Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fall movies on the way

Vulture has a list of their 50 most anticipated films for the Fall. Meanwhile, indieWire has a list of their 30 most anticipated films. Can you tell it's about to be September? Here are the ones I'm also looking forward to (all descriptions by Vulture and indieWire; starred items are on both lists):

*Drive: We've seen it. We loved it. We're obsessed with the soundtrack. Nicolas Winding Refn's brutal, luscious Ryan Gosling neo-noir is Vulture's most anticipated movie of the fall, just because we can't wait to see it again. Just don't watch the too-revealing trailers, OK?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: David Fincher follows up The Social Network with this English-language adaptation of the runaway best-seller, starring Daniel Craig and relative newcomer Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. Sure, the book was a big deal on its own, but what's not to love about the idea of Fincher handed a blockbuster budget to make a hard-R mystery thriller?

The Muppets: The Muppet brand faded away over the last decade or so, but who better to bring it back than a reverent Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the songs? At the very least, this has to outgross The Smurfs, or else we just don't know what to do with you, America.

*A Dangerous Method: David Cronenberg directs a kinky period drama starring Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, and Vincent Cassel. Our only concern is that this might be too amazing. Well, that and the fact that the movie might cause us to unexpectedly lust after Carl Jung (Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Mortensen). What would our shrink say?

The Ides of March: We’d be eager to see a political thriller directed by George Clooney and co-starring Ryan Gosling — who is having quite the fall (see #1) —if we knew nothing else about it, but this one is based on the critically acclaimed play Farragut North, in turn loosely based on Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, which means it’s sure to have the x-factor so many wannabe prestige films are missing: a good script.

*Martha Marcy May Marlene: The Sundance hit that turned Elizabeth Olsen from the twin’s little sister into an it girl in her own right, is an eerie, complexly layered film (remember the poster?) about a young woman readjusting to life after being in a cult. Though not similar plot-wise, it could be this year’s Winter’s Bone, which is to say raw, powerful, star-making, and co-starring John Hawkes.

*50/50: Seth Rogen makes another cancer dramedy, though this one could be a crowd-pleaser where Funny People was not. Joseph Gordon Levitt's cueball cancer patient is the selling point here, but we're also kind of excited to see Anna Kendrick in something again.

*Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: This veddy, veddy British espionage thriller is being tipped for Oscar glory, and pundits are already buzzing about Gary Oldman's lead performance. Still, even if it's simply a well-made John le Carre adaptation, what's to be mad about?

*Take Shelter: Michael Shannon is simply staggering in this Sundance drama about an ordinary family man driven to the brink by apocalyptic visions. The Best Actor field is going to be crowded this year, but can they please make some room for him?

J. Edgar: Leonardo DiCaprio gets good results from going period, and Clint Eastwood's decade-spanning drama about the man who founded the FBI has a juicy gay subplot that finds J. Edgar Hoover grappling with — then kissing — his right-hand man Clyde Tolson (played by Social Network breakout Armie Hammer). Let's hope they pull off the ambitious old-age makeup, since so many scenes feature Hoover and Tolson in their sixties and beyond.

*The Artist: The Weinsteins picked up this Cannes hit, a black-and-white, silent tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Could this be this year's heartwarming Oscar contender, in the vein of The King's Speech? At the very least, expect major accolades for French actor Jean Dujardin, who plays the dashing, Errol Flynn-like lead.

Moneyball: The movie most likely to scratch your Social Network itch is another Aaron Sorkin screenplay that turns wonky, data crunching subjects into quip-spewing heroes. This one’s based on Michael Lewis’s Moneyball and stars a pre-slimmed down Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt as Billy Bean, the manager of the Oakland Athletics, who, with limited funds and a new perspective on how to measure a player’s quality put together a winning team. Predicted dialogue: “Batting average isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? VORP.”

*The Skin I Live In: Antonio Banderas finally reteams with the director who launched his career, Pedro Almodovar. This creepy drama, which casts Banderas as a plastic surgeon with a beautiful woman held captive in the basement, may give the actor another career jolt.

*In the Land of Blood and Honey: We’d be intrigued by Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut just because it’s Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut (and original screenplay), but early word on the Bosnian-set love story is that it’s better than just a vanity project. Is there nothing she can’t do? We’ll find out.

*Warrior: Two brothers face off in this season’s take on families who use their fists, professionally speaking. In a “twist” this movie’s tortured, dueling brothers (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) are mixed martial artists, not boxers. Warrior is as straightforward as can be, but it works like gangbusters, anchored by a charismatic, career-amping turn from Hardy.

