Note: The following review could contain some spoilers. While I personally feel there is nothing that hasn't been stated in most other reviews, a couple of people have complained, so I felt it worth mentioning. Please keep in mind this is a rare exception and I try to keep all of my reviews spoiler-free.  

An Education is a film that is wholly worth seeing for its terrific performances and some moments of genuine drama, but when looked at as a whole, it isn't much more than a competent entry into the very crowded coming-of-age genre. Directed by Lone Scherfig and adapted by Nick Hornby from a memoir by Lynn Barber, this is a film that is only willing to sacrifice a safe amount of its protagonist's well-being, and that's where its main faults lie.  While I was watching this film, I didn't get the sense that it wanted to be something more than a slightly above average film, and the completely conventional ending confirmed my suspicions.

So much has been said about Carey Mulligan's lead performance as Jenny, and she is riveting. However, it is tough for me to say she is the main reason to see this film because the entire ensemble is at the top of their game. Mulligan's Jenny is a teenage student whose life revolves around her studies and her cello thanks to her strict, but caring -- and remarkably naive -- parents played by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour. She is well on her way to Oxford and a serious relationship is one of the furthest things from her mind. 

Then, one rainy day, she meets the dashing and confident David, played with remarkable bravura by Peter Sarsgaard. Jenny is taken with him immediately, but as David is able to slowly but surely woo her parents into his corner, their relationship begins to take them to places like Oxford and France. Of course, they do not go alone, but rather with another couple, Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Helen (Rosamund Pike). We suspect there might be something wrong with their relationship, but the script is only willing to answer so many questions in this film.

David and Jenny's relationship stays relatively chaste until she decides to lose her virginity to David on her 17th birthday. These somewhat sexual scenes (the film is rated PG-13) are expertly filmed by Lone Scherfig and they feel genuine and realistic rather than awkward and corny. This is also what makes Sarsgaard's character so interesting because we can tell he's not entirely truthful, but he also seems like he really cares about this young woman. 

In my opinion, Sarsgaard's David is the most interesting character in the film. Mulligan turns in a great performance, but her character is rather predictable, and our feelings towards her stay pretty much the same throughout the film. On the other hand, David becomes an increasingly fascinating study with each new thing we learn about him, and Sarsgaard's performance is certainly Oscar nomination quality. He is charming and funny, slimy and off-putting, and he pulls it all off in such a subtle manner. He is terrific. 

My main problems with this film are the storyline and the ending. To me, the film really didn't seem to move along in a very coherent way. One minute, Jenny and David are fighting about where he gets his money from, and the next they are discussing when they are going to make love for the first time. In one scene, Jenny's teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) -- who I really would have liked to see more of -- is trying to convince her about ending the relationship, and before we know it Jenny is arguing with the Headmistress (Emma Thompson) about the worthiness of a degree. The film tries to fit so many things into its short running time that it eventually comes up short in each area and makes its primary purpose seem very unclear.

I was rather pleased with the way Jenny and David's relationship came to an end; that is not the ending I am disappointed with. Rather, it is the last ten minutes that really confirmed the film's conventionality for me. The films title seemed cheap to me because by the end of the film, I didn't really feel that Jenny made her new decisions based on some kind of newfound knowledge she gained about life, but rather out of pure desperation. She relies on the help of Miss Stubbs to secure her future and Hornby's script attributes a thirty second voice-over at the end to somehow confirm for us that Jenny is happy and content with her life. 

In the end, this is a film that is worth seeing because of Mulligan and Sarsgaard. They are both much better than the unfocused script. There are so many subplots in this film that we learn nothing of, but we sense that the filmmakers expect us to learn something by learning nothing. It's still a solid film, I just don't think it's quite the awards darling most people are making it out to be.

We have received another trailer for the highly-anticipated Cormac McCarthy adaptation The Road. The film has received positive critical acclaim so far, but there have been a number of reviewers who say the film is way too bleak. They don't necessarily fault the filmmakers or the performers, but as Roger Ebert points out in his review of the film, it is just a very tough novel to adapt to the big screen.

