Everybody’s Chattin + Question of the week: Favorite directing duos & their film(s)

EverybodysChattin

Hello, hello! How’s everybody doing today? I’m still basking in the all the feels I got yesterday from THIS lovely tweet from my gorgeous cinematic sweetheart…

I spent a couple of days working on my tribute post for him but it’s so freakin’ cool that the man himself acknowledged it… it made all that effort so worthwhile, plus it was fun doing all those research on Stanley 😉

Ok so about those links…

Keith posted his thoughts on the Comic-con Batman Vs Superman trailer, I gotta say I agree w/ a lot of his points. The key word here is cautiously-optimistic.

On a related note, Margaret posted the brand spankin’ new trailer of Suicide Squad. Though I like the casting of Viola Davis and Margot Robbie, as of right now I can’t say I’m anticipating this one.

On the TV front, Brittani posted her thoughts of True Detective, Orange is the New Black and more

Abbi reviewed three films for his Film Friday series, one of which is Magic Mike XXL that I have absolutely zero interest on. I’d rather watch fully-clothed Stanley Weber reading a book for two hours than these vapid, gross men gyrating their bodies, blechhh!

The Signal is a sci-fi movie I’ve been curious about. Dell‘s review confirmed that I should give it a shot.

I LOVE when bloggers talk about their favorite composers, and Cindy highlighted the underrated Rachel Portman who made such gorgeous music, including my recent favorite, Belle.

Steven posted part 3 of his 150 Favorite Films from 2000-2015


Time for question of the week!

So this week’s question is inspired by the recent news that directing duo Chris Miller and Phil Lord will be helming the Han Solo movie, one of the many Star Wars spin-offs to come. I love The Lego Movie and 22 Jump Street was fun, but it remains to be seen how Miller/Lord would fare directing an action sci-fi genre.

DirectingDuos

There are quite a few directing duos in Hollywood. Another duo (who happen to be siblings) Anthony & Joe Russo, have been doing well for Marvel/Disney with the success Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Of course, the most famous duo siblings are the Coens. Seems that Joel & Ethan Coen almost always work together, and hey, two brains are always better than one right?

Fans of foreign art house films would likely cite the Dardenne Brothers (Luc & Jean-Pierre) from Belgium as one of their faves. I’ve only seen The Kid With the Bike from the Dardennes, but I REALLY want to see Two Days, One Night with Marion Cotillard. On a different spectrum, we’ve got The Wachowskis (Lana & Andy) and The Farrellys (Bobby & Peter).


So tell me, who are your favorite directing duos… and which of their films do you like best?

Music Break: Oscar Isaac’s singing in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

InsideLlewynDavis_Bnr

Boy, it’s been two months since I did a Music Break post, as I missed doing one in December! Well, now it’s the last day in January and I’ve been wanting to highlight this soundtrack for some time, so today is as good a time as any.

I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that I wasn’t enamored by this film. I appreciate the character study of a down-on-his-luck folk singer set in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1961, but it feels so indulgently aimless. To be honest, the decidedly-morose tone makes this film much longer than 1 hour and 45 minutes! The pointless ending especially rubs me the wrong way. I guess I just don’t get what the point of it all is, which I find quite frustrating.

But hey, I’m not going to focus on the negative as there are two things I really enjoyed about the film (well three if I count the cat) and those are Oscar Isaac’s acting/singing and the music. According to this Rolling Stones article, the Coens thought their screenplay was ‘un-filmable’ before they saw Isaac … “Where would they find a crazy-talented singer-guitarist with movie-star presence and major comic acting chops?” Well I’m very glad that their paths crossed!

The opening sequence of Llewyn singing at the bar singing this song is exquisite, and it really makes me want to know more about the character.

InsideLlewynDavis_stills

Isaac is a Guatemalan-born actor who’s been on my radar for some time ever since I saw him as the spoiled Prince John in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. He’s apparently trained Juilliard where he was encouraged to work on his voice. ‘Through doing the basic practical classes, learning how to use my diaphragm, I really figured out how to sing and what it was that I sounded like.’ [per Telegraph]. He was also in a punk bank before his dramatic training, as a frontman for a band called the Blinking Underdogs when he went through the Cure phase. He said he was a terrible singer then but surely that’s not the case as I LOVE his voice. I’m going to have to update my old list of Actors who are surprisingly good singers. I think the fact that he can actually play guitar really well AND has a naturally melodic voice adds so much realism to his character, it’s as if I was really watching a part-Welsh musician named Llewyn Davis instead of an actor playing one.

