14
Aug
12

Lawless (dir. John Hillcoat)

Synopsis: Set during the Prohibition-era, three brothers who run a bootlegging business are threatened by authorities, who want in on their profits.

Starring: Tom Hardy,
 Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska

Release Date: August 31st

Set during the backdrop of America’s most notorious crime wave, Lawless is a Gangster/Western blend that is based on a true story. Combined with an array of acting talent (..ranging from new generation actors, to veteran actors), it seems like this could be one of the more interesting gangster films to look out for this year.

One of the many reasons why I like these type of films is because as a period drama,  they serve the duel purpose of being entertaining and historically educating. In this case, we’re looking at the Prohibition era- A time in American history that dealt with economic issues (the great depression) environmental problems (constant dust storms),  and a growing imbalance between the rich and the poor. Within the mix of these problems comes the Bonudrant Brothers – Bootlegging siblings who redefined the American dream by selling unlicensed alcohol.  What’s interesting about the Bonudrant Brothers is that they aren’t the higher class, Al Capone, Jon Dillinger type gangsters who were living wealthy lives. They’re lower-end gangsters, who remain in the backwoods, away from society. Falling into the poorer category of society, these are the type of men who are ultimately willing to suffer the consequences of violence in order to become successful.

What makes this stand out to me is that most gangster films these days tend to be action-driven. Lawless will place a stronger focus on the characters, who have been described as being richly defined and therefore, more  engaging with the audience. To break it down briefly, Tom Hardy is playing Forrest Bondurant, the quintessential “quiet leader” who has taken on the patriarchal responsibilities of the family. Hardy is definitely a good choice, as he shows a lot of range as an actor. According to the director, John Hillcoat, Hardy wanted to explore the softer side of Forrest’s character, allowing for more emotional depth. Shia LaBeouf plays Jack Bondurant, the youngest of the brother and also the more wilder one of the three. As stated by Hillcoat, Jack is described as someone “who experiences every single emotion, from rage and despair to total joy and happiness”. Although I find Shia annoying at times, he shows a lot of energy as an actor and thats the type of presence  needed for the younger and more naive of the siblings. (Below, I’ll provide an info chart that I found, which describes the character’s more in detail).

I think the film’s title goes beyond the Bonudrant Brothers being lawless criminals. We’ll also see how the authority figures during that time period were also corrupt and willing to bend the rules in order to find the American dream (…err, their own version of it).

Sidenote:

If your interested, check out the director of the film, John Hillcoat. His last two films (The Proposition and The Road) are awesome and I would highly suggest them! If you want to find out more about him here’s his IMDB link.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0384825/

…Here’s some information regarding the characters.

24
Aug
12

The Sessions (dir. Ben Lewin)

Synopsis:  A 38 year old paralyzed man who wishes to lose his virginity contacts his therapist and priest in order to help him find a sex surrogate.

Starring: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H Macy

Release: October 26th

Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, The Sessions was one of Sundance’s biggest hits (along with Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was talked about in one of my previous posts).  In particular, the film has been praised for its acting performances and emotional grip that it maintains with the audience throughout the film. I’ll keep this post short, since I don’t know much about this film myself . Regardless, heres what i think.

Based on a true story, Mark O’Brien was a poet and paralyzed polio survivor who had been confined to his iron lung for twenty years. At the age of 38, he finally confronted his priet and therapist, in order to hire a sex surrogate for himself (..as he is  still a virgin due to his physical limitations). During O’Brien’s sessions, he wrote about his experiences in an article and he eventually wrote a book titled How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man’s Quest for Independence.

In the film adaptation of O’Brien’s journey to lose his virginity, Ben Lewin serves as the director in this light-hearted comedy.  John Hawkes plays Mark O’Brien,  William H. Macy plays his priest/therapist  and Helen Hunt plays the sex surrogate.

Now, some people might be wondering, who the hell is John Hawkes? Some may know of him but for then most part, he’s gone unnoticed for many viewers and critics- Until the past two years. In 2010, he played a meth addict in Winter’s Bone and in 2011, he played an antagonizing cult leader in Martha Mary May Marlene. Both performances were regarded as pyschologically dark and gritty, resulting in an Oscar nomination for his work in Winter’s Bone.

This is one of these films where you really have to appreciate the actor’s performance. I’ve always given a higher level of respect for actors who play mentally or physically impaired characters. Hawkes plays someone who is paralyzed from the neck down, which means he is physically limited when it comes to conveying actions and emotions. 

