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Jul 1, 2011

LAFilmFest 2011 Coverage Roundup

The LA Film Fest has wrapped up downtown – good thing because I’m pretty sick of Stella Artois. Here are the links to all my coverage of the fest at Twitch

LAFF 2011: A Chat with LAFF’s David Ansen and Doug Jones – My interview with the festival’s top two programmers.

LAFF 2011 Preview: The Low Down on What’s Up Downtown – My full preview – full text also after the jump.

Review: Linklater’s BERNIE is a Funny Mess

Review: Refn’s DRIVE is the No Nonsense Action Film You’ve Been Waiting For

LAFF 2011: Opening Weekend Wrap on a Raucous LAFilmFest – From Drive to drag queens, my thoughts on the fest’s opening weekend include details of the screenwriter and director panels.

Review: SENNA is This Year’s Most Exciting Doc

Review: NATURAL SELECTION is Indie Gold

LAFF 2011 – Narrative Feature Competition Wrap – Mini-Reviews of An Ordinary Family, Mamitas, How to Cheat, and The Dynamiter.

LAFF 2011 – Documentary Feature Competition Wrap – Mini-Reviews of Paraiso for Sale, Somewhere Between, Once I was Champion, and Unraveled.

LAFF 2011: Final Wrap on The Beyond and Fantastic Films of LAFilmFest – Mini-Reviews of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, The Innkeepers, Entrance, Karate Robo Zaborgar, Eternity, and Attack the Block.

Full text of Preview here

Posted by enderzero at 3:27pm on Jul. 1, 2011    
Jun 9, 2011

Bijou Phillips Gets Bloody in Broken Social Scene Vid

No it’s not a feature or even a TV pilot, but it’s still pretty fun to watch Bijou Phillips tear into her lover with an axe in this gory video for Broken Social Scene‘s “Sweetest Kill.” I’ve had a sweet spot for her since James Toback’s criminally under-seen Black & White (“I was at the libary”) so it’s at least nice to see she’s still alive. The video is directed by up and coming director Claire Edmondson who also directed this very NSFW video for the band Austra. Put these two videos together and we might have a TV pilot after all.

Posted by enderzero at 9:53pm on Jun. 9, 2011    
May 31, 2011

Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo “Leak” Might Be Trailer of the Year

It looks pretty clear now that Sony was behind the “Cam Job” leak of the “International Version” red band trailer for David Fincher’s upcoming The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is a great marketing stunt and one we haven’t seen yet, though the real star of the show is the awesome trailer cut to the incredible rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song by Karen O and Trent Reznor. Yessss I cannot wait for that album and movie looks pretty damn badass too.

Discussion of the trailer rages on at Movies.com and there is a lively conversation about how this “Feel Bad Movie of Christmas” isn’t needed (which I whole heartedly disagree with) at Twitch.

Posted by enderzero at 12:40pm on May. 31, 2011    
May 20, 2011

SIFF 2011 Guide is Live on Twitch

My crazy in depth guide to this year’s Seattle International Film Fest is up now on Twitch.

LINK

(Or read it after the jump)

Posted by enderzero at 12:54pm on May. 20, 2011    
May 11, 2011

enderzero.net Film Coverage Moving to Twitch

Exciting news in enderzero.net land. As of this month, I will be taking on a larger role at the my favorite film website TWITCH.

I’ll be expanding my festival coverage you are used to seeing here with previews, reviews, and coverage of all the top film festivals — as well as following the most interesting movies as they make their way to a theater near you. The mandate it to expand the Twitch audience with coverage of a more mainstream indie film world. What does that mean? Help me to define it. Films that I love and want to share. Films you want to keep an eye out for. Films you might have missed and need to check out. It’s a very exciting opportunity and I’d love your input to help shape the coverage towards the kind of articles you know you don’t want to miss.

To start things off, check out my Twitchfilm.com Cannes 2011 Preview.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and SEE YOU AT TWITCH!

Posted by enderzero at 3:22pm on May. 11, 2011    
May 10, 2011

Cannes 2011 Guide is Live on Twitch

My Guide to this year’s Cannes Film Festival is live now on Twitch.

LINK

(Or read it after the jump)

Posted by enderzero at 6:15pm on May. 10, 2011    
May 5, 2011

After McKee’s Story Seminar – 15 To See/Read

I had the great pleasure of attending Robert McKee’s Story Seminar this past weekend – four super intensive days of lecture by story master Robert McKee. No joke, this man is a pro (you may remember him from as the role Brian Cox portrayed in Adaptation. The seminar wasn’t about how to sell your script in Hollywood or how to put this event on that page – it was about the fundamentals of story and why the audience feels emotions when certain events take place. I highly recommend anyone interested in screenwriting or any narrative art at the very least read his book and seriously consider taking his seminar if you get a chance.

Now, for the sake of my memory (and entertainment), here is my list of 15 movies to see or books to read coming out of the seminar:

1. Ju Dou – Gong Li stars in this 1990 film by Zhang Yimou that (for me) somehow slipped through the cracks. IMDB | Amazon

2. Week End – This hard to find 1967 offering by Godard is used by McKee to exemplify some odd characteristics of anti-plot. IMDB | Amazon

3. The Fisher King – I’m embarrassed to have never seen this 1991 Terry Gilliam classic that stars Jeff Bridges. IMDB | Amazon

4. The Big Chill – After landing his first job rewriting The Empire Strikes Back, Larry Kasdan went on to write Raiders of the Lost Ark, Body Heat and Return of the Jedi before penning this film widely considered his finest work. IMDB | Amazon

5. The Verdict – Paul Newman stars in this 1982 courtroom drama directed by Lumet and penned by Mamet. IMDB | Amazon

6. Tender Mercies – Horton Foote’s screenplay for this 1983 Robert Duvall starrer wins the award for most discussed script by McKee (after Casablanca). IMDB | Amazon

7. Carnal Knowledge – I had sadly never even heard of this 1971 Mike Nichols film starring Nick Nicholson that earned Ann-Margret a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nom. IMDB | Amazon

8. The Ragman’s Son – After penning this highly respected autobiography, Kirk Douglas turned to Robert McKee to give him the knowledge of story needed to continue his new career as a novelist… at age 73! Amazon

9. Leaving Las Vegas – The only film on the list I have previously seen, Mike Figgis’s 1995 masterpiece deserves a rewatch for the ways it uses characters around the protagonist to drive the story forward even though Cage’s character’s desires never change. IMDB | Amazon

10. Kramer vs. Kramer – Robert Benton’s 1979 Best Picture winner is used over and over by McKee to exemplify character motivation and story structure. IMDB | Amazon

