Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Tree of Life now comes with a Disclaimer

This is cute & slightly tragic.

You have been warned.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rubber - Trailer

Quentin Dupieux's bonkers film about a killer tire. For real. The plot synopsis is a fantastic read: When Robert, a tire, discovers his destructive telepathic powers, he soon sets his sights on a desert town; in particular, a mysterious woman becomes his obsession. 

I dunno, it could be a good, trashy night in, or it could be unbearable. Classy poster, though.

Our Idiot Brother - Trailer

Sundance hit starring Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer & Steve Coogan.
Dysfunctional family comedy. Little Miss Sunshine lite. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

X-Men: First Class - Review

Although it can't escape the occasional silliness of, you know, pretty girls with dragon fly wings or redhead boys flying by, um, screaming at a really high pitch, Matthew Vaughn's X-Men prequel is a solid comic book adaptation, and an even better period drama.

With a very smartly picked young cast led by heavyweights James McAvoy & Michael Fassbender, as Charles Xavier (soon to be Dr X) & Erik Lehnsherr (soon to be Magneto), respectively, Vaughn makes sure the action is grounded in well-developed characters and a very well-plotted finale.

James McAvoy shows the future Dr Xavier's greatness, but also the young Charles Xavier's arrogance & stubbornness.

Michael Fassbender, on the other hand, does Ian McKellen proud with a fully relatable soon-to-be villain. He makes you understand the pain behind the cold intensity & haunted eyes that burn up the screen. Although we know his fate, Fassbender makes us feel the battle for Erik's soul as if it may end well.

Kudos also to Mad Men's January Jones who manages to add at some depth to blonde ice queen, & comic book sex symbol, Emma Frost.

A decent comic book action film but, even better, a great character drama.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chlotrudis Society's Top 100 independent films of 2000 - 2010

Because I love a) lists, b) independent movies, I bring you - the Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film's list of best (independent) Films of the Decade:

1. In the Mood for Love
2. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
3. The Lives of Others
4. Caché
5. Let the Right One In
6. There Will Be Blood
7. No Country for Old Men
8. The Piano Teacher
9. Donnie Darko
10. The Royal Tenenbaums
11. Talk to Her
12. Brokeback Mountain
13. Pan’s Labyrinth
14. Y Tu Mamá Tambien
15. Memento
16. Far from Heaven
17. My Winnipeg
18. Away From Her
19. Capote
20. The Social Network

21. Me and You and Everyone We Know
22. Grizzly Man
23. The Station Agent
24. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
25. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
26. Juno
27. Amélie
28. Mulholland Dr.
29. Once
30. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
31. Precious
32. The Hurt Locker
33. Duck Season
34. A Single Man
35. Best In Show
36. Dogville
37. Infernal Affairs
38. Man on Wire
39. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
40. 49 Up
41. Winter’s Bone
42. Protagonist
43. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
44. Mother
45. Brick
46. 3-Iron
47. Gosford Park
48. City of God
49. Last Life in the Universe
50. The Pianist
51. Bad Education
52. Jack Goes Boating
53. Hero
54. Tarnation
55. Synecdoche, New York
56. Still Walking
57. What Time Is It There?
58. White Ribbon
59. Lost in Translation
60. In Bruges
61. In the Bedroom
62. Monkey Warfare
63. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
64. Bowling for Columbine
65. Lilja 4-Ever
66. Spirited Away
67. Half Nelson
68. Punch Drunk Love
69. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
70. Italian for Beginners
71. Sping, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring
72. Marion Bridge
73. Linda Linda Linda
74. Yi Yi
75. Moulin Rouge!
76. The Proposition
77. Jellyfish
78. Sideways
79. Beau Travail
80. American Splendor
81. Dancer in the Dark
82. O Brother Where Art Thou
83. Ghost World
84. Hunger
85. Audition
86. O’Horten
87. The Edukators
88. I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone
89. Undertow
90. 35 Shots of Rum
91. The Departed
92. The Return
93. WALL-E
94. 25th Hour
95. The Saddest Music in the World
96. Before Sunset
97. The Beaches of Agnès
98. Milk
99. The Queen
100. Shortbus

Nice list. I love so many of these movies.

Glenn Close mans up for Albert Nobbs

5-time Oscar Nominee & recent Emmy favourite, Glenn Close is currently filming an adaptation of stage play, Albert Nobbs, about a poor, single woman in 19th Century Ireland who disguises herself as a man so that she can work as a butler at a hotel. When 'Albert' falls in love, she tries to find a way to escape the life-long illusion she has created. 

