Saturday, December 18, 2010


BLACK SWAN might just be Darren Aronofsky's best film. He's clearly one of the most talented directors working today and this intense and unnerving film is proof of that. His second feature, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, burst onto the scene a decade ago and won him a great deal of fanfare for its harsh depiction of drug addiction and the use of a tremendous amount of clever, highly visual editing. After this came THE FOUNTAIN, in which he failed to build on the momentum REQUIEM gave him despite it being a pretty good, albeit less-accessible film. Aronofsky returned to glory with THE WRESTLER a couple years back and it is this film that seems to have started the director on an even better path than REQUIEM did ten years ago. THE WRESTLER was a very personal film, simpler in appearance than his previous work, that produced emotion and feeling in a much more subtle way. BLACK SWAN follows this model. It's an intensely complicated film that is propelled forward by the experiences (some of them real, some of them not) of Portman's character, Nina Sayers. At a glance, BLACK SWAN isn't as flashy as REQUIEM or THE FOUNTAIN, but it's Aronofsky's most ambitious film to day and one of the year's best.

Despite my supreme confidence in the film's director, it wouldn't work without Natalie Portman in the lead. The plot relies on the growing emotional and mental instability of her character and she is able to deliver that in incremental doses. Even though I know very little about ballet, I know that it is a highly competitive, intensely demanding vocation. The pressure that the "Swan Lake" production exerts on Nina is entirely believable and so are her actions, even though they might seem a tad melodramatic. Portman is perpetually wide-eyed and ill at-ease throughout the film (almost irritatingly so) and that translates to the viewer. I can honestly say that there are few movies that had me as anxious as this one did and for nearly the entire run time. The moments of self-mutilation are relatively tame, but visceral as if Aronofsky specifically chose the most cringe-inducing of minor injuries for Nina to inflict on herself. Damage to fingers, including the longest hangnail you'll ever see, along with obsessive scratching of raw skin are just so awful to behold and fitting for a character struggling to hold herself together.

What I also liked about Nina's mental state in this film is that it doesn't begin with her casting as The Swan Queen, as if she's just crumbling under the pressure of a big part. She is damaged goods from the very beginning. Her relationship with her mother (Barbara Hershey in an Oscar-worthy performance) is unnatural and another fascinating aspect to the film. It is this environment of coddling, over-protection and desperation that has helped created the unstable young woman we see fall apart as the film progresses.

Mila Kunis as Lily, Nina's perceived rival, is the perfect compliment to Portman. Where Nina is fragile and wide-eyed, Lily is steely-eyed and confident. Nina is reserved and prudish, while Lily is outgoing and sexy. They clash so beautifully in all their scenes together, culminating in a drug-fueled night out at a club meant to help Nina blow off some steam. The club scenes are red and pulsating and frenetic and are appropriately capped off by a rather brazen and much talked-about embrace between the two, the aftermath of which might just be the point at which we see where this film is headed.

Aronofsky captures the ballet performances beautifully, following the movement of the dancers in a way that is neither dizzying or disorienting. He likes to get inside the action (in all aspects of the film) more than most director's do. BLACK SWAN wasn't captured from beyond by a distant lens, but by a director inserting himself among the fray (also done effectively in THE WRESTLER).

BLACK SWAN is indeed a great film for what appears on screen, but I would be doing Clint Mansell a disservice by not mentioning his lofty contribution to the final product. His score, apparently taken from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" but played in reverse and with radical alterations, is eerie as befitting the film's tone, but also graceful to compliment the on stage performances. It's a score to a ballet and a film all in one.

One final note I'd like to make is on Vincent Cassel, who played the director, Thomas Leroy. Cassel is electric in everything he does, but never more so than he is here. Age has given him a presence and regality that was always there, but never at the forefront. His performance here is restrained but powerful; a realistic take on a serious ballet director without all the heartlessness and manipulation that might have rendered his character cliche. I don't see why he hasn't garnered more Best Supporting Actor attention this awards season.


Trailer Time

1. THE TREE OF LIFE - Terrence Malick

Terrence Malick is one of the most revered figures currently working in film. He is Harvard educated, a Rhodes Scholar and a known perfectionist. It is this drive toward perfection that has brought us films like BADLANDS, DAYS OF HEAVEN and THE NEW WORLD. The latter film was released in 2005 and is his latest feature. Six years might seem like a lengthy hiatus for such a respected director, but it's relatively short considering he took twenty years off before THE THIN RED LINE. I'm just glad he's working more frequently these days; he even has an untitled project lined up for 2012, which would be the quickest turnaround of his career. THE TREE OF LIFE has been receiving a fair amount of pre-release buzz, which is not surprising considering how high Malick sets the bar. Its distributors pushed it back from a 2010 release to next year's Cannes, which seems an appropriate place for such a premiere. The trailer doesn't give away a ton about the film, but I'm liking the vibe I'm getting. Pitt and Penn seem to be in top form and the imagery was beautiful (no surprise there). The film's story doesn't seem to be very grandiose, it's a cross-generational tale about a man who grew up in the Midwest in the 50's, but all indications point to TREE OF LIFE being about something more than that. Malick has shown us so many times before how grand life can look and what an amazing thing it is, this time he appears to be taking that a little further. Bottom line: I'm very excited for this one.

2. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS - Francis Lawrence - 4/15/11

I haven't read the book on which this is based, but I've heard good things. No matter how you feel about Lawrence's recent films (CONSTANTINE, I AM LEGEND), they are proof that the director has a handle on a particular style; a style which I appreciate. It's dark and moody, but also detailed and glossy. I can see evidence of this in the trailer for WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. The circus setting seems almost a perfect fit for Lawrence's talents. I'm optimistic about what this film might yield.

Note: the music that opens the trailer is from Nick Cave's score of THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. Both a film and a soundtrack I couldn't more highly recommend.


I have never claimed to be a big fan of the PIRATES series. The first film was a lot of fun, but the sequels were bogged down in their own mythology and never matched the adventure of the original. This installment seems to be a fresh start for the profitable film series and a way to return to basics. There's a new director on board, who may or may not bring something new to the table. The Bloom and Knightley characters have been excised from the script, so the film can concentrate more fully on what viewers have always wanted: Captain Jack Sparrow. Penelope Cruz, who I don't normally care for, even seems to be fitting in well in this environment. Most exciting about this film though, is the inclusion of the historical/mythical figure known as Blackbeard, played by "Deadwood"s Ian McShane. I cursed PIRATES after AT WORLD'S END, thinking I would never be duped into paying for another film in the franchise ever again. Alas, it appears that they'll have a chance to get some coin out of me yet.

4. THOR - Kenneth Branagh - 5/6/11

THOR looks good. I was a bit worried there that it wouldn't. The trailer doesn't indicate the epic film I'm hoping for, but I don't feel that the preview played all the cards it could have. This is the first time we truly get to see Hemsworth in the titular role and I'm satisfied, he fills out the part nicely. I'm just interested to see how everyone else will perform in their parts and how the story will tie in to the greater Marvel universe and the forthcoming AVENGERS film.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nerd News

Lots of Batman news going on that I haven't made time to comment on.

1. Nolan's Batman 3 = THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -

For those who haven't caught this already, that will indeed be the title of the next, and reportedly final, film in the Christopher Nolan Batman series. I'm not wild about it, though I'm not going to put up much of a fuss. It just seems there could have been a lot more dynamic titles to choose from. Adding the word "Rises" just seems a little lazy. Perhaps it will seem more relevant as more details about the film arise, or maybe it's just a way of tethering the film to the immensely successful sequel in hopes that it might possess some of the same magic. Anyway, I'm sure it'll grow on me.

2. Rumor has it a list of high-profile actresses have met with Nolan and Co. to discuss a couple roles in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -

One role - that of a love interest, another - that of a villain. Some astute observers have split the actresses into two camps, implying that each is vying for a particular role.

Group #1: The Young
Blake Lively
Anne Hathaway
Keira Knightley
Natalie Portman (though Portman is versatile enough for both groups)

Group #2: The Not-As-Young
Rachel Weisz
Naomi Watts

Frankly, I'm in favor of most of these actresses landing a role. The only name I'd like to see excised from the list is Lively. Her performance in THE TOWN was more than passable, but she has a big role in the upcoming GREEN LANTERN and I don't think it's necessary to see her in two big DC properties.