Now this clip below is one of the highlights from the film. It’s hilarious and bizarre, with great supporting turn from Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver.

Lastly, here’s a recording of Isaac with Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons:



[SPOILER alert] It’s quite amusing that Bob Dylan appears at the end of film. He’s a music legend who I’m not really fond of. I always joke that I don’t get the Coens’ style and Bob Dylan’s music, two blasphemous things for people living in Minnesota, ahahahaha. In fact, I said to my hubby afterwards that if Llewyn Davis were a real musician, I’d rather buy his records than Dylan’s 😀

So yeah, even though I won’t buy the dvd of Inside Llewyn Davis, I’d readily buy the soundtrack.


Hope you enjoy the music break today. Thoughts on this soundtrack and/or the film?

First Question of the Year: Which 2013 movie(s) do you appreciate but wouldn’t watch again?

MovieQuestion

It’s been a bitterly c-cc-cold start to the new year here in my neck of the woods! I know I seem to be obsessing over the weather a lot but really, you’d understand when the *high* only reaches -2˚F (that’s -18˚ C!) and I’m super excited that Friday is going to hit 20 degrees (woot woot!) Yeah, it’s pathetic!

But hey, it’s not a weather blog so let’s talk about movies! As I’ve been writing some reviews of 2013 releases the past few days (stay tuned for my review of Nebraska later this week), it made me think of how I view some of those films now that it’s sunk in. More often than not, the reaction right after seeing the movie is pretty different than how I feel days or weeks later. There are some films I rate highly that I wish I’d watch again, sometimes right away (Frozen comes to mind, and on varying degrees HER, Nebraska, Austenland, and of course Pacific Rim, which I had watched twice since its theatrical release).

On the flip side though, there are films I appreciate and truly respect, but not something I’d ever want to see again. This question is kind of a different twist to what I posed a couple of years ago in regard to The Hurt Locker. A couple of movies that comes to mind (which sort of sparked this post), are Inside Llewyn Davis and The Wolf of Wall Street. In fact, I was originally going to title this ‘Movies I Appreciate but NOT Love.’ That’s perhaps an equally appropriate question, though there’s perhaps other reason why you don’t want to watch something a second time around. Interestingly, those two films come from beloved and celebrated filmmakers (the Coen Brothers and Martin Scorsese) whom I respect but their work are not exactly my cup of tea. In any case, both are good films, some would even call a masterpiece. But for me, I can only appreciate some aspects of the film (i.e. the performances) but as a whole, it’s not something I’d want to see again.


What about you folks? Which movies you saw in 2013 that you’re glad you saw but wouldn’t watch again?

Five Notable Directing Siblings Working in Hollywood Today

This post idea actually came about a year ago when I first heard the rumor about Jonathan Nolan collaborating with his brother Christopher on the upcoming Superman reboot. Of course that is not the case, but they are indeed writing the script together for The Dark Knight Rises, which will be their fourth screenwriting collaboration after Memento, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. Well, since I came across the Wachowkis’ Cloud Atlas project I wrote about last week, I figure it’s a good a time as any to finally wrap up this post.

So my pal Ted and I are taking a look at the five major directing siblings who’ve made their mark in Hollywood. Here they are in alphabetical order:

..1. The Coen Brothers

Ruth Joel and Ethan Coen grew up in a Jewish community in St. Louis Park (which is the first suburban area I lived in when I first moved to the Twin Cities). I also just learned that their mother, Rena, was an art historian at St. Cloud State University (my alma mater). Known for their dark comedy, I recognize that they’re one of the best filmmakers in Hollywood today, but I have to say their movies are not exactly my cup of tea. I quite like Fargo but I’m not in love with it as a lot of people are, and I can count how many movies of theirs I’ve seen with one hand. I did like True Grit a lot however, even though I’m not into Westerns at all. In fact, it’s one of my top 5 best movies pick of last year.

Ted These guys are two of my favorite directors working in Hollywood today and I pretty much enjoyed most if not all of their films. My favorite movies: Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, No Country For Old Men, Fargo, True Grit, The Hudsucker Proxy and The Big Lebowski.

