan't recite, as I don't want to ruin anybody's day, least of all my own.
Here at Lars von Trier Central, I'll be posting every one of the Nymphomaniac appetizers which appear online as part of the publicity for von Trier's upcoming film, in lieu of his own opinions, since he's keeping schtum! Pretty obvs what's up in the above, resolutely safe for work clip, but still little info on what the whole film(s) will be like!
I often approach things from a musical perspective. I can't help it, having studied music for most of my life. And it's a commonly-known fact among musicians that the score of a film can change it entirely. Imagine Doctor Zhivago without even a peep from Maurice Jarre's gargantuan orchestra. Or a Michael Haneke film scored by John Williams. They'd be completely different films. Before scoring, The Stoker was a spare, sober, and cheeky little thriller with stains of black humour seeping through - like the Coen brothers' Blood Simple, say. But then the soundtrack... oh the soundtrack. The incessant poppy twang of the guitar, the bouncing bass, the cute thud of the electronic beat. The cheapness. The inanity. The hint of sardonicism in the film that isn't bolstered by the soundtrack, but obliterated by it. An occasional moment of silence, like the sun shining through the clouds after a pounding thunderstorm, spoilt all too quickly by SOUNDTRACK!!! Wretched soundtrack! Two or three tunes repeated ad infinitum. Mozart would be able to write every note of it from memory after the first five minutes. At least composers in the silent era had the sense to write more than two minutes' worth of unique score. Now deceased actor Mikhail Skryabin is certainly engaging in the leaSOUNDTRACK!!! MORE SOUNDTRACK!!! WORMING INTO THE DEEPEST CREVICES OF YOUR MIND, NEVER TO LEAVE, FOREVER TO HAUNT YOUR MEMORY!!! Despite the fine handle on tone, evil soundtrack aside, writer-director Aleksey Balabanov (also, sadly, now deceased) litters his film with amateur errors such as disappearing objects, and moving corpsSOUNDTRACK!!! DRIPPING ALL OVER AN OTHERWISE CLASSY WORK OF ART!!! VULGAR, SLOPPY CACK YOU'LL NEVER AGAIN WANT TO HEAR!!! There's a perfectly quirky final sequence, after Balabanov has found a little narrative momentum late on, which is like a bedevilled Ingmar BergmSOUNDTRACK!!! SOUNDTRACK!!! FUCKING SOUNDTRAAAAAAAACK!!! The Stoker would be at least twice the film it is with no soundtrack. At least. Truly, honestly, that's an understatement.
Deadline reports that the Oscar-winning writer of Martin Scorsese's The Departed, William Monahan, has adapted Evan Wright's American Desperado, and with Peter Berg (Battleship) attached to direct and Mark Wahlberg to star as super-criminal Jon Roberts, the project is set to shoot in early 2014. Wahlberg has a lead role in another Peter Berg-directed true story, Lone Survivor, set for limited US release in late December. Roberts' extraordinary story was famously the influence for Brian De Palma's Scarface. He was the central figure of the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys, and Wright's 2004 book Generation Kill was turned into a 2008 TV series by The Wire's David Simon. It's a great story, to be sure, but I've seen Wahlberg, who took all his potential and distilled it into playing the same role over and over in recent years, do this all before, and I don't think Peter Berg is half the director Martin Scorsese is, but there you have it.
These all look a little too pristine to be proper stills from Noah, but they'll certainly do. Darren Aronofsky's follow up to his Oscar-winning Black Swan is scheduled for a worldwide roll-out in late March / early April 2014, and expect the March release to mean that Paramount will be pushing damn hard on this one. Images after the cut include Ray Winstone looking gruff and Jennifer Connelly looking teary-eyed, which just about anyone who has ever seen a movie doesn't need to be told cos duh.
Thursday, 27 June 2013
One is filmed and set for release, the other isn't even cast yet, but is also set for release. 12 Years a Slave was, in a previous post, declared for release in the US on the 27th of December; perhaps in the understanding that so late a release may not bode well for major awards consideration, it has been moved up to the 18th of October for a limited release. Slap bang in the middle of prime Oscar season for moderate Oscar bait like this these days.
