Friday, January 28, 2011

Movie Review: The King's Speech

Spoiler Free Review:

A film that carries the title of a King shall also. on merit, befit a King's royal tastes. Hooper's film not only matches the requisite ilk of a King-size demand, but it also beautifully encapsulates the age-old human drama.

A Story Befitting a King
(Minor Spoilers Ahead) 
      I know I could never admonish a person for stammering, but I never thought I would commend someone for it, and I still will not. Instead, I am going to do one better and shower limitless praise upon Colin Firth. His stupendously uplifting portrayal of Prince Albert (King George VI) in The King's Speech is—to quote Dick Vitale—simply sensational. So good, in fact, that I would already appoint Firth the global spokesperson on stammering. So good that, if Firth was commanding the Chicago Bears offense on their potentially game-tying drive against the vaunted Green Bay Packers last week, I'd wager my life's savings on him getting the ball in the end zone. So good, Michael Jordan would shake his head in awe. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kubrick vs. Scorsese

A Visual History of Cinema

      Modern filmmaking is instinctively colored by an appreciation of the film world's past triumphs, and to a lesser extent, its noted failures. Contemporary filmmakers owe much of their successes to the seminal work paved by cinema's prodigious auters of past. A simple glance at film history and one will make some startling discoveries. There is, indubitably, a splendid abundance of distinctive and distinguished movie-making leviathans. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dancing Under the Sun

Sundance Film Festival

      For the first time with my "Person of the Week" segment, I will award a non-person. It's my blog and I wield all the power. Therefore, I am entitled to make these kinds of ironic judgments. It's a refreshing exercise of opinion boosting. Don't expect me to break rules like this all the time though. I tend to be very methodical. My mechanisms for content generation, generally, are defined by a purposeful consistency, as well as a scrupulously high standard of excellence. It is in this spirit of genuine irony that I award the Sundance film festival as my newest, "Person of the Week."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Film News

 Never Hand Hollywood a Lethal Weapon

      A host of online news publications reported today (including my go-to site Slashfilm) that the collective brainchild of director Richard Donner and writer Shane Black, Lethal Weapon, will be...prepare to gasp....rebooted. If your tastes for film are remotely similar to mine, then the audacity of Warner Bros. to reboot a classically unique— in my opinion, iconic film franchise—is laughably appalling. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Leonardo DiCaprio Freaks Out

       To those of you who are fans of Leonardo DiCaprio's work, I implore you to devote your next five minutes to this montage. You will undoubtedly appreciate it. I promise. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Person of the Week VII

A Fincher File

      Like any impassioned film lover, last night's airing of the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards marked a splendid opportunity to gleefully (no pun intended) remember the year that was for film. Witnessing Al Pacino take the stage and accept his award for Best Actor (in a TV or Miniseries) for his performance in You Don't Know Jack was a memorably giddy experience.  The Robert De Niro career montage that gracefully filled our TV screens was unmistakably, a triumph of cinematic history, casting the glitzy spotlight on the exceedingly well-deserved Rushmore of actors—awarding him the Cecile B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Film Rant

 Death of the Superhero...Film?

      With the opening of The Green Hornet upon us, the time has come to address the future of the veritable superhero film.  By definition, a superhero film carries the ilk consistent in an action, fantasy, or science fiction based movie, while predominantly focusing on a superheroes superhuman abilities—in a heroic effort to thwart a grave danger and protect the greater good.  
      The superhero genre has long been dominated by Saturday serials and comic books; a trademark of DC and Marvel Comics.  But the birth of superheroes in the feature film arena began with Richard Donner's seminal hit, Superman from 1978.  A smattering of other successful entries into the comic book genre soon followed, including sequels to Superman.  Ultimately, the classical take on comic book-based superhero flicks peaked with Tim Burton's Batman in 1989. 
      Consequently, major studios mastermind a new model for the genre by providing darker, modernized action-based entries, such as Blade in 1998.  From a contemporary standpoint, the period of the 2000's ushered in a burgeoning and wildly profitable market that allowed the superhero franchise to thrive—though an endpoint or transitional period is imminently approaching. 
      In the last ten years, the linkage between the American public and many of the best superhero films of all-time has reached an untenable and feverish pitch, as an unsustainable list of critical and commercial hits have exploded into the mainstream moviegoer's mind:  Bryan Singer's X-Men, Sam Raimi's Spider Man, Hulk, Watchmen, Spider Man II-III, Brad Bird's The Incredibles, Superman Returns, the continuation of the Blade series, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man I-II.  I may have failed to mention some other noteworthy superhero films of the post-2000 era (and feel free to interject), but I am sure you can grasp the overall gist.  In the voice of Conan O'Brien, "in the year 2000," a turning point has arrived, as American moviegoers have been inundated with an over-saturation of superhero films.  When will it end?  Such a lofty goal may be unattainable, but I will carve out some answers. 