What are they up to now?
They’re currently filming Gambit, a crime comedy (their specialty) starring Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman and Colin Firth.

..2. The Farrelly Brothers


Ruth
– Peter and Bobby Farrelly are originally from Cumberland, Rhode Island and often film their movies in the New England area. They’re sports enthusiasts who often cast sports stars in cameo roles in their movies. According to this Tribute bio page, they scored their first credit with two episodes of the award-winning series Seinfeld which led to them getting the green light to do Dumb and Dumber in 1994. Their brand of humor is irreverent, politically incorrect and often use slapstick, gross bathroom jokes in their movies. Two of their movies, Something About Mary & Dumb and Dumber are my guilty pleasures… somehow I can’t turn away every time I see these movies playing on TV.

Ted – Throughout the 1990s these guys were the go to directors for grossed out comedies but their last few films were box office busts. Jim Carrey mentioned that they might do a sequel to Dumb and Dumber, so maybe that could be their comeback. Favorite movies: Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin and Me, Myself and Irene.

What are they up to now?
They’ve recently wrapped Movie 43, a feature-film comprised of short comedy segments, here’s the cast so far: Elizabeth Banks, Gerard Butler, Kieran Culkin, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Sean William Scott, Tony Shalhoub, Emma Stone, Matt Walsh, Patrick Warburton, Naomi Watts, and Kate Winslet (read more about it in this post). They’re also producing The Three Stooges remake that’s currently filming.

..3. The Hughes Brothers


Ruth
– Albert and Allen Hughes are twin brothers from Detroit of African American and Iranian Armenian descent. I’m not very familiar with their work as their movies are extremely violent. I just saw The Book of Eli recently which I thought was quite good, but because of the amount of violence, I don’t think I want to see that again. I’m curious to see From Hell which is based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel Jack the Ripper. I like period movies and the story is set in Victorian era, plus there’s Johnny Depp as the lead. But Ted gave me this warning,”From Hell is quite violent just like all of The Hughes Brothers’ films, in fact I think The Book of Eli was their tamest work. The violence in Menace to Society, Dead Presidents and From Hell were so realistic that it probably made some people sick.” Yikes!

Ted – These bros. have only done four films together but all of their films were quite good. Back in the late 1990s they were offer a chance to direct both Superman and Planet of the Apes reboot. The studio executives didn‘t like their pitch so they moved on to other projects. Menace to SocietyIf you‘ve never seen it give it a rent, it‘s way better than the overrated Boys‘ n the Hood. Dead Presidents  was about the effect of the Vietnam war has on war veterans except it’s from the perspective of African Americans. It’s a great film and I think it’s one of the most underrated films from the 1990s. Give it a rent if you’ve never seen it. Just a warning though, it’s quite violent and it doesn’t have a happy ending at all. Same with Menace to Society.

What are they up to now?
The last year or so they’ve been developing a film version of a cult Japanese animated film Akira but last we heard they left that project. [Added 6/27 – earlier today SlashFilm reported that Allen Hughes is developing a noir film called Broken City with Mark Wahlberg.]

..4. The Scott Brothers


Ruth
– Ridley and Tony Scott are the directing brothers I’m most familiar with and have seen a lot of their movies. The English film directors are seven years apart in age, raised in an Army family and both attended the Royal College of Art. In 1968, Ridley and Tony Scott founded Ridley Scott Associates (RSA), a film and commercial production company, and you could say they’re two of the most prominent British directors working today.

I like Sir Ridley‘s work much more than his younger brother Tony’s though, as Gladiator is one of my favorite movies of all time and Blade Runner is one of my favorite sci-fis. I’ve dedicated a post for Ridley’s ultra-prolific work, at 74 years old he hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down. Out of Tony Scott‘s work, my favorite is Spy Game (Honorable mention: Top Gun as it was the coolest thing when I saw it back in high school!)

Ted – These two bros. have never co-directed a film but they’ve produced a lot of films together. I think most people will agree with me that Ridley Scott is the more talented one. Below are my favorite films from each brother:

Ridley Scott: Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Rain, Black Hawk Down and American Gangster. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t include Alien right? Well to be honest with you, I didn’t like that film at all, I thought it was well made but I just didn’t find it to be scary or thrilling. Just my opinion of course.

Tony Scott: Enemy of the State, True Romance, Revenge and The Last Boy Scout. Tony Scott‘s last few films were pretty awful in my opinion.

