Monday, February 28, 2011

Last Airbender Takes The Razzies


FEB 28, 2011 - After watching the Oscar winners, let's balance it with a dose of the Raspberries - announced in satirical ceremonies at Hollywood’s Barnsdall Gallery Theatre at on Saturday, February 26, 2011 — the now traditional Night Before the Oscars.

The
31st Annual RAZZIE Awards:

Worst Picture
The Last Airbender

Worst Actor
Ashton Kutcher (for Killers and Valentine's Day)

Worst Actress
Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristen Davis (Sex & The City 2)

Worst Director
M. Night Shyamalan - The Last Airbender

Worst Supporting Actor
Jackson Rathbone (Last Airbender and Twilight Saga: Eclipse)

Worst Supporting Actress
Jessica Alba (for The Killer Inside Me, Little Fockers, Machete and Valentine's Day)

Worst Screenplay
The Last Airbender

Worst Sequel
Sex & The City 2

Worst Screen Ensemble:
Entire cast of Sex & The City 2

Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3-D
The Last Airbender

'Gnomeo' Tops US B-O by Default

FEB 28, 2011 - The comedy Hall Pass opened below par among comparable comedies over the Oscar weekend at the North American box-office. It collected US$13.4 million - way below Gnomeo and Juliet which was on its third weekend.

However, the biggest disappointment of the weekend was Drive Angry, which inspired little road rage at the cineplexes, clocking an estimated US$5.1 million on close to 2,500 screens at 2,290 locations and ranking No. 9 on the list. That's the weakest launch yet for a major release in the 3D format, and another blow to Nicolas Cage's career. The last Cage movie, Season of the Witch, made US$10.6 million in its first weekend.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Feb 25 - 27, 2011 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Gnomeo and Juliet (BV) $14.2 million ($75.1 million) 3

2. Hall Pass (WB) $13.4 million ($13.4 million) 1

3. Unknown (WB) $12.4 million ($42.8 million) 2

4. Just Go With It (Sony) $11.1 million ($79.3 million) 3

5 . I Am Number Four (BV) $11 million ($37.7 million) 2

King's Speech Wins Big at the Oscars


FEB 28, 2011 - The King's Speech took home four major Academy Awards on Oscar Night - for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. Not surprising, though.

However, the other nominated movies like Inception, The Fighter, and The Social Network did not do badly either. The Fighter took the early Oscars for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in the Supporting Actor and Actress categories while Social Network took the Best Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing. Inception, expectedly, won the (four) technical categories like Cinematography, Visual Effects and Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.

Going away empty-handed are True Grit (zero out of 10 nominations), 127 Hours (six nods), The Kids Are All Right and Winter's Bone - both with four nods.

Oscar hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway did a commendable job although Franco has been criticised for being rather bland compared to previous one like Billy Crystal who also made an appearance. If Hathaway is not such a riot, she makes up for it, modelling a whole bunch of dazzling dresses.

The 83rd Academy Award Winners 2011:

Best Picture
The King's Speech

Best Actor
Colin Firth, The King's Speech

Best Actress
Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Best Director
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale (pictured), The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress
Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Best Adapted Screenplay
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Best Original Screenplay
David Seidler, The King's Speech

Best Foreign Language Film
In a Better World (Denmark)

Best Animated Feature
Toy Story 3 - Michael Arndt (screenplay); John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (story)

Best Documentary
Inside Job - Charles Ferguson and Audrey Mars

Documentary Short
Strangers No More - Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

Art Direction -

Alice in Wonderland - Robert Stromberg (production design), Karen O'Hara (set decoration)

Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland - Colleen Atwood

Film Editing The Social Network - Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Cinematography
Inception - Wally Pfister

Visual effects Inception - Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

Original Music Score
The Social Network - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Original Song
We Belong Together from Toy Story 3 - Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Make-up
The Wolf Man - Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Animated short film
The Lost Thing

Sound editing
Inception - Richard King

Sound mixing
Inception - Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo and Ed Novick

Academy Honorary Award
* Kevin Brownlow
* Jean-Luc Godard
* Eli Wallach

Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
* Francis Ford Coppola

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - Feb 25 - 27, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

Note: This is 'Oscar Weekend' and after The King's Speech, we have Black Swan and True Grit opening at the 'eleventh hour' to cash in on Oscar Night Fever. The other main contenders are Inception, The Social Network, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Winter's Bone and 127 Hours (all of which are reviewed in this blog) Just click on the title to check out the review and have a great time watching the Academy Awards on Monday morning.

