Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mendes to direct Preacher

Remember back in August, when I reported on the demise of the Preacher TV pilot over at HBO? Well, it seems like the property still has people out there willing to adapt it into a moving picture, as Columbia just acquired the rights to the controversial comic book series.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Columbia is setting up the project for Sam Mendes to direct.

Okay, now, Mendes is a weird fucking choice. I mean, he's a good filmmaker, I guess. American Beauty was good, if a little precious, and Road to Perdition was actually better, in my opinion. Jarhead, on the other hand.... He's got Revolutionary Road coming out this fall, which could be great.

Having said all of that, there is absolutely nothing in his resume that says that Preacher is something he would get or even be interested in. His films have been stately and elegant, not earthy and vulgar like the comic. It's just a weird choice to me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

David Tennant leaves Doctor Who

The BBC has confirmed that David Tennant, star of the hugely popular sci-fi series Doctor Who, will leave the show after the broadcast of four specials throughout 2009.

In an exclusive interview, the actor stated:

I think it's better to go when there's a chance that people might miss you, rather than to hang around and outstay your welcome.

He took over the role in 2005, following Christopher Eccleston's departure at the close of the first season of the revival of the classic series. Tennant has steered the series to great success, with the final episode of last season watched by almost 10 million viewers in the UK.

At the close of the fourth season last July, it was announced that the series would go on hiatus for 2009, with only five specials being broadcast before the series returns in 2010 for a full fifth season. The specials also mark the end of Russell T. Davies' involvement with the series as well. Davies had been the driving creative force and executive producer of the series since its revival, and will leave at the same time as Tennant.

Fan favourite series writer Steven Moffatt will take over creative control of the series in 2010, but who will his Doctor be?

Marvel locks in Downey Jr and Favreau for the next, oh, four years

Variety has just confirmed that Marvel Studios has locked Robert Downey Jr into a four picture deal which would see him return as Tony Stark in two more Iron Man films and join up with other Marvel heroes for the planned Avengers project.

Not only does this provide what could only be a huge payday for Downey, but it also gives him a confirmed franchise that will keep him in the Hollywood A List as a major movie star.

Additionally, Marvel confirmed that Iron Man director Jon Favreau will return to helm Iron Man 2 at least, and will serve as an executive producer on The Avengers. In addition to all this, the studio finally publicly confirmed that Don Cheadle will replace Terrence Howard as Col. James Rhodes in future Iron Man films as well as in The Avengers.

So, Marvel's film schedule for the next few years will apparently be:

Iron Man 2 - Apr. 30, 2010

Thor - June 4, 2010

Captain America - May 6, 2011

The Avengers - Jul 15, 2011

The Avengers will apparently feature a team-up of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk, with more characters like the Wasp and Ant-Man rumoured to appear as the heroes band together to defeat a larger threat.

They also have these films in development, which would possibly open before or around the same time as those above:



Doctor Strange

The Incredible Hulk 2

Power Pack

As an added bonus, they still have some properties being made by other studios:

X-Men Origins : Wolverine - 2009

Venom - 2009

X-Men Origins : Magneto - 2010

Spider-Man 4 - 2011

So, Marvel could become a huge player in Hollywood if the quality of the projects are well-managed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Image Search : "Inappropriate Halloween Costumes"

I haven't done this particular feature in a while, but with Halloween fast approaching, I thought I would treat you guys to some of the images that pop up when you enter the phrase "Inappropriate Halloween Costumes" into Google Image.

"My Daddy has two things; a questionable sense of humour and an FBI file!"

"I'm for State's Rights! And Slaves! Loads and loads of slaves!"

"You know who else hates sippy-cups? The Jews."

It's a trifecta of bad choices here. I'm not sure where to start. But I love how the dude on the right is all like, "Score! My costume is merely indecipherable! It's not wildly inappropriate for the office! Unless someone opens my purple furry robe..............Open it."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Top Ten Films of the Decade - The 1920s

Well, here it is: after seven posts and a whole lotta re-watching of films, I've reached the final top ten list. This was a hard decade simply because of the era; sadly, not a lot of films from this period still exist and fewer still are on video or DVD. Still I did the best I could and managed to come up with, I think, a very good list.

Without further ado:

The 1920s

10 - The Jazz Singer - Directed by Alan Crosland - It's justly remembered as the first film with sychronized dialogue, or the first "talkie", even if it is largely a silent film. Still, it caused a sensation upon its release and pretty much slammed the coffin door on the silent era. Beyond that, there is much to love about this film. First off, it stars Al Jolson, one of the greatest popular entertainers ever. Second, it is a moving and quintessential story of American life, with Jolson's character struggling against the pulls of the American dream of fame and fortune vs. old world culture and tradition. It's entirely appropriate that this is an immigrant story, which is perhaps the most purely American type of story of them all. There are some dated qualities to the film of course, none more repugnantly outdated than the casual racism of the blackface routine, but if you can put that into its historical context, there is much to enjoy.

9 - The Big Parade -King Vidor - Vidor directed this moving and powerful war film about an idle young man who joins the army to fight in WWI, befriending men outside his class and falling in love with a French girl. It was a monumentally successful film upon its release, eventually become the highest grossing film of the silent era. It is also one of the first unflinching looks at modern war, and is amazing in how it succeeds in not having any agenda other than humanism.

8 - The Battleship Potemkin - Directed by Sergei Eisenstein - A nakedly overt propaganda film depicting a dramatised version of a bloody uprising by Russian sailors against Tsarist oppression, Eisenstein also created one of the most influential films of all time in terms of editing. His use of montage to create a specific emotional response literally changed the grammar of film forever, and Eisenstein, along with DW Griffith, is one of the men who actually created the stylistic tools of cinematography and editing that we still use to this day. The Odessa Steps sequence is one of the most admired, and most imitated, sequences ever filmed.

