Sundance in Chicago: 2 Days in New York

So it’s been an extended weekend for me, ranging from last Friday to this past Monday. I have been incredibly busy, but I’m happy to be back to posting today.

Last Thursday, I got the opportunity to attend the Sundance Film Festival . . . in Chicago. I would have loved to attended the actual festival in Park City, but I settled for Chicago, one of the nine cities that Sundance sends a film from the festival to be screened. Chicago was the recipient of Julie Delpy’s second Sundance film, 2 Days in New York. Back in 2007, the festival showcased 2 Days in Paris, Delpy’s prequel to this year’s film. I had not seen 2 Days in Paris–and still haven’t–yet I was able to very much enjoy New York.

Screened at Chicago’s Music Box Theater, 2 Days in New York was a hit. It was cool to sit among the other 640 something people for the movie experience. Co-writer and star Alexia Landeau attended and answered questions for the Q/A session following the film. Then, the film’s director, writer, and star–Julie Delpy–appeared on the screen via Skype, and continued with the session.

I won’t review the film in its entirety, but I will say that 2 Days in New York is worth a watch for those of you out there who enjoy comedy. I don’t think I’ve ever attended a film that garnered as many laughs as New York  did. Delpy’s father, Albert, actually played her French-speaking father, who shared some hilarious scenes with Chris Rock, each struggling to understand one another. Delpy explained in the Q/A session that those scenes were very real considering that her father speaks little to no English, and Rock isn’t exactly a multilingual guy who majored in French at college.

The film had its ups and downs. There were some parts that didn’t seem to quite fit together all too well with the plot (such as the scene where she sells her soul to Vincent Gallo!), while other scenes sparked hilarity, such as Delpy using the excuse of having a brain tumor to get her neighbor to lay off calling the police for the noise her French family caused. Wholly original, 2 Days in New York is a fun ride, but not incredibly memorable. It lacks a certain kind of emotion to make a viewer care, but it has enough poise to let you enjoy the film and laugh along with it.

It was nice to see Rock play straight to the Delpy’s hilarious protagonist. New York is a different film altogether that you probably haven’t seen. There may be bits and pieces of it that you’ve seen in other comedies, but New York has a mind of its own, in a playful, unique kind of way.

Even GQ took notice of  Delpy’s hilarious performance, including her in their top 15 performances of the festival. Also, be sure to check out EW‘s hilarious portraits of the cast. The film is released in theaters on March 28, 2012.

Tim Burton’s Upcoming Projects

It has long been known that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have collaborated on many films, from Burton’s latest take on Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to some of his 90s films such as Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow. Regardless of his take on whatever film, viewers can safely assume that it will be dark, edgy, weird and perhaps the combination of all those adjectives–unique.

This year, Burton has his name on three film projects going out the door: Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and a remake of the 1984 Frankenweenie.

Two years before its inception, the original Dark Shadows TV series creator Dan Curtis had a dream on a train and told it to the ABC network. Soon after, Curtis received the green light to begin the proejct, and from 1966 to 1971, Dark Shadows, pegged a gothic soap opera, aired on television.

Courtesy of Wikipedia, a synopsis of Burton’s film adaption of Dark Shadows:

In 1752, the Collins family sails from Liverpool, England to North America. The son, Barnabas, grows up to be a wealthy playboy in Collinsport, Maine and is the master of Collinwood Manor. He breaks the heart of a witch, Angelique Bouchard, who turns him into a vampire and buries him alive. In 1972, Barnabas is freed and returns to find his manor in ruin. It is occupied by dysfunctional descendants and other residents, all of whom have secrets.

Burton will serve as director and producer on the project, and it’s no surprise that Depp will be leading this cast, especially given the fact that as a child, he actually wanted to be Barnabas Collins. Aside Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, and Helena Bonham Carter will star. Danny Elfman, no stranger to working with Burton (Edward Scissorhands to name only one of the many), will be composing the soundtrack.

Although pictures have been leaked from the film since September of last year, Rotten Tomatoes recently posted three photos of the film on their site. Dark Shadows will be released in theaters on May 11, 2012.

Only a little over a month later, Burton’s second project, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, will be hitting theaters. Burton will be acting as producer along the film’s director, Timur Bekmambetov.

Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the book the film is based off, adapted his novel for the screen as well. IMDB summarizes the film as follows:

President Lincoln’s mother is killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels his passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers.

I’m very excited to see this film, although I’d like to take a crack at the book first. Grahame-Smith also put an interesting spin on the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice by inserting a few zombies and zombified-language of sorts, re-naming the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It is no wonder that Burton had a hand in bringing Abraham Lincoln to the film format.

In 1984, Walt Disney released Burton’s short film stop-motion animation film, Frankenweenie. Burton now is recapturing it, bringing it back to the big screen for a second time. The black and white film will be shot in 3D, which may serve the format well, given that it is stop-motion.

Frankenweenie will be the second stop-motion animation film under the direction of Tim Burton, Corpse Bride being his first. According to WikipediaFrankenweenie will pay ” homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein based on Mary Shelley’s book of the same name. In the film, a boy named Victor loses his dog and uses the power of science to bring it back to life. Once the others learn of his secret, they set out to create their own monsters, each based on their respective pets and personalities.”

Burton has written, directed, and produced Frankenweenie.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is set to be released on June 22, 2012. Frankenweenie will hit theaters October 5, 2012.

Reaction to Oscar Nominations

Everyone’s going to have their own quips about what film was nominated, what film wasn’t nominated, who got snubbed, who got included who shouldn’t have, etc. Some will and some won’t agree with me on any or many of these.

If you read my previous post, you’ll already have a one-up on this one. In more detail, here are my reactions:

What Disappoints Me

  • Shailene Woodley not making the cut for Actress in a Supporting Role. Who got it instead? Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids. I can’t even comprehend how there’s a comparison here. I really don’t care to vote between comedy or drama; in terms of role performance, in my humble opinion, Woodley–not McCarthy–should have been nominated.
  • Drive‘s lack of nominations. With its overall positive reviews, ratings, and plug for Ryan Gosling, I’m stunned that it’s walking about with only a single nom. In my latest post, I mentioned the forgotten Albert Brooks. I feel like Drive is walking away forgotten.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt missing the nomination. I know most people are more upset over Fassbender not on the ballot. I haven’t seen Shame, and honestly, have little interest in seeing it. Although I would like to see it since there’s been a great deal made about it. This disappointment, however, is regarding JGL–and I am disheartened to see that he has yet to get past Golden Globe nods and break through that Oscar glass.
  • Speaking of JGL, how about Will Reiser’s script not passing for Best Original Screenplay? I’m a little hesitant to praise Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig for their Bridesmaids script, and I haven’t seen Margin Call, but I’m still wondering how 50/50 didn’t get nominated.
  • Harry Potter series walks away with zero acting nominations. As discussed with some on Anomalous Material, this isn’t entirely surprising. Actually, considering some of the biggest film series with huge casts, it’s almost not surprising at all. But for us Potter fans, it still hurts a little inside to see not even Alan Rickman get some much-deserved credit, much less a host of other fantastic supporting roles. Oh, and did I mention Daniel Radcliffe? I know I’m not in the majority thinking this, but I can’t help but admit that he did such incredible work, especially in the last film. Not even a Golden Globe nod? What do I say to all that? Boooo.
  • The snubbed Mr. Ryan Gosling. Between DriveIdes of March, and even Crazy Stupid Love, which strangely earned him a Golden Globe nod, Gosling walked away without a single nomination. So I think it’s sad that he didn’t pull through for Drive  or even Ides. With a year that boasted his name more than any other, it’s disappointing.
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close making the Best Picture cut. Are you serious? Here’s a better question: how does a movie with a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes get nominated for Best Picture?

