Thursday, August 30, 2012

TRAILER ROUND-UP: HERD 82



(Author's Note: Introducing the new and improved Trailer Round-Up! It is now a post all of its own, deservingly so as it often brings the quantity - and hopefully you'll think some quality. On Monday's issue of The Film Tome Report I explained that I will be separating the movie trailer review portion from this point forward. To keep things simple I will be labeling it the same number as that week's issue of The Film Tome Report, though to keep with the Western motif I'll be callin' 'em Herds. Yet again I would like to thank my sweet sister Mandy for creating the sweet logo above. Feel free to share you thoughts on any of these trailers in the comments below. Enjoy the round-up and yeehaw!)



Here is yet another trailer (in fact the final) for "The Master." It is not fair anymore to keep these in the running for Lasso of the Week as the essences of acting and cinematography on display are masterful. I continue to be blown away by these previews, less than a month now (September 21st)!



I welcome "The Selling." Richard Scarry (like the children's author) is a real estate agent who is just trying to make a living in our modern-day economy. The only problem is the large home is he trying to sell is haunted! "5 beds. 4 baths. 12 ghosts." as the trailer tells us.
"The Welcome" plays on haunted house tropes (and then possession films in the final scene) using a mix of slapstick and deadpan. I chuckled throughout. This indy comedy floats into select theaters on October 19th, just in time for Mother-In-Law Day!


Stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia is the director, writer, and star of "Sleepwalk with Me," a new film from the producers of This American Life. Birbiglia plays a comic with plenty of family pressure to improve upon his life (namely to get on with marriage and find a serious career). Based on Birbiglia's own experiences it looks both humorous and truthful. This film is currently sleepwalking through select cities.



"Girl Model" is a rather solemn look into the modeling industry where young and skinny girls are selected today for tomorrow's advertising needs. This documentary follows one 13-year-old plucked from Russia and taken to Tokyo where she must adapt and deliver. It looks to be a damning portrait of the industry, but more importantly, honest. Look for "Girl Model" in limited release starting on September 5th.




"For a Good Time, Call..." is a raunchy comedy starring women for women. ("Bridesmaids" really lit this world on fire.) Lauren and Katie are opposites, but become roomies and eventually run a successful phone-sex operation together. The actresses seem charming even if their day job (night job) does not, but clearly this will not appeal to everyone. "For a Good Time, Call..." will be ringing in some theaters tomorrow, will you be picking up?




Mads Brugger is being praised for his gutsy undercover doc "The Ambassador." Posing as a European-African Consul he headed to Central Africa to run with big boys in the blood diamond trade. Risking a feature film, but more importantly, his life, Brugger mingles with some of the most dangerous men in the world. This is a world I personally know very little about and I am eager to see this man's daring dive into it. "The Ambassador" is available on video on demand services and in select theaters.




Frankly, I would just skip the over-exposing trailer for "Robot & Frank" and just put this movie on your "to watch" list. In the near future robots are household helpers. Frank (played by Frank Langella) is your typical senior citizen encompassed in day even more digital than our own. He's a bit out of touch, but still has the hot's for the librarian in town (Susan Surandan). Frank gets a robot helper and we learn he is not so typical, a former jewel thief actually. A romance and a heist are in Frank's future! This film premiered at Sundance, can be found in a few theaters, or just look for it later on Redbox or Netflix.




I have found plenty of occasions to express my interest in the "found footage" sub-genre (typically filed under horror). Well, "V/H/S" looks to be the "found footage" film to end them all. Some crooks are hired to retrieve a tape from a house. They break in one night only to find countless VHS tapes and so they must watch them to find the right one. The terror-filled scenarios constantly outdo themselves making the group's night (and our viewing) is a long odyssey of the scary and macabre. I gotta say that I love this premise, but the shaky cam, low-budget feel, and familiar thrills might not win us over. "V/H/S" will be available in theaters and on iTunes come October 5th.


This town ain't big enough for the both of us, I reckon it's prime time for the Trailer Round-Up Awards!