The film's stellar cast includes Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. I have embed the new trailer below and you can also see the original trailer by clicking here

Let me just say this right now and get it out of the way: I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan. Some of the most powerful things I have ever seen on film are products of Eastwood's mind and vision and anything with his name on it will get me into the theater. That being said, with the release of the Invictus trailer yesterday, and the overwhelming Best Picture predictions from bloggers around the web, I am very excited for his upcoming film.

However, at this point, I am not yet as convinced as most people are that the film will open up to overwhelming critical acclaim. I do not think the problem will be with the performances. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon are very reliable actors and they looked good enough in the trailer to carry a good script if they in fact have a good script.

I think the problem is simply in the story. I am fine with the fact that it is focusing on one aspect of Mandela's life rather than try to be an epic biopic attempt, but I'm not sure if this film will connect with audiences. My favorite Clint Eastwood films of the decade -- Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino -- are all fiction stories with elements that most people can relate to. Their stories might not be the most original thing in the world, but in each film Eastwood and his other performers do such a good job of transcending used material into something beautiful and memorable. I am not getting the same vibe from Invictus.

Although I thorougly enjoyed Eastwood's other 2008 effort Changeling, it is a film that garnered mixed response from critics. As opposed to the films mentioned in the previous paragraph, Changeling, like Invictus, is a true story. There is not much audiences can relate to there. Sure, many parents worry about losing their kids, but none of them have come even close to what Christine Collins had to go through. Similarly with Invictus, I'm not sure audiences will connect with the rugby sport. Even though the sport might be irrelevant because the film's theme is about a nation coming together, I have a sneaking suspicion that audiences could be looking at the film's climax in a rugby game and just not feel much.

Obviously these are very premature comments, and I haven't read one official review on the film yet. However, I have read an L.A. Times article in which some of the web's top Oscar prognosticators all believe Invictus will receive a Best Picture nomination. While their opinion does have considerable merit, do not count me among those in agreement just yet.

The extended Avatar trailer has been released online courtesy of Yahoo, and it is 3 minutes and 30 seconds long. It certainly looks like a visual spectacle and I am really looking forward to it. While the first trailer had hardly any dialogue, this one has a healthy dose so be sure to give it a look. It will have you looking forward to December 18th.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trailer for Lennon Biopic 'Nowhere Boy'

A very promising trailer has been released for the upcoming John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy. The film is directed by Sam Taylor Wood and is set to be released on Christmas Day in the UK and is likely to expand to the US sometime in 2010. The film stars the relatively unknown Aaron Johnson as John Lennon and his co-stars are the wonderful Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Bell, Thomas Sangster, and Anne-Marie Duff.

Rae Kasey over at Nitflicky just recently posted an article in which she said Tom Hardy in Bronson delivered her favorite performance of the year so far. This got me to thinking about what my favorite performances have been so far this year. I am a firm believer in the fact that powerful acting can raise a mediocre film to one that is wholly worth seeing. My most recent example would be Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard in An Education, who both give towering performances, and in my opinion, are what make the film worth seeing.

I also just reviewed A Serious Man and Michael Stuhlbarg delivers what is easily one of the best male performances so far, and I think he definitely deserves an Oscar nomination. Another male performance that is probably not on most people's lists, but is one that has stuck with me for months is Johnny Depp's work in Public Enemies. Similar to my thoughts on An Education, I thought Depp and Marion Cotillard were much better than the script they were given, and still managed to create something powerful out of a mediocre foundation.

Another romantic duo I would add to my list is Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in Adventureland. A terribly mismarketed film, Greg Mottola's teen romance is a sincere effort straight from the heart that is brought to life with lively, charming, and believable performances from both of the leads. And I cannot end this article without mentioning Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. A complete lock for an Oscar nomination, Waltz's performance as the infamous "Jew Hunter" is -- along with Heath Ledger's Joker -- one of the best villains this entire decade has seen.

A Few Other Favorties: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker; Matt Damon, The Informant!; Abbie Cornish, Bright Star

Obviously I have not named all of my favorites, but only a select few that come immediately to mind. I would enjoy to hear from all of you. What are the performances from 2009 that have had the greatest impact on you? 

