Thursday, January 29, 2009

Liam Nesson is not the action hero you're looking for

Did you see what I did there with the title?
That somewhat subtle Star Wars reference?

Sorry, I have young Jedi apprentice in my house, there's a lot of that floating around.

Anyway....the movie Taken.
File this under the "Could have been" tab.
When Nesson fans like myself saw the trailer to this we were justifiably excited.
Nesson's had a long career, playing Jedis, Sex Doctors and Saviours of one kind or another.
On screen he's rarely boring and always watchable...

Until Now.

In Taken Nelson plays Bryan. Once he was a covert "preventer" for the CIA. He stopped bad things from happening. But in the process he lost his wife (divorce not death) and grew apart from his now 17 year old daughter, Kim.
Now Bryan's playing it safe. He's hanging up his gun and moving back to the States to reconnect with Kim.
Now let me save you 20 minutes of your time by summing up the first part of the movie.

Bryan is an ex spy.
His ex-wife thinks he's an a-hole.
His daughter still loves him.
But her new Dad bought her a horse for her birthday.

So there we are. As you may have seen in the trailer...things get going when Bryan gets a terrifying call.
Kim is being kidnapped and sold into sex-slave ring.
Of course Bryan does what any reasonable ex-spy would do.
He gets on the phone, tells the bad guys he's dangerous and he's coming for them. we're in business.

Unfortunately what follows it a series of uneven confrontations as Bryan, who appears to be a combination of James Bond and MacGyver, plows through the competition.

Yes we get he's determined. He'll do anything to save his daughter. But watching Nesson take down baddie after baddie gets....tiring. Can no one stop this guy? In the age of The Borne Identity and Casino Royale we want our heroes to a little more human.

The director here is a same fellow that gave us the watchable martial arts movie District 13. (Beautiful poster there.) But with Taken director Pierre Morel serves up nothing new. The only thing that distinguishes Bryan from the other men-on-a-mission movies is just how far he's willing to go. For me a spy that's willing to go Guantanamo on the bad guys doesn't quite cut it. Take a pass on Taken.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Can You Say Slumdog Backlash?


It's coming.

Rumbling in the background.

The backlash has officially begun.

Don't believe me? Read this.

"Slumdog child stars miss out on the movie millions "

Thought provoking article and will certainly fuel the flames of resentment against the presumed Best Picture winner.

...but it'll still win.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Slumdog's Lucky Run (new podcast)

Just look at all of them there, accepting their Golden Globes. How can the Oscar voters resist them?

Just a quick note to say there's a nice summary of Slumdog Millionaire's string of luck and some behind the scenes tidbits on the weekly podcast.  

As always you can find the podcast at, look for Glasner on Film and my goofy face.  Or you can go straight to iTunes by clicking here.  Check it out and subscribe if you want to come back more.

Yay/Boo on the Oscar Nominations

Sooo the Oscars nominations are out.

In case you missed me yammering on CBC Newsworld or Radio I thought I'd run down the list with some short reactions.

  • Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (The Weinstein Company)Viola Davis in "Doubt" (Miramax)

Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

REACTION: Yay! Penelope was great in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Viola Davis has a shattering performance in Doubt. Same for Marisa. My only complaint is it would have been nice to see Rosemarie DeWitt from Rachel Getting Married.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Josh Brolin in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Reaction: Yay and what? Robert Downey getting nominated for Kirk Lazarus, the Aussie who  assumes an African American identity is quite the surprise. True he owned the role.
I don't know how Philip Seymour Hoffman merits a supporting nomination...seems like a lead role to me....

Heath Ledger yes great...but think, if Heath was alive, do you think he'd be a lock for this award? I wouldn't bet on it.

Also big YAY for Michael Shannon who I've written about before.

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in "Changeling" (Universal)
Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Meryl Streep in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Kate Winslet in "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)

REACTION: BOOOO! Angelina Jolie? Really? Really? No Sally Hawkins for Happy-Go-Lucky? are you insane? How Happy-Go-Lucky is nominated for a screenplay award but passed over for beyond me. Mike Leigh is a great director, but I don't think he follows a script too closely. Sigh.

