Trailer Break: You’re Not You (2014) + 5 Promising Trailers for 2014

Happy Thursday, guys! Hope you’ve been having a good week. Today, I wanted to update one of my old segments on the site, Trailer Friday (check out an older post here featuring Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin for his work in The Artist [2011]), where I would critique a trailer on any given Friday. It’s time to update, so I have renamed the past Trailer Friday segment to Trailer Break.

AEOS‘s first Trailer Break features the upcoming film, You’re Not You (2014), starring Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, along with Emmy Rossum and Josh Duhamel (interesting group, eh?). The reason I wanted to draw attention to You’re Not You is that the story centers around a woman suffering with ALS.

With three nominations to take the Ice Bucket challenge for the life-threatening disease, or donate, (and one of those nominations by none other than Ruth from Flixchatter), I chose to donate, letting down everyone who excitedly awaited me pouring a bucket of ice cold water over my head. Sorry to disappoint, but I feel good about donating, and I would encourage anyone else nominated or moved to help the cause and support those diagnosed with ALS as well as family and friends of those with the disease.

And as future proof that I did donate, which Ruth so kindly asked me for, I offer Exhibit A as proof:

ALS proof

Exhibit A: Proof I donated to ALS, with dollar amount blacked out.

But back to the trailer. It’s a wonder if the timing of this film release was timed, as it fits in right with the major awareness and viral popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge swirling around social media. Check it out below:

 

Now, the trailer boasts an inspirational story laced with tear-filled moments, possibly begging for another Oscar nomination for Hilary Swank. I haven’t seen a lot of push for this movie in theaters or ads yet. But as for now, I’m excited about this movie, and I hope it’s not aiming for trendiness by hopping on the ALS-awareness bandwagon.

It’s your turn now. What did you think of the trailer? Would you see You’re Not You in theaters? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

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Since we’re talking about trailers, I wanted to include five trailers that look promising enough to be great films for the second half of 2014. Four of these trailers are for movies that make it on my AEOS Must-See Movies for the rest of 2014, so let’s start with those.

1) Gone Girl

I recently finished the book this movie is based off, and I have to say, I’m bubbling over with excitement for this movie since the trailer seems to promisingly follow the plot. Casting for the lead roles only promotes my anticipation as Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike seem to capture the characters’ essence in the second trailer’s two and a half minute runtime. And if anyone needs any further convincing to see this movie, the book’s author Gyllian Flynn has promised a different ending for the film.

 

2) The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Another movie about a woman gone missing, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby stars Jessica Chastain as the missing Eleanor Rigby and James McAvoy as her husband, Connor. What really interested me about this story is that the writer-director Ned Benson released three different films, one from Eleanor’s perspective, one from Connor’s perspective, and one about both of them. All three movies share the same timeline. This particular movie is titled The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, and will be released in US theaters in a little over a week. The previous two movies showcased at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.

 

3) Interstellar

Interstellar is the next big-budget, mainstream film to be released by the popular Christopher Nolan, who stunned audiences with his more recent previous films, Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Below is the third trailer released for the film, which features more of Anne Hathaway, more of Matthew McConaughey’s tears, and more footage in space. Why is this trailer promising? We know McConaughey is the hero. We know there’s an interstellar mission. But most importantly, we know Christopher Nolan is the brains behind the project.

4) The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be the guy of the hour right now, having his name attached to some big upcoming films (rumored to be a villain in Batman vs. Superman [2016] anyone?) while he’s still fresh off his Emmy win for his admirable work in BBC’s Sherlock (2010). Cumberbatch has played a character based off a real-life person before. Although The Fifth Estate (2013) was hardly a perfect movie, his portrayal of Julian Assange was remarkable, and I believe promising enough to prove his dramatic acting chops to portray Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.

5) The Theory of Everything

I recently saw the trailer for The Theory of Everything in the previews before I watched What If (2014), and I wondered how it was possible that I hadn’t noticed this movie before now. Starring Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables [2012]), The Theory of Everything focuses on the life of Stephen Hawking and his relationship with his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). It’s another biographical movie that appears to take place in Europe, but I see a lot of promise in the trailer and what I hope to be moving performances by the leads.

