Monday, October 31, 2011

AWARDS 2011: "Tinker, Tailor" Dominates BIFA Nods

Continuing the slow unveiling of film award nominations, the British Independent Film Awards have happily added to the pot. It's a nice array of films that you should get jotted down before the year ends, and I've already gotten off to a solid start with two films in the top race already seen. Two films in particular have prevailed in the nominations above the others, though it's still mostly the same central players. "Senna" is the standout documentary nominee, and a well earned one in my own opinion. "Tyrannosaur" and "We Need to Talk About Kevin" are also strong points of interest, gaining their fair share of nods as well. I'd be very happy to see the latter get the lion's share of praise.

However, the top players here are "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", which dominates the performance categories, and "Shame", which picks up more than a few technical nods here. I'd love this to be the start of a surprise awards run for "Shame", but lets face it. That's probably not going to happen. It'll be a wonderful miracle for Fassbender to get nominated in the endgame for Best Actor. I'd consider this to be a sort of outcast lineup, with Mia Wasikowska ("Jane Eyre") and Brendan Gleeson ("The Guard") rounding out the lead actors, and "Drive" picking up a foreign independent nod amongst "Pina" and "A Separation".

  • "Senna"
  • "Shame"
  • "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"
  • "Tyrannosaur"
  • "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

"We Need to Talk About Kevin" Trailer

I think it goes without saying that I was mad in love with "We Need to Talk About Kevin" when I saw it just more than a month back. I maintain those gut feelings about, and in so many ways it's methods are too brilliant to work in a simple trailer. Meticulously made from the first to last shot, and I still have to revisit it when it comes out in December. This trailer works more than decently, but you never really get a feeling for how nightmarish an experience it is until you live it. But this'll do just fine. And that ticking sound is a lot less formulaic than it sounds. Trust me on that one.

Films to See in 2011: November

I'm really down to the wire on this one, but I've been behind on a lot of things. I've been struggling to fit all of the things I want to do, or else need to do, into a schedule that's tight enough for me not to be staring at the ceiling in cynicism. I must admit that this month is hardly as exciting as I would have hoped for it to be. In the first week, all we get is the Brett Ratner comedic venture "Tower Heist" and "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas", neither of which I feel any temptation to see. I can't say that the following week is much of an improvement either, only providing "Jack and Jill" (Yes, it's an actual film, and not just an abysmal trailer.), and "Immortals", which I am so dismally surprised to see that people are actually looking forward to it.

Not to say there isn't some good with the bad. "Melancholia" comes into limited release on the 11th, so I'd recommend you check that out if you can. There's also "J. Edgar", which opens wide that weekend, and it will likely get favorable Academy attention. I still maintain myself as unmoved, but I'll see it nonetheless. And also worthy of note is "Into the Abyss", Werner Herzog's upcoming documentary which was a sizable hit at Telluride this year. It almost made my list of most anticipated, but just missed out.The following week brings two films I'm not likely to support in any way, but one which I'm likely to see anyway, sadly.

I don't have the same enthusiasm for "Happy Feet Two" that I did for its predecessor, which was overrated at best. This one is simply to make bank, and looks as typical as you could've possibly hoped for. Then there's "Breaking Dawn: Part 1", which I'll only see out of desperation for something to make fun of. "The Descendants" is also going limited that weekend, but I still don't have much interest in that one. Then the following weekend brings Martin Scorsese's "Hugo", animated film "Arthur Christmas", typical British drama "My Week with Marilyn", and the odd bastard of my Telluride by the Sea viewings, "A Dangerous Method". There are three other films coming that weekend, but you'll have to follow after the jump to find them out.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Box Office Update: "Puss" Wins the Weekend

This weekend has just been a complete barrage against the box office that nobody could have foreseen before two days ago. There was bound to be some slight weakness in the pot, as there most definitely will be on Halloween weekend. But the freak snowstorm combined with Game 7 of the World Series just set things back colossally. I'd say if you give these films about 10% interest, you'll get what they would have made this weekend. Instead, we have this, and it's not all that inspiring. All that said, it still was a welcome increase upon where we were in 2010, which was with "Saw 3D" reaping its meager opening earnings.

And that's meager in comparison to the films this weekend, the top spot going unsurprisingly to "Puss in Boots", which was pushed forward a week to get the kiddie market who was all jazzed up for Halloween. That idea clearly backfired a bit. All the same, the film opened well-ish. But it's still worth noting that "Paranormal Activity 3" dropped as much as we expected it to, so perhaps the weekend box office wasn't totally affected by the onslaught of outlying elements this weekend. All the same, that doesn't ring too well for "In Time" or "The Rum Diary", the first of which performed admirably in comparison to its counterpart. Sure, this weekend was a success compared to last year, but the films are still in a dicey situation as far as the box office goes.

