Tuesday, January 31, 2006 

Oscar Noms.

Well, nothing we weren't expecting but here's the full list. I'm particularly pleased to see William Hurt, George Clooney and Paul Giamatti getting some credit.

Monday, January 30, 2006 

Ford likes coffee.

The trailer's been up for Firewall (an early contender for worst title of the year) for a while now, but I've only just gotten round to watching it. The movie breaks Harrison Ford back into the fold as Jack Stanfield -a security specialist forced to rob a bank to save his family's life. While that might not sound like a wholly thrilling premise, the trailer gets the job done, and also features Ford getting frisky with a coffee pot and fire extinguisher. I've never been a huge Paul Bettany fan who gives life to film's villain, but the rest of the supporting cast is certainly there with an ensemble boasting Virginia Madsen, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Robert Forster and Alan Arkin. There may be life in Indy 4 after all, even if President Ford is looking rather bedraggled these days.


Guevara goodness.

Benicio del Toro as Che Guevara.

Saturday, January 28, 2006 

From Gandhi to BloodRayne: Is Ben Kingsley going to Hell?

There was a time when Sir Ben Kingsley was a sure sign of solid, if not entirely flawless, filmmaking. If knighthood wasn't enough, he convinced us with his elegiac and unique screen presence. A hub of quiet intensity, he captured imaginations in the likes of Gandhi, Twelfth Night and Schindler's List with the ability to brood but also enthral. More recently, however, he's been caught in a movie its studio is trying to sweep under the rug, another directed by the next Ed Wood, and can be shortly seen in a film critics are touting as Revolver Redux. Which beckons the question, what is Ben Kingsley smoking and can we all have a taste?

The answers, almost certainly, have to be crack and no respectively. The horrific rejection both financially and artistically of pseudo-fantasy cum trite action/adventure A Sound of Thunder, in which Ed Burns is sent back to the prehistoric ages on Kingsley's 'time travel safari' only to unwittingly kill a butterfly and bring about the apocalypse (or something), is a huge blemish on his already frankly bizarre filmography. I personally haven't had the pleasure of seeing it yet, nor do I want to or think I'll get the chance to, especially since the original production company went bankrupt during post-production. It's these kind of lazy choices which we've seen Kingsley grow more accustomed to recently (remember Thunderbirds?) purely done for hard cash and nothing else. What's more tragic is that Sir Ben is a terrific thespian and this hasn't declined with age: this century alone he's knocked out two dizzying performances in both Sexy Beast and House of Sand and Fog showing when stimulated he's capable of grounded, painful realism but also a charming degree of the fantastic.

Which leaves me flabbergasted that he'll even consider working with someone like Uwe Boll -the film community's equivalent of Hitler but without the charisma. Gamers everywhere slit their wrists when he massacred the already slight Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead and then turned his hand to BloodRayne (currently voted the 23rd worst movie of all time on IMDb) which aside from Kingsley features Michael Madsen, Meat Loaf, and Billy Zane hamming it up in 18th Century Romania. If anyone, anyone, can explain to me why the Oscar-winning gentleman who gracefully translated the Mahatma to the silver screen would star in a piece of shit like this wins a prize.

Kingsley's been quoted as saying that acting gives him "that strange old tribal pulse" and "actors are hunters, we hunt for our characters". If he still holds true to this notion, he must be touched in the head. You would hunt to work for Uwe Boll? Even Oliver Twist has been met with a relatively lukewarm reception. All of this exemplifies the tragedy of House of Sand and Fog and really draws to attention the fine work Kingsley can do, if he could be bothered. He has a whole a slate of films ready to be unleashed -chief among them the aforementioned Lucky Number Slevin- with only a handful showing any real promise. Sir Ben has really built a reputation for himself on a foundation of dignity and effortless commanding presence, working with directors like Steven Spielberg and Richard Attenborough, but his career choices of late are inexcusable -even more so than when he did Species.

I can understand an actor wanting to push himself, but this is not an example of that. And if Don Logan is "sweating like a cunt", surely Ben Kingsley must be.