NEW THIS WEEK

a) BLACK SWAN (Dance drama with Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel, Janet Montgomery, Barbara Hershey, Christopher Gartin and Sebastian Stan) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): Dubbed a 'mind f**k' sub-genre, this point-of-view saga of a ballerina plays havoc with our minds and offers an eye-boggling performance that should land Portman the Best Actress Oscar. Some may view it as a 'dark thriller' or ballet seen as a 'blood sport'. Either way, we also get great performances by Hershey (as a overbearing mom) and Kunis as a 'rival' dancer. (Check out the review here).

b) TRUE GRIT (Western remake with Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): When the Coen Brothers came out with this remake of the famous John Wayne effort, all eyes were on Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn - the role synonymous with Wayne who won an Oscar for it. And many critics agreed that Bridges gave his own stamp on the character and some even said this was a better version than the True Grit of 1969. And yes, Hailee Steinfeld is also impressive as Mattie Ross, the 14-year-old who seeks revenge for her father's death. (Reviewed here )

c) DRIVE ANGRY (action thriller with Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, David Morse, Katy Mixon, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Charlotte Ross and Christa Campbell) Rated * * (2 stars): Let's consider this as Ghost Driver - a sequel of sorts to Cage's 2007 comic book fantasy Ghost Rider. That way, we can understand director Patrick Lussier's preoccupation with fast cars, hot chicks, chases and explosions at the expense of a meaningful narrative. Perhaps it is meant to work like a Tarantino cult flick but it still doesn't make the grade. (Reviewed below)

d) I AM NUMBER FOUR (sci-fi fantasy with Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe and Kevin Durand) Rating * * (2 stars): Number One was killed in Malaysia, or so we are told, and now they are coming after Number Four! Sounds mysterious? Well, the novelty soon fizzles when we see how derivative this 'alien romance' is, copying from the Twilight franchise and employing a host of high school movie cliches. A lame adaptation of the novel by Pittacus Lore.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. THE KING'S SPEECH (drama with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall and Michael Gambon) Rating: * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): With 12 nominations for the Oscars, this period saga on Britain's King George VI is compulsory for viewing for film fans of all ages. It's like Pygmalion (or My Fair Lady) in the reverse and it offers an invaluable insight into the role of royalty at a time when Britain and the world are on the brink of war. What's more, we have first class performances, opulent sets and scintillating wit. (Check out the review here)

2. NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Romantic comedy with Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline and Ludacris) Rating: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This looks like the closest Valentine's Day movie you can get. Another reason is to catch Oscar nominee Portman in a role where she basically plays herself as opposed to the tensed, psyched-up ballerina in Black Swan. Director Ivan Reitman's No Strings Attached is no laugh fest, but it is saucy enough for a few giggles and sexy enough to be entertaining. Nothing less, nothing more.

3. THE MECHANIC (action thriller with Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn, Jeff Chase, Mini Anden, Eddie J. Fernandez, Kurt Deville and Monica Acosta) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): An uninspired remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson hit, this Simon West effort just piles on the gore and the firepower. West makes no attempt to improve the ridiculous narrative of the original - and even adds on more silly plotting of his own. Still, Foster is sheer dynamite here and more than pulls his weight. (Reviewed below)

4. SANCTUM (underwater thriller with Richard Roxburgh, Alice Parkinson, Rhys Wakefield, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker, Allison Cratchley and Sean Dennehy) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Sanctum is hyped up as a James Cameron movie but it is directed by Alister Grierson. Cameron is the exec producer and like any Cameron film, the effects (also in 3D) and technical specs are fantastic - but the dialogue and the narrative of this man-vs-nature caper are lame and cliched. Catch it for the cinematography and effects, if you must. (Reviewed below)

