Tuesday, April 29, 2014


     The hype and anticipation over who will be cast in J.J. Abrams forthcoming trilogy in the Star Wars franchise can come to some ease as the cast has finally been revealed. Nothing really shocking and no big "WOW" names, but overall an interesting, good cast. The first billed actor is Attack the Block star John Boyega and I assume he might be the lead Jedi of some sort. The lead female role will be played by relative unknown Daisy Ridley (Mr. Selfridge) who could be playing the daughter of Han and Leia. The rest of the new cast members are quite interesting with the presumed main villain to be played by Adam Driver ("Girls") and the possible rebel leader of some sort to be played by the excellent Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis). Another Jedi part might go to Domhnall Gleeson (About Time) and I am interested to see what role Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings) will play, whether it is live or motion capture. The legend/elder statesman role goes to the legendary Max von Sydow (The Seventh Seal) and will he be heroic or villainous. He can play both quite well.
    With all the new cast members, the original cast is returning as well. Harrison Ford - Han Solo, Carrie Fisher - Princess Leia, Mark Hamill - Luke Skywalker, Anthony Daniels - C-3PO, Kenny Baker - R2-D2 and Peter Mayhew - Chewbacca, will be reprising their roles in this first film, and maybe more. Supposedly, Han Solo has a very significant role in Episode VII, but there are so many rumors out there nothing will be known for awhile.
     No official title has been announced and there is still plenty of time before we might find out which characters the new cast members will be playing. All-in-all, I am rather pleased with the initial cast and intrigued for what comes ahead. I am especially pleased with the casting of Isaac, Driver and von Sydow, as well as Gleeson. And whatever role Serkis plays, he, or it, will be fantastic. I am very intrigued to see how Boyega and Ridley do and whether they breakout big or falter like Hayden Christensen. The only thing I am concerned about is how many damn lens flares will Abrams use? Please, chill on that shit! I like Star Wars and am looking forward to the film, but I am not geeky about it and if it was 15 years ago, I would be doing cartwheels. No matter what, it is going to make billions and billions. They all getting rich. Only time will tell if the end product is good, as Star Wars Episode VII will be released on December 18th, 2015.

Photo credit by ropeofsilicon.com

Monday, April 28, 2014

Film Trailers: MAPS TO THE STARS

     Julianne Moore working with David Cronenberg. Sold! Well, I am sold with anything either one of these exceptional artists are involved in, but together, it is going to be fantastic. Cronenberg is was one of the more intelligent, gutsy directors in cinema and this film appears to be some kind of satire on Hollywood and dysfunctional relationships. He has been in a bit of a slump with his last tow films, A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis. Definitely not bad films, but nothing significant. Once again, is this the film where Robert Pattinson really breaks through. He was good in Cronenberg's Cosmopolis, but nothing special. I love seeing Cronenberg working with Moore and I really hope John Cusack delivers the goods that he is capable of. The man has been in a rut for quite some time and could use a quality picture. The cast also includes Mia Wasikowska, Carrie Fisher, Sarah Gadon and Olivia Williams. The film will have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and I am sure, hopeful, a US date will occur by the end of the year. Really anticipating the reviews out of Cannes. Cannot go wrong with Cronenberg.

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Film Trailers: BOYHOOD

     I was fortunate enough to see Richard Linklater's latest, the 12-year in the making epic Boyhood at SXSW and it is without a doubt one of his finest achievements and unlike anything made in a long while. Astounding piece of real cinema with that genuine Linklater touch of over analyzing one's self, while at the same time searching for that self in the world. Trying to rationalize and produce intelligent thought about everything in life. And the realities of growing up with divorced parents. I absolutely loved it and you can check out my review here. Boyhood, with an outstanding cast, including Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater and the spectacular Ellar Coltrane, opens on July 11th and hopefully a grand Criterion edition will be released by the end of the year. Enjoy!!!