7 - Haxan - Directed by Benjamin Christensen - It's a brilliant example of how fluid the concepts of genre were in the early days of film; Haxan is part documentary, part horror film, part exploitation, part repudiation of superstition. During the silent years, the documentary form was seen as equal to the fictional form, and this film merged the best of both worlds into one strange, wholly original piece of entertainment. It can still creep you out and educate, even to this day, and indeed the intervening years have given its strangeness a more artistic sheen than ever.

6 - Nanook of the North - Directed by Robert J. Flaherty - It was long considered to be the first full-length documentary ever made, but now, after revelations regarding the staging of many of its scenarios, it has become tainted by deception. This only serves to make the film more fascinating and reinforces it as one heck of an engrossing tale. It depticts the life of an Inuit couple in the Canadian artic, and it does so with remarkable aplomb. The fact that it seems to give audiences what they want to see rather than the reality of the situation is yet another fascinating aspect.

5 - Sunrise : A Song of Two Humans - Directed by FW Murnau - The great expressionist director Murnau made his masterpiece with this stunningly stylized tale of the battle between pastoral life, with its simple morality, and urban living, with its modern temptations. Filled with beautifully stylized and expressive set pieces, design and camerawork, it's one of the little gems of film; a strange, operatic, non-realistic film that works from sheer virtuosity.

4 - Metropolis - Directed by Fritz Lang - Perhaps the most influential science fiction film until Blade Runner, Metropolis is seminal for its use of visual effects combined with the still fresh use of art deco design, and most impressively, for its prophetic vision of the future. It takes place in a huge city-state; an urban dystopia where the workers toil in dissatisfaction for a capitalist ruling class. Hugely critical of mechanization, capitalism and urbanism, the film is never less than astounding in its innovation and scope.

3 - The General - Directed by Buster Keaton - He was the superb craftsman of silent comedy. Chaplin may have been the more nakedly emotional genius, but Keaton was more interested in the medium of film itself. Pushing the limits of his body and the limits of stunts of the time, Keaton creates a sublimely funny and at times frankly astounding tour de force of physical comedy and slapstick sequences. Everything that is done in the film is done on the day, without the help of elaborate camera tricks, and the sheer audacity of Keaton's drive to find the funniest set piece is breathtaking to behold.

2 - The Passion of Joan of Arc - Directed by Carl Theodor Dryer - The film is a dichotomy; at once both a medieval passion play, and also an innovative piece made in the still new art form of film. Its focus on the use of faces to tell the story of Joan of Arc pioneered the effective and stark power of the close up as a narrative and emotional tool. It has a stunning amount of power and impact, provided not just by Dryer's superb direction, but also by the incredible performance of Falconetti as Joan. It may be one of the most purely brilliant pieces of film acting ever captured, and it holds up exquisitely today.

- The Gold Rush - Directed by Charles Chaplin - It's filled with so many classic Chaplin moments that they defy listing. Suffice to say, this may be his funniest film, and it is also the best in its balance of pathos, tenderness and sidesplitting comedy. There's not much more to say, except that Chaplin's legendary perfectionism pays off perfectly, creating a true classic.

Well, that's it. I hope you all found it somewhat fun, and not a colossal bore. Here's the earlier posts, for those who want to go through the decades:








Watchmen unveils new trailer and new poster!

A bevy of new Watchmen news has hit the web.

Last night at Spike TV's Scream Awards, director Zak Snyder, along with stars Malin Akerman, Carla Gugino and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, presented the new trailer to the film. Here's the clip below:

Personally, I love how the audience is entirely appropriate for an event called the Scream Awards. I also love how the Hollywood people look slightly afraid.

Next, they released the new poster, which is very cool:

This amid rumours of an ending that has been changed, after a sneak peek showing of the partially completed film in Portland.


The rumour is that Ozymandias "saves the world" not by faking a hugely destructive encounter with an extra-dimensional alien squid-thing, but by framing Dr. Manhattan for several nuclear explosions.

To me, the squid thing was cool in a geeky sort of way, but I can picture people who have never read the graphic novel seeing that depicted on screen and thinking, "That's fucking retarded". While it does fit in with the whole deconstructionist angle of the genre, it's also undeniably nerdy. A more palatable resolution is not that bad for me, provided the thematic result is the same.

But, I'm psyched to see this, big time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Morrison on All Star Superman

Over at Newsarama, they've started running an epic, 10-part interview with Grant Morrison regarding the brilliant miniseries All Star Superman.

The first part of the interview is up here.

Morrison may be the most imaginative writer working in comics today, and the miniseries was one of the best Superman stories ever, so it's well worth the read.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Top Ten Films of the Decade - the 1930s

After a break to cleanse the palette with some silly film and comic news, we're back to counting down the top films of each decade. Today, we continue with a decade that featured some great films.

The 1930s

10 - Wuthering Heights - Directed by William Wyler - Based on the classic novel, this adaptation stars Merle Oberon and was the film that made Laurence Olivier a star. Though it omits almost half the novel, the screenplay was a brilliant one, written by three of the best screenwriters of the day; Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht and John Huston. Wyler directs it as an unabashedly romantic and tragic love story, doomed by class and twists of fate. If not for another film (which appears later on this very list) it might be the most purely romantic film ever made. Superbly acted by the entire cast, beautifully shot by Gregg Toland, and held together by Wyler's skill, it is sumptuous and sentimental in the extreme.

9 - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Directed by Frank Capra - Capra was an idealist, but he saw idealism as a battle, not a rosy escapade. His heroes always faced enormous struggles against the forces of cynicsm, corruption and apathy. Never was his great championing of the common man better depicted than in this film. Jimmy Stewart became a super star with his legendary performance as Jefferson Smith, a naive but morally upright young man thrust into the midst of corruption and political machinations when he is sent to the US Senate. Ironically, the film was hugely controversial upon its release, and was denounced as anti-American. It remains, along with It's a Wonderful Life, the best depiction of Capra's belief that one man, with the right ideals, can overcome the challenges life throws at him and make a difference.

