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Archive for November, 2010

If Other Directors Made “The Social Network”

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment

This is pretty funny. I’m just happy that “The Social Network” has some staying power in back of people’s minds and is effectively seeping into the culture. Hopefully that keeps up through Oscar season.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Conviction” Review

November 16, 2010 1 comment

When a movie has a very strong plotline and/or message, it can sometimes take its time to manifest itself. It will beat around the bush and make the viewer wait patiently until it has sufficient structure and weight to dig into the meaty part of the story. This is not one of those films, and whether or not that’s a good quality is up for grabs.

“Conviction,” directed by Tony Goldwyn, is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters, a small town woman who’s brother, Kenny, is wrongfully accused and convicted of murdering a woman. Betty puts her entire life on hold for nearly two decades and puts herself through law school in order to prove Kenny’s innocence, when the authorities line up against her, for fear of having their mistakes revealed.

From the moment it was first announced, this film’s plot sounded like Oscar gold. A powerful human interest story of people overcoming huge obstacles in the search for truth and redemption, with the added bonus of being true to life. However, I’ve discovered that this type of story’s line that separates it between high art and Hallmark Saturday afternoon fare is very thin. “Conviction” straddles that border quite precariously.

Much more than a directing or writing heavy piece, this film is really an acting showcase, and in that respect, it mostly prevails. Hilary Swank is very good, as usual. Forceful and direct, she can definitely carry a scene, even if I’ve never really been that fond of her as an actress, in regard, at least, to everything she’s done after “Boys Don’t Cry.” Minnie Driver matches that Swank’s no-nonsense intensity, and adds a decent dose of humor.

More than anyone else, however, this film is a major Oscar vehicle for the long-overdue for a nomination Sam Rockwell. In all honesty, the performance isn’t really much better than anything else he’s ever done, which isn’t to say that it isn’t stellar. Rockwell is just an actor of such extraordinary depth and naturalism that, aside from Duncan Jones’ “Moon,” nothing has ever fully encompassed the range of his talent. Will he finally get a nomination? With such a crowded field, maybe not, but one of these years, he will score big with them and it will be worthwhile.

The biggest and most delightful surprise of the film is Juliette Lewis in a tiny part that brings back the acting prowess that made her such a commodity in the early to mid-nineties. She completely envelops her character of a trashy misanthrope who is a key witness for the prosecution in both appearance and quality. I would love to see her take on more roles like this and perhaps she could become a compelling leading lady once again.

The film itself doesn’t quite live up to its performances. The directing lacks a certain artistic finesse. It plays out like a TV movie, bland and by the numbers. The script is really kind of all over the place, in a manner of speaking. It’s chronologically skewed, but not in a beneficial or coherent way. It takes a good 40 to 45 minutes for the plotline to truly take shape.

The movie’s message, that goes kind of unspoken for a while, until it is literally spoken, is one of capital punishment. It’s true that had Kenny Waters’ gotten the death penalty, he never would have survived long enough for his sister to pull out all the stops for his redemption, but couldn’t they have come out with a better way of getting that across than by simply saying: “If your father had gotten the death penalty, he’d be dead by now.” A note to Tony Goldwyn: exercise subtlety.

One highlight is that the film has a very clear sense of where and when it takes place. The mis en scene is crafted to create a vivid portrait of this down and out family brought up in a rundown rural environment throughout the past three decades. The wardrobe, in particular, does a fantastic job in capturing the kind of motionless world of poverty and torpor that Hilary Swank’s character fights to come free of.

All in all, this is not much more than an exercise in mediocrity. It’s got a few moments that are hot and cold, but mostly just lukewarm and by the numbers. And, I’m not gonna lie, I’m kind of sick of reviewing lukewarm movies. 2010 has got to give me something that I can shout about soon…please?

GRADES:           B-           * * * / * * * * *           6.2 / 10.0

 

“Battle: Los Angeles” Trailer

November 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Even though I don’t hold “District 9” up to be the masterpiece that so many think it is, there is one thing that I really have to thank it for. It has created such a new resurgence in alien movies. There’s “Skyline” (which I actually won’t be thanking anyone for) as well as “Monsters,” which I will finally be screening next weekend. Now, Columbia Pictures has finally released the trailer for the much anticipated “Battle: Los Angeles.”

Now, I’m aware that this is one of the most horribly pedestrian titles that they could have possibly chosen, and I have no real dreams of high art coming out of this. However, the kid inside me is just hopping mad with excitement. This film looks old school; a hardcore, all-out war between the human military and a horde of feisty aliens, while throwing in some nice elements of realistic, subjective filmmaking. That is a smorgasbord of greatness for this particular moviegoer.

On top of all that, this is a very well-cut trailer. The intro is fantastic. That song is absolutely haunting. The pacing is perfect. The mood is disturbing, emotional and exciting as hell. Hopefully the feature can live up to the stakes this trailer has set.

You can watch it on youtube below:

 

OR take a few minutes and download the HD Quicktime from Apple trailers (it’s better).

BATTLE: LOST ANGELES QUICKTIME TRAILER

 

“Jane Eyre” Poster and Trailer

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

So, I know that the present year’s Oscars are still months away, but it’s never too early (I guess) to start thinking about the future. Though, I kind of broke that mold already when I posted about “The Tree of Life.”

Not sure how many people have been following the most recent adaptation of “Jane Eyre,” but it seems to be on the fast track and looks more than a bit promising. The two leads, in particular, definitely make it worth a look. Mia Wasikoska from “Alice in Wonderland” and particularly shined in “The Kids Are All Right,” plays the title character and Michael Fassbender, of “Inglourious Basterds” and “Hunger” is her tortured lover.