Sick Cow:




Jessica Biel is "The Tall Man." No, wait, she stars in "The Tall Man," a movie where children small mining town are going missing. Why is it that every horror film has to start with a shot of driving through the woods? Biel is the town nurse and when her own son is taken she sets off after the legend of "The Tall Man" (a play on the Slender Man?) to get him back! Not a lot new here and unfortunately not a lot scary, surprising as this is from Pascal Laugier, director of "Martyrs." You can look for "The Tall Man" in limited release this weekend.




(What was I just saying about "The Tall Man?" Cue the driving through the woods shot!) It was only a matter of time until someone used a hash-tag for their movie title, which prove helpful when promoting "#holdyourbreath." Unfortunately the trailer might scare potential audiences away and I do not mean in a good way. A stupid urban myth (hold your breath when driving past a cemetery) leads a group of teenage friends to more trouble than they bargained for during their (surprise, surprise) camping trip in the woods. And would you guess it, they meet a creepy cop! Hopefully this year's "The Cabin in the Woods" will put a bloody stop to more of these terribly cliched horror films... October 5th. Whatever you do, don't #holdyourbreath for this one.


The Head-Scratcher:




Nic Cage is still at it as always with "Stolen." After Will Montgomery is busted in a heist gone wrong he tries to fix the relationship with his daughter after he is released from jail. Will learns she has been taken hostage by his former partner who wants the $1o million from the unsuccessful job. He's got 12 hours to save her life! The comparisons to "Taken" are far too easy, but "Gone in 60 Seconds" also belongs in the equation. It looks generic and implausible, but the action might be worth it. "Stolen" has a limited release on September 14th.

Lasso of the Week:




I love surprises like "Chicken with Plums."  While I admire what this writer/director team did with the refreshing and daring "Persepolis" I did not know this project was in the works.  When a renowned violinist's instrument breaks he loses all that once made him happy. He lays in bed and awaits Death, who visits him. This visionary story of love and loss is equally strange and magical. After the festival circuit it is playing in very lucky theaters. 

AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD - REVIEW

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes)
December 29, 1972 (West Germany)
90 min
West Germany (German)

Written and Directed by Werner Herzog


"Aguirre, the Wrath of God" is a wrath of filmmaking. One director, his star, and those brought along for the ride create a piece of cinema that I will never do without.

"Aguirre, the Wrath of God" changed my perspective on all of cinema as I first sat down to watch it several years ago. Like few times before and after I had a "You can do this in a movie?" wonderment as I observed. The very first shot (which I refer to as the greatest tilt in filmmaking) scaling down the mountainside near the iconic Machu Picchu of Peru lives on in my memory: A long caravan of Indian slaves trek their way down the steep switchback trail. As the camera continues its downward path we hit a valley and then another mountain enters the frame. The same progression of a hundred souls or more continues up this grade to the very position the makers are filming from. Rare moments run continually on a loop in my mind's eye. This is one of them.

Opening title cards inform us that the Spanish have come to the southern America in 1560 searching for El Dorado, that legendary city of gold. The conquistadors-in-command have even brought their wives along. Not Don Lope de Aguirre though, he brought his daughter. The story is told through the narrated journal entries of a priest along for the journey which conclude when his inkwell runs dry. What they are ultimately replaced with is the key to the whole excursion.

One reconnaissance expedition is sent from the assembly to raft down the Amazon. The company and cast is only further whittled down from here on out, descending into the jungle and decision into a sovereignty all of their own. Aguirre retains second in command, a position he skulks around with like a two-legged arachnid. The performance is given by Klaus Kinski, an infamous and frenzied German actor. Kinski is an onscreen force the likes of which I have yet to see compared. Like the characters on this fever dream of a quest, he is deeply entranced.