8 - M - Directed by Fritz Lang -Lang's first talkie, M is a masterpiece on all counts. It was the first major film to feature a leitmotif, and its use of sound was particularly revolutionary and innovative for its time. It is also a precursor to film noir, as it is one of the pinnacles of the German expressionistic films. Although it is not as surreal in its expressionist stylings as other German films of the day, its use of light and stylised sets is absolutely brilliant. The story concerns a child murderer, played by Peter Lorre in one of the great film performances. The man is hunted by police and the underworld alike, all while he attempts to hunt his own defenseless prey. Creepy, haunting and somehow tragic, M is one of the great treasures of film.

7 - Bringing Up Baby - Directed by Howard Hawks - Of all the screwball comedies, Bringing Up Baby is the without a doubt the zaniest. Telling the story of a crazy socialite's pursuit of a straight-laced scientist, it features not only the brilliant pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, but also the missing intercostal clavicle bone of a Brontosaurus, cross-dressing, two different leopards, a mischevious terrier and numerous hilarious sequences. A notorious box office disaster that nearly ended the careers of both Hepburn and Hawks, it has since been reevaluated as one of the most sublimely funny films ever made.

6 - Stagecoach - Directed by John Ford - There had been westerns that succeeded as both art and entertainment before Stagecoach, but none had been so seamless in their melding of art and western thrills. John Ford's first talkie was more expansive, more brilliantly structured and more entertaining than any seen before. John Wayne became a major star with his bold and confident portrayal of Johnny Ringo, one of the first outlaw anti-heroes of the genre. Stagecoach was the first western to stress character, commentary and moral complexity over the black and white themes of its predecessors. Also, the supporting cast is particularly amazing, with John Carradine and the always stellar Thomas Mitchell giving especially fine performances.

5 - City Lights - Directed by Charles Chaplin - It was one of Charlie Chaplin's greatest commerical and artistic successes, and it remained his personal favourite of all his films. Simply put, City Lights is one of the great screen comedies, and also a singularly moving film about human decency, love, acceptance, and the power of compassion. Having said that, it also contains some of the best comedy sequences ever, such as an hysterical boxing match. Chaplin resisted sound long after others embraced it, and thank god, because the power of his genius is now timeless and endlessly accesible across language, age and outlook. Simply put, everyone, from a toddler to a grandpda, can watch and enjoy City Lights. Its final scene may be the most moving shot ever put to film.

4 - Grand Illusion - Directed by Jean Renoir - Renoir's masterpiece is an incredible critique of the social and political divisions that consumed Europe before and during the first world war. It champions universal humanity over idealogical and political divisions, resulting in one of the great anti-war, pro-human films ever made. Along the way, it manages to comment on European class systems, race relations, and most especially war and the romatic idealization of duty. Like all truly great art, it points out the commonalities that unite human beings to one another, and the obligation that entails. However, the film never fails to be less than totally engrossing and entertaining.

3 - The Wizard of Oz - Directed by Victor Fleming - It is believed to by the most-watched film ever made, and the reason for that is the irresistable feeling that there seems to be magic imprinted onto every frame of the film. It is perhaps the first overt fantasy film to be widely accepted by mass audiences, and the elements of the fantastic are too whimsical and warm to be denied. Judy Garland gives a great performance, as does the supporting cast, and the songs and musical numbers are justly legendary. It may not be the deepest or most complex movie ever made, but one cannot deny it's one of the most enjoyable, and if the purpose of film is truly to whisk the viewer off to another world, it is one of the most successful.

2 - It Happened One Night - Directed by Frank Capra - Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert light up the screen in this seminal screwball. Colbert is a socialite on the run from a wedding, and Gable is the tough reporter sticking to her to get the story. Pretty much every convention of modern romatic comedy had its genesis in this film. It's not a deep picture, and it really doesn't have muchtosay, but it's undeniably enjoyable and it is such a template for later films that it can be counted as one of the most influential films of all time. It's one of only three films to win all five major Academy Awards (best actor, actress, director, screenplay and film).

1 - Gone With the Wind - Directed by Victor Fleming - I'll be honest, I don't particularly like Gone With the Wind all that much. But, from an objective point of view, you cannot deny its greatness. The sheer spectacle of the film, its broad sweep and huge emotions, cause the viewer to sit there and marvel at its massive scale. Like few other films, Gone With the Wind exemplifies a tale that could only have been told the way it was in the movies. Even if it had been a novel, that hardly matters. It is joyful over-the-top excess on a huge canvass, with emotions and characters so big that only a massive screen could contain them. Love it or hate it, it's one of the great cinematic achievments.

See you soon for our final installment: the 1920s!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Trek Photos Actually Generate Some Excitement

A whole bunch of Star Trek news hit the web over the last couple of days, culminating in a huge dispersal of publicity material in the form of cool-looking photos. Trekkies all over the world are about to go nuts.

First, Entertainment Weekly will be feature Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) on their next cover:

This hot on the heels of the announcement that the new trailer will be attached to showings of the new Bond flick Quantum of Solace, opening Nov. 14th.

Next came a whole slew of photos:

Here's the crew, from left to right: Chekov (anton Yelchin), Kirk (Chris Pine), Scotty (Simon Pegg), McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana)

Spock gets physical with Kirk

Villain Nero (Eric Bana)

This is reportedly the bridge of the Enterprise.

So, what do you think? Personally, I love the whole kicky retro feel of the pics. I'm totally looking forward to how director JJ Abrams pulls this off. The cast all look perfectly suited to their roles, and the tone seems right. However, that bridge set looks a little cluttered. Still, is that a miniskirt I see? Awesome.