5. BURLESQUE (musical drama with Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Peter Gallagher, Alan Cumming, Kristen Bell and Stanley Tucci) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): I see this strictly as a vehicle to put pop queen Aguilera on the big screen. But even though she is sexy and dynamic as a dancer and singer, she does not have the talent to pull it off as an actress. Neither does Cher, for that matter. Burlesque, therefore, is mildly entertaining - for those who are undiscerning. (Reviewed below)

f) THE RITE (horror thriller with Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds, Alice Braga, Toby Jones and Colin O'Donoghue) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Ho-hum, another exorcist flick and another round of Hopkins' replay of his Hannibal Lector snarls! ''Were you expecting swivelled heads and pea soup?'' Hopkins' priest asks in the movie. Our reply: "Not really, but we we not expecting a debate with the devil on demonic possession and the strength of one's faith, either." To be fair, there are some interesting ideas here but most of them get lost in the messy narrative.

DRIVE ANGRY - Sequel to Ghost Rider?

DRIVE ANGRY (action thriller)
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, David Morse, Katy Mixon, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Charlotte Ross and Christa Campbell
Director: Patrick Lussier
Screenplay: Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier
Time: 104 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: Remember the 2007 Ghost Rider in which Nicolas Cage played Johnny Blazes, the daredevil biker who made a pact with the devil? Well, for Drive Angry, just imagine that Johnny Blazes has reincarnated into John Milton, a guy who escapes from Hell - and is hellbent on rescuing his grand-daughter from the clutches of a satanic cult.

Or, better still, pretend that this is the sequel to Ghost Rider and call it Ghost Driver! Indeed, you get the same ridiculous action and explosions as the 2007 version of the Marvel Comics guy - and with Cage (right) playing both roles, you can hardly tell them apart.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? For a cheap sci-fi fantasy B-movie like this, it has to be about revenge. Cage's Milton is all out to avenge the murder of his daughter and, more importantly, to rescue her child from cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke). Helping him in his quest is ex-waitress Piper (Amber Heard, below), a hot chick with a sleek American car.


However, Milton is being pursued by a 'man in black' who calls himself 'the Accountant' (quite aptly played by William Fichtner of TV's Prison Break).

HITS & MISSES: From the title (which was inspired by a line "Don't drive angry" from the movie Groundhog Day), you can expect another mindless testosterone-packed actioner incorporating hot chicks, souped-up cars, chases and explosive crashes. Director Lussier, who also co-wrote the script, is only interested in blowing things up - especially cars and human limbs. It looks like no attempt has been made to make the plot more realistic or even logical. Lussier piles up one ludicrous set piece after another - but none are inspired or original to impress. The scene of a shootout while having sex has been done before, while others are so idiotic that we don't know whether they are intended to make us laugh or cringe.

Acting-wise, this is another role that Cage can play in his sleep - and sometimes it looks like he is sleepwalking through it. Besides providing the requisite eye-candy, Amber Heard's Piper represents the only sane (or normal) person in the whole movie - and she is the only one that we can root for. Fichtner (right), whose character masquerades as an FBI agent, plays it tongue-in-cheek, winking knowingly at the audience in an obvious nod to his roles in Prison Break.

And the prize for the worst acting goes to Billy Burke, who seems to have fled the set of Twilight's Breaking Dawn, probably after having been bitten by a vampire.

THE LOWDOWN: I would have loved to recommend Drive Angry as a crazy cult flick like Kill Bill or Machete but it is just not even up to that standard. It is between moronic guy flick and just plain trash.

Monday, February 21, 2011

'Unknown' Tops US Weekend B-O

FEB 21, 2011 - Promoted as Liam Neeson's follow-up to the popular Taken, Unknown grossed an estimated US$21.8 million in North American cineplexes over the weekend. Unknown has Neeson as a man who must reclaim his identity after finding it stolen when he awakens from a coma.

Number Four is Number 2 on the chart, despite its huge marketing blitz. The wannabe franchise starter is disappointing and could land lower when actual numbers come in. Gnomeo and Juliet, however, was still in the hunt. Overall business was down 29 percent from last Presidents' Day weekend.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Feb 18 - 20, 2011 weekend, in terms of rank, Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo.