What Confuses Me

  • Why is Viola Davis considered the lead actress in The Help? I have no problem with her being nominated. In fact, I support that. But here’s my beef: I watched The Help, and I was under the impression the entire movie that Emma Stone was the lead character. This is lost on me.
  • Why is Emma Stone completely forgotten from The Help? I realize she plays straight to the characters portrayed by Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, etc. I even almost get that most would not consider her performance Oscar-worthy. But that leads me to three more questions–Why does she not get credit at any awards ceremonies this season for her work in the film? Why is her performance in Easy A considered Golden Globe worthy, but not her role in The Help? And finally, why does Melissa McCarthy get credit for her role in Bridesmaids at the freaking Oscars, but Emma Stone doesn’t get any credit for The Help . . . AT ALL?! Anyone?
  • Why is Berenice Bejo in the Actress in a Supporting Role category? Perhaps this one is more obvious. Jean Dujardin is clearly the lead. Understood. But wasn’t Bejo the lead actress in The Artist? It was the same way at the Golden Globes. I’m just really confused about this.
  • Why is everyone making such a big deal about Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? I realize it was a very polarizing, intense role to portray. I get it. And I can even understand the Oscar nomination. What I don’t get? Why is there all this crazy fuss about her? What other work has she given to film that makes her stand apart from the rest? OK, so she’s just getting nominated for TGWTDT. Understood there. But isn’t that kind of a slap in the face to Noomi Rapace from the Swedish version? I mean only two years prior, she played the same role–and fantastically, I may add–and didn’t receive any of this accolade that is being poured on Mara. Why is that?
  • Why can’t the dogs from Beginners and The Artist get nominated? After all, the one from The Artist saved Dujardin’s life. And the one from Beginners? Doesn’t get much cuter than that. Academy, how about we add a new category, eh?

What Makes Me Happy

  • Perhaps the nomination that delightfully surprised me most was Nick Nolte in Warrior. The film itself hadn’t gotten much praise–good reviews, but not great ones. I realize everyone mentions issues with the film from cliche type story line, to boring cinematography, to “we’ve already seen this movie a zillion times in other sports films.” Got it. But I’m incredibly happy to see Mr. Nolte get some credit for his role. With great performances all around in Warrior, Nolte stood out to me, even considering Edgerton and Hardy. What a well-deserved nomination.
  • The Help and Midnight in Paris showing up on the Best Picture list. Although neither film will be a contender for that category, I’m happy to see both get nominated. The Help received a massive amount of criticism, and I wasn’t sure Midnight in Paris would make the cut, even with its growing popularity.
  • Cars 2 didn’t get an Animated Film nomination. Sorry, Pixar, but 2011 was not your year. Glad to see better animated films get nominated.
  • Gary Oldman nominated. I know this will make a lot of people’s lists of things that made them happy for this year’s Oscars. Although I wasn’t blown away by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I will say that I’m happy to see Oldman receive so much-deserved credit.

All Hail Oscar: 84th Academy Award Nominations

Well, the Oscar nominations are in, and it’s gearing up to be year of multiple choices. There are many strong contenders, although there are also many favorites standing out, especially with past awards ceremonies this season prepping us for said stand outs.

For the Golden Globes, I didn’t include a list, but just speculated on what I liked and what I didn’t like. For the Oscar categories, I’ve decided not only to include the full list, but also to limit myself to a single question or statement for each category.

Actor in a Leading Role

Demián Bichir in A Better Life
George Clooney in The Descendants
Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Even with exceptionally great performances nominated, Jean Dujardin strikes me as the real winner of this category.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Nick Nolte in Warrior
Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Nick Nolte, Jonah Hill, Christopher Plummer . . . wait, where’s Drive‘s Albert Brooks?

Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis in The Help
Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn

Meryl Streep delivers, even in a terrible movie.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Bérénice Bejo in The Artist
Jessica Chastain in The Help
Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer in The Help

Who thought playing a hilarious, unapologetic bridesmaid could place you in the same category as Spencer and Bejo?

Directing

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Alexander Payne
Hugo, Martin Scorsese
Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick

Oscar darling noms aside, Mr. Hazanavicious is due for another acceptance speech.

Best Picture

The Artist, Thomas Langmann, Producer
The Descendants, Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Scott Rudin, Producer
The Help, Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
Hugo, Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
Midnight in Paris, Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
Moneyball, Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
The Tree of Life, Nominees to be determined
War Horse, Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

And they thought downsizing this category from 10 to 9 would really change things, huh?

