Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dexter’s back for Season 5

With a lack of promotion – hey, it didn’t have a new poster on imdb, until today – it was easy to forget that “Dexter” is indeed returning for season 5 this weekend, September 26 to be precise. The creepily silent comeback of our favorite maniac evokes the memory of Michael C. Hall’s very recent battle with cancer, but it also feels like the premonition of the next’s season’s mood, which, judging by Dexter 5 Comic Con trailer, is going to be decidedly grim.

As the season 4 ended with, quite literally, a bloodbath – with Dexter’s wife, Rita, in it – the new chapter starts out dreary. Dex is overcome with a quite new sensation – guilt, his adopted teenage daughter hates him and he is the main suspect in the investigation of Rita’s murder.

For me, the main question is, will Dexter keep or lose his sharp witty ironic tone, or will he get totally depressing and sad. I certainly hope not. After all, while Rita’s death was quite shocking, it was somewhat expected. As a character she was completely exhausted, and after she showed us Dexter as a struggling family man, there was nowhere else for her to go.

But now her death will become another test for Dexter’s ability to keep things in order. Especially that he finally caught the attention of police – ironically, for the only crime he didn’t commit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

“The Walking Dead” to invade TV this Halloween

With vampires now thriving on television (“True Blood,” “Vampire Diaries”) it was just about time for their main horror universe rivals, zombies, to strike back with their own TV-drama. And so they did – “The Walking Dead” series (see trailer here) created by Frank Darabont are set to hit the screens in the US (and accordingly, torrents worldwide) on the most fitting date – October 31.

The beginning of the series (as seen in the trailer) is an obvious déjà-vu – a guy waking up in a hospital to find a post-apocalyptic world outside its walls, was previously seen in a few literary and film works, including the classical “Day of the Triffids” by John Wyndham and British zombie feast “28 Days Later.” In “The Walking Dead,” the central character, a policeman, gets hit in a firefight, falls into a coma and wakes up in the world overrun by zombies. Having quickly recovered from a shock, he will bond with other survivors (some nice folk, some not) to daily withstand the constantly multiplying enemy. None of it is especially new. The main question is where the story will go from there. Darabont did some great work in his time, bringing us some of the best Stephen King adaptations ever – “Shawshank Redemption” and “Green Mile” – so we may expect him not to fail us this time either. In a way, all Darabont needs to do is draw inspiration from the true master of the genre – George Romero, who managed to keep his zombies “alive” even in the 21st century.

When zombies were first introduced in literature (notably by H.P. Lovecraft in “Herbert West-Reanimator,” 1921) and in films (“White Zombie” and “I Walked with a Zombie,” 1930s), they were either products of a mad scientist or deceased humans coming back to life to take revenge. In either case, it was the pure horror of the idea – an undead monster rising from the grave – that made the story. Nothing else. It wasn’t until Romero, admittedly inspired by “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson, created “The Night of the Living Dead” in 1968.

Romero gave birth to the popular culture image of zombies as mute, slow-walking, dumb creatures, only driven by desire to feed on human flesh and increasing their army by biting regular humans. But, Romero was also the first to employ the zombie not as the scare in itself, but as a way to expose the darker side of human nature as well as the possible fatal side-effects of scientific experiments and government’s ineptitude to deal with the consequences. Starting with a rather claustrophobic “Night” – a small group of people hiding from a zombie outbreak in a country house, Romero continued with “Dawn of the Dead” – a consumerism society satire in which characters take refuge in a zombie-filled mall and “Day of the Dead” set in a bunker filled with mad military men and scientists – just as dangerous as zombies themselves.

Some of the best zombie-style films to follow the success of Romero was the “Evil Dead” series. Pre-lord-of-the-rings Peter Jackson’s “Brain Dead” (1992), offered a trashy and comic though ultra-gory take on the subject. But it wasn’t until the 2000s, that the zombies experienced a new wave of popularity with freshly modern and packed with action, “28 Days Later” and “Resident Evil.” Zombies also proved great satire material, both in pure comedies “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland” and clever trash horror imitations “Planet Terror” and Norwegian “Dead Snow.”

So addressing the zombie-informed audience, “The Walking Dead” is better be smart, catchy, reasonably unpredictable, psychological and not without humor. Good acting will also be a plus. Or else, we’re coming to get you, Mr. Darabont!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Watching Lost: Part 1

So after even the people closest to me fell for Lost, I just gave up. I decided to watch it, but not just watch - analyze. Cause when the series cause such mad following worldwide - there must be something wrong with them. So far I've seen about 6 episodes, so here are first impressions.

No ugly people survived the plane crash. Or if they did - they are just extras, walking around in the background and get no screen time. I'm not saying everyone is a knockout, but surprisingly many are rather good looking. All men are in pretty good shape. Most of the folks are 25-35 years old, and the few oldies there are - are also pleasant to look at.