Sam Taylor-Johnson's Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't yet have a cast, but it does have a director, distributors and, now, a release date: the 1st of August, 2014, a little over a year away from now. It could be one of the biggest, and most unusual, hits of next Summer, unless it gets smacked with an NC-17 rating, and I'd be overjoyed if artist-turned-director Taylor-Johnson could push it up to the limit it surely must be headed for.
Well, yes. Not as writer or director, but as DP, which of course he has served as for the majority of his films. Channing Tatum, star of last year's critical and commercial hit Magic Mike, has revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that Soderbergh has agreed to shoot the sequel, which Tatum assures will be "a road-trip movie... the movie that everyone thought the first one was going to be: crazy and fun and less slice-of-life and less drama." Hmm, I rather liked that slice-of-life vibe to Magic Mike, and believe me it was plenty fun enough in other parts! Tatum will either co-direct with producing partner Reid Carolin, or Greg Jacobs (a producer from the first film) will direct alone. Tatum does have a pretty major reserve about hiring Steven to shoot his directorial debut though: "It would be like having sex with your girlfriend while her porn star ex-boyfriend is in the room watching you." Only Channing Tatum could pull a girl with a porn star ex!
Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Is that a wrinkle I see on Gwynnie's side? What an unhealthy, unfit, unattractive bitch! I'd kind of like to see a rom-com where Joely Richardson is the sexy lead and Gwyneth Paltrow is the frumpy friend, and where the cool girl genuinely falls for the fat guy. This is sex addiction being taken seriously, in a style that's guaranteed not to worry those who don't take it seriously. Awk, how considerate. Pink should have spent less time at SAA and more time at acting lessons. #justsayin
I'm currently watching the first two films in Richard Linklater's makeshift trilogy, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset before seeing Before Midnight on Friday - I hadn't seen them until now! In fact, four of IndieWire's list of the Top Ten Films of 2013 (up to the end of June ofc) are as yet unseen by myself, and I'm gagging to see at least two of those! Before Midnight is the critics' choice for these six months, which isn't saying very much, since a lot of the best Oscar bait starts being released around September. Still, it's a pretty strong list:
1. Before Midnight
4. Frances Ha
5. Stories We Tell
9. Side Effects
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
It could be intriguing to see how the cutting spareness of Cormac McCarthy's prose will bond with the flash of Ridley Scott's filmmaking style. I'll always be interested in a film from the director of Alien, and with a cast like this, can you blame me? The 25th of October for the US, the 15th of November for the UK.
A busy weekend at the domestic box office, with both major new releases performing either to or significantly above expectations. Monsters University claimed the top spot, with Pixar's second-highest opening of all time, $82.4 million, although it did sell fewer tickets than Monsters, Inc. in 2011. The bigger stories lie in second and third place though: World War Z banished all the negative Internet speculation, mostly centred around the film's exceptionally troubled, expensive shoot, with a $66.4 million start - that's the second-highest second place debut of all time, and the highest start for any Brad Pitt film. Against such strong competition, last weekend's record-breaking first place Man of Steel fell straight back down to Earth, losing 61.6% of its gross with $41.3 million.
Watching a group of people disgrace themselves trying to squeeze humour out of a humourless script is a boundless source of humiliation and depression. Some things never stop being funny, and some never start. If it were a high school piece of devised theatre, one might be able to overlook the desperation. But it's not. It's a major motion picture, from dependable studios, with Oscar-nominated participants. Hapless writer-director Dan Mazer mines every available cliche in British and American comedy cultures, and unironically employs them in sequence, at moments where they have no business being. If you can smell the joke coming, it doesn't tend to be of the highest quality... and you realise you could probably have written shite like this yourself, only you would've had the sagacity not to. And once Mazer latches onto each of the most dependably asinine comedic grooves, he milks and milks it for all (he wishes) it's worth, draining right down to the dregs, right down to the point where the merciful mild giggles have wasted away to an overbearing mass sensation of discomfort. That's about all that I Give It a Year gets right: discomfort. It aims to mingle that in with comedy, but it rather misses that target. And while its attempts at a little absurdity are not unwelcome here and there, they just come across as awkward, protruding from an otherwise flat-textured gruel of a film. What a sad sight to see Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall debase themselves here - each a gifted comic actor, burdened with intensely-disagreeable characters in a plot that sets them up for one purpose alone and strands them there, without a paddle. Supporting actors get an equally rough deal, but Anna Faris shines through, as she always does, by just being Anna Faris. Whatever happened there, whether she wrote her own lines or Dan Mazer simply had more respect for her part than the others, I don't know, but it at least works. As for the rest of this troubling experience, it doesn't.