11. Ordinary People – Robert Redford’s directorial debut was this 1980 film which McKee examines in great detail for its use of overlapping plots. IMDB | Amazon

12. The Art of Fiction – Henry James’s collected thoughts on writing. Amazon

13. The In-Laws – Peter Falk and Alan Arkin star in this 1979 action-comedy about two soon to be in-laws rushing off to Central America to save the International Financial System. IMDB | Amazon

14. Alice – This 2005 Portuguese film by Marco Martins comes highly recommended by McKee. IMDB | Amazon

15. Beat the Devil – John Huston’s 1953 film based on Truman Capote’s script stars Bogart in yet another towering performance. IMDB | Amazon

One final quick shout out for a book that has influenced me greatly (as many of you know). I’ll continue to read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art all through my life. McKee actually wrote the book’s forward and recommends it just as whole heartedly as I do. If you are looking for inspiration to put behind you all life’s distractions and focus on what you really want to do, read this book! Amazon

Posted by enderzero at 11:40am on May. 5, 2011    
Apr 14, 2011

Tribeca Film Festival ’11 Preview

Dropping on the Isle of Manhattan on 4/20 is the 10th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival. This is the hippest of New York’s chance to see some of the best of the past few fests and, as demonstrated by this program, catch the premieres of a whole hell of a lot of new films. Here is a look at what caught my eye.


EVERYTHING MUST GO
Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, and Laura Dern star in Dan Rush’s feature debut about one man’s epic breakdown.

DETACHMENT
Tony Kaye has directed four films since 1998’s American History X but all have failed to really break through. Maybe this film which stars Adrien Brody as an influential substitute teacher will finally bring out the audiences.

A GOOD OLD FASHIONED ORGY
Jason Sudeikis stars along with Will Forte and Nick Kroll in Peter Huyck and Alex Gregory’s debut feature about, well…

THE BANG BANG CLUB
Ryan Phillippe stars in Steven Silver’s dramatization of a group of photographers risking their lives during the violence of the first elections of post-Apartheid South Africa. The film opens concurrently in LA at Laemmle’s Sunset 5.


LIMELIGHT
Billy Corban tackled the Miami drug world in his 2006 docu Cocaine Cowboys. Here he turns his attention to the destination of all the smuggled coke – the 1980s New York club scene. The film particularly focuses on the rise and fall of now deported club owner Peter Gatien against the backdrop of a maturing Manhattan.

REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR
Chris Paine is back with a follow up to his hit 2006 docu Who Killed the Electric Car. Keep an eye out for his 2014 doc, The Electric Car: Refueled!

CATCHING HELL
Alex Gibney’s second film this year (after Sundance Kesey doc Magic Trip) is an ESPN 30 for 30 that focuses on the Steve Bartman and the Chicago Cubs inability to ever, ever win a World Series.

THE UNION
Cameron Crowe’s first film since the 2005 bomb Elizabethtown is a documentary about the collaboration between Elton John and Leon Russel. The film is being shown for free as the opening night gala with a concert afterwards by Elton John.


UNDERWATER LOVE
Take a Japanese softcore porn musical monster movie and put long time favorite cinematographer Christopher Doyle behind the lens and you have what might be the most outrageous sounding arthouse film of the year. I can’t wait.

LET THE BULLETS FLY
Last year it was Fang Xiaogang’s heart heavy Aftershock that was touted as China’s highest domestic grossing film of all time. It seems we might be seeing that every year now as China’s domestic market continues to grow. This year the new honor belongs to actor/director Jiang Wen’s (Warriors of Heaven and Earth) 1920s comic Western. The film stars Wen alongside Chow-Yun Fat and none other than Fang Xiaogang.

DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME
Tsui Hark may be one of the most famous HK action directors of all time, but the title of his latest film sounds like a Harry Potter reject. The “fantastical steampunk version of ancient China” might help bring out an audience from Williamsburg.

NEON FLESH
If this high octane action crime thriller ends up as good as the trailer suggests, people might just start calling director Paco Cabezas the Spanish Guy Ritchie. [However it appears that may not be the case.]


JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI
For the love of the fish! This competition documentary about an 85 year-old sushi master looks to be some seriously raw food porn.

FIRE IN BABYLON
Call this the most exciting cricket documentary of the year. Stevan Riley’s film explores the wildly successful West Indies team who dominated the sport through the national liberation and Black Power movements of the 70s and 80s that saw the international press represent the team as brutal terrorists.

SPLINTERS
This incredible looking doc from first time director Adam Pesce takes you behind the scenes with the contestants in the inaugural Papua New Guinea surf championship. Check out the trailer and you’ll probably want to add this one to your list.

THE JOURNALS OF MUSAN
This interesting looking doc by first-timer Jungbum Park follows a North Korean defector as he tries to make a life on the streets of Seoul.

MARATHON BOY
This docu screening in competition follows the story of a four year-old boy as he is groomed to become India’s greatest marathon runner.

BOMBAY BEACH
From the looks of this competition doc’s trailer, this verite exploration of the communities struggling to survive along Southern California’s Salton Sea is going to be stunning.

SHAKESPEARE HIGH
Alex Rotaru’s docu lets us watch as a bunch of high school drama nerds try to put their tumultuous pasts behind them to fight for the crown of biggest drama nerds in Southern California

A MATTER OF TASTE
This SXSW holdover docu by first timer Sally Rowe follows haute cuisine chef Paul Liebrandt as he fights to regain a place in New York’s cooking elite.

TALIHINA SKY: THE STORY OF KINGS OF LEON
Kings of Leon get a bad rap for being radio friendly but from the looks of this docu’s trailer, the story of three brothers and cousin that break free of a heavy religious upbringing as evangelical gypsies to become rock stars might just make a worthwhile film.

THE SWELL SEASON
This docu tracks real life stars of Once Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard as they navigate love, music and fame after the release of their hit film.

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
There isn’t much info out there on Panos Cosmatos, but from the looks of the trailer for his directorial debut, he’s got a lot of style. Set in a dystopian 1983, the film “is a Reagan-era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies and Saturday morning cartoons.” Sign me up.

BLACKTHORN
Abre Los Ojos, Vanilla Sky and The Sea Inside screenwriter Mateo Gil’s second directorial feature stars Sam Shepard as an elder Butch Cassidy adventuring in 1920s Bolivia.

LAST NIGHT
Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington star in this New York City romantic drama that premieres at the fest before opening from Miramax on May 5th.

THE ROADIE
Michael Cuesta made a splash in 2001 with his controversial ultra indie L.I.E. which marked the arrival of Paul Dano and won both Cuesta and Dano Indie Spirits. Cuesta returns to features after much success directing for cable (Six Feet Under, Dexter, True Blood) with this film about a roadie returning home after 20 years touring with Blue Oyster Cult. The film stars Ron Eldard and co-stars new fave Bobby Cannavale (Win Win).

