"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

First Looks: Life of Pi and Hitchcock

(Photo: Playlist)
Here it is, the first glimpse at Ang Lee's Life of Pi with newbie Suraj Sharma in the title role and more importantly debuting Richard the tiger, Pi's pal in the lifeboat adrift at sea.  According to Playlist, I doubt this is a real tiger as the film plans to use CGI animal characters for the challenging story sequences.  How long until a trailer surfaces?  I can't wait to see how this unfolds on the screen, there was awhile I thought this film would never get made.  Many directors were rumored before Ang Lee got the project.  Life of Pi hits theaters December 21, 2012 and also stars Irrfan Khan, Tobey Maguire and Tabu.

(Photo: Empire)
The other first look comes from director Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock with Anthony Hopkins playing the legendary director about the making of the film Psycho.  I can hardly recognize Hopkins.  I hope the voice will match, Hitchcock had a very distinct (and slow) way of talking.  The film also features Scarlett Johnasson as Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, along with Toni Collette, James D'Arcy and Helen Mirren.  The film will release next year.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

The Avengers is the first co-production between Disney and Marvel and expectations are high.  After the lackluster collection of John Carter at the box-office, The Avengers has to be the start of a successful franchise.  The marketing for this film has been much better (and everywhere).  It's been hard to escape the posters, trailers and images on TV, the internet and around every corner.

Getting back to the review, The Avengers opens with Loki capturing the Tessaract (the glowing blue box first found in Captain America) from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his S.H.I.E.L.D team, also managing to kidnap Hawkeye aka Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), previously from the Thor universe.  This worries Fury immensely and he sets out, along with the spy-for-hire Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to recruit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) into the Avengers Initiative to fight against Loki.  

After some persuading, they eventually come aboard the superhero control center in the sky and get to know each other.  This is putting it nicely as some of the superheroes (We're looking at you, Stark) don't "play well with others" and are naturally wary of each other's presence.  A run-in in Germany with Loki leads to the Avengers first banding together to bring him back to the sky lair.  But he manages to escape and bring the fight to New York city and Stark Towers. Ah, poor New York, a city that gets battered through alien attacks, superhero fights, end-of-the world disasters and even Godzilla.  This time around, there are aliens from another realm (Loki's army) and six superheroes to make it into their personal battleground.

The Avengers is a fun start to the summer blockbuster season filled with action and adventure to satisfy any movie fan's superhero appetite.  This is a superhero film times three.  Directed by Joss Whedon who handles the difficult task of making sure that all of these superheroes (most of which have their own film franchise) don't get shortchanged and receive enough screen time.  This being a Whedon film, the characters all spout quippy dialogues and don't spend too much time feeling sorry about themselves and get on with the action.  Most big special effect blockbusters (Green Lantern, the Star Wars prequels) suffer from bad and cheesy dialogue but not this film.  I enjoyed the first interactions of Captain America and Tony Stark with Thor (Chris Hemsworth).  Basically every line out of Stark's mouth was a gem, from calling Hawkeye "Legolas" to addressing Loki as Reindeer Games.  Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) also got some big laughs in his role.

I saw this film at an advance fan screening so the audience reaction was pretty positive.  Throughout the superhero introductions during the film, Thor got the biggest claps but the loudest cheers were saved for Bruce Banner's The Hulk.  I must say, this is the Hulk we fans were waiting for.  Mark Ruffalo's portrayal is the best Hulk out of the bunch.  I loved how the Hulk was allowed to finally be himself in the climatic sequence.  "Hulk...Smash!" He sure does.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark with such ease, it's almost like his second skin.  It was also nice to see Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Jarvis (Paul Bettany) make a brief appearances as Stark's support team; we'll see them again in Iron Man 3. Captain America and Thor fit in well with the rest of the Avengers but you know the good stuff is yet come in their respective upcoming sequels.  Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow kicks major ass as the lone female fighter in the group.  She fits right in and I had major Buffy flashbacks at some moments.  While Hawkeye spends the first half on Loki's side before coming, literally, to his senses.  His archery armor would make Katniss Everdeen very envious.

The supporting cast, namely the S.H.I.E.L.D team of Nick Fury, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Agent Coulson don't get to join in as much of the action as the heavy lifting is done by the Avengers team.  The villain of the piece is Loki, brother of Thor and presumed dead at the end of Thor.  We know they rarely stay dead long.  Besides, he's a god as he tells the Hulk.  It leads to my favorite scene in the film which I will watch on repeat when I get the DVD.  Basically, any scene with the Hulk was my favorite.  I think the fans will definitely demand a new Hulk movie. 