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Film Trailers: COLD IN JULY

     Here is the trailer for Jim Mickle's Cold In July, based on the novel by Joe Lansdale. The film received high praises when it screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and will be apart of the Director's Fortnight section at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The trailer looks intense and is set during the 1980s in East Texas. Two fathers must put aside their bitter differences to uncover a darker truth, according to IMDB. The cast is great, with Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw and Don Johnson, but I am especially excited to see Michael C. Hall's work. After being great in "Dexter," I really want to see him shine on the big screen and word is very positive. A tense, dark, Texas thriller is right up my alley. The film will be released on May 23rd. Enjoy!

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Film Trailers: THE ROVER

     The new film from Australian writer-director David Michôd, The Rover, looks as gritty and seedy as his clever, dark family crime drama Animal Kingdom (2010). The film follows a loner (Robert Pattinson) who tracks down the gang of thieves who stole his car. It takes place in small town Australia and the vast desolate outback. Everything about this film looks fantastic, including most of the cast, which includes Guy Pearce, David Field and Scoot McNairy, but I am skeptical about Pattinson. I still have not seen him knock it out of the park, not that he has too, but nothing has really made me say, "yea, he is something to look out for." Serviceable, but not a standout...yet. Same with his work in Cosmopolis for David Cronenberg. Working with quality filmmakers though: Cronenberg, Crobijn, Herzog and Michôd. We shall see. I trust Michôd since his wonderful work on Animal Kingdom. The Rover will premiere during the Midnight Selections at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Enjoy!

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

2014 Cannes Film Festival Lineup

     Early this morning, the film lineup for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival was announced and nothing is really standing out, at least from an American film perspective. No big standouts like Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman, Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight or J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year. Having said (written) that, there are a lot of interesting looking films from the usual Cannes club of directors. Films from Ken Loach, the Dardenne brothers, David Cronenberg, Xavier Dolan and Mike Leigh are all premiering and all look exceptional. It is just a little lackluster. No No Country for Old Men or Nebraska. The only real high-caliber film out of America that is showing is Bennett Miller's highly anticipated Foxcatcher, starring Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carrell. I am also interested to see how Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River (aka How to Catch a Monster) turns out. We still have the Director's Fortnight and Critics' Week selections to go. More films will be announced later, but I really wanted to find out the goods on Birdman and Inherent Vice. Anticipation waits. Here is a complete list of the films announced so far. The festival runs from May 14 - 25. Enjoy.

  • Grace of Monaco   d. Olivier Dahan
  • The Captive   d. Atom Egoyan
  • Foxcatcher   d. Bennett Miller
  • Goodbye to Language   d. Jean-Luc Godard (in 3D)
  • The Homesman   d. Tommy Lee Jones 
  • Jimmy's Hall   d. Ken Loach
  • Leviafan   d. Andrey Zvyagintsev
  • Maps to the Stars   d. David Cronenberg
  • Le meraviglie   d. Alice Rohrwacher
  • Mommy   d. Xavier Dolan
  • Mr. Turner   d. Mike Leigh
  • Saint Laurent   d. Bertrand Bonello
  • The Search   d. Michel Hazanavicus
  • Clouds of Sils Maria   d. Olivier Assayas
  • Still the Water   d. Naomi Kawase
  • Timbuktu   d. Abderrahmane Sissako    
  • Two Days, One Night   Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
  • Wild Tales   d. Damián Szifron
  • Winter Sleep   d. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  • Party Girl   d. Mari Amachoukeli-Barsacq, Claire Burger & Samuel Theis
  • Amour Fou   d. Jessica Hausner
  • Bird People   d. Pascale Ferran 
  • The Blue Room   d. Mathieu Amalric
  • Charlie's Country   d. Rolf de Heer
  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby   d. Ned Benson
  • Fantasia   d. Wang Chao
  • A Girl at My Door   d. July Jung
  • Harcheck mi headro   d. Keren Yedaya
  • Jauja   d. Lisandro Alonso
  • Lost River   d. Ryan Gosling
  • Incompresa  d. Asia Argento
  • Run   d. Philippe Lacôte
  • The Salt of the Earth   d. Wim Wenders & Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
  • Snow in Paradise   d. Andrew Hulme
  • Titli   d. Kanu Behl
  • Turist   d. Ruben Östlund
  • Hermosa juventud   d. Jaime Rosales
  • Xenia   d. Panos H. Koutras
  • The Rover   d. David Michôd
  • The Salvation   d. Kristian Levring
  • The Target   d. Yoon Hong-Seung
  • Bridges of Sarajevo   d. various directors
  • Caricaturists: Fantasies of Democracy   d. Stéphanie Valloatto
  • Eau argentee   d. Mohammed Ossama
  • Maidan   d. Sergei Loznitsa
  • Red Army   d. Gabe Polsky
  • Coming Home   d. Zhang Yimou
  • Les gens du monde   d. Yves Jeuland
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2   d. Dean DeBlois
Photo credit by theguardian.com.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Criterion Collection Releases for July 2014

