Friday, April 6, 2012

In Theaters: "The Assault"

Julien Leclercq's The Assault, with its bleached-out color scheme and you-are-there handheld recreation of a real event, is just asking for comparisons to Paul Greengrass's Bloody Sunday and (especially) United 93. It doesn't hold up well under that rubric; the film is slick and professional, but doesn't pack the visceral intensity and sheer emotional power of those works. But it has its moments.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

In Theaters: "Damsels in Distress"

It’s been a good long while since writer/director Whit Stilman brought his distinctive style of preppy angst to cinemas—nearly a decade and a half, in fact, since The Last Days of Disco ended his trilogy of ‘90s comedy/dramas. His style hasn’t changed that much in the intervening years; his characters are self-centered, but likably so, erudite and intelligent, and he’s not terribly concerned with the world that exists outside of their little cocoon. In the case of his long-awaited Damsels in Distress, that cocoon is the campus of Seven Oaks University, one of the last colleges to go co-ed, where “an atmosphere of male barbarism dominates,” according to Violet (Greta Gerwig). Violet and her two friends, Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore), are attempting to fix that. They run the suicide prevention center (their anti-depression therapy: tap dancing), they humor the less-intelligent male students, they distribute soap to the smellier dorms. And at new student orientation, they find a new friend.

In Theaters: "The Hunter"

He works alone. “It must be nice for you, not to need anyone,” his handler tells him, and he doesn’t respond. The job is to go into the wilds of Tasmania to procure “biological samples” from the Tasmanian tiger—the last one, if it even exists. No one’s photographed one in decades, though one has apparently been sighted, barely. He goes to his rented room in a home near the wilds, and gets to work.

His name is Martin David, and he’s played by Willem Dafoe in Daniel Nettheim’s challenging, difficult, and haunting film The Hunter. The broad strokes of the story are less than revelatory—the moment the camera lands on the precocious kids and lovely widow he’s renting the room from, it’s fairly safe to assume that the emotions and personal stuff he keeps stifled will come out for a look around—but the film is smooth and tightly crafted. It’s a character study, for the most part, allowing the complications and relationships to puncture the narrative only when they have finally penetrated the man.

In Theaters: "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope"

One of the most enjoyable moments in Morgan Spurlock’s Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope comes right at the top, as vintage still photos (in slide projector format, no less) are used to accompany a radio news story regarding the first ever San Diego Comic-Con back in 1970. They were “hoping for about 500” attendees, and didn’t get them. Times change. It is now the biggest sci-fi/fantasy/pop culture convention in the world, drawing over 125,000 attendees a year, in addition to filmmakers, movie stars, TV personalities, gamesmakers, and comic book dealers hoping to exploit that demographic.

This documentary, shot at the 2010 Con, counts among its producers such standbys as Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, and Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles. It appears to be a for-hire job for Spurlock, the director of Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold; for the first time, he stays entirely off-camera (not even providing voice-over), and it bears little mark of his influence—aside from the insufferably cutesy title. But it maintains the quality of his previous work: it is scattershot and somewhat aimless, and simultaneously charming and entertaining.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On DVD: "War Horse"

I guess you could call Steven Spielberg's War Horse "old fashioned," but I wouldn't deploy it as a compliment. Handsomely mounted and utterly sappy, it's the filmmaker's least successful picture since The Lost World: Jurassic Park; it has its moments, but they are undercut by inexplicable choices and the project's utter solemnity about itself. And it is almost entirely undone by the comically overwrought work of composer John Williams, whom Spielberg has allowed to go completely out of control.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Week of Links

From The Huffington Post:
Newt Gingrich: The Ed Wood of the GOP Primary

Back in February, during an appearance on the Rich Stevens Show, Newt Gingrich had a typically modest suggestion for who could play him in the story of his life: "Brad Pitt ... why not?" Why not indeed. However, a cursory glance at his campaign thus far -- particularly the past week -- suggests a more appropriate silver screen dreamboat for the role: Johnny Depp. As Ed Wood.

From The Atlantic:
Iconic Movie Roles That Were Almost Played by Other Actors

The big movie of the moment, as you well know, is The Hunger Games, while DVD and Blu-ray players have been firing up Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since its release last week. The two films have a lot in common: powerful female protagonists, adaptations of bestsellers, probable franchise kick-offs. As such, they were also each objects of carefully considered casting. It's become part of the pre-production process, the bandying about of potential name actors for high-profile roles. Fincher reportedly talked to Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, Kristen Stewart, and Scarlett Johansson before settling on Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, while Hunger Games director Gary Ross's alternate Katnisses included Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts, Chloe Moretz, and Saoirse Ronan. Contemplating proxy casting choices is a fun parlor game for movie fans (perhaps second only to considering movies that never came to pass at all). Below, we'll take a look at a dozen iconic movie roles, and the actors who almost, almost filled them.

From Flavorwire:
Open Thread: How Do You See Movies?

If you try to follow the business end of the film industry too closely, you can get some awfully mixed messages. (I mean “the business end” in the literal sense, although I’d imagine the sentence reads accurately the other way as well.) Perusing the Internet this morning, I found out that a) domestic box office is still on the decline and b) DVD and Blu-ray rentals are continuing to drop as well, though c) IMAX is booming, and d) ticket prices will probably go up, to make it seem like 3D is less of a rip-off. Oh, and e) The Hunger Games had one of the biggest opening weekends in movie history.

Video Essay: “And Introducing… Famous Faces in Their Film Debuts”

This week’s must-see DVD for film fans is Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, Alex Stapleton’s wickedly enjoyable documentary profile of Roger Corman, the B-movie master whose exploitation movies launched half the moviemakers and movie stars of the ’70s. One of the film’s highlights is Jack Nicholson’s remembrances of his first movie roles, including his debut performance in The Little Shop of Horrors (which Corman shot in all of two days). Nicholson’s story got us thinking about other stars and their first movie roles, so we put together this quick video essay with a peek at some other famous film debuts. Check out our latest video essay after the jump.

Yep, They’re Finally Making ‘Anchorman 2′

Last night, Will Ferrell donned his burgundy suit, pasted on the familiar mustache, and dropped in on Conan O’Brien’s TBS show to play a little jazz flute, insult the host, and make an announcement: “As of 0900 Mountain Time, Paramount Pictures and myself, Ronald Joseph Aaron Burgundy, have come to terms on a sequel to Anchorman.” Ferrell’s announcement was greeted with cheers in the studio and equally enthusiastic response on the Internet, where the long-gestating project had been presumed dead for a good couple of years. After the jump, we’ll take a look at Anchorman 2‘s long journey to fruition.

This Week in Trailers: ‘Twilight,’ ‘Transylvania,’ Time Travel, and More

Every Friday here at Flavorwire, we like to gather up the week’s new movie trailers, give them a look-see, and rank them from worst to best — while taking a guess or two about what they might tell us (or hide from us) about the movies they’re promoting. This week, we’ve got the teaser for the (hopefully) final Twilight movie, along with new films from Jenna Fischer, Chris Pine, Adam Sandler, Val Kilmer, Aubrey Plaza, Jesse Eisenberg, and more. Check ‘em all out after the jump, and share your thoughts in the comments.