Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Classic Trailers: OLDBOY (2003)

     Wednesday's Classic Film Trailers presents an original of a remake coming out today. Oldboy, directed by Chan-wook Park, is a bloody, meditative and insane piece of violent, art cinema. This film was my introduction into Chan-wook Park's work and Korean cinema in general. A man gets locked away, against his will, for 15 years and is then released having only 5 days to find the person(s) who captured him. Great work. Beautiful cinematography. Gutsy acting from Min-sik Choi.  Amazing choreography and fight scenes. And a hammer. Still a great film and the middle film in Park's vengeance trilogy. The first film being Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and the third being Lady Vengeance (2005). I am interested in seeing what Spike Lee has done with this remake starring Josh Brolin. Really intrigued by the prospect of Lee remaking such a cult favorite. Here is the trailer for the original. Enjoy.

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2014 Indie Spirit Award Nominations

     The 2014 Independent Spirit Awards nominations were announced today and the nominees really represent a wonderful year in film. Many of the nominees will most likely mirror the Oscar nominations, but there are always some "big" movie differences. Steve McQueen's slavery drama 12 Years a Slave led the pack with seven nominations and Alexander Payne's Nebraska received six. It appears that 12 Years a Slave is on track for accolades and attention throughout the award season and deservedly so. It also looks good for Nebraska and I really will be happy if Bruce Dern gets a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards. He and Robert Redford for All Is Lost will be an amazing story if both get Oscar nominations. Legendary actors with such heralded track records. Really love that Shane Carruth got a Best Director nomination for his trippy Upstream Color. I wish there would have been more love for Jeff Nichols superb Mud with Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan, although Nichols received a Best Director nod and it is receiving the Robert Altman award. I also am surprised that the Coen brothers did not receive a best director nod for Inside Llewyn Davis, even though the film and star Oscar Isaac got nominations. Also surprised that Greta Gerwig did not get a Best Female Lead nominee for Frances Ha and why did Short Term 12 not get more love? The biggest snub for me is David Lowery's wonderful Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Did they even see that movie? What the hell! The awards will be handed out on March 1, 2014, the Saturday before Oscar Sunday. Here is a complete list of nominees after the jump:

Monday, November 25, 2013


Thor: The Dark World

Directed by Alan Taylor
Written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

     Guess what? Thor: The Dark World is no different than any other of the Marvel films. Really. In the continuing productions from the Marvel universe, this one fits the mold that has been expected from all of the previous films. Good one-liners, numerous plot holes that do not answer anything, blocky fantasy and story lines that seem to follow the similar path to please the audience. Some explosions and over extended action scenes, decent humor (I must say) and characters that are more interesting by themselves than the films as a whole. Thor: The Dark World is what it is and pleases today's audience, who mainly wants eye candy and detailed, expanding CGI instead of a story that has meaning, continuity and substance. It puts butts in the seats. The blockbuster lives and will never die, or grow. 
     The film begins with a back story revolving around Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), his Dark Elves and there attempts at conquering the universe. They eventually lose to Thor's grandfather Bor (Tony Curran) and Malekith's magnificent, energy enhancing device, the Aether, is lost forever. It is hidden deep in the planet, but with no protection and no concern. Malekith escapes and awaits his turn for another opportunity at turning putting the universe into miserable darkness.
     Now, we are back in modern time, comic book time. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his warriors have been defending the universe and protecting the nine realms for safety and the upcoming alignment of these nine. Love that inter dimensional travel... We also have Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who is still working as a physicists, but also misses her friend and love Thor. Somehow, randomly and with little reason, she stumbles upon a gravitational pull that transfers items, or humans, from one dimension to the next. No reason. It just looks cool and sounds amazing. Easy stuff for this mildly predictable audience to not care and not really give a shit about understanding. Maybe the die hard comic fans enjoy it, but give me something more. Anyways, Jane becomes in contact with the Aether and eventually reunites with Thor. Thor's father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) dislikes this mortal, especially when he brings her to Asgard, but his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) consoles and looks after her.
     The story goes on and not until about the half way mark it gets interesting, just because Loki (Tom Hiddleston) becomes more involved in the story. He has been locked up in an Asgard dungeon since his devious endeavors in The Avengers (2012). He plays the role of Loki with a lot fun and clinical, humorous madness. You can tell he is just having a good time playing a villainous character, but brings more depth and creativity to the role then any other character in this ongoing Marvel filmography. I will say that even though I did not enjoy any of the Iron Man films, Robert Downey, Jr. is quite good. 
     The film goes on, running around two hours and everything is in its place. Certain characters appear to die, but do they? These films seem to never want to kill off any characters and if it is working and making money, why not keep it going even if it does not make any logical sense at all. After all, it is a comic book film. You have the obligatory mid-credits sequence that, and I do not mind this, links this film with the next Marvel film in the sequence. There is usually about two films a year and next year already has release dates for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, April 4, 2014 and Guardians of the Galaxy, August 1, 2014. And, there are big, ending explosions, this time in London, and action and flying superheroes and Portman's Jane doing something with a remote control. Whatever man. 
     I did not completely dislike or hate this sequel to Thor (2011) like I did all of the Iron Man films, but I was not blown away by it, not that I was expecting to be. To be honest, I like the Thor films because of Tom Hiddleston as Loki and the underused Idris Elba as Heimdall, and that is about it. Hemsworth is reliable and supporting turns from Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Jaimie Alexander and Ray Stevenson round out the ensemble. Portman, like in the first film, seems oddly out-of-place. I I really do not know why, other than that it just does not work for me. Maybe because I am so use to seeing her films with more depth and meaning behind it. However, I did like the horned, devilish mask that one of Malekith's dark elves Algrim (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) wears once he is inflicted with a curse. Really crazy and wild looking.
     Other than Hiddleston's continuing great turn as Loki, there is not much different about Thor: The Dark World from the first film or any other of the films in the Marvel universe. A piece of escapist cinema for the masses that makes millions of dollars. Money talks and story is put on the back burner. The next film will be little different form this one. You know what to expect and little more.