     The Criterion Collection announced their new releases yesterday and some quality films are being released in the month of July, including one I have been waiting for for over a year. David Cronenberg's sci-fi thriller Scanners (1981) gets the dual format treatment. Thank you. Thank you. This might be my favorite film from one of the best directors of all time. The film, starring a sinister Michael Ironside, revolves around individuals called "scanners" who have telekinetic powers, but some want to use it for power and domination. The film will always be remembered for the exploding head, but the suspense, horror and deep dive into human psyche and powers is something of brilliance. David Cronenberg's masterpiece will be released on July 15th and that cover art is both spectacular and haunting.
    Even though the Cronenberg release is extremely exciting for myself, probably the biggest release
of the month, and maybe the entire year so far, is the 6 film box set of Jacques Demy films. A French master and someone that many film lovers have been dying to see join the collection for quite some time. Demy created his own cinematic universe and was quite different than the other French New Wave filmmakers that came out of the 60s. Romance, musicals, melodramas and fantasy, nothing was out of bounds for Demy. He also worked with some of the most beautiful European actresses, especially the gorgeous Catherine Deneuve. The set includes Lola (1961), Bay of Angels (1963), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), Donkey Skin (1970) and Une chambre en ville (1982). I am pretty sure this is a blind buy for me and I know the color films will look spectacular. The box set will be released in dual format, 13 discs in all, on July 22nd. 
     Another French film is getting released in July, but this one is getting an upgrade and is the complete opposite from the lavish Demy films. Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959) is a film of brilliant craftsmanship, with the minimalist of technique. The film swallows you in and is one hell of a suspenseful ride, much like Bresson's A Man Escaped. At only 75 minutes, Pickpocket examines the thrills and fears of a Parisian thief. Bresson is a filmmaker I have only recently gotten in to, but I am so thankful I have. Simple, economical and full of humanism, Bresson's films are pure cinematic poetry. Pickpocket will be released in dual format on July 15th. 
     I believe Christopher Nolan only made one mediocre film and that is Insomnia. It just did not completely work for me and after I saw the original
Norwegian film that Nolan's was a remake of, it really hit home. Insomnia (1997), directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, is one exceptional murder mystery. It contains mesmerizing cinematography and truly unsettling situations. Stellan Skarsgård plays a Swedish detective who travels to a tiny Northern Norwegian town to investigate the death of a young girl. His own past and full daylight from the midnight sun unnerves him and his abilities in attempting to solve this chilling murder mystery. Great film and one that is far superior than the decent film Nolan made. The cover art for this one is quite amazing as well. That steely, light blue is hypnotic and somewhat terrifying. The film will be released in dual format, also an upgrade, on July 22nd. 
     The other film that will be released in July is Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill (1983). I can remember watching this film with my parents and slightly understanding the reconnection's and reminiscing moments, but really loving that awesome soundtrack that accompanied the film. Songs from the 60s, including tracks from Marvin Gaye, The Young Rascals and The Temptations, to name a few, helped make this a definitive film in the 80s and one that exemplified how great popular music can affect and be an integral part of a film. That great ensemble cast includes William Hurt, JoBeth Williams, Jeff Goldblum, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place and Meg Tilly. A film for the baby boomers and one I might need to check out again. It has been awhile. The film will be released in dual format on July 29th. 
       And that is it for the month of July. Overall, a good month for releases and finally got Scanners!!! 