Musician Brad Smith, aka "Sad Brad Smith", was asked by director Jason Reitman to write an original song for the upcoming Awards contender Up in the Air, and boy did he nail it. I have not seen the film myself, but apparently the song is played over a crucial wedding sequence in the film and is something that is likely to gain Oscar attention. Head over to Entertainment Weekly to give the song a listen. It is a beautiful acoustic melody that is sure to hit home even if you haven't seen the film. 

The long-awaited trailer for Clint Eastwood's upcoming Invictus has finally debuted. The films stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon and at this point it looks to be right in the thick of the Oscar race. Being a huge Eastwood fan, I am looking forward to this film a great deal, but let me just say that -- like Joey Magidson at The Awards Circuit Blog -- I wasn't blown away by the trailer. As of right now, I am still going to have it near the top of my Oscar charts because the trailer doesn't show us a whole lot, but I wouldn't be surprised if the reviews aren't stellar come December. Am I wrong here? Was this the trailer you were expecting?

The next trailer that debuted today is Paul Greengrass' Green Zone. This film was pushed back to March 2010 after looking to be an Awards contender for 2009, but we finally have a trailer nonetheless. This trailer actually impressed me very much and to me it looks like it could be great entertainment. Obviously Greengrass and star Matt Damon have some terrific chemistry after working together on a couple of the Bourne films, and this film looks like its right up that alley, so I would definitely keep my eye on this one.

Who would have thought that Mike Tyson, "The Baddest Man on the Planet," and arguably the most punishing heavyweight ever to step into the ring, was the chubby kid in gym class? He certainly was. As a child growing up throughout the troubled cities of New York state, he was a quiet kid, constantly picked on by classmates and peers alike. He knew how bad it felt to get beat up, he just didn't know how to fight back. To hit another person? He thought physical rebuttal unspeakable until one day when a kid ripped the head off of one of Tyson's precious birds. And as quickly as that, one of the greatest physical specimens of our time was born.

The subject of James Toback's Tyson is probably what you would guess: Mike Tyson. And in its 90 minutes, the documentary succeeds tremendously due to the fact that Tyson is just a fascinating guy. He has a lisp you would expect from a fourth grader, not from a man capable of sheer intimidation. The thing that makes this film so engaging is that Toback isn't simply listing and summarizing events, but rather getting under the skin of Tyson and learning what the man feels about his actions. There are obviously many emotions boiling beneath the surface of this man and we learn a lot of them in this film.

In addition to getting some brutal honesty out of the champ, Toback does more than just put a camera in front of the man. He shoots many scenes with a fascinating use of the split-screen that gives the film a sense of vivacity and liveliness. His directorial style is often times a breath of fresh air. 

Without question, Tyson is one of the most controversial athletes to ever live, but there is good reason for this. Growing up in a terrible environment and being influenced by terrible people, he had been arrested 38 times by the age of 13. He was in and out of juvenile throughout his early teens, but when a man named Cus D'Amato came into his life, Tyson was transformed for the better.

Several times during the film Tyson is brought to tears over thinking about the death of his beloved trailer Cus D'Amato. This was a man who took young Mike under his wing and taught him how to be a respectable gentleman as well as a fearsome athlete. We can sense from the strength of their friendship that D'Amato's death shortly before Tyson become the heavyweight champion of the world had an impact that would affect Mike throughout the rest of his life. After all, the man won the title at only the age of 20. It's pretty remarkable when you think about just how young this guy really was. He is only 43 now, but it seems as if he has the wisdom and reflection of a much older man because he has lived through so much. 

What Mike Tyson went through is similar to what LeBron James went through, but on a much larger scale. Both athletes were glorified way too much at too young of an age, and the difference between them is not that James is necessarily a better person, but that boxing is one of the much more grueling sport than basketball is. It wears on you mentally and physically perhaps more than any other sport and for Tyson to be crowned king before he could even legally drink was a sign of prematurity and rough things to come.

