Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Second Trailer for Fantastic Mr. Fox

The second trailer for Wes Anderson's latest, Fantastic Mr. Fox, appeared online earlier today, and my anticipation continues to grow. To be fair though, any Anderson project is an event film for me. I'm kind of a sucker for his style. In the new trailer we see more character interactions than before, showing off Anderson's trademark humor. This time out Anderson brings back many of his previous collaborators, including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Defoe, and Jason Schwartzman. With the addition of George Clooney and Meryl Streep, this film features one of the best casts this year. Fantastic Mr. Fox will receive a wide release on Nov. 25. I certainly won't be missing it.

Check out the trailer at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gibson's Beaver

Mel Gibson seems to finally be easing his way back into acting after spending several years away. While a return to acting isn't all that surprising, his choice in material could certainly turn a few heads. Gibson will star in Jodie Foster's latest film, The Beaver, which centers on a troubled father, husband, and CEO of a stalling toy company. After finding a beaver puppet in some garbage, he decides give voice to it, subsequently delivering all his communication through it. Pretty strange premise, right? Well, the first set photos have leaked on-line recently and, sure enough, they feature Gibson with a beaver puppet on his hand.

The screenplay for The Beaver was written by Kyle Killen and has received a significant amount of buzz from those who have read it. The script even earned a spot on the 2008 Black List, a list of Hollywood's best unproduced screenplays. While I don't know much about this project other than the basic premise, I have to admit that I'm intrigued. It certainly seems like a risky project, especially for Gibson. Essentially the entire film will depend upon him and whether or not he pulls this performance off. I'm hoping for some kind of weird tour-de-force from Gibson, but only time will tell. If it doesn't work out, he can always return to directing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trailer: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Of all the 80’s slasher films, A Nightmare on Elm Street ranks among the highest for me. The psychological quality of the film raises it above most horror-related fare. So, with all of the horror remakes happening the past few years, it’s no surprise to see that Nightmare is receiving its own update. This time out, Jackie Earl Haley takes over the role of Freddy Kruger, which seems like an inspired bit of casting. Anyone who has watched Little Children knows that the guy can pull off being creepy. I’m glad that he’s been getting more opportunities as of late.

It’s always difficult to determine the quality of a film based on a simple preview, although the involvement of Platinum Dunes (Michael Bay’s production company) may provide a hint of what to expect. The trailer goes into the back-story of Freddy, typically a bad sign for these types of films as it tends to take away from the mystery of characters. While I won’t expect much from this film, it still holds some amount of interest for me.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mini-Review: The Alamo (1960)

I decided to sit down with John Wayne’s directorial debut, The Alamo, this afternoon. It’s an epic western that was considered a dream project for Wayne and one that definitely reflects his views of America. Ultimately, I’m conflicted on this film. The film’s length is probably its biggest issue. I happened to watch the 192 minute “roadshow” version of the film, and it just feels overstuffed with material. The story plods along, feeling as if it lacks focus. I usually dislike it when people criticize a film for being “too long” (it just seems lazy), but in this instance I felt like the film didn’t make the best use of its length.

On the upside, I found the performances suited the material just fine, with supporting actors Richard Widmark and Lawrence Harvey being particular standouts. Wayne does his usual thing as Davey Crockett, which is fine by me. But the real standout of the film is its scale and set design. For the production a full-scale replica of the Alamo was built, supposedly using the original blueprints. Also, Wayne managed to gather thousands of extras together for the climatic battle – a truly impressive sight. The mass chaos and scale of the fight make the film worth watching, if nothing else. The score from Dimitri Tiomkin stands out as well.
Overall, while I was disappointed on some level with The Alamo, I’m glad that I watched it, just for the experience.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Top 5 Samuel L. Jackson Yelling Scenes

I loves me some good Samuel L. Jackson yelling. Who doesn’t? The man has an intensity and aggression that few others possess. Over the course of his career, Mr. Jackson has had plenty of opportunities to showcase his yelling abilities, with the results ranging from fierceness to hilarity. Here are my picks of his very best shout-it-out moments (in no particular order).