Photo credit by IMDB.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


     And, this is definitely "not safe for work" viewing. Lars von Trier's newest, already controversial, upcoming film Nymphomaniac has plenty of interesting buzz and the recent trailer is full of eroticism and teases at hardcore sex to say the least. The film stars von Trier's newest muse Charlotte Gainsbourg as a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac and the film recounts her erotic journey from youth to being in her fifties. There was recently released posters for each actor in the film with their evident "O" face, which you can check out here. Anything that comes from the Danish madman of film will always be highly intriguing and polarizing. The trailer is highly sexual and breathtakingly arty. Von Trier's films always have an amazing, almost dreamlike quality and look to them, and are seriously intense and test the audience to the max. There is supposedly a five and a half hour cut of this film and it will hopefully play at next years Cannes Film Festival if the fest allows von Trier back to the south of France after his Nazi fiasco from 2011. That is Lars von Trier for you. I doubt it will play, but you never know. The cast also includes Stellan Skarsgård, Willem Dafoe, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, Jamie Bell, Christian Slater, Mia Goth, Connie Nielsen and Udo Kier. Nice cast. The film still does not have a release date in the states, but opens on Christmas Day in Denmark. Joyous viewing on the Christian holiday. Ha ha! There will probably be a shorter cut, but I would be interested in a 5 1/2 hour cut no matte what. Here is the trailer. Enjoy. It is explicit, so do not enjoy it too much...

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Dallas Buyers Club

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

     The story of Texas man, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), who was diagnosed with the HIV virus in 1985 and how he created a club of HIV and AIDS patients who could receive drugs and helped them survive when these drugs were not approved by the FDA. A powerful, moving and honestly told true story from director Jean-Marc Vallée with absolutely knockout performances from McConaughey and Jared Leto. This film really dives deep into the emotional turmoil of people fighting with this devastating disease and how hard it was to receive good, effective treatment. It also examines the struggle with Hospital's and the FDA in the ability to not be test subjects for supposed treatments that may or may not work. A film that revolves around Woodroof, mainly, but also examines his own coming to terms with the disease and his overtly one-sided view on those infected with HIV and AIDS, as well as his own denial of his diagnosis. A wonderful film, even though maybe stretched a bit too long in coming to a conclusion, but never once was I unaware that  I was watching something with so much power and heart.
     Dallas Buyers Club, years in the making, starts with a very thin McCounaughey playing the lead Ron Woodroof. An electrician and part time bull rider, but also a womanizer, heavy drinker and drug taker, mostly cocaine, living in a rundown trailer park in Dallas, Texas. Woodroof is a hard partying man, constantly with a cigarette in his mouth and a glass of whiskey in his hand, rallying off homophobic slurs and sleeping with any woman in his sight. One day Ron collapses and goes to the hospital. He wakes up and the doctors, Savard (Denis O'Hare) and Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), inform him that he in fact has HIV and has about 30 days to live. Being anything from liberal-minded, Ron storms out of the hospital, but has his condition deteriorates, he must come to terms with this disease that he only believes homosexuals encounter. Ron's life is turned upside down and he begins AZT, a drug that is in the testing stages, but does not do anything but cause the patients health to become worse. Ron must seek out treatment elsewhere so he can survive.
     First off, McConaughey has once again outdone himself here. After stealing the show in films such as Killer Joe, Mud and Magic Mike, he goes through an unbelievable weight transformation in this role. He lost over 40 pounds and you are witness to every bit of his struggle and poor health with this astounding weight loss. An absolutely brilliant, stark performance from an actor who is completely, one-hundred percent on the right track. He not only nailed the disease and weight loss of a man with a serious HIV infection, but plays the redneck, homophobic and booze drinking conservative Texan with furious intensity and gusto. Never once did I not believe he was that 1980s Texas playboy and want-to-be cowboy that nothing bad could ever happen to him. You see it powerfully in scenes where he goes to the local honky tonk and all his co-workers will only look at him with disgust. No pity. Just disgust over a man that was a friend they went out with to get women and drinks, but has to be gay or have had an homosexual encounter to become diagnosed with this disease. At this time, when so little was known about HIV and AIDS, those were the only people who got that disease. He will easily be one of the actors to beat for Best Actor at the Academy Awards this year. 
    Ron has to do something to stay alive. He painfully does not want to die and especially from HIV. While receiving the ill and ineffective AZT treatment, he meets Rayon (Jared Leto), a cross-dresser who also has the disease and is the exact opposite of Ron. He is gay, very feminine, but can also play and bet cards way better then the homophobic Ron. Ron eventually works with Rayon to create a club "The Dallas Buyers Club" to help this with the virus. Ron will go to Mexico and bring back illegal, unapproved FDA drugs to the states. HIV and AIDS patients can pay for a membership, $400, and receive the drugs that help keep them alive a lot longer than AZT or anything else the FDA has to offer. Mexico, Ghana, Israel or Amsterdam. Anywhere Ron has to go to get these drugs back to the states, mainly for him, but since he is not working and cannot get a job, he, and Rayon, can make money by selling and offering memberships. One man, who is so conservative and single-minded, saving hundreds of men, some women, with there struggling health. Touching and shows that some people can grow, even if it is hard for them to take themselves away from there ardent values and views on life.
     As good as McConaughey is in this film, Leto is just as fantastic. Leto plays Rayon with flamboyancy and brute honesty. He is who he is and never once is deterred, but mostly amused by the overtly manly Woodroof. Rayon's heart is on his sleeve with passion and emotion. Leto, like McCounaughey, has gone through an intense weight loss transformation to detail the the severe impact HIV had on human beings. Without a doubt, this is the best role of Jared Leto's career, and he was pretty damn brilliant in Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream (2000). He plays Rayon with so much irony and sarcasm, but at the same time is touching and tear-inducing. A cross-dressing man that is terrified to die. In one scene where he knows it is getting close to the end, he desperately hugs his partner, with tears rushing down his face, and states his desire to live. So powerful, honest and brilliant. Every emotion and pain are expressed so powerfully in every blink of an eye and corner of his face. Leto, along with Fassbender in McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, are easily the top two contenders for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards and any other awards. My pick would be Leto. He completely blew me away in this role.
    The rest of the cast is at top form as well. Garner, in the best role of her career, is caring, but stern as a doctor wanting to do more for HIV and AIDS patients, but cannot due to the limitations of the FDA and hospital administrations. O'Hare is great as always and another surprise is Griffin Dunne. He plays Dr. Vass, working out of Mexico, who sells the working drugs to Ron. Ron has got to get those drugs at any cost and Vass helps him tremendously. Dunne, who only has a couple of scenes, is excellent in this role and probably is his best work since Martin Scorsese's After Hours (1985). 
     The story continues and the end is inevitable for Ron. Director Jean-Marc Vallée paints a dirty, touching portrait of the HIV crisis in America during the mid-80s. So little was known about the disease at this time and Vallée, along with screenwriters Melisa Wallack and Craig Borten, bring this about throughout the film. They focus not solely on the homophobia and hate, but the affected. How these people impacted others and how by just helping yourself, you extend yourself to help others. You begin to realize the importance of life, love and your right to protection. Rayon and Ron might have disagreed throughout, but they knew they needed each other to succeed in helping themselves and others inflicted with the disease. The shear brilliance also lies in focusing this film, a true story, on a man who never in a million years would think he would get HIV. A man so homophobic, that he is forced to come to terms, not with just the disease, but with his own outlook on life. It may not change much, but it shows the depths of character building and storytelling that is so vital at making this film so good. The only problem with the film I have, and it is minor, is that the last twenty minutes or so dragged just a bit too long for me. I felt like it was taking too long to come to the conclusion, but once we arrived at final scene with Ron, the tears were built up and ready to flow.  
     Dallas Buyers Club is a must see. A film that does not delve too much into the onset of HIV and AIDS, but focuses on the struggles of a man coming to terms with his disease and his own lack of open-mindedness. His struggle to understand, eventually, the hard realities of coming to terms with his lifestyle and the consequences of his actions. The film has two knockout performances from McConaughey and Leto. Truly brilliant work from these two actors. Minus a slight over extension of the story, this film is one of the best of the year. It brings to life the importance of support and companionship between people. How we can always help each other in times of dire need and how that help and love is all we need in life.

