Category Archives: News

Have you heard about…

slave
Twelve Years a Slave?

Not to disparage you, dear reader, but I often forget that everyone does not check in daily with IMDb the way I do, and so I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you about a movie I’m eagerly anticipating. “This opportunity” being the birthday of Chiwetel Ejiofor, the film’s lead. He’s a really good actor; you may have seen him in Serenity, Children of Men, American Gangster, or Salt. I’m excited about Twelve Years for many reasons, but the main one is that I hope it garners some well-deserved recognition (of the award season variety) for Mr. Ejiofor. If nothing else, we all get to laugh at everyone who has to try pronouncing his name. Anyway, happy birthday to him! Now, about this movie…

Twelve Years a Slave is a true story, based upon the memoir of Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), a black man who was born free in New York, then kidnapped and sold into slavery prior to the American Civil War. The story follows his experiences in slavery, and was a best-seller after its release in 1853. The film is directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame), and boasts a really impressive cast which includes Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, and Alfre Woodard.

So, McQueen is fairly acclaimed for his two films, Hunger and Shame, both of which star Michael Fassbender, and there’s a lot of positive buzz surrounding Twelve Years, which has the potential to be a more mainstream hit for the director. The support and participation of Brad Pitt (whose production company, Plan B, has a credit as well) lends the film a bit of class and star appeal, and the cast is seriously first-rate. Originally slated for a late December release, there has been talk of the film getting a bump to October, based on strong test-screenings. While there’s no trailer yet, you can see some stills from the movie here.

In short, I think that this movie has great potential. Excellent cast, acclaimed director, good story. I’m excited to see it, which isn’t always the case with heavy material. How about you? Does this brief primer whet your interest at all? I know a lot of folks out there are big fans of Cumberbatch and of Fassbender (myself included) so I’m hoping their involvement will draw in some audiences. I’ll be keeping an eye on the reviews for sure, and I’ll be crossing my fingers for favorable reports; hopefully I’ll make it out to the theater myself. Stay tuned!

Reboot

buds
In case anyone has been concerned, yes, I am still alive. I am even still watching movies, albeit not as many as I used to. I have no excuse for being absent from this blog, really, but I’m going to be making an effort to get back to business. What I’m not going to do is try to backtrack; I’m a little too far out from some things I’ve seen recently, so writing full reviews would be hard. Instead, I’ll recap a bit for you, and we’ll move forward.

Here’s what I’ve been watching lately!

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

This was our next AFI list movie, and we didn’t enjoy it. It seems like sort of standard late sixties fare; bleak, gritty, and so on. I will say, though, that Dustin Hoffman’s performance is incredible, and that the resemblance between Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie (he’s her dad) is kind of disturbing.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Oh, you guys. When RDJ and Jude Law fail to entertain, something is wrong.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

This is more like it. Possibly my new second-favorite superhero movie (right after The Avengers). The script and direction of Shane Black were awesome, and all of the acting was top-notch. RDJ as Tony Stark continues to put in a performance that ought to receive more real recognition. Highly recommended.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

I’m really late in seeing this, and I have to say that I was a little disappointed. Seeing this many awesome British actors in one place is great, but the plot was just a little too opaque, and honestly, I can name half a dozen other Gary Oldman performances that he ought to have received Oscar nominations for. It’s a very well-made movie, but it’s really hard to follow, and is ultimately unsatisfying.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Why yes, this does mean that we have seen two films in the theater recently. I know, it’s a miracle. I felt sort of ambivalent about seeing this one; the first one was fun, and I like Eric Bana, but this one didn’t have a favorite actor to recommend it. I’m by no means a novice to the world of Star Trek, but I’m not a die-hard, either, so I could’ve gone either way. However, this was a really fun watch. I was further impressed with the re-characterizations of Spock, Bones, and Kirk (Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Chris Pine), and was happy that a few female characters (Zoe Saldana and Alice Eve) were given a reasonable amount to do. Benedict Cumberbatch was physically impressive but emotively inconsistent as the main baddy, and hey! Peter Weller shows up! The story and plot struck me as fairly solid, although the last 30 minutes or so get a bit bogged down, and could’ve been edited more strenuously. A totally worthwhile addition to summer blockbuster season, though.

I also recently rewatched some favorites, which I don’t get to do all that often. I don’t think I’ve written a love letter to Gosford Park yet, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.

How about you? What’s been on your radar lately?

