Thursday, January 31, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008


Movie name: Persepolis
Year of release: 2007
Director: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Stars: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian
Genre: Animation
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Easily one of the year's best animated features, "Persepolis" is the autobiographical story of the director Marjane Satrapi. Starting with her childhood in Iran and her tribulations with the war in her country and how the society around her changed, this is a moving film that has a stunning look and whose animation is flawless. This is definitely a film worth checking out over and over again.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar Nominations

The Oscar nominations for 2007 are now well known. "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men" lead with "Michael Clayton" and "Atonement" closely behind. It's actually a wonderful year for Hollywood when such great films find themselves in the front runner for some major awards. Hopefully more people will see them and be astonished by some really truly remarkable work!
As always there are omissions and injustices that seem a bit odd. Angelina Jolie got left out of the nominations when she has been on the awards list on every possible awards competition (notice the Baftas, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, SAG awards). Placing Cate Blanchett for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age", a film that was mediocre at the very most, feels forced and quite unnecessary when she appears nominated (and deservedly) for best supporting actress in Todd Hayne's "I'm not There". It's sad to see that "In the Valley of Elah" didn't get more recognition, as well as "Eastern Promises", but the nominations of Tommy Lee Jones and Viggo Mortensen respectively should make the films stand out a bit more.
One great event of these Oscars: the stupendous Tilda Swinton gets her first Oscar nomination for "Michael Clayton".
Check the entire list of nominations here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Savages

Movie name: The Savages
Year of release: 2007
Director: Tamara Jenkins
Stars: Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman, Cara Seymour, Debra Monk, Guy Boyd
Genre: Dramatic comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

After the great reception that "Slums of Beverly Hills" had back in 1998, Tamara Jenkins returns with a small film about a pair of selfish siblings that have to tend to their elderly and absent father. With a concept that could've gone into overtly murky territory, Jenkins aims to create a film that is about two people, who are flawed and with family issues to sort out, issues that have prevented them both of growing up and coming into their own reality. Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, both of them terrific and underrated actors, shine through and definitely make this one of the special films of 2007 that should not be lost.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Music With an Impact - 2007

2007 was a radical year for the music industry. No matter what platform and what format the record labels and artists choose to put their music out, 2007 was still a year that saw many great releases and where I discovered really remarkable and rewarding albums. Here is a list of what I heard (and heard) during the year that just went by.

Bjork - Volta
Roisin Murphy - Overpowered
Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55
Blue States - First Steps Into...
Bat for Lashes - Fur and Gold
Efterklang - Tripper
Tegan and Sara - The Con
St. Vincent - Marry Me
PJ Harvey - White Chalk

Honorable mentions include Dave Gahan's Hourglass, Benoit Pioulard's Précis and Underworld's Oblivion with Bells.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Best Films of 2007 - Part2

Here are more of the list of the wonderful films that graced the screens in 2007.

Director: Joe Wright
Cast: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Vanessa Redgrave, Brenda Blethyn

There Will Be Blood

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds, Kevin J. O'Connor, Dillon Freasier

Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Director: Julian Schnabel
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze, Anne Consigny

In the Valley of Elah
Director: Paul Haggis
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon, Jason Patric, James Franco, Frances Fisher, Josh Brolin

Hot Fuzz
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Stuart Wilson, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine

Margot at the Wedding
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, John Turturro, Ciaran Hinds, Zane Pais, Flora Cross, Seth Barrish

No Country for Old Men
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Kelly MacDonald, Woody Harrelson, Garret Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Barry Corbin, Beth Grant, Stephen Root

Monday, January 14, 2008

Films of the Weekend

Movie name: There Will Be Blood
Year of release: 2007
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds, Kevin J. O'Connor, Dillon Freasier, Russell Harvard
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9

I am a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson's work. "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia" are to me, some of the best films of the 90's, and two of my favorite films of all times. This is a director who creates films that are daring, intense, innovative, films that are an art piece without alienating the audience. After the great "Punch Drunk Love" from 2002, it took 5 long years to see the new "There Will Be Blood", which also marks the first time the director works on a screenplay adapted from a book. The results are quite frankly electrifying - this is a film that holds attention and doesn't let the grip go. The immensely talented Daniel Day Lewis has a knock-out performance as Daniel Plainview, the ambitious and ruthless oil digger that stops at nothing to reach his goals. This is a film that goes into the dark depths of greed, ambition and that shows the false side of prophets and religions that just aim at devouring people's faith and beliefs. An unmissable film.

Movie name: Charlie Wilson's War
Year of release: 2007
Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Ned Beatty, Shiri Appleby, Rachel Nichols, Om Puri, Dennis O'Hare
Genre: Dramatic Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

After the stunning feat that was "Angels in America" and the interesting "Closer", Mike Nichols returns with a new film that uses the screenplay of Aaron Sorkin (best known for "A Few Good Men" that Rob Reiner directed in 1992 and the long running show "The West Wing") to show the involvement of a little known congressman in the Cold War intrigues. Much in the same way that "Primary Colors" used satire to show how politics work when electing a president, here the focus is in the Cold War and the games of influences that go behind the scenes. The film works mostly because of it's actors, mainly Philip Seymour Hoffman that is a spark in the midst of what would have been a very "correct" film. Julia Roberts does a good job as the Texan socialite and Tom Hanks finally redeems himself, after a string of mediocre films and mediocre performances (just to name a few, Ron Howard's "The DaVinci Code", Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal" and Joel and Ethan Coen's "The LadyKillers").

