Jul 10, 2012

24FPS/E Film Blog Summer Preview Part 2

July 6th
The Big Release: The Amazing Spider-Man [3D]

Mike: God Bless America
"Why have a civilization if we're no longer interested in being civilized?" questions Frank (Joel Murray), the recently divorced, fired and tumour diagnosed protagonist of God Bless America, who looks out to the world for answers and finds salvation in the groove of a handgun. Along for the ride comes sociopathic teen Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who shares with Frank a desire to rid society of its excess baggage - reality TV stars, for example. It basically looks like Super without the masks, and seeing as that film made it into my Top 20 for last year, you can guess how high my expectations are here. On the other hand, writer-director Goldthwait is incredibly hit-and-miss, and a lot of reviews have compared this film to Falling Down, which, given its subject matter, could go either way. If nothing else, it'll be fun to see Barr - who until now has mainly worked on Nickelodeon/Disney shows like Drake And Josh and The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody - slaughtering tween idols with a mile-wide grin plastered across her face. She has the potential to be a huge star.

Sam: Total Recall
This is, by some distance, one of my least favourite Paul Verhoeven movies that isn't called Showgirls, but at this stage the only thing I can find in the black pit I call my heart to thank the incoming remake of Total Recall (by way, it seems, of Minority Report) for is this reissue, which comes in advance of the Blu Ray release. It may lack some of Verhoeven's usual satiric bent, but Total Recall boasts Arnie's finest non-Terminator performance, some great action, effects that still hold up pretty well, and a smattering of wonderful one-liners ("Consider that a divorce"). It may not be poetry in motion, and it may lack the wit and layers of Robocop, but this is still a ridiculously good time, and having been much too young in 1990 I can't wait to see it on the big screen.

July 13th
The Big Release: Ice Age 4 - Continental Drift [3D]

Mike: Detachment
Film fans won't need much more persuading to see Detachment after scanning its incredible cast list, which includes Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan and Tim Blake Nelson, but its other note of interest is definitely director Tony Kaye, here working from a script by Carl Lund. Kaye has become somewhat infamous over the years, courting controversy with actors (he clashed with Edward Norton in the editing room for American History X) and subject matter (2006's Lake Of Fire was a two-and-a-half hour doc which explored in great and graphic detail both sides of the abortion debate), so it was no surprise to hear that some of his actors on Detachment - vocally, Bryan Cranston - had clashed with him and his vision. Still, the trailer suggests a raw, slice-of-life indie of the kind we just don't see anymore, and that cast is exciting, so I've still got my fingers crossed that Kaye can deliver the goods.

Sam: Seeking a Friend For the End of the World
Okay, this isn't exactly a leftfield fuck the mainstream kind of choice, but it's definitely the thing I most want to see this week for several reasons. First off, and I know it's unfashionable to say so as a critic, I really like Keira Knightley, despite her awful performance in A Dangerous Method even in that film her willingness to go to extremes, to take parts that demand a lot of her, is admirable, and I think she gets better with almost every role. Seeking a Friend has a bleak premise - it's set in the last three weeks before the end of the world - but pairing Knightley, radiant in the trailer, with Steve Carrell, who can combine dramatic and comic notes beautifully sounds to me like a recipe for success.

The trailer suggests a film that strikes a nice balance between the comedic and the emotional, and has several stand out performances (Patton Oswalt looks to be pretty funny here too). I'm really looking forward to this.

July 20th
The Big Release: The Dark Knight Rises

Mike + Sam: Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap
Mike Says: There's really very little out of interest this week, so I'm sharing Sam's recommendation for Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap, an examination of hip-hop's roots, evolution and global popularity in the 21st Century. I used to be one of those people who thought that rap was just people talking over a beat, but this year, by rediscovering artists like Mos Def and Public Enemy, and exploring the current scene with new albums from Quakers and Oh No, I've really come to love the genre, and this film should allow me to delve even deeper into its world, learn about the culture behind the music, and hopefully pick up a few new albums to check out along the way. Ice-T is the perfect choice to direct this doc, and he'll surely draw real honesty and insight out of his subjects, so I'm hoping for great things from The Art Of Rap.

Sam Says: Rap was the first music I was really interested in, this was back in the mid to late 90's, when we were in the middle of something like a golden age which lasted from the late 80's to around 1997. Something From Nothing sees Ice-T (who was one of the first rappers I really admired) making his directorial debut with a documentary about the origins and craft of rap, something that has long gone under appreciated (and under the radar thanks to the miserable standard of today's mainstream). The film boasts an all star cast of interviewees and I can't wait to hear their insights, to say nothing of the soundtrack.

