Sunday, 31 January 2010

Minnie Driver


Happy Birthday to

Minnie Driver

40 today


Bursting onto the scene as Matt Damon upper crust girlfriend in Good Will Hunting Minnie's never really had the opportunity to build on that terrific start, mainly due to a rather poor choice of films. She has done better in TV, with "The Riches" affording some kudos, and she has a role in the baity Betty Anne Waters so may get some attention for that later this year.

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Saturday, 30 January 2010

Film News (30/01/2010)

Sundance has been hogging all the headlines this week with the first reactions and aquisitions flying everywhere you look. You want uncomfortable violence - you got it! - or teenage lesbians - everywhere you look! - or pot smoking extravoganza's - this is Sundance! Away from Utah there have been some interesting stories, and of course it's time to catch up with the shuffling in UK release schedules.

Selma

Lee Daniels is curently riding high with Precious opening this weekend here and should receive a number of high profile Oscar nods on Tuesday morning. So it's no surprise that his next project is picking up some heavy weight casting. The project, Selma, concerns the civil rights movement during the 1960's and Robert De Niro has signed up to play the infamous Alabama Governor George Wallace - one of the biggest obstacles to ending segregation. It should certainly be an involving experience, although I suspect it will also be a tough ride.


Lee with Precious star Gabby Sidibe.

Click on the jump for deranged killers, masked vigilantes, intergalactic romances (two of them) and other affairs of the heart.



Another Year

But first my number 14 in the top 20 most anticipated films for 2010 was Mike Leigh's untitled project with Imelda Staunton and Jim Broadbent. Well, we may still know nothing about it, but it is, possibly, titled. As Another Year. Make of those crytic words what you will.

Avatar

In case you hadn't heard James Cameron's sci-fi epic has just hit an importnat box office milestone. It's only broken the record for international receipts, passing Titanic on Tuesday. Expect it to pass the US domestic record in the next couple of weeks too. Admittedly it isn't close to the biggest box office draw of all time once you factor in ticket price inflation and the 3D premium, but that's still quite an achievement that will take some years to be broken. Or at least until Cameron turns his attention to Avatar 2.

Dream House

Daniel Craig, and family, will be moving into the house belonging to a psychotic murderer sometime in 2011. Luckily his next door neighbour, the newly cast Naomi Watts, will be on hand to offer sound advice and dire warnings. She was in the Funny Games remake so she probably knows what she's talking about.

Passengers

I'm not sure whether this qualifies as an addition to the intelligent sci-fi boom, but Gabriele Muccino has signed on to direct the next Keanu Reeves project. Set on a autopilotted space ship Reeves is awoken from his cryogenics chamber some 70 years early and faced with the terrifying propect of growing old alone wakes up a beautiful - yet to be cast - woman. (I's go ape if I we her). The idea has some promise so I'll wait to see how the script balances out the potential pitfalls. i.e. being incredibly boring, or having a weird monster.

The Shadow

Sam Raimi hasn't announced what his first non Spider-Man movie will be now he's been ousted from the franchise, but that won't stop the rumours from drifting around the internet. This week he's said to be considered the big screen adaptation of pulp hero The Shadow. There has been a Shadow movie before (with Alec Baldwin!) but luckily no-one will be comparing any work Raimi does with that, although the original radio series was narrated by Orson Welles so perhaps there is a big challenge to face.

Take This Waltz

Essentially a simple love triangle drama with a married woman having an affair with the man across the street the script has still managed a high profile place on 2009's Black List. No surprise then to see it's been picked up, and with Sarah Away From Her Polley at the helm. Two sides of the triangle have been cast - Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams - and a big name announcement for the third is expected soon.

Release Date News

The Lovely Bones - Causing a disappointting mess in my Tuesday trailer continuity was the sudden shift of Peter Jackson's latest epic - presumably to allow the underwhelming US response to be out of our heads when it opens. Take revenge against your killer on 19 February 2010.

Ondine - Colin Farrell takes in the leading (human) role in this drama about a mermaid caught in a fisherman's net. Don't let this be the one that got away on 05 March 2010.

Shutter Island - Moving back for The Lovely Bones is Martin Scorsese's return to pulp B-movies. Leo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo will investiagte the mysterious prisoners in the titular asylum. Don't be patient 67 on 12 March 2010.

Wild Target - It's a comedy. Starring Rupert Grint from Harry Potter as an apprentice hitman with Emily Blunt as his rival. Why am I even vaguely interested? Because Bill Nighy is training him. Inspired. Take a potshot on 09 April 2010.

New York, I Love You - I've waited a long time to see the sequel to Paris, Je T'aime, in fact it was one of the first films I showed a trailer for back in September 2008. I hear it isn't quite as good - but we don't get enough collections of shorts in British Cinemas so I'm right there. Fall in love with your favourite city on 16 April 2009.

Inception - The second schedule change for Leo sees this trippy Christopher Nolan picture move to a mid summer release, probably down to high expectations for it's box office potential. Steal from your dreams on 16 July 2010.

Knight and Day - But it will face competition from the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action comedy opening on the same day. I wonder which of these will lose their nerve... Have your date go very wrong on 16 July 2010.

Eagle of the Ninth - I know there is probably a great deal of pathos and spectacle to be had in the adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliffe's seminal Roman Legion novel, but it's got Channing Tatum in it so I guess it will be sold on the torso. Find your lost Legion on 10 September 2010.

Thor - Occupying the space left by Spider-Man 4 was an easy decision for Marvel's Norse superhero. Should give it ample opportunity to take an early hold of next year Box Office championship. By Odin's Staff I'll see this on 06 May 2011.

Spider-Man 4 wasn't the only film to disappear from the schedules during the last month. Rod Lurie's original source adaptation of Straw Dogs has also lost it's UK release - that's the third time so it's getting to be so much of a habit I doubt I'll believe the next date.



Some gratuitous shots of Channing Tatum in Eagle of the Ninth.

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Gene Hackman


Happy Birthday to

Gene Hackman

80 today


If there was a shock with Katherine Ross hitting 70 yesterday then Gene's 80th is even more amazing. As a cinema icon few can match his Popeye Doyle or Harry Caul - even his Lex Luthor is the template for the role. He retired from acting 6 years ago and has spent much of that time writing and painting, it's a shame that his last few films were duds, but if he's enjoying himself I'm happy.

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Friday, 29 January 2010

Out this week (29/01/2010)

I don't think any of the studios checked with each other before deciding on their releases for this week. It's like they all forgot there was a fifth Friday in January. There has to be a simple excuse like that to explain why there is only one bit box office contender and one major indie release. Sure there are a few foreign language pics for their respective audiences, but ultimately it's a choice between Mel Gibson's return to the screens and our film of the week: Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.



