Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An all-star cast set for Christopher Nolan's "Inception"

Pictured here is Ken Watanabe, now a member of the cast of Christopher Nolan's upcoming project "Inception." He's got a glare going here that puts Jason Statham to shame. Photo courtesy of Getty Images and the Hollywood Reporter.

Anyone who's been reading this blog so far knows that I love a good sci-fi story, which is why I'm a little confused as to why this is the first I've heard of this news. From Borys Kit of the Hollywood Reporter:

Ken Watanabe and Tom Hardy are
boarding Christopher Nolan's "Inception" for Warner Bros.

The story, which Nolan wrote, is a contemporary sci-fi actioner set
within the architecture of the mind, with
Leonardo DiCaprio as
a CEO type. Watanabe will play the film's villain, a man who is blackmailing

Hardy is a member of DiCaprio's team. The duo join a cast that includes Joseph
, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page and Marion

Watanabe's deal reunites him with Nolan, with whom he collaborated on
2005's "Batman Begins."Nolan and the studio are aiming for a summer shoot ahead
of a 2010 release. Nolan and Emma Thomas are producing through their
Warners-based Syncopy Films shingle.

A sci-fi action movie, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Ellen Page, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy AND Joseph Gordon-Levitt?

Right now, I don't have a whole lot information on this. Until I get a glimpse of the trailer, however, I think this movie just might be worth the price of admission for the incredibly awesome cast alone. It's not often you get so much talent together like that. Wow.

So yeah, hopefully more on this as it develops.

"What I'm saying is, when the president does it, it's not illegal."

Well, I feel like a huge idiot tonight. At the same time, I also feel somewhat enriched.

All the way back in December, I had passed on checking out Frost/Nixon. Part of the reason was the fact that I didn’t have a huge amount of money on me (and still don’t), but another part of it was my dismissal of the film as blatant Oscar bait. I was ultimately right when I thought about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire in this way.

But I was so, so very wrong about this film.

As you can guess, I just saw this film on DVD today. I was treated to it by my professor, Dr. Jonathan Silverman, as a reward for getting all the way through his Feature Writing class. While it does have some moments that, at first glance, seem to say, “I’ll have 10 Oscars please,” there really aren’t enough to slap this film with that label. This is probably the best film I’ve seen about the 1970s American media grilling Nixon like a juicy tenderloin since All The President’s Men.

Expressive hand gestures can't save you this time, Nixon. Photo courtesy of Universal Studios.

Directed by Ron Howard and written by Peter Morgan, this film is a re-telling of the story behind the television interviews that British TV host David Frost (Michael Sheen) held with former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella). As you can guess, these were the interviews where Nixon pretty much admitted what he did, after just about everyone in America at the time had called him out on it. It is kind of weird how the movie is shot. It’s sort of a faux-documentary, so instead of the actual people involved speaking on the subject, we get actors playing the people involved reading off what they wrote.

Things start to get heated between the interviewer and the interviewee. Still courtesy of Film School Rejects.

There was probably a lot of guess-work done by the writers, I can’t really comment on how accurate everything is. The pacing, however, was pitch-perfect. It seems that the movie gets tired of Nixon stonewalling Frost around the same time we do, and it immediately cuts to the good stuff. It’s great, it really is. This screenplay was patched together so well that it’s almost seamless. The fantastic cast just makes it even better. The banter between James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell) and Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) makes for some engaging comic relief, and Caroline Cushing (Rebecca Hall), while not really having too many lines, shines pretty brightly, at least for the first and second acts. Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) was played off as one of the scariest hard-asses I’ve ever seen in a film like this. I also love how Langella and Sheen played both their characters. They set it up like a debate club version of Rocky. Frost is just getting devastated for the first three rounds, but of course we all know he comes back around to win it in the last round, and he does it with a new-found sense of dignity. In a way, Nixon was really asking for it. Speaking of him, this has to be one of the most human visions of Nixon I’ve seen in recent years. When watching this film, one really gets a good idea of just how much he was robbed at last year’s Oscars.

Seen here is David Frost mackin-er, I mean, working on his interviewing skills with a Ms. Caroline Cushing. Photo courtesy of Universal Studios.

So thank you, Dr. J. This just may be the last time I dismiss a movie because of over-hyping alone.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Did you like No Country for Old Men?

I ask this, of course, because I just got the news that yet another Cormac McCarthy novel is being translated to film.

This time around, it's The Road, the story of a post apocalyptic world and the journey of a father and son across a barren landscape in search of, well, anything. Written back in 2006, the story apparently was a best seller with a ton of good reviews, which doesn't surprise me considering the influence this guy must have now.

The movie is apparently slated to come out in November. It's being directed by John Hillcoat, a relative unknown who so far has only done a bunch of music videos. It'll be interesting how this turns out.

Hey, at least the cinematography so far looks promisingly gritty. I apologize if that makes no sense, it's 3 AM and I can barely form coherent sentences right now.

Honestly, I've never read the book, but I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction, so this might be at least a rental for me. Also, it has Viggo Mortensen, and it's good to see he's still getting some big roles. What can I say, the guy doesn't get nearly enough credit.

In this update, Ellen Wong is adorable

Remember that Scott Pilgrim movie I talked about a while back?

Well now, not only do you get the privilege of seeing the production unfold on Edgar Wright's photoblog, but now that the movie is officially in production, he's set up a video blog as well. You can see it here.

While we're at it, here's his most recent entry:

This is Blog Five - From Comic Book Panel to Screen - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World from Scott Pilgrim The Movie on Vimeo. Footage courtesy of Universal Studios.

