Thursday, October 20, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger Blu-ray Review

In one sentence, everything that's great about Paramount and Marvel Studios' adaptation of the classic Star-Spangled Avenger is laid out on the table.

The comic book superhero adventure has become a genre of film unto itself, and it's produced some truly great movies, such as The Dark Knight and Iron Man. But in spite of how wonderful those films mentioned may be, Captain America: The First Avenger might be the first comic book adaptation yet to hit every mark for which it aims.

The First Avenger Blu-ray Review

I pride myself on being a fair reviewer, of being level-headed about the films I love and respectful-yet-honest regarding the ones I loathe. Quite honestly, I can think of no criticisms of Captain America: The First Avenger.

The true test of whether or not a piece of art (be it film, book, television series, whatever) lies in whether it accomplishes what it sets out to do. And quite like the Captain's mighty shield, it never misses.

Set in 1942, the film tells the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a 98-pound weakling with a history of asthma, chronic colds and just about every other common disease under the sun. Unfortunately for him, his greatest desire is to serve his country, and every recruiter he begs deems him unfit for service.
His fate (and the fate of the world) changes when he's "drafted" into service by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a scientist who has developed a compound (the Super Soldier Serum) that will transform an ordinary man into a superhuman fighting machine.

Among Rogers' allies are his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

As the film progresses, it becomes clear that there's a greater danger than the Nazis lurking in Eastern Europe, and it comes in the form of the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) an earlier test subject of Dr. Erskine who has proclaimed himself to be "walking in the footsteps of gods" and sets out on his own quest of world domination.

There are any number of different directions in which this movie could have gone. With its World War II setting, the writers and producers could very well have produced a campy satire of the era's propaganda, ala Starship Troopers.

They could just as easily have followed in the footsteps of an earlier (and much … MUCH worse)Captain America film adaptation and brought the Captain into modern times.
Instead, director Joe Johnston and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely showed something that's in very short supply among the people tasked to bring comic book superheroes to life: Restraint.

The film plays out more or less exactly as described above. There aren't any bells and whistles or stupid one-liners. There's a truth and honesty to it that calls to mind the verisimilitude of Richard Donner's Superman – the movie presents us with what we (and the filmmakers) know is a ridiculous scenario but treats it as an absolute truth.

Another credit to the writers is the how genuine and fleshed-out the characterizations are. Steve Rogers is, and has always been, Marvel Comics' most heroic superhero. He has a clearly-defined and utterly unshakable moral code. He's selfless and committed to the battles he fights, and the writers have kept those ideals intact without making the character either hokey or campy.

Likewise, their treatment of the Red Skull deserves considerable praise. So many times throughout the history of the superhero genre, the villain has a tendency to completely take over the movie, making the hero a veritable afterthought.

Not here.
The Red Skull is used more-or-less sparingly. He's given just the right amount of screen-time, and his presence is felt even when the character is nowhere in sight.

And, as mentioned earlier, Peggy Carter never needs rescuing. She's presented as tough-as-nails, fighting rifle-in-hand alongside the boys; there's never a cliché moment where the villain demands the hero to stand down lest the girl be killed.

That alone puts this movie on a different level with its tights-wearing brethren. In all of the classic superhero films – Superman, Spider-Man 1 & 2, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man – the love interest always needs saving. I can't sing the praises of the team that put this movie together loud enough to not only buck what's an undeniably successful formula but doing it without so much as a second thought.
The work of the cast is also brilliant.
Chris Evans absolutely owns the role of Captain America. I admit to having reservations about his casting when it was first announced (hey, I saw those Fantastic Four movies... ugh... ), but those reservations melted away within the first five minutes of this movie.

Evans brings the toughness of some of cinema's latest leading men. He's a powerful leader, a strong moral compass, and an iron-clad warrior. And yet he also infuses the character with real humanity. I came into this movie dreading seeing Evans as Captain America.

I left it completely unable to wait to see him again in next summer's The Avengers movie.
Also great in the movie is Hayley Atwell as Peggy. Cliche or not, the lead actress in a comic book movie has to display a certain amount of femininity, and Atwell is more than up to the task. She's gorgeous and charming.

But you absolutely believe it when Atwell picks up a gun and heads into battle.
And, as he is in everything, Hugo Weaving is astonishing. He's menacing and threatening, all without ever going over-the-top. It would have been easy for Weaving to simply show up for work and add another notch to his sci-fi/fantasy belt.

Instead, he owns the role and provides a great nemesis for Evans.
In terms of the direction, there's no one on Earth who could have done a better job at the helm of this movie than Joe Johnston.

