Friday, October 29, 2010

UK trailer for "London Boulevard"

While I expected the trailer to have a much darker feel (the music is a little on the "happy" side), I'm excited for this. Monahan's screenplay for The Departed was one that film's stronger elements, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with as both writer and director. It's also nice to see Colin Farrell in another major leading role; here's hoping the career comeback kickstarted by In Bruges continues. And then there's Keira Knightley, who's always refreshing to see in something that isn't a period piece, even if her role might not be all that large or substantial.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Rabbit Hole" trailer

Very interesting, which is good considering the length of the trailer and the heavy subject matter. What also surprises me is the the subdued yet somehow still intriguing use of "real life" colors. Funny, because the two clips released last month seemed so limited and almost drab in their color scheme. Regardless, Kidman, Eckhart, and Wiest all look really strong, and it will be exciting to see how this film factors into awards season. The big question mark will be whether Kidman can break into the crowded best actress field after such a long absence. AMPAS does love a "comeback" performance, even though Kidman was never really gone...

"Tree of Life" finds a release date (no, seriously this time)

Yes, it's true; Terrence Malick's long-awaited epic The Tree of Life has found a release date, and it's surprisingly early. In addition to festivals like Sundance and, of course, Cannes battling to host the world premiere, the folks at IndieWire are reporting that Malick's latest has been scheduled for limited release starting on May 27, 2011. I know some will bemoan the fact that this could potentially kill the film's Oscar chances, but I'm not really bothered for two reasons. First, Malick's work has only been heavily embraced by AMPAS once, and it was for a war film, albeit a rather meditative one. Second? Um, hello, we get to see the damn this earlier than expected. Awards recognition is always great, especially when it's for a film/director/performance that you think is great, but the whole point of movies isn't awards; it's to see and experience them, and the sooner something as reportedly amazing (and constantly delayed) comes out, the better.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Official US trailer for "Biutiful" [Will update when available in smaller format]

Very different than the first trailer which came out last month, but still very compelling. The beginning almost feels like it should be at the end, what with the rapidly increasing music and action-oriented cuts. Still, I'm excited to see this for Bardem; I can't recall the last time I saw him in a movie where he was a definitive, stand alone leading man, and that's a shame. Inarritu's films (at least those written by Guillermo Arriaga; this one is not) have an iffy track record with me, but the man does know how to create captivatingly gritty images and get often staggering performances out of his actors. And without any converging-story-lines BS like Babel, focusing on a single story will hopefully make this tale of an increasingly distressed police officer even more compelling.

On a side note, can we please have a moratorium on trailers using critics quotes that directly reference Oscar season? Just gives us blurbs about the quality, not its awards potential; we all know how political AMPAS can be.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Mad Men" Season 4 - The good-bye and the long, long wait

Unfortunately it's that time again; time to start the excruciating countdown until Don Draper and everyone else return in late July/early August. I'm still processing the season finale, "Tomorrowland," which I was only able to watch a few hours ago, but here are some overall thoughts on the past 13 episodes.

I made a post after the season premiere about how glad I was that the show was back, and that I loved the new energy the series had acquired. Season 3 spent the bulk of its episodes chronicling the agency's oppression under its new British owners (as well as the collapse of Don and Betty's marriage). By contrast, season 4 was all about the excitement so perfectly set up in season 3's finale, and the energy carried over into these past 13 episodes without losing steam. I wouldn't have been surprised if the season 4 premiere had been written very shortly after the completion of season 3; that's how well the energy transferred over. The episodes, though never frenetic, were generally crisper in their pacing and used more dialogue as opposed to season 3's reliance on quiet moments and smoldering stares and glares.