Deep Blue Sea
(Spoilers if you haven’t seen this film)
In a film about a group of scientific researchers who are terrorized by genetically-enhanced sharks, you would probably expect for there to be a scene in which the researchers are banded together by an inspirational speech, right? And who better to give a motivational, fiery speech than Sam Jackson? Well, this film features just such a scene, only there’s one tiny twist. Right in the middle of his big speech, a shark pops up out of the water and eats Jackson, leaving the other members of the group in complete shock. I love this scene because it goes so against expectations. It’s campy and fun in the best possible way.

A Time to Kill
In this film Samuel Jackson plays a man whose daughter is brutally beaten and raped. He takes revenge on the two men responsible, killing them in cold blood. At his trial, Jackson takes the stand and is asked whether the two men he killed deserved to die. This question sets up one of Jackson’s most famous lines, “Yes they deserved to die, and I hope they burn in hell.” It’s a line delivered with all the rage and anger you want to see from Jackson. Without a doubt, it’s one of his finest moments.

Pulp Fiction
This is probably the first film that most people think of when they think of Samuel Jackson – and with good reason. In it, he delivers what is his most iconic role to date. Jackson plays Jules Winfield, a hitman who comes to contemplate in new life. Jules does quite a bit of yelling through the course of the film, but, of course, the scene that I’ll highlight is the interrogation scene. In this scene, Jules and his partner Vincent arrive at the apartment of some small-time punks with the objective of shaking them down and retrieving some stolen property. The scene builds to a climax when Jules quotes his Ezekiel speech and then promptly wastes the unfortunate small-timers. Anyone who’s a fan of cinema has seen this already, so I won’t bother to say anymore about it – only that it’s a truly classic moment from a classic film.

Snakes on a Plane
What can I really say about this? It’s Snakes on a Plane. Sam Jackson gets tired of all the poisonous snakes that are on his plane. Wouldn’t we all?

The Negotiator
It’s been awhile since I’ve watched this one, but it definitely makes for a solid suspense film. Jackson plays a hostage negotiator who gets accused of murder and corruption. The only way for him to prove his innocence is to take hostages himself as he attempts to crack the conspiracy against him. At one point, surrounded by police, Jackson exclaims, “You want my blood?! Take my blood!” It’s really kind of a ridiculous line, but Jackson sells it well. That’s really one of his chief strengths: the ability to take ridiculous dialog and sell it to audiences.

Well, those are my picks, although there are many other possibilities. What are your favorite Samuel L. Jackson yelling moments?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cinerama Reccommends: The Film Junk Podcast

Even when I'm not watching films, there's usually something film-related going on in my spare time. For example, I listen to several movie podcasts to hear some interesting discussion related to film. My favorite among those podcasts is located at On this podcast, hosted by three long-time friends (Sean, Jay, and Greg), you'll hear entertaining comments on movie news, reviews, and other random topics. The show maintains a very relaxed feel, like your just hanging out with these guys. In fact, I think that's why I enjoy the show so much. Their particular chemistry and dynamic together work perfectly for me.

Film Junk records a new episode each week and I always look forward to each one. It's always nice to hear people who share the same passions as you discussing those passions in such an entertaining and engaging way. So, if you're searching for a place for some solid movie talk, then I wholeheartedly reccommend Film Junk. Check it out!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Horror Fest '09

With Halloween coming up, I thought I'd run a series of reviews focusing on some films that help celebrate the holiday. We all have our favorite scary movies, but I've specifically chosen films that I've never seen before, mostly in an attempt to broaden my knowledge of the genre. Furthermore, I've also chosen to go with horror-comedies, partly to narrow my focus and partly because I just enjoy the combination.

I've decided to get a head start on this project to make sure I fit in all the films I want to watch(in case your wondering why I'm posting about this so early). I'll leave my choices as a surprise; it's more fun that way. Look for the first review once October hits.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Forgotten Films: Emperor of the North Pole

Most of the time when I’m skimming through the TV guide, I don’t find much that interests me. The shows and films listed are pretty generic “been there, done that” material. But there are those rare occasions when you stumble upon something that truly captures your attention and makes you say, “I’ve got to watch this.” I had such an experience several years ago when I happened across a film called Emperor of the North Pole (1973). The one-line summary provided in the TV guide read something like: “A crafty hobo outwits a tyrannical train conductor.” Already I knew that I would be watching this film based solely on that premise. I mean, it’s a movie centering on a hobo – a crafty hobo. How could I resist? But then I noticed the names of the two leads: Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. I had just hit the jackpot. With two tough-guy actors of that caliber in the starring roles, I somehow knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed with this film…and I wasn’t.

