Saturday, November 29, 2008

I love this guy: Daniel Craig

I don't remember the first thing I saw Daniel Craig in. It might've been Munich, where he sort of clung to the shadows, or Sylvia, in which he played the husband of troubled poet Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes (to be fair, also a poet). At least some time after that I saw him in Layer Cake as a drug trafficker (This movie is NOT directed by Guy Ritchie, for the record). Last year he was in two films; The Golden Compass, and The Invasion, which I've heard is horrible, but I kinda want to see it.

Then, just recently, I witness him in Enduring Love (made in between Sylvia and Layer Cake), as a man who has an above average, happy life, which is ruined by a creepy stalker (Rhys Ifans). The movie is disturbingly beautiful, and Daniel Craig is amazing in it. It was here where I said to myself: "Daniel Craig is so understated as an actor."

Oh but wait, he's doing the whole Bond thing right now. Besides that, for a while it seemed like nobody really knew him, but he was getting all these good parts (again, in movies that weren't really getting out there). Of course, now, he's hot stuff, and I can't wait to see him in Defiance (whenever that comes out)... I just hope he continues to make high quality and thoughtful films. Think about it, Daniel Craig.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Review: Milk (2008)

Finally! A movie meets my expectations! It hasn't happened in a while. In fact it almost never happens. Having seen the trailer (involuntarily) maybe 50 times, I thought for sure I was desensitized to the premise (surely it had to be heartbreaking and I wasn't going to feel heartbroken), and I was sure I was going to be disappointed.

I wasn't.

Milk is a fantastic, touching film, telling the story of the eponymous hero Harvey Milk (the breathtaking Sean Penn), and how he succeeded in getting the wheels turning in the gay right movement in America. The first hour spans 8 years of his move to San Francisco with his partner Scott (James Franco), setting up shop, and generating an openly gay community which thrived on love and good vibrations... In this time Milk decides that it's time that there should be one of his own in office. He makes his campaign, and runs 4 times before he is elected as a city supervisor. In that time, we meet his small and trusty band of loyal gays (Joseph Cross, Lucas Grabeel, Brandon Boyce), his eccentric young protegé (Emile Hirsch, in a seriously awesome role), his token lesbian (Alison Pil), and his second, less-exciting lover (Diego Luna).

They are all great.

Perhaps better still, is Josh Brolin, who plays the villainous--yet surprisingly sympathetic--Dan White, a fellow supervisor with bigot ambitions. He is the one who kills Milk. Surprise! Don't worry, I didn't spoil it. Dan White tries his best and follows his conscience, it just takes a road that not many of us normally would. You can't help but feel sorry for him, even if you know what he's going to do.

Sean Penn's performance completes me. I can't say anything more, but he SO steals my heart.

I think there is nothing too extraordinary about Gus Van Sant's directing style. I'd say there were a few bad choices made, but overall, the movie is extremely powerful and moving. The subject matter is heavy and I can't articulate everything I want to about its effect on society (if there will be any), and perhaps the effect it might've had were it released a month ago (for voter's of California's Proposition 8), and how it might do in the Oscar race (Some people might be scared about how pro-gay it is). The film is not all about Milk, it's about the movement--not the monument--the gave gay people their voices. I think we should be proud of this film.

Grade A-

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Trailers: Star Trek (2009)

WHAT? I hadn't already posted this? For fuck's sake..

I'm not a Trek fan in any sense, but I'm pretty pumped for this movie.

Trailers: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [INTERNATIONAL] (2008)

I told myself I wouldn't watch it. But, wow.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

For Your Consideration: Heath Ledger

From /film:
Warner Bros has publicly begun its push with this Variety advertisement for Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Academy Award ballots are mailed on December 26th, polls close on January 12th, and the nominations are announced on January 22nd.

He will have to contend with Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt, John Malkovich in Changeling, Ralph Fiennes in Duchess, John Malkovich and Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading and Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder. Will the Academy recognize an outstanding performance in a “comic book movie”?

Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Upon walking out of the theater with my sister, I said that I thought the movie didn't get interesting until an hour in, she said that she didn't think the movie got interesting until the whole movie.

Behold, truth.

It would be hard to exceed the greatness that was 2006's Casino Royale, but I felt that this film was hardly even worthy to be its sequel.