ALSO – what the heck is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close doing on this list? (sorry, had to break my rule at least once)

Animated Feature Film

A Cat in Paris, Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
Chico & Rita, Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
Kung Fu Panda 2, Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Puss in Boots, Chris Miller
Rango, Gore Verbinski

I wonder how Pixar is handling better films like Rango, Kung Fu Panda 2, and even Puss in Boots taking up all the room in this category.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

The Descendants, Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Hugo, Screenplay by John Logan
The Ides of March, Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
Moneyball, Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin Story by Stan Chervin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

Is there anything really exciting about these nominations?

Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Artist, Written by Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids, Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
Margin Call, Written by J.C. Chandor
Midnight in Paris, Written by Woody Allen
A Separation, Written by Asghar Farhadi

I think a certain little original Will Reiser piece called 50/50 is missing from this category.

Art Direction

The Artist 
Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan

Hugo 
Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo

Midnight in Paris 
Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil

War Horse 
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

And all the Harry Potter fans say, FINALLY!

Cinematography

The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo, Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

Should anyone aside from Emmanuel Lubezki even be considered in this group?

Costume Design

Anonymous, Lisy Christl
The Artist, Mark Bridges
Hugo, Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre, Michael O’Connor
W.E., Arianne Phillips

Anonymous and Jane Eyre make welcome appearances to the nominations.

Documentary (Feature)

Hell and Back Again 
Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front 
Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory 
Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

Pina
Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel

Undefeated 
TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

N/A

Documentary (Short Subject)

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement 
Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin

God Is the Bigger Elvis 
Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson

Incident in New Baghdad 
James Spione

Saving Face 
Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom 
Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

N/A

Film Editing

The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Kevin Tent
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen

I would be OK with TGWTDT getting some love here.

Foreign Language Film

Bullhead, Belgium
Footnote, Israel
In Darkness, Poland
Monsieur Lazhar, Canada
A Separation, Iran

Why does everyone already know that A Separation is going to win?

Makeup

Albert Nobbs
Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng

The Iron Lady
Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Makeup: one of the only categories Harry Potter is getting credit for, one of the only categories The Iron Lady should receive any kind of commendation for.

Music (Original Score)

The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
The Artist, Ludovic Bource
Hugo, Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
War Horse, John Williams

Despite my love for John Williams and Howard Shore, I can’t imagine anyone but Ludovic Bource winning.

Music (Original Song)

“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from Rio, Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

I could cry tears of joy over the “Man or Muppet” nomination; we’ll be looking for you at the Oscars, Jason Segel and Jim Parsons.

Short Film (Animated)

Dimanche/Sunday, Patrick Doyon
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
La Luna, Enrico Casarosa
A Morning Stroll, Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
Wild Life, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

N/A

Short Film (Live Action)

Pentecost, Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
Raju, Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
The Shore Terry, George and Oorlagh George
Time Freak, Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
Tuba Atlantic, Hallvar Witzø

N/A

Sound Editing

Drive, Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ren Klyce
Hugo, Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
War Horse, Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Is anyone else half laughing, half angry that the only category Drive received a nom for, Transformers is also sharing a spot of recognition?

Sound Mixing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson

Hugo
Tom Fleischman and John Midgley

Moneyball 
Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin

War Horse 
Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

As long as Michael Bay doesn’t get any reward or recognition, I’m strangely OK with Transformers getting nominated.

Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 
Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson

Hugo
Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning

Real Steel 
Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg

Rise of the Planet of the Apes 
Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett

Transformers: Dark of the Moon 
Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Harry Potter, please win something. Planet of the Apes, welcome.

Yes, there were snubs. But after reading the list, is there any other bigger surprise or disappointment than watching Ryan Gosling receive no nominations?!

Backstage Spotlight: Dan in Real Life Bonus Features (2007)

Bonus features, special features, extras–whatever you want to call them–are usually on most movies you end up renting or owning. I find them particularly fun to watch, if I have the time. What’s crazy is that I’ve seen Dan in Real Life a handful of times over the past 4 years, yet I never took the time to check out the bonus features until last night.

Let’s break it down.

Behind the Scenes

Writer-director Peter Hedges’s ultimate goal, it seems, is to make films that are different. That’s one of his big points in the “behind the scenes” featurette on the DVD. Dan in Real Life  supports his idea of being different by really being its own movie. Hedge has written a few films across the board throughout his career, from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) to About a Boy (2002). Hedge acts as director and co-writer for Dan, bringing to life Pierce Gardner’s writing. That cast had only great things to say about Hedges (of course!), but many of them noted that he was much different than the typical director in that he was very down to earth and was always bringing something different to the table.