 

It’s your turn now. What trailers have you excited for upcoming movies this year? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

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AEOS Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Not Avengers. Not The Hobbit. Not the first of The Hunger Games or the last of Twilight produced the most anticipated hype for movies in 2012. I still believe that The Dark Knight Rises was the most anticipated film of the year. You can even add in a Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino flick near Oscar movie season, and I still hold firm in casting Nolan’s ending Batman in that top spot.

And with so much hoopla surrounding a film, only the inevitable seems probable, right? In other words, it’s not really possible for a movie to fulfill the impossible expectations that we, as film viewers, critics, audience, or even your average, everyday film-goers, have placed upon the film and shoulders of one Christopher Nolan, right?

Code language aside, The Dark Knight Rises was faced with an uphill battle the moment The Dark Knight hit theaters back in 2008. With a Batman movie receiving that kind of critical acclaim and love from critics and audiences together, how could the now much-recognized director deliver on an even higher and better level? He still has all the same people in his pockets–his brother, Jonathan, as co-writer; his cast with Christian Bale and Michael Caine leading; his composer, Hans Zimmer; his executive producer, Michael Uslan–the list goes on of course. But can the same team of people create an even better film?

With the unexpected death of Heath Ledger, perhaps there were minor (or major) script changes following The Dark Knight. Regardless, following TDK‘s massive success came the decision to finish the series with a final film, thus creating another trilogy film set–and according to some (and me in that group)–the best film trilogy made yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This Is Not a Summary

I met up with my film buddy, Fredo, from FilmYarn yesterday to record a podcast on the film. When he posts it, I’ll be sure to include a link here. Before recording, one idea we talked about was how oftentimes many film reviews are just pretty summaries of the film. Am I guilty of doing that? Oh yes. Multiple times, in fact. But in order to offer something I hope will be a little fresher, I’m working extra hard with this “review” in order to make it not just a film review reiterating plot points, but something a little different, and hopefully something that will boost some outside-of-the-box thoughts and discussion from you guys.

My Initial Reaction(s)

I forced myself to not write this review until I had seen the film at least twice. Often when I see a film a second time, I have a very different reaction. I’m happy to say that this was the case, even though I didn’t even allow 24 hours between my two viewings.

After I saw TDKR for the first time, I loved it. Thought it was great. But I couldn’t dispose of the nagging feeling in my head that TDK was better, superior, and overall the better film of the two. And that was frustrating, because this was the END! Never again will I get to see a new Nolan Batman film and compare. Regardless, I went back the following day and caught an afternoon viewing with a friend who had yet to see it. The result this time?

Still, I loved it. But my complaints had narrowed considerably. I liked it probably ten times better than the first viewing. Partly, because I caught quite a few more things the second time around, and was able to better relax while watching. Any movie that has a decent amount of depth and plot usually requires me to view it twice minimum in order to get out as much as possible about a film.

Comparison to Its Older Cousin, Spiderman 2

Although this may seem like an odd comparison, I felt like I kept seeing parts of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 while watching. Spiderman 2, was, in fact my favorite of Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, as well as the best-reviewed of the three. That point aside, consider the plot of Spiderman 2. In the opening scene, Peter Parker loses his job. Mary-Jane is with another guy. Peter gives up being Spiderman for a short time. The guy is picked apart and stripped down. It isn’t until he hits his lowest point that he regains speed, reclaims his title as Spiderman, fights the bad guys, and reunites with the girl.

In TDKR, in an effort to not spoil or give anything away (in this section), I’ll hold off on revealing too much. Essentially, however, the same idea takes place; any person who has viewed the trailer can piece that together. The idea is in the title–the action on Batman’s part, “rises”–implies that he must be low in order to rise. This idea moves me into the next thought I had . . . .