The first hour is comprised of five different kinds of chases: A car chase, foot chase, boat chase, plane chase, and the chasing of James Bond, who's gone "rogue". None of these succeeded in getting me "jazzed" or wanting more. They are all so tired and pumped on steroids that I am moved to tears by the lack of style. The plot to me was convoluted and unclear, and apart from a very small number of minute-long sequences I thought were cool, the first hour was useless.

At the end, I felt unfulfilled. It was really just getting going, seriously. It probably could've had another hour of decent stuff. Instead, the tacked-on ending seems cheap and open-ended.

Bad stuff aside, I will give the last 45 minutes credit as being exciting enough for me to be disappointed when it was over. Mathieu Almaric fits the mold for the Bond Villain. He's really popular right now, and he's french; which is lucky for this movie. It feels like it was meant to be. Judi Dench is ever the badass as M, Bond's mysterious boss. Daniel Craig is still good, but he doesn't open his mouth enough. Maybe that's just me, but it's annoying.

I really wanted to be pumped up by this movie. But alas, I was not. Better luck next time.

Grade: C-

Review: Christmas on Mars (2008)

Whoa. Ummmm.

I'm not a Flaming Lips fan, really. Nothing against the music, I just never got into them. Yet I went to see their crazy trip of a film Christmas on Mars tonight, and sat in the company of some people I assume have never been to a movie before.

How to describe the movie... It has a plot, I think, but I don't care. It's an instant cult classic, a mash up between Plan 9 from Outerspace, Eraserhead, and The Wizard of Oz on acid. WHOA.

And thank you, Fred Armisen, for making my life better all the time.

A couple of times I wanted to leave, just because I felt I had already attained the vibe well enough. But I stayed! And it turned out to be fine because the movie is like 70 minutes long. It is deliciously low budget; there is essence of styrofoam and egg cartons everywhere on set. The directing (by Lips front man Wayne Coyne) is bold and interesting. It's a great throwback to 50's B movie sci-fi classics. Film fans would do well not to miss this.

I don't care who you are, what your story is, who you like, who you don't like, how tired you are, just see this movie.

And thank you, Adam Goldberg, for making my life better all the time.

Grade: This movie transcends grading

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Review: Changeling (2008)

Changeling is about a mother who loses her son and the never-ending quest she embarks upon to find him.

But what it's really about is a 1928 Los Angeles and its corrupt police force and the lengths some people will go to bring them to justice.

Angelina Jolie is Christine Collins in this tale, and delivers a heartbreaking performance. Seriously, she is good. At first all is well with her and her little son Walter, until she returns home from work one night to find him missing. She notifies the police and does whatever she can to carry on her life while fervently pursuing the search for her child. At first, the film is sad and poignant. One woman's quiet struggle to find the one thing most dear to her is touching and captivating.

When she is notified one day at work by the captain of the police force that her son has been found, it's the most beautiful and raw moment of the film. And this is also where it starts to become undone. She is confronted with a boy who is spectacularly not her son. She insists, but is jerked around by the LAPD into admitting in front of the press that it IS indeed her son. She smiles for the camera. This is where the story of a mother looking for her lost child ends and the other story begins.

John Malkovich is criminally under-utilized. He plays the soldiering Pastor of a local church, who will stop at nothing to bring down the law. Along the way we meet more police officers, more kids, more wronged women, and are still met with no results.

This movie reminded me a lot of Zodiac. It constantly introduces new characters, new storylines, and new information which makes it all very hard to keep track of. Okay, so this film is a little easier to keep track of, but the ending is just as open-ended.

Director Clint Eastwood does alright here. He gets the period down, he gets the music down, he gets the performances down. However his story is too convoluted; there are actually 2 major storylines at one point in the movie, when there should only be one.

Grade: B-

Trailers: Adventureland (2009)

Oh, it's just Superbad set in an amusement park with a different version of Michael Cera. Whatever, it looks good.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Trailers: The Wrestler (2008)

Moment of Silence

For Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, which should've come out today, but didn't, because someone fucked up.

Review: Twilight (2008)

Ah, sweet relief! My first movie in TWO WEEKS.

And yes, it is Twilight. And yes, I DID go see the 10 AM showing this morning despite getting over an illness. And no, I'm not a fan of the book, and have not been waiting on edge for this movie since I first heard about it.

I know nothing of the books. I know they were written by a mormon chick and involve a hot vampire named Edward and a girl with a name only a fantasy writer would use practically (Bella).