But season 4 was about something other than a newfound energy. It was about transitions, some of which spanned the season, and some of which only came to a head in the latter half. Chief among them, and perhaps my favorite, was Don Draper's shift, roughly split along the halfway point. Still reeling from the effects of his divorce and his new, much less luxurious living space, Don spent the first six or seven episodes in a continued downward spiral. And then, after the death of his first wife (sort of) Anna, we were able to witness a rebirth of sorts. Don started swimming and began drinking less (although I don't think anyone on this show will ever be depicted as completely sober...ever). He had to deal with Anna's death, but at the same time, he had to take care of himself and move forward.

And helping him move forward was one of my favorite new characters of the season: Dr. Faye Miller, played by Cara Buono. A sharp, career-driven woman who knows how to play the business game, Faye wasn't perfect and obviously had some baggage (alluded to in a scene in a phone booth where she yells at whoever is on the line), but she was in many ways good for Don, and didn't simply recoil and whimper in response to his flaws. Of course, there are reasons why Don makes the choice he made in the finale, but we'll save that for later. Now it's time to touch on the rest of the people who make Mad Men so endlessly fascinating.

First and foremost is Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss), who came more and more into her own (as did Pete Campell). Now firmly in a strong position as a copywriter, Peggy was bolder and much, much less timid. Whether it was as simple as going to a bohemian party with the mysterious Joyce, or intimidating an obnoxious new employee by stripping off her clothes to get some work done (it sounds weird, but the moment is great in context and I'm not doing it justice at all), Peggy more and more became a career woman, much like Dr. Miller, someone quite obviously aspired to be like. Having the season close out with Peggy almost single-handedly saving Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce was just the cherry on top of Peggy's character arc.

Meanwhile, Joan, always so fun to watch, went through a number of transitions. Now living the married life, Joan was suddenly forced to deal with her husband's decision to go to Vietnam, and as was shown several times early in the season, it's the last thing she wants. And despite her one-night-stand/reconnection with Roger, she refuses to allow things to go back to the way they were, even upon discovering that she is pregnant with a child who couldn't be her husband's.

Even Lane, whose personal life was never given that much focus, had his moment to shine. Most notable was his even out with his father, who was so insistent that Lane return to London that he punches him, sending his grown son to the floor. For a character who initially began his run on the show as the enemy, Lane's part has evolved into yet another of the show's signature brand of immensely flawed-yet-talented protagonists.

But moving away from the workplace, there's also the issue of Don's other side; his ex-wife Betty, her new husband Henry, and of course the three children. While always important, no one from this side of the show's story impressed or fascinated me more than Don's daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka), who became such a wonderfully complex character played with great skill by such a young actress. Though the character is perhaps too young to be totally swept up in the revolution(s) of the 60s, I'm thrilled with the direction the writers are taking Sally as she continues to butt heads with Betty, who becomes increasingly bitchy and cold with each appearance.

And speaking of Betty, even with a drastic reduction in appearances (only 4 episodes this season...maybe 5), she continues to fascinate with her downward spiral. While not as overly destructive as Don's, Betty's path puts her on an interesting track that makes me wonder if her marriage to Henry will simply be a cliff-notes version of her marriage to Don. This is highlighted in the season finale, both in her angry interaction with Henry, and with her sudden flaring anger that causes her to lash out (and subsequently fire) Carla. Even when pushed to supporting status, Betty's world of dissatisfaction continues to intrigue, even if her interactions with Don are now limited mostly to phone calls.

As for the season overall, it reached its high point at the middle with "The Suitcase." Set almost entirely in the offices and featuring only a handful of supporting characters, this one-long-night look at Don and Peggy's lives as affected by their work was a highlight, featuring absolutely stellar acting from both Hamm and Moss. Emmy voters, please, let the be the season the show finally earns at least one acting award; you've waited too long, and this is too good of an opportunity to pass up. Amid all of the great acting on the show this year, from Joan's heartbreak to Pete's frustration over the conflicts in his work and personal lives, to Roger's coping with failure, it's "The Suitcase," an episode that only focuses on two characters, that represents the show in its finest.