The story takes place during the Great Depression, when times were tough for many. Among those affected by the times is a hobo named A no. 1 (possibly one of the greatest character names ever), played by Marvin. He lives alongside many other hobos, most of whom freely hitch rides on trains in order to get around. But there is a threat in the lives of the hobos in the form of train engineer Shack, played by Borgnine. Shack maintains an infamous reputation for beating or even killing any hobo that stows away on his locomotive. It’s said that no one has ever been able to hitch a ride on his train. A no. 1 takes it upon himself to face down the maniacal engineer in a battle of wills that stretches each man to his limit. Along the way, a younger hobo named Cigaret, played by Keith Carradine, joins this back-and-forth fight as A no. 1 reluctantly takes him under his wing.

Putting this film into any one category might be considered a chore, as it’s an odd mix of genres and tones. It could easily be called a period piece, an action/adventure film, a comedy, a kind of “road” film, and a modernized western all rolled into one. The tone fluctuates throughout as the somewhat peculiar premise plays out with complete seriousness on the part of the characters involved. The tonal shifts mainly manifest themselves in the mix of humor and violence that this film contains. The story plays out like a Quentin Tarantino film twenty years before he began making films. Some of the violence is gleefully brutal. At one point in the film, a character receives a hammer thrown right to his head, and when it connects, the audience feels it too. It’s the type of visceral violence that you rarely find in films of this era. But, as violent as it is, that moment is also hilariously funny because it’s so over-the-top. Scenes such as these walk a thin between the intense and the comedic and are certainly not for everyone. But regardless of taste, it’s safe to say that the combination of all these elements makes the movie a unique viewing experience.

While the story may seem simple, I think that there’s something further that can be read into it, which raises the dramatic stakes. More than a stand-off between two men, Emperor of the North Pole can easily be read as a tale of man vs. machine. Indeed, the character of Shack operates just as much like a machine as the locomotive he operates. His sole mission in life appears only to involve running his train and stopping anyone who gets in his way. Callous to the point of absurdity, Shack treats the hobos he encounters as if they aren’t even human beings, merely pests that have invaded his precious train. A no. 1’s quest to conquer the machine-like authority of the day becomes an example of the enduring human spirit. Although the theme of man vs. machine may be an old standby at this point, the elemental nature of the film allows it to resonate.

Emperor of the North Pole is, perhaps, one of the oddest films you’ll see about the Great Depression. But, of course, I mean that in the best way possible. Anyone who enjoys a gripping action/adventure film should find this one very satisfying. With two powerhouse performances from Marvin and Borgnine, the film is brimming with testosterone and plenty of yelling as well. Directed by Robert Aldrich, who also helmed The Dirty Dozen and The Longest Yard among others, Emperor of the North Pole is truly one “tough guy” film to seek out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Clooney Back in the Director's Chair

George Clooney looks to be heading back to directing with a new courtroom drama, scripted by Aaron Sorkin and starring Matt Damon. The film, entitled Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, will chronicle the real-life court case of Salim Hamdam, a former chauffeur of Osama bin Laden. Damon will play the man's lawyer.

Clooney is no stranger to political material (or Aaron Sorkin for that matter). His 2005 film Good Night and Good Luck drew rave reviews; commenting on both the 1950's and recent times. I enjoyed that film quite a bit and hope that this project can get at some current issues without becoming overly preachy. I also like that Clooney varies his projects quite a bit, mixing commercial and arthouse films. He seems to be on quite a roll at the moment with Up in the Air, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and Fantastic Mr. Fox all lined up for release this year. With all of the talent involved with this new project (so far), here's hoping that they score a hit. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Trailer: Harry Brown

A trailer for Harry Brown, the newest film from Sir Michael Caine, debuted recently, so I decided to take a look. The story centers on an elderly ex-serviceman who seeks to avenge the death of his friend. From the trailer, this appears to be in the vein of Gran Torino or Death Wish; the kind of personal vendetta films that audiences seem to respond with a passion. I'm looking forward to the film, but I wonder just why so many people seem to enjoy these types of stories. Maybe it's a wish-fulfillment thing - something to do with taking justice into their own hands. Whatever the case, I'll watch Michael Caine in just about anything, so this film makes my "to watch" list. Currently, Harry Brown is scheduled for release next month in the UK, but there's no word yet on a US release date.

