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NEW “Hangover: Part II” Trailer

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Not gonna lie, this is pretty close to the bottom of my must-see list of the summer…well, the year…maybe just in general. I thought the first one was pretty funny, but insanely overhyped. Now, this second installment looks like the worst class of sequel: the kind in which it’s basically the exact same movie with the exact same characters and the exact same jokes. They simply switched up the country. They did a similar thing with the Jackass sequels, but at least those got more creative each time. And one would think that we should hold actual movies up to a bit of a higher standard.

In all seriousness, I don’t think that I laughed at a single moment of this trailer. Perhaps the only thing I am looking forward to in this film is Liam Neeson’s cameo as “The Tattoo Man,” being that Mike Tyson was, by far, the funniest part of the original. And yet, despite it all, this is once again the most hyped film experience of the year, so I must serve the people. Here’s the trailer, with the usual Apple HD link after the embed.

HD Apple Trailer

Why I’m Re-Watching “LOST” and Unnecessary Censorship

March 30, 2011 1 comment

As some of you may know, I am presently re-watching all six seasons of ABC’s “LOST” on my Netflix instant queue. I had originally shown up really late to this show. I didn’t begin to start watching it on Hulu until a few months before the final season was about to air. I, of course, became addicted like everyone else, and watched the entire series on my computer at home, at work, on film sets, and even on my phone during my CTA commute. I finally got caught up only a few episodes prior to the finale.

Overall, I enjoyed the show. It makes incredible use of close-ups and editing. Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn fully deserved their Emmy wins. Most of all, the show contains one of the greatest musical compositions I’ve ever heard come out of the small screen. Michael Giacchino ended up winning an Oscar for “Up” during the course of the final season’s airing.

However, I definitely have a few qualms. The biggest, by far, is the liberties that the show takes in the crafting of it. Similar to the issues that I had with “Rango.” The show gives itself a blank slate that basically allows it to do whatever the hell it wants. If something doesn’t make sense or just breaks every law we can imagine in the world of filmmaking or common sense, it doesn’t matter. Why? The island’s magical.

Despite all of that, it’s a great show. One reason as to why it seems so great, however, is not necessarily because of its quality, but it’s addictiveness. There seem to be at least four or five cliffhangers PER EPISODE. The suspense that the show creates is literally out of control. That has always presented an interesting question to me: whether the show will hold up a second time around. If there’s no longer any suspense as to what’s going to happen the next episode, five episodes down the line or several seasons away.

Some of the greatest shows of all time are just that because they can create a single episode that can stand alongside some of the best feature films that you’ll ever see. Examples include “Irregular Around the Margins.” from season five of “The Sopranos” or “Bartlet for America” from season three of “The West Wing.” If “LOST” cannot function as a great, quality show, episode per episode, without relying simply on what happens next, then I’m not sure if it will remain one of my favorite shows of recent years.

This is truly a rambling post of mine, but I felt like getting it off my chest. So, for fun, check out this hilarious video my friend put me on to. It doesn’t contain any straight-up spoilers. However, if there is anyone who intends to watch the show and doesn’t want to know ANYTHING about it, which is totally acceptable for a show like this. If not, watch this video. You won’t be sorry:

Natalie Deserved the Oscar. End of Story.

March 29, 2011 Leave a comment

This story has plagued both publications and the blogosphere alike for the last week, and damn it, it really needs to stop. This is one of the most annoying, ill-founded, and downright inappropriate smear campaigns against a great performer in recent memory. First off, even if Natalie Portman didn’t train for and perform a great deal of dancing in “Black Swan,” that’s not why people do or should win Oscars (unless you’re Jennifer Hudson, who sang her way to an Oscar in ’06 since she sure as hell can’t act worth a damn). People win Oscars for acting, and that’s what Portman did. She acted her ass off.

