Sunday, October 30, 2011

Red Band Trailer - John Krasinski

Diablo Cody interviews John Krasinski in her Red Band Trailer.
They make a very cute, funny pair.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Trailer

Robert Downey Jr in period drag? It's either genius or the moment when Guy Ritchie pushes his re-imagining Sherlock Holmes franchise just too far. Personally, I always enjoy Downey Jr & am glad that Ritchie has found an audience again. I'm not a Holmes purist, so I enjoy the literary / action mash-up. It helps that the sets, costumes & Hans Zimmer score are always on point.

W.E. - Trailer

Madonna directed a movie! Scared? Well, it looks bearable & stars the lovely Abbie Cornish... The premise is like an echo of A.S. Byatt's  Possession - a modern woman's passions are stirred up when she examines an historic romance.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Best Actress race gets meaty

Michelle Williams gets glowing early reviews; Viola Davis gets the Elle Women in Hollywood award, and gives one heck of an acceptance speech; Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells raises $2000 to promote Olivia Colman in Tryannosaur with an early screening; & Elizabeth Olsen hits the Today show, briefly but eloquently.

This year's Best Actress is a very exciting one indeed, with far too many deserving performances getting due notice. The final five should be a strong five, but There Will Be Blogger outcry when a handful of deserving actresses are inevitably 'overlooked'. My hope is that the Oscar precursors will keep their nominations diverse and not settle on a comfortable five to push all the way to the Oscars. Diversity not only keeps the race unpredictable, and forces Oscar voters to think for themselves, it also means that in retrospect a wider range of performances will have received recognition.

The intricate puppetry behind War Horse

Awesome TED Talk showing the South African puppet masters behind the long-running (and recently Tony sweeping) stage production of War Horse. They start with a masterful little hyena and work their way to the War Horse designs. Fascinating and beautiful, I can see why the stage play was and is such a hit. I just wonder how Spielberg is going to recreate the magic on the big screen with horse actors.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Early praise for Michelle Williams, but not her movie

One of the first out of the gate, Variety's review of My Week With Marilyn calls the film a bit bland and misjudged, but raves Michelle Williams, which is the important part.
"But the film belongs to Williams, whose tour-de-force turn conflates three Marilyns: the lost, damaged little girl who seeks to escape others’ expectations and return to simpler childhood days; the sexy superstar who impishly poses with a wink in complicity with her public; and the actress playing a pre-scripted part. The genius of the performance lies in the way Williams stresses the interconnectedness of these personalities: The neediness fuels the impudence, the vulnerability turns sexually provocative, and the little girl and sexpot together drive the screen role."

They also praise Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier & Judi Dench as Sybil Thorndike, although they are not blown away by either, and predictably love Toby Jones as Arthur Jacobs.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Trailer

Stephen Daldry has an exceptional track record - three movies, three Best Director nominations, two Best Picture nominations. One of those (Billy Elliot) was a film led by an unknown child actor and the other two (The Hours, The Reader) were tricky literary adaptations (and Best Actress winners). So by all accounts Daldry fits Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close like a glove. Jonathan Safran Foer's source novel is an eccentric, stylised journey through the five burroughs of New York, seen through the eyes of a highly intelligent and unusual young narrator, Oskar Schell, searching for the lock to fit the mysterious key left behind by his father  in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In the process, the story delves into his unusual family history and those historic last moments before September 11th became 9/11.

It is a difficult novel to bring to the screen, mainly because it's strength lies in the ornate prose and the verbose ramblings of its charming, complex protagonist, but Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, Benjamin Button)'s screenplay is by all accounts deeply emotional. The success of the film hinges on newcomer (and Junior Jeopardy winner) Thomas Horn as Oskar. Daldry did excellent work with Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot, so let's hope he can repeat his success here. The obvious Oscar bait is Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks as Oskar's parents, but the real meaty roles are Oskar's grandparents, played by Zoe Caldwell and the legendary Max Von Sydow.

The trailer makes is all seem a touch too sentimental, but it is just a trailer, I suppose. Daldry has no reputation for sentimentality, but Roth, Bullock and Hanks sure do (although Roth also scripted the far meatier The Insider and Munich). Time will tell. In the meantime, Daldry's track record and the story's 9/11 themes leaves Extremely Loud at the top of the Oscar pile, seen or unseen.

