Monday, February 27, 2006 

James Cameron is making more movies.

James Cameron is finally making up for lost time with no more than three projects lined up in sucession following a excruciatingly long nine year hiatus after Titanic. Not that he hasn't been working -a couple of underwater docus Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep- but his long-awaited return to the big screen should be met with some big fucking banners proclaiming, "You're the King of the world.", "We'll never let go, Jim.", "Stop your grinnin' and drop your linnen." or a variation on the three. Let's no mince words here: James Cameron is easily one of the most important filmmakers of our time, even if you only appreciate his work on a technical level. He's long been rumoured to have been developing an adaptation of Battle Angel and the eponymous Project 880 (read: Avatar), both of which heavily deal within the realm of science-fiction, perhaps more so than Cameron's previous films.

Today comes the news that after finishing off Project 880, which has now been moved into "first position", and his work on Battle Angel Cameron will be setting his sights on The Dive. Uninspired title aside, this does sound genuinely interesting although decidedly vague; the movie centred more in reality than escapist fantasy dealing with the true story of a pair of divers who try to better their records for diving without oxygen. I'm guessing not everything works out alright. All of Cameron's films deal with a love story in some capacity, normally set against the backdrop of a seething disaster, and they work so well (particularly in The Abyss) because they deal with normal people trying to come to terms with their own feelings whilst attempting to fend off terminators, aliens or Art Malik. I'm altogether delirious that James Cameron will be unleashing a new motion picture next year, and the fact that there's two more after that has me pissing my pants like an over-juiced four year-old.

Friday, February 24, 2006 

Spidey 3 teaser.

Did someone say Venom?

Thursday, February 23, 2006 

Thank You For Smoking.

I'm still kind of surprised that Hollywood would invest in such glossy satire like Thank You For Smoking and American Dreamz (both released later this year), and then I remember Michael Moore and his infectious controversy, and that maybe the general cinema-going public do care what films have to say about the world we live in. It also helps that they've been packaged in a rollickingly witty way, tackling fairly light subject matter -reality TV and smoking- and reaching out at something deeper at the same time, Dreamz even going the whole hog and touching on our new-age taboo of terrorism.

I really started this blog to summon your attention toward Thank You For Smoking and its exceptional cast. Bar Katie Holmes, I can't fault the masterful ensemble of Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Rob Lowe, J.K Simmons, William H. Macy and Robert Duvall. Watch the trailer here. Even if both these movies royally suck, at least they're trying.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 

Billy Bob back behind the camera.

I'm a huge Billy Bob Thornton fan and he never gets the attention he deserves, particularly directorially, and more particularly for his work on and in Sling Blade. Praise be the Gods then that after five years, he's returning back to the director's chair for Floyd Collins- in which he'll play an intreprid cave explorer called, you guessed it, Floyd Collins. I'm not going to pretend I know the details (Collins is turned into a media sensation for getting trapped in a cave or something) but if Billy Bob comes near to matching the greatness of his performances in The Man Who Wasn't There, U Turn, One False Move, Friday Night Lights, A Simple Plan and numerous others I'll be a happy man.


Oldman fears the Order of the Phoenix.

He might only have got to stick his face in a fire in volume four, but it's looking more and more likely the Gary Oldman fabuloso won't be reprising his role as Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for reasons unbeknowst to anyone but the WB fatcats. Read the whole thing here. This is all very strange as the character plays an integral part in the next chapter; and I can't think of many other actors who would have the ability to nail the part as well as Zorg did in Azkaban. Nothing's set in stone yet, but don't go holding your breath.

Sunday, February 19, 2006 

O & U #4

Strange Days, 1995, dir: Kathryn Bigelow
Plot: It's December 1999 and Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), a self-styled seller of fantasy, lives a largely miserable existence pining after his ex-lover Faith (Juliette Lewis). He deals in dreams: illegally allowing his clients to 'jack in' and experience emotions and memories of desire, lust, greed or as he puts it "the forbidden fruit". When Faith becomes entangled in a web of blackmail and murder, it's up to Lenny, reluctant sidekick Macey (Angela Bassett), and best friend Max (Tom Sizemore) to save the day, uncover conspiracy, and hopefully see out the new year.

