The magic that is a Pixar film is fairly well cemented with Up, had there been any doubt prior. Seen outside of the view from parents of young children or diehard fans of the studio, there can be no doubt left that a Pixar film is miles ahead of not only others placed into the CG genre, but simply most all other films combined. Up, specifically, is overwhelmingly refreshing in its ability to be accessible to everyone. There's no cornering of age groups or targeted demographics, it is at its most basic an undeniably good movie. Up's greatest accomplishment is with the ease it purports to do so, tho when given any thought there was clearly a tremendous amount of work and talent involved.

How this is achieved though a film whose base plot is that of a curmudgeonly old man fulfilling the dream of his dead wife while paired with a hapless boy scout is a wonder to watch unfold. Such a thing would seem to be the antithesis of a foundation for an adventure movie, with concepts that could go horribly wrong into the realm of schmaltz and false emotion. Yet the genuine heart of each character is told through care and craft at just the right pace and attention.

The running theme through Up is "The Spirit of Adventure," taking all forms from the everyday to the grand and sweeping. The story is so adamant in its search and delivery of adventure that no real logic need apply. Events snowball after each other that are so much fun to watch there isn't enough time to wonder why it's happening, just that it is and you can hardly believe your eyes. Before that suspension of disbelief is betrayed, we are brought back to earth (so to speak) to focus on the characters as they are set up for the next big leap. The characters themselves are a collection of oddities outside of the norm of perceived archetypes. And even though the film has a "bad guy," it's not the case in the traditional sense. It's a much more antagonistic involvement with believable and prescient motivations, albeit ultimately destructive. The main characters do set a wonderful tone for the film, following the arc of the acerbic and steadfast Carl managing his time with the unbridled young Russell in their continually peculiar situations. In that respect Up is 100% pure, storypoints seemingly lain out methodically and then toppling like dominoes as the audience tries to keep up. There are instances where you can almost hear Pixar subliminally bragging "Hey, every other movie, this is how you tell a good story. Please do not attempt this at home, we're professionals."

And then there's... the dogs. One can only imagine the story discussion that took place as Up was taking shape, starting simply enough and then cascading into what would become some of the biggest payoffs in the film.

"We should add a dog."
"We should add dogs."
"Like three or four dogs?"
"Like, a hundred and fifty dogs."

Artistically, if any more adoration can be stood, Up is flawless. There is an acute level of detail on everything that not just raises the bar for competitors, it pretty much puts the bar in sole ownership of Pixar. Stylized characters mesh incredibly into a world that's not quite real but the viewer instantly believes it is so. A wood floor is warped just a touch. The fabric on a chair delicately patterned and worn. The bright color of a merit badge shows every stitch if inspected. The light refracted through a thousand balloons... stunning. As an added bonus, Up is available to be seen in 3D. While there are some cool "in your face" moments, the appeal of 3D in this instance goes more towards a viewing experience of watching a picturesque world come to just shy of life, perhaps like watching Tilt Shift photography on a scale yet unseen.

Up runs a gauntlet of emotion that has no reason to be in any ordinary film. At times sad and melancholy, yet at others laugh-out-loud funny and wide-eyed action. In any other hands, well, who knows. What comes out of the mix is an incredible amount of heart that is so rarely seen it's kind of weird to be found in. When was the last time you saw a movie that when the credits began to roll, the entire audience is just... happy? Odds are it was probably by Pixar.

Storm Warriors Full Trailer

It's up on the official website, but embedded in Flash. But you can view it thanks to Trailer Addict.
There is some incredible imagery going on here,and it might be safe to say the the Pang Brothers have certainly upped the potential for the visualization of Chinese fantasy fight scenes. One should also note the lack of the controversial clip I mentioned in the previous post about this film, though elements of that stylization have been used in another scene in this trailer. If the story can be as fantastic as the visuals, this will truly be a worthy successor to the original.



Written and directed by Spanish filmmaker, Alejandro Amenabar, Agora is a historical drama set in Alexandria during a tumultuous time in Egypt's past when there was a growing movement away from mysticism & the worship of multiple gods to logic, reason, and monotheism (primarily Christianity). Enter the main characters, Max Minghella as Davus, the slave of astrologer-philosopher Hypatia played by Rachel Weisz. Davus turns to Christianity's message of hope and freedom while he fosters a growing love for Hypatia, though his master is an atheist. When a violent Christian purge of paganism in Alexandria boils over, the fate of Davus and Hypatia will decided....