What are they up to now?
Ridley Scott is currently filming Prometheus, an alien sci-fi thriller starring Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba and Charlize Theron.

Tony Scott He was set to develop Emma’s War, about an expatriate British foreign aid worker in Sudan who married guerrilla leader Riek Machar, but according to Wiki, the family objected to a film based on the book so the project is delayed. He’s now set to direct Top Gun 2, but no news yet whether Tom Cruise will reprise his role as Maverick.

..5. The Wachowskis [formerly Wachowski Brothers]


Ruth
Born in Chicago as Laurence (Larry) and Andy Wachowski, Larry had a sex change a few years ago and changed his name to Lana. So now the duo is known as The Wachowskis. I admire two of their work: The Matrix (read my review), easily one of the best and most innovative sci-fi thrillers out there, and V for Vendetta, mainly for Hugo Weaving’s charismatic performance.

Ted –  The last film I saw from these two was The Matrix Revolutions and I want to imagine that the film never existed, in fact I’d like to think the two sequels to the original Matrix never existed. I might give Speed Racer a rent someday. My favorite movies from the Wachowskis: Bound and The Matrix

What are they up to now?
They’re currently developing Cloud Atlas as I’ve talked about last week.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Brothers Strause
Greg and Colin Strause are the Illinois-born directors who got their start in directing music video/commercials. Their recent feature films are AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem and Skyline. Reportedly, they’re currently developing another sci-fi fantasy action, War of the Ages.

Sources: IMDb and Wikipedia


Any thoughts on any of these directing duos? Please share your favorite movie(s) from these directing siblings or let us know which ones we’re missing.

Rental Picks: Miller’s Crossing and Road to Perdition

I finally got around to seeing Miller’s Crossing this past weekend, but instead of my usual Weekend Roundup, I decided to review another gangster movie that I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. Both of these films are set in the Prohibition era of the early 30s, starring two laconic anti-heroes. Interestingly, both also feature a distinct cinematography that is pivotal to the quality of each film as a whole. Despite the similarities though, these are two very different films in their own right.

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

I’m praying to you! Look in your heart. I’m praying to you… look in your heart… look in your heart! You can’t kill me… look in your heart.

This is what a gangster noir genre looks like in the hands of the Coen Brothers (directed by Joel, produced and written by both Joel and Ethan). The film focuses on Tom Reagan, an ‘brains over brawns’ adviser to a crime mob boss Leo whose loyalty is divided between Leo and his rival Caspar as the two gangs vie for control over the city.

The main conflict revolves around a crook named Bernie (whom Caspar called ‘Schmatte’ which is a Yiddish term for a worthless man). Caspar wants Leo to kill but because Leo’s in love with Bernie’s sister Verna, he refuses to do so. Caspar is furious over this, and Tom advises Leo not to risk a gangster war over a woman. Things gets complicated when Tom ends up bedding Verna and gets right in the middle one double-crossing scheme after another.

This genre isn’t my cup of tea, but I was compelled to see this as I’m curious to see more of the Coens’ work after seeing True Grit. Plus, this one stars one of my fave Irish actors Gabriel Byrne. I wasn’t disappointed and Byrne is indeed perfect as the forlorn protagonist with his smoldering eyes. The guy is born to wear a fedora and he looks fantastic in those retro overcoats. I’m also glad this isn’t as bloody as I had thought (for a gangster flick at least), but I’m not saying it’s not suspenseful. In fact, there are lots of edge-of-your-seat moments throughout, especially the scenes at the Miller’s Crossing forest. Another memorable scene takes place in one of the mobster’s house, during which a relentless machine-gun shootout is set to a sentimental Irish ballad ‘Danny Boy.’ It sure is an effective technique that enhances the impact of the scene. It reminds me of a scene in John Woo’s Face/Off where the soothing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ is playing during a vicious gun-battle scene. Finney was all bad-ass in that scene, wow… “The old man’s still an artist with a Thompson,” one guy quipped. Indeed.

As for Byrne, a lot of people say this is one of his finest work and I have to concur. He’s the ‘moral’ center of the movie though he’s not exactly a moral man with his drinking and gambling addiction practically driving his actions. But he’s a complicated man, which makes him a perfect anti-hero. Nothing is clear cut for him, and he’s in constant contemplative mode and remains an enigma ’till the end. Byrne imbues Tom with such cool charisma in virtually every scene he’s in, but his character is one that is hard to love, even if one can’t help but feel for him. John Turturro (Bernie), Jon Polito (Caspar), Marcia Gay-Harden (Verna) and Albert Finney (Leo) are all excellent, but it’s Finney that I think are particularly notable.

