Wednesday, November 30, 2011

She Wore HD Velvet.

Head over to PopMatters and read my review for the brand new Blu-ray release of Blue Velvet. It's truly a must-own!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Short Takes. "Beginners" and "Sleeping Beauty".

Here are two films so in love with their concepts that they manage to both completely enthrall or distance themselves from their audiences. In Sleeping Beauty, director Julia Leigh gives us a retelling of the classic story by setting it in a luxurious brothel. Emily Browning plays Lucy, a college student who deals with sex to get what she wants but fear not, this isn't one of those trashy sex movies. In fact there is almost no sex onscreen, except for the kind of erotic service she provides: every evening, Lucy is drugged by her madame (the eerie Blake) who puts her to sleep and lets men - usually older and very grotesque - do to her whatever she wants, except penetrate her. Leigh's postfeminist take on the classic children's story does make us wonder if something similar could've happened to the poor heroine in the story we all know so well. Was this sleeping chick a magnet for necrophilia-loving trolls and villains? 
What disappoints about this tale is that we only think of this, because the film is so dull, so full of itself and its pace so comatose that we wonder if we weren't drugged as well. Browning still fails to prove what's so special about her to make her the star of recent big productions and Leigh's literary knowledge fails to ignite any sort of cinematic spark. 

Mike Mills' Beginners inversely, seems to have been adapted from a Dave Eggers' novel (or any other hipster icon for that matter) and it works, despite it being an extreme case of "look at how indie I am". Ewan McGregor once again dazzles, in a totally underrated way, as Oliver, an illustrator (of course) trying to deal with his father's death.
His father is played by the astonishing Christopher Plummer who gives a performance full of such joy and wonder that one can't help but fall in love with him. He plays a man who comes out of the closet after his wife's death, his boyfriend is played by Višnjić and their scenes together might be the most memorable in the film, as they ring true in their depiction of simplicity and awe. The lush Mélanie Laurent plays Oliver's love interest and needless to say so, their story falls so deep into its own delusional drama that you only want the scenes to go back to Plummer. The film is excessively twee and might be too sweet for its own good. The problem is that it fails to acknowledge this and surprisingly this also becomes its salvation. By failing to see its flaws the movie moves and talks like the beautiful girl who smiles at everyone and hasn't realized she has a piece of lettuce stuck on her teeth.

Grades: Sleeping Beauty *           Beginners **

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 *

Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Nikki Reed, Peter Facinelli, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Billy Burke
Maggie Grace, Mia Maestro, Michael Sheen

They say a good director can turn a mediocre story into something cinematically astonishing, Breaking Dawn Part 1 proves that sometimes there is material so, so poor that it becomes impossible to save, regardless of who commands the production. With its unintentional comedic moments, preposterous "acting" and its truly ludicrous use of dramatic tension, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is a new low in an already ridiculous saga.
This time around, emo vampire Edward (Pattinson) and his beloved Bella (Stewart) finally tie the knot in what would be the grand finale in similarly facile teen romances. However things go wrong when Bella becomes pregnant - apparently no one knew vampires could knock up a mortal, which makes one wonder exactly what comes out of a vampire's seminal canals.
As the fetus begins to eat Bella from inside, a war begins to rage between the vampires and werewolves, once again putting broken hearted Jacob (Lautner) into the equation. Just how many wars, tepid love triangles and ultra conservative messages can one saga fit?
Time and time again, the Twilight movies make one wonder, just what exactly are these people saying? How can so little be said in so much running time? This chapter in particular made a case for being one where nothing really happens. Edward and Bella look at each other, look towards the distance having flashbacks of them looking at each other and then exchange melodramatic readings delivered with absolutely no consideration for dramatic purpose.
Where it wants to be deeply romantic, the film results impossibly dull, where it wants to be mature, it comes out as inexperienced. But other than its silly plot twists and terrible acting, there is something much more disturbing at the bottom of these films.
Author Stephenie Meyer might just be the most reactionary working writer of the past decade. Her moralistic ideas about sex, birthing and relationships are so old fashioned that they almost seem prehistoric. While the first three movies were based around the idea that "if you have sex you will get chlamydia and die" (thank you Mean Girls), this one grabs that idea and takes it even further into ultra conservatism.
Apparently for Meyer, marriage isn't enough punishment for horny teenagers who crave sex, they also will get pregnant and have to give up their lives for their babies.
What in a 1940s movie would've been justified reason for a big tearjerker, is pure denigration in the twenty first century. The fact that abortion - even in the face of severe health issues - isn't even considered as an option, isn't romantic, it's scary! By removing women's power to choose and preserve their lives, Meyer and the movies she inspired are doing a great disservice to any feminist movement in history.
Apparently to them, all that women are worthy of are being objects of desire to both the living and the undead. The vampires in these films aren't after the blood, they want to suck your brains out.