Why I like it: Kathryn Bigelow has consistently made engaging and thoroughly entertaining movies her entire career (scratching K-19 and most of Blue Steel) and she continually goes without due credit. All her films explore extremities in human emotion, while underpinning and repackaging them in a more accessable fashion. In Near Dark we had a band of unhinged vampires roaming the countryside, killing at will, despite being a tenderly fierce surrogate family unto themselves; and the film itself being set against a sporadic love story. In Point Break she blatantly mocked machismo whilst channelling it into a seductively flagrant action movie. What then is she up to with Strange Days?

In short, quite a bit. The film works not only as an exposé on human corruption -racism, voyeurism- but couples this with a dystopian tale of love and violence in the closing days of the 20th Century. The murder of a hooker and the ensuing events are pure MacGuffin, James Cameron's screenplay reliant on the bigger picture and the underlying Y2K hysteria to add urgency and potency to the movie, though still unafraid to exercise style and crucially enjoyment at the right times. This is why I enjoy Bigelow so much as a director. She'll let Juliette Lewis writhe onstage for a good five minutes just because it looks good. Because it's cinematic. And because of this her movies are free of pretension: keeping things lucid but at the same time insistent.

Point in fact, Bigelow's hyper-reality doesn't form a tangible plotline until we're about an hour in, when we're subject to a brutal rape from the rapist's literal perspective. From here on in, the film is less hung up on being a parable for our own troubled times (Lenny's 'clips' only a chance to extrapolate this further) and treads more familiar, if superior, genre-bending territory. Despite a muddled, albeit magnificently frustrating, third act Strange Days remains chewable brain candy, a "skull-fuck" brushed in an unscrupulous world. It also helps that the cast is onboard, Fiennes' embodiment of a redemption-seeking low-life is particularly charming and Bassett is quite the badass. Brimming with confidence, free of the usual Hollywood qualms, Strange Days is cerebral and relevant diversion, and what's best the result is effortless. Are we impressed yet?

See if you like: Collateral, The Terminator, The Last Boy Scout
P.S Fatboy Slim's 'Right Here, Right Now' is directly sampled from this movie. The immortal words are uttered when Mace pins Lenny up against a wall toward the end of the film. Just a titbit for you.


Casino Royale casting FINALLY over.

I don't have an irrepressible urge to write about Casino Royale seen as it's been thoroughly documented all across the world wide web. Suffice to say I'm happy Daniel Craig landed this gig (although Brosnan deserved a better send-off than Die Another Day) and they've vouched for an unknown as the Bond girl. The biggest surprise for me would be the return of Felix Leiter -last seen disagreeing with a shark in 1989's tragically crap Licence to Kill- and, indeed, that he's being played by Jeffrey Wright. I'm not surprised in bad way, Wright was fantastic in Broken Flowers, I guess I thought they'd kissed that character goodnight. Anyway enough of my yakkin' here's your principles:
The Girl:

Eva Green as Vesper Lynd.

The Bad Guy:

Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre.

The Guy Who Helps Occasionally:

Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter.

Looking on it, it's not a bad cast and I'm pleased they've taken their time deciding who'll play who. Martin Campbell worked wonders on Goldeneye, let's hope he can replicate this with Casino Royale. And surely Eva Green's hotness counter-balances the lack of Moneypenny or Q. In fact she trumps them by a country mile.

Saturday, February 18, 2006 

A Scanner Darkly trailer (a new one).

I can't think of any movie I'm more excited about seeing right now, A Scanner Darkly even trumps The Departed for the most anticipated feature film of 2006. Take an acclaimed writer (Philip K. Dick), throw in an indie darling director (Richard Linklater, now out of his 'let's make kid's movies' phase), and a cast so well-picked it hurts (Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson and the lovely Winona Ryder) and you've just about got the measure of A Scanner Darkly. Not only is it utilising a band of actors who have all flirted with narcotics in their time, it streamlines Linklater's dandy rotoscoping (introduced in his 2001 movie Waking Life) and has a dystopian message to top it off. Everything Scanner related so far has been liquid -the only bum note I could really finger is Radiohead declining the chance to do the soundtrack- and the new trailer's no exception. Watch it here. This movie deserves to be huge, Sin City huge, a mainstream movie pushing the envelope so far it falls through the door. It opens in July. Go watch it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006 

Basic Instinct II trailer.

