Tuesday, May 31, 2011

For Your Anticipation: Give Me The Camera

A mild independent release characterized by all that you'd expect to be endearing, I've always had something of a problem with Submarine. There has been a particular fuel behind it that I haven't been able to get behind. This is the sort of quirky comedy that gives quirky comedies such a bad name. Yes, all the dialogue is witty and self-aware, but annoyingly so. There's the point where it can become a tad too self-aware, and that's the ground Submarine treads. It's a self-obsessed boy obsessing over a similarly self-obsessed girl. I've said the word "self" five times already. It's a piece of egotistical cinema, marveling at how clever it is.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Box Office Update: Bad Decisions Till Monday Night

I guess it was a bit much to expect people to behave rationally this weekend, which was a massive success, despite the pit in my gut. It set a record for the highest Top 10 box office results for Memorial Day weekend, pulled out the second highest grossing R-Rated release, and gained us a fair bit of traction towards catching up with where we were at the box office last year. It's not hard to beat out last year, which brought the disappointing openings of Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia. So why am I not as happy as I'd like to be.

Starting from the top, The Hangover: Part II ruled the box office this weekend, aiming at the unbelievably available demographic of college kids just out of school for the summer, not to mention the fans of the first film. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that people will shell out their money based solely on hype for a film as redundant as this. I guess I was hoping for some degree of intelligence. If there had been such, perhaps Kung Fu Panda 2 wouldn't have performed as it did. The first film opened just north of $60 million, and the sequel came in just south of $50 million. Hopefully it will pick up in the coming weeks, but I'm still slightly downtrodden by this outcome.

Other than that, I honestly don't see what's to be upset about. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides fell substantially enough, as we knew it would. Thor remains the only blockbuster film this summer that didn't take so massive a fall after the first weekend. Bridesmaids continued to hold on well, despite the competition of The Hangover: Part II, or perhaps because of it. It stands to reason that they would make a compatible double feature. The last piece of modestly relevant news is that Midnight in Paris made the top ten, expanding to a mere 58 theaters, so bravo Woody Allen. We'll do a followup tomorrow when the numbers for Monday come in.

1. The Hangover: Part II (First Weekend; $86.5 million)
2. Kung Fu Panda 2 (First Weekend; $48 million)
3. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (Second Weekend; $39.3 million)
4. Bridesmaids (Third Weekend; $16.4 million)
5. Thor (Fourth Weekend; $9.4 million)
6. Fast Five (Fifth Weekend; $6.6 million)
7. Midnight in Paris (Second Weekend; $1.9 million)
8. Jumping the Broom (Fourth Weekend; $1.9 million)
9. Something Borrowed (Fourth Weekend; $1.8 million)
10. Rio (Seventh Weekend; $1.8 million)

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Trailer

Working off of a previously developed phenomenon like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo can turn out a bit wrong. Let Me In, based off of Swedish novel Let The Right One In, had considerable trouble drawing in viewers. However, seeing as the second two films in the Swedish trilogy turned out a bit disappointing, perhaps the new version, still set in Sweden, will work out better. Judging from this trailer, leaked online via YouTube, he's taking the gritty and ugly approach we all knew he would. Take a look and comment below!

"50/50" Trailer

I haven't exactly missed out on any trailers from the past two days, but I haven't gotten them up until now, so there's enough to talk about. First up is 50/50, a dramedy starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen. Dealing with the subject of a fatal disease in a comedic context is a tricky thing, but it worked in Funny People, and it seems to work with 50/50. The trailer is embedded below. Take a look and leave a comment!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" Trailer

I admit that I've been completely petrified by the trailers for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. There's something that I horribly relate to in terms of living in a house, outside of main society, where you just don't feel safe. Of course, in my specific case, I don't have my fears validated. The fact that it's a young girl being tormented augments the panic of this film. I'm afraid to see it, but I just can't stay away. Take a look below!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Weekend Report: Do The Right Thing

With the Summer kick-off month come and gone with not a single $100 million opening, it's okay to be a tad bit discouraged. That being said, quite a few films performed better than what we expected. Thor proved to be a steady success, if only a mild one. Pirates didn't match the openings of its two predecessors, but it did moderately well for what we all knew was going to be a critical flop. The most qualified unexpected success of the month is definitely Bridesmaids, which is showing a rare staying power at the box office. Thursday numbers for the last two wide releases of the month are in, and they are somewhat promising.

Starting on an only moderate downside, Kung Fu Panda 2 opened to around $5.8 million, which is questionable for an opening day, but not when you realize that the target audience is in school. It's a family film in 3D, so you'd be a fool to expect the film not to perform well Friday through Monday. In fact, of all the films currently in theaters, it's the one I suggest. There are flaws to it, but it's the most entertaining and thrilling time you'll have at the movies with 90 minutes. It's much more endearing and likable than the alternative.

The Hangover: Part II opened to a heinously large $31.6 million on Thursday, $10 million of which came from midnight screenings. Expect great numbers over the four day weekend, but also expect it to drop off once the buzz of the opening wares off. I've heard some pretty weak word on the film, and if I wanted to see an exact copy of The Hangover, I'd watch The Hangover. If there were a film I would see this weekend, it'd be The Tree of Life, but I can't. It's only playing in limited release, and I probably won't have my chance until the end of June. If you're in that area, go for it. If not, go with Kung Fu Panda 2.