Adoration

The usually reliable Atom Egoyam misfires with this study of a boy who misrepresents his life story, adding elements of international terrorism then publices his dilemmas on the internet. Whilst it could be an interesting conceit, the impact of internet storytelling has perhaps been utilised better in last years Afterschool.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○



Breathless

Actor-writer-director Yang Ik-Joon can justifiable claim the lions share of the credit for his debut feature about victims of abuse and broken homes finding a connection. This realist drama may lurch towards a predictable violent finale but the journey looks more than worth taking.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Edge of Darkness

Mel Gibson is back in his first starring role since 2002's Signs playing a Boston detective who winesses his daughter's assassination then must work out who did it and why. The trailer indicates government conspiracies, pounding car chases and cliche's galore. Watch at your own risk.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Our Beloved Month of August

Portuguese comedy which has proved it's popularity in a string of international film festivals, as well as the Portuguese Golden Globes. Concerns a family/folk band during the summer season and beach front gigs it's the sort of light affair which could cross over well, unfortunately the lack of subtitled trailers may count against it.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.

This time last year Precious was just beginning to get good notices at the Sundance festival. Throughout the year it's not just mainatained that buzz but looks likely to win an Supporting Actress Oscar for Mo'Nique and a nomination in the film, director, lead actress and adapted screenplay categories. Not bad for a film from the director of Shadowboxer.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●●●○○○

Rann

Massively popular Bollywood look at the intersection between media and politics. It's had a rough ride getting to the screen, perhaps best typified by the way the Government have refused the film permission to use the key song in any publicity (as it samples the Indian National Anthem).

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

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Katharine Ross


Happy Birthday to

Katharine Ross

70 today


Ms Ross will always be a significant played in the history of film due to her high point in the late sixties with two knockout performances in The Graduate and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in close succession. However she was never able to take that momentum and maintain a sustained career, or maybe she just didn't want to. Also notable is her enduring relationship with Sam Elliott, still going strong after 30 years it has to be the model on which Hollywood cuples should be formed.

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Boys are Back

2009. Dir: Scott Hicks. Starring: Clive Owen, Laura Fraser, Emma Booth, George MacKay and Emma Lung. ●●○○○



Watching two films back to back is always a dangerous option. Inevitably one will be better than the other, and the lesser film will therefore seem even more inferior than it actually is. The Boys are Back suffered this weekend in comparison with the far superior Brothers (reviewed yesterday).

This is partly due to some minor similarities in the subject matter of the piece. Both films address the grieving process and how families must build themselves up again following bereavement, however where the pain in Brothers seems both futile and real in The Boys are Back it is hollow and manipulative.

The film is a reworking of Simon Carr's memoir about how he rebuilt his life after the passing of his second wife, and how the family coped using a just say yes strategy to parenting. No doubt the original biograph details the effects of his wife's untimely battle with cancer and introduces us to the dilemmas of single parent families in a slow and measured way. I would like to read it, especially as the adapatation has butchered all the build up. No sooner than Clive Owen's wife picks a little black number to wear to a party she's doubling up with a look of intense concentration. Five minutes and several hospital and home care scenes later we're at the burial and Owen is beginning to cloud his relationship with his mother in law about how to bring up his son.


We are then subjected to a number of cloying scenes with no narrative flow. There's a road trip, some days at school, Owen's son from his first marriage visiting and some frantic juggling of work and family pressures. But you never get a sense that anything happens between these scenes. Sure there must be a point when Owen adopts his just say yes attitude, but we never see it, nor do we explore the reasoning behind it. There's a tentative romance which we only realise it's going to be a tentative romance because the boys respond and later the elder boy (played by George MacKay) makes a life changing decision withou letting the audience in on how he made it.

Does the always say yes system work? We don't know - sure we know that it irritates other mothers, and that the kids respond by trashing the house - but we don't know whether they respect his authority as a parent, or whether they need any structure. We don't know if their hog heaven turns into a literal hog hell, or whether how the dynamic changes over time. We don't even know if there is any attempt to resolve the younger boys periods of depression following his mother's death (he lies down and does nothing for half an hour every day according to Owen, but there's never a hint of counselling or even anything more than a mild curiousity).

It's not a completely dreadful film. Owen does a reasonable job; luckily they kept his character Brtish so he didn't have to fail putting on an Aussie accent. Laura Fraser is also fine as his wife in the early scenes as well as appaering in Owen imagination - God, I know that's a terrible cliche but at least she's not too bad at these points. MacKay also shows some promise.

Grieg Fraser's photography is also quite nice, capturing the beautiful Australia landscape and the closeness of the garden. He especially likes playing with light and water. But this is dull work when compared to his extraordinary efforts in Bright Star.

These pluses combine with the knowledge that at least it's better than Scott Hicks' last 2 films (No Reservations and the truly awful Stephen King adaptation Hearts in Atlantis) to give the film 2 blobs out of five. Saying that if I see a worse film this year I will be very disappointted with myself.

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Mikhail Baryshnikov


Happy Birthday to

Mikhail Baryshnikov

62 today


Dance is not a medium that I pretend to understand, or even care for much, but few can argue with the power and depth of performers like Mikhail, who for most of the 70's, following his defection from Russia in 1974, was hailed as one of the greatest male dancers of all time. Here is a small excerpt from his famed Nutcracker in 1977.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Brothers

2009. Dir: Jim Sheridan. Starring: Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, Sam Shepard and Bailee Madison. ●●●●○



The effects of war on the home front and familial relations of warriors has been a common dramatic device that can be traced back to the traditions of Greek theatre. As a narrative techinque is can be used as a shorthand for pro-war propaganda, for bold broad statements about the futility of conflict or for trying to treat the subjects as disconnected to the war, as men first not as an extension of the rights and wrongs of the particualr war and to remind the audience that the soldiers are only trained to fight and kill and not to deal with the psychological after-effects.

Brothers clearly fits into that third category. The legality or morality of the conflict in Afghanistan is therefore completely ignored, instead the film focusses on Marine Captain Tobey Maguire's deployment and how his family cope first with him being reported as missing in action and then the surprising aftermath.



Maguire is the elder of the films titular brothers with Jake Gyllenhaal as his lost younger brother. For every positive character trait exhibited by Maguire Gyllenhaal is able to show the opposite. Maguire is a family man, with an abiding love for wife Natalie Portman and a respect for his father Sam Shepard (following him into the military) whereas Gyllenhaal is a borderline alcoholic ex-con (just released at the start of the picture) with father issues and no long term relationship on the horizon.

I don't want to spoil what happens in the third act, but if you've seen Susanne Bier's original you will know that following capture and emotional torture by the Taliban Maguire's character returns to the family with deep scars and pathological jealousy of how Gyllenhaal has reformed himself in the wake of the tragedy and got closer to Portman. By the end the roles of the brothers, whilst not reversed, are certainly more blurred.

The story veers towards melodrama at many points, but the grounded and tender performances more than keep that in check - our leading trio are all superb with Maguire's wide eyed intensity adding to the characters histrionics as he processes the appalling indignities he has endured, whilst Portman's is torn between the man she loved but no longer recognises and his brother who is slowly emerging as a better man.

The realism of the family scenes are such that we fully believe in the shifting dynamics and Sheridan's sensitive handling is able to succesfully balance the themes of jealousy, redemption and how we are shaped by our parents.