For one thing, he has a good track record when it comes to WWII-era action flicks with the eternally-underrated The Rocketeer, and he has an excellent sense for both action and visual effects.

Speaking of visual effects, the work done in this film is incredible. It's not as obviously-dazzling as anX-Men flick or an Iron Man picture, but the fact that it's not immediately noticeable is a testament to just how great the effects truly are.

It's a magnificent blending of practical and optical effects on par (and in some ways above and beyond) the work from Chrstopher Nolan's Batman epics.

Will the Exotic Animal Slaughter in Ohio Hurt the Movie ‘We Bought a Zoo’?

The animal slaughter in Ohio showed the world how hard it is to run a zoo at home. So will the disaster have any impact on the marketing of the coming family movie “We Bought a Zoo”?

Matt Damon in “We Bought A Zoo”
 Out of the 50 animals freed by the owner of an Ohio animal preserve, a macaque monkey is the lone animal unaccounted for, although authorities say it’s possible that one of the larger animals consumed it. Over the last two days, 18 endangered Bengal tigers, 12 lions and eight bears, among other animals, were shot and killed. The home preserve’s owner, Terry Thompson, took his life Tuesday after he opened all the cages, prompting the mass animal killing.

This incident comes just two months before 20th Century Fox (which, like The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp) will premiere “We Bought A Zoo,” a film that tells the story of a father who relocates his family to a rural countryside to renovate and re-open a zoo. Starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, and directed by Cameron Crowe, the film is due in theaters on December 23.

“I think they are in trouble,” Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo said of the coming film. “After the event it feels like the trailer was jokingly put together in a very un-tasteful way.”

The trailer features Damon repairing the grounds of the zoo and looking at wild animals from the second story of his house.

As of now, the studio says that there are no plans to pull advertisements or trailers or shift the course of marketing the film.

“We are saddened by the tragic events in Ohio, but the story of ‘We Bought a Zoo,’ is completely unrelated to that misfortune and will not affect our plans,” said Chris Petrikin, the head of Corporate Communication for the studio, in a statement. “In Cameron Crowe’s film, a zoo is simply the backdrop for a story of family redemption and reunion.’”

Box Office Mojo’s Subers says that the studio shouldn’t try to avoid the movie’s zoo aspect in its marketing. “Don’t run and hide, it’s in the title and movies with animals tend to do pretty well with family audiences,” he said.

“We Bought a Zoo” will have competition. Two other family films, “Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipwrecked” and “The Adventures of Tintin” are also slated for release during the holiday season.
“I think ‘We Bought A Zoo’ may get lost completely if it is seen as just a general family hugs and sunshine film, but I think they are in trouble regardless,” Subers said.

Matt Damon Wants to Direct; Bin Laden Movie Bumped

Today in film and television: Bigelow's Bin Laden movie pushed back, Matt Damon readies for his directorial debut, and John Singleton sues Paramount.

Matt Damon Wants to Direct; Bin Laden Movie Bumped
Sony sources says it "looks likely" that the studio will move the release date Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow's hunt for Bin Laden movie back from October 12 of next year to a date after the next presidential election. Maureen Dowd suggested in a column back in August that the film's release date could help the president's reelection efforts. That raised the ire of Rep. Peter King, who objected to the notion of the administration cooperating with filmmakers on a story that could help benefit Obama politically. No new date has been set, two studio sources suggest to Media Decoder's Michael Cieply that it "might not be released until early in 2013."

When Matt Damon decides he's ready to make his directorial debut, he wants to have plenty options to choose from. His latest is an untitled drama described as being "in the vain of Erin Brockovich" that he co-wrote with Office star John Krasinski, who first developed the idea with Dave Eggers. The production is said to beeying a spring start" and supposedly "insiders say Damon will be in the helmer's chair with the untitled drama in the spring." Earlier this year, Damon set up Father Daughter Time: A Tale of Armed Robbery and Eskimo Kisses at Warners with an eye towards directing and starring in the film. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, director John Singleton invested $5 million of his own money in director Craig Brewer's Memphis-set hip-hop drama Hustle & Flow to help get the film make. When it sparked a bidding war at the 2005 Sundance film festival, Singleton spurned New Line's $10 million offer to take $9 from Paramount, because the studio "pledged to finance and distribute two films of Singleton's choosing, with $3.5-million budgets." Six years later, Singleton is suing Paramount for $20 million, claiming they didn't live up to their end of the bargain and foiled his attempts to make his two films. A studio representative said today the studio "was hoping" he'd produce the two films before his contract expired in 2010, at which point he went to direct Abduction for Lionsgate. In his suit, Singleton says the studio kept "asserting self-imposed, non-existent conditions" that stopped them from ever getting off the ground.

