Sunday, 31 January 2010

FILM REVIEW: Brothers


Natalie is a bit like a bus...or a bill... or a spider: you don't get to see her for ages, and then lots of her suddenly come along at once. That's what it feels like being a fan, anyway. After the flurry of films at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008, it's been very quiet on the Natalie front. Obviously not that quiet as she has been very busy filming all sorts, hence her next scheduled flurry throughout 2010 (New York I Love You, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Hesher, Black Swan, Your Highness and then in 2011 Thor...phew) and the first of these comes along in the form of Brothers, an Americanised remake of the highly regarded Swedish drama Brødre.

The film starts on the eve of Sam's (Tobey Maguire) next deployment to Afghanistan, and also the release of his wayward brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) from prison. Despite the obvious gulf between them, the two brothers get on, with Sam showing a lot more forgiveness and patience to his younger brother than his dad (Sam Shepard) and his wife Grace (Natalie) do. When Grace receives a phonecall to say Sam is missing in action presumed dead, her grief at losing him is assuaged by the presence of Tommy, who now the only son, tries to reform himself by being a better person. As the two of them are getting close and life begins to adjust without Sam around, Grace receives another phonecall to say her husband has been found alive. Overwhelmed, she can't wait to embrace him back into the family, although Tommy's emotions are much more clouded following his new feelings towards his brother's wife. But back from being captured and tortured by the Taliban in Afghanistan, Sam is a changed human being and Grace finds it hard to relate to this new person, and now it seems Tommy is the one to lean on.

It's actually a very powerful story, and I would have liked to have seen the original before viewing this. However, for me the title is all wrong: it's not about the brothers at all, although it does try and make that the cardinal message at the very end in the dramatic climax on the front lawn. For me the most interesting concept of the film is surrounding the theme of grief and loss, and how you cope and adjust to this new forced upon situation. For Grace, she loses the love of her life in a moment's phonecall, and the effect on her - even as she stoically tries to hold things together for the two girls - is quietly devastating. The part where she rings Sam's phone over and over again just to hear his voice on his voicemail message had me in a mess of tears, it was so heart wrenching. Also the scene where she goes to lend one of the workmen some of her husband's clothes, and she just ends up ripping out the entire closet and thrusting them all at him, saying he can have them all. Little glimpses into a mind in turmoil I thought were so real to watch. And then, the delight at hearing he's alive, and having him back in her life again after having closed that door - it must seem like an incredible dream. But this is the real crunch, because when Sam does return traumatised by his war experience, he's not the same person she remembered saying goodbye to all those months ago, he's not the same person she has loved for the last however many years. So in a way, it's like losing him all over again - except this time he's right in front of her. It really got me thinking as to what would be worse - having lost someone completely but having the memory of who they were, or having that person still with you, yet the person you knew and loved has vanished? I find that really uncomfortable to think about, as I think would anyone. What do you do when that happens? Do you stay and try and fix things, adjust to things? Or do you leave, still knowing that this person was the love of your life?

This is by far the most weighty, mature part Natalie has ever played barring perhaps Goya's Ghosts. She's never had to portray a motherly figure before (she did in Cold Mountain, but only briefly), and I thought she did a brilliant job. Yes, people have said she looks too pretty to be a suburban housewife, but she can't play pretty roles all her life, can she? I thought she carried the role really well, and managed to make Grace into a real, warm human being who has to endure a great deal. She's brilliant with the two young girls, and her scenes with Jake Gyllenhaal are just effortless, in part because they are such good friends in real life the two of them just bounced off each other. The only negative was her scenes with Tobey Maguire, that even as they should have been awkward and tense in the last third should have been tender and intimate in the beginning, and the chemistry just wasn't there as much as it should have been. Director Jim Sheridan should have spent longer on their relationship, not just showing us a shot of a photo with the two of them when they were younger to say "they were childhood sweethearts!" - he should have developed this more on the screen. It's easier to warm to and to route for Grace and Tommy than it is for the actual married couple.

As for the boys, I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was surprisingly excellent - surprisingly because all the reviews heap praise on his co-star, and overlook Gyllenhaal who I thought has never been better, especially in the first half of the film. As for Tobey Maguire, twenty minutes in and I'm thinking, "he got a Golden Globe nomination for this?" - I thought he was very average in the beginning, and didn't convince in the role of husband and father. But once he had returned from Afghanistan with damaging, self-denying PTSD he commanded the screen (and was also unnervingly creepy). In an interview he said he especially liked the way Jim Sheridan made him lose control when he was acting, and go that bit further, and in the scene where he smashes up the kitchen this is clearly evident as he menacingly stalks the rooms with an iron poker. But just as he is wild his controlled anger is also powerfully played in the scene where young daughter Isabel tries his patience at a family meal. Perhaps not an award winning performance, but he's definitely shown a lot of well-crafted raw emotion here.

The two young girls were also a joy to watch, seemingly have no trouble at all with the difficult tones of the film. In particular Taylor Geare was adorable as the youngest Maggie, and I loved her scenes with Jake Gyllenhaal.

I thought - though they were harrowing and painful to watch - the Afghanistan scenes weren't as authentic as they were meant to be. It did feel a little bit like tea-towels over the head/shepherds at a primary school nativity in places. It definitely didn't feel like we were watching the real Taliban. I wasn't sure whether we really needed to keep flicking back and forth as well, but it's probably needed in terms of truly understanding the damage that has been done to Sam's character, and his admission to Grace at the very end of the film is like his last dying breath as that person.

Overall Brothers at times does lean a little too heavily on the melodrama of the events, and heaven knows this isn't going to be the most objective of reviews from a Natalie fan, but I really enjoyed this film, and it rendered me a blubbering wreck for more times than I care to put my hand up to, and for that I must commend it.



Thursday, 28 January 2010

Through the Grater This Week



Every Thursday I'll be bringing you the latest news stories that interest me. Thursday seems like a good day; nothing ever happens on a Friday, right?

The week's big news in the film world is the announcement of the 2010 Bafta Nominations. They were, it turns out, even more horrific that the Golden Globes. Plenty of love understandably for An Education and its star Carey Mulligan (who is a given for the Orange Rising Star award). I didn't like the film myself, but not because it was a bad film, more just the kind of viewer I am. It's a good, solid British film with a head turning lead performance that's even doing well in the States, so of course it was going to do well. What wasn't expected was the notice and praise for Nowhere Boy which earned four nominations, two for Best Supporting Actress. It must be the British connection, because that film at best received a lukewarm reception from critics. Following that logic they've put Andy Serkis up for Best Actor as well for Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, which I also haven't seen but have heard Serkis is brilliant in it. As for the two other big runners, The Hurt Locker and Avatar (yawn) both picked up eight nominations each, along with the aforementioned An Education. Thankfully I don't think Smurf Ferngully is going to get very much here, and many of the honours will rightly go Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War drama. Cameron may sneak Best Director perhaps. I can't believe Jason Reitman wasn't nominated - what a polava! Sadly I don't think Up In The Air will do very well at all - its best chances lie with Best Adapted Screenplay and Anna Kendrick for the Best Supporting Actress award. I have a feeling Colin Firth's going to nab Best Actor for A Single Man, just because he's not going to get the Oscar. I'll do a more detailed prediction closer to the event which takes place on February 21. To end, the most ridiculous nomination has to be Alec Baldwin in the Best Supporting Actor category for It's Complicated. WHAT ARE YOU, NUTS?