Metaphorical vs. Heavy-Handed

Fredo and I argued about whether TDKR treated its theme as a metaphor in a literal sense, or was it really just Christopher Nolan being heavy-handed in over-exaggerating the theme? I, for one, vote on the side of metaphorical. Picking up where I left off, Batman is in a low place, and therefore must rise. Several parts of the film adopted the idea of being low in order to rise. Various scenes were filmed underground. Bruce Wayne/Batman started off the film in a low place–weak mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even the time of day/weather played a role in literally rising.

Fredo saw this use of emphasizing the theme of rising as more like banging the audience over the head with a hammer constantly. It wasn’t just enough to have Batman rise to the occasion, to rise to the problems of Gotham and put his best foot forward; Nolan had to emphasize the idea of rising in multiple outlets and formats throughout the film. While I very much appreciated the purposefulness of it all, others, like Fredo, did not.

For those of you who saw the film, would you consider the film more metaphorical, or handled far too heavy? For those of you who have not seen it, please take this idea in mind and let me know what you think when you do see it!

It’s Such a Nolan Film

Anyone who has seen multiple Nolan films will agree that TDKR follows the same formula of his other films. Every scene, every piece of dialogue, every action, every tangible and intangible element has a purpose and point for being in its place at its time in the film. Everything is planned out. His films are literally puzzles, and each scene acts as a piece that must be placed at a specific time and place in the correct space.

The element of time, while is important for the film, doesn’t bear the necessity it does in his other films. In Memento, the time functioned in a more nonlinear structure. In Inception, time could be extended in various levels of dream stages, thus elongating itself in order for certain actions to take place. Nolan’s Batman films don’t quite restructure time like his others; however, time plays an essential role in certain actions needing to take place.

The film contained quite a few flashbacks in order to successfully tell the story. Nolan loves him some flashbacks. He makes great use of the device in The PrestigeInception, and Memento. The flashbacks tell a great story that reveals pertinent information in the film. 

Ensemble Cast from Heaven

In his review of the film, Richard Roeper called watching this cast work as “movie heaven.” Even with TDKR‘s flaws, the cast really pulled out all the stops. There wasn’t a weak force on screen. Anne Hathaway was a stand-out just for not screwing up the role. Viewers went into the film with the lowest expectations for her, and she turned around and surprised many of us, including me.

Complaints have been made regarding Tom Hardy’s Bane. I talk more about his motivations in the Closing Thoughts/Queries section, but speaking just on his performance, I’d have to say he was nothing short of excellent. Talking with that device over his face had to be pretty difficult to deal with. He was menacing and expressed himself through his eyes, and while he might not have “stolen” scenes, he certainly took center stage when he was on screen.

The scenes shared between Christian Bale and Michael Caine were some of the strongest. My one big frustration (SPOILER) was Alfred going MIA the entire second half of the film.

Full Circle . . . for the Fans

SPOILERS AHEAD! 

And now I can’t hold back from spoiling parts, because in order to appreciate the idea that TDKR fulfilled Nolan’s Batman in such a satisfying way, one has to point out those lovely gifts Nolan wrote into the film. Getting to see Liam Neeson in a few short scenes as Ra’s al Ghul was such a treat. To learn of his connection in TDKR with Miranda Tate as his daughter, his heir who desires to finish his legacy, really makes it feel like we’re watching a finished, fulfilled version of Batman Begins.

Cillian Murphy returning for a couple short scenes as a crazy version of himself (was he really being Scarecrow?) felt like Nolan just saying to the fans, “Here ya go, fans. Enjoy.” Even when the prisoners were released to run about and eventually engage in battle, I was again reminded of Batman Begins. I felt like TDKR had quite a few parts that mirrored Batman Begins.

Closing Thoughts/Queries

SPOILERS AHEAD!