The story behind the making of "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" is as interesting as the film itself: Shot with a stolen 35mm camera from Herzog's film school and the ways the director (Herzog) wrangled and riled his star (Kinski) as needed for specific scenes are among the plentiful stories. For these two it was the inciting incident of a great and terrible relationship, which you can see fragments of on the screen. At times the fourth wall (the screen) is dissipated as Kinski's challenging stare pierces us as we watch. I have seen the film several times, but on my next viewing I will be spying to see if Kinski ever blinks. He is always staring into an abyss that he seems to see all around him.

Herzog depicts the Peruvian jungle as hell. The churning muddy waters, the eternal bird cry, no sunlight, no night. Aguirre and the rest are floating down a river of maladies and mania. Cannibals on the shore shout "Meat! Meat!" as they pass by. There are no friendly feelings among the troop, only the undying desire for a fortune they never glimpse. At one point they encounter peaceful natives. Even the priest's eyes lust after the gold around one Indian's neck before remembering his true errand, to spread the Gospel.

"Aguirre, the Wrath of God" will not appeal to the masses. It has reached cult status over the years for reasons I have tried to describe, but if you compare it to the production values of today (or even its day) you will be bewildered by the contrast. Herzog's tour de force feels like a documentary because in many ways it was. Shot sequentially on location, in dire circumstances, on nowhere near the budget it needed, and later dubbed, it is a bloody miracle something ever became of it. To me (and many) it is not just something, it is a testament of guerilla filmmaking and an abiding odyssey of an untouchable man.

The film's music is a possessing imitation of the human voice by Popol Vuh. It's as if a choir of the damned has stumbled upon the adventure and decided to lament, punctuating the most severe moments. The final scene of "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" is as timeless as the first. For some it will be a relief that the film has finally concluded. For others it will suffice until the next time they experience this unmatched masterpiece of art and of anguish. Some will find the city of gold at the end of the river. Others will only see madness.

"I am the wrath of god. The earth I pass will see me and tremble. But whoever follows me and the river, will win untold riches. But whoever deserts..."
- Don Lope de Aguirre



★★★★★

CONTENT: some bloody violence, disturbing moments, language, brief nudity

Updated on 6/7/13

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

THE SHREK SERIES

TOO MANY THOUGHTS TO TWEET


Rather randomly my mind went to the "Shrek" series this morning... Really not sure what sparked it, but one thought led to another and I realized I had more than 140 characters would allow. I usually take  my thoughts to Twitter when I can keep them succinct, but sometime you just gotta blog it. Roll with me folks. Roll in ze hay!


ONCE UPON A THEATER...


So, Shrek... Shreky, Shreky, Shrek. I was twelve when the first film came out. I loved it. My mother and I even went to see it a second time dragging my older sister along who would have much rather been hanging out with her friends. There was no choice in the matter for her, it was an FFA (forced family activity). I vividly remember sitting through that storybook forward for a second time at the multiplex. I knew Shrek was about the shut the cover irreverently and we would realize it was just reading material for an ogre while he stunk up the swamp's outhouse. I remember looking over at my mom and smiling. She smiled back. Sure, she was also in on the joke but she was really smiling because I was. Then there was my stubborn sister who looked from one of us to the other still mad about being here instead of near some guy she liked at the time. I do not remember her attitude after the picture, but I like to guess it won her over.

SHREK


Dreamworks Animation's "Shrek" (2001) is a modern classic in my tome. It came crashing through the fairy tale and nursery rhyme wall that Western children have built over the years (brick by brick) in the most bombastic way: unforgettable characters (and voice-work), twisting the conventional hero's journey tropes and proving to be genuinely entertaining though crude. Some of the strongest and weakest elements of "Shrek" are the abundant pop-culture references, especially in nods to action entertainment of the day. I felt the first entry struck the right balance between bringing its own style and gags with those they we could point out as influences (i.e. "Oh, Princess Fiona is pulling a Neo!"). This balance is where "Shrek 2" and "Shrek the Third" became overkill.

Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson team-directed "Shrek." The thanks for the screenplay belongs to a small army of writers. The character and idea goes to William Steig. (I had a "This was a book?" moment while writing this... I never knew. It's true. But after flipping through some digital pages on Amazon I can see it was a base adaptation. The aforementioned creators brought plenty to the films.)