In other filmsy news: Andrea Arnold of Fish Tank and Red Road fame is set to direct the new adaptation of Wuthering Heights, which stars the brilliant Ed Westwick and the not so brilliant and quite horrible Gemma Arterton. I've been excited about this project for ages (despite the inclusion of Arterton; the Kathy role was being linked to Natalie at one point. Can you imagine: Natalie and Chuck Bass!), but not pumped about who's in the director's chair. This is a very different film for Arnold to be doing, as her two previous ones concentrated on gritty, chavvy, slummy side of Britain. She is the female Shane Meadows. So this is a surprise, and given she has no track record of period dramas - and perhaps she'll bring an original take to it - I shall wait and see what happens here.

In more immediately gleeful news, it's being reported Tim Burton is thinking of remaking Sleeping Beauty, but telling the classic fairytale from the POV of evil fairy Maleficent. Who - I shall declare now - is my FAVOURITE Disney villain of all time. I love her outfit, her demeanour, her castle, her crones, the music that follows her... ahhh it's classic gothic spookiness for kids! Obviously we don't know how much Tim Burton would/will take from the Disney version, but he's sure to relate to it if this does go ahead. I really hope this happens - Sleeping Beauty is one of my absolute faves, even if I was a little disappointed when I re-watched it last year after remembering adoring it so much in my youth. I had those rolled up colouring-in sheets you got in long tubes and everything!


Turning to TV there's a lot of changes happening at 90210. Two major characters are set to leave this year, and just by reading who they are you can tell that their exit is going to be connected, which kind of gives the game away somewhat! I'll be sad to see them go, but to be honest they have been fairly out of the picture this season. The writers said they want to concentrate more on the kids and not so much on the adults, although surely the departure of Harry is going to have an effect on Debbie? Silly, silly writers. But also CLEVER writers! Take note Gossip Girl - quit with the parenting stories! But oh wait, they've gone and done this. Booooo.

Some great news for Supernatural this week though: not only has it apparently been renewed for Season Six, but Ghostfacers are getting their own web spin-off! Huzzah! I must be the single only fan of SN who likes the Ghostfacers. I think they're bloody awesome and the people who don't get them are just fools! Eric Kripke is a genius. Regarding the renewal, it's not that surprising as it's one of the CW's most consistent performers and has a hugely loyal fanbase. But I'm nervous. Kripke only had a five year plan - what next? What if he leaves? I don't want this to go down the route of Charmed, I really, really don't.

I'll finish with some Sundance news. My gurgling favourite The Romantics has been getting its first reviews today (here and here). Not setting things alight, I'm afraid. Still, the things I really, really love never do, le sigh. Katie Holmes seems to be getting a good write up.

But another one of my picks is causing all sorts of controversy - The Killer Inside Me has caused many to walk out, stand up and yell, and go home shaking and crying to their mums. Apparently there's a bit of violence in it or something. Who cares? Casey Affleck's in it and he's wonderful. And there's 'nowt wrong with a bit of publicity.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

FILM REVIEW: Up In The Air




Jason Reitman my man, you have done it again! An almost faultless, perfect gem of a film, and one - I don't say this very often - that I would have no qualms going to see again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. If only the feeling it leaves you with and the overriding message had been much more satisfying, then it would have secured all five of my cheeses! That said, I'm still going to sing its praises til the cows come home.


Everything was so slick and beautifully put together, you could completely engross yourself in the storyline, not being jarred back into reality for a moment. Reitman's fluidity and confidence is immensely impressive for a man with a mere three films to his name. This is a guy whose every project should be revered and anticipated within the film world. There were some wonderful little set pieces - obviously sourced from the book by Walter Kirn but delivered charmingly by skilled acting and directing- slotted in artfully to either impose a mood or finitely tell the viewer something about the character ("would you like the cansir?" and Ryan's barren home apartment, complete with the mini bar in his fridge).


I've never been a fan of George Clooney - I haven't doubted that the man has talent (he embodies 21st century Cary Grant), but his script choices so far have eluded me. This one however allowed me to see what all the fuss is about with a central performance that really carries the film. And no matter how arrogant and aloof the character of Ryan is, Clooney pulls the tragic and the loneliness out of him, making him likeable no matter what the end result is. His reaction to any particular situation or verbal accusation is consistent and believable and the effort Clooney has put in to completely become Ryan Bingham really pays off, and he's a shoo-in for Best Actor at the Oscars. Not that he outshines his co-stars though - oh no. Vera Farmiga is extremely sultry as mistress Alex, but it's Anna Kendrick who is the star here: rightly deserving all the praise she is receiving for playing young upstart Natalie.

Her character is so well-written and she is lucky in that regard, but it's also one heck of a performance conveying brassy self assurance and a poker straight posture whilst inside hiding a little girl 'who followed a boy to Omaha'. She has some fabulous lines, delivered with such a bravo naivety she is almost always guaranteed a laugh every time - I particularly loved the scene where she is swapping Mr Right ideals with Alex: in fact that period of ten, fifteen minutes where she breaks down, meets Alex and they all gatecrash a party was my favourite sequence of the whole film. She is so lovable when they lose her at the party and then find her doing heartache karaoke! There's been a lot of criticism of her crying scene and how 'fake' it appears, how it's OTT by the actress, but I couldn't see this in a more different way. I thought it was absolutely spot on: the suddenness of it, the bawling and the flapping arms now she's not in control, and then the fight to regain that control and composure when she has to introduce herself to Alex to maintain professionalism. It was also brilliantly funny, especially Ryan's glaring panic and awkwardness at how he's supposed to comfort her. Anna Kendrick also thoroughly warrants an Oscar nod for her role in this - without her the film would be nothing but average. Her knockabouts with, and on screen chemistry with George Clooney, was an absolute joy to watch.

It was also one of those films where you keep yelling "oh he's in this!", "oh where do I know him from?", "ahhh, look who it is!" every few seconds. I didn't realise Jason Bateman was in this, and what a sizeable role he had playing the boss of the company. I love Jason Bateman, even if he does play Michael Bluth in everything, he's still a worthy presence to have around. Also nice to see ZackGalifianakis playing one of the guys getting fired, and the crazy little intern from Nip/Tuck too! In fact in an oddly playful way it was fun to try and guess from little snatches of performance whether the man being made redundant was an actor or whether it was a real life misfortune.

It was the ending that let this film down. Not the full last half an hour as other people infuse: I liked the wedding scenes, the sappy bits and also the uncomfortable parts too (when he offers to walk her down the aisle like he's expecting her to gush and throw her arms around him, but then she turns him down). Alex's easy confidence not only fooled Ryan but fooled me too because I did not see the twist coming when it did. It was around that moment when I thought things were going to be given a gooey polished off ending, but then Reitman delivers that cruel blow. It was interesting though because casting my mind back to Juno briefly (Reitman's second film), that was also a story with a bittersweet ending - we expected she would keep the baby/we expect that Ryan will find love and settle with Alex. But Reitman lures us into easy dwellings, and turns our expectations on their head. We're left thinking that the reformed Ryan should have got more than just harshly being left alone, but then you take a more holistic approach and think: but didn't he get what he wanted all along? His ten million frequent flyer miles, a life up in the air and without commitment? Isn't that what he's been about all along? Yet the melancholy ending leaves you with a surprised sense of depression. He was shown a way out, found he rather liked it, and then the door was slammed in his face (literally). But perhaps he ultimately deserved that, no matter how far down the redemptive path he'd travelled? There are literally so many contradictory messages you can take from this film: trust no one, don't forge relationships, do forge relationships, it's better to be with someone than alone, embrace change... I really like that, it's one of the reasons I love this film, but I would have preferred to come out grinning stupidly with a slight skip rather than trudging out feeling like someone had just popped by balloon.