Off On A Tangent : Conservatives Win Another Minority

I know, I know, this isn't a political blog, but what I'm about to post has an arts connection (and that's a personal one for me) so it is related to entertainment.

Last night, Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party won a second minority government. For anyone from outside Canuckland (or unfamiliar with the Parliamenary system) reading this and not getting what that means: go google it, do I look like Britannica to you?

So, after a few weeks of obnoxious campaigning and over $300 million spent, we're kind of back where we started, except that everyone seemed to lose out. The Liberals lost seats, the NDP lost seats, the Green Party lost seats, and the Conservatives did not gain enough from any of them to get a majority. Sure, they have a stronger minority government, but it's basically the same, which does not equal a win by anyone's standards.

So, who benefits? Well, the Bloc Quebecois, on the verge of irrelevancy before this election, actually saw a resurgence in popularity. The Conservatives have spent the last few years trying make huge gains in that all important province, handing out pork dollars and supporting their claim of "nation status". So, how did Harper lose Quebec?

Show biz, baby. Quebec is the heart of the arts in Canada. Always has been, always will be. There's an old political phrase that says "No one ever lost an election attacking Hollywood", meaning that politicians have often scored cheap points decrying the excess of the entertainment industry, which supposedly appeals to salt of the earth voters who believe show biz people are all morally bankrupt, homosexual drug addicts that want to spend your tax dollars putting on an art exhibit where they masturbate a horse while singing O, Canada. That's not true. That's only maybe two percent of us. Okay, five, tops. And we're not fixed on the horse thing. It could be a pig, or maybe a dog. We're flexible.

The arts in this country are constantly struggling. While Canadians do believe that the arts are important, it's always a struggle to keep the industry up and running. This is not unusual. The US is the only country rich enough to have a privately funded arts community. In the world. I was in Vienna, touring their national theatre and their annual budget is something like 50 million Euros per annum. It comes from taxpayers, and no one seems to mind. By the way, the theatre's budget is half that of the Viennese state opera.

In Canada, the arts accounts for 7.5% of the GDP. That's a lot. That means that that the industry employs a large amount of Canadian citizens, and contributes a decent amount to the health of our economy. As I've stated above, Quebec, so vital in this election, is the arts and culture leader in Canada. So, if you're Stephen Harper, you probably want to keep us artists marginally happy.

So, earlier this year, he cut a whopping $45 million in federal money from the arts (read about that here and here). This is after his goverment introduced bill C-10, which carried an amendment that allows the Heritage Minister to deny funding to any film or TV project that it deems offensive or "contrary to public policy". Here's a sample from the CBC article on the amendment:

Changes now before the Senate to the Income Tax Act that would allow the federal government to cancel tax credits for projects thought to be offensive or not in the public interest. The amendments have already been passed in the House of Commons.

The amendment to Bill C-10 would allow the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits for Canadian productions, even if federal agencies such as Telefilm and the Canadian Television Fund have invested in the production.

Representatives from the Heritage and Justice departments would determine which productions are unsuitable and therefore ineligible for tax cuts.

How would it work? Basically, without any sort of oversight or public scrutiny at all. From another CBC article:

The minister would create a set of guidelines for film and television producers. The guidelines have not yet been established but would cover violence, hatred and sexual content in film and TV productions, or anything else the minister believes should not be financed by Canadian taxpayers. Committees within the heritage and justice departments would be charged with vetting productions and implementing the guidelines. Any film or television program found to have contravened the guidelines could have its tax credits withdrawn and might be asked to repay funding given through Telefilm, the federal film funding agency, or the Canadian Television Fund, the federal funding agency for TV.

So some minister and a bunch of appointed Conservatives somewhere would determine what you get to watch and what type of flick gets made in the country, because without tax credits, it ain't happening. Young People Fucking? Probably not made, at least not with that title. Can you imagine a Conservative minister watching a Cronenberg film and allowing some of the shit that goes on to get tax money? It's supposed to ensure that public money doesn't pay for child pornography and hate materials, which are illegal anyway! Best part of all? Foreign productions, like those from the U.S. aren't covered. They don't get money from taxpayers, but they do pump money into the economy and the government coffers.

After a huge storm of outrage, Harper said he would drop the amendment when he revealed his platform, but this was after he had made matters worse by uttering the following at a Tory rally:

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up -- I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people." - Stephen Harper

Yes, some (a very few) people in the arts make a very good living. The vast, vast majority barely make a living wage. I'm one of them. It's not a life one chooses to make the big bucks; that's like choosing to have no other job than playing the lottery. It's a life you choose because you love doing it.

The Bloc used the Conservative position on the arts to create a wedge in Quebec, and arguably cost Harper his chance to double his seats in the province. The Conservative position mobilized the national artistic community in a way I've never seen before. I'm proud that we fought back and made our voices heard.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Elementary, my dear now balding, formerly studmuffin Watson

So, now we can add "British literary icon" to roles Robert Downey Jr. looks good as, alongside super hero, silent movie legend, and....I guy?

Downey is starring as Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie's new film adapation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous creation. Here's the first pics of Downey and Jude Law, who portrays Dr. Watson.

Doyle, the third coolest person named Conan (after O'Brien, and the Barbarian) must be cool with his immortal detective being directed by a guy most famous for being the last man on Earth to figure out Madonna was cheating on him. Well, either that, or Doyle's spinning in his grave like a Dreidel. Seriously, Ritchie has made one and a half good films (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was great, and Snatch had half a good movie there), so let's hope he can get back on track.

Looks like the two actors get along, although Downey is so weird he could just be laughing at a funny looking butterfly that just flew past.

Iron Man 2: Howard out, Cheadle in

According to a report issued by Hollywood Reporter, Don Cheadle will replace Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes in the sequel to Iron Man.