  • What did you think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robin? Do you think the idea of leaving the Batman legacy to Robin was a smart choice? I, for one, enjoyed the reveal at the end, even though there were little hints dropped throughout the film if you hadn’t already caught on that JGL fit the Robin profile exactly.
  • Did the ending feel like Inception to anyone else aside from me? Two different people afterwards asked me if that end scene was a dream. I’m not sure whether to laugh or consider the possibility! But really, I don’t believe it was a dream.
  • Can someone please fill me in on what exactly Bane’s intention was? He kills, kills, kills. He constructs these nearly flawless plans to destroy Gotham and its inhabitants. You can’t tell me he did this all for the love of a woman. While the fake-out at the end revealing Miranda Tate as the villain was a little surprising, it really makes Bane’s motivations fall apart at the seams.
  • Did anyone else wish that the Joker story would have been closed? Every villain in all three films–except the Joker–was brought up in some way. Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Two-Face/Harvey Dent, and of course the two in the film, Catwoman and Bane, all had a place.
  • So many films end with the hero sacrificing himself by destroying something bad in order to save a place. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo sacrificed himself to destroy the Ring to save Middle-Earth. In The Avengers, Iron Man sacrificed himself to destroy a missile to save New York City. In Captain America, the captain sacrificed himself. Even Jack Bauer in 24 was about to fly a plane down in order to save the world, or something like that. The Dark Knight Rises follows suite: Batman sacrifices himself to destroy a time bomb to save Gotham. Yet all the heroes live in the end. Would it have been a better ending for Batman to die?
  • We have to compare (of course), so did you dig The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises more? Was either one a better film than the other? While in some aspects I consider The Dark Knight the better film, I couldn’t imagine Rises being any better than it was. It completed a trilogy. It brought the series full circle. It even had hints of humor that the previous two films lacked. It pulled out all the stops, was epic in almost every proportion possible.

I’ll really miss this series. I believe it’s the best film trilogy made yet. Although the goodbye is bittersweet, I can’t help but wonder, what is Christopher Nolan going to do next?

Three Final Weeks of Movies

I was a little inspired after seeing Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and I thought it would be a cool to ask myself–and all of you out there–the following questions:

What movie would you watch if you had only 3 weeks left to live?

Dodge and Penny had only 3 weeks left, and obviously they didn’t watch any movies. Look, I get it. If you had three weeks left to live, you would probably be spending it with friends and family, not watching movies. But let’s take all other factors out of the equation–if you had only three weeks left to watch any movies, which ones would they be?

What would be your final 3?

Looking at the upcoming 3 weeks on the calendar, which theater movies would you shell out cash to see?

I think back to an early episode of The Office when Ryan started the fire, and the whole office had to wait outside. Jim started a game of, “If you were on an island, what movies/book/etc would you take with you? Dwight typically doesn’t get involved in these childish games, but when Jim questions him about what book, this is Dwight’s response:

Dwight is all about survivor mode. Good for him.

OK, here are my answers:

What movie would you watch if you had only 3 weeks left to live, and why that movie? 
Well,  I’m not all about “survivor mode” like Dwight, so I’ll be far less conventional and just pick a film I love: Elizabethtown. (For regular readers, this is no surprise.) I would have chosen (500) Days of Summer, because it currently sits as my favorite film. However, since I’m pretty close to death, I’d like to end on a happier note. And those of you who have seen (500) Days know that it does end kind of on a happy note–one of hope. And that’s a little ironic considering there’s little hope left if a meteor were to crash into the earth.

What would be your final 3?
If I had to choose 3 movies as my last 3 movies to ever see, they would be The Artist, Inception, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Looking at the upcoming 3 weeks on the calendar, which theater movies would you shell out cash to see?
This is an easy answer–The Dark Knight Rises, of course!

OK, people, it’s your turn. There are no wrong answers, so don’t be shy. Dr. Horrible is one of my final three, so you have no reason to be embarrassed by any of your answers! What movie would you watch if you had only 3 weeks left to live, and why? What would be your final 3 movies you could watch? And looking at the upcoming 3 weeks on the calendar, which theater movies would you shell out cash to see?

AEOS Double Review: Prometheus and Rock of Ages

I suppose I couldn’t pick two more different movies to be reviewing together, but having seen both this past weekend and having each fresh in my mind, I decided to double up on this review.

