Friday, April 30, 2010

Summer Box-Office Predictions

I'm tossing my hat into the ring and presenting my official predictions for the summer box-office season. Although I'm far from an expert, I thought I'd take a stab at it and see how close (or far off) I come to the actual totals. Just to clarify, I'm counting any film released from May - August eligable as "summer" material.

Here's my top 10: (all totals in millions)

Toy Story 3 – 425
Iron Man 2 – 375
Twilight: Eclipse – 300
Shrek Forever After – 250
Inception – 175
Salt – 160
The Last Airbender – 155
The A-Team – 150
Prince of Persia – 145
Robin Hood – 130

Monday, April 26, 2010

Metropolis: Complete at Last

For years film historians hoped to find the missing footage to Fritz Lang's science-fiction epic Metropolis with no success... until recently, that is. An additional 25 minutes of lost footage was found in a museum in Buenos Aires, making the film the most complete since its release back in 1927. Now a new cut of the film has its North American premiere at Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival, and will expand to other theatres in the coming weeks. By November, the film will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray.

The prospect of seeing a complete cut of Metropolis gets me very excited. I've watched the film before, in which still photos are used in place of missing scenes, and even in its incomplete state, the film can still be labeled a masterpiece. I really envy anyone who has the opportunity to catch this restored film in a theater setting. If I thought a theater anywhere near me would be showing it, I'd be there in a heartbeat. Alas, living in the middle of nowhere prevents me from yet another cinematic event.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Here Come the Men In Black...Again

After several months of speculation, both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have signed on to another Men In Black film. Returning director Barry Sonnenfeld confirmed the casting news. There's no word on any other returnng cast members or plot information, but it was revealed that the film is planned for a Memorial Day, 2011 release. Oh, and of course the film will be in 3-D just as any other major blockbuster these days.

This seems like an odd choice for Will Smith to return to this series at this point, especially since so much time has passed after the second film. He's arguably the biggest, most successful actor in Hollywood who has his choice of any high-profile project he wants. I'm sure he could easily sign on to an equally mainstream film and do his usual in it intead. I guess brand awareness wins again, though.

Monday, April 19, 2010

James Bond Delayed Indefinately

Bad news for Bond fans, I'm afraid. Due to financial woes, the franchise will be postponed until further notice. Producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have jointly stated, “Due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM and the failure to close a sale of the studio, we have suspended development on BOND 23 indefinitely. We do not know when development will resume and do not have a date for the release of BOND 23.” Ouch. This could mean big trouble depending on how long this situation lasts. The talent behind the project will have to move on at some point and there's no telling who will be left to steer the reigns. It's sad to think that Hollywood's longest-running franchise (not to mention one of the most profitable) is having this much trouble getting financing. Oh well, I'm sure one way or another, we'll get our next Bond film eventually.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cannes Film Festival Line-Up

About a month from now the Cannes Film Festival will be upon us once again and, as usual, many big names in world cinema will be in attendance. Today a full list of films, both in and out of competition was released. I'm always interested in seeing which films come out on top in this festival since it typically features some great choices. Tim Burton heads the jury this year ... so we'll see what comes of that.

Opening film
Ridley Scott – ROBIN HOOD (Out of Competition)

In Competition
Mathieu Amalric – TOURNÉE
Rachid Bouchareb – HORS LA LOI
Alejandro González Iñárritu – BIUTIFUL
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun – UN HOMME QUI CRIE (A Screaming Man)
Abbas Kiarostami – COPIE CONFORME
Takeshi Kitano – OUTRAGE
Lee Chang-dong – POETRY
Doug Liman – FAIR GAME
Sergei Loznitsa – YOU. MY JOY
Daniele Luchetti – LA NOSTRA VITA
Apichatpong Weerasethakul – LOONG BOONMEE RALEUK CHAAT
(Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives)