One really interesting thing I caught from the featurette was that the entire cast, spare Steve Carell, came onto set a week before shooting to rehearse and hang out in the house where the majority of the movie was filmed. As much as I’ve seen the movie, I really felt like the cast was a family. It’s now only evident that the week they spent getting to know one another paid off in the end product.

About the Score: Sondre Lerche

This segment of the Bonus Features was my favorite. Typically, there isn’t anything expressed in detail regarding the score of a film listed within the special features, especially with someone considered less known, like Sondre Lerche. Dan in Real Life introduced me to this impressive, one-of-a-kind singer-songwriter-composer. No doubt there are a million other Sondre Lerche singer-songwriters floating around, but Lerche separates himself from the rest with his added talent of film composition. Before Hedge contacted Lerche, he had never heard of him, much less could pronounce his name. Hedge’s goal was to bring the film and soundtrack together by finding music that represented the title character, Carell’s Dan. In a nutshell, Lerche fulfilled that goal for Hedge, and a fantastic collaboration was born.

The rest of Lerche’s band flew in from Norway to sing and play in the background of the end scene in the film. Sondre Lerche might not be everyone’s cup of tea (such as Roger Ebert, who specifically called the film out on it!), but in my opinion, his music fit Dan in Real Life nicely, and didn’t come across too literal.

Deleted Scenes

Dan in Real Life might hold the record for the largest number of deleted scenes. Perhaps I’m exaggerating, but viewing 11 new or extended versions of scenes got exhausting and boring fast. There was only one deleted scene I might have even appreciated in the film, and it wasn’t even memorable. Each of these scenes–and probably a few more from the final cut–deserved to be on the cutting board.

Do you ever watch the Bonus Features on your favorite films? What did you think of Sondre Lerche’s score? Did you notice that Office alum Amy Ryan costarred in the film with Steve Carell?

Trailer Friday – Rock of Ages

For those of you who saw Game of Shadows in theaters last month, probably caught this first Rock of Ages trailer released. Due to open early this summer, Rock of Ages features an A-list cast from Footloose survivor Julianne Hough, to Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston, Chicago‘s Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, and . . . Tom Cruise?

Musically-inclined director Adam Shankman, brushing up after his successful remake (2007) of Broadway musical Hairspray (2002), which was actually based off the 1988 film, will be producing and directing this musically-based film set in the 1980s rock ‘n roll era.

Up and newcomer Diego Boneta will be starring in the film next to Hough. Born in Mexico City, twenty-one-year old Boneta’s list of credits starts at Mexican soap opera Rebelde and carries through a recurring role on the ABC family teen drama, Pretty Little Liars and a guest role on 90210. Rock of Ages will bring his face and name into the Hollywood spotlight for the first time. Shankman even compared the young singer to Zac Efron in Hairspray and Channing Tatum in the first Step Up (2006).

The music alone is reason to go see this film, with it featuring Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, and Twisted Sister. The trailer offers just a taste of it with what appears to be a singing battle of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going to Take It” serving as trailer music, with Zeta-Jones on one side and Brand on the other.

Although I haven’t seen the original Rock of Ages anywhere, I did learn that Zeta-Jones’s role was originally made for Shankman’s movie version. As for Cruise, well, with him plugging in “5 hour practice sessions” and his voice being Shankman-deemed “fantastic,” I hope we’ll all be in for a treat come June this year. Even if you don’t like musicals, I’d recommend going just to see Cruise play Stacee Jaxx. He looks hysterical.

Batman Films Combined in Trilogy Poster

It’s been out for a little bit now, but I saw this poster and thought it was a great way to show the fluency of Christopher Nolan’s three Batman films, Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and this year’s The Dark Knight Rises. Normally, I don’t pull a picture or poster and write a post about it, but I think this one gives a nice illustration of how the three films fit together to become a single unit, which Nolan has confessed to be his goal all along in making the trilogy.

I really love this poster. When the original teaser trailer (and poster) came out for The Dark Knight Rises, there were a lot of comments that it looked too Inception-like. The dark, drained colors, the building falling apart, it all supposedly screamed Inception, partly assumed since both films are CNolan creations. I think this view will open up the thought that each poster was intentionally made to fit into this bigger picture.