Style Sunday.

Few women have the effortless elegance of Andrea Riseborough. She makes everything look so majestic and understated. See the way she works this simple Andrew Gn sheath. The red contrasts beautifully with her porcelain skin and the clear makeup makes her look truly divine.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Super Cooper.

Dominic Cooper is fantastic in The Devil's Double. It's a shame the rest of the film doesn't live up to his masterful work. Head over to PopMatters and read my review.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Colombiana ***

Director: Olivier Megaton
Cast: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Mollà, Lennie James
Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Beto Benites, Callum Blue, Max Martini

For all its use of cliché, Hispanic stereotypes and abuse of style over substance, Colombiana is one of the most exciting action movies to have come out in a while. From its politically incorrect title we are reminded that once we enter its world, we need to adjust ourselves to its rules. Rules which, for better or for worse, have been filtered through the mind of that action visionary Luc Besson.
His world is one populated with fantastic heroines, deliciously decadent drama and an overall worshiping of style in the face of substance. Besson, who co-wrote the screenplay with Robert Mark Kamen, takes us to a hyperviolent version of Colombia where the young Cataleya (played as a child by the pitch perfect Amandla Stenberg) witnesses how a bunch of gangsters led by the ruthless Marco (Jordi Mollà) murder her parents.
She swears she will kill him and his evil boss Don Luis (Benites) - who needs a last name when you're evil and Hispanic? - before she stabs him, imprinting him with one of those eternal scars so cherished by villains the world over.
Cata escapes to America where she has her uncle Emilio (Curtis) train her to become a hitwoman. When the little girl morphs into the gorgeous Zoe Saldana, the rest of the movie devotes itself to have her seduce us with her beauty, her outstanding criminal skills and her thirst for revenge.
All of the setpieces are done with such mastery of form and suspense that you could literally watch Saldana perform outlandish stunt after stunt in the name of kick-ass joy.
The screenplay is laden with incongruous details and a million different arguments could be made about hos it reduces being Hispanic to guns and Christ, yet despite all of its shortcomings the film is so in love with its narrow world view that you have no choice but to understand it should only be seen as fantasy, hell it plays out like a comedy in some occasions.
Saldana brings such strength and personality to Cataleya, that you develop a crush on her courage and of course her figure (the camera can never get enough of her). A film like Colombiana which moves seamlessly between action and high camp works best because in its disaffected, sometimes irresponsible, use of cliché it forces us to look beneath the surface.
Is it OK for example to decide that Cataleya is a heroine? is her desire for revenge something admirable or does it in fact make her as evil as those she hates?
Saldana succumbs to this inner hunger with sensual ferocity and we never catch her doubting her character's motivations. She is who she is and she might not always understand herself but she is a woman with a plan. Colombiana is the kind of entertainment that requests you turn off the thinking switch upon entering the theater but it provides you with such primal pleasures that you can't help but feel like its accomplice once it's over. For better or for worse, you fall under its spell.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Style Sunday.

Emma in Chanel is jus divine...and let's just call this one "deja vu" OK? (You'll see why when you see who's next...)

Gwynnie rocks this Stella McCartney. When did she go from being a skinny diva to having some of the best legs in entertainment?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Best Image of the Week!

How excited are you about this?

Sheet-y Saturday.

Japanese people have a strange sense of humor and very different aesthetics from us Westerners but I really can't guess what they were trying to go for with this poster for Young Adult. Between the Hello Kitty shirt and the disheveled hair there's really no big contrast. Were they trying to show that Char is up to no good but has potential? Because so far look like lazy Sunday outfits.