Lana and Andy Wachowski are returning to Warner Bros. for Jupiter Ascending, described as "the first major science fiction action franchise play since The Matrix." Those movies made Warners a mint, and the not-so-hot performance of Speed Racer in 2008 doesn't seem to be a problem. The siblings are currently working on the adaptation of David Mitchell's The Cloud Atlas, but production on Jupiter Ascending is on track to start in the spring. Until then, the studio is said to be discussing which star it wants  "to lead the cast while keeping the script and logline under tight wraps."

Horror film debuts exclusively on Facebook

The producers of an indie horror movie called “The Perfect House” are breaking new ground by using Facebook as a exclusive distribution channel.
Starting today, Facebook members can rent the one-hour, 22-minute thriller, marking the latest attempt by filmmakers to tap the power of the 800-million-member social network.
But this one-hour, 22-minute film from independent directors Kris Hulbert and Randy Kent is marketed as the first made-for-Facebook movie.
It could start a new trend for indie filmmakers, who have traditionally had to scramble to get their work seen by a wider mass market audience.
“Going forward, we want to release all of our movies this way,” said Hulbert, founder of North Hollywood’s Gratwick Films, which produced “The Perfect House.” “Our goal is to establish ourselves on Facebook first so people know where to find us.”
Hulbert wrote the movie about newlyweds touring a supposed dream home that has a bloody, violent past. According to the movie site, the movie was made with a budget of about $155,000.
Technically, the movie has already made a screen debut, but in the grassroots way that is more typical of indie films that don’t have big budgets or major theatrical distribution deals.
Hulbert and his team just returned from a tour – they loaded a movie projector into a 1973-vintage recreational vehicle, then drove across the country to show the movie a few times at film festivals, universities and restaurants.
Hulbert said the company didn’t chose Facebook just because it couldn’t land a distributor – using the social network is Gratwick’s long-term business plan.
“This is actually our first and primary choice,” he said. “If we can execute on responsible film making, then we can control our own destiny.”
The company already has plans for two “Perfect House” sequels and has plotted out other projects for the next decade.
Gratwick is using Social Cinema, a social networking viewing and sharing platform from Milyoni Inc. of Pleasanton.
The technology has been used to bring blockbusters like “The Big Lebowski” and “The Dark Knight” to Facebook.
And for Halloween, Social Cinema is also being employed to rent other thrillers, including “Saw,” “The Blair Witch Project” and “Leprechaun,” which starred a pre-”Friends” Jennifer Aniston.

Movie Review: Dream House

Dream House
Directed by Jim Sheridan
Written by David Loucka
Starring Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, Marton Csokas, Claire Geare, Taylor Geare, Elias Koteas
Release Date: September 30, 2011
Dream House
Jim Sheridan‘s Dream House is a distorting and turning journey of mind-bending proportions, taking elements of popular horror fiction and re-energizing them as 21st century psychological thriller fares. Featuring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, it takes some unexpected detours, complete with some commendable performances.
(A side note: Before I do continue though, let me preface the rest of this review with the fact that I did not see any trailers for Dream House before seeing the film. I’ve been told that Morgan Creek films blew it by including some significant plot revelations in the trailer, so I went into the film fresh – so if you’re interested in seeing this movie, avoid all the trailers!)

The film focuses on Will Atenton (Daniel Craig), who has stepped down from his editing position at a prestigious New York publishing firm to take a redundancy pay package and begin focusing on his aspirations as a novelist, as well as spending more time with his family. The Atenton family move from the city to a Connecticut suburb, into a new home that for Craig’s character is quite plainly the namesake of the movie: his dream house.
While the introduction to the story is a little slow and cumbersome, though necessary with the presentation of many characters (more on this later), the first half of Dream House evolves into what feels like an updated version of The Amityville Horror. Family finds dream home, family moves to dream home, horror ensues… right?

Well, not exactly.
The family does indeed move into their dream house, and there is much dark and menacing presentiment, but the paranormal elements of your classic Haunted House movie never emerge. While there are many scenes and sequences in the first third of the movie that make the audience think they’re heading in that direction, Sheridan and writer David Loucka not only deviate on a different heading, they roll the vehicle and make you wonder, “Whoa, what the hell just happened?”. Add to this a sprinkle of good-measured influence from writers like Stephen King, and you have some unsettling and perplexing moments.
Yes, the plot is disorienting at times – but this is completely by design. While the audience is looking in a hundred distinct places to get a feel for where the movie is going, there are numerous other elements hidden in plain sight that don’t bubble to the surface until they’re needed. This craftsmanship is the highlight and strongest facet of Dream House, and make for a thrilling first viewing experience.
While some reviews tend to give a nice plot rundown of films, with Dream House, it’s impossible to do so without ruining the experience for folks. The overused cliché is the term “spoilers,” but this isn’t about that. The discovery aspect of the film’s literal plot twists are a massive component of the movie, and to reveal those before people have a opportunity to see the film would be detrimental to their potential experience and enjoyment of the film.

