REVIEW: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Written by: Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan (screenplay), John le Carré (novel)
Starring: Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth and John Hurt

If you’re not prepared to donate every ounce of your attention to this film, then do not bother watching it.  Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the twistiest films to come along in years.

Like he did in adapting the vampire thriller Let the Right One In, though, he takes those narrative thrills and restrains them within his deliberately arranged frames until the tension boils over.  There is only one “action” sequence in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and it’s the rather clumsily constructed assassination of a spy (Mark Strong) sent to Hungary to find out the identity of a mole within MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA).

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The Oscars: Forever restless, never young

Now that the smoke has cleared and the winners have been announced at the 83rd Academy Awards, I would like to offer a few thoughts on the ceremony.  Let’s begin with the most obvious:  that’s it?!

The Oscars came and went almost without incident this year, save for an early F-bomb from The Fighter winner Melissa Leo.  She was perhaps the evening’s most enthusiastic and entertaining winner, and she took the stage about 20 minutes into the show.  Before and after her it was dull montages interspersed with predictable winners.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: David Seidler (screenplay)
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Michael Gambon

For many, public speaking is a terrifying undertaking by itself.  When you add on the everyday concerns of an English monarch- mounting war, daddy issues, a debilitating speech impediment- it definitely doesn’t help.  The King’s Speech surrounds itself with a plethora of talented British character actors, many straight off the Harry Potter set, and has a go at the story of the stuttering King George VI (Colin Firth).  In the end unfortunately, it cannot escape what it really is: a cooly calculated period drama bred like a racehorse for Oscar season.

The set-up in and of itself sounds like something you’d hear from many of the nominees for Best Picture.  Prior to World War II, we follow the Duke of York as he becomes King of England and tackles a stutter that has plagued him his entire life.  He does this with the help of an eccentric teacher (Geoffrey Rush) and a devoted wife (Helena Bonham Carter.)  I can almost see a half-drunk celebrity reading that synopsis come Oscar night.

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And the winners should be…. 2011 Oscar Predictions (Matt’s Picks)

Best Picture

The Social Network
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
Winter’s Bone
The Kids Are All Right
Inception
Toy Story 3
The Fighter
True Grit

Should Win I’d be the most happy with Social Network, Black Swan, or The Kids Are All Right.  There’s no real Blind Side this year, but The King’s Speech is the least deserving… and it’s also one of the front-runners.
Will Win: The Social Network has a real shot, but so does The King’s Speech. Many have already handed it to King George, but I’m leaning toward King Zuckerberg.
Snubbed: There’s really no Blind Side this year among the nominees. However, over The King’s Speech I would’ve nominated The Ghost Writer, Enter the Void, White Material, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Splice or I Am Love.


Best Director

Tom Hooper- The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen- True Grit
David Fincher- The Social Network
David O. Russell- The Fighter

Should Win: Aronofsky.  His direction on Black Swan was the best thing about the movie, which is saying a lot.  Fincher is also great, but so many other elements of Social Network would’ve worked on their own if not as well.  You can’t really say that about Black Swan.
Will Win: Fincher.  Even if The Social Network doesn’t walk away with the night’s biggest trophy, this one is a pretty safe bet.
Snubbed: Yes, yes, Christopher Nolan deserved a nomination  for Inception here over Tom Hooper, but don’t forget Danny Boyle.  His direction on 127 Hours was impeccable and his movie was better than both Inception and The King’s Speech.   I’d also throw in Lisa Cholodenko’s low-key genius in The Kid’s Are All Right, Gasper Noe’s hallucinatory brilliance in Enter the Void, Roman Polanski’s artful storytelling in The Ghost Writer and the mesmerizing work of Claire Denis in White Material.

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Communication breakdown: always the same?

According to the two front-runners for this year’s Best Picture Oscar, The King’s Speech and The Social Network, communication is not half the battle: it’s the entire war.  These two very different seeming movies actually speak mounds about our fear to speak. 

The Social Network is the more obvious with this, taking a dark, rapid-fire look into how one outcast started an online empire simply because he couldn’t fit into the real world.  Mark Zuckerberg, as many may have noticed on his recent Saturday Night Live appearance, has trouble in real life.  The way Jesse Eisenberg portrays him, his brain seems backed up because he can’t talk fast enough, emitting sentences in short, machine gun-like bursts.