Photo credit by IMDB.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Classic Trailers: APOCALYPSE NOW

     Wednesday's Classic Film Trailers presents something that every time it is on TV, being that it was on Sundance Channel last night, I cannot take eyes my away from watching it. Fascinating, visceral, somber and crazy as hell. Yes, I am writing about Francis Ford Coppola's ultimate masterpiece and, in my humble opinion, his best film, Apocalypse Now (1979). No description, analysis or deep thought at this moment. I just love the film. Some films are so deep, so mesmerizing that you just have to let them soak right in. Apocalypse Now is one of those films. A reserved Martin Sheen. A whacked out Dennis Hopper. A young as hell Laurence Fishburne. A napalm smell loving Robert Duvall. And a lunatic in Marlon Brando (character and personally). Amazing use of The Doors "This Is the End." One of the best opening scenes in film history. Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic film. Written by the great John Milius and Coppola. Nominated for eight Academy Awards including, Best Picture, Best Director -- Francis Ford Coppola, Best Supporting Actor -- Robert Duvall, Best Adapted Screenplay -- Milius & Coppola, Best Editing and Best Art/Set Decoration. It won for Best Cinematography -- Vittorio Storaro, brilliant stuff, and Best Sound. A true masterpiece. A true classic. The best film on the Vietnam War ever made. One of my all time favorites and, if I had a top ten films ever made list, it would easily be on that list. Enjoy!!!

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Film Trailers: THE PAST

     This is the kind of contemporary adult film I get excited for and relish. Asghar Farhadi's follow-up to his smash hit A Separation (2011), The Past focuses on another marriage that has fallen apart. Oscar nominee Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) plays a French woman, Marie, whose Iranian husband Ahmad (Ali Mossaffa) deserts her and their two children. Marie starts up a relationship with a young man Samir (Tahar Rahim, who was absolutely brilliant in A Prophet) who looks eerily similar to Ahmad. Everything gets much more murky once Marie asks for a divorce and the complications arise between all three individuals and the two children. The film looks superb and Bejo won the Best Actress award at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Farhadi, who's film A Separation won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards, also wrote the screenplay. One of the best directors working in all of cinema right now and an intellectual, astute observer of the human condition. The film will be released in limited release on December 20, 2013. Enjoy!