I mean seriously, people. This is horrible. It’s like saying: “I actually heard a rumor once that Natalie did not do her own makeup for the final scene. Nor did she even design her own costumes. I’m appalled. She didn’t deserve the Oscar.” All of these accusations are nearly as absurd as expecting an actress to somehow cram fifteen to twenty years of dancing experience into one year of film training.

Of course, this all started when Portman’s apparent “dance double,” Sarah Lane, complained that the actress only performed five percent of the dancing in the final cut of the film. I’ve only seen the film once, but running it through my head, something about that figure automatically sounds fishy. Maybe this dancer got a raw deal, simply being credited as a hand double and an extra, but way to go by turning yourself into an international joke by insinuating that Natalie was a fraud in the film.

Meanwhile, director Darren Aronofsky is dancing to a different drumbeat, defending his actress and her career-defining performance to the last stroke. In an interview with the UK Guardian, he claims that Portman did in fact do eighty to ninety percent of her dancing in the film, putting the double to shame. In an excerpt from the piece, he says:

However, Aronofsky has issued a statement claiming Portman performed 80 to 90% of the routines seen in the final cut of his film. “Here is the reality,” he said. “I had my editor count shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. 28 are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math, that’s 80% Natalie Portman.”

He added: “What about duration? The shots that feature the double are wide shots and rarely play for longer than one second. There are two complicated longer dance sequences that we used face replacement. Even so, if we were judging by time over 90% would be Natalie Portman.”

Aronofsky states that Portman did, in fact, dance on point, a difficult technique which was also said to be played false by Lane. The Guardian article also features costar Mila Kunis defending all of Portman’s performance, as well, stating that she “danced her ass off.”

What it all comes down to is CUT THE S#!T. This plague of defamation must end. I can only hope that in the end, it will only help to bolster the legacy of Portman’s performance when people realize how much she actually worked long and hard for this role. Shame on all who say otherwise.

Check out the opening scene from “Black Swan” below, re-color corrected and cut to a different song. Also, you can view the entire Guardian article, here.

NEW “Tree of Life” Poster

March 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Wow. This film either has to be god’s gift to mankind, or it shall be the biggest disappointment in recent cinematic history. I don’t think any film aside from “Inception” has gained such a heavy base of anticipation among bloggers, fanboys and cinephiles, in general.

They seem to be putting a lot of emphasis on the visual images of the film (which are honestly quite gorgeous). Highly respected cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki could be looking at his fifth Oscar nomination, or perhaps even a win. Nothing will ever offset the snub of his loss for “Children of Men,” however, so a reward is irrelevant in my eyes.

One has to wonder whether or not the story is going to come anywhere near close enough to measuring up to the film’s brilliant eye candy. One has to wonder how a film that contains both Brad Pitt as an abusive, overbearing father and dinosaurs make it into the same screenplay. Yes, that’s right. I said dinosaurs. I remember hearing the rumors years ago, which I didn’t truly believe until I noticed the center square on the poster, fourth from the bottom. That looks quite a bit to me, and a lot of other people on the web, like a dinosaur standing the middle of some kind of river. Also, the top left corner appears to feature some kind of asteroid impact, that one could only guess is the rock that killed off life on Earth sixty-five million years ago.

Will this movie make any kind of discernible sense, or will it be a big visual mess of a film. I’m ready for just about anything at this point, and I hope you all are, too.

Check out the full poster after the cut:

Read more…

BREAKING NEWS: Amy Adams is Lois Lane in “Superman” Reboot

March 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I can’t say that the new “Superman” franchise is something that I’m looking forward to with beaming eyes. Even with Christopher Nolan’s attachment, Zack Snyder at the helm of anything makes me kind of want to purge a little. However, this seems like a pretty cool casting choice. Adams is a phenomenal actress, and extremely attractive, and I like it when Hollywood casts meaty roles with actresses who hold both of those qualities rather than just the latter.