Up In The Air is as sobering as it is funny, with some fantastic performances from Clooney and Kendrick. This is filmmaking at its best and should be viewed by all.




Sunday, 24 January 2010

Sundance Picks M-Z

As promised, here continued are my picks from the 2010 Sundance Film Festival:


Obselidia
Dir Diane Bell
Michael Piccirilli, Gaynor Howe
I read the synopsis of this and was immediately excited: a man decides to write an encyclopaedia of all the obsolete things in the world, one of which he believes is love. But as he relates his experiment to a woman he befriends he begins to realise that his take on the obsolete differs greatly from one person to the next. It's unique and quirky takes on life and life's philosophies like this that make me realise that there are still so many more stories to be told in the world, there are still more people who will consider a situation or an event in a completely different way to you, and I appreciate and encourage that. It has a little bit of the Garden State in it as well - a man whose whole look on life is transformed when he meets a woman who introduces him to an insight he wasn't privy to before. Can't wait to see this! Until then I must settle with the understated trailer:





Pepperminta 
Dir Pipilotti Rist
Ewelina Guzik, Sven Pippig, Sabine Timoteo
I've picked this one just because it looks so extraordinary. You'll need to watch the trailer to fully understand why, and you can see it below (German only, although don't concern yourself with the dialogue, watch the pictures!). The director Rist comes from an artistic background, and that's the form this film takes - it's visually breathtaking, making technicolour seem like the placid magnolia wallpaper choice. The story follows eccentric and playful Pepperminta as she strives to make the rest of the world see the vivid concoctions of colour that she breathes and conjures every day, and to convince them to embrace this way of life. A truly sumptuous piece, this is a cult hit in the making and a film like no other.





Please Give
Dir Nicole Holofcener
Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall
I thought this film sounded interesting with the possibility of creating a really moving tale of unexpected relationships, and the stellar cast really helps matters too. The story focuses on a couple who want to expand their New York apartment by knocking the next door unit in, but they must wait for its 89 year old occupant to die first. It sounds slightly dark and callous, but the film progresses with the couple beginning to equate themselves with their elderly neighbour and her family as well, and as they get to know one another a little more, the original intent for more space is going to no doubt throw up some tricky decisions. I've really come to like Rebecca Hall so her presence here can only be a good thing, too.





 
                               The Romantics
                               Dir Galt Niederhoffer
Katie Holmes, Josh Duhamel, Anna Paquin, Adam Brody, Malin Ackerman, Elijah Wood, Candice Bergen 

I am so excited about this film that I could just squee! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Because it sounds like the most perfect film ever, ever, ever. In fact I am so excited about this film that I am going to go out and order the book next week just so that I can read it before the film makes it way over here to the UK. Yup, I'm way gone on this one. Why you may ask? Because it has nestled itself into my favourite sub genre of the angsty romance genre I so fawn over - the group of high school/University friends who reunite after several years and reignite old flames of angst and passion. Swoon. This film is set to the backdrop of a wedding, which kind of reminds me of a drama I watched a few years ago called Perfect Day (which I've been trying to track down on DVD for ages now. Rubbish Channel 5!), but obviously this is going to be much smarter, and slicker, and cooler, and just downright more ficcy. The cast for the seven college friends who come together again is unbelievably brilliant with some of the brightest upcoming stars of the next decade showcasing their skills. I'm going to stalk this film like an avid sleep deprived Facebook user, and as soon as I know about the trailer, you will too. Until then, ahoy Waterstones!


Twelve
Dir Joel Schumacher
Chace Crawford, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Kiefer Sutherland
When I read about this film and then saw who the lead protagonist was being played by, I had to laugh! A film about a privileged teenager living on the Upper East Side played by Chase Crawford?! Hee! Let's hope he has a lot more charisma that Nate Archibald does. The story sounds a lot more hard hitting than your average GG melodrama - the school dropout that Crawford plays is thrown into a devastating situation when his cousin is murdered and his best friend is arrested for the crime. If he's got more to show than pretty boy grumpiness then here's the place to show it. The rest of the cast - we'll just glance over the fact a terrible rapper is in it - are very good, and it's a chance for director Joel Schumacher to get his hands on something gritty again. I'm definitely interested to see the reviews for this.



Welcome To The Rileys
Dir Jake Scott
James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo
Another of the big contenders at this year's Sundance, no doubt because it plays host to a much in-demand cast at the moment, and probably for more base reasons as well (people are getting very excited at the prospect of Kristen Stewart playing a hooker and a lapdancer and showing a bit of flesh. I guess after seeing Closer I can acknowledge this as an acceptable preoccupation). This is the first big film to come from music video director Jake Scott and is also surprisingly James Gandolfini's first main role in a film as well since completing the Sopranos (if you discount his little stint as a Wild Thing for Spike Jonze). I'm not massively pumped up for this one, but the idea of grievance testing and trying the very core of who you are really appeals. No trailer, but a clip has found its way out:







Winter's Bone
Dir Debra Granik
Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes
Films that explore and promote new lands - real or fantasy - are thoroughly welcomed in my eyes. I love being transported from my cinema seat in my familiar passive world to a place I've never even been aware of before and then reaching for the atlas or Google maps afterward. This film takes place in the Ozark Mountains, an area of the world I'd never heard of and had to look up (turns out there's a place in the mountainous area called Knob Lick. Those poor, poor souls). The film centres on a teenage girl who is forced to grow up very fast when her wayward father goes missing on bail, and if she doesn't find him the family home will be taken away. After watching the clips (below) the performance by Jennifer Lawrence is sure to be recognised by fellows in the industry - she is impressive and assured. Looking forward to this one.





Others to note:
The Man Next Door - intriguing film from Argentina where an interior designer gets furious over a window
Me Too - a man with Down Syndrome finds love amid a feast of challenges
New Low - a different oddball take on the love triangle
Nuummioq - the first feature film from Greenland sees a dying man take a life defining trip over water
The Perfect Host - two men edge their bets with each other as they play the deceptive game


And that's Sundance for the year! Plenty more on offer though - check out the main website for the full listings including shorts, political features and documentaries. As previously stated, we don't tend to get Sundance released films for quite a while over here (mainly because at this stage many don't even have a US distributor!), but for the ones I've highlighted I'll be keeping a keen eye on their progress in the States and will update on any juicy bits of footage or information right here on culturemouse.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Sundance Picks A-L

If a film festival was ever made for me, this would be it. I am going to go to Park City one day, that's an absolute certainty. But, sigh, until that fairytale becomes a reality, I've had a good nosy of the schedule and with the illusion of believing I am making an actual list of films I am going to see, here are the pick of the films I am...er, going to see. One day. When they finally come to the UK in the middle of 2011....

Blue Valentine
Dir Derek Cianfrance 
Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
Another film which explores relationships and love in a middle class suburban setting, and I'm always a sucker for those, but this one made me take notice in particular because of the subject matter - being one person at the beginning of the relationship but then developing into your true self as time goes by while your partner remains on the start line. Plus Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are both credible, interesting and exciting actors and if the chemistry is right, and the script is good, this could be a really worthwhile addition to my favourite genre. The trailer hasn't been made yet, but you can see a clip on the film's official website here.



