Movie Trailer: Amadeus

I like this trailer, it's unconventional opening draws you in (although it over sells things a bit), and the remainder gives a good sense of the grandeur of the whole film.

The film itself is exceptional across the board, one of the best from the 1980's, in my estimation.

Movie Trailer: Flags of Our Fathers

The trailer is somewhat misleading since the film has precious little to do with Iwo Jima and more to do with the United States Government using veterans an pawns in a marketing scheme to fool the public.

The trailer makes this out to be a Saving Private Ryan derivative which it's not. It never reaches that level. The follow-up to this film, Letters from Iwo Jima is far superior, but of course, there's no manipulative American Government to slam when you're focusing on the Japanese.

Click to read the review

Screenwriter: Paul Haggis (Quantum of Solace) and William Broyles Jr. (Jarhead)
Director: Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven)
Ryan Phillippe (Stop-Loss), Adam Beach (Joe Dirt), Barry Pepper (Battlefield Earth), Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious), Robert Patrick (Terminator II: Judgment Day), Jesse Bradford (W.) and Neal McDonough (Minority Report)

Movie Quote: Network (1976)

Howard Beale
I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad.

Guest Review: Frost/Nixon

I want to thank my friend Ron Nordin for allowing me to publish his review of this recent release.

In the hands of a wrong director (think Oliver Stone), this could have been a simplistic, predictable rehashing of all that was wrong with Richard Nixon. It wasn't. Under the direction of Ron Howard and a wonderful cast, Frost/Nixon deftly retells of the people and processes that gave us the famous interviews. The film works well because it expertly contrasts the different egos of David Frost and Richard Nixon. Men with different egos, but pushing them in the same direction. By wisely working this angle the film does not get caught in boring the viewer with the mundane or expected.

Enough cannot be said about Frank Langella's portrayal of Nixon. He catches his movements and idiosyncrasies perfectly without mocking them. He could have portrayed him as clownish and sinister, but instead leaves the viewer seeing him as a tragic figure without inducing false sympathy. Although Nixon is rightly viewed as a failed president, he is seen as undone by his own weaknesses; never quite coming to grips with his failings. These weaknesses are illuminated by Nixon's publicist, Swifty Lazar, whose name and actions become a visual manifestation of Nixon's less than honorable motives. What I appreciate most is the film gives viewers credit by creating very human picture of Nixon and contrasting him with Frost's own selfish motives. This lets the viewer come to their own conclusion about each man without excusing their flaws, something rarely done by Hollywood when examining political and media figures.

I highly recommend this film whether you have interest in the topic or not because it is more than an examination of the famous interviews - it examines why people do the things they do.

Other Critic's Review:
Big Hollywood (Geoff Shepard)
Roger Ebert

The Rapture (1991)

Should I see it?

The Rapture

Michael Tolkin (The Player) takes New Age sensibilities and mixes it with Christian apocalyptic concepts and comes up with a confused, illogical tale about a former sexual deviant who converts and then has her faith challenged by the end of the world. Tolkin's version of Christianity is a mash of random spiritual gunk that will flummox most people who have actually read the Bible. While the film offers some concepts a Christian would embrace, these good points drown in a sea of theological nonsense.

As a film this is oddly paced and trips over itself. By the time the final act comes along the film has stumbled so many times it has lost any momentum. In addition, Mimi Rogers is an uncharismatic lead and gives a wooden performance. Her silted line readings flattens her scenes and makes this movie seem a lot longer than it actually is.

Don't let the title fool you, this is not a Christian film. For all of you who could care less if it is a Christian film I also advise that you should avoid this because it just a poorly made film.

Related Reviews:
"Spiritual" movies
Stigmata (1999)
The Reaping (2007)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Film Freak Central

Movie Watching Tip: The Reversal

In the dead center of a film is a scene known as "the reversal". This scene is where the hero's goal is turned on its head. Effectively, the hunter becomes the hunted. Examples of this is Luke Skywalker arriving at Alderaan only to find it destroyed and the getting snagged by the Death Star's tractor beam. Another example can be found in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl when Barbossa drops Elizabeth's blood on the treasure and the curse is not lifted. It then becomes clear that someone else has the precious cursed blood.