      With such a varied and impressive resume of films emblazoned in the American movie-going conscience, how much longer will big studios, such as Warner Brothers and Fox, continue to reap massive profits from the mainstream film-going public—for spewing out banal and vapid incarnations of super-heroic ideas?  The release of The Green Hornet may give us an early indication.  Currently, The Green Hornet is enjoying a robust (insert sarcasm) 44% rating on Rottentomatoes.  But it is also well on its way towards a strong $30-$40 million dollar opening weekend run.  So, will 2011 foretell the doom of the superhero film? Matthew Vaughn, the director of X-Men: First Class, certainly thinks so, as he predicts gloom for the superhero movie  And here's the kicker...I agree with him.
      In order to gain further insight into my thought process, I will spotlight Vaughn's scathing rebuke of the superhero genre.  For those unfamiliar with his work, Matthew Vaughn is a promising director with such films as Layer Cake and Kick-Ass under his belt, as well as producing credits for Snatch, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.  Vaughn writes, "It's [superhero genre] been mined to death and in some cases the quality control is not what it's supposed to be.  People are just going to get bored of it."  Vaughn is firing off some incendiary remarks to those who staunchly stand by the sanctity of the superhero genre.  More importantly, he is articulating a commonly held, though often under-espoused belief, which I will piggyback.  Vaughn goes onto to say,

"I've always wanted to do a big-budget superhero film and I think we've kind of crossed the Rubicon with superhero films. I think [the opportunity to do one], it's only going to be there two or three more times. Then the genre is going to be dead for a while because the audience has just been pummeled too much."

