Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'The Grey' Leads US Weekend Pack

JAN 30, 2012 - The Grey gave its upstart distributor Open Road Films their first number one debut this weekend. Meanwhile, One For the Money had an okay opening that exceeded most expectations, while Man On A Ledge was the latest mid-range Summit movie to underperform. The Top 12 grossed an estimated US$99.4 million, which is up 7.6 per cent from the same time period last year.

The Grey devoured an estimated US$20 million this weekend. Among star Liam Neeson's recent action movies, The Grey opened lower than Taken's US$24.7 million and also a tad below Unknown (US$21.9 million).

Last weekend's winner Underworld Awakening dipped 51 percent to an estimated US$12.5 million.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Jan 27-29, 2012 weekend, in terms of rank, (previous week ranking), Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)

1. (-) The Grey (Open Road Films) $20.0 million ($20.0 million) 1

2. (1) Underworld Awakening (SGem) $12.5 million ($45.1 million) 2

3. (-) One For the Money (LGF) $11.7 million ($11.7 million) 1

4. (2) Red Tails (Fox) $10.4 million ($33.7 million) 2

5. (-) Man on a Ledge (Sum.) $8.3 million ($8.3 million) 1

Monday, January 30, 2012

'The Help' Bags 3 SAG Awards

JAN 29, 2012 - The Screen Actors Guild honoured the stars of The Help as the top ensemble cast of 2011 and gave it two other awards for Best Lead Actress and Supporting Actress in a surprise over heavily favoured silent movie The Artist. The ceremony was held at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center.

The Help earned three awards and The Artist won only one for French actor Jean Dujardin as Best Actor in a drama for his role as a fading actor at the end of the talkies. Dujardin was genuinely surprised as he held his statue, thanking the audience of A-list actors including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams.

TV icon Mary Tyler Moore was also honoured with a lifetime achievement award, presented to her by her TV husband, Dick Van Dyke. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 won the movie stunt ensemble award while the TV stunt ensemble prize was won by Game of Thrones. The stunt awards were announced on the arrivals' red carpet before the show began.

SAG Awards winners have in the past have gone on to earn Oscars. In 2011, all four acting winners also won Academy Awards.

Here are the winners:

Cast in a Motion Picture:
The Help

Male Actor in a Leading Role:
Jean Dujardin for The Artist

Female Actor in a Leading Role:
Viola Davis for The Help

Male Actor in a Supporting Role:
Christopher Plummer for Beginners

Female Actor in a Supporting Role:
Octavia Spencer (pic, left) for The Help

TELEVISION

Ensemble in a Comedy Series:
Modern Family (2009)

Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire (2010)

Male Actor in a Comedy Series:
Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock (2006)

Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Betty White for "Hot in Cleveland" (2010)

Male Actor in a Drama Series:
Steve Buscemi for "Boardwalk Empire" (2010)

Female Actor in a Drama Series:
Jessica Lange for American Horror Story (2011)

Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries:
Paul Giamatti for Too Big to Fail

Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries:
Kate Winslet for Mildred Pierce

Friday, January 27, 2012

MONEYBALL - Where Sports Meets Economics

MONEYBALL (sports drama)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Kathryn Morris, Tammy Blanchard, Erin Pickett, Sergio Garcia and Stephen Bishop
Director: Bennett Miller
Screenplay: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, based on a story by Stan Chervin and the book by Michael Lewis.
Time: 135 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in MONEYBALL

PREAMBLE: Moneyball is about baseball and it has limited appeal outside the US. If not for Brad Pitt and its nomination in all the major film awards, Moneyball would not have generated so much interest outside America. Even then, there is still no word of Moneyball being released in Malaysia. (I caught the movie in Decatur, Georgia, where I am currently blogging from).

GOOD CHEMISTRY: Pitt and Jonah Hill

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is a baseball player-turned-General Manager of the Oakland Athletics (the A's) team in the 2000s. However, the Oakland A's keep losing their best players to bigger and higher-paying clubs, leaving Billy the task of rebuilding the team on a tiny budget. When Billy meets economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), Peter convinces him that there's a way to field a successful team of lower-paid and cast-off players, based purely on how often they get on base. This is based on an economics practice called sabremetrics.

Snubbed by both baseball experts and his own team of professional scouts, Billy makes Peter his assistant manager and goes ahead with the plan. At first, it seems like a disaster and the team lose almost all their first few games. However, after out-manoeuvring his unco-operative coach Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Billy finally gets the team on a winning streak.

