Monday, June 27, 2011

TV Update

Here is my list with some changes to reflect cancellations/new shows...

-30 Rock (NBC)
-The Big C (Showtime)
-Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
-Bored to Death (HBO)
-The Borgias (Showtime)
-Breaking Bad (AMC)
-Californication (Showtime)
-Community (NBC)
-Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
-Damges (DirecTV)
-Dexter (Showtime)
-Episodes (Showtime)
-Falling Skies (TNT)
-Fringe (FOX)
-Game of Thrones (HBO)
-Hung (HBO)
-It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
-Justified (FX)
-The Killing (AMC)
-Mad Men (AMC)
-Men of a Certain Age (TNT)
-Modern Family (ABC)
-Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
-The Office (NBC)
-Parks and Recreation (NBC)
-Shameless (Showtime)
-Sons of Anarchy (FX)
-Southland (TNT)
-Treme (HBO)
-True Blood (HBO)
-The Walking Dead (AMC)
-Weeds (Showtime)
-Wilfred (FX)

-Eastbound and Down (HBO)
-Entourage (HBO)
-Rescue Me (FX)

-Alcatraz (FOX)
-American Horror Story (FX)
-Awake (NBC)
-Enlightened (HBO)
-Hell on Wheels (AMC)
-Homeland (Showtime)
-House of Cards (Netflix)
-House of Lies (Showtime)
-Luck (HBO)
-More As This Story Develops (HBO)
-Person of Interest (CBS)
-Powers (FX)
-Terra Nova (FOX)
-Veep (HBO)
-Web Therapy (Showtime)

Friday, June 24, 2011

2011- The First Half

I still have to write my review of Super 8, but here are the films I've been keeping as "For Your Consideration" for my Filmspotting ballot. I should point out that at the end of the year, things do change when I reevaluate everything. So as of now, here it is, a recap of my favorite films and performances...


-The Sunset Limited
-Super 8
-The Way Back
-X-Men: First Class

-J.J. Abrams (Super 8)
-Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids)
-Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Biutiful)
-Tommy Lee Jones (The Sunset Limited)
-Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class)
-Peter Weir (The Way Back)
-Joe Wright (Hanna)

-Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
-Steve Coogan (The Trip)
-Joel Courtney (Super 8)
-Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class)
-Paul Giamatti (Win Win)
-Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code)
-Samuel L. Jackson (The Sunset Limited)
-Tommy Lee Jones (The Sunset Limited)
-James McAvoy (The Conspirator)
-James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class)
-Ray Stevenson (Kill the Irishman)
-Rainn Wilson (Super)

-Saoirse Ronan (Hanna)

-Kevin Bacon (Super)
-Kevin Bacon (X-Men: First Class)
-Eric Bana (Hanna)
-Rob Brydon (The Trip)
-Kyle Chandler (Super 8)
-Colin Farrell (The Way Back)
-Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover Part II)
-Ed Harris (The Way Back)
-Tom Hollander (Hanna)
-Danny Huston (The Conspirator)
-John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids)
-Tom Wilkinson (The Conspirator)

-Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
-Elle Fanning (Super 8)
-Ellen Page (Super)

-Cedar Rapids
-The Company Men
-The Conspirator
-Kill the Irishman
-Super 8
-The Way Back
-Win Win
-X-Men: First Class

-J.J. Abrams (Super 8)
-Armando Bo, Nicholas Giacobone, and Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Biutiful)
-David Farr and Seth Lochhead (Hanna)
-Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids)
-John Wells (The Company Men)

-Keith Clarke and Peter Weir (The Way Back)
-Cormac McCarthy (The Sunset Limited)

-A Better Life
-Cinema Verite
-Everything Must Go
-Meek's Cutoff
-Midnight in Paris
-Too Big to Fail
-The Tree of Life

1. Super 8
2. Biutiful
3. The Sunset Limited
4. Hanna
5. The Trip
6. The Way Back
7. X-Men: First Class
8. The Company Men
9. Cedar Rapids
10. The Conspirator
11. The Hangover Part II
12. Thor
13. Kill the Irishman
14. Win Win
15. Super
16. Source Code
17. Battle: Los Angeles
18. Fast Five
19. The Eagle
20. The Mechanic
21. Green Lantern
22. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
23. Limitless
24. Paul
25. The Green Hornet
26. Your Highness