That being said, from an emotional perspective,  Hawke’s portrayal will  draw the audience in, as we catch an inside glimpse of what it is like to be a man who is able to shine through life, despite his limitations.  The only missing link is his ultimate desire to know what it is like to be with a woman. On that note, It’ll explore the way in which sex is with a doubt, part of humanity and can ultimately help us explore who we are. That doesn’t mean it’ll just be about having sex- It’ll also explore the intimate connection that can occur between human beings, no matter how different they are.

Concluding thought- Just because I mentioned Hawke’s peformance doesn’t mean I won’t be considering Helen Hunt and William H. Macy’s performances. Both are fine actors and I’m hoping to see some great chemistry between all of them in this film.

If your interested, here’s a link to John Hawke’s IMDB page.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0370035/

01
Aug
12

the bourne legacy (dir. tony gilroy)

Synopsis: A new super-spy agent named Aaron Cross  gets caught up in a deadly situation that has been triggered by the events of the first three  Bourne films.

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Albert Finney

Release Date: August 10th

Background Info: The Story

In this next edition to the Bourne series, the story will be  loosely based on Eric Van Lustbader’s novel titled The Bourne Legacy, which appears much later in the Bourne series. The events that occur will run parallel to the events that take place in The Bourne Ultimatum. Instead of having Jason Bourne as our super-spy protagonist, we are introduced to a  new agent who goes by the name of Aaron Cross.   Whereas Bourne was part of the CIA’s Treadstone project, Cross is one of the six agents who is involved with another project codenamed Outcome. Within this program,  the Department of Defence has trained agents to be suitable for high-risk  assignments. As a result of Jason Bourne’s identity being revealed to the public (..the link to Ultimatum)  the DOD and Col. Eric Byers (..played by Edward Norton) take  preliminary action by destroying the Outcome program and anyone involved in it. Cross and a medical researcher (..played by Rachel Weisz) abandon the program, leaving  Byers to go on a global manhunt for the rogue agent.

What Makes This Film Intriguing

The overarching theme behind the film will explore the idea of government conspiracies and not being fully informed of what is going on around us.  This would  ultimately lead to characters like Cross being pawns who are controlled by the government. At first, many might think this is repetitive material (…in terms of the previous Bourne entries). However, what I think will make this intriguing and worth seeing is the idea that there is an expansion to the Bourne universe outside of Jason Bourne’s story. Theres also the consequences that occur from Bourne’s actions and that’s what we’ll be seeing in this film. As the story unravels, it’ll expand on the Bourne series and the audience will be able to connect the events that have occured in The Bourne Ultimatum. Maybe it’ll even provide the oppurtunity for  Jason Bourne to reappear somewhere down the road.. (Not in this film, but in future entries…)

New Characters in the Bourne Series

With a new expansion comes a new set of characters.  The actor’s they’ve rounded up seem like they’ll be enjoyable to watch in their respected roles. In recent years, Jeremy Renner has held down his own as an amazing actor who shows  great screen presence in terms of being a dramatic actor and an action-star.  People shouldn’t see him as a “Matt Damon replacement” but as more of a new edition to the series. His performances in The Hurt Locker and The Town were nothing short of spectacular so I’m almost certain he’ll be as enjoyable to watch as a super-spy. A plus factor is that Renner’s physically fit for the role, performing his own stunt work and going through extensive training in order to get into character.  The primary antagonist in the film is a characater named Eric Byer (..played by Edward Norton). He has been described as a CIA architect who’s plans  go beyond the usual intentions of an antagonist. As I stated in my blog for Moonrise Kingdom, Norton hasn’t been in too many films recently. He’s always showed a lot of versatility as an actor so molding him as the antagonist should be no problem. Not only that, but I’m looking forward to seeing Norton and Renner go toe-to-toe. Lastly, Rachel Weisz plays Stephanie Snyder, a doctor who helped create the Outcome agents. Like Cross, she is also wanted by the government. She’ll also serve as Cross’  love interest.

Overall, I think die-hard Bourne fans will like this a lot. I’m hoping this is the start of a semi-continuation of the Bourne series (…whatever you want to call it). I must say, it would be awesome to see Damon and Renner together in a Bourne film. Maybe there will be an open-ended ending which suggests so…

25
Jul
12

Beasts of the Southern Wild (dir. Benh Zeitlin)

Director: Benh Zeitlin

Staring: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry

Synopsis: Hushpuppy is  six year old  girl whos father is unable to proect her due to a mytserious illness that he contracts. Soon after, temperatures rise and the polar ice caps melt, releasing an army or prehistoric creatures known as the aurochs. With the rising water and invasion of the aurochs,  Hushpuppy goes on a journey to find her long lost mother.

