Billy Soistmann

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The Future of the X-Men Film Franchise

In 20th Century Fox, Bryan Singer, Comic Books, Comic Books & Superheroes, Coming Soon, Features, News, X-Men on March 18, 2010 at 6:39 PM

Today, in an interview with the LA Times, Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) talked about his return to the X-Men franchise. Before we get into the new stuff, let’s take a look back at the beginnings of the X-Men.

After receiving critical acclaim for The Usual Suspects in 1995, director Bryan Singer was approached by Fox to helm the upcoming X-Men film adaptation. Not being a big fan of comic books, he initially turned them down. However, he eventually came around and developed a story idea with his friend Tom DeSanto.

In 2000, the world saw a different kind of comic book film with X-Men. By grounding the film in the real world and just adding science-fiction elements, Singer elevated the genre into soaring new heights and kicked off the modern comic book film.

The director returned for the sequel, X2: X-Men United, which was met with even more critical acclaim. However, Singer then left to pursue a reboot of Superman, with the end result being the lackluster Superman Returns.

Meanwhile, Brett Ratner directed X-Men: The Last Stand, which suffered from being too much of an action picture without any real substance. Even after adapting The Dark Phoenix Saga, one of the greatest storylines in the X-Men mythos, the film was a disappointment.

The latest X-Men movie was even worse. In May, 2008, Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine proved to be wasted potential. The film failed on every level and, sadly, wasted one of the best characters in comics. However, the film did well at the box office and a sequel is already in the works.

Cut to December last year. Bryan Singer was returning to the X-Men. Atomic Popcorn reported that he had signed on to direct, X-Men: First Class, a prequel that would tell the story of how the team was started by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen), who would later become Magneto. This was great news – the skilled director could definitely pull the franchise up out of its current state.

Although a lot of the interview focused on the original film, Singer and producer Shuler Donner, also talked about the future of the franchise. So what can we expect to see coming from the X-Men universe?

Wolverine 2: Due to the success of the first “origins” story, a sequel immediately started development. It is set in Japan and follows Wolverine on more of his adventures. Although Singer said he had lunch with Hugh Jackman (who really came to own the character after being a last-minute replacement Wolverine), but there is no evidence that he will be directing the sequel, especially due to his busy schedule (he already signed with Warner Bros. to direct Jack the Giant Killer). I really hope he doesn’t. His style does not mesh at all with the first “Wolverine” film.

First Class: As mentioned previously, First Class, is the story of how the X-Men came to be. It is based on a 2006 series written by Jeff Parker. The movie will not be just about seeing younger incarnations of the familiar mutants, however, with Singer saying, “Just doing younger mutants is not enough. The story needs to be more than that. I love the relationship between Magneto and Xavier, these two men who have diametrically opposite points of view but still manage to be friends — to a point. They are the ultimate frenemies.” This is extremely good news. That friendship is a lot of what made the first two films work so well. With two fantastic actors (hopefully Stewart and McKellen reprise their roles), this could prove to be a great film.

X-Men 4: This is the unknown at this point. After the disappointing “Last Stand,” Fox focused on origin stories, originally planning both Wolverine and Magneto origin stories. We saw what happened with Wolverine, but the Magneto film was cancelled. There is definitely a fourth movie in the works, but it is at the very early stages of development right now and Singer expressed his wish to hold off on it for right now.

The X-Men franchise is alive and well, and now, with Singer’s return, things are looking up for the series.

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Tron Legacy Trailer Debuts Online

In 2010, Action, Coming Soon, Disney, Joseph Kosinski, News, Remakes & Sequels, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Trailers on March 8, 2010 at 10:19 PM

I’m not one to keep up with all the latest trailers, but this is different. After someone more clever than myself solved this crazy site, we were all treated to the trailer for Tron Legacy. Watch it below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

To download, go here for standard or here for HD.

This movie looks awesome. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, “Legacy” is the follow-up to the 1982 classic Tron and stars Garrett Hedlund, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen, Olivia Wilde, and Academy Award-winner Jeff Bridges.

The Hurt Locker Wins!