This is a movie I’m certain I won’t watch again because it’s just too bleak and cold for my taste, but it’s more than worthwhile just to see Byrne in his best performance. I do appreciate the way the story is told and the dialog is witty and peppered with amusing black humor, as to be expected from the Coens. As I said before, the cinematography by frequent Coens-collaborator Barry Sonnenfeld is also worth checking out. That fedora blown in the wind at the start of the movie is pretty iconic, though upon further reading, it’s just a style the Coens like, there’s no hidden meaning behind it.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Road to Perdition (2002)

There are many stories about Michael Sullivan. Some say he was a decent man. Some say there was no good in him at all. But I once spent 6 weeks on the road with him, in the winter of 1931. This is our story.

I saw this months ago, but somehow I still remember much about it. Road to Perdition is based on a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, about a hitman named Michael Sullivan. Like Tom Reagan, Mr. Sullivan is an intelligent man of few words whose loyalty is tested. He sees his crime boss John Rooney as a father figure, but things take an unexpected turn after his eldest son inadvertently witnessed a cold-blooded murder done by Rooney’s son, Connor. Unable to convince Connor that he and his son would keep the matter confidential, Sullivan is forced to flee with his young son on a quest to avenge the very people he once held dear.

There is a parallel father-son theme going on in the movie, one between Michael Sullivan and Michael Jr., and the other between John and Connor. Both Sullivan and Rooney want to protect their respective sons. Their predicament is a direct result of what each of their son had done that brought them to this crossroads of life, of which there seems to be no escape.

British director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) did a smashing job creating a somber 1930s setting and he seems to have a thing for shots in the rain, which are beautifully captured by cinematographer Conrad L. Hall. This riveting drama grabbed my attention from start to finish and the unhurried pacing never let my attention waver. Mendes didn’t seem concerned with making a gangster flick with all the genre action stuff people expect to see, but instead he’s more invested in the characters that make the storyline so compelling. A lot of the violence happen off-screen, which goes to show that blood and gore aren’t always necessary to bring about terror on screen. Instead, Mendes relies on superb editing, camera work and music to create a heightened level of suspense throughout.

Whilst Miller’s Crossing looks pretty darn good, this one is amazing. Nearly every scene is frame-worthy, and Mendes seems to have a love affair with rain in his movies. The scenes set in rainy nights are magnificent, especially the street shootout scene towards the end, that perhaps is one of the most iconic rainy scenes ever filmed. It’s breathtaking for two reason: one – the eerie and powerful way the scene itself was shot; and two – the significance of that scenario for the characters involved.

The performances are brilliant. Mr. Sullivan is played with moody perfection by Tom Hanks. I’m not used to seeing Hanks playing such an amoral man, but he’s quite compelling here in what I believe is one of his understated yet astounding performances of his impressive career. Paul Newman is well, Paul Newman, the classy actor who always adds gravitas to everything he’s in. Even though he’s the mobster boss, he’s not a heartless man. In fact, he genuinely cares for the Sullivans and his grief over the whole situation is apparent. The Brits make up the bad guys in the movie: Daniel Craig as Connor and Jude Law as a crime-scene photographer/hitman hired to kill the Sullivans. Both are very effective and convincingly evil in their roles. In fact, Craig here is as far away from the suave and charming Bond as one could get.

I somehow saw the ending coming, but still it’s heart-wrenching yet satisfying. It ties up nicely to that quote that opens the movie and offers a bit of hope to Michael Jr. that he won’t follow in the footsteps of his father. This is one gangster movie besides The Untouchables that I can say I don’t mind watching again. Even if this genre isn’t your thing, I urge you to see this. You won’t be disappointed.

4 out of 5 reels


Has anybody else seen these movies? I’d love to hear what you think of them.