July 27th
The Big Release: Dr Seuss' The Lorax [3D]

Mike: The Red Desert
Antonioni's atmospheric masterpiece, famously criticized by Andrei Tarkovsky for its "pretentious" use of colour, is being re-released into cinemas this week, and I'll definitely be taking the chance to see it projected on the big screen. With its muffled electronic score, vast industrial landscapes - halfway between a post-apocalyptic Earth and social realist Mars - and hazy cinematography, The Red Desert is the sort of film you have to give yourself up to; you have to soak in its world, and let yourself be overpowered by its design. Of course, it helps that the gorgeous Monica Vitti gives one of her best performances, and is examined in close-up throughout the film. I can understand being put off by its dramatic coldness (I still am, to some degree), but The Red Desert is so effective for its combination of sound, image and editing, which together take a vice-like grip on your subconscious impossible to shake. Even if you don't like it, it's essential viewing.

Sam: Searching for Sugarman
I like to think I know a decent amount about music, but I confess that until watching this trailer I had never heard of Rodriguez. The story of a musician who was unsuccessful in his home country, and vanished despite becoming a huge star in South Africa - where, apparently, his music inspired the anti-apartheid movement, Searching for Sugarman's trailer suggests a film that will tell a story much stranger (and probably more interesting) than fiction. The music sounds great too, which is a bonus.

August 3rd
The Big Release: Ted

Mike: The Sound of my Voice
I've got reservations about all of the films on this list, but none more so than Sound Of My Voice, which judging by its trailer could be either an incisive, present-tense examination of fanaticism and ennui, or yet another wishy-washy cult-based drama which skims trite ideas before descending into potboiler territory. Some elements intrigue - mainly that the cult leader claims to have arrived from fifty years into the future, and that she's played by Brit Marling - but there are others which set alarm bells off in my head - for example, the opportunity for writer-director Batmanglij and star/co-writer Marling to indulge in all manner of wonky cod science and conspiracy theorizing. I'll definitely be seeing it, but there's absolutely no telling which way it'll go, although actually, there's something really exciting about that. It's a feeling which has become all too rare when entering the cinema nowadays, and it's nice to have a film on the horizon which has the equal opportunity to engage or inflame.

Sam: A Simple Life
We don't get to see many straight dramas from Hong Kong filmmakers as action and martial arts films tend to dominate the market in terms of what comes over here, so I'm glad to see Ann Hui's latest film getting picked up. Deannie Ip plays a domestic who has been working for the same family for years, but when she has a stroke the adult son of the family (Andy Lau) has to step in and help look after her. The trailer suggests a touching and well observed film, with two great leading performances, and the cast list also promises a small part for Sammo Hung, who has shown himself to be a fine dramatic actor in recent years.

August 10th
The Big Release: Step Up 4: Miami Heat [3D]

Mike + Sam: The Lodger
Mike Says: Hitchcock's first London thriller, revolving around the police hunt for a killer of women (nicely bookending the director's career, with 1972's Frenzy taking the same basic premise), is also one of his best, and I'm itching at the opportunity to see it on the big screen as part of the BFI's massive Hitchcock retrospective. There are themes established here that recur throughout the suspense master's oeuvre constantly - particularly that of the innocent man running for his life, and an unsettling attitude toward sex and sexuality (which, if all the stories about his leading ladies are to be believed, is a quality somewhat attributable to Hitchcock himself). Shot in crisp, atmospheric black and white, it's one of the best silent films of all time, and I'm just praying that this restoration leads to a Blu-Ray release soon afterward.

Sam Says: What is there left to say about The Lodger? It's perhaps Hitchcock's first defining film, perhaps his first masterpiece, though whether that puts it among his ten best films is debatable (seriously, did any filmmaker make as many genuinely great movies as this one, and over such a long period?). Though it's 85 years old, silent, and creaks in parts - Ivor Novello's performance in the lead isn't brilliant - the film still retains an essential power to thrill, and is notable as a (thinly veiled) telling of the Jack the Ripper legend, shot and released when the crimes were still very much in living memory.

Hitchcock's technique is highly developed here, and what's really notable is the clever ways that he overcomes the limitations of silence, suggesting sound, particularly when he shoots through a glass floor to imply the noise of one character pacing in the room above the one the camera is in. The Lodger is re-released as part of a complete Hitchcock retrospective at the BFI Southbank. I can't wait to see this restored print.

August 17th
The Big Release(s): The Bourne Legacy / Brave [3D] / The Expendables 2

Mike: The Bird
The Bird was high on my list of priorities at last year's London Film Festival, but as is natural with the frenzied scheduling of that moviegoing month, it slipped me by and was sadly resigned to the ever-extending must-see list (currently with over 500 titles). The idea itself intrigues, with Sandrine Kiberlain playing a solitary woman named Anne, who rarely ventures outside and finds companionship in the form of a bird trapped in the wall of her flat. The LFF notes also mentioned a relationship forged with another loner, Claude (Serge Riaboukine), whom she meets at a Mizoguchi film, which, combined with the three gorgeous images attached to the press notes, really piqued my curiosity. I'm expecting something slow here; something delicate and ruminative, which takes its time to explore character and environment. Kiberlain has a unique and captivating look, but I've sadly seen very little of her work, so hopefully she's as good here as I've heard.

