Monday, August 30, 2010

The Summer Movie Awards

So this past weekend was the last of the Summer Movie Season. Another Summer of movies has come and gone, and it was a pretty dry one at that. Many flops, only a small handful of genuine hits, and more disappointments than surprises. Regardless, there is enough worthy of reflection. Welcome to the Summer Movie Awards, where I hand out honors to the movies of the Summer. What was the Best Movie of the Summer? The Biggest Surprise? The Biggest Disappointment? Find out below as the Unicellular Review's First Annual Summer Movie Awards gets started:

Biggest Surprise of the Summer: The A-Team
A movie that delivered all of the explosive thrills I want out of the Summer Movie Season with a more complex story than I ever thought there'd be. The characters were lovable, the story well told and thrilling to the very last frame, and the comedy was naturally laced within the fabric of the movie. Not to mention, all of the action. What can I say, "I love it when a plan comes together."
Runner-Up: The Karate Kid

Biggest Disappointment of the Summer: Inception
Now, I do not want this to be misinterpreted as me hating Inception, I actually liked it, but I didn't love it. As a fan of Christopher Nolan, it actually pains me not to gush about this movie like I have done with his previous works, but the bottom line is that the movie is about dreams and the world of dreams within dreams, and so much was left untouched. I mean, they simply threw away the concepts of dream manipulation, which as a movie about creating an idea in someone's head, where was it? More could have been done with it I felt, but it still managed to deliver the action, regardless to my feelings on the story.
Runner-Up: Iron Man 2

Best Movie of the Summer: Toy Story 3
I don't think this one comes as much of a surprise. As a kid who grew up with Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the Toy Story gang, this third and final installment in the storied franchise was such a befitting farewell to my own childhood, that I can't see how it could be any better. Toy Story 3 is simply a movie about growing up, leaving behind the comforts of home, and embracing the changes of adulthood. While that is Andy's through line in the story, the toys themselves find themselves on similar journeys, contemplating their own futures post-Andy. This was an exceptionally deep movie, plunging to great emotional depths, but it was also an awful lot of fun, being one of the most gut-busting, side-splitting movies I think I've seen in the longest of time. It's kinda cliched, but Pixar really is one of the best currently out there.
Runners-Up: The A-Team, The Karate Kid

So that's that. A very scant Summer for movies, but a Summer that wielded its own few surprises in packages I was not expecting. But ultimately, Summer 2010 was not one for the history books, but that's why they say, there's always next year.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thinking of the Emmys

So I've learned from experience, I am not good at predicting the Emmys. I have a fairly good Oscar track record, but the Emmys are a different ballgame, partly cause I do not follow the world of television as obsessively as the world of movies. Regardless, I love awards shows, and a few of my favorite TV Shows are up for some big awards, so I'll be watching tonight on NBC. But I will refrain from doing any formal predictions, cause it's sorta pointless, I'll get half of 'em wrong anyways. But I do wanna talk bout what I want to win, what if I had to put money on it will have a strong presence at the show, and other miscellaneous thoughts about the Emmys.

First and foremost, I'm seeing this years' Emmys as a last hoozah for LOST fans. Season 6 received multiple nominations with Matthew Fox up for Best Actor and the show up for Best Drama. Obviously I want it to win, but will it? Probably not, it's nomination is the farewell to the show in-and-of itself. If you asked me which shows will win the most tonight, it will be True Blood and Glee, but Mad Men could be True Blood's spoiler if not enough of the older Academy members like near pornographic vampires. 30 Rock may have run its awards course, but I see no way in which it will usurp Glee in the Comedy categories tonight. Personally I'm pulling for The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien to win the Best Variety category, but I don't think it will, regardless, it's hilarious that neither The Jay Leno Show nor The Tonight Show With Jay Leno are nominated. As for Emmy host Jimmy Fallon, I have never watched his tenure on Late Night, he could be really funny, I don't know, but he has some big shoes to fill after Neal Patrcik Harris doing so well last year.

So that's that. The Emmys are on NBC tonight, starting at 8/7 central.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oscar's Honors and Potential Shake-Ups

Some Oscar news as of late. The list of this upcoming year's recipients of the Honorary Academy Awards has been announced. The three are: Eli Wallach, Francis Ford Coppola, and Jean Luc Godard.

