Monday, September 26, 2011

Ayelet Zurer replaces Julia Ormond as Superman’s mother in Man of Steel

I was very excited when Julia Ormond was cast as Superman's mother from Krypton.  And with the film currently shooting, it's surprising news that she's dropped out of the film.  It's too bad too!  It would have been great to see her along Russell Crowe, playing Superman's biological parents.  But we're going to be ok here.  Ayelet Zurer has been signed on according to /slashfilm.  American audiences know Zurer from the Ron Howard film, Angels & Demons, as well as the Steven Spielberg film, Munich.  She's a wonderful Israeli actress with a lot to offer.  Anyone disappointed in Ormond leaving the project?  How about Zurer's casting?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Warrior review; an amazing film about family, forgiveness & picking yourself back up

Ever since the trailer debuted, I knew I wanted to see this movie.  Warrior is directed by Gavin O'Connor.  He directed another great sports film, Miracle.  In this film, we get not one, not two, but three great performances by very gifted actors.  Tom Hardy (Inception), plays Tommy Conlon, a Marine veteran.  He has just returned from the Middle East and is finding it extremely difficult to live a normal life.  Joel Edgerton (King Arthur) plays Brendan Conlon; a physics teacher and former UFC fighter trying to save his home from foreclosure.  The men's father is played by Nick Nolte; a former alcoholic and terrible father to the boys when they were growing up.  Now the brothers enter a Mixed Martial Arts tournament for redemption, and ironically, to bring their family back together.

What I liked about the film:
The Story
I don't normally explain plot in my reviews, but I have to divulge a little bit here.  The story of the brothers is so good, so intriguing, we're drawn into the film.  At a pivotal age, the brothers are separated due to extreme circumstances (I wont spoil why here).  They each have resentment towards the other, and both resent their abusive, alcoholic father.  But the story is not thrown in your face with flashing lights.  We discover the pain the brothers have gone through in bits and pieces.  All of which comes to light before the finale of the tournament, when the brothers fight each other.  Don't worry, I didn't spoil anything the trailers didn't tell you already.  I also liked how the MMA fighting takes a backseat to the hurt in their hearts.  The best sports films focus on the person, not the sport.

The Acting
Tom Hardy attracted a lot of attention after Inception.  In this film we see a different side of him.  He's angry, bitter and relentless.  But at the same time, he is reserved and in charge.  He walks a fine line between controlled and crazy so well, we never know what he's going to do on screen.  Joel Edgerton has to play a character with the weight of the world on his shoulders.  A mortgage he can't afford, hospital bills, a sick daughter, an absent father and a failed UFC fighter.  His character is the underdog, one that will never quit.  Then there is Nick Nolte, who plays a man trying to get sober.  He's been clean for almost 3 years and is trying his hardest to patch things up with his sons. The three men are riveting.  I was floored by the three men's interactions.  Compelling and entertaining, amazing.

The Action / Cinematography
The Mixed Martial Arts in the movie is nicely shot.  There are some wide shots from the bleachers, as well as up-close, in your face action shots. The character development scenes are nicely shot. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi creates tension with a slightly bouncy camera shot that feels like it's someone eavesdropping on the conversation.  Great stuff.

The Score
I've said it before and I'll say it again; score is so incredibly vital to a movie.  As I've gotten older, I've developed an ear for the score in films.  And one thing I noticed is, score can make or break a sports film.  Mark Isham creates a wonderful soundtrack that evokes tremendous emotion.  The highs are extremely high and the lows are extremely low.  Nicely done.

The Climax
I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with an incredible brother.  He has been my best friend since he was born.  We've lived together as room mates until the day I was married.  And with that being said, we had some great fights throughout our lives.  But there's something about a brother's love that can't be explained.  You can fight and hurt each other, only to make up five minutes later.  The climax of the movie is the culmination of years of pain and suffering by both men.  They both have pent up anger and frustration towards the other.  They are both fighting to move on from a troubled past.  They're both fighting for prize money that will solve their economic woes.  The fight itself, along with the aforementioned cinematography and score create an unbelievable build up to the climax.  I wont give anything away, but I will tell you this; my sold-out theater went from weeping for the characters to literally a standing ovation.  It was so powerful, and so emotionally gripping, it will stay with me for a long long time.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Pacing
I understand pacing and editing are purposefully done (for the most part).  But the first and second act (before the tournament) needed to be touched up a bit.  There are character development moments essential to the build up; however, there are other scenes that needed to be re-cut and sped up.  It is my opinion that these long, drawn out scenes could have been cut down and you wouldn't lose anything towards the overall story arc.

