Monday, September 29, 2008

Theatrical trailer for "Australia"!!!

Absolutely jaw-droppingly spectacular!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"The Reader" finally gets a release date as Rudin and Weinstein settle feud

Looks like Kate Winslet will continue to ride two Oscar ponies on the best actress derby track.

Forget the vicious gossip you've been hearing that Scott Rudin is battling behind the scenes to stop Harvey Weinstein from pushing up the release of the film they produced together, "The Reader" so it can land in this Oscar derby. Rudin also produced "Revolutionary Road," which stars Kate Winslet too and is a major contender for Oscars.

Some of the rumors have been juicy. One is that Rudin will trip Harvey up with a nasty lawsuit. Another claims that Winslet told Harvey that, if he continues with this reckless plan to release "The Reader" on Dec. 12, she'll refuse to do any Oscar campaigning. Actors, remember, can be nominated for only one film per category, and it's logical to assume that she'd prefer to be nominated for her role in "Revolutionary Road," directed by her husband, Sam Mendes (Oscar champ, "American Beauty"). Read more about both pix HERE.

Another rumor claims that Harvey's so hellbent to get "The Reader" out in time for the next Oscars that he'll release it in December even if it's not quite finished. The film was still in rough cut when it was screened recently in Manhattan, generating such positive reax that Harvey pushed up its release. It's true that "The Reader's" director has another major, timely demand weighing on him right now: Stephen Daldry is rushing to debut the stage adaptation of "Billy Elliot" on Broadway Nov. 13.

But to clear up all of these dramas, Rudin and Weinstein just issued this notice: "We are issuing this statement together to emphasize the fact that we are in complete agreement on the date we have chosen to release 'The Reader.' Working together, we developed a plan to extend the post-production schedule in order to give Stephen Daldry the additional time he needs to successfully complete the film in time to release it on December 12, 2008."

Stephen Daldry adds: "On their own, Scott and Harvey spent this weekend working together to find a way to accommodate my needs so that I may fulfill my obligation to the studio without compromising my vision for the film. I am thrilled and relieved that we have all found a way forward to work together to bring 'The Reader' to theaters this year."

Kristen Wiig is officially Saturday NIght Live's funniest performer

More brilliance from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Trailer for "Seven Pounds" with WIll Smith and Rosario Dawson

It looks....OK, but the fact that it's directed by the man behind "The Pursuit of Happyness" is a big minus. And that music near the end is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too "EPIC" for this type of movie. Oh well, I'm sure that it shouldn't have any trouble making money since it stars the unfortunately invincible Will Smith, who seems to have sucked up the box office clout of most of Hollywood for himself.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Choke - REVIEW

It's always unfortunate when the best bits of a movie are put into a trailer, or when the trailer by itself is more satisfying than the final product. As fate would have it, that's what has become of "Choke", a dirty comedy based on a novel from the author of Fight Club (a movie which I adore). The use of the term "incendiary" is appropriate in describing author Chuck Palahaliuk's [sic] works because they can easily repel people with the audacity of their subject material (Choke) or their philosophies (Fight Club). As such, it takes a skilled director and screenwriter to properly adapt the author's material to the screen. David Fincher was perfect. Clark Gregg is anything but. His handling of Choke, coupled with an equally dismal screenplay, result in nothing less than a sleazy trainwreck of a movie, despite a good cast (Sam Rockwell, Kelly MacDonald, Angelica Huston). The big problem with the movie is that its priorities are all out of order. The story is supposed to center on a sex addict who pretends to choke in upscale restaurants to earn the affections (and cash) of his saviors to help pay for his dementia-affected mother's (Huston) hospital bills. So you'd think there would be enough choking scenes to justify a blackly funny montage of deception. Instead, we get a movie that borders on pornography. Apparently 2 or 3 scenes of protagonist Victor (Rockwell) engaging in meaningless sex with strangers wasn't enough to let us know how bad his addiction really is. We get scene, after scene, after scene (even though most are brief) of random sex, and after a while it begins to feel more than a little sleazy. Not helping matters is the absolute lack of focus. This is one of those rare movies that seriously doesn't feel like it has a beginning. After the introductory moments, I was expecting some sort of "hang on, allow me to back up to set everything straight". And I waited. And waited. And then I realized that it simply wasn't going to arrive. With meaningless, sleazy, degraded sex pushed to the forefront, the main story is thrown aside, leaving several moments (including the two best scenes in the trailer, which involve an erotic dancer named Cherry Daquiri) feeling more like last minute add ins. The result is a disjointed, tone-less, slimey film that I can best describe as a cinematic prostitute. The only thing I have to add is that Angelica Huston is pretty good, and Rockwell could have been good, but the character just becomes too much. I'm so disappointed, and frankly, disgusted, with Choke, that I'm starting to get sick of writing about it. I think I'll stop now, and pass judgment.

Grade: C-/D+

Nominations: None

Number of 2008 Films Seen: 32

2nd trailer for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"!!!

Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic!!

TNT's riveting new series...

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are brilliant.

New trailer for "Valkyrie"

This actually makes the movie look really good. The use of the ticking bomb noise in the second half is a nice touch. Who knows, maybe this will turn out to be a surprise hit.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Final trailer for "W"

Johnny Depp officially signs on for "Pirates of the Caribbean 4"!

