TORONTO – In 2010, Derek Cianfrance seduced the independent film community with his stellar debut, “Blue Valentine.” The heartbreaking drama contrasted the beginning and end of a young couple’s marriage through Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams’ stellar performances. It became a staple on year-end critic's top 10 lists and landed Williams her second Oscar nomination. One of the reasons the picture resonated with so many moviegoers and critics was Cianfrance’s remarkable skill at creating honest and intimate moments with his actors. Unfortunately, It’s with sincere regret that I report Cianfrance’s latest endeavor, “The Place Beyond the Pines,” doesn’t measure up to the cinematic standards he set for himself just two years ago.
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One of the best moments of the entire festival for me so far was seeing Rory Cochrane join Ben Affleck onstage during the introduction for "Argo." The two of them co-starred in one of my favorite films, "Dazed and Confused," and it was just great to see them together again. The thing I've always loved most about that movie is the way it captured that feeling of those long, weird adolescent days when curfew was broken and substances were imbibed and nothing seemed to matter except the moment.
Stephen Chbosky's film adaptation of his novel, "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower," is equally adept at evoking the feeling of being young and unfocused and full of potential and desire without focus. It is smart, it is delicately made, and it is played perfectly by its young ensemble cast. I haven't read his book, so I can't tell you how faithful the film is, but I can tell you that it affected me deeply and moved me greatly. It is a wonderful, tender thing, and I hope this is just the beginning of what we see from Chbosky as a filmmaker.
VENICE -- It's the final day of the Venice Film Festival, and everything has wound down to a suitably Italian pace. The journalists have largely headed home or on to Toronto -- including my flatmates, leaving me rattling around a three-bedroom apartment, idly contemplating potential house-party guests.
The jury's deliberations have been done. The closing film (the Depardieu-starring Victor Hugo adaptation "The Man Who Laughed") has been screened, and is reported to be, as is the usual wont of festival closers, rather dreadful. Warned off by colleagues at dinner last night, I opted for a lie-in this morning instead. As such, my festival viewing is complete, but my reviewing isn't: look out for a couple more short-form review pieces in the next few days.
In other words, it's a low-key end to a festival that has been decidedly low-key from the start. That's not to say it's been a bad one: there's much to admire in this year's slimmed-down programme, particularly outside of a Competition lineup that most agree has been a shade less inspired than those of the last two years. Still, the Competition is where everyone's eyes ultimately land, as the inevitable question arose at the dinner table last night: "What's looking good for the Golden Lion?"
(UPDATE: No sooner had I posted this story than I received notification that Hungary has submitted Berlin Silver Bear winner "Just the Wind," which I've seen. More detail on that in the next category update.)
In the few days since I last checked in on this category, there have been several new titles added to the growing pile of Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submissions -- and the rate will only increase as the deadline for entries looms at the end of the month. We're up to 13 now, but it'll be 60 or so before you know it.
The most notable title from the new entries is Australia's submission "Lore" -- which I suggested back in June would be one to watch in the race. Like Austria's pick of Michael Haneke's "Amour," it's a selection that couldn't have been made a few years ago, when countries had to submit films in a native language. Indeed, there's nothing obviously Australian about "Lore" -- a German-set, German-language World War II survival story about five children's 500-mile trek to safety in the dying days of the Third Reich -- bar the fact that it's a largely Australian production from a noted Down Under director, Cate Shortland. (Britain and Germany also had in hand in the financing -- so between "Lore," "Amour" and their own selection "Barbara," the former country indirectly has a number of dogs in this fight.)
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"Family Tools" (ABC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: Tee-hee. "Tools." Yeah, I dunno. It's based on a successfully British format, but they changed the name and almost all of the premise of the format so... Yeah.
