First Birthday

Birthday Cake“You forgot your birthday again Frank.” Classic line from Old Schoolclick here for the clip. Well, so a year passing isn’t such a big deal for a blog but still it’s nice to say that after after more than 365 days and over 70 posts this train is still chugging along. Admittedly the articles do tend to vary in length and depth, depending on my work schedule. Nevertheless there has been a lot of traffic on the site and a good deal of interaction and it’s nice to reflect on that. But more than anything, I just wanted an excuse to link to that clip. Image by © Jörg Siebauer / PIXELIO.

The Dark Knight Rises Casting Decisions

The Dark Knight Rises PosterBatman 3 has a name and it’s called The Dark Knight Rises. Not necessarily the title for the final installment of a series, a title that implies something of an origin story, despite the fact we saw the beginning in, well, Batman Begins. Don’t be deterred, director Christopher Nolan is a master at manipulating a film’s timeline (see Memento). Apparently the film will switch back and forth between the events taking place after the last film and events before the first film. It sounds like a cool concept and will hopefully make for a story-arch of Lost proportions – without a crushing disappontment for a climax. Speaking of which, Lost actor Nestor Carbonell is in talks to reprise his role as mayor of Gotham. The rest of the ensemble cast will also be returning (assuming their character hasn’t been killed off). A slew of Inception actors will be joining the team, including Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard, the latter two recent confirmations following a lot of speculation and don’t come necessarily as a big surprise, the result of Nolan’s penchant for using the same actors and remaining quiet about decisions regarding his films. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Ken Wantanabe or Liam Neeson or any of the others in the previous films make a guest appearance or in a short cameo. In fact I expect a few surprises, which hopefully doesn’t ruin it for me. The cool poster on the left was done by themadbutcher.

Arnold is Back! The Governator and Possible Films

The GovernatorAfter his seven year run as Governor of the ungovernable state (California), the last action hero is ready to get back on the silverscreen. His last starring role in the third installment of the Terminator series in 2003 was a big hit. He’s already signed on in a comic book and animated version of himself, The Governator. A series being developed by none other than Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee, who offered some info on the storyline:

“We’re using all the personal elements of Arnold’s life. We’re using his wife [Maria Shriver]. We’re using his kids. We’re using the fact that he used to be governor. Only after he leaves the governor’s office, Arnold decides to become a crime fighter and builds a secret high-tech crime-fighting center under his house in Brentwood.”

In terms of films, Arnie will probably start with something fresh rather than a sequel to some of his older films. Potential projects include The Tomb and “Last Stand,” as reported by Variety.

If Only It Were Fiction…

It has all the makings of a good political thriller, and a tragic comedy, but unfortunately the characters and plot of Inside Job are all real. I think the largest challenge a filmmaker tackling an actual political scandal has, is parsing a great deal of information into a concise narrative that’s true to the story while entertaining at once. Take the Valerie Plame affair for instance, the film Fair Game has a lot of ground to cover and I can remeber having a hard time following all the developments in that story as it was happening at the time. You need to be a professional news watcher to pick up on all the twists, turns, escalations and falsehoods. But that story was neatly cut down to a digestable size. But that was the White House against Joe Wilson and his wife, try a global financial crisis – you need an ensemble cast and a mini-series of HBO proportions to cover that, right? Wrong. Charles Ferguson can cover all the bases in just over two hours, in a sleek and entertaining look at the biggest clusterfuck in financial history. As Dane Cook would say, it’s not a candy bar (full of peanuts and fuck). Unfortunately you have to use this language, because your blood does boil after watching this film. It’s essentially a tale of how wonton greed and corruption on Wall Street put the world into an economic tailspin not seen since the Great Depression. I’m no financial historian, but I do have an interest in the subject and I know that Niall Ferguson would argue in favour of financial innovation. After all it was and is “an indispensable factor in man’s advance from wretched subsistence to the giddy heights of material prosperity that so many people know today.” In the same article the author goes on to write that “Perhaps, too, it will be a financial crisis that signals the twilight of American global primacy.” One way or the other, this film will help you get a grip on what caused financial innovation to turn into the bum’s rush. The creators of this film spent a lot of time doing research for this film and the numbers presented are staggering. What would otherwise read or look like an unending heap of statistics becomes a concise narrative, showing where things went wrong, who was caught sleeping and why the system doesn’t work. Forget 3D, presenting statistics and a series specialists explaining in great detail how we, the taxpayers, got royally screwed over by a bunch of cocaine-snorting, prostitute-banging bunch of snake-oil salesmen in a throroughly entertaining manner is truly the greatest feat of modern cinema. Okay, so I tend toward hyperbole, but in all honesty it is truly praiseworthy, how this film tackles such a broad issue in a slick, panoramic fashion – with sweeping shots of the world, from Iceland to New York – peperred with interviews, and non-interviews. That is what is most frustrating: the fact that many of those responsible refused to appear on camera, and the few who did, should have elected for that route as well, for their own sake. No advocae of deregulation can stand for his opinion, and those asked as to their incentives get immediately agressive, like Columbia Dean of the Graduate School for Business, Glenn Hubbard. Even staunch supporters of Obama, like Matt Damon, agree that the guys and gals who got us in this mess, shouldn’t be the ones who get us out. There needs to be accountability, somebody has to pay. Watch it, and do something about it.

