Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sound of My Voice - Trailer

Some actresses complain that there are no good parts. Brit Marling writes and produces her own. And she has, so far, carved a nice little niche for herself as the reigning queen of smart indie Sci-Fi dramas. Her other 2011 drama, Another Earth, is a strong character drama with a smart sci-fi twist. Sound of my Voice unashamedly luxuriates in a trippy psychological puzzle about faith, time travel and a MMMM-type cult. Built on a series of escalating chapters, Sound of my Voice is all about the tense atmosphere and head games. Looks like a whole lot of perplexing fun.

Thanks to Skallakind and for the recommendation.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Looper - Trailer

Poster via Collider

Whether reinventing film noir for high school and lo-fi daylight in Brick, or having globe trotting, highbrow, post-modern fun with big names in The Brothers Bloom, or helming the loved / hated Fly episode of Breaking Bad, Rian Johnson has already established himself as an intelligent and endlessly inventive writer / director.

This year he takes on Sci Fi and time travel in what looks to be a nifty, brain frying little thriller. Casting Bruce Willis as the future version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an odd choice that necessitated Gordon-Levitt's ostensibly effective face alteration make up, and will hopefully pay off in the context of the completed film. At the very least, a smart summer thriller with a sharp premise. At the very best, a new sci fi classic.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

LOL - Trailer

And following on the best thing of the week, here is the worst thing ever:

"It's so good to love someone so much it hurts". And then he sings. To her. And the production designer's name is "Happy". PIMP (Puked. In my pants.)

New Prometheus Teaser

The marketing for Prometheus is amazing. If we are not building up to a new Sci Fi classic, the marketing team deserves all kinds of awards (and a punch in the face). But I have all confidence that Sir Scott's film will live up to the very considerable hype.

The latest teaser continues to establish the Prometheus universe, without giving away the Prometheus plot. Michael Fassbender is, as always, inspired. His hesitation before "distressing... unethical..." is filled with suggestion and dread:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cinematography of 2012

The Tree of Life - Emmanuel Lubezki

It couldn't be anyone else (although it was almost Robert Richardson). Terrence Malick's films always boasted exceptional cinematography, and The Tree of Life easily stands as the best of the bunch. From dreamlike memories of 1950s domestic life - both blissful & sinister - to absurdly ambitious depictions of the birth & infant years of the universe. Exceptional & impressive in every way.  

Hugo - Robert Richardson

Warm, glowing & perfect in every detail, Robert Richardson's swoon-worthy work for Martin Scorsese's epic but intimate masterpiece almost overtook The Tree of Life for first place. Where Tree of Life has an endless stream of unforgettable images, Hugo has single frames filled with so much incredible detail, you could press pause & just stare for hours. It puts Paris on an impossibly high pedestal.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Hoyte van Hoytema

Dusty, stuffy & always perfectly composed, Hoyte van Hoytema's lensing is quiet & unobtrusive while it sucks you deeply into both the period & the dizzying plot. Looking like a spy thriller lifted straight out of the 70s, it manages to pay homage while creating iconic images all its own (the sound-proof room... the landing strip conversation...)

Martha Marcy May Marlene - Jody Lee Lipes

You could write essays on Martha's mental state based solely on the images composed by Jody Lee Lipes. Shot almost entirely in long, unhurried shots that, together with the editing & performances, create the ambiguous tension of Martha's existence. Subtle & unflashy, but exceptional.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Jeff Cronenweth

Shot on digital in gloomy alleys, apartments, libraries, & the notorious Vanger family island, Jeff Cronenweth's images are by turns intimate, sinister & shocking; always soaking up every last ounce of atmosphere, facial flinch or particular shade of black.  

Hanna - Alwin H Kuchler

There are massive tonal shifts in Hanna, & Alwin Kuchler's cinematography negotiates them all perfectly. From the intimate danger of Hanna's snow hunting to her first teenage experiences on the back of a motorbike, through the diverse escape & fight sequences in underground chambers, dilapidated playgrounds, shipping docks & abandoned theme parks to the cherry on top: a thrilling single-take that follows Eric Bana out of a train station, down an escalator into an empty subway & through a visceral fist fight with a small army of hit men. Exceptional, exciting & effective.     

Drive - Newton Thomas Sigel

Wrapping it's characters in a perpetual warm neon glow, Newton Thomas Sigel makes 80s retro look cooler than ever while enhancing the graceful tension of director Nicolas Winding Refn's pacing. Through the occasional emergence of human warmth & explosions of unexpected violence on screen, Sigel's camera remains as cool & collected as the Driver. 

War Horse - Janusz Kaminski

All the sentimentality of War Horse is forgivable solely on the grounds of how gorgeous it looks. From sun-kissed farmlands to the misty trenches of no man's land, War Horse is ever a thing of painterly beauty.