This scene turns the tables on the hero and leads to all of his complications for the rest of the film. To find the Reversal in a film, the easiest method is to find the literal middle of the movie. In most cases you will be able to recognize the scene.

The Jerky Boys Movie (1995)

Should I see it?

The tagline for the movie begins with the statement, “They were just a couple of losers from Queens...” - and they still are.

Launched into low grade celebrity in the nineties thanks to their filthy-mouthed crank phone call routine, the Jerky Boys hoped to translate that into movie stardom. It didn’t take.

This is notably bad. It says something that even with no expectations of quality they could still under perform. The sniping John G. Brennan can deliver a line but he is given no material to work with. His partner Kamal Ahmed is a doughy prop who talks. He has no stage presence and seems dazed most of the time. His role could have been improved by removing all of his dialog and simply having him trail Brannan while nodding. The duo fumbles through sophomoric dialog and fail to produce any laughs.

The only thing of interest about this movie is the presence of Alan Arkin. Sure, people do plenty of things for money in the industry but still, what was he thinking? Did he owe someone big time? Is there a relative who asked him for a solid? Arkin is hardly Laurence Olivier but he is a known commodity, why risk it doing pap like this?

Related Reviews:
Alan Arkin movies
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
13 Conversations About the Same Thing (2001)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Washington Post

The Beastmaster (1982)

Should I see it?
Not unless you love wasting time.

Think of Conan but instead of being a barbarian, he's a sissy in a leather diaper. This is a grand embarrassment and a fine piece of crap cinema. Marc Singer and a very fit Tanya Roberts give a shot at acting in this goofy movie about a guy in a loincloth who can talk to animals. In this fantasy film, said loincloth guy does battle with Rip Torn in a role that should have ended his career. This is only for those who love bad movies. If low-grade movies are your thing, this is a gold mine.

Related Reviews:
Fantasy movies
Beowulf (2007)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

Other Critic's Reviews:
The Film Fiend

Movie Quote: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Truck? What truck?

Movie Recommendations #23: Hidden Gems

Usually I recommend movies based on some genre or other connecting theme. This time around I'll give you three films that never received the credit they deserved.

The Crossing (2000)

Jeff Daniels portrays George Washington in this made-for-television biopic covering the fateful crossing of the Delaware River. Daniels gives a brilliant performance as the troubled general as he faces certain defeat in the face of overwhelming odds. The film is very simple and quite intimate. Lacking a massive budget, the film relies on a thoughtful and engaging script penned by novelist Howard Fast.

The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)

A quiet movie that didn't make a big splash when it was released and has since disappeared. It is a hidden comedic gem. This isn't a masterful film but it is a simple pleasure. Bill Murray stars as Wally Ritchie, a clueless dupe who unwittingly gets pulled into the world of international espionage. Again, not a masterwork but certainly a good piece of comfort cinema.

The Weather Man (2005)

This is a very smart and clever film. Nicholas Cage gives one of his better performances as David Spritz a weather man who, while on the cusp of professional success, finds himself questioning the trajectory of his life. Michael Caine portrays David's father Robert Spritzel, a brilliant writer who is continuously baffled by the frivolous culture that surround him. The film was written by Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness) and directed by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl).

The Village (2004)

Should I see it?

Short Review:
Answering the question "How can he do worse than the ending for Signs?"

I’m a dunce. That’s why I like films to have a clear point by the time they wrap up. I’m silly that way.

Stories are arguments. The first act of a story is the "question", wherein the central issue put before the characters and audience is posed. The second act is the various attempts to solve the riddle unleashed in the first act. The third and final act is the answer to the main question of the story. This is the whole point of the three-act structure. Ask – Debate – Answer.

In The Village, M. Night Shamalamadingdong lets rip a cornucopia of symbols and mysteries. Each seems to move toward some grand truth. The film is a string of events that lead us to some interesting places but ends taking us nowhere. Its as if he had a thousand cool ideas, but had no idea what they meant.