Boy
Dir Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu

No, not the Roald Dahl memoir (although go read it, it's good), this is the new film from New Zealand talent Taika Waititi, who if not a household name has definitely got gems on his CV that you'll recognise: namely the hilarious and brilliant Flight of the Conchords and 2008 cult hit and overall lovable oddity Eagle Vs Shark. This looks to have the same delightful humour, but this time told from a child's perspective with an insight into the Maori culture. Should be a lot of fun.





Buried
Dir Rodrigo Cortés
Ryan Reynolds
Now here's a curious little one: if you thought Phonebooth couldn't be done, then the restrictions for this film are beyond imagination. Buried stars Ryan Reynolds as a driver in Iraq who is attacked and later wakes up in a trapped cofin with only a handful of objects and no idea how he got there or how to get out. And that's it - the next 90 minutes or so is just us, the camera, and an increasingly frenzied actor. I'm definitely intrigued to see how this one plays out, how the director can pad this out into the taut little thriller it promises with so little to play with. It's also going to be a major test for Ryan Reynolds, who so far, has had a very bland career. This could be a true breakout role, a breakout piece of film work. Here's the teaser trailer:
 




 





Enter The Void
Dir Gaspar Noé 
Nathaniel Brown, Paz De La Huerta 
From the premise, to the weird A Clockwork Orange teaser trailer, to the uneasy realisation this is from the same guy who gave us Irreversible, I have to admit that this film freaks me out a little! It caught my eye because the story sounds so interesting, and could be a revelatory portrayal of a ghost, of limbo, of an NDE (I bloody love NDEs, I wrote my dissertation on them). And it's been quietly getting good feedback, so it's obviously not emerged a total mess, or gone the other way and repulsed everyone with pretention. We'll just see how this one goes, see what Sundance makes of it, and I'll wait for the full trailer to be swayed. 



Four Lions
Dir Chris Morris
Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali
This may not mean a lot to the native Americans attending Sundance, but to us Brits who grew up chortling and quoting from The Day Today and diligently watching anything else Chris Morris cast his eye over - the rarity making it lucrative - this film has been a long time coming. It's his first film actually, and true to form he's not settled for anything mainstream or easy, rather having a go at trying to make a comedy....out of terrorism. While many will start murmuring "contraVERsial!", people should watch, as Chris Morris has a habit of pushing the media and social boundaries and getting it right. Whilst raking up Ofcom points, of course. Also penned by the writers of Peep Show, the probability of this being a triumph is already secure. Here's the first clip to wet your appetite.

Frozen
Dir Adam Green
Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers
I'm not sure what to make of this one. The premise is intriguing - three young skiers take the last chairlift down from the mountain and get stuck midway down as the resort shuts down for the night leaving them trapped in suspension as a snowstorm moves in. But after seeing the trailer, I'm not sure if the director has managed to put enough imagination and inventiveness into the remaining story (apart from all the icky frostbite, frozen fingers being ripped off from frozen bars, etc). I know I shouldn't judge films on the trailers alone, but it didn't seem solid and rich enough in action to fully excite me. I shall wait for reaction. Meanwhile judge for yourself on the quirky thriller:





Grown Up Movie Star
Dir Adriana Maggs
Shawn Doyle, Tatiana Maslany 
This looks like a great adolescent coming of age film, reminding me a lot of Thirteen. Set in Newfoundland as well, an isolated icy place that will be amazing to see on the big screen (once again, my love for icy desolate wildernesses reigns!). I've always maintained Canadian cinema has a lot going for it and they've had some excellent releases lately (C.R.A.Z.Y, Pontypool, West of Pluto). Let's hope this one from first time director Adriana Maggs can keep the Maple Leaf flying high - it certainly looks laden with strong, emotional performances fuelled by the naivety of becoming famous.






happthankyoumoreplease
Dir Josh Radnor
Malin Akerman, Josh Radnor, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Pablo Schreiber 
One film I'm really excited about! Completely my kind of film: a group of New Yorkers in their 20s who are struggling with life, love, career and friendships - but written by a newcomer (we don't have How I Met Your Mother over here) and starring a real indie cast. Heaven! This film's been getting quite a bit of buzz as well, so I was disappointed when I couldn't find a trailer for it. Still, the set up is convincing and strong enough not to need one - it certainly gets flagged up by me! Plus, it has the excellent Zoe Kazan in it (The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Revolutionary Road).


Hesher
Dir Spencer Susser 
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Devin Brochu 
We've arrived at the Natalie film! Hurrah! She signed up for this one quite a while ago, and it's nice to see her heading back to her indie routes, as does Joseph Gordon-Levitt who looks like he has a nice meaty role to exploit here ala Brick - complete with Neanderthal look! Details about this are just beginning to emerge, and it looks like it's a darkly humorous tale focusing on the friendship between loner Hesher (Gordon-Levitt) and young boy TJ, whose just lost his mother in an accident. Natalie plays the local grocery girl (hee!) who befriends them. Unfortunately no trailer as of yet (it'll be on culturemouse soon as) to see exactly what tone and vision this is going to take, but Natalie rarely makes a bad choice. It's a biased recommendation from me!


The Killer Inside Me
Dir Michael Winterbottom
Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson
For all the rigid criteria I use to judge whether I see a film or not, this film doesn't tick any of my boxes. In fact it exudes some pretty hefty warning signs: it's noir! I hate noir! Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson are in it! I HATE Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson! Yet, with all that seemingly going against it, I am strangely drawn to this film and want to go and see it. I have my reasons - it's darkly stylish and smoky, it's about a serial killer (I LOVE serial killers!...ahem) and most importantly Casey Affleck's in it, and he's a damn hard actor to turn down these days. I think he has really blossomed in the last couple of years with excellent turns in The Assassination of Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone and continues to go from strength to strength. I can't not see this film. Plus, I've always wanted to like noir...

Others of note:
The Company Men - one of the most talked about Sundance films focusing on redundancy
Douchebag - taking a road trip to find lost love and avoid an impending wedding
The Dry Land - Brothers without Natalie, and erm, brothers
The Extra Man - Paulo Dano and Kevin Kline get friendly
Get Low - BILL MURRAY!?!
I Am Love- Tilda Swinton being amazing and fierce in patriarchal family drama
Jack Goes Boating - Philip Seymour Hoffman's first directorial piece in which he also stars
The Kids Are Allright - a brother and sister seek out their biological father who helped their gay parents conceive


M-Z will be with you shortly!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

