Well, one thing’s for sure: the opening of Dressed to Kill isn’t one I’m going to be forgetting any time soon. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but an extended shower scene featuring full frontal nudity of the lead character (played by Angie Dickinson, though apparently the actual nude body on display was that of a body double) who, after getting herself nice and soaped up, begins masturbating and is then surprised and raped.
Oh, it all turns out to be a dream, but it’s an eye-opening sequence and that’s putting it mildly. In my review of Carrie, I commented that I felt the opening shower scene was totally gratuitous and really weakened what was otherwise a strong start to the film. Well, this opening shower scene is WAY more graphic (in terms of the nudity shown), and while it feels a bit more of a piece with the erotic thriller that follows, it still feels totally gratuitous. In mean, it isn’t even an event that actually HAPPENS in the film, it’s just a dream! I suppose one could suggest that the dream is an introduction to the weird sexual inner life of Angie Dickinson’s character, Kate. And the concept of dreams and the line between fantasy and reality is a major theme of the film. But it’s hard to argue that this opening isn’t just a way to start one’s movie off with a bang and titillate the audience. I guess that’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but (and I made the same comment about Carrie), it makes it hard to take the rest of the movie seriously.
Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) is a wealthy housewife unsatisfied by her husband. She admits her desire to have an affair to her psychiatrist, Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine), and eventually does pick up an unnamed guy in a museum. I’m reluctant to spoil what happens next, so I’ll just say that a spree of sex-related murders begins, and eventually a call-girl, Liz (Nancy Allen, returning from Carrie) and Kate’s young son, Peter (Keith Gordon) team up to try to stop the killer.
Angie Dickinson is terrific in the film, with her star-wattage turned up high. She’s electric in her early scene in Dr. Elliott’s office, and also in the extended near-wordless sequence in which she picks up a guy (or allows herself to be picked up) in the museum. It’s great fun to see Michael Caine in the film, and he brings great dignity and presence to the role of Dr. Elliott. Having these two movie-stars in the film really elevates the often … [continued]
In the new novel by James Swallow, seven years have passed since the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The Klingons and the Federation have begun to take their first, tentative steps towards a lasting peace. However, there still exist many, on both sides of the Neutral Zone, who have no interest in seeing peace emerge between these two intergalactic powers. When a series of devastating terrorist attacks wreak havoc across Klingon space, it seems that the last surviving member of the Chang/Cartwright conspiracy may hold the clue to unravelling the identity of the terrorists: Valeris, formerly of Starfleet, now in prison with little possibility of parole.
I adore Star Trek VI, so right away this novel had my interest piqued. The years immediately following the final adventure of the original Enterprise haven’t been that well mined , so I really enjoyed this look at how the Klingon/Federation political situation progressed following the ending of Trek VI. Mr. Swallow digs deeply into the Star Trek mythos to present a compelling tale of intergalactic espionage that addresses several meaty story threads left hanging by Trek VI.
The focus on Valeris is long overdue. Though it wasn’t all that risky of the makers of Star Trek VI to make the one new character be the traitor, Nick Meyer’s sharp script and Kim Cattrall’s tart performance combined to create a very memorable character. I enjoyed having the chance, reading Cast No Shadow, to peel back some of the layers of this enigmatic Vulcan. It’s fascinating (ha ha) to dig into Valeris’ point of view, and I enjoyed the novel’s periodic flashbacks into Valeris’ history. We learn how and why she became involved in Admiral Cartwright’s conspiracy, and in the devastating final flashback, we uncover the source of her un-Vulcan-like enmity for the Klingons.
Although he is featured extremely prominently on the cover, Spock is not that central to the novel’s story. This was a big disappointment to me. I assume that Mr. Swallow cannot control the content of his book’s cover art, but when I pick up a novel with Spock and Valeris on the cover, I assume that the novel is going to focus on the relationship between Spock and Valeris! While their contentious relationship is addressed, it is not at all the novel’s focus.