Shame - Trailer

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spielberg's Oscar Bid - War Horse

Already an Oscar front runner and not yet released (never a good idea), Spielberg's other movie this year (as director - he also produced Super 8 & Cowboys and Aliens, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time) is a World War I epic about a boy who goes on a dangerous mission to, ahem, find his beloved horse - sold to the cavalry and fighting in the war - and bring him back to his home town.

That synopsis has every opportunity for unbearable sentimentality, but the film is based on the massive hit play - performed with puppets - which in turn is based on Michael Morpurgo's acclaimed children's book. The play swept this year's Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway, and has been described by The Times in the UK as "the theatrical event of the decade." Whether the play's acclaim is more due to the story or the puppetry we will have to wait and see. Spielberg has a successful track record with films about the Holocaust, WWII and modern terrorism, so anticipation for War Horse is high. I remain a skeptic willing to be convinced.



Fanmade opening credits - Tin Tin

Very cool imaginary opening credits for The Adventures of Tin Tin, by fanboy James Curran:

The Adventures of Tintin from James Curran on Vimeo.

Empire loves The Adventures of Tin Tin

The Adventures of Tin Tin has finally opened, and critics have given it a warm embrace. Empire magazine paid it a very well worded compliment: "Spielberg has brought a boy’s heart, an artist’s guile, and a movie-lover’s wit.” 

The first bit of good news is that the motion capture & 3D technology is, apparently, not only excellent, but merges well into the story, without being a distraction. The second bit of good news is that Spielberg captures the books' boyish sense of adventure with a nostalgic wit that hearkens back the heyday of Indiana Jones. Good news indeed.

The Adventures of Tin Tin should therefore do well at the box office and be a good companion piece to Spielberg's other 2011 movie - the considerably more Oscar-y War Horse (trailer to follow).

The latest trailer:


And a rad clip featuring Tin Tin's dog, Snowy:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bronson - Trailer

While we're talking Tom Hardy, a reminder of his 2008 breakthrough in Bronson. Hardy plays Michael Peterson, a young man sentenced to 7 years in prison, who ends up in solitary confinement for 30, and loves every minute of it as his frankly nutters alter-ego, Charles Bronson, takes over. Based on a true story, mind you. Directed with virtuoso creativity by Nicolas Winding Refn (currently big news after winning Best Director at Cannes for Drive).

Still hard to believe this is the same Tom Hardy from Inception / Warrior, or that he was ever a normal-sized pretty boy.

Warrior - Review

No film bookended by two The National songs could be bad, right? Right.

Warrior has a plot that is at once ingenious and absurd - two brothers with serious emotional baggage end up competing against each other for the top title in the world's biggest winner-take-all Mixed Marshall Arts championship. It's credit to director Gavin O'Connor then, who does not shy away from the fairy tale incredulity of his story, but rather films it with such grit and conviction that the road to the unlikely climax it is not only gripping, but contextually convincing.

It helps that he has three skilled and hungry actors who turn in three staggering performances. From the gritty, heavy family drama to the intense, epic fight scenes (Mixed Marshall Arts = kickboxing + wrestling + anything goes = awesome), they blend together something that shouldn't work, but sucks you in and then soars to an intense, potent climax that is hard to forget.  

Nick Nolte is phenomenal as an abusive, drunk, nightmare of a father turned broken, feeble man trying to make amends. He gives a slow, unshowy performance that is so rawly vulnerable and filled with inescapable regret that it often truly hurts to watch. A searing verbal lashing from Tom Hardy's Tommy leads to Nolte's explosive, knockout scene that pushes him right into the Best Supporting Actor race.

It's impossible to pick a winner between Tom Hardy's Tommy & Joel Edgerton's Brendan, both difficult, intriguing characters with a vivid, traumatic past. Edgerton brings a strikingly hard edge to his sensible and adored father / husband / teacher, while Tom Hardy is all blazing intensity with his heart on his sleeve as deeply angry, deeply bruised Tommy.

A carefully executed, original film with a soaring climax. It sucks you in and knocks you out.
And it all ends beautifully with The National.