Quick Response: Although he's not connected to the series at all, the spirit of Greg Garcia looms large over "Family Tools," which was written by "Raising Hope" and "My Name Is Earl" veteran Bobby Bowman and directed by "Raising Hope" and "My Name Is Earl" veteran Michael Fresco. If you're a viewer/fan of those two shows, chances are relatively good that you'll find enough value in "Family Tools" to at least give in a second chance, because the DNA and worldview here overlap with NBC's comedy hit and FOX's critical favorite, at least somewhat. It's another portrait of blue collar America in which you can never be sure if the storytellers are being patronizing or reverential, but both answers are probably correct. At the center of "Family Tools" is Kyle Bornheimer, playing yet another in his rogue's gallery of hapless, lovable lugs. If, for some reason, Steve Martin decided to give his blessing to a TV version of "The Jerk," I'd cast Bornheimer as Navin. It happens that I almost always enjoy watching Bornheimer and I don't blame him for the failure of most of his failed shows, but after "Perfect Couples," "Romantically Challenged" and "Worst Week," his status as a showkiller is beyond question. I think he's funny and sympathetic in "Family Tools" as well, in perhaps his most Navin-esque role as career-hopping son who just wants to make his father proud of him, but can't stop screwing everything up. Around Bornheimer, you have the always terrific J.K. Simmons, the surprisingly funny Edi Gathegi, the immediately appealing Danielle Nicolet, the immediately quirky and weird Johnny Pemberton and Leah Remini, who will always be the star of the beach season of "Saved by the Bell" to me. The pilot is, to put it kindly, broad. And in the Garciaverse, "broad" isn't inherently a bad thing, but it can be a sign of danger. The challenge is always in concentrating on what is effectively and character drivenly broad and ignoring what is complacently and lazily broad. "Raising Hope" is a BROAD show, but it's become a differently broad show since its pilot. Once the show ditched the baby-endangerment comedy and started mining broadness from its gung-ho stars, it became the effective concoction that's returning for a third season. Bowman has a "Raising Hope"-esque cast of actors willing to do anything for laughs, so he'll just have to find the right ways to utilize that cast, without sacrificing the dignity and heart. "Family Tools" isn't a great pilot -- a couple of my colleagues seem to REALLY dislike it -- but knowing the Garcia template, I see potential here.
Desire To Watch Again: Just as the "Raising Hope" pilot made me laugh, but I reserved the right to drop out immediately if the show trended in the wrong direction, "Family Tools" got chuckles out of me and I want to believe it's going to continue down an improving path. So I'll be kinda looking forward to the second episode of "Family Tools," reserving the right to back away if the wackiness becomes overbearing.
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Infamous'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries
Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is set to play the Toronto Film Festival tomorrow. Press screenings are happening today. It's a nice, public space to debut the film, which opens on September 21, but it's also sure to be a big coming-out for star Logan Lerman, who gives a shattering performance of tenderness, emotion and, its its own way, charisma.
Lerman hasn't been on my radar in any substantial way, really. He's the "Percy Jackson" guy. He was good enough in "My One and Only" and certainly held his own in "3:10 to Yuma." But I wasn't really prepared for what he had to offer here, opposite a scenery-chewing Ezra Miller and an Emma Watson looking to put a little distance between herself and the "Harry Potter" franchise that made her.
But it's a performance that, I think, deserves real consideration this awards season. The Best Actor race will likely shake out the way it usually does -- a few obvious contenders playing roles that were half-way there on the page and maybe this wild card or that, depending on how campaigning goes -- but Lerman should be in the conversation.
Right now, I'm seeing a tendency among studios to do special free screenings based on demand that they try to calibrate by using various new companies and methods, and it's exciting. Nothing speaks better for a film than screening the film itself, and today, we've got a chance for you to win a local screening of Lionsgate's new release, "Dredd 3D".
It's simple to enter, too. Remember, in the world of "Dredd 3D," there is just one city, but it stretches from Boston to Washington DC, and it's now called Mega-City One. Keep that in mind as you check out what Lionsgate had to say about the event:
Citizens of Mega-City One, the law is on your side! If this is not your city block, simply head on over to The Dredd Report, the number one news source for all things Mega-City One, where you can see if your block has been chosen and enter to win an early screening of DREDD 3D, in theaters September 21.