The looks on CaMu and Fassy in this poster say it all. They didn't even need to bother saying the name of the movie. What a superb work this is. I am dying to see this one...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cowboys and Pompadours.

Last weekend I spent a day with the Leningrad Cowboys (figuratively obviously...) and now I present you with what I got from them. Head over to PopMatters and read all about it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some Musical Accompaniment.

Head over to PopMatters and read my review for Masters of American Music, a superb boxset dedicated to the history of jazz.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Short Take: Three Horror Movies.

The scariest thing about the Paranormal Activity movies is still how popular they are. How this brand of cheaply done and cheaply looking films can manage to outgross much better projects is a sad reminder that today's audiences are victim of cattle thinking. Once they get used to a "series", they don't care how many times they are told the same story. These movies prove that audiences enjoy the act of not thinking. The third installment in the series, goes back to the very beginning and explores why numbers 1 and 2 happened. To say the reasons are preposterous would be nothing compared to the way in which the filmmakers rely on facile trickery and obvious techniques to try and scare us. The effects have been getting consistently better, something which can't be said about the acting and plot devices. This one, set in the 80s, has us wondering how did these progressive people guess that everything should've been filmed in case a movie was made about them decades later. The film doesn't rely try to adjust itself to the settings and to the spirit of the era, it goes straight for the established process that's worked for them in the past, the only thing they've changed is the medium by which we see the demonic activities. One must wonder, by the time they get to Paranormal Activity 45 will the stories be displayed using cave paintings? Grade *

The only good thing that came out of Dream House must've been Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz getting married. The rest is an outrageously bad attempt at mating Shutter Island, Memento and any Stephen King novel involving snow and houses. If you've seen the trailer, you don't need to bother with the rest of the movie. What remains mysterious is why people like Sheridan, Watts and pretty much everyone else involved in the production (the underrated Elias Koteas for example) saw in the lazy screenplay and the redundant characters.  Grade *

The Change-Up tries to invent the wheel by taking Freaky Friday and adding curse words, boobs and poop jokes. Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds play bets buds who go through a body exchange situation after peeing in a magical fountain. One's a control freak lawyer, the other's a slacker. You don't need to try hard to guess which one plays which; one of the many reasons why you wonder why was this movie even made. Everything about it has been done before and in much better ways. Props to Leslie Mann for always adding a very human layer to her characters. Grade *

Style Sunday.

When the year ends, I am pretty sure this look will be among my favorite of 2011. Gwyneth Paltrow was a vision of glamour, style and old Hollywood class in this stunning Elie Saab column dress. Attending the Bambi Awards in Germany, Paltrow was able to overcome the idea that too much glitter blinds the beholder. The dress' beading is beautiful without being showy, the craftsmanship stuns without overwhelming, and paired with a gorgeous diamond choker, Paltrow once more reminds us what a fashion icon she has always been.

As someone who always take risks and more than ever has been showing off her lovely figure - as she approaches 40! - Gwynnie truly was the queen of the night.

 Emma + Lanvin = bliss.

What's your take on Gwynnie's shiny look? Too much bling or is she sartorial perfection? Am I alone in wanting to worship at the altar of Emma Stone's Greek shrine?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

Today we will see how one campaign can offer both the best and worst in graphic design. The image above is of course an example of the worst. Silly color palette, preposterous Photoshop-ing (where the hell is ScarJo coming from and why does she look like Kim Cattrall?) and one of those "universal" poses where all the characters look ahead into the distance. In this case they might just be trying to look away from the awful  background they were inserted into.

Now on the other side, we have the same marketing people come up with this beautiful, simple and ridiculously effective teaser. The colors are astonishingly beautiful and efficient, the idea of mixing the tree with the animal prints is superb and the little red kite adds a dash of melancholy. We know more about the movie with this poster, than with the hideous design before it.

Which of these posters give you more information about the movie?

Friday, November 11, 2011

A la Hitchcock...

The Skin I Live In was the most intense experience I've had at the movie theater in years. Do not let anyone spoil its secrets for you! Review coming soon.

Beneath the Festival: An Interview With Jeff Pinilla

After watching the official selection for this year's Beneath the Earth Film Festival I decided to interview Jeff Pinilla, director of the Audience Award winner, After Ever After. Given that both Jeff and I are currently in different parts of the world, I was more than impressed by his willingness to talk about his work for my site (ahem, take a cue up-and-coming filmmakers in Latin America...). Jeff was extremely helpful and you can see he has a real passion for his work. One of the things that made me curious about him, was the bio in the festival site where he reveals his passion for film began quite early in his life.