MOVIES I'D SEE FOR THE SECOND HALF (ordered by CONFIRMED release date/schedule and is VERY subject to change)
-Transformers 3
-Horrible Bosses
-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
-Captain America
-Cowboys and Aliens
-The Devil's Double
-The Guard
-The Change-Up
-Rise of the Planet of the Apes
-30 Minutes or Less
-One Day
-Our Idiot Brother
-The Debt
-Killer Elite
-Dream House
-The Ides of March
-The Big Year
-The Thing
-The Three Musketeers
-Red State
-In Time
-The Rum Diary
-Like Crazy
-Tower Heist
-My Week with Marilyn
-Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
-Hugo Cabret
-The Muppets
-The Sitter
-Mission Impossible IV
-Sherlock Holmes 2
-The Descendants
-The Darkest Hour
-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
-We Bought a Zoo
-In the Land of Blood and Honey
-War Horse

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Trip

In 2006, Michael Winterbottom's A Cock and Bull Story was released which starred Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. It featured the actors playing two exaggerated versions of themselves as they tried to adapt Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne into a film. The end result was pleasantly hilarious and I rank it as my favorite film by Winterbottom (the prolific director of films ranging from 24-Hour Party People to A Mighty Heart).

The Trip is an informal follow-up of sorts. Coogan and Brydon return as their quarreling personalities in which Coogan is tasked by a magazine to go on a road trip to visit ten restaurants in England. He originally wanted to go with his girlfriend, but they had a semi-break-up. So Coogan ends up asking Brydon to accompany him and the result is something along the lines of My Dinner with Andre... only with a lot more one-upping and impressions of famous actors that includes Michael Caine, Ian McKellen, Sean Connery, Woody Allen, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Richard Burton, Roger Moore, and Dustin Hoffman.

It should be noted that this film is a complete work of improvisation and is actually an edited-down version of the BBC miniseries (the film is 107 minutes while the miniseries was about 180 minutes and last I checked it isn't available on DVD in the U.S.). This film was an interesting experience for me as what I what I expected was completely different from what I ended up viewing. I should first state that I'm not crazy about what has been deemed as "British-humor" aside from some notable exceptions (the works of guys like Ricky Gervais and Edgar Wright or films like Four Lions and In the Loop). The film isn't a constant laugh riot, but everything is more tongue-in-cheek and naturally subtle.

It is even surprisingly dramatic at points. Coogan's character wants something more special out of his life and in a certain sense, when the film ends, we leave him in a pretty tragic state (or at least in a place I wouldn't want to be left in). The nature of the ending and of the whole film in general, led me to take a second look at the story with a different perspective. It really is a two-man character study. It shows us what it is like to make a living playing and impersonating people that you aren't. The film shows two sides of the same coin in that Coogan and Brydon love what they do, but it takes a different toll on their private lives. Just look at how Coogan is estranged from his son and girlfriend while Brydon comes home to a loving wife and a young infant child that he loves.

So yes, although the film was not as zany as I might have hoped, it was quite enjoyable in a very pleasing and unexpected way. Although, I should be clear- I don't mean to undermine the fact that the film certainly has some very humorous moments, especially with the impressions. In fact I've been watching a ton of clips on Youtube of Coogan as Alan Partridge and Brydon doing impressions for the last hour. Thanks to the skillful direction and style of Winterbottom and the talent of these two performers, The Trip has quickly jumped to the top of my favorites list for the year.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Green Lantern

Green Lantern is the kind of film that people I know would call "the Avatar experience." I had some friends who got excited for that new science-fiction James Cameron film and instead they got a film that had more flashy eye candy than heart to it. I am a fan of the comic book character, especially the current run by writer Geoff Johns (an executive producer and consultant on the film), so I appreciate the writers and director Martin Campbell's (Casino Royale) vision for all of this. They did a good job of visually translating what could be difficult to do from page-to-screen. I really did enjoy the look of the cinematography and the special effects and Blake Lively, but my appreciation for the film stops right there.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) as a character has a lot of emotional complexity to him. In this film, all of that baggage is presented, but nothing is ever done with it. No one really changes all that much. Yes, Hal has to overcome fear and repair his relationship with Carol (Lively), but nothing all that great is achieved from even the most significant of character arcs. Take the relationship Hal has with his father (Jon Tenney) and brother's (Mike Doyle) family and observe how nothing ever really comes from any of those potentially interesting plot points. One of the villains is Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) and as inspiring of a choice he is to use as Hal's nemesis in the first film, he is absolutely useless. He shows up so there can be a fight scene, some more random emotional context, and just so a different villain can show up.