Un Certain Regard
Derek Cianfrance – BLUE VALENTINE (1st film)
Manoel De Oliveira – O ESTRANHO CASO DE ANGÉLICA (Angelica)
Xavier Dolan – LES AMOURS IMAGINAIRES (Heartbeats)
Ivan Fund, Santiago Loza – LOS LABIOS
Fabrice Gobert – SIMON WERNER A DISPARU… (1st film)
Christoph Hochhäusler – UNTER DIR DIE STADT (The City Below)
Ágnes Kocsis – PÁL ADRIENN (Adrienn Pál)
Vikramaditya Motwane – UDAAN (1st film)
Radu Muntean – MARTI, DUPA CRACIUN (Tuesday, After Christmas)
Hideo Nakata – CHATROOM
Cristi Puiu – AURORA (Aurora)
Hong Sangsoo – HA HA HA
Oliver Schmitz – LIFE ABOVE ALL
Daniel Vega – OCTUBRE (1st film)
David Verbeek – R U THERE
Xiaoshuai Wang – RIZHAO CHONGQING (Chongqing Blues)

Out of Competition
Stephen Frears – TAMARA DREWE

Midnight Screenings
Gregg Araki – KABOOM
Gilles Marchand – L'AUTRE MONDE (Blackhole)

Special Screenings
Charles Ferguson – INSIDE JOB
Patricio Guzman – NOSTALGIA DE LA LUZ (Nostalgia For The Light)
Otar Iosseliani – CHANTRAPAS
Diego Luna – ABEL (1st film)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Mr. Hulot's Holiday

In 1953, director Jacques Tati unleashed his now-iconic character Mr. Hulot upon the world in Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. The character and the resulting film come across as old-fashioned, even for its time, and intentionally so. Indeed, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday easily shares more in common with silent-era cinema than any other influence. Anyone who watches the film would have to admit that the plot could be summed up by the title itself and nothing more. The structure ambles along from one bit to the next; in no hurry to get anywhere. And the curious Mr. Hulot, our main character, goes through no traditional arc whatsoever. (What is this – a Charlie Chaplin film? Buster Keaton, perhaps?) In modern mainstream filmmaking terms, this movie would never get made, let alone considered for production. That’s a shame, because Mr. Hulot’s Holiday represents one of those charming films that I think more people should see.

Our story begins as various visitors arrive at a beachside hotel in France where they all long for some rest and relaxation. Then Mr. Hulot arrives. From his first entrance, in which he lets in a howling wind into the hotel, disrupting an otherwise peaceful day, we know he will only create trouble for the rest of the guests and staff. Mr. Hulot may be well-intentioned, but calamity seems to follow him everywhere. While that premise may not excite many people, consider these words from Roger Ebert: “It's not what a movie is about but how it's about it.” That logic certainly applies to Mr. Hulot’s Holiday as the film goes about its business in a unique and delightful way.

As stated above, the film’s use of silent film aesthetics provides the main source for comedy, but it’s the way these aesthetics are used that make the film worthwhile. For example, Tati shoots scenes unlike most any director I’ve seen in regards to mise-en-scene. As opposed to staging one particular joke, Tati fills the frame with various happenings occurring simultaneously. One group plays a game of cards while a businessman makes phone call to work as he tries to vacation, and at the same time a teenager attempts (unsuccessfully) to impress a girl. And while all this activity transpires, Tati does not tell you where you should be looking; he simply allows the audience to roam wherever their eyes want. That’s a bold move for anyone to even attempt, much less accomplish. This style certainly takes some getting used to and a second or third viewing becomes almost unavoidable if people want to catch everything that occurs.

Ultimately, this film will not suit everyone’s taste. But for those who keep an open mind, there’s a lot to enjoy here. I can see this style of filmmaking influencing performers like Rowan Atkinson or Peter Sellers in their work. Mr. Hulot endears himself to audiences the same way Mr. Bean and Inspector Clouseau do. Even though they cause a great amount of grief to those around them, they also possess a certain kind of magic. Their unique way of moving through life allows us to laugh at ourselves and that condition known as being human.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Recent Viewings: April '10

Uncle Buck
John Candy had one of those personalities that instantly wins me over, and this film exemplifies that extremely well. Although the film itself isn't anything great, it contains quite a few moments of pure charm (Giant pancakes, anyone?).

The Informant!
Matt Damon gives a great performance in this satire on Corporate America. His voice-over alone delivers some great laughs. The supporting cast also shines. I'm sure repeat viewings would only enhance the experience.

Man Hunt
This WWII film made during the war itself delivers some great thrills with an intriguing story to boot. Director Fritz Lang provides the film with a great visual style.