Monday, 24 June 2013
The Spectacular Now has been the talk of the Internet since it premiered at Sundance over five months ago. Does this trailer help to explain that? No. Generic indie romantic drama about American small-town teens. I've seen it before, and yeh sure I'll see it again, not least because The Wire's Andre Royo is among the cast members. Just don't expect me to get too excited about this one.
Wakolda is the third film to be directed by Argentinean Lucia Puenzo, daughter of the Oscar-nominated Luis Puenzo, after 2009's The Fish Child, and her 2007 breakthrough, XXY. It's based on her own novel, which itself if based on the true story of what Nazi 'Angel of Death' Josef Mengele got up to after the end of the war. Critics liked it at Cannes, and the trailer doesn't make it hard to see why.
This looks like it may be the bridge between David Gordon Green's early dramatic stuff (generally well-regarded) and his more recent comedies (generally reviled) which thrust him into the mainstream. Comedies don't normally win directing awards, but Green picked one up in Berlin earlier this year for Prince Avalanche. I'm not completely sold just yet, but how can I be? It's just a trailer! Two hot hot hotties in the lead roles ought to pique my interests though! Would that I could have been stuck in the woods with those two...
I'm of two minds about Alejandro Jodorowsky, though that actually makes me more interested in seeing his films than I might otherwise be. The Dance of Reality, which is his first film in 24 years, drew positive responses from critics at Cannes. It'll be interesting to see how much his style has changed in those years, if at all!
Typically stunning trailer for Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani's The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears. By the looks of things, that colour might be red, but this being Helene and Bruno, it's just as likely to be any colour you can think of. They co-directed the dazzling Amer and the short film 'O is for Orgasm' for the anthology film The ABCs of Death, both of which are masterclasses in sensory filmmaking. It may be a while before we get to see this in theatres, unfortunately.
Heheheheheh just look at that face! This used to be known as 'Two Mothers' but they changed that to Adore I guess because the prospect of going to see a film about two women in their mid-40s directed by a woman in her mid-50s didn't sound that appealing to the teenage boys. Who I'm sure will now flock to see Adore...
You know all this is missing? Click the cut...
No link to be directly embedded here, so click on the pic for a first look at Hayao Miyazaki's upcoming The Wind Rises. Miyazaki has never made a film that's less than great, and there's no doubt in my mind that Spirited Away is utterly the finest film ever made and that's that. Japan, you get a look at this in under a month - the 20th of July. The rest of us will have to wait, but we're not sure until when. I'll wait forever.
Jury and Audience Awards have been distributed among the winners of the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival. The Jury Awards are sponsored by DIRECTV, which donates $10,000 to the director of the winning film. Janis Nords' Mother, I Love You won the Narrative Award, and Ryan McGarry's Code Black took home the Documentary Award. The jury also gave Geetanjali Thapa the Best Performance in the Narrative Competition Award for his turn in I.D. Audience Awards went to SXSW favourite Short Term 12, by Daniel Dustin Cretton, Haifaa Al Mansour's Wadjda, and Grace lee's documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.
You can have your cake and you can eat it, but you can't reasonably expect everybody else to like your cake. The History of Future Folk has everything its way, flaunting its irreverence every time it needs to disregard formalities like plot and logic, which it employed when it had use, and now can't find a viable means of providing resolution. Why let them get in the way, eh? The emphasis is on music and offbeat comedy here, and the frivolous nature of this film effectively demands that it be kept brisk and breezy, so there's justification for all the inconsistencies and other similar nagging details. But too often, where there ought to be something of distraction, a reason that could assuage us that narrative is trivial anyway, there's a gaping hole of tedium. In fact, it mostly seems like the filmmakers are confident enough in their material that they don't even need to try to make it engaging. I concur that it's technically competent, and doesn't outstay its welcome, but the same could be said for some (select) snuff porn. There's definitely a lot of successful elements herein, though, especially in the charming sense of whimsy and a number of nicely-pitched jokes, but most of all in the soundtrack. Future Folk's musical performances are not all instant winners, but these scenes are uniformly lovely, and no doubt Spaceworm is one of the cutest, catchiest songs I've heard in a film for some time. But all the goodwill on Planet Hondo, no matter how well put to use it may be at times, can rescue The History of Future Folk from the monotony that plagues its dramatic sections, and renders it a trifle too slight and unmemorable.
