Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Reasons To Watch TV: Lafayette Reynolds On HBO's True Blood

Once again, the 2008-2009 network television season provides us with another year of bland procedurals, “quirky” character hybrid dramas that aren’t that well written—despite the pedigree of the executive producer on board (JJ Abrams—LOST is great, FRINGE-not so much), and the consistent old-timers and ratings “champs” who bring in steady ratings, but not much else in regard to originality, innovation, or quality (Heroes, anyone?).
Yet, there are networks that have been bucking the trend of mediocrity by giving viewers edgy, well-written, and thought provoking fare. HBO is a cable network that is doing this very thing in regard to their scripted comedies and dramas. The net reached out to an “old friend” to develop and run their newest breakout hit, True Blood. A mix of southern gothic drama, horror, suspense, mystery, romance, and comedy, the series is a character driven ensemble piece that chronicles the interactions the citizens are having with vampires in the small community of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Specifically, the series focuses on the relationship between telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and centuries-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer).
One of the unusual characters featured in this ensemble is Lafayette Reynolds, a short order cook at the town bar. He has wit for days and an equally colorful ensemble of fishnets, tight pants, and fabulous makeup. But, there is more to Lafayette than that. He’s quite intelligent and cunning. And, I am enjoying how Ball is peeling away his layers in every episode of the show. Critics haven’t warmed up to the character yet and have accused Ball of writing the black characters on True Blood as one- dimensional stereotypes. Yet, I question what it is they are seeing. Alan Ball has always been a master of creating flawed and original characters for his many film and television projects. Lafayette is a prime example of this. Lafayette more than fits in with the rest of the community and is not a stereotype at all. In every episode, you learn something new about him that makes you rethink and reconsider how you view him on True Blood. And, that’s great about Ball’s new show. The greatest characters are those that keep us wondering what they are going to do next: good or bad.
However, this isn’t enough. People demand that characters that look like us be noble and free of fault. Or, in the case of Black LGBT characters, expect them to be non-threatening or so extremely unrealistic that it was easier to stomach shows that allegedly catered to us but gave us the very stereotypes we abhorred being compared to. Of course, “mainstream” (read: White) gays aren’t that accepting of us either. For all of GLAAD’s and’s cries for diversity in film and television, any and everything related to LGBT men and women of color was marginalized and relegated to the occasional “expose” every other year (After Elton), or yearly studies on the lack of LGBT characters of color on TV shows and films, yet no real critique or analysis on how to advocate for this needed diversity (GLAAD). Television isn’t perfect, and I don’t need it to be. I need my shows to be complex, ambiguous, messy, and fun. HBO has the corner of the market on this. And, True Blood, and Lafayette Reynolds is no exception.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Is TV the "New Film"/Fall Awards Season Approaches

Hey everyone...absence DOES make the heart grow fonder...since I've been away from here since june.

I just wasn't impressed with th summer movie season: Save for The Dark Knight, the summer blockbluster season was underwhelming: Tropic Thunder was a series of satirical jokes that went on for way too long, Pineapple Express was yet another psuedo-innovative, yet ultimately vapid and disappointing take on the Aptow "bromance" character relationship vibe in all his films--either produced by him or directed by him. And, Seth Rogen is so NOT a leading man and it's really typical of Hollywood to treat him like one--would Hollywood be so loving if Seth was a fat, nappy haired Black guy named Sequan Rogen? or a Seanday Rogen? I mean, would they?

No shade against seth--people think he's funny; i just find him really irritating and so NOT funny. But, I still had to throw that out there...if only to provoke thought.

