As the opening frames of Harry Brown began to play out, I was a bit puzzled. So much had been said about Michael Caine's titular performance that when there was no sign of him in the opening scene, I almost thought I was in the wrong movie. Instead, the film opens up with a shaky handheld shot of a drugged-up gang racing through the afternoon streets of South London. A little while in, they comes across a mother walking her daughter in the park. They shoot her on the spot. In their attempts to flee the scene, the group gets run over by a truck. If audiences were appalled by the violence of Kick-Ass, wait until they get a load of this film.

It is so refreshing to witness a directorial debut of subtlety and nuance. Scott Teems, who also adapted the screenplay from William Gay's short story I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, is in full control of his material without ever trying to overshadow it. He is reserved in his approach, and it pays off. That Evening Sun is one of those films that is effectively slow. It clocks in at just under two hours, and although it never feels too long, it does move deliberately.

In The Secret in Their Eyes, Ricardo Darin and Soledad Villamil play two co-workers balancing passions for their job and each other. Featuring two storylines set more than twenty years apart, Darin and Villamil both stretch their abilities to the limit, but they are always convincing, physically and emotionally. The characters they create and the feelings they embody are so utterly real that it makes you realize how artificial most cinematic love stories are.

Friday, April 23, 2010

10 Movie Facts About Me

The "10 Movie Facts" baton has been passing from blog to blog over the past weeks, and I finally found myself mentioned recently by two terrific writers: Anna Long (Blog, Twitter) and Josh Brunsting (Blog, Twitter). Here we go:

  1. I am currently working on my first short film, which will ideally be finished in around a month's time. The script, which is five full pages, is finished, and shooting will begin promptly. I plan to shoot a couple of more shorts over the summer as well.
  2. By the end of the summer, I will have posted my best films of the decade, having hopefully seen as many hyped films from the 2000s as possible over the upcoming few months. My current choice: Requiem for a Dream.
  3. During the summer, I also plan to do quite a bit of reformatting for this website. I don't want to reveal too much too early, but I hope you will stick around to see the cool things I have planed.
  4. I recently attended my first advanced screening in Chicago. It was the Michael Caine thriller Harry Brown. Sitting in the same room as Roger Ebert, Michael Phillips, and many other admirable critics was one of the great honors of my life.
  5. I am currently finishing up a film genres class that ran through second semester. It was a pretty general course, but if there is one that it taught me, it is that I really enjoy classics. Seeing films like Double Indemnity, Some Like It Hot, and On the Waterfront make me itch to see more of them.
  6. The most recent film I have seen that I would consider a personal favorite is Carol Reed's The Third Man. You can expect my more fleshed-out thoughts on that film within the next few days.
  7. On April 30th, Nash Edgerton's The Square comes to the Music Box in Chicago, and I have been waiting for this film for so long. I would be disappointed if my anticipation ends up hurting my experience because, based on his remarkable short film resume, I think Edgerton is a real find.
  8. In my English class, we just finished reading The Great Gatsby, and my teacher called the film adaptation "one of the worst movies" he's ever seen. For those of you who have seen the film, just how bad is it?
  9. My most anticipated film of 2010 remains to be Inception, but based on some early stills, I am growing intriguingly fascinated by the potential of Anton Corbijin's The American. Something about seeing George Clooney play an assassin has my mind working.
  10. In my opinion, 2010 has featured a lot of great movie characters thus far. That doesn't necessarily mean that these are great films, but I am finding that a lot of these characters are sticking with me longer than usual. I'd say Ben Stiller's Roger Greenberg tops my list at this point.
I hope you enjoyed reading these. I would like to thank Josh and Anna again for their mention. Now, for my two mentions, let's go with Matthew Lucas and The Kid In The Front Row.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    4/21: News Updates