Prometheus

Well, I think I’ll always be catching up on movies. I have never seen any of the Alien films until last Friday, when my best friend sat me down and said, “You have to at least see the first Alien before seeing Prometheus.” So we did just that — and I was amazed at how cool a sci-fi film could be made, even in the late 1970s. Sigourney Weaver was the sole survivor and hero of the film. I was a big fan.

So going into Prometheus, I felt slightly more prepared and that much more excited to be able to make comparisons or relate similar ideas and characters if need be. For one, let me just say that I was a big fan of the cast of Prometheus. Both Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace have been making names for themselves in the U.S., especially within the past couple years. Charlize Theron is still a pro at playing a cold character, and the others worked out their roles as any other nonessential supporting characters would.

Ridley Scott also brought us stunning visuals, which comes as no surprise to anyone who even caught a preview of the film. It really was a dazzling film to view on the big screen, especially the scenes within the caves.

There’s been a lot of hubbub and analyzing over all the open-endedness of the film. My personal take is that the questions were intentionally left open in order for audiences to discuss, arrive at their own conclusions, or just appreciate the complex beauty of the film and take it for what it is–pure science fiction at its core. Many have made comparisons to that of Tree of Life, or people give their own take from an atheistic or Christian perspective.

Yes, I’m a Christian, but I view the film from a fictional perspective. Perhaps if I had seen the other Alien films and revisit Prometheus a time or two, and read various articles on the film, I would give my own deeper explanation for my own lack of explanation and analyzation of the film. Sorry for anyone I might disappoint. The biggest movie comparison for me was Inception. Do I have your attention now? 🙂

The only comparison I make of the two films is that Inception also closes with an ending that is a question: did the top fall over, did it not? Was Cobb still dreaming?

In Prometheus, I’m thinking, did Shaw find her answers? I suppose she still chooses to believe in God when she puts the cross necklace back on, but she’s still searching. Will she find the answers she’s looking for? Will she survive long enough to find the answers? Are there even answers for her to find, given her limits as a human being?

The answer to all those questions is I don’t know. A gloriously blissful ignorant I DON’T KNOW. And I enjoy not knowing, because I think that’s the point of the open-ended questions that close the films. It’s an intentional choice on the end of the writers/directors to let the audience decide and arrive at their own conclusions.

Rock of Ages

On the complete other end of the movie genre spectrum is a little musical called the Rock of Ages. From many of the reviews I’ve read (and agree with), Rock of Ages can be summed up as a string of awesome ’80s music videos featuring some crazy big stars, from Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones to Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand and newcomer Diego Boneta.

It was an average film at best. My biggest complaint is that I think Julianne Hough, who nailed her role, should stick to dancing instead of singing. This will sound petty to people who are less OCD than I am, but when you make a musical and the main role is sung by someone who’s voice is not only recognizable as highly edited throughout the film, but who clearly doesn’t possess the vocal range necessary to sing, and oftentimes, lead many of the huge vocal numbers, it’s frustrating as a viewer.

That being said, newbie Diego Boneta rocked the music and the role, and Tom Cruise was easily the most entertaining and best part of Rock of Ages. Some scenes with him are beyond funny, and make the film worth rental price just to watch him act like a rock star. I almost wish Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand would have had larger roles, because they were hilarious and enjoyable to watch interacting as well.

The problem with Adam Shankman’s latest musical wasn’t the casting or the acting, and certainly not the music selection, but the terrible screenplay. No doubt the story works better on stage than onscreen. I recently saw Jersey Boys at Broadway in Chicago, and I loved it. But I couldn’t imagine seeing a screen version of it turn out well. I assume it’s the same concept for stories like Rock of Ages.

What did you think of Prometheus? I’m open for discussion, so throw yourself out there if you have an opinion. Did you see Rock of Ages? Did you did the film, or were underwhelmed like me? Share your thoughts below!

My Go-To Movies

There is a sense, one must admit, that when a person goes through any major time in life, that that person searches for inspiration or encouragement or any major emotion in the different seasons life offers. For me, I’m one to look to the movies. Movies is not my answer to problems, but I will say that movies certainly ease pain, distract, and act as an excellent escape from the demons in my mind at times.

Here’s a list of some of the movies I go to first when I need a laugh or a little inspiration.

