Tag Archives: movies

Out on DVD: This is England

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Written and directed by Shane Meadows. Starring Thomas Turgoose and Stephen Graham (Snatch).  Winner of the BAFTA Film Award for Best British Film. Nominated for the BAFTA Film Award for Best Screenplay.  Winner of the Best British Independent Film. Nominated for the Best British Independent Film Award for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Technical Achievement (original music by Ludovico Einaudi).

This is England is set during Margret Thatcher’s reign over England, The Falklands War, and serious economic decline and unemployment in England. The film follows Shaun (Turgoose), a twelve year old boy who lost his father in The Falklands War, and his journey into England’s skinhead culture. When Combo (Graham) – the former leader of the skinheads – returns from three and a half years in prison, he is obsessed with English pride and purity. Needless to say, a schism occurs within the group of friends – some opt out of Combo’s crusade against “Paki-Bastards” (please excuse the racial slur), while others join him, including Shaun.

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The film is provides a look into the roots of racist thought and racist skinhead culture in England during the 1980s – primarily a result of the economic hardship of the time, according to the film. The storyline isn’t hard to predict, but, even though you can see the climatic scene coming from a mile away, it is executed perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that I am tempted to say that the director wanted the film to end in a predictable manner that the viewer expected so that the tension could rise and build until it’s horrifying, amazingly delivered climax debuts. The film may be a bit predictable, but it still manages to daze you. And who said predictability was a bad thing?

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The acting is more than on par. The stars of the film, Turgoose and Graham, are especially good. There are brief, moments of cheese that could have been avoided by simply delaying the score by a second or two, but I can really only think of one instance at the moment; it’s not much to complain about.

Check out this film for the climax if for nothing else. The plot isn’t anything especially new, but the delivery is really worth noting.

B+/A-

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Be Kind Rewind

Be Kind Rewind

Dir. Michel Gondry Writ. Michel Gondry Star. Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, and Melonie Diaz

Pretty good, I’ll say that. I wouldn’t spend my last seven bucks on it, but it’s good for a Sunday afternoon.

Let’s get Gondry out of the way. He does need Kaufman for a whole, cohesive script. Be Kind Rewind’s plot had some of the same flare as Eternal Sunshine. Still, there was some pretty glaring plot holes.

I read some reviews for Be Kind Rewind before I saw it, and I have to agree with their major plot critique on Jack Black being magnetized. I can understand Gondry wanting a magical element to the film, but it was wholly unnecessary, implausible, and confusing. A swarm of bees destroying the videos would have made more sense.

Also, I’m a little confused about Mos Def. Maybe he needs a little more experience as an actor. Maybe his character, Mike, was supposed to be a little slow, a little challenged. There could have been more of the romance between Mos Def and Diaz too.

Complaints aside, it was a good film. It was especially visually pleasing. It has the raw, gritty romanticized feel of Eternal Sunshine. It’s worth seeing for that alone. Plus, it’s funny.

The “Sweden”ed (remake) films were the highlight of the movie. Jack Black brought out his A game for Rush Hour 2 and Driving Miss Daisy.

Anyone who has made a bad home movie will probably get a kick out of Be Kind Rewind.

7/10


Charlie Bartlett (vs. Ferris Bueller)

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Dir. Jon Poll Writ. Gustin Nash Star. Anton Yelchin, Robert Downy Jr., Kat Dennings, Tyler Hilton.

I suppose it’s unfair to solely judge Charlie Bartlett by comparison to Ferris Bueller. I don’t go to the Portland art museum and call paintings inferior to Goya or Delacroix. Still, Bueller has cornered the market on this fairly specific sub-genre of high school comedy, and the filmmakers had to know it. If I made a film about a young boy from a broken home befriending an alien, I’d be competing with E.T., right?

