Friday, August 20, 2010

A restrospective. Ferrell.

If there ever was a way to explain The Other Guys- it'd be stupid funny. Then again that's what I think about most of Will Ferrell's comedies. Thin excuses for plot to let Ferrell rip it up with his own brand of physical comedy. Then again, the funniest scene in The Other Guys involves not Ferrell but Sam Jackson and The Rock as cocked up cops trying to jump over a roof and -supposedly- into a bush of trees. It's a rip roaringly funny scene that surprises and brings much needed humor to a hit and miss film. Ferrell has always been about hit and miss but at his best, the man can give his audience a hilariously dumbed down good time. Here's the best of his acting.


Zoolander (2001) ★★

As the evil Mugatu, he steals the show of this compulsively watchable but silly comedy starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. The Fashion industry is satirized as dim witted Zoolander (Stiller) pouts in every scene and freaks out at a Model Design school for the blind, thinking it is too small for children and rather for ants. Ferrell leads the way by ridiculing movie villains in his own unique and dopey eyed way, with a rather -umm- interestingly Poodle-esque hair do and Soul patch.



Old School (2003) ★★★

This is where Ferrell made everyone notice his talent for comedy. As Frank -The Tank- Richard, he made high art out of a married doofus with an unusual problem for streaking whenever under the influence of alcohol. Fraternities take center stage as he and his friends try to defeat an evil corrupt Dean who wants them and their antics out of his college. You can tell many of his Ferrell's were improvised and switched around in the last minute (a common occurrence in many of his films) & there's a natural feeling of comic relief to his work here. A movie that has gotten better with age and will surely give a chuckle or two to even the most stone cold of faces.



Elf (2003) ★★½

This is a great performance in an average movie. Here Ferrell decided to tackle an Elf sent out to New York City in order to find his true identity & his real parents. The movie starts off on a real high only to get bogged down by Christmas cliches in its last half hour or so. Here he finally became the superstar that would make him gain leading role status in some of Hollywood's biggest & brightest comedies. Elf was a money making bonanza that brought it all home for him. Best scene? Ferrell confronting a shopping mall Santa with both excitement and utter disappointment.



Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004) ★★★

Complete debauchery comes to fruition in this comedy about News teams. Ferrell plays an anchorman with a low tolerance for alcohol and a high tolerance for women. 70s Mustache included and featuring an all star comedy cast (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Frank Willard, Seth Rogan). Best scene (s)? The all star mash up and destructive battle royale of newscasters featuring some neat cameos by the Wilson's, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaugh & plenty of guts and gore. Predictable but oh so cool and awesome.


Kicking And Screaming (2005) ★★½

Just like the movies above, a barage of hit and miss jokes but who would want to miss watching Ferrell play a Soccer coaching nutjob to young elementary kids. Smoke a nice big one and laugh your ass off by just staring at Ferrell's face (small eyes + curly hair + round face =comic gold) In all seriousness, not much in the way of plot and filled with Sports movie cliches that kind of bog it down but a rather enjoyable mess.


The Wedding Crashers (2005) Movie: ★★½ Ferrell: ★★★★

Ok, I'm cheating a bit and of course he's in it for just 15 minutes but for those 15 minutes he literally makes this a worthwhile movie. As funeral crasher Chaz Reinhold, Ferrell lifts this comedy into the heavens and stamps his indelible mark on it as well. "Ma, The Meat Loaf" is a line that will forever be etched in my memory. I can't think of a funnier cameo in a very long time & truly think this is the very best thing he has done in his career. Best Scene (s)? Every one he's in.



Talladega Nights (2006) ★★★

THE most quoted Ferrell movie in my books. A satire on the speed car racing world, Talladega is like being front stage at a Lynyrd Skynyrd show with angel wings. John C Reilly and Ferrell shake it and bake it enough to show the audience they got some major chemistry going on here- so much so that they teamed up again 2 years later for Step Brothers. (See Below) Sacha Baron Cohen also contributes hilarity as a French Formula Un driver. This is known as Ferrell's best movie & -in my opinion- it kind of is.