Instead, in addition to telling Valeris’ story, the novel also focuses on the tale of a young Elias Vaughn’s first mission in the field. Devoted fans of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels of course know that Vaughn, a created-for-the-novels character, was a key player in the post-finale Deep Space Nine novels. Several Trek novels, over the years, have explored the long-lived Vaughn’s early history … [continued]
So just a day after I posted a whole bunch of movie trailers last week, Sir Ridley Scott unveiled our first official look at his upcoming film, Prometheus, and it is pretty friggin’ awesome:
That’s a pretty spectacular trailer, and in addition to guaranteeing that I will be seeing it opening weekend, the trailer also puts to rest all of the denials that the film is an Alien prequel. First of all, there is the really, really clever way in which the text of the title reveal mimics that of the main title of Alien. (Whoever came up with that idea deserves a BIG raise.) And then, I mean, come one, there are eggs (albeit different-looking ones), there are face-huggers (albeit REALLY different-looking ones) and then there is my favorite shot of the trailer: when we glimpse the “space-jockey’s” control/piloting unit (or whatever the hell that is) that we saw in Alien come up out of the floor of the ship. Pretty cool. I wonder if the ship we see crash at the end is the same ship the Nostromo finds on LB427…
If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will!
OK, maybe this, a look at the best thing about Parks and Recreation, Bert Macklin — er, I mean, Andy Dwyer:
Last month I wrote about the terrific first season of Party Down. I wasted little time in devouring the show’s second season, as well. Sadly, these two short seasons represent the entire run of the show, but I can’t recommend them highly enough to you.
To re-cap, Party Down focuses on the sad-sack employees of Party Down, a small Hollywood catering business. Pretty much every single one of the Party Down staff are wannabe actors, hoping for their big break while toiling away at a menial job they detest. The genius of the show’s structure is that every episode is set at a different Party Down event/party. So each episode becomes its own self-contained little movie, with totally different locations and guest-stars. It’s a brilliant structure for a TV show, and one that could have provided endless story-telling opportunities. Sadly that was not to be.
Season two of Party Down begins a few months after the end of season one. Ron (Ken Marino)’s Soup R Crackers franchise has failed, and he slinks back to Party Down as a depressed, angry slacker. With Henry (Adam Scott) now team leader, the first few episodes of the season revels in the reversal-of-roles. (Now Ron is the difficult one, and Henry is the exasperated boss trying to keep him and the rest of their motley crew in line.)
The only major cast change is that Jane Lynch had left the series (to appear in Glee), so season two introduces us to a new character Lydia (Megan Mullally). Ms. Mullally is phenomenal as the loopily deranged Hollywood mom, trying to guide her pre-teen daughter to super-stardom. The show’s creators wisely chose to create an entirely different character from Lynch’s Constance. While I missed Jane Lynch, of course, Megan Mullally is so entertaining that I quickly accepted her addition to the cast.
Season two of Party Down again blesses us with some terrific guest-stars. J.K. Simmons, Joey Lauren Adams, and Kristen Bell all return from season one. Dave (Gruber) Allen (guidance counselor Jeff Rosso on Freaks and Geeks) gives a memorable turn as a sci-fi author having a brush with Hollywood. But the season’s best guest star, and the star of arguably the season’s best episode, is Steve Guttenberg. That’s right, Police Academy’s Steve Guttenberg. In the episode “Steve Guttenberg’s Birthday,” Mr. Guttenberg hires the Party Down crew to cater his birthday. But his friends throw him a surprise party the day before, and he forgets to cancel the booking. So when Party Down shows up at his house, Mr. Guttenberg (playing himself) decides to invite the gang into his house to have a party with him. It’s a crazy premise, but the half-hour … [continued]
Two years after Carrie, Mr. De Palma directed The Fury, another story of telekinetic teenagers. But while the initial description of the film does sound a bit like more of the same, The Fury is actually quite different from Carrie in terms of tone and execution.
Carrie was focused on the telekinetic teenager in question. It was very much a coming-of-age story (albeit a very bizarre, horrific one!) But The Fury is more of an espionage story. And while we do follow the telekinetic girl Gillian (Amy Irving) throughout the story, I felt the main character — and the heart of the film — was the adult character, Peter. In the film’s opening, Peter’s son, Robin (who we learn has telekinetic abilities) is kidnapped by mysterious men who try to kill Peter (and, indeed, Robin believes they succeed). Throughout the rest of the story, we follow Peter in his increasingly desperate attempts to locate his son.