Photo credits by The Criterion Collection.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Film Trailers: THE HOMESMAN

     Tommy Lee Jones' second directorial effort and it looks like a good one. I thoroughly enjoyed his undervalued neo-western The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and with The Homesman, it appears he has dived back in to his wealth of Western film knowledge and crafted something special. It somewhat reminds of a Coen brothers film with oddball characters and an unusual partnership during a quest or journey. The cast is spectacular, including Jones, who also co-wrote the screenplay, Hilary Swank, Miranda Otto, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, Jesse Plemons, William Fichtner, Hailee Steinfeld and Meryl Streep. Damn!!! The release of the trailer this close to the Cannes Film Festival announcement almost assures its place in the lineup. Oh yeah, that great look it has comes from the wonderful cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Babel, Brokeback Mountain). The film does not have a release date yet, but should be picked up at Cannes and released later this year. Looking forward to this one. Enjoy the international trailer!

Photo credit by collider and trailer by YouTube.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Film Trailers: GONE GIRL

     Almost everything about this trailer works, as expected with any film from David Fincher, but I really do not like Richard Butler, from the Psychedelic Furs, cover of "She." They should have used the Elvis Costello version. It is eerie, cool, smooth and atmospheric as hell. The poster promotes a headline news worthy notion that will be prevalent throughout the film, I suppose. Fincher knows what he is doing and that is for sure. Ben Affleck looks solid, hopefully his best role to-date and one where he really shines. Rosamund Pike will of course be fantastic. Gone Girl, based off the best-selling novel of the same name from Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, follows the disappearance of Amy Dunne (Pike) on her fifth wedding anniversary and her husband Nick (Affleck) who is now the prime suspect. I have not read the book yet and know the ending of the film is different from the novel, but anticipation is extremely high on this film. It is number 3 on my most anticipated films of 2014 list. Fincher is working with his fantastic crew again, including DP Jeff Cronenwerth, musicians Atticus Ross & Trent Reznor and editor Kirk Baxter. The film also stars Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Sela Ward, Missi Pyle and Scoot McNairy. Fox will release Gone Girl on October 3rd and it will certainly be in the Oscar and awards season race. Enjoy!!!

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by joblo.com.

Film Trailers: GOD'S POCKET

     Here is the trailer for God's Pocket, one of the other, along with Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, of Philip Seymour Hoffman's final on screen performances. The film is directed by "Mad Men" star John Slattery, who also has directed episodes of that show. The film did not get received all that well at this year's Sundance Film Festival, but I am impressed with the trailer. Mickey (Hoffman) gets in over his head when he attempts to cover up the death of his stepson. Without a doubt I want to see this film, regardless of the reviews. The early 80's setting and what appears to be a somewhat mix of  a thriller and dark comedy. Plus seeing Hoffman. The cast also includes Christina Hendricks, John Turturro, Caleb Landry Jones and Richard Jenkins. The film will be released on May 9th. Still sad to think that Hoffman is gone. Cannot believe it. Enjoy the trailer.