I liked Charlie from Charlie Bartlett, but I liked him less than Ferris Bueller. It was interesting to watch the filmmakers combat this likely universal sentiment. They didn’t try to take Bueller head on (an impossible feat, in my opinion), and they didn’t try to ride Bueller’s coattails for a few Box Office profits over a couple of weekends (not on the whole at least, I hope). Instead, they tried to carve a little niche for Bartlett in this high school sub-genre. Bartlett was like Bueller’s drug-dealing, less clever younger brother. I’m not so convinced the whole pharmacy angle separated Bartlett from Bueller nearly enough, but, hey, at least they tried.

I’ll give Bartlett this, I liked his sidekick better than Bueller’s. Though presented and developed in a much less sophisticated manner, I prefer Bartlett’s punk bully, Murphey, to Bueller’s neurotic Cameron. (Unfortunately, Bartlett’s girl doesn’t hold a candle to Bueller’s)

Robert Downy Jr. was okay, I guess. It was too sappy a character for me. “I’m Robert Downy Jr., and, guess what, my character is a mopey drunk with a heart of gold buried under a world of problems.” Yeah, yeah; blah, blah; etc, etc. He’s especially hard to like when you consider the ridiculous principle from Ferris Bueller. It turns out zero antics, self-destructive rage, and contemplative intoxicatedness isn’t that funny.

The only place I can really see anyone watching Charlie Bartlett is at a matinee. Not that it is not enjoyable, but when it leaves theaters and goes to DVD there is really no reason to watch Bartlett over Bueller.

6.5/10

P.S. They pretty much have the same movie posters:

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Oscar Predictions

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Here are my predictions for Sunday’s Oscars, along with a few alternates in each category plus some general thoughts. I’ve refrained from posting any predictions for the Best Foreign Film category because of how wildly unpredictable it is. Amelie lost, Pan’s Labyrinth lost, and the 3 frontrunners this year weren’t even nominated. Everyone, even the academy, is confused about it. But without further ado, here are my Oscar predictions:

Best Picture:

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1) No Country for Old Men

2) There Will Be Blood

3) Juno

No Country’s definitely the frontrunner, but still, something doesn’t feel right. I hope Blood will make an upset, but it’s pretty unlikely, especially considering it took in the smallest amount at the box office. Juno and Michael Clayton also have a shot, but Atonement is completely out of the running.

Best Director:

1) Joel & Ethan Coen – No Country for Old Men

2) Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

3) Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood

Here I’d love to see Julian Schnabel win. He won the Golden Globe and he’s got a decent chance at the Oscar, but the Coens are still my pick. PTA has a shot, but I highly doubt he wins it. The other nominees, Jason Reitman for Juno and Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton, don’t have a chance.

Best Female Actor:

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1) Julie Christie – Away From Her

2) Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose

3) Ellen Page – Juno

Though I’m rooting for Marion Cotillard, I’m fairly certain this is Christie’s year. She’s the clear frontrunner (she’s won most of the major awards, including the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Award). Ellen Page is in the race, but Cate Blanchett and Laura Linney are out.

Best Male Actor:

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1) Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood

-If anybody else wins something’s seriously fucked up. All the other nominees are telling the academy to vote for him, he’s won every possible award up to this point, he’s been very humble during his acceptance speeches and his few interviews, and of course his performance was freaking incredible.

Best Original Screenplay:

1) Diablo Cody – Juno

2) Tony Gilroy – Michael Clayton

-This should easily go to Diablo Cody. The other nominated films (except for Michael Clayton)- Ratatouille, The Savages, and Lars and the Real Girl– have little to no chance.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

1) Joel & Ethan Coen – No Country for Old Men

2) Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood

3) Ronald Harwood – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

-This will be a battle between PTA and the Coens. I’m predicting the Coens to win, but I really think it should go to PTA for There Will Be Blood. We’ll see.

Best Female Supporting Actor:

-This one’s wide open. All 5 nominees have a good chance. Blanchett won the Globe, Rudy Dee won the SAG, Tilda Swinton won the BAFTA, and Amy Ryan won most of the the critics awards. It’s basically a toss-up, but here are my guesses:

1) Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There

2) Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton

3) Amy Ryan/Ruby Dee/Saoirse Ronan

Best Male Supporting Actor:

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1) Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men

-I’d put all my money on Bardem.

