Trailer courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel Live.
I would so pay to see this film.
The first Iron Man was an instant classic and one of the best superhero movies of all time. The sequel, Iron Man 2, bombed because it thought it could just take the successful template of the first film and make it bigger and louder (like what Michael Bay did for the Transformers franchise). So it’s
I felt like a bit of a fraud attending Joss Whedon‘s one-and-only “show” at the Sydney Opera House a few Sundays ago. After all, while I was in awe of the man’s undeniable talent and achievements (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Dr Horrible, and in 2012, The Avengers), I don’t consider myself a hardcore fan. To
[Updated to include latest info on Landry Fields and Lin's love interest] Avid New York Knicks fan and filmmaker Spike Lee has announced a shortlist of actors to play Jeremy Lin in his upcoming sports biopic based on the life of the Asian-American superstar who has taken the basketball world by storm. The film, which
November 15 I was very impressed with myself for killing off my final article of my Beijing assignment, and so I decided to reward myself by seeing some of the sights of Beijing that I had been dying to visit since the day I arrived. Of course, the must visit attraction, apart from the Great
The Academy Awards are upon us once again, and this year I vowed to watch all the Best Picture nominees before the ceremony. With the list of nominees extended to 10 for the second straight year, this was more difficult than I had anticipated. Fortunately, I had seen most of them already, so there were only three outstanding: Winter’s Bone, The Kids Are All Right, and 127 Hours.
Winter’s Bone (2010)
There’s usually one powerful independent film in the Best Picture mix and this year it’s Winter’s Bone, which has gotten rave reviews from just about every respectable critic out there.
The story feels complex but it’s actually very simple. In an extremely poor rural area, a meth cooker has disappeared while out on bail and his daughter Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is looking for him — she has to, because she has two young siblings and a catatonic mother, and their house is collateral for the bail. But the more Ree snoops around the family business, the more trouble she gets into.
I suppose I would call it a gritty drama-thriller. A slow burn with moments of genuine suspense and horror. It’s the perfect example of a well-made indie film — low budget but compelling and well-acted — but I’m not sure I would put it in my top 10 list for the year (and hence Best Picture nominee).
My problem with it is that it rarely gets out of first gear, and all the mumbling makes some of the conversations difficult to decipher. That said, I was intrigued even through all the slow bits, and it was a very bleak and harrowing depiction of rural meth country.
Nevertheless, this film will likely make Jennifer Lawrence (nominated for Best Actress) a big star (she’s already nabbed the role of young Mystique in X-Men: First Class, and had an Esquire photo shoot that was rumoured to be the source of many ‘Winter’s Boners’). It was a knockout performance, subtle and utterly believable. Her co-star John Hawkes (also nominated, for Best Supporting Actor), was also very good.
Overall, a very good film, an excellent indie film, but perhaps because of the lofty expectations I came away slightly disappointed.
3.75 stars out of 5
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
I had no idea what this film was about before I saw it and I didn’t really care — it just didn’t look like the type of film I was interested in. But it’s a Best Picture nominee so I forced myself, and came out pleasantly surprised.
If there’s one movie I would compare The Kids Are All Right to (in terms of style and feel), it would have to be American Beauty. It’s one of those quirky dramas about suburban life in America, with genuine dramatic elements but also plenty of witty laughs and awkward moments.
Without giving away too much, it’s about a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), their kids (Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Josh Hutcherson) and the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo). As usual, the less known the better.
I would say this is a borderline deserving Best Picture nominee if we’re talking about a list of 10 (which is still pretty darn good in a relatively strong year). It had a fabulous script with terrific dialogue that’s amusing while remaining strangely realistic, plus killer performances by all involved. The standout for me was Mark Ruffalo (Best Supporting Actor nominee), who was just such a fantastic character.
Even though I wouldn’t consider this a classic or a particularly memorable film, I still really enjoyed it.
4 stars out of 5
127 Hours (2010)
I was vary wary of watching 127 Hours, and it’s not just because of the gruesomeness most viewers knew they were about to encounter. It’s because it’s a story where it’s predominantly one guy in one place (think Buried, which a lot of people loathed) and you knew exactly what was going to happen at the end because it’s a true story.
But my concerns were absolutely unfounded. 127 Hours is hands down one of the best films of 2010 and a deserving Best Picture nominee (even if there were just five instead of 10). Full credit to Danny Boyle (who won for Slumdog Millionaire a couple of years ago) for overcoming all the obstacles I thought this film would have and delivering such an emotionally involving, jubilant, triumphant motion picture.
Just in case you’re one of the three people on earth who don’t know the story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), I won’t say much. I just wonder how I would have received the film had I not known about his amazing story, but the impressive thing is that I was still completely absorbed by the film despite that dreaded feeling of inevitability.
I thought there was going to be a lot of extended flashback sequences, but to Boyle’s credit, there were surprisingly few. Some clever use of sound and sporadic dream sequences pushed the plot right along and kept it interesting and eventful for the entire 94 minute running time.
