November 09, 2010 6:09am EST
As we grow close to the Holiday shopping season, it's only inevitable that each week's crop of Blu-ray releases gets better and better. Even with that in mind, there are quite a few stellar releases this week that are worth your immediate attention. However, there is one particular release that I think is a Must Own for anyone with a Blu-ray player: Sherlock.
Yes, in a week that sees the retail release of both Scott Pilgrim and the Criterion Collection of Antichrist, I think the best buy of the week is the first season of a BBC miniseries you've probably never even heard of. I realize that a modernization of Sherlock Holmes probably doesn't sound amazing, but I assure you that it not only is, but that the first episode of it alone will make you forget all about Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Ritchie's recent film. Martin Freeman is great as a danger-seeking Watson, but it's Benedict Cumberbatch that steals the show as the funniest, sharpest, most acerbic and delicately unhinged Sherlock yet put to screen.
But more on that below. On to what else is New in Blu!
Top Shelf - Any elaborate collector's editions or box sets. [Note: These aren't necessarily the picks for the best releases of the week, rather they're just the sets that go above and beyond what normal Blu-rays do. Plus, they probably cost more.]
Middle Shelf - Standard releases of fairly well known movies available at a reasonable price.
Bottom Shelf - Titles that are either A) suspiciously cheap or B) being released with very little fanfare.
Antichrist ($29.49, Criterion)
The Features: An HD transfer supervised by both Lars von Trier and his DOP Anthony Dod Mantle; Commentary from director Lars von Trier and film scholar Murray Smith; several making-of segments and cast/crew interviews; a documentary on its world premiere; a book containing an essay by Ian Christie.
The Movie: If Antichrist doesn't mess you up, you're not a normal human being. To say it's not for everyone is an understatement: It's an (absolutely gorgeous) horror movie for the art house crowd featuring two staggering performances from stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Who Should Buy It: Film students, von Trier devotees, lovers of film as an art form regardless of how harrowing it can be.
October 22, 2010 5:41am EST
1. The Best Picture Race Down to a Pair?
A month ago I gave you the six mortal locks of the Best Picture category, movies destined to receive a nomination. I'm now ready to cut that down to the two films with a legitimate chance at victory, making me either 1) Ridiculously foolish or 2) Exceptionally brave. Maybe both. But unlike last year's depressing Avatar vs. Hurt Locker battle this one offers real intrigue, and so it deserves as much advanced bloggin' as we can give it. You ready?
127 Hours vs. True Grit. That's the Academy's choice, and it's a great one for a number of reasons. First off, we'll have two returning champions, Danny Boyle versus The Coen Brothers. Secondly, the match-up will pit two disparate styles of cinema against each other, and whichever way The Academy goes will say something significant about where our artists and culture are headed.
In one corner you've got 127 Hours, Danny Boyle's "true story brought to life," starring "it" guy James Franco. Based solely on the trailer, the film is brightly lit, offering quick cuts, rapid tonal shifts, and a dynamic tale. In the other corner you've got The Coen Bros. offering up a remake of a classic, wry and dark, Jeff Bridges squinting quietly off into the distance. Slumdog Millionaire, a tale steeped in humanity, never got a chance to face off against No Country for Old Men, a tale steeped in dread. I loved both of 'em, but you'd never confuse the directors or the films, would you?
Which brings me back to last year's Best Picture race. As the field was winnowed down it became apparent that Avatar was on a collision course with Hurt Locker (no matter how hard I tried to get the superior film, Inglourious Basterds, into the mix). It was pretty clear what the narrative was, exes facing off, the commercial titan versus the "controversial" indie, the general public juggernaut against a film that desperately needed a DVD push. The Academy made the call, correctly I think, going with a film that needed support over a movie that was big fun ... but fell apart in the last hour.
This year will be much tougher to call, but infinitely more interesting. You'll have a generation gap, Jeff Bridges battling James Franco, and a remake taking on a true story is compelling as well. A.R. Rahman's soundtrack versus Johnny Cash's mournful twang. But most of all it will be a verdict on style. Does The Academy goes with Boyle's more visceral and earnest method of cinema? Or do they reward the quieter, measured approach of True Grit? Old versus new, light versus dark, authentic versus intelligent. Now that's a race I want to tune into. A little over four months until we find out!