But, I'm back and with the onslaught of grad school apps (yea, im going back to school hopefully), screenplay and tv pilot writing (im going to make that happen also), i've been noticing that i'm seeing BETTER quality work on TV shows than on film..with shows like Alan Ball's True Blood (HBO), CBS's The Mentalist, etc. TV is really stepping up to become the go to place for talented actors and writers.
I mean, one of my NEW favorite shows, The CW's Privileged, has cast Anne Archer (arguably one of the MOST underrated and underutilized actresses to date in american film and television) as Laurel Limoge, the VERY fierce and VERY on point grandmother to two spoiled heiresses who need to get into Duke University in order to ensure they GET their seems paper thin, but the writing is very spot on (think Gilmore Girls since Privileged was creator by one of the former producers of Gilmore) and the character development has been great to watch week after week.....
But, is TV replacing film as THE medium to watch for quality acting and quality writing? With the end of The Shield, ER, and Mad Men close to capping ANOTHER brilliant season, with british and other foreign tv imports heading stateside (Little Britain is a must watch for me) and with some foreign tv shows getting airplay here int he states (nee Secret Diary Of A Call Girl--a well written guilty pleasure, did very well on Showtime after Weeds this summer),e tc.
Has TV finally overtaken film in regard to more progressive, well written, and thought provoking shows/films than film itself?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Secret Diary Of A Call Girl-TV

Normally, I wouldn't post about a tv show here, since this blog is devoted to films. But, I had heard about this show through friends who'd seen it over in Britain last year or had seen it online.

After watching the entire series online, I was surprised to say that I'm hooked. And, I'm totally siked that Showtime is airing the entire first series starting 16 June 2008!!!!

Basic Premise: Based on the scandalous and steamy memoirs and blog of Belle De Jour, a notorious and famous British escort, Secret Diary Of A Call introduces us to Hannah Baxter, a brilliant, young, beautiful, and arrogant university grad who also moonlights as Belle, a high priced call girl in Britain.

British pop sensation Billie Piper (Rose from the revamped Dr. Who series and is in picture, opposite Iddo Goldberg-Ben in the series) is Hannah Baxter, Belle De Jour, and the series was quite popular on ITV2 in Britain. It was so popular that Series 3 (Season 3, for Americans) was greenlight for series BEFORE Series 2 started shooting last month. Talk about putting major hype behind a show!

But, I think it's worth it. It's not everyone's cup of tea (british humor isn't always picked up on by Americans and the graphic nudity and sex might be too much for many here), but its definitely worth a try.

Secret Diary Of A Call Girl Trailer
(Click Link: courtesy of Youtube/Showtime/ITV2)

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Okay, so I came in with a VERY open mind and LOW expectations for the horror-thriller THE STRANGERS, a 10 million dollar home invasion film that has just NOW gotten released after being on the shelf for nearly a year and a half over at Rogue Pictures and Intrepid Pictures.

The basic plot line: A yuppie couple couple staying in an isolated vacation home are terrorized by three unknown assailants. (courtesy of The plot is paper thin, yes--It is a horror film. It would be ridiculous to assume something on the magnitude of STRAW DOGS (1971-a classic home invasion-like horror-thriller from the 1970's starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George--points if anyone can tell me what controversial film she starred in which involved her having illicit relations with a black slave...:)).

But, so much could have been done. Honestly, more character development could have been added to at least make Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) somewhat likeable, hell, at least realistic in how they individually and respectively would have acted. I couldn't stand either one of them, and I just prayed they'd die earlier and violently so I could justify the $6 matinee price and the 90 minutes I lost watching the movie.

But, the cast does what they can with what they are given, with Tyler especially managing to be resilient--even if her character is written as ridiculously weak and idiotic. Tyler managed to wring some sympathy and moments of strength as a woman who is trying to figure out how survive the night, knowing that that is becoming bleaker and bleaker by the hour...

The masked assailants (Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, and Laura Margolis) were able to do so MUCH with little to no dialogue whatsoever. I credit all three of them with the ability to effectively convey murderous tension...without saying anything or little at all.

Scott Speedman: Eh, it was official back in his Felicity days that he's eye candy only, and not much else. His character was annoying and one note, and Speedman couldn't even achieve THAT level of banal mediocrity..of course, he'll be signing up for his next several million dollar plus role in his next project, so his acting skills really AREN'T going to be looked at much..but, his acting leaves a LOT to be desired....PERIOD.

The movie's biggest fault is with Bryan Bertino, the writer-director of this film. This is is first movie, and it shows. The first hour is filled with tension and the right amount of atmospheric aura needed for a film like this. He gets points for not showing violence on screen, and his sound man should SO get awards for utilizing the sound of the film (creaky floorboards, records skipping, etc.) for highest levels of fright and tension.