Hanna - Review

Joe Wright's Hanna is sensational. He holds back nothing as he crafts a potent, gorgeous, audacious & aggressively creative coming-of-age thriller. Miles from the period restraints of Pride and Prejudice & Atonement, Wright handles the material with a ballsy confidence. As always, he chooses his lead well - Saoirse Ronan kicks ass as the titular Hanna, pitching her performance perfectly between Uma Thurman's Bride in Kill Bill and Jodi Foster's Nell: an utterly convincing otherworldly girl, raised in complete isolation in the woods, trained to be an assassin, and desperate to discover the world, hear music and feel love. She balances Hanna's tough-as-nails determination with a beguiling naivety and sense of wonder that sells the twisted fairy tale aspect of the story. 

The film itself is a bizarre coming-of-age drama disguised as a pulsating chase movie that takes as much time to appreciate the sun and wind in Hanna's hair as she breathes in the air from a car window, as it does to choreograph dizzyingly hyper-real action scenes to the Chemical Brothers' thumping score. Wright pushes buttons at every turn, never holding back on creative flourish. At times, his approach threatens to be overwhelming, but it is hard not to get caught up in the exhilarating confidence of his unique vision.

Wright delivers one breathtaking set piece after another, while Alwin Kuchler matches the bold, left-of-centre sets with palpably gorgeous cinematography; whether he's filming snow scape hunts, single-take action scenes in eastern european subways or intimate family conversations in sweaty Morroco, his cinematography is mesmerising.

Wright has always drawn exceptional performances from every member of his cast and he gives us another set of fine performances here. Every one of the actors deliver - the heroes with conviction, the villains with bold, cold eccentricity. Tom Hollander is a revelation as perverse, fey blonde ubher hit man, Isaacs & Cate Blanchett unleashes a deeply peculiar, eerily calm villain in Marrisa, a corrupt government agent with deep secrets and an obsessive tooth-cleaning compulsion. Both villains are splendid and frightening creations, with just enough fierce menace to stay just the right side of cartoonish. Blanchett, in particular, finds so much power and force in her performance that her conviction steers Marissa from caricature villain to a pitiable, detestable force to be reckoned with. Wright's again shows his knack with young actors by drawing out an witty, spot on performance from newcomer Jessica Barden as Hanna's only friend - Sophie - an aggressively superficial, effervescent teenager with truckloads of attitude and more words per second than a high level legal secretary.

Wright orchestrates his technical team with bravado, coaxes warmth and complexity out of his cast and shows a briliant eye for striking sets - from gypsies washing clothes at the river, to Moroccan markets  and Eastern European concrete apartments, run down play parks, orange-tiled basements & abandoned theme parks, his sets all feel exhilaratingly fresh. Supremely stylish, cartoonish, yet gritty, his film never questions its own strangeness and, once it gets going, is a juggernaut racing to its blunt, enigmatic conclusion. A striking, original story with layers of character and visual detail that keep unfolding after the initial kick in the face subsides. The purest slice of joyful cinematic abandon of the year.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tyrannosaur - Trailer

The directorial debut of quietly brilliant british actor Paddy Considine (In America, Dead Man's Shoes) with raved performances by Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman. Is there room in the Best Actress race? Probably not.

Albert Nobbs - New Trailer & two clips

The trailer for Albert Nobbs is not fantastic, but it's Glenn Close's performance we're paying attention to here. Awards Daily's Sasha Stone calls Close's performance "understated, moving and disturbing". An intriguing combination of adjectives. Looks like incredible work from Janet McTeer (who has been far too quiet since her 1999 Oscar nomination for Tumbleweeds) as well.

2 short clips after the cut:

Carnage - New Trailer

New trailer for Roman Polanski's adaptation of the Tony winning play. Of course it's all about the way the writing and performances pull off the complex characters. A surprising black comedy mined from a very straightforward situation. The performances should be good fun.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bridesmaids - Review

My very belated review for Bridesmaids.

Bridesmaids has been called "everything The Hangover II should have been", which is fitting enough and intended as a compliment, but overlooks the fact that Bridesmaids is miles better than The Hangover. Every bit as crass, shocking and hilarious, Bridesmaids wins because it has characters - although more than mildly screwed up - you can believe in and root for.

Kristen Wiig leads the pack as epic loser Annie; single, poor, cupcake business failed, best friend getting married and not taking it quietly at all. Acting out in subtle, and not so subtle, ways, Wiig (who co-wrote the script) is relentless in sending trouble and bad decisions Annie's way, but the more she can't get ahead, the more she becomes a beacon for anyone who ever couldn't stop screwing up. Hilarious, of course, she also shows real depth and sadness as Annie struggles to stop being her own worst enemy.

