Monday, May 31, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

Nowhere Boy

Aaron Johnson and Kristen Scott Thomas plus the story of John Lennon’s youth equals one interested blogger.

Morning Glory

Really like the casting in this one. The question is: can this predictable looking comedy provide us with a few surprises?

Friday, May 28, 2010

It Must Be True If Everyone Is Saying It.

Everyone Says I Love You

While my wife is a big fan of theatre musicals, I have always been more drawn to musicals on the big screen. Sure I have seen a few theatrical productions that I have really enjoyed (e.g. Avenue Q, Evil Dead: The Musical, Jersey Boys, Miss Saigon), but none of them seem to have a lasting impression on me the way films do. When Andrew invited me to take part in his blog-a-thon on musicals, the first film that immediately popped into my mind was Moulin Rouge. Mainly because that was the last musical to truly dazzle me. Sure I enjoyed films like Chicago, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, etc. but none of them really spoke to me the way Baz Luhrmann’s genre bending film did. Still, if am pressed to pick my all-time favourite musical, Moulin Rouge would come second behind Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You.

Compared to many modern day musical, Everyone Says I Love may seem like a bland choice by some. It often gets overshadowed by some of the flashier, and star studded, productions of late. Yet is the simplicity, and overall joy it induces, which makes Allen’s film standout. In preparation for this musical related post I watched the film Nine, the musical not the animated movie, for the very first time last week. I had been meaning to see it for some time now but never got around to it. I figured the blog-a-thon was a good reason as any to finally watch the much hyped film. Despite the movie’s stellar casting, I was amazed by how much I detested Nine.

The problem I had with Nine is that the film is so concerned with given each star their moment in the sun, that the story takes a backseat to the musical numbers. In Everyone Says I Love You, the story is always at the forefront and the musical moments merely compliment the tale, not the other way around. Even when juggling a large cast, which include the likes of Edward Norten, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Tim Roth, Natalie Portman, Goldie Hawn, Billy Crudup, Lukas Haas, Natasha Lyonne, and Alan Alda, Woody Allen always ensures that you get a true understanding of how everyone is important to the overall story. At no point does the flow of the picture come to a grinding halt just so Julia or Goldie can have their moment.

Another thing I really like about this film is that Allen finds a nice compromise between the 1930’s musicals, which inspired the film, and his own self-deprecating style. Allen will have a lavish number like “My Baby Just Cares For Me” with full backup dancers and yet the lead singer, in this case Edward Norton, still sings and dances like the “average Joe” would in that situation. This is not to say Norton has a bad voice, but his tone is not as polished as you would expect from this type of musicals. Woody Allen also contains a lot of his musical numbers in the same locations the songs start in. There are no quick cuts, no costume/location changes, no characters singing on stages, etc. Allen tries to bring as much realism as possible to confines of the 1930’s musical genre.

Lastly, and most importantly, Everyone Says I Love You is that perfect romantic pick me up that we all need from time to time. The themes of looking for love, being in love, and being in relationships with the wrong people, are common in almost every single Woody Allen film. Yet there is a more optimistic, and whimsical, feel in this particular film than is more prominent than his other works. Everyone from the upper east side elite to the two-bit gangster is struck by cupid’s arrow. You swoon when Alan Alda serenades Goldie Hawn on her birthday, yet you also are hoping that Hawn and Allen rekindle that spark they once had when they were together at another point in the film. Some may complain that Everyone Says I Love You wraps up a little too neat, but frankly I would not have it any other way.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Can You Dig It? Musical Interlude…

Musical Blog-a-thon

Quick post today, as the real world has me swamped. I just wanted to bring your attention to a blog-a-thon happing this coming Sunday. Encore’s World of TV & Film is asking bloggers to write about their favorite cinematic musicals. I hope to have a post up for the blog-a-thon within the next few days. If you have a favorite musical, or have some thoughts on musicals in general, be sure to send a link to your post to Andrew prior to Sunday 1 pm.

p.s. Arcade Fire tickets go on sale tomorrow for folks in Toronto. I know this has nothing to do with the blog-a-thon but the band puts on a phenomenal live show (I have seen them twice so far).   Be sure to check them out if you get the chance.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whatever Happened To?