Best Original Score:

1) Dario Marianelli – Atonement

-The scores for Ratatouille, The Kite Runner, and Yuma could win, but I think this rightfully goes to Atonement. It was an incredible score and I’d be pretty surprised to see it not win.

Best Animated Feature:

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1) Ratatouille

2) Persepolis

-Ratatouille’s all over this one. Persepolis could upset, but it’s not likely. 3rd nominee Surf’s Up is lucky it was even nominated.

Best Cinematography:

1) Robert Elswit – There Will Be Blood

2) Roger Deakins – The Assassination of Jesse James/No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood will most likely take this one due to double nominee Roger Deakins splitting the vote. Otherwise, I’d say Jesse James, which probably deserves the award more. It was a pretty incredible year for cinematography, so anything could upset.

Best Documentary:

1) Sicko

-Michael Moore won for Bowling for Columbine and would’ve won for Fahrenheit 9/11 had it been eligible, and since Sicko is just as praised and popular but slightly less controversial, I’d say it’s a lock.

And there we are, predictions in the 12 major categories. I’m actually hoping that my predictions turn out to be almost completely wrong other than the male acting awards, since I’m rooting for an underdog in almost every category.

Remember, the Oscars are this Sunday, the 22nd.


Persepolis

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Persepolis is an animated film about a young girl, Marjane (the name of the woman who wrote the autobiographical graphic novel which the film is based on), growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Although this movie’s subject matter is rather serious in nature, the film takes on a mostly chipper tone. You’ll find yourself laughing more than thinking about the socio-economics of Iran, both past and present. This could be seen as both a positive or a negative aspect of the film; I’m not sure where I stand.

This is for certain, the animation is amazing. Not since Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003) have I been so impressed and engrossed by the animation in front of my eyes. The animation alone is worth paying to see.

The storyline moves quickly: we see Marjane go from child to adult in ninety minutes. The flow isn’t off, but you are forced to take in a lot of story and I don’t think the film really allows you to invest yourself in the peoples’ lives your watching, or even the story, for that matter.

But it’s beautiful, very beautiful. The ending is great and it’s incredibly enjoyable to watch.

8/10

Trailer:


MICHAEL CLAYTON

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Written and Directed by Tony Gilroy. Stars George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, and Sydney Pollack.

Michael Clayton is the new legal thriller which scored seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture.

Michael Clayton is introduced as a “fixer.” In the opening scene he gets a call regarding a client’s car accident, and he is dispatched to the house to “clean up” the mess. He does the “dirty work” for his law firm, getting cases to lean their way. Clayton gets thrown into a legal mess involving a massive law firm, an insane litigator (played by Tom Wilkinson), and the lead counsel for some kind of corporate entity (played by Tilda Swinton). Hilarity ensues.

The performances by Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson are pitch-perfect. George Clooney, on the other hand, gets too much credit for playing George Clooney. He’s spot on as Michael Clayton, but he’s starting to go down that same road as actors such as Denzel Washington, who repeatedly play similar characters and give familiar performances. All I’m saying is that I strongly disagree with Clooney’s Oscar nomination and the constant praise he’s been getting for this performance. He’s perfectly cast (and he is a great actor), but the real praise should be going towards the supporting roles, who really out-shine him.

While most legal dramas tend to feel and look, at least to me, pretty bland, cinematographer Robert Elswit, who’s responsible for the beautiful photography on films such as Punch-Drunk Love and Good Night, and Good Luck, gives Michael Clayton a nice, slick look. Also, kudos go to writer/director Tony Gilroy for writing a smart and original script that, despite a few glaring plot holes, puts a nice spin on a dying genre. It all leads to an incredibly well-acted, well-written climactic confrontation that makes the monotony during some of the film’s second half worth the wait.