3. This film might have some source material -

Word around town is that this 3rd installment might be loosely based on the graphic novel "Prey". This comes as no surprise as each of the previous films has a connection to a particular graphic novel; BATMAN BEGINS has "Year One" and THE DARK KNIGHT has "The Long Halloween". I've never read "Prey" but apparently it's considered a follow-up to "Year One" and involves the villain Dr. Hugo Strange. Strange is obsessed with Batman and manipulates people in power, including Commissioner Gordon, into creating a task force to hunt down the vigilante (which would follow the conclusion of THE DARK KNIGHT seamlessly). He then deduces the true identity of Batman and uses that to play mind games with him. Frankly, this sounds like an awesome 3rd film and a great way to end things off. There isn't a villain in Batman's Rogues Gallery that can stir up as much excitement as The Joker, so this film needs to have a tense and exciting plot. Hugo Strange is a great antagonist and certainly captures my attention more than The Riddler (long rumored for the film). Tom Hardy is the only new actor officially cast in the film and it's already confirmed that he'll play a villain. He'd be a good fit for Strange as the guy has menacing down (see BRONSON or even STAR TREK: NEMESIS). This rumor, like every other, is at the moment still just a rumor. We won't know things for sure until production gets along next year, but this sounds like it's a major possibility considering Nolan's style and the natural progression of the storyline laid out in the last film.

4. A live-action Batman TV show may follow the film trilogy -

This is definitely just a rumor, but one that's making the rounds. I'm on board with this idea and really hope it's true. Granted, a Batman show might turn out goofy and fall on its face, but I don't think that's likely. DC will be sure to funnel a ton of money into it and it's said that the feel they're looking for is in line with the Nolan films. DC is apparently pretty keen on the idea of reintroducing the Joker character in this new medium since it wouldn't step on the toes of Ledger's creation. This is smart; Batman vs. The Joker in any prolonged format could spell some serious ratings. The last detail mentioned in regard to this rumor is that the people in creative control are looking for someone like Karl Urban for the Batman role. That doesn't mean he's officially cast since this is in the very early stages and Urban is very busy for the foreseeable future, it just gives an idea of what kind of actor they're looking for.

5. Under Aronofsky, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE 2 becomes simply THE WOLVERINE -

This news only further validates my excitement for this film which began when Aronofsky was announced as director. People have moved on from the original X-MEN trilogy, there's no need to harken back to them with this X-MEN ORIGINS nonsense. The first WOLVERINE was silly, over the top and just a downright slap in the face to fans of the character. THE WOLVERINE is just such a classier title and it carries with it the edge that the character requires. The screenplay, written by Christopher McQuarrie (THE USUAL SUSPECTS), tells of Wolverine's experiences in Japan.

6. The SPIDER-MAN Reboot recently had some less-than exciting casting news -

The couple of Uncle Ben and Aunt May will be played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field. I really couldn't care less who plays these parts, except I would rather it be anybody but Field for Aunt May. I just don't care for the woman. She was such an ass in MRS. DOUBTFIRE; I think that turned me against her. Anyway, Denis Leary has also been cast in the role of George Stacy, Gwen's father. This is fine. I don't watch "Rescue Me", so the only performances of his that I have to judge him from are DEMOLITION MAN and THE SANDLOT, both of which he's just fine in. Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield and Rhys Ifans have already been cast in the film as Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker and Dr. Curt Connors respectively.

7. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER has gone into pre-production with WANTED director, Timur Bekmambatov, at the helm -

I haven't read the novel on which this film is based, but it sounds like a lot of fun. Retconning Lincoln's life to include a secret war against vampires which began after he watched them kill his mother as a child. I'm not at all a fan of WANTED, but I have faith in Bekmambatov's talents based on his WATCH films. Those films possess a unique brand of horror that might translate well in this film. It's scheduled to come out in June of 2012.

8. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES has a director in Mike White -

There you have it. Mike White's only directing credit is 2007's YEAR OF THE DOG, which isn't exactly encouraging, but who knows. I was hoping for someone a bit more high-profile like Neil Marshall. I was a lot more excited about this film when David O. Russell and Natalie Portman were involved.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Music Video of the Week

I said I'd try it out last week in my trailers post, so here goes. I'm not sure if it'll stick since, in all honesty, I don't really see that many music videos. However, it's often enough that one comes along and strikes my fancy for me to give this thing a shot.

"Little Miss Jack" - The Growlers

A friend showed this to me a while back and there was never really any question that this was going to be my first "MV of the Week". The Growlers are a band from Long Beach, Ca and I must say they've really got my attention. Their lead possesses a strangeness and a sound that I don't think I've seen/heard anywhere else. They also seem to be having a lot of fun with their peculiar brand of rock, a sense of fun that you don't really see in bands today who are too interested in being douchey or whiny or faux-punk. The Growlers seem to be the genuine article, what Devendra Banhart called a "true rock band".

As for this particular video, it's something I keep coming back to because it has this twisted-fun story to it. Unfortunately, I'm also forced into repeated viewings because it's the only place I can hear this catchy little tune. For some reason, this doesn't appear on any of their albums and seems to have been written solely for this video.

Their 2nd album, "Hot Tropics", came out earlier this year and is very good once you get into it. They have also made numerous videos for songs on that album.

PS. Recommendations are always welcome for this section.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

HARRY POTTER 7 Pt.1 Review

Even though I like to think of this two-part final chapter as being just one very long movie, I'll still share my thoughts on the first half:

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS Pt.1 is the very best film in the series. I know a lot of people reserve that title for PRISONER OF AZKABAN and while that film was special at the time of its release, a little hindsight reveals a ton of flaws and lazy plotting. My personal favorite prior to this was the 5th film, but even that is blown out of the water by DEATHLY HALLOWS. Why is this one so much better? I believe the answer lies firmly with the decision to split the book into two parts. Even the best HARRY POTTER films suffer from the above-mentioned laziness in storytelling. Even if you don't read the books, the films always have a pace and plot that telegraph the fact that they are adaptations of far more in-depth stories. Granted, that is a potential pitfall of any book-to-film adaptation, it's no excuse as it is not an inevitability. DEATHLY HALLOWS doesn't so much solve this problem as much as it circumvents it by doubling the time in which to tell the story.

This first half of the final installment mixes action and drama in a patient way that the previous films could not. The striking and emotional sequences in the film's first act are great. The suspense and fun are there, but so is a life-and-death seriousness that sometimes evades the series. Voldemort's villainy is also pushed to new levels that put Fiennes' performance legitimately in reach of the antagonist big-leagues for the first time in the series.

My biggest concern going into this film was how Yates would depict Harry, Ron and Hermione's time on the road considering how much sickening levity was present in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. Frankly, I found it a bit boring to read, but the film gives this section of the tale an atmosphere and feel that the book failed to. An even more appropriate title for this movie might have been: HARRY POTTER AND THE END OF THE WORLD. At times, I felt as though I was watching a post-apocalyptic film about the wandering survivors of society's collapse and, in a sense, I was. The wizarding world, as it were, is crumbling and threatening to take everything else with it. Understandably, this is an incredibly serious situation for our protagonists and the film truly captures the essence of that seriousness. The scenery is both beautiful and grim and the tension of their travels is present in the actors' performances. Grizzled Harry Potter is quite a sight to behold. Over the last decade, these three young actors have clearly built quite a repoir, but never is it more apparent on screen than it is in this installment. For me, these three characters reach their full potential when removed from all the light-hearted distractions and superfluous, milksop classmates that the walls of Hogwarts provide.

The film ends on a somewhat depressing note, but in a way that is a great lead-in for the second half. The music builds, signifying that the end will be coming soon and we are treated to a damn-near brilliant scene of Voldemort robbing Dumbledore's grave. The effects-laden shots that precede the credits are both stunning and frightening.

I also forgot how much I enjoy House Elfs. Dobby plays the tragic hero in a surprisingly powerful series of events and Kreacher is back with his humorous curmudeoning.

Never once did my viewing experience sour from that dreadful sense that something is getting brushed over or excised completely. All the necessary information from the book is there and much more. Certain parts were even clarified for me, including the titular Deathly Hallows, which were explained in a stunning animated sequence that avoids the cheap feel of standard exposition. Having a 4-5 hour window in which to tell the story makes a world of a difference.