FILM REVIEW: The Road


I think I may have mentioned in my preview for this that it was probably going to make me cry a lot. The comments I'd received from people who saw it before me ranged from "not as depressing as I thought it was going to be" to "horribly bleak." From the onset you know they're not both going to survive, so you journey with them hoping that the end, whenever and for whomever it comes, isn't going to reduce you into a snivelling, face-leaking mess.
There are so many interesting concepts to this film, so many questions thrown up: not just about what is happening and why to the exterior, but what is happening and why in the interior as well - in people's minds. The world is ending for no given explanation (the interesting exchange between the Father and the Old Man who states "everyone thought it was con but not me" makes me think either 2012 or climate change) and everyone reacts and adapts to the apocalyptic prison in different ways. Some become savages and turn to cannibalism to survive. Some can't take it and kill themselves by any means necesary (the Mother). Some just wither away, their decomposed and skeletal bodies left untended to in whatever state they last endured. A few exist in an innocent petrified state, the black skies and burning forests the only life they have ever known (The Boy). And then there's the survivors - the ones who choose to fight. The Father - blessed or plagued by sweet nostalgia - never gives up hope that they might one day get back to those luxurious days. His fruitless pleading to his wife not to give in and die is heartbreaking, as his devotion to his whole family. His flashbacks of happier times with his wife bathed in golden light and showing simple moments such as tinkling piano keys or dozing in the sun - come almost like nightmares, tormenting him from another world, showing him what he can no longer touch and feel in this blasted barren land. His son suffers too with memories of his mother and The Father tells him they just have to forget her. His way of doing this is to drop the only picture he has left of her and his wedding ring over a bridge. His commitment to the cause is devastating: cutting out all the physical ties with the person he still clearly loves (I certainly couldn't do it). But it's his love for his son that keeps him going and what is central to the film's emotional pull and drive.
Every moment of their survival is your survival. As they hide from cannibals in woods and upstairs bedrooms you are praying they don't get caught and trapped. When they find the bunker with shelves and shelves of food you feel absolutely delighted inside (I think a lot of people wondered why on earth they didn't just stay there!). The Father's love for The Boy and his overwhelming need to protect him puts him in some painful and trying situations - teaching him how to kill himself with a gun if he ever needs to, and shunning any passers-by who appeal to them with a harsh antagonism despite the tugging at his sleeve. The part where they chase down a thief who stole their belongings who is then made to strip completely nude by The Father is particularly telling of this, and is more unsettling as the distraught son pleads for his father to have some compassion. It's not that the father is slowly becoming less human - his tender moments with his son are testament to that - it's his dwindling trust in the rest of the human race that controls him, and what their intentions could be for his son who he cannot let out of his sight for a second.

The end then, when it comes, is ramped up for maximum emotional impact. Of course it was obvious they were never going to find anything when they finally reached the South, anything starkly different to the world they prevail now. It's also fairly evident a boat trip to a new shore wouldn't bring much fortune either. The Father knows this, and has always known this, but he has to keep 'the fire' alive for his son, and as long as the two of them stay together then all is well.

When the Father starts to become ill you uncomfortably realise where the story is heading and it's not an easy watch at all. And I caved and bawled like a baby for the entire last ten minutes. Snot and everything. Not only is this young child now orphaned, but it's in the worst possible environment you could imagine. The days after his father's death where he just sits nearby, guide now lost, are so horribly gut wrenching, as is when he says his goodbye - "I'll talk to you every day" - I wanted to howl. Thank goodness some hope is offered at the end of the film where The Boy is taken in by others intent on keeping him safe. He inherits a family of sorts at the end, but you know he'll grow up into the adult The Father showed him how to be.

It's a beautiful, bleak film with some terrific performances. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee are faultless in their commitment to their roles, and utterly convincing as father and son. They have been unfairly overlooked and neglected in the awards season without a shadow of a doubt. Mortensen continues to prove himself as one of the finest actors of his generation, and there's a hugely bright future awaiting Smit-McPhee (he's starring as the lead male role in the American remake of Let The Right One In next year). 

Uncompromsing and grim, but not completely harrowing, The Road should be sought out for its moving story, its poignant characters and for its heart. It carries the fire.







Monday, 18 January 2010

TV Fall 2009 Report


I watch a lot of American television - I think after watching just a few shows you can't go back or settle with mediocre British attempts as the quality is so diminished. So steadily over the years I have picked up new shows, and actively get involved when all the new pilots and pick ups are announced by the US networks, eagerly scanning premises to see what else I can add to my rapidly growing schedule. Last September (it's obviously 'Autumn' but for speaking specifically about US shows and for the cute notion of it it's now 'Fall') I added up that I had nine shows to watch every week - NINE! - but when the nights become cold and dark there's nothing better than to curl up with your favourite characters and finally get some repercussions from excruciating cliffhangers. Oh, and throw in some pure guilty pleasures in there as well...

At present we're heading towards the end of the Christmas Mid Season Break (a horrible, bereft time of year, sob) so I thought as a heads up into the Spring Term I would round up my thoughts so far, and see which of my shows are heading for lofty heights, and which ones are lagging behind...


90210

I was a huge fan of Beverly Hills 90210 in my youth (ahhh, angsty Brenda and clean cut Brandon), and obviously was very excited by a re-launch by the CW. But Season 1 suffered badly from shallow characters, done-to-death storylines, and writing so bad it would have received a fail in my Creative Writing degree. Plus in Annie Wilson the show had one of the most unlikeable, preachy and naval gazing wallowing banshees ever committed to a pen's head. The only thing saving this show from the dredges was to have her character run over by a bus in the Summer break, and her subsequent harrowing death waved over by her family in the opening episode, so by the first advert break she is already just a whisper on the Californian breeze. But actually, the writers did something much more inventive - for them anyway - a risk that befalling any other character would have flailed and sunk. But with Annie, they had already reached rock bottom on the annoyingness counter, so what else did they have to lose by turning her into a murderess? A rubbish one at that, but still - ANNIE WILSON KILLED A HUMAN BEING. And that's where Season 2 kicks in and amazingly - has some success with it.

For Annie - even though she seems to forget she even committed a crime by episode four - gradually becomes more likeable as she is shunned by her regular popular crowd (including shameful public humiliation by Naomi), becomes drawn into the clutches of Jasper, the nephew of the man she ran over on Prom Night. Partly through guilt, but also through the fact that edgy weirdy Jasper is an outcast in the High School class system and offers Annie an insight into being a maverick, Annie becomes tighter with Jasper, until they become a teenie bopper lite Starkweather-Fugate couple, what with her running over tramps and him pushing good journalistic students down the stairs...ahem.
Because her old friends - including brother Dixon - want nothing to do with her, they turn a blind eye to the danger Annie is slowly entwining herself in. Because - of course! - Jasper knows that she killed his uncle, and then drove off. He's known all along, yet his motives for getting close to Annie are still unclear even as the series progresses - does he want revenge, or is there a lonely soul calling out here wanting friendship and intimacy? There's still claims Jasper killed his uncle himself and set Annie up and she's been innocent all along - and who knows with these types of show? But now Annie has slowly redeemed herself (with the whole Jen storyline being resolved.... see below), her friends have tuned in again and suddenly realise HOLY SHIT THE GIRL'S IN TERRIBLE PERIL! They try to warn her but Annie's head over heels at this point (uttering the vomit inducing "I want you to be my first" for about the 40th time) and why should she listen to the people who ostracised her for so long? But when Jasper admits to her that floating rumours are true - he is a drug dealer - she wants out and fast. But then he drops the bombshell - he noez wot she did last summa. OMGZ! What now? Blackmail? She killed his beloved uncle goddammit!

What happens next we'll find out in a couple of weeks, but bizarrely the show may have committed an own goal in creating 'creepy Jasper' because Zachary Jay Sherman (what a name!) is one of their best actors, one of the most interesting people in the glamorous posse and yet I can't see how they can keep his character on after this little arc is concluded. It's a shame, and I hope they can still find a way around it. He could be the new Dylan!...ish.