As one could expect from a movie with multiple characters, it filled with very particular types. Doc - savior and leader, rockstar junkie, dude from Iraq (which translates from American as terrorist), an Asshole without moral principles, father and son pair, a lovable fatty, and a Miracle Man - likely to become Lost's own priest, philosopher or prophet or smth. With women it is way easier: there is a sweetheart babe, a femme fatale and a prissy bitch. Plus - two freaky Koreans (still cute).

But now about major faults. Prissy always looks like she's just out of the beauty salon. I mean, at some point Babe was asking Femme Fatale about a comb! Prissy seems to have it all, complete with a hairdryer and a hairdresser. She's always wearing visible makeup - from the very first day, before anyone had time to rummage through suitcases. Femme Fatale seems to have a set of clean t-shirts in her pocket - also from the very first day. They fit her perfectly - so it looks like they're hers.

The (potential) Terrorist is always wearing a spotlessly white t-shirt - either he must clean it and bleach it every day, or he has a stash of them, likewise in his pocket. Fatty also has a change of clothes and considering his enormous size, only his own stuff could fit him. Well, its good to know that even if you're Lost and stranded on an island - there is still a better chance to get your luggage on time than on a regular flight.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Baby, I need fresh blood

“True Blood” is returning for season 3 tonight (see trailer here). The two previous seasons rocked, so I’m hoping I’m in for a treat once again. And if you aren’t yet addicted to “Blood”, here is why you should be.

First of all, I’m no vampire junkie. I don’t give a damn about “Twilight” and I often found vampires rather dull as characters – mirrors, silver bullets and coffins apply in every case. You can’t really go far from there. But in case of “True Blood,” – it’s not what the story is about, but how it’s told. Its opening credits alone got me hooked. It’s cool, addictive, thrilling, stylish and … veeeery sexy.

The invention of the synthetic blood substitute – True Blood – allowed vampires to live out in the open among regular mortals, since they no longer need to use them as food. Two years on after the sensational discovery, humans are still rather uncomfortable with their nocturnal neighbors. So when vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) walks into a small town bar in Louisiana, for a bottle of Red, he’s less than welcome.

However, he immediately catches the attention of story’s main character, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) – a cute little barmaid with a gift for reading people’s minds. It’s not that she has a thing for vampires (though some of her fellow humans do), but the ability to read minds is quite a drag when it comes to men – their thoughts quickly repulse you. Mysteriously, Bill’s mind is closed from Sookie. Must be love.

Like Sookie and Bill, every character of the series deserves attention. There is Sookie’s brother, Jason, constantly getting into trouble, by being in the wrong places at the wrong time and, usually, with his pants down. There’s Sookie’s friend, Tara – a brute of a lady, who cannot contain her temper and thus cannot keep any job or man.

Sookie’s boss, bar owner Sam, seems like a nice guy, hopelessly in love with his mind-reading employee, but he has his own weird secrets. The bar’s cook, Lafayette, is one of the coolest gay characters ever seen onscreen. He's intelligent, with great sense of humor, and, despite wearing makeup and fancy bandanas - a total badass.

On vampires’ side, new characters are being introduced one by one over the two seasons. But the most notable of them is Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) – perfectly sinister and obviously dangerous, but still likeable. In the end of season 2 we also get to meet gorgeous vampire queen played by redhead Evan Rachel-Wood. The fact that the gal used to date Marilyn Manson adds special charm to her character

“True Blood” is part mystery, part a classical Stephen King novel. The plot smartly mixes sex, drugs, racism, violence, ancient beliefs and religious fanaticism. But what makes a real difference in “True Blood” is that unlike common vampire stories, the bigger evil here comes from humans. It’s not about people vs. monsters. It’s about dark creatures who find it hard to fight their animal nature against rednecks - some of them good, others – driven by hate for everyone who’s different.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Movies to look forward to in 2010

This is a shortlist in a true sense of the word - 8 movies only, including two with unknown release dates. However it's just the beginning. Most of the films are American, with an exception of a few British ones, and there surely is a lot to explore in Europe. But let's start here.

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"

Release date: August 6 (UK)

I have several reasons to believe this film is going to rock. First: It's directed by Edgar Wright - creator of some of the best modern comedy: "Spaced" TV-Series, "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." Second: It stars Michael Cera ("Juno," "Superbad," "Youth in Revolt") - one of the most talented young American actors. Third: its going to be an action/adventury/romantic/comedy about a guy who must win his girl by defeating her seven evil exes. Don't know about you, but to me it sounds totally awesome. View trailer here

"The Last Airbender"

Release date: July 2 (USA)

Even though M. Night Shyamalan's last film "The Happening" was a complete disgrace, I still have a good feeling about this one. Unfortunately I haven't seen the original anime series "The Last Airbender" is based on, but the plotline - a wonder child who must stop Fire Nation from enslaving nations of Water, Earth and Air - sounds like a perfect fantasy adventure. Judging by the trailer, the visual part is pretty damn good. And finally I'm anxious to see Slumdog Millionaire's star Dev Patel in a very different role of an evil Fire Prince. View trailer here.