Gosford Park meets Boys Don't Cry, then, and a certain Oscar-bid from Close. From the photos, she's quite a bit more convincing in drag than Barbara Streisand.

Close has played Nobbs before off-Broadway in the 80s, and co-wrote the screen adaptation. She is being directed by frequent collaborator Rodrigo Garcia (Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, Nine Lives).

Also starring Mia Wasalowski, Janet McTeer, Aaron Johnson, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers & Brendon Gleeson.

Sean Penn goes goth for This Must Be the Place

Reviews have been lukewarm since its premiere at Cannes, but any film where Sean Penn gets to play an aging goth rock star still dressing the part & living off royalties in Dublin until he decides to track down the ex-Nazi refugee who humiliated is late, estranged father, in New York, is worth a watch.

Also, any film where Sean Penn & Frances McDormand get to share the screen is worth a watch.

Kind of hoping Sean Penn is not this monotonous throughout, though...

The Trip - Trailer

The hilarious Steve Coogan re-teams with mate Rob Brydon & director Michael Winterbottom after 2005's brilliant A Cock and Bull Story for an odd-couple road trip comedy.

Should be good, sharp, silly fun.

If you haven't yet seen A Cock & Bull Story, see it now. A mad classic.

A Cock & Bull Story - Trailer:

The Help -Trailer

Based on Kathryn Stockett's Best Seller about racism in 1950s suburban America, The Help follows in the footsteps of last year's Made in Dagenham - serious subject matter, light tone.

It's a pity that you have to go through 6 cast members before you find a black name on, but at least they no longer have to use separate toilets... 

Starring the lovely & hilarious Emma Stone as Skeeter, a young white suburbanite (you can tell she's smart because she has glasses & unkempt hair) who teams up with local maids Aibileen (Oscar-nominee Viola Davis) & Minny (Octavia Spencer) to write an exposé on how 'the help' really feel about their snooty madams & the class systems that rule their Southern town.

Also starring Bryce Dallas Howard as the town bitch who writes a law forcing all homes to have a separate toilet for 'the help', Alison Janney as Skeeter's mother, and the ever-reliable Sissy Spacek.


Black Butterflies - preview

South African poet Ingrid Jonker gets the big screen treatment in Dutch director Paula Van der Oest's literary biopic, Black Butterflies.

Jonker was a passionate and unconventional woman whose poetry challenged the conservative norms of 1960's South Africa. Raised by her grandparents after her mother died in a mental hospital, she first met her father, Abraham Jonker, when she was 11 and, although she & her sister moved in with Abraham, his third wife & their children, their relationship was strained for life. 

As a member of the National Party & the national censorship committee, Abraham Jonker's political & conservative ideals constantly clashed with those of his daughter, and she was not afraid to publicly oppose them. He, in turn, disowned her in parliament, and opposed the publication of her poetry. After hearing of her ocean suicide, he reportedly said: 'They can throw her back into the sea for all I care.' 

This strained relationship with her father, as well as her affairs with several high profile writers of her time, make up the bulk of Paula Van der Oest's film, although she seems more interested in Jonker's internal yearning for love & security than in the melodramatics of her strained relationships.

Chief among her lovers in the film is Jack Cope, a famous South African writer who tried very hard to understand & love her, but couldn't quite manage to live with her. Cope wrote reams about Jonker in his journals, as he tried to fathom her impulsive nature - including compulsively flirting with any man in sight whenever Cope was around - and it is from his journals that screenwriter Gregg Latter drew most of his insights into Jonker. After Jonker's death, Cope made sure her work lived on through the Ingrid Jonker Trust.

As a poet, Jonker started writing at age 6 and had produced her first collection by 13, although her father would not allow it to be published. Strongly opposed to Apartheid, Jonker was celebrated by Nelson Mandela, who read her poem 'Die kind wat doodgeskiet is deur soldate by Nyanga' (The child who was shot dead by soldiers at Nyanga) in Afrikaans at the opening of the first democratically-elected parliament in 1994. 

Mandela called her a transcendant Afrikaner woman who became 'a South African and an African'. Not everyone gets to be publically praised by the legendary Madiba. 

Dutch actress Carice Van Houten (Black Book) won Best Actress at the Tribecca Film Festival for her portrayal of Jonker. The judges explained their decision as follows: 'There are a million colors in this complicated performance. We award this honor for bravery and fragility, and for showing tremendous range and strength throughout.' 

Abraham Jonker is played by Dutch actor Rutger Hauer, best known for his iconic, heart-breaking performance as Roy Batty in Blade Runner, and Jack Cope is played by Irishman Liam Cunningham (The Wind that Shakes the Barley).  