FATHER AND DAUGHTER - Pitt with Kerris Dorsey

HITS & MISSES: Actually one need not know much about baseball to follow what is going on on the screen. The title refers to the way players are being traded like cattle by their managers, and we root for Pitt's Billy not only because the character is well developed (with touching scenes of his ex-wife played by Robin Wright and Kerris Dorsey as his pre-teen daughter) but also because deep inside Billy is a guy who dislikes firing and selling his players.

Pitt is superb as the middle-aged Billy who is weary of the routine hiring and firing and is excited about trying out something new and radical. His performance is aided by Reed Thompson, who portrays the younger Billy in the flashback scenes. Hill supports well and together, they have good chemistry. What I like most about Moneyball is that it avoids the usual sports film sentimentality and cliches. For this intelligent script, credit goes to Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin (who wrote for Social Network).

THE LOWDOWN: An engaging film for any sports fan.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

WEEKEND PIC - Jan 27 - 29, 2012

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (sci-fi thriller with Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Charles Dance and Michael Ealy) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Selene (Beckinsale) awakens from a 15-year coma and finds that she has a hybrid (vampire-lycan) daughter (Eisley)! Now, she must help to stop a bio-tech company from creating an army of super-Lycans. Rendered in 3D, this one ups the ante on visuals but the narrative is pretty much the same. For fans of the series, it is another chance to see Beckinsale in kick-ass action.

2. THE VIRAL FACTOR (action thriller with Jay Chou, Nicholas Tse, Lin Peng, Andy Tien, Bai Bing, Liu Kai-chi, Carl Ng, Philip Keung, Elaine Jin and Crystal Lee) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): After a promising start, this Dante Lam actioner gets shoe-horned into the usual action-over-narration slot. Character development and plausibility takes second seat to action set pieces filmed in Jordan, Norway and Kuala Lumpur. Mayhem and destruction are the order of the day but there is little or emotional connection with the audience. Just the right popcorn treat for the Lunar New Year period, I suppose.

3. CONTRABAND - (action thriller remake with Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna, J.K. Simmons, Lukas Haas and William Lucking) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): It is January - the low season for the box-office - and this is typical cinema fodder with Wahlberg playing 'Wahlberg' in a predictable "one last job" crime action thriller. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, based on a 2008 Icelandic thriller that Kormakur starred in, Contraband is derivative and implausible.

4. JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (fantasy adventure with Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis and Luis Guzman) Rating: * * (2 stars): With Hutcherson and Hudgens in the lead, this sequel to 2008's Journey To The Center of the Earth is obviously intended as a 3D-enhanced CGI feast for the kids. Adults may balk at the childish story, Dwayne Johnson's pec-popping and singing, and its vain attempts at being funny. Mainly for die-hard adventure fans and kids below 15.

Bummers and Surprises in the Oscar Race

JAN 25, 2012 - As usual, the Academy awards nominations came with many surprises and bummers for movie fans. After following the Golden Globes, BAFTA and other awards, each of us has our own favourites for the Oscar race.

For me, the big surprise is that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is running for Best Picture while Drive is almost ignored except for a measly Sound Editing nod which it has no chance of winning!

And of course, my big disappointment is that Ryan Gosling is nowhere on the Oscar radar despite his promising performances in Drive and The Ides Of March, both my favourite picks.

Another letdown for me is the exclusion of The Adventures of Tintin in the Animated Feature slot and the entry of two almost unheard of films: A Cat In Paris and Chico & Rita. That Tintin is named in the Original Music Score contest smacks of mere consolation.

Among the acting nods, the surprise is the inclusion of Rooney Mara (pic, left: Girl With The Golden Tattoo) in the Best Actress category - and the exclusion of Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin). Still, this category is a race between Viola Davis (The Help) and Michele Williams (My Week With Marilyn).

However, the nod for Gary Oldman (for Tinker Tailor soldier Spy) is a pleasant surprise for me. Oldman, fresh off a BAFTA nomination, gets his first ever Oscar nomination, beating out Best Actor favourites Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Leonardo DiCaprio, for J. Edgar. And who's Demian Bichir anyway? Never heard of him or A Better Life, either.

In the directing category, David Fincher did not get a nomination for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

George Clooney is expected to get a Best Actor nomination for The Descendants, but he's also nominated in the Adapted Screenplay category, with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon for The Ides of March. Don't they all love Clooney!