I had originally planned to focus on an actress who, as it so happens, worked with today’s selection at one point. I will save her for another week down the line. Seeing as I focussed on Val Kilmer’s dissent into straight-to-DVD hell; it makes since to focus on the person who has fallen even further. Show of hands, who else besides yours truly saw Lies & Illusions?...anyone...Bueller? If I were to rank the current straight-to-DVD victims in order, Kilmer would be at number three while Slater would take the number two spot. The fact that Christian Slater still gets high profile work on television, albeit in bad shows, proves there is still interest in Slater amongst the Hollywood execs. If only he would find an agent that actually knows how to pick good scripts.

Christian Slater

Career Highlights: Pump Up The Volume (1990), Heathers (1988), Murder in the First (1995), Interview With A Vampire (1994), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), True Romance (1993), The Contender (2001), Gleaming the Cube (1988) The Wizard (1988) [yes, you read right. The Wizard is by far the best feature length advertisement ever made! - CS]

Low Points: Alone in the Dark (2005), Mindhunters (2004), Young Guns II (1990), Hard Rain (1998), Bed of Roses (1996), Broken Arrow (1996), Kuffs (1992), Mobster (1991), 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001), Who is Cletus Tout (2001), Tales From The Darkside: The Movie.

Last Seen On The Big Screen: Bobby (2006), Igor (2008)

Where You Will See Him Again: Sacrifice with Cuba Gooding Jr.; Shadows of the White Nights with Cole Hauser. Odds are good they will both be at your local DVD store shortly.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cost of Island Destination Is Sheer Insanity

Shutter Island

Last month I did a top 5 post on the best and worst Martin Scorsese films. Needless to say the post received a lot of passionate feedback. Andrew at Encore’s World of Film and TV even labelled me a heretic, a badge I wear proudly mind you, for even suggesting that Scorsese has ever made a bad  film. Having stirred the pot once already, the sensible thing would be ease off Scorsese for a while; luckily common sense was never one of my strong points.

The year is 1954, U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to the notorious Shutter Island institution to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Stranded on the island, due to a terrible storm, Teddy begins to get headaches as he drifts in and out of hallucinations. As Teddy struggles with his sanity, he begins to question what type of experiments Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) are conducting on the Shutter Island.

Let me just get this out of the way first, the last act of this film is ridiculous. Actually, it is more the aspects of the “reveal” rather than the cause it. I do not want to give away any spoilers so I will try to keep my annoyances brief. I will merely say that I found it highly unlikely that a facility like Shutter Island, which is home to some of the most dangerous and damaged patients, would allow such a free roaming environment. This is especially preposterous when you factor in the violent nature of certain patients.

The “reveal” aside, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the majority of Shutter Island. Martin Scorsese did a great job of maintaining the atmosphere, the best part of the film, and the overall suspense for the first 2/3 of the picture. The eeriness of the art direction kept me hooked the entire way through. The film could have used a little tighter editing, as it does run a bit long, but this is a minor quibble. Especially when you look at how wonderful the performances are during the course of the film.

The standout performances for me are those of Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Williams. There scenes together were fantastic, only Dicaprio’s scene during the war came close to rivalling their husband and wife moments. I also thought the large supporting cast, which included Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, and Elias Koteas, did a terrific job of maintaining the level of tension. Normally I find it a bit distracting when I film such as this has so many high profile cameos. Yet none of the cameos felt out of place. Again, if it was not for the silly explanation that Martin Scorsese offers up in the last act, Shutter Island could have been a great movie. Still, the film is worth seeing for the first two acts alone.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pitch The LAMB: Crash Years

The following is my submission for the Pitch the LAMB feature over at The Large Association of Movie Blogs site (aka. The LAMB). The genre for this month's Pitch the LAMB is Slasher Films. Bloggers are encouraged to come up with an idea for a movie in that genre style.