      Vaughn's contention above is as compelling as it is damning for passionate superhero movie going fans, who will undoubtedly interpret this piercing critique as inflammatory fodder  Today, movies exalting trite characterizations, unprovoked violence, and overt unoriginality are becoming the minority for the ardent moviegoer.  What nurses the movie industry's ascension into the future, and dispenses the creative celerity unique to our film appetite, is the fact that the filmmaking industry—the lion's share of writers, directors, and producers—must reach for the highest point to which the creative spirit can soar.  Ultimately, Hollywood cannot sustain itself if it continually reverts back to the well, churning out confounding, incoherent, and threadbare superhero films. 
     The last time I checked, America is a Democratic Republic governed by a Constitution.  Therefore, when it comes to the sacred medium of film, we shall strive to produce films that are representative of a uniquely creative, unfettered spirit.  In the twenty-first century, Americans have both their eye and pulse on the communications landscape—for instance, social networking.  Thus, we are the authoritarian overseer of the visual offerings available to us.  If a person deems a film unsatisfactory, then that person can instantly broadcast their dismay to a growing audience over the Internet.  If growing numbers heed the call of said person, then Hollywood will be forced to take notice of the mass cyberspace—which one hopes will lead to an eventual decline in the middling and jarringly bad superhero films viewable on big screens across America. 
      The American movie is one of our countries greatest economic assets.  Free competition provides a marketplace for originality to foster.  Therefore, the entire arsenal of filmmaking—from directors, writers, actors and producers—necessitates an opportunity to provide compelling cinema.  The many movies based on characters in superhero comics are increasingly terrible though: Fantastic Four, Wolverine, Daredevil, Catwoman, and Ghost Rider, etc.  The method of appraisal, in terms of discerning what constitutes a good comic book film vs. a not so good comic book film is often blurred.  This problem leads to an unwieldy disconnect; comic book fans tend to apologize for the genre, as if the merits of the latest big budget superhero flick are exclusively tied to a defense of the comic book's honor (as opposed to the superhero film adaptation).  This blatant confusion leads to bickering debate. 
      The inexplicably poor quality of superhero films that 2011 provides will likely lead to its ultimate demise.   Although, I expect Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises and Aronofsky's The Wolverine to be exceptional works of art; this observation has more to do with the extreme competence of these aforementioned filmmakers than any genre specific development—and is thus, an exception to the rule.  A new crop of potentially lackluster offerings that spell doom and gloom for the genre include: Captain America! Thor! and Green Lantern!.  With such a dearth of any new riveting cinematic feats to boast, a self-fulfilling prophecy awaits the major studios.  The enormous successes of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are owed to the success of their mega successful forerunners, such as Spider-Man (as well as the supremely talented direction of Christopher Nolan).  The problem that is inherent in today's superhero landscape is there is no Spider-Man—to catapult, imitate, or ride the coattails of.   The audience's patience with the genre is morbidly dwindling and will grow to an intolerable state.  As long as Fox and Warner Bros continue to put forth fewer objectively good superhero movies, so too will the audience put forth robust box office numbers.  
      This doom and gloom scenario will persist until the superhero film performs a critical self-examination and undergoes a face-lift of sorts (as it has throughout its past). Until this happens, Americans will routinely be subjected to an albatross of putrid superhero renditions. We can only hope for a scenario that will produce more meaningfully imaginative, compelling works of comic book magic—the kind of cinematic magic that Aronofsky and Nolan are capable of conjuring.  Unfortunately, I do not envision the big studios relenting from their short-attention span hysteria and keeping the genre faithfully intact.  For every Nolan and Aronofsky quality rendering, there's a Joel Schumacher Batman & Robin style incarnation, which will surely disappoint, and drastically fall short of satiating our immense superhero film appetite.  

*As always, you can judge for yourself and take a look at a mildly positive review of The Green Hornet, from the iconic Rolling Stone film critic, Peter Travers:  Travers Film Review, The Green Hornet.

*Additionally, below is an informative YouTube video showcasing many superhero films.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

127 Hours Can Fly By

127 Hours
(spoiler free review)

Boyle's unflinching and stylistic direction elevate a static 127 hours to a thunderously heart thumping level; such an apt and distinctive quality, as the film is aided by an equally thunderous and heart thumping soundtrack that even Quentin Tarantino would have to take notice.

Review: Spoilers Ahead

      Inevitably, every living, breathing soul must boldly face a defining moment of life or death—some individuals are marred by a panicky disposition that clouds our judgment while others are capable of an exacting resiliency, refusing to accept a grim fate.  Director Danny Boyle's mesmerizing portrait of this unenviable circumstance is beautifully captured in his latest film, 127 Hours.  The director tasks the equally handsome and enthusiastic, though unproven actor, James Franco, with the intensive, all-encompassing role of Aron Ralston.  No longer can a film critic deride Franco as a wasteful, unproven commodity.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Person of the Week VI