Go-To Funny Flicks

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
The Hangover

Happy Gilmore
Jim Carrey anything
School of Rock
She’s the Man

Go-To Chickflicks

(500) Days of Summer
Elizabethtown
The Holiday
Never Been Kissed

Notting Hill
The Wedding Date

Go-To Inspirational Films

50/50
The Artist
Cast Away
Good Will Hunting
Jerry Maguire

Go-To Psychological Thrillers

Anything Christopher Nolan directed
The Matrix
Vanilla Sky
Equilibrium

Go-To Action Flicks

Back to the Future 1 & 2
Inception
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible
 1, 3 & 4 

 

Out of all those movies listed, Elizabethtown is probably the movie I go to the most in all different times and seasons of my life. There are zillions of other movies that I love, but these are the ones that immediately came to mind for me when I need a “go-to” movie. Go-to movies are different for everyone–we all gain inspiration, get a good laugh, or find ourselves mesmerized by different films. These are mine.

What are your go-to movies? Which movie have you rewatched the most? Do you ever get more out of a movie the 10th, 18th, or 39th time watching?

Guest Post — Accomplished Directors and Their Film Debuts

My friend, Matt, has gladly agreed to guest post once again for me so I can have a little break from blogging. Last month, he did multiple Q/A blog post sessions on the Oscars with me. He’s an excellent writer and he continues to build his film knowledge with research, discussion, and film viewing. Be sure to check out his bio at the bottom of the page to get more acquainted with who he is and what he’s been up to.

–Kristin

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By Matthew Roth

Ever heard of Firelight, The Bellboy and the Playgirls, or The Pleasure Garden? How about Piranha Part 2: The Spawning? What if I told you those were the debut features of the men who brought us Schindler’s List, The Godfather, Rear Window, and Avatar? Everybody has to start somewhere. It’s enjoyable to see a filmmaker’s creative process from first feature to Lifetime Achievement Award. Some filmmakers seem like they were born to make movies; others really have to work to become great.

Film should be studied the way we study any other art. In most cases, we can’t look at movies on an individual basis; the study of film should always come back to the author of the picture, perhaps a producer or writer, but usually a director. Just as you wouldn’t study The Great Gatsby without learning about F. Scott Fitzgerald, so you shouldn’t view a film without, at some point, doing a little research about the director and his body of work.

Someone recently made a statement online saying that the director spends his life trying to make the perfect version of the same movie. Obviously, that oversimplifies things; however, there still is a good deal of truth in that statement.

When studying film, it’s good to go back to a director’s first feature. What genres, techniques, visual styles, and themes inspired the author to start making pictures to begin with? Often you will find the things a director explores in his first film show up in many that follow; with each subsequent film, he tweaks characterization, plot, themes, and visuals in an attempt to create a perfect version of that first film.

Not every director is like this. Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to look at the first features of some of the directors I admire, and how their debut film relates to their work today.

The Coen Brothers: Blood Simple

Usually, it’s difficult to pinpoint just what genre of film a Coen Brothers’ movie is. They include elements of the crime, comedy, drama, and thriller genres. Their films are a unique blend of those elements; in reality, the Coens have created their own genre. Ironically, Blood Simple is the only film by the Coen Brothers I’ve seen that is not instantly recognizable as a Coen Brothers’ movie. That’s not to say, however, that this film fails to match their future brilliance. As their movies tend to be, Blood Simple is extremely entertaining. It also contains elements that are prevalent in many Coen Brothers movies: an abrasive but memorable character; a wealthy, powerful man the audience loves to hate; an ordinary protagonist thrust into an extraordinary and dangerous situation; oh yeah–and loads of violence. Visually, the film’s style foreshadows their later work, even though the brothers were yet to team up with the fabulous Roger Deakins. Highly recommended.