1. "Puss in Boots" (First Weekend; $34 million)
2. "Paranormal Activity 3" (Second weekend; $18.5 million)
3. "In Time" (First Weekend; $12 million)
4. "Footloose" (Third Weekend; $5.4 million)
5. "The Rum Diary" (First Weekend; $5 million)
6. "Real Steel" (Fourth Weekend; $4.7 million)
7. "The Three Musketeers" (Second Weekend; $3.5 million)
8. "The Ides of March" (Fourth Weekend; $2.7 million)
9. "Moneyball" (Sixth weekend; $2.4 million)
10. "Courageous" (Fifth Weekend; $1.8 million)

Friday, October 28, 2011

THE LISTS: Ranking Stanley Kubrick

Before anyone else even has the chance to chastise me, I'll beat you to it. How the hell have I gone through nineteen years of my life without being touched once by the genius of Stanley Kubrick? How did I get by this long without seeing his influence in my rear-view? In a word, barely. In the first sixteen years of my life, I'd describe myself as a complete and total idiot. By eighteen, still painfully limited. By nineteen, a point of confidence and individuality, but still not quite complete. I have made more headway towards becoming the sort of influential filmmaker that I want to be most in the past week and a half than I have in almost my entire life.

To say that Stanley Kubrick has had a great deal of influence on several high profile filmmakers is an understatement. The man practically defined perfection in cinema at a time when it was still searching for a definitive form. Not to say that his films are the absolute, unequivocal best, and that no other film could top his #1. I think that'd be just far too insane and geekish a statement for everyone. Still, there is no other filmmaker who has taken up the task of perfection in medium quite as much or as sincerely as Kubrick. If you've not seen and loved a film of his, you are of a dead nature to me, and I'm afraid there's no hope for you.

The moment I'd made my way through two of his films, I knew that I couldn't stop until I was done. And with Halloween just waiting around the corner, and me not quite willing or prepared to make a list of the top horror films this year, I felt this was the perfect opportunity for a list. After all, you can find sinister undertones permeating through most of his films, outside his sole horror venture. There are very few that don't have that touch. Though I must say that I couldn't include all of Kubrick's films. There were some that just didn't match up. "Killer's Kiss" was too banal a piece, and though "Lolita" had a characteristically strong start, I couldn't make it out of that first hour without feeling uninterested. So it's with the utmost of honor that I run down the ranking of Kubrick's ten other features, after the jump.

"Fringe" Previ... Aw, Damn It!

And here I thought I was leaving last night in a genuinely good place. The Rangers were winning, which in any other case I wouldn't care about. But in this particular case, it meant that "Fringe" was likely to take place as scheduled. But NO!!!! St. Louis had to go ahead and ruin that one, didn't they? So, yeah. "Fringe" won't be returning tonight. It's on hold for another unbearable week because of baseball. This is why I hate sports. They distract from more important things in the world. They're as degenerative to the medium of television as "reality shows" are. But now I'll have to find a way to numb the loneliness, probably by heading back to earlier seasons. Say! Why don't you do the same, and we can touch base having both an idea of what the hell I'm talking about!

And this'll embitter you until then.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" Trailer

There's been a fair bit of silence around the latest "Mission Impossible" film, and I'd like to think it's more skillful than it is apprehensive. Then this trailer comes around and reveals just a little too much. I'm no fan of a film showing its card before it plays, so that kind of upset me a bit. Still, the trailer packs a strong enough punch. Between the Burj Khalifa and a sandstorm car chase, I'm totally in.

For Your Anticipation: People Like You

It looks like that acid tongue of the critics has deteriorated my original plans to see "In Time" this weekend. And since neither "Puss in Boots" or "The Rum Diary" piques my interest, "Anonymous" would seem to be my strongest option. That is, it would, if it weren't releasing in just 200 theaters this weekend. It's such a shame, as I just recently became very interested in this film. It looks more fortunate than anything else coming this weekend. I thought "2012" was quite fun, and this looks similarly with a bit more brains in its head. Too bad the theaters don't have the same confidence in it that they have for the other films this weekend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Okay. Let's Talk.

Remember on Sunday when I said that something had been taking up my time with almost complete devotion, so much that I didn't want to do anything else? Remember when I told you you'll find out what it was on Friday? Well, I'm going to give you a big hint right now, and I urge you to give this a look. If you follow me on twitter, this is no surprise to you.

Carpet-Bagging: Lost Boys of the Backdrop

I don't think the lack of unanimous structure in the lead acting races is confined between the two of them. There's as much of an absence from the supporting races as well, which is only noticed by further examination. Personally, I thought that it would be a no-brainer, but then I remembered that the world is a cruel and horrible place, and nothing ever goes my way. The supporting actor race in particular is kind of a crap shoot right now. We've still got a ways to go before the year's end, and what comes along in that time may make this race more definitive, but right now it's hard to place a bet on anyone with confidence.

Although, I think many are agreed that Christopher Plummer is the only real lock thus far. After all, people were so pleased with "Beginners", most especially Plummer's performance. Myself, I'm not sipping the koolaid as much as others are. Sure, his performance is strong, but only as strong as the film will allow him to be. Now, I'd be much more willing to throw Albert Brooks out there as frontrunner for "Drive", but one wonders if the Academy may be a bit adverse to it. I'm pretty confident he'll get a nomination, but not the Waltz-Ledger-Bardem win he so deserves after busting out such a surprising performance.

Fox and "Fringe": A Tragic Love Story

I talk ever so often about "Fringe", much to the chagrin of those who don't really care. Maybe I'm just beating a dead horse with this, but I'll be damned if I stop now. Never give up on a show like this. There's always a chance it'll surprise you. And I've kept that in the back pocket of my mind throughout the series' past two seasons, during which the show has taken continuous turns for the worst. One can only blame the dreaded choice made at the start of season 2 to move the show to Thursday nights. Had the show stayed on Tuesdays, or at least remained joined at the hip with Fox's constant, "House", it would have made these years without as much trouble or doubt.

