Inspired by Rajiv Chandrasekaran's 2006 non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone, director Paul Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland have incorporated elements of truth into this largely fictionalized thriller. Green Zone takes place in Baghdad a few years back, and U.S. soldiers are on the move searching for weapons of mass destruction throughout Iraq. Time after time, they come up empty handed, and it is this fact that acts as the trigger for this thriller. WMDs are being reported, yet they are not being found. Why?

Yesterday, I finally had the chance to see A Prophet, and before the film started, I was intrigued by a trailer for a film called The Greatest. For the most part, I was interested because even though this is a film with several big names, I had never heard of it before. It is the directorial debut of Shana Feste, but the project's more recognizable names include Carey Mulligan, Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, and Aaron Johnson.

Although I didn't particularly love either The Ghost Writer or Remember Me, I did admire Brosnan's performances in both of those films, and his 2010 run seems to be getting better and better with the upcoming limited release of this film on April 2. The premise, for all intents and purposes, is highly melodramatic, and I have no idea how the film will turn out; but I think the trailer is worth a watch, mostly for the performances.

Please weigh in below with any additional information you may have on this film. For some reason, I just seem to be in the dark on this one.

Kevin Spacey has been nominated for an Academy Award twice, and on both occasions, he received well-deserved victories (The Usual Suspects and American Beauty). For me, he will always be synonymous with disturbed characters, and his brief work in this David Fincher masterpiece represents one of the great modern villains. Seven is one of the best serial killer movies I've seen, and a big reason why Spacey's character rises above cliché is because he is off screen for such a significant portion of the film. From the first murder of the obese man, we want to meet this devilish character and learn what his motives are, but Fincher never gives in. He stretches his luck as long as he possibly can, until Spacey's character finally surrenders in a scene that will send something more than mere goosebumps down your spine.

Warning: Scenes contain both foul language and blood. 

In this clip, Spacey describes the motivation and reasoning behind his grisly murders. The battle between Spacey and Brad Pitt is chillingly reminiscent of Christian Bale's interrogation of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.

Remember Me is a well-intentioned romantic drama that tries to transcend the limits of the genre, and I have very mixed feelings about it. The romantic part is sweet and genuine, but when director Allen Coulter and screenwriter Will Fetters try to overstep the genre, the film ultimately falls short. I respect and understand the vision of the filmmakers, and the thematic power of the ending makes a whole lot of sense when it is on paper, but within the context of a film like this, after spending almost two hours meeting different characters and coming to care about them, it doesn't end up as powerful as it should be. I can't say it is necessarily the fault of the filmmakers, but rather, the fault of the genre. This doesn't seem like the right context for Fetters and Coulter to communicate their very personal message.

Leonardo DiCaprio shoots a scene for the movie Inception on the streets of Paris

ShoWest 2010, which was hosted in Las Vegas from March 15-18, provided many prestigious people within the industry the opportunity to see footage from Christopher Nolan's upcoming film Inception. The film is, of course, Nolan's follow up to the masterful The Dark Knight, and you will find it on almost every "most anticipated films of 2010" list across the web. The first two trailers have been relatively cryptic, as have the film's stars during interviews. Nolan has made a point of wanting to keep an aura of mystery around the film until its July 16 release date, but as ShoWest, he seemed glad to share some new information about the project.

Below (after the jump) is an interview with Nolan in which he discusses, among other things, the birth of the film's concept, which he claims took place about ten years ago. On paper, it might seem like rudimentary conversation, but for a film that is this widely anticipated, it is certainly something worth checking out. I also highly recommend reading Coming Soon's in-depth breakdown of the footage that was presented.

Floria Sigismondi's The Runaways is a pretty confused biopic of the all-girl rock band that formed during the 1970s. It is based on Cherie Currie's memoir Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway, but it is Joan Jett who earns an executive producer credit. It doesn't know whether to focus on the individual performers, or the rise and fall of the band as a whole, and as a result, the film's storyline is a pretty uninteresting one, especially if you've seen other rock band biopics in the past. Luckily, The Runaways has a terrific look to it, and good enough performances to draw you in, even when Sigismondi's script is pushing you away.

I love films like A Perfect Getaway. On the surface, they seem like such clichéd, unoriginal genre efforts, but as I stuck with this film, I realized that there is some real skill being displayed both behind and in front of the camera. This thriller is written and directed by David Twohy, the same man who wrote one of the defining chase films, The Fugitive, back in 1993. He hasn't come close to retaining those heights in the years since, but A Perfect Getaway serves as a welcome reminder that this guy has a feel for how good suspense works.

