Friday, March 27, 2009

Trailer Watch: Where The Wild Things Are

Oh! Spike Jonze, where have you been? You can't make a film as profoundly brilliant as Adaptation and then wait SEVEN YEARS for your next project. That being said, I've known about this project for quite some time. I haven't been overly excited about it--I always liked the book as a child, never loved it--but watching this trailer makes it seem like a beautiful cinematic experience. I'm not totally sure how Jonze is going to expand upon the original novel's condensed storyline, but I'm sure however it's done it's going to be done in an original and fantastic fashion.

Sunshine Cleaning (***)

Directed by Christine Jeffs


Sunshine Cleaning has been heavily touted in its previews as "from the producers of 'Little Miss Sunshine'". It's usually the phrase in the largest font on the poster. When you have a film starring Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, and Alan Arkin, wouldn't that be the thing you'd want to push the most? In the process of the cross-marketing, Sunshine Cleaning the film ends up spinning into a bit of an identity crisis. Luckily, the film's stellar cast keeps it afloat.

Rose (Adams) was the head cheerleader and one of the more popular girls in high school once upon a time. These days, she's a single mother, who works as a maid for a cleaning service for luxury homes. The father of her son, Mac (Steve Zahn), was her boyfriend in high school and still sees her for occasional late-night action, but is married to another woman and can only see her in secret. Raising her son, Oscar (Jason Spevack), proves difficult when his intuitiveness gets him kicked out of numerous public schools.

Rose's sister Nora (Blunt) is almost as much of a headcase. A dedicated underachiever, Nora loses her job as a fast food waitress because of ineptitude and lateness. She lives with her father Joe (Arkin), who raised both girls by himself, and in his old age, is only interested in two things: creating get-rich-quick schemes and bonding with Oscar. When Rose decides that she needs to place Oscar into a good private school, she has to come up with a good enough job that will help her afford it.

Since Mac is a homocide detective, he tips Rose off on a business proposition: after gruesome death scenes, there are frequently cleaning crews who come and wipe up the bloody mess--and they get paid handsomely to do so. Carrying Nora along as her accomplice, Rose creates 'Sunshine Cleaing', a "biohazard removal and cleaning service". Rose and Nora are a pretty commonplace, dysfunctional pair of sisters, but find themselves quite successful in their underground business, even effecting the lives of some of their clients along the way.

The story of Sunshine Cleaning wallows quite a bit in the melodramatic, and it certainly doesn't give its material the darkness I think it deserves, but it does accomplish its goal: which is to make these tortured souls seem sympathetic. I don't think I've seen many films that are as well-casted as this one is. Along with Adams, Blunt, Zahn, and Arkin, there are wonderfully subdued supporting performances from Mary-Lynn Rajskub and Clifton Collins Jr. Both are splendid character performers, and both deliver some beautiful work here.

The film was directed by Christine Jeffs, a New Zealand filmmaker, who's most famous credit in the US is probably 2003's Sylvia. Those familiar with her earlier work know that this is a bit of a step-out for her, doing a film that is genuinely American, with a mostly American cast (Blunt is a pure Englishwoman). I won't discount her work here, because I genuinely enjoyed the film, but it still fries my brain trying to understand why a director who seems to understand dark material couldn't find the deeper levels in this film.

But none of that matters because the chemistry between Adams and Blunt is so dynamic. For Blunt, this is just another in a string of roles that has made her an American film star. She has glammor and beauty, but also sports just enough edge to break out of the mold. Even in this seemingly stuffy character, she makes something of it. As for Adams, this is her first non-naive, non-princess character. Always great at playing the angel, Adams is now asked to play a screw-up, and though that fallacy is sometimes hard to swallow, the sincerity of Adams helps push it through.

Sunshine Cleaning has been creeping in and out of limited theaters since Mar. 13th, and is actually a holdover from 2008. Like I said, it's being promoted as a film filled with indie quirk, like the Juno of 2009. I don't know how much of that illusion holds pat, with it's plot not necessarily leaning toward a feel-good aura. I really enjoyed the performances in this film, and cared greatly about what happened to the characters in the end, but I just wished they'd gone for more War of the Roses in tone, rather than Little Miss Sunshine.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Love You, Man (****)

Produced and Directed by John Hamburg


For almost a century, the romantic comedy film has followed the same formula successfully. One person finds another person, at first they may not seem like the right match, but through a series of chance events, the two people realize that they're perfect for each other, and--more times than not--they end up happily ever after. But what says that this formula can't work for platonic romance, perhaps between two men? I Love You, Man answers that question.

