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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Movie Review: Margaret

I was drawn to see this film particularly because of its troubled path to release.  For years, Margaret has been stuck in limbo due to problems that arose during the editing process between the director Kenneth Lonergan and the studio and producers.  But the buzz grew that Margaret was too good to be ignored with a great cast to boot.  There are many champions of the film and therefore we get to see a film edited down to 150 minutes from its rumored three hour director's cut which lay unfinished.

Margaret is a very unusual film.  That's the best way to introduce it.  It shows the ordinary life of a New York teenager Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) whose life is changed profoundly when she witnesses an a gruesome accident.  This may venture a bit into spoiler territory here but I believe the reason it affects her so deeply is that she begins to feel guilty about her own role in the accident that she can't manage to shake off it of herself as you would with a change of clothing.  It seeps into every aspect of her life.  Into her relationship with her parents, especially her mother, her friends and even the people she meets as a result of the accident's aftermath.

Lisa makes some spontaneously terrible decisions as only a teenager can, with little thought to the consequences.  And yet sometimes she overthinks things too much.  What she is doing though through her actions is calling out for help and no one knows how to deal with Lisa, least of all Lisa herself.  Her mother (J. Smith-Cameron) is bewildered and emotional most of the times.  Her well-meaning attempts at any help are brushed aside.  Her teachers offer counsel but other than some fascinating classroom discussions, that too, doesn't lead to anything.

The film is well intentioned and wants to show a young person's perspective on life but stumbles in its execution.  The editing cuts are strange at times, we are left out of some conversations deliberately; sometimes the scene linger on, uncomfortably so.  Is it intentional?  Maybe, maybe not.  As the film was shot so long ago, it feels from another time yet strangely relevant and the actors look like slightly younger versions of themselves.  Matt Damon, playing a high school teacher, barely looks out of school himself.

Anna Paquin carries the lead role well even as her character get shriller and shriller trying to understand this event that has changed her life.  I was glad, though, that Lisa finally got the emotional catharsis she needed before the film ended or else she really would have exploded.  The supporting cast are old Lonergan familiars and they flit in and out of the film.  If you were wondering about the title which doesn't refer to any character but instead a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Despite being able to finally view the film, I really do wish I could get to see the director's cut, however long it may be.  It might have brought in some clarity to what the director was trying to say.  If you do watch the film, allow the film to grow on you.

Written and Directed by Kenneth Lonergan; Cinematography by Ryszard Lenczewski; Edited by Anne McCabe and Michael Fay; Music by Nico Muhly.

Additional cast: Matthew Broderick, Allison Janney, Mark Ruffalo,  Jean Reno, John Gallagher Jr., Kieran Culkin, Jeannie Berlin, Olivia Thirlby, Kenneth Lonergan, Michael Ealy


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Scene-stealers get their Day!

The Minions are getting their own movie!  The scene-stealers from Despicable Me, the yellow little minions will feature in their own movie to be directed by Pierre Coffin for a 2014 release.  Check them out in this hilarious short where they fight over a fruit.  Seriously, you have never heard the word 'banana' uttered so comically each time.  They'll do fine on their own.

Meanwhile, another set of scene-stealers are also getting their own flick, the military minded penguins from the Madagascar series will be seen next in The Penguins of Madagascar.  They already headline the same named television series on Nickelodeon and the move to solo film is quite the promotion for them.  What crazy scheme will they be up to next? We'll find out sometime in 2015.

Life Of Pi - Official Trailer

Wow, I'm speechless.  This looks amazing.  I have goosebumps already.  I adore the book and I can't remember the number of times I have recommended to people.  In fact, I can't find my current copy since I've lent it out to someone who has yet to return it back to me.  (If you're reading, please return it back to me, I'd like to sneak in a re-read before December.)

As I've mentioned before, there were times when this movie looked liked it would be forever shelved as it changed hands from director to director.  Finally, Ang Lee got onboard and the result looks spectacular.  I can't wait to finally meet Richard Parker.  Life of Pi will release first on November 21, 2012 in USA.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Catching Fire Casting Update!

Jena Malone
On the heels of the super success of The Hunger Games, its sequel Catching Fire looks to be headed in the same direction by adding to the stellar cast from the first film.  The second film features previous winners of the Hunger Games who come together to take part in the 75th anniversary of the games.

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Amander Plummer 

Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman will be head gamekeeper Plutarch Heavensbee as the last gamekeeper Seneca Crane meets a most dire fate.  Amanda Plummer has been confirmed as Wiress from District 3, half of the duo of nicknamed 'Nuts' of 'Nuts and Volts' by Johanna Mason who, today, we learnt will be played by Jena Malone.  Johanna has a prickly relationship with Katniss so I'm keen to see how it plays out onscreen.  She definitely is an interesting character.  But we still have a long way to go as Catching Fire releases in theaters November 22, 2013.  I, meanwhile, am awaiting to see who will play Finnick Odair.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Let’s get this out of the way.  The Dark Knight Rises is not like The Dark Knight, nor does it even top the magnificence of that film.  What remains is a fitting and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy and universe as presented by director Christopher Nolan, his cast and crew.

Batman Begins was all about pain.  The Dark Knight was about chaos.  The Dark Knight Rises is all about fear.  Fear as instilled by villain Bane (Tom Hardy) onto Gotham’s citizens in a warped bid for them to claim back their city.  Who can stop him?  Can Batman?  That becomes the question of this film.