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The Best Performances of 2010

1. Annette Bening- The Kids Are All Right The kids might just be all right, but Annette Bening as a modern lesbian mother seeing her family spin out of control no matter how tightly wound her controlling character may be is more than all right, she’s fantastic. Her ability to play the character with such effortlessness and ease makes the audience forget they are watching film and instead submerse themselves into the troubles, anxieties and and love that her character Nic feels as she undergoes a common, but crucial stage in life. Key Scene: Even with so many to choose from, one scene one can’t forget after watching the film is the humorous yet explosive scene of seeing her daughter come home on a motorcycle with “donor-Dad” and finally releasing her feelings about his unwanted parenting.

2. Christian Bale- The Fighter– Bale steals scenes left and right in The Fighter, much like they were stolen from him in The Dark Knight. As the crack-addicted former boxing star of Lowell, Mass., he must now watch as his brother Micky chases after the dream with a clearer head.  Adding in humor only makes his character the sad clown, one that, unlike The Joker, you really feel for.  Key Scene: Bale singing a song with his mother (Melissa Leo) in the car after the two had just had a big argument.  The full spectrum of these two characters’ relationship comes to light thanks to this explosive and charming scene.

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REVIEW: The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: David Seidler (screenplay)
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Michael Gambon

For many, public speaking is a terrifying undertaking by itself.  When you add on the everyday concerns of an English monarch- mounting war, daddy issues, a debilitating speech impediment- it definitely doesn’t help.  The King’s Speech surrounds itself with a plethora of talented British character actors, many straight off the Harry Potter set, and has a go at the story of the stuttering King George VI (Colin Firth).  In the end unfortunately, it cannot escape what it really is: a cooly calculated period drama bred like a racehorse for Oscar season.

The set-up in and of itself sounds like something you’d hear from many of the nominees for Best Picture.  Prior to World War II, we follow the Duke of York as he becomes King of England and tackles a stutter that has plagued him his entire life.  He does this with the help of an eccentric teacher (Geoffrey Rush) and a devoted wife (Helena Bonham Carter.)  I can almost see a half-drunk celebrity reading that synopsis come Oscar night.

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Ten to finish out ’10

With The Social Network and Let Me In giving movie-goers some anti-summer entertainment to look forward to this weekend, we thought it’d be a good idea to map out what the rest of 2010 will look like at the movies.  Here is our list of the 10 movies we think will matter the rest of the year.

Black Swan (Dec. 1)– Darren Aronofsky follows up The Wrestler with another behind the scenes plunge into the dark depths of competitive sports.  This time it’s Natalie Portman in the lead, playing a ballerina in a a gruelingly competitive production of Swan Lake. When Mila Kunis comes in as a the new kid on the block, the game is on.  That makes it sound like Step Up, but from trailer, which shows Portman sprouting feathers and red eyes, it will be decidedly weirder.  Aronofsky knows his way around pitch black, and has a knack for turning misery into beauty.  Expect nothing less here.

True Grit (Dec. 25)– What better way to celebrate Christmas than with a Coen Brothers movie?  They team up with Jeff Bridges again, this time to remake the western that won John Wayne his Oscar.  However, the brothers list the novel as their main source of inspiration because of its quick dialogue as well as the premise.  A daughter (newcomer Hailee Steinfield) sets out to apprehend her father’s killer with the help of a stubborn marshal (Bridges.)  The movie also features Matt Damon as a ranger accompanying the two and Josh Brolin as the killer.  With a remarkable cast like this, and the success they had adapting No Country for Old Men, it’s hard not to be excited about this one.

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REVIEW: A Single Man

Image courtesy of Cinematic Passions

A Single Man
Directed by: Tom Ford
Written by: Tom Ford & David Scearce (screenplay), Chris Isherwood (novel)
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult, and Matthew Goode

Looking for that depressing British movie about interesting broken people?  In A Single Man, director Tom Ford’s impressive debut, you’ve found it and then some.

After his lover (Matthew Goode) dies, George Falconer (Colin Firth), an English professor in early 60’s L.A., falls into a deep sadness.  Much of the film revolves around his plan to kill himself and the different things distracting him from it or holding him back.  He goes over to his best friend Charley’s (Julianne Moore) house to get boozed up and talk, has an encounter with a gay James Dean-wannabe outside a liquor store, and has an interesting chat with the neighbor’s daughter at a bank.

All of these events, combined with a prospect at a rebound lover in a young student (Nicholas Hoult), prevent George from pulling the trigger.  I went into this film expecting an Oscar-worthy performance from Firth, mostly just because he was nominated for one.  Though he delivers a quietly devastating portrait, I’m not sure he would’ve been nominated on a year with more memorable lead performances.

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