However, the writing was horrid and leaves a lot to be desired. Bertino could have done so MUCH more with 10 million dollars than the dreck he put out this weekend. Rogue Pictures and Intrepid Pictures should really slap the shit out of their development people who green lighted this picture.

Clearly, the audience knows this isn't going to be a true scare fest, because we're told at the beginning of the film that this is INSPIRED by true events....OK. Great...thanks for killing what little chance we as the audience had for suspension of belief which would have lead to a genuinely authentic horror-thriller that should have been given to us if the script was stronger....

Also, I won't even talk about the implausibility factor (Kristen is running around in the dark with NO SHOES ON? GIRL...the killers could have had bear traps all UP in the mix, and you're running everywhere, giving us Drew Barrymore with contralto theatrics before the credits in SCREAM?!?!?!?!?!?!..That's what you get for not having a flashlight and running right into a ditch and fucking your foot UP! I laughed when you fell, and I laughed when you slithered/crawled, booty all pooched up in the air giving us human snake like shenanigans...Those scenes were SO for the horned out straight boys in the audience)

Common sense would have been very KEY to making this film decent. I'm sure Bryan Bertino will do a better job on his next film...just about as sure as I am that John McCain is the BEST choice for President..NOT.

This is strictly a film you should see on HBO Demand..after being blown OUT on some good weed, two Large Supreme Pizza Hut pies, with buffalo chicken tenders, bread sticks and marinara sauce, which you wash down with $5 jug wine, cheap homemade gin and tonics, and old-school least then you can pantomime what SHOULD have been a scary horror-thriller and get all "scared" when your cracked out friend with the lazy eye starts chasing everyone around the living room with a knife wearing a white latex rubber mask with his tongue caught on the mouth zipper because that amount of inspiration and "realness" would have been WAY better than what I saw earlier today.

If you want to see how home invasion horror-thrillers are done PROPERLY, get thee to Netflix and rent:


Ils-Them (2006): A sublimely scary and enjoyable horror-thriller flick that is about home invasion but is WELL DONE with the violence and atmospheric tension. See it in French, because I am sure Fox Searchlight or some "indie" arm of one of the major studios will remake this and place the hot It Boy and It Girl of the moment in the main roles..or something awfully hideous to that regard.

Expect the obligatory Sex And The City movie review (you know damn well I'm going to comment on Jennifer "I can't act my way out of a paper bag and got my Oscar for giving histronics worse than Kathleen Battle before she was fired from the Metropolitan Opera in the 1990s and still got upstaged by Beyonce's weave and ass" Hudson's part as Carrie's assistant, i.e. the fill in black girl role), coming up this week...

as well as reviews of:

The Visitor (before it ends it run here)
Kung Fu Panda (WHAT? I loves the cliched, wire fu animated movies!)
The Happening (cause I love Zooey Deschanel--question, can anyone verify that she's the voice we hear in THE STRANGERS? It's not Gemma Ward at all...I'll have to check on that one)
engaging and worthwhile indie films....

Atmosphere and Tension: B+
Writing: C-/NE
Acting: B (for Liv Tyler and the killers)/NE for Scott Speedman
Overall Final Grade: C+

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Josh Brolin as W (Coming October 2008)

Here is a pic of Josh Brolin as George Dubya Bush, Oliver Stone's upcoming biopic on the nation's most controversial (and problematic) president to have ever lived...

I'm curious to see what Stone does with this. Let's face it--when he's on, Stone is ON: Platoon, Wall Street, Natural Born Killers. But, when he's off---he puts out ALEXANDER. Even with the added "gay" content in the director's dvd cut, the film still sucked of rusted, fermented, and centuries old, hairy baboon balls....

And, Stone is a hardcore, expecting a balanced and objective portrait of Dubya isn't going to work. But, the cast he assembled for this is no short of amazing, and I am expecting to see some powerful, and Oscar winnning performances coming the Academy Awards in 2009.

W will be in theatres 17 October 2008 (!!!!!). It's shooting now in Shrevport, Louisiana (!!!!!)