As for the increasingly divisive finale? Well, that's a bit of a mystery. After the punch of season 3 heading off into bold new territory, season 4 was significantly less forward moving in the work place. However, it's hard to miss the big announcement: Don's proposal to secretary Megan. I think Peggy's reaction upon hearing the news is perhaps how most people felt during it all. As happy as Don seemed, we were caught totally off guard, and somewhat iffy. It wasn't an inherently satisfying ending to what had been such a knock out season, but upon reflection it makes sense. Don's decision to pick Megan over someone like Faye may not be something joyous for us as an audience, but it does make sense in a depressing sort of way. As Faye bluntly puts it when Don tells her of his proposal, Don is only interested in the beginnings of things. He sees a woman who is basically what Betty should have been in his mind, and he jumps, seeking a relationship that will restore things to the way they once were: happy, married, and with children. And as indicated in the final shot, which shows Megan happily asleep but Don looking on edge and awake, light seeping in through his dingy window, there could be plenty of trouble ahead for the newly engaged couple. Lots and lots of trouble.

So where does season 4 rank in the series so far? For me it's easily up there with season 3, and I think it makes a great companion piece as far as tone and story progression goes. The characters remain compelling as ever, and even if the show didn't end with its best foot, this season as a whole represents TV at its finest: well-written, beautifully acted, incisive, and always intriguing enough to keep you waiting desperately to see what will happen next.

Grade: A

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Month in Review: September 2010

Even with school starting, I'm happy that I'll be able to pull this installment off for one more month before winter break affords me enough time to make December and January work. I know I'm almost two weeks late, but better late than never, because I was able to see some strong films and performances in September both on DVD and in the theater.

Best Film (Theaters): The Social Network
Yes, it's an October film, but because I was lucky enough to attend a screening in early September, it's in contention for last month. My initial skepticism and disappointment in David Fincher for this project was rapidly countered by intriguing trailers (a Belgian choir singing "Creep"?) and strong buzz. Finally I saw it, and I friggin' loved it. Regardless of how accurate this is, Fincher's film is a hugely entertaining tale of friendship and betrayal filled with solid work from its talented young cast, who are blessed with delivering dialogue from Aaron Sorkin at his finest. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score and the editing are also highlights, and keep the 2 hour film so tight and intense that when it was over, I was really hoping that there was another half hour left. That's some damn good film making.

Best Film (DVD/Rental): The Best of Youth
At a grand total of 6 hours, Marco Tulio Giordana's sweeping, masterful family drama is one of the most beautifully well edited features I've seen in quite some time. Tracing the lives of two brothers, one uptight, the other laid back, as they go through loves, losses, marriages, children, friends, jobs, etc etc, Giordana's film is never dull, even if we've seen some of these scenes before. The characters are rich, and by the time it's over, you feel like you really know them. The first half (it comes on two discs) is somewhat misleading though, as I wasn't expecting to be so moved in part 2 based on my initial reactions to part 1. I was wrong, and I'm glad I was; the conclusion(s) are wonderfully handled, and that final shot is pure movie magic.

Best Director: Marco Tulio Giordana - The Best of Youth
There's not much else to say that hasn't been said, but to recap: Giordana's sprawling, epic family saga beautifully captures the intimate amidst a truly epic time span (from the 60s to the early 2000s) considering the subject matter. Giordana doesn't try to inflate his film by dropping historical elements to give a false sense of grandness, he simply lets the passage of time and the subtle changes on his actors faces do the work and the film is all the more brilliant because of it.

Best Male Performance: Edward Norton - American History X
Norton earned his second (veeeeery deserved) Oscar nomination for his turn as an ex-Neo Nazi in 1990s California who tries to keep his younger brother from going down the same path. The film itself has some problems, namely the scene in which Norton's character, obviously a bright young man, becomes a Neo Nazi after one conversation with his dad at breakfast. Still, Norton rises above the blips in the screenplay and turns in a mesmerizing performance that benefits from the actor getting to be both a vile skinhead and a heartfelt, caring brother all in one role.