After Kick-Ass made only a modest splash in theatres in 2010, no doubt studio Universal were counting on the addition of Jim Carrey into the cast of the sequel would result in a more successful financial performance. But Carrey will not actively promote the film, withdrawing his support for it due to the level of violence. Despite stating that he is 'not ashamed of [the film]', his 'change of heart' is due to the Sandy Hook school shooting of last December, an event which also brought about the cancellation of the American premiere of Django Unchained. Kick-Ass 2 was filmed before the incident. As factions of the public and media continue to propagate the notion that cinematic violence causes a direct influence on violence in the real world with biased, dubious evidence and speculation, much of which is objectively very difficult to substantiate, this is not a positive development in what ought to be an even-handed debate, instead of a platform to be used for one side to mouth off and the other to shut up. Not that Carrey's opinion os invalid, just that I don't see what the point is in him tweeting it.
Sunday, 23 June 2013
Three of the all-time great directors. From each, one of their most under-appreciated films. Between them, two Oscar nominations and fewer than $7 million in certified worldwide grosses. You are likely to have seen at least one film from one of these directors, but have you seen these ones? If you haven't, get onto it!
THE BOSTONIANS (1984) - JAMES IVORY
It took many years for the world to realise what talent lay in the hands of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. It was only when they turned to filming adaptations of classic English-language literature that people (specifically, members of major voting bodies) took serious notice. The Bostonians was made in 1984, the year before they made A Room with a View, the biggest breakthrough of their collaborative career, and it is a typically stirring, evocative, exquisitely-crafted film from this legendary trio. Henry James' novel, concerning a young woman who joins the Suffrage movement in 19th Century Boston, has been adapted with such respect and delicacy, but also with vigour and vivacity, and artistic flourishes which Ivory gently streams throughout, creating an intoxicating atmosphere, elevating the film from rote page-to-screen Oscar bait (if anyone ever less baited Oscar than these three, though...) to a work of singular beauty. The emotional turmoil, the struggle between right and romance, rather than right and wrong, the startling ending, fraught with futility and suppressed fury, and Vanessa Redgrave's magisterial performance as Olive Chancellor, a remarkable character personified to the fullest by one of the greatest screen actors.
But who are the other directors whose films are featured this week? Here comes the cut...
Evidently, the moderate success of Men in Black 3 was enough to convince studios that mounting sequels to films released years ago is a smart financial move, despite films like Scream 4 and A Good Day to Die Hard bombing. Sure, Monsters University is currently raking it in at the domestic box office. The Independence Day sequel, which I think tops Jurassic Park 4 in arriving 91 years after the last film in the franchise (it's not even a franchise lol), definitely won't star Will Smith, because, according to
director hack Roland Emmerich, he's too expensive. After the dreadful B.O. performance of After Earth, Big Willy could be asking for $20 and he'd still be too expensive. Some characters from the first film will reappear though, and Bill Pullman's President Whitmore is reported to be among those. Do I care? Fuck no, Independence Day's an awful film!
Never have I been opposed to the proliferation of sequels in the American film industry as a concept. Sequels, remakes, adaptations, whatever... all material is at once completely original and completely plagiaristic in essence. And every film has its own duty - one sequel may exist to continue a story which began in the preceding film, whereas another, such as Despicable Me 2, may just use elements of the preceding film to embark upon an entirely new story. But Despicable Me 2 doesn't truly use those elements, being the characters mainly, and the setting etc. It doesn't replenish them, doesn't revitalise them, doesn't advance them. The rude humour that distinguished 2009's Despicable Me is present, as is the sweetness, the fulgent animation and the zippy soundtrack, once more featuring contributions by Pharrell Williams. But there's a feeling that all of this has been re-commissioned for the purpose of the product, whereas first time out, there was a diligence directed toward making these elements work. Rather than inventing new means of coaxing the requisite comedy, pathos and silly, shiny fun out of them, the production team seems satisfied that what they've got ain't broke, so they ain't gonna fix it. They're right, but their reserve of material is growing thin. With Steve Carell's Gru less focused on world domination and more focused on fending off love interests, and a scantily developed subplot (as it is in effect) regarding another villain's possible world domination (but not actually), there's little to latch onto in Despicable Me 2. Action scenes near the end are thankfully brief, as the lack of danger in animated action sequences and in comedy action sequences combined doesn't make for especially compelling viewing. The quality of the animation is superb, with fabrics in particular given a tremendous tactility, but the design and colour palette are low-grade.