Check out the trailer at and share your thoughts in the comments.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Is TIFF Winner a Sign of Things to Come?

As the 34th annual Toronto International Film Festival has wound down, the awards for the top films were recently announced. The big winner this year is the independently financed Precious, scoring the People's Choice Award. Earlier this year the film also drew rave reviews from Sundance as well. With all of the acclaim building up, Precious could become one of those "little films that could" and find an audience as well as further award nominations. Special attention has been given to Gabourey Sidibe, the actress who plays the title role of Precious.

According to IMDb, the story follows "an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction." After all the critical praise, I'm interested to see this one, although I'm afraid it could be one of those "very special" films that are too sugary for me to handle.

What are your thoughts on Precious?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thank You, TCM

I've always appreciated Turner Classis Movies. In fact, it may be my favorite channel. The folks over at TCM are truly dedicated to showing a wide range of films and focus on the importance of film history. (The fact that films are shown uninterrupted and in their correct aspect ratio continue to sweeten the deal.) Well, today I have another reason to be thankful for TCM since they programmed Samuel Fuller's film Park Row, a film which is curiously still unavailable on DVD. It's a movie that I wasn't sure I'd ever get a chance to see until now, and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to view it. Park Row represents one of Sam Fuller's most personal films, one that he financed himself in order to make. What results is a singular vision brought to the screen, and a truly uncompromised work. Films such as these don't come around often and when they do, I don't want to miss them. So, again, I'm glad to have had a chance to see this film and just wanted to recommend TCM as a non-stop movie source.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Remembering a Classic: The Wizard of Oz

When we reach adulthood, there’s a tendency to look back on our lives to see what exactly led us to our current path. As a film school graduate, my mind wanders back to some early movie experiences that sparked my imagination and developed my love of storytelling. One of the films that launched my fascination with cinema was The Wizard of Oz. It’s an example of a classic story that is at once fantastical and relatable. As the film celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, I thought back on my first encounter with this timeless tale.

I must have been about 7 or 8 years old when I first viewed the story of Dorothy and the Land of Oz We were on one of our regular family visits to my grandparent’s home when it was casually decided that us kids (my brother and I) should watch the film. As it began, I remember being captivated by the world presented to me. When Dorothy stepped out of her home and into the brightly colored dream-world of Oz, I became enraptured. Even at that young age, I knew that I was watching something special. The journey that Dorothy undertakes and the characters she meets along the way made for some the most memorable images I had ever seen.

As out-of-this-world as Oz was, the story was extremely relatable. We’ve all felt as if we didn’t belong at some point or another, just as Dorothy does. Or perhaps we’ve felt as if we’re missing something, like the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion. As we connect with these characters, we experience their journey with them, eventually learning the lessons that they learn.

The film truly is a rite of passage for children as it provokes a wide range of emotions, from wonder to terror. My brother and I were left by ourselves to watch the film and we were both frightened by the Wicked Witch and her army of flying monkeys. At that time it was probably one of the most terrifying experiences of our lives. But we made it through. That’s what’s so special about the movies. You can be transported to so many places and go through so many dangers, but in the end, you’re back in the comfort of your own home.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mini-Review: Dark Passage (1947)

This past week I decided to catch up on some film noir watching, so I caught Dark Passage. The story centers on a man who escapes from prison after being falsely convicted of murdering his wife. Once out of jail, he plans on determining who set him up. Naturally, complications arise along the way. This film represents the third out of four films that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (real-life husband and wife) made together. I’m a big fan of this couple’s films and this was the only one that I had yet to see. And, while I can’t say it’s the best of the bunch, Dark Passage certainly entertains enough to warrant a viewing.