The film is about Peter (Paul Rudd), a realter who's hoping he can sell the house of his biggest client: Lou Ferrigno. With the commission of the sale, Peter hopes he can put a down payment on some land where he plans to create his own business. Before all of that, though, Peter plans to get married to his long-time girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones). Peter and Zooey share a close and very comfortable relationship, and all of Zooey's girlfriends agree that Peter is a great catch.

There is one thing about Peter, though, that seems a little strange: he doesn't have any male friends. Peter overhears Zooey and her friends joking about how their wedding will be barren of groomsmen and suddenly Peter becomes insecure. Why can't he seem to get along with his own gender? What makes him so socially awkward around prospective friends? He tries to go on "man dates", but they either end with him getting kissed on the mouth, or him projecting vomit all over somebody.

Having given up, Peter meets Sydney (Jason Segal) at an Open House in Ferrigno's estate. The two automatically hit it off, as they share after-work beers, and jam sessions involiving the band Rush. Sydney is care-free, single, and honest enough to admit to Zooey's face that she should give Peter more oral sex. For the first time, Peter has found a genuine man friend that gets his embarrassing nick names and other idisyncracies, but now his relationship with Zooey--one he's never questioned--seems to be on shaky ground.

Surely, the film does take advantage of its chances to poke fun at the obvious homoerotic tension between two men in a film like this, but not in a homophobic manner the way most films of this kind usually do. The film deals with the issues couples have when a man develops an infatuation with another person. Classic movie stuff, but this time it is not a sexual infatuation. Peter has feels emotionally bare around his new best friend, and for the first time he has someone with whom he can tell anything.

Earlier in the week, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly stated that this was the "best Judd Apatow film that Apatow has nothing to do with" (I'm paraphrasing). Surely, this film does have the Apatow stamp: it's sincere, does not shy away from an oppotunity to show a sight gag or gross-out joke, and most of all is absolutely hilarious. The script, from director John Hamburg and Larry Levin, is filled with so many hilarious asides and pop culture references that its a perfect fit for the group of actors employed here.

Rudd and Segal have been mainstays within the Apatow comedy train, but this is the first time they've been paired together specifically, and haven't had to play stoners or sexual deviants. They have incredible chemistry throughout the film, and certainly Rudd continues his run of spectacular comedic roles lately. As for Segal, around this time last year, he was in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, where he also displayed his talented blend of scant hilarity and suave impishness. He should be just as big as Seth Rogen. Not to forget Rashida Jones, who plays a very important role in the film, and displays why she is a perfect straight woman for comedy (check out her work on Season Three of The Office).

I absolutely adore the Apatow model of comedy. It's not afraid to offend, and yet still not afraid to be sincere. These comedies don't just employ the standard leading man, they'll scrath the borders with other character types (along with Segal, there's Rogen, Johan Hill, etc.). I Love You, Man is among the best of these films, up there with The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Those two films were actually written and directed by Apatow, but I Love You, Man wasn't. I guess Gleiberman was right.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Trailer Watch: The Limits of Control

After recently watching Mystery Train for the first time, I've concluded that Jim Jarmusch is one of the most interesting filmmakers I've ever followed. He refuses to work outside of the independent market and his films can never be said to cater toward prestige or awards, yet his distinct style is so captivating that it usually attracts brilliant actors. Dead Man, Night On Earth, and Stranger Than Paradise are all brilliant in completely different ways, and that's why Jarmusch is fascinating--he's a chameleon. All that said, The Limits of Control is said to make its big debut at Cannes, and then in limited theaters shortly after. I will die of anticipation.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Two Lovers (***)

Directed by James Gray


You'd think something along the lines of "Joaquin Phoenix's final performance" would have a bit of esteem to it, but you wouldn't know because Phoenix has gone out of his way to throw his reputation in the trash by working on something that may or may not be a fake art experiment. If I were financial backer for Two Lovers I would be none to happy to see how the film's main star has been behaving around the film's release--it's sure not behavior that will sell tickets. With all that being said, if this does end up being Phoenix's last performance, then I'm glad to say that it is also his very best.

The story of Two Lovers follows Leonard (Phoenix), a young man who lives with his parents, and is also a constant suicide risk since his former fiance left him. His father Reuben (Moni Moshonov) is a Jewish immigrant who owns a dry cleaning business where Leonard works, and his mother Ruth (Isabella Rossellini) is a mousy, caring woman who spends a large amount of time keeping tabs on what and how Leonard is doing. His parents attempt to control many aspects of his life, even trying to manipulate his love life.