In 2009, Awards, Kathryn Bigelow, News on March 8, 2010 at 12:30 AM

Wow! The Hurt Locker cleaned up with six wins, including Best Picture and Best Director, which for the first time was awarded to a woman. I am very happy to see how well it did, and even more delighted by the fact that Avatar won in technical categories, not anything else, which it deserved. Inglourious Basterds and Up in the Air got snubbed with one and zero wins, respectively. Anyway, I will have more complete reactions up tomorrow afternoon, after I get some sleep and can actually think straight.

The Oscars Game

In Awards, Geek/Tech, News on March 5, 2010 at 1:19 PM

Introducing a wonderful new way to make your Oscar picks! Go to TheOscarsGame.com to make your picks before the ceremony on Sunday. It’s a brand-new site that my father threw together to let everyone compete in predicting the Oscars. It makes competing with your friends easy.

Be aware – the site is new and isn’t completely polished yet. Hopefully it will look great next year to complement its great backbone.

Did I mention that you could win an Apple iPad for your picks?

Metropolis Restoration

In 1927, Berlin, Classics, Coming Soon, Distribution, Festivals, Fritz Lang, Home Entertainment, News, Silent on February 11, 2010 at 7:45 PM

Exciting news on the film restoration front. Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent classic will be screening at the Berlin International Film Festival Friday night in a new, restored cut.

In July, 2008, film experts discovered a 16 mm reduction of the original cut of the film in Argentina that ran over 210 minutes. As of that time, the best version available was a 126 minute cut available on DVD, but now, after extensive restoration, the film will be shown on the big screen once again.

The current version is much closer to the original cut, although one scene was too badly damaged. Unfortunately, I have never seen the film, but this is an extremely important find for cinema. As a cinephile, it really excites me that such a classic film that once was lost can now be enjoyed in its original form.

As many of us in the states cannot make a trip to Germany for the première, there is hope. It will be broadcast on ARTE in Germany and France, so if you can get that somehow, you can see it that way. Even better, Roger Ebert is reporting that the film will be streamed on the internet via http://j.mp/9SS92S, http://j.mp/9W8Pua, or http://j.mp/dhktCR. At this point, it is unclear which link will be streaming it, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The show starts at 8:15 PM Europe time and the film premieres at 8:40, so tune in around 2:15 Eastern Time. I won’t be able to be there at that time, but I have a friend in Germany who I think can tape it for me.

Hopefully, we will all be able to see this classic film in this new form very soon.

Thanks to Roger Ebert for the tip, via Twitter.

Toy Story 3 Trailer #2

In 2010, Animation, Comedy, Coming Soon, Disney, Family, Lee Unkrich, News, Pixar, Trailers on February 11, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Here’s the new trailer for Toy Story 3:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I cannot wait for this movie. Toy Story, the first computer-animated feature-length film, as well as its sequel, Toy Story 2, were magnificent movies with a real heart and the new installment is looking just as incredible. Pixar is a great studio and I can’t imagine them rushing a story through just to get cash.

Toy Story 3 looks like an even grander adventure than its predecessors, as the toys are sent to a Day Care Center and must get back to their beloved owner, Andy.

Toy Story 3, directed by Lee Unkrich and starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, hits theaters June 18th.

Meet the New Characters in Toy Story 3

In 2010, Animation, Buzz, Comedy, Coming Soon, Disney, Lee Unkrich, News, Pixar on February 10, 2010 at 5:55 PM

Earlier today, Lee Unkrich, director of the upcoming Toy Story 3, posted an intriguing picture of 14 new characters that will be appearing in the film. The film focuses on the toys as they begin a new life at a day care center when their beloved Andy goes to college. Presumably, these new cast members are toys from the day care.

Here’s the image (click to enlarge):

Right now, we can see two new characters, Peas in a Pod and a Ken doll, while the rest are hidden in silhouette. Any guesses as to what any of them will be? Please post your predictions in the comment section below.

Want to Make it Big as a Hollywood Director? Just Be More Like Chris Nolan

In Batman, Buzz, Christopher Nolan, Comic Books, Coming Soon, News, Warner Brothers on February 9, 2010 at 6:30 PM

The interwebs were abuzz this morning after Deadline Hollywood broke the news that Christopher Nolan, acclaimed director of Memento and The Dark Knight is officially on board with a Batman sequel, and has also agreed to oversee the Superman movie that is also in the works at Warner Bros.