After Ever After is Pinilla's first short film after a notable career in television and advertising. While the film lacks a bit of mood and a harder punch near the climax, it more than makes up for it with inventive technique and some little moments that feel both intimate and universal. I forgot to tell Jeff, that a few lines in his movie seem to have been extracted out of my very own love life. I remembered to tell him this...

Jose: Watching the film one can't help but get the idea that it's very autobiographical (then you get to the credits and see it's based on a story you wrote). Is it autobiographical on any level?

Jeff: It's absolutely autobiographical. I went through one of the most excruciating heartbreaks I've ever felt in my life. I had been through breakups before and I remember thinking "okay, Jeff... two weeks and you should be okay." I kept psyching myself out by breaking down my emotions into these weekly phases. Obviously, it wasn't that easy. I was sleeping in my office, trying to find an apartment, I was obsessed with a commercial I was working on, and I couldn't figure out a way to get this girl out of my head Now, some parts in the script are exaggerated, but the emotions that I felt were in the script which I think helped make it completely honest.

Jose: I loved the way in which you capture some tiny details that make a difference. For example

when Sidney and his friend are playing pool, they have a short exchange that's filled
with pitch perfect timing. Would you say you plan this nuances or is some of this luck?

Jeff: It would be a lie if I said it's completely planned. Every time you're on set you get happy surprises.
A lot of this scene, however, was planned. There's definitely some choreographed moments like the crossing of the 180 when the conversation has a power shift and Dan's subtle moment of putting Sydney in his place by saying "what's your target demo". There's also a subtle moment in the beginning when the title card reads "Saturday morning" and we see them wake up together. This same title card appears later on when he wakes up at 1pm. The significance behind this is that Saturday morning is when you really feel the emptiness. One Saturday, you're waking up with her by your side and the next, you find yourself alone waking up in the worst way in the middle of the afternoon. It's very subtle and you'll only really know what this means if you really dig for it.

Jose: Michael Furlong gives a great performance in the film. Can you please share a bit about your process while directing actors.

Jeff: The process of finding Michael was funny, actually. Originally I was going to play the role myself (like every naive first time director usually does). The only reason I even considered it was based on a passage I read where Chaplin said "the only reason I ever starred in my films was to elevate my directing." I didn't want to risk it, so I decided to hold a casting call and when I saw Michael I was convinced. About two months prior to shooting, I made it a priority to really know how his mind works. We spent almost every night going to bars, playing pool, having conversations. When we were on set and he had his emotional breakdown scene, I came into the set in the morning and pretended that me and my father got into a big fight. He knew I was upset so I got him to start giving me advice by talking about his own personal problems he has had. The thought of loss lingered with him all day.

Jose: I enjoy the way in which you mix fantasy with reality. Sometimes I was reminded of 8 ½, would you say that was an influence? Can you mention filmmakers who have influenced you.

Jeff: It's crazy how you were spot on. 8 ½ was a complete 100 percent influence. I tend to drift into the Fellini/ Jonze/ Gondry realm with my style. It's not just with this film, but also with all my commercial work. Those are the guys that are my day to day influence. They have both style and substance.

Check out one of Jeff's commercials:
Jose: I was very impressed by the editing work. Knowing that you have a background in television, you can see the quick cuts and the flashy moments but you also managed to create a great symmetry with longer takes and subtle cuts. In the future would you like to work more in movies or TV?

Jeff: Well, the only reason I ever started working in TV was because I had the freedom to create 30 second short films. Essentially, that's what an Ad is. I have the opportunity to tell a story in 30 seconds and I do my best to incorporate a little bit of style, a strong message, and a sell. I mean, if you can't tell a story in 30 seconds what makes you think you can tell one in an hour and a half? 

Jose: I come from a third world country where the film industry is barely starting and official film education is very flawed. How important would you say is the importance of a film  degree in a global context?