Film Review: "Kung Fu Panda 2" (***)

Last year was a booming year for animation, so this year has been more than a bit of a disappointment. Rio is the only animated venture I've even considered attending this year, but ultimately opted out of it. Seems more than a little too irritating for my tastes. Pixar is setting themselves up for another moderate dip with Cars 2, so we leave it to Dreamworks Animation to redeem this Summer. The tricky thing with Kung Fu Panda 2 is the expectations of this sequel, especially after the first film kicked off a trend of quality within the less than stunning animation company.

The film picks up some time after its predecessor, just as albino peacock Lord Shen returns to China in order to proclaim his rule over the world. As per usual, Po and the Furious Five head to Gongmen City to defeat him. Whilst this is all going on, Po begins seeing visions of his real family, and is reinvigorated in his hunt for Shen by his search for answers. Despite all their Kung Fu abilities, the group is rendered powerless against Shen's latest masterpiece of destruction: a unique fusion of cannon and fireworks.

The first film dealt with some rather standard themes in kids films, with Po transforming himself from a simple juvenile panda into one of the greatest kung fu masters in history. This second film's plot isn't as openly inspiring, and it works on several different emotional levels. The main theme it deals with is identity, and who we make ourselves to be as opposed to who we were born to be, and how those sometimes work in harmony. Po's discovery of his past is played a little too dumb, because Po would have conceivably figured things out sooner. It didn't make things any less heart-wrenching when Po finally remembers how he lost his parents.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Films to See in 2011: June

I have had a joyfully optimistic entrance into this Summer with May, so it's a rather large disappointment to go from that to the June slate. All of the films that I have been looking forward to in June are coming out in the first two weeks. That leaves a pretty sizable mess of the following two weeks. Jim Carrey is adding yet another pointlessly irritating performance to his repertoire with Mr. Popper's Penguins. Pixar could potentially break their tradition of wonderfully heart filled entertainment with Cars 2. I'm still not sold on Green Lantern, nor do I expect to be so in the following weeks. Luckily, we do have some films waiting to invigorate audiences before this downward slope.

3. Beginners
Directed by Mike Mills

Like most films at this spot, I'm not relentlessly waiting for this film to come out, no pun intended. More can be said of this film than simply saying that it's better than most of what's out there. I'd say that Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent, and Christopher Plummer are signs of something great, but everybody has their respective pitfalls. What has me so interested in this film is the witty personal nature of the piece. It's not a broad comedy by any definition, and it focuses on very real and interesting emotions. When you take on a subject such as this, and one that's really never been touched upon, you raise several interesting questions. If director Mike Mills does a good job answering them, he's got something great here.

For Your Anticipation: That's A Good Right

What can I say about The Tree of Life that hasn't already been said at this point? Pretty much nothing, so check out my previous two pieces on the film here and here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"The Descendants" Trailer

Alexander Payne is one of the gods of filmmaking who has been sitting out the greater part of the past decade, right along with Alfonso Cuaron and Lynne Ramsay. So, The Descendants, his triumphant return to filmmaking isn't one to be ignored. George Clooney takes on the lead role in this interesting little suburban dramedy, and the trailer is enough to pique my interest, as well as incur the skeptic inside me. Any great film should do that.

For Your Anticipation: Anyway, Where Was I?

Kung Fu Panda 2 is easily the film that I'm most looking forward to seeing this weekend, mostly because I won't be able to see The Tree of Life this weekend. I'll probably get to that sometime in the approaching weeks, but not now. Kung Fu Panda 2 offers us the same sorts of action and laughs as we've come to expect, and the fact that Charlie Kaufman did a touch up on the script is more than reassuring.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Top Ten: Television Episodes of 2010-2011 Season

I don't comment as often about television as I do film, but I do believe it's an essential part of the entertainment business.  It's typically overlooked, and not every brilliant show gets the chance to shine. Some are cut short before their prime, and some are just unappreciated in the wider spectrum. So, I decided to take a look back at the most outstanding individual episodes of the 2010-2011 television season. It's a particularly difficult job dissecting ten episodes out of hundreds of hours of entertainment. Some shows just didn't make the cut because they excel better in the long term story arc. How I Met Your Mother was one of the best shows on this season because of how it broke down expectations and delivered an emotionally powerful overarching story. That being said, no single episode encapsulates that.

SPECIAL DESIGNATION:
Best Dramatic Performance: Anna Torv in Fringe: Marionette

I was close to throwing this episode into my list until I realized that the greatest thing about this episode, and the thing that in fact carries it so brilliantly, is Anna Torv's performance. She has done a brilliant job across this entire year, but the performance that rocked my world so completely was not as Fauxlivia or Bellivia, but as the original Olivia. Two years ago, it felt like she was becoming less of a lead character and more of somebody in the background. She commands the screen with a devastating portrait of somebody whose life has been stolen at the time it should have been getting perfect. I doubt Torv will enter this episode in for Emmy consideration, but it's the one that I'd personally choose.

10. Glee: Funeral

FOX may have already picked up Glee for season 3, but that doesn't mean that I have to. That being said, it has managed occasionally deep pleasures, and this happened to be one of them. This episode brought together two things that the show has been sorely lacking in: realism and tragedy. Sue Sylvester has become mostly a cartoon caricature this season, so a revitalization of her emotional connections to humanity was well warranted. It dabble in the idea that there is no rationality behind events that happen, and that's fine. On top of that, I felt like my personal voice was given a character in Jesse St. James, as he criticizes most of the new directions members, as he should. That being said, he shows too much bias towards Rachel. The midsection of songs is the weakest part of the episode, and a part I ignore. However, I did ball my eyes out at the funeral song. That was beautiful, even if I hate the film it's based on.


