There’s been no film more divisive or more igniting in terms of strong Oscar speculation then Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. After months of shooting, word of a last minute edit (some believe editing is still going on currently), the film has finally hit cinematic eyes and the “final” product is both bold and misguided. Django Unchained is big and full of Tarantino life and color that we’ve come to love about him. On sheer production value, it’s his finest film endeavor to date. Set designs are simply gorgeous, Robert Richardson captures some beautiful shots, and Sharen Davis proves once again, she’s one of the most awe-inspiring designers working today. Tarantino does go a bit “out there” in his choices of dialogue along with the developing and rising structure of the story. Where Tarantino succeeds is in digging some terrific performances out of his principal cast, even if his film is at times lunky, problematic, and a bit messy. Read more on Django Unchained (***)…
I still have no idea what to make of ‘Django Unchained’ in terms of its awards potential, but one things for sure…every look I get of Quentin Tarantino’s new film makes me like it more and more. This latest Trailer features more of the cast, gives everyone more moments to shine, and suggests that this could wind up being one of the most purely enjoyable movies of 2012. Whether it can be an Oscar player remains to be seen, but this is looking like a real Christmas/Hanukkah gift to film fans. You can see the Trailer after the jump, but this flick has got me sold. Behold it below…
A nightwatchman gets skinned alive and obliterated at a Costco in a suburban town and store manager Evan (Ben Stiller) assembles a neighborhood watch group to find his co-worker’s killer in The Watch, a science-fiction/comedy which, in fits and starts, is an amusing movie. Proudly crude and vulgar, The Watch tells an aliens-attacking-Earth story with an underlying mix of subplots which take the film down tangential paths that never truly lead anywhere. The film lacks a focal point, unless that focal point is to simply throw a little graphic violence, graphic humor, and star power at the wall and see what sticks. And the problem is, little really does.
Seeing Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade riff with one another has intermittent hilarity, but ultimately The Watch suffers mightily from its poorly constructed story which incorporates way, way too much. As a result, the screenplay by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jared Stern delivers moments too scattershot to mean anything once the film, or in some instances the scene, comes to an end.
Prepare yourself for a very long month where The Dark Knight Rises will more than likely dominate the box office. Christopher Nolan’s final film in his acclaimed trilogy made an estimated $162 million last weekend, and is on track for a $75-$80 million intake for its second go-around. The only other major new release, The Watch, can best be summed up by this image:
No, ladies and gentlemen, that is not a Pokémon being released — though admittedly, that would certainly be a lot more entertaining than what this generic comedy-meets-science fiction romp will be offering us — but is instead an alien device that tries its best to bring cows back to movie relevancy a la the glory days of Twister. In other words, The Watch probably won’t offer you anything new that you haven’t already seen before in any comedy, science fiction, apocalyptic, Jonah Hill/Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller movie. So why are moviegoers going to flock to this film? Because Jonah Hill is just so likeable and endearing, even when he physically assaults a woman in a department store (see: 21 Jump Street) and thinks silencing his mother means caressing his fingers over her lips (if this sounds as gross as it does, it’s because it is). Oh, it also has Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, and while they may be “So 5 Minutes Ago” as opposed to Jonah Hill’s “Currently Trending” status, plenty of film goers still can’t seem to get enough of these golden guys of comedy (okay, that came off harsher than I meant it to). The film may have a difficult time surpassing the $30 million mark this weekend, as the reviews so far have been predominantly damning. Opening in 3,168 locations, I’m projecting a soft yet not terrible $25 million debut. Richard Ayoade and Rosemarie DeWitt co-star alongside the comedic trio. Read more on Weekend Openings (July 27-29)…
After playing a tap dancing and smiling his way into Oscars heart in The Artist, Jean Dujardin’s next role will be of a slightly darker hue. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the Frenchman will be joining Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, and Emmy winner Kyle Chandler in The Wolf of Wall Street. Dujardin will play Jean-Jacques Handali, a money-laundering Swiss banker. The Scorsese directed project, is about a stock broker who served 20 months in prison for participating in a massive 1990s securities fraud that involved widespread corruption on Wall Street and in the corporate banking world, including mob infiltration.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone pegged Jonah Hill as an in demand dramatic actor just a few years ago, but it looks like his Oscar nominated role in ‘Moneyball’ has opened a ton of new doors for him. The Hollywood Reporter has announced here that Hill is now going to co-star with Leonardo DiCaprio in his latest collaboration with Martin Scorsese, the drama ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. It appears that he’ll be DiCaprio’s friend and someone else who gets roped into the world of fast times and high finance. Hit the jump to read where I think Hill’s career is headed next, but in short…I love this casting choice.