Peter is played by Kirk Douglas, and he’s terrific in the film. We don’t learn a lot about Peter’s background, but he clearly has experience and training in the military. The script doesn’t give Peter too much character — the story is far more concerned with the plot mechanics of twists and double-crosses, rather than character development — but Mr. Douglas’ performance fills in all the blanks we need. He plays Peter’s friendly charm and charisma, as well as the tough-as-nails, willing-to-do-whatever-it-takes side of him. He’s a ton of fun to watch, and frankly whenever the film cut away from Peter’s story I was impatient for it to get back to him.
That’s not to criticize Amy Irving (returning from Carrie), who is lovely and endearing as Gillian. In the movie’s early-going, Gillian discovers that she possesses unusual gifts. She eventually winds up checking into the Paragon Clinic, a boarding house devoted to young people with special abilities (shades of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters!). The clinic’s director (Charles Durning) seems friendly, but it is soon revealed that he has connections to the shady operative (John Cassavetes) who arranged for Robin’s kidnapping.
I enjoyed watching this non-super-hero take on kids with special powers unfold, and I enjoyed how the script and (by John Farris, adapting his novel) and Mr. De Palma’s direction treated the story seriously, without camp. As I wrote above, The Fury is structured like a spy/suspense film, and I think that was a very successful choice. (This distinction is made clear right from the film’s opening, an energetically staged assault on an Israeli beach designed to mask the effort to … [continued]
Well, yesterday I waxed poetic about Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, so it seems like a good time to direct your attention to his upcoming film, The Dictator:
That looks like fun! It’s directed by Larry Charles (a key creative force behind Seinfeld, and also the director of Borat and Bruno) and written by Sacha Baron Cohen along with Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schaffer (three other Seinfeld writers who have also been intimately involved with Curb Your Enthusiasm). That’s a lot of comedy talent, so I’m excited for this one.
Bryan Singer finally has another film coming out — this trailer for Jack the Giant Killer caused a small kerfuffle when it was released last week, with some loving it and others very much not. Judge for yourself:
There really hasn’t been a single film directed by Bryan Singer that I haven’t enjoyed. So although on the surface nothing about that trailer gets me that excited to see this movie, I remain interested.
After a decade and a half, they’re making a third Men in Black movie??? The second film was a disappointment but the original has a warm place in my heart. Could this new one be any good? I don’t know, but the amazing final shot of this trailer gives me hope:
How about that?? I don’t know how they did it, but Josh Brolin looks and sounds absolutely PERFECT! I’m becoming cautiously optimistic about this one.
Lastly, just for the hell of it, here’s The Hobbit trailer once again. I just can’t stop watching this thing!
Martin Scorsese isn’t exactly the first name I think of when I think about family-friendly adventure films, but with Hugo, the master proves once and again his incredible control of the medium of film, no matter the genre. Hugo is a breathtaking work of genius, and I found myself enraptured by the film’s propulsive energy and the exuberant love for film and, indeed, for all works of art, that pores out of every frame of the movie.
The Hugo in Hugo (adapted from from The Adventures of Hugo Cabret, which was written and illustrated by Brian Selznick) is a young boy living in the walls of a Paris train-station in the 1930′s. His parents are dead, and the uncle who adopted him is a drunkard who eventually abandoned him. But not before teaching young Hugo how to mind all of the clocks in the station, a task which Hugo has secretly continued to do. All the while he has scrounged tools and supplies to work on repairing a broken automata (an elaborate wind-up figure), which he and his father were working on together before his father’s death. When Hugo is caught, mid-theft, by the crochety old man who runs a small toy booth in the station, Hugo agrees to work for him to repay what he has stolen. He is quickly befriended by the intelligent, well-read young girl, Isabelle, in the man’s care. The bond between Hugo and Isabelle grows as they start to realize that the old man, whom she refers to as Papa Georges, hides secrets of his own, including a possible connection to Hugo’s automata.
In my first paragraph I described Hugo as a family-friendly film, but don’t take that to mean that the film is childish or simplistic. Quite the contrary, I found Hugo to be richly layered and nuanced. There is fun adventure to be had as the tale unfolds, but also great sadness and melancholy. (If you’re looking for something to compare it to, in tone, I would direct you to Pixar’s Up.)