Many people dislike Mike Tyson because of his attitudes toward women. He admits he was over-aggressive many times, but it's impossible to ignore the pressures of the world he was living in. He remains loyal to the fact that he was innocent in the rape charges brought against him by Desiree Washington. In one of the film's best sequences, he talks about the effect his three years in prison had on him. Tyson is completely honest with us: He believes he was innocent. I don't know if I believe him or not because I think that even good people can make spur-of-the-moment mistakes, but I know what I do believe: That he is truly remorseful for not only his treatment of women, but also towards his drug abuse, and the way he carried himself as an athlete both inside and outside of the ring.

Compiling over 30 hours of interview footage, James Toback narrowed this film down to 90 minutes and you can be sure that he chose the right footage. I would be shocked if anyone came out of this film without changing their opinion on Mike Tyson at all. He fills up the screen with honesty and integrity that not many people in his position would have the guts to do. Tyson is a film that was not seen by many people, so if you have the opportunity, I implore you to see this film. 

The nominations for the twelfth annual British Independent Film Awards were announced today and they go a long way in confirming that women will play a big role in the upcoming Awards season. Three of the five director nominees listed below are women, and two of them -- Campion and Scherfig -- are certainly on the map for an Oscar nomination in the Best Director Category. 

Fish Tank leads the way with eight nominations, while An Education garners seven noms. Be sure to take a look at the rest of the nominees and decide for yourself: How much staying power are the women going to have? 


Best British Independent Film 
An Education
Fish Tank
In The Loop
Nowhere Boy

Best Director
Andrea Arnold, Fish Tank
Armando Iannucci, In The Loop
Duncan Jones, Moon
Jane Campion, Bright Star
Lone Scherfig, An Education

The Douglas Hickox Award (Best Debut Director)
Armando Iannucci, In The Loop
Duncan Jones, Moon
Peter Strickland, Katalin Varga
Sam Taylor-Wood, Nowhere Boy
Samantha Morton, The Unloved

Best Screenplay
Nick Hornby, An Education
Andrea Arnold, Fish Tank
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In The Loop
Nathan Parker, Moon
Matt Greenhalgh, Nowhere Boy

Best Actress
Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria
Abbie Cornish, Bright Star
Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Sophie Okonedo, Skin

Best Actor
Peter Capaldi, In The Loop
Tom Hardy, Bronson
Aaron Johnson, Nowhere Boy
Sam Rockwell, Moon
Andy Serkis, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Best Supporting Actress
Anne-Marie Duff, Nowhere Boy
Kerry Fox, Bright Star
Rosamund Pike, An Education
Kristin Scott Thomas, Nowhere Boy
Kierston Wareing, Fish Tank

Best Supporting Actor
Jim Broadbent, The Damned United
Michael Fassbender, Fish Tank
John Henshaw, Looking For Eric
Tom Hollander, In The Loop
Alfred Molina, An Education

Most Promising Newcomer
Edward Hogg, White Lightnin’
Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank
George MacKay, The Boys Are Back
Christian McKay, Me & Orson Welles
Hilda Péter, Katalin Varga

Best Foreign Film
Il Divo
The Hurt Locker
Let The Right One In
Sin Nombre
The Wrestler

Best Documentary

The Age of Stupid
The End of The Line
Mugabe and The White African
Sons of Cuba
Sounds Like Teen Spirit

Best Technical Achievement
Greig Fraser, cinematographer, Bright Star
Gary Williamson, production designer, Bunny & The Bull
Robbie Ryan, cinematographer, Fish Tank
Clint Mansell, composer, Moon
Tony Noble, production designer, Moon

Best British Short

Christmas with Dad
Love You More

Sidney Turtlebaum

Best Achievement in Production

Bunny & The Bull

The Hide
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Katalin Varga

Raindance Award 
The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Down Terrace
They Call It Acid

The Richard Harris Award (outstanding contribution to British film)
Daniel Day-Lewis

There are some movies that are so expertly written, acted, and directed that you can't help but forgive most of their faults. With A Serious Man, Joel and Ethan Coen have made a film that is full of faults, but the skill with which the film is made is so glaring and obvious that most of its missteps are easily tolerable. This is a film that is jam packed with so many emotions that it completely overwhelms the audience. Confusion, depression, bewilderment, laughter, you name it. The Coens have packed so much into this film that we get a sense it is one they have been thinking about for quite some time.

