Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Rabbit Hole" Poster

Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominees

We're now in the full throes of awards season with the first major nominations we've gotten since the recently wrapped up Gotham Awards. Actually, for an awards show which prides itself in indulging in some of the art house films that lay on the fringes of our knowledge, this year's nominees for the Film Independent Spirit Awards are rather well known. Currently, four of the nominees for Best Feature are in the running for an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. That might be saying that it's been a disappointing year in terms of mainstream blockbusters, and that seems like the best explanation I can figure out of it. Take a look at this year's nominations below.

Best Feature
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right
Winter's Bone

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
Danny Boyle (127 Hours)
Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right)
Debra Granik (Winter's Bone)
John Cameron Mitchell (Rabbit Hole)

Best Screenplay
The Kids Are All Right
Winter's Bone
Please Give
Rabbit Hole
Life During Wartime

Best Female Lead
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Greta Gerwig (Greenberg)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Best Male Lead
Ronald Bronstein (Daddy Longlegs)
Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole)
James Franco (127 Hours)
John C. Reilly (Cyrus)
Ben Stiller (Greenberg)

Best Supporting Female
Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism)
Dale Dickey (Winter's Bone)
Allison Janney (Life During Wartime)
Daphne Rubin-Vega (Jack Goes Boating)
Naomi Watts (Mother and Child)

Best Supporting Male
John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)
Samuel L. Jackson (Mother and Child)
Bill Murray (Get Low)
John Ortiz (Jack Goes Boating)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)

Best Cinematography
Never Let Me Go
Black Swan
Tiny Furniture
Winter's Bone

Best Documentary
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Thunder Soul

Best Foreign Film
Kisses (Ireland)
Mademoiselle Chambon (France)
Of Gods and Men (Morocco)
The King's Speech (United Kingdom)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thailand)

2010 Gotham Awards Winners

I thought I had the winners for this year's Gotham Awards locked down pretty well, with The Kids Are All Right taking the big prizes. Instead, Winter's Bone ended up snatching the major awards for Best Film and Best Ensemble. How The Kids Are All Right didn't end up winning the latter, I haven't a clue. Then again, I didn't really expect a lighthearted film to win in comparison to a more gritty one. This could be the boost that Winter's Bone needs to get into the final ten for the Best Picture race in the Oscars this year, but it will depend on a film falling out of running due to not-quite-outstanding quality. For the list of nominations, follow the link here.

Best Film:
Winter's Bone
Best Documentary: The Oath
Best Ensemble:
Winter's Bone
Best Breakthrough Performance: Ronald Bronstein (Daddy Longlegs)
Best Breakthrough Director:
Kevin Asch (Holy Rollers)
Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You: Little Rock
Festival Genius Audience Award:
Waiting for "Superman"

Monday, November 29, 2010

3 To See In December

We're finally getting to the end of the year, and whatever hasn't been seen by the critical masses will soon be unveiled. It's definitely a worrying time of year, especially this year when we still could use more truly spectacular films to fill up the major slots in the Oscar competition. I'm still not sold on The Fighter, because I just can't shake my general dread that comes with the name of Mark Wahlberg. The actor does good whenever he's playing an edgy sort of character like the one he had in The Departed, but when he takes on a sympathetic character, he falls flat. On top of that, I'm just unsure that the premise will be something that's truly captivating.

Personally, I wish that the three films I'm most looking forward to were more commercial fare, but with most of the great limited release films still to be seen, I have to put my confidence in them. Still, I am going to be checking out some of the big budget films like TRON: Legacy, which looks like a success in terms of visuals and music, but could likely fail in most other areas. Voyage of the Dawn Treader doesn't look as bad as it did before, and I'll check it out on general principal. I'd like to see what they do with better visuals and a shorter runtime. The Tourist really doesn't look too interesting anymore, but depending on how critics react, I may see it for Johnny Depp's performance. For the record, I'm also highly anticipating Sofia Coppola's Somewhere and Jim Carrey in I Love You Phillip Morris, but you just can't fit everything into your list. For that reason I've decided that next year I'm going to be putting up an extended version of this list at the start of each trimester, showcasing everything I'm most anticipating in that given time period.

3. Another Year

In some ways, Mike Leigh's new drama is the first and last film out of the gate in terms of Oscar consideration. It debuted at Cannes to spectacular reviews and was the sole standout of the festival, whereas other films failed to captivate audiences. Another Year seems like your standard Mike Liegh drama, focusing on the everyday lives of slightly more than everyday people. A great handful of reviews have definitely caught my interest, but the film has recently been jumping in and out of the Best Picture race. The critical adoration has been almost universal, so I'm not sure why it's having so many problems. I think that once the film officially hits then people will take notice, but it doesn't hit until the last day of the year. So it's going to be a long wait.