Unlike Christine Jeffs' 2003 Syliva Plath biopic, Paula Van Der Oest had full access to Jonker's poetry and, wisely, swathes the film in as much of it as possible. 

The verdict is still out on the film itself, but it's always good to see recognition for South African stories, especially ones where poetry beats Apartheid.


Die kind wat doodgeskiet is by Nyaga - poem after the cut:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Switch - Review

The year's most surprising not-so-gross-out grown up romcom. Honestly.

When my sister recommended the Jennifer Aniston / Jason Bateman semen-swap movie to me, I was disgusted & shook my head at her in judgment. When my wife decided to watch it, I rolled my eyes in disdain, and only begrudgingly watched from the corner of my eye.

But from the opening monologue and score, it is clear that directors Josh Gordon & Will Speck are going somewhere quite different than the marketing & premise of The Switch would suggest.

The premise - Kassie (Aniston) is 40 & single & decides to have a baby by artificial insemination, Wally (Bateman) is her neurotic, spade-calling best friend who, well, sort of accidentally swaps his 'seed' for that of Kassie's chosen donor.

Honestly, I know how bad that sounds, but Gordon & Speck play it pretty straight & serious, and though you know where it is headed, they manage to make the journey all about the characters, and their plight is surprisingly heartfelt & believable.

With a great central performance by the underrated Jason Bateman, as endearing cynic, hypochondriac & life-critic, Wally, and an incredibly adorable Thomas (& Bryce) Robinson as Kassie's neurotic kid, Sebastien, this has far more smart dialogue & character development than it does gross-out slapstick (in fact, the inevitable awkward moment is refreshingly downplayed & contained to fulfill only its necessary plot duties).

There's always something impressive about a director who can take material that should be rubbish in other hands, and turn it into something solid & authentic. There's also something great about a romantic comedy with the smarts to make the 'other guy' (Patrick Wilson) just as nice (nicer, actually) as the guy you know she should end up with.

Its's not quite Broadcast News, but it's smart where it could be typical, and heartfelt where it could be schmaltzy, and that darn kid almost made me cry. I'd watch it again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

In the Mood for Love - Review

The New York Times described it as Brief Encounter remade by Kubrick & Scorsese, which is an apt, yet lacking, way to describe Kar Wai Wong's exquisite 2000 classic, In the Mood for Love.

It resembles David Lean's Brief Encounter in it's telling of a hesitant & restrained love affair between two exceedingly decent people, it's Scorsese in its virtuoso, offbeat editing, and also in it's construction of a time & place through the detail of its governing codes and classes,and it's Kubrick in its painstakingly gorgeous, serene cinematography. But it is a masterpiece in its own right.

The time & place is 1960's Hong Kong, the exceedingly decent people are Maggie Cheung & Tony Leung, married neighbours who form a quiet friendship & bond over a shared secret. Creating vivid characters from little dialogue, Cheung & Leung (Cannes Best Actor winner) perform wonders, and on the simplest premise, Kar Wai Wong constructs a heart-wrenching world of repressed emotions & saturated colours.

A gorgeous piece of audio-visual cinema, perfectly executed by a director marching to the beat of his own drum, blessed with characters you would care about if they were animated as stick men. It wafts over you like a dream, but the poetic whallop of its final reels will stay with you for weeks.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Super 8 - Trailer

It is being affectionately referred to as JJ Abrams (writer / director) & Steven Spielberg's lovechild, which is to say it contains healthy doses of kids, aliens & nostalgia.

Likely to emerge as one of the classier summer movies of 2011 - you know, the one that made you feel like a kid again & had you quietly tearing up on the inside. With Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler, the lovely Elle Fanning & a whole set of adorable kids in 60s outfits.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50, Hesher & Riaan Johnson' Looper

The kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun has grown up into one heckuva indie movie star - with Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Lookout, Stop-Loss, 500 Days of Summer & Inception on his resume, he is primed to hit the big time.

He's clearly been hard at work & has will be showing up in a few promising projects: technically last year's Hesher & up-coming 50/50, Looper & The Dark Knight Rises.

In Hesher he plays a crazy, greasy piece of metalhead work who comes into the lives of a lonely boy & his father (Rainn Wilson). Film looks so-so, but it's an interesting character for Gordon-Levitt. Produced by & co-starring Natalie Portman, which is never a bad thing (oh wait, No Strings Attached... bad Natalie!).