1. Unknown (Warner Bros) $21.7 million ($21.7 million) 1

2. I Am Number Four (BV) $19.5 million ($19.5 million) 1

3. Gnomeo and Juliet (BV) $19.4 million ($50.4 million) 2

4. Just Go With It (Sony) $18.2 million ($60.7 million) 2

5. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (Fox) $17.0 million ($17.0 million) 1

THE FIGHTER - Boxing Drama With Emotional Punch

THE FIGHTER (boxing drama)
Cast: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Robert Wahlberg, Dendrie Taylor, Jack McGee, Jenna Lamia, Salvatore Santone and Chanty Sok
Director: David O. Russell
Screenplay: Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Time: 116 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Wahlberg and Bale (right) in THE FIGHTER

PREAMBLE: When we think of boxing movies, Rocky, Raging Bull and Cinderella Man come to mind. These are invariably underdog films about how the boxers triumph over great odds. The Fighter, David O. Russell's take on welterweight champ Mickey Ward, is no different. However, what makes it special is that there is something extra to this boxing bio: a rivetting subplot about family involvement that is both a boon and a bane to Mickey's career.

In other words, Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) not only has to fight formidable opponents in the ring, but also has to contend with tricky issues involving a crack-addict half brother-cum-trainer (Christian Bale as Dicky), a domineering mother (Melissa Leo) and a bunch of concerned sisters.

The Fighter had been in the making since 2000. Martin Scorsese was supposed to direct, but he turned down and Darren Aronofsky was brought on board. Production delays resulted in Aronofsky quitting and David O. Russell came into the picture. This is Russell's first film since I Heart Huckabees, a production better known for behind-the-scenes shouting matches and gossip column scandals. It is the third teaming for Wahlberg and Russell, following Three Kings and Huckabees.

THE SKINNY: Set in a small-town of Lowell, Massachusetts in 1993, the film opens with a HBO documentary crew supposedly interviewing ex-boxer Dicky about his attempts at making a comeback. However, both Dicky and his mother Alice (Leo, pic, left) are training and managing Mickey but their efforts are amateurish at best, resulting in Mickey getting pummelled in the ring by an opponent 20 pounds heavier than him.

Mickey realises that he'll have to break free of his family ties if he wants a shot at achieving his dreams. Hope comes in the form of a relationship with local barmaid Charlene (Amy Adams), who encourages him to take control of his life and helps him stand up to his overbearing family.

HITS AND MISSES: Balancing training sessions and boxing matches with scenes of family loyalty and conflicts, Russell creates a pot-boiler of a movie right from the start. It is obvious that Dicky's infamous exploits with violence and drugs are overshadowing Mickey's fledgling career, but the young man is reluctant to let go of familial ties - until the feisty Adams comes into his life.

Indeed, the off-ring tussles between Dicky and Alice versus Mickey and Charlene are as engaging as the boxing sequences, offering terrific performances from Bale, Leo and Adams (pictured left, who portrays a different personality from her previous roles). Bale is especially awesome, looking gaunt as the crack-addicted trouble-maker (my favourite for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar). Leo is just as formidable as the chain-smoking mother, stealing the thunder even from Adams.

The boxing sequences are not as brutal and violent as Raging Bull - but they are realistic enough to keep us rooting for Mickey and even Dicky - thanks to Russell's inclusion of documentary-style footage with the narrative. And although we know the outcome of the climactic match, we still get a thrill from it.

THE LOWDOWN: A boxing flick with heavyweight emotional punch.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

OSCAR Winners: My 2 Cents' Worth


FEB 16, 2011 - The King’s Speech won the BAFTAs (as expected, duh) and it looks like it is the front runner for the Oscar Best Picture too. Only thing is that the Academy voters are not that easy to predict, given its complicated voting system and finicky voters.

However, I would like to put in my two cents' worth, picking out what or who I would like to win, and predicting the actual winner on Oscar night.

BEST FILM
My Choice: Inception
The Oscar will probably go to: The King’s Speech

BEST DIRECTOR
My choice: David Fincher (The Social Network)
Oscar will probably go to: David Fincher (The Social Network)

BEST ACTRESS
My choice: Natalie Portman (Black Swan) Right
Oscar will probably go to: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

BEST ACTOR
My Choice: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
Oscar will probably go to: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
My Choice: Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Oscar will probably go to: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
My Choice: Christian Bale (The Fighter) pictured
Oscar will probably go to: Christian Bale (The Fighter)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
My Choice: Toy Story 3
Oscar will probably go to: Toy Story 3

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - Feb 18 - 20, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

Note: Oscar Fever is heating up at the box-office, the cinema people are rushing to show off the Oscar-nominated films. First off is The King's Speech, followed by Black Swan and True Grit the following week. Combined with the regular list of new releases, you are spoilt for choice this week!