Nolan’s return to the franchise, although definitely not unanticipated, was not a sure thing and this story should comfort all of us who love the character. Most likely, the script is getting under way now with David S. Goyer, who recently left his position on ABC’s FlashForward, and Jonathan Nolan writing.

The even bigger news is that of Nolan’s involvement in the Superman reboot. He has agreed to mentor those working on the film, and has not been attached as director, which is very unlikely to happen. I think the guidance he could give on adapting the comics will prove to be very beneficial for the film. However, I do not want a Nolan Superman. While Bruce Wayne is a troubled soul taking justice into his own hands, Clark Kent is a more up-standing citizen and I feel the approach should be entirely different.

In any case, I have my doubts about the Superman reboot, but Nolan’s involvement is bound to help it.

I also would like to point out how Chris Nolan has become more of a classic film director. He started with a small movie, and has now worked his way up the ladder and become an integral part of Warner Bros. He even gave them first dibs on his sci-fi thriller Inception, due in theaters July 16th. If more directors could establish this kind of healthy creative relationship with a studio, everyone would benefit.

Superbowl Movie Trailer Roundup

In News, Sports, Television, Trailers on February 7, 2010 at 7:07 PM

[Due to WordPress.com’s limitations on embedding objects, this post will not display correctly on my homepage, only on the post’s specific page, so please go here to view the videos in their entirety. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

Well, that’s it for Super Bowl 44. Overall, the trailers were good. Not much new but I want to see all but the last two. It was a good game, too. The Colts dominated at the beginning, but the Saints pulled through in the end.

(I blogged these live during the broadcast, hence the reverse chronological order.)

The Crazies (February 26th): This is the first I’ve seen of this zombie flick, a remake of the Romero film of the same name. Like I said, I’m not a horror fan, so I don’t plan on seeing this one. Anyway, it doesn’t look that promising. I didn’t see anything unique in the trailer, but hopefully it will prove me wrong and be another addition to the “zombie renaissance” of the past few years.

The Back-Up Plan (April 23rd): What the hell was that?! That had nothing to do with the movie. There were no plot points, nothing about the main characters, even. I mean, it was some lady giving birth in a kiddy pool. Maybe the film’s audience will like this trailer, but there’s got to be a better marketing strategy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Pacific (March 14th): I realize this isn’t a film, but miniseries are really just a twist on the regular movie format. I never got around to Band of Brothers, but this looks great. It’s incredible how much money people will throw at a project when Spielberg is involved. I mean, this is a 10-part period piece set in World War II and it looks fantastic! Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch this in March. I really should watch more miniseries.

Coming Soon

Alice in Wonderland (March 27th): Tim Burton and “Alice in Wonderland” is a match made in heaven – or some kind of weird Burtonesque netherworld. In this promo we see some more of the characters. Unsurprisingly, Johnny Depp looks great as the Mad Hatter. I’m not digging the whole look of the world, though. While the character designs are brilliant, the backgrounds aren’t convincing, but they’re not fantastical enough to be stylistically interesting, either.

Shutter Island (February 19th): This movie looks amazing. I’m not sure if I would be this excited about it if it wasn’t a Scorsese picture, but this is definitely my most-anticipated film of the year. As for the trailer, we’ve been seeing remixes of the same thing since August, and it still looks incredible.

The Wolfman (February 12th): I’m not a horror fan at all, but I can’t wait for this movie. We’ve seen this footage before, though. I love the classic monster flick vibe and that final shot in the trailer when he turns toward camera in the woods is beautiful.

Robin Hood (May 14th): Russell Crowe reunites with Gladiator helmer Ridley Scott with the legend of Robin Hood. Supposedly, the movie is very historically accurate, but why does that matter for this story. I haven’t been excited about this film, but that trailer looked awesome. Hopefully, it lives up to the likes of Gladiator and Braveheart. On a side note, this this a prequel?

Bonus Section: So, when I was finding the trailers to embed, I came across several sites that claimed that The Last Airbender, Prince of Persia, and Despicable Me had trailers during the Big Game. I’m not sure if this is just bad information or whether I actually missed them. To add to the confusion, sometimes it is unclear whether a post is a prediction of what will air or a list of what did air. In any case, here is a “bonus” section of additional trailers that may or may not have aired.