Details seem to be rather sketchy, but here's the reasoning according to the article:

Marvel had no comment, but sources close to the deal said negotiations with Howard fell through over financial differences, among other reasons. Marvel, which had wanted to work with Cheadle, then decided to take the role in another direction and approached the actor...

So, first off, I've got to say, I don't really care. While Terrence Howard is a good actor, and was good in the role, Cheadle is just as good an actor and won't be bad either. I was reading on a number of other websites some comments that this will in some way mess with continuity or ruin the chemistry or other nonsense. Sorry, Howard's role ain't that important, and he wasn't that good. If Robert Downey Jr. refused to come back, then they're screwed. Replacing a good actor in a minor role with another good actor? Not such a big deal.

Having said all that, you have to wonder what exactly went down here. I mean, you would think Marvel locked down the main cast to a multi-pic deal, right? Well, as Iron Man was the first film made by the studio, it's possible that they just locked down Downey and that's it. So, they had renegotiate for sequels, and either Marvel went super-cheap and Howard walked, or Howard went nutty with the demands and they both walked.

So, who's the loser here? Well, Marvel probably would have liked to keep the original cast intact, as they seemed to work so well this time, but Rhodes, even with the whole War Machine thing, is not the star of the film. At the end of the day, this was and is Downey's show. Howard is an Oscar nominated actor, yes, but his career hasn't exactly taken off. Until Iron Man, anyway. My feeling is that he asked for too much money, too much focus in the script, or too much profit participation, and Marvel turned him down. I mean, they're not Paramount, they're a brand new studio with one big hit behind them, and they can't afford to give away the store. Which makes Howard the loser, because he needed this high-profile gig more than they needed him.

Too bad, too, because I liked him as Rhodey. But Cheadle? Man, he could be kick-ass.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Top Ten Films of the Decade - The 1940s

Well, we've made it past the half-way point. Hopefully no one is bored to tears by these lists. I've got to confess, I'm enjoying re-examining these films.

Today, we're embarking on a stellar decade for American film:

The 1940s

10 - His Girl Friday - Directed by Howard Hawks - The screwball comedy genre of the 1930s and 40s remains one of the most delightful and effervescent genres ever put to celluloid. Hawks was a master, and his particular speciality was speed. That was never more evident than in this perfect comedy, a whirlwind of hilarious patter, duplicitous schemes and cynical frivolity. Rosalind Russell plays what may be the definitive "Hawks woman"; a capable, tough, brilliant and above all, sexy woman who can do anything a man does, including being a wise-cracking city reporter. Cary Grant was never more charmingly rakish than as editor/con-man Walter Burns. There are countless classic routines and moments here that make the film hysterical, but it still has something to say about the integrity of the press, corruption, and the power the media has to shape public perception.

9 - It's a Wonderful Life - Directed by Frank Capra - There are reasons a classic becomes a classic, and often that reason is that it contains pure truth, simply and beautifully expressed. Such is the case with Capra's post-war triumph. Jimmy Stewart plays his archetypal role of George Bailey, a man who only ever wanted to do great things and see the world, and who is trapped by his own sense of duty and morality in the same small town running a "penny-ante" business for his entire life. While the film's resolution is a bloodbath of sentimentality, it is irresistibly affecting, as the audience has been treated to Bailey's entire life of frustrated hopes and dreams. The happy ending is what's most often remembered, but it's the film's dark centre that makes it all work.

8 - The Maltese Falcon - Directed by John Huston - It is the supreme private eye film, based on one of the great American pulp novels by Dashiell Hammet. It's a film that accomplished much; it is considered the first film noir, it launched the career of its young writer/director, it featured the film debut of Sydney Greenstreet, and it cemented Humphrey Bogart as a major movie star. It's an amazing story of greed and its power, as a myriad of characters that aren't as smart as they think they are all try to double-cross each other to obtain the titular item. Most importantly, it's a great example of the Bogart role; a tough, anti-authority, world-weary cynic, sacrificing his own desires for a higher code he must follow. Watching it is just as enjoyable now as it must have been when it first debuted, and its ending is just as stunning as it ever was.

7 - The Philadelphia Story - Directed by George Cukor - Based on a hit play by the great Philip Barry, The Philadelphia Story resurrected Katharine Hepburn's career after having been labeled "box office poison". It has one of the all-time great casts, Hepburn as cold socialite Tracy Lords, Cary Grant as her ex-husband CK Dexter Haven, and Jimmy Stewart as Macaulay Connor, cynical reporter in search of a scoop. They are all clearly delighted to be working together, and as a result, the film is one of the most fun experiences you'll have.

6 - The Best Years of Our Lives - Directed by William Wyler - Frederic March, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell star as three US servicemen returning home after WWII, and the film follows them and their families as they each have their own difficulties adjusting to civilian life. Decent, humane and moving, The Best Years of Our Lives was the first American film to honestly depict the struggles of veterans. It also features some absolutely stunning deep focus cinematography from genius Gregg Toland.

5 - Rome, Open City - Directed by Roberto Rossellini - An early classic of neorealism, the film is also a dichotomy. It follows some of the tenets of neorealism (use of mostly non-professional actors, wide use of location filming, etc.), but rejects the storytelling aspects of the discipline in its clear depiction of good vs. evil and its frequent embrace of melodrama. This dichotomy renders the film more than an intellectual exercise, it is a touching, disturbing film about occupation, collaboration and the different levels of heroism and resistance.