With the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, it was pretty much inevitable that more would come our way. But it wasn't all signed, dotted, and crossed until now. Variety reports that Johnny Depp has finally signed on for a fourth film. I can only hope that this time around, he gets the passion and the girl. Or at the very least, I hope she doesn't pick a bland dude who lacks charisma and chemistry instead. Ick.  But that's not all, folks! Depp, with a big ol' soft spot for iconic roles lately, has signed on for one more (two if you count Mad Hatter in Burton's Alice in Wonderland). As briefly reported yesterday, he's also going to play Tonto as part ofJerry Bruckheimer's adaptation of The Lone Ranger. The man must like his Bruck. I'm glad he's part Cherokee so there's more basis to this pick than just "Holy crap Depp is awesome and brings in big money!" But that leaves a pressing question: We still don't have the Lone dude himself. Is there an actor out there who would make a good Lone Ranger, AND be able to fight his way out of Depp's talented shadow?

More posters! "Synecdoche, New York"!

This one is a stunner.

The much delayed "Valkyrie"(08 or 09) finally gets a poster

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poster for Eastwood's "Changeling"

Very interesting, although it almost makes Jolie look like a villain....and her character is anything but a villain...

Quantum of Solace final poster

kind of generic, but I like it enough...

Monday, September 22, 2008

So...the Emmys totally sucked

The five hosts were terrible. T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E. I could go on about the horrid skit about how they litterally had "nothing", or how Oprah went out and rambled for five minutes while looking like someone had inflated her, or how Howie Mandel is, and always will be, a pompous ass...but what the F*** happened to Candice Bergen??? But the winners were pretty good....and TINA FEY WON BEST ACTRESS (comedy)!!!!! And here are the major winners, by the way:

  • Outstanding Drama Series: "Mad Men"
  • Outstanding Lead Actor (Drama): Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
  • Outstanding Lead Actress (Drama): Glenn Close, "Damages"
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor (Drama): Zeljko Ivanek, "Damages"
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress (Drama): Dianne Wiest, "In Treatment"
  • Outstanding Comedy Series: "30 Rock"
  • Outstanding Lead Actor (Comedy): Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
  • Outstanding Lead Actress (Comedy): Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor (Comedy): Jeremy Piven, "Entourage"
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor (Comedy): Jean Smart, "Samantha Who"
  • Outstanding TV Movie: "Recount"
  • Outstanding Miniseries: "John Adams"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"The Road" finally gets a poster!

Well it's certainly......ominous enough...

Revolutionary Road trailer!

For someone who's read the book and/or script (ie: me) then it's great. For anyone who hasn't and has no idea what this is really about, it could be a little underwhelming....

Post hurricane double feature: Ghost Town & Boy-A - REVIEW(s)

Boy A: I like to think of this film as a teenage male counterpart to Frozen River: main character in bleak setting undergoes various trials based on unfortunate circumstances, mostly stemming from the past. If there's ever a movie that epitomizes the saying "no good deed goes unpunihsed" it's this little British indie. At its center is Eric/Jack (Andrew Garfield) who, after being part of a crime when he was only 12, is relocated after his release from prison with a new identity to start life over. At first everything seems fine (and as a result, the first half borders on being somewhat sluggish) but once the past inevitably begins to permeate the present, everything changes, and no matter how hard "Jack" tries, he can never escape what he may or may not have done. Much like Frozen River, the performances are all solid, but only the central performance is worthy of true praise. Mr. Garfield, who more than makes up for his awful turn in 07's "Lions for Lambs", does a lovely job of letting the audience look into Jack and empathize with him, even after we realize what his crime was (One change I think the film might have benefitted from: not revealing this before we're presented it in flashback form). Though different, the lighting is striking like "River" with many scenes bathed in soft white light; another scene which is half flashback and half dreamsequence is the apex of John Crowley's direction because it manages to present evil and dread in a way that seems like it could have been straight out of a Kubrick's The Shining (albeit on a much lower budget). However, just like Frozen River, the film also suffers from its script. I'm still not sure exactly what it was, but there's a certain "something" missing from the screenplay that manages to a) reduce the impact of the more powerful moments and b) undermine the strong acting efforts of the cast. All in all, though,this is another one of those bleak indie films that, despite a unique story and solid direction/camera work, doesn't quite have a script to keep up with itself.

Grade: B
Nominations(Pending...): Best Actor - Andrew Garfield(#2), Best Cinematography(#5????)

Ghost Town: Sometimes, if one can't think of something original, then the next best option is simply to do something done before, and do it the best way possible. Ghost Town is such a film. Though the premise and the path it takes cover quite a bit of familiar ground, this one has enough differences to keep it afloat and allow it to become something more thanks to one ingredient: Ricky Gervais. The British comedy icon and creator of the British "The Office" and the sidesplittinglu hillarious "Extras" is in top form as the anti social central figure Bertram Pincus. When Pincus (who, quite appropriately, is a dentist) goes in for a minor operation, the he dies for 7 minutes in the OR, before coming back to life. Everything seems to be fine, until he realizes that he can see ghosts...and they annoy him even more. Chief among them is Frank (Greg Kinnear) who wants to enlist Pincus to prevent his widow (Tea Leoni) from marrying a human rights lawyer who he claims is a "really bad guy underneath". While such comedies have been done before, few succeed as delightfully as Ghost Town. Though the initial setup is a bit uneven, by its second third, the film acheives liftoff and becomes increasingly funny (a prolonged scene where Leoni, Gervais, and the lawyer have dinner together is the standout). In its final third when (of course) things have to go south a little, the film still manages to keep itself from veering into melodrama/schmaltz territory; instead Ghost Town becomes surprisingly touching and sweet (though never sacharrine). Special props (again) go to Gervais, whose dry unpleasantness, hilarious delivery, and great stop-start sentences make him a comic force to be reckoned with. Leoni and Kinnear are also good in their respective roles, and I finally respect Leoni as an actress (I've never seen her give a remotely memorable performance until now). Thought most will probably be able to predict the ending, there's still more than enough surprises, which makes it an even great shame that this film tanked over the weekend. Hopefully it will find a wider audience on DVD, because even though it's a bit lightweight, Ghost Town still deserves to be remembered for being one of 2008's most delightful mainstream surprises.
Grade: B
Nominations(Pending)...: Best Actor - Ricky Grervais(#5), Best Supporting Actress - Tea Leoni(#5)
NUmber of 2008 Films seen: 31

Top 10 of the Year:
1. The Dark Knight
3. In Bruges
4. The Fall
5. Burn After Reading
6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
7. Tropic Thunder
8. Boy-A
9. Ghost Town
10. Frozen River

Trailer for"Waltz With Bashir"

This reminds me a lot of Persepolis, but it also looks much grittier and more realistic. If the trailer is any indication, then WALL-E finally has a strong competitor for Best Animated Film.