2. True Grit

This is actually the only real contender in the Oscar race that has yet to be seen, and I'm not exactly sure why that is. It may be that the Coen brothers are simply trying to save the excitement until release, or it may be that the film isn't as good as what the famous duo usually bring out. I'm tempted to believe the latter, because the trailers pose this film as more mainstream and commercial than their films of the past, and that may work against them. It really depends on how well they convey the story and the emotion of it all. I personally don't believe it will do too well in the acting categories, but with some luck, it could do especially well in the Best Picture race. I don't think it will steal the spotlight, but it will get some attention.

1. Black Swan

I know that this won't be the film that takes home the top prize at the Academy Awards this year, and it's going to be an uphill battle for the film to even get nominated. It's very much a genre film, and that's the sort of picture that I take the most interest in. The film isn't going to get raves as big as The Social Network or The King's Speech, but I don't think anyone will be able to deny that they found it intriguing. The trailer for the film was so strange and captivating and when it came out, it was all anybody could talk about. It was disturbing and visionary, and it made me hope the film would be playing at Telluride by the Sea, which I consider something of a loss. Darren Aronofsky is one of the major contenders for a nomination in the director race for the same reason as Christopher Nolan. They both display distinct and powerful visions in front of their audiences. That and the amazing cast they've put together place Black Swan as the film I've been anticipating most this fall.

Oscar 2010: And The Hosts Are...

We officially have the hosts of the next Oscar telecast, and it's not who any of us predicted it would be. James Franco and Anne Hathaway are to be co-hosting the ceremony this year, marking the second year in a row that there has been more than one host. Now I personally had a problem with the telecast last year. Steve Martin seemed to be hogging the spotlight and neither he, nor Alec Baldwin had a very distinctive voice or style as a comedian. Neither Franco nor Hathaway have been known primarily as comedic actors, but they can sure hold their own with some good material. What's made the Oscars successful in the past has been a sense of occasion. A feeling that something extraordinary could be happening that night, and if they embellish that, it should work. And some witty and clever jabs couldn't hurt either. But what do you think of the news? Who do you think should've hosted, if not the two they decided on?

Irvin Kershner (1923-2010)

Leslie Nielsen's death sure was a shock, but nobody really expects another death so soon. If you're not sure who Irvin Kershner was then it's not surprising, since the man has been out of the film business for some time. The director passed away from a long term illness in Los Angeles, California. He may not have made such a lasting impression, but he deserves recognition for bringing to the screen what most consider to be the best film in the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back. He also directed Robocop 2 and the James Bond film Never Say Never Again, but he will always be remembered for his work on the famous science fiction franchise. As a matter of fact, he may ultimately be deserving of more praise for that than George Lucas. Look at how far Lucas has gotten without him. This death actually struck more of a punch than Nielsen's, though both are more than worthy of recognition.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

Not nearly the most shocking death this year, but definitely one that's more than relevant and emotional, Leslie Nielsen died today in Florida due to pneumonia complications. At the age of 84, the man had long passed his prime in terms of his career. His first role was in the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet, but he would later be known for his comedic roles, most notably in Airplane, the Naked Gun series, and other films from David Zucker. I'm not going to lie about the fact that he has recently gone astray into noticeably muckier territory. The man was only ever as great as the scripts he chose to work with, and for the most part, he chose particularly well. It's definitely sad, but a fitting point in his life to finish. The man was afforded the rare gift of enough time to do everything he'd be remembered for.

Box Office Update: It Feels Like Magic

I think it's a safe bet that a fantasy film and a family flick from Disney will always have the best chance at owning Thanksgiving weekend. We kind of knew that Harry Potter would take the top spot this weekend, and we knew it would take a sizable drop after that massive opening. The epic fantasy is now sitting on about $220 million, on its way to becoming the second highest grossing film in the series. As for the other top film released this weekend, Tangled dominated the area of family entertainment, and probably ensnared the regular viewers who trust that Disney knows what they're doing when it comes to traditional animation. They didn't disappoint with Bolt, so I don't think that they're going to start any time soon.

The highest grossing of the live-action new releases was, oddly enough, Burlesque. Love and Other Drugs and Faster just seemed to fade away, while the musical extravaganza took hold of a great majority of the female audiences. Not enough to make much of a dent, but that's certainly telling of what's wrong with this year. What is most interesting is what didn't crack the top 10, which is the opening bid of The King's Speech. The historical drama was able to attain $350,000 in only 4 theaters, so its prospects certainly look bright. This weekend couldn't really compete with the same one last year, where conquered and The Blind SideTwilight: New Moon whimpered.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Second Weekend; $50.3 million)
2. Tangled (First Weekend; $49.1 million)
3. Megamind (Fourth Weekend; $12.9 million)
4. Unstoppable (Third Weekend; $11.8 million)
5. Burlesque (First Weekend; $11.8 million)
6. Love and Other Drugs (First Weekend; $9.9. million)
7. Faster (First Weekend; $7.8 million)
8. Due Date (Fourth Weekend; $7.3 million)
9. The Next Three Days (Second Weekend; $4.8 million)
10. Morning Glory (Third Weekend; $4 million)