Release date: July 15 (Ukraine)

When I first saw the trailer for "Inception" at a movie theater, I was instantly curious to see it. Probably because I was still under impression of DiCaprio in "Shutter Island." Upon the second look however, the plot description and even its poster made me think of similar sci-fi flicks like "Minority Report" and "Surrogates." Still I'm hopeful that director Chris Nolan managed to make a decent thrilled based on a concept of lucid dreaming and power of the mind. Plus there is cool cast: Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Michael Kane and DiCaprio leading the way. View trailer here.


Release date: September 3 (USA)

I'm totally convinced this is going to be delicious! At least for anyone who loves Robert Rodriguez and masterfully shot trash-parody. "Machete" started as a joke - a fake trailer made as an opening to "Planet Terror." The real "Machete" trailer features some of the original fragments with the main star - Danny Trejo - as well as a bunch of fresh faces: Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Robert De Niro, Don Johnson and ... wait for it ... Steven Seagal! Now you can't beat that, can you? View trailer here.

"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"

Release date: September 23 (USA)

I know he's no longer as good as he was and repeats himself a lot, but I'm still not giving up on Woody Allen. His previous, "Whatever Works," was not great, but pleasant, entertaining and still a lot better than the majority of the mainstream American produce. "Dark Stranger" premiered at Cannes and very few reviews are out so far, but the cast: Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Freida Pinto, Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts among others - sounds quite promising.

"The Rum Diary"

Release date: September 24 (UK)

Is it really coming out? Or if it does - when do I get to see it, unless I go to London for the premiere? The reason I ask is because the production of "Rum Diary" has tortured and haunted Hunter S. Thompson's fans, myself including, ever since it was first announced in 2004. Thompson himself was quite excited about the filming of one of his earliest novels, but then nothing was heard of it for a while. After Thompson's suicide in 2005, the talk about the movie began again... But it wasn't until 2010 that "Rum Diary" was finally set for release. The delay had a lot to do with the busy filming schedule of Johnny Depp, who had to reprise his role as Hunter S. Thompson's alter ego. In "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" he was Raoul Duke. In "Rum Diary" he is Paul Kemp, a journalist who goes to work for a run-down newspaper in the Caribbean, meets a number of unusual characters and goes through a critical point in life.

"Paul" and "Burke and Hare"

Release date: Unknown

Both movies star my personal favorite - British comic actor Simon Pegg. He co-wrote and co-starred in "Paul" with his best pal and longtime collaborator Nick Frost. The story is about two geek friends travelling across the U.S. to meet an alien. Black comedy "Burke and Hare" stars Pegg and Andy Serkis as 19th century grave-diggers who make money off providing cadavers for a medical school.

Monday, May 24, 2010

'Fantastic Mr. Fox"

This is the case when the name says it all – this stop-motion animation truly is witty, funny and, absolutely fantastic. Based on Roald Dahl’s novel and directed by Wes Anderson, "Fantastic Mr. Fox" works for children just as well as for adults. For the first – it has the fun adventures of talking animals. For the second – it has allegory, good jokes, familiar family troubles and free spirit, an injection of which we all need from time to time.

Mr. Fox steals chickens for a living, until one day he’s forced to give it up for a family life. Seven years (twelve fox years) later, Mr. Fox leads a quiet living and works at a newspaper, but has bigger dreams. First of all, he decides to move from a traditional hole in the ground to a potentially dangerous tree house. Secondly, he decides to go back to his old ways at least for one last time and rob three big nearby farmers.

The farm jobs turn out successful, however … now the farmers are enraged and going after the whole local animal community. But of course, Mr. Fox, as fantastic as he is, will find a solution.

The animation may look freaky from the first glance, but it perfectly serves its purpose, at times painting extremely vivid images, and at times – absurd. The cast of actors voicing the characters is just gorgeous. George Clooney is instantly recognizable as Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep is gentle but firm as Mrs. Fox, while their son, a troubled teenager Ash, is voiced by Jason Schwartzman. There is also Bill Murray as Badger and Willem Dafoe as Rat – you get the picture.

The main message of the story is as clear as it is genius. Mr. Fox does what he does because he can’t help himself. Even though he wears pants, lives in a house and has a job, he still is and always will remain a wild animal. Same as all his palls. Aren’t we all?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Robin Hood" vs. "Gladiator": Find 10 differences

At last, 10 years later, director Ridley Scott released a sequel to his "Gladiator." In this one, Russell Crowe fast-forwards quite a few centuries and lands in England where he gets an upgraded weapon - a huge bow and a set of arrows!

"Robin Hood" (2010)

"Gladiator" (2000)

"Robin Hood" (2010)

"Gladiator" (2000)

"Robin Hood" (2010)

"Gladiator" (2000)

"Robin Hood" (2010)

"Gladiator" (2000)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Matthew McConaughey vs. Jen Lopez: the lame poster battle

Smiley boy/girl posters are biggest Hollywood cliche and are typical for romantic movies. And they are quite useful. They immediately let you know what entertainment you're in for - so you can avoid it in time. Some actors have made more of such movies/posters than others. I'm talking of course about J. Lo and Matthew McConaughey. They are both champions of super lame romantic comedies and neither seen much evolution over last 10 years - both as actors and in their choice of films. But who is lamest ?