Here’s an excerpt from the LA Times article:

The 36-year-old star got the news on Sunday from director Zack Snyder, who phoned her from Paris, where he was promoting his just-opened film, “Sucker Punch.” There had been a crush of Hollywood interest in the lead female role in the Warner Bros. project but Snyder said that after meeting with Adams, she was the clear choice to take on a character that dates back to 1938 and has long represented the strong, professional woman who can hold her own against any man – even if he can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

It’s kind of strange that of the two leading lady roles available for superhero movies floating around, Adams gets the part of the woman who isn’t famous for her blazing red hair as opposed to the one who is. Who knows? Since Mary Jane supposedly will not even be a part of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” (which I still can’t believe), Adams will have to dye down that mop settle for being in the more boring of the two comic book films. I am, however, looking forward to having at least some of “Man of Steel” being shot here in the Chicago area ever since Christopher Nolan turned his back on the second city with the only superhero movie that really matters…

NEW “Beginners” Trailer

March 26, 2011 1 comment

Amidst all of the anticipation for summer blockbusters and an ocean of Hollywood’s Spring regurgitation, I stumbled upon this glorious trailer. I had no idea of the existence of this film before a week ago. It tells the story of a young man (Ewan McGregor) who’s father delivers him two earth-shattering announcements after the death of his mother. First, that he has terminal cancer. Secondly, that he is gay, and has kept said feelings a secret for McGregor’s entire life. The main character must deal with these issues, along with his concerns over his own dating life, while maintaining a level of sanity.

Also starring Christopher Plummer (in a role that immediately appears considerable for an Oscar) and Melanie Laurent in her first role in an American film since “Inglourious Basterds.” It’s written and directed by Mike Mills who crafted the star-laden indy film “Thumbsucker.” This film has automatically been placed at the very top of my must-see list.

Check out the trailer, below, and see if you agree:

New Additions: “Sahara,” “Frantic” and “Stagecoach”

March 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Haven’t done one of these in a while. Once again, these are just some films that I’ve seen recently for the first time and added to The Mitchell List. I’ve featured them here, with a short review for each.

“Sahara” (Zoltan Korda) – 1943

No, I’m not talking about the Matthew McConaughey/Penelope Cruz turd that came out a few years ago. “Sahara,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Lloyd Bridges was not only a movie about World War II, but one of the first films ever made featuring Americans fighting in said war. It takes place in the deserts of North Africa and follows a diminished American tank crew, a handful of stranded British soldiers and their fight to protect a water hole from a Battalion of five hundred Nazis. The film features some good cinemtagraphy, excellent sound design and some riveting action scenes. However, I was kind of put off by the mean spiritedness of the American soldiers, tricking the Germans who are dying of thirst into coming to an empty water hole with the intent of slaughtering them. Overall, it adds to the central propagandist logic of the film of glorifying the G.I.s and antagonizing the Nazis as the real battle raged across the ocean, back at a time period when our soldiers really did have a cause worth fighting for.

GRADES:           B            * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           6.8 / 10.0

 

“Frantic” (Roman Polanski) – 1988

Roman Polanski has been known for a lot of things, both in the filmmaking world and outside of it. However, after seeing films like “The Ghost Writer” and now this, one facet that I can definitely accredit to him is perfecting the formula of the Hitchcock thriller. Harrison Ford is an ordinary man put into an extraordinary situation when his wife is kidnapped while both are on a business trip to Paris. Ford must go beyond his limitations as a private citizen to solve the kidnapping and ends up getting involved in a criminal conspiracy in the process. This is a great little thriller with some classic scenes. Polanski and Ford both do a fantastic job of never letting the main character tread into action-hero territory, keeping the suspense alive by allowing the audience to see themselves in the protagonist’s shoes by constantly asking themselves what they would do if put in said situation. My only huge qualm with the film is its technical quality. There’s some interesting shots and cutting work in play. Yet overall, the film looks not only plain, but boring. Still a successfully thrilling film.

