Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oscar Predictions: Technical Categories

Art Direction: When it comes to this race it pays to have a certain fantasy element to a film. I'd say when it comes to that aspect of it the film with the lowest chances is The Young Victoria, because we've seen this sort of film before and everything is always exactly the same. There comes a time when one can get bored of it all. The next two that are hardly stemmed in reality are Sherlock Holmes and Nine, and while Holmes has enough striking imagery to give it a good shot, Nine doesn't really have a chance due to its negative reviews among critics. Though it pains me to say it, Avatar is most likely to take this one, with my alternate being The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Cinematography: I'm very glad Bruno Delbonnel ground out a nomination for his work in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It probably won't win, but it opens the possibility of seeing more of his work in the future. This category is wide open for any of the other four to take it. Avatar with its bright, colorful imagery; The Hurt Locker with its gritty, shaky, realistic look; Inglourious Basterds with its slanted, textured angles; and The White Ribbon with whatever it has in it. The White Ribbon just won the Cinematographer's Guild Award's top prize which gives it a bit of an edge, but it's too much of a competition to tell. My vote goes for Inglourious Basterds.

Makeup: I really thought that I had this category locked down until the nominations were announced and District 9 was surprisingly not on the list. While it does shake things up a bit, it's still a pretty sure race. Il Divo and The Young Victoria are too grounded in reality to have anything that would put it ahead in this race. The win is probably going to go to J.J. Abrams' Star Trek.

Costume Design: I can't offer much of an opinion on this race. I only know what I can tell from the trailers. Nine doesn't have a chance at any wins this year, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus lies a little too out there for anybody to take much notice. The Young Victoria could come in for a win, but it's mostly down to Bright Star and Coco Before Chanel, with the scale tipped a little bit in facor of the latter.

Visual Effects: I don't think I need to even register an opinion on this. I love District 9 and Star Trek so much more, but this award belongs to Avatar, hands down.

Film Editing: Usually this one goes to the Best Picture winner, and I feel if I give an opinion on this category then I've already said what is going to win that race. But I think that The Painful Sensation Storage Compartment or Container is going to win this.

3 to See in March!

3. How To Train Your Dragon
Dreamworks doesn't have as great a track record as Pixar does when it comes to their animated films. Some times they're quite enjoyable and successful (Kung Fu Panda, Monsters vs. Aliens) but most times they just expand upon the cliches of the art form (Shrek the Third, Madagascar). They're greatest weakness is their focus on appealing to children who, as experience has taught me are pretty damn annoying. At first sight this film looks like any other, but then I returned to two years ago when Kung Fu Panda was released, and by my initial viewing of the trailers I had no faith in the film at all and it ended up surprising me. Dreamworks does a good job of keeping the best parts of their films out of the promotional material, so I think this film will turn out alright. Dreamworks has always brought in a ton out of opening weekend and this should be no different, likely raking in over $60 million going on to settle in the $250 million range for the final domestic gross.
2. Greenberg
This film almost made my number one spot, but it ultimately wasn't well known enough to put up there. I still believe this to be one of the big little films to look out for. Directed by Noah Baumbach who directed The Squid and the Whale, this film traces the activities of Ben Stiller's character whose life isn't going anywhere and he intends to keep it that way. From the look of the trailer it definitely has well written humor which is hard to come by this day and age. It does seem to be masking the darker and more depressing sides of it's story and trust me, when it comes to Noah Baumbach there is a dark side to everything he does. I've kept my reservations against Ben Stiller in the past, but in a good semi-dramatic role I think he has potential.
1. Alice in Wonderland
This film has been on the top of this list ever since I saw the teaser trailer over half a year ago. Tim Burton has brought his own unique vision to several other films and this time around he's bringing his own blend of strange beauty to the classic story of Alice in Wonderland. Now I'm not truly astounded by how they fashioned the film into a comprehensible story, but they could've done worse. The new rendition shows Alice returning to Wonderland after eight years in which the Red Queen has taken over. Now Alice is the only one who can stop her tyranical reign, for some reason. I've decided not to care about the whys and the whats in this instance and I'm just preparing to go along for the visually splendid ride that I wish Avatar had been but wasn't. This film is going to take quite a bit of money from Avatar which has held the 3D market for months.I foresee Alice to open to a spectacular $50-60 million, and end up somewhere above the $200 million mark.

The Storm is Past and Present

Power finally came back at my house after the storm that killed power for more than 200,000 homes in New Hampshire. While that's now out of the way I find myself critically behind on things, most especially my predictions for the Oscars so expect quite a few of those in the next week. Today I'm going to try to get in most of my predictions for the technical categories, and I'll be posting my 3 to see for the month of march before the day is out. Here's my schedule for this week, and that's not including Trailer Tuesday, or anything else that might happen this week.

Monday- Shutter Island Review
Tuesday- Oscar Predictions: Adapted and Original Screenplay
Wednesday- Oscar Predictions: Supporting Actor and Actress
Thursday- Oscar Predictions: Lead Actor and Actress
Friday- Oscar Predictions: Director and Other (anything I missed)
Saturday- Oscar Predictions: Best Picture
-Brooklyn's Finest Review
Sunday- Oscar Predictions: Precursors and Final Predictions
- Precious Review

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oscar Predictions: Original Score and Original Song