"Back-up Plan" (2010). I don't seem to recognize the dude, but J. Lo is meant to play this new-age lady who has not faith in modern men and therefore gets artificially inseminated ... and meets appropriate father for the baby right away. Is this meant as a tip for all the Single Ladies?

"Fool's Gold" (2008). Don't know about gold in this movie - but certainly no shortage of fools here. McConaughey and Hudson in their second movie - digging for gold mostly half-naked (as I can judge by the poster), thus pleasing both male and female viewers.

"Gigli" (2003). The film shot in the heat of Affleck/Lopez much publicized romance. There was a lot of talk about how Lo was never happy about the look of her precious butt on the poster - first she wanted it bigger, then smaller. Then the movie came out ... and well all I know it has about 2 stars on - same as Paris Hilton movies. Enough said

"How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (2003). First McConaughey/Hudson movie. Probably works as a date flick but still - idiotic all the way through. The two meet - the girl tries her best to make the guy dump her fast but the guy proves a die-hard: both are faking and acting awfully.

"Maid in Manhattan" (2002). This sugary sweet poster is clearly suggesting an old-as-time Cinderella story - leaving nothing to imagination. Why would you even bother watching if you can see the ending on the DVD cover?

"Failure to Launch" (2006). Here Sarah Jessica tried to step away from being Carrie Bradshaw type - epic fail. Moreover she's again struggling with a man (as the picture shows) - you'd think she had enough after six seasons. And McConaughey - usually he's too lazy to act, now he's even too lazy to stand up.

I believe it's a tie! Those two even made a movie and a LAME POSTER together!

"The Wedding Planner" (2001). Lopez is wedding planner for McConaughey who's getting married to a silly blonde, but surely busty Latina won't let him go through with it. Looks like Lopez practiced making a dreamy face here - to get it right for "Maid" next year. It was still a few years before the focus shifted to her poking butt. And Mat is wearing glasses to look more serious. Fail - still an idiot.

Friday, April 9, 2010

"A Serious Man"

The Coen bros sure know how to surprise even their most dedicated viewers. For instance, by alternating real masterpieces with earnestly trashy flicks – just look at Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men” and the ridiculous “Burn After Reading.” I mean yeah, Pitt was a hilarious idiot in it, but seriously, it wasn't a real movie.

“A Serious Man” is a masterpiece of a different nature – the kind that won’t be appreciated by many, and destined to become a box-office disaster. But it seems to bother anyone but the Coens who stubbornly tell just the kind of stories they wish to tell. While they seem to take each of their movies quite personally, “A Serious Man” must be especially close to their hearts since it is set in suburban Minnesota in the 1960s – exactly when and where Ethan and Joel grew up as children of Jewish academics.

However, it’s in no way a childhood nostalgia story a la Woody Allen’s “Radio Days.” Quite the contrary. It’s a spiritual and difficult dark comedy that’s not headed towards a positive denouement. The plot revolves around physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), whose mundane life is suddenly disrupted by a series of unpleasant events.

His wife announces she’s leaving him for another - a digusting sleeze but "a serious man" - and wants a ritual Jewish divorce. Someone starts writing unsigned letters to the dean threatening Gopnik's tenure. An Asian student offers him a bribe for a better grade. His unemployed brother is couch-surfing in his house and that’s just a half of what’s eating Gopnik.In a perfectly Kafkaesque fashion things for Gopnik go from normal to bad, then worse, and worse...

As his problems seem to compound by the day, Larry, an orthodox Jew, turns to several rabbis searching for answers and a hidden meaning to all that’s happening to him. But here comes a final blow to Gopnik's faith - rabbis have absolutely nothing to offer him. Pointless truisms and apocryphal fables that have no actual meaning don't help.

When the oldest and wisest rabbi opens his mouth to speak at long last, he says: “When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies, don’t you want somebody to love.” In the end, Jefferson Airplane all-time hit not only serves as the central soundtrack for “A Serious Man” but also pretty much sums it up.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Alice in Wonderland"

Logically, the most passionate viewers of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” will be the fans of Burton, Johnny Depp and Lewis Carroll. However, while the first two elements do live up to expectations, the third one certainly doesn’t. In fact, I would highly not recommend anyone to reread either of the original “Alice” books before watching the movie. Because truth be told, there is just as much Carroll in Burton’s “Wonderland” as there is Conan Doyle in Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes.”

A curly blonde Alice Kingsley – eight years after her Wonderland adventure – is being forced to marry a young lord so obnoxious, that hardly anyone could reproach her for not wanting to have him. Taking time “to think,” she runs off, and … follows a white rabbit to a hole in the ground. For a bit the plot goes on just like the original. Up to the moment when Alice walks into a talking flower garden. First she gets to meet many of the famed Wonderland characters all at once, next she’s being chased by a monster dog, and has to do a lot of running and hiding.

Soon enough Alice runs into Mad Hatter – Depp in his most extreme makeup yet. As one of the story's centerpieces, Hatter takes up a lot of screen time which is a real treat. Others – vile Red Queen (Helena Bohnem-Carter) with a hydro-cephalic head, Crispin Glover’s Black Knight, Tweedldee and Tweedledum, the nutty Mad Hare, and of course, the toothy Cheshire Cat – keep him good company. But you still can’t help asking questions like: “Why just the Queens - where are the Kings?” “Where is good old White Knight?” “And why the Dormouse, famous for her lethargic tendencies, keeps on restlessly running around?” And finally: "Why so serious?"

The original “Alice in Wonderland” was partly a parody of life in Victorian England, partly an intriguing parable wrapped as a children’s fairy-tale, but saturated with double meanings, wordplay and philosophical explorations. “Alice” movie leaves all the sensible “nonsense” completely out, instead focusing on the fairy-tale base, only taking, at times, a dramatically serious approach. Burton’s “Wonderland” and its inhabitants sacrifice their depth for extreme grotesqueness which is delivered generously and in full. The visual part of the film is an impressive piece of work and the cast is perfect. If you can manage to appreciate just that, you can as well enjoy the movie immensely.

What is, nevertheless, deeply disappointing, is that the story is modeled after the most trivial formula of all – the battle of good and evil, with Alice as a messiah whose task it is to save all. Isn't that the most overused plot of all time?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscars 2010 winners

The good news of the 82nd Academy Awards was the victory of common sense over 3D hype and insane box office success of "Avatar." It only received visual and technical awards. On the other hand, the win of "Hurt Locker" as Best Film, Best Directing and Best Original Screenplay, looks strictly political - after all the Iraq war theme is still such a hot topic, and there was still no major film done about that.

Jeff Bridges was named Best Actor for what is said to be his best role in "Crazy Heart" (better than Lebowski?? Let's see about that). And Sandra Bullock went from a Worst Actress at Razzies for "All About Steve" (she actually received the "honor" herself) to Best Actress at Oscars for "Blind Side" - in just two days. Good for her! Cristoph Waltz, quite expectedly, added an Oscar to his big bunch of Best Supporting Actor nods for "Inglourious Basterds" which he previously received at Cannes, Golden Globes and most recent BAFTAs.

Indie hit "Precious" received Best Supporting Actress for Mo'Nique and Best Adapted Screenplay. Emotional cartoon "Up" was marked out as Best Animation and for Best Score, and Best Song went to "Crazy Heart."

See a complete list of winners and nominees at and a detailed recount of the ceremony with pictures at

Sunday, March 7, 2010

25 original illustrations inspired by film

Film geeks and design geeks collaborated to present you those 25 pictures/posters based on iconic films. Some works some works are just plain cool, others are strange, but all very imaginative. See the full collection here.

Oscars on the way: "Up"

Nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Animated Feature Film of the Year and other awards

Just slightly over ten hours before the Oscars 2010 ceremony, I finally saw one of its favorites as well as most talked about cartoons of the year – “Up.” And yes, I understand how it earned all the praise, even though “Coraline” is still more like my type of cartoon.

“Up” features all the customary elements of a Disney animation – sympathetic heroes bound to prevail over caricature villains, cute and friendly pets, adventures, colorful landscapes, pleasant score and an action-packed third act. What marks it out is outstanding cinematography, charming story and a very moving emotional basis.

Grumpy old man Carl Fredricksen, devastated and lonely after the loss of his wife, devises a way to escape being moved to a retirement home and fulfill his and his late wife’s dream - take an adventure trip to Paradise Falls (somewhere in South America). He ties a mass of multi-colored balloons to his roof and takes off, soon to discover, that a chubby scout kid Russel involuntarily came along for the ride.

Through an incredible stroke of luck, they do end up right next to the Falls, but before Carl can relax in his chair and enjoy the scenery, he and Russel have to deal with a fantastic giant bird, a fluffy dog with a “talking” collar and explorer Charles Muntz – Carl’s childhood hero, living in his flying ship anchored in the wilderness.

Naturally there are plenty of ridiculous moments that only adults would notice: Muntz, who must be at least 20 years older than Carl (who looks at least 65) shows wonders of physical strength (must be wonderful mountain air), not unlike Fredricksen, who alternatively uses his walker for moving around, and then runs, jumps and climbs hanging ladders without any assistance.

In the same time, “Up” should be seen for what it is – a Disney fantasy which lacks real life logic, but offers what many cartoons don’t – a genuine human touch and feelings that both children and adults can connect to.

