Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Independent Film Awards

The Independent Film Awards nominations were announced and "I'm Not There" has had quite a few nominations. "A Mighty Heart" ended up with not so many, but Angelina Jolie's performance has been recognized. And so it should - though Marion Cotillard's performance (for Olivier Dahan's "La Mome/La Vie en Rose") will be called at the time of awards season, hers was more a work of mimicking, whereas Jolies brings a quiet intensity to the role. Check all the nominations here.

Updates and considerations

The new website has now been online for a month, and the feedback has been really positive. I tried to create a simple and functional website that would reflect all the work that I've done. When you look back at your previous professional experiences, you can't help think how things could've been done as far as some projects are concerned. But in the end, you just have to be comfortable with your choices and learn from each and every project (and company) you've dealt with. The future is always radiant and there's so much more to learn and do. New personal projects include the update of the Photography website (all the layouts are done and I'm quite excited about the development) and quite possibly trying to get my short stories published. On a sad note, Pixelsurgeon has ended, with much sadness on my part. I had the privilege of being a collaborator for the site, and was a reader for years. I certainly hope Jason Arber and everyone have a terrific time and a lot of success in their new projects.
All and all with everything balanced, things are moving ahead.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Films of the Weekend

Movie name: I'm Not There
Year of release: 2007
Director: Todd Haynes
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Ben Wishaw, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Peter Friedman, Kris Kristofferson, David Cross, Kim Gordon, Bruce Greenwood
Genre: Drama/Biography
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
As a fan of Todd Haynes (I've seen "Poison", "Safe", "Velvet Goldmine" and "Far from Heaven"), I was really anticipating a great film with his view on the life of Bob Dylan. I ended up slightly disappointed. The film doesn't go for the conventional biopic - instead it focuses on different sides of Dylan's persona throughout the years, each played by a different actor. The concept actually sounds more interesting than the development it had - there were a lot of interesting ideas on display, but few of them showed the coherence that his previous films had. The most interesting "section" ended up being Cate Blanchett's, whom will probably enjoy another Oscar nomination (entirely deserved - her performance is fantastic). The beautiful photography of Edward Lachman (who also shined in "Far From Heaven" and Larry Clark's "Ken Park") surely elevates the aesthetic of the film, who nonetheless leaves a lot of questions, and the general feeling of a missed opportunity.


Movie name: Enchanted
Year of release: 2007
Director: Kevin Lima
Stars: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Comedy, Animation
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
Kevin Lima's previous work with Disney has included the animated "Tarzan" and the live action "102 Dalmatians". "Enchanted" is a holiday film, finely crafted, aimed at families with a great cast, where Amy Adams finally has a chance to shine. Previously nominated for a supporting Oscar in "Junebug", Adams shows off her range, and this film will certainly elevate her to a new path in her career. Other than that the film continues to show the versatility of James Marsden (who also had a good turn in "Hairspray") and shows Susan Sarandon having fun in the wicked witch role. A good entertainment for children.

Movie name: The Mist
Year of release: 2007
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Frances Sternhagen, Toby Jones, Jeffrey DeMunn, William Sadler, Alexa Davalos
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
Frank Darabont follows his previous Stephen King adaptations ("Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile") with another solid film, one where the chills and suspense just keep you riveted and tense all along. Boasting a terrific performance by Marcia Gay Harden as the religious nut of the city, this claustrophobic tale of suspense almost feels like a modern variation of an episode of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone". The surprise ending is both chilling and bleak, something that will please fans of the author's work.

Movie name: Hitman
Year of release: 2007
Director: Xavier Gens
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen
Genre: Action, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 2

Synopsis:
Another adaptation of a video game, this time written by Skip Woods, also responsible for the screenplay of "Swordfish". The film shot entirely in Europe (cheaper locations), is fairly simple in it's premise: assassins are "raised" by a secret organization and when grown are lethal to any target they are assigned. The focus on this film is agent 47 played by Timothy Olyphant (who did so much better in "Deadwood" and "Live Free or Die Hard"), who gets set up on one of his contracts and then goes on a killing spree to save his own skin. The film basically has many action set pieces and... that's it. Nothing new here. For more irreverence and charisma Michael Davis' "Shoot'em Up" was far more interesting.


Movie name: Margot at the Wedding
Year of release: 2007
Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, John Turturro, Ciaran Hinds, Zane Pais, Flora Cross, Halley Feiffer, Seth Barrish
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
Following "The Squid and the Whale", Noah Baumbach's "Margot at the Wedding" is a look at the dysfunctional relationship between two sisters, and their ramifications to the other people in their lives. Jennifer Jason Leigh shines as Pauline, a mature woman who is pregnant, and who's about to marry Malcolm, much to her sister Margot's shock and disapproval. Margot is a famed author whose marriage is collapsing, involved in an affair, and just deeply unhappy with the outcome her life has had. All these lives come into collision in the days leading up to the wedding, in ways that are at times humorous and also dramatic. Definitely a film worth checking, with a beautiful photography by the great Harris Savides.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Films of the Weekend - November

Movie name: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Year of release: 2007
Director: Zach Helm
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, Zach Mills, Ted Ludzik
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Synopsis:
"Stranger than Fiction" marked the introduction of screenwriter Zach Helm's talent to a vast audience. The Marc Forster film managed to be intelligent, well directed and boasted a terrific cast. "Mr. Magorium's..." Helm's first screenplay, though filled with potential and again with great actors, ends up feeling forced, contrived and lacking a spark that made Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" such a delight to see. The film ends up leaving the air of all that it could've been but that it never really reached - much like the character of Dustin Hoffman, that never really makes you believe he's magical. Natalie Portman, a hugely talented actress ends up lost in the midst of a story that could have really flown if in other hands (I'll go out on a limb and say that even Terry Gilliam could have given a really interesting twist on this story).