There are quite a few plot twists thrown into Dream House. A few of them predictable, but others are not at all, and some even incorporated as subtle hints that most will probably not catch until a second or third viewing. All of these turns though, contribute to both a forbidding and challenging thriller. And while it is not perfect, it sure is a hell of a lot of fun being along for the ride.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Trailer and Motion Poster for THE WOMAN IN BLACK

The trailers keep coming this morning and we’ve got a new one for the gothic horror flick The Woman in Black.  For those unfamiliar with the movie, the story centers on a young lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe) who travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorner woman is terrorizing the locals.  The new trailer contains most of the footage we saw in the recent UK trailer, but I still like the look of the film and I’m glad I only have to wait a few more months to see it.  My only concern is that the trailers may start to spoil some of the scares.

Hit the jump to check out the new trailer along with a creepy motion poster.   The film also stars Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, and Shaun Dooley.  The Woman in Black opens February 3, 2012.

Justice League: Doom animated movie trailer | Geek Alert

Justice League
Loosely based around the Mark Waid helmed comic series JLA: Tower of Babel, Justice League: Doom is the latest in DC comics animated movies and features the formation of the Legion of Doom who set out to eliminate the Justice League using protocols created by Batman to take down the group should its super powered members ever go rogue. Yikes! The movie was adapted and written by Dwayne McDuffie right before his death in February 2011, and is directed by Lauren Montgomery. It is set to be released in early 2012. Watch the 1st trailer below.

Logan Lerman plays against type in Three Musketeers

He's made it past the often impossible hump, from child actor to fully fledged male lead, but the best thing about Logan Lerman is he's not blase about beating the odds.

The young star of the new Three Musketeers movie is all too cognizant of his statistically unlikely success, and appreciates every single opportunity he's ever been given, from landing the starring role in the Vancouver-shot Percy Jackson and the Olympians, to playing opposite Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovovich in the latest take on Alexandre Dumas' swordsmen.

Logan Lerman plays in Three Musketeers

"I realize this wasn't even a realistic career option for me until about two years ago," says Lerman, who plays D'Artagnan, the "fourth musketeer."

"I was close to graduating from high school, and, at that point, acting was still really just a hobby for me," he says. "I had no real plans, but opportunities were presented to me, and I decided to take them."
Those opportunities were 2010's Percy Jackson, which is currently gearing up for a sequel with Lerman in the lead once more, as well as Three Musketeers and a new movie for John Malkovich's production company, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, with Emma Watson (Harry Potter) and Paul Rudd (Our Idiot Brother).

"I never imagined being able to be in movies like this," he says, gesturing at the movie poster for Three Musketeers propped on an easel. "I think not having any expectations about the future was a good thing. I've always tried to look at it from a work perspective, and just embrace every moment and every job that came along."

Get your horror fix this Halloween season

Each October, Halloween-lovin’ extroverts flock to haunted houses and costume parties and pumpkin patches. Introverts watch horror movies.

There’s a surprising dearth of wide-release horror movies coming out this month, but between rentals, special event screenings, on demand and streaming, there are a whole lot of ways to get your horror fix leading up to the 31st.
Looking for horror on your small screen this season?
"The Walking Dead" is in its second season on AMC

Here’s our list of suggestions, whether you’re staying at home, toughing it out at a midnight screening or looking to murder a Friday night with something on Netflix streaming.

In theaters
The only wide-release horror movies out this month are “The Thing,” a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic of the same name, and “Paranormal Activity 3,” the latest (and not likely final) entry in the popular series.

“The Thing,” now in theaters, has been mostly panned by critics, but it has its defenders. It takes place at an Antarctic research facility, where scientists have discovered an alien in the ice. The alien can assume the shape of any living organism and uses this skill to kill off the humans slowly. Like the 1982 version, this “Thing” splatters gooey gore galore.

“Paranormal Activity 3,” which opens Friday and will play at advance 10 p.m. and midnight screenings Thursday at The Grand, is a better bet if you’re looking for something scary. This one’s a 1988-set prequel to the first two films, taking us back to when doomed sisters Katie and Kristi were little girls and the evil entity that plagues them was just getting started. Early reviews are solid. Sure, it’s more of the same -- but the same is pretty terrifying.