But back to Loki.  Denied a kingdom of his own in Asgard, he wants to rule over Earth.  The Avengers team will make sure that won't happen.  Tom Hiddleston plays Loki with a evil smile ever present.  He relishes the role of the baddie given to him.  Stay tuned until after the credits roll for the post-credits scene which has now become mandatory for franchise films.  Overall, The Avengers is great fun and the 3D works extremely well in the battle sequences.  Make it a must-view to start off the summer.

Directed by Joss Whedon; Story by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon; Screenplay by Joss Whedon; Based on the comic books by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey; Edited by Jeffrey Ford and Lisa Lassek; Music by Alan Silvestri


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Movie Review:- Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is the fourth movie in the spy thriller based on the 1960s TV show Mission: Impossible.  Thankfully this film acknowledges previous storyline threads left hanging in the series and doesn't just explain them away in a single line of dialogue.  

Brad Bird's (Ratatouille, The Incredibles) first foray into live-action does not disappoint and keeps us guessing as to what will happen next onscreen.  Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), our link through all the previous films, is back again, having recently been sprung by his old team from a Moscow prison only to break into the Kremlin to steal back some nuclear codes that have been stolen on a former mission gone wrong.  Just a typical day at the office!

Little does Hunt and his team know that they're being set up when part of the Kremlin is blown up and suspected to be the work of rogue spies, namely themselves.  As Ethan is informed by the IMF Secretary (Tom Wilkinson), the IMF no longer exists as the President has initiated Ghost Protocol.  (So that's where the title comes from.)  It's up to him, his team of Agents Jane Carter and Benji Dunn (Paula Patton, Simon Pegg) and newly acquired member and analyst, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to fix what has gone wrong and now blamed on them.  

In order to clear their names (and save the world, of course), they travel to Dubai to the hotel Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, to intercept a meeting and steal back the nuclear codes.  This is  by far the coolest and nerve-wracking sequences of the entire film.  Knowing that Tom Cruise performed those stunts himself makes it that much more amazing to watch.  Every member of IMF team does an incredible job and they almost manage to pull off the assignment.

So there's still the main villain (Michael Nyqvist), intent on starting a war between Russia and USA (Wasn't this also the plot to X-Men: First Class?), to hunt down and neutralize in a corner of the world I know well makes an appearance in the big climax.  Yes, the save the world sequence is held in Mumbai, in theory only.  The locations are definitely not in Mumbai but I must say that the high-tech car driven by Cruise at the end must be coveted by every driver, it forewarns you of pedestrians and gives your GPS right on the windshield.

Usually the technology in a spy thriller always seems so over the top and far-fetched and there a few occasions of that here too.  I would like to officially call a ban on the use of masks in this series.  Just say no, please!  But I admit to loving that Apple products such as your iPad or iPhone can pretty much be used to control anything.  Even the cool eye contact lens screen/printer seemed plausible.  If Google has its way, this could be our reality someday.

Despite holding his own in the film and in a lot of physical fights, Cruise is starting to look a bit old for the franchise.  Jeremy Renner's (who I was so sure would be an Oscar winner back in 2010) character Brandt was introduced that if Cruise no longer starred in it, he could take over.  After The Bourne Legacy, this would be the second franchise on Renner's shoulders.  Other notable but brief appearances came from Lea Seydoux (Midnight in Paris), Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire) and Josh Holloway (Lost), whom I didn't recognize without his trademark Sawyer beard at first.  I wish his role had be a bit more larger.

The latest Mission: Impossible is highly enjoyable and I wish I gotten a chance to see this in IMAX.  The film, with the deft direction of Brad Bird and a splendid soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, is totally worth every penny you spend on it.  The title sequence is also well done and reminded me a bit of The Incredibles.  A worthy addition to the franchise.

Directed by Brad Bird; Written by Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Based on the TV Series by Bruce Gellar; Cinematography by Robert Elswit; Edited by Paul Hirsch; Music by Michael Giacchino.


Movie Review: A Separation

For months now, whenever anyone has spoken about how good A Separation is, I've tried to mentally tune what they were saying about the film.   It's been talked and written about everywhere and recently won the Best Foreign Film Oscar for Iran and was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay but I really wanted to experience watching the movie without getting spoiled on the actual story.  And what a great story it is.

My review after the cut as I discuss plot points and don't want to ruin the film for you.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Around the World in Posters: Django Unchained, Looper, Savages and more!

(Poster: Empire Online)
No title mentioned but here's the new poster of the next film from Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained.  

(Poster: Slash Film)
Rian Johnson's Looper where Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a young Bruce Willis or Bruce Willis plays a grown up Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Which is it? 

(Poster: Jo Blo)
I think I might have to break my no scary movie rule to watch the Joss Whedon written The Cabin in the Woods.  I love this poster design. 

(Poster: Cosmopolis Facebook)
Why is Robert Pattinson's name above David Cronenberg's for the Cosmopolis poster?