I think the first thing one must be struck by after viewing this trailer is the beautifully epic scope of it. The opening shot that flies by the famed Lighthouse of Alexandria looks so natural and subtle that you are instantly transported to the time when one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still stood. No expense seems to have been spared with costumes and sets as well, reminiscent of the epic Hollywood studio films such as Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. However, let us not forget that this is a drama set in ancient time; the story of Hypatia, who was murdered by Copic Christians during uprisings in the 4th century B.C., is generally thought of as the end of the Hellenistic Period of Egypt's history. With a capable actress such as Weisz in the pivotal role, I think Agora could be one of those rare period dramas that can capture modern audiences for its surprisingly contemporary themes.


You are watching the line blur

This is one hell of a fanfilm for a forthcoming Green Lantern movie. Not only is it a great nod to a great character, but its fun to pick out all the leveraged scenes from other movies. There's no small amount of additives from the authors, either, and it really showcases the best part of "fan" that fanfilms can be.

Now add the fact that there is not one but two actual GL pics on the way-- one Hollywood tentpole and one Animated DVD. But the "movie gumbo" trailer here is just another example of how the tools are in the hands of everyone. There are quite a few good examples out there and while they range from the amateurish to just shy of greenlighting a studio deal, there looks to be a little more pressure placed on those who hold the reigns on our genre-specific favorites.

The Hollywood live action GL has got Martin Campbell attached to direct, and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. It's likely they'll do right by casting the lead, but the above sure makes a case for Nathan Fillion!


Last Ride Final Trailer

If the film is anywhere near the dramatic tension and subtly intense performances on display in this near 2 minute trailer, then this film is certainly one to look out for.


Terminator Salvation

There was a time where the desire to see an unrestrained continuation of a favorite movie franchise remained unrequited and woefully improbable. These days it seems to be the movie industry's stock and trade. Terminator Salvation falls into a cross-section of Hollywood's recent love affair with reboots and sequels, attempting to not only continue a favored canon but re-invigorate the "property" to a degree which meets the needs of a modern moviegoing audience. Such foundations are often the road to folly, and as a result Salvation has a difficult time straddling the dual responsibilities of which it is being asked.

The introduction of Salvation is protracted and not particularly interesting. There is both an ignorance for establishing what came before and a selfish expectation of the audience to be aware of the very history the film is supposed to represent. Therefore is is difficult to restrain oneself in making comparisons to the previous three films-- when given the time to recall how each of it's predecessors excels in their own areas, it is all to easy to see where the bulk of Salvation falls short.

In story, Salvation is asking the viewer to take a very big leap in regards to what has come before. In prior films the looming threat of a self-aware computer intelligence's triggering of Judgement Day is an act to be prevented in the face of overwhelming obstacles amidst an undercurrent of time travel, presumption of free will, and paradox. Here Judgement Day has come and gone, and the story is rooted in a world that is simultaneously that of the past-- the original backstory of a 25 year-old film-- and a future that has yet to take place. There is only one direction: forward. That forward in turn only has one possible conclusion to bring its world full circle. So it is in this space that Salvation tries to grab attention in hopes that the journey itself is an event worth watching.

As the cornerstone of previous films, the character of John Connor is placed under a tremendous amount of weight, destined to be the savior of the human race. Salvation portrays him for the first time as a full-fledged adult, deep within the role he seemingly could never have avoided. Because of this his motivations and actions are set in stone, there is little to no room to grow and evolve as a person. The film tries to do so, but never at a level that can be seen as significant. That's why it's such a shame to see Christian Bale shoehorned into the role. He is such a strong actor and has proven time and again the myriad of archetypes he can bring life to, yet the story and script leaves this incarnation of John Connor little more than a locomotive on a track. Its all Bale can do to conduct the trip as best he can. For much of the film John Connor's leadership of the human resistance is surrounded by drawn-out exposition and extraneous sub-plots, framed by impressive but ultimately pointless action set pieces. It's disappointing that snippets of what make Terminator so fascinating as science fiction are glossed over in favor of enforcing what a bleak and destructive future is in store for humans.