I applaud Yates' willingness to make such a dark film. Most of the negative reviews will likely stem from the lack of whimsy present in his style (just as they did for his first outing - HARRY POTTER 5), but such criticisms are misplaced. The world of Harry Potter is no longer a place for play. The children this series was initially meant for have grown up with it and require a more sophisticated telling of the tale, such as the one this film provides. To some, THE DEATHLY HALLOWS does not match the expectations for what a Harry Potter film should be, but, speaking as one of the above-mentioned childhood fans: this is my Harry Potter. If you want light-hearted fun, then visit the amusement park. I, however, will be patiently waiting out this extended intermission.


And here's a little of what we have in-store for us in part 2:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Trailer Time Returns

It's been awhile, but there's been a couple big trailers released recently that deserve a bit of attention:

GREEN LANTERN - Dir. Martin Campbell - 6/17/11

The trailer release for this film has been highly anticipated and will accompany HARRY POTTER 7 this weekend, but someone in charge was kind enough to release it on the web a few days in advance. Making a GREEN LANTERN movie is a tricky thing and a lot of my interest in it stems from my curiosity about how it will turn out. Hal Jordan's story is fun and new in that it incorporates this galactic realm while most superheroes are tethered to Earth. All indications point to the primary conflicts in this film taking place on Earth and all of Hal's training being out in space. I guess this makes sense as things will inevitably move further away from Earth in the sequel, but still, I feel that the more this story remains grounded, the less special it will be. I'm not terribly sold on Hector Hammond as the primary antagonist, but I think Peter Sarsgaard has the potential to sway me.

Ryan Reynolds is a pretty good fit for Jordan (as he showed before at Comic-Con), but his look in the Green Lantern garb falls short of impressive. As a matter of fact, all of the CG showcased in the trailer could be described the same way. To me, it looks more like a video game than a big-budget film. However, the film doesn't hit theaters for another 8 months and the effects department likely won't be sitting on their hands for that duration. I'm optimistic about improvement. Anyway, I'm hoping this film does well as I'm interested in seeing more high-profile DC films in the near future.

YOUR HIGHNESS - Dir. David Gordon Green - 4/8/11

I've been pretty jazzed about this film for a while. It was supposed to come out at the end of this year, but was pushed back. Pretty much everyone involved in this film is very likable (excluding Zooey Deschanel), so I can't imagine not liking it. I appreciate what they're going for, which appears to be a fun, medieval adventure film with a lot of comedy. I found the effects and amount of action apparent in the trailer to be very promising. However, I hope that most of the film's juvenile humor was showcased in the trailer and that there isn't a ton more of it. This film could be so much better than that.

RED RIDING HOOD - Catherine Hardwicke - 3/11/11

So far, the most appreciated TWILIGHT film has been the original and a lot of the credit for that has to go to the director, Catherine Hardwicke. Frankly, I didn't really notice anything special about her style since the movie was too mired in dreck to have me appreciate anything about it, but the buzz around her has me optimistic about her talents. RED RIDING HOOD is her follow up and the trailer is...interesting. The story seems solid. A werewolf is terrorizing a village - is a plot I can get behind. Even the overly stylistic look of the film doesn't necessarily turn me off. What bothers me about what I see in the trailer is the similarities to TWILIGHT. Why do all the male leads look like such douche-bags? Is it really necessary for them to have such hip, gelled-up hairdos? Don't tell me one of them is the werewolf, because that would suck. I'm just hoping Gary Oldman can tether this film to some sort of respectability.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELAS - Jonathan Liebesman - 3/11/11

The alien-invasion film is certainly making a comeback with a vengeance. Some people find this to be a tad irritating, I don't. This isn't a sub-genre that lends itself to quality filmmaking, typically, but I believe there's potential there for something special if everything is done right. Will BATTLE do everything right? I don't know, probably not. The director has never really proven himself to be a world-beater and the trailer actually gives away very little about the film. It is, however, a fantastic trailer. It's dark and ominous and very dramatic. The music used in it is called "The Sun's Gone Dim and the Sky's Turned Black" by Johann Johannsson and it's kind of a masterpiece. This opens the same day as RED RIDING HOOD and I must say I'm more likely to see this.

I've included the music video for "The Sun's Gone Dim" below (and actually, I think might start doing a "Music Video of the Week" post):

Speaking of alien invasion movies...I gotsta add this one too:

COWBOYS AND ALIENS - Jon Favreau - 7/29/11

This looks like it might be a lot of fun. I've been following this film's production for a while. It was announced after the first IRON MAN, but the starting date got pushed to after IRON MAN 2 and Robert Downey Jr. dropped out as the lead. It appears to be an ambitious follow up to the those films though, even without RDJ. Frankly, from everything I'd heard about the plot, I anticipated something a bit more campy than what I saw in the trailer, and I'm not at all disappointed by this. I like that the movie seems to be taking itself seriously. However, I'm most interested in this film because of its cast; Craig seems to fit his role nicely. Olivia Wilde is a fresh face. It was awesome to see Deadwood vet Keith Carradine in the preview. It's also good to see Harrison Ford acting in something that people might like again. Clancy Brown and one of my personal favorites, Sam Rockwell, also star.

Having Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof ("Fringe" "Lost" STAR TREK) for screenwriters is a pretty good sign for this film as well.

Monday, October 25, 2010


This documentary, which is now playing under the less inflammatory title THE TILLMAN STORY, debuted at Sundance as I'M PAT FUCKING TILLMAN and I will be refering to it as such here. I completely understand the motivations behind the title swap as being utterly harmless, but such a mollification of language is indicative of themes presented in the film, so I will make a point of it here. The film's original title stems from the alleged last moments in the life of the former football star and fallen Army Ranger. As he was being bombarded with friendly fire, he answered with the words: "I'm Pat Fucking Tillman! Why are you shooting at me!?". This title is more appropriate to the film's content, but the colorful language is too tough for some, as perhaps is the use of a dead hero's final, angry, desperate words. There's a clip in the film where Barbara Bush expresses the sentiment that seeing fallen soldiers' coffins isn't pleasant and therefore something that no one would want to see (or ought to). The simple, quiet title of the film, THE TILLMAN STORY, does not convey the ugliness, emotion and truth of Pat's untimely demise. It brushes over the original title, just as people like Bar Bush would gloss over the horror of war inherent in those returning caskets. To me, this film is and will remain I'M PAT FUCKING TILLMAN. It's not pretty, it's not PC, but neither is the content therein.

This documentary, directed by Amir Bar-Lev, might be the most infuriating film anyone will see this year. Despite his lack of wanting for such lofty praise, Pat Tillman was a hero and one hell of human being. The former Arizona Cardinal gave up millions of dollars playing in the NFL to enlist as a private in the United States Army Rangers. His reasons are entirely his own, but as far as the public knows, he did it because he couldn't bear an existence standing on the sidelines while the world fell apart. His death by friendly fire while serving his second tour of duty in the Middle East was covered up by the government and they instead used a fantastical account of the events as wartime propaganda. Pat Tillman deserved a hell of a lot more than that and so did his family.

The documentary excels in weaving the confusing and contradictory tale that was fed to the Tillmans after Pat's death. It doesn't attempt to give any solid conclusions because they still have not been reached. The film is frustrating to watch because it's apparent that there are some individuals in the military and the government who are privy to the details of Pat's death that have no intention of shedding light on the incident. The film doesn't try to blame the overly-aggressive soldiers for their actions (though it does touch on the vicious nature of young men at war), the truly reprehensible actions are of those mentioned above who have the answers, but cover them up to save their own asses and exploit Tillman, "the most famous enlisted man in the US Military".

The Tillman family's search for truth and accountability is more than admirable. It's practically unbelievable what lengths they had to go through to even start to understand the circumstances of their son's death. They are shown to be a unique family, just as Pat was a unique soldier. Their lives are not the chronicle that the US propaganda machine wrote for them. They would not allow their son to be used for something he wasn't and never wanted to be. Pat Tillman wasn't a comic-book character; he wasn't Captain America. He was an intelligent, driven, and truthful man who questioned the actions of his country even while he served it. The way he was used and portrayed post-mortem is shameful and an embarrassment. Bar-Lev's film does a great job of depicting the Tillman family's loving dynamic and their sad and frustrating struggle to find truth in a land where it is not a virtue.


Nerd News

Pretty good nerd news this past week. Pretty pretty pretty good.