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor" (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
Sean Penn in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

REACTION: Yay. Hard to complain. Of course Richard Jenkins is the shocker for The Visitor. Amazing flick. Small, smart and tough. The best in this category? Mickey. Can he unseat Sean Penn? I think so, but it's a tough one to call. Penn may be prickly but a lot of people feel quite strongly about this film.

Achievement in directing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) David Fincher
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Ron Howard
"Milk" (Focus Features) Gus Van Sant
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Stephen Daldry
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Danny Boyle

REACTION: BOO BOOO BOOOO! No Chris Nolan? No Dark Knight? Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon?. Yes there was some great acting but the directing was flat, it was like watching a TV special. Bleech.

Best motion picture of the year

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"



"The Reader"

"Slumdog Millionaire"

REACTION: Again, Booooooooo! Dark Knight easily beats Frost/Nixon or The Reader in my book. Best combination of popular support and artistry in a long time. Just think of what the Academy Awards would have been like with a showdown between Slumdog and Batman...

Good luck with that show Hugh Jackman.

One the Best (of 2009)

Just saw an amazing film I'm confident I'll be placing on my top ten list come next December.
Coraline comes from the prolific author Neil Gaiman and the director behind The Nightmare Before Christmas. Comes out in February. I'll be reviewing it I'm sure. But keep an eye out.
In the meantime check out this trailer.

Oh and by the way it's in 3-D. More on that later.

Rewriting History (Revisiting Frost/Nixon)

Very interesting article in the Huffington Post by Elizabeth Drew.

Drew takes umbrage with the way Frost/Nixon screenwriter Peter Morgan distorts history.

Now I'm no expert on Watergate, but I think some of the Drew's complaints are unrealistic.

This is a movie. I think the audience understands the story isn't a historical document.

Still, if you've seen the movie you probably wondered what the real story is. Drew's essay is a good Coles Notes version of the events surrounding the interview. The way Drew tells it Frost and Nixon were co-conspirators, both counting on the interview for different reasons. Worth a read.

And you can see more about my take on Frost/Nixon including some clips from the actual interviews here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Don't Believe the Hype (Film Marketing)

Must read article about film marketing over at The New Yorker.

Much of the story comes from following around Tim Palen, Lionsgate's co-president of marketing.

Some choice points from the article:

  • Average cost of marketing film - 36 million for big studios, that's one third the budget kiddies.
  • From a trailer cutter, "We're in the business of cheating...We give push up bras to flat-chested girls, take people's eyes and put them where we want them. And sometimes it works."
  • Titles matter. The Devil Wears Prada caused some people to expect a horror movie. The movie New in Town was once "Chilled in Miami."
  • And finally, it's bad enough the current obsession with how movies perform on opening weekends. But in the studios, they begin making estimates before the end of Friday about whether it's a winner or loser. It's all about the numbers baby. (Roger Ebert has a great post about the pitfalls of judging films by their box office here.)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mumbai Mo(mentum) - Post Golden Globe Thoughts

Well if things stay as predicted I think Slumdog Millionaire could become the movie to beat this year at the Oscars.
After racking up four Golden Globes tonight it certainly has momentum (as the politicos say.)

In much the same way Crash seemed a safe choice the year it won, Slumdog could win as the more sombre/serious films split the vote.

Lets say Milk, Frost/Nixon and Revolutionary Road are in the running for best pic. Then add Dark Night and Slumdog. Dark Knight is great film, but will enough people vote for something with a cape?

Slumdog is the safer choice. A great story, a great behind the scenes narrative (little film that could, this year's LIttle Miss Sunshine...yadayada) It has some serious content, doesn't pull it's punches (blinded kiddies!) but at the same time in many ways it's the kind of classic, old-fashioned epic the industry likes to believe it still makes. And of course, it ends with a dance number...bonus points there. So just like when votes were split between Capote and Brokeback Mountain and Crash came up the middle...I can see Slumdog benefiting in a similar situation.