21 Jump Street, based on the hit 80s series, is the latest spinoff to make it on the big screen, and boy is it fantastic.
Being a huge fan of the 80s sitcom that made Johnny Depp a star, I had many worries when I first heard that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum would be in the new updated version. My first concern was the casting of Channing Tatum; he isn’t known as the most talented actor but this is by far the best decision he’s ever made. I always said this guy was good at comedy, mainly because he’s great at playing dumb. Let’s be honest, it’s true. My second concern was Jonah Hill going over the top and taking the original series and turning it into a raunchy movie that had nothing to do with the show, but he proved me wrong as well.
We got a real short preview of the new releases this weekend. Only one film is making its wide premiere today, making it the guaranteed box office victor in the wake of John Carter’s failure (God! Who would’ve thought that film would be a flop?). But the arthouse circuit has its own share of interesting arrivals. Let’s check them out:
Jonah Hill, the Academy Award Nominated actor (how cool is that to put together now?) for “Moneyball” hosted “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend and completely laughed up the audience in one of the best hosting efforts this season.
In his opening monologue, he pokes fun at himself, the Oscar process, and is joined by veteran actor and Oscar winner Tom Hanks. Check it out for yourself.
What better way to continue celebrating the most romantic holiday of the year than with this weekend’s This Means War, a romantic spy comedy that features things that both men and women like! Y’see, it’s about two superspy BFFs who find out they are dating the same woman…AT THE SAME TIME! So they pull all sorts of over-the-top spy action hijinks on each other to win her heart instead of just saying to each other, “Wow, what an amoral bitch, let’s both dump her and move on to the next guaranteed lineup of women more than happy to sleep with our gorgeous asses” like any normal human being would in that situation. Why, that doesn’t sound like a cynical focus group premise at all! And look, it stars Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and, um, Academy Award-winner Reese Witherspoon.
Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill – Moneyball
Nick Nolte – Warrior
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
This category has often been dismissed as a way to award “distinguished” (read: old) actors with Oscars to honor their career as opposed to the individual performance in question. While I do have some major gripes with this category, this particular accusation always struck me not only as ageist (what, senior actors can’t legitimately give award-worthy performances?!) but not as backed up by recent history as the reputation would suggest. Christian Bale, Christoph Waltz, Heath Ledger, Javier Bardem, George Clooney and Benicio Del Toro were hardly old vet actors looking for a swan song trophy. In fact, the last elderly “career-honor” winner we had was arguably Alan Arkin is 2006, and even then it was a close call between him and Eddie Murphy. That’s why this year presents an interesting complication to the debate. With the average age clocking in at 62, this year’s Best Supporting Actor slate is the oldest ever, and three of them could legitimately claim this award as a career capper. Read more on Oscar Circuit: Best Supporting Actor…
The Year-In-Review continues with some non-traditional citations on certain films and performances that did or did not make head way in 2011. What are your choices for “Limited Performance” of the year? or Most Underrated Film? or share what you thought about the Year-in-TV as I dish out my favorites in Television Drama and Comedies. Read more after jump. Read more on Year-In-Review: Editor’s Specialty Awards…
Helmed by a powerful lead performance by Elizabeth Olsen, Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene dribbles right on the edge of thriller and suspense without coming off gimmicky. Olsen evokes and drowns herself in her character keeping the questions right on the surface and not losing sight. Though the film’s narrative never fully develops and fails to explore the deepest parts of this cautionary tale, the full commitment from the directing style and its performers transform a seemingly A-typical story to something new and dynamic. Co-star John Hawkes shines once again in a new villainous and demented turn which remains one of the great supporting male works this year. A notation for Hugh Dancy is worth mentioning in a presumably vacant character but effective and taunting performance.
Oscar season is nearly in full swing. The screeners and invitations have already started. PR companies, studios, and other industry analysts are fighting hard for films and performances that they hope will resonate with critics’ awards and the Academy Awards. When assessing the race in all categories there seems to be an equal amount of newcomers and veterans in various categories, all fighting for a spot in their respective lineups.