Photo credit and trailer by

Monday, November 18, 2013


12 Years A Slave

Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by John Ridley

     Steve McQueen's third feature film, 12 Years a Slave, is the most brutally, anger inducing and heartbreaking film about American slavery in the history of film. It does not joke or have a crowd-pleasing, revenge fantasy as Tarantino's Django Unchained (2012) and most certainly does not paint Antebellum South as a decadent, romance emphasized white cultured world as Gone with the Wind (1939). This film shows the horrors of the oppressed and the oppressors. It is not didactic in any way, but examines the brutality placed in the hands and minds of individuals that have no humanity. In all honesty, it shows how dehumanized African Americans lives were impacted in an unsettling and gut-wrenching way. A way that causes much fear, anger, distrust, sadness and brings tears to the heart. Steve McQueen has created a masterpiece of true cinema, and a film that should be an obligation and education for everyone.
     12 Years a Slave is a difficult film to watch. McQueen, a visual artist from London turned director, has crafted an historical film that is not soaked in clichés, but saturated in beaten bodies and hopeless souls. The heart aches in every scene of immoral actions. The horror is depicted so forcefully and with McQueen's long takes and elegant style, forces the audience into a world of hate and sadness. The art cinema that so boldly and effectively embodied McQueen's first two films, Hunger and Shame, is toned down here with suffocating shots of intense brutality, juxtaposed with images of serene southern beauty. These are somewhat a break to the audience, but also, I believe, to show how such a beautiful environment can contain such an impactful and disgusting disease. There is almost nothing worse in this world than to violently hate someone for the color of their skin or origin of their birth, but this film effectively puts the audience in this world. An honest, terrifying horror of the life of one Solomon Northup.
    Northup, played brilliantly by British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, is a free man in Saratoga, New York, in 1841. An accomplished violinist and loving family man, Solomon is offered a financial opportunity to play with a traveling circus in Washington, D.C. by two men (Scoot McNairy and  Taran Killam). Solomon dines with the two men in D.C. and wakes in a dungeon like room in full chains. We are witnessed to a man, who has lived a life of comfort and respect, beaten so relentlessly that all hope is bled and bruised out him. The experience is framed in an upward shot from the ground, with the scariest of framing. The beating seems like it lasted forever, but Ejiofor's expressions and the enforcer's anger, who breaks a wooden paddle over him and continues with another, is so terrifying that we see the fear and hope fall with every tear and scream out of Northup's body and soul. Northup's life, as he knew it, is gone.
    Solomon is assigned to a slave trader in Louisiana, Freeman (Paul Giamatti), who sells him to a more generous and less evil plantation owner Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). Giamatti plays Freeman with complete distaste and vitriolic disdain for slaves. Great in it, but he has achieved a hatred based portrayal that is truly disgusting to watch. Cumberbatch is a soft spoken, benign man that sees more positive and talent out Solomon, who is now named Platt, but has a plantation overseer named Tibeats (Paul Dano) who is a high contrast from Ford. Dano, playing Tibeats with the same outlandish enthusiasm as the preacher in There Will Be Blood, is a violent, weak man who disregards slaves as mere nothing. Solomon fights back with his intelligence and sophistication when Tibeats questions the quality of his carpentry and house building. Solomon beats Tibeats until he cries like sniveling scared little man. This act of revenge has consequences of unthinkable brutality.
     The fact that McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley (Red Tails), who adapted the memoir by Solomon Northup of the same name, have made the quintessential film on slavery and centered the main character as a free man, that is tricked into slavery is quite astonishing and genius. This shows how his life is taken away without control. How inhumane these slave owners and overseers were, and the depravity that they imposed on innocent human beings. It is a horror that can be seen through the eyes of a man of innocence and love. A man that had his complete life turned upside down for no honest reason at all, longing for his family.
     The scene following Solomon's courageous attack on Tibeats is one of the hardest in the film. He is hanged, with just the tips of toes touching the muddy ground. The sound is unbearable. In a scene that lasted, what felt like at least ten minutes or more, we see slaves and white people going back to work without helping Solomon. The fear of aiding him is so impactful here and the mere shock of seeing Solomon fight for his life is unbearable. Ejiofor is just so amazing in this scene and throughout the whole film. How this amazing group of talent achieved such heartbreaking excellence speaks to there unbelievable skill and talent. It is quite amazing, but also so difficult to watch.
     Solomon, to save his life from Tibeats relentless desire to beat the hell out of him, is sold from Ford's ownership to the malevolent, Bible thumping drunk slave owner Edwin Epps (McQueen regular Michael Fassbender). This is the devil. Flashy, but not without his own contradictions, Fassbender plays Epps with violent ferociousness that is so intense and full of hate. What he does and how he believes these slaves are his property and, as the Bible supposedly states, he can beat his property when he wants, is shocking. He believes he can do with his property as he sees fit. One of his slaves, Patsey (newcomer Lupita Nyong'o) is his best worker, secret love and holds the sinister disdain of Epps' wife Mistress Epps (Sarah Paulson). Patsey is heartbreaking and just wants this pain and suffering to end. In the most difficult scene to watch, Patsey, who ran away to a neighbors plantation, comes back and is forced to be whipped by Solomon. It is without a doubt one of the most difficult scenes I have ever seen in my life and brought intense anger and sorrowful tears to my eyes. Nyong'o is a revelation in this film. She expresses, with subtle, emotional brilliance, the innocent heartache of a woman that is in throes of the devil in a white man's body. It is so devastating to see what she goes through in this film. Truly heartbreaking. Eventually, Solomon works with a Canadian carpenter Bass (Brad Pitt) that aids him in getting the correct papers that proves he his a free man. This allows him to return to the family he has not seen for twelve years.
     As difficult as this film is to sit through at times, it carries some of the finest performances in cinema this year. Everyone is excellent and Nyong'o and Fassbender are both mesmerizing and chilling in every scene. Both should easily be nominated for supporting actor Oscars, but nothing is as beautiful and harrowing as Ejiofor. He is in the role of his young career. The role of a lifetime and he plays it with such humanity and fear. The man was abducted and his life was in most unbelievable turmoil. In a scene towards the end of the film, Solomon stares right at the camera. His solemn, touching countenance forces the audience to become inescapably immersed in this world. In this horror forced upon him. The scene forces the audience to not hide from this treacherous world and no longer feels like we are an outsider looking in at this world. We have witnessed the unsettling situation that Solomon has been forced in to and this scene is a stroke of genius from McQueen and acted impeccably well by the Ejiofor. He has to be the man to beat in the best actor race and deserves every accolade that comes his way.
     McQueen is fearless and honest with this film, and is in complete control. Easily a best director candidate for every possible award from this year. Beautiful and haunting cinematography from Sean Bobbitt and a scathing, sharp tuned, string based score from Hans Zimmer, resembling some of his work on Inception, adds to this frightening infliction being unveiled on the screen. The period looks perfect, with a watchful, detailed eye to clothing, hairstyles and plantation life, but nothing is not in the watchful eye of McQueen.
     12 Years a Slave is an honest, brutal film on the horrors of the inhumane actions of human beings and how these actions affected innocence. McQueen does not shy away from the atrocities, but does it with a genius touch and artistic handle that shows how talented a filmmaker and artist he is. He has made a film that should be mandatory viewing for everyone. A film that is an unflinching portrait of the unbearable scab on not just American history, but a whole race of people that were treated with such disregard and malevolence, that there can never be an apology that will suffice these evil actions. I cannot praise the quality, guts and craft of this picture enough. This is the best film of the year, and it may not be a film I want to rush out and see right away again, but with the quality at work here and the importance of the subject at hand, it will be hard not to dive deeper into this true, profoundly important cinematic masterpiece.