It is vital for a story to have a point of view – to take a stand on the issue it presses. This film doesn’t make its stake even slightly. With all of the conflicting subplots, symbols and statements, we end up with a story that is as murky and fun as the lining my toddler son makes for his diapers. Either Shamalamadingdong is for organized religion or he’s against it. Either he is arguing for the goodness of mankind, or he is arguing against it. Either civilization is needed or it is not. Read other reviews of this film. Find me one that is not confused on what is being said with this film. It’s not clever or fair to leave people guessing in this fashion. It’s okay to leave em’ guessing on some plot point or final reveal – but it’s never okay to have large questions surrounding the whole thesis of your piece. That’s just bad storytelling.

Again, it is the result of the third act not carrying its weight. The answers to the questions must make some sense. Perhaps he didn’t know what he was asking. I don’t know. The problem is, no one else does either.

Related Reviews:
M. Night Shyamalan movies
Lady in the Water (2006)
Signs (2002)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Decent Films Guide

Comment of the Day: Facing the Giants

Yet another notable comment from yet anonymous commenter. For a fresh change of pace, this comment isn't littered with invective and implications about my parentage.

In reaction to my review for Facing the Giants, I received the following from a reader in Las Vegas:

"In one part of his review, the critic says that Facing The Giants pushes it agenda way too hard. I, for one, strongly disagree. All this movie was trying to do was share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people that, otherwise, are lost and on their way to spend eternity in Hell. And as for the comment that most non-Christians would turn up their noses to the message, I say that, if they're offended, that's their problem. At least the producers of this wonderful film realized their responsibility to make sure the message is presented in a clear way that would lead souls to be saved."

The reason this comment interests me is the line "And as for the comment that most non-Christians would turn up their noses to the message, I say that, if they're offended, that's their problem." I find it remarkable that someone who presumptively is a Christian is so cavalier about the message of Christ being missed. We believe that Christ is the only way to Heaven - the only way. To say "if they're offended, that's their problem" says I'm going to hammer you with the message of Christ, non-believer, if you repel because I'm too strong, well then there's nothing I can do for you - tough luck. We're not talking about people misunderstanding a political viewpoint or ignoring warnings about smoking, we're talking about eternal souls - the most critical aspect of existence. If you believe the Bible you believe these people not getting the message are going to languish apart from God for eternity. To turn from them because you're not interested in considering how the message is being delivered is misguided at best.

By accepting the label of "Christian film" the film makers take on the responsibility to preach the Word to all audiences. The point of the review was to say that the film Facing the Giants, like many "Christian films", is overt with its agenda. While this blunt presentation isn't considered out of line by many Christians and may speak to a minority of borderline converts, it is uncomfortable or even laughable by most non-believers. While it may be the intention of the film makers to preach to the choir, I assume and hope they are attempting to spread the word beyond the church walls. If this is their intent then they are too heavy-handed in their efforts. My point is that a more nuanced approach will be more digestible by non-believers. We should look to plant the seed not offer a sermon to these people. We don't win tons of converts by being pushy but by nudging and guidance. We certainly don't do the Lord's work by turning our backs to those we're preaching to when we refuse to speak their language or engage their cultural norms.

Diary of the Dead (2007)

Should I see it?

In 1968, George A. Romero offered up one of the great cinematic treats Night of the Living Dead.

In 2008, George A. Romero is still attempting to suckle on the teat of that success.

A group of horrible actors pretend to be a group of horrible filmmakers making a horror movie about the undead when they are interrupted by actual undead people. Anyone who loves bad acting, insipid dialog and fumbling political gestures will find plenty of all three here. On the other hand, if you want a good horror movie, or even a lukewarm zombie flick, you’re out of luck. This film, ironically is D.O.A.

Related Reviews:
Zombie movies
Planet Terror (2007)
The Signal (2007)

Other Critic’s Reviews:
The One-Line Review
Rolling Stone

Movie Watching Tip: Stealing Movies

Pirating movies may seem like a good idea but it is not. Burning movies or downloading them online without paying is no different than walking out of a store with a DVD in your pocket. Even though its all done electronically, it is still theft. You are still taking something without paying for it and therefore impacting someone's livelihood.

If that doesn't stop you remember that theft is a sin. Is getting the latest movie worth breaking the commandment of God? Food for thought kids.

Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

Should I see it?

Short Review:
…so it keeps rhythm with the plot.