In the Directing category we have the usual suspects of respected veteran directors; Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and David Cronenberg. Most of these men have won Oscars before and looking for reaffirmation that they’ve still got it. You could easily place Terrence Malick in the same lineup for The Tree of Life, however, Malick seems to be on an island all alone at the moment. His film seems to be so uniquely split between people who love it or hate it, it’s going to be interesting if he makes the cut and wins the Oscar.
After seeing the new film ‘Moneyball’ and thinking a lot about Brad Pitt this year, I came to a decision. Instead of simply writing up a standard review of the film, as both John and Mike capably filled in with that, I thought I’d do something different. Since my thoughts on the flick aren’t too far off from them, though I believe I liked it more than both did, I figured I would substitute my take on ‘Moneyball’ with a piece on Brad Pitt and the year he’s having. I did this by using an article that I’ve been working on about him and had previously abandoned, expanding and massaging it to fit this new topic. Essentially, I believe that ‘Moneyball’ may just win Pitt the Oscar for Best Actor this year. Considering my recent article on the tough time that Baseball related films have with the Academy, this is some heady praise, I realize…but it’s also apt. Remember, Oscar loves when it’s someone’s “year”.
Brad Pitt is an artist who’s been building up to this type of situation for a while now with his acting and producing. While he first really got notice with his small part in ‘Thelma and Louise’, he never really made an impact for me as an actor until 1995 when he had both ‘Twelve Monkeys’, which got him his first Oscar nomination, and ‘Se7en’. Read more on Pitt’s Year?…
One of the difficult things when watching a film based on a true story is how much you are willing to accept when it comes to exaggerations, fabrications, and outright revisions to history. My role as a film reviewer and writer is to analyze and discuss the happenings on screen and generally not resort to making a film review factcheck journalism. Which is not to say I don’t want there to be truth and honesty in films dubbed as “based on a true story”. I certainly recognize that liberties have to be allowed at times.
We hear it all the time though right? There was no Erica Albright influencing Mark Zuckerberg to create The Facebook, King George VI did not have nearly the debilitating stutter as depicted by Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”, and in the legendary sports film, “Rudy”, the film’s inspirational tale of undersized Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger finally getting to suit up and play for the vaunted Notre Dame Fighting Irish was almost completely fabricated and described by Rudy’s head coach, Dan Devine, and Hall of Fame quarterback and teammate at the time, Joe Montana, as, “a lie and untrue.” And yet, what connects these films and countless others like them are that they are good, at times great and memorable films, told in a galvanizing manner which allows, or even forces audiences to buy in and gleefully release their willing suspension of disbelief.
I remember speaking with Steven Soderbergh about this film a few years ago when he was set to direct it. There was something very interesting about his passion for the film. As it happens from time to time in Hollywood, he fell away from the picture and Bennett Miller of Capote stepped in as director. The result, thankfully, is a very good film based on the true story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and the strange manner in which he put together a winning team for the Oakland A’s.
Who does not love baseball? The smell of the field, the sound of the ball smacking into a mitt, the crack of the bat when it connects to the ball, sending it over the furthest wall as the crowd rises to their feet. The hot dogs, the popcorn, and that feeling that all is right with the world if we have baseball. According to Field of Dreams (1989) there is baseball in heaven, and somehow I believe that because there is such purity to the game, such skill, such enjoyment. Yet it’s also a big business. Read more on Moneyball (***)…
Two films today that should garner some awards buzz, though if the other major pictures are as strong as I suspect they are going to be, one of them might fade from view. The other, however, is one of the most astounding documentaries I have ever encountered in my twenty-five year career as a critic.
I had the pleasure of discussing Moneyball (***) at length with Steven Soderbergh three years ago when he was originally slated to direct. For a variety of reasons he fell away from the project, leaving Bennett Miller to step in and deliver a strong picture that gives insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of professional baseball.
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) was a former pro ball player who worked his way up from scout to General Manager of the Oakland A’s. After learning his budget has been drastically cut, he decides to try a different approach to create his team. Hiring Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an economics major and statistics nut to help him create a team by “buying runs,” they are looked at as madmen by the A’s executives. Read more on John’s TIFF Diary: Day Two…