Crash Years

Despite massive layoffs over the last two years, Union Prima, the world’s leading insurance company, has achieved record profits during that span. Many have accused Union Prima of using the recession as a loophole to violate many of the corporate ethics laws; yet no one has been able to prove it...until now. Alec Sherbert, one of Union Prima’s underpaid mailroom clerks, has been secretly providing a spunky journalist, Shelia Bubletei , with classified documents for weeks. Now on the eve of Union Prima’s annual shareholder’s meeting, Alec is just a few documents away from helping blow the scandal wide open.

Unfortunately for Alec, a bigger story is emerging right before his eyes. On the day of the shareholder’s meeting Alec discovers the body of prominent shareholder in one of the mailroom bins. With the doors leading outside mysteriously locked, and unable to reach Shelia as the phone lines have been cut, Alec’s only hope is to find the last bit of information Sheila needs and find a way out of the building. As the bodies pile up in gruesome fashion, many killed with various office supplies, Alec races to evade the masked killer wielding a serrated letter opener.

After finding the last required file on Shelia’s list, Alec risks his life to save Union Prima CEO Jean Ason from the mysterious killer. Alec and the killer battle until the sound of police men coming up the building distracts them. By time the police reach the executive floor of Union Prima, Ason is crying over Alec’s dead body and the wounded killer is nowhere to be found. As the police remove Alec’s body, a file drops out of his jacket. The file is the work history of Hector Shont, an accountant who was part of the massive layoffs. Unable to pay his bills, Hector committed suicide. Hector’s was survived only by his daughter Sheila whose whereabouts were listed as unknown.

Alec Sherbert – Jay Baruchel
Shelia Bubletei – Rebecca Hall
Jean Ason – Emma Thompson

Movie Marketing Monday


In honor of Jeff Fahey’s recent work on Lost, I thought that I would highlight another soon-to-be-cult classic he will be featured in. Machete has quickly become one of my most eagerly anticipated films of the year.


Dreamworks answer to The Incredibles? Seems like it. Instead of The Fantastic Four, Megamind looks to add a comedic spin on the classic Superman tale. As long as it is better than Superman Returns I will be happy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Top Five Friday: Cameron Diaz

The Best

There’s Something About Mary
Overrated? Some may think so. It does not have the constant replay value for me like Old School does. Yet, every couple of years, I catch myself watching this on television and laughing just as hard as I did in theatres.

The Last Supper
I have always been fond of The Last Supper. Dark comedies are a tough thing to pull off, especially ones with political themes.  This one found a way to do it right.  Plus where else can you see Ron Perlman and Jason Alexander in the same film.

Being John Malkovich
Hard to believe this film came out 11 years ago. While Catherine Keener and John Malkovich are the scene stealers in this flick, I thought Cameron Diaz did a wonderful job as the frumpy Lotte Schwartz.

My Best Friend’s Wedding
I fear I may lose my Old Spice “manly man” card for saying this, but I actually enjoyed this film. Diaz played the annoying bride perfectly. Diaz was good in In Her Shoes as well, but I enjoyed Wedding more overall.

A Life Less Ordinary
Often forgotten when talking about Danny Boyle’s body of work, some would say for good reason, but I think expectations were too high on the film. After Shallow Grave and Trainspotting I do not think people knew how to respond to a lighter Boyle flick. It works as an off-beat romance.

The Worst

The Sweetest Thing
A girl’s version of a Farrelly Brothers film…not made by the Farrelly Brothers. That pretty much says it all right there.

The Box
The Box polarized many ciniphiles. I fall into the group that found this film a bore.

Head Above Water
I already mentioned my thoughts on Gangs of New York in an earlier post, so I will not bother to list it again. Instead I will include this film which features another Scorsese alum, Harvey Keitel. 

