Thursday, August 30, 2007

I must say I had high hopes for this one, because it is directed by Stranger than Fiction scribe and promising new talent, Zach Helm, features Dustin Hoffman in an eccentric role, and has a musical score composed by Alexandre Desplat. Alas, Desplat has left the project (but he has left it in capable hands, Patrick Doyle [Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire] was hired to take his place) due to scheduling conflicts (he's also composing the scores to Ang Lee's Lust, Caution and the children's fantasy epic The Golden Compass), and from the looks of this trailer, the film is going to be almost panderingly childish.

I hope I'm wrong, but this isn't promising:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ulrich Mühe (pictured above), the star of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's masterful Oscar winner The Lives of Others (still by far the best film I have seen this year), died suddenly of stomach cancer on July 22nd at age 54. Recently, Entertainment Weekly sat down with Von Donnersmarck to discuss Mühe's extraordinary performance:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Looking at Mühe's other films, like Costra-Gavras' Amen (about Pope Pius XII's relationship with the Nazis during WWII) and your film, it seemed like the actor favored movies that made large political statements.
FLORIAN HENCKEL VON DONNERSMARCK: He said that the role of art is not just to leave people at peace, it's really to get them to think and to feel and to realize what an exciting thing life is.

The Lives of Others was your first film. How did a relatively unknown director like you get Mühe (a vet who'd also done movies for Michael Haneke) to join the cast?
Well, the thing is, he really liked my screenplay. He interviewed me for several hours to see if I was up to directing my own script! How much I knew about all the details of the GDR [German Democratic Republic]. So he actually took out his own Stasi files that he had claimed and put them in front of him.

When did you know that he'd take the role?
He asked me, ''Okay, you've written a screenplay where this person is in an attic for the duration of two hours and he's moved all the time by everything he hears — how do you act that?'' I said to him, ''I don't think you act it at all.'' And then he said, ''Okay, I'll do it.''

Monday, August 27, 2007

I recently participated in a poll of movie bloggers from Daily Film Dose to create a list of the 100 greatest American films as an answer to the much contested AFI list. Here is my ballot,in chronological order, and while I probably overlooked a few films, I think it's pretty complete. Bear in mind these are just American films, so there are a lot of great foreign films that were ineligible.

  1. The Birth Of A Nation
  2. Intolerance
  3. All Quiet On The Western Front
  4. Dracula
  5. Frankenstein
  6. Freaks
  7. Footlight Parade
  8. King Kong
  9. Modern Times
  10. Bringing Up Baby
  11. Destry Rides Again
  12. Gone With The Wind
  13. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
  14. The Wizard Of Oz
  15. Rebecca
  16. Citizen Kane
  17. Sullivan's Travels
  18. Casablanca
  19. Mildred Pierce
  20. It's A Wonderful Life
  21. Sunset Boulevard
  22. Ace In The Hole
  23. Singin' In The Rain
  24. From Here To Eternity
  25. Shane
  26. Rear Window
  27. All That Heaven Allows
  28. The Night Of The Hunter
  29. The Searchers
  30. Sleeping Beauty
  31. Psycho
  32. The Longest Day
  33. The Manchurian Candidate
  34. To Kill A Mockingbird
  35. The Birds
  36. The Great Escape
  37. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
  38. Mary Poppins
  39. The Sound Of Music
  40. Cool Hand Luke
  41. The Graduate
  42. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  43. Midnight Cowboy
  44. Little Big Man
  45. M*A*S*H*
  46. Patton
  47. A Clockwork Orange
  48. Cabaret
  49. The Godfather
  50. The Exorcist
  51. Last Tango In Paris
  52. Young Frankenstein
  53. Jaws
  54. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  55. All The President's Men
  56. Network
  57. Taxi Driver
  58. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
  59. Killer of Sheep
  60. Star Wars
  61. The Deer Hunter
  62. Halloween
  63. Alien
  64. Apocalypse Now
  65. The Empire Strikes Back
  66. The Shining
  67. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  68. Sophie's Choice
  69. Amadeus
  70. Blue Velvet
  71. Platoon
  72. The Untouchables
  73. Rain Man
  74. Batman
  75. Dances With Wolves
  76. Goodfellas
  77. The Silence Of The Lambs
  78. Unforgiven
  79. Jurassic Park
  80. Schindler's List
  81. Pulp Fiction
  82. Braveheart
  83. Titanic
  84. Saving Private Ryan
  85. American Beauty
  86. The Sixth Sense
  87. Gladiator
  88. Gosford Park
  89. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
  90. Moulin Rouge
  91. Mulholland Drive
  92. The Hours
  93. The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
  94. The Pianist
  95. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
  96. Brokeback Mountain
  97. Good Night, And Good Luck.
  98. Munich
  99. Children of Men
  100. Flags of Our Fathers

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weekend box office estimates:

1. Superbad - $18,000,000
2. The Bourne Ultimatum - $12,361,000
3. Rush Hour 3 - $12,250,000
4. Mr. Bean's Holiday - $10,121,000
5. WAR - $10,000,000
6. The Nanny Diaries - $7,811,000
7. The Simpsons Movie - $4,400,000
8. Stardust - $3,954,000
9. Hairspray (2007) - $3,450,000
10. The Invasion - $3,140,000

Source: Box Office Mojo

The dorky teenagers of Superbad conquered the weekend box office once again, while international hit Mr. Bean's Holiday wasn't as big as it was overseas, despite being the top opener of the weekend, topping out at #4, leading other debuts WAR and The Nanny Diaries at #5 and #6 respectively.
This new restricted trailer for Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (which is an awkward title, since they've made Alien plural), is surprisingly not bad.