Coming right from Sundance, Beasts of the Southern Wild has been an out-of-leftfield hit that critics have been very receptive about due to its visually stunning cinematography, bizarre folk-like story, musical score, set designs and acclaimed performance by non-actor Quvenzhane Wallis.

The film starts off within a small bayou community called “The Bathtub”, an area which has been cut off from the rest of society and has resulted in a high level of poverty and neglect.  What is interesting about this setting is the inspiration behind it. Benh Zeitlin (..the director) was strongly influenced by Louisiana, which in some parts has become flooded and ravished.  In recent years, communities within Louisana who reside close to the marshland have become stubborn and unwilling to go inland and this was something that intrigued Zeitlin.

Okay, cool…but why go see it?

I think this will be an interesting watch due to the film’s unique atomosphere and environment. Personally, I’m a fan of films that expose urban decay. I think it’s gritty and shows a side of realism which exposes the truth of modern society (I.e, people living within the margins of society). This film won’t exactly be defined by a sense of realism, but will be unique nonetheless. The swamp-like environment, junkyard inspired locations and lack of technological advancements will help bring a fresh perspective to my idea of what urban decay is.  All of which is beautifully defined through the attention-to-detail cinematography provided throughout the film.

Here’s some photos to help visualize my description.

In terms of the storyline,  the director claims he wanted to make a populist film that would be relative and transferable to all types of audiences. It is intended to be a film which answers the question: “What is at the end of the road?”. On that note, the film has been described as being a combination of apocalyptic and folk-like. After numerous pre-screenings, critics have commented by saying that the film doesn’t fall short of being unique and inspirational.

After learning about the main character, Hushpuppy, it seems like there will be a unique character study being provided here. We’re seeing a young girl who’s been described as the last of her kind. She’s young and therefore, unknowledgable about the plagued world around her. After being thrown into a civilization which is at the end of its existence, she is naive- believing that the very nature around her will end up consuming her. However as the film progresses, she explores nature and eventually comes to terms with everything. To top it off, apparently Quvenzhane Wallis’ performance is nothing short of spectactular and has been gaining recognition by numerous critics..

So if your looking to see a film which is out of the ordinary and will enlighten you, this may be the pick for you.  I know I’m a little late with his up-coming film as it appears it is already being screened through some public theatres. If your in Toronto and your interested in seeing this film, it’s being screened at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. I’ll probably be checking it out sometime this week.

On a sidenote..

  It comes to no surpise that this film has been described as having folk-like elements. The director’s parents were folklorists and his last two short films were also inspired by folk-like tales. On a sidenote, His 2005 short film titled Egg is an odd and disturbing retelling of Moby Dick. Here’s the link to it if your interested http://www.myspace.com/video/vid/1309703760.

14
Jul
12

The Dark Knight Rises (dir. Christopher Nolan)




Synopsis: Eight years after Batman took the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes, a new terrorist leader named Bane overwhelms Gotham City. As a result,  the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard and my homie, Morgan Freeman

Release: July 20th

Where to begin, well how about, holy crap, it’s about time. Christopher Nolan returns with the third entry (…and conclusion) to his Batman trilogy. To recap the series in a brief manner, Batman Begins  helped revamp the cinematic Batman experience by introducing a darker and more realistic perspective on the Batman story. Not only that, but it brought a more thorough understanding to the origins of Batman and how the caped crusader came to be. Next in line was The Dark Knight. Now that Batman had become an established hero amongst Gotham City, he was given the task of facing the Joker, while trying to fight off the police (..who labelled him as a masked vigilante).  Which much anticipation, the third entry to Nolan’s Batman series is sure to be a grandiose cinematic experience. Here’s what I think about it…

The hype behind this film is pretty intense. I mean, after seeing Heath Ledger take on a fresh, gritty portrayal of the Joker and being blown away by amazingly
choreographed action scenes, one would have to wonder how Christopher Nolan would be able to top his second entry in the series.  From what we’ve seen in the trailers, the snippets of action scenes seem like they’ll be on par with the The Dark Knight. Then again, that’s just the trailer so I can’t be absolutely certain. It almost looks like Nolan’s trying to go above and beyond…I.e, having a bomb detonate beneath a football field, forcing the whole foundation to cave in.  In terms of new characters, Nolan has introduced a new villain (Bane) who will not only test Batman’s wits mentally, but physically as well.  This is something that we haven’t seen in the previous entries, as the Joker was undoubtably a criminal mastermind but probably couldn’t bench 140 pounds if his life depended on it (weird image of that just popped in my head).