5 Years Ago Today: Serenity

Of all the films in the past decade, I feel like this is the most under-appreciated of them. It doesn't come as much of a surprise, as Firefly is one of the most ignored classic television shows in existence. It was one of the shows I was most saddened to see canceled, right along with Pushing Daisies, which still hasn't been adapted into a feature length film. Serenity was kind of a continuation of Firefly, and in some ways, a conclusion of the series. I was concerned that it might be difficult for audiences to jump into and enjoy, but it really isn't. It's not a film strictly made for fans of the original series. It's a fantastic sci-fi action-adventure with a dark edge that it doesn't care to hide.

In terms of history, I don't think this is going to go down as one of the best films of the past century, but it's certainly one of the most enjoyable. Nathan Fillion's character is pretty much the inspiration for the a-hole hero type of character that Tony Stark turned into in the Iron Man films, and pretty much every character like him. You can even see shades of him in Flynn Rider from Tangled. Fillion adds much to the film, and the script is actually kind of smart and funny and a bit tragic to tell the truth. The visual effects aren't the best, but they're spectacular for the budget they've been afforded. Ultimately, Serenity's the sort of film that I kind of miss and wish they made more of.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Small Glass Screen: Hesitations On The Apocalypse

Fringe: The Abducted

I wasn't able to put one of these up last week, so this is the only show that has only one episode to review this week. I'm always a little saddened by a week without Fringe, and this episode doesn't make the wait any easier. While the alternate universe episodes have mostly focused on Olivia and her journey, they have had episodes that shined light on the new characters. Plateau gave us a closer look at Alt-Charlie and Lincoln Lee, and Amber 31422 gave more light on Walternate than we've seen thus far. This time, we get to look at the character of Colonel Broyles, who is by far my favorite of the alternates thus far.

This week's case focused on an old case where Broyles' son was kidnapped by a mask wearing fiend called the Candyman, so named because he secreted sucrose through his sweat. The villain is now back, and while Broyles fears for his son Chris' childhood too much to reopen those memories, Olivia always cares about putting things right, no matter which world it is. She knows who she is now, but she's not about to sabotage the inner workings of Fringe Division and thus hurt the alternate universe. It does offer one of the sweetest moments of this season, where Olivia is sitting and having a nice conversation with Christopher Broyles. It brings back memories of Dunham and her niece Ella.

The case gets really intense as it barrels towards the end, and that's not something we're used to with a run of the mill Fringe standalone. However, this isn't really a standalone episode at all, is it? We were led to believe that this would be the one where Olivia finally returns home. In actual fact, it was the one where Olivia finally attempted to return home, bringing back cab driver Henry for a nice cameo this week. As we moved towards the end of the episode, we began to wonder whether she'd actually make it back or not, and it turned out to be the latter. She's been found out, and it seems like next week will be the one where things really happen. Early reviews have coined it as the best episode of Fringe ever. Lets hope they don't disappoint.

8.9 out of 10

Glee: The Substitute and Furt

This is probably the most varying two episodes of Glee in terms of quality, because last week was so spectacular, and this week was so... not as spectacular. But lets start from the beginning, with the absolutely perfect episode from last week called The Substitute. It was really what the show needed at that point in their history, and it offered what is probably the most successful cameo that any star has done on the show. Gwyneth Paltrow was sublime as Holly Holiday, who was everything that we really wanted out of a teacher. Will Schuester has been grating on us so much because of his bizarre behavior lately, so Holiday was a nice reprieve.

There were several hilarious comedic moments to be had, mostly from the anything-goes teacher, but occasionally from Kurt, Mercedes, and of course Sue Sylvester. The music was spectacular, and it really let go of trying to be taken seriously, and was just sold on a good time. My favorite, obviously, was the Singing in the Rain/Umbrella mash-up. It was just so brilliantly fused together, and the water effects were just awe inspiring. I was definitely impressed by this one, and it seemed like the show was on an up tick.

Then Furt came around the corner, and did what it could to disappoint. I'm not going to hide my feelings on the matter. This episode just didn't work for me. I liked the idea of a Glee wedding, but there was far too much focus on Kurt and his plight, and I felt like it should have been held off until later. On top of that, it just didn't feel like any of them were acting within character. Finn has always been kind of stupid, but he's never really been that selfish. I love Kurt, but he is losing a lot of the character flaws that made him intriguing in the first place. The one saving grace of the episode was Just The Way You Are, because that song is just beautiful.

