Review of the month… kind of.

Sorry it took me so long to update here! I actually started writing my reviews for all the films I’ve seen since I’ve been in New Zealand, but the connection went off and erased my post without saving it or anything. And now I’m way too lazy to write it all over again… What I’ll do though is a listing of all the films I’ve seen from July to mid-September, and then a quick rating (out of five stars). Told you I was being lazy…

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, directed by David Yates ***1/2
Starter for 10, directed by Tom Vaughan ****
Knocked Up, directed by Judd Apatow ***1/2
A Mighty Heart, directed by Michael Winterbottom ***1/2
Eagle vs. Shark, directed by Taika Cohen ****
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, directed by Dito Montiel ***
Den Brysomme Mannen (The Bothersome Man), directed by Jens Lien ****
Death at a Funeral, directed by Frank Oz ***1/2
The Bourne Ultimatum, directed by Paul Greengrass *****
Hot Fuzz, directed by Edgar Wright ****1/2
Ratatouille, directed by Brad Bird *****
Superbad, directed by Greg Mottola ****

Thinking about it, all those are very decent films -I haven’t seen a bad one since I’ve been here, probably because now I actually have to choose carefully, as opposed to when I was in France and kind of seeing any film because I could see as many as I wanted. Random thoughts on those films:
* This list includes three of my favourite films of the year so far: The Bourne Ultimatum (what did you expect?), Ratatouille and Hot Fuzz.
* James McAvoy’s performance in Starter for 10 as well as Angelina Jolie’s in A Mighty Heart were really incredible -they brought me to tears in seconds.
* Judd Apatow (director of Knocked Up and executive producer of Superbad) is slowly but surely changing the face of American comedy. His humour is devastating; very much relationships/sex-centered and such, but with plenty of heart and always grounded in reality. I love it.
* Paul Greengrass can’t do anything wrong. Really.
* Similarly, Pixar has reached dizzying heights of greatness in their latest work of art (’cause that’s what their films are). I thought they just couldn’t get any better but they did. What is even more astonishing is that their short films are as funny and smart as hell; a fact displayed in full glory in Lifted, the short attached to Ratatouille.
* Edgar Wright is confirming what Shaun of the Dead hinted at: not only does the man has a great visual style and comedic timing, he also knows how to write bloody great characters.
* Contrary to what people might say, Eagle vs Shark is not the new Napoleon Dynamite; the humour is sharper, the characters more interesting and developed, the story more emotional -in other words, it’s way better!

Elsewhere, the award season has ‘officially’ started, with the Toronto Film Festival wrapping up just this week. David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, starring Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts (gee), took the prize. More interesting to look at is the list of prize recipients at the Venice Film Festival this year; it’s all over the place. Ang Lee’s Lust and Caution emerged as the winner, but Brian DePalma took the Best Director prize for Redacted, Ken Loach’s It’s A Free World recieved Best Screenplay and the acting prizes also went to two different films who had very strong buzz, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and I’m Not There (for Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett respectively –Babel anyone?).

3:10 to Yuma, directed by James Mangold (of Walk the Line fame) and starring Russell Crowe as well as Christian Bale, has recieved tremendous buzz since its release -and was a box-office winner, too. Atonement, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley (just like Pride and Prejudice), is also getting raves from critics. Juno, a small-budgeted comedy about a dysfunctional family with a stellar cast, directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking), bears a suspicious resemblance to a certain award-winning film of last year -it really sounds awesome though. In other words, the award season this year looks as bright and fierce as ever… and it’s only September!

To be entirely honest, the Toronto Film Festival this year attracted an incredible amount of Hollywood celebrities, more than usual (notably Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who can’t decide whether they’re mainstream or not). The only thing that interested me though was the presence of Gus Van Sant. For some reason, Paranoid Park was in Vanguard selection of the fest and not in the main one (“aimed toward adventurous audiences who delight in movies that push the envelopes of technology, culture, and sexuality, these edgy films have a distinct, youthful feel”). In any case, he attended and more details on his Harvey Milk film have emerged. It was reported that Sean Penn will play Harvey Milk and Matt Damon will play Dan White, his assassin (read the story here). Gulp. It’s odd thinking of Gus going back to working with professional actors. But I’m honestly thrilled at the thought of Matt Damon working once again with one of my favourite directors -even if only Sean Penn has been confirmed so far, and not Matt.
Speaking of which, Matt is involved in some seriously interesting projects right now: Margaret, directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Oscar-nominated for You Can Count On Me, this is only his second film in seven years); The Fighter, Darren Aronofsky’s latest; and of course, Paul Greengrass’s take on the Iraq War, Imperial Life in the Emerald City. And now he is rumoured to be in Gus Van Sant’s next film. That’s almost too much for me, really.
Also, I meant to write about Gus’ current project, 8. According to the IMDb, it’s “8 shorts centered around 8 themes directed by 8 famous film directors involved and sharing their opinion on progress, on the set-backs and the challenges our planet faces today”. It’s actually a project initiated by the United Nations Development Programme. The other directors are Jane Campion, Jan Kounen, Gaspard Noe, Wim Wenders, Abderrhamane Sissako and… Sean Penn (the cinema indutry’s a small world indeed). Gus’ theme is child mortality. You can visit the official website and learn more about the film here.

To go back to the Harvey Milk project, I have no idea what’s going on with Bryan Singer’s own. I know he and Christopher McQuarrie are still working on Valkyrie; shooting has been underway for quite a while now, and not without incidents. Plus, with all these talks of Tom Cruise and banning from shooting in Germany and whatnots… The cast though looks absolutely brillant: Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Tom Wilkinson -that’s a lot of British vets. The only girl cast so far is Carice Van Houten (the heroine of Black Book). Anyway, back on topic… I don’t know if Bryan will ever get to do The Mayor of Castro Street since he already has this one and then the Superman sequel. Looks like Gus got way ahead in any case.

Alright, well, I guess I’ll be posting more about films in the months to come. I apologise for not updating our other blog more often, or this one for that matter, but we’ve been so busy. We find it a bit hard to summarise it all, write our thoughts about it and then publish it on a blog, even though that’s the idea. Writing about personal life is so much harder than writing about cinema, heh.
See you next time for more film ramblings…

Last minute edit: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian poster just landed and it’s sweet! Prince Caspian looks fantastic. Bigger version is here.