What works:
-This is a fantasy story. Every girl under the age of 20 will DEFINITELY love this. It's got a hot romance, lots of pretty people, damsels in distress, friendly gorgeous vampires, and a prom. This is a Dracula for our generation.
-The aesthetic tone of the movie is nice. At least to me. It's what I was drawn to in the first place. The film is shot in the beautiful pacific northwest, and it's constantly cloudy. The costumes are mostly neutral colors, and all the vampires' skin is chalky.
-The best character of the story is Charlie (Billy Burke), Bella's police cop daddy, who is unassuming, likable, and intentionally funny.

Robert Pattinson (who is omg gorgeous) and Kristen Stewart's acting styles complement each other; they're both wooden, completely unemotional, and incredibly irritating. Like nails on the chalk board irritating. I found myself getting restless and frustrated just listening to "Bella" speak. It's like, get it over with already.

I haven't seen any of Catherine Hardwicke's other directorial endeavors, so I can't make any comparisons. But I will say that while this movie was not poorly directed, it was also most emphatically not well directed. I appreciate that a fantasy movie should be stylized, but it all seems rather amateurish to me.

There are possibly too many cringe-worthy moments for this movie to be considered good. I suppose, though, the story is there, and it's mostly exciting. I just can't get over the awkwardness of Edward and Bella (i.e. Pattinson and Stewart)... Eh, go see it for shits and giggles. It'll at least satisfy us fangirls until Harry Potter deems us worthy of its audience.

Grade: C+ (the + is for the unexpected yet not un-welcomed decision to have Radiohead play over the end credits)

Current Total: 65

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Trailers: Watchmen (2009) FULL OFFICIAL TRAILER!


Random News: "Paul" details released!

From /film:

Want some more details about Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s next comedy? Paul will follow the two British geeks, who after visiting Comic-Con, go on a road trip to Area 51 where they encounter a small alien named Paul, who enlists them to help him find his way home. Written by Pegg and Frost, and directed by Greg Mottola (Adventureland, Superbad).

To recap: A sci-fi road trip comedy, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Greg Mottola, an Alien, Comic Con, Area 51?! I don’t know about you guys, but I think this sounds like a winner. Filmmaker Edgar Wright is busy on Scott Pilgrim, which explains why he’s not involved as a director. Mottola is a self professed fan of Nick and Simon’s films so far, and loved the concept. Wright will executive produce. Paul will start shooting in March 2009.

Video: The Kevin Bacon Movie Club!

See more Kevin Bacon videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I love this guy: Josh Brolin

Hopefully this will be a new segment that I can keep going, because I love sooo many people.

Josh Brolin is one of the coolest actors working right now and probably most in-demand. At the end of 2007, he was my favorite actor of the year, along with Ben Foster. I mean, how could he not be? Check out the resume, and the excellent facial hair:

Robert Rodriguez's GRINDHOUSE segment: Planet Terror. Plays a bad guy but honestly I can't see a bad thing about him. If I was Marley Shelton would I rather be getting off with Fergie or Josh Brolin? Fucking Josh Brolin, that's who.

In the unfortunate and anti-climactic Ridley Scott picture American Gangster, Brolin plays a corrupt cop with a killer 'stache. The anti-Russell Crowe, if you will. His performance and presence in the movie is so subtle. If that movie had come out this year, he would've probably gotten third billing. Nevertheless, it took me a very long time to even notice him, but that's not his fault. it's the fucking movie's fault.

The stunning Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men from the Coen brothers. His performance is so fabulous and low key. I love his interactions with Kelly MacDonald, and pretty much with everyone else. Too bad he had to die.

And also too bad he's married to Diane Lane, who has one of the worst hollywood careers right now.

Josh, you can do so much better.

He was of course dead on with his portrayal of George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's decent biopic W. And I can't wait to see him play antagonist to Sean Penn's Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's Milk, coming out later this month. Can Josh Brolin do no wrong? As far as I can see, I'd say yes.

Trailers: Australia (2008)

I've been anticipating this for a while. Looks like a good old fashioned love story.

Random News: Baz Luhrmann is being owned by Fox

From /film:

The Guardian is reporting that director Baz Luhrmann agreed, after “intense discussions”, to rewrite the final scenes of the Nicole Kidman/Hugh Jackman romantic adventure epic Australia. Apparently studio executives wanted the film to end on a more positive note (We’re not going to discuss the spoiler in question here). Apparently negative feedback from early test screenings prompted the studio’s concerns over the film finale.