One of the biggest contributing factors in movies is the music. In fact it's one of the only things that kept me awake while watching Avatar. This year however I think it's easy to say what the inevitable winner will be. James Horner did a nice job of musically portraying Avatar, but it just felt too much like Titanic. Hans Zimmer (Sherlock Holmes) gave us exemplary work as per usual. Alexandre Desplat will get a win someday, but it will probably for something better known than Fantastic Mr. Fox, like maybe his score for this year's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Sorry. I couldn't resist). As for Marco Beltrami (The Hurt Locker), just go.The clear winner in the race is obviously Michael Giacchino for Up. Giacchino could have been nominated for any of his scores, but Up was his true master stroke. The main theme itself evolves throughout the film from a simple piano melody to a full scale orchestral tribute. At times it felt as if the characters were actually being driven by the music playing. The film wouldn't be as touching as it is if Michael Giacchino hadn't done the score.
This year the Academy has decided not to play the songs nominated in the original song category during the broadcast, which I believe is a great decision on their part. That's not only because it will shorten the lengthy show, but because most of the songs nominated are uninteresting. I was worried that they wouldn't have this category at all, and the only reason I was worried was because of The Weary Kind from Crazy Heart. I don't have enough motivation to go through the other nominees, but as Daniel Plainview once said "When it comes to the showdown they won't be there". The Weary Kind captures what Falling Slowly had two years ago.

'The Special Relationship': Confined to HBO

It's impossible to guess what will be nominated for the Best Picture race a year in advance. It remains clouded in uncertainty whether or not the number of nominations will be reduced to five. That will ultimately depend on how many people watch the broadcast of the awards. Another factor to take into account is that most of the films that make it in are independantly released, so we likely haven't heard of them yet. However, this morning I stumbled upon one such film that may have what it takes to break into the pivotal category.

The film in question is The Special Relationship, the third installment of Peter Morgan's Tony Blair trilogy of films. Starting seven years ago (The Deal) and continuing three years later with the Oscar-nominated film The Queen, the series stars Michael Sheen as Tony Blair and each film deals with a significant time in the Prime Minister's life. The Special Relationship is specifically about Blair's dealings with U.S. president Bill Clinton, depicted by Dennis Quaid. I'm not at all a fan of Dennis, but it seems to me that Peter Morgan has intent on showing Clinton in a negative light so if that's the case then perfect casting.

The same people who brought us The Queen coming together for a final film seems to have quite a bit of Academy Award potential. The main problem is that while it will be released in theatres overseas, the film is to be broadcast on television in the U.S. by HBO. I know that at this point there probably isn't anything that can be done about it, but I personally don't care. I'd like to try to raise awareness of this film and get it the domestic theatrical release that it rightly deserves. I don't know how I'm going to do that seeing as only about 10 people read my blog per week, but please let me know what you think. Does this film merit a release in theatres? Is it too much praise to give a film that has yet to be released?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 Mid-Trimester Report

It's difficult to make such an accusation not even two months into the year, but I have a suspicion that this won't be a good year for movies. Then again it's the same sort of feeling that I get around this time every year. We had a good run for 2009, and we were able to get more than our fair share of blockbusters out of the year. It just feels like such a depressing change this time of year when we go from getting amazing movies to immediately getting crap. Like last year we have our single saving grace of a film. This year's Coraline came in the form of Shutter Island.

Besides that though there is nothing particularly inspiring. We first got a mashup of vampires (Daybreakers), Post-Apocalypses (Book of Eli), and career suicides (Tooth Fairy). Then as we mingled around Valentines Day we started on unhealthy sugar induced products (Percy Jackson, The Wolfman) until we rolled up in a corner and cried pathetically (Dear John). Then out of the darkness a friendly face (Martin Scorcese) comes to deliver us, but is then ridiculed and shot (Cop Out), and quickly loses his mind (The Crazies). That is a better plot than most of what you could find in the first two months of this year.

We still have quite a ways to go before we reach the real gold of the year, and we're just going to have to struggle through the coming weeks, and with luck we might get rewarded for our patience with a few surprises. Expect my 3 to see for March in the next few days, and shortly after that a review of Shutter Island.

David Goyer to Write Next Superman Movie

About a month ago it was announced that Christopher Nolan, who had already revived the Batman saga, was consulting on the Superman franchise. Now the series has actually been assigned a writer. Unfortunately it's David Goyer. If that name doesn't ring familiar in your head then it's probably for the best. He's responsible for such cheesily awful horror thrillers such as The Invisible, The Unborn, and Blade: Trinity. Apart from that he produced the movie Ghost Rider, and wrote the film Jumper.

I know by now that he's not a good writer at all, and was dismayed to hear that he was back in the Batman franchise co-writing the script for the Dark Knight follow up. Why Warner Bros. hasn't already condemned this guy is beyond me. All of their hopes for saving the already flailing Superman series have just died. Now if David Goyer does a good job with this then I'll give him an apology, but don't start waiting for that because it will never happen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Trailer Tuesday: Wall Street 2

Only one new trailer this week, and it's the second trailer for the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I've been pretty mixed on this film ever since the painful subtitle was announced. Money never sleeps, stating a widely known fact that offers no light or relevance on the plot of the sequel. From the look of things it involves Gordon Gekko after his release from prison, and Jacob Moore, the man who's supposed to marry Gekko's daughter.

Oliver Stone hasn't been known for making sequels to his films, and he's always had his own unique way of doing things so we can't really tell what this film is going to be like. That said, I like the feeling that this trailer gives off. I doesn't seem like the action powered blockbuster that Shia LaBeouf is usually drawn to, and it'll be nice to see what he does with this sort of role. Carey Mulligan doesn't need to convince me of how solid she is as an actress. I don't have to see An Education to know how great an actress she is. Her cinematic prowess comes through even in the trailers. This trailer earns Stone's sequel an instant place somewhere on my 3 to see list for April. We'll have to see how this developes. Here's the trailer:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fringe: What's Right, and Wrong with Season 2?