Prince of Persia (May 28th):

The Last Airbender (July 2nd):

Academy Award Nominations Reactions

In Awards, News on February 3, 2010 at 10:00 PM

On Tuesday, Anne Hathaway and Academy president Tom Sherak announced the nominees for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. With the Best Picture field widened to 10, anticipations were high for a potential reinvigorating of the declining Oscars.

Now, here are the nominees and my thoughts:

Best motion picture of the year
  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up In the Air

Here they are. The 10 Best Picture nominations. I really hope Avatar doesn’t win, but I have a bad feeling about this. Considering the sheer amount of money involved and the amazing technological innovations, the Academy may give it the win without thinking. I was surprised by the nod to The Blind Side. This is definitely the kind of movie that the Academy wants to gain more viewers, but there were several other films that were more deserving of the nomination. The nods to District 9 and A Serious Man were also pleasant surprises. An even bigger surprise, however, was Up. I never thought an animated film would ever get nominated for Best Picture after the addition of Best Animated Film. Up in the Air, The Hurt Locker, and Inglourious Basterds all were locks, and deservedly so. My biggest disappointment was that Duncan Jones’ brilliant Moon, was snubbed. More on the best picture race later in the month.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
  • Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  • Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
  • Carey Mulligan (An Education)
  • Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)
  • Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia)

I was delighted to see that Carey Mulligan, only 24, was nominated for An Education, which I hope to see when it expands this Friday. However, this is mainly a race between Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep. I have yet to see The Blind Side, but I don’t see how Streep’s Julia Child can be beat. However, the glaring omission in this category is Tilda Swinton in Julia. She so becomes the character, it is a great shame she wasn’t nominated.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
  • Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
  • George Clooney (Up In the Air)
  • Colin Firth (A Single Man)
  • Morgan Freeman (Invictus)
  • Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

This is a strange category this year. George Clooney, although very good in Up in the Air, didn’t show anything special. Morgan Freeman has the prestige vote, but the favorite is definitely Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, another film that expands to my area on Friday. I’ll have to see, but Jeremy Renner was excellent as the cocky bomb-squad leader William James. I was disappointed that Matt Damon was not recognized for his incredible transformation in The Informant!, but even more so by the lack of a nomination for Tony Servillo in Il Divo. I understand that the Academy focuses on American films, but I don’t see how you can overlook his masterful performance.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
  • Matt Damon (Invictus)
  • Woody Harrellson (The Messenger)
  • Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
  • Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
  • Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Once again, the Supporting Actor Category is an open-and-shut case. Christoph Waltz will easily get this award, and rightly so. It’s great to see an Austrian get recognized by the Academy.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
  • Penelope Cruz (Nine)
  • Vera Farmiga (Up In the Air)
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
  • Anna Kendrick (Up In the Air)
  • Mo’Nique (Precious)

Wow, two actresses from the same film nominated in the same category! Although Mo’Nique is the favorite, Anna Kendrick was fantastic as the naïve Natalie in Up in the Air.

Best animated feature film of the year
  • Coraline
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • The Secret of Kells
  • Up

This is another sure-fire category. The obvious winner is Up, but, Coraline was also great. In any case, the biggest surprise of the all the awards is The Secret of Kells. I had never even heard about it before Tuesday, but I’m excited to catch it in theaters in March.

Best Documentary Short Subject
  • China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
  • The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
  • The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
  • Music by Prudence
  • Rabbit à la Berlin

Of all the films, these are the most overlooked. Every year, I try to see as many nominated movies as possible and I never know how to see these.

Best Short Film (Animated)
  • French Roast
  • Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
  • The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
  • Logorama
  • A Matter of Loaf and Death
Best Short Film (Live Action)
  • The Door
  • Instead of Abracadabra
  • Kavi
  • Miracle Fish
  • The New Tenants

I am very excited that my local independent theater is showing both the animated and live-action short films as a pack once again this year. I’ll write up my thoughts on the shorts after I see them.

Achievement in art direction
  • Avatar
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Nine
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Young Victoria

I’m very happy to see that Terry Gilliam’s Parnassus got a few nods. It has some tough competition, though with Nine and The Young Victoria.