A Struggle to the Throne

      Following in the footsteps of Colin Firth's mesmerizing portrayal of King George VI that would shine the global spotlight on stuttering—generating unprecedented awareness of the debilitating speech condition and the therapists who treat it—I will reciprocate the good deed and shine the spotlight on Colin Firth by appointing him, my new "Person of the Week."  
      If any one person can overcome the rigid constraints imposed upon their craft by effecting a performance that breaks through these constraints, then tremendous praise has to be warranted.  The arresting fact concerning Firth's portrayal of King George VI is not simply a reflection of his awe-inspiring depiction, but more so, a robust testimonial to the positive power that a captivating performance can generate.  According to Jane Fraser, President of the Stuttering Foundation, "This movie has done in one fell swoop what we've been working on for 64 years."  Undoubtedly, speech therapy has become a negligible beneficiary because of Firth's riveting performance in The King's Speech, and this fact is owed entirely to Firth's painstakingly accurate portrayal of the problem.  
      It comes as no surprise that Firth's performance is engendering a substantial groundswell highlighting a significant altruistic cause because Firth has been a steadfast champion of philanthropic endeavors his entire life.  Firth is a longtime supporter of Survival International—a non-governmental organization that defends the rights of tribal peoples—as well as an ardent political activist.  Firth launched his own film and political website called and has been a pronounced supporter of the Oxfam global campaign Make Trade Fair.  Few actors can boast about being such a devout philanthropist and activist, yet I suspect that Colin Firth takes no pleasure in gaining recognition for his admirable work.  Truly, Firth is the epitome of the supremely talented performer with the proverbial big heart. 
      The momentum for the Best Actor Oscar is trending in Colin Firth's favor—and those who are unwilling to admit that he deserves the award are probably the same group that has neglected to see the film.  He narrowly missed out on a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in A Single Man, but I do not foresee the same fate befalling Firth this time around.  He is known for his exacting penchant for playing either the brooding, menacing figure or the tranquil, affable one, which has earned Firth a passionately appreciative fan base.  The gigantic shoes that must be filled in order to play such a prominent historical figure as King George VI—who is known for both his moody persona and speech problem—can be enormously daunting.  But Firth displays no such trepidation in his performance.  Consequently, the Academy should manifest no fearful uncertainty by crowning Colin Firth—for his virtuous depiction of a real life King—with their Best Actor Award at the upcoming Oscars.

*Below you will find the trailer of Firth's latest film and the subject of much of his acclaim, The King's Speech.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Aussie Rules in the Crime World

Review: Animal Kingdom
(my spoiler free, twitter style review) 

  In Animal Kingdom, survival of the fittest is the unequivocal rule of thumb—for those on either side of morality—and because of this bleak testimonial concerning humanity, I must surrender a not quite perfect review, and merely just implore you to watch this film.

(Spoiler Alert for Review)

      Any movie that can make a mundane circumstance such as going to the bathroom an exciting and tense experience is a movie that can blissfully hold my attention.  Animal Kingdom is this ilk of a movie and truthfully, it is so much more.  David Michôd's debut feature film is masterfully defined by a champion's focus and a consistently potent tension; a gut-wrenching tension that wraps a hold of you in a manner so gravely powerful that you feel as if you were stricken by a bad case of the flu.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Film News

Physical Devotion to One's Craft

      I was perusing through some stories over at Slashfilm (a routine occurrence for me) and I came across something interesting.  To those of you who consider yourself fervent fans of Christian Bale, take a look at the elaborate image below.   
      A guy by the name of Matt Ellerbrock took the time to design a mosaic-style image, in order to visually illustrate the abundant physical transformations of Christian Bale's dynamic film career.  It has become something of Hollywood legend whenever an actor undergoes an immense physical transformation, (De Niro in Raging Bull, for instance) but Bale takes the routine a step further.  In order to impeccably match the look of his diverse character roles, Bale exhibits a true perfectionist approach. Personally, I am a big Bale fan so this image immediately aroused my interest.  I was always aware of the depths of Bale's physical alterations, but this picture encapsulates that process—of steadfast devotion to his work—like no other.  Kudos Mr. Ellerbrock.

