donderdag 28 februari 2013

Today's News: final Iron Man 3 poster

No new movie list today, hope to get back to that in the weekend. But I posted this on MovieScene the other day, so as usual I just have to post it here as well:

I don't have much to add to what I already said about the subject in the actual news flash, other than the fact I'm increasingly excited about the project. It's got the old characters we've come to love (Stark, Pepper, Rhodey, etc.) plus several new ones played by top actors like Guy Pearce and Sir Ben Kingsley. Whether the Mandarin, played by the latter and already hinted at in the first film, is gonna be an intriguing villain remains to be seen but at least there's a solid actor behind the part, which is never a bad thing (then again, Kingsley did play Thunderbirds adversary the Hood in the 2004 Hollywood adaptation, and that wasn't a particularly good thing...). This new poster certainly looks appealing, making it clear Iron Man isn't gonna go down without a decent fight despite the previous poster portraying him in a death defying skyfall (while on fire), making a good outcome on his part unlikely. Also visible on the new one-sheet is the Iron Legion, which is an element from the Marvel Universe I'm surprisingly unfamiliar with. I suspect Rhodey is involved with them, as it has been made clear he will be featured again as Iron Man's military counterpart War Machine, but other than that I have no clue. I don't mind, I can stand to be surprised for once.

Of course the big question now is; how will the flick, being the first installment in Marvel's eagerly anticipated Phase 2, tie in with other upcoming Marvel movies? It has to hint to The Avengers, that much is undeniable. But will it feature new superheroes we've been hoping to get a break on the silver screen? For that matter, will it feature previously established characters that first appeared in the previous Iron Man films, like Nick Fury or Black Widow? Time will tell, but it's obvious we've still only seen the tip of the iceberg where Marvel's cinematic shared universe is concerned. Make Mine Marvel!

maandag 25 februari 2013

Oscars 2013: I did guess a few right

So the whole Academy Award circus for 2012 has finally come and gone. As always I have mixed feelings about the results. There were a few winners that definitely deserved to win, while a few others... not so much. And one choice was just simply atrocious. Here's the result of my guesses from January:

-Best Picture: wrong. Argo won over Zero Dark Thirty. Guess the latter was a little too controversial after all, despite being directed by the Academy's favourite female director. Oh well, Argo also makes for a deserving winner and people won't make fun of Ben Affleck for quite a while.
Second choice: also wrong. A French movie winning Best Picture, what was I thinking?! But then, why was it even nominated in the first place?

-Best Actor: wrong. Poor Joaquin, he did so well as the unstable, irrational messed up Master's disciple. But I should have known better than to bet against Daniel D-L, he's an veritable Oscar magnet.
Second choice: Daniel Day-Lewis. Correct! Next time the guy is up for an Oscar, make it easy for everybody and don't bother nominating other people, it's a waste of time.

-Best Actress: wrong. It was Jennifer Lawrence after all. Very good, Academy, not going for a new age record (youngest ever or oldest ever), but stay within previously established boundaries. Wouldn't have wanted to miss out on the accompanying sarcastic comment by Lawrence after she tripped on the stairs while going to the stage: 'you're all standing up because I fell down and it's embarrassing'. I guess those steps would have been much harder on an 85 year old actress, she wouldn't have arrived alive. You saved her life, Academy!
Second choice: also wrong.

-Best Supporting Actor: wrong. Guess The Master himself isn't really the master. Philip Seymour Hoffman apparently hasn't mastered acting as much as Christoph Waltz.
Second choice: also wrong.

-Best Supporting Actress: correct! Anne Hathaway, obviously. Her singing was apparently right up the Academy's alley.

-Best Director: wrong. Once again a non Indian movie about Indians having a hard time makes even the most hardened Academy veteran be moved to tears. So Ang Lee runs off with the Oscar. Not a bad choice though, but this category was definitely the hardest to predict so I'm not ashamed.
Second choice: also wrong.

-Best Original Screenplay: wrong. Tarantino once again proves he can easily get away with ripping off older movies. Good flick, I must admit, but Tarantino's method of taking a genre and pastiching the shit out of it in an orgy of violence and swearing (106 'niggers', for your information: I didn't bother counting all the 'fucks') is bound to backfire on him some day.
Second choice: also wrong.