Sam: Take This Waltz
I'm so torn this week, I'd also love to recommend The Bird, which features a brilliant performance from Sandrine Kiberlain, but finally, finally, one of my most anticipated films of the last couple of years is here. I've been waiting for Take This Waltz since Writer/Director Sarah Polley announced that her next film would be this relationship drama starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen. I'm a huge fan of Polley's as an actress, and loved her beautifully observed and heartfelt directorial debut, Away From Her, and I'm anxious to see how she deals with characters much closer to her own age.

Reviews have been mixed, and I'm expecting a rather caustic tone here, despite comedians Rogen and Sarah Silverman having major roles, but from what I hear Polley's film is a warts and all depiction of modern relationships, and with these actors and this director that's something I'm very interested in.

August 24th
The Big Release(s): The Three Stooges / Keith Lemon: The Film

Mike: F For Fake
I've never seen Orson Welles' fascinating-sounding F For Fake, despite it having been available on the Masters Of Cinema label - cheaply, too! - for the past five years, but I'll definitely be taking the chance to see it on the big screen now. I've no idea how to summarize it, though - apparently it's about the nature of fakery; a faux-documentary which investigates the role of the "author" in the filmmaking process. As somebody who supports auteur theory, and finds Welles to be one of cinema's most fascinating (if a tad overrated) figures, this idea seems almost too good to be true, and I can't wait to see and dissect it. I'm also intrigued by the translation of the film's French title Vérités et mensonges, which simply means Truth And Lies.

Sam: In the Dark Half
I don't know much about this yet, there's no trailer, just an intriguing synopsis and some nice looking stills on the website of distributors Verve Pictures, but that's enough that I'm interested. Apparently it centres around Filthy (Tony Curran) and Marie (up and comer Jessica Barden). Filthy's six year old son Shaun dies while in Marie's care, he becomes grief stricken, while Marie begins to feel another presence which she can't see, but also can't escape.

If the elements mix well then this sounds like it has real potential to mix drama and horror in an effective way, and it will be good to see Barden - so funny in the otherwise weak Tamara Drewe - handle a more dramatic part. I hope this ends up as interesting as it sounds right now.

August 31st
The Big Release(s): The Watch / Total Recall

Mike: Samsara
Ron Fricke's Baraka (1992) is one of the most beautiful films ever made, and for me there's simply nothing which comes close to its sheer visual spectacle - not even 2001. Fricke's Samsara shoot spanned five years, taking in twenty-five countries across five continents, and appears again to be a non-narrative, experimental feature (Baraka uses Eisenstein-like editing, rarely seen in cinema today). It was shot in 70mm, and I've heard word of Imax screenings, but frankly you should jump at the chance to see Samsara no matter where and how it's being projected - it's sure to be the most unique cinematic experience of 2012, and judging by the trailer, also one of the best. Colour me excited.

Sam: Berberian Sound Studio
Peter Strickland's second film got very good notices from its Edinburgh premiere, but frankly I'd be on board even if the reviews had been much less effusive, because Strickland's debut was the brilliant, offbeat, revenge film Katalin Varga. That said, there is much to draw me in here; a focus on the techniques of film (in this case sound mixing) and a genre I love (Toby Jones' Gilderoy is helping create the soundtrack for an Italian horror film), a score by Broadcast (though I don't know yet if there is any contribution from late vocalist Trish Keenean) and Toby Jones, a great actor who has too few great parts.

Reviews reference Argento, Fulci and most of all David Lynhc, and the concept, for me, has a slight echo of Mute Witness (another thriller set behind the scene on a movie set). There's no trailer yet, and I'd just as soon have it stay that way, as I want to go in totally cold.

September 7th
The Big Release(s): Dredd [3D] / That's My Boy / Anna Karenina

Mike: Tabu
When Second Run released Our Beloved Month Of August (2008) last September, I was excited to learn of Portuguese writer-director Miguel Gomes' next film, which borrows its title from F.W. Murnau's troubled ethnographic fact/fiction epic, released in 1931. I've been trying to avoid trailers, images and reviews, but the excitement has proved too much to bear, and I caved into hours of exploration last night. The Twitch review describes a mix of "historical adventure, deadpan humour, romance, crocodiles, ghosts and silent films." How can you not be excited?! Gomes' first film slipped back and forth between faux-documentary and self-conscious fiction, and was astonishingly beautiful. The basic synopsis and screen caps from Tabu suggest that I'll be getting much the same treat here. Let it be September already!

Sam: Lawless
It's tough to do anything really new with the gangster movie, and from the trailer I don't think Lawless (formerly known by the decidedly more interesting title The Wettest Country in the World) will be breaking too much new ground, hopefully though John Hillcoat's latest will deliver on its trailer's promise of a high quality prohibition set gangster picture. The leads look to be impressive, with Tom Hardy seemingly a standout and Shia LaBeouf looking like he may finally shake off the Transformers series. A strong supporting cast boasts Gary Oldman, Noah Taylor and two of my favourite young actresses of the moment; Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain.

The sticking point - there almost always is one - looks likely to be Guy Pearce, whose performance, even in the trailer, looks to be on the hammy side.

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