9.6 (The Substitute) and 7.2 (Furt) out of 10

The Walking Dead: Tell it to the Frogs and Vatos

This is the perfect example of a new series coming into its own groove, and becoming something truly worthwhile. While this season of The Walking Dead seems short, it kind of functions as a long extended film. These two episodes show that best, with the third episode bringing emotional resonance to this tale, and reuniting Rick Grimes with his family. We got a chance to look at the survivor camp, and how fragile things are for them. Shane has been living behind a lie, though an honest lie that he had every reason to believe. I understand why he did the things he did, but sleeping with your best friend's wife is still breaking the bro code.

Shane has also proven himself something of a loose cannon, and he's really capable of doing anything. He proves this by beating Ed to a pulp before a crowd of onlookers. Rick has taken something of an ensemble presence, but he's still the star of the show, taking a noble stance to return to Atlanta for Merle and the guns. The end of the third episode really leaves us with an indelible image to sink our teeth into. It's a bit shocking, but a dynamic image nonetheless. The next episode takes a more action packed look at things, and amplifies the dangers the survivors face every day.

They're definitely living under heavy emotional conditions, with death being literally all around them. Jim seems to collapse under the stress, but it really may be more than it seems. The voyage into Atlanta offers a bit of surprise with a gang of thugs turning out to be protectors of a nursing home, and it's kind of nice how brave they all are. It definitely begs the question of how sacred life is in these troubled times. However, the moment most will talk about is that ending attack on the camp. It was definitely a pit-of-your-gut shock as we saw our first casualties on the show, including the beloved Amy. Tension rises as the episode closes, and we wait in desperate dread for Amy's corpse to reanimate. It's definitely something that will resonate through the final two episodes of the season.

9 (Tell it to the Frogs) and 9.4 (Vatos) out of 10

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The (Thanksgiving) Weekend Report: Amongst the Drivel

Now that we're on to the long weekend, it doesn't come as much of a surprise that there are a few throwaway films scattered amongst the films that will be remembered at the end of the year. The weekend will mostly be dominated by last weekend's monumental success, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, but each film has its time to be appreciated. While it's likely that I'll revisit the penultimate fantasy feature sometime soon, the film to see this weekend is without a doubt Tangled, the new Disney animated film. I've already left my own impression on the film, but it should do well amongst the family circuit this weekend, and then across the following weeks when word of mouth leaves a positive impression.

As for the previously mentioned drivel, it's headed by the cunningly disguised Love and Other Drugs, whose trailer was more than intriguing, but reviews have been something of a let down. So don't expect a review this weekend, because it's something I'd rather wait for the DVD release to see. Burlesque is out this weekend, and if I haven't ripped on it before, then it's about time. It really looks like one of the least appealing films of the year, and it kills me because I like Stanley Tucci. He's an amazing comedic actor and an under-appreciated one at that. Wrapping everything up is Faster, starring Dwayne Johnson. It's a typical action film, and that's about it. Nothing more or less.

Anyway, I'll be taking a break for the next two days, meaning we'll be back on Saturday, and until then, you'll just have to make it on your own steam. I'm definitely thankful for everyone who comes to visit this site, to everyone who does their best to promote this site to others (most recently Mugglenet), and to everyone who works yearlong to put together films for me to praise, or even films for me to take to pieces on the basis that they're unbelievably awful. I'm thankful for all of you, and I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

Film Review: Tangled

We're coming into the final stretch of the year, and most of the blank spots are filling themselves in quite nicely. This past month or so has, for the most part, delivered more than the films of this past Summer. This was definitely one of the films I was questioning, but the truth is that Disney has always delivered well out of this Thanksgiving frame. Tangled is no exception, offering everything that the studio has promised from the beginning, while adding a new spice into the mix. I can't call it original, because it's technically based on a preconceived story, but there were several points in which it felt like no other Disney princess film released before.

The film focuses on the story of Rapunzel, a princess who is kidnapped as a baby by the evil Mother Gothel who raises her as her own in order to take advantage of Rapunzel's magic hair. Yeah, it is kind of ridiculous, but that's one of the aspects the film plays up. Anyway, just when her evil (fake) mother tells her she can never leave the tower, she blackmails a handsome and cunning thief named Flynn Rider to help her on her adventure. You get the deal, and there is quite a bit of fun action thrown in along the way, along with marvelous comedy.

Diving into the Disney aspects of the film, it's a musical, which is something I couldn't be happier about. While it's true that none of these songs will leave a forever lasting impression like the classics have, it works as something of a fun throwback, and I enjoyed it. As for the characters, they're pretty awesome. Flynn Rider is the sort of guy that any girl would enlist for an adventure, and comes off a bit as Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother) with a heart. Rapunzel is a strong female character, which animated films always seem obligated towards embellishing because they don't want to seem sexist like the helpless Disney princesses of the past have been perceived as. Mother Gothel works as a fantastic villain, though never truly terrifying, but she does get props for having no magical powers at her disposal, and still coming off as evil.