Wallach did not surprise me at all, he is the typical kind of actor that receives these sort of awards. An actor that has never won an Oscar, but an actor who is highly respected by his peers as one of the finest character actors the cinema has ever seen. Where as I'm not really feeling as if Coppola fits into the mold of who the Academy tends to honor with these awards, the guy is a legend in the entertainment biz, and many of his movies are still cultural milestones to this day. So I guess this award will sit next to his other Oscars. As for the last one, it was sort of surprising, but not all that baffling. French director Jean Luc Godard was one of the guiding hands of the French New Wave, and I bet if you ask most film school students who their favorite director is, they'd say him. While I've never been a Godard fan, he is a highly respected director in and out of the industry. In a way his award win is akin to when Akira Kurosawa won the honorary Oscar. Like Kurosawa, Godard is foreign and has never won an Oscar, though most would say he probably should have.

As for other Oscar news, there is a potential shakeup coming to the 2013 Academy Awards ceremony. Almost every year I've watched the Oscars, they have fallen on Sunday night, and I like that. Sunday is always a day of rest around my house,where I usually have nothing going on on Sunday nights, and so it's always good to sit back, relax, and just watch the Oscars. Word is though that the NFL is wanting to add two more games to their regular season schedules. What this would do is delay the Super Bowl two more weeks, which means that the Oscars and the Super Bowl would both collide on the same Sunday. And if that happens, rather than delaying the Oscars till March, the buzz is they'll move it to the Monday night after the Super Bowl.

Supposedly the Oscars were held on Monday nights all up until 12 years ago, but seeing as how I eight then, I didn't care. Personally, I hate the idea of the Oscars having to leave their common perch for the NFL. Sunday night is a way better night than Monday for most. If it's on Monday night, the probability of people possibly missing the ceremony is so much higher. It's more probable they'll have class, work, or some other commitment that they can't get out of. But it just really frustrates me that the NFL doesn't seem to care, all they see is the money that adding two more games a season will create in ticket sales and air time. Stupid entertainment politics could ruin a good Oscar tradition for me.

New "Tron Legacy" Poster

With so many movies having disappointed me this year, it's hard to not be a touch skeptical bout all of one's other highly anticipated movies, but I'm really hoping Tron Legacy delivers. This new international poster from Hungary, showcases one of the evil computer programs, ironically named Sirens (I'm guessing for good reason), but what I'm more astounded by is the design of this movie. The art direction just looks stunning from all the trailers, and this city in the backdrop is so colorful, and architecturally beautiful, it could give any anime metropolis a run for its money.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"127 Hours" Trailer

Director Danny Boyle is sorta under the microscope after his Oscar win for Slumdog Millionaire. Being honest, Boyle's trademark style and storytelling has never been quite what the traditional movie pundits would honor, but Slumdog was the first time his style and storytelling met Oscar-bait material with perfection. So there is an added bit of pressure on Boyle's new movie, 127 Hours. 127 Hours is the true story of mountain climber Aaron Ralston who chopped off his own arm after getting it pinned underneath a boulder for nearly five days, then scaling a fifty foot wall to get rescued. It looks like more of the same from Boyle, having a vibe similar to The Beach, 28 Days Later, or Sunshine. I love this side of Boyle, the more fun, kinetic, and carefree director. I'll just say it, I think Boyle revels in this man vs. nature kind of story, but I'm not sure it can deliver in the Oscar territory like Slumdog, but if you love Boyle you don't care about the awards or box office. So here's the trailer to see if he delivers once more:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Porco Rosso" Returns?

Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favorite directors, and him and the animators of Studio Ghibli always work in such secrecy it's hard to get much word about their upcoming projects till they finally come out, but thanks to a recent interview in Cut magazine, it seems that Miyazaki's next movie will be a direct sequel to his 1992 movie about a fighter pilot cursed to look like a pig, Porco Rosso.