And by "not bad" I mean not as mind numbingly awful as the original Alien vs. Predator, which is one of the worst movies I've seen in the last 10 years.

Having the redband trailer at least shows they're not toning the series down to total silliness like the last one, which was rated a toothless PG-13, did.

It will be released on Christmas interesting programming choice. Of this year's Christmas Day offerings, I'm most interested in Mike Nichols' Charlie Wilson's War.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Kubrick hated humans. This hate for his own kind is the ground upon which his cinema stands. As is made apparent by 2001: A Space Odyssey, his contempt was deep.

It went from the elegant surface of our space-faring civilization down, down, down to the bottom of our natures, the muck and mud of our animal instincts, our ape bodies, our hair, guts, hunger, and grunts. No matter how far we go into the future, into space, toward the stars, we will never break with our first and violent world. Even the robots we create, our marvelous machines, are limited (and undone) by our human emotions, pressures, primitive drives. For Kubrick, we have never been modern.

"I'm in a world of shit," says Private Joker at the end of Kubrick's unremittingly dark Vietnam War film, Full Metal Jacket. That is what Kubrick has to say about the state of everything: The world is shit, humans are shit in shit, life is worth shit, and there is nothing else that can be done about the situation. In Kubrick's movies, progress, sustained enlightenment, and moral improvement are impossible because the powers of reason, love, and religion are much weaker than the forces of generation and degeneration, desire and destruction, sex and death.

Because the world is nothing but shit, the ideal Kubrickian subject must have very low standards and no high hopes. In short, he must be like Barry Lyndon: a man who goes from situation to situation with no particular aim or goal in mind. One moment he is on this side of a war; the next he is on the other side of it. One moment he is rich; the next he is poor. The way the world goes, he goes with it. If he finds happiness, he takes it without question; if trouble appears, he flees from it without hesitation. And if someone is dead or in pain, he always says to himself: "Better you than me." That is the best a human can do in what Kubrick pictured as the worst of all possible worlds.

Please mark your calendars now. Beginning September 17, 2007, you can enter a random online drawing to be a fan in the bleacher seats flanking the red carpet at the 80th Academy Awards. The date of the 80th Academy Awards is Sunday, February 24, 2008. The event will be in Hollywood, California at the Kodak Theatre.

A random drawing to determine who will be sitting in the red carpet bleachers will be conducted online at Registration for this drawing will begin on Monday, September 17, 2007, at 12 noon PT. All selections will be based upon the random drawing. Last year thousands of fans applied for only a few hundred bleacher seats. These seats are highly coveted and limited in quantity. Unfortunately, we can not accommodate everyone, so please sign up quickly and accurately. Good luck!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

From Variety:

The MPAA has given Ang Lee's Toronto-bound "Lust, Caution" an NC-17 rating and Focus Features has accepted it.

The erotic espionage thriller, co-written by Focus CEO James Schamus and Wang Hui Ling, will bow in Gotham on Sept. 28, as skedded, and expand to additional markets Oct. 5.

Based on Eileen Change's short story about a shy Chinese drama student drawn into an assassination plot against a Japanese collaborator during WWII, the Chinese-language pic stars Tony Leung and newcomer Tang Wei.

Schamus said the specialty label accepts the rating without protest.

"As with so many of his previous films, Oscar-winning director Ang Lee has crafted a masterpiece about and for grown-ups, Schamus said.

Click here to read the full story.

I didn't expect Lee's follow-up to Brokeback Mountain to break the bank at the box office, unlike his last foreign language film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did back in 2000. But the NC-17 really puts a damper on its marketability, since many theaters refuse to show films with that rating, and many newspapers and magazines will not run their ads.

However, credit must be given to Focus for not bowing to convention and having Lee cut his film to get an R rating.

It seems as if there is still some artistic integrity in this world after all.

Here's the trailer:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

1. Superbad - $33,052,411
2. Rush Hour 3 - $21,353,361
3. The Bourne Ultimatum - $19,874,370
4. The Simpsons Movie - $6,829,648
5. The Invasion - $5,951,409
6. Stardust - $5,651,343
7. Hairspray (2007) - $4,502,455
8. Underdog - $3,848,791
9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - $3,656,379
10. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry - $3,601,545

Source: Box Office Mojo

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Can a movie change your life?

I just got finished watching God Grew Tired of Us, the award-winning documentary by Christopher Dillon Quinn and Tommy Walker on DVD, and I don't remember the last time I was so deeply moved, uplifted, and called to action by a film.