Movie name: Beowulf
Year of release: 2007
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Robin Wright Penn, Alison Lohman, Crispin Glover, John Malkovich, Brendan Gleeson
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
Ever the experimental filmmaker that he is, Robert Zemeckis again pushes the barriers on the animation department (much like he did 20 years ago with the wonderful "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"), with the action packed "Beowulf". Using the screenplay from Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, Zemeckis creates a dynamic tale of heroes, monsters and enchanting demons which is relentless and dynamic. Though at points unintentionally comical (Beowulf is always getting naked), the film nonetheless is beautiful to look at, technically flawless and all the actors do a competent job with their voice work.

Movie name: No Country for Old Men
Year of release: 2007
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Stars: Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly McDonald, Woody Harrelson, Garrett Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Beth Grant, Barry Corbin, Stephen Root
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Synopsis:
The new film from the Coen's brothers brings them back to their high quality standards, that had been absent from their previous efforts ("The Ladykillers", "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Man who Wasn't There"). Adapting the novel from Cormac McCarthy, the Coens have managed to create a tense, perfectly crafted thriller, that boasts terrific performances from all the cast. The story follows Llewelyn Moss a Vietnam veteran that in the dry plains of Texas founds the remains of what was a drug deal gone wrong. Escaping with the money from the deal, Moss is pursued by a deranged psychopath, a weary sheriff and other people interested in the loot. The film boasts award winning performances from Javier Bardem as the icy killer Chigurth, Tommy Lee Jones as the weary and tired sheriff Ed Tom Bell and Josh Brolin as Moss (Brolin has had a really great year with this stellar performance and with smaller parts in "In the Valley of Elah" and also "American Gangster"). The photography from Roger Deakins is also stunning. Definitely a film worth watching.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Films of the Weekend

Movie name: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Year of release: 2007
Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Synopsis:
Sidney Lumet creates with "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" one of the best films of his long career, one that includes such classics as "Serpico", "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network". Working with a screenplay from newcomer Kelly Masterson, Lumet builds a film that pulsates with energy and that draws on the dynamics of a family in disintegration. Philip Seymour Hoffman excels as Andy the oldest sibling with too many problems in his hands, namely a trophy wife that is having an affair with his younger brother, embezzlement and a drug habit of high maintenance. The film starts as a botched heist and evolves to a family drama of huge proportions. It's a gripping and gritty film that is worth watching.


Movie name: Lions for LambsYear of release: 2007
Director: Robert Redford
Stars: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Pena, Derek Luke, Andrew Garfield, Kevin Dunn, Peter Berg
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Synopsis:
The return of Robert Redford to the screens in the director chair, after the underwhelming "The Legend of Bagger Vance", again fails to achieve the results of his earlier work (namely the solid films that were "Quiz Show" and "Ordinary People"). Working with a screenplay from Matthew Michael Carnahan (who also wrote "The Kingdom"), Redford presents a film that intends to question what is happening with the current war situations in delicate countries, however the film ends up being overly simplistic and disjointed. Where a filmmaker like Michael Moore usually tries to make his point, "manipulating" information to support his views (with a sense of humor to boot), Redford tries to present a "serious important film" that falls under it's own pretenses. The film ends up being redeemed by the wonderful Meryl Streep that is, as always, the best thing in the film. Tom Cruise creates an interesting character, but nothing as galvanizing as previous performances that he has given.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Films of the Weekend

Movie name: Wristcutters, A Love Story
Year of release: 2006
Director: Goran Dukic
Stars: Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits, Will Arnett, Leslie Bibb, Sarah Roemer, John Hawkes
Genre: Black Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
"Wristcutters" made a splash in the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards in 2006, the year that saw "Little Miss Sunshine" dominate through and through, however this is a small gem worth investigating. Using a clever premise, a purgatory for people who commit suicide that is pretty much like our reality, only bleaker, this is a film filled with quirky moments that deliver good laughs. Though at times it feels under-developed, it nonetheless provides a different perspective on the love story that populates romantic comedies.


Movie name: Lars and the Real Girl
Year of release: 2007
Director: Craig Gillespie
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner, Patricia Clarkson, Nancy Beatty
Genre: Dramatic Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
After the debacle that was "Mr Woodcock", Graig Gillespie redeems himself with the wonderful "Lars and the Real Girl". Using a wonderful script by Nancy Oliver (whose previous experience includes the wonderful show "Six Feet Under"), Gillespie introduces us to a small community and in particular to Lars, a 27 year old that unable to cope with his feelings, buys a sex doll through the internet and introduces her as Bianca, his fiancee. The way this oddity is presented and the way everyone around Lars adapts to this situation, makes this one of the most interesting and intelligent films of this season.

Movie name: Control
Year of release: 2007
Director: Anton Corbijn
Stars: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Alexandra Maria Lara, Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, Toby Kebbel
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
Anton Corbijn has made his name as a photographer of major rock stars in the last twenty years. Very associated with Depeche Mode (for whom he also directed most of their videos) and U2, "Control" marks his feature debut, focusing on another seminal band from the late 70's early 80's, Joy Division (and more specifically his main singer, Ian Curtis). Ian Curtis has been circled as subject matter for a biopic for a couple of years now (Jude Law was one of the names mentioned to play him), but Corbijn opted to cast Sam Riley in the main role. This has turned out to be a really great choice, since Riley does a terrific job in the role, making Ian Curtis a confused and sensitive man (with devastating epilepsy attacks) that really comes alive when performing with his band. Samantha Morton plays Deborah Curtis as a young woman trying to retain her sense of normalcy and creating a family, with a man that is just not there. A film most definitely worth checking out, with a great soundtrack and a beautiful photography by Martin Ruhe.