NEW THIS WEEK

a) THE KING'S SPEECH (drama with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall and Michael Gambon) Rating: * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): With 12 nominations for the Oscars, this period saga on Britain's King George VI is compulsory for viewing for film fans of all ages. It's like Pygmalion (or My Fair Lady) in the reverse and it offers an invaluable insight into the role of royalty at a time when Britain and the world are on the brink of war. What's more, we have first class performances, opulent sets and scintillating wit. (Check out the review here)

b) NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Romantic comedy with Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline and Ludacris) Rating: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This looks like the closest Valentine's Day movie you can get. Another reason is to catch Oscar nominee Portman in a role where she basically plays herself as opposed to the tensed, psyched-up ballerina in Black Swan. Director Ivan Reitman's No Strings Attached is no laugh fest, but it is saucy enough for a few giggles and sexy enough to be entertaining. Nothing less, nothing more.

c) THE MECHANIC (action thriller with Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn, Jeff Chase, Mini Anden, Eddie J. Fernandez, Kurt Deville and Monica Acosta) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): An uninspired remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson hit, this Simon West effort just piles on the gore and the firepower. West makes no attempt to improve the ridiculous narrative of the original - and even adds on more silly plotting of his own. Still, Foster is sheer dynamite here and more than pulls his weight. (Reviewed below)

d) SANCTUM (underwater thriller with Richard Roxburgh, Alice Parkinson, Rhys Wakefield, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker, Allison Cratchley and Sean Dennehy) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Sanctum is hyped up as a James Cameron movie but it is directed by Alister Grierson. Cameron is the exec producer and like any Cameron film, the effects (also in 3D) and technical specs are fantastic - but the dialogue and the narrative of this man-vs-nature caper are lame and cliched. Catch it for the cinematography and effects, if you must. (Reviewed below)

e) BURLESQUE (musical drama with Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Peter Gallagher, Alan Cumming, Kristen Bell and Stanley Tucci) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): I see this strictly as a vehicle to put pop queen Aguilera on the big screen. But even though she is sexy and dynamic as a dancer and singer, she does not have the talent to pull it off as an actress. Neither does Cher, for that matter. Burlesque, therefore, is mildly entertaining - for those who are undiscerning. (Reviewed below)

f) THE RITE (horror thriller with Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds, Alice Braga, Toby Jones and Colin O'Donoghue) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Ho-hum, another exorcist flick and another round of Hopkins' replay of his Hannibal Lector snarls! ''Were you expecting swivelled heads and pea soup?'' Hopkins' priest asks in the movie. Our reply: "Not really, but we we not expecting a debate with the devil on demonic possession and the strength of one's faith, either." To be fair, there are some interesting ideas here but most of them get lost in the messy narrative.

Monday, February 14, 2011

BAFTA Crowns Colin the Firth's 'Speech'


FEB 13, 2011 - It was the Brits' Awards and so it came as no surprise that The King’s Speech converted seven of its 14 BAFTA nominations into wins at London’s Royal Opera House this Sunday night. Colin Firth and Black Swan’s Natalie Portman won the lead acting prizes and David Fincher was named best director for The Social Network.

The King’s Speech won for Best British film as well as a pair of triumphs in the Supporting Actor categories for Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter. David Seidler’s Original Screenplay won its category, as did Alexandre Desplat’s Music Score.

The Social Network won three BAFTAs for Fincher, Aaron Sorkin’s Adapated Screenplay, and Editing. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo won the Foreign Film prize.