4 - The Bicycle Thieves - Directed by Vittorio De Sica - A masterpiece of neorealism, the film tells the story of Antonio, an unemployed labourer struggling to support his family in depressing poverty-stricken post WWII Italy. After getting a job posting flyers, he finds he needs a bicycle to perform the job, for which his wife sells the wedding sheets. The bicycle is subsequently stolen, and Antonio and his young son Bruno go on a desperate search to retrieve the bike and save his job. It's as shatteringly relevant today as it was then; a tale of the frustration and isolation of the little guy as he struggles simply to makes his way through life, which seems to conspire to grind him down and strip him of his dignity.

3 -The Treasure of the Sierra Madre - Directed by John Huston - If The Maltese Falcon was Huston's film about greed, then this film is about Greed with a capital G. It may the definitive film on the cancerous and corrupting influence of the American dream, namely, to get rich. Bogart plays his first non-heroic role since becoming a big star, though his Fred C. Dobbs is more of a tragic, weak figure than an out and out bad guy. Huston directed his father, Walter, to an Oscar as the sage but nuts old prospector. Together, they give two mesmerizing performances, Bogart slipping further and further into paranoia and madness as the gold piles up. A remarkable film, one of the best ever made in Hollywood.

2 - Casablanca - Directed by Michael Curtiz - Without a doubt, when people ask what the pinnacle of the Hollywood studio system was, I point them to Casablanca. It has perhaps the best cast of studio actors ever; added to leads Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, we get Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, Dooley Wilson and the incomparable Claude Rains. The story was assembled by the best writers in the Warner's stable almost be piecemeal. The bulk of the film was shot before they even had an ending. Somehow, it all comes together in this endlessly enjoyable romantic tale of nobility, cynicism vs. idealism, and sacrifice. One of the two or three absolutely perfect and immortal American films.

1 - Citizen Kane - Directed by Orson Welles - There was film before Citizen Kane and there was film after Citizen Kane. It's a baroque, bold, incredibly innovative, totally engrossing masterpiece like no other. It combined the style of the European masters with the commercial touch of Hollywood and the depth of a great novel. It brought attention to style itself in a way that American filmmakers had previously completely eschewed. It did things with a camera that are still revelations today. Welles' performance is one of the great ones, as we spend all this time with a man who slowly becomes a total bastard, and yet we still feel sympathy for him. It's beyond praise and impervious to cynics who now deride it. It's the work of a genius from start to finish, and the greatest American film ever made.

See you soon for the 1930s!

If you want a recap: 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s, 1950s

Gosling for Green Lantern - Expect Him to Kiss Sinestro in the Pouring Rain

So, the word over at Latino Review is that the Green Lantern film adaptation is moving full steam ahead. That is good news for a comic book fan like me, as I've long thought it was a natural for an amazing blockbuster flick. Want proof? See here.

Anyway, after countless rumours, including the Jack Black rumour, which was the most depressing bit of casting news I had ever heard, it seems like Warner's has got their thinking caps on.

Latino Review is saying that they have a trusted sources within Warner's, and that the studio is pursuing Ryan Gosling.

Gosling has a strike against him for a lot of guys out there, as he appeared in the ultimate chick flick The Notebook. I haven't seen the film all the way through, as it looked like tripe, but Gosling has given some awesome performances in some great films like The Believer, Half Nelson, and Fracture.

So, I think he can handle the role. Also, and this is a pipe dream that would never happen, but it would mean a Justice League movie could feature Gosling, Christian Bale and Brandon Routh.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tegan & Sara on Letterman

Hey, folks! Here's some cool music for ya. Last night, Tegan & Sara performed on David Letterman, which is cool 'cause it's always awesome to see two Canadian girls make good, and their latest album is three kinds of awesome.

They're performing "Call it Off" from The Con, their latest album.

Look how short they are! It's adorable.

Captain America to Kick Nazi Ass

According to Production Weekly, the film adaptation of Captain America, titled The First Avenger: Captain America, will stay true to the star-spangled hero's period roots.

Film School Rejects has read the official production synopsis of the film, which is slated to open May 6, 2011. 2011? Holy god, there's going to be flying cars and colonies on the moon by the time this flick opens. Jesus.

Synopsis is as follows:

Born during the Great Depression, Steve Rogers grew up a frail youth in a poor family. Horrified by the newsreel footage of the Nazis in Europe, Rogers was inspired to enlist in the army. However, because of his frailty and sickness, he was rejected. Overhearing the boy’s earnest plea, General Chester Phillips offered Rogers the opportunity to take part in a special experiment… Operation: Rebirth. After weeks of tests, Rogers was at last administered the “Super-Soldier Serum” and bombarded by “vita-rays.” Steve Rogers emerged from the treatment with a body as perfect as a body can be and still be human. Rogers was then put through an intensive physical and tactical training program. Three months later, he was given his first assignment as Captain America. Armed with his indestructible shield and and battle savvy, Captain America has continued his war against evil both as a sentinel of liberty and leader of the Avengers.

Well, the first mistake is that if Steve was born during the Great Depression, he'd be around 10 when America entered WWII. Aside from that, I'm sure that all of these story details will remain in place over the next 3 years of development. Sure. Yeah.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Top Ten Films of the Decade - The 1950s

Hey, everyone. We're continuing with my countdown of the Top Ten Films for each decade. Today, it's:

The 1950s

10 - All About Eve - Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz - Mankiewicz's script is one of the most celebrated examples of wit and quality in the history of film, and the film made from it positively drips with venom even as it sparkles. The film is the story of Margot Channing (Bette Davis in her greatest performance), a legendary Broadway diva whose behaviour is becoming more and more outrageous as she deals with upcoming middle-age. Matters are not helped when she come into contact with "her biggest fan", a duplicitous, unscrupulous young actress who insinuates herself into Margot's inner circle and schemes to get to the top by stealing everything Margot has. It's the quintessential depiction of boundless ambition and its costs.