Best Female Performance: Mia Farrow - Rosemary's Baby
I really love Roman Polanski, but somehow I hadn't seen this classic until a few weeks ago. Now that I have, I see why it's as acclaimed as it is. I wasn't as blown away as so many have been, but it's a perfectly unsettling piece of gore-free horror/thriller that benefits from both Polanski's direction and Farrow's magnetic portrayal at the center of it all. Granted, much of the performance is built on outward appearence (Rosemary's deterioration during her pregnancy), but Farrow, all high hollow cheek bones and big eyes is compelling to watch as a woman struggling to understand her new surroundings, and the intentions of everyone around her, even her husband. And that massive gasp she makes in the final scene? Over the top in the best sense of the word.

Best Screenplay: The Social Network by Aaron Sorkin
In adapting Ben Mezrich's novel "The Accidental Billionaires," famed TV writer Sorkin made the story of Facebook's creation a riveting, almost blindingly smart film built on his signature rapid fire dialogue. Though much of it is either smarminess or code talk, Sorkin does throw in the occasional funny moment, and it always works, never sticking out as a limp attempt to lighten the mood. And even though Sorkin prefers dialogue over story, he didn't exactly shirk his narrative duties. Instead, he wrote a tale filled with classic elements of betrayal, in a setting of educated people behaving badly. Perhaps it's Sorkin to whom the movies owes most credit for being so much more than "that Facebook movie."

Best Cinematography: Martin Ruhe - The American
Anton Corbijn may be a visual artist in his own right, but his collaboration with Ruhe is one of the film's soaring strengths. The beautiful use of earthy tones with the occasional splashes of neon reds and blues and a beautiful shot of golden light, help set the mood for this strikingly beautiful thriller-without-thrills.

Best Ensemble Cast: The Best of Youth

Picking up its third award of the month, it was hard for me to not pick the Carati family and their companions. From the striking yin and yang of central brothers Nicola and Matteo, to activist Giulia, to the shattered Giorgia, to the perfectly cast parents and brothers and children of all connections, each relationship feels worthy of its own film, but in combining them, Giordana assembled a brilliant cast to bring his epic vision to life.

The Unrewarded: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Catfish, The Town, 3 Women

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Blue Valentine" US theatrical trailer

There have been a few scattered clips here and now, but this totally blows all of that out of the water. I love the way the initial scene is used to frame the other silent clips detailing the ups and downs of the central relationship. Gosling and Williams are two wonderful actors and I'm excited to see both performances when the film arrives in late December, even if it did inexplicably earn an NC-17 rating (wha...).

"The Way Back" Trailer

Unfortunately an HD version has yet to surface; hopefully that will be soon. Now, as far as the trailer is concerned, I'm mixed. Even in heavily pixelated quality, the photography looks impressive, but the trailer as a stand alone piece is a bit jumpy. The beginning is rushed with too many title cards being thrown around and mixing too many different clips. Still, I'm very excited for this, especially after the generally positive reception the film has received at film festivals. And I love that we finally have a trailer that advertised Colin Farrell as "Golden Globe Winner Colin Farrell."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New trailer for "127 Hours"

Now that is what should have been released to begin with. The greater focus on Franco's alone moments, which will take up a considerable portion of the story, are very reassuring, and it's easy to see why some have pegged Franco as the leading Best Actor contender (even over Firth). I'm still iffy on whether Danny Boyle's style will enhance the trapped moments or make them unbearable, but of course I'll simply have to wait until November to see for myself.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Never Let Me Go" - REVIEW

At the outset of Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek and Alex Garland's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's acclaimed 2005 novel, we're told in title cards that "the breakthrough came in 1952," and that "life expectancy jumped to roughly 100." The story then jumps into the mid 1980s. But make no mistake; you'll find nothing remotely futuristic to look at in this understated tale of love and betrayal. What you'll find instead, is a mostly successful adaptation of a novel that was perhaps not meant entirely for the screen.