Achievement in cinematography
  • Avatar, Mauro Fiore
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Bruno Delbonnel
  • The Hurt Locker, Barry Ackroyd
  • Inglourious Basterds, Robert Richardson
  • The White Ribbon, Christian Berger

Now, this is an interesting race. This is a good mix of foreign, big-budget, and medium-sized independent. I’m not sure which I favor, either. Harry Potter was a surprisingly beautiful film, yet Inglourious Basterds was composed in such an awesome style, and The Hurt Locker looked great as well.

Achievement in costume design
  • Bright Star, Janet Patterson
  • Coco before Chanel, Catherine Leterrier
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Monique Prudhomme
  • Nine, Colleen Atwood
  • The Young Victoria, Sandy Powell

Not much to say about this, virtually the same as Art Direction.

Achievement in directing
  • James Cameron (Avatar)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Lee Daniels (Precious)
  • Jason Reitman (Up In the Air)

I have mixed feelings about this category. On the one hand, it was extremely predictable. On the other, it is an excellent group of directors who all deserve credit. Now, many people are calling these five movies the “real” Best Picture nominees. It’s unfortunate that the expanded category could be discredited in this way and I don’t agree with that reasoning.

Best documentary feature
  • Burma VJ
  • The Cove
  • Food, Inc.
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
  • Which Way Home

Here is another Oscar snub. Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore’s biting attack on American consumerist culture. Although Food, Inc. was very enlightening, I think it is overrated as a film. Currently, I have The Cove from Netflix, so I’ll have more to say on this category in the future.

Achievement in makeup
  • Il Divo, Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
  • Star Trek, Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
  • The Young Victoria, Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

I think Il Divo is an interesting choice, but at least it got something. I can see where it’s coming from, though.

Achievement in film editing
  • Avatar, Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
  • District 9, Julian Clarke
  • The Hurt Locker, Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
  • Inglourious Basterds, Sally Menke
  • Precious, Joe Klotz

First, it was interesting to see James Cameron listed for editing. I’m sure he had a large part in the editing process, but should he really be listed as an editor? Overall, all of these are well-deserved, especially District 9 and The Hurt Locker.

Best foreign language film of the year
  • Ajami
  • El Secreto De Sus Ojos
  • The Milk of Sorrow
  • A Prophet
  • The White Ribbon

I’m really lacking in this category, but I plan on seeing The White Ribbon later this onth.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
  • Avatar, James Horner
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox, Alexandre Desplat
  • The Hurt Locker, Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
  • Sherlock Holmes, Hans Zimmer
  • Up, Michael Giacchino

This is one category where I wouldn’t be upset if Avatar won. The music in that movie was epic, but Up was great as well.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
  • “Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • “Down in New Orléans” from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • “Loin de Paname” from Paris 36 Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
  • “Take It All” from Nine Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
  • “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from Crazy Heart Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Achievement in sound editing
  • Avatar, Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
  • The Hurt Locker, Paul N.J. Ottosson
  • Inglourious Basterds, Wylie Stateman
  • Star Trek, Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
  • Up, Michael Silvers and Tom Myers
Achievement in sound mixing
  • Avatar, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
  • The Hurt Locker, Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
  • Inglourious Basterds, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
  • Star Trek, Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson

Transformers does not deserve this award. I have no problem with it winning for special effects, but the film was way too loud.

Achievement in visual effects
  • Avatar, Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
  • District 9, Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
  • Star Trek, Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

Is this really up for debate?

Adapted screenplay
  • Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (District 9)
  • Nick Hornby (An Education)
  • Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche (In the Loop)
  • Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious)
  • Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (Up In the Air)

It’s odd that District 9 is being considered an adapted screenplay. It was an expansion on Blomkamp’s short Alive in Joburg, but considering that it is the same creator, there is no real adaptation going on. In the Loop was hilarious and extremely well-written, but I’m in the process of getting the scripts for these films and I will have a more defined opinion later.

Original screenplay
  • Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman (The Messenger)
  • Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man)
  • Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy (Up)

The Up nomination is surprising, but I like Basterds for this one. Tarantino is one cool dude.

Nominations courtesy of Rope of Silicon.

So, those are my rough thoughts on the nominations. I am now rushing to see as many of these movies as possible. Look for much more Oscar coverage coming soon.

