Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Mark will recieve a copy of the film's official poster from Warner Brothers.
Thanks to all who entered, and check back for more promotional contests in the future.
A writers' strike may be upon us, but that hasn't slowed Sony's plans for Spider-Man 4. James Vanderbilt, the writer behind David Fincher's gritty thriller Zodiac, has been hired to pen the script for the new Spidey installment. (Vanderbilt may not be able to write during the strike, but the WGA can't stop him from thinking, right?) It's unknown whether Sam Raimi will direct the four-quel, but he's likely to be involved in some way. The studio is scheduling the film for a 2009 release.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The ‘Saw’ horror films have been voted scarier than the horror classic The Exorcist.
The series, which has just spawned its fourth film, tells the story of an evil torturer who puts his victims through a set of horrific moral and physical trials to see if they have the will or the wit to survive.
In one sequence, a man must cut the key to a booby trap from behind his eye with a scalpel before he is killed.
At this present time, the series sits at the top of the poll for MSN Movies, garnering 17pc of the votes over the Exorcist’s 16pc.
The Exorcist, made in 1973, tells the tale of a young girl possessed by a demon. It remains notorious today for its blasphemy, visceral horror and depiction of a child swearing and performing a sex act with a crucifix.
The Shining is currently in third place with 14%.
Really? Saw is scarier than The Exorcist? Than The Shining? Than Alien? Than Halloween? One has to wonder what these people are thinking. The Saw series isn't scary. It's bloody. There's a difference.
Are audiences just getting dumber? Seriously...what happened to scary films that truly frightened, that truly got under your skin? The Exorcist and The Shining played with your mind, they were intelligent films that were scary because they took the time to tap into something primal.
Saw films just throw gore on the screen and assume grossing us out is the same thing as scaring us. And audiences are dumb enough to be fooled.
It's just another sign at how low filmmaking, and in turn our culture, has sunk.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The winner will be announced on Wednesday, October 31, the first anniversary of From the Front Row.
That doesn't stop Berry from being stunning in the role of Audrey Burke, a widow grieving the tragic death of her husband (David Duchovny) who takes in her husband's heroin addicted best friend Jerry (Benicio Del Toro, in yet another great performance) in an effort to finish the work her husband started, but also to fill a void in her life where her husband once was.
It all makes for an acting showcase for those involved, but the final product is little more than a soap opera. Berry and Del Toro are both wonderful, and deserve all the praise they can get for their performances. Del Toro's performance is nothing short of remarkable. His portrait of drug addiction is one of the most harrowing I've seen, and Berry's grieving wife and mother is just as powerful. But Things We Lost in the Fire is dull, plodding, and aimless. If it weren't for them there would be little redeeeming about it. I kept waiting for the commercials and proclamations of it being a "Lifetime Original Movie."
I wanted to like it, I really did. A film that is so masterfully acted should be better than this. But it's not. It is a predictable retread of so many films that have come before it...many that were made for TV. Which is where this belongs.
Every plot development is spotted a mile away, partly out of inevitability but also out of cliche. Bier attempts to create a naturalistic, slice-of-life character piece - but the result is just boring and unfocused.
The supporting cast, however, is also top notch, especially Alexis Llewellyn and Micah Berry (Halle's real life son) as Audrey's children.Things We Lost in the Fire is not a horrible movie, but it just goes nowhere. And it could have been so much more. Despite terrific performances, the film sinks without ever developing its own personality. It may very well be the worst well-acted movie of the year.
GRADE - **
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE; Directed by Susanne Bier; Stars Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny, Alexis Llewellyn, Micah Berry, John Caroll Lynch, Alison Lohman; Rated R for drug content and language
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The most impressive aspect of Gone Baby Gone, however, is its startling moral ambiguity. Especially for Affleck's maiden film as a director, Gone Baby Gone is infused with a nagging moral complexity that makes it fascinating to contemplate and impossible forget. This is the kind of film that stays with you for days, that sparks immediate discussion. And it raises legitimate issues of right and wrong that stubbornly refuses to be black and white. It exists firmly in shades of gray where nothing is what it seems and no question has a right answer.
