Thursday, May 24, 2012

Skyfall Teaser

The big question is "but can Sam Mendes direct action?". The Skyfall teaser would suggest yes. Everything else should be slickly in place. Let the first Bond with a title not penned by Ian Fleming commence!

The Master. Will be. Amazing.

This teaser for PT Anderson's The Master confirms many things: Jonny Greenwood's score is going to be amazing; the combination of Mihai Malaimare Jr's cinematography, Leslie Jones & McNulty's editing & Paul Thomas Anderson is going to be amazing. Joaquin Phoenix is going to be amazing. And we already knew Philip Seymour Hoffman is going to be amazing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Prometheus - fever pitch

At this point, Prometheus has done such a good job preparing us for its arrival, with a series of smart viral teasers, it better live up to the hype.

Here're two more.

Noomi Rapace:

And a hopefully misleadingly straight forward, short, interview with Charlize Theron, currently only on imdb -

It's Meryl vs Viola, again

Meryl Streep reunites with Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel for a relationship comedy opposite Tommy Lee Jones, and everyone is already thinking "Oscar". Fair enough, it is Meryl Streep. Comparatively, this fits in alongside One True Thing, but minus the cancer and plus Something's Gotta Give's middle-aged  sexuality. Are you ready to see Meryl almost do bad things to a banana? I could be more excited if it had a less abysmal title that hadn't already been used once too often.

With another terrible title and potentially wearying premise, Viola Davis continues her bid for an Oscar with Won't Back Down, the story of a determined teacher and mother who risk everything to change their children's inner city school. Davis plays every inspirational teacher ever while Maggie Gyllenhaal does her take on Erin Brockovich-y feistiness. There is reason to hope for more than teeth-gritting sincerity though, as it's made by intriguing Phoebe in Wonderland writer / director Daniel Barnz and co-stars the always great Holly Hunter.

Way too soon to say Oscar, but people are saying it anyway and why not? Being nominated is at least 60% about popularity & marketing.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Killing Them Softly - Preview

Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a thing of masterful beauty, and not just because of Roger Deakins' Oscar-snubbed work - the elegaic old-school pace, the swoon-worthy cinematic indulgences, every single great performance, the detailed characters, crying cowboys, all of it - just brilliant.

So there is every reason to be very very excited about his latest project, Brad Pitt starring heist-gone-wrong thriller Killing them Softly. Co-starring James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins and introduced by the enticing clip below:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Master - Preview

A charismatic intellectual (who may or may not be based entirely on L Ron Hubbard) starts a popular American cult after surviving WWII. A young drifter becomes his right-hand man. Presumably things don't end all that well.

To be honest, the premise for Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, The Master, is not overly enticing. But everything else about it is. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the cult leader, Joaquin Phoenix is his wing man, Amy Adams and Laura Dern are along for the ride, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood makes the music again and, obviously, Paul Thomas Anderson writes & directs. No further explanation needed. I'm there.

PT Anderson has yet to make a bad movie, or one not distinctly a PT Anderson original (even when channeling Scorsese - directly - and Altman - loosely - in Boogie Nights & Magnolia, respectively). His first three films took in huge, sprawling, brilliant casts playing out complex multiple story lines. His last two, and now The Master, are oddball character studies ranging from the cute and quirky (Punch Drunk Love) to the deeply eccentric (There Will Be Blood). Time will tell exactly where The Master lies (and just how offended the Church of Scientology should reportedly be) but following There Will Be Blood, there is no doubt Anderson is a filmmaker working at the top of his game. We should have much to look forward to.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Gangster Squad - Trailer

Sean Penn. Josh Brolin. Ryan Gosling. Emma Stone. 1940s Los Angeles Gangsters.
Should add up to pretty awesome.

From Zombieland director, Ruben Fleischer, this seems possibly a touch over-stylised, so perhaps adjust expectations from "great" to "entertaining". More sharp suits, though. And guns.

Wish they had cut back on Sean Penn's make up. It's all I notice in any of his scenes.