My Best Picture Nominations

In Awards, Features, Lists, News on January 25, 2010 at 10:52 PM

On Friday, the polls closed for the nominations for the Academy Awards. Each of the 5,777 members of the Academy must have had their ballot in by eight o’clock for it to count.

I am not a member of the Academy, but I’m already excited for the Oscars. It’s not really the awards that I love, but the nominations. I love scrambling to see as many nominated films as I can in one month. This year, I got a little ahead of myself and tried preempting the nominations and seeing the films before they were announced. This got me thinking about all the movies I have seen this past year and I decided to create what my nominations would be.

Really, you can think of this as a My Favorite Films of ’09, but I had to think of a clever twist that explains my tardiness.

After pouring through the 274 eligible films, I found that I had seen 36 of them. Before I get to the list, just a few notes: 1:  I’m only considering movies I have actually seen, and there are many on the list that I am dying to see. 2: Foreign Language and Documentary films are included in my list, even though if I was actually a member of the Academy, these would be in their respective categories. 3: These are my favorites, not what I think the Academy at large would pick. And 4: Originally I planned on a quick blurb with each post, but I’m going to save that for closer to the awards ceremony.

On to the list!

#10: Il Divo

#9: District 9

#8: Capitalism: A Love Story

#7: Up

#6: The Hurt Locker

#5: Moon

#4: (500) Days of Summer

#3: Inglourious Basterds

#2: Tetro

#1: Up in the Air



Sundance Review: Bass Ackwards

In 2010, Character-Driven, Distribution, Independent, Linas Phillips, Reviews, Sundance on January 23, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Watching a Film On YouTube

Wow. Technology is awesome: I just finished watching, on YouTube, Bass Ackwards, a film premiering tonight at the Sundance Film Festival. As a part of the festival’s current theme of “rebirth” and their campaign to get away from what Sundance has become in 21st century (As Ebert puts it, “a sort of yuppie tech-head geek consumerist trade show and party animal convention”), five Sundance films, three from 2010, two from last year, are available to rent at YouTube.com/Movies.

Say what you will about how Google has handled YouTube, but this really appealed to me. I wish I could be at Sundance right now, but I just didn’t have the time or money to get there this year. With this streaming deal, I can at least watch a few films from the festival from the comfort of my own home.

So how did it work out? After putting my credit card into Google Checkout, I went to the page for the movie. It looks just like a normal video, except you are prompted that it costs $3.99 to rent the movie. I clicked “Rent” and I was off. Overall, it went well. The quality was very good (720p), but there were some issues with buffering. Several times, the image would stutter and, sometimes, even pause completely. Streaming a film off of the internet is not the ideal format, but enough about how I watched it. How was the film itself?

In Bass Ackwards, Linas (played by Director/Writer Linas Phillips) drives a ’76 Volkswagon bus cross-country and meets some interesting people along the way. This movie was nothing like my expectations. Rather than a quirky, hip indie flick, Bass Ackwards is an honest portrait of how a cross-country journey affects one lonely man.

This is precisely why this film works: Instead of relying on a recycled road movie plot, like the trailer pretends it is, Ass Backwards simply creates a character that we care about and follows him. Other movies that share this quality are Chop Shop and Munyurangabo. These types of films are rare, but utterly refreshing.

The film is also shot beautifully. The transitional scenery along Linas’ travels are impressive considering the film’s low budget. Also, there is a certain magic to the 1976 VW bus. By the end of the movie, it becomes a character of its own.

Where the movie fails slightly is the comedy. There are many funny moments and Alex Karpovsky is hilarious as a gas station manager, but overall the film falls somewhere in this gray area between drama and comedy, which many movies fall into, but the mixture just isn’t quite right.

In spite of this flaw, Bass Ackwards is a very good film with some great vignettes and a solid emotional core.

Trailer: Buried

In Coming Soon, News, Rodrigo Cortés, Sundance, Thrillers & Mystery/Suspense, Trailers on January 21, 2010 at 9:20 PM

Here’s the new teaser trailer for Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds and… no one else. This intriguing film puts Paul Conroy (Reynolds) alone, buried in a coffin. Armed with only a cell phone and a lighter, he must try to get out before his oxygen runs out.

