Tuesday, April 15, 2014

TOP 5 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS AT 2014 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL


Original Script-

5. Beyond the Brick: The Lego Brickumentary
Written and Directed by Kief Davidson and Daniel Junge

The Lego Movie took the world by storm earlier this year paving the perfect lead-up to a documentary about the plastic bricks that have infused generations of children and grown-ups alike with the task of creative construction. Beyond the Brick provides "a look at the global culture and appeal of the LEGO building-block toys." Jason Bateman narrates.

4. Third Person
Written and Directed by Paul Haggis

Despite what you may think of Haggis's directorial work he has enough solid writing credits in his portfolio to prove he can tackle big stories in intimate ways. This time around he's dealing with "Three interlocking love stories involving three couples in three cities: Rome, Paris, and New York." Cast includes Mila Kunis, James Franco, Olivia Wilde, Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody, Kim Basinger and Maria Bello.

3. Begin Again
Written and Directed by John Carney

Previously known as Can a Song Save Your Life? this is the story about "A dejected music business executive [who] forms a bond with a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan." Carney previously stole our hearts and ears with Once and we're hoping he can do it again. A star-studded cast replete with A-list actors and big-name singers adds to the allure.

2. Black Coal, Thin Ice
Written and Directed by Diao Yinan

After winning the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, Diao's latest film skyrocketed on our radar. With a plot synopsis that sounds a lot like True Detective and the incredible wave of contemporary crime films coming out of China, Black Coal, Thin Ice is a must-see.

1. Night Moves
Written and Directed by Kelly Reichardt

"A drama centered on three environmentalists who plot to blow up a dam." Riechardt has established herself as an icon among female filmmakers and the neo neo-realist movement. This is her follow-up to the revisionist Western Meek's Cutoff and similarly includes a more well-known and exciting cast: Dakota Fanning, Jesse Eisenberg and Peter Sarsgaard. Night Moves has been working the festival circuit and this is the first time it has arrived in the U.S.

Curator's Note: Quotations taken from IMDb plot synopses.

Friday, April 11, 2014

UNDER THE SKIN - VIDEO REVIEW

Under the Skin
August 29, 2013 (Telluride Film Festival)
April 4, 2014 (United States)
107 min
United States (English)

Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Written by Glazer and Walter Campbell (Based on the book by Michel Faber)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

CINEFILE: THE RAID 2 VIDEO GAME


As a constant filmgoer and someone who works eight hours a day with movie trailers (advertisements essentially) it gets my attention when film marketing does something different. A couple years ago I was prepping to see Wreck-It Ralph by playing the actual game that Ralph "works" in within the movie, Fix-It Felix. Disney released the full game on the App Store and it played like an arcade classic of yesteryear. There are few video game tie-ins that work that well. Speaking of, I'd still love to see full version of Candy Rush and Hero's Duty, but those require a lot more work to be brought to reality. We'll see what they do with the recently all-but-announced Wreck-It Ralph sequel.



The reason my mind was brought back to Fix-It Felix was because this week, just before it's nationwide theatrical expansion, a playable arcade game was released to promote The Raid 2. It's an 8-bit sidescrolling beat 'em up akin to Streets of Rage and the like. We frequently see fan-made gameplay videos of 8-(or 16-)bit adaptations of popular movies or television shows, check out MOVIECLIPS' own take on last year's Iron Man 3, but ever-so-rarely are they actually playable. That's the good news! You can head over to ShortList right this second and began punching and kicking your way to ubiquitous right side of the screen!



The bad news? To put it bluntly, it's an unbalanced and terrible game. I tried each of the four characters and while initially promising of some depth they all control miserably. Jumping is pointless. Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Boy have a range attack that Rama and Prakoso lack, making them far easier to button-mash through the level and obliterate the boss. Unfortunately, a gameplay video would have been a lot more entertaining. It's too bad because these are things any cinephile/gamer's reveries are made of and I probably shouldn't be pissing on one for finally coming to fruition. I just take my games pretty seriously and have performance standards. Enough loathing, I do like the chiptune version of the film's epic theme, the pixel-ized cutscenes, the lines of dialogue straight from the film and a level hierarchy that more or less matches the scenes from the movie. When you reach of the boss battles in the kitchen you'll be taken back to one of the most exhilarating demonstrations of sheer one-on-one combat in filmdom.