Jeff: I got myself a film degree and to be honest, I contemplated framing it everyday. Yes, a film degree is an awesome thing to have but it's not the degree itself that gives you the ability to chase your dreams. It's about the knowledge and experience you gain from going to a school that focuses on your passion. I don't believe there is such a thing as an official film school education. I've learned more in my two years out of school than I did at anytime in film school. 

Check out After Ever After and all the other films here.

The Meryl's Double.

I love Jennifer Ehle and have for a few years now. I believe her subtly romantic turn in Possession was award worthy (the whole movie was quite underrated truth be told) and I was pleasantly surprised when she pretty much gave the best performance in Contagion
During the movie we are told that humans touch their faces up to 3 thousand times a day. The very idea of having hands all over one's face has always reminded me of one person: Meryl Streep.
The divine Streep is always taking her hands to her face, usually when she gasps, laughs or does something which reminds us of her godliness. It's as if concealing a part of her face will contain all the nuclear power coming out of her magnificence. I obviously immediately linked Ehle to Streep and given how alike they look, I wanted to share this with you all:

Creepy, no?

Do you think Ehle has what it takes to reach Streep-ian levels of perfection?

Beneath the Earth Reviews.

As you all know, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Grand Jury of the Beneath the Earth Film Festival.
The official selection was comprised of some truly remarkable films made by people from all over the world.
My favorite entry in the official selection was the fast moving, excitingly melancholy It's Natural to Be Afraid, which deals with globalization, doomed love and is a hybrid between Tom Tykwer and Michel Gondry. You can watch this and all the other films here (but hurry, you have until 11/15)

As part of our work as jury members we all had to review the winning films, which I now present to you:

After Ever After - Winner of the Audience Award
Director: Jeff Pinilla

This tale of love gone wrong focuses on what happens after relationships end. In this case we follow young advertising creative Sidney Gamblin (gotta love the retro inspired name) as he goes through the phases of post-love grief. Done with extreme style and featuring a superb performance by Michael Furlong - perhaps the film's greatest asset - we witness a lovely story that feels urgent and very real. There is a dialogue exchange in a billiard room, which is captured with such care by director Pinilla, that you feel as if he's been poking around inside your memories. The film features a wonderful job of edition that focuses on both moments of extreme activity as well as more introspective scenes and Pinilla does an overall good job even if you get the feeling that he wanted to say much more than he could handle. The film could've done without a few minutes; even if it's quite short, sometimes its themes seem redundant, but Furlong is a joy to watch (talk about schadenfreude) and for all its flaws and slight stylistic incoherence the film results pleasing.

(Watch After Ever After here)

Photographs - Winner of the Best Film Award
Director: Brendan Clogher, Christina Manrique

The problem with Pixar is that they have spoiled us for most animated films out there. Such is the case when watching Photographs, the winner of this year's Best Film Award which seems merited but results slightly underwhelming when compared to other, more exciting work. Photographs tells the story of a lonely old lady who finds a photographic camera and proceeds to take mysterious pictures in different locations. It takes little imagination to figure out why she's doing it and perhaps the film relies too much on this eventual emotional revelation to maintain the audience captivated. Those who guess the twist in the first minute will then be showered with a series of pretty images that lead nowhere. The animation is indeed masterful and the score is gorgeous but the film's emotional payoff is directly connected to the viewer's ignorance of how dramatic structure works, or perhaps its joys are better reserved for those who are less cynical.

(Watch Photographs here)

Don't forget to share the films with your friends and family! As always, what's important is to get new filmmakers involved in the conversation!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Contagion ***½

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law
Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle, Elliot Gould
Sanaa Lathan, John Hawkes, Bryan Cranston