There are problems though. There were a couple of scenes, which I felt didn't fit into the overall picture - Carey Mulligans house visit complete with heavy handed dream references and freaky eyed baby seemed unneccessary and the surprise visit of Gyllenhaal's pickup to a kids birthday party seemed to be unsurprising to either her of the family. On the other hand other aspects could have been extended. For instance the rebuilding of the relationship between Gyllenhaal and Shepard seemed rushed, like there was a scene missing and I would have liked to have seem more trust built between them.

Overall this is a great film that really understands and empathises with it's central protagonists without judging them. It deserves to be lauded and remembered as this conflicts Coming Home.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Tuesday Trailers - The Blind Side

I suppose I've held on long enough. When I posted 4 trailers for films that weren't originally on my radar but were getting lots of award attention I didn't include this Sandra Bullock vehicle, believing that it might not be needed. A Golden Globe and SAG award later and there's no point in pretending that Ms Bullock won't be at the Kodak this year. So I must admit I am a little intrigued by The Blind Side.



The Blind Side opens on 12 March 2010.

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David Strathairn


Happy Birthday to

David Strathairn

61 today


A consummate character actor David has had few opportunities to take centre stage himself, although when he does he manages to hold it with his powerful presence, just look at his frequent collaborations with John Sayles or his Oscar nommed performance as Ed Murrow for proof. Right now he's got a minor role in Howl which premiered at Sundance at the weekend and he's also among the classy cast for The Tempest.

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Saturday, 23 January 2010

Film News (23/01/2010)

Slightly less news this week when compared to the overstuffed article we had last week. Still there's a fair selection of stories. We'll start with the most intriguing and move on to the good guys after the jump.

Maleficent

Tim Burton's clearly enjoyed his reunion with Disney on Alice in Wonderland, so much so he's started work on a Sleeping Beauty re-imagining from the view of poisoned spinning wheel providing Maleficent. Oddly I can't remember having seen Sleeping Beauty as a boy, although obviously i know the story, so I don't have the original as a point of reference but the idea of a Grimm fairytale with the villian as the centre is quite delicious.

Obviously Helena Bonham Carter will up for the lead, but let's hope some non-Burton regulars get a chance.

Read on for dancing penguins, gun toting vicars, civil rights leaders and something suicidally depressing.



Gods of Carnage

In Roman Polanski news this week both sides of the abuse scandal have been digging in their heels. On the prosecution U.S. Courts have declined Polanski's request to be sentenced in absentia - probably indicating they want to lock him up. On the defence his wife has been letting on about Polanski's plans to film Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage. The play has had tremendous success in it's native Zurich as well as the West End and Broadway picking up a few Tonys on the way. It's a four hander about two well educated wealthy couples fighting about their children (among many other things) during one dinner party. Polanski has done well with small casts before (see Death and the Maiden) so this could be oe to watch, assuming he gets the chance to do it.

Happy Feet 2

The original Happy Feet was surprisingly adult for a cartoon, with some very realistic elements of how the animal kingdom is full of a violent struggle to survive and the effects of global warming on extreme environments. I doubt the sequel will be quite as viscereal but at least it's bagging an interesting cast. This week Brad Pitt and Matt Damon both signed on. I don't know if they'll be dancing penguins, but I'll let you know when I know.

Labor Day

During an interview with ESPN's Bill Simmons Jason Reitman has mentioned a number of porjects he's currently working on, including both a football and a hockey film, but coming next will be Labor Day, based on the novel by Joyce Maynard. It's a coming of age tale about a boy who struggles to connect with either his peer group or his family, especially his mother who is harbouring a deep secret. Juno proves Reitman has form with this age group, and the virtually agoraphobic mother could be a juicy role for any actresses of a certain age.

Machine Gun Preacher

Gerard Butler would like to remind us all that he can act. (Looking at his back-catalogue of drab rom-coms and mindless action you'd be forgiven for thinking he can't.) He will do this by starring in the biopic of Reverend Sam Childers (left), the drug-taking biker who found God then moved to Sudan to help protect orphans from Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army; which he has done by forming a civilian militia. Whilst I suspect there's a powerful and interesting story to tell in Childers' life I very much doubt that Butler and the baggage he carries with him is the best way to tell it.

Martin Luther King Biopic

Steven Spielberg's untitled Martin Luther King biopic (he's definitely producing but no confirmed director is attached) is moving on following the hiring of Ronald Harwood to script with unlimited access to the estate. South African Harwood has a fascinating and quality pedigree including The Pianist, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and The Browning Version so expect some high quality scribbling.

Ang Lee and James Schamus project

Lee and Schamus have collaborated on a number of projects over the years including The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and last years Taking Woodstock, so it was good to hear in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter this week that Schamus is already working on thier next script together. Although he has curiously described it as "the good old, tragic, suicidally depressing Ang!" Which presumably means less of this:



and more of this:


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Hill Hunting (Week 2, Day 6)

Melksham, like many market towns of England, was formed by a wide flowing river (of of the many Avons), and as a result there are no big hills in town, and some areas are prone to minor flooding.

So hill training is a nightmare. There is a great hill on the Calne road (only about 10 minutes from me) but you'd be a fool to run up and down it in the dark. So I just went to the local park and went round it a few times (there is a slight incline so I'm letting meyself get away with it...)

Overall it was 3.8 miles in 36 minutes. Which is hopeless - and I can't even try to use hills as an excuse. Long run tomorrow!

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Friday, 22 January 2010

Out this week (22/01/10)

There are a couple of films this week that I fancy seeing, and a couple more look quite good too. If you're in the mood for something less mainstream then I would suggest trying Un Prophète, but the film of the week has to be Jim Sheridan's Brothers with it's superb cast list and worthy heritage.



Armoured

Or Armored if you happen to live in the US. The premise to this thriller is really interesting, revolving around a security van crew who hijack their own van. With a large portion of the second act taking place with one guard getting cold feet and locking himself inside. Interesting cast too - including Laurence Fishburne and Matt Dillon.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○


The Boys are back

The first of the two films I fancy seeing this week is based on the true tory of Simon Carr, diarist for the Independent (which is my paper of choice). There have been some changes to the story - Australia instead of New Zealand and a sports journalist instead of politics - but the concept of always saying yes as a parent has stayed the same. Should be a good watch.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●●○○○○


Brothers

The more starrier picture is Jim Sheridan's remake of Suzanne Bier's Brode. Essentially it's a family drama about the damage of war both to the men who fight it and to their families left behind in the proud tradition of The Best Years of Our Lives and Coming Home. If it comes close to the power of those films it's well worth the ticket price.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●●●●○○

Ninja Assassin

US based martial arts movie starring South Korea's biggest crossover pop star Rain and directed by James V for Vendetta McTeigue.. All about a man turning his back on the ophanage that raised him. Did brisk business in the States, so expect some tills to ring this weekend.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○

Un Prophète

Just this week Jacques Audiard's powerful prison drama has been listed among the final 9 for the Best Foreign Language Oscar this year, and it's hotly tipped for one of the nominations. It concentrates on a young Arab man (Tahar Rahim) forced to compromise his morals and his ideas whilst inside.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○


Veer

Hindi movie set during the 1800's and described as an epic love story of a warrior. Extremely bombastic trailer with some ananchronistic costuming and dastardly British supporting roles.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○

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John Hurt


Happy Birthday to

John Hurt

70 today


The iconic Hurt, who's devaited between chest bursting sci-fi to Quentin Crisp, maintains his very ecclectic and diverse repertoire in his 70th year. Last week he was the foul mouthed Ol Man Peanut in 44 inch Chest and later this year he returns to the Harry Potter franchise as the wand salesman. Personally I'm most excited for the collection of shorts New York, I Love You, which now has a UK release date.