Photo credit by IMDB.    

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Criterion Collection Titles for February 2014

     Last Friday, November 15, the Criterion Collection announced their new crop of releases that will be available during the month of February. Going through the new announcements, with the exception of one title which I already own, I will be purchasing all of these films. Great month and already a great start to 2014. Starting with the French New Wave classic Jules and Jim (1962) from legendary director François Truffaut. This film is full of life, romance and friendship. Starring Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner and Henri Serre, the film spans a twenty-five year relationship between Jules and Jim, and their mutual affection and obsession over Catherine. A groundbreaking film from the writer-director of the classic The 400 Blows. I have seen it once and loved it instantly, so I am really excited this is getting an upgrade. A dual-format (blu-ray and DVD) release date of February 4th cannot come soon enough.
     Another French New Wave classic that is getting the dual-format treatment is the film that started it all, Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960). I own the blu-ray so I am good here, but it is cool that Criterion is going to begin releasing all of there blu-ray and new titles in dual-format additions. If you have not seen this film, change that as fast as possible. Gangsters, love of American film noir, Humphrey Bogart, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. Classic of everything that is wonderful about cinema. This film is cinema. Release date of February 25.
     Wes Anderson films are all over the Criterion Collection. They love him. His first animated, and the Criterion Collection's first animated release, is Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), which will be hitting shelves on February 18. A great film in general and something the adults and kids will love. It contains all the great eccentricities that any fan, or non-fan, of Anderson will love, or hate. The film is all stop-motion animation. Based on the Roald Dahl classic children novel, it tells the story of Mr. Fox, a chicken thief, who gets into trouble with three large and successful farmers. Mr. Fox cannot stay out of trouble and is also trying to raise his family in a new foxhole under a tree next to the farmers operations. Quirky, clever and full of the joys of any Anderson film. The cast includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray, naturally. The only film from Wes Anderson that is not in the collection is Moonrise Kingdom and I hope that is changed soon. I also love the scheming artwork for the cover.
     Now, a classic from Alfred Hitchcock Foreign Correspondent (1940). The second film, after Rebecca (1940), that was released once Hitchcock moved to Hollywood and started making films in the states. A perfect espionage thriller with some of the most amazing set pieces ever put on celluloid. The master of suspense is in prime control over every aspect of this film. Starring Joel McCrea as a news reporter, sent to Europe to cover the inevitable war. As soon as he arrives in Europe mystery ensues. This is truly a classic Hitchcock film, but most of his films are and this one does not disappoint. Amazing tension, witty dialogue and an overall production that is about as good as it gets. The film will be released in dual-format on February 18. Keep on getting and releasing Hitchcock films, especially the older British and earlier American ones that are not as well-known as his later
Hollywood successes.
     More Roman Polanski is always a good thing and a new director's cut of Polanski's masterful adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Ubervilles" is coming. Tess (1979), with a breakout performance from Nastassja Kinski and beautiful cinematography, revolves around her journey through class, sex, betrayal and revenge. I just cannot wait to see how gorgeous this film will look on blu-ray. The cinematography alone is worth the investment, but Polanski's elegant, devious touch and brilliant craft is what really shines in this film. The man just is one of the finest, most talented director's to grace film history and Tess is another indication of Polanski's status as one of the best. The film will be released in dual-format on February 25.
    A new release that I have not seen, and is finally going to be out on blu-ray and DVD, is Steven Soderbergh's King of the Hill (1993). The story, set in St. Louis during the Great Depression, focuses on Aaron (Jesse Bradford) and his struggles of growing up without a mother or father close to home. Aaron is an imaginative boy, but must learn the hardships of life at an adolescent age and teach himself how to survive on his own. I am very interested in seeing this film, being that it was Soderergh's first Hollywood production after the success of his indie ground breaker sex, lies, and videotape (1989). A bonus is that the disc will also include Soderbergh's follow-up feature The Underneath (1995), which I have not seen either. Good stuff here. Soderbergh hardly ever disappoints and is so intelligent. He knows how to frame a shot and edit a film as good as anyone. No extra nonsense. The film will be released in dual-format on February 25.
     And, Criterion has one more release for the heavily packed February. Abdellatif Kechiche's controversial and 2013 Palme d'Or winning best film at the Cannes Film Festival Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013). A film that took the festival by storm and has been talked about as much for the amazing performances and sex scenes, as for the difficult and challenging filming and production. The film revolves around Adèle, played with amazing power by newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos, and here adventures into youthful romance. She is dating a teenage boy, but runs into an older art student with blue hair, Emma (Léa Seydoux), and falls passionately in love with her, changing and shaping her life forever. A love story for a new, and this, generation. I still have not seen this film yet and hope to see it before it is out of theaters here in Austin. I have read so much about the two performances from Exarchopoulos and Seydoux, and the film looks amazing. Criterion is releasing this film in a bare bones edition in separate blu-ray and DVD packages, but they state that a full special edition will be released at a later date. Hopefully, there will be plenty of interviews about the production and how the two main actresses had difficulties with the very talented director Kechciche. The film is an instant buy for me, but I wonder when the special edition will be released. The film will be released in both bare bones editions on February 11.
     A great month of releases and hopefully the Foreign Correspondent release will look clean and smooth, and not like a grain (snow) storm. That black and white photography is fantastic on that film. Looks like a lot more films to add to the collection.