    Here are some news updates I've compiled over at The Film Stage during the past few weeks:
    • Michelle Williams Leading Baumbach's 'The Emperor's Children' [Click Here]
    • Anton Corbijn's 'The American' Is Ready To Go [Click Here]
    • Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Daniels In 'Paper Man' Trailer [Click Here]
    • Vera Farmiga Joins 'A Thousand Guns' [Click Here]
    • New Photo of George Clooney In 'The American' [Click Here]
    • Zooey Deschanel To Play Computer Programmer Ada Lovelace In 'Enchantress of Numbers' [Click Here]

    Aaron Schneider's Get Low premiered to rave reviews at last year's Toronto Film Festival, and Yahoo has finally given us a first look at the film. Robert Duvall, who is certainly an early Oscar favorite, stars as a 1930s Tennessee hermit who comes up with the outlandish idea of throwing himself a funeral party while he is still alive. Bill Murray will co-star as the owner of the funeral parlor that Duvall's character contacts; both Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black will have key supporting roles as well.

    Get Low will be released by Sony Pictures Classics on July 30th. It seems like an odd release date for a supposed Oscar contender, but the early buzz is too deafening to ignore.

    The biggest problem with Peter Jackson's King Kong is that it feels like a 187-minute epic. When a movie is entertaining, especially one of such substantial length, I tend to forgive some of its faults. But this Jackson spectacle is not easy to sit through. I can't imagine how the director, as well as Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (his two co-writers), could possibly justify this running time as essential to the story. This could have been a two-hour film and neither important plot points nor crucial scenes of character development would have been left out. Cut an hour from this thing, and it may be worth a recommendation.

    Although Lars von Trier's Antichrist received most of the controversial buzz coming out of last year's Cannes Film Festival, Gasper Noe's Enter the Void (which also competed at Cannes in 2009) is gaining similar buzz for what looks to be a very mind-bending film. This sudden word-of-mouth explosion has convinced IFC Films to buy the rights to the film, and plan a release eerily similar to the one of Antichrist last year. In September, the film will simultaneously hit select theaters and OnDemand in September.

    While there are films such as The Dark Knight and Watchmen which represent the powerful possibilities of the comic-book movie, there are also ones like Kick-Ass which remind us why there are still disbelievers out there. Director Matthew Vaughn, who has impressed many with his first two feature films, takes a big step back here, although it is not because he doesn't have what it takes behind the camera. It is because he and co-writer Jane Goldman (who adapted the script from Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.'s comic books) have such a hectic disregard for tone that the range of emotions they are trying to evoke combine to create one giant, forgettable mess.

    Darren Aronofksy has had an on-again, off-again blog that started back in 2007 and was seldom updated in the time since then. However, he has already posted two updates this month discussing the editing process of Black Swan, and it seems that he plans to continue updating the website in the coming weeks.

    You can find his blog by clicking here. I think it is worth a daily check, even if the articles are not that detailed (who can blame him?). Of course, being a big Aronofksy fan, I am a bit biased, but considering the terrific films he has made thus far, I have to think there are a lot of Aronofsky fans out there who would certainly enjoy reading his website.

    In other related territory, director Anton Corbijn has updated his blog with a new George Clooney production still for his upcoming thriller The American, and even though I have not seen his critically-acclaimed debut Control, this is still a film I am very excited for.

    If any of you know of any other similar blogs that are out there, feel free to link up in the comments section. I'm sure there are many people like myself who would enjoy reading them. 

    After a successful 2009 that included Adventureland and Zombieland -- two excellent films -- Jesse Eisenberg is poised to have another terrific year, and his upcoming slate contains no evidence to the contrary. He will appear shortly alongside Michael Douglas in Solitary Man, as well as star in the thriller Kill Your Darlings with Bright Star's Ben Whishaw. But, without a doubt, his 2010 role with the most buzz is that of Mark Zuckerberg in David Fincher's The Social Network.

    As far as Holy Rollers goes, Eisenberg could very well be playing his most unusual role to date. His character is Sam Gold, a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn who is lured by his brother into an underworld revolving around an Israeli drug ring. Eisenberg's co-stars include Justin Bartha (National Treasure, The Hangover), Ari Graynor, Danny A. Abeckaser, and Q-Tip.

