Apr 30, 2012

Avengers Assemble [2012]

Since Avengers is one of those movies everyone goes to see in cinemas, I decided to dedicate my lunchtime on Saturday to it and see it in my local cinema....alone. Yes, alone, I am not ashamed of it, sometimes I prefer it that way.

Let's start with the movie experience itself: I thought that going to see the movie at 11:40 in a Saturday morning will save me from the occasional film chatter or movement, but boy, I was wrong. It was a pretty full theatre and there were a lot of kids and teenagers in the room, who, of course, felt the need to talk and make exciting noises for most of the movie. (Off-Topic observation: They showed The Raid trailer before-hand, which I thought was a bit too violent for most of the viewers in that room).

On to the most important topic: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE (AA)- why they changed the name is still a mystery to me (I mean, I know why, but it wasn't necessary). Anyway, I think you can all guess the storyline: bad guy threatens to distroy Earth, so they decide to round up a team of superheros to save it.

First good thing about AA: the cast. Not only did it feature world known, talented, attractive actors (Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Tom Hiddleston), but the performances were on point, funny, relatable and the chemistry was off the charts- they just fit together so well.

Mark Ruffalo as Banner aka The Hulk stole the show from all the Avengers. Loki was a great villain, maybe a little too nice and sweet- he really tried to be a monster, but I couldn't see him that way, he is such a sweet, smart guy, and so, without knowing, I kind of rooted for him throughout the movie, which is weird. I'm glad his fate at the end was not that tragic. My favorite moment of the movie has to be the short, but extremely funny interaction between these two in the Stark tower. Loki: "I am a god and....", Hulk: cue awesome scene. Everyone was laughing out loud, I loved it.

The script was good, extremely funny at some points (everything RDJ related, plus other one-liners), although you couldn't not chuckle at some of the lines, as they were slightly clicheic and hilarious- but hey, that is to be expected in a superhero movie, there are no gigantic green monsters or nordic gods amongst us in real life (from what we know, at least).

Joss Whedon created a great action movie- he had great direction, and some of the shots were visually beautiful and interesting (Black Widow through the empty mirror frame at the beginning). From an action point of view, everything was perfectly done- the fights, the special effects, the script, the performances.

It's a very good movie, well-executed in every way. You will surely enjoy it- you will laugh, you will be surprised, you will wonder at some of the special effects and action sequences, and you will secretly crush on Loki/Black Widow/ Iron Man or whoever you might fancy. It has a little bit of everything in it and it's made for a large audience.

All in all, Avengers Assemble is a great popcorn movie, but it didn't make me excited and I wasn't blown away by anything specifically. Nice to see it on the big screen, it was fun, but not so memorable. Oh, and if you're not sure about 3D or 2D, go for 2D and save yourself some money- 3D is worth it just for 5 minutes at the end, the rest is perfect in 2D, too!

Apr 28, 2012

Musical Saturday: All that jaz[1979]

I don’t know about you, but I usually have certain expectations about movies, especially if they are classics or if I heard they are very good.

Whenever I thought of All that jazz, I was sure I was going to get a lot of dancing, music, Broadway style performances and maybe a little romance to keep the story going. I imagined a happy, entertaing movie. Was it? Not at all.

Don’t get me wrong, the best parts of it involved dancing and the fact that Roy Scheider perfectly interprets the character, being charismatic and loveable, but it has so many flaws.

There are so many subtleties that the story and the director wants to put in, and the bad thing is you can easily tell which are them...a great movie doesn’t let you see that. Sometimes it gets confusing (the hospital scenes), but in the end I understood what he was trying to say, I just didn’t like the way he did it. The creator had so many ideas and he just didn’t know how to put it all together in a flowing, interesting way...it was a mess.

Now I know it is based on Bob Fosse’s life and it really is an interesting story, but for me it just didn’t do any justice to it. Maybe because I’m european and I probably don’t get the whole Broadway-American feel to it (although I usually like it). I’ve seen so many reviews saying it is the best musical of all time....I must beg to differ; they probably haven’t seen Singin’ in the rain or Chicago or An American in Paris.