Guest Post: 3 Best films of 2010 and 3 worst films from 2010

By Ted Saydalavong (read Ted’s profile)

So 2010 is coming to an end, hard to believe, movie fans and critics everywhere will have their list of best and worst films. For this post I’ll name my top 3 best films (Note: Different people have different tastes in films so this is MY personally favorite films of 2010). And I’ll name my top 3 worst films of 2010. Also, since I didn’t see all of the films that came out this year, I will only focus on the big budgeted ones that studio hoped it will either make a lot of money or earn some Oscar nominations.

I saw some good foreign films this year too that I would include in my top 3 but again since I decided to just focus on big budget Hollywood films, I can’t include them. Side note: In case you’re interested in some of those foreign films, please check out Mother from South Korea and A Prophet from France. Both were released in 2009 in their country but didn’t hit the states till early 2010. I will bet that those two films will get a remake from Hollywood real soon, so check them out before Hollywood will either ruin or maybe they’ll improve them. (Example: The Departed was an upgrade over the original Infernal Affairs from Hong Kong).

Anyhoo, here are my top 3 best/favorite films of 2010:

  1. The Social Network
    So how can you make a movie about how Facebook was created? Well first off you hire a good writer in Aaron Sorkin and a great director David Fincher and make one hell of great film. Whether you’re a Facebook user or not (I’m one of the 500 million users, in fact I signed up with them since they started accepting users from outside of college campuses around mid 2004, I think), you’ll enjoy the great cinematographer, sharp dialogs and great performances. I can’t say enough good things about this film, partly maybe because I’ve started a online company in my early twenties and was caught up in the excitement and/or maybe I was just thrill seeing a movie that didn’t have any shootouts or explosions yet I was on the edge of my seat while watching it. Will it win the best picture of the year, I won’t be surprised if it does, so far it won pretty much all of the prestigious critic awards and I believe most of the respected critics in the country have voted as one of their favorite films of the year.
  2. Inception
    This is by far one of the most ambitious and smartest summer tent pole films I’ve seen since well Nolan’s last film, The Dark Knight. It has great visual effects, soundtrack, performances and editing. This is a good example of how to make a good smart pop corn summer flick without insulting the audience (I’m looking at you Michael Bay, McG, M. Night and Brett Ratner). A lot of us have been complaining about how summer films tend to be either sequels, remakes or comic book based, so when a studio has the balls to release a big summer flick like this, I was truly appreciated.

    If The Dark Knight didn’t make as much money as it did, we probably would never have seen Inception on the big screen.Now with all that said, I do have some problems with the film. Mainly I think Nolan made the story more complicated than it should have been and he just couldn’t figure out how to solve it. Maybe he should’ve brought in his brother to clean up the mess. Also, I just think the main characters weren’t in any real danger even though they were being chase by the “bad guys”, maybe if Nolan had included another team who’s also going after the same thing and somehow they meet in the dream world or something like that, I don’t know. Those are just some minor complaints I have about this film.

    I think Time magazine had it wrong when they named M. Night the next Spielberg a few years ago. They should’ve waited a few more years and name Christopher Nolan instead, let’s face it, what has M. Night done since he was given that throne? Well he made The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening and The Last Air Bender. Raise your hands if you actually think those films are “good” or even decent, anybody? I didn’t think so. Nolan on the other hand has made some good to great films around the time M. Night was on the cover of Time magazine. You may ask why I brought this up? Well I believe Nolan will have a career that’s similar to Spielberg’s. Steven Spielberg has made a lot of films that earned tons of cash at the box office but was never given any respect by his peers until he made Schindler’s List. Now look at Nolan’s career so far, the two Batman films have made well over a billion dollars, Inception made close to $300 million and of course the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises is a guarantee box office gold. Maybe in a few more years, Nolan will make THAT film and get some respect from his peers.
  3. True Grit
    I saw this film just a few days ago and it’s still fresh on my mind, when I see it again I may either move it up on the list or down, not sure yet. In any case, this is a great western from the Coen Bros., filled with great performances and dialog. It’s so surprising how funny it was and yes it does have the Coen Bros. signature violence in it, even though it got a PG-13 rating. I won’t ruin it for you but you’ll be shock at how brutal that scene was for a PG-13 film. The film was gorgeously shot by Roger Deakins, one of my favorite cinematographers. Seriously this man just doesn’t know how to make a movie look bad, he even shot M. Might’s awful film The Village and that film looked amazing.