After an intriguing prologue, which in itself is one of the year's best opening scenes, we are thrust in a 1967 Minnesota suburb, not terribly unlike the neighborhood the Coens themselves grew up in. The main character is Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor so intrigued by his teaching equations of certainty and inevitability that he can't possibly foreshadow the disaster that awaits him. His wife Judith (Sari Lennick) is leaving him for a long-time family friend named Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed). His son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is a pot-smoking, radio-listening train wreck who is on the run from the school bully. Moreover, things are so bad in Larry's household that his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is forced to go to a friend's house to wash her hair because her Uncle Arthur (Richard Kind) is in the bathroom all day. On top of all that, a disgruntled South Korean student named Clive (David Kang) is trying to bribe Larry for a passing grade. 

There is so much wrong in Larry's life, yet he does his best to retain his optimistic outlook of the future. This is what makes Stuhlbarg's performance so compelling. He plays a character that a lot of people strive to be when they grow up. He has a wife, two kids, a solid job, and he tries his absolute best to be a good person. When things go from bad to worse, he doesn't flip out and lose his temper, but rather he does is best to stay cool, calm, and collected.

I have just found a trailer for the upcoming dark comedy Leaves of Grass. The film is written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, who also has a supporting role in the film. Nelson's acting resume is quite impressive, having appeared in films such as Minority Report, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and The Good Girl, but he has shown signs of being a talented director as well.

That being said, it still looks like this film is going to belong to the terrific Edward Norton who plays two identical twin brothers. As of right now, the film hasn't been reviewed by many, but Alex Billington over at First Showing has posted his positive review of the film and Roger Ebert even went as far to call it a "sweet, wacky masterpiece." 

The film is set to be released on Christmas Day and if these positive reviews keep coming in, this could be a curveball thrown into the Awards season, particularly for Norton's "performance(s)."  

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quick Thoughts on 'Tyson'

I finally got a chance to watch James Toback's Tyson and, in short, it is a remarkable documentary. I'll save the rest of my commentary for my review that I will post this weekend, but I just wanted to put forth my enthusiasm for the film as quickly as possible. This is a film that really deserves to be seen, so be sure to head over to Netflix right away and add it to your queue. 

One of the more interesting stories this weekend in the new 3 minute trailer for James Cameron's highly-anticipated epic Avatar. As you might recall, the film did receive a trailer about a month ago, but it featured hardly any dialogue as it primarily promoted the visual accomplishments of the film. The new 3 minute trailer features plenty of dialogue and also does its best to give a brief outline of the story.

The new trailer will be playing in front of Saw VI this weekend, but if you aren't interested in seeing that film -- which most of you probably are not -- then you can watch the bootleg version below.

Avatar will open on December 18th.  

EMBED-Avatar Bootleg Trailer - Watch more free videos

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Seeing A Film Multiple Times in Theaters

The topic of seeing a film multiple times in theaters is one that interests me greatly. There are many instances (Inglourious Basterds, Public Enemies, Watchmen) where I feel that a film requires multiple viewings in order to form a solid critical opinion. In other cases, like The Dark Knight, I knew it was a masterpiece the first time I saw it, yet I still felt the need to go back and watch it again and again. 

I am curious, what is the film you have seen the most in theaters? For me, it is The Dark Knight. I saw the film a total of seven times before it came out on DVD and six of those occurrences were in the beautiful IMAX format. For me, and for a lot of people, the film never got old, and it was special every single time I saw it. I knew it was a film that was truly a once in a lifetime experience and I wanted to be part of that experience as many times as possible. 

I'm sure everyone else out there has a special film that they have seen multiple times. Please share your thoughts.

