Sunday, November 22, 2009

Things I Love: In The Loop

I have seen this film twice. I still love it. It's the funniest thing I've seen this year, and one of the most intelligent.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Actress of the Day: Alexandra Maria Lara

Alexandra Maria Lara!

Known best for her role in Downfall, she is a German actress who is still kind of upcoming in world cinema. She also had a few lines in The Reader, which I'm coincedentally watching as we speak. (How great is Kate Winslet in this?)

Her next role is in The Nazi Officer's Wife, a project by the drastically uneven Mike Figgis, also starring Eva Green.

Also really pretty!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Film Review: The Vintner's Luck

A depressing failure of a film. That's how I can sum up this entire review in one line. This film is a failure in storytelling, both through dialogue, structure and visuals. This film is largely a failure in acting, aside from an expectedly strong performance from Vera Farmiga. The film is a failure in editing, both in terms of narrative structure and just in terms of shitty continuity errors.

However, the most depressing thing here, is that this film could have been good or even great. There's, by all accounts, a strong and literary source material here. These actors are all talented. The director, while hardly a Lynne Ramsey or Kelly Reichardt, is at least an interesting talent. And yet this film completely fails.

The film is very reluctant to reveal any information. At first I thought it was a stylistic choice, like in a David Lynch film. After about half an hour, I realised it was just shitty storytelling. At one point, Sarbond's wife is jealous of his relationship with the Baroness. Despite him having one scene prior to this jealousy, which by all accounts was chaste and not grounds for an affair. At another point, Sarbond almost kisses the angel Xas. This is not once explained.

There's also events in the film that have no meaning or impact. At one point, the Baroness has a mastecomy. Why? It doesn't aid the story, it doesn't increase the drama and it's never referred to again.

The one shining part of the film is Vera Farmiga, who turns in the only full-bodied characterisation. If this film was good, or at all well-received then she might be in line for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. However, it's not and this film isn't going to be seen by anybody other than film enthusiasts like myself or old people in New Zealand.

This is a devastatingly artless piece of filmmaking. D-.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Things I Want To See: Nine

(From Nine - The Movie Blog)

I think the Oscar for Best Cinematography is in the bag.

Things I Love: Lady Gaga's Bad Romance Music Video

I'm not going to be silly enough to call this Lady GaGa's best video without giving it time to settle. What I am going to call it is Lady GaGa's most artistically ambitious video. It achieves an almost Lynchian level of surrealism and outright weirdness. The video shows GaGa at her most human, at her most alien, at her sweetest and her darkest. It's the only video where I've seen GaGa appear as what might be close to a human (Not exactly a criticism or compliment.)

It's a work of genius, and it amplifies the song it belongs to. There's not one doubt in my mind that these are the best music videos since Fincher. (Excepting of course Sophie Muller's work, which is right about where this is.)

And this isn't even an artist at the peak of her career. There's much, much more to go.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Actress of the Day: Alyson Hannigan

Oh my, Alyson Hannigan.

Best known for Buffy, by a pretty long shot. But I was even more pleasantly surprised when I heard about How I Met Your Mother and assumed it was going to be a dull, sitcom vehicle for the actress. How wrong was I. It's truly the real successor to Friends, and ends up sometimes surprassing that show in cleverness and poignancy.

Um. Hannigan is also really hot and pretty and good in the show.

And also above.

This is really just for me.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Actress of the Day: Lily Cole

The lovely Lily Cole.

Just saw her in Dr. Parnassus. She's.... lovely in it. Such an odd, elflike looking creature.

But she's very pretty.

Full review up tomorrow!

Things I Love: Betty White

Because why the fuck not.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Actress of the Day: Lea Michele

So Glee premiered here on Friday.

It was pretty great, especially Lea Michele and Jane Lynch. And of course Matthew Morrison is just... dreamy.

Anyway! Lea is the show's shining talent in terms of vocal. She's simply amazing.

She's also totally adorable!

More please!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Things I Love/Things I Want To See: Dead Man Running

This is incredible.

Brenda Blethyn is the veteran British actress, famous for her performance in the Mike Leigh film Secrets and Lies.

Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson is 50 Cent.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Poster Just Because: Salt

Things I Want To See: Salt

This is the action film coming out next year starring Angelina Jolie. I'm not expecting it to be like, any great or another A Mighty Heart type slamdunk performance from her, but I'm expecting it to be great fun. (The idea is that it's meant to be the successor to the Bond films.)