It’s a tired, old joke but it fits - If this guy only had a few months to live, he should have watched his own movie. The time would have crawled. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be wildly enthusiastic about this heart-wrenching story about a dimwit baseball catcher and his pals after he learns he’s terminally ill. This film is absolutely unbearable. I’ve seen less sanctimonious films on the Lifetime Channel. From the opening to the far too off ending, this overcooked tearjerker pleads with you to care.

The dialog in this film is heavy with the fact that it is dialog. What I mean is that the lines are written to be lines. I never felt like the characters were actually talking to one another. The language used was so awkward it was like watching people who know they’re on camera. The story line itself is equally contrived and hollow.

I assume folks who love this film will assail upon me. All I ask is that you tell me what you see in this film. I see a ponderous and contrived after-school-special that may have worked thirty years ago but hasn’t aged well at all. What did you get out of it?

Related Reviews:
Baseball films
Eight Men Out (1988)
Field of Dreams (1989)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Roger Ebert

Less Christian Art – More Christian Artists

“Christian film” is far better now than it was just a few years ago. Then again, that is a little like saying that dry heaving is better than puking. Yes, you’re doing better, but you’re still left queasy and the end material results are still unpleasant. After thirty years of claiming to be on the verge of breaking into the mainstream, “Christian film” is still synonymous with substandard production values, heavy-handed dialog and childish plots. This is not to say there’s a lack of good movies to be seen. The issue is that we don’t need good movies.

We need great movies.

To be blunt, if a film purports to be a “Christian film” it supposedly is done for the glory of God. You don’t glorify God by making lousy movies.

We need great movies.

Like I said, things are getting better. Production values are indeed increasing and there are some serious shops out there trying their best. Within the past ten years we’ve gone from embarrassing messes like Left Behind, The Omega Code, and Joshua to more impressive works like The Nativity Story, Luther, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, Saints and Soldiers, and Facing the Giants. Lest we forget, there’s also that little ditty Mel made called Passion of the Christ. As the industry has come to see the financial and cultural muscle of Christians they have worked to market products our way. Those directly in our ranks have likewise stepped up and tried to cater to our tastes. This has lead to more investors, more money and better looking product. Of course you can have the nicest lighting in the world but if you’re still filming a pedantic script with summer-stock reject actors your “better look product” is simply lipstick on a pig. The product still stinks.

As I said, the genre is improving but must do better. I believe the first step in improving “Christian film” is to stop having “Christian films” and simply have Christians making films. I believe labeling our works, or allowing others to label our works, is our first mistake. When we label our works as being “Christian”, the intention is usually to announce that the piece is “made for Christians” and presumptively is made to glorify Christ. These are fine – no commendable ideals and should be the goals of any committed Christian when making art. We run into a few problems when we use the “Christian film” label however:

1. The label is just that, a label. It allows Christian artists to be pigeonholed by both people in the industry. Those in the industry can subscribe any negative ideas they’d like to a label “it’s one of those “Christian” films.” The label can also relegate the product to a particular distribution stream, which isn’t always a great match.

2. The audience can do the pigeonholing as well. Christian audiences have come to expect very particular things. The rules don’t’ tend to stress Biblical truth, moral clarity and sound technical achievement but rather a watered down view of the world. Violence is almost non-existent, salty language never happens, unmarried couples never struggle with lust, evil isn’t really all that evil (because showing various forms of sin isn’t allowed) and in the end everyone is converted quite nicely with no residual issues. Life is reduced to an after school special with praying thrown in for good measure.

For me, this is where the aforementioned dry-heaving usually comes in.

The “Christian” label sets the filmmaker up with a number of hindering rules that are meant to satisfy the most sensitive members of the audience and more times than not hijacks the proper development of a story.

3. When a non-Christian is presented with a “Christian film” their reaction is going to be far more defensive than a regular ol’ movie. No one wants to go to the movies to be preached at. As it turns out, looking at the box office receipts, they don't go.

4. Which branch of Christendom gets the corner on the label “Christian film”? Catholics make movies, as do the Evangelicals and Mormons. Who gets to claim their films are “Christian”? I’m certain most Catholics would be made uncomfortable at a film like Luther while most Evangelicals would bristle at many of the films stemming from the LDS.