I like looking at each of the movie posters separately to see how the “bat” part fits well into the single, compacted poster. First, there’s sepia colors used for Batman Begins. Then, some darker colors are used for The Dark Knight, and then the poster for The Dark Knight Rises is the darkest in color, but it also has the “light at the end of the tunnel” idea at the top. The poster gives a point of view from the ground that would imply an urge to rise, which works well with the title of the film.

Do you like the progression of the film posters? Do you think they’re good representations of the film? What do you think of the combined poster?


AEOS Review: Cameron Crowe and his Elizabethtown (2005)

This post, I’m focusing on director Cameron Crowe, and in particular, his film Elizabethtown, the mediocre-reviewed film considered a flop on the director’s resume.

Similar to the reviews Elizabethtown received, the movie reflects the low points a person must go through in order to learn about a little thing called life. To start this post off, here’s a quote from Crowe himself, published only 3 weeks ago in Vulture magazine regarding the critics’ poor reaction to the film Elizabethtown:

To me, only if something comes from an inauthentic place should you feel vulnerable to the things that anybody might say.

He defends the film insomuch without actually coming across as defensive, a feeling that would have been understandable considering the rough reviews it received.

I’ve read several negative reviews/comments regarding Cameron Crowe and his films since few believe any of his movies have lived up to his most well-known films, Almost Famous (2000) and Say Anything (1989). I have to applaud Crowe for the way in which he has handled the criticism, because as a filmmaker and an artist, he gets it. He goes on in Vulture:

I stand behind it [Elizabethtown] and didn’t feel savaged. It was a little brutal. But I get that people want to express themselves. I express myself, too.

Crowe is one of those filmmakers who makes movies that resonate, even if they don’t connect with a wide audience. Crowe is an autobiographical filmmaker. There aren’t many of those out there–filmmakers who live, write, and then direct a movie that mirrors one’s own life. In a sit-down, unscripted interview with Orlando Bloom, the film’s star, both filmmaker and actor answer questions written in by viewers, and questions each have compiled for one another. Bloom asks Crowe what is the one thing he looks for in an actor, and without hesitation, Crowe replies, “Authenticity.” He goes on to say how he looks for authenticity in a person’s eyes, and that’s how an actor can connect with an audience, because the performance given is not just a performance, but something true and honest that viewers can find relatable.

After watching the film a few times, I started to wonder. . . how the heck did Crowe get Orlando Bloom to sign on to this movie? It’s nothing like Bloom has ever done before, and despite criticism on the Brit’s American accent (which really wasn’t bad!), Bloom sold it. But before he joined, could you imagine Ashton Kutcher filling the role? Well, he was hired until Crowe decided to call up Bloom. It’s amazing to think that James Franco and Chris Evans auditioned for the role too.

When it comes to writing, the old cliche goes, “you should write what you know.” That is what Crowe does, and Elizabethtown is example of that. At the end of the day, Crowe doesn’t care that many people–namely, critics–didn’t like Elizabethtown. And as a big fan of the movie, I don’t care that they didn’t get it either. Yes, there were some cheesy parts, or lines that were a little far out, but guess what I got out of it? A lot of heart, something Cameron Crowe films are filled with.

If you read or watch any interview with Crowe back from 2005, you’ll learn that the movie was a tribute to his late father. The movie, made over a decade after his father passed, was meant to bring to light those moments where you get to know your parents better after they passed because you failed (or in this movie’s case, Drew Baylor failed) to spend that vital time with family before they were gone.

I’ve seen Elizabethtown maybe a dozen or more so times. I always try to put several months between each viewing, because there’s nothing like noticing things you didn’t see the first, second, or eighth viewing, and this time around, it was no different.