Snowboard film scales new heights

Extreme snowboarder Travis Rice isn't interested in making mere "ski porn" films: the downhill documentaries known for showing trick after breathtaking trick over a soundtrack of thrashing guitars.
For Rice and director Curt Morgan, one-upping traditional snow sports movies with their latest film, The Art of Flight, meant using cutting-edge equipment, including a high-definition camera that shoots 1050 frames a second.

A scene from The Art of Flight

It also meant taking bigger risks such as going to mountains no one's ever touched and doing tricks no one's ever tried. At least three snowboarders were hospitalised during filming.
And it meant telling good stories like when the snowboarders had to dive into icy waters high in the Andes of South America to reach their helicopter before it ran out of fuel to fly them out. "Really scary, we almost died, that sort of thing," Morgan says.
The film stars Rice, 28, who is among the sport's top riders. Morgan, 29, once rode professionally with Rice but gave it up after breaking his back three times.
Morgan eventually founded Wyoming-based Brain Farm Digital Cinema, which made The Art of Flight and also produced Rice's That's It, That's All, a 2008 film that broadened the snowboarding film experience by melding big-air tricks with nature and wildlife photography from the far-off places Rice and friends travelled to.
"What's really cool about Brain Farm is their films hit more of the mainstream," says Waide Hoyt of Standard Films, an industry pioneer. "They bring people who may not watch snowboard movies or purchase them to check them out."
"That's the whole challenge here," says Morgan. "You have a core audience that's really small.
"We're trying to find a way for our stories to transcend to the mainstream. We're trying to push the boundaries and still hold on to the core."
Morgan won't discuss it, but the production budget for The Art of Flight, heavily supported by Red Bull and other sponsors, is said to be around US$2 million (NZ$2.5 million) - huge for snowboarding flicks, which are typically shown at festivals or limited screenings.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Logan Lerman an unlikely musketeer

He's made it past the often impossible hump, from child actor to fully fledged male lead, but the best thing about Logan Lerman is he's not blase about beating the odds.

The young star of the new Three Musketeers movie is all too cognizant of his statistically unlikely success, and appreciates every single opportunity he's ever been given, from landing the starring role in the Vancouver-shot Percy Jackson and the Olympians, to playing opposite Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovovich in the latest take on Alexandre Dumas' swordsmen.

From left: Matthew Macfadyen, Logan Lerman, Ray Stevenson and Luke Evans star in The Three Musketeers
"I realize this wasn't even a realistic career option for me until about two years ago," says Lerman, who plays D'Artagnan, the "fourth musketeer."

"I was close to graduating from high school, and, at that point, acting was still really just a hobby for me," he says. "I had no real plans, but opportunities were presented to me, and I decided to take them."
Those opportunities were 2010's Percy Jackson, which is currently gearing up for a sequel with Lerman in the lead once more, as well as Three Musketeers and a new movie for John Malkovich's production company, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, with Emma Watson (Harry Potter) and Paul Rudd (Our Idiot Brother).

"I never imagined being able to be in movies like this," he says, gesturing at the movie poster for Three Musketeers propped on an easel. "I think not having any expectations about the future was a good thing. I've always tried to look at it from a work perspective, and just embrace every moment and every job that came along."

As Kate Bosworth backflips onto the screen in new ad campaign she reveals how split from Orlando Bloom sent her into a spin

She's one of Hollywood's big hitters, having earned her stripes in big screen hits including The Horse Whisperer, Blue Crush and Superman returns.

For her latest project though, Kate takes a break from feature length movies, starring in a short film as the new face of French fashion brand Vanessa Bruno. 
The 28-year-old actress demonstrates the riding skills that helped land her first film role in The Horse Whisperer
The actress was a natural choice, says the designer, who started her eponymous brand 15 years ago when she was just 24 years old.

'She has the style of a Parisienne without being from Paris,' Bruno told Style magazine.
'She's a true free spirit, does her own thing, makes her own decisions - exactly the aesthetic of the label.' 
'When we first met, we clicked so much, it was as though we already knew each other,' she says.

For the autumn/winter 2011 campaign, Bosworth replaces French model Lou Doillon (daughter of Jane Birkin) to act out a surreal love story, LØV, directed by Stephanie Di Gusto. 
The film sees the 28-year-old actress running backwards and back-flipping across a stark white background, modelling fur-lined knits and galloping across the Norwegian landscape on a horse (demonstrating the riding skills that landed her the role in her first ever film, The Horse Whisperer).