-Best Adapted Screenplay: Correct! Argo, duh!

-Best Animated Feature: wrong. Now this one pisses me off, big time. The Academy ignored four superior movies over a stale princess flick like Brave?! What is this, a pity award for Pixar since they're on a creative downward spiral and everybody knows it!? The other nominees were all more original, more refined, more edgy, more daring and most of all, much more fun. Frankenweenie even made my eyes water my cheeks, dammit! There's nothing brave about going for an overly traditional, conservative, dull cartoon like this one. Epic fail, fully deserving off my 'Most cinematically pissed off moment of the year' rant.
Second choice: leave me alone, I'm angry!

-Best Foreign Picture: correct. Putting Amour back in its place, like it should be.

-Best Cinematography: correct!

-Best Editing: wrong.
Second choice: also wrong.

-Best Production Design: wrong. I guess Middle-Earth just isn't cool anymore at the Academy. It's, like, soooo 2003. And it got a total of seventeen Oscars already anyway...
Second choice: correct.

-Best Costume Design: correct! I told you so, any movie starring Keira Knightley that gets Oscar nominated for putting her in funky dresses wins. It's a natural law.

-Best Make-up: wrong. Thirteen Dwarves and apparently none of them look good enough compared to suffering French people singing about their misery (even though the Dwarves basically did the same thing the entire film).
Second choice: also wrong.

-Best Music: wrong. Oh well, John Williams already has a fair amount of Oscars.
Second choice: correct.

-Best song: correct! For Skyfall, Adele didn't crumble, but she stood tall, and made us face it all together. At Skyfaaaaaaaaall!

-Best Sound Mixing: wrong.
Second choice: correct.

-Best Sound Editing: a tie?! How the bloody hell does that work?! And I voted for neither...
Second choice: I got one right at least. But seriously, what is going on here?

-Best Visual Effects: wrong. My bad, I forgot Richard Parker wasn't a real tiger. It was already confusing you know, this cat also being the father of Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man. Cut me some slack!
Second choice: also wrong. Hulk sad...

So I got 6 correct, 5 second choices correct and 9 blatantly wrong. Far worse results than last year, when these things were, like, easier. How could I have known the Academy decided to get all politically correct and compromise the shit out of things here by giving every movie a little piece of the pie? And what's all this weird stuff happening here? A French movie getting five nominations? A tie for Sound Editing? Brave winning Best Animated Feature? What kind of sick conspiracy is going on here? Argo fuck yourself!

At least Jennifer Lawrence gets it. At Skyfaaaaaaaall!

zondag 24 februari 2013

Movies Gone By: the Continuation

As stated yesterday (two posts in as many days, waddayaknow?! Off to a good start I'd say!), I'll continue posting all too short reviews of movies I saw in the last few months but failed to comment on in more detail due to computer troubles at home. I might write more extensive reviews on a few of these somewhere in the future if time permits me (fat chance!), while I do plan to give these more coverage in the Movie Archives in the long run; which will be very long, since it's practically a work in progress forever (until the day I die most likely, or the day I turn blind and can't watch films no more). But so far there is cause for optimism, so let's focus on that, and on another batch of recently seen movies. Today's group, like yesterday's, consists entirely of films I had the pleasure of screening at Provadja.

Lawless: ****/*****. Hard-edged, gritty and extremely violent Prohibition era set drama, sort of a substitute for people who don't have the time to watch Boardwalk Empire (which is superior in terms of story development, but showcases acts of violence not nearly as disturbing as this film does). Three brothers operate an illegal liquor business in a small town, but big city mobsters are closing in on their turf and give them the choice to cooperate or see their venture terminated. Not taking crap from nobody, also because of an urban legend regarding their supposed immortality, they respectfully decline and quickly find themselves the target of both the mob and a ruthless deputy trying to force the matter. Obviously, they retaliate against both the lawbreakers and the law itself, with deadly consequences. A more intelligent film then you might be inclined to believe judging from this brief synopsis, with strong performances by amongst others Guy Pearce and Tom Hardy. Director John Hillcoat (The Road) delivers an impessive look, also in regard to the period look of the Twenties, at the rough life of independent booze runners harassed by bigger fish and unscrupulous law enforcers on their payroll.