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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Geena Davis


Happy Birthday to

Geena Davis

54 today


A few days ago I was asked in the comments whether I'd seen Thelma & Louise, I held on replying until today so I can laud the greatest moment of Ms Davis' career to date. As the put upon housewife who blossoms during following an acto of self defence and a wild escape from the law Davis exhibits a range we've hardly had a chance to experience. In fact, since the late 90's we've only seen her in the multiplexes for the Stuart Little franchise. Will someone please bring Geena back from TV?

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Crime and Punishment (Week 2, Day 4)

In a strange case of karma I was severely punished this morning for my burst of anger yesterday, or maybe I was punished for trying to think I could re start running where I left off 3 months ago and be just as good. Either all my legs are like jelly - will take tomorrow off.

6.1 miles in 56 minutes. Which is a reasonable 6.6 mph, which is OK.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Up in the Air

2009. Dir: Jason Reitman. Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman and Amy Morton. ●●●●●



Jason Reitman has a bizarre talent of hitting the zeitgeist. In his last film - Juno - it was largely due to the up-to-the-minute hipster dialogue from Diablo Cody. But in his masterful follow-up we are drawn to the timeliness of the storytelling, and it's connection to the current financial crisis. Reitman is well aware of this, using brief interviews with people who have recently been made redundant, that insight into real lives works well to underline how dramatic and devastating losing your job can be.

Up in the Air cannot be so easily defined. It is a movie about recession and joblessness. The main character Ryan Bingham (expertly played by George Clooney) may work for a company that provide redundancy outsourcing, a firer-for-hire if you will, but it's also about resistance and acceptance of change.



Bingham, in his own way, is wholely resistant to change. He lives his life as detached as possible, spending over two thirds of the year travelling and quietly toting up his air miles (as he aims to achieve a high water mark). During the film he encounters three women who challange his lifestyle in different ways; Anna Kendrick who aims to shake up the company procedure, fellow traveller Vera Farmiga who offers Bingham a glimpse of happiness and sister Amy Morton whose no-nonsense cynicism hits to Bingham's core. It is through the developement of these relationships that Bingham begins to understand his place and his future.

For me the film worked as a quality piece of cinema - I wasn't in tears at the end or desperately wanting to be part of the action - but in a detached way I could see the depth of the filmmaking. The conversations are both humourous, more so than you'd imagine, and deeply true. When Kendrick and Farmiga discuss the qualities they need in a man, and the consequent differences between their demands, there's a believable aspect to it, and the underplaying of the lines really works.

In fact there isn't a weak performance in the film, and certainly the leading trio will heartily deserve the Oscar nods coming their way, especially Clooney deconstructing his own image and Farmiga who nails the tough exec prepared to take the best of both worlds. Their chemistry together is palpable, albeit one that's used as a major plot device.

The editing and cinematography is largely detached, fitting the airport lounge feel of the film, and the design is also suitably spartan.

Overall the film manages to be something we don't see very often, an adult comedy which isn't afraid to address issues that really worry us in the 21st century, as well as being a workplace drama that throwsback to the star-driven studio output of the 1950's. I loved it.

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Sins of Pride and Wrath (Week 2, Day 3)

This morning I went out for another jog, through the sleet and the cold.

For those of you who remember what it was like back in Summer '09 here on Runs Like a Gay you will know I blog all of my training runs. The official reason is because I originally intended this blog as a way of maintaining my enthusiasm when training. Running 5 times a week can be dull, bt I can look at the paces and distances from my training runs and see how I'm improving. Which leads me on to the real reason, the deadly sin of pride. I ran 5 miles this morning. Good for me.

On to the wrath. I have a problem with my i-pod. During the tour last year someone dropped a kit bag on it and the screen broke, which means I can no longer programme my Nike+ in order to plan my training. I can just start a run with it, though so yesterday I did that and at the end when I stopped the run it told me how far I'd gone. Today I managed to press the wrong button and there was no verbal data. I was very very angry. Wrath.

So, having guaranteed my place in hell today I am going to look at alternative ways of measuring my time and distance. (btw today was about 5 miles in about 45 minutes!)

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Tuesday Trailers - Leap Year

For the second week in a row I'm going to use Tuesday's trailers as a showcase for romantic comedies, with Leap Year getting the chance to shine. If you could accuse it of shining, that is. It's opened to disastrous US reviews with a very unimpressive $9m box office take. It may do a little better over here, with it's rural Irish setting, but it certainly won't be a star making release for Amy Adams, who perhaps deserves better than this sort of blarney.



Leap Year opens on 26 February 2010.

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Pounding the pavement (Week 2, Day 2)

It's been a while but I've finally managed to pluck up the courage and go running again. Needless to say it was very cold and very very dark this morning. There are some moments on my regular route where I had to rely on the camber of the tarmac to ensure I was going in the right direction!

I managed 6.1 miles in 55 minutes, which is just less than 9 minute miles. The target is to do the Stratford Marathon in under 4 hours, so that's the right sort of pace (just need to keep that going...)

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Monday, 18 January 2010

20 for 2010 - Robin Hood

And so, a full 17 days since we started, here is my most anticipated film for 2010, hitting the bullseye is Ridley Scott's Robin Hood.



Perhaps it's an odd choice, delayed due to wrong colour leaves and with a revolving door for the cast list (Sienna Miller as Maid Marian - ugh, Vanessa Redgrave as Eleanor of Aquitaine - dropped out) there was lots to make you worry. There was also the Ridley Scott factor. I am not a fan of Scott. Whilst he has made some of the greatest films of the 20th century I think that's more luck than judgement - when things go right they go very right, but when things go wrong they go very wrong.

Consider his previous collaborations with Russell Crowe:

2000 Gladiator
2006 A Good Year
2007 American Gangster
2008 Body of Lies


Even in this small selection we can see massive highs (Gladiator) and stinking lows (A Good Year) and the others were closer to misses than hits.


But I believe this will be another high water mark. The trailer conciously echoes the feel of Gladiator and with Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River, A Knighht's Tale) on scripting duties hopefully it will be tight and without the wandering passages Scott likes to include.

The cast is also top notch, Crowe remains one of my favourite actors. His performance in even the weakest of films manages to be packed with a nuance and power that few of his generation can manage. Cate Blanchett is the perfect Marian, with the right mix of haughtiness and gentility. Casting group of largely unknowns as the Merry Men and current go-to baddie Mark Strong in a villianous role only help.

Finally I will confess a deep and abiding passion for the tales of Robin Hood. As a child one of my most thumbed books was about this extraordinary figure from English folklore. I have since devoured every version of this story, from the superb Curtiz film (the best so far) to the current BBC afternoon TV series via Disney and Kevin Costner. It's no coincidence that I ran the Robin Hood marathon last year.