But show buoyed in the 6 million viewer range for the majority of the second season. In the first half of the third season, the show lowered to an average of about 5 million viewer a week. Then Fox made the choice that many thought would be sealing the show's fate. They moved it to Friday nights, though it was a statistical move that could yield strong enough benefits on that specific landscape. Needless to say, it didn't entirely work out. The show was then averaging 4 million before heading towards 3 million towards the end of the season. And in fact that is the situation we're in right now.

For Your Anticipation: Does it Show?

I have to say my interest in "In Time" has been somewhat deflated since the trailer came out. The film at first seemed like a really interesting sci-fi concept, which feels certainly at home at a time when the many people's economic situations seem all too similar. However, I get a bad feeling that this is gonna be more than a tad too overt. I don't think I ever had any illusions about that, but I certainly had hopes. I guess you've gotta adjust your expectations reasonably these days. This might go really south, very quickly. I hope not, but that's a possibility.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Short Take: "The Guard" (***)

I'll say that it's taken too long for me to get around to reviewing this film, and in fact it feels somewhat irrelevant at this point given how long it's been in theaters. Still, I felt suddenly compelled to give whatever thoughts I had on this particular film before the opportunity is gone altogether. I saw this film at the impetus of my planning towards studying away for next year, and at that time I was considering Galway, Ireland. Of course I don't expect Galway to be nearly as corrupt a drug and sex ring as depicted by the film, and somehow that lessened my interest in going there.

The film starts out in a rather strange way, with car full of reckless young boys are seen speeding across the countryside, blasting abrasive music, and I started wondering if I was in the right film. Then, of course, they speed past a police car, and crash shortly afterwords. Out comes Brendan Gleeson's Sergeant Gerry Boyle, examining their bodies, picking their pockets, and then getting on with his routine. He's clearly lacking any righteous motivations typical of the job, and there's the idea that this isn't going to be quite a cheery affair.

"The Secret World of Arrietty" Trailer

I think that Pixar has wrongly taken focus from Studio Ghibli as far unimpeachable animation companies go. Sure, I've fallen for many a Pixar darling in the past, likely will again when "Brave" comes around next summer. But whenever Hayao and company bring us one of their films, I'm always just so ecstatic to see them. "Arrietty" definitely looks better in the studio's more fortunate strain than "Ponyo" was. If not, then certainly more than "Tales from Earthsea". Only real problem with this is the Jonsi music playing in the back. Is he now the go-to guy for sentimental kids flicks? And as interested as I am, I'd rather see the UK dub with Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, and Olivia Colman. Who else is with me? Get me THAT film!

For Your Anticipation: A Promise to You

Another year in which Johnny Depp crops himself up, the Golden Globes wait in the wings to praise him. If they can't get him, they'll settle for Robert Downey Jr. "The Rum Diary" looks more than a little strange, but not because of its subject matter. More than that, it looks rather straightforward and typical for a film that should have every inclination not to be so. There was a time in which I was considering it, but there's not a moment in trailers that's made me even giggle, let alone feel anything. I'm just wondering what they're doing at this point.

Monday, October 24, 2011

For Your Anticipation: Lost Your Ball

I'm not often to completely and entirely dismiss a Dreamworks film, but I honestly don't find anything interesting in "Puss in Boots". The company is looking for any way it can forestall the complete apocalypse of its most lucrative franchise, so they've resorted to this. Puss was an effective one-off character in "Shrek 2". He didn't need to be kept on for the next two, which lacked any structure or payoff. He's lost his once strong flavor, and though I haven't exactly been following the latest film, it looks lacking in the needed static charge.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Box Office Update: Ambiguous "Activity"

Sorry for the two day break, but some big things were happening in the town where I go to school and that took up a great deal of my time. What took up the rest of my time is something you'll learn about by the end of the week. Suffice it to say that I didn't feel motivated enough to head out to see "Paranormal Activity 3", even though I've not been to the theaters in weeks. Not to say that my presence was sorely missed, if it ever is, as the film still managed to bring in a massive sum, despite degenerating interest from last year's film which many were disappointed by. It looks like that franchise has quite enough juice in it to last a while longer. And what with all the positive buzz from reviews, though not overwhelmingly positive, you can expect this entry to do well in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, elsewhere down the box office chain, "Real Steel" managed to hold up better in its third weekend, a drop of just %, and still holding strong over the other new releases. The robot boxing film currently stacks up at $67 million, likely making the $100 million mark by the end of its run. Right behind it was "Footloose", which fell an almost equal percentage, indicating similar adoration for the teen dance flick. Such could not be said for "The Three Musketeers", which opened to director Paul W.S. Anderson's lowest sum since he started working on the "Resident Evil" franchise. The man was thankfully not missed.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Carpet-Bagging: Actress Heavyweights Steal the Focus

I'm getting severely sick of the lack of activity on this site, mostly on my own part. It's just that nothing's been happening enough to talk about. It's not until November that things are truly set in motion, though I admit that things seemed to get going a lot sooner last year than they are currently. I guess it's a contrast that's telling of this year, at least in my own opinion. So I decided to get back in the game of guessing, though I've still neglected posting up a full predictions page. There's just so little confidence in the pot, it feels too facetious to make locked in guesses, especially with so much still likely to change, as candidates fall in and out of the race.