THE TRIP
Michael Winterbottom has compressed his 6 part BBC mini-series following Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon around the English countryside down to a more palatable 100 minute feature for us easily distracted yanks.

TREATMENT
Mumblecore stalwarts Sean Nelson and Steven Schardt team up to co-direct their first feature which is probably about some sort of mundane part of real life with an ironic twist (just guessing). The film co-stars mumblecore stalwarts Josh Leonard, Ross Partridge, Katie Aselton, and the not so stalwart John Hodgman.

Other festival circuit notables making a repeat performance at Tribeca include Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground, and Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle Sundance fave The Guard.

Posted by enderzero at 6:13pm on Apr. 14, 2011    
Apr 12, 2011

A Very Late Wrap on SXSW’11

It’s been a number of weeks now since the yanks went back to New York City (say like the old Pace Picante commercials) and the streets of Austin have surely been turned back over to the masses of long horns lookin to hook it up by now. But that just gives us plenty of perspective to look back now at the films that caused a stir at the hippest fest of the year.


NATURAL SELECTION
Without a doubt, the big hit of the competition was old pal Robbie Pickering’s Rachael Harris starring middle-aged road tripper. The film picked up the awards for Best Narrative Feature, Best Editing, Best Score/Music, Best Screenplay, two Best Breakthrough Perfomrances, and the Audience Award for narrative feature. Jeeez. Huge congrats to Robbie! I can’t wait to see it.


ATTACK THE BLOCK
The other movie out of SXSW that I am most looking forward to seeing is Joe Cornish’s London hoodlum alien invasion comedy. Critics were in love with this midnighter and twitter has been awash with controversy on whether or not subtitles for the thick English accents will be necessary for us slow hearin American audiences.


DRAGONSLAYER
Tristan Patterson’s docu about some skateboarder kids in Fullerton, CA won both jury awards for Best Documentary and Best Cinematography. The trailer linked above definitely does look pretty.


CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP
Rodman Flender goes behind the scenes of Conan’s 32-city comedy tour to paint an intimate portrait of one of today’s most beloved celebrities. The film was picked up in a hybrid distribution deal by AT&T which will see it released later this year in some form of theatrical (Abramorama) & VOD/home video (Magnolia) as well as an obvious U-Verse exclusive run yet to be determined.


BEGINNERS
Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurnet, and Christopher Plummer star in Mike Mills’s first narrative feature since 2005’s Thumbsucker. Focus bought the film at last year’s Toronto Fest and it is expected to hit theaters in limited release the first week of June.


DETENTION
Music video director Joseph Kahn’s feature debut is a teen slasher comedy that received mixed marks at the fest.


BELLFLOWER
Evan Glodell’s feature debut is a wild a ride through a post-apocalptic-ish southland that didn’t quite break through at Sundance but killed at Southby. The film was sold to Oscilloscope by the handsome team at CAA and should make its way to theaters in late summer.


ARMADILLO
Janus Metz’s Danish Afghan War Docu won the grand prize at last year’s Cannes International Critics’ Week and has been called by some the Danish Restrepo.


A MATTER OF TASTE
This competition docu takes a trip inside the haute cuisine kitchen of Paul Liebrandt as he struggles to regain his title of New York’s next hot chef.


THE SOUND OF MY VOICE
Brit Marling’s other Sundance film (as opposed to Another Earth) has gained a lot of popularity since that fest and that train hit SXSW at high speed. Directed by Zal Batmanglij, the film takes you into the crazy world of a San Fernando Valley cult.


BRIDESMAIDS
The of buzz over this Apatow produced Kristen Wiig maid-of-honor comedy was around whether it was indeed a “work in progress.” But when director Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks) announced it was the final cut, the buzz switched to disappointment from the assembled critics that the film wouldn’t be getting any better. Look for it to be released by Universal on May 13.


THE INNKEEPERS
Ti West’s follow up to 2008’s The House of the Devil is a haunted inn comic-horror that Gabe Toro of The Playlist compared to Scooby Doo.


UNDEFEATED
This verite doc by Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin focuses on an inner city Memphis high school football team as they attempt to win their first playoff game in 110 years. The movie was bought by the Weinstein Company.


FLY AWAY
A final quick shout for Janet Grillo’s competition film Fly Away. I couldn’t quite get through the trailer, but my boy Matty was the APOC so here it is.

There were also a whole host of festival holdovers that played as part of the Festival Favorites or other programs. Some notables included NYT Doc Page One: Inside the New York Times, Steve James’s Chicago crime doc The Interrupters, Oscar nom’d French-Canadian fave Incendies, and everyone’s favorite Rutger Hauer as a hobo film, Hobo with a Shotgun.

Posted by enderzero at 4:36pm on Apr. 12, 2011    
Mar 24, 2011

Keira Knightley’s best role? Joe Wright’s new Coco Mademoiselle spot

Pride & Prejudice/Atonement director Joe Wright’s new spot for Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle stars Keira Knightley as a sultry biker babe in what might just be her best role to date. Good timing as Wright is set to release his first action pic Hanna due out next month. Gotta love what Chanel is doing putting together big stars and big directors in their commercials. Hey if you’ve got the budget…

Posted by enderzero at 9:53am on Mar. 24, 2011    
Mar 16, 2011

Very Cool Film Art by Justin Van Genderen

Really digging this art by Justin Van Genderen. Other faves include his Metropolis poster, and Cosmonaut series.

Check out his Imagekind gallery and a lot more on his site and flickr.

thx Grant

Posted by enderzero at 10:54am on Mar. 16, 2011    
Feb 3, 2011

Sundance’11 in Review

Sundance has once again proved to be the most fun you can have in Utah. Between seeing a whole ton of movies, hanging with friends, shredding Rocky Mountain powder, and meeting new cool people, there was simply no time for sleep. I caught 25 Fest Films as well as a very cool short film directed by Lou Reed who ended up sitting right in front of me for the Q&A (photo). My full festival wrap is up at Twitch, but here is the list of everything I saw (in order viewed) with my twitter blurb and a few quick thoughts:

THE OFF HOURS – Next – Rating: 4 out of 10

I wasn’t a huge fan of Megan Griffith’s truck stop romance filmed in Burien, WA. Amy Seimetz is likable enough as bored waitress Francine, but her story just isn’t interesting enough to get too invested in. This super indie will find its fans in people who appreciate the honest script – but ultimately it falls just a bit too flat.