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Film Trailers: A MOST WANTED MAN

     A Most Wanted Man, adapted from a John le Carre novel of the same name, is the new film directed by Anton Corbijn (Control, The American) and features the one of the last performances from the great Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film premiered at this years Sundance Film Festival and received a rather muted response. No one going crazy over it or lamenting the film. A dark, probing thriller, with little sunshine involved. I like films that are a little dark. I thoroughly enjoyed both of Corbijn's past two films, especially Control, which followed the short life of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. They are extremely stylish and occur at a rather glacially pace. The film revolves around a Chechen Muslim who illegally immigrates to Hamburg, Germany and becomes involved in the international war on terror, according to IMDB. I am looking forward to this film because I thoroughly enjoy well executed thrillers, which I hope this one is, the beautiful cinematography from Benoît Delhomme that is evident in the trailer, and to see this wonderful cast perform, especially the late Hoffman. That cast includes, Willem Dafoe, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright and Daniel Brühl. The film will be released on July 25th. Here is the trailer. Enjoy!

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Film Trailers: I ORIGINS

     This film was well received at January's Sundance Film Festival and the trailer does not disappoint, for the most part. Directed and written by Mike Cahill (Another Earth), I Origins, a sci-fi thriller that revolves around a molecular biologist who uncovers scientific evidence that might alter the future of our society. The film stars Micahel Pitt, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey and Brit Marling, who also starred in Another Earth. I like the look of the trailer and I am intrigued with the concept, but hope it does not build and build, and then not deliver in the end. I just have a slight feeling this might be that kind of a film, but I hope I am wrong. It needs to work based off this wonderful trailer. The film will be released on July 18th. Here is the trailer. Enjoy!

Photo credit by ropeofsilicon.com and trailer by YouTube.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Film Trailer: BORGMAN

     This trailer definitely has the feeling of unease part down. Borgman, written and directed by Alex van Warmerdam, is a Dutch film that was a pretty big hit at last year's Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals. A serious looking thriller, that evidently has touches of black comedy, but I see straight on thriller throughout this trailer. It has that cool, smooth, glorious look like all European films have and the trailer completely works for me. And, if it is anything like the great films of Michael Haneke or as good as the Greek film Dogtooth, I will be very impressed. Drafthouse Films, the film distribution company of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, will be releasing Borgman on June 6th. Good deal, because that means it will open in Austin! And by the way, the Drafthouse is the only place to go watch a movie comfortably and enjoy a quality beer. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Film Trailers: CHEF

     Is this a return to form for Jon Favreau after his stint of big budget blockbusters with directing the first two Iron Man films and his work in Swingers? Well, who knows. I was mildly interested in attending the SXSW premiere of Jon Favreau's Chef, but nothing really drew me to it. It looks like a film that will display some succulent appearing food and show a passion for purity and originality in the cooking world. Jon Favreau, who also wrote the screenplay, plays a chef who goes out on his own after not being allowed his creative freedom at a famous L.A. restaurant. He starts a food truck in Miami and learns about the creative process that reignites his passion and he also attempts to put back his family. The film received decent reviews from SXSW, but it looks like it is going to have to sappy of an ending for me. The film also stars John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Sofía Vergara, Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Sedaris, Oliver Platt and Robert Downey, Jr. Chef will be released on May 9th. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Monday, April 7, 2014

CANNES Predictions and Possibilities

     Next week the films that will be showing at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival will be announced. The premiere film festival in the world and where the celebrities love to show off, there is also an strong emphasis on high quality films from high caliber filmmakers. Films from all over the world. You will have your regulars, the Dardenne Brothers, Ken Loach, David Cronenberg, and a few youngsters and new filmmakers, the Sundance hit Hellion from Kat Candler is suppose to be shown as well. Olivier Dahan's Grace of Monaco will kick off the festival on May 14th and the festival will run until May 25th. Grace of Monaco stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, and follows the former Hollywood star as her husband Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth) clashes with French President Charles de Gaulle (André Penvern). 
     The great thing about this film festival is that it focuses on cinema. There will be some Sundance films present, but which ones? At least that festival, like Cannes, is all about film. I do love the film part of SXSW, but the overall experience is turning into a corporate shindig focused way too highly on how many celebrities can visit Austin, Texas. Sorry, but its true. After this, there is nothing significant until the end of August when the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals begin and then the expansive Toronto Film Festival in September. That is when it gets interesting, but Cannes will really let us know what is great, good, mediocre and bad. Jane Campion is this years Jury President.
     Well, here is a list of predictions, hopefuls and maybes for the upcoming festival on the French Riviera:

The Regulars:

Birdman   d. Alejandro González Iñárritu
Jimmy's Hall   d. Ken Loach
Winter Sleep   d. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Clouds of Sils Maria   d. Olivier Assayas
Two Days, One Night   d. The Dardenne Brothers
The Assassin   d. Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Everything Will Be Fine   d. Wim Wenders
The Search   d. Michel Hazavanicius
Still the Water   d. Naomi Kawase
Mr. Turner   d. Mike Leigh
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence   d. Roy Andersson
The Cut   d. Fatih Akin
Over Your Dead Body   d. Takashi Miike
Mommy   d. Xavier Dolan
Maps to the Stars   d. David Cronenberg
Knight of Cups   d. Terrence Malick
Coming Home   d. Zhang Yimou

High Probablilty& Most Likely:

Foxcatcher   d. Bennett Miller
Magic in the Moonlight   d. Woody Allen
Three Hearts   d. Benoît Jacquot
Bird People   d. Pascale Ferran
Far From the Madding Crowd   d. Thomas Vinterberg
The Rover   d. David Michod
Suite Francasise   d. Saul Dibb
The Homesman   d. Tommy Lee Jones
Welcome to New York   d. Abel Ferrara
La chambre bleue   d. Mathieu Amalric
Leviafan   d.  Andrey Zvyagintsev
Eden   d. Mia Hansen-Løve
The Normal Heart   d. Ryan Murphy
La rançon de la gloire   d. Xavier Beauvois

The Rest of the Maybes:

Inherent Vice   d. Paul Thomas Anderson
Boyhood   d. Richard Linklater
Maleficent   d. Robert Stromberg
Serena   d. Susanne Bier
While We're Young   d. Noah Baumbach
Big Eyes   d. Tim Burton
A Most Violent Year   d. J.C. Chandor
How to Catch a Monster   d. Ryan Gosling
Rosewater   d. Jon Stewart

     Last year, Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Color won the Palme d'Or. I have to say, I really hope Birdman, Inherent Vice (doubtful), FoxcatcherMaps to the Stars and A Most Violent Year show and we get to find out the quality of these films. Especially these films. I am keen to see how Birdman turns out, as this is González Iñárritu's first venture into comedy. We shall see next week when the films are announced.

Photo credit by IMDB.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Film Trailers: VENUS IN FUR

     Roman Polanski. Yes! Here is the trailer for his latest film, Venus in Fur, based off the David Ives play. Starring Mathieu Amalric and Mrs. Polanski, Emmanuelle Seigner. Enjoy!

Photo credit by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

NOAH Omissions


     In my review of Darren Aronofosky's Noah, which you can check out here, I embarrassingly forgot to comment on two different aspects of the film. One, I cannot believe I did not mention my appreciation of Clint Mansell's hypnotic score. A regular member of Darren Aronofsky's filmmaking crew, the score is quite exceptional. It is not as impactful as his groundbreaking, memorable work on Requiem for a Dream, but it is an altogether magical piece that fits the film quite perfectly. I almost cannot imagine an Aronofsky film without a Mansell score to accompany it. Two, the look of the animals. They did not look bad, but they definitely had that CGI look that was very obvious. This is where the look of The Lord of the Rings films would have been better than the ILM creations. I wish that they would have looked more realistic, but oh well. I cannot believe I forgot to mention these two aspects. Mansell's score is special.