The competition...

Thank you so much to Alex, Tom and Andrew for participating. Unfortunately you all missed the mark. I can understand why you guessed the films you did, The Last Airbender, Harry Potter and Toy Story 3 all look like interesting projects, and are all big summer releases. I will probably see M. Night Shyamalan's latest, but probably grudgingly. Whilst I want the Potter films to do well, I've only seen one at the cinema after having hated the first book. Talking about hating I've avoided Pixar at the cinema since my excruciating experience at Monster's Inc - I don't want to talk about it - saying that I loved Wall-E when I saw it on video and Finding Nemo is now one of my favourite films of the last 10 years so I may try and go again.

I suppose I could have given more clues, although Robin Hood was my most talked about film in the News posts from 2009, and today's birthday was no coincidence...

Anyway as no-one won, but you're all good readers who frequently make nice comments, I'm going to award a draw. I'll send small packs of minstrels - a taster rather than a chance to gorge - to each of you. Please e-mail addresses to ben-j-thomas@hotmail.co.uk and I'll pop them in the post to you.

Cheers

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Kevin Costner


Happy Birthday to

Kevin Costner

55 today


Costner's slow build up to his Hollywood career is well documented, the chance encounter with Richard Burton who told him to follow his dreams, the soft-core debut, the cutting room floor of The Big Chill, all fascinating steps towards a successful leading man appeal. Still his choices since he made it have been rocky at best and there's little on the horizon that looks like it's been worth the wait. Mind you, for reasons that will become abundantly clear later his birthday today is somewhat prescient.

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Sunday, 17 January 2010

20 for 2010 - Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps

Putting a sequel in the second place in my countdown is not just about having a 2 at 2 but it's certainly an interesting coincidence as we move to Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.



Actually the timing for this is pretty good because Stone's been in the news this week preparing people for his upcoming true history of America. Without risking turning this post into a political tirade I welcome that a Network is prepared to make a documentary series about how the history of the 20th century has been shaped by a large number of factors and that very result has a build up, but I'm not sure that Stone is the man to do it. Purely because he's already despised by the right. It needs a level headed academic historian to front a series like that, one that the lunatic fringe will not be able to throw historical accusations at.

Some of these accusations will be down to the back catalogue of Stone's feature films. From his (anti) Vietnam trilogy to the portraits of 2 former Republican Presidents, his left wing credentials are worn proundly on his sleeve. In Wall Street Stone dared to hold up a mirror to the corruption of big business. His timely return to America financial capital will hopefully once again remind people of the mandacity of the traders and hedge fund managers that have slipped most of the world into recession.



The story will pick up 20 years after the riginal film with Michael Douglas as the infamous Gordon Gekko just getting out of the chokey for insider trading. His daughter (Carey Mulligan) is dating Shia LaBeouf, so naturally when laBeouf discovers some dodgy goings on at the firm, with villain Josh Brolin behind them, he turns to the penitent Gekko to help him investigate. Original cast members Charlie Sheen and Sylvia Miles also return for cameos.

If the plot sounds like a bit tired try to remember the first film was essentially a cliched thriller, too. The devil will be in the detail and how the mirror holds up to the reality of life in Wall Street today. Let's hope Stone has lost none of his conviction in the last couple of decades.

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Saturday, 16 January 2010

20 for 2010 - Love and Other Drugs

Getting ever closer to the top spot with the 3rd place Love and Other Drugs.



One of the reasons, oh go on then it's the main reason, that I want to see Ed Zwick's latest film is residual love for Brokeback Mountain. Here we have Jack and Lureen Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway) reuniting; only this time they will actually fall in love - no beards necessary. Both of the two have proven themselves capable of a wide range of roles and I suspect both have fans who would be prepared to watch them sit and read the phone book.



There other reasons to get excited. For starters Ed Zwick may be best known for his bombastic historical dramas, but lets remember he cut his teeth producing television dramadies like "thirtysomething" and "My So-Called Life". This experience will be extremely helpful in adapting Jamie Reidy's bestselling memoir about his life as a drug salesman during the advent of Viagra.

Which leads nicely to the fact that this is a film about drugs and sex. With lots of viagra jokes. There must be some laughs to be had in there.

There's also a top notch supporting cast, with Hank Azaria, Judy Greer and Oliver Platt among many others.

Although saying that the main reason I'm anticipating this so much is still Jake and Anne. (Especially Jake)

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Film News (16/01/10)

It's been an odd week for headlines, with some massive upcoming films that I've chosen to ignore. This could be because they're oddly dull - hello to Harrison Ford who's really keen on Indiana Jones 5 - or because I think the news is really bad - Sony are making a big mistake dropping Raimi and Maguire from Spider-man 4, don't they realise it was studio pressure that caused the drop in quality of the last film? Saying that there have been lots of other stories bubbling away...

The Chancellor Manuscript

Last year you couldn't move for news on Robert Ludlum adaptations. We had the Parsifal Mosaic linked to Ron Howard and David Cronenburg picking up the Matarese Circle and neither were a surprise following the massive populairty of the Bourne series. Both projects have gone quiet so this week it was the turn of The Chancellor Manusript about a novelist who gets entangled in a dark and dangerous plot to forever alter US policy (I'm guessing it's a foreign policy, or related to big business and not, say, about fishing rights).

Marc Forster has signed on to direct, clearly getting over the ribbing he got for Quantum of Solace, and Leonardo DiCaprio is looking to play the titular Peter Chancellor.



This is Robert Ludlum, by the way, complete with bizarre cigarette holder.


Consent to Kill

You hear a title like Consent to Kill and you can probably guess the plot... No?.. Well it's about a CIA assassin with a cowardly boss and a massive price on his head. Sound familiar? Of course it does, it's like a big mess of cliches, but apparently it is serious. We'll just have to wait and see what Devil's Advocate scribe Jonathan Lemkin can do with a premise like that.

Held by the Taliban/Nemesis

OK, so there's nothing David Rhode's diary of 9 months held in a Taliban stronghold has in common with Mark Millar's new graphic novel, except that both have some crazy rumours going round about who might be directing the big screen adaptations.

Kathryn Bigelow and Terrence Malick have both throw their hat in the ring for the former project - that's a big deal as Bigelow is extremely hot right now due to the stong Hurt Locker critical buzz and Malick, who has a superb track record and has never ben known to rush into things, very quickly said he was interested when news of Bigelow's involvement was released. Whichever way that goes it's worth keeping an eye on it.

On Nemesis Millar has announced on his blog that he's in talks with Sam Raimi and Guy Ritchie. That seems unlikely as both we surely be looking carefully at their current slates. Millar work is highly regarded though, so maybe there'll be some shifting to accommodate it.




Kill Bill 3

Quentin Tarantino has been mouthing off about his upcoming films by refusing to say what he's currently working on. He has said the third installment of the Kill Bill anthology is still planned for 2014, ten years after Bill died in volume 2. I can't remember why he wants to go back to the story, or who's turn it will be to wreck bloody revenge, but I expect it will be more self indulgent than enything he's done in the past.