It may be a classic and if you are a movie buff, you will find certain great points in it, but I wasn’t very impressed by it...I really had to use my patience to get through all of it!

p.s If you are a dancer or like the art of it, please do watch it, if only for the dancing parts...everything is wonderful in that aspect: the choreography, the people, the slow, sexy way they move their body...it is a pleasure to watch!

Apr 27, 2012

Sundance London Future Filmmakers event

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a free event organized by the Sundance London Film Festival for future filmamakers.

It started with a discussion/speech with Trevor Groth, director of programming and Sundance director John Cooper about the festival, its origin and what they are looking for in the submissions.

Random notes:
- 5700 shorts submitted for 80 slots
- storylines are one of the the most important parts of a movie, crucial to its success
- festivals are always looking for comedies, because they are very programmable, and especially since the US independent films tend to be on the serious side of things
- having stars doesn't help you get your film in the festival
- when asked how they choose films for the competition, Cooper says he always answers with "An educated instinct", and adds that they all look for the emotional connection to the story or the characters- if they are moved by it, the project is good

The short Q&A was followed by the viewing of some of the short films that can be seen during this year's festival- the winner of the competition, plus another two british ones and an american one, all wonderful in their own way.

First up was the winner of Sundance 2012 for Short Film competition- Extranjero tells the story of an immigrant who tries to survive in a foreign city, but somehow finds himself in a strange situation whenever things get rough. See the short in the Vimeo link below

After the viewing, the two directors who collectively call themselves The Queen (Daniel Lumb and Crinan Campbell) answered some audience questions. Initially, the two were just friends and flatmates, but they would always help each other out in shootings, so after a while they said "why not work together?". They talked about technical details (words like Canon 7 and 5 and rigs were thrown, but don't ask me, I'm not an expert), and admitted to having an editing perspective, as they like to cut out all unnecessary things from a movie. Apparently, the idea of the film came from an image they had stuck in their head of a floating shell suit, so they decided to use it and figure out a narrative to go along with it.

The second short was Robots of Brixton, a visually beautiful film made by Kibwe Tavares, who not only directed it, but also made the animations, lighting, texturing and so on. Interesting tibdit: this was, if I understood corectly, his final project for his Architecture degree. It follows the trials and tribulations of young robots surviving at the sharp end of inner city lfe- full synopsis in the link below, together with the video:

The third one was The Arm, an US selection and finalist of Sundance 2012- a sweet, funny, but still awkward short about social pressure. I couldn't find the actual film, but this article/interview is very interesting, especially from a filmmakers point of view

The last one was Don't Hug Me, I'm Scared, a funny animated feature about the advantages and disadvantages of being creative. After the viewing, the two directors, Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling, quietly talked about the film and the group they are part of, This is it collective. Video link below

Before wrapping up things, Trevor invited on stage the director and the producer of Luv, a feature film competitor, to talk about the movie and the road to its completion. Sheldon, the director, was humble and supportive and talked us through the process of writing the story (about 3 years), making the movie (another 8 years), finding the right cast and how he got the money to do it (answer: 5 private investors, including athlets and a retired cop). He also gave the best quote of the day, for me at least:
"I have no fear of failure; I have a fear of woulda-shoulda-coulda"

After the obligatory "Thank you, see you around, please go see the movies", everyone rushed to talk to the guests, and I had the chance to have a brief chat with Trevor, the director of programming. I'm always happy and relieved to see people like him, with experience and recognition, willing to talk and help every aspiring filmmaker out there- I know it is his job, but I still admire the gesture.

If you have the chance, you should take a trip to the O2 and see some movies at the Sundance London Film Festival- I hear Liberal Arts is very good, and The Queen of Versailles, 2 days in New York and Nobody Walks look interesting.

If you watched the short films I gave you the links for, please let me know which one you liked best and why? 