Photo credits by Criterion Collection.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wes Anderson short film CASTELLO CAVALCANTI

     It never gets old. Here is Wes Anderson's new short film Castello Cavalcanti. He teamed up with Prada for this little gem and has one of his regulars performing in it, Jason Schwartzman. Really enjoy the small Italian village set and small Italian cars. Love the irony and misguided aloofness of it all. Schwartzman is the best at delivering Anderson's dialogue at high level with dry, acute articulation. I also like Anderson working with a different DP, using Darius Khondji (Midnight in Paris & Seven) for this short. The stark contrast of lighting is a beautiful change from the amber shades of Anderson's usual DP Robert Yeoman, who is also great. Can never get enough Wes Anderson. Full of quarter turns and quick pans. Anderson is one of the most unique auteur's working in film today and a personal favorite of mine.

Trailer by YouTube.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Film Trailers: NOAH

     Whoa! This film will definitely not disappoint on the visuals. Darren Aronofsky's Noah is his telling of human sin and the building of Noah's ark to save his family from the mighty flood. It should be interesting to see how this film plays out and how religious it will end up being. Noah should be very interesting and there are already rumblings about Aronofsky and Paramount Pictures butting heads over the ending. Stick to your guns Aronofsky. You are one hell of a filmmaker and so distinctive. Russell Crowe plays the biblical legend Noah and the rest of the cast includes Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Martin Csokas, Kevin Durand, Mark Margolis and Anthony Hopkins. Noah is scheduled for release on March 28, 2014. I, for one, cannot wait to see it and I am always excited for a new Darren Aronofsky film. Enjoy!

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Classic Trailers: SIDEWAYS

     Alexander Payne's latest directorial effort Nebraska gets released this weekend, so Classic Film Trailers brings the trailer for one of my favorite Payne films, Sideways. Released in 2004, the film is based off of Rex Pickett's novel, and stars Paul Giamatti as Miles, a down on his luck English teacher, who has recently gone through a divorce. Miles and his friend from college Jack, played by Thomas Haden Church, embark on a week long road trip through the California wine country before Jack's impending wedding. The two men have dealt with disappointment, especially Miles who has still yet to publish a satisfactory novel, but Jack wants one last fling before he settles down, while Miles, a wine connoisseur, wants a week of eating good food, drinking fine wine and spending time with his friend. The film gets to me every time. Funny, honest and sentimental. Payne is the absolute best writer-director at reaching honest emotional depths and presenting the realities of everyday Americans and life. He understands the importance of searching for one's identity and these two men are in the midst of that frightening mid-life crisis. Sideways is just a fine film and I still feel a certain kinship to Miles. Somewhat introverted, but sad, intelligent and in search of who he is and figuring out what he is going to do with his life. Honesty on film from Alexander Payne and equally funny. The film received 5 Academy Award nominations. It won Best Adapted Screenplay for Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, and was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director - Payne, Best Supporting Actor - Thomas Haden Church and Best Supporting Actress - Virginia Madsen. The magnificent Paul Giamatti should have been nominated! Enjoy the trailer!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Film Trailers: LONE SURVIVOR

     The new film from director Peter Berg looks, well, not that bad. Lone Survivor tells the story of four Navy SEALS and their unsuccessful mission against a Taliban leader in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan during the summer of 2005. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana. Berg directed the film on a minimum salary and, supposedly, had directed the awful Battleship so he could make this film. Early buzz is positive and the trailers is appealing. The film will be in limited release on December 27, 2013 and go wide on January 10, 2014. Enjoy!