The Outcast

Sadie Jones' novel about the teenage boy struggling to cope with the death of his mother in post-war Britain has been picked up by Blueprint Pictures. The book was a best seller back in early 2008 so it's hardly surprising it's been picked up, but as it has a tendency to focus on small gestures and character appearances to build tension it may be tough to adapt. We'll see.

Will

High concept comedies are very tough to get right, so it's with trepidation I turn to Will about a world where everyone's life is scripted in advance by angels except one day one of the writers quits leaving our hero free (free will geddit??!!) to make his own choices. Paul Rudd is Will, Zack Galifrankis is his striking writer, Little Miss Sunshine creators Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are calling the shots and the script comes from comic Demetri Martin. That's good pedigree and probably a team that can make this work.

Win Win

In the publicity tour for The Last Station Paul Giamatti has blurted out his next film will be Tom McCarthy's follow up to The Visitor. No details have been released about the film and so far everyone, including Paul's publicist is denying it, but it's good to see that soemtimes even the most experienced actors get so excitied about projects they spill the beans to reporters.

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Friday, 15 January 2010

20 for 2010 - Black Swan

Leaping gracefully to number 4 is Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan.



Ballet has often been used as a metaphor for freedom and youth by filmmakers, or as a way of escape. In films as diverse as The Red Shoes and Billy Elliott once the music begins the protagonists can hide away from the reality of the world they live in. So Aronofsky's thriller about the rivalry between professional dancers may subvert that tradition - here the mere act of dancing will focus the tension, not disappate it.



I imagine we could expect nothing less from the director of Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and The Wrestler. His characters are often carried on by forces unknown to them whether it's a drug addiction, the lure of the ring or a fatalistic love affair.

There is also a supernatural element - Natalie Portman's dancing adversary Mila Kunis may be real, or may just be a figment of her imagination. This may also link to the the freedom of creativity and the madness that competitiveness can bring.

Alternatively it could be a bog standard ghost thriller... What do you think? I'm pretty hyped up about it either way.

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Out this week (15/01/10)

There is a film I want to see this week, it's the one I will recommend, but other than that you have to wonder what's going on with the scheduling. Usually in January we are struggling to find the time to see decent films, but this week is a disaster. There are three other studio releases, none of which look remotely palatable - let alone like they're a decent watch. So, if you like a bit of Clooney then Up in the Air is the film for you, otherwise stay at home.



Aayirathil Oruvan

This Tamil movie is helpfully described as a scientific thriller. The trailer, gives more away, as we see 2 archaeologists (Karthik Shivakumar and Reema Sen) investigate the bizarre stone circles on a remote island, only to awaken evil spirits, and deeply annoy the locals. Looks derivative but could be worth a watch.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○



All about Steve

If Sandra Bullock could go back 2 years and choose one project to ditch from her schedule for 2010 it would be this odd stalker "comedy". It's neither the massively popular rom-com nor the massively popular true life tome that may just win her an Oscar nom. It's the other one, the one with Bradley Cooper and Thomas Haden Church, the one that's best avoided.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

The Book of Eli

The end of the world is nigh. Last week we had Viggo showing us how humanity would be stretched to breaking point. This week Denzel shows us we can fight back. I doubt neither film has a good ending, but at least The Road may have some believable characters.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Chance pe Dance

Love story about an out-of-work dancer who with his potential sweetheart helps forge a group of disillusioned schoolchidren into an award winning dance troupe.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

44 inch Chest

Starring a veritable who's who's of middle aged British hardmen (Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt among them) this is a not quite sequel to Sexy Beast from the same writing team of Louis Mellis and David Scinto. Ray's sexy wife run off with a waiter so they kidnap him in revenge. Unfortunately that's where the plan ends and the film starts.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

OSS117: Lost in Rio

Second movie in the french version of Austin Powers, this time he's sent to find a missing professor in Rio (natch). Likeable enough looking comic capers, but nothing to write home about. Jean Dujardin takes the lead role.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Still Walking

Hirokazu Koreeda's film, based on his own novella, follows a doctor and his wife as they return to his childhood home, visit his parents and reminisce on the anniversary of his brother's death. Poignant Japanese drama which received raves at last years Toronto festival.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Up in the Air

Jason Reitman hits the zeitgeist by invoking the spectre of the current financial crisis and the continuous drive to compartmentalize our lives. Getting Clooney to play a warped version of himself is also a major coup.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●●●●●○

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Haiti Earthquake Appeal

Christian Aid has launched an emergency appeal for Haiti after a major earthquake struck the country. Thousands of people are dead, many are buried alive and countless have been left homeless.

We are releasing £100,000 for immediate emergency relief to help those affected, and we hope to send more.

Watch a video of Nick Guttman, Head of Christian Aid's Humanitarian Division, explaining what's happened in Haiti and why we need your help:



The quake, measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale, struck 15km southwest of the capital Port-au-Prince just before 5pm local time on Tuesday. The Christian Aid office building collapsed and three people, including Christian Aid staff, had to be rescued from the rubble. They are shaken but safe.

Listen to our Caribbean regional manager, Judith Turbyne, as she shares the latest information from colleagues in Haiti, including the experiences of Haiti country manager Prospery Raymond and programme officer Abdonnel Doudou who had to be rescued following the collapse of the Christian Aid office: Listen to the audio*

Prospery estimates that in the area of the city where Christian Aid had its office, 97% of the housing has collapsed.

It is still too early to know the full extent of the damage, but Christian Aid is expecting very high loss of life, widespread destruction of homes, schools and other buildings, and major damage to key water, electricity and road systems.

Prospery is also concerned that there may not be enough food in the country to last longer than three to four days.

Christian Aid partners in Haiti are very experienced in emergency response work, and will begin emergency relief activities in the affected areas as soon as possible. The need is massive. People urgently need food, water, blankets, shelter and medical supplies.

Many colleagues from Christian Aid’s local partner organisations are dealing with their own personal tragedies, as well as starting to co-ordinate their disaster assessments and response.

Haiti is already the poorest country in the Americas, ranking lower than Kenya or Bangladesh on the UN’s human development index. Most people in Port-au-Prince live in flimsy slum housing, so an earthquake of this magnitude is catastrophic.

I have been working with Christian Aid taking donations (over the last couple of days). If you can help please go to their site and donate any thing you can.

Thank you.

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

20 for 2010 - Inception

No countdown for 2010 could be complete without my number 5 choice Inception.



Christopher Nolan's twisty looking sci-fi thriller is primed to be a major contender in the '10 summer market. Not linked to a comic book franchise, save that of the auteurial connection to the Dark Knight, it's rumoured to have a budget north of $250m. This will make profitability extremely hard to achieve, although the fan boy anticipation is pretty high, and James Cameron's proved just this month that you don't need a tentpole title to make some cash.



The story, which is being kept very guarded, involves hacking into peoples dreams and stealing intellectual property. This metaphysical angle to the heist movie at least explains the gravity defying action, and folding cities we've been witnessing in the trailers. Nolan has also hinted in interviews that the themes of madness and lost love, as well as the thriller elements are indicative of how persoanl the project is. This is his small movie between Batman films - only it's not small. In fact he's proud to admit it's his biggest challenge to date.