The sequel, tentatively titled Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie, is a rarity for the folks at Ghibli. Only one direct sequel has ever been made to a Ghibli movie, and that was the Miyazaki short, Mei and the Kittenbus, that was a sequel to My Neighbor Totoro. While The Cat Returns was a loose sequel to Whisper of the Heart, the only thing the two movies shared was the supporting character of the Baron. There is no confirmation yet whether this is a short or a feature from Miyazaki, but the general assumption is that this will be another full blown feature length Porco Rosso adventure. Word from Miyazaki is that he wanted to make a movie about a guy after making so many movies with female protagonists. The setting will be the Spanish Civil War, which seems to fall into place shortly after the first Porco Rosso concluded.

While I love Miyazaki, Porco Rosso is my least favorite of his movies, and if I was to be honest, I would much rather see a feature length sequel to My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, or even a sequel to Castle in the Sky. His epic adventure Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind had volumes upon volumes of stories published in Manga form, that Miyazaki wrote himself, that went way beyond the initial movie. I'd love to see some of those Nausicaa manga adapted more so than a sequel to Porco Rosso, but I think that perhaps Porco Rosso and its characters just hold a special place in Miyazaki's heart that none of us can understand, and if this is what Miyazaki wants to do, I'll see it when it comes stateside.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A "Fair Game"

One movie that came out of Cannes, Fair Game, not only seemed to have possible awards potential, but box office potential. The trailer for Fair Game hit the internet today, gearing up its marketing campaign for its release in the thick of awards season. The movie is about a CIA Agent blacklisted by the people who sign her paychecks and the media blitz that ensues deriding her of her secret identity. It actually looks extremely intriguing and might have some actual meat to the bone for actress Naomi Watts (this kind of seems to just be a phone in for Sean Penn). While I think this movie does have awards potential, anything beyond Watts for a potential Best Actress nod may be wishful thinking, but if the US critics accept the movie better than the foreign critics of Cannes (which is very often what does happen with more populist fare), then possibly the movie itself. Regardless, this looks very entertaining:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Brandon Routh in the "Dead of Night"

I was one of the few that actually liked Bryan Singer's Superman Returns and the primary reason for that was actor Brandon Routh's portrayal as the Man of Steel. He was an unknown, picked from obscurity to play one of the all-time great superheroes in a movie that many initially derided upon its release. Even to haters of Superman Returns, Routh's portrayal was considered spot-on, and since then though he has had trouble finding big mainstream work, being relegated mostly to bit parts in stuff like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World or indies, when he's already proven he can lead a big FX driven picture. His next movie, Dead of Night, is an adaptation of the classic Dylan Dog comic book from Italy. The premise of a supernatural private eye, Dog (Routh), hunting down vampires and zombies is cool and seems to have market potential, but alas after seeing the first trailer the movie just looks kind of cheesy, like a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode and not a movie. Make your own decision, but I wish someone would throw a talented actor like Routh a bone, cause he's deserving. Check out the trailer for Dead of Night:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Civil War Disappointment

It's always tough whenever comic books try these big story arcs that span their entire pantheon of heroes to try and boost sales, and Marvel's "Civil War" was one of those events a few years back. I've never been a big fan of the superhero crossover anyways, I just like the heroes to be in their own books and not to mingle, which is a reason as to why I've never cared that much for stuff like "The Avengers" or the "Justice League". While I knew the outcome of "Civil War," I had not read it till recently, and upon finally reading it, my opinions on crossovers haven't changed, but I also thought that the ending to "Civil War" was horrendous.

I like superheroes with anonymous identities, having to protect their real identity from the wandering public eye, and I like superheroes who aren't afraid to break the law in order to do what is ultimately right. The way "Civil War" ended, with all superheroes pledging allegiance and becoming government soldiers, in essence, just really irked me. I was even more irked by Spider-man revealing his secret identity, though I knew that would happen going into it, but seeing it played out it just was stupid, ridiculous, and went against everything that Spider-man's character has ever stood for. Personally, I just wish comics would go back to the Silver Age simplicity of these things, emotional story arcs about the characters, not crazy sci-fi crap that makes no sense, not trying to make political statements like "Civil War," but just good ol' fashioned the hero's girl is kidnapped by the maniacal villain and the hero has to save the day.