Of course, you can’t talk about this film without mentioning the ‘masterful’ performance from James Franco (a strange word for the guy from Pineapple Express), who has become one of my favorite actors. Is there anyone in Hollywood more affable than him right now? Who else could have carried a film like this from start to finish? It’s a shame he’s going up against virtual lock Colin Firth this year.
I loved this film and can’t believe I passed up two advanced screening opportunities last month. If I redo my Top 10 Films of 2010 this would probably be in the top 5.
4.5 out of 10!
They say remakes seldom better the original, but it’s hard to imagine the 1969 John Wayne classic (which I haven’t seen) being better than the new version from my favourite filmmaking duo. True Grit is vintage Coen Brothers, more No Country For Old Men than The Big Lebowski but still funny and quirky. And when it comes to dialogue, human interactions and suspense, few can compare with Joel and Ethan Coen.
Based on Charles Portis’s 1968 novel of the same name, this version of True Grit is supposedly truer to the original source. It tells the story of young Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a wise-beyond-her-years 14-year-old who seeks to avenge the death of her father by tracking down and killing Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). To do so, she seeks the assistance of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a merciless but drunk and out-of-shape Deputy US Marshal. Tagging along for the ride is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who is chasing Chaney for an unrelated crime.
I’m not usually a fan of Westerns, but True Grit had me hooked from the beginning. It moves with at a pace similar to No Country, which might be on the slow side for some, but whichever way you look at this film — whether it’s the screenplay, the performances or the direction — it’s top notch. And all through out was that trademark Coen Brothers touch, that unexpected, random hilarity that I can never get enough of.
Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon were expectedly excellent (as were Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper in smaller roles), but it was the remarkable performance of young Hailee Steinfeld that carried the film from start to finish. Good to see that she received an Oscar nomination, but how it was for Best Supporting Actress as opposed to Best Actress (considering she was in just about every scene) beats the hell out of me.
My only complaint was that it felt like the film needed subtitles at times because of the excessive mumbling (mostly by Jeff Bridges) which made the conversations difficult to follow. But apart from that, an awesome experience.
4.25 stars out of 5
March 8, 2010 in Entertainment
I watched the 2010 Academy Awards at a fellow unemployed friend’s place. I’ve always loved the Oscars – not so much the ceremony itself, but the concept of crowning the best in cinema.
Anyway, this year’s Oscars ceremony was crap. Too safe, too boring, too cheap, not entertaining enough. Everyone seemed unnecessarily serious and uptight for some reason.
I was happy with most of the results. Even though I predicted that Avatar would win Best Picture and Director (and failed on both accounts – see full list of predictions here), I was rooting for Bigelow by the end of the show. I’m glad a female director won, and I’m glad that an independent film won. And I’m very glad James Cameron didn’t win.
Here are some random thoughts.
(Click on ‘more…’ to continue!)
February 24, 2010 in Movie Reviews
I can’t believe I am saying this, but I loved The Blind Side.
When I first laid eyes on the poster with a blonde Sandra Bullock and a big, black American footballer, I groaned. With a name like The Blind Side and a poster like that, I expected a sappy, saccharine melodrama in the vein of Pay It Forward and Stepmom.
I was wrong.
The Blind Side is a film about compassion, prejudice, family, chance, and the virtues of hard work. It tells the inspirational true story of Michael Oher, an underprivileged (albeit talented) African-American youth, and his relationship with Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy white woman from the other side of town. As per usual, I won’t say much more than that. If you don’t know who Michael Oher is, great. Don’t look him up before seeing the movie.
Two things really surprised me about The Blind Side.
First, it is so much better than it should have been. The Blind Side is truly a terrific film. One that pulls at the heart strings without trying to tear them down. It may have been a little sappy and a little melodramatic at times, but for the most part, director and screenwriter John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Alamo) manages to keep the film from tipping over the edge. There are numerous moments that will warm your heart, but very few that will make you cringe in discomfort.
Second, Sandra Bullock is good. There, I said it. Sandra Bullock is good in The Blind Side. I may have ranted about her Oscar nomination but I now think she is deserving. Bullock’s really not that much better than she was in her other movies, but when you stick an average actress in a great film and the perfect role, anything is possible. While I don’t think Bullock deserves to win (though I think she probably will), I admit I was wrong to compare her to Matthew McConaughey. That was low, even for me.
There’s not too much to complain about The Blind Side. The length (128 minutes) is fine, the pacing is good, and the sporadic humour is lighthearted and in the right spirit. The only thing is that it’s a little too neat and tidy. There are some very ugly issues underlying the film, but it never felt like they were properly confronted. Too sanitised, perhaps, and consequently missing that raw emotional power.
It would have been easy to dismiss The Blind Side as a “white people are so wonderful” movie, except that it is a true story. Romanticised, perhaps, but a true story nonetheless. That’s what makes it remarkable. Every time you think things are too good to be true, you just have to remind yourself that it (or something like it) actually happened.
Movies based on inspirational true stories aren’t supposed to actually leave you feeling inspired, but somehow, The Blind Side does.
4.5 stars out of 5!