However, at least the way things are stacking up currently, the Best Actress race seems to be banal and dismal. One of the new writers at Film Misery, Casey Chapman, recently did his own sizing up of the field, which really drowned my spirits. The field is dominated by performances in films I have little to no interest in seeing. I admit to being delightfully surprised by "The Help", but I hardly feel like Viola Davis is either the strongest performance of the piece or the main focus. She'd have a stronger campaign for Supp. Actress, but it looks like they're pushing the far less likely Octavia Spencer for that field. Don't get me wrong, as I like both performances really well, but they do not belong in shortlist.

And then there's those who don't need to show anything necessarily strong in their films to be considered candidates, those being Meryl Streep and Glenn Close. I think I've earned the right to be more than just skeptical of their films' merits and strengths, not just in terms of their performances. In the first trailer for "The Iron Lady", I was frankly annoyed by Steep's overly fantastical impersonation of Margaret Thatcher. On any given year, I'm railing against her automatic nomination. And Glenn Close has been away for a while now, taking great confidence in this "Albert Nobbs" of hers. Yet her work just seems cold, uninteresting, plain, and dull.

AWARDS 2011: Gotham Award Nominations favors "Descendants"

The awards season has finally gotten rolling with the Gotham Independent Film Awards' nomination announcement. Despite my malign of the predictions period, I really do enjoy the awards circuit, seeing what films make the cut, and what films don't. These nominees are the perfect example of such, with "The Descendants" starting its likely undeserving awards run by picking up three nominations here. "Beginners" and "Take Shelter" both doubled up in the Best Feature and Ensemble.

However, the two most surprising developments came from the Best Feature race. Mainly "Martha Marcy May Marlene" being an odd omission and "Meek's Cutoff" instead sneaking in there. Not sure I could have called that. And "The Tree of Life" got in there, but it's a slow start to what could be an extremely fortunate awards run. Glad we're finally starting things off, if a bit slowly. Excited to see what's next.

  • "Beginners"
  • "The Descendants"
  • "Meek's Cutoff"
  • "Take Shelter"
  • "The Tree of Life"

For Your Anticipation: A Teacher and a Leader

Clearly, there are films that I'd much rather be seeing this weekend than "Paranormal Activity 3", and this one is near to the top of that list. When you hear a lot about a film for the entire year, you'll come to that level of anticipation. "Martha Marcy May Marlene" has brewed controversy and acclaim from the expected sectors for each. Every piece of promotion has been holding back a bloodcurdling scream that I can't wait to hear in full. Probably won't get that opportunity until next month, I hear it's well worth the wait.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" Trailer

I'm never going to get beyond that mediocre subtitle of "A Game of Shadows", but "Sherlock Holmes" is looking a great deal more interesting with this second trailer for the film. Just yesterday I was worried that they'd stop marketing the film after that horrible teaser. I don't caution seeing this film as serious, especially after the first one. Yes, there's some cunning intelligence in the pot, but it's ultimately very silly and ridiculous. The first trailer pushed that latter point a bit too much. Glad to see there's still a mind behind the series, even if it's fantastically stoned. Still have one complaint, and that's that there's not enough Jared Harris. Are the marketers worried nobody cares about him?

For Your Anticipation: Static

For this kind of horror franchise, you can never rely on a simple clip to be a perfectly honest depiction of a film. So do not expect this to be unadulterated from what is in the actual film. They put flair and music over it to draw viewers in. As for "Paranormal Activity 3" itself, I'd normally be tempted to dismiss. In fact, I'd very much like to. But, it is directed by the two men behind "Catfish", so expect something a little more interesting than the last two films. This series, to me, has been kind of boring and uninvolving. I'm waiting to be proven wrong.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"The Adventures of Tintin" Trailer

In the wake for its London premiere, "The Adventures of Tintin" has come out as the oddest little delight. Sure, it's easy to undercut its merits with things like its Spielbergian heritage and the reprehension to motion capture, but it's always looked like decent fun. And reviews have certainly helped form that persona, and what was once a skeptical effort is now gaining a great deal of clamor and appreciation. There's a likelihood that this probably will be the best Spielberg film this year, much to the fall of "War Horse".

For Your Anticipation: I Didn't Want You Back

What kind of satanic joke is it when more films like this come out? I've already diagnosed one god-awful film for this week, and I can't say I desired another, but here we are. Has anybody seen any promotion for "Johnny English Reborn"? Because I sure haven't, and that doesn't bode well for box office chances. It's threatening not to promote your film well ahead of time. There's little to no buzz out there for this film, and that'll surely show this weekend.

Monday, October 17, 2011

For Your Anticipation: Exposition, Exposition...

How come Paul Thomas Anderson has to live with the same first and last name as Paul W.S. Anderson? One makes brilliant films like "Punch-Drunk Love" and "There Will Be Blood". The other makes shit like this. Upon viewing the trailer for "The Three Musketeers", I only thought that it couldn't be nearly as bad as I expected it would be. Lo and behold, it was exactly as horrid as I worried. I think "worried" may be an inappropriate word. That implies that I had any stock whatsoever invested in this. I've been away from the theaters too long, and I feel the urge to see something this weekend. This isn't it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Box Office Update: "Steel" on Ice

It's a typically slow weekend at the box office, and it's sad that the word "typical" is part of that sentence. I'll say that this year has been one of massive disappointments more than anything, at least in my opinion. The dry spell of those first three months, and a continued stall from April, an unenthusiastic summer, and now a fall season that won't come soon enough. There's just nothing really seductive this year, at least comparative to last year. Color me discontented, and the box office figures do not help that disposition. Even less helpful is where most of the money is coming from.