GRADES:           B+            * * * * / * * * * *           7.8 / 10.0

 

“Stagecoach” (John Ford) – 1939

With this grand tale of high adventure, John Ford created, perhaps, the mother of all westerns. A true motley crew of passengers, including a marshall, a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor and an fugitive outlaw, must take a stagecoach through volatile indian country. They must put aside their differences, band together and survive the journey, together. Classic films from the golden age of cinema rarely display such excitement and raw adventure. Ford’s portrait of the separate characters forming a courageous bond, though certainly not without turmoil, is the strongest prospect of the film. The audience really becomes a member of the journey. It’s not difficult to understand why this film, among others, inspired an entire generation of kids playing cowboys and indians. The film also features some great performances, the standout being Thomas Mitchell’s Oscar-winning work as the comic and philosophical doctor struggling with his demons.

GRADES:           A-            * * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           9.2 / 10.0

 

 

Now, since it has been a time since I authored one of these posts, I’ve obviously seen a lot more than three films since the last one. Therefore, I thought I’d put up my ratings and simply say a few words on the other features that I viewed.

 

 

“The Last Emperor” (Bernardo Bertolucci) – 1987

Certainly a gorgeous-looking epic which has some well-directed scenes, however lacking a strong protagonist or a worthy third act.

GRADES:           B            * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           7.4 / 10.0

 

“The Beach” (Danny Boyle) – 2000

By far, the worst outing of Danny Boyle’s entire career. A true misstep from beginning to end, with flaccid characters that seek out a psuedo-“Lord of the Flies” style of Spring Break.

GRADES:           C-            * * / * * * * *           3.6 / 10.0

 

“Suspiria” (Dario Argento) – 1977

A true horror classic with some highly influential camerawork and one hell of an unorthodox and all together harrowing musical score.

GRADES:           B+            * * * * / * * * * *           8.0 / 10.0

 

“Flirting with Disaster” (David O’Russell) – 1996

O’Russell is definitely a director who has gotten better with age. This film is a lot of fun with an extensive cast, but is just too goofy to be taken seriously.

GRADES:           B+            * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           6.8 / 10.0


“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” (Alex Gibney) – 2005

The breakout film for rockstar documentary director, Alex Gibney, which uncovers corruption with excitement and poise.

GRADES:           B+           * * * * / * * * * *           7.8 / 10.0

 

“Iron Man 2” (Jon Favreau) – 2010

This sequel, lacking the wit and excitement of the original, doesn’t quite flush the franchise down the toilet, but makes it a lot less reputable.

GRADES:           C-           * * / * * * * *           4.0 / 10.0

 

“Catch-22” (Mike Nichols) – 1970

I’m usually always up for a good war/political satire, which this is. However, the plot is so insanely convoluted that it’s just downright confusing, but not in a good way.

GRADES:           B           * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           7.2 / 10.0

 

“Trade” (Marco Kreuzpainter) – 2007

A compelling, yet overly self-righteous, thriller about sex trafficking features Kevin Kline in a role with nearly no comedy and one really weird and unbalanced ending.

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

 

“Cool World” (Ralph Bakshi) – 1992

Ridiculously bad on all accounts. This movie makes “Space Jam” look like an undisputed masterpiece.

GRADES:           D           * / * * * * *           2.4 / 10.0

 

“All the King’s Men” (Robert Rossen) – 1949

A true acting showcase. Obviously superior to the remake, yet still not coming close to grasping the depth and insight of the novel they’re both based on.

GRADES:           B           * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           7.0 / 10.0

 

“The Adventures of Robin Hood” (Michael Curtiz) – 1936

Definitely, the best film I’ve ever seen by Michael Curtiz. Like “Stagecoach,” it’s a source of pure inspiration for imagination and adrenaline.

GRADES:           A-           * * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           9.0 / 10.0

 

“Dodsworth” (William Wyler) – 1936

This early work by one of my favorite directors can be dry and unentertaining a times, but features great production value and an extremely satisfying climax.

GRADES:           B+            * * * * / * * * * *           7.8 / 10.0