For Your Anticipation: No, Your Head

In a week of three high profile releases, one of them limited, The Hangover: Part II is probably the one I'm least looking forward to. I'd never go so far as labeling it a bad movie, but at this point it seems like so much of a rerun of what we've been through before. I get the feeling they might have fun riffing off that, but it could get annoying at some point. Hell, it probably will.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Take Shelter" Trailer

One of the films which made an appearance at Cannes this past week was Take Shelter, and it won an alternate jury prize a few days before the official jury awards. I found it more than a tad bit intriguing in clips, and this trailer does add to that. The problem that props itself up a little to obviously is that I know where it's going. That being said, I won't let it get in the way of a good time. Take a look at the trailer below!

"The Muppets" Teaser

Disney is not having a good year, and I think we can expect that to continue on for most of the year. However, one of their most optimistic offerings has to be The Muppets. It has been in the works for a long time, and it is now finally on its way, and this trailer gives us a brief look at what to expect. Take a look below!

Cannes Coverage 2011: Palme Goes to "Tree of Life"

Sorry that I'm so behind the beat lately. As much as I enjoy indulging in films I haven't seen, I've had some very real problems to deal with lately, and it's going to be a struggle to get back into the swing of things. In any case, I did not miss the announcement of the Cannes Film Festival winners, which were somewhat expected, but ultimately surprising. Most unexpected of all was the announcement of The Tree of Life winning the Palme. I am still genuinely excited to see the film, but I also realize that there were plenty more deserving films that premiered at the festival. Winning the Palme is never a necessary boost in Oscar eligibility. The last time a Palme winner was nominated for Best Picture was The Pianist in 2002.

In news of other awards, Best Actor went to Jean Dujardin for The Artist, which may play well into the rest of the year. I suspect that The Weinstein Company will aggressively campaign for the film, as they always do. Kirsten Dunst won Best Actress for Melancholia, which isn't entirely surprising since the female leads of Lars von Trier's films have done well for themselves numerously in the past. Best Director went happily to Nicholas Winding Refn for the action film Drive, though don't expect too much Oscar love for the film. It seems a bit out of bounds for the Academy. The rest of the winners can be seen after the jump, along with the five films that premiered at Cannes which I'm most looking forward to seeing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Box Office Update: At World's End? Not So Much.

The weekend box office estimates would surely look a tad bit different if the world had ended at 6:00 on May 21. Thankfully, that silliness is now past us, and we can worry about real problems in the world. The summer box office marathon continued with great, yet somehow middling success, as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides took the top spot with about $90 million. It's not as high as the openings of the last two films, but there was bound to be some fourth flick backlash, not to mention negative word of mouth. Yet audiences still took to this film rather positively, as I kind of knew they would. Flash and pretension are two of the most powerful hooks for the gullible audience.

Ruling the holdovers with pink gloved fist was Bridesmaids, which fell only 20% from last weekend's more than modest debut. It has been proving to be something of what The Hangover was two years ago. I fear it will drop when The Hangover: Part II arrives next weekend, but probably not by much. Thor took a more substantial fall of 55%, which is understandable as the big blockbuster slot has now been filled by another. Fast Five fell another 48% as it moves ever so slightly closer to $200 million. All in all, this weekend was an 11% increase from the same weekend last year, when Shrek Forever After opened in first.

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (First Weekend; $90.1 million)
2. Bridesmaids (Second Weekend; $21.1 million)
3. Thor (Third Weekend; $15.5 million)
4. Fast Five (Fourth Weekend; $10.6 million)
5. Rio (Sixth Weekend; $4.6 million)
6. Priest (Second Weekend; $4.6 million)
7. Jumping the Broom (Third Weekend; $3.7 million)
8. Something Borrowed (Third Weekend; $3.4 million)
9. Water for Elephants (Fifth Weekend; $2.2 million)
10. Soul Surfer (Seventh Weekend; $1 million)

Film Review: Jane Eyre [2011] (**)

I have a very serious problem with costume dramas, in that most of them cause me to hate the very soul of England's history. Some of them have occasionally worked for me, like Joe Wright's 2007 film Atonement, but more often they are coldly executed with barely an inch of flair or liveliness. I had hoped that Jane Eyre would not be something like that. The trailers put forth the idea that it would be a passionate piece starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, two actors whom I respect very deeply. As I settled into the start of the film, I came to terms with the fact that this wasn't the case.

The film follows the painful and depressing life of Jane Eyre, whose life is put in disarray through the cruelty of cousin and aunt. She's sent off to a cruel school where she is punished and scorned for no real reason. Case in point, she drops her tray one day, and is then shunned by the rest of the school, all except one kind girl, obviously. The depressing atmosphere of her situation is overly infectious, and it's impossible to be entertained or impressed with the film. As she gets older, she leaves the school in favor of life as a governess at Thornfield, a mansion owned by the mysterious and powerful Edward Fairfax Rochester.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Film Review: "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"

There are moments like these when you're sure that things couldn't possibly get worse, yet you know they will. Such were the thoughts that ran through my head as the credits rolled for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I thought it would take hours before it sank in how truly horrible the film I just saw was, and it arrived in mere minutes. I felt like this could be the inglorious end to the franchise, and then I remembered how brilliantly the film will do at the box office this weekend. It doesn't matter if negative word of mouth arrives in time. People will still see it for themselves.