I have never expected Bridesmaids to make the Best Picture list, but it has enough regard from Academy voters - a Best Supporting Actress nod for Melissa McCarthy, and an Original Screenplay nomination for Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo.

On Oscar night, one thing we can be sure of is that Iranian film A Separation will win the Foreign-Language film category. However, it is a surprise that it is also nominated for Best Original Screenplay - the first time a foreign film has done so since 2007's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

What are Your thoughts on the Oscar Nominations? Comments are welcome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

'Hugo' Leads Oscar Race With 11 Nods

JAN 24, 2012 - The Oscar nominees are out and Martin Scorsese's Hugo leads the field with 11 nominations. Silent film, The Artist, follows with 10 nods. With a new voting procedure implemented and the nominees in the Best Picture category not revealed in alphabetical order, nine films were named, including War Horse, The Tree of Life and The Descendants.

Although it had 11 nominations, the nods for Hugo are largely from technical categories such as art direction and costume design, whereas The Artist landed in top groups including Best Actor for Frenchman Jean Dujardin and Supporting Actress for Berenice Bejo. Actors make up the largest voting branch of the Academy.

Among actresses, Meryl Streep playing former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady will compete against Glenn Close in a gender-bending role in Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis for The Help, Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn.


Tuesday's nomination marked the 17th for Streep and extended her reign as Oscar's most-nominated actress. She faces stiff competition from Williams in her role as Marilyn Monroe. Earlier this month, Streep won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in Drama and Williams was named Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.

The nominees were announced by Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (pictured above). The contenders are:

Best Picture:

War Horse
The Artist
Moneyball
The Descendants
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
The Help
Hugo
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Actress

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Best Actor

Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help

Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Director

Michel Hazanivicus (pic), The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Best Original Screenplay

Michel Hazanivicius, The Artist
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo, Bridesmaids
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

Best Adapted Screenplay

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov, The Ides of March
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, Moneyball
Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Foreign Feature

Bullhead
Footnote
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
A Separation

Best Animated Feature

A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

Art Direction

The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

Cinematography

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Costume Design

Anonymous
The Artist
Hugo
Jane Eyre
W.E.

Documentary Feature

Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Pina
Undefeated

Documentary Short Subject

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Film Editing

Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Kevin Tent, The Descendants
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo
Christopher Tellefsen, Moneyball

Makeup

Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle, Albert Nobbs
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady

Music (Original Score)

John Williams, The Adventures of Tintin
Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Howard Shore, Hugo
Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Williams, War Horse

Music (Original Song)

"Man or Muppet" from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio" from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown and Siedah Garrett

Sound Editing

Drive
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Sound Mixing

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Monyeball
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Short Film (Animated)

Dimanche/Sunday
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Short Film (Live Action)

Pentecost
Raju
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

THE TREE OF LIFE - For the Art-Film Fan

THE TREE OF LIFE (drama)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Joanna Going, Fiona Shaw, Jackson Hurst, Pell James, Crystal Mantecon, Lisa Marie Newmyer and Jennifer Sipes
Director: Terence Malick
Screenplay: Terence Malick
Time: 138 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Brad Pitt (centre) with Hunter McCraken and Laramie Eppler

PREAMBLE: Mention Terence Malick and film critics get ready to go down on their knees and sing his praises. The auteur has made only five feature films (including Badlands, Days Of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World) since 1970s - and are mostly box-office flops but apparently, they have something to wow the critics and his fans.

Indeed, his fans have waited long for The Tree Of Life, Malick's grand opus on the meaning of life and memories of his childhood, and reading their adorations makes me feel like the boy who said the Emperor was naked.

Granted that the images of 'Creation' - and even those of the dinosaurs - can be breath-taking and spectacular but we are not watching National Geographic, for goodness sake. The narrative about an American family in the 1950s is more engaging - but ultimately empty of meaning.

Chastain and Eppler

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The movie opens in Waco, Texas, where Mr and Mrs O'Brien (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) grieve after receiving word about the death of one of their three sons. Later, we see their eldest son, Jack O'Brien (Sean Penn), as an architect whose wondering existence forces him to reflect on his childhood in the 1950s where he was raised by his temperamental father (Pitt) and loving mother (Chastain).

His father is such a bully at home that Jack (played as a kid by Hunter McCracken) and his siblings (Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan) celebrate with riotious pranks whenever their dad travels long distances to work. And yes, besides documenting the birth of Jack, Malick also blends in the Earth's creation via a series of kaleidoscopic and CG images.