    Holy Rollers, directed by Kevin Asch, is set for release on May 21st. 

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    'The Kids Are All Right' Trailer

    A charming trailer has been released for The Kids Are All Right, one of this year's Sundance favorites. Directed by Lisa Cholodenko, the film centers on a lesbian couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) whose children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) seek out the presence of their birth father (Mark Ruffalo).

    I am especially anticipating Wasikowska's performance in this film. I thought she did a terrific job in Alice in Wonderland, and I will finally be seeing her alongside Hal Holbrook in That Evening Sun towards the end of April. If this film does in fact live up to its early buzz, seeing Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac, Shutter Island) finally get some hard-earned attention could be a real delight.

    The film opens on July 7th. You can watch the trailer in HD over at Apple.

    A few days ago, Production Weekly informed us that Vera Farmiga will star in and direct the upcoming film Higher Ground, and it is a bit of news that I have really pondered since then. Farmiga, a terrific actress for quite some time, finally made her mainstream breakthrough last year with her Oscar-nominated turn in Up in the Air, and hopefully that buzz will convince people to keep an eye on this project.

    Along with Up in the Air, Farmiga's most notable mainstream presence comes in Martin Scorsese's The Departed. In both of these films, Farmiga is very good, giving audiences every reason to seek out some of her earlier films. But for some reason, her more indie type efforts have just not gotten the recognition they deserve. In 2008, she starred in two great films that very few people saw: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Nothing But the Truth. Going back even further, since the days of Down to the Bone, Farmiga has given consistently excellent performances.

    It will be interesting to see how Farmiga is able to direct herself. One of her best characteristics as an actress is her fluidity, and I wonder if that will be affected. Considering the nature of her role in this new film, which is that of a woman struggling with her religion, Higher Ground is probably going to be a strait-laced drama, something more akin to her earlier work rather than Up in the Air.

    I have not seen as much Alfred Hitchcock as I should, but I've seen enough to know that he is a worthy father to the genre of suspense. Notorious, his 1946 romantic thriller, is perhaps the best Hitchcock film I have seen to date, and that includes Psycho. Notorious is the rare film of the genre that manages to combine both a subtle, superb formalistic effort behind the camera, and an emotional involvement for the audience that stretches beyond tension, into well-deserved sympathy.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Trailer for Nash Edgerton's 'The Square'

    The Square, which opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday, is a highly-buzzed Aussie noir from director Nash Edgerton. The cast doesn't feature any prominent names, but critical reception has been terrific so far, and the film has another huge thing going for it. 

    Edgerton, whose brother Joel co-wrote the script, is the director of Spider, the masterful, award-winning short film that will send chills down your spine. For that reason alone, I am anxiously awaiting the release of this film. Edgerton, based on his short film career, is an undeniable talent, and I truly am very excited to see how his career turns out.

    You can watch The Square's trailer below.

    WonderCon, a yearly film convention held in the San Francisco area, recently had the immense pleasure of hosting a terrific question and answer segment with writer-director Christopher Nolan and his wife and producer Emma Thomas regarding their film Inception.

    I personally watched all seventeen minutes of this Q and A and can tell you that Nolan and Thomas really discuss no specifics of the film's story, so readers worried about spoilers can feel safe watching the video. Rather, the two (specifically Nolan) continue to discuss the early origins of the storyline, and the more personal nature it has compared to Nolan's previous films.

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Heath Ledger's 31st

    A special actor was born on April 4, 1979. Today, Heath Ledger would have been 31, and I'm sure he would have had a couple more great performances under his belt alongside Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight. I am ashamed to admit that I still have a few Ledger films to catch up on (The Patriot, Ned Kelly, and a couple others), but I am eager to do so.