Christopher Nolan: Following

Nolan’s first film is a thriller about a writer who follows people in order to acquire material for characters in his stories. As far as content, Nolan’s films have been fairly diverse. The constant of his work seems to be the non-linear structure in which he molds his stories. Following is cut up into several pieces randomly strewn about, its scenes jumping forward and backward on the story’s timeline. Often this would disorient an audience; with Nolan’s film, it sets the the audience on edge. Because of the vast, unexplained changes in the main character’s appearance (a black eye, a new haircut, different style of clothing), we become curious about the events we obviously have missed. Suspense is created through missing pieces. We pay closer attention because we want to find out just what we have missed. Nolan’s first feature seems like a dress rehearsal for Memento, a film in which the non-linear storytelling serves a justified purpose. Nolan uses a non-linear storytelling device once again in The Prestige. He masters this device in Inception, where he jumps between the past, and the many layers of the dream world’s present. Following is a wonderful debut film, proof that Nolan doesn’t need $185 Million to make a great movie. Great things can be done with as little as $6,000.

Terrence Malick: Badlands

Malick’s movies have been called many things. Polarizing things, really. Few directors simultaneousy carry the title “brilliant” and “pretentious.” Perhaps this is because Malick stretches the conventions of film in all of his movies. For those who find Malick more pretentious then brilliant, Badlands may be just the film for you. This film does contain both a plot AND a linear structure. While it is without a doubt his most accessible film, Malick’s debut feature is by no means conventional. You can find one of my favorite film blogger’s video review of  Badlands here.

In his first film Malick introduces us to the detached narrator, a device he would use to an even greater extent in his following feature, Days of Heaven. Narration can be a tricky business. To me, it usually seems like the easy way out in storytelling. Malick’s narration in Badlands proves how useful the device can be. Rather than using the narrator as a crutch, Malick’s narrator allows us to actually learn something about that character, not only in the things she does say, but also in the things she doesn’t. With great cinematography, acting, and a haunting score, Badlands may possibly be my favorite Malick film.

Alfred Hitchcock: Blackmail

So you probably know that this isn’t actually Hitchcock’s first film. The “Master of Suspense” did not always make thrillers; he worked his way up, sweating and toiling on–you’ll never guess it–romance pictures. The Pleasure Garden and Fear o’ God were both commercially unsuccessful. It wasn’t until Hitch started making the type of pictures for which we know him that he became a commercial success. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog was the first of his films we would label Hitchcockian. The Lodger is a film that tries to crack one of the most perplexing crimes of all time: the murder of Jack the Ripper. Now, I know I should have watched The Lodger; however, it was about 2 last night when I finally started watching. The online copy was horrible, so I opted to watch Hitch’s second thriller, and one of the first talkies in Britain, Blackmail. The first thing I noticed was Hitch’s use of the Kuleshov Effect, a now standard but once groundbreaking editing technique that Hitchcock popularized. The story is about a young girl who finds herself in a difficult situation after killing a man in an act of self defense. Many of Hitch’s movies involve normal people being thrust into dangerous situations due to their curiosity or foolishness. This film follows that pattern to the letter. Other sequences made me think of both Psycho and Vertigo. While it is a flawed film, I found it definitely worth my time. If you do view the film, you will find little snippets that foreshadow the greatness that was to come. You can view it on Hulu here.

For those of you not familiar with the Kuleshov Effect, the first two minutes of this video explain it a lot better than I could by writing about it.

What are some of your favorite debut films, and how do they (or don’t they) point to that director’s future work?

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.

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 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

Ten Facts about Joseph Gordon-Levitt

It’s no surprise that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is hitting the spotlight more than ever in the past couple years. He’s played roles in some big films as well as taken part in smaller projects that mean a lot to him. Instead of giving another biography about the dude, here’s a list of 10 facts (generated from various websites) that I found interesting.

10) JGL owes a warm thanks to James Franco. Why? Because of Franco’s scheduling conflicts, JGL replaced him in his supporting role as Arthur in Inception. His role in the thriller connected him to director Christopher Nolan, who now cast him in his up and coming batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

9) So far, Gordon-Levitt has received only one high awards nomination for a film: Golden Globe for Best Actor in (500) Days of Summer.

