Friday, December 21, 2007

For No Good Reason: The Best and Worst of 2007

I did my best to resist doing a list like this, but there's really no better way to round off the blog for 2007. Happy Christmas to all and I'll be back come early January with a preview of 2008 (hint: I can't wait to see No Country For Old Men!).

Best Film: Zodiac
Honorable Mentions: Into The Wild, The Lives of Others, Superbad, Once, The Fountain, Half Nelson, Teeth, 2 Days In Paris, Ratatouille, Knocked Up, Assassination of Jessie James..., The Darjeeling Limited, The Last King Of Scotland.

Best Director: Sean Penn for Into The Wild

Best Actor: Forest Whitticker in The Last King Of Scotland

Best Actress: Keri Russell in Waitress

Best Script: Superbad

The Jessica Alba Award or "Wow, ain't that pretty!": The Assassination Of Jessie James By The Coward Robert Ford (for some incredible cinematography).

Best Scene: The voice of Roger Rabbit, Charles Fleischer, creeps Jake Gyllenhall (and the rest of us) out in Zodiac by going down to the basement.

Worst Film: Transformers
Almost as bad: Black Sheep, Hostel Part 2, Vacancy, POTC: At World's End, Spider-Man 3.

Worst Prostitution of Talent For A Paycheck: Kevin Spacey in Fred Clause

Most In Need of A Good Film: Jim Carrey

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Quick Review Update

The Christmas Crazies are upon us (aka: actually thinking that it's a good idea to be in or around the Grafton Street area at any time of day) and I've dropped behind with reviews. Here's a quick smattering (well, 3 really) of what I've seen lately...

Southland Tales
Being the huge Donnie Darko fan that I am I was particularly looking forward to Richard Kelly's next for the best part of 4 years. A disastrous Cannes screening bode ill for a film that was reportedly self-indulgent, confusing and meandering. A year and a re-edit later, Southland Tales emerged and, well... it's still all those things, but maybe not as much as before. It's still a good film and worth watching, but it seems like it has lost itself and drowned amid a sea of half-ideas that never come together.
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

The Assassination of Jessie James By The Coward Robert Ford
If you happen to enjoy the films of Terrance Mallik then you'll love this one. Mallik's Days Of Heaven was an inspiration for this tale of how one of the most infamous men of 1800's America was killed. It looks absolutely gorgeous, with one scene involving a train robbery at night especially standing out. The story itself takes time to properly kick off, and when it does the film is at it's most compelling and interesting. Pitt and Affleck give excellent performances and make this one to watch during awards season.
Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

I have every reason to hate this film: it's a chick flick, tons to saccharine laced story lines, the bloke from Grey's Anatomy and, being a Disney film, the potential to be overly moralistic. The fact that I really enjoyed it almost makes me ill. It's funny, well written and has some excellent performances. Disney takes the piss out of itself and does so with a knowing wink. What Scream is to horror, Enchanted is to the fantasy fable. Pity the final 20 minutes of the film, when Susan Sarandon shows up, goes all clich├ęd and Hilary Duff-esque.
Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

First Poster for Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

...and it looks amazing! (click for bigger version)

Waits For Christmas #1

This may not really be film related (although he did appear in many films like Domino and Mystery Men) but there's a campaign currently underway to get Tom Waits' song "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" to the number 1 spot in the Irish Charts for Christmas. Needless to say, this is pure genius!

You can find out more at the Official Blog.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Go! Speed Racer! Go!

The first promotional photos of Speed Racer, The Wachowski Brothers' next film, have appeared online thanks to USA Today. It's always been said that the brothers were going for a look that replicated the original cartoon, and these photos just look as trippy as hell! When I get around to making my preview of 2008 over the holidays this is one of the movies that'll certainly feature. Click the link for more photos.

Did Morgan Spurlock find Osama?

Morgan Spurlock is a documentary filmmaker who has eaten nothing but McDonalds for a whole month in Super Size Me, and brought numerous excesses to TV screens with 30 Days. His next feature documentary, to be premiered at Sundance next year, is called Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?, and follows Spurlock as he travels across the Middle East in search of the infamous terrorist.

This is all well and good and, on surface level, could make for an entertaining doc. However, MSNBC have reported here that there might be more to Spurlock's film, and that he might just have actually found Bin Laden. The article mentions that in February last Spurlock screened 15 minutes of the doc to potential buyers in Berlin and these 15 minutes caused The Weinstein Company to immediately drop $25 million onto Spurlock's lap to secure distribution. It's not an unusual amount for a distribution deal, but when you consider that most documentaries don't even make close to that amount you begin to think that there could be more to it.