Razzies winners

So right before Oscars, we get winners of best awards ever - Razzies! Worst picture is "Transofrmes: Revenge of the Fallen" - transformers can only blame bimbo Megan Fox for that I think. Sandra Bullock, who is among the favorites to win an Academy Award today for "Blind Side," was "honored" at Razzies for "All About Steve" (honestly you just need to see its poster to tell the movie was crap).

"Battlefield Earth" is worst film of the decade - to my mind there were much worse, but if you consider Battlefield's ambitions, than yeah, probably right. Poor Eddie Murphy was named worst actor of decade - well, he can only blame his choice of movies.

But what really made my day (so far) is decade's worst actress win for PARIS HILTON. I was one of happy journalists invited to opening of "Pledge This" in Kyiv - I lasted about 15 minutes. "Hottie and the Nottie" was a totally worthy follow-up. Hail Paris!

Go to The Hollywood Reporter for more.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oscars on the way: "An Education"

Nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published

“An Education” is an airy and smart, if slightly moralistic, coming-of-age drama about a quick-witted schoolgirl and her relationship with an older man, set in the 1960s suburban London. 16-year-old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) has great marks, plays a cello and is fascinated by everything French. Lazily hopping through her last year at school, she can’t wait to move to Oxford University where she can finally be free. But a chance encounter with David – a 30-something sweet-talking man brings a change to her plans.

A real “charmer,” David managed to whisk Jenny away to a weekend in Oxford and a trip to Paris by feeding plausible lies to her loving but grounded dad (Alfred Molina). The couple spends evenings at theaters and restaurants often with David’s best friend and his posh but dumb blonde girlfriend (Rosamunde Pike). As Jenny gets carried away with those new experiences, she begins to despise her strict school that frowns upon such frivolous lifestyle.

From an enchantingly playful opening sequence to a life-affirming finale, “An Education,” based on Nick Hronby's celebrated novel, balances witty dialogue, great acting on every part and attractive visuals. Jenny is charming and cute, but she’s no lolita and there is nothing even faintly vulgar about her subtle sexuality. However, what really sets the movie apart from most stories about young girls learning love and life from older men is that little Jenny, with her intelligence, ambitions and thirst for knowledge, stands high above her boyfriend and his flashy friends.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Top ten films of the 1990s

A nice chart of best 1990s flicks, with a top ten for each separate year. If I had to pick out my fav films of each of those years (choosing only from the ones in the given rating) it will go like this: 1999 - "Being John Malkovich" and "Fight Club"; 1998 - "The Big Lebowski" and "Run Lola Run"; 1997 - "As Good as It Gets" and "Jackie Brown"; 1996 - "Fargo" and "From Dusk till Dawn"; 1995 - "The Usual Suspects"and "Se7en"; 1994 - "The Shawshank Redemption," "Clerks" and "Natural Born Killers" (that was a momentous year); 1993 - "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "Groundhog Day" and "True Romance"; 1992 - "Reservoir Dogs"; 1991 - "Barton Fink"; 1990 - "Gremlins 2: The New Batch." And that reminds me how many gaps I still need to fill...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Oscars on the way: "The White Ribbon"

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Best Achievement in Cinematography

By now "The White Ribbon" has collected a bucketful of awards at all major film festivals, most notably a Golden Globe as Best Foreign Language Film and a Golden Palm at 2009's Cannes, so now it only remains to be recognized by the Academy.

The action is set in a German village, where it begins just two years before the start of the World War I and ends right when the War breaks out. The narrator is a school teacher reflecting on this short period in his life, when he was preoccupied with the idea of getting married.

The quiet bucolic life of the village is disrupted by several incidents that soon grow in number. The doctor gets severely wounded when his horse trips on a transparent wire placed between two trees. Someone opens a window in a room with a baby on a cold night. Baron's son disappears, and is found tied to a tree in the forest. Soon every adult is under suspicion, and the school teacher is the only one who directs his attention to children instead.

The latter are stern-faced boys and girls dressed in ascetic clothes. Raised in austerity, they are completely submissive to adults, but while little ones appear quite innocent, the older ones bear a look that can be interpreted as obedience and loathing at the same time. The name of the film comes from the white ribbon that the strict village pastor ties to arms of his eldest children - as a way to remind them of their purity. It is meant as punishment, but rather appears to be an act of desperation.

Michael Haneke's black-n-white film is a complex, layered story, that doesn't offer easy answers. There is no direct evidence to prove children's guilt, apart from some subtle hints and suspicious behavior. Instead, Haneke paints a vivid picture of the world, about to be transformed forever, and the children's suspected acts of violence serve as dark omen of things to come.

See full list of Oscar nominees here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Sex and the City 2"

Even as a fan "Sex and the City" show I pretty much hated The Movie. It was just so much worse than any single episode of the series, and also three times as long. Acting was extremely affected, especially in case of Kristin Davis, and the dialogues were dumb. The writers for the movie seemingly pulled the lame story out of their asses and threw in some toilet humor for good measure.