Step Brothers (2008) ★★½

Coming off duds like Semi Pro and Blades of Glory (remember those?), Ferrell decided to tag team again with John C Reilly as enemy Step Brothers, to catch the glory days they had in Talladega Nights. There's not much in the way of plot and this was instead a showcase for Ferrell and Reilly's comedic and improvisational talents. lower tier Ferrell.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quick Note- Scott Pilgrim Vs The World



There is so much going on in every frame of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, that one viewing may not be enough to take everything in. Director Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead/ Hot Fuzz) has made one of the more visually stunning pictures I've seen so far this year. He fills every single frame of the movie with something eye popping or original. His movie is not for everybody and will please a certain crowd, but I couldn't help and enjoy its inventiveness & eye popping visuals. If you grew up with video games of the 80's, you will rejoice in the catchy one liners and visual gags that Wright has created here. If Mr Wright's movie may seem to be lacking emotional context all throughout its running time & feels ever so slight, its final scene embarks on the emotions that come within a relationship. Well worth checking out.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fall Movie Preview

Spill out your popcorn, Summer is almost over and Fall is upon us. Which means two things. One, The leaves are falling & two, The good movies are coming. If this was one of the limpest & most uninspiring summer movie seasons to date, The upcoming fall movie season looks to be delivering the goods we've been waiting for. I've picked the 14 movies that I believe have the best chance at all the year end awards. There will surely be surprises and disappointments but these are the ones that seem the finest from the outside looking in. For the next 4 months we will visit new worlds created by auteurs such as David Fincher, The Coen Brothers, Clint Eastwood, Danny Boyle, Mike Leigh, Sofia Coppola, Darren Aronofsky, David O Russell, Peter Weir, Terrence Malick & Julian Schnabel. Compare that to summer, when we only had Christopher Nolan and an Animated toy movie to save the day.


1) The American (September 1st)

Kicking off the Fall Movie season on September 1st is The American directed by Anton Corbijn (Control). George Clooney stars as an American assassin hiding out in an Italian countryside and falling for a local woman. Director Corbijn has said his film is "incredibly European", inspired by European cinema of the mid 70's. Clooney's sniper is isolated from all things American while waiting for his next hit. An all European cast completes the movie, leaving Clooney as the lone yankee wolf. Judging by the already released trailer, Corbijn has created a role that might just give Clooney another nomination come Oscar time.


2) The Social Network (October 1st)

If there's one movie that has the chance to go all the way it's David Fincher's The Social Network, inspired by Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg's rise to fame with close to a billion dollars of earnings to date. Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) doesn't flinch and make Zuckerberg look like an American hero, instead he focuses on the back stabbing & blackmailing that happened amongst his Harvard student friends & mentors. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Zuckerberg and is helped out by -gosh- Justin Timberlake in a youthful cast. Fincher's last movie -Benjamin Button- hit it big with Oscar but fizzled with critics, something tells me he's back on their side again with this one, especially considering Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) wrote the screenplay. This is going to be heavy, dramatic stuff- then again with Fincher, when isn't it?



3) Hereafter (October 22nd)

Clint Eastwood turned 80 this past summer, which is all the more astonishing when you realize all the great stuff he's made during the past decade (Mystic River, Gran Torino). He looks to continue his impressive streak with The New York Film Festival's closing night film, Hereafter, a supernatural mosaic of interlocking stories that centers around relationships, acting & death. Hollywood loves Clint and by loving him I mean they shower him with their finest awards. If Hereafter -starring Matt Damon & Bryce Dallas Howard- gets well received press and decent box office, it will surely bring Eastwood many more nominations to his -already- phenomenal career.



4) 127 Hours (November 5th)

Danny Boyle was already working on pre production for 127 Hours, when he won his Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire in early 2009. To say his new film is a complete 360 would be an understatement. Leaving the slums of India, Boyle pursues mountain climbing in Utah and decides to tell the true story of Aron Ralston. Ralston cut off his own arm in 2003, after having it stuck under a boulder in an isolated, mountainous cavern. Ralston -played by James Franco- spent 127 hours in a cavern, with no food or water at his disposal. In telling a true story of relentless courage & strength, Boyle might just get another film and directing nomination come January.


5) Fair Game (November 5th)

Fair Game debuted at Cannes in early may & brought back strong buzz to the States. Competing in the Official competition at la croisette, Doug Liman's movie is only getting stronger & stronger word of mouth as the months pass by until its release. The fact that it's based on a true story of political conspiracy helps its chances, so does the fact that Sean Penn stars as a New York Times Reporter and Naomi Watts as his wife and covert CIA agent. Watts gets exposed by the White House administration because of a WMD article posted by her husband. This has got all the right pieces to be a contender & did I mention Watts and Penn?


6) True Grit (December 25th)

Those Kooky Coens have a way of always making art out of the absurd (Remember A Serious Man last year?) but there's nothing absurd about their latest film True Grit. As far as I'm concerned they have never made a boring movie in their 27 years of filmmaking. Co-Starring Jeff Bridges & Matt Damon as Marshalls, Grit is based on the same book that inspired the 1968 John Wayne film of the same name but according to them, this film is a completely different animal- cleverly adapted to match the Coens' wit and darkness. It's something the Coens haven't tackled yet -The Western- & here's hoping it's as devilishly clever as A Serious Man and not as sour and slight as The Hudsucker Proxy.