Amour: ****/*****. Excellent but still severely overrated social drama depicting the autumn days of a elder couple still absolutely in love. When the wife suffers a devatasting stroke leaving her helpless, her husband takes care of her despite being in a process of mental deterioration himself. Soon he comes to the realization there's only one solution to their problems and it's not a pretty one, shocking many a spectator (but not so much me since I found it only a logical and ultimately predictable step), as is usual for uncompromising director Michael Haneke who has a history of not making it easy on his audience. Though this is still a gripping and tragic film, in my mind it's marred by its slow pace and lazy cinematography. And someone explain to me why this foreign film is nominated not only for the correct 'Best Foreign Film' category at the Academy Awards, but also for four other categories despite not having a single word of English in it (as has always been the norm at the Oscars). Good film, but not so mindboggingly good as some would have us believe.

Cloud Atlas: ****/*****. Fascinating mosaic of connected lives throughout the ages. Quite reminiscent of Aronofsky's The Fountain, but not as compact (since it spans three more time frames). Telling six vastly different tales set from the 1700s to the distant future, it delves into the matter of acts, both good and bad, and their consequences leaving an impact lasting for hundreds of years. The point is made clear by an impressive international ensemble cast (including Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving and Halle Berry) turning up in completely different roles – bridging issues like gender and race – from tale to tale, sometimes with daring but also occasionally awkward results (most notably Hugo Weaving playing a woman and an Asian guy). The spectacular visual look and the different attitudes and styles of the various stories, incorporating social drama, comedy, horror and science fiction leave something to enjoy (and no doubt to detest as well) for everybody, while none of the stories suffer from an overly fragmented or complicated narrative. Courtesy of a fruitious cooperation between the Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy) and Tom Tykwer (Lola Rennt).

Le Magasin des Suicides: ***/*****. Offbeat and quirky animated French film about a city so bleak and miserable that most people can't wait to end their life, aided by the many possibilities of dying offered by the local suicide shop. Run by a grim couple and their not so cheerful kids, eagerly exploiting the despair of their fellow man, the shop is a booming business, but matters are complicated when their third child turns out nothing but happy and obnoxiously optimistic, soon disrupting their livelihood as he means to bring a smile to everybody's face. Though wonderfully animated and stylistically inspired, making for a pleasant change from its American counterparts, the story cannot help but feeling overly random in the solutions offered to ending the omnipresent desire for death plaguing the town (and what's with that awkward nude dance?). Plus, some of the songs (this is, in fact, a musical too) just aren't very enjoyable to endure, though that might be a case of Francophobia on my part.

Seven Psychopaths: ***/*****. Oddball comedy from the director of the brilliant In Bruges. An aspiring screenwriter (Colin Farrell) is set to produce a screenplay about seven psychopaths but suffers from writer's block. However, he soon gets all the inspiration he needs from his flamboyant and basically lunatic pal (Sam Rockwell) who gets into trouble when his dognapping associate (Christopher Walken) kidnaps the wrong Shih Tzu, the best friend of a maniacal gangster (Woody Harrelson). Soon events lead to a colourful array of bizarre and quirky situations as the dim witted protagonists try to stay out of ever more explosive circumstances alive, resulting in the all too soon audience drawn conclusion that none of these people are in any way normal and the screenwriter is surrounded by all the psychopaths he could want. Though starting off promisingly, the narrative gets ever more convoluted and harder to follow while the number of jokes keeps feeling lacking, especially compared to the far superior predecessor (which also starred Farrell). The very definition of a mixed bag.