Trailer for "Synechdoche New York"!!

Wow...this looks really really REALLY good.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Burn After Reading" - REVIEW

Though is sounds completely bizarre, I can best sum up "Burn After Reading" in two different sentences: 1) A pitch black Looney Toons cartoon, or 2) A R-Rated version of Napoleon Dynamite. Let's start with the first sentence. The set up alone is that of a Looney Toons cartoon, in that all the main players are involved in the quest for a series of explosive documents which don't really exist, and which are interpreted as being different things to different people. When CIA analyst Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich, flipping out in almost every scene) is demoted, he instead quits, and decides to write an explosive memoir about life at the CIA (to which his wife Kate --Tilda Swinton-- responds with a hysterically condescending 'ha'). Meanwhile, Mrs. Cox is having an affair with Treasury Dept official Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), and is thinking of leaving her husband, prompting her to secretly review her and Osbourne's finances. This inevitably leads to the plot's catalyst: a disc of financial files and numbers that accidentally gets left in the locker room at Hardbodies Gym, where it is found by a janitor, and then taken to employee Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt, who finally gets a chance to prove he can be good at comedy) and his friend Linda Litzke. From there, the two scheme to blackmail Cox in order to get a big sum of money, which in turn will help pay for the extensive cosmetic surgeries Linda is interested in. If you think the 20-30 minute set up is outlanding, wait until you see where this thing goes once it begins its downward spiral. When I say that this is a pitch black comedy, I mean PITCH BLACK. Now onto the second sentence. Part of what makes the film work on several levels is that, in spite of the idiocy on screen, and the fake seriousness of the story (Carter Burwell's purposely over the top score only adds to this), the film becomes like "Napoleon Dynamite" in one major aspect: it's likely to become funnier with repeated viewings. The first time one sees it, one is bound to be overwhelmed by the faux-seriousness of the production design/cinematography/music and the truly deadpan delivery (McDormand talks about her surgeries as though they're going to save her life). That's not to say that it isn't funny; if there's one thing that Pitt's character adds, it's the sense of obviousness that lets the audience know that "you aren't really supposed to take this all...". And of course, being that this is a Coen brothers movie, when things begin to spiral out of control, it can be difficult to catch the more subtle humor, which is why there are strategically placed moments of broader comedy, which at some point begins to venture into sex-farce territory. The last of these strategic placements is the introduction of a head CIA official (Juno's JK Simmons) who corresponds with Cox's superior as the increasingly bizarre events begin to unfold. Though his scenes arrive late in the film, Simmon's is hilarious and a welcome presence on screen, even if it is just a glorified cameo. However, even if the film doesn't make you laugh much at all, it's hard to deny the Coen brothers' prowess as visual stylists, and there camera angle and scene framing are all well executed, and benefit from working with Children of Men cinemotographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who shoots some scenes with striking beauty in terms of light/dark contrast. My singular complaint about the film, however is that the beginning (aside from several Malkovich lines) takes too long to establish the oxymoronic subtle-farce tone, and shies very close to dragging. However, even though this certainly won't stand up as one of the Coens' greatest works, it certainly isn't necessary to forget after watching.
Grade: B+
Nominations: Best Picture(#5), Best Director - Joel and Ethan Coen(#5), Best Supporting Actor - John Malkovich(#5), Best Original Screenplay(#4), Best Cinematography(#5)
Number of 2008 films seen: 29
Top 10 of the Year:
1. The Dark Knight
3. In Bruges
4. The Fall
5. Burn After Reading
6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
7. Tropic Thunder
8. Iron Man
9. Frozen River
10. The Bank Job

Friday, September 12, 2008

Trailer for "Doubt" finally arrives!

Ummmmmm.......that was a little underwhelming. The cast looks amazing (and seriously, how refreshing is it to see a movie where a priest is a sympathetic figure for once?) but some of the dialogue just felt really awkward; It doesn't help that the editing in the trailer is really crappy and that the whole thing is too damn long. Let's hope this isn't an indication of the final product, because if it is, then everyone ought to remove this from their Best Picture predictions now.

Matt Damon goes political without making an ass of himself

If Hollywood big shots are going to talk about politics, THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do it: with eloquence, logic, and with a calm temper. Sean Penn, please take notes on this; you could learn a lot from Mr. Damon's example (and by the way, I'm someone who's a political moderate with slight leanings to the RIGHT, and I think Damon is spot on).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First "Quantum of Solace" TV spot

Nice to see a little more new footage. Argh, November seems so far away....

First review for "Milk"

Hmmm.....shame. I was expecting something better (although to be fair, it's only one review; the rest could all be raves).

Gus Van Sant's new biopic on titular gay rights activist Harvey Milk has a few things going for it. Sean Penn's transformative work as Milk is quite unique. He creates an endearing, humorous portrait of a man who, against all odds, strives for what he believes in. His performance is touching, heartbreaking, cathartic. I wouldn't be surprised if he sees a nomination come Oscar time. It also has some real filmmaking on display, unfortunately, its glimpses are befogged by numerous questionable choices. Mainly, a failure to do extensive re-writes. 