One element of the film that sticks out, especially for the time, is the technique of using first-person. For about the first third of the film, most of what you see comes directly from the perspective of Bogart’s character, Vincent Parry. While this might seem gimmicky, the technique actually plays into the film’s story. Since Parry’s face is plastered all over the newspapers, he must change his appearance, opting for plastic surgery. Only after surgery do we see Bogart on screen (albeit in a face covered by bandages). Although the filmmakers could have chosen to use two actors to play the part, I’m kind of glad they chose this alternative route as it allows for some seldom-seen experimentation for this era. Accomplishing some of the first-person shots would have been much more difficult back then, requiring plenty of planning for the bulky equipment. In the end, I think the technique pays off, although in this case I’m glad it was relegated to the first half hour.

While the film contains many of the classic noir elements and moves along at a good pace, there are a few issues I have with the film that bring it down a bit. The chief problem I had was the coincidental nature of the story. For example, characters appear whenever the story needs them to appear. This seems to happen throughout the film and is responsible for major plot points. Another thing that bugged me was the willingness of characters to help out Parry. Even when they know he’s an escaped convict wanted for murder, people just decide to help him out. Even though the viewer knows that Parry is innocent of his crime, there’s no way for the characters within the film to know that. For all they know, he could be waiting for the opportunity to kill them! It all boils down to convenience, I suppose.

Ultimately I did enjoy Dark Passage a fair deal. Seeing Bogart and Bacall on-screen together is always a treat and the aesthetics of the film-noir genre are a personal favorite of mine. So, if you run across Dark Passage, I’d say give it a shot if you can look past a few flaws with the script. It’s an enjoyable look back at one of Hollywood’s most famous couples.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cinerama Recommends: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

While I'm far from a bookworm, every now and then I sit down with something to read (mostly film-related, of course). One of the most enjoyable books I've read in the past few years has been Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, which chronicles the rise of "New Hollywood" through the 60's and 70's. This text covers a wide variety of directors (Coppola, Bogdonivich, Scorsese, Spielberg, Friedken, Malick, etc.) and actors (Nicholson, Hopper, Beatty, etc.) who got their big breaks during this time. Biskind's ample research helps put into perspective the transition between the days of old studio heads and the new talent that shook up cinema. While the book is informative, it also falls on the gossipy side, letting the reader chew on all of the behind-the-scenes festivities the "New Hollywood" crowd enjoyed (I still wonder how Dennis Hopper has survived all these years). All in all, this is a great guide to an important period in film and one that movie fans should appreciate.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Forgotten Films: Fixed Bayonets!

When people gaze back on 1950’s Americana, I think they generally picture a simpler time. If we were to judge by the popular media of the day, we might think that family problems played themselves out as they did in Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best. But, of course, we know that times were never really that simple and that the 50’s faced its’ share of problems just as any other decade. While it may have been a time of prosperity, the decade contained the troubles of racism, the fear of Communism, and even war. So often we see films from Hollywood which misrepresent the people and issues of their particular time period. That’s why witnessing the occasional film that feels authentic is so refreshing. One such film of this nature is Samuel Fuller’s Fixed Bayonets! (1951), a low budget picture about soldiers fighting and surviving in the Korean War.

The plot unfurls in a simple and straightforward manner, cutting right to the chase. A U.S. division faces certain defeat if they fail to retreat. But actually doing so is not so easy. If the enemy realize that the division is on the run then they are likely to attack in force, causing serious damage and casualties. A U.S. commander decides they must leave just one company of 48 men as a rear guard. Their mission is to convince the opposing forces that the entire division is still present while in reality the majority withdraws to safety. One of those charged to remain, reluctant corporal Denno (Richard Basehart), has a fear of command, but as those who outrank him begin falling victim to enemy fire, the possibility that he may have to take charge of the company grows ever stronger.

This film treats its subject matter with respect, but does not white-wash the American soldiers as many films of this era did. There are no fearless soldiers who place themselves in harms way without a moments thought; no John Wayne heroics. These soldiers fear for their lives and long for the war to end so they can travel home. In one memorable scene the camera pans across the worn-out faces of the soldiers and we hear their inner thoughts as they contemplate life after the war. That moment of reflection allows for some added depth to characters that, in a lesser film, could come across as one-dimensional. In addition, the enemy soldiers are portrayed much more fairly than most films of that era. Merely looking back on media and films a few years previous to the depiction of the Japanese during World War II creates a startling contrast in treatment. The caricatures of that time are at best laughable and at worst embarrassing to witness. But here, as opposed to resorting to caricature, Fuller portrays the Koreans as proficient soldiers merely attempting to attain their goal. This racial treatment is no surprise to those familiar with Fuller’s films as he included many anti-racist themes throughout his work.