The Raid 2 and its predecessor would make great games, but this isn't it. After seeing this sequel I commented to a couple people on how Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Boy are essentially boss battles that Rama has in the movie. The simplicity of obstacles lends itself to the traditional progress of an action game. Just look at the Blu-ray cover for the The Raid: Redemption: "1 Ruthless Crime Lord. 20 Elite Cops. 30 Floors of Hell." What kind of a tagline is that for a film? That's a pitch for a video game.





"The Raid: Redemption is essentially a visualized video game that spares the audience the inconvenience of playing it. There are two teams, the police SWAT team and the gangsters. The gangsters have their headquarters on the top floor of a 15-story building, where they can spy on every room and corridor with video surveillance. The SWAT team enters on the ground floor. Its assignment: Fight its way to the top, floor by floor."


"Some of the hand-to-hand battles are shameless in how they mimic video games. A fighter stands in a corridor and demolishes an enemy. As the enemy falls, another springs into position from around corner, ready to be demolished in turn. Then another. It's like they're being ejected by an automatic victim dispenser."


I entirely disagree with Ebert on two principles: 1) Diminishing The Raid to a video game. 2) Diminishing these things we call video games to a status unworthy of art. It's an entirely different thing to say that these would make great games.


Film and video games are among the forefront of my passions, hobbies and obsessions. I have and will continue to write about them separately and comparatively. In case I did not make it clear, I am thankful for eOne Entertainment actually making a game as part of their marketing for The Raid 2. That’s legitimately awesome even if I have gripes about the execution and gameplay.  The Raid 2 opens nationwide tomorrow and it's my favorite film of the year (thus far).

What are your thoughts on this 8-bit adaptation of The Raid 2? What are your favorite games based on movies or vice versa? Finally, what movies do you feel would make great game? Sincere thanks for your readership and do keep moving to the right.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

CINEFILE: CORNETTO TRILOGY INTERACTIVE SCREENPLAYS


Ten years ago today the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy began scooping with the theatrical release of Shaun of the Dead in the UK. Last year we saw it come to an unwelcome but satisfying conclusion with The World’s End. To commemorate the decade and the three brilliant films released in that time you can view and read interactive versions of the screenplays here. As Mr. Sloan always says, there is no "I" in team, but there is an "I" in pie. And there's an "I" in meat pie. Anagram of meat is team... I don't know what he's talking about. Enjoy!

Which of the three flavours in your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

MY PREMATURE 2015 OSCAR PREDICTIONS

After seeing several sites already discussing the prospects of next year's Oscars I too decided to get an early start with my predictions. Here I share my best guesses for Best Picture, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Actor and Best Actress, including who I think is going to ultimately win in each category:




Below is the full list of my 2015 Oscar nominee predictions (with the winners highlighted in red) for said "major" categories:


BEST PICTURE
Big Eyes
Foxcatcher
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
Into the Wood
Interstellar
Knight of Cups
Unbroken


BEST DIRECTOR
Angelina Jolie, Unbroken
David Fincher, Gone Girl
P.T. Anderson, Inherent Vice
Interstellar, Christopher Nolan
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel


BEST ACTOR
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Jack O'Connell, Unbroken
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
Matthew McConaughey, Interstellar
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher


BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco
Resse Witherspoon, Wild
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Only one of these films have been released at this point (The Grand Budapest Hotel) so obviously it is too early to tell. Any one of these other films could come out and be an utter flop or critical disaster. Still, I find it fun to predict what is going to appeal to the Academy in ten months' time. These are my educated guesses based on what I know about each film and what I know about the (mostly) men and (few) women who will be voting on them. What do you think of these picks? Please speak your mind and make some bold prophecies of your own in the comments below!