At this moment, no word has come on the casting of the pivotal Bush Administration Cabinet Member Dick "I 'Accidentally' Shoot People With Birdshot Pellets and Aid in the Outing of Intel-Giving, Top Notch Covert CIA Agents named Valerie Plame Because I Hate Her Husband Named Joseph C. Wilson IV" Cheney...

Then Again, would YOU want to play the most reviled man in U.S. to Dubya? Talk Amongst Yourselves...

Josh Brolin ... George W. Bush

Elizabeth Banks ... Laura Bush

Ioan Gruffudd ... Tony Blair

Thandie Newton ... Condoleezza Rice
Rob Corddry ... Ari Fleischer

Scott Glenn ... Donald Rumsfeld

Ellen Burstyn ... Barbara Bush

James Cromwell ... George Herbert Walker Bush

Jeffrey Wright ... General Colin Powell

Noah Wyle ... Don Evans (rumored)
Toby Jones ... Karl Rove

Michael Gaston ... General Tommy Franks

Paul Rae ... Kent Hance

James Martin Kelly ... NSC Official

Wes Chatham ... Jimmy Benedict

Jennifer Sipes ... Susie Evans

I'm Back...

Sorry for the long absence...

To be honest, I haven't been jazzed about films lately...there's nothing playing now that makes me want to dish out several dollars to see it...

So, i'll still be posting here but, it will be for films that interest me or I've been curious about...

But, do expect reviews of these films for May and June 2008:

Prince Caspian (May 2008)
Iron Man (May 2008)
Savage Grace ( May 2008)
The Strangers (May 2008)
The Happening (June 2008)

Of course, indie films will be profiled here also...and DVD reviews also (I am determined to sit through David Lynch's Inland Empire and accurately review the ridiculous visual narrative assault--that was FUCKING BRILLIANT--one of the most underrated and little seen films of 2006. LAURA DERN WAS ROBBED OF AN OSCAR!!!!! GRRRRRRRR!!!! :( )

Also, I have my own life and writing is a major part of it so i haven't been watching much films, but have been creating my own....

But, do come back often...There will be reviews of summer films coming out this year here....just dont expect one or two a week...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Tropic Thunder is an upcoming 2008 action comedy film directed by Ben Stiller and starring Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. as a group of actors filming a Vietnam War movie when their fed-up director and writer decide to dump them in the middle of a real war. It is due 15 August 2008.

I don't know. This should be an interesting movie. It's written by Ben Stiller (Zoolander, among other films) and Justin Theroux (1/3 of the talented actors {Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring being the other two stars in the film} in the UNDERRATED and UNDERWATCHED David Lynch surrealistic and intense classic film Mulholland Drive (2001)). I know the laughs and satire will be there--though not always consistent throughout the movie.

However, Robert Downey Jr. in blackface? I don't care how satirical people may think that is, but in 2008 and Hollywood is still giving us Step and Fetchit/Amos and Andy faux racial hijinks?

Tropic Thunder: satire skewering stereotypes in Hollywood or mishandled and ridiculous caricatures of Blackface? We'll find out when it comes out in August.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Doomsday (2008)

The third film from Neil Marshall, director of the under-rated DOG SOLDIERS (2002) and the unexpected success hit THE DESCENT (2005), he returns with this messy homage to such sci-fi/horror/fantasy films like THE ROAD WARRIOR, ALIEN, and MAD MAX.

Basically, the film is about Eden Sinclair, a flinty female cop (RHONA MITRA) who is tasked to go in and find the human survivors of a virus that decimated most of Scotland in 2008 and has now crossed the border into LONDON, 25 years later (2033). The virus renders those who are infected as undead zombies (DAMN, can we get off the undead zombie virus as a plot point. Um, HI, Danny Boyle wore this OUT in 28 Days Later (2003), and executive produced the solid, critically ravaged, yet profound 28 Weeks Later (2007). Why are folks copying? And copying BADLY?) and London government higher ups believe that the blood of these human survivors is the key to saving London.

Nothing to say about the film: The entire cast was wasted, the writing was poor, and the attempts at a self-indulgent, "edgy" sci-fi update of such classic sci-fi films fell FLAT.