I don't know if there's a type of film that Paul Thomas Anderson can't make. He flawlessly weaves two-plus hour epics in the vein of Magnolia and There Will Be Blood, and he can also take one man, Adam Sandler, and turn his on-screen persona into a mesmerizing ninety minute picture. This 2002 film, Punch-Drunk Love, is a wholly unique take on romantic cinema, and not many people would expect this type of achievement to be headlined by an actor like Sandler.

Monday, March 15, 2010

'Please Give' Trailer

Apple has debuted the trailer for Nicole Holofcener's Please Give, a film that premiered at Sundance earlier this year. Holofcener has had some great success thus far, directing the critically acclaimed films Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, and Friends With Money, and early word on Please Give seems to be positive as well.

This is a film that stars Catherine Keener (Where the Wild Things Are), Oliver Platt (Frost/Nixon), Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Amanda Peet, and Sarah Steele. It is set to be released on April 30th by Sony Pictures Classics.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

3/14: News Updates

Here are some news updates I've compiled over at The Film Stage during the past few weeks:

  • 'The Joneses' Trailer [Click Here]
  • Gosling To Star Alongside Steve Carell In Untitled Comedy [Click Here]
  • Updates On Don Cheadle's Miles Davis Biopic [Click Here]
  • Sopranos Creator David Chase To Helm 1960s Rock Band Drama [Click Here]
  • Kathryn Bigelow Turned Down 'Spiderman' Reboot To Direct 'Triple Frontier' [Click Here]
  • A Prophet's Niels Arestrup Joins Joe Wright's 'Hanna' [Click Here]
  • James Cameron Discusses 'Avatar' Re-Release and 'Titanic' In 3D [Click Here]

Looking back over the past decade in Academy Award history, I've been trying to come up with what I think is the best film that did not receive a single Oscar nomination, and I believe I have come to my conclusion. It's Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino. This is a film I've seen four times, and it becomes a richer experience with each viewing. In the past ten years, especially behind the camera, Eastwood's expertise have risen to a new level, and Gran Torino does exactly that. It takes his character from Dirty Harry and Unforgiven and introduces him to new emotional heights.

Jim Field Smith's She's Out of My League is one of those second-rate comedies that has a little something extra to make it extremely watchable. The film is perfectly cast all around, starting with the two leads. Jay Baruchel stars as Kirk, a Pittsburgh TSA officer, while Alice Eve plays the bombshell that somehow finds herself attracted to him. Baruchel, still only 27 years old, has surprisingly been in a lot of very good films, including Million Dollar Baby and Tropic Thunder. Here, he plays an older version of Jesse Eisenberg, and does it very well.

 In yesterday's "Quick Thoughts" column, I shared my glowing reaction to My Man Godfrey, and today, I have nothing but similar praise for Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity. Along with The Maltese Falcon, this is one Hollywood's original film noirs, although I don't believe it's necessarily a template for the genre within itself. It is certainly built upon noir characteristics, most notably with the attractive, deceiving, and empowering female that is Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), but in my opinion, Wilder's story is far too sophisticated and brilliant to be considered a noir-like plot.

Most film noirs choose to prioritize the atmospheric element over the fundamental story that's on the page, and while that certainly isn't a bad thing considering the elements of the genre, it makes a film like Double Indemnity stand out even more. Just as aesthetically impressive as The Maltese Falcon, but also centering around a much more fascinating storyline, Double Indemnity is a complete motion picture in every sense of the phrase. It has romance, comedy, and drama, not to mention moments of unbearable suspense.

Nominated for 6 Academy Awards, Gregory La Cava's 1936 screwball comedy is pure magic. My Man Godfrey stars William Powell as a homeless man who, thanks to Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard), stumbles his way into a job as a butler in the Bullock's luxurious household. Both Powell and Lombard were nominated for Oscars in their respective leading categories. Mischua Auer, playing one of the family's proteges, and Alice Brady, playing Irene's clueless mother, were also nominated for Oscars, although in the supporting category.

William Powell, who I enjoyed immensely in Manhattan Melodrama, is pitch-perfect in his portrayal of a man shaped by his past, and Lombard matches him every step of the way as the starry-eyed socialite. Powell and Lombard were actually married for a couple of years, and although they were divorced by the time this film rolled around, their chemistry is very much alive, and the effect is intoxicating. They both play their characters with such authenticity that the age difference virtually flies out the window, and all we care about is seeing these two good, decent people get what they want out of life.

Thanks to Yahoo, we have received another trailer for Ridley Scott's upcoming film Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe as the infamous outlaw. The cast also includes the likes of Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes), and Max von Sydow (Shutter Island). The film just recently received its PG-13 rating "For violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content."