Right from the opening frames, the film is gorgeous. Mr. Scorsese uses visual effects with extraordinary aplomb. The opening shots juxtapose the gorgeous city-scape of 1930′s Paris with the complex gears and inner mechanisms of a clock, and the sequence is thrilling and clever. The environment of the city, and of the city-within-the-city that the train station represents, is brought to fully-realized, teeming life. I don’t know where the beautiful costumes and sets end and the computer-generated effects begin, and that’s just the way I like it. Every frame of the film is packed with fascinating imagery — if my eye ever wandered from the main action, there was always … [continued]
Stop reading and WATCH THIS NOW:
Dear lord, we have to wait a FULL YEAR for this??? I’m not sure if I can make it!
I’ve watched the trailer several times through already, and I just love it to death. And remember: this is just a teaser trailer for a film that is STILL FILMING as we speak and won’t be finished and released to theatres for a full year. So while, yeah, the trailer only gives us the barest of glimpses at the good stuff we’re all waiting for, keep in mind how most teaser trailers aren’t released until about 6 months (or far LESS) before a film comes out, and even then usually only give a few snippets of footage. This is a full two minutes and thirty-one seconds of Hobbity goodness. Time to watch it again. (LOVE that Misty Mountains chant…)
Oh, and check out this awesome poster:
And if that’s not enough Lord of the Rings fun for you today, go to maps.google.com and type in “the Shire” as your starting point and “Mordor” as your destination. Go on, I’ll wait. (You need to select walking directions, rather than driving directions.) Check out badassdigest for more info.… [continued]
I’ve really enjoyed all three Mission: Impossible films, though none of them quite reached perfection in my mind. Probably my favorite part of all three films is the first 30 minutes of the first one, where we got to see an awesome team of super-spies engaged in some really fun, twisty covert operations. Then, of course, they all get killed off and the film (and the sequels) turns into the Tom Cruise super-hero show. J.J. Abrams’ third installment was a big step back in the right direction, but even in that film I felt the team was too-quickly sidelined.
What a delight it is to report, then, that I think the latest installment, Ghost Protocol, is the strongest film in the series so far! I saw the film in huge, glorious IMAX, which is how I highly recommend that you see it as well. People are all atwitter about 3-D these days, but I think that seeing a film in IMAX represents a far more immersive experience than the often-distracting 3-D effects. (Although I did just see Martin Scorsese’s new film, Hugo, in wonderful 3-D — check back here on Wednesday for my full review). Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible film takes full advantage of the huge canvas that IMAX has to offer.
I’ve long-worshipped Brad Bird, from his work on The Simpsons to his amazing animated films The Iron Giant (GO SEE IT right now, you won’t regret it), The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is Mr. Bird’s live-action directorial debut, and it represents a triumphant announcement of an incredible talent.
The action in this film is phenomenal. Ghost Protocol is alive with action, from start-to-finish. This film MOVES. There are so many gleefully inventive set-pieces that I hardly know where to begin. There’s the opening break-out from a Russian prison, with the film’s playful withholding of the identity of the man being rescued. There’s the fiendishly clever way the IMF team infiltrates the Kremlin. (I LOVE the screen employed by Ethan and Benji in the hallway.) Then there’s the gangbusters sequence in which Ethan (Tom Cruise) is forced to scale the exterior of the tallest skyscraper in Dubai. In the trailers, I actually thought that scene looked rather silly. But in the film I found it to be a bravura sequence of phenomenal special effects and mounting tension. Here is where seeing the film in IMAX really pays off. There’s a terrific shot in which Ethan steps out of the window onto the side of the building. Suddenly the camera follows him out, and we the viewers are right there vertiginously hanging off the building right along with him. As the sequence escalates and things … [continued]
I’ve often enjoyed here, on the site, taking some time to watch or, in some cases, re-watch, a series of films by the same director. One of my very first blogs on the site was a look back at several of the films of David Mamet, and more recently I re-watched the last decade and-a-half of the films of Steven Spielberg (click here for my reviews of AI: Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, Catch Me if You Can, The Terminal, The War of the Worlds, and Munich) and took a look back at the first three films by director Terrence Malick (click here for my reviews of The Thin Red Line, Badlands, and Days of Heaven).
I’ve decided now to turn to a prolific director whose films are very well-known, and yet somehow I’ve only seen a few of them: Brian De Palma. Of his lengthy filmography, I’d only ever seen Scarface, The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes, and Mission to Mars. There are a ton of other famous films, directed by Mr. De Palma, that I’ve been meaning to see for years: Carrie, Blow Out, Casualties of War, Carlito’s Way, Femme Fatale, and more. So I was excited by the opportunity to finally check out those films. I was also intrigued by Mr. De Palma’s reputation, in that he seems to be a filmmaker who some love, while others loathe. Personally I didn’t yet have a strong opinion on Mr. De Palma, having seen so few of his films. That’s about to change.