    With the Coen Bros.’ direction and Deakins’ great cinematography, this is a highly recommended film. BTW, don’t expect to see a lot of shootouts in the movie, the marketing folks did a great job of making the film look like it’s an action adventure western. If that’s what you’re looking for then you’ll be truly disappointed, Tombstone it is not. For western, I would compare this to Unforgiven and for the Coen Bros. film, I would compare it to Blood Simple.

Now here are my 3 worst films of the year, again there are tons of bad films that came out in 2010 but I’m going to only focus on the high priced pictures Hollywood offered us.

  1. Green Zone
    This is by far the worst film I saw this year and it pains me to say it because Paul Greenglass is one of my favorite directors working in Hollywood today. I also like Matt Damon as actor quite a bit but somehow these two guys totally messed up this movie. I considered myself to be liberal when it comes to politics but wow this movie just rubbed me the wrong way. Not only was it preachy on a subject that most people in America already knew about but Greengrass kept hammering away at it and never lets up. If you saw the film then you know what I’m talking about. I also thought that the film came out a couple of years too late, I mean if the Bush administration were still in the office then maybe it would’ve been more relevant but it’s 2010 and Bush is long gone.

    A little history behind this movie, when it was first announced way back in 2007 the film was supposed to be a satire on the Irag War. But before they started shooting, Greengrass decided to change the script to a straight drama picture. Universal was actually quite excited about the new script and they even scheduled the movie to open on the holiday season of 2008 hoping for some Oscar nominations. Well a month or two into production, Greengrass again decided to change the script, now he wanted to be an action/drama and so they had to push the release date to 2009. With more changes to the script while the film was being shot, Universal didn’t have much faith in the picture so they decided to dump it in March of this year, a hit or miss month for film releases. Also, the film went well over its original $80 mil budget, it came in around $150 mil and of course it tanked at the box office.

    Again it pains me to call this the worst film of year because I know that Greengrass is such a talented filmmaker but I think his political beliefs has overtaken his mind and ruined this movie. Hopefully he’ll come back with a great film in a year or two. He’s currently in pre-production of a film called They Marched Into Sunlight, another political theme film set during the Vietnam war.
  2. Unstoppable
    I don’t know how Tony Scott convinced a movie studio to give him $100 mil to shoot a film about a runaway train and somehow he even convinced Denzel Washington to come on board. The film got some good reviews from critics and I was hoping for some good time when I went to see it. Boy was I wrong, the film has no dept and I didn’t care for any of the characters in the movie. I was so bore that I was sort falling asleep during one of the big action sequences. The film runs about an hour and a half but it felt like 3 hours to me.

    If you really want to see a better movie about runaway train, I suggest renting Runaway Train starring Jon Voight and Eric Roberts, it doesn’t have the cool action scenes like Unstoppable but it has way more interesting storyline and characters. Runaway Train was going to beAkira Kurosawa’s first directing debut here in the states but the project was canceled because the snowstorms were so bad, his crew could not work. The movie might have even better had Kurosawa directed it but I’ve never seen any of Kurosawa’s work so I’m just assuming here.
  3. Robin Hood
    This was one of the films I looked forward to back in the summer but wow I don’t know what happened. The film was a mess from start to finish and everyone in the film looked like they didn’t want to be there, well Cate Blanchet was pretty good in it. Crowe looked like he’d rather be doing something else than playing Robin Hood and Scott’s direction was downright awful. It pains me to say it because Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors but I think he just made the movie for the money. The movie was supposed to be a prequel so why did they cast a forty something Crowe as Robin Hood? We’ll never know.

    The behind the scenes stuff was quite long with this film so maybe they should’ve shelf the project instead of spending close to $200 mil shooting it. My guess is that Universal spent so much money in pre-production that they have to make it and probably pushed Scott to finish it in time for an early May release. Originally it was scheduled for a November 2009 release but because of script changes, they had to move the release date to 2010.

I would’ve included the remake Clash of the Titans on my worst list but it was so bad that I couldn’t even finish watching it, I turned it off after half hour into the movie.

Well those are my best and worst list of 2010, feel free to agree or disagree and of course you can name your best and worst films from 2010.

Happy New Year!

***

rtm’s note: I should have my own list up by later today this weekend. Well, any reaction to any of Ted’s choices? Please chime in below.