Friday, January 27, 2006 

Review: Munich

It's strange that Munich seems to have bi-passed the American public, given the director, the heavy subject matter, and the director's knack for tackling heavy subject matter. It's also gone virtually ignored by all the major awards ceremonies. Set following the tragic events of the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which eleven Israelis were murdered, Munich picks up with the Israeli government enlisting five would-be assassins to repay the blood spilt at Munich by Palestine. Chief among them is Avner (Eric Bana), an inexperienced Mossad agent who must commit murder without hesitation.

While this is an uniformly excellent film, I came out of the cinema not feeling as emotionally rocked as I expected. Certainly Spielberg's direction is as sound here as it's ever been, all of the principal cast make terrific turns, and plot never loses focus or becomes undone through a "I could've got one more out." forced sentimentality. Nevertheless, while taking the audience on a journey it sorely needs to go, Munich begins wanting to be profound and to the point but ultimately comes off loose and limber; and it took me a good half an hour to finally settle down and forget I was watching a movie. The initial pace is plodding but never tedious, naturally upping the frustration (which thankfully strays the right side of melodrama) and building to a genuinely heart-felt conclusion.

But Spielberg never really gives us time to get to know our characters. Avner is whisked away on his mission from God in a matter of minutes. Clearly this is a deliberate choice but it robs us of any emotional connectivity with Avner, we are denied any kind of glimpse into the eyes of our protagonist until we have earned his trust. This was a glaring problem for me: while I can understand the reasoning behind it, (we're thrust into this world just as suddenly and naively as Avner is) it cheats us as the audience a chance to invest in the story and, in turn, Bana's nifty characterisation. These are minor grieveances with the film, but they upset the tone for me at least, and left me nagging for a little more. Spielberg's obvious want for objectivity is one to be admired and really doesn't mar the film in the slightest, I just think we perhaps could've gained more by understanding who Avner in the first place rather than having it revealed to us.

There's an awful lot this film does right, though, both on levels of complexity and style. Be it intercutting between drama and sweaty sex, or the shocking frank violence held over from Schindler's List, Spielberg is completely in his element. In the end, I find myself viewing Munich as a film I respect more than I thoroughly enjoy, but this robs it of none of its credibility. It's a bold, unassuming piece of work which doesn't take sides and brazenly casts aside formulaic 'drama/thriller' cliché. Not quite what I was expecting, but a formidable undertaking nonetheless.

Verdict: 8/10

Thursday, January 26, 2006 

Disney clinch Pixar deal.

Frankly I'm glad all this is settled. Disney have 'merged' with Pixar Animation Studios to the tune of $7.5 billion, and effectively making the world a calmer place. Cars -which, I'm sorry, still looks pretty underwhelming- would've marked their last collaboration together production/distribution wise. Maybe this team type deal is condusive to a better working envrionment (let's hope so for Disney: Chicken Little got ravaged) and Pixar won't have their artistic integrity comprised for they travel around work on scooters. The best thing to come out of this though has to be the abortion of Toy Story 3, which would surely have squandered the lyrical perfection of both parts I and II had it been allowed to continue. So rock on Pixar and keep boundin' for our sakes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 

Respect that actor! #1

#1: Sharon Stone

People don't like to admit they like Sharon Stone. Which is a shame. There's no doubt about it, she's starred in some absolutely trogloditic, god-awful, films (Diabolique is diabolical, Gloria is far from glorious, and let's just forget about Catwoman) but yet she maintains this refreshing 'fuck you' attitude which many actresses aspire to but never achieve. I use the term 'actress' very carefully: had she been born twenty years earlier, I truly believe Ms. Stone would've been regarded as something quite special. Instead she'll be forever synonymous with puerile trash; someone who cemented her stardom by flashing her flange.

If all she's remembered for after she's gone is Basic Instinct I don't think that's entirely a bad thing. Even with the proposed (and admittedly limp) sequel, Catherine Tramell is a character so universally-recognised people actually view Stone as this person. And that's the mark of a job well done, to still have a role permeate into popular society over a decade after its release. Let's get one thing straight, though, Basic Instinct is a far from perfect film but it's no Showgirls: it's shameless entertainment. People forget the sleaze is deliberate and this in vein feel free to lord superiority over it and Stone's performance. It's the same with Total Recall -another Verhoeven film in which she gets her groove on sufficiently well. But throw in Arnie, a three-breasted woman, and a guy with another guy sticking out of his chest and it must be dumb, right? Wrong.