The film chronicles the lives of several members of the Lost Boys of Sudan - who escaped civil war in Sudan, and wandered in the wilderness for years before settling in a Kenyan refugee camp, and are relocated to America to start a new life.

But their journey out of Sudan is only part of the story. Once relocated to America, leaving their family and friends behind, they are forced to adjust to a strange new culture and find ways to support their families, many without the knowledge that their families are still alive. Yet they treat each new obstacle with an optimism and bravery that is nothing short of inspiring. And they are not the only ones, there are still thousands left in Africa, having seen horrific acts of death and torture at the hands of the Sudanese government, and are now packed into refugee camps with barely enough food to sustain themselves.

The film is a powerful work, being at once tragic, humorous, poignant, and ultimately uplifting. It is a must see for anyone with a heart.

You can view the trailer here:

And visit or

They need all the help we can give.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Killer of Sheep, the little-seen 1977 masterpiece by Charles Burnett, which is making its first ever theatrical run, is set for two more screenings in North Carolina, one at The Light Factory in Charlotte from August 24 - 26, and another at Duke University in Durham on September 25. Burnett himself will be in attendance in Charlotte.

I reviewed the film shortly after its first NC screening in Winston-Salem back in June, and had this to say:

With its rough, unpolished style, slightly muffled sound and grainy black-and-white cinematography, “Killer of Sheep” becomes a kind of historical document, a snapshot of a specific place and time that honestly could have taken place anywhere at any time. And in doing so, it opens up a kind of window to ourselves. This is life, in all of its ugly messiness and quiet glory. These are the small moments, the ones most movies never show. This is life as it is actually lived. How many movies ever dare to show life at its most mundane?

Yet those are the moments that Burnett embraces, as Stan relishes the warmth of a coffee cup against his face, children playing games on the street, commonplace thievery, getting a flat tire or just loading up a pickup truck, all intercut with the never-ending slaughter of the sheep. And even with a cast of unprofessional actors, “Killer of Sheep” is always vibrantly alive and unflinchingly real.

Don't miss your chance to see one of cinema's forgotten treasures on the big screen for the first time.

Check out the trailer here:

Some film stills from Christopher Nolan's upcoming Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight have been leaked and posted on C.H.U.D.

Not bad so far, but it's still not Jack Nicholson (I just rewatched the Batman DVD for the first time in years...and was stunned all over again by Nicholson's amazing performance). Only time will tell.

Thanks to Awards Daily for posting the link.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

For my readers in Lexington, Once, one of the year's most unique and talked about films, has finally opened in the area, at Greensboro's Carousel Cinemas.

Do yourself a favor and go see this film.

From my review:
Watching "Once" is like a shot of adrenaline to the heart in a summer filled with bland and soulless studio product. It redefines and revolutionizes cinema in much the same way as Jean Luc Godard's groundbreaking "Breathless" did in 1960, with its shaky camera-work and jumpy editing, juxtaposed with observant long takes and contemplative pacing. Hansard and Irglova command the screen like a modern-day Irish version of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, with an unassuming and ultimately chaste sexiness that is only enhanced by the film's pared-down, unpolished production values. They are two of the most real, soulful characters cinema has seen in a long time.

The same goes for the film's story, which acknowledges the mysteries of love and the unpredictability of human connection - that things don't always turn out perfectly. Like Bob and Charlotte in Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation," the characters of "Once" forge an all too brief but profoundly deep connection that is beautiful in its simplicity and its ultimate reality.

Carney has captured something wise and beautiful here, and he is aided tremendously by the stunning songs written by Hansard and Irglova themselves, which recalls the work of Damien Rice with its lovely Irish lilting tinged with acoustic-driven modern folk. The pivotal "Falling Slowly" is quite simply one of the best love songs by anyone in years and is a major front-runner for Oscar consideration in the Best Original Song category.

The same could be said for the film itself, of course. I can't remember the last romance that has been so affecting and deeply felt, especially one that doesn't even feature so much as a peck on the cheek. "Once" expresses its feelings through its music, making for a skillful and highly original work of art. Carney navigates the complicated waters of human emotions with a simple and steady hand that leaves an indelible impression on the mind and the heart.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Disclaimer posted on
Warner Bros. Pictures acknowledges and regrets that a number of the music cues for the score of "300" were, without our knowledge or participation, derived from music composed by Academy Award winning composer Elliot Goldenthal for the motion picture "Titus." Warner Bros. Pictures has great respect for Elliot, our longtime collaborator, and is pleased to have amicably resolved this matter."

It's about time this blatant act of plagiarism was publically acknowleged. Kudos to Warners for owning up.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott remembers Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni:
BY an awful and uncanny coincidence — the kind of occurrence that, in a movie, would have to be taken as symbolic lest it seem altogether preposterous —Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman died on the same day. Since Mr. Bergman was 89 and Mr. Antonioni 94, neither man’s death came as much of a shock, but the simultaneity was startling. Not only because they were both great filmmakers, but more because, in their prime, Mr. Antonioni and Mr. Bergman were seen as the twin embodiments of the idea that a filmmaker could be, without qualification or compromise, a great artist.

Click here to read the entire article.