Sunday, July 24, 2011



  • Another Earth* / 62%
  • Captain America: The First Avenger / 73%
  • Friends with Benefits / 70%
  • Life in a Day* / 96%
  • A Little Help* / 52%
  • The Myth of the American Sleepover* / 76%
  • Sarah's Key* / 67%

* = limited release


  • Amer / 76%
  • Beauty and the Beast (1945) CC / 95%
  • Cracks / 41%
  • Limitless / 70%
  • The Music Room CC / 100%
  • Peep World / 20%
  • Race to Nowhere / 71%
  • The Reef / 77%
  • Small Town Murder Songs / 79%
  • Take Me Home Tonight / 28%

CC = Criterion Collection
% from Rotten Tomatoes

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I always have an appetite for swashbuckling adventures, yet I still haven't caught the latest in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series. Hmm... Anyways, from Peter Lord, producer of several beloved "Wallace & Gromit" films and the co-director of the brilliant "Chicken Run," comes "The Pirates! Band of Misfits." It is curious that Lord's IMDb credits show there is another entry in this apparent "The Pirates!" series, "In an Adventure with Scientists." That film is in post production, while the trailer you just saw is for a movie that is still filming? I am rightfully befuddled. Anyways, it looks like we can expect British accents delivering a trail-mix of comedic styles (deadpan, slapstick, and quirk) that we love in the stop-motion works of Peter Lord and Nick Park, this time given the "high seas" makeover. This ship is set to sail on March 30, 2012 (though I wonder when we'll receive documentation of Pirate Captain's dealings with those savants of science).

When I heard Martin Scorsese (known for gritty gangster flicks and biopics that don't hold back) was making a family film, I was expecting to hear the theme from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." You see, that is the tune my alarm clock emits to wake me up in the morning. Is this a dream come true or a living nightmare? Watch the trailer for "Hugo" and you tell me. My reaction falls somewhere in between. Not since the trailer for "Legend of the Guardians" (another family-friendly endeavor from a director who usually makes films not for kids) has a pop song been so unwelcome. At one point we even see our child protagonist get out of dodge just in time for the baddie chasing (a cop played by Sacha Baron Cohen) to run into a conveniently placed cake. The kid watches and laughs. Maybe kids will, but those of us who have been there, done that a dozen times before aren't going to. The mix of colorful visuals and cool steampunk ambience does make for interesting aesthetics. I am all for directors who experiment and try new things, but that doesn't always mean I am all for what actually comes of such actions. Since it is a Scorsese picture, I still want to see when it hits theaters November 23rd.

Mars looks a lot like Southern Utah in the anticipated trailer for "John Carter." I happen to know they filmed part of this in my hometown's neck of the woods (specifically Grand, Wayne, and Kane counties and Lake Powell). The iconic and unescapable beauty of that area has been the backdrop for many Westerns ("Once Upon A Time in the West," "Rio Conchos," and "Westward the Women,"  and an occasional sci-fi fantasy film ("Planet of the Apes," "Galaxy Quest," and "Spacehunter: Adventures of the Forbidden Zone"). This time around it is primarily used as the latter. Based on the popular "Barsoom" series penned by Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of "Tarzan") wherein a Civil War vet by the name of John Carter is somehow transported to Mars where he must deal with the aliens native to that planet who have big problems of their own. Much like fellow Pixar superstar Brad Bird ("The Incredibles"), who is in the director's chair on a live-action feature for his first time with the latest "Mission Impossible" entry, Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo" and Wall-E") is trying his hand at live-action for a change. That said, there are massive amounts of digital animation going on in this big-budget adaptation that Disney has been trying to make into a film for 80 years now. Taylor Kitsch, who seems fairly young (too young?), will be playing the galactic traveller himself. There is so much to see in this trailer that you may need to watch it twice. The Michael Giacchino (who composed the Oscar-winning score for "Up," the music for "Lost, and possibly the single greatest classic piece in years, "Roar!" for "Cloverfield") score takes us on a thrill and then back to where it started. I see battles, aliens, romance, flying jumps, mystical lights, and spaceships... I am not sure what to make of it all, but I am left very interested and excited for March 9, 2012.