2. Put Without Remorse On Your Radar.
Even if you've never read a Tom Clancy novel, you know Tom Clancy. He's the novel writer behind The Hunt for the Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger. Based on those titles you're thinking "Military hero stuff, got it." Not so fast! He did two books that weren't Jack Ryan or hero based, and one of them is being adapted into a film. That book is called Without Remorse and it's completely atypical of Tom Clancy's oeuvre (the other one, Red Storm Rising, is a well-paced story of global warfare).
Without Remorse reminds me a little bit of Payback, it's a movie about an anti-hero, gritty and painful, heartbreaking and sudden. The book claims, at least on Wikipedia, to be part of the "Ryanverse" but I'd argue, having read all of Clancy's fiction, that it is far more of an origin story for a fellow named Clark (played by Willem Dafoe back in Clear and Present Danger). Without Remorse has much more in common with a series like Dexter than it does with anything Cold War related.
So when the news came down that Shawn Ryan, creator of The Shield, was tapped to handle the adaptation it put a little hop in my step. He's the perfect guy to handle it, as Without Remorse deals much more with street crime and drugs than it does far-flung political intrigue. I'm really looking forward to this project, it's the one Clancy story that evokes emotion while eschewing military hardware.
3. Paranormal Activity, Saw, And The Future of Suspense!
On October 23, 2009 a sea change occurred. Paranormal Activity, in its fifth weekend out, beat the newly released Saw VI straight up at the box office, $21m to $14m. It pulled off this feat with a thousand less theaters, and coming off a $19m weekend on October 18.
There were a number of ways to parse this occurrence. The first theory was that Paranormal Activity and Saw VI were going for the same audience, and Paranormal Activity won, while Saw VI limped to its worst opening and worst total box office of the franchise. The second theory holds that the Saw franchise and the Paranormal Activity crowd don't mix, and the Saw VI result was merely evidence of a series that had been on the decline since 2007's Saw IV. Whatever the case, I hold that it's good news for movie fans the whole world round.
The Paranormal Activity franchise is high on suspense, low on gore, and shot on the cheap. It feels more intimate than contrived torture porn. It opens up the horror genre, if it is even in that category, up to a wider group of folks. You couldn't take a date to Saw -- you can take one to Paranormal Activity. I don't want to be the guy that says "Back in my day," but back in my day scary films didn't have to beat you over the head with blood. Let's chalk up films like Hostel and Saw to the previous decade of irrational exuberance and discretionary income. Where will we get our scares from here on out? Hand-held cameras, lower budgets, and limited special effects. Anyone with a camera has a shot at making a splash, and you won't need to keep upping the ante on your "kills." At this point, go ahead and insert the inspiring sounds of "What a Wonderful World" (The Iz version) into this conversation. And check out Paranormal Activity 2 this weekend, you'll get a few jumps. Saw 3-D next weekend? I can't go for that, no can do.
On that note, I hope you have a weekend without any special effects at all.
Check out last week's Movie Musings here
Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He's also available on Twitter.
October 11, 2010 1:15pm EST
The Welsh actor will join new webslinger Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the cast of the Marc Webb-directed blockbuster.
Sony bosses have declined to reveal which villain Ifans will play in the film.
As well as Molina and Dafoe, the Spider-Man bad guys have been played by Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace.
February 08, 2010 6:15am EST
The film, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, received mixed reviews because of its scenes of graphic violence, but the shocking content didn't stop the film from winning big at The Roberts in Denmark on Sunday (07Feb10).
The movie was named Best Picture, while Von Trier landed the Best Director prize. Antichrist also triumphed in categories for script, cinematography, editing, sound design and special effects.
Lars Mikkelsen was honoured for his role in thriller Headhunter and his co-star Henning Moritzen was named Best Supporting Actor.
Animated sensation Up was named best U.S. film, while Slumdog Millionaire won for Best non-U.S. foreign film, according to Variety.com.
January 08, 2010 4:00am EST
After playing an uncredited cock fighter in the 1980 Michael Cimino film, the actor upset the director by chuckling during a quiet tense scene and he was asked to leave the set.
He recalls, "I'm still in the movie because I was the cock fighter. That was one of the things I did; I worked for Jeff Bridges' character in the story.
"I was there for three months and I worked a lot. It was the kind of thing where you were hired to play an unscripted character and then they developed these smaller characters. I had scenes and everything and was really enjoying it and then one day we were doing a lighting set-up for a long time; basically eight hours standing in place, and a woman told me a joke in my ear and I laughed at a moment of silence.
"Cimino turned around and said, 'Willem step out,' and that was that. I was the lamb for sacrifice."