Then again, as far as franchises go, this is a decent start for an origin story. As a huge advocate of the character, I'd like to think that with some more thought put into the story that the sequel would actually be very enjoyable. A great cast was assembled (also including Temuera Morrison, Mark Strong, Michael Clarke Duncan, Geoffrey Rush, Jay O. Sanders, Angela Bassett, and Tim Robbins), but since the supporting characters (from the important ones to the minor ones) never really do anything... the result is that the film just feels even more stale. Heck, the most amazing thing about the story is just how much of the Green Lantern Corps mythos is introduced and how taken for granted in terms of the story it just all feels.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Emmy Wishlist

So with the Emmys coming up, similar to when the Oscars were on their way, I've decided to take a guess at who will be nominated based on shows I watch. I word it that way because I'm both combining my favorites with people who stand an actual chance (therefore calling it a "wishlist"). So here it goes...

-30 Rock
-It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
-Modern Family
-The Office
-Parks and Recreation
Honorable Mentions- The Big C, Eastbound and Down, Entourage, Episodes, Nurse Jackie, United States of Tara, Weeds

-Toni Collette (United States of Tara)
-Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
-Tina Fey (30 Rock)
-Laura Linney (The Big C)
-Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds)
-Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation)
Honorable Mentions- Tamsin Greig (Episodes)

-Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
-Steve Carell (The Office)
-Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
-Rob Lowe (Parks and Recreation)
-Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down)
-Joel McHale (Community)

-Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
-Jenna Fischer (The Office)
-Gillian Jacobs (Community)
-Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation)
-Jane Krakowski (30 Rock)
-Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)
Honorable Mentions- Eve Best (Nurse Jackie), Alison Brie (Community), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), Ellie Kemper (The Office), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Merritt Weaver (Nurse Jackie)

-Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
-Tracy Morgan (30 Rock)
-Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation)
-Ed O'Neill (Modern Family)
-Danny Pudi (Community)
-Rainn Wilson (The Office)
Honorable Mentions- Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Ed Helms (The Office), Ken Jeong (Community), John Krasinski (The Office), Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Oliver Platt (The Big C), Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)

-Boardwalk Empire
-Game of Thrones
-The Killing
-Mad Men
-Sons of Anarchy
-The Walking Dead
Honorable Mentions- Big Love, Dexter, Friday Night Lights, Fringe, Justified, Shameless, Southland, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, True Blood

-Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)
-Mireille Enos (The Killing)
-January Jones (Mad Men)
-Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men)
-Emmy Rossum (Shameless)
-Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy)
Honorable Mentions- Jennifer Beals (The Chicago Code), Anna Paquin (True Blood), Anna Torv (Fringe), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Big Love)

-Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire)
-Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights)
-Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
-Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy)
-William H. Macy (Shameless)
-Timothy Olyphant (Justified)
Honorable Mentions- Sean Bean (Game of Thrones), Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment), Jason Clarke (The Chicago Code), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Jeremy Irons (The Borgias), Denis Leary (Rescue Me), Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead), Donal Logue (Terriers), Holt McCallany (Lights Out), Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Bill Paxton (Big Love), Ray Romano (Men of a Certain Age)

-Khandi Alexander (Treme)
-Michelle Forbes (The Killing)
-Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)
-Regina King (Southland)
-Kelly MacDonald (Boardwalk Empire)
-Margo Martindale (Justified)
Honorable Mentions- Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Chloe Sevigny (Big Love), Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Debra Winger (In Treatment)

-Michael Cudlitz (Southland)
-Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
-Walton Goggins (Justified)
-John Noble (Fringe)
-Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire)
-John Slattery (Mad Men)
Honorable Mentions- Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age), Scott Caan (Hawaii Five-0), Billy Campbell (The Killing), Jared Harris (Mad Men), Shawn Hatosy (Southland), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), Joel Kinnaman (The Killing), Denis O'Hare (True Blood), Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

X-Men: First Class

I remember in 2000 when Bryan Singer's X-Men came out. I thought it was okay. After reading the works of Grant Morrison (and later Joss Whedon, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and Kieron Gillen) I realized why I wasn't smitten with the movie as others my age were. It was just really hard to capture the spirit and scope of the X-Men without giving into those cliche, typical, and overdone action-movie tropes that will ultimately be a part of every blockbuster. X-Men 2 was more personal with the characters so I thought that was an improvement, but X-Men 3 and Wolverine felt to me like a step backwards. Like Brett Ratner, Gavin Hood, and co. gave into the stigmas and stereotypes that come with presenting a summer action film (among other issues). For this prequel, Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass) doesn't completely avoid all that I mentioned, but alongside co-writers Singer and Jane Goldman, he masks what I would normally find trashy by having excellent drama and characterization.