Photo credit by and trailer by YouTube.

Film Trailers: WINTER'S TALE

     I have watched this trailer a couple of times since it premiered last week and I still do not have a good feeling about this film. Part fantasy, part time travel and part love story. It just does not grab my attention and seems like it is going to be highly problematic, narrative-wise and thematically. But, that is just my impression from the synopsis and trailer. Written and directed by Oscar winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), Winter's Tale follows a burglar, Colin Farrell, as he falls in love with an heiress, Jessica Brown Findlay, as she dies in his arms. Being chased by a ruthless crime boss, Russell Crowe, he manages to escape and, at the same time, realizes he has the gift of reincarnation. His goal his to find a way to protect the woman he has fell for. I truly am not certain on this film. Time travel, religion and some fantasy just do not always blend. Unless your Darren Aronofsky...The Fountain. Not that I am comparing this to that film in any way, but I got a minor notion of Aronofsky's underrated gem when I saw this trailer. The film also stars Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Eva Marie Saint and Kevin Durand. It will open on Valentine's Day, 2014. That is not always a good release date either. Enjoy.

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Written & Directed 
David Lowery

     Ain't Them Bodies Saints from writer-director David Lowery is a slow paced, beautifully filmed and told story of an outlaw wanting to get back to his lover and the child he has yet to hold in his arms. A film that rolls through the Texas Hill Country with the lush, methodical storytelling and filmmaking of Terrence Malick's earlier films and the violence of Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. There are no big reveals or huge twists in this romantic thriller, but just a well made feature film. Lowery also worked as an editor on Shane Carruth's intoxicating Upstream Color and shows a wonderful eye at storytelling and directing. The film also contains some of the best acting that has been in film this year, especially a quiet, moving turn from Ben Foster. Ain't Them Bodies Saints is definitely worth your time if you want something completely different from the usual Hollywood entertainment. 
     The film has the feel of a fairy tale, almost, but also is soaked in lush cinematography and an atmosphere of love and loss. Taking place in the 1970s, we see Texas outlaw Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck), his partner Freddy (Kentucker Audley) and his girlfriend Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) at the end of their crime spree. Defending themselves in an abandon house, they are in the depths of a shootout with the Texas police. Freddy gets shot and killed. Bob and Ruth decide to surrender, but Ruth has shot and wounded one of the police officers, Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster). Before they give themselves up, Bob takes the blame for everything, including shooting Wheeler. Bob is sent to jail and Ruth is left to have their unborn child and raise it alone.
    Bob repeatedly tries to break out of prison and fails continuously. Eventually he frees himself from the constraints of jail and takes on the journey of getting back to his love and the daughter, Sylvie (played by twins Kennadie & Jacklynn Smith), he has never physically laid eyes on. While he was away, Ruth has moved in to a house provided for her by the reserved, but staunch local crime boss Skerritt (Keith Carradine). He is a protector over these two and will not allow any harm to come upon them. One of the beauties of this story is that we never really get much of a history lesson. We know who these characters are, here and now. We know little of why or what Ruth and Bob got in to before the shootout, but we can assume it was bad, of course. We know little of Skerritt's background either, but that is part of the brilliance of Lowery's screenplay. He is aware of telling the story in front of us and given hints at the past, but not dwelling in it. The audience can come up with their own interpretations. This is where your everyday movie audience would find this film frustrating and where I find it to be a celebrated delight.
    Bob gets back to the unnamed Texas town where Ruth resides and hides out with an old friend and bartender Sweetie (Nate Parker). When he gets back though, a trio of criminals from out-of-town come looking for Bob. Once again, no reasons are giving for the presence or past of these men, but what tension is created with their arrival. Also, the leader of the three is played by "Breaking Bad" alumni Charles Baker, aka Skinny Pete. They find Bob and an absolutely breathtaking shootout ensues. The cracking and popping of gunfire will keep you on the edge of your seat. It is one of the best shootouts I have seen in a long time and reminded me of the shootouts in Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Violent, but done with class and truth. Affleck is brilliant as the hardened outlaw. Tough as nails and willing to do anything to get back to his family. However, this just leads Wheeler hotter on the trail of Bob, but he also has other intentions.
    Officer Wheeler has slowly, but not forcefully, become attracted to Ruth. He is invited over for dinner and he is charming, awkward and respectful of Ruth and Sylvie. An attraction is obviously there, but is played out with a southern sweetness that just works perfectly. I absolutely loved this scene and it really exemplified how Foster and Mara are performing at a high level. Mara is dainty, but cold. She has witnessed the hardships of life and has raised her daughter all alone. My only probably with her is that her southern accent was a little forced. Not fully believable. Mara is still very good in this role and shows the strengths and vulnerabilities of a woman in need of change and looking for love, old or new. However, Foster really impressed me here. It seems he finally played an adult that expressed a wide range of emotions. It is has if this role is where he moved up in status as one of the better actors working today. Maybe it was the mustache or the fact his southern accent did not feel forced, but he nailed the role of a police officer doing the right thing and fighting the urges of a complicated attraction. He does not know that Ruth was the one that shot him in that shootout with Bob and Freddy.
     David Lowery has created an independent masterpiece with his honest writing and smooth, but physical directing. The film is a respectful piece of cinema, that is so similar to Terrence Malick's Texas tale of outlaws on the run Badlands and Arthur Penn's cinema-altering Bonnie and Clyde, but has the distinctiveness that makes it one of a kind. Pacing that slowly builds to a thrilling conclusion and all aspects of the production are in top form. Breathtaking cinematography from Bradford Young and a soothing score by Daniel Hart. Ain't Them Bodies Saints is rich in atmosphere and is brilliant in its depiction of an outlaw in search of his family, but having to fight tooth-and-nail to get there. Absolutely perfect performances from all involved, but Foster really stood out in my opinion. David Lowery, in the business for awhile, is definitely a writer-director to look out for and as proven he has the patience, skill and talent to tell a sophisticated, adult story without catering to audiences assumed expectations. An absolute knockout of a film. 