All you need to do is send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include your full name, age, and the city/town where you live, with the subject line "Dredd 3D Phoenix." You can do that any time between now and Monday the 10th at 12:00 noon PST. We'll be sending out e-mail notifications to the winners as well as posting their names here in this article on Monday.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it: the Watch the Throne crew is back, temporarily, as Jay-Z and Kanye West have back-to-back rhymes on new G.O.O.D. Music song "Clique," also featuring an opening verse by Big Sean.
The latter rapper still has some work to do in terms of standing up to the big league bombast of West and Hov, but he does his best with telling a "a bad bitch do whatever I say" and then passing her off like bong hit. He drops the names of 2 Chainz and Bruce Wayne while Jay-Z around the corner with LeBron James and a bevy of new basketball metaphors. Being a minor owner in an NBA team will do that do you. Jigga has fun with the wompy, whirring beat -- provided by "N****s in Paris" producer Hit Boy -- and giving all aspiring business men a brief lesson in algebra on how to get one's half-mil.
It's Yeezy that takes all that buoyant energy and turns it into the biggest climax, starting of with an SEO-friendly boast how his girlfriend Kim Kardashian earned her dollars with a "home movie" (I hear she has a great personality, too). Illuminating on his recent history with Jay-Z by "hangin' off the Eiffel," he gets into race and his own tattered past: "You know white people get money don't spend it... I rather buy 80 gold chains and go ign'ant / I know Spike Lee gone kill me but let me finish," he says, quoting his own misstep from the MTV VMA incident with Taylor Swift just a few years back. Coincidentally, the 2012 Awards were just last night.
He ends his personal history lesson with a reference falling into a depression after his mom died, referencing his own suicidal thoughts and then admits his prayers to God. It's all fulfilling bluster until that abrupt ending, the only mar on this otherwise pristine, blaring track. Hit Boy should show up everywhere. Hit Boy for president.
As I said a couple of weeks ago, "Strike Back" is one of those shows I deeply enjoy but don't usually have a ton to say about. But I thought the just-concluded two-parter with Stonebridge and Scott defending their shabby little fort against overwhelming odds was pretty splendid. And tonight's episode begins a new two-parter that puts the machinations of Tywin Lannister (or whatever name Charles Dance is going by in this series) more into focus while also advancing the character arcs for the revenge-fueled Stonebridge and for Scott.
I've got an exclusive clip of tonight's episode, with the guys trying to escape an ambush, but I also thought I'd use this post as an opportunity for the handful of "Strike Back" fans we have around here to discuss the season so far. Have at it.
For many Americans, 1995's Danny Cannon film "Judge Dredd" was their introduction to the long-running English comic book, and it managed to poison the well for the character almost completely. Hopefully enough time has passed that when audiences walk into "Dredd 3D" later this month, the 1995 version is no longer an issue for them and they're able to just give this new film a shot without any baggage.
I'd heard good things after the Comic-Con screenings of the film, and it seems to be picking up a head of steam as far as critical reactions are concerned. There were rumbles about behind-the-scenes difficulties during production, but none of that is visible in the final product, which is a hyper-violent action film that manages to perfectly capture a sort of world-weary attitude that really sells the reality of life in Mega City 1. Karl Urban's performance as Judge Dredd, a legendary figure in the city, is suitably grim and badass, and there's not a hint of ego in the way he vanishes into that costume and that permanent scowl. We see one quick encounter between Dredd and a van full of genuinely stupid criminals at the start of the film, one of them taking hits of a drug called Slo-Mo that seems to almost freeze time for the user. Right away, you get a sense of just how far the film will go in terms of violence when Dredd fires what is essentially a flare into a guy's mouth, causing his whole head to catch on fire from the inside. It's a crazy image, and just a hint of what's ahead.