I decided to start with one of Mr. De Palma’s most famous films, and the one I had been most wanting to finally check out: Carrie.
The film is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Sissy Spacek (just three years older than she was in Badlands) stars in what might be her most famous role as young Carrie White. Raised by her single mom, a religious fanatic (Piper Laurie, dialing the crazy all the way to eleven), Carrie has lived a sheltered life. Now, as a teenager, she is almost completely clueless as to the simple social realities of how to connect with the other kids at school, and in the movie’s still-shocking opening, Carrie is horrified when she has her first period in the school gym’s shower. Carrie has no idea what is happening to her, and in the film’s first step into weirdness, that traumatic incident provides the spark that ignites Carrie’s burgeoning telepathic powers.
The opening scene in the girls’ locker room encapsulates everything that works, and doesn’t work, about this film. Stephen King’s original idea, of taking the terror … [continued]
Here’s a run-down of some of the comic-books I’ve been reading lately:
The New 52 — Back in September, I gave my comments on the big DC Comics’ series-wide re-launch. A few months later, with several more issues of a number of the DC titles under my belt, my thoughts remain pretty much the same. This relaunch has certainly prompted me to sample several DC series I wasn’t reading before (Green Lantern, Batgirl, Catwoman, Stormwatch), so in that respect the publisher’s goals have been accomplished. But right now I don’t imagine myself sticking with 3 of the 4 series I just mentioned, after their initial story-lines have concluded (the exception being Green Lantern, which I’m really enjoying and am considering continuing with), so the bump in my monthly DC readership might not last. I still have mixed feelings on the new Superman, the character that has been the most changed by the relaunch (at least amongst the DC series that I’m currently reading). The young, jeans-wearing Superman in Grant Morrison’s Action Comics is pretty unrecognizable, and while I’m enjoying this new take on the icon, I would imagine that two years from now these rough edges are going to be sanded off to return us closer to the character we all knew. That might not be a bad thing, as while I’m enjoying Action, it really doesn’t feel like Superman. It is better, though, then the bland, colorless five-years-later version of the character seen currently in Superman. Geroge Perez is giving 1980′s Chris Claremont a run for his money in the words-per-square-inch department, and with nowhere near the panache. As for Batman, the character least changed by the relaunch, I again have mixed feelings. I’m enjoying all four Batman titles right now, each in their own way, but all of these stories feel like they would have been entirely in place in the “old” continuity. There have been a couple of references to the five-year-old history of super-hero activity that we’ve been told exists in this new DC Universe, but I just ignore those references because they are totally ridiculous in these Bat-books that seem to have kept ALL pre-existing Batman history, including the existence of at least three Robins. There was even a reference in one of the Bat-books to Bruce Wayne’s year away (when he was “dead” following the events of Final Crisis). So that means that in only FOUR years of activity, Batman had at least THREE Robins? Ludicrous, and best ignored altogether. Hence my mixed feelings — these Batman comics are all entertaining, but that is totally unconnected to (and, indeed, I might even say in spite of) the relaunch’s new continuity.
Frank … [continued]
Last week saw the release of teaser posters for two big super-hero movies coming out in Summer 2012, and they pretty powerfully indicate why I’m far more interested in one of these films than the other.
First is Christopher Nolan’s third (and apparently final) Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises:
What a powerful image. Obviously with Bane (the villain known for crippling Batman during the Knightfall story-line from the comics in the ’90s), the meaning behind the title The Dark Knight Rises begins to take shape. (Is Bats going to struggle to walk again after being broken by Bane?) Christopher Nolan is apparently swearing up and down that this movie represents his final Batman film, and I am really curious to see how much of a “last Batman story” this film is going to be. Just how finale is this finale going to be? I’m intrigued and very excited.