Story Line

I’m hoping the story is just as good as The Dark Knight. It’s been eight years since Batman’s disappearance, so there’s probably been a gradual increase in crime once again. The story will probably have a strong focus on how Bruce Wayne redeems his falsely accused image as the caped crusader by saving the city from Bane’s attempt to bring urban warfare amongst the city. There will also probably be some interesting subplots which will help establish the origins of new characters, such as Bane and Catwoman (Selina Kyle). Overall, I’m confident that people will walk out the theatre satisfied.

Brief Character Breakdown

Bane

As stated above, Bane is different because he is physically superior to Batman so theres no doubt that Batman’s gonna get pummelled in.  The last cinematic portrayal of Bane was weak…really weak and really inaccurate as well. He was dumb as nails, green and lacked vocabulary, only saying his name “BAANEEE!!” and flexing his muscles until his purple veins popped out of his biceps.  Nolan’s going to fix the true image of Bane. He is a criminal mastermind who is mentally and physically capable of taking on Batman. Although his background is rather mysterious, we’ll get the chance to learn about his past life (..where he came from, why he has the breathing apparatus) and what actually drives his motivation to bring destruction amongst Gotham City.  In terms of his physical looks, I think he looks awesome. Nolan’s made him look as realistic as possible. His military look compliments that factor nicely. Although people seem annoyed at his voice, I like it. It makes him sound more menacing and evil. 

Catwoman (Selina Kyle)

The last cinematic portrayal of Catwoman was also poorly done. It was basically
Halle Berry running around half naked jumping on walls, hissing at cats and meowing. In this new portrayal, Catwoman is described as an associate of  Bane. She abides by her own code of ethics   and in that sense, she does anything she needs to survive. When she’s not in costume form, she comes off as your classic femme fatale, adding a level of mysteriousness to her character.  In terms of her looks, Nolan’s strayed away from her costume having a cat design (..Nothing against the classic design, but this is a fresh perspective on it) and more towards her looking like an actual burglar. What intrigued me most at first was seeing her use the Batpod, a vehicle in which Batman used in the last half of The Dark Knight. I’m interested to see how her association with Bane and Batman all ties together.

Batman

Whereas in The Dark Knight, Batman had become an estbalished hero (..But a vigilante to the police), we’re going to be seeing a torn up Bruce Wayne who’s become older and doesn’t have the same playboy image he had in the previous Batman films. Christian bale described it best in a recent interview, “He’s filled with remorse, he’s become a recluse, he’s given up and completely quit” (http://www.nme.com/filmandtv/news/christian-bale-on-the-dark-knight-rises-batman/275326). What this means is that Bruce Wayne will be internally battling his alter ego, Batman while Batman is battling Bane. Once he makes the transition back into Batman, he’ll have to re-establish his name and become the hero he once was.

New Gear

Similar to The Dark Knight , we’ll get to see some new technology, as provided by Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman). As seen from the trailer, this film will introduce us to the “Batplane” (…or also known as “The Bat”) which is a sleek black,  military inspired plane. We’ll also be able to see a revamped bat cave (…Last seen in Batman Begins), which has been described as an underground, desolate labyrinth. I’ve read that the cave will be flooded with water and when activated, a supercomputer and all of his equipment will rise from the water. Sounds pretty cool to me. We’ll probably be seeing a lot of new gadgets as the movie progresses (I.e, look to the image on the right).

Here’s a small clip of when we will first see “The Bat”

With every great origin story has to come an ending which was just as good as the introduction. As proven previously, it’s tough to pull of a good third entry in a trilogy but in this case, I’m confident it can be done.

…Okay I’m done jabbering my jaw now.

28
Jun
12

Ted (dir. Seth MacFarlane)

Synopsis: John Bennett’s teddy bear, Ted, comes to life due to a childhood wish. As John and Ted grow older, their friendship is tested when Lori, John’s girlfriend of four years, plans to take their relationship to the next step.

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane

Release Date: June 29th

Here’s the uncensored trailer..much better.

Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) makes his live-action directorial debut with his first full length feature. I’m almost 100% that if you like Family Guy,  you’ll like this. I’ve heard it’s got everything that Family Guy has, ranging  from over-the-top foul content, pop-culture references and odd flashback scenes. However, this may go above and beyond Family Guy because Seth MacFarlane has been able to outwit the limitations of television content by doing a movie instead (..and its Rated-R!). That means we’ll be seeing a lot of raunchy humour, foul language, racism and sexism. It also means that if your not a fan of that particular type of humour, this may not be the movie for you. Nonetheless, place a pot-smoking, womanizing teddy bear in the mix and we have a recipe for comedy.