HITS & MISSES: Inspired by a quote from the Book of Job — “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding”. Malick's opus is partly about the loss of innocence and the coming-of-age story personified in Jack. The series about the creation of the universe reminds me of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey but here, it is just confusing and more pretentious. A film that explores the meaning of life can only turn out to be confounding and an exercise in futility. Ultimately, we get pretty images but little sense or plot.

The film tests our patience. Malick does not tell his story, he teases us with visual suggestions. A case in point is the sequence in which Jack steals a woman's lingerie - only to bury it and float it down the stream. Why? Did he masturbate with it?

The young cast of relative unknowns - McCracken, Eppler (who even looks like Pitt) and Sheridan - are splendid and so are Pitt and Chastain who portray the Every Couple of the Fifties. There is very little dialogue and a lot of the narrative has to be interpreted by the audience. This can be fun but it can also be confusing and tedious after a while.

THE LOWDOWN: One for the art-film fan.

NB: This review is for Oscar-watchers. I don't think The Tree Of Life will be released in Malaysia


Monday, January 23, 2012

'Underworld 4' Tops US Weekend B-O

JAN 23, 2012 - Underworld Awakening sunk its teeth in to the top spot at the U box office this weekend, though that didn't stop Red Tails from also putting up strong numbers in its debut.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Haywire were less impressive, though, and The Artist failed to gain much traction in its nationwide expansion. The Top 12 earned an estimated US$111.7 million this weekend, which is up a whopping 26 percent from the same period last year.

The latest entry in the Underworld franchise opened to an estimated US$25.4 million, which is just a bit behind Kate Beckinsale's last entry, 2006's Underworld: Evolution (US$26.9 million). It did at least mark a slight improvement over 2009's Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (US$20.8 million), though that was sans-Beckinsale and didn't receive a boost from 3D premiums.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Jan 20-22, 2012 weekend, in terms of rank, (previous week ranking), Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)

1. (-) Underworld Awakening (S.Gem) $25.4 million ($25.4 million) 1

2. (-) Red Tails (Fox) $19.1 million ($19.1 million) 1

3. (1) Contraband (Universal) $12.2 million ($46.1 million) 2

4. (36) Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (WB) $10.5 million ($11.2 million) 5

5. (-) Haywire (Relativity) $9.0 million ($9.0 million) 1

'The Artist' Wins Producers' Award for Best Film


JAN 22, 2012 - The Producers Guild of America named The Artist as its Best Picture last Saturday night, confirming the black-and-white film's status as an Oscar front-runner in the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards on Tuesday morning.

The PGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have agreed on best picture winners the last four years.

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist is a tribute to Hollywood's Golden Age, telling the story of the intersecting fates of silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and plucky song-and-dance gal Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) at the dawn of the talkies. Since making its debut at the Cannes Film Festival last year, the movie has been collecting accolades and acclaim.

Steven Spielberg's 3D performance capture film The Adventures of Tintin, won in the PGA's Animated Film category. It also won a Golden Globe. Spielberg accepted the statuette with his producing partner Kathleen Kennedy at the Beverly Hilton. For the full list of winners, click here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

WEEKEND PIC - Jan 20 - 22, 2012

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES
Wishing readers a Happy New Year of the Dragon

NEW THIS WEEK

a) UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (sci-fi thriller with Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Charles Dance and Michael Ealy) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Selene (Beckinsale) awakens from a 15-year coma and finds that she has a hybrid (vampire-lycan) daughter (Eisley)! Now, she must help to stop a bio-tech company from creating an army of super-lycans. Rendered in 3D, this one ups the ante on visuals but the narrative is pretty much the same. For fans of the series, it is another chance to see Beckinsale in kick-ass action.

b) JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (fantasy adventure with Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis and Luis Guzman) Rating: * * (2 stars): With Hutcherson and Hudgens in the lead, this sequel to 2008's Journey To The Center of the Earth is obviously intended as a 3D-enhanced CGI feast for the kids. Adults may balk at the childish story, Dwayne Johnson's pec-popping and singing, and its vain attempts at being funny. Mainly for die-hard adventure fans and kids below 15.

N.B. As I am still in the US, I am unable to review the Chinese New Year movies like:
c) The Viral Factor,
d) I Love Hong Kong 2012
, and
e) All's Well Ends Well 2012.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. CONTRABAND - (action thriller remake with Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna, J.K. Simmons, Lukas Haas and William Lucking) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): It is January - the low season for the box-office - and this is typical cinema fodder with Wahlberg playing 'Wahlberg' in a predictable "one last job" crime action thriller. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, based on a 2008 Icelandic thriller that Kormakur starred in, Contraband is derivative and implausible.

2. THE AWAKENING (supernatural thriller with Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Shaun Dooley) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Playing a bit like The Others, Sixth Sense and The Orphanage, this British-styled thriller has the requisite eerie atmosphere and engaging performance by lead star Hall. However, the movie kind of buckles at the end with a lame resolution that leaves more questions than answers. (Reviewed below)

3. THE BEAVER (drama with Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Cherry Jones, Paul Hodge, Michelle Ang, Riley Thomas Stewart, Kris Arnold and John Bernhardt) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Directed by Jodie Foster, this psychological drama is about mental depression and how a hand puppet is used as a form of therapy. The plus side here is Gibson's riveting performance as a man on the verge of suicide; the minus side is that Foster allows the subplot about the son (Yelchin) and his girlfriend (Lawrence) to break the momentum of the main story.

4. THE DARKEST HOUR (sci-fi thriller with Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor, Max Minghella and Joel Kinnaman) Rating * * (2 stars): Set in Moscow, this doomsday alien invasion thriller may keep our interest for 20 minutes. Then, when we get over the novelty of the plot (and how Earthlings get vapourised by invisible aliens), we start to realise how utterly silly the script is. Reminds me of Skyline, but with less IQ.

Friday, January 20, 2012

'The Artist' Gets 12 Nods For BAFTA Awards


JAN 20, 2012 - French film The Artist leads the way in this year's BAFTA nominations, picking up an impressive 12 nods.

It's followed closely behind by spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with 11 nominations, and Martin Scorsese's film Hugo, which received nine nods. The nominations were announced last Tuesday. The awards show will be hosted by Stephen Fry at the Royal Opera House on Sunday, Feb 12.

Here are the nominations:

Leading Actress

Meryl Streep - The Iron lady (pic)
Michelle Williams - My Week With Marilyn
Viola Davis - The Help
Tilda Swinton - We Need To Talk About Kevin
Bérénice Bejo - The Artist

Leading Actor

George Clooney - The Descendants
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Michael Fassbender - Shame
Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Supporting Actress

Carey Mulligan - Shame (pic)
Jessica Chastain - The Help
Judi Dench - My Week With Marilyn
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
Octavia Spencer - The Help

Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Jim Broadbent - The Iron Lady
Jonah Hill - Moneyball
Kenneth Branagh - My Week With Marilyn
Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Ides Of March

Best Film
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
The Help
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Outstanding British Film
My Week With Marilyn
Senna
Shame
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We Need To Talk About Kevin

Outstanding debut by British writer, director or producer

Attack The Block - Joe Cornish (director/writer)
Black Pond - Will Sharpe (director/writer), Tom Kingsley (director), Sarah Brocklehurst (producer)
Coriolanus - Ralph Fiennes (director)
Submarine - Richard Ayoade (director/writer)
Tyrannosaur - Paddy Considine (director), Diarmid Scrimshaw (producer)

Foreign language film
Incendies
Pina
Potiche
A Separation
The Skin I Live In

Director

The Artist - Michel Hazanavicius
Drive - Nicolas Winding Refn
Hugo - Martin Scorsese
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Tomas Alfredson
We Need To Talk About Kevin - Lynne Ramsay

Documentary
George Harrison: Living In The Material World
Project Nim

Senna


Animated film
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn
Arthur Christmas

Rango

Original screenplay
The Artist - Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids - Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig
The Guard - John Michael McDonagh
The Iron Lady - Abi Morgan
Midnight In Paris - Woody Allen

Adapted screenplay

The Descendants - Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
The Help - Tate Taylor
The Ides Of March - George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Moneyball - Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan

Original music
The Artist
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Hugo
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse


Cinematography
The Artist
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse

Editing
The Artist
Drive

Hugo

Senna

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy


Production design
The Artist
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Hugo

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse


Costume design
The Artist
Hugo

Jane Eyre

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


Make up and hair
The Artist
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Hugo
The Iron Lady

My Week With Marilyn

Sound
The Artist
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Hugo

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse


Special visual effects
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Hugo

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

War Horse


Short animation
Abuelas
Bobby Yeah
A Morning Stroll


Short film
Chalk
Mwansa The Great

Only Sound Remains

Pitch Black Heist

Two And Two


Orange Wednesdays Rising Star Award
Adam Deacon
Chris Hemsworth
Chris O'Dowd
Eddie Redmayne
Tom Hiddleston

'The Artist' Wins 3 London Critics Circle Awards

JAN 20, 2012 - Silent movie The Artist scooped three big prizes at the London Film Critics' Circle Awards last night. It won the Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor trophies.