Bosworth, whose new film Straw Dogs - a remake of the '70s thriller of the same title - is out in November, will also be seen in the print ads running alongside the campaign. 
With no fewer than four films currently on the go, one of which sees her playing Billie, the girlfriend of Jack Kerouac in a film she describes as 'a chronicle of a nervous breakdown,' it's a busy time for Bosworth. But her hectic work schedule doesn't come close to causing the turmoil she felt when she split from ex-boyfriend Orlando Bloom, whom she dated for on and off for four years.

Although she is now blissfully happy with film director boyfriend Michael Polish, 41, the actress admits her happiness was hard fought.
'I definitely know the meaning of pain,' she told Style. 
'You know when you put all your chips into something and then it disappears? It sent me into such pain.

I think I had actual vertigo. I was like, 'Is this my new reality?' Will anything be normal again? 'Then one day you wake up and you think, okay, I'll never be the same, but I'll survive and I'll grow from it.'

Doha Tribeca Film Fest 2011: Nadine Labaki's Latest, Antonio Banderas, and the Wonder of Black Gold

In his latest oeuvre, Woody Allen perfectly channels the spirit of Ernest Hemingway by having the actor portraying the American novelist utter this year's most unforgettable cinematic line: "No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure."
Nadine Labaki's Latest, Antonio Banderas, and the Wonder of Black Gold
While Allen's Hemingway speaks in reference to writing the perfect novel, the idea of honesty, courage and grace under fire applies so easily to all great works of art. It is definitely what most appeals to me personally in films from the Middle East and North Africa, where stories still focus on the daily struggles of humans trying to connect more simply and deeply to one another, while also finding the poetry within their tumultuous life journey here on earth.
The vibrant epicenter of great cinema from MENA has undoubtedly become the Doha Film Institute, an independent cultural organization established in 2010 to incorporate Qatar's film initiatives under one banner. DFI's many enterprises include film and TV funding for the region and internationally, year-round education in the art of making movies, panels, film screenings and what I can only describe as its "crowning occurrence" -- the yearly Doha Tribeca Film Festival.
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival is the kind of event that can make all other film festivals seem unexciting, especially for an Arab film aficionada like me.
For this year's third edition, there is an extensive line-up slated which will include the much celebrated B&W, silent beauty of The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius, Luc Besson's biopic of Nobel Peace Price winner Aung San Suu Kyi titled The Lady, a touching documentary on beloved South African singer Miriam Makeba, befittingly titled Mama Africa, Kristin Scott Thomas playing opposite Ethan Hawke (as an American novelist who travels to Paris) in the thriller The Woman in the Fifth and an interactive masterclass by cinematographer Christopher Doyle as part of "Doha Talks 2011."
If you think that's enough to make it an outstanding experience already, hold on to your hats as you read the rest of this piece. Because this year's DTFF features the world premiere of Black Gold, the first big budget blockbuster produced entirely in MENA, by DFI in partnership with Tarak Ben Ammar's Quinta Communications, and filmed in Qatar and Tunisia. The film tells the story of an emir in the 1930s, fighting to protect his land at the onset of the discovery of oil in the region.Black Gold is directed by filmmaker extraordinaire Jean Jacques Annaud, features music by Academy Award winning composer James Horner (you may still be singing "My Heart Will Go On," part of his soundtrack from Titanic) and stars Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto and Mark Strong.
Banderas, who plays Nessib, the Emir of Hobeika, explains that what drew him to this character was a combination of his wanting to create a bridge between two worlds that have been polarized since 9/11, due to Arab society being mostly misrepresented in the West, but also as an Andalusian "the opportunity to show a little bit more of this culture that I consider, in part, my own." Banderas' lighter fare, Puss in Boots (renamed for the region Cat in Boots) will also be shown on Family Day at DTFF, in all its 3D animated splendor.
To explain my delighted anticipation for this next film, I must confess that I credit its director with starting my love affair with Arab cinema -- not to mention the reason I find Beirut the most exciting city on earth. Since Nadine Labaki's Caramel was released in 2007, I've watched it at the most joyous, as well as most difficult times in my life and have always come away wanting for more: More of the heart, more of the understated passion, more of the exciting flavors and more of the womanly camaraderie that I have always found in the Arab world.
Now my craving will be finally satiated by Labaki's highly anticipated MENA premiere of Where Do We Go Now? her newest masterpiece. The film is already sold out at the festival, which is no surprise considering it won the Audience Choice Award at this year's Toronto International Film Festival and is probably on the must-see list of all ladies (and the men who love them) on this planet. Where Do We Go Now? is an ode to the great unifying power of women, who will always find a way to make the opposite sex come around to their way of thinking.
This year, DFI also announced that it will partner with world cinema filmmaker Mira Nair to bring to the big screen the highly anticipated cinematic version of Mohsin Hamid's bestselling novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The film will star Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, as well as Om Puri and Shabana Azmi in supporting roles. The word excited does not even begin to describe how I feel about one day viewing a film based on Hamid's literary masterpiece, which still haunts my dreams with its bewildering final chapter.
In leaving, I share with you some wise words by DFI's Executive Director Amanda Palmer, who offers a bit of advice on how to choose films from the overwhelming program at this year's DTFF: "Say to yourself 'I am not going to a place where I'm going to have an expected experience.' So mix it up and put yourself on a rollercoaster ride!" Guaranteed, you will never view a film quite the same way again...
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival runs from October 25th through the 29th at Katara Qatar's new cultural hub in Doha.