Photo credit by ropeofsilicon.com.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014



Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel

     Darren Aronfosky's Noah is one brooding, mythological epic unlike any I have ever seen and that is rarely ever made anymore. A film that is not anything like the Sunday School teachings from the Old Testament. Noah is deep with the power of myth, fantasy and elements of realism, along with the power of preserving the environment without being didactic. It is a story that examines how man has decayed the earth with constant industrialization and performed atrocities upon all elements of the planet. A visually stunning film, as expected, but not one that is without its flaws and setbacks. Aronofsky is one of our greatest auteurs and challenges the audience with Noah, but equally has challenged himself as an artist and filmmaker.
    I believe the first thing to know going into this film is that this is not like those cookie cutter biblical epics from Cecil B. DeMille. It does not have a strong stance supporting Christianity either, so get that out of your head right away. Yes, it is based on the Judeo-Christian story of Noah, the flood and the repopulating of the planet after man has pissed off God, but it is not grounded in Christianity or its delusions. The Christian nutters out there will have a field day with this film, but for me, it is perfect. It is more sourced in Judaism than Christianity. The Bible is not gospel in reality.
     Aronofsky has made a personal film. A film that he has been conceiving since he was a little boy, that focuses on the inner struggles of one man's choice to either save and purify the Earth from the evil villainy of man and progress, and calculating the risk of exploring a world where God, or the Creator, as IT is only called in the film (there is no mention of God in the whole film), is not there to supply the direct answers. People must choose on their own free will. The film dives head first in the ability to preserve the beauty and graciousness of the Earth. To save the amazing, evolutionary marvels that exist on the random mystery that is our planet. Aronofsky is quite brazen with his depiction of this prediluvian time period and does little in holding back in his mesmerizing presentation.
    After my initial viewing of the film, I felt like this was the least Aronofsky-ish film I have seen from him, but I do not believe that to be true after thinking about it. It is very much an Aronofsky film, full of troubled characters facing personal pressures and demons that are both psychological and physical. The vision is quite amazing and the film really pushes a point of caring for each other and the planet. Noah (Russell Crowe) is vegetarian, hard worker, wanderer and wakes from an amazing, hallucinatory dream that speaks to him in ways only the Creator can. He knows that he must build this ark to protect two of every species, as well as his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), sons Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), and their adopted girl Ila (Emma Watson). He knows what he must do. He visits his grandfather Methusaleh (Anthony Hopkins) and receives a seed from Eden to plant on this black volcanic ash covered ground (filmed in Iceland) so he will have the wood to construct this massive vessel. Bring on that flood.
     The family meets the fallen angels who attempted to help Adam and Eve, and man, in the garden, who are now encased in rock with multiple appendages. At first The Watchers (voiced by Nick Nolte, Frank Langella and Aronofsky regular Mark Margolis) were skeptical of Noah and his family, but learn to help him and assistant in making the ark. This is impressive, but The Watchers look like the Ents from The Lord of the Rings films. It also adds that fantastical element to the film that is so saturated in the myth of Noah and the ark. That mythological element, which is also present in other aspects of the film, is important in that is exemplifies the importance of these ancient stories and how they are not meant to be taken literally. The great stories from Ancient Greece, Mayan society and Mesopotamian culture are fantastical and special, but are just stories. A literal interpretation is not supposed to be taken, but shows the value of stories and storytelling. All ancient societies have myths of creation and floods and fire and brimstone, but the greatness of Aronofsky's film is that it feels like a story that is made with myth and fantasy, but grounded in honesty and realism.
     As Noah is building the ark, it is not without violence and threat from man. Other than Noah and his family, there is no other place for man on the ark. When man finds out that this ark is being constructed, they want a place for salvation and safety. Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone), from the line of Cain, is going to fight to the bitter end to preserve his clan and life. This leads to a rain soaked battle right before the massive flood. These are the greedy, politically conservative resembling men who care nothing for the Earth or its resources unless it leads to wealth and gain. These men are scum and excessively violent. Rape, murder, destruction and conquering are what they believe in and are good at, and Aronofsky is not shy about showing all of these elements. Noah is not without showing violence and disturbing images from these men. They also believe that the Earth is really only for them and they will suck every ounce of life out of it. Noah is the preserver, environmentalist and is here for the purpose of saving the Earth from the degradation and sin of man.