Apr 25, 2012

Taking Woodstock [2009]

Seeing "Taking Woodstock" was a spontaneous decisions- I've had it for a while, but didn't get around to seeing it, so today, when I was trying to get away from university assignments, I said, "Why not? Summer is almost here". What can I say after seeing it? I want to go to a festival; sit on the grass, talk to people, listen to good music, take photos- I just want to enjoy life together with the people around me. Damn it, the hippie vibe got to me, I think I would have been pretty happy in the 60s right?

Taking Woodstock is an Ang Lee movie about Elliot, a young man who returns to his hometown to take care of his parents and their endangered business (a motel). After he learns that Woodstock might not be happening that year because of land problems, he decides to call Michael Lang, one of organizers, and propose to him to move the festival to his town. The rest of the movie basically shows you the backstage of what happened in the festival, the ups and downs, the people and the atmosphere of Woodstock, something that is still being talked about. I do believe it is a golden era, in some aspects, and I would go back in time to experience it, even just for one day.

The film featured a big cast, from people like Eugene Levy (the owner of the land), to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jonathan Groff (Michael Lang), Emile Hirsch, Paul Dano and Mamie Gummer. My favorite characters were played by Liev Schreiber (the out-of-nowhere drag "bodyguard") and Imelda Staunton (Elliot's mother), in a hilarious, yet very good role. Demetri Martin, the lead actor, offered a pretty approachable and sweet performance, and blended it perfectly with the rest of the cast.

Script-wise, it wasn't the best, but overall, I think it made its point. Yes, there are some shallow characters, some undeveloped ideas and some cut in, cut out scenes, but I still think that, for what it was aiming to do (re-create Woodstock in some way or another), it did a good job. The cinematography and direction were also on point, although I must say I was amazed by the number of extras they had- how did they control them or give directions? Visually, one of my favorite scenes has to be the acid trip Elliot has while being in a hippie VW Beetle wagon- I loved the waves to the stage and the colors used, I could see and understand how something like that must feel.

"Taking Woodstock" might not be perfect, but I personally enjoyed it- it set up a great mood and atmosphere, it was visually beautiful, with great music and  it came from a script which had fun moments and wacky, yet relatable characters. You should really give it a try next time you're in the mood for something light!

Apr 23, 2012

Fish Tank [2009]

Fish Tank is a 2009 British film written and produced by a brilliant individual called Andrea Arnold. It takes you through the life of Mia (Katie Jarvis), a 15 year old with a big mouth and a bad temper, who likes to dance. Her ordinary life changes when Connor (Michael Fassbender) comes into the picture, as he becomes her mother's boyfriend. The man, unknownly, changes their life, in a way, as he becomes a father figure and husband for a short period....and in Mia's case, maybe something more. I'll try to be spoiler free, as I usually tend to give out important details, although I don't do it intentionally.

I would describe this film to be...British. I don't know how to properly explain it, but it has that feeling, that look, and of course, the language that immediately reminds you of the UK. In some cases, I was actually put off by the extreme behavior and language of Mia, Tyler (her sister) and their mother- I couldn't help asking myself "Is this considered normal in some parts of London or UK? do 10 year-olds really smoke and swear worse than a 40 year old?"

Anyway, that was probably one of the very few weak points of Fish Tank. Besides that aspect, which might be just a thing of perspective and personal belief, everything else was quite remarkable and beautiful.

80% of the cinematography was just wonderful (the remaining 20% are negative just because of some shaky camera shots that annoyed me); I especially loved the slow motion moments, like the wind blowing the shirts away, or Mia being undressed. My favorite scene happens around the middle to the end of the movie, when Mia shows Michael Connor her audition dance- I loved the lighting, the music, her innocence and the performances. What happened after? well, that was a bit shocking- I thought he was just the father figure she needed in her life, but I guess he had different feelings for her, after all. That scene went up and down for me: at first, I liked the fact that she let her guard down and finally opened herself to Connor; when he made her move on her, I was shocked, but found the continuation to be quite erotic, which again, made me feel bad, because what was happening wasn't right (maybe that was just the Fassy effect, he is one sexy man).