I’m very interested in how this will play out. Even if Reynolds is able to hold his own (which is no small feat), so much could go wrong with this film. The thing that worries me most is how boring this movie could look. There’s only so many angles you can use in such a confining space.

I doubt it will get a very good distribution deal, but hopefully it will get something.

Ryan Reynolds Selected to Play Hal Jordan

In Casting, Comic Books & Superheroes, News on July 10, 2009 at 9:10 PM

Whew! Those scary rumors of Justin Timberlake as Green Lantern can be gone. Still, though, I’m not terribly excited about this choice either. I really hope that this doesn’t interfere with his Deadpool film, which he is perfect for.

Variety reported earlier today that Ryan Reynolds has been selected to play Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, in the upcoming film. Production is set to begin January.

This has potential to be great. Green Lantern, one of my favorite heroes, can be translated into a great movie – but only when done right. But with Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) directing, maybe this could work out very well.

What do you think? Are you getting excited for the Green Lantern movie?

10 Theaters to 2,890: The Story of Slumdog Millionaire

In Awards, Box Office, Danny Boyle, Distribution, Features, Foreign Language, Fox Searchlight, Independent, News, Reviews, The Forum, Warner Brothers on February 23, 2009 at 8:12 AM
(This is an article I wrote earlier in the year for another publication. I have estimated a date and added it here late so please excuse any time discrepancies.)

Three months ago, a relatively small film opened in only ten theaters. As of March 9, it has earned 222 million dollars worldwide and is playing on 2,890 screens in the US. How did a movie with such humble beginnings go on to become such a smash?

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal Malik, who grew up in the slums of Dharavi, India with his brother Salim. He is one question away from winning 20 million rupees on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? when he is arrested under suspicion of cheating.

The movie debuted at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30. On September 7, it played at the Toronto International Film Festival where it won the People’s Choice Award.

After playing at several other festivals, “Slumdog” opened on November 12 and earned 33 thousand dollars on opening day. As positive word-of-mouth spread, the film was expanded and, by Christmas, “Slumdog” was playing in 614 theaters and had grossed 15 million dollars. Positive reviews and many awards, including four Golden Globes, generated even more buzz and it continued to perform well throughout January, even though theaters had begun to drop off. On January 22, it was still playing on 582 screens. Then it was nominated for the 81st Annual Academy Awards – ten times. The very next day, “Slumdog” expanded to 1,411 screens and grossed almost 3 million dollars. So what was the key to its success?

Let’s get one thing straight. Slumdog Millionaire is a fantastic movie. Beyond the intriguing story, the editing and score really make this film stand out. However, there are many great movies that did terribly at the box office. What made “Slumdog” different?

First of all, there are four major groups of people that saw this movie. First are the committed independent film fans who try to see any good movie outside of the mainstream. This group would have seen “Slumdog” either at a film festival or early in its theatrical run. The second group contains the movie buffs. This group just loves movies and probably started to hear about SM in November or December. The third group are the more casual movie fans who went to see the movie as award season really picked up. The fourth group is composed of the “normal” people who heard about “Slumdog” on the news or the internet and were intrigued enough to see the movie. This group is most interesting due to the fact that they usually don’t see anything outside of the mainstream. What special qualities caused so many people to go see this at the theater?

The unique storyline is definitely the prime contribution to this “X-Factor.” The use of flashbacks is particularly well-designed in the film, unlike many flashback sequences. Usually, flashbacks break continuity or appear too corny. On the other hand, a well-implemented flashback is hard to come by. Citizen Kane, Forrest Gump, and The Godfather Part II all use the tecnique to great effect.
Further, the blend of a mainstream, English movie with the novelty of a foreign film makes “Slumdog” much more accessible to a mainstream American audience. Finally, a much more Hollywood-esque story [a classic romance], while still a good one, separated Slumdog Millionaire from many other independent films that focus on more complex subject matter.

These factors not only led to fantastic box office performance, but to a stunning eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Slumdog Millionaire is a unique movie that blends independent filmmaking with a captivating storyline, foreign elements, Hollywood-style romance, and one Bollywood-style musical. It is also an example of a relatively small movie which blossomed into both a critical and box office hit.