The Verdit:
An amazing metaphor on so many levels
Sports can be a great metaphor for the different struggles in our lives.  The underdog vs. the front runner, picking yourself back up, feeling like we're up against the ropes, etc.  Commentary on the wars in the Middle East, alcoholism, our country's current economic downturn, the housing market and drug use are all touched on in this two hour film.  Give it up to great writers, a great director, terrific acting and a solid story.  It's very VERY rare I see a movie twice in the theaters, but this will definitely be one of them.  Now everyone call your brothers and tell them how much you love them.  Then go see this film with them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Facebook Fan Page in full effect!

The Facebook Fan Page for AtD Movie Blog is up and running.  I'm sure it will take us a week or so to iron out all the bugs, but for now, follow us on Twitter, and "Like" us on Facebook!

Everything Must Go DVD review; a great change of pace for Will Ferrell

I bet very few of readers ever heard of Everything Must Go, much less watched it.  Luckily, I live in Southern California and watching an indie is a relatively easy thing to do.  Everything Must Go stars Will Ferrell as an alcoholic who has just been fired from his long-time job.  He comes home to see all his personal belongings on his front yard.  His wife has left him, and he's forced to have a yard sale as he learns to get his life back together.  With the help of a young friend, and a curious neighbor, he begins to do just that.

What I liked about the film:
A Change Of Pace For Will Ferrell
I'm a Will Ferrell fan, and I have been since his days on SNL.  But I must admit, the last few years, we've seen Ferrell play the same character, just modified a bit.  This was a nice change of pace.  This isn't the first time he's tested his acting chops.  In 2006, he was great in Stranger Than Fiction.  He does a fine job here as well.  The series of unfortunate events just come one after the other for this character, and we feel for him.  He has proven he can act in a drama.  It's only when Ferrell strays from the dramatic does he falter (I'll get into that later).  Overall, a job well done.

Rebecca Hall
I had no idea Rebecca Hall was in the film until I started watching it.  Mainly because I haven't seen much marketing for the film.  She is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses in Hollywood.  Especially after seeing her in The Town with Ben Affleck.  She is a curious neighbor who has just moved across the street from Will Ferrell's character.  Throughout the film, we learn why she is so sympathetic to Ferrell.  She turns in another solid performance she should be proud of.

The Friendships
While picking up the pieces of his life, Ferrell befriends a little boy in the neighborhood, played by Christopher Jordan Wallace.  Although I didn't think it was very convincing, I did appreciate the attempt.  As Ferrell and Wallace work together to sell all his belongings, they learn a lot from each other.  Wallace appears to be a future salesman, just like Ferrell.  And Ferrell learns that life has a lot more to offer than what he thought it did.  I also enjoyed the friendship formed between Ferrell and Hall.  I should mention, Michael Peña and Laura Dern are not in the movie long, but definitely add to Ferrell's character arc.  This was a neat little story written by Raymond Carver and Dan Rush (who also directed the film).

What I didn't like about the film:
The Absurd
It's only when Ferrell veers from the plausible that the movie doesn't work.  There's a scene where Ferrell is visibly upset about being let go from his job.  And what does he do?  He slashes his former boss' tires.  It looked like a scene right out of any Ferrell comedy; it would have been nice if the movie stayed grounded in reality the whole time.

Christopher Jordan Wallace
I feel bad even typing this, but the teenager was so poorly cast.  I think I understand what Dan Rush was trying to do.  Cast an unknown and that had chemistry with Ferrell so the scenes appear genuine and authentic.  In my opinion it didn't work.  I'm going to keep track of Wallace and see if he evolves.  Let me know what you thought.

The Verdict:
A Good, Not Great Film
I think the movie is one worth seeing because it's a great little story about a man struggling to get his life together.  I also enjoyed how he gets help from the most unlikely of places.  It reminds me of great movies like Finding Forrester where an unusual duo learns from one another.  Good stuff.