I went to see the film on a whim, leaving my home for the theater ten minutes before the film started. I didn't arrive until about 15-20 minutes into the film, just as Jack was running amok into a London street corner. Honestly, I don't believed that I missed anything of value in the time that I missed. Captain Jack Sparrow is acting absolutely crazy for no apparent reason. Seems to fit just about right, doesn't it? In any case, it didn't take long for me to pick up on the fact that somebody has been impersonating Jack in order to put together a crew to sail towards the fountain of youth. It turns out the impersonator is Angelica, a former flame of Jack's. I know that most of these characters are drunken pirates, but how could any of them think for a second that Penelope Cruz is a man?

Remember how in the first three films Jack would be the center of the universe and that everyone would be following him? That couldn't be further from the truth this time. He is the main character, but every single moment it feels like he shouldn't be. He's being thrust into this adventure unwillingly, and he ends up a regular crew member on the Queen Anne's Revenge, infamous ship of the infamous Blackbeard. They're headed for the fountain of youth, as is Captain Barbossa, now a privateer for the high court of England. And, apparently, so is a Spanish fleet. It feels like too many people are going after the same thing for no reason.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cannes Coverage 2011: "Drive"

Cannes Film Festival is winding down, and the talk of the festival seems to have circulated mostly around Terrence Malick and Lars von Trier. Important names as they are, the standouts of the festival, from a non-attendant point of view, have been such unknown powers as We Need to Talk About Kevin and this latest debut, Drive. An action flick like this is usually seen as an afterthought, but it looks to be far more than just that. I knew there was something interesting behind it with a cast like Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and Bryan Cranston, but reviews have been so outstanding, and it makes me want to see this film all the more.
Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), B+: "The tense pedal-to-the-medal routine begins in the opening minutes and continues, sporadically, all the way through the bloody finale. Gosling’s driver character—in vintage Clint Eastwood fashion, he remains unnamed—arrives on cue to pick up a couple of late night Los Angeles robbers and jet them away from police. A few swift turns and engine revs later, he nimbly avoids each cop on his tail and vanishes into a nearby crowd, while the beats of a cheesy synth score bring up the opening credits."

The Weekend Report: Pirates; DAMN!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has already set a record for the most obvious usage of 3D in any film, live-action or animated. I include that moment in Monsters vs. Aliens when that guy is playing ping pong the audience's face. I feel like this weekend is a follow up to another weekend that happened about six months ago. Another film that looks very much like the latest Pirates film, and even stars Geoffrey Rush, opened to no other new releases. Interestingly enough, while The Warrior's Way brought in only $3 million that weekend, On Stranger Tides is poised to take in somewhere around the vicinity of $100 million.
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My interest in this specific film has changed not-so-substantially from my initial take of the trailers. Back then, I thought that it looked like a very stupid, yet ignorantly fun, adventure film. Now, I just think it looks stupid. That's not going to prevent me from seeing it, but I will not be seeing it in 3D, and I won't be enjoying myself. Expect a review either sometime tonight or sometime tomorrow. What I would much rather be seeing this weekend is Midnight in Paris, which is only opening in limited release. It makes me desire to live in New York or Los Angeles so that I could see these films much sooner.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"How Do I Get Out of This Sentence?"

Lars von Trier has always been known for his controversial shenanigans, most of which I find really entertaining, so seeing as his latest film, Melancholia, hasn't yet roused people very much, I felt a little bit let down. And then this little tidbit from a press interview showed up, and Lars von Trier is now being called a Nazi. What he says isn't really new to my ears, because I know that Hitler did some really terrible things, but he's a man you can potentially understand. Lars was just discussing a bit of embarrassing family history, and Cannes responded rather wildly by banning him, effective immediately. The man has been debuting films at the festival for years, so did they really expect him to not make such a big fuss? Considering the humorous context of the statement, this really seems like overkill. I'm not saying that Lars is to be commended for his statement, but it sounds like more of a bizarre and stupid attempt at a joke than a declaration of hate. Lars von Trier's career will go on from this, which sets him apart from Mel Gibson in particular.

Cannes Coverage 2011: "Melancholia"

It's Lars Von Trier time again, and it's always a pleasure to sit down for a film of his. That is assuming that you can handle the drama, and quite often most people can't. I know the first time I sat down for the entirety of Antichrist was certainly a traumatic experience, mostly because it was such a personal work from such a dynamic director. I knew that when reviews started rolling around for Melancholia there would be some sort of negative reaction. They don't matter when it comes right down to it. The critical reaction isn't a factor in my own satisfaction.

Guy Lodge (In Contention), ***1/2: "If this seems like so much kitsch — particularly with the spine-tingling roar of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde filling the auditorium as we watch — that may not be accident: the contrast between this sequence and von Trier’s considerably grayer-hued ending suggests how we like to romanticize even our worst-case scenarios. In this remarkable film, at once intimate and operatic in scope, the apocalypse turns out to be rather a private function."

"Person of Interest" Preview

As of today, production on Christopher Nolan's final installment in his Batman trilogy has begun, so the immediate question that comes up is, "What am I going to do until then?" Well, as soon as this fall rolls around, you'll be able to bide your time with the first true solo effort from Jonathan Nolan, Chris' longtime collaborator and brother. While his brother was busy fine-tuning the script for The Dark Knight Rises, Jonathan was working with J.J. Abrams on a television pilot for this coming season. It's the only new show I'm really excited for that's coming this fall and not mid-season, and you can see why below. It stars Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson as two men who team up to prevent violent crimes using whatever means necessary. I really enjoy these sorts of shows that take a regular procedural story and turn it on its ear in an intriguing and inventive way. Fringe has been doing that wonderfully these past three years, Awake also looks to be headed in that direction, and Person of Interest looks like the most realistic of them all. Take a look below.