Kathy H (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley), and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) spend their child hood years at Hailsham, and elite boarding school for similar special children. As they are told by headmistress Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling), "keeping yourselves healthy is of paramount importance." But why? What is so special about these kids? While the fates of the children are described thanks to fellow teacher Miss Lucy's (Sally Hawkins) breakdown, they're never given a special name. You'll also notice, and this isn't a spoiler, that they don't seem to ever give a moment's thought to running away, merely delaying a fate they've been conditioned to accept. Despite the vaguest trapping of science fiction, Ishiguro's work, and Romanek's film in turn, is still very much a romance and a tragedy, one with the stiffest of upper lips.

And it's precisely that stiff upper lip, combined with the aforementioned lack of sci-fi tropes, that seems to have made Never Let Me Go so divisive. Having read the novel, I think it's a good adaptation of the novel, but not a great one, though it does capture the novel's essence and mood. Never Let Me Go may involve a built-in tragic device, but Romanek and writer Alex Garland don't seem concerned with yanking out buckets of our tears, as was the case with the novel. This sort of film belongs in a weird sub-genre of quiet heartbreakers. Those that stir some feeling within, but never with so much attachment or manipulation so as to make you reach that breaking point and feel tears flow freely down your cheeks. That said, I can certainly see where someone would find this style detrimental to the film as a whole. Case in point: the friend I saw the film with, whose first words as the lights went up were, "ugh, really?"

Somewhat more agreeable, though, are the performances. Beautifully cast from its trio of lead young-adults, to the smaller adult roles filling out the periphery, one of Never Let Me Go's strengths comes from its acting. Mulligan, so good last year in An Education, makes another impressive turn here, although I wish she hadn't been tasked with so much narration. Backing her up with surprising strength are Garfield, also enjoying good reviews for The Social Network, and Keira Knightley, in her best performance since her Oscar-nominated turn in Pride and Prejudice (2005). Playing a surprisingly unsympathetic character, Knightley is the movie's biggest surprise, and a standout in the cast. Smaller adult roles, like those played by Rampling and Hawkins, are well handled, although Rampling's "big scene" feels somewhat mishandled in terms of timing. And before I forget, I must give kudos to the casting team for doing a brilliant job of picking counterpart actors to play Mulligan/Knightley/Garfield in their Hailsham days; fabulous casting.

Technically and artistically, the cast are backed up by two standouts. First is Rachel Portman's lovely score, even if it does occasionally start a hint too suddenly or play just a half-notch too loudly. More impressive is Adam Kimmel's lovely cinematography, filled with striking (yet somehow subdued) interiors and landscapes that posses a muted sort of beauty, even if there are a handful too many shots of singular tears rolling down Mulligan's heartbreakingly expressive face.

Obviously it's not for everyone, not even fans of the book. I find it weird that in so many of these divisive films which provoke such strong reactions ("BRILLIANT!" "GOD-AWFUL!"), I usually land in the middle (ex: The Fountain, which I merely liked, not loved or hated), and Never Let Me Go is no exception. It is mostly very true to its source material, brilliantly cast, gorgeously composed, and strongly acted, and yet it carries a most curious level of emotional impact along with it, one that I sometimes feel should have remained on the page, in spite of all of the film's strengths.