Monday, April 7, 2014

RECENTLY BEHELD: FEBRUARY 3-9, 2014

(2013)



Based on the true story of a woman who was forced to give up her son and teams up with a journalist some fifty years later to find him. Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are the ideal Brits for the job and mash/clash with each other during the journey. It’s a perfectly adequate film and, for what it’s worth, easily the weakest of last year’s Best Picture nominees.

★★★

* * *


(1964)



Look no further for family-friendly movie magic. At times it is charmingly dated (see Dick Van Dyke tap-dancing with penguins) and at other times as mystical as it must have been in the ‘60s (a storm blowing all the other nannies away as Mary first comes to town). The Sherman Brothers’ original music, Julie Andrews’ titular performance and the majesty of Walt Disney Studios have made this a classic worth revisiting and sharing again and again.

★★★★★


* * *


(2013)



A welcome and even worthwhile look into the making of Walt Disney’s classic Mary Poppins. It’s two movies rolled into one: Author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) being courted by Disney himself (Tom Hanks) about the acquisition and artistic adaptation of her book and Travers own childhood in Queensland, which was the source for the story itself.  Thus, the film is highly divided, but when the tales converge thematically (such as during a drunken speech by her father played by Colin Farrell) it has the potential of becoming a modern classic itself. Alas, these moments are too rare and the whole affair is too self-serving to avoid scrutiny. I'm sure Travers would've loathed this film as she actually thought of Mary Poppins.

★★★


* * *


(2014)



Godfrey Reggio (the Qatsi trilogy) has returned with a transfixing experiment. How best to describe this film? I imagine a UFO abducting Earthlings and some chunks of their civilization and then showcasing them back on their own planet one at a time against a black backdrop. We sometimes get films that break the fourth wall. This one feels as if there was no wall to break. It will be hard to find in theaters, but I wouldn’t see it any other way.

★★★★


* * *


(1974)



The story of a man who stumbled into Nuremberg one day with nothing to say nor the ability to say it is one of the greater mysteries of modernity. Werner Herzog’s dramatization of the story has us follow the cypher from his shed (womb) to said civilized township (world). He might as well be an extraterrestrial. The film is a poignant portrait on what it means to be human and how a man climbs the societal rungs he never knew existed.

★★★★½


* * *


(2014)


The Lego Movie deserves to sit at the same table as other contemporary animated classics like the Toy Story trilogy and Wreck-It Ralph. Like those it is built on existing playthings, often with properties and brands in check, while blooming with a creativity all of its own. Even more than those two gems it breaks down the world's walls in ways that relate more to the viewer than thought possible. It's consistently silly but truly brilliant in its winking embrace of “the hero's journey” and the beats screenwriters have been drumming out for years. Not unlike what Cabin in the Woods did to American horror, The Lego Movie may change the way we think about "chosen one" narratives while being the chosen one itself.

★★★★½


* * *


(2013)


Reportedly Joe Swanberg kept the film’s script from his four stars prior to shooting. This encouraged improvisations and established a natural rapport. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson, co-workers at a Chicago brewery, are the drinking buddies referred to. Their respective partners add complexity to their own relationship. While raw and unglamorous, the characters fun to hang out with and when tensions rise it’s alarming to watch.

★★★½


* * *


(1967)



Belle de Jour reflects the quiet beauty and dangerous curiosity of its central titular character played by the unparalleled Catherine Deneuve. (Has there ever been as strong and seductive a string of successes has she had in the '60s?) When not testing afternoon employment as a prostitute she's a housewife called Séverine breathing betwixt her fantasies and the unchanging hours of wifedom. Luis Buñuel's erotic drama is actually carefully contained, hinting at the belle's past while toying with the tenants voyeurism. It's as thought-provoking as it is provocative.

★★★★½


* * *


Seen any of these films? Please feel free to share your thoughts or your own recently beheld in the comments below!


Here's my previous Recently Beheld.

Also, see what else I've seen this year in my Letterboxd diary.