Archived entries for

And also…

Speaking of awards, My Two New Favourite Bands have scored 3 nominations each at the 2008 BRIT Awards!
Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys are up for Best British Band and Best British Live Act; as well as Single of the Year for the Kaisers (for “Ruby”) and Best British Album for the Monkeys (for “Favourite Worst Nightmare”). The Kaisers will perform at the ceremony (squee!), on the 20th of February.

Also, the Arctic Monkeys are leading the nominations at the 2008 NME Shockwave Awards nominations –with 7 nods! The ceremony will take place on the 28th of February.

Congratulations to all of the guys! Although I’m sad that they’re competing against each other XD

2008 preview

Well, I’m a bit late on this one too… But let’s keep up the good traditions. Here are…

The 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2008
still a completely useless yet informative guide written by me.

Indicated release dates are the French ones only. Informations and summaries are provided by the IMDb and CS.net.

1. The Dark Knight (August, 20th)
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
View the trailer

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Plot summary : Christian Bale once again embodies the man behind the mask in “The Dark Knight.” The film reunites Bale with director Christopher Nolan and takes Batman across the world in his quest to fight a growing criminal threat. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman has been making headway against local crime…until a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Heath Ledger) unleashes a fresh reign of chaos across Gotham City. To stop this devious new menace–Batman’s most personal and vicious enemy yet–he will have to use every high-tech weapon in his arsenal and confront everything he believes.

2. Indiana Jones and the Kindgom of the Crystal Skull (May, 21st)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBoeuf, John Hurt, Ray Winstone
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Plot summary : Haha. Dream on.

3. Valkyrie (October, 3rd)
Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Patrick Wilson, Stephen Fry, Tom Wilkinson
View the trailer
No poster available

Plot summary : The “July 20 Plot” on Hitler’s life is one of the most heroic but least known episodes of World War Two. Severely wounded in combat, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg returns from Africa to join the German Resistance and help create Operation Valkyrie, the complex plan that will allow a shadow government to replace Hitler’s once he is dead. But fate and circumstance conspire to thrust Stauffenberg from one of many in the plot to a double-edged central role. Not only must he lead the coup and seize control of his nation’s government… He must kill Hitler himself.

4. Blindness (December, 19th)
Directed by Fernando Meirelles
Starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Glover
No trailer or poster available

Plot summary : A doctor’s wife becomes the only person with the ability to see in a town where everyone is struck with a mysterious case of sudden blindness. She feigns illness in order to take care of her husband as her surrounding community breaks down into chaos and disorder. Based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago.

5. Wall-E (July, 30th)
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Starring the voices of Fred Willard, Jeff Garlin, Ben Burtt
View the trailer

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Plot summary : After hundreds of lonely years of doing what he was built for, WALL•E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) discovers a new purpose in life (besides collecting knick-knacks) when he meets a sleek search robot named EVE. EVE comes to realize that WALL•E has inadvertently stumbled upon the key to the planet’s future, and races back to space to report her findings to the humans (who have been eagerly awaiting word that it is safe to return home). Meanwhile, WALL•E chases EVE across the galaxy and sets into motion one of the most exciting and imaginative comedy adventures ever brought to the big screen.

6. Quantum of Solace (November, 5th)
Directed by Marc Forster
Starring Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright
No trailer or poster available

Plot summary : “Quantum of Solace” continues the high octane adventures of James Bond (Daniel Craig) in “Casino Royale.” Betrayed by Vesper, the woman he loved, 007 fights the urge to make his latest mission personal. Pursuing his determination to uncover the truth, Bond and M (Judi Dench) interrogate Mr White (Jesper Christensen) who reveals the organisation which blackmailed Vesper is far more complex and dangerous than anyone had imagined.

7. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (July, 2nd)
Directed by Andrew Adamson
Starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes, Peter Dinklage
View the trailer
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Plot summary : The characters of C.S. Lewis’ timeless fantasy come to life once again in this newest installment of the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, in which the Pevensie siblings are magically transported back from England to the world of Narnia, where a thrilling, perilous new adventure and an even greater test of their faith and courage awaits them. One year after the incredible events of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” the Kings and Queens of Narnia find themselves back in that faraway wondrous realm, only to discover that more than 1300 years have passed in Narnian time. During their absence, the Golden Age of Narnia has become extinct, Narnia has been conquered by the Telmarines and is now under the control of the evil King Miraz, who rules the land without mercy.