50 / 50 is a black comedy of a different kind, where Gordon-Levitt plays a 27-year-old diagnosed with cancer. Apparently inspired by personal experiences, it offers a meaty role for Levitt, especially in pulling off the comedy angle without losing the heart. Co-starring Seth Green, Anjelica Huston, Bryce Dallas Howard & Anna Kendrick. Classy cast.

Most exciting of all, Looper reunites Levitt with Brick director Rian Johnson as 'a killer who works for the mob of the future who recognises one of his targets as his future self'. Nice sci-fi premise, if executed well. Rian Johnson's Brick was a high-concept creative risk that worked thrillingly on all levels. His follow up, The Brothers Bloom, was good, quirky & poignant fun, so I am super excited about this. With Bruce Willis & Emily Blunt.

And then, of course, Chris Nolan's third & final Batman instalment, The Dark Knight Rises, in which Levitt will be playing not The Riddler, but John Blake, a new Gotham Detective who joins Commissioner Gordon's squad to catch Batman. Closest traceable reference for the character is the blonde kid in Jack Schiff / Bob Kane's Comedy of Tears (thanks to the guys at Bleeding Cool for the brilliant research).

Rainn Wilson & Ellen Page in Super - Trailer

Rainn Wilson has officially graduated from The Office & teamed up with the cutest cheeky midget in Hollywood, Ellen Page, for James Gunn's Super. Treading similar territory as Matthew Vaughn's Kickass, and released in the same year, this is a bit of a Deep Impact / Armageddon situation. So which film is better? According to Rotten Tomatoes, and, it's definitely Kickass, but Super looks like good fun nonetheless. 

Jane Eyre - Review

Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre has been adapted for the screen no less than 20 times, so one may wonder why Cary Fukunaga (2009's Sin Nombre) has made another. 

Track it down, though, & be grateful that he did.

As quietly tense & gloomy as the poster suggests, Fukunaga's adaptation is an artful, unhurried piece of cinema perched somewhere between Hitchcock's Rebecca and Campion's The Piano. 

Screenwriter Moira Buffini plots out Charlotte Bronte's substantial plot with a flashback structure that lends a sense of foreboding and inevitability to Jane's story, and the technical elements, from the period costumes and sets, to Dario Marianelli's sumptuous, awards-worthy score, are top notch. But the highlight is Adriano Goldman's misty, smoky, often candle-lit cinematography, casting a sense of perpetual possibility over the whole film.  

Jane Eyre is essentially a character study and a fairly heavy social commentary on the limited opportunities and value of women and the working class in nineteenth century England, but it is also a gothic mystery, and is at its best as an unconventional love story.  

Mia Wasalowski (interpreting another classic literary incarnation after Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland) stretches herself as Jane, restricted by the boundaries drawn for her by society, and withdrawn due to love that was withheld from her, but refusing to quieten the passion & unconventionality within. A passionate and strong-minded heroine unsure of her future, director Fukunaga's style allows her time to explore Jane's moods & inner world beyond the constrains of the plot. 

Wasalowski is young, though, and at times the depth of the character feels more acted out than genuine, as if Wasalowski cannot quite carry the full weight of Jane's life, but it is nevertheless a strong performance and, in its best moments, a startlingly powerful one. 

What brings out the true power in Wasalowski's performance is her co-star, the ever-brilliant Michael Fassbender, as the cold and eccentric Rochester. Fassbender's creation is a truly original one that feels like it couldn't possibly be improved on. He feels fully in command of Rochester's every word and gesture, and brings a sharpness and vitality to him that is at once off-putting and alluring. One of the male performances of the year.

The chemistry between Jane and Rochester is electric, while their conversations are never less than thrillingly unpredictable. He is erudite, confrontational & wildly enigmatic, while she is refreshingly direct, otherworldly and egoless.  

This is no lace and love letters period romance, it is a dark and broody tale of two very unlikely people drawn into a strange and complex courtship with a hard-earned conclusion. Their central relationship fuels the film with an offbeat pulse.

I have never read the book, so I can't vouch for the faithfulness of the adaptation, but Fukunaga's film is a fully formed piece of cinema that never feels rushed or incomplete, and manages to sustain its dreamy mood and and authenticity through major plot and genre coils.

But, of course, one cannot review a movie starring Judi Dench without reviewing Judi Dench. Dame Judi plays Mrs Fairfax, Rochester's devoted, if simple-minded, housekeeper - who believes that the answer to Jane's yearning for the adventures of men - is fresh air & physical exercise. With Judi Dench it is never a question of good or bad, but rather of good or Oscar-worthy. Here she is very good, but not Oscar-worthy. She admirably takes quite a backseat to the passion of the central relationship, but naturally commands attention and brings nuance in all her scenes.  

