Archive for the ‘The Future’ Category

You know the routine.  I show the movie posters, I drop some sarcasm, you chuckle and guffaw and forward the site to every last one of your friends, everybody goes home happy.

Here’s how it went in the recent past…

April’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

June’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

July’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

August’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

September’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

October’s Most Unfortunate Movie Posters.

But enough waltzing down memory lane.  Let’s enjoy the moment we’re in! November!

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Chris Evans… Mark Ruffalo… Robert Downey Jr… And Chelsea Handler in…

AAAA!”

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AAAAAAAA!”

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Tom Berenger?

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If you pay as much attention to details as I do, sometimes the movie is ruined for you right from the moment you see the poster. Dig it: It’s about “a family of whales trapped beneath the ice,” right? Now take another look at that poster. What’s happening on it? Looks like a bunch of whales are escaping though ice. In other words: THE POSTER IS SHOWING THE END OF THE MOVIE.

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“Not dying doesn’t mean you’re alive.”  When taglines go into double-negatives, you know shit just got REAL!

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I’m sure it’s totally the point, but it still seems like a shame that they used the title “Carnage” for a “comedy of manners,” rather than a post-apocalyptic car-warrior horror movie.  Maybe if that spooky John C. Reilly reflection in the mirror hopped out and started kicking some ass, that could liven up that Oscar-conscious dinner party there.

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This doesn’t look like an actual movie.  This looks like one of those movies that used to run on HBO, that had actual stars in them but still no one could ever tell whether they were from 1988 or 1998 or 2008.  Look at Forest Whitaker’s face.  He’s as bewildered as I am.

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No joke here, I actually just wanted to have a picture of a chimpanzee on my website.  I’m totally gonna see this movie in the theaters.

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Well, I guess if you’re going to be locked inside a coffin with any actor, you’d want it to be Kevin Sorbo.

(I’m just being nice to Kevin Sorbo for no particular reason. Obviously if you were stuck in a coffin, the only actor who’d do would be Sofia Vergara. For the cushioning.)

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Not too shabby, I just find it a tad ironic that the posters for a movie called “The Darkest Hour” are all so brightly lit.

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At this point, the only “Good Deeds” I want to see from Tyler Perry are his retirement from writing, his retirement from directing, and his gifting to me of Gabrielle Union’s attention so I or anyone else can write her into a movie worth watching.  But hey, look, Jamie Kennedy is in this movie.  Maybe Tyler Perry can get a subtle, nuanced performance out of him, Tyler Perry movies being well known for their subtlety and nuance.

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Boy, this movie looks like so much FUN.

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There are a lot of things ABOUT to happen on this poster.  I wonder if all those awful acts of cruelty are as synchronized in the actual movie.  That’d take some real orchestration.

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This poster says to me, “I played the love object in three superhero movies in a row.  Tired of always being the one to be saved, I jumped into a power plant and became… Electro-Dunst.”  Or okay, fine, Melancholia.  That’s a decent superhero-lady name.

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Yup, you read that right.  That name seemed vaguely familiar to me too, so I looked it up, and discovered the truth:  Somebody made a ‘legitimate’ horror movie starring the Oct0-Mom.

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When I first saw this poster, it instantly reminded me of another poster I’d seen all over the place for a long, long time, starring another adorable, pint-sized teen idol.  That’s right, it’s Tom Cruise in…

Never Say Never!

What’s really unfortunate is that they could lose the whole butch hooded-sweatshirt Tom Cruise motif and just use the following poster and I’d be much more likely to get there opening weekend…

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This photograph captures the brief moment where the young lovers united for one beautiful kiss, right before they were crushed by the pillar of names falling from the sky right on top of their heads, captured by one lucky cameraman directly before the moment of impact.

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Ed Burns is still making movies.

Moving on.

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And now it’s time for Point/Counterpoint.

Badass Woody Harrelson…

…And THIS version of Woody Harrelson.

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I know you’re doing the Top Gun hero walk and all, but uou guys might wanna walk a little faster, considering that THERE’S A GIANT FLAMING PLANE HEADED STRAIGHT TOWARDS Y’ALL.

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When movie taglines promote shoddy arithmetic. And spooning pregnant women on movie posters.