Grade: B-

Trailer for Julie Taymor's "The Tempest"

Well I guess I can see why the reviews have been so mixed, because I have no idea what I just watched. No, really, what the hell was that? The costumes look great and the actors seem solid enough, but those special effects, especially the dogs and CRAZY BIRDMAN BEN WHISHAW are all over the place. I really, really loved Taymor's last stab at Shakespeare (Titus) so my hopes were pretty high for this one, but this trailer really isn't doing a lot to bolster my excitement in the face of the reviews.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Full-length "True Grit" trailer

A much different, yet equally thrilling direction. I love getting to hear more of the dialogue, and it's always a plus getting to see more of Roger Deakins' cinematography. This looks tough, brutal, and brilliant. The only thing that seems off is Matt Damon's make-up; that facial hair seems weird on his face somehow. Still, the cast looks great, and the more I see of Hailee Stanfield, the more impressed I am with her. If anyone could take a classic, star-vehicle western and potentially create a great remake, it's the Coen brothers, and this looks like one hell of a Christmas present. Great use of that Johnny Cash song too, by the way.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

4th Quarter Preview: October, November, December - Part 2/2

4th Quarter Preview: Part II

09. 127 Hours dir. Danny Boyle - November 5 [Limited/Wide?]
  • Based on the reviews out of TIFF and Telluride, Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy have turned hours of James Franco stuck between some rocks into a compelling and engaging piece of work.
  • Reviews claim that Franco gives an astonishing, career-best performance.
  • Parts are so intense, one festival audience member fainted. Now that sounds like strong film making right there.
Why Not?:
  • We already know how the story ends, more or less. Will that kill some of the dramatic tension?
  • Will Boyle's somewhat hyperactive style be too much when the main character is rendered virtually immobile?
08. Biutiful dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - November or December
  • Generally good reviews out of Cannes.
  • Great reviews for Javier Bardem, back in a front-and-center leading role.
  • Inarritu knows how to tell emotionally powerful, gritty stories.
  • Mexico officially chose it as their Foreign Language Film entry.
Why Not?:
  • Inarritu's first time working without a script from Guillermo Arriaga after their personal falling out.
  • Some find Inarritu's films to be to reliant on contrivance to create overly wrenching drama, and this one, though linear, seems pretty stacked with unrelenting misery.
07. The Way Back dir. Peter Weir - December 3 [Limited]/January 21 [Wide]
  • An allegedly triumphant comeback for director Peter Weir.
  • Strong reviews for the cast, which includes Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, and Saoirse Ronan
  • Even with its tough subject matter, Weir has apparently refrained from sugar-coating anything. It may not all be 100% historically accurate, but it will still be gritty.
  • Strong reviews for the cinematography and use of landscape photography.
Why Not?:
  • Reviews have been kinder to the first half, and some say the second grows repetitive.
  • Is it too bleak for its own good?
06. Another Year dir. Mike Leigh - December 31 [Limited]
  • Rave reviews out of Cannes for the celebrated writer/director's latest, especially for star Lesley Manville.
  • The lovely trailer gives the impression that this is serious, mature, limited, and understated film making at its finest.
Why Not?:
  • Leigh simply isn't for everyone, and I have no doubt that this will rub some the wrong way.
05. Somewhere dir. Sofia Coppola - December 22 [Limited]
  • Coppola returns to more familiar territory after her not-as-warmly-received departure (Marie Antoinette).
  • Generally strong reviews which have called it subtle, smart, and beautifully acted.
  • A comeback for Stephen Dorff, and a breakthrough for Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota.
  • Oh, and it kind of won the Golden Lion in Venice last month.
Why Not?:
  • Like Mike Leigh, Coppola is divisive. Some either find her work totally empty and pretentious, or simply "good but not that good."
04. The King's Speech dir. Tom Hooper - November 26 [Limited]
  • Raves out of Toronto and Telluride, including a handful of standing ovations for Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.
  • Last year, we saw Colin Firth make his first run at an Oscar. This year he's back and really gunning for it, and is pretty much the front-runner (along with Franco).
  • A very good cast, a respected director, and interesting subject matter.
Why Not?:
  • Have the festivals overrated it?
  • It could be a very limited performance showcase with little else to offer other than acting.
03. True Grit dir. Joel and Ethan Coen - December 25 [Wide?]
  • That gorgeous, haunting trailer.
  • The Coens reportedly stayed closer to Charles Portis' novel than to the John Wayne-led original.
  • The Coens usually inject a healthy does of ironic nihilism into their films, usually treating people and events with a wink. But when they want to be serious (No Country for Old Men), they can be brilliant at it, and True Grit certainly looks quite serious.
  • Hailee Stanfield, in the trailer at least, seems like a good, grounded casting choice for Mattie Ross.
Why Not?:
  • Will the Coen's style mix as well with Portiss' work as it did with Cormac McCarthy's?
02. Black Swan dir. Darren Aronofsky - December 1 [Limited]
  • Have you seen the so-insane-it's-good trailer. If not, treat yourself.
  • Strong reviews out of Venice and subsequent festival screenings.
  • Career-best reviews for Natalie Portman.
  • Said to contain a unique way of photographing its thrilling dance sequences.
  • Compared to classic women-going-mad flicks like Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby.
  • Natalie Portman pulls a feather out of her arm. Let me say that again: Natalie Portman PULLS A FEATHER out of her arm.
  • Clint Mansell's score is based on part of the Swan Lake score.
Why Not?:
  • There's a small minority who aren't impressed, and label it a piece of Grand Guignol nonsense.
01. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I dir. David Yates - November 19 [Wide]
  • The beginning of the end is here.
  • David Yates helped the series really grow up, so it's fitting that he gets to take the series through its often dark finale.
  • Two great trailers showcasing appropriately grown-up, dark, and grim footage.
  • Warner Brothers seems to have pulled out all of the stops for this one, and with good reason; the source material has plenty of full-blown EPIC moments, and it seems that most of them have been preserved.
  • It's better than Twilight.
Why Not?:
  • If you've never been a Potter fan, don't expect this one to change your mind.
  • Remember, after those credits roll, we still have to wait EIGHT MONTHS to see the full completion of this film series. Couldn't they have just put Part II in December to totally dominate the Christmas market?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