Another thing I was surprised by were some the directions Andrea Arnold took when it came down to the script. First of all, although I do like Harry Treadway (he was great in Control, too), I think his storyline was pretty useless, except for, of course, the end- sometimes, unnecessary characters or actions in a movie bug me. Second of all, I was pretty shocked and didn't quite understand Mia's choice of action when she found out the truth about Connor- I know she was hurt and trying to get back him in way or another, but that? it was a rash decision that didn't got her anywhere. Yes, I know it's a normal reaction and that was the first thing she thought of doing, still...

But then again, that didn't put me off. I still think it is a wonderful coming-of-age movie; yes, it is more raw and extreme than most, but it has a similar effect on the audience and on the characters. The end is bittersweet, and I can't really say she has evolved or grown to be a better person, but at least she has changed and even matured, a little. What will happen to her? Is she going to go to school or get a proper job? I don't think so, but at least she got something out from this whole experience.

Overall, I though Fish Tank was a solid movie, with good performances by Fassbender and Jarvis and well- written and directed by Andrea Arnold [ Jury Prize winner in Cannes for FT in 2010, and she won an Oscar for her short film, Wasp, in 2003,  which I saw in a festival years ago (it has a very similar vibe to Fish Tank, you should check it out, maybe on youtube), and I will definitely watch Wuthering Heights soon, as well!]  The Brits have done it again!

Apr 21, 2012

Musical Saturday: West Side Story[1961]

West Side Story- where do I begin?

Well, the first 10-15 minutes were interesting, as I kept waiting for the characters to say more then 3 words: it was all a mix of dancing, claping, miming, singing....but it got my attention and it set up the whole story.

I won’t say much about the actual storyline and what happens, that you will have to watch and see for yourself. But I will pin point some great things about this movie.

Because it was great. I just love Tony, as a character, as an actor (although I had my second thoughts during some scenes) , as a guy (he’s good looking).And Maria is so lovely and sweet (played, as I found out at the end, by Natalie Wood) and is perfect for the part...she embodied all of those feelings so well, it was very beliveable.

Some memorable scenes include the first get-together dance (I’m thinking about the choreography and the way it was shot),  the „We’re in America” scene on the roof top and last scene, the pivotal moment which ended the movie in a splendid, yet somber way. Also, I have to mention the hot tamale girl that is Anita (Rita Moreno) and the loveable Doc, who, although tries, can’t help those kids.

I can definately see West Side Story on Broadway, it was created for it and I’m sure it’s one hell of a show there. Actually, I’m kinda sure the play is better then the movie, but the dance scenes are better showcased on the movie as you can see it in different angles.

Letting aside all the Broadway-drama-over-the-top feel to it, it is a great movie and a classic and I hope you like it, too!

Apr 19, 2012

In competition movies in Cannes 2012

The Cannes Festival is almost here and today the official line-up has been announced. There are multiple categories, but I will focusing on the In Competition movies- check out below a couple of things you should know about each one and some trailers to go along with it, too.

In Competition
Amour, directed and written by Michael Haneke
-          Previous works of MH: The Piano teacher, Funny games
-          Stars  Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant and William Shimell
-          Synopsis: A retired couple deals with aftermath of the wife suffering from a debilitating stroke. (IMDb)

The Angels' Share, directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty
-          Previous works of KL: The wind that shakes the Barley,
-          Stars: Roger Allam, Daniel Portman and John Henshaw
-          Synopsis: Narrowly avoiding jail, new dad Robbie vows to turn over a new leaf. A visit to a whisky distillery inspires him and his mates to seek a way out of their hopeless lives. (IMDb)

Baad el mawkeaa, directed by Yousry Nasrallah

-          Surprisingly enough, no information about it on IMDb and nothing clear in the first pages of Google

Beyond the Hills, directed and written by Cristian Mungiu

-          Previous works of CM: 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days (Palme Dor winner)
-          Stars Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur and Valeriu Andriuta
-          Synopsis: A drama centered on the friendship between two young women who grew up in the same orphanage; one has found refuge at a convent in Romania and refuses to leave with her friend, who now lives in Germany. (IMDb)
-          Particularly happy for this one, as I remember being so excited and proud when he won the Grand Prize a couple of years ago (yes, shocking revelation, I am Romanian)