2013 Oscar Nominations

lincoln
I’ve been debating all morning whether or not to talk about the Oscars, and since I was just asked whether or not I was going to, I guess I will. My caveat is that I have seen VERY few of the nominees this year, and my perspective, as such, comes from my overall thoughts about the performers in question, from a fair amount of industry reading, and from my understanding of how Oscar politics tend to function. Additionally, I feel in no way qualified (ha) to talk about anything beyond the “major” awards, so we’ll just be looking at the Big Five. Shall we?

Best Picture

  • Amour
  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Miserables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

If I have not done so before, please allow me to express some slight frustration at the still-new “up to 10″ clause here. It’s like they choose 9 nominees every year just to validate themselves, or something. Anyway. Prior to the announcement, my money had been squarely on Zero Dark Thirty. However, given the state of the nominations as a whole, I’m changing my bet to Lincoln. Because really, who doesn’t love Spielberg? I expected a smaller field this year, so the fact that they expanded out to accommodate Django Unchained, Amour, and Beasts of the Southern Wild is interesting, although it seems like a way for the Academy to make themselves look braver than they really are. Life of Pi is getting a lot of industry love because it was previously considered “unfilmable,” but Lincoln is still the front-runner here. Again, everybody loves Spielberg.

Best Actor

  • Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
  • Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
  • Denzel Washington, Flight

I’ll just repeat what every film writer is saying, and what I myself said a year or so ago, upon learning that he would play the role: Daniel Day-Lewis has this in the bag. Cooper and Jackman will likely have their day, and I saw somebody refer to Denzel Washington as “the Meryl Streep of actors,” meaning if he’s in a movie, they’ll nominate him. Joaquin Phoenix is the surprise here. The Master had some early buzz, but then Phoenix made snarky comments about stumping for awards, and so he’d largely been written off. This is the most stable category this year, although John Hawkes is a major snub for his role in The Sessions. Mostly, though, I’m just wondering whether or not DDL will actually show.

Best Actress

  • Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
  • Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Some big surprises here. Emmanuelle Riva and Quvenzhane Wallis were both outside chances, and both have pulled through, making Oscar history. Riva, at 85, is the oldest nominee ever, and Wallis, 6 at the time of filming, is the youngest. Still, this is Jessica Chastain‘s statue to lose. I don’t think that Lawrence or Watts will beat her out, and (again, not having seen any of the films in question) I don’t really think they should. She gave some major performances last year in the supporting category, and I think she’s getting her recognition now. Plus, it’s my understanding that she really carries Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Alan Arkin, Argo
  • Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

I think Best Supporting Actor is my favorite category. It’s always such a great-looking list, and this year is no exception. A very strong field indeed: all of these men already have Oscars. I have heard the most buzz in Tommy Lee Jones’ direction, and given the strength of Lincoln in general, I’d say he’s a pretty safe bet. The fun thing, though, is that you clearly cannot count any of these men out, and you can expect to see them around again soon.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams, The Master
  • Sally Field, Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions
  • Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

This is, for all intents and purposes, a two-way race. Sally Field has gotten good reviews for Lincoln, but let’s face it: Anne Hathaway‘s powerhouse performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” is what she’s up against, and I don’t think she’ll make it. Plus, she’s gotten plenty of accolades over the course of her career, and Hathaway has been putting in her dues for a while now. It really is her year.

Best Director

  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Ang Lee, Life of Pi
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
  • Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

And now we come to the drama. One of the issues with allowing up to ten Best Picture nominees is that some of the directors of those films get left behind, and that is in serious evidence this year. Ben Affleck (Argo), Kathryn Bigelow (ZDT), Tom Hooper (Les Mis), and Quentin Tarantino (DU) are dealing with some mixed emotions today, for sure. The choices in this category have a direct correlation to those in the Best Picture race, and so we can fairly reasonably assume that none of their movies will win the top prize. My money is on Steven Spielberg and Lincoln to make a fairly clean sweep of the proceedings, although it can be argued that Ang Lee is seriously overdue.

The race this year has been pretty interesting, with no film staking a clear claim to Best Picture status. Adding in technical awards, Lincoln leads the field with 12 nods, and that sets up a strong challenge to all other comers. I think that voters were impressed with Life of Pi, but since it’s more a visual piece than a character-driven one, I don’t think it’ll come out on top. Silver Linings Playbook seems to be playing the “scrappy underdog” role, represented last year by The Artist, but the competition is very different this time around. Lincoln seemingly has it all: it’s a film with serious pedigree, from subject matter to supporting cast, and the truth of the matter is that the Academy almost always follows a more established route. I’m open to surprises, but this year, I don’t expect too many.

And now, your turn. What are your predictions for Oscar night?

