Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2010

2010: The year of the Vampire

You couldn’t move for vampire movies last year, will 2010 be any different? No!

We have already had Daybreakers and it was pretty good. An interesting twist on vampire movies set in a world where most of the population are now vampires. Written and directed by the Speierig brothers who were responsible for the Australian zombie horror comedy Undead. The great cast includes Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill.  It looks prime for a sequel, if they do hopefully the surviving characters will return and be played by the same actors.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days is obviously a follow-up to 30 Days of Night (2007), it retains the main character from the first movie Stella Olemaun, however Melissa George has been replaced by Kiele Sanchez who you may remember as Gina, Timothy Olyphant’s girlfriend in A Perfect Getaway. She also appeared in Lost, although mainly a background character one really good episode centred on her character Nikki and her boyfriend Paulo. Anyway back to the movie; the story relocates to Los Angeles that as far as I am aware doesn’t suffer from 30 Days of Night in the winter. It is directed by Ben Ketai whose previous film was 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust an online sequel to the original film. I suspect this one is more likely to crop up on DVD than in a cinema anytime soon.

Original 30 Days of Night director David Slade is busy working with glittery vampires on The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Moving away from the autumn/winter release of the first two movies this one is coming out in the summer with the blockbusters, and why not they have taken shit loads of money.  Lets hope it has a bit more bite (bad pun completely intentional) than Chris Weitz lame New Moon.  All the main cast are set to return except Rachelle Lefevre whose character Victoria will be played by Bryce Dallas Howard.

Following the success (please note use of sarcasm and irony) of Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) a third film is on its way. Lost Boys: The Thirst. Corey Feldman returns as Edgar Frog as does Jamison Newlander as his brother Alan Frog. Newlander was in the second movie too, his character not only had to suffer with now being a vampire, but he also had his scenes deleted. Again this will be direct to DVD trash.

Anyone who knows me knows my thoughts on Hollywood remakes of great European and Asian films. That’s why I really don’t want to see what a mess they make of my movie of the year from last year Let the Right One in. Just to prove how original they are they have changed the name to Let Me In (the name the book the original film was based on went under in America). One of the great things about the original movie was the great performances by the two young actors. In the remake the most interesting casting could be of Abby (renamed from Eli in the original) who will be played by Chloe Moretz who you may recognise as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s young sister in (500) Days of Summer.

Priest is a vampire/western due for release in the summer. Based on a Korean comic book by Hyung Min-woo, I understand the movie is only loosely based on source material. Paul Bettany plays the priest of the title who along with young sheriff (Cam Gigandet in what could be a rare none villainous role) and Maggie Q as a priestess track down a group of vampires who have kidnapped his niece. I know a few fans (especially female ones) are upset that the casting of Gerard Butler fell through but the presence of Maggie Q promises a certain amount of ass-kicking action (she was the best thing about Die Hard 4). Also look out for a rare big screen outing for Mädchen Amick (Shelly Johnson in Twin Peaks). Directed by Scott Stewart, just his second feature, his first Legion also stars Paul Bettany and has just opened in America to mixed reviews and will be released in the UK in a march. This is one of those movies that couple be brilliant or terrible depending on the execution.

Stake Land is directed by Jim Mickle who has real low budget B movie credentials following Mulberry Street (2006). Little has been published about this film but internet rumour suggest it will be a brutal, bloody and violent movie. A couple of notes on the cast, top billing goes to Danielle Harris who appeared in the Rob Zombie Halloween remakes. It also feature Kelly Top Gun McGillis.

The Bleeding also has real B-movie credentials in the shape of Vinnie Jones, Michael Madsen and Armand Assante. It is also the feature début for Katherine von Drachenberg, who I hear you say, Katherine is better known as celebrity tattoo artist extraordinaire Kat Von D. The story features a family of vampires who live in a nightclub in a former chemical weapons factory, when they say family I somehow think they will have more in common with the Manson family than the Cullen’s.

As well as all these there are also numerous TV programs, internet movies and minimal budget B movies.

Read Full Post »

With the Oscar nominations coming out on Tuesday I thought I would get in early with My Oscars 2010. Please note they are what I would nominate and not predictions for what will be nominated. Because I live in the UK some films that will be nominated in the real Oscars aren’t out here yet so do not feature in My Oscars. They include: The Blind Side, Invictus, The Lovely Bones, Precious, A Single Man, Crazy Heart and The Messenger.

