“Steven Soderbergh’s King of the Hill was a huge influence to me. The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith is another, directed by Gabriele Muccino. Another influence in a different kind of way was The Blind Side [by director John Lee Hancock]—and I’m not a fan of The Blind Side. I would watch it that movie and that’s what I don’t like to see from black characters, I don’t like the submissiveness to it. There is not a knock on anyone, but Mister was kind of me saying that’s not cool. These guys are smarter than that.”
6 notes | Permalink
Wake in Fright, by filmmaker Ted Kotcheff (First Blood), premiered at Cannes in 1971 and was lost for decades, until a copy was found in a box marked for destruction in a Pittsburgh warehouse. The restored film is now opening at the Edina Cinema.
6 notes | Permalink
Seeing this year’s top five Oscar contenders will take you 13 hours. Are movies getting too long?
2 notes | Permalink
The summer movie season is officially over, and Hollywood and Independent studios are gearing up to release their most prestigious prize-contending films over the next few months.
Over Labor Day weekend, the Telluride Film Festival took place in the mountains in Colorado, screening some of the most highly anticipated titles of the year; later this week, the Toronto International Film Festival starts and will showcase many premiere films that will most likely end up on the red carpet this February at the Oscars. Many of the films screenings at these two festivals will slowly start opening between now and Christmas Day, with a few opening in 2013, but will have already have opened in New York and Los Angeles in order to qualify for Oscars this year.
I know it’s only September, but in reports from Telluride and the Venice Film Festival (which opened last week and ends this weekend), some of the journalists were quoted saying things like, “Oscar-worthy performance,” “Should be a lock for a nomination,” and “lives up to expectations”; from these quotes, studios start planning Oscar campaigns and strategic release dates. It was also right around this time last year that eventual Best Picture winner The Artist was picking up steam. Some of these films playing in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto will be opening in the Twin Cities this September; these are a few I’m looking forward to.
Pixar is re-releasing its 2003 classic as Finding Nemo 3D, giving it a much deserved 3D boost, which should be a blast on the big screen. It is one of the more underrated family films of the past decade, and the 3D upgrade has been getting nothing but astonishing reviews. This will certainly be a real treasure on the big screen. (opens Friday, September 14)
Despite the awful title, End of Watch has me intrigued. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as policemen who confiscate some money and firearms in a routine traffic stop. Little do they know they are now marked men: they stole from a powerful cartel in L.A. and are now trying to survive. This sounds like familiar territory from other “cops and robbers” action films, but this one is written and directed by David Ayer (Training Day and Dark Blue). If Ayer can turn Gyllenhaal into a badass, as he did with Ethan Hawke (who received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Training Day), count me in for some dirty dealings and double crossings. (opens Friday, September 21)
Advance word on Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest mystical mind-boggler, The Master, has been extremely positive; well before its Venice premiere, there were test runs of the film in 70mm in Los Angeles and Chicago. (Let’s hope the Twin Cities can see a 70mm print!) Joaquin Phoenix stars as a navel veteran who comes home after the war and begins to question his life, until he meets a charismatic author (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who may or may not have something to do with a Scientology movement) and falls under his spell. Anderson, one of the most talented American filmmakers and storytellers working today, has created another winning trailer featuring his typical hooks; fragmented sounds, shouting matches, beautiful cinematography, and, by the looks of it, terrific acting by Phoenix, Hoffman and Amy Adams. (opens Friday, September 21)
Selected as the opening night film at TIFF this week is a film by writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick), who’s trying to recover from his disastrous sophomore film, The Brothers Bloom: a unique sci-fi time traveling take on the future called Looper. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play each other, 30 years apart, as a trained assassin, or Looper. Levitt must kill Willis; when Willis escapes, Levitt must track him down before he is killed, in order to prevent any further damage to Willis’s, his own, future. Sounds risky, dangerous and really entertaining. Johnson’s loopy story and visuals look outstanding and could be a real game changer: when science-fiction films are done right, they can redefine the genre. I’m hoping this one does. (opens Friday, September 28)
In her first American lead role, Emma Watson stars in novelist Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 cult-novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which Chbosky also adapted for the screen and directs. Taking a cue from other coming-of-age stories, a high school freshman named Charlie (Logan Lerman) is befriended by two seniors (one played by Watson and the other by Ezra Miller) and discovers he finally feels accepted, even if he knows his friends will be gone at the end of the year. Having read the book many years ago, I wonder if this story will feel somewhat dated considering it takes place in the early 90s, but many of the topics in the book are still what teenagers face today: first crushes, dealing with mental illness, family secrets, suicide, and the quintessential first high school booze, drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll party. (opens Friday, September 28)
4 notes | Permalink
Stop-the-presses arts news of the day: a holiday-season movie (Parental Guidance) will feature a kid shooting Billy Crystal in the crotch with a Super Soaker.