The directory of photography for the doc, Daniel Marracino, is quoted in Variety as saying: "We've defiantly got the Holy Grail". While I don't really think Spurlock sat down with Osama and did a little interview, I do imagine that he managed to get something that will, at least, cause the Bush Administration much embarrassment. Or, more likely, the Weinstein's just spent $25 million on some impressive publicity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Review: The Darjeeling Limited

The Short... This is another well rounded and entertaining film from Anderson. Funny, engaging and meaningful. You just wish that he'd try to make a film with new themes or stories that he hasn't already done many times before.

The Long... Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman play three brothers who meet up in India (on request of Wilson's character) to go on a journey of "spiritual discovery" after their father died a year previous. This journey includes boarding a train (run by the company in the title) that is traveling across the country and stops from time to time to allow the brothers to partake in activities that are supposed to help them bond and find themselves. This journey is cut short with an incident involving painkillers, cough syrup and pepper spray that ends up with the brothers thrown off the train and left in the middle of India with nothing except 11 suitcases, a printer and a laminating machine.

As this is a Wes Anderson film you can expect fantastically written characters, quirky dialog, unusual situations, slow-mo shots, parental issues and deliberate pacing. Now, before I go into my issues with The Darjeeling Limited, I need to stress that this is a really good and well made film. I throughly enjoyed it and is well worth the €9-ish price of a ticket. My issues are not with the film as a separate entity, but as part of the Wes Anderson cannon.

Let's take the major themes of the film: a family that doesn't know how to communicate with each other, parents who have neglected or ignored their offspring, the seeking of a spiritual enlightenment, the way in which people deal with death. These are all themes that Anderson has covered many times over in Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic. This fact makes viewing The Darjeeling Limited an un-unique experience, and we don't feel as impressed or as refreshed as we were before. The film is still a good one, but it's just nothing new. A large part of me wishes that Anderson would try to explore different themes and attempt to go away from the machinations that he feels comfortable with and what make a "Wes Anderson film". That said, his next film is an adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox that's supposed to be mostly done using puppets and stop-motion animation (akin to some scene in The Life Aquatic), so maybe then will my appetite for something different will be sedated.

Repetitive issues aside, this is an engrossing film. The performances are excellent (including Owen Wilson who has never been as good as this in any film before) and the photography is top notch. To compare it to other Anderson works, it's as good as Rushmore, but not as enthralling or involving as The Royal Tenenbaums or The Life Aquatic.

Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Review: The Nines

The Short... An admirable attempt at a story that has ideas way beyond its own existence. While very enjoyable for the most part the film falls flat from being mishandled by a director who tries to cram in too many themes while attempting to simplify them. Fans of Donnie Darko may find something here.

The Long... I've been having difficulty in trying to properly explain the story of The Nines without giving away the whole plot. To explain one aspect means you have to clarify it with the next and so on. So, to summarize in as concise a fashion as I can manage, Ryan Reynolds plays three characters (an actor, a tv producer, and a games developer) whose lives become entwined in a complex system of numbers and coincidence. Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy also appear as three separate characters in each of these lives.

Throughout the whole movie I kept being reminded of Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko (which happens to be my favorite film). Both films set up realms of their own which have important and specific rules that their characters must adhere to, or else the world as they know it will end. In Darko, the audience has this realm slowly and purposefully revealed to us in a way that is compelling and intriguing. In The Nines, however, I saw little evidence of control over the substance of the story and thus the film's quirks and revelations become stunted and their meaning diluted. That's not to say that The Nines is scattered or grossly inept, as the script contains quiet a lot of good work and displays a certain wit to many scenes.

Ryan Reynolds shows off an acting range here that was not at all apparent in, let's say, Van Wilder. As the film's lead he does a really good job of holding things together and gives each of the characters enough connection between themselves without playing each the same way. His supporting cast doesn't display that same range, but are adequate nonetheless. First time director John August, who also wrote the screenplay, does his best to contain the story and present it in a way that's meaningful (which he does quite well for most of the film), but it all crumbles in the final revelation.

There are certain ideas within The Nines that are indeed interesting and entertaining, but I wish they were handled in a different manner. We never feel like we've discovered or learned anything along with the main character(s) and the impact of the ultimate story arc is lessened. It's an enjoyable film with many positive points, but fails to deliver on these.

* * * (3 Stars)