Cosmopolis, directed and written by David Cronenberg, based on a novel by Don DeLillo
-          Previous works of DC: Eastern Promises, History of Violence
-          Stars Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel and Kevin Durand
-          Synopsis: Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into a odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart. (IMDb)
-          Looks absolutely crazy and I love it, I am intrigued by it! Plus, dare I say Robert Pattinson might do a fantastic job in it? He looks very good in the trailer

Holy Motors, directed and written by Leos Carax
-          Previous works of LC: Pola X, Les amants du Pont-Neuf
-          Stars Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue and Michel Piccoli
-          Synopsis: The drama follows a day in the life of a young actor (played by Denis Lavant) as he moves from one set to another, sharing scenes with various partners. [Synopsis Courtesy of Next Movie]
-          Big names, interesting premise, will attract attention

The Hunt, or Jagten, directed by Thomas Vinterberg&written by TV and Tobias Lindholm
-          Previous works of TV: Festen, Submarino
-          Stars Mads Mikkelsen, Alexandra Rapaport and Thomas Bo Larsen
-          Synopsis: a divorced man in a small country town who is accused of abusing a child. (Guardian)

Killing Them Softly, directed and written by Andrew Dominik, based on a novel by George V. Higgins
-          Formerly known as Cogan's Trade
-          Previous works of AD: The Assasination of Jesse James
-          Stars Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins
-          Synopsis: Jackie Cogan is a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game. (IMDb)
-          Expect big press around this movie, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the eve of their engagement

In another Country, directed and written by Hong Sang-soo

-          Stars Isabelle Huppert and Jun-Sang Yu
-          Synopsis/storyline: There are three women named Anne who each consecutively visit a seaside town. They each stay at the same small hotel by the shore and venture onto the beach where each of the Annes meet a group of the same people including a certain lifeguard who restlessly wanders up and down the beach. Huppert plays all three of these different Annes and aside from her, the rest of the cast is all Korean, although the film was mostly shot in the English language. (Screendaily)

In the Fog, directed by Sergei Loznitsa
-          Stars Vladimir Svirskiy, Vladislav Abashin and Sergei Kolesov
-          Synopsis: Western frontiers of the USSR, 1942. The region is under German occupation. A man is wrongly accused of collaboration. Desperate to save his dignity, he faces impossible moral choice.  (IMDb)

Lawless, directed by John Hillcoat, written by Nick Cave, based on a novel by Matt Bondurant
-          Previously known as “The Wettest Country”
-          Previous works of JH: The Road, The Proposition
-          Stars Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain
-          Synopsis: Set in the Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, a bootlegging gang is threatened by authorities who want a cut of their profits. (IMDb)
-          There was buzz around it for a long time and it is rumoured to be a very good movie

Like Someone in Love, directed and written by Abbas Kiarostami
-          Previous works of AK: Taste of Cherry, Certified Copy
-          Stars Ryo Kase, Denden and Rin Takanashi
-          Synopsis: Akiko (Rin Takanashi) a pretty young student, sells herself to help pay for her studies. But then she comes across a very unusual client: a learned old scholar (Tadashi Okuno) who shows her great kindness. An extraordinary relationship develops between her and the old man. (Awards Daily)
-          Another loved and anticipated movie, high on the betting boards

Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson and written by WA and Roman Coppola
-          Previous works of WA: The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, Fantastic Mr.Fox
-          Stars Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton
-          Synopsis: A pair of lovers flees their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them. (IMDb)
-          Opening night, big stars, world known director, interesting trailer- buzz-worthy film

Mud, directed and written by Jeff Nichols
-          Previous works of JN: Take Shelter
-          Stars Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey and Michael Shannon
-          Synopsis: A drama centered on two teenage boys who encounter a fugitive and pact to help him escape from an island in the Mississippi. (IMDb)