4th Quarter Preview: October, November, December - Part 1/2

We're down to the last three months of the year, and as such it's time to take a look at what will (hopefully) be worth a visit to the theater as we move through changing leaves, Halloween, Thanksgiving, exams, and of course, the dreaded wave of critics awards that will kill any chance of a surprise on Oscar night. Now, since two of the movies on this list opened yesterday, and I've already seen one, I'll condense their entries and keep their placement separate of the main list. And as much as I hate to do it, I'll be cutting down on anticipated foreign titles, if only because it can become difficult to determine where their releases/Oscar eligibility lie. For example, Palme D'Or winner Uncle Boonmee... might be eligible for Oscar consideration, but it won't be hitting normal-people theaters until March of 2011, which is after the ceremony as currently scheduled (late February). So, with that out of the way, here are the top ___ reasons to give your money to those who already have far too much of it over the remainder of the year:

The Social Network and Let Me In - October 1 [Wide]: I've already given my review of The Social Network (go HERE), but Let Me In is one I haven't gotten around to see that has my interest peaked:
  • Surprisingly good reviews considering it's a remake of a beloved Swedish film
  • Praise for both of the child performances, which is absolutely key to this story
  • Vampires actually acting like vampires (no sparkling necessary)
Why Not?:
  • If you've seen and love the original, do you really need to bother?
  • Amped up blood and gore in spots might not do service to the story
And now for your feature presentation...