And of course they have to throw in some quirky animal characters into the story, and they come in the form of Pascal the chameleon and Maximus the horse. Everybody is going to prefer the horse, because he gets so much more to work with, and he's just hilarious. There are some hilarious moments that seem like they have something of a modern twist, but at heart, it's still a cute and lovable Disney princess film. Therefore, each of the characters look absolutely adorable. The colors in this film are beautiful, and I was much sadder to be dropped out of that world than the world of Avatar. I'm not going to become clinically depressed over it, because I'm not an idiot. Overall, Tangled may not go down as a classic, but I loved it for most of the duration, and would happily see it again. However, it's not the sort of film you have to see in 3D. 2D will work just fine.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pixar Employees Have A Very Special Message

The employees of Pixar have come together to give us this message and it's definitely something that people deserve to hear. The men and women there still know how to touch the hearts of millions.

For Your Anticipation: Eat It

Nice cinematography, poor editing, and awkward romantic dialogue. Are we sure this isn't a Twilight film, because I don't think I can endure another one of those so soon after the last. All joking aside, I'm not quite sure about the playability of Love and Other Drugs when it comes to the Oscar race. A lot of people seem to think it has potential in the acting categories, but I refuse to conform, especially to such characters that have been done several times before. A ladies man becomes romantically involved with a woman who isn't looking for anything serious. That was an arc on How I Met Your Mother, and they probably did it better than it's done here. I'll probably end up seeing it, but at no higher than matinee price. Check out the clip and offer your input.

Potter-Watch (34 of 77): New Arrivals

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is now upon us, and I doubt anyone who cares hasn't seen it by now. Unfortunately, now comes the dreaded waiting period we must go through between each film, or in some cases, between each announced release date. Fortunately, for us, we only have to wait eight months, and then the series will be done for good. Meanwhile, over the past few hours, we've had an enormous spike in viewership of this site, mostly coming from a single traffic source. I definitely have Mugglenet to thank for that, and I'm glad to hold the honor of being the Harry Potter fan of this specific week. I'm especially proud and excited, and as new fans come funneling in, I feel obliged to direct them to our Facebook page. Please follow us. You won't regret it. I certainly don't.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Theatrical Trailer: The Eagle

For Your Anticipation: Blood In Your Mustache

This is going to be a pretty difficult week to get through, seeing as most of it will be largely devoid of any major news being released. Luckily, there are plenty of films releasing this weekend, including the latest non-Pixar animated effort from Disney, Tangled. I'm uncertain of most animated films, but most of them live on a lower standard than most films, or at least a different standard. Tangled looks a little closer to the old Disney animated classics than the modern Pixar classics, but it's clearly a mixture of the two. It looks like it'll be a fun enough film, and it will hit their target audience perfectly.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Box Office Update: It's A Kind Of Magic

It was a rather fantastical weekend at the box office, with the biggest opening weekend we've had since Toy Story 3 opened in July. Unsurprisingly, but more than welcome, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 took the top spot this weekend, posting the highest opening weekend for the beloved franchise, as well as the second best November opening, behind the infamous Twilight: New Moon. I'm glad to know that our fanbase isn't as crazed or insane as that one. It's still a really impressive take, especially considering that they didn't get the added price that comes with 3D. This definitely paves the way for Deathly Hallows: Part 2 to break some serious records.

Meanwhile, The Next Three Days disappointed, opening in fifth place with a meager amount. Megamind held on exceptionally well, barreling past the $100 million mark. Tony Scott's Unstoppable continues to defy the odds and succeed with audiences. I wish I could say that this weekend was up from the same last year, but for obvious reasons, that didn't happen. Still, it was favored better than the same weekend two years ago, when Twilight began to warp the minds of our teens.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (First Weekend; $125.1 million)
2. Megamind (Third Weekend; $16.2 million)
3. Unstoppable (Second Weekend; $13.1 million)
4. Due Date (Third Weekend; $9.2 million)
5. The Next Three Days (First Weekend; $6.8 million)
6. Morning Glory (Second Weekend; $5.2 million)
7. Skyline (Second Weekend; $3.4 million)
8. Red (Sixth Weekend; $2.5 million)
9. For Colored Girls (Third Weekend; $2.4 million)
10. Fair Game (Third Weekend; $1.5 million)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Theatrical Trailer: Source Code

Friday Take: "Deathly Hallows" Breaks Records

As if it should come as any surprise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 posted the highest opening day since Twilight: Eclipse decided to be a little bitch about it. No, it is not as high as the inexplicable tween girl phenomenon, but it's still the best opening the series has seen to date. The film took in $24 million from midnight showings, for which I was a partaker in. The rest of the day pulled in $37 million for a grand total opening day of $61 million. It's just $2 million above the opening day take of Half-Blood Prince, and it was able to manage the feat without the benefit of 3D prices. Had the film been released in 3D, it would've definitely surpassed the sparkly vampire flick. In the mean time, Harry Potter can take comfort in posting more than respectable numbers and fantastic reviews, especially seeing as it's only half a film.