On the Road, directed by Walter Salles, written by Jose Rivera based on a novel by Jack Kerouac
-          Previous works of WS: Motorcycle Diaries
-          Stars Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams
-          Synopsis: Dean and Sal are the portrait of the Beat Generation. Their search for "It" results in a fast paced, energetic roller coaster ride with highs and lows throughout the U.S. (IMDb)
-          Very anticipated and talked about film in the last few years, the big names will attract a lot of press, especially Kristen Stewart
-          Early reports say that the movie is 2h 20 min long and very good

The Paperboy, directed and by Lee Daniels and based on a novel by Peter Dexter

-          Previous works of LD: Precious, Monster’s Ball
-          Stars Zac Efron, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey
-          Synopsis: A reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate. (IMDb)

Paradies: Liebe, directed by Ulrich Seidl and written by US and Veronika Franz
-          Director known for his documentary style
-          Stars Maria Hofst√§tter, Margarete Tiesel and Inge Maux

Post Tenebras Lux, directed by Carlos Reygadas
-          Mexican director, known for Japon and Battle in Heaven

Reality, directed by Matteo Garrone and written by MG and Ugo Chiti
-          Previous works of MG: Gomorra
-          Stars Claudia Gerini, Nunzia Schiano and Ciro Petrone
-          Synopsis: “...is taking a look at reality television, and at the very least, this image suggests a lighter movie than the excellent but heavy "Gomorrah." (Indiewire)

Rust and Bone, directed by Jacques Audiardand written by JA and Thomas Bidegain
-          Stars Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts and Bouli Lanners
-          Synopsis: It starts in the north. Ali ends up with Sam, age 5, on the arms. His son, he barely knows. Homeless, penniless and friendless, Ali finds refuge with her sister in Antibes. There is much better that she's hosting in the garage of his house, she takes care of the little and it's nice. Following a fight in a nightclub, his fate crosses that of Stephanie. He brings her back to her and leaves her phone. He is poor and she is beautiful and confident. She is a princess. All the objects. Stephanie is a trainer of killer whales at Marineland. It will take the show turns into a nightmare for a phone call in the night's meet again When Ali is found, the princess is packed in a wheelchair: she lost her legs and a lot of illusions. He will simply help, without compassion, without mercy. She will revive. (IndieWire)
-          It received some buzz before hand, especially because of Marion Cotillards involvement

Taste of Money, directed by Im Sang-soo

-          Previous works of IS: The Housemaid
-          Stars Kim Gang-woo, Baek Yoon-sik, Youn Yuh-jung, Kim Hyo-jin, On Ju-wan and Maui Taylor
-          Synopsis: The story focuses on Youngjak, the secretary of Mrs. Baek, who is the leader of a powerful Korean industrial giant. Tasked with looking after the affairs of this private and morally questionable family, Youngjak is soon caught in a spiral of domination and secrets, lost between his principles and the possibility of rapid career advancement to a more comfortable life. Youngjak must choose sides to survive in this world where money, sex and power are kings. (Indiewire)

You Haven't Seen Anything Yet, directed by Alain Resnais
-          Stars Lambert Wilson, Mathieu Amalric and Michel Piccoli

My choices/picks aka The "I wish I was in Cannes to see this movierecipients aka "I will be checking to see how these following movies do in the festival":

On the road- first and most anticipated (you know that by now); I loved the book and I have had a crush on Garrett Hedlund since Four Brothers. The trailer looks solid
Mud- for the new Michael Shannon- Jeff Nichols collaboration; the first one (Take Shelter) was amazing, so I have high expectations for the second one
Lawless- great cast
Moonrise Kingodom- cast+director+trailer+storyline= all very interesting
Cosmopolis- One word: CRAZY...or, if it pleases you, out of control
Killing them softly- mafia and a sexy Brad Pitt? Yes, I am that shallow, I will take it
Beyond the hills- sticking with the national talent! Go Mungiu!

What movies are you excited about?  If you could choose one movie to see from the line-up, what would it be? Let me know in the comments!