As you know I'm quite an admirer of this series and will follow it until the very end, which may be sooner rather than later seeing as they've had quite a problem with ratings since their time slot change. I may have been giving it a little too much praise though. The episodes they put on are brilliantly executed, but leave so much more to be desired. One truly wishes they could be as inventive with their stand alone episodes as they are with their mythology episodes, but that doesn't seem to be coming any time soon. It's quite sad seeing as it was J.J. Abrams' intent to have the series thrive on stand alone installments to make it more accessable to new viewers.

So the only suggestion I can give on that front is more episodes dealing with the mythology. By this time last season they had nine out of fourteen episodes dealing with the mythology. This season they've only had five out of fourteen. While the other nine episodes have great character building moments they lack original storytelling devices. Fringe is starting to blend a little too much with the series it has been compared to most, The X-Files.

Other things the series could do better include pushing Olivia more into the foreground. She's the character who brought the team together, and largely considered the main character of the series. It'd be nice to give her a little more to chew on. Something that last season did on numerous occasions was give Olivia enemies who worked right with her, and penetrated Fringe decision from the inside. It'd be nice to have a few more of those people. Finally the biggest advice that I can give the series if it wants to survive: Get off thursday night! It's the factor that is more than anything killing the series.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

British Academy Award Winners Announced!

A couple of much needed surprises occured at tonights BAFTA awards. For one thing the lead acting categories chose the once frontrunning british actors over the current favorites in the Oscar race. Colin Firth took Best Actor for A Single Man, and Carey Mulligan took Best Actress for An Education. Hopefully her win will knock enough sense into the Academy to score her a win. An Education also missed out on Best British Film, which was seized by the mysterious Fish Tank. The last surprise was Un Prophete taking Best Foreign Language Film, beating out The White Ribbon. This may count as a significant event if it comes to pass that Un Prophete wins the Oscar. Below is the full list of winners.

Best Film - The Hurt Locker
Best Actor - Colin Firth (A Single Man as George Falconer)
Best Actress - Carey Mulligan (An Education as Jenny Miller)
Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds as Col. Hans Landa)
Best Supporting Actress - Mo'Nique (Precious as Mary Lee Johnston)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Up in the Air (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner)
Best Original Screenplay - The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal)
Best Animated Film - Up (Pete Docter)
Best Cinematography - The Hurt Locker
Best Costume Design - The Young Victoria
Best Director - Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Best Editing - The Hurt Locker
Outstanding British Film - Fish Tank
Best Film Not in the English Language - Un Prophete • France
Best Makeup and Hair - The Young Victoria
Best Music (Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music) - Up (Michael Giacchino)
Best Production Design - Avatar
Best Sound - The Hurt Locker
Best Special Visual Effects - Avatar

Oscar Predictions: Animated Short and Feature

There's something amazing about the animated film races this year, because the people who you'd place way out in the front in any other year are being given a run for their money. I'd previously expressed rage over the Academy's decision to omit The Cat Piano, and Partly Cloudy from the Animated Short category. I still maintain that they both deserved to get in more than some of the films that did make it in such as French Roast, and Granny O'Grimm. However most of the films nominated are quite amazing and enjoyable. The Lady and the Reaper is sort of a backwards Pixar short, applying the same liveliness and humor to a much darker subject.
The assumed frontrunner, and favorite in this category is the new Wallace and Gromit short A Matter of Loaf and Death. Combining the smoothest stop motion I've ever seen, the intrigue of a psychological thriller, and the same affable characters, it certainly has favor with the Academy who have rewarded Nick Park's animated series numerous times before. The thing that could probably stand in its way is deliciously dark Logorama. Even though most people think of this category as a kids race, where childish comedies are usually rewarded, it seems fitting that the Academy would choose a more realistic edgy film. Definitely see it as soon as you can. If any film can take down Wallace and Gromit it'll most likely be this, and I wouldn't be the slightest bit disappointed. This is a film that depicts Ronald McDonald as a mass murdering psychopath. It's got my vote based on that alone. As for the Animated Feature race, the clear front runner is obviously Up. In fact this category is mainly to blame for Up not having a chance at winning best picture. As for the other films, The Princess and the Frog did a good job of reviving the traditional hand drawn animation, but don't expect it to be remembered 15 years from now ranked alongside The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. The Secret of Kells snuck into the race out of nowhere, so I think that the fact that it's nominated at all is reward enough for it. Coraline was able to maintain enthusiasm since it was released over a year ago, so the spark it needed to win this category has regrettably mostly faded by now.

The film with the biggest chance of upsetting Up is without a doubt Wes Anderson's dark screwball comedy Fantastic Mr. Fox. Where the film lacks in the emotional resonance that Up provides it makes up in undeniable laughs and originality, which is rare to find in an adapted screenplay. One can't count the film out just because it missed a win at the Golden Globes, because by now everyone should know that the Golden Globes are a joke. The chances that Mr. Fox had two months ago are still very alive, and ultimately it will all come down to what happens on the big night.

Writers Guild Award Winners Announced

Original Screenplay - The Hurt Locker, Written by Mark Boal; Summit Entertainment
Adapted Screenplay - Up in the Air, Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner; Based upon the novel by Walter Kirn; Paramount Pictures
Documentary Screenplay - The Cove, Written by Mark Monroe; Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

I'm not going to say that the winners in the categories didn't deserve their respective awards. I just don't think this really gives any insight into how Oscar night is going to play out, seeing as the WGA diqualified quite a few relevent films for whatever reason. It's pretty much a certainty that Up in the Air is going to win for Adapted Screenplay. District 9 or An Education might upset it but it's highly unlikely. The biggest question mark hanging in the air is whether The Hurt Locker is going to take Original Screenplay, or if Inglourious Basterds is going to pull out a surprise win. We'll probably get a better grasp of the state of the race after the British Academy Awards are awards tonight on BBC, which if you're one of the blessed people with that channel I'd suggest you tune in.