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
The first Charlie’s Angels movie was mindless campy fun. Full Throttle one was just mindless. Bill Murray was smart to jump ship when he did.

Shrek the Third
Really, I could include Shrek 2 in this slot as well. The sequels have left such a ghastly taste in my mouth that I cannot even watch the original Shrek, which I once loved, anymore.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Can You Dig It? Rack of LAMB

The long weekend is almost here and not a moment too soon; it has been a hectic week. Anyways, today I just wanted to post a reminder of two features that I am currently overseeing for The LAMB. Please feel free to take part in one, or hopefully, both.

Pitch the LAMB

Movie Genre: Slasher Film

Examples of the Genre: Psycho, Child’s Play, Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, House of 1000 Corpses, Friday the 13th, Haute Tension, Prom Night, House of Wax, Halloween, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, American Psycho.

10 words/phrases to get you started:

  1. Corpse
  2. Legend has it that...
  3. Camping
  4. Sheila!...Sheila where are you?
  5. Weapon
  6. I thought I heard a scream...
  7. Run
  8. Do not go out there...
  9. Bloody
  10. Behind you...

Your job is to come up with an idea for a film using some of the words/phrases listed above. Once you have a plot idea, post it on your blog in any fashion you choose (e.g. plot synopsis, excerpt of a script, fictional trailer, fictional film review, movie poster, etc.) and email the link to Simple as that! The deadline for submissions is Tuesday May 25, 2010.

LAMB Acting School 101

Each month the LAMB Acting School 101 highlight's a different actor/actress whose performances, for better or worse, have left a mark on the cinematic landscape. This month we look at...Robert Downey Jr.

What we need from you:

  • Articles on the actor's best performances
  • Articles on the actor's worst performances
  • General thoughts on the actor
  • Reviews of the films the actor has starred in

Once you have the article and/or review posted on your blog, send the link to Please note that multiple submissions are encouraged. The deadline for submissions is Saturday May 29, 2010.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Whatever Happened To?

Granted today’s selection has been working steadily, in straight-to-DVD releases, for a few years now. Yet when was the last time you saw Val Kilmer in a lead role on the big screen? I know he has a bad reputation for being a bit of a diva on set, but I think Kilmer has paid his dues in B-movie purgatory. It is time for him to jumpstart his career again like John Travolta did back in the 90’s.

Val Kilmer

Career Highlights: Top Gun (1986), Willow (1988), Heat (1995), Top Secret (1984), Tombstone (1993), The Doors (1991), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2004), The Salton Sea (2002)

Low Points: Mindhunters (2004), The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), Red Planet (2000), Alexander (2004), At First Sight (1999), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), The Real McCoy (1993)

Last Seen: The Bad Lieutenant: The Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Where You Will See Him Again: The SNL-inspired comedy MacGruber; and The Irishmen with Ray Stevenson

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lack of Lovely Photos Blamed On Poor Bone Structure

The Lovely Bones

Based on Alice Sebold’s novel, The Lovely Bones is the story of 14 year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) who is murdered one day while walking home from school. Trapped in the world between heaven and earth, Susie watches as her parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) struggle to cope with her death while killer roams free. Despite Susie’s desire to have her killer brought to justice, she must decide whether it is worth ruining her family in the process.

Despite a few moments of flourish here and there I found The Lovely Bones to be a huge disappointment overall. I admit that my expectations may have been raised too high by the level of talent involved in the production. Still it is tough not to get excited when you look at all the cast and director on paper. Yet the mix of talent never quiet gels the way you would hope. As a result The Lovely Bones feels more like a made for television picture than it does a feature film.

I really hate to come down on Peter Jackson as Heavenly Creatures is still one of my all-time favorite movies. Yet it is Jackson’s direction that ultimately hurts The Lovely Bones. After films like the aforementioned Creatures, The Frighteners, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I would have thought that Peter Jackson would be the logical choice to tackle a drama with fantastical elements such as this. Surprising though, it is the fantastical aspects, usually Jackson’s forte, which hinders the film the most.

