Batman Begins and The Dark Knight marked Christopher Nolan's renovation of the comic book movie. With Inception, he does the same thing to the heist movie. The film does have a few conventions, but they are entirely forgivable because the world Nolan surrounds them with is completely foreign. Conventions do not feel monotonous when they are seen in a new context, and this is one of the newest contexts in recent years.
We’re doing the book. That’s why we hired David Fincher. We’re going to really do this, in all their glory. Otherwise why do it? They’re very R-rated movies. It’s the shock of what’s really going on underneath the surface of society. If you don’t actually make good on that, you haven’t told the story
With Seven, Fight Club, and Zodiac under his belt, I never had any doubts about Fincher's faithfulness, although I had a sneaking suspicion that the studio may have wanted to exploit the project's commercial potential to the fullest extent by suggesting a PG-13 rating. But it looks as if my worries - and I'm sure most people's - have been put to rest. Who knows, perhaps this will be a case where the disturbing content brings audiences to the multiplex rather than pushing them away.
Obviously Inception should have a field day getting several tech nominations, but as of right now, I don't see any acting nods in store, and I see some trouble in the fields where The Dark Knight was snubbed. I think a snub in the Original Screenplay category would be a real travesty, so I'm pretty confident it should get in there. After all, it is one of the most original and challenging ideas to come to fruition in years.
2010 could turn out to be a pretty impressive year for Ben Affleck. He will star in John Wells' The Company Men, as well as make his second directorial effort after 2007's acclaimed Gone Baby Gone. His adaptation of Chuck Hogan's novel Prince of Thieves will follow a thief (Affleck) who must balance his feelings for a bank manager (Rebecca Hall) while also fending off an FBI investigation. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and Jon Hamm will co-star.
Affleck co-wrote the script along with Peter Craig and Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air). Warner Bros. will release the film on September 10th.
Yahoo has debuted the trailer for Jake Scott's Welcome to the Rileys. Based on a script from Ken Hixon, the film will follow the struggling relationship of Doug (James Gandolfini) and Lois (Melissa Leo) Riley, and the complications that arise when Doug decides he wants to watch after a runaway stripper (Kristen Stewart).
The film will be released on November 5th. You can read some of the early reviews by clicking here.
Certainly one of the year's biggest potential surprises is Jack Goes Boating, the directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Back in late January, Roger Ebert called the film "my best Sundance experiece." The screenwriter, Bob Glaudani, originally wrote this as a stage play, which was eventually released in an off-Broadway theater. Hoffman, John Ortiz, and Daphne Rubin-Vega, who star in the film, also starred in Glaudani's production. The film's fourth star is Amy Ryan, who will play Hoffman's love interest.
Jack Goes Boating will hit theaters on September 17th. The embed below is in high-definition, but feel free to watch the trailer over at Apple as well.
For me, one of the more interesting things to analyze about any given year's slate of Oscar nominees is how the Best Picture and Best Director lineups overlap. It seems that more often than not, they match each other completely. The last time a director was nominated for a film which didn't receive a Best Picture nod was Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in 2008. Not surprisingly, over the last ten years or so, most oddball directing nominees come from foreign films.
The Academy's recent change to ten Best Picture nominees has provoked a lot of questions about the ceremony's future. Here is my most recent one: As long as the Academy stays with this format, what are the chances that there will ever be another directing nominee from a film not nominated for Best Picture? With ten nominees, I have to think that the Academy will continue to be more forgiving with regard to foreign pictures and even the more "obscure" films. It seems that out of this past decade's oddball directing nominees, a great majority of these films - including United 93 (Paul Greengrass), Mulholland Drive (David Lynch), City of God (Fernando Meirelles) - would have received a Best Picture nod under the current ten-nominee format.
So, to reiterate, my question to you is this: With the ten-nominee format in place, how likely is it that a director will receive a nomination for a film which is excluded from the Best Picture category?