Perhaps the worst thing that ever happened to the "Shrek" series was that it became a series. "They all lived happily ever after" came with a significant asterisk. But let's be realistic. After its initial success (in the box office and in reviews) Dreamworks was not going to just let it be. The film industry is an industry, a business. They know a good thing when they got it, but don't always know how to keep it a good thing. The Shrek IP was far from retiring. They were gonna milk those ogre-y nipples for all their worth.

SHREK 2


"Shrek 2" was promising when it showed up three years later. With the rampant references and world-killing aside (actually throwing a Starbucks into Never Ever Land, c'mon!) it was a solid piece of entertainment that you could bring the whole family too. Puss in Boots was a welcome addition to the Shrek and Donkey buddy dynamic that worked so well. "Shrek 2" still boasts an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes for whatever it's worth (the same rating the original bears).

SHREK THE THIRD


Another three years pass and "Shrek the Third" releases, the one I try to forget about most. More characters were introduced but they were neither all that interesting or entertaining. Just plot points to give Shrek another reason to get out of bed.

SHREK FOREVER AFTER


Three years later (see a trend here?) "Shrek Forever After" hit theaters. I was so done with the franchise by this point. I was not even going to bother with Dreamwork's fourth installment, but then one night Nancy and I found ourselves going to the "dollar theater" in our college town. What the hell, y'know? I was sure I was going to regret it.... and I didn't. You can read my review here, but know I was pleasantly surprised.

PUSS IN BOOTS


The following year (development is getting faster...) DreamWorks released "Puss in Boots," a spin-off of that swashbuckling, Zorro-esque house cat that we were initially introduced to in "Shrek 2." Even though Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and the gang are nowhere to be seen I still consider this a (loose) part of the series. For the most part, critics, audiences and myself were surprised by how fine it was. (Notice the absence of pop-culture references in "Puss in Boots.") Here is my review.

THE SERIES

To sum things up, here is how I simply consider the trajectory of the series:
"Shrek" (2001) - Truly great.
"Shrek 2" (2004) - It's fun.
"Shrek the Third" (2007) - It's just not fun.
"Shrek Forever After" (2010) - It's certainly a step up.
"Puss in Boots" (2011) - Wow, this is really good!

HAPPILY EVER AFTER


Currently no additional "Shrek" films have been announced and I am all right with that. After all, one of the working/informal titles for "Shrek Forever After" was "Forever After: The Final Chapter." They ended the series on higher note than I had hoped and that is as good a place to leave. We can finally have that "happily ever after" the first film deserved. And as far as Puss in Boots is concerned, I wouldn't mind another adventure.

At some point in my life I will get around to re-watching "Shrek 2" and, yes, even "Shrek the Third" for the purposes of reviewing them in my tome. And I still owe it to the original.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

THE HUNTER - SHORT REVIEW


The Hunter
October 6, 2011
102 min
United States (English)

Written and Directed by Daniel Nettheim (Based on the book by Julia Leigh)


"The Hunter" gives us plenty of pretty to look at but not enough to ponder throughout. Dafoe and company give good work in this slow Aussie adventure.

After a decade of directing Australian TV shows Daniel Nettheim has made his sophomore feature film effort, "The Hunter." Martin David, a professional American hunter played by Willem Dafoe, has waited in Paris for a week to receive a special assignment. We learn that the man doesn't belong in fancy hotels or cities. The wild is his element. Red Leaf, a military biotech tasks Martin with a simple task: hunt down the Tasmanian Tiger (in Tasmania, where else?) and acquire its samples. This turns out to be more of a "mission impossible" as that species is presumed to be extinct. Rumored sightings are all he has to go on.

With a premise so clear that a child could comprehend "The Hunter" is an adult-centered drama as the title character keeps mostly to himself. He interacts with the locals only as needed, most are unwelcoming. When Martin ends up renting the spare room of a family whose patriarch recently went missing in the very wilderness he plans to explore, he begins to warm up to the children and then their mother (Frances O'Connor). Dafoe and O'Connor have some lovely scenes together, the kind where the adults hang around while the children  play around.