If Sharon Stone is good enough for Jim Jarmusch and Martin Scorsese, she's good enough for me. Broken Flowers and Casino were certainly uncharted territory, but both roles demonstrate an underlying grace and versatility to her abilites as an actress. So even if Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction flops -which I'm sure it will- and serves as the lid on her prematurely assembled coffin, don't feel bad for Sharon. Just consider it a divorce.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 

Watch this movie.

Peppering nearly everyone's best films of 2005 (at least where release dates permit) Downfall is a staggering piece of work which deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Set in 1945, when the walls of Berlin are closing in around Adolf Hitler (a stunning performance by Bruno Ganz), Downfall juxtaposes the dictator's fraught last hours underground with civilian turmoil above. It's amazing German cinema took so long to return to its country's darkest hour, and in this no-holds-barred approach it strikes its audience dumb. I can't recommend this highly enough.

Sunday, January 22, 2006 

Review: Jarhead

Receiving mixed reviews at best, I went into Jarhead with relatively low expectations. Most of which were met. The all-too-timely story of Anthony Swofford's misadventures during the First Gulf War is charming and largely inoffensive; but ultimately falls short when trying to reach some deeper level. My qualms with Jarhead stem not from its inaction but rather its apparent lack of plot: Swoff's story is far too easy to disregard, and as a protagonist he fails to fully engage. By the start of the movie, he's just as jaded to war as we are.

Jarhead doesn't recall the subtlety of Sam Mendes' previous works and instead comes off too caught up in its own politics, or at least in its desire to foreshadow today's trouble in Iraq. Visually it's a feast -Roger Deakins' staunch cinematography leading the way- but this doesn't go a long way in adding weight to an already flimsy story. You can't help but feel manipulated throughout, (especially when the movie radically switches gears about half-way through) and this is best expressed with a shockingly heavy-handed and unnecessary coda, which plays out like 'What the Marines Did Next', eliciting no remorse or sincerity for our Jarheads probably because we never got to know them in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, Jarhead is not a bad movie (far from it) but it's too easy to see the cracks in the plotting. We should be seeing character through actions and not words, and because we're denied this the film plays out like a whimsical stroll through the desert with the occasional glare of flourish. It's hard to absorb Jarhead on a superficial level but this is where it works best, not when bungled between getting to know Jake Gyllenhaal or making a political statement. If you want a contemporary war picture that pushes all the right buttons, go for Three Kings.

Still, there's much to cherish here, if only for the film's terrific sense of humour. We get star turns, too, from Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Lucas Black and Dennis Haysbert -each enthusing their characters with genuine personas despite their screen time. Gyllenhaal as Swoff has this acting lark down pat by now, and while the character doesn't really seem to go on any kind of emotional journey on-screen his laconic voiceover goes a long way in adding depth. I could only outrightly pick fault with Peter Sarsgaard. Although he seemed more awake than usual, whenever he had an emotional outburst it felt false and out of place, coming off like a crap John Malkovich impression.

The film may stumble in some departments and suffer from pacing problems, but on the whole Jarhead is a diverting and encouraging way to spend two hours. And while it doesn't possess the grandiose of Apocalypse Now, the heart of Platoon, and the grace of Saving Private Ryan this isn't necessarily a bad thing. As Swoff remarks, "Every war is different, every war is the same." and Jarhead is gloriously care-free in its experimentation. It's something of a shame, then, that in the end it fails to muster as much excitement as it deserves.

Verdict: 7/10

Friday, January 20, 2006 

Gwen in Spidey 3.