I'm sure Dustin Lance Black, the film's screenwriter, worked hard, but he may have not worked hard enough. Either that or Sant could not bring his work to life properly, in any case, something was lost in translation. Throughout the film, Penn narrates and explains the history of the movement he helped create, or perhaps even started. Penn works beautifully, but it still takes away from the story. Segments of stock footage of Castro Street, the district Milk was eventually elected to supervise, at first may seem an interesting artistic choice, but eventually begin to take away from the beautiful cinematography on display. 

The cast, although uniformly talented, is awkwardly cast and in some cases badly performed. James Franco, who showed considerable promise in Pineapple Express, fails to hit the right notes as Milk's lover. Not that he doesn't turn in a fearless performance but perhaps under the direction of Sant or by his own work and preparation, his character is just not believable. Not to say it isn't interesting however. Hirsch does an admirable job, ridiculous perm and all, and Brolin, although hindered by limited screen-time and underwritten material, does his very best to create the soul of a man capable of murder. Diego Luna is absolutely scathing, irksome, and just straight up nails down the chalkboard stomach churning. Again, I must state, I cannot be sure if this is the fault of the writer, the director, or the actor, but it just seems things were lacking in general. 

Instead of getting into the souls and reality of these people, Milk proves to be a hurried and sloppy run of the mill tale of hope and woe. It's a movie done half assed trying to pass itself off as gold. Key moments, Milk's victory and eventual death, are handled to absolute perfection, but sadly, not much else. Sorry Mr. Penn, there should have been a movie worthy of your work. 

Milk- C+ 


Trailer for Clint Eastwood's "Changeling" is here!

Hmmm....I'm not really sure what to make. The story is compelling, but Jolie's last
lines in the trailer were getting a little too close to "A Mighty Heart" for me..

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Trailer for Joe Wright's "The Soloist"

THIS is the movie people have been claiming will win
Joe Wright an Oscar?
Yes, Robert Downey Jr. looks great in it, but as a
whole it looks a bit cheesy...

Also, here's the poster, which is very nice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"007: Quantum of Solace" theatrical trailer!!

Fantastic. The shot of Bond and...that other guy (??) falling through the window and onto the scaffolding was amazing.

Rave review from a "Revolutionary Road" test screening

I was lucky enough to attend the advance screening for this film, and I can gladly say it wasn't a disappointment. In fact it was something of a triumph. "Revolutionary Road" is an all around beautifully, artistically crafted film with powerhouse performances - a heartbreaking character study of a young couple coming to grips with a kind of early life crisis.

A show-stopping Leonardo DiCaprio becomes Frank Wheeler - the point of view which the story is mostly told from - with remarkable power and an insight we only get from the greatest kind of actors. Allowing the audience to become fully immersed in his psyche, letting us feel everything with him. Living his pain, resentment, and the smörgåsbord of emotions in between. It is a highly accomplished piece of acting from the lead actor that I cannot imagine being ignored come this award season. Frank is a flawed man that many people will be able to see aspects of themselves in. Not being satisfied with marriage, family, work. Feeling we are meant or destined for something greater, yet paradoxically feeling the doubt and insecurity in ourselves to really go after it. He's depressed, has a past he can't seem to let go of, he's arrogant, he's a liar, he's manipulative and in many ways immature. Yet we know him. He's our father growing up, he's a brother, friend or possibly even you. He makes mistakes and is almost embarrassingly human. What I found ultimately tragic about him was not the way in which he lied to others but the way in which he lied to himself. Leo DiCaprio uses his expressive face to brilliant effect as Frank. He was terrific in "Aviator" , "Blood Diamond", "This Boy's Life" and others and has rightfully earned his place as one of the finest actors of his generation. Having said that, this is a whole new layer to DiCaprio that none of us have seen before. He brings a new, mature type of authentic subtlety to his craft. He doesn't resort to any big physical transformation. It's all internal. This is a new height for him, and easily the greatest acting of his career. A performance of great emotional intensity and depth that I can say without hesitation, will be remembered for generations to come.

Kate Winslet, one of the finest actresses of her generation plays April Wheeler with a sharp fervor. She is angry, depressed and like Frank feels she is destined for something greater than a life of conformity in the burbs. She is a tragic character in that she is basically a closed book, she shuns the love that people try to give her, she is a free spirit and quite the handful. She comes up with an idea to break free of the conformity she shares with her husband in an attempt to
revive their marriage and at first it seems to work - the passion for life and each other reignited. But after an unexpected event and other factors, will the dream plan go through?

The chemistry between Winslet and DiCaprio in "Revolutionary Road" reminded me in many ways of the chemistry between Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in the 1966 film "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". They create an intensity in their arguments that is electric and palpable. You cannot take your eyes off them, they glue you to the screen and stick it to each other as sharply as the couple from "Virginia Woolf"
were able to. Frank and April's story is grounded in a greater, more painful reality, however.

The supporting players are all portrayed wonderfully. I particularly enjoyed Michael Shannon (the mental patient with a darkly amusing ability to call out the s**t in others) and Zoe Kazan (the young woman Frank has an affair with).

The haunting Thomas Newman score is almost a third main character - and I mean this in a very good way. Like in Sam Mendes' first triumph the 1999 film "American Beauty".

The cinematography done by Roger Deakins is another standout, with some truly glorious shots.

The film is very dark. And the honesty practically guts you in some cases, so I don't think everyone will love it. Watching it was emotionally draining. Sam Mendes certainly did his job well here. It's his greatest film since "American Beauty".