7.5/10

Michael Clayton will be released on DVD February 19th (this Tuesday).

Here’s the trailer for Michael Clayton:


Most Anticipated Movies for 2008

At the moment, 2008 looks like it could possibly top the incredible year we had for movies in 2007. There are about 20 films I already can’t wait to see. To keep this post more on the short side, I’ll refrain from writing too much about each entry, but I will post links to each film’s IMDB page, in case you want to know more. This is one of those lists that will change weekly as the year progresses, but here it is as of January 31st…

20) The Argentine/Guerrilla

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A Che Guevara biopic from Steven Soderbergh (Traffic). Guevara will be played by Benicio Del Toro, who is always fantastic.

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19) Be Kind Rewind

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Michael Gondry is directing, and his films have all been unique and moving. This looks just plain fun.

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18 ) Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) has always been wonderful, and this is a great story. Plus, this is Paul Dano’s first starring role. Hopefully this actually comes out this year.

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17) Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt

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As much as I loved Borat when it first came out, I’m a little sick of it now. However, that doesn’t make me any less excited for Bruno. This should be completely over-the-top.

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16) The International

From the director of Run, Lola, Run. It’s got Clive Owen and Naomi Watts in the lead roles. That’s all I know, but I can’t wait to see it.

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15) The Wrestler

The only reason this made it on the list is because Darren Aronofsky, who made The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream, is the director. I love his past work, and so while I’m looking forward to this, I honestly don’t think it looks all that great. Hopefully I’ll be wrong.

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14) Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay

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It was either this or Seth Rogen’s Pinapple Express. Only one stoner comedy could make the list. This, in my opinion, had a much funnier trailer, so here it is.

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13) Body of Lies

This is a new Ridley Scott crime thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. All the big names give me hope.

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12) Revolutionary Road

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Stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, and is directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty). This has oscar written all over it, which means it’ll probably crash and burn, but we’ll see.

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11) Synecdoche, New York

Anything involving Charlie Kaufman is at least worth a look. He’s the mind behind films like Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature, and Being John Malkovich. This is his first time directing, and he’s got Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role. It’ll be good.

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10) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Based on the book by F. Scott Fitgerald. Directed by David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club). Stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Mhmm.

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9) Quantum of Solace

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Casino Royale’s follow up. They’ve got a great director for this one (Marc Forster), and Daniel Craig is back as bond. I’m excited.

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8 ) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Even if this turns out to be awful I’ll be there opening day. It’s a guaranteed fun time.

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7) The Lovely Bones

It’ll be great to see Peter Jackson directing again. This will probably be more in the vein of Heavenly Creatures, smaller budget and all. Saoirse Ronan, the incredible child actor from Atonement, is the star. Can’t wait.

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6) Wall-E

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The new Pixar film. I’ve enjoyed everything they’ve put out so far (maybe not Cars, though), and I think this looks as good, if not better, than all of them, even Ratatouille and Finding Nemo.

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5) Australia

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This is Baz Luhrmann’s follow-up to Moulin Rouge. It should be epic, beautiful, and daring, just like everything he’s done in the past.

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4) Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince

Director David Yates is back. Considering how well he did with Order of the Phoenix, despite it being my least favorite book, I can’t wait to see what he can do with Half-Blood Prince, which just happens to be my favorite of the 7 books. I actually expect this to be the best Harry Potter yet.

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3) Burn After Reading

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This is high on the list for no other reason than it’s the new Coen brothers film, and last year’s No Country for Old Men was pretty amazing.

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2) Ponyo on a Cliff

Legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki’s (Spirited Away) swan song. This, unlike most animated films, will be done with water-colors. No CGI, completely hand-drawn. It’ll be beautiful. Plus, Miyazaki’s managed to never make a bad movie.

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1) The Dark Knight

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My most anticipated for mostly obvious reasons. Batman Begins was pretty incredible, and all signs are pointing to the sequel being even better.

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