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A lot of mad strange stuff going on around people’s mouths this month.

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I wish I was industrious enough to search out how many times the tagline “Some secrets should never be uncovered” has been used on a movie poster.  I bet I wouldn’t have to look too far.  It’s a fairly generic notion.

However, I am pretty excited to see that Johanna Bradd scored the much-coveted role of Amanda.  It looked for sure like the role was going to go to a much more famous actress, like Fran Wellington, Eartha Carruthers, or Patty Putanesca. Anyone who is anyone in Hollywood wanted a role in The Levenger Tapes, so good on you Johanna!

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I refuse.

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Tim Story directed both Fantastic Four movies, so this is the natural next step.  I am a little suspicious on a movie based on a book by Steve Harvey that can’t even find a role for Steve Harvey himself.  Seems like someone somewhere lacks conviction.

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Trust me, it’s better that they’re covering that up.

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Must…not…make…Godzilla…joke…

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Personally, at the moment I’d see this movie for Nicolas Cage’s expression alone, but I’m particularly endeared to the hooded gunman cropped into the upper right corner, like a nerdy kid being ushered onto the field for soccer practice by his inattentive parents. He looks as unhappy to be there as Cage is unhappy to see him.

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If there’s a cat that turns into a werewolf, I’m diggety-down.

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Did you like The Notebook?  Yeah, you did.  How would you like The Notebook if we remade it, only using a less talented actor than Ryan Gosling?  It’s a novel way to jerk some tears, but it works.

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We bought a zoo, but we could use an extra pair of kids to help us run it…

…And there they are!

Another pair of great things about this poster is the way that nobody seems concerned about the pair of man-eaters on Matt Damon’s right-hand side, and also the fact that the Dwight Schrute kid is apparently levitating in mid-air.

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I like how these two guys are just all cool and cavalier, off-handedly pointing guns at Reese Witherspoon, America’s sweetheart, and everyone finds this perfectly charming and somehow I’M considered to be the strange one.

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If you’re going to sell an American movie overseas, apparently it’s best to make the posters as Asian as humanly possible.  Observe:

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This looks like THE worst possible remake of a beloved 1980s film starring Matthew Broderick and chimpanzees.  Now maybe it makes more sense that I posted that Disney poster at the top of the page.

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Probably best for all concerned, at this point.

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I did not rush out to see this movie on the largest possible screens when it was released nearly six years ago, and more the fool I for that.  It’s kind of incredible.

In their list of the top fifty films of the past decade, the Onion’s A.V. Club, one of my favorite daily web destinations, rated Terrence Malick’s The New World at number nine.  It was nominated for an Academy Award for Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography.  (Malick’s movies are always visual fireworks.)  Roger Ebert gave it four stars and called Malick “a visionary.”  Despite all this, The New World isn’t as well remembered as it could be.

Why is that?  I’m not the guy to ask.  I mean, I have some answers, but they won’t sound good to everybody.  I guess I’d reluctantly agree that Terrence Malick’s movies aren’t for everyone.  I’d argue that you really have to love movies to love his movies.  Most people apparently don’t love movies that much.  Your friend with the Scarface poster probably doesn’t love movies as much as he thinks he does.  Scarface is cool and all, but the well-rounded person doesn’t watch only one movie over and over again.  Really loving movies means being open to movies that aren’t the most obvious or accessible.

To appreciate what Malick does, you also have to be open to qualities which are too rare to modern movies, such as thoughtfulness and meditation, appreciation of the natural world, even spirituality.  (And not the obvious or accessible kind of spirituality, either.)  Though Malick (The Thin Red Line) has already directed a better World War II movie than Michael Bay(Pearl Harbor) has, guess whose movies are more popular?  I don’t like to be elitist, but we really are talking about sophistication here.  You don’t like it?  Cool.  I don’t either.  Prove me wrong.  Pay to watch these wonderful movies.

And The New World, in my opinion, is pretty wonderful.  It’s where cinematic art and American history meet.  It’s the story of Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher), the Native American girl whose life was altered by the arrival of the Jamestown expedition, which introduced her to Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell), her first love.  That relationship is battered by the collision of the Native people and the English settlers, and it ultimately doesn’t survive the trip, though consolation arrives in the form of John Rolfe (Christian Bale), a good man who became the father of her son.