5. When we remove ourselves by stamping our cinema with the Christian label we are leaving the wider culture to be run by whoever comes around. We retreat into our safe little subculture and then act surprised when the Pagan turn Hollywood into Nineveh. We handed over the steering wheel to the heathens and relegated ourselves to whining in the backseat as they drive the culture straight to hell. Our place is at the FRONT of culture not running along the side of it hoping we’ll get noticed.

As you can see, the label brings up a number of serious issues – issues that are not necessary. Christians should drop the label, drop the pretenses and get to work. We have retreated into this subculture to protect ourselves from the wider one. By relegating our work to be “Christian” we extract ourselves from the wider population. We need to be in the mix.

Christian film’s has a long history of being relegated to the basements of churches. The films were made by Christians for Christians to be seen by Christians in the comfort of their churches. We have spent all of our efforts preaching to the choir and then exclaiming that our work was done. If Christians are to make movies they should be with the intent of distributing the teachings of God to everyone not just those in the light. We are to speak the Good News to the world and we can’t do that if we’re too busy entertaining ourselves. Removing the unneeded label of “Christian film” from our works is the first step in the process of opening up to the outside world.

I am not calling for a lowering of our moral standards. I am not saying we should be ashamed of being Christian. Quite the contrary, we should be open about our faith. It is important for the filmmaker to be identified as Christian than his work be labeled as such. If a Christian makes a film, and if that Christian speaks to Biblical truth and morality – he is making a Christian film. The labeling is there for show and its not helping anyone. A pagan can make a movie and label it as Christian. The product itself shouldn’t be where the labeling resides. The artist is the one who is the Christian. His fruit will bear His name.

I have no interest anymore in seeing “Christian film” What I want to see are films made by Christians. There is a difference in my mind. The former is made to satisfy the demands of Christian culture. The latter answers to Christ.

Movie Quote: Blazing Saddles (1974)

Mongo only pawn in game of life.

Hell in the Pacific (1968)

Should I see it?

Short Review: Hell in your DVD player.

Lee Marvin and Toshirô Mifune star in this mismanaged film about an American pilot and Japanese sailor who are marooned on a forgotten island during World War II. Toshirô Mifune is one of the great film actors but his immense talents are wasted here. Marvin, who is at the height of his career, likewise seems misplaced. Director John Boorman (Exorcist II: The Heretic) fails to put together a coherent visual theme and overreaches with his editing. Even forgiving these faults the music from composer Lalo Schifrin (Rush Hour) is so incredibly intrusive and at times ear-splitting; it makes the film nearly unwatchable. The soundtrack is so prompting I found it to comical at times, as if they were trying spoofing overbearing film scores.

You’ve probably never heard of this film. There’s a good reason why this has been forgotten. You’re doing yourself a favor if you make this the only time you consider seeing this movie.

Related Reviews:
Toshirô Mifune movies
Yojimbo (1961)
Sanjuro (1962)

Other Critic's Reviews:
War Movie Blog

Haven (2004)

Should I see it?

Short Review:
Can you sue film producers to get your time back? If so, I’m can hear the grumbling of a class action lawsuit in the making…I take that back, for a class action you need more than one person. I think I’m the only one who has sat through the whole movie.

Orlando Bloom may be a cutie-pie but he has the stage presence of an oven mitt. Again, I understand, he’s a pretty oven mitt, but an oven mitt just the same. In this film, he leads an ensemble cast of professional supporting actors and still manages to barely upstage the extras in the background. At one point, his character is assaulted by getting acid thrown in his face. From that point forward, Oven Mitt has a large scar running across his face. This is bad news for Oven since the scar then becomes the most interesting thing about his performance from that point forward.

This movie is a dark, miserable parade through the lower elements of human nature. As if the world didn’t have enough trouble, now we have yet another “important” movie wanting to tell us how crappy life can be. In a time of worldwide terror, nuclear escalations and The Bears losing the Superbowl, we don’t need to hear the whining of how hard things are for a bunch of thugs in the Caribbean.