The Artist - Guillaume Schiffman

The Artist's Hollywood is not a flashy, glitzy Hollywood, but a quietly inventive perspective of one man's life in the movies. Remarkably gorgeous for a simple, uncluttered film shot in grainy period black & white.  

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Seamus McGarvey

A movie that drenches you in blood & violence without showing any actual violence & precious little blood. The colour red refuses to leave the Khatchadourian family alone, while Kevin's expressive eating habits take on a disturbing life of their own. Seamus McGarvey's camera brings director Lynne Ramsay's vision to life.

Honourable mentions:

Jane Eyre - Adriano Goldman

Midnight in Paris - Darius Khondji

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 
- Eduardo Serra

Another Earth - Mike Cahill

Moneyball - Wally Pfeister

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Tree of Life - Review

It's a unique kind of film that attracts a packed art house audience, only to send half of them packing before the end credits roll. The last time I saw so many people leave a cinema was when Closer wasn't quite the Julia Roberts Rom Com a lot of old ladies clearly expected. But The Tree of Life's divisive nature is on a different level: those that left apparently found in unbearable, but those that stayed loved it. Perhaps it's Brad Pitt's name on the poster that draws in audiences that clearly have no prior knowledge of the film, but I don't remember the same response (in either attracting or repelling audiences) to Pitt's Assassination of Jesse James.

Cinema-going experience aside, The Tree of Life is without a doubt one of the year's most unmissable cinematic experiences. And it really should be experienced on the big screen. It may be self indulgent and taxing, but its dizzyingly realised scope & ambitions put it in a class of its own. You could watch it purely as a two hour audio-visual experience and be mesmerised, but there's also a wonderful story (or something like it) if you're willing to take it for what it is and be swept along with its stream of consciousness meditations on childhood, loss, death, creation, God, justice, nature and grace, all built around an urban business man's recollections of his suburban 1950s childhood, the moments that shaped his world view and the impact of his parents - his gracious, gentle, open-hearted mom and his loving but harsh and fundamentally disappointed dad.

With bar-setting camerawork from Emmanuel Lubezki, and a classical Alexandre Desplat score to match, the film is already a masterclass in cinema, but its a marvel that Mallick managed to put his impressionistic ambitions to paper in the first place and that his team of editors managed to put it all together. The special effects team take in lengthy sequences charting the creation of the Universe and episodes with dinosaurs that are not only beautiful, but slyly show that it's not always the fittest that survive.

Lending the film its weight and lasting impact, however, is the strong cast, both young & old, Oscar winning & unknown. Brad Pitt & Jessica Chastain create captivating characters while embodying adult Jack's memories & Mallick's themes of Nature and Grace. The child cast, led by the exceptional Hunter McCracken, is uniformly gritty, complex and real, much to Mallick's credit. Only Sean Penn wanders somewhat aimlessly through the present-day scenes (& fantasy climax), but as an actor his angst is effortlessly convincing & what he lacks in definition, Emmanuel Lubezki more than makes up for with the camera work that surrounds him.

Manically ambitious, unique & unmissable.

Film Music of 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

From sparse, eerie pianos that know all the evil in Lisbeth Salander's world to restrained sonic landscapes layered with industrial noises & looping rythms, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross's score for Fincher's latest is clearly distinct from their Oscar winning (& Hanz Zimmer beating) Social Network score, & fits Fincher's new film like a black latex glove. A bold, ambient electro metal score that is gloomy, mesmerising &, when it needs to be, truly unsettling.     

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Alberto Iglesias

Rich, classy & atmospheric, Alberto Iglesias' score perfectly compliments the reserved intruigue of Tomas Alfredson's masterfully detailed film. The jazzy horns nearly bumped it to first place.

The Chemical Brothers 
(Tom Rowlands & Ed Simons)

The grinding beats for the fight & chase scenes are easiest to remember, with good reason, but the Chemical Brothers' score for Joe Wright's coming-of-age thriller is far more than a thumping electro score cut to action sequences (although there's nothing wrong with that). The clip above includes two good examples of the score's more haunting, thematic parts: the lullaby vocals & baby mobile chimes of Hanna's Theme evoke Hanna's coming of age in a world of wonder & danger, while The Devil is in the Details channels the sound of a theme park carousel on its last legs to capture the film's demented fairy tale theme. A diverse, exciting score.

The Tree of Life
Alexandre Desplat

An epic, impressionist score for an epic, impressionist film that takes in family, childhood, dinosaurs, God, the universe & everything.
Cliff Martinez

The perfect score for the year's slickest film: smooth urban beats channeling the slick artifice of the 80s while building an undercurrent of romance, tension and real feeling. Compared to Martinez's also excellent Contagion score, its the restrained atmospherics of Drive that really impress. Give this clip, for example, at least a minute to kick off, and two to really impress. Retro synth pop tunes from College, Electric Youth, Lovefox & Desire don't hurt either. 