The Current Status of 1906

Good news. I've finally fixed the internet hookup on my computer so now I can get back to regularly posting. Thankyou for your patience, and your patronage. I really couldn't do this without your support. So now that I'm back I can delve right into predictions for the Oscar races. First I'd like to comment on one of the highest profile projects that's having trouble getting off the ground. You'd think the fact that it's from Pixar is enough to get it put into production immediately.

1906, a disaster film from Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) is Pixar's second attempt at a live-action film. While it's mostly based around the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, it's also based on the best-selling novel by James Dalessandro. I'd say that it doesn't need to, and probably won't happen if it weren't directed by Brad Bird. The disaster film genre has been almost beaten to death by Roland Emmerich, but Brad Bird has shown his capacity to direct intriguing and enjoyable action, even if it is only on an animated scale.

Currently Bird is trying to come to some sort of an agreement with the studios regarding the budget which is currently hovering within the range of $200 million. These days that isn't even a gamble, especially not with as great a director as Brad Bird. The man's won two academy awards, and the fact that they're for animated features makes no difference. I'd personally be heartbroken if this film never comes to pass because I know it would be brilliant, and definitely get awards consideration.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Computer Problems: Sorry!

Sorry I haven't been posting too much lately. I've been having quite a few problems with the internet on my home computer, and until it's sorted out I won't be doing too many posts. If there's something I believe you simply must know I'll find a way to post it. I'll try to sort out the problem as soon as I can. Thank you for being so patient!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Trailer Tuesday: The Last Airbender, Toy Story 3

It doesn't surprise me that Paramount decided to release the full trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender shortly after their Super Bowl spot, having last year given the same treatment to Transformers 2. Unfortunately it's just too early to tell if the film will be any good, or if it will have enough hype to survive up against the collosus that is The Twilight Saga, whose third installment releases less than a week before Airbender. This trailer does give us a better glimpse of what to expect from the film than the tv spot did. I'm not going to comment on M. Night Shyamalan. I'm just going to comment on what I saw in the trailer.

The Visual Effects are amazingly executed, and the cinematography is breathtaking. The cause for skepticism is that it's based on a Nickelodeon cartoon for children, and the main characters are therefore children. I can't tell right now how good the young actors will be. Katara (The girl) looks like a toddler and speaks much like one as well, Aang (The titular last airbender) is bald and doesn't speak in this trailer, and Sokka (the older brother of Katara) is played by Jackson Rathbone from Twilight. Dev Patel is going to be awesome no matter what, and Aasif Manvi from The Daily Show plays the main villain. I just hope that the script isn't as cheesy as the dialogue in the trailer, which can be seen here:

The second big trailer is the trailer for Pixar's next film, Toy Story 3. The biggest difference between this film and The Last Airbender is that I already know that this film is going to be amazing. The fact that it's a Pixar film already affirms it's status as an instant classic. Pixar spends usually four years making a film before it reaches the big screen, but it took them over 10 years to make this movie. They knew how much this film meant and they wanted to get it right. They scrapped tons of story ideas looking for the right one, and the one they finally landed on doesn't seem to tread over too many of the trends of the last two films.

Written by Michael Arndt, who won an academy award for his script of Little Miss Sunshine, the film see's our group of toys sent off to a day care to be terrorized by infants, and plotted against by the toys already taking residence at sunnyside. The film journeys off into beautiful new territories. I spent a good 10 minutes looking at the plush toy bear and admiring the intricacy of it. There's plenty of jokes in the trailer, some of which seem a little too comical, straying us into thinking that this film may not be as deep and touching as other Pixar films. I still have no doubt this film will be great. Here's the trailer:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quentin Tarantino's Next "might" be a Western

It's been half a year since Quentin Tarantino's latest masterpiece was released to great success, and since then he has hinted at some films he'd like to do. Regrettably he hasn't yet elaborated on any of those promised films. Today we got word of yet another possible film he might make next. This time he describes it as "a Western, but rather than set it in Texas, have it in slavery times. With that subject that everybody is afraid to deal with, let's shine that light on ourselves. You could do a ponderous history lesson of slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad. Or, you could make a movie that would be exciting. Do it as an adventure. A spaghetti Western that takes place during that time. And I would call it 'A Southern."

I have to say that this story description gets me excited to see it, especially coming from Quentin. The problem is he's described a ton of films that he "wants to do" but still hasn't announced that he's putting his focus on any film. He's talked about a third Kill Bill film, but he's made it clear that that won't come until 2014. He once told of an outline for an Inglourious Basterds prequel that would be set in Africa, but seeing as the film just came out it's probably too soon to make a sequel. He even elaborated on an amazing plot based on Conan O'Brien's recent Tonight Show debacle, claiming it to be "A Conan Revenge Movie", but that seems to have been saddly just a joke. I'll still be eagerly awaiting the release of Late Shift 2: The Rolling Thunder of Revenge.

My point is that when Quentin Tarantino announces what he'd like to do for a film, that remains the only thing on people's minds for the next several days. People get so excited about anything he might do, because he breathes genius into every frame of a film. He really needs to definitively announce what his next film will be soon, at least so we know that something is on the way. What do you think? Is Tarantino taking too much of a hiatus because of his Oscar buzz? Which of his possible films do you most want to see from him?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Wolfman Review

Come on Chewie! Get us out of this!
It's times like these that I consider discontinuing my 3 to see section that I publish at the beginning of each month, because twice now I have turned out severely wrong on what films should be good to see this month. This time misfortune rears it's ugly head in the form of The Wolfman, directed by the man who brought us such classics as Honey, I Shunk The Kids. You should probably know by now that the film is about a man who is bitten by a werewolf, and every full moon turns into the wolfman. That should be the perfect formula for an awesome action horror film, but it just isn't. The fact of the matter is that he only turns into the wolfman once a month, and then we have to sit through an entire month before we see the wolfman again.