    Noah is quite an impressive film. The lensing from Aronofsky's usual cinematographer Matthew Libatique is unbelievably gorgeous. It is sumptuous and really bring this world to life. The production design and costume design is also really brilliant. Nothing in this film feels fake or not lived-in, but I expected that much from this group of filmmakers. The screenplay from Aronofsky and Ari Handel is ripe with purity and struggle. The personal battle that wrestles with Noah is presented perfectly and with plenty of fear and fight. Crowe gives one of his best performances as Noah. His character is so multi-layered and goes thorough one hell of an arch throughout the film. This is the type of role where Crowe has just immersed himself fully into and was spectacular in. The inner struggle he faces is expressed so brilliantly by him.
    There is also a creation-evolution sequence that is truly amazing and mind-blowing. It starts with nothing and follows the creation of the universe, solar system, Earth and the evolution of life on the planet. It is unlike anything I have ever seen on screen. It very much reminds me of Terrence Malick's evolution scenes in The Tree of Life but times it by a thousand. It is fast paced and just stunning. I loved it and it made a real statement for the obvious reality of evolution and how the world does not stop evolving. I also enjoyed the Adam and Eve hallucinatory scenes at the beginning of film. Extremely special stuff and shows how CGI can be used to enhance the story and not hinder it. This is when CGI is special and importantly creative. It also, once again, places an importance on myth and fantasy. The film is not void of the Bible and its stories, but nothing is etched in stone and really examines the importance of myths in our history. 
    Noah is not without its flaws, mainly the stretched out ending that turns into somewhat of a sappy, sad melodrama. I do not want to give too much away, but once they are on the ark the story turns into a family battle. Ila is pregnant from Shem, but this is against the Creator's decision, and Noah does not want her have the baby. They must start fresh after the flood subsides. Noah becomes quite unlikable, but also really struggles with whether to choose in the Creator's eye or his own. This part of the story is not bad, but ends with too much melodrama. It also contains a battle sequence that lasted too long and reminded me too much of something out of The Lord of the Rings again. It took it too a level that was a little too much like a swords and sandal epic that just dragged on a bit too long. Not bad, but too much. The only other quibble I have is that other than Noah, the other characters are quite one dimensional. Winstone is great as Tubal-cain, but is a typical villain and is very brooding and despicable, but has little more to offer. I also thought Connelly was highly under used and Douglas Booth was just a pretty face on the screen and offered little to the story. Hopkins did bring some lightheartedness to the picture at least.
     In the end, minus the flaws that Noah has, I really enjoyed what Aronofsky did with this film. A personal, special epic that just does not get made anymore. A film that is steeped in myth, fantasy and realism, with an impact that examines the importance of our environment and are place in it. It is a visually stunning film and one that is full of deeper meanings and subtext. It also contains wonderful use of CGI and that creation-evolution sequence is quite special. I am a true admirer of Darren Aronofsky and he is one of my favorite filmmakers. So ambitious, talented and never holding back, his films are challenging, daring and always unlike anything seen before. Noah is a film not staunched in Christianity, but in the beauty and struggle of a man to save and purify the Earth, as well as a realization that God/Creator is not always there with the answers.

Photo credit by IMDB.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Film Trailers: THE DROP

     It is fitting that James Gandolfini's final role is one concerning gangsters, robberies and bars. He will always be recognized for his perfect turn as Tony Soprano on HBOs "The Sopranos." The film is titled The Drop, formerly titled Animal Rescue (name of the short story it is based on), and revolves around organized crime and what appears to be an inside-job robbery at a bar, as well as a lost pit bull. The film is directed by Michaël R. Roskam, who directed Bullhead, and the screenplay is by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote the short story. The film also stars Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, John Ortiz and Bullhead star Matthias Schoenaerts. It looks solid, but you never know. The film will be released on September 19th. Gandolfini one more time. Enjoy.

Trailer credit by YouTube.