(Poster: BuzzSugar)
Almost didn't recognize Chloe Grace Moretz there, it's the poster for Hick with co-stars Blake Lively and Eddie Redmayne.  

(Poster: Jo Blo)
Blake Lively is also in the ensemble cast of Oliver Stone's Savages along with Taylor Kitsch, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman, Emile Hirsch, Aaron Johnson and John Travolta.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

News Update: Gravity, Brave, Catching Fire and more!

(Video: Rope of Silicon)

  • A new Brave featurette by way of France comes our way showing a lot more new scenes with references to the wish-gone-wrong and that ferocious bear.  I really can't wait to see how all this unfolds onscreen.  
  • Gary Ross is not retuning for Catching Fire.  He cites the tight production schedules as an issue.  After days of will he/won't he, The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire will definitely have another director.  The Hunger Games has spent the third weekend on top so I doubt Lionsgate will have a problem finding another to fill Ross' shoes.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt has dropped out of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained as he doesn't have the time as he is focusing on his directorial debut.  Don't worry, Gordon-Levitt fans, he still has Premium Rush, Looper, Lincoln and a little movie called The Dark Knight Rises coming out this year.  
  • Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock will feature some very long shots.  According to executive producer Chris DeFaria, who spoke at a conference at USC, the opening sequence will contain a one 17-minute take and many shots will be 6-10 minutes long.  The film, however, is only two hours.  The cinematographer for this film is Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life).  What do you think? Are you looking forward this new style by Cuaron?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Movie Review: The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady is the story of Britain's first female Prime Minister with eleven long years in office, Baroness Margaret Thatcher.  The film shows Thatcher now as she is coping with the death of her husband, Denis and the diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

The best thing about this film is that Thatcher is played by Meryl Streep, actress extraordinaire, who literally becomes her with uncanny ability.  But that is the only good feature about it.  The film chooses to focus the story on Thatcher reminiscing and recollecting the major events and milestones of her life and career with late husband with whom she frequently chats.  This is not a spoiler as it is revealed in the film's first five minutes.  

As this is based on the life of Thatcher, we see her as young girl inspired by her father, a grocer and aspiring politician and later as a young woman trying to break into politics.  She meets a businessman, Denis Thatcher, who supports her goals and later proposes marriage.  She warns him that she won't be a typical housewife washing up the tea as her life must matter to something.  To which he chides, that's why he's proposing.  And so she becomes Mrs. Margaret Thatcher.

The Thatchers have two children, twins Mark and Carol and even when they are young, Margaret ascends in politics becoming MP and rising up in the Conservative Party.  She even considers standing for Leader of the Party just to stir things up but instead is asked by fellow members to lead them.  They ask to relax her image, tone down her voice and change her clothes and hair.  There's a great line there when she says, "I may be persuaded to surrender the hat.  The pearls, however, are absolutely non-negotiable."  

Thatcher wins the vote of her Party and the people and makes her way to 10 Downing Street, the first female Prime Minister ever.  There are flashbacks to the glory days of her career, standing up to the unions and her strict stand on the Falklands Islands that leads Britain to a naval battle against Argentina.  But there are also the dark days where she doesn't budge from the harsh taxes that affect poor most severely and refuses to listen to her fellow Cabinet members on various issues.  She believes what she believes in.  As the years pass, Thatcher's popularity wanes and she fails to win the votes necessary to keep her post.  

In the end, the film presents Thatcher as a solitary figure thinking of days past.  She may not of a popular politician to most but it remains that she attained the highest post of power in Britain and held her own in a male-dominated world.  She deserved more than what the movie alludes to.  I was expecting much from the film than these vague assumptions.  The film was nominated for two Oscars for Best Makeup and Best Actress and won for both categories.  Most likely, the film will only be remembered for how much like Thatcher Meryl Streep looked and acted but not for the film's actual content.  

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd; Written by Abi Morgan; Cinematography by Elliot Davis; Edited by Justine Wright; Music by Thomas Newman

Additional Cast: Olivia Colman, Iain Glen, Anthony Head, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Nicholas Farrell, Richard E. Grant, Roger Allam.  


Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo

Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo has a pretty self-explanatory title.  A journalist, Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) who loses his wife to cancer, buys a rundown zoo in the country and relocates his children there.  Of course, it's not as simple as moving in and settling down.  The family dynamics have been a bit strained since the death of Mee's wife.  His young son Dylan (Colin Ford) is constantly acting out against him, even getting expelled from school, while Benjamin's goal is just to see his son and his young daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) happy.  