The BAFTA WINNERS 2011

BEST FILM
The King’s Speech

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
The King’s Speech

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
Four Lions – Chris Morris (Director/Writer)

DIRECTOR
The Social Network - David Fincher

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The King’s Speech — David Seidler

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Social Network - Aaron Sorkin

FILM NOT IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

ANIMATED FILM
Toy Story 3

LEADING ACTOR
Colin Firth — The King’s Speech

LEADING ACTRESS
Natalie Portman — Black Swan

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Geoffrey Rush –The King’s Speech

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Helena Bonham Carter (pic) – The King’s Speech

ORIGINAL MUSIC
The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat

CINEMATOGRAPHY
True Grit — Roger Deakins

EDITING
The Social Network – Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat

COSTUME DESIGN
Alice In Wonderland – Colleen Atwood

SOUND
Inception – Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
Inception – Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb

MAKE UP & HAIR
Alice In Wonderland – Valli O’Reilly, Paul Gooch

SHORT ANIMATION
The Eagleman Stag – Michael Please

SHORT FILM
Until The River Runs Red – Paul Wright, Poss Kondeatis

THE ORANGE WEDNESDAYS RISING STAR AWARD
Tom Hardy

ACADEMY FELLOWSHIP
Sir Christopher Lee

OUTSTANDING BRITISH CONTRIBUTION TO CINEMA
The Harry Potter films

Saturday, February 12, 2011

'Social Network' is Favourite at London Critics' Awards

FEB 11, 2011 - Reuters reported that The Social Network has knocked The King’s Speech off its perch at the London Film Critics’ Circle Awards yesterday. The Facebook film won four prizes to the royal story’s three.

Both films were nominated seven times, but The Social Network won Film of the Year, as well as Best Director for David Fincher, Best British Actor in a Supporting role for Andrew Garfield, and Best Script for writer Aaron Sorkin.

The King’s Speech, which leads the Academy Award nominations field with 12 ahead of 10 for True Grit and eight each for The Social Network and Inception, was named Best British Film of the year. It also picked up awards for Best British Director (Tom Hooper) and Best Actor (Colin Firth).

In the Actress category, Annette Bening’s (pictured right) turn in lesbian family drama The Kids Are All Right beat Natalie Portman as a troubled ballerina in Black Swan.

Christian Bale was named British Actor of the year for The Fighter and the British Actress prize went to Lesley Manville for “Another Year”.

Breakthrough British Filmmaker was won by Gareth Edwards for his feature debut Monsters and the Foreign Language Film category was won by “Of Gods and Men”, based on the true story of a group of French monks murdered in Algeria.

CENTURION - A Blood & Gore Fest

CENTURION (sword-and-sandal thriller)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Noel Clarke, David Morrissey, Imogen Poots, Axelle Carolyn, Riz Ahmed, Dave Legeno and Ulrich Thomsen
Director: Neil Marshall
Screenplay: Neil Marshall
Time: 97 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Michael Fassbender (right) fleeing the Picts in CENTURION

PREAMBLE: Centurion had a limited release in the US in August 2010 - and performed dismally at the US B-O, grossing less than US$1 million. Elsewhere, it did better and I can only guess that its excessive violence and gore has something to do with it.

Indeed, the movie is not for the squeamish. Director Neil Marshall seems to take pleasure in splashing blood, guts and limbs all over the screen in this 'flight epic' of a movie. It's level of graphic violence is like that of TV series Spartacus: Blood And Sand - sans the sex and nudity.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Set in AD117, Centurion is Marshall's rendition of the fate of Rome's Ninth Legion which supposedly 'vanished' after being sent to conquer the Picts of Scotland. However, the title character is Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender), who, at the start of the movie, manages to escape from a tribe of Picts and join the Ninth led by the lusty General Virilus (Dominic West of TV's The Wire).

As luck would have it, Virilus is ordered by the Governor to march against the Picts - aided by a female Pict scout and guide named Etain (Olga Kurylenko, pic, right). However, Virilus and his men are not prepared for the treachery and betrayal that lie ahead - and the hunters soon become the hunted, chased relentlessly by the Picts all over the mountains of scenic Scotland.

HITS & MISSES: Marshall keeps the pace so fast (and bloody) that there is little time for character development, especially of the secondary roles which seem interesting. The only time the pace slackens a bit is when the fugitive Romans arrive at the home of the witch Arianne (Imogen Poots, pictured left) and a love story almost develops. This quasi-romance, which would have provided a softer approach and please female audiences, is quickly abandoned in the third act.