Memo to Neil Marshall: regroup, and give us unrestrained brilliance in sci-fi/horror with the sequel to THE DESCENT you are executive producing (woo hoo! Allegedly, this one will start six weeks after the end of the first film and Sarah will be forced to go BACK to the caves to investigate the species of creatures she narrowly escaped from. The new cavers will find the creatures--and an unexpected survivor from the first film. WOO HOO! JUNO is coming back to kick Sarah's ASS for leaving her to die! LOVE THIS STORYLINE IF IT HAPPENS!) and the Hugh Jackman project (supposedly) post Wolverine called DRIVE (2009/2010)

Grade: C-/NE

STOP-LOSS (2008)

Stop-loss, in the United States military, is the involuntary extension of a service member's enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond the normal end term of service (ETS) or the ceasing of a permanent change of station (PCS) move for a member still in military service.

This is basically the idea behind STOP-LOSS, the new movie out this weekend by Kimberly Peirce, the director of Boys Don't Cry (2000). In the film, Ryan Phillippe is Brandon King, a decorated Iraq war hero and Sargeant who makes a celebrated return to his hometown from his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Brandon assumes he is "getting out" and is looking forward to life as a civilian. However, as all people know, war veterans have extreme difficulty returning to "regular" life. Brandon has nightmares about a routine mission of finding insurgents in an Iraqi turning foul as members of his squad are killed or badly injured while in the line of duty; Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) digs ditches in his front yard every night, fighting imaginary insurgents, and hasn't yet realized that he's back at home in Texas. Brandon and his fellow war buddies slowly adjust to life at home.

Yet, that ends when Brandon is sent back to Iraq for a third tour of duty and is "stop-lossed"--essentially sent back to the war without his consent. Rather than go back, Brandon attempts to find a way to fight the stop-loss rule and takes a determined trip to Washington, DC to get help from the Texas Senator (Josef Sommer, criminally under-used here) who offered to give him anything he needed now that he is at home. The film chronicles a three day journey Brandon takes with Michelle (Abbie Cornish), Steve's girlfriend and Brandon's best friend, to find a way to get out of this policy and somehow manage to live his life.

Stop-Loss fictionalizes a policy most Americans dont know anything about, yet it is a policy that has affected the lives of over 80,000 soliders since the war began over six years ago. It is Peirce's details and determination to show the murky ambiguity this policy has for soliders fighting in the war is very evident in the film.

Kimberly Peirce is in top form, as usual. The film is well written and shot. The opening scenes of Brandon's last tour of duty in Iraq are powerful, graphic, and cinematically beautiful. You can't help but feel the tension the soliders are experiencing when tracking the insurgents who shoot at them during a routine checkpoint. Also, Peirce captures the small town feel of America in Texas, where the majority of the movie was shot.

However, the performances were uneven and all over the place and took away from the film as a whole. I will say that I am not a fan of Ryan Phillippe's: save for some exceptional work in Crash (2004), Gosford Park (2001), and Breach (2007), he hasn't shown a lot of range in his choices of film roles. However, he is spot on as Brandon King. Phillippe nails the anger and confusion King has in trying to do the "right thing" for himself. Phillippe managed to show much depth and complexity as the main character. Also, relative Australian newcomer Abbie Cornish (Candy, Sommersault, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age) is one of the few real standouts here. As Michelle, she conveys the kind of quiet strength and power one would have as a young woman who is holding down the fort, waiting for her man to come back from war, knowing full well she will never have her husband because he is married to the Army. Cornish gives a restrained, yet full-bodied performance--one that really should be remembered come awards season.

Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, who has become quite the adult actor these days, gives an equally award worthy turn as Tommy Burgess, a fellow war veteran in Brandon's squad who never fully recovers from life in Iraq. His downward spiral is quick, and the viewer is left watching this ticking time-bomb of a person eventually explode. As always, Leavitt gives a great performance.

The rest of the cast: Rob Brown, Ciaran Hinds, Victor Rasuk, Mamie Gummer, Linda Emond, etc. all give fine, supporting performances.

