Archive | January, 2011

Warner Bros. Names the Next “Man of Steel”

31 Jan

2012 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year for film with projects featuring The Avengers, James Bond, Hobbits, Pirates of the Caribbean, Titans, Spiderman, Batman, and Superman among many coming to theaters.  With 2011 getting off to a disappointing start, especially among our most anticipated films of the year, it is never too early to look forward to future projects.  The film I’m most excited about in 2012 is Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the latest installment inf the Superman mythos.  Superman has always been my favorite of the Superheros and one I feel has been slighted on-screen due to his lack of worthy adversaries (seriously, Richard Pryor?).

If no one else is taking this seriously, then why should I?

The biggest casting news from the weekend came from the Warner Bros project as the Man of Steel had been cast.  Candidates granted screen tests for the role included Matthew Bomer, Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Armie Hammer (The Social Network), Matthew Goode (Watchmen), and Colin O’Donaghue (The Rite).  Ultimately though, the role went to The Tudors actor Henry Cavill.  Just as suspected, the role went to a lesser known actor and one that was reportedly linked to other super hero films in the past including: Batman Begins, The Green Lantern, and even Superman Returns.  Cavill was in fact  cast as Superman once before, until Bryan Singer replaced McG on Superman Returns.

While there were certainly worse options on the bill, namely Colin O’Donaghue whose performance in the recently released The Rite is not receiving welcoming reviews, there is something so fundamental in the Superman mythos that Cavill cannot possibly authenticate, Americana.  Sure by now Superman is an international brand but doesn’t he fight for “Truth, Justice, and the American way”?  No matter how stellar Cavill’s performance in this film may be, the prospect of watching our Corn-fed, Kansas raised savior from Krypton being portrayed by a Brit doesn’t sit right.  You know who else was British, Terrance Stamp and Callum Blue;  what do they have in common, they both played Zod.

Come and kneel before ... Superman?

What do you think?  Does the casting of Henry Cavill as Superman further your excitement for this film’s release?  Is there anyone else out there who is just a little bit uncomfortable with a foreign actor playing the iconic American role?  Who else would you like to see cast alongside Cavill as Lois Lane and Lex Luthor?

Screen Actor’s Guild Award Winners: Full List

31 Jan

Last night, the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) hosted their annual awards ceremony, specifically dedicated to recognize outstanding performances on both the big and small screens. Here is the list of nominees and winners:

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

The King’s Speech *Winner*

 Black Swan

The Social Network

The Fighter

The Kids Are All Right

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network

Jeff Bridges – True Grit

Robert Duvall – Get Low

Colin Firth – The King’s Speech *Winner*

James Franco – 127 Hours

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right

Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole

Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone

Natalie Portman – Black Swan *Winner*

Hilary Swank – Conviction

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale – The Fighter *Winner*

John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone

Jeremy Renner – The Town

Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right

Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams – The Fighter

Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

Mila Kunis – Black Swan

Melissa Leo – The Fighter *Winner*

Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

Boardwalk Empire *Winner*

Mad Men

Dexter

The Closer

The Good Wife

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

Glee

Modern  Family *Winner*

Hot in Cleveland

30 Rock

The Office

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Steve Buscemi – Boardwalk Empire *Winner*

Jon Hamm – Mad Men

Michael C. Hall – Dexter

Hugh Laurie – House M.D.

Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Glenn Close – Damages

Mariska Hargitay – Law & Order: SVU

Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife *Winner*

Elizabeth Moss – Mad Men

Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock *Winner*

Ty Burrell – Modern Family

Steve Carell – The Office

Chris Colfer – Glee

Ed O’Neill – Modern Family

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie

Tina Fey – 30 Rock

Jane Lynch – Glee

Sofia Vergara – Modern Family

Betty White – Hot in Cleveland *Winner*

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

John Goodman – You Don’t Know Jack

Al Pacino – You Don’t Know Jack *Winner*

Dennis Quaid – The Special Relationship

Edgar Ramirez – Carlos

Patrick Stewart – Macbeth

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Claire Danes – Temple Grandin *Winner*

Catherine O’Hara – Temple Grandin

Julia Ormond – Temple Grandin

Winona Ryder – When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story

Susan Sarandon – You Don’t Know Jack

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble

Green Zone

Inception *Winner*

Robin Hood

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series

Burn Notice

True Blood *WINNER*

Dexter

Southland

CSI: NY

Opening This Week (31 Jan – 06 Feb 2011)

31 Jan

Well, it is the start to another week and based on the reviews of last weekend’s The Rite, I apologize to anyone who took my recommendation for that and didn’t enjoy it. Pac and I haven’t seen it yet, but probably will bite the bullet tomorrow, just because it was on my 10 Most Anticipated list. But, if any of you saw it before we actually reviewed it, and hated it, my profuse apologies. Hopefully, we can let bygones be bygones and move forward with this week’s list.