Fringe vs. The Friday Night Death Slot!

We have a mix of good news and bad news, but most just bad news. The good news is that Fringe has been officially removed from the Thursday night slot it has been struggling in. The bad news is that it has been moved to the Friday Night Death Slot that has claimed such shows as Firefly, Dollhouse, and Sliders. It's not that it's facing major network competition, but nobody watches television on Fridays. At least, not until now. Suffice it to say that I'll be staying in most Friday nights from here on out. On top of that, I'll have to move my Small Glass Screen segment to Saturdays. So, I must know, what do you think of all this? Do you think Fringe could rejuvenate the deadly time slot? Should Fringe start digging its grave? Or do you just not care about Fringe? The wrong answer for that one is "No."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Theatrical Trailer: The Green Hornet

MIn terms of trailers, Ryan Reynolds just got schooled by Seth Rogen. The new trailer for The Green Hornet premiered in front of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 this weekend, and it occurred right after the Green Lantern trailer managed to be a colossal disappointment. So it was the perfect time for it to come into my life, and I really enjoyed it. It does offer a lot of things we already saw, and it does seem to be skewing towards comedic potential, but I don't care. It has Christoph Waltz in his first post-Inglourious Basterds villain role, and the more I think about it, the more I want him to be cast in The Dark Knight Rises. That would be a dream come true. Anyways, check out the new trailer, let me know what you think, and also let me know what you'd like to see Christoph Waltz take on. It matters to me.

Oscar 2010: 15 Films Qualify for Best Documentary Feature

It really seems like the year is beginning to draw to a close, as we now have the list of films eligible for the Oscar for Documentary Feature. Now, of all the categories of this year's Oscars, you can't really expect too much coverage from me on this one. I'm sorry, but I'd just be out of my league to say that I even have a clue where to start. Of all these films, the only one I'll probably see is Waiting for "Superman". Anyway, here's the list for you.

- Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
- Enemies of the People
- Exit through the Gift Shop
- Gasland
- Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
- Inside Job
- The Lottery
- Precious Life
- Quest for Honor
- Restrepo
- This Way of Life
- The Tillman Story
- Waiting for "Superman"
- Waste Land
- William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

The end has begun, and that has never been more apparent or heartbreaking than in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1, the first installment in the two part final chapter of the epic fantasy. Before I get things rolling, I think I should state right out front that this review is coming from the mindset of a powerful Harry Potter fan. I'm a lot of things, but I've never been a traitor, and I'm certainly not going to start here. And in all honesty, if you're not a fan of this saga, then I really don't care about you right now. I'm sorry to say that the opinion of a non-Potter fan means absolutely nothing, as you can tell by the sheer opposition of the critical masses and the fact that I simply don't care what most of them think. These films are never going to win Best Picture, and it's stupid to even hope. They are made for us, the fans, and in that respect, they've been a huge success. People are going to talk and argue and debate about this film heavily based on how reverential it was to the novel, whether or not things were still left out, and above anything else, whether or not this one is the best in the series.

The seventh installment in the Harry Potter saga follows our main trio on their most harrowing journey ever. If there's a word to describe this film perfectly, it's despair. The wizarding world is in chaos, under the near constant threat of attack by Voldemort and the Death Eaters. The Ministry of Magic has been infiltrated, and our trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are now on their own in a rather frightening world. Meanwhile, they try their humble best to save the world by destroying the individual pieces of Voldemort's soul, so that they can one day hope to finally beat him. However, this film doesn't at all sugarcoat how dire their situation is, and how vastly outnumbered and outmatched they are. To put it simply, saving the world is literally the hardest and most terrifying thing to do. Not that you didn't assume that already, but this film confirms it as a fact.

Never before has the threat of death seemed more real in a film. A particularly squirm inducing scene at the beginning of the film, featuring Voldemort doing despicable things to a former Hogwarts teacher, really brings this prospect home. We're not in childrens territory anymore, and this one lives on the dark edge of the PG-13 rating. There are some prominent horror elements that will truly cause the audiences to fear for our trio's lives. The thing that stuck around in my mind was the fact that it made me forget that I had read the book at all. There were moments when I felt that I had no idea what was going to happen next.