Spider-man 2 for all its greatness had one big glaring problem: Mary Jane Watson. Not just because Kirsten Dunst lallygagged her way through the entire movie (which she did), there were also those excruciatingly long 'intimate' talks she'd have with Peter, declaring she was standing in his doorway with an apparently seductive demeanour. Praise be the gods, then, that Raimi & co. have decided to complicate matters with the introduction of Gwen Stacy. For those not familiar with the comics, Gwen was Peter's high school crush who got chucked off a bridge by the Green Goblin only to have her neck broken by Spider-man himself in a botched rescue attempt. The first movie switched Gwen's character with MJ and had her survive. How they'll work Gwen into this story remains to be seen (already a little crowded with Thomas Haden Church as Sandman, Topher Grace as Venom, and James Franco more than ready to don his father's embarassingly oversized helmet) but expect a love triangle of some description.

The girl ready to take the role is hot young starlet Bryce Dallas Howard. That's right: the daughter to Ron, the neice to Clint, and the M. Night Shyamalan frequenter will have the task of tempting Peter over from the ginger side. I'm pleased with this development, but I have to admit that's a fair few characters to manage all in around two hours. Of course we're not quite reaching X3 absurdities just yet; and so far Raimi hasn't let us down. Spider-man 3 hits next year.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 

R-rated Slither trailer.

Slither is one of the few horror movies I can get excited about. With these endless remakes being pushed forward (the latest being The Hills Have Eyes), it's nice to something so far removed from our traditional view of the horror genre -at least for this century- and doesn't take itself seriously. Slither stars Nathan Fillion (he was in Serenity, if you haven't seen it yet do so immediately) and a bunch of other people you'll probably recognise. Check out the restricted trailer here. This promises a return to horror with credibility and artistry (well, I certainly hope so) and I can't wait for this PG-13 backlash to finally make some kind of an impression.


Brick Poster.

Sorry about the recent lack of posting (I've been somewhat distracted by the incredible new season of 24) but here's one of four posters from the upcoming high school noir movie, Brick:

I don't know who or what 'The Pin' is but it's all very intriguing. People are already dubbing this 2006's Donnie Darko which is all very good unless legions of teenage girls (and boys, for that matter) adopt it as their true calling, at the same time not enjoying the movie but what the movie is supposed to stand for. I'll save that rant for later, but I'm supremely excited to see what writer/director Rian Johnson can pull out of the bag, especially if the trailer's anything to go by- find it under 'Coming Soon'.

You can find the other three posters over at JoBlo, CHUD, Movieweb and Coming Soon.

Sunday, January 15, 2006 


... and 19 other reasons why Dog Day Afternoon is the best heist movie and Pacino's best performance.

2. The lead character has a fat wife, is called Sonny, and is robbing a bank to fund a gay guy's sex change operation.
3. It has one of the best down endings in cinema history.
4. The 'heist' isn't exactly successful, the leads have little to no idea what they're doing, and freak out over food.
5. Pacino is marvellously unrestrained. Coming off the back of The Godfather Part II, this solidifies his range and place as one of cinema's greats. He has something DeNiro can't touch: spontaneity.
6. "Sal, Wyoming's not a country."
7. The hostages talk back. Something which more modern (less successful) films like The Negotiator would gleefully rip off.
8. The film relies on tension, but not created through action rather its slapdash nature and dialogue-driven diatribes with real, flawed people.
9. John Cazale is in it.
10. Lance Henriksen is in it (and not as a cyborg or vampire).
11. It is just as relevant today as it ever was. A would-be armed robber holds up a bank only to be exploited on national television. And he likes it.
12. We want Sonny to get away with it.
13. It takes place in one shot, lending a greater depth to Pacino's unpredictability, and shows superb passage of time -something which most movies fail miserably with.
14. This poster:

15. The classic conversation between Sonny and Leon was largely improvised.
16. Pacino knows when to shout.
17. The police don't pull one false move, and we never really know their motivations. In fact the whole movie feels completely organic
18. That cool-as-fuck bank manager who tips them off. Also he's fat.
19. It's a brutal, unflinching look at down-own-their-ass guys, and it's directed by Sidney Lumet. It says so much about people (not just Pacino, but think of the girls that work there) and manages never to hammer its message home overtly, instead filtering this through a now familiar vehicle to elicit the right amount of humour, tension, and rivalry.
20. And it's all true.