1. Casting begins for THE HOBBIT -

It's been long rumored that Martin Freeman (BBC's "The Office", HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE) will be taking on the role of Bilbo Baggins in THE HOBBIT and this past week we got confirmation. According to producer and now director of the film, Peter Jackson, there was never anyone else. The titular role, previously played by Ian Holm, is a difficult one to cast. It calls for an actor with both comedic and dramatic chops as well someone who can elicit enough empathy without being too pathetic. I dare say that Freeman is all of those things and the perfect choice. Of all the actors mentioned in connection to this role, he is the only one I was ever excited about.

Also, a good portion of the Dwarves were also cast:

Richard Armitage - Thorin
Graham McTavish - Dwalin
Robert Kazinsky - Fili
Aidan Turner - Kili
John Callen - Oin
Peter Hambleton - Gloin

Rumored for the production are:

Sylvester McCoy - Radagast the Brown (For the uninitiated, Radagast is the third wizard in the triad also featuring Saruman and Gandalf. He's not as powerful and spends most of his time in the wilderness, but he's still a pretty rad character.)

Michael Fassbender - in an unspecified role. It would be awesome to have him as part of the cast, but I can't be sure of who he'd play. Possibilities include: Beorn, a Wood Elf, or Bard. My money is on Bard though.

Leonard Nimoy - an unspecified role. This would also be great. I'd be happy with him in any role, especially a live-action one, but my suspicions have him voicing Smaug the Dragon.

British actors David Tennant ("Dr. Who") and James Nesbitt ("Jekyll") are also rumored for the film.

Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving are said to be returning in their LOTR parts.

2. TOTAL RECALL remake casting rumors -

Who cares, really? I'm not even a huge fan of the original and I'm even less of a fan of this remake with Len Wiseman at the helm of a Kurt Wimmer script. I'm just passing along the news: Colin Farrell is apparently the top choice for the lead, but Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy are also in the running.

3. Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax" is being made into an animated film -

I may have heard this news before, but I've completely forgotten it until now. Apparently, Danny Devito will be voicing the title character and Ed Helms ("The Office") will take on the antagonist role. This story about a sour and persistent tree-hugger is incredibly timely and should make for a fun film. Look for it in 2012.

4. A correction from last week:

I wrote a bit about THE CROW reboot last week and mentioned Stephan Norrington (BLADE) as the director of the film. However, it now appears that Norrington has dropped out of the film due to creative differences. I'm still interested in this reboot, primarily because of Nick Cave's involvement, but this news could spell the end of the project's potential.

5. Spielberg picks his next project -

Now that Spielberg has wrapped up production on both his animated TIN TIN film and the WWI drama WAR HORSE, he's quickly moved on to another project - ROBOPOCALYPSE. Based on the yet-unreleased book of the same name, the film will deal with the aftermath of a robot uprising. I haven't read the book, so I can't speak to the narrative's quality, but I'm a bit iffy about this movie's potential. I love a good post-apoc/evil robot scenario, but this just doesn't seem like a good fit for the director. Spielberg lacks the energy of his youth and all I can anticipate from this film is something similar to the uninspired WAR OF THE WORLDS. I bet some annoying actors will be cast as the leads and the entire film will follow them being hounded by monstrous robots. Frankly, it's even more likely that the film never gets made and Spielberg moves on to something else. The most I can expect from ROBOPOCALYPSE: that it's better than last year's dreadful TERMINATOR film.

6. Speaking of evil robots...BSG is coming back!

That's right, nerds. A new "Battlestar Galactica" pilot just got the greenlight from SyFy. This potential series, entitled "Blood and Chrome", would follow William Adama in the 10th year of the first Cylon War. No release date has been set for the two-hour pilot and no casting announcements have been made about the main character. This project is very much in its infancy, but SyFy and Ron Moore seem serious about it, so we can hope for the best. I, for one, am very excited about the possibilities that come along with "Blood and Chrome". I don't hate "Caprica", the BSG prequel series, but it diverges so drastically from the tone of its predecessor that it leaves me wanting. "Caprica" has its own important story-arcs, which is cool, but the Cylons are such a backdrop that I fear they'll never surface as something important to the series. I want a return to Battlestar warfare and wartime drama. Hopefully, that's what this series will bring to the table (if it ever actually gets made).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I don't really feel the need to give this film a lengthy review. It's not your standard film, just a bunch of gags edited together in no important order. It was the funny, disgusting, shocking stuff you'd expect from the Jackass crew. I laughed hard and enjoyed myself thoroughly, so it was a success.

It also bears the distinction of being the first film I've seen in 3D. I've resisted this trend because it strikes me as mostly pointless and a bit cheesy, but it works very well for these sight-gags. I wasn't blown away by it, but I did appreciate the clarity of the 3D images and the way it was utilized for the film. I still can't imagine seeing a traditional narrative of any sort, action or otherwise, in 3D as I feel it would be very distracting.

Back to JACKASS:

I find these guys to be so likable when they're together (even Bam). I appreciate the fact that they all put themselves through so much pain and discomfort for our enjoyment. I can't imagine that any of them really need to for the money anymore, especially Knoxville, who nearly breaks his neck after being gored by a bull, or Bam, who runs through a corridor of stun guns and cattle prods. This film gives the impression that this is the gang's final hoorah and that they'll be moving on after this. It's the end of an era. The credits montage of old-footage was actually quite touching and shows what a big part of each other's lives they've all been. However, due to the immense success of the film, the studio is considering releasing another full-length Jackass feature using footage the guys left on the cutting room floor, so perhaps it isn't time to say goodbye quite yet.

A couple quick notes:
1. It was nice to see a happy, healthy, sober Steve-O, back from the brink of self-destruction.
2. If you haven't seen the film yet, prepare yourself for a lot of Chris Pontius penis.

Trailer Time




I can get behind this. It looks like a lot of fun.

There's a SCREAM 4 trailer out there somewhere, but I couldn't find a way to embed it here. Check it out if you're interested, but personally, I think it looks really lame.

Also, a new HARRY POTTER 7 trailer just hit the internet. I'm surprised I haven't seen more ads already, but with the movie's release now only a month away, I bet the WB turns on the heat. Check it out here.

Nerd News Plus

There's a ton of nerdly news to report on, so let's get started.

1. Tom Hardy - the first new actor to sign on to Nolan's 3rd Batman film:

It has been reported that Tom Hardy will play a key role in the next Batman installment, but what that role will be is still a mystery. All signs point to him playing some sort of villain, but that also has not been confirmed. There have been strong hints that The Riddler will be Batman's primary antagonist for this film and rumors were putting Hardy's INCEPTION co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt close to that role. It's entirely possible that Hardy will don the question-mark suit (hopefully not literally), but it's just as possible that he will be playing someone else. "Kick-Ass" and "Wanted" creator Mark Miller claimed to have an inside scoop earlier this week, stating that production would be taking place in Louisiana and that Killer Croc would appear in the yet-untitled film. This seems highly unlikely considering Nolan's style, but it's a lead.

Personally, I hope that Hardy is a non-Riddler villain. He has some impressive acting chops and some serious bad-guy charisma (see BRONSON). I would be okay with him playing Nygma, but I think he's better suited as Black Mask or some other less-exposed rogue. I also wouldn't mind him in the role of Jean-Paul Valley, Batman's apprentice and unstable replacement in the series "Knightfall". Either way, production on the film begins very soon, so hopefully some answers will out.

2. Rhys Ifans will play The Lizard in Spider-Man reboot:

News of Ifans' (GREENBERG, HANNIBAL RISING) casting broke last week and it only took a day to reveal which villain he would be playing. Ifans is a very talented actor and this is a huge break for him. This film is becoming more and more appealing with each new bit of info. However, I am not entirely enthused with the news that The Lizard will be Spidey's primary antagonist. Spider-Man has a pretty lame Rogue's gallery, so there isn't a ton to choose from, but The Lizard? If the actor cast were of any lesser quality than Ifans, I wouldn't be terribly optimistic. We'll just have to wait and see how this all pans out.

3. Darren Aronofsky likely to helm WOLVERINE 2:

This rumor has been on the horizon for a while now, but that doesn't make it any less of a shocker. Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN, THE WRESTLER) was briefly mentioned in connection with the Superman reboot, but that job went to Zach Snyder. His buddy, Hugh Jackman, then turned on the pressure for Fox to offer him the Wolverine gig. This will likely put the director's adaptation of John Vaillant's non-fiction book "The Tiger" on hold for the foreseeable future.

