My interest was peaked by the teaser trailer for the upcoming period drama The Duchess which stars Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes. When the teaser was released, I had a little nugget of dread in my stomach that this could either work or fall apart completely and though I was hopeful that it would be good but now, I’m not so sure.
After seeing this new, UK trailer for the film, I’m rather disappointed. Yes the film looks great but I don’t like the inter-cut Princess Di tie-in and now I’m not quite so sure I like where the story is going, which the trailer suggest plays more as melodrama than the quietly reserved with only occasionally flamboyant outbursts I had expected. I was also expecting a little more historical accuracy but it looks as though this is playing in more of a soap opera than accuracy circle. It’s a bit too loud and flashy for me but I won’t kid you, I’ll still be there to see it unfold.
The Duchess opens in the UK on September 5th and in the US in limited release on September 19th, likely as a way to qualify for Oscar. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see it expand until October/November.
Where to even begin with Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Conversation? Well first off, for any cinema-buff worth their salt, it is mandatory viewing. A film made in the short space between the two widely acclaimed Godfather films and smack dab in the middle of the challenging and vital period of the 1970s (considered by many to be the banner decade of American cinema). Eschewing the artistic bombast of much of his 1970s work, The Conversation is a model of tightly wound tone and visual restraint (it is a decidedly American take on Michelangelo Antonioni‘s fabulous Blow Up; Antonioni‘s pacing combined with some good old American paranoid thriller).
Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a socially awkward, but highly profession sound and surveillance man who has a job recording people against their will and without their knowledge. Using multiple hidden microphones and long range parabolics, he attempts to make a clear recording of a couple who are walking through a crowded park and speaking softly, a mixture of the clandestine and the mundane. Coppola establishes this beautifully in the opening scene of the film, in which the visuals are not nearly as important than the sound cues. There is a fetishization of the construction and craft of sound recording. While the direction is not showy here, yet it is still a highly complex rhythm of images, sounds and articulated theme that qualifies it (for me personally) to sit in the 10 best films ever made. I qualify this with the following: Cinema is a voyeuristic act in where one views the dramatization of private and intimate moments of the films subjects, characters, etc., thus The Conversation acts not just as a great story with a timely theme, but also as a comment on the medium in and of itself.
Considering the nature his job, Harry is a bit of a paranoid person, no personal phone, multiple door locks, and his own nature, past and values are kept under tight control. Because of some instance in his past that is never fully articulated, Caul tries his best to focus on the craftsmanship of his work, and not the content. And his coworker (here played beautifully by John Cazale) hits a major nerve, the the point of Caul almost firing him on the spot, by analyzing the content of the current recording project. Like nearly ever scene in the film (perhaps excluding the quite explosive finale) this is handled small and subtle, with a savour for character detail in the acting first and foremost. You can see as Caul denies his coworkers curiosity, it is already beginning to gnaw at him why these two quite innocent folks are targeted by some large and private rich fellow to be recorded. How this plays out, is best left discovered in the film. But this individual scene is the movie in microcosm, the rigorous precision of a job well done balanced by the moral nature of the work in question. A fitting summation of the decade of Watergate, Nixon and Deep Throat. Way, way ahead of its time this adolescence-period of technology overtaking morality has much resonance today in world where ‘The Grid’ of Google, Carnivore-esque information scavenging tools, bank and credit card statements, consumer tracking incentive-programs, street-level cameras, the Patriot Act, et cetera can offer someone with access or means to all manners of personal privacies. The Conversation may be the spiritual father of action blockbusters along the lines of Enemy of the State and The Bourne Identity, but judging from this scene (and others) its headspace is more in line with Philip K. Dick and A Scanner Darkly or Michael Haneke and Cache.
I fully realize that there’s a whole bunch of things that are “wrong” with this trailer. The voice over care of Vin Diesel at the opening is a bit lame and they use the same theme music that was used to great effect in the Sunshinetrailer, not to mention some of the effects look like they’ve been directly lifted from a Timur Bekmambetov film. Yet, this, the first full length trailer for Babylon A.D. has me chomping at the bit to see the film.
The film has Diesel as a mercenary who takes the high-risk job of escorting a woman from Russia to China. What he doesn’t know is that she is carrying an organism wanted by a cult to produce a genetically modified Messiah.
I was already pumped after seeing the teaser but now, I’m beyond excited. Just a few more months to wait. The North American release date is August 29th!
There has been no official confirmation from Paul Newman’s people or the hospital, but L.A. Times blogger Elizabeth Snead is saying there are reports that Paul Newman has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at NYC’s Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and he’s currently receiving treatment under the care of NYC’s finest. While I’m desperately hoping these reports are incorrect, this wouldn’t come as a total shock as he spent much of his life as a regular smoker. Failing health would also help explain his retirement from acting this past year, despite being on board for a movie-reunion with buddy Robert Redford.