And it never feels forced or contrived. Affleck navigates the gritty underworld of Boston like he has known it his whole life, and the questions stem from eerily plausible situations.
By the time the film ends, we are left with a nagging sense of melancholy, our heads filled with "what ifs" and "what would I do?" That is the mark of great filmmaking, when the audience is forced to insert itself into the film and identify with the main character. Gone Baby Gone is no easy film to watch, it is a thinking man's piece that demands attention and reflection. But it is all the more rewarding for it. Ben Affleck has proven himself to be a skilled director, here's hoping this is a harbinger of great things to come.
GRADE - ***½
Directed by Ben Affleck; Stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton, Amy Ryan; Rated R for violence, drug content and pervasive language
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Set in a remote Alaskan town where the sun will not rise for 30 days, plunging the town into perpetual darkness, 30 Days of Night follows Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) and his estranged wife, Stella (Melissa George), who find themselves faced with a town overrun by bloodthirsty vampires after the arrival of a mysterious stranger (Ben Foster) on the last day of daylight.
I'll admit I was intrigued by the premise, and the film's poster is one of the most striking and gutsy horror movie posters of recent years. But the resulting film doesn't really work on any level. It is riddled with plot holes and glaring leaps in logic, and its gigantic leaps in time through the titular 30 days makes little sense. What could have been a genuinely creepy film ends up being ridiculous and downright silly due to poor structure, an even weaker script, and ludicrous, non-sensical plot twists.
Although, just like in Hard Candy before it, I admire Slade's use of light and color. His compositions have a stark beauty to them, but the problem is that Hard Candy was shot-for-shot a vastly scarier film than 30 Days of Night. 30 Days may deliver the blood and gore, but Hard Candy remains the single most unnerving film I have seen in the past several years. Here, Slade is hampered by the nearly laughable dialogue and the fact that his film really makes no sense. There is nothing here to distinguish it from any other sub-par outing other than Slade's superior mise-en-scene.
I did however, also admire the performance of Ben Foster as The Stranger. Foster is quickly establishing himself as one of our most interesting character actors, and after his wonderfully despicable turn as Russell Crowe's right hand man in 3:10 to Yuma, he has definitely proven himself as someone to watch. He may not have been in the film very much, but he left a greater impression than nearly any other aspect of the film. I would like to see what he would do with a character that isn't so sleazy.
Slade hasn't made the worst horror film ever made. There have probably been more truly wretched works in this genre than any other in cinema history (except for maybe science-fiction). But he didn't make one that distinguishes itself either. 30 Days of Night is a sadly missed opportunity, a waste of talent on senseless dreck that made even the always welcome Danny Huston as the vampire leader look silly.
Hard Candy demonstrated Slade's talent and skill at creating tension. 30 Days of Night looks totally inept by comparison, which may have a lot to do with the fact that it was a director-for-hire studio project, and Hard Candy was a more personal independent project. I hope that one day, Slade will make a great film that will make everyone sit up and notice.