I wouldn't be too annoyed with it if they:
1) Had actually interesting plot and character development in between the full moons, and
2) The Wolfman sequences were better and lasted more than 4 minutes.
They regrettably mostly fail in both those areas. The intermission time between wolfman sequences mostly includes the idiotic characters twidling their thumbs waiting for something to happen, and once the full moon rises, when we think we're about to be rewarded for the long time spent on exposition, they dissapoint us.

The problem with the film is that it is too faithful to the original The Wolf Man, down to the point where they practically copy the look of the monster from the 1941 film. The director tried to make the creature realistic by making it almost completely a makeup job done on the actor, therefore the monster looks like a black Chewbacca. A black Chewbacca who rips people to peices, but for some reason doesn't eat them. Another thing that ticked me off about it is that they were willing to go full costume makeup for the wolfman, but when it comes to real animals like a deer or a bear, they decide to use visual effects. They couldn't find a trained bear for those 8 seconds of screentime?

The acting in the film was a unanimous failure with the exception of Anthony Hopkins and Hugo Weaving. Hopkins is incapable of delivering an awful performance, and he's able to add something to his already deep, disturbing role. Hugo Weaving delivers the greatest performance of this film. He's supposed to be somebody you hate, but by the end he's the only one you remotely care about which makes the final frame of the film so haunting. I'd say they should do a sequel focusing on his character, but seeing as the film will most likely fail in comparison to the Taylor/Taylor scene from Valentines Day, I don't think that film will ever come, nor should it. My grade for The Wolfman is D+.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Weekend Update: 2nd Week of Feb.

By now I've made my opinions clear on Valentines Day and Percy Jackson and the whatever. Neither of them look particularly entertaining, or worth your time so I say skip them, with the mild exception of Valentines Day, meaning once it's out on dvd rent it. The Wolfman looks like the film to see this weekend. The critics haven't been particularly favorable to the horror remake, understandable seeing as it's directed by the guy who made what people to this day call the bad Jurrasic Park film (The third one). I don't really care because all you expect from a monster movie is badass visual effects, tons of gore, and Anthony Hopkins doing his thing.

There's not that much to see as far as expansions go this week except that Crazy Heart is spreading even further into 1000 theatres so if you haven't seen that film yet, you most definitely have to.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking (Wait for it. Wait 6 Months for it) Dawn

So after several months of speculation, Summit Entertainment has finally deemed that the final installment of The Twilight Saga will be split up into two films. Isn't that the most depressing thing you've ever heard in your life? I've already expressed my intense pain and misery over the Twilight franchise's success before, so I don't need to go into detail on it this time. I'm just trying to figure out how they are going to stretch a story(?) in which nothing happens across four hours. Tell me how this makes you feel? I want to know what you know.

A Serious Man Review

Of all of the nominations for Best Picture this year, the Coen Brothers have managed to bring us the most confusing of them. Maybe it's just because the movie's jewish. A Serious Man, which takes place in 1967, focuses on Larry Gopnik, a Jewish father and husband whose life suddenly goes into turmoil. His wife surprisingly leaves him for another man, his brother is arrested for gambling, and he's in the process of being sued for not passing a Korean student's midterm. Joel and Ethan Coen certainly have no problem dealing with racial sensitivity, albeit with a slightly dark sense of humor. While trying to find answers to all his problems, Larry goes to see three Rabbis, hoping to be told what to do next.

It's very crude to sum up a film in such a potentially offensive sentence, but the Coen Brothers have crafted the most Jewish movie ever made. It's so deeply stemmed in the Hebrew culture that it is apprehensive to explain too many of the jewish traditions such as a "Gett" or "Aguna" or whatever the hell a "dybbuk" is. The film is vaguely relatable, even to people who aren't jewish, because odds are they know someone who is jewish. I believe that everyone has a Larry Gopnik in their life, and it's so interesting and hillarious to see his life turn to chaos. It's such an easily controversial film that the Coens would not be allowed to make if they didn't win an academy award two years ago for No Country for Old Men.

It's amazingly put together, superbly written, and Michael Stuhlbarg's performance is magnificent. The problem is that you are left confused quite a bit of the time. The film feels like it was made strictly for the Coen Brothers' enjoyment. I respect the film on so many levels for going to where it did, but at the same time I'm unwilling to say that it's a film that I'd see again. I may very well take another look at it down the road, but for now, I'm fine. It only took one viewing for the film to leave its imprint on me, unlike some films that I kept going to see, trying to feel something that ultimately wasn't there (Avatar). My grade for A Serious Man is A-.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Trailer Tuesday: Ondine, and Superbowl Commercials

Last tuesday was a big day that only deserved news on the Oscar nominations, but now that that's finished(ish) we can get back in the flow of things, first with the commercials that aired on sunday during the superbowl. I already covered The Last Airbender which prematurely landed online. The main new ones were the spots for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. They didn't offer much but they did give a perspective on the look and feel of the films. Prince of Persia seems to be little more than a corny Pirates of the Caribbean rip off, Alice looks like a high fantasy, distantly creepy and retooled version of the Lewis Caroll novels, and Robin Hood looks a little bit too much like Ridley Scotts other teaming with Russell Crowe (Gladiator). I can't say that it's crucial that you see these, but if you really have to see them feel free to go through the effort of skimming through youtube for them.