The Frozen Tundra

Every once and a while it’s worth watching The Thing. I’m not a big fan of horror or gore, or space alien grossness, but for some reason, this film counts among my favourites of all time. I think I like the atmosphere, the way the story builds and the remoteness of the story’s setting, way down south on the continent Antartica. So much so that I even watched a documentary from Werner Herzog called Encounters at the End of the World. It’s certainly not your penguins and seals docusnoozefest, you meet a lot of interesting people but it’s all too brief with too many questions left unanswered, this could have easily been a mini series. The guy who works in the green house put it aptly, it’s as if you shook the globe and all the loose-footed free-wheeling characters fell to the bottom. Whether it’s a woman who rode a dump truck through the Congo or a reclusive penguin expert you only ever get to scratch the service – which is a shame. Werner Herzog asks some very good questions, and the entire film is beautifully shot and well edited, so I hate to critique it, but Herzog, originally from Germany and a critically acclaimed director, particularly his narration – paying attention to utterly flawless pronunciation – comes off a little laboured and inauthentic, I wish he’d done it with more emotion rather than attention to diction, because from the text you notice his passion for people. Regardless, for anyone looking to find out more about the Big Freeze, definitely take a look at this film. And for those fans of the original John Carpenter sci-fi horror classic, there’s a prequel coming out, which cronicles what happened to the Norweigans, before they showed up at the American base trying to kill that poor, poor puppy wuppy dog. It won’t be out until October of this year, never a good thing when films get pushed back, but I’ll do anything to return to that desolate, frozen landscape.

Joe Wilson's War or: Much Ado About Aluminum Tubes

Fair Game Film Review I love political thrillers. Well in this case, “thriller” is being a bit generous, it’s more of a drama, the numerous shots of Sean Penn and Naomi Watts watching news clips in airports isn’t exactly edge of your seat action and suspense. Not to sell this film short, Valeria Plame is quite the femme fatale. Watching the film a had a lot more respect for her service and realized how badly the Government screwed her over. This film does a good job of covering all the bases and clears up a lot of the misconceptions about the scandal. For those who don’t know, Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent with a husband who was a former Ambassador to Niger. She suggested he be sent to investigate the possible sale of yellow cake to Saddam Hussein. He didn’t find anything but his visit and report were still used as a pretext for war with Iraq and when he realized what had happened he wrote an op-ed column and became one of the first to speak out against the case for war, in realiation, White House staffer Scooter Libby outed his wife as an agent publicly, endangering her contacts, operations and ending her career. As I said it is a political drama with many intricacies, and not so much action, but it is nonetheless a very compelling story, it also shows what a difference the media makes in todays politics. I was initially skeptical, given Sean Penn’s outspoken stance against the war in Iraq, but the film is very fair and balanced, not pushing an agenda but presenting all the angles. It was argued that Joe Wilson’s media campaign was shameless self-promotion, it’s not presented as such but the film is smart in showing lecture halls before and after his media exposure and Ambassador Wilson is obviously and understandably invigorated by his new found fame. His career, even facing off against Saddam Hussein before the first Gulf war, was very distinguished but not recognized or celebrated. If you’re into politics, political thrillers or anything definitely see this movie. It’s full of intrigue and personal drama, and offers an initmate look into the personal struggles of two people caught in the crosshairs of the media and government. What the White House and CIA did to one of their own is simply deplorable. It’s both agrivating and fascinating, it’s amazing how two people, a married couple, with the husband not knowing much about his wife’s work, were both such central figures in the lead up to the war in Iraq. I do however have one beef with the producers, and with the CIA, as a Canadian I’m tired of American spies using our nationality as cover, in Syriana, Mission: Impossible, and in this film. American tourists looking for a better reception overseas by sewing maple leaves on their backpacks is one thing, but spooks using our good name can have serious ramifications – Canadians travelling abroad might find themselves being taken away by immigration officials for a little chat more frequently, for instance. Thanks Hollywood, and the CIA. Then again that’s the only cover one could easily take, they’re not going to pass for Tibetan Monks, per se.

One of the Greats

Film producer, director and studio executive Bernd Eichinger died suddenly of a heart attack on Tuesday in Los Angeles. The man behind a number of major films in both the United States (The NeverEnding Story, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) and in Germany (Downfall, The Baader-Meinhof Complex). Eichinger is celebrated for breaking through in Hollywood and helping revitalize German cinema. He helped launch Wolgang Petersen’s career (Air Force One, Troy). English speaking audiences might better recognize Downfall (Der Untergang in German) for its humorous translations on YouTube. This is my favourite. If you haven’t seen the film (with the actual subtitles) you should. There’s no doubt that given his contribution to world cinema, Eichinger will be missed.