After Wiig, recent Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy gives an inspired, surreal comic performance which takes a page from Zach Galifianakis's socially inappropriate and unpredictable Alan (the best part of The Hangover), and takes it to another level. She nails every one of her scenes with such insane comic intensity and, thanks to a more meaty scene where she helpfully, and physically, illustrates the need to fight back when life is beating you up, she really could stand a chance as an awards contender.

Maya Rudolph has an authentic, off-the-wall best friend chemistry with Wiig - and is likable despite being the only stable woman in the film - and Rose Byrne gets to show off her rare comic talents as over-achieving, wealthy snob, Helen. Byrne really nails her character's peculiar psychology, but never compromises the humour. Annie: "This is the first time I've seen you look ugly and it makes me happy!" Helen: (laughing) "No, I don't...".

The rest of the cast supports well, while Mad Men's Jon Hamm excels as complete dick, Ted, and IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd is of course the perfect sweet, dorky and honest love interest for Annie.

Director Paul Feig has created a fearlessly hilarious ("It's coming out of me like a volcano!") and heartfelt comedy centered almost entirely around women being honest about everything they're not supposed to let us see. Brilliant.

The Help - Review

The large cast works well together, but The Help owes its entire success to Viola Davis' vivid, authentic  performance as tired, burdened, compassionate Aibileen, followed closely by Octavia Spencer's fiery Minny. Both actresses should have no trouble making their way onto Oscar ballots. Although Emma Stone's Skeeter is the ostensible lead, the film starts and ends with Aibileen's voice over, every other actress is at her best when they share a scene with her and she is the heart, soul & spine of the film. It feels very justified that she is being campaigned as Lead Actress. Octavia Spencer, meanwhile, is far more than the supporting comic relief as fiesty, "sassmouthing" Minny. She is a real, strong-willed woman with an unpredictable, unstoppable fire in her belly and an unwillingness to suffer fools gladly. But she does have all the funniest bits.

On the white side of things, Emma Stone is naturally charming as the independent, "different" girl - the hair and make up department do a very good job of playing down her looks- but Alison Janney and, particularly, Jessica Chastain are the highlights among the white "madams", as morally compromised cancer patient / concerned grandchildren-less mother and tippling, floozy farmgirl, respectively. Bryce Dallas Howard, however, struggles to bring life to her callous, shallow villain, settling too often for cartoonish mean girl antics. It is as much a fault of the writing than the performance that Hilly is a shrill, relentless ubher bitch who is easy to hate, but very difficult to take seriously, but if Howard could have surrendered herself to Hilly's misguided convictions, she could have been a formidable force to be reckoned with. As it is, Howard herself can't seem to take her quite seriously, and drops the ball on the films funniest sequence - the pie. There is a line that divides an over-the-top character from an over-the-top performance and, unfortunately, Howard lands on the wrong side of that line. But Viola Davis more than makes up for it.

Although understandably some of the character detail is lost in the transition from novel to screen, The Help is nevertheless a strong and relevant story, effectively evoking a frankly disturbing chapter of American History (not only for the blatant racism, but for the demented picket-fence suburban dream). Director Tate Taylor continually favours the serious side of the story over the easy laughs and relies on his cast to bring home the message. I wish I could say The Help was merely a window into a dark past, but it is regrettably still a window on our present. I can think of more than one example, within my own, ostensibly liberal, circle of friends and family where maids still have "their own" plates and cups set aside because they "like having their own." Perhaps because the underlying darkness of the film still rings true, The Help, although not without its flaws, is the first film I have sat in since As it is in Heaven to leave a packed theatre nailed to its seats until the final credits have rolled.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Young Adult - Trailer

Oh it is going to be a good one for Charlize Theron. This could go a good way or a bad way, but with Jason Reitman at the helm, I have no doubt the depth and grit will be there. Diablo Cody's writing is still circling high school, but it's hard to deny the appeal of her unapologetically counter-culturalist humour.

My Week with Marilyn - Trailer

Finally - a Trailer!

Looks like all we hope it will be. A suitably complex part for Michelle Williams. A strong whiff of Me & Orson Welles, but with more tears. I like the line: "Shall I be her?" "Who?" "Marilyn."