The Roommate

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Alyson Michalka

Director: Christian E. Christiansen

Synopsis from IMDB: College student Sara finds her safety jeopardized after she’s assigned to a dorm room with a new roommate, Rebecca.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: Pretty much every type of horror film has been done before, and the creepy stalker/friend genre is no different. This film will most likely provide cheap thrills, but nothing new or interesting.

Sanctum

Rated: R

Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson

Director: Alister Grierson

Synopsis from IMDB: An underwater cave diving team experiences a life-threatening crisis during an expedition to the unexplored and least accessible cave system in the world.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: With all the advertising calling this “James Cameron‘s” Sanctum, it might be easy to not realize that he is not directing this. However, he was heavily involved with the production, and used the same 3D technology from Avatar to make this cave-diving film. While I am sure this will be exciting and be a better 3D film than most, I think it will be short on depth and rely on stock characters to tell the story.

Frankie & Alice

Rated: R

Starring: Halle Berry, Alex Diakun, Joanne Baron, Brian Markinson

Director: Geoffrey Sax

Synopsis from IMDB: A drama centered on a young woman with multiple personality disorder who struggles to remain her true self and not give in to her racist alter-personality.

Chris’ Take: This film looks like a more dramatic twist on the concept from the Clayton Bigsby sketch on Chappelle’s Show. The early reviews have been rather scathing as well (14% on RT). I am sure Berry will turn in a good performance, but it looks like it will suffer from pacing and coherence and might be too ambitious for its own good.

Limited Releases

The Other Woman

Rated: R

Starring: Natalie Portman, Lisa Kudrow, Scott Cohen, Charlie Tahan

Director: Huck Botko, Don Roos, Andrew Gurland

Synopsis from IMDB: A comedy/drama that details the story of a woman’s difficult relationship with her stepson.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: I don’t know why this is listed as a comedy/drama; there doesn’t seem to be anything funny about it. The Other Woman premiered at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival, was shown on Italian television, and is now seeing theaters. Reviews for this film are lukewarm (56% on RT), so it sounds like it is hit or miss. Plus, if Natalie Portman is involved, it can’t be that bad.

Into Eternity

Starring: Timo Aikas, Carl Reinhold Brakenhjelm, Mikael Jensen

Director: Michael Madsen

Synopsis from IMDB: A documentary on the safety of nuclear storage.

Trailer:

Chris’ Take: Michael Madsen directing a documentary? I did not see that coming. It looks like it will be a darkly humorous look at the future of nuclear waste disposal and surprisingly features some great camerawork. I might get this if it comes out on Netflix soon.

Top 10 Religious Horror Films

28 Jan

Today marks the release of a film that both writers of this blog included on their Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2011 list. To commemorate the release of The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue, we’ve decided to compile a list of our top ten religious horror films.  It is yet to be seen if The Rite has the merit to crack this list, but if after seeing it you feel compelled (by Christ or otherwise) to seek out similar films we’re her to help you out.

End of Days (1999)

You would never expect a religious horror top ten to include Arnold Schwarzenegger and there may have been a few other films we could have chosen for #10 on our list, but despite his starring role in this film, End of Days is an entertaining blend of action and horror.   As the millennium is ending Satan (Gabriel Byrne) comes to NYC to find himself a bride, because everyone needs a new year’s kiss.

And to forever curse the NY Mets

The only man who can stop him is a cleverly named Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger), an ex-cop who no longer believes in God due to the murder of his family.  If Cane can keep Satan from scoring until the millennium, then the world is saved – if not, it’s the end of days.  It’s what you would expect from an Arnold film, glaring themes and motifs, lots of violence, and of course one-liners like “You’re a choir boy compared to me, A CHOIR BOY!” 

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

This is one of those films that barely made the list, but is certainly worthy of note. The film received mixed reviews, but really brought a new twist to the genre. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on true events and is one part exorcism film, and one part courtroom drama. The two of these mix well and are supported by strong performances by Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, and a young Jennifer Carpenter.

I still contest that the characters she plays are possessed by the Devil.

It had been a long time since new life had been breathed into an exorcism film, and this was like a breath of fresh air. It has its faults, particularly with pacing, and the fact that it doesn’t conjure up a whole lot of scares, but the scares it does provide and the questions it raises, stick with you long after the film is finished.

The Prophecy (1995)

Whenever someone mentions this film about a war between the angels, Christopher Walken is immediately brought up and how great his usual detached and off-kilter performance is. But, on top of that, the film effectively delivers a compelling religious tale about angels and demons steeped in biblical lore. Walken is great, but Viggo Mortenson, who plays Lucifer, surprisingly delivers one of his more interesting performances. Many people have tried to capture a war between the angels on a much larger scale:

And failed.

But somehow, this B-Movie format seems to out-class bigger productions. The film spawned several sequels, which were nowhere close to this caliber, and most went straight to movie hell: direct-to-video.

The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

Some could argue that this is merely a thriller, but there are several horrific elements present within the film. For one, there is Mary Ann’s (Charlize Theron) descent into madness, several times demons reveal themselves, gruesome murders, and Keanu Reeves trying to have a southern accent. There are several references to the famous epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton and they weave themselves in to create the overarching premise for the story. Al Pacino is at his eccentric and yelling best, charismatic and slimy. 

This was actually just Al Pacino's reaction to what his career looks like after this movie.

I suppose he was just doing that to counter Reeves’ inability, but overall it had a great story and was disturbingly beautiful at times.

Children of the Corn (1984)

Any film that becomes parody on an episode of South Park (The Wacky Molestation Adventure) has at least reached cult status, and at the very least warrants a viewing.  Based on the short story by Stephen King, Children of the Corn follows a young couple as they go to the town of Gatlin to report a murder.  Shortly after arriving they soon discover the town is void of adults as the children have murdered every adult in the town, forming a religious cult led by a boy preacher named Isaac.  If you believe that nothing is scarier than deserted, run down mid-west and Texan towns, imagine them all populated with ginger children wanting to sacrifice you.

Absolutely Terrifying

Children of the Corn spawned four sequels but none of them come even close to the original, and though this film is now over 25 years old and the final sequence is very dated graphically, the rest of the film still holds up and delivers the chills.

 
Se7en (1995)

This was the second film on the list that could easily qualify as something other than religious horror. But, like The Devil’s Advocate, there are several elements of horror to be found within the film.   The film opens with a grisly death of a rather obese man, and burned such a terrifying image into my head that it makes it difficult to watch The Biggest Loser.

I never want to eat again.

But, it doesn’t stop there, every murder that occurs there is a new and innovative way for someone to die that just doesn’t go away. Add to all that Kevin Spacey’s eerie performance as a man who clearly didn’t understand the Biblical concept of loving your enemies, and the shocker of an ending, you have not only one of the best horror thriller films, but one of the best films in the last 20 years.

The Omen (1976):

When his wife has a stillborn child, the American ambassador to Italy,Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), is encouraged by a priest to instead take an orphan child as his mother died in childbirth.  Without telling his wife, Robert agrees.  Several years later they relocate to London and Robert starts to believe that his son is the literally the spawn of Satan and he soon comes face to face with a biblical prophecy.

Though it was remade in 2006 starring Liev Shreiber and Julia Stiles, the original holds up much better due to its gothic rather than glossy feel.  Like Halloween, which was released two years later, a lot of the terror comes from what is not shown on-screen and left up to the viewer to put together themselves. 

Stigmata (1999)

The second film on this list to feature Gabriel Byrne, this time as a catholic priest who’s role at the vatican is to investigate devout miracles.  He is sent to Pittsburgh to speak to a woman named Frankie (Patricia Arquette), an atheist who supposedly is showing signs of stigmata, the physical wounds Christ endured during the crucifixion.  At first Father Andrew (Byrne) is skeptical but quickly comes to realize that there is much more to her affliction than meets the eye.  Torn between helping her and his duty to the Catholic church, Andrew starts to question the beliefs of his religion and consider the implications this occurence may have.

Like Se7en and The Devil’s Advocate, Stigmata greys the line between horror and thriller.  While ripe with religion and even possession like many exorcism films, Stigmata’s primary focus isn’t to terrorize its audience but rather to force them to question their beliefs in God and religion.  Still, there are enough horrific images and themes in this film that it more than qualifies for this list.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Directed by Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby chronicles a young couple’s move to Manhattan.  The husband, Guy (John Cassavetes) is an aspiring actor and he and his wife Rosemary move into a gothic Manhattan apartment despite warnings of strange occurences within the building.  After Rosemary and Guy befriend Roman and Minnie Castavet, and Guy begins to spend more and more time with them, Rosemary begins to have strange dreams and become suspect of those around her.  After becoming pregnant with Guy’s child, Rosemary’s paranoia grows until she concludes that her neighbors and even her husband are a group of witches who have a plan for her soon to be born child.