The key to the film's overall interest lies in the parallel story of Marcus Wright, a former criminal reborn as a hybrid machine, and unaware of the fact. Had it focused on his journey, the story could have achieved so much more. Given his origin and how Wright discovers it, feelings border on disgust with how the marketing of Salvation chose to include it as a key plot point in advance materials and trailers, rather than allow it to be the incredible reveal it could have been. Thankfully Wright, played cooly and with thuggish charm by Sam Worthington, fulfills the role of alpha ass-kicker quite convincingly. His eventual pairing with apocalypse fledgling Kyle Reese (who is pivotal in setting up events from prior films-- but lets not get into that here) harkens back to the successful camaraderie of the earlier films seen with Reese's future self and the matriarchal Sarah Conner, and also young John Conner and the reprogrammed Terminator we all know and love. (Indeed, actor Anton Yelchin is able to play young Reese with an uncanny invocation of Michael Beihn.) Sadly with multiple plot points veering towards conversion, this partnership is short lived. There is a feeling of being shortchanged of Wright's personal quest, just when it becomes most compelling. Wright's eventual meeting with John Connor would seem to be that natural focal point, and in fact had the film waited until that moment to introduce John Connor-- alongside Wright's recognition of his true self-- so many aspects of the story would have been far more rewarding.

Where there is a sense that the first two-thirds of the movie have an idea of what they should be, they never really are able to solidify. Amazingly, Salvation wholeheartedly redeems itself in the third act. The final rundown knows exactly what it needs to be and delivers on multiple levels. As both a movie-goer and a Terminator fan it is... extremely gratifying. It is in the third act where Salvation becomes its most "Terminator" in style, substance, and stake, parlaying its overwrought and disjointed setup into a tight-paced and maniacal conclusion with perhaps one of the best payoffs any fan could have asked for. Imagining it is one thing, seeing it actually play out on screen is another. Surely in this space the formula for success from Salvation's predecessors was a looming influence and rightly so, else we all could have been left with a beleaguered farewell to a series that had run itself into the ground.

Salvation's conclusion and epilogue closes the door on what it introduced, though is able to add a small, final element that adds some light previously unseen. It's difficult to envision where the mythology can go from here, and if it is even necessary. What is left unexplored in the world of Terminator seems hardly enough to craft sustainable narrative, at least that which remains outside of a hardcore philosophical exploration of both its science and fiction. While a true genre fan could only dream of seeing such a thing, it is something Hollywood is not likely to provide. What the future holds for Terminator films is not unlike how they themselves portray it: a fine line between unknown and unavoidable.



This will be the first period, action film from director SAI Yoichi, known mostly for contemporary dramas including the Kitano Takeshi starring Blood and Bones. It is an adaptation of the comic "Kamui Gaiden" or "Legend of Kamui" (don't ask me why the film title is just 'Kamui') by SHIRATO Sampei. Some of you might be familiar with the anime, Dagger of Kamui produced in the 80s. Though there have been various iterations of Kamui's legend, including a 1960s anime series, so it will be interesting to see how much of the story from the manga will be retained in this live-action version. The main thrust of the story is a ninja being hunted by the members of the clan he abandons, an action punishable by death. Constantly pursued, Kamui refuses to build relations with anyone because of the fleeting nature and inherent danger any such relationship would be subjected to. It is a tale of survival, but ultimately, also one of tragedy as over the course of time, Kamui becomes paranoid that everyone around him is a killer. Perhaps it is this dramatic thread which attracted SAI Yoichi to the project.

source: Nippon Cinema

The above trailer sells the film as "action-entertainment." Naturally, you would expect that from a film about ninjas. For a time in the late 80s, there was a significant boom in Ninja films thanks to films starring Kosugi Sho. That genre has almost been forgotten, but recently, there seems to be renewed interest in "shinobi" stories though westerners might be puzzled as to the lack of black-clad masked men in popular manga/anime "Naruto" and films such as Shinobi: Heart Under Blade or this film for that matter. Then again, no one in the original "Kamui Gaiden" manga wore the signature outfit either. Perhaps this is how ninja truly were.

Also of note is the difference between this film and the previously mentioned Goemon. One can see the what actual sets and scenery contribute to the overall feel of the film and how CG-enhanced action is much preferable to CG-generated action. The actors are there, in the moment, taking in their surroundings and letting it shape their performances and reactions. Extraordinary people and action set in ordinary, familiar surroundings seem much more extraorinary whereas, extraordinary people in extraordinary settings just seem "normal." I think that will be a key difference between Goemon and Kamui...at least to this blogger. The film is slated for a Fall 2009 release.


Besson to Direct New Film

The headline alone is worth a post. Besson's footprint on modern cinema may be lacking in frequency, but are deep and clear as any of his contemporaries. Even when he is not directing, the projects and filmmakers he backs through his EuroCorp have a contributed to a varied palette of films that distinguish Besson as a filmmaker in every sense of the word.

News out of Cannes 2009 reports that financing sales have gone well for his next film, THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC. It is an adaptation of a French comic by the same title.