Pauline Kael, Book Reviews, The Age of Movies, A Life in the Dark

Two new books about famed New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael are out: Brian Kellow’s biography Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark and and the Library of America’s anthology The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael. A sampling of recent pieces inspired by these Kael books and a selection of her most notorious reviews are below.
Thompson on Hollywood
Kael and archrival Andrew Sarris helped to define film criticism during the 70s, when movies were still an emerging art form that was gaining credibility as something even worth seriously writing about. While Sarris was a better historian and pushed the auteur theory that helped to index and define directors, Kael was a hugely influential popularizer. She wrote so stylishly and with such passion that any cinephile had to engage in debate on her latest often controversial raves of such directors asRobert Altman, Brian De Palma, Sam Peckinpah and Bernardo Bertolucci. She helped to save Bonnie and Clyde from the dust heap. She famously championed writer Herman Mankiewicz over director Orson Welles in The Citizen Kane Book, and wrote the defining essay on Cary Grant, The Man from Dream City, a must-read. She briefly left The New Yorker in 1979, lured by Warren Beatty to try her hand at working inside the system, at Paramount, and swiftly returned to her chosen metier. Kael “was more than a great critic,” EW critic Owen Gleiberman said. “She re-invented the form, and pioneered an entire aesthetic of writing. She was like the Elvis or the Beatles of film criticism.”
Kael also championed her favorite young critics, many of whom emulated her style and advocated her chosen directors. Her acolytes—from Michael Sragow and Peter Rainer to Elvis Mitchell—were known as Paulettes, while Sarris and his affiliates—wife Molly Haskell, Tom Allen, Richard Corliss and Dave Kehr—were considered auteurists. And they were more likely to praise director Clint Eastwood, for example, whom Kael dismissed.
As Gerald Peary’s depressing documentary on the history of film criticism, For the Love of Movies, attests, the glory days of criticism are long over. But that had a lot to do with the institutionalization of criticism as a job, as well as the dumbing down of the movies these often gifted writers had to write about. In many ways, the New York Times’ Dave Kehr has more to write about in his DVD column that the daily critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, who address Kael below.

Monday, October 17, 2011

2nd Superman Doomsday part 3 teaser video!

This is the 4th teaser trailer for the Superman Doomsday fan saga, and the 2nd highlighting the finale entitled "Justice"! 

As promised, I plan to upload teasers and trailers for the Superman Doomsday finale as I work my way through. The working draft is about 80% complete. With the new Hulk coming in the Avengers and Dark Knight coming out next year, I'll have to wait and see what clips I can use from them to flesh it out. It may totally alter the draft I'm working on now, but these are some shots that I know I'm going to use so I went ahead and did some work on them. 

This teaser is short and to the point, with a slightly revamped Doomsday, more of Wonder Woman in her costume, and an early tease at Superman. Let me know what you think! 

Watch in full screen HD! 