A lot of us have heard this story before, in one form or another.  Hell, it was a Disney cartoon.   It’s popular history, but not that currently popular.  Malick’s method is to bring the past lumbering back to life, like a dinosaur rediscovering its bite.  The first time you see those colonial ships, matched with the unusually good score by James Horner (normally cornier), there’s a vivid majesty to the movie that makes it more interesting than Social Studies ever was back in grade school.

In The New World, Malick is specifically addressing the very moment of conception of the United States, beginning, as he posits, with Pocahontas, portrayed here as the first true American, a knowing and canny survivor.   This movie makes you love America all over again, the way you love Pocahontas as she’s conjured here, luminous, sweet, and full of promise.  (She’s a teenager so it’s a very innocent kind of love.)  Colin Farrell is really good at playing the mutinous rogue, a basically violent man, but he’s very tender in his scenes with her.  It doesn’t feel wrong.  Even more is the case with Christian Bale, dropping his usual intensity and playing a genuinely decent man for once.  Internet creeps who talk trash about these two stars probably haven’t seen how good they are in this movie.  Oh, and Christopher Plummer is in it too, as the leader of the expedition, Captain Newport, typically dignified and magnetic and a little bit sinister.  I don’t think we have to debate his greatness at this point in time.

I’m not sure yet how deep into history The New World actually goes (John Smith and John Rolfe were real people, but was Captain Newport? and does it matter?), but to me it’s thoroughly convincing no matter how much of it is actually true.  Does that make sense?  There’s a truly epic sweep to this movie — normally when I describe a movie as “epic”, I’m talking about scope or distance, but in this case the epicness actually feels like it spans a gap of centuries.  Malick, as ever, is able to evoke all the most ancient platitudes of storytelling and moviemaking, and to make them true through his poetic vision.

Yeah, I’d say it’s worth watching.

 

 

 

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Suggested reading:

Badlands.

Days Of Heaven.

In Bruges.

Beginners.

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In the beginning there was only man and nature. Men came bearing crosses and drove the heathen to the fringes of the earth.

Okay, I have to admit, you got my attention.

Those words are the opening of Valhalla Rising, the title card which pretty directly explains what you’re about to watch.  The movie, orchestrated by Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of Bronson and Drive, is about as direct, sparse, and skeletal a plot as a movie could possibly get away with.  It’s a movie made almost entirely of mood, sporadically punctuated by violence.  It’s like walking through a cool fog and occasionally stubbing your toe on a rock.  It’s a new genre: Viking psychedelia.  It’s also kind of wonderful to watch.

Set in the year 1000 A.D., Valhalla Rising follows a nameless, unknowable drifter known as One Eye (Mads Mikkelsen, best recognized by American audiences as the blood-crying villain from Casino Royale) as he is liberated from a captivity where he was kept as a medieval pit-fighter, and drafted into a much nobler war, less sarcastically known as the Crusades.  He’s called One Eye because he only has one working eye, also because he never speaks and therefore doesn’t mention whether or not he actually has a name.  This dude makes the Man With No Name sound like an Eddie Murphy character.

The fact that the movie’s main character doesn’t speak makes Valhalla Rising practically a silent film, which is totally refreshing in our modern age where everyone seems to be talking, texting, or typing always.  It’s almost entirely sound, picture, and music, a real sensory experience.  The cinematography, by Morten Søborg is crisp and absorbing; the editing, by Refn’s frequent collaborator Mat Newman, is lucid and impeccable; the music by Peter Kyed and Peter Peter (really) is the best kind of shoegaze noise-rock, creating an audio bed of unsettling yet hypnotic atmosphere.

When I mentioned it briefly on my top-twenty list of last year, I described Valhalla Rising as what would happen if Terrence Malick, instead of John McTiernan, made that viking action-movie The Thirteenth Warrior.  Refn seems to be far less disturbed by violence than Malick is — I would guess that Refn is more interested in violence as an end result, as a visceral release of accumulated cinematic tension, whereas Malick usually incorporates violence into his films for more psychological reasons.  But like Malick’s work, Valhalla Rising is lyrical, painterly, even experimental.  Any of Refn’s widescreen compositions in this film would be just as compelling out of context, hanging on a wall for instance.  The visual component is so strong that the story is comparatively threadbare.