And don't mistake my tone, I'm not complaining...just idle musing. Slumdog Millionaire is a great fun film. I wouldn't put it in my top ten, but maybe number 11. Fact is, with the Dark Knight in one corner, Slumdog in the other...this could be a very interesting Oscars.

Oh, and Mickey Rourke great was that? Although I'll admit I was a little terrified when he took the stage.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Clint Sings!

The Horror, the Horror.

Go hear Clint Eastwood warble his way through the song, yes the song...Gran Torino.
(scroll down to the bottom and click on "Gran Torino")
The song is featured in the closing credits of the same film and could actually be in the Oscar show...

The Oscars Just Got Interesting

Well then.

Now it's a party.
The Directors Guild of America just released their Directorial Achievement nominees for 2008.
The DGA picks are a strong indicator of the which way the Academy will lean.
Up until now the conventional wisdom has had four spots locked in:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

The question was who gets the fifth? Revolutionary Road, The Reader, The Wrestler, The Crazy Old Man Clint Movie?

Well like the Frank Miller hero above, Batman has swooped in to give the art films a run for their money. The DGA picked the four above and The Dark Knight.

Why Batman?

Well it's great. But besides that, the Academy voters, they like popular movies. Movies people see. (Remember best picture of the year The Gladiator?) Batman means big box office, it also means more viewers for the Oscar show.

Myself I'm happy to see Bats in the running. I think it's a great mix of low brow and high brow art. And if it makes it in as Best Picture nominee for the Oscars, it will make for a heck of a show.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mad Men (and Women)

Some pre-Oscar cramming going on in
This week it's Revolutionary Road.
There's a number of things working for this picture.
Casting for one thing. Leonardo DiCarpio sometimes comes across a little too impish, too baby-faced.
Here it works for him, this sad-sack tale of a married couple who can't sit comfortably in the 1950's conformist lifestyle.
To see Leo sitting in his suit and fedora, it seems big on him. Awkward, but perhaps that's the point. The lifestyle doesn't fit right.
The Titanic duo are back with Kate Winslet playing April, the long-suffering wife straining to find the man she loved when she met him.

Based on the novel by Richard Yates and directed by Sam Mendes the movie is American Beauty-esque. This is about the tyranny of conformity. The dark side of the suburbs, this time with more smoking and hats. And speaking of hats, the art direction and cinematography is impeccable. The movie has a suffocating feel of neatness. Every house looks like the perfect 1950's pad. There are many memorable shots, my fav may be a long shot, the camera staying on the married couple as they silently clomp down an empty school hallway. The click clack of their hard-soled shoes on the linoleum says a lot.

This is not a happy movie. But the filmmakers should be applauded for going as dark as they do. There are also some standout performances. Leo and Kate are great. I found Kate's intensity here terrifying, an intelligent woman, horrified with her lot in life and refusing to settle.

Also another actor to keep an eye out for is Michael Shannon. He plays John, the son of the couple's real estate agent. John is a mathematician but he's having trouble and spent some time in the local sanitarium.

When John drops by the couple's house (on Revolutionary Road, hence the title) he's the voice of reason, spitting and sputtering the truth that few care to admit. It's an amazing, scene-stealing performance. One that's Heath Ledger-like in it's intensity.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"She's Coming Home to Take a Punch."

Jenny Lumet is my new hero.
(She's the one in the middle next to Anne Hathaway.)

Jenny is the screenwriter behind one of my fav pics of the year, Rachel Getting Married. She talks about the creation of the screenplay with Elvis Mitchell on his interview show "The Treatment".

Go here and listen to her interview. She's quite charming and down to earth, I think I have a bit of a writer crush now.

"She's coming home to take a punch" is how Jenny describes Anne Hathaway's character Kim's motivation. Why does Kim come home for her older sisters wedding? She knows it's an emotional train wreck waiting to happen. Kim's been in rehab and knows this will mean reopening old wounds. So why return? The easy answer is closure. Jenny Lumet doesn't buy it. Kim is coming home to get punched.

Also, Jenny gets bonus points for being a Grade 7/8 drama teacher and getting her first screenplay made. She also talks about listening and what she learned from watching her students.
Now sure, her father is Sidney Lumet. But still quite inspiring.