Another element that Fuller brought to the table in this film was his own war experience, which, no doubt, lent a great authenticity to the story. Fixed Bayonets! feels gritty in a way that many war films fail to capture. For example, the soldiers don’t always maneuver in such a smooth manner. The combat is often chaotic with soldiers scrambling to hiding spots to avoid enemy fire. Personalities clash as the action intensifies. Furthermore, the company makes due with what they have around them, even setting up their shelter inside of a cave. Even though I have never experienced wartime combat myself, I feel comfortable in calling this film authentic in its depiction because I felt an emotional truth to them that resonated with me. Plus, I’m sure that Fuller was including material based on his own memories which adds even more insight into the psychology of the soldiers. But Fuller does not merely draw on his wartime experience for the sake of authenticity; he also has something to say through this film.

The main theme of Fixed Bayonets! deals with responsibility and how people handle it. Corporal Denno, the film’s protagonist, does not wish to take on the responsibility of leading his company out of a fear of being unfit for the job. The film makes the point that sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we must take charge, even if we didn’t ask to be put in that position. This type of message maintains the same level of relevance today as it did in the 1950’s – perhaps even more so. As Denno fights through his fears, so must we. Fixed Bayonets! ultimately becomes a tale of inspiration, and one worthy of seeking out.

This film comes highly recommended for those who enjoy war films or 1950’s cinema in general. Filmed as the Korean War waged onward, Fuller’s film tells the story of everyday people who make tough, life-altering choices. It’s filled with plenty of action and thrilling sequences, but also many quieter moments of character study. By combining the conventions of a typical genre film with a decidedly personal vision, Fixed Bayonets! works as an authentic, American story.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Christoph Waltz in Talks for Green Hornet

The latest news in the long-in-development Green Hornet project is that actor Christoph Waltz is in talks to star as the film's antagonist. Waltz has been propelled into stardom recently after appearing in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds as the villianous Hans Landa, and it's no surprise that offers like these are coming his way. In the two times I've seen IB, he has been the standout performance each time. An Oscar nomination could easily be in his future. But, while I'm excited at the prospect of watching Waltz in more films, I'd hate to see him typecast in badguy roles as he seems extremely versatile. Still, this project is shaping up to be one to watch out for considering the talent involved. With Michael Gondry directing, Seth Rogen starring and writing, and the potential involvement of Christoph Waltz, the combination could be well worth the wait until Dec. 2010.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Catching Up with the AFI

Back in 1998, the American Film Institute released a list of what it considered the top 100 American films of all-time. When the list was released, it was of great interest to me as a growing fan of film. At the time, I think I was slightly disappointed that I had seen probably less than half of the movies on the list. But, at the same time, I was excited to begin seeking out all of these classic works. While I never had a goal in mind to watch every last film on the list, I wanted to at least be knowledgable about them all.

In the years since, I've slowly made my way through the AFI list and, by my last count, I had seen 93 of the 100. The experience of going through these films has been a very rewarding one. Not only have I watched some great films, but I've gained knowledge of film history and culture in general. Since cinema reflects the society that produces it, it's intriguing to witness the changes that occur over time.

While a wouldn't say that this list is a definative one (no list like this is), it's a good starting point for those wishing to gain some knowledge in the world of film.

You can view the list at

How many of these films have you seen? What do think of these types of lists?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Have a Fourth Helping (or more) of Pirates

Well, the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film continues to be moving forward as expected. This week, On Stranger Tides was revealed to be the film’s subtitle. This fourth film, one that is planned to be the start of a new trilogy, will supposedly focus more on Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow character as Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom are not expected to return. Rob Marshall will take over directing duties this time around, although the screenwriters of the previous installments, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, will return to pen the sequel(s).

I don’t know about you, but the idea of another Pirates movie (or movies) doesn’t exactly excite me. While I thoroughly enjoyed the first film, the sequels became increasingly convoluted and, consequently, I lost interest in the franchise. But, with that said, the idea of shifting the focus squarely on Captain Jack could have some potential. Let’s face it, Johnny Depp has always been the main draw for these films anyway. With a fresh start to the series, maybe we can get a good film out of the deal.