*For a link to the original story, check out this link from Slashfilm

Film News

A Blogger is Thrust onto the Big Stage

      In lieu of the impressive work that is perpetrated daily by the diverse slew of talented bloggers in this vast cyberspace, I wanted to take a moment to underscore a recent development from the blogging community.  Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, a 24-year old movie blogger has become the shining example of how hard work, smartly crafted blogging, and a go-getter attitude can benefit from a little fortuity and prominence.  The Chicago native first caught the critically omniscient eye of film's Mount Rushmore, Roger Ebert, by hosting intelligent and informative screenings that Ebert often attended.  Aside from this happenstance scenario, Vishnevetsky also displayed an uncanny, intellectually focused critiquing prowess by writing for, the Chicago Reader and  Ebert's affection for the young budding film reviewers work grew out of an acknowledgment of Vishnevetsky's incredible film knowledge and insightfully tactful critical approach. 
      The story of Vishnevetsky (it is laborious to constantly write this guy's last name) is precisely the kind of story that both excites and terrifies me.  For one, the idea that a relatively obscure blogger can gain prominence and be cast on Ebert's new film reviewer show, Roger Ebert Presents At The Movies, is incredibly inspiring.  All of us passionate bloggers share a unique goal that we painstakingly work to achieve by exposing our work to an openly diverse forum on the Internet.  From a contrarian standpoint, Vishnevetsky's sudden rise to fame worries me because it highlights the shear amount of luck that is required to achieve such a coveted position.  The revelation that our tireless work and countless hours of critiquing and writing is met with only a small audience is a fearful acknowledgment.  But I deduce, without a scintilla of regret, that I will proudly and diligently work towards my aspirations in the film industry despite the stark and sobering thought that I may never be discovered.  A meticulous resiliency and a passionately fueled ambition is all one needs to positively work towards their dreams.  I am passionate about film and I possess an unwavering, unflinching desire to achieve that goal. 

If you want to check out the original story from Slashfilm, click the link below. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Film News

      The Writers Guild of America has recently unveiled their nominations for its coveted original screenplay award.  These nominees are as follows: Inception, The Fighter, Please Give, The Kids Are All Right and Black Swan.  
      Their nominees for the adapted screenplay award are True Grit, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Social Network, 127 Hours and The Town.  The winners will be announced on February 5, 2011
      Though the Writers Guild's stringent guidelines have disqualified some deserving candidates, notably The King's Speech and Toy Story 3, it is still a tremendously prestigious honor to receive a nomination.  I do not foresee any protest from the soon-to-be winners claiming that the guidelines are flagrantly unfair. 
      Not to conceal a bias or anything, but I am hoping that Inception takes home the award for original screenplay while The Social Network wins the adapted screenplay award.  Essentially, these two nominees are the likely favorites anyway.  I am no bandwagon award critic either I just absolutely loved these two films.  If you do not believe me, check out my lengthy Top 10 Films of 2010 List; The Social Network and Inception are one and two respectively. 

 *At the jump below, you can read the original story.

Writers Guild Announces Screen Award Nominees

Monday, January 3, 2011

Film News

A Western Tide Smashes a Familiar Box Office Landscape

      This past week at the box office foretells an interesting though surprising story for the future success of the Western genre.  True Grit may have lost out to Little Fockers (an underwhelming, formulaic comedy) for a second straight week—Fockers managed to capitalize on both it's established name and past two successful entries in the series by taking home $26.3 million for a gross total of $103.2 million over it's two-week run while True Grit totaled $24.5 million bringing it's box office gross to $86.8 million—but the Coen Brothers film provided a more compelling result that requires a more scrutinizing look behind the numbers
      The seemingly ho-hum box office number for True Grit is actually quite significant.  The Coen Brothers $86.8 million dollar total (and counting) exceeds the box office receipts for all other Western Drama's since Tombstone in 1993.  Additionally, True Grit is the Coen Brothers greatest box office achievement surpassing the $74.3 million earned by No Country for Old Men.  This is a noteworthy accomplishment for the Western genre and may impact the type of films that the Hollywood studio machine intends to pursue over the next few years.  As an avid fan of Westerns, this is particularly inviting news for me.  Of course, any future Western production will require a highly competent team because matching the cinematic brilliance of the Coen Brothers and the superb ensemble cast of True Grit will be no easy task.  Call me an optimist but I presume to have all the faith that another True Grit is right around the corner.   
      Traditionally, Westerns have a dubious track record for churning out financially resonant films.  In fact, only four films have exceeded the magical $100 million dollar figure: Maverick, Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven, and Wild Wild West.  Barring a collapse, True Grit is well on its way to reaching that pivotal $100 million dollar tier.  
      Perhaps, the success of True Grit is owed to the increasingly popular Coen Brothers directorial stewardship.  I tend to think that the box office success of True Grit is the cumulative result of numerously diverse factors.  These factors, in no particular order, include the fact that True Grit is a remake of a popular classic, the Coen Brothers are increasingly gaining mainstream appeal (evidenced by the strong showing of Burn After Reading), and the cast is comprised of A-List box office darlings: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin.   My contention; however, is not that the future status of Westerns is contingent or correlative to the same reasons for True Grit's box office success.  On the contrary, the fact that it is an established success will influence Hollywood studios who make decisions primarily based off of robust box office showings.  All I can hope for is that the requisite action of studios will lead to more satisfying, entertaining, and artistically significant Westerns.  
      Witnessing great filmmakers such as the Coen Brothers achieve commercial success for steadfastly upholding their artistic integrity foreshadows only positive developments for the future of cinema.  An industry dominated by middling, underwhelming films can potentially transform into an industry that is only mildly dominated by porous filmmaking.  Hail creativity in the name of the Coen Brothers, in honor of True Grit. 
The Box-Office Top Five: (12/31/10-1/02/11)
1. Little Fockers  - $26.3 million
2. True Grit - $24.5 million
3. Tron Legacy $18.3 million
4. Yogi Bear - $13 million
5. The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader - $10.5 million