*Like Crazy: Anton Yelchin and up-and-comer Felicity Jones toppling as star-crossed, long-distance lovers in this mumblecore romance, which was well-received at Sundance. And yep, that's the suddenly white-hot Jennifer Lawrence popping up briefly to make this relationship a tricky love triangle.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol: For sheer tentpole thrills, let's hope this fourth installment can deliver with Pixar genius Brad Bird at the helm of his live-action debut. Adding Jeremy Renner and Josh Holloway to the M:I team is a pretty good start.

*Coriolanus: Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut on this Shakespeare adaptation, but we've heard the real action comes from Vanessa Redgrave, who's a surefire Oscar contender as his mother. Plus, we're Jessica Chastain completists around here, so we feel obligated to go and support what may be her hundredth movie role of the year.

*Carnage: Roman Polanski’s first film since he was released from house arrest is an adaptation of Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning play God of Carnage. It co-stars Jodie Foster (whose affection for wildly misbehaving men seems to know no bounds), Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly as two sets of Brooklyn parents who face off, increasingly inappropriately, over an altercation between their sons. There will be projectile vomiting.

*The Rum Diary: Johnny Depp basically reprises his role as Hunter S. Thompson in this adaptation of Thompson’s zany novel set in Puerto Rico, and co-starring Amber Heard. Results seem appropriately, and enticingly, gonzo.

Weekend: Over the course of its titular timeframe, this SXSW favorite follows Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two men who extend their blurry and drunken one-night stand into 48 hours to remember. Russell is a pragmatic and semi-closeted lifeguard; Glen is a stubborn intellectual who “doesn’t do boyfriends.” Tender, talky and intensely sexy, the film could reductively be described as a sort of gay “Before Sunrise.” Which is meant a compliment. The star-crossed romance in “Weekend” is perfectly executed by director Haigh, who lets the film quietly creep up on the viewer as a powerful new entry into the queer cinema lexicon.

Pariah: Rounding out the quartet of acclaimed Sundance dramas coming out this fall, “Pariah” marks the directorial debut of Dee Rees. The film stars newcomer Adepero Oduye as a 17-year-old Brooklyn high school student coming to terms with her sexuality. While comparisons to “Precious” are all but assured (African-American femalecentric narratives to win raves out of Sundance aren’t exactly commonplace), “Pariah” is an entirely different entity, in large part because it avoids being as precious as “Precious.” Offering a fresh take on the coming out narrative, it provides an all-too-rare look at the triple-edged sword of repression that comes with being female, African-American and gay.

Sleeping Beauty: Australian novelist-turned-filmmaker Julia Leigh rose many eyebrows when she made it into Cannes’ official competition on her feature film debut. Starring Emily Browning as a high end prostitute who is sedated while wealthy men have their way with her, the film rose even more when it actually debuted. Endorsed by Australian cinema icon Jane Campion, “Beauty” marks a director to watch in Leigh. While it is sure to scare off filmgoers uncomfortable with its content, Eric Kohn’s Cannes review suggests it well worth the ride for anyone that can handle it.

Albert Nobbs: A major passion project for actress Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs” portrays an Englishwoman (Close) who disguises herself as a man and works as a butler to survive in male-dominated 19th century Ireland. Close first played the titular character in a 1982 stage production and has fought to have the play turned into a film ever since (she also co-wrote the screenplay and produced). Joined by an admirable supporting cast in Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Brendan Gleeson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the film could bring Close back into the Oscar mix for the first time since 1988, when she ended a streak that saw her nab five nominations in seven years (but no wins).

Tyrannosaur: The first feature entirely written and directed by actor Paddy Considine, “Tyrannosaur” stars Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman and Eddie Marsan. Mullan stars as a troubled man whose life gets a chance of redemption appears in the form of Hannah (Olivia Colman), a Christian charity shop worker. Eric Kohn writes in his Sundance review: “The discomfiting story of a middle-aged drunkard overcoming his booze-fueled woes, Considine announces his directorial vision with a morbid character piece sustained by two remarkably intense performances.” He speaks of course of Mullan and Colman, who have received widespread acclaim for their work.

Maybe also W.E. - lets see the reviews coming out of Venice. I'm also waiting to hear about Butter, The Lady. Take this Waltz, 388 Arletta Avenue, The Deep Blue Sea, Afghan Luke, The Hunter, and Shame.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Another day, another list

Literary this time!

The 10 books you should have read in high school. I have heard, and have absolutely nothing with which to back this up, that one silver lining to e-readers is that the fact that classics are free has meant an uptick in people reading them.

One interesting thing about this list is that only one, The Great Gatsby, was ever taught in any of the schools I went to, and Lord of the Flies was taught at my brother's elementary school (I borrowed his copy and read it). I've read most of these, but nearly all as a teenager or 20-something trying to catch up on classics that I had "missed" in my personal curriculum.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The So-Called Spielberg Curriculum

I don't believe this list comes from Steven Spielberg, but hey. I've never met a list I didn't like. Or, rather, a list I didn't throw up here, because let's be honest - I FREQUENTLY disagree with lists.