For Your Anticipation: What Be That, First Mate?

Somewhere between my immature initial viewing of At Worlds End and now, I became fatigued of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. At this point, I could not care less about Johnny Depp's usual Johnny Depp-isms. The "stunning visuals" we expect of Rob Marshall has pretty much worn off, as has Rob Marshall's fanbase after Chicago. He is the one hit wonder of the past decade. Adding Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane to the cast is only damage control as the producers attempt to bring excited fans back after the train wreck of the past two films.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yes, I Can.

Yesterday I was able to get out my regular dosage of stagnation against the new big thing that is Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. I am genuinely still excited for this film, but in a different way than what I was feeling before. Yesterday I was desperately looking for some sort of answer to what The Tree of Life was. I wasn't searching for a word-by-word definition of each individual scene in the film, but the trailer offered very little idea of what to expect. It was intentionally vague as to leave the audience intrigued enough to check it out for themselves, but sometimes all we want is an idea of what to expect.

And now I understand that the anger of yesterday was my immature reaction to what the critical masses were feeling. I almost never allow critics to get to me and influence my view of a film, such as with Hanna. The critics were divided and I didn't have a clue what I was in store for, but I wasn't feeling positive or pessimistic. I formed my own opinion of the film without outside influence. Yesterday, I let the reaction of critics get to me, not because some were overwhelmingly positive or negative, but they were middling. That is the most frustrating unanimous opinion, because it isn't a powerful declaration of quality.

It's basically the critical masses telling us, for once, that your decision as a viewer will be your opinion. I suppose we're so used to being told what to think that we sometimes forget to think independently. Part of the beauty of the cinematic experience is heading into something and discovering it. Nothing comes close to that first viewing of a film, and I despise it when a film is prematurely spoiled for me. I always make it a point of being there first. And so I'm wiping clean the slate of expectations for The Tree of Life, and heading towards this with a sense of honest criticism and unknowing.

For Your Anticipation: That Rabbit Hole in Iraq

Suddenly, now that we have some conceivable idea of what Midnight in Paris is, it looks like something considerably more than just your regular Paris travelogue. If I wanted to marvel at the beauty of Paris, I'd either take out my copy of Ratatouille or I'd go to Paris myself. Unfortunately I don't get paid to make deliveries to France, so the transportation of cinema will have to do. However, as beautiful as Paris may be, there's some intriguing story behind Woody Allen's latest. It's not just a look at Paris, but a look at Paris in the 1920s, and I find it so much more rewarding when a film references the period it's set in. With reviews pouring out of Cannes, it's easy to lose your own critical footing, and I remain interested but cautious in terms of this film.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Can I Still Be Excited for "The Tree of Life"?

Yesterday brought the unveiling of one of the most anticipated films at Cannes Film Festival, The Tree of Life from famed filmmaker Terrence Malick. I'd been excited for the film for months, because I had a bunch of people talking to me about how brilliant a director Terrence Malick is. This is where I come to my weakest moment as a film critic, because I just took everyone's word on it. I hadn't seen a single Terrence Malick film in my entire life, and I just let people say that he's brilliant without thinking otherwise. As such, my excitement for The Tree of Life lasted just until a few days ago. I decided to actually take a look at one of Terrence Malick's more famed films, The Thin Red Line.

I was sitting there watching it, trying to find what people so adored about Malick's work, but I simply could not get into it. There was something so prosaic and self-destined about Malick's work that just turned me off. It's beautiful and all, but shouldn't there be something more? I went back to the trailer for The Tree of Life, and the pondering intellectual monologues on life seemed so much more prevalent than the visuals. I find myself asking now, what am I excited for? What is there behind this work that draws me to it beyond visuals and Brad Pitt? I then answered my own question rather simply by saying, "nothing."

I feel like now I'm going to incur the wrath of an armada of cinephiles who believe me insane for saying such, but despite the somewhat positive reaction to The Tree of Life, I doubt that it will find a place on my end of the year list, even amongst the honorable mentions. I had considered a trip to New York City so that I could see it sooner rather than later, but I'm a lot more patient now. I can wait the entire Summer to see it, and I'll still be okay. Am I saying that it looks like complete utter nonsense? Of course not, because there is something solid and agreeable there. Do I feel like my life will be changed by what I see? No.

"The Adventures of Tintin" Teaser

Apparently there are a lot of people who are extremely excited for The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn. The title is enough to make me question that, even if it is from one of the books the film is based on. Furthermore, I'm not at all a fan of motion-capture. I think it's a costly method of animation that fails at conveying further emotion. A $50 million animated film renders more success than a $150 million motion capture flick. That being said, it might well suit this particular film, and the trailer is enough to get me somewhat excited. It's only a teaser, so what more can we expect?

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Alcatraz" Trailer

A television show that's executive produced by J.J. Abrams is always top news, whether or not it succeeds. Undercovers was a show that I was looking forward to until I actually saw it, and it's probably Abrams' first real failure. Such a thing could happen again with one of the two shows he has coming this year, and I feel like it would happen to Alcatraz. From the trailer, the premise looks intriguing enough, but it seems a tad bit too geeky. However, you can't always judge a show by its pilot episode. Things can get better over the rest of the season, and the producers of this show have until mid-season to work out how their show is going to play out its first season. As long as these actors can keep things grounded in reality, I'm in. If not, then we always have Person of Interest.

Cannes Coverage 2011: "The Tree of Life"

We've been waiting for word on this film for years, waiting for something to tell us whether this is the "redefinition of cinema", as alleged test screenings raved, or merely another good film. Personally, I am a mild fan of Terrence Malick, but I'm not as praising as others. I've tried to get into one of his films, but there has always been a certain prosaic lifelessness to his work that's pushed me back. I was awe struck by the trailer for The Tree of Life, simply because it was oh so beautiful. The plot, on the other hand, just seems rather been-there-done-that. And so the reviews are bound to be good, but there was always going to be some sense of mild disappointment amidst the raves of others.
Guy Lodge (In Contention), ***: "Further fuzzing the question of what The Tree of Life wishes to say about our collective spiritual journey (perhaps it’s that the director is still open to all options, which is no bad thing, though confusing to visualize), it’s a badly misjudged finish to a film that nonetheless has sections so rapturous as to justify the six-year wait since The New World on their own. (That said, the film’s weaknesses may well be the result of an overthought creative process.) Malick’s slow-burn cinema tends to take several viewings to reveal its full arsenal of tactile pleasures, so I already look forward to a second encounter with his latest. At first blush, however, I’m left stimulated but unmoved, as if having watched the life of someone I hardly know flash before my eyes."

Dread Locks: June 2011

Another piece that went up in glorious flames during the "Blogger Maintenance Massacre of 2011", as I will call it, I had already gone on about the expected upsets of this coming month. There's always a promise of some sort of substantial failings, either expected or unexpected. And yet, I found myself so strictly confined while figuring out what films to have people vote for this month. The Art of Getting By looks like the most horrible indie flick I've ever heard of, but there's little chance anyone's ever heard of it. At the time, I was halfway committed to slapping Cars 2 in there, and I didn't because of the long-term respect I have for Pixar. After seeing the latest semi-redeeming trailer, I'm glad I made that call.

The most difficult film not to throw in there was Green Lantern, because every scrap of marketing for that film hits me like a brick to the head. There has been such banal optimism towards the film that it makes me sick, because whatever hope there is towards it is reminiscent of Avatar. I'd be a little more faithful if the film looked as good as Avatar and not Fantastic Four. I have every reason to lump this one in the poll, but I know that if I did then absolutely everyone would vote for it. Then it becomes a popularity contest, and I have pretty much secured my place in the theater for a film I really don't want to see.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

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

Overexposure can sometimes be a toxic thing, with such works as Paul being barely one-hit-wonders and others like Battle: Los Angeles and Red Riding Hood making everything so painfully obvious that it hurts. However, on occasion I just want to sit back and let a film assault me in a favorable manner. Bridesmaids happens to be on the higher end of that spectrum, and I feel like I've set this film up for a negative critique. While there is plenty to gripe with this film, as there is with nearly every Hollywood comedic venture, I enjoyed it a great deal more than any other wedding comedy I've had the misfortune of running into.

Being the third wedding related film releasing this month, after Jumping the Broom and Something Borrowed, I was a tad worried that nobody would care. Fortunately that wasn't the case, and I was surprised by how diverse a crowd was in the theater. While obviously skewing towards the female demographic, Bridesmaids was able to take a subject that men normally roll their eyes at and make it surprisingly entertaining. This isn't the "Omigod, he's so hot, and I'm marrying him," tale of true love and all that BS. The groom in the film doesn't even speak a line of dialogue beyond "I do." Writers Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig made sure that this wasn't a boring retread of something you'd already seen before.

Annie Walker, the protagonist of the film played by Kristen Wiig, isn't that kind of girl who is searching desperately for a guy to take care of her for the rest of her life. That's made clear by the opening scene of her and Jon Hamm humping each other in pretty much every position. Hamm's character, Ted, is not in any way her soul mate. He's a douchebag who honestly couldn't care less about Annie outside of use as a sex tool. She's the sort of girl who's been run into the ground, and is routinely used by others as an exercise tool, designed to make them better, or make them seem better. The closest person she really has is her best friends Lillian, who is now suddenly getting married.

"Awake" Preview

I'll be hammering out two special "Television Breakdowns" to come out in a little more than a week. One will covering the final few episodes of Glee, Cougar Town, How I Met Your Mother, The Office, Community, and Parks and Recreations. The other will cover the schedule of shows coming out this fall, as well as what I'll be watching. I'll probably be adding another writer to the site to cover most television shows this fall, as I doubt I'll be covering all of them by myself. That would just be an insane burden that I don't want to put on myself. However, the one NBC show that I was most looking forward to has been put on hold until mid-season. They just released a short promo for Awake, and it looks just as intriguing and compelling as I expected it would. Take a look below!

Box Office Update: Always a "Bridesmaids"

This weekend looked to be another substantial drop-off from the success we've been having for the past two weeks, as there weren't any major blockbusters opening. In some ways, that played to the advantage of this particular weekend, with Thor holding on to the top spot impressively with only a 47.5% decrease from last weekend. That's less of a drop than Fast Five had after its massive opening. It also proves to be the smallest drop of any film in Marvel's Avengers lineup thus far. The film looks to be headed past the $200 million mark sometime within the next three weeks.

Meanwhile, in the land of the new releases, Bridesmaids proved to play a lot better than expectations believed it would. Coming in at just $10 less than Thor, the film could turn out to be a big player in the coming weeks, assuming it maintains its audience well enough. Priest didn't even break $15 million this weekend, but still earned more than it deserved. Fast Five landed in third, leveling out at a steady decrease of 39.8%. Rio rounded out the top five, dropping a minuscule 6% from last weekend. The film should do fine for the next two weeks until Kung Fu Panda 2 takes up its target audience. The weekend was still  4.6% lower than the same last year, but that's still impressive given last year's debut of Robin Hood and the holdover of Iron Man 2.

1. Thor (Second Weekend; $34.5 million)
2. Bridesmaids (First Weekend; $24.4 million)
3. Fast Five (Third Weekend; $19.5 million)
4. Priest (First Weekend; $14.5 million)
5. Rio (Fifth Weekend; $8 million)
6. Jumping the Broom (Second Weekend; $7.3 million)
7. Something Borrowed (Second Weekend; $7 million)
8. Water for Elephants (Fourth Weekend; $4.1 million)
9. Madea's Big Happy Family (Fourth Weekend; $2.2 million)
10. Soul Surfer (Sixth Weekend; $1.8 million)

Cannes Coverage 2011: "The Artist"

I truly love such unique and odd little confections as The Artist when they present themselves. When I heard that there was a silent film shot in traditional black and white releasing at Cannes, I first thought that it could be a ham-handed attempt at imitation, or else it could be a brilliant homage to the gold old day. Reviews have begun circulating, and it seems like the latter is most prevalent in this case. If this reminds me of anything, it's last year's beautiful animation piece, The Illusionist. Guy Lodge notes as much in his review, and the comparison itself makes it one to look out for. Director Michel Hazanavicius is looking to have some sort of success on his hands here, but I worry that it will be overlooked by many across this year. Take a look at the trailer after the jump.
Guy Lodge (In Contention), ***1/2: "Hazanavicius’s technical crew are clearly as well-versed in the form as his star: Guillaume Schiffman’s silky monochrome lensing perfectly captures the silvery sheen (as opposed to currently the more fashionable chiaroscuro effect) of late-silent-era studio filmmaking, while Ludovic Bource’s glorious score adeptly shuffles between the tinkly, upright-piano mode of live accompaniment and more grandiose orchestrations that signal the sea change to come. If The Artist were merely a hollow feat of cinematic mimickry, it’d still be a lavishly beautiful one; as it stands, it’s a joyous, even moving, bridge between estranged forms of creative expression."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Teaser Trailer: "Straw Dogs"

As per usual, films like this sneak up on me to the point in which I at first don't know what to make of them, then immediately afterwords foolishly discount it as looking stupid. That was my first reaction to the trailer for Straw Dogs before taking a closer look. This one oddly seems to have promise, with a more than interesting cast outside of Kate Bosworth. She's there as an object of affection. James Marsden needs something to inspire faith in him after Hop. I can buy into thrillers like this, but it's okay to be cautious of the film playing too obviously.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cannes Coverage 2011: "Polisse"

I don't really know what to make of this film, and that might be a good thing. Set in Paris, France, following a juvenile protection unit, it stars director Maiwenn Le Besco as a photojournalist who falls for one of the cops she's documenting. Isn't that just the way of things? Polisse, intentionally misspelled as to look like a child's writing, has done its part to divide critics to some degree. I always see that as a good thing, as it avoids the risk of high expectations. Furthermore, there's something exciting about heading into a film you're not entirely sure will be good or not.

Brad Brevet (Rope of Silicon), A-: "The joy, pain and heartbreak of the job is felt by the audience as a result of the crimes depicted on the screen, all of which were taken from actual cases. However, none of this would work had it not been for the performances of an incredible cast. Made up of a group of actors I was entirely unfamiliar with, Polisse runs the gamut of emotions, and never lets up as the final frame is one that will stick with you long after you've left the theater no matter how dramatized you may believe it to be."

Cannes Coverage 2011: "Restless"

Gus Van Sant is hardly one of the miracle directors of our age, because for every success he's had, he's also had a massive failures. I felt like Restless was going to be one of those missteps, despite optimistic inclinations towards the otherwise. I'm consistently pleased with Mia Wasikowska's performances, each containing a subtle sense of dimension or depth, but as much could not be said of the films she's appeared in. I'd reference my review for Alice in Wonderland, but I never had the drive to actually write on. As expected, the reaction to Restless after its premiere at Cannes has been typically cold to a degree.

Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): "Van Sant can be good at creating private worlds inhabited by sensitive and/or disturbed characters, but here the individuals are simply not very interesting. The project started as a group of short plays and vignettes by NYU student Jason Lew, a fellow classmate of co-producer Bryce Dallas Howard who subsequently worked them into a play and, ultimately, a script. It still feels sketchy, however, neither deeply developed nor very nuanced. With her Mia Farrow haircut and winsome air, Wasikowska is a welcome presence as always, but one wishes she had more levels to play than brave and resolutely upbeat. In his film debut, Hopper, son of Dennis Hopper, is tousel-haired and cute but struggles to bring dimension and nuance to Enoch’s balkiness."

Cannes Coverage 2011: "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

I've been dying to talk about We Need to Talk about Kevin after its debut at Cannes yesterday. I woke up and everyone was humming with praise for the film I'd barely heard of. All I knew was that it starred John C. Reilly, and the name made it sound like something of an indie comedy in the same vein as Cyrus. After pulling up a few clips from the film, I realized pretty quickly that wasn't the case, and John C. Reilly isn't close to the main focus. The film stars Tilda Swinton as the mother of a sociopath who just murdered several classmates at his local school, and is now trying to come to terms with her own guilt. It's the sort of gut punch you expect of such a great festival, but so rarely receive. Every review I've read has made me all the more interested in seeing it, and I hope that it arrives sooner rather than later. Not too soon, though, because I want the chance to see director Lynne Ramsay's first two films before seeing her third.