Contagion opens inside an airport bar where American businesswoman Beth Emhoff (Paltrow), on her way to the States from Hong Kong, sits having a drink and talking on the phone while she waits for a connecting flight. As she hears her flight number being called out she leaves the bar. The camera then focuses on the small bowl of peanuts that sat in front of her. A title card reading "Day 2" appears. With a seemingly innocuous choice of editing, camera positions and additional information (we don't get title cards in real life), Steven Soderbergh sends us down a spiral of fear, the likes of which we rarely see in contemporary cinema.
Once Beth is back in the States, she suddenly falls ill with a strange disease that sends her into a coma and kills her a mere minutes after the movie begins. With this bold move Soderbergh reassures us that for the next two hours, no one will be safe.
Contagion then deals with the discovery, propagation and consequences of this new lethal virus that is transmitted by contact and has no apparent cure. As the virus grows, we meet different characters who deal with it in their part of the world as society around them begins to crumble. Soderbergh also divides them into different aspects of our current world, without making them a too obvious "group". We see the emotional part with  Beth's husband, Mitch (Damon) for example, who has to deal with his wife's sudden death as he must survive in order to support his daughter.
There's also Dr.Ellis Cheever (Fishburne) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who tries to clear doubts that suggest the new virus might be a bioweapon by sending his colleague Dr. Erin Mears (Winslet) to investigate. Their stories are more related to bureaucracy and the handling of disasters by local governments which provide the film with eerie echoes of the H1N1 epidemic and the way in which the American government has dealt with events like Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Their storylines are also linked to the scientific community represented by Gould, who plays a genius biology professor and Ehle, who plays Dr. Ally Hextall, a CDC scientist commissioned to find a vaccine.
As the story begins to occupy a more global aspect, we meet Dr. Leonora Orantes, a World Health Organization epidemiologist who is sent to Asia in search of "patient zero". Scenes involving her character are filled with an exotic dread in which we are reminded that despite the world's global union feeling, we are still pretty much on our own. Soderbergh makes her scenes scary and mystifying by recurring to the use of multiple languages which instill a very primal fear in audience members. Is he perhaps suggesting that xenophobia is acceptable under special circumstances?
Other characters include slimy conspiracy theorist/blogger Alan Krumwiede (Law), a down on his luck janitor (Hawkes) who finds himself in the midst of a disease which to him remains incurable due to his lack of money and Aubrey (Lathan), Dr. Cheevers partner who gets involved in a political disaster.
Soderbergh has proved in the past that he's a maverick at handling parallel storylines with unifying, often enlightening, clashes. But while in Traffic he did something a bit more orthodox in terms of dramatic structure, Contagion offers him the chance to do his own hybrid of Nashville and Outrbreak. Those expecting an ultimate message of salvation, or even a unifying climax will come out severely disappointed as Soderbergh makes a case of maintaining the pieces of his mosaic separated.
Their detachment might come off as cold-hearted by usual standards but Soderbergh sees himself as a scientist trying to dissect the various pieces of his experiment (an autopsy scene is done with such straightforwardness that you can't help but feel both revolted and mesmerized). He leaves it to his actors to create flashes of humanity within the hyper-realism of his direction. Cotillard for example brings a worldly charisma (and a serious working woman hairdo) to her scenes, while Ehle becomes a joy to watch as she puts all of her Streep-ian attributes to work as she delights herself with her work discoveries.
Paltrow, who the film sometimes uses as a morality clause, is haunting, as she represents the face of an irresponsible (if only by ignorance) branch of American society and Winslet delivers one of the year's most powerful emotional punches in less than ten scenes.
His insistence to keep the stories from coming together has a remarkable symbolism because we realize that he's trying to contain infection from seeping to his other characters. By maintaining them apart, Soderbergh might be making the film's strongest point which is a questioning of the benefits of globalization.
This is confirmed in the finale which might be a bit facile but still shocks us to our very core by reminding us that by trying to make the world a smaller place, we have also made its decay much easier to obtain. With his expert use of editing, cinematography and sound (there are scenes without dialogues that creep under your skin) Soderbergh creates the kind of movie that transcends genre but becomes effective even within them. The film is scary because it feels possible and its use of scientific fact and borrowing from contemporary history only makes it more valid.
Martin Scorsese said that horror is related to physicality but terror is more related to what we feel, with Contagion Soderbergh might've created one of the most terrifying films of the decade.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Unorthodox Seduction.


Even if I found Eyes Wide Open to be completely preposterous, the seduction scene was spot on. How on Earth would the poor, older Jewish man be able to resist Ran Danker?

Short Takes: "Hanna", "In Time" and "Attack the Block".