Of the top ten films this weekend, I've only seen one, and that was on a minor whim. No opportunity to get to "50/50" or "The Ides of March", though they seem to do be doing well for themselves. Both had such small drops of less than 30% this weekend, which does bring a slight smile to me. Though I'll admit that the more time goes by, the less I'm really enthused about seeing them. Who was so fortunate to win the weekend but "Real Steel", once again protesting with loud bangs of cash streaming in. It just barely won out over "Footloose", which itself brought in the typical teen crowd to its door.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Shame" Trailer

This is exactly why I've been waiting so dam long for "Shame", and why I became so aggravated when it did not come to Telluride by the Sea. Steve McQueen is an artist, quite literally actually, and "Hunger" translated that skill so brilliantly and effortlessly to cinema. If you haven't seen it, your life has gone by severely untouched. The possibilities of what McQueen can do in the future are such a fantastic tease on their own, and "Shame" seems to serve as validation that it wasn't a fluke. He's here to stay.


"Fringe" Preview: Trying to do what's best

Four weeks in, by now you're either settled in on a show, or you're not. The path has been laid, and you're pretty much in it for the long haul. I'm not surprised if many of you didn't take up my offer to take up "Fringe", and it is an offer. You will benefit from it. Still, the show is picking up speed a great deal this week. Anyone complaining on how there aren't enough changes in the new timeline, you'll find new ones tonight. Anyone missing Peter, there's a fair chance he'll have his re-entry tonight. After all, the promotional department for this show has never been all that subtle.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"This Means War" Trailer

There are a number of things that the trailer for "This Means War" causes me to question, the main one being why Tom Hardy is involved in a film like this. Does the man really have nothing else to do but try to aid his starpower by appearing anything he possibly can. To be kind, he is extremely sexy in this trailer. I can't say the same for anybody else involved. And yet, I'm probably going to see it. I know it looks like an idiotic comedy, but it has Tom Hardy in it! How can I possibly refuse?

For Your Anticipation: Built on Bandanas

Kenny Loggins, what have you wrought? How the hell does "Footloose" have enough of a legacy to warrant a remake? There's no purpose behind it. It's a stereotypically 80s film and story, and the plot was illogical even back then. Now, it's just idiotic, especially when a man who looks like Dennis Quaid is pushing it. That man tells me it's against the law to dance, I go out and shoot 12 kids in the head. That's my procrastination. Do they do that in this film? No. What do they do? They dance, like a bunch of freakin' daisy cutters. I just... I can't.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Albert Nobbs" Trailer

I wisely skipped out on the opportunity to see "Albert Nobbs" at Telluride by the Sea a few weeks back, because I just wasn't that interested in it. In retrospect, I'm not too ecstatic about seeing "Le Havre" and "A Dangerous Method" that weekend. By the looks of things, this was a proper omission. I didn't see anything inspiring in early clips of Glenn Close's performance, and I still don't. It doesn't seem weak, but it doesn't seem at all interesting. Not one second I believed she's a man, but there's nothing interesting about the performance. I just don't care.

For Your Anticipation: It's Inside

It doesn't do much to help your case for "The Thing" to be a prequel if it's the exact same title as the original. Then again, I suppose "The Thing" was all about something copying the original, so maybe it's somewhat apropos. It's an interesting possibility, this new film, but history reminds us that there's not much success in these prequel/remake/reboot/whatever. I like that Mary Elizabeth Winstead from "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is in this, but in all honesty she's just not a great actress.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Film Review: "Melancholia" (***1/2)

How can you possibly not feel bad for poor Lars? The man's been beaten down like a hideous dog for his brutal and uncompromising honesty, now to the point where he's had enough. It's such a tragedy in and of itself that his least controversial and most recently acclaimed film, "Melancholia", come when media disillusionment has kicked him out of Cannes, and now off the visible stage. Lars von Trier has taken himself out of the publicity game, doing no more interviews from here on out, and it's a damn shame. Yet despite the unfortunate recent events, the film does take on something of a stronger form. In it, Lars takes out his vengeance on the entire planet.

The film is broken up into three segments, starting off with a near-hallucinatory prologue introducing the main characters of Justine and Claire as Lars the Destroyer conjures up a series of bleak and extravagant imagery, with Wagner bellowing triumphantly in the background. The film could end after that 8 minute opening and still receive glorious accolades, but it serves as a reminder of where we're headed, and how inevitable it is. Cue Lars' trademark scribbled title card, and we're off to the races, at which point Lars puts a hold on his wilder visual stylings, as he's got a delicate story to tell.

For Your Anticipation: Let the Explorers Through

Do I really have to talk about this less-than-far-below-average comedy starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black? I don't care. I don't even know what the hell I'd talk about. I could barely sit through 10 seconds of the clip below. No interest in "The Big Year", and in any case, marketing has been abysmally timed. No chance anyone's going to see it this weekend.