Photo credit by IMDB.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Classic Trailers: BATMAN

     There is a big superhero film opening this upcoming weekend, Thor: The Dark World, so why not present a trailer for a classic superhero film. It was one of the first of its kind and was a really well made film. Classic hero, over-the-top villain and, for the time, some pretty great effects and not full of CGI stupidity. I am writing about Tim Burton's Batman, released in 1989. The film starred Michael Keaton as the billionaire Bruce Wayne and the famous caped crusader Batman. He is still the best at playing Batman. Sorry Christian Bale. You were good, but Keaton was great and his voice as Batman was acceptable and not a groveling piece of...I still do not know what they were going for there. Still love those Nolan films though. They are the best, but Burton's Batman had a unique, dark vision from the famous director and who could have been better to play the Joker than Jack Nicholson. Nicholson was the highlight of the film and just owned every scene in that movie. I still think it is a toss up between who was better between Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Both were completely different takes on the character and were highly successful. The film is still highly enjoyable and definitely has that comic book feel to it, where Nolan's films are more practical and placed in real world aesthetics. And that score by Danny Elfman is truly iconic. A dark, sarcastic film that definitely contained Burton's style and some decent comic book flare. The film also starred Kim Basinger, Jack Palance, Robert Wuhl, Michael Gough, Billy Dee Williams, Pat Hingle and Jerry Hall. Enjoy!

Monday, November 4, 2013


     Now, a vampire film I am really excited to see. One directed by one of the best directors of all-time and a personal favorite of mine, Jim Jarmusch. I mean, vampire + Jim Jarmusch. What is not to like. The story centers on two vampires, Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, who have loved each other for centuries and look to reunite amidst the poor direction of humankind. Set in Detroit and Tangier, the film has received rave reviews out of the Cannes, Toronto and New York Film Festivals. A film that will show the passion between two lovers that have loved, and lived, an enigmatic life for such a long time. The cast also includes Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, Jeffrey Wright and John Hurt. This will easily be one of my top ten anticipated films for 2014. Anything Jarmusch does I am down for. That deadpan, dry humor always gets me and it will undoubtedly have a sumptuous edge of COOL. I highly anticipate every new film from this brilliant filmmaker. I still believe Down By Law is a true masterpiece of 80s cinema and Dead Man is one of the best Westerns made in the last thirty years. The film will be released by Sony Pictures Classics sometime in 2014. Enjoy the international trailer!!!

Photo credits by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Film Trailers: LABOR DAY

     Last week the trailer for Jason Reitman's new film Labor Day premiered and it looks to be a departure in tone and narrative then what Reitman has previously done. That is a good thing, in that he is testing boundaries and attempting new types of filmmaking, but this looks a little too, I do not know, soft and obviously an intended tearjerker. That, of course, is sight unseen and based entirely off the trailer. Also, the mixed reviews out of the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. Some really loved it and others did not. Kate Winslet plays a single mother, in the midst of loneliness and depression, when an escaped convict, played by Josh Brolin, asks for a ride and kidnaps them in their own home.  The results are a matter of the two adults falling for each other after the mother and her son find out his true story. The trailer definitely tugs on that emotional heart and sweet spot for romance. Reitman is a very talented director so it will be interesting to see how this change from satire and funny, dramatic reality to heavy, love-filled, PG-13 drama plays out. I am not fully sold on this film after the trailer and feel like it might be a little too Nicolas Sparks-y, but it is still Reitman, so I might be surprised. I hope so. The film also stars Dylan Minnette and Tobey Maguire. The film will be in limited release on December 25, 2013 (for an Oscar run) and wide on January 31, 2014. Enjoy!

Photo credits by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.


     They are back! X-Men will not die! The newest film in the ever expanding Marvel universe is X-Men: Days of Future Past. Bryan Singer is back behind the director's chair, he previously directed the first two films, X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003). He has been in a slump, see, well, do not see the awful Jack the Giant Slayer, since the these two films and still has not directed anything of the quality that was The Usual Suspects (1995). Assuming a very nice paycheck for Singer and the whole gang is back. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, for the SEVENTH time, and a massive ensemble cast that includes the original cast and the cast from the origin film X-Men: First Class (2011). The film revolves around Wolverine going back in history to change the past so the future can be saved. An epic battle for the survival of the species. Umm...we will see? I am intrigued, being that this contains such an impressive cast, but it still is a superhero movie. The first two were not that bad and the origins film by Matthew Vaughan was ok, but I will be skeptical until I see something substantial. The cast includes the aforementioned Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Ian McKellan, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Nicolas Hoult, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore and Peter Dinklage. The film will be released on May 23, 2014. Enjoy.

Photo credits by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.