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Films of the Holiday Season - part 2

Movie name: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Year of release: 2007
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jayne Wisener
Genre: Musicall, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9

Broadway musicals adapted for the big screen have had different levels of success, from the solid film that was Alan Parker's "Evita" to the loud spectacle that was Joel Schumacher's "Phantom of the Opera". Tim Burton may not be the first director to spring to mind when directing a musical, but this is a film that makes sense within his universe. It almost feels like a live action rendition of "Nightmare Before Christmas" but gorier and a lot darker. Johnny Depp once again proves that there is no challenge too small for his talents and Helena Bonham Carter is, as usual, brilliant.

Movie name: Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem
Year of release: 2007
Director: Colin Strause, Greg Strause
Stars: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Ariel Gade, Johnny Lewis
Genre: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 1

Another stepping stone in this franchise that manages to actually be worse than the original film that Paul W. Anderson directed in 2004. This time The Brothers Strause direct a screenplay (?) from Shane Salerno, that pillages elements from James Cameron's "Aliens" back and forth - and unfortunately without the good results. The aliens this time crash land in a small town in Colorado and start decimating everyone they find in their path. The Predator comes in hot pursuit and destruction ensues. The humans in this case are of course disposable, and the directors treat them accordingly. These are even thinner characters than what the first "AVP" presented. We have a character emulating Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, and even a tank driving sequence and a rescue helicopter (all this "vaguely" reminiscent of "Aliens"). As a fan of the Alien saga, this film feels like a bad rip-off that adds nothing to what those films set in motion. This has none of the complexity and questions those films presented - this tries to present chills and frills, but in the end all it leaves is a question and wish - please don't make another one.

Movie name: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Year of release: 2007
Director: Julian Schnabel
Stars: Mathieu Almaric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze, Max Von Sydow, Anne Consigny, Niels Arestrup, Jean-Pierre Cassel
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Julian Schnabel follows his previous efforts, "Basquiat" and "Before Night Falls" with another film based on a true story. "Le Scaphandre et le Papillon" follows the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke that completely immobilizes him, save for his eye. He is plainly aware of what is happening, however his body has become his prison and the only way to communicate is using his eye. Schnabel uses the amazing director of photography, Janusz Kaminski (the usual collaborator of Steven Spielberg) to an amazing effect, giving us the viewer, the sense of claustrophobia and horror of not being able to express yourself to a world that surrounds you. Unlike some other films that try to depict ailments and handicaps pushing the "tearjerker" factor, this is a film where life is actually celebrated, something that is simultaneously uplifting and rewarding.

Movie name: Juno
Year of release: 2007
Director: Jason Reitman
Stars: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, JK Simmons, Allison Janey, Olivia Thirlby, Rainn Wilson
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Following "Thank you for Smoking", Jason Reitman has built in collaboration with Diablo Cody (the screenwriter) a film that is simultaneously quirky and tender. It details the life of Juno, an outspoken and slightly off-kilter teenager who becomes pregnant.  Reitman opts for creating a story that doesn't fall trap to the usual cliches, peppering the narrative with humor and a very genuine warmth. All the actors are great, particularly Ellen Page, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. They create not just simple characters, but people with real anxieties and problems, in a film that shows that choices and growing up is something that isn't exclusive of teenagers.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Best Films of 2007 - Part1

2007 brought forth so many great films from acclaimed filmmakers. Some blockbusters turned out to be really interesting, others just turned out to be plain mediocre.
Here is the first six from the list of films that I believe achieved a high quality and that showcase some of the best work that opened in 2007.

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, Chloe Sevigny

The Brave One
Director: Neil Jordan
Cast: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Mary Steenburgen, Naveen Adrews

Michael Clayton
Director: Tony Gilroy
Cast: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack, Michael O'Keefe

Gone Baby Gone
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan

Eastern Promises
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Sinead Cusack, Armin Muelher-Stahl

Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Michelle Yeoh

The Simpsons Movie
Director: David Silverman
Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, Nancy Cartwright, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Pamela Hayden, Albert Brooks

Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jayne Wisener, Ed Sanders

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Films of the Holiday Season - part 1

Movie name: I Am Legend
Year of release: 2007
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok, Salli Richardson, Emma Thompson, Willow Smith
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Action
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Adapting Richard Matheson's novel for the third time proved to be a really good bet. This version is an offbeat blockbuster, surprising for it's intelligence and for the desire to go in a different direction other than just blowing aliens and bad guys (unlike the film that made Will Smith a star, Rolland Emmerich's "Independence Day"). The premise of the last man on Earth is very well explored, and the first part of the film creates a very palpable tension, all based on the emptiness of the spaces and the closeness that Will Smith brings to the part. Francis Lawrence continues to show a really offbeat perspective on his films, following "Constantine" that adapted the comic book with very interesting results.

Movie name: National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Year of release: 2007
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Greenwood, Ty Burrell, Michael Maize
Genre: Adventure, Action
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 1

Following the success of the first film "National Treasure" back in 2004, the same team comes back with a sequel that aims to get big bucks (which is succeeding), with a lot less intelligence and respect for the viewer. This is probably one of the worst written films of the year, with a screenplay (?) where the viewer is asked to leave his intelligence, common sense and something else at the door (this kind of premise sometimes works for over the top and fun films, this time it just feels stupid and forced). Nicolas Cage an actor worth admiring, continues his long journey into mediocrity - since his Oscar turn with "Leaving Las Vegas", he has only done two films where he actually stretched his talents, Spike Jonze's "Adaptation" and Ridley Scott's "Matchstick Men". It's actually shocking to see so much good talent in a film that is so forcibly stupid. Strongly avoid.