Movie Limbo

Hi there. You may have noticed I haven’t had much to say recently. There are multiple reasons for this: the biggest one, I suppose, is that I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past six months; toddlers take up a lot more time than infants do. Aside from that, though, my family is making a big move in less than two weeks, and I’ve just been going like mad trying to get us ready. Every day I tell myself: Go blog! And every day I sit down and stare blankly at the computer screen. There’s even a lot to write about, but I am just not focused these days. And so, I think I’m going to take a bit of a break. I’ll pop back in for big stuff (mainly Les Miserables) but I will probably lay low for the holiday season and hope that life has settled itself by the New Year. As always, thank you so very much for reading: I am always so excited that I’m not entirely just doing this for myself.

Here’s a run-down of what I’ve been doing lately (that’s movie-related).

  • We watched Harvey. It’s fantastic. Possibly the most impressed I have been with Jimmy Stewart to date.
  • We also watched The Queen. Very interesting from an historical perspective, and good performances all around; obviously Helen Mirren’s was superb. The movie overall as a little uneven, I thought. Also, I think I’ve decided I’m just not a Michael Sheen fan.
  • New Year’s Resolution: see more movies in the theater. Since we have a small person, that’s been difficult, BUT we are moving closer to family, so in theory we’ll have more opportunity to get out.
  • I had a reader question, and I absolutely wanted to write an entire post addressing it. I might try to pop back in for that!
  • I am so excited for Les Miserables, I can hardly stand it.
  • This movie looks super-fun, don’t you think?

  • Happy holidays to you and yours! I look forward to chatting with everyone again soon.

So You Think You Can Review

Hello, everyone. I have a confession to make: I’ve been keeping secrets from you. About two months ago, I signed on to a crazy competition/project that was being put on through the Large Association of Movie Blogs called “So You Think You Can Review.” Starting with a bracket of 32 movie bloggers, we were paired off and assigned a movie to watch. Two people would watch the same movie, write a review, and then other LAMB members would vote on whose review they enjoyed more. We wrote under pseudonymous handles so that, theoretically, nobody knew who we were. The contest ended yesterday, and I have the pleasure to state: Yes. I DO think I can review. Yours truly, writing as Zelda’s Kid Sister, (catch the reference?) finished in third place!

It was a really interesting project. I signed on because aside from thinking that I do, in fact, write pretty decent reviews, I thought that it would force me to branch out of my comfort zone. Boy, was I right about that! In the next week or so, I will share with you the reviews that I wrote for the contest. I know I’ve been a little less prolific here lately, but that was largely because I was watching/writing these reviews that I couldn’t post because of the anonymity rule. Coming soon! Reviews of the following movies: Eraserhead (eek!), The Exorcist (EEK), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Super Mario Bros., and Napoleon Dynamite. The last review would have been for the final round, which I missed by one point.

Update: Links to the reviews!

8 reasons I am not interested in The Dark Knight Rises.

1. Because Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard are both in a Batman movie, and Hathaway is the one playing Catwoman.


 

 

 

 

2. Because Christopher Nolan should be making original movies instead of comic book rehashes.

3. Because they took Tom Hardy, who looks like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

and made him look like this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Because I like my super-hero movies fun, and not full of angst-ridden socio-political commentary.

5. Because Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks ridiculous in a policeman’s uniform.


 

 

 

 

 

 

(No wait, just kidding about that one.)

6. Because I thought The Dark Knight sucked.

7. Because of trailers in which you can’t actually understand what the bad guy is saying.

8. Mainly, because I don’t think a Batman movie should take itself so seriously.

A few news items of note

  • Rupert Everett is going to write, direct, and star in a biopic about Oscar Wilde. Colin Firth, Emily Watson, and Tom Wilkinson will co-star. Brit-tastic! Incidentally, if you haven’t seen the film adaptations of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest or An Ideal Husband, both of which star Everett, you really should.
  • Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood) will appear in the newest Steve McQueen/Michael Fassbender project (Hunger and Shame being the first two), Twelve Years a Slave. Apparently it’s based upon a memoir of a man who was born free but coerced into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor will be playing the main character. Add in Brad Pitt, and those are some serious names. I didn’t really like LMS, but Dano impressed me, and I’m excited to see him in this mix.
  • Finally, here’s the teaser trailer for the upcoming Bond flick, Skyfall. I recently watched Casino Royale, and man, it is so good. Let’s all just pretend that Quantum of Solace didn’t happen, and cross our fingers for this one, eh? The inclusion of Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes really shouldn’t signal bad things, right?