Sweeping panoramas of this infinitely beautiful country are scattered throughout. Martin's treks are mostly quiet adventures. He needs the breaks from civilization as much as we do. I admire the transparent onset of "The Hunter," but overused devices stale the adventure. We get the "tough guy vs. newcomer" in the bar scene (twice), a wise child to lead our protagonist on the way, and a "family friend" we can see through from the very beginning. When stripped down to Dafoe and the elements "The Hunter" hits the mark.

★★★½

CONTENT: some strong language and brief violence

Monday, August 27, 2012

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 82


(Author's Note: The time has come for some change! For a plethora of reasons I am going to be splitting The Film Tome Report into two parts each week. The only, though major, difference is that the Trailer Round-Up is going to be a post all of its own. You can expect The Film Tome Report late every Monday night with the rest of the usual categories. The purpose of The Film Tome Report is to inform you of what is new in theaters and stores, movie news, and other fun, cool or strange film tidbits. The Trailer Round-Up will also be posted weekly. I am not sure what day that will fall on yet, but you can expect that segment to be a continuation of what I have already been doing - just separated from here on out. Thank you for visiting The Film Tome, please feel free to comment below and let me know how I am doing. Enjoy the show because this is a hefty issue even without the trailers.)



NEW IN THEATERS




This Week
  • The Day*
  • For a Good Time, Call...* / 80%
  • The Good Doctor* / 80%
  • Lawless* / 76%
  • Little Birds* / 80%
  • The Oogielvoes in the Big Balloon Adventure*
  • The Possession
  • The Tall Man*


Last Week

  • The Apparition / 3%
  • Hit & Run* / 45%
  • Little White Lies* / 42%
  • Premium Rush / 74%
  • Samsara* / 89%
  • Sleepwalk With Me* / 84%
  • Thunderstruck* / 29%
  • The Victim* 0%

* = limited release

NEW IN STORES


  • Battleship / 34%
  • Headhunters / 92%
  • Lonesome CC
  • The Lucky One / 20%
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits / 86%
  • Quadrophenia CC / 100%
  • Think Like a Man / 54%

CC = Criterion Collection
% from Rotten Tomatoes

* * *

POSTER CHILD



Daniel Day-Lewis should run for president! Oh wait, he was born in London. Well, the next best thing (perhaps even better) would be to portray one of greats. This profile of the man's face shows that he truly has become the Mr. Abe during at the close of the Civil War. Expect a trailer soon.




Simple stuff: Brad Pitt toting a shotgun, around him all white on all black. Simply cool.


There is no shortage of stylish posters for "Looper." Through Gordon-Levitt's character is his older self (Willis). My prediction is if one dies so will the other, this image seems to suggest the young will dissipate... 



"Monster's Inc." is returning to theaters this December with that added dimension. Our friend Mike tries on specs in this promotional poster, but as I've learned you cannot see 3D with just one eye...

* * *

ENLISTED




The Playlist their "15 Most Anticipated Films for the Rest of 2012." Most of the usual suspects that have already been featured in The Film Tome Report.



Tim Grierson (of Gawker) shares "The 10 Films I'm Most Excited to See at the Toronto Film Festival." This list has some far more interesting choices than the one above.




"Ten Movies People Love... And Why They Aren't That Great." IGN pissed a lot of people off with this article, which will soon lead to a post all of its own. What are your thoughts regarding these ten popular films? (And please, don't act like an enraged, immature interweb commenter.)




"Samsara" easily ranked among my most anticipated films of the year and I've yet to see it. To further whet my appetite Movies.com lists "10 Films to Watch Before or After 'Samsara'," which they consider to be the best movie to see in theaters this year.




What Culture ranks "Tony Scott's 10 Greatest Films."



How about another take? CriticWire has "The Essentials: The Five Best Tony Scott Films."