Where are the story arcs like the Death of Gwen Stacy? Stories that didn't rely on completely ludicrous science fiction or fantasy and actually got to the emotional cores of the characters. Now, there are many in fandom that would love to see a "Civil War" movie, but I am firmly opposed after reading it, and it's made my trepidation for The Avengers even greater. Maybe time will change all these sentiments, but I'm not sure.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Movie Review: The Expendables

Was there any story? I very often sat there during The Expendables wondering if I missed something in the story, but I didn't. The story never felt connected, and it really seemed as if it was just there to give a video game like mission so we can see some explosions. Regardless as to the debate whether or not there is a real story, The Expendables is an hour-and-half thrill ride that sometimes has plot holes in the little bit of story that there is, but this tale of a group of mercenaries, hired by the CIA to assassinate a drug dealing ex-patriot and his puppet general, is too enjoyable to pass up.

Sylvester Stallone co-wrote and directed this romp that is filled with gore and immense amounts of blood splatter. Stallone headlines an impressive cast of action stars from Jason Statham to cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzeneger. As can be gathered, there is little acting in this movie, just a bunch of shoot-em-ups and beat-em-ups, save for one scene where Mickey Rourke (the names keep rolling) reminisces about how he lost his humanity when he let a woman kill herself. Regardless, the action sequences are brimming with so much adrenaline, it's hard to be fazed by the shortcomings of the story.

As a whole, The Expendables is a mindless action flick with very little depth and ripe with political incorrectness (seeing as how every Jet Li joke was about his height, etc.), but the action is so unique, terrific, and nonstop, it's impossible not to get a kick out of The Expendables.

I give The Expendables a C!

Friday, August 13, 2010

"Avatar" Re-Release

James Cameron's Avatar is being deemed a Special Edition and getting re-released in theaters August 27th in select theaters. The re-release will include 8 new minutes of never before seen footage and some of it can be seen in the official trailer for the re-release below. I'm excited for this, with the Summer movie season being so dry on actual quality, it will be good to relive a good movie on the big screen. Here's the trailer:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Certain Things Are "Unstoppable"

Tony Scott has never quite reached the dazzling heights of his brother, Academy Award-winner Ridley, but Tony has had his fair share of hits from Top Gun to Enemy of the State to pretty much any Denzel Washington action/thriller made in the last ten years. Honestly, I've always been indifferent to the collaborations between Denzel and Scott, but there is no denying that the two have talent, and Tony Scott manages to reaffirm time-and-time again why he is one of the kings of the action movie genre. The duos latest collaboration, Unstoppable, is scheduled for a November release and puts Denzel Washington up next Captain Kirk, Chris Pine, who stole the show in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek. I liked Pines work so much in Trek, I'm excited to see him doing some more action, but the story of an escaped train harboring explosive chemicals also carries various shades of the best action movies of all-time from Speed to Die Hard. This could be a fun and entertaining thriller, and with Pine sharing double-billing with Denzel, it could make this collaboration between Washington and Scott stand out more than their previous collaborations. Check out the trailer below:

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Way to Popularity

What is the key to success? That is a question that has plagued moviemakers for generations. How does one make a successful movie, and what makes that movie significant enough to have such success? I've thought about it, and I think I've come up with something of a satisfactory answer. Every movie that has ever found widespread, universal popularity, has never been a movie that followed the culture, but preceded it.

The movies that have had the highest levels of success are ones that tap into the culture zeitgeist and help create the culture of that generation rather than taking the definitions of that generation's culture and trying to make a movie about it. Sure, some movies may have made some money, but after leaving the theater no one remembers it later, that remembrance all comes down to whether it left a mark on the culture. A good movie that impacts the culture can change the way we talk, create inside jokes or cryptic sayings between one another, or it can even inspire us to do something that we wouldn't have thought of doing otherwise.