Exciting bits and bobs

So, I’m not really sure that I have conveyed my serious excitement about the upcoming blockbuster awesomeness that will be The Avengers enough here, but please understand: I am super (ha ha, get it?) excited about The Avengers. And do you really need to ask why? Well, just check out this new clip for the answer. Rather, answers. There are two of them.

Um, squee.

In other exciting news, I am loving the pictures coming out from the Les Miserables shooting as well. I mean, seriously. Look at this one!

That, my friends, is Javert. So. Awesome.

And finally, if you haven’t heard, there’s going to be a live-action film about Maleficent. As in, the fabulous dragon-lady villain from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. And starring as herself? Angelina Jolie.

Doooood. In early discussion, it was going to be directed by Tim Burton, but he’s no longer attached. That’s no great loss if you ask me. They haven’t started filming yet, but Jolie’s already gone on record talking about it and says she’s very excited. Elle Fanning is also attached to play Princess Aurora. I think it’s a really cool idea with excellent casting … a lot of people like to paint Angelina Jolie as a bit of a villainess anyway so I think it’s great that she’s going to play such an iconic baddie, and as the main character in her own story, too!

Just a few of the movies I’m pumped about these days … How about you? What’s got you jumping to head to the theater?

Top Five Update


It’s time. You knew it was coming, didn’t you? You probably knew before I did, because to be honest with you, I resisted for a while. It didn’t matter that I was regularly watching interviews and clips from late-night talk shows, or that I actually had dreams about the guy (I’m a PG-rated dreamer, shut up). I just wasn’t ready for a shake-up. Am I playing this up too much? Maybe so. Let’s backtrack.

I’ve been somewhat bored and disappointed with my Top Five lately. Robert Downey, Jr. seems to only be in it for the paycheck these days, Gerard Butler keeps on making crappy rom-coms, Russell Crowe hasn’t had a new movie out in nearly two years. A word about Russell Crowe, though: in case you missed it, I am super-super excited about Les Miserables, and, if you haven’t checked out his IMDb page recently, I recommend doing so for some recent pictures that ought to definitely shut up the people who like to call him fat. RDJ is not the only one who can rock a three-piece suit, yo. So, Mr. Crowe is not going anywhere. Despite that, I have actually entertained notions of a complete overhaul, except that as usual, I can only come up with four (newer) actors who currently keep me interested, and really, only two of those are viable. And one of those, well, he’s now official. Yep. Sorry about that Oscar nomination, Michael Fassbender, but hey! You’ve made my Top Five! That’s totally prestigious and important.

I guess I’m a little bit of a bandwagon-joiner, since I can’t claim to have seen Fishtank or Hunger, or even Inglorious Basterds (I don’t do Tarantino). But, I will say that I remember Fassbender from trailers for 300. He’s the one who, when told that “[the Persians'] arrows will block out the sun” replies “Then we will fight in the shade.” Yeah. I remember that. “Who’s that?” I thought. “He’s kinda hot.” I remembered it later when he was cast as Rochester in Jane Eyre, and when he was announced as Magneto, but I didn’t think much of it. The buzz started to get louder, but I mostly ignored it, as you do with buzz. And then, my friends, then I saw X-Men: First Class. I could not keep my eyes off the guy; not because he looked particularly great in a turtleneck (nobody looks good in a turtleneck) but because he was just that freaking good. I watched Jane Eyre as soon as it came out on DVD, and again, he was fantastic. The boy can seriously act. Good acting is requisite for The List. Yes, he also needs to be attractive, and he’s got that covered. His features can be a little cruel, I think, but if you’ve watched any interview with him, you know that he probably spends at least a third of it laughing. His laugh is charming. He laughs with abandon; throws his head back and really lets it go. His smile is also delightful if a bit toothy. Seriously, Fassbender’s got a lot of teeth. Finally, he seems very bright, and he will apparently start singing at the drop of a hat. It’s the singing that did me in, to be honest. He’s been quoted as saying he’d love to do a musical. Hollywood, GET ON THAT. The last thing that I will say is that from certain angles, he has a really impressive resemblance to Christopher Plummer circa The Sound of Music. Yep. Take a look at that picture up there for a minute. He is totally Captain Von Trapp-alicious. Once you see it, you can never go back.

So yes. Some new blood for the Top Five. Young blood, too, since everyone else is over 40. We bid a fond farewell to Nathan Fillion. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Captain Mal, but, well … I don’t have a good excuse. He just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I look forward to seeing where Fassbender’s career goes. Presumably, it will just keep getting better. I do plan to go back and check out some of his earlier work, too. Congrats to him, and let this be a warning to the rest of the Top Fivers: no resting on your laurels! Tom Hiddleston is eyeing your spot. He just needs to make a few more movies …

News, thoughts, and other nonsense.