To me, this functions as a sort of defibrillator for the property as X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE was embarrassingly bad. Up until this announcement, I had literally zero interest in the sequel. Now, I'm actually a tad excited. Early reports indicate that this film will take place in Japan and deal a forbidden romance that quickly turns ugly. I trust that Aronofsky will treat the super-powered franchise with the level of seriousness it requires to actually turn out well. WOLVERINE was diluted by too much garbage and filler, something that I feel this director will be immune to. However, there is concern to be had over studio intervention, which reportedly caused much of the first film's crumminess. Over-imposing execs might make it difficult for Aronofsky to make the film he wants, but he'll likely have a bit more clout on-set than WOLVERINE's Gavin Hood did. This will very likely be one of those interesting exceptions where a sequel outshines the original.

4. THE HOBBIT greenlit, Peter Jackson to direct:

This is a shock to absolutely no one. I would much rather have Guillermo del Toro at the helm, but that's just not in the cards anymore. I'm not a huge fan of Jackson, but I trust him with the Tolkien properties and if GDT couldn't do it, I'm glad it's him. Bout time with the greenlight though, hopefully things get rolling soon.

5. James Cameron possible for CLEOPATRA with Angelina Jolie:

Well, if Cameron is involved, it's probably going to be quite the epic. I could easily draw comparison to the Mankiewicz film from the 60's, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and was (and is) one of the biggest financial failures in film history, but I don't think it'll be the same this time around. Despite my negative feelings toward AVATAR, there's no denying its place in history as a global phenomenon. Whatever Cameron touches turns to gold, so this should be no different. The confident director has not signed on to the film just yet and is still developing other projects, including the AVATAR sequel.

6. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES loses O. Russell as director:

David O. Russell (THREE KINGS, THE FIGHTER) wasn't attached to this film for very long and has now left the director's seat vacant. Scheduling conflicts and a chance to direct DRAKE'S FORTUNE have led him astray and now the race is on to find a new director. David Slade (ECLIPSE, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT) is high on the list. He was recently in the running for the WOLVERINE sequel, but now that that appears to be off the table, this is a strong possibility. Also rumored for this production is THE DESCENT's Neil Marshall. I'd say that either is a respectable choice, but I'd much rather see Marshall take this on as I could him turning this into something pretty special.

7. More ALIEN prequel news:

Speaking of P&P&Z - Natalie Portman recently vacated the starring role for fear that she was too old to play the part. Now she's heavily rumored for the lead role in Ridley Scott's Untitled Alien Prequel. Reports have it that Scott wants DRAGON TATTOO's Noomi Rapace for the part, but the studio is pushing for Portman. Details on the role are few at this point, but it's said that she'll be a high-ranking military officer. I think I'd rather see Rapace in this, simply because she's a better fit, but I wouldn't be disappointed with Portman either.

Also, Damon Lindelof handed in his revision of the script over the weekend and execs at Fox are said to be very pleased. Why? Apparently, his version makes the PG-13 goal a bit more attainable and also cuts down on the amount of large, intricate (and expensive) sets that need to be built. I can't quite picture what this film's end-product is going to be. To hear Scott talk about it makes it seem like it's going to be monumentally epic and expansive, but these recent reports paint it more as a smaller, horror-flick in the tradition of the original. I can't say I'd be upset with either, I'm just curious to see how things actually turn out.

8. Wahlberg offered the lead role in Norrington/Cave's remake of THE CROW:

I'm a big fan of the original and actually pretty much behind this production because of Cave's involvement. However, I don't think this would turn out well. I like Wahlberg, but he's just not right for this. He's already done a lot of revenge flicks and he doesn't need to be involved in this one too. My vote: shoot for an unknown.

Oh, I almost forgot these two interviews from this weeks Scream Awards -

Geoff Johns (Head of Creative at DC Films and Top DC Writer):

Geoff Johns talks GREEN LANTERN, DC Movies, and DC Superheroes on TV at the 2010 Scream Awards from ColliderVideos on Vimeo.

Damon Lindelof ("Lost", ALIEN prequel, STAR TREK 2 Scribe):

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse Talk LOST, the ALIEN PREQUEL, STAR TREK 2, and More on the Scream Awards Red Carpet from ColliderVideos on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trailer Time

1. THE WAY BACK (Peter Weir) -

I'm a big fan of Weir, so I'm going to go ahead and say this will likely be very good.

2. 127 HOURS (Danny Boyle) -

I'm anticipating that this one will be very hard to watch considering what the main character has to endure, but I'm very much looking forward to it.

3. THE TEMPEST (Julie Taymor)

I'm actually a fan of Shakespeare's "The Tempest", but this looks kinda lame. It might still be okay, but the trailer is abysmal.


I still haven't seen THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, but plan to soon.

5. One last note: The GREEN LANTERN trailer is set to premiere in front of HARRY POTTER 7, so watch for it later next month.

Nerd News - Casting Edition

There have been some pretty big announcements as far as casting in the last couple weeks, so I thought I'd share them here.

1. Sacha Baron Cohen to play Freddie Mercury in biopic -

I think a Freddie Mercury biopic sounds like a very good idea. The guy lived quite a whirlwind life. And Cohen is probably the best guy for the job. His "Ali G Show" characters have run their course and this would be a chance for him to move on in a big way.

2, Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty in SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 -

I know Holmes lore really doesn't hold the popularity it used to, but Professor Moriarty is still one of the most well-known rogues in the world of fiction (remember when he came to life on the Holodeck and tried to take over the Enterprise?!). Anyway, there were a lot of high-profile actors up for this role. There were rumors of Sean Penn, Javier Bardem and Daniel Day-Lewis potentially taking the role before the announcement came about Harris. For those who don't know, Jared is the son of the late, great Richard Harris and currently featured on "Mad Men" as Lane Pryce. He also played the primary antagonist in "Fringe"s first season, David Robert Jones. From what I've seen, Harris is a tremendous actor with a lot of villainous charisma. This is a huge break for him and I'm pretty sure he'll make the most of it. The whole first HOLMES film was a build up to this storied encounter between rivals. Harris and Downey Jr. should put on a good show.

3. Noomi Rapace might take the lead in the much anticipated ALIEN prequels.

Ridley Scott's ALIEN prequels have hit a bit of a roadblock recently. Rumor has it, Scott wants an enormous budget for what he's planning to be two films. The studio might be willing to give in on this matter except for one thing: Scott wants his films to have hard "R" ratings. I'm really hoping the director can sway the studio over to his way of thinking, but I doubt it will actually happen. These films might not actually get made at all, which would be a huge bummer. However, I do think the studio is risking the artistic integrity and narrative potential of the films by watering them down to PG-13, so I'd understand if Scott can't move forward.

Back to my initial news: Rapace, of DRAGON TATTOO fame, has apparently made quite an impression on Scott and has now become the front-runner for the films' lead. I've never been Rapace's biggest supporter. I think she's a fine actress, but a bit of a horse-face and not the burgeoning starlet everyone seems to think she is. However, I do believe this would be the perfect place for her. I would be very happy to see her in the ALIEN universe because, to me, she has a very sci-fi look about her (not the Lisbeth character, but the actress herself).

4. Emma Stone to play Spider-Man's love interest in the reboot -

It wasn't long ago that I was trashing this film a bit, but I've come around in a big way. Mostly, I just realized that I don't really care for the Raimi films, so something different might be a lot of fun. Andrew Garfield will make for an amazing Peter Parker. Emma Stone might have made for a pretty good Mary Jane, but that would be a little on-the-nose. Instead, she'll be playing the chronologically accurate Gwen Stacey. I like Stone. I'm pleased with this announcement. Whether her and Garfield will have any on-screen chemistry is a question that will have to wait.

5. Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp might work together for the first time in Kathryn Bigelow's next feature -

Ever since THE HURT LOCKER, there's been buzz about Bigelow's next project. She's likely to do SLEEPING DOGS (formerly TRIPLE FRONTIER), which has been described as a South American crime drama. Reportedly, the film calls for an ensemble cast of five actors and many A-listers are lining up to work with the director, including Will Smith, Christian Bale, Sean Penn and Javier Bardem. Hanks and Depp are the first to be seriously entertained for the film.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I don't really need to talk about how great THE SOCIAL NETWORK is. We all had an idea about how things might turn out when we heard that Fincher and Sorkin were teaming up. The film currently holds an astounding 97% on Rotten Tomatoes with only five negative reviews in nearly two-hundred. It has been hailed as "important" and "the film of this generation". Does it deserve these lofty accolades? Obviously, my opinion, whether concurring or dissenting, will have no bearing on how the film will ultimately be received. It is what it is. Only time will tell if it is to become something truly important in film history. All I can say, in my humble opinion, is that THE SOCIAL NETWORK is indeed special.

