Friday, August 26, 2011

Higher Ground - Trailer

One of the States' most underrated actresses - Vera Farmiga - has turned her hand to directing and crafted an independent character study about a woman's lifelong struggle with her faith, which Awardsdaily's Sasha Stone praises as "one of the few films made by an American female director that is about ideas, not about which guy she should end up with."

Tough subject matter, but Farmiga certainly has the smarts to give a well-rounded view.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 - Review

The decision to split Rowling's final novel into two films is understandable for both financial and creative reasons (it almost turned into three), but the result is unfortunately two excellently produced and performed films that each feel somehow incomplete.  

Deathly Hallows Part I is the first to be set entirely away from Hogwarts, as Harry, Ron & Hermione go on the run from the Death Eaters & try to track down & destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes - objects in which he has hidden fragments of his soul to avoid mortality - in the process. Although it is an effective and beautifully shot chase movie, and ends smartly with the tragic return of Dobby the Elf, it ultimately feels like an extended prologue to the grand finale. 

Less plot driven than its predecessors, the action moves swiftly from one set piece to the next  which, while all well staged, only hint at epic.  The sequence inside the Ministry of Magic is a nice, zippy, change of pace, while the sinister influence of Salazar Slytherin's locket on Ron adds another level of pressure to Harry's existence (as if the burden of celebrity, the loss of every last one of his mentors and the responsibility of saving both the magic and muggle world from the greatest dark wizard of all time is not enough, Harry's best friend has to go and turn into a gloomy jerk ass). The young cast all perform well, miles from the perpetual, plastered grins of The Philosopher's Stone, as do the panoramic views that replace the usual grand sets. 

The biggest highlight, though - from a visual and plot point of view - is the animated sequence depicting the myth behind the Deathly Hallows - the Elder Wand, which Voldemort is after to kill Harry, the Cloak of Invisibility, which was given to Harry by Dumbledore (& is the most exciting feature of The Philosopher's Stone), and the Resurrection Stone - which really lends a sense of occasion to the coming finale, although Rowling could have exploited the Hallows more in the final equation, but more on that later. 

Oscar nominations: Art Direction (curious, as the only notable set is the exceptional ministry of magic which was already featured fairly extensively in The Order of the Phoenix), Visual Affects

Martha Marcy May Marlene - Trailer

Another winner from Sundance - Sean Durkin took Best Director for his strange, non-linear film, blending the memory, imagination & reality of a young woman trying to resurface into society after escaping from a creepy hippie settlement / cult.

Elizabeth Olson - younger sister of the twins, yes - is getting plenty of attention as the troubled, broken Martha (Marcy May) & the always great John Hawkes as dubious cult leader, Patrick.

A slick trailer:

Like Crazy - Trailer

Felicity Jones was this year's Best Actress winner at Sundance for Like Crazy, following in the impressive trail of Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sibide (Precious) and Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) & Anton Yelchin is a talented young actor, so probably smart to keep our eyes on this one. Looks smart and charming.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - score

Taster of Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross' score for Fincher's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. 

Suitably gloomy and unsafe sounding. And satisfyingly distinct from their fantastic Social Network score.

A Short History of CG Characters in film

This comes at a good time, while there is debate around whether Andy Serkis' motion capture performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes should or will be recognised by AMPAS. The theory is that the actors who make up the bulk of the Academy are intimidated by what motion capture technology means for the future of their craft, and will resist recognising and honouring motion capture performances. While Andy Serkis' past snubs seem to support this, the Academy did recognise Brad Pitt's performance in Benjamin Button, the best parts of which were motion captured.

The more convincing argument is that motion-capture performances straddle a confusing line between acting & digital animation. On the one hand, you can't argue with the footage of Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, King Kong)  & Zoe Saldana (Avatar) bringing their digital characters to life in the clips below but, on the other hand, the argument that their performances are digitally enhanced, and therefore should not compete alongside their non-digital counterparts, also has merit.