30 Days of Night isn't it.
GRADE - *½
30 DAYS OF NIGHT; Directed by David Slade; Stars Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Jonathan Bennett, Ben Foster; Rated R for strong horror violence and language
Monday, October 22, 2007
1. 30 Days of Night - $15,951,902
2. Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married - $12,186,011
3. The Game Plan - $8,178,646
4. Michael Clayton - $6,677,272
5. The Comebacks - $5,554,594
6. Gone Baby Gone - $5,501,406
7. We Own the Night - $5,420,793
8. Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney Digital 3-D - $5,330,101
9. Rendition - $4,060,012
10. The Heartbreak Kid - $3,814,636
Source: Box Office Mojo
Great World of Sound
Craig Zobel, director; Melissa Palmer, David Gordon Green, Richard Wright, Craig Zobel, producers (Magnolia Pictures)
I'm Not There
Todd Haynes, director; Christine Vachon, James D. Stern, John Sloss, John Goldwyn, producers (The Weinstein Company)
Into the Wild
Sean Penn, director; Sean Penn, Art Linson, Bill Pohlad, producers (Paramount
Vantage & River Road Entertainment)
Margot at the Wedding
Noah Baumbach, director; Scott Rudin, producer (Paramount Vantage)
Mira Nair, director; Lydia Dean Pilcher, Mira Nair, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
The Devil Came on Horseback
Annie Sundberg & Ricki Stern, directors; Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg, Gretchen Wallace, Jane Wells, producers (International Film Circuit)
Jimmy Carter Man from Plains
Jonathan Demme, director; Jonathan Demme, Neda Armian, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)
My Kid Could Paint That
Amir Bar-Lev, producer/director (Sony Pictures Classics)
Michael Moore, director; Michael Moore, Meghan O'Hara, producers (The Weinstein Company)
Taxi to the Dark Side
Alex Gibney, director; Alex Gibney, Eva Orner, Susannah Shipman, producers
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris, Ethan Hawke, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brian F. O'Byrne, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, Marisa Tomei (THINKFilm)
The Last Winter
Connie Britton, Kevin Corrigan, Zach Gilford, James LeGros, Ron Perlman (IFC First Take)
Margot at the Wedding
Jack Black, Flora Cross, CiarÃ¡n Hinds, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Zane Pais, John Turturro (Paramount Vantage)
Philip Bosco, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Talk to Me
Cedric the Entertainer, Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mike Epps, Vondie Curtis Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Martin Sheen (Focus Features)
Lee Isaac Chung for "Munyurangabo"
Stephane Gauger for "Owl and the Sparrow"
Julia Loktev for "Day Night Day Night" (IFC First Take)
David Von Ancken for "Seraphim Falls" (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Craig Zobel for "Great World of Sound" (Magnolia Pictures)
Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage)
Kene Holliday in "Great World of Sound" (Magnolia Pictures)
Ellen Page in "Juno" (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Jess Weixler in "Teeth" (Roadside Attractions)
Luisa Williams in "Day Night Day Night" (IFC First Take)
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
August the First
Lanre Olabisi, director; Shawn Alexander, Gabriel "Swede" Sedgwick, Nicky Arzeu Akmal, Lanre Olabisi, producers
Ronald Bronstein, director; Marc Raybin, producer
Chris Fuller, director; Chris Fuller, Frank Craft, Kayla Tabish, producers
John Fiege, director; John Fiege, Anita Grabowski, Victor Moyers, producers
Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa
Jeremy Stulberg & Randy Stulberg, directors; Eric Juhola, Jeremy Stulberg, Randy Stulberg, producers
One day before shooting began, Mark Wahlberg stepped in to replace Ryan Gosling in "The Lovely Bones," the Peter Jackson-directed adaptation of the Alice Sebold novel for DreamWorks.From Slate.com:
Wahlberg has taken the role of Jack Salmon, the grieving father of a young girl. That role was vacated Friday by "Lars and the Real Girl" star Ryan Gosling, who stepped out after gaining 20 pounds and growing a beard for the job. Sources attributed the exit to creative differences.
After reading the script, Wahlberg quickly committed Sunday. He joins Rachel Weisz as a couple whose world is shattered after their daughter is murdered. The girl watches over her family and her killer from heaven. Jackson wrote the script with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.The film begins shooting today in Pennsylvania
Hearing of trouble on The Lovely Bones makes me nervous. It's a difficult enough book to film, but with such a sudden major cast shakeup, there could be problems. Especially if the film is overshadowed by litigation.