I usually make an effort each year to check out most of the scripts for the Awards season contender films. Well, the first two "Oscar Scripts" have been given out by Universal Pictures. Public Enemies and Funny People are in similar situations when it comes to their positions in the Awards race. Both films didn't live up to expectations, but that doesn't necessarily mean they weren't good films. We'll see how it shakes out, but as of right now it seems that Funny People's only likely shot is in the Original Screenplay category, while Public Enemies could score a surprise nomination for Marion Cotillard in the Best Supporting Actress category. 

Even if you haven't seen either of these films, it is never a bad idea to read the script first and see how it all translates to the screen...I have included the links to both scripts below. 

Funny People - Read the Script

Public Enemies - Read the Script

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Trailer for 'The Wolfman'

A new trailer has just surfaced for The Wolfman, which will be released on February 10, 2010 after being pushed back from a late 2009 release date. This new trailer, as well as the first one, has me very excited to see this film. The visual effects look stunning and Benicio Del Toro seems to be powerful in the lead role. Along with Del Toro, the terrific cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving.

You can check out both of the film's trailers below. The second one is the official trailer and it runs about a minute longer. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Trailer for 'That Evening Sun'

As you might notice in my Oscar Predictions sidebar column, today I just added Hal Holbrook to the Best Actor race. After watching the trailer for That Evening Sun, I cannot ignore how powerful his work seems to be. I have him at #10 right now but depending on what kind of release date and how many theaters the film gets, there is potential for him to climb the list. Aside from Holbrook, the film as a whole looks like a captivating experience and I am really looking forward to it. 

The movie is written and directed by Scott Teems.

The official nominations were presented today for the 19th Annual Gotham Independent Film Award. The films that showed up the most were Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker and Robert Siegel's Big Fan. As I have mentioned many times, I am dying to see Big Fan and it is good to see the film get some recognition in the independent circuit. In addition, I recently saw Goodbye Solo and even if the film as a whole didn't quite move me as much as I hoped, Savane's performance -- which is nominated below -- is a stunning piece of work. 

In addition, there are several people that will be honored with career tributes: Bigelow, Natalie Portman, Stanley Tucci, Tim Bevan, and Eric Fellner. I always love looking at a list of nominees, and even though this particular list has films that most people aren't familiar with, there's a lot of work here that is worth seeing.

The awards will be handed out in New York City on November 30th.

Best Picture: 

Big Fan
The Hurt Locker
The Maid
A Serious Man

Best Documentary:

Food, Inc.
Good Hair
My Neighbor My Killer

Best Ensemble Performance:

Cold Souls 
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man

Breakthrough Director:

Cruz Angeles (Don't Let Me Drown)
Frazer Bradshaw (Everything Strange and New)
Noah Buschel (The Missing Person)
Derrick Martini (Lymelife)
Robert Siegel (Big Fan)

Breakthrough Actor:

Ben Foster (The Messenger)
Patton Oswalt (Big Fan)
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Catalina Saavedra (The Maid)
Soulemane Sy Savane (Goodbye Solo)

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You:

Everything Strange and New
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench
October Country 
You Won't Miss Me
Zero Bridge 

The positive buzz surrounding Jason Reitman's Up in the Air has been one of the main stories of this fall movie season. That being said, it is not a surprise that, after we received a new trailer a couple of weeks ago, more footage from the film has been released. The clip below features a scene between George Clooney and Anna Kendrick. At this point, I have yet to find anyone who doesn't think that Clooney is a lock for a Best Actor nomination, and it seems that both Kendrick and co-star Vera Farmiga will compete for nominations in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Despite the excessive violence and the critical manhandling, Law Abiding Citizen still managed to pull in $21.3 million at the box-office this weekend and it is actually an entertaining experience if it is looked upon in the right way. This is an example of film that can be either glorified or ruined based upon the audience’s expectations. If you go into this film expecting a smart, intelligent thriller, you will be more than disappointed. On the flip side, if you go in looking for a preposterous, hilarious, blood-filled thrill ride, the film will certainly make for an entertaining 108 minutes.

Not even two minutes into the film, Clyde Shelton’s (Gerard Butler) wife and daughter are brutally murdered. Next, we meet to Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), a lawyer more worried about his conviction rate than who he keeps off the streets. In fact, out of the two men who were involved in the Shelton killing, only one of them is sent to death row because of a deal that Rice cut with the “head” killer, Clarence Darby (Christian Stolte).  