The bigger news from the past five days is the trailer for Neil Jordan's fantasy drama Ondine. For those who don't know, a year ago Neil Jordan was confirmed to be writing the screenplay and directing the adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. For those who have never read The Graveyard Book, go out and buy a copy, because you will want to read it over and over again. So based on his name I decided to see what film he has been working on while Gaiman's been trying to find a new home for his big screen fantasy after Miramax was disbanded, may they rest in peace. Based on this trailer, I hope that he lands a studio for it as soon as possible, because I'm convinced he's got what it takes to make an Oscar worthy Graveyard Book movie.

Keep in mind that this trailer tries to make it look like it's got a little more action than it likely has, so when it does come out I'm not going to be grinding my teeth waiting for the action to start like I was with a certain recent film (Edge of Darkness). Still I like the fantasy romance in there, and the dark, deeply scottish imagery puts together a great portait. What really sold me on Neil Jordan's film was the image of a man cloaked in shadows opening up his switchblade. At that moment I knew what "The Man Jack" from The Graveyard Book would and should look like. I highly recomend seeking this film out, just to see if Jordan's truly got what it takes. Here's the trailer:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Valentines Day: Now A Celebration of Universal Stupidity Onscreen As Well!

With this image as proof,
There is a god.
Just today I heard the news that New Line Cinemas has announced a sequel to the upcoming comedy Valentines Day, set to focus around New Years Eve? I can only ask, is it too soon? The answer is a resounding yes. Forget the fact that the film hasn't even released yet, and the fact that no actors, nor director have signed on to the sequel, or even the fact that they don't really have much of a concept to work off of yet. How about maybe the quality of the film, which looks like a gooey cheese fest that tries to be funny but ultimately isn't.

What's the only reason I'm even slightly interested in this film? Because they have a likely 3 minute scene featuring Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner (Twilight: New Moon) as a couple. That's it. That's the only reason I want to see this movie. It doesn't matter if the scene is cheesy, poorly written, and poorly acted. The fact that it's the two Taylors is enough for me to be continually laughing. This 40 second clip I found online alone is worth the price of admission: But seeing as a bootleg copy of said scene will likely appear online following opening weekend, I'd just say watch that.

I really don't care that it stars an all star cast of actors I trust, and a few I don't. This isn't the type of film that is going to illicit an Oscar nominated role from Jamie Foxx or Julia Roberts. It is quite honestly, a film made for one day and one day only. So this sunday don't spend your day watching a movie about the day you are spending, and actually do something useful with your time. Like perhaps take a girl you like out to see a movie. Just as long as it isn't Valentines Day. Or Percy Jackson and the Sorceror's Secret Golden Compass. In other words, go see The Wolfman. Or watch Fringe on Hulu.

Percy Jackson and the Sorceror's Secret Golden Compass: Haven't We Seen This Film Already?

Does Mt. Olympus look familiar?
That's because it's Hogwarts.
I'm a little too fatigued by all of the failed attempts at starting a new fantasy franchise (Eragon, The Golden Compass). It seems that all these studios are trying to strike the lightning that resulted in success for the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings Franchises. The latest submission into the sad arena of films that don't quite make it to becoming series is Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Where some people might see this film as the exception to the chain that has been going on for years, I just see another disappointment.

Lets look at the facts shall we? The film adaptation is written by Joe Stillman and Craig Titley. If you're unfamiliar with them then you're right in the same boat as the rest of the inhabitants of the human race. The only previous screenwriting credit I could find for Joe Stillman was Planet 51, and that doesn't inspire much optimism. Even the novel the film is based on is pretty much dead weight. Ever heard of Rick Riordan? Didn't think so. The fact of the matter is it just doesn't hold as much weight as Harry Potter, and to say that it does is heresy. My brother actually turned to me during one of the commercials and said to me, "You know, that looks just as good as Harry Potter". That's not a joke; that's a sin. Percy Jackson is ultimately just another predictable fantasy series that you'd only notice if you were trapped in library for 2 weeks.

And what's the final topping on this likely disastrous production? Christopher Columbus, best known for directing the first two Harry Potter films. Doesn't that sound like it redeems all of the other shortcomings of this film? Well let me rephrase the sentence. Christopher Columber, director of the worst two Harry Potter films. Does that give you a better view of this film? I'm sorry if I'm offending any long standing fans of the series, and I would love to see another fantasy franchise actually survive and be genuinely good. I just don't think this is going to be it.

Box Office Update: Avatar Finally Defeated! By Dear John?

I've been waiting such a long time for this day when Avatar would no longer constantly remind me of the low intelligence of the greater portion of the world today. The fact that the film has brought in 2 billion worldwide makes me depressed. And what film is the cause of all this? Dear John, another romance from the writer of The Notebook. Going into the weekend I thought that it didn't really have a chance, but it seems I was wrong. I still don't plan on seeing it any time soon, but I would personally like to put a huge thank you out to everyone who did see it. The soundtrack of my life is playing Hall and Oates right now (

So as far as numbers go, Dear John brought in 32.4 million this weekend, so expect it to go on to a total gross just over $80 million. Avatar stumbled down to $23.6 million and currently holds a total gross of $630 million. John Travolta's action film, From Paris With Love failed to put up any truly inspiring numbers with $8.1 million. Crazy Heart, after expanding to over 800 theatres, brought in a modest $3.7 million. Up in the Air, and The Blind Side benfited from their respective Oscar nominations, both bringing in just over $2.6 million. Precious' Oscar nominations and subsequent re-expansion unfortunately failed to attract enough attention to bring in as big of a total, just crawling out of the weekend with $440 thousand. An Education's expansion fared far better, bringing in nearly $1 million from 761 locations.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Best Picture Nominations: Seen 6 out of 10