Nolan has assembled a top notch cast with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page leading the pack. This is also a good hint that either this script is fantastic, or there's enough goodwill towards Nolan based on his previous projects that Hollywood elite will sign up to anything with his name on it. Let's face it, whether this turns out to be masterpiece or a very expensive turkey, it's got must-see written all over it.

Don't forget to join in the competition to win chocolates with my countdown. Click on the Minstrels in the top right.

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Emily Watson


Happy Birthday to

Emily Watson

43 today


It's hard to believe but Emily's film debut was in Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves in which she earned the first of her two oscar nominations (the other being for Hilary and Jackie). In the fifteen years since then she has continually been involved in some challenging and beautiful projects, only rarely choosing the easy route. Over the next year we'll see her in the Ricky Gervais comedy Cemetary Junction (as Mrs. Ralph Fiennes) and making a sophie's choice in the Siberian gulags from Within the Whirlwind.

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

20 for 2010 - Competition

When I started the top twenty countdown I promised a competition of sorts. Well here goes:

There are five films left to go in the countdown (which recommences tomorrow), all of them are very well known with quality stars and directors, and 3 already have UK (summer) release dates. I say that only to let you know I don't have any obscure choices in the number 1 spot.

All you have to do is guess what is my most anticipated film for this year.

The winner will get a bag of Minstrels - my cinema snack of choice - as pictured below posted to where-ever you are in the world.

The winner will be the first person to correctly guess the top film. You can guess in the comments any time between now and the number 1 post (on 18 January), if you wait until the day before you will know 4 more films it's not, but someone else might beat you to it, so the whole answer early or late gamble is in play. If no-one gets it right then the highest ranking guess (say the second most anticipated film) will win the prize. I hope that makes sense...

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It's Complicated

2009. Dir: Nancy Meyers. Starring: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski and Lake Bell. ●●○○○



The best thing about a nice romantic comedy is that all it takes is a simple story told reasonably well to make the film a tremendous success. After all we don't want much, just some touching moments as the protagonists slowly realise their feelings for each other. Unfortunately Nancy Meyers does her very best to take a simple story and twists in additional plotlines and characters to such an extent that it can no longer be a joy. It's Complicated, you see.

The basic premise sees divorcee Meryl Streep find herself falling back in lust with her former husband Alec Baldwin following a drunken night of passion. This leads to a torrid affair which must be kept secret from Baldwin's broody second wife, the couple's 20 somethings children and the architect currently vying for Meryl's affection (played by Steve Martin).



I actually quite like the premise, in the centre there's an interesting question about whether you can fall out of love with someone. Meryl and Alec have a shared history together and apart, they know the best and worst sides of each other's temprament, and yet they find themselves inexplicably drawn together again. Perhaps if we just had these two finding each other again then it would have worked. However we have to sit through interminable superfluous scenes. There's the divorced women's flan nights, the therapy session (I really hated that scene) and the long stretches at the Baldwin household. Even the tentative romance with Martin seems to be tacked on the side - perhaps only as a hint of a happy ending for Meryl.

There are some every funny moments - the hotel scene is done with a proper eye for farce and the set up for the family lunch is equally humourous. Both of thee benefit hugely from the performance of John Krasinski (as the future son-in-law) taking the audience surrogate role. Later the whole weed section is well played by all involved. But all of these scenes are so separated by extra rubbish that they are lessened. The whole maxim that every film benefits from cutting half an hour can only be proven by looking at It's Complicated.

There have been a large number of gripes from the critics that the characters in Meyer's work are so removed from relaity that it's impossible to identify with them. And whilst it's true that the porsche driving lawyers and extension building bakery store owners have little in common with me I find that I can easily grasp the dilemmas they have that are important to the thrust of the story. I honestly don't believe that the film would have benefitted if Meryl was fretting about the mortgage payments, in fact the additional struggles would probably have only made the film longer and less interestiong. This also goes for the annoying children - it's clear that their response to finding out about the affair is a critique on modern divorce, especially in wealthy society. These kids, who appear to have been spoiled rotten by both their parents, are merely reacting in the ways that fits their personas - however weird crying together in bed seems.

John Krasinski is clearly the stand-out performer, but that's probable because he always gets the best scenes (and does a great worried look). Alec Baldwin is also great as the philandering father. Meryl is deeply disappointing, opting to over-complicate her performance in order to match the film. We get that she's conflicted by the situation, but she never allows herself to simply say a line without her voice betraying those mixed feelings.

Overall this was a fun few hours, but with significant editing and a more focussed approach it could have been much much better.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

20 for 2010 - The Hereafter

Will number 6 on the list let us know what is in the Hereafter.



The closest Clint Eastwood has come to horror before was his first directorial effort Play Misty for Me, which was essentially a stalker movie. The main draw with Hereafter is that Clint will once again flirt with horror but this time with the supernatural.



To be honest it's hard to see why Eastwood hasn't tried this genre before, after all in a majority of his films there is a throughline of guilt, redemption and forgiveness the sort of concepts that would easily fit with an understanding of what death brings and ensuring you're at peace. I don't know what his personal beliefs are (there's a cynical view of Catholocism in many of the pictures) but it will be curious to see how the 80 year old is able to view death.

The script has some pedigree, coming from The Queen writer Peter Morgan and Matt Damon is returning to Clint for the second film in a row to play a blue-collar American dealing with death in a differnt way from a French journalist (Cecile de France) and a London schoolboy - the one in the picture who's name I don't know.

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Tuesday Trailers - Valentine's Day

I guess I'm mellowing with old age, but Valentine's Day only just missed out on the top 20 films for 2010. Maybe it's the assured hand of rom-com maestro Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman), maybe it's because of the quality cast (Um where to start... Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, Shirley MacLaine and now Kathy Bates has started to appear in the trailer!), maybe it's because this looks like a more polished and diverse version of last years surprise hit hyper-link romance He's Just not That Into You, or maybe it's because this guy and this guy will be getting it on?



Valentine's Day opens on 12 February, which is apparently quite appropriate.

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Luise Rainer


Happy Birthday to

Luise Rainer

100 today


It's a wonderful thing, reaching 100, and I'm sure you'd all like to join me to celebrating the centenary this complex and celebrated German star of the 1930s. She will forever be immortalised for being the first person to win back to back acting Oscars (for The Great Ziegfield and The Good Earth) although sadly the roles dried up soon after this extraodinary run, partly due to her own casting demands.

As it's a special birthday here's a couple of clips of Luise in action:

The first shows her tearful reaction to Florenz Ziegfield second marriage



And the second (spoiler alert!!!) shows her deathbed scene in The Good Earth

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Monday, 11 January 2010

20 for 2010 - Alice in Wonderland

If the combination of "Tim Burton" and "Reimagining" makes you shudder then turn away from my number 7 - Alice in Wonderland.



There are few directors and subjects that go together as well as Tim Burton and Lewis Carroll's delightful nonsense novel Alice in Wonderland. The twisted logic of the original stories sit easily with the gothic sensibilities of the man behind Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow.