Argo - Trailer

Ben Affleck's third outing as director is Argo a bit of a Hollywood farce, a bit of a political drama and incidentally based on a true story. 

His debut, Gone Baby Gone was a good story well told that deserved to be seen more. His sophomore effort, The Town, was a smart mix of action, drama & interesting characters that almost made it to the Oscar race. The 70s setting of Argo should fit his unfussy, thoughtful storytelling well, and means that, at the very least, there will cool suits and cool beards. 

On another note, John Goodman seems to be cornering the market for playing period Hollywood film producers. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Anna Karenina will be gorgeous

Atonement lenser Seamus McGarvey & composer Dario Marianelli are back on board for Joe Wright's Anna Karenina so we know that, at the very least, it will look & sound gorgeous.

Joe Wright brought an interesting creative vision to both Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, so it will be interesting to see what he brings to Anna Karenina.

The Hunger Games - Review

Being the first in the inevitable trilogy based on Suzanne Collins' massively successful teen novels, comparisons to the increasingly abysmal Twilight films are inevitable. But unfair. Other than the fanatic tween following, deer hunting in the woods, a tricky teenage love triangle and the presence of semi-wolves, The Hunger Games is thankfully anything but Twilight.

There is more cause for reservation in the film's premise - a daring mix of Survivor, 1984, Winter’s Bone and The Truman Show, with a healthy dose of the Occupy Movement thrown in for good measure - which involves teenagers hunting and killing each other in a dystopian future.

It's far from senselessly violent, though - following a violent uprising where thirteen worker districts rebelled against the elite Capitol in a post-Apocalyptic North America, the vulnerable-feeling, but victorious, Capitol implements the "Hunger Games", an annual televised competition intended to keep the Districts in their place with a combination of intimidation and just a sliver of hope. Each year, each district must offer up one boy & one girl between 12 – 18 to fight to the death for glory, food  & supplies for their district. The Games have become the ultimate reality show for the idle Capital in which the Districts must compete whole-heartedly, simply because the stakes are so high.

Katniss Everdeen finds herself competing in the games when she volunteers to protect her sensitive younger sister. To give more away would be unfair, but suffice it to say that The Hunger Games is miles from the emo-idiocy of the Twilight series. Though the premise at times tests the limits of disbelief, it is nonetheless heartfelt, intelligent and frequently imaginative.

And, thankfully, Katniss is the polar opposite of Twilight's Bella Swan. Where Bella’s story seems to teach girls to be massively over-aware of their feelings and willing to compromise everything for the love of an emotionally underdeveloped 200 year old boy, Katniss is a genuine role model that teaches young girls that they can kick ass for the right reasons. Katniss altars the rules of the game, and possibly far more, by holding on to her humanity, compassion and selfless generosity even when she is told to preserve her own life at all costs.

Initially, Jennifer Lawrence is in very similar territory to her Oscar nominated Ree from Winter’s Bone, summoning her courage to feed and protect her younger siblings, but Katniss’s courage and defiance is far quieter and gentler than Ree's, and her journey is quite different. Somehow, though, Lawrence lets the similarity enhance, rather than dilute, the impact of her performance. She plays Katniss with a conviction and thoughtfulness that quietly draws you into Katniss’ inner world and makes you feel her journey every step of the way.

Director Gary Ross also helps elevates the film, mostly, above its teen trappings with memorable sets - from the earthy squalor of District 12 to the glitzy excesses of the Capitol, all with a slickly modern take on vintage 1950s style - smart camera work and editing that is always on the move, keeping you dizzyingly amidst the action, but cutting away right before suggestion would give way to gore, and effective performances from his cast, old and young, known and unknown, but his most important contribution is a commitment to the heart of his characters above the spectacle. Once the games begin, Katniss is never safe and the decisions she needs to make feel extremely human. Even head jock from District 1 gets a moment to be tragically human.

An intense, thoughtful thrill ride that mostly transcends its teen-lit origins and serves as a sobering reminder that it never bodes well to indulge a financial elite at the expense of the other.