Never once during my viewing of Fincher's film did I question its quality. Most movies take a few scenes to suck me in and even some of my favorites still had me debating their caliber until the credits roll (or after). THE SOCIAL NETWORK benefits from top-notch performances and a sense of drama that has no rightful place in a film about the invention of Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg and co. claim that much of it is fabricated). Fincher seems to possess a lens through which only he can shoot. His signature glossy, low-key lighting graces the picture and brings energy and life to the Ivy League world which is probably a lot less fun than this film would have me believe.

The film's non-linear path also gives it a little something extra. One reviewer called it a "ROSHOMON-style" of editing, which either means he's never seen ROSHOMON or he's an idiot. The editing in this picture is a lot simpler and a fair amount more interesting. Essentially, THE SOCIAL possesses a linear storyline, but intercut by scenes of the ensuing lawsuits that Zuckerberg has provoked. How things get to this point, especially concerning his best friend and Facebook co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, is a curiosity throughout the film.

There wasn't a single weak-link in the films ensemble cast with the exception of maybe Rashida Jones who, while not giving a bad performance, just didn't seem to fit within the film. Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg is about as perfect casting as you're likely to see. Eisenberg certainly carries with him a distinctive flavor to all of his performances and that comes across in this film as well, but not in a way that doesn't benefit the character. His trademark awkwardness is there, but it's not endearing, it's a sort of closed-to-the-world, insane-genius sort of awkward, with a dash of misanthropy. Some people have described him as a villain, but I don't see it that way at all. He's the protagonist, of that there's no doubt, but he's also a somewhat tragic character with some good intentions and very human motivations. I don't think Fincher or Eisenberg went out of their way to demonize Zuckerberg in any way, which could have been done with ease, but would have likely damaged the picture.

This film also served as a great introduction to a few other young actors. Andrew Garfield is very dynamic in his role as Eduardo. He'll be seen in the near future as Spider-Man and my money is on him out-shining Tobey McGuire in every way. Justin Timberlake has acted before, but never on this large of a film. His performance as Napster creator, Sean Parker, is comical and full of energy. Perhaps the most impressive performance, however, comes from Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins. While watching the film, I assumed that actual twins had been cast in the parts. Not so. I'm still not clear on the details, but I believe one of the brothers was played by a stand-in and Hammer's face was digitally superimposed over the face. This truly blows my mind. Never did I think that THE SOCIAL NETWORK would wow me with it's visual effects. Either way, Hammer is funny and charismatic in the roles and should have a bright future from here on.

Some may scoff at the notion that Facebook is an important invention of the 21st Century, but it, along with it's less-popular social networking brethren, have changed the face of communication and inter-personal relationships for the foreseeable future. In a drug-fueled rant, Timberlake's character expresses the idea of people living their lives on computers, which certainly seems to be the way things are going. What does it mean then that such an invention was created by someone as reclusive as Zuckerberg? Does it mean that we will become like him and shun our real-world relationships? Or is it simply ironic that such a man created a way for the world to connect in a way that was previously impossible. THE SOCIAL NETWORK doesn't answer these questions, it only provokes them. Even though much of the drama of THE SOCIAL NETWORK is apparently made up, this version of events will be the most accessible for generations to come. For many people, this will be an important chronicle of the invention of such a life-altering application. Even if Facebook fades away, which only seems inevitable considering the fickle nature of today's consumers, THE SOCIAL NETWORK will still shed light on the early days of social networking, which isn't going anywhere.

My only problem with the film is that it could have been longer. Fincher's films usually near the 150 minute mark, but this was the more-standard 120 minute film. An extra half an hour might have given THE SOCIAL NETWORK a bit more recognizable beginning, middle and end. However, this is truly minor considering the many positives I saw in the film.


PS. The Reznor score was pretty good, though I hardly noticed it at times.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Big Nerd News - MAN OF STEEL has a Director

Nerd news has been on a bit of a hiatus, but some truly important headlines have surfaced recently and forced a return.

Let's start this one off with a bang:

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a director! Zach Snyder will be taking on the next Superman feature, tentatively titled THE MAN OF STEEL. -

I broke this down in my recent post "Rebuilding the Man of Steel". I knew Snyder was one of the directors in talks for the film, but he wasn't one of my favorites. This was especially so when it was announced late last week that BLACK SWAN's Darren Aronofsky was also in the running for the project. Apparently, this incredibly heavy burden has been placed on the shoulders of the WATCHMEN director. This will be Snyder's third film derived from the comic book medium (300 being his first). I'm still not behind the idea entirely, but I'm optimistic about the what the end result might be.

Having Nolan, Goyer and Snyder all working on the same project is a pretty big deal as they all have had a fair amount of success in the comic book genre (if you can call it that). I feel that in handling Superman, perhaps the biggest superhero icon, Snyder is going to have to make some stylistic concessions. His films rely on certain tricks: heavy CG, graphic violence and a lot of slow motion, all of which will have to be toned down or altered for THE MAN OF STEEL. Some of these elements might very well be in play, but if Snyder doesn't want to call down the collective ire of the fanboy universe, he'll have to watch the use of his signature moves. Metropolis will have to feel like a real city. Superman's fights can't go overboard in brutality and there's really no need to slow down the man who's billed as being 'fast as a speeding bullet'. There's no room for messing around with Superman, not when his future as a successful film property is at stake. With Nolan on hand as this film's "godfather", Snyder will likely have more filters than he is used to, which can only be good in this case.

Not everyone is a fan of Snyder, a lot of people downright hate him, but they shouldn't write off this picture before the dust settles. Snyder's presence does indicate that the film is going to be steeped in the kind of rock and roll action and drama that has been present thus far in all of his films. Warner Brothers and DC are hoping to breathe new life into Superman as a blockbuster franchise, they want to get away from what has rendered most of the films in the series unsuccessful; I don't think Snyder could make a traditional Superman film if he tried, whatever he brings to the table will move Big Blue in a new direction. Whether that direction is up or down remains to be seen and, unfortunately, will remain that way for another two years at least.

I know everyone feels differently about Snyder's WATCHMEN, personally I find it to be a very mixed bag, but the most positive part in said bag might be his handling of the omni-powerful Dr. Manhattan. There are a lot of similarities between him and Superman and I feel if he's able to bring some of that magic to THE MAN OF STEEL, we might end up with a very unique and exciting Superman film indeed.

Trailer Time Update - TRUE GRIT

Oooooo, looks like a legit trailer has been released for TRUE GRIT as opposed to the little teaser we got last week. Frankly, I just don't see how this could disappoint. Maybe the thing I'm most looking forward to about Christmas.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Trailer Time

I've been waiting for this trailer for some time and finally it's here:


The 1969 film, starring john Wayne, is a classic. It would be hard to imagine another version of the story being done by just any old director. It's a good thing the Coens are the guys behind this remake as I can't think of anyone better for the job. Actually, calling this film a remake might be a tad premature. Supposedly the film draws more from the source material than the original film, but that remains to be seen. Either way, I'm firmly behind the picture, even more so now that I've seen the trailer. Remarkable westerns are few and far between these days and from the minute of footage I just watched, this appears to at least be an ambitious one. The cast for this one is astounding. Opening Christmas Day.


This trailer has been out for a bit, but I never included it here, so without further delay:

This project bounced around for a bit and was attached to director Darren Aronofsky for some time. Now, under the direction of David O. Russel (THREE KINGS), it's finally making its way to theaters. I like the look of the trailer. Wahlberg is often hit-or-miss for me, but he seems to do remarkably better when paired with quality directors. His work with Russel previously has been pretty good, so I expect the same from THE FIGHTER. The real story coming out of this trailer appears to be Christian Bale, who might just put on the best performance of his career in this film. Time will tell, but I'm thinking he'll likely be in the running for a supporting actor nod early next year. THE FIGHTER opens everywhere December 10.


This one has Oscar material written all over it. It's just the type of film they are likely to embrace and with good reason.

Personally, I believe Colin Firth deserved the Oscar for Best Actor last year over Jeff Bridges. Hopefully he'll have another shot this year after this performance. There's even a chance he'll go up against Bridges again. Anyway, this Tom Hooper directed film has impressed critics at recent festivals and is likely to become one of the best reviewed films of the year. This one hits theaters November 26th.