After these two introductions, we are thrust ten years into the future where Clyde is about to enforce his attack on the justice system. He then goes on to commit murder after murder and in pretty entertaining fashion. The film sort of takes Cape Fear and raises the stakes to an improbable extent. There are also some scenes between Butler and Foxx that contain some of the most quotable dialogue of the year. Butler has some lines in this film that are so outrageous you can’t help but laugh.

This is a film that works best when it isn’t taking itself too seriously. There is a particular scene involving an actor named Michael Kelly in which his character basically explains Shelton’s motivations and background in about two minutes. This is a kind of scene that compromised the experience for me in a big way. Up until this point, director F. Gary Gray did such an impressive job of making a completely illogical film that when he inserted this scene to try and explain everything, I felt disappointed. That being said, this is not a completely stupid film in its own right. In fact, I was actually more than impressed with the ending. It is a very clever and unexpected conclusion and for that I was baffled at how many different emotions this film made me feel.

It seemed to me that Butler and Foxx had pretty tough characters to play and they both do solid jobs, particularly Butler. The motivation of Butler’s character isn’t solely to invoke revenge on his family’s killer and his lawyer, but he wants to prove a point about how corrupt and dysfunctional our justice system really is. That being said, it’s tough to look at his character and not actually like him a little bit. On the other hand, it is very tough to sympathize with Jamie Foxx’s character because he is the person that is supposed to portray the corruption. It’s a tall order that the film sets itself up for and it doesn’t quite bring its intriguing premise to full life.

One of the things I have thought about the most since I saw this film is what the director’s intent was. Did he want to create a smart, moralistic crime drama, or did he realize that the movie is an illogical piece of entertainment? Because it really is the latter and I would even go as far as to say this film contains some of the funniest moments of 2009. I just pray that the people making this film realized how laughable most of their hard work was going to turn out on the big screen.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Great Movie Quotes of 2009: Entry #5

"There's enough bang in there to blow us all to Jesus. If I'm gonna die, I want to die comfortable." --Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker.  

One of my most anticipated films for the rest of 2009 is Robert Siegel's Big Fan. The film showed at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, IL a couple of weeks ago, and as part of that special, there was a Q&A session with writer/director Robert Seigel and lead actor Patton Oswalt. Most of you will probably recognize Seigel's name as the writer of 2008's The Wrester, and Oswalt is a very well-known comedian. But from what I have read, his performance in this film is played for much more than just laughs.

After the revelation that Shutter Island and Brooklyn's Finest have been moved back to 2010, it seems that yet another strong Awards season contender is following suit. The latest is Terrence Malick's Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, and Fiona Shaw. Bob Berney, head of Apparition, told Anne Thompson that while he was hoping for a December 25th release, he doesn't feel it is going to work out.

Just one more film to look forward to in 2010.

MovieWeb has just posted a fascinating interview with Oren Peli, the director of Paranormal Activity. It's definitely worth a read, especially for those who enjoyed the film. He also mentions his upcoming project titled Area 51. This guy is someone to keep your eye on. 

"It's love, it's not Santa Claus." --Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 500 Days of Summer.

Another trailer has surfaced for Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces. The film stars Penélope Cruz in a performance that is sure to be considered for an Oscar nomination come January. Although the early reviews haven't been sensational, this still looks like it will turn out to be another solid film from one of the best directors working today. In my opinion, the trailer is very well done and Cruz looks mesmerizing. Take a look...

Mel Gibson will be making his return to the big screen in Edge of Darkness on January 29, 2010. Gibson stars in the film as Thomas Craven, a homicide detective from Boston. When his 24-year-old daughter Emma is murdered in front of his eyes, Craven is assumed to be the real target. However, Craven is less convinced and embarks on a journey to find the truth.