Overlooked & Under-appreciated #2

Crash, 1996, dir: David Cronenberg

Plot: James Ballard (James Spader), a mildly misanthropic TV director with an ailing marriage, is involved in a serious car accident which leaves him physically and mentally scarred. With the aid of a fellow recovering crash victim (Holly Hunter), the two become embroiled in a perverse underground world of auto-eroticism: a bizarre sub-culture where the car crash is viewed as an erogenous act for all to admire.

Why I like it: I don't particularly 'like' Cronenberg's Crash (nor do I think we are intended to), a film which manages to be one of the most challenging and diverse of the nineties, but also one of the filthiest. Then perhaps the title of 'Overlooked & Under-appreciated' wouldn't be the fairest to adopt, Crash is more 'Misunderstood & Proud of it'. It's certainly a tough film to love, and by no means perfect -far from it, actually- but the intense portrait Cronenberg paints with his paradoxical brush means Crash gets under your skin. And stays.

Immediately following a seedy opening credit sequence set to Howard Shore's equally lurid twangs, a woman is sprawled across a red bonnet and taken from behind. Thus the nature of Crash. Cronenberg forces us to accept his portrayal of sex as both an artistic and base action, one that is rough and disgusting but also understandable given our zombified protagonists. It's a consistently grim movie which is not an easy task to achieve, when Ballard exclaims "After being bombarded endlessly by road safety propaganda, almost a relief to have found myself in an actual accident.", it is both sincere and cynical. One can't help but applaud Cronenberg for trying something so radically different, even if he does come up short on several occasions. By the end of the film we're so emotionally drained and morally shattered, it doesn't matter if we're left with a beautifully haunting image of two people by the side of the freeway.

But Crash is a film that grows on you. Once you get past all the sex -and there's plenty of it- you begin to appreciate the underlying messages the movie presents you with. It's no accident that the film's tagline is 'Love in the dying moments of the twentieth century.', this ironically potent statement blaming a placid, consumer-friendly society for the freaks it creates and then punishing them afterwards. Cronenberg throws us into this world with the dumb naivety he affords his characters. By coupling two seemingly opposed elements and mashing them together, regardless of the results, and by swapping the novel's quaint English backdrop to a gnarlier America he ensures that not only is Henry Ford's American Dream shattered from the get-go, but also stands testament to the fact you can get away with a hell of a lot more on paper than you can on film. Despite this however, the cinematography is flawlessly done contrasting with the shenanigans of the fine cast the film boasts, all present realising the deliberate distastefulness and manifesting this in their performances.

Don't expect to be entertained by this film, especially now it's been eclipsed by Paul Haggis' effort of the same name. Don't even expect to like it. Are there any socially redeeming qualities to a person that would get his kicks by re-enacting James Dean's famous death behind the wheel, and then get fucked afterwards? Probably not. But at least expect this film to take you in directions you normally wouldn't go. Overall, it's different, it's visceral, and whatever your disposition; it will provoke a response from you.

See if you liked: The Cooler, Blue Velvet, Fight Club

Friday, January 13, 2006 

Robbins to helm 1984?

Tim Robbins: politically outspoken, grossly underrated. Anyway there's news he wants to direct his own version of Orwell's 1984 which sounds like a terrific idea, the novel being more relevant today than it ever was (take a couple drinks for the World Wide Web). Spank me because I haven't seen the original with John Hurt, but with a deluge of shit remakes already littering our screens, I can't see this one doing much harm. This is all tentative though so read more here.


Lynch returns!

David Lynch is one of the only true visionaries we have left. So let's savour him. Having last pulled the wool over our eyes in the devastatingly well-made Mulholland Drive (it's certainly the best fim of the 21st Century), it seems he's finally returning to the fold with INLAND EMPIRE due next year. Predictably it's all very hush-hush, unless he's blabbering about it on his pay-to-enter website, but you can check out a few choice pictures from the set here which tell us nothing but look very nice. This flick's bound to be a doozy with Lynch whatever happens -they're not even shooting with a script- and brings Lynch regulars Laurs Dern (finally venturing out of the 'Where are they now?' closet), Harry Dean Stanton, Justin Theroux as well as Jeremy Irons. Look out for it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 

American Dreamz.