Peter Jackson never seems to settle on what type of story he wants to tell. This causes the film to flow in a continuous start and stop pace. Jackson gets so caught up in the “middle world” scenes that he often leaves other characters hanging in the wind. To make up for this, he seems to abruptly throw in scenes just so he can check them off the list of points, which I assume are, from the novel. For example, the arrival of Susan Sarandon’s character leads the film into a “crazy Grandma Lynn tangent” that does nothing to really further the plot. The film practically resembles a sitcom at this point. Sure it adds a brief comedic moment but what does it achieve in the greater picture as a whole? I am sure that Grandma Lynn was fleshed out more in the book but in the film she is rather one-dimensional character.

Actually, with the exception of Stanley Tucci’s George Harvey, every character is rather stagnant. This is very apparent in Wahlberg and Weisz’ stunted story arc. Jackson never really provides us with much insight into their union. So when their relationship is tested it comes off very hollow. If you look at films such as In the Bedroom, you are drawn into the parent’s grief because you fully understand how they worked as a couple in happier times.

Similar to the parent’s arc, I would have preferred greater insight into Lindsay Solmon (Rose McIver) as well. Her involvement in the second half of the film felt somewhat tacked on last minute. She is pretty much non-existent for a good portion of the film, then she is becomes the heroic character all of a sudden. A little more background would have increased the tension in her scenes with George Harvey.

Speaking of George Harvey, this was the one aspect that I thought Jackson nailed perfectly. Stanley Tucci brought an interesting interpretation to the role. He was always calculating but never overly creepy. I found myself being more interested in figuring out what made George Harvey tick rather than what Susie Salmon was doing in the “world between worlds”. Tucci was the only thing truly lovely bone in the body of this uneven film.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

Easy A

A teen version of the Scarlet Letter that plays like a cross between Saved and 10 Things I Hate about You? I must admit I am a little curious about this on. It has potential to say the least. Also a film that features Emma Stone, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Hayden Church and Lisa Kudrow cannot be that bad right?

The Adjustment Bureau

It is like they made a big screen version of an episode of Fringe! I am really intrigued by the premise and the casting is fantastic. Hopefully this one lives up to my modest expectations.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Top Five Friday: Russell Crowe

The Best

L.A. Confidential:
There was not a single bad performance in this entire film. This is the film where Crowe perfected his tough guy with a heart of gold routine that he used in numerous films afterwards.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
I really liked the chemistry Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany have in this film. Peter Weir’s film did not grab me upon first viewing, but I have really grown to appreciate this film immensely over the years. I think I was just not in the right mood for Master and Commander upon my first viewing.

Many have tried to recapture the scope and fun of films like Spartacus and Ben Hur but few have succeeded like Gladiator. While I think Joaquin Phoenix is the weak link in this film, a lot of my reaction towards Phoenix may be due to the fact that Crowe’s Maximus is such a dominating character.

Romper Stomper
I actually prefer The Quick and the Dead over Romper Stomper on the whole, but Crowe’s performance in Romper Stomper is too sizzling to ignore.  Really, he is the only reason to even watch this film.

The Insider
In my opinion 1999 is one of those defining years in cinema history. The sheer number of good, and sometimes groundbreaking, films was outstanding. The Insider was one of those great 1999 films that worked well on so many levels.

The Worst

I can still smell the cheese off of this flick. Luckily Washington and Crowe reteamed again for American Gangster, and proved that they could work well together given the proper project.

Body of Lies
Ridley Scott and Crowe have a Scorsese/De Niro style working relationship. This is their second weakest film together to date. Their worst film can be found at the bottom of this list

Mystery, Alaska
As a hockey fan (Go Habs Go!), this movie should have appealed to me on several levels. I was not expecting something as captivating as say The Rocket, but at least something better than The Mighty Ducks. Sadly this ranks just above Slap Shots 2…yes, I really disliked this movie.