This film wants to be a rehash of Crash. It weaves a number of seemingly unrelated stories that look at the troubles in our lives. Unlike Crash, this film doesn’t have any central theme worth investigating and it is completely without voice or character. The production is literally a series of events, some related but most not, where things happen but none of it makes sense nor has any meaning. In the end, after wading through almost two hours of Oven Mitt and company looking frustrated and numbly vomiting their lines at one another, there isn’t a resolution. The film simply ends. There isn’t an important statement of purpose, no overarching lesson, just a quick image of a gun and then the credits. Normally, this kind of ending would infuriate me. The ending of a film is critical. In this case, I was thrilled. The darn thing was finally over.

Related Reviews:
Orlando Bloom movies
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Troy (2004)

Other Critic's Reviews:

Movie Trailer: 500 Days of Summer

500 times of saying 500 Days of Summer.

A film for all of you who are into indulgent indie flicks.

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Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter (The Pink Panther 2) and Michael H. Webb (The Pink Panther 2)
Marc Webb
Actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick), Zooey Deschanel (Yes Man) and Geoffrey Arend (An American Carol)

Movie Trailer: Crank 2: High Voltage

"If you can find your heart, I'm reasonably sure I can put it back in."

The important word in that sentence is "reasonably".

This line a dialog is all you need to know if this is your kind of movie or not. Statham has his heart removed and replaced with an artificial heart and he has an hour to keep the new one charged.

Stupid people need movies too.

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Screenwriters: Mark Neveldine (Pathology) and Brian Taylor (Pathology)
Director: Mark Neveldine (Crank) and Brian Taylor (Crank)
Actors: Jason Statham (Death Race), Amy Smart (Just Friends), Dwight Yoakam (Panic Room), Efren Ramirez (Employee of the Month) and Jose Pablo Cantillo (Redbelt)

Movie Trailer: Watchmen (TV Spot)

They are really pushing the marketing for this film. Most of the of the marketing is online since they're obviously hoping on a big showing from fanboy morons. This new spot is basically a rehash of the already released footage but there's some new stuff wedged in there in places.

Darrell of SOUTHCON is right when he says that the whole production will be summed up with how well Rorschach is potrayed.

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Screenwriters: David Hayter (X-Men) and Alex Tse
Director: Zack Snyder (300)
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Kabluey), Malin Akerman (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Billy Crudup (Big Fish), Jackie Earle Haley (Semi-Pro), Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), and Matt Frewer

Watchmen Character Feature: Nite Owl II

Screenwriters: David Hayter (X-Men) and Alex Tse
Director: Zack Snyder (300)
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Kabluey), Malin Akerman (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Billy Crudup (Big Fish), Jackie Earle Haley (Semi-Pro), Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), and Matt Frewer

Watchmen Character Feature: The Comedian

Screenwriters: David Hayter (X-Men) and Alex Tse
Director: Zack Snyder (300)
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Kabluey), Malin Akerman (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Billy Crudup (Big Fish), Jackie Earle Haley (Semi-Pro), Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), and Matt Frewer

Watchmen Character Feature: Silk Spectre II

Screenwriters: David Hayter (X-Men) and Alex Tse
Director: Zack Snyder (300)
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Kabluey), Malin Akerman (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Billy Crudup (Big Fish), Jackie Earle Haley (Semi-Pro), Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), and Matt Frewer

Watchmen Character Feature: Ozymandias

Below is the new character vignette for Ozymandias from Watchmen. This is a fragment Trailer Addict put together from the new marketing site for the film.

They have been doing their best with the viral marketing for this film. Much of it reminds me of the same marketing campaign(s) that pushed The Dark Knight. This is probably because both campaigns are speaking to the same cynical Internet crowd.

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Screenwriters: David Hayter (X-Men) and Alex Tse
Director: Zack Snyder (300)
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Kabluey), Malin Akerman (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Billy Crudup (Big Fish), Jackie Earle Haley (Semi-Pro), Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), and Matt Frewer

Watchmen Character Feature: Dr. Manhattan

Screenwriters: David Hayter (X-Men) and Alex Tse
Director: Zack Snyder (300)
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Kabluey), Malin Akerman (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Billy Crudup (Big Fish), Jackie Earle Haley (Semi-Pro), Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), and Matt Frewer

Watchmen Character Feature: Rorschach

The marketing for Watchmen has been very good. Given that they're selling a film that I would guess 95% of the audience will not like, understand or sit through, they have a great deal riding on their pitch. One of the hurdles they need to clear is getting the strange cast of characters introduced to the audience. Warner Brothers has put up an ad site displaying the cast of characters with this in mind.