When Reuben invites a fellow dry cleaning business owner over for dinner one night, he advises him to bring his daughter Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), so she can meet Leonard. They come over, and Sandra and Leonard meet. Sandra is attracted to Leonard despite his social awkwardness, and makes advances toward him. Leonard, nearly empty emotionally sees nothing incredibly wrong with the sweet Sandra, so a relationship doesn't seem like a bad idea, until he meets his new neighbor Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow).

Michelle is a troubled young woman, who lives a floor above Leonard. She's gorgeous, but has the emotional maturity of a pre-teen. When her and Leonard meet, Leonard is immediately struck, and she is immediately intrigued. Michelle's boyfriend Ronald (Elias Koteas) is a volatile older man, who is rich enough to house Michelle in an apartment, but also has a wife and kids. Leonard wants so badly to love Michelle, and help her, while Sandra wants to do the very same thing with him, and the parallels are glaring.

This is James Gray's fourth film, and his first film since last year's We Own The Night which also starred Phoenix. This is his first non-crime film, and surely there are moments where the romance and the evolution of the story is mishandled. All that being said, there is a lot of melancholy charm throughout the film, and even when the characters seem dispicable, you can't seem to turn your eyes away. Story-wise, Two Lovers is deceivingly simple, never stepping out too far from where we expect the story to go.

But a film like this is never about the end result (and all the better, since the end is rather puzzling--so many questions), but about the journey to it. It's a hackneyed plot in Hollywood: the young man has an opportunity to be with a woman who's secure and sweet, but is instead infatuated with the woman who's diffident and trouble. It's a universal theme, yet Two Lovers manages to make it look fresh, mainly through its dealing with its main character. Leonard is never asking for pity in his mind-numbing decision, so we never judge him.

I've never been a fan of Joaquin Phoenix, so I haven't had much interest in his fall from grace, other than from a basic tabloid curiosity. In this film, Phoenix is as honest and transparent as I've ever seen him. He makes this rather pathetic and unsettled human being more than tolerable to deal with over the film's 100 minutes, and actually makes him endearing. As for Paltrow, she continues a career resuscitation that started with last year's Iron Man, and she is slowly but surely shedding her chilly reputation. As for Shaw, she has always been a rather underrated actress in my eyes, and even though she is drastically underused in this film, her spot moments are very warm.

It's always discouraging, given his latest shinanigans, that Phoenix both raps and break dances, but both are short moments, and I'd like to hope that it was just a coincidence, and not an early advertisement. Two Lovers is easily the most mature film James Gray has ever made; I imagine he only made the film for the chance to work with this choice cast. It's story structure has its flimsy moments: not everything is introduced properly, and the film has little care for resolution, but the magic in the movie is the dynamic between the wonderful actors.

Woody Allen Top 10

Someone brought up an interesting fact to me when we were discussing Woody Allen: being a hypochondriac, and having an intense attention toward his health, there's a good chance that he could live to be a hundred years old. If that's the case--and if his filmmaking trend continues--then we'll be privileged to at least 25 more Woody pictures to enjoy. Granted, I'm a huge Woody fan, but can't find myself getting into any of his later work; even Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona seemed a little prickly to me. That being said, I'll use this post to count down my ten personal favorites of his:

10. Another Woman (1988)

Woody's best pure drama, led by one of his best-written female roles. As a successful writer, Marion Post, Gena Rowlands owns the screen. Marion rents an apartment in order to do her writing, only find that rick-shack central air system is piping in conversations from other rooms; including one where a pregnant woman (Mia Farrow) has a personal discussion with her psychiatrist. As she continues to ease-drop, she reflects on her own life, including a hollow marriage with a vain man (Ian Holm), her former lover who'd offered her true happiness (Gene Hackman), and a young step-daughter, whom she loves to mentor (Martha Plimpton). An equally heartbreaking and breathtaking film, this is Woody at his most pure Bergman-inspired best.

9. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)

In my measure, this is Woody's last great film. In a quasi-docudrama style, Woody tells the story Emmet Ray (Sean Penn), the 2nd greatest guitar player on the planet. Emmet is an overcompensating egotist, who is only humble in the presence of his musical idol: Django Reinhardt. Of course, his obsession with Reinhardt is so strong, that he can't even see him without collapsing. Throughout his life, he encounters numerous lovers, including a sweet, but strong-willed mute (Samantha Morton), and a high-town heiress (Uma Thurman) who's only interest in Emmit seems to be existential. Featuring two Oscar-nominated performances from Penn and Morton, Sweet and Lowdown is a movie of pure delight.