That's easier said than done as the realities of running a zoo take over.  The grizzly bear escapes into town, a crate of snakes is delivered to their garage, an old tiger needs extra care and the zoo needs to be opened to the public in the summer.  Is it all possible?  This is a movie, of course, so the answer is yes.  The Mees and their staff lead by Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson) do get it together in the end to pass inspection and open the zoo.  The cast of supporting characters don't get much screen time as the focus is on Benjamin Mee and his children.  But somehow I kept expecting something more to occur onscreen.  There were no surprises, this is a pretty straightforward film.  And then there were the usual cliches.  The head zookeeper Kelly will, of course, fall for Benjamin as will her young cousin Lily (Elle Fanning) for Dylan.  In fact, Fanning along with Crowe favorite, Patrick Fugit as Robin Jones, are not used well enough in the film.    

The screenplay was written by Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) and Crowe himself.  The dialogue is incredibly earnest and there are some lines that I loved, when Benjamin advises Dylan, "...sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage.  Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery.  And I promise you, something great will come of it"  I wanted to see more of these moments onscreen and the ending does promise to more of those moments but they will likely occur offscreen.  

The film is based on the real Benjamin Mee and his book, We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives, about his experiences of running the Dartmoor Zoological Park in Dartmoor, England.  It is extraordinary experience that one day someone could just decide to own a zoo and would definitely change the way you look at life.  Matt Damon carries the film well as man still stuck in his grief over his wife's death and trying to move forward and care for his kids.  Being a adventure journalist, he takes an impulsive and huge life decision in buying a zoo.  The film is well meaning and sincere and I think Cameron Crowe fans might enjoy it.

Directed by Cameron Crowe; Screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna and Cameron Crowe, Based on the novel by Benjamin Mee; Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto; Edited by Mark Livolski and Original Music by Jonsi.

Additional cast: Thomas Haden Church, Angus Macfayden, John Michael Higgins, Carla Gallo, Stephanie Szostak


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Notable Trailers: To Rome with Love, Delicacy, Intouchables and 7 Days in Havana

Today's trailers are all set in foreign locales.  Let's take a look!

Well, that was fast.  Just days ago, we got introduced to the new Italian poster of To Rome with Love and soon enough a new trailer debuts this week.  In it, we get introduced to a few different storylines.  We have an American couple (Judy Davis, Woody Allen) who go to Rome to meet their daughter's boyfriend, a young couple (Greta Gerwig, Jesse Eisenberg) whose relationship gets tested when the girlfriend's best friend (Ellen Page) moves in with them, an Italian man (Roberto Benigni) who gets his every move reported by the paparazzi and finally there's Penelope Cruz playing a prostitute.  Coming after Midnight in Paris, I hope this one does not disappoint.

From Italy we move to France where Intouchables tells the story of a quadriplegic man who hires a young man from the projects to look after him.  The film is about their unique friendship.  Omar Sy who play Driss, the caretaker of Philippe (Francois Cluzet), won the Cesar for Best Actor over The Artist's Jean Dujardin and the film has become the second most-watched movie in French cinema.  One to look out for.

Also from France comes Delicacy (La delicatesse) starring Audrey Tautou and Francois Damiens (Heartbreaker).  Tautou plays Nathalie, a young widow who finds love again with her Swedish co-worker.  I think this one will be mostly for Tautou fans.

And finally, in the tradition of Paris, Je t'aime and New York, I Love You comes 7 Nights in Havana, an anthology film featuring stories directed by Laurent Cantet, Juan Carlos Tabio, Gaspar Noe, Elia Suleiman, Julio Medem, Pablo Trapero and Benicio Del Toro.  The film stars Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games), Daniel Bruhl, Emir Kusturica, Melissa Rivera and Elia Suleiman.

Which of these trailers is going to send you to the cinema?

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Brave Characters Posters

Thanks to Entertainment Weekly, we have four new characters posters from Brave to fawn over, telling us a bit more about themselves and from co-director Mark Andrews.

First up is Merida herself with all that unruly reddish gold hair.  Of course, she's pictured with her bow and arrow ever ready for some adventure.  Merida wants to go against ages old tradition and asks a witch to grant her a wish that goes horribly wrong.

Next we have Merida's parents King Fergus and Queen Elinor.  King Fergus is the ruler of DunBroch kingdom and he likes to tell the story of the time when he lost his leg to the big bear Mordu while Queen Elinor is "the" woman behind the king, the one who runs it all and she wants Merida to grow up and assume her responsibilities.

The three Scottish warriors are Lord Macintosh, Lord MacGuffin and Lord Dingwall.  Merida has to marry the son of either of these Lords and she's not going willingly.  

And finally we have Hamish, Harris and Hubert aka The Triplets and Merida's younger brothers.  They  share the same shade of red as their sister's hair and are always getting into trouble.  

Interestingly, this movie is yet not rated.  The Incredibles was the first Pixar film to get a PG rating, followed by Up, will Brave join its ranks?  All these character posters come with the tagline 'Change Your Fate'.  We find out more on June 22.  

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