Still, the cast, led by Fassbender, are solid. Fassbender has us rooting for him throughout, while West seems to wallow in the brawler role with lines like, "When are they going to learn not to f**k with the Ninth?". Bond star Kurylenko plays a mute here but her vixen-like Etiane is suitable enigmatic and energetic, especially with her trademark spear. Poots' Arianne, perhaps, is the role that has the most potential but it is squandered by Marshall.

Technically, the movie is top class and the photography, especially of the Scottish landscape, is breathtaking and idyllic.

THE LOWDOWN: For fans of Spartacus and Rome series, and those who don't mind blood and guts splashed the screen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

WEEKEND PIC - Feb 11 - 13, 2011

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

SNEAK PREVIEWS

a) NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Romantic comedy with Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline and Ludacris) Rating: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): This looks like the closest Valentine's Day movie you can get to take your date to celebrate. Another reason is to catch Oscar nominee Portman in a role where she basically plays herself as opposed to the tensed, psyched-up ballerina in Black Swan. Director Ivan Reitman's No Strings Attached is no laugh fest, but it is saucy enough for a few giggles and sexy enough to be entertaining. Nothing less, nothing more.

b) THE RITE (horror thriller with Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds, Alice Braga, Toby Jones and Colin O'Donoghue) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Ho-hum, another exorcist flick and another round of Hopkins' replay of his Hannibal Lector snarls! ''Were you expecting swivelled heads and pea soup?'' Hopkins' priest asks someone in the movie. Our reply: "Not really, but we we not expecting a debate with the devil on demonic possession and the strength of one's faith, either." To be fair, there are some interesting ideas being tossed about here but most of them get lost in the messy narrative.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. SHAOLIN - (kungfu actioner with Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Jackie Chan, Fan Bing Bing and Wu Jing) - I have not been able to catch this Chinese New Year offering and all the other Hong Kong productions as I am still in the US. I am electing this as an option for readers because of good reviews. It is not a remake of the 1982 movie that launched Jet Li's career, though. Should be worth a watch.

2. THE GREEN HORNET (action thriller with Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Christoph Waltz, David Harbour and Edward James Olmos) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): An uneven and derivative rendition of the masked hero-and-sidekick TV caper made famous by Bruce Lee. And for title-star and script-writer Rogen to be upstaged by Jay Chou, it says a lot about the tone and quality of the film. (Reviewed below)

3. YOGI BEAR (live-cum-animation comedy with Anna Faris, Justin Timberlake, Dan Aykroyd, T.J. Miller, Nathan Corddry, Tom Cavanagh, Andrew Daly and Dean Knowsley) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Service-able but uninspired rendition of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series about the famous bear of Jellystone Park. The 3D looks better than other animated efforts but the treats here are the voice performances of Timberlake and Aykroyd as Boo-boo and Yogi respectively.

4. FASTER (crime thriller with Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino, Maggie Grace and Moon Bloodgood) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Director George Tillman has apparently wanted to delve into themes of revenge and forgiveness instead of just an action flick - and only succeeds partially. With Johnson and Thornton around, it is not easy to take the movie seriously. Even for an action thriller, there isn't much action. (Reviewed below)

PS. Since I am in the US, or the other side of the world from Malaysia, I am unable to provide reviews on the Chinese New Year offerings.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

THE MECHANIC - Typical Statham Schtick

THE MECHANIC (crime thriller)
Cast: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn, Jeff Chase, Mini Anden, Eddie J. Fernandez, Kurt Deville and Monica Acosta
Director: Simon West
Screenplay: Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino
Time: 92 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Ben Foster and Jason Statham in THE MECHANIC

PREAMBLE: I remember The Mechanic (1972) was a big hit in Malaysia in those days. It was because it starred Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent, two of the hottest heart-throbs of the early 70s. This remake by Simon West, which has Jason Statham and Ben Foster in the respective roles, is an updated version, with its ending revised.

I have expected that director West and his scripters do something to improve the mechanics of the plot, but instead, this one is even more preposterous than the original. It is more gruesome and is packed with more fire power -- but it is an uninspired remake.


WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Arthur Bishop (Statham, above) is a professional hitman working for a 'company' headed by a Mr Dean (Tony Goldwyn). Bishop is a perfectionist who plans complex schemes to knock off his targets so that they look like accidents. In fact he is so 'professional' that when he is assigned to do a job on his close friend and mentor, Harry McKenna (Donald Sutherland), he does it anyway.

Later on, Bishop encounters Harry's son, Steve (Foster), and decides to take him under his wing. Steve is soon accompanying Bishop on jobs, even though his apprenticeship has not been 'approved' by the company. This, of course, leads to complications which can only be settled in typical high-testosterone style.

HITS & MISSES: At the start of the movie, we hear talk of the hitman as a sort of mechanic who never lets his heart get in the way of his work. Well, in the second act, we see Bishop breaking that rule in incredulous and over-contrived sequences. Indeed, most of Bishop's 'mechanics' do not make sense when we think about them. Like, the first job on a Colombian drug lord requires Bishop to hide in a swimming pool of a hacienda full of guards. How could he have accomplished that in the first place?

I just had another look at Michael Winner's 1972 version on Netflix - and yes, the remake is way more violent and explosive. Needlessly so even. The screenwriters should have tried to make the plot more convincing - instead of making another mindless Statham flick - just as Winner continued to make mindless Bronson flicks that culminated in the infamous Death Wish two years later.

Acting-wise, Statham remains a washout, wearing his permanent scowl throughout the movie. It all boils down to Foster's Steve to hold the fort, as it were, 'seducing' his target before beating the heck out of him, and engaging in balletic shout-outs with Statham outside a high-rise. Eye candy (including a nude scene) is provided by Mini Anden (pictured right) who plays the hooker originally portrayed by Jill Ireland (or Mrs Bronson).

THE LOWDOWN: Mechanic or Transporter, it's typical Statham schtick.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

BURLESQUE - Mainly for the Undiscerning

BURLESQUE (musical drama)
Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Peter Gallagher, Alan Cumming, Kristen Bell and Stanley Tucci
Director: Steve Antin
Screenplay: Steve Antin
Time: 118 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Christina Aquilera (centre) as Ali in BURLESQUE

PREAMBLE: What is the difference between burlesque and striptease? Answer: Burlesque is just striptease with singing. Now that we have ironed out the definition of burlesque, let me clarify that this is a PG-13 film and the title more aptly refers to 'The Burlesque Lounge' in the narrative, rather than the dancing. Thank goodness for that.

Burlesque is basically a vehicle for pop queen Christina Aguilera's big screen debut. And with flamboyant Cher and the delectable Stanley Tucci as co-stars, the effort shouldn't be such a bore. Too bad it isn't a hit either.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Small town girl Ali (Aguilera) goes to Los Angeles to follow her dreams and become a singer. After stumbling upon The Burlesque Lounge, a majestic but ailing theatre that is home to an inspired musical revue, Ali lands a job as a cocktail waitress. Burlesque's outrageous costumes and bold choreography enrapture the young ingenue, who vows to perform there one day.

Soon enough, Ali makes her way from the bar to the stage, after convincing the lounge owner Tess (Cher) that she can sing. Her spectacular voice restores The Burlesque Lounge to its former glory, although not before a charismatic entrepreneur (Eric Dane) arrives with an enticing proposal.

HITS & MISSES: There is no doubt that Aguilera is one heck of a singer and a sexy dancer, but one has to be a really ardent fan of hers to appreciate her acting. She has very limited emotional range - and what we see on the screen is not Ali the character but Aguilera the star trying to play Ali. Ditto that for Cher - who is always Cher no matter who or what she plays. Only Tucci manages to provide some 'zing' into the non-dancing scenes as Tess' gay friend Sean, while Alan Cumming recalls Joel Grey's emcee role in Cabaret. Eye candy Cam Gigandet plays Ali's love interest.

Indeed, writer-director Steve Antin 'borrows' a lot from Cabaret, Showgirls and Chicago - in an uninspired and tired script. The lines are lame and there's nothing burlesque about Burlesque! Yeah, the costumes are great but we get more flash - and flesh - out of a Pussycat Dolls routine than all of this film.

THE LOWDOWN: Entertainment for the undiscerning.