Keep it as far away from Roman Polanski as possible

I’ve been told that this movie is much more terrifying for women to watch than men, and given the nature of the content I don’t doubt it.  Despite that claim, Rosemary’s Baby is a chilling tale full of tension as the Rosemary’s paranoia grows and ultimately comes to a climax.  Though the film is now over 40 years old, its reliance on story for the horror rather than visual shock and awe allow it to maintain its value over time.  Mia Farrow delivers a fantastic performance and was nominated for a Golden Globe upon its release, and her counterpart Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her portrayal as Minnie.  Not many horror films can boast Academy Awards…

The Exorcist (1973)

There was almost no way that this film couldn’t be #1 on this list. It is the best and most shocking religious horror film. It was the first horror film to get nominated for Best Picture and so scary and disturbingly innovative that televangelist Billy Graham swore that there was a demon living in the celluloid reels. What is not great about this film? The performances are strong, the production was incredible and fraught with drama, and the look of the film is iconic and unsettling. William Friedkin did a great job creating unsettling moments outside of the exorcism, deliberately placing unexplained disturbing images throughout the film to create unrest in the viewer. This is the film that every exorcism film tries to match, but none of them come close. Not only is it the best religious horror film, but there are strong arguments that could claim that this is the best horror film ever.

 Click here for some awesome Exorcist Trivia!

TAKE TWO: The Fighter (2010)

28 Jan

The Fighter

Rated: R

Starring: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo

Director: David O. Russell

Chris’ Take: We are a little bit behind the power curve on this one. Both Pac and I had been trying to see this film for a while, but it never worked out until now. Since Sarah was covering No Strings Attached, we were freed up to see The Fighter and it is certainly worthy of all the accolades it received so far.

Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) was a down on his luck professional boxer, riddled by bad breaks in the business, a troublesome brother who was also his trainer, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), and his over-protective mother (Melissa Leo).  His woes pile up, in and out of the ring, until he strikes up a romance with a local bartender, Charlene (Amy Adams). From there, the film documents his meteoric rise to becoming a serious contender for the welterweight title.

The film is more about the relationships outside of the ring than the fights in the ring, but to me, that is what makes a boxing film great; fully fleshed out characters that in turn create more drama in the ring. The complexity of the familial relationships in Micky’s life is punctuated by worthy performances from all its leads, especially Christian Bale, who captured the mannerisms of the real-life Dicky Eklund perfectly, as seen in the end credits. His character would be humorous if it wasn’t so sad to watch, and Bale does a great job skirting the balance of Uncle Rico-like delusions of grandeur, while creating the necessary growth to realize his shortcomings and let go of his past.

If they had put me in the ring against Sugar Ray Leonard, I'd have given him a TKO.

Amy Adams, normally playing a walked-over character who grows strong over the course of the film, shifts gears a bit and comes out swinging, sometimes literally. She is the perfect foil for Melissa Leo, and the scenes between the two stubborn women are wrought with tension. Both are worthy of their Oscar nominations and round out the cast extremely well.

The script is solid and full of insight into the characters while managing to slip some humor into the mix. David O. Russell did a great job using the it to its full effect, letting the actors breath life into what could have easily been a run-of-the-mill boxing film, and pacing it just right, making the ending that much more powerful.

While the cinematography was subdued for the most part, it captured the contrast of Micky’s surroundings to those of the rest of the professional boxing community extremely well and made him appear that much more of an underdog. HBO filming the fight scenes added a nice effect of authenticity to the film with its grainier camera, and through that, Russell made the film seem more real as a whole.

The film had a few shortcomings, mainly the stereotypical montages, explained so well in Team America: World Police.

I felt like it could have done without them and do more to set itself apart from the rest of the boxing genre. But, there were so few of them that it didn’t ruin what Russell was trying to create. I don’t think The Fighter will win Best Picture, but Bale should definitely win as Best Supporting Actor, and you could make legitimate arguments that either female lead could win in the Best Supporting Actress category.

  • Characters: A-
  • Directing: A-
  • Cinematography: B+
  • Plot: B+
  • Performances: A+
  • OVERALL: A-

Pac’s Take: 

As an avid boxing fan, boxing films always catch my attention as they come to theaters, and it seems they do so on an annual basis.  However, often times the realism of the fight scenes are compromised for entertainment value and the underdog’s rise to glory can become trite.  I had heard about this film for quite some time because of the prolonged struggle Mark Wahlberg went through to get it made, and while the buzz leading up to its release was that this was an Oscar worthy film, I still worried this could be another run of the mill boxing story.  It was clear though within the first five minutes of the film where Micky and his brother were walking through the streets of Lowell that the passion brought to this film elevated it above all other contenders (most notably Million Dollar Baby and Cinderella Man) making it possibly the best boxing movie in 30 years.