My nominations are:

Best Picture

  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Up In The Air
  • The Road
  • The White Ribbon
  • Public Enemies
  • An Education
  • Watchmen
  • Drag Me to Hell
  • Zombieland 

Best Director

  • John Hillcoat (The Road)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon)
  • Zack Snyder (Watchmen) 

Best Actor

  • George Clooney (Up in the Air)
  • Viggo Mortensen (The Road)
  • Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
  • Sam Rockwell (Moon)
  • Tom Hardy (Bronson)

Best Actress

  • Carey Mulligan (An Education)
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist)
  • Penelope Cruz (Broken Embraces)
  • Kirsten Stewart (Adventureland)
  • Alison Lohman (Drag Me To Hell)

 Best Supporting Actor

  • Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Alfred Molina (An Education)
  • Christian McKay (Me And Orson Welles)
  • Colin Firth (Easy Virtue)
  • Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen)

 Best Supporting Actress

  • Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
  • Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
  • Marion Cotillard (Public Enemies)
  • Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Kristin Scott-Thomas (Easy Virtue) 

Best Original Screenplay

  • Inglourious Basterds
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • The Hurt Locker
  • A Serious Man
  • The White Ribbon 

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Road
  • Up in the Air
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • An Education
  • Watchmen 

Best Foreign Language Film (only taken from submitted films)

  • The White Ribbon (Germany)
  • A Prophet (France)

(These are the only two eligible films that have been screened in the UK)

Best Cinematography

  • Nine
  • Watchmen
  • The Road
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds 

Visual Effects

  • Avatar
  • Watchmen
  • Star Trek
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • Terminator Salvation 

Makeup

  • Zombieland
  • Avatar
  • The Road
  • Jenifer’s Body
  • Drag Me To Hell

Original Score

  • The Road
  • Avatar
  • Public Enemies
  • Star Trek
  • Where the Wild Things Are

Costume Design

  • The White Ribbon
  • Avatar
  • Watchmen
  • Public Enemies
  • Coco avant Chanel

Art Direction

  • Moon
  • The White Ribbon
  • Avatar
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Public Enemies

 Best Sound

  • Public Enemies
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Avatar
  • Watchmen
  • Star Trek 

I have not compiled nominations in the following categories:

  • Sound Editing
  • Original Song
  • Animated Short Film
  • Live Action Short Film
  • Documentary Short
  • Documentary Feature
  • Animated Feature Film

Read Full Post »

This Years G.I. Joe?

Review: Ninja Assassin

Once in awhile a movie comes along that gets everything wrong. The acting is shocking, the direction is plodding, the plot is ludicrous, the dialogue rubbish, the fight scenes are ridiculously over the top and it offers absolutely nothing new to the genre, Ninja Assassin is one such film. Surprisingly it gets away with a lot of this. Directed by James McTeigue who has mainly worked as an assistant director (including for the Wachowski brothers who produced this movie) and made his feature debut V for Vendetta (also produced by the Wachowski brothers). The strange casting consists of: Naomie Harris who is usually a reliable actress, Korean pop star Rain (listen out for the boy-band comment) and Ben Miles. Miles appeared in V for Vendetta and Speed Racer but is probably best known in the UK for the TV shows Coupling and Cold Feet.

So what is good about the movie? Actually not a lot but, it is unashamedly a dumb mindless action flick whose thin plot is only there to string together the violent and bloody fighting scenes. And that’s the point, that is all it ever sets out to do and it does it quite well. The action particularly the fighting is slick and well shot and it doesn’t linger on the slower quieter scenes. And best of all it checks in at a relatively svelte 99 minutes before it has a chance to drag and get on your nerves (yes Michael 150 minute Bay I am talking to you). Interestingly with this and Speed Racer under his belt Rain actually looks like he may make it as a Hollywood action star.

So like G.I. Joe last year, it isn’t particularly good but it is inoffensive, fun at times and it probably won’t turn out to be the worst movie of the year.

Two Stars out of Five.

Read Full Post »

“I am just a poor boy

Though my story’s seldom told

I have squandered my resistance

For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises

All lies and jests

Still a man hears what he wants to hear

And disregards the rest”

 

I started compiling a list of the best sporting movies of all time and quickly came to the conclusion that there were more boxing ones than any other sport, so I decided to shelve that one for a time and take a look at boxing. What is it that makes it so cinematic? Is it that it is easier to effectively duplicate and shoot that sports held in larger arenas or is it because it is such an emotive sport with such great characters involved in it? Probably a combination of the two. There are lots of good boxing movies, I have only picked the best. Have I missed your favourite?