Unfortunately, the one dark spot on this film was Channing Tatum as Steve Shriver. Woefully miscast, he was wildly uneven the entire film. It was hard for me to fully invest and believe that he was this man who was blindly devoted to being a solider. When he had clear moments of dramatic heft (the funeral scene near the end of the film), I found myself laughing at his attempts to bring forth the emotions necessary. I don't know if he hasn't had chances to flex some dramatic chops or if he can't fully commit in his performances, but he came off as ridiculously wooden and flat. It is a shame, because in the hands of someone more experienced (ala Colin Farrell, etc.), that role could have been great. But, I am sure with his upcoming roles in GI JOE (2009), The Stanford Prison Experiment (2008 TBD), Fighting (2008/TBA), Tatum will get the chance to flex. Sure he will.

Overall, STOP-LOSS is a very good film that will hopefully encourage people to do more research about this murky policy and hopefully have a better understanding of what our soliders face when coming from Iraq.


Monday, February 11, 2008

The 25 Most Important Films On Race?

I have to admit, this is a thorough list. But, I feel like there were some omissions:

Julie Dash Daughters of The Dust (1991)
Haile Gerima's Sankofa (1993)
Spike Lee's Malcolm X (they included Do The Right Thing and Bamboozled,but should have included this)
John Sayles Brother From Another Planet (sorry, but this film SHOULD be included for it's very direct and on point handling of race)

I wonder what their criteria was, or should there have been a criteria at all?

But, I am happy CRASH (2005) was not on the list.

Check the article out: 25 Most Important Films On Race

Any thoughts?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly....

Okay, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to see ALL of these movies, but I can tell you which ones I have seen though: No Country For Old Men, Juno, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, A Mighty Heart, Eastern Promises (have it from Netflix..will be watching it this weekend), Hairspray, Gone Baby Gone, Away From Her (taught my 12th graders the Alice Munro short story this film was adapted from and its in my netflix queue), The Assassination of Jesse James, 3:10 To Yuma, and La Vie En Rose (i need to rewatch it though). I am planning to catch a few others before the end of the month, and Persepolis (which isn't on this list), is playign in theatres out here in Pittsburgh.

Any other films on the list you think I should check out on DVD? Let me know....

The 25 Movies You Need To See Before Oscar Night

Check out nominated films like ''Juno,'' ''No Country for Old Men,'' and ''Atonement''

(Ranked in order of their likelihood to be nominated)

1. No Country for Old Men

2. Atonement

3. Juno

4. Michael Clayton

5. There Will Be Blood

6. Into the Wild

7. American Gangster

8. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

9. Sweeney Todd

10. Charlie Wilson's War

11. The Kite Runner

12. Away From Her

13. Eastern Promises

14. La Vie en Rose

15. I'm Not There

16. A Mighty Heart

17. Gone Baby Gone

18. The Assassination of Jesse James...

19. Lars and the Real Girl

20. Hairspray

21. 3:10 to Yuma

22. The Savages

23. Enchanted

24. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

25. Ratatouille

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oscar Nomination Picks

Best Picture:
There Will Be Blood 5
Juno 4
No Country For Old Men 3
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly 2
American Gangster 1

Best Director
Joel & Ethan Coen No Country For Old Men 5
Ivan Reitman 4
Paul Thomas Anderson There Will Be Blood 3
Julian Schnabel The Diving Bell And The Butterfly 2
Sarah Polley Away From Her 1

Best Actress
Julie Christie Away From Her 5
Ellen Page Juno 4
Marion Cotillard La Vie En Rose 3
Angelina Jolie A Mighty Heart 2
Jodie Foster The Brave One 1
Nicole Kidman Margot At The Wedding 1*

Best Actor
Daniel Day Lewis There Will Be Blood 5
Josh Brolin No Country For Old Men 4
George Clooney Michael Clayton 3
Ryan Gosling Lars and The Real Girl 2
Phillip Seymour Hoffman Before The Devil Knows Your Dead 1*
Denzel Washington American Gangster 1

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett I'm Not There 5
Amy Ryan Gone Baby Gone 4
Tilda Swinton Michael Clayton 3
Jennifer Jason Leigh Margot At The Wedding 2
Jennifer Garner Juno 1*
Ruby Dee American Gangster 1