Jesse Carp of Cinema Blend on "The 10 Best Tony Scott Scenes."



What Culture also shares the "5 Most Badass Film Heroines of 2012." Happy to see Noomi Rapace's character from "Prometheus" in the running!

* * *

THE GOOD



The recent "Greatest Films Poll" by Sight & Sound is still all the buzz. The British Film Institute has released this hub where you can see both lists (voted by critics and directors) and search for all films included. Cinephiles could easily spend hours perusing this mega-log. I am now going to be using this as the go-to place for the films I need to watch. Besides They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? I cannot think of a better list for the best films in all the world.



Regarding this very poll, Jim Emerson considers, "The Great Movies (Almost) Nobody Voted For."




Matt Singer also shares his favorite crazy votes from the Sight & Sound list.



CriticWire has asked film critics for the most anticipated films of the fall. Here are the results. "Looper" appears to be the most popular choice. Surprised? What is yours?

* * *

THE BAD




Matt Singer shares some awkward movie going experiences. Can you top that?

* * *

AND THE RANDOM



Here is Scott Mendelson doing one of the things he does best, weekend box office analysis! "The Expendables 2" came out on top again in one of the slowest weeks of the film-going 


"2016: Obama's America" expanded to more screens this past weekend. The Hollywood Reporter rounds up what some critics are saying.



"Premium Rush" hit theaters last weekend and so Rotten Tomatoes has a Total Recall on Bicycle Movies.




Scott Mendelson memorializes Tony Scott in a blog post about the man who made 'movies.'




Slate examines how Tony Scott's "Days of Thunder" changed Hollywood for the better.



The L.A. Times remembers Tony Scott and Denzel Washington's career together.



Writer/director Edgar Wright talks about "The Great Tony Scott" on his blog.



Here is a nice tribute of critics and filmmakers remembering Tony Scott (Source: CriticWire)



Leo DiCaprio, Tobey Maquire, and Tom Hardy are teaming up for an anti-poaching film in the style of Soderbergh's tremendous "Traffic." Okay, you've got my attention... (Source: The Hollywood Reporter)



Ben Affleck passed on the Justice League. Now the Wachowskis ("The Matrix" and this year's "Cloud Atlas") are are in talks. (Source: The Film Stage)

 * * *

OR THE COOL




/Film is one of the best film blogs around. What Peter Sciretta and company have done and continue to do is an inspiration and constant source for bloggers like myself. Full disclosure, their somewhat-daily "Page 2" series is one of the many places I mine for random film-related gems. If you thought there was a lot of content here, they are shoveling it out over there. Recently they posted "The 500th Edition of Page 2," so check it out!



How would one possibly begin to graph the great Meryl Streep? Like this. (Source: Vulture



The Hollywood Reporter has an exclusive look at the "Carrie" remake.



And here is a first look at Leo on the set of Marty Scorsese's newest, "The Wolf of Wall Street." (Source: The Film Stage)



Check out these iconic stills from horror films, "24 Frames: Supernatural Horror." Thanks Rotten Tomatoes.




Above "Looper" is re-imagined as an 8-bit video game.



Wow. The "Ghostbusters" theme played by floppy disk drives?!




That was a nice segway into a supercut tribute to the man, the legend, the Bill Murray!

* * *


MAYBE THE HILARIOUS




Folks, here it is. The "Taken" / "Finding Nemo" mashup you've all been waiting for!

* * *

TV TOO (MOSTLY "BREAKING BAD")



What Culture ranks the "25 Best Supporting Characters in 'The Simpsons'."



Seth Amitin over at IGN gives a review of last night's episode of "Breaking Bad," "Say My Name."



Here are "10 TV Shows Cancelled Before Their Time." (Source: What Culture)


Here is a "Breaking Bad" Mentos commercial using the teaser from a recent episode.




Finally, AMC lists "Ten Ways to Get Ready for Ready for the Last 'Breaking Bad' Episode This Sunday."


* * *