Hanna should be required viewing for all women going through the child to adolescent transition, given that- for lack of bullshit-ery - it's essentially a metaphor about how it all goes to hell after your first period. Saoirse Rona, plays the title character, a young girl who has always lived in the forest with her dad (Bana), a CIA agent gone rogue, who one day decides she wants to face her destiny and go to the big world. Trained in all of the deadly arts, Hanna is aware that to lead a normal life she must first destroy Marissa (Blanchett in a delicious star turn) a wicked agent responsible for her mom's death. Highly influenced by Tom Tykwer and, by Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter , the versatile Joe Wright delivers a thrilling spectacle that more than makes up for the story's lack of originality. Ronan is reliably perfect, combining child-like awe with chilling heartlessness and Bana once again proves he's one of the most underrated working actors. Wright's combination of fairy tales with biological conundrums feels a bit too stale at times and he can't seem to decide if he's in the mood for some well told Gothic action piece or a green-friendly, almost reactionary, invitation to have everyone move to the mountains and disregard the modern world. For what it matters, the film fares much better and what could've been a weird hybrid of Nell and The Bourne Identity comes off looking as a kick-ass allegory for the pains of growing up.  Grade: ***

Andrew Niccol delivered one of the most fascinating sci-fi movies in contemporary cinema with his remarkable Gattaca. Sadly, now he comes back with a piece of "social" fluff disguised as a dystopia in the making. In a world where time has become the official currency and people stop aging at age 25, it's up to none other than Justin Timberlake to show people how immoral they are. JT plays a Dickensian character who gets thrown into a whirlwind of chaos after he "inherits" more time than he can deal with. When authorities become suspicious about his background, he recruits a wealthy socialite (Seyfried) to steal from the rich and give back to the poor. At the film's center there is a fascinating conundrum to explore: should people live long and prosper or is there an element of truth to eugenics? Of course, Niccol doesn't have time to dwell on this as he has his heroes reenact perfume ads during the entire movie. It's a shame, cause In Time often brims with promise which then turns upon itself in such unexpected ways. You end up rooting for the villains, it makes you think that JT and Seyfried are unsexy (they have such little chemistry that it often feels like you're watching audition tapes),  and for all its talk about social injustice, its own brand of Bonnie and Clyde by way of Dolce & Gabbana feels so preposterous that you only thing you want to protest against, are lazy Hollywood flicks. Grade: *

Aliens invade London. Group of thugs saves the day. The biggest problem with Attack the Block is that it's never truly able to overcome two major flaws. On the one hand, its very own kind of British humor is practically impenetrable, making it a dragging experience for worldwide audiences (something that comedies like Hot Fuzz and The Full Monty had no trouble doing), then, the movie is so in love with its low budget concept that it ends up becoming obnoxiously dull. Grade: **

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Style Sunday.

Noomi Rapace evoked old Hollywood glamour in this stunningly simple Giambatista Valli dress. Gotta love how she keeps it so simple in the hair and makeup department and allows the dress to do all the work for her.

Lately I feel that Annie has abandoned me. I miss her in movies and even if she has a ton coming up, she should be in at least a movie a month, no? With that said, I'm not sure if my undying love for her makes me worship her public appearances so much, or this Valentino beaded dress is actually worthy of writing about. You help me decide.

When Naomi Watts gets it right, she gets it right. Even if she always seems to favor nude colors and simple designs, here she proves that sometimes sticking to what you know is the best strategy. This Stella McCartney design just reassures us that Naomi's undeniable sexiness would've made her ideal for that other rumored Marilyn biopic. She exudes class and sensuality with such effortlessness that it's just amazing.

Who of these ladies is your fave?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

Oh the French, while silly Americans worry about the notion of sex onscreen and Michael Fassbender's cock, the French not only dare to put a male figure on the suggestive poster, but the moving hand implies it's heading to somewhere a bit more risqué. Despite the weird proportions of the body (the too smooth sides make it look like a woman in serious need of Nair) applause to the European distributor for reminding us that we all want to see this movie for the same kinky reasons.

More and more, this movie reminds me of a reverse Mrs. Doubtfire. Also, the drastic change from the original, perfect teaser, to this more common one-sheet makes it seem like the studio is worried it'll only attract nerdy arthousers (which it will...). With that said, Aaron Johnson should be in much more movies. Still wonder what they see in Wasikowska though...

What's your own take on all the knobs in this week's posters?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Most Perfect Filmography Ever?

Head over to PopMatters and read my review for The Complete Jean Vigo. Also, do you agree with this post's title? Discuss!