Cyrus is a film which proves that a group of good actors possess the ability to stretch thin material for an entire 90 minutes. The film's premise, based on a screenplay from filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass, is clever, but, I repeat, thin. It is about a lonely man who, in the company of a fantastic new woman, finds happiness for the first time in years. But she has a troubled son who makes the relationship harder than it should be.
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The only thing in The Book of Eli that should cause controversy among viewers is the ending. Some will buy it, others will not. People will surely argue its plausibility, but I accepted the ending because it reinforces the fact that this is an action film with real ideas. But let's forget the ending for a second and focus on the bigger picture: The first three-fourths of The Book of Eli is outstanding filmmaking, engineered by an appropriately haunting visual landscape and an irresistible star turn from Denzel Washington.
The Hughes Brothers, Albert and Allen, haven't directed a motion picture since 2001's From Hell. I am not sure why, but their newest film offers no reasons to suggest that their talent has diminished over the years. Their post-apocalyptic tale begins 30 years after "the war tore a hole in the sky." This is the explanation of Eli (Washington), a lonely wanderer who has been asked to travel West in an attempt to find the right place to deliver the last remaining copy of the Bible.
When Eli wakes up to realize that his battery his out of power, he winds up meeting with the engineer (Tom Waits) of a decrepit town run by the sinister Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie, thinking that attaining the Bible will give him the power needed to expand his empire, offers food, water, and a solid roof to a group of men so they will endlessly search for the book that is currently in Eli's hands. More often than not, they come back with a series of pulp novels. There is a humorous moment when one of the henchmen is disappointed to realize that a Dan Brown novel is not what Carnegie is looking for.
Carnegie is also able to bribe his workers with women. He keeps the blind Claudia (Jennifer Beals) for himself, but gleefully offers up Claudia's beautiful daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) when she can be of use. Such an instance comes in the form of Eli, who Carnegie believes he can bribe to stay by offering him Solara. Instead, Eli chooses to introduce the illiterate and unfamiliar woman to the power of praying. Unfortunately, this ends up backfiring on him, as Solara inadvertently reveals to Carnegie that Eli is in possession of the Bible.
Like any self-respecting disaster film, there is violence. But The Hughes Brothers stage their set pieces with remarkable panache and style. The first great action sequence, a showdown between Eli and a group of disgusting travelers, is put forth in silhouette form. Another highlight comes later in the film when Eli and Solara, traveling together at this point, come across the shabby home of George (Michael Gambon) and Martha (Frances de la Tour).
For this performance, Washington is asked to pull of a variety of things. He nails Eli's persona perfectly, which is an interesting mix of quietude and charisma. I don't think Eli ever raises his voice or makes any whimsical movements in the entire film, yet there is a fascinating quality to him that makes the character compulsively watchable. Some of this must be accredited to Washington's believable presence as an action hero, despite his aging appearance. The actor should also thank Eli's piercing, twenty-inch blade (give or take) for contributing to his formidable presence.
The other actors also fare quite well. Gary Oldman, one who has never shied away from a villainous role, is effective playing Carnegie because he knows how to make the character a certifiable psychopath without ever going too far. Mila Kunis is also able to hold her own, even though she shares most of her scenes with seasoned veterans more than twice her age.
One of the most admirable things about The Book of Eli - a mid-January release incorrectly billed as an ultra-violent action romp - is that it has a definitive message. Even more admirable is that it doesn't bombard you with this message in the final ten minutes, even if that is what some viewers may take away. The Hughes Brothers, working from an intelligent Gary Whitta screenplay, sprinkle their ideas and themes throughout the entire picture. If it ends up becoming too preachy, at least it presents itself as a film that wants to be about something more than just beautifully-staged set pieces. I can buy that.
There is no clear reason why the first 90 minutes of this film shouldn't please viewers beyond expectations. But because the film takes a leap with its ending - and because endings usually contribute so much to our opinion of a film - those who have trouble believing the final twists of Whitta's script may not care to remember how good most of this film really is. Here's my advice to those people: Don't let the sour taste in your mouth overpower the deliciousness of the first two-and-a-half acts.