8. Be Kind Rewind (March, 5th)
Directed by Michel Gondry
Starring Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow
View the trailer
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Plot summary : Jack Black stars in “Be Kind Rewind,” a one-of-a-kind comedy from the mind of writer/director Michel Gondry. Black stars as a loveable loser stuck in a life that’s too small for his big dreams. But when he unintentionally erases all the tapes in a video store where his best friend works, he devises a plan to satisfy the store’s few loyal customers by re-creating and re-filming every movie they decide to rent.

9. Pineapple Express (September, 24th)
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez
No trailer or poster available

Plot summary : Lazy stoner Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) has only one reason to visit his equally lazy dealer Saul Silver (James Franco): to purchase weed, specifically, a rare new strain called Pineapple Express. But when Dale becomes the only witness to a murder by a crooked cop (Rosie Perez) and the city’s most dangerous drug lord (Gary Cole), he panics and dumps his roach of Pineapple Express at the scene. Dale now has another reason to visit Saul: to find out if the weed is so rare that it can be traced back to him. And it is. As Dale and Saul run for their lives, they quickly discover that they’re not suffering from weed-fueled paranoia; incredibly, the bad guys really are hot on their trail and trying to figure out the fastest way to kill them both. All aboard the Pineapple Express.

10. Ghost Town (October, 8th)
Directed by David Koepp
Starring Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, Kristen Wiig, Téa Leoni, Billy Campbell
No trailer or poster available

Plot summary : Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais), is a man whose people skills leave much to be desired. When Pincus dies unexpectedly, but is miraculously revived after seven minutes, he wakes up to discover that he now has the annoying ability to see ghosts. Even worse, they all want something from him, particularly Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) who pesters him into breaking up the impending marriage of his widow Gwen (Téa Leoni). That puts Pincus squarely in the middle of a triangle with spirited result.

Academy Awards nominees, 2008

It’s that time of the year again! Funny how time flies by quickly

Best Picture
Atonement
Juno
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Those picks are fairly predictable, I daresay -Michael Clayton‘s nomination is mildly surprising, but it’s still a huge award favourite this year. I suspect There Will Be Blood might get this one, although any of these films could pull off a win –remember the unexpected victory of The Departed in this category last year.

Best Director
Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jason Reitman – Juno
Tony Gilroy – Michael Clayton
Joel and Ethan Coen – No Country For Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood

Since the Coens won the DGA Award, it’s difficult not seeing them win this one. All those nominees are quite surprising, frankly. Julian Schnabel won the Golden Globe, so he might pull off an upset, but it’s still a long shot. Jason Reitman and Paul Thomas Anderson, although they are well-established directors, are both still quite young, with only a couple of films behind them. I’m very pleased with Tony Gilroy’s nod, as he’s the Bourne trilogy’s awesome screenwriter, but Michael Clayton is his first feature film. I think this one will go to the Coens -it wouldn’t be their first Oscar win (they won Best Screenplay for Fargo).

Best Actor
George Clooney – Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises

Daniel Day-Lewis is a heavy favourite there, he would become a two-time Best Actor winner should he get the award. Clooney was thrown in there ’cause he blackmails the Academy each year (and because he can be incredibly intense oncreen); and although Tommy Lee Jones and Viggo Mortensen got the best reviews of their careers for their respective roles, it’d be surprising to see them win (both their films failed to get a nomination in any other category -never a good sign). Johnny Depp… it’d be lovely to see him win, but I think Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance is more of the kind that the Academy would reward.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie – Away From Her
Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose
Laura Linney – The Savages
Ellen Page – Juno

A surprising line-up there, with Queen Cate and Laura Linney managing to get a nod -the Academy must really love them. It’s also great to see little Ellen Page nominated… Julie Christie is the clear favourite here -if Marion Cotillard had shot her part in English, she would have gotten the award. Think this one might be going to Julie Christie, although it’s still a bit of an open field.

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem – No Country For Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson’s War
Hal Holbrook – Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton

Hmm, once again, it’s a bit tricky to pick a winner here, although I’d have to go for Javier Bardem, who was insanely good (he also won the SAG award). All those performances were universally praised, really. Casey Affleck had a very early, positive buzz, so he’s the one to watch.