And here is Angelina Jolie looking gorgeous. Just because:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Film Review: Jinx Sister

A very wise friend of mine once claimed that he was able to tell if a movie was going to be bad or good from the very first shot. I don't have this skill. However, my feeling was off on this film from the very first shot: This film had a statement to make.

However, throughout the 101 minute running time, I didn't see this. What I saw was a film that tried to hard to say -something- but didn't know what it wanted to say, and wrapped itself up in too many cliches.

For me, this film fails at the first hurdle: The writing. It simply isn't a well-written film. There is dialogue that is worth cringing at, "You're a weird chick." "People who get close to me have a habit of dying." and exchanges that ring as either false or overused in previous films.

The narrative as a whole lacks direction as well, the love story appears to be thrown in just for the sake of it and to fill time; and the family drama is awkwardly revealed through the use of the Exposition Fairy. It's way too forward and far too clunkily delivered to have any real impact. A late game reveal should have a larger impact than it actually does, but the way it comes about and the way it's reacted to by the characters reeks of the likes of soap opera.

Another late-game act didn't shock me at all; some clunky foreshadowing made it so the turn didn't have any real impact for it, not to mention some awkward and frankly unnecessary crosscutting between scenes of a woman giving birth and scenes of a woman being a drunken mess.

I also couldn't get into the characters, least of all Laura, the lead. The character is a cliche to begin with, 'damaged woman who lies to herself and deals with it through alcohol'. What's worse is that she's forced through the hoops set out for her by the script, like not getting close to anybody and suddenly turning on characters in the script since it makes her seem edgy and different. It's perfectly fine to make a character unlikeable, see Margot at the Wedding and Monster, but when your character is uninteresting and her arc unbelievable, then that is a true flaw in the filmmaking.

Sadly, the male characters were also drastically underwritten. They had no arc of their own and seemed, honestly, like pushovers and afterthoughts. The characters were there because they had to be, not because they contributed anything significant to the story.

As for performances, they're mostly unremarkable. Sara Wiseman is perhaps the most notable, if only for her uneven accent. I understand that the character is meant to be an ex-pat Kiwi who has lived in Los Angeles for a while, but that's not excuse for her accent to not even be reminiscent of a Californian accent, and if anything it sounds like it should be located vaguely around the southern part of the U.SA. That is, when it's not disappearing back into a Kiwi accent. Other than this uneven accent work, I found her work as an actress to be quite passable, if shoehorned into the common tropes of the damaged woman.

The movie was shot in HD, but I didn't count this against the film. It is a well-shot film, with not much remarkable, but it's framed perfectly competently. The only mark I can possibly count against it is the inclusion of a slow motion part of Laura riding around on a amusement park ride in slow-motion for apparently no reason. Oh, no doubt, it looks good. But it contributes absolutely nothing to the film. I also question the choice to shoot a few scenes slightly out of photo?

The best thing about this film and the only thing I truly loved was the score by Brigid Ursula Bisley; I found it to be evocative and set the atmosphere perfectly. A truly lovely composition.

This film had an interesting conceit potentially, but some clunky writing and zero character development doomed the picture to not even a soap opera level of quality. D.

Things I Love: Hating on Kristen Stewart

Triggered by her interview with Fab Magazine in which she said:
I don’t want to be a movie star like Angelina Jolie. Nothing about being a celebrity is desirable. I’m an actor. It’s bizarre to me that everybody’s so obsessive.

I'm willing to pass this off as her not being very well-articulated. But, even so: Angelina Jolie has an Oscar; and a long line of great performances to her name. Kristen Stewart has well, the above.

You've made an enemy in me, Stewart.

Things I Want To See: Amazing Tales: Three Guns

This would be the remake of the Coen Brother's debut film Blood Simple by perhaps the best director in mainstream China, Zhang Yimou. It looks like a complete change in tone for him, but judging from the original source material which is one of the Coen's best, and this trailer; it looks like it could be another slam-dunk.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Actress of the Day: Gemma Arterton

The amazingly beautiful Gemma Arterton.

Best known for being the hotter Bond Girl in Quantum of Solace, she was also in the guilty pleasure-film St. Trinians.

A quick gander at IMDB shows these things being lined up for the actress:

  • the love interest in Prince of Persia, bizarrely directed by Mike Newell.
  • The lead in Tamara Drewe, the next Stephen Frears project which looks promising.
  • Io in Clash of the Titans. No idea whether this is going to be a big role or not.
  • The St. Trinian's sequel.
Out of all of these, Tamara Drewe looks like the best shot for a chance at stardom.

She's also like, kind of really pretty!

For Gemma Arterton's official future wife.