 

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956): Director by Robert Wise:

Amazingly this was just Paul Newman’s second movie and his first staring role, at 31 he was considered by many too old for the part that he got after the death of James Dean who was originally cast. He plays real life champion Rocky Graziano. Newman is brilliant as the boxer who rises from a childhood of petty crime in New York to be middleweight champion of the world via prison and the army. The authenticity of the story is what makes it so compelling, it is know great  surprise that Graziano co wrote the movie and trained Newman in the ring. They also spent time together helping the method man emulate the way Graziano moved, spoke and his mannerisms. The boxing scenes are really well handled and shot, without quality in these moments the film would never work. Newman’s portrayal of Graziano is angry and frank, this is perfect for the earlier parts of the film but actually works really well later as he becomes a reformed character.

Rocky (1976): Director by John G. Avildsen:

If I had compiled this list a few years ago I wouldn’t have included this movie but looking back most of the problems with Rocky are with the flabby directionless sequels (parts three and five, the real low points). For all its cliché’s and over sentimentality Rocky is a good honest rags to riches sports movie. The boxing scenes are well filmed but can never be great as they are scripted/stage-manage for maximum emotional effect and aren’t worried about been cheesy. In true underdog style the back from the brink victories belong in wrestling not boxing but this is Hollywood what can you expect. For the best performances you have to look outside the ring to Talia Shire’s Adrian and Burt Young as her brother Paulie. Not the best boxing movie ever put probably the best known.

Raging Bull (1980):Director by Martin Scorsese:

Written by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin (with uncredited rewrites by Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro) and based on Jake Lamotta’s autobiography, this is another true story of a middleweight boxer.  Very different from Somebody Up There Likes Me, Raging Bull takes every convention and cliché of the sporting movie and turns them, if not on their head certainly somewhat off balance. At the heart of the story is ma fighter who never got his title shot because of the corruption of his management, but the film and De Niro’s performance cut deeper than that to his own self loathing and self destruction.  The cinematography is just sublime, every time I see the movie it makes me wonder why filmmakers ever bother with colour. This is most evident in the fighting scenes where famously shot in different size rings, getting larger as the movie goes on and Lamotta’s abity and stature begins to wane. Amazingly their was nor original music composed for the movie, instead Scorsese selected music by composer Pietro Mascagni. Not just the best boxing movie of all time, the best sports movie of all time.

When We Were Kings (1996) (Documentary): Director by Leon Gast:

Yes, a documentary makes the list. The documentary is the story of what is possibly the most famous fight in the history of boxing, The Rumble in the Jungle. The fight took place in Zaire in 1974 between Ali and heavyweight champion George Foreman. What the documentary reminds us isn’t just Ali’s ability as a boxer but his charisma as man and his power as an icon. At the time of the fight Forman wasn’t just unbeaten, he was considered unbeatable he had won all his forty fights, all but three by knockout. We also get to see the political backdrop of the fight held in a country run by a dictator. What you don’t see in the movie is what happened after it was made. It won the best documentary feature Oscar in 1997. The two fighters where amongst the group who accepted the statuette, by this time Ali was suffering from Parkinsons, and was helped on stage by Forman.

The Boxer (1997):  Director by Jim Sheridan:

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Danny Flynn, a professional boxer who is imprisoned for fourteen years for his involvement with the IRA. On release he tries to get his life back on track by going straight, resuming his life as a boxer and starting a boxing club for kids in his old neighbourhood. As part of his new life Danny wishes to be free from political violence and as such makes his boxing club non-sectarian. His former IRA colleagues are not happy with this or with his relationship with his old flame Maggie (Emily Watson). This is made even more complicated by Maggie’s farther (Played by the brilliant as eve Brian Cox) being the local IRA leader. There actually isn’t much boxing in the movie but what there is, is helped by Daniel Day-Lewis boxing ability. He was trained by former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan who claimed that Day-Lewis was one of the most natural boxers he ever met and could have been a professional had he started younger. More of a political film than a sporting one, it explores splinter groups within the paramilitary groups of the time. Ultimately though it isn’t boxing or politics that holds the film together, it is the theme of undying love between Danny and Maggie and more importantly the brilliant performances from Day-Lewis and Watson playing the pair.

Girlfight (2000): Director by Karyn Kusama:

Michelle Rodriguez plays Diana Guzman a troubled teenager who lives with her younger brother and their abusive farther. With trouble at home and things not much better at school her life is going nowhere. Although he hates it, Her brother boxes to please their farther. Whist collecting him from the gym she convinces the trainer to teacher her, he reluctantly agrees. It soon becomes evident that she has a far greater aptitude and ability than her brother. The key to the film is Rodriguez’s believability in the part, both as the angry teen and the talented boxed. It was her first film role won via an open casting of over 300 girls. The film was shot in just 30 days. Half the time it took Rodriguez to prepare for the part.