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There
Ruby Dee – American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton

Although Cate Blanchett would appear to be the frontrunner in this category, I think Ruby Dee could pull off an upset. Cate has already won this award. Then again, the double nomination seems to indicate that the Academy really, really loves her. It’s great to see young Saoirse Ronan getting recognised. Same for the supporting players of Michael Clayton -it’s a very good year for them; with 7 nominations in almost all of the major categories.

Best Original Screenplay
Diablo Cody – Juno
Nancy Oliver – Lars and the Real Girl
Tony Gilroy – Michael Clayton
Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird – Ratatouille
Tamara Jenkins – The Savages

Very happy to see Ratatouille getting a nomination!! Although I haven’t seen any of the other contenders… Seeing that Juno seems to be this year’s Little Miss Sunshine (otherwise known as: the Little Movie That Could), it might win this one, although the Academy could give it to Michael Clayton as a consolation prize. One of those two, then.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Christopher Hampton – Atonement
Sarah Polley- Away From Her
Ronald Harwood – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joel & Ethan Coen – No Country For Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood

Lots of heavy contenders… It’s great to see Sarah Polley recognised, but I reckon this one is between P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and Christopher Hampton’s Atonement (if the Coens win for best director, they won’t be getting this one). It’s more likely to see P.T. win, but Atonement has been widely praised too, and especially for its screenplay.

Best Foreign-Language Film
Beaufort (Israel)
The Counterfeiters (Austria)
Katyn (Poland)
Mongol (Kazakhstan)
12 (Russia)

Haven’t really… heard anything about these, really *deadpans*

Best Animated Film of the Year
Persepolis
Ratatouille
Surf’s Up

Errrm, one of these contenders looks oddly LAME. Anyhow, as much as I loved Persepolis and I thought it was really funny and well-done and beautiful, Ratatouille is way too good to be to ignored there. It’s such an achievement –I would give it the Best Picture Oscar if I could.
I’m still whinging about the fact that there isn’t five nominees in this category. Animated features are no different than other feature films and yet…

Best Documentary Feature
No End in Sight
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
Sicko
Taxi to the Dark Side
War/Dance

Wow, I haven’t really heard about those as well, except for Michael Moore’s Sicko, of course. Are people still fed up with him? I dunno.

Best Art Direction
American Gangster
Art Direction: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino
Atonement
“Atonement” (Focus Features): Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
The Golden Compass
Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Art Direction: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
There Will Be Blood
Art Direction: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

I love Dennis Gassner, great to see him nominated. Ferretti’s a master, of course; and Arthur Max, if I remember correctly, also did the art design for Gladiator. Although all the films looked absolutely splendid, I think Sweeney Todd will eventually get this one -I would be rooting for American Gangster, this year’s most underrated film, but Sweeney Todd‘s art design was absolutely gorgeous and spot on with the film’s atmosphere.

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Roger Deakins – No Country For Old Men
Janusz Kaminski – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Seamus McGarvey – Atonement
Robert Elswit – There Will Be Blood

The most interesting race, really… Now, with Roger Deakins’ double nomination and considering his OUTSTANDING body of work, it’d be an outrage not to see him win. That being said, Janusz Kaminski proved to be particularly versatile -and he wasn’t even working with Spielberg, so there you are- and Robert Elswit has photographed every single Paul Thomas Anderson film to sumptuous effect. Seamus McGarvey did a tremendous job on Atonement, too. I would love to see any of these win -although Roger Deakins would be the most deserving, really.

Best Costume Design
Albert Wolsky – Across the Universe
Jacqueline Durran – Atonement
Alexandra Byrne – Elizabeth: the Golden Age
Marit Allen – La Vie en Rose
Colleen Atwood – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Oooh, Colleen, Colleen!! Even though she’s won multiple Oscars by now.
Although Elizabeth: the Golden Age looks like a dangerous contender (because, y’know, historical, royal flocks etc), I think Sweeney Todd could win this one. But then again, Marie-Antoinette got it last year while being the film’s only nomination…

Best Editing
Christopher Rouse – The Bourne Ultimatum
Juliette Welfling – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jay Cassidy – Into the Wild
Roderick Jaynes – No Country For Old Men
Dylan Tichenor – There Will Be Blood

Oooh, I love these people. Christopher Rouse is one of Paul Greengrass’ long-time collaborator and he did once again an amazing job on the third Bourne film, so I’m totally rooting for him. And Dylan Tichenor has edited all of P.T. Anderson’s films -and Brokeback Mountain, too. Roderick Jaynes is of course the famous alias for the Coen brothers; and although I’m not familiar with either Juliette Welfling or Jay Cassidy’s previous works, I did see both the Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Into the Wild, and those were really well-edited films. I think There Will Be Blood is the likeliest winner, but there’s no clear favourite.