10 notes | Permalink
First look at Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
17 notes | Permalink
the next bout in what Roger Ebert calls “the mega-epic pissing contest” among filmmakers involves frame rate: the rate at which the picture is refreshed on the screen. The current standard frame rate is 24 frames per second (fps)—settled on decades ago because it was the lowest frame rate compatible with a synchronized soundtrack—but nearly half the screens in the country are now equipped with digital projectors that will support a frame rate of 48 fps, and December’s Hobbit adaptation will be the first major release to use that capacity.
James Cameron is now working on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 (which seems destined to be terrible, but then, so did the first one), both of which will be shown at 60 fps. Some believe that improvements could still be discernable to the human eye at 4,000 fps or even more, so this is just the beginning of a game of digital frame-upmanship that could occupy us for quite some time.
This is nothing new, as Ebert observes: from old-school 3D to vibrating seats to “smell-o-vision,” filmmakers have always sought gimmicks that will inspire us to open our wallets. Noting, though, that none of this is free, Ebert argues that the current generation of enhancements will likely cost filmgoers more than they’re worth. “When a family of four can spend $80 or more, including refreshments and parking, to see a trifle like Ice Age: Continental Drift in 3D, isn’t that discouraging?”
Well, yes and no. The issue of entertainment pricing is a complicated one.
13 notes | Permalink
Beasts of the Southern Wild features a visually stunning portrait of amazement and bewilderment. The poetic film by Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar starts out as a survival film only to turn into a film about life, beauty, and independence, showcasing a great eye for detail, story, and creativity. It has two breakout performances from young Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry, who plays dad to Wallis’s Hushpuppy. It’s an extraordinary depiction of a loving bond of father and daughter, but also the harsh realities we are faced with in doing what is best for one another and moving on.
14 notes | Permalink
So looking at the films opening in June, what have I seen, what would I recommend, what am I looking forward to, and what would I avoid at all costs?
Opening last Friday, Snow White and the Huntsman was number one at the box office, beating out the likes of Men in Black 3 and The Avengers, which to me both look better than seeing Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth (who also plays Thor in The Avengers), and Charlize Theron act mean toward everyone in what looks like a bland new twist on the Snow White story. There was another film from a few months ago that also did another take on the Snow White story, called Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts. Did we really need two different films on the Snow White story coming out weeks apart from one another? I think I’ll stick with the 1937 Disney animated classic in either case and skip these newer versions.
Speaking of Charlize Theron, as of this Friday, June 8, she can also be seen in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller Prometheus, along with Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. Whether this is a prequel or not to Scott’s original 1979 terror-in-space epic Alien, we will find out in a few days; count me as someone mildly interested in seeing Prometheus. Judging alone by the numerous film trailers (how did they ever decide to team up with Coors Light to endorse this?), it looks to be much tamer than Alien, but when sci-fi films are done well they are a blast. However, when sci-fi films are not exciting or extremely tedious, not even great acting or outstanding visuals can save them. (Watch for Jay Gabler’s Daily Planet review of Prometheus, to be published on Friday.)
Going against Prometheus will be the Dreamworks animated sequel Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Surprisingly I have not seen that many commercials or press on the film, and it opens in just a few days. Maybe I have not been on the right channels or have picked up the right newspapers, but judging by the title, the main characters will be leaving their Central Park zoo and heading to Europe. The past two films have been entertaining enough and I have a feeling I’ll eventually seeMadagascar 3—just not any time soon.
The film opening this Friday that should be sought out, however, is Moonrise Kingdom, the newest film from Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited). This is a must-see, featuring a great cast (Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand) who are all outshined by their younger co-stars: two newcomers, Jared Gilman and Kara Haywood, as young teens who escape from their New England coastal towns and fall in love. Moonrise Kingdom is fragile, whimsical, and a delight from start to finish. (Watch for Jay Gabler’s Daily Planet review of Moonrise Kingdom, to be published on Friday.)
Opening on Friday, June 15 is another Adam Sandler man-child comedy, this time co-starring Andy Samberg: That’s My Boy. You have been warned.
Rock of Ages, starring Alec Baldwin, Julianne Hough, and Tom Cruise (in a long-hair wig but still showing off his six-pack abs) get their moment to sing some songs in a movie based on the Broadway musical. Could be fun, in a campy way—at least that’s what I am hoping for.
If you are looking for something off the beaten path though, you should check out director Colin Trevorrow’s highly entertaining Sundance sci-fi comedy hit Safety Not Guaranteed. After seeing an ad in a Seattle newspaper—”Looking for someone to time-travel with”—a reporter and his two assistants take a road trip to find out if the person who placed the ad is crazy or a genius. It stars Aubrey Plaza (NBC’s Parks & Recreation), Jake Johnson (Fox’s The New Girl), and Mark Duplass (Your Sister’s Sister). The results are charming, original, and surprisingly, touching.