I’m told that Luhrmann has final cut on this film, and that Fox could not have forced Luhrmann to change the ending even if they wanted to. That said, there is a lot of other stuff a studio can threaten to do that could have forced Luhrmann’s hand (not to say Fox did such things…).

It’s impossible to make an opinion based on pure hearsay, and I doubt we’ll ever get the real story behind the changes. Some will blame Fox for stepping in and “ruining Baz’s artistic vision” while others may agree that Baz made the right choice in agreeing to the changes. Either way, I’m sure the alternative ending will be available on DVD.

Man, that sucks. Can't do the film's ending the way you want it to? On the other hand, it doesn't sound like the studio doesn't have any real power over Luhrmann, so why does he have to bend?

Interviews: Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder is a director who doesn't fit the stereotype. A gentle voice, buff figure and laid back attitude hardly seems suited to the man behind the zombie-fueled fun of "Dawn of the Dead" or the movie that took leather codpieces and rippled abs out of the S&M club scene and into many an alpha male's heart - "300".

Continue Reading...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Video: A Capella tribute to John Williams

Am I a huge geek for not wanting it to end?

p.s. I really hate all those stupid shirts this guy is wearing.

Rant: Simon Pegg hates fast zombies

From The Guardian:

As an avid horror fan, I found the prospect of last week's five-night TV zombie spectacular rather exciting. Admittedly, the trailer for E4's Dead Set made me somewhat uneasy. The sight of newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy warning the populace of an impending zombie apocalypse induced a sickening sense of indignation. Only five years previously, Edgar Wright and I had hired Krishnan to do the very same thing in our own zombie opus, Shaun of the Dead. It was a bit like seeing an ex-lover walking down the street pushing a pram. Of course, this was a knee-jerk reaction. It's not as if Edgar and I hadn't already pushed someone else's baby up the cultural high street - but that, to some extent, was the point. In Shaun of the Dead, we lifted the mythology established by George A Romero in his 1968 film Night of the Living Dead and offset it against the conventions of a romantic comedy.

Read on...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Review: Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Charlie Kaufman makes his directorial debut with a film he also wrote (natch), starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, and way too many other famous actresses to name.

The movie is very surrealistic and odd; the notion of a timeline is irrelevant. It's hard to know what is real, and what is in the mind, but after a while, I start to not care anymore.

I appreciate the production value, and the film is well made and ambitious. However, it's overly complicated. So many characters flee in and out of the picture, it's unclear who is important and who is not. There are too many things unexplained and left frustratingly ambiguous.

The problem here is not Kaufman's directing, but his writing (surprise!). I desperately wanted to feel for the characters, and hurt when they hurt, but there's nothing there, and where his last script (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) triumphs, this one fails.

I think that this film is good; it is well made and well performed, and the script does sail mostly on positive waters, but just because it's good, doesn't mean I have to like it. See for yourself.

Grade: C

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Review: RocknRolla (2008)

Guy Ritchie does one thing and does it well: The British Gangster flick. The setup is the same as we've seen it in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch. Several storylines overlapping without the characters knowing they're connected, usually involving drug dealers, junkies, mob bosses, etc... Even though I've seen it before, twice, there's still no reason not to like it.

The characters are cheeky and clever, the dialogue is fast and witty, and the film work is sensational. Say what you will about Guy Ritchie's ability to tell stories, the man knows how to make films.

Even though the film is thoroughly enjoyable, it is, however, forgettable. It has its moments of the classic Guy Ritchie wit, but if you skip it, you're not missing out on much. You'd do better to sit back with Lock Stock and Snatch for now, and save this one for Netflix.

Grade: B-

Review: W. (2008)

My awesome sister wrote this, and she's better at writing reviews than I am: (And I agree %100 with what she says)

Stated simply, it’s hard to figure out what this movie is. Is it a comedic slam of George W. Bush, or is it a sincere chronicle of his life ? I’ll tell you, after 2 hours, I’m still not sure.

Let me break it down for you. The way Oliver Stone made this movie evokes two very different interpretations: He either sought to paint W. as a divine tragedy (cue scenes with soft piano over hard times in Bush‘s life), or a great mockery, bringing some classic “Bushisms” back into the picture. But one can never really be sure what gets accomplished here.