According to this site, the titular character is
... a freelance writer who operates in Paris, first before World War I, then in the 1920s. In her adventures, she faces mad scientists, secret sects of demon worshippers, Egyptian mummies brought back to life, and a host of other weird creatures.

I can't even begin to express my excitement at the potential of having Besson direct a film about a gruff, smoking, pistol brandishing adventuress in turn-of-the-century France. The visuals and more importantly, the storytelling style he can unleash on such a period piece already leaves me wanting more. "Steampunk fiction" is sorely lacking in cinema, a dim torch at this point being kept alive by the likes of Guillermo del Toro. Let's hope the encouraging pre-sales of THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC is a sign of growing interest in the genre.


Sherlock Holmes *UPDATED*

When I heard that Guy Ritchie was going to helm a new interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary sleuth, my ears certainly pricked up. Afterall, Ritche is, whether some people want to admit it or not, one of the more brash and influential film directors of our time. Though he may have hit a few rough spots, it is because of his exploration of how stories are told that have led to some "failures." Like with all things, however, it is through those failures that things are learned and ideas refined. His understanding of English-style crime is arguably unmatched among his contemporaries.

Ritchie has stated that his version of Holmes will be very different from the Holmes we've known in film, but is still true to Conan Doyle's representation. Though we are familiar with Holmes' formidable intellect, his fighting skills and physical prowess has rarely if ever represented. It seems Ritchie aims to feature as much pugilism as there is deducing for Holmes and his partner, Watson. Add to the fact that he has attracted Robert Downey Jr. to play Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, and we have a recipe for something that could be quite savory. All that remains is for a formidable foe to push our heroes to the brink. Perhaps the above picture is a hint. Though the film is still in production, I look forward to posting the trailer in the near future.

Yahoo now hosts the Teaser Trailer in Standard and High-Def formats. First impressions? A super slow motion shot of Holmes hitting a man... definitely something you have never seen in a period film. This certainly teases some of the "cheeky" parts of this updated portrayal, but I will be looking forward to the full trailer that should also give a preview of the overall tone and themes. Certainly looks entertaining at this point.


The Red Baron

This film has already hit in Europe, but I have read that reviews and audience reaction were less than stellar. I can't imagine why. Just viewing the trailer below makes me curious to see more.

Perhaps it's the subject matter, or more specifically, how it is handled. Perhaps people wanted a war movie when they actually got a more biographical film. I, on the other hand, would rather prefer to see a film that portrays the infamous Red Baron as a man of honor. Here, he is more than a fighter pilot; he is a modern knight jousting in the air on a winged steed. The wonderful thing about this era is that the aerial dogfights were fought at a speed slow enough to still allow you to see the face of your enemy. It is perhaps the last time warriors would battle one another "face to face." As speeds and technology advanced, killing your opponent at greater distances became the modus operandi. If Baron von Richthofen truly was a man who respected his opponents by upholding a type of chivalry or bushido, and valued dogfighting as "sport" rather than the function of the pilot in war, then his legend should not exclusively revolve around his skill as a fighter pilot, but his integrity as a man. If this film is little more than wishful thinking, then at least its romanticism seems to be an enjoyable interlude.


Black Sheep

A straight-up horror film featuring New Zealand's sheep population run amok?


There's some kind of zombie purge/weresheep action going on, in the best traditions of Raimi and Wright/Pegg. Practical FX by none other than NZ native WETA has got to put this thing over as a genuine labor of love. Best line from the trailer: "Get ready for the violence of the lambs."

Black Sheep Trailer (hires Quicktime)

Black Sheep Flash site


The Limits of Control

The latest by director Jim Jarmusch is a story of a hit man, but it is not a "hitman film." In fact, genre is really nothing more than the outer layer of any Jarmusch work; it is the only the context the story takes place, but certainly does not define it. Dead Man looks like a Western, but it is not. Ghost Dog seems like a Gangster film, but it is not. Broken Flowers feels like a Romantic-Comedy, but it is not. More than anything, the trappings of the genre are really a way for Jarmusch to dissect the hero of said genre; to examine how that person fits into that world and more importantly, what makes these certain archetypes the model "outcast." He populates that world with supporting characters that seem odder than the hero and I think that is the point. What is it they say? "The sane person in the insane asylum is the abnormal one." I think what Jarmusch always does best is to turn the concept of "the hero" as nothing more than just "the odd man out."

Just take a look at the trailer for this film here. Again, we have the classic Jarmusch protagonist: a lone man fulfilling his duties in the manner that fits the personal values, discipline, and world view that has sustained him thus far. Then, a situation arises that causes him to reevaluate himself and in so doing, he peels back the facade of the world around him. Jarmusch's wry directorial style always serves to put focus on the oddities of which the protagonist seems oblivious. The dialogue is always sharp and witty and all that really remains is to see how said oddity effects or disaffects our hero.