I find the Oscar season quite frustrating at the moment. While the expansion to ten film in the best picture race make it more likely that I've actually seen some of the films on the list, I'm still having trouble getting to see some of them. I'm recently discovering the side affects of living in such a remote region of such a desolate state. The following list is of the films nominated for Best Picture, and the ones I've seen are highlighted and have my overall grades for them next to them:

Avatar (2.9 out of 4 stars)
The Blind Side
District 9 (3.8 out of 4 stars)
An Education
The Hurt Locker (3 out of 4 stars)
Inglourious Basterds (4 out of 4 stars)
A Serious Man
Up (4 out of 4 stars)
Up in the Air (4 out of 4 stars)

Now you may have noticed I've adjusted my grades for Avatar and The Hurt Locker given the benefit of a repeat viewing, but most of my opinions stand. I don't have any real interest in seeing The Blind Side in theatres, mostly because it doesn't look like an interesting film. I didn't want to see it before it was nominated and I still don't want to see it. A Serious Man releases on DVD tuesday so I will pick it up and watch it when that opportunity presents itself. I'm still waiting for Precious to expand into my area again, and I'm trying to find time to go out to see An Education. Optimistically I can cover those films in the next two weeks and have a good grasp of the state of the awards race for once in my life.

If you have seen any of the films on the Best Picture list I want to know your opinions on them.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Crazy Heart Review

I've been pretty mellow about the Academy's inclusion of The Blind Side in the nominations for Best Picture, but having seen this film I have a critical complaint about the Academy's judgement. Make no mistake, the performances are the main driving forces for this film. Jeff Bridges gives his greatest performance yet as the country singer Bad Blake, Maggie Gyllenhaal proves that she can add sexiness to a deep and layered role, and for once I didn't want Colin Farrell to die a horrible painful death. That's pretty high praise.

The movie's main focus is of course Jeff Bridges' character who hit his glory early on, and now is simply a lost soul. Not a lot of people know what a lost soul is, having been convinced by the media that it looks something like Christian Bale or Shia Labough. For those people, let me work out a statement that should clear it up quite a bit: Bad Blake is a lost soul. He's been chewed up, swallowed, and purged, and Jeff Bridges is the perfect man to show what that looks like. He's a heavy alchoholic, smoker, and not crazy overweight but fatter than he should be.

Early on in the film we see Blake's general lifestyle, and as soon as Gyllenhall's character Jean comes into the picture things change. They don't change that much but you know that she's of definite significance. You can abuse a ton of women and decide to not seek help, but there's always one person who's different; somebody you hurt so bad it makes you want to be better even though it will ultimately end in heartbreak. It's all very deep and beautiful. The problem is, didn't we already see this film? Wasn't it called The Wrestler?

As for the music in the film, it isn't the kind of painful suicidal country music played regularly on the radio. It is, as Jean puts it, pure country, with an actual meaning that speaks to the lonely person inside of us. The main song of the film, The Weary Kind, is destined to take home the award for original song, just as Jeff Bridges is meant to achieve Best Actor. He make George Clooney's "lost soul" from Up in the Air look like a wannabe. This is one of the only films in the Oscar race that has most of its categories locked down for a win. My Grade for Crazy Heart is B+.

Weekend Update: 1st Week of Feb.

Now seems like a good time to issue a warning about the films coming out this weekend. Neither From Paris With Love or Dear John look particularly interesting, or positive at all. The biggest advice I can give going into the weekend is check the area you live in for any of the Oscar nominated films that have gone into a relatively wider release. The main film I'm talking about are An Education (nominated for 3 awards, including Best Picture, and Actress) expanding to over 700 theatres, Precious (nominated for 6 awards, including Best Picture, Actress, and Supp. Actress) expanding to over 600 theatres, and Crazy Heart (nominated for 3 awards, including Best Actor, and Supp. Actress) expanding to over 800 theatres. I'll be seeing Crazy Heart tonight so expect a review late this evening, and I'll do my best to catch up on the other films nominated in the master race that I have yet to see.

Also to keep in mind going into the weekend, the Super Bowl is this Sunday and there's never a lack of tv spots for highly anticipated films, so be sure to check that out. Finally here's some movie trivia for you. Which british actress made $30 million last year for acting in two different movies? Answer:

Fringe: Jacksonville Review

We've finally reach the last episode of Fringe to air until April, and I can definitely say from this episode that April cannot come sooner. Written by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stenz, who have written the major mythology episodes of the season (Momentum Deferred, and Grey Matters), this episode certainly outclasses the stand alone episodes that have been stalling this season through the past three episodes. Make no mistake, I enjoy them quite a bit, but they just don't have the same weight that the overall mythology has, and it's been a while since we got the same sort of disturbing death that this episode gives us.

The episode opens with a building from an alternate universe being pulled into our own. When this happens Walter figures out that a building from our side is about to be pulled through to the other side, and the episode quickly becomes a race to find out which building in Manhattan will disappear, and to evacuate the people inside it. Walter brings Olivia back to the place where she was experimented on as a child, hoping to have her regain the ability to see things from the alternate universe.

I don't feel like spoiling what happens when they get to the place, but there is a confrontation between Walter and Olivia that certainly puts a strain on their relationship. If that didn't then the certain secret that we've been waiting all season to be exposed, that Olivia just learned sure will. A few questions that entered my mind during this episode that may come into play before the season ends: Did Newton expect that what happened to the building and the people in it would happen? If he didn't was it Walter who intentionally didn't tell them? If he did what the hell is he planning, and why? Exactly what is Olivia thinking when she finds out that certain secret? Finally, how the hell did Walter do it? My grade for this episode is 9.2 out of 10 (Yes, I'm going by a different ratings scale on TV shows than on movies), and the episode faired well against the return of Grey's Anatomy and The Office, with which it tied in the ratings with 7.2 million viewers, but what did you think, if you saw the episode? If you didn't see it, look it up on Hulu!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trailer Thursday: Cemetary Junction, Clash of the Titans, and The Last Airbender

Sorry I didn't have time to check in on tuesday, but in retrospect there weren't really that many trailers back then. So now that there are, I'll just dive in.