Although I preferred the feel to the film's initial teaser, my excitement for this film remains relatively in tact. Working on a script from Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, Green Zone, Salt), Ridley Scott's actioner is set to hit theaters on May 14th.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Top Ten Trailers of 2009

I really enjoy movie trailers. Or good ones at least. I know that many people think they give away too much of the film, and while that is certainly true, I have a great deal of appreciation for the trailers that affect me the most. Often times, the best trailers are for films with awards buzz that I'm going to see regardless of how the preview speaks to me, but there are always a few trailers each year that really floor me, and I respect them. I am consistently impressed by the lasting impact a handful of clips that comprise two and a half minutes (at the most) can have on me.

For now, I'd like to share what I think are the ten best trailers from 2009. Keep in mind that these are only trailers for films that were released in 2009. We all know how great the Inception trailer was, but since that film will be released in 2010, I am not considering it for this list. For a quick honorable mention, check out this trailer recut of Up and Gran Torino. It's sure to brighten your day. As always, please share your insights in the comments below.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Second Trailer For 'Iron Man 2'

Paramount Pictures has released a second trailer for Jon Favreau's Iron Man 2, the highly-anticipated sequel set to be released on May 7th. There's really not much more to say than that. This trailer gives you a little better look at Sam Rockwell, and just like the first one, it has me itching to see Mickey Rourke.

You can view the trailer in HD over at Apple. Click here to watch the film's initial trailer if you haven't already.

It wasn't as enjoyable as last year's ceremony in my opinion, but the 2010 Oscars will nevertheless have a firm place in history. Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director, while her film, The Hurt Locker, also took home Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, and both sound categories. With six total wins, it was far and away the evening's big winner, with James Cameron's Avatar scoring a consolation prize with a modest three victories. Precious, Up, and Crazy Heart all took home two each. I ended up a decent 17/24 on my predictions and, like a lot of people, took a beating with the short films.

Contrary to popular belief, I thought that Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin did a fine job hosting the ceremony. In an article he wrote for the Huffington Post, Baldwin stated that, "Steve Martin and I worked rather hard, along with the writers and producers, to make sure our contribution did not detract from the primary purpose of the evening, honoring the highest achievements in film. We tell some jokes and show some clips, but the night belongs to the great talent in that room." I'm glad to hear Baldwin say that because I thought that's exactly what they did. They had several solid jokes along the way -- most notably, the Paranormal Activity spoof -- and by night's end, I would've loved to have seen more of them.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Best Moment Of The Awards Season

For my money, the best moment of this year's entire awards season came at Friday night's Independent Spirit Awards during Lee Daniels' (Best Director, Precious) acceptance speech. His whole monologue is worth listening to, but the moment I'm specifically referring to is when he thanks Mo'Nique. It starts about 1:27 into the video. He says her name, looks her in the eye, and all either of them can do is start tearing up. This awards show -- although sloppy at times -- is perhaps the most fulfilling because all of these people fight so hard to get their films made, and when you see a moment like this between Daniels and Mo'Nique, you realize how much of themselves they put into their movie, and how thankful they are to have worked with each other. It defines what is so special about filmmaking.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Handful Of Pre-Oscar Pics

Here are some snapshots taken from Saturday's pre-show rehearsals for tomorrow's Academy Awards. As evidenced in the photos, the rain was coming down quite heavily. It looks like things should die down by the morning, hopefully leaving the entire ceremony (and the pre-show coverage) unaffected.

You can view all of the photos after the jump. Clicking on each one will give you a larger version. Hope you enjoy.

The Runaways, the highly-buzzed Floria Sigismondi film about the story of an all-girl rock band, has received its first full length trailer. Kristen Stewart has the task of playing Joan Jett, while her co-star Dakota Fanning plays Cherie Currie. Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road), Alia Shawkat (Whip It), and Tatum O'Neal make up some of the other supporting players.

I am particularly excited to see Stewart here. She is certainly an actress I am consistently keeping up-to-date with, and after her impressive turn in Adventureland, I can't wait to see what she has in store with this film, as well as Welcome to the Rileys (another Sundance entry). The film is set for a limited release on March 19th, with an expansion on April 9th. Watch the trailer, courtesy of Yahoo, below.

The second trailer Yahoo has debuted is the teaser for Zack Snyder's Legend of the Guardians, an animated adaptation of Kathryn Lasky's children's books. This film is certainly a departure from the ultra-violence of Snyder's Watchmen, but he's proven to be a very ambitious filmmaker, and anything with his name on it will peak my interest.