Film Review: Kinsey (2004)

This was one of the films that disappeared during the 2004 awards glut, with only a nomination for the lovely Laura Linney in a plum supporting role as Kinsey's wife.

I haven't seen it since I saw it then, but after catching a few endearing minutes of it on TV on Saturday, I decided to get it sent from Fatso (love me some Fatso) and here we are.

It's a different film than I was anticipating, and it's quite a unique creature. It retains very few traces of the studio-made, awards-ready film that you might think of from it's awards pedigree cast and director. What we have is an engaging, if mildly middlebrow, film.

Liam Neeson plays Kinsey, the man who pioneered studies of sexology in the USA and, according to this film, revolutionized the mainstream attitudes towards sex. The lovely Laura Linney plays his wife, affectionately called 'Mac', and who thankfully steers stray of the 'long suffering wife' cliche with a thorny and amiable performance. It's easy to see why she got Oscar nominated; it's a very able performance that supports what might be seen as a weak lead performance.

Personally, I found Neeson to be very good in the lead role. He doesn't stoop to sanctifying his protagonist, and it's a subtly growing and nuanced performance without any big 'Oscary' moments.

Technically, the film is quite competent. There's some very good editing and use of crosscutting which I enjoyed, and it definitely makes this film stand apart from the rest of the award's baity films. The cinematography is quite standard, but it evokes the look and feeling of the era quite well. (The best choice in cinematography is one that I'll mention soon.)

I would have liked to see the film tackle the social discourse of Kinsey's discoveries in a much more head-on way, however. We only get a feeling that it's not very well-appreciated and then we move on, when I imagine there was much more of a shake up. However, the film does do a competent job (a word I seem to be using a lot) of approaching this subject matter, and I credit Condon's light touch for that.

The best scene in the film isn't due to it's direction, Neeson's performance or Linney's performance; it's due to Lynn Redgrave. She's in this film for barely three minutes, and she turns it right around as his final interview subject. In a brief monologue, which Condon mercifully chooses not to cut from, Redgrave essays a life of torture, heartbreak and mental anguish. The camera slowly zooms away from her as she simply pours her heart out for Kinsey. And it's not histrionic or exploitative in any way, it's just.... pure beauty. It's the best performance in the film, and I doubt I'll forget it for quite a long time.

Kinsey is a film which deals with it's theme of sexual revolution deftly and engaging performances and direction do this subject matter justice. B.

Things I Love: Christopher Walken's Dramatic Reading of Poker Face

Like twins, right?

Actress of the Day: Jennifer Tilly

Jennifer Tilly.

Tilly, aside from being damn hot, gave two of the best performances of the 1990s: as the doomed, dumb moll in Bullets Over Broadway and in the Wachowski thriller Bound alongside the amazing Gina Gershon. (To be featured at some point as well, I'm sure!)

She also gave an appealing supporting performance in Dancing at the Blue Iguana, a sorely underrated film that needs a critical reappraisal, or an appraisal in the first place.

Since then, she's turned to playing Poker professionally. And still being kind of hot.

Because. C'mon. She's hot.

For a certain person! You know who you are.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Actress of the Day: Rachel McAdams

The lovely Rachel McAdams.

First seen in Mean Girls, and dazzled there. Then was in the way-better-than-it-should-have-been Red Eye and was pretty great there as well.

Her career has had an odd trajectory since then, with three movies coming up this year. The moderately high-profile State of Play and The Time Traveler's Wife and the high profile Sherlock Holmes. Needless to say that last one will likely be the best of all three, if trailers and actor pedigree are anything to go by.

She's also really really gorgeous.

For a certain M-to-the-Double-T.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Things I Love: Subtle Sexuality

Like, there are no words. Mindy Kaling is my hero.

Actress of the Day: Summer Glau

This is Summer Glau, of Firefly and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles fame.

She's a pretty decent actress, and quite honestly the best part of both of those shows due to her charisma and well, how adorable she is.

She's also kind of hot.

She's going to be in another Joss Whedon joint, Dollhouse this year. So let's have high hopes that she'll elevate that show from it's somewhat middling reviews.

For a specific soup made of Battle. But, let's face it, for every straight guy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Film Review (Not Really): Ashes of Time Redux (2008)

I cannot begin to comprehend this film. It is one of the most beautifully shot, achingly performed and emotionally resonant films that I have ever seen. In every way it improves upon the 1994 cut. As human beings, you owe it to yourself to see this film. A+

Actress of the Day: Zooey Deschanel

I honestly can't describe this actress in any real detail. She's beautiful. She's charming. She's a brilliant, brilliant and underrated actress. That is all.