THE LIE – Next – Rating: 5 out of 10

“The Lie is a superbly edited performance driven indie, steeped in Silverlake love.”
The premise of Blair Witch and Humpday star Joshua Leonard’s feature directorial debut is that a dude (Leonard) tells his co-workers that his child has died in order to get out of work. Not a bad concept but it seemed the writers were afraid to ever really commit to it. Instead this very indie dramedy becomes a little too caught up in the dude’s general malaise. It isn’t bad movie, it just never quite went where I wanted it to. That being said, I was a huge fan of all the Silverlake love it shows.

PROJECT NIM – World Docu Comp – Rating: 6 out of 10

“Project Nim is not a feel good movie – but it is an inciteful doc with as many revelations about humans as about chimps.”
James Marsh’s 2008 doc Man on Wire managed the impressive feat of being both a documentary and a heist movie. It was an incredible story and most importantly, it was fun. While Project Nim is a very accomplished doc, it is not very fun. The story centers around a researcher who tries to determine if chimpanzees learn to communicate the same way humans do (but with sign language). To do this, he places a baby chimp in a human home and basically treats it like a human. Where the story takes a rough turn is when the chimp turns five and the project ends, starting the odyssey that is the reintroduction of a chimp that thinks he’s a human to chimp society. It is interesting, no doubt, but at times just too terribly depressing.

THE NINE MUSES – New Frontiers – Rating: 3 out of 10

I’m sure there are some people who will really appreciate John Akomfrah’s lyrical imagery and experimental editing – but the complete lack of narrative was just too difficult for me to get on board with and I couldn’t connect to the film at all. This is more art than movie.

MARGIN CALL – Premieres – Rating: 7 of 10

“Margin Call is a very contained financial thriller buoyed by extremely strong performances by the entire cast.”
I didn’t expect a whole lot from J.C. Chandor’s financial thriller, mostly due to Kevin Spacey’s weak performance in Casino Jack and my assumption that this film would be pretty similar. I was wrong – this is Spacey’s best role in years. The film takes place in the roughly 24 hours right before an investment bank brings down Wall Street and is meant to be a fictionalization of the 2008 crisis. How much of the story is accurate is anyone’s guess, but the film does an excellent job of dramatizing such an event. The key to the film’s success is in the performances by Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, and even Demi Moore. While it threatens to get a bit claustrophobic at times, the cast and topical subject matter should equal some box office and potentially awards season success.

MAGIC TRIP – Docu Premieres – Rating: 8 out of 10

“Magic Trip is a must see for fans of Kesey, Cassady, and all merry pranksters. Gibney masterfully docus the birth of 60s counter culture.”
Alex Gibney has made some of the best docs of the last decade (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, etc. etc.). Here he turns his attention to the incredible story of Ken Kesey and his magical, LSD-infused bus trip across the US in 1964. The film is made almost entirely of footage shot by the Merry Pranksters on their trip and then never edited into anything sensible (I guess they were busy). This is a treasure trove of footage of a cranked up Neal Cassady driving the bus and jabbering away, a 22 year old Jerry Garcia strumming his guitar on top of the bus, and Kesey – one of the most brilliant men of his generation. This is the origin story of the 1960s counter culture and a MUST SEE for anyone remotely interested in the subject.

SUBMARINE – Spotlight – Rating: 7 out of 10

“Submarine is a very funny British coming-of-ager at its best during its extremely clever self-referential moments.”
With a charming cast led by Craig Roberts as young Oliver Tate, Submarine is very smart and fun coming-of-age story. Oliver lives in Wales with his neurotic parents played by Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor. The return of an old boyfriend of his mother’s (Paddy Considine) coincides with Oliver snagging his first girlfriend of his own and the challenge of balancing all the new aspects of his life provide the ample subject matter for laughs. Wacky and clever writing and hilarious self referential moments as subtle as Oliver flicking his eyes at the audience make this a really enjoyable discovery.

ON THE ICE – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 7 out of 10

“On The Ice is an engaging crime thriller, similar to Winters Bone the way it takes u deep into a world you’ve never experienced.”
Andrew Okphea MacLean’s directorial debut is a very impressive look inside the world of Alaskan native teens living way above the arctic circle. Shot in MacLean’s hometown of Barrow, Alaska, the film succeeds because the lives of these self styled “arctic thugs” are really interesting. I got a chance to spend a good amount of time with the two stars Josiah Patkotak and Frank Qutuq Irelan. They were very cool guys and it was great to see how much they were appreciating the experience (although true to character 16-year old Josiah had to head back early to his grandma). When I asked Frank if he had hopes of continuing acting, his answer was a very pragmatic, “Maybe – it depends if I get paid.”
Read my full review of On the Ice @ Twitch

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN – Park City at Midnight – Rating 7 of 10

“Hobo With a Shotgun more than delivers on everything it promises. Blood, guts, gore, & ridiculous laughs. Full commitment.”
I’ve been a big fan of the grindhouse resurgence. Planet Terror, Hell Ride and Machete proved you could make great movies by taking a ridiculous premise and hamming it out – as long as you had good acting. Hobo with a Shotgun is this turned up to 11. If you are a fan of restraint, then do not go near this film. But if you enjoy cheesy technicolor blood and guts squirting from every conceivable orifice, you’ll surely love this movie.
Read my full review of Hobo with a Shotgun @ Twitch

WIN WIN – Premieres – Rating: 9 out of 10

“Win Win is a superbly acted family/sports drama. Another huge success for T. McCarthy – one of the best directors working today.”
Tom McCarthy’s previous films The Station Agent and The Visitor were such successes due to his extraordinary ability to reveal the heartwarming humanity of his characters. This is very much the case in his third film about a small town lawyer-slash-high school wrestling coach who takes in a troubled teen, just as his own life is hitting a difficult patch. McCarthy gets the very best out of his actors – and when you’ve got pros like Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan in the lead roles, that is saying a lot. Bobby Canavale and Jeffrey Tambor co-star and turn in hilarious performances as well. This is a little movie with a big heart, executed to perfection by one of the best directors in the biz.

KNUCKLE – World Docu Comp – Rating: 5 out of 10

“Knuckle explores feuding families in Ireland. While entertaining at times, the story ultimately isn’t all that interesting.”
I was very surprised to hear that the remake rights to this feuding family doc had been picked up at the festival. The problem with the film is that the story of the two families – who have settled their differences over the generations by engaging in highly regulated fights – is really pretty boring. There is nothing to remake. You would be better off just taking that premise and writing your own original story about people who fight each other. Throw in some infidelity and some crime and you might get something worth watching. Unfortunately, as a documentary, Ian Palmer’s film simply has nothing to say. It is unclear if we are supposed to think this is a barbaric way to settle long running problems or to applaud the families for not letting things get violent outside the ring. I frankly didn’t care.