Best Supporting Actor
Javier Bardem No Country For Old Men 5
Casey Affleck The Assassination of Jesse James 4
Tommy Lee Jones No Country For Old Men 3
Philip Seymour Hoffman Charlie Wilson's War 2
Ethan Hawke Before The Devil Knows Your Dead 1
JK Simmons Juno 1*

Best Adapted Screenplay
No Country For Old Men 5
There Will Be Blood 4
Atonement 3
Away From Her 2
Sweeney Todd 1

Best Original Screenplay
Juno 5
I'm Not There 4
Michael Clayton 3
Lars And The Real Girl 2
The Savages 1
Margot At The Wedding 1*

Here are my picks. The ones with stars next to them are dark horse picks...the nominations are in several hours, and these performances and films could slip in and take a spot given their buzz or star power , i.e. Margot At The Wedding was savaged by critics, but Kidman gave a ridicilously on point, severely comic turn as Margot. And, Noam Baumbach wrote and directed a, for the most part, a very good film (I loved the movie, even if it disturbed me in some places)

Let's see how this plays out in the morning. Will Ellen Page best Julie Christie at the awards? Will Jennifer Garner slip in as a Dark Horse candidate?

Will the Coen Brothers FINALLY get their just due with awards for adapted screenplay, best picture, and best director?

Will Diablo Cody bring home the gold for Juno in the best original screenplay category?

Will the awards even HAPPEN??? What do you think?

Post your comments here

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An Advance Screening: CLOVERFIELD (01-18-08)

Okay, so the hype on this film has been deafening. And, can you blame it? It was executive produced by J.J. Abrams (ALIAS, LOST, FELICITY, MI:3) and his BAD ROBOT PRODUCTIONS. The youtube,, etc sites as well as the leaked footage and various trailers/faux trailers would lead up to probably one of the most intense and mind-boggling films of the year, right?

NOT...JJ is 0 for 3 with CLOVERFIELD/1-18-08 in terms of product he's produced or directed that was worth the hype and turned out to fall VERY SHORT of expectations--both audience and not.

The basic premise of the story is this: Five New Yorkers throw their friend a going away party the night a monster the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city. Told from the point of view of a video camera, the film is a document of their attempt to survive the most surreal, horrifying event of their lives.

So, I walked in with no expectations. I knew the cast was comprised of virtual unknowns (with Lizzy Caplan from CBS' cancelled The Class and 04's Mean Girls as Janice Ian being the most known), which is a great plus. I do give JJ credit for finding talented actors to be in any of the projects he directs, writes or produces (Jennifer Garner from ALIAS, Kerri Russell from Felicity, etc.) And, I knew that SOMETHING was being shown in the movie.

But, I wasn't expecting the film to be a complete and utter disappointment. I guessed that the "something" that was part of the hype was a monster. But, I wasn't expecting it to be a cracked out Godzilla imitation. Yes, there were some clear homages to Godzilla and some of the more classic sci-fi films of recent note: One of the main characters, Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David, is going to Japan for a job. Where did the original Godzilla take place? Japan. T.J. Miller plays Hud, the wisecracking and occasionally spineless "fifth wheel" that grows a pair of balls while documenting the carnage. Hud is a shortened form of HUDSON, the wisecracking, somewhat spineless, and ultimately bad-ass character Will Paxton played in James Cameron's classic, ALIENS (1986), and so on and so forth.

Don't get wrong...I LOVE the pop culture references and winks. But, don't rely on those at the EXPENSE of story.

There was no explanation of where the monster came from: Was it the result of a bad government experiment gone wrong? The result of centuries of pollution and waste being dumped into the East and Hudson River? Was the monster an alien from another planet and are there more coming? How was it able to birth "babies"? Was it male? female? both? neither?

I'm not saying give me an act explaining all of this. A simple shot of someone dumping radioactive waste and pollution into the river and it hitting some organism would have sufficed...It would have made my experience suspending disbelief and enjoying the film even more. This wasn't done, and I just couldn't feel for the story or the characters.