Dafoe has since confronted The Deer Hunter director and reminded him of the moment he was fired, but the moviemaker has no recollection of the incident.
Dafoe tells WENN, "He doesn't quite acknowledge it, but that's what happened. It was quite a lesson because that was the first studio movie I had ever been involved in, so it was quite an eye-opener. I thought, 'Wow, what a rough world!'"
But Dafoe dodged a bullet - his name isn't among the credits in a film that has become a punchline in movie industry jokes. The flop closed a studio and largely cost Cimino his reputation.
January 06, 2010 8:18pm EST
Hollywood’s burgeoning library of vampire flicks gets a bloody new addition this week with Daybreakers a grisly horror-thriller that adds a dystopian twist to the increasingly well-worn bloodsucker mythos. If Twilight is the Romeo and Juliet of the vampire genre Daybreakers hopes to be its Children of Men. But hope as they say is not a plan. Nor is it a particularly effective filmmaking technique.
Set 10 years in the future Daybreakers envisions a world in which a nasty plague has turned all but a tiny fraction of the planet’s population into vampires. But instead of descending into the kind of violent anarchy one might expect after such a catastrophic event folks have adjusted surprisingly well retrofitting their lives to accommodate their vampiric needs. (Potentially fatal sunlight for example is avoided with an elaborate system of underground walkways and computerized sunrise alerts.)
But all is not well in the future vampire world. The supply of uninfected human blood upon which the civilization depends to survive is dwindling rapidly and attempts to synthesize it led by Ethan Hawke’s reluctant biotech researcher Edward Dalton have thus far proved disastrously ineffective. (A side effect of the latest blood substitute for example is an exploding head. Ouch!)
Dressed in a drab black suit and hat his alabaster vampire complexion rendered even more pale by his moral objection to drinking human blood (he subsists instead on vastly inferior pig blood) Hawke’s character looks something like a Hasidic heroin addict (see below). Appalled by his company’s lucrative side business of imprisoning uninfected humans in vast blood farms (akin to the warehouses of “batteries” of The Matrix) he revolts against his smoothly sinister boss (Sam Neill) and joins a rag-tag resistance group led by a homespun mercenary (Willem Dafoe) who claims to have discovered the cure to vampirism.
Aside from leads Hawke Dafoe and Neill Daybreakers' primarily Australian cast (the film was shot entirely in Australia) stages a veritable tour-de-force of bad B-movie acting which combined with the film’s occasional subpar production values gives it the overall feel of a low-budget late-night “skinemax” flick. In lieu of gratuitous nudity however directors Michael and Peter Spierig substitute copious gore piling on the bodyparts until the film devolves into a bloody incoherent mess.
December 15, 2009 9:30am EST
The film, about a New York cabaret starring Willem Dafoe, Matthew Modine and Asia Argento, has been at the centre of a legal battle between Ferrara and two former business partners, who claim they should have been credited for helping to write the screenplay.
The dispute has held Go Go Tales up for three years, but Kubassek is eager to put an end to the lawsuit against Ferrara and release the comedy via his company Aliquot Films.
He tells the New York Post's gossip column Page Six, "I have a top lawyer working on this and there is an imminent light at the end of the tunnel. I've seen it and it's terrific."
December 03, 2009 6:30am EST
Dafoe's latest movie Antichrist wasn't nominated for any awards at the New York ceremony, but Perez made sure to mention the actor's full frontal scene when she stepped onstage to present the Best Director accolade on Monday night (30Nov09).
Perez singled out Dafoe in the audience and candidly asked if the size of his manhood in the movie "was the real thing", prompting the embarrassed star to nod - but the outspoken actress' attempt to draw laughs from the shocked crowd fell flat.
A guest tells the New York Daily News, "The audience was absolutely silent. She was completely inappropriate, and everyone looked really uncomfortable."
October 27, 2009 2:15pm EST
"I try to tell a joke and I always get distracted. I can't remember the important part! Maybe that's why I'm an actor, the important part is scripted out for you!" SPIDER-MAN star WILLEM DAFOE has no comedy skills.
October 27, 2009 8:15am EST
The Shining actor landed the iconic part opposite Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader, but Dafoe admits the movie could have been very different had he agreed to work on the superhero film.
He tells MTV.com, "Very early, they talked to me about playing (The Joker in) Batman."
Dafoe decided against signing up for Batman and later impressed comic book fans by portraying Norman Osborn and his villain alter ego, the Green Goblin, in the Spider-Man movies.