LIKE CRAZY – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 9 out of 10

“Like Crazy is a more hopeful Blue Valentine – an incredibly honest look at love and distance. It is a MUST SEE.”
Drake Doremus’s love story cemented itself as the most buzzworthy film of the fest when it took home the top dog Dramatic Grand Jury Prize (last two winners: Winter’s Bone & Precious). But Park City was going nuts for this film long before last Saturday’s awards and its sale to big distributor Paramount for $4M was the first sign that things were looking very good on the biz side of the festival. The film is worth all the hype. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones turn in very mature performances as the young lovers separated by an ocean of bureaucracy (and a real ocean). It tugs at your heart strings but you never felt manipulated. Admittedly, I am a sucker for a love story done well and this one is done very well. You’ll be hearing plenty more about this one soon.

THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM – Park City at Midnight – Rating 5 out of 10

“The Catechism Cataclysm is a surreal adventure down a wacky winding river that has very little to do with Jesus. Bravo!”
Todd Rohal’s bizarre comedy is basically a showcase for Steve Little (Eastbound & Down) to do his thing. If you are into his thing, there is a lot to like here. I wasn’t completely on board but I did have a few healthy chuckles. What I didn’t understand was why Little’s character was a Catholic priest. This and a few other odd decisions made it tough for me to become a real fan.

MY IDIOT BROTHER – Premieres – Rating: 7 out of 10

“My Idiot Brother is a very commercial comedy with some pretty funny moments. The impressive ensemble should get butts in seats.”
Paul Rudd stars as the very likable Ned in Jesse Peretz’s well executed commercial comedy. Ned is just trying to keep on L-I-V-I-N (and get his dog back) but every interaction with his sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer) seems to get him in trouble. The cast is excellent and co-stars Steve Coogan, Rashida Jones, and Adam “Are we having fun yet?” Scott all hit it out of the park. There is a lot to like about the movie (although I can see why some critics have suggested it is rooted in a bit of misogyny) and it will surely be rewarded at the box office.

THE INTERRUPTERS – Docu Premieres – Rating: 9 out of 10

“The Interrupters’ is a brilliant & incredibly inspirational doc about people doing good. The only way to stop violence is to try.”
Clocking in at over 2 and 1/2 hours, some moviegoers weren’t willing to commit the time to Steve James’s (Hoop Dreams) doc about crime interrupters on the South Side of Chicago. That is too bad as the film was surely one of the best docs of the fest. The subjects, all ex-criminals who have devoted their lives to trying to stop young kids from killing each other, are some of the most compelling characters I’ve ever seen. It is easy to see why the kids on the street pay so much respect to people like the particularly charismatic Ameena. There is no answer in this film other than try to keep doing your best – but the end result is a very emotional journey along with some people doing just that.

CEDAR RAPIDS – Premieres – Rating: 7 out of 10

“Cedar Rapids is very funny once it finally hits its stride about halfway thru & commits to its wackiness.”
Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, and Anne Heche star as insurance agents gone wild at the big annual convention in this broad comedy from Miguel Arteta. There is a somewhat necessary plot about Ed Helms (playing Ed Helms) trying to win an award to keep his insurance agency open or something but it really isn’t important. The movie gets really enjoyable once Arteta gets away from the plot about half way through and really let’s things go off the rails. Ed Helms smoking crack and getting in fights is much funnier than Ed Helms nervous about getting ketchup on his pocket protector.

THE SON OF NO ONE – Premieres – Rating: 2 out of 10

“Son of No One is a real mess. Baffling character motivations & one of the worst endings I’ve seen. Big slump for Dito.”
One of my favorite parts of this year’s Sundance was following the drama over the Press & Industry screening of The Son of No One. The movie is awful and I’ve spent enough time talking about how bad it is and how little sense it makes and how amazing the awful ending is. But the controversy over exactly how many people walked out of the screening (a lot – but a lot of people walk out of decent movies too) and the ridiculously defensive reaction by the sales agent who said the lights turned on ten minutes before the film ended (they didn’t) has been hilarious. When the film finally premiered to the public on Friday, it found a bit more positive response – but it will be very interesting to see if the movie ever makes it to release. Maybe Katie Holmes will buy it and distribute it herself.

VAMPIRE – World Dramatic Comp – Rating: 6 out of 10

“Vampire is an obscure & original love story. A few very odd artistic decisions – some work, some don’t – but certainly bold.”
I am a big fan of Shunji Iwai’s Japanese films Swallowtail Butterfly and All About Lily Chou-Chou and therefore was looking forward to his English language debut with a fair amount of anticipation. The result is a very different horror movie about a compassionate killer who helps people end their lives and then drinks their blood. It starts out slow and makes some awful missteps (turning the camera on its side sent people out of the theater a full row at a time) but the final product is a very artistic and interesting film with some truly beautiful moments.
Read my full review of Vampire @ Twitch

I MELT WITH YOU – Premieres – Rating: 6 out of 10

“I Melt With You is the most intense midlife crisis ever. Great cast. Beautiful photography. Amazing music. Weird movie.”
I wasn’t exaggerating when I called this a weird movie and I wasn’t at all expecting the experience I got when I walked into the theater. Mark Pellington has a very impressive resume between his features (Arlington Road) and his music videos (U2, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains) but he was hopped up on some crazy pills for this one. Crazy pills are actually a big part of the plot in this movie which is basically about Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, and Christian McKay on a crazy drug-fueled mid life crisis gone terribly wrong. The movie takes a big twist about two-thirds through and at the time I was very against it – but looking back, I am kinda glad it took me where it did. It’s a tough one, but ultimately it is pretty impressive.

THE DETAILS – Premieres – Rating 6 out of 10

“The Details is a black comedy. Like black as night. Tobey Maguire just didn’t work for me but Laura Linney is an absolute riot!”
Tobey Maguire stars in Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek) super black comedy about a dude who keeps making bad decisions. This movie goes just as wacky as I Melt With You, but it does so with enough humor to save you from a brain aneurysm. Unfortunately Tobey Maguire just isn’t a good enough actor to pull it off – though Laura Linney as the neurotic neighbor who blackmails him into oral sex is funny enough to almost save it.