Anna Karenina: ***/*****. Unusual but still lavish (in some regards at least) adaptation of the classic Tolstoy novel. Keira Knightley stars as the Russian lady of noble blood torn between her romantic desires and the restrictions and traditional expectations placed on her by upper class Imperial society of the late 1900s. Will she compliantly stay with her boring husband Jude Law or be swept off her feet by the dashing young officer Aaron Taylor-Johnson instead? Whatever choice she makes, she will predictably suffer from it. In the meantime, young nobleman Domnhall Gleeson (son of Brendan) explores other possibilities offered by the rising revolutionary tides offering a vastly different but ultimately more simple and satisfactory life from high society. To underscore the feeling of being trapped in an upperclass setting in danger of being overtaken by the reality of the common people, most of this movie is set in a rundown theatre, which is an original choice (and undoubtedly budgetary inspired as well) but as the movie progresses not exactly a stylistically pleasing one. Contrary, Gleeson's character is the only one to explore the outside world, along with the traditonally snowy Russian plains. As is usual by now for a Keira Knightley film, excellent costume work. And some lovely acting to go with it.

zaterdag 23 februari 2013

Mr. Hammond, I think we're back in business!

It seems I've finally landed back on my digital feet again. My PC has been returned to me, Windows Vista freshly installed (and hopefully a legit version this time), but it took me the purchase of a new monitor to finally get rid of my start-up problems once and for all (or so it appears). Fingers crossed! So I can finally get serious again where my blog is concerned, though of course my work as a news editor on MovieScene keeps preventing me from posting on this blog as regularly as I would like (certainly not daily as I once intended a little bit too optimistically). However, I will continue to post everything I post on MovieScene here as well, and I will keep posting other movie news and reviews (though certainly not as lengthy as I used to write them). Let's hope my good intentions won't come to naught in the long run.

In the three months I was (mostly) computerless I did - naturally - keep watching movies, both new and old. Sadly I didn't really get around to discuss any of them, but today and the next few days I'll post a list of all the new movies I saw in the meantime (both in regular theatres and at my local arthouse cinema Provadja, where I still screen movies every Wednesday night). There's some great stuff here, and a few duds too.

-Meek's Cutoff: **/*****. Unusual and unorthodox neo-western about a goup of settlers lost on the great plains, looking for water. Their leader proves increasingly untrustworthy, while a captive Indian might be their only hope. Could have been a great film, but the age old 1,33:1 aspect ratio takes the fun out of all the potential western landscapes, while the abrupt ending leaves a lot to be desired and can even be accused of cheating the audience, even though it leads to the promise of hope for the protagonists.

-A Perdre la Raison: ****/*****. The deconstruction of a family drama. A French man of Moroccan descent marries a western woman, but their happy union over time leads her to an ever more restricted and mentally unbalanced life as she finds herself trapped between her own upbringing and the desires placed on her by her new family, which includes a very intrusive old would-be uncle and  financial benefactor who soon seems to run both their lives. Eventually, the completely unhinged woman can find only one shocking way out for her and her three children. A movie filled with increasing moments of unease, complete with a shocking climax which, despite being quite predictable, sticks with you for a while. Not an easy watch. At all.

-All You Need Is Love: **/*****. Seriously toned, Scandinavian counterpart to Mamma Mia. A cancer stricken woman travels to overly sunny Italy for her daughter's wedding, where family troubles are stirred due to her being cheated on by her lousy husband. Fortunately, the Mediterranean vistas come with Pierce Brosnan as an angry widower who might just cheer her up, and vice versa. Not very inspired and rather bland, despite good acting.

-Jagten: ****/*****. Harrowing drama about a kindergarten teacher (fabulous performance by Mads Mikkelsen) who is wrongfullly accused of child abuse by one of his pupils and despite formerly being a beloved and popular guy quickly finds himself without friends in his small community. Things continue to get out of hand as he must persuade his fellow man of his innocence, though he's the subject of a witch hunt that appears not to blow over until it has claimed his now ever more sorry life. The lenghts people will go to to get back on what they consider to be bad people - without for a moment considering they might actually be innocent -  while acting against the law themselves in the process, is made frightfully clear in this excellent but disturbing social drama, which unfortunately got snubbed all too easily at the 2012 Oscars in favour of Amour. Don't expect to go home in a cheerful mood.

-Sister: ***/*****. Social drama about an apparent pair of siblings (older sister and younger brother) who live a hard and sad life in the French mountains without parents. The boy scrapes together a meager living by stealing ski equipment off of rich tourists and selling it on, while his sister (French femme fatale Lea Seydoux) hangs out with all the wrong guys and spends what little money he makes for them both. Their situation gets ever more desperate, leading to a surprising confrontation about their actual relationship they both try to deny is real. Depressing and gritty drama showcasing society's forgotten kids and the reasons they exist at all. So, another gloomy movie. Also guest starring Gillian Anderson.