Bye-Bye: A strong source tells us that things blew up badly with in The Lovely Bones, the Peter Jackson-directed film based on the Alice Sebold novel. Recall that in May, DreamWorks prevailed in a bidding war by offering a very rich deal to make this film, which tells the story of a child who is raped and murdered. Gosling is out in the role of the child's father, and Mark Wahlberg slid in over the weekend just hours before shooting was set to begin. And apparently, the break with Gosling may lead to litigation, though it's still unclear what the fight was about. Sure seems that DreamWorks has been hitting a few speed bumps lately. The first movie under its own label was The Heartbreak Kid. Things We Lost in the Fire got incinerated over the weekend, opening to $1.6 million. And Kite Runner has been delayed because it put its child stars in danger in Afghanistan. Schadenfreude, Mr. Grey?This would also seem like worrisome timing for Gosling, who got an Oscar nomination for his role in Half Nelson and is getting a fair bit of praise for Lars and the Real Girl. If he's managed to tick off Peter Jackson and DreamWorks honcho Steven Spielberg simultaneously, that could not be considered a good career move.
Alice Sebold's novel is a complete masterpiece, and I would hate to see this ruined. The book had already brought me to tears 3 times before page 100...Jackson's film has a lot to live up to.
In his opinion, Lars and the Real Girl is the second film in a sub-genre he refers to as the "Endearing Potential Serial Killer Comedy," in which the other entry is The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
He goes on to say:
I laughed about one and a half times when I watched [that film]... the jokes seemed lame and forced and the writing was amateurish, but the big problem was that Steve Carell's character just seemed so fucking creepy. That weird, strainedWells says that Antosca is on to something. I think it shows a severe lack of imagination. Nobody ever said the movie was supposed to be realistic. Did he have trouble suspending his disbelief in The Lord of the Rings too? There isn't really any such thing as elves, you know.
stare...that rabbity way of speaking... those little dolls all over his room. I had the distinct feeling that if he got pushed just far enough, he'd snap and put someone in a crawlspace.
Same with Ryan Gosling's moustachioed, vaguely greasy lead character in Lars and the Real Girl. "So Lars is so uncomfortable with human contact that he buys a life-size sex doll made of silicon and weighing as much as a real human to be his girlfriend? Okay. And he brings it to dinner and props it up at the table and calmly talks to it as if it's talking back, to the alarm of the other dinner guests? Okay. And everyone in the small town decides to pretend that the doll is a real person, because they love Lars so much and humoring his delusion is therapeutic?
"The movie treats Lars if he's just a little shy, but the hilarious thing is that he's clearly insane and dangerous. If you're unhinged enough to believe that a mannequin is actually a human, then you're probably unhinged enough to convince yourself that a human is actually a mannequin. And then what would be the problem with, say, chopping its head off?
Lars is "the more extreme version of the suspension-of-disbelief problem, already written about pretty much everywhere, that plagues a lot of recent comedies," Antosca writes. "Catherine Keener and Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin? Dimly plausible...but a stretch. Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up? Good movie, but no way. Emma Stone and the obese, sociopathic Jonah Hill character in Superbad? Never.
"Judd Apatow...please, no more."
Antosca isn't just a little off-base about The 40-Year-Old Virgin. He's dead wrong. Opinion is one thing, but liking it or not liking it isn't the issue here. Anyone who watched that movie and thought that "the jokes seemed lame and forced and the writing was amateurish" clearly wasn't paying attention.
And I've heard about enough complaints about Katherine Heigl's relationship with Seth Rogen in Knocked Up being unbelievable because Rogen isn't attractive enough for her. You can never explain love, and I see plenty of attractive women walking around with unattractive men and vice versa. I don't know what idealistic fantasy world critics of the Heigl/Rogen relationship in Knocked Up are living in, but these things do happen. Wake up and smell the real world.
Besides that, these are movies. Realism is not always essential for a good movie. It never cease to amaze me that people fail to realize this.