While I won’t be holding my breath for anything special, my level of interest in a new Pirates film has risen a slight degree. What do you think of the idea of more Pirates?

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Dude Has True Grit

It was recently reported that Jeff Bridges will reteam with the Coen brothers for their remake of the western True Grit. Bridges previously collaborated with the Coens in 1998's The Big Lebowski, where he played the now-famous character of The Dude. The character that Bridges will play this time out is that of Rooster Cogburn, a role made famous by John Wayne in the 1969 original. Those may be big shoes to fill, but I think Bridges is up for the task. Besides, with the Coens involved, I'm sure they'll bring their own sensibility to the material, effectively making it something else entirely.

When I first heard that the Coens would be tackling this as their next project, it seemed a bit out of place. That's not to say that I wasn't excited about the film, because I thought the idea sounded intriguing. And now that I've thought about it, the choice makes sense. Sure, it may be a departure for the Coens, but some of their past works have had western touches to them. Certainly one of their most recent films, No Country for Old Men, was filled with western iconography. Plus, the Coens have always tended to jump around from genre to genre, making for a pretty diverse filmography.

Needless to say, I'm glad to hear this news. What about you? Does the idea of the Coen brother's western catch your interest?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trailer: Up in the Air

The big buzz coming from this year's Telluride Film Festival seems to be Jason Reitman's latest project, Up in the Air. The story centers on a corporate hatchet man who loves his life on the road but is forced to fight for his job when his company downsizes its travel budget. I've enjoyed Reitman's previous films (Thank You for Smoking, Juno) and this one looks like another potential hit; possibly one to watch for during awards season. The cast includes George Clooney, Jason Bateman, and Vera Farminga. It opens in limited release on November 13.

Check out the trailer at:

What are your thoughts on Up in the Air?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Forgotten Films: Casino Royale

With the popularity of the James Bond franchise in the 1960’s, it was only a matter of time before the spy genre became ripe for parody. Films such as Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, and Fathom mined a good chunk of material from the world of Bond and, while lighthearted and cheesy, they achieve what they set out to do: get a few laughs out of ridiculous situations and some double entendres. With Casino Royale, however, it becomes so perplexing trying to figure out its’ goal that most people would simply give up halfway through. It’s a Frankenstein monster of a film that has to be seen to be believed.

With five credited directors (plus one uncredited) it’s no wonder why the film feels completely disjointed. There are sections of this film that are radically different than the others, with elements of acting, humor, and set design changing for no apparent reason. For example, one section of the film takes place in a castle that resembles the German Expressionist movement, but then the story proceeds onto other locations that in no way resemble that style.

I’ll refrain from going into the plot seeing as it doesn’t really make sense by the end anyway. (You could start this film at the halfway point and it wouldn’t make much of a difference, story-wise.) Needless to say, it involves James Bond attempting to foil an evil villain’s plan. Beyond that, the whole thing’s just so convoluted and patched together that to try to make sense of it could only lead to intense brain trauma. The film contains next to none of the source material’s storyline and for a comedy this fractured, 131 minutes is far too long a running time.

Casino Royale was clearly a big project for Columbia (the studio who produced it) – one look at the credits will confirm it. The film overflows with talent, from its’ all-star cast to A-list directors and screenwriters. Actors include Peter Sellers, David Niven, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress, William Holden, Deborah Kerr, and Woody Allen among others. I’m not sure if this is a case of too many cooks in the kitchen or if the material was ever salvageable in the first place, although I’d probably lean more towards the former.

There are, however, some elements to enjoy from this film. For one, the music by Burt Bacharach helps propel the movie along with its’ extremely swingin’ sixties sound. In fact, Bacharach and songwriting partner Hal David received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song with “The Look of Love”. Another impressive element included in the film is the set design. As disorganized as it may be, many of the sets look great and set a certain atmosphere for scenes. Oh, and this film is filled with eye-candy of the female variety, which doesn’t hurt either.