"The Avengers" Teaser Trailer

I suppose I'm not going to be as crazy about this trailer as most people will. After all, I don't think I've ever merited a Marvel superhero film anywhere above 3 stars. However, I am looking forward to seeing how these characters coexist. From what I see here, Tony Stark seems to be much of the catalyst here. Steve Rogers is all too serious. Banner is kept on hold to the end, as they would. Thor doesn't get much beyond chuckling at Stark's joke. I think he'll certainly be amused by Stark. I can imagine the two of them having a drink at some point in the film. I'll wait and see what else comes. It looks fun.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Breaking Bad" Review: "Face Off" (****)

"I won."

If you were to go on record calling "Breaking Bad" an average hour of television each week, I'd be more than just tempted to inflict minor bodily harm upon you. Perhaps not at the beginning of the show, but "Breaking Bad" has become so much more cinematic in scope and execution. Too many people put the credit towards the writers, but that's not what has me coming back week after week, though it is a huge factor I must say. What brings me back to the show is the aesthetic creativity of the show, with its wild camera rigging, delicious mood lighting, and unmatched sense of composition. And I must make a heartfelt plea to Vince Gilligan and his team to try to get Lynne Ramsay to direct an episode of the show before they close up shop. I'd be set for life after that. MAKE IT HAPPEN!

As for last night's finale, I can say it's not what I was necessarily expecting. I had a gut feeling that Gus' vice grip on Walt would remain to the end of the series, but it seems Vince Gilligan had greater plans. I for one think this is a fantastic way to end the penultimate season of the show, because we're going to go for a while without these characters. Remember how unbearable that last break between seasons was, with the fates of Walt, Jesse, and Gale all lingering in the wind? This finale managed to cap off not only this season, but an entire saga of the show. And I am going to be indulging in quite a few spoilers before I'm done, so I'll give you guys a SPOILER ALERT, just so you remain cautious from here on out.

Box Office Update: "Steel" knocks out Clooney's "Ides"

Here we are, and exactly as was expected heading into this weekend. "Real Steel" won the end game, though not in an absolute runaway victory. Sure, it made a strong Columbus Day weekend opening, but how will it hold up in coming weeks? Well, actually quite well. Oddly enough, audiences get a real hard on for giant robot fighting movies. "The Ides of March", on the other hand, didn't fare so well. True, Clooney's dramas have never made huge bangs of openings. Still, this was a bit on the weaker side of that spectrum. Other than that, not much doing this weekend. Prosperous, though just 3.3% higher than last year when "Life As We Know It" and "Secretariat" failed to beat "The Social Network".

1. "Real Steel" (First Weekend; $27.3 million)
2. "The Ides of March" (First Weekend; $10.4 million)
3. "Dolphin Tale" (Third Weekend; $9.2 million)
4. "Moneyball" (Third Weekend; $7.5 million)
5. "50/50" (Second Weekend; $5.5 million)
6. "Courageous" (Second Weekend; $4.6 million)
7. "Lion King 3D" (Fourth Weekend; $4.5 million)
8. "Dream House" (Second Weekend; $4.4 million)
9. "What's Your Number" (Second Weekend; $3 million)
10. "Abduction" (Third Weekend; $2.9 million)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

At the "Breaking" Point!

I know I haven't kept up to date on reviews of "Breaking Bad" since that first episode of this season. For me, this is the first season where I've watched it regularly from week to week, which is as intoxicating as it is frustrating. Each episode's end has me biting my nails to see where it goes next week. There have been minor qualms throughout this season, because it's honestly just not the same as the "Breaking Bad" of the past three seasons. Season 1 was an introduction to the characters and the world. Season 2 was examining these characters. Season 3 was expanding the world to include more prolifically the Mexican Cartel, as well as the soon-to-be antagonist of the show, Gustavo Fring.

Season 4 has been such an insane nail-biter, and Gus isn't just the businessman on top. He has become the ultimate evil of the series. In the titular 10-minute sequence of "Box Cutter", Gus transformed from being the humble employer to being a ruthless murderer with an agenda. What that agenda was remained a mystery for quite some time. The Cartel started terrorizing Gus' business in "Bullet Points", but even then it just seemed like some simply war plot. It wasn't until four episodes later in "Hermanos" that we learned of what drives Gus. He's driven by an insatiable bloodlust after the death of his close partner, and we get the impression soon enough that it will not stop at the Cartel.

"Fringe" Review: "Alone in the World" (**1/2)

I've heard opinions all over the wall on the general direction of this new season of "Fringe", and I absolutely agree and disagree with them. Yes, the show has seemed almost aimless without Peter, but I think there's so much more purpose in that. Last season, Peter was the driving force in the war between universes, and now that the war is over and Peter is gone, what is the point? That's the question that a great deal of these characters are asking themselves in these first couple of episodes. They are in their lives, but with no purpose to them. Olivia's stepfather is dead, and that was so much of what was driving her. Her own preparation to never be a victim, should he ever come around again.

This week shifts focus to Walter most prevalently, and it raises something very interesting to me. If you're completely new to the series this season, Peter is the overarching mystery. In the first two episodes, Walter is clearly losing his mind quite entirely. He's seeing a strange man in the lab, and hearing voices that are taunting him. He has every reason to believe that it's a part of his psychosis, and watching him grapple with that lucid realization is absolutely heartbreaking. It's yet another moment when we're reminded of how robbed John Noble has been in the past, and continues to be now. He's one of the strongest working actors on television, and he's been ignored largely.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weekend Report: Probability of Success

It's truly disappointing that the local mainstream theater in my home town is featuring "Real Steel" and not "The Ides of March", although, it's something I absolutely understand. "The Ides of March" has less chance of huge success as its competition. It's an Oscar bait political drama with a straight dramatic cast, but it just doesn't have the mass appeal that drew people so magnetically to "The Social Network" last year. Expect mild success, but what can you classify as mild success these days? The inevitable $13 million opening doesn't sound too promising, and I can't imagine it doing anything for the film's Oscar odds.

And then there's "Real Steel", which has everything to draw people in. It has Hugh Jackman, who is a strong draw in pretty much whatever he's in. He has this palpable sense of magnetism and a charisma that's beyond simple charm. He's entertaining to watch, and that usually brings people in. Even more than that, there's giant robots boxing each other. It's a feel good sports movie, but with giant fighting robots! It's the science-fiction twist on the underdog story, so that'll clearly draw people in. But I just don't care enough to see it.

"Fringe" Preview: He Doesn't Have Any Theories

I'll say that "Fringe" still doesn't have me nearly as buzzed as it did last year, but they're still getting back into the groove of things. We're building towards the return of Peter, and we haven't a clue when that will happen, although inclinations lead us towards the end of episode four as a potential date. I will say that the show is revealing too much in their little previews. They should take a hint from the marketing on "Breaking Bad", which is that less is more. But more than that, I want them to shake things up dramatically with the relationships. I want Olivia to hook up with Lincoln and Alt-Lincoln simultaneously. I want Peter to sleep with Fauxlivia in a drunken daze. And I'm still waiting for Walter and Astrid to get to it. I don't care if it's creepy. This is "Fringe"! Make it happen. Go to those morally dark areas. I want to see a lot more of that! That is all. Watch it tonight a 9 on Fox.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Young Adult" Teaser Trailer

After a largely dramatic and fantastically moving venture with "Up in the Air", Jason Reitman is back to his comedic roots with "Young Adult", and it's pretty much what I was hoping he'd make at this point in his career. It's not really too much of an awards push, nor should it be. If Reitman alternates between comically charged dramas and Diablo Cody scripted comedies with dramatic veins, I'll be satisfied. My worst fears were that "Young Adult" would go too far down the typical route, but trust Reitman to bring his grounded realist vision to the table. This looks like fun. Unapologetic fun.

For Your Anticipation: Make it Mandatory

I don't mean to wage war against anything and everything that others are likely to clamor for, but I've had doubts against "The Ides of March" from the beginning. However, those doubts are that it's anything that goes above and beyond towards Oscar recognition. With positive, though not ecstatic, reviews, I think we can rule out its chances at getting that 5% passion plea from the Academy. Not going to happen. All the same, if this seems so overtly self-evident, I still have expectations that it'll fly well with audiences, and with me as well. I'm not out for Clooney's destruction. I'm just trying to keep things in a generally level-headed area.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"My Week with Marilyn" Trailer

Oh, poor Michelle Williams. She deserves so much more than she gets. It's easy to forget its British period heritage amongst the buzz and hype, but "My Week with Marilyn" looks exactly like what I feared it would be. Your typical never-gonna-happen romantic story, all decked out with British talent. Kenneth Branagh, Emma Watson, Judi Dench, and Toby Jones. But the main attraction is Michelle Williams, who is focused on embodying Marilyn, and she looks to be doing a fine job of it. But is the film gonna be worth it?

Carpet-Bagging: Men of Lowered Confidence

If I'm going to be perfectly audience, I think this is one of the weakest years in recent memory for the Best Actor race. That might be because my standards just recently were raised, but I'm having trouble finding any of the supposed frontrunners in this race really that fascinating. There's a similar problem in the Supp. Actor race, but that's more to do with the fact that it's really anyone's game. In the lead category, I'm just having trouble putting much faith behind even one candidate. Of course, there is plenty of room for debate here, and we'll get a better idea of the race when the critics awards start hitting, but for now it's hard to figure this one out.

The nominees seem like the most easily assembled bunch, and yet when you look a little deeper below the surface, there's going to be a tussle for the nominations this year. Brad Pitt has had a ton of buzz recently for "Moneyball", but I'm having strong doubts that will last through till year's end. It's a charming performance, but I don't think that will be enough to eek out a nod. One thing that's important to remember is how elite these races are supposed to be, and Pitt just might be the odd person out in this race. I think it's more likely for him to get passion for "The Tree of Life" than for this, as well he should.

For Your Anticipation: Sacks of Flour

There are parts of this film that have me interested, mostly having to do with lead actress Juno Temple, who has been subconsciously rising in the ranks of people just-on-the-cusp of being just-on-the-cusp of stardom. Not a well known name as of yet, but she will be soon enough. She's the only thing drawing my gaze towards "Dirty Girl". Other than that, pretty uninteresting high school story. Nothing new. Nothing really intriguing. But still...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"War Horse" Theatrical Trailer

There's a lot more of the same in the new trailer for Steven Spielberg's "War Horse", and why the hell shouldn't there be? After all, the teaser trailer played brilliantly with pretty much every demographic, and even those who weren't quite so taken with it could still admire it as a trailer. But, it's still all there in the trailer. It's a war film. There's a devoted horse trying to get back home. There's a boy who loved the horse, though NOT in the same way as "Equus". And there's that Niels Arestrup line, which got people illogically pushing for a Supp. Actor nod, even though his presence in the film is likely confined to that scene. And somewhere along the way there are cameos from Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hiddleston. What more do we need to know? We'll see it. That will certainly happen.