* Be sure to check out the COMMENTS section where JL and I discuss the abysmal career of M. Night Shyamalan, the exceptional legacy of Nolan's Inception, the future of western cinema,, and other random thoughts about the industry.  

*In the above video,  the Detroit News offers a flattering review of True Grit, juxtaposing its original western roots and its remaking quotient.

Person of the Week V

     Natalie Portman's Identifiable Prowess

      The beginning of a new year is always marked by two certainties.  These certainties are married together by the pretensions of a congratulatory send off of the past years memorable events and an enthusiastic expectancy for the new year's future endeavors.  In lieu of this congratulatory send off, I will announce as my first "Person of the Week" for 2011, the beautiful and precociously talented Natalie Portman.
      The star of Darren Aronofsky's latest critical feature, Black Swan, Natalie Portman is cementing her place in Hollywood as a bona fide A-lister, deserving of weighty, significant acting roles.  Her portrayal as the compellingly multi-faceted, provocative ballerina, Nina Sayers, is fittingly representative of her vast acting talents.  Oscar buzz has reached a fever pitch surrounding her performance and a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role is safely assured.
      I was acutely aware of Portman's prescience as a viable actress early in her career when at the age of 13; she burst onto the scene as the young friend of the determined hitman, Leone, in the classically revered action film, The Professional.  Though her role in the Star Wars prequel trilogy was marred by a conspicuous restraint and emotional void, Portman still managed to carve out a respectable career with future roles in Garden State and Closer—the latter earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.  
      Much like Christian Bale, there is a calculable sophistication to Portman's craft that embodies her with so much screen charisma.  She is as equally capable of exuding quiet elegance as she is at protruding a ruthless Machiavellian bend.  Her taut performance as the dual depiction of the "Black and White Swan" in Black Swan is a resounding testament to her increasingly impressive acting resume. 
      One of the many motivating factors for my growing respect of Natalie Portman is her unquestioned resilience in life's pursuits outside of Hollywood.  Deciding to a take a break from a burgeoning movie career, Portman decided to pursue a bachelors degree in psychology from Harvard.  She is also vigorously championing animal rights, is a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party, a noted vegetarian, a fiery advocate of the Village Banking Campaign, the Ambassador of Hope for FINCA International and an overall tenacious activist.  With all these myriad causes and responsibilities on her plate, it is astonishing that she can still deliver thought-provoking and intensely passionate performances.  There is no doubt that I am an avid supporter of Natalie Portman's flourishing career.  Let us hope the Academy agrees when they select their winner for Lead Actress.

*In the attached video, Portman discusses her latest film, Black Swan.