This second trailer is even more exciting than the first. Hopefully, this final chapter(s) of the film series will be more satisfying than the final book. Nice to finally see Bill Nighy as Rufus Scrimgeour this time around. The end begins November 19.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Continuing the career resurgence that began back in 2007 with GONE BABY GONE, Ben Affleck has achieved a successful sophomore effort in THE TOWN. As with his first film, his second is a tense, gritty crime thriller set in and around Boston. It is here that we find a gang of successful and daring bank robbers who, after a dramatic heist and hostage taking, catch the intense attention of the FBI. THE TOWN benefits from some ambitious and well-executed action as well as great location shooting around the city, but its greatest asset is the performances of its leads.

This time around, Affleck has opted to try his luck in front of the cameras as well as behind them. As a director, the star was riding a wave of momentum into production on THE TOWN, but as an actor, Affleck generally garnered less support. The primary concern this time around was whether his directorial prowess would be hampered by his minimal screen presence. It wasn't. Affleck still lacks acting talents that are going to win him Academy Awards, but his performance in THE TOWN might be his best to-date. Appearing chiseled but tired, the veteran actor may have found a respectful place for himself as a more grizzled personality than merely a pretty one.

Starring alongside Affleck is last year's star of THE HURT LOCKER and Oscar Nominee Jeremy Renner. His performance as Doug's (Affleck) best friend James, a violent and paranoid member of the gang, is something worth seeing. Renner has a fire in him that makes this type of character believable and scary instead of over-the-top. Also turning in a solid performance is Blake Lively of "Gossip Girl" fame. She plays James' sister, Krista; a damaged goods townie and occasional lover to Doug. Her portrayal is about as dirty and broke-down as you can get for the limited amount of screentime her character receives.

Rounding out the supporting cast are Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") and Pete Postlethwaite ("Clash of the Titans"). Hamm puts in a tough performance as the determined, no-nonsense FBI agent tasked with bringing the gang to justice. With all of his recent successes in comedy, there's some desire to take Hamm lightly, but in THE TOWN he fights hard to come off as a real SOB and does so admirably. I enjoyed Postlethwaite's performance as a seasoned (and serious) neighborhood gangster so much because I've never seen him in such a role. The veteran actor is such a pro, I hardly recognize him, not because his physical appearance is altered, but because his voice and body language are truly transformative.

However, this is where some of the film's minor flaws come into play. The two above-characters are relegated to much more minor roles than they should have been. Both are, at times, antagonists to Affleck's Doug, but neither one truly gets to embrace the role. I get the fact that Doug's real enemy is the difficulty of his life situation, but in a heist film, you're only as interesting as the man hunting you. Hamm's hunting is short-changed, but the scenes in which he's taking lead are pretty great. It's revealed late in the film that Doug's family has a rather storied relationship with Fergie (Postlethwaite), but it's never truly fleshed-out in a satisfactory manner. Doug's father, respectably played by Chris Cooper, also adds an interesting element to the plot that never receives its due screentime.

Affleck is instead content to focus a hefty portion of the film's two-hour plus runtime on a relationship subplot between his character Doug and the young lady his gang held hostage at the beginning of the film (played by Rebecca Hall). Hall is a talented young actress and puts in a fine performance, but her chemistry with Affleck is minimal. Their supposedly loving relationship has little foundation and loses legs altogether when the film hits its final act. The riveting and entertaining final scenes of the film are sullied slightly by the sappy conclusion that is instigated by this illogical romance. When I saw trailers for this film I thought the idea of such a romance between a robber and a former hostage was pretty novel (and I still do), but it never reached anywhere near its potential.

However, the film on the overall is an entertaining piece of cinema with some great performances and action. Affleck might be better off behind the camera, but he's now proven that he can succeed in front of it as well. I'm very interested to see where his career goes from here.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Rebuilding the Man of Steel

It's been over four years since the disappointment of Bryan Singer's SUPERMAN RETURNS, but things are finally starting to come together on the THE MAN OF STEEL, Big Blue's return to the screen. I have high hopes for the reboot, but the property really can't go anywhere but up. I might catch some flack for this, but I honestly don't believe we've ever seen a truly great Superman film. The Richard Donner original is just pretty good and the series just goes down from there. A lot of people are pretty high on SUPERMAN II, but it's actually greatly overrated. It's just too corny and campy; Zod isn't even cool in it and he should have been. Nobody likes III and IV is most remembered for being more ridiculous than the rest. SUPERMAN RETURNS was supposed to start the icon on a new, better path, but it didn't. Singer was trying to conjure up the spirit of the original Donner films, which really weren't that exciting to begin with.

It's not as though Superman doesn't have a lot of emotional and character depth. People like to act as though Superman is this perpetual ray of sunshine, he hasn't been for a long time. He's not the brooding fellow Batman is, but he's the last son of a dead planet for christ's sake! He's got issues and challenges. In the film's he's only battled Lex Luthor, Zod and a some lame non-canons. Supe's got a great Rogue's Gallery; Brainiac, Darkseid, Doomsday, Metallo, Parasite, Bizarro, none of these have appeared in a film. Each one of these villains present unique problems for Superman. A more accurately capable Lex Luthor would also be a nice change. The pair have a unique relationship that has never been shown on screen. I not only believe that a great Superman film is achievable, I believe that a great Superman film could outshine all other comic-book films. It just needs to do everything right.

Is the MAN OF STEEL doing everything right? I don't know, but let's take a look at what we do know:

David S. Goyer wrote the script -

This is a good thing. Goyer isn't the greatest director, but the guy has worked on some pretty decent scripts (BLADE, BLADE 2, DARK CITY, THE DARK KNIGHT). He's also a huge nerd. Rumored plotlines for Goyer's script also suggest that Luthor and Brainiac will be the villains (+). It isn't an origin story (+) and there's a fair amount of Krytonian mythology (+).

Christopher Nolan is producing -

Another good thing. Nolan put the Batman series back on track, so logic dictates he could do the same for Superman. Some people disagree with this sentiment because the two characters are so different, but I don't see why Nolan couldn't adjust.

THE MAN OF STEEL is scheduled for release in late 2012 -

I think this is awesome too. If the schedule of films for 2012 remains the same, there's no doubt the summer season will already be stacked. Putting MAN OF STEEL at the end of the year distinguishes it from the pack. I certainly don't think it would adversely effect the ticket sales, AVATAR was released in December.

Jon Hamm is being looked at for Clark Kent -

Hamm would make a pretty good Kent/Superman, but it's still pretty early in the process, I doubt he'll stick.

Interviews for Directors are reportedly underway. The Candidates -

Zach Snyder: Claim to fame - 300 and slow-motion fighting, Most recent film - LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS.

Snyder might be okay. He has the chops to pull of an epic Superman film. The trouble is he's developed a very distinct style that might put the film's quality at risk. If he were open to doing something different stylistically, things might turn out alright.

I once heard Snyder talk about Superman when he was promoting WATCHEMEN; he said that if there was a Superman in real life he would just gather up all the world's leaders and tell them "behave or I'll rip your heads off". That might make a pretty good film.

Tony Scott: Claim to fame - TOP GUN (though I'd say TRUE ROMANCE), Most recent - UNSTOPPABLE

Tony doesn't garner the same fanfare that his brother Ridley does, but he can pull out a decent film on occasion. His Superman film might be solid, but I can imagine it falling short.

Matt Reeves: C2F - CLOVERFIELD, Most recent - LET ME IN (early reviews quite good)

This would be a big step up for Reeves, but it might be a nice bet. The guy definitely has the talent to make a truly big-budget film. Could he handle a property as big as The Man of Steel? There's only one way to find out.

Duncan Jones: C2F - MOON, Most recent - next year's SOURCE CODE

MOON is spectacular. One of the best films I've ever seen. However, MOON, as a production, was very small potatoes compared to a superhero flick. Jones' stock is very high right now and it's not unheard of for Studios to hand big projects over to smaller director (see Marc Webb and SPIDER-MAN), but this would be a huge risk. I bet Jones could make a really good film, maybe even a great one, but he won't get the chance if his sophomore effort isn't up to snuff (I've heard rumor that it isn't).

Last and least...Johnathan Liebesman: C2F - THE TEXAS CHAINSAW Prequel, Most Recent - BATTLE: LOS ANGELES

I didn't even know who this guy was. I don't think he'll get it. Apparently he's directing the CLASH OF THE TITANS reboot sequel. Maybe if BATTLE does really well, the studio will pursue him, but I still doubt it.

Pretty nice start for the film in my opinion. I hope to hear a decision on the director in the near future, then maybe some casting news, maybe? That might be too much to ask for at this time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I've seen a lot of reviews for ANIMAL KINGDOM that try to ground it by comparisons to something more accessible. One called it an Australian GOODFELLAS. I've even heard it compared to Tarantino just because of its use of an Air Supply song. Likening ANIMAL KINGDOM to anything outside of Australia is complete idiocy. It's far from Scorsese and GOODFELLAS and a million miles away from anything Tarantino. It's completely in it's own world, without the pressures of conventional Hollywood pacing, character building or expectations. ANIMAL KINGDOM is a unique crime film in that it's bold enough to embrace the slow, sad and inevitable downfall of career criminals instead of the manic, intense and typically more cinematic rise. Michod's film is haunting and intelligent and will be weighing on my mind for some time to come; easily one of this year's best.

ANIMAL KINGDOM's opening credits feature security cam pictures of bank robbers, but that's all we see of our criminal families' successes. Our protagonist, young "J" Cody's voice over at the beginning of the film paints his criminal relatives as scared and anxious, knowing that the end will surely come as it does for all who lead a life of crime. The group's leader, Barry, is aware of this and he means to move toward a more legitimate life, but he's gunned down by renegade police officers, leaving the highly unstable "Pope" to care for the family.

I had a hard time figuring out where "J" fits within the story as he is essentially a blank slate. He does very little and seems very out of place, lacking any real presence, but if you think about the film within the context of the title, ANIMAL KINGDOM, you get a better sense of things. J is the baby of the group, the weak one, he doesn't have a sense of what his place is because that's decided by the stronger members of the gang. In the latter portion of the film, Sergeant Leckie (Guy Pearce) spells things out for J in terms of the natural world (as shown in the trailers). When his uncles go down for killing his girlfriend (the delusional Pope assumed she was talking to the police), J is forced to figure out his place in the food chain. He can go against them and live in fear, or he can help them and reclaim a spot in the family. He chooses the latter and when Leckie asks him "have you figured out where you fit yet?", we know that he has. In the end we also come to see Pope not as a strong protector, but as a dangerous liability whose decisions have brought the family to its ruin.

The performances in this film are all very strong. Supporting characters Barry, Craig and Darren (Joel Edgerton, Sullivan Stapleton, and Luke Ford) have limited screentime, but all impress by creating distinctive characters. Newcomer James Frecheville puts in a very restrained performance as J. The temptation to portray the character as emotional and angst-ridden must have been great. Instead J is devoid of feeling and intelligent thought throughout the film until the very end when he takes his place in the pack. Jacki Weaver gives an Oscar worthy supporting turn as Grandma Janine, whose function as the family matriarch is to protect them at all costs. Guy Pearce is also top-notch as usual. The most stunning performance though comes from journeyman actor Ben Mendelsohn as the disturbed Andrew "Pope" Cody. The apparent instability mixed with his vacant stares caused my stomach to tie in knots on several occasions. Overlooking him for a Best Supporting Actor nod would be a crime.

ANIMAL KINGDOM is also marked by its uniquely slow pace. It seems that most of the film is in slow-motion. This effect creates a feeling of tension in the viewer. At times I thought I was starting to get annoyed at the film when, in reality, the film was eliciting feelings of anxiety in me.

The film is also beautifully shot and the score is incredibly appropriate (more of that tension building). This is a great, albeit superior, companion piece to last year's THE SQUARE, directed by Nash Edgerton (brother of the above-mentioned actor Joel). Both films share that slow pacing and distinctive gritty look and are punctuated by startling violence.

My only gripe with ANIMAL KINGDOM is my own inability to process some of the Aussie-speak. It's a film I'd very much appreciate a second viewing of. When I get it on DVD I'll certainly appreciate some subtitles.


Nerd News

No use beating around the bush.

1. John Hamm (of John Hamm's Jon Ham) is reportedly being considered for the next Man of Steel -

The "Mad Men" star is currently one of Hollywood's most popular actors. His show just won the Emmy for Best Drama Series, he co-stars in the already well-reviewed THE TOWN (hitting theaters this Friday) and his recent stints on "SNL" and "30 Rock" have endeared him to the comedy community. The man is on quite a role, so being cast in the iconic role of Clark Kent wouldn't come as much of a shock. Hamm has the look for it along with the stature and versatile acting range one might need for the role. The only issue with him playing the role would be his age (he's nearly 40), but that might work with the new direction the superhero reboot is taking. Christopher Nolan, working with David Goyer have an idea for a Superman story told within the context of the modern world. What that might actually entail is a curiosity, but it likely means that they won't be rehashing the same old origin story, which makes room for an older Superman.

Casting the Man of Steel seems like a frightening task. It's something that must be hard to get right. George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh and even Tom Welling have played the character perfectly, but these actors are rarities (not so much in their acting ability overall, just in possessing all of the qualities one might need to play the part). Hamm is a good fit, so I hope they do indeed cast him. However, the way these things have gone of late, he's likely not the last hypothetical casting rumor for the next Superman and it's even less likely that he'll end up playing the part. One can hope though.

2. DRAGON TATTOO's Noomi Rapace gets her first Engligh-Speaking role in SHERLOCK HOLMES 2 -

There's been a lot of buzz surrounding this young actress since the DRAGON TATTOO films hit America last year and even more since production started on the American remakes. Some people have been clamoring for Rapace to get an Oscar nod for her performance as Lisbeth Salander, which is a bit much. Sure, she played that part well, but I don't think it was anything spectacular. Anyway, she's caught the eye of a few influential people in Hollywood and she's going to start crossing over into English-language films. Apparently, she aims to start this new phase in her career off with a bang. She's netted a role in Guy Ritchie's SHERLOCK HOLMES sequel, where she'll rub shoulders with the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and possibly (hopefully) Daniel Day Lewis as Dr. Moriarty. Few details have been released about the film other than Moriarty's increased involvement and that Rapace will be playing some sort of gypsy character. Good for her. I foresee her being a positive addition to this much-anticipated sequel.

3. Martin Freeman might play Bilbo Baggins in THE HOBBIT -

Freeman isn't a huge star by any means, but there's no way any huge star could play the role of Bilbo Baggins. There was once talk that James McAvoy might take on the part, which could be okay, but has since proved unlikely. Freeman has a much more modest appearance and persona, which is more fitting for the titular role. For those who don't know, Freeman appeared on BBC's "The Office" and essentially played the British precursor to John Krasinski's Jim, Tim. Freeman also starred in THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY and had (very) minor roles in both SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ. He had previously been linked to the role, but had to drop out of the running due to scheduling conflicts, but now that THE HOBBIT has had a few scheduling conflicts of its own, he's back in the running. I hope this works out.

Speaking of THE HOBBIT: Rumor has it that filming might get started on the movie as early as January. However, such news has to be taken with a grain of salt, considering the many many setbacks the picture has had. Peter Jackson is likely to return as director.

4. HBO has released new "Game of Thrones" promos -

For those of you unfamiliar with George R.R. Martin's "Fire and Ice" series (as I was until fairly recently), I would highly recommend it. The series consist of four (maybe soon to be five) long novels, the first of which is "A Game of Thrones". There's a certain stigma attached to non-mainstream fantasy series. If you're not "Lord of the Rings" or "Harry Potter" then you don't matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. My personal opinion, after only reading "A Game of Thrones", is that George R.R. Martin's works are the best fantasy written in the modern era. "A Game of Thrones" is hard, gritty stuff, definitely for adults and surprisingly low on magical elements. It's pairing with HBO is perfect and the previews indicate something truly special. Reportedly, the pilot episode of the series cost something between 5 and 10 million dollars. That's huge for television. The fact that HBO is so enthusiast about continuing with the series is a testament to their faith in the property. Reports have it that "A Game of Thrones" will debut in 2011 (likely spring). More news on this as it comes, but until then, here are a few previews:

5. Eastwood's HEREAFTER trailer debuts -

A few days ago, Clint Eastwood's HEREAFTER debuted its first trailer. The film seems like a departure for the director, as his films are usually more grounded, less fantastical. The film stars Matt Damon (there's already some Oscar buzz for him) and concerns several different people and their ideas of the afterlife.