In fact, the story is so simple that it is split into six chapter headings, which appear throughout the course of the movie like wooden blocks directing water flow:

Part 1/ Wrath.

Part 2/ Silent Warrior.

Part 3/ Men Of God.

Part 4/ The Holy Land.

Part 5/ Hell.

Part 6/ The Sacrifice.

Sounds just a little like the New Testament, doesn’t it?  Probably not unintentional.  Valhalla Rising could be seen as a couple different kinds of allegory, a couple different kinds of philosphical argument, but they’re pretty clear if you watch the movie and it’d be better for me not to explicate them.  Let’s just say that I’ve read the Bible, and this has better music.  The real reason I hesitate from nailing down the “message” of the movie is that explaining it would take away from its best quality, which is its dreamlike nature.  Like Malick, the broad, dreamy pace and picture of Refn’s movie (aided by some astounding locations, costumes, and production design) somehow makes it weirdly convincing as a period piece.  While those elements set the period, the performances and the droning electronic score are anachronistically contemporary, though even those streaks of modernity help make the period setting more tangible, paradoxically.  Valhalla Rising feels real at times, which is a big reason why it’s so hypnotic.

Really, this is a movie intended for late-night viewing, specifically under intoxicated circumstances (I’m pretty sure Refn has even said as much), but it’s not like you need to be under the influence to find this movie intoxicating.  Valhalla Rising is ominous and serious of purpose yet not pretentious or overly profound; it’s brief and slight of story, yet indelible.  It marks Refn as one of the more compelling stylists working in movies today, and makes the prospect of his next few movies a most exciting one, without a doubt.

Suggested reading:

My 20 Favorite Movies of 2010.

Badlands.

Days Of Heaven.

Thor.

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#9.  Children Of Men (2006)

The year 2027. Women can no longer have babies. The youngest person in the world has just been shot down at the age of 18. The future is terrifyingly finite. That’s where Children of Men begins.

In a profound and extremely relatable (to me, anyway) performance, Clive Owen plays a man who ambles through life in a scotch-soaked haze, until his ex, now a political revolutionary — played harshly yet heartbreakingly by Julianne Moore — shows up alongside the first pregnant woman anyone has seen in years. It eventually falls to Clive to see this young lady through to safety.

If we use pure cinematic artistry as our criteria for great films, this movie is the total package. It’s amazing, it’s the kind of movie that makes me want to invent adjectives just so I can use them here. My eyes tend to gloss over most science fiction – outside of the robots and aliens, I can rarely relate to it on an emotional level.  Ironically, most science fiction leaves out the science, and keeps recognizable human beings out of the fiction.

Here is one of those fantastic exceptions to the rule. The production design of this movie (by Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland) is intricate, wide-ranging, and entirely believable as a place we all could be in twenty-odd years. The cinematography (by Emmanuel Lubezki) is subtly beautiful, informative, and invisibly brilliant. Every directorial choice (by Alfonso Cuarón) leads you to feel the immediacy, the reality, of the story. And the performances are stunning.

Clive Owen’s character has lived a life of pain, disappointment, and eventual complete detachment; he doesn’t have to raise an eyebrow for you to see that in his face. You believe in his love for Julianne Moore and for Michael Caine, as his best friend, even without particularly extended screen time for either of them, even without anyone directly saying so. This is a story about people as much as it is about ideas.

Children of Men was the best movie of its year, in my opinion.  Clearly one of the bravest and most necessary to be released by a major studio of the past dozen years.

Why? This movie is about nothing less important than the value of human life. It makes you believe in it and care about it. At this moment in history, that makes it more than just a brilliantly-crafted movie; it’s actually valuable.

This movie makes a persuasive case for keeping hope alive, in a decade where hope was in short supply.  And I’d also suggest that the choice of Jarvis Cocker’s “Running The World” as end-credits theme is one of the best matches of song-to-movie that I could possibly name.  The song brings a perfect dose of black humor to warmly cap off a movie that was pretty sparse on the humor front.