Everyone’s a Critic: Two Twin-Cities natives review ‘A Serious Man’

Happy Monday, everybody! In this special edition of Everyone’s a Critic, I thought it’d be fun to have a couple of my Minnesota friends to offer their (slightly different) views on a movie that happens to be filmed in our neck of the woods. This is the first movie set in Minnesota from the Coen brothers since Fargo over a decade ago. I haven’t seen it but I’m definitely intrigued to check it out just to see the familiar places I’ve been to in Minnesota, i.e. the Embers restaurant shown in the movie was a regular hangout place for my friends and I in my college years.

Special thanks to Becky and Leslie for their contribution!

Leslie Thomson

So for the last few years I’ve made it my mission to see the best picture nominees before the Academy Award’s big night. And mission it was this year with the Academy changing the number of nominees from 5 to 10 movies. Not having seen any of the movies before the announcements, it was a scramble. Unfortunately I only made 8 of the 10, missing out on Up (should be an easy one to watch) and Precious (expecting a very hard one to watch and I admit I’ve been reticent to see it, but eventually I will).

Having seen 8 of the movies, I was asked my opinion of A Serious Man. With a large part of the production being filmed here in my home state I was obviously interested in seeing it. Friends were approached by one of the film scouts to look at the interior of their house for that perfect 60’s décor but they lost out to neighbors up the street. But we were given day by day descriptions of the numerous trucks, powerful arc lights illuminating their neighborhood at the crack of dawn and the constant parade of cars cruising by to see what all the activity was about.

 

Joel & Ethan Cohen

 

I’ve liked many of the Coen Brothers’ movies, Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski (my mother’s favorite), O Brother Where Art Thou (my favorite) and No Country for Old Men. So of course as with their other movies, I expected a slightly twisted, quirky movie populated with slightly twisted, quirky characters. Well A Serious Man is all that. But I was bemused – missing – something. I watched the numerous scenes of a middle class, Midwestern Jewish family  moving through their life of Hebrew school, bar mitzvah, running from the school brute (whom I kept thinking of as a golem), a failing marriage, a nude neighbor, a rude neighbor, car accidents, rambling rabbis young and old, bickering siblings, etc, etc, etc. Was there more to this movie that I, as a goy, was missing? I don’t know. All I know was that my facial expression throughout the movie mimicked that of Larry Gopnick – slight head tilt, furrowed brow and an uncomprehending stare all until the final scene which snapped to black. Huh?

 

Michael Stuhlbarg
Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry Gopnik

 


Becky Kurk
(Prairiegirl)
I liked this movie simply because it was so nostalgic for me. It’s also amusing, in the Coen Bros kind of way, with enough laugh-out-loud moments to satisfy the comedy junkie in me. It is set in 1967 and was filmed entirely in and around the Twin Cities, mostly in Bloomington, a second-tier southern suburb. I grew up in Roseville, a second tier northern suburb. (The Coen Bros grew up during the 60s too, in St. Louis Park, a western suburb of Minneapolis.) The 60s sets – interior and ex, the clothes and the music were so faithfully recreated I thought I had gone back in time, and it brought back a lot of memories. One of the most surprisingly delightful scenes (for me) was an exterior shot of a Red Owl grocery store (the precursor to Super Valu), with it’s distinct logo. I remember going to shop there with my mom a hundred times when I was a girl.

After a Jewish college professor’s (Larry Gopnik, played wonderfully by Michael Stuhlbarg, a 2009 Golden Globe nominee for Best Actor) wife asks him for a divorce, his life starts to come apart, and his search for “meaning” leads him on many paths. One of many laugh-out-loud scenes include a loose neighbor woman who indulges with him in the same recreational drug his young son smokes right before his bar mitzvah. Combined with his brother’s bizarre troubles, their Jewish traditions (of which I am not familiar with at all, but most of the time, you don’t need to be Jewish to see the humor involved), his kids (Larry has two teenage children, a 16-year-old girl, thoroughly embarrassed by her parents and obsessed with her hair, and a 13-year-old son who is beholden to a bully for $20 he owes him for the pot he and friends smoke in the high school bathroom), there is so much subtlety woven into the plot I can see how viewers can easily get bored. But I thoroughly adored the charm, loyalty and realness of this outwardly normal-seeming, inwardly dysfunctional, ultimately (probably) typical Jewish family living in the suburban Midwest in the late 1960s. With this film, I think you need to go with your instinct whether you should see it or not – either you will love it or hate it. I doubt there’s much room for anything in between.