Taking an original slant on the story the films takes up with Alice (played by Mia Wasikowska) some ten years after her previous trips behind the looking-glass, previous trips which she, curiously, can't remember. Running away from a society where she feels seperate and unable to fit in she once again follows a White Rabbit (Michael Sheen).


The totally CGI Wonderland is filled with strange and incredible characters ranging from the gentle (The Dormouse) to the pshychotic (The Red Queen, played by Burton's missus Helena Bonham Carter). Allying herself with Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Alice must overthrow the Red Queen and end her tyrannical grip over Wonderland society.

It's the first time Burton has delved with CGI to this extent, so it's going to be fascinating what he makes of it, and the 3D seems to be acutely aware that it's job is to throw things at the audience. The trailer makes this abundently clear.

The strong, mainly British, cast also makes this a potential delight. How often will you get the chance to see Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Christopher Lee and Matt Lucas in the same film.

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Sunday, 10 January 2010

20 for 2010 - Way Back

Back in more traditional territory my number 8 choice of 2010 is Peter Weir's The Way Back.



Based on the discredit memoiras of Polish solider Slavomir Rawicz this covers the escape and 6,500 km trek by a group of Soviet gulag imprisonees. Note the 7 in the picture above could be that same group of escapees. The book describes the details of his original incarceration, the escape during a harsh Siberian blizzard and then the trek south through th e Gobi desert, Tibet and the Himilayas, all the while avoiding the Russian Amry and large towns.



It seems unlikely that Mr. Rawicz actually did this journey, a recent BBC investigation has found evidence that he was released by the Russian Amry as part of a prisoner trade. That is not to say it won't be a fascinting plot line, even if the most outre elements (a pair of Yeti) are including.

Peter Weir is an excellent director who always makes beautiful and thought provoking pictures, so I'm expecting some great things from this. The cast isn't too shabby either with Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong and Colin Farrell (mmm) all with major roles.

The gulags might be a bit of a trend for 2010 as we will also get a chance to see Emily Watson going mad in one for Marleen Gorris' Within the Whirlwind.

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Saturday, 9 January 2010

20 for 2010 - Knight and Day

It's true, I've been holding back on writing up number 9 on the countdown all evening, but here is it Knight & Day.



I am, after all, expecting some stick for this one. The title is awful, the trailer looks confused and neither Tom nor Cameron are the draws they used to be... But dammit this could be so much fun. The sort of fun we've forgotten about when we go to the movies.


Over the last few years fun has disappeared from the action movie template. We have darker than black Batman films, depressed teen vampires, moody Bonds and parables about the decline of our natural world. Even the last Die Hard movie was po-faced.

The trailer for this does show that Cruise is having a good time, being a bit bonkers, almost playing to the character type we've defined him in his personal life. I think this will be utterly barmy, leave your brain at the door action.

Director James Mangold has shown us he can manage effective action scenes in the past (Cop Land, 3:10 to Yuma) so we know that that side will be competent. Lets just relax about the way this film is being marketed and get ready for 2 hours of rollercoaster fun.

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Film News (09/01/2010)

It's been an incredibly busy week, with rumour and counter-rumour flowing about many of the studio tent-poles of this year and next, as well as some delicious indie features. I won't bore you with US release date changes - but May 2011 was all a flurry on Wednesday - but we've still got loads to get through.

Bond 23

At the beginning of the week the news was not good - the sale of MGM meant that some high profile projects, such as the Bond franchise, were on hold until completion. Of course MGM denied it and surprisingly a day later the story leaked that Sam Mendes (Away we Go, Road to Perdition) was in negotiations to direct the next episode.

There's been no official confirmation yet, but equally none of the major players have denied it. It's an odd choice for both parties, especially coming after the last off-the-wall director choice (Marc Forster) made the underwhelming Quantom of Solace. Saying that we know that Mendes can build tension in a scene, and he's probably got enough clout to force the film to delay if he's not liking the script.

Oh, and I'm using this post as an excuse to remind everyone what Daniel Craig looks like in his Casino Royale swimming trunks... Here you go:



Read on for child killers, nuclear bombs and Soderbergh doubles.



Hanna

Killer teenage girls have been dominating the press this week with the release of the Kick Ass trailer and the casting of Saoirse Ronan in Hanna, reuniting her with her Atonement director Joe Wright. It's a story about a girl bred as pat of a secret CIA assassin experiment, sounds half Bourne, half Leon. Maybe half good.

Ron Howard/Vince Vaughn collaboration

Vaughn, who is probably desperate for a hit, has pitched a comedy about infidelity to his mate Ron Howard, probably aware that Ron says yes to everything. The concept is simple, and instantly recognisable, revolving around a guy who finds his best mates girls has been cheating but can't tell his friend. It probably sounds more like a soap opera twist than a mvie, but if it's handled correctly there could be the basis for a likeable farce of co-incidences.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Even though variety reported that Chris Robots Wedge was directing this childrens fantasy back in May the rumours of Martin Scorsese holding the megaphone have not died down. I guess Marty has nothing to prove at this stage of his career so there is no longer a need to make biopics or gangster dramas - see his pulpy Shutter Island for proof.

Invention concerns a small boy living in the rafters of a Paris train station and fixing the clocks, as well as a small curious device left to him by his father. I don't know what that device does so I guess that's the invention of the title.

Knockout

Steven Soderbergh's martial arts movie has been gaining some fantastic actors to support MMA fighter and cinema newcomer Gina Carano, including Ewan MacGregor, Michael Douglas, Dennis Quaid and Michael Fassbender. It's that sort of delightful mix of ators that gets so interested in Soderbergh's work, even the likely popcorn efforts such as this female Bourne rip-off. (Carano plays a Black Ops soldier who's been cut off by shadowy governement figures - yawn!)

Talking about Steven Soderbergh it's emerged in the Sydney Herald that whilst he was over in Australia directing for the stage he may have shot a quickie using the same, unknown cast. Nothing official or plot-based yet, but I'm thnking that if this is the same sort of quality as The Girlfriend Experience then we could be in for another great year of Soderbergh output.

Last Train to Hiroshima

We were all saddened to hear of the death of Tsutomo Yamaguchi, the last survivor of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs, this monday. It's easy to forget just how awful and indiscriminate a nuclear device is and only by talking to the survivors can we understand why we must never let them be used again.

Curiously, following his death, it emerged that James Cameron had visited him to talk about his experiences in December. It look likely that Cameron was researching in order to adapt The Last Train to Hiroshima, the heavyweight non-fiction account of the afteraffects of the blasts, based on interviews with survivors. Whether Cameron has ideas of making a documentary or a fiction piece based on the transcripts remains to be seen, but we should support whatever his efforts are as this is a shameful chapter in 20th century history that has yet to be fully explored in film.

Thor

Adriana Barazza has become the latest cast member to sign onto the Norse epic due to start filming next week, as a yet to be disclosed human character. It's good to hear there will be some human characters among all the gods, it will make the drama of the story a little more interesting. Oh, and going full circle Thor is one of the films shifting it's release date in response to the Spider-man delay rumours.

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