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!