8) Despite his growth and up and comingness (like that word I just made up?) in film, JGL never received credit for a silent and momentary cameo in the Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody 2008 mediocre flick, The Brothers Bloom.

7) Back in a 1998 interview with Conan O’Brien, JGL explains that he has “two” last names because his parents were hippies, and they figured, why should a woman lose her last name? His mom’s last name is Gordon and his dad’s last name is Levitt.

6) After starring in The Lookout, a film reviewer from the San Francisco Chronicler said that Gordon-Levitt “embodies, more than performs, a character’s inner life.” I think his role in this year’s 50/50 only further proves that insight.

5) It’s been said that JGL has an uncanny resemblance to former 10 Things I Hate about You co-star Heath Ledger.

4) Prepare yourself for a very Joseph Gordon-Levitt 2012. So far he is slated to star in five films: The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper, Lincoln, and the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained.

3) JGL is one humble dude. He is quoted saying,

“The whole concept of celebrity pisses me off. While I’m not a celebrity, it’s such a weird concept that society has cooked up for us. Astronauts and teachers are much more amazing than actors.”

2) Gordon-Levitt’s brother, Daniel, died at age 36 of drug overdose, just in October of last year.

1) JGL was also not the first pick to play the real life character Will in 50/50. James McAvoy, the original pick, had to leave after just a few days of filming due to a family emergency. Seth Rogen and Will Reiser, who were currently living together at the time, thought first of Gordon-Levitt for the role after McAvoy’s departure.

Still Buzzed from the Complexity of Inception

It’s December. It’s the end of the year, and in terms of the film world, the best movies–and potentially the most Oscar-nominated-hopefuls–are rounding themselves out this month. And along with those movies, we also have Christmas-themed movies as well as big entertainment blocks for the holiday crowd that comes in during the month.

I was thinking about what my next post should be about, and I couldn’t get Inception out of my mind (pun not intended). I recently bought the Blu-ray copy of it (finally got a Blu-ray player!), and watched all the extras on the disc. I still haven’t gotten to seeing the movie this year yet (and it’s almost over!), but I plan to have at least one more viewing (in addition to my four theater visits last year) before year’s end.

Last year, when the movie first came out, I was blown away. I hadn’t seen a film like this in a really long time, and at the same time, I was moved by the emotional tone of it. That, with the complexity and the beautiful visuals and the creativity, I wondered if I had ever seen such an awesome film on screen. Since then, I have waited to be “blown away” by another film. I went to the last Harry Potter flick and attended screenings of all the big superhero films and the action movies of the summer. I didn’t really care if other films didn’t include the complexity that Inception contains–I was just waiting to experience that “blown away” (in a good way) feeling from watching a movie. Most people experience this feeling from time to time in different amounts–it’s common, although depending on the person, it doesn’t come around very often.

The closest I have come this year to feeling that “blown away” feeling was from seeing 50/50. It’s nothing like Inception in any way or context (oh wait, I guess it has JGL in it too), but it was one of those movies that was marketed to be a bro comedy, and when the credits started rolling, I sat there, stunned at how moved I was from it. The feeling that you get when you might have average expectations, and when you leave the theater, you realize you were completely wrong for not having the highest of expectations from a film because it was just that good when you saw it.

But even so, 50/50 doesn’t shine a light to that “blown away” feeling that I experienced after seeing Inception. Perhaps it is because there was no Nolan film to fill the year, and I’m especially attracted to his style of filmmaking. I still remember seeing The Prestige a few years back and thinking about what a great movie it was. And no one should be able to say that they weren’t at least partly impressed with both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. All three of those movies have been ranked on my top list for a while now. When I saw Memento, I wondered if there was a more complex film ever even created. CNolan has a sharp, dark, and tight filmmaking style that makes his movies dark, monumental, and beautiful simultaneously. I just hope people’s expectations don’t break through the roof before The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters.

All of that to say–I look forward to breaking that Inception ice and being blown away by another film, even if I have somewhat high expectations going in to see a screening of it. But until then, I remained buzzed from the sheer greatness of Inception, and perhaps secretly wonder if another movie will ever make me feel like that again.