Think of stuff like The Breakfast Club, Pulp Fiction, even something like Star Wars. George Lucas' epic sent underdog messages of hope, not to mention the dialogue became quotable and everyone knew what you were talking about the moment you said, "May the Force be with you." The same can be said for The Dark Knight with, "Why so serious?" and Avatar with, "I see you." But I've also come to find out, as a moviemaker you can't consciously do this. It's something that has to develop naturally, and the mingled results of people who have tried to do so and didn't are splattered throughout movie history. Best way to have this potentially happen I've learned is just to try and be original, do something that is at your best attempts unique and unlike anything you've seen before. If it works, then you may have solved that mystery of tattooing the culture.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I'm Working on Something Big

I've completed a third draft for a script titled Coffee Shop, a movie that was in all actuality, the first idea I ever had for a movie. While this is the third draft, that is to say it is only the third complete draft, but probably the fiftieth draft if you count all the start-and-go attempts over the years. And I'll just repeat this, I'm working on something big. I don't wanna give too much away, but I'm excited about this. Sure, two more years of college, but who says I can't work on my first feature while in college? Maybe I'll start sooner, or later, but I just wanted to let ya'll know. It's something different for me, but all the same, it is me, it feels me, and it's the first script I've written that I think I can see myself in almost each and every character. It's still a fair ways off, a few drafts to follow, and some fine tuning, but... Just wish me luck and pray on this. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tarantino is Far From "Oblivion"

People love Quentin Tarantino. While I've never been his biggest fan, his next rumored project is a supposed reboot of the classic pulp radio hero, The Shadow, a more sinister Batman in essence that cloaked himself in the shadows and hunted gangsters. The Shadow last hit movie screens in the mid-90's with Alec Baldwin playing the titular character. It's long been known that a reboot of The Shadow was in the works at Fox, but Tarantino has supposedly been hired to co-write the movie with the belief that he'll be directing as well. The original Shadow from the '40s was fairly violent, dripping with pulp, and set in the world of gangsters. This is a perfect match of heroic adaptation for Tarantino, all assuming the rumor is true.

In other news, Disney has bought a pitch from Freshman director Joe Kosinski, who helmed Tron Legacy for the studios, which is riding great tidal waves of anticipation. Obviously Disney believes in Kosinski cause they're investing in his next movie, an adaptation of his own graphic novel he created called Oblivion. Oblivion tells a story, " set in post-apocalyptic Earth, where civilization lives above the clouds and scavengers illegally collect artifacts from the polluted and destroyed surface below. When one young scavenger discovers a crashed spacecraft planetside - and a beautiful women within he rejoices at the find. Little does he realize that his discovery will lead him to a journey filled with romance, adventure and unimaginable danger." That's the official description, and it's caught me, hook, line, and sinker. Kosinski is shaping up to be a fine talent, with me already dizzy with excitement for his debut feature, Tron Legacy, and Oblivion sounds just like my cup of tea. I'm extremely looking forward to both of Kosinski's features with Disney, and I'm gonna keep a close eye on his career as he seems to be shooting upward.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Adventures in "Gravity"

I really like Alfonso Cuaron as a director, his style is consistent and increasingly engrossing. The director of movies like Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Cuaron is one of the finer working today, and his latest movie in production, Gravity sounds like the kind of ambitious project that one expects from a director so technically minded as he is.

Gravity is a movie written by Cuaron and his brother Jonas and scribe Rodrigo Garcia. Not too much is known about the story other than majority of the movie is set in space, within zero gravity. It's described as a thriller about a woman who survived a disastrous space mission and follows her on her attempts to return to Earth and her daughter. The movie is gonna be a hybrid of CG animation and live-action, being called a 60-40 compromise by Cuaron. Cuaron, who is known for his drive for technical perfection in his movies and his use of long, fluid tracking shots, surely will push the CG to the limits, with rumors that the opening shot of the movie lasts as long as 20 minutes!

It's been known for a while that Robert Downey, Jr. would have a significant role in the movie, and it was originally to be made with Angelina Jolie in the lead role, but she dropped out some time ago. As the movie has now found a home at Warner Bros. and Cuaron seems to be moving forward to start filming by the end of this year to meet the 2012 release date, Jolie has been replaced by Scarlett Johansson. I've never been impressed by Johansson's acting, I can still be proved wrong, but if there's one thing I do value is Cuaron's abilities as a director, so I'm not too worried, while still scratching my head over her casting.

Regardless over any thoughts about the cast, I enjoy Cuaron as a director and I am more than excited to see another big budget movie that is not based upon any other property but written directly for the screen. Hopefully such ambition will yield fruitful results.