Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke's comeback performance isn't really a comeback.
The guy has been working consistently since 1980. He has had big roles and small roles, but he has been working.
He is back in the lead role spot, but it's been only a few years since he was there. 2005 had him in major roles in Domino and Sin City with fantastic results.
The Wrestler is being heralded as his big splash back on the scene. Apparently only films that beg for award season attention are big enough to be called a comeback.
Randy 'The Ram' is a washed up pro-wrestler who reached the pinnacle of his fame in the 1980's with his high profile bouts against the likes of The Iron Sheik.
Now he is trying to scrape by on matches in high school gyms and run-down clubs. The years have certainly taken their toll.
Rourke's performance is certainly solid, as is the storyline of the movie. Award-worthy is another matter entirely.
This glimpse into the soul of a broken man is intriguing enough to keep you entertained, but not an epic masterpiece as so many critics seem to think.
Comparing this to director Darren Aronofsky's prior films takes away a bit of the luster. With more cerebral fare like Pi, Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain under his belt, Aronofsky's portrait of a broken wrestler on a downward spiral seems almost pedestrian.
The Wrestler breaks no new ground in film making, but does serve the audience better than most of the films out in recent months.
The character stops just short of heading down a messianic path as he seems to be building to redemption, but falls short. An ending that leaves the audience with less than what most people expect, but which I felt separates it from most other sports movies.
The supporting cast are also solid, but nothing spectacular.
I'll give The Wrestler a B-.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar nominations

Hooray for Slumdog and Milk. Richard Jenkins is a pleasant surprise. Looks like i have to go see The Wrestler and Benjamin Button as soon as i can. I'm pretty shocked to see Gran Torino get so little attention, especially since there is talk that it might be Clint Eastwood's last movie.

Complete list of 81st annual Academy Award nominations announced Thursday

1. Best Picture: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," ''Frost/Nixon," ''Milk," ''The Reader," ''Slumdog Millionaire."

2. Actor: Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"; Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"; Sean Penn, "Milk"; Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler."

3. Actress: Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"; Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"; Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"; Meryl Streep, "Doubt"; Kate Winslet, "The Reader."

4. Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, "Milk"; Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"; Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"; Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road."

5. Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, "Doubt"; Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"; Viola Davis, "Doubt"; Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler."

6. Director: David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"; Gus Van Sant, "Milk"; Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"; Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire."

7. Foreign Film: "The Baader Meinhof Complex," Germany; "The Class," France; "Departures," Japan; "Revanche," Austria; "Waltz With Bashir," Israel.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt"; Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon"; David Hare, "The Reader"; Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire."

9. Original Screenplay: Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"; Mike Leigh, "Happy-Go-Lucky"; Martin McDonagh, "In Bruges"; Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"; Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter, "WALL-E."

10. Animated Feature Film: "Bolt"; "Kung Fu Panda"; "WALL-E."

11. Art Direction: "Changeling," ''The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," ''The Dark Knight," ''The Duchess," ''Revolutionary Road."

12. Cinematography: "Changeling," ''The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," ''The Dark Knight," ''The Reader," ''Slumdog Millionaire."

13. Sound Mixing: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," ''The Dark Knight," ''Slumdog Millionaire," ''WALL-E," ''Wanted."

14. Sound Editing: "The Dark Knight," ''Iron Man," ''Slumdog Millionaire," ''WALL-E," ''Wanted."

15. Original Score: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Alexandre Desplat; "Defiance," James Newton Howard; "Milk," Danny Elfman; "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman; "WALL-E," Thomas Newman.

16. Original Song: "Down to Earth" from "WALL-E," Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman; "Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman and Gulzar; "O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam.

17. Costume: "Australia," ''The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," ''The Duchess," ''Milk," ''Revolutionary Road."

18. Documentary Feature: "The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)," ''Encounters at the End of the World," ''The Garden," ''Man on Wire," ''Trouble the Water."

19. Documentary (short subject): "The Conscience of Nhem En," ''The Final Inch," ''Smile Pinki," ''The Witness — From the Balcony of Room 306."

20. Film Editing: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," ''The Dark Knight," ''Frost/Nixon," ''Milk," ''Slumdog Millionaire."

21. Makeup: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," ''The Dark Knight," ''Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

22. Animated Short Film: "La Maison en Petits Cubes," ''Lavatory — Lovestory," ''Oktapodi," ''Presto," ''This Way Up."

23. Live Action Short Film: "Auf der Strecke (On the Line)," ''Manon on the Asphalt," ''New Boy," ''The Pig," ''Spielzeugland (Toyland)."

24. Visual Effects: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," ''The Dark Knight," ''Iron Man."


Academy Award winner previously announced this year:

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (Oscar statuette): Jerry Lewis

Monday, January 12, 2009

Golden Globe Ramblings

Those dames and fellas over at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did it mostly right this year.
Slumdog Millionaire took home best drama and best director for Mr. Danny Boyle. As well as trophies for score and script. It truly was the best movie out this year, and deserving of these accolades.
Somehow Kate Winslet walked away with both best lead and supporting actress awards. Good for her, she's come a long way since that horrendous pile of garbage known as Titanic.
Heath Ledger walked away with what is likely not his last award for the role that will go down in history to define him, and possibly help redefine the movie villain.
In a surprising dark horse victory, Colin Farrell grabbed best actor in a comedy for In Bruges, which may have been a shock to many just because it was far better than it should have been. Farrell finally proved that he can actually act. Who'd have thunk?
On the TV side, 30 Rock took every award they could qualify for and I can't think of any reason why they wouldn't.
The only vast disappointment of the evening was best comedy movie going to Vicky Christina Barcelona. What a dreadful waste of time that movie was.

But the night was an overall winner with most of the trophies going to people that actually deserve them.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Have you ever seen a movie with boundless potential only to have it squandered and leave you wanting more?
I have.
Tonight I watched Doubt.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman in an emotional role pitted against a cold-hearted Meryl Streep. The always lovely and charming Amy Adams playing the innocent bystander. A surprisingly fantastic performance from Viola Davis in a role that was far too small. Based on a critically acclaimed play.
All of these would lead me to believe I was in for a solid evening at the cinema.
But mix that solid base of vibrancy with some ugly greys of sub-par cinematography, heavy-handed imagery and metaphors, clumsy directing and pacing problems and you get a muddled mess that does not come close to living up to what it could have been.
Doubt has some terrific performances from all of the leads and most of the secondary actors, but can't get past its own fundamental problems.
I'll give it a C.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle ventures in to yet another genre to show everyone how it's done. Slumdog Millionaire is his shot at a Bollywood love story. The same masterful film making that he showed in his prior modern classics like Trainspotting, Sunshine and 28 Days Later shows up again as Boyle proves he can produce unique and compelling stories in any genre.

The story of a young man from the slums of Mumbai, India and his struggle to prove he is not a cheat at the country's favorite game show (Who Wants to be a Millionaire) while he explains his back story of love and loss and coming from nothing and less.

Boyle unfurls the story slowly enough that it's not immediately obvious where he's going, so it keeps the audience involved so well that you stay wrapped up in it through some mildly slow spots in the the movie. The pace moves quickly enough through the rest of the film that those slow spots are evened out.

Visually explosive sequences and frenetic pacing balances with vast landscapes of Mumbai and serene moments of introspection as the characters grow up in some chaotic conditions but somehow manage to pull through.

The balancing act continues with perfect highs and wretched lows within each of the flashbacks and modern stories.

Hopefully the next Boyle film will live up.

Slumdog Millionaire gets an A-.
--John Berry, Online Editor--