I mentioned in a previous post about Jarmusch that he is an acquired taste. His works are not for everyone and that is why they are particularly appealing to his fans. By far his most "accessible" film has been Coffee and Cigarettes, provided you like watching people talk over...well...coffee and cigarettes. Yet, Jarmusch continues to attract top name actors to his work because there is no pretension to what he does. It is an opportunity for them to act in something original, not some adapted novel, comic book, videogame, or remake of the month. Jarmusch continually allows all involved to flex their creativity and you have to applaud a writer/director who chooses to take that path rather than give in to the temptation of "the weekend box office."


Give 'Em Hell Malone Cannes Trailer

Aint It Cool News broke the exclusive Cannes trailer courtesy of artist Timothy Bradstreet. A lot more of the overall story and mood has been revealed and this looks to be one "helluva" good time. Great, stylized dialogue plus a no nonsense attitude both in front and behind the camera truly makes this a unique project. At least one we haven't seen in a long while. (Make sure to hit the "HQ" button for a cleaner picture)


District 9

Science Fiction from South Africa? Former CG animator Neill Blomkamp looks to bring us an interesting film with his South African homeland as a backdrop, hinting at some sort of alien internment with ominous social overtones. The trailer, in dead-serious documentary style, is a great set-up that whets the intellectual appetite with nary an explosion or transforming robot.

District 9 Trailer


Shinjuku Incident

Marketed as a film that shows of a side of star Jackie Chan that his fans have never seen before, Derek Yee's Shinjuku Incident attempts to feature one of the world's most recognized and popular martial arts star in a role that features not one single fight scene. In fact, there are no signature Jackie Chan "-isms" in this film at all. Instead, Jackie is (gasp) simply acting in this one. The synopsis according to a review on Twitch:
The story is set sometime in the early 90s and Steelhead (Jackie Chan) is an illegal Chinese immigrant in Tokyo. He has come to find work but also to look for his childhood sweetheart, Xiu Xiu (Xu Jinglei). He teams up with a group of Chinese workers, including Jie (Daniel Wu), and numerous familiar faces from Hong Kong Cinema like Lam Suet and Chin Kar Lok, who help him get some manual labour. While cleaning garbage out of sewer drains, Steelhead’s group of workers are chased off by police, and during the scuffle Steelhead inadvertently saves the life of Inspector Kitano (Takenaka Naoto). Steelhead escapes but Kitano now feels indebted to the illegal immigrant. Steelhead also meets bar owner Lily (Fan Bing Bing) and a turf war is brewing in Shinjuku between rival Yakuza gangs and when Steelhead recognizes the wife of mob boss Eguchi as none other than his beloved Xiu Xiu, he can no longer resist the urge to get involved.
Here's the trailer. Apologies for the sound quality, but this is the best version not embedded in a Flash site.

It is certainly different from what you're used to from Jackie Chan; the story is definitely a realistic if only a little overly dramatized plight of immigrant workers in Japan. Of note is that only an edited version was screened in mainland China while an unedited version is what was distributed in Japan despite the unflattering depiction of Japanese attitudes toward immigrants that is obviously a key theme of the film. Reviews have been good, but not glowing. However, any film from Jackie Chan, especially one where he is trying to flex his acting muscles, should certainly be checked out.


Foreign Filmmakers Guide To Hollywood

Here's an interesting project. Director Hideo Nakata, the man who introduced to the world the creepy Sadako in the Ring series of films and who remade the same film as his Hollywood debut, has directed a documentary that is basically a "guide" for other international directors with aspirations to break into Hollywood. The documentary essentially recounts his experiences making the U.S. version of The Ring while he explores the differences between the way they do things in Hollywood versus Japan. The film also includes interviews the likes of Walter Parkes (producer), Michele Weisler (producer), Roy Lee (Asian remake producer extraordinaire), Gabriel Beristain (cinematographer), Michael Knue (editor), Hans Zimmer (composer), Joe Menosky (television writer), Takashige Ichise (producer), Takashi Shimizu (director of The Grudge), among others who speak frankly about the business side of things based on their experiences. Ultimately, the documentary is more of a cautionary tale than a "how-to." Nakata's intent, I believe, is to let other filmmakers know what they are getting themselves into before they come to a rude awakening on the set of their American debut film. I think this one should definitely have legs in the festival circuit.

You can find the trailer on the Official Site (Japanese only).