If you haven't seen the 'leaked' adult promo reel for Basic Instinct II: Risk Addiction do so now, then divert your attentions here for the movie's official trailer. I have an inexplicable want to see this movie, partly because of its unabashed trashiness but mostly because of Stone's ambrosial characterisation. The trailer itself overreaches a little in wanting to sensationalise the whole affair; but at the very least Instinct is bound to raise a few eyebrows. I only wish they'd got Paul Verhoeven back.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 

Captain Tightpants nabs White Noise sequel.

White Noise was dross. Utter, utter dross. The premise was nice enough and Michael Keaton was trying for a comeback (which he fully deserves I hasten to add) but that aside it sucked in the fifth dimension. So news of a sequel -White Noise II: The Light- doesn't exactly have me rushing out to tell my relatives. I can at least take comfort in the fact they've cast Nathan Fillion in the lead role, who's assault on the A-list couldn't come soon enough after star turns in both Firefly, Serenity and the upcoming Slither. Still this'll be shit and you can mark my words, as the plot veers off in a Final Destination-lite direction and Fillion plays the same character as Keaton did. Hollywood's never been one for continuity, unless it's mantaining the crappiness of a franchise, and White Noise II won't be any different.


Scoop poster.

Woody Allen seems to have developed an affinity with England and the buxom Ms. Johansson (with those golden globes who wouldn't?) because he's sticking with both in his latest Scoop, the poster for which can be seen below.

As you can tell it has a rather splendid cast (Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane, Allen himself) and essentially revolves around journalist Scarlett getting off with aristocrat Hugh while trying to solve a murder mystery. Allen has officially 'returned to form' (or so the critics tell me) so let's hope Scoop delivers and then some. It opens later this year.

Sunday, February 12, 2006 

Respect That Actor! #2

#2 Xander Berkeley

Forever lumbered as 'that guy' or perhaps more precisely 'that evil guy', Xander Berkeley is the definiton of a hard-working character actor. Chances are you've seen him in a bunch of things, you just didn't realise it. His smattering of impressive -if hardly showcasing- roles throughout the 80s and 90s range from the sublime (Heat) to the dire (Poison Ivy II), but always maintaining a trademark swagger with unmitigated cool. He very much reminds me of Lee Van Cleef before Sergio Leone broke him into the mainstream with For a Few Dollars More. Pre- spaghetti western Van Cleef was always the second bad guy from the right, the one who always got shot half-way through the picture. It's not much different for Berkeley.

However at the age of 51 (and with a huge body of work behind him) I can't really see him being thrust into the limelight any time soon. Which is a crying shame because the guy is capable of so much more. Take a look at him in Terminator 2. He takes to the role of John Connor's foster parent with such confidence, right up until the point he's blitzed through the head by Jenette Goldstein. Likewise in Andrew Niccol's glorious Gattaca where he draws on subtleties to carry his performance. The role itself is deliberately underwritten and Berkeley is relied on to bring immediate but not overt clarity to the film's iambic climax.

Of course when he needs to be he can play anything from inquisitive cabbie (Leaving Las Vegas), dirty agent (Air Force One) or Pacino wife-stealer in Heat. He's frequently summonsed upon to liven up these one dimensional roles, and does so time and time again. When he's actually given something to do, the result is unprecedented. As George Mason in 24 -undoubtedly his crowning achievement- he not only brought about a new dynamic in the show (levying up the show's humour, which would continue to snowball with characters like Chloe O'Brian and Edgar Stiles) he also animated Mason's progression throughout 24 hours with a touching, imperfect humanity. He may have strolled on in the show's pilot as a stock bastard, but by day two this was all "background noise". The makers saw Berkeley's potential and ran with it; producing some of the series' most poignant scenes. It's a shame by season 3 he was discarded -the same has just happpened to Reiko Aylesworth- and fans consistently rank him as the character they would most like to see return, no matter how amazingly skewed in logic it would be.

Xander Berkeley just plain rocks. And I can't think of any better recommendation than that.

If you see him in one movie, see him in: Gattaca

Friday, February 10, 2006 

X3 pictures.