The characters were another issue. I will give JJ and his team this: They know how to write for women. Or, at least female characters that aren't as stereotypical as they normally are in sci-fi/horror films. Marlena (Caplan), Lily (Jessica Lucas, a Canadian actress who was added to the cast of C.S.I. as Ronnie Lake, a possible replacement for Sara Sidle, for the fans of the show), and Beth (Odette Yustman, currently a cast member of ABC's October Road) were all very strong women who, given the circumstances, performed and reacted very realistically. All three were wary of the choices made by the other friends in the film, and all three show serious strengths and guts when needed (Marlena cracking the baby monsters with a pipe in the subway tunnels--ONE-handed--STILL giving us "rising model actress with Lower East Side cred circa 2000 and beyond and WORKING a pair of thigh high wedges..FIERCE, I tell you! FIERCE! :); Lily also kicking ass in the subway and bravely (though irresponsibly) taking the lead to Beth's apartment to find her; Beth bravely handling what happened to her arm at her apartment when the others came to get her) I mean, the women in the film were great!

The men, not so much. I just felt that Hud, Rob, and Jason were annoying as hell. There's a monster attacking Manhattan what would possess you to a) crawl UP the bridge to get a better look JUST as the monster destroys a section of the bridge with YOU on it (Jason Hawkins, played by Mike Vogel), b) decide to blindly run to save the girl who broke UP with you and never loved you in the first place and walk right INTO the path of the monster (Rob Hawkins), c) decide to walk into a subway tunnel (the 6 train) with NO LIGHTS thinking the monsters who were attacking the city outside WOULDN'T be in the tunnel (Rob, Hud, Lily, and Marlena), or, my favorite, d) walk right into the path of the monster..and FILM it as it swoops down to EAT you for breakfast (Hud). I just felt that the decisions the characters made in the film could have SO been avoided. I get that they were there to prolong the action. But, they were boneheaded decisions. And, I just couldn't feel or care enough to be involved in these people's lives. So little was given about them that the viewer kinda wanted them to be eviscerated by the monster JUST so the movie would be better...

Overall, I wasn't impressed at all. Abrams didn't write this, but I just felt like so MUCH of what could have made this an intriguing film was either left on the cutting room floor or was deleted from the shooting script in order to focus more on the monster and the gore...

And, it was gory...Marlena's death was particularly gory (I mean, did you HAVE to make her EXPLODE from being bitten by the baby monsters? Couldn't she have gone out in a better way?), the carnage at the quarantine center was nasty, and the monster itself was very vile and scary in some places.

But. the inconsistences (If Marlena succumbed to the monster bites, why didn't the others, particularly Hud, who appeared to be bitten in the crotch of all places (OOOH, HOW YOU DOIN? ALL RIIGHT?) Like I didn't see THAT ONE! A very nice and OBVIOUS way of suggesting that Hud was TOTALLY emasculated in the face of a powerful woman he liked (Marlena) were just too much in a film that was only 90 minutes long.

I am probably in the minority, but I did not like this film at all. It was a very bad attempt at trying to update the monster flick and make it "edgy" with the shaky hand-held camera work, the monster theatrics, etc. Unfortunately, what was missing was fully fleshed out characters and a realistic story in a sci-fi/horror vein. CLOVERFIELD wasn't it.

For a better monster film, rent the Korean sci-fi/horror/thriller/comedy/drama THE HOST. This movie had many of the things Cloverfield didn't and it WORKED given that it covered issues as varied as race, class, the role of family, environmentalism, language barriers, pop culture.

Sidenote: Whoever did the special effects for the monster and did the set design for the film should get PLENTY of awards for the 2008 Oscars. On a budget of 30 million dollars, they sure as hell made a VERY on point and realistic Lower East Side (most of the film was filmed in studios in LA, but parts of it were done in New York City). Really...they should be.


Happy Belated New Year!

Sorry I have been away for so long. So much has been happening for me that I haven't had time to post lately...

But, I have been watching LOTS of films. So, expect a MAJOR update starting with the ridiculously overhyped CLOVERFIELD going up soon. And, expect reviews of these films to come up soon after:

I AM LEGEND (2007)
JUNO (2007)

Plus, a HOST of dvd reviews...of course, there will be coverage on the oscars..though who knows since the writer's strike is still going on...

Miss you all!