More. Please.

For a certain violin-playing fruit; and really for everybody else who loves Zooey Deschanel. Which is everybody.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Things I Love: The Opening Of Millennium Mambo

I hate tracking shots. This is a fact. Like, I do. They are so often unmotivated and just for show. I'll use Julie and Julia as an example; because there were a few tracking shots there that just... added nothing to the movie. And from a film student, the trouble that it must have taken to set up some of those shots was simply not worth it.

There are two tracking shots I like. This one and the lauded one in Sunrise.

(This is, of course, not true. But it's all I'll admit to. But ask me what static shots I love? I have hundreds. Thousands. Let's talk about those, please?)

Film Review: Valmont (1989)

So a discussion of this film can't begin without first acknowledging Dangerous Liaisons. Valmont and Dangerous Liaisons come from the same source material, the now public domain novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and revolves around the life of these two rich seducers, Madame de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont in later 18th century France. Cruel Intentions is also very loosely adapted from this source, but that's mostly irrelevant here.

What makes this so intriguing is that Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont were released within a year of each other and feature more or less the same plot; there's very little variation. The only true variation comes from the treatment of the material. Dangerous Liaisons aims for a more cerebral and brutal treatment of the novel, whereas Valmont aims for a slower, playful and more passionate play on the novel. Whether it succeeds is entirely another question.

Annette Bening, in her second screen role, plays Madame de Merteuil; whereas Colin Firth plays Vicomte de Valmont. The casting is definitely interesting, and I would argue that Colin Firth is a much more natural casting than John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons. The rest of the cast is off-and-on, Meg Tilly is a depressing wash as Madame de Tourvel, but Fairuza Balk shines as the innocent Cecille. Bening is... lovely as Merteuil, taking a completely different reading of it than Close, she is much more playful and exuberant, but somehow ending up quite lesser than her.

The dialogue is a lot less snappy, memorable and articulate than Christopher Hampton's dialogue; it doesn't shine or seem particularly memorable. The score is quite pallid, the cinematography pretty but bog-standard and the costumes quite fine. Ultimately, it's just not as good of an adaptation. It has less ambition and less focus than Dangerous Liaisons.

However, Valmont isn't by any means a bad film. It's merely a competently made one. Milos Forman, a skilled director, is working from some prime source material here and there's a lot of depth to be milked from it. Two lead performances shine, even though the characters of Merteuil and Valmont as almost assigned to second-tier players, but Balk gives the best performance here; she straddles the borderline between girl and woman like a professional would.

The one hurdle it fails to cross throughout the entirety of it's length is that it fails to invest these character's plights with any kind of importance or gravitas. The film isn't as brutal as it needs to be, and this is where it fails.

This is not a bad film, it is a competently made costume drama. But, for your own good, see Dangerous Liaisons instead. It makes so much more out of the rich source material. B

Monday, October 26, 2009

Actress of the Day: Helena Bonham-Carter

Helena Bonham-Carter. She's had an interesting career from corset-bound Merchant-Ivory films to the Harry Potter series. She's also proven herself to be one of Britain's most talented actresses.

Her performance in Conversations with Other Women remains to be one of the best performances of the decade to me; perfectly felt and pitched at every level.

And just as an example of her career, her next roles include:

  • Bellatrix Lestrange in the last two Potter films.
  • Author Enid Blyton in a BBC TV movie.
  • The Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland.
  • Queen Elizabeth in a film about King George VI.
More, please?

For a delightful lady and a delightful faag.

Review: Julie and Julia (2009)

So this is the new Meryl Streep and Amy Adams picture. As if that's a genre on it's own. It's directed by the uneven Nora Ephron, writer of such masterpieces as Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally. However, she's also the writer of Heartburn and the writer-director of Bewitched, Hanging Up and Lucky Numbers.

Interesting, this film both represents Ephron at her worst in terms of writing and directing and at her best. Not coincedentally, this is because the film is separated into two parts. So I'll review them in turn!

The 'Julie' part of this film centres around 9/11 insurance claim call center worker Julie Powell who decides to start a blog on her year long project to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child's book. 524 recipes, 365 days. She has a husband, and a cat and she lives in a shitty apartment in Queens. So she's all like us, right?