The Artistt won three Golden Globes and was the most-nominated movie for Britain's BAFTA awards. It is widely expected to be among the front-runners for the Oscars when nominations are announced on Tuesday. Lead actor Jean Dujardin and director Michel Hazanavicius received their awards in London.

Also taking home three prizes was Iranian drama A Separation, winning Best Foreign Language Film, Best Screenwriter for Asghar Farhadi and Best Supporting Actress for Sareh Bayat.

Meanwhile, Meryl Streep shares the Best Actress award with Anna Paquin; Michael Fassbender wins British Actor of the year.

Here are the 32nd London Critics’ Circle Film Awards winners:

FILM OF THE YEAR: The Artist

BRITISH FILM OF THE YEAR: We Need to Talk About Kevin

FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: A Separation

DOCUMENTARY OF THE YEAR: Senna

DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist

SCREENWRITER: Asghar Farhadi - A Separation

BREAKTHROUGH BRITISH FILM-MAKER: Andrew Haigh - Weekend

ACTOR: Jean Dujardin - The Artist

ACTRESS (Tied): Anna Paquin - Margaret; and Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Kenneth Branagh - My Week With Marilyn

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sareh Bayat - A Separation

BRITISH ACTOR: Michael Fassbender - A Dangerous Method, Shame

BRITISH ACTRESS: Olivia Colman - The Iron Lady, Tyrannosaur

YOUNG BRITISH PERFORMER: Craig Roberts - Submarine

TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT: Maria Djurkovic, production design - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

EXCELLENCE IN FILM: Nicolas Roeg

Thursday, January 19, 2012

THE HELP - A Delightful Ensemble Show

THE HELP (US civil rights drama)
Cast: Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Mike Vogel, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Jessica Chastain and Chris Lowell
Director: Tate Taylor
Screenplay: Tate Taylor (based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett)
Time: 135 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in THE HELP

PREAMBLE: With its subject matter on the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, The Help has limited appeal for viewers in Malaysia. Which is probably why it is not scheduled to be released in Malaysia. However, for Oscar movie watchers and cinema fans, this one boasts a formidable cast and delightful performances.

The Help has already won the Critics' Choice awards for Best Actress (Viola Davis), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) and Best Ensemble; a Golden Globe for Spencer (Best Supporting Actress) and a bunch of other awards for Jessica Chastain as well as the whole cast (ensemble). Now that the US has an African-American President, it is interesting to see how different things were just 50 years ago...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The film is based on Kathryn Stockett's best-seller in which a white girl (Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan) fancies herself a writer and convinces a bunch of Mississippi maids to publish stories about their work for the genteel white ladies in Jackson.

The maids include Aibileen (Davis) who has devoted her life to taking care of white babies, and Minny Jackson (Spencer), a good cook who isn't afraid to hit out at those who injured her self-respect. The employers include Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain, right), two women from opposite ends of the social scale.

HITS & MISSES: "What's it feel like raising a white child when your own child is at home being raised by someone else?" This question, asked by Skeeter at the opening of the film, is a universal paradox and it applies to married maids everywhere. For those in Mississippi in the Sixties, it is particularly poignant when we see how badly they are being treated by their bosses - despite the attempts by the Federal Government to end racial discrimination.

RECALLING THEIR STORIES: Spencer, Davis and Stone

Director Tate Taylor, who grew up in Jackson, demonstrates a keen sense for the dialect and mannerisms of the folks of his hometown. The women, especially, consider themselves a class above the others and they thrive on gossips and scandals. One of the movie's most talked about scandal is the embarrassing 'payback' that Minny inflicts on Hilly.

Clocking more than 135 minutes, The Help may seem rather long-drawn but we are compensated for it by sterling performances of even the 'extras' like Allison Janney (of TV's West Wing) as Skeeter's social-climbing mom, and Sissy Spacek as Hilly's mother who is a victim of Alzheimer's. They have limited time on-screen but their lines are unforgettable. And oh yes, there's a subplot about attempts to get a beau (Chris Lowell) for Skeeter but this gets side-tracked by the main events.

THE LOWDOWN: A delightful ensemble performance.

NB: The Help is not yet shown in Malaysia. This review is for Oscar Watchers.