Best Makeup
Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald – La Vie en Rose
Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji- Norbit
Ve Neill and Martin Samuel – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Rick Baker worked on NORBIT?! Gah. Also, Kazuhiro Tsuji was nominated last year for Click, so he might deserve the Oscar for Best Make-Up Artist Who Should Work On Films Matching His Talent. A bit shameful, really.
Pirates of the Carribean: At Whatever’s End At World’s End should win this one, but I can’t be bothered to care for this film.

Best Music (Score)
Dario Marianelli – Atonement
Alberto Iglesias – The Kite Runner
James Newton Howard – Michael Clayton
Michael Giacchino – Ratatouille
Marco Beltrami – 3:10 To Yuma

Oh, I am so pleased with this category. Dario Marianelli did not get this one in 2006, so he should really win. But Alberto Iglesias is such a gifted composer (he scored The Constant Gardener), and so is Michael Giacchino. And James Newton Howard is, well, James Newton Howard. I couldn’t predict a winner, even if I wanted to -it’s a close race. Also, two of these nominations are their films’ single nomination, so you never know.

Best Music (Song)
“Falling Slowly” – Once
Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova
“Happy Working Song” – Enchanted
Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
“Raise It Up” – August Rush
Music and Lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas
“So Close” – Enchanted
Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
“That’s How You Know” – Enchanted
Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Well, at least the Academy saw Enchanted, even if Amy Adams didn’t get a nod. Dreamgirls had three songs nominated last year and none of those won, so who knows… I heard Once‘s really good, though.

Best Sound Mixing
Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis – The Bourne Ultimatum
Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland – No Country For Old Men
Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane – Ratatouille
Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe – 3:10 To Yuma
Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin – Transformers

Haha, Kevin O’Connell. 20th nomination… Poor guy.
I’d be very happy to see the Bourne team win, but the Oscar could go to any of these guys. Ratatouille looked, tasted and sounded outstanding, so I wouldn’t mind seeing the Pixar people win XD

Best Sound Editing
Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg – The Bourne Ultimatum
Skip Lievsay- No Country For Old Men
Randy Thom and Michael Silvers – Ratatouille
Christopher Scarabosio and Matthew Wood – There Will Be Blood
Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins – Transformers

Oooh, I recognise these names from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Too bad they’re now working for Michael Bay. Although if there’s something in Transformers that’s absolutely neat, I bet that’s it. Ditto what I said for sound mixing –would be great to see the Bourne Ultimatum or Ratatouille walk off with this Oscar. Or any of these films, really.

Best Visual Effects
Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood – The Golden Compass
John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier – Transformers

Oooh, people at ILM must be pleased with themselves. As they probably always are. Anyway, err… Since I can’t bring myself to care for either Pirates or Transformers, I’ll root for the Golden Compass (and the VFX were really great, too). One of the ILM team will probably win, though.

The categories left are the short films category. Well I still don’t know shite about those, so I’ll just post the nominees here. Sorry…

Best Documentary Short Subject
Freeheld
La Corona (The Crown)
Salim Baba
Sari’s Mother
Best Animated Short Film
I Met the Walrus
Madame Tutli-Putli
Même les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)
My Love (Moya Lyubov)
Peter & the Wolf
Best Live Action Short Film
At Night
Il Supplente (The Substitute)
Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)
Tanghi Argentini
The Tonto Woman

Well, that’s it for this year then. The results are in on the 24th of February :)

Review of the month: December/January

This is the first part of a massive update :)