Ultimately, it seems clear that Peter Jackson was only able to draw legitimate emotion out of King Kong because of Serkis' daring, vivid performance, and that Gollum is as much the triumph of a versatile and expressive actor as he is of a genius special effects team. Whether actors are intimidated by motion-capture performances, whether it is a new medium or just a new method, it seems a shame to keep denying Serkis recognition for his groundbreaking work. Embrace technology, AMPAS.

a short history of CG characters in movies from lnrdshelby on Vimeo.

Machine Gun Preacher - Trailer

Is it time to start taking Gerard Butler seriously? Not sure I'm buying it quite yet, but I have some faith in Marc Forster, so MGB deserves some benefit of my doubt, despite its less-than-desirable title.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ralph Fiennes - Coriolanus Trailer

Ralph Fiennes directs himself, and Gerard Butler, in a modern day re-imagining of Shakespeare's Coriolanus. It's epic Shakespeare that takes in a character study of a powerful leader, revenge, betrayal, war and politics. The script is adapted by John Logan (Gladiator, The Last Samurai), and Fiennes roughs it up with a tough, military feel. 

It is Fiennes' first attempt as director, and he has taken on quite a tricky project - modernising Shakespeare is an exciting, but risky, endeavor. His stories and characters are such timeless crowd pleasers, it is easy to see  why directors are eager to dress them up for a new generation, and liberate them from the classical stuffiness bestowed by high school literature teachers.

When it works, it is invigorating - see Baz Luhrmann's sensational, audacious MTV-styled Romeo + Juliet and Gil Junger turning Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew into a successful teen comedy. Luhrmnn pulls off the tougher trick of successfully importing the bard's classical language to its hip hop gangster setting. Jessica Scheinbach has compiled a cool, comprehensive list of unorthodox Shakespeare adaptations, which you can check out here.

Not quite modernised, but still bold reinventions, are Richard Loncraine's relocating of Richard III to an alternative, fascist 1930's England & Akira Kurosawa's classic reimagining of King Lear as an epic Samurai tragedy in Ran. 

Less successful attempts fall awkwardly flat, though, like Tim Blake Nelson's High School drama "O", translating the Bard's Othello into a tale of high school lust, betrayal and racial conflict between Josh Hartnett, Mekhi Phifer & Julia Stiles and Michael Almereyda's artily ambitious, but uneven Ethan Hawke vehicle, Hamlet. Julia Stiles is clearly a fan and has worked her way into three Shakespeare adaptations - 10 Things I Hate About You, Othello & Hamlet. 

We will have to see if Fiennes pulls it off; if his performance works without an objective director to reign him in, if he can marry his gritty modern setting with the high drama of Shakespeare's dialogue and, most critically, if he can make a proper actor of Gerard Butler.

The Good:

The Bad:

And the Blah:

We Need to Talk About Kevin - UK Trailer

Another super-stylish trailer for Lynn Ramsay's psycho-drama.

Carnage - Trailer

Four Oscar winners, an Oscar nominee & an award-winning play bring you:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kate Winslet. Matt Damon. Steven Soderbergh. Contagion.

Steven Soderbergh's latest is a virus epidemic thriller with a killer cast, including Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburn, Jennifer Ehle, John Hawkes, Elliott Gould & Bryan Cranston. Looks like fun, in a horrible catastrophe kind of way.

This is Soderbergh's 5th film with Damon (and they team up again next year for Liberace, with Michael Douglas as the celebrated titular pianist, and Damon as his lover, Scott Thorson).

Soderbergh capitalises on his cast in the gritty character posters below:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Francis Ford Coppola's Twixt - Trailer

Francis Ford Coppola seems to be doing whatever he feels like these days. His last two films have been critically divisive, experimental indies, but his latest seems to stretch a bit more into the mainstream - hiring daughter Sophia Coppola's latest muse, Elle Fanning, and visibly over-the-hill Val Kilmer, his thriller still has an indie feel about it, and certainly seems visually inventive. Whether it is good, or makes any money, remains to be seen.