8. Love and Death (1975)

Before Annie Hall, sophistication was not the focus. Instead, jokes were meant to be as rapid as jump shots on a Mike D'Antoni basketball team. Love and Death is the best and funniest example of this phase of Woody's filmmaking career. Dissecting the melodramatic novels of Leo Tolstoy and Boris Pasternak, the film follows the neurotic Boris (Woody) and his life and trials in czarist Russia. He lives most of his life hoping that he can impress the love of his life Sonja (Diane Keaton) who is as narcissistic as she is beautiful. With more one-liners than your average Rodney Dangerfield stand-up show, Love and Death is the peak of Woody Allen as a comedian.

7. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

Part zany comedy, part love song to 1930's New York theater, Bullets Over Broadway is a hilarious ensemble piece, with a nice dash of gangster film sprinkled in. When an idealist playwright (John Cusack) finally gets the money to finance his play on Broadway, the only catch is that the main financier's girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) has to have a role, and since the financier's a dangerous gangster, its a guarantee. Add to that, the play is being lead by a huge stage star (Oscar-winning Diane Wiest), and that the gangster's girlfriend is always being escorted by a strong-arm thug (Chazz Palmintari), you have a recipe for hilarity.

6. Stardust Memories (1980)

Thought by many to be Woody's first real clunker, Stardust Memories does many things. For one, it's an obvious homage to Federico Fellini's 8 1/2; and also, a comment on his life as a high-profile filmmaker. Woody plays Sandy, a film director who used to direct successful comedies, but is now only interested in droll, realist films. Attending a festival meant to honor his career achievement, Sandy has trouble balancing his romances; with a steady, responsible mother (Marie-Christine Barrault) on one side, and an eccentric, moody actress (Charlotte Rampling) that he can't get out of his mind, on the other. Juggling numerous themes, this is not Woody's blunder, but his most fully-realized surrealist film.

5. Hannah and Her Sisters(1986)

One of Woody's most financially successful pictures, Hannah and Her Sisters is probably Woody's sweetest film. Following three sisters, one a neurotic drug addict (again, Oscar-winning Diane Wiest) who can never decide what she wants to be in life; the other a naive young woman (Barbara Hershey) whose penchant for romance with older men gets her into impressionable situations; and a successful actress (Mia Farrow) who's used to making everybody happy. Also containing an Oscar-winning performance from Michael Caine as a bumbling intellect who's married to one sister, but in love with another, Hannah and Her Sisters is one of Woody's more delightful movie experiences.

4. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Mentioned on numerous occasions as Woody's personal favorites of his own films, The Purple Rose of Cairo is one of the very best movies ever made about movies. When a Depression-era waitress (Mia Farrow) struggles with her thug husband (Danny Aielo), her only solace is going to the movies to watch her favorite movie star (Jeff Bridges). Noticing her constant attendance, the character in her favorite movie literally walks right off the screen, just to be with her. Concerned, the actor (Bridges, as well) comes to town to get his character back on screen, only to fall for the waitress as well. In the end, she must choose between fantasy and reality, and its an ending of startling truth.

3. Manhattan (1979)

Intoxicating in its use of George Gershwin music, and not to mention Gordon Willis' beautiful black & white cinematography, Manhattan is certainly Woody Allen's best film if the criteria is style. It's the only film of Woody's where the overall production takes place over the characters and the dialogue. Not that there isn't a story: a television writer (Woody), who's dating a seventeen-year-old (Mariel Hemingway), quits his job. His professor best friend (Michael Murphy) tries to comfort him, but has an eccentric mistress (Diane Keaton) with whom Woody falls for. Despite being Woody's personal least favorite film, Manhattan has always been one of his most popular.

2. Annie Hall (1977)

To those who know movies, Annie Hall is known as the greatest romantic comedy ever produced; and for those who don't, it's known as the movie that beat Star Wars for Best Picture. Truly, Annie Hall is Woody's only Best Picture winner, and as a matter of fact, it's the only one that's even come close. Following the up and down relationship between a comedian (Woody Allen) and his neurotic girlfriend (Diane Keaton), Annie Hall pokes and prods various points of romance, and even though they don't end up together, it's still quite a happy tale. Even though relationships sometimes end, doesn't always mean the entire time was bad.

1. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Part comedy, part drama; part morality tale, part zany romance; part criticism of religion, part criticism of materialism; and in the end, Crimes and Misdemeanors is a whole masterpiece. Two stories, one about a struggling documentarian (Woody) who has direct the biography on his pompous brother-in-law (Alan Alda), and the other about an optamologist (Martin Landau) who must decide what to do when his mistress (Angelica Huston) wants to spill the beans about their affair. Attempting for the most part to try and display the various hardships and idiosyncrasies of life, Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of the very best films ever made.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You've picked up a very pretty prostitute

One of the best scenes from one of the best films of 2008. How come In Bruges never got as much love as it certainly deserved? Certainly, it stretches the faith of audiences to ask them to sympathize with a character who has murdered a child, but its biggest villain is the dreaded pre-Spring release. It doomed the movie early, but not so much as to not get a Best Original Screenplay nomination for writer/director Martin McDonaugh.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Class (***)

Entre les murs
Directed by Laurent Cantet

Like the last few winners of the coveted Cannes Film Festival Palme D'or award, The Class is a film that is exceedingly difficult to describe plot-wise. It's particularly interested in a French class in an inner-city Parisian public school, and it deals mostly with the teacher's earnest attempts to survive despite the volatility of his students. Certainly sounds like a French version of Dangerous Minds, but it certainly is not. Instead of dwelling on teacher-student relation stereotypes, The Class is much more interested in displaying public school life as it is, and it's not the prettiest picture.

Like any film of this style, it takes quite a bit to sink in. We see Francois (Francois Begaudeau), the French teacher, beginning the new semester with another group of students; some of them he's had before, some of them he hasn't. Immediately, the students are insolent, insulting, and disrespectful. This is not Francois' first go-around, and he does his best to keep patient, not letting these young pishers get the best of him. But most of all, he refuses to sink to their level, because he's aware of their situation.

Like a solid percentage of public school students, the kids within The Class live within a strange paradox. They know that they're underachieving students, so in their frustration they reject the very people who can go on to help them. In the case of Francois' French class, the students outright display their inappropriate nature, and flaunt it in their teacher's face. We are previewed to the other teachers in the school, all boiled in frustration, but the common theme that links them all is hope that these students can do better, but sometimes the idealistic view just isn't worth it anymore.

Not that it is all doom and gloom. Some of the best moments in The Class are the moments when Francois makes a connection with his students. He has one student who shows up without supplies or ambition, Souleyman, and even though things end ugly with him, for at least one moment, Souleyman is endeared when Francois displays his photos for the class to see. There are way more problems in the classroom than Souleyman, and Francois is not always at his best when trying to keep his cool, but he sticks it out, even knowing the next semester will bring the very same issues.

The Class opens lazily and ends with a rather misdirected spontaneity, but in between all of that are some wonderful moments of direct cinema. Director Laurent Cantet uses a hand held camera throughout almost the entire picture, and we are placed directly into this sometimes tense, sometimes humorous atmosphere. Cantet makes us a part of the classroom, the way Jonathan Demme made us part of a family within Rachel Getting Married.

Using mostly non-actors, the performances come off naturally. I attended urban public schools for a majority of my school years, and their is nothing dishonest or unearned within the performances in this film. As long as there such a wide divide between social classes, there will always be schools full of students with no initiative. There's only so much a single teacher or principal can do before they become dis-sensitized toward bad behavior, and just wait for the bell to ring.

With recent winners 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days and Elephant there has been a real trend between the films who have one the grand prize at Festival de Cannes. Hand-held cameras, long takes, and atmospheric themes dominate the awards, it seems, at the French festival. That being said, The Class is one of the best choices Cannes has made in a while (I never cared for 4 Months, especially if you're choosing it over No Country For Old Men). It was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars a couple of weeks ago, and lost to Departures, but it certainly is a truly gifted film.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Watchmen (***1/2)

Directed by Zack Snyder


I believe what we have in Watchmen is the first "superhero film" that truly transcends the genre. At one time a fascinating visual experience, and at other times a mind-bending metaphor for the self-destructive gene of human nature, it holds much more "story" than your average Hollywood action film, yet never extends its reach so far as to seem standoffish. If this is the only good film Zack Snyder ever directs, than its not a bad one to top out on.

Based on what many consider to be the greatest graphic novel of all time--written by Alan Moore--the depths of Watchmen seems almost untranslatable to cinema, but this film certainly takes a good shot at it. The story takes place in 1985, Richard Nixon is still the president, and the world is seemingly days away from nuclear Holocaust. Former superheros such as The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino) are now aging sideshows, barred by Nixon's law which prohibits crime fighters in the country.