When we last left Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Christian Bale), he had been put through the wringer by the Joker (the late Heath Ledger) and left shaken by the events that took place at the end of The Dark Knight.  It has left him a recluse who has lost interest in life.  It definitely is a shock to see Wayne at the start of the film, unshaven with sunken eyes and leaning on a cane.  He is roused out of this state by the theft of his mother’s pearls by Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) who peaks his interest to follow her out of the house.

And as he does so, he begins to discover the peace achieved in Gotham due to the Harvey Dent Act is slowly eroding away and something big is about to happen as he begins to investigate Bane.  Equally alarmed are Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), who looks just as haggard as Wayne does, and rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who start to pick up on the right leads a little too late.  

Bane ruthlessly goes ahead with his plan to take over Gotham by systematically overpowering the police, the politicians and citizens.  He exposes the deep divide between the haves and the have-nots.  But by then Gotham has descended into complete anarchy by Bane’s terrorist methods.  And it will be up to citizens to save themselves unless Batman comes through for them once again.

What I loved about the film is that Nolan knows his audience and who he’s making his films for and makes no apologies for it.  This is a long film which takes its time to tell the story.  There are so many action and fantasy films that do away with explanation for sake of the big bang.  This film melds both together wonderfully.   The consequences of the previous films are felt deeply here, previous characters (Joker notwithstanding) do not just melt away, they come back to haunt you.  

The characters, who have been there since the beginning, like Gordon and Alfred, they too must atone for their earlier transgressions which begin to weigh in on their conscience.  Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are at their usual best and it’s quite comforting to see their presence onscreen.

Selina Kyle is never called Catwoman throughout the film for which I was grateful.  The name brings back unwelcome images from the disastrous 2004 Halle Berry film.  Hathaway plays Selena as a mercenary jewel thief albeit one who develops a conscience later on.  She was a welcome match and partner for Batman in his adventures.

The real standout of the film, for me, was Joseph Gordon-Levitt who has quite a substantial role than we were lead to believe.  His John Blake is a young idealistic police officer who calls it as it is.  He took on more and more of a leadership role as the film wore on and it looked good on him.  The new cast additions to the film with possible exception of Marion Cotillard’s weak Miranda Tate were stellar choices.

Tom Hardy’s Bane is a massive hulk of a man and Batman is physically no match for him.  Whilst Bane is also no match for Joker’s unhinged chaos and no one can touch Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight.  It’s in a league unto itself.  While many complained about his garbled speech, I never felt I couldn’t understand him.   Bruce Wayne’s problem is that he allows these villains such as the Joker, Bane and Ra’s Al Ghul to take up residence in his head allowing them to affect his actions.  Now older, he must learn to control his emotions.

Christian Bale is outstanding in his final outing as Bruce Wayne and the Batman as he comes to terms with his capabilities and demons.  Just as Heath Ledger's The Joker is the standard to which all villains are measured so will other portrayals of Batman be ever compared to Bale's take on the iconic superhero.  He really is the chameleon actor of our generation, picking diverse and intriguing characters that stay with you long after you leave the theater.

The action sequences are done with minimal CGI and they are quite stunning.  The introduction of Bane, the return of the Batman after 8 years and the lengthy climax will have you glued to the screen.  The Batmobile and his Batpod both have an update and they still are awesome as ever.  Hans Zimmer has done it again.  His chilling score, especially the chant, is fits perfectly over the sweeping sequences.  The music raises the action to another level of excitement and anticipation.

There are times that we forget that this is a comic book superhero film as you begin to believe in the universe that has been created for the screen.  This particular Batman trilogy has rescued Batman from the 1990s and brought it back into popular culture.  Nolan’s Batman films contain tortured characters, epic sequences of cinematic proportions, jaw-dropping twists in a gripping tales which all excite and remind us that this is why we come to watch a film on the big screen.

This trilogy can be compared to the Star Wars trilogy in terms of the middle film being the best of the lot and the last film tying up all the knots in the air.  But this film does more than that as it proves to be a satisfying goodbye to the franchise.  It has most certainly been worth the wait.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, Written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer, Cinematography by Wally Pfister, Edited by Lee Smith, Music by Hans Zimmer

Additional Cast: Matthew Modine, Daniel Sunjata, Nestor Carbonell, Juno Temple, Brett Cullen.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Around the World in Posters: Anna Karenina, Oz: The Great and Powerful, The Hobbit and more!

(Poster: Glamour Magazine)
A epic poster for Joe Wright's Anna Karenina featuring Keira Knightley, Aaron Johnson and Jude Law.  Time for a re-read!

(Poster: Entertainment Weekly)
First poster from Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful.  I'm really liking the look of the world of Oz. 
(Posters: Mondo)

 These limited editions posters by Mondo of ParaNorman are so creative and unique.  
(Poster: Mondo)
 There are so many official posters of The Dark Knight out there but I gotta say this one made by Jock is by far my favorite.  I would love to have this framed on my wall.  

 Will Ferrell and Zach G face off against each other for The Campaign in these posters from Yahoo Movies.

(Poster: Empire)
 I don't know how good the film will be but I'm liking the creepy/eerie look of the poster in the dinosaur profile.

(Poster: Peter Jackson Facebook)
 First poster for the lucky fans over at Comic Con to grab via Peter Jackson who unveiled it on his Facebook page.  

(Poster: Collider)
 This one is super adorable.  Who doesn't like Paddington Bear? 

(Poster: Yahoo)
 Total Recall with Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Alba and Colin Farrell all of whom I didn't know were still acting.  
(Poster: Imp Awards)

Seriously, does the world really need another Smurfs movie?  I'm only plugging this poster since it features my birthday.  

(Poster: IMP Awards)
The French poster of Fernando Meirelles' 360 with Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins and Rachel Weisz. Very circular.
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