Proof of Life
Crowe’s tough, but sometimes sensitive, routine did nothing to help this film. Meg Ryan’s career was never the same after this movie.

A Good Year
Easily the worst Crowe/Scott film to date, not to mention the most boring. I am all for actors trying to show their softer side. Unfortunately I think Crowe got softer and dull mixed up somewhere in the process.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Whatever Happened To?

Every so often a movie appears on television, or crosses your mind, that makes you wonder whatever happened to?…

Rebecca De Mornay

Career Highlights: The Hand That Rocked the Cradle (1992), Risky Business (1983), Backdraft (1991),

Low Points: Guilty As Sin (1993), The Three Musketeers (1993)

Last Seen: Wedding Crashers (2005); Lords of Dogtown (2005)

Where You Will See Her Again: The horror Mother's Day ; and Rob Reiner's Flipped 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Man Advertises More Than His Irons

Iron Man 2

There was a moment in the middle of Iron Man 2 where I thought to myself “man, this feels like an origins film and not a sequel.” Instead of taking me on a new journey with the characters I loved in the first film. This particular film felt like it was trying to give me a Coles Notes version in preparation for a course I never signed up for. In short, Iron Man 2 tries hard to recapture the magic of the first film while also trying to promote the upcoming The Avengers movie. Unfortunately is falters on both fronts.

Tony Stark has just told the world that he is the superhero Iron Man and his life is about to get more complicated. A local senator, Stern (Garry Shandling), and a corporate rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), are pressuring Stark to share his technology with the government. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) are keeping tabs on Tony for their Avengers initiative. Stark is also struggling to keep his health issues hidden from his closest friends, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). If all this was not stressful enough, a Russian by the name of Ivan Venko has made it his personal mission to destroy both Tony Stark and his legacy.

Now I understand that The Avengers film is a very ambitious project that has the potential to be a huge windfall for both Marvel and the film industry in general. Yet at some point the line needs to be drawn between marketing and product. Half of Iron Man 2 feels like one big advertisement for a movie that will not be out until 2012! If you take away the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff (e.g. Nick Fury, Black Widow, Stark Sr., etc.), there is nothing really left in way of story. Either call the film an Avenger’s prequel or stick to including teasers for The Avengers at the end of the closing credits. The teasers shown at the end of the original Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and even Iron Man 2, have all done a great job of building up anticipation for The Avengers film

Iron Man 2 would have been better served without The Avengers tie-in, and with more focus on developing interesting characters like Ivan Venko (aka. Whiplash). Yes, though the themes are similar, the character of Whiplash is different in the film than he is in the comics; but that did not bother me on bit. I thought casting Mickey Rouke as Venko was a brilliant move. It is shame that director Jon Favreau did not but more faith in Rouke’s abilities. Instead of fleshing out the character of Ivan Venko more, Favreau opts to give more screen time to the annoying one-note character, Justin Hammer. Venko is treated like a meathead henchman for the majority of the film. He barely gets any significant lines of dialogue. Yet it is obvious, to us and to Tony, that Venko and Stark are more intellectual equals than Stark and Hammer are.

While Whiplash may work as a secondhand character in the comics, it does not translate the same in a two hour movie. Hammer is not as interesting on the big screen as he is in the comics. Frankly I found that Rockwell went from amusing to downright annoying by the end of the film. The Whiplash/armored wars storyline is being sold as the main event yet it did not even feel like the mid-level card. Not only is Whiplash second to Justin Hammer’s arc, but he also falls behind Stark’s health issues, the avengers stuff, and the ridiculous War Machine arc.