7) The Tempest (December 10th)

I'm putting this film on the list just because it will be part of the prestigious New York Film Festival in October. The organizers of the event tend to be accurate in their film selections and selecting visionary director Julie Taymor newest film The Temptest (based on Shakespeare's play of the same name) is a cause for celebration. Starring Hellen Mirren -the queen herself-Academy voters might or might not go for Taymor's epic but I've dug the play for so long and it will be a blast catching Taymor's vision of it- she is a maverick amongst hollywood hacks. December can't come sooner enough.


8) Another Year (December 31st)

British auteur Mike Leigh should never be discounted from an annual Oscar race. His movies, ranging from the darkly relevant Naked to the highly acclaimed Secrets & lies are cornerstones of any Cinema fan's DVD collection. Garnering nothing but rave reviews at Cannes, Another Year is destined to be a great success for Leigh. He tackles -yet again- the London middle class with a flair and wisdom only he can pull off. There might a sense of deja vu but Leigh always pulls out the stops in every film he does. Another Year might look small but it tackles emotions that cannot be described and are as big as life itself.


9) Somewhere (December 22nd)

Sofia Coppola was the toast of the town, she made a personal film called Lost In Translation & captured critics nationwide with her style and touching masterpiece. All of Hollywood wanted a piece of her, until she made Marie Antoinette- which bombed both at the box office and with the press. Since that debacle, Coppola has been unheard of and decided to work on her next feature film (her first one in 4 years). Somewhere -just like Lost In Translation- takes place in a hotel but instead of Tokyo, Los Angeles' Chateau Marmont takes it place. The hotel is renowned in its reputation of being filled up by hipsters and A-List celebrities. Stephen Dorff stars as a partying celeb that needs to focus on more important priorities when his estranged 11 year old daughter (Elle Fanning) appears out of nowhere and into his life.


10) Blue Valentine (December 31st)

If you didn't find Scott Pilgrim Vs The World to be all that realistic about relationships, then this movie is for you. Blue Valentine focuses on a 6 year reltionaship -Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams play the lovebirds-with its ups and downs. It garnered raves at numerous film fests, ranging from Sundance all the way to Cannes. The Supremes song Where Did Our Love Go was supposedly an inspiration for the movie's themes and yearnings. If there's one small Independant feature that can come out on top this year, it's this one.



11) Black Swan (December 1st)

A Psychological thriller set in the Ballet world? I'm intrigued. Add director Darren Aronofsky, Nathalie Portman as a ballerina and I'm sold. Aronofsky's last movie -The Wrestler- revived Mickey Rourke's career and was the best film of its given year, which means expectations are through the roof that his new movie will be nothing short of spectacular. Details are very hush hush as to its plot and I bet it will stay that way until the movie's release on the first day of December. My prediction? Portman may just have a shot at Best Actress with this one & Aronofsky will make another bold, spectacular movie.



12) The Fighter (December 10th)

Mark Whalberg invested so much in his role as Boxer Micky Ward, that he spent 5 years bringing boxing equipment in numerous movie sets. He'd practice his boxing during break time or off days, to perfect a role what was -in a way- his dream role. Add director David O Russell (Three Kings) to the mix and you have the perfect duo to make a great movie. Ward had a famous comeback in the 90's that cemented his legacy as a great fighter. Like every boxer featured in film, Ward had trials and tribulations that were almost operatic & Whalberg -a close friend of Ward's- made sure to capture this flawed man. The keen political and satirical eye Russell showed us in Three Kings is long gone here, what we are left with are the ups and downs of a flawed man's life & the battles he faces. This could be Whalberg's biggest chance at an Oscar.



13) Miral (December TBA)

After making The Diving & The Butterfly, Painter/filmmaker Julian Schnabel decided to tackle another depressing subject, that of an orphaned Palestinian girl isolated right in the middle of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It's a tough subject to handle and I have confidence Schnabel will be able to not side and just tell the story as it is, if he does so he could have a winner here. It's getting released in Europe this september and in North America this December. Frieda Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire stars.


14) Tree Of Life (November TBA)

Here's the biggie this fall. Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days Of Heaven) -a legendary director- brings us Tree Of Life starring Brad Pitt & Sean Penn. It's enough to make any movie fan drool out of excitement. We know nothing of the plot & have yet to see a single scene but there's something defining and momentous in having the names Penn/Pitt/Malick within the same sentence. Malick has worked on Tree Of life for nearly 5 years and you can rest assured his style and natural touch will be on display here yet again. His sense of wonderment about nature and the human connection is one of a kind & unmatched. This is a perfect example of what distinguishes Fall movies from Summer movies, there's a sense of purpose and -more importantly- a sense of artful integrity that would be missing in the dog days of summer. Malick will surely remind us that when his picture opens in December.

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