Honestly, this list reads like someone with a TCM subscription and a thing for Al Pacino. There are a couple on here I've never even heard of. Hmmm....

And aside from the whole "to be a director, you should watch lots of movies to learn your craft" approach that one writer suggests as an explanation for the list, I can't imagine that anyone would describe these 200 movies as required knowledge. Either for the history of cinema, pop culture, or movie making techniques. Still, it does reinforce some of those classics I really need to get around to seeing... (cough*Taxi Driver*cough).

So... the 'Spielberg' Curriculum:

12 Angry Men
2001 (ugh.)
400 Blows
8 1/2
Adam's Rib
Al Capone
All About Eve
All That Jazz
American In Paris
And Justice For All
Annie Hall
Apartment, The
Apocalypse Now
All/Presidents Men
Baby Doll
Bang/Drum Slowly
Barefoot In/Park
Battleship Potemkin
Belle De Jour
Best Years/Lives
Big Sleep, The
Bicycle Thief
Big Chill, The (Really? I mean, it's good...)
Birds, The (No.)
Body Heat
Bonnie & Clyde
Breakfast/Tiffany's (ugh.)
Bridge/River Kwai
Brief Encounter
Bringing Up Baby
Bullitt (*sigh* I really need to see the whole thing.)
Cape Fear
Casablanca (Ugh.)
Celebration, The
Champ, The (Seriously? I have heard nothing good about this film.)
Chase, The
Citizen Kane
Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters (There's no way Spielberg would add this to a list of his own devising.)
Come Back/Sheba
Cool Hand Luke
Conversation, The (I didn't realize this was directed by Francis Ford Coppola)
Days/Wine & Roses
Deer Hunter, The
Dog Day Afternoon
Double Indemnity (not a fan. There are better noirs.)
Doctor Zhivago
East of Eden
Face In The Crowd
Five Easy Pieces
Fly, The
French Connection
French Conn. 2 (Really?)
From Here/Eternity
Fugitive Kind, The
General, The
Gntlmn’s Agrmnt
Gone With/Wind
Grand Illusion
Great Escape, The (Love love love)
Godfather, The
Godfatherr II, The
Godfather III, The
Graduate, The
Grapes Of Wrath
Great Santini, The
Guess Who's…
Guns Of Navaronne
Heiress, The
High Noon
Hunter, The
Hustler, The
His Girl Friday
I Confess
Immigrant, The
In A Lonely Place
In/Heat Of/Night
It Happened/Night
It's A Wonderful Life
Julius Caesar
Kramer Vs. Kramer
Last Detail, The
Last Picture Show
Last Tango In Paris
Lawrence Of Arabia
Little Foxes, The
Long Day's Journey
Long Hot Summer
Lost In America
Lost Weekend
Love Story (Seriously?)
M Fritz Lang Peter Lorre
Magnif. Ambersons
Magnificent Seven
Man/Shot Liberty…
Manchurian Cand.
Marathon Man
Mean Streets
Men, The
Midnight Cowboy
Misfits, The
Mississippi Burning
Missouri Breaks
Modern Romance
Modern Times
Mr. Smith Goes To…
My Fair Lady
Nashville (I'd like to point out that whoever put this list together listed Jeff Goldblum as one of the primary actors... despite having no lines. Good job, listmaker.)
National Velvet
North By Northwest
No Way To Treat…
Odd Couple, The
On the Waterfront
One/Cuckoo's Nest
One-Eyed Jacks
Ordinary People
Panic/Needle Park
Party, The
Parallax View
Pawnbroker, The
Philadelphia Story
Public Enemy, The
Quiet Man, The
Raging Bull
Rain People, The
Raintree County
Ramblin' Rose
Real Life
Rear Window
Rebel W/out Cause
Red River
Reflections in a…
Requiem for a…
Rosemary's Baby (ugh.)
Runaway Train
Safety Last (I think?)
Sand Pebbles
Saturday Night Fever
Scent Of A Woman
Searchers, The
Seven Samurai
Seventh Seal
Signal 7
Singin' In the Rain
Smiles of a…
Soldier In The Rain
Some Like It Hot
Sound Of Music (ugh. Ugh ugh.)
Star Is Born
Star Wars
Suddenly Last…
Sullivan's Travels
Sunset Boulevard
Sweet Bird of Youth
Taxi Driver
Teahouse of the…
Tender Mercies
Third Man, The
Three Days/Condor
To Kill/Mockingbird
Tree Grows in…
Trip To Bountiful, A
Two Rode Together
Verdict, The
Viva Zapata
Wait Until Dark
West Side Story
White Christmas
Who's Afraid…
Wild One, The
Wild River
Young Lions, The