Here's the one-sheet for American Dreamz, which sets out to be a sharp, biting satire on, well, American dreams:

From Mr. Paul Weitz (who seems to be getting better with every movie) and boasting an inordinate of famous yet respected people, American Dreamz is shaping up to be one of year's most interesting and ballsiest films. I won't bore you with details, watch the trailer instead .

Monday, January 09, 2006 

Clerks II trailer.

Clerks II: The Passion of the Clerks is one the films I'm most looking forward to in 2006, and the newly released teaser trailer showcases exactly why. Clerks remains of the freshest comedies out there even after twelve years; and if this little ditty is anything to go by, the sequel will only expound this. So sit back and reminisce with Dante, Randal, Jay, Silent Bob, and apparently Ben Affleck, Jason Lee and Wanda Sykes set to the dulcet tones of Anthrax. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 08, 2006 

War of the Worlds defence.

The Internet Movie Database recently ran a poll on the worst picture out of the top ten highest-grossing of 2005, and to my surprise Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds took the top spot above the likes of Madagascar and Hitch. This struck me wildly off-balance and I was little displeased. In fact I shouted "What the fuck?" loudly and failed my arms about. So here's my attempt at tipping the scales back to a healthy level with the top four (sorry, my fifth is somewhere tangled in what I've typed) reasons as to why War of the Worlds is one of the freshest and most challenging movies of the year. Allow me to begin by busting the most popularly petty greivances and drawing on its superior qualities:

1. Tom Cruise is not a shit actor.

Let's face it, 2005 wasn't a great year for Mr. Cruise publicity-wise:

He came off as an arrogant prick, and for all I know he's a big one. "He's always playing the same role!", people remark (as if they've met him at several social occasions). Maybe something about his portrayal as 'everyman' Ray Ferrier didn't sit well with audiences, but this shouldn't suggest media attention can take anything away from his performance, which is deftly measured and -shock!- without ego. Look past the skin-deep. Perhaps now with his sister publicist fired, and his stab at 'redemption' in M:I:III we can get back to people actually respecting the diverse (albeit overpaid) work he does, banging out razor-wire performances like in Magnolia, Born on the Fourth of July, Collateral, and numerous others. No, the guy's not a perfect actor, he just happens to like Scientology, and this shouldn't mar War of the Worlds just because he's currently out of vogue.

2. This girl is in it:

Dakota Fanning is, without a doubt, a fantastic young actress. She enthuses the character of Rachel with a realistic vulnerability. And no, she doesn't just bawl all the way through. Couple this with Man On Fire and it's easy to see how well she can deliver, and it never feels gratuitous, probably because she doesn't realise that she's doing it. In particular the kitchen scene ("Since when?" "Birth."), and the section with Tim Robbins allows us to feel something about the character, and one of the most exciting careers to come -once you excise ages 13-17.

3. The second half is just as good as the first.

If the title proves misleading - it's hardly an epic war- then it's because the movie operates on a level above your atypical popcorn fodder. As much as I enjoy Independence Day, the film is layered with cheese and it's shallower than a deflated paddling pool. War of the Worlds though takes what the audience should expect and turns it on its head: our hero is a dick, we never see outer space, and Bill Pullman's nowhere to be found. It works more like an action-drama, and when this kicks into overdrive after the unrelenting first half, I guess the claustrophobia is too much for some to take with Tim Robbins' Ogilvy wielding an axe willy-nilly and aliens without thermal vision. I'm sorry if you're suggesting a movie with a premise over a century old which cites aliens coming to Earth and exterminating mankind is "unbelievable", I think you're missing the point. The scene works on more than just suspension of disbelief.

In fact the film works on a very personal level and I applaud the creative talents for being so bold in the direction the story takes. For once, CGI feels naturalistic. Of course there's no defending the eventual ending (or H.G Wells' seemingly lazy wrap-up) which does throw the movie off-kilt. But still the movie manages to bow out gracefully on a downer, and a hopeful one at that. It fucks me off so much that people would attack a film for its flaws in logic rather than storytelling. I'd be watching the Discovery Channel if I wanted an accurate and scientifically-sound portrayal of events, I'd just rather have one that moves me.