I predict that the sequel won't be much different. The newest "Sex and the City 2" trailer shows off lots of chic, glamour, pretty dresses and passionate kisses. One can only wonder how stupid the drama part will be this time. So far it looks like Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda will just keep on parading their posh lives in front of our envious (they wish) eyes. However I'm sure we can still find a way to enjoy the "Sex" sequel - as long as we view it as a catalogue of latest and trendiest fashions.
View trailer here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Cop Out" is so out

Roger Ebert just confirmed what I suspected - newest Kevin Smith's flick "Cop Out" is complete crap. When I first saw its poster on Smith's twitter page, I thought: another white cop/black cop action comedy? Bruce Willis playing yet another cop? Why did Smith bother with that? I was neither impressed much by the trailer - it hardly contained a single really funny joke or anything remarkable at all. The presence of Sean William Scott, whom I consider among the lamest American comic stars of today, was even more disappointing. And now Ebert completely trashed the film.

My conclusion is: Smith is really in need of the money. And no matter how much he would defend this creation on twitter, I would keep on hoping that he really knows it sucks. After all I liked his previous "Zack and Miri." So I keep on believing that Mr. Smith is not "out" just yet and his next project will be worthy of my attention.
Here's Roger Ebert's full review.

"Zoolander": take two

Who would have though it - nine years later, Ben Stiller's Derek Zoolander is coming back! Stiller will co-write the screenplay with Justin Theroux, writer for "Iron Man 2" and "Tropic Thunder," who will also direct. Jonah Hill is in talks as villain for "Zoolander 2" - and that I would really love to see. Owen Wilson hasn't signed up yet, but I don't believe he'd miss a chance to be "Hansel" again. And clearly Stiller will call up some celebrity buddies to add in quite a few cool cameos in the movie.

"Zoolander" was hilarious in its utter idiocy. Stiller's typically affected representation there felt like a trademark - you almost started to "believe" in Zoolander. After all don't we consider models completely and hopelessly dumb - until they prove otherwise? But all those years later, Zoolander can surely no longer model - he's just an unbelievably clueless middle-aged man in love with his "handsome" looks. So let's see how they will squeeze him back into the fashion industry - as a designer, perhaps?
Read more details here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kurt Cobain movie in the talks

So it's been partially confirmed - Kurt Cobain biopic may be happening. Actually, its surprising that Hollywood with its passion for exploiting lives of all iconic personas, especially those who have died a tragic death, haven't tried to film Nirvana's frontman story until just now. Of course there was Gus Van Sant with his "Last Days" about a musician who looked just like Cobain, but mainstream audience requires a much more clean & clear life and death story. Oren Moverman was picked out as the most fitting director - as the writer of Bob Dylan biopic "I'm not There," he may be just the right man for the job. However the writer here is David Beinoff, who had his Cobain screenplay ready since a couple of years. Beinoff has written "Troy" and more recent "Brothers." But for fans the most crucial question is who will play Kurt and that's still unknown.
MTV movies blog has more details here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Classic Moment: "Freaks" (1932)

Viewing the cult films chart today, made me think of how much I love talking about "Freaks." Truly one of the freakiest films ever made, it's unique for so many reasons. In the early 1980s Stephen King wrote in his "Danse Macabre" that many people would talk about "Freaks" but very few of them have actually seen it. A lot has changed since then and in this internet era anyone can see "Freaks" if they so choose. Still, in this part of the world where I live, very few people would even talk about this movie - they have no idea what it is.

A truly unprecedented experiment, "Freaks" lacks outstanding acting and dialogue. But it is a real slash of history. Never again a movie featuring bearded woman, Siamese twins and a man missing all his limbs will be made unless its a documentary telling about their difficult lives.

But while "Freaks" was made in the time where such characters were among common circus attractions (all "freak" actors and extras were circus celebrities of their time), it turned out that audience wasn't at all ready to see them in a cinema - acting in a Hollywood production.

Moreover, the movie was released in 1932, right when the newly adopted Hays Production Code was being put into force - and there was oh so much to censor in the "Freaks." The film was so severely cut that many scenes now look carelessly glued together with no regard to the story. Many sex-related lines and moments were removed, as well as those directly referring to the "normal" but evil circus artists as the true freaks. And the happier ending with the reunion of the midget couple (brother and sister in real life) was also added later - to make the film more appealing.

Yet, all those efforts didn't save the "Freaks." The movie was soon banned in the English speaking world and stayed that way for many years. By the time it was rediscovered, it was pretty much forgotten.

"Freaks" was a daring enterprise. In what turned out to be a career-ending move, Browning chanced to make a horror movie with some genuine, nature-made horror. And he did that in a country where black people were played by the white just some 15 years ago. The fashion for faking prevailed in Hollywood then as it still does. Nowadays, when horror movies are all about graphic violence and fake blood, "Freaks" still looks almost just as ominous as it did 80 years ago. Its just way too non fake.