NY Film Festival: ‘A Dangerous Method’ is Cronenberg’s most subtle work

Director David Cronenberg has carved out a career of making wonderfully off-kilter movies. FromVideodrome to The Flyto A History of Violence, the man has looked into the fears and eccentricities of the human condition for more than 40 years.
With his latest film, A Dangerous Method, which recently premiered at the New York Film Festival, the director looks further into the human brain. Much further.
Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender in
David Cronenberg's 'A Dangerous Method'
The 99-minute movie, based on a play by Christopher Hampton, which itself was based on a book by John Kerr, examines the trials and tribulations of Carl Jung’s relationship with one of his most difficult patients: Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley).
Jung (Michael Fassbender) treats Sabina from her earliest stages of hysteria, when she experiences so many tics that she has difficulty pronouncing words, to her final stages of psychotherapy, when the line between patient and doctor becomes blurred. Along the way, Jung seeks the advice and mentoring of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), the well-respected neurologist credited with the birth of psychotherapy.
This terrain feels refreshingly novel for a director who is remembered as much for his daring special effects and displays of sexuality as he is for clever, thoughtful filmmaking. A Dangerous Method feels like a three-person tango, an allegorical microcosm of what can happen in the complicated field of psychotherapy.
Throughout the film, which is expertly staged to look like turn-of-the-century Europe, all of the actors come into their own. Fassbender, in particular, finds subtle strength behind Jung. He’s analytical and blunt with his assessments, yet Sabina gets under his skin. She becomes a pet project, a woman he needs to cure. However, when his methods do, in fact, work, he’s left with an emptiness, a yearning to get closer.
Knightley is exquisite as Sabina. In the beginning, her performance is scarily dedicated. In her bouts of hysteria, the character’s entire body is thrown into fits and spasms. Knightley juts out the bottom of her chin and flails her arms, making this one of the most physical performances of the year.
Yet, it’s not a performance focused on the theatrics. By the end of A Dangerous Method, Sabina is a fully functional adult and aspiring psychoanalyst. One can tell that there is a lingering shadow of her former self, but, for the most part, she is cured. Her diagnosis is complicated and never fully explained. It’s mostly sexual in nature (she enjoys paddling), and likely dealt with an abusive upbringing.
Mortensen is enjoyable as Freud; however, the character feels like the definition of a third wheel. Many of his scenes are him writing a letter to Spielrein or Jung, offering his thoughtful two cents. Of this three-person tango, the Freud character trips up.
Cronenberg, a director who is willing throw in savage surprises for the viewer, is restrained with A Dangerous Method. He lets the story and its characters percolate. They move about their historical universe, slowly and methodically getting to know one another. The movie’s subtlety, which may be mistaken for dullness, is one of its strongest suits. It makes sense that a movie about thinkers would be a thinking man’s film.

Robert Pattinson Is a Perfect Fit for Rock Opera Role

With the second to last Twilight movie lurking on the horizon like some sort of inevitable doomsday, I find myself wondering where my next Robert Pattinson fix will come from. Sure, he's done other movies (there was one that had something to do with elephants and Reese Witherspoon), but I think we'll forever know the 25-year-old actor as Edward Cullen. Unless of course he breaks out of the sci-fi rom-com role and does a 180, which he very well could. The latest rumor is that Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong wants RPatz to play the lead in the film adaptation of his hit musical, American Idiot.
RPatz? A punk-rock opera? I like where this is going.

Robert Pattinson Is a Perfect Fit for Rock Opera Role
 First of all, we know that RPatz can sing. A musical movie would be a great way to show off his talents and to show us what he's capable of. I mean, yeah, I'd like to see him get all glittery and fly around in the trees too, but maybe it wouldn't hurt us to expand our minds a bit and allow RPatz to take on a new, very different role.

Second of all, he kind of already looks the part -- give him a snaggle tooth or two and he's a regular old Billie Joe/lead character, Christian. And third of all, if he's not going to break out from Edward now, then when will he? The whole cast of Twilight will likely try to find parts to play that will be completely opposite to their roles in the vampire saga, and this is Edward's RPatz's chance.

As a Green Day fan and an RPatz fan, I'm on board with this idea. Of course there will be those who don't think Robert's got the manliness nor the grittiness to pull off the brash part, but a poll on Entertainment Weekly's site reveals that 55 percent are for RPatz starring in American Idiot while 44 percent are against.
I thought that it'd skew toward the negative, that no one would want to see Robert sing and dance in a rock opera, but fans seem open to it. I guess the more RPatz we have in our lives, the better, no? Just hope he goes easy on the guy-liner.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New trailer for ‘The Muppets’ movie released

The masterminds behind the promotion of the new ‘Muppets’ film have already released a couple of trailers spoofing ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ as well as showing us their superhero sides in their parody of ‘The Green Lantern’ and now they have gone back to their roots in their newest trailer and are back at the Muppet theater.
Will you be watching?
In their latest trailer we watch as Kermit and his fuzzy friends are informed by their agent that their star has fallen and that they are not as famous as they once were.  With the help of three fans, the old crew reunites to try to save the Muppet theater from being taken over by a greedy oil tycoon.
The all star cast includes Jason Segal, Amy Adams, Zach Galifianakis, Neil Patrick Harris, Selena Gomez, Mila Kunis and Jack Black, along with Kermit, Miss Piggy and Animal.
What could be better than the singing chickens clucking to Cee-Lo Greens tune ‘Forget You’?  Check out the new ‘Muppets trailer and let us know what you think.