Friday, October 19, 2007
This is no run-of-the-mill western. This is a breathtakingly beautiful rumination that totally immerses its audience in a bygone era. As shot with painterly brilliance by Roger Deakins, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is the single most gorgeous film of the year, and the screenplay by Dominick takes minimal dialogue and turns it into pure organic poetry.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Kerr was a great screen presence, and will be missed.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Clayton's ending is much more unexpetedly quiet and thoughtful. For a film that is so distinguished by its whip smart dialogue, to end the film in such a way is a ballsy choice, and it works. It is a complex film that would probably benefit from multiple viewings (I have only seen it once), but it leaves you with so much to contemplate, and actually gives you the time to do so.
Kudos to Gilroy for such excellent work.
1. Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married - $21,500,000
2. The Game Plan - $11,506,000
3. Michael Clayton - $11,010,000
4. We Own the Night - $11,000,000
5. The Heartbreak Kid - $7,425,000
6. Elizabeth: The Golden Age - $6,183,000
7. The Kingdom - $4,566,000
8. Across the Universe - $4,000,000
9. Resident Evil: Extinction - $2,650,000
10. The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising - $2,150,000
Source: Box Office Mojo
After the near riot I saw in Manhattan over a sneak preview of Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married on Wednesday night, its surprise box office victory this weekend doesn't seem so surprising. Perry has a very devoted fan base that carried him past other high profile openers, We Own the Night and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, as well as the expansion of Michael Clayton.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
It wasn't much better inside, as there were people on several floors without tickets trying to get in, to no avail. They were getting pretty rowdy when they closed down escalator and wouldn't allow anyone to go up at all.
I must have understimated the zeal of Tyler Perry fans, but I had no idea the movie would be that popular. I doubt it will inspire such passion across the country, but will be a moderate hit. Perry has a very specific niche market (i.e. African American women), and it will do well with its target audience.
But the point of all this is, despite the riot I had to fight through to see it, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a flat-out masterpiece. It is an essential American western, a film of such lyrical beauty and power that it is far too good for the treatment it is getting. Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood-Elsewhere is calling it the most lauded, worst-treated movie of the year, over the fact that Warner Brothers will not be screening the film for critics in several cities as it begins its slow roll-out into the top 25 markets this Friday.
This is the kind of treatment you give a film you want to hide - i.e. a second-rate horror flick or throwaway kiddie comedy that is going to haul in the family audiences no matter what you do.
This is not the way you treat one of the best films of the year. There has got to be some kind of explanation for this, but I half wonder if the film is just too good. People just don't know what to do with it because it is so above and beyond. After all, Citizen Kane was beaten to death when it was released and look where it is now.
It is a slow-moving film, probably too much so for a chunk of mainstream audiences. And there were a couple of walk-outs in the screening I was in. Which may explain the seeming tentativeness of how to handle the film by Warner Brothers. But if only people knew what they were missing. And they even have Brad Pitt to use as a marketing tool.
This is a movie that deserves to be seen - and I think if people could see it and the word got out there, then maybe people would get out there and see it. The word needs to be spread, it needs to be shouted from the rooftops - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a movie for the ages, a masterpiece without an audience.
It is the best movie that no one is watching.
Don't forget to enter my Jesse James contest, which will be up through October 31.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
...under the surprisingly nimble direction of 85-year-old Alain Resnais, a veteran of the French New Wave (a movement that gave rise to the likes of Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut back in the early '60s), "Private Fears" skillfully avoids any cliché that might have brought it down. If anything, it resembles a less grim version of "Closer," itself a much darker examination of failed relationships, crossed with the upbeat and cheerful "Love Actually." "Private Fears," despite its rather bleak subject matter, is never depressing or hopeless. Resnais has crafted a tender and bittersweet mosaic not just of loneliness but of the unexpected connections we find when we least expect it that have nothing to do with romance. I'm talking, of course, about family and friends - two subjects that often take a back seat to romantic love in the film world.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 3 — The studio distributing “The Kite Runner,” a tale of childhood betrayal, sexual predation and ethnic tension in Afghanistan, is delaying the film’s release to get its three schoolboy stars out of Kabul — perhaps permanently — in response to fears that they could be attacked for their enactment of a culturally inflammatory rape scene.