This film really features some absolutely astounding directing from David Yates, master of tone. The man now has a title to cling to, and it's a very appropriate one. Over the course of the last three Potter films, Yates has turned the tone of the series into something new and unique. It's unlike any film you've ever seen before, which is something that only the best films can claim. This really is a road film, with the trio wandering desperately around these magnificent landscapes, thus allowing the audience to drink in the scenery and the sense of loneliness that pervades every frame. This is probably the closest thing we'll ever get to a live-action Hayao Miyazaki film like Princess Mononoke.

One of the main objections propped up against this film is the camping sequences, which were also a weakness from the books. The pacing in these portions does slow down, though not as tremendously as hinted at before. It is a bit slow, but mostly because you're not really sure what's going to happen in certain scenes. All the same, they definitely condensed a lot of the lacking space into meaningful passages. This is probably as short as it's going to get. It does offer plenty of truly emotional scenes, including a rather warm and sweet moment between Harry and Hermione. The two really come to reconsider their relationship after Ron leaves, and though they know that they will probably always be purely platonic friends, they cannot help but reach out for a shoulder to lean their heads on.

However, my favorite scene of this film, without a doubt, is a different one between Harry and Hermione, where it really feels like they're about to give up, and I wouldn't blame them. They no longer have a home, and if things stay as they are, they will never see their family or their loved ones ever again. It's a truly melancholy moment that works as a parallel of real world fugitives seeking refuge in Mexico or Canada. If you haven't figured out by this point, I absolutely adored this film, but that doesn't mean there weren't a few things I wasn't sure about. The scene where apparitions of Harry and Hermione appear before Ron definitely felt awkward, and got a reaction of surprise and fear from the audience.

I always said that I'd be able to move past most problems with the film as long as it was well written, and I stick by that. The screenplay by Steve Kloves works brilliantly for the most part, but there are a few scenes that just didn't feel right and felt like they could use further work. I wish that I had more to dislike about the film, just so it wouldn't seem like I'm nitpicking at small and insignificant problems. There aren't any more, because this may indeed be the best film in the series. It definitely eclipses Half-Blood Prince in terms of action, dialogue, emotion, and even artistic integrity.

The performances from our main trio are as fantastic as they've ever been, and if they hadn't been sticking to these characters for years, I'd suggest one of them for an acting nomination. Daniel Radcliffe continues to bring the sorrow of Harry's situation through to the audience, and works best in the quiet scenes, of which there are many. Rupert Grint is absolutely hilarious for most of the film, and Ron will always be proper comic relief, but he also packs a dramatic punch in one particular scene. However, the best performance of this film comes from young Emma Watson, who brings Hermione to new life. She's really the strongest female character of any fantasy franchise, with clever intellect and quick action coming second to the heartbreaking sensibility that comes through in most of her scenes.

I'll be damned if I'm not going to mention the supporting cast of the British elite. Alan Rickman puts in great work in his fleeting time on screen as Severus Snape. Imelda Staunton returns as Dolores Umbridge to remind us why we despised the fifth film so much, not from her performance, but from the foul atmosphere her character aided to. Jason Isaacs is a particular standout as the disheveled and broken Lucius Malfoy. Helena Bonham Carter is absolutely insane as Bellatrix Lestrange, and it works best in this film, if it works anywhere. As for Ralph Fiennes, my early expectations of an increasingly hammy performance were thrown out the window by this terrifying depiction. If you have somehow forgotten, Voldemort is, and forever shall be, pure evil. There are also fantastic, if short, performances from Rhys Ifans, Tom Felton, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, and Toby Jones as the voice of the honest and loyal house elf, Dobby.

As said before, these films have reached an artistic peak with this installment. The production design is second to none, and has been constantly delivering on a massive scale for years. Cinematographer Eduardo Serra surpasses the fantastic work of Bruno Delbonnel and adds textures and hues that feel noticeably strange, but realistic. Alexandre Desplat sold me weeks ago on his score for the new film, and though I wish it was used a bit more, it shined through several scenes. Expect Oscar nominations a plenty in the technical departments, even if it's unlikely they'll exist anywhere else. As for where this film ranks in the grand scheme of things, I would've been hesitant to call it the best immediately after I saw it, but it has grown on me immensely in the few hours since then. The ending may feel a bit abrupt, but know that it isn't an ending. It's just the beginning of the epic finale. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 doesn't feel so much like a prologue as it does half a film, be it a magnificent one. It's a film about the loss of life, innocence, and faith.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Potter-Watch (34 of 77) Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Can't we just forget that the last film ever happened, and get back to the series that we loved? Fortunately enough, David Yates must have been asking that same question, because Half-Blood Prince does a good job of burying the past. As a matter of fact, this is arguably the best film in the series so far, a title which it may very well lose tomorrow. While the film may not have very much in the way of visceral thrills, it has the benefit of being the most superbly executed of all the films. The perfection of this film could be attributed to the combination of director David Yates, who had the misfortune of directing the previous film, and screenwriter Steve Kloves, who skipped out on writing Order of the Phoenix.