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* Beowulf, directed by Robert Zemeckis. Seeing that film in IMAX 3D is nothing short of the most exciting experience I’ve ever had in a movie theater (and that’s a huge compliment). It seems that Beowulf was shot and designed to be projected in that format, really. I’m still curious as to what it would have looked like on a regular screen, but in any case, the motion capture technique fits the 3D format perfectly. The animation is mind-blowingly precise and detailed –props to the designers and animators who brought this project to life, because this is what first and foremost allows the viewer to enter the world of Beowulf, which could have never been created otherwise. Considering that IMAX offers a crystal-clear image, it represents an even greater achievement. It’s actually a bit hard to judge the film itself, because it is so groundbreaking in terms of special effects technique. But Robert Zemeckis’s obviously put a lot of work and effort in fitting the contents to the form, and he more or less succeeds in avoiding all the hinderances which are bound to befall such an epic story –characterisation is well established, suspense is maintained throughout the entire film etc. As a viewer, you find youself utterely absorbed in the primitive and brutal universe of the tale (fraught with ghastly creatures, ancient curses and a particularly evil enchanteress). Beowulf is an adventure film in the grandest sense of the term and provides terrific thrills, thanks to Zemeckis’ impeccable storytelling. Equally effective are the actors –Ray Winstone brings an unexpected but welcomed sensibility to his role, while the always underestimated Brendan Gleeson proves to be a solid supporting role. However, it is Angelina Jolie who turns out to be somewhat of a scene-stealer as the mesmerizing, awe-inspiring mother of Grendel. Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich and Robin Wright Penn also provide fine performances.
I highly, highly recommend it. It’s an experience like no other, especially in 3D, and it fufills any expectations you would have of an epic, thrilling tale.

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* Into the Wild, directed by Sean Penn. Based on a true story, Sean Penn’s directorial attempt is an ode to despair and loneliness, at the same time wonderful and tragic and everything in between. It tells the relatively simple story of Chris McCandleless, a young man who decides to leave home after his graduation, pretty much fed up with the world around him. He decides to take on a journey to reach Alaska, away from everyone and sheltered from civilisation. The lengthy running time (over two hours and a half) allows Penn to capture the greatness and variety of American wilderness, while staying focused on the sole character of Chris. This is a personal odyssey on a grand scale, although the character’s motives are sketchy at best. And maybe this is what works better –there is an intangible sense of malaise in Chris’ existence, and each viewer is left to figure it out for himself. Now, the movie is undoubtedly flawed and even at some moments, clumsy. But this is mainly because it is so intimate and raw –“honest” filmmaking, as I like to call it. Also, not enough praise could ever be bestowed on Emile Hirsch, in a performance that is incredibly intense and achingly realistic.

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* The Golden Compass, directed by Chris Weitz. As a huge fan of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials book trilogy, it was difficult not to be cynical about yet another Hollywood adaptation of a famous fantasy literary saga. My expectations were not running high since the film generated a somewhat negative buzz on its immediate release, and it simply seemed mediocre at best. To my relief though, the film actually wasn’t that bad. Director Chris Weitz does the job he is required to well enough; with so much material on his hands and so little screentime, it’s a wonder he’s managed to make a film which does justice to Pullman’s creativity and still is coherent. The overall result is a bit wonky; there are storylines and characters all over the place, and it’s hard to tell where the grand-scale adventure is going sometimes. The truth is, the entire film is actually a setting-up of that adventure. Whether that was the filmmakers’ intentions or not is debatable. As a result, the viewer will either be interested and looking forward to seeing more, or downright disappointed. In my case, it was certainly the former –although I imagine the lack of answers is frustrating without a doubt. I think the film still provides a solid adaptation of Pullman’s book, even though they seemed to have kept the final chapters for the next film, which is the weirdest choice I’ve seen in a long time. But as a film in itself, it remains decidedly average. I’m afraid it does not come even close to triggering the sense of wonder and excitement that films such as the Lord of the Rings have generated. Which is a pity really, because it has a lot of potential. Special effects are great, production design brillant indeed (Alexandre Desplat’s score is a treat as well); and even though the direction is quite conventional, it certainly works well enough to offer a fascinating glimpse into Pullman’s world. The next film, surely, will be better than this. Last word on the performances; Dakota Blue Richards does a wonderful job in bringing Lyra to life, and Nicole Kidman’s icy beauty unquestionably fits the role of Mrs Coulter.