4. It's made by Steven Spielberg.

Do I really have to argue my case? This is the man who brought us Duel, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Minority Report, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List and however many other movies he's managed to affirm life with. Suddenly he just loses his touch? I'm not excusing Hook here, but just a mere prologue into War of the Worlds and it's obvious that he's not poaching on foreign territory, or even repackaging his own. The film is a breathless journey which doesn't need to justify its own existence because it's playing by its own rules, and not the established ones. If this is too much for you to handle, go rent Stealth or something.

Time deserves to be kind to War of the Worlds. Just blame Katie Holmes for this temporary debacle.

Saturday, January 07, 2006 

Flight 93 trailer.

Flight 93 is the first of two takes on the events of 9/11 -the second being Oliver Stone's as yet untitled effort with Nicholas Cage- focusing on the 'flight that fought back'. It's an interesting perspective to take on the events (Stone's movie will take place in the aftermath of the attack itself), and if anyone is up to the job handling something like this tastefully, it's assuredly Paul Greengrass who should be seminal in lending an intense realism to the piece; but not in 'Hollywood thriller' fashion. The teaser trailer can be found here , and is sufficiently engaging if a little thin. Whatever the weather this is sure to be one of 2006's most controversial and important movies, taking its cue from Spielberg's Munich and will hopefully handle itself with dignity to bring the most harrowing events of the 21st Century to the screen.


Overlooked & Under-appreciated.

Any Given Sunday, 1999, dir: Oliver Stone

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Plot: Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) has been the coach of the Miami Sharks for a very long time. Grappling with his own personal demons both on and off the field, the new rich bitch owner (Cameron Diaz), and now his newly immobilised quarterback (Dennis Quaid) being replaced by the juvenile Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx). While Beamen is more concerned with personal gain, he forces Tony to up his game.

Why I like it: I don't like playing sports. I've never been much good at them, nor can I find myself taking enthusiasm toward a particular one. What does interest me, though -and what this film realises so beautifully- is why people play sports. Any Given Sunday is admittedly an easy film to dismiss on paper: yet another feel-good case of underdogs against the odds. Thankfully, Stone manages to dispel this notion from the off, affording not only his characters but also his story an impersonal yet sincere depth and richness which subverts Sunday from a simple morality tale to touchingly-rendered universal story for all to exalt.

Stone manages to switch between the poignant and besmeared in equal measure, and this why the movie comes off so overwhelming enjoyable. The sub-text is allowed to shine through without the usual political intensity of Stone's earlier work. It's not that he's not emotionally invested in the story (he even cameos as an impassioned commentator), we're just allowed to have more fun this time round, and the result is an easier immersion into the fictitious world of the Miami Sharks. There's much to cherish here, not least Pacino's endearing performance as the bedraggled D'Amato which is simply astounding. The man is so good at delivery it sends shivers to the spine. Cameron Diaz may fall flat occasionally but otherwise this is an convincing ensemble (James Woods is still underused though) and Stone juggles each of their separate stories with a dizzying array of stylistic techniques.

It's easy and hard to see how something so finely-tuned can slip from public consciousness after only seven years. On the one hand, 1999 was an uncommonly strong year for American cinema: The Matrix, Fight Club, Magnolia and Galaxy Quest to name but four. On the other this is the best kind of cinema; the kind that beats the shit out of you then leaves you for dead. Despite moments of self-indulgence and a seemingly messy appearance Any Given Sunday is, at its heart a simple tale of 'gladiators' elevated to levels of true sentiment. And I'm still trying to figure out why it had such an effect on me. Maybe it's the unassuming nature of the storytelling, Stone's vibrant wall-to-wall soundtracking and brilliant editing distracting for the moments when Pacino can sidesweep you with his 'inches' speech or a naked man can suddenly appear in frame.

Wasn't it Stone himself who said "Nothing exceeds like excess."?

Amen to that.

See if you like: Friday Night Lights, Crash (2004), Heat

I honestly believe that woman would eat her own young.

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