Saturday, 22 June 2013
This is a 'cool' biopic, so we get Ashton Kutcher in the lead and a Macklemore song on the trailer soundtrack. Srsly, if there's one thing that could make this film look even worse, it's a Macklemore song. Remember every other shit biopic you've ever seen? Halve the budget, cast an actor who can't act in the lead, and tread that well-trodden trail into irrelevance with every quarter-ounce of derivative, half-arsed mediocrity you can even conceive, and pray to Buddha you never sink as low as Jobs. Btw, the film actually is called Jobs. Gandhi! Milk! Lincoln! Jobs?
Assuming the role of Gerry Lane, a former UN delegate drafted back into his old job in order to help fight the zombie apocalypse (of all things), I was surprised to read of Brad Pitt's concerns regarding World War Z's third act. This portion of the dramatic thriller was deemed such a mess that it was entirely rewritten and reshot, but to learn that Pitt, a prominent liberal voice in Hollywood and the partner of one of the world's most famous UN ambassadors, considered it 'too political' was a shock. It seems the film that once was World War Z wanted to teach its audience something. The only thing this film taught me was that, if zombies ever do threaten to wipe out humanity, I'm with Brad. The original finale, involving a battle in Moscow, is a significantly more satisfactory close to this film's narrative than the sloppy seconds we've been served here, yet I can't imagine it working half as well. It may be the first ever scene in an action film to take place on the edge of a sleepy Welsh village; indeed, World War Z is rather like an action film in reverse. Its opening scenes converge into a breathtaking barrage of chilling apocalyptic terror and thrills, and the film gradually unwinds from there, one striking Jerusalem-set sequence aside. But the grippingly tense final third is the strongest part of the whole movie. A lot of plot battles for our attention with a lot of requisite zombie action, and Marc Forster and editors Roger Barton and Matt Chesse (a most underrated editor) skillfully intertwine these disparate elements into a unique and engrossing, mature Summer blockbuster. A makeshift montage is a pretty lousy ending, while some of the most interesting plot strands are casually abandoned mid-way, but such is the strength of each individual moment in World War Z that it barely matters, so glued will you be to this unusual, compelling film. 3D is non-intrusive to the point that it adds almost nothing to the film, which is unsurprising, given as it was only shafted in to drive up grosses, with the troubled shoot's elephantine costs.
Friday, 21 June 2013
Another day, another Nicolas Winding Refn post. Look, I like his films. And there's been plenty of news on the NWR news of late! I was not expecting a sequel to his somewhat bizarre 2009
thriller mystery adventure drama action mindfuck, but if I had been, I wouldn't have expected it to be set in Tokyo. In the future. Centring on the criminal underworld, a la Drive and Only God Forgives. With Mads Mikkelsen returning as One-Eye, the one-eyed (duh), zero-worded enigmatic Norse warrior who was last seen dead on the East coast of North America in 1000 AD, having escaped his captors in the Scottish Highlands. In the future. Alive again. In Tokyo. #upforit
We already know Downton Abbey's Lily James will play the title character and Cate Blanchett will play the wickes stepmother (be still my beating heart!), and now we know Helena Bonham Carter will play Cinderella's fairy godmother in Kenneth Branagh's live-action version of the classic fairytale. She'll reportedly have a more substantial role than in the Disney animation, initially in disguise as an old beggar watching over Cinderella. Production design will be courtesy of Dante Ferretti, and Sandy Powell's doing the costumes, so it'll certainly be a splendiferous spectacle!