Ali (2001): Director by Michael Mann:

Covering a ten year period 1964 until 1974, the film encapsulates Cassius Clay wining the world heavyweight title, his relationship with Malcom X, Changing his name to Muhammad Ali, refusing the draft and the consequences of that. The film finishes with the Rumble In The Jungle against George Foreman as mention above. Although only covering ten years, a lot happened making this a truly epic movie. The boxing scenes lack the style and the outright brutality of Raging Bull instead looking more like a real fight. Mann does not shy away from the violence of the sport, some of the fights are over ten minuets long, the shots that look like real fight footage are more effective than the showy point of view shots but even they work. The greatest achievement and revelation of the movie is Will Smith, not only does he put in a great emotional performance as the champ but he makes you believe her really is Muhammad Ali. This is truly amazing considering how recognisable and high profile Ali is to this day.

Million Dollar Baby (2004): Director by Clint Eastwood:

I went into the film expecting a sort of feel good sports move, triumphing against the odds. I even heard it described as a sort of female Rocky. And that’s what you get to begin with. Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) owns a boxing gym. He also acts as a trainer. Having recently lost his top fighter to a more ambitious manager, Frankie reluctantly agrees to train Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank in her second Oscar willing role). The reason for his reluctance is that as he says (repeatedly) “I don’t train girls” and because he thinks she is too old. There actually isn’t much boxing In the movie but what is there is well choreographed and shot. After she achieves great success she eventually has a title fight against welterweight champion, Billie “the Blue Bear” (played by real life boxer Lucia Rijker). I don’t think I am giving much away by saying at this pint the movie takes a huge shift in narrative making the second half of the film completely different. A testament to how good the film is, is the way it holds the interest after such a dramatic change of pace and theme. Love it or hate it, it is a film you will never forget.

Worth seeing but not good enough to make the list:

  • Broken Blossoms (1919)
  • The Champ (1979)
  • Rocky IV (1985)
  • Homeboy (1988)
  • Diggstown aka Midnight Sting (1992)
  • Gladiator (1992)
  • Play It to the Bone (1999)
  • Undisputed (2002)
  • Cinderella Man (2005)
  • Rocky Balboa (2006)

What did I miss?

Read Full Post »

So who will direct the next James Bond movie? Whist no official announcement has been made the frontrunner appears to be Sam Mendes. There have been stories in various publications including the Telegraph and The Guardian (both 6th Jan this year) that state that he is in negotiations. So what are the American Beauty directors credentials for directing Bond? Better that you would think, whilst American Beauty (1999) and Revolutionary Road (2008) or even last years Away We Go spring to mind we should also remember that he directed Road to Perdition (2002) and Jarhead (2005). Although both films were far from the action films Bond is turning into they both had elements that will work in his favour. Whilst essentially a drama/thriller Road to Perdition had elements of Adventure and Jarhead great moments of tension and comedy. A tense gripping action adventure with a little comedy sounds perfect for Bond.

So who would you like to see in the James Bond Directors chair?

  1. Kathryn Bigelow: So much more than an action director she is one of the most underrated and underappreciated directors working today. Anyone unsure if she would be suitable should take a look at her best three (none vampire) movies Point Break (1991), Strange Days (1995) and The Hurt Locker (2008).
  2. Quentin Tarantino: Producers are probably scared at what he would do to this most valuable and profitable franchises, cast Samuel Jackson or Uma Thurman as Bond for example. Strangely I actually think as a fan Tarantino would be faithful to the original books and early movies.
  3. Paul Greengrass: The Bourne Supremacy (2004), United 93 (2006) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) need I say more? My only concern, is he too associated with Bourne for Bond to work for him? Probably not.
  4. Doug Liman: Let’s not forget Liman directed the first Bourne movie The Bourne Identity (2002), a hugely underrated and forgotten movie in the wake of the sequels. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) was great fun, Jumper (2008) was a misstep but hopefully he will be back on track with Fair Game (2010) due out later this year.
  5. Guy Ritchie: The leftfield choice, I would never of suggested him before now, the reason I changed my mind, Sherlock Holmes (2009). With the new Holmes movie he has proved what he can do as a director for hire and to be honest it is far better than most of his own work.

With suggestions that Bond 23 will be the last in a trilogy that finishes the story started in Casino Royale Bond 24 is time for a new start and one of these directors could do that.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Review: A Prophet

In just over a weeks time I will be writing an article on the best foreign language Oscar for the LAMB. Because the movies in this category don’t have to be released in America to qualify many of them haven’t been seen outside their own country to date, so the chances of me seeing them here in England is slim at best. A Prophet is only the second of this years short listed films that I have seen.

Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) is a nineteen year old French-Arab. The movie begins with his processing as he goes to prison. Sentenced to six years for an unspecified crime Malik has clearly been in trouble all his life but this is his first time in real prison. Only semi literate and with no friends inside it isn’t long before he is targeted by the ruling gang who want to exploit him to their own ends. At first by accident more then by design he begins his rise through the ranks. Always on the outside Malik doesn’t fit in with the Corsican gang that rules the prison but because of his involvement with them isn’t accepted by the Arab prisoners.

Confidently directed by Jacques Audiard in his first movie since the BAFTA winning The Beat That My Heart Skipped five years ago, A Prophet is nominated in the Best Film Not in the English Language category this year. Tahar Rahim is almost always centre stage and our main focus, this isn’t a problem as he puts in a fantastic performance. The supporting performances are also excellent, particularly Niels Arestrup as César, the leader of the Corsicans. As the plot unfolds the acting is what holds the movie together, it also helps the two and a half hours fly by. Early in the movie there are a couple of real standout scenes, one involving a brutal murder. Before that the preparation for the killing involves concealing a razor blade in his mouth. This is one of the many aspects that makes the movie gritty.  The look of the film has a constant dull darkness to it, even the exterior shorts are devoid of sun and the movie has a very grey pallet.

There are occasional descents into fantasy that involve visits from a ghost of Maliks past. These scenes don’t completely work for me. They do little for the benefit or advancement of the narrative and don’t always feel relevant other than to balance the prophecies suggested in the title. This may have become evident as the film was put together, some of these scenes appear in the trailer but not the movie so must have found themselves on the cutting room floor. Unlike so many prison movies this isn’t a story of redemption as the system or the characters do little or nothing redeeming. Instead the film works more in an existential way as we see Malik develop as a character in the brutal and violent setting. There are also suggestions that the film is a political statement with the events within the prison reflecting social and political change in France. I will leave French audiences to decide on this point.  Either way the movie works on a simpler more base a visceral level as a hard hitting dramatic thriller that always compelling and often thought provoking.

It is one of those films that comes along a couple of times a year at most that movie fans even those normally put off by subtitles should still see, this is one such movie. The busy Sunday evening screening I just attended suggests that may happen. The fact it has been chosen as the French submission for the best foreign language Oscar ahead of the epic Mesrine speaks volumes for the quality of this movie. In answer to my first question, I would be surprised if the movie doesn’t make the final nominations for the best foreign language Oscar but The White Ribbon is a slightly better film in my opinion. As to what will win you never can tell with the Oscars. I just hope a it doesn’t meet the same fate as so many other successful foreign language movies, to be remade in Hollywood minus its soul and backbone.

 Four Stars out of Five

 

 

Read Full Post »

My Oscars v2.0

I was watching the Goodnight, and Good Luck a few days ago (the first time I had seen it since seeing it at the cinema) and wondered how it failed to win the best picture oscar.  With this in mind I decided to revise the My Oscars blog.  Back in July last year I compiled a list of the movies I would have given the Oscar to over the last ten years.  This is a variation on the same idea limited to the nominated films.

2000: Winner: American Beauty – My Choice:  The InsiderOther nominations:

  • The Cider House Rules
  • The Green Mile
  • The Sixth Sense

 

2001: Winner: Gladiator – My Choice: Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonOther nominations:

  • Chocolat
  • Erin Brockovich
  • Traffic

 

2002: Winner: A Beautiful Mind – My Choice: Moulin RougeOther nominations:

  • Gosford Park
  • In the Bedroom
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

 

2003: Winner: Chicago – My Choice: Gangs of New YorkOther nominations:

  • The Hours
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • The Pianist

 

2004: Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – My Choice: Lost in TranslationOther nominations:

  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the
  • Mystic River
  • Seabiscuit

 

2005: Winner: Million Dollar Baby – My Choice: Million Dollar BabyOther nominations:

  • The Aviator
  • Finding Neverland
  • Ray
  • Sideways

 

2006: Winner: Crash – My Choice: Good Night, and Good LuckOther nominations:

  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Capote
  • Munich

 

2007: Winner: The Departed – My Choice: The DepartedOther nominations:

  • Babel
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • The Queen

 

2008: Winner: No Country for Old Men – My Choice: JunoOther nominations:

  • Atonement
  • Michael Clayton
  • There Will Be Blood

 

2009: Winner: Slumdog Millionaire – My Choice: Slumdog MillionaireOther nominations:

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk

The Reader

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »