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It's a bird! It's a plane!

by Moe - 1 Comment(s)

The newest incarnation of Superman is set to hit the theatres on June 13th and no doubt will be hugely popular. The trailers actually look quite good for this one and I'm sure it will do very well for itself and spawn all sorts of lunch bags, giant drinking cups and kid's pajamas. Superman is actually one of my more favorite Superheroes and I am likely to go see it. But thinking about the new Superman got me thinking about the old Superman and that of course got me thinking about Christopher Reeve.

Now he didn't have a chance to make a lot of movies before his terrible horse riding accident in 1995 which left him a quadriplegic. But what he did do I liked a lot. All of the 1, 2, 3, 4 Superman films that he made were not equally good, but I enjoyed the first one very much. However I do have two other films of his to recommend. One is Deathtrap starring another of my favorite actors, Michael Caine. This one is just unexpected fun with some good twists and turns. The next one is the bittersweet Somewhere in Time with Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer. I just re watched this one recently and it still makes me cry---I give it a 3 out of 5 in the soggy hankie category. And you would be hard pressed to find a more lovely sound track. He also had some small roles in a couple of Ivory and Merchant films, including Remains of the Day and The Bostonians.

Confined to a wheel chair for his last 10 years he lived a life of meaning, using his fame and his own circumstance to advocate on behalf of spinal cord injuries and stem cell research.

After he died in 2004, a number of memorial cartoons were Superman-themed. Many artists drew Reeve as Superman flying away from the wheelchair. In one picture, Superman came to Reeve's grave with flowers. In another picture, a grief-stricken Superman reads the news of Reeve's death in The Daily Planet newspaper and says to the reader, "He was my hero." In another, Captain America, Spider-Man, and Batman come to Reeve's grave with Batman, commenting, "He really was a super man." In another, a young boy in a wheelchair tells the reader, "He was the Man of Steel. He had incredible vision. He used his powers to save people. Nothing could stop him. And I think before that he acted in some Superman movies."

You can also read two book written by Reeve, including Still Me and Nothing is Impossible: reflections on a new life. There is also a pretty inspirational DVD from 2002 which follows his life after the accident and his stunning ability to regain partial muscle control; Hope in Motion.

Daniel Day-Lewis

by Moe - 2 Comment(s)

LincolnDaniel Day Lewis as LincolnI took another look at Lincoln with Daniel Day Lewis recently. He was so good (he received his third Oscar for Best Actor) I wanted to savour his acting skills a second time round.

Roger Ebert called him the best actor of his generation, bar none. Sir John Guilguld said of him: "He has what every American actor wishes for: talent; and what every British actor wishes for: looks." He is considered by many to be the British Robert de Niro, but to me that is not an apt comparison. I like de Niro (especially the earlier years) but DDL to my mind is far superior.

A method actor extraordinaire he is well known for his total immersion into a character. For the role of Christy Brown (his first Oscar win) in My Left Foot he learned about his paralyzed character by taking up residence in a wheelchair, even off-camera,requiring the crew to move him around.

For the role of one of the most memorable and heinous of villains, Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York, he rarely got out of character and took actual lessons as an apprentice butcher. He could even be seen sharpening his knives at lunch. Yikes!

My Left FootDuring The Last of the Mohicans (1992) he built a canoe, learned to track and skin animals, and perfected the use of a 12-pound flintlock gun, which he took everywhere he went, including a Christmas dinner.

For the eight month shoot for Unbearable Lightness of Being, he learned to speak Czech.

In preparing for his role in The Boxer, he sparred a total of 350 rounds, acquiring a broken nose in the process. The consultant for the fight scenes was alarmed and told him, "Daniel, it doesn't have to be this tough." DDL replied "I want to understand what a fighter goes through. I want to in some way simulate what it has to be like." Along with the amazing boxing scenes watch for the scene where he is jumping rope.

Gangs of New York

He was repeatedly offered the role of Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and repeatedly turned it down. Much as I love Viggo Mortenson in the role I would have loved to see DDL's perspective.

Following The Boxer, Day-Lewis took a leave of absence from acting by going into "semi-retirement" and returning to his old passion of woodworking. He moved to Florence, Italy, where he became intrigued by the craft of shoemaking, eventually apprenticing as a shoemaker. So if this whole acting thing doesn't work out for him, he's got a fall back career. But being the only person to ever win three Oscars for Best Actor I think his career is safe.

Watch him also in There will be Blood, his second Best Acting Oscar and a truly amazing performance. My Beautiful Laundrette, The Name of the Father, The Crucible are three more worth seeing. Well, actually everything he does is worth seeing.

 

There Will Be BloodThe Boxer

 

 

James McAvoy

by Moe - 1 Comment(s)

Earlier in the month MM gave away tickets to see the new Danny Boyle movie Trance. Starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassell, I really enjoyed this film. Nice mix of thriller, heist and drama. If you were one of the people we sent last week, we'd love to hear from you. Reach us through Comments.

This movie got me thinking how much I enjoy McAvoy and how the guy has a great knack for picking really diverse roles. He started out on the small screen and if you are paying attention you can see him in small character roles in Foyle's War, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and Band of Brothers. He had a starring role in the very well done BBC mini-series State of Play, along with other British perennial fave Bill Nighy. Far superior to the American theatrical remake with Russell Crowe. Then he made the jump to the big screen with The Chronicle's of Narnia playing Mr. Tumnus, a Pan-like creature. Next up was The Last King of Scotland playing against Forrest Whitaker, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his tremendous portrayal of Idi Amin. This is a strange and often brutal movie, but well worth a look. Atonement, based on the popular novel by Ian McEwan, showed us more of the depth of his acting skills. After this was The Last Station where he held his own against heavyweights Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer. Fast forward a few years and he takes on the role of a young Charles Xavier in the popular franchise X-Men First Class. He really nailed this performance, completely channeling a young Patrick Stewart.

He currently has three more films in post-production and I am sure the offers are flowing.

So long Roger Ebert

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The great film critic Roger Ebert died last week at the age of 70. With 50 plus years in the business he will be a tough act to replace—if in fact he can be. First and foremost a newspaperman, he is the only film critic to have received a Pulitzer Prize. Syndicated in more than 200 newspapers, with over 20 books to his credit and tens of thousands of reviews, the man "spent much of his time sitting through bad movies, so we didn't have to."

He was not a fan of top 10 lists, preferring instead to compile "best of the year." You can see the logic in this—it does not pigeon-hole you into a specific list that leaves no room for revisions. He did say his favourite actor was Robert Mitchum and actress was Ingrid Bergman. You can find the complete list on line, but here are his choices for best of the year from 2000-2012:

2000- Almost Famous: 2001- Monsters Ball: 2002- Minority Report: 2003- Monster: 2004- Million Dollar Baby: 2005- Crash: 2006- Pan's Labyrinth:

2007- Juno: 2008- Synecdoche, New York: 2009- The Hurt Locker: 2010- The Social Network: 2011- A Separation: 2012- Argo. We have all but one of these available.

Tom Cruise is Crazy!

by Trevor - 0 Comment(s)

I was watching the special features of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol this weekend and holy heck…Tom Cruise is crazy! I don’t mean crazy in the way most people meant after his Oprah couch jumping incident. I mean the hanging from a skyscraper hundreds of stories in the air crazy! He actually runs down the side of a skyscraper! A lot of actors pride themselves on doing their own stunts but Tommy turns the notch up to 11. Regardless of what you think of the star and his personal life, you have to give him credit for his insane stunts. Here are a few of his better, and sometimes crazier, action films.

Mission Impossibles – All of the films in this franchise are “non-stop thrill rides” (a favorite cliché quote of mine and one that appears on an alarming amount of DVD covers). I recommend watching or re-watching the two most recent as they’re undeniably the best. Though Mission Impossibles 1 and 2 are suitable action fare, number 3 and 4 (Ghost Protocol) are the epitome of modern action films and are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!

Minority Report – As you’ll come to know about me, I’m a sucker for sci-fi. Great sci-fi flicks like this one are even better. Using psychic prediction to stop all crimes before they happen? What could go wrong there? Jet packs, futuristic guns, and plot twists galore? Sign me up!

Knight and Day – While not the most original of films, Knight and Day is a more than satisfactory romantic action adventure. Tom does his usual super spy thing including some impressive motorcycle scenes.

Collateral – I read that Tom trained extensively with a military instructor so he could fire his gun like a highly efficient cold blooded killer. His cold blood certainly comes through as his villainous take on a hitman is one of his most interesting roles. He doesn’t often play a bad guy but has my vote to do so more often.


Though it’s not going to be out until April, I’m already getting excited for Cruise’s next film, Oblivion. Here’s hoping he can strike sci-fi gold again and do justice to the impressive trailer. I’ve no doubt that Tom will once again be sending his stunt doubles out on coffee runs while he jumps off cliffs and crashes cars.

Benedict Cumberbatch

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Benedict Cumberbatch is popping us everywhere these days. He is currently Sherlock in the very modern retelling of Holmes solving crimes in 21st century London. This is a popular series and we have blogged it more than once.

He is the voice of Smaug and The Necromancer in Peter Jackson's latest- The Hobbit. (Sherlock's sidekick John Watson is played by Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo in The Hobbit). He is to be the next heavy in the new Star Trek. He had smaller roles in The War Horse, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy earlier this year. He's been in Atonement, The Whistleblower, The Other Boleyn Girl. With the exception of TTSSPY, I enjoyed everyone of these movies. He is a fine dramatic actor.

I quite liked The Last Enemy, a 2008 BBC mini series, which first aired on 'Masterpiece Contemporary'. He plays a disaffected researcher who returns from abroad after the death of his brother, only to find an England he barely recognizes. A government bent on controlling its citizens at all costs, information gathering technology run amok, and a deadly plague. What more can you ask for in a thriller?

And speaking of The Hobbit, I saw it opening night — in glorious Imax, 3D, 48 frames per second. I am a rabid LOTR 's fan and was happy to return to Middle Earth with Peter Jackson at the helm- a few minor complaints such as it was a lot darker than I was expecting for the more light hearted Hobbit, but then that's P Jackson isn't it. Let me say this. While I enjoyed it very much, I do not feel compelled to rush right back to the theatre to see it again like I did with the other three LOTR installments.

Peter Jackson

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The world premiere of The Hobbit took place in Wellington New Zealand last night. The capital city spent over one million dollars to host the event, with fans lining up in costumes days ahead. As to the movie itself there's not really much that I can write about The Hobbit that you won't be able to read elsewhere. It's either on your radar or it's not. So let's take a look instead at Peter Jackson. He's actually been at this awhile, although most people only started hearing about him with his epic achievement of bringing the Lord of the Rings trilogy to the big screen.

Also in his filmography is Heavenly Creatures, a truly bizarre film of a bizarre event that took place in the 50's in New Zealand. Two teen girls become so obsessed with the fantasy world they have created that it leads to a real world murder. Want more bizarre? One of the girls grows up to become international best selling mystery author, Anne Perry. I kid you not!

District 9- another bizarre movie- this one's about Aliens forced to live in detention centres on earth. ET as the protagonist and mankind as the heavy.

Lovely Bones- Peter Jackson's attempt to bring the very popular Alice Sebold novel to the big screen. Wasn't my cup of tea, but then neither was the book.

King Kong- now this one I did like. Over the top, excessive and just a huge amount of fun. I'm a sucker for the big ape, and have seen him in all his incarnations.

And of course the Lord of the Rings trilogy: Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King.

CPL also carries a biography, fetchingly titled Peter Jackson: from Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings.

Is The Hobbit on my radar? You better believe it. This time last year we were on a touring holiday of NZ when we stumbled upon a Hobbit set. We got a pretty good look-albeit from quite a distance-before we got chased away by security. Can't wait to look for it in the film.

No Air Conditioner on this Train!

by Melanie - 1 Comment(s)

You might want to revisit this classic as a sort of antidote to Mad Men. Originally, scenes were cut from A Streetcar Named Desire due to censorship but Elia Kazan's full director's cut starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh is available at the library. There is a great production on Broadway now starring Blair Underwood as Stanley Kowalski. Now that I've lured you in with the good looks, here's a dose of reality...

In spite of all the parodies and over-quoted lines ("Stella!," "...the kindess of strangers") Streetcar is still a relevant and shocking stage play. Older sister Blanche is traumatized and manipulative, turning to an extreme femininity and aristocratic airs to make her way through life. On the other extreme, her sister's husband Stanley performs a stereotype of angry working-class masculinity. Blanche's sister, Stanley's wife, is caught between her duty to Blanche and her desire for Stanley, making the uncensored play not just about madness, as was often argued, but about dependence and the connection between restrictive gender roles and violence.

 

The Summer of Lars von Trier

by Melanie - 1 Comment(s)

Okay. Most people are barbeque-ing and whatnot in summertime. We seem to be watching a spate of movies by Lars von Trier, which is what we Movie Maniacs do.

In Five Obstructions, Lars makes another director re-do his original late 1960s experimental film but under a strict set of guidelines and then makes a terrifc documentary of the process.

I think Mat has already reviewed Dancer in the Dark starring Icelandic pop star Bjork. The soundtrack was very popular and a melodic departure from Bjork's earlier disco hits and Sugar Cubes work. She plays a young blind woman whose friendship with a local couple ends in tragedy.

Looking for a thriller? How about Lars' police vs. serial killer drama The Element of Crime? This is considered to part of trilogy that includes Europa, a thriller set in post-war Germany, and Epidemic, not in our collection at this time.

We're on the waiting list for Melancholia starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as women threatened with planetary annihilation AND wedding planning! It sounds funny, but isn't.

Nicole Kidman stars in Dogville but that doesn't mean you should confuse Lars von Trier with Baz Luhrmann; for one thing, Lars is Danish. For another, this film is very creepy. A woman on the run is sheltered by a rural American community in the 1930s. Our male protagist is a driven young writer who never writes. These must be nice folks, taking in a stranger, right? For fans of theatre, the set is a stage with chalk outlines of buildings in the small town. The film is narrated "Sunshine Sketches/Wobegon" style.

The Boss of it All is a charming comedy that features a hapless everyman hired to fire everyone in a corporation so the real big boss doesn't have to. Fans of comedy series The Office will appreciate this one. In Danish with subtitles.

Johnny D & John C

by Moe - 1 Comment(s)

Whenever I think 'quirky', two actors come to mind. One is Johnny Depp and the other is John Cusack. Both have been around for a lot of years, both are highly versatile and both can be counted on to give solid performances---especially in very offbeat films. It's interesting to see that both also have new releases in the theatres at the moment. The Raven is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's poem of the same name and features Cusask. Dark Shadows is a re-imagining of the 1966 TV cult classic and features Depp as an imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins. Truth be told, I will give both of these a pass until they come out on DVD, but we have lots of other Depp and Cusack titles that showcase their talents.

Forget the mainstream Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, we've all seen and enjoyed them, and try these from Depp: Edward Scissorhands, Rango, Don Juan DeMarco, Benny and Joon and the wonderful and truly strange Ed Wood. We also have the original tv series that launched his career and made him the heartthrob of most North American teens---21 Jump Street. I recently watched The Rum Diary and although not a great film it did qualify as mildly quirky, is well acted, and had more than enough to keep me with it.

Cusack has never really been main stream, or at least not since his days as a member of the brat pack in the 80's. Try him out in what is likely one of the most bizarre movies ever---Being John Malcovich. Also Grosse Pointe Blank and the same roll reprised in War Inc ---written by Cusack---and yes that is him doing his own stunts-he has a black belt in kick boxing.

Now to end this post, let me say that the two Johns have in their filmography to my mind several VERY scary movies. 1408 with Cusack just scares the milk and cookies out of me every time I watch it- and I can't stop watching it. And Depp is often at his best when he plays the 'in over his head' protagonist like in Sleepy Hollow. Also, From Hell (a Jack the Ripper retelling-very bloody and dark) and Secret Window.

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