This film looks very intense, maybe even over the top, but considering it is being directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) and scripted by William Monahan (The Departed), the potential for this film is hard to ignore. To me, it seemed like a more intense version of 2009's State of Play. Gibson looks certifiably maddening in the role, but give the trailer a watch below -- courtesy of Yahoo -- and decide for yourself. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Great Movie Quotes of 2009: Entry #3

"Mankind has been trying to kill each other off since the beginning of time. Now, we finally have enough power to finish the job. Ain't nothin' gonna matter once those nukes start flying, we'll all be dust...And Ozymandias here will be the smartest man on the cinder." --Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen.

A trailer has surfaced for Scott McGehee and David Siegel's Uncertainty. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins as two people who are thrown into alternate realities on a single day in New York City. It's tough to gauge exactly what the film's main focus is from this trailer, but it certainly looks intriguing. Gordon-Levitt is one of these actors who takes his job very seriously and you can bet than any film he is in will bring something new to the table. 

Uncertainty opens in New York on November 20th. 

<a href="" target="_new" title="Exclusive: 'Uncertainty' Trailer">Video: Exclusive: 'Uncertainty' Trailer</a>

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mike Tyson on 'Oprah'

I have just received Tyson -- one of the most critically-acclaimed documentaries of the year -- in the mail and plan on watching it this week. In this short but powerful clip below, Mike Tyson talks about the accidental death of his daughter and actually admits that he doesn't want to know how she died:

"I don't know. I don't want to know. If I know ...  [then] somebody's to blame for it, and if somebody's to blame for it, there are going to be problems."

It's a clip that's worth watching and hopefully I will enjoy the film as much as the majority did.

"You know somethin', Utivich? I think this might just be my masterpiece." --Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Great Movie Quotes of 2009: Entry #1

"Your father was captain of a starship for twelve minutes. He saved 800 lives, including your mothers and yours. I dare you to do better." --Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek.  

The woods are scary, pure and simple. Most things about the woods are truly frightening: the isolation, the symmetry, the darkness. Now, add in a local legend about a witch that hides out in those woods, and suddenly this situation goes from scary to downright terrifying. The Blair Witch Project is a film that fails to fully capitalize on this promising premise.

The film follows actors Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams as they decide to take a journey into the backwoods of Burkitsville, Maryland to discover the truth about the Blair Witch legend. The movie starts off with the students interviewing people on the street and asking them about the Blair Witch. While it's pretty clear there is no concrete definition of the legend, it does seem to be recognized by most people in the town. These scenes – particularly the one with a woman named Mary Brown, who actually claims to have seen the Blair Witch – are very effective in setting up a story that has the potential to be both captivating and terrifying.

The real downfall of this film is that it just isn't scary. The documentary format is interesting enough for this 86 minute film to be somewhat entertaining throughout, but I never felt much suspense during this film. Aside from the chilling finale, I was much more terrified about the fact of being lost in the woods rather than a group of people being hunted by an unknown legend. If you ask me, I could really care less what I am being hunted or stalked by because the simple fact of not knowing how to get out of the woods is horrifying enough.

After seeing Paranormal Activity this weekend, I decided I had to give this film a watch. They are so similar in style, but in terms of executing suspense and thrills, The Blair Witch Project comes up way short. This 1999 film is one that I believe was praised for its originality more than anything else. Often times critics fall head over heels for movies that present themselves in such a distinct, original format, and although that is justifiable praise, a film also has to deliver. I would be hard pressed to find anyone that thinks this film is more frightening than Paranormal Activity.

The one thing I will praise about this film is the acting. The performances from the three leads, particularly Donahue, are presented in such a natural, effortless way to successfully convey the documentary feel. They are three normal, nice, average people that are put into an impossible situation. Donahue's apology sequence deserves to be honored the way it has, but she is also brilliant throughout the rest of the film presenting an ambitious woman that just might be too ambitious and confident for her own good. 

I might not be the best person to judge this film simply because I saw it yesterday and not when it came out in 1999. A similar debate came up in my review of A Clockwork Orange. It is a tough thing to judge a film outside of its original context, but I have no choice. For its performances and originality, and the fact that it won over critics and audiences alike, this one might be worth watching, but don’t be surprised if you are simply not frightened when the film cuts to black. I wasn’t.

Related Posts with Thumbnails