White Hunter, Black Heart
This Clint Eastwood film features the actor-director in some different territory has he portrays an ego-maniacal filmmaker who obsesses over a hunting conquest instead of his next film. It's an intriguing character study and covers some worthwhile themes.

Fantastic Voyage
Richard Fleischer directed this effects-driven film about a team of scientist who are shrunk down and injected into the body of a colleague in order to repair a life-threatening blood clot. It's still a fun ride, but pretty formulaic.

The Man from Laramie
The fifth and final collaboration between director Anthony Mann and star James Stewart results in another solid western. As usual, the story is heavy with themes of revenge and justice. Stewart again proves his range as he plays a fairly menacing guy at times.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ford Joins Cowboys and Aliens

Director Jon Favreau announced via twitter yesterday that Harrison Ford has signed on to his next feature, Cowboys and Aliens. Ford has had some rough years in his career recently, so hopefully this project will bounce him back into the spotlight. The concept is simple enough: what if aliens were to invade 19th century America? Would they be able to take over? Cowboys and Aliens is based on a graphic novel by Andrew Foley and Fred Van Lente with artwork by Luciano Lima. The film also stars Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde and it's already scheduled for a July 29, 2011 release.

I have to say that I like the concept and really do hope that it turns out to be a success for everyone involved.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Viewing Notes: 20000 Leagues Under the Sea

Rather than writing a full-blown review, I've decided to simply share some notes I made regarding my viewing of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).

Although Kirk Douglas isn't known for his singing or dancing abilities, here he puts on quite a performance in the film's one and only musical number.

The film features some great effects work. The giant squid fight holds up surprisingly well, I thought.

Despite being a big-budget spectacle, the film actually contains a message. I wish I could say the same for some of today's blockbusters.

The underwater photography looked great and seemed innovative for the time.

Paul Lukas, playing essentially the main character since it's his narration we follow, gets overshadowed by Douglas and James Mason. Mason's Captain Nemo is more intricate and Douglas' Ned Land handles the more comic and adventurous aspects of the film.

Director Richard Fleischer makes good use of the widescreen aspect ratio, a relatively new process at the time.

The film captures a sense of adventure and wonder that fit just right for the material.

Although live-action, the film manages to incorporate a couple moments of animation, both of which added a nice touch to the scenes involved.

Like most Disney films, there has to be to some kind of animal prominently featured. This time it's a seal; used for comic relief.

Overall, I'd say it's a fun adventure flick that holds up pretty well. It's something that families can enjoy together.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Best Picture Challenge

Some might call me a completist when it comes to cinema - I just prefer to call myself well-rounded (at least that's my aim). With that in mind, I recently researched which of the Best Picture Academy Award winners I'd seen and which I hadn't. As it turns out, I've watched 61 out of the 82 films, a respectful 74%. Of course, my new goal is to view the remaining 21 unseen films. I'm giving myself until the end of the year to complete this task; plenty of time, I'm sure. Hopefully along the way I'll give some updates on where I stand in my movie countdown and provide a few thoughts on the films in question.

The Unseen List:
The Broadway Melody
Grand Hotel
Mutiny on the Bounty
The Great Ziegfeld
The Life of Emile Zola
Going My Way
Gentleman's Agreement
The Greatest Show on Earth
Around the World in Eighty Days
Tom Jones
My Fair Lady
Chariots of Fire
The Last Emperor
The English Patient

Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Remembering Brando

Marlon Brando was truly one of cinema's greatest actors. So today, what would have been his 86th birthday, I've decided to pay tribute to the man who gave us so many memborable moments, both in film and in life.

At the 1973 Academy Awards, Brando refused his Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather, instead sending a Native American woman to the show to give a speech on Natives rights. I can't imagine anyone doing this today.

This scene from On the Waterfront is one of the most famous scenes ever filmed. It's iconic status is well deserved.

Brando created another iconic performance in A Streetcar Named Desire. This video shows his famous cry of "Stella!"

One of the most haunting performances in film:

Larry King had a famous interview with Brando in the 1990's, mainly due to its bizarre nature. Here's the final part of the interview in which Larry and Marlon close the show by singing a duet and share a kiss. He led a strange life.

Brando sings again - this time in Guys and Dolls.

Finally, a rare screentest: