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.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Sons of Anarchy" Season 3 Debuts Tonight on FX

I'm pretty jazzed for season 3 of "SOA", premiering tonight!

Film Festival Reports - BLACK SWAN + 127 Hours

Since the release of its trailer only a couple weeks back, Darren Aronofsky's BLACK SWAN has caused a great deal of interest in the film-going community, myself included. Suggested in the trailer is a dark, visually arresting drama/horror about the nature of pressure and all-consuming dedication. The film debuted at the Venice film festival this past week and has thus far received some fairly high praise. BLACK SWAN currently owns five positive reviews to one negative review on Rotten Tomatoes, but reports of a standing ovation for the film would suggest the praise stretches beyond those five critics.

Most of the buzz thus far for BLACK SWAN concerns the performances of Winona Ryder and Natalie Portman. The praise for Ryder I find a bit surprising as I've never seen her as a noteworthy actress, but I'm definitely interested to see what she makes of the role. Portman, on the other hand, is a solid actress and clips from the trailer certainly suggest a quality performance. The film has apparently raised interest for the actress amongst several filmmakers, including Alfonso Cuaron and Terrence Malick. Cuaron has reportedly offered Portman the lead role in his stranded-in-space flick GRAVITY, which Angelina Jolie recently turned down. No news yet on whether she'll take the role.

Another film gaining a lot of end of the year buzz is Danny Boyle's 127 HOURS, starring James Franco. It also had its debut this past weekend but at Telluride. HOURS has garnered some good reviews, but most coverage on the film has centered on its dubious honor of being so intense that it sent viewers to the hospital. Reports say that one audience member left on a gurney and another suffered a panic attack later in the viewing. Anyone who knows anything about the subject of the film, Aron Ralston, should be prepared to deal with the intensity of his dire situation and self-amputation.

Both BLACK SWAN and 127 HOURS will play next week at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nerd News

Some interesting Nerd News coming out of the past week. Let's start out with HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.

If you'll remember, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN grew out of the fake trailers that accompanied the Rodriguez/Tarantino GRINDHOUSE films a few years back. First there was this:

Now, this humorous concept has spawned a feature length film starring non-other than Rutger Hauer (BLADE RUNNER, SIN CITY) as the armed indigent. No other big stars grace the cast and the director is a rookie, but my interest is still peaked. This appears to be taking the themes and aesthetic of bygone b-movies to heart and that's something I can get behind, especially with Hauer as the ridiculous lead. A release is scheduled for some time in 2011, but no date has been specified.

2. Gaiman's "Sandman" may become a television series -

There isn't a whole lot of information coming out on this yet, just the announcement that has a lot of nerds riled up. Apparently Gaiman, Warner Brothers and Erik Kripke (creator of "Supernatural") are serious about bringing the project to fruition. There was talk previously of adapting the series for film, but according to Gaiman that produced one of the worst scripts he's ever read. I always thought television was a more fitting medium for the show, but that doesn't mean it will be good. There's a lot of questions that need to be answered about the intentions for the series first: What kind of network are they aiming for? If it's anything outside of the premiere channels, then I can't see it working. HBO and Showtime would allow for the material to be showcased in its truest form without being watered down. Some of the more brazen cable channels might be able to pull it off too, but don't even think about having it on one of the big networks because it won't last. Also, are they really aiming to make this a live action show? With all of the intense and psychedelic visuals/the supernatural nature of the title character, the show will require a lot of special effects and therefore a lot of money. "Sandman" has an avid following, but is it enough to justify such a budget? My vote would be to make an animated show. That way the budget would be cut down exponentially and there would be more hope of capturing the title's outstanding visuals. More news on this as it come.

3. Del Toro's MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS potentially off on a bad foot due to insane casting -

There's been a lot of buzz about Guillermo Del Toro's next project and now it's all but confirmed that he will be directing his dream project, an large-scale adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. The first casting news was leaked earlier this week saying basically that the studio wants James McAvoy for the lead and Del Toro himself wants Tom Cruise. The latter bit sounds like a joke, but apparently Del Toro and Cruise met when he was thinking of making a Van Helsing film, and the actor made an impression on him. I feel like everyone in the business is blind to Cruise's declining star power. The man is not someone you want to risk a big budget picture on anymore. Sure, I bet Del Toro could get an interesting performance out of the guy, maybe it would be good for his career, but an esoteric, period-horror epic doesn't need any more disadvantages in recouping its reportedly massive budget. McAvoy might be okay, but frankly I hope they find someone else and the way these things usually go says that they probably will. I just don't want to hear any more of this Cruise talk, it's too much risk for an already risky venture.

4. Ridley Scott giving hints about his planned ALIEN prequels -

- "The film[s] will be really tough, really nasty,"
- "will take place 30 years before the first film"
- "It's the dark side of the moon. We are talking about gods and engineers.
Engineers of space. And were the aliens designed as a form of biological warfare? Or biology that would go in and clean up a planet?"

I'm very excited for these films. Answering those last few questions posed could make for something very interesting. These films seem to be taking the ALIEN franchise out of its stagnant element. Each film involves survivors battling an alien or several within one confined setting. This was all well and good for the first two films, but expanding the story to visualize a future world in which these things exist is just what the series needs to be relevant again. We've been in the dark about these creatures since they were first introduced to us, it's about time we got some answers. Rewrites on the original scripts are being done by Damon Lindelof of "Lost" fame. When production will actually begin on the films is still up in the air though.