2010 4th Quarter Preview Part I:

18. The Tourist dir. Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck - December 10 [Wide]
  • The first pairing of mega stars Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp working with the director of The Lives of Others.
  •'s set in Venice?
Why Not?:
  • The unimpressive trailer and poster. The studio seems to think that slapping Depp and Jolie's names on it are all it takes. Audiences like to see EFFORT.
  • Angelina's doing a foreign accent. God help us all.
  • No, the film doesn't need to be Oscar-worthy to be good, but it wouldn't hurt if there was something really intriguing about this. So far? Eh...
17. TRON: Legacy dir. Joseph Kosinski - December 17 [Wide]
  • For those who have seen the original, a chance to see the story continued. For those who haven't? Cool special effects and Oliva Wilde in a tight black suit with asymmetrical hair.
  • Special effects have finally advanced enough to catch up with what the makers of the original probably wish they could have done.
  • The film can't afford to be to much of a insider's film if it wants to make money (the original flopped), so no risk of being super confused by what went on in TRON.
Why Not?:
  • It didn't really suck audiences into its world the first time around. Why should the sequel be any different?
16. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest dir. Daniel Alfredson - October 29 [Limited]
  • The conclusion of the hugely (and not entirely deservedly) successful Swedish adaptations of Stieg Larrson's trilogy.
  • The last chance to see the perfectly cast Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth, in full-blown mohawk, no less.
Why Not?:
  • The last installment, also directed by Alfredson, was a disaster.
  • The continuing blandness of Michael Nyqvist.
15. Miral dir. Julian Schnabel - December 3 [Limited]
  • Interesting, timely subject matter (Israel/Palestine conflict).
  • Talented cast including burgeoning (stateside) star Hiam Abbass, who has been really strong in films like The Visitor and Lemon Tree.
Why Not?:
  • The less than kind reception at Venice.
  • Generally unkind reviews for star Freida Pinto's performance.
14. The Fighter dir. David O. Russell - December 10 [Limited]

  • Strong cast featuring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo.
  • Small-but-early buzz is fantastic.
  • A chance to see Amy Adams in a tougher, grittier role.
Why Not?:
  • The trailer makes it feel like just another sport-triumph-of-the-will story.
  • O. Russell isn't exactly a film maker for everyone (I Heart Huckabees, anyone?)
13. The Tempest dir. Julie Taymor - December 10 [Limited]

  • An absolutely phenomenal, eclectic cast headlined by the likes of Helen Mirren, Chris Cooper, and Alfred Molina.
  • Julie Taymor made her mark on film with a vivid Shakespeare adaptation (1999's fabulous Titus), so working on the Bard again should be grounds for quality work.
Why Not?:
  • The extremely mixed reactions out of Venice and New York.
  • Apparently Taymor wasn't as wild in her mix of time periods this time around, which was one of Titus' strong suits.
12. RED dir. Robert Schwentke - October 15 [Wide]
  • A fun concept led by a wonderful cast of older actors including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich.
  • Early reactions have said that the film is very fun and engaging.
Why Not?:
  • It could just be a throwaway shoot-em-up.
11. Blue Valentine dir. Derek Cianfrance - December 31 [Limited]

  • Very strong reviews out of Sundance and additional festivals.
  • After several years of wandering, Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling could be back in the Oscar race.
  • The film was snatched up by the Weinsteins, and with Miral not looking good, they'll need a performance piece to drive them through the coming months.
Why Not?:
  • Some say it's unbalanced and unfairly slanted against Williams' character.
  • An entire film about two people in love? Sounds like Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, right? Yes, only this time it's all really, really bleak.
10. Rabbit Hole dir. John Cameron Mitchell - December 17 [Limited]
  • Apparently it's the end of Nicole Kidman's MEH streak of mixed and badly reviewed films, and frankly, it's about damn time.
  • Rave reviews for the performances, especially Kidman and Dianne Wiest.
  • Mitchell has been praised for expanding the film enough to eliminate any staginess, which is always a big nitpicking point for stage-to-screen translations.
Why Not?:
  • Grim subject matter (though there is apparently some humor) that is discussed almost constantly.
  • This road (coping with a child's death) has been covered so many times before. What else can it bring to the sub-genre aside from some great performances (not to discount this, btw)?

Well, that's all for now. Part II will be up tomorrow, with some evaluations more along the lines of Rabbit Hole and Blue Valentine, and less along the lines of the likes of Miral.