As mindless summer movies go, Iron Man 2 is not the worst thing to hit theatres. If anything it is just really disappointing after the success of the original picture. Robert Downey Jr. is the main reason that the film is even watchable. Similar to the first film, Downey Jr. brings a nice balance of swagger and humanity to the role of Tony Stark. His interactions with Rouke, including the fight scene towards the end, are easily the best moments in the entire picture. I can only hope that the upcoming Thor and Captain America movies are more than just one long The Avenger trailer.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

Get Low

I remember talking to a guy in line at TIFF last year who had watched Get Low the day prior. He seemed to have a very enthusiastic reaction to the film. Judging by the trailer, this might be one of those small summer releases that pack a big punch. Plus, anything with Bill Murray in it immediately goes on the “to see” list.

The American

Clooney playing a hired gun in Italy! Okay, I know the hitman with one last job to do is well travelled genre. Yet there is something about the assassin tales that never gets old for me. The American seems like one of those slow burn thrillers that could be really good in the right hands.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Top Five Fri…err…Saturday: Robert Downey Jr.

I got home rather late from Iron Man 2 last night so I am posting this a day later than I original anticipated. Anyways since this month’s LAMB Acting School 101 is on Robert Downey Jr., I thought I would look at the top five best and worst films that he was featured in. Look for my thoughts on Iron Man 2 to be up within the week.

The Best:


How he lost the best actor race to Al Pacino at the 1993 Academy Awards is still a mystery to me? Yes Pacino was good in Scent of a Woman, but Downey Jr. not only captured the essence of Charlie Chaplin. He also brought his only original take to the role and provided picture with a greater emotional resonance.


Including Iron Man on to this list would have been too easy. I was tempted to throw either Short Cuts or Wonder Boys in this slot but Downey Jr.’s roles were rather small in the grand scheme of those pictures. Instead I opted to highlight his subtle work in this brilliant, and often underrated, film.  My love for this Fincher flick grows more and more with each viewing.

Two Girls and a Guy

It was a toss-up between this film by James Toback and the flick Heart and Souls for this spot. Both are films that did not find a large audience upon their release, yet they each have a special place in my heart.

Tropic Thunder

Robert Downey Jr. stole this movie! Simple as that.  He took on an extremely risky role and made it memorable in a good way.

Natural Born Killers

Love it or hate it chances are you could not turn away from it. Oliver Stone’s ultraviolent look at the impact of media on our society would not have worked if it was not for Downey Jr.’s brazen performance.

The Worst:


Even Robert Downey Jr. could not save this leaky ship from sinking. The film had the cast, the director, and a decent premise. Yet all those pieces somehow found a way to produce the least suspenseful thrillers in recent years.

U.S. Marshals

The less said about this movie the better. Another example of Hollywood trying to wring every last dollar out of film, in this case The Fugitive, that was actually good.

Air America

I know Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson are good friends in real life. So I can only assume they had a great time making this particular picture. Too bad I did not have the same level of enjoyment sitting through this awful film.

The Gingerbread Man

Some may question why Soapdish is not on this list? Truth is there is a campy charm to Soapdish that I enjoy. The film is not great, but I still consider it watchable. The Gingerbread Man, on the other hand, is an embarrassment for all involved. It does not even qualify in the "so bad it is good" category.

The Singing Detective

Putting this film in the worst section may be a bit harsh as I actually enjoyed The Singing Detective when I first saw it at TIFF. Unfortunately, the second time I watched this film it dawned on me that TIFF-induced sleep deprivation had played a huge part in my original assessment of this film. I have seen The Singing Detective a few times now and it gets worse with every viewing.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Being Kicked in the Rear an Oddly Pleasant Feeling


About a week ago there was a story of a robbery that briefly dominated the various media outlets. A 79 year-old man was mugged by two young thugs on the local subway while the majority of the other passengers watched. Although one individual did bring the mugging to the attention of transit officials, much of the talk in the media focused on why no one else tried to help the man, or even call the cops. Depending on which side you listen to, either you believe there was nothing the passengers could do as it all happened so fast; or you believe that that the passengers only cared about their own safety. So the question then becomes: what would you do in that situation?