ANOTHER EARTH – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 4 out of 10

“Another Earth is an uneven redemption story with too many plot problems to overlook.”
Sundance it-girl Brit Marling co-wrote, produced and stars in one of the most buzzed over films of the fest (it won the Special Jury Prize, Alfred P. Sloan science award, and scored a major deal with Fox Searchlight). I know I’m in the minority on this one but I was horribly unimpressed with the film. Marling is obviously a talent but the plot has more problems than the middle east and the attempt at a scientific explanation for the second earth is laughable. I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why we have so much trouble talking to the other planet. We had radio contact with astronauts on the moon in the 1960s – are you really telling me with all our satellites and communications technology we can’t just pull up FaceTime on our iPhones with another planet that’s right over there (they have all the same technology afterall). I hear you saying, “but it isn’t about the science, it’s about the love story.” Yeah, fine, but the love story sucked too.

HOMEWORK – US Dramatic Comp – Rating: 6 out of 10

“Homework treads familiar territory of the outcast kid who the pretty girl falls for. However it avoids cliches and is enjoyable.”
We’ve all seen the story about the loser kid that no one likes that inexplicably hooks up with the prettiest girl in school. There are obviously a lot of directors and screenwriters living out adolescent fantasies in Hollywood. Gavin Wiesen’s directorial debut is pretty much that exactly – but it is that done pretty damn well. A big part of the success is due to young British actor Freddie Highmore who plays a vulnerable yet somehow confident outcast. Emma Roberts is okay as the object of his affection – but she is short of memorable. Wiesen does manage to avoid a lot of cliches and it is kind of fun to see all these high school kids drinking at bars in Manhattan. It’s a decent movie that is worth a watch but won’t likely make much noise – and it is definitely no The Wackness.

PERFECT SENSE – Premieres – Rating: 8 out of 10

“Perfect Sense is a love story that completely commits to its very high concept. A lot to like – though maybe not for everyone.”
Ewan McGregor and Eva Green star in David Mackenzie’s romantic thriller about a world where everyone is losing their senses. It is a very bold concept but Mackenzie commits fully and what results is a highly polished and excellent film. This was one of my surprise faves of the fest.
Read my full review of Perfect Sense @ Twitch

ELITE SQUAD 2 – Spotlight – Rating: 8 of 10

“Elite Squad 2 is a truly awesome Brazilian actioner. Padilha went more political than the 1st = less action – but def a success.”
Jose Padilha’s Elite Squad showed that you could make a very smart shooter without giving up any of the action. His follow-up focuses more on the political side of things in the Rio police force – but it is every bit as impressive. The fact he was able to pull off such a polished product for under $9M is even more of a feat. I’ll be shocked if Hollywood doesn’t shell out some big bucks to get Padilha behind the camera of a big studio picture soon.
Read my full review of Elite Squad 2 @ Twitch

PAGE ONE: A YEAR INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES – US Docu Comp – Rating: 8 out of 10

“Page One is a captivating doc about why journalism will always be important, even in the changing face of the media landscape.”
Andrew Rossi originally set out to make a doc about NY Times media reporter and all around distinctive character David Carr. What resulted was a fascinating exploration of news and journalism in the face of a rapidly changing media landscape. From WikiLeaks to an NBC sponsored media event declaring the end of combat in Iraq, Rossi’s cameras capture the the deliberation the editors at the NYT go to to consider the distinction between reporting the news and creating the news. Carr remains an important figure in the film and an enigmatic force – but the people around him are just as interesting. For those interested in issues of media and you know, the world, this doc is another must see.

Of course there were just as many films that I wanted to see but didn’t get a chance to. One film with a ton of buzz I hope to catch soon is Martha Marcy May Marlene with festival sweetheart Elizabeth Olsen – younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley. Brit Marling’s other fest film Sound of my Voice had people raving. Kevin Smith was at the fest with his political horror Red State, but the lack of P&I screening made it impossible to score a ticket. I spoke to a number of people who had very good things to say about Terri with John C. Reilly and Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut Higher Ground was also rumored to be well worth a watch. The Paddy Considine directed Tyrannosaur and Take Shelter with Michael Shannon both had people saying great things as well.

On the unseen docu side of things, the film with the most positive buzz was Morgan Spurlock’s product placement expose The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. It sounds like everyone who saw it loved Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. Euthanasia doc How to Die in Oregon, Afghan war doc Hell and Back Again and the story of the real life horse whisperer Buck all received top prizes as well.

My Top 10 of 2010 included a stunning 7 films at Sundance 2010 (though I only caught 4 of them at the fest). I can’t help but wonder how many of this year’s batch will be included on my list a year from now. Like Crazy will very likely stick around and it won’t surprise me if The Interrupters and Win Win do as well. It’s exciting to think about all the great movies that are still to be seen.

Posted by enderzero at 1:01am on Feb. 3, 2011    
Jan 14, 2011

Top 10 Films of 2010

While the upcoming Academy Awards will again stir up the debate about quality versus popularity, in my opinion 2010 has been a fantastic year for film – giving us a trove of moving and visceral filmmaking and giving me my favorite movie going experience since Ghostbusters. Without further ado, here are my Top 10 films of 2010:

10. Boy – Taika Waititi’s semi auto-biographical story of a young Maori kid is a touching and whimsical tale that takes full advantage of its beautiful New Zealand setting. I imagine this laugher/crier flew under most moviegoers’ radars – but it is well worth seeking out. [Covered in my Sundance’10 wrap-up]

9. Winter’s Bone – Like most of the films on this list, Debra Granik’s Ozark thriller played at Sundance’10 – though I didn’t catch it until much later. What I love most about this film is the way such an interesting and complex story unfolds so expertly from the point of view of the young protagonist (and of course enough can’t be said about Jennifer Lawrence). We are along for the ride from moment one as it spirals from mundane to outrageous.

8. Blue Valentine – My fest fave from Sundance’10 falls a few spots back upon reflection, but Gosling’s and Williams’ performances stand firm for me a year removed. The movie is picking up steam in the specialty market as it enters its third frame of release this weekend and is well worth tracking down. [Covered in my Sundance’10 wrap-up]

7. Animal Kingdom – I can’t think back on David Michod’s film without dwelling on the startling performances by Ben Mendelsohn and Jacki Weaver. They are both simply chilling. This movie is one of the best crime thrillers in years. [My review on Twitch]

6. Exit Through the Gift Shop – Banksy’s docu-mystery was certainly one of the most talked about documentaries of the year and also one of the best. I personally believe most of the mystery is drummed up and what you see here is mostly what you get. But the real success of the film is the unparalleled view into the street art movement. This documentation will live on long after
the Space Invader tiles fall off the wall. [My review on Twitch]

5. A Prophet – I thought for some time on whether to include this film here since it made so many lists in 2009. But when it came down to it, the movie played in theaters in 2010 and I didn’t see it until then so here it is (sorry True Grit, you got bumped). Jacques Audiard’s prison drama is both haunting and magical with scenes that make you want to hide your eyes and others that make you sigh with awe. On top of that, Tahar Rahim’s performance might be one of the most overlooked of the year.