Most of my friends that I beg to sit down and watch Elizabethtown with don’t take away what I’ve taken from it. What makes the Elizabethtown stand out to me? Well, the soundtrack, for one. Before Crowe and Nancy Wilson divorced, Wilson collaborated with Crowe on the soundtracks for many of his films. She composed a fitting score for Elizabethtown, combining a lot of string instruments, namely guitar and banjo, to blend with the rich soundtrack including a laundry list of classic artists, from Patty Griffin to Tom Petty to I Nine to Elton John to My Morning Jacket, who posed as the fictional band “Ruckus” in the film. Perhaps my favorite score song of all time is on the score soundtrack, titled “River Road,” by Nancy Wilson. I love how it captures the feeling of the movie and the characters without being boring or just adding sound to the background.

Another aspect I really appreciated was the tone of the movie. There’s a scene where Drew (Orlando Bloom) walks in and is literally bombarded with all these crazy, random southerners who know all about him and his success with his job, while he returns hugs and looks to people he’s meeting for the first time. It’s one of the best movie representations of southern charm and family and the way they express themselves, and Bloom easily portrays a fish out of water in the setting.

I could go on about several different moments that I especially enjoyed from the movie, but I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that Elizabethtown isn’t for everyone. And for those who have already seen the film and disliked it, I’m not going to convince, no matter how great I believe the movie is, or how heartwarming I express Crowe as a filmmaker and writer to be. But for me, Elizabethtown is one of those movies I will watch again and again, because the movie captures little moments in life that I’ve experienced, and it’s a great reminder about what’s important in life–not success, but time spent with the people who matter. About taking life a step future and contemplating who and what is significant to be spending time with.

And this just in . . . 

I tweeted Cameron Crowe about Elizabethtown and got a reply from him! Check it:

Trailer Friday – The Raven

When you hear the name John Cusack, you do not think character role. You do not think historical character, and you most certainly do not think historical character role. Why? Because it’s John Cusack. John Cusack is the guy in the rom coms, holding the stereo over his head to get the girl in Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything (1989) or leaving fate to decide his destiny in Serendipity (2001). Yes, Cusack has filled various roles over his long career, such as a Jewish art dealer in Max (2002) or as a puppeteer in the Oscar-nominated Being John Malkovich (1999). He’s even in dipped his toes in the screenwriting business when he co-wrote and starred in the political film War, Inc (2008).

No matter how you look at it though, his most well-known roles are romantic comedies or thrillers such as the over-the-top 2012 from 2009. Cusack is your everyman who looks and talks the same in just about everything he’s in. He’s usually very likable, but it seems like there’s often an “X-factor” that he’s lacking. Or maybe it’s that most of us are so accustomed to watching him play the underdog, that his talent is far more underrated. Born in Chicago, Cusack has retained a low profile, staying out of the media limelight.

And now we have this awesome trailer for The Raven, which actually came out in early October of last year. Perhaps I was sleeping or completely unaware of its release, but after a viewing, I was immediately pulled in. Now I have to see this movie. From the trailer, one can assume a few things:

–John Cusack is playing the legendary Edgar Allen Poe

–The movie is more of an action/thriller than a drama

–There’s a story being told here that is atypical of what many of us assume Edgar Allen Poe is about

Cusack’s done the thrillers before, as well as portrayed a writer in Stephen King’s adapted book-to-movie 1408 (2008), and now he’s playing the historically dark and edgy writer Edgar Allen Poe. As someone commented on the YouTube video, the movie appears to have a very Sherlock Holmes-like feel and look to it, as well as similar type story line.

Director James McTeigue is no stranger to the action genre, having assisted in directing both Matrix sequels (1999, 2003), V for Vendetta (2005), and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002). Watch for The Raven to open in theaters March 9.

AEOS Double Review: Win Win and Warrior

Last weekend, I got to see two GREAT movies that probably would have made my top 10 list for 2011 (or very close to it), had I not already made the list days earlier.

Win Win and Warrior are incredibly different movies, but the one thing they share in common is fighting. In Win Win, Paul Giamatti plays a frustrated high school wrestling coach. Warrior features Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as estranged brothers, both with past mixed martial arts skills who enlist in the same fighting tournament.