I have always thought that Amy Adams was a talented actress who too often compromised her talent for unworthy roles.  While she has been in some highly acclaimed films (Catch Me If You Can, Enchanted, Julie & Julia), this is the type of empowering role that will command respect and elevate her career to the next level.

And help us all forget about this

Not to belittle Melissa Leo’s performance, as it is worthy of her Oscar nomination, the film’s focus is on the two brothers and it is the performances of Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale that make or break this film.  The chemistry of these two actors is great, and each played their role brilliantly.  You can tell the passion Wahlberg has for this character and this story in his portrayal and the only reason he was snubbed by the academy was because Bale’s eccentric performance simply overshadowed him.  Christian Bale’s portrayal of Dicky Eklund was phenomenal and he stole every scene.  Any explanation of the performance would be understated so I won’t even try.  While this may be Wahlberg’s passion project, make no mistake, this is Christian Bale’s movie.

Still, great actors have made good boxing movies all the time.  What sets The Fighter apart from every other boxing film I’ve seen in the past was the fight scenes.  As Chris stated, HBO films was brought on to shoot the matches and it brought a level of authenticity to the film that I’ve never seen in a boxing movie (except for the one montage, straight out of the Sylvester Stallone playbook of directing).  Most boxing films portray the sport as a physical brawl where the boxer who can withstand the most punches to the head wins, but The Fighter did everything right.  The boxers looked professional in the way they fought and the way they were built.  I forgot I was watching a movie at times and was on the edge of my seat rooting for Ward, cringing when he got hit and wanting to cheer when he knocked someone down.  Top it all off with a cameo from ringside announcer Sugar Ray Leonard who miraculously hasn’t aged in almost 20 years.

Finally, has anyone else noticed the way the women of Boston are being portrayed in movies recently?  While I’ve never been to Boston or the surrounding cities/towns, I’m sure they are full of beautiful people, none of which are being portrayed on-screen.  Amy Ryan, Blake Lively, and now Amy Adams have all had to undergo physical transformations to look less attractive for their respective roles (though Adams is still by no means hideous in this movie).  The biggest Oscar snub this year: The Fighter not getting nominated for Best Makeup.

Is there a category for best use of no makeup?

Here’s my tale of the tape:

  • Characters: A
  • Directing: B+
  • Cinematography: A
  • Plot: B
  • Performances: A+
  • OVERALL: A-

Weekend Film Recommendation: “An Education” (2009)

28 Jan

by Chris Petersen

Pac and I decided to restart a weekly edition of the blog, the weekend film recommendation. We had gotten out of the habit of late, but with the new year, we are trying to be more diligent with updating the blog more frequently. So, for your first weekend film recommendation, I present An Education for your viewing pleasure.

The film stars Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina and Olivia Williams, and centers around a teenage girl (Mulligan) from suburban London in the 1960’s. Tired of the rigid life she lives and her father’s perpetual hounding to be perfect for Oxford, she finds reprieve in the friendship of an older man (Peter Sarsgaard), who she eventually becomes romantically involved with. She becomes enamoured with the life that he leads, but soon learns that everything is not always as it seems.

It’s a more mature coming-of-age tale, and while the film is not very subtle, it is still effective, beautiful and poignant. Mulligan definitely deserves praise for her performance, but the cast as a whole did great as well, especially Alfred Molina as her father. Here’s the trailer:

If you’re interested, it’s available on Netflix Instant. Have a great weekend!

Great Odin’s Raven! Will Ferrell to Appear on “The Office”

27 Jan

The end of this season of the NBC TV show, The Office, is gearing up to potentially be one of the best yet. Not only do we know that Michael Scott will leave by the end of this season, but along with that comes the mystery of who will replace him. Now, to make matters even more interesting, Will Ferrell is confirmed to appear in a 4 episode arc during the events leading up to Michael’s departure.

Sweet Grandmother's Spatula!!!

The Wrap, and several other sources, reported this last night, and apparently he will appear in three episodes before Michael leaves and one after. He will play another branch manager, who is equally, if not more, inappropriate than Michael.

I think this is great. I think the rapport between Carell and Ferrell will be comic gold. It has been a while since Michael has done anything incredibly outlandish. He has had his moments this season where he was inappropriate, but not to the painstaking point of incredibly awkward, like he would do in Seasons 1-3. I hope when these two unite on the screen, we can return to some great gut-busting flubs in office management.

Rumor has it they are going to start a Dunder Mifflin branch war and brawl in the streets.

What do you all think? Is Ferrell a good fit for the show? You can read more about the rest of this season here.