4. The Social Network – Plenty has already been said about the film I still predict to take home the best picture Oscar. What strikes me most a few months later is the absolute pitch perfection that David Fincher manages to achieve time and time again with his films. He is quite possibly the most skilled director working today. [My review]

3. Restrepo – Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s Afghan war documentary is without a doubt the most visceral war movie ever made. Fans of Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, and The Thin Red Line need to seek this film out right away. This is war. These are soldiers. Those are enemies. This is the real thing – and it is incredible.

2. Fish Tank – A surprise late entry to my top 10 list this year came in the last few weeks after I saw this title cropping up on a number of top 10 lists and sought it out. Andrea Arnold’s coming of age story of a poor 15 year old girl in suburban England is hauntingly honest yet ultimately uplifting. Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, and Michael Fassbender hold nothing back in their stirring performances. Andrea Arnold is a filmmaker on the move and I am a fan.

1. Black Swan – No surprise here as I have been able to do nothing other than rave about this film to everyone I meet since seeing it a month ago. It is one of my favorite films of all time and probably the most thrilling cinematic experience I’ve ever had. 2011, this one is gonna be hard to beat. [My review]

Honorable mentions that just fell off the list were True Grit (Review), Catfish (Twitch Review), Inception, and the remake of my number one film from 2008, Let Me In.

I am very interested in hearing what you think of the list. Please feel free to leave your comments here. Thanks!

Posted by enderzero at 2:52pm on Jan. 14, 2011    
Jan 13, 2011

Carlos – Review

It is impossible to have a discussion of Oliver Assayas’s Carlos without talking about its monstrous 330 minutes of length. There just aren’t that many movies that ask you sit still for five and a half hours. Like a good long novel, this allows the authors an exceptional amount of time with the characters – a gift for any storyteller. But that gift can also be a poison as it sets the bar for approval so much higher. Is the indulgence justifiable? Is this world worth spending so much time in? Are these characters worth the commitment?

In this case the character is a classic antihero. Carlos “The Jackal” was a notorious criminal who inflicted terror across Western Europe during the last two decades of the Cold War. His world is a place of conviction to a belief that he is fighting for a better society – but also a place of hubris; that only he can deliver that society to the hungry masses.

Edgar Ramirez, a Venezuelan, is given the role of his life in the shoes of his fellow countryman. At times he shines. The early scenes in which Carlos is filled with a political zeal that overflows onto his cadre of followers are particularly moving. At other times, Ramirez falls short – as seen in the more introspective Carlos of his latter years. I found the film at its most interesting when it explores the politics of running the terrorist organization. A good section of the film is devoted to the logistics of funding and housing such a group. At times it is a rare and fascinating view into the secret police offices behind the iron curtain – a place not a lot of films have so expertly explored.

To be accurate, Carlos isn’t really one five and a half hour movie, but three much more normally sized movies. It originally aired in Europe over three nights and even made a quick Sundance Channel appearance in that form last October (although that flew below my radar). My guess is that most film fans watched it as I did – in one long sitting. Unfortunately, you just can’t get away from judging the film based on this format. Simply put, there are many other films I would have rather spent that much time with (a five and a half hour version of A Prophet? Hell yeah!). Carlos is an interesting and at times entertaining film, but it is really, really long.

Posted by enderzero at 1:55pm on Jan. 13, 2011    
Jan 7, 2011

11 Features to be Excited For at Sundance’11

Sundance 2011 is coming up fast here in T-minus 2 weeks! Here is a quick look at 11 of the dramatic features that I am most excited about. There will be a lot more coming as I will covering the festival for Twitch again this year. Stay tuned for reviews, news, and live tweets from Park City! If you aren’t following me on twitter, now would be a good time to get on board @enderzero. Here are just a few of the many rad looking flicks:


Hobo with a Shotgun – You’d have to be nuts not to be excited about seeing Rutger Hauer go bat shit with a 12 gauge in Jason Eisner’s (Treevenge) feature adaptation of his trailer from the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse. Bam!


The Catechism Cataclysm – This absurd comic-horror about a priest and his buddy taking a wild trip into the woods promises to be a lot of fun. Directed by Todd Rohal (Hillbilly Robot) and starring Steve Little (Eastbound & Down) and Robert Longstreet (who wins the prize for appearing in four films at Sundance this year), this midnight madness flick also sports the best tagline of the fest, “God will fuck you up!”


Win Win – Tom McCarthy has made two of my favorite films of the decade in The Station Agent and The Visitor. In Win Win he casts Paul Giamatti as a lawyer turned wrestling coach. Amy Ryan co-stars in what is sure to be a truthful, touching and hilarious film.


Cedar Rapids – Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, and Anne Heche star in this Fox Searchlight comedy about an insurance convention directed by Miguel Arteta (Youth in Revolt, The Good Girl).


Elite Squad 2 – Jose Padilla’s (Bus 174, Secrets of the Tribe) first Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite) was a smart and action-packed ride through Rio’s favella. Here’s hoping the sequel is just as good.


Red State – Wait, a Kevin Smith horror movie with a political message? Casting Melissa Leo, John Goodman, and Stephen Root (ahem, Milton) surely can’t hurt. Yes, I’ve got my hopes up.


The Guard – Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle and the always great Mark Strong star in this Irish drug smuggling action-comedy. Can writer/director John Michael McDonagh live up to the hefty shoes of his brother Martin and produce this year’s In Bruges?


I Melt with You – Mark Pellington might be well known for directing 1999’s heady TIm Robbins and Jeff Bridges thriller Arlington Road, but Northwest music fans will be excited to learn he also directed seminal grunge videos for Pearl Jam’s Jeremy and Alice in Chains’ Rooster (amongst others). In this film he turns to a good ol’ dude out sesh with Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, and Christian McKay going on a sex and drug filled adventure to learn some shit about themselves or whatever. The film also co-stars the always fun to watch Sasha Grey.


Son of No One – Dito Montiel follows up his excellent A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints with this NYC cop story that again stars Channing Tatum along with Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta and Al Pacino.


Like Crazy – Anton Yelchin’s (Charlie Bartlett) and Jennifer Lawrence’s (Winter’s Bone) chemistry was the best part of The Beaver. They return together (with Felicity Jones) in this Drake Doremus (Douchebag) competition film about long distance love.


Vampire – Shunji Iwai (Swallowtail Butterfly, All About Lily Chou-Chou) makes his English language directorial debut in this less than traditional vampire thriller that stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rachel Leigh Cook, and Kristin Kreuk. Count on a lot of atmosphere.

Much more from Sundance coming soon!