Some of the actors providing the voices include Abbie Cornish (Bright Star), Helen Mirren, Emilie de Ravin (Remember Me), and Geoffrey Rush.

Synder also has another project -- the fantasy/thriller Sucker Punch -- that is currently in post-production, and features a performance from Abbie Cornish.

Legend of the Guardians will be released on September 24th.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Predicting The Oscars Wrong

Note: I'd like to thank Scott Feinberg for alerting me to this contest.

Awards Daily has created their 1st annual Predict The Oscars Wrong Contest, and the goal of it plays out just like the name suggests. Instead of trying to pick all 24 categories correctly like most people, you try to pick all 24 categories incorrectly. In essence, you pick the one nominee from each category that you think has zero percent chance of winning. This is more for fun than anything else, and it should be interesting to find out if this is as easy as it sounds. In my opinion, the nominees with the least chance to win are:

BEST ACTORMorgan Freeman, Invictus
BEST ACTRESSHelen Mirren, The Last Station
BEST DIRECTORLee Daniels, Precious
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAYNeill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, District 9
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAYAlessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, The Messenger
BEST DOCUMENTARY FILMThe Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
BEST ART DIRECTIONThe Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Dave Warren, Anastasia Masaro, Caroline Smith)
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHYHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Bruno Delbonnel)
BEST COSTUME DESIGNThe Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Monique Prudhomme)
BEST FILM EDITINGDistrict 9 (Julian Clarke)
BEST MAKEUPIl Divo (Aldo Signoretti, Vittorio Sodano)
BEST ORIGINAL SCORESherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG"Loin de Paname" from Paris 36 (Reinhardt Wagner, Frank Thomas)
BEST SOUND EDITINGInglourious Basterds (Wylie Stateman)
BEST SOUND MIXINGTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Geoffrey Patterson)
BEST VISUAL EFFECTSDistrict 9 (Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken)
BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)French Roast (Fabrice O. Joubert)
BEST SHORT FILM (DOCUMENTARY)The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner (Daniel Junge, Henry Ansbacher)
BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)Instead of Abracadabra (Patrick Eklund, Mathias Fjellström)

    Below, as the title suggests, you will find my final Oscar predictions for the 2010 Academy Awards. Like most other prognosticators, I will reserve the right to make any changes between now and Sunday, but I doubt there will be any. The more I linger over some of these categories, the more I begin to doubt my choice, and everything just goes downhill from there.

    Take a look at my predictions, and feel free to share your picks as well. If you have made predictions on your own blog, don't hesitate to link up in the comments section. You can read my analysis of the main categories over at the Your Industry Insider website -- a great resource for anyone interested in the world of entertainment -- by clicking here.

    1. The Hurt Locker
    2. Inglourious Basterds
    3. Avatar 
    4. Up in the Air
    5. Precious
    6. Up
    7. An Education
    8. The Blind Side
    9. A Serious Man
    10. District 9

    Note: Although the following is an in-depth conversation regarding both of these films, I have kept it spoiler-free. Those of you who have not seen one or both of the films should feel comfortable reading this article without having your future viewing experience compromised.

    Endless comparisons have been made between two of the year's most recent thrillers, and the reasoning is quite sound. Both Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer and Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island are works of two master directors in the latter stages of their career. However, Scorsese, now 67 years old, is making quality films at a remarkable clip, while Roman Polanski, at age 76, is still working at a relatively slower pace. Nevertheless, both filmmakers are two of the most respected of their time, and while their films contain both signature artistic elements, and experimentally newer ones, it is very clear to me which of the two films is superior, and I think it is a comparison worth indulging in.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Impressive Trailer For 'Cyrus'

    I went out to see Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer yesterday, and before the film started, I was very impressed by the trailer for this film. Cyrus, the new comedy from Jay and Mark Duplass, has been declared a Sundance favorite, and if it's anything like this trailer below, I can certainly see why.

    John C. Reilly stars as John, a recently divorced loner who finds new life when he meets the the woman of his dreams, Molly (the lovely Marisa Tomei). When things finally seem like they are looking up, John meets Molly's disturbed son Cyrus (Jonah Hill). The film also stars Catherine Keener (Where the Wild Things Are) as a close friend of John's.

    Give the trailer a watch below, and I'm sure you'll be just as excited as I am. 

    The Ghost Writer is Roman Polanski's slick new political thriller, although it's a bit too slick for its own good. It has a premise and feel to it that is rightfully intriguing and, to the film's credit, it answers all of our questions by the end, but it is told in such a cold and distant way that the characters simply seem like Polanski's puppets rather than actual human beings. Sympathy towards the film's main characters is virtually nonexistent, and the two-hour-plus running time doesn't help its cause either.

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