Then there’s this poster, for The Amazing Spider-Man:
It’s actually a pretty cool image, but that tag-line “The Untold Story” just bugs the hell out of me. No, it’s NOT an untold story. Spider-Man’s origin has been told countless times and countless ways, and we saw it really well done on film in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film less than a decade ago! I’m already annoyed enough that they’re rebooting this great franchise. This rather defensive tag-line just irritates me even more. Just tell a great new Spider-Man story! I don’t mind that there’s a whole new cast. Just go tell a great new Spidey story and I’ll be there. I don’t need to sit through another version of the origin story.
With Oscar-season upon us, and the end of the year approaching with blinding speed, I find that there are a TON of movies out or coming out in the near future that I really want to see:
Hugo: Martin Scorsese has directed a 3-D family fantasy adventure? I am really hoping that this will be the next film I see.
A Dangerous Method: I’ve read some bad reviews, but I am intrigued by the pairing of Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen (as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud).
The Artist: I adored the two OSS:117 French James Bond parody films that Jean Dujardin and director Michel Hazanavicius made (click here for my review of Cairo Nest of Spies, and here for my review of Lost in Rio), so I’m fascinated by the idea that they have now collaborated on a much more serious project: a black-and-white silent film telling the story of a 1920′s silent film actor.
Shame: Michael Fassbender again, in a film with Carey Mulligan about sex addiction that is getting a lot of notice.
The Sitter: The premise sounds painfully familiar — Jonah Hill stars as a lazy, profane babysitter tasked with taking care of three kids during one crazy night — but I so enjoyed director David Gordon Green’s last film, Your Highness (click here for my review) that I’m interested to see what he and Mr. Hill have created here.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Gary Oldman and a veritable who’s who of terrific British actors have me very excited on this adaptation of John le Carre’s spy novel. I’m really excited for this one.
Young Adult: Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman (the duo responsible for writing and directing, respectively, Juno) have put together this story of a woman trying to woo her high school sweetheart. Except that he’s already married and has a kid. Looks like mean-spirited fun.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Even though they’ve all disappointed me, one way or another, I love these Mission Impossible movies, and I’m really excited to see this latest installment, directed by Brad Bird (the man responsible for The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, three spectacularly great films).
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: I haven’t read the books, and I haven’t seen the original Swedish film adaptations. But I think David Fincher is a mad genius, and I’d be there buying a ticket to his next film even if they announced he was helming Breaking Dawn Part 2.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: Loved the first one. Excited for this one. Jared Harris (Mad Men) has been well-cast as Professor Moriarty, so I hope the character lives up … [continued]
Ok, so it took me a little longer than I’d anticipated to get to the next installment in my “Days of Terrence Malick” series, looking back at the films of this acclaimed director. Re-watching The Thin Red Line (read my review here) made me want to watch the two films that Mr. Malick made in the 1970′s: Badlands (read my review here) and Days of Heaven. Both films are considered masterpieces by many, and I was eager to finally see them.
In Days of Heaven, a young and very handsome Richard Gere plays Bill, a poor worker forced to flee his steel-mill job in Chicago after he knocks down his boss in a moment of anger. So he and his girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams) and young sister (Linda Manz) hop a train out of the city. The threesome eventually find themselves in the Texas panhandle, where they find work (along with hundreds of other migrant laborers) in the wheat fields of a wealthy farmer (Sam Shepard, who I’ll always associate with his role as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff). The farmer takes a liking to Abby, and Bill urges her to move in with him, so that the three of them can take advantage of the farmer’s wealth. Needless to say, things don’t turn out well for anyone involved.
There is very little dialogue in Days of Heaven. At times it feels like a silent movie, or a tone poem in which the beautiful imagery is called upon to carry the weight of the story. There are moments in Days of Heaven in which Mr. Malick is able to harness the awesome power of cinema to create some truly breathtaking moments, all the more notable for their near-total lack of dialogue or narrative exposition. There are long stretches in which the film lets the absolutely gorgeous shots of the rural Texas landscape carry the viewer along, and I found myself endlessly fascinated by the scenes showing the men and women hard at work harvesting wheat. Those moments have a poetic beauty that surprised me. Then, most notably, there is the sequence, late in the film, in which a fire spreads through the farmer’s wheat fields, eventually building to a mighty conflagration. The escalation of this sequence is incredible and terrifying, a bravura achievement.