Here are the poster and trailer for the film, scheduled for a Spring release (for some reason, not later, which would obviously put it on a better track for Oscar).

Jane Eyre Trailer

“Tree of Life” Poster and Synopsis

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

For anyone else who has been following the insanely secretive and mysterious project “The Tree of Life,” directed by Terrence Malick, I thought I’d quickly post this link. The Collider has reported the brand new poster for the film set to be released in May of next year, as well as a very poetic synopsis.

For as long as I’ve been looking forward to this film, Terrence Malick being the visual genius that he is, both the synopsis and the poster really seem kind of….boring. For sure the trailer will reinvigorate my anticipation, but for now, I’m kind of disappointed.

Here’s the poster and the link for the synopsis, below:

The Collider – Tree of Life Synopsis

“Paranormal Activity 2″ Review

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

When “The Blair Witch Project” was first released at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999, it was predicted to become a classic. Critics across the country were united in its praise. Village Voice critic Michael Atikinson (then still known as Mr. Showbiz) said that it “…might be the scariest movie of all time.” How could anything go wrong?

Well, the answer is that the audiences saw it, and thus, the film met its backlash. Don’t get me wrong. Movies are made for the audiences, and if they don’t like it, that’s obviously saying something. However, the audience’s reaction was a bit too cold and unreasonable for my taste. Once it was released, the only quotes about the film everyone heard anymore were that it was “boring,” “shaky” and “a waste of money.” And that became it’s legacy.

Now, over a decade later, many people’s opinion has not changed, and yet the film’s impact on the world of cinema is unquestionable. Movies like “Open Water,” “Rec,” “Diary of the Dead,” “Cloverfield,” and even “District 9” and “United 93” have all been heavily influenced by this landmark film. Perhaps the most recent and prominent of all of these descendants is, of course, the “Paranormal Activity” features.

I was not so eager to jump on the bandwagon of those who fell in love with the first film. I thought that the characters were as flat as could be. You don’t really care so much whether they live or die, based on their unintelligence and carelessness of their decisions. The story is incredibly repetitive and 80% of the scares simply don’t have the desired effect that a movie like this should deliver.

“Paranormal Activity 2” is a bit of a puzzle, for while it corrects certain mistakes of the original, it goes about creating whole new ones. For sure, the biggest improvement is that the film completely ups the the ante from the first, in character, story and thrills. The story sets its eye on a family of four, including an infant child, automatically creating a bit more sympathy than for a couple of bumbling twenty-somethings. The film also reveals the reasons as to why this demon keeps haunting this particular family. However, this could either be an improvement or a flaw, depending on how you look at it, for it’s exactly the reason that no one knows just what this thing is or what it wants that makes it all the more scary.

One thing is for sure: anyone who felt that the first film did not pack a scary enough punch, rest easy. This film has at least three times the scares and jolts that were found in the previous “Paranormal Activity.” Furniture is thrown, people are tossed and the amount of startling moments is more than satisfying. One such shot, near the midpoint of the film, caused every member of the audience to instantly shit their pants. I lost feeling in my face for a short time after it happened.

Also, in this film, there is a much stronger air regarding a constant fear of death hovering around all of the characters throughout the film, and this is accelerated, especially, when the infant’s life hangs in the balance. And what’s more, instead of just one camera in the bedroom (which actually has become pretty iconic, I have to admit), there are a half dozen littered around the house recording all that happens, not to mention the usual handheld which helps pull together the personal side of the story.

However, just as a stronger following and additional cashflow have helped this movie, they also represent the drop of the second shoe. The film has quite simply become to “Hollywoodized.” The amount of horror film cliches has doubled, and for as many jolts and scares there are, now matter how effective they may be, half of them are pretty cheap. This theory is pretty much defined in a scene I recall when the teenage daughter, left alone with the baby, hears a strange noise outside and must go outside to investigate. With that, the ghost slams the door behind her and locks her out of the house! A-HA!

So, do I recommend this film? Yeah, I guess so. Even if it doesn’t strive for that much, it accomplishes what it’s meant to (scare people) and it does it better than the first one. So if you’re looking forward to an opportunity to lose feeling in your face, this movie is waiting for you, and don’t forget to thank “The Blair Witch Project,” for the experience.

GRADES:           B-           * * * / * * * * *           6.0 / 10.0

 

“Rabbit Hole” Trailer

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been skeptical as of the Oscar chances of this little film since I first heard about it. For one thing, Nicole Kidman has been out of the nomination business for nearly a decade, with many hopeful projects falling by the wayside. Plus, John Cameron Mitchell, while a great filmmaker, has never been the sort to be recognized by the AMPAS, mostly for his racy subject matter.

However, with the release of this new trailer, the film looks like it could have some serious legs. All of the leads look outstanding, the subject matter has depth and the film looks, overall, rather wonderful. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of the players in the running over the next few months, especially the females (Dianne Wiest is quite a pro in the Best Supporting Actress category, being the only woman to have won that honor twice already).

One month and counting….

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Hey everyone. Now, that my blog has officially been up-and-running for over a month, now, I just wanted to thank all of my readers for their interest. Thanks to you all, I’ve had over 500 views on this page. I hope to keep you all hooked because it can only get bigger and better.

Stay tuned, soon, for reviews of “Paranormal Activity 2” “Waiting for Superman” and the trailer for John Cameron Mitchell’s “Rabbit Hole,” not to mention more list fun, including my next top ten and, of course, the big one.