Guy Lodge (In Contention), ****: "Lionel Shriver’s 2003 bestseller 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' is a rare pop novel indeed: a nippy, low-comfort social essay that lures readers into messily untied arguments on topical subject matter the talk-show circuit would have far less trouble resolving. It might have made for a cluttered, stentorian film about things, particularly as the novel’s candid, epistolary format — a series of unreturned letters from an emotionally paralyzed wife and mother to her absent husband — lends itself to reams of dense, subtext-securing voiceover."

Cannes Coverage 2011: "Sleeping Beauty"

If this seems a bit redundant, it's because I've actually posted this already. I posted it about two days ago, right after the film actually debuted at Cannes Film Festival. Then Blogger underwent maintenance and wiped away a few of my posts which I then had to recreate, including this one. I'd say no hard feelings, but this has been causing me one hell of an afternoon. Not at all what I had hoped for waking up at noon, but it's a start to the day. What pains me is that I was so sure that I had nailed what I'd written the first time, that it's such a chore to have to go back and do it again. I really enjoy writing about such things, but not to the point of repetition.

So even though it has been a whole two days since its premiere, and word has already spread on to bigger and better things, Sleeping Beauty was still one of the most talked about films heading into the festival. I knew from the trailer that released on the day it was announced as a Cannes competitor, this was going to be one to watch for. I could tell that Julia Leigh wasn't about to play it safe with her film, and that it was going to be one to divide critics. Within hours of the film's premiere, such divisive word had already broken out. Some call it great, while others call it pointless. I look forward to figuring that out for myself. What I can be sure of is a film that will shock me, which deserves acknowledgment for that capability alone.

Guy Lodge (In Contention), ***1/2: "'Humane' might be a stretch for a film this severe, this stainless-steel in its makeup, but Leigh is plainly troubled with as well as by her protagonist: Lucy may be stingy with words and expressions alike, but she’s no blankly symbolic victim, dropping sparse fragments of backstory that allude to so many years of interfolded error, neglect and over-defensive self-treatment. As played by 22 year-old Emily Browning in a startling breakthrough turn (forget Sucker Punch, if you haven’t already) that balances a child’s wan irresolution with short, bitter stabs of wit, she’s a calculatedly incomplete being — which makes her drugged, unconscious debasement at the hands of a string of wealthy older clients, seeking only tactile sensations with no emotional returns, that much harder to watch."

The Weekend Report: An Unreasonable Alternative

if you're not over in Cannes, cheery expectations aren't the most advisable. Last weekend was a step in the right direction, given the depressing circumstances in both the box office and the general material of films this year. The last thing we needed was further cynicism, and Thor was gleefully able to bring us out of that. This weekend takes a substantial drop, and Thor looks to nail the top spot again this weekend. It's not exactly that there's nothing worth seeing, but there aren't any massive blockbuster ventures releasing. The closest thing we have to that is Priest, and I hope it doesn't do as well as some think it will.

If you're going to head out to see something new of value this weekend, the best suggestion I can give you is Bridesmaids. Something about the raunchy female comedy rubbed me the wrong way in the marketing of the film, but it does look genuinely hilarious and somewhat heartfelt. Kristen Wiig is one of the best comedic actresses in the business, and to see her taking the lead on a film like this brings nothing but joy to me. If I head out to the theaters this weekend, it will be to see her film. On the other hand, I also have a reluctant obligation to see Priest so I'd best just get that out of the way.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Theatrical Trailer: "Cars 2"

Across the past few months, I've gradually come to grips with the fact that this is not a good year for Pixar. If you're familiar with the site, you'll know that every single bit of new footage has painted this film as stupid, corny, and actually useless. Cars 2 has abandoned some of the deeper themes that made the first film something of a success, even if it is widely known as the worst in the Pixar catalog. And yet, this trailer forced me to ease up on the hatred a bit, because all of the stupidity and foolishness that Mater's been up to has actually been worked into the plot. There's the bitter truth to the fact that Mater is dumb, and if Pixar has realized that flaw, all the nonsense could just be seen as them embracing it. Is the film suddenly on the top of my list? Of course not, because that song slapped on the end of the trailer is just atrocious. That being said, I've gone from not wanting anything to do with this film to actually being willing to see it.

For Your Anticipation: I'm Ready to Party

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cannes Coverage 2011: "Midnight in Paris"

Cannes has officially kicked off, and I'm wasting no time in getting to the main attraction. Midnight in Paris, the film releasing in May that I've been most anticipating, opened the festival on a pleasant note. I refrain from noting it as a high note, because that could easily be misleading. The majority of reviews I have read thus far have been positive, which is something of a relief for those worried that Woody Allen would be dishing out another failure. That being said, I don't detect the same sort of emphatic euphoria that many had for Vicky Christina Barcelona. That being said, if reviews aren't stellar, they are favorable.

Brad Brevet (Rope of Silicon): "Like any film dealing with the troubles of a writer, you look for connection to the screenwriter of the film and comparisons are easy to make as you can see where Allen's career itself was inspired by the writers Gil, and seemingly Allen, both hold in high esteem. Midnight in Paris is also not without Allen's jabs at portions of society that may ruffle his feathers. Republican Tea Party comments stirred laughter from all corners of the Cannes international audience and Michael Sheen playing the role of Paul, a pedantic know-it-all friend of Inez's, is a consistent source of amusement, and Sheen absolutely crushes the part."