Thursday, 20 June 2013
Yeh, another one. After The Ring, The Amityville Horror, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Grudge, The Last House on the Left, Halloween, The Omen, Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, When a Stranger Calls, The Crazies, Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (twice) and goodness only knows how many others, Tobe Hooper's 1982 horror hit Poltergeist is to be remade. Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures, which has been behind a hefty amount of horror films in recent years, will produce, Monster House director Gil Kenan will take the reins, and Rabbit Hole's Pulitzer Prize-winning David Lindsay-Abaire (I know) will write. Filming is set for the fall. No news on casting just yet.
No word yet on a potential fourth Iron Man film, but it doesn't currently seem to be a popular idea with Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. He has, however, signed up to reprise the role in the forthcoming two sequels to last year's blockbuster of blockbusters, The Avengers. It's no wonder - can you imagine the paycheque? Iron Man 3 is sitting at fifth on the all-time worldwide box office chart as I type, and writer / director Joss Whedon recently stated that he wouldn't consider making the films without Downey Jr, which is pretty much the worst negotiating position he could have put Disney in. The Avengers 2 is set for the first weekend of Summer 2015, opening on the 1st of May in both the US and the UK.
A record June opening for Man of Steel, and also the second-highest opening for a non-sequel in domestic box office history. $116.6 million over the weekend turns into $128.7 when Thursday previews are added, and it's clear that Warner Bros' decision to reboot the franchise, following a mildly disappointing attempt with 2006's Superman Returns, was a savvy one indeed, and considerably more successful than Sony's job last year rebooting their Spider-Man franchise. In second place, apocalyptic comedy This Is the End fared decently, though not as strongly as expected following a promising $7.8 million start last Wednesday. Its weekend gross was $20.7 million.
The iconic and inimitable star of The Man Who Wasn't There, Romance & Cigarettes, Killing Them Softly and Zero Dark Thirty, and, of course, TV's The Sopranos, James Gandolfini, died yesterday while on vacation in Rome. He was 51. Cause of death is reported to be heart attack. One of the most valued character actors in film, he was also one of the most successful actors on TV, with his performance as Tony Soprano earning him three Emmys, five Screen Actors Guild awards, three TV Critics Awards and a Golden Globe. Upcoming projects to be released include Nicole Holofcener's first film since Please Give, and crime drama Animal Rescue, so we've still got two more Gandolfini performances on film to look forward to.
As cinema-goers the world over flock to Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3, abandoning reality and embracing fantasy, leave it to the documentarians to shine a light on the true state of the world. And these people will exit their cinema screens, perhaps exhilarated by their weekly bout of mindless escapism, to re-enter a life in which inequality and discrimination reign supreme. The charged and eventually convicted members of Pussy Riot didn't want to be martyrs, they wanted to be activists. Understandably, they have trouble seeing it this way, but Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer makes the argument, whether intentionally or not, that their victimisation and incarceration under grotesque Russian law is a body-blow that they must endure. The more they suffer, the more they inspire, and the more the citizens of Russia, and indeed the globe entire, watching and listening intently, begin to wake up. It's an uphill battle, for sure, and we're barely one foot up the hill even today, but we can only move up from here. The lack of context in this HBO-produced documentary is no hindrance - who needs context to know for certain that there's a whole lot of rot at the heart of Earth's largest country, still reeling from the grip of Communism? A lawyer here argues that things are no better now than they were under the Iron Curtain, and I can't disagree: the global pressure on Communism backed it into a corner, whereas now Russia is endorsed by its former foes. The intense social conservatism that drives its government and its populace is supported within its borders, and given credence by implicit international consent. Maybe the filmmakers lay on the sympathy and heroism cards a little too heavily at some points, but their hearts are obviously in the right places. The awful truth is that feminist movements like Pussy Riot need never have existed were it not for the fearful tyranny imposed on women by men throughout history. If they want to fight back, Mr. Putin, they have every right to do so. And you have no right to do anything but stand there and take it.
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Academy Award winning actor Russell Crowe, currently to be seen in theatres worldwide as Jor-El in Man of Steel, is to turn his attention to directing with The Water Diviner. Crowe has reportedly been circling a number of Australia-themed projects over the years with which to make his behind-the-camera debut. The screenplay is by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios (whose combined credits are underwhelming at best). Crowe is also set to star in the film, which will begin shooting later this year.
EXCLUSIVE: FIRST STILL FROM FIFTH SHADES OF GREY RELEASED!!!