The story for the sixth episode may be a little low-key, but there isn't a scene in this film that I didn't enjoy. It's mostly an ensemble effort, both in terms of cast and plot. We don't only see things from Harry's perspective, but we also get an idea of the wider scheme of things. Right out of the gate, we get a fast paced action scene where the Death Eaters kidnap Ollivander and break down a muggle bridge. From there we see side plots involving Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape, giving us a better idea of the opposition. Where last film spent some time fleshing out Snape, this film spends a good deal of time fleshing out Draco.

I do understand why some people have panned the film, mostly on account of the abundance of teen romance in the film. I'd be on their side as well if the romance wasn't handled so brilliantly and realistically. Instead of the geeky flirting of the fourth film, there are genuine feelings being developed in this film. These aren't just one time flings that will go nowhere like Cho Chang and Victor Krum. This is the same thing that thwarted Voldemort in the first place: true love. So we spend a great deal of time in this film putting that together, and it comes off as really sweet, occasionally melancholy, but almost constantly funny.

With everything happening here, it's almost easy to forget the main plot of the episode, which consists of Dumbledore "educating" Harry on the ultimate task at hand: defeating Voldemort. It's definitely watered down from the book, but were not going to focus on what's not here. The memories we see offer all we need to know to understand the story, and that's what matters. As we get closer to the end of the film, it becomes more apparent that we're seeing the last living moments of Albus Dumbledore. The friendship between him and Harry transcends a simple teacher-student relationship, and begins to evoke equals. The last fifty minutes of the film go off like clockwork, with each event leading to another in rapid succession.

This film achieves the amazing task of a believable tone that consists of both the darkest and lightest moments in the series. There are points in this film that are really frightening, morose, or just plain tragic. Then we cut almost immediately to something hilariously light spirited and energetic, and it never once feels outrageous or out of nowhere. For example, there's a point halfway through the film where Ron is under the influence of a love potion, and that's pure comedy, and the next thing we know, he's on the ground, convulsing from poisoned mead. It takes us at our most vulnerable, and it shocks us with throwing danger at our characters when they aren't suspecting it.

Two of the series' actors truly come into their own this time, starting with Emma Watson. She gets a fair bit to chew on this year, and while her side-plot in this film is mostly reserved to her complex relationship with Ron, she really sells us the sweet desire and sour pinch of her situation. Her scenes with Daniel Radcliffe are a subtle highlight of the film, as they are such similar characters who remain simple friends, free of those pesky hormones. The other young actor who has shown improvement here is Tom Feltons performance as Draco Malfoy, who is now just a shadow of his former self. He no longer spends his time mocking Harry in public, but instead devotes his days to the mission Voldemort has assigned him, and he isn't quite up to the challenge. Five years ago, we would've payed money to punch him in the face. Now, we actually feel sorry for him.

Amazing as their performances are, the crown of best actor in this film belongs to two members of the adult cast. The most obvious is newcomer Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn, whose character mixes all the best parts of this movie. He's such a quirky character that makes you laugh on so many occasions, but he's also got a tragic past involving Tom Riddle. He'd have this honer all to himself if it weren't for Michael Gambon's performance as Dumbledore. Rarely am I talking about a performance this deep into the series, but Gambon really gives it his all given his restricted time table for the rest of the series. I don't think anybody knew how amazing this character could be until now.

The visuals in this film are perhaps my favorite in any film of the past two years. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonel puts so much texture into these shots that they're practically moving paintings, like the ones that adorn the school's corridors. Nicholas Hooper's score is a lot better than his last, as it actually knows when to go dark and when not to. It'd still lacking anything memorable, and doesn't go above and beyond in the way John Williams and Patrick Doyle did. I'd be a little more torn up about him not returning for the final films if Alexandre Desplat weren't the one replacing him. The visual effects don't rule this film, but they offer some nice visual stimuli. Finally, the editing in this film is just brilliant, so congrats to Mark Day on that one.

Ultimately, this film is just a set up for the final installment, putting everything where it needs to be for the next films, but one of the greatest ever made. The more I revisit this film, the more it occurs to me that this is my favorite film in the series. This is a talking movie, much like The Social Network is a talking film, and we get quite a few memorable quotes in this film, and some intense conversations as well. Is it long? Yes. Does it sag a bit in the midsection? Yes, but the same could be said of a dozen Oscar calibur films. However, this is the rare fantasy film that feels absolutely real, thoroughly enjoyable, and artistically stellar. We may not get much of the titular Half-Blood Prince, but how much of the Goblet of Fire or Order of the Phoenix did we see in their films? Not that much at all. This is a film made up of some real moments; things that occur in both our world and the wizarding world. That's one of the things I love about the latest films in this series.