On Friday, June 22, we will be treated to perhaps the biggest wild card of the month with an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s unexpected best-selling novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted and the Russian vampire fantasy Night Watch) , starring Benjamin Walker portraying Abraham Lincoln. This Tim-Burton-produced film has some promise and could be highly entertaining pulp or a complete misfire similar to Burton’s last vampire venture, Dark Shadows.
Brave, the latest Pixar animated film, looks to be a great adventure for kids and adults alike. Featuring voice work by Emma Thompson, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, and talk show host Craig Ferguson, it’s a first for Pixar: a feature film with a female leading the charge. Scottish Princess Merida (voiced by Macdonald from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) is also a warrior and must defend her kingdom. Pixar rarely lays an egg (Cars 2, anyone?) and most of their films are better than most of the live-action films released every year. Count me in as someone who will be seeing Brave opening weekend.
On the American indie front, Lynn Shelton’s (Humpday, My Effortless Brilliance) fourth feature, Your Sister’s Sister, might be her best film to date and it should be Mark Duplass’s breakout—if Safety Not Guaranteed is not the one to make him a go-to male actor. Leaving Seattle to retreat to a cabin in the Northwest wildness after his brother’s death, Duplass’s Jack encounters Hannah (Rosemary Dewitt) and they hit it off, which only complicates matters once Hannah’s half-sister Iris (Emily Blunt) arrives and Jack has feelings for both sisters. It’s refreshing to see a comedy with real emotions and an understanding of difficult relationships handled with superior perfection.
Closing out the end of month on Friday June 29 is the second Steven Sodenbergh (Haywire) film of the year, Magic Mike, based on actor Channing Tatum’s real-life male stripping experiences before he became an A-List actor. Sodenbergh is a name I trust; I have rarely been disappointed in his efforts. The story is supposedly a comedy/drama mix, with Tatum’s character (a veteran in the stripping game) teaching a new recruit the ways of making money, meeting women, and partying, with Matthew McConaughey co-starring as the owner of the strip club.
11 notes | Permalink
My sister Jenny, who’s the mother of three children and is still nursing the third, accompanied me to a preview screening of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. How realistic was the movie? Midway through the film, she leaned over to me and whispered, “My milk just dropped down.”
I didn’t even know what that meant. I don’t have kids myself, and my intention was to write a single guy’s reaction to the movie—maybe a cultural critique of whatever new feminine mystiques were portrayed. But What to Expect When You’re Expecting caught me off-guard: it’s kind of like a baby itself, lovable in its lack of ambition.
You want a film that tackles the tougher realities of love and parenting, stay home and stream Rabbit Hole or Kramer vs. Kramer or Precious even Juno. What to Expect director Kirk Jones, working from a screenplay by Shauna Cross and Heather Hach, aspires simply to tell a few pregnancy stories that have happy endings. There’s just enough tension and ambiguity to make the characters empathetic, and more than enough charm and humor to keep spectators engaged.
The film follows four different pregnancies and one adoption, but there’s not so much plot that I won’t veer into spoilerville if I try to write more than one paragraph about it. So here’s the scorecard: you have a thirtysomething couple who have finally conceived after years of trying (Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone), that guy’s dad and his young new wife who’s alsoexpecting (Dennis Quaid and Brooklyn Decker), a twentysomething couple who own competing food trucks and conceive through an act of what may or may not be hate sex (Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford), a celebrity couple who hook up and knock up while dancing together on a reality TV show (Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison), and a relatively poor couple (they have to rent instead of own) who are facing uncertainty that’s not purely economic (Rodrigo Santoro and an impressively glowing Jennifer Lopez).
The core story is Banks’s and Falcone’s, and both are ridiculously charming—as, really, is this entire cast in a film that has no real villains except bad luck. Ancillary characters, including a real-talking dad played by Chris Rock and a retail clerk played by a scene-stealing Rebel Wilson (“Can I take my 15-minute Facebook break?”), provide above-average comic relief. The film percolates along like the well-crafted entertainment it is, and it has enough heart that by the end I had to get tough with myself about not being allowed to cry during a movie I was supposed to be there to make fun of.
The movie is “based on” (though “inspired by” or “franchised from” might be more accurate) the eponymous guidebook, and based on Jenny’s indifferent appraisal of the book, the movie might actually be better-written. Like the book, though, the film gives comfort and lays out some of the issues you’re likely to find yourself dealing with when in The Family Way. They made that movie too, but it was about the easy part of procreation.
4 notes | Permalink