"Big Lebowski" and the other 33 top cult movies

I couldn't help but totally agree with Total Film's latest chart - the 34 Greatest Cult Movies of All Time (see full list here) - "Big Lebowski" IS The Main Cult Movie. And that despite the fact that "Shawshank Redemption" is "officially" my personal favorite and, thankfully, it was also on the list. As well as my second favorite from Coen Bro's filmography - "Barton Fink" ("Between heaven and hell there is always hollywood..." - is my fav tagline). And "Clerks" and "Brazil" are deserving of the Cult title each in their own right.

"Plan 9 From Outer Space" and "Showgirls" are likewise icons - they are just so bad, that you can't help loving them all the more for it. And of course "Freaks" is simply unique as the kind of film that can never be made again.

I've only one question - what's with "Mamma Mia?" Yeah its kinda bad too, but not bad enough to make much of a difference. Yeah there are some pleasing performances, but it's essentially an all-commercial venture exploiting ABBA's musical heritage in such a foul manner that makes you wanna start throwing things at the screen. All because the majority of actors singing in the movie shouldn't be allowed to ever sing - even in the shower.

Must see: "Shutter Island"

So looks like "Shutter Island" is a must see after all. The reviews are rather mixed and conflicting: just compare the piece by the NYTimes and a rather flattering one by Roger Ebert here.

Myself I've always found Scorsese and DiCaprio collaborations worthwile if not more. In fact, I wasn't so crazy about "The Departed," but both "The Aviator" and "Gangs of New York" proved to be quality entertainment. I also often found myself defending DiCaprio whenever someone suggested that he "couldn't act." I was never a big fan of his, but I know for a fact that he's a good actor and his film career is not defined by starring in "Titanic."

While $40 million collected by "Shutter Island" in first opening weekend doesn't guarantee it's a great movie, I have a gut feeling (based on all I've read and heard) it will be worth my time. And when it comes to films, my gut feeling is usually right.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

BAFTA Winners

So there we have it. BAFTA's over. The "Hurt Locker" is a big winner, having collected quite a few nods, including Best Film, Best Direction for Kathryn Bigelow, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Sound. Very glad for Duncan Jones - most promising newcomer for the awesome "Moon." Christoph Waltz is Best Supporting Actor in "Inglourious Basterds" and Kristen Stewart is Best Rising Star - both totally deserving! And just a couple of minor awards for Avatar - makes total sense. Full list of BAFTA winners here.

BAFTAs on the way

It so happens that this year I have managed to watch only a few of the films featured in the nominations for 2009's major awards. Still, in view of the BAFTA ceremony tonight, I make my own "predictions" of the films that I think should win - of those that I saw. Totally biased, I know, but either way - those films deserve to be honored. Even if there are those that deserve it more. See full list of nominees here.

"Moon" - My choice for Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year

The obvious associations with Tarkovsky and Kubrick, "Moon" quickly dispels by taking us into some very different territories. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is marooned on the Moon. He has an important but rather dull job, his only connection to the real world are recorded video massages and his only company is a robot voiced by Kevin Spacey. His wife and child await him on Earth and he can't wait to get back as his contract runs out. Instead he's about to discover a shocking secret.

Rockwell is flawless in this solo performance and director Duncan Jones does an equally great job. In the world that's so quiet for the most part, he uses music to build up tension. And the image of Bell's moon vehicle against the background of faraway Earth ("I just want to go home!" Bell cries inside) is one of the best expressions of loneliness ever seen on screen.

BAFTAs: "Coraline"

"Coraline" - My Choice for Best Animated Feature.

The animation breathes Tim Burton all the way through, and indeed - producer, director and writer for the film is Henry Selick who directed "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Thus "Coraline" serves as final proof that talent for making dark cartoons is in his blood.

The film is a little lonely girl's ominous journey into a "better" world that's actually rotten inside. Little girl is Coraline who discovers a trap door in her new home and walks over to another dimension populated by kind, affectionate and fun duplicates of her moody parents and creepy neighbors. The only thing that sets the "duplicates" apart from the real people, is buttons for eyes.

That and many other elements creating the perfectly eerie atmosphere in Coraline's world make the cartoon enjoyable for viewers of different ages, especially the fans of Burton's fantasies.

BAFTAs: "District 9"

"District 9" - My choice for Achievement in Direction, Screenplay, Cinematography - or at least one of those.

Oh how thrilled I was when "District 9" was included in the long list of Oscar nominees for Best Picture. Naturally it won't win, but the acknowledgment is a big deal already. Truth is "District 9" was a surprise discovery for me too. My first thought was - "another alien invasion movie? Nah" And then I saw a review calling it an alien movie for "thinking audience." Now that was more interesting and it also proved very true.

Set in South Africa, "District 9" has all the thrills of an alien/monster action movie with plenty of killings, chases and graphic violence. And in the same time its full of allusions to segregation, racism, human rights, individual freedoms, double standards and human greed.

Shot in part as documentary, it keep you (or at least kept me) glued to the screen to the very end and doesn't give you a moment's rest. Note: there are no even remotely familiar actors in this movie.