And yet so much of the film feels to me as if Mr. Malick was purposely trying to make his film difficult to understand. I continually found myself struggling to understand the dynamics between the characters, or the simple set-ups of what was going on. Bill and Abby make a decision, in the early minutes of the film, to pretend that … [continued]
Check out this sneak peek at Game of Thrones season two! AARRGH, I can’t believe we have to wait until September! (But I’m intrigued by the rumor that seasons 3 and 4 will shoot back-to-back and will comprise a two-season adaptation of the third book, A Storm of Swords.)
Speaking of waiting, looks like Star Trek 2 (or whatever they’re gonna call it) finally has a release date: May 17, 2013. That’s a long four years after the 2009 release of the first (or eleventh, depending on how you’re counting) film (which was itself delayed from its originally scheduled release in December, 2008). Here’s hoping the film is good after such a long wait, and that Paramount can get the third (or thirteenth!) film rolling with a little less down-time…
While we’re on the subject of Star Trek, check out these fascinating early-draft versions of the famous “space… the final frontier” opening monologue.
I love Devin Faraci’s recent piece on the increasingly crazy Frank Miller. Click here to read The Devin’s Advocate: Frank Miler is an Asshole, but I Still Like His Work. I wholeheartedly agree.
Interesting the hear that David Simon feels that four seasons is his ideal length for Treme. God, I love that show. Season three is definitely happening, so I really hope HBO give sMr. Simon and his team their desired fourth and final season.
There’s a new trailer out for John Carter (of Mars). I wish I was more excited about this film. The trailer looks absolutely gorgeous, but I am really not loving the glimpses we’ve seen of Taylor Kirsch so far in the lead role. Maybe I am letting bad feelings from his appearing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (as Gambit) get to me. Or maybe it’s that Disney’s butchering of the title (it should be called John Carter OF MARS!!!) that has me uneasy. We’ll see. I’m crossing my fingers big-time on this one.
Speaking of movies coming out this spring, Joss Whedon’s film Cabin in the Woods looks like it’s finally, FINALLY getting released after sitting on the shelf for two years. Love the new poster. I don’t really know anything about this film other than the fact that Joss Whedon directed it, but that’s enough to get my butt in the theatre. (UPDATE: A trailer was just released and now that I’ve watched it I know MORE about this film than I wish I did!! BEWARE SPOILERS, and watch at your own peril.)
Last week I saw The Muppets and then The Descendants, in what has to be one of the weirdest double-features ever. I was really excited about The Muppets, and while I enjoyed that film (read my review here) I was surprised to end the evening having far preferred The Descendants!
The whole world seems to have gone ga-ga over Sideways, Alexander Payne’s last film (which was released all the way back in 2004, wow). I really enjoyed that film, and it deserves credit for showing the whole world how great Paul Giamatti is, but I’m going to say that I found The Descendants to be a stronger film over-all.
George Clooney plays Matt King, a well-off real-estate lawyer living in Hawaii. He describes himself at the start of the film as “the back-up parent,” but he’s forced out of that comfortable-to-him role when his wife falls into an irreversible coma following a boating accident. Matt suddenly finds himself the primary care-giver for his two daughters, the teen-aged Alex (Shailene Woodley) and the ten-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller). In the process of traveling around the Hawaiian islands to tell friends and family about his wife’s condition, things become even more complicated when Alex reveals to Matt a secret about his wife (her mom) which all the trailers for the film spoiled but which I’ll avoid revealing here.
The above paragraph isn’t really a description of the plot of the film. Well, it sort of is. But it’s more like the framework around and within which the events of the film — mostly a series of moments in the lives of this threesome — transpire. Not a whole heck of a lot happens in The Descendants, and that’s part of the film’s charm. Things seem to unfold at a slightly laid-back, Hawaiian pace. There is some learning and some growing, but I felt the film stayed pretty far away from schmaltz, and the character arcs felt earned, rather than just being driven by what Hollywood Screenwriting 101 might think is necessary.
OK, maybe I’m overstating things to say that not a whole heck of a lot happens in The Descendants. It’s interesting to compare this film to Like Crazy, which I reviewed last week. Now THERE’S a film where not a whole heck of a lot happens! Compared to Like Crazy, a movie that strove for often-times painful naturalism, The Descendants is incredibly dense with plot. And I will admit that there is quite a lot of drama that befalls George Clooney’s character in the week-or-so depicted in the film, perhaps more than would realistically befall you or me, even in one of our most tumultuous weeks. But … [continued]