All in all highly recommended.

Short clip - Mia Wasalowski, Judi Dench & Adriano Goldman's camera work:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'

Quentin Tarantino's latest is officially titled 'Django Unchained', is set for release in 2013 & he is courting Will Smith to star (weird).

Based on a character first played by Franco Nero in Sergio Corbucci's classic, very-violent-for-1966 spaghetti western, Django (& reprised in smaller roles numerous times thereafter, thanks to loopholes in international copyright laws). You can see the appeal for Tarantino.

It seems Will Smith would be playing Django as a freed slave.

The Beaver - Trailer

Hotly anticipated after spending time on Hollywood's 'Black List' of best un-produced screenplays, Jodi Foster's third directorial effort, after Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays, has finally opened to so-so reviews, mostly praising Mel Gibson's 'committed' performance, and endless jokes about the title (use your imagination...).

Gibson is not liked much in Hollywood, thanks to his off-screen antics, so any praise truly is praise.

Trailer - David Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Obviously, David Fincher is not down-playing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's dark heart.

The swedish original was a slow-burning thriller, I wonder if Fincher will pitch this more as a dark box office actioner?

But with Fincher back in Seven territory, and Daniel Craig & The Social Network's Rooney Mara onboard, this will certainly be an event.

Up next for Fincher is a new adaptation of 20 200 Leagues Under the Sea and, possibly, Cleopatra.

What Lars Von Trier REALLY said at Cannes

After screening every one of his films, and celebrating even the ones every one else didn't like much (Antichrist, I'm looking at you...), the Cannes film festival banned controversial Danish director Lars Von Trier from the festival & declared him persona non gratia after comments he made at a press conference about Hitler & Nazis. 

I'm not the biggest fan of Von Trier as a person (although I admire the boldness of his films), but for a film festival that thrives on pushing boundaries, Cannes' reaction to Von Trier's comments are curiously politically correct. While what he said was controversial, and perhaps careless, there is plenty of context to his comments.

Judge for yourself (the clip is worth watching for Kirsten Dunst's reaction alone) :

Dunst admits she was upset by his comments at the time, but insists that his words merely 'came out wrong' & that they are still friends.

Here is Dunst's take on things, just after winning Best Actress at Cannes:

We Need to Talk About Kevin vs Beautiful Boy

One of the most raved films coming out of Cannes, We Need to Talk About Kevin is an adaptation of Lionel Shriver's award-winning novel about a mother's struggle to understand or like the cold and difficult son that her husband adores, and who turns out to be a psychopath that kills nine other kids with a crossbow.  The novel is made up of letters written by Eva to her husband Franklin and chronicles her relationship with their son Kevin, from his childhood to her visits with him in a juvenile detention facility.

Not a light family excursion, then.  

Director Lynne Ramsay (making a comeback after 2002's Morvern Callar)'s experimental film is being called fearless, emotionally complex & a triumph of sound design and cinematography, while her script (co-written with Rory Kinnear) is being hailed for transforming the novel's letter structure into an non-linear collage of a family's disintegration.

Tilda Swinton & John C Reilly (in a welcome return to drama) star as Kevin's parents, while Ezra Miller plays the handsome, troubled Kevin. Swinton is the film's complex emotional core, and reportedly the restrained force that lifts the film's morbid subject matter. With adjectives like 'haunting', 'blistering', 'magnetic' being thrown around in praise of the always brilliant Swinton, big kudos to Kirsten Dunst for beating her to the Best Actress prize at Cannes.

Clip from We Need to Talk About Kevin:

Swinton's performance in this clip alone is stirring (but, gosh, I can't stop thinking of David Bowie when she has short hair), and that baby carriage is straight out of Rosemary's Baby.

Another clip (you may notice the colour red...) :

Tense, creepy and beautifully shot.

Also this year, Shawn Ku's Beatiful Boy tells a similar story, with Michael Sheen & Maria Bello as parents unsure how to grieve the death of their son when he takes his own life after going on a killing spree at his college.


Quite a sappy trailer, actually.

Gus Van Sant's visceral 2003 Palme D'Or winner, Elephant, remains the definitive examination of a school shootout in my book, but by focusing on the aftermath for the parents, both We Need to Talk About Kevin and Beautiful Boy pose a very different perspective. Kevin certainly seems the more creatively challenging of the two, while Beautiful Boy seems more like a melodramatic vehicle for its two stars.