This material isn't uninteresting, but Ephron's approach to it makes it so mawkish and ungainly. Neither Julie, played by Amy Adams, or her husband, played by Chris Messina are likeable characters. This isn't to say that likeable characters are needed, but these ones are only loosely written, and I found it impossible to sympathize with either of these people. It doesn't help that Amy Adams inimitable qualities as an actress, her liveliness and emotional alacrity, aren't utilized well at all. And the less said about Chris Messina, the better; he doesn't have the looks or the charisma to carry off a part like this. For the most part, he came off like a douche.

We cut into Julie's story during parts of the story, but it's never interesting or motivated. There's nothing to keep us interested in her story except from the central concept; her blog project. When they try and shove in side parts from Julie's life like her husband, her non-supportive family and a useless turn by the dull Mary Lynn-Raskjub; it comes off as just filling time.

Now the Julia parts of the story. These aren't always brilliant, granted, but they are a breath of fresh air from the Julie parts of the story. These parts of the story revolve around Julia Child's life from when she decides to go into cooking until the publication of her book. Meryl Streep, as you should know by now, plays Julia Child. (The one thing about these parts that I hated was the decision to put Streep in heels to make her the 6'2 height of Child. It worked, sure, but I was always looking for them to show or not show her feet.)

Stanley Tucci, in capable form, supports her as her husband, Paul, an employee of the American embassy in Paris. These parts of the film work because they're written in a much more subtle, gentle way. The facts and story are laid out for us and the film meanders through them like Julia Child does through a market. It's a very pleasant and laid-back experience.

Streep in this role performs another slam-dunk; among her best work of this decade, which is saying a lot already. Not only does she capture the mannerisms of Julia Child, but she captures the whole feeling of Julia Child. There are very few big moments, but they're not played for show or for obvious Oscar attention. There is a crying scene, but it's beautiful and nuanced, completely in line with the character. She's also really, really funny. (Bonus points for Jane Lynch as Julia's sister Dorothy; she's perfect in this tiny role.)

The film succeeds in these parts not only because of Streep, but because Julia Child is a genuinely interesting and unique character; the source material was so strong. We want to see this woman going through her life, and we want her to succeed. When you cut from this to Julie Powell, who I could care less about, it makes for uneven filmmaking.

I'm aware this is based off a book called Julie and Julia, but I think it was a poor choice to adapt it. Much more successful would have been to make a film on Julia Child, a much more interesting character. The motivation to put the stories together was also a sore spot for me, they don't seem to thematically relate and Julie Powell's statements that Julia saved her life seem forced at best.

A sufficient 90 minute film could have been made from her life, even just this little part of it, and it would have been delightful. Instead we get a two hour experience with Meryl Streep at her best and Amy Adams being miscast.

Ultimately: The highs are fun and exuberant. The lows are excruciating. But I still can't help but recommend this film for Streep doing what Streep does. B-

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things I Want To See: Samson and Delilah

This has been out here for a few weeks, I think, but I haven't managed to see it. It got a pretty major award at Cannes and is being hailed as one of the best films of the year by a few reviews. It also looks like an intense and unrelenting drama. And who doesn't want one of those?

The last time I went to the Rialto was to see In The Loop/Cheri/An Education and it was screening at the same time as In The Loop. I enjoyed In The Loop profusely, and I'm glad I saw it, but I am craving to see this one.

Anyone in NZ keen?

Actress of the Day: Ellen Page

The lovely Ellen Page.

Starring in Whip It!, which comes out here in January 2010. About five months after the rest of the world. Thanks, whoever is releasing this! It's meant to be great, though, so fingers crossed.

And more intriguingly, starring in Christopher Nolan's next movie, Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard and Ken Watanabe. There's spoilers all around the internet for this, but I'm keeping myself spoiler-free. Let's hope it's good, yes?

For a certain sperm of mine.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Actress of the Day: Eva Green

So. This is Eva Green.

She's lovely, and she stars in French films.

Why have the roles dried up, though? She's clearly attractive. Can we get some arty French directors to make some arty French films for her? With lots of jump cuts.

This post is for a special lady! You know who you are.

An Introduction

I've had a blog before, I'm not gonna lie. I've tried to put posts on it on a regular basis.

And royally, royally failed.

So I'm getting back on the saddle and trying again. A few of my friends are into this interweb things, and all the YouTubes and Twitters and shit. So it's time for me to try again.

What you can expect to find here, soon:

  • Film reviews. Lots and lots.
  • Daily features. I'm thinking of, like, Actress of the Day?
  • Video reviews. Because I think I have the technology!
  • Musings on pop culture, media and shit.
  • Things on games. Because occasionally I play the video games that these young kids are doing.
  • Photos. Lots and lots of photos.
So stick around! Or don't. Tell your friends about me!