I really, really adore Ellen Wong and her strong enthusiasm about the project. So far, all she's had to say about this movie is just how much she loves the fact that she's doing it, and unlike some big name feigning excitement about being in the latest superhero flick, it actually sounds honest. Cera's been rather tongue in cheek when addressing the movie in these videos, but come on, it doesn't take rocket science to see that he is just loving this right now.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a gratuitous production shot of Mary Elizabeth Winstead in character as Ramona Flowers. That is one big hammer. Photo courtesy of Edgar Wright and Universal Studios.

In any case, I'm happy to see that Wright is making a conscientious effort to stay true to the source material, but I understand the nature of adaptation. You cut out what doesn't work, shorten and streamline. That's the way it is, that's how you make an adaptation that sells tickets, and sicne I love the comics to death I'm still hoping that this is A. good and B. sells as many tickets as possible. Like I said before, O' Malley (the creator of Scott Pilgrim) only has one shot at this whole movie thing after all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Disney's Return to 2D: The Princess and the Frog

This has been news for quite some time now, but in this case it is worth bringing up again because guess what?

Apple now has the trailer up on their website.

You can view it in HD here.

Here's the old teaser for it too, just in case you've forgotten about it.

This movie seems very, very promising, like it will get people really thinking about Disney again. The trailer in particular seems to be very good at rousing people's interest. It isn't really clear what exactly is going on. Is she a princess, or just wearing a costume for a party? Did she just turn into a frog herself? How much of the movie is going to be like that?

It looks as if it will be an interesting take on the original fairy tale, for sure. For Disney's sake, though, I hope it is as entertaining as all of the Pixar movies they've distributed in recent years.

Read more about this movie at Disney's official website, here.

Trekking from Star to Star

Capt. Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy show us just how this movie will make audiences feel. Cartoon courtesy of Kate Beaton.

People who generally shy away from overly convoluted science fiction might think this film is simply not for them. In addition, hardcore Trekkies seem all the more ready to dismiss this film as not being “real” Star Trek.

I’m going to say this as clearly as I can. You are both wrong, and both of you should see this movie as soon as possible.

Directed by rising sci-fi star J.J. Abrams, this movie is, in short, the chronicle of James T. Kirk’s (Christopher Pine) beginnings as the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. It also tells the story of how the rest of the crew came to be as well. On the side, we have the story of Nero, a Romulan miner who takes it upon himself to exact revenge against a race of aliens known as the Vulcans, whom Nero holds responsible for the destruction of his home planet Romulus, specifically a very intelligent Vulcan known as Spock (Zachary Quinto). It soon becomes the Enterprise’s mission to stop Nero from doing any further damage to the rest of their galaxy, especially Earth. It’s worth noting that this film is set in an alternate universe from the main one.

OK, first off, the special effects? Absolutely amazing. The fact that the cinematography is so good to begin with pretty much enhances this. That may sound a little redundant when discussing a movie written by the guys who handled Transformers, but still, they were incredible. Everything, from the space dive to the U.S.S. Kelvin charging towards Nero’s ship to Sulu using his “combat skills” to kick some Romulan ass, looks streamlined. Even the bridge of the Enterprise (and no, I don’t care that it has the “Apple Store” look. Actually, I think it kind of suits it). It helps a whole bunch that the special effects really shine during the action scenes, which are quite plentiful in this re-imagining.

Speaking of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, honestly, the script isn’t the best it could be. To put it frankly, if it weren’t for Abrams’ skills as a director, this film probably wouldn’t be making as much money at the box office as it has been. The decisions they made while writing some scenes aren’t too bad though. Some of the time travel stuff opens up a plothole or two, but that’s forgivable since we’re dealing with Star Trek science here. Actually, most moviegoers should be thanking them for doing that, because it helped shed this franchise of the long, boring, low-budget continuity that had dragged down previous recent Trek movies. The relationship between Uhura and Spock doesn’t really go anywhere, although it does serve to develop their characters a bit more. My main issue, however, was with some of the lines. Hearing Uhura say “captain” in a stern tone every time Kirk gave an order grated on me a bit, and it wouldn’t have hurt for Sulu and Scotty to get a few more lines. Luckily, the few lines that they have make up for that by working so well in their given scenes.

Captain Kirk (Christopher Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) get in a bit of a scrap here. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

The performances in this film are great as well. What’s very admirable about all of them is that each of the main cast’s performances manages to stay true to their respective characters, without being imitations of their predecessors. For example, Quinto definitely channels Leonard Nimoy in his performance as Spock, but he puts a much more serious spin on the character. While it was probably tough for Pine to turn Kirk into a bad boy, he manages to do it while keeping the character so recognizably Kirk. Everyone else was pretty perfect as well. Zoe Saldana captures the spirit of Uhura, Simon Pegg adds a welcome comedic twist to the character of Scotty, and John Cho does a great job of re-inventing the character of Sulu entirely. The best performances are definitely Karl Urban, who captures the essence of Bones oh so perfectly, Bruce Greenwood, who made an excellent Pike, and Anton Yelchin, who plays a funny and lovable take on Chekov. Meanwhile, the weakest performance was certainly Eric Bana, for his performance of the Romulan miner and known whack-job Nero. His character just seemed so much like generic action movie bad guy, although the screenwriters might be more to blame for that than he is.

After all is said and done, this is the question of the day: does this movie appeal to people who have never seen anything Star Trek before, while keeping the older Trekkies about the hypothetical Enterprise?

I’d say, yes. I’m not sure about commercials calling it “this summer’s Iron Man” or “the next Star Wars.” It does, however, have all the makings of a great early summer blockbuster, and the events that separate it from previous Trek continuity ought to keep the old-fashioned fans satisfied that this film doesn’t mess with what they’ve known about the series for decades now.

It is logical to recommend this film for geeks and non-geeks alike, Captain (image courtesy of Paramount Pictures).