When The Comedian is brutally murdered and thrown out of his two-hundred story apartment window, another former hero named Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) starts to think something is up. He informs his crime-fighting friends, including Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) and Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), about his suspicions, but there doesn't seem to be much merit to it. Rorschach also approaches the mercurial Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), a large, glowing blue specie that lives outside of space and time. Manhattan can see the future, but now his vision is blocked--perhaps the nuclear Holocaust will be sooner than perceived.

As more and more begin to pass on, Rorschach, Nite Owl, and Silk Spectre II decide that it will help the safety of humanity if they strapped on their outfits once again in order to find out who's gunning down masked men. Not to make the film sound one-dimensional: there are numerous subplots, including the generational connections between the older heroes and the younger ones; there is the romantic relationship Silk Spectre II has with Dr. Manhattan; and also a mysterious connection dealing with another former hero, now famed scientist, Ozymandias (Matthew Goode).

Only a story with this many roots can make its 163 minute running time seem breezy. Director Zack Snyder comes a long way from his previous film 300, which was not only melodramatically shallow, but embarrassingly homoerotic. In this film, Snyder does a knockout job of creating the fantabulous world. It is almost brilliant how this film balances the wondrous details of the story's breathtaking society, but is still able to document the nostalgia of the period (yeah, movies that take place in the 80's are now considered period pieces).

The most impressive aspect I found within Watchmen was its seamless connection of numerous narratives. Every character gets his or her due, his or her moment of the spotlight, and because of that, it can afford to be ambitious in its storytelling technique, unlike most other comic book films. It can afford it because the film puts a whole lot more stock in its characters than it does in its action sequences. Themes including the darkness of humanity, the danger of romantic love, and the greed of the superego all make there ways in and out of the film, in perfect transition.

What has made comic book films so much more entertaining as of late is the attention paid toward acting. Films like Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight displayed that there can be deep, sometimes Oscar-winning performances within a film about superheros. Watchmen is no exception, capitalizing off a stellar cast which fits each distinct character like a glove. Jackie Earle Haley's grumbling Rorscach is film's main voice, and what a haunting voice it is; Malin Akerman has a true star turn in this film, expressing the emotion of Silk Spectre II so transparently--truly the best female performance in the comic book genre; and probably most impressive is Billy Crudup's collected Dr. Manhattan, who expresses a whole lot more in his expressionless gaze than most can (*cough* Benjamin Button *cough*).

Watchmen is not a perfect film; I could have done without the obvious, self-aware soundtrack choices, and a good twenty minutes could have been shaved off just by cutting out the stop-motion action sequences alone. I still don't know if Zack Snyder was the best choice in an adaptation this faithful to the literary source, but what he has crafted is a truly remarkable film, evoking emotions more organically than most Hollywood action fare.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Trailer Watch: Public Enemies

Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi, and Michael Mann. All of these names together work well if their goal is to get me immensely excited about a movie. This looks like pretty standard Michael Mann, crime drama with a solid mix of prestige biopic. It doesn't look to be in the range of Heat, but then again, very few films are. For now, this is my most anticipated movie for 2009, and there are so many sub-plots. Will Depp finally win that Oscar most people think he deserves? People have loved him for a long time, but when the Academy felt they had to catch up, they ended up nominating him for something that was pretty standard (Sweeney Todd) or flat boring (Finding Neverland). Public Enemies seems to have quite a bit of merit. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Trailer Watch: Los Abrazos Rotos

That Pedro Almodóvar--what a tease. There's a reason why Penélope Cruz thanked him in her speech, it was Almodóvar that made her relevant, first in Todo sobre mi madre, and then once again in Volver. Will Los Abrazos Rotos (or Broken Embraces, as most US audiences will see it as) garner Penélope another Oscar nomination in 2009? I'm not totally sure about it. With her recent win, and another high-profile Fall role in the Rob Marshall musical Nine, the people maybe a little Penélope-ed out. Oscars or not, this film looks awesome; as most Almodóvar movies seem do.


Two Lovers

Monday, March 2, 2009

New York, New York: The Photo

That photographer in the background is representing everything I would feel if I saw these two legends in front of me. Too bad they couldn't combine for anything better than New York, New York. I wonder whether whatever DeNiro said was actually funny, or if that is just Minelli's put-on laughing face. The world may never know.