I've devoted so many words so the Annie-Jasper storyline because it was by far the most potent in Season 2. The others: Adrianna loves Navid! Now she loves Teddy who is clearly 31! Now she loves drugs! She's forgotten all about her baby!/Navid is a broken man after Ade dumps him! He is even more broken when Jasper pushes him down the stairs!/Silver isn't bi-polar anymore because that is so last year! Her mother died in the most predictable way! Now she is torn between Teddy and Dixon and no one envies her!/Dixon had a throwaway storyline with an older woman who turned out to be a bit of a psycho! Now he wants to find his real mom, forgetting he's done that already last season!/Ryan is dull!/Jen is finally uprooted!/and the Wilson parents and Kelly are barely in it anymore!

Which leaves the other storyline worthy of attention in Season 2 - Liomi. Or rather anything involving Naomi and/or Liam, who are both allowed slightly below par storylines because they're just so pretty to look at. Sigh. And I've been waiting for them to finally get together ALL FALL LONG! So wahoo when they finally clinched in the last eppy. I think the chemistry between AnnaLynne McCord and Matt Lanter is obvious and eminently watchable, and keeping them apart much longer would have been detrimental to the show. The inclusion of surfer dude chick Ivy did nothing for me - she was no match for the awesomeness of Naomi and I didn't feel anything for her at the end when she effectively brought Liomi back into being. Unfortunately from the promo it looks as though she is going to stick around, and actually be initiated into Naomi's 'gang'. Ugh! Let's hope Naomi doesn't fashion her nemesis out of it.

Although at times filler and a bit draggy, 90210 has actually risen up the ranks to become one of my favourite shows of the past year - you know you're going to get some enjoyment out of it every time you sit down to watch an episode, and even though it's as trashy as hell and probably kills a few of my brain cells every minute exposed to it, I can't wait for its return!


Glee

One of the new series for 2009 that's proved to be, well, inconsistent. I'm always excited by anything new Ryan Murphy does - I've been a Nip/Tuck fan since the start, and have recently been rediscovering the genius of Popular. And this one definitely had promise - I was excited Murphy was returning to the High School genre and proposing to tell it from an outcast POV ala the defunct but excellent Freaks and Geeks. The pilot wasn't as cutthroat as I was hoping it to be, and the big cheesy ensemble numbers would have lost the interest of a lot of viewers. Still, I was buoyant enough about the full season starting and seeing where the comedy, the tone and the story would go. And it's become one of those 'background shows' - it's nice to have on while you do other things. You certainly can't sit down and watch a full episode without your fingers itching towards the remote or the mouse. It just doesn't hold enough interest. The writing is very up and down - usually depending on the characters - and some of the episodes have been a complete and utter mess (that terrible acafellas one for example).

All of the characters - barring Quinn and the immense Sue - are as throwaway as the next and completely unlikeable, which is a huge shame, and a huge flaw being as we are now halfway through the first season. Surely we should have come to love or hate them all by now - at least have some kind of thoughts about how they each individually contribute to the show's dynamic? But they are all boring, especially the bland Mr Schuester who has finally got it together with bug-eyed hair folding Emma, who has 99.9% less spunk and charisma than his wife Terri did. The fake pregnancy storyline was a bit Nip/Tuck for a first season of a show aimed at teenagers, but I appreciated all the little nods to Jessalyn Gilsig's character on the cosmetic surgery drama. Quinn's pregnancy was also a bit much I thought, but they have managed to spin this in a way that makes it useful as well as heartfelt, and it's also made the character of Quinn - who was very generic to start with -  a really likeable (and pretty, heh heh) addition. Rachel, Finn, the black diva, the gay, the wheelchair (oh dear....) can all be re-cast when the series returns in April and no-one would kick up a fuss.

The show is best when it's being OTT and hilarious, and this usually means Jane Lynch is involved. I think she is brilliant as the overly competitive tyrant gym teacher, and she gets all the best lines and delivers them to witch-like perfection ("You're about to board the Sue Sylvester Express. Destination: HORROR!"). Thank God she is an integral part of the show and not reduced to a bit part as her scenes are the most appealing and memorable, especially Sue's Corner which is a work of geniosity! I really want to like the role of the principal too, but he hasn't had a killer episode yet to sell me. 

I think this show gets a lot more love than it's due, as I certainly find it a chore to watch at times. Tuning in again on its return in April will depend on a lot of things, one of the keys being whether I have missed it in its long absence. It's only been a month so far but it's fading from memory already...





Gossip Girl

The soaring ficcy heights of Season One seem like eons ago. Season 2 stumbled, blossomed into fabulousness, and then fell down a steep set of stairs. Slowly. In HEELS. Season 3 -dubbed "The College Years" had a lot to find to restore it to its Season 1 greatness. And sadly it hasn't found the - we are talking American - elevator yet. It hasn't even found the right direction! Season 3 has been extraordinarily poor, saved only by Blair and Chuck who continue to be wonderful despite being given weak storylines and hardly any screentime. The transition to College means the show has lost its focus, as the main protagonists are scattered about the city interacting with different people and living different lives. The school gates can't bring them together anymore on a Monday morning after the dirty weekend before. The writers have tried to deal with this by spinning up some incredibly boring and soapish storylines, and the show has gone from being unmissable to "I'll watch it after 90210." Yes that's right GG people - 90210 IS ACTUALLY BETTER THAN YOU RIGHT NOW. So by god, they know they're in trouble.

One of the huge flaws is Serena (played by the still impossibly gorgeous Blake Lively). By choosing not to go College (although this would have meant Serena going to Yale, and barely being in the show. Maybe that could have worked? They could have played on her original disappearance which started the whole show), she loosely hovers on the cusp of the action, having boring affairs with Carter Baizen and Tripp van der Bilt - even her car accident was pitiful! Serena was one of my favourite characters in the beginning, and now she's in limbo, in desperate need of a good punchy bit of drama that doesn't involve the inevitable (smoochiness with Nate) or the parental (lost dad orama). The parental stories are not wanted on Gossip Girl. Fair enough if they wanted to make something out of Rufus and Lily but now bringing Serena's dad into the equation is just going to make it drag onnnn and onnnnn. I just want it to concentrate on the troubled teens!

Nate's little dalliance with her off that axed CW show failed to bring me to care - even his political cheatings and fist fights haven't put him on my radar. Maybe time to kill him off? He has enough ties with the main gang for it to be a big and lasting event, and no one would miss him. It's WIN-WIN! Someone get this to the writers! Jenny was far more interesting being a wannabe fashion designer/runaway than she is now attempting to be Queen Bitch at Constance. And now a drug mule story? Pass the Gucci handbag! Dan's about to bore us to death pining after icky Vanessa, after what was a promising relationship with Hillary Duff (sadly now left). And Georgina has slowly sunk into a black hole - whatever happened to The Bitch Is Back?

Blair continues to be utterly adorable, and played to perfection by Leighton Meester. I was a bit worried how the direction of her relationship with Chuck would go after the two of them finally got together at the end of Season 2 (one of my favourite fic moments ever, le sigh), but the two of them have continued to thrive and their support of each other through each own's problems is lovely to watch. But Chuck is severely underwritten this season, and it shows when his token five minutes every eppy turn out to be the very best (there were actually times this season when I was fast forwarding through certain storylines. That's how bad things have got). His biggest role came in the last episode when the first anniversary of his dad's death haunts him and a burden he has been carrying for so long finally crashes down on him. It was a brilliant bit of acting from Ed Westwick, but then they had to ruin it all by having his DEAD MOTHER show up at his father's grave at the end of the episode, and then RUN OFF INTO THE FOG as Chuck calls after her. It was like watching a scene from Passions! What has GG become?!