Expect Oscar nominations for lead actor, lead actress, adapted screenplay, score, cinematography, direction and picture. With an almost sure win for DiCaprio (giving one the greatest and most layered portrayals of the last 20 years) as well as probable wins for Newman and Deakins.

Monday, September 8, 2008

New poster for "Milk"

Are Johnny Depp and Phillip Seymour Hoffman going to be The Riddler and The Penguin for Batman 3?

Interpret the following interview as you please.....(the interview sounds somewhat legitimate, but I always thought that Chris Nolan had ruled out The Penguin as villain because he was too difficult to rework into the grittier setting of his Batman series....we'll see...)

Source: MTV news

It’s one of the biggest — and most hotly debated — questions in fandom…which actors (and characters) will director Christopher Nolan enlist as a villain for his third “Batman” film? Rumors have abounded since the release of “The Dark Knight,”and Nolan has remained fiercely tight-lipped. But now, has one of his main players revealed some of the biggest casting news of the decade?

In an interview with MTV News conducted just hours ago at the Toronto Film Festival, Michael Caine — there to promote “Is There Anybody There?” — seemed to confirm rumors that the next installment of the “Batman” film franchise will feature two very well-known names playing the roles of The Riddler and the Bumbershoot Bandit, The Penguin. “They’ve already got them in mind,” said Caine, when asked who he’d like to see take up arms against the Caped Crusader. “It’s Johnny Depp as The Riddler. And The Penguin is Philip Seymour Hoffman. I read it in the paper.”

So Caine is like the rest of us, reading gossip in the tabloids, right? Except for one thing…according to the actor, he confirmed the news through the studio itself.

“When Christopher [Nolan] said we were going to do ‘The Dark Knight’ next, I didn’t what that meant in Batman terms,” related Caine, who plays Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth. “I said, ‘What’s the story?’ and he said The Joker. I said, ‘Oh, s–t! How are you going to top Jack [Nicholson]?’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve cast Heath Ledger. And I went ‘Ha! I couldn’t top Jack, but if anyone could, maybe Heath could.’ And he did.

“I was with [a Warner Bros.] executive and I said, ‘Are we going to make another one?’ They said yeah. I said, ‘How the hell are we going to top Heath? And he says ‘I’ll tell you how you top Heath — Johnny Depp as The Riddler and Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Penguin.’ I said, ‘S–t, they’ve done it again!’” [Laughs]

While rumors of Depp and Hoffman have been hot topics around the upcoming film for quite some time, this is the first instance of one of the film’s stars speaking about the news, as well as Caine citing an albeit unnamed WB executive.

Meanwhile, when asked if he’s spoken to Nolan about the news or the next installment’s script, Caine made mention of Nolan’s vacation, and hinted that, “No. He’s gone. He’ll come back with a script sometime.”

Warner Brothers holds an ADVANCED SCREENING for "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince"

Yes, this is the same Half Blood Prince that was just pushed from Nvember 08 to July 09 only weeks ago. Why, WHY I ask, would the studio even bother to have a screening this ridiculously early? I understand the concept of building underground buzz, but doing it nearly a year in advance for an established franchise like Harry Potter seems beyond overkill. Oh well, if this is authentic (and I'm about 90% that is is), then at least we can breath a sigh of relief: all of the comments listed below are beyond positive. The only downside is that it makes the wait for July seems even longer.....

Source: Awards Daily:

Well, there was a screening of Half-Blood Prince last night in Chicago and there's already some reviews coming in. So far, it sounds like it could actually be really terrific. One person on IMDB said it replaced Prisoner of Azkaban as his favorite in the series. 

Here's a few excerpts from the Mugglenet review written by one of their staffers because I feel it's one of the better written reviews I've read so far. 

A lot of the things people seemed to dislike about the fifth HP film, such as vast amounts of time passing in visually appealing yet otherwise disappointing montages, does not happen in this. The film maintains its director’s neat visuals, however. Right from the initial Burrow scene, it is clear that Mr. Yates has not lost his creative edge and rather moved on to do different and wonderful things with the camera. 

The entire movie seems to keep its pace, and I think one of the things that has helped the filmmakers is a clear-cut set of events spread almost evenly throughout the year in the book. There’s not too much stuff going on, rather just enough things at significant enough times of year so that they can document the full year without it feeling rushed. 

Book Six has either too much snogging or too much Voldemort – neither of which I complained about and both which I rather enjoyed – but this movie completely balances the two quite nicely. It seems effortless almost. 

Such effort is spent on the characters of the trio throughout the course of the movie. In fact, Emma Watson’s never been better. There’s a moment in this movie where I almost screamed “THAT’s my book Hermione!” which hadn’t happened to me since the first movie. Similarly Rupert has had some REAL fun scenes to play with in this film. The Lavender subplot is hilarious and, surprisingly, not annoying at all. And oh, what a joy it is to see Quidditch back! 

The cave scene at the end of the book could have been messed up so badly in the film, but it’s not. It’s amazing. It’s exactly what I imagined and conveys amazing emotional impact. The special features are great. Watching Harry force-feed Dumbledore is just as raw and scary as it was in the book. Dan Radcliffe’s acting all throughout is top-notch. 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

"Blindness" gets a post-Cannes reboot for Toronto Film Festival, and apparently it's a lot better...

Last night, James and I had tickets to the TIFF premiere of Blindness, adapted from the Nobel Prize-winning book by José Saramago. James reviewedBlindness when we saw the film at Cannes, but I'd heard through the Telluride grapevine that the film had undergone a substantial edit since then. The cut we saw back in May was overlayed with a heavy, expositional voiceover throughout that completely killed the film, which I otherwise had liked quite a bit. So when I heard there was a re-edit playing here at TIFF, I knew we had to see it.