Maybe the best part about watching this film is simply watching all of the randomness and wondering how it all came together. There is something special about a film that can go from a slapstick-filled section with David Niven, to Orson Welles doing magic tricks for no apparent reason, to psychedelic dream sequences that make no sense, to Peter Sellers’ character completely disappearing from the story (apparently he got fired part way through production), to Woody Allen attempting to torture a woman, to a chaotic ending that comes across as if anyone involved just threw up their hands in defeat. It’s so goofy and so insane that the film becomes entertaining if only to see what it will throw at you next.

James Bond aficionados or fans of 60’s film and culture may find Casino Royale somewhat amusing, but it’s probably not of interest for anyone else. The most interesting thing about this film would actually be an extensive documentary on its’ production, although I don’t know that one exists at this time. As throwaway as it may seem, the film’s influence can at least be seen in the Austin Powers series. Perhaps that’s not much of a legacy, but that’s all this film could hope for. This unofficial “Bond” film has the distinction of being one of those films that is enjoyable and irritating at the same time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2009: A Look Forward

With the Summer movie season officially over and done with, I thought I'd take a look forward to the rest of the year. Here are a few films that are on my radar for the next few months.

The Informant!
I love the diversity of Steven Soderberg’s filmography. He bounces around from art-house films (Bubble, Solaris) to full-out popcorn flicks (the Oceans series). This one almost seems like a mix of the two, although it’s tough to judge at this point. Either way, Matt Damon appears to be in top form here and the material seems right up my alley.

A Serious Man
A new Coen brothers film will always be an event film for me. I’ll confess to not knowing much about the story except that it’s a black comedy about a professor whose life seems to be unraveling around him. In terms of casting, the Coens are departing from their list of regulars to a cast of mostly unknowns. I’m not sure what the final result will be, but I’m interested to find out.

The Road
This is an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a father and son who attempt to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. If you think that sounds bleak, then you’d be right. I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite some time now, mainly based on the premise and the talent involved. I’ve seen director John Hillcoat’s previous film The Proposition, an atmospheric western, which showed a lot of promise. Viggo Mortensen stars along with Charlize Theron.

Where the Wild Things Are
This is probably my most anticipated film for the rest of the year. I’ve been waiting for this film for a few years now as it’s been in post-production for what seems like forever. Director Spike Jones is one of my favorite filmmakers working today, despite the fact that he’s only made two films previously. If the trailer is any indication this looks to be not only technical marvel, but a truly emotional experience.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Like the Coen brothers, any new Wes Anderson film is an event film for me. It’s really unheard of for a major live-action director (aside from Tim Burton) to try their hand at animation, but that’s what Anderson had done. And, although he’s working in a new format, Anderson is bringing his own unique style into the medium. The result looks like a charming, humorous film.

It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen a new narrative film from James Cameron – over a decade in fact. This project has been in development for a long while now and has been much hyped about in terms of the technology used to make it. I’m not sure how revolutionary the film will be, but I’ll check it out regardless.

The Lovely Bones
Based on the best-selling book, this is the latest film from Peter Jackson. It’s about a girl who gets murdered and then watches from heaven as her family tries to deal with the loss. Again, I’ll confess to not knowing much about the story; I’m pretty much sold just by the fact that Peter Jackson’s name is attached to the project.

Other notable films:
Youth in Revolt
Gentlemen Broncos
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Nine – an all-star musical from Rob Marshall
Up in the Air
The Princess and the Frog – Disney’s return to traditional animation
Sherlock Holmes – the latest from Guy Richie

I'm sure there are many more that I've forgotten to list, but this will have to do for now. What films are you most looking forward to for the remainder of 2009?

And So It Begins...

Welcome to my new blog, dedicated to the discussion of all things cinema. On this blog you’ll find posts on movie news, reviews, commentary on the film business, and various other film-related ramblings. My main goal, other than pursuing my interest with film and sharpening my writing skills, is to generate some worthwhile discussion. So, in order for this to work, I need some feedback from you, the readers. That’s why I strongly encourage everyone to voice their opinions in the comments section. If you agree with what I have to say, then say so. If you disagree, then say so. It’s all in good fun.

This blog has developed from more than just a hobby of mine. Aside from a long-time interest in film, I also have a BA in Film and Video Studies from the University of Oklahoma. Since my current job isn’t film-related, this blog represents my outlet for the time being. Hopefully it will force some motivation on me to continue watching, analyzing, and writing about films.

So stay tuned, there’s more to come!