The various posters certainly sell the gothic angle (some better than others). And Elle Fanning.

In Time - Trailer

Okay, it's Justin Timberlake and she-who-shall-not-be-named-after-being-in-red-riding-hood, but it's also from Andrew Niccol, director of slick 1997 sci-fi drama, Gattaca, and it is a pretty cool concept, so we'll give it a chance.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Classic Performance - Brigitte Helm in Metropolis

I woke up on Woman's Day thinking of Brigitte Helm's classic performance in Fritz Lang's epic 1927 masterpiece, Metropolis.

For his Sci-Fi wunderwerk, Lang called on Helm to play dual parts: first; Maria, the gentle prophet preaching the coming of the 'mediator' to bridge the gap between the head (planners) and hands (workers) in the sprawling and exploitative Metropolis, second; various incarnations of sin and death, aka the possessed machine-man created by mad genius scientist, Rotwang, to look like Maria. It really is rather as complicated as it sounds, but it is daring, iconic, stirring and gorgeous.

As for Helm, silent film acting hardly led itself to subtlety, but in her debut role/s, she melts the screen with warmth as the caring and whole-hearted Maria, and burns it up with her vivid embodiment of demented, delirious evil as she seduces the city to sin and destruction. Her performance is painted in broad strokes, with her crazy eyes and sharp body angles, but it is perfect, startling and unforgettable. Check it out below:

Maria's Transformation (followed by quite a bit of Gustav Frolich's mopiness):

And the Trailer:

We Need to Talk About Kevin - International Trailer

Highly acclaimed at Cannes, Lynn Ramsay's audio-visual exploration of a mother's strained relationship with her psychopath-in-the-making son. Featuring another epic performance from Tilda Swinton, and a detailed visual essay on the colour red... 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Drive - first official trailer

Official Trailer! Yes! It is Red Band, so apply appropriate caution if you are underage / sensitive...

& Carey Mulligan Clip:

Scorsese's Hugo - Trailer

If Martin Scorsese's name wasn't on this, you'd never guess this was his latest film. Based on Brian Selznick's acclaimed multi-media novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, about a 12 year-old orphan & clock fixer who finds an abandoned automaton in a Paris railway station, where he lives, and tries to fix it with clock parts. This is Scorsese's first kid's film that i can think of, and his first in 3D. It's great that he's stretching himself, even if it feels like he's making a Steven Spielberg film, in a year full of Spielberg films. Sacha Baron Coen, Asa Butterfield (Boy In the Striped Pajamas), Chloe Moretz (Kickass & Let Me In) & Sir Ben Kingsley. A strange mix for Scorsese, but I'm always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. At the very least, it will be gorgeous to look at.

There is a logical connection to Scorsese, though: Brian Selznick was inspired to write his story after reading Edison's Eve, which tells the story of turn-of-the-century pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliés, who collected automata and tried to create a talking wind up doll. At the end of his life, Méliés donated his automata to a museum, which promptly discarded of them. Selznick imagined what would happen if a young boy found the broken, discarded automata, and thus Hugo Cabret was born. Méliés also worked in a toy booth in a Paris railway station, hence the story's setting. 

Scorsese should have stuck with the book's cover for the poster, though... Much more intriguing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Super 8½

Clever mash-up of Federico Fellini's classic   & JJ Abrams' Super 8:

Monday, August 8, 2011

John Carter of Mars - Trailer

I am not a fan of movies featuring men dressed up like Conan the Barbarian, but I am a big fan of Andrew Stanton (the unique voice behind the two best films to come out of Pixar, Finding Nemo & Wall-E), and a fan of any trailer that features Peter Gabriel's cover of Arcade Fire's 'My Body is a Cage'.

Based on the stylish 60s sci-fi comic, this will be Stanton's first live-action film. It is produced by Disney, so presume it will stay the right side of PG.

One Day - Trailer

I don't usually post posters & trailers for romantic dramas with terrible, cheesy voice overs, based on 'Best Selling' chicklit novels, but I have a good reason for doing so: Lone Scherfig.