Trailer Addict posted the various character vignettes on their site. Now I'm recycling that content here.

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Screenwriters: David Hayter (X-Men) and Alex Tse
Director: Zack Snyder (300)
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Kabluey), Malin Akerman (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), Billy Crudup (Big Fish), Jackie Earle Haley (Semi-Pro), Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), and Matt Frewer

Movie Trailer: French Film

The French have all the answers? Not if the question is "When was the last time you bathed?"

The trailer doesn't give up much. If this is all they can cobble together out of the whole film...well.

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Screenwriter: Aschlin Ditta
Jackie Oudney
Actors: Anne-Marie Duff (Notes on a Scandal), Hugh Bonneville (Hippie Hippie Shake) and Victoria Hamilton

Movie Quote: The Raven (1935)

Dr. Craven
You'll need something to protect you from the cold.
[Dr. Bedloe reaches for a glass of wine]

Dr. Craven
No, I meant clothes!

Dr. Bedloe:

Heat (1995)

Should I see it?

Short Review:
This film left me more disappointed than Clay Aitkin’s girlfriend on prom night.

Overall, this should have been a great film. You have a great cast (Robert De Niro, Tom Sizemore, Val Kilmer, Jon Voiht, Dennis Haysbert and William Fichtner) along with Michael Mann writing and directing. What could possibly go wrong?

Al Pacino.

I liken his performance in this film to a child who ruins a beautiful family portrait by sticking out his tongue. Where everyone else is cemented in reality and subtlety, Pacino is a bellowing cartoon.

Other than Glen Garry Glen Ross, what has he done the past couple decades that hasn’t been overblown and goofy? He is stuck in Scarface mode. Watch the film and tell me you don’t expect him to scream out “Say hello to my little friend!” It’s a shame to see a single element in a film trash the whole piece.

The story is thought out and carefully executed. This is an interesting character piece and most of the actors take advantage of the opportunities Mann’s script provides. While some weak points do exist, the story is overall rather sturdy and advances some wonderful scenes.

There is one thing about this film that is simply brilliant – the sound. This has to be one of the best sounding films made in recent memory. The gunfights are stunning to hear. The rumbling echoes of the rifles off buildings are a joy to hear. Finally, a sound designer who actually wants the film to sound like real life.

Looking at the piece as a whole, it is worth seeing if you’ve missed it. This stands even though Pacino screams in every scene. I kept waiting for one of the other characters near to him to flinch and respond “Hey, you don’t have to yell, I’m standing right here!”

Related Reviews:
Robert De Niro movies

Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

City by the Sea (2002)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Combustible Celluloid

Broken Arrow (1950)

Should I see it?

James Stewart stars in this film about a former soldier who becomes an ambassador to the Cochise Apaches at the tail end of a decade of war. The topics of revenge, racism and war are on full display as Jeffords attempts to balance his loyalty to his people while also opening up to the Native Americans. The film is a manipulative and does suffer from some forced scenes. Overall, this is a very strong film that discusses some pretty weighty issues throughout. Stewart was the most approachable, likable actor to grace the screen. His Westerns also showed a darker side to the man, full of cynicism. His portrayal of Jeffords, a man who is weary of war and impulsive hatred is an often overlooked performance. He is quite good in this film, and this performance is one of his better offerings.

Related Reviews:
James Stewart movies
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Magic Mirrors
At-a-Glance Film Reviews

Movie Watching Tip: Establishing Shots

Although they are becoming less frequent because audience's visual skills are more attuned than previous generations, it is still traditional to have an "establishing scene" at the opening of a scene. This is a quick image of the exterior of a building, a cityscape or other identifiable scenery to set the stage.

In the film Ghostbusters we leave a scene where Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) attempts to woo Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and are taken to the Ghostbusters office. To help the transition between the two unrelated scenes, director Ivan Reitman inserts the following image:

This cues the audience that the subject is changing. They may as well have John Cleese drop in and say "...and now for something completely different." Following this shot the next scene in the basement of the office begins.

When watching a film it is important to understand that every shot has a purpose (or at least they should.)