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* I Am Legend, directed by Francis Lawrence. What exactly makes this film so effective eludes me –it’s the sci-fi/borderline horror/somewhat post-apocalyptic tale of the last man on Earth after it’s been emptied. Events are explained as the film goes on, so spoiling it would completely take the fun out of it. But it is definitely intriguing, and director Francis Lawrence goes to great lengths to keep the viewer guessing. It’s also a bit of a cheap way to maintain suspense, but it works. Will Smith’s character is both compelling and interesting although he hardly has any dialogue –that’s a trick only an actor as charismatic as Smith could have pulled off, and it is needless to say that he is perfectly cast as he carries the entire weight of the film on his shoulders. Lawrence’s direction isn’t particularly remarkable, but there is definitely something special to filming the deserted streets of Manhattan. As expected, special effects are brillant –not in their design but in their use; there is a chilling sense of credibility and reality injected in the film. It’s a bit weird because I Am Legend is your typical Hollywood action blockbuster, and yet its focus and subject is unconventional: who ever made an action film with a single character in it? I personally enjoyed it, because it’s not trying to be clever or prententious, which somehow elevates it above other Hollywood flicks.

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* No Country For Old Men, directed by the Coen Brothers. Ah, the Coens. It’s been widely said that this is their best film yet, and although there is indeed a lot to praise, I still loved Fargo better. In any case, No Country For Old Men is everything you would expect from the Coens, or rather everything we love about them –it’s wacky, it’s dry, it’s shockingly violent and it’s unexpectedly touching in some parts. But most of all, it’s incredibly well-executed; a thriller with no flashy effects, just pure substance and masterstrokes. I think this is why the film is such an accomplishment, and why the Coens are such good storytellers; it’s effortlessly gripping. Javier Bardem as the no-nonsense killer is absolutely priceless, and every bit as memorable as other characters in the Coen universe. Josh Brolin (in a breakthrough performance) also does an incredible job with his part. Photography is absolutely amazing (as it always is with their long-time collaborator Roger Deakins), and the directing is flawless. The brothers have done it again, and they just seem to keep getting better.

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* American Gangster, directed by Ridley Scott. Sir Ridley Scott. One of my all-time favourite directors. Expectations were running high indeed for this film and it totally BLEW ME AWAY. I don’t mean to exaggerate or anything but this is undoubtedly one of Scott’s best films. His take on the gangster/crime film is right on with the legacy left by The Godfather and Goodfellas (yes, that’s how much I loved it). First of all, the screenplay is of very high-quality –the two main characters, Richie (Russell Crowe) and Frank (Denzel Washington) are given the full treatment; and incredible depth, too. What I loved most though, was the construction and pacing of the film. Oddly enough, this film reminded me of David Fincher’s Zodiac (one of my favourite films last year), in the sense that the emotions and tension creep up on you; as the film unfolds, you find yourself more and more captivated by the story which is presented before your eyes. The story is carefully build-up; and when the climax arrives, it’s absolutely enthralling. It’s also similar to Zodiac because of its bold sense of gritty realism; both films were photographed by Harris Savides, one of the most gifted directors of photography currently working. Ridley Scott displays an amazing versatility at holding the viewer’s interest; not unlike his contemporaries Scorsese and Spielberg, his sense of storytelling and detail is natural and faultless. It’s a demonstration of superior filmmaking. American Gangster is as epic as gangster films get, and with added dimension (Frank Lucas is a complex and fascinating figure). It’s a must see, so I highly recommend it, and it’s deifnitely my pick of the month.

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* Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, directed by Tim Burton. To paraphrase my thoughts quicky, I will just say that this movie is BLOODY great (pun intended). It’s absolutely brillant. This is what Burton does best –like the Coens’ No Country For Old Men, Sweeney Todd represents a dream project and epitomises everything we love about Burton; it fits its director’s vision seamlessly. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere and general aesthetic do justice to the Burtonian standards (DoP this time around is Dariusz Wolski, of Pirates of the Carribean fame). But the real achievement in Sweeney Todd is of course the film adaptation aspect of it, even though its origins as a stage musical are obvious. Each frame is superbly staged and Burton might have outdone himself, as far as the visuals go (and that’s very high praise indeed, considering his past films). The directing is simply stunning. Now, the story, or should I say, the songs… Well, it’s a simple and straightforward tale of vengeance and murder (and pies!). All the characters seem to fit the Burton-ish type, especially the eccentric Mrs Lovett (an incredible performance by Helena Bonham Carter). Johnny Depp is… well, Johnny Depp, adding yet another brillant part to his repertoire –he’s terrifyingly convincing. The rest of the casting line-up is as effective as its lead roles. There’s hardly any reproach that could be made to this film, really; but as a Burton fan, I was of course, already convinced before even seeing it (and you’ll never trust my reviews again now!). I am very happy to report that all my expectations were met indeed. Highly recommended.