The first time I saw Children Of Men theatrically, the movie ended and the credits started rolling and “Running The World” began to play. And then something sweet happened that I thought I was imagining at first: A little kid started dancing in front of the screen, happily doing windmills.

[Note to parents: This is absolutely not the movie to show your children. It is sophisticated, disturbing, upsetting, tragic, and ambiguously uplifting at best.]

But all the same, seeing that child dance around to that particular sardonic and beautiful tune was one of the most bizarrely hopeful images I have seen.

The movie is equally so.

 

(The Koreans did not seem to get the vibe of the movie.)

Source Code is a smart, ambitious, engaging sci-fi flick which pays its closest attention to things like ideas and character. Ideas are what all good sci-fi movies have in common, and character is what all good stories have in common.  Most nights at the multiplex, you’re lucky to get one or the other, but here you get both.

Source Code is the story of an Army pilot (Jake Gyllenhaal) who awakens from battle in Afghanistan to find himself sitting across from a pretty girl (Michelle Monaghan) on a commuter train in Chicago.  A bomb explodes, and the soldier is told by a mysterious Air Force official (Vera Farmiga) and later, a twice-as-mysterious scientist type (Jeffrey Wright) that he has been sent through time to find the bomber’s identity and avert a more catastrophic bombing which has yet to occur.  The scientist is operating a program called Source Code, which runs time on a loop, giving its participant eight minutes at a time to inhabit the body of one of the train’s passengers just before a bomb killed everyone on board.  The soldier rushes to fulfill his mission, which gains in urgency as he starts falling for the girl.

My brain aches a little from just typing out all of that, but the movie does an impressively subtle job of making it all eminently understandable at all moments.  Source Code is urgent and suspenseful.  I like the way it blends the theoretical and the practical, the emotional and the practical, the youthful and the experienced.  It started out with a thoughtful screenplay by Ben Ripley, previously best-known for DTV sequels of the movie Species, which explores the out-there premise without losing track of a humanistic throughline.  Duncan Jones, director of 2009’s Moon, stepped in to bring Source Code to life with an apparently-characteristic sense of energetic experimentation.

The cinematography is by Don Burgess (Spider-Man), who works in a bright, sunny style that is a refreshingly unconventional look for the genre, and the movie was edited by Paul Hirsch (The Empire Strikes Back), who clearly knows plenty about maintaining an audience’s attention.  That’s a crucial ability to bring to a cerebral high-concept which inevitably has to be described as “Groundhog Day meets Inception.”

The other factor which makes Source Code is a terrific cast.  Jake Gyllenhaal hates my computer’s spell-checker, but coming so soon after the far duller Prince Of Persia, he’s excellent in his first thoroughly believable action-man role.  Michelle Monaghan has a tough role – she has to genuinely, thoroughly win the main character’s heart (and that of the audience) in eight minutes or less – but it’s hard to think of a modern actress better suited to the job.  Jeffrey Wright, far and away one of the best and most underrated actors working today, disappears into yet another role unlike any other he’s yet played, and Vera Farmiga (The Departed) actually kind of warrants all of the same compliments I just gave the other three actors.  It doesn’t matter how compelling the premise is if you don’t care about the people who are involved – it’s hard to learn science if you don’t like your teacher – but between the cast and the crew, Source Code has all of the needed elements.

I probably shouldn’t oversell this movie – it’s more modest than a huge-budgeted, operatic spectacle like Inception, and to me it wasn’t quite as emotionally transcendent.  It’s been fairly argued by other critics, who’d also rate Source Code at a B-plus rather than an A, that the reason for that muted reaction is in the ending, where the movie has to wrap up its theoretical storyline, its plot, and its emotional storyline, and while I found it satisfying on all three terms, that’s probably trying to have it one too many ways.  The effect of that satisfaction is diluted.  I obviously can’t say any more until I know all you guys have seen the movie.  What I can say is that I recommend that you do, because this is a solid mainstream entertainment that makes me curious to see what both Ben Ripley and Duncan Jones do next, and made me respect the talents of its stars either better or even more than I already did.  You have to feel good about a movie that tries this hard and almost entirely succeeds.