A female director for the cinematic adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, as released by EL James via Twitter, taking the world by surprise as she managed to string a sentence of some substance together! As female directors go, I might have preferred Catherine Breillat, Julia Leigh or Anne Fontaine, and from the boys, Atom Egoyan would have been also very good. But this'll do.
Wait, does this mean Aaron Taylor-Johnson will play Christian Grey?
A trailer has been posted, but those cunts at MTV have made in unavailable in the UK, so I can't watch it and thus can't comment. Y'all will have to go seek it out elsewhere, if it's available in your location. Sundance awards for leads Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley plus darn good reviews so far will make this a must-see movie for many Americans when it's released on the 2nd of August. Looking forward to seeing it myself!
A belated Hidden Treasures post, this week taking a look at three underrated comedy films. More so than any other genre of film, comedy can be particularly divisive, but I expect that all three of these films have not yet been seen and appreciated by their full audiences.
MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY (2008) - BHARAT NALLURI
A tremendously enjoyable film, wafer-thin and feather-light, which may be why it never truly broke out when released almost five years ago. An accomplished ensemble, including the ideally-cast central duo of Frances McDormand and Amy Adams, flex their comic muscles with poise and dexterity, which is especially remarkable when one considers the pedigree of the film's director Bharat Nalluri: a few low-budget thriller features and episodes of minor TV shows. For Nalluri, this isn't just a clear creative high, but an anomaly! McDormand plays governess Guinevere Pettigrew, unjustly sacked from her job, who finds employment in the service of American actress and singer Delysia Lafosse (Adams). How could anyone resist two such-named characters inhabited by two superb actors, evidently having an utter ball? Essentially, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a period-piece rom-com, but with a generous dose of com, and a wryness to offset the rom. A bright, memorable cast includes Shirley Henderson (reason enough to see any film she's in), Ciaran Hinds and an unreasonably dashing Lee Pace. Production values are perfect, which is only to be expected from artists such as production designer Sarah Greenwood, and costume designer Michael O'Connor.
Two more rib-ticklers after the jump...
Here's where 12 Years a Slave may break out, whereas Hunger and Shame struggled somewhat: people railed against terrorism and scoffed at sex addiction, but who's gonna hate on a slave? I'm hoping Steve McQueen can bring the same kind of artistically-informed realism to this as he did to his other two masterpieces. This will be released in the US on the 27th of December and in the UK on the 24th of January - it looks like Fox Searchlight have big plans for this! The jaw-dropping cast includes Michael Fassbender, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Adepero Oduye, Quvenzhane Wallis, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, Michael Kenneth Williams, Scoot McNairy, Paul Dano, Dwight Henry, Bill Camp, Garret Dillahunt and Ruth Negga. Click the cut for five more images!
There are two types of people: hopeless romantics, and realists. This one's for the hopeless romantics. Stuck in Love makes this pretty clear from its opening lines; as it later suggests, you'll be hooked, provided that you're that type. For realists, the indie aesthetic and soap-opera melodramatics won't be enough. The most realistic things about Stuck in Love are the performances of the cast, who are each given stock roles on which to elaborate - their comfort draws out relatable work from all, though none are truly pushed. Nat Wolff is of particular note, possessed of a natural charm and an ability to balance wry humour and touching dramatics with apparent ease. The familiarity of the set-ups and the inevitability of their outcomes isn't much to get excited about, but Josh Boone has a neat, fair sense of humour, and a shrewd feel for the quagmires of approaching relationships in one's youth. These are 1st-world, middle-class, white-people problems, sure, but let's allow one whimsical R-rated 'dramedy' (yuck yuck yuck, but the glove fits) to qualify as escapism, since it's so good at it. The tidiness of the ending can't be excused, though, as while this may be the perfect ending for the story, this was Boone's opportunity to contextualise what he has to say about love in the realm of truth, in reality. But haven't we been here before? There are two types of people: hopeless romantics, and realists. And this one's for the hopeless romantics.
Tuesday, 18 June 2013
As a sign of how much a studio brand means, even the infamous Disney logo isn't enough to convince kids to want to see the latest film from the most celebrated animation studio in cinema history. They need to know that this is from the guys who brought us Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph. I'm getting major Pixar short film vibes from this, which makes me wish that this was actually the entire film. The real thing revolves around a princess and that, yada yada yada. Btw I laughed very hard a number of times during this trailer. It's a hoot!