-Killing Them Softly: ***/*****. Slow paced and at times alarmingly violent thriller about a hitman (Brad Pitt) who is hired by mobsters to clean up after a card game robbery orchestrated by three not-so-intelligent petty thieves. He decides to make his job more low profile, and easier for himself, by first setting them up against each other, having them rat each other out, before moving in for the decisive kill. Andrew Dominik directs, and as is usual throws in ample amounts of social commentary, mostly directed at the current economic crisis. It shows a little too obvious at times, detracting from the story proper, but does make for a memorable closing argument by Pitt's character.

More mini-reviews to come soon.

zondag 17 februari 2013

All quiet on the computer front, but at least we'll always have Dinklage

It's outrageous but unfortunately all too true: after two months of waiting for my PC to be returned to me, it arrived... with no Windows installed. The one thing I asked them to do they failed to perform. My trust in Dynabyte has shattered completely. Though I left my PC at the store once more so they can work on it, I'm now entirely set on buying a new one completely just to rid myself of having to get involved in further mind-boggling incompetence like this. I haven't fully decided yet whether I'm gonna go for a PC again or just switch to Apple like so many around me have done (and they seem like happier people). Time will tell, but hopefully I'll get back online within days.

In the mean time, I still get the chance every now and then of getting a scoop up at MovieScene. This week's scoop is double news around the same movie, which is once again named X-Men: Days of Future Past:

First of all, there's little to comment on the 3D release. It was a long time coming. The X-franchise is a major one, especially now that Fox is gonna compete with Disney/Marvel with its own corner of the Marvel Universe aligning (Fantastic Four/X-Men team-ups seem inevitable for the not too distant future). And with a big name like this, the studio harbors big expectations for making money; 3D is of course a major tool for just that purpose. So the fact it will be a 3D-release is not surprising at all. However, the news that it's gonna be shot in the 3D-format is. This is still a very expensive procedure and most often studios prefer to rely on post-conversions, even though this usually spawns less impressive result and both studios and audiences know it. I guess Fox is trying to upstage The Avengers here, which was post-converted but still did extremely well at the box office. No doubt Disney/Marvel will soon turn to shooting in 3D too. No bad news (if you have any affinity for 3D at all), since it should make for a more refined and good looking 3D presentation.

And then there's Peter Dinklage, short of stature, high on acting skills. This week Bryan Singer confirmed he has been added to the cast, but his role remains a mystery. At first it was widely speculated he was gonna play Puck, a short, old friend of Wolverine's from the Canadian super hero team Alpha Flight, since he does seem most suited for that role to anybody but fools and little people themselves. This has already been debunked and probably for the best, since Puck isn't a very interesting character, which goes for most of Alpha Flight. His presence might have been a good first step towards an Alpha Flight movie, but I doubt anybody is really waiting for that to happen. That does leave the question, who's Dinky gonna play? Enter digital technology, which for one thing allowed him to voice a giant prehistoric gorilla pirate in Ice Age 4, indicating the sky is the limit. Though it has been confirmed by now Dinklage will play a villain, that still leaves us with little to go on, considering the vast numbers of X-villains of all shapes and sizes. Mr. Sinister? Nimrod? Mojo? Perhaps even Apocalypse? We just have no way of telling, since the digital age coupled with grand acting abilities like Pete's can deliver to fancifully re-create any X-baddie from the comics for the big screen... Whoever it's gonna end up being, as long as Tyrion Lannister Dinklage is on board, it seems little can go wrong (get it?). The Days of Future Past seem ever brighter. For the audience, not for muties.

zaterdag 9 februari 2013

Yesterday's news but still recent news: more Star Wars shenanigans

Should have posted this earlier here, since I posted it on MovieScene a few days back. Once again, it's all about Star Wars, but you can expect this to be the case for many a news posting posted both here and on MovieScene in the next few... years.