The Artist
Ludovic Bource

A score that spans the film's full running time & speaks on behalf of its characters, channelling Hollywood circa 1930. Despite Kim Novak's accusations that the romatic themes ripped off Bernard Herrman's classic Vertigo score, this is still an epic, massively charming & effectively nostalgic achievement. 

Hans Zimmer

Inventive, playful, occasionally raucous Mexican flavoured western score.

Jane Eyre
Dario Marianelli

Weighty, brooding pianos & soaring strings to match Jane's hidden passion & heavy heart.

The Adventures of Tin Tin
John Williams

Like a brisk stroll down a cobbled European street suddenly diverting into an unexpected adventure: a playful, adventurer's score with jazzy basslines & interesting instrumentation.

Take Shelter
David Wingo

A minimal, mysterious score of ambience, dissonance & rhythmic bell sounds, reflecting the eerie uncertainty at the core of Take Shelter and building up to an emotionally epic climax.

Near Misses:
Hugo - Howard Shore
Moneyball - Mychael Danna
Another Earth - Fall on Your Sword
The Descendants - Various

Drive - Review

Much like this year's unlikely Oscar juggernaut, Drive is a stylised character study set in the world of movie-making, drenched in nostaligia & paying homage to genre films of a a bygone era by aping their style, with music doing the talking for a (mostly) silent character. But, like the praise inevitably afforded to any above average biographic performance, Drive goes beyond mere mimicry.

The setup is classic B-grade: an enigmatic Hollywood stunt driver moonlights as a criminal getaway driver. He lives a safely isolated existence, controlled by a strict set of cool sounding rules, until he falls for the girl next door & gets caught up in a battle of wits with ruthless gangsters & ex-Hollywood producers; but Nicolas Winding Refn's execution is pure, candy-coated style with flashes of jarring violence & characters that somehow breathe human inside their genre universe.

Of Gosling's three starring roles this year, Drive is by far his most exciting, taking in the legendary cool of Steve McQueen and the character intensity of a young DeNiro. It's an iconic, uber cool addition to his already diverse & impressive resume, while the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent, edgy & left field: Albert Brooks stands out as a charismatic, oddly considerate, often jovial, but ultimately deadly gangster & Carey Mulligan is utterly beguiling as the sweet but damaged girl next door but even Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks & Bryan Cranston bring distinct vitality to their small parts.

Cannes winning director Nicolas Winding Refn goes for broke, steeping every frame with distinct  atmosphere, pace & slick 80s cool. His plot unwinds slowly, tightly & ultimately explosively, washed in slickly detailed sets & outfits, lush lighting & photography, slow fading edits & Cliff Martinez's unashamedly electro-awesome score. Winding Refn has made a film that effectively reflects its enigmatic central character: immaculately groomed, low on words, a bit strange, quietly human & occasionally ultra violent.

A carefully personalised piece of genre film making & a welcome addition to 2011's Best Of list.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Total Recall - then & now

Instead of posting the trailer for the Total Recall remake, I am posting Movie Bytes' comparison of the old & new versions. Because; this woman is more awesome than Arnie & Colin Farrell put together:

To Rome With Love - Trailer

With 44 movies in 46 years - & (with the exception of 1981) a film a year since 1977 - Woody Allen's prolificity never ceases to amaze, although it does result in him making at least as many terrible films as he does brilliant ones. The jury is still out on his latest, a Rome-set, multiple-story romantic comedy.

European love letters (Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris) have served Woody well lately &, even though it is threatening to feel gimmicky, there is reason to hope that To Rome with Love will be vintage lighthearted Woody.

The movie reunites him with Judy Davis (how did she lose her Husbands & Wives Oscar to Marisa Tomei in that movie?!), Penelope Cruz, sprawling casts & multiple story lines & initiates two new faces that seem very well suited to the Allen universe: Ellen Page & Jesse Eisenberg. Cruz's sweet-natured hooker & Allen's strange insistence on perpetuating the college jock fantasy of bi-curious sexy girls seem a bit obvious, but generally I am ready to be convinced that this will be good, decently smart fun.

Take This Waltz - Trailer

Fantastic. The bittersweet melancholy of everyday life. Sarah Polley confirms herself as a young director with something to say and Michelle Williams, miles from the glamour of My Week with Marilyn, looks exceptional.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - Trailer

Steve Carell & Keira Knightley are an odd pairing, but so were Steve Carell & Juliette Binoche. Not at all necessarily a bad thing. With Patton Oswalt, Connie Britton, Melanie Lynskey & Gillian Jacobs along for the ride, hopefully Focus Features makes the best of a cute idea.