Hello, there. Yes, I’m still alive. I won’t bore you with a bunch of excuses for being a slacker; I’ll just say life has been busy. But! The world of movies has also been busy, and there are plenty of interesting things to discuss. So let’s, shall we?

1. Momentum is building around a film adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel Ender’s Game. A lot of us nerds might be cranky about a movie being made, but realistically, it was going to happen someday, and I personally think that if it’s done well, it’ll make a pretty good movie. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s the story of a extraordinarily gifted boy who is recruited by the government to rid humanity of an alien enemy. That’s oversimplified, of course, but that’s the gist of it. There will be lots of special effects, and I think given the popularity of things like the Hunger Games series right now, it’s a natural choice for Hollywood (or whoever). The most recent news regarding the project is the announcement that Asa Butterfield, currently to be seen as the title character of Hugo, has signed on to play Ender. Given the positive buzz surrounding Hugo and Butterfield’s performance specifically, I think this is a good thing. (Has anyone seen Hugo? I’m dying to.) At any rate, in the new internet tradition of trumpeting every single casting decision from the rafters, I’m sure we’ll be getting up-to-the-minute news on this one. Apparently Harrison Ford is also being discussed? Ooh.

2. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yeah, Christmas, but I’m talking about the start-up of awards season. Despite all its flaws and intricacies, I love it dearly. I’ve particularly enjoyed playing with the prediction charts over at the Gold Derby website. It’s interesting to see who would appear to be a lock (Christopher Plummer for Beginners, yay!) and who doesn’t have as much buzz as one might like (Fassbender for Shame). I realize that having these discussions is silly when I haven’t seen any of the movies in question, and I know that a lot of people like to argue for the things they like without any understanding or appreciation of the “politics” involved, but, for me, all of that is part of the fun. I guess it’s sort of like fantasy sports, in some ways. It’s less about team loyalties and how good you think something/someone is and more about how it all shakes down when you look at all the factors.

3. In further Les Miserables news, we are now being subjected to an awful list of potential Eponines, including Lea Michele, Taylor Swift, and Scarlett Johansson. Given that Eponine’s got some great songs (my husband is rolling his eyes right now), I guess the best choice would be Michele, who has actually played the role on stage, but admitting that really depresses me. She just doesn’t fit with the rest of the cast, somehow. I think that Anne Hathaway is a poor choice for Fantine (clearly, CZJ was busy), but she might actually have served better as Eponine. Who’s your pick? I feel like I’m missing someone good …

4. Finally, a bit of movie-going research! You might recall that a few weeks ago, I posted about why everyone should see A Fish Called Wanda. Now, when I posted that link to Facebook, I got quite a lot of response from a particular group of friends, none of whom had ever seen the movie before. As it so happened, we were going to be in a position to get together with those people over Thanksgiving, and so we arranged a screening in order to educate them. They were all very kind to humor me and not only sit through the movie, but also provide me with a bit of feedback. And so, we’ll let the jury (ha ha, get it?) decide whether or not AFCW is a “must-see”.

Our viewing group was made up of a seven individuals, four women (not counting me) and three men. Now, full disclosure, one of the men present had seen the movie before, but he saw it with me (about a year or so ago) because I told him that he really HAD to, and so he still counts for the purposes of this very highly scientific study. So! Of the seven, only one declared that she flat-out didn’t like the movie, citing a lack of sympathetic characters and character development, which I can understand. She did acknowledge that it was funny, however. Of the remaining 6 people, two deemed it enjoyable, but not anything they’d have chosen to watch without coercion. The rest all gave it positive reviews, citing the excellent cast, comedic timing, and the performances of Kevin Kline and John Cleese, particularly. All in all, I think I am going to count this showing a success, and officially declare A Fish Called Wanda a truly “must-see” movie. I shall leave you with some poster-worthy quotes from my guinea pigs fellow movie fans. Enjoy!

A witty, keep you on your toes, don’t drink anything at the wrong moment or you’ll have your own spit take, delight that I would watch again. — Sarah
Better than a sharp stick in the eye! — Jake
John Cleese made the movie worth watching for me … three stars. — Heather
A charming and quirky little caper. — Sarah Jean
A very enjoyable movie overall! — Alex
Great ensemble, excellent comic timing and performance. Feel bad for Ken. — Ben
Certainly it’s funny and the clothes are hilariously awesome … the fish thing ruins the movie for me. — Jen