Now You See Me is a con-trick. As a moviegoer, one tends to enjoy being tricked, but not being conned. Of course, a magic-themed thriller such as this would be conning us all if it wasn't heading towards one fancy big twist in the closing moments - indeed, this film is comprised less of a straightforward plot than a series of twists, turns and about-faces, all of which you certainly will see coming. But it's no trick when we're expecting it all along. It's just a con. A 'Big Reveal', an answer to a question we were already asking, rather than a question we didn't realise we ought to be asking. And, in this case, there are only so many answers, so as red herring after MacGuffin are ruled out, we're left with a pretty small list of suspects. This most generic of films revolves around four magicians of varying degrees of smugness - this is believable, that they are worldwide superstars is not. Magic may be impressive, but it's not cool, and it also doesn't work when we know how it's faked. And not only does Now You See Me reveal the tricks in these magicians' trade, by nature as a fictional film it is obviously, necessarily fake. Would that all magicians had the aid of post-production technology during their live shows. Louis Leterrier is hired by studios to helm projects which they have deemed beyond saving, because no screenplay that involves superfluous car chases, unintentionally parodic explosions and nonsensical romance is. He succeeds in making this silly film as generic as it asked to be. A notable ensemble of actors plays irritating and/or commonplace characters, and not one of them even tries. I can't blame them.
Monday, 17 June 2013
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. My review for The Amazing Spider-Man, the reboot of one of the most financially successful franchises in film history, just five years after it ended, was pretty positive. It's a decent film, and it made decent cash. But Sony seems more confident in its money-making and crowd-pleasing potential, greenlighting films three and four before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has even wrapped principal photography. They'll come out on the 10th of June 2016 and the 2nd of May 2018, respectively. So, yes, we already know which film is going to kick off Summer 2018, despite the hopes of many (myself included) that the whole superhero-Summer-season trend that's been raging since, well, Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man film might have been on its way out by that stage. It's not fun to look into the future and see nothing but the same, is it? Part two of this series will open the Summer season next year, on the 4th of May. And much as I trust it to be a solid enough film, I simply don't see the potential for a major franchise that I saw in Raimi's films, which only lasted for three, were significantly bigger events than last year's reboot, and which I mostly (particularly with the first one) didn't like as much as Marc Webb's version.
Marty does comedy? I trust him with that. But Leo? Not so much. Then again, I'd trust Martin Scorsese with my life, and I wouldn't trust Leonardo DiCaprio with my laundry. Something tells me there's a lot more here than this trailer gives off. It looks like The Great Gatsby 2. And I'm pretty sure it won't be. I'll be there for Joanna Lumley alone.
From its opening shots to its closing, Passion has the timbre of hollow frivolity, po-faced but playful. A de Palma film only works when its cast and crew give their all and then some, and that can't be said of those involved in creating this film, a return to the Hitchcock-lite style of thriller with which he once attempted to make his name synonymous. The grandeur of the best of those is missing from Passion, but the gaucheness is not. Where once he used to coquet gracefully with sound and image and editing, crafting setpieces of ravishing and unparalleled complexity, the basic narrative of Passion (based on the French film Love Crime) denies him the opportunity to have his wicked way with this medium. Certainly, de Palma tries, and the final half hour is sprinkled with a few such impressive sequences, but these attempts at enlivening an inelegant film already cauterised by the ill combination of de Palma's trademark trickiness and a plot that mostly wants to head straight ahead (and with some force) are futile. And even he seems to slack when the moment arises, trimming down on the gimmickry when that was surely the only thing propping up films like Dressed to Kill and Femme Fatale. Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace bask in the artifice of it all, in the luxurious trashiness, and deliver gleefully theatrical performances; no doubt de Palma has no idea how to tutor an actor who's not in tune with his intentions, nor the desire! Pino Donaggio's obtrusive score is low art at its highest, and as ever one of the main reasons to seek out this de Palma film. The florid absurdity of much of the material (the ad campaign is a particular delight), treated with utmost sincerity, is just one of those things which one must abide with in de Palma's works, and you can either rail against it, or embrace it.