9 - Singin' in the Rain - Directed by Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly - No other musical is so completely joyful and exuberant as Donen & Kelly's comedic tribute to Hollywood as it emerged from the silent era. Filled with great numbers like "Make 'Em Laugh", "Fit as a Fiddle", "All I Do is Dream of You", "Good Morning", and of course, the title number, this is the best of the big budget musicals made by MGM and perhaps the best musical ever made, period.

8 - The Searchers - Directed by John Ford - Both John Ford and John Wayne would probably vehemently deny any high art aspirations in their work; that's just the type of men they were. However, no one can argue that The Searchers is their best collaboration, and perhaps the finest film either master craftsman made. Wayne plays the deeply embittered and perhaps mentally unstable Ethan Edwards, a Civil War vet that hates pretty much everything and everyone except his family. He reserves special racial hatred for Native Indians, a bigotry brought to the surface when a Comanche tribe raids the Edwards homestead, killing everyone except the two youngest girls, whom they abduct. What follows is a five year search to find the girls, although it soon becomes clear that the racist Ethan wants to kill the girls rather than allow them to live after being "tainted". It's a searing examination of the prejudices and fears that led to the near eradication of an entire race of peoples, and also a stunning portrait of obesssion, vengeance and, ultimately, bittersweet redemption. Wayne is astounding.

7 - Rear Window - Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - This decade was perhaps Hitchock's most creatively and financially successful period, producing innumerable classic films, two of which appear on this list. Rear Window may be the best example of his more populist thrillers. While it lacks the innovation and thematic challenges of his darker and more risky films, it still is basically a film that turns the audience into peeping toms along with the main character. In effect, we overtly become what all audiences truly are; voyeurs. The story itself is thrilling and compelling, and never lags, which is amazing considering that the main character is completely immobilized for the entirety of the film. Jimmy Stewart gives one of his classic performances, and there might never have been a more beautiful actress than Grace Kelly. Thelma Ritter is also superb as Stewart's wise-cracking nurse.

6 - La Strada - Directed by Federico Fellini - Some argue that this is the last of Fellini's neorealist films, while others argue it is the first of his more fanciful surrealistic works. Either way, La Strada is one of the most touching and strangely beautiful films ever made, with some singularly human characters at its center. It expresses the need for gentility and kindness in all human relationships in a stunningly magical and simple way.

5 - The 400 Blows - Directed by Francois Truffaut - The first of a series of four films featuring Truffaut's semi-autobiographical character Antione Doinel, The 400 Blows is a seminal film of the New Wave, and one of the best films ever made about childhood. Antione is a boy on the cusp of entering his teen years, and his home life is both psychologically traumatic and on the verge of abject poverty. The film explores his trials and tribulations while also delving into an expose of France's treatment of juvenile deliquency at the time. Its final shot is deservedly lauded as one of the most affecting in cinema.

4 - On the Waterfront - Directed by Elia Kazan - There are many people out there who want to villify Kazan as he named names during the HUAC hearings, although I usually find that those people are ignorant of the actual events surrounding his testimony, and his great torment before, during and after his decision to cooperate. No matter what you may personally think of him, On the Waterfront is a stunningly personal and deeply relevatory film about guilt and moral responsibility. Anchored by Brando's greatest and least mannered performance, the film draws you into his character's agony at the choices he's faced with. It shows you the cost of making a moral choice, right or wrong, and holds you riveted until the final, triumphant moment.

3 - The Seventh Seal - Directed by Ingmar Bergman - A monumentally influential film that confirmed the genius of Bergman, The Seventh Seal is a triumph of filmmaking. A medieval knight is returning home from the Crusades in a state of agnostic turmoil. All he wants is to reach home and reunite with his wife, but along the way he discovers that his homeland has been decimated by the plague, and now Death has come for him. The Knight makes a deal with Death, challenging him to a chess match for his life. That is only the beginning of one of the most hypnotic and mesmerizing films dealing with existential dilemmas, the hypocrisy of organized religion and the importance of love vs. the dangers of repression. Its impact may have been dulled by countless parodies, but it still retains its cold and majestic beauty.

2 - Vertigo - Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - Hitchcock had always been a master of film. He could create and assemble film sequences more successfully than anyone before or since (with the possible exceptions of Eisenstein or Spielberg). However, Vertigo marks the moment where he grew beyond showmanship and entertainer to autuer in the classic sense. Even today, it's a remarkably adult film, with its themes of obsession and even necrophilia. Jimmy Stewart, already a master at subtly subverting his own nice guy image, goes as close to unlikable as he ever got, playing the guilt-ridden, obsessed, mentally shaky Scottie Ferguson. From the masterful opening titles through countless perfect sequences to the dark, fatalistic, downbeat ending, Vertigo remains one of the finest achievements from one of the finest directors in the history of film.

1 - Seven Samurai - Directed by Akira Kurosawa - Endlessly influential, continually surprising and incredibly enjoyable, Seven Samurai is the absolute pinnacle of Kurosawa's career. The story of seven itinerant samurai who stoop to help a poor farming town defend itself from bandits, the film is an epic commentary on duty, social roles and the obligation of one human being to another. Filled with astounding characters and directed with such absolute confidence as to defy description, its influence on world cinema is too vast to describe.

See you soon for 1940s!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Verily! Branagh doth seek to helm the Mighty Thor!

Variety has an article that tips that noted Shakespearean thespian (and possibly the only man to have slept with both Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter. Take that, Tim Burton!) Kenneth Branagh is in talks to direct Thor for Marvel studios.

Branagh first gained fame in the UK as a hugely acclaimed stage actor before directing a critically beloved film version of Henry V while still in his 20s. He has gone on to direct films such as Dead Again, Peter's Friends, Sleuth and numerous adaptations of Shakespeare including an uncut, 4 hour version of Hamlet. He's never really directed a big action film, although Henry V did have some scenes of large scale action.

He's most well-known to American audiences for his appearances in Wild Wild West and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and his role in the upcoming Valkyrie.