While X-Men 3: The Last Stand (concluding chapter, anyone?) seems to include every mutant ever created by Marvel, some new ones, and all their pets I'm still inexplicably stoked about seeing it, mostly because Bryan Singer's first two installments were such dosh garn fun. If you haven't checked out the well-boding trailer, do so here, and peruse the veritable mountain of pictures over at Dark Horizons. Juggernaut still looks like a fucking idiot, though.

Thursday, February 09, 2006 

Del Toro likem fantasy.

Guillermo del Toro is a fantastic director. Make no mistake. And after breaking into the mainstream after Blade II and Hellboy, he has a whole smorgesboard of projects to keep him happy and slake his lust for all things invariably weird, wonderful, and intrinsically fucked-up. The latest to add to his growing list is Killing on Carnival Row, involving a serial killer offing faeries in a seedy world with vampires and elves aplenty, is no exception. Hopefully he'll be able to squeeze Hellboy II: The Golden Army into all of this, make good on Halo rumours, and be home in time to have Pan's Labyrinth ready for October because it looks like one hell of a show.


Baz gets back to work.

It's a been long five years since Baz Luhrmann wowed audiences with Moulin Rouge! (I too was wowed, but not as hysterically as some) and it can only be a good thing that he's finally settled down, aborted his attempt to make an alternative Alexander The Great movie, and set to work on his 'Austrailian Gone with the Wind'. Frankly, I've always thought that while Luhrmann's pictures have largely -if not exclusively- revolved around love stories, some parts inevitably fire blanks and to call his films slightly 'girlie' wouldn't be an overstatement. That said I'm still excited to see what he can pull out of the bag, primarily because of the presence of screenwriter Stuart Beattie (the man responsible for the rather excellent Collateral) and also leads Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe; neither of whom have really been given a chance to shine recently. Discounting Cinderella Man and Kidman's increasingly large forehead, of course.

Monday, February 06, 2006 

Stone gets bare.

Well, I told you she was a great actress here (and she is) but it might be a stretch 'respecting' this 48 year-old after you feast your eyes on this uncensored, unadulterated and unofficial promo reel for Basic Instinct's sequel which features Ms. Stone in various positions and states of undress. Mature audiences only please, and might I add I'm more than a little excited about Basic Instinct II: Risk Addiction no matter what my better judgement tells me.

Friday, February 03, 2006 

O & U #3

Rounders, 1998, dir: John Dahl

Plot: Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) a recently retired 'rounder' -someone who makes their living playing cards- comes a cropper when his one-time poker buddy 'Worm' (Edward Norton) is released from jail and is chased down by an insane Russian mob boss by the name of Teddy KGB (John Malkovich).

Why I like it: Rounders is consistently branded with the underrated stamp and is probably one of the classic examples of entertaining filmmaking slipping beneath the radar. So let's get it out of the way. The film itself isn't particularly original -from riches to rags to riches again- but takes conventional subject matter (dreary romanticism) and sets it against the backdrop of career gambling. While the film isn't nearly as hip as it wishes to be, it's still a plumb clambake for two hours, even if there's a little flab around the edges.

Matt Damon is essentially modifying his Will Hunting model with less of the schtick -not that there's anything wrong with that- and transplanting it onto another misguided but supremely talented youth, only this time with a knack for playing poker. It's a noble effort from Damon and he only really struggles with the badly-written 'serious' scenes with Gretchen Mol as the love interest. Rounders operates best when under the guise of a mainstream movie going indie: bereft of law school hindrances but rife with a 90s sensibility. The movie's success must largely lie with Ed Norton, though, who slides onto the screen and off again with an unglamourous and selfless vigour.

Rounders works because it's not about poker but totally about poker, relying on the construction of the screenplay and some fine supporting performances to elevate it to another level. Thinking of the latter we've got our fair share: Famke Janssen, John Turturro, Matin Landau, and a delightfully accented and unhinged John Malkovich who not plays with Oreos but lends a much-needed edge to the picture. Ultimately, Rounders has honest intentions and they all pay dividends from Dahl's rich yet introspective direction to its disarmingly abrupt ending there's much to hold dear, and if the much-mooted TV series finally comes to fruition; I know I'll be watching.

See if you liked: Reality Bites, The Cincinnati Kid, Beautiful Girls

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