This news has already been updated since, sort of. Strong rumours have confirmed many suspicions fans had, as it seems these films will now be based around the characters of Boba Fett and a younger Han Solo. Yoda has also been mentioned a lot, but stories of his involvement are still baseless. In Yoda's case, a solo film would be pointless. Yoda is not a good character on his one, he only works well playing off of other beloved characters. Dialogue like this a movie containing, stand few people could.

I also have severe doubts about a Han solo film (see what I did there? Very clever and original!). Everybody's most beloved scoundrel has never had that much of an interesting background before the events of Episode IV, at least according to the canonized parts of the expanded universe which are now thought to be up for decanonization. Basically Solo enlisted in the Imperial forces but felt disheartened by the Empire's brutality. When he witnessed a helpless Wookiee being victimized he intervened at the ruin of his Imperial career, forcing him to quit the Empire and starting his renegade career as a smuggler, with the Wookiee (Chewie of course, like you didn't know) as his trusty companion. It's not impossible to build a movie around this all too brief synopsis, but considering we already know how it's gonna turn out it won't be able to deliver that much surprises. Then again, so far the same can be said for half of the six existing Star Wars films... Toughest part of course is finding a talented younger actor capable of living up to Harrison Ford. Fat chance. Might as well go digital and have Ford supply the voice work. It's the Lucas way, isn't it?

Then there's Boba Fett. Now this is intriguing, and then some! Fett's origins have of course been explored in Attack of the Clones, something a lot of fans won't really care to remember. Still, there's a lot to be told regarding the events of his life between Episode II and his very brief cameo in Episode IV, up to his "real" first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back. Since he actually had little screen time at all in both Episodes V and VI, it's a miracle he has found such a devoted and large fan following at all. But face it, he's an enigmatic interplanetary bounty hunter with his own ship and an awesome arsenal of weaponry and gadgets at his disposal working his way through many hives of scum and villainy, plus he wears a bucket over his head at all times. What's not to like?! Aside from his background as an unaltered clone of his "father" Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), we learn next to nothing about him and his motivations from watching the Star Wars films proper. However, his role in the expanded universe is vast: there are as many stories in hugely diverse media revolving around him as there are about Luke Skywalker, and most of them are much better. And that's despite his supposed death in Return of the Jedi. He's like the one character George Lucas can't kill, no matter how bad he screws him up (and believe me, Lucas has tried: his most annoying change to the character being the alteration of his original raspy, eerie voice to Morrison's irritating Kiwi accent). Even Lucas himself admitted he would never have killed him off if he had known the character would become that popular. That's basically saying he survived after all, even if we didn't see it happen. Apparently it takes more than a giant mouth armed with big teeth and slimy tentacles in the middle of the desert to take down the galaxy's most notorious battle hardened bounty hunter. The most exciting rumours going around about this project is it might be based off Shadows of the Empiresomething I have been hoping for for quite some time. So bring on that film of his! This is the Star Wars film we're looking for, Mr. Mouse!

woensdag 6 februari 2013

The End of the Beginning

Today (actually yesterday, but I was busy watching Zero Dark Thirty then) marks the first anniversary of this, my blog. It's been a long year and I've produced well over 200 posts (some of them only a few sentences long, others a whopping 2000+ words in length), marred only by the absence of my computer in the last few months (which sadly continues to this day), keeping me from posting as much as I would have liked. It seems things can only improve in that regard for the next year. Here's to many more reviews, articles, news posts and other stuff to follow!

Speaking of news, I posted this little bit of it on MovieScene the other day:

Though I've never been a big F&F fan - in fact, I've only seen Fast Five because it was in my Christmas Gift two years ago - I enjoyed the fifth installment of the franchise for what it was, fast paced, slick, adrenaline driven action entertainment. I did get the feeling it reached a rather conclusive end, but such is never the case in Hollywood unless there really isn't any money left to make out of the franchise. And since Fast Five was a commercial success (and just a damn fun movie), Fast Six (simply titled Fast and Furious 6) was a given. I might actually end up seeing this one in theaters.

And on a side note, I won the puzzle in the previous issue of Pathé Spotlight, and so I returned home from work last night with a Beautiful Creatures IPhone case (now for the gadget itself...), a Hobbit t-shirt that barely fits me and an exquisite Prometheus ceramic mug in its original box. Gotta love it when you got no competition on such puzzles!