For Your Anticipation: True No-Holds-Barred Violence

So, is anybody else seriously concerned about a robot uprising making "Real Steel" take a cynical and depressing turn towards the end? Apparently not, because this is the sweet and happy kid-and-his-robot movie. Leave it to the braver, and more severely twisted, directors to disturb us with apocalyptic nightmares. If I seem angry at "Real Steel", it's mostly because of the name. If they'd called it "Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots", I'd be totally on board. Hell, I'd have my tickets bought and payed for now. The fact of the matter is, I'm just not interested. I'd rather spend my time on "Transformers: Dark of the Moon". In fact, I think I'll probably do that.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oscar Park: "Take Shelter" & "50/50"

This weekend had two films with moderate Oscar chances come out, but neither one has that many chances to merit a post of their own, so here we are. Obviously the more apparent of the two is "Take Shelter", which got strong reactions out of Cannes, and has continued that through this weekend. Michael Shannon is obviously the main talking point here, and the Academy has had a notable fancy for him in the past. I'd be particularly shocked if he didn't make it for this one. The other potential candidate for the film would be Jessica Chastain, who has too many films this year to dial out of the conversation.

I suppose the conversation could dwell between this, "The Help", and "The Tree of Life", but how the hell are we going to get people to rally under a single one of those? "50/50", on the other hand, has only one possibility in the cards, and that's for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. With heavyweights like Michael Shannon in the pot, how much of an impact can he really make? True, the odds are considerably against him, but don't write him off so immediately. If nothing else, you can expect some sort of Golden Globes traction. Unless Robert Downey Jr. steals it away from him for "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows". I kind of doubt it, though.

"Take Shelter"
Strong Possibilities: Best Actor (Michael Shannon)
Potential Causes: Best Supp. Actress (Jessica Chastain)

Potential Causes: Best Actor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

For Your Anticipation: Mansions Full of Flowers

The western genre has really been taking a hit lately, with "Cowboys and Aliens" proving to be a flop this summer, and "Jonah Hex" the last. "True Grit" is the strongest case for the survival of the genre, having really hit with audiences at the close of last year. I have more than considerable doubts "Blackthorn" will find a similar audience. Trailers for the film paint it as an obvious and simple-minded western with little to no conflict or interest. Why bring it up at all? It's coming out this week, apparently. The fact that it's coming out to limited theaters makes it even less prevalent.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Box Office Update: "50/50" plays similarly as title

Weekends such as these are the most tedious to write about, not because it's a necessarily bad weekend for the box office. On the contrary, things were slightly up from last year, when "The Social Network" was the sole big winner. What I find so difficult about it is the low-key nature of the proceedings. With four new releases, one would expect at least one of them to be a hit. Unfortunately, they worked more to cancel each other out, each landing below the $10 million mark. It's great that "50/50" was the highest grossing new attraction, but it still deserved much more than it got.

I can't say that I wished better for "Dream House" or "What's My Number?", the latter of which hit the lowest of the new releases, as I'm very happy to report. "Courageous", on the other hand, I've never really heard of in my life, yet it had the highest per theater average of the (sort of) wide releases. Not at all sure why. The three films that won the weekend were repeats from past weekends. "Moneyball" and "Dolphin Tale" switched up places, but bumped up from #'s 2 and 3 to #'s 1 and 2. "The Lion King 3D" took a fall of nearly 50%, and fell to third. "Take Shelter" picked up $56,000 from three theaters, so that's clearly playing somewhat positively with audiences.

Oscar Park: "Moneyball"

Sorry I've been so ridiculously behind the beat this week. It's just been one of those weeks when you think you're more consumed by work than you actually are. As such, expect something a bit more regular and well grounded this week than in past weeks. It's hard to get a sturdy working schedule when things are still shifting around you. And I have to get caught up on the Oscar prognostication, which shouldn't be too hard seeing as little has actually changed. Things haven't gone considerably up or down. They're just slowly molding. "Moneyball" has been the latest addition to the fray, though I have reservations on its chances.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Film Review: "We Need to Talk About Kevin" (****)

I was in a noticeably uncomfortable position in the earliest hours of Sunday morning in Portsmouth, NH. Waiting by a harshly lit streetlamp for a solid two hours after "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is a position I'd not wish amongst many, if any at all. To say that Lynne Ramsay has made her return with a vengeance would be a gross understatement. In that mystified delirium where the experiences I had been made witness to were drunkenly shooting straight through my mind, the only response I could relate to twitter was this: "I was not prepared for what was beyond the curtain."

That statement was perhaps not the most informative to send out to the uninformed masses of twitter, but I doubt I could have formed anything more coherent for my mindset in that moment. The first image we see of the film is this ethereal white curtain wavering aside an open window. It's a relatively tame image at the time, and the immediate decoder in me is dumbly thinking, "Oh, they're pulling back the curtain to show us what it's veiling." As simple as that sounds, it is in a way true. It's significance is not wholly known at the start, but once you're past it, there's absolutely no going back. You're there to the grim end. It's the only warning the audience is going to get.