Posted by enderzero at 12:47pm on Jan. 7, 2011    
Dec 14, 2010

Black Swan – Review

I’ve avoided writing my review of Darren Aronofsky’s “psycho-sexual thriller” until I had a bit of time to get over the intense euphoria I experienced while watching the film. It has now been over a week – but I still get trembles of excitement when I think back on watching it. Simply put, this is the best film of the year – and quite possibly one of my favorite films of all time. It is sexy, scary, inspiring, beautiful, thrilling, insanely intense, and more than anything, brilliant. I’ve never before wanted so badly to turn right back around and watch the movie again. Even writing this now is getting me excited. This movie is like a drug and I want more now!

Natalie Portman is a lock for a nom and should be the front runner for her role as the beautiful ballerina Nina Sayers. She studied dance for more than a year for the role and although I’m certainly no ballet expert, she seems to have gotten it down. But what is so truly incredible about her performance is the vulnerability she projects. At the beginning of the film, Nina is so timid she barely whispers her words. The quite literal transformation she undergoes is only that much more rewarding because of where she starts. Kudos to both Portman and Aronofsky for so successfully bringing us along on Nina’s ride.

Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey turn in career performances and Vincent Cassel nails the dynamic aspects of the villain/hero in his director character maybe better than anyone. I had previously lauded Roger Deakin’s cinematography in True Grit as good enough to finally win him the Oscar. In comparison, that movie’s western plains are a softball. Here Matthew Libatique’s camera becomes a character pirouetting on stage alongside the dancers. It is rhythmic and hypnotic and I’ve never seen anything like it. The decision to shoot handheld so close to the characters adds both an intimacy and suspense that is simply brilliant. Up close with Nina, whatever is right over her shoulder is right over yours as well – a terrifying effect manipulated here to perfection.

It is a very good year for cinema and the best picture category has some strong offerings. I still have little doubt that The Social Network will win top honors (and early signs are only making that look more likely). That doesn’t bother me at all. Black Swan is my year’s best picture and no lack of recognition can detract from my extraordinary experience of watching it for the first time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go watch it for my second.

Posted by enderzero at 7:41pm on Dec. 14, 2010    

Another Year – Review

Mike Leigh’s films do not have scripts. He works with his actors to build characters and then puts those characters in situations and watches what happens. When working with extremely talented actors such as the stars of Another Year, this can lead to brutally honest and often hilarious results. But it also explains the unpolished and sometimes even incomplete feeling you walk out of a Mike Leigh film with.

Though not necessarily the story’s protagonist, the star of the show is Lesley Manville and the tragically neurotic character she inhabits, Mary. Her performance should surely garner an Oscar nom (although she was snubbed by the Globes) – however I am a bit surprised that there seems to be no consideration that her role might be better classified as a supporting actress. There is no way that Manville has more screen time than True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld – yet Steinfeld is considered supporting. Color me perplexed.

Regardless of classification, Manville’s performance is stunning – even if the movie does drift a bit into melodrama at times. I’m not talking about melodrama in the telenovela sense, but at times the movie reminded me of a play set on location. Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Oliver Maltman, and the brilliantly funny Peter Wight all deserve praise for their performances as well in a film that should be on the top of every best ensemble short list. This is a character study in the truest sense of the term. Fortunately, most all of the characters turn out interesting enough to spend the time studying.

Posted by enderzero at 6:36pm on Dec. 14, 2010    
Dec 7, 2010

Somewhere – Review

It is pretty much my policy to give Sofia Coppola a free pass. Her films all overflow with style and I know that even if I’m not blown away by the story, I’m going to enjoy the 90 or so minutes I spend in her world. This is very much the case with her latest, Somewhere – an exploration of Hollywood stardom. Stephen Dorff stars as the rather bored leading man Johnny Marco. He has the Ferrari and the girls (at least a night at a time), but is beginning to wonder what else the world has to offer him. He finds most of his pleasure in the time he spends with his daughter Cleo – played with impressive maturity by Elle Fanning. Johnny may not be the typical father, but his love for his daughter is unquestionable.

The more I reflect on this film, the more I appreciate it. Like all of Sofia Coppola’s movies, Somewhere doesn’t offer a lot of conclusions. When judged as a contained story, it can seem inconsequential – even frustrating. But the beauty is in the moments. Scenes such as Johnny explaining the banality of his entrance into the industry to a young and hungry actor are downright hilarious (and who will ever forget the pole dancing twins). There is a subtle and powerful realism to Johnny and Cleo’s relationship – Johnny watching Cleo swim in their en suite pool and later her reaction to his Italian date both come to mind. It’s addictive. You want to know if they make it work – which is probably where that niggling feeling of dissatisfaction you’re left with comes from. But hey, dissatisfaction is a big part of what this film is about. Somewhere may not be her best movie – but if you enjoy Sofia Coppola’s work and can appreciate the little moments, there is a lot here to savor.

Posted by enderzero at 5:58pm on Dec. 7, 2010    
Dec 4, 2010

True Grit – Review

You could be forgiven for believing that this year’s Coen Brothers offering is the spiritual sequel to No Country for Old Men. With a marketing campaign focused on top billed names Bridges, Damon, and Brolin, I was quite surprised to learn the protagonist is actually a 14 year old girl – played superbly by Hailee Steinfeld. In fact, the movie has far more John Ford than Clint Eastwood. This is the Coens’ version of the classic western and the result is a terrific trip to the picture show. While it stops short of being wholesome, this is the kind of popcorn flick that a whole family can, and should enjoy together.

It is one of those baffling things about Hollywood when someone like Josh Brolin gets top billing with only some 15 minutes of screen time – while Steinfeld, who turns in an Oscar worthy performance and is in every scene of the movie, gets relegated to the small print. Actor contracts aside, Jeff Bridges deserves his name as big as it can go. If he had been overlooked by the academy last year for his performance in Crazy Heart, there would be no doubt about him receiving his award this time around. Even so, you’d be no fool to place a tidy wager on him going back to back (John Wayne won the award for the same role in the 1969 version). Look for another likely statue for DP Roger Deakins who has been nom’d 8 times without an Oscar win. His beautiful cinematography is at least partially to thank for the film’s brilliantly formal feel. The Coen Brothers have delivered a very enjoyable classic western and a must-see for the holiday season.

Posted by enderzero at 1:34pm on Dec. 4, 2010    
Nov 28, 2010

Your Highness = Trailer of the Year

The trailer for the upcoming Your Highness directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express and a bunch of arty indies) is pretty damn funny. Let’s all hope that the movie lives up to this high standard. cough…cough…

Posted by enderzero at 6:29pm on Nov. 28, 2010