Back in X-Men, the drama and emotion is divvied up between three characters- Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr, and Logan being played by Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Hugh Jackman respectively. Hugh Jackman can carry a film, no question about that. The plot to Wolverine was just so dismally lame that as an actor he had little to work with. So with the character (semi-)removed from the equation of this prequel, the drama lies between the tragic downfall of the former brotherhood that Charles and Erik once held. Stewart and McKellen are acting giants of their generation, so how do you compete with them? Get the acting giants of a new generation with James McAvoy as Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Lehnsherr. Yes, I'm going to be a movie nerd and list off their credentials. McAvoy was phenomenal in The Last King of Scotland, Atonment, The Last Station, and The Conspirator. Fassbender was phenomenal in Hunger, Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds, and Jane Eyre. I'm delighted to say that both are expectedly phenomenal here.

Don't get me wrong, there is a well-rounded supporting cast including Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man), Rose Byrne (FX's Damages), a bunch of excellent newcomers, and Oliver Platt (renowned character actor that can be currently seen on Showtime's The Big C). McAvoy and Fassbender are just in another league just in terms of their screen presence. The pair is triumphant both in paying homage to the future Stewart/McKellen interpretations of the characters while still carving out their own emotional psyches ranging from intense to playful. I do have a quick gripe. One performance that doesn't work at all is the beautiful January Jones as Emma Frost. As Saturday Night Live showed us, she can't seem to successfully pull audiences in unless she is playing Betty Draper on Mad Men (and having read the comics, I'm upset this character isn't even written as three-dimensional as the character is in the comics). Then again, she is only a henchwoman to Kevin Bacon's Sebastian Shaw. Speaking of, Bacon is perfectly cast as this villain in a performance that is both suiting for the actor while still being something different for him.

As far as the story is concerned, Vaughn has also created a very rich subtext by setting the discovery of mutant-kind against the Cold War creating such a suave atmosphere. That is the beauty of such an ensemble piece and it's when blockbusters work the best- when you have such an abundance of character-driven moments and plot-driven moments that you can switch between the two. The problem is, I think occasionally the film would make me feel like I was watching that typical stuff again (see my mini-rant in the first paragraph in case you forgot) and then the script/editing-choices wouldn't pick up at the right moment to take me somewhere else. That is probably the film's only flaw and it happened VERY rarely.

Now, I've spent an hour or so trying to formulate my thoughts on this as I was taken in by it all, so here is the conclusion I've come to. First, the movies that matter in terms of quality (as in those that aren't made for monetary purposes) are not meant to entertain you. Absolutely not. You are meant to "feel". You are meant to walk out of the theater having been through an experience. If you liked a comedy and you laughed or you liked an action movie and you cheered or if you liked a drama and you cried... that "entertainment" is the result of the "feeling"; the emotion. That is what makes good movies. I know that X-Men: First Class was a very good movie because at some point I forgot I was watching an X-Men movie. In fact I think I'm picking up on my subconscious, which made me think I was watching a franchise-less science-fiction movie that starred two phenomenal actors the whole time. I think I was just too busy being in the midst of enjoying a very well-told story and therefore having a memorable experience. As corny and emasculating as it sounds, I was just "feeling".

Funny thing is, I didn't even realize this when the movie ended. I found myself going "ehhh... it was okay." Then I sat and thought about its scope. The reason why I was having trouble coming up with an on-the-spot reaction was because I was too dumbfounded that a blockbuster can actually elicit a response from me that says something more than "that was some good eye-candy".

Matthew Vaughn is 4 for 4. Can't wait for him to be 5 for 5.

It's late, hopefully I catch the spelling errors tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Movies I Watched in May


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, Ang Lee)*
Grey Gardens (1975, Albert Maysles and David Maysles)
The Hangover Part II (2011, Todd Phillips)
The Hurt Locker (2009, Kathryn Bigelow)*
Mission Impossible III (2006, J.J. Abrams)*
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011, Rob Marshall)
The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)*
Thor (2011, Kenneth Branagh)