One Day is directed by Danish director Lone Scherfig, whose Italian for Beginners - is possibly the only happy film made under Lars Von Trier & Thomas Vinterberg's Dogme 95 rules for 'purified' filmmaking (no props, no soundtrack, only natural lighting...) - & is perfectly charming without losing its intelligence. Scherfig also made 2009's great, Oscar-nominated, An Education. 

In both films, Scherfig showed a gift for bringing to life both the joy and the folly of her characters. An Education also sported warm period details that felt more lived in than your average period wardrobes / sets.

One Day seems to chart the relationship between Emma and Dexter over 20 years, by meeting up with them on only one day per year - the anniversary of the first day they met. Sounds a bit mushy, but Sturgess and Hathaway are good actors, even though Hathaway will be risking a british accent & asking us to 'take her seriously' because she looks bookish. We hope for the best, at least.

One Day - Trailer:

Italian for Beginners - Trailer:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Review

In the last instalment leading up to the grand finale of The Deathly Hallows, David Yates once again condenses a huge novel into a feature length film, but there is no clear over-riding story line to focus on. Instead, Yates balances plot strands ranging from the mystery of the Half-Blood Prince's Diary, the dark revelations of Tom Riddle's past, the now-raging hormones and love potions of 6th form Howartians, the going over to the dark side of Draco Malfoy, the arrival of the death eaters and the carefully planned murder of... well, I wouldn't want to ruin it. 

Yates does a good job of holding on to all the plot strands and creating a film that flows together with a swift momentum, largely thanks to Bruno Delbonnel's exceptional cinematography. He picks up the intensity with the gradual revelation of Tom Riddle's secrets, building up to the grim revelation of how he managed to cheat death and become the most powerful dark wizard of all time. 

The climax is carefully orchestrated and filled with significant detail that will play itself out in the face-off of Deathly Hallows. The skilled set of actors - old & young - skillfully communicate the nuances of the loyalties and betrayals that lead to probably the second most important death of the series. 

Jim Broadbent is great as the scattered and sinister Professor Horace Slughorn, new professor of... Defense Against the Dark Arts, although Dumbledore has other reasons for wanting him around. The standout performance, however, is Alan Rickman, gloomy and ambiguous as troubled Professor Snape. As a boy on a dark mission in way over his head, Tom Felton also finds new depths in Harry's schoolboy nemesis, Draco Malfoy. 

A satisfying, polished and full film that also serves as an exciting prelude to the finale.

Oscar noms: Cinematography

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises - Posters & Character Portraits



Christopher Nolan
Feeling Bane, not feeling Cat Woman... They must remember they're contending against Michelle Pfeiffer here...

The Dark Knight Rises - Teaser Trailer

Yes. It's really happening. It's going almost too fast for me... make the wait last a bit longer...

The Dark Knight Rises - Official Teaser Trailer:
(cannot be embedded)

And first pictures of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman (I'm not loving it...):

Raw Audio of Tom Hardy as Bane - recorded on set by an extra. Pretty creepy, yes?

And 'leaked' footage via Conan O Brien:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Preview

Who knew Rise of the Planet of the Apes would turn out to be any good? Of course, low expectations make for the best kind of pay off, so try to keep pretending it's going to be Tim Burton's movie (which I didn't hate, although its the worst thing he's ever done) all over again, and you may experience what the reviews are going on about.

Critics are loving Rupert Wyatt's slow pacing and smart character development, Andy Serkis' motion capture work is - of course - being hailed as genius and fans are bringing in the box office. See it and decide for yourself.

And start the debate - should the Oscars recognise actors for motion capture work? Andy Serkis is a good actor in normal human form (see BAFTA-nominated Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) but it takes a special kind of actor to breathe life and emotion into Gollum, King Kong and now Apes' Caesar.

Ryan Gosling 'too hot' to win an Oscar?

Silly, but funny. Only on Twitter... (Read timeline from bottom up)

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