GG now takes a bit of a break before returning mid March, and I say this is a blessing. It's time for the creators to sit down and watch Season 1 again, or go back to the source material and read a few of Cecily von Ziegesar's books, and really work out where they're going with this, and try to reel things back in. It's not too late to turn things around and the fanbase is still loyal. But unless things start to change, and fast, there's only so much patience we have with unfashionable garb.


Melrose Place

Another of my favourite childhood shows that has been resurrected by the CW. I hope it's going the same course as its sibling 90210 - i.e, a terrible Season 1 reforming itself by Season 2. Because for all the hype and my excitement at having the famous apartment complex back (plus the fact there are very few dramas on TV these days about young people in their mid 20s that don't involve lawyers or doctors) 2009 Melrose Place has washed up looking a bit ridiculous. Not that the original was a tightly written tense filled drama - Melrose Place is supposed to be the home of all the melodrama. But the antics of the new version have been plain embarrassing... yet you keep watching. Well I do anyway. I bemoan other shows for having terrible writing, but they all need to clear the top step of the podium for this barrage of drivel. It really is awful at times - you're cringing one moment, shouting out what's going to happen the next. And bringing in adopted brother-slash-lover in the penultimate episode of the first run was verging on insane! Oh, and it was the scorned wife wot killed Sydney as well. In some kind of canny twist to the tale. Whoodathunkit on Melrose Place?

One of the things that saves this show for me is Katie Cassidy, who plays Ella. I love Katie Cassidy - she was brilliant as the original Ruby on Supernatural and has the ability to really nail these gutsy, sparky characters. Plus every week I am amazed by all the outfits she wears! It's true fashion porn ala Gossip Girl. Even though she plays first class bitch Ella, she manages to bring a real likeability to the role that makes her a really strong tour de force on screen. She's bold, brassy and you want to be her best friend. There's a few more characters I like actually - Lauren, whose Pretty Woman storyline is actually really watchable and will be interesting to see how it pans out; Riley, even though she's a bit whiney and selfish I always take notice when she's on the screen; and to some extent Auggie as well, even though his character is a bit wooden and not the least bit admirable. He's the best of the boys though, lined up next to wet JonAH MillAH and David who whips his sunglasses off every time he walks onscreen. Violet could have been such an interesting and dynamic character as she's as creepy as hell, but in the hands of Ashlee Simpson she is just painful to endure. I read they're writing out David and Violet, and I was actually suspecting them to go before the break. Obviously there's more to play out there, but I think they're both due the exit door.

As for the returning cast I think Jane was the best - she was pouncy and vicious (in fact, they've all been pretty evil in some way or other!). Obviously Heather Locklear is still finding her feet stepping back into Amanda Woodward's shoes, and has had little to do so far. And now they've killed off Sydney so boooo! Although they've done that before...It wouldn't surprise me if she did a Dean Winchester and climbed out of her own grave. Of course they could always bring back crazy Kimberley.... ahhhh now that would be excellent.

Apparently when the show returns in March it's going to have a completely different feel about it. Now the murder mystery has been solved - not that it carried the previous episodes anyway - it's going to be much "lighter" and more fun. I fail to see how this is going to have a drastic change on proceedings, but I'm desperate intrigued enough to find out.


Supernatural


Aside from all the crap I watch (^^) I do harbour a few credible shows as well! And there are fewer of more brilliance than Supernatural. I am in awe of how this show has progressed over the years, from a monster of the week type of show to one that produces real drama, has depth in the writing, makes me collapse in fits of laughter and boasts one of the best pairings on modern day television in Sam and Dean. It truly is one of the most underrated, under radar shows in existence, and if only it was on another network than the CW perhaps it would get the broad recognition it deserves. In fact I believe it's due even more plaudits because it's on a tiny, often dismissed station complete with stingy budget and guaranteed pipsqueak ratings. We're into Season 5 now - slated as the final season but yet to be confirmed - and it's as strong as ever, the quality never having diminished and the potential for more ready in droves. I urge anyone who hasn't tuned into this yet to do so immediately - it's not too late and I promise you will not turn back.

Of course Season 5 is the awakening of Lucifer, who is ready to guide the apocalypse to its triumphantly ghastly end after being set free by Sam at the end of the last season. They've done well casting Mark Pellegrino as Satan, last seen of course as the elusive and mysterious Jacob on Lost. He's only had a handful of appearances so far, but already he's proved himself worthy of such a meaty role. They do well with casting on Supernatural - I can only think of the horror of Ruby II as a mistake. They genuinely introduce fantastic characters, and a prime example of this is Castiel, who has slowly become one of my top favourites (along with the boys and Bobby - gotta love Bobby!). The comic timing of Misha Collins is superb, and his scenes with Jensen Ackles a joy to witness. But he plays a mean angel as well, and the show would be a loss without him now. I was so afraid they were going to write out Bobby in the first episode of this series when he was injured - HOW COULD THEY KILL BOBBY! Thankfully they didn't, and he's been in it more than ever this season which has been great. I always smile when I see Jim Beaver's name in the credits. I was never a huge Jo and Ellen fan, and bringing them in for an emotional climax at the break would have held more power if they hadn't been absent for so long. Still, I bawled like a baby when they sacrificed themselves. I love how Supernatural can do that - have me giggling at Paris Hilton movie in-jokes and Supernatural conventions to sobbing loudly the next. In polar opposite form to all my recent grumblings, the writing in this is top notch.


Sam and Dean's relationship continues to define the word angst. Their characters are so well developed now the two actors can take storylines in their stride and manage to make them utterly convincing. You really care for them and what happens, and every time they have a heart to heart by the impala at the end of an episode, or one catches the other betraying the other's trust, it's emotion that is tangible to the devoted viewer. After five years you have become so involved in their journey that everything that happens to them feels like it has an impact on you, too! I was devastated when the two of them had to part ways earlier on in the Season (and then this was sensationally capped by Lucifer revealing that Sam is his true vessel), and even more so when it looked like Bobby had cut Sam from his life... luckily he was just possessed by a demon! Phew! I love these boys to bits, and would happily watch them hunting the undead for years and years to come.

There have been some stellar episodes this season: The End where Dean visits the future and Sam plays a creepy white suited devil; Changing Channels were we get another visit from the Trickster; The Real Ghostbusters, the Supernatural boys go to their own convention (!); and the finale Abandon All Hope which is up there in bonanza terms with Jus In Bello. I am squeeing about what's going to happen next and how the apocalypse is going to go down. AND IT'S BACK NEXT WEEK! SQUEEEEEEEEEEE


In other Fall news... I lost patience early on with Season 2 of Dollhouse and then it was subsequently cancelled. I've heard there are a few twists and turns as the season goes on and it does pick up the pace from what was a very lacklustre beginning, so perhaps when there's a lull again I may finish it all off. I also fell behind with Nip/Tuck's final season, which wasn't intentional, just the way things worked out. I'm now quite a row of episodes behind current pace, but I may catch up after hearing that Rose McGowan has joined the cast. How this passed me by I have no idea! Cycle 13 of America's Next Top Model, i.e. the Short Arse Cycle, wasn't as horrific as I had been envisioning, and in actuality had one of the best Final Two for a few years now. And the best gal won as well, so hurrah! Perhaps a small return to form, even though the Top Models down under are still way above and beyond. And a mention too for The Beautiful Life which was axed unfairly by the CW after two episodes. It was no revolution, but it had real promise to be fun and full of catty model dramaramas and I was enjoying it. Even if Mischa Barton was shit. I hear it's been sort of revived on You Tube, and the other finished episodes uploaded, so I may check them out at some point even though it's all futile.