Ahmad Jaan Mahmoodzada, father of Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada, an actor in “Kite Runner.” Executives at the distributor, Paramount Vantage, are contending with issues stemming from the rising lawlessness in Kabul in the year since the boys were cast.
The boys and their relatives are now accusing the filmmakers of mistreatment, and warnings have been relayed to the studio from Afghan and American officials and aid workers that the movie could aggravate simmering enmities between the politically dominant Pashtun and the long-oppressed Hazara.
In an effort to prevent not only a public-relations disaster but also possible violence, studio lawyers and marketing bosses have employed a stranger-than-fiction team of consultants. In August they sent a retired Central Intelligence Agency counterterrorism operative in the region to Kabul to assess the dangers facing the child actors. And on Sunday a Washington-based political adviser flew to the United Arab Emirates to arrange a safe haven for the boys and their relatives.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
I was introduced to The Cameraman's Revenge in a film class a couple of years ago, and was delighted when I found it on YouTube. Enjoy!
Monday, October 01, 2007
2. No Country for Old Men
3. Charlie Wilson's War
4. American Gangster
5. Into the Wild
6. Sweeny Todd
8. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
t9. There Will Be Blood
t9. The Kite Runner
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and In the Valley of Elah clocked in at # 14 and 15 respectively, and I would rank them both much higher. Definitely above The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and The Kite Runner.
But it's WAY too early. Only time will tell.
Mindful of the sensitivities, Berg has prefaced his film with a three-minute history lesson, a computer-animated sequence that charts Saudi-Western relations from the discovery of oil in the 1930s through to the cataclysmic events of September 11, 2001. At this particular screening, though, as the introduction concludes with the image of an airliner gliding towards the towers and a respectful fade to black, the reverential, pin-drop silence in the cinema is punctured by a gleeful “ba-boom” from the auditorium.
In The Kingdom, the fictitious but very plausible atrocity is the suicide bombing of a compound in Riyadh (similar attacks happened there in 2003), in which the deaths of 100 or so American workers, slaughtered while playing baseball and the like, must be avenged, if not judicially, then at the point of one of Mann’s beloved M16s. Of course, its makers deny any John Wayne leanings. “It’s not a jingoistic Team America Destroys Paris movie,” defends Mann. Neither is it, adds Berg, “a bloodthirsty, pro-American sense of, ‘Let’s go and kill some f***in’ Arabs.’ It’s not. It’s truly not”.
Try telling that to the enthusiastic early reviewers and patriotic bloggers (“In a season sure to be dominated by Meryl Streep movies about the war, it was nice to see one that actually bothered to have us as the good guys,” reads one). Preview audiences have been equally yee-ha (“The numbers were so high that the studio was confused,” says Berg). Which suggests that, for all Hollywood’s liberal posturing, the American public might just be a bit tired of all that self-flagellation and prefer to have a good old-fashioned, guilt-free crack at the baddies.
Indeed, Berg has since expressed regret about choosing a patriotic, heroic outcome for his film over several bleaker alternatives. “I do think it’s not entirely realistic,” he apologises. “I boxed myself into a corner. Next time that won’t happen.” Like it or not, he seems to have made the first war-on-terror film simply to accept the conflict as an unchangeable reality, the backdrop for a buddy cop flick – CSI: Riyadh.
“We had an incredible screening,” Berg recalls. “We very concerned that we were perhaps going to have a more negative reaction than we wanted. But the cheering and laughing and clapping that was there in the American audience was all there, and then some, in London.” Afterwards, a focus group was asked to explain why they had rated the film “excellent” on their score-cards. “A Muslim woman put her hand up – full head covering, the robe. She leaned forward and said, ‘Kick-ass action.’”