The 2008 Oscar Nominations

The 81st Academy Award Nominations are:

Best motion picture of the year
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
“Frost/Nixon”, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
“Milk”, Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers
“The Reader”, Nominees to be determined
“Slumdog Millionaire”, Christian Colson, Producer

Achievement in directing
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, David Fincher
“Frost/Nixon”, Ron Howard
“Milk”, Gus Van Sant
“The Reader”, Stephen Daldry
“Slumdog Millionaire”, Danny Boyle

Adapted screenplay
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
“Doubt”, Written by John Patrick Shanley
“Frost/Nixon”, Screenplay by Peter Morgan
“The Reader”, Screenplay by David Hare
“Slumdog Millionaire”, Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Original screenplay
“Frozen River”, Written by Courtney Hunt
“Happy-Go-Lucky”, Written by Mike Leigh
“In Bruges”, Written by Martin McDonagh
“Milk”, Written by Dustin Lance Black
“WALL-E”, Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”
Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn in “Milk”
Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt”
Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”
Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road”

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie in “Changeling”
Melissa Leo in “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep in “Doubt”
Kate Winslet in “The Reader”

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in “Doubt”
Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis in “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”

Best documentary feature
“The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)”, Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
“Encounters at the End of the World”, Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
“The Garden”, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
“Man on Wire”, James Marsh and Simon Chinn
“Trouble the Water”, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal

Best documentary short subject
“The Conscience of Nhem En” Steven Okazaki
“The Final Inch”, Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
“Smile Pinki”, Megan Mylan
“The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306”, Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde

Best animated feature film of the year
“Bolt”, Chris Williams and Byron Howard
“Kung Fu Panda”, John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
“WALL-E”, Andrew Stanton

Best foreign language film of the year
“The Baader Meinhof Complex”, Germany
“The Class”, France
“Departures”, Japan
“Revanche”, Austria
“Waltz with Bashir”, Israel

Achievement in art direction
“Changeling” James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
“The Dark Knight” Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando
“The Duchess” Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
“Revolutionary Road” Art Direction: Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt

Achievement in cinematography
“Changeling”, Tom Stern
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Claudio Miranda
“The Dark Knight”, Wally Pfister
“The Reader”, Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
“Slumdog Millionaire”, Anthony Dod Mantle

Achievement in costume design
“Australia”, Catherine Martin
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Jacqueline West
“The Duchess”, Michael O’Connor
“Milk”, Danny Glicker
“Revolutionary Road”, Albert Wolsky

Achievement in film editing

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
“The Dark Knight”, Lee Smith
“Frost/Nixon”, Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
“Milk”, Elliot Graham
“Slumdog Millionaire”, Chris Dickens

Achievement in makeup
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Greg Cannom
“The Dark Knight”, John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan
“Hellboy II: The Golden Army”, Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”,Alexandre Desplat
“Defiance”, James Newton Howard
“Milk”, Danny Elfman
“Slumdog Millionaire”, A.R. Rahman
“WALL-E”, Thomas Newman

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Down to Earth” from “WALL-E”Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
“Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire”, Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire”, Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman andMaya Arulpragasam

Best animated short film
“La Maison en Petits Cubes” , Kunio Kato
“Lavatory - Lovestory”, Konstantin Bronzit
“Oktapodi”, Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
“Presto”, Doug Sweetland
“This Way Up”, Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

Best live action short film
“Auf der Strecke (On the Line)”, Reto Caffi
“Manon on the Asphalt”, Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
“New Boy”, Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
“The Pig”, Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh
“Spielzeugland (Toyland)”, Jochen Alexander Freydank

Achievement in sound editing
“The Dark Knight”, Richard King
“Iron Man”, Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
“Slumdog Millionaire”, Tom Sayers
“WALL-E”, Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
“Wanted”,Wylie Stateman

Achievement in sound mixing
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
“The Dark Knight”, Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
“Slumdog Millionaire”, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
“WALL-E”,Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
“Wanted”, Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

Achievement in visual effects
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
“The Dark Knight”, Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
“Iron Man”, John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan

Encounters at the End of the World gets a nomination? Are you kidding? Gran Torino gets ignored? Robert Downey Jr. gets the nod for Tropic Thunder? This is one screwed up trade show they got here.

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