So there we have it, I'm all ranted and squeed out and ready for a brand new set of juicy happenings to get my eyes bored into. Unfortunately a lot of my returning shows are still far away on holiday, and won't be with us again until there's flowers and leaves and stuff. Boo hoo. But to allay my sorrows I do have treats in waiting. The wonderful Damages with cutie Rose Bryne is back next week, and then we get the mother of them all - the final season of Lost. You can't get a better substitution than that in the break, can you really?


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Film Preview 2010 (part two)

Shutter Island (February)

This is a curious one. It was all lined up for an Autumn release last year and in prime contention for awards season but then it was shelved back four months. Apparently it wasn't ready, but the moment any film treads this path it's immediately barraged with negative feeling. I must say when I watched the trailer a good few months ago I remember feeling slightly underwhelmed - one of those trailers when they're desperately trying to make events look exciting from very few moments of interest. Which makes me think it's going to be very heavy on the psychological side. Which is good, because I like the premise and I think it could be really good. Not a huge Leo fan, but if the story's good then that shouldn't matter.


The Last Station (February)

Another film that has only recently popped up on my radar. I'm not big on my historical biogs, but Leo Tolstoy looks to be a really interesting character and I have no doubt this will be a refined and sophisticated affair. Of course all the buzz is about Helen Mirren's performance as the wife, and from the trailer it does look as though she is going to be magnificent to watch in this. The whole cast is very strong actually - not too starry an ensemble for the film to drown in. And everyone needs a period drama every once in a while!


Alice in Wonderland (March)

I was going to give this a gold star, as I was very excited about this when it was announced. But as time has trundled on and photos and trailers have emerged, I'm left with the muted feeling that this is just going to be like all of Tim Burton's other films. He keeps casting the same actors, and creating the same kind of cutesy gothic settings and it's becoming really samey now. Alice in Wonderland is perfect for him, and if done earlier on in his career it would have been really special. Now I feel it has to be outstanding in every way to really rise to the occasion. Perhaps the added 3D release will help.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (March)

This got a lot of good reviews and a positive reception at the Leeds Film Festival last year. I didn't realise how famous it was - or at least the success of the crime series by Stieg Larsson with which it's from - until I started bumping into a stand of them every time I stepped into a Waterstones. I'm not into crime, but these are supposed to be really, really good books and it seems as though the transition into film has been a success as well. With its promise of high suspense and a tense ride all the way to the finish, I'm up for this. Sweden can do no wrong at the moment in the film world!


Clash of the Titans (March)

More like a clash of interests! I'm a huge fan of classical mythology and the epics (when are they going to make a decent Odyssey? When are they even going to consider making the Aeneid?) and I'm all over any new releases that come out which give a nod to the Gods and heroes. Perseus is perhaps the story I am least familiar with, so even more reason to sink deep into an adventure of monsters and hubris. Except Sam Worthington's in it. And so is Gemma Arterton. Two of my least favourite people to eat popcorn to. Le sigh. Let's hope the film does a good enough job to transport me into Classical times so I forget who they actually are under all that armour and toga cloth...


A Nightmare on Elm Street (May)

The only horror on my list! What happened to all the good horrors? Hollywood's going through a fancy of remaking and re-imagining all the classic horror stories and baddies at the moment, and having a mixed bag of success with them. While the remake of Halloween was genuinely scary and added a new angle, last year's new Friday the 13th was lazy and they shouldn't have bothered. Now, it's time to reintroduce Freddie Krueger to out dreamcatchers. Is it going to be any good? Who knows. The trailer is so-so. It's the fact that they've cast Jackie Earle Haley that props it up on this list for me - he's a creepy, creepy guy and a brilliant actor. Surely he's going to do it justice? (Katie Cassidy's in this too - shhhhhh. I bloody love Katie Cassidy!)


Prince of Persia (May)

OK hands up - I think the trailer for this looks shocking. Plus the resurgence of Gemma Arterton again - ARGH! But you have to see at least one big silly blockbluster every year and as long as you don't take it too seriously (ahem), then this could be lots of fun. And Jerry Bruckheimer is involved - if he can make it as good as the first Pirates was, then I'm there! I do think that Persia along with Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is going to be labelled as being one of the big flops of 2010. Certainly the latter has had a lot of trouble surrounding the shoot, and it's uninspiring story means that it doesn't make my list - I'm not sure I'll even bother going to see it all to be honest. But I like Jake Gyllenhaal, and if nothing else he'll certainly make an entertaining and likeable lead character. I'm crossing my fingers for this one to be good.




Toy Story 3 (July)

I loved the first two films, Buzz Lightyear being one of my favourite animated characters to ever be created. I used to go into a bit of a random gooey fit in the first film where he's riding in the van and he puts a seat-belt on, ha ha! He's such a cutie!
This is one the smartest franchises to come onto the big screen, and the quality of Toy Story 2 reassures me that 3 is going to be fantabulous no matter what. And when have Pixar ever made a bad film? The story does seem a little weak on first inspection, and the trailer didn't send me into a fit of squee as much as I thought it might, but I refuse to doubt this film. It's going to be the big film of the Summer, if not the year.


(and now we experience a big yawn until the end of the year....many films haven't been given release dates yet of course!)


Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Christmas)

One of the few series of films I am actually following (I couldn't give a toss about Harry Potter. And don't even get me started on Twilight!). I'm really glad they're continuing with it after the nervyb that followed Prince Caspian (which I really enjoyed), and we're getting to see some of the lesser known Narnia tales come out. This looks like a big nautical romp through the magical land, and I'm definitely up for a bit of high seas action! Who knows, maybe Ben Barnes will even have learnt to act by the time it comes out? Now pass me the turkish delight!


Others films which didn't quite make the list either due to no concrete date being attributed to them as of yet, or just not being as glee inducing as those that get pictures: British flick Exam looks really intriguing, but is going to get such a limited release I may never know the taut geniosity....Clive Owen looks like he might actually open up his softer side in The Boys are Back, guaranteed to make me cry...following on from my Greek Mythology love as professed above I may check out Percy Jackson and the Olympians... I may as well go check out this Robert Pattinson dude and check if he can actually act or whether the fan girls are deluded when he stars in Remember Me...and perhaps Sam Worthington can redeem himself by going back to his angsty roots in Last Night....Whip It! looks like it could be a lot of fun, even though it hasn't set anything alight in the States... Ellen Page's other 2010 film could well be the biggie of the year - Christopher Nolan's highly awaited Inception...I went on holiday last year to Slovenia and read an excellent book called Veronika Decides to Die; then I find out it's just been made into a film with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Here's hoping for a tiny release this year... while Del Toro is busy with The Hobbit he's - of course - still got a billion other projects on the conveyor belt. This year's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark promises much in the scare drawer...I haven't heard very much about it but supposedly Norwegian Wood, the film adaptation of the excellent Murakami book is out this year, and I can't wait until I get to see that - gold star alert!...and there's a whole host of possible Natalie films due out this year, so here's hoping we get to see helpings of Hesher, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, and hopefully - although I mentioned this last January - New York I Love You, which has some of my favourite, favourite people in it and it needs to hurry up and come to the UK Godammit!

And thus concludes my preview for the coming year. Of course, as more films get added to the release schedule I will write about them here - if they're worthy of my attention ;-)