    I recently read Heath: A Family's Tale, Janet Fife-Yeomans' endearing tribute to the actor, and I sincerely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Ledger's family, his friends, and the singular passion and talent he had for his craft.

    If I were to add anything else, it would most likely come off as repetitive and clich├ęd. I'd just like to share a few of my favorite Ledger clips below (courtesy of Movie Clips), and let the remarkable work speak for itself.

    I was not familiar with anything regarding this hyped Swedish thriller before I saw the film. I had no knowledge of the Stieg Larsson (who unfortunately passed away in 2004) trilogy that represents the source material, nor did I know any of the actors on-screen. I'm not sure if this ignorance contributed to the experience I had, but I can say with supreme confidence that Niels Arden Oplev's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo blew me away. This is a 152-minute thriller that feels 30 minutes shorter. It is a riveting, powerful film.

    Saturday, April 3, 2010

    4/4: News Updates

    Here are some news updates I've compiled over at The Film Stage during the past few weeks:
    • 'The Tourist' Adds Paul Bettany and Rufus Sewell [Click Here]
    • Right Stuff, Wrong Sex To Be Adapted By '300' Producer [Click Here]
    • Cruz To Play Blackbeard's Daughter In 'On Stranger Tides', No Fake Breasts Allowed [Click Here]
    • Emma Stone To Star In Adaptation of 'The Help' [Click Here]
    • John Singleton Directing Taylor Lautner In 'Abduction' [Click Here]
    • 'Up in the Air' Co-Writer Sheldon Turner To Direct 'By Virtue Fall' [Click Here]
    • Third 'Harold & Kumar' Film To Shoot This Summer [Click Here]
    • 'MacGruber' Gets A Restricted Trailer [Click Here]
    • Kathryn Bigelow To Shoot 'Triple Frontier' Next Year [Click Here]

    Edward Norton, of the upcoming film Leaves of Grass, recently shared five of his favorite films with Rotten Tomatoes. They are, in the order in which they appear in the video below, Ruggles of Red Gap, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Tampopo, The King of Comedy, and The Cruise.

    Norton is a rare actor, one that never seems to take a role he doesn't truly believe in, and it makes his opinion worth listening to. In my opinion, he gives one of the great performances of the past twenty years in Primal Fear, and if you haven't heard of that film (which many haven't), I would recommend seeing it as soon as possible. For such a respected actor, that performance of his is far too overlooked.

    Solitary Man is the first directorial effort of writing team David Levien and Brian Koppelman since 2001's Knockaround Guys. Their previous writing credits include Runaway Jury, Walking Tall, Ocean's Thirteen, Rounders, and The Girlfriend Experience.

    The film follows Ben (Michael Douglas), as his successful car dealership begins to tread downhill, and his romantic missteps continue to mount. Douglas has many credible actors working alongside him, including the terrific Jesse Eisenberg, Jenna Fischer of The Office, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, and Mary-Louise Parker.

    Solitary Man is scheduled for a limited release on May 21st. Watch the trailer below, courtesy of Yahoo. Douglas, of course, will also star in the upcoming Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, opening on September 24th.

    Based on the trailer below, courtesy of Yahoo, Sylvester Stallone's upcoming actioner The Expendables looks like it could be a pretty fun ride. It follows a group of mercenaries that head to South America to free the people of a brutal dictatorship, but the trailer doesn't develop much of the story; instead, it features some potentially awesome action sequences, as well as the dozens of iconic action performers.

    Stallone, who also wrote the film, will be joined on-screen by Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Eric Roberts, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Terry Crews, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    The Expendables will land in theaters on August 13th. It will be Stallone's first film since 2008's Rambo.

    Writer-director Noah Baumbach has crafted yet another memorable character in Roger Greenberg. After the remarkable creation that was Jeff Daniels' role in The Squid and the Whale, Baumbach went on to make the overlooked Margot at the Wedding, and he is back again in peak form with Greenberg. However, unlike his last two pictures, Greenberg is not about family issues; it's about individual problems.

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