I'm happy to report that the newly edited version of Blindness is a vast improvement over what we saw at Cannes. Not only did director Fernando Meirelles (who also made one of the best films ever, City of God) remove the irritating and distracting voiceover, but as a result of doing so had to significantly re-cut, and in the process ended up with a much, much better film. He's tightened it up a lot, particularly a very troublesome bit concerning a major character arc shift for Julianne Moore's character, The Doctor's Wife, which was one of the parts I most had trouble with at Cannes. And while the film's running time is about the same, it now paces much quicker and thus feels like a tauter, shorter film that's much more engaging.

In the recut, this arc for Moore's character (which I can't give away because it would spoil a major moment in the story) felt far more believable to me. So, overallBlindness is now a much better film, and one that will play better to mainstream audiences, in spite of the apocalyptic vibe. It's such a substantial change that it felt like watching a completely different film; I was able to focus more on how beautifully the film is shot, and how much better the character arcs worked with the tightened editing. I have a pretty solid memory for what I saw in Cannes, and it seemed that Meirelles also cut down some of the heavier post-apocalyptic stuff to focus more on the characters as well.

Thanks to James's superb seat-locating skills, we ended up on the aisle, right in front of the reserved section for the cast, and so had Sandra Oh and Gael Garcia Bernal sitting almost directly behind us; also on hand for the premiere were Julianne Moore (looking resplendent in a gorgeous purple gown, but when does she not look fabulous?), Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, smiling and looking very dapper, McKellar, Meirelles, and many of the Canadian cast members. We also spotted Adoration director Atom Egoyan and his wife, Arsinée Khanjian, and actor Geoffrey Rush in the audience.

The film received a fairly prolonged standing ovation at last night's screening, and I strongly suspect that even the politely Canadian Toronto crowd would not have been so enthused about the cut that played Cannes. James will be talking toBlindness screenwriter Don McKellar later in the fest about the recut, so stay tuned for more on that.

Following the screening we attended the party for the film, which had a "blindness" theme -- the hallway leading to the main party space was filled with heavy white fog to mirror the film's take on blindness, in which everyone sees as though "swimming in milk." (I tried to take a few pics with my little camera, but the fog was so heavy you would have been looking at nothing but white) The party was loud and packed, but the drinks were good, and they gave out lovely goody bags which included a copy of the book on which the film is based, a white shirt, and a gorgeous Swarovski necklace.

According to Variety, there is no "Miracle at St. Anna"...

Spike Lee loses the battles and the war in "Miracle at St. Anna," a clunky, poorly constructed drama designed to spotlight the little-remarked role of black American soldiers in World War II. Clocking in at 160 minutes, this is a sloppy stew in which the ingredients of battle action, murder mystery, little-kid sentiment and history lesson don't mix well. Nor is it remotely clear who the audience is meant to be; the R rating pretty much rules out younger students, and extensive subtitles will deter action fans, who would be bored anyway. Best B.O. will likely be in Italy, where most of the melodrama takes place.

Pic is a particular disappointment after Lee's reputation-restoring previous feature, "Inside Man," which saw the director working imaginatively within an established genre. Same can't be said here, as Lee has imposed no discipline on novelist James McBride's script, which trudges from digression to digression to the detriment of any dramatic focus.

It remains a wonder that no one, from Lee to the various producers and studio execs, demanded that someone whip this story into more sensible shape before the cameras rolled, so obvious are its excesses and indulgences. Yarn starts with a murder case -- a sixtysomething black postal worker, a devout man and recipient of the Purple Heart, shoots a man who comes to his window to buy a stamp. News of his arrest, and the fact that he is in possession of a piece of Italian statuary worth millions, has weird repercussions in Italy, whereupon the action flashes back to Tuscany, 1944, where the Yanks are putting the hard press on dug-in Nazis.

Focus falls on the Buffalo Soldiers, black soldiers within the 92nd Infantry division in the segregated American army. A number of grunts are sent to ford a river beyond which Germans are thought to wait. The way they're mowed down reinforces the notion that "Eleanor Roosevelt's niggers," as they are derided by racist white officers, are regarded as little more than cannon fodder. In one of the few successful touches, the troops' river crossing is accompanied by a propaganda broadcast from Axis Sally (Alexandra Maria Lara, in an outstanding reading), who goes on about how their country doesn't care about them and even says the Nazis have nothing against the blacks.

Making it across the river and, shortly, up to the small medieval village of Colognora, are Second Staff Sergeant Aubrey Banks (Derek Luke); Sergeant Bishop Cummings (Michael Ealy); Corp. Hector Negron (Laz Alonso), the man charged with murder 40 years later; and Private First Class Sam Train (Omar Benson Miller).

Train, a large man with little military discipline and a preoccupation with religious superstition, saves a 7-year-old boy, Angelo (Matteo Sciabordi), and thereafter watches over him. This sort of heart-tugging, and very Italian, story strand hasn't been seen in an American war movie in years, maybe even decades, and one can see why; it's embarrassing.

The other three guys are made of sterner stuff, but the film comes down with a case of severe lethargy once the men hole up in the village. Issues surrounding a fascist father, his lovely daughter, Renata (Valentina Cerri), whom Bishop gets the hots for, internecine quarrels among the local partisans, and the wait to figure out where the Germans are reduce the picture to the speed of a lumbering tank; two successive scenes of dreadful slaughter put the nail in the coffin. A coda blatantly attempts to pull the heartstrings, but it's not earned.

Beyond the dramatic deficiencies, the writing for character is not good, so that even at the protracted running time, the men don't emerge as strongly etched individuals. Train stands out because of his size and blubbery vulnerability, Stamps is notable for his courage and ability to speak Italian, and Bishop is the randy, gold-toothed one, but fully dimensional they're not.