Breaking down the story, Mark Wahlberg plays John Bennett, a man who once made a childhood wish to have his teddy bear, Ted  (…played by Seth MacFarlane), come to life. 27 years  later, John and Ted still live together and John also has a long term relationship with a girl named Lori (played by Mila Kunis). Lori feels that Ted is getting in the way of their relationship and that John needs to “grow up”. As a result, Ted is forced to go leave and embrace the world on his own. From that point onwards,  a series of crazy events  occur  including; drug abusing with celebrities , a kidnapping and a car chase. Hopefully hilarity will ensue.

In terms of the cast, Mark Wahlberg has proven he can do comedy (..as seen in The Other Guys with Will Ferrell). Wahlberg plays a grown man who appears to be going through some type of adulthood crisis. I feel like the most humorous parts will come from the interaction between John and Ted, in which Ted seems like he is always capable of triggering John’s childhood intuitions. Mila Kunis is always a good supporting female and love interest to throw into the mix. She started off in comedy, so we’ll be seeing her do what she does best in this….

…And of course, there’s probably the most intriguing character, Ted. I’m already

hearing from people how Ted sounds exactly like Peter Griffin and “It’s like Peter Griffin in teddy bear form”. Honestly, I don’t really care, its entertainment. Get over it. Anyways, steering away from the potential controversy, Ted is described as a drug-addicted and perverted teddy bear.  Ted will most likely serve as the devil on John’s shoulder. Personally, I think the “Peter Griffin” voice suits Ted because it contrasts his cute teddy bear image by giving him a deep masculine, grown-man’s voice.

I’m interested to see what the cheimsitry will be like between Wahlberg and MacFarlane (two pairings which I thought would never work alongside eachother). Based on the trailers, I’ve definitely seen some good interactions between the two actors. Ted’s quick and nimble wit goes well with John’s child-like personality,  which appears to come out once the two start hanging out and reminiscing (…a nod to Wahlberg in terms of acting performance).

John: “I’m taking Lori to dinner. You don’t think she’s going to expecting something big, do you?”

Ted: “What?! Like anal?”

..haha

Something to think about when watching…

Maybe (just maybe) there’ll be a deeper message behind the movie. One that explores the idea of what happens when certain people finally give up that one childhood thing they always held on to. Maybe in the end, John will learn to balance his inner childhood cravings with his some-what desire to be more of an adult. After all, sometimes it’s fun to be immature. Mature people are just too serious and boring..yuck.

20
Jun
12

Big Easy Express (dir. Emmett Malloy)

Synopsis: Indie folk heroes Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Tennessee’s Old Crow Medicine Show, and Britain’s acclaimed Mumford & Sons, climbed aboard a beautiful vintage train in California, setting out for New Orleans, Louisiana on a “tour of dreams”. The resulting film from this journey is nothing short of magical.

Director:  Emmett Malloy

I was going to write about a film called Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, but was skeptical on it because I don’t think it’ll be as good as intended. Instead I decided I would write a short, quick blog on this documentary.

This seems like it could be an interesting watch for people who are into the new age indie folk scene that is flourishing right now. Basically we have three indie folk bands taking it back to the railroad days by relying on a vintage train to help them tour from California to New Orleans and  make stops throughout six different cities along the way.

It’s a short watch, only 55 minutes and I think thats perfect for this type of documentary because if it were any longer, it could get repetitive and boring. Aside from that, here’s what I think based on the trailer. To start off, this documentary seems like its part musical and part road movie. The  live performances look intriguing (I.e, Mumford and Sons playing with a marching band). These bands look like they put so much energy into their live performances so the viewers will be able to get an up close view of the bands performing and the joyous crowds who have come to celebrate their music. We’ll also be able to see some intimate behind-the-scene interviews and footage of the bands, whether they’re talking about music or just having some laughs. I’m also sure we’ll  see some collaborative efforts done as well. On top of that, it looks like there will be some beautiful American cinematography that’ll capture an array of landscapes ranging from high canyons to beautiful blue skies.

To sum it up, what we’ll witness is the birth of a new musical era that is starting to finally gain more notice throughout the world. It’s clear to see that these guys eat, breath and sleep music. Overall, it seems like a good opportunity to catch an inside glimpse of how dedicated these guys are at their craft.




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