The Blu-Ray:
There really isn't much to brag about.  According to Amazon, it's going to include only three special features: Behind the scenes featurette, Audio commentary with director, Will Ferrell featurette.  Not a lot to choose from, but it's to be expected from an indie film.  I didn't look at the DVD version, but I would imagine it has equal or less special features.  My suggestion would be to go with the DVD.  This is a character driven piece where picture and sound don't really matter.  If you've seen the film, let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

50/50 review, Oscar worthy tale about mortality and family

It's a tough thing to blend comedy and drama.  A COMEDY that's too serious?  Not good.   Or a DRAMA that's too funny?   Now you've lost the emotional weight of the film.  So what to make of 50/50?  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a 27 year old man who has just been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  His best friend is Seth Rogen, who is the bumbling idiot with a lot of heart.  He is seeing a therapist, played by Anna Kendrick, to help him cope with the news.  Rounding out the cast is Dalls Bryce Howard as Godon-Levitt's girlfriend, and the legend, Anjelica Huston as his overly worried mother.   Let's begin.

What I liked about the film:
The Story
Mortality is something I struggle with all the time. Whether I'm questioning religion, health, science, etc. The truth is, we're all going to die. Some of our loved ones are taken too soon, and some live out long and fulfilling lives. No matter the case, we can relate to the death of a loved one. The movie does a great job of showing how everyone involved in Gordon-Levitt's life, reacts to the news.  Some take it well, some don't.  Would you be the friend that cries about the ordeal?  Or would you do what Seth Rogen's character does, and try to use it to your advantage to get girls?  Different people deal with grief in different ways.  The story was a touching one that comes down to mortality and family.

The Friendship
Sort of a sub-category to The Story.  At first, I didn't think the friendship between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen was going to be believable.  Seth Rogen plays the same sort of character we're used to seeing him in.  But there was a lot of heart written into his character.  The two friends genuinely care about each other, and they've been friends since early childhood.  Towards the end of the film, we learn Rogen's character has been reading books to help him understand what his friend is going through.  I thought that was a nice touch that the director could have ruined by making it too cheesy.  Nicely done.

The Cast
Write this down... Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be snubbed of a worthy Oscar nomination this year!  I'm not kidding.  He turns in a heart warming performance that will leave you asking yourself, "have I done enough good with my time on this Earth"?  He's been an amazing actor since he was a little boy, and he just keeps getting better.  I know this role resembles many that Rogen has played, but I loved him.  It was a well balanced performance.

Anna Kendrick as the therapist in the film is terrific.  She's a rookie and Gordon-Levitt is only her third case.  She means well, despite her lack of experience.  She does a great job of showing us the human side of a profession so few know about.  Dallas Bryce Howard is not in the movie for long, but she is does great as the evil girlfriend that chooses not to stick by her man's side while he battles cancer.  Don't worry, I'm not giving anything away, it's explained very early on in the film.  And the wonderful Anjelica Huston.  Wow, I love this woman's acting.  She worries about her only child, to the point she's smothering him.  We see Goron-Levitt being pushed away from his mother because she's smothering him; but what he doesn't realize is, she needs him more than he thinks.  What a great addition to this cast.  Loved her.  Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer play two older gentlemen also dealing with cancer.  They ARE AMAZING!  Their view on life was in great contrast to the young Gordon-Levitt, also dealing with cancer.

What I didn't like about the film:
The climax
I loved the film, don't get me wrong.  But the climax needed some work.  It comes very quickly and with very little notice.  Once it arrives, we don't have time to catch our breath from the emotional ride.  Once the climax is reached, it was like slamming a figurative brake on a roller coaster ride.  Again, nothing to deter you from watching the film, but could have used a tune up.

The Verdict:
50/50 did something that so few movies have in the past.  Balanced comedy and drama in a heart warming story we can all relate to.  It's a poignant and comedic look at mortality; and how death can affect our loved ones.  Jonathan Levine directed a movie that SHOULD be considered for Oscars later this year.  I have my doubts that the Academy will take a risk on a film like this one, but they should.  I hope Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets the recognition he deserves when this movie is released September 30th.  I loved it, and hope you all get a chance to enjoy this film.