Out of Order: Gervais at the Golden Globes

After being on hiatus for the holidays I’m happy to have a good story to write about to kick off 2011, even if we’re already a few weeks in. Comedian Ricky Gervais had people squirming in their seats at the Golden Globes Sunday. Did you know they were on? I don’t follow the awards season much, but after hearing of the contrversy over his performance I decided to take a look. Even before I watched it I was wondering why they hired him for the job? If you’ve seen his stand-up it’s pretty much over-the-top, offensive humour from start to finish. I like comedians who push the envelope, say something that produces that mix of hand covered mouthes and unrestrained laughter – a palpable sign of discordance in our politically correct society. However, I don’t think it should be used for 60 minutes straight, I prefer someone like George Carlin, who used that kind of humour sparingly but wisely. Both men would tell you that you can joke about anything, it’s the context, and in Ricky’s case it’s the direct, unabashed offensiveness that has people keeling in their seats, most of the time. Hardly the case, judging by the awkward laughs and stone faces during the broadcast and the subsequent fallout, not everyone enjoyed Ricky’s brand of humour. What did they expect, he hosted the year before, for god’s sake. I’ll be honest, the digs Gervais made read like a tabloid newspaper, Charlie Sheen is a booze-hound, Tom Cruise is a closet homosexual, Hugh Hefner is old, ha-bloody-ha. Given the fact that none of these people were present it seemed irrelevant to the show and just comes off a TMZ like, celebrity-obsessed, Hollywood-centric garbage. I was happy to see De Niro got into it with some better jibes – he can be seen laughing heard during Gervais’ set – but again people seemed a little on edge and more nervous than anything. Other presenters fired back, in a one-two punch Tom Hanks said to Tim Allen “We recall when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian,” to which Allen replied: “Neither of which he is now.” Oh snap! Come on guys, you can do better than that, and Ricky can take it. Granted, this isn’t a celebrity roast, but nevertheless people should understand that it’s just a joke. I’m not one who enjoys watching celebrities go off the deep end, a strange kind of schadenfreude our celebrity-worshipping society indulges in, but if a distinguished actor like like De Niro can laugh at himself, we should be able to as well. Besides, imagine how our delicate sensbilities had been offended if Ricky hadn’t toned it down, here’s what he had orginally planned.

Hobbit Racism Row

This story broke back in November, but I think it’s worth mentioning on the heels of last weeks article about the casting call for The Hobbit. Reading people’s reactions I realized that either I’m crazy, or they’re crazy. But let’s back track, for those who don’t know, a casting director put an ad in the paper looking for fair-skinned, stout people to be extras in the Hobbit. A British woman of Pakastani origin, after waiting for three hours, was turned away by the “rogue” director for being too dark. The director was canned and Jackson offered an apology, saying no such instructions were given. Problem solved. But as I mentioned, reading the response on the web I noticed a lot of fantasy fans have got their breeches in a bind over a lack of diversity on the set, some even decrying Hollywood as a bastion of racism. Please. As one user put it, let’s not make a mountain out of a hobbit hole. First off, I don’t think this casting agent should have been fired, alright her methods might lack tact, and it certainly doesn’t read well in the press, but if she’d shown up on set with a group of extras covering all the colours of the rainbow she would have been sacked as well, less publicy. Let’s see what Jackson’s Shire looks like this time ’round. But besides, what’s the problem with defining skin colour in a casting call if people can be chosen based on height, weight, gender and other characteristics. If it were otherwise anyone could apply for any role and claim discrimination when not given the part. I wonder if the same hands around the world group would carry the torch when Reese Witherspoon get’s turned down for the role of Shaft.

Casting Call for the Hobbit: Why Not Ian Holm?

After a rough start things are finally coming together for the release of The Hobbit. Bilbo, the main character in this prelude to The Lord of the Rings has been cast. Ian Holm did a tremendous job and would have been in Del Toro’s picture, apparently, but the role went to Martin Freeman, who reckons he can do a good Ian Holm. Although Freeman can maybe pass as a younger version of his predecessor, isn’t it possible to do some Hollywood magic on old Homesy boy. A Google search with the terms freeman, holm, bilbo and bullshit reveals a number of individuals with the same view. After all they did it for Wayne and Garth, Magneto and Xavier (sorry no link – just wath the opening of X-Men: The Last Stand). I’m sure Freeman will do a good job though, I guess you can’t have your main character with an odd sheen on his face for the entire film. Regardless, it looks like Bloom, Blanchett, McKellan, Serkis and Weaving will likely all make a return. To be quite honest I’m quite excited about this film (err films). Unfortunately once I finish reading a book I almost immediately forget what was in it – a good reason to cram the night before – but since I read this books ages ago I don’t remember much, other than the basic story arch and the fact that it was spectactular. Despite the modest size of The Hobbit in comparison to its sequels, there is certainly enough material to fill out two films. But let’s be honest, they could have made a trilogy for each LOTR book. It’s an exciting new story, combined with the benefit of nostalgia, familiar names and faces. One face will sadly be missing, however.