While we make no guarantee on the overall quality of this week’s Immortals, but one thing—thanks to its aesthetics-crazy director, Tarsem Singh (The Cell)—is clear: The film will be beautiful.
This fact got us thinking about the directors who’ve shown time and again that they can take our breath away in the way their films are shot (with the help of their cinematographers, of course); who have a vision and convey it to us, to spectacular, singular, instantly recognizable results. Here are the visual-obsessed directors who pull it off the best.
The Must-See: The New World
The notoriously deliberate Malick has only directed five films (I repeat: five films!) in his almost 40-year career—all of them visually breathtaking and hyperbole-worthy. The most recent example was summer 2011’s The Tree of Life, which featured nature shots as jaw-dropping as the oftentimes too-obtuse storyline. But the non-prolific Malick’s work prior also displayed his visual visions and penchant for natural beauty, never more so than in 2005’s The New World, a so-so movie made unforgettable by its stark beauty.
The Must-See: The Science of Sleep
Gondry doesn’t have a ton of big-screen work to cite, but every movie he’s made has looked pretty – and anyone who used to direct music videos for Bjork and others has cred aplenty in this department. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the consensus masterpiece of Gondry’s limited resume, but the best-looking film is undoubtedly 2006’s mind-trip fantasy The Science of Sleep, which teems with beautiful shots of Paris and the mind’s eye … during the REM cycle.
The Must-See: 2001: A Space Odyssey
He’s considered by many to be one of the best overall directors of all time, and for good reason, but what is probably most memorable about Kubrick’s film is his eye for visuals; it’s what makes a Kubrick film instantly recognizable. And Kubrickian. All of his many masterworks stand out for the way they’re shot – most notably the horrifyingly colorful A Clockwork Orange; the flat-out horrifying The Shining; and even his last film, the divisive Eyes Wide Shut – but none holds a candle, visually, to 2001: A Space Odyssey, as much a mind-f**k for its dizzying, stylized camerawork as for its themes and sci-fin-ess.
The Must-See: Avatar
It’s easy to dislike the Blockbuster King, especially on a list like this, but there’s no denying that he has advanced movie technology maybe more than any director ever. And although the look of his films is almost always aided by special effects – ones that, again, he has usually pioneered himself – there’s also no denying that they tend to be quite the sight to behold. Avatar might be an annoying example, but can anyone honestly say he or she wasn’t blown away upon seeing the Cameron-created Pandora for the first time, be it in 3D or 2D?
The Must-See: Beetlejuice
Nothing exemplifies Burton’s artistic stylings better than one of his earliest feature films – his third, to be exact. Burton now relies on special effects and CGI to create his gothic, trippy landscapes and characters (and they still look amazing every time), but in 1988, when none of that was readily available – nor was a big budget – Burton’s true colors shone in a way they haven’t since. Beetlejuice was, visually, a dark, twisted, funhouse of weirdness that gave us an idea of what Burton was really about. His singular visual aesthetic can also be seen in films like Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The Must-See: Lost in Translation
Coppola has only directed four feature films, but they’re more visually striking than most others that have been released in her 11 years as a filmmaker. Lost in Translation, in which Coppola visually conveys the feeling of being lost, and the beauty of Tokyo, is the shining example. Not all agree on the greatness of her movies, but most are taken with Coppola’s ability to catch our eyes via beautiful, albeit somewhat cold and detached, imagery. See also: Somewhere.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Carey Mulligan is in talks to join the Universal action thriller Drive, which already has Ryan Gosling in the frame.
Bryan Cranston is also negotiating to join the cast, the Risky Business blog reported. Nicolas Winding Refn is directing the adaptation of the James Sallis novel.
The story, per BIZ, is about a nameless Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a freelance getaway driver during robberies. When a bank heist goes wrong, he ends up on the run with a contract on his head and an ex-con's girlfriend in his car.
OddLot Entertainment, Bold Films and Marc Platt Prods. are producing. Shooting is to begin next month around Los Angeles.
Producers include Marc Platt, Gigi Pritzker, Michel Litvak and Adam Siegel. David Lancaster, Gary Michael Walters, Bill Lischak and Linda McDonough will serve as executive producers, said BIZ.
The trailer is here for Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet, starring a somewhat slimmed-down Seth Rogen (who co-wrote the script) and Jay Chou, the Taiwanese actor and musician who has a sizable following throughout Asia, but is still largely unknown in America. In The Green Hornet, Britt Reid (Rogen), heir to his father's newspaper empire, chooses to become a masked hero known as The Green Hornet when his father is mysteriously gunned down by thugs. Assisting Reid is martial arts expert Kato (Chou), his wry sidekick.
The Green Hornet looks to be a significant change of pace for director Michel Gondry, whose other films (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep) have been anything but conventional, mainstream fare. I'm actually really surprised by just how normal this movie appears - although that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think the Rogen-Chou pairing is going to be hilarious - but watch the trailer and judge for yourself! Remember that you can find this trailer and many more on our Trailers page, which we update daily.
The Green Hornet hits theaters January 2011.
In the ice-cream sundae of production woes that faced Seth Rogen's Green Hornet, which included last minute cast and director dropouts and on-set car accidents, the film now has its cherry on top. IESB reports that Columbia Pictures and its parent Sony are not pleased with the way the movie is turning out.
File this under rumor for now, but sources claim that the studio considers the film "a disaster" for reasons ranging from the overly campy tone of the product (currently in post-production) courtesy of avant-garde director Michel Gondry to Rogen's undeniably un-heroic look. The irony of this whole mess is that we, the fans, have wondered why the director and star were hired in the first place for quite some time now. Neither radiate blockbuster material and we were never sold on Rogen as the debonair do-gooder. Maybe "we" should be making these films instead...Still, it's release is many months away and Sony has time employ an army of editors to reshape the film as they see fit. Whether or not it will make a difference remains to be seen.
The Green Hornet is set to hit theaters on December 22nd, against winter tentpole releases like Tron: Legacy and Little Fockers (bad news for Rogen and company). We'll keep you up to date on the films news - both good and bad - as it comes in.