At 83 years old, Paul Newman is in my humble opinion the greatest American actor there ever was. With nine Academy Award nominations for acting (his one overdue win coming with 1986′s The Color of Money), he’s not only been a prolific actor, but a man who really understands what good ol’ Uncle Ben meant when he said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” With his Newman’s Own product line of spaghetti sauces, salsas, and salad dressing (the only kinds I buy), he’s raised over $220 million dollars for charity since it’s founding in 1982. Literally every penny of profit goes to Paul Newman who then donates 100% of it to various charities for the less fortunate. With the help of his wife of fifty years, Joanne Woodward, he also founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which receives $6.5 million in donations from 6,000 sources each year to help run the residential summer camp in Ashford, Connecticut for seriously and terminally ill children.
Rarely do the death of celebrities affect me, but this is certainly one that would leave me feeling a little emptier inside. For now, all we can do is hope and pray that these reports are not true. But if they are true, at least Newman has lived a long and fulfilling and successful life.
Whatever happened to Iain Softley’s adaptation of Cornelia Funke’s novel? Sure, from the very beginning I’ve been a bit concerned about the fact that Softley is helming Inkheart but it’s been months since I posted the first trailer and not a peep has been heard about the film which stars Brendan Fraser as a bookbinder named Mo who brings characters and items from books to the real world by reading them aloud but when he brings a villain into the world, things go start to go wrong. Co-starring alongside Fraser are Paul Bettany, Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis and Eliza Bennett.
That first trailer looked interesting and the cast and source material certainly suggests this has potential but the film has had nothing but problems with releasing. Originally scheduled for a March 2008 release, in a January press release New Line announced that due to writer’s strike fallout, the film would be pushed to a 2009 release, landing on January 30th. We all know that January through March is typically not prime film going time so this does not bode well for the film but more than that, it’s disappointing that New Line doesn’t feel it can even give the film a Christmas release. Yet, I’ll be patiently sitting back and waiting for a new trailer to come a little later this year.
In the meantime, the folks at Monsters and Critics have a few new photos from the production and I’ve plucked the trailer from near obscurity for your viewing pleasure.
The idea behind The Transporter is interesting enough for an action movie: move item from point A to point B, shit goes wrong, things blow up, delivery complete though not as initially conceived. I was turned onto the franchise when I discovered that my Favourite French Dude was involved with the films. It was also the first time I saw Jason Statham.
I picked up Transporter 2 at the local Chinese market (I can’t walk away from a 5 for 20 deal) and enjoyed it though they changed the formula slightly and it worked a little less effectively. Still, it was fun and Jason Statham was just as charming. Two years have passed since the last installment in the franchise and the times have changed a little. Director Louis Leterrier has “graduated” to American films and Jason Statham has become a staple of American action films so what to do? Bring on some new directing blood in the form of award winning former graffiti artist Olivier Megaton. What to expect from the story? See paragraph one.
Transporter 3 is scheduled to open in the US on November 26th. You can count my ticket as money in the bank.
According to the personable folks over at Variety, Harrison Ford is on board to executive produce and star in Crowley, for a theatrical release by CBS Films. The movie will follow the true story of John and Aileen Crowley who had two children with a rare genetic disorder. Despite the hopelessness, they seek out a researcher who thinks he has a potential cure.
Ford will be playing the researcher and I think this is a great move. He’s always shined in his non-action, lower key roles such as The Mosquito Coast, Witness, and Regarding Henry. I hope this and his upcoming immigration drama Crossing Over will open up a new chapter for Ford, who I’d really, really, really like to see make something worthwhile again.
No word on when this will get into production, but CBS Films is fast-tracking it and wants to start ASAP. Keep your eyes out for more and so will I.
Director: Tarsem Singh (The Cell) Writers: Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis, Tarsem Singh Producer: Tarsem Singh Starring: Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell, Lee Pace, Kim Uylenbroek, Aiden Lithgow MPAA Rating: R Running time: 117 min
Director Tarsem Singh has been on a several year hiatus from making feature length films since his debut eight years ago with The Cell, which starred Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D’Onofrio; quite an impressive film actually for a directorial debut. Unfortunately, Singh’s flair for the original storytelling and quality directing seems to not have aged well with time. Instead it looks like he has sacrificed story for a visual palette that is nice to look at.
Taking place in the mid-1920′s at a countryside hospital, a young girl anxiously waits healing from her broken arm. To help pass the time, she regularly visits a young stunt man (Lee Pace) who paralyzed his legs during a film shoot. While she waits to escape the hospital, he hopes to escape his life. Using the little girl to help him get pills to swallow, he entices her by telling her an “epic” story of love and adventure, which slowly evolves into including the young girl and himself within the story. We see the story as he tells it through via little girl’s imagination. To get her to bring him more pills to swallow, he continually stops the story and promises to continue when she returns with more drugs.
I came across a post over at Cinema Suicide about what appears to be a pretty involved marketing ploy (what other type is there?). It looks as though the guys at Bloody Disgusting got a strange anonymous email which they shared with fans and which now has folks scratching their heads. It’s not clear what on earth is being advertised, though one would expect this is a tie in for some film, but Bryan though this could be tied into The Poughkeepsie Tapes. I don’t think that is the case, especially since that film is supposed to play like a serial killer documentary and this plays like all out, over the top horror, but all guesses seem to be on equal playing field at the moment. It’s pretty damned wild.
I’ll share one of the clips here but to check them all out, head here. And if you know, or figure out, what they’re advertising, be sure to share.