On one hand, the scenes of Bush’s young life are done quite well. Josh Brolin steps into the Commander in Chief’s shoes with ease. Brolin’s portrayal of the early, rowdy, alcoholic Bush, who holds a slew of odd jobs, courts trashy women, and is heading down the "wasting your life" type of path, are ironically serious, boasting the possibility that if you just polish this up enough, this might have Oscar written all over it.

On the other hand, scenes of the later years, showing Bush in office, make him look, for lack of a better word: Stupid. There’s no other way to describe the movie at these points. The script is really hammed up with silly “Bushisms,” and they make him seem trivial, and completely overpowered by Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss).

But what does W. ultimately become? A hodge podge of Bush here in ‘77, and then Bush there in ‘02, and then in ’86, and in ’04, and ’02 all over again. Back and forth, and back and forth, and you get the picture. There are so many good ideas here that are undeveloped, and are completely not cohesive, that you kind of wonder why not just put this one back in the oven? And maybe just make the whole thing in chronological order. Clearly this could be a great movie, but not now.

Which brings up another question: Why now? Why produce this movie at the very end of Bush’s presidency? Is it to remind people that he’s still president? Could be. I for one, keep forgetting that he exists amidst this heated political season. Or could it be that Oliver Stone just really wanted to make a movie about Bush, and refused to wait? Or maybe, we’re supposed to enjoy it more because it’s so recent. Whatever the reason was, this is just does not seem like the time.

At the end of the day, Josh Brolin is W.’s only ace. The rest of the movie is so-so. Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush meets expectations, and James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn as Mama and Papa Bush, are pretty good. However, W. may have relied too much on big names to fill small roles: Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice, Ioan Gruffudd as Tony Blair, Noah Wyle as Don Evans, and I’m still not really sure who Colin Hanks is supposed to be playing. Still more evidence of a diamond in the rough.

My advice to you is to not see this movie if you sincerely love George W. Bush. Conversely, if you hate him, be forewarned that you might find yourself respecting him at times. It’s an extremely slippery slope, but regardless, it’s an interesting movie, even if it’s a few cards short of a deck. It’s probably a good idea to put this one on your radar. If nothing else, you’ll get some laughs.

Grade: B-
Her Blog

Review: Let the Right One In (2008)

Somewhere, in a remote corner of Sweden where IKEA doesn't exist, there is a small town with an unnatural, horrific problem.

This film, from director Tomas Alfredson, tells the story of two young outsiders, Oskar and Eli, who find each other and become friends. The only thing is, she's a vampire. She lives with her father in a apartment where the windows have been covered and he goes out at night to harvest blood. Ew.

Cinematically, this film is gorgeous. There are lots of pretty shots that illustrate the cold and isolated feeling of the area.

Unlike other Vampire films that I've seen (which, I'll admit, are not many), this really focuses more on the relationship between Oskar and Eli. They live next door to each other and communicate with Morse code. We see these two in many aspects of their every day life. Notably Oskar being picked on at school, spending time with his father and mother separately. We see Eli at night only, and how she obtains her feast.

If you're looking for a movie to scare you, this won't quite do the trick. There are a few frightening moments, but it's more about the relationships. A very stunning movie. A must see.

Grade: A

Monday, November 03, 2008

Random News: Joaquin Phoenix is done for reals.

From Yahoo:

LOS ANGELES – The writing on Joaquin Phoenix's fists said it all.

The words "Good Bye" were penned on the actor's knuckles at a premiere Saturday night for his latest film, "Two Lovers," and Phoenix confirmed a surprise announcement he made last week: He's giving up movies.

"I think it's just moving on. It's rediscovering something else," said Phoenix, 34, said in an interview with Associated Press Television News before Saturday's American Film Institute festival, which also premiered "Che," starring Benicio Del Toro.

"Two Lovers" is his last film, he said. His publicist had disclosed Friday that the actor intended to focus on music.
Phoenix first mentioned his decision to "Extra" early last week at a fundraiser in San Francisco. He abruptly ended that interview after the reporter wondered whether he was joking about giving up acting for music.

Phoenix learned to play guitar and did his own singing to play country legend Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line," which earned him an Academy Award nomination. His publicist also said Phoenix has been directing music videos in recent years.

"It's like greener pastures, you know what I mean?" Phoenix said Saturday. "And so, I'm just going to try and like, I'll just be doing the other thing. ... Hopefully, I will emotionally impact you with that, as well."

Trailers: The Reader (2008)