WIN WIN

Paul Giamatti, in like every other movie he plays any type of role in, shines, playing a guy named Mike Flaherty who’s a struggling attorney and coach of a pathetic high school wrestling team. He and his wife, Jackie, played by the lovely Office alum Amy Ryan, have two daughters. Mike is well aware that his job is not paying the bills, and that he needs to do something, and fast. One of his clients, Burt Young (Leo Poplar), is without a guardian and will be forced by the state to stay in a retirement home. The catch is that whoever is Young’s guardian is in for a nice sum of money each month. Mike convinces the judge that he’s the man for the job, and takes the title of Mr. Young’s guardian. The only problem is that Mike doesn’t have time between his jobs and family to watch an elderly man, so he enlists him in a retirement home anyway–convincing him that this is what the judge ruled–while still cashing in the checks.

Not much later, Young’s grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), meets with Mike, and a whole new set of actions take place. Kyle takes up residence with the Flaherty’s, enrolls in the local high school, joins Mike’s wrestling team–and becomes the star wrestler–meanwhile, Mike is continuing to cash Young’s checks in secret.

It all comes together in the end, although as a viewer, I wondered how that was going to be possible as it seemed to get messier as time went by.

I really enjoyed this movie. The actors all looked like regular, every day people, and in part, made it such a believable story. The relationship between Mike and Kyle grew, almost claiming a father/son-like relationship. Mike provided for and encouraged Kyle, while Kyle gave Mike a reason to believe in wrestling again.

Thomas McCarthy both wrote this brilliant script, as well as directed the film. He’s played a variety of small roles, but his most well-known accomplishment is his screenplay for the Pixar success, Up. Win Win is only his third movie to have directed. I hope to see more from this guy in the near future.

While the story was exceptionally strong, a lot of credit has to go to the actors for developing and playing out strong characters. Bobby Cannavale, who played Mike’s best friend, Terry, was especially humorous in scenes, breaking the drama up a little bit. Giamatti and Ryan worked well together as husband and wife, and parents wanting to always do the right thing, but sometimes failing. Alex Shaffer might have been the stand-out in the cast, playing a realistically troubled, yet kind and grounded teenager.

Win Win was a highly underrated movie for 2011. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Win Win = 4/5 eyes on screen.

WARRIOR

Initially, I wasn’t going to see Warrior. I didn’t fine The Fighter from 2010 entirely compelling, and wasn’t up for another fighting movie. But from the excellent reviews I was reading on the movie, I decided to give it a chance, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.

I am officially a Tom Hardy fan. I’ve seen him in Inception and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and his role in Warrior is exceptional–and surprisingly left off awards lists. Between an incredibly convincing American accent, and playing such a complicated character, Hardy went in for the kill in Warrior. Stripped of any kind of happy demeanor, being estranged from both his now sober father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), and older brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), Hardy’s character Tommy comes home and announces to his father that he’s interested in taking up fighting again. He gets his dad to train him, but reminds him that there would be only training–no affection, connection, familial ties, forgiveness–just training.

On the other end of the spectrum, Edgerton plays the dead opposite type of character–a high school physics teacher who’s married, has a family and friends. But with facing financial issues and the ugly possibility of his house foreclosing, Brendan, too, takes up fighting again, asking his friend Frank Campana (Frank Grillo) to train him.

Warrior is filled to the brim with spot-on performances, including both Frank Grillo as Brendan’s trainer, and Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon, Brendan’s wife. Nick Nolte hits just the right rhythm as the failed father trying to win back his sons. We feel for his character throughout the entire movie, even as we learn that his past is what drove both his sons from him. But he’s changed now and he wants his sons to know that–only they don’t care anymore. Paddy listens to self-help tapes and claims multiple times that he’s 1000 days sober, even turning down a drink from Tommy. Paddy again tries to connect with Tommy, only to be given one of the biggest verbal smackdowns of how he’s old and unneeded. He hits the brink of suicide, throwing in the towl. Tommy finds beer bottles all over the floor the next morning, Paddy crying while mindlessly chanting random lines from self-help tapes. It’s then that Tommy finally forgives his father.

The movie had a couple of those great moments, like when Tommy forgave his father, that brought Warrior full circle. The dramatic moments were well-paced and the fighting scenes were rough, but choreographed well enough to not appear like it was too easy or too hard to win.

Warrior is a moving, compelling, and heartwarming movie that relies not on the sport as its center, but a broken family struggling to mend itself together. It has a lot of heart, and a lot of great moments.

Warrior = 4/5 eyes on screen