No kidding, this guy is probably the greatest Shakespearean actor alive. He's very good director, as well. Now, can he deliver slam-bang action? Who knows? But at least Thor will sound good when he speaks in olde Englishe.

The Top Ten Films of the Decade - The 1960s

We've reached the 1960s, a chaotic time in both the world and cinema.

The 1960s

10 - If.... - Directed by Lindsay Anderson - Set in an English public school, If.... is both a savage satire of the British class system and also an attack against all forms of dehumanizing conformity. Surreal, wildly experimental, often unsettling and brilliantly funny, the film has since become a staple of the counterculture movement. Some of the film's offbeat stylistic choices, such as the switching from black & white to colour and back again, have been studied for meaning; ironically, this misses the purely anarchic intent of Anderson. He shot in black & white for some scenes simply because it was easier to light certain sets that way. That he didn't care what effect this would have on the audience is perfectly in keeping with the film's naked contempt for anything conventional or repressive.

9 - Persona - Directed by Ingmar Bergman - Without a doubt, Persona is one of the most impenetrable films ever made, but this seeming barrier only serves to render it open to endless interpretation. After a strange and somewhat disturbing montage opens the film, the narrative begins, focusing on an actress rendered mute after a performance of Elektra, and the nurse who cares for her. Bergman long considered this be his most important film, and many critics refer to it as his unique take on the iconography of the horror film. Whether you subscribe to the interpretation that the nurse and the actress are aspects of the same person, or the interpretation that film is about humanity's incapability of reacting authentically to great suffering without constructing illusions, there is no doubt that watching it provokes a visceral response. A masterpiece by a true genius of film.

8 - Dr. Strangleove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - Directed by Stanley Kubrick - It may be the most beloved black comedy of all time, being about an insane Air Force officer who orders his nuclear bombers to attack the Soviet Union. Featuring the incomparable Peter Sellers in three roles, aided by a wacky George C. Scott and with equally inspired turns by Sterling Hayden and Slim Pickens, Strangelove is perhaps the perfect cold war movie. Why does it represent that dangerous time so well? Precisely because of its absurdity. When Kubrick decided to make a film about the nuclear arms race and the dangers of Mutually Assured Destruction, he soon realized that the ideology and procedures behind them were so ridiculous that the film could only work as a comedy. Never has an apocalyptic vision been depicted so side-splittingly hysterically.

7 - La Dolce Vita - Directed by Federico Fellini - Marcello Mastroianni portrays a sleazy journalist in post-war Italy in Fellini's early masterpiece. The film is not one story per se, but rather a series of episodic moments linked through the central character. Fellini is using the muckraker's journey to illustrate the moral decay of the post-war world, as we are treated to ever-increasing displays of debauchery and a growing sense of the disparity between the way life is and the dreams or desires we have for what life could be.

6 - Lawrence of Arabia - Directed by David Lean - It may be the definitive epic film, with its long run time, sweeping visual scope and huge canvas of battles and varying peoples. What makes it so unusual is that all of that epic trapping is put in service of a story that illuminates one complex and incredibly conflicted man. Throughout, TE Lawrence struggles with his sense of identity, loyalty and his attitude toward the violence he encounters while serving in Arabia during the WWI. It might be one of the most visually influential films ever made.

5 - Jules et Jim - Directed by Francois Truffaut - Truffaut's masterful film chronicles 20 years in the lives and friendship of three people, beginning just before WWI and ending just before WWII. While the story came from an old novel, the film embodied all that was fresh, new and relevatory about the French New Wave. It is literally bursting with energy and momentum, shot in an entirely new style of whip pans, exuberant tracking shots and a wild pace. But more importantly, it's about the innocence of youthful love crashing into the reality of adult romance. Though Jules and Jim share the title, the film is truly about Catherine, the object of their obsessive love and how the disappointment of that love unravels her.

4 - Breathless - Directed by Jean-Luc Godard - It was the film that introduced the world to the French New Wave, and as such, it more than deserves its immortality. However, its stylistic innovations are not its only merits. It also tells an engrossing story of a young hoodlum on the run and the ambivalent object of his affections. It's an existential film that concerns itself with living in the moment and the amoral behaviour of its characters. It's one of those rare films that changed and influenced whole generations of films and filmmakers.

3 - 8 1/2 - Directed by Federico Fellini - It's the best film ever made about filmmaking and the creative process, bar none. A film director, completely exhausted and creatively empty, tries to rekindle his passion and rescue his shambles of a life while simultaneously attempting to finish his latest film. The film mixes reality and fantasy as the director struggles to wrangle his foibles, failings, fantasies and creativity into something that could resemble art.

2 - Psycho - Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - Hitchcock described his job as "the assembly of pieces of film to create fright" and Psycho is the purest expression of his central belief and artistic vision. It's been lauded so much we are almost blase to its riches, but it deserves every one of its accolades. It's a triumph of pure cinema, even though it's based on Robert Bloch's book; a film that works because it is a perfect combination of the disparate elements of filmmaking. From the opening shot to the final, chilling frame, Hitch never made a film that took hold of the viewer with such absolute authority.

1 - 2001 : A Space Odyssey - Directed by Stanley Kubrick - American film has often had a problem in making films that deal with great human themes. Whereas other countries have often tackled the great philosophical questions, American film has mostly concerned itself with entertainment, or at the very least, smuggling great themes within entertainment. 2001 is an exception. It's about spirituality without being at all religious. It's about the history and future of humanity, our capacity for greatness and almost infinite adaptability. It's about the danger of allowing technology to overwhelm what connects us to each other. It's the best science fiction film ever made, but it is so much more than a science fiction film. It's a film made by an artist who had finally stopped caring at all about what audiences conventionally "like" and instead wanted to give them his vision.

See you soon for the 1950s!