This is the exact question that Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) poses to the audience in the film Kick-Ass, though, cynically, he already knows what the answer will be. Dave, an avid comic book reader, questions why no one has ever attempted to be a real-life superhero. Dave knows that being a hero is not about having special abilities but rather the determination to want to help others. After being mugged on the way home Lizewski decides to create an alter-ego named Kick-Ass; and takes to the streets with his own brand of justice. Kick-Ass soon realizes that being a real-life superhero is far more dangerous than he ever imagined. Kick-Ass’ lack of experience shows when he comes across the efficient father and daughter superhero team of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chole Moretz). As Kick-Ass gains more publicity another hero, the mysterious Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), emerges into Kick-Ass’ life. Is the Red Mist friend or foe? Also what ties does Red Mist have to a local gangster, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)?

Based on the comic by Mark Millar, Kick-Ass is one of those films that I have hard time recommending to anyone outside of comic book lovers, hardcore cinephiles, or those with a high tolerance for onscreen violence. Even then I am pretty sure there will be people in those groups who will hate this film. Besides being excessively violent, the overall execution is uneven on every level. Similar to Millar’s last film adaptation, Wanted, the characters in Kick-Ass never plays by the rules that the picture establishes. For example, we are told Kick-Ass cannot feel physical pain, yet this only seems to apply in certain situations. He can withstand a vicious beating from a D’Amico’s men but gets easily knocked out by the wimpy Red Mist.

A lot of the inconsistencies in the film are a result of the sloppy script. Characters are constantly flipping personalities based on the given situation. On minute Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) would do anything to break off her friendship/relationship with a drug dealer, yet later she is crying because she never wanted that same drug dealer to get hurt. It is maddening moments like this that will make you question why you are even bothering to watch the film but stick with it. Despite its many flaws, Kick-Ass turns out to be a fun, albeit twisted, hodgepodge of a film.

The key to enjoying Kick-Ass is to look at it as outlandish pop culture fare. The film tries hard to break every taboo in the book but it never has the impact of say A Clockwork Orange. Partly because director Matthew Vaughn has so much fun running around with his middle fingers up in the air that he forgets what caused him to do so in the first place. Kick-Ass will not stand the test of time like other comic book flicks, but it does have enough moments to raise it far above the ranks of Tank Girl and Daredevil. The best moments come from the most controversial characters in the whole picture, Big Daddy and Hit Girl.

It becomes evident early on that the most interesting aspect of the plot is not Dave’s/Kick-Ass’ plight to be a hero; but rather the father/daughter duo looking for revenge. To be honest, the film probably would have been better without Kick-Ass or Red Mist at all. As they merely serve as buffers for the darker, and more disturbing, content in the film. Both Cage and Moretz are exceptionally good in this film. Nicolas Cage gives a hilarious Adam West’s 1960’s style performance as Big Daddy. In the scenes with Moretz he tows the fine line between loving father and raging sociopath. Chloe Moretz brings the perfect mix of sweet and vinegar needed for a character as complex as Hit Girl. Now it is hard to fully praise a story arc that has a forty year-old man mercilessly beating up an eleven year-old girl, yet without Big Daddy and Hit Girl the film falls on its face.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is very flawed but I still found myself enjoying the film more than I anticipated. Unlike Wanted, Kick-Ass actually made me interested in picking up the comics just to see the similarities and differences with the source material. Again, Kick-Ass is not a film that I would recommend to the masses but for those willing to take a fun, and very twisted ride, for a few hours then you may want to give the film a shot.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

Jonah Hex

As much I enjoy reading comics, Jonah Hex is a character I never got into. DC Comics has had a far better track record on the big screen than Marvel so I may give this one a shot. Plus Brolin has some pretty good one-liners in the trailer, which leads me to believe that the film stays close to the source material.


Sometimes the simplest trailers are the most effective. The premise sounds like a mix between the Quentin Tarantino directed episodes of CSI and the film Old Boy (a personal favorite). Cannot wait for this one!