So, in last week's issue I said, "I'd say we still got quite a bit of time before a teaser or trailer" regarding "The Dark Knight Rises." Well, just days after I saw the teaser before my screening of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." It also hit the internet in a big way when it debuted on "The Dark Knight Rises" facebook page. Over 15,000 users Liked it. As we are seeing done with "The Hobbit," they are pushing the marketing campaign through that mighty social network. So it seems my prediction proved quite inaccurate. That said, this trailer is pretty slim in terms of showing us anything new. Most of what we see is from the first two films. The image of the Gotham skyscrapers falling as we rise to the Batman icon above is far from realistic, but that may just be the means for the icon. Scott Mendelson, over on his blog, called the teaser "sloppy" and "lazy." It is not Toss of the Week material, but will surely still get the job done for Warner Brothers: get fans excited for next summer's blockbuster.

The Head-Scratcher: The only known entity attached to "Phase 7" is that it is from the Executive Producer of the sleeper-hit "Paranormal Activity" and its equally good sequel. The apocalypse seems to be a favorite topic for film, books, and video games lately. The trailer for "Phase 7" asks us what we would do to survive the apocalypse? Apparently that is what the film is about. We follow a young married couple and their neighbors living in Beunos Aires. The hard rock song throughout, mixed with the overacting (intentional?) makes the one amped up flick. The film is in select AMC theaters this month.

Toss of the Week: Besides having one of the coolest names this side of "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (a fellow British film) "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" has the style and sensibilities to make it one to definitely look forward to. Based on the 1973 spy novel by John le Carre of the same name, this involves a mole in the Secret Intelligence Service. It seems likely to keep the characters involved guessing to the very end. The film features an ensemble cast of the finest UK actors that did not appear in the "Harry Potter" series (except Gary Oldman): including John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, and last year's Academy Award winner, Colin Firth. The musical piece accompanying the trailer build beautifully in tension and melody, I am still trying to find its name. (Update: My ever-helpful friendly cinephiles over at IMDb informed me that this music in the trailer is actually "Wolf Suite Part 1" by Danny Eflman from the recent remake of "The Wolfman." Considering the source it seems a very random piece for the likes of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," but it fits so marvelously well. Click here if you'd care to listen to the entire number.) The film looks like a classic Look for the mole on September 16th.

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The Hollywood Reporter has served up the "20 Best Taglines From Movies Over the Last 30 Years." 

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Tuesday marked the 50th Anniversary of in-flight movies! Wired has the story on how "By Love Possessed" became the first film shown on an airplane on July 19, 1961 during a flight from NY to LA. (Thanks to Roger Ebert for Tweeting this.)

Also thanks to Ebert's Twitter feed, I learned of fandor, an online film library specializing in independent films. Signing up lets you watch one film for free. I think I will be using my freebie on "Sleep Furiously," an acclaimed documentary from Wales, that will be available one day only on July 29th. Check out the trailer and the site itself here.

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Updated 7.25.11


Galyn said...

Just wondering if the movie Hugo is based on a book. Would you happen to know? Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch (two of my favs) piqued my interest enough in the spy movie to watch the trailer, but not sure I would understand it.
BTW, the trailer we saw before The Tree of life, the French film, can you remember the name of it and do you think it will show widely? It looked interesting.

Galyn said...

Not sure what sleep furiously is about, but a couple of the clips reminded me of my trip to Ireland.

J.S. Lewis said...

"Hugo" is based on on the 2007 novel by Brian Selznick, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret." The book, published by Scholastic, is 533 pages, though it has 284 pictures. Selznick said it is "not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things." I am actually more interested in checking out Selznick's book than seeing the movie.

I believe the French film you are referring to is "The Hedgehog." I plan to cover it soon in an upcoming issue.

"Sleep Furiously" is said to be about stuffed owls, among other things. It strikes me as a portrait of small-town life (a la "Vernon, Florida") if done by Terrence Malick (due to the poetic narrative and visuals). I am reminded somewhat of "General Orders No. 9," which I praised in a recent issue. I suppose the best way to learn about "Sleep Furiously" is to watch it and today is the day that you can do over at

Thanks for reading and commenting!