Lee breaks up the slow flow by plugging in little episodes to dramatize discrimination, notably in a flashback in which German prisoners are allowed to eat in a Southern diner but black G.I.s are not. "I love Italy. I ain't a nigger here," one of them later says to further underline the point. Too bad the film wasn't better written to make the sentiment implicit rather than needing to be said.

Production values are OK without being particularly notables, and Terence Blanchard's score drones on virtually throughout. Lee's early-career cinematograper, Ernest Dickerson, handled second-unit chores.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

"The Wrester" wins the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival!

Welcome to the Oscar race....

VENICE (Reuters) - U.S. movie "The Wrestler" won the Golden Lion for best picture at the Venice film festival on Saturday, winding up the 11-day competition on the Lido waterfront.

The Silver Lion for best director was won by Russia's Alexei German Jr. for "Paper Soldier". The best actor award went to Italy's Silvio Orlando for his role in "Il Papa di Giovanna" ("Giovanna's Father"), and the best actress prize was awarded to Dominique Blanc in "L'Autre" ("The Other One").

Friday, September 5, 2008

Next "Australia" Podcast: Sound Design (it's more interesting that you'd think).

On the side, I love the few bits of completed footage that this installment gave us. Something about the two scenes with Kidman's character when she's still a prissy bitch is pitch perfect and hilarious (ie: the way her hand is drawn to her neck when she says "please...don't say another...word").

First look at Mickey Rourke in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler"

Both the film and Rourke have been getting some strong praise in Venice, and Rourke is looking more and more like a serious contender for Best Actor. If there's two people in smaller film's that have gotten huge awards buzz boosts from Venice, it's easily Rourke and Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married). While Aronofsky is always an interesting director, the only thing that worries me is the subject matter; modern day wrestling, Mr. art house movie goers really seem like the type of people who waste their time with that WWE crap? I don't think so. Anyway, here's two videos featuring Rourke, who does seem pretty impressive.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Posters for "Appaloosa" arrive

and they're beautiful...especially that third one...wowzer...

Red band trailer for "Zack and Miri make a Porno"

So bad, but so funny. Those with sensitive ears may want to avoid...

Trailer for Gus Van Sant's "Milk"

Looks pretty good....

"Rachel Getting Married" earns good reviews at Venice

VENICE -- Jonathan Demme, last in Venice with "The Manchurian Candidate," breathes a breath of honest cinema into a lackluster competition with "Rachel Getting Married," a film whose lightness of touch rides a wave of family conflict to perfectly balance smiles and tears. Playing the spitfire sister of the bride, an award-worthy Anne Hathaway gives the story a clear central focus and offers Jenny Lumet's subtle script some wiggle room to set aside a lot of the usual genre conventions without losing the audience's attention. Though hardly a blockbuster comedy, the Sony Pictures Classics release should gather steam as the awards roll in and word-of-mouth spreads.

Like Robert Altman's 1978 "A Wedding," by which it is clearly inspired, this is a terrific piece of Americana, shot with great spontaneity by cinematographer Declan Quinn. Demme's parallel career as a documentarist spills over into the onscreen music making, improv-style acting and fluid hand-held camera work. They plunge viewers into the thick of Connecticut WASP Rachel Buchman's (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding to black musician Sydney Williams (Tunde Adebimpe.)

Rachel's wayward sis Kym Buchman (Hathaway), who is fighting drug addiction, has been let out of rehab to attend the wedding. As she arrives, preparations are hot underway in the Buchmans' big family house in the country. Kym's overprotective father (Bill Irwin) treats her gingerly, but Rachel and her best friend Emma (Anisa George) concentrate on damage control as the tough, scarred, self-centered Kym bursts like a uncaged tiger upon their plans for the perfect wedding.

Largely offscreen, but very central to the drama, is Kym and Rachel's remarried mother, Abby (Debra Winger), whose aloofness has its roots in the painful past. As every guest at the wedding knows, and the audience comes to find out, the 16-year-old Kym was high on drugs and driving the car when a family tragedy occurred that no one has been able to forgive. Backed up by a top cast of actors, Hathaway masterfully navigates this complex role with verve, sarcastic one-liners and a controlled mix of toughness and fragility.
Shot through with smart humor, "Rachel" outlaws cliche. Sydney's good-looking best man, Kieran (Mather Zickel), whom Kym has previously spotted at a 12-step meeting for struggling addicts, materializes at the wedding like her perfect romantic partner. In a humorously unexpected twist, Kym immediately beds him in the attic and ignores him for the rest of the film. A whole romantic subplot is nipped in the bud, leaving the screenplay room to open family wounds and explore less predictable territory.

There are moments of heavy-hearted sadness and pain, set off by Zafar Tawil's violin theme, that strike an emotional chord; with great control, Demme balances the bits of melancholia against the loving encirclement of the wedding couple by their guests. Coming from modernly mixed ethnic backgrounds, they warmly represent funny, talented, articulate, liberal America (surely the fact that Sydney and Kieran live in Hawaii is no coincidence?) Raising the spirits is a lot of music-making and joyful song, including a just-right a cappella number by the groom as he and Rachel are about to be pronounced man and wife.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New pictures from 007: Quantum of Solace

Another fake, yet awesome, Batman 3 poster


First set pictures of "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"(2010)

The video game (from 2003) is one of my favorites, because in addition to great action, there was a really cool story dynamic (and love-hate relationship) between the Prince and Farah (Bond girl Gemma Artreton). I have faith in the production design (it's from Mike Newell, who directed the sumptuous HP: Goblet of Fire and Love in the Time of Cholera) but I just hope they get the characters and the story right...or at least do them well (I already know of several things that have been slightly altered). The game possesed a very cinematic quality, and I hope the cast and crew can bring that same magic to the screen, without Disney-fying it (it should be beautiful, but also gritty). And yes, that IS Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince. My initial reaction to his casting was, "WHAT THE @#&@!(*#&(!@", but I hate to admit, it's pretty close to the look of the Prince in the game (although this looks more like the darker, edgier Prince found in the second part of the trilogy, Warrior Within).