The first trailer for Ricky Gervais' comedy-drama Cemetary Junction. Described as a mix between Mad Men and The Office, only one of which I've seen, the plot isn't really spelled out, but by the look of this trailer it's a coming of age tale about a young man. Gervais certainly has lessened the comedy this time around, and it looks like it may or may not work. All I know is that Ricky has had a tough time making a great american comedy. Now that he's back in his natural element his taste in comedy might work. Here's the trailer:

Next is the international trailer for Clash of the Titans, which certainly sheds more light on the story, which is somewhat different from what I remember of the original, but most important plot elements have been kept intact. With the recent news that the film will be converted into 3D, the imagery can certainly be seen in a new light. I'm not sure how good the film will be, but by the look of things it will certainly have a ton of action, assuming that all of the action shots aren't in the trailer, which can be viewed here:

The Super Bowl spot for The Last Airbender just came out today, and I don't know what to think. On the one hand I enjoyed the tv series, but on the other hand I hate M. Night Shyamalan, or at least the recent M. Night Shyamalan. I'm not easily forgiving of the man who brought us The Village and The Happening, and I can't place too much faith in a film that stars a boy riding on a flying bison. Still, visually the spot looks great in the scenes with visual effects. I'm just underwhelmed whenever there's a shot without visual effects in it. And the voice over does give me a really bad taste in my mouth. If those spoken lines are in the actual movie then there really is no hope for Shyamalan. If he screws this up, it's over. But i'm keeping my self open for being proved wrong. Here the spot:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Academy Award Nominations Reactions

Well there were a few tiny surprises this morning, not many of which negatively shocked me. The biggest shockers that I was unhappy to hear were Ponyo being shut out of the Animated Feature race, and The Cat Piano as well as Partly Cloudy both being snubbed for Animated Short. I haven't seen any of the shorts that are nominated but as soon as I do get a chance to see them I will. As for Best Picture, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince did not get nominated, as I expected it probably wouldn't, however it was interesting to see The Blind Side sneak in there, beating out Clint Eastwood's Invictus.

Not to say that Harry Potter got completely kicked out of Oscar competition. It did get nominated for Cinematography, which if nothing else it deserves. District 9 scored a Best Picture nomination, but failed to get a makeup nomination. Alexandre Desplat got his second Best Picture nomination in a row (nominated last year for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and third all time nomination (nominated for The Queen three years ago) for Fantastic Mr. Fox and depending on how he does this year (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1?) he could bring it up to 3. Star Trek's only achievement was Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and Sound Editing, Up became the second animated film to be nominated for Best Picture, and the total box office grossings of all the Best Picture nominees are higher than ever (Even if you take Avatar out, and divide by 2). I can't say I'm hugely disappointed this year, so I believe the Oscars have returned to their former glory.

Oscar Nominations Announced!

The day has come, and the nominations for the Academy Awards with them. So here are the nominations, and I'll have my response to the choices up in a few hours.

Best Picture
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo’Nique, Precious

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy, Up
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In the Loop
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

Best Animated Film
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells

Best Foreign Language Film
El Secreto do Sus Ojos (Argentina)
Un Prophete (France)
The White Ribbon (Germany)
Ajami (Israel)
The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)

Best Art Direction
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

Best Cinematography
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

Best Costume Design
Bright Star
Coco Before Chanel
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
The Young Victoria

Best Documentary
Burma VJ
The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home

Best Editing
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds

Best Makeup
Il Divo
Star Trek
The Young Victoria

Best Score
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes

Best Song
“Almost There,” The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
“Down in New Orleans,” The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname,” Paris 36, Reinhardt Wagner & Frank Thomas
“Take It All,” Nine, Maury Weston
“The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart, T-Bone Burnett & Ryan Bingham

Best Sound Editing
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek

Best Sound Mixing
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Best Visual Effects
District 9
Star Trek

Best Documentary Short
China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
Music by Prudence
Rabbit à la Berlin

Best Animated Short
French Roast
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
A Matter of Loaf and Death

Best Live-Action Short
The Door
Instead of Abracadabra
Miracle Fish
The New Tenants

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oscar Nominations Announced Tomorrow! First Winner Predictions!

Given the fact that the nominees for the Academy Awards this year are being announced tomorrow, it makes sense to me to make my predictions on the winners, mainly because by now the outcome has mostly already been spelled out by the guild awards and the critics awards. However a lot of things can change in one day. Most thought that The Dark Knight was a lock last year, but then The Reader came along and ruined everything. There were only five nominees. Somebody has to be given the blame for the upset and last year it just seemed unanimous. Still, here are my winner predictions:

Picture: The Hurt Locker
Director: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Actor: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Actress: Carey Mulligan (An Education)
Supp. Actor: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Supp. Actress: Monique (Precious)
Original Screenplay: Inglourious Basterds
Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
Art Direction: Avatar
Cinematography: The Hurt Locker
Costume Design: Bright Star
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Makeup: District 9
Original Score: Michael Giacchino (Up)
Original Song: The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart)
Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing: Avatar
Visual Effects: Avatar
Animated Feature: Up
Foreign Language: The Prophet
Documentary: The Cove
Animated Short: The Cat Piano