Gus Van Sant's "Milk" gets a poster

Monday, September 1, 2008

Foreign Languages on Labor Day Weekend. 2046(2005) and The Devil's Backbone(2001)

2046: After viewing the flawed but solid "My Blueberry Nights", I wanted to see what director Wong Kar Wai was like when he brings his A-game (ie: when he writes and directs in his own language). 2046 easily restored my faith in this world renowned director for a number of reasons. The story, which combines 1960s China with a futuristic story created by the main character, blends together beautifully, as the two sometimes parallel real life. Colors of course are unbelievably stunning, with lush greens and reds making prominent appearences. The cast are all wonderful and though the film moves at an appropriately dream like pace; calm, but never dull. Kar Wai's stunningly romantic film is a beautiful and haunting portrayal of unrequited love (for multiple characters) that deserves to be seen not just by those who need their faith restored in him, but for anyone who loves unique storytelling.

Grade: A

Nominations for 2005: Best Picture(#1 WINNER), Best Director - Wong Kar Wai(#1 WINNER), Best Actor - Tony Leung(#3), Best Supporting Actress - Ziyi Zhang(#2), Best Supporting Actress - Faye Wong(#3), Best Original Screenplay(#1 WINNER), Best Editing(#2), Best Art Direction(#1 WINNER), Best Cinematography(#1 WINNER), Best Costume Design(#2), Best Foreign Language Film(#1WINNER), Best Original Score - Shigeru Umebayashi(#2)
The Devil's Backbone: If you're looking for something a bit more literally 'haunting' look no further than The Devil's Backbone, Guillermo Del Toro's exquisite prelude to his 2006 masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth. Though there are some similarities between the two, they vary wildly enough (Pan's is much more of a fantasy; this is a ghost story) so that they don't seem recycled. Del Toro, like Mr. Kar Wai, really knows how to pack a punch when he works with dramas in his native tongue. Though the first half or so feels a little too much like the Del Toro-produced "The Orphanage" (2007), a solid effort that never amounted to true intensity and/or scares, the second half of Backbone reaches the same emotional and physical intensity and devastation that made Pan's so brilliant. Let's hope that Mr. Del Toro's adaptation of The Hobbit is more like this, than like either Hellboy movie.

Grade: A

Nominations for 2001: Best Picture(#3), Best Director - Guillermo Del Toro(#3), Best Actor - Fernando Tielve(#4), Best Actor - Inigo Garces(#5), Best Supporting Actor - Eduardo Noriega(#4), Best Original Screenplay(#1 WINNER), Best Editing(#2), Best Art Direction(#5), Best Cinematography(#3), Best Foreign Language Film(#1 WINNER), Best Original Score - Javier Navarrate(#5)

"Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea" earns raves at Venice Film Festival

The animated feature is the latest from master animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle).

Visually, it's extraordinary; imaginatively, it's daring. Once again Hayao Miyasaki is playing in a league of his own with Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea, a sweet, gentle, moving, and always delightful Japanese take on the classic Little Mermaid fable. Commercially, it has the power to achieve everything Miyazaki's last feature Howl's Moving Castle garnered in 2004 (it is already matching those figures in Japan) and should play to exactly the same international demographic as Spirited Away.


superb work of Japanese fantasy from animation wizard Miyazak that transcends age barriers ticle_display.jsp?&rid=11566


Hayao Miyazaki’s latest animated epic, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," unfolds with a magic limpidity, teeming with imaginative transports that owe nothing to CGI. Effortlessly shuttling between sea, land and sky, this "Little Mermaid"-ish tale dives deep into the collective unconscious of Japan’s island culture, imagining a transparency between natural elements that promises salvation and apocalypse in equal measure. Though targeted at tots, "Ponyo" may appeal most to jaded adults thirsty for wondrous beauty and unpackaged innocence.

Johnny Depp addresses the Riddler rumors for Batman 3

In a radio interview to promote his band, Johnny Depp got asked about ‘The Riddler’ rumors .

This is how ‘The Riddler’ questioning went.

Hey Johnny, a listener called in earlier said you have to ask about the rumors on the internet of you doing the Riddler.

Johnny Depp: Oh yeah, I heard about that. Not that I know of.

You’d be a good choice.

Johnny Depp: It seems like it’d be a fun gig for a while, yeah.

Click HERE is you would like to listen to the interview.

"Watchmen"(2009) may be delayed until June

The latest update comes from the New York Times, where they don't have any new details to add, except this worrisome bit about the trial date. "The report also outlined conflicting requests for a trial date: as early as next June, if Fox has its way, or April, if Warner prevails." And if this all turns out to be true, we may not see Watchmen until the summer next year, if at all! With a delay looming over head, I think fans are getting tired rooting for one side in this case.

The other statement that leaves me concerned is this one: "Fox has said it will seek an injunction blocking Warner's planned release of the film next March." For those who have been arguing for the side of Fox, just know that they're trying to stop the release entirely. We're hoping Warner Brothers wins, even though if they do, it might not be until June of next year. I'm not sure about the legalities of distribution, but I'm wondering whether they can just distribute it in March before they even go to trial or whether they have to wait to reach a resolution first. I just hope this isn't some spin on the story that's gone out of control. With the Harry Potter delay, I don't think fans want to see anything like this happen.